May 15, 2011
As my third year of medical school nears completion, I’m finding myself much busier than expected. I just finished a month of Obstetrics and Gynecology with an attending who I just didn’t mesh well with. He’s a fine doctor, and his patients love him, but our learning styles didn’t match up well. It was a rough month. I’m much more comfortable now that I’m back on Internal Medicine, but 7am-7pm shifts with 2 call nights a week doesn’t leave much time for studying or socializing. I’m also still chugging away on Match Game posts. It always pleasantly surprises me when people I know in real life tell me they read that blog.
My one-year wedding anniversary is coming up in a couple of weeks. It really doesn’t seem that way. Unfortunately, we won’t have much time to enjoy it. I have to be in Erie, PA the next day for shelf exams in OB/Gyn and Internal Medicine. Then I have another mandatory 2 days on campus in Erie to prepare for my Step 2 PE, a practical exam where we have to interview and plan treatment for 14 standardized patients.
Any free time I’ve had has been taken up by two of my most anticipated video games of the year. Despite the catastrophic PlayStation Network outage this month, I’ve wasted countless hours in the single player campaign of Portal 2. I can honestly say it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played. Highly recommended. I’ve also poured plenty of time into the story mode of Mortal Kombat, one of my guiltiest pleasures of video games ever since the original came out when I was entirely too young to play as much of it as I did.
I also bought a Pokemon game for the first time. Pokemon is the only big Nintendo franchise I’ve never played before because I was just a bit too old when it originally came out, and I’ve subsequently associated it with the most evil of gotta-catch-em-all marketing schemes. But every pediatric patient I saw last month was playing it when I walked into the room, so I figured it would give me something to relate to them with. My wife said she did the same with the Twilight movies, but I called bullsh*t on that one. She loves those things.
PlayStation 3: Mortal Kombat
NDS: Pokemon Black
PSP: Final Fantasy IV Complete Collection
iPod: Words with Friends (Username DrFishypants. Play me!)
April 25, 2008
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon was a disappointment. Shoehorning essentially every character from the MK universe into one game had great potential to appeal to fans of the series, but this kitchen-sink approach ultimately led to an unbalanced fighter that came across as a half-hearted effort. The new dial-a-combo fatality system was a cop-out that robbed each fighter of their originality and charm. The storyline, although admittedly not a strong point of most fighting games, was decidedly weak. And a disappointing variety of unlockables in comparison with previous games in the series left me feeling a little cheated.
Midway recently announced Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, a crossover title that pits MK veterans against DC comic heroes like Superman and Batman. I’ve never been a fan of comic books. They’re just not my thing. And while I’d probably appreciate a fighting game exclusive to the DC Universe, I cannot think of two franchises more ill-suited for a collaboration. Mortal Kombat is a series that thrives on ludicrous amounts of blood and gore. This franchise is single-handedly responsible for the creation of the ESRB. As its fighting engine begins to show its age, its fatality system should return to the forefront as its defining feature.
Numerous sources, however, are suggesting that Midway is aiming for a T rating with Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe – a move that, like Armageddon’s dial-a-fatality system, is likely to alienate fans like myself who enjoy the series for its ridiculous violence and over-the-top finishing moves. On the other hand, maybe adding restrictions like a T-rating will force Midway to innovate. Obviously, ripping off Batman’s head would be frowned upon by the DC folk. No one wants their superheroes brutally murdered again and again in typical MK style. Hopefully developers will have the artistic merit and skill to design new finishing moves that somehow satisfy Mortal Kombat fans and adhere to the T rating. And maybe Stryker will make a return in all his bomb-strapping, ear-plugging glory.
March 7, 2008
I’ve owned a copy of the original God of War since its release, but I never got around to playing it. With the recent release of Chains of Olympus on the PSP, I decided to take another look at the original PS2 version. Although I’m only an hour into the PSP version, I’m well into Act III of the original. Aside from some improvements to the controls in Chains of Olympus both games play similarly (which is certainly a testament to Ready at Dawn studios and their ability to craft a PS2-quality game for the PSP).
Both games tap into a primitive (or juvenile?) mentality that gives the player a rush for mashing on the face buttons and executing increasingly gory finishing moves. It’s a satisfaction I haven’t felt since playing the original Mortal Kombat trilogy in arcades. (On a side note, I was certainly too young to play such violent titles. But at least it will give me the proper perspective for when I have kids.) There is something about chaining giant combos together, killing anything in sight, and generally wreaking havoc that gets to the core of why I play video games. The situations they put you in are so off-the-wall impossible that you can escape into a complete fantasy world for just a small part of the day.
Gratuitous violence aside, both the PS2 and PSP titles are excellent examples of appropriate pacing and level design. You never feel like you’ve gone too far without a save point (although a save-anywhere feature would be a welcome addition to any portable game), and you rarely feel overwhelmed by too many enemies or objectives.
Surprisingly, I find the PSP controls easier to get used to. Dodging is mapped to the second analog stick on the PS2, while the PSP lets you roll out of danger by holding down the shoulder buttons and using the analog nub. Therefore, you never feel like you have to take your fingers off of the attack buttons in the PSP version. Similarly, magic is summoned by holding the right shoulder button and pressing the corresponding attack. On the PS2, you must cycle through various spells using the d-pad – a strategy that momentarily removes you from the thick of battle.
Chains of Olympus also performs surprisingly well on the portable console. Although there aren’t as many enemies on the screen as there are in the original game, you shouldn’t notice any slowdown on the PSP. The system also accesses the UMD much less frequently than I would have expected. Although I’m still concerned that the battery life will suffer somewhat from the increased processing power required.
My biggest criticism of both titles so far is the lack of exposition or continuing narrative. With such a vast amount of mythology to delve into, it’s a shame that you aren’t given more character history at the outset. In the PS2 version, much of the information you’ll need can be found in the game’s instruction manual. No such luck for Chains of Olympus. Basically, all you’re told is that the game takes place during Kratos’ 10 years of servitude to the gods. I’m sure this will change as I progress through both games, though. I’m hoping to finish all three God of War games before the inevitable release of God of War III for the PS3.