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.

I Know That Feel

Writing that post the other day about the Sega Genesis titles got me feeling rather nostalgic. I’ve written about nostalgia recently, along with dedicating a significant portion of last week’s podcast to the topic. Regardless of whether or not nostalgia worked well or not is besides the point. What the point is, is that I ended up searching for a particular PS3 title that could sate my desire to play some Sega games. My brother-in-law picked up a copy of said title a few years ago, and I did play it a bit back then, but realized that I hadn’t really dug deep enough into it. I wanted a copy of my own. The game? Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection.

A collection of almost 50 games, this package was worth it’s original asking price (whatever that may have been), but the $18 I paid for a copy at Gamestop yesterday was even better. Not only does the collection have many of the games I listed in my recent post, it has other titles that I still enjoy but didn’t include. I thought I’d make a list of the games for those of you who are curious, with a small amount of commentary:

  1. Alex Kidd
  2. Alien Storm
  3. Alien Syndrome
  4. Altered Beast (+ arcade version)
  5. Beyond Oasis (on my list)
  6. Bonanza Bros.
  7. Columns
  8. Comix Zone
  9. Congo Bongo
  10. Decap Attack
  11. Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
  12. Dynamite Headdy
  13. Ecco the Dolphin
  14. Ecco: Tides of Time
  15. ESWAT
  16. Fantasy Zone
  17. Fatal Labyrinth (on my list)
  18. Flicky
  19. Gain Ground
  20. Golden Axe (on my list)
  21. Golden Axe 2
  22. Golden Axe 3
  23. Golden Axe Warrior
  24. Kid Chameleon (on my list)
  25. Phantasy Star
  26. Phantasy Star II
  27. Phantasy Star III (on my list)
  28. Phantasy Star IV (on my list)
  29. Ristar
  30. Shining Force (on my list)
  31. Shining Force II (on my list)
  32. Shining in the Darkness
  33. Shinobi (arcade)
  34. Shinobi III
  35. Sonic the Hedgehog
  36. Sonic 2
  37. Sonic 3 (on my list)
  38. Sonic & Knuckles (on my list)
  39. Sonic 3D Blast
  40. Sonic Spinball
  41. Space Harrier
  42. Streets of Rage
  43. Streets of Rage 2 (on my list)
  44. Streets of Rage 3
  45. Super Thunder Blade
  46. Vectorman
  47. Vectorman 2
  48. Zaxxon

There are a lot of good games here, but then there’s a lot of crap too. Some of the games that made this collection I can’t help but ask, why? Others make sense and I owned most of them at one point or another. I have a lot of fond memories of many of the titles, but the ones I absolutely adore made it on to my other list. Last night I didn’t play as much as I would have liked, but I was in the mood for some puzzle-game action, so I played Mean Bean Machine and Columns. The former was a lot harder than I remembered, the latter was still super easy, to the point that I just shut it off because I was at level 50 and didn’t think I’d lose any time soon. I also fired up the first Phantasy Star game because I had never played it before, and it was on of those games that I just don’t see myself ever playing. It is a conversion of a Master System (8-bit) title, so it’s really dated and I just couldn’t handle it. Phantasy Star II (another that I hadn’t played) felt a bit better, but was still annoying. Having played IV the most, and it being the best of the series made the others fall flat. I still need to dive into some of these other games, but now that I own them all, there’s time.

That’s it for today. Been a busy day, I still have podcast editing to do, and I wanted to meet the deadline (which is fast approaching). I have something planned for tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll get it posted earlier in the day. Until then.

#segagenesis #blaugust #retrogaming