Emerald Gaming Update- January 2016

So, this is a new segment I’ve decided to title the ‘Emerald Gaming Update’ done by yours truly, James! I plan on this being a monthly or bi-monthly segment recapping my thoughts on all of the recent games I’ve played in a rather informal manner in comparison to the traditional review format, in the hopes that it might help me write future reviews, give me something to go off of, and maybe provide an interesting read for others in the process.


 

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So I’ve been playing some Fallout 4 recently. Haven’t really gotten too terribly far, but I like what I see so far. Unfortunately the core story does absolutely nothing to engage me, being about trying to rescue your son from a nebulous corporation of sorts it seems, mainly because I’m extremely allergic to children. Or, at least, that’s my excuse whenever someone asks me to hold their baby. If they get too forceful, it ends up being a very dangerous game of hot potato. I should probably drop this before it’s too late.

The topic, I mean. Not the baby.

Thankfully, unlike babies, you can deck your equipment out with a myriad of mods made from all manner of scraps you collect throughout the world to your personal specifications, something I always wished had been elaborated on further in previous Bethesda games, and for me, I absolutely adore it. Haven’t had much experience with the new Power Armor, though, as I can’t seem to find where the hell it went after I was introduced to it. I’ve mostly been sticking with my dog, oddly not named Dogmeat, but simply ‘Dog’. I’ve heard it’s supposed to be Dogmeat, but frankly I prefer my dog to be unnamed..

I’ve noticed that this game seems to be a lot harder for me than previous games. Maybe it’s because I’ve been resolute in keeping the drifter outfit until I find something cooler looking, which’ll be never.

As of very recently, I’ve been traveling with Piper, who is basically April O’Neil if she could actually fight back. I thoroughly enjoy having her around.

As usual with modern Bethesda games, there have been entertaining glitches abound, one of which I found particularly amusing when I was killed in a certain area that almost always caused my character’s body to sink into the floor thigh-deep while the camera zoomed into my dead body wobbling around upright like a jack-in-the-box whose spring needs to be tightened. Mostly my glitches have to do with my dog, who periodically enjoys levitating when it pleases him.


 

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Speaking of dogs, another game I’ve been playing is Undertale, a game released last year by Toby Fox. You play as a child who, after traversing a mountain for unknown reasons, fell into a hole (a theme that may be repeated later in the segment). Thankfully, you wake up in a bed of flowers that broke your fall (also a theme that may be repeated later in this segment).

I’ve played all the way through it and absolutely adore it from head to toe, to the point where it may be one of my most favorite games of all time, up there with Yoshi’s Island and Valkyria Chronicles. To me, my most favorite games tend to be the ones that make me feel emotions I’d forgotten that I could feel in this cold and dreary triple-A development cycle world. Yoshi’s Island makes me feel basically pure happiness from the moment I play it to well after a few hours I stop, Valkyria Chronicles made me tear up when the opening theme was reincorporated later on about halfway through the game in a very touching way (no spoilers!), but Undertale by far has made me feel the most variety of intense emotions of any game I’ve ever played. Happiness, sadness, regret, hilarity, self-disgust, panic, that one great feeling where you’re filled with pure raw willpower and DETERMINATION as consistently awesome music plays against dynamic boss after dynamic boss while the implications of death and mercy hang above your head at all times – mmmmmm! Pristine! I love it!

I’ve played through the game twice myself, and watched it at least half a dozen times played by others, either via skype call or Let’s Play, and still can’t get enough. There is still a couple of parts I get misty-eyed at, even after the eighth or ninth time witnessing them. Any game that can move me and make me feel these things, that can penetrate the layers and layers of indifference I’ve built up for the past few years about video games, to me, is a game truly worth playing and truly worth being on my personal top three games of all time.


 

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Infinitely more embarrassingly, I’ve been playing a lot of Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth series.

……..why is this series basically my gaming equivalent of heroin?

So this is a game by Idea Factory and Compile Heart. If there exists a more anime weeaboo kawaii desu gameu chan with plenty of fanservice for drooling idiot guys like me, and SOMEHOW damn near magical girl levels of shoujo at the same time, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what game that would be. I’m on the third game of the Neptunia Re;Birth series, and even though I’ve already beaten it, it still draws me back with post-game content.

This…game, this game…it…okay, it’s a turn based RPG, right? And it’s really embarrassing how much time I’ve sank into this series. I think it’s mostly how the combat system works – it’s grinding opiate the same way Final Fantasy 8 is grinding opiate for me. The way it’s structured it perfect for me, not being mindless enough to trounce through thoughtlessly the whole time, but being just mindless enough that I can have something else on in the background like a Let’s Play and not have to commit my whole mind to the game. That may seem backwards, and even sacrilegious to many gamers who tout immersion above all else, but this is a game about female personifications of game consoles that transform to become more powerful as well as bustier.

It’s not exactly storytelling meant to be taken too terribly seriously is m’point.

That doesn’t even get into the blatantly repeating location assets, blatant recolors of past enemies that are moderately stronger than the last, blatant oversexualization of the transformations in the absolute least tactful way possible, blatant farming and fetch questing throughout basically the entire game, and while Re;Birth 3 is a lot more well balanced than the last two, those last two games…hoooof, they were literally no challenge whatsoever. It really DID turn mindless around the end. Many of the characters are just one-dimensional tropes, with Noire being the worst offender, her sole character trait pretty much being ‘prideful tsundere and that’s about it.’

The more I talk about this game the more disgusted I become in myself to know that I’ve spent a cumulative 200 hours between all three games put together. But I can’t help it, I love going into the combo lists of each of my characters and fine-tuning the combos to their strengths, I love farming for materials to get the best weapons and tinkering with the best formation combinations to get the battles done, party combinations and what works and what doesn’t. A lot of this sounds boring and damn near MMOish, but there’s just…something about the combat that is fast and satisfying to me. I love how bright and colorful it is, the sort of stylistic flashiness you don’t really get from the dull, samey, grey-brown dredges of triple-A development nowadays. Eventually it gets so baseline that I wonder if half of the time it appeals to me simply by ‘ooh, look at the pretty vibrant colors and movements as attacks go off’.

…I don’t wanna talk about this game anymore. I’m too ashamed of myself. Let’s move on.


 

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So Dark Souls 2 is a thing. The first thing you should probably know is I played a stupid amount of Dark Souls 1 before playing this game, so you could reasonably call me a Dark Souls fan. I had also heard that Dark Souls 2 is widely agreed to be the marginally worst Souls game of the whole series. After playing through the whole thing, I get where those who don’t like the game are coming from, as gameplay doesn’t seem to nearly be as inclusive to certain builds like the last one was. In Dark Souls 1, with pretty similar amounts of difficulty, I played my way through a good six times, each time switching my build, from Strength, to Intelligence, to Faith, to Pyromancy, to Dexterity, and I pretty much found I was able to do each of these builds with the same difficulty, that difficulty being satisfyingly’frig-me’ hard. Contrast this to Dark Souls 2, where it seems that if you don’t go melee, chances are you’re going to have a bad time. This was perfectly fine for my melee focused first playthrough, and provided a very nice challenge, but going into sorcery for my current playthrough almost doesn’t seem viable to me.

I will admit that it has gotten a teensy bit easier over time. Maybe it was just a difficulty curve I had to overcome. I’ll keep going with it.


 

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Finally, in honor of the remake being announced, I’ve restarted Final Fantasy VII for the billionth time. I’ve watched the game be played all the way through, but I can’t say I’ve ever actually beaten the game myself, so I wanted to really try and knuckle down to get through it and refresh myself on the story. However, there’s this weird thing that keeps happening to me where, after I get out of the main city and the world opens up to me, I immediately lose all will to keep going. I’ve tried so many times, and bounced off of the game at nearly that exact moment, and I cannot for the life of me place my finger on why that is. Maybe it’s too much freedom and not enough direction, it could be possible that after being fairly linear for the first handful of hours, suddenly opening up like that left me overwhelmed because of what I’d become accustom to subconsciously. I’ll try to chug through this odd wall I keep hitting with this game.


 

Well, I think that about wraps up what I’ve been playing for now! I enjoyed this, and would like making it a monthly or possibly bi-monthly thing to do.

See you next time!

-James Moretto

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