January has been a surprisingly good month for me. Or maybe I’m just having a really good week, I’m not sure, but what I do know is that I’m in a very good mood. I’m not sure where this optimism and happiness came from, but I’m not going to look a gift happiness in the rainbow. I’m not sure what I’m on about, so here’s a list of the games I’ve played this past month;
(I am once again going to say that I should draw more)
I finished Arkham Knight this month! When I say I finished it though, that’s just taking the base game into account. My main goal was to take out The Riddler before finishing the main game, but after taking down Scarecrow I began kicking myself for taking down the criminals who I dealt with beforehand. The way Arkham Knight ends has me curious enough that the next time I play it I will be playing it somewhat differently. I didn’t complete the DLC content either, but I don’t really have a good excuse for that. I recall helping out at the site of a crashed blimp and now that I think about it Killer Croc is probably what turned me off.
When I first tried Arkham Knight, I was annoyed by the tutorials and the Batmobile sections, but I’m glad I gave it a second chance. Arkham Knight was a game I greatly enjoyed, and while I don’t care too much for the ending, the story as a whole kept me very engaged. Kevin Conroy has always performed fantastically as Batman, but for me the standout performance was John Noble as Scarecrow. Remember the show Fringe? Neither do I, but I remember really liking John Noble’s performance in it. In Arkham Knight he gives Scarecrow a really foreboding presence and made me think of Vincent Price. As for the story beats, there was that one plot twist that everyone had guessed when the title-character was revealed (not Batman, the OTHER title character). I think part of why Rocksteady didn’t try too hard to deny it was to throw people off the trail of other plot points that did surprise me. Like in Arkham City, there were unexpected deaths and consequences that I didn’t see coming.
If there’s one thing I have against the game though, it’s that the combat feels like it might have been simplified. I played on the second-from-highest difficulty level, and I know I made mistakes that would have been punished in Asylum, but I managed to get through most enemy encounters without much difficulty. I have trouble dodging knife attacks too, but I never felt overwhelmed in combat. I don’t know when I’ll play Arkham Knight again, but after going through it this last time it made me excited to play the other games in the series again.
(Vengence, The Knight, Batman)
I first played Steamworld Heist on Wii U and I remember it being a really interesting premise. It’s still an interesting premise, but I have trouble keeping interest in the actual gameplay. The idea of manually aiming each attack in combination with a turn-based combat system isn’t without merit, and trickshots are always cool to pull off. It just got old a lot faster than I thought it would, and the story didn’t do too much to hold my interest. I think the main thing that made me want this game was the inclusion of Steam Powered Giraffe; a band that I like, but who I think I’m mostly over except for a few of their tracks.
(I'm still not sure if SPG are playable or not...)
I played through Disco Elysium this month, and boy was it something. I loosely followed a walkthrough for the sake of unlocking one of the achievements, but aside from that I went through with minimal guidance. I got the feeling, as I played, that I was missing out on a lot of content, and I was never completely sure of what was going on in the world. In a way, that helped keep me in the headspace of the player character. On the one hand, I don’t think future playthroughs will be as impactful as my first, but on the other I like how there seems to be a ton of different outcomes to the narrative. On the other hand, the narrative as I experienced it the first time, went to some really strange and uncomfortable places.
I had trouble playing Disco Elysium all the way through because even though there were comedic moments and setpieces, a lot of the elements of the narrative are really heavy. As entertaining as it was to try convincing a door to open, arguing with a necktie, and searching for cryptids, there always seems to be a grieving widow or marriage based on lies or domestic issues waiting around the corner to bring me down. The main investigation is a murder mystery and I knew that going in, but I wasn’t expecting a cartoony romp, but I wasn’t expecting this much political discourse either. More often than not, I felt like an outsider which, again, probably helped keep me in the headspace of the playable character. It might be a while before I play through Disco Elysium again. I liked it, I thought the writing was fine, but this felt like a one-and-done to me.
(Amnesia, Fear, and Loathing in Politics)
I got back into Assassin’s Creed Unity for a while this month, if only for a while. I still love this depiction of France, the story is still pretty enjoyable, but I think I made a mistake when I played this month. Instead of focusing on the plot missions, I went around and completed a few Paris stories, a murder mystery, helix rifts, the final cafe mission, and I completed the Nostradomus enigmas. I quickly realized that a lot of the missions only rewarded me with money, but the amounts are miniscule compared to the cost of 5-star equipment which is what I’m currently equipped with. Main story missions pay out in the currency that let me buy new skills which are what I’d really like to be getting. Then there’s the Nostradamus enigmas which offer really interesting, exploration-based gameplay culminating in 3 really interesting puzzles and a reward that just sucks. I was kind of hoping that the armor under the cafe might offer extra pocket space, maybe boost my health or resistances, but it’s strictly a cosmetic change. I still really like Unity, but I’m ready to take another break from it for the time being.
(I just want the legendary phantom set)
I’m still making my way through Shin Megami Tensei IV, or rather, I was. Funnily enough I think I’m right where I was the last time I decided to pack it in, but unlike last time I’m at a lower level and, paradoxically, with better stats. The last major thing I tried doing was the Demon Hunter’s Tournament and while I was able to scrape by the first two contestants I couldn’t make it further than that. Honestly, I don’t think I should have been able to beat the second person, but that’s RNGsus for you!
(I guess you could say I'm stuck in a tournament arc)
I went back and gave Smash Ultimate another chance to the point that I ran through classic mode with every character. When I say “with every character” I mean every character except for those who are available as paid DLC. A part of me would like to play as Banjo-Kazooie and Joker, but after playing through classic mode with so many characters I feel I’ve had a bit more than my fill. While playing Smash this month I surprised myself by how effective I was playing as Lucas, and Peach. I also came away feeling more positively about the stage Great Cave Offensive. Jungle Japes on the other hand is still my most hated stage.
I’m not sure when it struck me how formulaic classic mode is, but what really annoyed me about it was how it would briefly deviate from that formula. I’m not sure how much of it is dictated by difficulty, but every time I would have a boss fight with someone other than one or both hands, it was refreshing. That is, up until I realized that if the final boss wasn’t one or both hands it was a Ratholos, and if it wasn’t that it was the generic looking Galleom. While playing this past month I also fought against Ganon, Giga-Bowser, and Marx, the later of which I fought more often than Galleom. I feel like if I had bought into the DLC I probably would have seen a bit more variety when it comes to boss fights. I don’t dislike Smash, but I don’t see myself going back to it any time soon. I have fun with it in small doses, but I have trouble getting deeply invested in fighting games. Playing Smash makes me want to play the games it features and references more than it makes me want to play more Smash.
I’ve put a few minutes into Divinity: Original Sin. Like with The Witcher, I stopped playing it because I recognized that what I was about to get into was a time sink of epic proportions and I don’t think I have the attention span to devote to it. I think I might have also messed something up in the character creation page. I’m also annoyed that I have to play as a human. I might reinstall it and try giving it a chance again in February though because...
I like to think I gave Diablo III a good, honest try this month. I put about 2 hours into it I think, but I just didn’t feel much of anything playing it. The monsters couldn’t touch my HP, and the combat engine didn’t really do much for me. I played as a witchdoctor and at first it was kind of funny throwing spiders and summoning dogs to fight my battles for me. As I realized that the monsters were hitting me for zero-damage though I completely lost interest in the combat, the world, the story...I played Diablo casually when I was younger and I remember being killed over and over again by The Butcher.
I played Diablo II even more casually when I was a kid and I don’t recall making it to a single boss or named enemy. In Diablo 3 I killed a handful of named enemies but I can’t remember their names. The game looks fine, but the atmosphere isn’t as dark or scary as the previous games were. It’s almost like I remember going on these impossible, dark adventures when I was a kid and the new version is a sanitized theme park attraction based on the not-at-all child friendly original. If I was more of a Diablo or Diablo II fan I might say Diablo III is incredibly disappointing, but as it stands Diablo III was just incredibly dull.
I technically started playing Pokemon Crystal this month. I say I technically started because even though I made a character, ran over to Mr. Pokemon’s place, and fought my rival for the first time, I haven’t really started my Pokemon journey. I don’t know who’s going to be in my final party, but I definitely want a Crobat (I caught a Zubat), I want my starter (Totodile is best starter), and I want Donphan. I found the early Phanpy spawn point but it’s a rare encounter during the day, and it runs from battle. I’m having some difficulty catching it and I won’t technically begin my playthrough until I have my Phanpy...which I caught while editing this! Now I can really start playing!
(I forgot about Pokemon storage in gen 1 and 2...)
Tatsunoko vs Capcom is difficult. Well, maybe it’s not so much a difficulty issue and more of a, ‘I’m bad at playing 1v1 fighting games’ kind of thing. I spent a day or two rearranging my room, setting up a new bookshelf, and unearthing things that have been stuck in my closet for longer than I intended them to be. When I realized I have a copy of Tatsunoko vs Capcom, I immediately popped it into my Wii U and tried running through arcade mode using Karas and Ippatsuman. I was absolutely flattened by the second and third form of Yomi so I did the sensible thing and reduced the difficulty from 4 stars to 2 and tried again with Megaman Volnutt and Ippatsuman. The results were much more positive and I might even run through arcade mode a couple more times as Capcom characters!
I don’t remember if there are many unlockable characters other than the two giant robots, and realistically I don’t see myself putting too much serious time into this game. In the heat of the moment, I default to hammering on the buttons and rolling the control pad in the vague directions I think are needed to make special attacks happen. It was enough to get me most of the way through a couple of arcade runs, but it’s not enough to keep me engaged in the long term. For me Tatsunoko vs Capcom is great in short bursts.
(Gatchaman was the first anime I've ever watched)
February is my birthday month, and since we’re still living through the end-times, and since it’s such a short month, I’m just going to consider the whole month as my birthday. I’ve spent the last few days, and plan on spending the next few days, cleaning up and rearranging my things. I’ve already stumbled upon older games that I haven’t thought of for years, so I can foresee myself playing some wildly different games in February. Tatsunoko vs Capcom for example was a game that’s spent the last year or two in my closet until I dug it out. A lot of those are older gen games though, so I might need to get HDMI adaptors to play some of them. Brutal Fate and Subverse still don’t have solid release dates, but that’s fine by me. There should be a Steam sale around the time of the Lunar New Year so maybe I can catch up on recent games I’ve missed. Or maybe I’ll just spend the next 4 weeks playing Pokemon Crystal and reading my old manga.