26 Years Later: Blaster Master Completed

In what I believe is the longest-term goal I’ve ever successfully completed, I beat Blaster Master legitimately for the first time last weekend. (I’ve beaten it before with a Game Genie and on the Wii U using save states, but this was on original hardware with no cheats.) I don’t know exactly when I originally got the game, but it was before I had a Super NES, so it’s been at least 26 years. Seeing the final boss explode immediately filled me with a sense of pride, followed shortly by a realization that no one I know actually cares about this accomplishment. Ah well, such is the lot of the retro gamer. But at least I can yell about it into the void of the internet!

Your Name Timeline

In talking to people and watching videos about Your Name (reminder: it’s amazing and you should see it if you haven’t), I noticed that there’s a lot of confusion on the specifics of the timeline. On repeated viewings I have noticed that events are generally closer together than I initially assumed, so I took it upon myself to use cues from the movie to construct a timeline of exactly when everything happens. Obviously there will be massive spoilers for the movie, and this isn’t a movie you want spoiled, so beware!

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My Gaming Philosophy

I’ve been playing Stormblood, the new FFXIV expansion (and before anyone asks, no, I will not be making a guide for it; sorry), and there has been a lot of consternation among the player base based on combat and job action changes. I main a White Mage, the job most commonly referred to as broken or useless based on the early released changes, but so far my experience (through level 66) has been nothing but positive. Indeed, the more I read, the less I understand where these complaints are coming from. It’s important to note that I’m not a raider: I have no interest in playing on a schedule, nor am I the sort of competitive that would make me care about things like world firsts or even completing the most difficult challenges. I just want to see all the content, so I’m content (for example) to have completed Alexander (normal) in Heavensward and never set foot in Alexander (savage).

The more I read about these complaints, the more I think they have a much more fundamental basis than I originally assumed. I don’t think the core problem here is people’s jobs being nerfed (or not made good enough to keep up), particularly since there is no Stormblood raid to actually test jobs against yet anyway. I think the problem is that Square Enix’s intent with the combat system redesign was to pull players back towards playing the game they way the creators intended. (Most obviously in making massive pulls harder to pull off.)

That brings my to my gaming philosophy, which has a heavy influence on the guides I’ve made. I’m not looking to find the best exploit, or determine the absolute best path towards a goal. Rather, I like to gather all the information I can on a game and use it to answer a different question: how did the creators mean for this game to be played? That’s also how I tend to play games, especially single-player games. But I’m starting to realize it even affects how I play FFXIV. I seem to be much less inconvenienced by these changes than the most vocal complainers simply because I already played the game the way Square Enix seems to want people to now.

None of this is to say that my way is any better than another, of course. But it is to say that my guides are generally not focused on exploits. They won’t be much use to the guys doing AGDQ, for instance. But I’d like to think they’ll be useful to anyone trying to understand the design of these games at a fundamental level.

Switch Shopping

I’ve been looking for a Switch since launch, though I haven’t been looking that hard. I’ve actually seen the one with the gray joycons at least twice recently, but I was holding out for the neon red and blue one. And I got it today! It reminded me of my, let’s say diverse experiences with different retailers and asking about the Switch.

Toys”R”Us

After seeing no switches on shelves here several times, on one visit I see exactly two: one of each color. Suspicious, I ask the nearest employee, “Do you guys have Switches, or are those just display boxes?” He explains apologetically that they are display boxes, and immediately starts giving me advice on when they tend to come in to have a chance at one. Which I appreciate, but ignore, because I wasn’t looking that hard.

GameStop

The first time I peeked in at Game Stop (which I do rarely, I really am not a fan of their store), they had a hand-written sign saying “Sorry, we are sold out of Switches.” Going back one weekend, there is no such sign, and there are several boxes on the wall. Highly skeptical, I ask, “do you guys actually have Switches?” The cashier condescendingly tells me that no, of course not, and basically says good luck finding one. He tells me they get a handful every few weeks and they’re sold out within half an hour. Basically, he tells me not to come back. Which is what I wanted to do anyway! So I guess this was a win.

Target

“Are those Switches real?” “Yeah.” “Nice, a lot of stores have empty boxes on display.” “We don’t display empty boxes.” He said that last one with a hint of disgust at the idea. While it’s not my primary game shopping store (I need those 20% discounts!) I have to say, the employees at Target, at least where I live, tend to be the most personable, least condescending, and often the best-informed across all the gaming stores. I’ve had interesting gaming conversations with a diverse cast over the years. And it’s also where I found my Playstation VR back when that was still hard to locate.

Which is all just a long-winded way of saying, Target is pretty good, and GameStop sucks.

Digging Into Your Name. (Massive Spoilers!)

I loved Your Name to a degree I’ve rarely loved a movie. Though it’s probably on par with Episode VII, so maybe this is just me getting sentimental in my old age. In any case, my pleas to get anyone to watch this movie so I could discuss it largely failed, so I’ve decided to scream into the void of the internet with my thoughts instead. This will consist almost entirely of spoilers, so beware of reading on.

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Halfway Through Final Fantasy XV

Based on hours played and chapter, I’m about halfway through FFXV now. Since the game just told me I’ll be losing access to the open world for a while, I figured this was as good a time as any to give my impressions on that open world.

FFXV feels a lot like FFXII (which I love), with a lot of Uncharted and a dash of GTA mixed in. Some of the cinematic exploration reminds me very strongly of Uncharted, which is a good thing since that game had excellent presentation. The flow of combat also feels similar at times, where things can be quite chaotic than suddenly end. Plus the banter is fantastic, and with a fairly consistent party of four there’s a lot of room for character development there.

The GTA aspect is basically just that there’s a map with objectives on it, and you often have to pay attention to roads instead of going directly to them in a line.

The one aspect of FFXII I never loved is the chaotic combat, because I’m actually quite terrible at it. Sometimes I’d just get my butt kicked by a fight and have to use a dozen consumables to survive, or just spam some cheesy abilities. My only real complaint about FFXV so far is that it feels exactly the same in this regard. It doesn’t help that the camera is awful in combat, particularly if you’re fighting in the woods. I don’t particularly like the targeting, and I generally have no idea why I’m winning or losing a fight.

That said, this really only applies to packs of wandering monsters. Whenever you’re fighting set pieces against human troops, those fights are amazingly fun. Warp striking never gets old, and those fights set you up perfectly for it. I’ve also started getting better about magic (now that I realized you can mix items in for cool effects, like self healing of max HP).

Combat complaints aside, I love this game. The presentation is amazing, the characters are great, and I’m interested in where the plot is going. I do have one worry about the plot, which is that the party seems way too easily bamboozled repeatedly, but I guess I’ll see if it actually plays out that way. If I end up liking this game as much as FFXII, that will definitely be a win for me.

FFXV (Very) Early Impressions

I’ve played an hour or so of Final Fantasy XV, and I’m definitely liking the vibe so far. All of the reviews I’ve seen were kind of vague on why they liked the game so much, but I kind of get it. The bro road trip thing works surprisingly well.

One of my worries was that the nature of the game would prevent it from being very guide-friendly, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. I’ll probably have to do some actual mapping for this one, but that’s not the worst thing in the world. There’s plenty of information to gather, though, between items, abilities, hunts, and whatnot. I won’t start doing any guidework in earnest until I’ve finished the game the first time, though, so don’t expect it all that soon.

Retro Reviews!

One of the main things I wanted to do by making my own WordPress theme was add a new aspect to the blog: reviews. I like to review the games I play to collect my thoughts and look back at times, so I have quite a few reviews lying around in various places. Now, I want to consolidate them here.

As the title mentions, I’m focused mainly on retro reviews, for the simple reason that I’ve been playing a lot of retro games lately. (This is the main reason progress on the Final Fantasy VII guide has stalled, so sorry about that!) And when I say “retro” I mean it: the main platform I’ve been playing is the original NES.

I do want to mention a few things about these reviews up front. I really like retro games, and I score them with that in mind. Given the choice, I would definitely rather play Mega Man 2 than almost any modern action game, so I’m going to give it a high score. If you have serious issues with old, pixelated graphics, I suggest you take my scores and opinions with a generous grain of salt. I will be reviewing modern games I happen to play as well, but I’m not grading old games on a curve or anything. I genuinely don’t have an issue with SD graphics. I mean, I’m playing these games on an actual CRT even though I have a ton of HD options. So keep that in mind.  (That said, I can’t deal with terribly play control in any era.)

The reviewed games won’t be restricted to games I’ve made guides for, or even RPGs. Despite the nature of my site, I’m a fan of many game genres. I will be putting up a retro review every Tuesday until I run out, which should take quite a while. Any non-retro reviews will go up whenever I get around to writing them. I hope you guys enjoy these, and I’m looking to add a few more types of non-guide content to the blog as well, so keep an eye out!

Another New Theme

I’ve updated the blog theme, which is very much still a work in progress. The new theme uses Bootstrap, which I’ve never used before, but this seemed like a good project for it. The main changes are on the data side: there is now an explicit concept of “Games” and a new post type I’ll be posting a bit more on soon.  It’s currently far from the prettiest theme I’ve ever created, but I wanted to get the structure in place so I can see what really needs to be tweaked. Expect more in the coming days…