Weekend Whammy

Weekend Whammy: Ghost of Tsushima, Paper Mario & More

Welcome back to another Weekend Whammy! And this one is even on the weekend! On this week’s dose of nonsense I’m going to talk lock down, the Horizon: Zero Dawn PC port being a bit rough, Ghost of Tsushima being awesome and skateboarding in Death Stranding.

I was in the first place in Scotland to get locked back down due to the C-virus. After months of shielding I was finally allowed to go back into the real world, so I drove to Aberdeen ( I live a bit away) to pick up some delicious TGI Friday takeout and visit my best mate who I hadn’t gotten to hang out with since the start of this whole escapade. And then about an hour into my visit the message came through that due to idiots being idiots at the weekend, Aberdeen had officially been locked back down. So that was awesome.

More worryingly, my little hometown has been having problems too. The harbour is a beautiful spot to hang out with a few terrific pubs, but naturally that attracts people like flies and they seem all too happy to ignore the rules. The cops have appeared a few times, but that doesn’t seem to be detterring them, and now with Aberdeen shut down we’ve got an influx of people travelling from city to invade our pubs, just adding to the stupidity. I get the feeling we might get locked down here as well.

But ah well, let’s chat games! In terms of reviews I put out one for Hellpoint, a Dark Souls inspired game with a sci-fi coat of paint and a couple of cool ideas. Unfortunately, I just don’t think it works and it doesn’t seem to understand what makes the Souls style games work.

The remake of Destroy All Humans also came out and was a pretty good trip back in time. I stand by my score because when you really get down to it, it’s not an outstanding game, but it is really bloody fun. Sometimes that’s what you want and need in life. Anyway, you can check out the review of that over here.

I’ve got the new PC version of Horizon: Zero Dawn all lined up and I’ve been excited to try it out, but Digital Foundry have tamed my excitement a tad thanks to their wonderful work. They’ve been busy examining the port and it looks like it has a lot of issues. It’s a shame because the port of Death Stranding, which runs on the same engine, is fantastic. I’d advice either reading their article or checking out the video if you fancy learning a bit about what’s causing the issues. It also doesn’t seem to be much of a jump up in terms of overall visuals, although considering how amazing Zero Dawn looks already that’s not a huge problem.

Speaking of Death Stranding, did you guys catch my review? What did you think? It’s a tricky game to review, but that’s part of why I loved it. Games like Death Stranding are some of the most interesting to talk about because they’re like nothing else. But I’m not going to talk about deep issues and concepts. Nah, I want to talk about riding the hover-carries down hills like a sugar-crazed 2-year-old on a skateboard. It’s one of those awesome little Kojima details, the kind that you find littering the Metal Gear Solid games. Sure, you could use the floating carriers to haul more cargo, but why bother with that nonsense when you can Tony Hawk it down a mountain? Now, if only they’d add a kick-flip button it’d be a 5 out of 5 from me.

Sticking with the open-world theme I have successfully been playing Ghost of Tsushima for a while without even making it past the first chapter. I keep getting distracted by chasing down Golden Birds and completing tales and messing about with the photo mode. It’s such a visually astounding game at times, making it a doddle to get amazing shots using the photo mode.

I’ll be doing a full review for Ghost of Tsushima, but for now I want to chat about a lot of the smaller things that I love because they help faciliate fun roleplaying. The fact that there are dedicated commands for bowing and cleaning off your blade before sheathing it is such a fantastic piece of detail from Sucker Punch. It quickly became a little ritual for me to clean my sword after each fight. I’d even bow if I thought it had been a tough, hard-fought battle. I bowed to many of the townsfolk too, and was pleased to find that you often get a reaction. And like main character Jin I’ve been trying to lead an honourable life by facing the Mongols head-on, but there’s always the temptation to go all Assassin’s Creed on them instead. They are an overwhelming force and trying to fight them in honourable combat is not always a smart plan. I like that the writing tries to make you feel dirty for sneaking around and stabbing enemies in the back, while also showing Jin’s struggle with his honour versus what he must do to save his people.

As a swansong for the Playstation 4, it’s pretty fucking amazing. But does anyone else feel like they’re trying to kill the PS4? Like, The Last of Us Part 2 made the fans of my PS4 Pro go crazy, but Ghost of Tsushima has taken it to a whole new level. My poor console sounds like its having a prolonged heart-attack. I’ve actually started wearing headphones because otherwise I have to ramp up the speakers up and annoy everyone else in the house. Is the grand plan to melt all the existing PS4s into puddles of plastic poop before the PS5 comes out? That’s some devious marketing.

And finally, I’ve been playing some Paper Mario: The Origami King. Based on what I’ve been reading and watching it seems there’s a lot of people who are dissapointed with it, and that’s a surprise to me because I’m having a pretty good time! However, as you guys know I’m a relative Nintendo noob and have never played the prior Paper Mario games. From what I can tell folk were hoping the Origami King would return to the series’ RPG roots, but it hasn’t. From my perspective though, it has been a pleasant time with some sharp, funny writing and beautiful graphics.

It’s the combat system where I have some doubts. In the boss fights it’s excellent. You rotate and slide concentric rings in order to line up directional arrows so that Mario can move to the boss, and finish up the route with an attack or ability icon so that you can dish out some damage. It’s a really cool puzzle as you get a set amount of moves you can make, and each boss battle comes with fun twists. However, when it comes to battling regular enemies it isn’t as good. With normal foes Mario is in the middle of the concentric rings, and you get a specific amount of moves to either line foes up in a line or gather them in a 2×2 square. If you manage it you get a boost to attack power. At first, it’s a pleasing puzzle, but after just a few hours I was really tired of it. Each battle felt the same with nothing new being added to the mix. I’m about 5-hours in though, so there’s plenty of time for it to evolve and change, or for the game to give me ways to avoid or skip these fights.

Talking about Nintendo, though, does bring us to some interesting comments made by the developers of Paper Mario during an interview with VGC. Specifically, they talk about the limitations in place when it came to designing characters, saying, “Since Paper Mario: Sticker Star, it’s no longer possible to modify Mario characters or to create original characters that touch on the Mario universe. That means that if we aren’t using Mario characters for bosses, we need to create original characters with designs that don’t involve the Mario universe at all, like we’ve done with Olly and the stationery bosses.”

Talking to GamesRader they clarified that statement: “From the production of Paper Mario: Sticker Star onwards, we were no longer able to graphically represent individual characteristics, such as age, gender etc., in the Toad NPCs (non-playable characters), and so it has become that much more important to convey their personalities simply through text,” Kensuke Tanabe explained. “Our writer, Mr Taro Kudo, has been grappling with this difficult challenge since Paper Mario: Sticker Star, but has managed to achieve giving all the texts a sense of humour. In this instalment, Paper Mario: The Origami King, we were able to include some Toads wearing an outfit to match their role, and also created original origami characters.”

These rules seem horribly restrictive for no real benefit. Obviously there do have to be certain parameters in place in order to ensure a franchise is treated correctly, but the comments seem to indicate that even basic toads aren’t allowed to have distinguishing features and that original characters can not use anything from the existing Mario universe. Different rules seem to apply to the core Mario games, too, since Luigi’s Mansion 3 had original characters in it.

It’s certainly noticeable in The Origami King, because the world is just filled with generic Toad characters. I dunno, but for a company that has always prided itself on creativity these limitations seem to do nothing but stifle that creativity. I’m really hoping we get further clarification, perhaps from Nintendo directly.

Nintendo also posted up some serious sales numbers for the new Animal Crossing. In the four months Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been on sale it’s managed to sell a whopping 22.4-million copies. But what’s really crazy is that Nintendo has sold 61.4-million Switches (I believe that includes Switch Lites) which means that roughly one-third of Switch owners have bought Animal Crossing. That’s an insane transfer rate. Consider the PS4, for example – it has roughly 110-million console sales, and Uncharted 4, which is the highest selling PS4 exclusive to date, has shifted 16-million copies.

Of course, there was an Xbox showcase a few weeks back where we got to see Halo: Infinite which was immediately laughed at by the Internet because its graphics weren’t exactly…next gen, shall we say. They aren’t wrong. Digital Foundry did a video on the subject and pointed out that a lot of the problems come down to the shadows, meaning there was perhaps a poor decision made somewhere along the line to show off gameplay in such a heavily shadowed area. However, the Digital Foundry article doesn’t cover a lot of other problems with the graphics such as the lack of movement in the environment, the low-quality textures and smaller details such as the Warthog not leaving tracks in the mud. And then there’s Craig:

343 have addressed the concerns and have admitted they have work to do. That’s cool. I think they’ve taken a lot more flak than they should have. Sure, Infinite does not exactly show off the power of the Xbox Series X, but it’s also going to be available on current gen consoles so I wasn’t expecting anything amazing. With that said, it doesn’t manage to compete with games available on current systems either, so yeah, there’s room for improvement.

As for the gameplay, it seems fine. I’m not a huge Halo fan anyway, and the game they showed off is looking to hark back to the early days of the series. It looks like solid FPS action. On the whole then, Halo: Infinite wasn’t the big Xbox showcase that it probably needed to be.

Weirdly, even Dominos jumped on the bandwagon and made fun of Halo:

I love the irony of Dominos posting this. “Don’t worry Chief, Domino’s always deliver” they Tweeted out. Like anyone has ever ordered a Dominos pizza and got anything that looks even vaguely as good as the picture shows.

But a new Fable got announced! We didn’t get to see very much at all, but I’ve been wanting a new Fable for years, so I’m just happy the franchise is coming back. I’m eager to see what the combination of Fable’s charming humour and modern tech can do. Maybe some of those early Peter Molyneux promises can finally be made into reality.

A new Forza is coming too, and is just called Forza Motorsport instead of being Forza Motorsport 8. That makes me think it might be more of a platform that will be added to over the years. Surprisingly, though, it’s said to still be very early in development. Was there perhaps a Forza Motorsport 8 that got canned and then transformed into this new game? Regardless, that probably means we won’t be seeing it for a while yet.

I’m not going to go through every detail of the Xbox event, rather I’ll just summarise my thoughts: it was okay. They failed to make a solid case for buying the new console since there won’t be any true exclusives for a while, but Game Pass came out looking stronger than ever. Streaming of games to tables and phones is getting added to the service on September 15th at no extra cost, basically giving Google Stadia a massive middle-finger in the process, although I don’t believe xCloud allows streaming to PC. At least, not yet. Every game shown at the event was announced to be coming to Game Pass, so for now it seems that Microsoft are focusing a lot more on their subscription service, making the Series X console feel like an afterthought.

The battle of next-gen is shaping up to be more like PS5 vs Game Pass. I wonder if Sony might look to bolster their own PS Now service as well, because right now out of the two consoles the PS5 is the clear winner. If they could get PS Now to even close to the quality of Game Pass it would be a Mortal Kombat style Brutality.

So, what have you guys been playing?

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