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Izzy's 2020 year in review...gaming took a bit of a backseat

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crimson_tide
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Re: Izzy's 2020 year in review...gaming took a bit of a backseat

Post by crimson_tide » Mon Jan 18, 2021 6:24 pm

Dang sir, these are some baller ass balling write ups! The sheer variety of the lists you and Phase posted is really interesting...I think very few of us actually play the same stuff. I am going to read the rest of these in between classes this week for fun (better than the news which just infuriates me :P ). I am going to hold off a minute on mine because I want to go a little more in depth as well (gaming was like...THE thing last year and I want to show some proper respect to what I played).

And yes sir, I am in Brooklyn! Bushwick currently to be exact (the wife and I are going to buy a house this year...I will post it in the Haul thread once we do :P ). Please feel free to hit me up next time you find yourself in this neck of the woods! I would have tried to meet you in an outdoor space in the quarantine even. I mean, it's not like I have had the chance to see anybody in forever so I would have welcomed the chance to meet you, sir.
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isthatallyougot
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Re: Izzy's 2020 year in review...gaming took a bit of a backseat

Post by isthatallyougot » Mon Jan 18, 2021 6:52 pm

crimson_tide wrote:
Mon Jan 18, 2021 6:24 pm
Dang sir, these are some baller ass balling write ups! The sheer variety of the lists you and Phase posted is really interesting...I think very few of us actually play the same stuff. I am going to read the rest of these in between classes this week for fun (better than the news which just infuriates me :P ). I am going to hold off a minute on mine because I want to go a little more in depth as well (gaming was like...THE thing last year and I want to show some proper respect to what I played).

And yes sir, I am in Brooklyn! Bushwick currently to be exact (the wife and I are going to buy a house this year...I will post it in the Haul thread once we do :P ). Please feel free to hit me up next time you find yourself in this neck of the woods! I would have tried to meet you in an outdoor space in the quarantine even. I mean, it's not like I have had the chance to see anybody in forever so I would have welcomed the chance to meet you, sir.
Thanks. And yeah, I didn't even think about you being in Brooklyn until after I got back. My mind was on...other things. ;) But if I find myself up there again, I'll surely let you know. That is if they don't shut New York down. :P I was met by an army of soldiers when I got up there at the beginning of December (when I got off the plane). And then the police called me about 5 times during my stay to make sure I was in "quarantine". Military state. :|
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Phaseknox
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Re: Izzy's 2020 year in review...gaming took a bit of a backseat

Post by Phaseknox » Tue Jan 19, 2021 12:09 am

jfissel wrote:
Mon Jan 18, 2021 9:37 am
Arkham Knight is still in my backlog and, for whatever reason, I just keep skipping over it every time I am choosing something new on PS4. Which is odd because I constantly hear great things about it and I thought Asylum and City were fantastic. One of these days...
I attempted to get into it a while ago, but it just seemed like more of what Asylum, City and Origins offered before it but with the Batmobile/tank added which I didn’t really care for so I didn’t stick with it. However, I plan on giving it another chance sometime in the future.
crimson_tide wrote:
Mon Jan 18, 2021 6:24 pm
the wife and I are going to buy a house this year...I will post it in the Haul thread once we do :P
:lol:
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isthatallyougot
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Re: Izzy's 2020 year in review...gaming took a bit of a backseat

Post by isthatallyougot » Tue Jan 19, 2021 10:21 am

#3 MLB The Show '19 (PS4)

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MLB The Show resides in a bit of a strange place for me. Obviously I love baseball and Major League Baseball or this wouldn't be a game I would bother to play. And The Show does such an incredible job of recreating this venerable league I have followed and loved since I was just a little tyke. The presentation has been great from the beginning and has only gotten better with the passage of time, new hardware, and new installments. Seeing the majestic stadiums, teams and players so authentically recreated in digital form has been such a treat to the gamer and baseball fan within. The programmers behind the series are obviously an incredibly dedicated bunch and work very hard to express the little nuances that excite the fans of the league. The stances, animations, venues and all the little details are all so painstakingly recreated. I especially loved playing at the funky Polo Grounds, one several classic stadiums within the game. It made me wish there was a really unique stadium like it in today's' game. Overall, The Show truly is a beautifully articulated love letter to the professional baseball league in America, and I love it so much for that.

And the gameplay itself does a really nice job of capturing the sport. I love the guess pitch/location mechanic. It really places me within the shoes of the hitter looking for that juicy ball. And the pitching meter and location system works wonderfully as an analogue for being on the mound. I also love that the series has increasingly offered options in terms of mechanics so that you can really tailor the experience to your preferences. It does a great job overall in recreating the sport mechanically.

On the other side of the coin, however, both the league and the sport itself, albeit to a lesser degree, don't really lend themselves to an interactive digital product as well as I would like. In terms of the former, MLB plays a 162 game schedule. A 162 GAME SCHEDULE! I love the history of the sport and the tradition and all the statistical records that are bound to such a long schedule, but in terms of enjoying things as a gamer, it's a tall ask to engage in so many games per season if you want to, you know, play other games or do other things in life. And that's just a single season. I love franchise modes in sports gaming. Besides donning the uniform of your team for the on-field action, it's so fun to take on the role of GM to develop the club in accordance with your vision - to build a winner over time. That's the dream of a sports fan, and to recreate that dream via gaming is a strong pull for the fan within. But if you play every game, every at-bat, every pitch, it will take forever to play a single season, let alone experience the evolution of your franchise and league over time. But if you don't engage with the day-to-day moments, if you sim parts of seasons and/or games there is - for me - a sense of detachment from the stats and results. It's different in a pure management sim than it is in The Show because you are not down on the field, managerial decisions aside. But The Show is designed to be played on the field, to wait out an at bat patiently for your pitch and witness the crack of the bat as you connect or to make that perfect pitch to get that big strikeout in a pressure situation. So you are left with either an impossible grind or a sense of disengagement because you didn't play many of the games. Not an ideal recipe for the franchise lover.

Of course, I have to acknowledge that there are other ways to play. The Show is all about options. Road to the Show is a mode that I have enjoyed very much in the past, and it's a great fantasy to take on the role of a player working your way from the minors through, hopefully, a Hall of Fame career. But this falls prey to the same time sink that playing seasons or franchise mode does. Things develop so slowly, and you can feel like you are just stuck in molasses, forced to watch things develop so gradually on - what feels like - your inevitable road to fame and glory. It just has this punitive sense of controlling your time for such minimal and glacial reward. Overall the series is such a jealous game that desperately wants your attention - all of it. And before I forget, Diamond Dynasty is an interesting mode, but for me, baseball is a sport that cannot suffer from even the slightest or occasional lag due to the timing required at the plate/on the mound, and while the experience is pretty good - and surely has gotten better, it's not as good as it needs to be.

And, for me, the actual sport of baseball itself, the nuts and bolts, is less conducive to a successful digital recreation than some other sports. The pace of play and the downtime don't lend themselves as well to gaming as, say, soccer, hockey, basketball or even football with their less uneven flow and action. This is not a criticism of baseball, of course. I just don't find it to be as engaging in the translation from actual field to controller as I do with some other sports. And in terms of the mechanical interactions and outcome, you can often square up a ball with perfect timing at the plate and you just hit it on a line to a fielder. And while this may be very much in harmony with the actual sport, a sense of control or reward for playing well can feel taken away. I often felt the sense that the game was deciding outcomes of my play within the context of some larger, unseen formula for player engagement rather than letting things play out according to the actual physics driving the game. For this reason, I ironically feel much more engaged in a management simulation like Out of the Park or Strat-O-Matic where I'm just in charge of putting the pieces in place and letting them perform according to their abilities rather than directly controlling them.

As much as I wish this wasn't true, the game functions best as a local multiplayer experience with two buds sitting down for a game, series or maybe even an imaginary World Series. And it really shines in that regard. In the quest to recreate the MLB, however, many concessions to fun and accessibility have to inevitably be made, and things have gotten more bloated and unwieldy with the primary franchise and RTTS modes as the series has progressed, to the point that it could be easy to feel utterly overwhelmed with options.

As much as I love The Show, there's a part of me that has to acknowledge that it is much better in theory than in practice, than in a real life that involves other responsibilities, other interests, other people, and ideally - gasp - even other games. It's a perfect desert island or retirement game where you can fully lose yourself within its glory without the messy practicalities of living your life. And that's its greatest flaw. It just wants so much from the player in terms of time. This is not the fault of the game itself so much as it is the consequence of having a product so faithfully recreated based upon a league that offers so much in the way of content/games. It's just a case of choking on a delicious smorgasbord that is so good, and there's just so much you want to eat, but there's no way to reasonably ever do it. If it sounds like I don't actually enjoy The Show, you'd be forgiven for having that view based on what I've written. I can see that. But that is not the case. I really love it, but I can't give it the attention that it wants from its players or the dedication I'd like to give it in order to really feel fully satisfied. I want to play ever pitch of a 40 year-plus franchise and watch the evolution of my team and the league unfold slowly, and enjoy all the little story lines that inevitably develop over that marathon. But, realistically, I just can't. And because of that, I'm left with a sense of frustration, despite how much I really love the series. That doesn't change the fact that I have spent tons of hours over multiple iterations of The Show. Nor does it diminish how much I have enjoyed it. I'm just left with an incomplete feeling, if that makes any sense.

In the end, MLB The Show is both wonderful and wonderfully frustrating. But, I'm so drawn to it that I forgive it its imperfections, because it does so much so well. I will likely never feel like I completely scratched the itch that this game induces in me, but that doesn't mean that I don't have a great deal of fun trying. 5/5.
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Re: Izzy's 2020 year in review...gaming took a bit of a backseat

Post by isthatallyougot » Wed Jan 20, 2021 10:45 am

#2 Castlevania Harmony of Dissonance (GBA)

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There's just something really fun about the Metroidvania formula and more specifically, in this case, the Castlevania version of the equation. Navigating and completing a map (or maps), hacking/slashing, upgrading, discovering secrets, finding rare items and drops, battling epic bosses, great music, the gothic setting with the classic villain in Dracula - all of the elements just come together to make for an enjoyable gaming experience. My experience with the Castlevania franchise is pretty limited in comparison to most series fans, no doubt. I've only played Symphony of the Night on PS1, Circle of the Moon on GBA and Lament of Innocence on PS2. (Not counting Lords of Shadow on PS3 since it's its own thing.) But they were all excellent games. I know there are some that prefer the classic series entries, but having not played them, I have no point of reference, and because I have really loved my experiences in the Metroidvania stylings, I decided to go back to the GBA and play Harmony of Dissonance (before hopefully tackling Aria of Sorrow sooner rather than later).

The first impression made by Harmony is that it looked better than Circle of the Moon, from my memory, and not as good as Symphony. But all three of these entries have some really nice pixel work, both in enemies and environments, as well as nice animations that bring your character and all the minions to life in a very expressive and engaging manner. There's just a great deal of personality to everything. And while things might be similar in tone, there were nevertheless plenty of new, interesting and hideous monstrosities to contend with on your journeys through Dracula's castle. Speaking of said castle, anyone familiar with Symphony of the Night will find themselves right at home here, as the formula is lifted pretty closely. There are multiple castles to explore and acquiring the right item to open impassable areas is thoroughly satisfying. There are also, predictably, secrets to uncover, and I enjoyed discovering their solutions. Some were nicely hidden, some I found obvious, and some eluded me on my play through the game. In terms of combat, there were a plethora of options to make things interesting. In addition to your normal sub-weapons like the cross, the holy book & water, you could find spell books to add elemental attributes to your heart-draining weapons, and the appearance of those attacks were often impressive and varied greatly between combinations which kept the continuous combat fresh while navigating. There were also a variety of endings that may have culminated in a fight with Dracula, depending on satisfying certain conditions. Finally there was a boss rush mode at game's completion if you were so inclined.

In terms of some points on the negative side of the ledger, I would say that because of how closely it resembles Symphony of the Night, it was a bit too easy to make a direct comparison, and Harmony doesn't shine quite as brightly. The visuals are perfectly acceptable, and even great in spots - if lower in fidelity, but the music pales in comparison to its older brother. Granted, given the hardware differences, it's easy to understand. But hardware capabilities aside, many of the pieces were not of the highest quality nor what I had come to expect from the franchise. (The shopkeepers tune was laughable, but almost in a so bad it's good sort of way. But it really stood out because of how much I remember enjoying the corresponding theme in SOTN.) There were still some decent tunes, just overall not in the same league as the best in the series - even from my limited exposure. Another point to make relative to the series and genre in general is that you can get lost and find yourself wandering aimlessly for decent stretches, especially when alternating between castles hoping to find the next key or ability towards progression. Unless you pay particularly close attention and/or have a very good memory, you may find yourself stumbling upon the same impassable areas numerous times if you're not annotating a personal map as a reference, and that can be a bit frustrating if you're not patient. Finally, while not a big deal, combat - especially after having acquired some weapons, spell books, upgrades and levels becomes pretty rote, as any resistance or challenge falls away. It's still fun though because you have a nice sense of progression until ultimately only the map itself stands in your way. But I just thought I'd mention that aspect of things.

Overall though, this was a fantastic return to Dracula's castle, and I enjoyed my time with it immensely. I have no real reservations in recommending it to a series fan or anyone that loves the series, genre, 2D games or just fun games in general. I had a great time here. 5/5.
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canedaddy
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Re: Izzy's 2020 year in review...gaming took a bit of a backseat

Post by canedaddy » Wed Jan 20, 2021 11:07 am

Sounds awesome. Is it Nintendo's fault that game is locked away on GBA rather than being available on DS, 3DS or Switch?
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Re: Izzy's 2020 year in review...gaming took a bit of a backseat

Post by isthatallyougot » Wed Jan 20, 2021 11:37 am

canedaddy wrote:
Wed Jan 20, 2021 11:07 am
Sounds awesome. Is it Nintendo's fault that game is locked away on GBA rather than being available on DS, 3DS or Switch?
Probably, I have no idea really though. You can probably get a cheap cart-only...or RetroArch is your friend. I played it emulated, but I paid for and have the cart, so I had no guilt over it. (Might not have had regardless. :P)
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Re: Izzy's 2020 year in review...gaming took a bit of a backseat

Post by canedaddy » Wed Jan 20, 2021 12:26 pm

I don't have a GBA. Wait, a DS can play those, right? I wonder where mine is... :lol:
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Re: Izzy's 2020 year in review...gaming took a bit of a backseat

Post by isthatallyougot » Thu Jan 21, 2021 10:07 am

#1 Spider-Man (PS4)

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I've never been a comic enthusiast. I was, of course, aware of them growing up, and I remember receiving a handful of them as gifts, but for whatever reason they never grabbed me like so many of my peers. That's not to say that I didn't find the characters interesting, however. Spider-Man was a creation I found fascinating when very young. I suppose my exposure to the character was rather limited due to my minimal engagement with the primary format in which he appeared. However, I do recall running around pretending to be the character a time or two when I was a very wee lad. And when the trend of comic hero movies started going full force, I did enjoy a number of films, although I've quickly tired of those. And I've played and enjoyed a few Spider-Man games over the years. Some have been pretty good. I really enjoyed the art style of Ultimate Spider-Man on the PS2, and The Amazing Spider-Man on PS3 was a pretty good time. I haven't played everything, but I've held onto the dream that this character would receive the same level of treatment that Batman has enjoyed under the guidance of Rocksteadty. If any developer had the chops to deliver, Insomniac would have been on my short list, for sure. So could the developer of the beloved Ratchet and Clank series finally deliver a proper homage to the web-slinger?

Right from the beginning it becomes apparent that Insomniac have really designed this tribute to the wall-crawler with a great deal of respect for the universe. The primary players on this stage are very well developed and the overall narrative feels like a proper Spider-Man adventure that could have come from Stan Lee himself. The relationship between Peter and Dr. Octavius is wonderfully fleshed out, and the backdrop for character transformation feels believable (within spandex-wearing hero context) and epic in scope, befitting this fantasy universe. This isn't simply web-swinging and crushing foes around New York. It's a genuinely enjoyable and exciting tale, and I was a bit surprised by the overall quality. I don't know who did the writing and character development for this, but it easily surpassed my modest expectations. I'm not comparing it to fine literature, but given the source material, I was really absorbed by the story and its participants. The narrative was also more lengthy and involved than I had any right to expect going in. And without spoiling too much, I was surprised and delighted by the amount of fan-service given to iconic characters from the comic's past. High marks.

Narrative aside, it should come as no surprise that this game is gorgeous. Insomniac have long ago proven themselves more than competent coders, and the New York they've created as your playground is fantastic. The world feels suitably large, the architecture is recognizable in many of its landmarks, and the varying times of day serve to display the setting in all its glory. And Spider-Man (and the other main characters) look great as well. There are plenty of unlockable suits which all come with their own abilities that can be mixed and matched with your outfit of choice, and all of them look great. I personally prefer the classic suit, which is the Spider-Man of my childhood and imagination. But there are a total of 38 costumes to play with, and many are striking and fun to don for a while.

In terms of mechanics, the web-swinging felt very intuitive. Zipping around and between the terrain of the urban jungle was fluid and liberating as you maneuvered your way. It was also a bit deeper than I expected, with plenty of moves that allowed for some finesse as you elevated, descended and zipped forward. I particularly liked the addition of the "point launch" which allowed you to highlight a point in the environment and, if well-timed and upgraded, really rocket yourself forward after landing. Consistently utilizing that move really made traversal quick and exciting, and I enjoyed that overall experience here so much that I rarely made use of the fast-travel option. Insomniac did a wonderful job making you feel like Spider-Man in this regard.

Combat was also enjoyable. It was, in some ways, reminiscent of the Arkham games with indicators for incoming attacks allowing for evasive maneuvers, and there were lots of upgrades to abilities and gadgets that allowed for some nice depth and freedom, giving you a chance to free-form your approach to confrontations in a nicely improvisational manner. Dodging, countering, and finishing was a fun dance and Insomniac did a great job here. I thought it was consistently fun and very engaging throughout, although with the number of encounters, it did begin to feel a little long in the tooth by conclusion - an inevitability of repetition, to be fair. The stealth tactics were also satisfying, allowing you to feel like an agile superhero as you zipped from point to point, webbing up and neutralizing oblivious, slow-witted thugs.

There were some marks on the less positive side for me. The now-formulaic open world towers and tasks did make things feel a bit like a checklist simulator at times. There were also some side tasks that were less enjoyable and felt a bit repetitive and tedious eventually. I also didn't care for the stealth sections with MJ and Miles. They felt clumsy and tacked on for variety and the sake of pacing, without the same care invested as the rest of the game. Granted, they did serve to break up the pacing, which was appreciated, but they were in no way well constructed in my view. I'll add a final note about the character of Peter Parker as well. I'm really torn on how I feel about him. A part of me admires his good heart and his innocence. I can still connect with that aspect of my inner-child. But on the flip side, he's such a naive and annoying do-gooder who probably causes as much harm as he ultimately helps. So, I'm always torn when virtually embodying the character. But most of my complaints are pretty small in the big picture. I knew that this game had very positive reception, and I was expecting to love it, but I ended up enjoying it even more than anticipated. That's quite an accomplishment in my opinion because expectations can often be a killer, or at least mute the positive perception of things. Finally Spider-Man has a game befitting such a legendary comic character. 5/5. I hope we see more from Insomniac with this franchise, but not at the expense of Ratchet and Clank please. (Thankfully we now know that to be the case.)

*************************

Welp, that's it fellers. I had less time for gaming this year (2020), especially the last few months, but I made time for some good stuff. As always, I appreciate this little community that has somehow managed to persist over the years, and I consider you all friends, if only in the virtual sense. :P I hope we all have a wonderful 2021, both in terms of gaming and life in general. :)
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crimson_tide
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Re: Izzy's 2020 year in review...gaming took a bit of a backseat

Post by crimson_tide » Sun Jan 24, 2021 9:02 am

Dang, this is the year gaming took a backseat for you and you have laid hands on this many bangers and have such thoughtful reflections on them? Can't wait to see what a standard year is like my friend ;) !

I LOVED Spider-Man!!! I have many thoughts about your list and I will get to them soon...but life. And 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim. Just being honest ;) .
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