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5:48 PM on 12.10.2014  

My Best Games of the Year 2014

A lot of fun was to be had in the 2014 game scene. For me the year was off to a good start as I accomplished one of my greatest gaming feats by obtaining a platinum trophy in Soul Caliber 5. While that one in particular was a while in the works, it something I’m proud of and stands as a symbol of my dedication to these magical things we call video games. Many more hours were spent on games since then, some were a blast, others not as much. Here, though, are my top three pics which I based on the overall “experience” I had with each.

 

Bravely Default

This was the most fun I’ve had with an RPG in a long, long time. I don’t dislike modern Final Fantasy games, but there is something about what can only be described as the “classic formula” of the early FF games that Bravely Default nailed with a golden hammer. Improved upon, as well, somehow magically transforming tedious tasks like grinding and item collecting into exciting sequences I could play for hours.

 

It’s an interesting enough story as far as the genre goes, but it kept its hooks in me with different things. The graphics blew me away on the 3Ds, and it’s one of the so-few games whose 3D effect is something I want to show off to other people. They just got it right, and it’s amazing to see and -want- to see after so many games where the 3D effect is unnecessary. Still it’s the overall art direction that kept drawing me in. Great looking, stylized characters, wonderful costume designs, fantastic backgrounds, and super cool enemies and bosses. Those are some damn fine RPG bosses in look and in play.

 

All I can say about the gameplay is its dastardly addictive quality. Setting the game speed to whiz through battles? Genius, and I wish all games had it. And it looks awesome to boot! Yet being able to crank it back down for a more strategic play is exactly what it needs to be. I found larger battles, especially bosses, just the right amount of tricky, needing to adjust to certain strategies that made sense. There were only a few times where I had to hit the web for a better strategy when mine wasn’t cutting it. Between grinding, bosses, filling out the job classes (maxed them all, thank you), town growing, and side quests… to these squinty RPG eyes Bravely Default is damn near perfect.

 

Mercenary Kings

Oh how I waited and waited with anticipation from the Kickstarter to release, and I was not disappointed. Coming off as some crazy Contra/Megaman/Metal Slug hybrid, my love for the game was instant. Even in the early stages when frustration was high due to the difficulty, I could just feeeel there was so much more waiting. Yes, that hump is there, but getting over that hump is totally worth it. I read many were turned off because they didn’t bother to stick with it just enough to make their first "good gun” (or even bothered to investigate weapon customization), but man does it get ten times as fun. It’s barely even a couple hours play to get to that point, too, but i guess patience is a virtue. 

 

Gun building was a little tedious at times but the mechanic played right into my obsessive-compulsive stat-reading ways, and once finding “my build” I was even more free to enjoy the game as it played out mission by mission. This game is no slouch, either, it favors the dedicated and some of those missions can be damn tough. Some required (me) skipping and a revisit down the road when my weapon had jacked up a notch or two. Ultimately I feel like completing the game upped my personal gamer cred and remind me what a load of noodletown bullshit a lot of “modern" gaming is.

 

Graphically the game is right in my pixel-loving wheelhouse, lovingly rendered and animated by top-notch artists in the field. The story is funny and with purpose, the crew at Tribute games created a solid world and attitude around it. Level design is brutal, even relentless at times, but infinitely playable. Even after finishing the game I went back to play levels for speed runs and to try out new weapon loads. All of this and more sets Mercenary Kings as my most rewarding Kickstarter contribution to date, by far.

 

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse

My love for this game is still soaring high, having been my most recent playthrough. It’s the best of the Shantae series, and one of the best platformers I’ve ever played, period. The WayForward team on this Shantae upped their game in every aspect. There is no love lost for what I think is its spiritual competitor this year, Shovel Knight, but Shantae just seemed to ring every bell there was and I can’t say enough good things about it.

 

The art is glorious, perfectly suited to the 3DS platform, and full of surprises. Like Bravely Default, it’s one of the precious few where the 3D effect is an advantage and impressive to look at, even on the (outstanding) character art. The sprites are just sooooo damn great in every way, and the backgrounds lovingly crafted and layered as to be a paragon of the genre. What I’m trying to say is I really like the art.

 

As much as I rave over the art, the standout here is the platformer gameplay. It takes everything you love about platformers and metroidvanias and pulls it of with finesse and precision. You know the kind: when you mess up, it’s your fault, not the game’s. It has its aggravations to be sure, and more than its share of devilishly cruel level design (Mud Bog Island WTF evil), but that is outweighed by the get-in-and-play fun that permeates the entire game. Near the end when you have all the powers and start blazing through past areas, it really shines how streamlined the whole design is. Lastly I have to note the story for it’s wackiness and humor, and unashamed self-reference/fanservice/absurdity. The game is so overflowing with personality there are even NPCs I want to see have their own game. If the upcoming Kickstarter-backed Shantae 1/2 Genie Hero is even half as fun as Pirate’s Curse, it will be worth it.

 


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10:41 PM on 09.27.2014  

Mario's Blacklist!

Game-Art-HQ is at it again, this time with a collection of Mario's baddest baddies- Mario's Blacklist! Just like Link's Blacklist, each artist took on the task of interperting one of Mario's many meanies, from across the entire catalog of Mario games. I dare say this is one of the best galleries yet, some of my new favorite Mario fan-arts have debuted here.

Oh, and when you get to Mega Mole, that's by me :-)

 


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3:22 PM on 04.17.2014  

Link's Blacklist!



Perhaps you've been lead to Link's Blacklist right here on DToid, or perhaps you made your way there thru [url=http://www.deviantart.com/?qh=§ion=&global=1&q=Link's+Blacklist]deviantArt[/url] or Game-Art-HQ.

My latest contribution is to 'Round Four,' which has seen a ton of fantastic new entries. Mine is a particular enemy event that's happened to the best of us, an unlucky strike on a Buzzblob in A Link to the Past. ALTTP is one of my all time favorite games -AHEM- yes we've heard it all before, such great memories, nostalgia, awesome, etc. Truly, it is on of my fondest gaming experiences.

Link's Blacklist is an epic art project with some amazing artists giving it their best-- Zelda fans and game art fans need to check it out!

PS, my first contribution was during 'Round Three' with Desbreko, from Majora's Mask.


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5:23 PM on 03.28.2013  

Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds (Omaha)



Last week my wife and I attended Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds at the Holland Center in Omaha. We were very fortunate (and surprised) that the show came to Omaha and knew we couldn't miss a chance to see music from Final Fantasy performed by a live orchestra.

It was fantastic.

In addition to choice selections from Final Fantasy games, a full-on chorus was on stage taking part in FF's more ambitious selections. If that wasn't enough, one of the show's closers was the Opera scene from Final Fantasy VI, with vocal soloists! Amazing!



While the music played there was a large screen showing game footage of the representative FF games. This ranged from old-school 8 and 16-bit gameplay to the fully-rendered cutscenes from later games and even clips from FFVII: Advent Children. Personally I would have liked to see even more game footage and battles with some of the epic bosses, but with the music soaring alongside it was pretty hard to be picky about it. The music selections were great, I was surprised to see several selections from Final Fantasy VIII (but not really because that game rocks). There were a couple personal favorites I would have like to have heard but they were pretty much made up for by the show's choices as a whole. I mean there was even a section of just battle themes, how cool is that?

The night's show had an extra special treat-- series composer Nobuo Uematsu was in attendance! And holy crap, it was his birthday! The orchestra played some extra pieces in his honor, and had him on stage for a cake. This culminated with the whole audience singing Happy Birthday to Nobuo-san, which to my wife and I was a very special moment for game culture. Because let me tell you something: when you head out to a live performance of Final Fantasy music, you are surrounded by those who want to be there just as much as you do. You are "among your people." Coupled with the night's bonus celebrations, it was a very special evening indeed.



Having Nobuo Uematsu available to liven the crowd added a whole new layer of fun, and for his birthday wish he asked the orchestra to perform "Requiem" from Final Fantasy XI. Near the end of the show he was goaded into singing something himself as an encore, for which he simply whistled the Battle Victory theme much to the crowd's enjoyment. Egged further, he asked the audience to join in for one last performance by way of a single word-- he then ran over to the chorus and squeaked out in a high pitched voice... "SEPH-I-ROTH!" And so the show closed with Sephiroth's theme, the projection screen awash in flames over the image of FF's darkest enemy. Fucking. Awesome.



Conductor Arnie Roth, who has been with the touring show from the beginning, was a great host who offered fun conversation for both first-time listeners and long time fans. The music choices have changed over time, and new pieces appear to be rotated in on a regular basis. This makes the show a great opportunity to see whenever you have the chance. Tickets are a bit pricey-- we were in the upper balcony at $50 a pop-- but if there was ever a game-related event to save up for and attend, this has got to be a top pick. I encourage fans of music, game music, and of course Final Fantasy to find a concert showing in or near your city!

Below is a full list of music we heard at the show:

Final Fantasy VIII
Liberi Fatali (with chorus!)

Final Fantasy I-III
Medley 2010

Final FantasyV
Main Theme

Final Fantasy X
Zanarkand

Final Fantasy VII
JENOVA

Final Fantasy V
Dear Friends (with guitar soloist!)

Final Fantasy IX
Vamo' alla Flamenco (with guitar soloist!)

Final Fantasy IV
Theme of Love

Final Fantasy VIII
The Man with the Machine Gun

Final Fantasy
Swing de Chocobo (Sweeeeet!)

:: Intermission ::

Special Performance
Final Fantasy XI
Requiem

Final Fantasy VII
Opening + Bombing Mission

Final Fantasy VIII
Fisherman's Horizon

Final Fantasy
Battle + Victory Theme Medley

Final Fantasy XI:
Ronafaure

Final Fantasy VII
Aerith's Theme

Final Fantasy XIII
Blinded by Light

Final Fantasy VIII
Don't be Afraid

Final Fantasy VI
Opera "Maria and Draco" (with soloists!)

Final Fantasy VI
Terras Theme

Special Performance
Final Fantasy VII
Sephiroth (with chorus!)


Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds Website

PS, so inspired by the show (and already an FF fan), my wife was compelled to pop in FF7 and play all weekend :-)

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7:18 PM on 03.17.2013  

Etrian Odyssey IV: D-toid contest!



I really dig the Etrian Odyssey series. Not only do I like a good dungeon crawl, but Etrian feeds my near-insatiable lust for... cartography! Any game that includes mapmaking as part of the adventure is aces in my book. I'm really looking forward to EOIV if and when I can get my grubby little grid-filling hands on it.

Thusly I present my above image for the Destructoid Etrian Odyssey IV contest. I prefer swordsmen(women) in my party more often than not-- damned if "landsknecht" isn't one of the coolest class names I've ever heard-- and inspiration struck. If you don't see my shout out to Destructoid, it's right under your feet! (um, and represented more obviously below)


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2:48 AM on 08.24.2012  

The Jim Sterling Fun Time Happy Hour



This started as just a little doodle in my sketchbook. But then after watching "Thank God for Me: The Jimquisition Story," I was suddenly... inspired? Is that the word? Perhaps by something... divine???

I like Jim-- really-- sincerely there is no vein of (cruel) mockery intended as hard as that may be for some to believe. Mainly because Jim takes care of that on his own in such fine regard he may in fact be mock-proof.


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6:07 PM on 06.07.2012  

E3: Thoughts From the Show



It has been many years since I last crossed the floors of E3. Much of it was as expected, peppered with a few little surprises. It remains a spectacle, a glorious exercise in the excess, a marketing sledgehammer wielded to force you to think something is cool. The best things don't have to convince you of course, as cool cannot be dictated. Below are some thoughts of this year's offerings.

Strangest: NBA Baller Beats. This is, um, Guitar Hero with basketballs. Really. And I can't even knock it because it looked fun, and any basketball coach of any age team would love this as much as the players.

Most cohesive: World of Tanks/Warplanes/Battleships. They are setting some high goals and look to hit them all. This looks like an amazing gaming community to belong to if these games are your genre of choice. Or not-- they certainly got me interested and I'm not that into wargames.

Most boring: Electronic Arts

Best looking: Ni No Kuni. OMG I cannot wait for this game. There are vids and screenshots aplenty, but actually seeing it up and running is a sight to behold. It's gorgeous. Rayman Legends is a close second, it was what I'd have thought platform games would have evolved to a long time ago.



Best booth: Going to have to say Namco, with that gargantuan screen playing Tekken Tag 2. It was a rare wow moment of the show to round the corner and see that monster.

Best Trailer: Tomb Raider. Not at all what I, nor I assume many fans, expected in tone or presentation. That was some crazy stuff. I don't even know why they chose to keep the Tomb Raider moniker, because it easily had the strength to stand on its own as a new IP.

UPDATE: Wow, I never could have guessed the reaction to this game which has made itself readily apparent. When I watched the trailer I saw it as a rough take on the character, brutal even, and while there were certain implications of darker areas, to me they were just that, naively thinking no game would ever go beyond what a deliberately constructed trailer might lead some people believe. Now I read (with info from the developers themselves) that darker, controversial implications are anything but, and that's unsettling. The deeper issues continue to express themselves, noted in many other posts around the internet

Most diverse: Square Enix. They had a really great slate of games, and look to be making some fine choices as a publisher outside of their own games.



Biggest disappointment: Nintendo. Seriously, why would I ever want to get a Wii U? Maybe its jaded, grumpy old man syndrome, but there was not a single thing shown by Nintendo that excited me. Nintendoland speaks to an audience I am not a part of. Pikmin is just too niche for me. Even New Super Mario Bros. U was... unimpressive. The HD sharpness was definitely there, but I didn't see any of the love or artistic magic that had gone into previous games. Considering the strides that were taken to push the art styles of far more limited systems, finally being given the resolution and processing power of the Wii U did not seem to inspire the Mario team. I hope-- I dearly, truly hope-- I am wrong about this and as the game gets closer the beauty and artistry will be revealed.

UPDATE: I've now seen the official trailer, including footage of the "Van Gogh Level," which is closer to ideas I had hoped to see. More, please!

The Wii U tablet was cumbersome to me, I didn't find it to enhance the game experience. It was strange to decide what screen to look at, the tablet or the monitor. True, the pro controller was much more natural and seeing games like Arkham City and Dead or Alive 5 make things a little more palatable, but nowhere near enough for me to desire the Wii U as a system.

Biggest surprise: 1313. I was extremely fortunate to have been invited to the closed door demo, and man was it a treat. LucasArt's presentation was elaborate, with a clever "staging set" that provided the illusion you were being brought deep into Courscant. You could tell they were really proud of what they were showing. The game itself looks to be Uncharted Star Wars, but that wasn't what stood out. The character models were unlike anything I've seen in gaming to date. For brief seconds I could have been told it was a live action shot, all while being reminded this was in-game engine. The lip-syncing alone was uncanny, and not in the detrimental way. It pretty much puts to shame any character work being done in other games, and especially going back to the show floor and seeing the likes of Sleeping Dogs, there was no comparison. I guess that's what you get when ILM helps you make a game, I truly hope 1313 will live up to the potential shown.



My game of show: Gameglobe. Not a game, per se, but a game maker. Akin to the creation modes of Little Big Planet and Mod Nation Racers and totally browser based. I watched the full demo presentation and immediately signed up in hopes of being accepted into the closed beta. The demo was really impressive, with tools and features that look as fun to use as they are creative. I don't know if they were pulling any tricks but it ran at an amazing speed for what it looked like it was handling, they surely must have a formidable cloud infrastructure not only for storage but for processing. I've sampled just about every consumer-based creator there is, alongside my work in professional game development. Game globe looks to be the best bridge between the two, with its own style and possibilities. And much like Minecraft, I was filled with excitement for the possibilities not only of what I could do with it, but what the community it generates will bring.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkpzgLz8aOE

Best booth babe: Nina Williams. Not because she's a pretty blonde, but because she played the part. Her costume was the most detailed, though possibly not as suitable for fighting or extended movement as one would be lead to believe. The model took it all in stride and did all the stances and posed with all the fans. That has got to be a tough gig and she should be commended.


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8:29 PM on 05.31.2012  

True Nature: Memories of Star Road



Like many, many gamers, I have a distinct love for Mario. I'm old enough to remember playing the original Mario Bros. in the arcade, and it remains one of my favorites of the series. Super Mario Bros. as well, where you had to wait in line to play and there were no guarantees you would get a turn before your parents came back for you. But of course Nintendo home consoles came along giving whole new life and a lot more meaning to Mario games. Super Mario Bros. frustrates me in a lot of ways, and Super Mario 2 I remember for its quirkiness, but never really got attached to it. Mario 3 is where the series sunk its hooks in, and it has had me ever since through all of its many incarnations. But there is still one game I always go back to, each time with a renewed fondness and enthusiasm.

Super Mario World.

It is hard to pinpoint why I am attached to it like I am. Over the years I've played it though so many times I can't focus on any specific thing. Not long ago I put it in just because I wanted to hear the music. Next thing I know I was 30 levels deep! Long ago when the game first arrived, I remember bragging to a friend that I'd almost beat the game and he asked how many levels I'd gone through. I said fifty something and he scoffed at me and said, "Dude there's like 80." My mind was blown. I went back to it and it was like playing a whole new game. This is way before the ubiquitous internets, secrets were pretty much word of mouth. As years went on, after enthusiastically attacking new Mario games, playing with awe and wonder as Mario 64 brought 3D into play, it's still Super Mario World that defines the series for me. I love the Switch Palaces, Donut Plains, Ghost Houses, secret exits, feathers, Forrest of Illusion, and of course... Yoshi. But there's another element to Mario's world that always itches my brain, and that is Mario's view of the world himself.

Which brings me to my art piece, "Memories of Star Road." In all the games, in all the levels he's traversed, I can't help but wonder if Mario ever stops to realize what he's been doing. Imagine he's been travelling across all these bizzarre locales and then finds the first warp exit to Star World. Hey, just another level right? Later on Mario takes another path and he gets a good look at where he's been, up in the clouds. Overwhelmed by his trials, he takes repose for the first time and wonders, "What is this crazy shit?"

That was the inspiration for this piece, a little love note to a game that has brought me so much fun and joy. No doubt it will continue to for a long time to come.







Nothing out of the ordinary for the art process. Rough idea in sketchbook, digital pencils and inks in Manga Studio, colors/paint in Photoshop. It was a mellow art experience and I'm happy to share it with you all.

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11:06 PM on 11.22.2011  

Beercade mural: Supreme Awesome in Nebraska?



I don't need to lay out the events that lead me to visit Benson, Nebraska this past weekend. What I need to do is share the mindblowing win that was found on a small-town wall as my gf and I took a walk down Maple Street after breakfast. We both saw it unexpectedly from about half a block away, and by the time we reached the corner, our jaws we on the floor. I believe our exact words were "WHAAAAAAAT???"















Look, I don't know what Beercade is, where it came from, or what it is doing in Nebraska. But I am so very happy I was able to see this mural in person. We were able to glean some information from a local: The owners of a neighborhood cigar shop are purchasing vintage arcade machines in a slow but steady effort to open a wonderful establishment that will clearly contain beer and an arcade. The mural was painted ahead of time in preparation, so all I can say is more power to them and God Speed.

I vaguely recall reading about this or something very similar, maybe even here at Destructoid? Briefly searching online, I've yet to find anything about this specific locale. If any d-toiders or c-bloggers know more, please post a link in the comments! Until then, I took as many pictures as I could. Here are some of the better ones, they don't really do it justice, but they should let you see some of the gamer love that's going down outside of Omaha. And to the artist: Rock on, man.


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7:23 PM on 04.30.2011  

Have you seen these Super Mario Bros. candy tins???



Maybe you have, but I just wanted to take some cool pictures :-)

I did a double take when I saw these at the checkout in Bed, Bath & Beyond of all places. At first glance I thought they were cheap knockoffs-- but they are actually really nice quality tins! Sure enough, there is a sanctioned Nintendo seal on the bottom.

In addition to the 1-UP they've got a red mushroom and a ? box.

The candy is probably secondary here, but it is tasty, a little like Sweet Tarts. This was also surprising, 'cause if you've ever sampled some of the toy-wrapped treats the Far East usually has to offer, the candy is not far removed from chalk.

At three bucks, these Super Mario Bros. tins are a steal as far as collectibles go!








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10:13 PM on 11.15.2010  

The unexpected boon of Austin Comic Con: Dragon Quest IX players



A Wizard World convention was in Austin this past weekend... It was pretty cool to be in Artist Alley during the show, and even cooler to meet a few D-toid community members who were able to come by and say hello (thanks guys!!).

But on a whim, the gf and I brought our DS's to the show and popped in a copy of Dragon Quest IX. We hopped into the Stornway Inn and set the mode to "Canvas for Guests." sure enough, by the end of the weekend we had no less than seven new guests!

Not only is that a cool feature for the game that works great in public gatherings (one can only imagine the crowds amassed at something like PAX), but I think it's super cool that there are perfect strangers out there who also got my own character to show up in their game. So if any of you out there have a couple new guests by the name of Edco and Vinx, thanks for the canvas!

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10:23 PM on 06.15.2010  

My D-Toid car for ModNation Racers!



ModNation Racers Career Mode frustrates me to no end, but all I really want to do is make cars-- so here's the Destructoid racecar I just finished!

-- 100% sticker limit!
-- kickass rocket engine!
-- Florida plates, yo!



I think it came out pretty good :-) It should be shared and available if you've got ModNation Racers, the car is simply called "DESTRUCTOID." If it helps searching, my PSN name is Super_Edco.



BUT HEY! Maybe you want to make your own Destructoid car. In that case, I've posted a second car with just the base stickers to do with as you please. It's called "Destructoid STICKER SET." I do have to warn you the stickers add up quick, but if you know your way around the creator, you can ungroup some things and take out some of the finer details that are really only for the larger sizes.



If you make any cars be sure and let me know!

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