Thursday, July 31, 2008

Well That Was Different...

So after writing my last post about Okami, later that night I played some more. During my playthough, I was shrunk down to 1/1000th of my original size. I then had to infiltrate the imperial palace and track down why an evil mist was emanating from it. Turns out, the sick emperor was the source of the mist. So what do I do? Jump down his throat, fall down his esophagus, and fight a boss battle in his stomach, of course!

And, well...

That was awesome.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Watercolor Dreams

I picked up Okami for theWii, and it's been quite a fun experience. The motion controls are a little twitchy and take some getting used to, and your companion in the game, Issun, is mostly annoying. Everything else though is excellent. The graphics are gorgeous and really make me feel as if I'm walking inside a painting. The story is different enough from anything else I've played that it mostly feels fresh.

Here's the thing though.

I've played for around 21 hours or so. Very suddenly, without much warning, I was plunged into a pretty epic fight with the main antagonist. I was a little puzzled at this. As I progressed through the game I picked up various abilities that allow you to use your paint brush to perform different actions. There are 13 total actions, but at that point in the game, I had found 9. I also knew there was a whole other city that I hadn't gained access to. I thought that maybe the game gave you the option of finishing it without finding all of the powers and other content, which would have been very different from any other game I've played before. Alas, it was not to be.

I killed the bad guy, saved the day, everyone was celebrating. And then the game kept going. Apparently, some other evil wormed its way out of the original bad guy's rotting corpse and still needs to be put down. And to be honest, I'm not sure how inclined I feel to continue.

At this point, I feel like I've experienced the whole package. Sure, there are 4 more brush powers to find, but I looked the game up on GameFAQ's and it appears that I'm barely halfway through the game. What new stuff can there be to sustain another 20-30 hours of playtime? The story, being heavily influenced by ancient Japanese mythology, is different, but it still boils down to saving the world from the Great Evil. I've saved the world several times over at this point in my gaming life, so that's not a great motivator.

It doesn't help that while continuing into the next area, the Wii froze up about an hour after I had last saved my game. I thought only Xbox 360's came with that feature. :-(

Friday, July 4, 2008

Appreciating Older Games

I finally finished Metal Gear Solid. Pretty much all of my thoughts that I had on it here still hold true. I did end up restarting the game though. I found a guide and had a lot more fun because of it. I finally found a lot of the hidden items that made my life easier in the game. I also was able to take advantage of some shortcuts that were only available in the Twin Snakes remake of the game. Finding the tranquilizer sniper rifle made it so I didn't have to backtrack through the whole freakin game to find the regular sniper rifle. Also, using the hot and cold pipes in Metal Gear Rex's facility to change the key card speeded up the process of deactivating the nukes considerably. Of all the boss fights, the confrontation with Metal Gear Rex was the only one that felt like a true boss battle to me. The entire game has been building up Metal Gear to be this invincible walking battle mech, and now I finally was able to take it on. The only other boss fights I really enjoyed were the ones against Sniper Wolf.

As I've been replaying, Metal Gear Solid 4 has of course come out and the hype for it has been through the roof. There have been plenty of reviews about the game, all mentioning many of the same complaints I have about the first one. Another thing I've been reading lately are people's recollections of the original game. Many talk about how blown away they were by the fight with Psycho Mantis, where he reads your memory card, telling you the games you've played, and have to plug the controller into another port for so that he can't predict your attacks. I've also read people talking about how unbelievably epic it was to fight Sniper Wolf in the snow field, or to rapel down the communications tower while under attack from the Hind helicopter.

For me, the only epic moment I felt was fighting Metal Gear. Dodging the lasers, diving out of the way of missles, then quickly bringing up the Stinger to fire off a missle at the radome before running away was exciting. It makes me wonder if games as a medium are more difficult to appreciate when you try to go back and play older games. As technology moves inexorably forward, the things you can do in games increases and makes it tough to go back to something older. After playing Half Life 2, I was wishing older shooters had realistic physics. After playing FEAR, I was wishing Half Life 2 had melee combat.

The time in which we play these games certainly has a huge impact on how much we appreciate them later. As I've said before, I had no consoles between the Sega Genesis and the Xbox 360. Part of why I started playing Metal Gear Solid was to catch up on this famous franchise I had missed out on. It's very likely that had I played it when it originally came out, I would have been as blown away as anyone else. The context of the time in which a game is released is important. I'm convinced that the 2007-2008 timeframe will be looked on as an important time in games. Call of Duty 4, Portal, Bioshock, Metal Gear Solid 4, and GTA4 have all pushed storytelling in games forward to one degree or another. On the other hand, in 10 years a young player may decide to play Portal for the first time and wonder what the big deal is. I never played Chrono Trigger. It's apparently a classic RPG. It's coming out on the DS now. I'll probably pick it up. I have a feeling that I'll like it, but not be blown away. Then again, I played The Longest Journey long after it was originally released, and it's one of my favorite games of all time. So we'll see.
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