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    Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PS4)    by   jp       (Oct 18th, 2021 at 17:11:35)

    Finished this over the weekend. It was a great time, lots of fun bombastic action, amazing environments, and puzzles that were complicated enough to engage without being too challenging or time-consuming to solve. Oh, the overall playing time? It hit the sweetspot for me.

    While I haven't played all of the games in the series, I think this is a really interesting entry. Obviously the first thing is that it doesn't feature Nathan Drake - but rather two women (Chloe and Nadine). The 2nd thing is that, I think, that this game was released as a middle-ground game - not small enough to be DLC, but also not "large" enough to be a full-on sequel. So, a sort of spinoff that was (probably?) not priced as premium? I'll have to do some internet sleuthing to find out.

    As a game, it hits pretty much all of the series staples - exotic environments, amazing architecture and level design, combination of puzzle solving and combat, etc. But, this title does a bit more than that - most of the last level is a big fight on a moving train. It really reminded me of - Uncharted 2? Or 3? This one also had a scene on a moving train. It's also got semi-open areas where you drive a jeep. And so on. So, without remember all of the series' highlights it's sort of like this game is a bit of a remix. So, takes some of the cool bits from earlier games, remixes them and throws them together into a new title. It feels very familiar, and I'm not saying this in a bad sense - it was comfortable and familiar, yet fresh enough. Maybe it's unfair? But, that is the feeling I had. I think the only staple "missing" was a "flashback" chapter?

    Actually, what I realized was really missing - or at least didn't work for me and even fell flat when Sam Drake joins in was the humor. For me, the games have always been action-comedies. Lots of banter and jokes and humorous situations (mixed in with the drama and such). So, very much what Indiana Jones has been. This game didn't really have the humor. Of course, the source of most of that humor - Nathan Drake - wasn't there, so I'm guessing this was a deliberate choice to not have a "Nathan Drake-alike" character come in with quips and wit. But, it does mean that the experience feels not quite like an Uncharted game in that sense. Which is strange. Because of the entire game, if I were to make a list of all the things that make Uncharted what it is, gameplay, mechanics, etc. - humor would definitely have been on the list, but I'm not sure how much I would have said it mattered for the "feel" of the game's experience. I guess it's a lot?

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    Virtual Boy Wario Land (VB)    by   jp       (Oct 14th, 2021 at 19:18:32)

    So I had played a bit many years ago, but mostly to check that my cartridge was working. Never "seriously". Last night I sat down - or more fairly, leaned in - and played this for a good 30 minutes or so. Maybe it was a little bit longer.

    I made it as far as level 4 - the first boss - whom I was unable to defeat, though I did hit him once. I think three hits and I'd beat him.

    I'm playing partly to know the game better - but also due to a project I'm working on, so I want to document some stuff. This is like my field notes:

    The game has various elements that play off movement between foreground/background. These include:

    - Spike balls that swing forward/backwards
    - Hopping points where you jump into the background, play around ona little level that's far away, and then jump back
    - One of the minigames has you jump back and forth repeatedly - it's the one where you're trying to stock up on hearts (100 hearts = 1up)
    - The first boss has two different attacks (that I've seen). The 1st wave of attacks come from the background into the foreground (swings a ball and chain)
    - There's a fish in level 3 that swings into the foreground, where it can hurt you.
    - Also some sort of shark/fish that sits in a hole in the background facing the camera, it comes "out" and you need to avoid it.

    The game also has a lot of parallax - and many layers of fore/background stuff going on .

    - Some level elements like the blocks look rendered in two layers, so the seem to have a bit of volume/depth.

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    Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PS4)    by   jp       (Oct 12th, 2021 at 16:42:24)

    I played the first 2 chapters and, hmmm. Hmmm is mostly me thinking - wow, this is really interested to play back-to-back with The Last Guardian. On paper, the core gameplay for both games is (so far) the same - you're navigating an environment with a character controlled in the 3rd person. I'm expecting there to be "shooty parts" in this game, and obviously there's no large creature/partner in this game.

    But, the contrast between both games for the navigating a 3D environment is quite striking. I think they're both good - so this is not a case of one being better than the other, it just how the prioritize different game feel. Uncharted feels fast, snappy, responsive - this is necessary especially when you're trying to escape and people are shooting at you! The Last Guardian is slower, more deliberate and also more fragile. Both games are animated really well, so this isn't about the "quality" of the assets. To be fair I prefer Uncharted more - at least so far, I have not experienced camera issues or done actions I didn't mean to do. BUT, in Last Guardian it really feels like you're controlling a little kid who is strong and doing these scary things...

    It's also been a while since I've played an Uncharted game. This is bad because I think I'm supposed to remember who these characters are? Maybe not. Maybe recognition is just for the fans to enjoy? I guess I'm not sure, but it's not like I don't know what's going on in the game or anything like that..it's just the nagging feeling that I might be missing out on stuff due to not remembering the characters. Like, are the women in the game friends of Nathan Drake? Competitors?

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    The Last Guardian (PS4)    by   jp       (Oct 7th, 2021 at 18:28:30)

    I appreciate that the game was not super long (having recently finished it) and, I guess I'm still processing a lot of things in the game. Mostly trying to make sense of how great some things are and how other things are much less so - all while trying to figure out (for myself) how important/unimportant these things are.

    I think that what I've appreciated most about the design of the game - even when it didn't work for me - is the general freedom and openness of the experience. There's no waypoints, map, and barely any guidance into where it is your supposed to go or do. There is a "hint" system of sorts that gives some advice. I think it triggers after a certain amount of time has passed without "progress", but there might be additional triggers.

    So, the game FEELS quite liberating in the sense that I really enjoyed the sense of wonder and exploration of seeing and traversing these incredible environments that left me in awe and full of questions. Who built all this? Where are they now? Why did they build all this? Etc.

    In that sense, the game is a delightful experience because so many things are opaque (as in, not super highlighted or signalled to the player). I was often wondering - can I climb up that area, can I reach this place or that, and so on. Having recently finished Ghost of Tsushima - where this is a lot of environmental traversal, it was clear how much more subtle and toned down things are in Last Guardian. This felt much more natural to experience, though it often got quite frustrating as well - when you get to a point where you don't know what to do next.

    So, the game tries to balance these two things - let players figure stuff out, enjoy the unknown - but at the risk of (and it happened often enough that I think it's fair to comment on it) getting frustrated, bored or otherwise disengaged.

    I guess now that I'm reflecting and writing this out, that might be the general theme of the game - here's this thing that is really interesting and compelling, but it will fall completely flat on its face more times than you'd like, but not enough that you'll quit altogether.

    I'm also impressed by the restraint in the game design - it really is entirely about moving through the environment (with or without Trico) - there's no inventory, stuff to pick up (mostly), progression systems, combat systems, etc. It's super barebones - yes there is "combat" of sorts - but very limited in both options and availability. For example, early in the game you get a shield you learn to use to get Trico to blast stuff. However, you quickly lose that shield. Later in the game you get it back, and you use it to blast stuff - but the blasting is much "worse" (slower to fire). Also, it wasn't until the very end of the game that I realized that you could "pull" the heads of the moving statues when they're on the ground. However, it's a risky move, that takes time to pull off, and wasn't that much better than running around waiting for Trico to take care of the enemies.

    So, the game has its moments - but when it shines - oh wow! My favorite moments are probably those when hanging on to Trico for dear life as he/she/it leaps to a new place...and desperately trying to see if that's where I want to go (or think I should go). It was 100% vertigo. Audio work, the motion and movement of the camera, and above all Trico's animation - I could tell when he/she/it was about to leap!

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    B-17 Fortress in the Sky (DS)    by   jp       (Sep 27th, 2021 at 11:50:09)

    Oh. Well here's another surprising little title!

    I've played 5 (6?) missions and I don't think I need to play anymore. So far, at least, the game's entire experience has been revealed in all its options and gameplay. It's fun, and small, and interesting nonetheless.

    The game is essentially a series of WWII bombing missions where you fly to the target, bomb the target, and then fly back. You don't have to navigate there, rather you play the roles of all the plane's gunners and, at the right moment, the bomber. The B-17 plane carried a lot of bombs and guns, with gunner positions all over the place (front, front/top, tail, belly, left and right) and when you're attacked by fighters you need to quickly move between the different stations to shoot at the planes. You move around by tapping on the plane location you want to go to and then pan around and fire. It's fast and pretty fun. Then, you get to the bomb run, here you need to pan left/right to align with bombing targets as seen from above while also panning down (then up) to lower the plane's altitude as you get closer to whatever it is you're bombing (shipyards, train depot, factories). You tap to release bombs and hope they hit. Oh, I forgot there's also an "avoid flak" part of the game - here you just pan the plane left/right to avoid flak explosions.

    So, each mission has three distinct gameplay modes (shoot down fighters - FPS view, avoid flak - top down, bomb run - top down). Pretty simple but also...it gets a bit old after a while. There are 25 missions, so maybe things get different? But, I can't really imagine how unless they start to introduce new elements (you're shot down, escape in parachute). I mean, the missions where all pretty similar? (not to downplay, just saying there wasn't that much variety if you're not going to emphasize characters, story, and keep the elements mostly realistic).

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    Final fantasy 13 (PS3)    by   dkirschner

    Great, loooong time to introduce basic mechanics, want to punch Vanille. Becoming more complex! -------------- Good game, some interesting design choices. Wish there were towns and that I could save paradigms. Enjoyed battle system in the end. Thought-provoking story.
    most recent entry:   Saturday 2 November, 2013
    Finished FFXIII today. I took a long break from it to play another game that I will write about shortly. When I came back to FFXIII, I was in the final area, which looks amazing. Technically you're in a data stream where the data has materialized and flows by you, like if you can imagine being inside a cable. Lots of really cool looking environments in that game...

    Alriiight, so my last entry I talked about all the game mechanics and about how linear it was, and said that it appeared to open up a bit in Chapter 11. It WAS a false appearance of an open world, just like I suspected! Chapter 11 introduces hunting missions. There are partially crystallized l'Cie scattered around the environment who implore you to complete their focus for them to free them from fully transforming into crystals. In total there are 64 missions. I did about 30 that I could find in Chapter 11, and that were on the way through the rest of the game. I guess the rest you have to go back before beating the game and do. They're all just "find this monster and kill it" quests though, which is kind of lame that it's just 64 tougher-than-usual battles. I'm sure the later ones are proper boss fights. Anyway, those l'Cie missions are in Chapter 11, and you can find and ride chocobos to get around, and there are cactuars and a funny little skit about them! The game actually feels like Final Fantasy for a while.

    After the open world parts of Chapter 11 though, it's right back to linearity until you get the option at the very end to revisit those areas and...well, I don't know what else there is to do besides those 64 l'Cie hunting missions. Upgrade stuff I guess.

    So by the time I beat the game, I noted a handful of things:

    (1) the combat music is nice, but gets really repetitive to the point that I was muting it. That's rare. They reeeally should have had more variations on the main score.

    (2) trying to get 5-star ratings in combat is fun. I often swore when I got a 4 instead of 5 star rating! By the end though I was often getting 0 stars. I dunno how you're supposed to beat some of the fights in the final area so fast.

    (3) there seems to be a lot of pointless upgrading. You can max out every character's chrystarium in every role if you so desire, which is insane to me. I didn't even max out one role for any character. Would one have to do that to defeat the hardest enemies in the game? That would be soooo much grinding! You can also upgrade weapons. I upgraded one weapon for all the characters I used through level 2 (of 3). I'm not even sure you can upgrade to 3 before the end of the game because the material costs like 2 million gil. I never even accumulated 1 million. And I think you can get it off these tortoise enemies, which, from reading online, is what people farm for shit at the end of the game. So there is a lot of grinding and farming for upgrades that people do...

    (4) the summon/Eidolon system was useless for me. I probably summoned 5 times through the whole game. They don't seem very strong, and their main functions that I would use them for, soaking damage and removing status effects and healing my party, are better done by, well, using my party. I don't know if I missed something or what, but yeah, summons were pointless. Also, you can only use the Eidolon of the character you are controlling, so unless you plan on controlling all the characters, then most of the summons just gather dust. Is the system useless? Is it broken? Is it just used for farming or specific instances that I didn't cross? Did other players ignore it too?

    By the end of the game, the combat gets more interesting, which is great. Up until Chapter 11, just pressing X a bunch wins you every battle. In and after Chapter 11, you've actually got to pay attention or die fairly often in even normal battles, especially in the last areas. I liked and didn't like these tough normal battles. At first I hated them. They felt long and drawn out. But the other side of me said that they are epic and appropriate for the badassery that my characters should be going up against. Tug of war there. But it's cool because you really start learning to use paradigms. I actually used the sentinel role and would switch characters in and out, use specific synergists or healers for their specific spells, and change paradigms quite often in battle. It's a cool system that has more depth than it appears. One thing I rarely did was actively command my main character. I just let her auto-battle 95% of the time. If you want to get really into it, you can choose actions. The AI was great though, so that was unnecessary.

    Finally, a couple other notes on design choices...

    You inexplicably cannot save paradigm combinations. This was incredibly irritating and definitely led to me changing my battle party as little as possible to avoid the hassle of re-defining paradigms every.single.time. I should be able to save paradigms for character combinations. So if I have Lightning, Sazh and Hope's 6 paradigms set, then every single time I put Lightning, Sazh and Hope in my party, those 6 paradigms should already be set. Instead it defaults to whatever 3 standard ones every single time. I want to be able to switch out Sazh for a sentinel like Fang and have my Lightning, Fang, Hope's 6 paradigms already set from when I set them previously.

    Like I've said, I enjoyed the story, but it had some weird parts. Like the beginning of chapter 12, for some reason you assault a street race...? Lightning or Fang or someone straight up murders a race car driver...? I thought I was protecting citizens...? I realize one reason why the story is weird though. It goes back to there being no cities or towns or NPC interaction whatsoever. The sense of what this epic story means is completely lost on the individual level. Why would individual citizens care? How do they know what's going on? Why are they or aren't they responding in certain ways? How do they know the fal'Cie are bad guys? All of a sudden, everyone is like, "Oh we hate the fal'Cie!" Why? How do you know? You've spent your entire life loving them...I think taking away all NPC interaction was a bad idea overall. Yeah, you focus more on the main characters and epic story, but you lose the weight of it for all the individuals in the world. The broad societal fiction is set up very well, but you see none of it playing out in the lives of ordinary people. For me, a great RPG tells the stories of regular folks too.

    I'm glad I played the game, even if I had some big problems with it. There is still a lot to love. It took some chances, some hit, some miss. In the end, it's good to see the series trying to innovate regardless of the outcomes. I have Final Fantasy XIII-2 sitting on my shelf. I'll wait a while to play it, but I am looking forward to it. Hopefully Vanille is not featured...

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