Monday, April 28, 2008

Pile of Shame: Metal Gear Solid 3

First, to get it out of the way: "Snake? SNAKE! SNAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE!!!!" It's obligatory and would be impolite to not say, honestly.

I guess that's the power of Metal Gear Solid. It's truly a gaming enthusiast's series made with the cinematic enthusiasm of a Tarrantino, somebody who really wants to make art for art's sake. Ok, that last sentence might have been about as pretentious as the average MGS game, but where else does that happen regularly in gaming? Nintendo has its child-like innocence, and a other gaming series have their own trademarks, but nobody else does art like Hideo Kojima.

That said, I would call Metal Gear Solid 3 the best in the series. The first PlayStation MGS is groundbreaking, both in storytelling and in terms of its gameplay; the sneaking, the gadgets, the cardboard boxes were all unthought of before the game dropped. As well, the game's storytelling - the twists, the tricks (see the Psycho Mantis boss battle), the psychological drama - is unheard of compared to other games. Metal Gear Solid 2 was bizarre, with even more (and weirder) twists and turns in the story; MGS3 was a much-needed simplification.

Plus, MGS3 brought in some meaningful gameplay changes. Sure, the food and healing mechanics were kinda gimmicky, but certainly more interactive than just picking up a white box with a red cross on it and magically gaining health back. More importantly, though, the Subsistence version of the game implemented a much-needed overhead 3D camera, a necessity brought up by games like the Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell series. Also, the boss fights - specifically the dramatic sniper hide-and-go-seek with The End and the emotional finish against The Boss - were amazing. The story even made sense!

I was stuck at The Boss - my save was from last summer. It took five freaking tries to finally get her down and escape into the land of cut scenes to end the game. Well worth the time to finish off this amazing action game.

Especially as Grand Theft Auto IV is dropping tomorrow and could take my life away shortly...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

the Pile of Shame: an introduction

So I play video games - a lot. Unfortunately, a lot of the time I pour time into one game, all the while buying more and shuffling them to the back (for me, the 800-pound gorilla that always seems to take over is Winning Eleven, but that's another post for another time).

This is a problem.

Anybody who has listened to the 1up Yours podcast should be familiar with a specific term: the Pile of Shame. If 1up's Garnett Lee and company didn't coin the term, they certainly have brought it to the fore.

What's the Pile of Shame? All those good games you've bought but haven't finished.

I plan to rid myself of some serious shame here soon, and that's where this site comes into play.

I plan on writing about my experience of sifting and plowing through my Pile of Shame. I want to discuss why and how they're worth finishing, and talk about the process of playing through them. In some cases, it's going to be pertinent to discuss how they've aged - I do have a couple games on the Pile that are a bit older, so seeing them through a different lens is going to be interesting.

On to the pile itself.

Pile of Shame

From top to bottom, left to right: Rock Band, Forza Motorsport 2, Metal Gear Solid 3, Shadow of the Colossus, Beyond Good and Evil, Sonic Mega Collection, Ninja Gaiden Black, Panzer Dragoon Orta, Final Fantasy VII, The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, Pokemon Diamond. These are all games I currently have that I haven't completed from one degree to another, whether that's stuck on a final boss or stuck just a few hours in. Fuller posts on each game will come later, but here's a quick breakdown on each game and where I am in them:

Rock Band: I want to finish Hard Drums and Expert Guitar soon; both are almost done, with only the infamous "Green Grass and High Tides" standing in the way on guitar. Should be done soon.

Forza 2: I've got PLENTY of single-player gaming left for this one as I'm only at Level 33 in my career. Long term project.

MGS3: I'm stuck on The Boss. I plan on tackling this tonight and writing either later tonight or tomorrow.

Shadow of the Colossus: Four colossi in to this brilliant game, I need to dedicate an afternoon and slug through it. Long or short depending on how long I want to play it for at a go.

Beyond Good and Evil: This critical darling is at least 1/3 done, but I need to dedicate ~8-10 hours to finish. Need to pull the ol' Xbox out for it too, dammit. Medium term.

Sonic Mega Collection: Specifically Sonic the Hedgehog 1-3 and Sonic and Knuckles. I want to tackle these all because I grew up chewing through Sega games and I honestly should have these done. Should be a longer-term one, playing through one at a time.

Ninja Gaiden Black: My controller is already afraid. Might have to be a 'start from the beginning' situation unless I already have a save for it on my 360. Will update status soon.

Panzer Dragoon Orta: As my friend Nick says, "It's a fun 90 minutes." I'll tackle it in an afternoon soon. Short term.

Final Fantasy VII: Put down the pitchforks, I know, I know. I'm stuck very early in this game. Very long-term project.

Zelda: Arguably the best in the series goes handheld. I've had it for a while, and been stuck in the first dungeon for a while. Longer term.

Pokemon Diamond: I have four or five gym badges already, but since I'm going to have my DS with me for a while (even if I go overseas) this is longer term and farther down the priority list.

Honorary list members: Guitar Hero and GHII (which my friend has borrowed and GH1 has all of two songs left to finish on Expert), and Half-Life 2 from the Orange Box (which I don't currently own but will when it drops in price...eventually). But since this is all about killing the existing list instead of piling on, these won't count for now.

Time to rid myself of some shame. Expect to hear about Snake in the '60s very soon. On to some serious gaming.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I turn my camera on


Managed to get a picture of my dog in what is known as "god light" coming in from a window. Photo by Doug Bonham

One of the greatest joys I've found the last few months is photography. What a brilliant idea it was to take Photojournalism in my last term of college; though it precipitated the purchase of a digital SLR camera (in my case, a Canon Rebel XT along with a 50 mm f/1.8 lens) and the class was a lot of hard work, it was terribly, terribly fun. I really love framing shots, capturing action, and doing things artfully.

Photo by Doug Bonham

I can't wield a brush to save my life, or create any sort of traditional art on canvas. I can't draw, I'm not great at using stuff like Photoshop to create images either...though I can edit them pretty well now, especially photos. But a camera is something I can operate, control, manipulate, and understand. I can make that thing dance; I know what I'm doing, at least at a basic level.

Air Frazier
Oregon wrestler Zack Frazier. Photo by Doug Bonham

I've already got plans how to continue on with the hobby, and even possibly as a career. I'm firmly on the Canon side of the photo world, and would like to upgrade through it, but for right now I just need to keep shooting photos. Shouldn't be a problem.