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10:52 PM on 06.26.2013

My Gaming Story: LAN Parties With My Dad

My gaming story does not begin with an Atari, or Nintendo, or Sega, or any other console for that matter. It does not begin with text adventures, MUDs, or point-and-click adventure games on the PC, either. It doesn't even begin with a Game Boy. It begins with my dad and a little RTS called Total Annihilation.

When TA came out in 1997, I was six years old. I used to love spending time just watching my dad playing computer games, shouting out what I'm sure must have been very sage advice like "Make a Krogoth! Make a Krogoth!" If he played any other games at the time, I can't remember anymore. None of them mattered as much as the one where he would build ridiculously large armies of giant robots and send them in against the AI's ridiculously large armies of giant robots.


A couple years later, Unreal Tournament came out. Around this time, I think, was when I started playing games myself on our other PC. The only two games I played were Total Annihilation and Unreal Tournament, and I never got bored with them. I also didn't get to play very often, instead watching the Discovery Channel or reading books or magazines about science; I was a very nerdy child.

When I actually started to love gaming was when I started playing those two games with other people. My dad worked with a bunch of other techies at some place where they did techy stuff with computers (my memory is rather fuzzy on this), and every Friday he would pack up his PC and monitor and take everything back to his workplace to have a LAN party with his coworkers until very late at night.

I still remember the first time I got to join him at one of these. I was so excited I'm pretty sure I was visibly bouncing up and down. I was going to get to play with other people! I was the weird nerd kid with no friends. Even if I had had friends, everyone else was playing Nintendo, so I wouldn't have had anyone to play with anyway, so this was a first for me.

I helped my dad pack up the family PC, he packed what our family referred to as his "frankenmachine," we piled it all into the back of his Nissan 240SX, and we were off. I even got to ride in the front seat! So cool!

I loved my dad's little 240.

When we got there, I got to meet some of his co-workers, none of whom seemed to mind me being there, which in hindsight is pretty awesome. I let my dad set up the computers because I had no clue what was going on in that mess of cables behind the computer, made even messier with the presence of giant network cables stretching from desk to desk to desk. Meanwhile, I got some snacks and something to drink. I'm pretty sure I talked at length to anyone who would listen just how awesome Total Annihilation was.

After some time, I started my first match of TA multiplayer. I knew I was good at the game from my hours and hours of playing it on easy, with a massive resource handicap, and with the entire map and all units on it revealed. I had never lost a match before, so I was going to be great!

I wasn't. I lasted half an hour maximum before what seemed to be a thousand tanks rolled straight through my base, demolishing everything in their path. That night, I learned the meaning of the word "humility".

Next up was Unreal Tournament, which I did significantly better at, even playing on maps I had never seen in the base game. I didn't win, but I had a lot of fun. All of the little tricks I had learned to confound the AI bots didn't work anymore, so I had to improvise, and the sense of accomplishment whenever I actually did frag somebody was amazing.

The sniper rifle was so OP. CTF Face was just a headshot monster kill waiting to happen.

I played UT for the rest of the night, until I got really sleepy shortly after midnight. I took a nap on a couch and woke up the next morning in my bed. We went to those LAN parties often together, and every time I would fall asleep there, only to end up in my bed at home the next morning. Those are my fondest memories of my dad, and my fondest memories of gaming.

These days, we don't get much time to play together due to our conflicting work schedules, but we still find time to jump into Borderlands or Supreme Commander every now and then. And yes, we're both anxiously awaiting Planetary Annihilation.   read

10:42 PM on 06.24.2013

NVGR: Shopping Etiquette

I work at my local Target store as a cart attendant. It's a menial job involving bringing shopping carts into the store from the parking lot, cleaning restrooms, changing trash, helping 'guests' to their cars with large heavy items, and generally being the store gofer. I might make it sound bad, but at least I get to spend time out in the open air and a variety of tasks keeps me from getting bored.

With that out of the way, I would like to offer some general tips on how not to be a horrible person when you're shopping. Because apparently there's some confusion among the general public.

First of all, if you pick an item off a shelf and later decide you don't want it, do not put it on another shelf. Either put it back where you got it, or hand it to the cashier when you get to the registers and tell them you decided against getting it.

When you take an item of clothing off of a rack, look at it, and decide against it, the correct thing to do is to put it back. Do not just drop it on the floor. Do not toss it behind your back. Do not throw it into another section of the store.

Stop signs still count, even when they're in a parking lot. No, you are not above the law just because you really really need to buy a lawn chair and the store is about to close.

When you've loaded up your car, do not drive away and leave your shopping cart in the middle of the road, or a parking space. Doing so inconveniences everyone else and makes you an asshole.

Shopping carts are not your personal trash can. Do not leave empty beer bottles, dirty diapers, half-drunk ICEE cups, child car seat boxes, boxes of old decrepit baseballs, religious pamphlets, hubcaps, car floor mats, used hypodermic needles, used condoms, used tampons, barf bags, dirty underwear, old tires, or any kind of dead animal in a shopping cart.

When using the restroom, poop goes in the toilet. Some inappropriate locations to defecate include the floor, the sink, the mirror, the urinal, the toilet paper dispenser, or the outside of the toilet. For you women out there, toilet paper goes in the toilet. The floor is not the correct place for toilet paper. If you for any reason make a mess in the restroom, just tell the staff that there's a mess. You don't even need to tell them you did it!

I hope that clears some things up. Yes, I know it doesn't have much to do with gaming, hence the off-topic tag. I hope it's not too off-topic. If it is, please say so, and I'll hide it. (I actually did look at the FAQ and didn't really see anything about posting non-gaming related blogs)   read

4:46 AM on 03.26.2013

Defending the Assassin's Creed Games

I recently finished Assassin's Creed III, and I thought I'd take a few minutes to share what I liked most about each of the past AC games. Nothing special, just thought I'd post something positive on Destructoid for once. There's far too much negativity out there these days; a newcomer could be forgiven for reading all the comments and thinking none of us actually enjoy playing video games.

Assassin's Creed (2007)

The first game in the series lacked a lot of features they added in the later games, but it did have one advantage over the rest: planning out each of your kills. I loved completing all of the investigatory missions, using the information I had gleaned to lay out a plan of attack, and plan an escape route passing by citizens I'd saved, before finally heading out to kill each Templar. It's something I've never seen in any other games, really. I would love this sort of gameplay to return to the series.

Assassin's Creed II (2009)

The second game added an economy, which made the game world feel much more alive. However, what sets it apart from the later games, I feel, is the presence of Leonardo da Vinci. Using his inventions made the game feel more interesting to me, because I've always been a fan of speculative fiction.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (2010)

The third game's biggest improvement was the main enemy, Cesare Borgia. He's the kind of character I love to hate. In comparison, I can't remember any of the targets from the first, second, or fourth games. Also, Renaissance Rome was more fun to explore than any of the other cities, simply because it had more landmarks that I was able to recognize (of course, other people may feel differently).

Assassin's Creed: Revelations (2011)

Revelations had three high points for me. The mission where you have to protect Suleiman without him knowing while you are dressed as a bard, poorly singing tales of Ezio's past achievements to distract the guests while your comrades take out Templars was amazing. The ending was actually a happy ending with finality. It actually made me smile to realize Ezio got a "happily ever after," which is unusual in video games. Also, Ezio is like sixty years old in Revelations and is still the deadliest guy in Europe. The entire game was like Red where you play as Bruce Willis.

Assassin's Creed III (2012)

The best part of the latest game is the revamped combat system. No more waiting to counter, not to mention having to deal with enemies shooting at you by using human shields. Combat simply felt more, for lack of a better word, kinetic. That said, it's still my least favorite of the series.   read

7:26 PM on 03.16.2013

Rant about Mobile Games and the State of the Industry

So, I've noticed a lot of negativity about the video games industry in general, especially here on Destructoid. A lot of commenters enthusiastically responding to news of falling sales figures, cynical views of developers and publishers, that sort of thing. I've read countless articles and opinion pieces all over the internet about how console gaming is going away because people are switching to mobile games and browser games (take the NY Times' write-up on the Playstation 4 announcement for example).

I'm not refuting the fact that the industry is in decline in terms of money made. Figures and statistics are figures and statistics, and to argue with them is to argue with mathematics. I'm also not saying that I am pleased with publishers like EA and Activision/Blizzard. Some corporations in gaming have simply become cartoonishly evil caricatures, and when I picture their CEOs in my mind they look like male versions of Mom from Futurama.

Pictured: Bobby Kotick

However, there are some things I feel like I need to put out there. Screaming out my window about it would probably not be very productive, or appreciated by my neighbors, so I've opted to write a blog about them.

If you read the article I linked from NY Times, granted not exactly the first place I go to for any kind of tech news, you probably got the feeling that its writers weren't exactly gamers. Two passages in particular nauseate and confuse me, including this one:

[i]"...These and other new features cannot hide the fact that PlayStation 4 is still a console, a way of playing games on compact discs that was cool when cellphones were not smart.

Much of the excitement in video games has shifted to the Web and mobile devices, which are cheap, easy and fast."[/i]

I don't know anyone who thinks that there is really any comparison to be made between mobile games like "Angry Birds: Basically the Same Game as Before but with New Cute Sprites" and browser games like "BoringVille: Sending Annoying Invites to Your Friends is Now a Gameplay Mechanic" with full PC/console titles, or even games on dedicated mobile platforms like the 3DS or Vita. Yes, they're cheap, but I get more entertainment for the same price from eating a sandwich. I've installed a number of games to my phone, only to delete them to make room for music after noticing just how badly phone games still suck.

Who thought this was a good idea? Who?

With all that said, I think one of the reasons the industry as a whole is selling less games and less units is simply because the Wii fad is over. I mean no offense to Wii owners, but most casual gamers were only drawn to the Wii because of the novelty of motion control. Now the novelty has worn off, they don't really care anymore. Eventually, the novelty of smartphone time-wasters will wear off, too, at least for the most part.

People are still going to want to play real games, with stories, depth of gameplay, decent graphics, and actual content. Just because YouTube exists doesn't mean people won't still pay to watch TV shows and movies.

Looking at a recent decline in sales of console games and an increase in mobile game sales is not necessarily representative of what gaming will be like in a year or two. Statistics cannot always be extrapolated.

From XKCD, my favorite webcomic

On a slightly unrelated note, I don't think I've ever seen an actual hands-on kiosk of the WiiU in any store. One where you can actually play demos of actual games, instead of watching trailers and looking at screenshots. I work at Target, and I know we don't have one. A hands-on demo kiosk for the PlayStation Vita got me to buy one when I was just curious about it. It seems silly, but the WiiU's sales would probably be less crappy if they actually tried selling them.   read

9:01 AM on 12.08.2009

Rock Band isn't about make believe.

There are a lot of people who hate Rock Band and Guitar Hero, for one reason or another. Phrases like "learn to play a real instrument," "stupid plastic instruments," and "when will this fad be over," are constantly thrown around. Some people even complain about their favorite bands "selling out". I'm here to say that, at least for me, Rock Band is not about playing make believe and pretending to be a real rock star.

The first and most common complaint I've seen, especially on YouTube, is deriding people who are good at the games and telling them to learn to play a real instrument. Many of the people who are really good at the game, like YouTube users guitarherophenom and IBitePrettyHard, actually already do play real instruments, and quite well. Other people, like me, don't care about making music. If I wanted to learn to make real music, I would learn how to play the guitar for real. You'd have to be a complete dumbfuck to think that playing Guitar Hero is anything like playing a real guitar (Nobody does. At least I hope nobody does. People's stupidity has surprised me before, though.).

For me, the appeal of Rock Band is in skill progression. Rock Band and Guitar Hero are the only games I have ever played where I actually got noticeably better over time. I started out playing Guitar Hero III at a friend's house in the summer of 2008. I played on easy and missed about a third of the notes. I kept going over to play the game (he lived across the street from me), and eventually I was able to play on medium, then hard. Then, at the very beginning of this year, I moved away, getting my own copy of Rock Band 2 with a guitar and drums as a late Christmas present. By the end of this summer I had beaten Green Grass and High Tides and Painkiller on expert guitar, things which I wouldn't have stood a whelk's chance in a supernova of doing a year before.

No other game has ever done that for me. Playing something like Call of Duty 4 on veteran difficulty wasn't really challenging to me. Tedious, but not challenging. I had gained nothing in the way of actual skill by the time I had finished it. My aim was no more accurate, my reflexes no quicker than when I had started the game. The only reward was the ability to say that I beat the game on Veteran. Something I probably could have done when I was ten if I had had a strategy guide. Whoop-de-fucking-doo. It just felt like a complete waste of my time.

With Rock Band, it was really easy to notice how much better I got. My ability to process the notes coming down the screen got better and better with practice, as did my fingers' ability to hit the buttons in time. I learned tricks like anchoring my index finger on the green for songs like Painkiller, Panic Attack, and Get Clean.

I've noticed a lot of people talking very favorably about Demon's Souls' difficulty. Specifically, about how it encourages the player to keep going despite the immense difficulty, how it's always fair, how rewarding it is to advance, and how you actually get better at the game by the time you finish it. Every single one of those perfectly describes Rock Band.

My sense of rhythm improved drastically. I listened to music differently, hearing each instrument track as a separate entity. The game introduced me to Metallica, who I had previously thought to be terrible. Now they're one of my favorite bands. I gained new respect for AC/DC after playing through a few of their songs (they're my second favorite band now, after Pink Floyd). In general, I grew to love music even more than I had before, and the music I listen to is of a much wider variety, directly because of music games. Now, I'm even thinking of getting a real drum set and learning how to play for real.

I guess the point of this post is that, if you're put off by RB/GH because you think it's only about make believe, then there's a different way of looking at it and a completely different appeal. Also, if you like difficulty and feeling rewarded, then there is nothing more rewarding in my experience than finally beating a song like Battery or Green Grass and High Tides on expert difficulty. Nothing.   read

1:40 PM on 11.06.2009

A Ridiculous Game Idea

I recently had to do an assignment for my video game design course where I had to come up with an idea for a vehicle-based game. What follows is the result.

My vehicle game is a sort of arcade mech combat game. Players take control of giant mechanical war mechs in the likenesses of figures from classic literature (i.e. robo-Okonkwo, robo-Huckleberry Finn, robo-Dr. Frankenstein, robo-Lenny, robo-Beowulf, robo-Macbeth, robo-Winston Smith, robo-Odysseus, robo-Jabberwocky, etc.) and fight each other with lasers, rockets, melee, and other weaponry commonly associated with war mechs. The game has no story mode, instead focusing solely on multiplayer and skirmishes. The game also has no real setting, instead having various themed arenas where up to eight characters can fight in team battles or deathmatches. Each arena reflects a major setting of one of the works of literature each character is from, so there’s a level for Of Mice and Men set in a wide open field of wheat with a few farmhouses scattered around, and so on.

The view is in 3D to better display the absurdity of each of the robo-characters. Each character has strengths and weaknesses, except for Robo-Frankenstein, who has no strengths and is in fact a gag character. When players pick up certain pick-ups, they have the ability to activate their character’s super move, which is unique for each character.

For example, Robo-Frankenstein’s super move is to huddle in a corner and mutter to himself. Robo-Okonkwo’s is to hang himself, which does massive damage to all of his opponents. Robo-Odysseus can blind his enemies. I don’t have them all fully worked out yet.

I actually have a sort of working title for it: Hyper Ultra Robot Wars Turbo Classic. The soundtrack is composed mostly of J-pop.

I just thought I'd share this with the Destructoid community.   read

1:07 AM on 10.25.2009

Nothing is Sacred: End Bosses

The V8 in front of me roars as I slam into a hunter, the force of the impact killing it instantly. I take a quick glance at the radar screen on my dashboard; another one is behind me. I slam on the handbrake and do a 180 degree turn, before activating the turbo and running over the second hunter. Roughly a hundred yards ahead a strider is making a beeline for the main silo.

I kick in the turbo again, just to hear the engine's magnificent howl, and rush towards the five-story tall tripod. I hop out of my stripped '69 Charger, grab the Magnusson from the rack attached to the rear bumper, punt it at the strider, then pull out my pistol, take aim, and fire at the device, destroying the strider.

A siren wails, signalling that another strider is already close to the silo. I get back in my Charger and drive towards a giant red circle on my radar. By the time I reach the strider, it is charging up its main gun in preparation to destroy the silo. Acting as quickly as possible, I grab another Magnusson device and launch it at the strider, which is now within a second of firing. I pull out my pistol and shoot the device, saving the day with literally less than a second to spare.

Another time, another place, another universe.

Commander Arkhon Shepard, having talked Saren into killing himself, enjoys a well-deserved moment of rest. There is little for him to do now; any moment the Alliance fleet will barrage Sovereign with everything they've got, and the crisis will be averted. Around him fires cast an orange glow throughout the council chamber, and all is at rest.

But what is happening now? The walkway he is standing on collapses into the small garden below. Saren's corpse lights up red. As Shepard looks on, Saren is somehow brought back to life by something.

Bryce thinks to himself, "What the hell? You just killed yourself. This is fucking stupid." He sighs and Commander Shepard proceeds to kill Saren. Again.

There are few things I can think of that ruin my immersion in a game more than having a final boss. There's nothing like a boss to remind you that you're either watching a bad kung-fu movie or playing a video game. Bosses are so incredibly cliche'd by now that I was surprised nobody took this topic for this month's musing.

Don't get me wrong, I love Mass Effect. Its ending is just incredibly stupid. Far too many games have end bosses just because gamers seem to feel a need to have a final entity to kill, usually one that must be hit three times (always three times) in its weak spot, which must be exposed by attacking another thing, which makes no sense at all.

That is of course my second point: end bosses make no sense. In HL2: E2, players see a large Combine force en route to White Forest. At the end of the game, players must defend the base against that force. It makes sense.

Why, in all of the rest of Mass Effect, did Shepard never encounter another indoctrinated person who could magically reanimate? Obviously, if Sovereign can do that to one of his followers, he can do that to many, so why wouldn't he? And how come Saren gets a neat hover board, while nothing else in the entire game does?

Why, in Super Mario 64, does the game completely abandon all the gameplay mechanics that made the rest of the game fun when Mario is fighting Bowser? And what the hell is Bowser doing on a floating platform with spiked bombs attached to the edge? You'd think he'd have those spiked bombs removed after being thrown into them twice before. Furthermore, how can Mario throw Bowser? Why is Bowser just sitting there, waiting for Mario, when he could be sending out groups of his followers to attack the plumber?

Why does the Nihilanth from Half-Life attack in such a predictable pattern? Something as intelligent as it clearly is must surely realize that a better strategy would be to attack randomly. Why does it just float in place, instead of moving around to get a clear shot at Freeman? Why is Freeman even trying to kill it?

Why does the fight with Skorge in Gears of War 2 completely abandon the cover-based gameplay that the rest of the game is based around? For that matter, why does the battle with the giant fish do the exact same thing?

But all of that pales in comparison to the biggest argument against end bosses: they're nowhere near as exciting as that final battle in HL2: E2. Or the final stages of Left 4 Dead, where players must defend an area against huge waves of zombies until they can escape. Large groups of normal enemies are far better for end battles than a single unique enemy.

Throughout the course of Half-Life 2 and its episodes, players get accustomed to how powerful and dangerous striders and hunters are. At the end of Episode 2, players know exactly how fucked they are. The same goes for the ends of Left 4 Dead campaigns. With any end boss battle, there's simply nothing to compare the end boss to. It's the difference between "Yay I just killed some lizard thing by exploiting a weakness" and "Holy shit I just survived being attacked by ten tanks in a row."

When done well, end bosses can be good. When done well, large-scale end battles can be great.   read

5:50 PM on 10.01.2009

My Experience With Half Life

My last video game purchase was the Xbox 360 version of The Orange Box in February/March of this year (I can't quite remember which) , based largely on the fact that it was twenty dollars and I had immensely enjoyed Portal when I had played through it on my dad's computer, so I figured Portal alone was worth the money. Before this, I had known nothing of Half Life, its canon, or really Valve Software even.

Half Life 2 and its associated episodes are now some of my favorite games of all time, and certainly the best PC-type shooters I've ever played. So I decided to play through the original Half Life and the Gearbox expansion packs Opposing Force and Blue Shift, and I really have to say that I'm really underwhelmed.

The environments made me sick of corridors. The entire game takes place underground in a series of corridors, with a few levels on the surface and some genuinely interesting alien environments at the very end. I was so happy when I got to the chapter "Surface Tension" that I almost cried from joy at not being in yet another dark hallway.

The game has no characters apart from the un-named government guy, who is actually quite interesting. Every other person the player meets is nothing more than an extra. This was one of my biggest disappointments with the game, especially after all the likeable characters from Half Life 2.

The game also has basically no story. Essentially, you play as a scientist by the name of Dr. Gordon Freeman working in a stereotypical top-secret underground research facility, when some experiment goes stereotypically wrong and aliens start to appear out of nowhere, and then the story pretty much disappears altogether as players can spend really long periods of time in between major plot points, so much so that I often could not remember what my objective was, and the game provides no reminders either.

The weapons are nowhere near as cool or useful as the ones in HL2, with the possible exception of snarks, which are awesome and should be included in every shooter ever made. The SMG is less satisfying than its HL2 counterpart. The crossbow is much less satisfying than the HL2 crossbow; superheated steel rebar is much cooler than poison darts (that can somehow render automated turrets completely inoperable in one shot).

I would also like to take this opportunity to point out the fact that WASD was made for typing, not platforming. If I wanted to jump from moving platform to moving platform, I would be playing a platformer. On a console.

Opposing Force, an official expansion made by Gearbox, was much better. After growing to hate the HECU soldiers over the course of the first game, it was interesting to play a game from the enemy's perspective. The night vision goggles were a very welcome replacement for the piss-poor excuse for a flashlight that Gordon Freeman had. The weapon design was much more interesting, with the barnacle easily the coolest among many very cool organic alien weaponry. The portal gun was very inventive and is now one of my favorite video game weapons of all time.

I remember starting it up and immediately noticing how much better it was than the base game. The first such revelation was at the very beginning in the Osprey, when I remember thinking, "Holy shit, some actual exposition!" There were actual characters who appeared more than once! There were plenty of outside levels! There was a simple, overarching goal that I never lost track of! The game had some substance!

The levels were designed better, the firefights were more fun, the jumping puzzles were less dreadful, other puzzles were much better; in short, the game was more fun and had more substance, despite being shorter.

Blue Shift, another Gearbox expansion, was also better than the original game. It made players weaker with the loss of batteries and HEV stations to regain protection, the lack of really good weapons, and the return of the worthless flashlight, which was an interesting design decision and one I really liked.

What's more, it introduced an actual named NPC, Dr. Rosenberg. It was also nice to not have a traditional final boss fight like in Half Life and Opposing Force.

I am actually very glad that Half Life existed, and sold as well as it did, because without its success there would be no Half Life 2, and I love Half Life 2. That said, playing it was the most dreadful gaming experience I have ever had, and I don't think I will ever be able to bring myself to play through it again.   read

9:35 PM on 09.22.2009

A Disturbing Flaw in my Personality

I have many character flaws. After all, I'm not perfect. Nobody is. But as I was playing Gears of War 2 recently, a friend pointed one out to me that had me actually spooked.

I'm a lazy person; I can be infuriatingly laid-back. My laziness annoys me, and yet I can't seem to do anything about it. I'm incredibly scatter-brained and can never focus on anything unless I am really interested in it, and then I bypass "focus" and go into full-blown obsession over whatever it is, be it coding or playing video games or reading a book or whatever.

I hate people. I think of almost everybody else as idiots, amazed at how they just can't seem to see the answer to a problem or the general picture of things. I know in my head that the average person is axiomatically average in terms of mental capability. I know in my head that people aren't dumb, I'm just smart. Everyone from my parents to my psychiatrist to my therapist (yes, I have a psychiatrist and a therapist, for depression and ADHD issues) to every single teacher I've ever had has told me I'm borderline genius, to the point where I actually feel irrational disgust towards anyone who calls me "smart". And yet, I still somehow end up labeling people less intelligent than me as idiots in my head. I can't seem to stop, and I've tried.

But most disturbing of all, I find extreme gore funny, which scares me. I mentioned in the intro above that I was playing Gears of War 2 when my friend pointed this out to me; I was actually literally laughing out loud while chainsawing somebody to death. Most people find the gore awesome, I find it hilarious. Maybe it's because of how over-the-top it is, because I don't have the same reaction when playing less gorey games like Halo or Call of Duty. At least I hope that's what it is.

Anybody else think over-the-top gore is funny? Please say yes.   read

9:02 PM on 09.11.2009

Why I'm Glad Harmonix Got The Beatles and not Activision


Pretty much speaks for itself. I don't really like the sting at the end, it feels like it's a bit too much, but otherwise very funny. Credit goes to Youtube user chaopolis. The actual Youtube page can be found here.   read

8:07 AM on 09.09.2009

Some Excellent Underrated Handheld Titles

In the days before I really got into console gaming, a transition which I mark as when I truly began to be obsessed with video games, I played a lot of handheld games, as well as a few PC games. I just felt like I should do a post about five of my favorite games on the GBA and DS.

Golden Sun
Golden Sun was one of the best titles in the entire GBA library, if not the best. Its sprites and art were so gorgeous that they made this game look better than almost any other game on the platform. I should clarify: I hate JRPGs, but I loved this game. The battle system was much better than any Final Fantasy game I've ever played (I & II and IV on the GBA, III on the DS), primarily because it involved actual strategy, which sort of validates the turn-based system. The story was really cool to me because it wasn't about revenge or love, which seem to be way too common themes in JRPGs. Also, the game was paced so that the gameplay never really got in the way or even distracted from the narrative. I was aware of where I had to, what I had to do, and why at all times when I played it. Another cool part of the game was that, in order to progress through a dungeon or level, one had to get through puzzles that often required the use of special powers. The music was great, too.

Golden Sun: The Lost Age
Golden Sun's sequel, The Lost Age, was easily the best game on the GBA. It was, without a doubt, a better game than the first, which was already a great game, for the simple reason that it had more stuff in it. It didn't really change much with the gameplay, but that didn't really matter because the original had already gotten it right. The more attentive among you will notice that my avatar is the main character, Felix. Of course, now the less attentive among you will notice this too.

Metroid Prime: Hunters
I was blown away by this game. I never expected handhelds to be able to handle first-person shooters at all, let alone as well as Metroid Prime: Hunters. The story mode is very fun, but I never spent half the time playing it as I did playing in the multiplayer mode, whether against bots or other people over Nintendo's WFC. The multiplayer was very robust, with several different modes, lots of customizable options, plenty of maps, up to four players, and seven different characters to choose from, each with a different "affinity weapon" which was essentially a better version of a weapon that every other hunter could use. Samus's was her rockets, which could track. Trace's was the laser rifle; when wielding it and standing still, he became invisible. The main gripe I've heard about this game is the control scheme can often lead to cramped hands, but I've experienced far worse from a mouse and keyboard. Using the stylus to aim is a great idea, and it's a wonder more developers aren't making FPS's using that control scheme, because it works really well. The graphics are also very nice, especially for a DS game.

Super Mario 64 DS
This game was much more than just a port of the revolutionary N64 game. It was better in almost every way; more places to explore, more stars to collect, more characters to play as, lots of fun mini-games, which I usually hate but are a nice addition here, and much better graphics and art than the original. Many critics hated the D-pad compared to an analog stick, but I never had any problems with it; I just held the R button or whatever to crawl when I needed to go slowly, and everything was cool.

Age of Empires: Age of Kings
Often overlooked and ignored in favor of the more popular Advance Wars franchise, this title nevertheless was a solid offering and my most-played game on the DS. First of all, it involved resource gathering through construction of mines, windmills, and farms, which adds to the strategy required to win. Second of all, it had a Library function, where anyone interested could read about the history of the real world equivalents of all the technologies, units, structures, heroes, and wars in the game. I once spent over an hour straight just reading those entries. I still play this game when I'm on the go or am grounded from my 360, although that is also due in part to the fact that I have lost all of my other DS and GBA games :(   read

1:33 AM on 08.28.2009

Why There Should Be More Cats in Video Games

I've noticed that there seems to be very few of my favorite animal in video games these days, whether as main characters or whatever. Everyone seems to like dogs better, as evidenced by the most recent Zelda game, Fable II, and Fallout 3. Well I say no more! I want a feline playable character in a video game by the end of next year! Here's why:

Kittens are the most adorable things on the entire fucking planet. Why limit it to earth, though? Why not take the extreme cuteness of kittens to explore the galaxy, visiting alien worlds like in Mass Effect? They could rule the universe!

Kittens, while cute, are also stone cold killers. Their cuteness only makes them more effective at killing, because nobody suspects a kitten of anything. Even when they get caught, nobody can stay mad at something with a fuzzy face like that.

Catgirl-like creatures are very awesome. Look at her fucking claws. If you have any doubt as to whether catgirls are awesome, you are an idiot.

Catwoman was an incredible movie. I hear it even won some awards, like the Golden Raspberries, which are way more prestigious than Oscars.

Hitler was not a cat. 'Nuff said.

You can't do shit against something that's both dead and alive at the same fucking time. Even trying to do so will just make you look like a complete tool.

And finally,

Pumpkin, pictured above meditating before his next battle, is a bad-ass motherfucker. I nicknamed him MegaKitty so that he would have a name more befitting his godlike power. Just today, I got right up in his face and challenged him to a fight, screaming, "YOU WANNA GO, MEGAKITTY? HUH?" so that my voice sounded like the singer in the shitty Rock Band 2 song Visions. You know what he did? He meowed a one liner, did a 180 degree flip sideways into a prone position, then proceeded to knead the air while purring a purr so fucking vicious it made children on the fucking moon cry. That is how badass he is.

I'm thinking a stealth game where you play as a fucking ninja cat sniper. Yeah.   read

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