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AhTheCastle's blog

6:48 PM on 09.11.2012

Experience: Becoming fully engrossed with a game for the first time

I paced around the room feverishly, deeply worried for my lovely wife Bianca. After the sudden, late reveal of her pregnancy, she went into labor immediately. The whole ordeal hit me so fast, and I felt powerless to help her in any way. Eventually, the silence of the room broke when I was called by a voice, telling me to go up and see Bianca. My heart stopped as I prayed that everything turned out okay. When I ran up the stairs, my beautiful son and daughter pleasantly greeted me for the first time. After breathing a sigh of relief, I happily rejoiced with my wife. To end a perfect moment, Bianca put her face next to mine and told me that she loved me.

It was at this moment that I became conscious of my escapism and remembered that Iíve only been playing a video game the entire time. The experience felt way too real.

To this day, Dragon Quest V has been the only game to completely engross me within its story. Itís incredibly peculiar to me, because Iíve played a ton of games before getting into this one. A lot of these games have been advertised on the basis that I would become the character, but I havenít had that experience until now. You would think that I would have fully escaped into each and every video game world Iíve seen, feeling like I walked in the shoes of every protagonist Iíve played as. However, that hasnít been the case, as Iíve never been fully invested within a video game world until this point. Thereís a legitimate reason for that too: Dragon Quest V does three things that are fundamentally different from most games on the market today. While I wouldnít want every game to play exactly like this, it was these three factors that helped me become completely absorbed within the world the game has created for me.

1. There is no placeholder for the protagonistís name on the character creation screen.

Stop me if this sounds familiar to you: youíre about to start a new file in an RPG, and as you start it, thereís already a preset name left for you.

Most developers take pride when they leave a place for you to put your name. After all, by putting your name down on a character creation screen, it would make sense to think that the player would be more inclined to believe that he is the protagonist of the game. For some people, this is exactly how their experience plays out. However, I have never been able to fill in the shoes of the main character when the character screen shows a preset name. The minute I see a name already there, I know that the story isnít mine. Iíve experienced this recently when I was playing Chrono Trigger. Not only did I already have prior knowledge of Chronoís role as the main protagonist, seeing his name already filled out discouraged me to fill my own in. Even after I forced myself to fill in my own name, I couldnít connect with the main character at all. Sure, he had my name, but his in game sprite is synonymous with Chrono in my mind, thus breaking the possibility of getting deep within the gameís world. Iíve grown an attachment to the world and characters within the game, but I have come to the realization that I am not Chrono.

Dragon Quest V, much like other games within the series, has a protagonist named the Hero. This is something more to my liking. Obviously, the Hero isnít a very realistic name for a human being. All it does is act as a placeholder for the playerís actual name. While it could be argued that Chrono is also a placeholder for the playerís name, players often associate his character with his default name. This is because Chrono is an actual name, as apposed to the blatant placeholder name given in Dragon Quest V. But even then, the placeholder in Dragon Quest V doesnít even show up! When you boot up a new file, the game asks you to fill a blank spot with your name. By doing this, the game gives you no choice but to create your own, unique name for your file. So, I was given incentive to put my own name down, leading me to believe that I was the protagonist of the story.

2. Party Chat allows the characters within the game to come to life

Typically, in a JRPG, the members of your party flesh out their character solely through the events of the story. Until some sort of cut scene is initiated, the player will not be able to find out more about the characters they are adventuring with.

Obviously, Dragon Quest V fleshes out the most significant aspects of each character through important plot points as well. However, the game takes it a step forward with a mechanic called Party Chat. While this mechanic is completely optional to use, it was certainly one of the most compelling features of the game. Upon using Party Chat, the player will hear instant reactions to whatever in game action the player has chosen to do. Spoke to a man in the town? Speak to your fellow adventures to find out what they think of that person and the information they gave out. Entered a suspicious building? Talk to everyone to find out what they think of the area. Found a rare item? Share your joy with those in your party. Almost every action the player chooses to execute can be followed up by your teammatesí two cents.

With this kind of game mechanic, itís no longer necessary to rely on in game events to completely tell the story of the game. I often found myself forming strong connections to each character that joined my quest way before a major plot point affected them. By constantly using Party Chat, you form bonds with the characters by discovering their personalities in a deeper way. Not only that, but the player will feel less alone when adventuring within the game because there will always be constant feedback from each party member for all of your actions. As a result of this feedback, I truly felt like the characters came to life. The more life-like the characters became, the more I felt inclined to jump into the world of Dragon Quest V.

Speaking of life-likeÖ.

3. Dragon Quest V is a game about life

Dragon Quest V has one of the most relatable stories in a video game, ever. Obviously, the game still deals with the typical JRPG fare: Thereís some monster that wants to annihilate the world, and you have to destroy it. If the game were solely based on that presence, then naming the Hero after myself wouldnít have been enough to delude me into thinking I was the protagonist. What convinced me to get sucked into the world of Dragon Quest V were its humanlike, real life experiences. Upon starting the game, you play as a child that learns about the world through his father. When you arenít bonding with your family, youíre hanging out and adventuring with your close friend, Bianca. However, as time goes on, the main character has to grow up and become an adult. Now that he is no longer traveling with his father, the main protagonist must fend for himself out in the world.

While the concept of growing up is relatable to everyone already, the part that truly got me invested in the story is the marriage system. At one point, you have to make a decision to marry three different women. Nera, a woman of privilege, gives the Hero bonus items that will help you along your quest. Bianca, the Heroís childhood friend, seems to make the most sense from a story perspective. Finally, Deborah, the strict and bossy prospect, can be chosen if the Hero falls in love with her lavish, revealing attire. The third choice is mainly for kicks and giggles, as the creator of the series, Yuji Horii, claimed that she is an option that, ďnobody in their right mind would pick.Ē However, the first two options matter a great deal toward the story. While picking Bianca will fulfill the main characterís personal happiness, Nera offers a step closer to completing the quest at hand. Itís up to the player to decide what will be the best option for marriage.

The marriage mechanic is what got me lost in the world of Dragon Quest V. As I explained above, this very aspect of my virtual wife going into labor absorbed me into the game. From the moment my in-game wife, Bianca, went into labor, had two children, and told me that she loved me, I began to feel like I really was the Hero. The idea of growing up, becoming an adult, having a wife, and starting a family felt so real to me because itís a future that doesnít seem too far off to me. As a college student, Iím already preparing myself to become an adult and enter the real world. So, it wouldnít be too outrageous to assume that I may start a family in the future as well.

Oh, and you can also name your kids in the same fashion as the Hero. Without preset names, the player will be given more incentive to give them actual names that they would give their children in real life.

So, for me, this was the game that finally got me to live out most developerís intentions with a silent protagonist. With a nameless main character and a story that is based upon real life scenarios, Dragon Quest V delivers an experience that I have never had in my entire life. Has a game ever had you feel so invested that you felt like you were truly a part of the gameís world?   read

1:17 PM on 07.13.2012

The perception of gaming has not changed in over three decades

When thinking about gaming and its progression over the years, it quickly becomes apparent how far video games have come in terms of popularity. Practically every single house I go into has at least one gaming console. Big blockbuster franchises, like Call of Duty, receive jaw-dropping success. For example, just the combined sales of two games in that series, Black Ops and Modern Warfare 2, total up to 47 million copies. 47 MILLION COPIES! Seeing such a large number blows my mind. Also, with mobile gaming, playing games has become more accessible than ever. Add that to the fact that cell phone games tend to be either free or as cheap as a dollar, and itíll be easy to see exactly how popular gaming is as a medium today. Hell, even my parents play video games! Itís always awesome to watch my dad play MotorStorm on his PS3 while my mom plays Words With Friends on her iPad right next to him.

When I think back to the last decade, such a scene would have seemed impossible to me.
But now, as the number of people who play video games increases, more people I know are becoming invested in gaming. In fact, the gaming industry has exceeded the film industry as a profitable medium. Last year, the gaming industry generated $17.02 billion dollars alone in the United States. Meanwhile, the movie industry was only able to earn 9.42 million dollars in the United States. The difference is widely noticeable, and that gap will only increase as video games become increasingly more popular over time.

But, despite the fact that the popularity of gaming has notably increased, people continue give gaming culture the wrong image. Whenever I mention a game to those not invested in gaming culture that isn't well known, Iím instantly labeled as geek that shouldnít be touched with a ten-foot stick. For example, if I tell the average person that I spent my day playing a single player JRPG called Golden Sun, I would expect a response saying that I am wasting my life. The fact that I would expect such a response is a problem in itself, because I should be led to believe that gaming is more accepted as a whole. It is accepted to an extent though, especially with widely popular multiplayer games like Call of Duty. This is because the franchise appeals to the masses for itís social elements. This can also be the case for simple, popular single player games like Angry Birds. Being a best selling mobile gaming experience, many people have played the game and are comfortable talking about it to others. However, these people refuse to associate themselves with gaming culture. Why is that? Well, the people who play these kinds of games donít even consider themselves to be gamers to begin with.

It sounds ridiculous, but itís true. Since what these people consider as ďnormal peopleĒ play the game, they cannot be gamers. They think in this manner because they do not want to be attached to the ridiculous stereotypes that are associated with the word gamer. By that, I mean the incredibly absurd ďlives in a basement at his momís house and never sees sunlightĒ mentality that still runs rampant to this day. But the great irony of it all is that the people that think this way tend to be gamers themselves. The dictionary definition for the word gamer is just a person who plays games, and nothing more. Thereís nothing else attached its definition! But, there are people who play games, are considered to be gamers by definition, but donít acknowledge themselves to be in that category. These people are living proof that gamers do not have to be put into a stereotype, yet they continue to think that they cannot be gamers in order to seem like they arenít pathetic to the eyes of the public.

Part of the problem comes from the term gamer itself. As long as people put stereotypes onto word gamer, gaming will continue to be viewed as it was over thirty years ago, despite the fact that itís more accepted than ever before. One of my favorite editorials, written by Ben ďYahtzeeĒ Croshaw, makes the argument that we should get rid of the word gamer. In the article, he argues that the label creates a somewhat false image to people, which is reinforced by the public and mass media. He also discusses the fact that people still do act within the stereotype, even though it isnít the majority. These people belong to a vocal minority that shoves their love for video games into other peopleís faces. Their love for gaming is so strong that they make it part of their identity. As Yahtzee puts it, theyíre also the same people who abused film critic Roger Ebert for not accepting video games as art. Video games shouldnít be taken this seriously. Itís like people forget that this just a hobby, and should be treated like one.

This editorial stuck with me because I always wondered why the word gamer existed in the first place. When looking at other entertainment mediums, such as film and music, itís obvious that there is nothing even remotely similar to the gamer label. No one identifies himself or herself as anything when they go see a movie. That person is just watching a movie. At most, a person may be referred to as a movie enthusiast, but such a label is not as prevalent and doesnít carry the same kinds of stereotypes along with it. Itís exactly the same way with music, since a person who listens to music is just that and nothing more. Again, that person could be labeled as a music enthusiast, but the label has no negative connotation and is not used as often as the gamer label. In my opinion, this is exactly how gaming should be treated in 2012: no stereotypes, no labels, and no bullshit attached.

Gaming is becoming ridiculously popular, and itís continuing to expand as the years go on. Yet, it seems that no one wants to recognize that. Gaming will continue to be shunned by the public as long as these dated stereotypes persist. If people in the vocal minority who fit the stereotype continue to act the way they do, most peopleís views on gaming will only continue to get confirmed. As a result, they will feel as if they donít belong, since they do not fit in with the label theyíre picturing in their heads. Thus, people who may be gamers will not consider themselves to be one, leaving people to give gaming a bad name despite its popularity. This will only change if people stop using the word gamer or people begin to accept themselves as gamers to kill the stereotype. Unfortunately, I donít see any of those two options becoming a reality.   read

6:32 PM on 04.29.2012

Three reasons why you can't criticize the Wii U right now.

There are two things that I know about the Wii U right now: itís Nintendoís new console and it has a controller that looks like a tablet with buttons on it. Oh, and you say its name five times fast, you sound like a cop car siren! WEE-U WEE-U WEE-U WEE-U WEE-U!!!!!!!

But, other than that, what else do I know about the Wii U? Absolutely nothing. Thatís because nobody knows much about this console at all. Since it's been revealed, this mysterious system has been baffling everyone through a lack of factual details. So, I would think it would be unfair to make criticisms of the Wii U at this point in time.

Why? Well, since you asked, here are three reasons why I don't think we can criticize the Wii U right now.

1. The knowledge known about the Wii U as a system is limited.

Last year at E3, the Wii U was revealed for the first time ever. It was also the first time that everyone's minds exploded in confusion. As soon as it was revealed, people didn't know what to make of it. Most people looked at Nintendo's conference and said, ďOh look, another new controller for the Wii. Thatís cool I guess.Ē Yet, these people failed to realize that Nintendo was trying to create hype around a new console. Well, we can blame everyoneís misconceptions on Nintendo, since they failed to actually show what their new console looked like during the entire conference. Silly Nintendo!

This obviously isnít the case anymore. By now, Iím sure that most people who keep up with gaming news know that Wii U is not just a new controller. However, the only thing we know about this new console is that it exists. Everything else about the Wii U as a system is a complete mystery. What are its functions? Beats me. What kind of things can I use on this device? I donít know. How is the online aspect structured on the Wii U? I have absolutely no clue! The confusion gets even worse when trying to figure out how powerful the system actually is. Originally, reports on the Internet were claiming that the Wii U was 50% more powerful that current generation systems. Now, new reports are claiming that the Wii U is less powerful than current generation systems. WHICH IS IT?!?!?!

We donít know much about the console itself. Which brings me into my next pointÖ

2. We donít know much about the games on the Wii U.

I recently watched a trailer for Rayman Legends, a game that is getting exclusive bonuses on the Wii U. It was SEXY! Unfortunately, this is the only game that I currently excited for on Nintendoís new console. It isnít that the line-up for games is just as bad as the 3DSís god-awful launch selection. Itís actually because little has been revealed for the system at this point of time.

Again, think back to last yearís E3 conference. Nintendo did show so-called gameplay footage from third party developers. But, was this actual Wii U gameplay footage? Of course not! Nintendo just copied and pasted old gameplay footage from current generation consoles, and showed it while talking about the Wii Uís games. Nintendo failed to show any first party games as well. Even though we got some cool tech demos, like Legend of Zelda HD, none of these are actually going to be made into games. These tech demos were just there to show us what the system could do, not what the system will do. So, with Nintendo and third parties being quiet, we canít find out what kinds of games will be made on the Wii U.

It's a shame, because I really want to see what can be done with that odd looking controller. Oh yeah, that reminds me...

3. You probably have never used the Wii Uís controller.

Unless you went to E3 last year and waited on enormous lines after Nintendoís conference last year, you have never held a Wii U controller in your hands. I havenít either. But, if youíre anything like me, youíll cringe every time you see a photo of the controller anyway. I really want to call it out for how stupid it looks. I want to label it as a dumb concept. Yet, I know I canít do that because I havenít tried it.

I know I canít judge it because of the odd sense of dťjŗ vu Iím feeling. When Nintendo first revealed the Wii for the first time, I was disgusted with the way the controller looked. I saw it and immediately said, ďGreat, not only do I have to become active in my video games now, I also have to hold a controller that looks like a damn remote?Ē Fast forward to the present, and youíll hear me loudly proclaiming to everyone I know that The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the best Zelda game ever due to motion controls. Funny how that works, huh?

So, I canít really knock Nintendoís attempt at creating a new way to play games before I try it.

Ok, so when can I criticize it?

We wonít be able to completely criticize it until it launches. However, legitimate criticisms will be able to take form on June 5th, which is when E3 begins. This is because Satoru Iwata recently stated that, ďWe will showcase the final format, and discuss the details and the software lineup for this year at E3 2012.Ē Finally, actual information! YAY!!!

Until then, we canít claim that the Wii U is terrible or say that it will fail. All we can do is sit down and wait for E3.


5:32 PM on 04.24.2012

Somebody make Waluigi his own game!

What can I say about Waluigi? Well, heís purple. Heís tall and lanky. HeÖuhÖhas an upside down L on his hat. AndÖandÖandÖbah, who am I kidding? Thereís absolutely nothing of worth to say about him as a character!

Waluigi is unique as character, but for all the wrong reasons. Heís been around since 2000, debuting in Mario Tennis as a doubles player for Wario. Ever since then, heís been appearing in spin-off titles like Mario Party, Mario Golf, and Mario Kart. Yet, all of these games are multiplayer party games. It seems that Waluigi was created just for and will always be for these types of games, making him void of any true purpose whatsoever. Because of this, Waluigi as a character is perceived to be a joke by many.

What a waste of a character! He could be utilized in such a better way! What I hope is that one day, Nintendo will try to prove that Waluigi is not a useless character. Not through another kart racer. Not through another tennis game. Instead, I would like to see him be the main character in his own game.

I donít understand why this hasnít been done yet. Itís true that a lot of people, like myself, hate Waluigi because his entire existence seems to be based on the fact that Wario needed a doubles partner for tennis. However, despite the fact that he is hated to death, Waluigi had developed a weird following as well. Just look at all the people on the Internet who were upset that he wasnít in Mario Kart 7! Look at all the people who cosplay as him at events! So, there is definitely some kind of audience for this type of game. What would Nintendo have to lose?

Because there has never been a Waluigi game in the past, creating one would be the equivalent of making a new IP for Nintendo. This could only benefit their image of a company, since many people claim that Nintendo just rehashes the same ideas over and over again. Well, by creating a game based on his character, they can truly do something unique and interesting.

Much like the way Kirby is utilized in a wide variety of genres, Waluigi could literally fit into anything because he has no boundaries. Nobody knows anything about him, other than the fact that heís tall and mischievous. So, the possibilities for the type of game that could be made for him are endless. He could be in a stealthy platformer, where he uses his lanky body to hide behind skinny pieces of furnature. Or, maybe it doesnít have to be stealthy at all. Maybe it could be a co-op action adventure game, where you play as the villain alongside Wario that steals money from other people in order to attempt to get rich fast. Charles Marinet, voice of Waluigi, has an interesting idea himself, where the object of the game would involve cheating to win. The possibilities for such an idea are endless. But, honestly, Iíd take anything at this point. Hell, Iíd even settle for just a simple puzzle game, possibly something in a similar vain to Warioís Woods, that would be based around his overall weirdness as a character. Just give me something. ANYTHING!

I just want to see Nintendo prove that Waluigi is worth something as a character. As of right now, I have absolutely no reason to care about him. Heís completely lacking any purpose whatsoever. I want to like him as a character, I really do. However, I canít be convinced to like him just on his odd appearance alone. I want an extra incentive to play as him every time I play a spin-off title. I want to have a reason to think that Waluigi could be a cool character.

I want WaluigiÖto have his own game. Also, crotch chops.


2:38 PM on 04.22.2012

Accepting Innovation

Change, while interesting, is something that usually does not bode well with most people. Most of the time, people stick to what is familiar as opposed to trying something new. But, when something new is forced upon them, they immediately complain about it without giving it a shot.

This is something that I experience every time Facebook changes its layout. The website continues to offer the same services, but just presents itself in a different way every now and then. The first week a layout is forced on everyone, my news feed becomes filled with people moaning about how everything is different. These people, afraid of change, continue to complain each and every day. Yet, after about a month, all of these complaints stop. At this point, most users become used to the new layout, and completely forget that the layout even changed at all. Then, when the layout changes again, the cycle starts all over again. This is absolutely ridiculous. I would understand if someone genuinely hated the new layout with a good reason. However, most outrages against the new layouts are based on the fact that itís different than what they are used to. Without trying it out, users automatically judge what breaks their familiarity.

But, what does social networking have to do with video games? Well, Iíve experienced similar complaints from people about Mario Party 9, a game that finally switched up its formula after eight iterations. Thatís right, they finally made Mario Party a little different! The first time I saw the game in action, my jaw dropped. You mean to tell me that after years of making the same party game over and over, Nintendo finally decided to do something different? BLASPHAMY!!!!

Just look at a gameplay video, and youíll see what I mean. The ability to travel wherever you want on the board is gone, as all the players travel in the same vehicle for each board. Coins and stars are also gone, and are replaced by ministars (yes, there IS a difference) that are collected by traversing the board and winning minigames. Another awesome addition is the co-op boss fights within each level, which helps keeps things interesting and entertaining. All of these new additions make the Mario Party formula feel fresh again, despite the fact that it still closely resembles its predecessors.

Personally, I think the game is awesome. Itís a completely interesting and new way to play Mario Party, and I hope Nintendo does more things like this in the future. However, the challenge in playing this game is finding other people who want to play with me. I know a lot of people who spent countless nights playing previous Mario Party games with me for hours, but they arenít willing to try Mario Party 9. Theyíll look at me playing the game once and automatically dismiss it, claiming Nintendo ruined the game because they changed ďtoo muchĒ. This bothers me to no end. How could anyone judge a game just by looking at it? Iíve had people play the game, and then tell me afterwards that they didnít enjoy it. Thatís totally fine. However, to judge a game without even giving it a shot is just dismissing change and innovation all together.

Innovation, the very thing that compels us into this medium, is the same thing that intimidates all of us from new experiences. When encountering something different in a series, most people freak out and automatically dismiss it. The only way to get people to try to accept the new concepts within the game is to force them to play it with you. Iíve had many people complain about the changes in Mario Party 9 before playing it. These people would complain that Mario Party has changed completely, even though the game is still fundamentally the same. Yet, when I force them to play it, they usually wind up enjoying it a lot and forget the fact that they were complaining in the first place. I like to call this the Facebook effect because the similar absurdities found in accepting change. Even though changes in both Facebook and Mario Party are not big enough to completely alter the concepts, they continue to receive hate until people actually sit down and try them out.

Innovation is what keeps the videogame industry so interesting. Itís what encourages me to continue to buy games and support the industry. Itís what keeps me checking websites, like Destructoid, every single day to see what new things are being announced. Itís what keeping me excited for E3 in a few weeks, so I can see what new and interesting ideas will come out of the event. With an industry that runs on sequels, innovation is key to keeping my interests up. If every sequel were to play exactly like itís predecessor, I wouldnít have bothered to purchase any new games and would have gotten bored of the video game industry a long time ago. Iím sure many people feel the same way.

So, hopefully the next time my friends encounter something that they havenít experienced, they'll try it out first before making judgments about it.   read

1:46 PM on 04.11.2012

Am I crazy?: Replaying a game to death

This blog post is a test to see whether or not I am sane:

A while back, a friend of mine was watching me playing a game on my Sega Genesis. In a couple of days, I completely finished the game and went on to play something completely different. About two weeks later, the same friend caught me playing the same game on my Sega Genesis and looked at me like I was insane. He stared at me with disgust and said, ďDidnít you JUST beat this game?! What reason is there to go back and play it again?Ē What I wanted to explain to him was that this game that I was playing holds so much meaning to me that I can practically get an unlimited replay value from it. Yet, I couldnít bring myself to do it, because I wasnít sure if he would understand or not.

The game I was playing was Sonic 3 & Knuckles.

No other game can tug so hard on my childhood nostalgia than this one. This was my favorite game to play as a child. Hell, I still feel that way to this day! Each individual level means something special to me. The atmosphere is set perfectly with a colorful and interesting art style. The level design is set up in such a way that youíll find new pathways in every playthrough. Thereís even specific parts of each level that can only be accessed by certain characters, which helps give incentive to play as Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles. Not only that, but Knuckles gets a whole alternative storyline that has a completely different ending than both Sonic and Tails. Even just the types of levels are just completely awesome. Seriously, you havenít fully experienced platforming until youíve played through a level that takes place on a GIANT flying airship! The bosses are devious, challenging, and frantic. Oh, and the musicÖ.THE MUSIC!!! The music is just incredible, which is to be expected since Michael Jackson himself helped work on it. Honestly, I could just go on and on about this game. I love this game a lot.

Sure, people do replay games. Iím not questioning whether or not itís ok to go back to a game every now and then. Thereís definitely nothing wrong with that at all. However, Iíve reached a certain point where I feel like Iíve beaten Sonic 3 & Knuckles to death. The game was released in 1994, and Iím still playing it to this day. I swear Iíve beaten this game at least a hundred times, and Iím still not bored of it. I know a lot of people who cherish a specific video game, but not on such an extreme level as this. I might be getting a bit out of hand here.

Itís true that I know every layout and boss pattern in the entire game. Yes, playing the same levels over and over again does sound boring, since the elements of challenge and surprise are gone. Even though Sonic 3 & Knuckles has become so predictable and easy to me, I still have the urge to play to return to the game eighteen years later. It may sound corny, but I keep playing so I can try to replicate the feeling I had when I played the game for the first time. When played Sonic 3 & Knuckles for the first time as a kid, I had the dumbest smile stuck on my face the entire time. This dumb smile is something I strive to recreate through each playthrough.

My friends that criticize me for playing this game over and over again do replay games. However, they need an extra incentive to do so. A game might need some DLC to get them to rub the dust off their disc. Thereís also online multiplayer, which keeps them entertained for years. Even though online multiplayer uses the same maps for each match, the outcome is always different. Two matches on the same map will never be alike because of the people who play on each map. The players get to dictate what will happen on the map, which helps create a new experience every time. For a single player game, like Sonic 3 & Knuckles, you can only hold the element of surprise within the first couple of playthroughs. So, most people become turned off by the predictable gameplay while replaying a game and move on to something new.

So, am I insane for wanting to go through the same game over a hundred times, or are there people out there who are just as crazy as I am? If so, please let me know before MY MIND EXPLODES FROM CONFUSION!!!!   read

8:16 PM on 12.27.2011

Have Gamers Forgotten Why Reviews Exist?

Fortune Street is a Mario and Dragon Quest game that deals with the stock market.

I donít blame you if you find this concept to be an idiotic waste of a crossover. However, the overall bizarreness of this monopoly styled board game is what gathered my interest. Being that this is the first entry outside of Japan, I had no prior opinions of the series that I could use to form an opinion before my purchase. As a result, I found myself reading numerous review scores from credible websites around the Internet. The game has earned a 71/100 on metacritic, which reflects that of a good game. Yet, thatís all it really is: a reflection of the reviewerís opinion of the game. It doesnít mean that everyone will believe that the game is a good game. Some may think that the score should be much higher, while others may be led to believe it deserves much lower. The opinions that people form all depend on personal preferences. In order to form my own opinions on Fortune Street before purchasing it, I had to match up my preferences with that of the reviewer. Below are a few criticisms by Jeremy Parish from 1upís review of the game. For the sake of argument, Iíll put some of the main complaints reviewers mentioned in the review and compare them with my own personal tastes.

Fortune Street is no fun if you play the game solo.
While it is true that Mario Party is vastly different from Fortune Street, my friends and I have played Mario Party 2 and 3 for years. Upon showing them the game, they were instantly interested in the concept of Fortune Street. So, getting people to play the game with me will not be a problem.

Fortune Street is a complex experience that may drive off some gamers.
Fortune Street is really just a more complex version of monopoly, which is a game that I have a genuine love for. Because of this, I am willing to learn all of the rules of Fortune Street.

A single game of Fortune Street can take hours to finish.
My friends have no problem sinking in numerous hours into one game. Honestly, if they can force me to play 50 turns of Mario Party, then they should have no problem playing Fortune Street. Donít judge us!

Even with these three criticisms, Jeremy still gave the game a B+. He even heavily praised it, naming it as, ďÖone of the best video board games Iíve ever played.Ē After comparing my preferences with his review, it became clear that I was going to enjoy the game as much or even more than the reviewer himself. After buying the game, I can safely say that I made the right choice by buying this game. This is exactly how reviews should be utilized. By comparing personal preferences with a reviewerís criticisms, one can deduce whether or not a game is made for them. After all, reviews exist to aid us with our purchases.

You must be thinking, ďNo shit! Everyone knows this.Ē Yet, I donít think thatís the case. In all honesty, I think people have forgotten why game reviews exist.

It seems that people who read game reviews seek a regurgitation of opinions that they already formed before reading the review. Usually, this entails the expectation that the review will be written as if it were an advertisement of the game that gives it the highest praise possible. If a review criticizes something that a person has already formed an opinion on, they read it just to bash it. This reaction is something that I see often in reviews like Jim Sterlingís Mario Kart 7 review. People who love Mario Kart raged over his 5/10 score, swearing that they are still going to buy it and passing the review off as ignorant. If so, then why did people read his review? I donít understand why people would take time out of their day to read a review of a game that they are already going to buy. I would understand if this was done to gather multiple opinions from different people, but it doesnít seem that way. Instead, it appears that people read game reviews to confirm that everyone in the world agrees with their personal opinion. I canít think of any other medium where people do this with reviews.

Instead of passing opposing reviews off as ignorant, reviews need to be analyzed. In Jimís Mario Kart 7 review, there were a couple major criticisms made: the game is a predictable sequel that doesnít hold up anymore and its slow nature makes it easily outpaced by others in its genre. If the hardcore Mario Kart player truly believes that the series still holds up and is worth another shot, then none of the criticisms should affect their decision to buy it. Granted, the people who read Jimís review are still buying Mario Kart 7, but theyíre doing it for all the wrong reasons.

The fact that there was such a huge vocal backlash leads me to believe that there are few people who actually read reviews to aid their purchase. It seems that before any review drops, people have already made up their minds about their purchase. If anyone dares to post a review thatís contrary to oneís opinion, the writer is accused of having an incorrect opinion. Because this is so common, most gamers have forgotten the purpose and worth of a review. Without a willingness to listen to different opinions, we might as well have PR representatives write the reviews for us.   read

5:00 PM on 12.01.2011

Speculation: What Can We Expect from an Xbox 720 or a PS4?

There is a rumor going around that Microsoftís next generation console, which has been unofficially dubbed the Xbox 720 around the Internet, will be revealed next year in 2012. The console, which is apparently codenamed ďloopĒ, is said be smaller and cheaper to produce that its predecessor. Without more expensive hardware, the Xbox 720 would have to rely on Kinect support in order to offer an interesting and compelling reason to buy it. In fact, it is also rumored that there will be a Kinect 2 that is bundled with every system. If this is all true, then we may be entering a console generation that isnít solely led by graphics. With all things considered, this possibility is more probable than one may be led to believe.

Think about it. This generation of gaming has been around longer than any other before it. Previous consoles would last about 5 years before making a leap to the next generation. However, things have changes drastically since then. Sony and Microsoft are now looking at system sustainability, as they expect their consoles to last longer than most have predicted. They have stated that they plan on keeping their current systems around for at least ten years, which effectively doubles the time gap between generations. Efforts such as Kinect and Move show that these companies are keeping their word, since they are clearly using add-ons to elongate the life of their systems. Nintendo is in a completely different league as Microsoft and Sony, since the Wii never had spectacular graphics to begin with. Because of this, they can get away with releasing a new HD console, the Wii U, in 2012. Yet, Microsoft and Sony chose not to interfere with Nintendoís launch and decided to continue to follow the ten-year plan. It appears that these companies are hesitant to releasing a new console with just better graphics.

The shift from a five-year plan to a ten-year plan isnít indicative of a peak in graphics. There still is so much that could be improved upon and added to enhance the visual experience of a game. Hell, you could even consider PCs to have ďnext generation graphicsĒ, as the visuals are far more superior compared to that of what is offered on home consoles. However, that doesnít mean that the Playstation 4 or the Xbox 720 will have jaw-dropping, revolutionary graphics. The market has changed vastly since prior generations of gaming, and I expect the consoles to change as well in the future. In the past, the leaps that were made from system to system were truly great enough to warrant a new console. However, improved graphics alone will probably no longer impress the average consumer.

We arenít even ready for another huge graphical jump. Developers are still struggling with pushing the PS3ís hardware to its full potential. It can be done, but most developers do not feel the need to push the boundaries on graphical quality anymore. Sure, there may be some Triple A titles that have the budget to push the a consoleís graphics to the absolute limit, but not many games fall into this category. Even some recent big titles, like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, found it comfortable to stick to graphics similar to that of previous titles in the series. Although the graphics in Modern Warfare 3 could have been improved, the developers decided to make the gameplay their main focus. This seems to be a common mentality that most modern developers take on. When a game has a limited budget and a set development time, only certain aspects can be focused on to improve the experience.

From here, thereís only way to go, and thatís innovating on the way one experiences a game. This is the only path left for Microsoft and Sony if they donít want to rely on graphics as the sole reason to buy their consoles. They are already experimenting in this area with Kinect and Move, so it wouldnít be a stretch to assume that we can expect more ideas like this to be implemented in their newer consoles.

Itís either that or Iím completely wrong and have extremely idiotic opinions. Iím hoping for the former.   read

10:59 AM on 11.28.2011

Overcoming My Fear of Traditional Fighting Games

"The one who actually committed the you! No alibi, no justice, no dream, no hope! It's time to pay for your crimes! Take this!"

Words cannot describe the happiness I felt when I first saw that Phoenix Wright reveal trailer for Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. Even today, it still puts a big, dumb smile on my face every time I watch it. The Ace Attorney series has always been one of my favorite video game franchises, so it was an absolute delight to see Wright implemented into the fighter genre. Just by looking at the trailer, you can tell that the developers put a lot of care into the creation of his character, since his unique fighting style fits perfectly with his games.

There's one problem though...I don't play fighting games!

Even though I have played each Super Smash Bros. game to death, they are vastly different because of how untraditional they are as fighters. Fighters are knocked off the stage instead of trying to bring down an enemy's life bar. Items also add the factor of luck to each match. However, the most important difference that Super Smash Bros. has when it is compared to other fighters is it's accessibility. I'm still amazed about how simple the game is to play compared to other games in its genre. In fact, the controls are so simple that the N64 version is able to cover everything in about a minute. Also, the game allows four different players to play at the same time, giving it the guise of a party game. Sure, Super Smash Bros. can be competitive if you want it to be, but I wouldn't say that the majority of people who play it fall under this category.

My problem with traditional fighters is that they aren't as accessible as Super Smash Bros. Because of this, I've always viewed people who were good at fighting games as part of some super secret club that I was never invited to. The one vs one matches and memorization of long combos had me convinced that I was not fit for this "club", so I never bothered to try it. It just came off to me as extremely complicated and confusing. Yet, I found myself conflicted with the reveal of Phoenix Wright in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. A character that I love was added to a genre that I was afraid of. I found myself asking people who play MvC3 countless times about the game itself, and they would try to convince me that the combos are not hard to pull off. Even though this was a hard concept for me to grasp, I had to pick up the game and find out for myself.

After sinking in about 10 hours into the game, I still suck. I'm not anywhere near most people who play online, where I get my ass handed to me half the time. However, that doesn't mean I'm not having fun. It's an absolute delight to play either AI or people who suck just as much as I do. Because of this, I realize that it was silly for me to assume that only hardcore fighting game enthusiasts are allowed to play these games. You don't need to study the game inside and out to have fun. Once you learn how to pull off basic combos, the game becomes extremely entertaining, regardless of one's skill level. In the end, buying UMvC3 was worth the risk.

Have you ever experienced a similar feeling? Did a game's complexity ever convince you that it wasn't for you?   read

10:59 PM on 10.05.2011

Villains: What happened to Wario?

Wario is pretty well known as a video game character. This should come to no surprise, as heís been to his fair share of parties, tennis matches, and go kart races. He is perceived as an oddball due to his bizarre, mindless activities. This is because developers who use him as a character embrace the idea of Wario acting moronically. Yoshio Sakamoto, who worked on the WarioWare games, said that, ďWario is always doing stupid things and is really idioticÖĒ when explaining why they chose him for the series. Because of this mentality, Wario is often portrayed as a joke character.

However, this is not the Wario that I grew up with.

The Wario I grew up with had an evil aura surrounding him. He had a huge lust for ultimate power and control. His lazy eye and sadistic smile speaks volumes about the kind of person the developers wanted him to be. Wario's sinister personality becomes apparent just through his appearance.

My image of Wario derives from Super Mario Land 2, which was his very first appearance. In the game, Wario is depicted as Marioís evil alter ego. His name directly reflects this idea, as it is a combination of the Japanese word warui, which means bad, and Mario. Essentially, his name can be defined as "bad mario".

The story of Super Mario Land 2 involves Wario brainwashing the inhabitants of Sarasaland to do his bidding. He does this by placing a spell with hypnotic effects to make himself ruler of the land. He even robs Mario of his own castle and claims it as his own. This, to me, is more compelling than the typical ďsave the princessĒ storyline.

Unfortunately, Wario is no longer portrayed as a mind controlling freak with power. Due to the way he is presented in recent games, he is not taken seriously as a character. His character is now fueled by his own stupidity and overall weirdness. This is shown in the intro to Mario Power Tennis and Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour, where Wario is used as comic relief. Another example can be found in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, where Wario attacks other players by farting on them. It quickly comes apparent that Wario isn't the strong, evil force he once was.

This is a shame, because battling against an evil alter ego is such a compelling idea in gaming. There's just something so satisfying about facing off against an evil version of a lovable character. This isn't a new concept in the video game industry. Developers have been creating characters like this for years, and gamers eat it up. Because these type of characters often become extremely popular, ignoring Wario as a villain is a big missed opportunity for Nintendo.

My question is this: why isnít Wario used as a boss anymore? I personally think that bringing him back as the main villain of a modern Mario game would create an interesting experience. New Nintendo fans that arenít familiar with Warioís past need to experience why he was so awesome as the bad guy. He needs to return back to his roots and be a villain once more.   read

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