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Gaming misc.

More Halo

This week has been a productive one. Me and Rasmus beat both Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST this weekend. I’m quite surprised how short both 3 and ODST are. Both Halo 1 and 2 feels much longer. Might be a difficult to compare since I played Halo 1 by myself, whereas Halo 3 and ODST was co-op. Halo 2 was a co-op playthrough, it took two session and both 3 and ODST was one four-hour session each.

I am actually still really enjoying Halo, even after 4 games played in a short time. Story and engagement-wise Halo: Combat Evolved is still my favorite so far. I still have Reach and Halo 4 left in the Master Chief Collection.

After that I only have Halo 5 left of the current Halo games. The problem is that it’s only available on Xbox One and Series consoles. I have a Xbox One S which hopefully will be used for some sweet couch co-op when the Covid-19 situation is a bit more manageable.

If we manage to beat Halo 5: Guardians before Halo Infinite is released. I’m very interested in playing it co-op on release since it will be on Steam and Game Pass.

This puts my “games beaten” total for 2021 to ten games so far, of which six are played on PC.

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Gaming misc.

Co-op is fun

Today I finished Halo 2 with my good friend Rasmus. I really noticing how much I have missed playing games with others. Since I don’t enjoy competitive multiplayer games I don’t have many games to play with friends. I’m gonna try to play more with friends. It’s probably gonna be one of my personal goals of 2021. I need the social aspect and playing games together is fun.

Apparently co-op in Halo 2 has some problems. Some cutscenes crashes the session in co-op mode. So we had to start over a couple of times with some missions. So it hasn’t been the smoothest experience. It’s so much fun though, regardless of the problems.

We are most likely gonna start Halo 3 next weekend. I’m already looking forward to that!

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Gaming writeups Newer games Retro games

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (PC)

After 20 year I have finally played Halo: Combat Evolved. It wasn’t until I played some Destiny 2 back in 2019 I got the urge to explore the earlier Bungie creations. The tight FPS gameplay in Destiny 2 piqued my interest in Halo.

I bought Master Chief Collection on steam on a sale recently. I decided to play them in release order so I started with Halo: Combat Evolved. As a nintendo fanboy back in the day I pretty much hated the Xbox and Halo. I never was interested in FPS games, not just Halo, but I always wanted my darling Gamecube to be the top dog.

I’m happy that I waiting for the MCC so I could experience the game with more graphics and mouse and keyboard controls. I usually prefer a controller, but for FPS games, I’m a mouse and keyboard kind of guy.

The Anniversary Graphics compared to the Original Graphics

With a press on the tab button it’s possible to swap between the Anniversary and the original graphics. I never used the original graphics when playing, but at times I swapped to them to see the difference.

After playing Halo I actually understand the hype from back in the day. I understand why it was Xbox flagship title and its console seller. It’s still a good game, somewhat dated, but still a very solid game. It’s not a perfect game, but its scope and story are well executed.

Even after twenty years I bascially knew nothing about the story of Halo. I knew some terms I learnt from Warcraft 3 custom maps like The Covenant, The Flood and Halo. I didn’t really know what it entailed. This made the game feel fresh and the plot twist was actually new for me, even after all this time.

A very iconic cutscene

There are some weaker points, for me it’s the large maps without a good way of telling the player where to go without pointing it out too much. I found myself lost a couple of times. The other weak point is the mission The Library, very repetitive, slow and a literal flood of enemies.

After 10 hours of playing I beat the game, and I would actually say it’s one of my better gaming experiences in 2021. It made me a fan of a game that I used to hate (without anything backing my claims). I’m really looking forward to explore this franchise.

Bungie really are masters of good FPS combat, they really evolved it. The weapons feel great and heavy enough to really convey some kind of reality to the player in this fictional sci-fi world.

I would recommend everyone to test Halo: Combat Evolved to see the game that changed FPS on consoles, but also gaming in general. It’s a brilliant game that still are worth to play despite its age.

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Music misc.

Top 10 listened songs the last couple of years

The last couple of years Spotify has made playlists on my most listened songs. So I thought it would be fun to just sum up the last three years in music for me. I’m actually pretty excited to see how 2021 will differ from previous years.

2018

In 2018 I didn’t listen that much to music. I was mostly listening to youtube videos when walking or going to and back from work. All songs on my top 10 is by different artists/bands. It’s a very mixed list, some rock, punk, an a humoristic acapella song, 70’s “jazz rock”, metal, bluegrass pop, video game music, a classical piece and a radio hit,

2019

In 2019 everything changed, the main reason is the release of Tool’s Fear Inoculum which got me to find Tool again, something that really shows on the list. Besides Tool I also rediscovered metal with Deftones, Edge of Sanity and At the Gates.

2020

A weird year with many changes for me personally. I discovered Motoi Sakuraba’s solo projects from the 90’s, and the album Gikyokuonsou was my most played during 2020. Something that is very evident on the top 10 list for 2020. The grip that Tool got on me during 2019 continued the year after. You can also see that metal from my youth still had a place on the top 10, as well as an 70’s Swedish prog favorite.

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Gaming writeups Newer games Retro games

DuckTales: Remastered (PC)

The games I write about are usually games I really like. Mostly because I don’t finish games I don’t enjoy playing. This game is the exception. DuckTales: Remastered is a gorgeous game, the art style is nearly perfect. However the gameplay leaves a lot to wish for. While there has been a few quality of life improvements over the NES original, like the easy pogo, which was first featured in DuckTales 2.

DuckTales: Remastered is one of the games that has frustrated me the most. Weird hitboxes, skipped input, bad mechanics and bloated with cutscenes are just a few things that come to mind. WIth skipped inputs I mostly mean, when walking down a platform it’s almost impossible to pogo or time a jump on the ground below making unnecessary hit a problem. The other huge complain is the hitboxes that doesn’t seem to fit the sprites.

The biggest flaw is probably that the life system. Sue to the previously stated problems, getting two lives after a “continue” isn’t enough. Especially not since losing those lives, means starting the level all over again, with all of the progress of the stage lost.

The brilliance of the original is its simplicity. It’s very straight forward, find the boss, defeat the boss collect treasure. Something that the Remaster unnecessarily butchers, artificially prolongs the levels with forced items to collect before a cutscene that takes the player to the last area with the boss.

DuckTales: Remastered is not a difficult game, it’s a cheap game. By adding stuff to do, I feel the game becomes weaker. It charm of the original is that it’s possible to beat in less than 10 minutes. With the addition of the intro stage and new objectives in the stages plus adding a final stage, the games just feels bloated.

I’ve talked a lot of the the problems, but sadly that’s the impression that this game has given me. Bosses with forced cycles, in addition to taking too many hits to defeat, makes them tedious and not exciting. The absolutely most frustrating parts was the ending sequence after the final boss. The race against Magica De Spell and Glomgold to get the Number One Dime. Instead of a straight rope to the top, the remastered “fixed” a part not needing to be fixed, making it one of the most frustraing parts due to bad controls and mechanics. After that sequence which is the last one on the NES, a new escape part is added. Scrooge has to flee from the rising lava and traverse from chain to chain to ascend to safety. The problem is that climing and especially dropping from chains to grab another one is the worst mechanic in the game. These to parts in combination with having to restart the level when all lives are gone made this a living nightmare. I really don’t like this game.

One of the positive aspects besides the graphics, is the music. Jake Kaufman’s original tunes and the arrangements of the classics are good, really good. You can really hear it is Kaufman, which is something I love. Doesn’t save the game as a whole, but it’s one of the redeeming qualities of the game. Don’t know if the music is improved, but I enjoy both the remastered tunes and the originals.

I would honestly not recommend DuckTales: Remastered to anyone, because I know I’ll never ever play it again. I think it a really bad remake. Really happy it’s over.

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Gaming misc.

That Halo

Finished Halo this weekend. I played a lot more than I anticipated I would. I was totally gripped. For a FPS newbie Halo was a perfect starting point for me. Engaging story, corny enough to not be totally serious but at the same time not silly.

I have some complaints, but it’s a very solid game that still feels modern “enough” to still work. The length was perfect, beat it in like 10 hours. Very solid weekend game!

I have a “ritual” that after finishing a game, I try to watch a speedrun of it. It’s a great way for me to combine my interests, casual gaming and speedrunning. Knowing the game gives the speedrun more depth. Especially the struggle in the Library for me, and the speedrun just skips a lot of it on Legendary whereas I played on Normal. Pretty crazy stuff.

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Gaming writeups Newer games

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (PS4)

The darling genre of the Indie studios, Konami’s not so secret weapon on the GBA and DS. I am of course talking about Metroidvanias. Koji Igarashi’s winning concept has left Konami and entered the Indie scene and Kickstarter.

When I first saw Iga’s newest project, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, it looked like the 2.5D lovechild of Symphony of the Night and Aria of Sorrow, but animations looked stale and did not impress on me. I waited over a year before playing it because I told myself that I wanted to play the PC version. Last fall I could not wait anymore, I had heard so many good things about Bloodstained so I bought it on PS4. It did not disappoint. I wasn’t wrong in my first assessment, it really is the lovechild of Symphony of the Night and Aria of Sorrow, which I really enjoy since they are my favorites of the Igavanias.

The shard mechanic is ripped straight out of Aria of Sorrow’s Soul system, which is my favorite skill system in the GBA games. Rest of the game feels very Symphony of the Night, the gothic aesthetic, music and last but not least, controls.

Miriam the protagonist is a shardbinder, which means she can absorb shards from demons and gain their abilities. This does though slowly turn her into a shard lore-wise. The story is engaging and balanced but not very deep. It’s very Igavania to say the least. The rest of the cast have great personalities and most of them are memorable like the swordsman Zangetsu from Curse of the Moon-fame.

There are many Easter eggs for the initiated, mostly from SotN. Which makes it enjoyable and adds to the nostalgia. The game is cryptic, the map is big and full of secrets all over the castle like bosses and overpowered weapons.

Also, the music, it’s very SotN without being a rip off. Which is a huge plus in my book. The music accompanied the game excellently and I don’t have much to complain about.

The one point that I’m not overly happy with is the graphics and the animations. It looks okay, but animations are pretty stale, event hough better than the first look of the game. Despite that, it’s an very enjoyable game that no metroidvania fan should miss.

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Gaming misc.

Next up, Halo

I never owned a Xbox console until 2016 when I bought a 360. Therefore I have completely missed Halo. I didn’t have any interest in games in first person view until 2012 when I played Far Cry and Dishonored. I have never been a huge fan of shooters in general.

I have since then played Destiny 2 and other games, so that made me look at Halo, and here I am ready to try it out!

Gonna start with Combat Evolved. Reach will be a later game for me.

I hope I’ll enjoy it. If not, there is always co-op!

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Music writeups Older

Dan Swanö – Moontower (1998)

After Edge of Sanity’s albums and work on recording other bands’ albums in his studio, Dan Swanö made a solo album that he apparently described as “If Rush played death metal in the 1970s” (Wikipedia). This album Moontower is a unique creation. It’s a progressive fest filled with interesting riffs and passages, oozing of Dan Swanö’s creative mind. The albums starts with a synth heavy riff, accompanied by a groovy guitar riff. This really sets the mood of the album from the start. For the uninitiated I think Moontower is a very puzzling album, there are so many things you don’t really hear in combination.

A lot of synths and harsh vocals are not something you hear on every metal album. Therefore it’s probably that can put people off, those who don’t like growl or the metalhead that doesn’t want synth based songs. For those who can tolerate or even appreciate this unlikely combination, will hear an unique album that keeps on engaging the listener throughout the album.

I can’t understate how unique this album is. The songs are unique but cohesive. I have been listening to Moontower for well over 10 years, and it’s one of those albums that I always go back to. I can’t really describe why, but the energy and grooviness of all songs are so gripping. The melodic aspects incorporated in the songs absolutely one of the more noteworthy aspects of the album, ranging to excited to absolutely stunningly beautiful.

The album is a mix of death metal, 70’s progressive rock (Rush, Yes, Genesis), and 80’s rock guitar solos. Something that only Dan Swanö can weave together into an masterpiece. With Swanö playing all instruments himself makes everything have its own calculated place in each song.

I can’t really rank the tracks, since the albums should be experienced in order. I recommend it with all of heart. It’s very influential in my own perception of music, possibly making me picky when it comes to what I like and don’t. It scratches my progressive music itch as well as my death metal itch.

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Gaming misc.

Future projects

Newer consoles are spoiling players with screenshot features for sharing on social media platforms. Even htough I’m no big proponent of social media, I occasionally like to share a screenshot from a game, when starting or beating a game. This is not possible for older consoles like Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo Gamecube or Sega Genesis. A universal capture button is my thought, the sharing aspect will be a normal upload to social media of choice. I have therefore been thinking of a solution that would solve this problem for all consoles, using a capture card and a wireless bluetooth button.

With a compatible capture card and a Flic 2 button I got this to work in OBS when the OBS window is in focus. This works very well, the only problem is that I don’t have a way to capture my older consoles since I don’t have them close to the computer. I don’t want to chuck a long HDMI cable over the floor every time I want to start gaming and eventually take a screenshot.

I have there looked into the possibility of using “cheap” Chinese HDMI extenders to route the signal via the network to my computer. That’s is one solution, the other on is to buy a cheap computer, like a NUC or something and have in the TV bench just to take screenshots closer to the consoles.

When I have the hardware to take the screenshots from my sofa, I’m gonna look into some way of feedback for screenshot taken, either a sound or a blinking light, maybe a push to the phone.

This would be an ideal way to get better screenshots for this blog for console games I want to feature in the future.