OK, this isn’t 2009 anymore. But this post was largely conceived as a 2009 post, so bear with me.
This past Christmas was great. I was actually excited about it (holding off on buying things for yourself to buy gifts for other people will do that, I guess) and it turned out really great. Maybe not “magical” or “special,” even, but I was very pleased by how it went. I guess for Christmas, as long as there’s a decent amount of snow on the ground and the sky flickers between overcast and the sun, I’m good.
I think another big part of why I was so happy this year is because (as I mentioned) I made an effort to buy presents for people. Even though I do that every year, my mom and siblings made clear we weren’t going to exchange anything this year.
I thought, “screw that!” I don’t care if they don’t get me anything, I don’t care if I have to scrape the last of my scratch to do it, I’m buying them things like I do every Christmas, whether they like it or not. I was actually very excited when I wondered about how they would react to my gifts, which I think this year I put more thought into than previous years.
Of course, Christmas is about giving and receiving, so I gotta report what I got, too. I got the top two games I listed in Strength (New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories), as well as Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles. In that entry, I also expressed a desire for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers, but it faded fast in the time until it released. Unfortunately, it seems it doesn’t deliver what I wanted from it.
What can I say about Mario? It’s fun. I mean, I expressed hype after it was unveiled at E3 purely because it included Yoshi. However, I was still very cautious. As I said in that post, the original NSMB on Nintendo DS just didn’t do it for me. Even getting past the fact it lacked Yoshi, it lacked a flying powerup, it lacked good music, and it lacked much variety, and just looking at the core, the original NSMB just didn’t have very good level design. NSMB for Wii though, does. And it is apparent that great level design is the core upon which a Mario game is to be judged. They may have added all that stuff I just listed (though I’m still a bit iffy on the music), but the fact that the level design just flat-out delivers now is all the game needed. The rest is just icing. While I don’t believe it’s a fraction as good as Super Mario Galaxy and I’m still hyped about that game like no other, I’m glad I was reminded why I fell in love with Mario and the platforming genre in the first place.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, I consider, is both the same as Resident Evil 4 and the complete opposite. It is the same in that it completely branches off from its series’ own gameplay mechanics and has divided the fanbase into two “for” or “against” camps; but it’s the antithesis because while RE4 and RE5 skew towards the “action” side of the survival-horror genre, Shattered Memories goes in the complete opposite direction of focusing on the “psychological” aspect of it. This is because, in addition to morphing various game vanities based on your psyche (such as, changing a key locale into a bar instead of a cafe based on your outgoing personality), it also removes combat. Others have expressed these sentiments better than I can, but I will say I immensely enjoyed the direction the game took. Not only that, the story of the game actually delivers and is a solid, compelling piece of fiction that illustrates that sometimes video games are the most suitable medium for some stories.
Of the three, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles is the only game I have not yet beaten. I am close, however. I wasn’t counting on getting this game for Christmas (or indeed, ever getting it because I was incredibly disappointed with its predecessor, Umbrella Chronicles), but I will say, I like it. I like it much more than UC, if only because bullets have very noticeable impacts. While I hate the “shakey-cam” that whips around like a rag soaked in chloroform is constantly being held to your face, I do like almost all the changes they made from the last game. That list includes shared ammo, being able to upgrade your pistol, being able to access your entire inventory of guns from the pause menu, the ridiculously upped production values (which includes gorgeous cutscenes, graphics, and lighting), and easier headshots (my uttermost complaint about Umbrella Chronicles.) However, it’s not all good. As I said, the camera leaves a lot to be desired, and the removal of most of the environment being destructible definitely hurt.
However, my rage has coagulated against a single aspect of Darkside Chronicles: the boss battles. I’ll quote one of my posts from NeoGAF:
OK, this game does have one big glowing weak spot.
The boss battles. Holy frakking crap, they suck. All of them. And recycling the same boss fives times pissed me off. Different forms totaling a number above “2″ also piss me off. And unavoidable attacks piss me off a lot.
I’m mostly talking about a[n Operation] Javier boss battle, the guides I’ve read (since I’ve died about 15-20 times on my own) state that a fair number of his attacks are unavoidable. Not only that, by that point I had no sprays or herbs. It sucked getting down to 1/3 health without even being allowed to hurt him.
And that’s another reason [Darkside Chronicle's] bosses suck. They get so caught up in their own subroutines that if you blow away their health bar in less time than you were “supposed” to, they either inexplicably get half of it back after they’re done “fake dying” (which also annoys me) (this is particularly bad during one of the later [Code Veronica] bosses), or they “regenerate,” which is hella cheap. But I’ll take regenerating (if it’s noted) over bosses regrowing half their health just because you were too good the game couldn’t cope.
So 2/3 hits isn’t so bad, heck overall I had a great haul this Christmas. And heck, I wouldn’t count Darkside Chronicles as “miss,” overall I’m positive but not being able to beat it in time for the new year got on my nerves. Waiting on the games I wanted paid off in numerous ways; most importantly, I was able to buy things for the people I care about and show them that caring, and also, I was able to focus my attention on my other games. In December alone I was able to beat three games before Christmas. However, I’ll save my “backlog” talk for my next post, as that was one of my 2009 resolutions and I want to recap any progress I was able to make.
I made my 2009 resolutions shortly after I launched this design and Version 7 of this blog. Over December, I began working (and have almost completed) the design for Version 8. I hope to launch it soon, though it won’t have much if any improved functionality over what you see now. Despite this, I am proud of it. It continues the trend started by the most recent Temple of Andrex design of my designs becoming less plain, though it is admittedly (and purposely) quite basic overall. Also like the latest Temple design, it will use HTML 5, though the markup where possible will still be XHTML (thus, syntactically it will be XHTML 5, but will be served as text/html.) By the way, what you see in the above picture isn’t what it looks like now. I’d say it looks more elegant now…
I guess that’s all I have for this post. I’ll cover what I’m currently up to in the next entry, but I’ll say it involves a lot of game playing (to clear as many unbeaten games I have as possible.) This break between semesters is actually shaping up to be much better than I had dreamed, it’s roughly three times as long as what I had in high school. This is my time to escape.