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4th April 2021: My Balls Are On Fire

Up next in the completion list is the 2017 game Pyre, by the same people who made Bastion and Transistor. With those first two games, I had kind-of opposite experiences. I really liked Bastion at first, but it started to drag as I got further into it. And I really struggled to get into Transistor at first, but then started to enjoy it more once I'd unlocked more skills.

This game has been a different experience yet again. Though unfortunately, the experience was one of very little enjoyment from start to finish. I guess I really should have stopped playing it soon after the half way mark, as I was getting frustrated. But the end of the game did at least earn it a little bit of redemption, so I was at least a little glad I stuck with it.

So just what is the game, and why did I not get on with it very well?

The game is mostly delivered in two very different ways. The story sections are all in a visual novel style, with no voice acting and lots of text to read, and occasional choices to make that will have an effect on your characters stats or equipment.
The meat of the gameplay comes across like a fantasy version of basketball, where two teams of 3 players fight in out in real time, and try to throw or dunk a celestial orb into the opposing team's pyre, in order to reduce its flame to nothing and win the contest.

The massive amounts of text in the game quickly became boring, especially as a lot of the world's history and lore is delivered in the form of a book, with dozens of pages that you are expected to read. Let's just say I barely touched all that shit.

Synchronous banishment

Synchronous banishment

His name's Barker. 'Cause he's a dog. Get it?

His name's Barker. 'Cause he's a dog. Get it?

Jodariel goes for the big dunk

Jodariel goes for the big dunk

The competitions themselves, which are called "Rites", were also frustrating to play. Partly this was because I was using keyboard and mouse, which I chose so I could aim my attacks better. But this choice gave me some trouble seeing as my characters only then had 8 directions of movement with WASD.
All that I could deal with for the most part, but the main problem was that the enemy players just seemed to be more responsive somehow, like they could move faster, and jump better, and their auras would return faster. That kind of thing.

The story and characters were quite interesting, even though it did feel like it took forever for it to go anywhere and to get any pay off. But this feeds into the main double-edged sword of this game. See, when participating in the Rites, occasionally you will have the opportunity to free one of your characters from the exile you have all found yourselves in. Because I quite liked many of the characters, I wanted to free as many of them as possible. Problem is, when they are free, there is no longer any way to use them when competing in the Rites. And as all the characters have different skills, once my favourites were free, I was left with a bunch of players I didn't really like using all that much, making the Rites even more frustrating.

The little bit of redemption I mentioned earlier comes at the end of the game, where you are presented with information about all of the characters in the game, both on your team and on others, and learn what happened to them after all is said and done. I imagine the information here can be quite different depending on which players go free, and what other choices you make during the game, and this was the only time I was really into reading every last little word.

Concerning the characters, my fave was easily Jodariel, and I selfishly regret freeing her so early in the game. But I also really liked several other characters, including Ti'zo, Sir Gilman and Pamitha.

With so many games to play, it's unlikely I'll play Bastion or Transistor ever again, but at least there's a chance. This one however, has no chance at all. I mean, I'm glad it's done, but oof, I could have done without it.

Bertrude unleashes hell at our opponents

Bertrude unleashes hell at our opponents

Sir Gilman was fun

Sir Gilman was fun

Interception!

Interception!

One game I managed to get working after a bit of tweaking was Virtua Tennis. I played it for a couple of hours, and found it was ok, but it struggled to keep my attention when so many other games are vying for it.

It wasn't bad. I just found the player movement a little bit sluggish, and it seemed inconsistent when trying to place my shots. The main problem though was that progression seemed to be locked behind training sessions. I didn't mind playing the games, because at those times it was like the other (very few) tennis games I've tried in my life, being quite playable. However, the training sessions were frustrating and boring.

Still, I'm not saying I'll never come back to this, but it's highly unlikely, and definitely won't be anytime soon.

Come on, Tim!

Come on, Tim!

Giving Courier something to think about

Giving Courier something to think about

Looks like I'm checking for a bug on the floor

Looks like I'm checking for a bug on the floor

Trying a doubles match

Trying a doubles match

26th November 2020: Day Of The Match

Before going into full-on Spectrum completion mode, there was one game I needed to play first. This game is a football game called Match Day. This was easily the game I spent the most time on, and is also the one I have fondest memories of.
I remember being at school one day, and deciding that when I got home I was going to play a full 90 minute game of Match Day. However, I returned home only to discover that the Spectrum and all its games were gone. My mom told me at the time that my cousin had borrowed it, whereas in reality she'd actually sold it to help pay for the Amiga I would be getting that Christmas. I didn't even find out the truth about this until some time afterwards, and though I loved my old A500, I always felt a bit sad that I never got to play a full match on the Spectrum.

So I was quite glad when I managed to get this running after a bit of tinkering with RetroArch, and I got my lads jogging out onto the pitch for the first time in 30 years. However, after I got the little taste that I wanted, and discovered that the game wasn't really anything like I remembered, I lost that tiny bit of desire to play a full game that still existed deep down in my soul.

For my 3 games, I instead stuck to 10 minute matches. In my first game, I managed a 3-3 draw, even though I had no idea what I was doing. After reading some instructions, I thought that I would easily dominate the computer, but my efforts to play the game properly saw me get absolutely destroyed 0-4. For my third and final game I took a hybrid approach, combining my play styles from the first two games, and managed a 3-1 win.
Good enough for me.

Look at these awesome graphics!

Look at these awesome graphics!

Computer scores once more

Computer scores once more

There's an equalizer

There's an equalizer

Trying to do something skilful. I think.

Trying to do something skilful. I think.

On the attack

On the attack

21st January 2020: Being Sensible Is Boring

Managed a spare few minutes recently to have another little go on Sensible Soccer. In one of the games I smashed 12 goals passed the Annoying Gits team, but still couldn't keep a clean sheet as Robbie Williams had to go and poke one home.

The game is so cheesy and goofy, but it's one of the rare old games I seem happy to play on quite often.

Keeper literally jumps out of the way of the ball

Keeper literally jumps out of the way of the ball

Keeper dives when the ball is already in the net

Keeper dives when the ball is already in the net

10th March 2019: Bringing The Pain

I had a look through my PS2 game collection, and found I only have one that I have not finished. This game, which I don't remember even playing (it was a gift) is True Crime: Streets Of LA. It was about this time I started thinking about emulation, as I've always got on quite well with WinUAE for my old Amiga games. I also like the idea of getting some screenshots, which I can't do on the PS2. I quickly discovered that PCSX2 is the main one that people use for PS2 games.

After reading how to set it up and going through all the steps, and using ImgBurn for the first time rip my discs, I was pissed to find that True Crime is one of the few games that the emulator does not like.
Again, oh well.

However, I had mentioned to Scoob a while back that I really fancied playing a bit of an old PS2 wrestling game we used to play a lot called Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain. This one loaded up no problem, but the game was really blurry, and on screenshots there was this really weird "ghosting" effect, that I think was from the interlacing from games back then.

A bit more reading was required, but I eventually learned how to not just turn off that weird doubling effect, but also turn the rendering resolution up so the graphics look better than they are supposed to. In this regard, the emulator seems to be pretty cool, and I'll have to create my own character again so me and Scoob can do some stomping.

Thinking about it, it's a shame I didn't look into emulation back when I played Resident Evil: Code Veronica. Probably would have been a lot better on my PC than on the PS2 itself.

Blurry ghosts

Blurry ghosts

No blurry ghosts, and higher graphics

No blurry ghosts, and higher graphics

Continuing with this trend of emulators, I thought about a PS1 emulator, so maybe I could get that version of GTA running better as well. I discovered RetroArch, which not only emulates the PS1, but can also do so for loads of old consoles. However, it was the PS1 I was interested in.

This one was a bit more awkward to set up than the very simple PCSX2, but I got GTA working on it eventually. Unfortunately, the game was no better on this either, so I just gave up on it entirely.

While I had got the emulator downloaded and running, I decided to try another one of my old PS games that I never finished, being Gran Turismo. In fact, I barely touched this back in the day, which is kinda weird as I used to be really into racing games.
I got this one booted up and had a few simple races, before starting to tweak it a bit. Like PCSX2, it's possible to turn up the graphics, but it only seems to be able to go a little way before the sound craps out and the game starts to lag. Still, it's better than its default appearance, and it might be something I try to complete at some point in the next few weeks or months.

Default graphics

Default graphics

Slightly better graphics

Slightly better graphics

6th November 2018: Throwing Darts At A Football

For some weird reason, I fancied taking a stroll down memory lane with another game I used to play on my old Amiga. This one was John Lowe's Ultimate Darts.

This wasn't a game I played a ton of back in the day, but I remember having a few little fads on it here and there. After firing it up after all these years I jumped into a game of soccer darts, and tried to see if I could remember how to hit those 180s.

Once I'd got the feel of it again, the opposing player could not even push forward on the attack, and I won pretty easily. Not a difficult game though, to be fair.

Not my best effort

Not my best effort

But a nice 180...

But a nice 180...

...gets me my second goal of the game

...gets me my second goal of the game

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