I finished a book called, “But What If We’re Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past” by Chuck Klosterman (NYT Review) over the holiday. I really enjoyed it and recommend it. Especially for anyone interested in thinking and learning about how historically poor humans are at predicting the future and remembering the past. The author is best known for his essay and writings about pop culture (a favorite essay) and the writing in this book was light, well-paced, and easy to digest.
Here’s a short list of the games I’m currently playing or have played recently. These are all recommended if you’re looking for something new to enjoy.
Fantasy Life (3DS)
I’ve played far too many RPGs to count, and Fantasy Life is one of those rare games that gets everything right. The dialog is humorous, the experience ramp is well-balanced, and the sense of exploration is great. I’ve been playing this alongside my daughter Kari, and it’s a perfect introduction into he standard RPG structure. Go on quests, level up, learn skills, buy equipment, rinse/repeat. You can drop in and out of co-operative multiplayer with ease and all experience and items are shared with your single-player adventures. The visuals are cute and cohesive. Nothing looks out-of-place and there’s no signs of shortcuts being taken. The game has a great pedigree with Brownie Brown and Level-5 lending their skills to create a delightful classic RPG.
Pokemon Omega Ruby (3DS)
This is a remake of the classic Pokemon Ruby updated to include the most recent roster of pocket monsters, 3D visuals 1, and online multiplayer/trade features.
I usually consume a Pokemon game within days of its release, but for some reason I have yet to progress very far with Omega. I’m close to getting my 5th badge, but haven’t really felt the urge to pick this one up. It’s a solid Pokemon title and I will eventually beat it, but I lack the desire to ‘catch them all’.
Tactics Ogre (PSP, PS Vita)
Originally a Super Famicom (SNES in North America) release in Japan only this game has seen multiple versions with the most recent being for the Playstation Portable in 2011. 2
It is a classic turned-based tactical RPG and can be considered the grandfather of the Final Fantasy Tactics series of games. Interestingly enough, Yasumi Matsuno directed both series.
I played a fan translated version of the original SNES release years ago and remember it being quite challenging. This incarnation allows you to rewind your decisions while in battle, making your poor choices not as permanent. That may seem to make the game far to easy, but for me it makes it more enjoyable. I’m playing this on a portable device with only a few minutes of time to play. Not having to restart a 30 minute battle halfway in is a godsend.
OlliOlli 2 (PS Vita)
OlliOlli is a 2D side-scrolling skateboarding game. You input specific combinations of directional inputs and button presses to pull off combos. The bigger or longer the combo, the larger the points. It’s a fast-paced game and in some of the later levels near pixel-perfect controls are needed to pass a level. The location are varied and over the top incarnations of traditional Hollywood themes (Wild West, Aztec Ruins, Futuristic City, etc.).
I enjoyed the first game, but disliked that I couldn’t sustain a combo for the entire level. You could only keep a combo going between rails and jumps. One of the major improvements in OlliOlli 2 is the inclusion of manuals – where you perform tricks on flat ground instead of on rails or in the air. This allows you to chain together extremely long (the entire level if you’re really good) combinations for insanely high scores. The arcade nature and the use of a single button to restart a level at any point make this a great pick up and play game for when you only have a few minutes. An online leaderboard and daily challenges keep you coming back.
Homeworld Remastered (PC)
I am a huge Homeworld fan. I played the original for countless hours and then did the same for the wonderful Homeworld Cataclysm semi-sequel. 3 Homeworld Remastered is an updated take on both Homeworld and it’s sequel Homeworld 2. Graphics, audio, UI – pretty much everything has been touched to bring it into modern times.
The game is a 3D real-time strategy game set in space. you command fleets of ships – from the tiny corvette class all the way to the large destroyer class – into battle. Like other games in the genre you have to forage for resources and research new technologies to overcome your opponents.
The story is beautiful and tragic. You play as a race of people who discover technology on the planet they inhabit that leads them to risk everything to travel the cosmos to find their original home. Along the way they discover the truth to their origins and fight foes who will do everything to stop them from returning.
Gearbox, the developers behind Borderlands, has spent a ton of time trying to make this play like the originals and is continuing to support and improve gameplay. There’s a few things that didn’t quite translate over and if that bothers you the original un-remastered versions of both games are included.
HellDivers (PS Vita)
Friendly fire takes on a whole new meaning in Helldivers. You play as a paramilitary trooper engaged in an intergalactic war between three hostile enemies. The bugs, cyborgs, and Illuminate (robots). Each have their own unique strategies and units and all are out to get you. It’s a top-down dual-stick shooter with strong emphasis on co-operative multiplayer. Everyone is vulnerable as friendly fire is on at all times. Even calling in reinforcements or equipment drops can kill a teammate.
It’s really easy to drop into a game. There’s various levels of difficulty and you can customize your payload before you deploy. When you find other player and can work as effective team you really feel like you’re overcoming gigantic challenges. Then you accidentally blow up half the team and it gets even better.
Shadowrun: Dragonfall (iOS)
I was aware of the Shadowrun series of table-top role-playing games, but never really got absorbed into the universe it has built. However, I’m a sucker for turn-based isometric strategy games and when this recently went on sale for the iPad I jumped on it.
I could not have been more surprised at how well polished this game is. It’s a great story in a cyberpunk future incarnation of Berlin. The visuals are solid and you can almost feel the grime and smog in the air. The game is challenging, but not unfair. I’m about 10 hours in and am looking at another 12 or so until completion. What’s interesting is that it started life as an add-on to the existing Shadowrun Returns, but packs enough to stand alone. (Pro tip: Pick up Shadowrun Returns if you like Dragonfall. Dragonfall is a little more refined as it was developed later, but both are made by the same folks with the same attention to detail.)
These are just the games I’ve actually spent a substantial amount of time in. I also want to finish Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon (3DS). I’m on the last level – so close!
I just started Freedom Wars (PS Vita) as I picked it up for cheap and the premise sounded interesting. I also want to spend some time with The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (3DS) and am looking forward to the extended releases of Wasteland 2 and Divinity: Original Sin. Both are turn-based strategy RPGs that I’ve played a little, but haven’t really dug too deep into.
If you’ve played anything of interest recently, let me know in the comments.
The polygon kind, not the stereoscopic kind. In fact, the two most recent Pokemon games are a bit of a let down on the 3D effect front. Most of the game is not in 3D stereoscopy and where it is available (within individual battles) it suffers from a noticeably lower frame rate↩
It has recently been released as port of the Super Famicon version for the Wii and Wii U↩
Cataclysm isn’t a direct sequel. Homeworld 2 is. Cataclysm takes place between both games, but in a different corner of the universe. In my humble opinion Cataclysm is better than Homeworld 2. It has more interesting ship design and story.↩
Let’s say you think the harassment, doxxing and hate brought onto others under the umbrella of GG is awful and don’t associate with that part of the hashtag. Let’s say you’re able to articulate that very clearly. The problem is, your stalwart association with a hashtag shows a glaring blind spot in your ability to understand and empathize with other people. It shows you don’t get that labelling your opinions with something so compromised makes you careless at best and an asshole at worst.
This article from Duncan Fyfe over at The Campo Santo Quarterly Review summarizes my feeling over the regressive thoughts people leaned on early in this whole kerfuffle – and some still hold close to this day.
Ng, adding to Vanaman’s comments, says: “I wouldn’t want to work with anyone who doesn’t have the empathy, emotional intelligence or common sense to get why that hashtag is hurtful to many people. It doesn’t matter if skill-wise that person is literally the best on earth.”
Bingo. Even a passing defender or someone who argued, “Well maybe the women did that bad stuff those men on the Internet said” is a person I’d not want to associate with. If your first reaction to hearing something like this is disbelief, not empathy, then you’re probably an asshole.