Sunday, June 10, 2018

Hey Kids, don't sell your old gaming gear!

You heard me. Keep that shit. The small monetary return you get for it at the time of selling won't be anything compared to what you pay to get it back later in life as you strive to gather some of that nostalgia wrapped up in plastic.

This is a lesson I keep teaching myself and by 'keep teaching' I mean I keep failing to grasp. Too often do I reach a point where I tell myself "I'm not going to need this ever again" or "This is just sitting around collecting dust" and I sell that video game item in hopes of getting some extra cash to fuel more current gaming desires. Then comes the day where I'm itching to dig into that old game on that old system and experience that nostalgia factor... and outside of emulation (which may or may not do the job) there's no avenue to take... except starting the hunt for that older system and game once again.

It's a weird cycle and one I hope to be able to stop. Rather than sell stuff off, I want to try boxing stuff up and keeping in storage so if the itch comes up again, I can simply go looking for the box of old gaming treasures. Come the day that I want to share these 'blasts from the past' with others, maybe even my own kids (when that time comes), I'll be able to without the need to hunt these things down in flea markets, used game stores and the like.

I've done it with the PS2, the N64 and most recently, I've tripped into the desire to once again experience the PSP in all of it's portable goodness. I've spent a few months thinking about it, trying to track down some decently cared for specimens (I heavily prefer my gaming gear in good shape) and planning my jump back into that universe. What I ended up doing was grabbing a total of 3 "Less than cared for" units from a couple sellers for next to nothing and through a little hard work (and some inexpensive parts from ebay) I've managed to replace the outer case of one of the units to match it's perfectly working hardware. The result is impressive, you wouldn't know the PSP isn't a brand new - out of the box - unit. Purchased a new (third party) battery for it as well and we're into the swing of things.

I played some God of War: Chains of Olympus and Need for Speed Pro Street (both UMDs I got with the units themselves) which are a good bout of fun... but the one game I can't wait to jump into is Daxter.

Daxter. One of my Favs on the PSP. Sad the (Jak) series hasn't been touched in years.
I've still got some work to do to the 2nd PSP unit, with the case replacement for that followed by final touches to get it up to speed, then I'm going to hand that one off my fiance so she too can experience some PSP gaming (her first experience with the system) or perhaps even some adhoc multiplayer gaming with yours truly. The third unit, I'm not quite sure what to do with just yet.

Future Plans:

I am already thinking about the next project in the realm of nostalgic gaming rebirth. Simply put,  Nintendo's lovely purple lunch box: The GameCube. I haven't decided when or how badly I want to pursue that system at this moment in time however. I've got lots to dig into with the PSP and it's library for the time being.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Connected Gaming: I miss playing alone

It's no shock, if you know me, that I'm not huge into online gaming. I simply prefer, for the most part, to play alone or in a 'same room' environment with friend(s) or family member(s). That's completely fine, right? In the modern world of gaming we still have single-player and multi-player games or at least sections for each within those games, so one can chose which realm they want to spend their time with. But, I've started noticing a new annoyance in every one of my gaming systems wanting to be online and persistently reminding me that my gaming friends are doing this and that, playing this game and the other, achieving, sharing, befriending, posting on leader boards and what-have-you. It's got me to the point that I miss just sitting down and playing a game for the sake of playing a game... you know... where you lose yourself in a title for hours and experience it for what it is.

To be honest, I don't need a notification every time I achieve a new silly little goal in a game. I don't need to know when every one of my friends signs into PSN, XBL, Steam or (insert other platform here). I don't need to know every time someone starts a game, I don't need to know that someone's liked something of mine via some kind of social feature built into each system. I don't need to connect my games or systems to social media sites like facebook or twitter. Hell, I don't even need to know that a download has finished or a patch is available. I certainly don't need to have an IM/email length conversation with people every time I log into my gaming platform. Lastly, I feel it completely pointless to build an ever more micro-social system into a platform that already has this. I'm looking at EA, Ubisoft and WB specifically for their login systems that require you make accounts with them to offer features like this (as well as weird useless awards based on this idea) as a separate system built into each game for you to keep track of, regardless of platform.

I find myself, more and more often, playing games on my PC or older gaming systems that have no kind of online connection requirement (OR forcing my newer ones offline while I game). This includes emulators (one good thing about fan made stuff, it's usually not trying to shoe-horn you into giving them money), PC games pre-Steam/Origin, games from (which doesn't force you into all this connected stuff) and just about anything else I can get my hands on. Or, again, I force those gaming platforms into offline mode and disable as many notification settings as I can.

AND It's wonderful. I'm enjoying games again. I'm exploring the wastelands of Fallout, dealing with the quirkiness of Advent Rising, exploding demons in (Brutal) Doom, helping Mario get to his princess and leveling up my character in Star Ocean. All while focused mainly on my game and not the notifications of whatever my systems deems important enough to take me out of my gaming zone and quite possibly ruin an experience of that game for me.

Makes me wonder though. When did gaming become more about about instant gratification, with Achievements and constant updates about everything going on in the realm of the gaming microsphere? When did we stop enjoying ourselves and care more about the above? Which brings up another point: Why does Nintendo get so much slack for holding back on adopting this model? It's actually one thing I've wondered about for a while and now am kind of proud that Nintendo has lacked some of these features in their gaming systems. I'm actually looking forward to getting a WiiU at some point and just enjoying the games without a lot of this other crap getting in the way.

So simple. Clean of notification. Just playing a game.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

A weekend of losing myself: Sword Art Online

The name 'Sword Art Online' didn't exactly spring confidence in myself as something I would enjoy viewing. I am, after all, very picky when it comes to content I enjoy, that ringing true for anime the same as most mediums. However, during the end run of a illness that kicked my butt with a high level of success, I was left browsing Netflix for something to pass the time before sleep once again beckoned to me. SAO was chosen in a "Ehh, why not try it out" decisive click and the next two days, 25 episodes later, I'm officially a fan.

In SAO, we're introduced to Kirito Kirigaya, a gamer in the near future whom is plugging into a virtual reality MMO game on it's launch day, excited to get back into the game after participating in it's beta testing. Once he and the other almost 10,000 gamers log on and try out the system they're addressed by the game's creator whom tells them that they can't log out, if anyone tries to remove their VR headsets in the real world, they die, if they die in the game... they also die; the only way to escape the game world with your life is if one player can clear the game's 100 floors of increasingly challenging boss battles, thus completing the game.

It's not that crazy of an idea to think about, but the execution goes rather well. The character, Kirito is an interesting one as are many of the side characters he meets, teams up with or develops relationships with. It's in these relationships that the game tends to take on a stronger role than just that of a play thing. Characters start living as if this new life is their own, embracing it and giving up on the main point of the entire title itself (that of battling to become stronger and defeat the game). Some settle into roles of shop keepers, cooks, fishermen and what have you. Characters get married, start families and start living full lives... all in the realms of a fantasy world. The above aspect is incredibly interesting and I think is what pulled me into the experience. The idea of escaping into a different realm where an entire difference ecosystem exists is something I rather enjoy and find only in a few gems of universes, regardless of medium (be it books, movies, games etc). Which in of itself, is interesting too because I have yet to play an MMO game where I've felt something like that.

The story arc bugged me a little... as the entire concept from beginning to the conclusion of that story is finished in about 15 episodes, while the remaining 10 episodes, without revealing what happens in the arc of the first 15 episodes, pick up a continued story that has a different arc (yet with ties to the first). In the grand scheme of the anime's concept, it makes sense, but I question the staying power of the series if they jump story arcs that quickly. Regardless of that, I really enjoyed a lot of the characters, the themes they touched on as a series (Friendship, love, self confidence as well as death, loss and acceptance all work into it) and the connection that all made in such a short sprint of time.

I'm also excited for season 2 to finish getting made (and hopefully dubbed, as I enjoyed the English version). I nabbed a Vita game, titled 'SAO: Hollow Fragment', to help me stick with the universe until season 2 gets out, but so far, rather impressed with this series. Worth checking out :)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

OMG Zombies - Third time around

OMG Zombies is one of those games I seem to keep coming back to. I first found this little gem back in the PSP Mini's library and really enjoy it's unique style and strategic gameplay. I later purchased the upgraded title for my Vita and enjoyed it over once again. So of course I jumped at the idea of getting into the beta for the steam version and found myself playing it more than ever.

In OMG Zombies you take the role of a survivor/shooter, perched on top of something higher than the Zombie horde below you on a 2D single screen, encompassing the various obstacles and challenges of each map. Armed with just a sniper rifle and 3 bullets (which you can upgrade to 6 as you earn cash by completing levels), you are tasked with taking out the entire screen's worth of undead. An impossible task if one bullet equaled one zombie death, but this is where OMGZ's strategy comes into play.

Each and every zombie in the game has a chain reaction ability which helps take out other zombies around it. Some explode, some fire off gunshots of their own, others run through the level screaming (taking out others at their destination), some even melt into acid; all of which helps clear the screen and earn you the higher ranking, providing you with more cash and allowing you to beef up your abilities.

Each level has a Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum medal to acquire, each earning you more cash for upgrades. Don't get discouraged if you can only pull off the lower medal awards at first, it'll become easier once you've spent some of that award money on upgrades. Better medals open up more and more of the 100 levels included and you can go back any time to any level and try for a higher score; some levels being clear-able in a single shot if timed right.

Thankfully the mouse is the most precise tool for the shooting, giving you an advantage over it's previous versions (on PSP/Vita). The game runs wonderfully in windowed mode and goes along at such a pace that you can continually go back to it between browsing and chatting if you prefer (which I liked during my play for this review).

What unfolds is a game that feels a little over-powering at first, as you clamor to get even a silver medal, then opens up and gives you the upper hand as you progress, only to keep challenging you with levels that make you wonder how even 6 bullets will help you be victorious. Sometimes timing is key and you can sit there with hand on mouse for what feels like forever, trying to line up the perfect chain reaction.

Then when you've completed all 100 levels on platinum, you have the choice to start all over again in a prestige mode, in which you lose all your upgrades and must start from level 1 again. Reminding yourself just how hard it was starting out. If you're brave enough and have some serious time to dedicate to it, the game has an achievement for prestige-ing 20 times over.

The game isn't a super action romp and you shouldn't get it thinking it is. It's a strategic game that employs a very well ramped difficulty curve which makes for an engaging and addicting experience. I've enjoyed my time with it and feel it's well worth the asking price.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Completely blindsided: A Gone Home Review

It's not too often I go into a game with a certain mindset or assumption of what it is and I end up playing something that unravels in a completely different way... but Gone Home has completely blindsided me in this manner and has left me impressed.

On first look, Gone Home seems to be a first person exploring horror title, not unlike titles like Frictional Games' Amnesia or Penumbra series', in which you're left to your own wit to solve puzzles and survive whatever evils are lurking around every corner. I started in on the game with this mindset and with a backdrop of a dark, seemingly empty house, raging thunder storm outside and hints at the house being haunted by it's former owner, it would seem to fit that very build. What unfolds is something far more interesting, touching and real.

One takes on the role of Katie, an every-day American girl whom has been away on a trip through Europe, returning to her families newly moved into home to find it seemingly abandoned. Dropping her baggage, I begin to explore the house, picking through cupboards, reading notes, listening to answering machines as I look around for some kind of clue as to why none of Katie's family is around to greet her. The entire house is littered with little clues to the story, items to pick up and examine, some of which work into puzzles strewn throughout. Katie reminisces when she finds things from her life growing up with her family and more specifically her relationship with her younger sister, Sam.

It's through Sam that most of the story unfolds, her audio journals speaking directly to Katie as if she was telling you the story. It's in this, that I began to suspect that the haunted house idea is indeed the 'soon to rear it's head' thing to deal with, with the death of the previous owner and the spookiness of the house is mentioned quite often. Later, secret panels, stairways and flickering lights give further suspicion and while it does indeed play a part in the over all story, it's much less than one would think. The real core of the story revolves around Sam and her life growing up in the area.

Each of Sam's diary entries bring you closer to the to final point of the entire narrative and I found myself lost in the story that unfolds as I explore the house. Sam and Katie's voice over pieces are very well done and help to add validity to this real feel of the tale. I also found myself excited to recognize items throughout the house as things from my childhood. Things like VHS tapes labeled with movies like 'Ghostbusters', 'BeetleJuice' and 'RoboCop' or the abundance of 'X-Files' references. SNES carts housing fake, but very well done mock ups of games made me smile and Street Fighter II references are made all over the place (the Chun-Li fighting combo list was extra special). All of which kind of brought me back to the past and added yet another layer of realism for me.

By the end of the game, I had spent just over 2 hours playing... which might be generous as I did explore quite extensively, making sure to read everything and listen to each audio log with great attention. It's not really the length of the game that matters though, but what feelings it stirs up and the way it gets you to weave your own visualizations of the stories that Sam unravels, which matters more. I found myself forgetting I was playing a game where I was exploring a house, concerned about spirits and other possible plot twists and instead felt as though I was reading a book that jumped around all of these experiences which Sam describes to her confidant, Katie. This, to me, is a lot more special and thus, more memorable than it would of been, had I played a game where I simply tried to survive some evil with my gaming skills.

The game's writing, nostalgic embrace and extra care to make the game about the story and the characters, rather than the player's skill to stay alive has made me a fan. I liken it to a beautiful short story, than that of a larger winding narrative and more of an experience than a full blown game in the normal sense of the word, but if you open your mind and play it for what it is, you may just enjoy it. I know I did.