Operation Backlog Completion 2017
Nov 282014
 

After I hit 50,000 words by the halfway point, my new NaNoWriMo goal became to finish the entire draft of my new novel, The Nightbringer, since 50k wasn’t enough to finish it. Yesterday morning, I brought my total up to just over 94,000 words and wrote the ending.

Victory!

Of course, 94k words in 27 days means the book is in no fit state for other people to read, so it’s now on my list of stories to revise. Still, I’m happy with what I have. I really grew to love my characters, and I’ll miss writing about them each day.

I’m also happy to have finished NaNoWriMo in time for the big video game deals. Black Friday, Cyber Monday–the next few days are going to be filled with tempting discounts for all of us. So, what are some of the discounts you should be looking for?

First, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies is on sale, both in the Nintendo 3DS eShop and on iOS. You can buy the eShop version for $15.00 until December 2, and the iOS version for $9.99 until December 1.

Ace Attorney character Simon Blackquill, from Dual Destinies

Can you say “no” to that face?

The Phoenix Wright Trilogy HD for iOS is also on sale, for $8.99 until December 1. However, this is widely regarded as the weakest port of the games, so you might want to hold off–especially since the trilogy hits the eShop on December 9.

Now, let’s move on and see if Amazon’s Black Friday Deals Week has any must-plays.

When I started Alien: Isolation, I found it to be a true survival horror game, a must for any fan of the genre. My opinion hasn’t changed, even though I took a break from it to play other games and have yet to finish it. The constant tension and horrible deaths assure me that I’ll love the rest.

If terrifying Alien death isn’t your cup of tea, Steam has some good deals, too. The Stanley Parable, Dragon Age: Origins, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and To the Moon are all on sale. You know what that means? If you shop at both Steam and the Nintendo eShop, you could get deals on ALL of the 5 top games I played in 2013.Are any of my other favorites included in Steam’s sales? Of course they are. Horror fans can pick up Scratches or Anna for only $2.49, and the shockingly good Hatoful Boyfriend is a steal for $6.69.

Those are my top recommendations for this year’s Black Friday video game sales. It’s a smaller selection than I expected, but you can still pick up some real gems. If you can only get one, I recommend Dual Destinies.

What great video game deals did you find this year?

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Nov 262014
 

I need to stop underestimating games. First Hatoful Boyfriend (which is coming out on the PS4 and PS Vita now, too), then Bayonetta, and now this.

Logo for Master Reboot

Master Reboot is a science fiction horror game that came out last October for Steam and this July for the Wii U. I saw a few things about it, read mixed reviews, and decided that it was a horror game, so it was worth a try. A lot of the reviews emphasized it as being atmospheric, and somehow I got the impression that it was horror based on a technicality… you know, like how Dear Esther has its creepy moments (except with gameplay).

The first few minutes of Master Reboot supported that idea. It was kinda weird, a little surreal…

And then I spotted a pink, glowing symbol. I walked over to it, pressed the action button… and a scream rang out while a monster appeared on the screen with a threatening message. The apparent presence of Lovecraftian horrors made me wonder where I’d gotten the impression this was only sort of horror.

Master Reboot is set in a future where people’s memories are uploaded to the “Soul Cloud,” so people live on after death. But something is wrong with the Soul Cloud, and you need to travel through memories to learn the truth. The beginning may give you the wrong impression of what gameplay is like. You’ll eventually reach a hub area, where the bulk of the game takes place. From that hub, you must visit memories from the past.

That element reminded me in a way of To the Moon, which was amazing. The atmosphere, however, made me re-evaluate my impressions after a while. Visiting memories may bring that game to mind, but its lonely creepiness reminded me more of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. And the haunting, atmospheric nature wasn’t the only thing that made me start comparing it to series like Silent Hill.

By the time a little girl with glowing eyes jumped out of a locker and killed me, I’d abandoned my assumptions that this wasn’t a real horror game.

Master Reboot is horror. It doesn’t play like a traditional survival horror game, but it actually fits all of my requirements.

Is Master Reboot survival horror?

Its spooky atmosphere, scares, and chases make it horror through and through. Combat only comes into play a couple of times. Recursive unlocking is very minor in Master Reboot, but still present–you have to complete all of the memories to unlock the path forward, and most of the memories require you to do things in various sections to unlock new areas.

How? Through puzzles, of course. You’ll solve a lot of puzzles–some frustrating, some clever–during Master Reboot, and you’ll also find a lot of “Apocalyptic Logs.” They come in the form of blue rubber ducks (it’s explained in the game) that show you memos, pictures, and more that all help you piece the story together.

The one bad thing about Master Reboot is that the ending includes a timed platforming section. Who thought that was a good idea??

That aside, it was a good game, with a great atmosphere, genuine scares, and a story that remains subtle without being pretentious. It only lasted a few hours, but I consider it to be time well spent. If you’re a horror fan with access to either a Wii U or Steam, you should check out Master Reboot.


Buy Master Reboot from Steam

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Nov 242014
 

When Bayonetta first came out in 2010 for the PS3 and Xbox 360, I knew nothing about it. I got it confused with other action games released around the same time. I vaguely assumed it involved bayonets. When Bayonetta 2 was announced for the Wii U, I finally got a better idea of what it was.

Bayonetta, Umbran Witch

Pictured: Not a bayonet

I went back and forth I on whether or not I wanted to get Bayonetta 2–it looked interesting and the inclusion of the first game made it even better, but a witch killing angels is a little… ehhh….

Long story short, I learned about Operation Platinum, saw all the excellent Bayonetta 2 reviews, tried the demo, pre-ordered the game, and started the original Bayonetta on Halloween.

Not only did I lose my misgivings about it, but I enjoyed it much more than I expected. I expected it to be entertaining and maybe a bit challenging. I didn’t expect to find myself devoting hours to challenges I wasn’t ready for, getting caught up in the admittedly-convoluted story, and having a fantastic time even when I died on a regular basis and got Stone awards for every chapter.

You will die a lot in Bayonetta. You will see a lot of Stone awards during your first playthrough.


I figured I was just awful until I saw other people talking about all their Stone rankings. Turns out it’s normal!

Bayonetta is a game that will challenge you, but not in a bad way. And once you start to get used to dodging and performing combos, you’ll feel powerful enough to take on anything! (And then Grace & Glory will appear to ruin your day.) Before I get into particulars, though, let’s discuss some of the reasons other than difficulty why you might be uncertain about this game.

Common Reasons Why You Might Avoid Bayonetta

As far as I can tell, there are three main things outside of “I don’t like this genre” or “I tried it and it wasn’t fun” (standard reasons not to play any game, really) that might deter otherwise-interested players from this gem.

1. Bayonetta and Religion

Let’s just dive right into this hornets’ nest, because this was the issue that made me cringe the most when I started. When you play Bayonetta, you’ll spend a lot of time shooting angels. (As well as shoving them in iron maidens, guillotining them, and otherwise bringing them to gruesome ends.) You’ll even summon demons from Hell to kill some.

Fortitudo, an angel boss from Bayonetta

Well, at least it has the right number of eyes per head…

But Bayonetta is not anti-Christian or anti-any-other-religions. Instead, Bayonetta draws on Abrahamic imagery, names, and ideas the way other games pull stuff out of other mythologies. Yes, imagery. Some people will tell you Bayonetta’s angels aren’t Christian because they don’t look like angels. This is false. These guys may remind you more of Eldritch Abominations, but the enemy designers for Bayonetta did their research. And you know what? This makes them really cool. It doesn’t make them the same angels, and this game does not take place within the framework of a real-world religion.

Don’t believe me? Okay, let me ask you a few questions.

  • Are some of your angels created through ritualistic suicide?
  • Does the light have its own equivalent to witches, with their own special powers?
  • Did Lumen Sages and Umbran Witches once work together to keep the balance between light and darkness and oversee the passage of time?
  • Do angels have a callous disregard for human life?
  • Spoiler

No? Okay, glad we settled that.

Bayonetta has its own unique lore, and it actually devotes a fair amount of effort to building it up and explaining its universe. Though its angels are theoretically “good,” judge them by their actions and then decide. The further you progress in the game, the clearer it becomes a good-versus-evil struggle, rather than the “we must find our own paths!” plot other stories with deity antagonists tend to prefer. Bayonetta is no saint, but she’s a good deal better than the beings she fights.

She’s also in a curious predicament which adds even more depth to the world and lore. Umbran Witches have all these powers because they work with demons. When they die, demons will drag them to Hell. Bayonetta needs to kill angels for her demons to take to Hell, in order to satisfy them so they don’t take her instead. This is very similar to the bind Gerald Tarrant of the Coldfire Trilogy is in, as he must commit atrocities in order to remain alive–if he stopped, he would die and go to Hell for his sins. I can’t wait to finish the Coldfire Trilogy to see if he ever finds a way out, and I can’t wait to see if Bayonetta 2 explores this issue further.

I’m getting off topic. Main point: Bayonetta isn’t evil.

Back to religion, Bayonetta does take place on Earth instead of a fantasy world, and there are a couple lines that suggest Christianity exists, so we’ve got two possibilities:

  1. It’s a myth. Our religions exist in Bayonetta’s universe, but Yahweh, Jesus, etc. do not.
  2. Bayonetta’s universe is a crazy mash-up of religions and mythologies, like the Mortal Coils series, which includes the gods and goddesses on one side and the demons of Hell (with Lucifer as a notable character) on the other.
I’m sure we could spend a lot of time analyzing this, but we’re not here for that. I haven’t even played Bayonetta 2 yet. The point is, don’t be afraid to play Bayonetta because of its religious content.
Onward!

2. Bayonetta and Sex

Gotta touch on this one, since it’s another thing that might make people avoid the game. Don’t let this aspect scare you off, either! If you ask me, it’s been seriously exaggerated…

Bayonetta's hair spirals around her as she summons a demonYes, since Bayonetta’s hair is the catalyst she uses to summon demons and perform powerful attacks, as well as her clothing (don’t think about it too hard), she’ll lose her clothes during battles. During combos, you’ll be most concerned about your combos. During climaxes, she’s technically naked, but her hair spirals up around her and covers the important parts.

And really, she’s using her hair, which is also her clothes, to summon a demon. That’s too insane to be offensive!

Maybe you disagree, and if you do, I have an easy solution for you. Buy Bayonetta 2 for the Wii U and play the included version of Bayonetta. Why? Because you can put her in a Nintendo-themed costume. They may be scanty by Nintendo standards, but they’re actual clothes, so they don’t disappear.

Innuendo is the main thing you’ll have to deal with, and even that can be ignored if you just want to focus on the wild story and crazy gameplay.

One last piece of advice: if the sexual content is a concern for you, don’t use Torture Attacks on the Joy angels.

Wear a costume and avoid that one specific Torture Attack, and you’ll be fine.

3. …Torture Attacks?

Yep, this is the last thing I can see being an issue for some people. I mentioned them a couple of times already, but you have powerful attacks you can use when your magic meter is full, which use traditional torture instruments (and a chainsaw). More softhearted players might cringe at that–and as someone who won’t kill sleeping Grunts in Halo, I’m right there with you.

But the game’s style really pulls through for it here. First, the game is hard. When you’re fighting for your life against a monstrosity doing its best to drag you to the game over screen, it won’t feel as bad to smash off a chunk of its health. You aren’t a bully, you’re surviving.

Bayonetta pulls out a chainsaw for a Torture Attack

Second, like everything in Bayonetta, Torture Attacks are ridiculously over the top. Violent, yes, but this is no Amnesia.

Those are the main three concerns I could think of, but if you’ve got more, feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll answer to the best of my ability.

Back to the review!

I really enjoyed this game. I’m not even good at games with combos (I’m a button masher in fighting games), but I got the hang of the combat quickly enough to not feel frustrated. First, you have enough attacks and combos that a little button mashing here or there isn’t a problem, and second, Bayonetta has the best loading screens ever.

What kind of game makes you praise the loading screen?

Most loading screens let you practice your combos, with a list on the side of the screen so you can see what you’re doing and pick new attacks to try. You can even enter practice mode from there if you want more time, although I found that these little snippets of practice were just perfect.

Combat was challenging, but rewarding. You can evade attacks, and if you evade at the last moment before it hits, you activate Witch Time, which puts the enemies into slow motion. Successfully entering Witch Time is a great feeling… the only downside is that now I want to dodge like that in every game I play!

And few things compare to the satisfaction of beating an Alfheim Challenge. (Speaking of which, the number of Norse names contribute to my mythology-mash-up theory.) You know what one of those few things is? Getting better at combat, earning enough halos to buy special accessories, and returning to those earlier chapters to blast through it with ease.


Collectors will enjoy smashing up the environment to find halos (the game’s currency, which you can use to buy stuff from Rodin, a pretty cool guy even if he is a fan of Resident Evil 4), not to mention hunting down the actual collectibles: lore, hidden treasures, and Umbran Crows. There’s even a small crafting system, although using items lowers your chapter score–but not as badly as dying does, so concoct some green lollipops and go!

When you aren’t breaking everything around you, look around. Bayonetta is a beautiful game. I mentioned earlier that the religious imagery creates cool enemy designs, but everything is breathtaking in Bayonetta. There were several moments where I just stopped to consider how nice everything looked.

A lot of people criticize the game’s story, but I even liked that. With an interesting cast, more depth to Bayonetta herself than I expected, and enough mysteries to keep me wondering what was really going on, the story handles itself well. It’s rather mind-bending at the end, but so is one of my favorite series.

I loved every second of Bayonetta. I finished it over a week ago, though I’m still going through to find Umbran Crows and Alfheim Challenges I missed. I’m already satisfied with my purchase, and since most people say the sequel is even better, I can’t wait!

If you’ve already played this excellent game, share your thoughts with me in the comments! And if you haven’t…

Do yourself a favor–buy Bayonetta 2.


Buy Bayonetta from Amazon
Buy Bayonetta (with Bayonetta 2) from Amazon
Buy Bayonetta from Play-Asia

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