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What’s Killing My Social Life This Week – Final Fantasy IV: The After Years

If you’re anything like me, you have fond memories of Final Fantasy II  (IV in Japan) for the SNES. At the time it did what any great video game sequel does. Take what works from the original, use it as a foundation and build up on it. It gave us an interesting and in depth story (with cinematic opening), well defined characters and excellent graphics. After playing it for five minutes it made you forget all about Final Fantasy I.

*Side Note: This of course would be surpassed in a few short years by Final Fantasy III (Final Fantasy VI in Japan for those keeping score) for the SNES and ultimately Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation 1 which could very well be the pinnacle of RPG video games. But at the time Final Fantasy II was the greatest.

After beating Final Fantasy II (IV!) did you ever wonder what happened to Cecil and Rosa? What about Kane, the yojimboing Dragoon? Well, like 99% of the world, probably not. However, in 2008 the Nintendo Wii produced a downloadable WiiWare gamed called Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, set 17 years after the end of the original game.

It features the familiar roster of characters, a few of their children and some completely new ones as well. It utilizes the same maps (with some new locations and dungeons) character design/graphics and that wonderful music we’ve all grown accustomed too.

There are a few drawbacks that I’d be remised to not talk about. The game takes an episodic approach where you follow one of the heroes quest per game and each of these has to be purchased individually. The other big downside is that enemy attack ratio is insane, every 4 or 5 steps you get thrown into a battle. This can become very, very annoying. All in all though, it’s a mindless RPG where you won’t have to learn new things. In fact, I’m not even sure I could properly recall the storyline (something about the second moon returning and the crystals being stolen again?)  If you’re looking for something new that feels old and familiar or if you’re a fan of 16 bit era RPG games this one is for you.

All images and characters depicted are copyright of their respective owners.

What’s Killing My Social Life This Week – Gonna Get Myself Kinected

I’m not exactly sure how, but I just know this will somehow lead to the downfall of humanity. Seriously, it should have “Skynet” written all over it.

Hello again dear Evil Geeks! Welcome to another edition of What’s Killing My Social Life This Week, our regular tribute to all things geeky in the gaming world. This week we’re headed somewhere few hardcore gamers dare to go: Off the couch and prancing around in front our Kinect!

For the Evil Geeks here in the Brotherhood with gamer scores north of 25,000, a night of gaming usually involves a marathon session of whatever game we’re playing this week, occasionally interrupted by trips to the bathroom with a second act in the kitchen to grab another beer (if you’re playing online and wearing a headset, it’s technically not drinking alone). So the very idea of an innovation that changes that dynamic would naturally sound a little bit threatening to a hardcore gamer. Instead of being able to lounge in the big comfy chair, while dodging AK-47 fire in your favorite shooter, now you’re going to be on your feet actually dodging that gunfire, hopping around your living room like some broke ass Spider-Man clone. I initially wasn’t too fired up about grabbing a Kinect, I just didn’t see the appeal. My only previous experience with motion based gaming was the tsunami of disappointment that was the Nintendo Power Glove. I was so hyped up about that when it came out, then when I got it on Christmas I remember being so let down by how crappily it worked. I tried to program in some of the various control settings, but always just defaulted back to old #14, which was the one that just let you use the control pad on the arm of the glove. But DAMN did that thing look freaking cool! If I could find mine, I’d probably still wear it every now and then. Maybe just when company comes over. Also, to me the Kinect seemed like a cheap grab by Microsoft to scoop up some of the casual gamer types (that’s a classy way of saying “little kids and old people”) who’d been lured to console gaming via the Nintendo Wii. The $150 price tag didn’t help it out much either. The company that sold us underdeveloped, outright faulty consoles now wants us to pony up more cash for some other product that probably won’t work either?!?!(Who doesn’t remember the maddening days of the red ring of death? My personal favorite experience of that era was when I sent my red-ringed paper weight in for repair and after a 2 week wait, was promptly sent a new box THAT IMMEDIATELY RED-RINGED ON ME! AAARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!) However, once Microsoft dropped the price to 99 bucks, it started to sound like a better deal to me. Becasue of the new low price and that fact that Microsoft was pretty much making it inevitable that we’d be forced to get one, I caved and picked up a Kinect, which comes with the game Kinect Adventures. I also picked up Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2013 and something called Game Party In Motion. After checking out all three games I’m willing to admit that I kind of got into the whole motion/gaming thing. It’s not something I can see myself doing every day, but I’ve been firing it up a few times a week. I was also surprised to see that the system was pretty intelligent. It moves around scanning the room on its own, knows when you’re holding a controller, and can even recognize faces. The motion aspect really does add more dimension to the gaming experience, at least in the few games I played. It’s entertaining, but I can also see how the novelty of the device can wear off quickly.

It works well for the most part, but it’s not all unicorns and rainbows with the Kinect. I find that I have to repeat movements sometimes before the game will actually execute the move. This is only mildly annoying in the casual games I played, but I can see how this would be infuriating if you were trying to play a fast paced FPS with the Kinect, where one slight jerk of you leg could mean you end up taking a bullet. I found the same problem with the voice recognition system also, constantly repeating such phrases as “Xbox, GO HOME!” Who knows, maybe it’s like a Beetlejuice type thing where I have to repeat “Xbox” three times before it actually does anything? Also, you’ll be treated to the horrifying humiliation of that evil little box taking your picture in less than dignifying poses as you leap about your living room and having them shown to you or even posted on your Facebook page when you’re done. Yeah, that’s what the world needs to see, me doing a layout in the middle of my apartment, with half my ass crack hanging out. This brings up another interesting point: when in sweet holy hell is this thing taking pictures of me? Is it doing it while I’m not aware of it? If so… I may need to go hide some incriminating evidence. Also, tell me there isn’t a super secret vault somewhere in Microsoft HQ just FILLED with Kinect recorded porn! I guarantee you it exists!

The games were a mixed bag in terms of their playability. Right now I’d have to say that Tiger Woods is my favorite of the bunch to play. I’ve played plenty of the older versions of this game and wasn’t really expecting anything new, but the motion element really added to the enjoyment of it. The fact that I was the one actually controlling the swings of the club, instead of just aiming with the controller and pressing a few buttons, got me so much more interested in the round I was playing. Even though I was playing by myself, I can certainly understand how the motion system would make it a more competitive game. Game Party was also a pleasant surprise. It’s basically a collection of drinking games; darts, beer pong, pool, horseshoes and many others, which lends itself well to party situations where you have a bunch of people playing. How awesome would it be to play an entire night of beer pong and not have to wake up to the ungodly stench of an Evil Lair full of Solo cups half-filled with stale Sam Adams? As for Kinect Adventures, I can say I’ve officially played this game all of the times I’m ever going to play it. It’s a little too kiddie for me, but luckily it’s free so I’m not going to knock it too hard.

“Every time you turn the console off, we begin plotting against you. Hee hee hee…” Digital avatar doom is right around the corner I tell ya’!

After toying around with the Kinect for a while I can say that it is actually pretty fun to play, but it seems like there’s some room for improvement. If you’re only a casual gamer, then this is probably more geared to your tastes. Hardcore gamers might be averse to it, but I will recommend giving it a second thought. It seems like something that, when perfected, is really going to change the experience of gaming for the better, but unfortunately we’re just not quite there yet. Microsoft is rumored to be at work on a new Kinect model that is supposedly vastly superior to the current one, maybe it’ll be the one to sell everyone from noobs to vets, on motion based gaming.

WHO WATCHES THE EVIL GEEKS?!?! Well, apparently the Kinect does.

What’s Killing My Social Life This Week…

Ahoy fellow Evil Geeks!  As you may already know, we geek and nerd types tend to get obsessed with the things that we’re fans of, especially when it comes to video games.  Here in “What’s Killing my Social Life This Week…”, we’re going to try to give everyone a regular update on what game or games are keeping us sequestered from society and solidifying our status as “avid indoorsmen”.  It could be a new game, it could be something one of us is going back to play again (or finish in the first place. Face it, sometimes any of us can pick a crap game that fails to hold our attention, but for some reason we just can’t let it go without forcing ourselves to beat it first.  We’re gamer score whores, what can we say?).

This week, I’m fortunate enough to be obsessing over a game worthy of the attention; Transormers:  Fall of Cybertron.

Not our picture! Please don’t sue!!! The game’s by Activision and the Transormers are property of Hasbro.

FOC is the sequel to the surprisingly great game War For Cybertron, which was released in 2010.  Up until that point, Transformer games had primarily been movie tie in games with little substance and not much flash either.  War for Cybertron catered to the hardcore fanboys and girls by tying the story to the one told in the 80’s cartoon.  War For Cybertron was a prequel to the events that took place in the cartoon series and contained plenty of nods to that predecessor.  Aside from being full of fan references, it also had some seriously solid gameplay, particularly when it came to the multiplayer portion of the game.  FOC does a fantastic job of building on the successes of the first game and adds some new variety as well.  Among the changes in the game is the welcome addition of the Dinobots for the Autobots (I haven’t made it to the Grimlock part yet, but I am DYING to get there!), the Combaticons for the Decepticons (who combine and afford you the chance to play as Bruticus, who is pretty much the same as Devastator, for part of one of the chapters, which is pretty freaking cool!), as well as the truly massive, city-sized, transforming bad-ass Autobot, Metroplex.

Somewhere up in toy heaven, where all the toys I wanted as a kid but never had eventually go, Metroplex is riding atop a GI Joe Aircraft Carrier.

Unfortunately you don’t get to play as Metroplex, but he does follow along with you as you guide Optimus Prime through a Decepticon invasion, allowing you to call on his guns and obliterate anyone in your path.  Also (kind of spoiler, but not really) there is a really satisfying part early on in the game where you can use Metroplex to stomp out Megatron like a spent cigarette.  I’d seriously pay for a game that just lined up video game representations a people/things that are really grinding my gears and let me use Metroplex to grind them into jelly.  That’d probably be better than therapy! Aside from the gigundo robots, the levels themselves are pretty epically scaled as well, allowing for plenty of exploration of each of the levels.  Each level is also beautifully rendered as the graphics are mega-sweet and detailed.   The whole game feels very similar to the Gears of War series, but there isn’t the focus on shooting from cover, this is an all out brawl!

How does it play, you ask?  WELL!  The campaign on War For Cybertron seemed pretty short, with only five levels for playing as the Autobots, and five for the Decepticons as well.  There’s not much more in FOC (six for each side) but each level is fairly long.  One thing that is kind of getting on my nerves right now is the difficulty.  It is SUPER hard.  I started out on the Hard setting and pretty quickly had to scale it back to Normal.  I’m currently stuck on a scene (spoiler again!) where Megatron returns from the dead after being obliterated literally at the hand of Metroplex, that is CONTROLLER CHUCKINGLY FRUSTRATING!!!!!!!  I’m definitely no noob, I’ve been gaming since I was about 3 years old, so I’ve played some difficult titles in my time and this part of the game kicked my ass around this morning.  This game is maddeningly hard in some sections, but you always come back for more punishment because the campaign is very enjoyable.

The already proficient multiplayer system gets beefed up too, making it even better than the first game.  The customizing options are CRAZY!  You can make probably hundreds, if not thousands of different configurations of Transformer with all of the unlockable pieces.  In the first game you were kind of limited in what you could create (car, tank, truckish type of thing, jet), but FOC adds some different types of cars and trucks, as well as adding in some helicopters as well.  The weapons for each class are upgradable as well which is really nice addition.  There are the usual types of multiplayer modes, death match, capture the flag, etc, but there is also a co-op escalation mode which is fun (and also freaking hard).

They’re about to start doing the YMCA…

So if you’re looking for me this week, this is probably what I”m doing; geeking out on some Transformers.  I definitely recommend picking it up if you’re a fan of shooters.  The ability to transform into different vehicles at any point in the fight, really adds a new layer to the third-person shooter platform, so this game definitely feels fresh.  Without a doubt, I’m recommending this one.

Roll out, Evil Geeks!

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