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Fist of the North Char, son.

Turn ons: Cursing, music from the '90s, sleeping
Turn offs: "Games as art," 4chan culture, wet socks
Favorite gaming genres: Beat-'em-ups, 2D fighters, turn-based/real time strategy games
Winners: Don't use drugs
America: Fuck yeah!

My personal Hall of Fame:
Mega Man II, III, 9, and 10 (NES/XBLA)
Streets of Rage 2 (Genesis)
Contra + Super C (NES)
The Legend of Zelda + Link to the Past (NES/SNES)
Final Fantasy VI (SNES)
RBI Baseball (NES)
StarCraft I + II (PC)
Castle Crashers (XBLA)
Mass Effect Trilogy (360)
Street Fighter IV (360)
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (360)
Dark Souls (360)

Congraturation this story is happy end. Thank you.
Following (82)  

Dear Niero, Hamza, and Dale,

The community needs to be better informed and more involved with what is going on around the site. There have been 13 different shit storms going on in the last week or two across all parts of Dtoid (and beyond), and something has to change from the top down. We need to hear from you.

About six months ago, I wrote a cblog called "Dtoid Sucks Now" that garnered a lot of attention from both community and staff members alike. One of my main gripes was that the community has to find out major news through secondary sources like Twitter and forum hearsay, rather than straight from the corgi's and/or shark's mouth. Whether intentional or not, this made many people feel left out, as if the community were an afterthought instead of a central pillar of the site.

When the dust settled after 80+ faps and 260+ comments, there were some promising leads. Hamza and Dale said to trust them, and that they would make a bigger effort to open up communication between us and them. Hamza soon did an AMA in the cblogs that was extremely popular, and things were looking good. And then, things were looking the same as usual. It's been half a year since then and now history is repeating itself. Check out the forums if you don't believe me.

What I propose is this: a regular "State of the Union"-type post in the cblogs or on the front page that speaks directly to us, the people that keep this thing going. Nothing fancy. Every two weeks, or every month, Hamza and Dale shoot the shit and let us know what is going on with the site, or hell, just their lives. Give us a glimpse behind the curtain. Kick around a few ideas and see what people think.

I think that this would be a simple fix to help rebuild the strong editor/community ties that have been a staple of Dtoid since its inception. This type of transparency is desperately needed, guys. There is a lot of ill will brewing within the community at the moment, and opening up a safety valve and letting off some of this steam would be a good thing. Problems would be addressed more quickly before they fester. Community members would have a sense of where things are headed. Staff members would have a direct feed of what is on our minds and what we'd like to see most.

It's easy, free PR, and I think that every member of the community would appreciate the gesture. So, how about it?

-Char Aznable
Photo Photo

Char Aznable
11:10 AM on 11.07.2013

Yep, it's another one of those blogs. An old-timer is ranting and raving about things changing and people moving on, blah blah blah.

I started coming to Destructoid 6 years ago. That's a long time for anything, let alone staying a loyal member of a video game website. There seems to be a lot of change in the air in the last few months (or years, really), and much of it is rubbing me the wrong way. Some community members are with me completely, and some might not notice that anything is different.

The truth, though, is that Dtoid sucks now.

The reason that Dtoid felt like home to me was because it was subversive. It had an edge to it that was missing from places like G4, IGN, and Gamespot. It wasn't overly serious or pedantic. The whole thing was started by a guy who somehow charmed his way into E3 wearing an air conditioner on top of his head. The site's motto was "Also, cocks." Dtoid condoms were given out as contest prizes. You wouldn't be shouted down for having a dissenting opinion, like on Kotaku. Staff and community members posted some insane, hilarious shit while also backing it up with real knowledge and passion for games.

I'm not seeing that passion any more, to be honest. I don't see many editors getting fired up about games that they enjoy. I'm seeing a lot of thinly-veiled press releases being re-worded and tossed off as news. I'm seeing a lot of announcements for Kickstarters and release dates. Chris Carter (formerly known as community member Magnalon) is just about the only person I see talking about playing games on a regular basis, and I love his "quick tips" articles when new games are released. Steven Hansen is cool, too. Doesn't anyone else around here actually enjoy playing video games?

Dtoid's front page is so goddamn boring it hurts. There's nothing but news and reviews, the same old shit that I can find anywhere else a thousand times over. Where's the flavor and personality? Where are the exciting/poignant/ridiculously dumb and silly features? Where are the heartfelt love letters to games that we remember fondly? Where are the site-wide memes and running jokes? Where is the stuff that once made Dtoid stand out from the 87 million other video game blogs?

The site also went overboard with "social justice" posts after the Sarkeesian thing attracted a ton of attention and pageviews. I'm all for equality, but I don't come here to discuss that sort of thing. I can seek that out in dozens of other places online if I want to. Dtoid would have once played the trickster role and mocked this kind of super-serious reporting on ISSUES!!!, but now the site is feeding into it. Long gone are the days of Shutting the Fuck Up And Just Playing Games.

What finally pushed me over the edge recently was finding out two pretty significant changes to the site through secondhand sources. Hey, did you know that Hamza "Cybernetic Tiger Z" Aziz is now the head dude in charge and not Niero? You've probably heard that Jim Sterling left the site to work at the Escapist, too. I had to find out through our perpetually-ignored forums, where those people found out from Twitter.

Really, guys? You're upfront with the audience when you're asking for money for HUGE memberships, but not when it comes to telling us what the fuck is up with the site? I'm a little annoyed with the "sweeping stuff under the rug" feeling as the site's masthead is quietly updated. I don't expect to be in the loop with every change in staff and every development, but for the love of Jack Thompson, throw up a front-page farewell post or an update or something. Fuck Twitter.

I'm not doing the whole ragequit/return in a week song and dance. I'm not leaving in a huff and demanding that the site change for my sake. I'm just telling it how I see it. My loyalty to the site has been stretched extremely thin, and if it weren't for the community, I'd have no reason to come here any more. Friday Night Fights, the forums, and leaving dumb comments on articles is all that I get involved with these days, sadly.

I wrote this whole thing up on a gloomy Thursday morning because some of us were complaining in the forums and were told to do something about it. None of the staff members bother reading the forums, of course, so these complaints were going unheard. I hope that this gets through.

The staff needs to step its game up, deliver more interesting content on the front page, communicate better with the audience, and get more involved in all aspects of the site (front page, cblogs, and forums).

Corgis are dumb, too. Yeah, I said it.

This is a Public Service Announcement: there’s an amazing game on Xbox Live that nobody seems to be aware of. It’s an old-school beat-‘em-up that combines the stunning pixel art of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and the sophisticated gameplay of Guardian Heroes. It’s $10, it’s mad Japanese, and you should play it IMMEDIATELY!!

Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is a spinoff of obscure Japanese 2D fighter Phantom Breaker. The North American release was cancelled, apparently, and I can’t even begin to comprehend the story. Something about “Fu-Mantion Artifacts” and reviving an ancient evil named Phantom who looks like Ghetto Jafar. The full title for this thing is Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds – Cocoa’s Nightmare Attack – . Yeah, the grammar nerd in me is screaming out in agony at ending a sentence with a dash. I’m surprised they couldn’t fit a few tildes in there while they were at it. Thanks, Japan.

There’s not a whole lot of information available about this game. It was made by Japanese developer Division2 and published by 5pb Games. There’s a Japanese website for the game that was translated into English (, leading to some helpful gems like this: “Mikoto - The music college student, has black hair and great sword. All round player with basic tricks.” They must have a shitty PR/marketing budget, because I’ve only seen two or three gaming websites cover it. I didn’t even know it existed until I stumbled onto the demo in the new releases section of Xbox Live Arcade.

When I fired up that demo on a whim, though, I was blown away. The most striking feature is the presentation of the game, which does justice to the pixelated roots of the beat-‘em-up genre. It wasn’t animated by famed artist Paul Robertson, but it sure as hell looks like it (which is a plus for me). I had to do some digging to find that it wasn’t him doing the game, because it looks that damn good. Characters are “super deformed,” so they’re all enormous heads and adorable puppy dog eyes. I have to say it again: damn, these sprites look good. Just watching the characters’ idle animations is mesmerizing. There is also some excellent, catchy chiptunes music in the background at all times, which adds a lot to the experience.

Since this is a Japanese game, the characters are an assortment of anime archetypes like “girl in frilly dress,” “ninja girl,” and “shrine keeper girl.” There’s an amnesiac who “fights only to satisfy her lust for battles.” There’s also a maid that wields a giant hammer and calls herself a warrior of justice, or something. Characters have overly elaborate names for their special moves, borrowing stuff from other languages like “Stumpfer Flugel.” Just go with it. Pick the one you think is cutest. You start off with 4 available characters, with 6 others unlocked through beating the game on the four different difficulty levels. There’s also a DLC character being released next week, bringing the roster to 10 female characters and 1 evil male.

If you’re turned off by the 1000% Japan-sanity™ of this game thus far, there’s one major selling point: the combat is unparalleled among beat-‘em-ups. It’s a simple system at first glance, with strong, medium, and light attack buttons that you can wail on to take down enemies. As you level up between stages, you can invest in stat bonuses to attack, defense, and speed. More importantly, there’s also an elaborate skill tree to spend your points on, which opens up the game to a huge extent. There is way too much stuff to cover here, but the game gets into special moves, EX moves, guard cancels, overdrives, Phantom Breaks, and all kinds of nonsense. It’s ridiculous, almost as detailed as a regular 2D fighter, yet it all works. It requires a 26-page “How to Play” tutorial thing to explain all of this shit. The depth is there is you want to explore it, or you can just smash some stuff up real good if you’d prefer.

The game also features two horizontal planes in which you can fight enemies, much like the genre classic Guardian Heroes. You can hop between the two lanes at will to avoid enemy attacks, which is very helpful during the boss fights. I wasn’t a huge fan of this setup when I first encountered it in Guardian Heroes, but it works seamlessly in this game.

I could go on and on about how much fun I’ve had with this game since I picked it up this past weekend and how much time I’ve lost while playing it (always a sign of an awesome game for me). The most important bullet point for me is that the game shows a little respect to players. It’s $10 for starters, not $15 or $20. It seems like $15 is the standard price now for XBLA games, so I was super happy to see that $10 price tag. The game also has more features in it at launch than Scott Pilgrim has a year or two later, with that planned DLC or whatever that will finally add online multiplayer. Phantom Breaker has 4-player online co-op from the get-go, couch co-op, a deathmatch mode, more complex fighting, and way more characters to choose from. The DLC I mentioned earlier is being released for $5 next week, and it includes a bonus character and doubles the level cap from 50 to 99. I’m happy to buy that and show some support for the game. With Scott Pilgrim, I have to pay extra for the privilege of playing online with friends, pay extra for the bonus modes and stuff. Nah, not doing it.

Like I said at the beginning of this thing, I just don’t think enough people are aware of this game, which is a goddamn shame. I consider myself to be a pretty well-informed consumer when it comes to video games, especially the intersection of retro games and weird Japanese shit, and Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds wasn’t on my radar AT ALL. If you have even a passing fondness for the beat-‘em-up genre, I highly, highly recommend that you give this game a look.

Disclaimer: this is a rambling, loosely focused rant that will probably expose me as a hypocrite. Up front: hypocrisy confirmed. I need to get a few things off my chest on this snowy Friday afternoon, though, so won’t you indulge me?

I’m not yet 30, but I’m already a grumpy, old douchebag.

This feeling crept up on me out of nowhere, but there’s no denying it now: I kinda hate everything about the modern video game industry, and I feel more disconnected than ever.

With every faux-controversy that blows over in a week, every “me too” Kickstarter announcement, every thinly-veiled press release masquerading as an article, I grow increasingly weary. I have no patience for this shit any more; it’s the same story, over and over. I honestly can’t remember the last time I was legitimately excited about something related to video games. It was probably this:

Look, I get it. There are just things out there that aren’t meant for everyone. Cultures change and leave people behind in the dust. Sinatra fans were once fired up about some jerks from Liverpool with long hair, but they had to get over it and move aside. You have to say “Ok, that’s not for me” and move on to something you actually enjoy.

There’s not much that I actually enjoy about modern games, though, at least not in mainstream releases. This feeling is brought into even more stark contrast by lists such as this one, the top games played on Xbox 360 last year. The list is dominated by the “shoot dudes in the face” genre, a constant parade of perks and kill cams and the endless, monotonous grind of competitive multiplayer. The list is also full of sports games, which I haven’t really appreciated since NBA Jam. I love sports in real life, but sports games have become much too complex and I don’t have the patience to learn all the systems. That one’s on me.

Almost every time I turn on my Xbox, my friends list is filled, top-to-bottom, with people watching Netflix or playing FPS games. Any time I volunteer to host a game for Friday Night Fights that’s not a FPS, nobody shows up. Because of this, I find myself retreating further into single-player games and niche genres, like fighting games (Street Fighter), strategy games (XCOM, Final Fantasy Tactics), “retro” stuff like Mega Man (‘cuz we all know how much love the Blue Bomber gets these days), and quirky outliers such as Spelunky, FTL, and 10000000.

What’s more alienating is that I can’t relate to the average gamer any more, or at least not with the ones that comment on video game websites. Sure, there are incredible, unique, hilarious, caring people to be found (you know who you are), but all too often they’re drowned out by the din of the entitled masses. I’m fed up with fans feeling that the world owes them something for buying a dumb game. I was ashamed by the Mass Effect 3 backlash and the venom that people unleashed on Bioware, whether the company deserved it or not. Impotently thrashing around online and spewing vitriol (take, for instance, the very words you’re reading on this blog) aren’t helping anything.

I don’t even know where I’m going with this. I’m getting older and things are changing? Let me stop here before I drift further into Andy Rooney territory.

I’ve seen plenty of similar blogs during my years at Dtoid, with guys getting burned out or disillusioned with their favorite hobby. My usual advice was to go back to what you loved as a kid, to the games that got you hooked in the first place to rekindle the flame. Maybe I just need to break out the NES and play some RBI Baseball. Or, have I finally reached that moment where I hang up the controller for good and devote my time, energy, and money to more worthwhile pursuits that will have some tangible benefit to my career or my place in life?

Nahhhhhhhhhhhh… .

Disclaimer: I played through the game on normal, no ironman mode - I'm a wimp. Has it really been almost 3 years since I updated my cblog? Also, I made a new banner and everything, but I couldn't get it to update. Here it is: link

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is the best strategy RPG released in years, and one of the very few to get a full retail release across multiple platforms. I want to scream from the rooftop how much fun I had with this game, how much nail-biting tension I experienced as my squad members held on for dear life, how much frantic cursing like "fuck, please, fuck, God, no, FUCK!" I yelled at the TV while hoping for an enemy to whiff on that last attack. Don't you want a taste of that?

If you've enjoyed games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea, and Tactics Ogre, you will fall in love with XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Just give it a chance. Don't be scared off by what you've heard about the difficulty level, or your past experiences with XCOM games. Some of you, like me, may have picked up the original XCOM a decade too late when it was in a Steam sale, and couldn't even make your way out of the fucking lander on the first mission, when aliens incinerate you from offscreen. Followed by a ragequit.

This game is certainly doable, and the optional tutorial does an incredible job of quickly bringing you up to speed. XCOM strikes a perfect balance of making your soldiers feel extremely vulnerable, but capable of kicking major ass if you put them in positions to suceed. The game empowers the player in a way that few games do these days, which makes me appreciate the challenge that much more.

XCOM is tough, yet fair. Much like Dark Souls, if you die, it's usually your own damn fault. Shoulda picked that other position with more cover, pal. Shoulda been patient and waited for next turn to move forward, dumb-dumb. Shoulda used Overwatch instead of attempting that low-percentage shot, stupid. Every death is a learning opportunity, and a reminder of how NOT to play the game. You're not just smashing your head against a wall repeatedly until it breaks; you need to use that head to find a way around the wall and shoot it in the back (the wall's back? Where the hell am I going with this analogy?).

Wrenchfarm and akathatoneguy already did a great job of breaking down the game in further detail, so check out their blogs for more gushing praise if you're still on the fence. I just beat the campaign last night, and I want to get into some vague discussion of the game's story. Kinda-spoilers? I dunno, avoid if you're being careful.

--- Spoiler warning ---

The last mission is pretty fucking awesome. I won't get into specific details, but there's more story development here than in every other part of the game combined. That's my main complaint with the game (aside from an occasional glitch), as I really wish this story was spread out through more of the campaign. It's a shame that it's all crammed into one mission. I wanted to see those ideas explored some more, with further info on the invading forces. I liked where that last mission was going.

I was kinda hoping for some kind of New Game+ option, as well, to carry over my dudes into another playthrough on a harder difficulty level. Yeah, it would totally throw off the balance of the game, and you wouldn't have any progression if everyone's already a colonel, but still. I just don't want to leave my guys behind. *sniffle* Maybe a "custom game" kind of thing would work, where you can set up the two squads like in multiplayer and then have the computer play as one of them. Future DLC?

Also, the sniper is almost too damn good in this game. If the odds weren't so stacked against the player, I would almost feel a little guilty for dominating with this class. Almost. With a plasma sniper rifle and double tap (an ability to shoot twice in one turn), and the help of two critical hits, I took down the final boss with only one guy. My snipers ended up with like 4-5 times as many total kills than the average squad member. I don't know if it's my personal play style, but the sniper is clearly the best human unit in the game.

Sectopods are such dicks.

--- End spoilers ---

I pre-ordered XCOM on a whim, which is something I never do. I'm so glad that I followed the advice of a friend, and the excited first impressions I heard from Giant Bomb. I'm eager to get home from work and start my second playthrough on the classic difficulty level, or maybe mess around with the multiplayer for a bit. Any flaws that I've found with the game have been more than offset by the sheer fun I've had with the strategic gameplay. I encourage everyone to support this game and show that there's an audience for this type of thing. This is the real deal, SRPG nerds.

I don't have Photoshop on this computer, so the images are staying ridiculously large and blurry. Fuck it.

After thorough deliberation, the "Games As Art" Fancy Pants Award and free copy of Braid for the PC goes to...GamesAreArt (appropriate name)! Also, TheCleaningGuy and wanderingpixel! That's right, I'm going multiball on that ass, and three people are getting free games. I got a raise this week at work and I'm feeling extra generous, so here we go:

GamesAreArt's entry

GamesAreArt won bonus points for the irony of his user name appearing in my contest, but also because of the extremely self-aware GameFAQs ode to Pong that I enjoyed. This sealed the deal:

"Flunchy’s final thought
This game accurately models mankind’s propensity to destroy itself. By showing humanity a mirror in which it’s ghastly reflection can be shone back at it, we are both horrified and attracted at the same time.

Or it could just be a case of “Hit ball for high score” – either way..."

TheCleaningGuy's entry

7,980 words that made me want to avoid playing Shadow of the Colossus (or talking to someone who has played it). Well done, sir. As a former literature major who wrote his thesis on the history and cultural relevance of Japanese manga, I can relate to this writer's obsession.

wanderingpixel's entry

This guy's not even halfway through his first sentence and he's making references to Wine Spectator magazine. Love it. Then he delves into a bit of pixel theory:

"Even if you argue that the pixel exists before it becomes a game, that pixel is still blank. I has not color, no shape and no purpose other than being a non-functioning bit."

He also wraps up his piece on a very Jim Sterling-esque note: "Certainly, games can be considered art on many levels and for many reasons."

See? Reasons, and many of them. That proves it once and for all, GAMES = ART. Start preparing your finest cheeses and filling your brandy snifters, folks! "Snifter" is a weird word, isn't it?

Congrats to you guys, I'll be sending those copies of Braid to you in like...5 minutes. And thanks to all of you who participated, commented, and fapped - 'cuz EVERYONE'S a winner with Destructoid!™

I leave you with these parting gifts for the holidays: