Monday, December 11, 2017

First Impressions: DOOM (Nintendo Switch)

If you find yourself here and are looking for specs about how DOOM runs on the Switch, or anything technical, I regret to inform you that you have arrived at the wrong address.  There will be no side-by-side comparison videos showing DOOM on the Switch and a top of the line PC running at 60fps with all of the video sliders set at Ultra High.  I tried running the DOOM Demo back in July of last year and was barely able to run the game at 15 fps even on the lowest graphical settings.  

This is where my First Impressions come from.

So this was my first time having to deal with a Day One Patch, something that I have not come across amongst the PC games that I have, or even some of the 3DS games that have used an online connection like Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia.  I was a little annoyed at not being able to play a game immediately upon receiving it in the mail, even if the patch contained the ability to play online multiplayer that I really had no interest in, but more on that bit later.  The point is, after about an hour and-a-half or so, the patch downloaded and I was finally able to enjoy DOOM.  Except that I did not enjoy it right off the bat.

As most of you know, I grew up playing consoles and my first real introduction to First Person Shooters was Turok: Dinosaur Hunter and Goldeneye 007 on the N64, so using a controller for FPS' is not a new thing for me.  And I did not really start playing FPS' on PCs until DOOM 3 back in 2009 and from that point on I have tended to favor Keyboard/Mouse controls over a controller in most cases; there are exceptions like Assassin's Creed, and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor though.  So playing with the Switches Joy-Con's took quite a bit of getting used to.  I replayed the first stage because by the end, I felt that I was a bit better and figured that I could use the practice anyway.  And now, at the end of the fourth stage, I finally feel like I am getting more comfortable, but not completely.  There was a Rune Challenge that only solidified my position that KB/M is superior to a controller for precise aiming, especially in timed situations where timing, speed, and accuracy are paramount.  The point is that it took some time before I felt that I could really enjoy the game because of the controls.

Once I reached the second stage (having gone through the first stage twice already) on the Hurt Me Plenty difficulty (being the normal setting for the game), I was finally starting to enjoy the game.  During this time I did notice that the graphics did not look as crisp as the trailers I watched for the 2016 release, but it was far from being a blocky and washed out mess that some parts of the Internet would prefer you to believe.  And yes, I could tell that the game was not running at 1080p, and that some of the textures were not as detailed as they might be running on a computer purchased in the last six months.  But since my current computer could not run the PC version, I do not feel that the Switch version felt inferior while playing it.  For the most part.

Oddly enough, the only times I have felt that the game did not look as detailed as I would have liked was during the melee gore kills.  Sure, I could tell that I was pulling an Imp's jaws open like a Ziploc sandwich bag constructed of flesh and demonic bone, but the colors did seem a bit blurred.  I have also not noticed any slow down in the game, although this could possibly be because I do not have an fps counter up in the corner like I do for Steam, so I may not have been able to tell if there was an fps dip from 30 down to 20. 

As far as bugs and glitches go, I have read about people experiencing audio issues, but I have only had it happen once in the fourth stage when I was wandering around some heavy equipment looking for the location of one of the hidden DOOM Marine dolls.  There was a semi-disruptive tone that was not related to any ambient sound that lasted for less than two seconds.  The game otherwise seemed unaffected.  The only other glitch that I have experienced is pictured to the right.  The second or third time I started the game, I was greeted with the inability to move the joystick either up or down.  I was then told, upon selecting the Campaign (single player option), that I had "exceed[ed] your matchmaking communications quota. . ." and that I could try again in roughly 23 days.  Not having tried multiplayer at this point I was a bit confused at not even being able to continue my single player game, and after frantically searching online, I discovered that all I had to do was exit the game, then restart the Switch.  For whatever reason that cleared everything up.

Speaking of multiplayer which I briefly mentioned above, I have actually played a number of rounds with the rest of the beginners, not that you are relegated to play with other beginners, but that is where I feel my multiplayer skill level is at with console based FPS'.  I also love, at least currently, that there is no option for voice chat.  One might argue that in teamed combat, that communicating with your fellow teammates is integral to survival, but I say that it will would only drive a divide between people who want to better learn the game, and an already toxic community who seems hell bent (eh!?) on being ass-hats to say the least.  I am not saying that everyone playing DOOM multiplayer would call everyone who looks like they are dragging down the point total for the team (often me), a "fucking n00b cunt who can't shoot his way out of his mom's ass."  I just do not want to deal with that.  Ever.  Which is probably why I do not do a lot of online multiplayer gaming.  The point is, as long as voice chat remains either non existent or the option to not have it at all, I will continue to dip my toe into the DOOM multiplayer from time to time.

So that is what I have to say at the moment about DOOM on the Switch.  It is a pretty fun game, well thought out compared to the original DOOM, but not the horror experience I think of when I think of DOOM 3.  It is not a perfect game, and someone who needs a 1080p 60fps experience should probably look elsewhere, but for someone who wanted to play a well designed and fun FPS on the Switch, this is exactly what I was looking for.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "Mountain" - Mario Kart 64 (N64)

"Mountain" from Mario Kart 64 on the Nintendo 64 (1996/1997)
Composer: Kenta Nagata
Developer: Nintendo EAD

Okay, sure.  "Mountain" is from the Choco Mountain track in Mario Kart 64, and on the Mario Kart 64 Race Tracks album it is listed as "Choco Mountain / Battle" but this specific track is just the regular racing music and does not not include the Battle section at the end; which is the long winded answer to why I have titled this "Mountain" and not "Choco Mountain / Battle." 

Moving on.

What I really like about "Mountain" is that without using any theme from "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain," this is the first thing that I think of whenever it comes on.  It probably has something to do with the harmonica-esque tone of the melody leading instrument, coupled with the fact that you are driving around a mountain during the majority of the race.  And now that I think about it, this track could have benefited scenery-wise if the train from the Kalimari Desert chugged through part of the stage.  Something about the drum throughout the song and the banjo that comes in around 27 seconds just screams "TRAIN" to me and all this song is missing is a train whistle at some point before it loops back on itself.

But this track is about mountains, and one resembling if not actually created from chocolate.  And thanks to The Kid for giving me the idea of using this while I was. . .riding home on the carriage from work, and not at all talking on the phone while driving, because that's illegal.  Obey the law kids.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Stardew Valley

Hello guys! Today I would like to talk about Stardew Valley, a game that Jaconian got me for our anniversary--something he probably regrets because it's all I do now! Anyway, this is just a short piece to show my appreciation for the game rather than a review. So Stardew Valley. The story goes that the developer created this game 1) to teach himself coding, and 2) because he loved Harvest Moon but wanted more out of it. Harvest Moon was one of my favorite games as a kid, and Stardew Valley does a great job of using that nostalgia while still creating something new.

The concept is that you inherit a farm from your grandpa, and you leave your boring cubicle job at a soulless corporation in order to live a chiller, more fulfilling life in Pelican Town. You start with a property that's covered in debris, not knowing anybody, and it's your mission to create a thriving farm, get to know the community, and discover all the cool weird shit that Pelican Town has going on. Did you know you can befriend a wizard? Hatch a dinosaur? Grow fruit from ancient seeds?

Now look, I love my job. And I have no illusions about how hard it is to run even a hobby farm IRL. BUT! the escapist in me loves this. Anything is possible and everything is positive. Even the mean characters --ahem, Shane-- are good at heart. Consequences are few and far in between (unless you run out of health in the mines, DO NOT do that), but you do still have to work for your rewards. I think I'm at the point now where I've completed all of the main story line and am just cruising through, harvesting pomegranates and turning goat milk into chevre cheese.

 I guess some people get really serious about it and make spreadsheets planning out maximum farm efficiency, but I don't like to play that way. Because after a long day of slogging through traffic like the city slicker I am, I just want to relax, pet some chickens, and hang out at my farm in Stardew Valley.

JRPG's and Random Encounters

Despite the title, I am not about to make any doctorate level thesis related claims or anything that will win us here the 2018 Pulitzer Award for Mixed Media Journalism.  What I am here to write about is something that I noticed recently while playing Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation on the DS, and Final Fantasy III on the SNES Classic.  What I noticed while wandering the overworld and dungeons in these games, and JRPG's to a larger extent, was that I was getting sleepy.

But before you go jumping to the conclusion that JRPG's are by their very nature boring, sleep inducing hunks of not an FPS, or that the very act of grinding in a video game just to progress the story is a cheap way to artificially extend the playtime, let me remind you of a few things; because why not artificially extend the read time in this article?  I grew up playing Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior on the NES in the early '90s, so JRPG's and grinding through wandering monster encounters is nothing new to me.  

At a certain point, probably high school I would imagine, I would stay up late on the weekends (yup, that was me) playing Final Fantasy III, Paladin's Quest, and Chrono Trigger on the SNES, which are all typical JRPG's with turn based combat.  Usually sometime around one or two AM, I might start to doze off because of how late it was, but usually around that time is when I was grinding for levels.  I may not have even needed to gain levels to proceed through the next area, but I would usually want to be at a level at a factor of five, just because it felt right.  If I was at level 23 when I cleared a boss, I would tell myself that I would probably need to be at or around 25 before going through the next story lead cave, and be at least level 30 before fighting the next boss.  And gaining levels also meant unlocking new abilities that seemed to happen at specific levels that I could never remember, so gaining another level meant possibly gaining a new cool spell or special attack.

Having that mentality ingrained in my brain, playing a JRPG like Final Fantasy III (again), or Dragon Quest VI means that I am going to be grinding for levels makes me wonder if I managed to condition some part of my brain to be in a relaxed state become sleepy.  It is not that I am not enjoying my time with the game, far from it.  Conklederp can attest that while reading, I will often doze off and not because I am bored by H.P. Lovecraft, but because I often read at night and is a pretty consistent way for me to fall asleep.

Random encounters too are their own beast.  They happen fairly frequently so that you are unable to get through a single phrase of the overworld or dungeon theme before being attacked.  This is just a part of the game and the genre.  I guess you could opt to find a game that lets you go from Point A to Point B (after being exiled from your village for pulling flipping the switch on the forbidden machine located in the center of town) where you are not required to fight any monsters, but the monsters are there (often inexplicably) to both present some perceived danger, but true enough, to extend the playtime a bit.  And then you have Final Fantasy Mystic Quest where the enemies in dungeons and caves were all visible (with the exception of one ice related stage if I recall correctly), and I became afraid at the finite number of enemies possibly meaning a finite level I could reach; especially hazardous if a party member dies and loses out on that sweet sweet XP.  The beauty with random encounters coupled with turn based combat is that being able to mash the A button to simply fight your way through is so easy.

So what am I getting at?  That maybe I inadvertently hardwired myself to get sleepy while grinding for levels during random monster encounters while playing RPG's apparently.  Maybe it's true, or maybe it's something that I just made up in the last 47 1/2 minutes.  Either way, it's not like it's going to stop me from playing JRPG's.  I just love the genre too much.


Friday, December 1, 2017

Monthly Update: December 2017

So first off, apologies for us missing the first MIDI Week Single since September 14th 2016, but at least we made it more than 52 weeks without missing a post, just not quite a calendar year.

So my excuse for my lax posting in November had to do with Conklederp and me moving into a the house we recently signed a 30 year mortgage on, refinishing some hardwood floors before being able to set up an integral room designed for sleeping, getting said house ready for a family visit, moving more stuff out of the old house (we had a month overlap), and cleaning the old house before we turned the keys in.  I don't think we've gotten take out as much as we did last month, what with being exhausted after doing maintenance, moving boxes and bags, and some deep deep cleaning in hopes that we might get at least 17% of our deposit back.

Now that we are fully in our new house (for the next 30 years?) posting should become more regular. . . oh wait, there are these holiday things coming up at the end of the month and oh yeah, we still have a lot of boxes taking up a lot of room in the kitchen, living room, and basement landing.  And I am looking at a blue plastic bin that has our Dungeons & Dragons books in it, and I know there is another blue plastic bin upstairs with most of my Tolkien books in it; and I need to bolt a small bookshelf into the wall so that it doesn't tip over during the big one in the next 50 years.

Anyway, the point is, now that we only have one house to deal with, I can get back to talking about my playthrough of Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, my attempt at Castlevania: The Adventure, my current goings on in Wolfenstein 3D, or my time with DOOM on the Switch; holy hell I'm even playing multiplayer against my better judgement!  Or even my hunt to find a new physical copy of Fire Emblem: Awakening for less than $40 because bloody hell resellers, y'all're asshats, and Nintendo really needs to have this (and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and Star Fox 64 3D as part of their Nintendo Selects series.

Alright, that's my post for today.  Written partly because I felt I needed to post an update and not just one of the monthly variety, but also because I felt that I haven't written in a while and it generally feels good to be able to sit down and write something, which was part of the reason for us existing here.  That and because Dr. Potts and I live 650+ miles away and it's a way for us to keep in touch on a regularish basis.

So being back is good.

Let's keep it this way.

The Mountain I Must Climb

Thursday, November 23, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "In the Town" - Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelations (NDS)

"In the Town" from Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelations on the Nintendo DS (2011)
Composer: Koichi Sugiyama
Album: No Official Soundtrack Release (That I Could Find for the DS Version)
Developer: Arte Piazza

You know, why not make November Dragon Quest music month here at Stage Select Start?  After reading Dr. Potts' article about Dragon Quest VIII, I recalled that I had put down DQVI some time ago and thought it deserved another shot, so that is what I have been playing for most of the month.

I decided to use "In the Town" because it intrigued me a bit.  Aside from your starting village, "In the Town" plays for every town that you go in, which is pretty standard when it comes to video games and specifically RPGs.  But what it is that I find interesting about this song, is that even when you visit the Dream World, the town theme is the same.  And even in the Real World (I've forgotten if it is referred to as anything else), there are rumors of the threat of Murdaw and his armies taking over the world.  It is a rather cheerful song, which is what I am getting at.  Koichi Sugiyama has written another song that just sounds like a small town or village theme, but you would not know that anything wrong is happening in the outside world.

I guess you could say that is my one and only criticism of this song, but again, it is a damn good town song.

Now as to the "Album" section above.  I could find no mention of this song on the Super Famicom 2009 soundtrack release, but the 2009 Symphonic Suite Dragon Quest VI: The Phantom World album does contain "In the Town" as part of a medley.  Surprisingly too was that there was  no soundtrack released for the 2011 DS release, but that seems to have been the case with the DS remakes until the Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King 3DS remake last year.  


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

MIDI Week Singles - "Overture" - Dragon Quest 8 (PS2)

"Overture" Dragon Quest VIII - PS2
Composer: Koichi Sugiyama
Publisher: Aniplex

Given I'm still not that far into the game, I've decided to share the opening theme of Dragon Quest VIII.  The song is very grand, and I'm sure there are some musical terms I don't know to describe the beginning which has sort of a call to attention, before settling into a steady theme full of big horns and cymbal crashes. I like that the song comes to a conclusion rather than fading out or repeating.  It gives it a sense like the opening of a play, introducing the world before the action begins.  This song sets the tone for what has been a light and colorful cartoon adventure.