Monthly Archives: March 2013

My Handheld Zen

A lot of hand-holding.

After spending a solid 20 minutes on one battle Draw-ing 100 Blind spells for each of three characters in Final Fantasy VIII on my PSP last night, I realized something. I’m not sure why I didn’t realize it sooner, like when I spent a solid summer playing nothing but Animal Crossing: Wild World – even then, the playtime was largely on the toilet until my legs fell asleep – or that time I had to teach Ultima to everyone in the Game Boy Advance port of Final Fantasy VI, one Cactuar at a time, to prepare for the final battle. I don’t play handheld games for the riveting story, or “meaning,” or immersion (although finding those things is great). I use handheld systems, including my smartphone, as a time suck. I play them to waste time, or kill time, or do any number of other unspeakable acts to time because – to me – they are merely a stopgap until I can get back to my “real” games on my home consoles.

And that’s okay. Continue reading

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NFL Shuffle: Endgame

See cuz when the king dies it's the end of the game, you plebeian. Learn how Chess works!

Since my first NFL Shuffle post way back on February 6, I have continued to play this silly little game every single day (an hour-long commute gives you plenty of handheld gaming time). Despite there being seemingly no maximum  level, I think I can safely say I’ve reached the endgame content, where the actual progression of the game becomes minimal and I play merely because it’s now part of my daily routine. My team contains some of the strongest players in the game, the only guys that can beat me have probably spent $100 on in-app purchases (IAP), and the single-player mode has reached a point where the opponents are so difficult that… only the handful of people that spent $100 on IAP even have a chance. And even then, the opponents’ weakest characters are as tough as your strongest.

The most interesting thing about spending so long on one game, however, is really getting to know it, to understand it, to appreciate it in ways that many of us with busy adult lives have no time or inclination to do with most titles. There’s a lot of games released every month, after all, and we can only play one at a time. (Why I spent something like 100 commutes on NFL Shuffle… that’s a whole ‘nother post, probably in a psychology case study magazine somewhere.)

With NFL Shuffle, it’s interesting seeing how it has evolved before my eyes, from  a game where – in the beginning – each new player was a quantum leap improvement over your old team, to what I now play daily: a game based on luck, exploiting weakness, and nigh-unbeatable adversaries. Continue reading

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I Finally Figured Out Why I Don’t (Can’t?) Like Monster Hunter

Game idea: Monster Punter, starring Chris Kluwe.

I tried to like Monster Hunter, I really did. I put a solid two weeks into the PSP’s Monster Hunter Freedom Unite and didn’t even get past the dozens upon dozens of tutorials. Protip for developers: I can learn more than one thing per introductory mission – it’s not against the law.

Then when the 3DS and Wii U Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate demos came out recently, I put a lot of time into them, as well. (It didn’t take long to realize that they’re exactly the same – a fact I was not aware of before trying both.) I keep giving the series a chance, however, because it’s a brand new Wii U exclusive coming out this week, and I would love nothing more than a never-ending world to explore with my underused Wii U.

Imagine: one game that can absorb your life for months… Sigh. I feel I am doomed to wait until Dark Souls 2 before I can find another game that will sink its barbs into me and never let go like I wish one would.

Each game in the Monster Hunter series is pretty much the same, and I think I’ve finally figured out why it doesn’t push the buttons I need, and why it probably never will. See, I grew up with RPGs, and Monster Hunter is definitely one of those. But it’s the wrong kind. Continue reading

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PlayStation+ Is Killing the Vita

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP

PlayStation Plus is one of the best deals in the history of gaming. For less than the price of one game a year, you get dozens and dozens of (pretty) new games, to be played as long as you continue to have a subscription. “$50 for games I already have?!” Yeah, some of ’em. But compare this to the Xbox 360’s $60/year just to play games online, with random weekly deals that – comparatively – are not even in the same league as those offered by Sony.

It’s funny… first they did Achievements better with their Trophy system, and now they one-up Microsoft in the paid subscription realm. Now if they could just keep their servers up more! Oh, and security. I guess. But PS+!

Is it too much of a good thing? The Vita is… lacking. Everywhere – hardware sold, the number of new game releases, sales of new game releases… even review scores. Did you know there is only ONE Vita game with a MetaCritic average over 90? Check it out. PlayStation Plus for those with a Vita, however? BAM. Uncharted. Wipeout. Retro City Rampage. Jet Set Radio. Plants Vs. Zombies. Gravity Rush. Ninja Gaiden. All free. And only for PS+ members. Continue reading

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Review: Runner2 (XBLA)

Stop signs are for kicking!

Bit.Trip Presents… Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien is waaaaayyyy too long of a name. Adding to that is the fact that it’s both “Runner2” (no space) and “Runner 2” (with a space) even on the official website, and, well… good luck finding it on the PSN Store.

HOWEVER. None of that matters in the end. The game is incredible, and addictive, and the perfect mix of challenging and frustrating. It’s worth every penny of the $15 asking price, even if it does have a few flaws that don’t become apparent until after you’ve sunk a dozen hours into it over the course of two hopelessly fun and sleepless nights. Continue reading

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Evening the Score: A SimCity Story

Rule 34 this is not.

When SimCity launched a few days ago with one of the worst features in the width and breadth of modern gaming – the requirement that you remain connected to the internet 100% of the time, even to play single-player – I knew we were in for trouble. With SimCity, there’s supposedly a lot of online perks to the connectedness, but come on – we know it’s just DRM to keep out the pirates. We’ve seen this before. SporeDiablo III. Assassin’s Creed II. Not a single one has turned out well for either the end consumer or the developer’s public image.

In the days leading up to the game’s public debut, anticipation was high. The review scores (based on “final” review code, but also on empty servers) were terrific. People were excited! But then the day arrived, bringing with it multi-hour queues to play a single-player game. And that’s when you’re even able to connect. Continue reading

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