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Now Playing

I managed to beat Kingdom Hearts Re:coded about a week ago, and although I played it off and on for a little bit afterwards in an attempt to meet some of the optional post-game goals and unlock the secret movie, I eventually couldn’t bring myself to play any more of it because it simply stopped being fun. I ended up watching the secret movie on YouTube, which is I think the first time I’ve done that for any Kingdom Hearts game aside from the Final Mixes that weren’t released in the US. I may go back and try to unlock the secret movie legitimately at some later point, just to say that I did it, but ugh. We’ll see. Now that I’ve moved on from that, here’s what I’ve been playing:

Torchlight 2 (PC) - Okay, so I’ve only had a chance to play this once so far, but holy crap was it ever fun. I did the Torchlight 2 beta right before it closed, and the game is just as fun as (if not better than) I thought it was then. I played with a couple friends of mine, and we had an absolute blast. I really, really hope I get to play more soon.

Borderlands 2 (PC) - Just as I never managed to beat Torchlight before plunging into T2, so too have I never managed to beat the first Borderlands. Borderlands 2 is fun so far, but unlike T2, I haven’t had the opportunity to play it with my friends - friends who have all either outleveled me or already beaten the game at this point - so while it’s been fun, it hasn’t felt quite as fun as Torchlight 2 did. When I last played, I just managed to get inside Sanctuary. I hope I’ll be able to play with some friends at some point soon!

FTL (PC) - Still playing this, still dying a lot. Still have not managed to make a complete successful run-through, even on Easy mode. I came close to winning the final fight, but not nearly close enough. Even in defeat, I’m loving every minute I play of this game.

Tokyo Jungle (PS3) - If you haven’t heard of Tokyo Jungle, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised. This is a very quirky and hard to define game that was released in Japan about a year ago, sounded great, and looked like a game that wouldn’t ever get a western release. Lo and behold, it did, in the form of a downloadable PlayStation Network title! If I had to attempt to define the genre of this game, it would be something like “survival action RPG”.

In the not-so-distant future, humanity up and disappeared, leaving cities to be overgrown by vegetation and animals (both domestic and escaped exotic zoo animals) running wild through the streets. You control one of these animals, and your main goal is the survival of your bloodline. Starting as a small Pomeranian, you must journey throughout the streets of Tokyo’s various districts in search of food, territory, and a potential mate. You must avoid dangerous larger animals, but also must be wary of areas with dangerous levels of toxicity. You are presented with missions every so often - like “Mark territory 4 times” or “Eat 2000 kcal of food” - that can boost your stats or unlock other animals for play when completed successfully. In addition, as you explore the streets of Tokyo, you can come across logs of humanity’s final days, gradually shedding more light on what may have led up to their disappearance.

Every animal has a natural lifespan, and the only way to ensure that your bloodline continues to survive throughout the years is to claim territory and find a mate. After mating, control shifts to the next generation, with various stats from the parents being passed down to the offspring, allowing you to continue playing until all of the offspring are wiped out. The game is a lot of fun, very unusual, and definitely worth checking out if you’ve got a PS3.

Happy Street (iOS) - I initially started playing this ages ago, fell out of it, and then recently got back into it hard. The best way to describe it is that it’s similar to Tiny Tower, but laid out horizontally instead of vertically, and with a distinct Animal Crossing vibe and weird sense of humor. You place houses and shops, and the little animals that live in your town will spend their daily allowance buying up goods, which earns them experience points. As you restock your shops, they will gain experience and level up as well. The game is, naturally, powered by microtransactions for in-game currency, but as with Tiny Tower, this currency is also found fairly abundantly in-game from completing various tasks, and you’re never required to spend a dime. It’s cute, free, and fun to mess with on the go.

Filed under gaming now playing kingdom hearts re:coded torchlight 2 borderlands 2 ftl tokyo jungle happy street

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FTL (PC) - FTL (Faster Than Light) has been described as a “space sim roguelike”, and while that’s not untrue, it also may paint a slightly different picture of the game than what it’s actually like. It isn’t a roguelike in the sense of using the WASD keys to navigate your little character from room to room in search of loot (although, okay, you do have characters that you will be telling to move from room to room). Instead, picture the spaceship itself as your “character”, with the “rooms” being represented by the interconnected, randomized jump beacons you can travel to as you try to reach the exit of each sector you visit. On top of this, though, you need to actually manage the crew and systems of your ship: you can’t jump if you don’t have someone manning your engineering station, and in the heat of battle, you may need to reroute power from your life support systems to your weapons, or have the captain help stave of intruders that have beamed aboard from the enemy ship. If this sounds like a lot of things that need managing, you’ll be relieved to know that you can pause with the space bar at any time to consider your options and issue orders to be carried out upon resuming play.

The “plot” of the game is relatively simple: as the crew of a small Federation starship, you have information vital to defeating the violent Rebels who are trying to conquer the galaxy. Using your FTL drive and limited fuel resources, you need to reach the main Federation base before the Rebels catch up with you by jumping from beacon to beacon until you reach the exit the sector and can proceed to the next. The game is difficult, even on its easiest setting, and you will fail more often than not, whether it’s from running out of fuel, being caught and destroyed by the rebels, not being able to go one because of the deaths of all your crewmen, or many other scenarios. The game is meant to be replayed, though, and the randomization and roguelike aspect of the game encourages this. It’s entirely possible to get a raw deal early on in the game and find yourself practically finished before you’ve even really started; it’s just as possible to get lucky and have smooth sailing right up until the end only to find that you didn’t take as many risks as you should have and haven’t been able to upgrade your ship enough to stand a chance in the final battle against the Rebels.

Counting on scenarios to play out one way or another based on past experience can backfire quite badly - just because that refugee joined your crew on your last playthrough doesn’t mean he isn’t actually a spy looking to disable your ship this time around - and tough choices are something the game has in spades. Another reason to love the multiple playthroughs in FTL comes in the different unlockables you can find for your subsequent games: on my last playthrough, I managed to discreetly commandeer a powerful starship from Rebels in the Slug Nebula that I can now choose instead of the default ship when starting a new game.

FTL has an amazing amount of replayability, which is fantastic, because you’ll be doing a lot of dying. Even more than that, though, you will simply be loving the feeling of controlling your own personal space opera, watching your plucky crew pull themselves out of sticky situations at the last minute, just in time to be confronted by the next, all the while hoping they’ll make it home in time.

Guild Wars 2 (PC) - I’ve started playing Guild Wars 2, even though a few months ago I hadn’t even been considering it. If you’ll recall, around the same time that GW2 had opened up for stress testing amongst its preorder-holders, I’d just started playing the action-oriented MMO TERA. I’m not done with TERA, but I have fallen out of playing it lately, although this is no fault of the game itself. First, I got wrapped up with playing the closed beta of The Secret World. Then I had to work on moving, and didn’t have the time to dedicate playing any MMOs at that point. Massive Bunny Meetup 2 happened, as well as a family reunion, and then PAX. When I was finally getting a bit settled, I’d discovered that a large percentage of my friends were anxiously waiting for Guild Wars 2. Having never played the first one, I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I loved the things I’d heard and seen of GW2 from my friends who were playing in the stress tests. After returning home from PAX, I decided to give it a shot, since - after all - there’s no subscription fee, which is a pretty nice draw.

I’m still sort of getting the hang of the game. I’m no stranger to MMOs, and it surprised me that I had so much difficulty first getting started in Guild Wars 2. I don’t know if that was because I’d never played the first, or if I just didn’t know enough about the game beforehand, or what. It took a good week and change of messing around in-game, reading the in-game help, chatting with my friends (who were already leveled pretty high comparatively) and reading the Guild Wars 2 wiki before I finally felt like I had a handle on things. I finally discovered the crafting system last night, and I’m trying to run around collecting the things I need to start doing Armorsmithing and Artificing. I love the idea of the game presenting you with a very personalized “story” that you actually progress through, and the dynamic events are incredibly fun (although they sometimes seem to happen so quickly that I’m a little bit confused as to what’s going on at first).

I’m definitely enjoying the game so far, and it’s kind of fun and exciting to be starting fresh in an MMO again. I love experimenting with my different weapons options and their related skills; trying to see what feels right for the type of character I want to build. I don’t have a concept on what builds are and aren’t “viable” right now, and honestly, that is my favorite time to play an MMO. I was the guy in WoW who placed skill points in all three talent trees because it was fun rather than focusing on working toward the ultimate skill on a single tree. I personally love that sort of experimentation, and I’m definitely in that sort of honeymoon period with Guild Wars 2 right now. Is a staff-using Guardian a terrible choice? Quite possibly; I don’t know! But am I having a heck of a lot of fun with it? You bet.

Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded (DS) - After thoroughly beating Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep and coming down from the high of what I feel was one of the strongest entries in the series, I immediately jumped into Re:coded, but with tempered expectations. An enhanced port of an episodic cell phone game, Re:coded returned to the pre-BBS portable Kingdom Hearts formula of playing a character you’ve already played as (sort of) and rehashing worlds from the original game (kinda). The game is actually set immediately following Kingdom Hearts II and requires you to delve inside a digitized version of Jiminy Cricket’s journal as “Data-Sora” to discover the origins of a mysterious note left by an unknown author.

I’d heard that Re:coded was pretty “meh”, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to play it because 1) I’m a completionist and would not want to skip the game lest it contain something interesting in the overarching Kingdom Hearts plot, and 2) I have a well-documented attraction to games that other people don’t care for. Basically I’m just a masochist, is what I’m saying. I honestly was pretty fond of the game when I first started: it did feel kind of like a rehash to visit copies of the world from Kingdom Hearts I (in the exact same order and everything), but it quickly shook itself free from falling prey to the “recap hell” that games like Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories suffered from. (Note: the main plot of Chain of Memories is great, but it was marred by the fact that you had to recap the individual plotlines of each individual world you visited from the first game.) Re:coded didn’t stray from the main plot, and actually changed up the stories you encountered in each individual world to reflect that instead of making you retread the same territory for the umpteenth time.

Then I got to the Coliseum.

See, Re:coded isn’t always an action RPG like the other Kingdom Hearts games. It tries to change things up and occasionally has shoot-em-up stages, sidescrolling stages, etc. The Olympus Coliseum world is actually presented in the form of turn-based battles. “I love turn-based battles, so I’m looking forward to this!” I thought to myself when I got started. The battles themselves were actually done in a Super Mario RPG/Paper Mario sort of way, where timed attacks would net you additional combos and damage, and you could block to decrease the damage enemies did to you, etc. In theory this should’ve been a fun diversion, but in practice it was excruciating for even someone who loves turn-based battles as much as I do. The turn-based battles suffered from one of the most aggravating tropes in games, the old “We Cannot Go On Without You” routine. Even when I got Hercules and Cloud in my party, if an enemy knocked our Sora, it was game over. Worse, with the way that Coliseum was presented, you had to progress through a certain number of floors before you could get to a room with a save point. The amount of damage certain enemies would do if you don’t time your blocks perfectly was also absurdly high. This all combined to an all too common scenario where I’d be so close to finishing a floor and getting to the save point, would get into a battle, would miss a block when an enemy attacked Sora and he would go from nearly full HP to dead and I’d have to start all over. It was incredibly frustrating and resulted in quite a lot of cursing at the game. I should also note that after you finish the main requirement for beating the world (getting through 5 levels, which was hard enough on its own), you unlock the ability to go 15 levels deep. After beating that, you’re “rewarded(?)” with the ability to go even further. As much of a completionist as I am, I simply cannot imagine ever wanting to go back and relive that frustration.

I actually had to lower the difficulty in order to progress past the Coliseum as a last-ditch effort. I made it out, though, and I don’t regret it. That place was annoying as hell, and I hope it hasn’t ruined what was shaping up to be an interesting (if imperfect) entry in the series.

Filed under now playing kingdom hearts re:coded guild wars 2 ftl

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Now Playing

Been a while since I’ve done one of these, but honestly I’ve been pretty busy as of late. Mostly I’d been playing Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days until I finished it, and now I’ve started on…

Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep (PSP) - Quite a change from 358/2 Days! It took me a little while to adjust to a more “normal” Kingdom Hearts title, and I died quite a lot in the beginning, but that probably has just as much to do with me starting on Proud Mode (or Hard Mode, for you non-KH players) than anything else. The game consists of three independent but interconnected scenarios based on the three protagonists, Terra, Ventus and Aqua. After about 22 hours I finished the first scenario, but then, I’m a bit of a completionist. I’m loving the game so far, and the Fortune Street Command Board minigame for leveling up your commands is pretty addictive. (And yes - it is EXACTLY the same as Fortune Street, in everything but name only, predating the proper series’ debut in the Western world on the Wii by a couple years!)

Evochron Mercenary (PC) - A game I picked up on a whim from the Steam Summer Sale. This game is incredibly complex and I am really digging it so far, even though I’m still getting the hang of it. I honestly have never played Wing Commander: Privateer or Freelancer or any free-form space games like that before, but this sounded like my cup of tea so I thought I’d give it a try. The tutorial is LONG and COMPLICATED, and that alone would probably turn a lot of people off, but honestly it just made me more excited. Yesterday I jumped into the game proper and after trying to remember how my ship worked, I took a couple of contracts and bought some commodities from a space station that I can hopefully sell at a profit elsewhere. In addition to trading, you can also get into races, attack other ships and try to take their cargo, become a mercenary, go mining for precious materials on planets or asteroids, etc. Although I haven’t tried it out, the game also supposedly has an online mode where you can run into other players as well. I can definitely picture this being a game that I sink a fair chunk of time into: it’s expansive, fun to play, has good graphics and GREAT music.

Pocket Planes (iOS) - Yup. Still thoroughly addicted. (If any of you guys want to add me on Game Center, my username is Ndoto!)

Minecraft (PC) - Been a while since I’ve been into Minecraft, but with the new 1.3 update, I’ve actually gotten back into it quite a bit. I have a small server going where I play with a few friends, and we recently came to the unfortunate realization that because our world was generated pre-1.8(Beta), it was actually missing a lot of the features that had been added to the world generation since then (including making it basically impossible to get to The End dimension without cheating). We thought it might be nice to take that opportunity to create a new world from scratch, and I really like the layout of the new world that we generated. I’m pretty slow to play Minecraft (seriously, I still need to find more iron!) so I’m just taking things at my own pace and having fun. Unfortunately, the hosting service I use for the server is shutting down, so I’m in the process of trying to move things over to a new host.

Finally, it’s not really part of the “Now Playing” theme per se, but I’m wondering whether I ought to pick up Guild Wars 2 when it comes out. At first I was hesitant because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play another MMO - although I haven’t played TERA recently, I still want to play that because I’m having a lot of fun with it - but then I remembered that GW2 doesn’t have a subscription fee, which is a definite plus.

How many of you guys are planning on getting GW2? Do you think I should pick it up?

Filed under gaming now playing kingdom hearts evochron mercenary pocket planes minecraft guild wars 2