Well, what is there to say about me? I'm kinda like your average gamer: I like to play games, I like to talk about games, and I hope to work in the video game industry one day.
I do tend to enjoy videogames more than the average gamer would though: videogames have been my life for as long as I remember (hell, the earliest memory that I can recall personally is me waking up and hopping on my SNES to play that X-men and Spider-man crossover game) so it's as much a part of me as my personality.
Although I LOVE to play videogames, having been doing so my whole life, I am not as skilled in videogames as others so I usually play on easier difficulties. Don't get me wrong, I do find it a bit dull when a game's too easy, and I do respect games that are hard for the players who want it (Dark Souls is deliciously hard and I wouldn't want it any other way) but I'd still like it if developers catering to gamers like me who simply aren't as skilled as others.
I have a wide variety of taste when it comes to games as I try to keep an open mind about everything that comes out: just because I play mainstream games Halo and Call of Duty doesn't mean I can't enjoy the underrated ones like Anarchy Reigns, Fire Emblem, and the like.
I'm a huge fan of Saints Row: The Third, doing things like beating it three times (and recently started a fourth) and buying most of the DLC (everything sans the Invincible Pack and Z Style). So it wouldn't be a surprise that I would be anticipating the GenkiBowl VII DLC pack, as the game claims it to be a Mission Pack, meaning no pointless costumes (though I rock my Knight of Steelport armor all day) or questionable guns. I mean, the website even claims that this DLC will blow your mind. But is GenkiBowl VII worth attending or should you simply stay home?
Welcome to GenkiBowl VII; Home of Murder Time FunTime
Professor Genki is at it again; Not content with the simple Super Ethnical Reality Climax game show, he decides its time for another GenkiBowl, the place for murder, fun, and time to have fun murdering. As the leader of the Saints, as well as the terrorist of Steelport (which would catch the eye of superstar psycho Professor Genki), you're invited to participate in the GenkiBowl, doing crazy named Activities such as Sad Panda Skydiving and Sexy Kitten Yarngasm,
"Wait," you must be saying, "Activities?" Unfortunately, yes, even though the game calls them Missions, as you even access them initially via the cell phone Mission tab, they really are just Activities masquerading as Missions, not unlike the middle portion of the main game (and even then, these "missions" don't count towards the "missions completed" count). This wouldn't be so bad if there was some context to the Activities, as in the main game you did Tiger Escort to face your fear or Snatch to build up Zimo's ho stable, but there isn't any aside from the fact that you're on the game show, nothing more.
There are cut-scenes in the DLC, but there aren't so many of them; The only reason I put the "s" there is because there is two cut-scenes, one only being seen had you beaten ALL of the Activities instances (you're only required to do one instance to proceed but you need to do them all to see the ending). Most of the DLC, much like main game, lets you do more than you watch, with in-game conversations, like cell phone calls before the missions, giving you the details. However, the cell phone conversations in this Mission Pack is simply telling you to show up for the next event, not even bothering to tell you where you'll be heading to next.
Speaking of not bothering, the Mission does VERY little with the Boss him/herself; Aside from his three-second appearance in the opening cut-scene, your character does not speak at all during the missions aside from the usual taunts and phrases that they shout when they are attacking someone, like "The Saints ALWAYS win," and even then, sometimes they don't say anything at all, like when you taunt or compliment.
While the voice actors for the announcers Zach and Bobby return to reprise their role, in a top-notch performance, it's still disappointing to never hear your character at all; The Boss DOES speak at the ending cut-scene, but even then, it's some random voice under the voice disguiser; The Boss isn't even in their usual attire as you're FORCED to wear a Panda suit for the last cut-scene (remember there's only two). I had planned to play through the packs with all my characters, but with all playthroughs being identical to each other (in the main game I changed the sex and voices, taunts, and compliments for each character) there's no point to playthrough them with the others aside to unlock stuff (more on that later).
Can I haz Sexy Kitten Yarngasm!?
But on to the meat of the DLC: The Activities. I mean, after all, the story doesn't make the game; The gameplay does, and if the gameplay is awesome, then would that make up for it? Well, in any case, you get four Activities in this order: Apocalypse Genki, Super Ethnical PR Opportunity, Sexy Kitten Yarngasm, and Sad Panda Skydiving. With weird sounding names, they are sure to be fun, no? Well, somewhat:
Apocalypse Genki is really just the Super Ethnical Reality Climax Activity with a new layout and like one new gimmick; You fight in a forest-based layout with dense trees and foliage but you still play the same way: You shoot mascots, avoid traps, and shoot targets in order to reach the minimum amount of money needed to open the door to the exit. Just because its in a new location doesn't make it any more exciting and just because we can throw mascots into shark-infested waters doesn't make it any more different. Now, if you loved S.E.R.C., then you'll have no reason to hate this, but it's disappointing that, having enough time to remake S.E.R.C., they would do something crazier.
Super Ethnical PR Opportunity is the same as Escort, only without the sexy moaning and groaning; You pick up Professor Genki and hype him up for the GenkiBowl by driving around and causing mayhem, such as crashing into cars and running over people, and doing as Genki commands (like killing mascots or damaging cars) while avoiding "hysteric fans" from annoying Genki (much like the pararazzi in Escort). The difference here is that you now have a weapon; A flamethrower attached to the car that, after you charge it up by running people over, can be used to roast pedestrians alive and even take out the "fan vans," though they respawn (but at least it improves on one of Escort's worst annoyance). It's somewhat better than Escort but it's really the same thing. While there's two instances of this one, you can't do the other instance until you progress far enough in the missions like the Guardian Angel Activity in the main game.
Baby I got a plan; Runaway as fast as you can
Sexy Kitten Yarngasm is my favorite of the bunch, both in name and the game; Similiar to Mayhem, specifically Tank Mayhem, you need to cause enough money in damage within a time limit. However, instead of your own weapons (one of the most boring Activities in the main game) or a Tank, you get to run around in a giant ball of yarn (contrary to the belief that you'll control the ball with a car much like the little dude in Katamari Damacy) and run over cars and knock down signs and such. It's fun to play around with, and even more fun to the pretty energetic electronic music playing in the background (similiar to something you'd see in animes actually, or something in Japanese culture); In fact, the music definitely makes the experience even more fun.
The Activity isn't without problems however; The amount of damage you have to do is pretty high, and while there's a combo multipler, sometimes you'll be VERY strapped for time. The ball itself isn't hard to control, as it controls much like the Warthog from the Halo series, but it does get stuck between objects easily, such as houses and trees and other things that it can't destroy. Not only that, the best part of the Activity, the ability to send out a shockwave (the ball of yarn bounces up and slams down) so rarely becomes available; While it can cause mass destruction and much moolah, I had to use it mostly to get my ball out (hehe) of where its stuck in (hehe), and when I can't get it out (hehe), or I don't have a shockwave (you get like three though), then I'm forced to wait out the clock or restart. Still, it's my favorite of the bunch, being that its the most original and over-the-top.
So while they didn't save the best for last, the last is not the least; Sad Panda Skydiving is a combination of S.E.R.C. and the skydiving "mini-game" where you try to land in a marked area. Specifically, you jump out of a helicopter wearing a Sad Panda Suit and skydive through flaming rings for money, trying to make the minimum amount to complete the Activity. While the exit isn't locked for access, you will still fail the Activity if you don't make the minimal amount. However, there isn't nearly enough rings to make the minimal amount but you aren't screwed; You can land in designated rooftops and slay mascots with a chainsaw to make bank, though not without a catch: You MUST leave the rooftop within the designated amount of time, via the "man-a-pult" cannons, or just jumping off the roof, or else you will fail. You don't have to kill every mascots, and you can always try to return to the rooftop by landing there again, so it shouldn't be a problem if you're careful.
There are a few mishaps with this Activity as well: While you will presumably fail if you hit the ground, there are giant ballons of tigers and panda that you can use to "bounce" back into the air should you fall too low, but you can't see where they are in the map, meaning that if you're falling, you have to try to find one before you hit the ground. And even if you hit the balloon (unlike S.E.R.C., it doesn't matter which ballon you hit), there's no guarantee that you'll make it back to "operational height," so to speak, and just still fail anyway. And trying to kill mascots is such an annoyance; While most of the time they just stand there and dance, other times they will run around. Since you're using a chainsaw, you have to be close to kill them, and even with unlimited sprint, the time limit ensures that you need to keep moving, meaning that they will get away; It's so annoying that I need a couple hundred more bucks to be allowed to leave only for the mascots to keep running from me.
Touch the Sky
Here Kitty Kitty...
So speaking of money, is this pack worth 7 bucks/ 560 Microsoft Points? Well, it somewhat depends: I personally played and finished it, as in all the Activities and instances finished as well as seeing the ending cut-scene, in all under two hours or so. And that's including the time I spent driving my motocycle to each location and back to the Penthouse; Anyone with a VTOL who goes straight to the next location rather than returning home might even finish under an hour. However, since they aren't missions per se, you can replay the Activities again and again, though, seeing as how they aren't missions, you can't repeat cell phone conversations or the two cut-scenes.
At least by finishing the Activities you can get some unlockables, but they aren't anything too exciting save for one in particular: You can get some extra homies (I should note that CheapAssGamer's CheapyD is included and unlocked from the start of the Xbox 360 version of GenkiBowl VII) such as Angry Tiger and Sexy Kitten (the female Genki girls) but, aside from the reporter that you get at the end, they aren't anything special; If you wanna roll with some furry chicks, then you now can, but if you're into the bitches and hos, then there's no other reason to call them up. Homies are only cool to call because they have their own personalities; The Genki girls are just generic, unlike the reporter or CheapyD (though the latter is a hate it or love it affair). Not only that, there's no sound byte when you call up any of the new characters; It's just dead silence.
Other than the homies, you can unlock some vehicles, but most of them are pretty much reskinned/ recolored vehicles; The Mouse ATV is like a mix between the Saints Rover (seen in Gangstas in Space) and the ATV (in the Luchador version of Trailblazing) and the cars the Genki girls gives you are just pink versions of cars that you already get via the main story (though you couldn't customize them). The only other worthwhile thing is Yarnie, which is exactly what you think: The big ball of yarn seen in Sexy Kitten Yarngasm, only this time with unlimited shockwave usage. It's pretty fun rolling (see what I did there) around town with it, but your mileage may vary; I have a blast causing mayhem with it while others may not see the point of meaningless destruction.
So whether or not you should get this DLC is wholly dependent of how much you love to screw around in Saints Row: The Third. If you're very mission-orientated, then you may not like the fact that this DLC is mostly Activities, two of which is similiar to the ones in the main game, and the lack of cut-scenes. The missions are quick and, for the most part, easy enough to do within an hour and there's no reason to do them again aside from money, achievement, and personal enjoyment (though like I said, you get Yarnie after beating Sexy Kitten Yarngam, my favorite Activity, so why replay that one?). It's somewhat disappointing to call this a "Mission Pack," but as DLC, it does well enough that its worth 7 bucks, but not a penny more.
Score [For clarification purposes, similiar to Destructoid, I use the 10 point grading system. So it goes as follows:
4.9 and lower = Does not recommend
5.0 = Indifferent
5.1 and over = Recommend
Verdict: 7.5 With the slew of unlockables such as homies, cars, and outfits (disappointingly no Saints Flow or anything) as well as some Activities, it's pretty fun for an add-on, but as a Mission Pack? No, especially since it isn't polished; No sound bytes when you call the new homies, lack of the Boss's voicework, lack of cut-scenes, etc. Still, any fan of Saints Row: The Third should definitely play it, but it won't win anyone who isn't a fan, or someone who plays it casually, over.
We've played some of the greatest heroes in the video game world, such as Master Chief as he takes down the Covenant, Niko Bellic as he shoots his way out of a musuem in an Impossible Trinity, a young horned boy who guides Yorda out of a castle, Wander as he fell each and every colossi, Link as he saves Hyrule, etc. Their stories are great, with each character facing seemingly impossible odds, wading through strife with stride, as they achieve victory at the very end as our palms become sweaty as we pat ourselves on a job well done (remember to change your shirt). Once everything's all said and done, we put back the game disc back into the case and store it away, marking the official end to a character's story.
But what if there was a character whose adventure doesn't end? What if this character's story keeps going well after a game's done and we put another one in? You may be asking yourself "Who? Who could be such a character?" when, in fact, you should already know the answer yourself.
Namely, that character is you.
PA Nights over Blue Slide Park
No, I'm not talking about YOU, as in the player... I mean, after all, you ARE just a gamer clutching your controller possibly with a beverage of choice well within reach (which would make for one pretty boring story), but I mean YOU, the character who's in the game. With character customization, you can essentially become a character within a video game's world, becoming a part of a universe where you matter (more or less). And when the time comes to switch to another game, who's to say that your character's story has to end right there? I mean, what if instead of making a new character for every game, what if you just pretend that all the characters you "make" are actually the one and the same?
Let's take my character for a second... What has he done? Well my friend, he had joined the Jedis in their fight against the Sith, raced in the Modnation Racing Championship, fought as a member of the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad, took over the city of Stilwater TWICE before bringing his reign to Steelport, AND saved the world of E.D.N. III from the Over-G. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Count in his time spent in the Wastelands of Washington D.C. and the Mojave Desert, his adventures in Boletaria and Lordran (are those the names of the places in Demons Souls and Dark Souls, respectively?), and his days spent catching Pokemon and he has QUITE the interesting journal.
How is this all possible you ask? Through the clever use of character customization and integration of course!
Character customization is, to me, quite possibly the greatest innovation in the world, a concept that allows us to create and become a character that we would like to play as through his (or HER before anyone says anything) adventures. However, despite games like Grand Theft Auto 4 and Assassin's Creed: Revelations offering slight customization, it doesn't feel like we are the characters (well, to the point that we can't say that that character is ours), but rather, just a fashion designer of a movie. I mean, even if you put White dye on Ezio, he's still the same guy, doing the same thing he would've even if he was dressed in Crimson.
Under Ground Kings
No, the best kind character customization is one that integrates YOU into the character themselves. My favorite example of this (despite all the great games like is Persona 3 ; You can only make a name for him (and in the newest iteration, her), which is limiting, but throughout the game, with the amount of things to do and the amount of freedom, you become the character, deciding how to spend your time: Will you stick to your studies? Or will you hang out with friends everyday? Are you going to join an afterschool club? Which one? Will you balance your life between school and fighting Shadows or will you lean too much onto one side? How deep will your friendships be (which makes the ending one of my favorite video game endings of all time)?
At that point of the game, it isn't a character you just control like Ezio from Assassin's Creed... It's a character who is essentially you (or at least someone you choose for that character to be). So whenever you play the game, you decide how the character acts what he wants to do (like hey, you're not FORCED to study though you are somewhat forced to fight Shadows) rather than being a character who is basically told what to do. For example...
I've been playing Dark Souls and I've been making up my own stories. I mean, as we speak, my character, still in his starting Thief gear, is treading around the Darkroot Forest, waiting to be summoned to repel any intruders with his trusty Claymore, that he had to risk being roasted by a Hellkite to acquire, and Pyromancer's Flame, which he had ascended by becoming a pupil of the legendary Quelana of Izalith.
I mean, I KNOW I have to try to save the world or something, but the game doesn't really force you to do anything, and you're free to screw around and make up the story as you go. Maybe my character is in love with Quelana so he dedicates his time learning pyromancy to spend time with her. Maybe he wields the Claymore as a trophy from his near death experience against the feared Hellkite who guards the bridge with a very REAL "firewall." Maybe he keeps the Thief's gear on because he doesn't want anyone to know he's just a high school tranfer student who's in the S.E.E.S. club. And that isn't the story of someone else, oh no, this is the story of MY character.
You may have noticed that maybe I was getting too immersed in the universe of Dark Souls but video games are so immersive that it's easy to lose yourself in it. But what about movies and books? While those are immersive as well (well, I don't READ myself...) but, aside from playing the game, character customization and integration is practically the sole difference in being immersed in a video game and a movie: When you watch a movie, you know that there's these characters and what they are like, and you know that it's going to end one way or another and you can't change that (unless it's Final Destination 3 with that stupid alternate scenes and such). And with video games such as Assassin's Creed: Revelation, you again know who the characters are and what they are like, as well as having an ending that you can't change.
But with character customization and integration, even if it ends in the same way and the same manner, at least you yourself feel like you were a part of the story because essentially you put the character there yourself. In Saints Row: The Third, despite what the Boss is going through and going to do, since I can customize him, I can make it feel like it's my character who's going to do that all. I mean, it's one thing to say "Oh, that guy just jumped through a frickin' plane" but to say "Oh, MY character just jumped through a frickin' plane" makes it feel a lot more personal despite the fact that they both do the same thing. You really can't do that with a movie... I mean, what are you going to do? Imagine that the character in the movie is acted by you?
Actually, funny enough, there ARE games that let you do just that. That's beside the point, but hey, go figure.
Now I'm not saying that we SHOULD have character customization in every game... I mean, the Uncharted and [i]Metal Gear Solid[i/] series gets along just fine without trying to make you feel like your part of the story by showing you character whom you might truly care about. I mean, I can't imagine a world of video games without icons like Nathan Drake, Solid Snake, Master Chief, and Mario. But there are some games that, if they aren't going to give you an interesting character to play as, why not have it so you could make the character your own, even if he doesn't have that much screen time?
Make Me Proud (character below is my guy, sorry about blurry resolution)
The game that comes is Ghostbusters: The Video Game: We know that the main appeal of the game is rolling with the Ghostbusters squad, but since we're a nameless and sorta faceless generic character, why not go to some lengths to make that character our own? Take the original Saints Row: You are a nameless guy who barely talks (he has like what, four lines throughout the whole game?) but since we can customize him, we can at least feel like that's our character with our sense of style (with later iterations of the game offering a selection of voices, walk, fighting style, and more). It isn't much, but the phrase "a little goes a long way" applies here quite nicely.
So with all that being said, I'm very thankful that character customization exists; Being allowed to create characters and such is always such a fun thing to do. I have like a dozen unique Soul Calibur 4 characters that I regularly match up in fights for a faux story mode, a dozen more characters who won the Modnation Racing Championship, and I plan to create a least two more characters for Saints Row: The Third. And this is just this current generation: I had multiple copies of the game Final Fantasy Tactics Advance just so I could create custom teams such as all Black Mages (in honor of Vivi), ninjas (a slight Naruto craze got to me), and Gunmans (though I HATE moogles; Sorry kupo), half a dozen combinations of teams in the original Final Fantasy, and don't even get me started on how many Sims I have.
I can't stress enough how thankful I am that character customization (and proper integration) exists (when stacked up to things like mini-maps, checkpoints, and oh my lord REGENERATING health) because it's something that allows me to get more immersed into video games. Yeah, I get sucked in reading a book and watching a movie but unless I'm roleplaying, I can't feel like a part of the story when I'm reading someone else's thoughts and having no personal attachment to a character (what I mean is I LOVE the character Nathan Drake, but I don't ever feel like I'm Nathan Drake; like all I'm doing is just showing off how badass Nathan Drake is rather than how badass I am).
And that's the advantage video games have over any form of entertainment media: Having the ability to make the player feel a part of the story. While some of the greatest games in the world don't even try to utilize it, and again, not that they need to (especially if it would feel tacked on and limiting), the games that do are always personal favorites in my book.
You know, sometimes the best things in life are the things that you just stumble on to. For example, I've discovered Jet Set Radio Future from that dual disc with Sega GT, Feel the Magic from the cover art at a local Gamestop, and Armored Core: For Answer in a Game Informer magazine. However, while those games have spin-offs (well, Jet Set Radio Future is the spin-off of Jet Set Radio), sequels (The Rub Rabbits), and even both (Armored Core 1-4, Ninebreaker, Nexus, Last Raven, Formula Front, and For Answer), the game I'm going to be talking about today is a little something called "Riviera: The Promised Land."
I've discovered this little gem of a game in a magazine of Nintendo Power. Was there an article about it? Nah. Was there a preview about it? Not that I know of. So how did you hear about it? By a lone, one-page ad. Seriously, that's how I learned about the game aside from an eventually three paragraphed review that they eventually did, but it's still somewhat hard to believe that from one little ad that I've experienced quite possibly one of my most favorite games of all time.
Now, that sounds a bit much when I've experienced games like Shadow of the Colossus, The World Ends with You, Uncharted 2, Metal Gear Solid 4, Peace Walker and many many more, but it's not because it's that good that I love it so much, but rather, that I feel like it's tailor-made for me. I mean, millions of people say that "this video game" or "that video game" is so good, but I never seem to get into it. Chrono Trigger? Couldn't get into it. The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past? Couldn't get that damn library book down. Ocarina of Time? I could barely get past the Deku Tree. Majora's Mask? Was too put off by the time limit (as well as that freaky ass moon...).
Now you gotta understand something: It's not like I HATED those games... I mean, I've beaten Chrono Trigger at least AND I've watched and enjoyed OTHER people playing The Legend of Zelda (the only one I've beaten was Minish Cap), and it's not like I'm one of those people who hate what everyone else likes (I've bought Gears of War 3 and reserved Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3) nor am I the guy who brag about listening to indie bands... I simply like what I like, and I just couldn't like those games.
But I love Riviera: The Promised Land... Oh God do I love it.
"This will be my world"
After tracking down a copy of the Gameboy Advance version of Riviera: The Promised Land (which involved my uncle driving me all the way downtown to get it... I so appreciated it), the minute I got home, because I get motion sickness easily, I popped that sucker in and started playing it. I was so enthralled by the story about Ragnarok, the coming of demons, and demon-slaying angels that hours had flown right by and I didn't even noticed it. Now, at the time, I hadn't really experienced great JRPGs at the time such as Chrono Trigger and Tales of the Abyss, so Riviera's simple story was somewhat of a stepping stone for me to jump into the genre.
The story, in a nutshell, is about two angels who comes to Riviera, a sacred land where beings called Sprites live, to sacrifice it to stop the coming of demons. One of the angels however, Ein, gets "killed" and "revived" by a goddess named Ursula who takes his memories away and have him live among the Sprites in Riviera in order to have him sympathize with the Sprites and stop the angels from sacrificing it. It's that story about conspiracy from higher authories, doing the right thing, and preventing a much bigger problem. Sure, it's no epic, but at least the story is pretty decent, although looking back, is pretty familiar territory.
However, what sets Riviera apart from all the other games is that it incorporates elements of the "renai" genre (you may know it as a "dating sim"): Throughout the adventure, you'll earn the hearts of your lovely teammates (such as the kind-hearted Fia, the childish Lina, the tomboy Serene, and the ditzy Cierra) by winning them over with the choices of dialogue and actions. I really like this element of the game because it's not only something that is seldom seen (though games like Star Ocean and Tales of Symphonia had it) but because it really makes you more attached to the characters, especially Ein, when you yourself are making some of the choices instead of just merely watching the scene proceed.
Not only that, but you'll definitely feel the tension as there are some VERY interesting choices to make. One of them for example, being one of my favorite moments in the game, has you choosing which girl needs to stand on a "pressure plate" in order to open the door, essentially boiling it down to "who do you think is the fattest?" It's very humorous to see the character's reactions as well as Ein's explanations ("Well, I figured since you were the oldest..."), making you enjoy the characters even more. And sometimes, the best moments can even be times when you don't have to make a choice at all, such as when Lina fell into a river, grabbing one of the girls who in turn grabs another, a la the "domino effect." I've played through the game several times and it's still so heartwarming to experience little scenes like this. Sure, there's no betrayal, politics, identity crisis and whatnot, but it's that kind of simple story that you can just enjoy.
This is the "Good Life"
However though, no matter how great the story may be, none of it matters if I could never get that far. Thankfully however, Riveria seems to have my horrible playing skills in mind, allowing for an easy to understand battle system: You simply pick which three characters to fight, what formation to use, and what weapons and items to bring. When you go into battle, you can choose what weapons you've brought to use, but you don't get to choose what enemy you target. To me however, that just simplifies things so much, yet makes the battles so much more interesting as you're not making your own plans, but rather working within the limitations of the game since you can't even bring more than four items into battle.
It's also VERY easy, albeit somewhat time-consuming (for me, upwards to an hour and a half though this is remedied somewhat by the PSP's sleep function) to grind in this game. Yeah, remember in JRPGs, to get stronger you had to fight the same old enemies over and over again until you were strong enough to fight the boss to unlock the next part of the story, which contained new enemy that you're going to eventually fight over and over again again (intentional)? Well in this game, although you have limited item usage, you have to use an item by a character repeatedly in order to level them up and learn a special skill with the item, which is TOTALLY easy. I mean, it doesn't matter if it hits or misses, you just have to USE it.
But don't think there's no depth to the battle system because grinding is easy: You still have things like elemental weaknesses and resistence but you also try to manage the enemies' "Overdrive" bar (a meter to use Special Attacks) so that they don't get it filled and demolish you as well as managing your item usage as they are limited like Fire Emblem. Not only that, should you fall in battle, the games not only gives you a boost (a section of your Overdrive meter) but they even start the enemies with their HP down a little, even on boss fights. And should you fall again, they'll take ANOTHER HP deduction as well as giving you even MORE Overdrive meter! And they'll even do it a third time! When I first played this game, I merely chose my favorite characters, my favorite items, and merely mashed buttons until I won, even if I had to lose three times in the row.
Some of you may say that this video game holds your hand too much, like how they simplified walking around... WALKING AROUND is simplified into just pressing the direction of which way you want to go! It's just that simple! No wandering around aimlessly nor any of that overworld junk. You may say that that makes the game way too easy... But you know what? I personally love it when a video game holds my hand. I mean, I love checkpoints, easy difficulty, streamlined adventures for a very good reason:
I shouldn't have to be good to enjoy video games.
I mean, had Ocarina of Time included like a hint system and Ninja Gaiden had a Easy mode, I so would've enjoyed them! I mean, what's the point of making the ending if no one's going to reach them? I still haven't beaten Final Fantasy 13 because I'm still stuck in some boss fight, nor Vanquish because of its relentless difficulty on Normal (Automatic takes the fun away). It's times like these that I just want a invincibilty code or something so I can still PLAY the game, like what Saint's Row 2 did: You can never die but you are have to do the action yourself, which most of the time you wanna do anyway! Riviera may not have that, but at least it gives me an out so that I can still enjoy the game.
Yeah, let's throw a rock at it, I'm in the mood to piss a demon off.
You know, it's been years since the GBA version of this game came out, yet I still pop it in every once in a while to replay it again, doing the same choices as I did the first time (you never forget your first). I may be one of those people who basically play a game once and never touch it again, but there's just something about Riviera that makes it so good... And apparently, I'm not the only one considering that they released the game more than four times:
The game originally started out as a WonderSwan Color game exclusive to Japan (which makes sense considering the nature of the title, more on that later), meaning that it wasn't released offshore for anyone else to play. However, Atlus and Sting must've loved the game enough to remake the game into a Gameboy Advance title to be released overseas into the good ol' United States of America, allowing people like me to play it. Then, a mere few years later, the Gameboy Advance version of the game was ported to the Playstation Portable with new features such as voice acting, though this was AFTER it was ported to cell phones in Japan. And as if that wasn't enough, they took that port (the PSP version), added in a couple of tiny (as in VERY tiny) features and called it the "Special Edition" (also exclusive to Japan). Damn... That's a lot of porting.
But why so many ports? After all, this was a game that got, according to reviews, 6s and 7s across the board... Not to mention much of the action was exclusive to Japan, such as the original WonderSwan Color version, the cell phone versions, and the Special Edition. And, adding on to that, the game was published by Atlus, meaning VERY limited quanities... I still have yet to own a new copy of the game, though I do have three copies of the game though (the Gameboy Advance version and two PSP version when one of them broke). So naturally, low quanities of the game combined with low amounts of advertising equal... a VERY small following of the game, at least where I'm from; From where I'm from, practically no one has heard of it, even to this day. Even on Gamefaqs there's like only a double-digit amount of pages of treads about it... Gears 3 got that many treads BEFORE it even came out!
So that's why I decided to write the blog on it instead of Feel the Magic (because there is a VERY devote following for the Jet Set and Armored Core series)... I felt that this, to me, was a great game that hardly anyone heard about. Sure, there's been a small covering of this game with its scant ads and tiny reviews (I think Destructoid did a review if I'm not mistaken), but I'm sure like 99.5% of the gaming community hasn't heard of it, let alone played it.
But I have played it... And I loved it. And I still do.
Mortal Kombat has been quite... different over the last few years. While the MK series had some great ideas under their belts ranging from an armageddon to an epic crossover, the gameplay has, quite admittedly, have not made the transition over to the 3D realm well... While the stars were brightening the dark sky with the tweaks made in Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, Midway filed their losses and declared bankruptcy, possibly destroying the series a la "Armageddon..." That is, until, Warner Brothers, alongside with NetherRealm Studios, revived the series in a big way: Going back to basics with a new story, gameplay mechanics, and great fatalies. Is this as big as the revival of Scorpion? Or should have Armageddon finished it off?
Hot N Cold
Story and Presentation
Following the events of Armageddon, many, if not ALL, of the familiar faces such as Sub-Zero and Scorpion lay lifeless outside the Pyramid where Raiden and Shao Khan do battle for one last time. Shao Khan, after losing the right to take over Earthrealm numerous times, pummels Raiden left and right, throwing all around the arena. Before he can lay the finishing blow however, Raiden uses his Amulet to send a message to his past self in the form of premonitions and a cryptic message ("He must win!") in order to prevent this outcome. It's from here that the game reverts and retells the events of the first three Mortal Kombat games, allowing newcomers and hardcore fans of the series to join in.
As with EVERY story involving time travel (like Back to the Future, The Butterfly Effect, and Steins;Gate), changing the past isn't easy: Raiden doesn't truly know HOW things will play out, only what COULD happen, such as Scorpion killing off Sub-Zero. It's an intriguing narrative that keeps the Story Mode entertaining, as the story not only follows the lore Ed Boon (who's also in charge here) created, but also tweaks events differently, such as preventing certain outcomes that I won't spoil here (but involve killing off plenty of characters). Speaking of characters, Story mode is similarily done in the same manner as the other present generation game "Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe," where you control a certain character for the entire chapter (Johnny Cage for chapter one, Sonya Blade for chapter two, etc.) with cut-scenes seamlessly tying into the fights. It's a welcome change from the drab Konquest mode that gives you the story upfront instead of needless fillers.
But while Story Mode won't last you quite as long (ranging from 6 - 9 hours depending on how good of a player you are, though the difficulty scales if you're having too much trouble), there's always the classic Arcade move to mow through (though with no gimmicks like Endurance) and the towering "Challenge Tower," which is a series of 300 challenges to play through. While Arcade is a simple "no frills" affair, Challenge Tower offers unique challenges, ranging from fighting without arms to throwing your arms at the opponent, allowing a greater diversity. And if some of these challenges aren't your cup of tea (like if you have trouble adapting to these foreign rules), or if they prove too difficult (like fighting 3 Shao Khans in a row without healing or boosts), you can thankfully buy your way to the next challenge, easing any and all frustrations you may encounter. The only other thing that's curiously missing is the omission of a Versus mode (and no, Training Mode with an AI DOES NOT COUNT).
My Life, Your Entertainment
But the real reason to play this game (other than the eye pleasing, deliciously gory fatalies) is the new gameplay mechanics. First and foremost, the game has finally reverted back to its 2D self while still maintaining its "klassic kontrols" scheme of four attack buttons and one block button, meaning that gameplay is much easier to pick up and play. If you fondly recall the ol' MK2 days, rest assured that you still perform moves and uppercuts the same way. However, the depth of the game had not only been retained, but refined with the introduction of new game mechanics.
While characters still perform their signature moves, from Scorpion's Spear to Sub-Zero's Ice Ball, these moves can be enhanced to be more effective by ulitizing the bar found in the bottom of the screen. This bar is filled via performing special attacks, actions, or just getting whooped. The bar is also divided into segments, which, when the bar is filled up, opens up a new ability to perform. Using one of these bars can enhance a super move like Sub Zero's Ice Ball, turning it into a beam of ice to make it harder to avoid. Using two of these bars allows you to break an opponent's "kombo" with a "Breaker," a non-damaging attack that stops the enemy from hurting you anymroe and sending them flying back for some breathing room.
And finally, by using three of these precious bars (if you still kept them for this long), you can activate a powerful special attack dubbed "X-Ray Attack," Mortal Kombat's answer to Street Fighter's Ultra Combo (without the K). These attacks are usually meant to do major damage as either a means to come back from behind (taking off almost a third of their health) or to completely destroy the opponent in a devastating way. These attacks are risky to perform, as they are essentially hail mary shots, but that, as well as the abilities "enhance" and "breakers," only adds to the depth of the game.
Do you save up your bars to perform these "X-Rays" or do you constantly enhance your moves so that you might not even need 'em? Do you hope to bank the entire bar on an X-Ray attack or use two-thirds of it as a safety measure to stop the enemy if he caught you off guard? And how WILL you land the X-Ray? Do you try to catch the opponent off guard, or do you inplement it in a kombo, while ensuring the move connects, possibly reducing its efficiency (as damage scaling, where the more hits you dish out, the less damage they start to do) along the way?
If all of this is making your head spin, fret not: The game is, as I've said, easy to jump into. Moves are extremely easy to pull off, especially with the game providing a list of them in the pause menu, and some of the characters have kombos where you hit the same button a few times over and over again (including fan favorites and poster boys Scorpion and Sub-Zero). And if that's not enough, there's a training mode to get your learn on, a practice mode to make perfect, and even a beginning difficulty if you rather learn by doing.
However, with this being said, sometimes the game's AI don't play fair: Opponents can often read your moves, doing an appropriate counter at the right moment. While the best players can do this as well, it shouldn't be apparent in the Normal difficulty: With no regards to my skills, the AI shouldn't be able to react that fast if I JUST think to teleport or jump in the air. Heck, once I even "tricked" the AI by mashing buttons, making them do the counters to the moves that I wasn't even doing. It's isn't ALWAYS a problem, as the AI "allows" you to hit them in return, as well as repeated failures causes the AI to go easy on you, but it's still something to note.
The only other thing to note is the bosses. While Shang Tsung is just like any other character, Goro, Kintaro, and Shao Khan are enhanced to feel more like bosses, but it's incredibly cheap: While I'm fine with increased damage and defense, as well as a few unblockable attacks, these bosses have "super armor" that enables them to be kicked square in the face and not flinch at all (though the damage is still counted). While you can get by by knowing when and where to attack (essentially their backs right after they perform an attack), it doesn't make the bosses feel more challenging as much as it does annoying and catering to a specific play style (usually you can jump over their combo and throw a few punches of your own, but doing it ad nausem isn't fun, but tedious, and completely makes the game boring).
Yet that NEVER gets old. Could go "On and on and on...."
Online and ending notes
As with any fighting game in this generation, this game includes an online mode where you fight against other people (after first buying or redeeming a Kombat Pass). Like MKvsDC, you can go into a chat room (named after their dimensions like EarthRealm and Edenia) or make one of your own and either challenge people to a match or wait to be challenged yourself. It's a pretty standard affair, but with features lacking in other fighting games, such AS a chat room as well as a "win ticker" (where they annouce who wins a match in the chat room), it's a much appreciated treat. But the real appeal of online is NetherRealm's unique take on the "Arcade" experience...
Remember in the old days when Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, and Marvel vs Capcom 2 hit up the arcades, there were people crowding around the machines watching the people play, learning their play style, having the winner stay and reserving your place in line by inserting a quarter? While that experience has been recreated here... Enter "King of the Hill," a game mode where up to 8 people can enter a "Quarter Up" style competition. While two people battle against each other, the other 6 can spectate and even cheer and approve the action and boo and disgust the noobs. It's a pretty cool experience, with the nice touch of having either a Mortal Kombat avatar or your own Xbox Live avatar represent you.
While these online offerings are cool, I did have some problems with it however... For one thing, lag is present in most of the games I played, though in varying extents. Most of the times, there's maybe a VERY small lag input that can be adapted to, but sometimes the lag can be horrendous, resulting in slow motion kombat with both players wrestling over control. Secondly, while I love "King of the Hill," there are times when my console (I played on both the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions) froze whenever people enter or leave, and once my console crashed on me, forcing me to TRY to turn it off... While they don't happen often, the fact that it COULD is something to be wary of.
As for the rest of the game, the game runs smoothly outside online, and in a game that is all about timing and execution, this is a huge relief. Another is getting your money's worth; While money doesn't factor into my score, there's plenty to do here if you're willing, from beating the lengthy story, scaling the 300 stage Tower, and beating Arcade with every character as well as plenty of secrets to unlock via the Krypt and the help of the internet. Everyone, sans a certain robot fellow, has an alternate costume, with one donning three (the others can get a Klassic kostume via DLC).
Everyone also have at least two fatalies, all of which are interesting and immensely satisfying to watch. Fatalies are a huge part of the series, and despite the team's best efforts to retain them in the T rated MKvsDC outing (as well as that relatively dull Kreate-A-Fatality shown in Armageddon), they are back in full force this time around; Over the top gore abound, expect to see plenty of head decapitations, arms ripping off, and buckets upon buckets of blood (and even a nod towards a certain someone's Fatality in the last game). While Fatalies don't essentially make the game, it certainly doesn't break it either, and the inclusion of them in this game means that NetherRealms is doing things right.
Score: Presentaion and Graphics ---- 9.0
-The character models are awesome to look at, especially when they're torn apart and brutally beaten. The backgrounds are entertaining as well, with animations that help keeps the scenary memorable. And seeing the outrageous Fatalies are always a treat.
Sound ------- 8.5
-The announcer is just as booming as ever, and the pre-battle battle cries makes the series a lot less quiet. The sound effects from the beatings are entertaining and ear-pleasing, and the voice action, while a little awkward, fits the characters well.
Controls ----- 8.75
-While I find the PS3 controller easier to handle, the controls are still easy to pull off, and the more mainstreamed scheme (such as just pressing two buttons to use an X-Ray) makes it easy for anyone to get into. There are some mishaps, but otherwise, the controls are solid.
Fun Factor --- 9.0
-The fighting is satisfying in this game and offer plenty of ways to go about it. With breakers, you can prevent a lot of the beatings, and the X-Rays makes it possible to come from behind. Seeing cool things in action makes losing a lot more acceptable, especially if it ends in a gruesome Fatality or the adorable Babality (yes, they went there).
Content ------- 8.75
-Story Mode's about 6 - 9 hours, Challenge Tower offers a lot to do if you don't plan to skip too much (I skipped like 75 - 100 of them and it still took me like 6 hours), and beating the game with everyone's Arcade is sure to last a while longer. And with friends or random strangers to play against, there's always something to do.
Final Verdict - 9.2
-This game's got plenty of things to do, and it makes it fun/ easy to do it. They knew what to expect when they designed the game, such as allowing skips in the Tower, difficulty scaling down after repeated losses, etc, and it shows. Seeing the brutal X-Rays and the bloody Fatalities are so awesome that they are bound to put a smile on anyone's face.
What affected rating? Doesn't effect (no bareing on score):
-No versus mode? Seriously, it's not that hard to include... I want my Sub-Zero vs. Noob match ups! And no, Training Mode DOES NOT COUNT. However, it's not fair to deduct points for that.
Hinders (hurts score):
-Cheap bosses. I know the game is trying to be challenging, but the challenges in Challenge Tower were challenging... The bosses were just cheap. Yeah, I beat them with relative ease (had more trouble at the Tower) but I was bored to tears doing my 1-2-3 combo (not the button inputs by the way) over and over again...
Helps (Increase score):
-Fatalies are SO welcomed!
-Fun, frantic, refined gameplay.
-Story provides a great narrative that few fighting games have. While there are better ones out there (BlazBlue), it certainly rises above others (what IS going on in Dead or Alive?).
At least, it was the last time we checked; none of us laid eyes on the clock for a while now. My friends and I all sat in front of a brightly lit TV screen in a dark room, with controllers in our hands, music blaring in the background, with sodas and snacks on the side (for the ones spectating of course). The palms of our hands were sweating... As so many bodies lied on the streets of New Mombasa, we were all so close to the winning the game, yet it felt like forever and a day until one of us finally hit that 50 kill mark. After dodging bullets, ducking explosions, and defying death for as long as possible, eventually the score card flashed and the screen faded to black, the last place loser gave up his spot, albeit reluctantly, and sat in the back.
But that was just a brief intermission. After all, "The Show Goes On..."
Nothing's "Lovelier Than You"
I don't think there'd be any other game like Halo , much less series. Halo gained its recognition for its control scheme, complex storyline, and epic single player campaigns, but everyone knows what the true deal with Halo is: The multiplayer. Whether you're fighting against or along, shooting at or with, Halo does it all and then some. Sure, there's been many other games that were fun to play with friends, such as Mario Kart , Goldeneye, and dare I say, Mario Party, the Halo series is one of the best multi-player games to have ever caught my attention.
And it's best played with friends on the couch.
Let's forget about this thing called Xbox Live and Playstation Network for a second... Just pretend it doesn't exist: Back then, before the whole internet craze and all, we played games on the couch with a neighbor or a friend dropping by after school. We whipped out the good ol' NES/ SNES, plugged in the controllers (remember when they were wired?), and chose from a collection of games like Contra, King of Monsters, Killer Instinct, Mortal Kombat, and more. None of those games had an online functionality (mostly because it didn't really exist back then) and yet they provided so many good times, mostly because of interactions between PLAYERS.
I mean, after all, isn't it more fun to scream at your friend's face than to do it over a microphone? That's why my favorite Angry Video Game Nerd was when he and Justin Kyle fought together (take that any way you wish) in Battletoads.
Best episode ever, "Check It Out."
Fast forwarding, when the Xbox came out, Halo was the must-have game to get; Everybody and their grandmothers (who probably had to have bought it for their underaged young'uns) knew all about it. Sure, the premise wasn't totally original (humans versus aliens with a super soldier on the side) but Halo was like a totally awesome Contra: Two super-soldiers waging fast frantic bullet storm action against an alien race (minus the one hit kills)? Sign me up! Me and my friend (let's not be grammar police, it sounds better that way) played this game almost every day, and it was made all the more fun when you're yelling for the other to "cover me" and to "take the left side."
But once the alien bodies lay across our feet, it wasn't long before our thirst for blood and violence (hold the guts please, we ARE gentlemen) made us turn for one another. Maybe it was because there werenít enough enemies. Maybe because we ran through the level like professionals (at least on Normal). Maybe it was to get back at the guy who "volunteered" to send you on a plasma grenade suicide mission. But we aren't going to do that here... Oh no... No, we finished the mission, quit out of our session and loaded up a multiplayer deathmatch. We chose our personas (with names that didn't belong to us), set an arena , usually something small like Beaver Creek and Rat Race, and started shooting at each other with bullets, explosives, and plasma beams. Sometimes people would come over and join us in our little frag fests. The more the merrier... The better the times.
A little while after Halo 2 dropped, we pretty much established our weekly Halo ritual: We all brought out our controllers and gathered around the TV to play. Loading up our profiles, we instantly started to trash talk each other (like threatening to kill us with the Energy Sword and tea-bag our bodies) as we decided how would team up with who (there's always "that one guy" who everyone wants to team up with because he's so good). We all had our own controllers, even those who didn't even have an Xbox, so whoever loses signs himself off and unplug his controller. While I settled for a normal blue controller, my friends and one of my brothers had that silver wireless Halo 2 promo controller that they sold at the launch who they dared not let anyone touch.
Yes, we were that dedicated to the game.
Love is like a "Battlefield."
And yet as much as we played it, no two games were alike, and most likely, each and every game was like as fun as the last, almost to the point that it's like itís being mass produced. I mean, in just one of our matches, we have like 50 insults, 5 comments on the sexuality of the situation (i.e. "That's so gay!") and 34 tea bags (did he really need to count?). We played from dusk to dawn (weekends for the win), hooping and hollering (because our parents couldn't hear us over their karaoke sessions), shooting and looting... Time just flies as fast as the bullets over our virtual avatar's head. We take a few 5 minute breaks every now and then, but rest assured, our sessions last for hours with very few rest in between.
But despite the long endurance, none of us felt tired throughout the whole time: Our spirits high, we proceeded to toss frags, ram Warthogs, and sword lunge across the map (remember that rocket sword lunge?) without the feeling of fatigue, even after the yelling we did about screen watching. I mean, speaking of screen watching, that's one thing that local play has over multi-player: The fact that just many, you can sneak a small peek at your opponent, or you could hear things that maybe you weren't supposed to. Hear that Energy Sword? Watch out. Heard that sniper crack? Move to cover. Opened the gate in Zanzibar? Get the hell out.
Perhaps our good times made us oblivious to our weariness... Or maybe it was the fuel we were consuming, like Coke, Mountain Dew, and Dr. Pepper with a bowl of Lays and Doritos and Fritos on the side. Maybe it was because we had "Dance Floor Anthem" by Good Charlottle playing in the background. Maybe it was the thrill of escaping from two players only to lead them into a frag infested trap for a double kill.
Or maybe the long sessions of gaming dulled our senses. After all, that's probably why we had the will to listen to Cascada's "Everytime We Touch" from start to finish.
Thank God no one asked why it was on the iPod.
"Get Em High"
But everything good must end... Eventually, as we all grew up, we didn't have much more of these Friday Frag Fests anymore. We tried to keep the show alive with Call of Duty 4 and Modern Warfare 2, but those games are more about winning and skills than having a good time. Plus, with online now being the new craze these days, there wasn't much need to come over anymore as we could just put on our headsets and chat in a private chat. That was fine and dandy I suppose, but I'm more of the kinda guy to talk in person... Even when I got a cell, I just call and text a time and place to meet up.
We are still friends, and we still hang out regularly, but when we game, it's mostly just taking turns in single player or online endeavors... Good times, sure, I guess, but nothing like the things we used to do... When Halo 3 was out, one of my brothers grew attached to the Missile Pod and Gravity Hammer, naming them both "Frank" and threatening to kill us if we even touched one (and as luck would have it, despite being one of the worst players, he always managed to stop us from using his toys within 30 seconds of picking them up). Now, my brother just brags on getting that "Chopper Gunner..." It just isn't the same anymore.
But nevertheless, the memories shall remain within my mind forever... I don't have any pictures of our events, nor any remnants of what happened (we gave up our Xbox, games, and controllers to give them away to people who didn't have them once the 360 came out), but as soon as I heard the word Halo (even when it's completely unrelated like that Beyonce song), all those memories come flooding back to me like a slide show, and that's something you never forget. You can recall all the great epic moments in gaming, from seeing the wonders of Ico to slaying giant beasts in Shadow of the Colossus, but none of it would ever be as great as just playing a little Halo among family and friends.
Hello there, welcome to "Moments in Gaming," (working title) a (hopefully) series of blogs dedicated to some of the best moments in gaming. Why? Because we play so many games, but we only covet so few of them. Think back: People mention games like Final Fantasy 7, Shadow of the Colossus, Metal Gear Solid, and Super Mario Brothers, but how many people mention all the other games like Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters, Area-51, Mario Party, and more?
Sure, they aren't the triple A titles that we will remember forever, but I believe that many of the video games we overlook have a few great moments in them, and I want to take this time to appreciate them. So join me as we go back into the 90's to recall one of the truly most rememorable moments in gaming: Defeating the Pokemon League.
I want it all.
Remember back then when Pokemon first hit the shores of the US? People were selling toys, action figures or collectibles, bedroom decorations from blankets to sheet covers, Pokemon plastered party hats and cups, and more. It was so crazy that everytime you went to a Wal-Mart or a Toys R Us, it was like an adventure! But despite all that was going on, we knew where the real adventure lies: In the cartridge labelled Pokemon: Red/ Blue version lying inside our Game Boys.
Now, before I go any further, I feel like we need to know our past: Back then, when Pokemon was first released for Japan, it wasn't Pokemon Red and Blue, but rather, Pokemon Red and Green. Yeah, back then, as kids, we probably didn't know anything about this game (like it was originally going to be called Capsule Monsters), so when Red and Blue got released, we took it as just that. But it's true, Red and Green were the first duo to be released (which was also the duo for the remakes FireRed and LeafGreen) with Blue being a better enhanced version released after the duo, something that's been done over the years (Gold/Silver/Crystal, Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald, Diamond/Pearl/Platinum).
But enough about that history lesson, let's talk about the first time we turned on our Game Boys and saw the world that Game Freak created for us. After we created a persona for ourselves, we were tossed in a world where a race of monsters named Pokemon roamed the world, and that Trainers, people who "teamed" up with these monsters after taming them, were people embarking on an adventure of a lifetime. But before we could become a Trainer ourselves, we needed one of these magnificant creatures, and who better to get a Pokemon from than the professor who taught us about them himself, Professor Oak?
When the three Pokeballs lied in front of me, I don't know about you, but I recall some great debates about which Pokemon to take: Should I hold the plant looking dinosaur Bulbasaur, the cute turtle Squirtle, or the badass salamander Charmander? Of course, no matter which you choose, the rival would always choose the one strong against you (prick), but I choose my Squirtle with pride, eagerly awaiting to see just what these guys could do. And wouldn't you know it, I get to test them out right here, right now! I also recall losing my first time, picking Tail Whip repeatedly, but back then, I thought that Tail Whip meant smacking him with his Tail... Oh well, can't beat them all, just gotta dust yourself off and move on. So let's do just that and save myself the embarassment.
We all know how Pokemon work: You use a Pokemon to catch other Pokemon before training them to beat other people's Pokemon by first beating other Pokemon. And that was the appeal of the series: you trained your Pokemon to become stronger so that you could beat other Trainers to advance in your journey until you were strong enough to tackle Gym Leader, a group of Trainer with powerful Pokemon. And once you beat one, you went on to defeat the next, then the one after, then et cetera, until you've beaten them all.
The game could've taught us some important things had we paid attention to them: First off, we work as a team. Sure, you could super train one guy to do all the work, but then again, that's not the way the game's intended to be played. No, there is much pride in training a team of fighters who can watch each others back. Pitting a Grass against a Fire? Sub out for a Water Type. Need for a guy to take a breather? Cover him with someone else. And with type specific Gym Leaders, as well as varied regular Trainers, one Pokemon with an average level can't do much.
All for one and one for all!
But once you trained a team of vicious baddies, defeated the Gym Leaders across the land, crushed Team Rocket into dust, and stormed through Victory Road, you knew that, once you stood outside the door of the Elite Four, that you had hit the Big Time. Whatever gloves the game had on were coming off, as the game expects you to run through 5 of the hardest Trainers in the game (thankfully not one after another) without leaving, resting your Pokemon (aside from items), or switching out. Oh, and if you lose just once, you get booted back to the beginning to do it all over again, no ifs, ands, or butts about it (unless you saved and reloaded).
But that's ok. You were ready for it: You've beaten the toughest Trainer in the game, you used the money you've acquired in the game to buy some of the most important items in the game, and most importanty, you've trained some of the best Pokemon in the game, where your Squirtle, Pikachu, Weedle and Catterpie are now Blastoise, Raichu, Beedrill and Butterfree. And so you proudly walk through the doors, not even looking back as they close it behind you. You fought against the first guy with everything you had. You won, you healed up, you saved the game, and then you walked through the next door, repeating the process.
With each victory, you feel like you've grown stronger not only in experience, but in heart: With each Trainer defeated, you're one step closer to taking on Lance for the title of Champion, a title well coveted by every Trainer out there. And you probably deserve it too, seeing as how you've come this far, so as soon as you beat the fourth guy, you eagerly healed and saved before walking through that door to the Champion, where you beat him after a harsh duel, probably after pitting your last Pokemon against him. Once his HP hits zero, you let out a cheer of victory, knowing that you were the second person to beat him today!... Wait, what?
The original rival.
That's right: Your rival, whom you've fought so many times before, had already defeated the Champion, and now, for the true bout for the title Champion, you're instantly pitted (without healing or saving if I recall correctly) against him in the final battle of the game. You probably deemed this unfair (considering how hard Lance was, how many Pokemon were knocked out, and how many items were wasted), screaming out of your lungs, probably learning a few new words along the way, but nevertheless, you fought against your rival (after scrambling to heal up your main fighters) tooth and nail, now not only giving everything you've got, but perhaps even more so.
You didn't stop: You relentlessly fought and struck down his Pokemon one by one, maybe sacrificing one in the process, until he was down to his last one. And despite his constant use of Full Restores and Max Potions, he was only delaying his defeat until finally, you knocked down his last Pokemon's last pixels of HP, and you win the battle, racking in big money along the way. And here to celebrate your victory was Professor Oak, who will input your team of Pokemon into the Hall of Fame, where they will stand not only in the game, but in your memory: You trained these guys (hopefully) yourself for this moment, and as a kid, it was a pretty astounding achievement to be able to invest enough time to raise a group of 6 Pokemon to be strong enough to be the strongest of the land.
And that's something that'll stay with me forever. Sure, defeating N after the Pokemon League in the new Black and White games was pretty epic, especially pitting Reshiram against his Zekhom, but nothing said to me like a job well done than being inducted into the Hall of Fame in the very first game. I mean, 6 straight fights without going to the Store or Pokemon Center (because you can't buy Eithers and Elixiers) was brutal, especially if you didn't have a guide to tell you what Pokemon to bring or what types they had. No, when I defeated the Pokemon League, I did it with MY Pokemon that I'D trained whom I'VE invested the time into without ANY help. And what a glorious feeling that was.
Every journey starts with a single step. Now if only your rival would just let you friggin' leave.