Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: December 2019

~ Game Over ~

Spyro 3: Year of the Dragon (PS4) – So, it’s really weird that the final boss battle (and then the real final boss) had absolutely no fnafare at all. You just walk in the door and then the fight begins. No cutscene, no dialogue, nothing. Very jarring considering how much “story” the rest of the game had. Also, now that the trilogy is over, I think I’m happily done with all things Spyro for the rest of my life. 85% of my enjoyment with these games was watching the scoreboards fill up with 100%s.

Trover Saves the Universe (Switch) – I think I would have liked this more if I had played it in VR, because then it would look really good next to all the shallow mini-games. Like when you find that exceedingly rare mobile game that’s legitimately good. But compared to the other games on my Switch? It’s merely fine. But it’s a great barometer for measuring how long you can stand an unfiltered Justin Roiland. I can go for a little over an hour and a half.

Shovel Knight: King of Cards (Switch) – What an excellent way to close out the Shovel Knight series. King Knight takes a little while to get used to, but once you figure out how he works, it’s so much fun. Couple that with some of the best and most varied stage design in the series, and you’ve got an absolute treasure. It’s just too bad that the Joustus card game is no fun at all.

Continue reading Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: December 2019

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: October 2019

~ Game Over ~

Link’s Awakening (Switch) – A wonderful shot-for-shot remake of my favourite Zelda game. Honestly, I think I would have liked to see a little more changed/added to it, to really justify the choice to remake it. The new presentation and quality-of-life tweaks were great though, so I really shouldn’t complain. Excellent game. Had a strong urge to dive right into a replay after finishing it, but there’s so much else to do!

Transistor (Switch) – Transistor is clearly the follow-up to Bastion, and it was better than Bastion in nearly every way. The story was more complex and interesting, the characters were more than mechanical puppets, the gameplay was deeper but never overwhelming. I wasn’t a huge fan of the more sterile visual style, but I suppose that was kind of the point.

Continue reading Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: October 2019

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: March 2019

~ Game Over ~

Super Mario Bros 2 (NES) – Came out on Switch’s NES Online service last month. Several months too late, I might add. Because I just like playing a little Mario 2 here and there, I took both warps to skip pretty close to the ending, and finished in like 45 minutes? Then I watched a warpless speedrun that took under 25. I felt so much shame. 

Resident Evil 2 (PS4) – Did an easy-mode Leon B practice run for S+, and actually took longer than I did on Claire A, which is weird because the B scenarios are shorter (but tougher). Clearly I needed that practice run to study and learn the remixed route.

Dragon Quest XI (PS4) – I got to the end! But then it turned out that “the end” is only the end for those who seek to put in the minimum required effort. The post-game is absolutely crammed with things to do and actual significant story content. It’s wild, and it’s where DQXI actually becomes moderately difficult. The main story is probably the easiest DQ has ever been; my party didn’t wipe once, and it was rare that any characters even died (stupid Whack). But the claws have come out and there’s still so much more to go, I guess I’ll keep at ‘er…

Deer Man (PC) – A game that I purchased for a dollar, because the promo image made it seem spooky. It was, ever so briefly, but then quickly transitioned into a short story about protecting wildlife. Not the worst way to spend a dollar and twenty-five minutes.

Blaster Master Zero 2 (Switch) – A terrific follow-up to what is still one of my favourite games on Switch. I don’t know that it’s better than the original, but it’s certainly at least as good. It feels like the top-down segments are less important this time around, but I really like the game’s overall structure and how there are a dozen little planetoids that act as self-contained challenges. I fully intend to write a review of this one too, so stay tuned for that.

~ Write-offs ~

Cosmic Cavern 3671 (PC) – It’s kinda like Dig Dug and/or Boulder Dash (full disclosure: I’ve never played Boulder Dash), but not really fun at all. I played it for literally three minutes before chucking it in the Steam equivalent of a trash bin. Although, now I am left with the mystery of where it even came from. Probably one of those IndieGala bundles.

Cloudbuilt (PC) – I last played this in August of 2016 and deduced that it was too hard for me. Also it doesn’t run quite well enough on my machine. I don’t know why I didn’t uninstall it and write it off back then. Although 2016 was a very different time. Long before Switch and the Curse of Too Many Games.

Chiptune Champion (PC) – Now that I have a guitar and Rocksmith, other rhythm games seem so… empty. I really like the chiptune soundtrack to this one, but my keyboard is not designed to be held and strummed like a guitar. Putting this one in the bin.

Glittermitten Grove (PC) – The follow-up to Frog Fractions that just didn’t have the same pull. If Steam is to be believed, I played this thing for ten hours, but never finished it and spent most of that time waiting for it to click for me. Better off just playing Frog Fractions again.

~ Progress Notes ~

Downwell (Switch) – I can get to level 2 now, but those ghosts are tricky and relentless.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch) – Picked up my half-complete Master Mode run.

Final Fantasy IX (PS1) – Played up to Burmecia (end of Disc 1).

Pokémon Ultra Sun (3DS) – Picked up to finally finish it. Collecting Mina’s flower petals.

Fitness Boxing (Switch) and Rocksmith (PS4) – Assume I’m always playing these.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: February 2019

~ Game Over ~

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes (Switch) – While it is a little very different from previous games, it’s still very much No More Heroes: rough and somewhat tedious gameplay, a completely insane story, and more style than the rest of the video game industry combined. I adore Suda51’s work, and this game is no exception. It’s a great love letter to/takedown of video games, the people who make them, and the people who play them. Plus it suggests that No More Heroes 3 is in development as explicitly as possible without actually saying so. Hooray!

Resident Evil 2 (PS4) – I think this is a very good remake, about as good as I could have hoped for. But it’s just so darn hard! Monsters are unbelievably resistant to bullets, especially bosses. RE games usually like to scare you into thinking you won’t have enough ammo to go around, and this is the one that delivers on it. What kind of zombie head doesn’t explode after seven or eight bullets? And friggin’ Mr. X who appears in the A games this time and follows you around mercilessly. After clearing Leon A and Claire B, I spent a lot of time watching speedruns to learn tricks and strats, and managed to get an S+ on Claire’s A scenario. Nice!

Reverie: Sweet As Edition (Switch) – The gameplay is very reminiscent of early Zeldas, with a visual style and sense of humour somewhat reminiscent of the Earthbound series. It’s pretty good! I was having a very good time up until the final dungeon, where I found that I could get stuck in puzzles very easily, and had to save and quit at least a dozen times to warp back to the dungeon entrance. A little more QA time could have gone a long way. Also the post-game bonus dungeon was just a battle gauntlet. Weak.

Daemon X Machina: Prototype Missions (Switch) – Technically speaking, this is a demo, probably just the first four missions of the full game. But it has its own icon and subtitle, so I’ll act like it’s an independent thing. People seem to be strongly disliking it, but I had fun. It’s a bit rough, but that’s why they released this demo and are asking for feedback.

Kirby’s Adventure (NES) – It finally showed up in Switch’s NES Online library, and I have a sworn duty to play through Kirby’s Adventure every time it’s re-released on a new Nintendo machine. So I did that. I recorded a whole Let’s Play series on this a few years ago. I don’t think there’s anything left for me to say about it.

~ Progress Notes ~

Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! (Switch) – Picked up briefly to catch Mewtwo and battle Green.

Dragon Marked For Death (Switch) – Cleared about a dozen quests. V little story content.

Star Ocean (SNES) – Defeated what I thought would be the final boss, but wasn’t.

Downwell (Switch) – A very fast little roguelike where I can’t get past level 2.

Tetris 99 (Switch) – My best placing is #7. Not too shabby considering I’m bad at Tetris.

Dragon Quest XI (PS4) – Collecting magic orbs, have four of six.

Rocksmith (PS4) – One day I will be good at guitars. Maybe.

Fitness Boxing (Switch) – Continuing to keep a pace of at least 4 days per week.

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: January 2019

~Game Over~

Mega Man X (SNES) – I play this game at least once a year. Usually I like to have it as the very first and/or very last game that I play in a year, just so I can have one nice, consistent bookend. In 2019, it would be the first, just like in 2018. I was also trying to finish it in under an hour, and I was on pace to be very close! But then I whiffed in the Wolf Sigma fight, got killed, and ended up taking about 1:10 instead. Boo.

Bomb Chicken (Switch) – I was pretty excited about this when it was first revealed, but opted to wait for a time when it was more financially feasible. For example, during the eShop holiday sale while I was swimming in eShop gift cards. As for the game itself, the best way I can describe it is “sideways Bomberman”. That’s not exactly right, but I feel like it gets the idea across: solve platforming puzzles and collect gems as a chicken whose only verb is to poop out bombs. It’s tight, challenging, pretty, and exactly the right length. Aside from the somewhat frustrating final boss, it was a very good way to start the new year.

Continue reading Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up: January 2019

Arrival of the Fitness

As everyone who read my write-up of the demo likely expected, I did end up purchasing the full version of Fitness Boxing. I was on the fence all the way up until the night before release day, when I randomly noticed that the Government of Canada had graciously sent me a free $100 GST refund. What better way to spend it on than software for improving my physical well-being? (And also that way I can get around taking the cost out of my video game budget.)

Before I go any farther, I just want to take a second to express my disappointment that my stats from the demo didn’t carry over into the full game. It’s not really a big deal and not at all worth getting upset about, but I pouted about it for a little while anyway. End sidebar.

When I wrote about it last time, I mentioned that Fitness Boxing has a bit of a limited song selection. That’s definitely still an issue, but the sheer variety of other options almost makes up for it. The demo’s daily workout was always just one or two 5-minute routines, but the full game gives you many more options. You can choose the duration of your workout, what part of your body you’d like to focus on, if you’d like to do a guided stretch before and after, and whether you’re out to burn off extra calories or just maintain your current level of fitness. The daily routine has definitely been good for me so far; a 35ish-minute workout that mixes around routines and songs enough that even though I’m just shadow-boxing at my TV for half an hour every day, it hasn’t started to feel repetitive.

I haven’t really explored all of the other options, because one is just to choose a song and/or routine and then have at ‘er, and the rest is two-player stuff I’ll never touch. I have been swapping out trainers every day, though! They all have the exact same lines and basically just differ in physical appearance and voice, but I still haven’t been able to settle on one. I’m leaning toward just sticking with Lin, because all the other girls have larger breasts (or Lin is the only one who wears a proper sports bra) and their unusual jiggle physics weird me out. Can I take a moment to wonder why this exercise program even has boob jiggle to begin with? Was that particular omission going to be the thing that ruins players’ immersion? I guess there are a couple male trainers to choose from as well, but… no.

Something else that is proving to be an issue is that the game uses your weight to help track your progress, and by extension, customize your workouts. But it doesn’t support the Wii Balance Board and I don’t own any other scales. So I guess I actually do have to go buy an accessory to get the most out of Fitness Boxing. (That or boot up Wii Fit U once a week to weigh myself. Nah.) On the other hand, all the extra physical activity I’m getting is great for helping to expedite egg hatching in Pokémon GO, now that that game imports data from my phone’s activity tracker. I’m definitely punching my way to more kilometers “walked” than I’m getting from actual walking these days. I blame winter.

Yes, I still play Pokémon GO. Wanna fight about it?

One fun thing I noticed is that they mark unlockables on the calendar at the estimated date you’ll earn it, and each one is earned through a milestone number of punches. At the outset, I had rewards reaching all the way into 2020, but after two days of vigorous workouts, the game had recalculated my last unlock to be in June 2019. And that was before I upped my daily workout from 25 to 35 minutes. Regardless of how long it’ll take to earn everything, I like the idea that the game is always giving you that little incentive to keep going.

Overall, I’m having a great time with Fitness Boxing. I described it as “the best mini-game from Wii Fit, turned into a full game” before, but now I think that a better comparison might be “DDR, but with punching”. Sure, I’ve only had it for two weeks and it’s still got that new game smell, but I think I can stick with this one for a while. I know that eventually it’s going to get dropped by the wayside, but I hope to keep it up at least until winter goes away and I can start getting outside and running again.

If absolutely nothing else, it helps me feel better about myself and gives me another excuse to avoid going to an actual gym. And that makes it worth every dang penny.

A Fresh Fitness Fixation

Remember Wii Fit? Man, that was a pretty fun way to delude myself into believing that I was getting a reasonable amount of exercise. All those delightful little activities that gamified physical exertion, bound to the somewhat cumbersome but absolutely integral Wii Balance Board accessory. Which, I might add, doesn’t work properly on my condo’s carpet. I got really into Wii Fit three or four times, always quickly falling off the wagon, like you do when you’re as lazy and unmotivated as me.

My favourite exercise on Wii Fit was the Rhythm Boxing, where you’d use a combination of the balance board, wiimote, and nunchuk to simulate beating up a robotic punching bag. It wasn’t overly challenging, and was kind of slow since it was simon-esque, where your trainer would call out a sequence of moves which you’d then have to copy. I tried to put wrist weights on my arms to get more out of it, but that ended up somehow making my punches harder to read. Accelerometers! They’re weird!

Fast-forward to earlier this month when this demo for a game called Fitness Boxing shows up on the Switch eShop. In the summer months I likely would have ignored it completely, but now that we’re in the middle of winter where I’m getting little exercise and trying to avoid a never-ending tidal wave of holiday junk food, I decided to see what was up. Oh lordy-loo, was I ever in for a nice surprise!

Fitness Boxing, as it turns out, is a game developed by Imagineer and published by… Nintendo? This becomes very obvious when you see that the game’s menus are ripped almost directly from Wii Fit. The overall style and green-and-white theme were immediately familiar. I’m pretty sure that even the fonts are exactly the same. So that’s a good start. Clearly Nintendo had a hand in guiding this project along, so there’s likely going to be a good level of polish to it. What sets it apart the most, in non-gameplay terms anyhow, is that your trainer is no longer a pale mannequin. Despite the title screen’s featureless lady, there’s an actual character named Lin, who is animated quite poorly and has a noticeable Japanese accent. I find her surprisingly charming, but you can unlock five other trainers if she’s not doing it for you.

So the gameplay, it’s got a similar framework to Wii Fit, where you do a daily check-in exercise and are then free to play around as you want with the other modes. But this one’s all boxing, all the time! And also, the call-and-repeat format is axed in favour of a much more fast-paced system that plays just like any other rhythm game. You’ve got two scrolling tracks on the screen, and various symbols will scroll by. Your job is to deliver the correct type of punch with precise timing, all to the beat of the music. It’s a lot of fun! They also get your lower body moving by having you change up your stance once in a while, and encouraging you to bob back and forth to the beat. The best part is that the only accessories you need to play are the joy-cons; I’ll never have to pull out that awkward balance board again.

While the workouts are very fun on their own and high-score mechanic gives you something to strive for (besides better physical wellness), Fitness Boxing has another trick up its sleeve to keep you coming back for more: a constant stream of unlockables. From songs, to workout routines, to new clothing options for your trainer, it seems like there are a ton of things to unlock in this game. Some are gated behind good performance, and some are based on checking in for a certain number of days. I’m sure they won’t be a long-term draw, but just the idea of so many things to earn has me very invested in the idea of purchasing the full version. What can I say? I just love amassing collections of pointless virtual junk!

As for the music… that’s the one part where Fitness Boxing really falls flat. There are twenty popular songs to punch along to; I think that I genuinely like four of the tracks and despise roughly half of the list. The nice part is that they’re all vocal-free, electronic covers, so even the worst ones don’t grate on me as much as they could. Did I think I’d ever find myself getting fired up to Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger”? Not in a million years, but it happened! 20 songs also seems like a very limited selection; and I really hope that there are a few DLC songs in the pipeline, but don’t actually expect to see any. Maybe if the game gets really popular, but that seems unlikely.

If it wasn’t clear before, I’m pretty well sold on buying the full version of Fitness Boxing when it comes out in January. I’m not 100% on board yet, but it seems likely. The demo version has already run its course, since they give you a very limited number of plays (three daily workouts and ten “free play” sessions), so we’ll have to see if I’m still interested come next week, or if the excitement has already passed by then. But I sure had a heck of a lot of fun with the demo!

I hate healthy eating

You know what? I friggin’ hate yogurt.

But this is no surprise to me. I’ve never liked it ever since I was a kid, and I still don’t. Regardless, I’m eating the stuff nearly every day now, having replaced my daily sandwich with a cup of plain Greek yogurt and blueberries, but it’s not getting any better. It’s not growing on me and I am not acquiring a taste for it.

Eating healthy in general blows. Maybe it needs more than a month to take, since I’ve made a pretty massive shift in my eating habits all at once, but I’m already sick of it. Replacing candy and chips with nuts and legumes is presumably good for me, but I haven’t lost a pound and I don’t feel any better either physically or mentally. All I feel is the salad-shaped hole in my life that used to be filled with junk food.

I’m highly considering going back to processed junk and fast food. It’ll probably be way easier just to learn to accept being fat and out of shape.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I had the week off work last week, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t think I did enough with it. I mean, usually that’s how I spend my time off anyway because I’m poor and can’t afford to go anywhere on vacation, except for maybe a day trip to Selkirk. But for some reason I feel as though I should have “accomplished” more, even though I did get a handful of important things done, and had plenty of fun.

Monday was a good day, but not productive in any way. Edwin and I spent nearly the entire day clearing Super Mario 64 in a single sitting, and banging our heads against Syphon Filter. Not the usual write-off, because I spent the day playing video games with a friend instead of all by my lonesome. I also briefly visited with a number of out-of-town relatives in the evening, as there was a gathering and dinner at my grandparent’s place. Mmmm… delicious steak. Also I put gas in my car for the first time in probably two months. Closed out the evening by staying up too late after purchasing Citadale: the Legends Trilogy and hacking my way through the second chapter.

Tuesday morning was spent finishing off the final episode of Tales From the Borderlands, which was as excellent as the first episode was boring. In the afternoon, I had a very successful dentist appointment. No new cavities, and they showed me before and after photos so that I could see exactly how much crap was piling up between my teeth because I don’t floss. Also I finally made appointments to get a crown placed on my tooth that got a root canal two years ago, so that’s nice. Later on, watched The Bachelorette with my family, as we do. As for the rest of the evening? Probably spent watching Mike Tyson Mysteries or Game Grumps. I’m sure I stayed up way too late again, because I distinctly remember thinking “Welp, I’m definitely not going to feel like accomplishing anything on Wednesday morning.”

Wednesday came along, and much like Tuesday evening, I have no recollection of how I spent it. I know I played a few stages in Azure Striker Gunvolt, but where the rest of that time went is a mystery. ARMS, maybe? I had to take my brother to a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, after which we picked up pizza for lunch and then I finally began playing Final Fantasy XV. That evening, like most Wednesday evenings, I spent hanging out with Edwin again. On our quest to find dinner, we discovered that the Freshii by my parents’ house was finally open, so we opted to try it out. Then came a notable amount of progress in BioShock Infinite, which I am so torn on. I am quite enjoying the world and the story, and almost wish that there wasn’t any combat, because it’s really more of an annoyance than anything.

Thursday was the day I feel like I really accomplished something. I woke up early and took my car into the shop, as it had recently become very loud. Turned out that it just blew a gasket, not the whole muffler, so it was a relatively cheap fix. I got some exercise by walking home after dropping off the car, and even made a belated phone call about getting free internet in my new condo on the way. Then I ran back once the repairs were done, which pretty well burned me out. I spent the entire afternoon with FFXV, though I did take a short break to go out for another half-hour run. Then, dinner and more FFXV. It was that night when I realized that FFXV was going to stop me doing anything productive until it was done.

Friday morning was very busy! Splatoon Day! Zack and I drove all over creation looking for amiibos and the fabled Splatoon 2 pro controller for Switch. We found most of the amiibos, but no pro controllers, although we did luck into stumbling across a good birthday gift for my dad. By the time we were done, we had been out shopping for so long that on the way home we picked up Fatburger for lunch. I took in a couple episodes of Bob’s Burgers while I ate, and then spent the afternoon playing Splatoon 2, which had easily been my most anticipated Switch game. Then a couple hours break to log some more time in FFXV, and then back to Splatoon 2. I played Salmon Run all evening, only stopping because my Switch’s battery died and the wi-fi signal in my room is spotty at best, so TV play is currently not an option for online games.

There were a number of other grown-up things I could have accomplished during my week, but put off in favour of having fun. Even a lot of fun things got sidelined. No movies, no reading, no drawing; all put off in favour of sinking more hours into Final Fantasy XV. In the end, though, I had a good week. I spent way too much money on junk food and amiibos, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles, I suppose. At least when you’re me.