Woes of the Impulse Buyer

As part of being a responsible adult, I set myself a 2018 budget for video games. I know they’re my largest non-essential expense (if you don’t consider internet essential), and that I am more than willing to say “I shouldn’t buy this, but f**k it” when a new game catches my eye.

Having already factored in the purchases of Pokémon Let’s Go and Super Smash Bros Ultimate in the coming months… I’ve hit my allowed spending limit. Dang! I mean, I actually have $9 left to spend, but close enough. There are several indie games on Switch that are calling out to me, and they’re all significantly more than nine bucks.

Anyway, the point is that I’m not going to buy them. Unless they go on sale for under $9. Or someone randomly gives me money as a gift (which I don’t count toward the budget). But aside from those very specific situations, I will stand strong! I must! And now that it’s down in writing for the world to see, I’m basically forced to hold myself to it.

“So,” you ask, “what was the total budget for the year anyway?”

I’m not telling. I’d rather leave it up to your imagination. But if you go over the monthend wrap-ups and count up all the games I played that were released in 2018, you could probably come up with a pretty close figure!

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – October 2018

TGISGM! Thank goodness it’s scary games Friday month! I’ve been dying all summer because the sun doesn’t go away until like 10PM and I’m too old to stay up much later than that but now it gets dark super early and I can get some SPOOPS GOIN’!

I’m sorry. That was a really weird sentence. Anyway, since it’s that time of year, I’m going to be sort of rating the games I’ve played on how spooky they are. Like I did back in 2016.

~Game Over~

Mega Man 11 (Switch) – Not Spooky – Torch Man’s stage theme is “wandering around the woods at night” which is a little bit spooky, but less so with all the cartoon robots who live there.

Picross S2 (Switch) – Not Spooky – It’s picross. There may be like, a puzzle of a pumpkin in there somewhere, but it wouldn’t even have a face carved into it. No spooks here.

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate (Switch) – Not Spooky – Despite being all about monsters -some of which are mildly frightening- there’s nothing particularly spooky here.

Bayonetta (Switch) – Spooky-ish – Freaky lookin’ angels and demons all over, but there’s never really anything scary, you know? Except for the impossibly unbalanced difficulty.

Slayaway Camp (Switch) – Spoopy! – This game does a wonderful job of capturing the spirit of 80’s slasher movies, and then hamming it up to 11. Perfect blend of horror and humour.

Hollow (Switch) – Spooky! – You’re stranded on a derelict spaceship; presumably alone, until you realize there are hordes of mutilated boobie-zombies out to kill you dead! Eek!

Kemono Friends Picross (Switch) – Spooky-ish – It’s very subjective, but I find the whole animal-people theme to be a little creepy. Otherwise, this is way too cheerful to be spooky.

~Now Playing~

Onechanbara Z2: Chaos (PS4) – Spoopy at Best – It’s about zombies and cursed blood and copious gore, but really it’s just too dumb/goofy/cheesecakey to actually be spooky.

Dark Souls (Switch) – Spooky! – Yeah, this one’s a shoo-in for spooks. Have you ever seen the Gaping Dragon? Or any monster from the Painted World of Ariamis? Buuuh. Nightmares!

MGSV: The Phantom Pain (PC) – Not Spooky – There’s that one part with the parasite warehouse that is genuinely creepy and gross, but we passed that chapter months ago.

Spooktober Movies – The Thirdening

Shin Godzilla – You know, I was so sure that I had written about this last time I watched it, but I cannot find such a post in the archive. So I guess I didn’t!

Here’s the short review: Shin Godzilla is AWESOME.

Long version: This is a reboot of sorts, wherein Japan is only being attacked by Godzilla for the first time, and there are no other monsters, and it’s gone back to being more of a social commentary than a movie about guys wrestling in rubber monster suits. Only instead of being about the dangers of nuclear weapons, it’s about the ineptitude of the old Japanese government officials. Nobody is willing to act in a crisis, much less tell the truth about what is happening. It’s only when most… you know what, the rest is kind of a spoiler, and you should absolutely watch this movie to figure it out yourself.

Godzilla himself is pretty much as awesome as he’s ever been. I really liked the recent Amercian movie’s “tired old man” version of Godzilla, but this one is pretty dang baller, too. He’s got a number of new tricks up his… uh, scales? Well, different things happen. Radically different things. And then… no, no… I can’t spoil that, either.

I really love this movie, is the point I’m trying to get across. I can and have and will watch it again and again and again. What I really need to do is actually buy the damned blu-ray and mount it on my wall as a testament to this being my favourite Godzilla movie. The only issue I take with it is that the subtitles are white and not outlined, which makes them hard/impossible to read at times. Rookie mistake, guys. But still! Watch this dang movie!

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – This is the original, baby. I have the super-special metal case edition, with an entire extra DVD of special features I’ll never ever watch. I’d sure like that kind of edition for Shin Godzilla. I’d definitely watch those special features.

But anyway, I feel like you probably know this one. It’s fairly old. Kids on road trip find spooky old house, most are killed by mask-wearing psychopath, final girl learns about family of cannibals that kill and eat kids on road trips that pass by. Ta-dah! The last half-hour of the whole thing is basically just said final girl screaming her heart out while trapped by/escaping the crazies.

To be honest, I had a rough time getting through this one. I know it’s a classic, but I think it’s one of the classics best left remembered, and not re-lived. Maybe I’m just too desensitized to this kind of stuff to get anything out of ’em anymore, unless they’re one of my absolute favourites. Jason and Freddy still do it for me. Why not Leatherface? We may never know! I had something else to add… but it seems that I’ve forgotten due to overwhelming apathy. Oh well.

Spooktober Movies: The Second Edition

Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack – I was looking for something a little different than the usual horror movie fare, and then it hit me: I never watch any animated horror movies. After a cursory Googling, it seems to be because there are very few animated horror movies. And most of them are anime. So with that limitation in mind, I set off to see what I could dredge up.

The first result that I found interesting enough to pursue was Gyo. This is a movie about fish that are attached to strange walking machines, which randomly start attacking Tokyo and other Japanese cities. It’s incredibly weird. Like, I expect anime to be weird, but this one is so far out there. Somehow, if a person is stabbed by the walking machine’s spidery legs, they contract a virus that makes them bloat up into a green mess, and then start farting and belching out a noxious gas. Then, they’re captured by the walking machines, which use said gas as a sort of energy source. None of it makes any sense, and at the end some guy makes an offhand remark about how the walking machines are not from Earth. Whaaatever. I really don’t like when the “it must be an alien” excuse is used to handwave away anything the writer can’t be arsed to explain, but then isn’t followed up on at all. Tell me more about the aliens, dammit!

Anyhow, the plot is about some girl who is on vacation, but then goes back to Tokyo to find her fiancée when the fish start attacking. Fish- and zombie-related horror ensues, that’s about as much as I care to describe. There’s plenty of violence and unsettling imagery, but it never gets overly gory. The bulk of the second act is mechanized sharks attacking the city, but you never really see anyone get bitten or anything. It’s mostly just gross, what with the gassy zombies and all. At one point there’s a walker that has captured dozens of zombos, which may be the most disturbing part of the movie. Also our heroine gets all groped up by a mechanized octopus, because it’s anime and of course that had to happen. I wouldn’t really say it’s worth watching, even if you really like weird stuff like this. I never felt compelled, and while I liked the nice, clean animation, that’s not really enough reason to spend to 90 minutes on Gyo.

Lily C.A.T. – My second choice for animated horror is even more sci-fi than the last, and significantly more enjoyable. This one is from 1987, and is very clearly inspired by the likes of Alien, The Thing, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. There’s even some talk about the effects of time dilation, which feels like it’s pulled straight out of The Forever War.

The story starts out with a number of volunteers taking off on a deep-space mission, off to explore a new planet, probably for colonization? I don’t think they ever said the exact goal of the mission. While the crew is sealed away in their sleepy-pods, the ship autonomously catches a hunk of space debris and pulls it inside. Obviously, we don’t learn what it is until later on, but it’s not long after everyone wakes up that people start dying left and right. Also their bodies vanish when nobody’s looking. Not only that, but it seems that two of the volunteers have gotten on the ship with false identities, and could possibly be out to cause trouble!

If you hadn’t come to this conclusion after that paragraph, this film is basically Alien. The extra-terrestrial in question isn’t nearly as iconic as the Xenomorph, but it’s definitely a force to be reckoned with. Should you need another reason to be interested in it, I don’t know if it’s because of the vintage, but it Lily C.A.T. doesn’t have that anime feel to it that normally turns me off. Like, there’s no close-up shouting, there are no gratuitous panty shots, there are no super-serious cliched lines. It’s very natural and could be done shot-for-shot in live action without looking or sounding odd. The one itty bitty nitpick I have is that there are several scenes where information is displayed through dialogue on a computer monitor, and those flash by way too quickly. You absolutely need to pause to actually read them, but thankfully they’re not overly important. I didn’t bother to pause at all, and don’t feel like I missed anything. At the end of the day, I’d definitely recommend Lily C.A.T.

It Came From Beneath the Sea – Switching gears completely, last weekend I felt like the best way to make use of my Sunday morning would be a good old-fashioned creature feature. So I pulled out this DVD from my library – one that I had purchased many years ago, but for some reason never got around to actually watching. The results were mixed!

This film comes from way back in 1955, which by my metric is the best decade for monster movies. You’ve got The Blob, you’ve got Them!, you’ve got friggin’ Godzilla. Whole lotta stone-cold classics. Sadly, I don’t think that It Came From Beneath the Sea really qualifies as a “classic” per se. While I absolutely appreciate the style of the film, it suffers from way too much in the way of people. By my estimation, it was nearly halfway through before we saw so much as a single giant tentacle. The monster didn’t even really get to wreaking havoc until the last quarter. Maybe the last third, to be generous. However, once the monster did show up, I was pleased as punch. The stop-motion effects are so delightfully quaint, but probably cutting-edge for the time, and I really can’t get enough of stuff like that.

As I said though, there’s so much focus on the characters here, and way too much time invested in the love story. And since it’s a 50’s movie, it’s not even so much a love story as it is the male lead forcing himself on the female lead until she decides to give in. She’s visibly disinterested for most of the run time, and I don’t think she was that into the dude even by the end. But whatever, it’s an artifact of the time. You can’t change history. At least they also spend a decent amount of time trying to explain the science of what’s happening, about how the monster came to be and why it’s attacking people. In the end, I think it’s worth watching if you’re into the genre. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but I don’t imagine that anyone who isn’t into monster movies would give even half a flip about this one. It’s alright, but not nearly good enough for mass appeal.

Spooktober Movies – Week 1?

Puppet Master – Since Netflix is apparently too good now to carry any movies from before 1990 (except for four Friday the 13ths), I took it upon myself to dive into my DVD collection to see what kind of forgotten treasures might be found. I was actually feeling a bit like it was a Return of the Living Dead night, but then The Puppet Master Collection found its way into my hands. A series of nine films that I’d never heard of and never watched. Seemed to be a good way to satisfy my cheesy 80’s horror jones.

The first Puppet Master was released in 1989, so I was mere months away from being a hypocrite. It’s also not an especially good movie. I probably would have been obsessed with it in my early twenties. If you hadn’t guessed, this film is about puppets who come to life and kill people. Oh ho! Only… the murderous puppets are an afterthought at best. There’s a convoluted plot that was boring as heck and barely made any sense, and that’s what the people who made this movie decided to focus on. Not the killer puppets. For some reason.

I would really like to write more about Puppet Master, and I might! It’s perfect for a full article! The thing is, to do that, I’d have to watch it again. And I don’t really want to watch it again. So we’ll see! For now, I’ll leave you with this fun fact: Twice, I accidentally typed out the title of this movie as “Pupper Master” and quite frankly, I think that would be a much better film. Just an hour and a half of dogs doing dog things.

Murder Party – I went home on Thanksgiving night with a little time to spare, and a strong desire to watch a Halloween-styled movie. It was already pretty late, so when Netflix showed me this one, with a runtime of an hour-fifteen, I figured it was a sign from up above. Or, given the season and subject matter, down below?

Murder Party is about a dopey guy who randomly finds an invitation to a, well, murder party, and decides to attend, rather than spending his Halloween watching horror movies and eating candy corn with his asshole cat. He quickly fashions a (rather impressive) suit of knight’s armor from a cardboard box and heads downtown to the party. There, he finds a group of young artists who immediately capture him and reveal that the plan is to kill him as an art project to win some kind of nebulous grant.

It turns out (and was no surprise after the intro) that this is actually a horror-comedy, which certainly helped boost my opinion of it. Quite frankly though, it was a bit of a dud. While there were a number of genuinely funny gags, it spent way too much time making fun of artists. Like, that was the entire middle of the movie. We basically lost the hapless idiot from the beginning for most of the film, as he was gagged and bound while the rest of the cast went on and on about meaningless crap. Then the group begins to unravel (like they do), killing each other and allowing our “hero” to flee so that the film can end on a bloody chase sequence.

Like I said, there are some truly funny parts sprinkled about -I laughed out loud a few times- but for the most part I never really got into it. Probably because I was mostly just playing Picross with the movie on in the background. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad movie; I sure many folks consider this a really fun no-budget slasher parody. I just didn’t really dig the main theme of pretentious douchebags self-destructing, and they made it such an important part of the movie that I can’t just gloss over it in favour of the more appealing parts.

Talking Nuts

In my never-ending quest to be less of a gross tub of a man, I’ve mostly stopped buying snack foods. And when I do, it’s usually just like nuts or fruit or whatever. I was never super into nuts, but I’m coming around on some different kinds. So today, a series of short blurbs on how I feel about the more popular varieties of nuts, in no particular order.

Pistachios : Honestly never tried them until recently. I’d eaten pistachio ice cream and didn’t dig it, so stayed away from the nuts. But I gave them a shot and I actually quite like them! Now I eat some of these nearly every weekday, as I keep a bag on my desk at work for afternoon snacking.

Cashews : The candy of the nut world. Far and away my favourite nut, but also way too fatty and also expensive. I’m already buying those pistachios, a second bag of expensive nuts is just not in the budget. Who do you think I am, some sort of rich person?

Almonds : Hrrmmmm…. No, I don’t especially like almonds, but I’ll put up with them. Like, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten an almond all on its own, but they’re in and on so many other things. Like Toblerone. I eat the s**t out of Toblerones. Well, I always get a massive Toblerone for Christmas, and that’s really the only time I eat Toblerone, but MAN do I ever enjoy it.

Peanuts : Peanuts are not a nut, they’re a legume. I learned this and many other great science facts from Danny Sexbang’s romance novel, Claudia Goes to Schlongtown – Part 6: The Erectening. But if I am eating peanuts, I prefer they be mashed into a paste and spread on toast.

Walnuts : These are my go-to snack at home. There’s always a bag on my dining table. I really should put it away in the cupboard. I’m not a big fan of walnuts, though. They’re a little too bitter for my tastes, but I’m becoming accustomed to them, as I continue to force them down my gullet.

Hazelnuts : Hazelnuts are the worst. I cannot understand why functional human beings put these awful things in so many other, better, food things. Disgusting trash. Nutella should be a crime.

Macadamias : It’s entirely possible that I’ve never eaten a macadamia nut. Do they sell them? Are you supposed to eat them au natural? I always ignore the macadamia nut cookies at Subway because why wouldn’t you choose literally any other cookie there? M&M’s, man!

And that’s the end of that, because that’s all the different kinds of nuts I know!

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: September 2018

The age of Mega Man X dominating my gaming time has ended. At least for now. Now, instead of being stuck on a series of action platformers, I’m ears-deep in massive RPGs. Super. At least I was guaranteed to finish all those Mega Mans.

~ Game Over ~

Mega Man X7 (Switch) – If you thought I was down on X5… it looks like a sparkling gem next to this turd. Not even really worth playing just to say you’ve played ‘em all.

Mega Man X8 (Switch) – It’s not amazing, but it stands head and shoulders above X7. Playing it brought back some fun memories of when I first bought a PS2. Ah, such simpler times…

The Messenger (Switch) – After my first playthrough, I think this might fall in line with the way I feel about Mega Man X: it’s as close to perfect as a video game can possibly be.

Final Fantasy XV (PS4) – I finally did it! And exactly a year after my last play session! I gave the disc back to my brother, but I kind of want to get the Royal Edition and keep playing…

The Legend of Zelda (NES) – It’s on my Switch now, so… yeah, of course I played it.

The Silver Case (PS4) – A Japan-only PS1 adventure game by Suda 51, remastered and localized. It’s pretty interesting, and I can absolutely see the genesis of Killer7 in it.

~ Now Playing ~

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate (Switch) – I just hit high rank and already there is so much more content than on the 3DS version. Purchase justified!

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (PS4) – Few things feel as purely good as playing a Dragon Quest game. And this one is so got-danged pretty!

WarioWare Gold (3DS) – Whaaaaat a 3DS game in 2018? How even? I was going to skip this, but then my parents got it for me as a birthday gift. Which is awesome because <3 WarioWare.

MGSV: The Phantom Pain (PC) – Hey it’s this again. How many more two-line blurbs am I going to have to write about this friggin’ game? (Probably only one more.)

Picross S2 (Switch) – I could be done, but this time I’m actually playing all the Mega puzzles, too. They can be quite the challenge, which is good because regular picross is too easy.

Dr. Mario (NES) – Now my Switch can play Dr. Mario, so I’m pretty happy!

Frederic: Resurrection of Music (Switch) – I’ve been long intrigued by this, then it went on sale for 65 cents. Verdict: Its heart is in the right place, but I don’t want a touchscreen piano game.

Wherein I wish games were movies

When Telltale Games came onto the scene back in 20-aught-whatever with their brand new Sam and Max adventure game, I was elated. I’ve always been a big fan of point-and-clicks, and TTG did a really great job of capturing the spirit of those beloved old LucasArts games. Following up with projects like Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People and Tales of Monkey Island, the future looked bright for episodic point-and-click adventures.

But then something happened, and Telltale’s games made a dramatic shift from point-and-click adventures to more streamlined, narrative-focused experiences where 95% of the gameplay consists of quick-time events and a few dialogue choices. I don’t even like referring to this current generation of Telltale products as “games,” because they’re really just movies where you have to press a series of buttons to make it keep going every once in a while. Sometimes you get to make your character walk forward a few metres with the option of examining some random scenery details.

I have only played two games of this sort: Tales from The Borderlands and Batman: The Telltale Series. And while I would recommend both, because I did end up really liking the stories they told and the characters involved, neither one was especially fun from a gameplay standpoint. In fact, in both cases, the gameplay really just got in the way of the story they were telling. Sure, one might argue that your actions influence said story, but I don’t really care. The various twists and turns actually take away from the experience, as there are a number of lines in dialogue trees that don’t make a lot of sense or seem really out of place. I think both games would have benefited from a tighter, more linear script.

This isn’t to say that you can’t do a more modern take on the classic adventure-style game! I submit Life is Strange as a perfect example of how you can have a semi-linear game with a strong focus on plot, but still fit in some simple puzzles and gameplay that feels meaningful. Yes, you’re still set on a pretty straight path in Life is Strange, but at least you get the freedom to explore every scene and interact with other characters at your leisure. Not that its story is perfect either, as there is a huge variance in the quality of voice acting, and sometimes dialogue feels really forced and there are many lines that feel very stiff and/or unnatural. But my point is that the gameplay never feels like it’s detracting from the overall experience. Also there is never a single quick-time event.

At the end of the day, I think Telltale’s modern games are great stories that you can absolutely get yourself invested in. They have a certain style and charm that makes them easily distinguishable and a lot of fun. But they would really be better off as simple non-interactive mini-series. No “core” gamers like quick-time events and they make a rather high barrier to entry for casual players, so I guess my question at the end of this is; who are these games even made for?

In defense of a black sheep

I was not shocked, but somewhat upset when I replayed Mega Man X5 only to learn that I actually kind of hate it. It was a game that lived in a troubled, but still beloved place in my memory. Mega Man X6, on the other had, was known to me only as a dumpster fire that I’d rather not even ever think about if I didn’t absolutely have to.

Imagine my surprise then, when I gave X6 its turn and somehow I actually mostly enjoyed it. Don’t get me wrong! It’s still an uneven mess, but I think it might be better than X5. It’s certainly a lot more fun, and that’s really the main goal with these things, right?

Here are the major issues I’ve encountered:

  • Blaze Heatnix’s stage is an incredibly frustrating series of mini-boss encounters; all of them are the same boss with way too much health, but in different room layouts to force you to fight each one differently. This is stupid and by a wide margin the worst stage in the game. …Though they can be easily beaten if you’re clever (Hint: charged Metal Anchor).

This enemy is the six worst things about Mega Man X6

  • There’s a boss called High Max, who is completely invincible to your X-buster and Z-saber. To defeat him, you have to stun him with a buster shot and then hit him with a special weapon. He’s not terribly difficult once you know what to do, but he takes so little damage that the battle will last several minutes no matter how good you are. As opposed to most bosses, who a skilled player can easily down in under 30 seconds (the exception being Infinity Mijinion, who is hella annoying).
  • Also there are bits and pieces of stages all over that are either massively unfair or literally impossible for an unarmored X to get through. These are pretty bad, but they’re few and far between, at least.
  • Most of the “nightmare effects” that start happening when you beat each boss are mildly annoying at worst. “Nightmare Dark” severely hinders your vision in certain stages by blocking out a massive chunk of the screen and it truly does make life a nightmare.

The last thing, and the one that drove me completely bonkers in my youth, is that in every stage there are 16 friendly reploids for you to find and rescue. Sometimes they give you cool trinkets. But there are also these squiddy robots that, if they touch a friendly, will infect them with a zombie virus. Then your buddy is dead forever and if he had a powerup, it’s lost to the ether, and you have to reload your game if you want another shot at saving him. The thing is… except for Blaze Heatnix and Metal Shark Player, the stages are pretty easy to run through quickly, so reloading isn’t a big time sink. It’s generally easy to blast the squiddies before they zombify your pals, too. There’s like one that’s legit challenging to get to in time. Also there’s the fact that in my old age, I just can’t be bothered to have that obsessive completionism of my teen years, so if I lose a guy… meeeeeh. (But I did rescue them all because it wasn’t actually that hard.)

What makes X6 better than X5 to me is that it’s no longer completely bogged down in its own excess. Stage design is generally more cohesive and interesting. Alia is still there to give you hints, but now most of her hints are activated by a button, so you can choose to completely ignore her. Which is awesome! There’s no stupid time limit or randomly chosen story path that may or may not remove a playable character, and the cutscenes are all skippable! Your hunter rank is now based on how many “nightmare souls” you collect, and not your gameplay performance, which takes all the pressure off. Lastly, and coolest of all, is that if you do have the patience to find and defeat High Max, you can skip straight to the fortress levels! It’s totally impractical, because the fortress in this game is a beast even with all the power-ups, but such a cool little secret!

So yeah! Generally speaking, I have had much more fun with Mega Man X6 than I ever thought possible. A few minor headaches here and there because it’s still home to a few cheap traps and questionable design decisions, but they’re nowhere near as bad as the exercise in overwhelming tedium that was Mega Man X5. Needless to say, I’m happy that I gave this one another chance.