When presented with an opportunity to play games, I either seize it or I do not. In some cases, as of late, not wins out with a greater frequency and the explanations behind this are laborious and, for our purposes, irrelevant. Let’s make the most of the time we have, hmm?
I was sent a replacement for my inflicted Xbox a couple of weeks back, though I’ve had a relatively mild interest in determining if it is my previous unit—now restored—or if it is in fact an entirely new device masquerading as “mine.” In any case the box didn’t escape the cross-country transit unscathed as the gaping hole in the faceplate attests. I understand they sell these things—colored, decorated, airbrushed, what have you—separately, in a nod toward some sort of customization. But since this product sits in my living room along with my other consumer electronics and not in my bedroom plastered with posters of sports heroes and rock stars, littered about with discarded socks and other telltale signs of adolescent inhabitence, I can’t find value in fastening a small mural of Master Chief or Lara Croft to it. And I’m certainly not about to pay money to replace something that wasn’t broken when I sent it in. My principles are firm, but my reward for them is this broken hinge that now looks like a big hole in my Xbox.
Strangely, when I re-acquired my console my first instinct wasn’t to put The Force Unleashed back in the tray to finish up the game I had been working on just before it decided to flash its merciless red gaze upon me. Instead I put my replacement copy of Mirror’s Edge in and began working through it again. I’ve already done this once in 2009, on the PS3, but I picked up the 360 version for cheap on Goozex and once I put it in to test the functionality of the disc in order to provide feedback I found I could not cease from carrying it through to the end. I still cry in anguish every time the miserable Esurance-ad cut scenes kick in, rending my garments and crying to the heavens asking why they couldn’t have done these sequences in-engine, but the rest of the time I smile contentedly and execute my first person parkour with simple-minded glee.
What really surprised me was that this second-pass game took my attention away not from games I had placed on the back burner for lack of hardware accommodation but that it even drew me away from the PS3 crush I had been working on since just before the return of the Xbox I had finally acquired a copy of Valkyria Chronicles. Sometimes you can see a game and just say confidently, “I’m going to love that.” Valkyria was like that and I was spot on. The canvas/sketched/anime art style is sublime, the intricate turn-based strategy action is incredibly compelling and the maps are clear enough to avoid frustration but open enough to allow for individual strategy and style to be exercised. It’s really something. My only complaint is that it is very story heavy and laden with rambling cut scenes which, while beatuiful, are very jRPG-ish and mostly unnecessary. There isn’t anything wrong with them, mind you, the voice acting is tolerable and the dialogue is trite but inoffensive, it’s just that they are multitude and except in rare cases mandatory before you can unlock the next action sequence. As such I find myself waiting to play the game until I have a solid block of time to devote to it, and such blocks do not exist in my world at the moment. A shame really.
The one game that has been able to squeeze into my frantic schedule which involves a lot of preparations for my forthcoming offspring is the DS version of Chrono Trigger. I played the original back in my SNES days and found it delicate and succulent then though it somehow could not remain rooted firmly in my mind and I fear I may never have reached its end. It has found a welcome home on the DS and the fact that they’ve approached it without an excess of intervention, what I call the anti-Lucas approach, leaving the original intact unless you wish to add some minor additions via a “plus” mode. The one positive facet of having the game slip from my memory is I can play it with the barest of recollections, like deja vu, and am experiencing it almost entirely fresh as if it were the first time.