We are nearing the end of March. Both you and I are wondering why the heck I'm writing this now rather than at least a couple months back. Well, I have a very simple answer for that: "........."
Can I have some time to think, please?!
I... have no real good reason.
On the upside, it gave me an opportunity to perfectly structure in a whole category that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to fit in and realize that there actually isn't that much I've been looking forward to. That's great for my backlog, which I've continued neglecting like a bad memory. Literally dozens, maybe hundreds, of games long and I'm not getting any younger.
Oh and the Hadron Collider still scares the fuck out of me. Will we all be at the mercy of an ever-expanding black hole that swallows all on Earth and some distance beyond in a matter of a days, all in the name of scientific curiosity? Maybe, and I have a life to live! I have a legacy to keep! I've never tried English chocolate! But, most importantly, I've got video games to play!
Persona 4: Golden
As much as I may praise my adoration for the Shin Megami Tensei franchise of games (and you'll see a lot throughout this blog), I have yet to finish any but SMTIV. Just about every single one is a very long experience and I haven't been doing well with sticking with games that aren't even a third their length(s). I've never had a patient bone in my slightly chunky body, but, lately, I've been trying to change that.
A short while ago, I asked myself "It's never not awkward when I talk to myself, but don't you think you should at least try to finish a few of these considering how much you've enjoyed them thus far?". "Sure, me.", I said back. "That makes a lot of sense.".
When I first played Golden, my first time with any SMT game, I was in love with everything about it. I had not been so obsessed over a video game probably since GTA: San Andreas. The colors, the story and characters, the gameplay, the soundtrack... oh god, the soundtrack.
That I only managed to clock in 18-20 hours when I've easily made it almost 60 for both SMTIV and Persona 3: FES is very peculiar. But, when I return, I'll finally be able to talk at length about it with fellow fans. Something I've wanted to do for so long. That I've mananged to somehow avoid spoilers despite my many Google searches and being apart of the largest SMT fan group on Facebook is also surprising.
Final Fantasy IX
This is one I'm actually playing right now! So far, it's splendid. One of those "motherfuckin' adventure" games. Every setting thus far has captivated me in some way, the characters are (despite some occasionally dull writing) lovable, it rewards exploration, and the soundtrack is excellent.
I should've featured this one in my previous music blog.
There's a loooooot of story, though. Normally, I wouldn't sit through so much text unless it were especially awesome, but the world and what joy there is to be had with the characters are pulling me along just fine so far. Just hit the hidden city of Cleyra, so I probably still have a very long journey ahead of me.
The reliance on potions and Pheonix Downs is also a little questionable. But, generally, I'm really enjoying it. Heck, I may just finish it to see how Vivi's character turns out. The little guy definitely needs some love.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey
As I mentioned within the parenthesis above, there's going to be a lot of SMT stuff here.
More than Nocturne or even FES or Golden, I'm excited to start up and (hopefully) finish Strange Journey. Several times, I've had it mentioned by reputable folks as the SMTIV before SMTIV. That it could've very well been a numbered sequel considering it's size, scale, and quality. Since becoming aware of it, it's always seemed the most tantalizing of the PS2/DS era, though I've laxed on it in favor of the more widely-appreciated titles.
I'm absolutely giddy in anticipation for it's boss fights (is it any wonder why the franchise houses many of my most favorite enemy designs?), the soundtrack, the dreadful atmosphere, all of it!
I have almost no idea what to expect from Killer7, which isn't common for me. Whenever there's a game I want, typically, I at least have a rough idea of how it's going to play. With Killer7, it's totally up in the air. I bought it "because it's Suda", who hasn't always provided me with awesome experiences but, rather, memorable ones. Had I finished the original No More Heroes instead of venturing forth with (the vastly superior) No More Heroes 2, I probably would be looking back on it fondly despite it's wonkyness.
I think it's a... shooter? I've also heard it's on-rails? But, to what extent? How thrilling!
And what's up with that art and the crazy characters? Suda. That's what's up with them.
Alien: Isolation (Nightmare Mode)
While I may have beaten and greatly enjoyed Alien: Isolation once already on Hard, it's semi-recent (and free) "Nightmare" update has me interested in giving it a second playthrough way sooner than I had intended.
The supplies density on Hard, while scarce, still wasn't as scarce as I would have liked. Flamethrower fuel was in a surprising abundance and, at times, I was (given my status) wasting supplies for grenades and health packs just to be able to pick up more of those same supplies. There's only so much that can be done to keep the xeno at bay and repeat strategies, often times, don't work within a single section, but all that extra shit I had packin' definitely softened some of the welcomed tension.
Would be nice if the more supplies you had, the slower you became.
Speaking of the xeno, it's even more creepy stalky on Nightmare. Brokenly so? I wouldn't put it past the developers to do as such as it was already about as hard as I'd imagine it could be, but we'll have to see. Perhaps it's heightened senses will make the backtracking and walking sections a little more exciting.
I say "contender", but there's no chance that I won't at least enjoy Persona 5 on some level. Worst case scenario, it has an excellent soundtrack (if the music from the latest trailer is any indication), it's tried something new for once since Persona 3, and the main protagonist shall prove to be great doujin fodder.
Best case scenario? It's the most brilliant JRPG ever.
I love that it's still turn-based. That was probably my biggest worry considering the rise of action RPG gameplay. You'd think developers had suddenly decided that turn-based combat was inherently flawed or something. As much as I wouldn't have blamed ATLUS for pulling such a stunt, I'm very glad they didn't. To add to that, while the characters do feel formulaic (docile protag, dudebro partner, angsty female, animal companion), their "Dark Hour" alter egos might lift them up from average to some of the franchise's best.
And the new visual style and more dynamic presentation? There's so much greatness to digest from it and it might not even come out this year! But, oh, please do. Be my guest.
Another one that may not release this year, but I hope it does. Actually, I'm paranoid it won't even release at all despite it's recent coverage. It just... feels like one of those games. It's already gone through a reworking since it's origins as a PS3 PS Move title, so who knows what the future holds.
As is, though, I'm hoping for this to be the Heavy Rain that we all thought we'd get. Ya know, with actors who spoke with natural accents, a story that wasn't filled with plotholes, and from the minds of folks that aren't obnoxious in their self-importance. It's similarity to Quantic Dream's Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain is uncanny, right down to the 3D exploration, QTE's, and it's focus on pure graphical prowess and storytelling.
Contrary to popular opinion around some circles of the gaming community, I don't mind a game like this every now and then and I hope Until Dawn does it right.
Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition
When this was announced alongside DmC: Devil May Cry's Definitive Edition, I was pleasantly surprised, casually interested, and very happy for those much bigger fans of the franchise than I. After it's latest trailer, though, I'm incredibly psyched to play it.
Between you and me, I think Devil May Cry only got good once DMC3 released. 1's "soft" lock was 100x more egregious than DmC's and it's fixed camera angles did not lend well to the fast-paced action gameplay. 2 fixed some of that, but was outstandingly dull otherwise. 3? 3 was fucking awesome. There's no argument to be had there. It's awesome. And DmC I quite liked. But, I have zero opinions of 4.
5 playable characters is what's getting my attention, nevermind the great-looking combat. That's some insane variety/replayability! The more tasteful characterization, coming off of some recent time with DmC, helps a bunch as well.
Persona 4: Dancing All Night!
If you told fans of Shin Megami Tensei around the time Persona 3 was achieving it's success that we'd eventually come around to playing a rhythm game based around it's music with franchise characters dancing around like J-pop idols, they'd probably slap you across the noggin, think about it for a second, and then throw you money because that's an amazing idea.
While I'm more of a fan of Persona 3's darker and more mellow soundtrack, Persona 4's is definitely excellent in it's own right and more suitable for a poppy rhythm game. These are some of the only sorts of games I'm especially good at and I could see myself pouring many hours into it. Changing outfits, perfecting my scores, ogling at the overbearing adorableness, etc.
The official soundtrack remixes, too. I am going to absolutely salivate over them.
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Uncharted 1 and 2 are easily amongst my favorite games of the last generation, with Uncharted 3 still nestled somewhere snug within "games I would play again". They continuously have made me feel like the badass treasure hunter I needed to be in order to find myself out of all of these wonderful and spectacular scenarios set across the globe, in places I wish I could be in right this moment.
I've also always gotten a real kick out of the characterization of Drake and Sully, in particular. Bosum buddies, teacher and pupil, always providing great banter. Excellent performances all-around as well and I'm deeply interested in seeing how they evolve both the characters and performances after the insane levels of success The Last Of Us has garnered.
In both gameplay and story, they've supposedly taken cues from their previous efforts in order to push what it means to be an Uncharted game. No doubt the most ambitious entry to come and, like it or not, it's going to be something special.
Borderlands: The Handsome Collection
Say what you will about Gearbox, but they have got it nailed down to a science with Borderlands at this point. A science I can most assuredly get behind.
I loved the original Borderlands, but since Borderlands 2, it hasn't been easy to go back. It's objectively better in so many respects and I found myself pouring well over 100 hours into it over the course of just one short month and that's with going to college 3-4 days a week. After then, I accumulated another 50+ in just the DLC. And I beat the campaign three times.
Being able to now conveniently play it and The Pre-Sequel on my nice television and in 1080p/60fps is going to be pure heaven. I'm not sure if I'd ever stop.
While all you raspcallions are busy playing Bloodborne, probably even idling it next to you as you read this, I've told myself that it's something I could probably hold off on for another couple months or so. It really does pain me, but I've been trying my best to prioritize my gaming habits and my backlog + Borderlands are just slightly above Bloodborne's excellency.
Guess if I had been able to finish a single Souls game, I'd be that much more excited to play it RIGHT NOW, but, as it stands, I simply respect the franchise a great deal.
It's game design is brilliant, it's art is fantastic, and it's approach to storytelling is refreshing, but my frustration with the difficulty (which is all on me) has always resulted in me putting it down in favor of something more my level. I love a good challenge, but I usually save that for repeat playthroughs. The Last Of Us? Soared majestically through that on Grounded. Call of Duty 4? It was tough, but I did eventually concur Veteran. The Souls games? They're Very Hard/Dante Must Die/Impossible/Fuck You Fuck You Fuck You by default.
Bloodborne, though, I could see myself finishing with it's focus on more offensive tactics. I've heard some claim it's more challenging, some say it's less so, but, either way, perhaps the switch up in gameplay will push me forward to it's end. I really hope so.
Resident Evil: Revelations 2
I actually played through the first episode of Revelations 2 when it released, to give myself an idea of whether the full retail package was going to be worth it. For 5 bucks, I got what was the best Resident Evil experience I had gotten since RE4, as well as a pretty fun and extensive Raid Mode.
It faithfully brought back the tension and darkness of the older RE's while retaining a more RE4-focused approach to combat design which RE5, RE6, and even occasionally the original Revelations seemed to carelessly butcher with little worthwhile upsides. Though, what I found in Revelations 2's first episode was exactly what I had been looking for the franchise to return to for so long: controls and enemy encounters that worked solidly in tangent and supply scarcity that forced me to act while on the edge of my seat.
This return to form, I hope is carried on throughout it's entire 6 episode campaign. If it can do that, perhaps there's hope for this franchise yet.
There are so many swell looking indie games releasing these days, that it's impossible to keep track of them all. If it weren't for PS+, I'd be completely skipping out on quite a few that I'd likely really enjoy.
While Grow Home doesn't seem to be blowing minds on any level, it looks to lovingly bring back that mascot adventure charm of so many 90's titles that some now attempt to tackle with very mixed results. Thankfully, though, it has received generally very positive feedback and our former chungus-in-chief Jim Sterling's YouTube looksee of it convinced me I needed it in my life as well.
Cute, funny, bright, innocently fun. Something to break up how I will be spending most of my video game playing this year.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D
Whenever Zelda has failed to impress me, I always try to give it a second chance because I adore the franchise's concepts and lore so much. If I could imagine the perfect video game, it'd probably be a lot like a Zelda game. Sprawling overworlds and perilous dungeons, a huge arsenal of exciting tools and weapons, expressive characters, vibrant motifs, charming music, I could go on.
At it's best, I can think of no better way to be spending an afternoon. Thing is, it's so rarely been at it's best for me. Minus Twilight Princess and Wind Waker, my impressions have been all over the place and that goes especially for Majora's Mask. I've gone at length about why I couldn't enjoy it, but, basically, it was a nasty combination of dull and confusing. Lots of running around, waiting, running around... more running...
I don't think I fought a single enemy during my time with it nor was I captivated with it's characters outside that brief moment with The Happy Mask Salesman. It's visuals haven't aged too well either.
This all brings me 'round to the recent 3DS update. It looks wonderful, some of it's encounters have been altered, and it's progression has been updated to feel much less vague or arbitrary. I already know I love Majora's Mask's art and mechanics, it's just how it was all put together in the original release that turned me off from continuing too far past it's beginning sections.
I wouldn't be surprised to find Majora's Mask as suddenly my new favorite Zelda game. At the same time, more than any other game on this list, I'm concerned about how I will take it. It's times like these that remind me that, as a critic, going into a game can be very exciting in so many ways beyond what can be gathered from it's surface level merit. I have a point of reference, a game I could very possibly love or still hate...
Please. Please be awesome.
So, how have y'all been enjoying 2015 in gaming so far? What are some games you're looking forward to?