I'm Josh, and this is my assuredly amazing blog that everyone should read. I'm the proud owner of both a PS3 and an Xbox 360, along with a broken PSP 3000. I also do some PC gaming but that mostly consists of buying games on steam that I don't have the capability of actually playing. My favorite thing to do on this blog is write reviews, but I also have the occasional rant. Enjoy Bitches.
Games I'm currently playing Tales of Xillia(PS3)
Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMIX(PS3)
On my instant queue Sherlock
Books I'm reading Alex Rider:Point Blanc
Alex Rider:Skeleton Key
Various Strategy Guides
Podcasts I follow Giant Bombcast
Epic Battle Cry
The Comedy Button
Adam Carolla Show
Various this year collections
Daves of Thunder
Songs I'm currently obsessing over Portions For Foxes
Life Is Beautiful
Don't Let Me Down(Slowly)
Kinda Outta Luck
Some of my favorite games (in no particular order) Final Fantasy 10
Metal Gear Solid 2:Sons of Liberty
Gears of War
Xenosaga Ep. 1:Der Wille Zer Macht
Dragon Ball Z:Budokai 3
Resident Evil 4
Mass Effect 2
Beyond: Two Souls is exactly what I wanted it to be. Itís the sequel to Heavy Rain in every sense of the word. The writing is improved, the actors actually act, the gameplay system is more intuitive, and the game just flows better than Heavy Rain ever did. Quantic Dreamís games are getting better, but thereís still room for improvement.
Willem Dafoe is best known for his performance in Being John Malkovich ll: District Dafoe
Beyond opens at the end of the storyline, with main character Jodie Holmes (no relation) telling the player that she needs to remember everything that happened in her life. From there we are thrust into her shoes as she grows from a small child into a grown adult, but not in a linear fashion. Instead the game has a Pulp Fictionesque style that tosses you around a timeline. One level youíre playing as teenage Jodie, the next youíre a frightened child hiding from monsters under the bed, then the next youíre a CIA operative on a mission to assassinate a warlord. I've struggled with myself as to whether this is a positive or a negative. If the games story went about in a linear fashion, I might have been more connected to Jodie and the other prominent characters. Then again, the jumping around keeps things interesting. Every chapter something new and cool was introduced, and I got surprised again and again by Jodieís ever changing fashion sense.
This game is gorgeous. Everything about it is so crisp and real; I couldn't help but think that we could have kept this gen going a bit longer. Of course I expected the game to look good, considering itís supposed to be a cinematic experience, but I was blown away by how amazing the graphics are. The faces are especially impressive, with a level of detail that is literally jaw dropping. Ellen Page and Willem Dafoeís (Our lord and savior) acting combined with the amazing visuals really sell the whole experience.†
Ellen Page is best known for her performance in The Last of Us as 14 year old Ellie
A lot of flak has been thrown David Cages way in regards to his writing ability. Considering the many plot holes and absurdities present in his previous games, itís fair for people to presume that Beyond wonít be any better, and in many ways itís not. The game is still full of cliches and ham-fisted lines that occasionally pull you out of the experience, but itís gotten a lot better. There are no real plot holes as far as I can tell, and characters are almost 100% believable. Gone are the out of place French accents and red herrings of Heavy Rain. Instead the game offers a pretty straight forward story, with a few twist and turns but nothing mid blowing. Of course the game is chock full of movie tropes, such as a mysterious other world called the ďInfraworldĒ, a couple of completely shoed in love interests, and donít forget about the corrupt government officials! †In the context of the game the story works, and kept me interested for the 10 or so hours I played.
Now we get to the controversial ďgameplay.Ē Let me just get this out the way and say the Beyond is without a doubt a game, and anyone debating that it isn't a game is a jerk. The gameplay essentially boils down to moving with the left stick and interacting with things using the right stick. Itís a pretty cool context sensitive system where small white dots appear on things you can interact with and you move the right analog stick towards the dot to perform the interaction. Gameplay is completely different in high action scenes. The game will move in slow motion for a few seconds and you as the player have to move the right stick in the same direction that Jodie is physically moving on screen. For example thereís a scene where you have to fight off 3 attackers on top of a moving train. When Jodie throws a right handed punch you have to push right on the analog stick to succeed. When you need to duck, you push down on the analog stick. Itís an intuitive system and a great idea, but I consistently ran into the problem of not knowing which direction to push, or pushing what I thought was the correct direction but failing. It can get really frustrating but since there are no game overs it isn't too much of an issue. The final piece of the puzzle is the second soul referenced in the title; Aiden. Aiden is a sort of spirit that Jodie has control over, and this is what makes Jodie so special plot wise. As Aiden, you can forcefully interact with objects, possess humans, and occasionally heal people. Again, itís a great idea, but in execution Aiden is very limited in his interactions. He can only possess certain people and only interact with specific objects. It leads to moments where you wonder why Aiden canít just rescue Jodie from some of the horrible situations she gets into by possessing/killing her attackers.†
No Quantic Dream game is complete without a shower scene.
Beyond: Two Souls is sort of an outsider in the gaming world. Itís been labeled as an interactive drama, a game for the masses, and a wannabe Hollywood picture. To me itís a game that drew me in harder than any other game has since Quantic Dreams last venture, Heavy Rain. Its gameplay is simple and limited, but itís that gameplay combined with the drama of the plot that makes Beyond so great. When I have to mash the X button to save Jodieís life, or hold down a series of buttons to hide from the cops, I can feel the excitement and intensity of the events on screen. I want to scream and yell at Jodie to move faster, because Iím so invested in her story. When Iím playing the game I can disregard the nagging problems with the writing because Iím in so deep in the moment. Tons of people laugh at David Cage and his constant quest to squeeze more emotion out of his games. Iím personally waiting with bated breath to see his if his next game continues the constant cycle of improvement that started 8 years ago with Indigo Prophecy.
Let me start by saying that I've managed to avoid most of the online glitches that seem rampant in GTA Online. The only problem I ran into seemed to be the most common of them all, not being able to play the first race. After the patch came out (amazingly fast I might add), I had zero real problems playing the game to its fullest. The problem is that playing the game just isn't that fun.
The open world is just a glorified lobby. Nothing of any real substance ever happens while you free roam. Sure you can make your own fun by randomly screwing people over or joining an impromptu gang, but that kind of fun doesn't last. The only things of real substance you can do is either rob a convenience store or sell random cars to the chop shop, and those activities get old quickly. I've tried to dick around with random people and while it sometimes results in spontaneous fun, mostly it leads to boredom.†
The game has it's moments, but they're few and far between
Of course, every multiplayer game becomes instantly more fun with friends. You can communicate and set up your own scenarios which often lead to some legitimately amazing moments.†Itís a comment I constantly see when people defend multiplayer/co-op games; ďIts better when you play with your friends.Ē What I always want to reply with is ďOf course it is dumb ass!Ē or ďOh really, I would NEVER have figured that out without your AMAZING and INSIGHTFUL FUCKING COMMENTĒ. What I want to know is how much fun you can have with random people, and the answer in this case isÖ..not much.
You have your standard multiplayer modes and some GTA particular multiplayer modes that aren't really anything special. Then you have the missions you get from NPCís which are almost always some kind of co-op fetch quest. Every single mission comes down to either killing someone or retrieving something. Itís just seems like Rockstar really didn't care when they made these missions, theyíre just so completely mediocre. Once again the only fun comes when something unexpected happens, such as your co-op partner getting run over by a bus. Sure itís a nice laugh, but then itís back to the tedium.
Money is king online, and playing the boring missions is basically the fastest way to get money. The only reason to rob stores or sell stolen cars is to get money. Everyone wants money because they want to buy guns/cars/garages/houses. Just like in real life, I became a slave to money. What little fun I had in the open world was squashed when I realized that dying in the open world costs money, a lot of money. So I instead focused on doing missions and the occasional deathmatch/race. It was like a job to me, I played for hours just to get enough money for a new gun and some clothes. Of course there are ways to make money fast, but they involve playing the same missions dozens of times in a row. It seems like the ultimate goal is to get a nice house, but I donít really care enough to get there. Iím bored enough as it is, I donít see how a virtual house will make the game more interesting.
Unless of course this is what happens when you buy a house
Nothing about GTA Online is really different or innovative; itís a collection of mediocre multiplayer modes and boring co-op missions. Itís feels like a boring modern version of Red Dead Redemptionís multiplayer. Maybe I built it up too much prior to launch, but GTA Online really is a huge disappointment for me.
Played to completion on Normal difficulty with most side quests completed
The Tales series has been a constant in my life since the venerable GameCube classic Tales of Symphonia hit in 2004. Symphonia is one of those defining games of my childhood. In the nine years since Symphonia hit US shores, Iíve become a completely different person. In contrast, the Tales of series has remained almost identical, and Xillia is no exception. It has everything youíd want in a Tales game: Fast paced real time combat, likeable characters, and a generic anime-esque plot. Itís a Tales game through and through, and I couldnít put the controller down.
Xillia opens with a choice. You have to choose which of the 2 main characters will become the actual main character of your playthrough. Picking the naÔve young med student Jude will reward you with the best all-around plot experience. Picking the mysterious beauty Milla grants you a less cohesive story overall, but has tons of interesting background information and character development tidbits. Either way you go, the main game remains the same.
Gaze upon your god!
Xillia has an incredibly slow start. Learning all the systems and experimenting with the brand new link artes, (Combo abilities involving 2 party members) keeps things interesting for a while, †but it doesn't take long for the game to hit a relatively long lull. I was bored for a lot of the first 20 or so hours of Xillia. The combat is fun but can get repetitive and the plot goes almost nowhere. Then somewhere around 2/3ds of the way through the game goes into overdrive. The story takes some awesomely dark turns and the boss battles come fast and furious. Itís suffers from whatís known as FF13 syndrome, although itís not nearly as dreary as that game gets. Even during the boring times you get the occasional funny skit or interesting side quest. Speaking of side quests, this game almost has a split personality when it comes to the types of quests handed out. On the one hand you have the standard fetch/kill quests that add almost nothing to the game. On the other hand there are side quests which consist only of going to specific spots and watching a quick cutscene. These quests are almost universally interesting and build the backstory of your traveling companions.
The humorous skits help fight the boredom
Itís hard for me to find any fault with the main cast of Xillia. Sure the dub could be better, but in the overall picture that doesn't even matter. The characters are so well written and believable that I fell in love with them at first sight. Jude seems like the typical naÔve protagonist at the start, but he shows himself to be capable and smart, and those traits only improve as the game proceeds. Milla plays the typical fish out of water type, but the execution is so great that you canít help but be drawn to her. She is by far the best female main character of the entire Tales series, but the real standout of the cast is the charming rouge named Alvin. His shifting loyalties and questionable actions keep the story interesting, but itís his awe inspiring end game actions that really make him so interesting. The only shame is that his standout scene is only shown during Judeís playthrough. The rest of the cast all have interesting and unique personalities, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about them all.
The music is still buzzing around in my head. The game has dozens of distinct pieces that remain memorable even after the game is over. If only the game looked as good as it sounds. It still boggles my mind how bad this game looks. The textures are muddy and bland and the environments have a ton of recycled pieces that become very noticeable after 40 hours. Considering the fact the game was made from the ground up for the PS3 itís strange that it looks worse the last game in the series Tales of Graces f, and that game is a Wii port! Itís not like it ruins the game, but it really brings me down when I see the same muddy textures reused for the umpteenth time.
Namco once again shows how to make relevant DLC
Tales of Xillia left me wanting more. The games comes to an end so quickly that I couldn't help but wish that I had a little more time to spend with my party. At 40 hours with nearly all side quests done the game is standard RPG length but not up to the Tales of standard. In those 40 hours of game time I spent more than half in a sort of haze, just playing like a zombie waiting for the next bit of stimulation. Then when the game picked up and summarily ended I was disappointed that it was over. Tales of Xillia has its flaws, particularly its severe cliffs and valleys, but it is a fine entry in the Tales of series.
Temporary party members have long been a staple of JRPGís. It takes its place in the pantheon of tropes along with amnesia and crazy hair. In some cases an awesome character from the story will help you out of a tough spot with (usually) awesome abilities. Other times these characters will be in your party at the very beginning of the game, and then you realize they wonít stick around when they donít level up in the same way as your protagonist.†
This isn't going to end well
I would be remiss if I didnít lay out some ground rules in regards to this list/blog. First of all there will be spoilers for a lot of RPGís, including but not limited to: A bunch of Final Fantasy games, the Xenosaga series, Lunar Silver Star Harmony, and .Hack. Secondly, not all characters who are only around for a limited time count as temporary party members. For example, Aeris doesnít count because she is a main party member for a good chunk of the game and levels up with everyone else. When it comes to temporary members, I mean a character that is only in the party for one battle or one area, who doesnít learn skills in the same way as main party members, and more than likely has static equipment. With that out of the way, letís get on with the show.
Honestly there's no reason for Cloud to even be here
Letís start with the grandfather of the JRPG, Final Fantasy. My first exposure to the temporary party member is a common one. The game was Final Fantasy 7, the location was Nibelheim. It started out innocently enough with my various party members having a discussion at the inn. It wasnít long before we transitioned to the past, and caught a glimpse of the sexy beast known as Sephiroth. After a little chit chat between Cloud and Sephiroth, a battle with a dragon commenced. It wasnít long before I realized Cloud was a huge pussy compared to Sephiroth. On the first turn the Dragon killed me in one hit, and Sephiroth hit me with Life 2, a spell I had never seen before that point. Then the show continued when Sephy shrugged off the Dragonís attack and hit him for 3000 damage. When I got cloud to attack, it hit for a measly 100. This battle perfectly demonstrates why I love temporary party members. It gives you a glimpse of how powerful you can be in the future, while humbling you by showing just how far away you are from being strong.†
Good luck buddy
Moving on to the sequel, we get Seifer and his presence in FF8. Seifer is presented as your rival from the very start of the game, and goes on to become a reoccurring boss throughout. Early on in the game, you get a glimpse of what Seifer can do, and itís not †very impressive. Heís basically a clone of Squall with no distinguishing features. Once again the game designers show mastery of their craft. By showing that Seifer is on the same level as the protagonist, they can later set up how powerful he becomes in relation to Squall. By the end of the game, he becomes a formidable boss that takes your whole party to beat. It also makes you a little more familiar with Seiferís character. Heís not really evil; he just wants a purpose in life.†
Seymour is a huge asshole, but he's got the bite to back up the bark
Now letís jump to the best game in the series. In Final Fantasy 10, we get to utilize the primary antagonist Seymour in exactly one battle. This battle takes place before we learn of Seymourís sinister intentions, and is the second example of Seymourís skills. The first time we see Seymour in action is during a cutscene in which he summons a giant fish monster that absolutely destroys all the enemies you've been struggling with up to that point. Later down the line we get to see what Seymour can do first hand in a boss battle that would be impossible to beat without him. Like Final Fantasy 7, Seymour is basically an example of how powerful you can become later in the game. He possesses the upgraded versions of the spells you can use, and does exponentially more damage then you. He's also unique in that he has an overdrive made only for this battle that most people never see. In order to watch this overdrive, you will have to delay the battle for a good 20 minutes, just getting hit and healing over and over. Most players finish this battle quickly thanks to Seymourís power, so itís completely unnecessary for the developers to include this. To me thatís what makes this battle so awesome. FF 10 HD 2013/2014 GOTY!
Vergil always gets the short end of the stick
Xenosaga is balls out insanity. Making sense of the series requires a PhD in fucking crazy shit, and thatís why I love it. It also makes good use of the temporary party member. In the first game, we get Vergil in our party for a short while. Now by the time I played Xenosaga, I knew how to spot a temporary member. As such I knew once Vergil joined the party I knew the fun wouldn't last. He had only 2 basic attacks and no abilities. Even though I knew he wouldn't be in the party for long, I never expected that they would take him out the way they did. After helping you escape the Gnosis and getting all the way to the escape pods, Kos-Mos mows him down in a hail of minigun fire. The sole reason she does this is because he was in the way of her shots, and thus expendable. Itís an amazing cutscene to watch because it surprises you to see just how cruel Kos-Mos can be. It establishes the fact that Kos-Mos is a robot who follows her programming and doesn't have any human emotion.(Even though this is actually revealed to be false later on).†
"I'm a fucking badass!!"
Flash forward to Xenosaga 3 where we get to use 2 characters we've seen throughout the series finally get into the fight. Miyuki joins the fray with a fighting style almost the same as Shionís, utilizing the same weapon and abilities. While it was cool to finally see Miyuki show up, the best part was seeing Allen fight. Throughout the series Allen is established as the sort of wimpy guy who just wants to be safe and secure. He is shown to have basically zero balls and no physical prowess. Then in episode 3 he becomes the ultimate badass. He joins the battle with a futuristic crossbow and competently replaces Shion in the party. He doesnít have amazing abilities or anything, but the fact that heís an ok fighter completely blew me away. This also helps set up his amazing actions towards the end of the game, specifically when he jumps on a Gnosis and beats the shit out of it to protect Shion. Itís represents a complete transformation of his character, and it's a beautiful sight to behold.
It may be packed full of tropes, but it's still an amazing experience
Lunar: Silver Star Harmony is an excellent remake of the Sega CD classic. This game is classic JRPG at its finest; young boy on an adventure, legends of an old hero who saved the world, ancient dragons, and a malevolent villain who fucks shit up. It's an absolute tragedy that I only found out about this game last year. It was refreshing to play a game that so perfectly encompassed the entire genre. Anyway, the game opens with a battle between 4 very powerful characters and what is basically the last boss. Once again itís showing just how powerful you can become by giving you a party of full powered fighters to use. The twist in Lunar is that this party is actually the parents of the main cast, and theyíre powers almost directly correspond to their childrenís abilities. Trust me itís more awesome than Iím describing.
I'm still waiting for a .Hack HD remaster
Finally we get to a somewhat obscure RPG, .Hack. The thing that separates .Hack from the pack is that itís a single player game that takes place in a virtual MMO. Your character is actually a guy on a computer playing an MMO. As such you can check your email and keep a friends list of party members to call upon. At the beginning of the game you are raiding a dungeon with your friend IRL whose character is named Orca. Things are going smoothly as you follow Orca around and leech xp from his kills. Of course things take a turn when a powerful monster attacks Orca and the player. Orca tries to fight back but every attack misses and the monster swats Orca like a fly. Orca tells you to run but youíre character is frozen in fear. Luckily a mysterious spirit appears and teleports you away with a mysterious book in tow. Itís one of my favorite game openings because it so perfectly sets up all the MMO tropes the game follows while introducing you to it's unique storyline.†
I put this picture solely because I really love Kos-Mos
I think thatís enough of a rant for today. I know that there are probably hundreds of characters I've missed on this list, including some from the Final Fantasy series. If I missed one of your favorites go ahead and tell me in the comments, because I love me some honest feedback.
The recent release of Gears of War: Judgment got me thinking about just how quickly Epic Games has gone from a company who released free DLC to keep playerís engaged, into a company who releases games with disc locked content and microtransactions.
Since I was never much of a PC gamer, my experience with Epic Games started with the release of the original Gears of War. I was blown away when I played my first online round of Gears. No other game hooked me the way Gears did, I was playing the game 10 hours a day for weeks, enjoying every moment just as much as I did when I played that fateful first match. I actually enjoyed the game too much, playing became an obsession that had me ditching school and blowing off my friends. The only thing that got me away was the intervention of my parents after my Spanish teacher called home to say I had missed school for 2 weeks. My parents went straight for the jugular and took my games away for 3 months, leaving me only the Gameboy Advance I had stashed with a copy of Final Fantasy Tactics. When I got my games back, I of course went straight back into Gears, but luckily this time around I didnít feel the obsession I had felt only 3 months prior. When I got back in the game, I quickly noticed that a map pack had been released for the low price of free. At this point I wasnít very deep into the game industry, so I had no clue these maps were going to come out. In this map pack was the fan favorite Raven Down map, which became my temporary favorite. It wasnít too long after that the next pack came out, this time with a price of 10 bucks. I was a poor teenager with no credit card, so I was forced to skip this pack when it came out. Then after a few months Epic made the DLC free, and I was ecstatic. At this point I was playing different games, but I would still come back to Gears every few days. I was essentially in love with the franchise at this point, and was eagerly awaiting Gears 2.
Gears of War 2 arguably has the best campaign in the whole franchise. Unfortunately the same canít be said for the multiplayer. It was and still is a borderline broken mess. A lot of people abandoned ship and went back to Gears 1, but I stuck it out and came to enjoy the multiplayer immensely. The game came with a code for a map pack in the box as long as you bought it new, which I thought was a great idea. It gave incentive for people to buy new but it didnít punish used players. Looking back though I see the seeds of the problems with the Gears franchise today, which is Epic following the market trends to milk consumers out of every dollar they can get. Gears 2 eventually had 4 map packs that all cost money. It seemed that at this point Epic was done giving away free DLC to Gears fans. I was totally cool with this though, because I was a fan and the maps were reasonably priced. Towards the end of the games life, Epic earned back a little good will by releasing a super map pack that had every map ever released at a discount price. It was a great move that brought new and old players into the fray.
Gears of War 3 is a great game, it was packed with content that could keep players bust for 100ís of hours. This time around though, Epic made sure to throw some microtransactions in to make some extra dough. The game launched with 3 times as many skins to buy as there was to unlock. It was outrageous to me that Epic would do this. Then it came out that there were maps locked on the disc. Cliff Bleszinski then came out with a statement where he said ďIt's an ugly truth of the gaming industry. I'm not the biggest fan of having to do it, but it is one of the unfortunate realities." I read that as him basically saying that Epic is going to charge for this locked content and it will keep doing so in the future. Then on top of everything Epic put out a season pass for 30 bucks, and the first DLC it included was the on disc DLC. I felt completely ripped off at this point but the game itself was good enough to keep me playing. The next 3 DLCs promised in the season pass delivered, so I felt a little better about the game overall by the time the content stopped coming out, but I was still bitter about the whole thing. It turned out this was just a test run for the ďEpicĒ rip off that is Gears Judgment.
Gears of War: Judgment is a prime example of whatís wrong with the game industry today. After Gears 3 I was cautious about Judgment, and Iím glad I was. I rented the game and was appalled by the games lack of content. I was already on my toes thanks to the various pre-order bonuses and promotional items. If I wanted to get all the content I would have to pre-order from 5 places, buy some beef jerky and Brisk, and buy the season pass. In the vanilla game, there are only 8 character models. How the fuck did they make a game with 8 character models when there's 10 players in a match. Itís unbelievable how bare bones the game is without all the promotional items. Not only that, but the game has only 4 maps for deathmatch. 4 FUCKING MAPS! I was bored of the maps before my rental period was up. The Season pass is also a joke, it cost 20 dollars and you only get 6 maps and 2 game modes. Of course they attached permanent double XP to the pass to make fans buy it despite the lack of actual content. They also sell double XP as microtransactions, so you can pay a dollar for 10 matches worth. Itís disgusting what they've done to this game. The only thing they were missing was disc locked content, but it turns out that they have some of that too. Just today itís come out that the popular warzone game mode from the previous games in the franchise is locked on the disc, and is most likely one of the two modes included in the season pass. This game is the straw that broke the camelís back. Iím officially done with Epic and Iím done paying full price for games that are stripped of content so they can sell us it down the line. From now on Iíll stick with the companies I trust, but keep my eye open in case they shift downhill the way Epic has.
When I saw the announcement of the Bioshock Ultimate Rapture Edition, one thing caught my eye. A new feature called the "Museum of Orphaned Concepts" was added to the original Bioshock. Of course this was the first thing I wanted to see when I got my copy in the mail. So I decided to make a video so everyone can see this content, which I believe is incredibly interesting. The quality is terrible since it's from my phone, but you can still make out some of the awesome concept art that was thrown away before the original Bioshock came out.
Can't for the life of me figure out how to embed this, so click this link
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