23 June 2015

One Solstice Night, Pt 6

It has been my tradition for several years to stay up till dawn on the night of the summer solstice—the shortest night of the year—while having a few drinks and blogging my activities. Well, as it happens, the solstice was actually yesterday, but I had a much too tiring weekend to stay up last night. So I figure a day here or there won't make much difference... (There's no real practical difference in the length of the night yet, anyway.)

Last year at this time I was watching Mario Marathon 7. Alas, there is no Mario Marathon this summer, mostly due to (I assume) the crew being too busy with their personal lives. I hope we haven't seen the last of them, but for now, I'll have to make do with other entertainment...

For company I have some sweets, a Pringles tube, and a chilled bottle of Minttu, a peppermint flavoured drink described on the label as 'the legendary mint shot from the Finnish Himalayas'... (I haven't had this stuff in a long while, I'm rather looking forward to it.)

22:51 - Sunset!

23:00 - Each Monday around this time I usually watch LoadingReadyRun's CheckPoint Plus stream on Twitch. This stream normally consists of a humorous news show about video game news (which is also recorded and posted on YouTube), followed by a more freeform discussion about video game news. The show wraps up with LRR's Kathleen DeVere welcoming some of the channel's new subscribers with bits of zany improv based on their usernames—all in all a fun, relaxed way to end my Monday.

23:05 - The show's running a little late, as is usual, so I'll take this opportunity to have my first drink of the nigh. Aaaah, that hits the spot. The trouble with a bottle that's spent several hours in the freezer, though, is that it's a) cold to handle, and b) after a while wet with condensation...

23:20 - As they say on the show, the week after E3, kind of a slow news day... Not much there of personal relevance. But the LRR crew is still always fun to watch.

00:30 - Show's over, now I have to think of something else to do... There's a few clouds around, so the night's actually fairly dark right now. If it was clear, the sky would probably be a pale blue, fading into orange near the horizon...

1:10 (Really? What happened to the last half hour?) - I finally decided to watch Return of the Jedi! Whee! I recently re-watched the first two movies, and I've been meaning to get around to this, might as well do it now.

2:30 - Already so much lighter outside! But boy do my eyes feel heavy, I hope I can survive till dawn... Movie's great, snacks are great, drink is great, but I guess I'm just not used to staying up quite so late, lately...

3:30 - Movie's over, still one of the greatest classics of all time (even if I was almost nodding off for a fair amount of it). It is almost full daylight outside already. Birds are singing, fairly loud.

3:40 - OMFG, there's a spider crawling on my shot glass. Like, wtf? Where the hell did it come from? Was it attracted maybe by the sweetness of the drink, or the alcohol? Sorry, buddy, but you're going outside...

3:53 - Teeth brushed, all ready for bed, just waiting for...

3:56 - Sunrise! See you again next year, maybe...

8 June 2015

Mortal Kombat!

I came late to fighting games, long after their golden age in the mid-90s. Once I finally discovered them, I thought they were fascinating and cool. But I also soon discovered that I did not have a talent for them, and, not feeling like I was getting any better, my interest gradually waned. Skullgirls was cool enough to bring me back for a bit, but it didn't last.

Even at the height of my interest in the genre, I never really paid much attention to the Mortal Kombat series. Perhaps partly because at the time I was still heavily into Japanese video games, and rather sceptical of a western fighting game... But recently some of the good folks at LoadingReadyRun decided to stream the newest title in the series, Mortal Kombat X. And, only about 23 years late, I caught the bug...

I spent some time digging into the Mortal Kombat universe. I watched both the mid-90s movies. (The first was fun, in a cheesy way. The second... not quite so much.) I re-watched the web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy. And I finally decided I needed to buy this game.

Let's be honest, Mortal Kombat X is pretty ridiculous. But it's ridiculous in a way I really like. The violence is so over-the-top you can't help but laugh sometimes. The story is like a cheesy action movie. The graphics look good. But, importantly, it is also fun to play.

The game has a roster of over 20 cool characters. And each character has three variants you can choose from, with slightly different moves. So there's a ton of variety in potential play styles. The special moves are fairly easy if you know any 2D fighting game basics. But of course, as always, there's a lot of depth with combos and stuff. Which I absolutely suck at... Like I said, I'm not good at fighting games. But the game's not very tough at easier settings, so even a scrub like me can have fun with it.

A cool thing about this game that I've never really seen other fighting games do quite like this (though other NetherRealm games have this too, I believe), is its 'story mode'. It's like watching through an action movie, several hours long, with interspersed fights. In each chapter you control a different character (going through about half of the roster), so you get a feel for different play styles. The story's hardly very deep or original, but I don't think it really needs to be... It carries on from the previous game—which itself was something of a reboot—so it could be a mite hard to follow for someone who knows nothing about the series. (I checked out the cutscenes from the previous game on YouTube before playing, which probably helped some...)

Once you're through with the story, there's naturally a bunch of different arcade and versus modes to play with, and a lot of stuff to unlock (including new finishing moves, concept art etc)... So I do feel I'm getting my money's worth here, as much or more as with any fighting game I've played in the past.

Any complaints I have about Mortal Kombat X are largely about the slight feel of monetization, in certain aspects of the game. There's a few DLC only characters. No big surprise there, obviously. But the thing that feels most bizarre is the way you can buy easy fatalities. Now, as anyone familiar with the Mortal Kombat series will know, a 'fatality' is a bloody kill move you can perform after winning a battle, by inputting a specific button sequence that varies with each character/move. The easy fatalities allow you to pull them off with a much simpler button press... but they are single use items you can buy for real money. It's not like they really affect the game or make it in any way 'pay-to-win', but still... it feels weird and unnecessary.

Overall, though, Mortal Kombat X managed to get me excited about fighting games again, at least for a little while. That is not nothing. I imagine it's not a game to everyone's taste, with its gory violence and cheesy action movie style, but that's certainly up my alley... For a newcomer to the series like me it seems like a good, solid point to jump in.