Christmas in November!

No, my headline is not referring to Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday deals (though I will admit to breaking my game-buying ban thanks to Steam & The Walking Dead. Oh well, back on the horse). I mean I just played Sonic Generations for the first time.

What does that have to do with the Christian gift-giving event? That’s when I received the game, back in Christmas of 2011. It was one of 2 games I asked for (and received). The other was NBA 2K12, which I first played on May 23, 2012. So, it took me six months to play one of the games I got last Christmas, and almost a year to play the other. Not a very good track record. See why I started this project?

But Sonic Generations is pretty sweet so far. I only played maybe a half hour – long enough to go through the first two worlds both as new-ish and classic Sonic. I even liked the crazy 3D sections which will take up half the game. I put the voiceover on Japanese and turned on captions, just because I thought it would capture the vibe a little better.

I had the first two Sonic games back on the Genesis, and played a ton of both. Not sure if I beat either one without using the debug code, however. I ignored Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, but did catch Sonic CD – which became my favorite game of the franchise. It holds up pretty well on iPad, too. Maybe I oughtta go back and play Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles one of these days, via the amazing Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection.

What, me jealous?

Maybe my no-buying vow has colored my impression of new releases. Perhaps it’s a self-defense mechanism to keep me from being too envious. But really, there hasn’t been a new release this month that has really left me wanting. Assassin’s Creed III apparently takes out all the assassinating. Super Mario Wii U has a cool overworld, but I didn’t *love* New Super Mario Wii nor have I completed either Mario Galaxy. Halo 4 is even a mixed bag in terms of reviews – many knocking its campaign as samey with a Tron overlay. FarCry 2 pissed me off far too much for me to have any interest in FarCry 3, and the talk of its story elements being shock for shock’s sake isn’t going to turn me around. mind you, all these games are getting at least an 80 Metacritic score.

I’m on the last stage of Fire Emblem 2. It’s kicked my ass a couple times, to the point where I consulted GameFaqs. They keep talking about these magic spells that I’ve never seen much less have access to, so it may be tough for me to come out victorious.

I’m also struggling a bit with Persona 3, which I’m waiting to take a big step in the excitement department. Currently, my character is in the week before high-school finals, so my cohorts keep jumping ship and all I can really do is go to the library to study. That’s as exciting as it sounds. At least the soundtrack is dope.

I started Driver: San Francisco a while back, and it’s been fun. It’s a with-Kate game. I worried that she’d bore of the open world and race/stunt challenges, but she’s enjoyed it. I think the strange-and-intriguing story helps, as does the San Francisco setting – a city of which she’s very fond. Sticking with the car theme, we played a little Mario Kart Wii. I spent the time to unlock a few extra cups, but there are still 8 tracks we can’t yet access.

Everyone enjoy your Black Friday buying. Amazon, Steam, and even Capcom’s own store have already posted some great deals. Just remember to buy stuff for other people, and make sure to actually play the things you buy at some point.

Persona 3 FES for $4.99

One of the games I’ve been playing lately has been modern-day JRPG, Persona 3 FES. It’s been pretty neat, mixing Japanese school kid life with dungeon-crawling role-playing. Maybe a bit repetitive so far, but great music. And the critics loved it.

And it’s DEFINITELY worth the $5 being charged for a digital version on the PSN store. Or $10 for the PSP version (also on PSN store). If you like RPGs and don’t yet have it, now is a great time.

Forgive me if the formatting for this entry is not ideal; I’m posting from my iPad.

Longing For My 1 Multiplayer Weakness

I’m a single-player guy, almost exclusively. Sure, I’ll rock some co-op with Kate – we just fired up some Mario Kart Wii the other day, her on the Wavebird and me doing it nunchuk/remote style because screw that plastic wheel – but I rarely do competitive. The AI, now they’re my rivals. There is one exception: Halo.

I got into Halo 2 multiplayer with a clan from Cheap-Ass Gamer and would play at least one night a week. It was much better playing with people who I knew weren’t total dicks. At least, most of them weren’t total dicks. Most were also better than me, but I started to improve. I also loved that Bungie kept an inordinate amount of stats.

For Halo 3, I rocked several dozen hours, but probably not as much as its predecessor. But Halo: Reach probably beat ’em all. The different load-outs and accessory skills meant you had more play style choice. And the replay videos were pretty dope, even if I mostly used them to expose bullshit kills that shouldn’t have happened. Of course, I played through the single-player campaign for all 3 games as well.

As I’m sure you all know, Halo 4 is out. Both Penny Arcade and Kotaku talked it up today in a way that made me long for those late-night deathmatch sessions. It would get me so pissed, but at the same time I’d have moments of success, of leading my team or having some noteworthy kills. But alas, Halo 4 is something I cannot have. Not for at least 11 months, if I stay true to my vow. I guess I’ll need to bust out some Reach soon; I hope there are still people playing, and that they’re not so good that I’ll be laughed out of the lobby.

Spoilerless Dishonored Playthrough Notes

I completed Dishonored last night. At least, I completed it the nice-guy way. The mean-guy way will be completed by end of day. I had originally had a high chaos rating going into the final stage, so I went back and played several stages to shut that thing down, so to speak. It wasn’t quite as easy to do as I’d hoped (as Creative Director Harvey Smith told me, “It’s complicated.”), but I got it done.

See, I normally play these games as a stealthy but thorough player-character. I try to stick to shadows and sneak, but I also take out everyone and explore every nook and cranny of the level. With Dishonored, you kind of have to have one or the other unless you’re really F’ing good. I’m not that good.

Playing levels multiple times led to some interesting results. For example, one later stage had a spot where a bunch of bad-guys were bunched together in a way that – if I didn’t want to kill anyone – I would have to be super stealthy or just flat-out run/blink my way past. Imagine my surprise when I got to that area, and the bad guys were now actually good guys. It was pretty cool. The chaos rating also affects very central characters. It’s worth seeing both ways.

I’m a credit watcher, in both movies and games. I also have a pretty good ear for voices. I did not see it coming that Susan Sarandon was cast as the voice of Granny Rags. Carrie Fisher had a very generic credit; I wonder if she knew someone or if she just made a wishlist. Hit Girl from Kick-Ass is the voice of Emily, daughter of the Empress.

To summarize my time with the game: I loved it. It’s a sublime little digital package of action and adventure. I had some really high expectations coming in and was not disappointed. It may not reach the status with me that Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, or Dark Souls did; but that’s probably because I sunk at least 80 hours into each of those games. Unlike them, however, I see myself going back through Dishonored in a year or two and feeling refreshed – finding new things and using new powers (I didn’t have possession until the final stage). I’m not going to give it a score, but suffice to say anyone comfortable holding a controller will be into Dishonored.

I have a bunch of games on the short list of what to play next: Asura’s Wrath, Sonic Generations, Deus Ex: Human Revolution (which I played for an hour months ago), maybe get back to Persona 3. Any suggestions are welcome.

All About The Paper… Mario.

In a 24-hour period, I completed two games I started a LOOO0000oooong time ago: Super Paper Mario (Wii) and Puzzle Agent (iPhone).

The first was a game I reviewed back in 2007. I got about 11 hours in, but never completed it. Kate and I started from scratch a couple months back, and played through it. It’s funny, adorable, entertaining, insulting, redundant, innovative, ugly, and clever. I’m glad we played it. And I’m glad I had someone alongside me who would help me voice all the characters and read their dialog.

Not sure what we’ll pick as our next play-together game. Driver: San Francisco? iNFAMOUS 2? Silent Hill 2? Zelda: Skyward Sword? Luckily, I can use my as-yet-unplayed Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story as a backlog replacement for the new Paper Mario: Sticker Story.

Puzzle Agent is by Telltale Games, who is keeping the adventure genre alive with episodic titles like Back to the Future and The Walking Dead. This game is closer along the lines of Professor Layton, except the story is along the lines of if Fargo and X-Files had a baby. I rarely ever had a time when I played it extensively, and really the last year I’ve barely touched it. I just fired it up on my new iPhone 5 while synching Kate’s iPhone 5. Four puzzles later, it was over. Okay then.

In other news, I’ve decided to not include any video games on my Christmas list. I originally thought this would be a good workaround for my year of backlogs, but decided it would be akin to cheating. And I’m no cheat… at least, as far as you know.

My favorite Star Wars games

I assume you know about Disney buying LucasFilm. I could talk about how Walt Disney is controlling the global economy, its superheroes, and Tom Hanks’s facial hair from the grave on his way to a monolithic monopoly; but I’m keeping MYOB about games.
More specifically, I want to talk about Star Wars games. The brand’s games, much like its films, have run the gamut from game-of-the-year shoo-ins to insta-coaster. I want to talk about my five favorite games with Star Wars in their title. And spoiler alert: I never played any of the X-Wing games. There are multiple X-Wing games, right?

5. Episode I: Phantom Menace (PSone)
I know this is a controversial pick. However, let me explain: I moved from Richmond VA and my job with GWAR to Minneapolis MN and a gig with Game Informer magazine. I may not have had anywhere to live – and, in fact, I spent several nights in a hotel and one awkward (showerless) night at a fellow editor’s – but I did have a sweet stack of games that served as a welcoming gift. They were Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Final Fantasy Anthology, and Episode I. The first two are all-time favorites. But Episode I surprised me with its action/adventure retelling of the (awful, in hindsight) film. I remember lying on my inflatable mattress, talking to the impoverished NPCs of Tatooine. It was not a bad game (though it was ugly), and was a friend while I was a stranger in a strange land. So cut me some slack!

4. Dark Forces (PC)
I’m a sucker for DOOM style games. I feel like limiting things to branching corridors kept the gameplay tight and the level design honest. While I completed Quake and played my share of Duke, I feel like going 3D kind of messed with a good thing. It became more of a slog than a fast-past puzzle game with guns. Admittedly, I didn’t play a ton of Dark Forces, but I remember it being about as good as one could hope for a Star Wars DOOM.

3. LEGO Star Wars (every system ever)
Traveller’s Tales struck gold, melding two things that everyone loves. It was quirky, it was faithful to the franchise, and most importantly it was fun. I hope whoever came up with this became set for life. It’s up there for the best multiplayer series in video-game history. Remember how Eidos published the first one? Now, you can buy the whole Star Wars saga in one package for about $20. Steal!

1. Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox/PC)
If you notice, I went from #3 to #1. That’s because if you’d seen #2 first, you’d have known this was coming anyway. KOTOR is one of my favorite RPGs of all time. It expanded the Star Wars universe. The gameplay was amazing, finally making RPG battles worth watching. And the story? The stuff of legends! When this came out, my Xbox was on the fritz. Every time a load screen came up, there was a 50/50 chance the system would crash. I still played through the whole thing and didn’t once complain. The game was worth the wait. I’m pretty pissed they went the MMO route for the pseudo third installment. In hindsight, I bet Bioware is, too. Those meatbags.

2. KOTOR II (Xbox/PC)
Anyone who expected this to be better than the first KOTOR is ignorant. It was done by a totally different studio, in much less time. All things considered, it turned out pretty awesome. Sure, it didn’t have the twist its predecessor did, but I did not regret my time spent with it. I should probably play it again sometime.

Honorable Mention: Star Wars Rebel Command
I have yet to play this, but it’s supposed to be pretty dope. I’m sure the teammate AI has long become inferior, but my shrinkwrapped Xbox version has sung me its siren song several times since I procured it.