Saturday, October 24, 2015

This, that and the other.

Never, in the history of this blog, have I gone so long between posts.  Apologies.


First up, PS4.  Whatcha' been doin' on your PS4?  I've been taking advantage of those sweet flash sales, and playing Wasteland 2.

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, Metro Redux and Bastion were all nabbed last week.  Rapture because of the sweet graphics and the possibility of being emotionally moved by a video game again, Metro Redux because that seems like something I should have in my library, and Bastion mostly just to remind myself how hyped I am for its appearance on Vita later this year.  I played it long enough to grab the Breaker's Bow and kick some ass with it, and that's all the reminder I need.

As for Wasteland 2: Director's Cut...


Wasteland 2 is super-easy to explain if you've touched upon two of gaming's best examples of required reading.

Once upon a time, XCOM: Enemy Unknown let its guard down, and was seduced by classic Fallout.  Wasteland 2 is their illegitimate love-child.


That's really all there is to it.  Structure, freedom and character are pure Fallout, combat is a slightly simplified XCOM.  Quest resolutions are completely open, with far more than blue or red options, and the world is abjectly weird just for the sake of abject weirdness.  You roam around the world map as a Ranger's badge icon, avoiding (or plunging bravely into) radiation pockets, challenging or evading random encounters (assisted by the Outdoorsman skill), and landing in far-flung settlements that may take two to ten hours to work through.  The quests really are nicely large, but never too large.  What's a bit awkward is how you roam around these zones as you would in most RPGs - freely walking about and exploring - until combat occurs, and you're locked into XCOM's you-have-so-many-action-points-to-move-so-far thing.

That transition - from the exploration and story-driven RPG to the turn-based tactical combat - is clumsy and uncomfortable, especially when your shotgunner was for some reason keeping to the back of your group of heroes, your sniper was up front, and now you have to spend a turn or three repositioning them before they can even get a shot off.

It pays (quite richly, I should note) to take your time, panning the camera forward to make sure there are no enemies about before moving your squad into a new room, and setting up ambushes by selecting a single character to move, placing them just so, and selecting the next.

Super, super-hard fights have been overcome just by chilling out, backing off and carefully placing my squad before letting the fur fly.


Once in combat, it's not quite as supple as XCOM's wealth of tactics and options - heroes get a few "precision shots" that seem to have an insanely low chance to hit, but will lower an enemy's chance to hit if you nail them in the arm, speed if you shoot them in the leg, or cause a stun of you land a headshot - but there aren't significantly interesting options like the Flush or Suppress tactics in XCOM.

It's mostly about using cover effectively, and positioning your squad with intelligence enough to weather the enemy's turn.  Ambushes (essentially the Overwatch mechanic from XCOM) have huge utility, though, and simply aggroing a crew of raiders in a heavily-fortified location and dashing back behind a line of Rangers all set to ambush has turned many impossible encounters possible.  

So the short version is XCOM + Fallout = love.

I'm loving it.  It's up there with Bloodborne and Galak-Z for the most valuable games of 2015, for me.

Elsewhere...

This will keep Meow distracted for hours.

I've been watching a lot of anime, again.  Mitchiko e Hatchin is one of those cool, laid-back animes that are more interested in character exploration and development than they are action.  It's a nice show - beautiful, sad, hopeful, sweet.  Didn't get all the way through it, because I ended up trying out My Little Monster on Netflix.  Another character-driven show, it's central question is asked and answered before the end of episode 2, and from then on it's just letting you snuggle up with its characters as they try to come to terms with what they already understand.  The last episode almost made me cry, though.  It was awesome.

I also watched most of Samurai Champloo again, but easily the most exciting anime I've touched lately is Space Dandy.

I'm late to the party on Space Dandy, I know.  From the creators of Samurai Champloo, it is perhaps best described as a Japanese riff on Futurama.  Or The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.


It follows the same characters, but each episode exists in a vacuum that explores one science fiction concept or another, when it's not doing character exploration.  It establishes this early, by killing off the entire cast in the first episode, right after they're all introduced.

"And then everybody died.  The end.  That's our episode, see you next week!"

This permits Space Dandy to just get on with the business of enjoying itself and playing around with various high-falutin' ideas, all while (amazingly) managing to maintain an effective narrative thread across both seasons.  It's sort of like... imagine if every episode of The Outer Limits had the same main cast, and they were subjected to a new, insane concept of sci-fi weirdness every week, and sometimes they were aware of what happened in previous episodes, and other times had no idea.

And, crucially, that they all just went along with it.


The character of Dandy (described early, and often, as "a dandy guy in space") is crucial to this.  He is The Dude in The Big Lebowski, Spike in Cowboy Bebop, Jughead in Archie.  He's a bit of an idiot, he has his own ambition (in Dandy's case, going to his favorite breastaurant), but his life mandate is simply to go with the flow of whatever happens.  If he ends up giving away a fifty-million ₩ bounty to help out a little space girl or becomes one of the first victims of the zombie plague that will wipe out and simultaneously bring peace to the universe, he's cool with it.

'Cause that's just the Dandy way.  Also, I love that the currency of Space Dandy is the woolong - the same one from Cowbow Bebop.  For the record.


Yet elsewhere... Vita.

Not gonna' happen.

Did you know Broforce isn't coming to Vita any more?

So that's Galak-Z, Mercenary Kings and Broforce - no longer coming to the handheld.  This really disappoints me.  Like, disappoints me more than it should, and more than I acknowledge would be healthy.  I don't know why it bothers me to this degree - perhaps just because I love my Vita so damned much.  ...even as the backlog on it continues to grow.

Disgaea 3, Danganronpa 1 and 2, Ar Nosurge Plus, Super Meat Boy, Xeodrifter, Corpse Party... in truth, my Vita cup runneth over, but as a rule, lately, it's the western high-profile indies that tend to pull most of my time on the thing.  Losing another one of them - and getting the repeated impression that Sony gives no fucks about their abandoned creation - feels like a kick to the chops when we're already down.

But... somewhere, a list of trophies for XCOM: Enemy Unknown leaked today for Vita.  Despite the name, the trophies directly reference mechanics from XCOM: Enemy Within (the expanded game), and if that's real...

But Grand Kingdom continues to look so gorgeous and up my alley...


(Please get localized, please get localized!)

But Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir remains a thing...



Man, I can't wait to bust out those new combos.


But Uppers, the next thing from the guy who made Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble for PSP, is a thing, and it's being produced by the Senran Kagura dude.


But The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Second Chapter is coming out next week, after a very long an challenging localization by XSEED.  I mean, sure it's a PSP game, but... XSEED gives me hope.

Atlus gives me hope.  Aksys gives me hope. Between them and all the other indies - did I mention Organ Trail, which dropped this past Tuesday?



Between Atlus, XSEED and Aksys, maybe we will see Grand Kingdom and God Eater Resurrection and Uppers and Exist Archive over here.  Between them and all the other indies who are happy to show up on Vita... maybe the thing's still got a long life in it.

Maybe even long enough for me to clear out that backlog.

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