Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April Fools: Not "nerd"--"node."

No sentence better exemplifies how I felt about Raiden the first time I played Metal Gear Solid 2: Son of Liberty.

After the sinking of the tanker, which is one of the best opening chapters in gaming history, I was waiting with anticipation to see how Snake managed to escape the Hudson River. I was then greeted by the familiar tones and cadences of Colonel Roy Campbell's voice, a voice that put my mind at ease after a thrilling cutscene.

"Snake, do you remember the sinking of that tanker two years ago?"

"Of course..."

That's not Snake's voice. What's going on? I see long blonde hair protruding out of that breathing apparatus, and surely Solid Snake would never allow himself to have such a girly mane. After a bit more a lot more exposition, Goldilocks reveals his incredibly effeminate, beardless face to the world. Then we begin to control this impostor, and everything seems a bit off. This feels like Metal Gear Solid, but it's...different. I knew, in my heart of hearts, that eventually I was going to go back to playing as Snake--the real Snake.

Colonel Campbell informs this "Raiden" bozo that he needs to make it upstairs and log in to a node, and that's when Raiden asks one of the dumbest questions in videogame history:

No, Raiden, he didn't say "nerd." Why would you think he said "nerd"? Does a decorated veteran like Colonel Roy Campbell ever use the word "nerd?" No, he doesn't, especially not on a very serious, top-secret mission.

With this simple, four-word question, hands smacked foreheads the world over, and we're given insight as to just how much of a dork this Raiden character is. You can hear the contempt in the Colonel's voice as he corrects him.

I then make my way upstairs...

...and that's when it starts to sink in...

...this isn't a joke. This is the actual main character of Metal Gear Solid 2.

This guy.

Don't take everything I've written up to this point to mean that I don't love MGS2, because I absolutely do. It's still a very (ahem) solid game, it's just not what anybody wanted, especially not after the masterpiece that was Metal Gear Solid. Hideo Kojima had pulled the old switcheroo on us all. You have to give him credit, though, because it's unheard of today to have something like this not be known months before a game's release. That's one thing that I love about Kojima, I never know what to expect from his games. There's always a lot of speculation, but no solid facts.

Think back to when this game was released. Metal Gear Solid 2 was one of the most anticipated and hyped games of all-time, it was basically the only thing you could crack a magazine and look at, everyone was covering it. And even in the midst of all that coverage, everyone was in the dark about Raiden, the Big Shell, Emma Emmerich, and anything other than the Tanker mission prior to launch. Kudos to Kojima for not spilling the beans.

It's the lack of facial hair that throws people off.

Replacing the icon of your game series with someone like Raiden and relegating your star to nothing more than a supporting role is something that not only wouldn't happen today, but something few people would even have the cajones to try. If Gordon Freeman was replaced by a teenage kid wearing skinny jeans in the game that shall not be named, there would be a literal riot at Valve's offices. Pitchforks, molotovs, the whole nine. Raiden would eventually turn into a much cooler character, earning himself a fantastic action game in his own right, but at the time, he was the object of much ire.

Pictured: Raiden, about to cry to his LiveJournal.

After I got over the initial shock, I realized that this was still very much a Metal Gear Solid game, though it doesn't have quite the personality of its predecessor. The Big Shell is a very boring location when compared to the frozen tundra of Shadow Moses, and when you juxtapose Dead Cell with Foxhound, the latter stands head-and-shoulders above the former. MGS2's saving grace is its final two hours. The fan base is pretty split between loving it and hating it, but I'm firmly in the loving category.

The tanker mission was nothing more than a Trojan horse that duped the fans into thinking we were getting something that Kojima never intended on giving us. The guy has balls...balls that I wanted to punch back in 2000 when I played Sons of Liberty for the first time.

Most deceiving cover art ever.

But I think Kojima realized, even in a series known for its twists and surprises, that he couldn't pull the same stunt twice. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was a return to form, and felt like Kojima's way of apologizing. We still weren't technically playing as Solid Snake, but I think playing as the soldier he was cloned from is close enough.

The Phantom Pain is easily my most anticipated game of 2015. Fingers crossed that it doesn't turn out to be a dating sim.

Thanks for reading.

-Dustin

Monday, April 13, 2015

Flea Market Game Finds (4/10/15)

Good morning all, I'm back for another edition of my flea market game finds videos. This week I'm tag teaming with my collecting partner, Christopher Craig Cramer, to show you all the goodies we managed to pick up this past weekend.

Not quite as bountiful as the previous video but still pretty good. Check it out.

If you're not interested in watching the video, then I'll just take a moment to write my finds here.

So, it wasn't the best of days to do the flea market thing, it was still a little chilly but there were still some people set up. First thing I managed to find were some sealed Nintendo DS games. The guy was selling them for $0.50 each, so he obviously got them from some store that was just going to toss them. Nothing really that good in there, but for $2 I picked up Jeopardy!, The Bachelor, Camp Rock: The Final Jam, and America's Test Kitchen: Let's Get Cooking. I'm not sure why I bought them, but, here we are.

Things were looking pretty grim, but right before I decided to head back home, we came across a guy that we had already stopped to check out earlier in the day, but this time he said much more stuff set up, and I found, just sitting on the edge of his booth, four different handheld systems. There was a yellow Game Boy Color (missing the back piece), two original Game Boy Advance models (one Indigo, one Glacier) that were both working pretty well, though one of them had a latch on the battery cover broken off, and lastly the Mario edition Nintendo DS Lite. If the DS Lite was in mint condition, that would be a centerpiece of my collection, however, there was a crack in the hinge piece, so the top part of the DS won't stay in a fixed position. But, for a total of $35 (which also include Kirby's Nightmare in Dream Land on GBA because it was inside one of the GBA systems), I feel like I still came out the winner in that deal.

You'll also get to see what Chris picked up in the video, but I'll let him speak for himself.

Thanks for watching, and don't forget that you can subscribe to the Error Machine YouTube channel here. And don't forget to check out the Error Machine Podcast.

Thanks for reading/watching.

-Dustin

Friday, April 10, 2015

Weekly Top 5: Pleasant Surprises

In direct contrast to last weeks list where I spouted off a few games that I finished even though I hated them. This week I want to talk about some games that I took a chance on and wound up really liking. These are games that I didn't really have an interest in but still felt compelled to play, whether due to word of mouth, surprising reviews, cheap prices, or whatever the case may be, and found them to be very enjoyable experiences. As always, let's talk about some honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

Borderlands

You guys have heard me rant and rave about the Borderlands series, so I'll keep this brief. I had no interest in Borderlands before a coworker suggested the game to me. It went on to become one of my favorite franchises and played a role in my eventual marriage, so it's safe to say this one turned out better than I ever could have hoped.

Red Faction Armageddon

I really don't understand why Red Faction Armageddon got as much heat as it did. Yes, we all loved Red Faction Guerrilla, it's one of the best games from early in its generation, and the destruction mechanics led us into some of the most epic and satisfying sequences in gaming. Armageddon is not that. I, too, wanted more of the same when it was released, but what we got was still a very fun third-person shooter. There were still some elements of Guerrilla in there, but I appreciated the change in tone from the open-world rampage to the close-quarters, survival horror-esque game that Armageddon was.

It's not the most original game in the world, you'll find much more enjoyment out of the Dead Space series, but Red Faction Armageddon is still a fine, fine game, and I disagree with its critics. Plus, you can unlock a unicorn that shoots rainbows out of its butt as a weapon.

5. Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom

The best way for me to describe Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is as a fantasy buddy comedy. On the surface, it seems like nothing more than a low-budget action-adventure game from Namco Bandai, and I wouldn't blame you for making that assumption. But if you take the time to dig a little deeper, you'll find a game with an amount of charm that few games before or since have been able to replicate.

The unoriginally named "Darkness" has taken over the land, and it's up to a thief named Tepeu, along with a creature known as a Majin, to restore the land to its once prosperous state. The Majin, named Teotl, will aide you in both combat and puzzle-solving, and you can issue commands to Teotl to help you out in either regard. The game never gets too difficult, but you will occasionally need to take an extra minute or two to figure out the proper steps in order to progress.

One of the best things about Majin is that regardless of where you go, you can pick it up for only a few bucks, and it's well worth those few dollars.

4. Heavenly Sword

I bought my PS3 specifically so I could play Metal Gear Solid 4, but since I bought the system about four months before MGS4's release, I had to pick out a few games to play on it to hold me over. I bought the original Uncharted with the system, and after I beat that in a day, I was still left with a lot of time to kill. That's when I decided to pick up Heavenly Sword.

This was another case where I had heard mixed opinions, but I managed to pick it up on sale, so I took a chance and wound up loving the game. The game looks great still to this day, and features some of the best implementation of the motion control in the Sixaxis controller. I never tired of guiding arrows and catapulted rocks to their targets.

The game was shorter than a God of War, but the combat was just as satisfying, ranging from intense one-on-one encounters to Dynasty Warriors-like battles. The game is a bit of a forgotten relic from the early days of the PS3 and may seem a bit dated today, but at the time that I played it, I was happy with my purchase.

3. Driver: San Francisco

Have you ever seen the Double Dragon movie? Probably not. But if you have, do you remember how the medallion could be used to enter other people's bodies and control them? That's a major part of the plot in Driver: San Francisco. When I first heard about this game's existence, I thought "Wow, they're still making Driver games. Good for them." I had played the original on the Playstation, but that's the entirety of my Driver experience. I liked it, but never felt compelled to play future entries, especially when I saw that reviews scores for each games kept getting lower and lower.

So I was amazed to find out how many people were enjoying Driver: San Francisco. I was still skeptical, as I'm not a fan of driving or racing games, but when I finally decided to try it out, I found that it was much deeper than that. The ability to jump from car to car not only made the game a bit easier, but sometimes led to some puzzle-solving. With the jump (or "shift") ability, I never felt like I was being forced to make a perfect run. As long as I was able to shift out of the current body in time, I was safe. Sometimes you needed to jump into a car going the opposite way only to find another one to get back on track.

Then, naturally, there were the mandatory challenges, like drifting certain distances, distance driven on the wrong side of the road, distance traveled at top speed without an accident, etc. And no game involving cars is complete without plenty of jumps to ramp.

2. The Walking Dead Season One

I don't think anyone can honestly say that they saw trailers for Telltale's The Walking Dead and knew it was going to be as huge as it was. I know I certainly didn't, but the pre-release demo was enough to convince me to buy the whole shebang. At that point I had already stopped watching the show, and I've never read a single Walking Dead comic, but I was hooked on the game from the very start. I wish they would have had a more consistent release schedule, or that I would have known that the season pass would have been on sale before the season had even been finished, but those are small complaints to levy at a game that gave me an experience unlike any I had ever had before.

Yes, I've played games like Mass Effect where I had to make some tough decisions, but I never felt like my decisions in Mass Effect truly mattered in the end. Should I sleep with the supermodel Miranda or the punk rocker Jack? It doesn't really matter other than gaining a few more points on my achievement score. I also didn't have much attachment to any of the other characters. I understand why Tali's death is sad (oh, spoilers for Mass Effect 3, I guess), but I didn't care any more or less than I did for any other characters death.

In The Walking Dead, I had grown so attached to Clementine that I was prepared to make Lee do whatever was necessary to ensure her safety. In Mass Effect, I always did what benefited Shepherd while also doing my best to stay in the paragon ranking. In The Walking Dead, I always did what I felt was best for Clem, even if it made me the bad guy to everyone else. That's something that's hard to do in gaming. Videogames are a power fantasy. We all want to be the hero. We like leveling up, acquiring the best weapons, and usually have the mentality that all that matters is our own cause. But The Walking Dead made me take up someone elses.

1. Sleeping Dogs

Thank the Good Dude upstairs for Playstation Plus. If it weren't for Sony's subscription service, I never would have played a lot of games that I wound up enjoying, Sleeping Dogs being the most outstanding. If it weren't for the game being free a few years back (or later on Games with Gold), I likely never would have given Sleeping Dogs a chance. It became free at just the right time for me, too. I had just gotten married and my wife and I were settling into our first place together, so my funds were minimal, and you can't beat a price of $0.00.

A lot of people were really high on Sleeping Dogs, but I just wasn't interested in a Grand Theft Auto clone and could care less about a True Crime sequel, which Sleeping Dogs originated as. But with no other options and itching to want to play something new, I gave it a download and found that it was much more entertaining than anything I had ever done in a GTA game. The melee combat was very refreshing to see, taking the combat from the Arkham series and cranking it to eleven, providing the player with more options and environmental kills (because why wouldn't there be a random table saw in this alley?).

The Hong Kong setting and the culture therein were a nice change of pace from the typical metropolis we're accustomed to seeing in games of a similar kin, and the side missions are a welcome deferment from the story. The game was just recently remastered for the Xbox One and PS4, and while I don't find it necessary to double-up and play it again on the newer consoles, it still has my highest recommendation.

That does it for next week. Tune in next week when I choose another random topic and rank games according to how well they fit into that topic.

Find me in all these places:

Error Machine Podcast on iTunes

Error Machine Podcast on Stitcher Radio

YouTube page, where my friends and I occasionally do something funny.

The Twitter Machine

Thanks for reading.

-Dustin

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Error Machine Podcast 48 - Club Nintendo Buyer's Guide

Every now and then, the Error Machine crew likes to give back to the loyal listeners. For this abbreviated episode, we get right to it and start with our games of the week.

Dustin - Axiom Verge

Luke - NES Remix Volume 2

Erik - Battlefield Hardline

Then we get to the meat of the show, where we list the games available on Club Nintendo for Gold and Platinum Rewards members and give our suggestions on how you should use your final Club Nintendo purchase.

Twitter

@TheDustinThomas

@FakeChrisCramer

@Snedegascar

@BygJuce

Don't forget you can rate and subscribe to the show on iTunes & Stitcher Radio, and you can also find us on YouTube and Facebook under the name Error Machine.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Error Machine Podcast 47 - Lucario: Naked Man

While Dustin is off portraying the Messiah, the rest of Error Machine bring you a new episode of the podcast featuring discussions about WrestleMania 31, Bloodborne, Destiny, Velocity 2X, and much more.

They also get into New Releases and a little bit of news.

Don't forget you can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes & Stitcher Radio.

You can check out our YouTube page under the name Error Machine, and you can also find us on Facebook now.

Twitter:

@TheDustinThomas

@BygJuce

@FakeChrisCramer

@Snedegascar

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Weekly Top 5: Games I Finished Out of Spite

You all can thank Occams for this topic. He asked "What games have you finished out of spite" on a recent episode of my podcast. And that caused a light bulb to turn on above my head and I decided to write this list that you are currently reading. We all have those games that we wind up completing long after we've stopped enjoying ourselves. For me, it's usually because it's the newest entry in a series of games I've enjoyed. But, as you can see from this list, perhaps I need to spare myself the pain and break the cycle.

(Dis)honorable Mention

Borderlands The Pre-Sequel

I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed...

5. Gears of War: Judgment

Oh, Gears of War. No games got more play time last generation than the Gears of War series did for me. Between the broken yet tolerable multiplayer, incredibly satisfying shooting, fantastic co-op gameplay, and the best version of wave-based battles in all of gaming, it's no wonder why the Gears games are system sellers for Microsoft (the next Gears will likely prompt me to finally pull the trigger on an Xbox One). Gears 3's Horde Mode is some of the most fun I've ever had, it didn't matter if I was playing a pickup game or playing with friends, I sunk hundreds of hours and played thousands of waves of Horde.

So what's the best way to build on that momentum? By omitting everything great from the next game, of course. I'm not going to sit here and pretend I know anything about game design, and yes, I understand that this is more or less a side story and was developed by People Can Fly rather than being a strictly Epic joint, but how can you get rid of so many things that have been in the game from the beginning? Why can't I plant grenades on walls anymore? That's how I got the majority of my kills because I suck at multiplayer. They got rid of the Locust for competitive multiplayer, now pitting COG Team Red versus COG Team Blue, and turned it into a class-based team. The Horde mode is completely removed, and in its place is the less than thrilling Overrun. Judgment is so far detached from what drew me in to the series, and I haven't even spoken about the campaign yet.

The campaign is balls. Marcus Fenix isn't exactly breaking the mold as far as videogame characters go, but he's the face of the franchise. In Judgment, they replaced him with the series' most unlikable character, Baird. They cut the campaign up into smaller chunks, which is good in theory, but totally immersion-breaking in practice. The only redeeming qualities about the campaign are the sections that are set up much like a Horde wave, and the optional difficulty spikes, which briefly put you at a disadvantage for the opportunity to obtain a better ranking when the section ends.

But despite all the negatives, I still found some enjoyment in Judgment, it just doesn't stack up to the rest of the series.

4. Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

I love Professor Layton, and I've played enough Phoenix Wright to consider myself a fan. I was so stoked when I first heard about this crossover, and knew that I would be there on day one when it came to North America. Then I started playing, and I was on board and totally captivated for the first 5 hours. I really liked the story and where it was going. Being a Christian that believes in an omnipotent, omnipresent being that's responsible for the creation of all things, I found the Storyteller to be a particularly fascinating character.

Then I started playing the witch trials in Labyrinthia. And I continued to play them because they seemingly go on forever. That's when I realized that maybe I wasn't quite the Phoenix Wright fan that I thought I was. But I continued to press on just to get to the next Layton sequence, which would then be cut short by an insane amount of reading which would inevitably lead to another tedious witch trial.

Thirty hours later, I finally reached the conclusion. That's probably the longest I ever continued to play a game after I had lost interest. It was technically a Professor Layton game (though I felt he got the short end of the stick), so I felt like I had to finish it. Never again.

3. Flower

Flower is the first game I played where I legitimately felt cheated out of my money. For every other game on this list, I can understand why some people felt about the game the way they did. I understood the criticisms and couldn't disagree, but with Flower, I have no idea why people love this game with the amount of fervor that they do.

When I say this next sentence, keep in mind that I've yet to play Journey, but I have played Flow and Flower, and hated both of them. So, just based on the Thatgamecompany games that I've played, I think they're one of the most overrated developers out there today. Honestly, I'm waiting to play Journey until I can get it for free, because I disliked Flower that much and don't want to risk any more money.

I disliked Flower for the same reasons I disliked Proteus: I found there to be no substance to the game. A game that can be "beaten" in 45 minutes for $15 whose gameplay is basically that plastic bag scene from American Beauty yet features exactly zero Kevin Spacey? I'm still scratching my head on just what it is that people see in Flower.

2. Assassin's Creed III

"Oh, it can't be that bad" I told myself as I read the reviews for Assassin's Creed III. How could it be? ACII was great, Brotherhood was my favorite so far, and Revelations may have been unnecessary but was still mostly enjoyable for me. "These reviewers are overreacting!" I mean, this is Revolutionary America, that's a great idea for a backdrop. Some of America's founding fathers like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin are featured characters, that sounds so good!

Then I fired up the game and it is so not good. I wasn't there, but I can't imagine that the Revolutionary War was this boring. My biggest gripe is that you spend so much time running around a world full of nothing. In Brotherhood, I would often forego the fast travel system because I loved traversing the rooftops and landscapes of Venice. In Assassin's Creed III, the fast travel was cumbersome and the world completely unimaginative. Where I found Altair and Ezio to be characters I grew to like, Connor is barely a character at all. I love the idea of a Native American protagonist, but Connor has the personality of a 2x4.

And unlike most people, who found the naval combat to be one of the few redeeming qualities to the game, I hated those sections with a fiery passion, and that's the reason I skipped Black Flag. The only thing that drove me to finish ACIII was seeing the Desmond story to the bitter end, and bitter it was, indeed.

1. Resident Evil 6

Prior to 2012, the idea of not picking up a Resident Evil game on launch day was completely foreign to me. Operation Raccoon City was so abysmal that it dashed all hope that I had for Resident Evil 6, and this is coming from someone that legitimately loves RE5 (in co-op mode, at least). Resident Evil is one of my all-time favorite series, and several entries in the franchise would make it into my top games of all-time list. I've probably written about RE more than I've written about any other games. What I'm trying to convey to you here is that I'm a bit of a Resident Evil superfan. Or, at least, I was.

There were RE spin-off games before Operation Raccoon City, and I always knew better than to compare them to the main entries, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that ORC was a death knell for the series. Pre-release trailers for RE6 did give me a little bit of hope, channeling the relentless pursuit of series icon Nemesis in the form of the Ustanak, but that wasn't enough to make us overlook all the things the game does wrong. Resident Evil 6 does its absolute best to imitate Gears of War and fails miserably.

I come to Resident Evil for survival horror/action, not a run-of-the-mill third-person-shooter. I'm all for taking the series in new directions, but it was just taken too far. Why do characters now have stamina meters? And karate moves? Why are there (bad) car chases sequences? Why are there stealth sections? Why are there swimming sections? Why am I in a war-torn European town? Why doesn't Chris Redfield leave the B.S.A.A. and compete in the Mr. Olympia contest? He's certainly been juicing enough.

Why is this game 30 hours long? And why did I play every minute of it?

Thanks for reading, hopefully it wasn't as infuriating for you to read as it was for me to write.

Don't forget that you can follow me on Twitter, subscribe to my podcast, and subscribe to my YouTube channel. And here's the latest episode of the Error Machine Podcast for you to enjoy.

-Dustin