Video Game Frenzy Weekend!

I indulged in my favorite time-wasting habit in a big way this weekend and previewed four (!!) games. This included my first major foray into the XBox360 Marketplace which turned out, much to my surprise, to be a positive experience.

Marketplace Games:

1. The Secret of Monkey Island SE

LucasArts upgraded the graphics, the interface, and added new voice acting to the original Secret of Monkey Island for the Xbox360. It’s Monkey Island! It’s a download from the Xbox Marketplace! It’s $4! How can you not download Monkey Island for $4? It’s MONKEY ISLAND! I am waving my hands around and doing the “go play it” dance.

It has an integrated hint system for the truly lazy who needs to get prodded in the right direction once a while. I thought the interface with using a controller rather than a mouse was a little strange to get used to at first but I did get the hang of it. I was totally consumed by this for an hour and change before Katie started getting real wiggly with me and we needed to get out the door. I cannot imagine anything that is a better buy at $4.

2. Castle Crashers

This totally adorable side-scrolling beat things up game is totally adorable. You can look at it here. You grab swords, you beat things up, you occasionally kill a boss, and the graphics are super amazingly cute. It also has 2-4 player cooperative and 2-4 player online multiplayer. It’s $6. We played through the demo level last night but haven’t bought the full game yet, though.

Real Games:

1. Street Fighter IV

I may or may not have ruined my left hand playing Street Fighter II many years ago… *shifty eyes*. I have played a huge number of fighters including variations on Street Fighter on consoles for years and the only game that has ever really pleased me is Soul Caliber II. (THE SOUL STILL BURNS.) This game comes very close: the game is stripped down to essential Street Fighter II-ness without all the silly crap accompanying fighters recently. The control scheme is very responsive and it is possible to play with a standard controller. Move list has been returned to the essential moves. Arcade play, two-player play, online competitive play, downloadable content, leaderboards, etc. It is an excellent fighter. The issue, of course, is that after playing for 2 hours on Saturday my hand still throbs, so I don’t know if I /can/ play it any more. The Dhalsim animations are awesome.

2. Star Ocean IV: The Last Hope

Star Ocean is a funny franchise from Square Enix because, unlike FF, all the games are set in a coherent and contiguous universe. However, I almost threw Star Ocean III across the room at the 70 hour mark. I go into IV with that in mind.

So far, the game has a compelling enough story to keep me playing for a little while. It’s a “prequel” which starts with Mankind’s first forays into the stars to find planets to colonize and inhabit. The combat is a real-time Tales of Symphonia-style action system that is RPG-like but allows you to mash some buttons to some effect which keeps the combat from seems too automated. However, I am only 4 hours in and these games usually fall over at the 10 hour mark so it needs another night of play. I don’t see any major glitches in the code or anything too stupid… yet.

Funny, I had a more positive overall experience with the Marketplace games than the very expensive DVD games. I suspect the future of video gaming is in the smaller, cheaper downloadables. Sure, they are not as whizz-bang full featured as the DVD games, but I am wondering if SFIV is worth $60 for the DVD. Best game of the weekend? Monkey Island, hand’s down.

Also, I’ve started a Fallout – 3 game, which I hope to get back to.

Added bonus — the web comics I currently read:

Dinosaur Comics, Diesel Sweeties, FreakAngels, Order of the Stick, Overcompensating, PartiallyClips, Penny Arcade, PHD Comics, Questionable Content, Sinfest, and XKCD. Cat and Girl and Wondermark both were added over the weekend. I’m still previewing the other comics people sent in that require me to read 2-3 years of backlog (*cough girl genius cough*). Winner of the most compelling comic is Digger, which is on the top of my review list.

Thanks to all who contributed to my addiction!

Friday Question!

Maybe someone on my friend’s list can answer this:

I have a four year old with a super active imagination, lots of dolls and stuffies. She is starting to get the hang of consistent rules and rulesets. What games — board games and rpg games — do you recommend for a little poo?

Last Remnant

I rented Square Enix’s Last Remnant from Gamefly, a service I very highly recommend, to try it out because I currently am not playing some long JRPG at the moment on the Xbox360. I feel a little dirty because of all the systems I own, I love the Xbox360 the most, but there it is and I rented Last Remnant for it.

I don’t know what Square Enix is thinking any more. This is not the first game I sent back in disgust after 10 hours in. It’s worse than a bad game — it is a wasted game. The game starts great: interesting characters, an actual interesting plot (!!!), half decent voice acting, helpful subtitles, an interesting squad-based combat system, the potential for an interesting component system for upgrading weapons. When dealing with one squad with four guys, the game plays great. No real issues. I got up to 3 squads with 9 guys total and the game manifested draw-in problems, slow downs, stutters, long load times and an annoying camera that doesn’t allow you to see the field very well. And the component system turned out to be both confusing and just a reason to make the game longer by forcing grinding. Worse, there are boring sideplots that you have to play otherwise your guys are just too weak to continue with the main plot, and you must do these side quests constantly.

It went in my book from a 9/10 to about a 4/10, and I sent it back.

This is just fingernails on a chalkboard. Square’s game quality lately has really been slipping and now they are shipping stuff that isn’t even finished. There’s no reason that combat 10 hours in the game should manifest stutters and load-time issues. That’s trivially easy to catch during play testing. This is why we rent — if I would have bought the game I would have taken it back to the store.

Anyway, I started a Fallout 3 game instead. And got wasted by Raiders last night. Sigh.

S7S Review — By Katie Rose!

Yesterday, Katie stole my brand new copy of Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies and flipped through it three times!  She was very interested in the pictures.

She was very happy to see the game has:

– Princesses

– Knights

– Skeletons

– Pirates! Especially pirates.

She was very concerned the game did not have:

– Goblins

She was quite adamant that the game would only work with goblins.  Other than that, she declared it “interesting” and then headed off to play with other things.