Barnestorming- Onward to Venus in Review, Homeland, Gameboy Advance, Edge of Tomorrow

Barnestorming- Onward to Venus in Review, Homeland, Gameboy Advance, Edge of Tomorrow Hot

Michael Barnes     
 
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Too much Brass!

On the Table

Martin Wallace was designing Kickstarter games before there was Kickstarter. And by that I mean he was designing slightly underdeveloped titles that needed a little more time under the broiler to reach that golden brown sense of doneness, I’ve still felt that “almost there” feeling.  But I still, for the most part, like his games barring Age of Steam and Runebound. So he’s got two new ones via Treefrog/Asmodee and I’ve got ‘em both. And by gum, they still feel “almost”. But I still like them.

Onward to Venus is first up, and it’s a neat one despite the embarrassing steampunk visuals. It’s based on some graphic novel I’ve never heard of more or less about 19th century colonial powers extending their holdings to the solar system. Sure, whatever. But it’s a very fun to play, cool design that is quite unique in a couple of regards. It feels a little low key overall, but for a 75-90 minute build-and-bash it works for me. It’s simple, direct and fun. I can overlook all of the brass fittings, I guess.

Mythotopia I need some more time with. I like it, but it feels oddly shaky in parts.

Homeland went over well with five Sunday night…everyone really enjoyed it, even though none of us had ever seen the show. It kind of doesn’t matter, maybe even less so than the other GF9 titles. I think it really succeeds as an espionage game, even though it really is a very highly refined take on some concepts that were in BSG. There’s also this lingering suspicion that I have that the GF9 boys have played some Guerilla, that old AH chestnut…it has a very similar concept where there are two opposing factions and an intermediary one that can win only if one of the other sides doesn’t…and their actions kind of help both. It isn’t as stripped down as something like Coup or Revolution, but it’s also not as superfluous as BSG is with threat dials, space battles, room abilities and so forth. What I keep coming back to is that the game is very much about information- getting it, sharing it, hiding it an exploiting it- and that makes it highly thematic and in today’s day and age- topical.

 

On the Consoles

I’m really digging all of these freebie games I got from the Club Nintendo close-out. But over the past week I was really getting into Yoshi’s Island. What a great platformer- fun mechanics, charming setting, comfortable challenge level…all the things that make a great Nintendo title. I never had a Gameboy Advance so I’m just discovering that, hey, there were some really cool games for that thing. I keep holding back from just binging on the GBA Castlevania titles on GBA.

But I did grab Metroid Fusion- damn, how did I never play this game. It’s definitely a successor/sequel to Super Metroid. I also got the first Fire Emblem (well, actually the SEVENTH in Japan).

Blew a layer of dust off the PS4 to download the PS+ games this month. Apotheon is way better than it ought to be. It’s a Metroidvania game, and a good one, but the value-add is that the whole thing is styled to look like Grecian black figure art. So it looks like an urn come to life. Fun combat, lots of items, crafting…really digging it for the price of zero dollars. I also got Transistor, from the folks that made Bastion. It looks interesting, but it didn’t hook me right in. Rainy day title.

Majora’s Mask and Monster Hunter 4 tomorrow. Goodbye world.

 

On IOS

40 hours deep, Dragon Quest V over. Damn. There were a couple of really tough, very trying points where I almost put it down in the horserace to the end but I stuck to it and beat it. Loved it. I’d say it’s just under Chrono Trigger for the best JRPG of that era. Best line- you get married in it, and the vows read “until you both die and are resurrected in the church”.

So next up, Final Fantasy VI. Yep, the one before VII. So far it’s good, but DQV spoiled me- the interface was SO good, and so perfect for mobile. Like how it was PORTRAIT so you could play with one hand. FFVI isn’t nearly as user-friendly, it’s clearly an older port of older software whereas DQV was a port of the DS version.

But yeah, tiny Amano portraits, the FF victory music and phoenix downs everywhere. Five hours in and I’m enjoying it. I forget that I actually do like FF, despite the seventh one.

 

On the Screen

Damn, Edge of Tomorrow was great. Totally loved it. What an unexpected picture.

I actually really liked how it brought together a couple of different influences that haven’t been explored well in cinema- video games and the whole anime thing. The whole concept of a guy starting out a scrub and dying over and over again- but getting better every time- is the very epitome of the video game concept of life and death. Seriously, I was watching that thinking “if this were fantasy, it’d be a Dark Souls film”. I mean, it’s practically like watching a Roguelike. Every time he anticipates more, gets better. I actually didn’t know it was based on a Japanese source, but watching it I appreciated how it had some very Japanese-y kinds of things going on- power armor lady with a helicopter blade sword, for example.

I liked the mimics, but tying the time-reset thing to blood was REALLY contrived in a midchlorian kind of way. But whatever, if you can buy a time loop you can buy that alien blood can make you replay the same day over and over again. If you think about any of it too hard, it suddenly seems like utter horseshit. So I’ll stop thinking about it.

Oh, and Bill Paxton.

 

On Spotify

Still on the John Carpenter record…I’ve also been going back and listening to some of the older soundtrack work  (“Biiiiiiiiiig Trouble…”) and there is a marked difference between that stuff and this new record. The old stuff is more spare. There’s more space. The new one is busier and more dense. I don’t think that’s a quality judgment, but that really lean and direct sense of melody and punctuation is somewhat obscured on Lost Themes. What I’m trying to say is that it’s great, but it’s not Escape from New York or Assault on Precinct 13.

Barnestorming- Onward to Venus in Review, Homeland, Gameboy Advance, Edge of Tomorrow There Will Be Games
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Posted: 12 Feb 2015 14:05 by charlest #197577
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Quit agreeing with me and write about Imperial Assault some more.
Posted: 12 Feb 2015 14:11 by Black Barney #197578
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Wow, i would have found it so predictable if you crapped on Edge of Tomorrow because of the video game similarity but instead you embraced it. Colour me impressed.

I loved that movie so much. I don't think it'll make my top ten though :(

So many great moments and just tons of fun in that flick. As much as I want to hate on Tom Cruise, it's really hard when he plays this type of role so insanely well.

oh and Bill Paxton
Posted: 12 Feb 2015 14:33 by Josh Look #197579
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Metroid Fusion is great. I think they made some kind of exclusive at some point but Zero Mission is even better. Remake of the first game with all the additions made in Super Metroid and Fusion, plus a little bonus section that nicely ties it into the Prime games. Metroid is pretty much tied with Castlevania for my favorite series of all time, with Zero Mission being my favorite.
Posted: 12 Feb 2015 15:09 by Brewmiester #197590
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Edge of Tomorrow is based on "All you need is kill" by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. The ending in the book is different and I think more interesting than the films but I did enjoy the movie.
Posted: 12 Feb 2015 15:13 by Sevej #197591
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What's wrong with Final Fantasy VII? I love VI, but of course with caveats, due it being so old.
Posted: 12 Feb 2015 16:04 by Mad Dog #197600
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GBA is great. Its basically a portable Super Nintendo. It even has the SN's version of Zelda.
Posted: 12 Feb 2015 16:17 by Josh Look #197603
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FFVII is one of the worst things to happen to gaming.

No, I'm not exaggerating.
Posted: 12 Feb 2015 17:10 by logopolys #197606
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I'm a big fan of the John Carpenter album.

I don't know if I've played a Martin Wallace title that I've liked, but that could be because I shied away from him after not liking the first few.
Posted: 12 Feb 2015 17:44 by Michael Barnes #197607
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I've actually liked most of the Wallace games I've played, despite them all having that slightly janky feel. It's gotten better since the days of Empires of the Ancient World, Way out West and all that where it always felt like you were playing the game slightly wrong and the rules seemed to imply an expectation that you had already played the game with the designer at the table. I'm not really quite sure why so many people practically genuflect at mention of his name- probably because what he does remains pretty esoteric and his games seem like you are required to wear a beard to enjoy them. I dunno.

On FFVII, I agree with Josh. FFVII begat a whole, whole lot of video games bullshit. That was really the moment when game developers thought they were filmmakers all of a sudden. Thing is, they should have followed what Kojima was doing in that regard, not the FF series. The later games (well, up through like 10) aren't as egregious about it.

But you know, truth be told, I haven't played it in like 18 years. I'd check it out again, sure. But I remember feeling like it was really limited, contained and without much to actually do. Yet here I am enjoying Dragon Quest, which is simpler, so who knows, maybe there's something to rediscover there.

I actually didn't really like the Metroid games back in the 80s/90s. I remember playing Metroid when it came out and thinking "man, this game is about just jumping UP the whole time". Later on I came to appreciate the atmosphere and design...now, yeah, I'd rank it with Castlevania and Metal Gear, easily.

Literally all I want to do today is to get back to Metroid Fusion...Zero Mission isn't on virtual console, hopefully it will be sometime.
Posted: 12 Feb 2015 18:10 by Sevej #197611
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I think the thing I hated about FFVII is how the mainstream public suddenly identified RPG with that game. Great (totally scripted) story, pre-made characters, "strategic" combat... FFVII became the awakening point of "new age gamer". They crapped on action & western RPG, without knowing that the first Zelda was action RPG. Then there was another game with day & night cycle which they touted as totally innovative. Sad people. I still remember I joined a gaming mailing list with boatloads of FPS haters.

The game itself is... okay.
Posted: 12 Feb 2015 20:11 by Sagrilarus #197617
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Edge of Tomorrow really impressed me with the relationship between the two main characters, which was a very difficult needle for the writer to thread. They had a bond, she could empathize, but there could never be "something" there. It would have been very easy to fall into something more dependable. They almost did, but then held off. That impressed me. Good writing.

Saw it Saturday and I'm still thinking about it.

S.
Posted: 12 Feb 2015 21:01 by Michael Barnes #197622
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Wasn't that a lovely little beat there at the end? There wasn't the promise of a relationship or anything like that, it was like he just wanted to see if she was still there more than anything else.

I thought it was interesting too (and really kind of subtle) that Cage had used Rita's image as a recruitment tool...yet she hardly looks like a sexy, badass warrior or anything like that, she looks worn out and wounded- what a great bit of casting that was- and there's the implication that her battle prowess has more to do with her experience time-looping than the vaunted jacket technology that really doesn't seem to be all that useful on the battlefield.

THere's a lot more to that picture than I expected...I've been thinking about it a lot too, but not in the usual ways that SF films keeping you mulling over them. It's not the kind of SF film that beats you over the head with its ponderings and debates. It gets into finer, more human things like that relationship.

I also really liked how it started out almost as a Kafkan "wrong man" story...but then it's very much like a Heinlein or PKD story...and then there's all that video game and anime stuff in it too.
Posted: 13 Feb 2015 05:07 by Sagrilarus #197631
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Yeah, this was a much better film than I anticipated. More Kubrick than Cameron. I don't want to spoil the show so I'll leave it at that, but there's a lot of complexity in their relationship that I haven't sorted out yet.

And there's a metaphoric scene in the middle of the film when he steps out of the jacket that harkens back to a fundamental concept of all fiction, one particularly critical to science fiction -- when you boil it down it's about the people and the narrative, the science is just a catalyst to the story.

Very good writing. Old school science fiction. This is the kind of thing that you see in the authors Al is calling out in his blog, from a day when gee-whiz had to happen in text and you had to write it well instead of planning to have the graphics team handle it in post-production.

S.
Posted: 13 Feb 2015 08:00 by SuperflyTNT #197641
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I loved Edge of Tomorrow. It's well written because it was a well written novel: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_You_Need_Is_Kill

I had an opportunity to get Onward for 10$ at a GeekAuction but I saw "Wallace" and passed on it. Unlike you, I ~can't~ generally palate buying a game that's still pink in the middle. Ironically, where you find Runebound bad, I find it smashing, and the one game he got right of all the games I've played.
Posted: 13 Feb 2015 08:32 by VonTush #197645
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Seems like OtV has a similar weight and entertainment value as Moongha?

Would you rather have one or multiple Crisis Events come up every game? Or is the game pretty solid and enjoyable on its own if one never comes up?

In other words is the game better when one pops? Or is it just more memorable when one pops?