Splinter Gear

Since I haven’t blogged recently, I figured I’d share my experience of the last month. If I had to call March of 2011 anything, I’d call it “Metal Gear Month.”

What happened was, after a whole decade of not caring, I found the first two Metal Gear Solid games in Goodwill. Out of nowhere I was interested in the franchise, and Goodwill’s copies were in pretty good condition, so I decided to go with it. I later ordered Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence off eBay. At this moment, I own the Solid trilogy, the two MSX computer games (via Subsistence’s bonus disc), and I expect to own the American version of Metal Gear: Ghost Babel very soon.

Metal Gear Solid was like a revelation. I found myself wondering how I had gone so long without playing this game, and what the hell my problem was. To put it simply, I found myself with a symptom rarely experienced past childhood: I literally could not stop playing! If I was hungry, a quick meal and then back to MGS. If I had to sleep, I would get right back to MGS when I woke up (mind you, one night I even missed sleep just to play it!) I’ve got to be honest about another unusual thing though: I was partially attracted to the plot as much as the actual game. Usually, I can’t stand games that are cutscene-heavy, but this time, I forgave it. In fact I kind of wished I could record them somehow and just watch this as a movie later (I know the technology is out there, I just have to save up for it).

After playing this I decided to backtrack and play the original Metal Gear for the MSX computer (via the bonus disc included with MGS3: Subsistence). To be honest, I didn’t find it to be all that good, mostly in the “its obviously a first effort” sense–the stealth was a good idea but it wasn’t fleshed-out enough, and the game fell back on action far too often, though at least it doesn’t have the horrible bugs the Nintendo one does (using the binoculars does not cause enemies to respawn). I didn’t feel up to tackling Solid Snake so I instead came back to the modern installments.

Metal Gear Solid 2 (I have the Substance version, for the curious) started out as sort of a mixed bag for me, but ultimately I actually liked it more than the original. At this point, my love for Metal Gear was at full swing. By “full swing,” I mean that I, a guy who for the last decade had no interest in modern game consoles, was suddenly willing to buy both a PS3 and a PSP 3000, just for Metal Gear (okay, to be fair there are also some King’s Field games for the PSP too). Maybe MGS2 came during that high, and I did have some issues (namely I noticed that you kinda have to double-tap the button to fire guns, for some reason), but ultimately I liked Metal Gear Solid 2 because of the improved stealth elements, new options and moves, and most importantly because of how it takes the storyline in some very effed up directions (mind you, the first MGS was already getting a little crazy!)

Just remember: Whenever somebody asks “Who are the Patriots?” You say “La Li Lu Le Lo!”

I had tried to make it a habit of “spacing out” the games. Between Metal Gear Solid 1 and 2 I played and beat Shadow of the Colossus and started on Ico (it looks unlikely that I will finish since I’ve so far found Ico to be an overrated mound of shit). To that end, I picked up Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell at a local gamestore that just opened up. To be honest, I wish I had picked something else–the minute I started the training level I realized Splinter Cell was going to be shit. The framerate was choppy, it has a freely-controllable camera that sounds good but in a game of this type actually just gives you one more shitty thing to worry about in tense situations (MGS3: Subsistence also has this, but you can turn it off), the first actual mission of the game was some bollocks about crossing a street to meet a contact (no, seriously) and I couldn’t help but notice a moment when the game’s hero Sam Fisher catches a dude smoking, says “I don’t like that” and forcefully puts the stogie out (obviously this politically correct, forcing-his-views-on-others “hero” is not going to be seeing through any infrared beams on his mission!) It was so bad, I immediately jumped into Metal Gear Solid 3 just to get the bad taste out of my mouth.

And there is where the dalliance ended.

I’m going to be completely honest: Metal Gear Solid 3 killed my interest in the franchise. Okay, not completely, just… I hope none of the future games played anything like it. I didn’t like any of the new or tweaked elements. I hated the backpack, I hated the whole “outdoor survival” theme and how now whenever you take pretty much any damage at all you have to use a shitload of medical items and then wait for your health to regenerate naturally. The storyline is not interesting at all and worse, the game can be really cheap sometimes. Case in point: at one point you fight a sniper dude who gets free health and stamina refills and who can, at certain points, come up behind you and insta-kill you. I looked up a number of FAQs and it turns out the way to beat him is–get this–save your game and then don’t play for a week and he’ll simply die of old age! Yes I’m serious! To be fair the thing that attracted me to Metal Gear was its batshit insanity but there’s a fine line between “forcing the player to think outside the box” and “just plain cheating.” (Yes, you can just have a straight shoot-out with this guy, but the amount that goes into doing that is just ridiculous).

Then again though, its worth remembering that I have been playing this one series and practically nothing else for a whole month straight. That’s not how series games are supposed to be played. I am minded that if I had played them when they were new, I would’ve had at least a year between each installment. It is thus, then, that I’m hesitant to take my own criticisms very seriously. Perhaps once I’ve taken my one week off I’ll try again and find that the game has magically improved. One can only hope!

This leaves two games in the series which I own but have not played, or at least not to any opinion-forming length: Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake for the MSX/PS2 and Metal Gear: Ghost Babel for the GBC (this is actually called Metal Gear Solid in the United States but I’m using the Japanese name because I’m not as stupid as Konami USA). These will have to wait until I’m done with Metal Gear Solid 3 because I refuse to have two games running at once.

That’s it for now. Ja ne!


Capsule Game Reviews – March 2011

So… gaming. Gaming is my main hobby, but particularly older consoles. I like for things to be slightly out of date. Also, my general low income means that I sometimes miss the bus on things when they’re hot so I don’t discover them until after the fact. Most of the time though, lack of interest is a huge factor.

Lately, I’ve been catching up on the Playstation and PS2. Almost a decade ago I owned a PS2, but it stopped working. For awhile that left a sour taste in my mouth and I swore off PS2 and all consoles of the same generation. But I found a game series I loved that had installments on the PS2 and the love I had for that was enough to override that sour taste, so I bought one.

Admittedly, some of that sour taste returned. The PS2 I bought was a modded machine so I could play imports, but within just a couple of months it started showing signs that it was dying, so I already had to purchase a second one (this time a brand-new one, from Amazon). The fact that I decided to buy a second one after the disappointment says it all about my commitment though.

So here’s some capsule reviews of games I’ve played since January, which was when I got back into the PS2 scene. This includes some PS1 games as well:

Armored Core 2 – The longer I played the more I got into this game. I, of course, named my pilot “EdmondDantes.” My Core is called the Gandalf and I colored it primarily with primary colors and an emblem that looks like the letters ED with a smoke trail. Yeah, that’s right, I mainly was into the whole customizing-my-mech thing and spent longer doing that than I did missions… or would, if that were possible. I honestly find some missions to be BS, particularly the night ones, where I had to turn up the brightness on my TV to see anything. That’s actually a common problem with PS1/2 games and one reason I primarily stick to older consoles.

Eternal Ring – I would’ve bought this anyway eventually but I went out of my way to acquire a copy because someone on TV Tropes claimed it had all these incredibly bad design flaws which I just couldn’t believe (it being a From Software game). As I suspected, the troper turned out to be full of shit, but it really is kind of a letdown considering that From Software’s games are usually pretty good. This one didn’t have any really stand-out flaws, just it wasn’t much of a game.

King’s Field: The Ancient City – This is actually the English version of King’s Field 4. Like the other three games its a first-person RPG with an exploration bent. It’s as good as the others, slightly longer and I don’t like that the “Light” spell is no longer absolute (there are some areas where it just doesn’t work), but it’s still a fine addition.

Metal Gear Solid – An example of “didn’t pay much attention to it back in the day, now I love it.” Managed to find this and its sequel at Goodwill for $8 each, and honestly I’m loving it now, and oddly I’m compelled as much by the plot as by the gameplay (usually I can’t stand games that have more talk than playtime). My only gripe is that sometimes I don’t like the controls, particularly the mechanism for making Snake put his back to the wall (until I practiced a bit, I often found myself doing it by accident). This game also taught me some things I hitherto had not known about the Playstation–such as that PS2 dual shocks are actually more sensitive than PS1 dual shocks (making me wonder how people managed to beat Sniper Wolf before the PS2 came out).

One note I need to make: In the original release of the game, there’s a codec frequency that the game tells you to find by looking at the back of the CD case. Yes, the game’s actual packaging. My copy is the Essential Collection one though, which stupidly does not have this image. HOWEVER, the frequency in question is now listed in the manual. So anyone else who has the collection: Search the manual. (I also wrote it on a memo pad and placed it in the back of the case so the game would be technically correct next time).

(I also have Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, but I haven’t played them yet)

Shadow of the Colossus – Wow. Just wow. You’ve probably heard everybody and their dog calling this one of the best overlooked games of any generation ever. Well, they’re right. This game is what the jump from 2D to 3D was invented for. It has everything you could ever want: A big open world that you can explore for freaking ever if you wish, and giant monsters that you can ride and stab to death. No, seriously, this game hero’s epic confrontation with sixteen awesome huge creatures rivals anything you’ve ever seen in movies. It needs to be played to be understood.

No, I haven’t played Ico yet–I just put in an order for it.

I also recently got some new anime: Record of Lodoss War and The Vision of Escaflowne. What’s weird is lately I’ve been getting burned out on anime as I haven’t felt particularly compelled to watch either one. Escaflowne though seems quite good. Lodoss can die in a fire though and I’m glad I didn’t pay very much money for it.

That’s all for now. Ja.

Trope Abuse

I’m well aware that TV Tropes doesn’t exactly have a high reputation on the internet. Personally, I don’t mind. I like it, even if at times I wonder what the hell my problem is, and that’s that.

Even so, I reserve the right to point out its flaws. This is one of those times.

If I may take a moment out from my usual routine of not-updating-this-blog-at-all, I want to take about something that does kind of niggle at me. Namely, some “tropes” that seem to become go-tos so much in TV tropes discussions that it just gets irritating.

In particular, the following are what I would call the Most Abused Tropes:

Nostalgia Filter – Supposedly, this trope is when people insist that the “good ol’ days were better.” In practice this is when you like anything old or claim any change whatsoever is bad, regardless of what your actual argument or reason for doing so is. Don’t like the new interface in Fozilla Krome 2011 and think they should go back to the old, simple one? Nostalgia Filter!

It can even be ass-backwards. Like if you played Final Illusion 66 after playing Final Illusion 7000 (let’s assume higher number = more recent) and still preferred the older one. Sorry, but in their eyes, that’s “Nostalgia Filter” even though in this case, there is not and could not possibly be any nostalgia.

Poe’s Law – Reportedly describes instances where its easy to mistake a serious statement for a parody, or else see a parody as completely serious.

I really hate this one. It’s basically nothing more than pretending your own dumbassery is the other guy’s fault. “How was I supposed to know that you weren’t being serious when you said that martians stole all your condoms and that’s why you had to rape the dog? You could have been for real. It’s Poe’s Law, dude. Lay off!” Fortunately this one seems to have died off after the death of IJBM.

Seinfeld Is Unfunny – Otherwise known as “any and every time you criticize something that used to be very popular,” invariably followed by some bullshit about how you’re not judging it “in the context of the times.”

This is pretty much the inverse of “Nostalgia Filter,” in that instead of you being blinded by your warm fuzzy memories, you’re tainted because you’re supposedly mentally comparing it to something more recent. Don’t like Metal Solid Pear 3: Laxative? It’s because you’ve been playing Tom Catty’s Splint Mail: Zeus Directum. It has to be… even if that game has only been out for five minutes and the forum has no indication whatsoever that you’ve actually played it or even own the console its on.

The weird thing is this trope shouldn’t even exist. I mean, its well known that most people like the safe and familiar, so why would being old-hat bother them? And besides, they have a counterpoint trope about how originators often do something unique that imitators don’t, which further negates the point of the Seinfeld one. And sometimes even the whole “context of the times” things negates it, if the work Seinfeld is being cited to defend wasn’t really that original in the first place (or if the guy being slapped with this trope is a guy known for playing old-school video games and enjoying them, which takes this straight into facepalm territory).

Bottom line is, pretty much the minute I see someone cite any of these tropes, my respect for them (and the value I place in their credibility) shoots down 10%, only rising if they acknowledge the flaws. Just… don’t use these tropes, ever.

That’s all for now. Ja.