Now Playing in December

Beaten:

Kirby’s Adventure:
I just had a hankering for some Kirby and this was sitting right on my WiiU. It is such a great game, which I have written before. Good times.

Rocket Knight:
This is the PSN game from a few years ago. It is pretty great; just a solid update of a long dormant franchise. It has that old school edge to it. It just doesn’t rise above good. It is missing that spark to make it really memorable. Still, it’s well worth the time.

NES Remix: Oh man, this game. Sure, it’s just a Nintendo sanctioned rom-hack, but it is a fun rom-hack. I hope it is a sign of things to come. Because as much fun as this game is, it has some stinkers it uses for its challenges. Ice Climbers and Clu Clu Land in particular are terrible, no fun pieces of crap. But Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. work great in this bite sized format. It is just a wonderful dose of full Nintendo nostalgia. At some point I am going to get all the stars, but I’m fun calling it done with some stars left unearned.

Crimson Shroud: I picked this up a long time ago on my 3DS and just sort of lost track of it. It is excellent. For as small a game as it is, there is a ton of world building going on. There is enough going on in this game to sustain a full-fledged RPG, something 30 or 40 hours in length, but it is all crammed into a game that lasts about 10. I am actually shocked that no has made a game so blatantly based off a tabletop game until now. I hope Matsuno is working on something else after this, since he is about the best maker of RPGs.

Bioshock: I just wrote about this. A game as great as its reputation.

Yakuza 3: This is a game that I could see a lot of people just not liking. It is ostensibly a game about Japanese mobsters, but the play spends at least half the game running errands for orphans. I loved it, though I don’t know I have enough to say about it to sustain its own post. The Yakuza series just feels like a modern version of the beat-em-ups I like so much back in the 8 and 16-bit days. I’d call it the modern day River City Ransom. It is pretty much everything I love about video games, including running errands for orphans. I really need to get Yakuza 4 and finally play Yakuza 2.

Orion’s Odyssey: This is the first Kickstarter game that I’ve backed that I’ve actually received. It is a puzzle game with an absolutely charming story mode. You use small shapes to form bigger shapes. It starts off pretty simple, but once you get into the challenge mode it can become downright infuriating, in a fun way. I’d recommend anyone with a DSi or 3DS to go ahead of buy this. It is a pretty great little game.

Final Fantasy XIII-2: Somehow they managed to make a game with a plot that made less sense than FFXIII. That is quite the accomplishment. Still, they did fix some of the problems with the first game. The big one is that they gave the player a lot more freedom. After few hours, large chunks of time are open to the player to explore as one sees fit. The battle system is still a lot of fun and it is surprisingly fun to put hats on monsters. Honestly, though, I think I liked the first game better. Lightning is better than either character in this game, so is Fang and hell even Snow. Still, this is more of a game rather than an experience.

Ongoing:

Popolocrois: This is a fun and charming little PSP game. I’m not sure I am going to stick with it, though. It is something of an amalgam of 2 games and is set into distinct chapters. I finished the first chapter and I’m having a hard time finding the desire to go back and start the next one. It is just clunky enough to be off putting, no matter how charming it is.

Trauma Center: New Blood: Good God this game is difficult. I played through the first three chapters and I’m not sure I am going to be able to beat it. It will be the only Trauma Center game I haven’t beaten.

Earthbound: I finally got going on this. I’ve finished Twoson and got Paula on my team. This game is so damn great. I am intentionally taking it slow because I want to savor it.

Upcoming:

Xenoblade: A half-finished game that I plan to finish off this year. I am slowly recalling just how to play so far this month.

Paper Mario Sticker Star: Another half-finished game that I plan to finish off this year.

Ratchet and Clank Future: The whole Future trilogy is up. I am going to beat all of them in the next few weeks.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds: I got it for Christmas and can’t wait to dive in.

Final Fantasy Crisis Core: I’ve got a well thought of FF game for my PSP and I am going to give a go.

Bioshocked

I played Bioshock recently. Not Bioshock Infinite, this year’s critically acclaimed FPS with a unique setting and a politically charged story, but 2007’s FPS with a unique setting and a politically charged story. Of course, with a game so acclaimed and talked about when it was new, I have little to add to the discussion now. What was most surprising to people that know me is that I played Bioshock at all. I play all kinds of games, just about everything except FPSes. My disinterest in the genre is longstanding; even back when my brother and I found Doom on our uncle’s computer I got bored much more quickly. Still, I like games and Bioshock is so seminal a game that it is hard to be a part of the conversation without playing it. That is how I approach it, as an obligation. I won me over though. Bioshock is a game worthy of its reputation, even for someone who has a decided disinterest in FPSes.

I have played a handful of first-person shooters in my time. My friends moved from multiplayer game to multiplayer game, so I played plenty of Goldeneye, Perfect Dark and Halo 2 at times. I never even pretended to like those games. I rarely complained or anything, I like to play with my friends even if it is a game I don’t particularly enjoy. So I played, having a reasonably good time mostly just due to hanging with my friends. I’ve also played the Metroid Prime games, which are first person, but aren’t really shooters. The last FPS I played was Metroid Prime 3 more than five years ago. The point is, these sorts of games aren’t really my thing and I am far from an expert on them. Still, Bioshock was a wholly enjoyable experience.

Unlike the little bits of other FPSes I’ve sampled, Bioshock’s movement has weight to it. When you swing the wrench, there is heft behind it. Each of the limited, unique weapons has a specific role and feel. The player character doesn’t feel like an unstoppable warrior, he feels like a guy who kind of knows how to shoot a gun. And while the number of weapon are limited, combined with the different kinds of ammo and plasmids gives the player a wealth of options. It really lets the player find their own strategy. I favored a combination of wrench enhancing powers and the fire plasmid. While there are tons of options, any choice the player makes is viable, making for a game that fits to the player’s preference.

The big moral dilemma of the game, whether to harvest or save the Little Sisters, is truly a non-choice. The bonus for harvesting them rather than saving them is small enough that anyone who gives two craps about the story is going to rescue them. To do otherwise is to be a monster for the slightest benefit. There is no dilemma there. One answer is obviously right morally. Anyone looking at it as a moral choice can only do one thing. It is an interesting world building and narrative device, but it is not a moral choice.

The setting is the true star of the game. Rapture is a place unlike anything else in gaming. Looking around the ruins of the great submarine city is entrancing, as is getting to the bottom of just what happened to turn Ryan’s Utopia into the terrifying wreck that it is. Each area makes sense in terms of the construction of the city and is visually interesting. Even if the rest of the game was crap, the setting would be enough to make Bioshock a memorable experience. While I wasn’t as floored by the actual story of the game as most seem to have been, the fact that there seemed to be thought put into it pushes it ahead of most games.

It is really just a truly great game. Even someone who has no interest in shooters should find a lot to love here. I will likely look into the other games in this series, but I’m still not on the shooter boat. They are just not for me.