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            Can you handle it?
by Ethos

The Adventures of Ethos in New York: The System Itself

Monday, January 31st, 2011

*If you notice, it’s not Friday when this article was posted. However, I don’t want to change it, so just keep in mind that half of this was written before the weekend and half on Monday*

I’m sitting at work on a Friday (this isn’t a common occurrence for me, I’m spoiled), but I’m so behind on Riddlethos that I’m determined to write something anyway. It’s officially Dead Space 2 Week (as evidenced by Riddles’ awesome impressions/comparisons below), but that doesn’t mean that the Riddlethos Awards are over! Oh no, they’re over when we say they’re over, damn it! (See, Riddles, I can do hilarious parenthetical comedy too).

Anyhoo, I’d love to tell you more of my ridiculous adventures in New York, and my plan was to do that first, but I might as well talk about my experience with the 3DS before I flat-out forget about it.

I apologize in advance for those annoying red bars. I'd be scared of Nintendo's wrath if I edited them.

Ocarina of Time

This is the biggie. I played this demo 3 times. The first girl told me I wasn’t allowed headphones, but by the third time I was able to gleefully listen to the Kokori theme loudly in my ears. Although that made me smile even more, I actually don’t think the music got any sort of upgrade. In fact, I’m almost certain the music is exactly the same.

But everything else did. The upgraded graphics look so nice in motion, yet still instill the exact mood of the original. I still have every corner memorized, and anticipate every rupee placement. If anything felt different at all it was Link’s sidejump and backflip.

The animation is definitely smoother, so I’m not sure if it was that difference playing tricks on me, but the aforementioned actions seemed to take a little longer to perform. This isn’t necessarily a positive or negative if it’s even the case. It’s just a (potential) observation.

One other big plus: touch screen menus. Easier to access and maneuver. You still set two items to two buttons, but you can assign two more to touch-only buttons. Very convenient and it has been confirmed to work with the iron boots. Old news, maybe, but good news.

It probably doesn’t even need to be said that the gyro-sensor-to-aim stuff is really dumb, but you can luckily just use the analog stick. Although it seems to move annoyingly slowly. Hopefully there’ll be an option for that in the game. Options were disabled in the demo.

The 3D looks great, although I imagine I’ll only be using 3D about 25% of my total time with the 3DS. It’s just a bit more exhausting. Impressive, yes, but not necessary all the time.

Of course, that experience could be because of my lack of sleep, breakfast, and potentially even sober state of mind. BUT MORE ON THAT LATER.

Conclusion: Ocarina of Time’s awesome.

Can't wait for this.

Pilot Wings Resort

This was my second favourite demo. I don’t think I’ve ever sung my praises to Pilot Wings 64 on this site, but I fucking love that game. I’ve sunk countless hours into it. I miss the days when I’d only have one game to intimately get to know. I would try and retry those missions over and over. My brothers and I would compete for better scores. It’s all the game I needed for a long time. Yeah, it looks like shit, but it plays wonderfully.

The 3DS game seems to be exactly the same. It was easily the worst looking game there from a graphical standpoint, but just from a short demo, my addiction to the N64 version started to resurface.

I only played the jetpack demo, but trying to softly land on targets as quickly as possible is still the challenge it was before. You have to manage speed and height as well as fight against the wind. In addition to those same challenges from the N64 game, there are new bonus point balls to fly through in transit to your next target. The possibilities for high scores and speed runs with this simple addition made me very excited.

Pilot Wings is the only game that I played in which the 3D truly provides a benefit. Judging the distance to a target took no guesswork. Only skill with the jetpack’s boosters. And I guess I lost most of that skill since 1996, but I’ll get it back.

Another picture of OoT because why not?

The Other Stuff

Street Fighter IV looked really good. The animations were nice and it controlled well. The 3D is completely pointless in a 2D fighter. If anything it just made me distracted by the popping backgrounds. I’d play with 3D off if I were a Street Fighter guy.

Madden. Who cares? But again, a game to show that the 3DS can make some nice looking images.

Kid Icarus. Yes, this goes in “The Other Stuff”. It was incredibly underwhelming. It was flashy and fast and a complete bitch to control. I only played 5 minutes or so, but still: Big meh.

Some other demo stuff. There was some submarine game played with the gyroscope. It was accurate, but who cares? I’m not going to be spinning around in my chair to play a demo.

Also something called “AR Games”. Meaning Augmented Reality Games. Another thing I don’t care about, but it definitely made for a better demo. Basically you put a card on a table and the 3DS camera shoots that card and the screens show the output. Then the system interacts with the card to make it look like shit is coming out of it. Because the screen of the system is actually showing what’s in front of you, it is pretty cool to see a dragon come out of nowhere. But it’s a total gimmick with no legs to make any sort of full game. Fun for the day, but nothing more.

Didn't get to play this unfortunately

The System Itself

It’s basically a DS in design. Same basic size as a DSi. Better stylus (extendable), and a great analog stick. Truly. It’s smooth and accurate. Miles better than the PSP nub. Although the NGP ones are looking slick too even if I have no interest in that system yet.

The 3D is what everybody says. It works. It looks good. And except for the single aforementioned instance, there’s no examples for its necessity yet.

However, let it be said that while in the Deku Tree – jumping over a ledge while looking down a big drop with the 3D turned on all the way – the effect was very impressive. I spent about 30 seconds just jumping back and forth over a ledge. So there is at least potential for very visually appealing stuff.

What I Wish Was There

Paper Mario. Star Fox. Mario Kart. Even Kingdom Hearts: Dumber Name. Was disappointed that it wasn’t there.

OH RIGHT!

They also were playing movie trailers in 3D. And let me tell you, watching the trailer for Yogi Bear in 3D without glasses was the most confusing experience ever. I was so simultaneously impressed and disgusted that I truly didn’t know what to feel.

But it’s Monday now! I have to attach pictures to this shit and finally post it before Riddles murders me in my sleep!

1/30/2011 – I’m Hungry and Poor

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

But mostly hungry. Yesterday, I consumed nothing except energy drinks, cake, pie, and ice cream. No, I am not kidding. I went to work at 1PM CST, and grabbed two Amp energy drinks on the way. I drank one on the way, and one a few hours later to make it through the rush. It worked rather nicely, actually; I was pleasantly alert and energized for nine straight hours. Which is good, because we were fucking busy, as that place tends to be.

Around 10pm or so, I realized that I hadn’t eaten a thing all day. I realized this as someone was offering me a third of a Key Lime pie. I love Key Lime pie, but I wasn’t sure how wise it would be to eat lime-gelatin when I had nothing but sugary energy drinks in my system already. What to do, then? Well, eat it of course.

Not all of it, just a slice or so. But that was enough to give me the most intense sugar rush I’ve ever experienced, ever. To the point of discomfort, really; for about 15 minutes I felt like I’d just railed a bunch of fucking mephedrone. But oh, it gets worse.

At around Midnight, when I was finally almost done, a few of my fellow employees were munching on a massive slice of white cake. I had no choice but to partake, because I was still hungry, and I love cake. Plus the sugar high had worn off a little, and I didn’t want to crash quite yet. The cake was alright, but it had that nasty-ass decorative icing on it that tastes like silicon. Mostly because it is silicon. Made of sugar. The point being, it was disgusting.

I finally left and returned to my apartment, where I was able to relax a bit – though I still had no food. So, what to do? Drink some beer and watch Planet Terror, of course. After approximately 20 minutes, I’d forgotten I was ever hungry.

And on a side note, Planet Terror is awesome. Utter ridiculous fun, I can’t believe I’d never watched it before.

After the movie ended, I was still starving. So, what to do? Kill the Ice Cream in my freezer, of course. Why? Because I’m an idiot.  I then attempted sleep. It did not go very well. I was wired, once again. Although, at the least, I had temporarily satisfied my hunger. Eventually I managed to catch a wink or two. And then I woke up starving. And I’m still starving.

I could go get some food, but I have very little money, and it would be more financially prudent to wait until I go to work and eat something there. Something other than Key Lime pie. A Sunday evening should be more laid back, giving me the time to do so.

The point of all this, I suppose, is to illustrate how awful my eating habits are. And they are indeed awful. It’s a wonder I haven’t wasted away and died. Or contracted diabetes. The latter is actually fairly likely as an eventual possibility.

*DEAD SPACE 2 PLOT SPOILERS*

In other news, Dead Space 2 is still awesome. Except for the part where it pulled another bait-and-switch in the plot. Y’know, like the way it did 783 times in the original game? It took longer this time, but that actually makes it worse. I know the game has to, y’know, go on, but it’s still a slap in the dick when a game is like “oh, hey, that objective you’ve been working towards for the last five hours or so? It’s been rendered utterly moot, move on please.” Come on, writers, it can’t be too difficult to construct a plot that facilitates a 12-hour game that doesn’t go like this:

“Isaac! Activate this thing so you can go to that place!”

“Oh fuck, you need this thing to activate that thing! Go all the way over here now!”

“Oh fuck, I’m dead now so I can’t give you further directions! Listen to this guy now!

Ad nauseam.

Note, the above is not meant to be a plot summary of any kind. Just an example of how ridiculous this sort of plot structure becomes, especially after two games. I mean, come on, Isaac can talk now; can’t he make his own decisions as to where he should go? Why does he feel the need to trust and obey every disembodied voice that gives him an order? I don’t understand.

I also don’t understand the purpose of the air ducts. Or whatever they are. At certain points in the game, you have to yank a plate off the wall and crawl through a claustrophobic maze that has the appearance of a futuristic air duct. Sounds like a good opportunity for some scares, right? Claustrophobic necromorph combat and whatnot? Not happening. You crawl from point A to point B, come out the other side, and resume play. It adds nothing aside from an alternate means of traveling from one room to another. It makes no sense. I mean, iunno, maybe it will at some point. But right now it does not.

But all of that makes it sound like I hate the game, which I do not. I really, really like it, actually – it’s the best game I’ve played since Mass Effect 2. To end on a positive note, I love the jetpack for the Zero-G segments. Moving around zero gravity in three dimensions, with a fully rotational camera, is honestly mind-blowing. It feels amazingly elegant, and creates some gorgeously cinematic camera angles for the action. Even with that being said, it’s difficult to explain why the jetpack is so much fucking fun – you’ll just have to try it yourself.

But, I do still miss the controlled jumps. Because they looked cool too. And they made for good evasive maneuvers in combat. Not sure why Visceral didn’t include both as means of transportation.

Work in 24 minutes. Good thing I live 15 minutes away. Before I go, I have to ask: where has Final Fantasy X been for the last eight years of my life, and why have I never attempted a replay until now? That game is fucking awesome, even if the voice acting sucks. And shit, XIII’s voice acting was worse, for that matter.

~Riddles

Dead Space vs Dead Space 2

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Alright! I’m off work, I don’t work tomorrow, I have a WORKING check card (i.e, I actually have access to my fucking money) and since approximately noon Thursday, I’ve been the proud owner of the Dead Space 2 Collector’s Edition. What does all this mean? It means we can start talking Dead Space.

But, while it may appear that I’ve been entirely unproductive thus far, that’s not quite true: over the last few days, I’ve played through the original Dead Space for a second time. Originally, I just wanted to start a PS3 file so that I could unlock the Plasma Cutter in Dead Space 2, but I ended up remembering how completely awesome the game was, and decided to play through the whole thing.

I defeated the final boss at about two in the morning on Thursday. And roughly thirteen hours later, I started Dead Space 2. So. Being in the process of playing the games back-to-back, how do they compare to eachother?

Dead Space: Two Years Later

Let’s talk about the original Dead Space. Yes, I know it’s over two years old at this point and the world is ready to move on to the much-hyped sequel. But the original Dead Space deserves at least a little attention – mostly because the game is still really, really good. That’s not to say that I expected a two-year old game to feel dated; I  just didn’t expect the experience to be as engaging a second time. It was – and possibly even more so.  I was thoroughly engaged yet again, for another death-dodging 12-hour romp (or creep, I should say) through the metallic, blood-stained hallways of the USG Ishimura. Even though I knew the mystery behind all the horrors around me, I was still more than happy to experience them again. And even though I’d played through it all before, the game still scared me on more than a few occasions.

Dead Space is a textbook example for building an immersive and palpable atmosphere within an interactive medium. It takes a few pages from BioShock, (as many games do nowadays) builds a similarly atmospheric experience and rounds it out with a more focused, in-depth narrative. As you should all well know, for me to compare a game with BioShock is an honor indeed. The concept behind Dead Space isn’t quite as original, or “intellectual,” shall we say, as the ideas behind BioShock’s narrative. But as a game – dare I say it – Dead Space might be even better. (And for what it’s worth, I can say with certainty that it’s miles better than BioShock 2.)

Honestly, it’s difficult to find issues with Dead Space. Writing, acting, combat, exploration, puzzle elements, graphical presentation, and sound design are practically flawless. There are, perhaps, some minor flaws with pacing and mission design at times – the primary annoyance is that you end up feeling like an errand boy, with disembodied voices directing your every move. Your every attempt to get off the ship is thwarted by some awful coincidence or catastrophy, and after a while it starts to wear rather thin as a plot device. It all culminates in the awfulness of Chapter 10, “End Of Days,” which sees Isaac running back and forth through a suspiciously small area and fighting way too many goddamned Necromorphs, all while – literally – searching for keycards. Come on. Really?

But aside from being an hour or so too long, Dead Space is a class act. And, as all who have finished it know, it begs a sequel. A sequel that I now own, and have played a bit of.

In Which I Describe the Dead Space 2 Collector’s Edition, Lament How Much it Cost, and Use Many Parentheses

Allow me to take a moment here to discuss the fact that I bought the Dead Space 2 Collector’s Edition. It comes with a PS3 port of Dead Space Extraction, (which, ironically, might convince me to invest in a Move)  a replica Plasma Cutter (which I have to admit is pretty cool, even if it isn’t life-sized) the original soundtrack (which I frankly doubt would be an enjoyable listen outside the context of the game) a “concept art lithograph” (which essentially looks like a Dead Space postcard) and a downloadable Zealot Force Gun and Suit (which I’ll probably be too lazy to ever download or use.) So, was it worth $80? (Almost $90 including tax, and almost $100 if you count the Subway sandwhich I bought while I was out.) Nah, probably not. I just wanted to buy a Collector’s Edition of something, because I’ve never done it before. It felt kinda good. Also, writing all those parenthetical statements amused me.

Dead Space 2: The First Three Hours, and How They Compare to the Original

Okay. It’s actually many hours later now. I’ve played more Dead Space 2. I’m roughly halfway through Chapter 4, and I’ve written down two full pages of notes and then some. (It’s something I tend to do.) So, I’m equipped to talk about it… a little bit, anyway.

Dead Space 2 is a similar, yet different beast. From the outset, it’s clear that Visceral had no intention of re-creating the original Dead Space in terms of atmosphere. Yes, it’s still creepy and unsettling in nature, environments are shadowy and blood-stained, lights flicker, there’s a bunch of unnerving shit written on the walls, and Necromorphs still like popping out of vents and ducts to scare the living fuck out of you. But it’s a few big things, and a variety of little things, that make Dead Space 2 stand apart from its predecessor.

I’ll go ahead and name the big big thing: location. In place of a claustrophobic spacecraft, Dead Space 2 is set in a massive space-station colony known as Sprawl. The atmospheric shift is notable. You’ll walk past windows and be treated to the sight of a massive, futuristic cityscape, complete with Star Wars-esque hovercrafts flying about. Inside, you’ll make your way through residential and commercial areas of the station, with futuristic schools, restaurants, and hobby-shops. At one point, I even found myself inside a child’s room – crude crayon drawings were taped to the walls, lullaby music was playing, and holographic ponies danced on the wall. Frankly it’s somewhat bizarre to see, particularly after having just completed the original Dead Space. But, it serves a purpose – children, like everyone else, are not spared the hideous effects of the Necromorph outbreak.

I’m not saying any of this is a bad thing. Like its predecessor, Dead Space 2 is a deeply atmospheric experience, and I’m totally into it after a few short hours. I’m merely noting the drastic differences, and how they affect the feel of the game.

Aside from the obvious shift in location, more subtle additions tend to alter the feel of the game. As promised, Dead Space 2 features more brutal, fast-paced combat. It also features a lot more ammo. A lot more. I’ve yet to even come close to running out. This may not be the case later in the game, but as of now, the resource-conservation aspect of gameplay is pretty much gone. It’s not gone entirely – med packs, for example, seem to be less plentiful. And while Stasis now regenerates slowly, it does take a good bit of time, meaning you still have to ration it wisely for individual battles. But, frankly, neither of these things are of much consequence when you’re free to pump as much ammo into an enemy as your heart desires.  Again: this could very well not be the case in another five or six hours. But it’s the case for now.

I’d be remiss, however, not to mention that combat in Dead Space 2 is still challenging and hectic. You will still fear for your life, and you will still die. By my experience, at least.

This article’s running a bit long, but before I conclude, I’ll touch on one final subject – a subject many might consider the “elephant in the room,” as it were – Isaac’s newfound vocality. To put it simply: I like it. I wasn’t sold when it was first revealed, because I always considered his silence as one of the primary components of the original games’ atmosphere. And I still think that – but it’s not a component of Dead Space 2’s atmosphere, and it doesn’t need to be. This is a different Isaac. He’s been through this shit before, he hasn’t been able to catch a break for over three years, he’s tired of it all, and he has some things to say about it. He doesn’t whine about how shitty his situation is or how terrified he feels. In fact, he’s sort of a defiant sonofabitch, which I like. I appreciate Isaac’s vocality in Dead Space 2 for the same reason I appreciated his silence in the first game: it contributes to the game’s intended atmospheric feel.

Also, I’d be remiss not to mention: occasionally our friend Isaac brings back the silent schtick, and that’s always satisfying to see. Sometimes, he’ll sit silently through a radio or video transmission, content simply to listen – suggesting that, perhaps, he’s just the silent type in general. Makes sense.

Pointless Internal Monologue

That was quite long. Hence why I decided to separate it into segments signified by BOLDED LETTERS. I almost considered breaking it into two articles, but then I realized that would be fairly pointless. Just like this paragraph.

Conclusion

Ahem. I will be playing more Dead Space 2 very soon, and I’ll probably write more about it too. Sound off below with questions, concerns, or opinions about the game if you’re playing it.

Dead Space 2 is out Today

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

But I am only 50% completed with my Dead Space replay. And, while I originally intended for it to merely be a refresher course, now I’m all caught up in it and liking the idea of playing Dead Space and Dead Space 2 back-to-back. CRAZY of me? Possibly. But I’m up earlier than usual, thanks to a) the fact that I fell asleep considerably earlier than usual last night and b) the fact that my apartment complex became a goddamn full-fledged construction zone at about 8am this morning. Also, I go into work later than normal tonight. Point being, if I try real hard, maybe I can finish it up today, and start on Dead Space 2 tomorrow. Or tonight, even.