We downloaded the Switch version of Lego Worlds. I’ve been virtual LEGO’ing.
If ever I had a moment of fire-hot regret for my hasty and impulsive pre-order purchase of Nintendo Switch earlier this month, those feelings have long since been quenched by my time in the overrun kingdom of Hyrule, the open world wonder that is the basis of the game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
I could probably be content at that.
This is my new favorite game.
Most games that I’m playing “right now” are in some way held high in my esteem, true. Most games that are locked by your focus are considered at least marginally “favourite” else you probably wouldn’t bother playing them, I recognize that.
But this one, somehow stealthily and unexpectedly, quickly moved into the coveted category of “The Top Five Games I’ve Ever Played”™ …and now I’m juggling the thoughts in my head of what else would rank so dearly for me. Skyrim fits into that list. Final Fantasy VII has held a place in my gamer’s heart for a couple decades. Stick a generic MarioKart title in there (for the nostalgia factor) and the fifth slot would probably be a rotating, ever-battling list of hot titles that have peppered my gamer’s history rising and falling with the waves of eclectic moods and memories that flit through my life.
But then I was sick all weekend with the sinus cold to rival all sinus colds and so spent (modestly) a solid twenty of my waking hours immobile on the couch, cuddling a box of kleenex and multiple cup of hot tea, useless to most any chore save for the flicking of my my fingers on a pair neon Joycons… and so Link’s adventure through this unbelievably immersive world had a good-and-proper opportunity to sink into the depths of my soul and take root.
This is my new favorite game.
I could gush about the technical achievement of creating a uniquely broad game with a rich and immersive physics engine. I could wax poetic on the satisfaction that comes from building to a level of skill that feels as more earned than merely grinded. I could ponder the nuances of how valuable the tapestry of a carefully balanced yet seemingly unpredictable world set against an implied deep history sets a story of patient urgency into a subtle motion that compels the play to peek around every corner and climb every cliff and nudge every stone. I could.
I could also gripe about the deficiencies. Yes, the voice acting is mediocre. The rain conveniently seems to drizzle down on me whenever I find an alternative route that involves a long cliff climb versus fighting a powerful baddie. And some of the characters seem to be silly, cringe-worthy & tacky archetypes pulled out of some anime fever dream.
But even that is just small forgivable things in the context of everything else. It’s the 2% mediocre contrasted against the almost perfect 98% rest of it that is so damn good I can generously overlook the if onlys.
This is my new favorite game.
I know that many of my readers are not gamers. I know that many of my readers find the idea strange of someone being drawn into a multi-hour interactive story like this.
The world of video games can definitely be one overflowing with violent, shallow experiences that seem trite and burdened with a conflict to elevate the game aspects above a tacked on story. But occasionally there comes a title that is so much more than just shooting guns or kart racing or candy crushing: occasionally there is a game that compels you to enter a world that is layered with, yes, some of those things, but that also works very carefully to build steps above it to tell a story about a world and a place and a group of people that is, in a way that manifests from the drivel games with awesome graphics and photo-realistic blood spatter and ends up instead as good as any great cinematic experience, as good as Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad or even rivaling the merit of a compelling novel, all this in that it transcends the medium to entrance your mind and heart.
It’s just a game, but a game that leads to something that might even be considered –dare I suggest it– art.
So, yeah… this is my new favorite game.
I wouldn’t say that my favourite video game franchise is Zelda, but over the last thirty years I’ve played a solid third of the eighteen or so titles in the series on various consoles dating all the way back to the NES.
Twenty-seventeen is set to go down at our house as the year of Nintendo. I’ve owned a total of three Nintendo consoles (not counting our replacement Wii) over the years —soon to be four— and two of those four will have been acquired in the first three months of this year. And while I picked up a copy of a cute little game for Claire (which six weeks later she’s still obsessed with) my indulgence on the 2DS/3DS console I bought shortly after Christmas, was a Zelda game.
…and I’ve been playing through it at a respectable clip when I can squeeze a few hours in between parenting duties, work, runs, violin practice & sleeping on the couch after a long, exhausting day. It’s a good little game, but hearkening back to my NES/Zelda memories, it’s a very-small scale RPS-meets-puzzle solving game that seems quite strictly entrenched in the entertaining, but old-school RPG-on-rails formula of the nineties.
The thing is that I spent a good three years picking away at Skyrim, and that technically fits into the same genre as most of the Zelda games, but even now that I’ve been spoiled buy that experience the open-world sandbox nature of that game seemed so vastly different experience compared to the RPGs I’d played in my youth that I struggle to even compare them.
I’ve already regaled you with the story of why and how I’ll be acquiring Nintendo’s newest console in a short two weeks, but I didn’t mention that one of the two games I’ll be getting with it is the newest Zelda title — The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild — a game that in pre-release reviews is shaping up to be a bigger-and-crazier-than-skyrim open-world indulgence of not-your-grandparent’s-zelda experience.
To say that I’m more than a little stoked is a fair assessment, particularly since as a day-one adopter of a new game (which I rarely am these days) it will be weeks before the trolls crush it or ruin it or just spoil it online. Sure, it might suck. But it also might be the most amazing installment of this RPG series ever. Or it will likely just be good, which is basically what you want when you queue up to spend a hundred hours of your life absorbed into any video game world… and maybe I’m becoming a Zelda fanboy after all.
Either way, I’m primed for some quality time with this classic franchise and I’m sure I’ll have some old-guy-gamer thoughts on it in a month or two.
We’ve had a bit of a trial-by-frustration in the video game console department lately. A few months ago our Wii broke. Well, the optical disc broke. And since we have a nice little stack of games for it we decided to upgrade with a Wii U console so that we could play our games again… because it was backwards compatible. But then, apparently, Wii U has been discontinued and even tho I spent hours surfing online stores and cruising electronics stores, I wasn’t able to find a Wii U for sale. So, instead, I ordered a refurbished Wii (the original one) from eBay. Which arrived, and it it kinda works, but it’s old and Nintendo has always been locked down so now basically we have two Wiis hooked up: one to play stuff we downloaded and one to play discs. I’d given up on anything newer because when I went to check out the Switch it had sold out online in about twenty seconds and pre-orders were neigh-impossible to find in real life… and I’ve never been much of an early adopter anyhow. Except… by some odd confluence of chance and opportunity I found myself in a line up one morning while out on my coffee break –queued up in front of a we’re-not-doing-the-early-thing late-opening store in the downtown core– a few hours after writing this post about giving up on next gen consoles. Twenty minutes later I had a receipt in my wallet for a pre-order on a new Switch console. So, that happened. And of course Claire is giddy with anticipation. So… did anyone else jump into the latest Nintendo fray? Or am I the only sucker out there?
I didn’t quite squeeze into the eighteen second window between when the Nintendo Switch online pre-sale started … and then ended this morning, but I reconciled to that fact by reminding myself I tend to be a late adopter of gaming systems anyways, and even moreso these days.
In fact, a short six years after the system debuted, we finally upgraded my classic GameBoy from 1998 and bought a 3DS last week. (Well, actually it was a 2DS, but that’s virtually the same thing but without the 3D part.)
Claire considers the purchase a power move by an awesome dad. Other household opinions have varied.
The system came with Mario Kart 7 bundled, which is a fun time-waster and has got some retro-familiar fun in the form of classic tracks and nostalgia dripping from the experience in more ways than I can inventory here.
But I picked up a couple of used titles (the benefit to late adoption is of course second-hand content on the cheap!) in the form of a couple more more-in-depth games.
For Claire, I channeled my years of observing her interest in sandbox, toybox, world-building games and scored a game just for her that is probably just a little too on the nose and in her wheelhouse. Tomodachi Life is summed up the product page with this blurb: “What happens when friends, family, and celebrities become Mii™ characters and live together on an island? Tomodachi Life happens! Start by creating Mii characters and customizing everything about them. Have fun recreating your best friend, your favorite actor, mom and dad, co-workers…whoever! Then watch as they rap, rock, eat donuts, fall in love, break up, go shopping, play games, and live their crazy Mii lives.”
Needless to say, she is obsessed, and I’ve already lost track of the number of G-rated but slightly-WTF? things that she’s blurted aloud in response to what she’s seeing on the screen. Either way, it’s so much better than her just watching Fuller House on never-ending loop.
For myself, and with a wide range of titles to select from, I found myself oddly intrigued by a game that is probably a little bit too far down the cutie-pie scale for a 40-year-old guy to be playing, but (a) I was trying to find something Claire might eventually play too, (b) the game beneath the cartoon skin is actually pretty in-depth and (c) I’m too old to care what you think about what kind of cutie-pie games I play. I picked up a used copy of Fantasy Life (yes, I realize both game titles end with the word “Life”… weird) and have been enjoying it exactly as much as I expected from the various bits of research I did prior to my purchase.
The game is a blend of RPG, life-sim, & resource management game. One reviewer put it as: it’s a mashup of the Elder Scrolls and Harvest Moon/Stardew Valley, all as if painted by Studio Ghibli. That’s not a completely accurate explanation, but close enough. And mindless enough to make me lose a few hours of cold winter seclusion in a tiny little handheld screen. Maybe I’ll do a fuller review later, but so far I think I’ve got my twenty-bucks worth out of the game.
As unlikely as it is that I’ll actually find a more modern console for our living room in the coming months — the PS4 hits the wrong demographic for our house, the Wii U is out of production, and the Switch will be damn near impossible to find for the next year — for now the 2DS will need to satisfy the gaming itch.
Lay off all the other crappy video games and just learn to beat Super Mario… with your eyes closed. People would pay to see that nowadays.