Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ten years of PlayStation 2

Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love came out for the Playstation 2 on the US on March 30th.That's not a big deal in itself (unless you're a die-hard fan of the strategy/RPG/dating sim/mecha genre), but last month marked the ten-year anniversary of the Japanese release of the PlayStation 2. The American anniversary will be this fall. A decade after its birth and three years after the release of PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2 just keeps lumbering along.

It's been quite a 10 years, too. So many memories: The first PS2 game I ever played, Summoner. Still an underrated game, in my opinion.

The time a friend and I played through Metal Gear Solid 2 in a single marathon session, lasting late into the night. If you're familiar with both the late-game events of MGS2 and the psychological effects of sleep deprivation, you know that's not a good idea. Never before or since has a game caused me to repeatedly ask my friend “OK, have I fallen asleep in my chair and started dreaming, or did he actually just say that?”

Spending more time on the Disgaea games than I have ever spent on any other life activity, including (but not limited to) family gatherings, personal hygiene, schoolwork, and social engagements, EVER.

Becoming violently ill when I failed to anticipate the results of combining a rental copy of the PS2 port of Half-Life, my life-long vulnerability to motion sickness, the lingering effects of an indeterminate quantity of Guinness consumed earlier in the evening, and what later turned out to be the early symptoms of a strain of flu that was going around.

Loving Xenosaga. Then grudgingly tolerating Xenosaga II. Then loving Xenosaga III which, aside from its inexcusable failure to bring back Shion's glasses, was a fantastic comeback for the series.

Seizing control of the train in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and accelerating to such high speeds that it derailed as I approached a bridge, went flying over the side of the chasm the bridge spanned... and just started floating in mid-air, presumably because the programmers at Rockstar didn't anticipate my train fetish.

Being the only adult male in the Western hemisphere who actually liked Tidus in Final Fantasy X.

Joining every other adult male in the Western hemisphere in wondering why the hell Vaan was even in Final Fantasy XII.

Ace Combat 4, Ace Combat 5, and Ace Combat Zero. I let out an anguished Revenge of the Sith-style “NNNNOOOOO” when I found out that Ace Combat 6 was an Xbox 360 exclusive.

The RPG/horror series Shadow Hearts, or at any rate the first two. (The third one was just sort of meh.) Aside from the great gameplay, it broke the usual JRPG mold in all sorts of ways: Instead of the usual fantasy settings, it was set in the early 20th century in our own world. (Aside from some minor liberties taken with history. For instance, the real Grigori Rasputin died after being beaten, shot, and thrown into a river by a cabal of noblemen and reactionary politicians, rather then when his aerial fortress was destroyed by a Russo-Japanese shapeshifter in the sky over Petrograd.) The battles were turn-based but relied heavily on reflexes as well as strategy. Protagonist Yuri Hyuga was actually old enough to buy tickets to an R-rated movie without being accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Plus, it had what is probably the filthiest joke ever to appear in an American localization of a Japanese RPG. (Early on, the heroine is being held prisoner in a village where the people have turned to cannibalism. Yuri is having none of that, so he breaks in to demand her release and... well, from there it practically writes itself.)

Persona 3 unexpectedly becoming one of my favorite games of all time. Which I then sold online in mint condition for over $100 when its unexpected success caused a crippling shortage. Then finding a complete used copy in very good condition at my local Game Crazy for $40, buying it, and then selling that for over $100 as well. (Hey, arbitrage is an essential part of any market economy.) Then, shortly afterwords, cackling like some evil top-hatted Gilded Age plutocrat when Atlus announced that they were localizing Persona 3: FES and the once-lucrative Persona 3 used copy market collapsed. Then getting Persona 4, which managed to be even better.

Yes, it's been ten truly magical years of action, adventure, drama, obsessive behavior, profitable speculative bubbles, drunken first-person shooter-induced projectile vomiting, assorted angst-ridden bishonen both likable and unlikable, and Russo-Japanese shapeshifters making appalling puns about cunnilingus. A true golden age.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker to feature 40-minute Revolver Ocelot monologue about the Pepsi Challenge

The upcoming Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, a prequel set in the 1970's starring Naked Snake/Big Boss, will will contain some rather garish product placement for real-world products including Axe Body Spray, Mountain Dew, Pepsi, and Doritos. (See here and here.) This has led to some pretty severe criticism from some fans, because apparently the verisimilitude of Metal Gear Solid's heretofore grittily realistic world of military action, international intrigue, evil sentient amputated limbs, casual fourth wall-breaking, men made out of bees, and postmodern hyperreality will be shattered by the presence of anachronistic soda logos.

Admittedly, a lot of the placement's look pretty tacky, but I think the products chosen are actually a good thematic fit. With the possible exception of the Kingdom Hearts series, I can't think of any other franchise that screams "stuff someone thought up sitting in a huge cloud of marijuana smoke at 2 AM" more than Metal Gear Solid. So, really, having part of the gameplay revolve around searching for Doritos seems entirely appropriate.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

41m@ \/\/i11 pwnzor j00, p01ntm@n LOL!!1!!1, (Or, existence of F.E.A.R. 3 revealed)

The good news just keeps rolling in for me. A promotional image for the third game in the F.E.A.R. first-person shooter series has appeared in a Spanish gaming magazine, featuring recurring series antagonist/spooky psychic chick Alma, some creepy undead-looking guy, and what appears to be an enraged rifle-wielding Jesus all surmounted by the title "F.3.A.R." Should be good times.

About that title, though. I love the F.E.A.R,. series, and it's out of that very love that I say this: Using numbers as substitutes for letters is the most obnoxious form of communication ever conceived by human beings. Unless you're a time-traveling hacker who needs to send a coded message to your past self in 1989 and/or The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, just don't. When people hear that a new F.E.A.R sequel is coming out, they should be thinking "dramatic shootouts, creepy horror, and pissed-off brunettes who kill people with psychokinetic powers," not "subliterate 14-year-old on the Xbox Live support forums demanding to know why he's not allowed to use ''B1tchslapRaH0Wa420' as his gamertag."

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