Oh,how I wish you were weird.
On the Table
March of the Ants is one of those games that doesn’t really do anything wrong, but it’s just one of those workmanlike titles that struggles to make a case for itself. The ant concept it amazing, I love the illustrations and the idea of a 4x game about insects is freaking awesome. But the design is derivative, not really offering much more than a heavily streamlined TI3-style game with a light evolution subsystem built into it instead of a tech tree. It’s not an unappealing game and I think the solo option is actually more interesting and fun to play than the group game, which sort of fell flat over a couple of ho-hum sessions. Here’s the review.
Luchador is pretty fun, the little ring goes a long way to selling this one as a silly, ridiculous dice-roller. There’s slightly more to it than King of Tokyo.
On the Consoles
Bloodborne is the real deal. I’m about six hours in, haven’t beaten either of the two OMFG bosses I’ve encountered yet. The first hour of this game is literally as good as any other video game I’ve ever played. Official proclamation. I think this is better than Dark Souls. It’s just a touch more accessible and you can tell that Miyazaki and co. at From have really done their homework in terms of refining and improving the core Souls-type game. There are elements that fit like an old pair of shoes if you’re a Souls vet, but there are things you’re going to have to unlearn. It’s WAY more aggressive. No more shuffling around in heavy armor, shield up, waiting to poke the enemy. No sluggish (but realistic and visceral) exchanges of blows. The combat is actually closer to a traditional Japanese-style brawler in a way- it’s fast, there are sort-of combos, and NO BLOCKING. The intent is that you strike swiftly and dodge, looking for openings to do maximum damage. Brutal stuff.
But all of the weird, cryptic From stuff is in here, there is a lot of similarity in format and concept. You would never mistake this for a game made by other developers.
The atmosphere and setting are INCREDIBLE. Imagine Castlevania turned up to 50. It’s pseudo-Hammer gothic but gone completely berserk/baroque. Berzoque? You heard that here first. The visuals are astonishing, detailed and inventive. The town is littered with broken down carriages, chained up coffins, crucified (and burning) werewolf-thing. The whole place feels malevolent, eerie and forlorn like the locations in the Souls games, and there’s that wonderful penchant for the slightly surreal.
Last night I hit into a grinding loop when I realized I was in an easily farmable area so I pipped up a couple of levels. Starting to feel like I’m making progress. I’m refusing to read any spoilers or FAQ on this one. I want everything to be a mystery, a surprise or both.
That’s my go-to game for night time. Every other time I’ve been playing Mega Man 2, Mega Man 3 and Mega Man X. Going back to 2 and 3, it’s really funny how the obnoxiously difficult parts have stuck in my memory after decades. I’ll get to something like that stupid ass part where you have to use the jet Rush to fly over a pit and you don’t have enough energy for it and the whole thing is slowing down to like 1 frame per second. I remember just about crying over that when I was a kid. But now, you can use save states…which some people view as cheating, but I beg to differ. You still have to perform the tasks in the game and make all the jumps. You just don’t have to run out of lives/energy and have to do the entire level again…or make it to the end with no hope of beating the boss because you flubbed it up the whole way there. You use save states to effectively edit out all of the bullshit that made these games take forever to beat- but not necessarily more difficult.
On the Screen
Mostly Yamato 2199, which is just stupendously great. Any fan of Star Blazers/Yamato is going to go nuts over this. It’s funny though, even though I saw all of the original Yamato films in Japanese, watching it with the Japanese names still feels off. These people are still Wildstar, Avatar, Dash, Conroy, Sandor, Homer, Mark, Dr. Sane, Nova, etc. I do a pretty awesome impression of Captain Avatar saying “Wildstar!” Last night I watched a GREAT episode where the Yamato was stuck in this sort of space Saragasso Sea along with a Gamilas vessel. Some really well-done intrigue goes down, the Gamilas send over an envoy to work out a solution together and it resolves unexpectedly.
Frohike recommended Mushishi and I watched the first one…it is awesome. It’s almost like a cross between Japanese and European fairy myth mixed up with a Hellblazer-like occult detective angle. But it’s also got this angle that reminds me a lot of Kwaidan. It’s very gentle, elegant and quiet. There is some really interesting material here about nature and spirituality that definitely digs deeper than, say, Project A-Ko.
On the other end of the spectrum, I watched a couple of episodes of Full Metal Alchemist. I don’t think I can do it. It just seems way too teenage for my tastes. Some really dark material undermined by obnoxious Japanese humor, which I just about never find funny.
Nothing. Tape adapter is broken. Still. Too lazy to replace. Really need to get on that.