A Week in the Life of a 41-Year-Old Gamer: April 8-14, 2016

PURCHASES:

1.PlayStation NOW 3-Month Subscription Renewal (PS4): $44.99

2. Super Metroid SNES (3DS): $7.99

3. Pckball – additional skins – 3 at .99 each (iOS): $2.97

4. Radiation Island (iOS): $0.99

YTD Total: $532.07

PLAYTIME:

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1.Fire Emblem Fates (3DS): 16h 55m

2. Call of Duty: Black Ops III (Xbox One): 4h 26m

3. Pktball (iOS): 3h 2m

4. Super Mario World (SNES): 2h 49m

5. Super Metroid (SNES): 16m

6. Hyrule Warriors Legends (3DS): 12m

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1. Call of Duty: Black Ops III (Xbox One): 4h 26m

THOUGHTS:

Fire Emblem Fates (3DS) continued to dominate my play time this week, as I moved to the Conquest campaign. I’m playing on Hard in Classic Mode. Even after honing my skills for hundreds of collective hours in Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem BirthrightConquest still represents a formidable challenge. Each stage works like a jigsaw puzzle, where you have to carefully set your pieces in exactly the right place. Make one mistake, and you’ll suffer grave consequences: the death of a carefully nurtured character, or the complete loss of your current battle. It’s very punishing, which will be a turnoff to all but the most dedicated players. You can’t even grind to level your characters up, as you could in Birthright. As a Nohr Prince, slow and steady will not win you the race. Given this setup, I have yet to play a stage that has not required multiple soft resets. And yet, this level of challenge makes victory feel wonderful. I had a great moment last week where I was at a Starbucks, killing a few minutes before an appointment, and I was playing the game. The guy next to me asked, “Is that Fire Emblem?” I turned to look at him, and he had his 3DS open, too, playing the same game. A great discussion about strategy and character recruitment followed. To know Fire Emblem is to love it.

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This week, Ratchet & Clank came out on PS4, which I really, really wanted to get. But in an effort to keep costs down on discretionary spending, I’m now trading in games to get new ones when I can, instead of buying new titles outright. I scanned my game case, checked the GameStop values, and settled on trading in two games: Need For Speed, which I played for a couple of weekends last year and lost interest in quickly, and Call of Duty: Black Ops III ( Xbox One). I wanted to rush out Tuesday to get Ratchet and Clank, but remembered that the COD campaigns are always pretty short, and I had already put at least a couple of hours in the story mode in Black Ops III. So… why not finish it first?

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Every year, I tell myself I’m not getting the next Call of Duty. Every year, I get the next Call of Duty. It’s a great demonstration of how marketing hype – combined with every other game getting out of Activision’s way on the release calendar – can prompt someone who isn’t a dude-bro to invest in the series annually. And while I rarely put more than a couple of hours into the multiplayer, I always have a good time with the Michael Bay-inspired campaigns. The shooting always feels great, the production values are the definition of AAA, and the teams are getting increasingly bolder with their storytelling, now reaching a Hideo Kojima-level of weirdness.

And man, Black Ops III is strange. You’re fighting robots, jumping into soldiers’ memories, and juggling multiple double crosses – but somehow, the center holds. I was eager to find out what happened next, I was never confused, and I was legitimately surprised by the closing scene.

Like playing through The Order: 1886, there was something satisfying about enjoying a short, linear, high impact game that could be digested a chapter a night, like binging a good Netflix series. I’m glad I took a few nights to polish it off. Apparently, Jeff Goldblum and Heather Graham are in the voice cast, not that I recognized their voices. And Nolan North is in it because… of course he is.

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The great surprise of the week was a game called Pktball (iOS), which got feature placement on the App Store. It’s the first F2P game I’ve spent money in all year. I did that because I love the game (it’s intuitive, fast-paced and skill-based), and because it has the most consumer-friendly F2P monetization model I’ve seen. No hard currency or blind packs to buy – meaning no obfuscated spending. Every item in the store – all cosmetic – can be purchased directly for $0.99. The game has a spend cap of $23. Ads are opt-in, providing good value when you engage with them, but they can also be ignored entirely. And there are no timers or energy meters. It won’t make the Top 100 Grossing, but I think this game is better than anything in the current Top Grossing list. And it feels like it was made by a team that deeply loves video games.

the end

I finished Super Mario World (SNES) for the first time since I was in high school, thanks to its availability on the New 3DS XL. It has held up really, really well. It’s so fun to have SNES games to take with you on the go, and save states make it a lot easier to get through them efficiently. I rolled right off of that one and onto Super Metroid (SNES)which I am embarassed to admit I have never played through.

Hyrule Warriors: Legends (3DS) got a little love this week, too. It’s a game formula that I really think is best suited to portables. I’m happy to settle for lower fidelity in exchange for being able to carry the title everywhere.

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