Sunday, July 30, 2017
Monday, July 24, 2017
This week was the long awaited return of Dinobot! When I watched the episode the first two times last Monday, I felt like it was overly serious with a handful of physical comedy gags that just didn't work. It's definitely the most visually dark episode of the series so far, and has some cool themes and stuff. We had to reschedule the recording for Wednesday, so I watched it one more time before that recording. Maybe I was in a better mood, but I really enjoyed it that time.
Dinobot II's design is easily my favorite since Transmetal Cheetor, maybe since Inferno. His characterization as a sort of feral soldier comes off as pretty cool, especially for having just been created.
We also had Kasey as a returning guest, who did a great job. I'm glad we haven't had as many guests this season as we did in early season 2, but this episode as well as our previous episode with a guest have both been great. It also helps that, at this point, Kasey has been on a few times and sends her news post every week, so we've gotten a better feel for each other over time.
40 hours into my play through, I'm still not sure if I like this game. At first, it felt like every step of the way was a struggle. That doesn't seem to be the case anymore. While many of the enemies from the early game are still a threat, my character is over leveled for where I'm at in the main campaign, so random enemies aren't that scary.
The world seems to have slowly opened up, to where if one section is overly difficult or frustrating me, I can usually go fight a boss in another direction. This is definitely a plus. Slowly but surely I'm continuously making progress. The other night, I was struggling with a boss, and threatened to quit playing the game altogether. Then I defeated it.
The difficulty actually isn't that bad, aside from the "let's intentionally make the game harder" mechanics like the inability to pause and the terrible souls mechanic, the game is pretty balanced. Leveling up and upgrading gear takes forever, but it does a good job of making unbeatable bosses a little bit more beatable. When I defeat an enemy, even after leveling up and looking up strategies online, it rarely feels hollow the way some games' boss fights feel once you figure out the trick. It seems like they could easily maintain the same balance while offering experience points that can't be taken away though.
It's an Xbox Live free multiplayer weekend or something right now, so when I went to play last night, all of the online features became available. This basically amounted to way too many notes on the ground that just said "Need Head." I know there are other online functions, but I have no desire to play this game online. The fact that I can't turn off the online functionality inside of the game is pretty frustrating as well. I'm sure there's a way to do it, but it's not that big of a deal.
In spite of everything, I'm still playing the game. There's something to the monotony and grindy nature of the game that appeals to me. Leveling up and increasing stats in given areas is pretty nice too. The customization isn't as good as something like Skyrim, but I'm still playing the character I want to play. My character clearly is not the path of least resistance character. I'm not strong enough to wield a shield, and the bow seems to be either useless or broken in practice. I also don't really want to mess with magic. I just want to be an agile character who can use a bow and moves quicker than my enemies. Maybe this is why I'm a little bit more forgiving on the general difficulty of the game.
I'll write at least one more entry when I either finish or rage quit the game. In the meantime, I did just start Breath of the Wild to break things up, and I need to put some time into Battlefront ASAP for the next Katarn Collection. Video games are fun.
Friday, July 21, 2017
Brad was unavailable this week, so Jerry hosted and Emily(of War and Beast fame) guested to fill out the roster. This episode was, objectively, the worst episode we've reviewed of the show. It was still, however, a ton of fun in its nonsensical plot twists. Why did the turtles need to dress as pizza delivery guys if they were just going to kick the door down? It gave Shredder an excuse to say, "I didn't order any pizzas, especially not green ones!"
I don't really have a ton of behind the curtain insights into this episode, so I'll let the podcast speak for itself.
Here's the episode!
Sunday, July 16, 2017
Everybody else hated this episode. I kind of liked it. The Maximals come off as pretty misogynist and, depending on your interpretation, a little bit racist too. Also, Cheetor, out of nowhere, develops a crush on Black Arachnia and suddenly starts suffering from teenage creepiness. If you give the writers enough credit, I think they took this episode as an opportunity to show the heroes in a not so great light. Rattrap says some terrible things (even worse than normal), Optimus puts the one woman in charge of the children, and Silverbolt is jealous and possessive. Meanwhile, the Predacons, relatively speaking, do a decent job of cooperating and almost succeed. Most importantly, this episode gave us a chance to make fun of men's rights activists. My alternative title was "Cheetor gets friend-zoned."
You can listen to the episode at audioentropy.com
Saturday, July 15, 2017
The other day, I was out running some errands, and popped into my local used game shop. After browsing for a bit, I found Rad Racer, a classic racing game, for $5. This was a game I'd heard of, but had heard mixed reviews. It sounded like this was one of those games that was every American of a certain age's first game in the genre. Out of historical curiosity, I picked it up.
One of the biggest surprises of my recent foray into retro-gaming has been how much I've enjoyed racing games. One of the first N64 games I bought was Cruisin' USA. Surprisingly I've put significantly more N64 time into that game than games like Goldeneye and Super Smash Bros. I've also discovered a number of other classic racers like San Fransisco Rush(also N64) F-Zero(Super NES). Rad Racer is the first NES racer I've played and I'm genuinely impressed with what they did with the technology available.
Rad Racer's gameplay is basically exactly what I expected. It's a very simple behind the car view going down the road, with other cars acting as obstacles, and street signs that cause the car to get thrown if you hit them. One criticism of the game is that sometimes cars or turns will pop up without giving time to adjust, and the street signs that warn of the turns are sometimes difficult to read.
In spite of all that, it's a simple game that I can put on mute while I listen to a podcast. The blue sky or the black night and some of the simple scenery do a great job of making the game feel like I'm on the open road. Obviously the arcade racing genre has evolved since Rad Racer, and there are probably better games from this era as well, but I still can't shake the idea that without games like Rad Racer, we wouldn't have Cruisin' USA, one of my all time favorite games for N64. Not to mention, it's a nice break from Dark Souls.
Monday, July 10, 2017
I know this episode has been out for a few days now, but I had other things to blog about. Last week, I was house-sitting for my parents, so we recorded with a slightly different set up, so if the episode sounds a bit different that's why.
I don't remember if it was after the break or after we finished recording, Emily suggested that I record a cover of Yellow Submarine to play during the break. Of course, I'm never going to turn down a request to show off my music skills, so I decided to go for it. In the back of my mind, I kind of wanted to record a parody about the episode rather than just recording the song and sketched out lyrics on Tuesday night while I was waiting to pick up my parents from the airport. Then, Wednesday morning, back in my apartment with my normal recording set up, I started with guitar and vocals. It took an embarrassingly long time to figure out the melody after "and the band begins to play" on melodica, but I'm pretty happy with how that lick turned out. I haven't played trombone in a while, but I was able to muddle through a bass line before my lips blew out. Harmony vocals and percussion round out the track.
You can listen to the episode on audioentropy.com
I'm about 15 hours into my play through of Dark Souls, and figured I'd give a little update. In short, I'm hooked. It has the character customization and leveling of a modern RPG like Skyrim, in a high Fantasy setting, which is what I really wanted. Also, it's got a silent protagonist, which is always a plus for me, since I like to put myself in the roll of the protagonist, and often protagonists who speak will say things I'd never say and pull me out of the experience. I do see the pattern recognition, memorization, and punishing difficulty of classic games as well, which is not necessarily a selling point for me, but it does seem to be working.
Since my last entry about the game, I figured out how the leveling and experience system works. Essentially, both experience points and money are rolled into souls which you get for killing enemies. You can spend these souls on weapons, upgrades, items, etc., or for leveling up your character. The other quirk about this system is, whenever you die, you drop the souls on what the game calls your blood stain, the spot where you died. This means you can recover the souls if you can get to the spot where you were killed, but if you don't make it that far, you lose those souls. It also means, if you aren't familiar with the mechanics, you can end up grinding in the same spot expecting to gain experience and not gain any experience. Neither the game nor the instruction manual makes this clear. Fortunately, we live in a world where the internet exists, so I was able to read about it there.
I wanted my character to be a dexterity based archer, similar to the character I played in Skyrim. From the beginning, I was able to be a thief with high dexterity and low strength, but the game feels much more melee based than Skyrim. Arrows are expensive and difficult to use early in the game. I did eventually defeat a mini-boss by taking pot shots out of its range, and I have learned to sneak up on people(another thing not explained in game or in the manual), so things are definitely moving in the right direction. Also, in order to get a good dexterity based melee weapon, I had to kill a friendly NPC, which took me out of the experience a little bit.
Regarding some of my early observations, I'm basically used to the controls aside from the weirdness with the item screen. Also, the world is not as open as I expected. In fact, there seems to be some debate online as to whether the game should be considered "Open World" at all. It's not an exploration based game where you have to walk miles and miles between towns, but there is still an exploration element and it's not like you're teleporting from level to level.
As far as difficulty, I do die over and over, and even the weakest enemies get me from time to time. That happens in a lot of games though. Even in Skyrim, I remember having to grind to get past a particular dungeon. I'll be interested to see if, as the game goes on, when I double back to previous areas if certain enemies become a joke. At least this is a game where, if I grind souls to get my level up and improve my gear enough, enemies that used to take 3 hits to kill, start to take 2 hits, and enemies that used to kill me in one or two hits do far less damage, so it's worth it to grind.
So yeah, I'm still enjoying the game. However, if it keeps taking me hours and hours to get to the next bonfire, I may get tired of it and move on to something else. At least if that happens, I can say that I put enough time into the game to have an educated opinion about it. Breath of the Wild is always an option.
**Update to the update: I spent 2 hours last night being killed over and over by the same three bosses(one in each direction). I'm going to put as much time as I can in this week, but if I don't start making progress, this may not be worth the effort.
Sunday, July 9, 2017
I've got a feeling I'm not going to finish this game. At least not for a while. It's probably not the game's fault, but I think I'm getting burnt out on turn based JRPGs. This game is definitely a turn based JRPG.
When I purchased the game a few weeks ago, I thought I wanted another game that I could play while I half paid attention to Netflix. Unfortunately, after Dragon Warrior, Earthbound(why haven't I gone back and finished this yet?), and Defenders of Oasis, another generic JRPG, especially one with some problems, is not what I needed.
So what are this game's problems? First, for some reason, the primary screen it uses is the bottom screen of the DS. It's not the first DS game I've seen do this, but Pokémon and Virtual Console games use the top screen as the primary screen. This means I have to cock my head lower than I'm used to when I play the game. Also, maybe I'm just getting old or the DS had a bigger screen than the 3DS, but the sprites are really small and the backgrounds are extremely busy for such a small screen. It's like it was designed with the 3ds XL in mind.
Then, of course, we have the issue with Game Over. As far as I know, this is true of most, if not all Final Fantasy games. Basically, if your party dies, you get a Game Over and have to reopen from the last time you saved. This is one of the primary reasons I never finished Final Fantasy X. I'm used to games like Pokémon, where you just get thrown back to a safe area(Pokémon Center) and lose half your money.
At the end of the day, it's just another game where your adventuring party fights monsters. There may or may not be a good story or good combat mechanics, but I don't know if I'm going to get that
far any time soon.
Saturday, July 8, 2017
Podcasting is weird. Unlike most forms of media, where you really have to go out of your way to find anything deeper than the most mainstream things, many podcasts cater to such a niche audience that the creators are much more accessible than those of other forms of media. In the same way, if you produce a podcast that targets the right niche, someone will listen to it.
When I was on the mtgcast.com network with Kitchen Finks, we were able to have hosts of much more popular shows as guests and I occasionally was even able to guest on other shows. Unfortunately, when I stopped playing(and podcasting about) Magic the Gathering, I also sort of disconnected from that community. Unlike mtgcast.com, the Audio Entropy podcast network has a wide variety of shows on a wide variety of topics, so if I get tired of one, I can find another easily enough.
Somehow, right around the time the network was formalized, Greg made a call on the Teenagers With Attitude Facebook group for people who wanted to do a Beast Wars podcast. He more or less knew the other hosts from the mysterious "forums," but the rest of us were just fans of Teenagers With Attitude and the other shows on the network. Since then, we've all been able to guest on various shows, but a few weeks ago, I finally got the chance to guest on the flagship show.
Recording this episode was surreal, because it was simultaneously like doing a podcast with friends and like doing a podcast with minor celebrities. I've actually done episodes of things with three of the four hosts who were on the episode before, but this was different. It felt like I'd finally reached one of the goals I had when I joined the network. Fortunately, I feel like a did a pretty decent job.
You can listen to it on audioentropy.com
Friday, July 7, 2017
This was a fun episode. The jokes were funny, the characters were clever, and the action was just the right kind of goofy. Where the first episode of season 2 felt like the writers were still trying to figure out how to take the show in this lighter, goofier direction, this episode achieved everything it was going for.
With just Brad and I on the podcast this week, we ended up going a little shorter than usual, but Brad has a good sense of when we're out of important stuff to talk about. If we'd have gone longer, we'd probably get off on some irrelevant tangent or something. Not every podcast needs to be 3 hours long like War and Beast.
Monday, July 3, 2017
I want to start by emphasizing that this "First Impressions" blog entry is likely an even earlier impression than most of my other reviews. I'm only about four hours into the game, and three of them were spent getting killed by the same zombies over and over. Also, by all accounts, this is a really long game, so maybe I'll give periodic updates if I don't rage quit before then.
In the summer of 2015, I got a deal on an Xbox 360 and played roughly 100 hours of Skyrim. It sucked me in like no non-Pokémon game has before or since. Then, after completing the main quest, many of the side quests, forging the perfect armor and weapons, and grinding up the ideal skillset, I was ready for a new game. An employee at my local video game store recommended Dragon Age. It didn't hook me. Nor did Fallout 3, Red Dead Redemption, or Arkham Asylum. I got through the first disc of Wolfenstein: The New Order, but I eventually lost interest.
Since then, I've taken a deeper dive into vintage gaming, with several large stacks of cartridges to go with it. Games like Super Mario World, Earthbound, Cruisin' USA, and Streets of Rage are great and timeless, but they do not have the immersive experience that a game like Skyrim offers. Breath of the Wild is definitely on my radar to play eventually, possibly after a price drop if that ever happens, but Half-Priced Books had Dark Souls for $10, and I figured it would be worth a shot to see what the big deal was, especially after I guested on Let's Place and one of the hosts was rather offended that I didn't know what Dark Souls was and thought the gameplay looked a lot like Skyrim.
From my perspective, as someone who hasn't played many modern action RPGs, this game seems a lot like Skyrim. It's a fantasy setting where your uniquely designed character is the chosen one with an emphasis on exploration in an open world. The world doesn't feel as open as Skyrim yet, but I'm confident it will open up once I get through the first few things.
The controls leave a little to be desired, but it's still playable. It's the standard Xbox 360 control scheme of one stick controlling movement and the other controlling the camera, but the camera seems a bit wilder than most similar games. Also, there is no jump button, which is just weird in an action game. The third issue with the controls is mostly my issue. The game feels like Skyrim, but the buttons by default are mapped differently. It just occurred to me right now that there is a way to change the button mapping... oh well... forget that last thing.
Dark Souls' claim to fame is its difficulty. It's pretty early in the game, so I'm still at the point where my character is extremely fragile, but the enemies are also probably not as difficult as they may later become, so I can't speak to how it levels out. There are some mechanics that seem to be a made to intentionally infuriate the player however. The most notable is the item screen. Unlike most games, pulling up the item menu does not pause the game. It does, however, prevent you from attacking, as the attack buttons are mapped to move between items on that menu. Closing the menu is also a two step process, which led me to select the proper items to equip before rushing into battle only to not be able to attack the enemies more times than I'm proud of.
In spite, or perhaps because of its punishing, somewhat clunky nature, I'm definitely having fun with the game. After losing progress in Final Fantasy III because I didn't realize a total party kill was game over, and playing other classic games with limited lives and continues, it's really nice to play a modern game that just kicks you back a few minutes worth of game time when you die thirty or forty times in a spot. Beyond that, the graphics are beautiful and immersive, and the story has a lot of potential. I look forward to documenting my changing opinions and telling the tales of being killed by the same random enemies over and over.
Dark Souls may just be the next game I put one hundred hours into... or I may get mad at it and buy Breath of the Wild on my next payday...
Thanks for reading!
Saturday, July 1, 2017
I had a few drinks while recording this podcast, because I didn't have to get up in the morning. I don't think I was too incoherent until the end, but I definitely won't be drinking while recording again.
Years ago, back when I was still doing the "Kitchen Finks" Magic the Gathering podcast, I'd frequently sip a drink while we recorded. This wasn't a big deal, because we only recorded for about 45 minutes to an hour. By the time we were finishing, the alcohol was just starting to give me a buzz. Then one day, when I guested on "Commander Cast" another Magic the Gathering podcast, it didn't occur to me that their recording session was taking several hours and I was drinking for the entire recording. By the end, I was not in full control of my faculties, which culminated in me laughing way too hard at something someone said.
I've been wanting to try drinking on a podcast again for a while, and this episode seemed as good as any. I'm not as embarrassed about acting outlandish and goofy as much as I'm embarrassed that I was out of it(more so than normal) and couldn't participate in a good chunk about 2/3 of the way through the episode. Oh well, I'm clearly not embarrassed enough to not post about it on my blog!
Here's the episode!