mailbag #2

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. Mostly due to a lack of questions. I know folks like to leave comments or ask me stuff on social media or in my Twitch chat, so the old mailbag gets neglected as a result. However, I’m still trying to reestablish Old World Internet things like this, a way of building a rapport with an audience, rather than posting into a void with others responding into another void.

Got a few questions here, so I will go ahead and answer them! Cool! My rule is to wait until I get five questions, but I had some good ones with long answers, so I stopped at three this time. By all means, feel free to ask stuff over here! Doesn’t even have to be about games! It could be anything, really: an*me, sports entertainment, anything that you think I would be able to answer with something other than absolute confusion.

From: Lariria

Message:
You’ve been playing Fallout 3, a game you despise. How come?

It’s the result of one of those nights of me discussing games with some friends over Discord. I’ve also been playing a lot of Shin Megami Tensei V, and I had been asked what personally appeals to me in regards to the overall plot and themes of the series.

I said, “The thing about going down the neutral path, or becoming a True Demon in Megaten, it’s like fucking, uh, like how there’s all those endings in Fallout New Vegas, right? But we all know that the only ending that matters is the one where you take control of the Yes Man and declare the Vegas Strip as a territory independent of the varying factions looking to re-implement old world ideologies that led to the world being a bombed out hellhole. It’s not ideal, but it’s fucking better than all that other shit.” My point of reference was Fallout, which is unusual, because it’s not one I see made all too often. That was how I explained myself.

This talk led to me wanting to load up a Fallout game. First, I did some New Vegas, because of course I would. The thing is, is that I’ve played New Vegas to death. You have played New Vegas to death. Everyone has played New Vegas to death. We know that game inside and out. We know all the characters, all the dialogue. We know all the words to “Big Iron.” We all know that patrolling the Mojave almost makes you wish a nuclear winter. I wanted to do something different, and load up the other best Fallout: Fallout 2. I haven’t played this game in about eight years, so I was looking forward to going on a trip down memory lane. Fallout 2 is still amazing, having replayed it. These extremely well-written RPGs with solid mechanics. They really don’t make them like this all too often these days. I’m sure I will have another post on this in the near future.

Then I started thinking about Fallout 3, a real low point not just in the series, but for games as a whole, I feel. I haven’t played Fallout 3 since 2009, so I wanted to refresh myself, at least as much as you can “refresh” yourself with a terrible game. I wanted to remind myself just how badly Bethesda fucked things up. Yeah, it’s still bad. The writing is still garbage, the roleplaying element is still a joke that railroads you into playing the “right” way, the combat is still extremely rough and gives me a greater appreciation for how much Obsidian was able to salvage what they could from it for New Vegas. Fallout 3 really does feel like an insult to anyone who has played the originals, like me. The morally ambiguous, pointed critique at capitalism and American exceptionalism now becoming post-apocalyptic Star Wars; the Brotherhood of Steel are the good guys (rather than weird technofacists that only exist for you to steal shit from) and the Enclave are the bad guys and did you see Liberty Prime wow cool robot. The moral shades of gray you were presented with in the past now a firm black and white.

In Fallout 1, for example, you find the water chip you’ve been sent to look for in a vault full of Ghouls. Now, you can straight up steal it, which will kill the Ghouls inside, or you can fix their water pump and get the chip for doing so, which will keep them alive, but the water is still irradiated and will eventually turn the Ghouls into Feral Ghouls. The Fallout water chips are designed to break after a certain length of time, so there’s a commentary on artificial scarcity and planned obsolescence there. But also, a bleak point about the aftermath of a war that leaves people reducing others’ quality of life in order to improve their own, because the means to unite aren’t there, or at least not there yet. The game doesn’t beat this point over your head, Spec-Ops style, so it’s up to you as a player and your sense of morality and empathy to sit and think about what you’re doing.

Fallout 3, meanwhile, has a town built around an undetonated nuclear bomb. You can either disarm it, or blow it up. The choice reduced to literally pressing some buttons, or committing a genocide.

New Vegas has a town called “Novac.” Novac is built off of an abandoned motel, and the name comes from the remaining letters on a No Vacancy sign. It makes sense, and it’s a bit clever. People in a post-apocalypse don’t have a fucking clue what a vacancy is; they don’t even know who Elvis Presley is, so they see a sign that says Novac, and assume that it must have been the name of a town. Novac is a small detail that adds to the setting and to the world building.

Fallout 3 has a town called “Minefield.” It is called this because someone planted a number of armed land mines around it. Great.

I needed to replay Fallout 3 to remind myself that good games really are a form of magic. I needed to feel some despair that absolute shit can be considered acclaimed. To mourn Fallout as a series, because there is no way anyone other than Bethesda will ever work on one again. To see how much, yet how little, games (at least AAA ones) have changed in the time since its initial release. Fallout 3 is terrible, but it’s the kind of infuriating awful that needs to be experienced.

There’s so much more I can go on about, but this answer is already running pretty long, so I’ll end it here.

From: Ian Morris

Message:
i kind of miss licensed tie-in games some of them were fun and some were just fun to make fun of, did you enjoy any games that were mainly tie-ins to stuff besides game?

I think the obvious one off the top of my head is Goldeneye 007 on the Nintendo 64. Additionally, WCW/nWo Revenge, also on Nintendo 64.

But a real “Hidden Gem” so to speak would be the Sega Mega Drive version of True Lies, based on the action/comedy film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and everyone’s favorite Vega main, Jamie Lee Curtis.

I’m bringing this one up because of how surprising it is. It was made by Beam Software, a company known for two things: making absolute dogshit, and somehow also making Shadowrun for Super Famicom. True Lies should not be as good as it is, and yet, here is this fun top-down shooter with Doom-like key hunting and lots of blood and Tom Arnold managing to be funny despite the severe handicap of being Tom Arnold. Granted, the difficulty shoots through the roof a few stages in, and some of the larger levels can be a slog to navigate and find all the keys and doors for, but True Lies still manages to be this surprising good at best, above average at worst, game. Check it out.

From: Ian Morris

Message:
has there been a game that you feel needs to be remade that got left out of the trend of remakes and remasters?

King’s Field. Pick any one of the four From Software made, maybe all four. I think this is the old grump in me, but I am weary of constantly seeing this series only ever being referred to as “Dark Souls, before there was Dark Souls.” I love Dark Souls, but fuck me, not everything needs to be compared to it! Especially not a series that predates it by over a decade, and was influential on Dark Souls’ development. King’s Field is, to my knowledge, the second ever fully 3D game, at least on console (the first being Riverhill Soft’s Dr. Hauzer on the 3DO). That’s kind of an important, notable thing! Give it some dual analog controls, and the option to switch back and forth between the old graphics and whatever new ones FromSoft cook up, and you should be all set. King’s Field still rules, and I would like a new generation of players to be able to enjoy it.

mailbag #1

Well. Last weekend has been, uh, a bit eventful. I admit, I’ve been debating with myself what to do after that. I mean, I wrote a very personal, vulnerable thing that brought out and brought back a lot of bad memories, and put a larger spotlight on me, which admittedly made me a bit nervous and filled me with a sense of dread. I wasn’t (I’m not) afraid or full of dread over any sort of reprisal, but rather because I had so many people looking at me for reasons other than for something I made. Also, I’m the kind of person who prefers having a smaller audience anyway; I’ll put a bullet through my miserable skull once and for all if I turn into one of those weirdos that calls their fans a “family” or some other parasocial bull shit. Wasn’t sure if I should take a week off, because it’s not like you can go back to business as usual, right?

Fuck that. It’s business as usual, baby! Let’s have some fun and talk about some video games or something.

Anyways. It’s Spring. The weather is getting warmer, the birds are out, my allergies are kicking in. It’s a great time. It’s also that time of the year where I get bored, and try out new, weird shit on my site. This new, weird idea is the Mailbag. I set up a contact form (click here), so neither myself nor anyone else who wants to talk to me has to use social media, or make a Curious Cat account, and I’m also not making my own Discord server because, again,I don’t feel comfortable managing a community brought together over me. With this form, you can send me questions, leave a comment, or whatever. As someone who is frequently asked what I think about [thing], I figured this would be a good idea.

I got some questions, so I am going to answer them.

(Quick disclaimer: I will never, ever, post your email address on here.)

From: Lariria

What are your thoughts on Grandia 1?

Funny thing, I have never played Grandia prior to getting this message. It’s not like I’ve never had opportunities to play it, I just never did. However, I did spend around an hour playing the game before sitting down to answer this. Grandia has a very slow start. Normally, I hate RPGs that do this, but I didn’t really mind it here. Mostly because the slow start establishes this group of kids as being, well, a group of kids, getting into trouble and having fun. Doesn’t hurt that the dialogue is actually pretty funny (I’m playing the fan-translated Saturn game, for the record).

Grandia seems pretty cool. I didn’t spend that much time with it, in terms of RPG standards, but I think this is something I might want to come back to again.

justin, a boy after my own heart

 

From: miffy

what’s the worst game you can think of that you would wholeheartedly recommend?

This was a tough one to answer. I was trying to think of something that I hadn’t already written about (so no Hydlide, for example), or something that’s actually good, but got a bad critical reception (such as God Hand).

I would start with Daikatana. The first episode is terrible, the weapons aren’t especially great to use, and “Superfly” Johnson isn’t exactly the most sensitive representation of a Black man. It’s not especially great, but it has its charm. It has heart. If nothing else, it definitely should not have been what derailed John Romero’s career for the last twenty-one years.

Another one I would recommend is Earnest Evans, on Sega Genesis and Sega CD. It is awful. It plays like shit, the levels don’t make any sense, and Earnest himself animated like a Marionette. But there’s this weird “It” factor. Like, it sucks, but it sucks in an interesting way. You can finish the game in about fifteen minutes, but it’s an interesting fifteen minutes.

Last one (for now) is going to be Death Crimson on the Sega Saturn. This is a pretty infamously bad game, and also one that is beloved despite that. It is at least as bad as you’ve heard, if not worse. And it also completely fucking rules. It has inspired some cool stuff, like that custom controller:

And the game’s composer has what is the most infectiously happy YouTube channel there is:

 

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Well thank you, definitely real person, that left this comment in a random post I made about two years ago. Hope you are your very real friends and family are having a nice day!

 

From: CJ

I am curious to see what kind of disaster you think the upcoming Resident Evil 4 remake is going to be! My personally theory is that 30% of the charm is going to be lost immediately when you lose the spatial puzzle aspect of organizing the inventory.

Okay, yes, a remake of Resident Evil 4 will be an absolute fucking nightmare. The remakes of 2 and 3 were not particularly that good to begin with, and RE4 is a timeless classic that does not need to be fucked with. This remake will definitely cut out the attache case. It will probably also be like RE3 and cut out like an entire third of the game for no reason, and I bet it won’t have The Mercenaries in this one, too!

There is no way this will be anything other than a major disappointment. That being said, I’m still playing it. I mean, if I can play through Operation Raccoon City and Umbrella Corps, I can tough it out through an extremely disappointing retread of a game that can be purchased on literally every gaming platform that has existed for the last twenty years.


That’s all the messages in the bag. Feel free to send some shit, and I’ll respond to it. If you want to hear my thoughts on something, or if you want to tell me to fuck myself and die, the link is at the top of this post and on the sidebar.