The world is weird right now, especially here in New Jersey, but given that we had spent most of our time at home pre-pandemic anyway, some things haven’t changed. We did buy a house, though, a process which began during more “normal” times and concluded with a socially-distanced closing. Some painting and other work is being done on it right now, and we’re hoping to move in this coming Saturday. In other words, we’ve been keeping busy with packing, contractors, and related bits of business. We’ve also been patronizing our favorite local restaurants as much as we can via takeout, especially since we’ll soon be moving on to a new set of eateries in a different town.
There have been many strange little things about this pandemic—the memes have been a highlight—but one of the oddest for me personally has been seeing jigsaw puzzles explode in popularity. I’ve been a jigsaw puzzle hobbyist for a long time, as has my mom, and finding puzzles to send to her as an early Mother’s Day gift to help stave off some of her boredom was tough, as many online shops’ stocks have been depleted. I currently have a dozen puzzles in my personal backlog, but couldn’t do any of them after a certain point because they had to be packed away for moving. This whole situation with puzzles’ popularity is baffling but understandable, and I hope some people stick with it after this is all over, as it’s a relaxing and meditative hobby.
Anyway, let’s get started. Today’s reviews feature a 60+ hour JRPG, and a JRPG that was nowhere near that long, but felt like it. I’ve also included the platforms I played on this time, something I’ll try and stick with for future reviews.
Sometimes ideas come along that you had never planned in the first place, and you just have to execute them. Thus, despite my announcement that there would be no Holiday Card this year, about a couple months ago, I started work on a game. It’s not a Holiday Card, though, so it’s technically okay, right?
This time around, it’s a fangame loosely inspired by my all-time favorite, the original Final Fantasy VII, titled DARK CITY FOURTH STREET, Part One: The Sprawl. This title was inspired by a very peculiar part of FFVII‘s Debug Room, and the plot takes Hironobu Sakaguchi’s original idea for FFVII as a detective story and runs with it. It tells the tale of detective Cloud Strife as he takes on a job related to the environmental terrorist group AVALANCHE, and branches out in a few different directions. There are a number of endings, and even some hidden scenes. Also, as with a certain other revisiting of the FFVII world, this game is the first installment in a series, and ends when Cloud leaves Midgar.
On the PC at least, I almost never buy triple A games at launch, the collector’s editions of the three StarCraft II installments being a notable exception. These games ran fine once I fired them up, a testament to Blizzard’s obsessive attention to technical polish. At the time the second part of the series, Heart of the Swarm, launched, the hardware I used to play it was seven years old, the same age as the machine I first installed Doom Eternal on.
As with my previous Boot Camped Mac Pro, I had future-proofed my desktop computer enough so that it would meet the minimum requirements for the likes of Doom Eternal here in the year 2020. However, due to a combination of Apple more or less abandoning Boot Camp support for the 2013 Mac Pro, and AMD being AMD, I suffered through several rounds of driver update attempts only to wind up with a machine that wouldn’t be able to run Doom Eternal after all. It ended up that the only way I could do so was with a gaming PC borrowed from bitprophet, featuring some newer hardware.
So far, February has been a busy, stressful month in real life, and rather productive when it has come to beating games. My struggles with Age of Empires II HD, which started in January, eventually led me to quitting the game altogether this month. Other than that set of headaches, things have been smooth sailing. With that said, here’s what I thought about the three games which I most recently finished.
It had been nearly nine years since I had played a Zelda game for the first time (in the intervening time, I beat the DSiWare title Four Swords Anniversary Edition, but that doesn’t really count), and I was finally ready for more. As my first “core” Zelda was, well, the first Zelda, for the second, I skipped the sidescrolling second title, The Adventure of Link on NES, in favor of the more traditional third, A Link to the Past. It also helped matters that I had A Link to the Past‘s 3DS sequel, A Link Between Worlds, in my backlog.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was originally released for the SNES in 1992 and has what might be the most misleading title in the entire Zelda franchise. Much to my surprise, especially given the plots of certain later entries in the franchise, there is no time travel in this game. As I learned later on, the title is a reference to the Zelda timeline; this story takes place before the events of the first two games. However, there’s no mention of this in either the game itself or the manual, so perhaps you can understand my confusion.
As with many other 16-bit RPGs when compared to their 8-bit predecessors, the plot in A Link to the Past is much more involved than in The Legend of Zelda, though still relatively simple at its core. Long ago, a Golden Land had to be sealed away by seven wise men due to the presence of evil. In the game’s present day, the wise men’s descendants are being kidnapped by the wizard Agahnim in a plot to undo the seal to the Golden Land, now called the Dark World. One night, Link receives a telepathic message from Princess Zelda, which is where his adventure begins. During its course, Link will collect three pendants, the Master Sword, and a certain pair of items which allow him to safely travel between the Dark World and his home dimension, the Light World. From that point, his quest shifts to the recovery of seven crystals, each tied to a wise man’s descendant (all of whom happen to be maidens) and the defeat of Ganon, the source of the evil which transformed the Golden Land.
Since every other site has been posting their “Best Games of the Decade” lists this season, why shouldn’t I? As this blog continues to celebrate its tenth anniversary, it’s only apt to look back upon my past ten years of gaming, particularly when it comes to games that were contemporary at the time. However, instead of doing the usual list followed by my top three games, this post will only focus on said three.
I hadn’t planned it that way. The original draft of this post contained a whopping twenty-five games, including the top three. There were even genre and aspect-specific awards, such as FPS of the Decade and Soundtrack of the Decade. However, even though there were some games I felt strongly enough about to merit their inclusion, the list as a whole felt imperfect (not to mention a lot of work) outside of the top three. Those I had settled on pretty quickly.
So, let’s talk about those three, and only those three, each of which was first released between 2010 and 2019. Please note that there may be some minor spoilers.