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Experience Points .20: Red Dead Redemption

Jul 25 // Ben Davis
The desert life There really aren't enough games that go for the Wild Western setting, and probably no other game pulls it off quite as spectacularly as Red Dead Redemption. It's set in an area inspired by the Rio Grande Basin connecting Texas and Mexico, as well as the deserts and prairies of Arizona and New Mexico. It also takes place in a time of Wild West cowboys, horses, outlaws, gunslinging, and saloons, so it basically feels like playing a classic Spaghetti Western film. The desert vistas in this game are absolutely gorgeous. In fact, my favorite thing to do was just to ride around and look at all the different locations. The sandy expanses, the majestic rock formations, the fields of cacti and desert shrubs, the old Western-style towns and dilapidated structures, and those sunsets... my god. Every inch of this game is stunning. Sometimes I just sat around on top of my horse for a few minutes and marveled at the world around me. I've only been out West once in my life, when I was like five years old, so I didn't really get to appreciate it as much as I would have liked. I'd love to take a trip around that area again sometime, in part because Red Dead Redemption makes it look so beautiful. It's rare that a game makes me want to go out and see the world like this one did. Draw! Good old-fashioned duels are a staple of the Western genre, so it's no surprise they make an appearance here. I've been obsessed with Western duel scenes ever since I watched The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which has quite possibly the most glorious duel ever filmed. Two men (or three, in the case of the film) standing at a distance, their hands readied above their guns, sweat rolling down their faces, waiting for the signal to draw their weapons to see who can shoot faster and become the victor... it's always such a thrilling scene to watch. The duels in Red Dead Redemption aren't quite as long and fancy as the ones from Sergio Leone's films, but they're still very satisfying. Some duels take place as a part of the story, but many occur randomly. Marston may be challenged to duels by outlaws just by walking through a town, or if he's caught cheating at poker, or even if he rudely knocks over a passing stranger. If he accepts the duel, then the standoff begins. The camera shows both participants before coming in close to focus on Marston's hand hovering above his holstered gun, and then time slows down as shots are fired. It's very cinematic, which makes it feel even more like an homage to its film inspirations. I also like that, in some cases, Marston can win by simply disarming his opponent rather than killing them. Doing so generates both honor and fame, while killing only generates fame. It makes me feel good to play as the virtuous Western hero sometimes, so I always tried to aim for my opponent's gun hand whenever possible. It's what the man with no name would have done (unless he's dueling against Angel Eyes, that is!). John Marston, with the rope, in the conservatory Speaking of being honorable, I particularly enjoyed the option of using the lasso to subdue foes. It's not always the best method, but I tried to use the lasso as often as possible, not only because it means I don't have to kill as many people, but it's also just really fun to use. Bad guys can be lassoed, hogtied, and lifted onto the back of Marston's horse to take them to jail kicking and screaming. It's a bit trickier to capture bounties this way, because the player often needs to act quickly before the criminal's pals appear to help him out. Plus it feels good knowing that it's possible to solve problems non-violently. I'm always pleased when games give me these kinds of options. Of course, if the player wants to be a bit more villainous with their lasso, that's also a possibility. Marston can lasso someone while on horseback and drag them along behind him to kill them, hold on to the rope with the lasso around their necks to choke them, lasso their horses to try and buck them off a cliff, or even go the old-fashioned dastardly route and hogtie someone and then leave them lying on the train tracks to meet their demise. All you need is a bit of creativity to turn the lasso into a deadly weapon. A horse with no name John Marston wouldn't get very far without a trusty steed, and luckily there are plenty of horses for him to choose from. While the horses in Red Dead Redemption may not be as memorable as, say, Epona or Agro, they still play a very important role as companions. The game provides Marston with his own horse early on, but it also allows him to steal other people's horses or even capture and tame wild horses whenever he wants. If a strong-looking stallion is spotted in the wild, Marston can use his lasso to reign it in and then jump on its back to try and tame it. This was my favorite method of finding horses. I tend to go for the solid white or solid black horses, which seemed to be kind of rare and challenging to tame, but they're just so impressive-looking. I liked to pretend I was riding around on Shadowfax or one of the Black Riders' horses. Many players probably go through a lot of different horses during their playthrough, but I usually tried to keep my horses as long as possible. They tended to be more trustworthy and stronger the longer I kept them around, and I also couldn't help but feel a sense of connection with my horse friends after a while. I hated to see them get hurt, especially the ones I captured in the wild since so much work went into finding them and gaining their trust. For something that could easily be seen as a disposable item within the game, Red Dead Redemption sure did a fantastic job of making the horses feel alive and full of personality, something more than just a mode of transportation. Gambling man While the story and free-roam play of Red Dead Redemption was phenomenal, I also just could not get enough of the mini-games. Poker, liar's dice, five finger fillet, horseshoes, arm wrestling, blackjack... I spent so much time playing all of these games in each of the settlements, trying to master them and win money. They're all really fun and impressively fleshed out. While I probably spent the most time playing poker, my best game was definitely liar's dice. I'd actually never heard of it before playing Red Dead Redemption, but I quickly mastered it and raked in the cash. Horseshoes, on the other hand, was definitely not my game. I was terrible at aiming correctly, but it was still fun to learn. Five finger fillet was also enjoyable simply because I would never want to try it in real life. I value my own hands, thank you very much, but I don't mind the risk of butchering Marston's body parts. Although it is kind of strange how his hands seem to be just fine even if he accidentally stabs himself repeatedly with a knife. I messed up so much that I'm surprised he still had fingers! A grizzly encounter There is almost nothing more terrifying than hearing the snarl of a cougar while Marston is roaming the wilderness in Red Dead Redemption. Cougars are fast and powerful, they can easily kill in one or two strikes, and they're very difficult to detect due to their tan color which blends in well with the sandy desert environment. Usually, the player won't know a cougar is near until they hear the loud, ferocious snarling. The sound always stopped me dead in my tracks, as I desperately tried to search for the location of the animal before it was too late. Then when they pounce, it's a strenuous fight to the death as I try to avoid their attacks and get a few shots in as they're running around. Even when I was being careful, they mauled me to death on more than one occasion. The cougars are no joke! But even the cougars pale in comparison to the grizzly bears. The bears make a loud growling sound as well, but more often than not, I would see the bear before I heard it. I would just be minding my own business in the woods, then turn around and BAM... there's a big old grizzly bear bounding straight toward me! It scared me every single time, and sometimes I'd even have to pause the game for a bit just to take a breather before confronting the animal. The bears in Red Dead Redemption are arguably even more dangerous than the cougars. Sure, they're slower, but they're so powerful and difficult to take down that I found them to be way more frightening. And usually, once I killed one bear, two or three more would come running out of nowhere to avenge their friend. It was almost certain death once I found myself surrounded by multiple bears. Chill out, bears! I can only handle so much bear at once! Past Experience Points .01: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.02: Shadow of the Colossus.03: EarthBound.04: Catherine.05: Demon's Souls.06: No More Heroes.07: Paper Mario.08: Persona 4.09: Final Fantasy IX.10: Mega Man Legends.11: Rayman Origins.12: Metal Slug 3.13: Animal Crossing.14: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King.15: Super Mario Sunshine.16: Final Fantasy VII.17: Nier.18: Chrono Trigger.19: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Red Dead Redemption photo
John Marston! Remember the name!
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Experience Points .19: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Jul 18 // Ben Davis
When it rains, it pours Metal Gear Rising is full of insane, high-energy boss fights. Sometimes Raiden will be up against gigantic war machines which he can climb all over, and sometimes he'll be in one-on-one duels against villains roughly his size. But no matter what, the fights themselves are always impressive. My personal favorite boss is Monsoon. He's a cyborg ninja with distinctive red and black armor and a helmet covering most of his face save for his creepy grin. His weapon of choice is a pair of sais, which he's quite deadly with. And true to his name, his boss fight takes place in the pouring rain. His most unique feature, however, is the fact that his body is actually made up of a bunch of smaller segments held together by electromagnetic forces. This allows him to separate his body at will, which he does quite often in order to attack from great distances and to easily dodge incoming attacks. If Raiden tries to attack normally, he won't be able to land a single hit with Monsoon's body constantly shifting, separating, and reconnecting at high speeds to avoid injury. Patience and clever tactics are required to even scratch this guy. After a while, Monsoon will begin demonstrating another ability which allows him to lift and hurl enormous objects. He starts chucking tanks and aircraft at Raiden like it's nothing, even going so far as to meld a bunch of them together into one giant Katamari-like ball of metal. Things get pretty crazy! This fight in particular forces the player to master parrying, a skill which quickly becomes essential for survival. If Raiden is unable to parry effectively in the fight against Monsoon, he'll be taking far too many punches, kicks, and sais to the face to survive for very long. It's one hell of a fight, complete with an excellent heavy metal-ish theme song, and it perfectly encapsulates the frantic, over-the-top combat of Metal Gear Rising. The incredible backflipping feline There is possibly no greater character in Metal Gear Rising than the cat. What cat, you ask? You know, the ninja cat! It can be found walking around the beach in R-01. It's kind of hard to spot sometimes, so the player has to really be looking for it, but it's totally worth it to seek the animal out. What's so great about this small white cat? It doesn't really do much of anything, just wanders around the beach lazily. That is, unless Raiden tries to attack the poor, defenseless kitty. Don't worry though, there is no way Raiden is going to land a hit on this cat. When attacked, the cat will perform a killer backflip and dodge out of the way. Every single time! No matter what attack Raiden throws at this ninja cat, it will demonstrate its impressive evasive skills and come away unscathed. I spent so much time on the beach just watching this awesome cat backflip out of the way of every move Raiden attempted. Had the cat decided to go on the offensive and scratch back, Raiden surely would have been defeated by this nigh invincible feline. The ninja cat also makes another appearance later in the game, during a long cutscene where Monsoon is having a chat with a weakened Raiden. The camera can be controlled during this scene, and if Raiden looks to his right, he'll see the cat walk right up to one of the cyborg soldiers. The soldier gets really excited, getting down on the ground on all fours to pet the kitty before it leaves him in disinterest. Then the soldier gets back up and sadly waves goodbye. It's really adorable and goofy, and it completely turns Monsoon's serious monologue into a bit of a joke. ¡Muy guapo! Early on in the game, Raiden has to swing by Mexico to infiltrate a cybernetics lab. He was apparently told to wear a disguise so as not to draw too much attention to himself in this foreign country, so of course he goes the full stereotypical route and decides to wear a poncho and a ridiculously large mariachi hat. Excellent choice! Immediately after stepping out of his car, everyone around notices his strange appearance and starts freaking out, commenting on his outfit and wondering if he's actually a mariachi player or rather a cyborg in disguise. He quickly descends into a sewer, ditching the outfit and saying, "Adios, amigos," as he disappears. It's pretty much the best cutscene. Then mission R-02 begins with Raiden back to his normal suit (lame!). I was pretty disappointed, as I was really hoping I would get to play the entire level as Mariachi Raiden. Fortunately for me, the mariachi outfit becomes unlocked as an alternate skin after completing R-02, meaning I could play the remainder of the game in a totally absurd costume. Obviously, I only played as Mariachi Raiden from that point on. I mean, how could I not? Cyborg's best friend Raiden's mechanical canine companion, Blade Wolf, is such a joy to have around. He may not be useful for combat (his AI apparently lacks brutality), but he is very helpful for scouting purposes, and he's a surprisingly entertaining conversationalist as well. He may be a robot, but he has quite a unique personality since his AI was created to be similar to a human brain. He's especially noble, often questions why killing is necessary, and is always yearning for freedom. I particularly enjoy Wolf's dry sense of humor. He always takes notice of Raiden's jokes and likes to point out that he doesn't think Raiden is very funny. He's also quick to pick up on puns and expressions, such as when Raiden said they should "throw him a bone" and Wolf quickly noted that his choice of words was amusing on two levels, since his body is modeled after a canine and canines like bones. Wolf was even popular enough to get his own DLC chapter where he was featured as a playable character. It's a pretty neat side chapter which requires the player to be extra sneaky to get stealth kills, since Wolf himself is not that great at fighting (even though he has a giant chainsaw which he can fling around with his tail). I'm glad he got so much recognition as an excellent character, worthy of being playable even though he's not humanoid. Honestly though, who wouldn't want to play as a badass robotic wolf? The perfect hiding spot Ah, cardboard boxes. A classic staple of the Metal Gear franchise. They're back once again in Metal Gear Rising. Raiden can of course find cardboard boxes scattered around which he can hide under and walk around in a most (in)conspicuous manner. And not just cardboard boxes, but metal drum cans as well. Plus, if he's wearing the mariachi outfit, the boxes and drums he hides under will be decorated with his festive hat. Totally not suspicious-looking at all! My favorite thing to do is to have Raiden hide inside a drum can while wearing the mariachi outfit and then go into a ninja run. This causes him to fall over and start rolling around sideways inside of the drum can, with the hat somehow remaining firmly fastened to the top. This move can actually hurt enemies and destroy parts of the environment, but eventually Raiden gets sick and has to stop rolling to vomit. Metal Gear Rising even went a step further with the cardboard boxes by including enemy soldiers which hid inside boxes themselves and could be found and killed for an achievement. There are a total of five of these MIBs (Men In Boxes) to find, and locating all of them unlocks a special wooden sword. The first one I found made me laugh pretty hard, because I honestly wasn't expecting anyone else to be using the cardboard box tactic. Apparently, it's becoming quite a popular technique! A million little pieces It may sound twisted, but slicing enemies up into tiny bits in Metal Gear Rising feels incredibly satisfying. It probably helps that most of the enemies are machines, and even the humanoid enemies are riddled with cybernetic enhancements, so slicing them up doesn't really result in a bloodbath of internal organs and icky stuff. It's mostly mechanical body parts, with a bit of blood splatter thrown in for color. But still, it feels amazing. Raiden has a special ability which allows him to essentially slow down time in what's known as "Blade Mode," so that he can hack and slash enemies with quickness and precision. With Blade Mode activated, a single cyborg soldier can become hundreds of sliced up pieces of cyborg soldier within a matter of seconds, as Raiden unleashes a flurry of sword swipes in every direction. It's almost hypnotizing to watch it happen. And it's not just the enemies Raiden can obliterate. Most of the environments are fully destructible, so even when he's not in combat, Raiden can enter Blade Mode and slice things up to his heart's content. I spent a lot of time running around the levels trying to see what all I could destroy, slicing up trees, tearing through cars, turning crates into splinters, bringing down entire staircases. It just felt so satisfying to watch the world crumble at my hands. Mwahahaha! Past Experience Points .01: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.02: Shadow of the Colossus.03: EarthBound.04: Catherine.05: Demon's Souls.06: No More Heroes.07: Paper Mario.08: Persona 4.09: Final Fantasy IX.10: Mega Man Legends.11: Rayman Origins.12: Metal Slug 3.13: Animal Crossing.14: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King.15: Super Mario Sunshine.16: Final Fantasy VII.17: Nier.18: Chrono Trigger
Metal Gear Rising photo
Nanomachines, son
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Camp Fangamer photo
Camp Fangamer

Camp Fangamer celebrates EarthBound's 25th anniversary for charity


PK Livestream!
Jul 18
// Ben Davis
A few years back, the folks at Fangamer and Starmen.net held an EarthBound Bash which raised $23,420 for charity. This year, in celebration of EarthBound's 25th anniversary, they're hosting a similar event known as Camp Fanga...

Experience Points .18: Chrono Trigger

Jul 11 // Ben Davis
It's not easy being green I absolutely love when games give us unconventional heroes. Chrono Trigger is full of them; apart from the three main protagonists, the party also recruits a humanoid frog, a robot, a cave woman, and even a villainous mage. But let's face it, the best character by far has got to be Frog. Frog is a very mysterious character at first. He sort of appears out of nowhere to help Crono and Lucca out of a jam, and doesn't really explain who he is, where he came from, or why he is a bipedal talking frog. But the party just sort of accepts this strange fellow and welcomes him into their midst without question. He is really good with a sword, after all! Later, it's revealed that Frog's real name is actually Glenn, and he used to be a human before Magus killed his friend Cyrus and transformed him into an amphibian. He has since dedicated his life to tracking down and defeating Magus to get revenge for the death of Cyrus, and probably to try and get his old body back as well. Frog is just all around cool, though. I love everything about him: his triumphant theme song, his victory animation where he flexes his surprisingly huge muscles, his fancy Old English accent, the way he hops around instead of walking, and simply the basic fact that he's a walking, talking frog wearing clothes and wielding a large sword. He's just the greatest! Moral dilemmas at the Millennial Fair Chrono Trigger is one of those games that makes the player very aware of their actions. Almost as soon as the game begins, the player is being judged, even when they're just trying to enjoy a lighthearted festival. Of course, they won't be aware of this until later on. At a certain point during Crono's adventure, he is apprehended by the chancellor of Guardia Castle for allegedly kidnapping the princess, Marle, and is swiftly put on trial. As the trial progresses, the player may quickly become overcome with dread when they realize their seemingly simple gameplay choices are in question. Remember that man's lunch you stole at the fair? Or the girl with the lost cat who you failed to help? Or the moment you bumped into Marle and then went to pick up the pendant she dropped? The player may not have thought much about these things at the time, but now these simple actions are being used as evidence against their character in a life or death situation. Now, in reality the choices don't actually affect much. Crono will still be thrown in prison and given the death penalty whether or not he's found guilty. Of course, I had no idea of this at the time. I figured I had completely screwed myself over by stealing lunches and grabbing dropped pendants, and I was starting to feel really bad about the way I had been playing. I was so used to being able to do whatever I wanted in games, without repercussion. Going into other people's houses and smashing all their pots? No problem! Taking money and items from their cabinets without their consent? Go right ahead! But now, in Chrono Trigger, I'm suddenly being judged, and I look like a complete jerk. Later, Crono finds out that the chancellor is, in fact, a fake and that the trial was a set-up. But even so, it still got me to think twice about every action I took in Chrono Trigger from that point on. You never know when some seemingly insignificant choice could have major consequences! [embed]295724:59448:0[/embed] Yearnings of the wind Chrono Trigger has an excellent soundtrack in general, but there's one song in particular that I love more than the rest. "Wind Scene" plays on the overworld map in 600 AD. I'm honestly not entirely sure what it is about this song that makes me love it so much, but hearing it always leaves me feeling peaceful and happy. Whenever I play Chrono Trigger, as soon as I get to the Middle Ages, I just sit around on the overworld and listen to this song play on a loop. It's just so lovely and mystical, I can't get enough of it. A few other songs come close, including the heroic "Frog's Theme" and the mysterious "Schala's Theme" (which was bizarrely sampled in a rap song by Wiz Khalifa... anyone remember that?), but "Wind Scene" is my comfort song. It never fails to lift my spirits. All life begins with Nu and ends with Nu If Chrono Trigger had a mascot, it would probably be the Nu. Nus are odd, round creatures found throughout the game. They exist in all eras, from 65,000,000 BC all the way up to 2300 AD. They can be merchants, enemies, assistants, and regular old NPCs. But what exactly is a Nu, anyway? The one found in 2300 AD is actually a robot built by Belthasar, programmed with his memories and left in charge of the time-traveling ship, the Epoch. So are all of the Nus robots? It's not really clear, although some of the other Nus the player can come across behave more like living creatures than machines. One example is my very favorite Nu. He can be found walking around the Zeal Palace, behaving very strangely and sidling sideways across a platform. He politely asks Crono to scratch his back for him. After a nice, satisfying scratch, a message pops up which says, "You discovered the Nu's scratch-point!" while a little victory tune plays (Oh good, I've been wondering where their scratch-point was the entire game!). This doesn't actually do anything significant, but it's still pretty much the best NPC interaction I've ever had. God I love those Nus! [embed]295724:59449:0[/embed] Screams internally This is the first time I've featured a sound effect as a noteworthy Experience Points memory, but this one definitely deserves praise. The sound of Lavos screaming is something that has stuck firmly in my mind whenever I think about Chrono Trigger. It's a truly terrifying noise; a high-pitched, bloodcurdling roar which lasts just a bit longer than one might expect. It's got this otherworldly quality to it, and it definitely does the job of making Lavos seem like a frightening, formidable foe. In terms of classic villainous sound effects, I'd put Lavos's scream just about at the top of the list, well above Kefka's laugh, Sinistar's evil taunting, and even the horrifying ambient noises of Giygas. It's a scream that says, "I will destroy you and everything you love," and that's exactly what he'll do should Crono and friends fail in their mission. The kingdom in the clouds The world of Chrono Trigger is relatively small compared to most RPGs, but the game makes up for that by having the player explore through several unique eras, each with its own distinct theme and alterations to the world. Starting in the present day, players can travel all the way back to prehistoric times in a land roaming with dinosaurs and cavemen, and up through the ages to the future world, a desolate wasteland of machinery and food shortages. But the most intriguing time period is the Age of Antiquity in 12,000 BC. When Crono and the gang first arrive in Antiquity, the world appears to be even worse off than the post-apocalyptic future. It's essentially an Ice Age, with a powerful blizzard covering everything with snow and ice and only a few scattered caves are present for shelter. That is until the party comes across a strange building known as the Skyway, which teleports them up into the clouds to the floating island kingdom of Zeal. Zeal is a kingdom created by magic as a way to escape the harsh winter climate. Only the Enlightened Ones, people who can use magic, are allowed in the kingdom, with normal folk cast away to live on the frozen continent underneath. Not only is Zeal a beautiful place, bright and sunny with a waterfall flowing down into the eternal blizzard below, but it's also full of secrets and strange occurrences. The kingdom is home to many strange individuals, books overflowing with magical power, and all sorts of neat stuff (not to mention an excellent theme song). A few buildings even have hidden passages which can only be found by players clever enough to solve a certain riddle. I bet it would be really fun to live in a place like Zeal, even though many of its denizens are rather snobbish, and in some cases, total assholes (I'm looking at you, Dalton!). Luckily, there are other much nicer people like Schala and Janus to balance out the snobbery. I'll just chill with them instead. The nature of machinery Chrono Trigger has a ton of lengthy, rewarding side quests, my favorite of which begins in the Middle Ages (and actually turns out to be two side quests in one!). A woman named Fiona lives in a barren desert wasteland, which used to be a thriving forest before enemies appeared and destroyed it. After defeating the fiend lurking in the desert, the party returns to Fiona, who is eager to start planting trees to restore the forest. Unfortunately, Fiona fears it will take ages to plant enough trees for the forest to return to its former glory. She certainly would not be able to finish the task in her lifetime, as it could take centuries. Overhearing this, the party's mechanical friend, Robo, kindly offers his services to help Fiona plant trees. Robo bids farewell to Crono and friends, and tells them to look for him in the future. Outside in the desert, Robo can be seen working diligently by plowing the land, sowing seeds, and even acting as a scarecrow (adorable!). 400 years later, the party arrives to find a huge, lush forest in place of the desert. In the center of the forest is a shrine dedicated to its robotic creator. Lucca reactivates Robo, who is pleased to see everyone again after hundreds of years, and proposes a party to celebrate their reunion. During their celebratory campfire in the forest, a second side quest begins. A casual remark from Marle leaves Lucca dwelling on her memories. Late at night, after everyone else has fallen asleep, Lucca steps out to open up a portal back to a moment from her past. It's a deeply personal, tragic moment where Lucca's mother gets caught in a machine, resulting in an injury that leaves her paralyzed. A young Lucca, powerless, must stand by and watch it all happen. But this time, future Lucca can intervene! Well, possibly. If the player is very quick and careful, there is a password to discover which can shut off the machine, saving Lucca's mother from a life without walking. This is actually very difficult to do correctly, though, so most players will unfortunately fail, leaving Lucca to watch her mother's accident all over again. Afterwards, Lucca returns to the present to find Robo waiting for her. If the past remains unchanged, the two have a touching conversation where Robo offers to donate his legs to Lucca's mother so she can walk again. Now, this may sound cold of me, but I actually prefer to leave the past as is and not rescue Lucca's mother, just because the cutscene between Lucca and Robo afterwards is so much better. It shows a funny, caring side of Robo where he offers to help make Lucca happier, and Lucca calls him a friend which he seems to be pleasantly surprised by. It's such a heartwarming exchange, even though it comes at a cost. Past Experience Points .01: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.02: Shadow of the Colossus.03: EarthBound.04: Catherine.05: Demon's Souls.06: No More Heroes.07: Paper Mario.08: Persona 4.09: Final Fantasy IX.10: Mega Man Legends.11: Rayman Origins.12: Metal Slug 3.13: Animal Crossing.14: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King.15: Super Mario Sunshine.16: Final Fantasy VII.17: Nier
Chrono Trigger photo
But... the future refused to change
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Spelunky book photo
Spelunky book

A book about Spelunky is in the works from game creator Derek Yu


Published by Boss Fight Books
Jul 09
// Ben Davis
I have lost count of how many hours I've sunk into Spelunky, both the original free PC game and the multiplatform remake. And just when I think I'm starting to master the tough-as-nails procedurally generated platformer, I se...
Dragon Quest photo
Dragon Quest

Want more Dragon Quest games localized? You might want to buy Dragon Quest Heroes


The Western world's woe and SE's dough
Jul 08
// Ben Davis
Polygon recently spoke with Dragon Quest series executive producer Yuu Miyake about Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below (God, I love that title). Since this is the first Dragon Quest game to be...
PSN sale photo
PSN sale

This week's PSN sale offers super deals on superhero titles


Well, super-ish
Jul 08
// Ben Davis
In light of Comic-Con, the PlayStation Store is having a sale on all things superhero-related. The Supserhero Sale is already live, and will be available through July 13, 9:00am PT. It looks like the sale is extended to gener...
Depth photo
Depth

Depth celebrates Shark Week with free-to-play weekend


Free content update also available
Jul 07
// Ben Davis
Depth, the terrifying underwater multiplayer game which pits sharks against divers, is rolling out a ton of neat stuff this week for Shark Week. Beginning Thursday at 10:00am PT, Depth will be free to play on Steam for the we...

Experience Points .17: Nier

Jul 04 // Ben Davis
Don't look at me! Nier's Emil is one of my favorite video game characters of all time. The player first meets Emil in his super creepy mansion, a young boy playing the piano alone with a piece of cloth covering his eyes. Due to the setting, his initial appearance is a little off-putting, but once he begins to open up to the player, he turns out to be anything but creepy. Emil is just about the sweetest, most kind-hearted kid you'll ever meet, but he suffers from a peculiar and unfortunate ailment wherein everything he looks at turns to stone, which is why he always wears a blindfold. His eyes are a great source of shame and guilt for him, which he has a hard time coming to terms with until Kaine, another outcast, comforts him by saying, "Your eyes are not a sin. Don't ever be ashamed of them. They're part of you. A vital part of you." Eventually, he brings the party to a secret laboratory in an attempt to find a cure for his ailment. After a few bizarre revelations and an emotional boss fight, the mission is a success. Emil regains the use of his eyes without the risk of petrification, but unfortunately this comes at a great cost. The process transforms his body into a grotesque, skeletal figure as the player finds him cowering and sobbing on the floor, horrified and ashamed by his own appearance. During a touching moment, Nier assures him that everything will be okay and that they won't treat him any differently. Poor Emil is such a tragic character. He goes from being unable to look at anyone without hurting them, to being ashamed to even be seen because of his disfigured body. But even after so much hardship, he never loses his cheery, optimistic attitude, and he never stops trying to bring happiness to everyone around him. It always makes me so happy that his friends don't treat him any differently after he transforms. Kaine and Nier are nothing but supportive and comforting, and it makes me smile to see Emil light up after being reassured. There are so many scenes with Emil that just make my heart swell. You're the greatest, Emil, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise! Those who dream Nier's gameplay is rather interesting as it's never afraid to suddenly switch things up by throwing in new mechanics from different genres. It may seem like a typical action adventure with RPG elements at first, but then it goes and adds side-scrolling platform segments, top-down perspectives, bullet hell boss fights, survival horror areas, and more like it's nothing at all. And somehow, all of these elements work well and feel completely natural. The strangest part of the game, though, is when it suddenly becomes a text-based adventure of all things, and they still manage to have it make sense within the context of the story. In the Forest of Myth, the party comes upon an odd village of sleeping people. The villagers warn Nier to beware of the words, the "contagious words," but by then it's already too late. A strange illness known as the Deathdream lingers over the forest denizens, trapping them in their dreams, and it quickly begins to take hold of Nier and Weiss. The illness manifests itself as words in the minds of the characters, which appear as text on the screen for the player to read. Rather than speaking, the characters' dialogue appears as written words and their thoughts and actions appear as narration. It's actually rather humorous, because they can read the narration being written about them, and sometimes react as though it's being unfair or deceiving (especially Weiss, who gets very irritated with the narrator's choice of words). There are several dreams the player must enter by speaking with the various villagers. Some of them require some light puzzle solving to escape, such as choosing the correct path to take or answering some reading comprehension questions which make sure the player isn't just skipping through all the dialogue. Failing these sections can actually lead to death and a game over, so players have to be careful and pay attention or they'll never escape from the dreams. It's so bizarre to see a game like Nier suddenly switch gears and try something completely unexpected like this, but somehow it worked so well that it actually resulted in one of my favorite parts of the game. I loved how they worked the text adventure mechanics into the actual story by forming an illness around it, so it actually made sense to be seeing nothing but words on the screen and it didn't feel jarring or clumsy. I'll be curious to see if they try anything else unexpected like this in the sequel! Resident Emil Speaking of the different genre elements, I have to bring up the survival horror section as well, because it's another one of my favorite parts of the game. The area in question is Emil's mansion, a wonderful homage to survival horror games, and to Resident Evil especially. Upon approaching the mansion, all of the colors of the world seem to fade slowly to gray, casting a gloomy atmosphere over the party. Inside, every room has that static Resident Evil camera angle. A butler directs the party to a waiting room, but after waiting around for a while, Nier decides to investigate. After leaving the room, Kaine mysteriously disappears. Weiss begins to panic, believing the mansion to be haunted, as strange things start to happen. Paintings begin changing, creepy, petrified statues of people start showing up, unsettling voices can be heard, a sink randomly starts filling up with blood... this is clearly not a good place to get lost! And yet, the mansion is owned by Emil, the kindest person in the world. His presence really threw me off at first. What is he doing staying in a creepy place like this? He admits to having the power to turn things to stone, so it's safe to assume that all those petrified people were his doing. But is he aware of the bloody sinks and scary paintings? Probably not, since he's always blindfolded. Or maybe he's just used to it. At least he's the one comforting thing about this place, so it's not all creepy. [embed]295242:59325:0[/embed] Play it again, Devola If there's one thing I think everyone can agree on, it's that Nier has a phenomenal soundtrack. It's legitimately one of the very best video game soundtracks I can think of. The fictional language and Latin-esque vocals are haunting and beautiful, and combined with the dreamlike music, memorable melodies, and unique sounds, the result is just magical. Every track is exceptional, but if I had to choose one track to share for those who have never heard anything from the game before, I'd probably choose the "Song of the Ancients." Like much of Nier's music, there are multiple versions, but I chose Devola's version for its peacefulness and the fact that it could be considered a main theme, since it plays in the hub village. It's one of my favorite vocal tracks, along with the themes for Kaine, Emil, and the Shadowlord. Even if you haven't played Nier, I highly recommend giving the rest of the soundtrack a listen if you enjoy this track! Defense against the dark arts Nier often gets criticized for its mediocre gameplay mechanics, most likely because of the combat, since the sword techniques are rather limited. However, there's one aspect of the combat that I found to be especially satisfying: the Sealed Verses. Nier's Sealed Verses are basically magic attacks which are learned by Weiss and can be used by Nier in battle. There are eight Sealed Verses to learn, and two can be equipped at a time. They're all very different and useful in various situations. Dark Blast shoots out small, quick projectiles; Dark Lance fires a barrage of large spears; Dark Hand summons up giant fists for lots of damage; Dark Phantom calls forth a shadowy doppelganger to fight for Nier; Dark Whirlwind creates spinning blades which block enemy projectiles and cause damage; Dark Execution causes spears to burst up out of the ground in straight lines; Dark Gluttony absorbs enemy projectiles and fires them back; and Dark Wall creates a shield around Nier. Combining the various Sealed Verses with the limited physical attacks honestly left me feeling very satisfied with the combat. Even though I usually stuck with Dark Lance, as it seemed to be the most useful for just about any situation, I had a lot of fun experimenting with all the other spells as well. Dark Execution is especially cool, since the spears can pop out of the ground in every direction, impaling enemies all around Nier. I loved that I could be slashing Shades with a sword one second, summoning a huge, magical fist to pound them into the ground the next, and then finishing them off by impaling them with spears popping out of the ground below them. Honestly, the Sealed Verses simply felt amazing to use, and I thought they more than made up for the lackluster swordplay. The bold and the beautiful Initially, I didn't like Kaine very much. Scantily clad woman with an attitude? I've seen that before, plenty of times. Show me something new! Well, surprisingly for me, Nier did show me something completely new with none other than Kaine herself. Kaine's backstory isn't revealed to the player until New Game+, and it sure as hell does its job in getting me to care about the half-naked heroine. Much like the forest text adventure part of the game, Kaine's backstory is told entirely through text. It opens with a young Kaine, running from a group of bullies in her hometown. The bullies throw rocks at her, call her a freak, and beat her up before finally dropping an unexpected revelation by saying, "I don't get you, freak. Whatcha acting like a girl for, huh? Everyone knows what you really are!" As it turns out, Kaine is actually a hermaphrodite. Because of this, she is viewed as an outcast and is bullied relentlessly, leaving her depressed, suicidal, and feeling as though she has no place in the world. The only person who stands up for her is her grandmother, a tough, admirable woman who doesn't take shit from anyone and isn't afraid to retaliate against those who have been bullying her granddaughter. She comforts Kaine by saying, "You're my granddaughter, and I love you, and if folks have a problem with that, they can just go to hell." What a wonderful woman! It may seem strange for a character to wear skimpy, revealing clothing, especially in combat situations, but in Kaine's case I totally get it. Her entire life, she was bullied about her body and made to feel ugly and bad about herself. But as an adult, she's become hardened to all of those criticisms and has decided to finally own her body and feel proud about herself. She may be different from everyone else, but she's no less beautiful, and after so many years of being ashamed of her body, she's finally comfortable enough to show some skin and not care about what anyone else thinks. Personally, I think that's terrific. If there was ever a good way to justify a character dressing in next to nothing at all, Nier certainly pulled it off successfully with Kaine. Shady business MAJOR NEW GAME+ SPOILERS AHEAD Few games utilize the possibilities which New Game+ can offer better than Nier. For any game, there needs to be a good reason for players to want to continue into New Game+. Usually, this means new content or more difficult challenges to keep the player engaged and wanting to come back for more. But in Nier's case, New Game+ offers so much more. In fact, it pretty much changes the tone of the story entirely. A major part of Nier's New Game+ experience focuses on explaining the game's main enemies, the Shades. It's revealed that the Shades are actually the souls of the original humans, also known as Gestalts, and they are meant to fuse with the Replicants, which are their corresponding shells and the characters that the player has gotten to know all this time. So essentially, the player has been killing off the souls of their human counterparts, without even realizing it until the second playthrough, at which point the killing spree must continue if the player ever hopes to see the final ending. And the game certainly tries to make the player feel as bad about this as possible. Many of the boss Shades are given sympathetic personalities and backstories, and then the player is forced to fight them all over again. It's true that they were trying to fuse with the Replicants, who had developed their own consciences and obviously didn't want to lose them, but it's unfortunate that the Gestalts and Replicants couldn't just live peacefully together. It really started to dawn on me after a while that there were clues to this all along. I mean, I always wondered why these creepy Shades were dropping items like coloring books, photo albums, earrings, and other personal things, and why I seemed to hear garbled human speech whenever they were killed. At first, I figured it was because the Shades had been killing humans and taking their stuff, but oh how wrong I was. New Game+ made me feel like a monster, and Nier deserves all the praise in the world for that very reason. Past Experience Points .01: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.02: Shadow of the Colossus.03: EarthBound.04: Catherine.05: Demon's Souls.06: No More Heroes.07: Paper Mario.08: Persona 4.09: Final Fantasy IX.10: Mega Man Legends.11: Rayman Origins.12: Metal Slug 3.13: Animal Crossing.14: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King.15: Super Mario Sunshine.16: Final Fantasy VII
Nier highlights photo
Weiss! You dumbass!
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Same-sex marriage photo
Same-sex marriage

Gaming companies voice their support for the same-sex marriage ruling in the US


#LoveWins
Jun 26
// Ben Davis
History was made today when the Supreme Court struck down bans against same-sex marriage, ruling that the Constitution guarantees a right to marriage for same-sex couples nationwide. Social media was immediately set ablaze wi...

Review: LEGO Jurassic World

Jun 26 // Ben Davis
LEGO Jurassic World (PS4 [reviewed], PS3, PS Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, 3DS, PC)Developer: Traveller's TalesPublisher: Warner Bros.MSRP: $59.99Released: June 12, 2015 As a huge Jurassic Park fan, LEGO Jurassic World is pretty much exactly what I expected from a dinosaur game themed around children's toys. There is no shortage of humor, plenty of satisfying references to the movies and books, playable dinosaurs, and I get to run around as Ian Malcolm with his shirt torn open. What more could I ask for? LEGO Jurassic World's story is built around the plots of the movies, but while the movies can be tense and thrilling, the game remains silly and lighthearted. Death scenes from the films are played out in a comedic fashion. The LEGO characters are never actually killed; instead, they usually end up sharing a goofy moment with the dinosaur that attacks them. For example, Gennaro can be seen cleaning the T. Rex's teeth with a toilet brush after being pulled from his restroom hiding place, and the raptor tamer who dies in the very first scene of Jurassic Park only loses the precious sausage he was holding onto rather than his legs (there's a weird recurring sausage joke for some reason, which I can't say I really understood). Meanwhile, other parts feature raptors riding motorcycles, wearing fruit hats, and chasing lawn mowers through the long grass, so the dinos are generally more charming than they are terrifying. Of course, for a LEGO game, this was kind of a necessity. [embed]294839:59241:0[/embed] Gameplay is heavily puzzle-based, requiring obstacles to be solved by choosing the specific character required for the task. Most of these obstacles are accompanied by button prompts, and there are numerous quick time events scattered throughout as well. There is also some light combat, whenever the party is attacked by dinosaurs or InGen employees, but it involves little more than punching things until they get dizzy or fall apart. Characters do have health bars, but the only penalty for dying is losing a few studs, so it's not really a big deal. The health bars honestly feel wholly unnecessary, as there aren't any lives and characters already essentially feel invincible. They could have probably scrapped that mechanic entirely. It's possible to play as nearly every character from the Jurassic Park films, even minor characters such as Mr. DNA and that weird boy at the dig site who says raptors look like giant turkeys. Each character has their own unique skills which typically play off of their personalities and roles in the films, all of which will need to be utilized in order to traverse each level. Some characters, like Dr. Grant and Gray Mitchell, are good at building things out of dinosaur bones; characters like Lex Murphy and Kelly Malcolm can scream loud enough to shatter glass; characters like Tim Murphy and Ian Malcolm have items that can illuminate dark areas (night vision goggles and flares, for example); and others like Ellie Sattler and Owen Grady aren't afraid to get dirty and rummage through dino droppings (by diving in head first, no less!). It's necessary to play as many different characters in order to clear all of the puzzles and obstacles in the game. Of course, there's not only human characters, but dinosaurs to control as well. Most dinosaurs are unlocked by collecting amber bricks hidden in every level. They can be summoned via dinosaur creation pads, and sick dinosaurs can be healed in order to join the party as well. The dinosaurs come with their own sets of skills; Triceratops can charge and bash open large objects, Dilophosaurus can melt certain things with its venom, T. Rex can roar loud enough to shatter stuff, and Velociraptors can pull switches and sniff out hidden objects. The craziest option is the enormous Brachiosaurus, which can be used to crush certain platforms with a huge stomp, but it's so gigantic and slow that it's almost hilarious. It's even possible to play as Pteranodons and Mosasaurus, although they're restricted to the aviary and aquarium, respectively. Story mode will take the player through twenty levels centered around many of the most memorable and action-packed scenes from the movies. It's really fun to reenact classic scenes like the very first T. Rex attack, the raptors in the kitchen, the San Diego crisis, and more through the playful lens of the LEGO world. Every level is filled with puzzles to solve, obstacles to overcome, and a set amount of collectibles to find. Many levels implement chase sequences, such as running from the Gallimimus herd, or puzzle-based boss fights, like taking down Indominus Rex. There's nothing too complicated, though, so it should be an easy ride for most players. Upon completing each level in story mode, free play mode will be unlocked, allowing players to choose any character they want and switch to someone else at any time. Many of the collectibles can only be obtained in free play, since the characters in story mode might not have the required abilities, so it's necessary to play each level at least two times in order to find everything. Outside of story mode, players can also freely explore each of the four parks. The parks contain more collectibles to find, sick dinosaurs and workers in peril to help, characters to unlock, photograph locations, races, and more. The parks on Isla Sorna are unfortunately rather small and unexciting, but Isla Nublar's Jurassic Park and Jurassic World are both huge and full of all sorts of attractions and cool areas to discover. Strangely, though, once story mode is completed, free play in the parks takes place entirely during nighttime, which kind of bothered me as some areas just seem much less exciting in the dark. I'd prefer to view these beautiful parks in the bright sunshine. [Edit: Apparently, this can be changed, but only by fast travelling to specially marked areas on the map. Still an odd choice, but at least there are options!] Split-screen co-op is also an option, and players can jump in and out of the game at any time. Co-op can make solving puzzles and overcoming obstacles much easier, as players will not need to switch between characters as often and multiple tasks can be completed at once. For such a light-hearted adventure as LEGO Jurassic World, I can definitely see co-op being a popular option. The best aspect of LEGO Jurassic World for me was all the little nuances and nods to the films which were sprinkled throughout. Idle animations for characters usually highlighted certain aspects of their personalities or referenced specific moments from the movies. For example, Zach Mitchell will put on his headphones and start dancing, Amanda Kirby will test her megaphone (put that thing away!), and Ian Malcolm will run a Chaos Theory experiment by dripping water onto his hand. Many of the trophies also make great references to the movies; I think my favorite is the "Hello John!" trophy which is awarded for having both characters set to John Hammond. I also loved that Mr. DNA was in charge of all the tutorials and loading screen trivia. Aside from borrowing plot, characters, and locations from the movies, LEGO Jurassic World also borrows sound clips. While some new dialogue was recorded specifically for the game (mostly for the Jurassic World section), a lot of the dialogue is taken directly from the films. This can be entertaining at times (hearing Jeff Goldblum's ridiculous laugh on the helicopter never gets old, even when it's coming out of a LEGO character's mouth), but it can also be quite jarring. Since the tone of the movies does not match the tone of the game, the dialogue is often way too tense and emotional for what should be silly, light-hearted scenes. There are also many instances where background noise from the films can be heard in the game's dialogue, which sounds really strange when compared to the newly recorded dialogue. Unfortunately, LEGO Jurassic World is not without its fair share of bugs. During my time with the game, there were several instances where I had to restart a level after a character got stuck between a wall and an object and couldn't move or jump to escape, or after they fell through the ground when I switched away from them. There were also a few instances where, after spawning a dinosaur and taking control of it, I could no longer switch to any other character and was permanently stuck in my dinosaur body. Usually, this meant I lost all progress on that level up to the point where I got stuck, so that was always a bummer. While it may have its flaws, I was still perfectly satisfied with my time in LEGO Jurassic World. Fans of the LEGO games should basically know what to expect, and Jurassic Park fans should be more than happy with the story, cutscenes, characters, and references. It captured all of my favorite Jurassic Park moments and added its own unique sense of humor into the mix, and that's essentially all I really wanted. And if you still need a reason to play this, just remember that is has LEGO Jeff Goldblum. Let's be honest: that's all anyone really needs. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
LEGO Jurassic World photo
Hold on to your butts
Another year, another beloved franchise gets the LEGO treatment. This year, blocks and dinosaurs come together in LEGO Jurassic World, a compilation of games spanning the entire Jurassic Park film franchise. Released simultan...

Experience Points .16: Final Fantasy VII

Jun 20 // Ben Davis
The descendant of the Shinobi Picking a favorite character in a Final Fantasy game is usually pretty tough (unless that game is Final Fantasy IX). I have a soft spot for most of the party members in Final Fantasy VII; Cid and Barret are comically vulgar, Red XIII is awesomely adorable (that part where he's trying to walk like a human <3), Tifa has this sort of quiet badass-ness surrounding her, and Cait Sith is really weird, but I just want to snuggle up with the giant Mog like Mei napping on top of Totoro. If I had to choose a favorite, though, I would have to pick Yuffie. I feel like Yuffie often gets a bad rap. She's a thief, after all, and is constantly plotting to steal the party's Materia. She's also kind of a brat, and can come off as rather obnoxious and selfish. But even so, she has so many shining moments throughout the game where she demonstrates a wonderful sense of humor and optimism. It's also revealed through a side quest that she only wanted to steal Materia to help out her father and their home town, so even as a thief she still manages to be a sympathetic character. Then again, Yuffie and her father hatch up a plan to steal everyone's Materia again after the adventure is over, presumably for selfish reasons. I guess some things never change. When she's not stealing things, she can be found suffering from motion sickness, slicing things up with giant shurikens, calling people "old farts", pretending to be a news reporter, and other crazy stuff that a teenage ninja girl might do. She also has my personal favorite theme song; it's very upbeat and cheerful. Hearing it always makes me really happy! Whenever I replay Final Fantasy VII, I always make it my mission to recruit her to the team as quickly as possible. How anyone could hate Yuffie is beyond me. Interrupted by fireworks The Gold Saucer: an endlessly exciting theme park with obnoxiously happy music, filled with games, rides, haunted houses, live theater, fireworks, racetracks, battle arenas, and all sorts of fun stuff. Not to mention the fact that it's built on a giant, almost unreal, tree-like structure towering above a desolate wasteland. It's a truly magical place. While the rides and games are fun and addicting (the motorcycle and snowboarding games are my favorites), the highlight of the Gold Saucer occurs after the party decides to rest at the inn. Depending on certain choices the player has made in the game up to this point, one of four characters will knock on Cloud's door late at night and ask him out on a date, where they walk around the park, take part in a theatrical performance (which is always hilarious), and go on a romantic gondola ride during a fireworks show. Obviously, the two main options for date night are Tifa and Aeris, but it's also possible to go on a date with Yuffie and, surprisingly, even Barret. Tifa and Aeris might make the most sense, but the scenes on the gondola with Yuffie and Barret are some of my favorite moments in the game. The date with Yuffie is adorably awkward. Yuffie clearly likes Cloud, and she even manages to work up the courage to give him a peck on the cheek, but Cloud just sits there like a grumpy, silent lump and embarrasses the heck out of her ("Gawd, I could just die."). Poor Yuffie! The date with Barret, on the other hand, is just plain awkward as hell. Barret asks Cloud to accompany him because he wants to go for a walk, so it's not framed as a date at all, but it sure starts to feel like one. The gondola ride starts out in awkward silence as the two men just sit there and stare at each other with their arms crossed, until Barret gets pissed about having to enjoy the fireworks with another dude and asks Cloud why he never asked one of the girls out. He then goes on to basically accuse Cloud of pedophilia by falling in love with his daughter, Marlene (she's like four years old!), and gets even more pissed off to the point where he starts shooting at the fireworks to make them shut up. I mean, geez, you could just cut that sexual tension with a knife, am I right? The protector of Cosmo Canyon Final Fantasy VII has no shortage of emotional, tear-jerking moments. Of course, while there is the big one which you're no doubt thinking about right now, my personal favorite moving moment happens much earlier in the game when the party first arrives at Cosmo Canyon and learns a little more about their mysterious animal friend, Red XIII, or as he's known in Cosmo Canyon, Nanaki. While sitting around a big bonfire, Cloud has a chat with Nanaki. He reluctantly begins to open up about his parents and how the thought of his mother fills him with pride and joy, while the thought of his father fills him with anger. Apparently, his father abandoned his mother and the town and left her to die. Nanaki's grandfather, Bugenhagen, overhears the conversation and asks if Nanaki really cannot forgive his father. Bugenhagen then leads the party through a dangerous cave full of ghostly terrors in order to show Nanaki something special. At the back of the cave, the party finds themselves at the bottom of a cliff, at the top of which sits a stone statue resembling Nanaki. Bugenhagen reveals that the statue is actually Nanaki's father, Seto, who was turned to stone by poisonous arrows as he was trying to drive enemies out of the canyon to protect the town. He still remains there today, watching over Cosmo Canyon. Learning all of this about his father, Nanaki has a sudden change of heart. He decides to accompany Cloud and the team in order to help protect the planet and proudly declares, "I am Nanaki of Cosmo Canyon! The son of the warrior, Seto! I'll come back as a warrior true to that noble name!" Upon making this announcement, drops of water begin to fall from above, and Nanaki looks up to see that the statue of his father is shedding tears of joy. Nanaki jumps up onto a small outcrop and begins to howl up to his father. This scene always sends a shiver down my spine, and the howling almost makes me shed a tear. It leaves me feeling simultaneously sad that Red XIII's father is dead and happy that the two could reunite and come to an understanding. And the music, a more melancholy version of Red XIII's theme, fits the scene perfectly. It gets me every time! Love and rockets Another wonderfully touching moment happens a bit later in the game, when the party sits down to have tea with Shera at Cid's place in Rocket Town. The relationship between Cid and Shera comes off as particularly volatile, with Cid constantly shouting and cursing at her and generally acting very agitated whenever she's around. The party asks her how she can put up with all of his anger, and she explains that he wasn't always this way. This cues a flashback of Cid's first attempt to launch a rocket into space. Shera is busy checking an oxygen tank, which Cid claims she's wasting her time with. It then cuts to Cid in the cockpit, ready to take off, and the countdown begins. But there's a problem: a mechanic is still in the engine section of the rocket, a very dangerous place to be when the rocket is about to blast off, as the heat would surely kill them. The lingering mechanic is Shera, of course. She stuck around to do some final checks on the oxygen tanks, since they weren't testing to her satisfaction. She's urges Cid to continue with the launch, and seems to be dead set on fixing the oxygen tanks even if it means she'll be killed. She only wants the launch to be a success, to fulfill Cid's lifelong dream of making it into outer space. Cid doesn't want her to die, but the countdown has already started, and if it's canceled they'll have to wait another six months until the next launch. In a panic, Cid shuts down the engine at the very last second, saving Shera's life but sacrificing his dream. Later, the Space Program was cut back and plans for another launch were canceled. So that's why, according to Shera, she's okay with all of his abuse. She blames herself, so she feels she deserves it. Deep down, though, I still think Cid really cares for Shera. He may not show it very well, but he did save her life, after all. It's a complicated relationship for sure, but that just makes it all the more interesting. [embed]294343:59146:0[/embed] Just play it cool, boy Is there no cooler theme song than the Turks' theme? It fits the group perfectly, with their cool, confident demeanors, sleek suits, and take-no-shit attitudes. It's a really interesting part of the soundtrack, too, because it's made up almost entirely of percussion sounds, with a slight bit of melody thrown in occasionally for good measure. I like to imagine the Turks walking down the streets of Midgar with this song playing, snapping along to the music and kicking stuff out of their way while other people look on in intimidation. Maybe they throw in some subtle dance moves while they're at it, like they're performing a more subdued version of "Cool" from West Side Story. They could totally pull it off. Awkward encounters at the Honey Bee Inn Midgar's Honey Bee Inn, a seedy brothel run by women in sexy bee costumes, happens to be the home of some of the most unexpected scenes in Final Fantasy history. During Cloud's visit to the inn, he has access to one of two rooms: the Group Room and the &$#% Room. They sound pretty exciting, no? Choosing the Group Room, the sexy bee lady steps aside as a mob of sweaty, muscular men barge into the room and practically force Cloud to take a bath with them (what a lucky guy!). Or if he chooses the &$#% Room... well, I'll just let you imagine what goes on in the &$#% Room. I'm honestly really surprised these scenes weren't censored from the game. I'm also kind of glad that they weren't. Not only because my pervy teenage mind enjoyed them (even if I probably didn't fully understand what was happening at the time), but also because this awkward, racy, unexpected content was part of what made Final Fantasy VII feel so special. I mean, who honestly thought they would see stuff like this in a Final Fantasy game? Hits like a truck I love it when Final Fantasy gets real weird with its boss fights. The Ultros fights from Final Fantasy VI and the fight against Sandy, Cindy, and Mindy from Final Fantasy IV always stick in my mind because of how silly they were. There always seems to be at least one humorous boss fight, and in Final Fantasy VII, that boss is Palmer. Palmer is the head of the Space Program for Shinra, but he's a very incompetent and obnoxiously childish old man. In Rocket Town, the party interrupts him while he's trying to steal Cid's plane, the Tiny Bronco, which leads into the boss fight. During the entire fight, Palmer bounces back and forth in a ridiculous, taunting manner. Occasionally, he'll use up a turn to spin around and smack his butt in the party's direction, muttering, "heh heh hic!" as though he's drunk (and he probably is). The best part, though, is at the end of the fight. After Palmer is defeated, he does this weird little dance, almost gets his head chopped off by the propeller of the Tiny Bronco, mocks the party to save face, then turns to run away only to get hit by a truck out of nowhere and sent flying. The entire cutscene is just crazy. Why is the Tiny Bronco suddenly moving on its own? Where did that truck even come from? I mean, they're fighting in Cid's fenced off backyard, so did it drive over his fence? It's the most absurd, unexpected way to end a battle, especially in a mostly serious game like Final Fantasy VII, but that's exactly why I love it so much! Past Experience Points .01: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.02: Shadow of the Colossus.03: EarthBound.04: Catherine.05: Demon's Souls.06: No More Heroes.07: Paper Mario.08: Persona 4.09: Final Fantasy IX.10: Mega Man Legends.11: Rayman Origins.12: Metal Slug 3.13: Animal Crossing.14: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King.15: Super Mario Sunshine  
Final Fantasy VII photo
This guy are sick
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Doko Roko photo
Doko Roko

Doko Roko looks magical with big swords and big explosions


Muy loco!
Jun 17
// Ben Davis
I don't care what anyone says, lovingly-crafted pixel art can still get me super excited about a new game. I know a lot of people are tired of pixelated indie games by now, but damn, they can be so beautiful! That's precisely...
Fatal Frame Wii U photo
Fatal Frame Wii U

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water coming this fall to Wii U


Where was this during the digital event?
Jun 16
// Ben Davis
Among all of the exciting announcements at E3, Nintendo quietly announced another title through its YouTube channel: a new Fatal Frame! It's very strange that this wasn't a part of the digital event, but it's exciting noneth...
Uncharted 4 photo
Uncharted 4

Nathan Drake goes for a wild car ride in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End


Duck n' shoot, duck n' shoot
Jun 15
// Ben Davis
Sony rounded out its conference with a demo of the upcoming Uncharted game, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. Lots of shooting, parkour, and driving action, with Nathan performing some pretty crazy stunts, so it looks to be p...
Destiny: The Taken King photo
Destiny: The Taken King

Oryx exacts his revenge in Destiny: The Taken King


Bows are the new guns
Jun 15
// Ben Davis
Sony unveiled Destiny: The Taken King, the next expansion for the popular shooter from last year. Oryx, the Taken King arrives to get revenge for the death of his son, Crota, taken from him by the Guardians of the first DLC. Fight hordes of enemies with new abilities, weapons, and gear. That laser bow looks pretty sweet! Destiny: The Taken King launches on September 15, 2015.

E3 Predictions: Cards Against Humanity Edition

Jun 13 // Ben Davis
1. Sony announces a new indie game about ___. Options:- A bland military shooter (Seems likely, but maybe not as an indie title.)- A tender bromance (D'aww!)- Looking for D Winner: Sony announces a new indie game about "a tender bromance."   2. Nintendo's next wave of amiibo will include ___ and ___. Options:- A classy lady + A sexist remark (It's possible these will both involve the same amiibo.)- Tripping in Super Smash Bros. + Zippers on everything- Anita Sarkeesian + Crying children (Uh oh.) Winner: Nintendo's next wave of amiibo will include "a classy lady" and "a sexist remark."   3. Surprising no one, Microsoft will announce ___. Options:- Uncomfortable silence (...)- Exactly what you'd expect- No items, Fox only, Final Destination (Typical Microsoft.) Winner: Surprising no one, Microsoft will announce "uncomfortable silence."   4. Nintendo reveals that Link will actually be ___ in the upcoming Zelda game. Options:- Bubsy the Bobcat (Please, no!)- An original idea for once- Something nobody asked for (What could it be?) Winner: Nintendo reveals that Link will actually be "something nobody asked for" in the upcoming Zelda game. 5. Nintendo declares 2016 as the Year of ___. Options:- Dem Titties (Typical Nintendo.)- Filthy Casuals (Sorry, hardcore gamers! Maybe next time.)- Microtransactions Winner: Nintendo declares 2016 as the Year of "Filthy Casuals."   6. In the new Tomb Raider, Lara Croft must navigate a harsh winter environment armed only with ___. Options:- DLC (They're charging for weapons now.)- A box of wine- A noticeable bulge (Or rather, two noticeable bulges...) Winner: In the new Tomb Raider, Lara Croft must navigate a harsh winter environment armed only with "a noticeable bulge."   7. Capcom will release a new Mega Man game, but only if enough fans pay for ___ first. Options:- Pissing on the corpse of a beloved franchise (Poor Mega Man...)- Dante's new hairstyle (Hahaha.)- Butt stuff Winner: Capcom will release a new Mega Man game, but only if enough fans pay for "pissing on the corpse of a beloved franchise" first.   8. Kojima and Del Toro are back together to work on a new game titled ___. Options:- A Kickstarter Campaign (With a cryptic teaser titled KC.)- A Ham Sandwich (You heard it here first, folks!)- Hideo Kojima (Well, he does like inserting his name into his games.) Winner: Kojima and Del Toro are back together to work on a new game titled "A Ham Sandwich." 9. Someone will take the stage wearing a shirt depicting ___. Options:- Quick-time events (Press X to take off shirt!)- Feminist propaganda- Batman's nipples (I'm sure there is an actual shirt like this.) Winner: Someone will take the stage wearing a shirt depicting "Batman's nipples."   10. The next Assassin's Creed will allow you to play as either ___ or ___. Options:- Kratos, the God of War + Nothing at all (Wait, Kratos is part of the Assassin's Creed universe now?)- A dildo bat + The girls from Dead or Alive (At least you can play as a female.)- A sausage fest + Beating a dead horse (It's always a sausage fest.) Winner: The next Assassin's Creed will allow you to play as either "Kratos, the God of War" or "nothing at all."   11. Fallout 4 will be set in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by ___. Options:- Hardcore gamers (So, PvP then?)- A female protagonist (Way to ruin the game, Bethesda!)- A blasian Winner: Fallout 4 will be set in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by "a female protagonist."   12. In the next Kirby game, Kirby will be made out of ___. Options:- Ebola- 1,000 rat corpses (Good lord.)- Reggie Fils-Aime's body (His body is ready... to swallow everything!) Winner: In the next Kirby game, Kirby will be made out of "Reggie Fils-Aime's body." 13. Instead of announcing Half-Life 3, Valve will announce ___. Options:- A new Mario game (Imminent lawsuit?)- Angry Birds (Geez Valve, get your own ideas!)- A box of kittens (We're sorry about Half-Life 3, here's some adorable kittens!) Winner: Instead of announcing Half-Life 3, Valve will announce "a new Mario game."   14. Mother 3 will finally be released outside of Japan, but it will now feature ___. Options:- The Kinect (How could this happen?!)- Obscene Miiverse posts (Well, yeah, probably.)- A dancing game (You know what? I totally want this now!) Winner: Mother 3 will finally be released outside of Japan, but it will now feature "obscene Miiverse posts."   15. In an unexpected turn of events, a Nintendo representative will remove Toad's hat to reveal ___. Options:- Crash Bandicoot- Barack Obama- A boner (So that's how Toads reproduce...) Winner: In an unexpected turn of events, a Nintendo representative will remove Toad's hat to reveal "a boner."   16. The Last Guardian is still coming, but will star ___ and ___ instead of a boy and his dogbird. Options:- An unarmed black kid + Corgi butts (Still a boy and a dog, but with more social commentary.)- A straight white guy + Booth babes (Noooo!)- Gardevoir + Llamas Winner: The Last Guardian is still coming, but will star "an unarmed black kid" and "corgi butts" instead of a boy and his dogbird.   17. Konami announces a new series of mobile games featuring ___. Options:- Social justice warriors (Someone already made that game, Konami.)- A nip slip- Solid Snake's perfect ass (Yessss!) Winner: Konami announces a new series of mobile games featuring "Solid Snake's perfect ass." 18. Shigeru Miyamoto will appear accompanied by ___. Options:- A racist old woman- A swift death (Oh no!)- A kid becoming a squid (You're a kid now, you're a squid now.) Winner: Shigeru Miyamoto will appear accompanied by "a kid becoming a squid."   19. Microsoft announces a new IP about ___. Options:- The guy from Hatred (Lots of stolen ideas going on at E3 this year.)- The end of video games (Goddammit, Microsoft!)- A cinematic experience (Well duh.) Winner: Microsoft announces a new IP about "a cinematic experience."   20. Microsoft will not stop talking about ___. Options:- Japanese schoolgirls (Creepy...)- A gigantic penis made out of LEGOs- Sports (Again, duh.) Winner: Microsoft will not stop talking about "sports."   21. What will be the most exciting announcement to come out of E3? Options:- A mayonnaise-related incident (I'm intrigued.)- Gamergate- The Citizen Kane of video games (It's finally coming!) Winner: What will be the most exciting announcement to come out of E3? "The Citizen Kane of video games." 22. What will be the most awkward thing at E3 this year? Options:- The f-bomb (But who's gonna drop it?)- A spontaneous rap battle- Body odor (Probably true for most gaming conventions.) Winner: What will be the most awkward thing at E3 this year? "Body odor."   23. Sony announces that ___ will finally be coming to Vita. Options:- Meat (And what do you know, Super Meat Boy was just recently announced for Vita!)- Full frontal nudity (Finally!)- MOBAs Winner: Sony announces that "meat" will finally be coming to Vita.   24. A new game coming to Oculus Rift will allow players to experience ___ in virtual reality. Options:- Mario's mustache (It's just so glorious!)- Teabagging (Well, some people are into that.)- Eating an entire bag of Doritos (Welcome to the wonderful world of virtual reality, folks!) Winner: A new game coming to Oculus Rift will allow players to experience "eating an entire bag of Doritos" in virtual reality. 25. In Dark Souls III, players recover by resting in front of ___ instead of bonfires. Options:- A single tear (I'm sure players will be shedding a single tear while resting.)- A clown on fire (Do we have to kill the clown first?)- Lara Croft's cup size Winner: In Dark Souls 3, players recover by resting in front of "a clown on fire" instead of bonfires.   26. What is the last thing you expect to see at E3? Options:- An immersive experience (Zing!)- A live shark- An unexpected amount of blood (We expected some blood, but not THAT much.) Winner: What is the last thing you expect to see at E3? "An immersive experience."   27. Microsoft is pleased to announce ___: The Movie. Options:- Peter Molyneux (It will be a life-changing experience!)- Bronies (I'm pretty sure this is already a movie.)- Product Placement (Unsurprising.) Winner: Microsoft is pleased to announce "Product Placement": The Movie.   28. Square Enix announces Final Fantasy XIII: ___ Edition. Options:- A nerdgasm (That certainly sounds exciting.)- Just the tip- Anime hairstyles (Isn't that every Final Fantasy?) Winner: Square Enix announces Final Fantasy XIII: "Nerdgasm" Edition.   29. ___ will be announced as an HD remaster. Options:- Caitlyn Jenner (Haha, this answer was too perfect! It wasn't my turn to judge, though.)- Yet another game about the zombie apocalypse (This is very likely.)- Two dudes making out hardcore (I wouldn't mind playing that game in glorious HD!) Winner: "Two dudes making out hardcore" will be announced as an HD remaster.   30. No Man's Sky will feature a planet inhabited by ___ and ___. Options:- 1080p/60fps + Utter failure (Hahaha! Well, at least Hello Games tried!)- Shigeru Miyamoto's darkest secrets + Bad Box Art Mega Man (You mean that was Miyamoto's idea all along? Who knew?)- Muscle bears + Unimaginable happiness (I want to live on that planet!) Winner: No Man's Sky will feature a planet inhabited by "muscle bears" and "unimaginable happiness." Unused white cards (meaning these things will definitely NOT appear at E3 this year): - A death ray- A bag full of spiders- The creature from The Last Guardian (Did someone lie to us?)- Slipping on a banana peel- Battletoads (Oh well.)- Flesh-eating bacteria- Lots and lots of money (Uh oh, no money at E3?)- Wasted potential (The irony of this card not being played...)- Rock-hard abs- The best thing ever (Well, that's sad...)- Maniacal laughter- Pure evil- Soccer moms- Waluigi (C'mon Nintendo, give the people what they want!)- Samus Aran (No more Metroid yet. Sorry, Zack!)- A fight to the death (Well at least no one dies.)- Powerful thighs
E3 Predictions photo
Expo Against Humanity!
[Update: Added video of Laura Kate and the Dtoid UK crew playing their version of the game.] E3 2015 is just around the corner, and there's no better way to pass the time than by trying to predict what this year's expo has in...

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero photo
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is looking gorgeous in new E3 trailer


Back in all her hair-whipping glory
Jun 10
// Ben Davis
Half-Genie Hero, the newest entry in the Shantae series, was funded on Kickstarter back in 2013. Today, WayForward released the E3 2015 trailer for the game, and it looks to be coming along quite nicely! The trailer shows of...

Experience Points .15: Super Mario Sunshine

Jun 06 // Ben Davis
A nozzle for every occasion Ahh, the FLUDD. By far the most unique tool ever to be in Mario's possession, the FLUDD is a water-powered contraption which can be used to spray like a pump, clean up messes, hover through the air, dash or slide quickly across land and water, and rocket-jump straight up into the sky. It's immensely useful, and easily sets Super Mario Sunshine apart from any other game in the series. Every time I replay Sunshine, I can't help but be amazed at how fun it is to use the FLUDD. Hovering as a platforming mechanic feels wonderful. It allows Mario to cross huge distances, reach crazy heights, stop himself in midair to make a precise landing or correct an erroneous leap, and more. In addition, the Rocket and Turbo nozzles allow him to cover great distances both vertically and horizontally in record times, making it a piece of cake to traverse large levels or recover from a fall. I especially enjoy using the waterslide technique, which involves spraying water in front of Mario and then diving onto it so that he slides quickly across the ground on a layer of water. It's very useful for the levels where he has to chase Shadow Mario or race against Il Piantissimo, and it's simply a ton of fun to do as well. I also can't help using the FLUDD to annoy everyone around Mario by spraying them in the face with water. Drenching the Toads, Piantas, and Nokis on Isle Delfino and watching them shake it all off and throw a fit -- it never gets old. Some of them were asking for it anyway, makin' me break my back cleaning up all this gunk. Why don't I clean up your FACE while I'm at it? Dude, where's my FLUDD? While the FLUDD adds some interesting new mechanics to Mario's platforming, the game still manages to shine even without it. During specific levels, Shadow Mario will appear and steal the device right off of Mario's back, leaving him to rely on his excellent jumping abilities to finish the level. These FLUDD-less stages feel like a throwback to the Super Mario 64 style of Mario platforming. They all take place on floating platforms above a bottomless pit, so any misstep could end in a swift death. Most of these levels involve rotating platforms and other moving obstacles, and traversing them requires a lot of skill and careful observation. These areas manage to feel completely different from the main game, yet equally challenging (if not more so) and just as fun. It's a great way to change things up and keep the gameplay interesting by dropping the core FLUDD mechanic entirely, taking players out of their comfort zone by removing the ability to hover safely and testing their true platforming prowess. Some of these stages are the most difficult areas of the game, and it always feels nice and rewarding to emerge victorious and then promptly return to hovering around like normal. Sittin' on the dock of the bay All of the levels in Super Mario Sunshine are island-themed, but even so, they do a good job of providing diverse tropical locations. The beachside hotel, the theme park, and the village surrounded by giant palm trees and mushrooms are a few of my favorites, but for me, the coolest location is Noki Bay. Noki Bay is a quiet little area situated on the side of a large cliff, with a beautiful waterfall, towering seashell structures, and hidden ruins to explore. There are so many memorable moments in this level: spraying water along the cliff faces to reveal secret passages, discovering an ancient tomb, riding around in the mudboats, jumping from the top of the waterfall, diving to the depths of the bay to confront a giant eel... everything about this level appealed to the explorer in me. People often ask which video game world you wish you could visit or live in, and for me that would definitely be the world of Super Mario Sunshine. I've always had a soft spot for the sea and tropical locations, and the areas in Sunshine are some of the most beautiful and exciting examples of tropical places in a video game. I would love to live in Noki Bay, going for dives, taking in the sights, and visiting the other locations on Isle Delfino whenever I wanted. It would be such an amazing world to inhabit (as long as it was goop-free)! Climbing the giant palm tree Another thing that helped make the world of Super Mario Sunshine stand out was the giant, scalable set pieces. The shine sprite tower in Delfino Plaza, the windmill in Bianco Hills, the Ferris wheel in Pinna Park, the enormous palm trees in Pianta Village -- many of these things look nearly impossible to climb at first, but eventually Mario gains the means of reaching those formidable heights, and it feels incredible to be able to scale such impressive landmarks and look down at the world below. Aside from Noki Bay, my favorite place in Super Mario Sunshine is at the very top of the central palm tree in Pianta Village. This tree is so gigantic that it takes several rocket jumps to be able to reach the top. Not only that, but the leaves are so huge that Mario is easily able to run all over them without fear of falling off. He's like a tiny little red bug to this impossibly large tree. The extreme height might freak out some acrophobes, but those brave enough to make it up there are rewarded with a stunning view of the sky and the entire village far below. The Piantas even built a small wooden tower at the top of the palm tree, possibly to sit and look up at the clear night sky from a quiet, secluded place up in the clouds. Well, that's what I like to use it for, anyway! An apple a day keeps the ghosts away Super Mario Sunshine has some crazy boss fights. There's a giant flying Piranha Plant named Petey, a huge Gooper Blooper with delicate tentacles, and a massive eel with a poor dental plan. There's also a King Boo, an enemy we've seen before in other Mario games, but even so, he manages to be one of the most enjoyable bosses of the bunch. King Boo hides beneath the casino of Hotel Delfino. The fight takes place on a gigantic roulette wheel with three circular segments spinning in different directions, which can be dizzying and confusing until it stops moving. Water does nothing against this ghost, but after a while he'll bring up a slot machine out of nowhere and give it a spin, causing objects to appear depending on the result. If the slot machine lands on three fruits, then Mario is in luck! Just start chucking fruit at King Boo and see what happens. Most of the fruit will splash juice all over his face, which he'll happily lick up (that always makes me laugh). But toss a chili pepper at him, and he'll become so overwhelmed with the heat that a hit from any other fruit will send him reeling. It's such a bizarre fight, but that's why I love it. Killing a ghost by throwing fruit at it? Why not? It brings back memories of defeating Wart by forcing him to eat delicious veggies. Mario's foes sure don't like their healthy foods, do they? Big bad dad Bowser is one of my favorite Mario characters, and a lot of that love stemmed from his portrayal in Super Mario Sunshine. Granted, Bowser doesn't get much screentime in the game; the first time he shows up is for the final boss sequence, and he also has a short cutscene before the credits. But Nintendo manages to pack a lot of personality into him during such a small amount of time. Bowser never really had much of a personality until the Mario RPGs, where he was often shown to be a bit of a goofball and a softie (especially in Paper Mario). Super Mario Sunshine offers a completely new side of Bowser's personality. Sunshine introduced Bowser's son, Bowser Jr., revealing the mean old Koopa to be a father figure and a family man, a side of him we've never seen before. Sure, there were the Koopalings before Jr., but their relation to Bowser was often rather murky. In Sunshine, Bowser and his son are on vacation causing mischief, when Jr. kidnaps Princess Peach because his father told him that Peach was his mother. Jr. just wants to reunite his family so they can enjoy a vacation together. Of course, Peach being his mother was just a lie told by Bowser. After a rather bizarre boss fight against Bowser and his son in a giant hot tub, Bowser finally sits down to have a talk with Jr. and tell him the truth. Jr. isn't surprised by this, and instead of fretting, he vows to one day get revenge on Mario. The two Koopas share a nice moment of father-son bonding over their mutual hatred of the plumber. I really enjoyed seeing this side of Bowser, and it made him seem like an almost sympathetic character. He's still the bad guy, but he's also living his own life in the background, trying his best to raise a son and keep him happy. If only he could think of a way to do that without kidnapping princesses... Past Experience Points .01: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.02: Shadow of the Colossus.03: EarthBound.04: Catherine.05: Demon's Souls.06: No More Heroes.07: Paper Mario.08: Persona 4.09: Final Fantasy IX.10: Mega Man Legends.11: Rayman Origins.12: Metal Slug 3.13: Animal Crossing.14: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
Super Mario Sunshine photo
Shine!
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Top Tentacles: Gaming's greatest cephalopods

May 29 // Ben Davis
Blooper - Super Mario Bros. series Bloopers are the classic squids of gaming. They've been a part of the Super Mario Bros. series ever since the first entry, and have appeared in many different forms, including the Gooper Blooper from Super Mario Sunshine, the Big Blooper from Super Paper Mario, King Calamari from Super Mario RPG, and many more. Blooper was even a playable character once in Mario Party 8. He was the only character I ever played as in that game, of course, but it made me wish Blooper was playable more often. I hope we see him in Mario Kart as a racer sometime, or participating in one of the Mario sports games, or even just appearing as a party member in a Paper Mario game. We need more friendly Bloopers! Ultros - Final Fantasy VI Oh, Ultros. This musclehead-hating, fire-fearing octopus acts as a comic relief boss fight, whom players must battle several times throughout Final Fantasy VI. He'll fight you in the water, on land, in the air, and even on stage during a live opera performance! It's hard to pick a favorite character in Final Fantasy VI, because the cast is so rich and diverse, but Ultros is pretty high up there. The game just wouldn't be the same without him, popping up in the most unexpected places with a big, goofy grin on his face. How can you not love adorable old Uncle Ulty? Octorok - Legend of Zelda series Another classic video game cephalopod, like the Bloopers. Octoroks are octopus-like enemies from the Zelda series, although unlike real octopuses, they often only have four tentacles and they like to spit rocks instead of ink. Octoroks have undergone some major design changes over the years. They started out as little round red and blue land-dwelling dudes who barely resembled octopuses, then moved into the water, turned purple, and began to look more like their namesake in Ocarina of Time, and then became more of a giant squid-like enemy in Wind Waker in the form of the Big Octos. The Big Octos are my favorite incarnation; it was always quite a thrill to encounter one in the big open ocean. No matter what they look like, though, you can almost always expect to run into an Octorok at some point during Link's adventures. Ikachan - Ikachan Splatoon isn't the first game where you could play as a squid! Way back in 2000, Daisuke "Pixel" Amaya released a freeware game called Ikachan, the predecessor to his wildly popular indie game, Cave Story. Ikachan follows the story of the titular hero, a cute little squid on a mission to aid his fellow sea creatures who have been trapped in a cave after a series of earthquakes and are running out of food. It's a rather short game, but it's free and unique enough to be enjoyable. Plus, Ikachan has a little starfish buddy named Ben, so of course I'm gonna like the game! Ikachan actually makes a cameo appearance in Cave Story as well. If players manage to beat Ironhead (another character from Ikachan) in the Waterway without getting hit, a swarm of squid that look just like Ikachan will flood the screen! Octavian, Marina, and Zucker - Animal Crossing series Ever since the first Animal Crossing game, all I've ever wanted was to have an octopus neighbor move into my town. At first, the only available octopus villager was Octavian, the grumpy red dude. I saw him in a list of possible villagers, and dreamed that one day he'd move in next to me, walking around on land like it's no big deal. But alas, it never happened. I never even saw him visiting in a tent or igloo. The newer iterations of Animal Crossing have introduced two more octopus neighbors into the mix: Marina, the cute, pink one; and Zucker, the one that looks like a walking takoyaki. While I was playing New Leaf last year, I somehow had one spectacular week where both Octavian AND Marina moved into my town! They're both still there today, and I'm never letting them leave. Now all I need is Zucker, and I'll have the holy trinity of Animal Crossing neighbors! Launch Octopus - Mega Man X Launch Octopus is the robo-octopus boss from Mega Man X who resides in an underwater military base. He's able to fire homing torpedoes and create huge whirlpools, which can be very dangerous when X is trapped underwater. I also love his opening animation, where he points at X with a tentacle and then points to the ground. "You're goin' down!" There was another cephalopod boss later on in the series in Mega Man X5, who goes by the name of Squid Adler. Unfortunately, I have yet to play X5, but I heard Squid Adler is named after Steven Adler from Guns N' Roses, so that's pretty cool. It reminds me of the Squid Vicious character from the newest Chibi-Robo game. I'm liking this trend of rock star squids. Who's next, Ringo Squid? Inkay and Malamar - Pokémon series Inkay and Malamar are a pair of squid Pokémon from the newest generation. They're pretty interesting because, while based on aquatic animals, they're actually not water-types and cannot learn any water-type moves (aside from one TM move). Instead, they are Dark/Psychic-types. With special techniques like Topsy-Turvy and Contrary, these squids like to pull the old switcheroo, reversing stat changes on themselves or the enemy. Inkay also has a really weird method of evolving. Players actually have to hold the 3DS upside down while it levels up in order for it to evolve into Malamar. Of course, Inkay and Malamar aren't the only cephalopod Pokémon. There's also Octillery, a pretty cool octopus Pokémon, although I've never understood why it evolves from Remoraid. I mean, remoras and octopuses don't really have anything to do with each other. It would have made more sense for Remoraid to evolve into Mantine or Sharpedo, or just not evolve at all. But I guess Pokémon doesn't really have to make sense biologically, so whatever. They can have a fish evolve into a cephalopod; why not? Octodad - Octodad series Hmm... I must have made a mistake. I figured a game called Octodad would be about an octopus, but all I'm seeing here is a normal human dad in a fancy suit standing alongside his beautiful family. How strange. Sorry for the mix-up, folks! Moving along... Giant Squid - Endless Ocean series This one's a bit more on the realistic side. What makes the giant squid in Endless Ocean so exciting for me is the fact that real life giant squids are so incredibly rare that only a few people have ever actually seen one alive. Even though they live on our planet, the chances of actually seeing one are slim to none. So encountering one in Endless Ocean is really as close as I'm ever going to get to meeting my favorite animal. In Endless Ocean: Blue World, players can find the giant squid in a deep ocean crevasse. It blocks the entrance to a cave, threatening to attack, so it has to be lured out by leading a sperm whale (its natural enemy) over to the cave. The squid and the whale then begin an epic fight for survival, right in front of you! Swimming alongside the giant squid in Endless Ocean was such a magical experience for me. I usually went out of my way to visit it, just to watch it float gracefully through the water, propelling itself with its tentacles, staring at me with its huge eyes. It's honestly one of my most cherished video game memories. Inklings - Splatoon I've only played about an hour of Splatoon so far, during the Global Testfire, but I can already tell that these squid kids are amazing. I mean, they're humans with squid-like features and the ability to turn into cephalopods at will. How great is that? If I had the ability to transform into any animal in real life, there's a very good chance I would choose to be a squid, just like the Inklings. This game really speaks to me. I'm a kid now! I'm a squid now!
Top Tentacles photo
Octopus, I love you
Happy Splatoon Day, everyone! With the release of Nintendo's new squid-based cooperative shooter, it only seems appropriate to celebrate by taking a look at some of the great cephalopod video game characters out there. For th...

Experience Points .14: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

May 23 // Ben Davis
Cor Blimey! Yangus... how do I describe this man? He's sort of the comic relief character, he has a weird name, his background is rather shady, he wears some kind of odd spiky fruit husk on his head, he has an annoying catchphrase, he's short, fat, hairy, brutish, and overall conventionally unattractive. And yet I love him so much! Dragon Quest VIII lets the player choose which party member they want to walk around as, so as soon as I figured this out, I obviously picked the big, lovable oaf. I never played as anyone else. I mean, how often do I get to be a chubby hairy dude in a videogame? Not nearly often enough. Yangus' comic relief even manages to make its way onto the battlefield. If he pumps up his Humanity stat, he'll gain some pretty hilarious moves. One such move, Golden Oldies, has Yangus shouting "Grandad!" and calling forth King Trode and a mob of rowdy old men to rush the enemy for lots of damage. And then there's the Underpants Dance, which unfortunately does not involve Yangus dancing around in nothing but his underpants, but rather dancing around while waving two pairs of boxers about in an attempt to shock enemies. They're not the most useful of moves, but I still used them at just about every opportunity, simply because they made me smile. I mean, what's not to love about an underwear attack? Yangus actually got his own spinoff game, Dragon Quest: Young Yangus and the Mystery Dungeon, but of course it was only ever released in Japan (boo!). I'm glad he was apparently popular enough to warrant a game of his own, though! Slime, I choose you! Outside of the main quest, the best part about Dragon Quest VIII is the ability to recruit monsters from the field and form monster teams. These teams are primarily used for the monster arena sidequest, but they can also be sent out during normal battles to help the party fight at any time in the game. I've always loved the monster designs in the Dragon Quest series, so being able to recruit some of them for my own team was really appealing to me. All of my favorites, including the King Slime, Cyclops, Golem, Hoodlum, Orc King, Jargon, Jumping Jackal, and so many others are able to be recruited. I usually had one team full of monsters that I liked, regardless of how powerful they were, and one team comprised of monsters built to win battles. Depending on which monsters are placed on a team together, they might even be able to earn special bonuses or abilities. For example, a team composed entirely of slimes will get double the amount of hit points. My personal favorite team is called My Three Golems. A team of three golems will be granted a special ability which allows them to fuse together, creating a super powerful mega golem named Mazin with 999 HP and all-around impressive stats. So not only are the golems one of my favorite enemy designs, but they're incredibly useful in combat as well! Metallic menaces There's nothing more satisfying in Dragon Quest VIII than landing a killing blow on a Metal Slime. Not only are the metallic gelatinous blobs incredibly difficult to defeat, but they yield a crazy amount of experience points, so hunting them down is definitely worth it. These guys come in three variations: Metal Slime, Liquid Metal Slime, and Metal King Slime. Obviously, the Metal King Slimes are the rarest and most sought after of the slimes. These lustrous foes are so difficult for several reasons. For one, they have ridiculous defenses; most attacks will only deal a single point of damage or nothing at all, barely causing more than a scratch. They also have an extremely annoying tendency to run away from battle as soon as possible, meaning players have to rush to destroy them as quickly as they can before the slimes are able to slip away. Not to mention the Metal Slimes are rare enough that even seeing one usually causes my heart to skip a beat, only for my hopes to be swiftly dashed as the slime runs away in the first turn. Players need to have a solid strategy and plenty of luck in order to take them down. It takes a lot of patience, but it's worth it. The first time I defeated a Metal Slime was one of the best feelings ever! Shakin' it is all I know In just about any JRPG, you can expect to fall victim to status effects. JRPG veterans are always prepared to be poisoned, paralyzed, burned, confused, and put to sleep. But what about becoming so obsessed with dancing that you can no longer focus on fighting? In Dragon Quest VIII, they got a little creative with the status effects by adding in a few silly ones, including an effect known as the dancing bug. Certain enemies will occasionally break into a dance so infectious that the team of brave warriors just can't help but join. Characters who catch the dancing bug will be unable to act for a turn, since they'll be too busy busting a groove. The penalty of the effect is nothing special, just a missed turn, but it was so unexpected that it immediately became my favorite thing. Sometimes I'd just sit there and allow dancing enemies to attack me, just so I could watch each of my characters let loose and have some fun. It almost feels like more of a reward than a penalty. Who cares about a missed turn when it means I get to watch Yangus prancing around? Le Puff-Puff There's a running joke in the Dragon Quest series known as "Puff-Puff." It's a pervy joke based on the idea of rubbing one's face between a woman's breasts. Usually not my thing, but I have to admit that the secret Club Puff-Puff room in Dragon Quest VIII definitely made me laugh. It was actually the first time I had encountered the term before, so when I found the room I didn't quite know what to expect. A burly muscleman greeted Yangus at the counter and invited him into an adjacent room where a girl in a bunny outfit beckoned him into a chair and offered to give him a "Puff-Puff." I accepted out of curiosity. The screen went black, there were weird bouncy noises, and the woman asked, "Have you ever felt a pair as warm and soft as mine?" Uhhhhh... When the lights came back on, Yangus was sitting there with a blindfold on as the woman was rubbing two slimes on either side of his face. Blissfully unaware Yangus looked like he was having the time of his life, and I couldn't help but laugh at the unexpected turn of events. As a gay man, it reminded me of that scene in The Emperor's New Groove where Yzma pulls up her skirt and everyone starts cringing until they realize she's just revealing a hidden knife. "Whew, ohh okay!" The endless corridor Of all the fantastical locations and creepy dungeons in Dragon Quest VIII, there's one area that always stood out in my mind as being particularly interesting. In the final dungeon, the Black Citadel, there's a certain room shaped like a huge circle. The party enters from a hallway off to the side, eerily decorated with four statues of the party members themselves, and loops around the circle. But strangely, it just brings them right back around to the entrance. The first time I encountered this room, I was very confused. I ended up backtracking around the circle again thinking I had missed something. There's this huge circular room, with lots of windows and doors lining the exterior, but nothing to find there? No new paths or anything to interact with? I kept wandering around, thinking I had surely just missed some small thing, when I suddenly noticed the room had changed. As I was looping around, the windows and doors I had passed several times before had become mysteriously boarded up, and the ground was all cracked with pools of poisonous-looking water seeping in. What's going on? I looped back around to the entrance again, only to find that the entrance had disappeared! And even more unsettling, the statues of my party members had all been beheaded! Was I trapped and doomed in this creepy eternal hallway? Since there was nothing else I could do, I made another loop and the hallway started to change again. The walls lined with windows and doors began to disappear, only to be replaced by dungeon cells full of skeletons. Finally, an exit opened up across from where the entrance had been, although the beheaded statues were now completely decimated. Talk about creepy, but at least I was finally out of that place! Later on, when exiting the castle, I had to run back through the scary endless hallway (nooo!). The room slowly began to reform back to its original state, and the statues rematerialized. And then, right when I tried to leave through the entrance, the statues attacked me! Of course the creepy self-mutilating statues would come to life. To be honest, this area is kind of a chore to navigate, having to run through this long hallway until the entrance and exit appear, but the atmosphere of the place really left an impression on me. I was genuinely on edge the entire time, thinking something awful was about to happen. When did the survival horror genre creep its way into my light-hearted JRPG? I certainly didn't expect it, but I also kinda liked it! Past Experience Points .01: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.02: Shadow of the Colossus.03: EarthBound.04: Catherine.05: Demon's Souls.06: No More Heroes.07: Paper Mario.08: Persona 4.09: Final Fantasy IX.10: Mega Man Legends.11: Rayman Origins.12: Metal Slug 3.13: Animal Crossing
Dragon Quest VIII photo
A slime appears!
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Mega Man Legends 3 photo
Mega Man Legends 3

Mega Man Legends 3 voice actress allegedly revealed four years after cancellation


Meanwhile, on the moon...
May 20
// Ben Davis
Ready to feel sad about Mega Man Legends 3 again? Skybane of 100k Strong for Mega Man Legends 3 claims that he recently discovered who would have been the English voice actress for Aero, the pink-haired character whose d...
Aquatic Adventure photo
Aquatic Adventure

The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human has awesome underwater boss battles


Shadow of the Colossus of the sea
May 18
// Ben Davis
It's starting to feel like underwater adventure games are set to become the next big thing. With upcoming titles like Subnautica, ABZÛ, and Neptune, Have Mercy, it looks like we're going to be spending a lot of time di...

One with nature: Playing as animals in videogames

May 10 // Ben Davis
Playing as a shark in Depth is my new favorite thing. Controlling the sharks feels incredible; they move and behave exactly the way I feel a real-life shark might, darting swiftly through the water, stalking their prey, and thrashing about in the heat of battle. The sharks' controls are simple: move through the water with the mouse and WASD, right click for a short lunge, left click for a long lunge, and once it's got something in its mouth, thrash the mouse around like crazy to kill it faster. That's pretty much it, aside from holding shift to swim faster and pressing E to activate a special passive ability, but that's really all a shark would need to be able to do. Players get to choose between four types of sharks: the tiger, the great white, the mako, and the hammerhead. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. The great white is sort of like the tank shark -- lots of health but little stamina, with a special ability to increase defenses. The mako (my personal favorite) is the opposite; it has lots of stamina but little health, with the ability to mark targets for extra points. Tigers and hammerheads are somewhat balanced stats-wise, but the tiger has the ability to blend into the environment while the hammerhead is able to quickly kill divers by ramming them into walls. There's also an all-powerful and truly terrifying megalodon, but he's only available in a special mode. You'd think a shark would clearly have the upper hand in a fight against divers in the water, but it's not so simple in Depth. The divers come armed with a vast array of equipment to fend off the sharks, including sea mines, sonar buoys, nets, shields to disrupt the sharks' senses, and weapons like bang sticks, harpoons, and rifles which can easily take down the large predators with careful aim. This means sharks have to be very careful about when and how they choose to attack. After a while, I start trying to think like a shark. What would a hungry shark do in this situation? Wait for the opportune moment to strike, or go all in and hope for the best? Those seals swimming around are starting to look mighty tasty and much easier to kill than these humans, but they're just a side dish. It takes a bit of work to get to the main course. The challenge of playing as a shark comes from planning an attack strategy. Swimming recklessly into a room full of divers with no escape plan will most likely lead to a quick death. It's better to examine the area for all possible entrances and exits, then swim in, grab a diver, and quickly swim out while killing them before the other divers have time to react. Another good plan is to circle the area and wait patiently for any divers to venture away from their group, picking them off as they swim out into open waters, greedily searching for treasure. These strategies of circling and waiting, examining the surroundings, and attacking at swift speeds all seem to mirror behaviors that real sharks often employ. Of course, it's good to keep in mind that actual sharks are not normally as aggressive towards humans as the sharks in Depth need to be in order to win. More often than not, real sharks are circling out of curiosity rather than hunger. But that's where the videogame aspect of Depth comes in. It wouldn't be nearly as fun to swim passively around the divers as they leave the sharks alone to collect gold. There needs to be action, and hungry sharks need to eat something, so why not humans? Sorry divers, but we can't be friends in this game! Getting into the mind of a shark for a few hours, even in a fictional world, just feels awesome. Sharks are not something I see everyday. I've seen some at the aquarium, although plenty of other people have encountered them personally out in the ocean. They're scary, but they're also beautiful, intelligent creatures. We may never know what a real shark is thinking, but taking the role of one in a videogame might bring us a bit closer to understanding them. And this is true for other videogame characters as well. Aside from Depth, several other games have managed to capture realistic animal gameplay in the past too. While the main character in Mister Mosquito may appear very stylized and cartoonish, he flies around and bites people in a way that feels like I could be controlling a real-life mosquito (barring his inexplicable ability to push buttons on electronics by throwing his weight around). The Shelter series also lets players take control of animals in their natural habitats, with games centered around families of badgers and lynxes. Another one of my favorite games in this regard is Tokyo Jungle. The animals in Tokyo Jungle feel really great to control, as they go around hunting for food, mating, and generally trying to survive like any animal would. I particularly enjoy the variety of animals available to choose from in Tokyo Jungle. There's everything from cats and dogs, to chickens, lions, bears, porcupines, ostriches, elephants, and even dinosaurs. I can inhabit the minds of all sorts of animals! I hope to see more games adopt realistic animals as main characters in the future. With so many different kinds of animals in the world, there are surely an endless amount of possible ideas for fun and exciting games centered around them. Now if we could just create a game where I could play as a majestic whale...
Playing as animals photo
I'm a shark!
One of the greatest aspects of the videogame medium is its ability to allow players to inhabit the mind of someone, or something, other than themselves. You can be people from all different walks of life, with all kinds of sk...

Experience Points .13: Animal Crossing

May 09 // Ben Davis
The mouse next door Animal Crossing is all about the villagers. Whenever I start a new town, I pray I'll get at least a couple cool neighbors. I usually try to pester or ignore the less desirable ones until they eventually move out to be replaced by someone better. And when an awesome neighbor finally moves in near me, I make a point of hanging out with them every day, hoping they'll be my best friend. There are a ton of animal villagers I really like, but I think my favorite will always be my first friendly villager, Samson the mouse. Samson lived in the acre right below me in my very first town. He has the sporty personality, so he's constantly talking about lifting weights and keeping active, with a very optimistic and happy attitude. I used to visit his fruit-themed house every evening before bed, listening to him brag about how many push-ups he could do and asking if there were any errands I could run for him. I was always glad to see him walking around town. Then I tried visiting my friend's town one day, and a while later I noticed that Samson had moved. He'd left to go live in my friend's town, and I was super bummed. It always seems to happen to the villagers I like the most, while the ones I don't particularly care for seem to stick around forever. Luckily, I've had plenty of other cool neighbors to keep me company ever since Samson left, like Punchy, Apollo, Puck, Leopold, Lobo, and Octavian. I never managed to get Bob in any of my towns, though. Bob is the best. A blast from the past The GameCube version of Animal Crossing was the only one to get NES games as items (at least in the US), which is a shame because it was one of my favorite things about the original game. The NES titles are furniture items which can be placed in players' houses. Interacting with them while they're on display will allow the game to be played. And not just a demo of the game. The entire thing was playable! NES games were particularly hard to come by, usually only found in Tom Nook's lottery at the end of the month, or in Crazy Redd's black market tent. There are 19 in total that can be obtained, although some of them can only be found through cheat codes. I only owned a few of these games growing up (Excitebike, Super Mario Bros., Punch-Out!!, and Legend of Zelda), so the rest of them were completely new to me. I spent a ton of time playing all of the NES games, which I collected and displayed in my basement. I probably spent the most time playing Balloon Fight, Clu Clu Land, and Ice Climber, since those titles were very unfamiliar to me, and also Pinball, which was strangely addictive. It was crazy that they included so many, though. Animal Crossing was essentially twenty different games in one package. It just took a bit of work to find them all. Gone fishin' If you know me at all, you know that I love the ocean and everything in it. So it should come as no surprise that my favorite activity in Animal Crossing is fishing, of course! Fishing in Animal Crossing is pretty simple, compared to most fishing in videogames. The player only needs to line the lure up with the fish's face, wait for it to bite, then hit A and voila! The fish is caught! No need to worry about reeling anything in or having the line break. It's all about careful aim and a bit of patience. It's also probably the quickest way to make money, so I often found myself fishing out of necessity to pay off my debts, but still had fun doing it. I love how specific the game gets with the various types of fish, too. All of the fish featured in Animal Crossing can be found in the real world. There's normal fish that everyone has heard of, like goldfish, piranha, and catfish, and also some really exotic ones that only ichthyologists would know about, including arowana, arapaima, and coelacanth. I actually learned a lot about real-life fish and bugs just from playing Animal Crossing! Oh, and the player character likes to come up with the most awful puns for everything they catch. So there's always that to look forward to while waiting for a fish to bite! The cat without a face There are tons of animal characters to encounter, aside from just the villagers living in town. Special characters will occasionally stop by for a visit, depending on the time, the date, or other circumstances. There's a giraffe fashionista, a wandering walrus, a carpet-dealing camel, an accident-prone seagull, and more. One such character is Blanca, who will sometimes appear on the train when a player goes to visit another town. Blanca is a white cat with a blank expression, and I mean that in the most literal sense. She does not have a face. It's actually kind of horrific when you think about it. I mean, how is she even talking to me? How does she eat? How does she breathe?! After a rather unsettling conversation (apparently she washed her face off?), she asks the player to draw her a new face. A menu pops up, similar to the menu for designing clothing at the Able Sisters' shop, allowing the player to draw whatever they want on Blanca's head. Players can make her look as beautiful or as scary as possible. And I'm sure there are plenty of people who drew immature things for a laugh, like drawing on a roommate's face with a marker after they've passed out. Later, she can be found walking around town with her freshly designed face. Even though I usually tried to give her normal features, they often still looked rather strange and stretched out. Poor Blanca! Her appearance is forever at the mercy of others, and other people can be pretty cruel. At least she provides a fun little mini-game, and the results are almost always amusing. Canine in concert Everybody loves K.K. Slider, right? He's the hip hound that stops by the train station on Saturday nights to play live music. He basically makes Saturday the most exciting day of the week. I always made it a point to play the game every weekend around 8pm to see him. K.K. will play just about any style of music imaginable, from rock 'n' roll, to country, to reggae. He'll take specific requests, or just play whatever, and after a concert he'll give the player an air check so they can listen to his music at home. Obviously, I had to collect them all. There's a ton of K.K. songs that I enjoy, but the songs I had playing most often on the stereo were K.K. Cruisin', Go K.K. Rider!, and K.K. Ballad. Of course, I'm sure everyone else has their own favorites. You really can't go wrong with a K.K. song. Well, except for maybe K.K. Dirge... that music makes my skin crawl. Between K.K. Slider's tunes and the ambient music that changes depending on the time of day, Animal Crossing has one of the most unique applications of a soundtrack I've seen. Certain songs will always scream "Animal Crossing!" to me more than others, just because of how and when I played. For me, it's all about the 8pm music and K.K. Cruisin', but other players could have an entirely different opinion. Happy holidays Animal Crossing handles time mechanics in a rather remarkable way. Not only is there a day and night cycle, but even the seasons change in real time. Different seasons bring different weather, different events, and different animals into the game. Playing during winter almost feels like an entirely new experience after playing during the autumn months for so long. And as if that wasn't enough, Animal Crossing even has several in-game holidays which correspond with actual holidays in the real world. That means if the player starts their game on October 31, for example, the villagers will be celebrating Halloween, running around dressed as Jack-o'-Lanterns, asking for candy, and handing out prizes. The holiday events were always entertaining. The fireworks displays on New Year's Eve and July 4 are really pretty and fun to watch from the pond. During the Harvest Festival, players have to save a frightened turkey from becoming a feast. A reindeer comes to visit on Toy Day, handing out toys to the player when he's found. On Groundhog Day, the resident mole -- I mean, "groundhog" -- makes an appearance to predict the upcoming weather. They even celebrate the player's birthday, which the other villagers will sometimes ask about in order to get the date right. All of these time-sensitive events are a great way to keep players thinking about the game even after they've stopped playing for a while. Once Christmas season began, I found myself wondering what kinds of events might be happening in the world of Animal Crossing, and planning a time when I could jump into the game and explore. And when spring rolled around, I felt compelled to visit the game again just to find all of the new fish and insects the warmer weather attracted, and to see if anything changed around town. I had Animal Crossing on the mind all year round! Waiting 'til the end of time Time doesn't stand still in the world of Animal Crossing, even when it's no longer being played. If a player boots up the game after a year-long hiatus, they'll notice that the town has changed a lot since they last played. It will become overrun with weeds, houses will become infested with cockroaches, mailboxes will be overflowing. It's a huge mess to deal to with. And yet, the villagers that still haven't moved away have not forgotten about their human friend. In fact, they've been counting the months since they last spoke with the player. Even if it's been several years, they still count the months. Every single month, waiting, hoping, feeling sad and abandoned, refusing to pull their weight and CLEAN UP THE DANG TOWN THAT THEY LIVE IN, LIKE I'M THE ONLY ONE-- ahem. Got a bit carried away there. I apologize. I always thought it was really crazy that the game carries on without me even when I'm not playing. It makes me wonder what's going on in all the different towns I've created over the years, hiding away in various memory cards. Are my favorite villagers still there waiting for me? Or have they moved on to a new home after feeling neglected? Maybe I'll pop into the game again someday and find out. Past Experience Points .01: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.02: Shadow of the Colossus.03: EarthBound.04: Catherine.05: Demon's Souls.06: No More Heroes.07: Paper Mario.08: Persona 4.09: Final Fantasy IX.10: Mega Man Legends.11: Rayman Origins.12: Metal Slug 3  
Animal Crossing photo
So, you've decided to move out?
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Binding of Isaac: Rebirth photo
Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Edmund McMillen wants to improve The Lost in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth


Plus some new Afterbirth content
May 05
// Ben Davis
In this week's update for The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, Edmund McMillen publicly acknowledged the existence of the super secret character, The Lost, and announced that he'd like to alter the character in a way that would bal...

Experience Points .12: Metal Slug 3

May 02 // Ben Davis
Mission one start Right from the very beginning of Metal Slug 3, I could tell it was going to be a wild ride. The opening mission drops the player off on a sunny beach, which at first seems almost peaceful and comforting, until the rotting fish carcasses and crash-landed rockets littering the dunes come into view. Suddenly, a bunch of huge, mutated crabs swarm the beach and start attacking in hordes. Giant crab monsters for the very first enemy? Talk about starting off on a high note! The level then splits off into two different paths. One path leads to a mangrove area crawling with oversized locusts, and a boat that takes the player across a swamp infested with flying piranhas. The alternate path leads underwater, as the player takes a submarine and dives into a deep ocean crevasse. The waters here are teeming with electric jellyfish and are also home to four utterly enormous moray eels. These things appear to be 20-30 times larger than the submarine. They cannot be killed, but they can crush the player against the side of the wall in an instant. The eels also come out of caves which indicate that their names are Helen, Linda, Jenny, and Barbie. Quite adorable names for these hulking, majestic creatures. The eel crevasse has to be my favorite area in the entire game, and it's just the first level! And of course, once the player passes through the underwater cavern, they're met with the boss of mission one: a particularly intimidating crustacean by the name of... The Huge Hermit The boss of the opening mission is a gigantic hermit crab which makes its home inside of a military tank rather than a seashell. As the player runs along a boardwalk firing backwards at the massive crab, the Huge Hermit advances, easily destroying the boardwalk with its large claws as it moves. It also uses the tank on its back to fire projectiles from the cannons, keeping the player on their toes while they run. It's such an amazing adversary! The Huge Hermit is probably one of my favorite videogame bosses of all time, largely from a design perspective. Giant crabs are already awesome by themselves, but a giant crab with a huge tank on its back which it uses to shoot nukes and fireballs? You can't get much better than that! Plus, the animation team did a truly fantastic job bringing the sprites to life on this thing. Like pretty much everything else in the game, the hermit crab's movements are so fluid and natural, while the tank shifts around in a more mechanical way. It's almost mesmerizing to watch. And keep in mind, this is still only the first mission in Metal Slug 3. It's such an incredible introduction to all the craziness that the game has to offer! A Slug for every occasion Metal Slug's namesake, the Slugs, really help to set the game apart from other run-and-gun titles. The Slugs are mechanized vehicles which come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with all kinds of cool weapons and abilities. Metal Slug 3 has about ten different types of Slugs to find and play around with. There's a mecha Slug which walks around with dual arm guns and a crotch cannon, a helicopter Slug for increased air mobility, a submarine Slug for easier underwater movement, a rocket Slug for space travel, a drill Slug which is particularly effective against giant snails, and more. But my personal favorite is still the classic SV-001 "Metal Slug" which has appeared in just about every game in the series. It's essentially just a tank, but it's one of the most well-designed tanks around. I love the iconic design, with a roundish body and long, spiky treads. Plus, it's built in a way that allows it to actually jump and crouch, making it not only powerful and protective, but agile as well. What other tank can do that? In a game where one hit means instant death, riding around in a Slug feels extremely satisfying. The Slugs can take a few hits before they overheat, forcing the player to eject before they explode, so climbing into one is always a breath of fresh air. Of course, I usually lose my Slugs pretty quickly anyway, but they're still great for those brief moments of feeling all-powerful among the hordes of puny enemy forces. Animals of mass destruction Metal Slug 3 offers a wide variety of helpful friends and modes of transportation, most notably from the animal kingdom. There's a bunch of animals to ride around on, like a camel, an elephant, and an ostrich, as well a cute little gun-toting monkey that can follow the player around. The monkey is especially adorable. It can be found during two different missions, wearing a diaper that it stores bananas in and carrying a gun that it's not afraid to use. I always find that it leaves me too quickly though. Come back, little monkey! Don't leave me while I'm being completely surrounded by zombies! The three vehicular animals actually count as Slugs. They all come equipped with weaponry strapped to their sides and they can't be destroyed. It's so much fun to ride around on camels and ostriches while mowing enemies down with mounted guns. You think you can take me down with your armored tank and helicopters? Too bad they're not fast enough to deal with my awesome weaponized ostrich buddy! Muahaha! The elephant is probably the coolest of the three, if only because of its unique grenade options. If the elephant picks up a crate of hot chilis, it will be able to shoot a huge ball of fire out of its trunk. Alternatively, it can pick up a car battery in order to shoot bolts of lightning. I mean, come on: a fire-breathing, electrified elephant with guns strapped to its sides? How do you top that? Mars attacks! There's just something about the Martians in the Metal Slug series that I find particularly compelling. It probably has a lot to do with their appearance. They've got huge, bulbous heads and a tangle of crazy, spaghetti-like appendages wiggling about all over the place. It's actually a pretty typical alien design, but somehow it really works. The animations for the tentacles are just gorgeous, and totally mesmerizing. I could watch the Martians' idle animation all day. These guys don't make an appearance in Metal Slug 3 until the final mission, where they retreat into outer space with hostages and use their advanced technology to slow the main characters down. The Martians play a role in many other Metal Slug titles as well, and I always get a kick out of the encounters. Even though they're usually the enemy, and cause a great deal of annoyance for the main characters, they're just such a joy to watch. I almost feel bad killing them. Almost. 101 ways to die With all the crazy, diverse enemies in Metal Slug 3, the main characters are bound to be killed in some pretty messed-up ways. Aside from being shot, burned, zapped, and crushed, they can also be stripped to the bone by piranhas, dissolved by acid, hit with spores that cause them to burst into a tangle of vines, and more. Certain enemies and objects can also cause the main characters to transform, often leaving them more susceptible to death. Bats and mummies can mummify the player, restricting their movement and weapons. Yetis can turn the player into a snowman, trapping them and leaving them open to attack until they can wiggle free. Collecting too many food items can cause the player to become obese, slowing movement but increasing firepower. But the best transformation by far is the zombie form. Being attacked by a zombie will cause the player to become a zombie as well. Like some of the other transformations, movement is restricted and only the default pistol can be used. However, the grenade becomes an extremely deadly, projectile blood-vomit attack, which blasts out in a huge arc from the bottom of the screen all the way to the top. It's possibly the most powerful attack in the game. It can even easily decimate the bullet-sponge of a boss if the player is skilled enough to avoid attacks with the sluggish zombie movement. Destroying helicopters and enemy hordes by barfing up a huge bloody mess never gets old! Past Experience Points .01: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.02: Shadow of the Colossus.03: EarthBound.04: Catherine.05: Demon's Souls.06: No More Heroes.07: Paper Mario.08: Persona 4.09: Final Fantasy IX.10: Mega Man Legends.11: Rayman Origins  
Metal Slug 3 photo
Rocket Launcha!
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Steam sale photo
Steam sale

Sharks and knights clash in new content update for Chivalry and Depth


Both games on sale for 50% off
Apr 30
// Ben Davis
Who would win in a fight between a shark and a medieval knight? My money's on the shark. I mean, sharks have been around for hundreds of millions of years. Those things know how to survive! From May 1 until May 4, Steam will...
GTAV mods photo
GTAV mods

Watch as a whale destroys everything in this Grand Theft Auto V mod


Whale: 'I wonder if it will be friends with me?'
Apr 29
// Ben Davis
Leave it to the modding community to give us what we never even knew we wanted in a videogame. Youtuber Merfish captured the true potential of Grand Theft Auto V by using the Script Hook V tool to wreak havoc on the people o...
Nuclear Throne photo
Nuclear Throne

Nuclear Throne nets one million in revenue while in Early Access


Y.V. knows what's up
Apr 28
// Ben Davis
Nuclear Throne, the indie game where you run and gun as a colorful cast of mutant creatures in a radioactive wasteland, has reached one million dollars in revenue, Vlambeer's Rami Ismail announced yesterday. That's an impress...

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