The Week Ahead

Last week I roamed about Polygon and Kotaku, cleaned up the home office, filed passports, did not read those library books and barely played Assassin’s Creed. Overall, the week ahead is looking a lot like last week.

One of my goals this week is actually a goal for the month, and by extension, the rest of the year. I’ll be writing more about it later.

Atelier Ayesha arrived from Gamefly today, so I’ll be trying that out this week.

Still have more cleaning to do!

And like I said before, I didn’t read these books either… but I do have an idea for a program I’d like to write, so that’s something.

This makes for lots of games this week, but I’m gonna try to squeeze in Assassin’s Creed again.

I’ve also got a few posts I’d like to write for this blog, but we’ll see how the week goes.


4iF Notes

Little did I know that I would post NOTHING while I tried to complete my Four in February. The challenged proved more difficult to complete than I first imagined. Last night, at 11pm, I finished my fourth game in February. I spent around 20 hours a week gaming, so all told I spent roughly 80 hours gaming this month. The playtime for the four games I beat totaled somewhere near 60 hours. The 20 remaining hours were spent on games I didn’t finish. Here’s my notes on my Four in February experience:

I was off to a blazing start after beating Portal in just a couple hours. I enjoyed it, but it seemed a lot easier and shorter than Portal 2. Though, had I known what Wheatley was when I played Portal 2, I would have trusted him a lot less. Even though I played it fast, I still got chills from Portal’s creepy, abandoned vibe. Actually, I get that vibe from any game that sends my character to prison or leaves them alone for a stretch of time… perhaps it‘s just my own fears of isolation…  

Anyways, with only three games left on February 2nd, I thought I had this challenge in the bag. The next two were Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and Fire Emblem Awakening. Fire Emblem was a bit of a struggle to find, due to some unexplained shipping problems. AC:R is one that had been sitting on my shelf since launch, still in the plastic.

Assassin’s Creed wasn’t bad, especially for a game that juggled three main narratives (Desmond was exploring as Ezio who was tracing the steps of Altair). I think this one took around 15 hours to beat. I didn’t do any side missions, only crafted bombs when forced, and took no time to explore the cities. It sucked the joy out of the experience a bit, so I’m eager to go back and fill in some of the gaps. Fire Emblem took considerably longer, even though I played on the easiest mode (Normal Casual). I still pushed through the story a little faster than usual. I think without the Four in February challenge I’d still be farting around, playing DLC and fighting in skirmishes.

I had the first three game completed in the first two weeks of February, but I wasn’t celebrating yet. My fourth game represented a history of abandonment. You see, my next game was Ocarina of Time. I have no trouble starting this or any Zelda game, but usually at about 10 hours in I realize that I’ve got something better to do. I was determined to change this. 

I failed. I was sinking a lot of time into the game and making little progress. More importantly, it wasn’t fun. I found myself feeling impatient and frustrated. Some games are not meant to be tackled in a time-based challenge, especially not as a first playthough. You need to have time to wander, time to enjoy, time to get lost in that world.This is precisely the reason I didn’t choose Skyrim as a February game.

So, it was time for an alternate. I looked over the games I already owned (quite a few) and considered the ones I haven’t already beaten (not so many) and narrowed that down to ones I thought I could beat in under a week (very few). I tried Banjo-Kazooie Nuts and Bolts briefly, but the multitude of individual challenges lead me to try something else. I settled on Assassin’s Creed 3 (which was still in wrap from launch). I had just played Revelations, so the story was fresh in my mind. Also, I was confident that I could beat it quick. By this point, I only had four days left. 

 The first three chapters were horrible. The next couple were long. I was getting very concerned that I’d be playing until midnight tonight trying to get finished. The second half of the game, however, was quick. It wasn’t a great game. In terms of the Assassin’s Creed series, it wasn’t even a good game. Nevertheless, I beat it. Just like the AC game before it, there was a completely WTF ending, then a half hour of unskippable credits.

I enjoyed the 4if Challenge. I don’t know when I would have gotten around to beating the last two AC games without it. I may have never played Portal. I would have played Fire Emblem regardless. I intend to write a meta-review about all four in the coming days.

The Week Ahead

Over the last month or so, I’ve been roaming the halls of Kotaku. My reason to return to the site was twofold: absorbing every little bit of Awakening conversation and getting back into a writing habit. I’ve recently joined Polygon, which seems a bit more active in forums and vigilantly moderated. I’m sure I’ll keep up my activities at both sites next week.

Play Station All Stars for Vita just arrived from GameFly today. I convinced Aaron to start playing Fire Emblem, so this will allow me to actually let go of my 3DS a bit. Maybe.

I decided it was high time to start programming again, so I went the *** to the library. I was making strides in this area, but stopped when it came time to sell my house. I intend to start with the PHP book first. I think my Ruby understanding is still intact, but I hope the two books here will help me make those skills a bit more applicable. Finally, the software dev book is to help my understanding of the field, and decide if it’s something I’d like to look into more seriously.

I happened to see this article about cleaning up your house in a weekend. I currently have a bit of a clutter situation. My last house had a lot more storage than this house, which lead me to keep more crap than I needed. I’ve gotten rid of a fair bit, but still the clutter lurks. Most everything in the aforementioned article was obvious, but sometimes obvious things listed objectively lends perspective.

Lastly, I’ve got a family cruise coming up this summer and still haven’t gotten a passport. They are pricey! 

Four in February

Mike Suzek of Joystiq started an informal challenge recently: commit to finishing four games in February. When Owen Good of Kotaku asked if they should be games you have never played or games you just never finished, Suzek basically said do what feels right. The subtext of this challenge was to end the shame of never completing certain games. My Four in February are listed below. One of them isn’t out yet, two are moderately shameful and one is kinda ridiculous.

First in February:

Fire Emblem: Awakening comes out on the fourth. I’ve talked enough about this already, so moving on.

Second in February:

I bought the Collectors Edition of AC3 (so much swag!) but haven’t played it because I haven’t even started Revelations. I know that doesn’t matter, but I’ve had Revelations in wrap since it released. Why? That’s a longer story for a different post.

Third in February:

I have almost bought The Orange Box more times than I can count. I’ve carried it hopefully through stores only to find something newer and more exciting. I played Portal 2 and everything. I think I heard so much about the first one, I just didn’t bother.

Fourth in February:

Yeah. I don’t know what to say. This one makes me truly ashamed. I have never finished any Zelda console game. Some of these I have started and not finished, but I think I’ll pick one I’ve never tried.

You can publicly discuss your four by tweeting with the hashtag ‘#4if‘ or on the Four in February Facebook page. If you’re undecided, seeing what others picked and why is a great way to brainstorm. There’s been talk of making this a charitable effort: you could sell the games after you play them, and give the money to charity. It would be nice if a company like Microsoft gave a few cents for every game beaten next month (based on a completion achievement). But, chances are the charity aspect of this will come from individuals.


I have a twitter account that is for my normal, everyday life (@100tacks) but I started a new one for when I want to incessantly tweet, marathon style. This is to keep from annoying the few twitter followers I have, all of whom know me in real life [edit: there are two strangers following me now… on twitter, that is]

So far I tweeted a bunch on Wednesday while watching a Netflix Mythbusters Marathon in celebration of their ten year anniversary. Next week I think I’ll be tweeting about 30 Rock as I  re-watch a bunch of old episodes (only one new episode left!). Sometimes I tweet quotes, sometimes commentary, and sometimes tangential learning links to related things.

I’ll usually be watching TV or Netflix while tweeting from @1tmarathon, but I’ll also use it while gaming.

GameFly Vs. Blockbuster

There’s no real comparison here, but I tried them both anyway. I had a pass from my local Blockbuster store that let me rent my one game for as long as I’d like for $15/month. I loved being able to instantly switch games, even though their selection was often lacking. Unsurprisingly, that Blockbuster recently closed. I thought I would try to remain loyal by signing up for their online service. I tried GameFly at the same time, since they both had their first month free.

Despite signing up on the same day, Blockbuster’s game took four days longer to arrive. Perhaps it just takes longer to establish the account, or I’m further from their warehouse. The GameFly game arrived in a cardboard sleeve and a paper sleeve, presumably to keep the disc from cracking. The Blockbuster game arrived in just a paper sleeve, and what do you know, it was cracked. And not just a little cracked.

This is not more of what I want.

It was cracked from the center ring all the way to the edge. I sent an defective report, returned it, and they sent another copy of the same game. That took about a week. By then I had already returned my first game and received my second GameFly game.

GameFly has a fantastic app that lets you manage your queue (which they call “Q”) on the go, browse games, read gaming news, connect with other GameFly users (like Twitter, but less fun), and more. They also offer a client for your computer through which you can play certain unlimited games. This client is basically like an app, allowing you to browse through much of what you find on the website. I didn’t use the blockbuster app because, for whatever reason, it wasn’t available for my phone at the time. I have downloaded it since, but I didn’t see any games available at all, just movies.

In addition to slow delivery, Blockbuster has as low of a selection online as they did in my local store. It seems that they are more content to simply sell the games then rent them, which may be what they want anyways. Blockbuster didn’t have any current gen handheld games to rent, and their console games were mostly outdated or unavailable. I can only assume that their movie selection is better. As I was only interested in games, I didn’t bother checking.

GameFly has PSVita and 3DS games as well as an impressive inventory of console games. They also have a Fast Return system, wherein your local Post Office tells GameFly they have received your game, and GameFly ships the next one from your list. This ingenious system takes two or three days off the return time. In somewhat related news, GameFly also brought legal action against the USPS because they hand sorted Netflix (and Blockbuster) discs but not GameFly discs for no apparent reason (hand sorting discs leads to less damage than machine sorting).

Blockbuster is a lot cheaper than Gamefly, letting you rent three discs for $19.99 whereas GameFly is $22.95 for only two discs. You can select from movies and games with Blockbuster, whereas Gamefly is only games. Each offers a trial period at a discount. GameFly will almost certainly have a faster turn around time than Blockbuster. If you subscribe to either one, then attempt cancel your membership, they will offer you a lower rate for one month. Ethically, it’s not something you should do… and I also don’t know how often that would work.

Because I was only interested in games, GameFly was the best choice. It’s more expensive, but you get what you pay for: better selection, ease of use, and quicker returns. Additionally, if you decide to use GameFly, you can use this link to get a free month (I’ll also get a free month). Sometimes they offer a free month on the site, but as of right now it’s 60% off the first month.

Fire Emblem: Awakening Demo

This is life. This is death. This is Fire Emblem.
Fire Emblem looks and plays greater than ever in the new demo on the 3DS e-shop. All game elements are neatly incorporated and grounded into the game play experience. You will be able to customize your character in the full version, but in the demo you can only change their name. You also have to be male in the demo. You can set his birthday, asset and flaw. You pick from the qualities of strength, speed, skill, luck, resistance, magic, defense, and health points for your asset and flaw. Of course, once you pick one as an asset, it cannot be selected as a flaw and vice versa. As the game begins you are suffering from (surprise!) amnesia that allows you to be rather clueless as you engage in your first battle. Your party finds you, a stranger, lying unconscious in a field. Somehow you know their leader’s name, but not your own.
You are helping a band of fighters called “Shepards”. You can pick from three difficulty levels at the start of the demo. You are not allowed to pick classic mode, where your units that perish in battle are permanently lost. Feeling overconfident, I tried on lunatic difficulty and died many times. I eventually went to beginner so that I could just see the demo to its end. The basic game play is the same, with the addition of enhanced support roles. Fighting next to other units, or even teaming up with them gives you bonuses as you fight.
 Don’t let the familiarity confuse you: this is an all new game, built for the 3DS. I rarely play my 3DS in 3D, but I was stunned at how gorgeous this game looked when I pushed that slider. Smoke and embers flicker in the foreground. The tilted top down view is accented by the surrounding buildings stretching towards you in perspective. To be clear, the game still looks great in 2d, but the depth in 3d is staggering.
The maps are smoothly integrated into the surrounding environments. The characters aren’t completely isolated as they fight, but instead blended into realistic streets and surroundings. I’m not crazy about the random words and noises the characters make during the cut scenes, especially when they just repeat the same grunts. While I’m listing minor grievances, they also have very tiny feet. This has no bearing on the game whatsoever, but I find it a strange design choice.
After the prologue the first chapter beings, in which your party camps for the evening. Chrom awakes to a strange feeling, and as he explores the surrounding woods with his sister, the earth splits, fire falls from the sky, and a blue orb poops out some enemies. A mysterious stranger appears and saves Chrom’s sister, and the others come to helps fight as your second battle begins. Though the stranger disappears, Sully and Virion come to help. The former is a gruff warrior, the latter is a skeevy archer.
When you are choosing an enemy to attack, you are offered a wonderfully simplified preview of the battle that summarizes the result of the encounter. You can choose the full view instead, which gives classic battle info. As the video of the fight happens, you have a variety of viewing options. You can change the view of the fight from an auto camera to first person as your fighter, or as a fixed battle clash (classic mode). You can fast forward the action or skip it altogether.
After learning that the mysterious character goes by Marth, and that the world is teetering on destruction, the demo concludes. It’s just enough game play to make you annoyed. You get a good feel for the game, and certainly become interested in what will happen next. I would have liked one more level to try. I planned on renting this game, but I think that is foolish. I cant imagine ever wanting to return it.
Fire Emblem is a great game to play on the go. Since the game play is turn based, you can abruptly put it down without even needing to pause or close it. However, I suggest you clear your schedule, plug in your 3DS, sit down at your desk with the 3D slider up as far as you can handle and give this game your full attention. If the demo is an accurate indication, this game will be challenging, engaging, and beautiful.

Fire Emblem

As a 3DS Ambassador (someone who paid $250 when it came out) I have a lot of old games that I downloaded for free. Though I appreciate having them, I mostly ignore them. A few months ago my ll year old cousin began incessantly beginning conversations about Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones. I understood little of what he said, as this was among the first turn-based RPGs he had ever played. Quite frankly, he didn’t know what he was talking about either. Last month I started playing Fire Emblem just so we could both know what he was talking about.

Turns out, Fire Emblem is addicting and amazing. I’m on my second play through of Sacred Stones and also somewhat playing Shadow Dragon. Of course, in my first play through I clumsily fought my way through the story, often killed people that would have fought for me, endlessly restarted chapters as units fell, and spent not enough time in the tower. In my second play-through, I just let Seth kill everyone (more or less) until I got to the tower. I went with Erika this time instead of Ephraim, but since I’m still in my first battle, I can’t comment on the difference. 

Becoming obsessed with Fire Emblem couldn’t have come at a better time, as Fire Emblem Awakening is due out next month. I’m resisting the urge to buy this beautifully branded 3DS
There will be 40 character classes

You can team up for attacks 
It’s very pretty
And I am excited.