Wednesday, January 28

100 Games 2015

Most recent article: Kirby Super Star

Here is a list of 100 games I will be playing over the next year.  It's... daunting, and not the kind of thing I've ever done before, but it's also very exciting.  I'm going to be posting about each one, giving a general impression, but mostly trying to find the most interesting aspect of the game and talk about that.  If you have suggestions for future games, please let me know, and if you like what you read here, or think I'm missing an important point, speak your mind in comments.  Thanks, and here we go.

1.           A Mind Forever Voyaging
2.           A Ride Home
3.           Ace Combat 5
4.           Assassin's Creed: Recollection
5.           Babies Dream of Dead Worlds
6.           Bars of Black and White
7.           Beneath a Steel Sky
8.           The Binding of Isaac
9.           Bloodborne
10.        Brave Fencer Musashi
11.        Bushido Blade
12.        Cabela's Big Game Hunting
13.        Candy Crush Saga
14.        The Castle Doctrine
16.        The Cat and the Coup
17.        Chrono Trigger
18.        Combat
19.        Crusader Kings II
20.        Curtain
21.        The Dark Meadow
22.        Day of the Tentacle
23.        Day Z
24.        Deus Ex
25.        Digital Devi Saga
26.        Dungeon Keeper
27.        Dwarf Fortress
28.        Echochrome
29.        El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
30.        End of Us
31.        Ether One
32.        E.V.O.: Search for Eden
33.        Exploit
34.        Fallen London
35.        Fallout 2
36.        Fate of the World
37.        Grim Fandango
38.        Half-Life 2
39.        Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
40.        Icarus Proudbottom Teaches Typing
41.        Jade Empire
42.        Jet Set Radio Future
43.        King's Field II
44.        Kingdom of Loathing
45.        Kirby Super Star
46.        Knights of the Old Republic
47.        League of Legends
48.        Legend of Grimrock
49.        The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
50.        Lone Survivor
51.        Machinarium
52.        Madden (Cheapest I can get)
53.        Mass Effect 3
54.        Monaco: What's Yours is Mine
55.        M.U.L.E.
56.        No One Has to Die
57.        Order and Chaos Duels
58.        Passage
59.        Planescape: Torment
60.        Populous: The Beginning
61.        Procrastination
62.        Quest for Glory
63.        Realm of the Mad God
64.        Rehearsals and Returns
65.        Resident Evil
66.        Risk of Rain
67.        Road Rage
68.        Secret of Mana
69.        Shadowrun
70.        Silent Conversation
71.        The Sims 3
72.        Skies of Arcadia Legends
73.        Song of Saya
74.        Spacechem
75.        Spacewar
76.        Starcraft
77.        Suikoden II
78.        Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
79.        Super Metroid
80.        The Swapper
81.        System Shock 2
82.        Thief II: Deadly Shadows
83.        This War of Mine
84.        To The Moon
85.        Transistor
86.        Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar
87.        Ultima VII: The Black Gate
88.        Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
89.        Uplink
90.        Valiant Hearts: The Great War
91.        Walk or Die
92.        The Walking Dead: Season 2
93.        Way of the Samurai 3
94.        Wing Commander: Privateer
95.        The Witcher II: Assassin of Kings
96.        Xenogears
97.        Xevious
98.        Yakuza 3
99.        Yoshi's Island
100.     Zork I: The Great Underground Empire

Kirby Super Star: You Are What You Eat

Kirby's Dreamland 2 is one of the first games I ever owned.  I don't remember it that much anymore, but it was the kind of game I'd play for hours and hours.  I must have drained well over a hundred AA Batteries into my Game Boy playing it.  It was pleasant and refreshing to go back to that feeling with Kirby Super Star.
The game has more to it than I expected.  There are three story modes, a gigantic exploration mode, a samurai duel minigame, and more.  But the main thrust of the Kirby games has always been the enemies.  Not because their AI is revolutionary, but because it doesn't have to be.  Kirby obtains different powers and control schemes by swallowing his enemies, but can only have one power set at a time.  So the game is designed around small puzzles that involve having specific enemy powers, and varies the placement of those power granting enemies to create challenge. isn't to say the design is perfect, or even the best it could be.  Enemies have a habit of already have attacks fully charged when you enter a room, so you get blindsided by massive damage, and forced scrolling sections speed and slow unpredictably, meaning you will be crushed by the side of the screen at least once.
But this idea appeals a lot to me.  It seems like a really impressive game could be made around it.  And Kirby Super Star is impressive.  But like Yakuza 3, it may have too much.  There are 25 different powers and over 50 different enemies.  That's a lot to try to program uniquely in the 16 bit era.  Remembering the Game Boy and Dreamland 2 (and looking it up on the Kirby Wiki, there's a wiki for everything), there are only 7 powers.  In Kirby 64 The Crystal Shards, each power can be combined with each other for a second tier effect.  You can't design around those kind of numbers.  Not equally.  Somethings are going to be useless garbage and a scant few become cream of the crop.  It's like if Magic: The Gathering endeavoured to make even a single format where every card was at least playable.  Never happening.
Again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it means that a lot of time and energy that could have been spent on refining base elements was put into elements of the game you don't like.  Having more time to understand, play, and master would have been greatly appreciated.  Kirby has a steep difficulty curve around the midpoint.  Where the first 3 modes are all easily doable, The Great Cave Offensive is bananas, and the kind of bananas that doesn't draw me in.  I can't deal with the constant barrage of attacks and enemies as well as I can in a Souls game or even in a modern shooter.  Yes, design principles have developed a lot from where Kirby started and even owe something to the little pink puffball, but the real power of the game, the fun of wacky powers and mastering all their moves, gets a touch hazy when I'm trying to keep lava and spikes out of my face.

Next time on 100 Games 2015: To The Moon, available on Steam.

Saturday, January 24

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon: Practise Makes Vacant

The Castlevania series is something I wish I'd grown up with more.  I've played most of the older ones, and enough of the newer crop to see the appeal, but it's the kind of history and experience I wish I could track in relation to my maturing.  The original Castlevania is a shining gold star of level design and understands how powerful the simplicity of 2D linear gameplay can be.  And even with that, the game still manages to be full of secrets.
Castlevania is a lot like Dark Souls.  Or perhaps Dark Souls is a lot like Castlevania.  Mastery of the game comes from understanding the limits of your character, and relying on a set of distinct rules you base your play around.  Rules like You can stop small fireballs with your whip or If you can see an enemy from where you are, you can kill it from there.
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon takes the newer approach to the series, popularized by Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.  Instead of linear action-platforming, the game takes a sprawling, non-linear style and adds RPG elements such as equipment, consumable potions and other items, magic spells, and a leveling system.
I won't pretend I'm not a perfect target for this kind of game.  Satisfying control, distinct advancement and player empowerment lots of secrets, challenges, unique bosses... it's targeted squarely at my joy department and massages with gentle grace.