When You Wish Upon a Ring…

It’s been tough finding things to update about. I actually put up a new ramble on Zippcast, but didn’t link to it because honestly it’s not very good.

Since then not much has been happening as much as I want it to. I’ve been trying to take care of a new kitten named Flufflepuff, but she will either be friendly or be scared, just whenever she wants to be.

Recently purchased Salamander Portable, which is basically a companion to the Gradius Collection and includes Salamander, Salamander 2, Life Force, Xexex (YES!) and the MSX version of Gradius 2… and a partridge in a pear tree. This collection being exclusive to Japan, all the games are the Japanese versions, which is awesome in the case of Xexex (the North American version got fucked right up the ass).

I’ve also been re-playing the computer game Pool of Radiance, and in fact have been keeping a diary of it. I wonder if I should upload that diary here?

I’ve also discovered a novelization of Pool of Radiance in my collection which… actually starts out pretty good. It does however do one of my least favorite cliches: the main gets a ring that gives her three wishes, and she wastes two of them by accident. This time though it wasn’t quite so bad.

Anyway, when I’ve got more to talk about, I’ll post a real entry.

Talk to yas laterz!

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Snow sucks. Also, FPS gaming.

So, it’s snowing. That sucks.

I don’t get why everyone is always “Awww yeah its snowing, WOO HOO!” To me, snow means a chance of power-outs, being unable to go anywhere due to road conditions, and lots of white stuff. Also no going outside cuz its freezing. The only remotely cool part is that on nights with a good moon, the snow lights up the world around you. Seriously, once I went out at like 1 AM, and it was so well-lit that it was like early morning.

Well, if the power doesn’t go out, I have things to keep me busy.

Lately I’ve been into First-Person Shooters again. It started a few weeks back when I went to George’s for the weekend, and we visited Goodwill… and they had a copy of Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold.

For those who don’t know Blake Stone, this guy’s video sums it up quite well. I used to own a copy, wound up losing it in a trade and at the time I didn’t miss it, but when I had a chance to get a second copy for just a dollar, I jumped at the chance.

Here’s some other FPSes I’ve picked up recently:

Blood – This one I discovered thanks to the reviewer I linked to previously (here’s his review of Blood. I downloaded a demo and then later bought the full game on eBay. Based on the Build engine, so it plays like Duke Nukem 3D, but with many differences.

Rise of the Triad – Most any PC gamer will likely have heard of this one, especially since there’s a remake now. Got it for cheap.

War in Heaven – A… Religious-themed FPS. You can play as either an Angel or a Demon with different levels for each. Got it cheap, and thank goodness I did–its not very good (not that I expected it to be).

I also ordered the Id Anthology (collection of all of Id Software’s pre-Quake games), which I expect to come in the mail soon.

But the FPS I’ve been enjoying the most is… Wolfenstein 3D. Yeah, the precursor to Doom. Despite its age, it’s got one thing usually missing from games these days: tension. It’s a game where just a few well-placed shots can end you, kinda like an earlier, less-realistic Rainbow Six. It makes you feel the need to clear rooms quickly and jump every time you hear a door open and you know YOU didn’t open it. Such fear gives it an addictive quality that I quite like. In fact the reason I ordered the Id Anthology was so I could get Spear of Destiny, its sequel.

I hope the snow doesn’t slow the mail down…

… Oh, yeah, I’m working on more MLP Episode reviews. Have one that’s almost done, just its hard to inspire myself to work on it with how cold its been lately. Please, Spring, come soon.

Rainbow Six (original PC game) – First Impressions

Calling this a “First Impression” is kind of a misnomer. Truth is, the first time I played Rainbow Six was when it was available in a just-released “Gold Edition” which included the Expansion Pack. I had just gotten my 500mhz PC (the one I recently retired and replaced with Mazinkaiser) and was eager for another game to run on it, and Rainbow Six had a number of inherent appeals–not the least of which was that I had just discovered a taste for Tom Clancy.

Sadly, first impressions were not good, and I wound up selling the game.

It is now over a decade later, I’ve built Mazinkaiser and again, I’m looking for software to run on it. I happened to find Rainbow Six (again, with expansion) at Goodwill. Has time flipped things? Well… actually, yes, a little bit.

When I booted up Rainbow Six this time, my first impression was “wow, this game is tough,” but then I started bending the rules a bit. I would play only with “Reserve” characters, and virtually ignore the “Planning” phase altogether (I should note that this WILL NOT work on Elite difficulty–on that mode, you either play it right or suffer the consequences!) and playing that way, I got all the way to mission seven–the one with the dam and where one of the terrorists wants to turn informant–before I finally got bored.

I did go back and experiment a bit more with Rainbow Six’s gameplay mechanics, particularly the planning phase, and on paper this seems like an awesome game for people who like meticulous and detailed simulations of what its like to be in a covert anti-terror unit. Another appeal, for me, was the almost total lack of lifebars for both you and your enemies–one or two shots will usually down friend or foe alike, which gives the game a very quick, immediate feel. As weird as it sounds, this is exactly the same thing I love about arcade games like Gradius, even though Rainbow Six is otherwise nothing like such games.

My main issue so far is that while Rainbow Six has a lot of good concepts, none of them work particularly well. The Planning Phase is a nice idea in theory, but in practice it fails constantly because the computer-controlled characters are fucking stupid, and you have to make just about every goddamn step they take a Waypoint or else they’ll take a beeline for their next destination, which invariably causes them to get stuck on a part of the environment. Other times they’ll blatantly ignore someone who is shooting at them (although I’ve had a variety of experiences here–sometimes, my dudes are remarkably good shots who take out bogies I didn’t even see!) And of course, they constantly get in each other’s way, blocking shots or stuffing up doorways. Unfortunately, Rainbow Six was before games like SWAT 4, meaning that the only way to tell your mates to do something is for it to be pre-arranged during the planning phase. Reached a new room that you want to flash-bang before entering, but your player-character is out of flashbangs? Tough luck. Unless he gets shot and leadership switches to the next in line, you ain’t using more flash-bangs.

I also feel… somewhat unsatisfied. Once the objectives are reached or all the terrorists are killed, the mission simply and abruptly stops, going to a debriefing screen, and my first few times out (when I used the Default plans provided by the game) the missions ended before I really had a chance to get a grip on what I was doing. It felt underwhelming. Even when I started playing my way and taking a more hands-on approach, I rarely felt that much of a sense of accomplishment when I completed a mission. This was partly why I kicked it up to Elite difficulty and started mucking with the planning. I want the game to be more than just an occasional time-waster, I want to enjoy it!

This game is supposed to have a storyline, loosely based on the Tom Clancy novel of the same name (actually, the game started out as an unrelated project and the relationship to the book was decided in mid-development) but its only delivered if you pay attention to the between-level briefing screens, which like most western-designed games, suffer from too much information, most of it redundant and uninteresting. I often wind up just reading enough to know what my mission is and then skipping to the parts I get to interact with.

Is Rainbow Six a keeper? For the time being, I’m gonna say “yes.” But Time may will flip things a second time.