Shena’s E3 Highlights

All the big press conferences and interesting events of E3 2015 are now over, and I’m still sorting in my head which games I’ll be scrambling to find the time to play next year! This year there were some announcements that excited me more than I care to admit, while others I sort of shrugged off, and some that made me happy for fans of franchises that I don’t necessarily follow.

Let me start by saying that I think Nintendo totally bombed their pre-recorded show. The puppets coming out at the beginning was cute and all, but they failed in using that Muppet-esque distraction as a decoy from their shoddy presentation. It started out with a new StarFox game. I’m glad for the people who have been begging for a new StarFox game for years, though it isn’t something that interests me. The gameplay will have to be amazing to win people over, because the graphics certainly aren’t doing it. Seriously, how embarrassing. After playing Bayonetta 2 and experiencing what the Wii U can put out graphically, it looks terrible. At least during SquareEnix’s conference they came out and said, “This demo was only in 30 FPS but the game will be 60,” to let the audience know if something is indeed downgraded because it’s a work in progress.

Nintendo had a super terrible 3DS multiplayer Metroid title… thing. I don’t even know, because they didn’t bother to go into detail on that even though fans have been BEGGING for a Metroid game for years. They did delve into the 3DS multiplayer/co-op Legend of Zelda game that NOBODY WANTS. But, you know, couldn’t go out of their way to show what they’ve been doing with the Zelda Wii U game they showcased a year ago.

With Fire Emblem off of my personal radar, Nintendo still had a few titles that I am looking forward to: Xenoblade Chronicles X, “Super” Mario Maker, and that 3DS Paper Mario meets Mario RPG game looks fun too.

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I honestly don’t usually get excited about mech games!

Xenoblade Chronicles and Mario Maker got dates which makes me really happy…. December 4 and September 11, respectively. So that’s two E3 games from Nintendo being released before Christmas. I loved Xenoblade Chronicles, and really wish I had spent more time with the side quests and other optional content. Mario Maker looks like a great dose of fun creativity. I can’t wait to see the levels my fellow gamers develop that I will undoubtedly die 1,000 times on.

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A goomba pyramid…. genius.

I also watched most of Sony’s press conference. The new IPs like Horizon and No Man’s Sky look pretty awesome. The Last Guardian made a lot of people happy, but I’ve gotten “Meh” about it after all of these years. The Final Fantasy VII reveal made me shed fangirl tears… Although now I’ve got my cynical glasses on, just waiting to see if SquareEnix is going to screw it up like they have everything else in the last decade. (Okay, except FF:RK. Srsly, it’s the best F2P game ever.) I know I’ll be playing it either way… whether they totally eff up the battle system and shoehorn in all the stupid FFVII compilation crap.

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If nothing else, it will at least be pretty.

Unsurprisingly, there was also fun gameplay footage from the new Uncharted game. My hubby and I are looking forward to playing A Thief’s End, so the vehicle driving sequence with all the Drake/Sully banter kept us at the edge of our seats.

I’m shocked there was nothing God of War related at Sony’s event, but I suppose it is for the best.

Going back to SquareEnix. First E3 press conference ever. And it shows. Well, as a fan of JRPGs (growing up, anyway) some of what they showed did intrigue me. Especially that Kingdom Hearts mobile game that I’m positive NOBODY asked for. In all seriousness, I really liked what we saw of KH3 (still no release date time frame.. no kidding). The battle system looks as fun as the story is convoluted. At this point I don’t even know if I should recognize the characters playing chess in the trailer… Someone help me out here!

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Seriously, who is this Rikku look-alike?

I haven’t played Just Cause games yet, but the third game looks like a lot of fun. I’ll have to do some research on them. Judging from the footage from Just Cause 3, I think I could get sucked into the sandbox carnage on display. There was also more FFVII (including an IOS port alongside the PC port), more Final Fantasy World or whatever the hell it is called, a new Nier project, more Deus Ex Machina, and the rather secretive Tokyo RPG project. Tokyo RPG project seems to exist to solidify their dedication to creating JRPGs.

I’ll admit my focus has shifted to Western RPGs in recent years. In the last year, the RPGs I enjoyed the most were probably South Park: The Stick of Truth and the Mass Effect trilogy (I didn’t start playing them until last year). And, I’m happy to announce… there were new games announced for both series! The new South Park game is titled “The Fractured But Whole.” Let that sink in.

While I am disappointed that no new details for Mass Effect were divulged outside of the title and release time frame, I’m still excited. While many might harp on my for wishing this… I was really hoping for a Mass Effect trilogy remaster. I need an excuse to play the trilogy again. The thought of slogging through the first Mass Effect in its current state pains me, but I can’t picture just picking up Mass Effect 2 from the start. I’m weird like that.

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Bioware swears this is not Spiderman wearing N7 armor.

And those are pretty much all the games that I’m personally excited for. I’m jealous about Tomb Raider, but seeing as how it is a timed exclusive I suppose I’ll get over it. Hopefully Uncharted won’t come out too late and will scratch that itch for me.

What were your E3 highlights?

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Destiny: The Dark Below

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Whats up with the Warlock being all the way in the back?

I know I have a long-overdue Bayonetta 2 review to finish up, but I wanted to take a second and rant about Destiny. Namely, that the expansion drops tomorrow and I’m not level 30 yet! Bah!

I’m going to be completely headstrong and obstinate here: Tying max level to RNG is stupid. End of story, no discussion. I kept saying I’d give Destiny a break when my last piece of raid gear dropped (in my case, legs) so I’d be max level for the expansion. And, naturally, it never did. Steve-O even logged into my account and leveled a second warlock for me, thus giving me TWO chances at the drop I need every week. And nadda. Making matters worse, getting a raid together over the last few weeks has been nearly impossible. Newer, shinier games have been releasing and taking some of our core raid group away.

I could go on boards and find a random group. True. However, I have a two year old running around, being loud or playing with loud toys, and I would never subject online strangers to that. Hell, I feel guilty making friends and relatives listen to it when we’re trying to coordinate things during VoG. I can’t see doing the raid without a microphone, so randoms is out of the question for me. I’d be kicked out of the raid as soon as my kid yelled at his tablet for not loading a Youtube video fast enough, anyway.

Compiling all this with the Templar fight no longer being cheese-able (I’ve never even done that fight the legit way) and learning I’ll have to re-level any exotics I’ve maxed out, I decided to give Destiny a break the last week or so. Why pump experience into exotics when I’ll have do it all over again soon? Sorry Thunderlord and Patience and Time, you get to sit in the vault for a bit.

I’ll be popping back in to experience the changes and new content, of course, but now I’m worried I won’t get level 32 either. I guess I need to come to terms with the fact that getting max level isn’t a given in Destiny. Sure, they said raid gear will drop more often, but we’ll see. As of right now, the raid is still the only method for PvE players to get max level, and I don’t know how many people in our crew are going to stick around long enough to do the raid enough times for all of us to get the goodies. Plus, this time around, the primary weapons only drop in hard mode. And good luck getting kind, benevolent people to want to run a raid with an under-leveled person, since the damage penalty is stupidly high.

Some of the announced changes make me really happy (Not needing ascendant mats to level exotics. Yay!), and some make me uber pissed. All the changes and updates feel like a “One step forward, two steps back” for Bungie in my opinion. What do you guys think?

What Does Survival Horror Mean To You?

We’re about halfway through the month of October now, putting me deep into worrying about a Halloween costume and watching The Nightmare Before Christmas almost religiously. More importantly, it’s the time for fright nights with my favorite form of entertainment: video games! Playing The Evil Within and receiving the new Game Informer in the mail got me thinking about some things.

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Well, would you look at that?

Not one, but TWO playable video game heroines with no skin-tight spandex outfits or cleavage in sight! I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it. 

Mainly, I’ve been ponder what my personal thoughts are regarding the survival horror gaming genre. After all, The Evil Within has been toted as the long-awaited and needed return to true survival horror, worked on by the godfather himself: Shinji Mikami.

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His words, not mine.

Steve-O and I started The Evil Within earlier this week. Last night we reached a chapter that, for me, felt like a disconnect from the survival horror roots the game had done such a good job of sticking to up until that point. Then the Game Informer’s Resident Evil Revelations 2 article discusses the series’ return to its roots, claiming to have listened to fan feedback and learned their lesson regarding RE’s swing towards the action-shooter genre. The combination of these two events got me thinking about my personal expectations when I hear the label “survival horror video game.”

Survival horror games must be appropriately atmospheric. Everything from the scenery, NPCs and creatures you fight, down to the camera filter has to exude uneasiness. While Resident Evil created the survival horror genre, I think the first few entries in the Silent  Hill series artfully excelled at this. There’s only a couple of scenes and images from RE that have stuck in my mind, whereas Silent Hill games have left lasting, disturbing impressions on my mind. Many of them for reasons I can’t really describe. See the following graffiti you’ll stumble upon while exploring in Silent Hill 2:

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WTF does that even mean?

From the first time I watched a friend exploring Silent Hill 2, I never forgot about that iconic spray painting job. Which is saying a lot, considering I have a notoriously terrible memory.

Or how about this room in Silent Hill 4?

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You better not be textin’ hos, Henry!

Without posting any corresponding images to ruin your appetite, I’ll also say the cutscene leading up to the final boss fight in Silent Hill 3 is THE most disturbing thing I think I’ve seen in a video game. Ever.

In contrast, there aren’t many specific scenes or images from the Resident Evil series that stand out to me. However, I’ll never forget the following image from the first Resident Evil:

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I’m not even sure why this was so freakish to me… I was young and impressionable I guess.

So yes, first and foremost the atmosphere has to be generally unsettling, eerie, and especially in SH’s case, full of extreme mind effery.

The “survival” part is the trickiest, if you ask me. Developers have to work on designing a video game, after all. There’s a lot of make or break decision making that has to go on. How will your character survive the odds? What tools, if any, will be at your disposal? Speaking of tools… I find limited inventory space to be an important, but no less annoying, aspect of survival horror. What’s there to worry about if your character has access to, and can tote around, an entire military base worth of artillery?

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Really? Jill just can’t slide a herb packet or lighter down the front of her tube top?

Personally, I think having limited ammo and healing items (if they even exist in said video game) essential. There’s nothing more suspenseful than running (or limping) away from monsters with no more healing items or only a couple of bullets on you. That’s why I’m a little disheartened at the current trend of enemies dropping loot after you kill them. I want the pressure of making sure I check every nook and cranny for valuable consumables versus having a high probability of getting back what I spent once an enemy drops.

And finally, the topic that prompted this post, is the nature of the battle system. Without saying too much because I’ll be writing a review once its finished, last night’s The Evil Within session got me thinking. I’ve noticed I have some pretty specific ideas about  how enemies should act in a survival horror game. To wrap up a long rant short, when I heard The Evil Within was going to be a return to survival horror roots, I did NOT expect, not want, to see enemies throwing grenades and using harpoon turrets. Survival horror games have this annoying trend of keeping the clunky, difficult-to-control navigation and character commands, yet decide to treat everything else about the game like an action shooter game. No. Just no. Sure, give enemies all the telegraphed OHK moves you want. You can even give some shotguns and handguns sporadically, to change the pace and up the ante when I’m comfortable dodging melee attacks. Just don’t have zombie-esque things spamming machine guns at me while I’m slowly limping around because I’m low on health. That’s not scary, its annoying.

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If its intelligent enough to aim at you with a sniper rifle, it ain’t a zombie.

My final point probably goes without saying, but the enemy designs have to portray some impressive twisted goodness as well. Again, Silent Hill takes the cake when it comes to creative enemy designs. Even if you’re running for your life and haven’t saved in a couple of hours, it’s hard not to stop and say “What the hell is that?!” the first time you encounter certain creatures. I’d post some more accompanying images, but some are bound to disturb you more than anything I’ve already shown. And I’m running short on time.

I’d  like to hear what the rest of you think should be included in this list. We all have different ideas of what “horror” means, or what makes a good survival video game. And something tells me that gamers who started playing during the last generation will have much different expectations.

PT: Playable Teaser… Trailer… Thing

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Don’t be fooled by this peaceful scenery.

When catching up on video game related news last week and reading about Gamescon 2014, I stumbled upon news of a Silent Hill game cleverly disguised as something called “P.T”; which turned out to be an absolutely frightening playable teaser of sorts. The articles stated it could be downloaded and played on the PS4, so I ran home Friday night and installed it. Another reason the gaming world is abuzz with excitement is because there’s some well known people behind it… Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid), Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) and Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead poster boy) are featured. I’m also excited to see the development team are Japanese. No offense to my fellow North Americans, but there’s something about the way Japanese handle horror that makes me wet myself in fright.

I didn’t play the demo. Barely touched the controller, in fact. I’m chicken enough with Silent Hill games without factoring in that this gem is FIRST PERSON. I don’t know about you, but games in first person point of view add an extra layer of “OMG I am so effing helpless and petrified!! Someone save me!” So I made Steve play it while Sara and I watched on and made multiple peanut gallery comments. And jumped in our seats. More than once.

Without spoiling too much about the teaser, the main gist is you control, through First Person POV, a man in a looping hallway, with no options besides movement and zooming in the camera. It’s very Silent Hill 4-esque in that regard. There’s even a hole in the bathroom. It’s not as big as The Room’s hole, but it certainly felt like a nod. Anyway, you path this hallway/house multiple times throughout the demo, taking notes of the eerie details that keep changing on you while feeling helpless to protect yourself or escape. Some of the jarring details are small and really require close attention. Seeing as how you can’t do much besides walk and look at stuff, make sure you observe your surroundings! Many of the finer details are what makes this teaser so remarkable.

The other Silent Hill nods made me happy as well. There’s a mirror in a bathroom that, when zooming in, can make your reflection vanish! It’s reminiscent of both Origins and Silent Hill 3 to me. The room in SH3 where Heather’s reflection does something wonky (It freezes and/or gets bloody, I believe) and then you have to run out of the room before slowly dying… Yep, scared the crap out of me when I first played it. In this demo thing, Lisa is the name of the pregnant wife who was apparently murdered, and one of the quotes scribbled on the wall begins with, “Forgive me, Lisa…” There’s absolutely no way the name Lisa isn’t a reference to poor Silent Hill’s Lisa.

Usually I find jump scares to be a kind of cheap way to scare the audience. But because this demo does such a fantastic job of setting the mood and putting the audience on the edge while solidifying the general Silent Hill approach to effed-up scenery, I have no complaints in that regard.

My complaints lie only with the teaser’s approach to puzzles. The puzzle to actually unlock the big Silent HillS reveal is basically impossible to figure out alone. The puzzle before that is hardly better. When we had to reference online forums to find out how to progress and stumbled upon dozens of threads with frustrated and confused gamers trying to work out how to solve a puzzle, I was pretty turned off. We all know survival horror games are no strangers to puzzles. That’s fine. But you have to have some sort of hint as to what the puzzle is, or what you’re actually trying to accomplish! So far there’s a whole lot of guess work and trail and error involved in triggering the steps to the solution. Not that you have any indication of what the steps are, or what you’re actually trying to achieve. I understand they wanted players to work a little for the big reveal at the end, but this is utter nonsense. When the collective gaming community can’t even figure out or agree to what triggers the puzzle unlocking or whether you even need a microphone plugged in or not… There’s a problem. This isn’t a social puzzle game, people, it’s a survival horror game, which is intended to be a solitary experience.

Completely random puzzles aside, I’m now pretty damn excited for the next Silent Hill game. It can’t be any worse than the last two that have been released, after all, but P.T. is very promising. I’m not convinced the entire game will be first person, seeing as how the closing pans out and shows Norman Reedus’ character walking into town in typical Silent Hill fashion (without fog, *sniff*). The teaser also had no weapons or anything, which would also be a big pill of doubt I’d have to swallow, given the series’ tradition of bashing enemies with steel pipes. I wouldn’t be completely opposed to not having weapons, as long as it didn’t turn the game into something like Outlast, which I wasn’t crazy about.

So what did you guys who played it think? I, for one, am quite excited to see what this team will do to breathe fresh life into the Silent Hill series. I found this teaser to be a pretty promising start.

The Last of Us Remastered

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I hope this is the real cover because ELLIE WITH A SNIPER RIFLE!

Without getting wrapped up in the debate about video game companies cashing in on HD reboots on popular video game series, I did want to come clean (and also brag) about pre-ordering the Remaster for our Ps4, and also the amazing deal I got at Gamestop.

For those of you who don’t know, Gamestop is offering a trade-in deal that is too good to pass on. If you already own the PS3 version of this game, you can trade it in towards the Remaster, and get HALF off. That’s $25 for upgraded 1080p, 60 FPS graphics, all the DLC, and the ability to change some of your control mapping. I’m pretty excited to play a shooter with the superior trigger buttons on the PS4 controller. If you want to cash in on this opportunity through Gamestop, you only have until August 2 to do so.

Sunday Gamestop was also offering 50% extra trade-in value for games. I decided to trade in Mario Kart Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and Star Ocean: The Last Hope (I don’t think Square-Enix could pay me to play that game again). Collectively, I received over $50 store credit for only three games that I’ll never play again. I had enough moola to pay off TLOU Remaster and I also put $26 down on Bayonetta 2, which is really the only fall release I can’t wait until after Christmas to play.

I’m very excited for PS4 owners who never had a PS3 to experience TLOU. And for those of us who have already played it, I’m excited to experience it with some friends who weren’t fortunate enough to get their hands on it the first time around. I also never got the DLC, so I’ll probably do that first. We already know this is a great game, but if you’re still skeptical… It received over TWO HUNDRED (Count them: 2-0-0!!) Game of the Year awards. So yeah… it’s better than great. And I can’t wait to experience it in sharper, shinier detail.

A Gaming Gaffe!

I know that in the last year or so I’ve done some venting in my blog posts about a lot of sparkly, fancy additions to video games that I’m quite content doing without. But something happened today that made me realize there is one beneficial addition to many current games that I have yet to complain about. In fact, it’s something I take for granted.

Auto-saving.

Never would this gaming geezer (at the ripe old age of 27) have predicted in my NES days that games would automatically save my progress in case I died, had a system glitch, or power failure. Now I have a hard time living without it.

Here’s the scenario of what happened to me today: I opened up my 3DS, ready to pick up where I left off in the old-school classic The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons. (In the off-chance that you care, we obtained it as a FREE download when pre-ordering the new Zelda from GameStop.) So anyway, I’m ready to continue trekking through dungeon number 8, only to find that my system battery died. No biggie, right? Well I charge it up and come to find out I never saved (?!?!) after finishing dungeon 7, collecting some stuff off the world map, and beginning dungeon 8! Now I don’t even have the Roc’s Cape item I received so I’ve got like, half that dungeon to re-do!

Noob error? Hard to say, as many of the games I play now almost never require manual saves. And even if they do, they still auto-save your progress at certain landmarks. This is more of a negligent-3DS-owner-who-forgot-the-good-old-days-of-saving-every-five-minutes error. Or, spoiled by new features incorporated in new games laziness. You’d think after all the times I heckled Steve-O about not saving and redoing all kinds of crap in Silent Hill games I would’ve known better.

Sure, if I use a walkthrough it might take me maybe an hour to retrace my steps and return to where I last left off. But a solitary hour of gaming with my 3DS is sacred time to me. Any lost/wasted gaming time in my life instigates either frothing rage or unmitigated depression. And LoZ games are puzzle games, for crying out loud!

With all that being said, I vow to never take auto-saving and checkpoints for granted ever, ever again.

My To-Do List

As another generation of gaming comes to a close, I can’t help but think about the games I haven’t yet gotten around to playing. Plus I’m eagerly anticipating grabbing up some of these titles during a Buy 1 Get 1 Used weekend sale at Gamestop during the holiday season! Right now we have a Wii and PS3 for home consoles, so that’s what I’ll be brainstorming for. Feel free to make any suggestions if there’s some hidden gems out there you don’t think I’ve played.

Wii

I don’t anticipate this list being too long. I own and have played most of the Nintendo staples I buy their systems for. But again, if there’s a good Wii game you’d like to suggest, pipe up!

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess– We own this one. Hubby played it and I still need to dedicate the time to experience one of the Wii’s first games.

Kirby’s Dream Collection– I love Kirby games. I bought the new Wii games that came out this generation and this is a collection of old school Kirby games I have and haven’t played.

No More Heroes– Suda 51, right? I worked at Gamestop when this game came out and it seemed to be an underground hit.

Manhunt 2– Most violent video game ever, huh? Sign me up!

The Last Story– Given who the development team is and the fact that it has Nobuo Uematsu’s music, I really don’t know how I haven’t played this game yet.

Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon– I’m not under any illusions that this is a good game… it’s just collecting dust on my shelf.

Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles– Steve-O and I blasted through Darkside Chronicles in one sitting. I’d like to experience the first RE rail shooter.

I’m sure there’s more, but I can’t think of them right now.

Playstation 3

I haven’t missed too many blockbuster releases in the last couple of years, but there are many less popular titles I’m wishing I’d invested in instead. And there are a few (though not many) games sitting on my shelf I haven’t beaten yet.

The Mass Effect Trilogy– I know, don’t hurt me.

Tomb Raider– This game looks totally awesome. And it has a strong female lead.

Asura’s Wrath– The over-the-top, flashy battle system looks totally up my alley.

Journey– I am trying to support indie developers more. Journey seems like a good addition to my small indie library.

Valkyria Chronicles– One of those games I own and started. Got stuck at the stupidly hard boss fight against the chick who looks like KOS-MOS and haven’t gone back to it yet.

Batman: Arkham Asylum– I recently downloaded this for stupid cheap. I suspect I will be playing it soon.

Batman: Arkham City– Of course if I like Asylum I will play this too.

Borderlands, Borderlands 2– I bet the PC version is better. Too bad I already have the disc for the first Borderlands we borrowed from someone waiting to be played.

inFamous– I even downloaded it for free when Sony offered three free games to assuage everyone when PSN was down for a month.

Ni No Kuni Wrath of the White Witch– I think it’s pretty awesome Studio Ghibli made an RPG. I’d really like to check this one out.

There are not enough hours in the day. Nevermind the mile long list of PS1 and PS2 games I have yet to beat. I really should make up a list for those, too. I also downloaded Shadow of the Colossus HD for super cheap. Honestly, I don’t know why I keep adding to my game library! I can’t help myself. The gaming gods are cruel, cruel masters.