State of the Game: Graphics Aren’t Everything

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It’s funny how daily posting can affect other aspects of your blogging habits. This State of the Game column has been a roundup of the games I’ve been playing, and sometimes has other tidbits like things I’m watching, or other small chunks of information that wouldn’t fill out a whole post. When I write like I’ve been writing, where I take a day or two off here and there, there is still a point to having a round up post, because then I just collect the thoughts I’ve had throughout the week that didn’t make it into another post. When I was writing daily through August and the beginning of this month, the round up post became obsolete because I made every thought into a full blown post, rather than saving them up for a State of the Game. It’s an interesting dynamic.

So I finally wrote a new round up post last week, and it turns out that this week I have enough to write about again. I don’t know if I’ll be back to doing one of these a week or not, I still reserve the right to write them when it feels appropriate.

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The first major bit of news is that I had been playing Shining Force after many years and I finally completed it yesterday. I had been thinking about playing it ever since we started talking about Evergreen games back in August, and started it up a couple of weeks ago. It didn’t take long to complete, and felt easier than I remember, but it still holds up. To me, graphics aren’t everything. A game that has fantastic mechanics and a workable storyline get me going a lot more than graphics do. That’s not to say I’m not susceptible to the charms of amazing graphics, but rather that I can still go back and enjoy older games. It bemuses me that some people only want the newest technology and games and will write off everything that came before it. A recent conversation with a friend confirmed this about him, where he was already talking trash on the PS3, saying any games he didn’t play must have been garbage and that he only cares about what’s on PS4. Similarly, he writes off my new computer and thinks I should “stop being cheap, and buy a PS4.” I do want a PS4, don’t get me wrong, but at the same time there’s only 1 game I care about on that system that I can’t get anywhere else. Until there’s a handful, I don’t really see it as being a wise purchase. Not to mention, a $1500 computer is 3x the amount of a new PS4, so who’s the cheap one? But I digress.

I also picked up a copy of the original Final Fantasy Tactics for my PS3 as a “PSOne Classic.” I’m not sure if I’m going to move on to Shining Force 2 first, or if I’m going to make the jump to FFT, but either way I have been on a retro gaming kick and it’s made me appreciate my nostalgia for these particular titles but also given me an appreciation for some of the advancements made to RPG systems. There are some conveniences that are definitely missing from Genesis-era RPGs, even just between Shining Force 1 & 2, which is part of the reason I want to play the sequel now so that things are fresh in my mind. I think I’ll be writing a post about the two and comparing them by when I’m finished with the series again. Either way Tactics is itching to get played.

Some of the indie games I’ve mentioned either here on the blog or on my podcast recently have been in a steady rotation this week. I wrote about Super Mutant Alien Assault already, and posted a video but I didn’t talk about the other two games I picked up at the same time: Space Beast Terror Fright and Secrets of Grindea.

SBTF is a Roguelike FPS where claustrophobia, warping visuals and difficulty collide to make for very short gaming sessions. I would go into more detail, but just watch some of my gameplay and you’ll get the gist of it:

Intense no?

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Secrets of Grindea is more light hearted. It’s a 16-bit era JRPG with action combat rather than active time battles. Think Secret of Mana meets a smart assed teenager. You were probably a smart assed teenager the last time you played Secret of Mana, so this will probably be easy for you. Really though, it’s been fun. The animations are top notch, the storyline is wacky and silly but that’s good because it’s poking fun at all of the old school RPG tropes I mean the game is called Secrets of Grindea, because they have embraced and make fun of their influences quite readily.

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The best part is that game is playable in co-op with up to 4 players, so it’s already one upped SNES era games. There is also an arcade mode that plays more like a rogue-like and will probably keep the game replayable for many moons to come. It’s still in early access, so they have already stated that there is more to come out of the story mode before it is complete and they will be fixing and tweaking things for a while, but it’s already a well made game at this point, so I’d say it’s worth your coin. If anyone has the game (or picks it up subsequently) let me know and we can get a game going!

There’s another game I purchased as well, but I haven’t managed to play it yet, mainly because it was a pre-order. However, I did get 10% off with the pre-order and apparently will get access to the beta before the game launches late next month. The game in question is called Warhammer End Times: Vermintide. It’s a Warhammer FPS with a focus on melee combat and has a feel akin to Left 4 Dead. There are 5 classes, each with their own unique weapons and skill sets, along with Skaven as the featured enemy race. Levels appear to be fairly linear but with loot drops, unique Skaven types (like L4D’s witch, etc), bosses, and events. The loot system has rarity, and there will be differing difficulty levels, so I see a Diablo-esque grind fest waiting to happen. It’s 4 player co-op as well, and there is talk of additional classes, monsters and levels to be added after release — some free, some paid DLC. Sounds about right, and for $26 I can’t complain. Here’s a video from Totalbiscuit that shows some of the beta footage, if my commentary hasn’t already sold you:

Last but not least, I re-upped my Playstation Plus after not having it for a couple of months. Honestly I didn’t miss out on much, and this month wasn’t too great either. The Twisted Metal remake was the big freebie on PS3, and though I hadn’t played the game before, I had seen it in action and it still looked pretty decent. After playing it however, I’m not too impressed. I’ll give it another whirl before writing it off completely, but I’m hoping better stuff comes down the pipeline in coming months. Really I just wanted to re-up so that I could access some of the games I’ve collected from the service that I haven’t beaten or played at all. There’s some good titles in there that came out months or years ago that I need to play while I have an active plus sub. Not only that but I like knowing that I’m building a PS4 library for when I do finally pick up the system. So yeah, that’s it for this week’s round up. What are you playing?


No Nuclear Throne run today, as it’s a bit too early for the daily run to reset (5 pm) and I’m going to be out for the evening. I did find out that another roguelike that I own and enjoy also has a daily run feature, so I will leave you with that:

State of the Game: Retroism

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It’s been quite some time since I’ve written a State of the Game post, and it has to do with the fact that that series of posts I did about my Gamer To-Do List managed to encompass what I would have said. Doesn’t really matter what title you put on the post, if the content is the same it shouldn’t be repeated. At least, not without something new to add.

Anyway, the subtitle here is Retroism, and though I thought I was being clever and coining a term, a quick Google search will show you that I was dead wrong. There’s a service much like the bundle sites we all know and love called Retroism.com, so yeah, I was beaten to the punch. Either way, I have been on a retro gaming kick, be it true retro games or those styled as such or even just in game play mechanics. I think it was a combination of talking about some of my favorite PSOne games, playing a bunch of Nuclear Throne for the last couple of months, along with having purchased some games that are retro-inspired and then playing some remakes in recent months. Playing games that are updated from their past versions, compilations of old classics, or new indie titles that are clearly throwbacks to the 8 and 16 bit generations are great fun, and in some ways I am feeling like there are some superior experiences in older titles. Some that deserve a brand new sequel or envisioning too. We talked about much of this during the new Couch Podtatoes episode, though I’ll be touching on different games here.

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I’ve mentioned Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection a few times in the past, mainly because the Genesis was one of my favorite systems of all time and the collection contains many of my old favorites. Lately I had been craving an old school RPG experience, and though I’ve played those old 16-bit titles many times throughout the years, I still wanted to play Shining Force again. I mentioned it is one of my Evergreen games, and I meant that. I started playing it a couple of weeks ago again, and it’s been a blast. I can also say that it’s been long enough since the last time I played it (probably via Wii Ware) that there’s parts I’ve forgotten and so it’s been a fun playthrough. I’m almost done with it, and I intend to play its sequel as well.

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I played Columns the other night too, and I was breaking the game. I had to let myself lose shortly after taking this picture because it wasn’t getting anymore challenging. I remember the game being more difficult when I was a kid. Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine is definitely more challenging in comparison.

As I mentioned, I played through the Gears of War remake with my friend, but I also got to check on the Rare Replay that had been announced back at E3. It’s a collection of 30 games from the now defunct publisher Rare. Honestly, it’s not a compilation that I would have bought, as sampling a handful of the games lead me to this conclusion. Battletoads is still remarkably hard and poorly designed. RC Pro-Am was a game I loved but is plagued by being developed for an 8-bit system (NES) with limited graphical and audio capabilities. It’s sequel fairs little better. Most of the titles were released on Nintendo or Microsoft platforms, both of which I didn’t really own during their development run, so I had no real fondness for anything included. I may sound biased here, but I simply enjoyed more games on the Genesis collection, and the same goes for other compilations of old Midway or Atari games. Rare just wasn’t a company that did it for me.

I’ve also been playing a bunch of Nuclear Throne, and though I haven’t been posting daily anymore (I managed 46 days in a row counting the tail end of July through Sept 12th) I am still doing the Daily Runs and have been enjoying it. I am still posting the videos to YouTube, so if you’ve enjoyed those, head over to my channel and subscribe so you don’t miss a video if I happen to skip posting. I’m falling back into my old pattern of posting several times a week but not every day. Some days there just isn’t anything to say, I didn’t game much, there’s no news, and I don’t want to force out content just for the sake of content. However, I’m going to try and keep as close to daily posting as possible, so you can still expect regular content to read. I just reserve the right to not post if I don’t feel like it. It’s not a question of whether or not I can post daily, rather a question of feeling like it or having something worthwhile to share. So yeah, Nuclear Throne videos daily on YouTube. Here’s today’s run:

I’ve had several new pickups lately, and they’ve been solely free games or super cheap on Steam. Stuff from the Weeklong Deals that post on Mondays is typically a bunch of crap, but there are hidden gems sometimes, and I’ve found a few. The other day Steam gave everyone a free copy of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and I’ve heard good things about the title, but I have yet to play it. Origin on the other hand, gave away Command and Conquer Red Alert 2 + an expansion. I haven’t played it yet either (nor did I play it back in 2000 or so when it released) but I’m looking forward to trying out a classic RTS to keep up with this whole retro thing I’ve had going. One of the games that I picked up this past week for a whopping $0.15 is called Terra Incognita, and though it’s in early access it looks like a PSOne JRPG and those have always been pretty enjoyable. Hoping for good things from this one.

So that’s about it for this edition. Time to go play something.

The Influential 15

Wilhelm, The Ancient Gaming Noob, along with some others in the community have posted their top 15 games of all time. He took things a step further by picking games that he felt influenced his love for various genres/styles of games, and then towards the end of his post invited others to treat this as a meme. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a meme around the blogosphere, the last time I participated in one was years ago and it was Everquest II themed. So anyway, here’s the picks for my 15 most influential games of all time, listed in chronological order (release dates, not necessarily saying one is better than the other):

Tetris (1984):

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Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE has played Tetris. If you haven’t played Tetris, not only are you living under a rock, but you’ve at least see in, heard about it, you know what it is. Tetris isn’t an amazing game. It’s about the simplest concept ever. There isn’t anything graphically astounding here, the sound was what you would expect out of a puzzle game, and the game play is repetitive, there is nothing dynamic about increasing the speed of the pieces. But this simple concept has captivated millions around the world, and for good reason — it’s about the most addictive game ever. And, without a game like this you wouldn’t have games like Angry Birds or other puzzlers that have added depth over the years. I’m not sure if I originally played the game on the NES, Gameboy or my Dad’s Atari, but I’ve owned a copy on nearly every platform since, and nearly every cell phone I’ve ever owned. A timeless classic, and one that introduced me to the puzzle genre, without Tetris I’d have never played games like Dr. Mario, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, Columns, and many others. Bejeweled anyone? You can thank Tetris for that too.

Ghosts ‘n Goblins (1985):

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Yeah, I played Super Mario Bros. (and even the regular old Mario Bros) before I played Ghosts ‘n Goblins. My true love of this series was Ghouls ‘n Ghosts on the Genesis, but have to credit the roots here, because Ghosts ‘n Goblins gave me a love for platformers that would continue for years to come. Hundreds of these types of games spawned during the late 80’s into the 90’s, all trying to tap into Mario’s success. I think this is probably where my relationship with Capcom began as well, though we didn’t become super close friends until Resident Evil and Street Fighter later on. I actually played this one in the arcade, and the “port” to the NES was a bit different, but still good. Console wars of the 90’s split the franchise into Super Ghosts ‘n Goblins and the Genesis title I mentioned earlier, but I was fully invested in Sega by that point (still would be if they didn’t go belly-up outside of software). Still, this was my kind of platformer, and I preferred Nintendo back in these days when they had games with darker content, rather that all of the family oriented stuff they do now.

Angband (1990):

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I’m not sure when I initially played Angband, but my Dad introduced me to it, and I remember putting copies on 3 1/2′ floppies to get my friends in on the action. Some of us had started playing games like Magic The Gathering and AD&D, so this was a graphical representation of our imagined adventures. This was also my introduction into Rogue-likes (which wasn’t really a genre at the time), which were games that were based on the original game called Rogue, a game that featured procedurally generated content and permadeath. This meant ever trip into the dungeon would be different, and if you died you had to start all over. There were tricks to getting around this, but that sort of destroys the purpose. I have gone back and played this game several times on several machines, and I’d play it again, given the time.

Street Fighter II (1991):

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Fighting games are a strange beast. It makes sense that they were instant hits in the arcade, because people could gather around and challenge the guy who kicks everyone’s ass, and he earns that arcade tons of quarters. Sometimes it felt like someone was paying that shorter-than-average adult to dress and act like a kid, just to take all our money. He secretly worked for the arcade. Or Capcom. Or something. I never heard of Street Fighter in the 80’s when the original was out. I don’t think many people did, but when the sequel released, everyone ate it up. It changed the way fighting games were marketed (read: it was everywhere), the way they were played, and came during a time when consoles were still trying to define their futures. Since then, more titles and new series have launched it’s not even funny, and in most cases these types of games are garbage. There was always something about Street Fighter though, and I’ve played them all in some form or another. My true favorite was the Marvel vs. Capcom series, followed by SF Alpha, but we owe it all to this classic. Though I don’t play them all that much anymore, I still own SFIV and spent some time with MvC3.

Shining Force (1993):

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To this day, Shining Force is one of my favorite RPGs of all time. More specifically, the series is known for it’s turn-based grid-style tactical play. Games like Final Fantasy Tactics took this formula and added some more depth and polish, but this is the true progenitor. If I recall correctly, I rented the first game in the series, but didn’t own it until after I had acquired a copy of the sequel. I spent hours playing both games, trying different teams, beating them over an over again. I re-purchased them via the virtual console on the Wii when I had one of those. I just realized they are on Steam, and I am seriously considering buying them both again. I cannot express enough how much these games changed my life, and truly turned me into a RPGamer. The story wasn’t half-bad, but the battles was where the true fun was at. If you are one of those PC master race types, you need to do yourself a favor and play these games. You will not be disappointed.

Doom (1993):

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Yeah, Wolfenstein 3D came out before it. And yeah, many games have improved upon the formula. But you cannot be a fan of the FPS genre and not mention Doom. Doom took blood and gore and senseless violence to a new level, and at the time it shocked people. This was around the time Mortal Kombat came out and people were freaking out that their kids would turn into serial killers because of a video game. Everyone was susceptible, even my parents wouldn’t allow me a copy of Mortal Kombat (silly parents, and silly media!). The ESRB formed around the same period. I played through the originals back in the day, and played through them again when I got a copy of the Doom 3 BFG edition a couple of years ago, and they were still enjoyable (but harder than current gen shooters!) Say what you will about it, but Doom deserves a place on everyone’s list.

Resident Evil (1996):

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Resident Evil was the first game that actually scared me. Well, that’s not true, there were some spooky games that my Dad used to play on his computer when I was really young that he will attest freaked me out, but I mean the first game I was playing on my own that actually got an emotional reaction out of me. That’s not something that’s easy to do, and the memories of when I bought the Director’s Cut of the original game on my PSOne, and spent the night at my friend Jason’s house playing into the wee hours of the morning will always stick with me. Every door opened was another tense experience, everytime you could hear the zombies or dogs nearby but couldn’t see them would cause the hairs on the back of our necks to stand up. Later, we grew more accustomed to the genre (although Silent Hill 2 had some moments that got me) and the newer iterations of the series are less scary and more action packed, but the first game will always resonate well with me. I wouldn’t be such a fan of Horror movies and games if it wasn’t for this title.

Final Fantasy VII (1997):

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Final Fantasy VII was the reason to buy a Playstation. Xbox didn’t exist yet, the Sega Saturn got assed out, as did the Nintendo 64. These days you can get it just about anywhere, as its success catapulted it onto other platforms. I actually bought a Playstation just to get this game, but also because it was apparent that the Saturn was losing the console war, and did anyone actually buy a Dreamcast? Anyway, this game turned me on to JRPGs, which have a style all their own and I never really played before. Later I would go back and experience earlier Final Fantasy games, but it wasn’t until after I “broke the clock” (maxed out the hours played counter in the game) and played it through more than once besides that. I did EVERYTHING there was to do in this game. I bred chocobos. I beat Emerald and Ruby weapon. I maxed my characters out at level 99. Despite all of that, I haven’t ever gone back to play this one. I could have sworn I had a copy on my PS3, but upon inspection I don’t. I might have to rectify that eventually.

Starcraft (1998):

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Starcraft came at a time when I actually had my own computer, which meant that I could play it to my heart’s content. This I did, and this was the ONLY RTS game that I ever devoted much time to. Sure I played Command and Conquer, Total Annihilation and many many others (there was a huge market for these types of games in the late 90s), but none of them grabbed me the way Starcraft did. I spent hours playing the campaigns, playing multiplayer with friends via modem (that was an ordeal in itself) and even made my own custom maps and game modes. I was heavy into this game for a long time, and I haven’t played any RTS games since, until Starcraft II that is.

Baldur’s Gate (1998):

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Baldur’s Gate was the first time I got to know Bioware. It was the first true cRPG I ever played. Sure there were others, but this was one that I owned, loved, and played through. I recall buying the expansion as well, but never finishing it. I also picked up the sequel when it first released, and spent even more time with that game. If you enjoyed games like Dragon Age today, this is what we were playing almost 15 years ago, and in some ways these original games were better than their predecessors. This game blended so many good aspects from other games, it had the D&D setting which is almost always awesome, a party system, interactivity in the group, dialogue choices that affected gameplay, and tactical battles with an active pause. Every bit of this game can be seen in modern games, and that’s a testament to how good this game really is.

Gran Turismo (1998):

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Although I did play the original Gran Turismo, I didn’t really get into the series until the sequel. I spent countless hours with friends trying to complete that game, and doing so was quite an undertaking. The endurance races still give me nightmares, hours-long races that would require you to be your best the entire time, or play catch up for many laps. A simulator, the game has the best controls in a racing game that I’ve experienced, and had some of the best graphics possible at the time. The series continues to push the envelop on that front. I have played all of them except for the fourth, and the newly released sixth game. A true masterpiece if you’re into that sort of thing.

Half-Life (1998):

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I already had a FPS on this list, and yes, that still gets the credit for getting FPS games off of the ground and running. But what about the competitive aspect of these games? Half-Life had its own multiplayer deathmatch, but no one played that. What people did play, were the mods created by the community, and some of those actually went on to be sanctioned by Valve. Counter-Strike and Day of Defeat were my favorites, and I was pwning noobs long before Call of Duty was even in development. Not only that, but this was the first FPS game that had some physics involved, and a hair brained story that actually worked. Now if we could just get Half-Life 3 for fuck’s sake.

Everquest (1999):

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Yes, there were technically MMOs before this game, but this was the first MMO I ever played, albeit not as seriously as most. I only tried it out when it first released, played it more seriously in the early to mid 2000s. I never reached cap, I probably only saw a third of the game world, but it was still fun for a time. I really got into MMOs later with Everquest II, and I plan to give Everquest Next a whirl once it releases. But we must give credit where credit is due, and this is the game that opened up the possibilities long before World of Warcraft.

Diablo II (2000):

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Wait what, you’ve been paying homage to the originals through this whole list, and now you’re skipping an OG for a sequel? What gives? Yeah, I know, it’s not congruous but it is what it is. The original Diablo was a game I enjoyed, but never owned and never beat. Diablo II was the game that hooked me into a loot hungry frenzy. Diablo II did everything its predecessor did only better. It sucked you in and didn’t let go. I played it through multiple times with multiple characters, and to this day it’s still better than most Action-RPGs that have come since. I’m rather fond of Diablo III as well, but I’m not sure it’s got the same level of “just a few more minutes, mom” to it.

League of Legends (2009):

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Finally, the last game on my list is League of Legends, because well, just because. Seriously, it’s the first MOBA I invested time and money in. I know it’s based on DOTA and DOTA was a Warcraft III mod, and DOTA 2 is out and there’s all kinds of competition, but League does it for me. There are others I have tried and a few that I have liked, but this was my first, and Shen makes me feel safe 😛

So there you have it. My top 15. Feel free to make your own list and/or mention mine.