Ben's Week In Review: March 24
Bioshock Infinite this week. Woo-hoo! Who's gettin' it?
Fox Engine and photo-realism...but Kojima, that's not why I play your games
As everyone well knows, the Metal Gear Solid franchise isn't only known for its great gameplay and super creative boss fights. It's also known for presenting the gaming world with some of the most complex and engaging narratives we've ever seen. It's what creator Hideo Kojima does best in my opinion. Sure, they've got plot holes and he still doesn't know when to end a scene, but the stories are still ten times better than what we get in the majority of games today. So when I heard that the new Fox Engine will be striving for photo-realism, I wasn't overly excited. In fact, the older I get, the less excited I get over the promise of fancy new graphics.
And while I would certainly appreciate some amazing visuals from this new engine, I hope Kojima understands that most of his fans love his games for the storylines, characters and settings; i.e., the artistic side of gaming. I know Japanese developers have been lagging behind in terms of cutting-edge graphics and the Fox Engine might help to close the gap, but I don't want the primary focus of Kojima's games to change. In other words, I wouldn't want him to sacrifice all that great character design and writing for the sake of a few more pixels. I doubt he'd do that; I'm just saying. And yes, I know he has to work on his dialogue.
Wow, I'm actually interested in a "new" Final Fantasy
Here's something you might not know about me- I've been skeptical about every new Final Fantasy since Final Fantasy X. When they announced FFX-2, I was sort of on the fence about that idea. My problem with it was that up until that point, every new installment in the series had been entirely new: New characters, new combat mechanic or significant twists on an accepted mechanic, an entirely new world, etc. But I loved FFX-2 because it presented the single best and most advanced turn-based system we had seen to date. Then I was skeptical again when I heard about FFXII. However, while it had my least favorite plot and characters (hate stories based on politics), I really loved the gameplay. A lot. 120 hours later and Yiazmat (50 million HP) was dead. FFXIII, skeptical again. But that was the first time where I found out that some of my fears were justified.
And it has gone downhill ever since. Lightning Returns seems like a total colossal clusterfu** of a tragedy as far as I can tell. My point is that it has been a while since I looked forward to a new FF with absolutely no reservation. Sure, FFX HD and FFX-2 HD aren't "new," per se, but at least they'll look new. And they'll give newcomers a chance to see what they've been missing all these years. What's most important is that you're looking at two of the best examples of the turn-based mechanic to ever exist. I believe the others could be found in the Shadow Hearts games, by the way.
Personal gaming update
So I'm at the end of Halo 4, I think. I like it just fine, as I said before, but it's just not making me say "wow." It's a shooter. It's a really good shooter, I'll grant you, but beyond that... I mean, I like the new weapons and enemies but once again, it's not like they went all out. There's just a new race of aliens and that has only resulted in two or three fresh enemies, and maybe a small handful of new weapons. So anyway, it's almost done and I'll be glad to move on. Can't wait for Bioshock Infinite but as usual, all these games are keeping from catching up. I haven't yet finished Tomb Raider, for instance. Still, I take some solace in knowing that April and May are sort of bare in terms of new releases.
I'm still wondering if I'll ever have a good enough reason to pick up my Vita again. I guess it'll just have to wait until the next time I take a vacation. If I'm around a console, there's just no way I'm playing the Vita. It has similar experiences, only slightly lesser and that's not helping sales. Thing is, the PSP had some very different experiences (for instance, a lot of old-school-style RPGs you couldn't find anywhere else) and the Vita doesn't seem to have a niche of its own. It's like a portable PS3 but all this means is that I'll only play it when I don't have another option.
Well, that isn't entirely true. I'd still take the Vita over a smartphone or tablet any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
3/23/2013 Ben Dutka