Wednesday, April 29, 2015

REVIEW - Bloodborne.

A large part of Bloodborne's pleasures lay in the discovery of the unknown, exploration, and meeting insane monsters for the first time.  As such, this review is as spoiler-free as I can make it, almost entirely limited to pre-release plot and world details.

For those in the know, all you need to be told is Bloodborne is the next thing from the crew and creator of Demon's Souls (2009) and Dark Souls (2011).  For the rest, be advised that From Software specialize in razor-sharp, brutal, visceral, dreamlike, hugely imaginative, soaring dark-fantasy epics that have redefined what a modern RPG can achieve by putting the emphasis entirely on meaningful action, exploration and atmosphere, and avoiding the story-driven talking heads of almost any other high-profile role playing game.

The map is not the nigh-endless sprawl of Dark Souls.  The story - while vague and difficult to ken - is not as vague and difficult to ken.  The world is not as ethereal, and the development of your grim hero isn’t nearly as open and expressive as you’d find in any game that bears the Souls moniker.

In many ways, Bloodborne is the least-Soulsy game in the series – but it’s also, somehow, the purest distillation of its formula.  From Software’s dark action fantasies are peerless – a genre unto themselves – and Bloodborne is, for my money, the best of the bunch.  The most refined.  The most playable, with the most charming personality, and the most pleasurable.

It’s like the next thing from Rockstar North.  The next thing from Klei.  The next step up from Naughty Dog.  Bloodborne is

It’s also merely the latest masterpiece in a series of masterpieces, and what it offers is... expected.  My first night with Bloodborne, my paramour asked me how it was, and I shrugged.

“It’s Dark Souls again,” I said.  “With top hats.”

At first, it’s almost disappointingly consistent.  It gives you exactly what you expect from From, but if their RPGs are a stable of chocobos, it would be the latest Thoroughbred – its qualities pruned and picked just so.   Sleek, muscular and eager to make its masters proud, it is the ultimate expression of the form.

Some enemies are frightened of fire, and will cower when you brandish a torch.  Oh, it's also gorgeous.

The Souls experience begins on the edge of your blade, and your first fumbling attempts to wield it against the game’s creatures.

As in all Souls games, your character’s combat style is largely shaped by your weapon of choice, but instead of a variety that borders on obscene, Bloodborne confines itself to a comparative handful of charismatic options.  Called trick weapons, each cruel-looking selection can transform with stylish animations from a lighter, quicker form to a heavier, slower variant and back again – every option is both two vastly different combat styles, and one massive repertoire to master.  Despite the mechanical originality, they’re beautifully believable, physical, weighty items, and the small assortment and meaningful differences encourage experimentation, while ensuring each choice makes a unique argument for itself.

When you come across one that permits you to communicate with Yharnam’s populous with enhanced profundity, it becomes quite dear to you – and as in all Souls games, you can invest precious resources into your cudgel of choice, and perhaps slap some additional modifications on it.

The Hunter's Dream takes on the role of Demon's Souls' nexus hub, offering access to each unlocked area.
You even level up by talking to the same voice actress.

Unlike previous Souls games, such modifications can be applied at your base of operations (a cottage in a lonely dreamscape that seems suspended above space and time), and freely experimented with.  Aside from core upgrades, you’re never locked in – and if you decide trading physical damage for fire isn’t serving your purposes, you’re free to swap it out at your leisure.  It’s very liberating, when compared to Souls canon, and is one of several ways Bloodborne permits itself to be a bit more easygoing, a bit more gamey than its predecessors.

When it comes to bringing your chosen instrument to bear on the tragic denizens of Yharnam and beyond, it is pure, high-concentration Souls, where stats are great, but skill is better.

These are both the same weapon.  Fancy fury.

Make a serious error, and you will pay for it with your life (and your time, as you brawl your way back to the site of your death from the last checkpoint, and your accumulated collection of blood echoes – the game’s XP and currency – which may have been picked up by an enemy in your absence). Almost every enemy in Bloodborne will obliterate you with little effort, and cruelly punish thoughtless, button-mashy attempts to overcome it.  The moment you grow overconfident and disrespect them, they will kill you for it.  Meanwhile, your chosen weapon refuses to think for itself, and each of its attacks have very specific properties.  The specific cut needed to answer an enemy in a cramped hallway, the precise horizontal arc your blade will glide through with R1, the way it will clang off a doorway instead of clipping through the world’s geometry, the exact moment you need to strike to interrupt an attack – these become hugely important – but Bloodborne doesn’t crack open for your while you’re still slurring the elegant tongue of its combat.

L1 switches your weapon's form - but if you tap L1 after a dodge or during a combo, it will unleash a powerful transforming strike - which can be chained together.  Also, I love that the game's female enemies are cackling, ferocious crones.
Not a chainmail g-string in sight.

Your weapon’s unique language is your means of expression, and you begin by croaking out halting, timid phrases – understandably terrified of what the thing in front of you might do when you least expect it, and unsure of what the thing you swing about is capable of.  With time, with experience, you become fluent.  You come to intimate grips with the differences in your moveset when locked on to an enemy, and when not. You master the invincibility frames of the combat dodge, and there comes a day when a wobbly horror from beyond the stars flings a glowing orb at your approach and you dash through it as an opening statement.  You begin to speak eloquently. Confidently.

A running horizontal slash permits an almost-instant transition to a follow-up cut that will hit the target more quickly if you don't lock on to it. and pivot to the right after the initial cut.  Then, a charged power attack makes use of  the lock-on.

You blitz right up into their hostile little faces and tear into them with brutal abandon, great gouts of blood exploding this way and that with each strike, covering your dapper dress with deep, glistening crimson.  Dangerous as things are, Bloodborne does not want you to whisper.  When facing beasts one must roar – one must snap and snarl with all the ferocity of one’s quarry, leaping this way and that as they flail wildly, impotently against your onslaught, as you once did against theirs.  They howl and leap and rake the ground with their awful claws, but once you speak Bloodborne’s cruel language, you find what your foes have to say only matters to the degree that it informs your witty response.

Guns offer both a long-distance stun and a debilitating parry when interrupting a foe's attack, setting them up for a major counter.   Note how the second strike - a transformation strike that takes the blade from closed to open - breaks the block of the shield-wielding enemy.  

Once you have that down, you’ll find Bloodborne offers the fastest, smoothest flavor of the Souls loops.

In a darkened hallway/street/room/stretch of forest, you meet some unnatural, twisted foe that can kill you with a single, brutal combo, and learn how to survive against it.  Learn it so well that, before long, you are slaughtering that thing – perfectly, precisely, almost casually – as you stroll past on your way to the next unnatural, twisted foe you don’t know quite as well.

This satisfying loop repeats, over and over as you carefully pick your way through a new, beautiful, mysterious and dangerous area.   Each environment is a tangle of pathways and rooms, thick with vital treasures, secret corners and efficiently lethal new foes, and they fold in on themselves to create a seamless, Metroidvania-esque world, where shortcuts are everywhere and striking design and memorable locations ensure you never mistake this mist-cloaked, dimly-lit alley for another.

Getting lost in the Forbidden Woods, however, is as easily said as done.
I know that shortcut is around here somewhere!

In doing so, you earn enough souls or blood echoes to level up, which earns you an almost-imperceptible boost to one stat of your choosing – a far lesser buff than the insight you’ve gained into Bloodborne and its ways, in the process – and before long, you know this zone and its monsters inside and out.  Around this time, you’ll come across a spacious field, littered with the bones of those who came before.  You’ll push open the doors to an impossibly large cathedral.  You’ll walk down some very dark stairs, a health bar thrice the size of your own will appear, and you’ll meet the area’s boss.  Then, you’ll die.

The Cleric Beast is likely the first boss you'll meet - and like most of Bloodborne's bosses, she's completely optional.
An experienced player can zip through the game, ignoring half its areas - and a careless player may accidentally overlook entire zones.

The nature of Bloodborne’s design ensures you don’t have to fight your way, tooth and nail, through this treacherous landscape (repeating all earlier loops) just to take another crack at it.  Near the boss’s room is, reliably, a shortcut you can open up – a switch, a gate, an elevator – that provides easy access to the fight from your starting point.  Then, you throw down with a nightmare creature.  You learn its animations, its tells, strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately beat the ever-loving crap out of it with your own careful-yet-aggressive, strategically-measured viciousness.

And it feels incredible.  When the thing falls and explodes into hazy light.  When your blood echo tally blasts up by a few dozen-thousand.  As your breathing steadies, and your pulse stops racing.  Incredible.  You did it.

Everything was set against you.  Any single thing you fought your way past could have slaughtered you, but you mastered them.  You mastered this place.  You mastered yourself, and your abilities.

Then, you come to a door.  Beyond, you’ll discover a new, beautiful, mysterious and dangerous area ripe for exploration, discovery and a deeper education in Bloodborne’s unforgiving nature.  Where you will rediscover, again, what you are capable of.  And so the grand loop goes.

It’s beautiful.

The enigmatic subterranean chalice dungeons represent dozens of hours of the most challenging, rewarding content Bloodborne has to offer - the very best treasures wait within - and you can easily beat the game without ever setting foot inside.

So yes, it’s Souls, again (minus the option to brandish a trustworthy shield), but there are enough fine new conceits to re-ignite your imagination, and a wealth of streamlining, canny choices to ensure it’s the slickest, sharpest iteration of the Souls formula – said lack of shields, for example, take what was already some of the most involving combat in gaming and cranks its speed and risk-reward edge up to eleven.  Gives it greater bite.  The familiarity is comforting, the refinement is appreciated and the originality is thrilling.  The originality, really, is what makes Bloodborne the crown jewel of From Software’s efforts.

The story, for one, isn't as flat as you'll find in From's previous works - where nightmare creatures stalked a zany array of dark fantasy settings just 'cause un-deadness exists and there’s something about an ancient king or whatnot – instead, it permeates every aspect of the game.  

In Bloodborne, you arrive at the city of Yharnam - a town famous for its cure-all "blood minstration" medicinal techniques (and the Plague of Beasts it occasionally suffers from) - and wake up after a procedure in a wrecked clinic.  "Seek the pale blood" is all you're told, and as you explore the doomed city, snuffling through its dark corners, the culture of Yharnam is laid bare.  Slowly, purposefully, you learn of the town's medicine, its religion, its leisure, and the uncanny source of all this horror.

In classic From style, a great deal of the story is revealed in item descriptions.  So... Yharnam is a city of vampires?
Wait a minute - I've been drinking blood through this entire game - what the hell am I?

Its narrative retains the elusive, mysterious From style - that is, nothing is explicitly explained, and at best you're given the contours of a story and left to fill in the middle on your own - but it has a far greater sense of place, a far more immersive reality than any Souls game.  Yharnam feels like a real city with real history in its cobbles - not simply because its Victorian aesthetic and gothic-steampunk technology are such departures from the anything-goes dark fantasy of From's previous efforts.

By strictly confining itself to the world its story produced - by limiting the scope of what was possible therein - From's creativity has flourished.  Detail and charisma and consistency of narrative and theme are in the dangerous design of every wrought-iron gate, the ominous suggestion of every inhuman form committed to stonework, the implied origins of every cruelly misshapen enemy. Bloodborne’s gleefully twisted narrative informs every aspect of its design – and so, its reality soaks into you.  You can’t help but breathe it in with every step. 

What manner of gods were worshipped here?

Each Souls game, for example, begins with an urban or otherwise domestic stonework environment where you test the games’ combat against easily-understandable, monstrous-but-human foes (historically, undead soldiers).  Bloodborne echoes this, but the lushly-realized urban landscape you stroll through is central to its story, and the fantasy of its world.  The human-but-monstrous foes you face are, unquestionably, the citizenry of Yharnam – out on “the night of the Hunt,” you’re told, stalking the streets in roving bands with torches and pitchforks raised on high, in the hopes of cleansing their town of the Plague of Beasts – and they see a beast in you.

There is blood everywhere.  Great, horrible creatures are crucified to be cleansed with fire.  Human-sized bodies are stacked like cordwood in ruddy gray burlap sacks with reeking red bleeding through, and everyone not locked indoors has completely lost their minds.  This place has taken them.

The Hunt has been going on for quite a while.  A final, ultimate evening has descended upon Yharnam which seems to have no end – seems to exist outside of time – and the only thing that changes within it, the only thing that can change anything within its still-death tableaux, is you.  Only you can have any lasting impact on this apocalypse, and as you pick your way through Yharnam’s ruined streets, you find yourself caring a great deal about the few homes with the glowing red incense lanterns at the windows.

The incense keeps the beasts away, they say, and while no door opens to your knock, someone may speak to you from behind the shutters.  Often just to laugh in your face or blame you, foreign as you are, for the doom that hangs over the city – but in all this silence and death, a human voice speaking human language is a comfort, no matter how awful the words.  That is how Bloodborne begins.

You cannot save her.  You cannot save any of them - but it feels right to try.
Isn't it kinder to try?

The fate of Yharnam and its citizenry is a suffocating, omnipresent tragedy, and the arc of Bloodborne a mind-stretching, Lovecraftian opus.  Lonely, gothic, magical atmosphere has long been a staple of the Souls series – where adequate graphics tech achieves supernatural success through visual artistry and sharp design – but Bloodborne pushes what was already a high water mark with the most cohesive, consistent, gorgeous, tangible reality From has ever produced.  The differences don’t begin and end with top hats and pocket watches – it makes many of the same wise, effective choices of any Souls game, but Bloodborne soaks each series trope in new meaning, to the point that one gets the sense it may have sprung, organically, from this inspired universe.

It is, in the wonderful From fashion, a razor-sharp, brutal, visceral, dreamlike, hugely imaginative, soaring dark-fantasy epic with an emphasis entirely on meaningful action, exploration and atmosphere.  Its world is an enigmatic, awe-inspiring, heartbreaking, unforgettable place, and your tragic, heroic, horrific journey through it, each step taken under the weight of its supremely involving combat, is one of the most pulse-pounding, affecting experiences you’ll have with a controller in your hand.

Bloodborne is a masterpiece.

A masterpiece with vampires in top hats.

A six-minute video on the doors of Bloodborne.

Because there are six minutes worth of interesting things to say about Bloodborne's doors.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

In which I react to Silent Hills' cancellation.

Chamberlain and I had a brief correspondence about this the other day, when the news rumor-broke through Del Toro.
CHAMBERLAIN: Ahem.  Fuck Konami.

CHANCE: Yeah, but name me the last Silent Hill game you really, really loved - it probably came out like, a decade ago. The name Silent Hill has been synonymous with mediocrity since the launch of the PS3, and the only thing compelling about Silent Hills were the two far-more-meaningful names that had become associated with it - Del Toro and Kojima.  
Also, Del Toro's been attached to like three fucking games and none of them got made. Who is this news surprising? (Not me.)
That being said?  Yes, fuck Konami.  This was the most anyone's been excited about a Silent Hill game in a very, very long while.  It's like if Ubisoft gave the Assassin's Creed license to Klei Entertainment, and then said "whups, just kidding."

After the surprising success of P.T. last year - everyone was talking about it, it even ended up on some GotY lists - you'd think Konami would move mountains to ensure all that hype and goodwill didn't end up wasted.  But eh, that's their call.  They'll just fall back on one of their other cherished, money-printing franchises like...


Well, here's hoping a half-decent company buys the Metal Gear license when they go out of business.

[update]  Ramzeltron's right, this is worth watching.  


Well, Just Cause 3 gameplay looks incredible.

Wow. The Broken Age launch trailer.

This actually got me a little misty, and I haven't even played the game.  Set hype to maximum.

Monday, April 27, 2015

After untold aeons, Gehrman understood.

It had become his obsession.  He purchased volume after volume of singular, strange knowledge in pursuit of the answer.

Having chased it for so long, the truth of it, finally revealed, was laughable - but after being in such close proximity to the Great Old Ones, it was only a matter of time before the byzantine structures of this universe and its limitless possibilities were laid bare.

Today, the nature of reality cracked open in his mind, like a robin's egg.  There are infinite worlds - and across their unimaginable number, infinite ways to pick up fair maidens.

Batman: Arkham Knight - All Who Follow You trailer.

Hmmm apparently Eurogamer's confirmed that those combat team-ups aren't just cutscenes.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III reveal trailer.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Personal Note - Variety! Blues, Bloodborne and general geekery.

Ahhh Saturday.

It has been one hell of a week.  Did I ever tell you that the blues is what first made Kayla realize she was attracted to me?  I make a terrible first impression, and she'd initially considered me an "arrogant asshole," but I was an arrogant asshole who ran in the same circles, so she just had to deal.  We'd been to a lot of parties together, and I'm one of these doinks who will go hook up their iPod to the host's music system (though, in my defense, I am often asked to).  On one such occasion, I did just that, and plopped myself back down into a chair at the patio table and lit a smoke as the song came up.

"What is this?" Kayla asked.

It was Wang Dang Doodle by Koko Taylor, but I didn't say that.  I looked her in the eye, smiled and said "that's blues, baby." That phrase, I was later told - along with the precise tenor and cadence I wielded that day - elicited the "sploosh" response.

For that reason alone, blues can be considered "the good shit," but one of the things I love about it (beyond just... y'know, loving it) is how there is always another gem to discover.  There are a thousand Wang Dang Doodles out there - wonderful emotional moments, crystallized in audio - that we'll never find, without digging.

So digging, on occasion, is a worthy effort.

Everything here's from an album The Heavy pointed me to called Midnite Blues Party.

Anyway, let that spin.  Shall we speak of geekery?

Being Canadian does not, often, present challenges.  It's a first-world country with good Internet, and any major movie or game will be out here day and date with its US release.  We're basically the US with better manners, but when things get the least bit obscure, we take a hit.

An unknown release from a third-tier publisher, for example, might make its way north of the border a half-week or week after its initial release,- but I didn't expect the Bloodborne strategy guide to be in that boat. When I (and everyone else) bought Demon's Souls, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves in to.  I didn't buy the strategy guide (did it even have one?), but for Dark Souls and its sequel, I had no problem snapping up the hardcover Collector's Edition guides on day one.

Now, a huge part of the pleasure of a Souls game is of feeling your way through it, and finding answers with the community, but - to me, at least - when you love a game, it's lovely to have a tome of knowledge at your side, replete with the Final Word on this and that, filled to the brim with original concept art and insight from the developers.  It completes me.

And you know the deal with strategy guides - they're always sitting on the counter at GameStop when you go in on launch day for whatever game just came out - but with Bloodborne, I was taking no chances.  When March 24th rolled around, I called my store to ask if they could hold a copy of whatever strategy guide Bloodbone had received for me... and was told they didn't have any.


"Yeah, we didn't get any."

"Will you get any?"

"It's not showing up in my system..."

Okay.  Whatever.  Kevin must just be messing with me today.  I went down to pick up the game, but it was true.  No strategy guides!

That's... okay, though.  That's fine.  I can certainly play through Bloodborne without a guide's assistance (and did, in fact), but... my inner fanboy felt the loss sharply.

There was a book-shaped hole in my love for Bloodborne.  I immediately turned to and placed a preorder on the Bloodborne Collector's Edition Strategy Guide, which had no release date.

Turns out Future Press had held off on the release of the book to ensure it was up-to-date with the day-one patch changes - a choice I appreciate - and the book would release on the 14th of April.

Bam.  Preordered.

April 14th came and went.  I beat Bloodborne twice, in this time.

"Not yet shipped.  We need a little more time to provide you with a delivery estimate," kept saying.  Every day.  April 21st rolled around.  People in the US started receiving their guides, and kept telling me they had no idea when my preorder would ship or arrive.

This happens to me every fucking time I preorder anything through Amazon.  They just never send it!  It's like they take preorders for items they will never receive, and I have no conception how one of the biggest retailers in the world can't know when they're getting a book in.  It's insane.

Even now, today, doesn't have the bloody thing in stock.

Can someone explain to me how this is a best seller
when you've never received or shipped out any copies of the bloody thing?!

So screw that.  On Wednesday, I checked one last time to see if .CA had it in stock, or had a ship date.  They did not.  I checked .COM to see if they had it in stock.  They did.

Order cancelled on .CA, order made on .COM.  It shipped on Thursday and arrived last night.  It's gigantic.

Dark Souls & Dark Souls II guides, and the Valkyria Chronicles III Imca Nendoroid for size comparison.

There's a huge interview with director Hidetaka Miyazaki at the back of the book, and it is... exhaustive.  Every enemy, every damage type, damage calculations, et cetera.  Did you know that every single attack in the game is affected by a damage multiplier?  Like, your step-back-forward attack might be x1.05 damage, but your charged R2 might be x2?

It breaks down each weapon in the game over multiple pages, and actually discusses the movement properties of the attacks.


So that showed up yesterday.  Awesome.

I'm plucking away at the Bloodborne review, naturally - and quite happy with what I've got, so far - but with two playthroughs under my belt, I still don't feel done.  I want to start up yet another new game and see what I can get done with the threaded cane...

But, y'know, there's other stuff to do.  I never wrote an Olli Olli 2 review! Heck, I never finished Hotline Miami 2.  Shovel Knight is frickin' awesome, but...

...but Bloodborne is Bloodborne...

Anyway, other geekery!

For some reason, yesterday, Kayla and I actually had the energy to get up and go down to our collectibles/comics shop.  The last time we were there, they had the One:12 Collective Batman: The Dark Knight Returns action figure.

The first time I saw him, I had resisted.  'Cause I was broke.  I was all

I'm not big on action figures or poseable figures at all.  They're too finicky, take too long to get looking decent, and sometimes you pay three hundred dollars, open the package and the fucking arm was never attached to begin with, and never will be in this life.  Play Arts Kai can die in a fire.

But here's the thing... y'know that cool hipster redesign of Batgirl?  I love that design, and she's getting a black & white figure like Harley.  I told Kayla that I love the design and I was kind of tempted... but Batgirl holds no great sway, for me.  Not like Harley - not like Bats himself.

And it then occurred to me that it was strange that I have a Harley figure and not a Batman figure.  "But if I was gonna' get a Batman figure," I explained, "I'd want it to be like a really great Batman: The Animated Series Batman.  Or a Dark Knight Returns Batman."

The problem being, awesome scale figs of those don't exist.  An action figure is the best you'll get, and this... this is one hell of an action figure.

My resolve kinda' broke when the folks at FigureGAF started talking about its quality - how awesome the heads are, how great the cloth of his Batsuit works, the fact that the cape is actual cloth and comes with a wire skeleton you can place beneath, to achieve the shape you want.

So last time I saw him, I resisted.

This time, it was financially doable.  I saw he was still available and was like

And Kayla says"you should buy it" and I was all "but it's expensive" and she goes "here's sixty bucks" so I'm like

and then

I think I'll muck around with the frame for the cape a bit - maybe get something more dynamic going and then set him up in a shelf with Harley.  He's about $100, comes in blue or black cowl/armor variants, and... yeah, he looks awesome (thank you Kayla).

Oh, also, remember Sin City?  Not the comic books, the movie?

I love Marv.  I loved that Hard Goodbye story, and when Sin City first came out on Bluray, I sprung for the special edition that came with a teensy bluray-sized copy of Marv's story.  I adored it, and - years ago, when times were tough - I parted with it in exchange for a buck or two.

That's weighed on me, ever since, to the point that every time I wander through a bookstore's graphic novel/comics section, I'll check out their Sin City options to see if The Hard Goodbye is available - it never is.  It's always a case of "it might be in this three hundred dollar super-omnibus wrapped in plastic, but you can't check to find out!"

So while we were at the geek store, I spied a bunch of Sin City books on a top shelf.  There it was. A reissue with new cover at by Miller himself - the first of a bunch of Sin City volumes (The Hard Goodbye was the first Sin City arc).

Groovy.  I think I may start up a new collection.

Before we left, I asked them to order me a copy of the Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus volume 8.

For the past year or so I've been picking up the books as they release - finally, Lone Wolf and Cub in nice, healthy-size print - but this one, for some reason, didn't come in at the local huge bookseller chain or the other local huge bookseller chain.  If my nerd mecca is able to order it?

Sure, I'll give 'em my custom.

Annnd... one more blues track, I think.

Oh, and I just remembered I promised you a Shovel Knight .GIF the other day.  Here you are:

That is a game that controls well.  It's just... well, it's excellent is what it is.  Zero complaints, from me.

And now... I think it's time to get a little fancy.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Mad Max gameplay overview trailer.

See, DICE?  This is gameplay.  And this looks amazing.

...if it plays well, that is.

It should.  They made Just Cause.

The Briefest of Game Diaries.

Yesterday, Kayla taught me how to use my hot new cellphone as a WiFi hotspot.  I hooked my Vita up to it as soon as I got into the office, downloaded the game, and waited patiently for my lunch break.  After work, I told Kayla that we needed to pick up a few PSN cards.  She asked why, and I explained I was buying a copy of Shovel Knight for her.

To put it succinctly, Shovel Knight hits all the right notes as a spiritual successor to old challenging NES classics like Mega Man - without ever seeming to be quite that challenging.  I've not yet cursed at my Vita, even as the game steadily ratchets up its expectations of the player.  It's beautiful, in its eight-bit way, and charming, and its soundtrack is excellent.

And the controls... well, I'll get into that tonight.  I have a .GIF to show you - or will, by this evening.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Music post! The Black Angels.

I been feelin' mighty low, lately.  Just... just everything, man.  I am down, and life has been kicking me.  Usually I'll turn on my mix list at work, and will sometimes dance around to other playlists as the mood strikes - but for the past few days, all I've needed to do is tap on my Black Angels playlist, turn it to random and let it go.  And it works.

It's what I need.  Check it out.

And now, to make dinner.

And then, in a desperate search for something that will spark the imagination of the excitable, gleeful child I'm quite sure still dwells within me, I will try Shovel Knight.

Did you know Shovel Knight came out on PSN today?

(Shovel Knight came out on PSN today.  Cross-buy.)  Like an asshole, I left my Vita at the office so I'm gonna' have to throw down on the PS4.

But first, Hawaiian pizza.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Minipost! About Daredevil on Netflix.

Kayla's usual Netflix diversion is Once Upon a Time.  I never got in to it, and never formed much of an opinion on the show beyond the belief that whoever plays Prince Charming is a bad actor, and not good.

We taste-tested Daredevil, and it turned out to be one of those shows we could both enjoy - which are precious gems, like Hannibal, Justified and Archer.  [update]  Turns out it's just me that likes Daredevil.  I was lying to myself about Kayla. [/update] Daredevil's bloody fisticuffs can kinda' paint your perception of other shows, though.

A few days ago, I walked into the living room as she was watching Once Upon a Time, and Captain Hook was throwing down with some other pirate for some reason or another, and I couldn't help but opine,

"After Daredevil...  I just don't buy that these two are trying to kill each other."

Oh, and I'll say the guy who plays Foggy is also a bad actor, and not good.  He looks the part, but he's the weakest actor on the show.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Defiled Chalice dungeons. Oh my lambda.

I think it's safe to say that I actually enjoy Bloodborne more than any previous Souls title.  Case in point: I'm still playing it.  I'm still mucking about in the game - and lately, that has consisted entirely of wandering around the chalice dungeons and seeing what's up.

If you thought making it through the dark, lovely city of Yharnam was hard, you ain't seen nothin' yet.  The first few chalice dungeons were obviously designed for lower-level players in mind, but before long I was in to some nice, challenging stuff - terribly dangerous enemies I couldn't just one-shot - and I was loving it.  Then, I found out that to get to Queen Yharnam's dungeon, I had to go through something called the Defiled Pthumerian chalice dungeon.

This.  This is hard.

Not the dungeon itself - that's merely challenging, and requires me to be on top of my game - but the bosses.  Two down, so far, and I've made it to the third - but these are bosses that stopped me in my tracks.  The crucial factor, here, is that your health bar is halved in these dungeons - which drastically changes the balance and dynamics of encounters you've overcome before.

For about an hour, yesterday, I threw myself against the Defiled Watchdog of the Old Lords, and he kicked the shit out of me.  Today, I tried again, and Kayla came in to watch.

This thing has multiple attacks that will, literally, one-shot kill me.  There are a few moves you can just eat, if you miss your dodge, but he has a ton of stuff with very short tell animations that will just - bam - end the fight.  Try again.

I finally beat him, though.

It was kinda' spectacular when I finally stuck the landing.  I haven't had this much trouble with a boss since the Ancient Dragon (an optional boss) in Dark Souls II.

And now... now I gotta' kill a super-buffed Amygdala with a gimped health bar...

[update]  Fuckyeah!

Now, to kick the shit out of Gherman again.


(Loving Bloodborne.)

Why won't you let me take pictures of your nipples, The Order: 1886?

Y'all know I liked The Order: 1886 - and one of the things I appreciated it was the game's way of permitting itself to have adult situations without pandering, or appealing to the porn-informed appetites of lusty teenagers.

Well, y'know the photo mode that was recently patched into the game?  I haven't had time to check it out, yet, myself - Bloodborne's talons remain buried in my gamer heart - but it appears if you activate photo mode while any of The Order's three naked people are onscreen, those people just - blip - disappear.  Can't take pictures of The Order's ultra-high-fidelity dangly bits.

...which is weird to me.  The Order's a very, very rare game that has nudity which never feels exploitive or damaging - it feels mature in a meaningful way, instead of just a rating on the side of a box - and to have Ready at Dawn cover up one of their strongest and most respectable choices feels... cowardly?

Yes, cowardly.  Ready at Dawn, you made a strong, intelligent choice with precisely how you showed nudity in The Order.  What possible reason you could have for not wanting your good example to serve as a good example to gamers, parents and other developers around the world is elusive, to me.

Twenty five Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness screenshots

Click to embiggen.  Some of these look kinda' meh - but other ones look kinda' pretty!

See? Kinda' pretty!

This almost looks like a church someone made in Minecraft.

You might be thinkin' is that just a pattern on an outfit, or is she wearing what is, essentially one step up from a fishnet catsuit?

And to that I say,