Boss Fight Books 17/19: advance reviews

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Books 17 and 19 of Boss Fight Books series happen to be from two different seasons. Book 17: Katamari Damacy is the final book of season 3 while Book 19: Shovel Knight is the second book of Season 4. Having read all the books released thus far, it’s quite striking to notice the difference in feel among them. Season 4 of BFB is dubbed “Creator Access Edition”. As the name suggests it focuses most on the different studios and people involved in the creation of the chosen focus of the books. In contrast, many of the past books in this series were so much more about describing the games themselves in their intimate entirety in regards to narrative, but also the relationship of the author to said games. I should point out then that one of the books which most related to the author was Spelunky, Book 11, written by Derek Yu….the games creator!

As a backer of the season 4 of Boss Fight Books on Kickstarter, I am entitled to the entirety of the series up to the current season. Nevertheless, I received advance copies of both books for the purpose of this review. A big thanks to BFB and Gabe Durham for this opportunity! On with the books…

**Katamari Damacy

kata

Katamari Damacy is one those strange quirky games that your best friends may frown upon when they see you playing it, but secretly itching to get their hands on the controller. In my mind, I have difficulty dissociating it from Patapon which elicited similar reactions from my peers whenever I was found enjoying it. As the author points out in this books, this is a work leaning most on great gameplay, novelty and fun. It is a work of art in that it can be interpreted in depth despite its simplicity, it presents not the shallowness often coupled to the superficial fluff of improved graphics at the time. To this day I do not really always care about how pretty a game can be; a lot of people are rediscovering this fact in themselves, the critical acclaim and the sales of Octopath Traveler attest to that.

As the final book of Season 3, Katamari Damacy takes an approach more similar to the books of Season 4. It focused a lot on the creator’s journey up to and beyond the release of the game. I felt a great parallel between it and Shovel Knight which releases with it in a few days. The author did a solid overview of certain culture particularities related to the Japanese which quite frankly would have gone way over our western heads had he not written about them. Those part are some of the most interesting, more creators should, with their cultures, be this unapologetic about their unique aspects.

**Shovel Knight

Shovel

This book takes a very investigative approach to its subject. It is very more in line with my thoughts on what creator access should be, and very special in that it is as much the story of WayForward (WF) as a company as it is about the IP itself. Many publishers have had their story told and retold in a way that we could actually recite them verbatim. Examples of this are Id Software, Nintendo, Square-Enix. The story of WF relates as they represent in a way the dreams of many of us gamers who dreamt of being creators, and at the same time, they have lived through some of the hard times that we can easily imagine happens when one takes the route of independent development. It is not difficult to understand that many such teams of developers never survived beyond a game or two. Following their journey towards themselves as a group of friends and colleagues become something bigger, then towards their dream which culminated in one awesome modern NES game, was a blast. Theirs was a true journey, with many downs but their ups reached some interesting peaks to balance everything out. I would not mean to spoil anything from the narrative, nevertheless, I must that it was amazingly serendipitous that so many of their favourite creators from the golden era of the NES/SNES could meet with them, even collaborate in Shovel Knight!

Both of these books achieve their goal and the research/interviews were well done for me. Naturally, I do find myself partial to any story of an indie studio, whether of success or failure. If Katamari Damacy had focused more on the big publisher (Namco) instead of the true creator hidden behind this corporate juggernaut, I would not have like it as much. I enjoyed both books, and I recommend both, especially Shovel Knight simply for the fascinating tale of Wayforward Studios. Both Boss Fight Books come out in a couple of days. They can be easily found on Amazon: Katamari Damacy (Boss Fight Books Book 17) and Shovel Knight (Boss Fight Books) or at Boss Fight Books.

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Elaborated

Feb 11 2006, 4:44 PM


I’ve played Xmen legends during the past two months. Eventually, I finished it. Last week I started on Xmen legends II. Today I’ve already gotten to the final act, did the game get easier from the first to the second opus? Or am I just playing far too much? Or both?

And here is a subject all on its own: med student, last year, how will I play once I start internship? Who will be crazy enough to take the chance and start a family with a madman of gaming such as I? And the questions could go on and on. Oh well, I’ll never change and mostly because I don’t want to. End of discussion. I do hope to have heirs to carry my love of games. Maktoub”

Today’s one-word prompt gave me the idea to find some of my old writings, share them for those who’ve never seen them and Elaborate some ideas within, answer some questions I had left hanging.

X-men Legends was a good game, in my opinion. Fortunately I had written this little bit about it, otherwise, I would certainly not have even remembered it existed on my own. We have all seen many movies, read quite a few books and maybe even played hundreds of games (video, board, card, etc.). But those that really mark us we cannot really forget, for whatever reason that may be. If I would name one of each that marked me:

  • Book: Summer of Night, it’s an oldish one, I read it very young, my first of the Horror genre and it scared me immensely. I read it again about a year ago, I still like the book and I can absolutely see how it could have impacted me the way it did. I was in a school with a building as old as time, reminding me too much of the school the kids go to in the novel
  • Board game: Monopoly Classic Game. A silly but simple reason why. I was young, shopping for something new on Christmas, and the store owner’s daughter was or seemed rather “hot”. In retrospect, I cannot remember what feature qualified her as such to my young eyes, nevertheless, whenever I think of Christmas, I remember Monopoly and I remember her (Isabelle, gleaned from eavesdropping while looking around the shop).
  • Card game: Magic The Gathering. This was the first one I ever saw, tried and played. Back then, I felt that simply getting a hang of the rules was Magic in itself!
  • Video game: Final Fantasy VI. The original North American version, erroneously dubbed Final Fantasy 3 (while in truth it was the 6th game in the series), is the one that I borrowed from a friend one day on the schoolyard. I had little idea of what was in store, but I liked the name. It reminded me that ultra hard NES game I had once tried at another friend’s house. It became my favorite game for a very long time. As many can remember, the story was epic in its main path, but the side activities and the hidden quests related to each character truly open up the story. Both the lore and character development shine with personality, uniqueness. To this day, I still load up at least once a week some track from the Distant Worlds orchestral interpretations. My favorite music from FF6 is the Opera di Maria that the game’s character Celes Chere played in (as Maria)  🙂
  • Movie: if there is one movie that I could name despite having seen it so long ago, it’s Goonies! I rewatched just once about a decade or so ago and I was blown by how well I remembered e-ve-ry single scene as if I’d seen it just the day before. Yes, it’s rather old for some of you, it remains a timeless classic for me which can almost be said for the majority of Spielberg movies…

As for the last question….well, I’ve learned to tone down the intensity of the gaming somewhat. Or rather, I watered it down. By inserting short bursts of play in down times, whenever the significant other is busy, kid sleeping or busy, lunch breaks etc. I managed to still game (I’ve logged almost 200 hrs into Xenoblade Chronicles 2 this year!) while seeming not to. If everyone gets their quality time, who can complain really? As a consequence, it’s been almost 2 months since I last turned the PS4 on. My time has been mostly spent on portable gaming (3DS and the epically awesome Switch, my Vita disappeared more than a year ago….stolen? Unknown). There’s always a way to balance everything to some measure. It can just take patience to find it…

Art fusion at its current best

Child of Light is a work of arts. Yes, plural. An interesting mixture of many forms: poetry, music, photography, image art, all wrapped up in a wonderful bundle of simple yet compelling gameplay mechanics that “speak” to all the rest.

Most of the dialog is in rhyme and as far as I could discern, having just started playing, it is mostly an even number rhyme. An even number line in a paragraph rhymes with the even number line above and/or below it.
The art engine Ubisoft uses is amazing! The backgrounds are lush and lose none of the finesse and color quality of a hand-drawn painting. The characters and moving elements present a wonderful cell-shady particularity. Movement is smooth, the lighting effects are adequate. In short, for I could write a book about how incredible an effect this games visuals has on me, the UbiArt framework is fucking A. It looked good in Rayman, here…. it SHINES!

What more can I say? GO EXPERIENCE IT!
Child of Light is an instant classic that you have to be completely bonkers not to love. April 30th, 2014 will remain a highlight of my gaming life.

End of migration

And so ends my migration of the posts previously on 1up. Like I said in the final post, I installed Kingdoms of Amalur after Skyrim. I had high hopes for it.

It turned out to be a good game. It was flashy, third-person, had a lot of cool moves with different weapons. The only sin it made for me was that it came after Skyrim. If I had played it first, I would have had a blast. The lore is deep, and the world big, although not feeling as free roaming as Skryim. All in all, I did not feel the magic that Bethesda put in their Elder Scrolls games. Nevertheless, maybe now that quite a while has passed since last I’ve launched the game if I go back to Amalur maybe I’ll have forgotten enough of Tamriel to really enjoy it this time around.

Final 1up migration post :"Skyrim….The End???"

Feb 21st 2012, 3:15PM

Yesterday I grabbed my courage and decided to bring the fight to Alduin. After weeks of postponing, it was both exhilarating and scary. I have finished all the major quest lines save for the Companions’, and really, apart from a few individualized side-quests, it feels like there is nothing much left for me than the never-ending “Radiant” quests.

While finishing the main story, I committed two major errors. The first: I went in there with too high a level (65), according to what I read somewhere 35 is the best max limit otherwise it will feel anti-climactic; Second error: I was armed with Merhunes’ Razor! Yes, and unluckily, the darn thing activated during the final fight……after 2 hits….. There I was facing the World-Eater himself in epic battle and the Razor activates on the SECOND hit!!!!!!!!! What’s worse than the hardest last boss? Well, obviously, it’s the easiest.

Now that I’m done, I will end the Companions’ story and beyond that…..there are tons of achievements to get, items to hunt for and dungeons to clear. Along the way, I am bound to find some interesting sidequest to keep me busy. In the meantime, I have installed Kingdoms of Amalur, I just hope all the hype is worth it though I doubt it can ever replace Skyrim in my heart.”

1up migration post XV: "Dragon slaying too easy? Barbas the indestructible dog!!!"

December 15th, 2011, 2:53 PM

Using followers is the best way to make the Dragonborn’s work easy, too easy even. A combination of Lydia, a conjured Atronach, and Barbas (Clavicus Vile’s indestructible dog companion) is the spoon full of sugar to make the dragon pill go down. Barbas is, of course, imperative to this equation. He is a royal pain in the *** when it comes to everything else, pushing you off ledges when trying to sneak around, making a constant racket barking all the time. But in front of a crazy ol’ Blood Dragon, he is UNSTOPPABLE. That does not simply mean that he deals damage, it means that most of all that he keeps the adversary occupied while you hack away from the rear, cast some major spells (which may kill a follower like Lydia but not good old Barbas!), and shout out as hell in between recharges. People if you want to make your lives easier, don’t finish Clavicus Vile’s quest. Barbas may be extremely annoying, but he has his uses.

The only thing to truly consider is that, the easier it gets for you, the slower your character progresses, due to the judicious “use it or lose it” choice of design made by Bethesda. The ultimate reward is still the same though: the bones, the scales, and the best the soul!
Any adequately hardcore Skyrim Dragonborn probably has heard or about Barbas and the interesting idea of holding off finishing his quest in order to keep him as an extra free follower. So the choice is actually all yours; he may make caves too easy at times, allows the use of incredibly destructive scrolls on enemies, but he also makes dragon slaying a little less much of a headache.”

1up migration post XIV: "Skyrim: SHOUT (for real)"

Dec 13th, 2011, 4:40 PM

Dunno if this made the news page yet, haven’t checked (just got back from work), there is this modder that is in the process of creating a mod that actually requires you to “shout” the words of a shout through your microphone to actually produce them in-game. Pretty nifty huh? And theoretically much faster than having to switch shouts in a menu, IF you succeed in memorizing and correctly pronouncing said words. Here is the link to the 0.2 version of the mod:http://www.skyrimnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=3251 “

This link is no longer functional. I haven’t bothered to look if the mod still exists, I had a hard time making it work back then, but I remember the issue being with my hardware and not directly the mod itself. But it’s a great way to look and sound crazy playing this awesome game! There is also this mod you can use to voice control shout: https://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/88419. Anyway, as with everything Skyrim, the newer versions of the mod can be found in the Steam Workshop.
…….Ah, the name! Of course 😀
This shout mod is called :” Thu’um”

1up migration post XIII: "ALL the books in Skyrim in your kindle!!!!!!!!!!!"

December 12th, 2011, 12:04 PM

This incredible fan of the Elder Scrolls universe has compiled and converted ALL the books in Skyrim into a single file readable on a kindle, there are also a Nook format, an epub format and an iOS format of the file. Check it out right here: http://travistyoj.com/dovahkiin-gutenberg.

 
Just so you know, that link is actually still active, and you can still get the compilation if you haven’t 🙂

1up migration post X:"Fave memories"

April 22nd, 2008 10:41 AM

My most cherished memories of gaming lie with the PC. It was through it I got my first taste of what it would be like in my future. I was barely 3-4 years old when I touched my first PC, at a fast food, some black and white screen with some “things” moving on it and I can’t say I remember what they were. Later on, as I grew I was always fascinated by computers, even my first console, the NES, did not stir me as much as them. Although by a twist of fate, my first game was an RPG very much in the likes of Ultima underground, Betrayal at Krondor and the such. A hardcore first-person RPG that I liked very much though it was impossible to play for poor me at that age. But I learned rather fast and that necessity to adapt quickly to the game set the path for me adapting to a lot of thing later on. What I mostly wanted to come to here is that, despite my love for some very popular games such as “FFVII”, “Chrono Trigger”, “FFVI”(THE best console game of its generation, in my opinion), my best memories of gaming go hand in hand with:”Ultima seven: the black gate”. To me, it was a blast! It’s not just about gameplay and story here, but also friendship. One of my 2 best friends used to play this with me. OK, so we each played on our own PC but we kinda paced the game together, and when one got stuck the other tried to help. Well, most of the time we both got stuck, so we had to put our heads together to keep going. What also delighted me was the relative freedom one had in the game and it was my first experience with that. You could be a merchant and spend time selling and buying stuff, you could go almost anywhere possible on the map, you could steal (my friends did spend most of the game stealing stuff, while I chose to play it nice) and it was all the very first time I encountered that. That was what truly turned me the most towards PC gaming rather than consoles. I still did both but I was always more excited about trying out a new PC game. Put on top of that, the fact that characters got hungry and had to eat, that in certain situations they would do what they wanted and not listen to orders from the player, it was superb. And that “sextant” used to calculate map coordinates from the height of the sun! We would use that a lot to tell the other were we found this or that on the map. It was a massive game for its time and it lived for so long after. I mean look at how long “Ultima Online” survived!

 

As for my favorite console no doubt it was the SNES. Even thinking of it now, it brings back some feelings of wonder and sweet sorrow of all the fun my best friend and I had. When you look back, some games were pretty plain. But, at the time, they meant something to us. The ones I remember the most? “FFVI” bought for less than 6$ from some idiot who disliked RPGs, the pinnacle of our joy, the best for so much less! “Chrono Trigger”, just as good in my memory as FF, but felt cooler (must be the spiky-haired teenagers) and was so much easier too. “Top Gear”, the first SNES racing I was ever interested in, I forgot it fast but the first time we rushed home to play it is dearly remembered, we had to leave school a bit early make it home before our moms and play like hell, ’cause when they came it was game over! Go study! Do your homework! It only made the short play all the more delicious. Growing means quite necessarily in this world parting ways. And so we all three each have our lives now and, I have confirmation, at least two of us are still gamers. I don’t know if my best friend from back then still plays, but I do know he went out to be a graphic artist. Did he succeed? Unfortunately, all the news I have from him are from his mom. I do hope we get to meet someday, all of us, and have one of those old gaming nights, there used to be like 15 of us at home and playing games like “Mario Kart”, “Killer Instinct”, “Soul Blade”. We had fun and we had good memories. The only other thing in my life that may bring me such happy reminiscing is what I felt and still feel for that first girl I ever fell in love with. That’s another story now, ain’t it? Auf Wiedersehen.”

1up migration post IX:"Final judgement"

Mar 22nd, 2008 10:56AM

I’m sad to say I completed the last addition to the Ace Attorney series “Apollo Justice”. Things took a turn that was rather surprising towards the end. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but seriously I now realize that from the beginning there were serious hints at what was going on. And a most important thing: the cases in this are really more related to each other than ever before in this series. You really feel mid game that it’s all part of the same journey and it all has to add so u can figure it all out in the end. The one little problem I had which was not a problem really, but a habit, I was used to how sometimes difficult the other games could be, so I kinda felt that this one time it was rather easy. Or maybe after playing the 3 Phoenix Wright game I just got used to the system, who knows? Well, I was tremendously satisfied with it all. I hope this “jurist system” won’t just die, the developers might be on to something and I hope in the future they can whip us up some more of that excellence or even wow us with the next ace attorney.”

As I’ve said previously, I haven’t played the latest 3DS installment so I don’t know if, in the end, they did stick to the jury system or just to the old one. I’ll find out soon enough (unless someone tells me first).