No-stall-gia, Part 1: Super Mario 64

No-stall-gia, Part 1: Super Mario 64

Note: For the holidays, I will be going through remakes and ports I have played. If you missed the post, you can find it here. Enjoy!

One of my first forays into ports was the DS version of Super Mario 64. As you may know, I talked about how spent most of my early elementary years watching my mom and sister play this game out of sheer fear of technology (also which you can read about here. Lots of plugging today.). But while I knew what the themes of the worlds like the back of my hand, I knew the gameplay and star locations more like the back of my head. So when it came out while I was in high school, I picked it up with that year’s Christmas money for my then-small DS library.

Now considering this was the mid-2000s, HD remakes weren’t prevalent—or possibly existent at all—so this was a port, playing off of nostalgia. To me it was fascinating to be able to finally play a game that was so much a part of my childhood in a less terrifying way where I wasn’t relegated to my bedroom upstairs or the cold basement. Because of this, I didn’t mind it was the exact same game I still owned; my family’s N64 is still alive even today. I think it was meant to be an example of the power of the DS. While I know nothing about it, it seems like it wanted show off how it could now play games you needed a regular console for only ten years ago. And it worked, and it didn’t.

There is a good and bad side to replaying a game you played as a kid. You can see how you’ve evolved and how you haven’t. Worse you can see if the game is actually good or not. As you already know, this game is good. It’s was one of the best of its time, spawned an entire new series of Mario games, and is still a great 3D platformer even today. Fun fact though: if you watch someone play a game enough, you remember more than you expect.

Every time I entered a world, I expected it to be one I didn’t remember entirely, but I could beeline through the level time and time again to get each star. Even more embarrassing, I still got scared and stuck at the same parts. That serpent in the shipwreck? Hell no. Get me out of this water before I drown. Can I sue Nintendo for continued emotional damages?

Also the game’s camera made me nauseous. Seeing the quick movements concentrated on a small screen (Seriously small. This was the original DS.) was rough on the eyes. I know it was revolutionary for the time, so the controls let you, i.e. force you, to look everywhere. This involves sweeping camera movements that made my eyes and stomach cross.

Long story short, I eventually sold it to Gamestop a couple of years later.

It would be years until I realized another issue I had with this game. It is hard for me to replay certain games. What it takes is a goal, and that for me is the US release of Japanese-exclusive content. This tactic is the perfect time-suck.

But more on that next time. Stay tuned.

No-stall-gia, Part 1

No-stall-gia, Part 1

Note: For the holidays, I will be going through remakes and ports I have played. If you missed the post, you can find it here. Enjoy!

One of my first forays into ports was the DS version of Super Mario 64. As you may know, I talked about how spent most of my early elementary years watching my mom and sister play this game out of sheer fear of technology (also which you can read about here. Lots of plugging today.). But while I knew what the themes of the worlds like the back of my hand, I knew the gameplay and star locations more like the back of my head. So when it came out while I was in high school, I picked it up with that year’s Christmas money for my then-small DS library.

Now considering this was the mid-2000s, HD remakes weren’t prevalent—or possibly existent at all—so this was a port, playing off of nostalgia. To me it was fascinating to be able to finally play a game that was so much a part of my childhood in a less terrifying way where I wasn’t relegated to my bedroom upstairs or the cold basement. Because of this, I didn’t mind it was the exact same game I still owned; my family’s N64 is still alive even today. I think it was meant to be an example of the power of the DS. While I know nothing about it, it seems like it wanted show off how it could now play games you needed a regular console for only ten years ago. And it worked, and it didn’t.

There is a good and bad side to replaying a game you played as a kid. You can see how you’ve evolved and how you haven’t. Worse you can see if the game is actually good or not. As you already know, this game is good. It’s was one of the best of its time, spawned an entire new series of Mario games, and is still a great 3D platformer even today. Fun fact though: if you watch someone play a game enough, you remember more than you expect.

Every time I entered a world, I expected it to be one I didn’t remember entirely, but I could beeline through the level time and time again to get each star. Even more embarrassing, I still got scared and stuck at the same parts. That serpent in the shipwreck? Hell no. Get me out of this water before I drown. Can I sue Nintendo for continued emotional damages?

Also the game’s camera made me nauseous. Seeing the quick movements concentrated on a small screen (Seriously small. This was the original DS.) was rough on the eyes. I know it was revolutionary for the time, so the controls let you, i.e. force you, to look everywhere. This involves sweeping camera movements that made my eyes and stomach cross.

Long story short, I eventually sold it to Gamestop a couple of years later.

It would be years until I realized another issue I had with this game. It is hard for me to replay certain games. What it takes is a goal, and that for me is the US release of Japanese-exclusive content. This tactic is the perfect time-suck.

But more on that next time. Stay tuned.

My Year in Time Travel

My Year in Time Travel

As the end of the year approaches, you start to think about what games you have played in the past year. Before you ask, any kind of useful Top Ten is out of the question for me because most games I play tend to not be from the current year. Not a hipster, just behind the times.

Of course you’ve seen some of what I’ve played on here. A few mystery games, a bit of cartoon glory, and a lot of Dragon Age. But excluding what I’ve played and talked about here, let’s take a look at what has taken up the most time for me in the past year:

Final Fantasy X/X-2–120 hours
Kingdom Hearts 1.5 Remix–110 hours
Bravely Default–100 hours
The Sly Collection-60 hours

Notice any patterns? Maybe the only exception?

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I obviously adore HD remakes. I have limited ports in my television and only so many rooms to put televisions in, so I appreciate being able to play as many games as I can on one system. With both of the ports from Square Enix, you also get the content from Japan that exclusive until now for…reasons. If you were a hardcore fan of the game the first time around, there was plenty of new stuff to do and you wouldn’t mind playing through the game again to get to it.

I know the main argument behind the trend towards HD remakes and not backwards compatibility is that is a poorly-disguised cash grab, and I have to agree. As someone who continued to play her Gameboy games from childhood on her DS in high school, I can see the benefits and would never wish for one to win out over the other. I just love the chance to take advantage of today’s televisions and cheap HDMI cables and see the a game I thought was beautiful five, ten, even twenty years ago become perfect.

So while everyone is culling their Top Five or Top Ten games, I’m going to be going through some of my favorite remakes. And of course it has nothing to do with my recent purchase of Kingdom Hearts 2.5 Remix. Or how distracting Danganronpa is from my Steam library. Or how I intended for this to be a single essay but could not narrow down all of my thoughts on these games into one post.

What are your thoughts on remakes and rereleases? Do you prefer disc collections or downloading retro titles piecemeal with Virtual Console or PS1 classics? Do you abhor the idea of any of these services, preferring the real thing? Comment below with why, why not, and everything in between!

Stay tuned.

The Mighty Girl Sleuth the Second

The Mighty Girl Sleuth the Second

Well I finished the other Nancy Drew. I don’t know what’s happened to me. Though these games have never exactly been lengthy, I at least used to savor them. It just feels like I reach this point that is usually right before the penultimate chain of events where all I want to do is hurry up and get done. Despite truly enjoying this installment’s puzzles and characters, this was no different for Labyrinth of Lies.

Here Nancy is in Greece working at a museum when she arrives to see that her boss has run off to track down some missing jewelry for an exhibit. For the thousandth time, she is given relatively high security clearance for a teenager with complete access to the exhibits and artifacts. But this means I get to do one of my favorite parts of these games: chores!

That might sound sarcastic, but it’s really not. I’m speaking earnestly.

The one part of these games that keeps me convinced that school-aged children are a large part of their intended demographic is the subtle doses of learning. Each game takes place in a different location that lends itself to history, science, and mythology. More often than not, Nancy is simultaneously working and sleuthing in these games, meaning she has a to-do list each day. With too many examples to count, let’s talk about this game. It has all three!

History: Well, more specifically, art history. Considering you’re at an art museum, this is a given. But to be able to complete the work your boss, Melina, wants you to do in her absent, you have to read certain books and glean the useful information from them. Here you need to learn about the different styles of temples and vases so that you can prepare their corresponding exhibits. Obviously these tasks are a mix of deducting and puzzling, but these are wrapped with an educational ribbon.

Science: For someone who can tell you nothing about the subject, this was my favorite part of the game. You are asked to authenticate a few pieces of jewelry in the museum, and in the office are some guidelines. You get to see how you can tell if different gemstones and metals are real. Sadly you only get to do this process three times. Often you get to do optional versions of past puzzles for kicks, and I wish this had been an option. With the funny business happening at this museum, would it have really been a waste of time for me to prove the authenticity of, well, everything?

Mythology: Honesty, it’s important. I’d be lying if I said I liked the implementation of Greek mythology. I feel like these games use it in every other game for some reason or another, and I’m getting a little tired of it. Seriously, there are thousands of cultures and millions of years to pull from. Why harp on this one constantly? And sadly, all of the puzzles seem to be based in it. I honestly don’t feel like I can talk in detail without sounding completely irrational and launching into a potentially culturally-insensitive rant that will result in Zeus smiting me down, lightning bolts and all.

One standout has to be one character. Typically I don’t bother getting invested in these characters, viewing them instead as vehicles to give me information and tasks to do. More often than not, I speed through conversations, knowing that anything important will get through on either my task list or in my journal. But here I was intrigued by one guy in general: Grigor.

Now that’s not his real name, but we are never privy to that information. He is meant to make you think. From looking at his tablet he leaves out quite a bit considering everyone he works with is a possible art-stealing mastermind, you see that he has observational skills that rival Nancy’s. Through further investigation, you find out he grew up in foster care, having to constantly adapt his personality to whoever his new family wanted him to be. This made him an expert at reading people and using their setting and personal belongings to build a character profile for them .It makes you wonder how Nancy would have reacted in a similar situation, far away from her dad’s influence, the Hardy boys, and her friends and boyfriend who consistently enable her reckless behavior. She probably would have done the same thing as Grigor as much out of her survival instinct as much as her natural curiosity.

But now I’m off to continue my adventure game kick. Lucky for you that Sherlock bundle was on sale last week. Oh, sorry, I misspoke. Lucky for me. 

Stay tuned.

The Mighty Girl Sleuth

The Mighty Girl Sleuth

I can’t stop solving mysteries. It’s not going to be long before it starts to bleed into my real life.

I played and beat the first of the two Nancy Drew games I bought back when I got Sherlock Holmes. This one is “The Shattered Medallion.” Nancy Drew is reluctantly competing in an Amazing Race rip-off with George, and it is run by Sonny Joon, the series’ closest thing to a recurring character that didn’t originate from the book series. Throughout the different games, you seem to consistently be two steps behind him. In multiple games, you are his job replacement, and you can look through all of his old drawings and leftover candy wrappers. Here you can finally put a face to the UFO doodles—and it doesn’t disappoint. The best way to describe him is purple. Really.

(via Her Interactive)

He is also the vaguest character in a sea full on reality show contestants who don’t know what a straight answer is. All of the competitors you get to talk to take this competition seriously. They keep everything about themselves for the confessional booth, afraid of giving away a weakness or accidentally letting Nancy see through their ultimate plan to win. One is a girl who has been on multiple reality shows and either straight up lies or uses sarcasm in every conversation. Another just refuses to answer any questions. She at least has the excuse of working a job with high security clearance; she’s used to keeping secrets. Then her partner gives nothing away because he has no depth. He will constantly answer yes or no questions with both yes or no and refuse to pick. Honestly, he is actually the most likable purely because he has nothing potentially sinister lurking beneath the surface.

Considering I have played these games since elementary school, I have spent a lot of time debating whether or not I will ever grow out of them. The last Sherlock Holmes game did make me realize that I can appreciate a mystery simulator (we’re going to pretend that’s a genre since many are doing away with the pointing and the clicking) that isn’t riddled with logic puzzles—pun intended.

What made this one harder to swallow was the format. Since the main gameplay was participating in this game show, there were loads of disjointed puzzles. I’m used to these games having some straightforward brainteasers and then more where half of the mystery is in figuring out what the mystery even is. For example, here you are constantly finding comics that Sonny drew and left lying around, each with a hidden message, meaning you have to interpret these before you even know what puzzle you need to be solving. Sadly this is one of the only instances of this mechanic. The rest are variations of different kinds of traditional conundrums. I can tell I have played these games for a long time when I’ve lost count of how many times I have solved a “don’t let any like colors touch” jigsaw puzzle. Same goes for using both hieroglyphs and zodiac signs.

I remember back when this game came out in July. I was hurting for money and trying to talk myself out of buying it, so I went online to read user reviews, knowing anyone who bothers to review a Nancy Drew game for free is a lifelong player like me. All of them had similar complaints to what I’ve discovered on my own. The disconnected set-up of the puzzles makes it feel like there is no mystery. Throughout the game you are trying to figure out Sonny’s motive for essentially hijack the season of a popular reality show. He’s obviously trying to figure something out and using the contestants as his minions, but you aren’t really fully clued in to this plot until close to the end of the game. The more research you do, the more it is hinted at, but it’s never clear until it’s almost all over. Usually you know from the game’s introduction—and sometimes even the back of the box—what you are going to be solving.

Honestly this wasn’t one of my favorite installments. It’s definitely not the worst one I’ve played, but the set up with the puzzles felt more like a watered-down Professor Layton title than a Nancy Drew mystery game. I think I looked up the solutions more times than I ever have purely because the puzzle wasn’t fun enough for me to waste my time on. As a hardcore fan, I obviously wouldn’t suggest skipping this installment, but it definitely wouldn’t be where I would choose to introduce a newcomer to the games.

But hey, with over thirty games out now, they can’t all be home runs. I will gladly admit to being a Nancy Drew apologist. Except for the hidden picture games. That’s one bandwagon they didn’t need to hop on.

Now off to the other Nancy Drew I have lined up.

Stay tuned.

Mystery Managed: The Finale

Mystery Managed: The Finale

I might not be a murderer, but apparently I can sympathize with them.

I finished Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments over the weekend, and it was a giant bucket of fun mixed with a new bit of self-awareness. I already talked about how each case ends with a moral choice—whether or not your want to condemn the suspect or let them go free. Fun fact: I let them all go free.

Now before I go any further, this post is going to be vaguely filled with spoilers. While I won’t say right out who committed each crime in the game, I will allude to the person’s motive, meaning it might be easy to guess who I’m talking about if you’ve played part of the case.

I’m going to explain my reasoning for rationalizing killing here for you now, case by case. Let the spoiling begin!

Case Number 1: The victim, Black Peter, is an abusive and angry sailor. He was not so friendly with his wife and had made a lot of enemies. He was a thief and a potential killer himself. The person who ended up killing him was coming to scare him and get back what rightfully belonged to him and ended up killing Black Peter in self-defense. By letting the killer off the hook, blaming it on an already-deceased sailor, you also get the opportunity to return what Peter had stolen to its rightful owners. When you turn the killer over to the police, you punish someone for a killing that was almost justified and Black Peter’s estate is seized by Scotland Yard.

Case Number 2: This is a case of a missing train that doesn’t actually end with a moral choice, only a tactical one. In case you know the case and are wondering though, I chose to make a political move instead of calling the police.

Case Number 3: Here a man is killed in a Roman bath with three men there. The victim, Sir Rodney, is your classic case of rich man who buys his way into recognition, refusing to let anyone else share the limelight, much less give it up to the rightful person. Considering my constant lamenting about how life isn’t fair, this didn’t sit right with me. Maybe I wouldn’t kill someone over it, but I certainly don’t blame the hardworking individual who did. The killer was the true mastermind behind the discovery that Sir Rodney was going to claim for himself. Who am I to take that away from him? Also his murder plan was fucking genius.

Case Number 4: Cue the death of another abusive ne’er-do-well of a husband. Cue another murder that was purely in self-defense. Cue my continued sympathies. Here the man was even willing to take the entire blame instead of sharing it with the other guilty party. I can’t go into more details than that without a full-blown spoiler, but this has to be the only time that getting away with murder is a gentlemanly act.

Case Number 5: I’m going to honest, I had a hard time siding with the person who committed this crime. After getting to know the character, I fully understand the motive. It was the only way he/she could continue an education, and I don’t know what I would do if my family had left me on my own with no choices but to rely on my wealthy colleagues. What made me hesitate in absolving this killer was how he/she had initially cut ties with his/her family out of embarrassment, but I live in a world where a family would take me back even if I pulled that kind of stunt; therefore I feel bad for anyone that does not feel the same.

Case Number 6: Here the killer is an outright thief. I only let him off because he never actually committed the crime, just let it two victims kill each other and ran off with the loot they were holding. The end of this case does not leave me morally conflicted in any way despite not being a real fan of the killer. This is because the greater choice comes at the end of the game, regardless of this choice.

You hear the Merry Men referenced countless times through this game’s cases, and Sherlock Holmes finally encounters them in one of the last scenes. He is waiting for them when they come to retrieve an elephant-sized load of gunpowder. Here you can choose to run them off and foil their terrorist plot or let it happen. You get enough of a look into the inner workings of the late-nineteenth British politics that you can agree that something needs to change. Here you presented with a choice: how far would you go to make a difference?

I really can’t wait to see if this choice is somehow worked into the next game. That would be another new idea for Frogware to work with. This game was already an experimental take on the series compared to past games. I can’t wait to see.

Stay tuned.

Mystery Managed: Part 2

Mystery Managed: Part 2

I finished a case, and this game gets a kick out of playing with my conscience.

This installment takes a different approach to the mystery genre. Instead of funneling the player down from a bunch of clues to only one solution, you are given a deduction board to work with and can reach multiple conclusions through different interpretations of the evidence. It’s not even that your solution changes throughout the game—you can choose to ignore and misunderstand clues. I didn’t realize that there were different endings until I finished and ended up using the “Replay Ending” option to try to see all of the endings. You can check to see if you charged the correct suspect too though in the first case, the correct suspect had the most detailed end sequence.

I can’t tell if this game tried to make a comment on today’s justice system on purpose, but it does show the faults in putting your faith in one person for this kind of work. Sherlock is known not to necessarily be the most moral person, choosing logic and answers over the greater good on occasion. Here you see him come to the wrong conclusion four separate times and Inspector Lestrange just take his word for it. Even when you find the thief or murderer, you can choose to let them go if you choose. This might be why we make multiple people listen to two separate sides and all of the evidence and take a vote. It might at least lower the chance of easily-accessed corruption.

Really, it was probably just their attempt to make the game more open-ended. I’m glad for the choice either way.

But they couldn’t just leave the endings at that. After deciding someone is guilty, you have to decide whether to convict or absolve the person. In my first case, this meant that there was a total of six different endings. You are allowed to replay the ending as many times as you wish, and once you decide which decision hurts your heart the least, you can hit “Accept Choice.” You are then given a personality type based on your decision. Can’t really speak on its accuracy—I was given the title “Sympathizer.”

The description of the game attempted modernization was accurate though. Crimes and Punishments adds in a lot of elements that I’ve never seen before that seem a little out of place.

1. Quicktime events. Really. Each time you catch a character in a lie, you can press “Q” to get the opportunity to present contradictory information or evidence. And if you don’t like these or have trouble doing them in time, here you can replay them as many times as want without consequence. This helps with how easy it is not to follow Sherlock Holmes’ desired line of questioning.

2. FPS and fighting. Again, between this, the quicktime events, and the moral choices, it feels like the developers are trying to emulate that Telltale style of adventure games. During one experiment, I had to simulate using a harpoon to figure out how much strength would be needed to pierce a person. I had to aim accurately and use the correct amount of strength. This took me five minutes. It felt like when I hovered what I guess was the figurative scope over the target, it was always a millimeter off. Of course you can skip it if you want to—this game does a good job of adapting to people who only want the story—but doing that doesn’t feel right. What is with them and the guilt?

3. Unlockable outfits and hairstyles. I know Mr. Holmes is supposed to be a master of disguise, but if that’s the case, why would I have to do so much legwork to gain access to his costumes?   He’s well-experienced at this point, so you’d think he would have more than two suits and a sailor’s costume. Of course it lets you customize him regardless with a few starting options for if you like your detective balding, curly-headed, or in a hat.

Now off to my next case. Maybe I’ll get a new hat.

Stay tuned.

Mystery Managed: Part 1

Mystery Managed: Part 1

In case you didn’t notice, I took the week off for Thanksgiving. I was barely around to play games with the extra hours at work to get ready for the holidays and then traveling. But lucky for you, your reward for waiting is my first new game since Dragon Age.

Way back when I bought games during Target’s buy two, get one free, I picked up the newest Sherlock Holmes game. I had heard that a lot of things were different in this installment in an effort to modernize the game. I knew they didn’t mean time period but still was not sure what this meant. Considering how easy it is to spoil these games with its mechanics tied so closely to its story, I didn’t want to look too much into it. Besides I enjoy even the most basic mystery game, so I didn’t even bother with a review.

But man, I was not prepared for all of the new elements this installment threw in. In past games, many processes were simplified, letting Sherlock Holmes do his own thing despite you being in control of him. Here Crimes and Punishments tries all sorts of new ways to make the player interact more with the crime-solving than normal. Gone are the bare-bones clicking and puzzling gameplay and a whole new variety of powers. Seriously, this game makes Holmes out to be a mutant superhero. Absurdly accurate deduction skills are one thing; seeing smells is a whole another virtual ballpark.

1. First, Mr. Holmes smells something he can’t quite recognize an suddenly the invisible aroma turns into an electric blue jigsaw puzzle. You have to rotate the wisps and rearrange the solid objects (i.e. pipe) until all of the jagged lines connect. Weirdly enough though this kind of puzzle seems more realistic than past games where everyone on the planet uses a brainteaser for a lock instead of a combination.

2. Sherlock Holmes also has a special talent with no need for a more specific name. Similar to the Detective vision in the Batman Arkham games, you can enter a mode where all of obscured clues are highlighted in orange. While acting a variation on the already-existing pointing-and-clicking, it does let you pretend you have the same set of skills as the great detective himself.

3. Last on the list of new features that let you get into character, each time you interview a new NPC, you can create a Character Portrait. By finding all of the defining details of the person, you can create a profile that could later come in handy. While the game does the hard work for you by highlighting points of interest and figuring out the real meaning behind what you find (e.g. yellow nails means heavy smoker), it feels good for yet another simple part of the game to be made interactive.

You’d never think you have a superhero simulator without any of the physical prowess, but this game sets Holmes up to be more than human. While in the past the world fell in line with his talent tree–people leaving incriminating evidence out that only he would find suspicious, logic puzzles being the only form of security, etc.–here Sherlock has skills that make a normal world work for him.

Now off to finish up my first case and create a more substantial analysis. Stay tuned.