Monday, March 24, 2014

Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2 - Agreus section....done in 45 minutes

Playing through a big chunk of this game currently and I really have a hard time believing this got scores as low as 6/10 and 4/10. The game is pure spectacle and while it is no longer the 2D game most game veterans are familiar with, it is a good if appreciated as a pure action game.

With every action beat I'm reminded of the God of War series, but I think this game just feels more fluid and smoother than that game. There's a lot more technique to fighting since there are various combinations you can do with the shadow whip, the void sword and the chaos [knuckles? gloves? can't remember it's official name]. Also, you can't just mash mindlessly since some enemies are well armored and you need to switch between weapons to do any real damage.

The game has a ton of boss fights and each one of them is epic thanks to the really nice soundtrack. I kept thinking of the first game and what I liked about that one as I played this. To think I actually ALMOST missed out on this game thanks to the wonderful paid community of game reviewers on the Internet. Konami should have sent everyone a check.

Anyway, i got through what many were saying was the most frustrating part, the Agreus stealth mission. It really is a crazy hard level, but it isn't impossible if you use everything you have to figure out the solution. Maybe Konami should have clearly spelled out what THING you have to use to get past this part. But even if you use that THING it's still quite hard, but not the kind of difficulty that would get me to quit playing. As I finished it I realized that oddly enough, the game mechanic was fair and you just really had to play it patiently to win.

Took me 45 minutes to beat that section. Took Kotaku 4 hours. Maybe they should fire the guy that reviewed LOS2 and give me the job instead.

I'm further in the game and there is another really tough boss fight---really hard to say anything because I don't want to spoil anything....that said, you really have to master character movement and use all your available tricks to win in this game. I really like Castlevania, Lords of Shadow 2. It's just unfortunate that the game is ridiculously underrated.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Retro Gaming - An Interesting Movement

Having undertaken a few weeks of hunting down my older gaming consoles, cartridges and CDs, I learned the hard way the consequences of not taking good care of your stuff, no matter how seemingly irrelevant they are at the time. It was an interesting experience to say the least. You wouldn't believe how 20+ years of ignoring an old piece of electronics can do to it.

In the case of the Super NES, it turns out that (and I don't even remember this) we had 2 SNESes in our house. Maybe this is explained by the fact that I have mostly brothers with me. So maybe, back then, there wasn't really much sharing going on with the consoles and some guys wanted to play sports games and there's this other guy (me) who wanted to play those RPGs.

I didn't find my OWN SNES games, well, I didn't find a good majority of them. What I did find were my brothers' games. It was a good thing though that some really important games like Final Fantasy III (VI in Japan) and Super Street Fighter II were recovered. It took a lot of alcohol and cotton buds to clean those 20 year old cartridges. Surprisingly they worked fine. But the problem was the SNESes themselves. For some reason, the passage of time had rendered the cartridge slots barely useable. They could read games but only after you stick a thick piece of paper on the front side of the slot just to make sure that the contacts on the cartridges actually touch the metal on the cartridge slot itself.

Other finds include a Playstation 1 (first generation, apparently), a Sega Genesis, a Sega Mega Drive and a Sega Saturn. Yeah, I was a bit of a Sega fan. Just a little bit.

The Sega stuff had lost ALL their cables and controllers, though the cartridges for Genesis and Mega Drive were partially recovered. We ended up getting the missing cables and controllers from the Facebook group "Retro Gamers & Collectors Philippines (RGCP)". A big shout out to the nice and friendly community over there.

The Sega Cartridges were in really nasty shape. Apparently a hive of cockroaches had made a lair of the box that they were placed in! We had to (unfortunately) throw away most of the plastic Genesis / Mega Drive game cases because it just didn't seem very sanitary. At the very least, I thought, best to save the cartridges themselves.

Now this is the weird part about the Sega stuff, other than the roaches. We had found my Sega Saturn CD cases....but all the CDs were completely gone! It was the strangest thing. I was literally asking my own brain to think back to my 10 year old self and think....why would I take the CDs out of the cases?? My best recollection says that I must have taken them all out of their cases and put them in a CD sleeve....and that CD sleeve is nowhere to be found today. If that wasn't what happened, the CDs must have been stolen. But that one doesn't make sense....who would want to steal game CDs and leave the console behind? Unless they didn't really know what they were stealing.

Not every game cartridge and CD was recovered. I think only 40% of everything was found. I had a Sega Steering Wheel (the official one), an Arcade Stick and one of those Virtua Guns for Virtua Cop. All gone. I had Strider for the Genesis. Gone. I had Altered Beast. Gone. There's probably more but I never found all of them.

One time I'll update this post with the entire list of what was found.

The Genesis / Mega Drive themselves, after cleaning, were in surprisingly better shape than the SNES. They could read games a lot better than the SNES after cleaning and the only problem I encountered is some looseness in the video port of the Mega Drive. Not bad for an item that was buried for 20 years.

Playing something that old feels like getting on a real -life time machine. You can somehow appreciate the effort that developers back then must have put into games because they had so little to work with. Also it seems to me that the good old games were a lot brighter and more colorful than today's AAA titles. There seemed to be more variety in the themes and characters. Overall gaming looks really fun, with my nostalgia glasses on.

I would probably write more (and probably will soon) but i just want to say one more thing about this retro gaming "activity". I feel like there's a lot of people out there who are probably going through this same thing. It's been more than 20 or 30 years since the NES and many of the hardcore players who are still playing, like me, are rediscovering the value of older games. Today, everything is controlled by the publishers. There was no concept of 'downloadable content' before. Usually extra stuff is kept in the game as a secret 'easter egg' you can find (or never find at all). Now, developers usually sell extra little stuff like costumes and levels. And they control ownership of it more than we do. Why? Because it's all digital. You don't have an actual disc or cartridge anymore....well there are still disc based games, but notice how there's a big trend towards digital downloads. All it takes is for your hard drive to get corrupted and BAM! You've lost all your games. Yes, you can argue that you can download them again, but it's just extra hassle and imagine if your favorite game company decides to stop offering some of those games for download anymore. They can simply turn off the servers that have those games or not offer some of them if it isn't commercially viable. This 'digital' future of gaming is really troubling and while I do know there isn't much to stop it from happening, i guess the only thing I could do is to appreciate how it used to be. When you bought a game back in the 90s, it feels like it is yours. You don't have to worry about pre-ordering or buying extra stuff like cars or levels or costumes. You just pay for it once and enjoy it forever; well, as long as your media doesn't break.

Once digital becomes the norm, i wonder what will happen to old cartridges and CDs? Will they increase in value? Eventually physical media will become strange to people, and maybe it will increase in value. But I didn't get into retro to get rich.

I just turned 35 a month ago, so I think i get to indulge in a little nostalgia.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Stay awhile, and listen to my tale of woe... Be more careful with your consoles and games, lest you regret it a few years later.

When I was young I had all these games and systems from SEGA and Nintendo. I didn't really think much of them, so occasionally I'd misplace them and never really kept things organized. I'd toss a controller here, an old game there....I'd ask someone to move them to another spot to make room for other things. I didn't think that about 20 years later, I would end up looking for those old things. 

Now the problem is, the people who moved around my stuff are no longer around, so it seems they're all scattered somewhere in my old house (I've since moved out since I got married). There are a few stock rooms in my place and as you can imagine, 20 years is going to build up a ton of junk in those places. Who knows if my old stuff is still there! Maybe the maid threw out some of them! 

So why am I obssessing over classic games? http://classicgameroom.com , for one thing. I just turned 35 a few weeks ago, too. That and seeing how everything is going digital now, makes you realize that the physical game might be a dying breed in today's world. 

And emulation, honestly just never cuts it. The controls never feel right. The way the game looks is just not the same as when you saw it back in the 90's. The original system and its games still have some appeal. 

Remember game manuals?

Yup, those are pretty much dead now. Back then, game manuals were tomes, with a lot of useful info and art. Now while I do care about the environment and understand that's why companies are cutting costs, it really reduces the 'art' side of gaming and it makes today's games feel less valuable. 

And digital games...you can't hold them in your hands. Which is really something that the people of the future are surely going to miss out on.

So tomorrow I'm going hunting for old Sega Genesis, Saturn, Dreamcast and Super NES games at my house. I hope I find something substantial.

And for today's PS3/Xbox 360/PS2 etc. owners....try to keep your stuff organized! One day you'll be like me and completely regret not being more careful.