Podcast: The last GameCritics podcast recorded live was ridiculously epic in length. With three meaty topics to cover, we just couldn't fit it all in one show. The answer? Cut the damn thing in half. The first segment of the most recent episode is now available on the iTunes and Zune marketplaces, and will also be available for download at GameCritics itself (most likely) tomorrow.
In the meantime, my good friend, witty snarker and all-around brilliant dude Matthew Kaplan did me the great honor of choosing me as the first guest for his podcast, Game In Mind. It's a one-on-one piece that will probably tell you more about me than you ever wanted to know.
In addition, I explain how I came up with the Coffeecola name and chat about some of my more controversial reviews. If you've got time and the interest, check it out HERE. If you like what you hear and you're also on Twitter, you can give Matt a follow at @MattGKaplan. He will entertain you, I guarantee.
Games: I polished off Dante’s Inferno a couple of days ago, and liked it so much that I went back and completed the Gates of Hell survival mode, and I never do that kind of stuff. In fact, I was almost tempted to play through it again in order to max out the Evil side of the skills tree, but common sense got the better of me and I figured that my time should probably go towards something else in my to-play pile.
I dashed out a review last night that will go up sometime in the near future, but I have to say that in a rather unusual turn of events, I think my piece will be much more positive than the norm. You can certainly read it for yourself and let me know what you think, but one thing I find quite puzzling is that I've heard from tons of people that the game ran out of imagination, or took a nosedive at the end. I didn't really feel that way, and when asked for specifics, it's usually the series of arena trials that they point to.
I can understand not liking them since they do stick out from the rest of the levels (and trying to stay airborne for 8 seconds is complete garbage) but to be perfectly frank, I whipped through those so quickly that the segment seemed like a complete non-event compared to how much people were trash-talking it. I'm not trying to say that I'm some kind of super player with better-than-you skills at all, it was just that the entire piece was something like ten minutes long. When compared to the five hours and fifty minutes of pretty damned entertaining gameplay, the reaction to that brief part seems a little overblown to me.
Games: Speaking of overblown reactions (how’s THAT segue?) I started playing Nier yesterday. Although it was the victim of a pretty intense word-of-mouth smear campaign thanks to the infamous fishing segment, nearly every intelligent person that I respect had nothing but good things to say about it. After seeing this consensus, I felt compelled to bump it up to the top of my playlist, and I'm really glad that I did. I'm only about six hours in, but so far it's been a very measured, mature and intriguing game that's a massive step up compared to the kind of work that developer Cavia has previously turned out.
So, about that fishing.
If you were anywhere near the IntArwebz when Nier was released, it was impossible to avoid hearing about how stupidly terrible, atrociously bad, and game-ruining the fishing segment was. I seem to recall at least two reviews where the writer claims to have stopped playing thanks to that particular bit, and there was even a video review making the rounds where the person on camera was having an emotional meltdown while showing the viewer ‘evidence’ of what a nightmare the fishing was.
At this point, I'd like to call bullshit on all of that.
Look, the fact is that the fishing minigame comes off as broken. I certainly admit that. It's not fun and it could use a little tweaking in terms of playability. If nothing else, the developers absolutely should have explained how the mechanics work in much greater detail than they do. However, all that said, the game only requires a player to fish once. Once that's done, it never needs to be revisited.
Reading over some of the complaints again, it seems as though a big problem is that most of the people trying to get through this segment are fishing in the wrong place. If a player has a map of the area (which I bought immediately upon entering the town) then the game displays A BIG GODDAMN RED X where you're supposed to go fishing.
Furthermore, if the player has set the difficulty level to Easy, the game GIVES YOU THE FISH after failing the attempt three or four times. It literally gives you the fish. I got through this section in about four or five minutes --total-- and once that was done, I never looked back.
I absolutely understand that this particular minigame was not as polished as it could've been, but no reviewer with a shred of professionalism or self respect should have overreacted to such a wild degree and dismissed the game as a whole because of it. At worst, a few minutes at GameFAQs could have resolved the issue and then those covering the game would have seen how much more Nier has to offer. If you ask me, this is easily one of the best games I've played this year, and I find it shameful the way it was treated. With all the complaints of inspiration-free sequels and formulaic cash-ins, why were people so quick to give something bucking the trend such a cold shoulder?
If you're the kind of open-minded player who's interested in games that defy convention, offer genre-bending experiences, and explore alternatives in characterization and narrative, you owe it to yourself to at least try Nier. There's really nothing else quite like it.
... Just promise me that you’ll get past the fishing before passing judgment on it.