Monday, 24 May 2010

An old gamer rants.

And I'm not even that old.

I recently found my old Game Boy and even I was surprised by how hard the games were compared to modern ones - it had been some time! I remember Duck Tales as having been great fun, but I couldn't even finish one level after over 10 years away from it! Ditto Gremlins 2.

I also remember being accused of heresy by an older school Atari gamer when I said that 'Defender Of The Crown' was crap.

My earliest memories of gaming were on a Commodore 64, playing classic stuff like Jet Set Willy and Mask (also a popular cartoon and series of toys in the 80s, sadly hasn't seen a revival to my knowledge but I'll be looking it up), then a Vic 20 after the C64 broke. Tape based games and old school programing with lots of 'goto' lines. Eventually we (me, my brother and sister) got a Nintendo (NES) with Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. I clearly remember watching a film called 'The Wizard' about some video game tournament which was basically a long (and effective on my young self) advert for Mario 3, and of course getting the warp whistle in the manner shown in the film. I can't really remember many other games we had for the NES other than Defender of the Crown, Snake Rattle & Roll (which was immense) and Donkey Kong, I think we borrowed Mario 2 and Micro Machines which were both rather good.

At some point we acquired a Master System circuit board (no casing) but I don't recall playing much other than Alex Kidd which was built in. By this time I think we has received a Super Nintendo for Christmas, bringing the awesomeness of Super Mario World (we has 92 levels before we lent it to someone who saved over it!), F-Zero, Mario Kart, Zelda, Starwing, and most of Nintendo's output at the time, and some obscure classics like Pop & Twinbee, Mystical Ninja (STICKY NINJA!), Top Gear (nothing to do with Clarkson) and Muscle Bomber, possibly the best wrestling game ever committed to cartridge. I wasted many hours on Wing Commander and Sim City, and had many 4 player sessions on Super Bomberman.

One Bonfire Night we got a Megadrive, which led to us getting the first decent console football game (the first Fifa) and later spending many Saturday mornings repeatedly finishing Sonic 3.

N64 brought the joys of a 3D Mario and Zelda (two of the best games ever made) and the icon that is Goldeneye, (possible the best film tie-in game ever made). Oh and Mario Kart 64, a game I played almost every day for about 2 years. I loved the N64 but the sudden availability of cheap pirated games for the Playstation meant I was spending more and more time on Sony's grey demon. Worth it for Final Fantasy VII of course. I cried when Aeris died. You did too. Admit it. FF8 was good but pales in comparison. I've still got the memory card somewhere. Also during this era we got a PC and I played the likes of Command and Conquer and the last FPS I gave a shit about, Quake, with it's multitude of crazy mods (moshpit mode anyone?).

Then I went to uni. About the only games I played during this times were various versions of ISS/Pro Evo and Grand Theft Auto, and Final Fantasy 10, which has that irritating underwater volleyball thing going on.

From what I gather I didn't miss that much. Gaming made no great leaps during this era IMHO.

I had a brief time with a GameCube late into it's life and learnt to hate Super Mario Sunshine. The flawed version of Mario Kart helped coax me back into proper gaming though.

I bought a DS sometime in 2005 before any decent games came out for it, but after New Super Mario Brothers my collection has increased somewhat. Then we (this 'we' being me and future wife) got a Wii on the day it game out. A such I'm back into gaming properly on these two systems.

I lost the thread of what I was on about. Must be my age.


Infinite Space: Harsh As.

I recently bought 'Infinite Space' for Nintendo DS. Part of the reason I've been slack at updating of late is that I've been playing the aforementioned game. I've racked up about 36 hours, not including the many hours lost by suddenly dying and forgetting to save. More on this shortly.

"What is this shit you're on about?" I hear you gasp, what with all my previous nonsense having been mostly music, politics or footballs based. I'm branching out a bit. Bear with me. It's been some time since I've done a game review.

Infinite Space is a space-based RPG. The story owes a lot to various sci-fi films; the star Yuri is essentially Luke Skywalker without the Jedi powers, and there's a lot of nods to both the Stars Wars and Star Trek, all with a strong sense that you're in some kind of anime series. This is no bad thing, indeed there's a surprisingly deep plot, which I won't ruin here.

The gameplay is of course the point of any game. It's an RPG, so there's lots of random battle. It's essentially turn-based combat, but with a gauge that fills up allowing you to decide what kind of attack to use based on this. As such there's lots of strategy involved, as well as modding your ship as best you can, buying new ships and making decisions that effect how the game pans out. It's the movement of the plot as much as the geekiness of the upgrading that draws you in.

However, If you've never played an RPG before this is not the place to start. If you've never played a video game made before the Playstation era, again this is not the place to start.

People talk about 'hardcore' games, by which they generally mean first person shooters or anyhting which involves killing folk. These people never played the old console games, ones which were incredibly hard, ones where you could spend a week trying to finish the first level, ones where you'd be smashing up controllers after you die in the same place for the hundredth time.

This game is hardcore. There isn't so much a learning curve, more a straight jump from 'start game' to 'harsh as fuck'. You will die, lots. You're probably thinking "yeah whatever, he's probably crap at games, it can't be that hard" and there'd be no convincing you otherwise - I say to you go try it out then, and come back when you've seen your first 'game over' screen. It will happen. Not only will it happen, you'll have forgotten to save. If you've just lost 2 hours of progress, as I did early on, you might even stomp around shouting expletives for a bit. Needless to say you'll remember to save early and save often after that!

But I like the fact that it's hard. I like the harshness of it. It reminds me of a childhood wasted playing Commodore and NES games back when games were proper harsh, when game over meant game over. I think you can even include some of the 16-bit era ('Flashback' just popped into my head). Of course you've got a save function here, you'd go mad if there wasn't [I gather I'm barely half way through despite the 36 hours of play, a completist could easily rack up more time], but it's the feeling that the odds are actually stacked against you, rather than being massively in your favour as is the case with so many games these days (shit, I'm old), the feeling of genuine achievement when you defeat someone who's killed you the previous 4-5 times.

There's bits where not much seems to happen, or you get lost as to what to do next, and these points along with the hardness factor have led to criticism in the various other reviews I've read, some (not all) of which appears to be mollycoddled modern gamers moaning about not being able to burn through the whole thing quickly.

I'll leave this digression because I'm going to carry on in a similar old man way in a separate blog post rather than shoehorning it all in here with questionable relevance.

Infinite Space is very very harsh. It's also very very good. If you like RPGs or a half decent sci-fi/anime yarn you'll learn to love this. If you only like killing Germans or killing prostitutes then you're better off looking elsewhere.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

My election day nonsense post.

Permit me a dubious analogy.

My main topics so far have been politics and football, so I'd thought I'd do a bit of a mash up.

Let us consider that Chelsea and the Tories are in the blue corner, and Manchester United and Labour in the red corner.

The blues have a vast amount of financial backing form a generous benefactor, and on such a basis you'd expect them to do very well, yet this isn't always the case. Big supporters of unregulated capitalism.

The reds have been crippled by stupid financial practices and have mortgaged their futures. To fail now could see a rapid decline. Once a home to many a socialist, they've sold out their values yet remained popular. Much trouble in the ranks, with some splits in recent years, and on the verge of outright rebellion if success dries up.

[which would make FC United something like the Socialist Workers Party]

Then there's the yellows. There's not a direct team comparison here. Norwich or Watford maybe, as they play in yellow? I'll run with Spurs and keep it all Prem, lets pretend they're in their yellow away kit.

The yellows have picked up a lot of neutral supporters who want to see the hegemony at the top broken, a new challenger to the big boys. No one is expecting them to pick up the top prize anytime soon but there's a general feeling that it's a good thing that someone else is competing.

I'm about to jump the shark.

UKIP = Bolton. Have been known to sign a big hitter from one of the big boys but generally finish mid table at best, generally lower. Tactics show a lack of ambition. No one is quite sure why they're still here.

Greens = Fulham. Most people have nothing against them, they might pick up the odd success but never likely to start a title challenge.

The Nationalists (all varieties) = Celtic/Rangers. Do well in their own league but don't stand up to scrutiny on a bigger stage. Essentially bigots.

Respect = Portsmouth. Had some big name signings a while ago but it looks like their party is almost over. Those who fuelled their early charge have gone on to wider 'fame' and what momentum they had burnt out a while ago.

Monster Raving Loony Party = Newcastle. Completely mental. Crazy policies, but generally quite popular despite a lack of any success. A good side show.

Pirate Party = Burnley. Have made a brief raid into the public consciousness but were never likely to sustain any serious challenge

Veritas = Hull. Once led by a controversial bright orange chap, now directionless and on their way out.