Thursday, January 8, 2009

A peculiar chant

It had been at least a year since I last said this aloud, but I just did three minutes ago. I don't know how this string of syllables found its way into my head, or how it's stuck itself there, but it has:

Uhrak thulamensul rithak rakthel
Alamantera rakthelen asthulamanter.

Once, I came up with a meaning for it, by I forgot that. Weird, how the mind works, ne? Someday, I'm going to do something with this chant, but I'm pretty sure it's lodged in my head for keeps.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Year Round-up, part 2

Well, someone commented, if a tad derisively, so I'll continue. Perhaps I'll even soon defend my favorites against Alex's wantonly impolite criticism ("And LFD has the depth I would expect from a TC mod for UT2004 or HL2 that someone coded up in 8 hours"? There's no way that's not inflammatory).

So, onward.

For a game that's over twelve years old and is highly respected across the gaming world, I'm surprised that I had missed this one until now. I played it on the DS over the past week or so, and am currently playing my New Game + to collect all the endings. What really surprised me about this game is its repeated peculiar subversions of JRPG mechanics - especially during scenes of story. The game from the very beginning hints at non-linearity (although this game doesn't have too much of it) by allowing you to, for a while, completely ignore the fair you are supposed to attend in favor of taking a cross-continental walk, and even entering your first combats. Later, I was surprised by the amount of freedom Chrono Trigger gives you in what would in other games be straight-up cutscene. It's hard to describe how even the most moderate amount of interactivity amplifies the emotional impact of the scenes in which it occurs. If I ever make a game, I'll certainly employ techniques from this game which, mysteriously, haven't really been seen since.

Found via Rock, Paper, Shotgun, this tiny game is a simple, beautiful, and peaceful short about solar domination. While its end-game is dull, the beautiful sloth of inter-asteroid spore travel made me quite happy.

KICKASS - Audiosurf
Another February game. Cheap, fun, and fairly synesthetic, I agree with pretty much everything those fine folks at RPS had to say about it in their year's recap. They're a bit better at his "blogging" thing than I am.

More later, possibly even today.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Games of 2008

Happy New Year, dear reader. 2008 saw me playing a lot more games than I remembered before setting my noggin to compiling a list. I thought it would be rather short, but it appears I actually did purchase and enjoy a rather vast and varied multitude of games. I'll be summing up my favorites over the next few days, and giving them silly little awards.

BEST STORY, BEST MUSIC - Ace Attorney series (Phoenix Wright etc.)
While most of this series came out in previous years (the original Japanese game being released in 2001), both its latest installment and my exhaustive marathon through the series came to the Americas this year. Up front - the music is amazing. Best video game music since Riven, in my book. Very catchy, thematic, and theatrical. Besides the music though, this game is a blast to play. It's like playing a compendium of mystery short stories, except with loads of humor instead of drab attempts at badassery (see CSI). While the gameplay has never pushed any limits, it doesn't have to - both the stories and its beautiful collection of characters made this series skyrocket to "Best DS games ever."

MOST BEAUTIFUL - Sins of a Solar Empire
A February game by Stardock, Sins turned off most of my friends. In fact, I don't even think Chris plays it any more, and I haven't given it a run in a few months. Regardless, I stand by my assertions that the conflicts in this game are the most epic clashes I've controlled with my mouse and keyboard. Most space films and television shows fail to match the raw inertia and elegant destructiveness Sins' starships posess. Additionally, the factions, while largely unexplored in the game due to its lack of a single player campaign, have unique themes and stories to them. Of the three, the Vasari's hopeless attempts at reclaiming cruel dignity strikes at me the most: they are pitiful, these one-time masters of the galaxy - they are relegated to clawing out conquests as their empire crumbles from deep within by some unspeakable force. The game's most powerful asset is its beauty, and that asset is strong indeed.

This game makes me gleeful, as much as Team Fortress 2 does. Playing with friends (even those I've only met online) to reap humiliating defeat on unorganized pick-up-gamers is always a treat, but even being on the opposite side of the conflict can be a hilarious blast. Left 4 Dead's greatest achievement, in my book, is making losing fun (as the survivors, at least). While the game lost any vestiges of scariness twenty minutes in, the unadulterated fun I have playing it is wonderful.

BEST GAME OF 2008 - Mount & Blade
I'll be playing this one for a very, very long time. It has so many things going right for it, that its faults are as nothing to me. Hey, that sounds like Riven, don't it? M&B is sandbox RPG done right. It has the best melee combat simulator to date, a dedicated modding scene I've only started to taste, and addictive, good, world-conquering fun which leaves me awake at 4:00 AM thinking it's before midnight.

Comment, and there'll be more entries to come, with more of my games of '08 and elaborations on those only touched upon here.