Checkpoint: Resurgence Edition

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The Game Awards have improved dramatically. So much so that I am considering watching more of it next year. I caught a very brief glimpse of it and I was impressed with presentation and production; it actually resembled a normal awards show. Congratulations to Geoff Keighley.

The two announcements that were of note to me SoulCalibur VI and Bayonetta 3. I hear SCVI is channeling the original Dreamcast release which is something that tickles my fancy. As far as Namco fighters are concerned, I have a stronger affinity towards this sword swinging fighter than the King of Iron Fist Tournament. Bayonetta 3 is coming out exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. It’s truly amazing to see Nintendo go out and just grab this former multiplatform character action game and treat it like one of their own.

I will undoubtedly pick up the third installment but what about the upcoming Switch re-releases? I very much enjoy the idea of having the entire trilogy on one platform – especially if they all run at a near faultless 60 FPS. If I end up picking up Bayonetta 1+2 again, this would be the third copy of Bayonetta 1 that I own and the second copy of 2. Who am I kidding? If Bayonetta 2 ends up being a superior version of the Wii U exclusive, I think I’ll just pull the trigger and pick both up.

Capcom is on the upswing with a handful of announcements that’s slowly restoring my faith in the company. They’re making Mega Man 11 and it doesn’t look like a pure nostalgia grab like the 9 and 10. It looks a bit weird at first glance but I am warming up to the chosen art style. They’re also re-releasing all the Mega Man X titles on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch. I love the idea of owning all the X games on the Switch. If it’s a quality port, I might just pick it up there.

The same can be said for the 30th Anniversary Collection of Street Fighter which includes arcade ports of 12 Street Fighter games excluding IV and V. I understand not including Street Fighter V but what about IV? I would even pay closer to $79.99 for a version with that game included.

And finally, Street Fighter V actually piqued my interest this past Sunday with the reveal of the third season’s cinematic opener. Sakura, Blanka, Cody, and Sagat make their return and Capcom looks to be injecting some serious effort into the single player portion of the game. I don’t know if I would go as far as to buy this game again but I’m happy to see Capcom still trying with it.

I am still marching towards full completion of Super Mario Odyssey. By and large, I am enjoying the hell out of Super Mario Odyssey; there’s a lot to love but I am losing steam collecting Moons. Huge swathes of the moons feel like tedious collectibles like feathers in Assassin’s Creed. But for every frivoulous Moon, there’s a charming or clever one that makes it worthwhile. I think I’m ready to write up my review of it.

I started Uncharted: The Lost Legacy last week and it’s a bit of an eye opener. Going from playing Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to playing Uncharted highlights some glaring communication issues with Naughty Dog’s otherwise excellent game. Uncharted (and games in general) speak their own languages and despite years of playing Uncharted, I still mess up and drop to my death on occasion. My girlfriend asked: “How do you know where to go?” and I had to explain the subtle cues and other signposts that a hyper detailed game like Uncharted uses to her. It takes time to learn and adjust to the way games like this communicate but once you do, games like this become a cake walk.

Game of the Year 2016 Day 2 of 3

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I didn’t play many disappointments this year but there were a couple of big surprises that elevated 2016 to one of the best years in recent memory. If you told me in 2015 that a new Doom game would brilliant, Street Fighter V was a bit of a dumpster fire and I would spend a lot of time playing a game reminiscent of Team Fortress 2, I would have called you mad.

Most Disappointing Game of 2016

Winner: Street Fighter V

I had grand plans for Street Fighter V. I was going train on a regular basis and actually compete in ranked matches. I was going to focus on a single character and “master” it. I was going to take Street Fighter seriously like I never did before. But none of that came to pass because I spent more time waiting for matches than actually playing. And even if I managed to get into a match, it was often hitchy and difficult to play.

My issues with Street Fighter V aren’t with the fundamental mechanics or lack of single player content – those didn’t help its case though. My issues stemmed from the game’s poor online play in 2016. I don’t care if I win or lose but I want to be able to learn from each experience. Losing or winning in a lag filled match accomplishes nothing.

Thankfully, I bought a physical copy and was able to sell it.

Runner-up: Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright

Most Surprising Game of 2016

Winner: Doom 

It’s been a long time since an id Software game was worth looking at let alone wow me. RAGE certainly didn’t live up to expectations; I bought a copy for cheap and didn’t even bother to play it beyond an hour. Doom is the anti-RAGE. RAGE was slow and plodding and Doom was in my face and demanded my attention. I had heard rumblings of positivity from hardcore id Software fans but they were the same folks who proclaimed RAGE was a good game. 

Doom blindsided me with its relentless action and gear shifter breaking calm of exploration. 

Runner-up: Overwatch, The Division

Street Fighter V PS4 Review

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Capcom’s Proposal to Consumers:

You give us $69.99 and we’ll give you a quality barebones fighting game featuring a selection of your favorite characters plus some new ones. You will be able to fight online against other players powered by the best netcode this series has ever seen.

We know the single player content is lacking but we promise to give you a cinematic story experience in June. We’re also going to expand beyond the basic online multiplayer options with lobbies.

Don’t forget, we’re also rolling out new characters which you can earn for free or pay us for. Check out our season pass, it’s only $29.99.

I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to shell out money for Street Fighter V. There’s a lot of quality in Street Fighter V but at some point, quantity has to show up as well. I wasn’t expecting a story mode akin to Mortal Kombat 9 and X but I expected a barebones arcade mode at the very least. They could have included the same single player arcade mode employed in Street Fighter II and most people wouldn’t have batted an eye. It’s what we’ve come to expect from the series but when they couldn’t even match that and instead offered a tedious survival mode and a paltry story mode consisting of a handful of easy one off matches, they must have known it would have garnered criticism.

At its core though, there’s a fun and engaging fighting game. I love playing it and when the online matchmaking finds a quality opponent, I have a blast and want to keep playing. The problem is that recently (just over a month after the game’s release), I’m spending more time looking for quality matches than I am participating in them. I’ve been told that I should be looking for matches during peak times and not at 10 or 11 at night which is fair but at the same time, this is the first game that I had to make these kinds of concessions for. I didn’t have these kinds of issues in early March.

So I’ve been playing the survival mode and dabbling in the training mode whenever I wanted some guaranteed quality time with Street Fighter V. It’s such a satisfying game to play. I love how easy it is to execute moves and the changes they made to characters like Charlie gave those characters new life. A number of characters received command input changes for their classic moves. For example, Chun Li’s Lightning Kick was changed from mashing kick to quarter circle forward (QCF) and kick. I appreciated those changes but I also wished they just made everything a quarter circle motion at this point — but I’m just not a fan of charge moves so that’s just my own bias.

The words “lovingly crafted” don’t immediately come to mind when I look at the visuals Street Fighter V. It may remind some people of Street Fighter IV but if they actually looked at Street Fighter IV today and not in their mind’s eye, Capcom’s latest looks markedly superior in both style and technical quality.

The game makes a great first impression. The characters look amazing and move with fluidity that remind me of the shift to Street Fighter III. After staring at the game for a few hours, I started to notice the ugly dithered shadow work and wonky clipping of hair, belts and other loose clothing. As for the backgrounds? The less I speak about those hideous assets the better. They’re fun and feature nice touches here and there but it’s clear that they had to make sacrifices in order to keep the game running at 60 FPS.

I wouldn’t recommend Street Fighter V to many people. People dreaming of robust Mortal Kombat length single player campaigns or any significant single player offering will be left disappointed. But if you’re a fan of the competitive aspect of Street Fighter — playing against other players online or offline — Street Fighter V has a very basic representation of what you’re seeking. The core fighting feels fantastic and if you can find players to do battle with, you’re going to have a blast. I want both and thus it’s been a disappointment. I have faith that Capcom will deliver the product I want. I just wish they didn’t charge full price for it yet.

Verdict:
It’s okay

Ratings Guide

Checkpoint: Tax Filing 2015 Edition

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I’ve been using TurboTax for years. I buy the standard edition and file claims for my immediate family for less than $30 per year. I tried H&R Block’s free online offering last year but it couldn’t even handle my simple scenario properly. For the 2015 tax year, Intuit decided to step into the free game and offer TurboTax online free as well. I was going to check it out but then I heard of SimpleTax and the huge amount of praise that it received.

SimpleTax doesn’t offer the questionnaire that I’ve grown accustom to with TurboTax and that’s both a blessing and a point of worry. It’s a blessing for those who are familiar with their tax situation, have a handful of forms and receipts and just want to input them. TurboTax’s interview/questionnaire served as a checklist . I had forgotten about my public transit pass and if it wasn’t for the fact that I was owing money instead of getting a refund, I may have omitted it entirely. TurboTax would have “saved” me because it would have asked if that situation applied to me from the onset.

SimpleTax does have an optimization and suggestions function that made useful suggestions though. It suggested I take a look at medical expenses and I found out that I could claim my laser eye surgery. I would have likely explored that possibility with TurboTax’s suggestions phase as well but it was nice to see SimpleTax have that security blanket.

The process of inputting forms and receipts in SimpleTax was enough to win me over for subsequent years. It was easy to find what I was looking for with a few keystrokes in their search field. The boxes were laid out logically and I was able to tab through them with ease. I also found tooltips found throughout each form very useful.

I submitted my return for 2015 and if the tax man comes back with no complaints, I see myself using SimpleTax next year as well. I’m impressed with SimpleTax so far but I don’t think it’s as beginner friendly as TurboTax’s interview/questionnaire.

After 40 hours, I’m ready to close the book on Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright. I’m also nearing the end of the Division’s campaign but unlike Fire Emblem, I don’t feel like I’m done with the Division just yet.

Then there’s Street Fighter V which I’m trying to play more but any time I try playing online, I get fed up with the long wait times and end up chipping away at Survival Normal. There’s a new patch and character coming out next week that will hopefully give me the opportunity to find some quick matches. It’s incredibly silly to spend more time waiting on matchmaking and loading than fighting.

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