Games of the Decade

We are in the final stages of 2019 and are nearing the end of another decade in video games. Yes, I know it’s “not actually the end of the decade” and all that, but for convenience I’m going to make up this list a year “early”. The past decade has been great for gaming; our wonderful hobby is enjoyed by more people every day and we have seen new ways video games can be pushed in terms of technology and as an interactive artistic medium. Video games as an industry have surpassed movies and music in terms of revenue and I would even dare to say popularity as gaming is light years away from the niche hobby of basement-dwelling loners as nearly everyone partakes in some aspect of video games; I haven’t even mentioned the rise of platforms like YouTube or Twitch. I have, after much deliberation and numerous lists scribbled on my desk, created two separate lists for my games of the decade; one list with my favorite game of each year of the decade and another simply comprising of my 10 favorites of the decade. After looking through all(well, pretty much) the releases of the decade it’s hard to not point out 2015-18 as being downright amazing years for gaming. The early years of the decade saw some great games like the first Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect 2, Skyrim or The Last of Us, but outside of a few big games I don’t feel anywhere near as enthusiastic about 2010-14 as I do 2015-19.

2015 – the year that saw releases like Bloodborne, Metal Gear Solid 5, Fallout 4, Undertale, and The Witcher 3.

2016 – we received the phenomenal Overwatch and Persona 5, along with the revitalization of beloved franchises with the release of Resident Evil 7 and Doom.

2017 – the year began with a brand new Sony-exclusive in Horizon: Zero Dawn, only to be eclipsed by Breath of the Wild and the surprising success of the Nintendo Switch(yes, it was a surprise for most of us), with Super Mario Odyssey capping(get it?) off the year.

2018 – I don’t even need to say much further than – God of War, Spider-Man, Red Dead Redemption 2, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

***I will point out right away that while both The Witcher 3 and Persona 5 are looking to be INCREDIBLE games, I feel like I haven’t played enough of them at this time to accurately include them in my list, not entirely at least. Without further ado, here are my favorite games of each year of the past decade…

2010 – Red Dead Redemption

2011 – Batman: Arkham City

2012 – Far Cry 3

2013 – Grand Theft Auto 5

2014 – Destiny

2015 – Bloodborne

2016 – Overwatch

2017 – Super Mario Odyssey

2018 – God of War

2019 – Death Stranding

Here’s my personal favorites games of the decade. I included Red Dead Redemption 1 & 2 as a single pick, NOT sorry, I DO make these rules…

Super Mario Odyssey

Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain

Far Cry 5

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Bloodborne

Overwatch

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Grand Theft Auto 5

God of War

Red Dead Redemption(1&2)

That’s my list! What are your favorite games from the past decade? Let me know in the comments or just let me know how much you agree or disagree with any of the included games. I have also been working on a 2019 Games and Moments of the year that I will post soon. I’m heading back to re-watch more Star Wars movies! Thanks for reading!

Sega Genesis Mini Review

There’s hardly anything that can prompt gamers to empty their wallets faster than the feeling of nostalgia, I’ve experienced this myself more times than I can count. Replicas of retro consoles have been available for years, but were seen as an inferior way to play the game as the hardware itself was rarely of reputable quality as well as the emulated games suffered from frame rate and lag issues. It wasn’t until Nintendo(who seems downright disinterested at times in re-releasing many of their back catalog titles) released miniature-sized replicas of the NES and SNES complete with an array of classic games and HDMI inputs to accommodate modern tvs. The NES and SNES Classic sold out instantly in their initial production runs and in response no doubt to Nintendo’s success, companies such as Sony and Sega have since released small-scale replicas of the original Playstation and the Genesis/Mega Drive; the ensuing consoles were respectively known as the Playstation Classic and Sega Genesis Mini.

AtGames has released several different lines of Genesis replicas licensed by Sega featuring a “greatest hits” of games built-in. These models were generally considered to be poor quality in both hardware and game performance. As a result, they remained stacked on the shelves of retailers before being discontinued. Sega announced in 2018 they were releasing a new scaled-down replica of their mega-successful Genesis and aimed for a release window to coincide with the 30th anniversary of its North American release in 1989(I posted a list of My Favorite Sega Genesis Games this past August to commemorate). The Sega Genesis Mini missed the target release date of August 14, 2019, but was released shortly afterward on September 19. I recently received the console as a birthday present and after spending some time with it, decided to write up a review of the Sega Genesis Mini.

SEGA!!

My old Sonic 2 cartridge showing scale size of the Genesis Mini

The Sega Genesis Mini includes the miniature-sized Gen 1 console(I got the Gen 2 growing up) and accommodates modern tv/monitors by an HDMI input and simple USB power adapter. The Genesis also comes with not one, but two full-sized wired control pads complete with the red lettering on the buttons and around the d-pad. The controllers plug into the console via USB ports and look, feel and play identical to my old ones. I was pleasantly surprised the controller cords are around 3.5 feet in length which allows you to sit a comfortable distance away from your tv. This being a sometimes overlooked detail as the average tv size has doubled since the days of sitting on a couch in the basement in front of an old 19-inch CRT tv; one of the biggest complaints against Nintendo’s NES Classis was the bafflingly short length of the controller cords. Everything about the Genesis Mini has been impressively replicated: console, controllers, and original box art. The game selection menu even features music created by Yuzo Koshiro who was responsible for some of the most beloved Genesis titles; I even love how the sound effects as you navigate the menus are pulled directly from various games.

Sega has done a remarkable job in recreating the Genesis down to details such as the power button being the very same used in the original, as well as a movable slider for the headphone volume and working dust flaps over the cartridge slot; the latter two details being purely cosmetic but add a nice sense of authenticity. There’s even the detachable cover for the slot underneath the console where the Sega CD add-on could be attached. In fact, Sega manufactured additional add-ons for the Genesis Mini: A Sega CD, 32x, a replica Sonic&Knuckles cartridge, and mini Sonic the Hedgehog cartridge that can all be assembled to create Sega’s infamous Genesis Tower of Power. Of course the additions to create this mini-behemoth are again, purely cosmetic but make for a great piece of Sega history. I was a bit disappointed to find out these are only being sold in Japan, and are currently sold out on Play-Asia.

Final Genesis Evolution – The Tower of Power

While the Genesis Mini not being included with 6-button controllers may seem like a turn off for those such as myself, who simply refused to play fighting games like Street Fighter 2 or Mortal Kombat without one. Also, the 6-button controller is probably the sole reason I was able to beat The Lion King on my old Genesis. Fortunately, Retro-Bit offers officially licensed Sega Genesis 6-button controllers that can be can be plugged into the USB port. These sell for $19.99 and are compatible for use on other platforms such as Steam or even the Nintendo Switch.

The Name of the Game is THE GAMES

The Genesis Mini comes preloaded with 42 classic games, including 2 “Bonus Titles” – shoot-em-up Darius and a Genesis version of Tetris; both of which have never appeared on a Sega console. The collection of games includes nearly every big-name title to appear on the Genesis and spanning a range of genres: action, fighting, shoot-em-ups, RPGs, and even a few puzzle games. Classics like Sonic 2, Earthworm Jim, Streets of Rage 2, and Street Fighter 2 took up countless hours of my childhood and there’s a number of games that I still have yet to play like Alisia Dragoon, Shining Force, or Castle of Illusion. Mega Man and Tetris games are near-synonymous with Nintendo so it will be interesting to play them using a Sega controller. One of my complaints about the selection of games for the Genesis Mini is there could have been more EA games included, as Road Rash II is the only one. Electronic Arts had some very prominent sports titles on the Genesis that would have been cool, or even something along the lines of NBA Jam or even Mutant League Football would have been nice to see. It’s rather odd that there’s no inclusion of a Mortal Kombat game or two, considering part of Sega’s cooler, edgier image was seemingly cemented by the blood and gore of the Mortal Kombat games; this also turned Congressional hearings with Joe Lieberman into a spectator sport. “Sega does what NintenDON’T” remember?

The included games:

  • Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
  • Alisia Dragoon
  • Altered Beast
  • Beyond Oasis
  • Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
  • Castlevania: Bloodlines
  • Columns
  • Comix Zone
  • Contra: Hard Corps
  • Darius
  • Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
  • Dynamite Headdy
  • Earthworm Jim
  • Ecco the Dolphin
  • Eternal Champions
  • Ghouls N’ Ghosts
  • Golden Axe
  • Gunstar Heroes
  • Kid Chameleon
  • Landstalker
  • Light Crusader
  • Mega Man: The Wily Wars
  • Monster World IV
  • Phantasy Star IV
  • Road Rash II
  • Shining Force
  • Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
  • Sonic Spinball
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2
  • Space Harrier II
  • Street Fighter 2: Special Champion Edition
  • Streets of Rage 2
  • Strider
  • Super Fantasy Zone
  • Tetris
  • Thunder Force III
  • ToeJam & Earl
  • Vectorman
  • Virtua Fighter 2
  • Wonder Boy in Monster World
  • World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck

Blast Processor Performance!

Being wary of any issues such as input lag or chugging frame rates that have plagued other retro consoles, Sega’s previous efforts with AtGames in particular, I was relieved to read prior to the Genesis Mini’s release that Sega had commissioned M2 to work on bringing the collection of titles over to the console. M2 had recently worked with Konami on the Castlevania Collection released earlier this year, with impeccable results. Anyone who’s played the original Castlevania entries can attest to what a significant impact any amount of frame rate issues or input lag will have on what were already difficult games(though Castlevania Adventure’s frame rate issues are simply beyond repair).

I like the fact the games are kept in 4:3 and not stretched to fit the screen. The surrounding border also doesn’t take up as much screen space as other retro collections(Namco Collection…)

As a way to jump in and test how well the games play, I decided to start with a game I was familiar enough with and would no doubt magnify any issues – Contra: Hard Corps. The game plays wonderfully and the fact I died within the first seconds of the game are no way the fault of frame rate/lag, the game’s just tough as hell. I made my way through the first few levels and couldn’t find any noticeable hiccups, so I decided to test a few more games. From there I went to Sonic 2, another of my favorites that I know inside and out. After playing Sonic 2 for a while I decided to try out the Mickey Mouse platformer – Castle of Illusion, which also played great. I have since spent a while playing Shinobi III and Street Fighter II and am eager to jump into some other games that I’ve never had the chance to play….or some Sonic Spinball?

Worth Buying?

The Sega Genesis Mini is a wonderful addition to the plethora of licensed retro consoles available and the collection of games play incredibly well. Is it worth buying? For someone that already has most of or all of the included games, maybe not.

My biggest critiques of the console would possibly be the omission of 6-button controllers, though the Japanese version included them. I also would have liked to see a couple more EA games as well as at least Mortal Kombat II. The Japanese version of the Mega Drive Mini also includes several games that were swapped out for the North American version. A significant one for me was MUSHA, which I’d love the chance to play, but it is quite rare AND expensive to pick up a physical copy. The Genesis Mini IS a great way to play some of gaming’s all-time greats with such authenticity, but still taking advantage of modern technology. It was also marked down to as low as $50 over the Black Friday weekend which is more than a fair price for what’s included. I stated I’ve only ever played about half of the included games and only have a small CRT tv in the closest I occasionally drag out to get the full experience when I get the urge to play old Genesis or SNES games, so for me, it’s definitely worth picking up.

Do you plan on getting a Genesis Mini? What are some of the games you’d be most excited to play? What I intended to be a brief review of a MINI console turned out to be the opposite it seems…thanks for reading!

Sunshine Blogger Award

I was recently tagged by mckliz at McKenna Talks About Games for the Sunshine Blogger Award, giving another round of questions to answer about myself and come up with some another set of my own! I really enjoy the Animal Crossing Diaries and Music Monday posts as well as a recent post pairing wines with Zelda games so I encourage you to check out mckliz’s site here on WordPress. There were some excellent questions in here that I had to think about for while before coming up with an answer….let’s-a go!

Firstly, the rules…

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post

What video game town would you want to live in?

I would probably pick Delfino Plaza from Mario Sunshine. I’ve always loved tropical locations and the charming little town surrounded by the crystal blue waters of idyllic Isle Delfino would be a perfect way to kick back and relax. In contrast to some of my other favorite video game locales, the biggest hazard would simply be some graffiti and toxic sludge, which would appear less threatening than being overrun by monsters like so many of my favorite locations from Zelda games.

Do you enjoy crafting in video games? If so, what game has your favorite crafting mechanics?

I don’t mind crafting in games, though the crafting/building mechanics in Bethesda games like Skyrim or Fallout 4 has never been a favorite of mine. Games like Red Dead Redemption 2 strive for a sense of authenticity and realism, but I could see where that may not appeal to everyone. Generally, I like being able to quickly discern whether or not I have enough ingredients to craft items and simply hold a button to fabricate.

What would your Pokemon gym theme be?

Water-type Pokemon have always been one of my favorite types so my gym would most likely reflect that, though I would at least attempt to incorporate another type in some capacity or another to avoid being yet another Pokemon gym where a trainer and their Pikachu can cakewalk their way through a gauntlet of water-types as I’ve always done. My gym would probably be something similar to the overall Alolan region. I did say I loved tropical locations…

What is your favorite video game food or drink and have you ever made it?

I’m honestly not able to think of anything unique to a particular game, other than being obliged to mention Sweet Rolls, which I have never attempted to make. Breath of the Wild has a number of recipes that sound excellent like risotto or salmon meunière, but nothing exclusive to the world. I guess I’d go for a nice cold Nuka-Cola?

What’s your favorite art style or medium?

I’m not an expert on different artistic styles as it pertains to paintings, but I believe a great deal of my personal favorites would be classified under American Realism. I’ve always been drawn to many works from the Industrial Revolution or the Jazz Age of the 1920’s, whether paintings or photographs. I’ve always found something fascinating about the architecture and depictions of life in America and especially New York City. A favorite painting of mine has always been the Edward Hopper painting – Nighthawks which depicts a man and woman sitting in an empty corner diner in the middle of the night amidst an urban backdrop. A piece that has been referenced countless times in American pop culture since its creation in the 1940’s.

What game has your favorite soundtrack?

There’s many wonderful game soundtracks out there able to make you feel such a wide range of things. Recent games like Persona 5, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey or Red Dead Redemption 2 have all had memorable soundtracks that can instantly transport you into that world. I’m not going to blurt out Grand Theft Auto: Vice City right away as the soundtrack is generally licensed music rather than much of an original score, so I’ll probably fall back to Donkey Kong Country. David Wise’s iconic soundtrack is equal parts upbeat and pure ambient and always improves my day anytime I listen to it.

If you made a video game, what would it be like? What would be its genre and premise?

Any attempt at making a game would most likely start out with some ambitious idea and incorporating all of the different game elements I like into a single experience. This would then prove to be both utterly incoherent and failing to excel in any particular area(me in real life). I would then opt for something a little less grandiose by deciding I just want to make a simple platforming game without any excessive frills but just providing a satisfying gameplay experience…..or something like that.

Why did you start blogging?

I started my blog simply as an outlet to discuss whatever happened to be on my mind about video games, whether a specific title or topic. I have been trying to write weekly gaming related posts since this past February and if I accomplish nothing else, I at least have a sense of satisfaction in attempting to try something that I may not have otherwise as writing for a personal blog isn’t something that would normally fall within my comfort zone.

What blog posts do you enjoy writing the most?

I do enjoy all of them, as I generally stay within my comfort zone of video games and occasionally movies and music, but I get an extra sense of motivation/satisfaction when I write(attempt anyway…) something relating to the general history of video games like a couple previous posts of things like a summary of the Sega Dreamcast’s release and subsequent short lifespan or just listing my favorite Sega Genesis games for the 30th anniversary its release.

What do you enjoy outside of video games?

My go-to way to relax outside of video games would be music, movies, YouTube and coffee. I’m also that person that says how they want to catch up on various tv shows or movies but ends up watching a documentary or something similar. I’ve always loved history and geography, so anything that combines those I especially gravitate towards, games like L.A. Noire or the Assassin’s Creed series.

What video game crossover would you love to see?

After watching the Game Awards last night I’m having a hard time NOT wanting to see any kind of video game crossover including The Muppets. A Muppets/Untitled Goose Game crossover would be wonderful…

Here are my questions in return…

  1. Is there a game that you play during or associate with a particular time of the year?
  2. How do you feel about colleges forming e-sports teams/events and offering scholarships to play games like Overwatch or Fortnite?
  3. Would you rather pay more for a game($80-90) without any kind of DLC or micro transactions or pay less for a game(or free to play) and it implements a Season Pass?
  4. What’s the most difficult game you’ve played and what made it so difficult?
  5. Were you allowed to play Mature rated games as a kid, or did your parents strictly adhere to ESRB ratings?
  6. What is your least favorite game made by your favorite developer?
  7. Who is a video game character that you feel you would get along well with, who would you NOT get a long with?
  8. Favorite weapon or accessory in a game?
  9. Video games as a medium have progressed through the “Bit Wars” of the 90’s and the GPU arms race of the early 2000’s, do you feel gaming will ever reach an impassable technological stage? If so, how far are we from it?

That’s gonna be it for now, another round of questions answered AND asked. I’m going to simply leave my nominations open to anyone who would care to answer any or all of the questions I was able to devise. Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!

Real Neat Blog Award

I’ve been tagged once again for the Real Neat Blog Award! This time by AK from Everything Is Bad For You, whose in-depth posts on anime, games and movies are excellent and I recommend checking those out for anyone in our WordPress community not already following.

Here’s The Rules:

  • Display the logo
  • Thank the bloggers for the award
  • Answer the questions from the one who nominated you
  • Nominate 7 to 10 bloggers
  • Ask them 7 questions

Here we go….

  • Is there a game, book, or other work that you’d like to experience but that you can’t because it’s untranslated, not ported, or otherwise inaccessible?

The first thing that jumps to mind would be a couple N64 games that were only released in Japan like Sin and Punishment or a port/localization of Mother 3. The former was available for purchase in Nintendo’s Virtual Console for the Wii, but I did not download it and have regretted it since and the latter may be the among the most wished for titles by Nintendo fans(just ask Reggie…). Other games released exclusively in Japan I’ve wanted to play are reportedly being included in the TurboGrafx-16 mini which releases this coming March, so I’m looking forward to checking that out.

  • What’s one work that really affected you or stuck with you in the last year and why do you think it did?

Red Dead Redemption 2 – I finally reached the conclusion of Rockstar’s western epic the beginning of this year and it has stuck with me ever since. Everything from my time with the game was memorable and seemed to be so intricately crafted. The barren landscape served not only as a backdrop but also a reflection of life within the age of outlaws in the Old West. The main storyline of Arthur, a man knowing nothing but being an outlaw since his early years and finding his place in a changing world in which he is quickly becoming a relic of the past. He is also grappling with his own mortality and what it means to be a good person, if anything at all, in such desolate surroundings where the only rule is simply to survive. I spent roughly 80 hours in my time with Red Dead Redemption 2 and I’m still amazed at just how attached I became to Arthur and my horse, Neptune.

  • If you could revive one series of works that’s been abandoned or dropped by its creators for any reason, what series would it be and why?

Nearly everything developed by Rare during their time with Nintendo in the 90’s to early-2000’s. I know there’s a great number of people that would love another Banjo-Kazooie game in the same style of the N64 titles, which the Yooka-Laylee games have been the closest thing in recent years. I would also love to see another Jet Force Gemini game, particularly given how much game mechanics have advanced for 3rd person shooters such as Gears 5 and the Resident Evil 2 remake released this year. The original Jet Force Gemini is an underrated game that I always mention when discussing Rare’s impressive back catalog and what we would love to see them take another shot at.

  • When it comes to music, do you prefer songs with vocals and lyrics or instrumental pieces, or do you have a preference at all? If you prefer one type over the other, why do you think that is?

I don’t have a definite preference, there are moments when a set of lyrics can focus more directly a feeling or emotion, or what seems to be the most common though within popular music in the last several decades. As I’ve grown older I have gained an even deeper appreciation for composers and musicians that can convey the complexity of human emotions purely through tone, timbre, and melodic intervals so perfectly there isn’t a need to express them through words. I’ve mentioned in the past the sometimes neglected effect a backing score can have on a movie or game in trying to even imagine Star Wars being anywhere near as impactful without the iconic sound effects or epic John Williams soundtrack.

  • When was the last time you bought a magazine, newspaper, or other form of print media?

It’s been easily over a year since I purchased any form of print media, I would occasionally pick up a newspaper and read at my workplace as many people without particularly stimulating office jobs. It’s been even longer since receiving physical copies of gaming magazines like EGM or Nintendo Power.

  • Is there a holiday you don’t get to celebrate/take off because of family or work reasons but you wish you could?

Nope, in fact I’m generally the person that would take advantage of the holiday pay at my previous jobs. This serves an all-too-convenient excuse of “Sorry, I can’t. I have to work”

  • If you had to create a new holiday, when would it be and what would it involve?

Umm….I guess I’ve never really thought about it, though it certainly wouldn’t have anything like the Airing of Grievances or Feats of Strength….

And now for my questions, hopefully I’m better at presenting questions than answering….

  1. What’s a game in which you found it difficult to connect or empathize with the characters?
  2. Are you a gameplay or a story person? Would you rather play a game with little to no story, but has superb gameplay and controls or a game with an incredible story but with lackluster controls and gameplay?
  3. What’s your biggest pet peeve in games? (Fetch quests, Escort missions, unstoppable cutscenes etc.)
  4. If your life was made into a video game, what concept or genre would it be?
  5. Who would you want to create the soundtrack to your own game? What would it sound like?
  6. Have you ever played VR games? If not, have you ever had an interest in playing?
  7. In an age when video games have grown exponentially not just terms of popularity, but of complexity, have you ever wished games would return to “the old days” regarding scale and structure?

I’m going to break one of the rules and simply “tag” anyone reading this or who would like to answer any or all of the questions I devised as I sat at my computer. That’s all for today, a shoutout again to AK for the tag and thank you for reading!

Weekend Gaming Review – Black Friday Haul

The Thanksgiving holiday weekend has come and gone already! It was a nice long holiday weekend to relax at home with plenty of food and games. It’s also been a little while since my last post talking about what games I’ve been playing so I thought it would be a nice way to pick back up after the long weekend, along with going over my recent additions from Black Friday to already massive backlog of games.

I recently finished up my playthrough of Death Stranding and wrote up a few thoughts on the game, which I can say is probably the most unique experience I’ve had from a video game in 2019. I’ve been playing Pokemon Sword and working on finishing Luigi’s Mansion 3(another personal GOTY candidate). There’s also Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which I have been playing a fair amount of multiplayer, but haven’t started on the single player campaign just yet. I’ve been trying to sample as many different games released this year as I can, with the intent of doing a more in-depth look at my picks of 2019 a bit later.

In what has become a bit of a tradition since my childhood years, I went out after Thanksgiving dinner to pick up some cheap games marked down for all the Black Friday sales. I did have to feel a bit smarter this year as I put in a store pickup order at Best Buy in order to avoid the standing in the checkout line for what seems like hours. I also picked up a couple games at both Target and GameStop. The majority of games I played this year were purchased digitally, primarily due to space, but I was able to accumulate a smile pile of games over the weekend. Looking back, most of the games I bought over the earlier part of the year were Switch games as Nintendo had an amazing run of successful games in 2019(Mario Maker 2, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Link’s Awakening, Luigi’s Mansion 3 AND Pokemon Sword/Shield) so I used the Black Friday sales to catch up a bit on some PS4 titles that I didn’t have yet.

The games

  • Control
  • Borderlands 3
  • The Outer Worlds
  • Devil May Cry V
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
  • Days Gone
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider(not a 2019 game, but still picked up)
  • Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair
  • Dual Shock 4 Controller – Electric Purple( Very Nice!)
  • Undertale – Steam

Best Deal – Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair

I picked up a copy of Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair for the Switch at my local GameStop for a mere $10, which is 75% off of a game that I had been eyeing in the Nintendo eShop since it came out. I had heard some pretty good things about the game and was really curious after seeing the game is set primarily as a 2D side-scrolling platformer in the same vein as Donkey Kong Country, which makes sense, as some of the former developers at Rare are currently with Playtonic. I have only played the game for a half hour or so, but the game looks wonderful and the controls are nice and tight, just as you want in a platformer like this.

Most Excited To Play – The Outer Worlds

I have been excited to play The Outer Worlds for a while now, so I took advantage of it being on sale for $35 at Target. I’ve heard non-stop positive things about Obsidian’s newest release in how perfectly it scratches that Fallout “itch” after many were….rather disappointed with last year’s release of Fallout 76. I have spent about five or so hours playing the game and I love it so far, it plays like an amalgam of Fallout and Destiny. For me, playing The Outer Worlds feels similar to when I played through Dragon Age, not so much in gameplay but rather in the satisfaction of getting lost in an in engrossing story set in a far away world(s); I can already tell this game is something special.

Most Disappointing

Nearly all of the games I bought were for the Playstation 4, but that’s not to say there still aren’t games for the Switch I would like to pick up. I was mildly disappointed, but not entirely surprised that Switch titles like Astral Chain, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, or Daemon X Machina were not discounted over the weekend. The Switch games that were doorbuster or weekend sales were the mega-hits such as Breath of the Wild or Mario Odyssey. I still have yet to play aforementioned games and intend to do so eventually, I was really hoping Dragon Age XI S for the Switch would have been on sale, but alas, that was not to be.

Also…

The overwhelming majority of my Thanksgiving weekend was spent playing my PS4 as I would play one game for an hour or two, before popping another disc in. I did however take a peek at the Black Friday sale on Steam and just so happened to pick up Undertale, a game that I mentioned just a week or two ago in a post about games I was embarrassed to admit I’d never played. I got the game AND soundtrack for a paltry $7, so I’m pretty excited to finally make my way through and cross off another game from my list.

As for the rest of the year, I have been recently tagged in the Real Neat Blog Award as well as the Sunshine Blogger Award so I will be getting those out shortly. I also have a few ideas discussing the past decade in gaming which I’m excited to keep working on. That’s all for my show and tell for today, did you pick anything up over the weekend? What are you looking forward to playing? Thanks for reading!

Comfort Food Games

You know those days where you just want to relax and feel comfy? You don’t have to worry about work or any other responsibility of “being an adult” so you feel like kicking back in your pajama pants and Doctor Who slippers in front of the tv while eating some of your favorite comfort foods. For many people comfort foods are something usually like mashed potatoes or mac and cheese, or if you’re anything like me, pizza is your go-to comfort food. Also, if you’re anything like me, you may want to accompany your favorite comfort food with some video games; the games that you’ve maybe played a hundred times but still find yourself coming back to as you settle into bed or your living room. Having had a few of these type of days recently I came up with the idea of writing a post of my own personal “comfort food” games that no matter what kind of day I’ve had I always enjoy playing. Also, with Thanksgiving, a day of calorie-laden indulgence coming this Thursday, it seemed fitting to share my video game equivalents of a heaping plate of mashed potatoes and gravy.

Super Metroid

I wouldn’t be able to write a list of go-to games without including Super Metroid; there’s never a time in which exploring the planet Zebes and blasting a few Space Pirates along the way doesn’t appeal to me. The game after all these years is still considered the pinnacle of the Metroid series. I have loved this game since I was a kid and regard it as my favorite SNES game.

Far Cry 5

A more recently released title on this list, but since first playing Far Cry 5 I have been absolutely hooked. Far Cry 5 at its core is the over-the-top action movie as you run around the rugged Montana landscape with your rocket launcher, but you can kick back and enjoy some fishing or go for a relaxing(?) drive through the mountains.

Resident Evil 4

While it may not seem like the most “relaxing” game to some, the first scene in which Leon fights off a horde or villagers is anything but. Resident Evil 4 has been one of my favorite games to play since I first bought it at the Kmart I worked at in January of 2005. It’s a game that I usually run through about once a year. It’s also one of those games that I’ve purchased multiple times….you’re welcome, Capcom.

Tetris

A game that I can always sit down and play whether for a few minutes or an hour, Tetris has always been one of my favorites, along with most other puzzle games. Since Tetris 99 was released for Switch Online subscribers earlier this year I have spent 60+ hours in what, in all seriousness could be my favorite battle royale game.

Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country recently celebrated(well, not really) its 25th anniversary since being released in November of 1994 and with it, Rare brought back Nintendo’s aging primate to mainstream relevance. Everything about this game brings warm, fuzzy feelings of nostalgia rushing back to me and the platforming gameplay, sound and visuals have held up exceptionally well. I still remember the first time I cleared those mine cart levels…

Super Mario Bros. 3

Since childhood, I have probably spent more time playing Mario games than any other and Mario 3 is probably my favorite game of all time, with Super Mario World following closely. I still remember every level and shortcut of the game. Similar to Resident Evil 4, I have purchased this game in multiple forms for many different consoles as I’m still in love with this timeless NES classic. For me, Mario 3 is as close to a perfect game as I have ever played.

That’s it for now, what are some of your “comfort food” games? Let me know in the comments. I know there’s plenty I’ve probably missed, but it’s a start. If you’d like to compliment your gaming meal, I recommend checking out a post that Kim from Later Levels recently did suggesting wine pairings with video games. Here’s hoping everyone out there has a great Thanksgiving and will hopefully get some time to relax and play some games!

Gaming Thoughts – Death Stranding

So last night…after 60 hours of gameplay I finished my playthrough of Death Stranding, Hideo Kojima’s first game since parting ways with Konami back in 2015. The umm…discourse surrounding the game have been fairly mixed as the game itself is showing to be quite divisive, as Kojima games tend to be in general. I’ll admit I have been fairly reticent to chime in(much) on the discussion surrounding the game as so much tends to be completely subjective, and also the fact that there are so many facets and aspects of the game that I find myself quickly spiraling into a semi-coherent ramble(just ask my wife…). For today’s post, I’m not going to delve too much into the general reception of the game but have decided to focus primarily on my three main takeaways from the unique experience presented by this game. For the sake of spoilers and the overall Kojima-ness of the game’s near bewildering storyline and the many, many metaphors contained within I have also decided not to tackle too much of the story other than just the basics.

Death Stranding takes place in an America that has been nearly destroyed by a cataclysmic event known as the Death Stranding in which the worlds of the living and the dead have converged with the remnants of humanity hidden below the surface in fortified bunkers as otherworldly creatures known as BTs or Beached Things which are unable to be seen by the naked eye and plague the land above ground. With the country fractured(METAPHOR ALERT) and in disarray Sam Porter Bridges, played by Norman Reedus is employed in reuniting the country via the Chiral Network, a sort of internet. To complicate matters any type of precipitation, known as Timefall causes any organic material to rapidly age and decay, including humans. This brings into the game an element of item deterioration, including the very boots you wear.

Sam is equipped with an Odradek a spider-like apparatus that sits over his shoulder used as a scanner along with the most-memed aspect of Death Stranding – the BB or Bridge Baby, which is carried in a glass “womb” that Sam carries on his chest as BBs are able to detect the invisible BTs. One of the central themes of the game is death and the afterlife along with the space, or beaches as they’re referred to in the game serving as the space that separates the living and dead.

The World

I love the rugged terrain and moody atmosphere

The America that Kojima Productions has created is nothing short of astounding, the rugged rocky terrain with stretches of grassy expanse is simply breathtaking. There’s also the snowy beauty of mountain ranges with marshy lowlands in the valleys below. Several areas feature a barren, rusty, Mars-like landscape you must traverse. One order may ask you to transport supplies to a settlement on the very edge of the map, while the next may direct you to retrieve items that had been lost in an ambush. Upon completing the deliveries, Sam is then able to connect the location to the larger country via the Chiral Network forming another “strand” along the way. You can also undertake additional deliveries which upon completion assist in strengthening your connection level up to 5 stars.

The key word in describing the gameplay is traversal, the game has been labeled as “just a walking simulator” by some; the central gameplay element sounds anything but complex, Sam takes on orders(missions) at different terminals across the country and sets out to transport a myriad of items to the corresponding locations scattered about the area. “The game is just a glorified Amazon delivery person-simulator” is among the most common criticisms of the game…..I understand I may just be weird, but that’s part of the game that I find endearing – would anyone other than Hideo Kojima be crazy enough to pull something like this off? The fact that traversal is the primary gameplay element along with a generous amount of inventory management and stealth with just a sprinkling of combat into the mix. One order may ask you to transport supplies to a settlement on the very edge of the map, while the next may direct you to retrieve items that had been lost in an ambush. Upon completing the deliveries, Sam is then able to connect the location to the larger country via the Chiral Network forming another “strand” along the way. You can also undertake additional orders to build your “connection” with the settlement along your journey across the country.

From the moment I began playing the game and was placed in this gorgeous, expansive world I was compelled to keep going and to see just what lay over the next horizon. I kept thinking to myself while playing, “Ok…I’m supposed to be bored now right?”. The bulk of your travels will by made by foot, with the eventual ability to fabricate additional tools and even some vehicles. The traversal through the game across the desolate landscape has such a haunting otherworldly vibe I found myself in near disbelief at the quality of visuals in Death Stranding. While traveling there isn’t a whole lot in the way of soundtrack outside of a few ambient sounds until encountering a point in your journey which triggers one of the many licensed songs from the Icelandic band Low Roar. This generally occurs just as you venture to the top of a hill and see your destination finally lays ahead of you. The feeling of relief in just the fact that you’re completing a mission and reaching your destination became such a weird, almost intoxicating feeling. The feeling of satisfaction as you think “I’ve finally made it” is unlike anything else I’ve played in a game, with the closest example being the moment of finally defeating that giant boss in a Dark Souls game. Another aspect of the game I have also seen many others reference is the contemplative, zen-like feeling in your travels as you will spend a great deal of the game all alone. I found the game downright relaxing at times.

The music used in the game is phenomenal, with Ludvig Forssell’s original soundtrack evoking waves of emotion throughout the game, particularly in BBs Theme which is a melody patterned as a lullaby one might hum as they cradle a newborn. Just hearing BBs Theme since beating the game is enough to bring back the rush of emotions I experienced through the game. There is an impressive amount of licensed songs used in the game as well; nearly twenty songs alone from the band Low Roar, with nearly a dozen other songs used by other artists. Similar to the range of 80’s music that was placed throughout Metal Gear Solid 5. Among my favorite licensed songs are Pop Virus by Gen Hoshino which I listed in last week’s game music post and the song Death Stranding by Chvrches which essentially acts as the title track of the game. I liked Chvrches prior to playing the game, but I really have fallen in love with this song. Kojima certainly understands how effective audio is in conveying emotions and moods in any piece of art, and it is no more evident than while playing Death Stranding.

A Helping Hand

Another gameplay element central to Death Stranding in asynchronous online play that lets players leave ladders or ropes in various places not only to assist you in traversing the rugged landscape, but also to leave behind you a hand of assistance to others making their way through the game. Once an area has been connected to the Chiral Network you can begun to rebuild the country decimated by the Death Stranding. You can use gathered materials towards building paved roads or eventually zip lines(awesome!) to provide greater ease in traveling from place to place. You can build additional structures like watchtowers to survey the surrounding area or Timefall shelters to offer a brief respite from the container-ravaging rain or snow. You may find the battery of your reverse trike is running low on battery and find a generator standing just up ahead; the satisfying reward of knowing you’ve helped someone else in the lengthy journey through the world is one of the biggest achievements of the game. One any of the several boss fights, you can see the specter of other players fighting and will assist you by tossing weapons and health in your direction. This isn’t a completely new gameplay facet as this was also used in From Software’s Souls series where players could leave messages of warning or encouragement for others. The idea of “connections” and “strands” were meant to be central to the game experience as Kojima himself has stated. The landscape of America is vast and barren and has been a criticism of the game from some publications as the experience was found to be an empty and lonely, that’s precisely the point. The pervasive feelings of loneliness and detachment are at the heart of Death Stranding as Kojima stated the game was a result of the loneliness he himself feels from time to time in our current world. More than ever before we are able to communicate and connect with others around the globe, but for many there is still a missing feeling of being “connected” to those around us. Something as simple as a sign of encouragement from others can help remind us that even though we may feel all alone in this giant empty space, we aren’t. Metaphors like this aren’t hard to see, particularly given how NOT subtle many tend to be in Kojima games.

The Journey

It’s only been about 24 hours since completing the game, but I can already feel the game has been an experience that will stick with me a long time. After finishing the game, there’s a feeling not of being exhausted, but more that you know you have climbed the mountain and have seen a long journey through from start to finish. While playing Death Stranding I have mentioned multiple times how it felt similar to making my way through the even lengthier storyline of Red Dead Redemption 2 in that it wasn’t the hyper-stimulating gameplay experience like playing through Doom or any number of action or FPS games, but there’s a feeling of satisfaction in seeing the resolution to your emotional investment.

It wasn’t as much of a surprise that the voice and motion capture performances in Death Stranding are nothing short of phenomenal. Norman Reedus is probably the most surprising as initially most of his lines were delivered in a low gravely tone that it sounded as if he was trying to play Solid Snake, but as the game progressed you see Sam open up a little more and displays a greater range of emotions and feel like you’re not JUST controlling Daryl from The Walking Dead. I can’t go without professing my love for Mads Mikkelsen, who I was beyond excited when I first heard he would be starring in a Hideo Kojima game. I love his movies and especially his portrayal as the evil Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the NBC show Hannibal(gone WAY too soon…); the quiet intensity he brings to the story as Cliff was excellent. Troy Baker and Lea Seydoux were great as usual as the terrorist Higgs and as Fragile. Tommie Earl Jenkins who plays Die-Hard Man was one of the best performances I have seen recently as he begins the game as seemingly just another Col. Campbell/Major Tom type to give you advice or directions or is he? By the end of the game I was nearly as attached to these wonderful characters with way-too-on-the-nose namesakes as I did to Arthur while playing Red Dead Redemption 2, but what surprised me the most was attachment to my BB. I have no nurturing instinct whatsoever but I got quite attached to the little guy. It was such a heavy “feels” moment to see Sam and BBs journey come to a close and in a way felt similar to that of Kratos and Atreus’ in God of War.

But…is Death Stranding a fun game? I personally didn’t find myself ever bored or frustrated when playing the game, I felt so enamored with this gorgeous world and the truly unique story it tells. I absolutely love this game, but I have no problem with the fact someone else may find it boring and hate it even after “actually playing the game”. My biggest critique of the game would be that the controls aren’t completely perfect, but not enough to put me off playing the game, the pacing of the game I totally understand may detract others from enjoying the game as much. I found it interesting that the game begins with you being nearly helpless and had to progress to make connections and fabricate weapons, being able to create the different powered skeletons made it immensely easier to keep Sam upright. By the final chapters of the game you feel a sense of progression in both the storyline and your abilities. I had to laugh that after the final credits you are shown your stats from your time in the game and there’s a category for Tumbles Taken which tracks just how many times you fell over due to unstable terrain or losing your balance. The OCD part of me also enjoyed how the game will force you to prepare for potential situations that may arise during your mission and will not think twice about punishing you for being careless.

Death Stranding is a game that was never intended to be a conventional experience, and that’s the two key words I will use to describe the game, experience and investment. If you’re looking for something simply to hold your attention as you zone out in front of the tv, you may be utterly disappointed. In a gaming industry being more and more dominated by sequels and remakes as they provide the safest return on a publisher’s investment, one cannot deny how impressive it is that a big-budget game with such an abstract story and more non-conventional gameplay features exists. Despite there being those still insisting the contrary, video games can be art, and any artistic medium is mostly subjective. Editor-in-Chief of Game Informer Andy McNamara has stated the interesting thing about Death Stranding would be as a discussion piece and likened it to something you would see in an art gallery. I have also sadly noticed those out there defending the game and claiming that those who were critical of the same simply hadn’t played it or “just don’t get it”. Now that I’ve finished the game I will mostly likely attempt to wrap up some other games on my plate as I want to get a decent sampling of games released in 2019 before I start with my game of the year talk, which is obligatory for anyone blogging about video game it seems. I will most definitely come back to Death Stranding as I’d like to go for the platinum trophy. At this point, I would have to say Death Stranding is definitely Top Three of my favorite games of 2019. I do find it amusing however, that Kojima’s game about connecting others has proven so divine already…

Has anyone out there taken a gamble and picked up Death Stranding? If so, what did you think? Did you love it or hate it, what did you like/dislike about it? I’ve been looking for others to actually discuss the game in more nuance than simply “It’s the best game ever!” or “it’s a pretentious walking simulator!”. Feel free to leave a comment or you we can discuss on Twitter @gamingomnivore. I also included a couple tracks from the game that I’m currently in love with! Thanks for reading!