Gaming Diary: Firewatch, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments, Earthbound, Twilight Princess HD, Yakuza

Whoa. Look at that title. Someone’s living on the cusp of video gaming entertainment, and that person is me. Kinda. Well, not at all, but I feel pretty good about experiencing so much new stuff. Well, new for me. And kinda new for everyone. Kinda sorta.

Firewatch is legitimately new. I bought it not long after it came out in February, but only just got around to starting it this week. It’s been very much on my radar since seeing the trailer at E3 last year. It’s got a great visual aesthetic, and a tone that’s decidedly quite normal, earthy even, given its forest setting, with a tinge of unease and mystery about it. I’m not very far in it, but I’m really interested to see where it goes and just continue experiencing it. I really enjoy the walkie talkie element that allows you to phone up your boss, someone else in another “firewatch” tower keeping an eye on the park. It let’s you have normal and nice conversations about what’s going on, but only if you choose to talk back. Even when chatting, it almost serves to highlight your isolation, alone in the woods, speaking to someone so far away.

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Yep, no fires here.

What I didn’t like? All that business at the beginning telling you your character’s backstory. Sure, it will probably come back later, my housemate tells me the option of what your dog was called affects what you can say about a turtle if you find it, but I wasn’t too fussed. From a perspective of a writer you can really enhance your story or scenes by just working out the latest possible place you can cut from. Most of the time the audience doesn’t need so much context, and I certainly didn’t want it. It just makes it take longer to get to the bits of the game that seem great so far.

I’ve always wanted to get into Frogware’s Sherlock Holmes series. I got quite deep into the Mystery of the Mummy, the first one, and played around with Nemesis and vs. Jack the Ripper, but to no real avail. So, I’m happy to report that Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments, the latest in the series, has me hooked, and is really very good. I’ve completed the first cases so far, one of six, which split the game up into more approachable, bite-sized chunks than some of the previous entries in the series. The gameplay was pleasing, the clues easy to follow through, yet there was still enough of a deduction component to make me feel like I was figuring some stuff up. The way Holmes’ deduction and perception abilities are gameified are excellent too, really making you feel like you’re the man himself. Though there is more than one conclusion you can draw from the cases, along with moral choices on how you close them, and the game doesn’t even tell you if you’re wrong unless you expressly ask it to, which I did, because I have no confidence. It’s free on Games With Gold this month, so if you’ve held off on jumping into Sherlock Holmes games for a while then let me tell you this really is the one.

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You don’t really need an answer, as you just deduce it

I’m one of those people that somewhat turns their nose up at Nintendo’s refusal to implement cross-buy into the Virtual Console between Wii U and 3DS. Yeah, I kinda get why. But it’s still lame. With that said, I will happily buy things on sale. With the introduction of SNES games onto the New Nintendo 3DS they allowed the purchase of both EU introductory games, Super Mario World and Earthbound, for a little over £11 for both. I’d never played Earthbound before, so decided to jump on it. After all, a handheld is pretty good for checking out a JRPG, especially an older one. I’m enjoying so far. I’ve not expanded my party beyond Ness, yet. I really like the tone, and some of the suburban weirdness. Not many JRPGs since have really hit those same notes, though it is having a bit of a stylistic renaissance right now with Undertale and Citizens of Earth jumping to mind. It seems to hold up quite well. While the encounter rate can be a bit high at times, and the fights a little brutal (which may level out when I get more party members), but it’s quite progressive in some of its systems, barely punishing you for death, giving you a nice amount of money, and automatically winning fights you’re over-leveled for without leaving the overworld.

Onett, the first town in the game, looks lovely

Onett, the first town in the game, looks lovely

I’ve also been playing some of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD. This one I have played before, and I’ve gone up and down on it over the years. Like most Zelda games its almost simultaneously perfect and extremely flawed. Some sections of the game are just so slow. It takes about 4 hours until your reach the second dungeon, even when you know what you’re doing. But, it has some of the best dungeon design out there, and some really fantastic moments of character interaction and scene direction, made all the better with HD visuals. Also, having the option between GamePad and Pro Controller is very nice, and the basic mode of the game being the same as the GameCube version, and therefore the intended experience, is also fantastic. I’m not too impressed by the Cave of Shadows, a bonus, new dungeon unlocked by scanning the Wolf Link Amiibo, but I’m not allowed too deep into it yet. It seems a lot like that one dungeon in Wind Waker where you fight a bunch of enemies on different floors.

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I also finally finished the original Yakuza on PS2. What a game, though the ending did drag a bit. In place it’s very repetitive, but its core values are always exciting and fun to do. Namely, the dramatic and badass story, and the brutal, impactful fistfights. Those loading times can be a bit painful, though.

Still, some pretty good stuff this week, though I imagine I’ll being playing bits of these for quite some time!

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