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12:21 PM on 03.31.2011

Revisiting the First Half-Life; Why it is My Favorite PC Game of All Time

This is actually quite a tough choice. Do I pick Fallout 2, with its incredible player interactions, or maybe Portal, with its humor and creative puzzle solving? Maybe I should pick Deus Ex (which you just reinstalled) or Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, in all of its criminally underrated glory. There are many other choices but only two really stand out. I almost picked Counter Strike, as I probably have spent six months of my life playing that game, but no, it had to be the game that got me into PC Games. The game that has led to me building PCs. The game that helped shape my love of storytelling. That is right, the original Half-Life, which used a silent protagonist to build an incredible universe.

I remember the first time I saw Half-Life back in 1998. I was at a friend’s house when he broke out the infamous line of a great friend. "I just got a new computer game and you have to try it!" So I sat down, and my journey into Black Mesa began.

Half-Life was a revolution from every standpoint. And even better, it came from nowhere. It was not hyped anywhere near as much as other titles of that year, in fact, from my personal recollection, SiN was supposed to be the PC Shooter of the year, and during the early hype, was already being pushed as a game of the year, matching games like Fallout 2, Metal Gear Solid and Ocarina of Time. But then Half-Life dropped. I still remember the GamePro review glowing about how the game was a revolution and a must play. Still, I ignored it. I was a console kid. I didn’t even think my computer could run games. But after trying it on my friends PC, I didn’t care if I could run it. I made my mom stop on the way home and I bought the game. I didn’t even check the specs. I knew my computer could run and do so online, but Half-Life seemed like something else entirely.

Luckily my computer could run it, and it ran Half-Life surprisingly well. And so my journey began for real. Now until this point, every shooter I had every played, in fact just about every first person game I had ever played was here is a gun, kill everything. Half-Life changed my life by making me Gordon Freeman. Valve created a way of immersing the player in the character. You are told your credentials and information, and then you're placed into the literal shoes (and shortly thereafter the HEV Suit) of Freeman, a simple scientist at the beginning of the game on his way to work. You didn't even begin with a gun! What kind of shooter had you start without a gun?

As Gordon, I got to explore Black Mesa and see it in it’s day to day operation for a short while before the Resonance Cascade. What was so incredible was that I could walk around and talk to people. It was the first shooter I had played where not everyone was trying to kill me. And further, everyone had something unique to say. You got yelled at if you blew up the mac and cheese or pressed buttons you weren't supposed to press. The other characters, the NPCs, actually reacted to you, it was an incredible experience and truly immersive to find myself in a world where my actions had consequences. And this carried through the whole game. Your actions continued to have an effect on the environment, even after the opening of the game.

Just the fact that Valve took the time to build up a world for a shooter was impressive. It was not Doom or Quake, but rather, it really felt like I was Gordon Freeman. But then the Resonance Cascade hit. I was already impressed, but seeing the resonance cascade first hand, as everything that could go wrong went wrong, the visuals blew me away. Suddenly I was teleported from dimension to dimension, seeing all sorts of aliens and other freaky stuff. But even that wasn't as awesome as stumbling out of the test chamber and seeing a scientist giving CPR to a security guard, and further, the guard standing up. The fact that the game had AI Allies was another incredible thing. Sure in console games and other PC games you had other characters on you with missions, but due to the lack of a mission screen or anything that took you out of the eyes of Gordon, the security guards and Scientists actually felt like companions, stuck in this facility together. It also didn't hurt that they were competent.

But then the game goes on, and you don’t have a gun. You meet one of the most iconic weapons of the gaming world. The always-helpful Crowbar, now, an old friend, but then it was a case of "Aliens are invading my secret base and I STILL don’t have a gun!?" Luckily that didn’t last long, but Valve's ability to pace the game so perfectly still resonates, and they followed this style of pacing perfectly in their other games, including Opposing Force, Half-Life 2 and Portal, and this progression has also influenced many other great games, including the Call of Duty series (where in one game you start with a clip of bullets, and no gun). Sure other games all have you earn better weapons as the game goes on, but few felt as well thought out as Half-Life. Further, few games have made their weapons have as much personality as Half-Life gave the Crowbar.

As the game progresses and the monsters get tougher, and you see that your actions still have consequences (such as calling an elevator and causing it to drop down and explode, killing the scientists inside), you soon encounter something else. Smart enemy AI. The soldiers were enemies unlike any other game I had played until that point. They gave each other covering fire. They moved. They flanked. The attempted to outsmart the player. They also had grenades. Sure, now it seems a bit simplistic, but at the time, it was uncanny. You had an AI enemy that was actually tactical. Further, it created an enemy that wasn't like the aliens you had fought who stood there and attacked or charged you. Valve had given us an enemy that was more mobile and required a whole new set of tactics. This would repeat again when they introduced the black ops troopers. Each enemy of Half-Life felt unique and each required a different strategy, from your basic head crab (dodge!) to the amazing Tentacle sequence (sneak!). They were so much more than the enemies in other shooters, who tended to boil down to strafe and shoot. Half-Life's enemies each felt unique. It was also something else when you stumbled upon soldiers fighting aliens.

Half-Life was one of the first games I ever played where it really felt like you were just a person in the world, rather then the one thing the world revolved around. From a story perspective, the ambiguity as to what was happening around the rest of the facility meant a lot. It was one thing to have cinemas tell you a story, and not a bad thing by any means. But Half-Life felt unique because it let the player figure out the story and what was going on from the bits and pieces it drip-fed to you. It almost reveled in the confusion going on at Black Mesa. Half-Life had a lot of respect for the player, as it trusted the player to figure out what was going on rather than spell it out and ruin some of the mystery behind Black Mesa.

These are just some of the reasons why Half-Life is one of my favorite games of all time. The quality of the game is astounding. The entire game was clearly lovingly crafted, and what is more impressive is that the quality is reflected through the entire game, from the opening tram all the way through Xen. It also played very well, in spite of it’s early first person box puzzles and the platforming of Xen. Though the characters were never fleshed out at all, it really added to the atmosphere and made the G-Man stand out that much more. The shooting mechanics were incredibly solid, and it controlled very comfortably. The graphics at the time felt revolutionary, mainly because of the unique designs. Each area of Black Mesa felt different and new from the last, whether you were in the harrowing waste processing plant in the bowels of the facility, the enormous rocket test chamber or fighting soldiers on the dam.

All in all, Valve did something incredible with Half-Life. They changed a genre. They showed us that you could fully immerse a player in a character and still tell a story. Even if it was just that one man’s story, it was still incredible. The excellent pacing, wonderful designs, great controls and clever scripting created a shooter that is still being emulated today, 13 years later. As much as I loved Deus Ex, Far Cry, Riddick and others, they likely wouldn’t exist as we love them without Half-Life. The fact that Half-Life not only holds up, but holds up well is a testament to the 1998 games legacy, and for the reasons listed above, that is why Half-Life is my favorite PC game of all time.   read

5:30 PM on 02.07.2011

Why Sony's NGP/PSP2 Will Not Fail

Samit Sarkar made some fair points in his article; Why Sony's PSP2 (NGP) will fail.

Before I say anything else, let me list a disclaimer, I think it will depend more on the price than any argument either Mr. Sarkar or myself can make. I still think the 3DS has to sell itself better to me for it's $250. I will reserve judgment on the NGP until the price is announced.

The amusing thing about the 3DS is that it's lineup seems to have an awful lot of console based games, something Mr. Sarkar uses against the NGP for (specifically he muses that people dont want the console experience on a handheld). Ocarina of Time came out in 1998 for N64, MGS3 was a console game for the PS2, and yet the possibility is ignored that the 3DS offers a similar experience to the NGP, if one that switches graphics out for glasses-less 3D. My problem is that you seem convinced, without any real evidence, that the NGP will fail because it offers a console experience. The problem is that from what I have seen of the 3DS, the 3DS offers the same thing, just with older games in a new light (not a bad thing per se).

I personally trust both Nintendo and Sony to get it right. They're both very good at what they do and myself and many others loved each company's last handheld. I think the Price will be the thing that makes or breaks the PSP2, as I'm still unsure if the 3DS will be able to succeed at its current price point, but I wont get into that discussion now (or later really, I want them both to succeed). I will personally be buying both, though I might wait for the eventual 3DS Lite, but to write off the NGP for the reasons listed above seems very narrow minded.

I will grant you the cell phone market is a tough nut to crack, but a portable PS3 in your pocket should be enough to differentiate the device, especially because the fully functional dual analogs on the NGP defeat any comparative controllers on many of the Smart Phones (the one possible exception is the "PSP Phone" from Sony Erickson. As a sidenote, I view the PSP Phone as the only true threat right now to the NGP from the Cellphone market, due to it's control scheme. I know if I didn't love my iPhone so much, I would be getting that. Still the NGP is aimed at a different market sect. I'm sure part of the plan is for Sony to draw fans away from the cellphone gaming market, but they are also aiming it at gamers, who want a fully fleshed out experience on the go.

Why should we settle for simplistic games on the go like Angry Birds? It is a great game to be sure. But I find it hard to believe that the prospect of a fully playable Uncharted game on the go is anywhere near a negative for a system. We've been collectively dreaming of a full console experience on handhelds since the Gameboy came out. Now we have the opportunity to finally have our miniaturized consoles, and people are arguing that it is a bad thing? The advantage here, is that the NGP, and the 3DS as well, are at a point where they are the perfect blend, despite the touchscreen and 3D gimmicks. Both Systems are poised to allow us the experiences of all gaming worlds, from the quick and casual of a mobile game, to the quirky yet refined goodness of a core handheld, to the fully fleshed out experience of a console.   read

5:46 PM on 01.12.2011

2010 Sucked: Alan Wake was a Huge Disappointment

I started Alan Wake with high expectations. It was hyped up, and had good reviews. And frankly, Alan Wake started out awesomely. The first few chapters of the game were amazing. I loved finding the foreshadowing novel pages. The one in the forest was my favorite moment in the game (The one that foreshadowed the first chainsaw guy). The combat was initially fun, the story started driving. And then they introduced Agent Nightingale. And I realized something. All of the characters, except Barry, were flat. Some of them still had interesting aspects, but they never felt like developed characters. Nightingale had no motivation, just hated Wake as a plot device. The artists' mental home owner had awful justification and no explored motivation. It was hinted at, but never explored deeply, which is a shame. Both him and Nightingale could have been great villains to add another threat separate from main villain (darkness). Instead, these characters were never fully fleshed out as true threats and weakly defeated during the course of the story.

Barry was a good character, but served as underdeveloped comic relief. The policewoman was never really made interesting other than the cliche "small town police officer doubtful of the FBI." Overall, the writing read like one of the books that Stephen King throws out when he needs money. Weak characters, weak plot, and eventually, weak gameplay. While the gameplay started off good, the Flashlight (and the somewhat annoying ENERGIZER BATTERIES [and other obnoxious and somewhat unnecessary in game ads. At least the batteries made sense, even if it was a bad way of advertising batteries because they ran out so quickly]) became nothing more than a weak gimmick by the end. It never made combat interesting or challenging.

The combat was bland as hell towards the end, mainly due to the generally uninteresting set pieces never changing and the extremely linear level design. They clearly realized this and tried a bit of a change in the big driving stage at the end, but even that remained linear and disappointingly straightforward. There was often the illusion of nonlinearity, due to the forest or the "wide open" road, but it was just a false sense that kept you confined to small paths to lead you through a level. Once I realized these things, my enjoyment of the game dropped.

No matter how many times I tried to care, or how many great references there were, after about chapter 3, I just found myself playing it in the hopes that the ending could at least be satisfying and that the endgame (I imagined it would be a crazy rush to the lighthouse, as the opening sequence faux-foreshadowed). Instead, I found myself going through the paces, seeing the hackneyed plot device of the magic object from his childhood reappear. Wake was much more interesting when I was wondering if he was just descending into insanity, rather than having magic and evil explain everything.

That isn't to say the mid to late game did not have its moments. The two old metal heads were awesome, and the concert scene was a lot of fun because it was such a drastic change from the rest of the game and was so far out there. The police chase through the woods was fantastic until they backed off and it became another standard action sequence and you no longer felt pursued. The chase through the actual town was another refreshing moment, though the helicopter take off ending battle was weak. But then, we get to the worst offense. The final boss. At this point, I'm going, "okay, finally get to see what the hell is happening, because I'm pretty sure even the writers don't know anymore." What had started off as a great psychological thriller became a bland action plot with a generic evil at its center, rather than something actually interesting. And I fight the tornado. And it is surprisingly easy to drop. I figure, there must be more, cause that was godawful. But there isn't.

And it still gets worse. Rather than giving me an end for my $60 game, I end up a godawful cliffhanger, that resolves NOTHING. Then I find out if I want to find out the ending to the game, I have to spend $14 (or $7 per episode) for episodic DLC? Let me preface this section by saying that planned DLC is something I'm generally okay with. It is annoying, but I will accept it if it truly expands the game and more importantly doesn't interfere with the core content. Mass Effect 2 got this right. None of the DLC was necessary and did nothing but resolve questions outside the scope of the main plot and simply expanded the universe. Borderlands got it right, with General Knoxx containing a huge swath of land to explore unrelated to the main game's vault story. Red Dead Redemption gets this right, having the DLC be almost a brand new game. But to have to spend extra money so I can see the end of my game? Screw that. Everyone who had a hand in deciding that should be fired. Alan Wake doesn't have a climax. It builds up to one, and when you pass what you think is the climax (the tornado showdown, which as previously stated, is incredibly anticlimactic), it is revealed that it was not the climax, but rather some weak excuse of a cliffhanger that offers no insight, no resolution and no closure. Then you're told that you can spend some extra cash to finish the game you already bought? Hell no.

It is for these reasons that I did not enjoy Alan Wake. It was a waste of potential, sloppy and unfair to the people who purchased it, with weak gameplay, bland characters and the worst excuse for an ending I have ever played. If you enjoyed it, you're entirely entitled to that opinion, but I have to disagree.

And it is too bad, because the literary allusions really tended to be pretty good. Chapter 2 ends with Haunted, a phenomenal song about House of Leaves, my favorite book.   read

5:04 PM on 09.07.2010

Destructoid Fantasy Football 2010

Much like last year, the DToid Forums are hosting some fantasy football! Our 10 person league is all filled up and drafted, so I decided to make a short blog post showing how awesome we are and the cool things up for grabs this year, and also a bit of info on how our draft went!

I always figured Fantasy Football was pretty much a game. It may fall a bit short of a video game, but it is generally played on computers so... close enough. This year, myself and 9 other people, bbrigg, smurfee_mcgee, ChillyBilly, blehman, Kauza, JT IceFire, WarZombie, norm9 and gatorsax2010 will be put into 1 on 1 confrontation of raw physical and mental skill, as we watch players do things we have no control over and gamble on their success!

What are we gambling? Well someone could win a sweet, familiar looking hat from JT

Some stuff Kauza found in his basement, next to the chained up girls!

Some amazing toys from ChillyBilly including an old school Gameboy!

Or even my own personal PSX copy of Parappa Tha Rappa (with a bonus of FFXIII thrown in for good measure!)

Or pictures of blehmeng's junk!

Who can resist? I know I sure can! Still, last year it was a lot of fun, and the prizes always help keep people from dropping out!

The draft was fun and full of shenanigans, as we Skyped and Drank and told jokes. Mostly at the expense of myself! Doesnt matter, I still got to pick just before Blehmeng and steal all of his players! Good times were had! Now, I will post the first two rounds of our draft for the hell of it!

Round 1: FIGHT

(1) Hollywood Mouse Ears (GatorSax) - Chris Johnson RB
(2) Magic City Skunk Apes (WarZombie) - Adrian Peterson RB
(3) Almost in a box (Smurfee_Mcgee) - Ray Rice RB
(4) Buseyville Buseys (JT_IceFire) - Maurice Jones-Drew RB
(5) Murderville Baby Punchers (bbrigg) - Frank Gore RB
(6) Swamp Donkeys (Kauza) - Steven Jackson RB
(7) Rediculous Taints (ChillyBilly) - Michael Turner RB
(8) Joe Theismann's Leg (norm9) - Drew Brees QB
(9) Jim Sterling's Country Buffet (ArcticFox) - Aaron Rodgers QB
(10) Metro City Moustache (blehmeng) - Andre Johnson WR

Round 2: FIGHT
(11) Metro City Moustache - DeAngelo Williams RB
(12) Jim Sterling's Country Buffet - Shonn Greene RB
(13) Joe Theismann's Leg - Randy Moss WR
(14) Rediculous Taints - Reggie Wayne WR
(15) Swamp Donkeys - Peyton Manning QB
(16) Murderville Baby Punchers - Roddy White WR
(17) Buseyville Buseys - Ryan Grant RB
(18) Almost in a box - Tom Brady QB
(19) Magic City Skunk Apes - Larry Fitzgerald WR
(20) Hollywood Mouse Ears - Cedric Benson RB

I will likely keep this updated throughout the year. Or not.

FOOTBALL!   read

5:53 PM on 06.01.2010

A tour of Chateau ArcticFox

I've been meaning to do this blog for a while. Ever since I moved into my new apartment last summer. But each time, something new was coming out that I knew I'd have have to get. In November it was the Prestige Edition of Modern Warfare Two. In February it was the purchase of a Wii. More recently it was the Giant FFXIII poster that hung in the window of my local game store and the Commander Shepherd cutout. But I could wait no longer. I finally had to make this blog, primarily cause my place is clean and who knows when that will ever happen again.

So without further ado, my setup.

Rocking a 50" HD Rear Projection Hitachi I got off a friend for 200 dollars and copy of Wii Sports Resort. It only goes up to 720P, but I don't mind at all, the thing kicks ass.

I've picked up a number of posters and such over the last couple of years. The MotorStorm thing is actually a bandanna, the Dragon Age real inflatable sword, my PAX East badge signed by Tycho and the Tank which was part of a Battlefield Bad Company 2 promotion, as well as my Vault Boy Bobblehead.

Here you get to see my cheap bookshelves and such. Most of this stuff I will go discuss later. Though the Niko license plate from GTA4 is here because I'm afraid of it getting stolen from my car for being so awesome.

My Resistance Standee was really the first piece of this whole collection. The FFXIII poster, regardless of my thoughts on the actual game (I liked it, but it is not my favorite by far), is one of my favorite things in the room. That Nintendo Poster is actually from the box of my original Nintendo bought in 1989. So I guess that was my REAL first piece.

The Entrance to my tiny kitchen. In case you didn't realize, I love Mass Effect. It is one of my favorite games of all time.

There is the game collection, at least the 360 and PS3 (plus Blu Ray and PSX games)

The Consoles. There you will meet (and I am such a nerd) Teddy from Persona 4, the Blue Knight from Castle Crashers, K.K. Slider from Animal Crossing and Kiba, from the anime Wolf''s Rain. Oh and a 60 gig PSTriple, a Wii, a 360 and my Ace Combat 6 Flight Stick for my 360. There is no better way to play that game.

Ahh yes, my horrendous, yet strangely comfortable couches that were granted to me by my old roommate. Thanks to him I had more cash for games, cause I didnt have to spend it on furnature!

I love my companion cube. Also, NVG from MW2 (they are actually a lot of fun and work too), my Kisuke Urahara hat and a buzzer from MadWorld that makes an impossibly annoying chainsaw noise when pressed.

Finally, the pinnacle of my collection, or at least the thing I love the most , because it is the most personal. At PAX, the lead artist for Shank was doing promotional drawings of his character. My friend had the bright idea to get him to draw Shank killing him. I stole the idea and he ran with it. So that is Shank killing me. It doesn't hurt that the game was also a lot of fun. But yeah, best piece of schwag ever? I consider it so!

A final picture to pull it all together! And there you have it! My gaming setup! Hope you guys and gals like it!   read

2:17 PM on 05.30.2010

Music Matters: Eve Online

Eve Online is monolithic. It is huge in its complexity. It is one of those rare MMO's that has staying power in the face of games like WoW. Eve had always intrigued me, both in its play style and in its progressive nature, to let the players dictate the general atmosphere and path of the game and to turn PVP in to a capitalistic art form. So I gave it a try after hearing that the developer, CCP, was going to make players suffer the consequences of falling for a scam. And I lasted less then a week before being overwhelmed remembering that I dont like the non-active combat of MMO's. And a year later, once again, some new thing that happened in the word caught my eye so I tried again. And lasted about a week. Then, in this past year, I heard about one of the most major in game corporations was toppled through a clever act of in game sabotage. And CCP was going to allow this to continue.

"A game that has consequences," I thought for the third time. But this time, I was going to go in prepared. I was going to do research and figure out how to actually play the game. I decided this time to start doing research. So I browsed the wiki and instead of doing research, I looked at all the cool ship designs and imagined myself piloting them through an asteroid field while attacking pirates. Then I stumbled onto the soundtracks page. And I had an epiphany.

Eve Online might have the single best OST of all time. I love the music of the SMT: Persona series, I love the music of OutRun and Sonic, and there are many other games where the music always gets me. But Eve. Eve's music was different.


Eve's music consists of a unique genre. It is ambient, but the use of percussion and 1980's-esq droning synthesizers (like something out of Blade Runner or Alien) in conjunction with the theme of space exploration paints a vast soundscape. On, I have seen the genre simply called "Space." How appropriate.

But Eve's music isn't just perfect for the game. Again, like Persona, it is listenable in real life. However, while the majority of Persona's soundtrack is good for a sunny day or music while driving, Eve is great for thinking. The songs are relaxing and so far, have gotten me through at least two rounds of finals. They are the perfect study music. Upbeat enough to keep you interested, but subtle and relaxing enough to not be distracting. Seriously, I don't know how I would have survived my finals if it had not been for the Eve Online OST.


So after the spring semester finals, I decided to be proactive. I found out one of my friends has been playing Eve for a while. We hung out, and he literally directed me through the opening tutorial, and further, directed me as to the proper way to level up skills. The gameplay still has a lot to go to grow on me personally, as I need to remember that it is not all about the space combat, but the fact that I know what Im doing, combined with my new found confidence that I will actually be of use to some corporation makes the game much more enjoyable. Having a mentor definitely helps as well, as he got me into a corporation with the expectation of me playing. I'm nearing the end of my free trial, and this time, I think I will stick with the game.

By and large, one of the highlights of being in the game is the contextual music. While exploring space, you end up with relaxing and slower paced songs, and as soon as you hit combat, in comes songs with distortion guitars and harder percussion, as well as more active synth work. It truly speaks to the writing of the music that whatever song is playing seems absolutely perfect for the situation. It was a bit of a wake up call when I first hit combat and heard a song that had been primarily associated with studying come in and kick up the pace while I was destroying some pirates in an initial training mission. Seriously, if you like ambient music at all, or you just want some tracks to chill out to, do yourself a favor, and check out Eve's music. As for me. I will be training my skills in game and trying to earn a legitimate missile boat.

Seriously, check out Eve's music,   read

8:25 PM on 05.21.2010

Music Matters: Persona 3 and Persona 4

We often spend a lot of time playing games. But when we're done, we're done. We move onto the next big thing, occasionally revisiting a particularly beloved title for whatever reason. But recently, I noticed something. The games I remember the fondest are the games with the most memorable music. Everything from Sonic 2 to Metal Gear Solid to games like Mass Effect and Half Life 2. My favorite games have all had one thing in common, and that was a quality score or a definitive soundtrack. I think I'm writing this blog to clarify almost to myself why this seems like such a revelation. Of all the game's who's music I can actually listen to for extended periods of time outside of the gaming environment, five come to mind: Outrun (but really only when I'm driving), Sonic 2, Eve Online (a game I only really started to play, but wow), The World Ends With You and Shin Megami Tensei Persona 3/4.

There are other soundtracks that I love, the scores of Metal Gear Solid and Mass Effect as well as the licensed soundtracks like the shockingly great soundtracks to Gran Turismo 2 and 3. But this blog in particular is more about the games with original, yet still modern, music. And while I understand Mass Effect's is close to this (in particular Eve), it listens like a score, and not like music in the sense I'm discussing.

But the Persona series. The whole game has setting's you revisit over and over again, and so you begin to associate specific songs with specific places. The game manages to drive the songs into your head to help create the mood of whatever setting you're in. A good example of this is in Persona 3. The first time I booted up the game, I had no idea what to expect, other then a dating sim with dungeons. But then you enter the velvet room.


The opening to the Velvet Room, one of the most important places in the Persona universe is one that is pretty ominous, especially when you compile it with Igor, Igor's nose, and Elizabeth, the creepy girl in the elevator attendants dress. But then you hear the music. The music is actually relaxing, it sounds pure and it certainly sounds non-threatening. The same concept is repeated in Persona 4. In 4, a similar situation occurs, except you're in a Limo instead of an elevator. But the same pure music is there to reassure you that Igor isn't going to violate you. He is there to help. It is one of the clues to the series that not everything is as it appears.

At the same time, while a lot of the Persona series deals with Death, the music is often upbeat and relaxing. It does so to reinforce the fact that the player is supposed to be having fun while trying to solve the mysteries of the game, and it also reinforces the social links aspect, as a lot of the more relaxing tunes are often played during time spent with your in game friends. It sets an amazing tone to play to, and carries over into the real world where I can actually listen to the soundtrack to relax. A lot of the music from the Persona soundtrack is actually on my sunny day play list, which is exclusively for sunny day driving. I think the surprisingly relaxing tracks also help balance out the game world from the crazy shadow world. It present's a nice dichotomy and allows the player to remember that they’re not always dungeon crawling in this game. The names of the relaxing songs also seem to reinforce the way the game is meant to be played. Signs of Love, Like a Dream Come True, Youthful Lunch, etc. are all tunes that (while cheesily named) are all Jazzy and relaxing and serve to remind the player that they're there to have fun with their in game friends, and not just grind. Again though, this carries over to the Real World, where I can listen to these songs after a hard day, and not only reminisce about the awesome times I've had playing these games, but also hear the jazz and relax a bit.


What is interesting, is that Persona also manages to have some of the best "dark" music. The music of the dungeons are all upbeat, stressing the urgency of each floor. The Persona series is always timed. You only have a certain amount of days to get to a certain point, and so each dungeon has more rapid paced music. One thing that 4 does better then 3 is that the music to each specific dungeon is perfectly tailored to the that dungeon. In Persona 4, the dungeons represent a specific character's soul. And as such the music is perfectly matched to the setting. From the 8bit-esq techno of the Game Dungeon (literally an old school 8 bit castle) to the thumping beats of another character's setting as a strip club, the soundtrack is perfectly matched. It just speaks volumes to the time and effort put into the game and it's music.

It is not just the game play that makes a game last to me. I love music in most of it's forums, but Persona is one of those series where the game's regularly cross the boundary into Music that can be listened to outside of a gaming environment. I think that is why it has stuck with me for so long. The music helped evolve the game into something longer lasting (not to say the game's are really all that transient, but the music can be listened to anywhere). It is part of the reason I love Atlus for providing the soundtrack for the game, because the music has transcend the game for me. It has become worthy of praise on it's own merits, but still fits the game perfectly. I think that any soundtrack that can reach that status, at least in my head, reflects something about the game as well. If the original soundtrack is so damn good, then it reflects positively on the game. A great soundtrack doesn't make a game great, but it can certainly help.   read

11:15 AM on 03.31.2010

Live Vicariously Through Me: PAX East – The Lead up and Friday

I’m back in the real world now. While that sucks, I still have the memories of the amazing times I had at PAX East in Boston this year. I figured the best thing I could do is share some of the awesome times I had, much like NikMonroe did. Though I’m not British, so there will be a severe lack of words like Queue or Bollocks. Sorry in advance for that. That said, here is my life on Thursday and Friday, the lead up to, and the first day of the very first PAX East


Thursday was the drive up day. I woke up at 8:00 and got ready for my day of classes, with the single-minded thought process that only comes with the knowledge that the weekend will be awesome. I floated through my day, from my Tax class at 9:15 through my last one, which ended a bit late at 4:00PM. Then, it was off. I bee-lined towards my friends place, only stopping to get my bag and swap out my law texts for my DS, PSP and Kindle and some select games. Then, I snagged my two friends Casey and Nate, and after a short detour to Wawa for Snacks, we burned out of Philadelphia and were off to PAX East!

The drive itself was uneventful, save a long trip down US1 in Jersey and a minor detour through New York when my iPhone’s GPS decided to send us Through NYC rather then around it. But luckily we missed the worst of the traffic and it was smooth sailing up to Boston.

After good conversation, good music, and in Nate’s case, good Castlevania, we were finally at our hotel in Boston, and I was ready to head to the Publik House to meet with Nik, Jon_Bloodspray, Kauza and others. Unfortunately, by this time, it was already 11:30 at night, and as it turns out, my Co-Pilot and First mate set the GPS for the wrong Hotel, and we had to drive another half hour around Boston to get to our real hotel, the Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge. By that time, we met up with some of our old college friends, and after hearing from Bloodspray that Public House never happened, we decided to head out for a bar on our own. After a drink and some good conversation, it was time to go to sleep; after all, the con was the next day!


After sleeping in a bit until about 11, we excitedly got up and got ready in a hurry. We then proceeded to get lost, and ended up on the Red Line, as one of our friends thought it was at the Boston Convention center, which is off the Red Line. After realizing our mistake, and preventing him from leading for the rest of the day, we made it to the convention at the perfect time; just as they were letting people in. so it all worked out.

Everyone was really excited, and after a little bit of waiting inside, they finally opened up the show floor. We grabbed our convention bags and pretty much ran through the lines they set up. Then, we finally got up stairs and were able to enter the main attraction; the convention floor. It was a pretty easy decision to not stand in the hour plus lines for just about each game, and we wandered around in a happy daze just taking everything in for about an hour. We made mental notes of what to play, and really only stood in line for the shorter games, intending to make the most of our time at PAX. We intentionally missed the keynote, as unfortunate it was, because we heard that the lines filled up courtesy of Twitter.

As we were wandering, we determined that it would be prudent to try to get in touch with as many people as possible, and while the cell networks were down, Twitter on my iPhone still seemed to work, and I was able to finally talk to Kauza, Bloodspray and my old college roommate, none of who I couldn’t miss hanging out with. After checking out Behemoth’s new game Battle Block theater (it looks awesome), playing some PS3 Castle Crashers (it’s awesome, but, you knew that) and buying myself my very own Blue Castle Crasher’s Knight.

Following that, I stumbled upon the game Shank, which would later become my Game of the Show (spoilers!). We watched the ultraviolent Venture Bros. style game for a bit, but the line was too long already. Red Dead was considered until we noticed that that too already had over an hour wait to play. Then it was on to see that Puzzle Quest 2 looks amazing, primarily because it is basically Puzzle Quest 1 with Purple mana, usable weapons and no more coins or exp gems. I thanked them for not making the mistakes they made with Galactrix, got some gem pins and rolled on to see the rest of the show.

We stopped to mess with Pokewalkers at the Nintendo booth, got impressed that the DSi XL’s screen actually looks pretty good upscaled and got some Pokemon Gym Bags. Then it was next door to try the new shooter Brink, which some douchebag would later try to steal. I enjoyed it. I didn’t like the health system, but the deformation was pretty awesome. Then we moved onto the other side of the convention hall.

We danced with Mega 64 for a second, laughed at the tiny Sega booth and the giant line for Rooster Teeth and randomly ran into JTIcefire. Then it was time for the first real stunner. While cruising through the NVIDIA booth, we stopped to check out the 3D gaming. I tried out some Need for Speed: Shift while wearing their 3D glasses. It was amazing. No headache, just really eye-popping graphics. It was admittedly pretty unnecessary, but it still looked wholly awesome. It should be noted that for two hours around this point, and further, until about 8, I had been trying to meet up and hang out with Jon_Bloodspray and Kauza.

By that point, we had at least peeked at just about all the booths and had the gist of the show so we decided to move on. After NVIDIA, it was time to meet up with some DToiders, and I finally ran into Jon_Bloodspray. We chatted it up and ran around the floor, marveling at things such as the giantess dressed up as Bayonetta and the size (for better or worse) of the expo floor. After hanging out with Bloodspray for a while, my group of friends and I decided to chill out in the third floor handheld lounge for about an hour to kind of take the edge off, and hang out with my new friends. We then spent some time looking at the show schedule and planning out the rest of the weekend before meeting up with even more friends, and heading to food court at the mall next door to get some food.

At 6:15, I flew out of there in order to head back to see a twitter panel that none of my friends wanted to see (I don’t know why!?). I went less cause I cared about Twitter, and more because I was curious what the panelists had to say. The Panelists were Major Nelson from XBL, FourZeroTwo from Infinity Ward and MacheteBetty from XBL Support. They were all really interesting, and MacheteBetty started things off with a redone version of the Portal Ending Theme, discussing banning and helping. It was actually pretty funny, and damn creative. After the song, the questions began. Of course the first question was directed at 402. Now I must preface that I liked MW2, I enjoy the MP and play it with the same group of friends nightly. I do have complaints, but this blog isn’t the forum for that. Anyway, the kid gets up, and proceeds to introduce himself, the shitty podcast that no one cares about that he is a member of, and then launches into a 2 minute tirade against 402, Infinity Ward, Activision and Modern Warfare 2. Essentially it boiled down to (and I am paraphrasing): “How do you respond to my accusation that MW2 boils down to a bunch of hacks, cheaters and gameplay decisions that I don’t personally Agree with, and that it is inferior to other games.” He asked this to a number of cheers, but far more boos. Even those who agreed with his basic assertion were pissed at his blatant rudeness. Fourzerotwo to his credit never flinched and calmly responded “Everyone has their own opinions, what games are you saying we’re inferior to?” The kids response lost him all credibility “World at War (acceptable comparison) and Quantum of Solace (sorry, no).” This got him booed by everyone in the room. Fourzerotwo responded that 25 million people around the world seemed to disagree with him, and that the feedback he generally receives is mostly positive, with minor complaints. Then he proceeded to tell how his Twitter feed was great because he heard about glitches like the Javelin Glitch as soon as it was discovered and got it to the engineers to begin working on a patch immediately. The rest of the panel was pretty uneventful, with a lot more insight into how Twitter is an incredible rapid response service to technology issues (And if anything, the Xbox Support team’s overdrive on Tuesday is proof of that). The panel ended with a comment from a random person, quoting Wil Whedon, directed to the face of the kid who asked the first question: “Don’t be a dick.”

When I left the panel, I wanted to see the next one there, on Girls in Games, but the panel was full, and I was forced out of the room, so I didn’t get to see MolotovCupcake speak. Still, it was dinner time, so I met up with my friends to see what they were doing. They were planning on eating at some place that wasn’t Uno, so I told them I would see them later and I left all of them to go to Pizzeria Uno to meet with DTOID. After wandering around outside looking for everyone, I finally met up with Kauza and Walkyourpath, and shortly thereafter Icarus, a friend of his (Scribbler, nicknames are easier to remember then real names), Bloodspray, JTIcefire, NikMonroe, Samit and his Yankees Hat (a Brave Soul), as well as MANY others. We hung out, had some beers, ate some soups/appetizers and generally had an amazing time.

Then Hamza showed up after bailing on the Frag Dolls party, because as he said, he loves his community, lamentably even more then the Frag Dolls. He showed up with Seth Keegan from Capcom, who was in an awesome state. Bloodspray got into an argument with the Seth and I about the original Street Fighter, and won (thanks to Wikipedia classifying the game as a fighter, and not a brawler, which I thought it was). Then, while arguing over the check with Hamza, Seth decided it would be a good idea to blow bubbles in the remainder of his sauce. So I can now say that I saw Seth Keegan blow sauce bubbles. Hamza did a slow-motion Facepalm and the rest of us who saw it laughed our asses off. This kind of awesome can only at PAX.

After we wrapped things up at Uno, I went and chilled with Icarus and Bloodspray for a couple more hours and shared stories of fun and amazement. As I was heading out in the lobby to get back to my hotel room in Cambridge, Bloodspray (who was heading out for a smoke) and I ran into a group of four nerds playing an obscure card game (I believe it was Munchkin), because as they said, Settlers of Catan was to mainstream, and they needed to do something as they waited for the Pizza they ordered at 3AM. The people at PAX were all awesome. It was so excellent meeting everyone, and hopefully even MORE people will come out for the next one! I already know that I will be back for more next year, and I will try to get to PAX West as well! I had the time of my life and maybe I will sum up Saturday and Sunday in a follow-up Blog!   read

1:50 PM on 03.12.2010


Ninetales (キュウコン, Kyūkon?), known as the Fox Pokémon, is a yellow nine-tailed fox, based on the kitsune, a Japanese fox spirit. The Kyūbi (九尾?), which held similar powers such as shapeshifting, were the main inspiration for the Pokémon. Ninetale's name was derived from the number of its tails, nine, and the fact that the idea for it came primarily from ancient Japanese tales. This fox-like Pokémon is covered with a thick, luxurious golden-white fur, with a fluffy crest atop their heads and a similar ruff around their necks. Ninetales have gleaming red eyes that are said to give them the power of mind control. Its nine different tails hold strange, cosmic powers, that let it live for 1,000 years, Ninetales are highly intelligent Pokémon that understand human speech. They are very vengeful and have been known to curse those who mistreat them for 1000 years. Many legends surround this Pokémon, one of which stating that Ninetales was born when 9 saints were united and reincarnated as this Pokémon.

Ninetales is one of the few Pokémon to appear in all the current generations of Pokémon games, by evolving from a Vulpix, which is available in every region. In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Ninetales cast a curse on a human that would turn it into a Pokémon, bringing on many natural disasters. The player is blamed for this and travels to the home of Ninetales at the top of Mt. Freeze to learn the truth. Ninetales later appears when Gengar wishes to right what he did to Gardevoir.

Ninetails first appeared in the anime in Beauty and the Breeder. A friend of Suzy named Zane had a Ninetales and used it in a Pokémon breeding contest. In Just Waiting On A Friend, a very old Ninetales befriended Brock, who bore a resemblance to her long lost master. This Ninetales created all sorts of illusions, including one of a woman through which it spoke. Many other Ninetails have made minor appearances such as one being used by Blaine to battle Ash in their Gym battle. In the Pokémon Adventures manga, Red and Blue both tried catching the same Ninetales. In the scuffle for its Poké Ball, Blue managed to grab it first. Magma Admin Courtney uses a Ninetales as her main battler. In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Ginji's Rescue Team, the curse that Ninetales can conjure is one of the main points of the plot.

Ninetales has had generally positive reception. IGN called Ninetales "one heck of a Pokemon that too many people tend to overlook" and a surprise "bombshell-dropper". The reviewer continued, exaggerating that Ninetales may be "considered the new god of all that is holy." The Capital Times concurred that Ninetales was "particularly powerful". However, IGN also noted that the character served little purpose until later games beyond looking attractive. Many reviewers have commented on the perceived aesthetic beauty of Ninetales. IGN claimed that, while Ninetales may not be as cute as other Pokémon in the series, it makes up for this with sheer beauty. Another noted Ninetales primarily for its visual appeal. Several sources have commented on Ninetale's name, with various reporters calling it "whimsical" and "fanciful". Another IGN reviewer expressed a particular fondness for Ninetales, calling it "elegant".

It is at this point when I get to call Jim Sterling a lair and a sinner. For as awesome as Ekans, is, there is no denying the raw power that Ninetails exhibits. Seriously, read that again. Ninetails cursed the damn player, just for pissing it off.

For further proof, just look at how IGN loved Ninetails. "Elegant" and "considered the new god of all that is holy." Not even Gyrados or Snorlax can lay claim to that. They probably would have also used fucking awesome, but Ninetails isn't cool with getting them fired for cursing in their articles. I will stress that Ninetails gets a 9 rating not because Ninetails deserves a 9 (Ninetails understands it should be turned up to 11 on the review scale), but because Ninetails wanted a 9 for Symmetry and beauty. Ninetails: Fuck Yeah.   read

2:17 PM on 05.25.2009

A personal favorite: a tribute to Metropolis Zone

There is tons of great music out there these days. No matter what you like there will be a song to define your day, your mood or even your life. There are even awesome power metal remakes. But none of those songs compare to the awesome that is Metropolis Zone. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 has always stood out for me as having the best soundtrack during the 16 bit era. Sure Megaman was great, of course Castlevania was up there, and who can forget the tunes for Super Mario World or the Opera from Final Fantasy VI, or whatever the hell it was here in the states.


These games all have great soundtracks, but Sonic 2 stands out for having so many great tunes. From the jazzy sounds of Casino Night, to the quirky and menacing tones of Oil Ocean, every level had it's own unique feel, not just due to the design, as all the levels were brightly colored and full of spikes and floating platforms. No, it was the music that really made each stage come alive. However, one track, one track amongst all stood out.


Metropolis Zone's music was the best. The offset scratch, the epic bouncing bass rhythem and that amazing wailing guitar in the background, all culminating in a frenzied chorus. It was the only stage so epic that it got THREE acts. It was the toughest stage by far, filled with impressively annoying enemies who were placed ready to fire just off screen and at the edge of cliffs, ready to knock you off to your doom and steal all of your rings. Metropolis zone was the industrial stage. It was the stage Trent Reznor would make if he had a fascination with the color green and with annoying screws and starfish. But really, Metropolis Zone is more than just green tinted awesome with great music. It is an excuse to post the following video:


That's right, Michael Jackson mixed into Metropolis Zone. I cant tell if this is the greatest or worst thing ever, but I don't care, it's awe inspiring nonetheless.

Metropolis Zone is essentially the night cap, the climax of the game. After this, up is the only way to go, with Sky Chase, Wing Fortress and Death Egg Zones being the only things standing between you and the end game. But the music for Metropolis stands out as the best in the game.

These days, a lot of music has gone orchestral, but maybe that's why I love Atlus, those guys currently hold the banner up for excellence in original game music, and if you dont believe me, check out the Persona soundtracks for some of the best Jazz based game music ever. And one final thing, the only song(s) to actually rival the amazingness that was Metropolis Zone in the 16 bit era was in Sonic and Knuckles, and they are called Lava Reef Zone, Act's One and Two (cause theyre so awesome, they get two different songs, each of which are amazing.



(I like Act two a little more, though it is no Metropolis Zone)

I know Im not the only one who loves these songs, what do you guys think?   read

11:36 AM on 04.01.2009

Game of the Millenium: Metal Wolf Chaos


That's right boys and girls. The Vice President has taken over the country with military might. Only one person can stop him! THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and his 1337 secret special forces suit of power armor.

Metal Wolf Chaos is not just a classic XBox game that the majority of you have never heard of, its actually the BEST game you've never heard of. In fact, I think it is so best, that it deserves not just Game of the Year 2004, but it deserves game of the year for every year SINCE, since no game has come CLOSE to its Raw Sex appeal. It's better then Oblivion, Eat Lead, Super Mario Galaxy, Killzone 2, Call of Duty 4, Rad Racer, Ridge Racer 4, The Sony PSP, Final Fantasy VII, Cooking Momma, Commandos, Jagged Alliance 2, Giants; Citizen Kabuto, Black and White, Majoras Mask, Metal Gear Solid, Left 4 Dead, Ryu, Blanka, E. Honda, Boba Fett, Laura Croft and even Qbert.


I hereby declare this game best game ever! This games so awesome I dont even think it would play on a 360. THATS RIGHT, it pushed the original XBox so far past it's limits, it broke a 360. You cant compete with the awesome that is Metal Wolf Chaos.

The only way this game should EVER lose GotM is to a NEXT GEN SEQUEL, starring Barak Obama and Shaq. I know, I know, it's been rumored, but until we get concrete news, Metal Wolf Chaos will have to remain the best game ever.   read

12:24 PM on 03.06.2009

Simplicity lost: a Puzzle Quest: Galactrix non-review

Like many others here at DToid, I was really looking forward to Puzzle Quest: Galactrix. Having played the PC demo, I was enjoying things like a fairer combat system, a sci fi story, more characters and more addictive gameplay. I played the hell out of the first Puzzle Quest on the PSP despite the party glitch. I considered buying it for my iPhone and XBLA. I literally did everything I could in the PSP version, captured every enemy I could, trained every mount. I was seeing those little gems and skulls in my sleep. Then I tried the PQ:G demo when it dropped on PC. I was enthralled. I actually liked the demo, it felt different, but it also felt like because of the gravity system, it'd be easier to trick the AI away from cheating, and in the demo, it certainly felt like this was the case.

Of course Day One rolls around and I sacrifice 30 or so dollars of my hard earned cash to pick it up. It was pretty much a hold over until Killzone 2 dropped later that week, but if it was anything like the first Puzzle Quest, it might have even distracted me from that game. That... wasn't the case. I opened the game and popped it in my DS. And I played for about an hour, not really having any fun the entire time.
"Its Okay," I told myself. Tutorial stages are always a pain in the ass. Then it gives me three crew members I dont have to earn. Well, thats interesting, as in the first Puzzle Quest, very few members were actually just given to me. The thing is, the actual board of Galactrix just isn't very fun, due to it reliance more on luck and random chance then any semblance of strategy, so all the mini games are a lot less fun when you have no control over a gem that could fall from one of six sides, depending on a random cascade.

See the board itself, hexagonal in shape is at the core of the problem in Puzzle Quest: Glactrix. I get the zero gravity fighting thing, it just doesnt work for a game like puzzle quest, as it paradoxically takes out much of the strategy while replacing that with a lot of random luck, yet at the same time remains too complicated for me to pick the game up and play it casually to relax after a long session of Killzone 2 or Left 4 Dead. The over complication of the core concept is what bothers me the most. I hate to use the term casual, but Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is what Casual gaming was to me. Not the Wii, but chilling out with the simplicity of number 1, where everything was made obvious and everything was simple and spelled out for me, but the fights still required a bit of thinking and strategy, with only a bit of blind luck. Ok a lt of luck, but strategy certainly played more into it then it does in Galactrix. The fact that a 4 of a kind does not get me another turn bothers me as well, as that was a large part of the strategy of PQ1, you were always looking for a 4 of a kind, while trying to prevent moves that gave your opponent one. Sure the AI cheated in the first game, but its just as bad in this one. I've watched the AI purposely miss a 5 of a kind in order to get a supernova which included 3 bomb chains and created a separate 5 of a kind, of bombs. I died in 3 moves that round and almost punched my DS in it's face. And this was in a random encounter. Only Lord Bane pulled that kind of BS in the first game, and I hate him perhapse more then any other gaming end boss. Really.

But it's not just the game board which over-complicates the game. I know Conrad complained about this as well, but the map is a mess. It not just that it's a chore (like actual work, as opposed to fun) to hack a leapgate, but the actual setup of the map on the DS sucks. And then when you get to a system, you find that there is the same 3 or 4 objects in each system and none of them have a STORE. Crafting weapons sucks. You have to buy or find plans, then you have to mine an asteroid for minerals and technology and the like. Then you have to go to a planet that allows you to craft a ship component. And only then can you equip the thing. I would have been fine with missing out on the item crafting mini game, which is not hard and is not fun and like much of the other game is a chore (and a bore) more then anything. The early game, before you get the shield matrix that allows you to get a bit of your shields back is a royal pain in the ass. I felt like the game was forcing me into taking some side quests to grind.

Basically I really, really want to love this game, but it is hard going. But every time I have to hack a leapgate or mine an asteroid I hate the game a little more. It's almost as if the game doesn't want me to progress and does everything it can to stop me. Actually fighting the ships can be fun, but not enough to make me continue slugging through the monotonous tasks that they've given me to do before I can get to a ship to fight. Its not that I hate complication or luck based games (hell, I love games like Culdcept Saga and Valkyria Chronicles). All said, Im 8-10 hours into the game, and I think I'm done. Instead of torturing myself with this game, I've already started playing the first game again and have been enjoying it again. Its too bad really, and if Infinite Interactive can return the concept to the beautiful simplicity of the original PQ, then I will pick up their next game. I don't mind grinding, but I mind it when I do it and it doesn't feel rewarding or fun. So, sorry Galactrix, but I'm done with you.   read

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