Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Theatrical Cut - Blade Runner 2049

My good friend Cole and I finally managed to catch Blade Runner 2049, the newly minted sequel to the original Blade Runner, starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, and directed by Denis Villeneuve. Here are our thoughts after we left the theatre!

Hope you enjoy,

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

VHyesterdayS - Communion (1989)

Here is the inaugural edition of my latest video series VHyesterdayS, where I'll talk about some of my favourite VHS tapes I have lying around my movie collection.

This episode will be about the controversial and oddball science fiction film, Communion, based on the novel of the same name.

Don't forget to check out the Coming Attractions!

I hope you enjoy,

Friday, September 22, 2017

100 Shrines Later...

I've been trying to keep mums the word on my thoughts of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the past few months, because I'd like to write a proper review for the game once I've completed it, but I hit a milestone last night and I wanted to share.

I've been playing this game pretty much since launch day. Technically my copy of the game came in three days after the launch or so, but whatever. Here we are almost seven months later and I'm still playing this game! I'm over 100 hours in, which for me is significant. I don't think I've ever put 100 hours into a game like this before. Sure, I've racked those kinds of hours in games like Goldeneye 007, which my friends and I played on multiplayer for countless hours over several years, but a single-player action adventure game? Nah, I don't think so. I doubt I've put that much time into a Final Fantasy game, honestly.

100 shrines deep

At right around 100 hours I hit 100 shrines. For the last couple of weeks that's pretty much been all I've been doing: shrine hunting. I've finished all the Divine Beasts, got the Master Sword, and accumulated most of the armour sets (still have some work to do there), so pretty much all I have left is to get all 120 shrines and I think it'll be time for me square off with the final boss and finish Breath of the Wild properly.

Hyrule Castle awaits

That's easier said than done, however, as finding these shrines is getting more and more difficult as I progress. I've been sectioning off areas of the map and basically doing a grid search. I started at the bottom, so I've pretty much checked off Gerudo and Faron, but finding these things can be seriously tough. Also, I'm noticing that all those "Oh, there's a shrine!" moments are gone. Now I'm constantly searching for hidden shrines and shrine quests. I'm surprised with how many I've missed!

The sword in the stone

I'm still having a great time, though, which is a testament to the game and the portability of the Nintendo Switch. As much as I love the title, I don't think I'd be nearly as far along as I am if I was playing it on the Wii U, simply because I've played so much of the game on-the-go or on breaks at work.

The beauty of Hyrule

Anyway, I just wanted to share that! Look forward to the final review, whenever that happens! Oh, and today is the first day of Autumn, my favourite season, so Happy Fall! May there be many pumpkin lattes and horror films in your future.

Link's ready for Halloween!

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Project Octopath Traveler Impressions

As I watched the Nintendo Direct last evening I had one hope spooling around in my mind: I'd like to see more of Project Octopath Traveler from Square Enix. My wishes were answered when it became one of the four main titles spotlighted during the event. I had simply hoped for a trailer or some new information. I never expected to get a demo!

Directly after the event the demo for Project Octopath Traveler was available on the Nintendo eShop and I downloaded it immediately.

As a fan of classic RPGs and the work of Team Asano at Square Enix, the group that brought us 4 Heroes of Light, Bravely Default, and Bravely Second, I've been anticipating this project since it was first teased at the reveal of Nintendo Switch back in January.

Bravely Default - Nintendo 3DS

The game presents the player with eight different characters to choose at the outset of their adventure. Each character offers a different play-style, story, and allows the player to go out into an open world and play the game however they see fit. The game is presented in an art-style defined by the developers as 2D-HD, which is an apt name. The sprites all appear to have a 2D pixel look, however the world is in three dimensions.

In the demo you can play as two characters, Primrose or Olberic. Primrose is a dancer who can use an Allure ability, which allows her to charm people in her environment to follow her for various tasks. She can also summon characters she has Allured to battle. Olberic is a former knight serving as a protector to a small village after he lost his king eight years previously. Olberic can challenge anyone in the world to a duel, which sounds strange, but actually plays out alright from what the demo has shown.

The game's aesthetic and music hearken back to RPGs from the Super Nintendo and PlayStation era. Although the mechanics of Bravely Default, for instance, are a little more straight-laced like the Final Fantasy games of old, the aesthetic of Project Octopath Traveler is so akin to a game like Final Fantasy VI that its charm hits you almost immediately as you begin your adventure.

Final Fantasy 3 (aka VI) - Super Nintendo

One thing I've noticed is that a lot of people are aligning this game with Final Fantasy VI and I can see why. The look of the character sprites definitely feels like an extension of that game, but the music! I can't account for it - I know that FFVI's soundtrack was presented as bit-tunes and Project Octopath Traveler has a full orchestra behind it, but I can hear and feel the lineage of FFVI in some of the tracks I experienced playing the demo of Project Octopath Traveler. There are also several tracks that I've listened to on the web that feel very much like something from Chrono Cross. The music is absolutely stunning.

Project Octopath Traveler - Nintendo Switch

Here's the thing: I don't think Project Octopath Traveler is supposed to be reminiscent of the Final Fantasy games of old. I believe that Project Octopath Traveler is to the SaGa games as Bravely Default was to Final Fantasy; the branching open-world paths and multiple characters to choose from at the outset just screams SaGa.

The SaGa series was released in North America around the early 90s under the Final Fantasy branding, as the games definitely contain some of the DNA of FF titles, which were selling like hotcakes in the Americas. The first three SaGa games were released here as Final Fantasy Legend on Gameboy, but we missed out on all of the Super Nintendo/Famicom entries in the series known as Romancing SaGa and we didn't see another SaGa game until SaGa Frontier released on the Sony PlayStation in 1997.

Romancing SaGa 3 - Super Famicom

Now, I'm no SaGa expert. I've played a little bit of one of the FF Legend games - I believe it was Final Fantasy Legend II - and I've watched a fair bit of SaGa Frontier. My good friend (and Retro-Def contributor) Cole owns both of those games and I've played a bit of them at his place when we were kids. If I'm wrong on this one, feel free to correct me, but I definitely catch a SaGa vibe off of Project Octopath Traveler and I wouldn't be surprised if this game ended up as a SaGa title when it finally releases in 2018, but I still think it's more likely that it will continue to be its own thing, capturing some of the essence of the SaGa games of the past.

That's all I really have to say at this point. Even though we've had a couple of nice trailers, a feature in Nintendo Direct, and a demo of the game I still feel like a lot of it is shrouded in mystery. For one thing, even though we have a demo, the game is still being presented by it's working title, with the real name of the game to be revealed closer to release. I feel like we've only scratched the surface with Project Octopath Traveler and there's so much more to come from this highly anticipated title!

Feel free to tell me how you feel about the newly released information on Project Octopath Traveler! Have you played the demo? Hit me up in the comments below or on our Twitter and Facebook pages. I'd love to hear from you!

Hope you enjoyed,

Friday, June 23, 2017

Still Alive

The past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind for me. I'm not going to get into it, because it's the usual "real life" stuff that crops up now and then. Everyone in my family is doing great, nothing bad is happening, but I needed desperately to back off of just about everything and focus on my work and my family.

Things are still crazy, I'll be honest, but I feel like I really need to come up for air and see what's been going on in the outside world! During my hiatus I went as far as to delete Twitter and a bunch of other social media apps off of my phone to stave off the temptation to check them. It was like a detox - at first it was really tough - but pretty quickly I realized that I didn't need to check Twitter every few minutes and that life would go on. All that to say, I am completely out of the loop.

So what can I write about? About the only thing I've managed to do for myself since the start of March (and earlier than that, really) has been to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Yeah... so... I got a Nintendo Switch. On launch day. Even though I was rough on the idea of the Switch when Nintendo first did their presentation back in 2016, I softened to it over time. I realized that most of the gaming I actually managed to do lately has been on my Nintendo 3DS and it's mainly because it is a handheld and it makes games really easy to drop in and out of whenever I have a few minutes to spare. So when I started to think about how I was going to play Breath of the Wild - a game I've been eagerly anticipating for years - I decided it made sense to get it on a portable console and give it a shot.

Getting the Switch was actually a bit of a fluke. I pretty much decided on launch day I was going to do this thing, so early on March 3rd I drove out to a local Wal-mart on my way to work. I saw a line gathered at the front door, like I'd expected, but when I actually popped inside the foyer I saw there weren't that many people at all. Then the manager stuck his head out to let us know they had plenty of Switches to go around and he handed out tickets. At that point, I felt like I had to pick it up!

One hitch was that they only had a few of the Neon versions, which was the one I wanted. I was far back in the line, so by the time I got my turn up at bat they only had the Grey version available. so I picked up anyway and made my way to work.

Later that day I was browsing reddit - about the only site I let myself go to during my hiatus - and I saw that Walmart.ca was going to have Nintendo Switch for sale on their website. I popped on and saw they had the Neon version, so I snapped it up! For a brief period of time I actually had two Nintendo Switches. Considering I was so grumpy about them a few months prior, I had to take a picture of my hypocrisy.

I won't lie, I was seriously tempted to keep both.

Now I still had no games. But that was quickly rectified. My wife had seen the preorder for Breath of the Wild on Amazon Prime one day - and knowing I'd eventually get a Switch for their future exclusives - picked up the Switch copy for me at the Prime preorder price, so within a few days of the Switch launch I finally held Breath of the Wild in my hands and it was go-time.

So over the next few months - whenever I had time to spare - I would drop in and out of Hyrule. One thing I'll say about the Switch is that it is so easy to do that. Pick it up, play for 15 minutes, and put it back to sleep. Occasionally I'd get some time at the house to play, and I'd dock it and play on the TV, but for the most part I've played in handheld mode - and in the unlikeliest of places... work!

I've been really busy with work lately - a lot of traveling and ramping up on a huge project - but I've allowed myself some time here and there for breaks at work where I take my Switch, brew up a cup of coffee, and head to the lobby at the office for a half hour of blissful Zelda time. It's helped me relax at work and give a mental break, which has been much-needed, let me tell you!

On my work trips I've gotten some quality Zelda time in, as well. Between the small bursts at home and a few decent gaming sessions I'm actually over 60 hours into the game and I'd say about 50% done!

I don't want to talk too much about the game itself - I think it deserves its own post - but I will say that I'm having a great time with it and the Switch as well.

Another game I've been playing the last few weeks or so has been Friday the 13th: The Game, which although I didn't kickstart I found myself dying to play on launch, so I dropped the $40 to see what it was like. The only problem was that I bought it on Xbox One and if you've followed the launch of this game you know that things have been bumpy on all platforms, but none so bad as Xbox. All that aside I've had some serious fun playing the game in private matches (matchmaking has been totally fried) and it's another game I'd like to dedicate a post to, being that I'm such a huge Friday the 13th fan.

So that's what I've been up to. I'm going to be heading back to the Twitterverse and trying to catch up on all things Sausage Factory and Cartridge Club related, but I'm not diving back in the way I was before. I still don't have the time to dedicate to my hobbies the way I'd like to, and that's fine. Like I said, everyone is healthy and happy and that's what's important.

Just to note you'll notice a new paint job around here. I spruced things up a bit. Most people would go for an all white display these days, but I'm a programmer/developer by trade and I always code with a black screen and light text - it helps when you stare at a monitor all day - so that's why things are so dark around here. It's not related to my mood, I promise! I've directed social media related to the site to two new accounts, as well. The new Twitter handle is @retrodef83 and Facebook is @retrodef. You can still follow me @RyHoMagnifico, of course, but I'll post links to any new content to the new social sites. So follow them and stay up-to-date!

I hope everyone is well and I'm looking forward to catching up!


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Nostalgia Bomb! - Couch Co-op

What is it?
The term "couch co-op" is actually a retroactively applied term for what we used to fondly know as "two-player" or "multiplayer" gaming. From the earliest days of video gaming, many of the devices sold to the home market, and some arcade games, were built with a second controller so that friends and family could either work together toward a common goal or - and more often - face off against one another in their favourite games.

With the advent of online gaming and the ability for a video game console or a PC to connect two players across the globe the term "couch co-op" gained strides as a way of describing the old school method of playing a multiplayer experience, where two or more people would physically sit next to one another on a couch playing a game on the same device.

"Multiplayer" today

When did it start?
Whether you consider Spacewar! or Pong to be the first video game, both were two-player titles. In Spacewar! - developed on a PDP-1 computer at MIT in the 60s - two players would take control of ships and face off in against one another in space. In Pong, two players would control "paddles" and bounce a virtual ping pong ball back and forth for points.

Pong in all its glory

What about today?
The vernacular today is typically "co-op", short for co-operative, which - when you think about it - doesn't make sense, since most multiplayer games are actually competitive in nature. The issue is that it's all geared toward the online experience, which makes sense for two reasons: 1) the software/hardware developers get to make more money, because it requires each individual to buy a console/PC and their own copy of the game they want to play, and 2) most people are playing games solo nowadays so really this sort of thing is catering to the crowd.

Goldeneye 007 (N64) 4-player split screen

Some games still provide a couch co-op option with split-screen, but that sort of thing is going more and more the way of the dodo.

Why do I remember it?
I remember it because of all the great times I've spent playing multiplayer games with my friends in our parents' basements! I can't even begin to tell you all the games my friends and I have sunk hours upon hours into, huddled together on a couch, basking in the electronic glow of a CRT television.

Some titles that come to mind were Super Bomberman (which required the SNES Super Multittap so that up to four friends could get in on the action), Mario Kart 64, and Goldeneye 007. Halo 2 was another highlight, where my friends and I actually setup two Xbox consoles, cross-wired them with ethernet crossover cables, setup two different TVs, and played up to 8-player couch co-op together. The smack-talk was out of control!

The Multitap, which NEC/Hudson Soft actually released for Super Bomberman

Of course, Japan's was cooler

The old fogies like myself will always decry the problems with the current status of online co-op, but only because we have warm fuzzies over the memories of sitting in a room with our buddies, eating pizza, and playing games together. The reality is that with today's technology you and all your friends can be all across the globe and you're still able to see, speak to, and play games with anyone, thanks to the advances of online capabilities. All that said, there's a little something missing when you lose the "human element" involved with couch co-op and it's that something that I will always miss.

And that's why someday soon (unfortunately) couch co-op will be a blast from the past!

Hope you enjoyed,