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Dreamweaver avatar 11:23 PM on 12.06.2012  (server time)
2012: Reliving Old Heroes

They say when you're about to die, your life flashes before your eyes. They usually say that when you're near death but considering the "possibility" that we're going to die in a couple of weeks, I figure that's close enough. :P

2012 is a wonderful year of gaming for me not because of so many games that came out (such as Resident Evil 6,Assassin's Creed III, Mass Effect 3, The Walking Dead, etc.) but because of the fact that I got to replay so many of the video game characters that I grew up with over the years of gaming. I mean, I've been gaming for the majority of my life, so I have played through the lives of a lot of characters in their adventures. However, usually their stories end as we move from one console generation to the next, forcing us to leave behind beloved characters in favor of newer ones. Now don't get me wrong, I love some of the characters of this generation, such as Uncharted's Nathan Drake, Assassin's Creed's Altair, and more, but I have a soft spot for nostalgia, the yearning for characters I've grown attached to.

And thanks to this year of video game releases, I can relive playing as them for one last goodbye...

Again, assuming of course (though not believing) we die by the end of this year.

The Mass Effects of a Hero

This year of gaming started off with a bang by giving us the end of the trilogy of the hero Commander Spehard. Yes, I'm quite aware of the fact that the ending isn't quite to everyone's taste (it may have been shattered to pieces but I still hopelessly cling to the Indoctrination Theory) but this is how I felt throughout playing Mass Effect 3, what I've been thinking from the second I press the Start button: this is going to be the end of my hero. Yes, MY hero; the hero whose name, backstory, personality, and choices were all determined by me. This makes him one of the more personal characters on this list because of the fact that he is, essentially, me. In fact, if I plug in my dusty ol' Kinect, I could even voice him, though I rather have Mark Meer do that (not hating on Jennifer Hale though!).

Now, out of respect for gamers who never played this series but will, thanks to the recently released trilogy pack, I will try my best to refrain from spoiling much of the story. That's fine by me, because the story itself isn't what I want to talk about, but rather my character's involvement, or rather MY involvement, in them. Throughout the game series, the game always tries to force you to make decisions, enticing you with the thrill that whatever choice you make, from who to kill and who to spare, to who to save and who to left die, that that choice will remain with you for the rest of the series.

When the series started in 2007, the idea that saves could carry from one game to the next, impacting it in a way that's much more substantial than a simple stat tranfer (like the PS2 series .hack), was revolutionary at the time. Think about it: many games emphasizes decision-making in video games, but they usually bear fruit within a couple of levels (like the recent Call of Duty: Black Ops II) or in a cut-scene that takes place right after it (here's looking at you Army of Two: The 40th Day). For this series, not only do your decisions carry over from one game to the next, but decisions you made in the first game could also come back to haunt you in the third; even the DLC can change the story a bit, as the game references whether or not Commander Spehard went on that extra journey.

That made my time in Mass Effect 3 much more memorable, because from the first major decision I made in the first game to the last major decision I made in the second, are all coming back in one way or another. While the game boasts replayability, I found the series much more interesting to play through it just once, to ensure that whatever choice I make, that it's a choice I must live with; no do-overs for this player. And while I may eventually replay the series again (unless...), I'm always going to remember the first time I ran through the series because I always made my decisions based on how I would make them, not how an alternate version of me would, or picking decisions for the sake of seeing "what-if."

While some people despise [Mass Effect 3, be it for it's "horrible" ending, changed script, or "day-one" DLC, I'm glad it came out because I finally got to see the end of a journey that spanned over five real-life years. And I'm even more glad that it came out in 2012, because if it was scheduled to come out in 2013, and **** goes down in 2012, I'll never be able to rest in peace. :P

No Halo for a Lost Hero

They say "Spartans never die; they are just missing in action." That quote means, that, when a SPARTAN dies, they are listed as "Missing in Action" in order to increase morale of the standard soldiers they fight alongside with by making it seem as though as they are unkillable, as though they are gods. While some of the SPARTANs are listed as "M.I.A." despite being as dead as the Greek soldiers they are named, and trained, after, one particular SPARTAN is actually missing in action: John-117, otherwise known by his rank "Petty Officier Master Chief." However, with the extremely capable 343 Industries taking over the series after Bungie's departure to establish a new IP (good luck to you guys), the Chief's coming back for another trilogy, starting with the long awaited Halo 4.

Now, many people say that a new trilogy isn't necessary, that a new trilogy is just an excuse to milk the Halo franchise, but regardless of whether or not we needed to or not, it feels damn good to step into the boots of Master Chief once more, especially now that he's more talkative (and retains his awesome voice actor Steve Downes). Now, I'm not crazy about his new campaign in terms of gameplay, as I hate the new Promethean enemies, and the campaign seems to be filled with padding (I swear every level has at least one moment of filler, from destroying the same objects twice or thrice to repeating objectives again and again), but the story feels absolutely phenomenal; from seeing the rampant Cortana (with Jen Taylor reprising!) lose her cool to seeing Master Chief finally emit some amount of emotion, I tread through the "boring" campaign to see the story to its end.

Spoilers for Halo 4: You have been warned

And that ending... While it may not win the award for the best ending ever, it certainly brought a tear to my eyes. It's hard to resist spoiling the ending, but I have to for the sake of this blog: seeing Master Chief being forced to leave Cortana behind was extremely sad, especially to someone who experienced the beginning of their relationship (in the book Halo: The Fall of Reach, which I read shortly after Halo 2's release). I know he spends time without her in all of the Halo games to date, as he separates with her in Combat Evolved after the level "Assault on the Control Room," leaves her with Gravemind in the latter half 2, starts the majority of 3 without her, and doesn't even receives her in the prequel Halo: Reach, but this goodbye seems all the more dramatic because this time, he feels as though he's losing her for good, whereas all the other times he tells her he'll be back.

Again, this scene particularly hits a soft spot with me because of the fact that I've been a faithful follower of the series, the characters, and all that jazz, so it feels like departing with a friend. I know she'll be back in one way or another (calling it now, Halo 5 will have a new "version" of Cortana but Master Chief will find the whereabouts of the "original" Cortana by the end of the game, at which point he'll spend the majority of Halo 6 trying to get her back)...

Spoiler End

...But at the moment, when you're fully immersed in the scene and not thinking about the outside world, it was painful to watch. If the world ends soon, this game series might have ended in a somber tone, but that's the more reason why it resonated with me more than most game endings.

The Rebirth of an Anti-Hero

Spoilers for Hitman: Blood Money: You have been warned.

The last time we saw Agent 47, his body is resting on an open coffin before being lowered to a crematorium at his funeral. It was a wonderful scene that I regret never writing a blog about: as Agent 47 lies in his deathbed after being injected a poison by his handler Diana, with his signature Silverballers at his side, she gives him a kiss goodbye before leaving the premises. What should be the end of the infamous hitman now comes down to the player: if the player does nothing during the credit scroll as his coffin, and body, descends into the crematorium, then that's the end of his story; he can finally rest in peace after a life of killing targets. However, if the player presses a button during the credit scroll, preferably in sync with his heart beats, Agent 47 rises up from the coffin and proceeds to kill everyone at the funeral, leaving behind no witnesses as he makes his return.

It turns out that the "poison" Diana Burnwood injected Agent 47 with is actually a "fake death" serum used earlier in the game, similiar to Metal Gear Solid's Fake Death Pill. When Diana kissed Agent 47, she had applied the antidote on her lips, slowly reviving Agent 47 (similar to the Revival Pill). The reason for this is because she had to "fake" Agent 47's death in order for them to both escape the clutches of the dangerous group known as "The Franchise." Thus, Agent 47 owes Diana Burnwood his life. This is why I believe that Hitman: Absolution should've started with a remake of this level: not only would it remind players how Diana saved Agent 47's life, and how that comes into play at the beginning of the game, but it's also the perfect way to show the rebirth of Agent 47 after a six-year-or-so hiatus.

Spoiler End

While I won't spoil the story of the most recent entry of the series, Hitman: Absolution, I will say that the return of Agent 47 is a welcome one. As I said earlier, in case you skipped over it because of the spoiler, it's been six years since the last entry of the series. SIX YEARS... That's the time it took for the entire Mass Effect trilogy to start and end. This is one of those series that would've been forgotten as we head into a new generation of consoles; remember, this is supposefully the longest generation to date, so we would've moved on by now. However, thankfully, we didn't, and we get treated to an awesome Hitman game that combines new "action packed" stealth games like Splinter Cell: Conviction with the old school Hitman gameplay I know and love.

Better than the gameplay is the character Agent 47 himself; he still looks as sharp as ever, still voiced by his original, awesome voice actor David Bateson (though I wouldn't mind if Timphony Olyphant reprised his movie role), and is now a person with more of a consicous. In the older games, we see hints of his developing conscious as he goes to confessionals and spare non-target hostiles, but in this game, he starts to feel a bit more human, showing us a different side of him with still retaining his badass abilities. And while I said I won't spoil the game, and I'll stay true to that promise, all I can say is the ending is a nice surprise and development on Agent 47's part.

Typically, and within reason, when people about to die, they suddenly start to become more religious, asking their deity for forgiveness without doing anything to earn it. And if this is the last Hitman game ever, then Agent 47 can rest easy knowing he had earn his.

The Max "Payne" of a Non-Hero

I said that the last Hitman game was six years ago, but this next hero hasn't seen action since the last seven to eight years. Max Payne is the star of the self-titled series (which thankfully spares me a couple of italic brackets) which is popular for it's fun shooting mechanics and a noir-like atmosphere. Back in the day, this cop-on-the-run can inadvertantly use adrenaline to slow down the perception of time to dip down, dodge bullets, and dive into cover whilst taking on groups of heavily armed thugs alone, and succeeding to boot. So what has he been doing since then in, the latest entry to the series, Max Payne 3?

He's been getting drunk, sipping drinks while wasting away at a bar during the night before returning home to waste away the day. Considering all that (canonically) happens in Max Payne 2, you could say that it's not unusual for someone to turn out the way he did. It's a somber tone, not unlike the previous games, but this time Max Payne is seemingly a shadow of his former self; if the world is going to end soon, is this how I want to remember the badass hero of the last gaming generation, who took down an entire corporation by unravelling the conspiracy behind it? Thankfully, though his mind may not all be there, as his drunken stupor causes him to make more mistakes than a reckless teenage driver would, his shooting abilities are still intact; not long into the game is he trying to shoot down Brazilian gangsters and New Jersey assholes.

Wait, did I say "trying" to shoot them down? Yeah, I meant he's "totally" shooting down gangsters and assholes. Specifically gangsters who are assholes.

It's a welcome change in pace for gaming to play as someone who isn't frigid and stiff, but rather someone who is agile and can move, despite his beer gut and out-of-shape body. When I play games, I like to feel like I'm the character, and when I play Max Payne, I feel like I'm Max Payne; I'll run from bullets, I'll dive to cover, or I'll dive out of cover and dodge bullets to return fire. That's also the same reason I really enjoyed the dodge mechanics of Resident Evil 6, and essentially the entire game, but that's another topic for another day; point is, playing as Max Payne feels damn good, if not better than before as the physics makes playing as him feel fluid.

And hearing him is another delight; as a recurring theme in this blog, voice actor James McCaffrey reprises his role for Max Payne despite earlier reports that he wouldn't. And thankfully he did; hearing his voice again sends chills down my spine, especially when he says those memorable one-liners ("I knew it was a bad idea, but in the absence of any good ideas, I continued forward" is one of my favorites, though it doesn't beat "I don't know about angels, but it's fear that give men wings" from the original). And, while it's a slight [SPOILER] to mention, I loved that at the end of the game because, after all is said and done, he finally stops monologuing about his life and how bad the situation is.

And that's the perfect way to "end" the series; Max Payne is finally at peace after three games worth of troubles, finally living in the moment rather than complaining about the past. [End Mini-Spoilers]

Reliving My Childhood Heroes

Taking the honor as the final two characters to mention, I want to say that I waited so long for their official reappearance in another video game that I had given up hope of ever seeing them again. These characters have had a huge impact on me back when I was a young child because back then, child heroes were my thing, as I could play as a young child going off on adventures that I, in reality, couldn't. Sure, I could always buy their old, original games, or play their PSP remake/ port, but replaying an old adventure is like looking at a photobook of their memories; I wanted these guys to have another adventure to experience, but with generations of not appearing in anything other than a brief cameos, I had to move on and accept that my heroes are retired.

When Sony officially announced the initial batch characters to their mascot get-together, Playstation All-Star Battle Royale, I kinda just blew it off. Sure, Sweet Tooth and Big Daddy were cool, and of course Kratos and Nathan Drake were going to make it in, but no character seemed particular too special. However, when I read that leaked list of the complete character roster, my eyes widened and my jaw drop. I almost couldn't believe it... It felt too good to be true that I had to follow any and all rumors about the game to see if the leaked list had any weight to it. I mean it, I scoured the internet trying to see if these two characters had made it in, and once Playstation released the official list of characters did I smile:

My childhoods heroes PaRappa the Rappa, from his self-titled series, and Spike, the original hero of the Ape Escape series, were set to appear in Playstation All-Star Battle Royale. And not as a brief cameo appearance, oh no, but as actual, playable, combatants.

I was so overjoyed that I couldn't help but squeal in delight, not unlike Rarity from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (F.Y.I. Fluttershy for the win); this game became much more of a big deal to me because not only can I once more step into the shoes of the "famous" PaRappa the Rappa, or wield the Time Net and Stun Rod of the original Ape Escape hero Spike, but I get to use them to kick the asses of all the other Playstation heroes such as Jak and Daxter and Sir Daniel. This excites me greatly because not only did my characters come out of retirement for at least one more adventure, but they're tussling with the newer heroes as if to say "don't count us out just yet, we can still hang with the best of them."

And these characters are represented in all their glory; Spike uses not only his aforementioned Stun Rod and Time Net, but all his other gadgets such as the RC Car, the Slingback Shooter, the Sky Flyer, and the rest of his arsenal. He can even unlock a costume that resembles the one he wore in Pumped and Primed, the PSP port of the original PS1 game. As for PaRappa the Rappa, not only does he recite his signature rap "I Gotta Believe" as his level-3 Super, but he is also voiced by his original voice actor Dred Foxx! Unforunately, the same can't be said for Spike, which is a bit of a let down, but understandable nevertheless.

Still, playing as these characters again brings a smile to this gamer's face because like I said, it's great to see them both again. I'm a little disheartened by the fact that these two are "rivals" to one another in this game, though "rivals" may be a bit of a stretch when you consider their reason for fighting... and to be honest, the "rival" cut-scenes in these game are simple and pretty cheesy, not to mention short and unsatisfying... but seeing these two in a cut-scene together really hits home to me that they're in the same game together. I mean, I've been dreaming of seeing the two in another game, but I never would've thought that their next game would be the one and the same, nor would they be able to team up and kick some ass together! I can't even say that it's a dream come true because I never even imagined that it could happen!

In conclusion

With all that said, I can't imagine a better way to end a blog about the return of beloved video game heroes than the ones who really struck home with me back when I was a child gamer. I could mention some other characters such as Sherry Birkin from Resident Evil 2, the cast of Dead or Alive 5, or Pit from Kid Icarus but I never played some of those games... Though for the record, Kid Icarus: Uprising is my all-time favorite 3DS game; I know it's too early in the system's lifespan to make a statement like that, but what other game could have solid writing that balances funny and serious moments, fun frantic gameplay that leaves you sweating, an addictive loot-based system, adjustable difficulty, and AMAZING voice-acting (Antony Del Rio and Ali Hillis convinced me to buy this game alone) in one portable package!?


So what I was saying is, 2012 is a great year for me because it feels as though most of the video game characters I grew up playing as came back out of retirement for another go at gaming. As I said, I have a soft spot for nostalgia, so seeing all these characters again in one year feels like a high school reunion (though I'm a bit too young to say how that actually feels like). Truth be told, I actually had forgotten about Max Payne and Agent 47 before this year since it's been so long since their last outing! However, like I said in the very beginning of this blog, when you're about to die, your life flashes before your eyes...

So if it's not a coincidence that all these heroes are coming out of the woodwork on the year we all supposefully die in, we better panic.

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