Chandler, Arizona, United States

There's an old saying. If you don't want someone to join a crowd, you ask them, "If everyone were jumping off of a cliff, would you?" Well, I have. So my answer would be "Yes". True story.
Profile continued . . .


Thursday, April 10, 2014

this entry brought to you by nine inch nails, "came back haunted"

10. Soul Calibur 4 (2008) It's true that Street Fighter is my favorite fighting game series of all time, and SF4 is a perfect translation of the series into the polygonal world. For a while I went back and forth over whether Soul Calibur should rank this highly on the list, but then I thought about it and realized I have put a lot of time into Soul Calibur 4. For one thing, Soul Calibur has always been far and away my favorite 3D fighting game series, marrying the perfect balance of being button-mash friendly to newcomers with incredible depth, making sure anyone that knows what they're doing will dominate, while letting a first timer look awesome. And of course there's the gorgeous graphics (SC4 still looks magnificent this many years later) and lively characters. Aside from playing the game for hours and hours in its versus mode, however, Soul Calibur 4 has a lot of single player content, something Capcom's fighting games have been lacking lately. There's a great character creation system where we spent loads of time designing our perfect creations, and, for once, it wasn't difficult to create a character that looked like they belonged in the rest of the cast, whereas custom characters in other fighting games are often impossible to not make look generic or have a noticeable difference in quality. SC4 also had a great variation on the familiar dungeon crawling mode and a solid survival mode. Soul Calibur's name might be slightly sullied after the unmemorable SC5, but for my money, there wasn't a more satisfying fighting game this last gen.

9. Fallout 3 (2008) There's just something about Bethesda's games where the story lines frustrate me in ways that make me feel like, despite the thousands of pages of dialogue in every one of their games, they are frequently lacking. The game opens with one of the most amazing sequences in the history of gaming, where you are birthed, learn to crawl, go to school, and escape from your vault all within a few hours. And then five minutes later you've wandered into a city where some dope asks you to diffuse an atomic bomb in the middle of their town, because of course nobody else can. The main thrust of the plot for the first twenty hours or so is trying to find your missing father, and after hours and hours of near-misses and learning things about him as you go along, you finally, finally meet up with him-- so he can say "Hey hon! No time to talk, let's go!", a moment so forehead-slappingly anti-climactic moment I actually shouted "Oh come on!" And yet Fallout 3 was so much more satisfying than Skyrim, or, in fact, nearly any other game I played this generation. Yes, there was sneaking and sniping fools with pistols before they knew I was there, which Skyrim had, but without all that Orcs and Elves and Dragons nonsense, in a much more realistic, frightful environment of post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. The environment itself seemed hostile in the first few dozen hours or so, and was so oppressive I took a deep breath before venturing out. Yet Fallout 3, for as much as I criticize it for its inconsistent writing, has much more levity than Skyrim, and loads more personality without ever hitting you over the head with how strange it's being, all wrapped in that wonderful sense of discovery that Bethesda are so good at. By the end I was unstoppable so the last hours were a cakewalk, but my goodness, following that giant robot into battle while blowing everything away was so satisfying.

8. Fable 2 (2008) This opinion has gotten controversial over time, and the fact that Fable 3 tarnished Fable's once glowing name, but the truth is this was an unpopular opinion even at the time: I like Fable 2 more than Fallout 3. As much as I enjoyed the oppressive, stark landscape of the apocalyptic Fallout and found it immersive, Fable was a place I would rather spend time in, with its gorgeous, inviting color palette and lively character designs. What's more, its a fantasy game, but without orcs and elves and dragons and typical Tolkein-isms that plague Western RPGs, and its a game the relishes in how British it is, combining an overarching plot that is very dark and has mature themes with genuinely laugh-out-loud but sly British humor. Combat is purposefully stream-lined, removing complicated combos and button presses, assigning each ability, sword, ranged, and magic to a button each, but still enabling you to react to a variety of situations without feeling you lack the ability to handle anything. Further, the element of death is removed, proving that death is often a totally arbitrary punishment in games, and while games like Dark Souls have proved that the early games of this past era were lacking in challenge, Fable 2 decided that sometimes it's just fun to have a big world to explore. I enjoyed the main story immensely, but what really puts this game in my heart is the things you can do on your down times. Marry a whore, try to see how many people you can fit in a room for an orgy, entertain a crowd of people by dancing (which I did constantly), play games with your ever present companion dog, who I never got tired of seeing run off to show me treasure and genuinely became attached to, and generally get the AI to interact with one another. Its just too bad every game that followed this with the name Fable on it has ranged from good but disappointing to terrible.

7. Dragon Age 2 (2011) Yes, Dragon Age 2, not Dragon Age: Origins. I enjoyed Origins a good deal, but it never sunk its teeth in me. I felt the plot was too directly Lord of the Rings inspired. The characters were all obvious Paragon / Renegade archetypes: here is the nice white guy tank, here is the renegade tank; here is the paragon mage, here is the renegade mage. The combat was confusing, and even when I got a handle of it, I never felt like I had complete control of my character. Dragon Age 2 fixed every problem I had with the original game. The combat was much more dynamic and had a one-to-one correlation with what buttons I was pressing, without losing the need to pause the action and coming up with strategies for my team mates. The plot was much more down to earth and personal and didn't have to deal with the ridiculous earth-encompassing end of the world. Having to deal with the culture clashes between the humans and Qunari was a fascinating, complex plot that compellingly mirrors the clash between Christians and Muslims, and I wish more games tried to deal with grown up themes like this more often. But what really sold me on Dragon Age 2 was the characters, all of whom still fit in their paragon/renegade roles, but fleshed out and with growth over time that made them more than archetypes (listening to Aveline and Isabella grow from enemy-enemies to bickering best friends over time is worth the price of admission). Yes, the game has obvious flaws-- going through that same dungeon over and over really feels like a slog within the first quarter of the game and becomes brain melting by the halfway point-- but when the game is filled with these lively characters and these complex themes, its a world I loved spending time in.

6. Rock Band 3 (2010) I got into Rock Band in a sort of backwards way than most people. I'd owned Harmonix's first rhythm game, Frequency, back in the PS2 days, so when I heard they were making the original Guitar Hero, I'd wanted to get my hands on it, but never did because it was just too darned expensive. When the plastic instrument craze took over, it didn't surprise me at all. Finally, Rock Band Blitz came out in 2012, and I happily snapped it up, the feeling taking me back to those original Frequency days, and it was only a matter of a few days before we started dipping into Rock Band's massive digital catalog, buying 10 songs at a time. When we'd amassed around 50 songs, I decided to buy a used copies of Rock Band 1 and 2, so within six weeks we had well over 200 songs. At this point, it just made sense to look into buying plastic instruments, which were 45 dollars new by this point with a copy of Rock Band 3, because at this point the craze was well over. Within four or five months of purchasing the 15 dollar downloadable title, we owned a guitar, two mics, a drum kit, a keyboard, Lego Rock Band, and Beatles Rock Band, and even now, a week doesn't go by where we don't put in at least an hour.

with love from CRS @ 2:02 PM 


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