The elusive “Metal Gear” snake has been in the wild for decades, weaving its way in to and out of peoples homes and often leaving them with quizzical faces and smashed video game controllers. This particular breed of snake has been known to be confusing and intimidating to those unfamiliar with its ways, often eliciting cries of “That’s so Japanese!” for these very reasons. But for those who love and care for the “Metal Gear” breeds of snakes, this week is a big one, boss.

Ok, I’ve got nothing left. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain comes out this week. I have no clue what’s going on with this game series, but it sure looks purdy. Unfortunately, our resident MGS expert is dealing with a 4 month old and may not be able to chime in and guide us in those weeks launch festivities. I’ll be partaking from the sidelines, where it’s nice and safe.

Tuesday, 2:55 pm – Gavin

Metal Gear is one of those series I never had a chance to enjoy.  Not being of the Playstation ilk, I never got to experience the series in its heyday, and so never had any burning desire to catch up on its later incarnations.  I heard that MGS 4 was a solid installment, but again, same problem – no PS3.  Combine all of that with some of the negative things I’ve heard about the series (excessive cutscenes, weird problems with women, obscurely Japanese design decisions), I’ve generally sat out the series without issue.

With Phantom Pain releasing to glowing reviews, I have to admit I’m a just ever so slightly curious, but I know I’ll hit a wall with not knowing anything about the series.  I’ve got a very particular taste for tactical espionage and stealth games – Splinter Cell and Deus Ex have done them so well that it’ll be tough to match.  To that end, having played Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory really threw me for a loop because all stealth games are inevitably compared to that one.

I’ve been playing The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for a few weeks now.  I’m about 30 hours into it or so, just about to enter the Fire Sanctuary. When I first played it, I was a staunch defender of the game..  It was one of my favourites of 2011 – #2, in fact – just behind Deus Ex: Human Revolution.  The motion controls were generally flawless for me, I loved the art style and dungeon design, and just generally had a lot of fun with it.

As I’m replaying it though, I’m noticing a lot of flaws that I glossed over last time, and that people had been pointing out before. I’m finding that the controls are bit more finicky this time (replaying on Wii U – I’ll be damned if I could get the harp to work properly this time, whereas on the Wii, I got everything right first try, more or less), Fi is super obnoxious with the “calculated percentages”, and I suppose worst of all, I’m really noticing a lot of terrible lazy tropes.

I’ve already done the three powerless Silent Realm areas, which are interesting on paper, but in reality they just weren’t fun because they’re so stressful. I know that I have a forced stealth section coming up. But man, the worst is that I’ve just retrieved the water basin from the Water Dragon and had to do a terrible escort quest.  To clarify:

Skyward Sword’s world is a series of areas connected by a Sky overworld.  You fly around on your giant bird and drop into these areas on the ground.  You start at one area and make your way around the ground areas.  At each save statue (there are a handful throughout the world), you can fly back up to the sky, and you can select which statue you want to drop down to – a modified, slightly slower fast travel.

I had navigated my way to the top of the Eldin Volcano and needed to extinguish some flames with a bit of water.  You find this water in one of the other ground areas, in a giant basin, and your robot sidekick, who’s an absolute asshole to you for no reason except that the writers thought that it would be funny, hauls the basin away.

However, when you drop back down from the Sky to the volcano, the game doesn’t let you choose which statue you want to drop to.  Instead, the game forces you to the bottom of the volcano – highly irritating.  So I get to the bottom of the volcano and Scrapper, that little piece of shit, he tells me that he won’t carry the basin up to the top because it’s too heavy (even though he was able to lift it from Lake Floria and carry it into the Sky), but that he’ll haul it if “we play a game” and I escort him up the volcano while protecting him from damage.

It’s such a hackneyed trope, but more so than that, it’s so forced and awkward that it’s ridiculous. “You can drop to any save point on the map, except for this one time, but there’s no good reason for it.” Combine that with a stupid robot that won’t get out of the way of enemy attacks and it’s obnoxious. Fair play that Scrapper has a good amount of health, but nonetheless, there’s no logical requirement for this escort quest. It’s just crammed into the game for literally no reason except to have Scrapper continue to be a piece of shit to you.

I still do like Skyward Sword. It’s just that while the highs (dungeon design, music) are GREAT, the lows (stupid bullshit like the escort quest) are really low.

Monday, 9:55 am – Ricky

Instead of Metal Gear, I’ll keep playing The Witcher 3, which on the surface may appear to be equally confusing and intimidating, and while that might have been true for the first two entries of the series, this third entry has all the modern conveniences we’d expect from a 3rd person action-RPG-adventure game. I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of the game, and I’m 25 hours in. At this rate, I’ll be playing the game well in to the new year.

I don’t mind that one bit.