Bulldozing the Backlog
Yes, it has been too long since I last posted, but I have a perfectly valid reason for that: much of my free time has been spent playing, and finishing, games. At the beginning of the year, I committed myself to playing through a short game every weekend and, for the most part, I’ve stuck to this plan. There was one rather bad game I couldn’t bring myself to power through (the brutal puzzle adventure htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary), but the rest of these short games have been decent to great.
Out of these, the game I enjoyed the most so far was the very first one I beat this year, a first-person shooter called Titanfall 2. Besides serving as a good first game to play start-to-finish on my new PC, the campaign is something else, with some wild setpieces and a heartwarming story about a rookie pilot and his mech. The guns are nothing special, but other than that, the imagination on display, combined with some exhilarating firefights and traversal, made it obvious as to why this game has so many fans. I enjoyed it enough such that I channeled my inner Sir Mix-A-Lot and penned this review on Steam.
Some other Weekend Games I’ve played through which I can recommend without hesitation include the trippy puzzle game Manifold Garden, 2D Zelda-like Kamiko, 3D Zelda-like RiME, and Fort Meow, a pillow fort building physics game about guarding your lap from hordes of cats. I also replayed Frog Fractions and gave its new “Game of the Decade” DLC, “Hop’s Iconic Cap”, a go, and returned to the frenetic world of Vampire Survivors via its expansion, “Legacy of the Moonspell”. Thanks to these Weekend Games, I’m up to a total of seventeen games and DLC beaten so far this year. If I keep up this pace, I may have around sixty games beaten by next January.
In between weekends, I’ve been wrapping up a few longer games. The first of these was Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, a spinoff designed by the Etrian Odyssey team starring the playable characters and Velvet Room attendants from Persona 3 and 4. Unfortunately, the story suffers a bit under the weight of its massive cast. Many characters—particularly Akihiko and Shinji, but also some others—have their best-known personality traits heavily emphasized over all else, leaving them as paper-thin versions of their previous selves. On top of that, one the more problematic aspects of the Persona franchise is present: the treatment of queer and queer-adjacent characters. This alone was bad enough in Persona Q to make me question buying any game in the franchise ever again. It’s a shame because, despite some rather shaky execution at times, the dungeon designs and puzzles were fairly well done. Unsurprisingly, this was a long game, but I got through it in a little under a hundred hours.
The next big JRPG on my agenda was Pokemon Violet, which I had been neglecting thanks in part to Persona Q. Violet‘s open world aspect didn’t help, being something of a turnoff for me, but I eventually decided to just motor on through to the ending. In past mainline Pokemon games, I had made exploring and catching one of everything that I reasonably could part of my routine. However, with this game, such an approach proved to be a daunting time-sink, so I began focusing more on the main quests, while being selective about the Pokemon I pursued. This strategy worked reasonably well for me, and I was done with the game in about 42 hours, or about three and a half hours less than my Pokemon Shield playthrough.
Besides its overwhelming size, I had a few other issues with Violet‘s open world of Paldea. The first, most apparent one, is that compared to the regions in previous games, Paldea feels a bit more generic. There are some places that look and feel distinctively Pokemon-esque, but otherwise, this is your standard open world setting, much like many other games’ open world settings. Scarlet and Violet‘s bugs made headlines back when the games first came out, but what was equally apparent to me early on was the sloppiness of some of the placement of assets like fences. If Nintendo had given Game Freak additional time just to fix bugs, that would’ve been great, but if they were able to put on that extra layer of polish that I’ve come to expect from this developer, this could’ve been a much better game overall. A few months and at least one major patch later, I found myself less distracted by the more technical problems, though there were still some present.
Another issue is more closely tied to the overall design of the game: it’s very easy to tackle gyms and other story-related tasks in the “wrong” order. There was one gym whose badge I obtained as my fourth or fifth one, and only later did it become apparent that this particular gym should’ve been seventh or eighth. It’s rather deflating to go from a hard-won gym battle to a string of easy ones, and better guidance and “gating”, for lack of a better term, would’ve been appreciated when traversing the world. Another possible solution could’ve been to have the difficulty of the gyms scale with the number of badges one has, instead of them all being locked to one set of stats. On the plus side, Violet‘s story was a major improvement over the previous gen’s, and there are some delightful new Pokemon, including Klawf, Orthworm, Clodsire, and game cover buddy Miraidon.
Aside from those two lengthy adventures, there were a couple of shorter games I played through in-between. SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech was fine, though a bit overwritten. As for Super Metroid, it was plain to see why it has the stellar reputation it does, but it is clearly showing its age. While discussing Super Metroid on the Backloggery Discord while I was playing, it was rather telling to hear one of the community’s biggest Metroid fans describe a certain baffling design decision, which I had figured out completely by accident, as “bullshit”. After awhile, I didn’t feel any qualms about looking up whatever hints were necessary to make progress. A Metroid: Samus Returns-style remake would be incredible, if it were to happen, but the original can be tough for newcomers like me these days.
With my slate mostly cleared, I’ve started two longer games recently. Late last week, I dove into The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures, the first in a pair of Ace Attorney prequels starring Phoenix Wright’s Japanese ancestor. Yes, it seems we have come full circle in the saga of Ace Attorney localization, with the series, for the first time, fully acknowledging its Japanese roots in the West. However, our hero this time, Ryunosuke Nahurodo, also heads West, to Great Britain. The first case was a typical Ace Attorney rollercoaster, and despite a moment or two of could-be-better plotting, I’m looking forward to more.
The other game I’ve started is Phantom Brave: We Meet Again, the Wii port of a PS2 Nippon Ichi strategy RPG which I played back in 2006. At the time, I liked everything about Phantom Brave except for the battle system, which uses an experimental “gridless” style of gameplay which is not without its drawbacks. I’m not very far into this replay, but perhaps I’ll end up with a better impression this time.
I’ve also recently picked up Tropico 6 again, and have made progress despite an unusually tough campaign mission. As for this weekend’s game, I have yet to settle on something, but there’s plenty in my Steam library to choose from. Is the next Titanfall 2 lurking somewhere in there? We shall see!
Some quick site business: I didn’t mention this last time, but as you may have noticed, the Brainscraps Twitter account is no longer being updated. My personal account there was made private and mothballed awhile back as well. If you want to follow me on social media, my most active presence is currently on Cohost. My personal linking site, yuffie.ninja, has been added to the newly-updated About page as well.