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The Forbidden Codex of The Pink Beyond - A Sqrl's Journal

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May 22nd, 2015

07:19 pm - Blue Dragon: Nope'd Out.
I think if I'm 20 hours into a game and my reaction to going back to is "Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhfffuckno", it may be better to cut my losses and parachute free as it plunges into the ocean below. Or something.

I really hope it's not just that I hate JRPGs now. I still feel a strong affection for the genre, but I haven't finished one in a long time. (aside from that Final Fantasy 1 replay.) I dunno, I'm gonna try a few experiments and dabble around, but Blue Dragon was just this exhausting slog. Maybe I just have to start an eBay pile. I dunno.

I'm not even sure I can articulate why exactly it didn't work for me. Maybe it was the late-era Dragon Quest-like experience of "you have to check every single object on screen to get all the treasures", and once you know that it's a burden on your soul every time you run past a barrel because WHAT IF YOU IGNORE IT and it's AWESOME LOOT, but it's never awesome loot. Never ever.

And the writing, sheezus crap. I think what killed me was when Our Heroes uncovered a villain and asked him why he was doing something, and the "reply" was like six solid seconds of MWU-HAHAHA.

Oh well. With Splatoon out on the 29th, I'll try and find some other short games to work through first and then make another run at the JRPG genre.

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12:04 am - Blue Dragon: The Mark of Zola
Today Zola showed up in Blue Dragon, riding in on the backs of dreams and at the vanguard of the king's caravan to rescue the party from tigers. Zola is Akira Toriyama Female Character Model #2, aka Android 18. She wears a pirate headband and a belly shirt and carries a rapier.

Zola is so far the most competent, badass, and personality-filled party member. Uh, I haven't been posting about this game so let me just lay out my Power Ranking here now that I'm at the end of Disc 1. This has nothing to do with in-game power, it's a pure awesomeness rating.

POWER RANK 1 - Zola. The adult of the party. Led an assault on the evil villain base, broke off to Obi-Wan the reactor down, and STILL escaped in time to find a robot threatening the king and punch it into two half-robots. When she's not guest-starring in my party I imagine Zola hangs out on the covers of pirate-themed romance novels, planting big tongue-grinding kisses on swooning princesses or agreeable princes while fending off a wall of swordsmen with her free hand.

POWER RANK 2 - Kluwe, Jiro. Two kids from the Doomed Hometown. They hold the mark of being the sensible ones: Jiro is smart and analytical, Kluwe is calm and practical and her parents are dead, which makes her Batman. They are the party mages because I don't want to put actual responsibility in the hands of either of the two remaining party members.

POWER RANK 3 - Shu. Shu is our Shonen Hero, with everything that implies. He is loud, impulsive, and believes that wanting really hard for something to happen and never giving up equals character development. I don't find Shu objectionable. Largely because the party also contains...

POWER RANK FUCK YOU - Maromaru. Maromaru is a little yellow turd of a creature in a pointy helmet. He has no volume control, no off switch, and no impulse control, and his screeching voice can chip paint off walls at thirty feet. Also his entire race loves to dance. (They make a point of noting that other members of his race have normal speaking tones and are quite polite. Maromaru is presumably defective.) I hate Maromaru.

Curiously, Maromaru LOVES "Lady Zola", as he's taken to calling her. When she's around all of his worst traits drop off in favor of puppydogging around her legs. Another level of Zola's awesomeness is that she makes Maromaru less of a pain in the ass. I hope she stays around forever.

In other news, today I finished the big dungeon at the end of Disc 1 of Blue Dragon (it had AMAZING music) and took Disc 2 of Blue Dragon out of the package for the first time since 2008. I then put it in the 360 for the first time ever.

Progress is moving briskly along!

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May 21st, 2015

As part of my quest to clear every game in the universe out of my eternal backlog, I've been playing Blue Dragon lately. It's an Xbox 360 JRPG from the Chrono Trigger dream team: Akira Toriyama on art, Hironobu Sakaguchi on system design and writing, Nobuo Uematsu on music.

I can't tell if I've fallen totally out of love with JRPGs or if Blue Dragon is just super bland. As far as I can tell, the pitch meeting was like...

Microsoft: "We need a JRPG for our new console, something that will make Japan love us."
Sakaguchi: *kicks through window* "WHAT IF FINAL FANTASY V STILL EXISTED TODAY?"
Microsoft: "Uh..."
Sakaguchi: *pulls Akira Toriyama out of pocket, swings him around, KO's an executive with him* "AND HE'LL DO THE ART!"
Microsoft: "... sure, okay."

The art is kind of carrying the game, providing all the charm and soul which the writing lacks. That said, the REAL star of Blue Dragon is the soundtrack.

Particularly That Boss Theme. You've probably heard it somewhere. Do you know of it? Legendary boss battle shred "Eternity"?

Oh my god I love this theme. This is one of the few games where I look forward to big boss fights. Wailing along with the Deep Purple dude is the most fun "American in Japan" music adventure since The EGGMAN theme, which in turn was the greatest thing since they somehow got the Dream Theater guys to score a pinball game.

It doesn't fit the "US musician in Japan" theme but I still need to mention Blind Guardian rocking Sacred 2.

Clearly what we have to do here is figure out how to get Iron Savior to do music for Hideo Kojima's kickstarted Zone of the Enders spinoff gamesoft when he gets around to doing that, or at least to lend their strength to SOME sort of giant mecha game. Such a thing would vibrate the very fabric of space/time, causing a guitar-riff singularity that would TRANSFORM US ALL into heavy metal robots destined to live for a billion years.

With a billion years of free time, maybe I could actually bring myself to finish Blue Dragon.

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May 18th, 2015

05:26 pm - Recordkeeping: Ty the Tasmanian Tiger COMPLETE



Ty the Tasmanian Tiger is unabashedly a third-string B-tier collectathon platformer, a genre which is now about as thriving and robust as the actual real-life tasmanian tiger. On one hand, it shows.

This isn't a great game, but it's a servicable game. Each level probably took me longer to beat 100% than it took me to finish the entire game of Quest For Booty. There's all kinds of crap to search for and find, the voice acting and script is... well, probably a hate crime in Australia but really amusing to my American ears, and the whole thing could use a bit more polish and a bit more work to be really great.

(PS2 platformers are ADORABLE sometimes, by the way. I could tell Krome Studios was like... "Look! OMG, we can put particle effects on this weapon! It's purple glowbug Christmas, motherfuckers! Check out this simulated fire! We're gonna make all the CGI as glossy as possible so you KNOW this is a SERIOUS PLOT about cartoon talking animals! Hell yeah! BOOM GREEN AND BROWN!")

The thing is... the thing is. You don't get games like this anymore. You have your indie games, and you have your big AAA games, but you don't get so many Little Studio Comin' Up games anymore. You don't have your Okay Games. Your Mid-Tier games, that whole tier? GONE.

Which kind of blows. I'm not gonna say we need more games like this, because this wasn't particularly great. But we need more CHANCES for people to make games like this. If Ty came out today, it would be at best a 3DS or PS Vita game. Nobody wants to put this stuff on the consoles anymore. Nobody cares. It's not a million-seller, so why fund it?

I can't blame them, but I can mourn them.

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May 14th, 2015

04:21 pm - Recordkeeping: Ratchet and Clank Future: Quest for Booty - COMPLETE
Egad this was a short one. About three hours start to finish and that's with a break in the last half for lunch. Introduced some interesting concepts to the series, like a "wrench grab" mechanic that Ratchet could apparently have done this whole time but didn't really care to bother.

Still, strong entry in the series. Just a very tiny one. It'll be a while before I get to "A Crack In Time", since I can't really afford that... but oh well, I am swimming in other games to play.

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May 13th, 2015

06:46 am - Recordkeeping: The Unfinished Swan COMPLETE.
The developers of this game understand the importance of a vista, a place you can stand and look back upon the route you took to get somewhere. Particularly important in this game, where the central mechanic is splattering things -- paint, water for applied chloromancy, whatever.

I'm not sure if this was uplifting or depressing. Come with me to spoiler space.
Spoilers beyond.Collapse )

Anyway it was good. Free, for PS+ subscribers as of right now. Worth a play through.

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May 12th, 2015

07:20 am - Recordkeeping: Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction - COMPLETE.
I've said pretty much all I need to about how the Ratchet & Clank series plays. It's great. Controls are great, level design's great, characters are great. None of that's changed.

My favorite thing right now is how, after four games of doing this stuff, Ratchet and Clank have gone from confused and slightly alienated outsiders to commandos to professionals to quietly hypercompetent and completely comfortable with saving the universe again.

"An attack by heavily armed robotic commandos?" muses Clank. Ratchet replies with a mix of amusement and affection "When AREN'T they heavily armed?" and off they go to fight the invasion.

Or "Oh, look. A laser grid." "Isn't it cute how they keep trying that?" And by the time they're halfway through quipping about how ineffective laser grids are, the player is halfway through hopping between the obvious pattern gaps in said grid.

I'm a little worried about the movie that's probably coming out this summer or fall. With it will come a reboot of the game series, and I really want this not to be another crappy flashy all-style-no-substance game movie, backed by a crappy reboot game that's rebooted because that's what we do with games now.

This series kind of deserves better. I'll see and play them no matter what, but they deserve better.

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May 9th, 2015

10:08 am - ONGOING: Guncaster - Grant me the strength to destroy all around me.
When I'm not playing games on stream lately (or asleep or reading or whatever) I'm... playing games off-stream. Little arcadey things that I can't imagine anyone would want to watch. One of these games I reach for in my off-hours is Doom.

(You don't need me to explain Doom, right? I mean... It's Doom.)

I have a lot of respect for Doom. It's still my personal first-person-shooter benchmark. Like... every game I play that has a guntorso floating around shooting people gets compared to Doom. It's not fair to a lot of games because Doom will win almost any given comparison, but there you go.

Doom has however been around about twenty-two years at this point (I think). People have made new levels, new music, new gunsets, new enemies, other people have combined those things together and so on and so on. Since a lot of the people who are now making content for Doom have been playing it for ten, fifteen or more years at this point a lot of the new-school levels for Doom are tuned to their skill level, which means if you're a lazy casual or just used to newer games those levels will whip your ass. The Doom community has been becoming smarter, faster hunters for YEARS ON END and they're frickin' scary.

I am NOT a smarter, faster hunter. I consider myself a lazy casual (in spite of having started with Wolf 3D and played Doom since day 1 yes shut up). I can do most of the original Doom 1 and 2 levels on Ultra-Violence ("difficulty 4") sometimes on a really good day, but usually I have to step it down to Hurt Me Plenty ("difficulty 3"). Don't ask about Nightmare.

Doom is very good at setting up a horrific atmosphere of impending death and such. Sometimes I don't want to play that way. Sometimes I don't want to feel vulnerable. Sometimes I want to blow demons to little bits and kick them afterward.

Sometimes I want to get to the bloody point of this entry, which is this: Sometimes I just need to be playing Guncaster.

Guncaster is equal parts awesome and stupid. It's awesomely stupid. It's stupidly awesome. Here's the premise: You're a time-and-dimension traveling dragon in tight leather who is for some reason in the Doom setting. (Or sometimes the Heretic or Hexen setting, whatever. Not important.)

You have dragon-sized guns. You have dragon-sized cyberfists and big stompy boots with spikes on them. You have wings that let you fly/glide around. You have guns the approximate size of various counties, all of which have names like "The Pulverizer" or "Ironblast, The Octo-Barreled Shotgun". You have magic powers with names like "Skypunch" and "Thunderstruck" and "Scourgebreath". You have a starting pistol which I need to emphasize takes up most of the screen, sounds like a hand grenade going off, and will often blow things into little chunks just on its OWN. Your starting pistol is a gib factory.

You have, in other words, all of the tools needed to be either someone's new DeviantArt sensation OR to completely vaporize the entire Doom setting. Which is what you do, because dragons are fucking unstoppable. Never stop being a dragon.

Taken seriously this would be absolutely insufferable. If it were integrated into a plot-heavy cutscene festival, even I would tap out. It isn't. It's all metal screams and stupid jokes in the status messages and you have a store interface that just pops out of nowhere and lets you go shopping for crap with money you blast out of imps and demons. It's great.

Also the current trailer is just the mod author playing a level while blasting "Push It To The Limit".

Guncaster is a vacation trip to Planet Catharsis, which you then kick in half. It is delightful and it is dumb and I can't apologize for loving both parts of that equation.

It can be downloaded here, but I wouldn't unless you know what GZDoom is and you have that up to date and you're comfortable with binding keys and stuff. If you're good with all that? Never stop being a dragon.

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May 8th, 2015

07:48 am - Recordkeeping: Sonic Unleashed NOT COMPLETE NEVER COMPLETE
I'm sorry, I'm not going to play a crap game in a series I used to love, just because I used to love it.

I actually really liked Sonic Unleashed in 2008, but this was the best we could do back in 2008. It was wonky and played kinda off and nobody except me liked the Werehog stages (I honestly still like them best), but it was the best new thing in the series.

It still has a great theme song.

It's no longer the best we can do. There are arguably better Sonic games. I have better games in my backlog.
I'm done here. Does anyone want a copy of Sonic Unleashed for the Xbox 360?

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May 7th, 2015

02:26 am - Recordkeeping: Lego Star Wars Complete NOT COMPLETE But Close Enough
I had plans to 100%-clear Lego Star Wars Complete, but it's just too much game for me to do that. Which makes sense, because it's really Lego Star Wars 1 + Lego Star Wars 2 stuck together with extra stuff jammed on top of that.

No, I'm at around 70% done with this thing, all the story levels done, bounty hunter missions done, all the vehicles and characters bought, etc. That is enough Lego Star Wars for right now thank you.

Which isn't to say I didn't enjoy myself. It's still fun to go "NYOOM" in jet cars and shoot things with phaser blasters and so on. You can use the force at things and hit them with glow-tubes. It's Star Wars.

'Kit Fisto' is the best worst name in Star Wars, by the way. Just sayin'.

Anyway I realized I would have to play all 36 or so levels three times in a row and... no, that's boring, I'm bored now. On to the next game.

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