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About
Name's Josh. I'm 25, play pretty much any kind of game, and have since I was old enough to hold a controller.
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Hey all! I felt like doing something silly, so I made up stupid awards for stupid things. Have fun!

1 – Biggest Badass

Asura, Asura's Wrath



Asura is a badass. He's strong, he's angry, and he's voiced by Liam O'Brien. He also punches a boss so hard that his six arms explode and then has to fight the next boss with no arms. If you don't think that's badass then get off of my blog.

2 – Sickest Burn

Yukari, Persona 3



Junpei Iori, self proclaimed “Ace Detective,” gets a hard dose of reality when Yukari hits him with the burn of the century. “More like Stupei, Ace Defective!” Someone call the burn unit!

3 – Best Persona Waifu

Naoto, Persona 4



You can go eat steak with your Chie, go study for finals with your Mitsuru, I'll be solving crimes with the real deal. Naoto is everything needed in a waifu. She's cute, unsure of herself, and fiercely dedicated. Shout out to my boy Gajknight for having the right taste.

4 – Best Reference to Homosexuality

Skalen Burdon, Witcher 2: “My favorite type of magic – lesbomancy.”



I don't think there's really anything I need to say about this one. It's my favorite type of magic too, Skalen.

5 – Best Suplex

Sabin, Final Fantasy VI



Persona 4 Arena Ultimax seems to think it's home to the “Ultra Suplex Hold.” These guys need to go train for a week in the mountains with Sabin and learn the ways of Blitz; maybe then they'll have the strength needed to suplex an undead train into oblivion!

6 – Best Sex Scene

Ride to Hell: Retribution



Have you and your significant other ever been SO turned on that you just couldn't even be bothered to remove your clothes before getting down to business? The guys at Eutechnyx feel you bro. They wanna make your struggle known to the world.

7 – Best Dating Sim

Hatoful Boyfriend



Only hardcore bird watchers need apply here. Or those who have ever wondered what would happen if the entire world were taken over by talking pigeons and you were the only human female left alive. Because let's face it, your biggest problem at that point is probably “Well, which of these birds am I gonna date?”

8 – Best/Worst Emotional Break Down

Zero, X4: “What...what am I fighting for?!”




If you thought that Zero was just a badass reploid who couldn't show emotion then X4 is here to set the record straight. I don't know who the voice actor was for Zero, but this performance... it's so real. So heartbreaking. So hilarious.

I hope you enjoyed these totally-legit-except-not-at-all awards.
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Breath of Fire is a series of JRPGs developed over at Capcom. I'm not entirely sure how popular or well known it is, but growing up the first two games in the series were some of my favorite portable games. You may have seen a few bits of news on the upcoming Breath of Fire 6 that's being made for the mobile market in Japan, which is what led me to create this. Who knows just how BoF6 is going to turn out, or if we'll ever even see it outside of Japan, but I'd like to take the opportunity to inform everyone about the ins and outs of this great series. Strap in folks, this is a long one.

If you don't have any knowledge of the series then feel free to use this as a guide to which games are worth playing, and if you're a veteran of the series then hopefully you'll enjoy reading the thoughts of a fellow fan as I recount my tales through these five games. The only things you need to know about the series as a whole going in is that every game has a blue haired boy with dragon powers named Ryu and a blonde girl with wings named Nina. The games also have recurring enemies in the same way that the Dragon Quest series does with its slimes and golems and whatnot. Let's get started!



Breath of Fire I

The first entry to the series was originally released on Super Nintendo, but was later released on the GBA, which is where I played it. The story of the first BoF is a very simple one: you are a member of the Light Dragon Clan who, long ago, got into an argument with the members of the Dark Dragon Clan over a powerful deity named Tyr who teased the ability to make their wishes come true. The goddess drove a wedge between the two clans and eventually a hero rose up and banished Tyr, locking her away with seven keys. As the game starts your village is under attack by the Dark Dragon Clan who are now seeking the keys to release Tyr. This sets you on your journey to make friends with the varied races of this world and stop the Dark Dragons.

I loved this game as a kid but I unfortunately have to report that it has not aged well by any means. I've got plenty of examples of why that is. First off is the encounter rate for random encounters. Oh my god. I am fairly sure that I have never played a game in my life that had a higher encounter rate than this. And it's not just an “every now and then it goes nuts” kind of thing, it's consistently bad. Another poor piece of game design is in the buffs you can apply in combat. If you buff a party member's attack or defense there is literally nothing done on screen to show that the character is buffed or for how long.

Another frustrating thing is that the character stats don't seem to work right. The first two characters to join you are Nina and Bo (he uses a bow, see what they did there?) and while Bo may have a higher defense stat than Nina, he still takes more damage from every source and there is simply no explanation as to why.

The game also suffers from incredible translation issues as well as generally poor writing. There's a bit very early on where Nina goes off on her own with some soldiers to save her father, the king, and gets kidnapped. There's a scene of the one guard who escaped telling the others what happened and they decide to ask for the strange traveler's (that's you) assistance. The guard runs into the room where you've been sleeping and I swear to god with no introduction his exact words are “The wizard has captured our princess. Help us?”

There's also just a general lack of direction in the worst way possible. You're given really vague instructions, sometimes little to no instruction at all, and have to do things that will leave you wondering “Wait, why am I even doing this?” And with how ridiculous the encounter rate is you won't want to be stuck having to explore the world at length. Unfortunately I'm gonna have to recommend you give this one a pass.



Breath of Fire II

This entry was my favorite of the first two growing up and was also a SNES / GBA title. The story for this one is a lot more in-depth and revolves around a strange religion that has taken over the hearts and minds of people in a relatively short time, making people all but forget about the once honored Dragon God.

This is another game that made me sad upon revisiting it, because it simply has not lived up to my memory of it. One of the biggest complaints I have about this game is that it's simply not balanced in a very fun way. The large majority of the battles are simply attack-spam fests with occasional healing, hoping your team kills the other first. You get one damage dealing caster early on but her spells are barely as strong as your other characters main attacks, despite that they cost AP to cast.

Another example of poor balance is that when you obtain a new party member his/her level is always unnecessarily low in comparison to other members. There's a character named Spar who joins you who was level 12 upon joining me even though my characters I use regularly were all level 21-24. This is made even worse by the fact that there are points in the game where you'll be forced to use those characters despite their low levels because they each have a special ability in the world. Spar for instance is the only character who can let your party walk through forests on the world map.

The translation effort in this game is pretty abysmal as well. If you try to sell something to a shop you get a wonderfully confusing message like “1x25 is worth BronzeSD.” There's even a part in the game where you're asked a Yes / No question and the answers are reversed. This isn't a clever trick, it's just a poor job from the team who brought it over.

While I like the base story of the game, just about everything you have to do along the way feels incredibly throwaway. There is legitimately a part of the game where you have to seek the wisdom of a great, wise tree about what strange demon is causing trouble in the world and he tells you that he forgot. Once again I will unfortunately have to recommend you pass this one up, unless you're looking for a trip into history.



Breath of Fire III

This entry in the series is the first one to be released on Playstation and is still a fan favorite. This game's story is essentially split into two parts: the first few hours of the game are spent as a kid, traveling the main continent and learning about your lineage as a member of the Brood (the race of dragon people that made up the clans of the first game). The second part of the game will have you playing as an adult Ryu on a journey to learn about war that caused the rest of your kind to get wiped out many years ago and the goddess who sanctioned that war.

I finally get to tell you about a series entry that has aged well for the most part! BoF3 and 4 were both entries that I never got to play growing up, so finally getting to play both back to back a couple of weeks ago was an exciting time for me.

BoF3 adds several new features to the series. The first, and most widely loved, is the Dragon Gene system. This system allows you to collect special dragon genes over the course of the game and combine different genes in combat to create unique dragon forms to battle with. It's a very cool and unique system but unfortunately it requires you to remember which combinations had the results you liked, which can be annoying.

Another new feature for BoF3 was the master system. This is a very cool idea that is handled pretty poorly. Essentially how it works is that as you travel the land you'll meet people who can serve as masters. You can set individual characters as apprentices to the masters and each master will alter that character's stat growth in a different way and will gift that character with special spells after they've gained a certain number of levels under their tutelage. The problem with this system is none of it is explained well. Most masters don't bother telling you what stats will grow for better or worse and they give you little info on when to return to visit them, if any.

Some other issues I had with the game include the strange and annoying camera system that used the game's isometric view and awful camera control to hide chests from you in annoying places as well as the game's annoying way of randomly swapping out your characters without your consent.

There's honestly a lot more I could say about this game if I had the space. It has the best version of the fishing minigame in the series, an interesting story, characters that are more interesting than those in any of the previous two entries, and it doesn't require a whole lot of grinding, which is always a plus! This is a great entry to jump into if you want to give Breath of Fire a shot as its connections to the other games are very light.



Breath of Fire IV

This entry really surprised me. I played every Breath of Fire main entry over these past two weeks and BoF4 impressed me the most. This game is (arguably) not actually connected to the previous entries at all. There are theories that it's a prequel as well as theories that it's in an alternate dimension. I like to think of it as its own thing; a fresh start for the series that keeps everything that makes a Breath of Fire title what it is.

The story of BoF4 is a mix of politics and religion. It takes place shortly after a ceasefire has brought a war between two countries to a halt as they work out peaceful negotiations. The dragons in this game are considered gods and you'll actually play as two different characters in this game. You'll of course play as Ryu primarily, who in this game is a young man who appears in this world with no idea of how he got there or who he really is. You'll also occasionally swap over to another character named Fou-Lu, the god emperor who created one of the countries centuries ago and has now returned to take back his place as emperor.

In my opinion this game takes almost everything that's been introduced in previous Breath of Fire titles and improves on it. The master system in this game is fantastic. Every master tells you exactly what impact they will have on your characters and the goals you must accomplish to learn special abilities from them are interesting and not simply “gain 3 levels and come back.”

By far the biggest improvement that this entry made to the series was that every character you have gains experience together. This means that at any time you can decide to start using a character you have completely ignored for 10 hours and they'll be good to go. However, you're unlikely to completely ignore a character for that long in this entry because there's another awesome improvement in this game in that you can swap between characters mid combat. You'll have three active and three in reserve and those in reserve slowly recover AP during combat.

The game also has some of the most amazing sprite work and animation I have ever seen in a PS1 game, as well as some damn good music. It has vivid colors, a beautiful art style, and smooth animations. I actually enjoyed going into random encounters because I got to experience all of those aspects more. The only two issues I really had with this entry were the camera system, which was similar to that of Vagrant Story in that you used L1/R1 to change the camera in 45 degree increments, and the fact that your dragon form always looks the same throughout the entire game, which felt a bit lazy.

The characters are all great and the story is intriguing. If you're only going to play one entry in this series I would highly recommend it be this one, though I know many others will say that BoF3 is superior.



Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter

Oh boy. This entry is the black sheep of the series. Dragon Quarter has a cult following of its own, but most series fans seem to agree that it's one you can pass over. The reason for Dragon Quarter's mixed reception is that it is a massive departure from the rest of the series. Every entry up to now has been a turn based rpg with a large cast of characters, but this entry uses more of a tactical turn based kind of system and only has three characters. The game also has a lot of very strange systems in place that, at least in my opinion, simply aren't fun.

The story is a bit difficult to express, but essentially you play as a guy named Ryu who is a low ranking ranger in a world where everyone lives underground and constantly has to worry about the quality of the air and the rampant monsters in the tunnels. When out on a mission with a fellow ranger, the two of you get separated and you meet a member of a radical resistance movement who shows you that everything isn't how you thought it was.

This is a game designed to be played multiple times. You might think “Oh sweet, replay value!” no I mean literally if you want the full story you have to play the game multiple times and continue to do better each time. It simply withholds information and cutscenes from you your first time through. There are a lot of other weird systems in place as well. Saving can only be done with a “save token” which aren't exactly common and you're not likely to ever have an abundance of them. You can also gain “party experience” in addition to each character's personal experience. You can divvy up that party xp to whomever you like at any time. You may want to hold onto it though because if you get stuck and choose to restart the game from the beginning (which you can do at any time) then that party xp is one of the few things that carries over to the new playthrough.

The combat system is actually kinda interesting and I can see why some would enjoy it, but the game never even attempts to tell you how it works. I was an hour or so in before I realized that I could be comboing abilities together.

Honestly there's not a lot I can say about Dragon Quarter. It is a very strange game that doesn't feel like it at all belongs in the series. I didn't really hate it, but it wasn't my cup of tea either. I just feel kind of indifferent about the whole thing. I can't really give a solid recommendation on it so if you're not sure yourself then look up some gameplay footage of it or ask others' opinions in the comments.

Final Thoughts


It's really sad that the first two entries didn't survive the passing of time for me, but III and IV still manage to be great games. I'd highly recommend trying them out, especially IV. If you have a personal favorite or just have a different take on the series as a whole than me, then feel free to tell me your thoughts below! Thanks for reading!
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Fenriff
6:38 PM on 08.15.2014



So this seems to be a thing that people do when they start blogging here, but it wasn't something I was aware of until a while after I had started. I've been writing here on Destructoid for a bit now and I actually post most of what I write to a few different places to try and get as much feedback as possible, but Destructoid is probably my favorite simply because it's nice to see readers/commenters return to your work at such a rate that you begin to recognize them and look forward to what they're going to have to say. Anyway, let's get down to it!

1 - I play a LOT of games.

This is probably a bit obvious as I write about games every week and I'm here on Destructoid but I play quite a a lot of games and I do so at a pretty spectacular rate. Video games are my passion, not just playing them but everything surrounding them. In the past two weeks alone I played all the way through Breath of Fire 3, BoF 4, Earthbound, and Mother 3 all for the first time. I will play pretty much anything that can catch my interest. The only games I generally shy away from are sports games. When I sit down to play a game it's not uncommon for me to play the majority of it in one sitting. I like to play games one at a time and until they're done.



2 – I do most of my gaming alone.

I have quite a lot of fond memories playing games with friends, but most of those are very old. I lived in the same town from the time I was born to the time I was about 22, and by the time I was around 21 all of the friends I had grown up with had moved off. I moved away to where more of my family lived and started college and didn't really meet anyone the entire time I went there. In most classes I was in it seemed I was one of the few people who actually wanted to make 'witty' comments and jokes while everyone else was super serious about their education. These days the friends I have are those I talk to online and I very rarely do any gaming with them. In fact the only real gaming I've done with people for the past year or two has been while I messed around playing WoW again for a bit last year.

3 – I write for a few reasons.

I really enjoy writing. I enjoy getting to share my opinion with people and seeing how they feel in comparison. In high school I actually wrote movie reviews for a student section of the local news paper. I haven't revisited them as I'm sure they hold up terribly but it's something I did! I actually always fancied myself getting into fictional writing as well, but it's something I've put on hold to further this writing. I continue to write about video games because it is something I'm passionate about and because, one day, I'd love to be able to do it professionally. People say that if you want to make a living doing what you love then do it for free until someone pays you not to stop doing it, so here I am every week writing, and I will be for as long as I can. Even if it never really “leads” to anything.



4 – I have literally been gaming for as long as I can remember.

This isn't an overstatement. My oldest memory is actually of playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project on NES with my dad. The specifics are vague but if I recall correctly my grandma use to work at a toy store and liked playing the NES. I can remember our trips to her house to visit when I would go straight to her room to turn on her NES and play The Legend of Zelda while my brother and sister played outside.

5 – I don't like to “hate” things.

It is pretty rare for me to flat out hate something, especially video game related. I generally try to see both sides of whatever is in question. When I play games that I don't enjoy I try to see what they were aiming for or what other people like about it. I have a hard enough time getting along in life without spending a bunch of energy hating something. I'd rather spend that time looking for something else I can enjoy in its place.

6 – I'm incredibly introverted.

I tend to be most relaxed when I'm alone doing something. That's not to say I don't like social interaction, it's just something I have to be in the mood for. People can tire me out, mentally especially. If I hang around people for too long I then go into a state where I'll just kind of ignore those people for a few days while I “recharge.” My time in college was actually a time I spent attempting to break out of that, which is why I tried to express myself out loud as much as possible in classes, but that obviously didn't work out quite how I'd hoped.



7 – I love to be challenged in a game.

One of my favorite things in a game is for it to be balanced in a way that encounters feel challenging but fair. It's one of the reasons I enjoy Dark Souls so much. It needs be a fun challenge though, I hate it when a game's idea of increasing the challenge is to simply give enemies more health and make them hit harder. Mechanics, people! I don't only like challenging games, there are plenty of great easy or relaxing games that I love, but there's something incredibly satisfying about overcoming the odds. It's also kind of a badass feeling to have beaten something with little trouble and then seeing people on the internet talk about how difficult it was for them. ;)

8 – JRPG's were my first love.

As I mentioned before I've played games for as long as I can remember, but most of them early on were just flashy ways for a little kid to pass the time. It wasn't until a childhood friend let me borrow Final Fantasy II on the SNES that I realized how amazing the genre was. For a long time after that, RPG's were the main type of game I played. I still made time for personal favorites like Mega Man X and Diddy Kong Racing, but games like Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG had most of my attention. It wasn't until the first Devil May Cry came out that I realized I should really diversify my portfolio.



9 – Kingdom Hearts was made for me.

Not literally obviously, but the first Kingdom Hearts was HUGE for me. Growing up, Disney films were my favorite. Hell I'm 25 years old and I STILL love going back to watch Aladdin or Lion King. As I mentioned before I also grew up on JRPG's, and Square's were my favorite. The combination of the two in Kingdom Hearts was the most amazing thing ever created to me as a kid. I'd be lying if I wasn't saddened by how overly complicated the series has gotten and how spread out across so many platforms it is, but there will never be a time that it's not near and dear to my heart.

10 – I love seeing games evolve over time.

A lot of people like to see the things they really love stay the same. People want Devil May Cry to stay Devil May Cry and they want Final Fantasy to harken back to the ATB days of VI or VII. I loved those games growing up too; Devil May Cry got me into action games and FF VI is one of my favorite games of all time, but I love seeing those franchises evolve and try new things. People will forever give FF XIII shit, but I love that Square continued their idea of pushing the genre forward. I completely understand that people want more games like the old Final Fantasies, but I love seeing the genre march forward the way it has, even if it has to fall in some pitfalls along the way. Not only Final Fantasy, but games in general.



Well, that's my list. The-probably-longer-than-it-needed-to-be-and-harder-than-I-expected-it-to-be-to-write 10 things about me. Thanks for reading.
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Art style is arguably one of the most important things to consider when making a game, especially if you want your game to be pleasing to the eye. Having a solid art style in your game can keep it alive long past the expiration of the platform it's on. It can make your game continue to shine today despite the hardware limitations they were made under.

There are plenty of different examples of fantastic art styles and everyone has their own preferences so I've just listed some examples from different styles, but feel free to share your favorite art styles as well! Let's begin.

(Apologies in advance for the weird "[/b]" everywhere, nothing I do seems to get rid of them.)

The Cel-Shaded Look: Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker




Cel-shading has become an increasingly popular art style over the years, but one of the most beautiful and most beloved games to adopt the style is undoubtedly Nintendo's Wind Waker. This is a game of wonderfully vibrant colors in an equally wonderful game. Amazingly they managed to make the game even more beautiful with the HD re-release for Wii U. Everyone already knows about this game so there's not much I'm gonna be able to tell you that you don't already know, but if you somehow haven't played it yet then be sure and remedy that soon.
Other great examples include: Borderlands 2, Okami

The Anime Look: Asura's Wrath




Asura's Wrath is arguably more anime than it is video game, but that didn't keep me from loving it. A lot of people felt differently, which I suppose boils down to how much you are willing to accept having more cutscenes than gameplay and how okay you are with QTE's. Asura's Wrath felt like an epic anime in video game form, and it's art style matched that perfectly in my opinion.
Other great examples include: Ni No Kuni

The Painted Look: Bioshock Infinite




The “painted” sort of art style is one of my favorites. A few games go for this kind of look and they generally manage to look fantastic doing it. Bioshock Infinite is a game that has been subject to a surprisingly large amount of hate on the internet from people wanting to apply their logic to an illogical situation, but it's a game that I adored and I really love just looking at.
Other great examples include: Dishonored

The Hand Drawn Look: Bastion




Bastion is one of my favorite games. It has everything from a great story to fun gameplay to a fantastic soundtrack to incredible visuals. The excellent hand drawn look of Bastion is one of the greatest art styles around in my opinion. I remember listening to an interview with one of the guys at Supergiant Games prior to Bastion's release with him talking about the development of the game and how they were worried that it may be the only game they ever got to release. Even if that had been the case, it would still have been an incredible mark to have left on the gaming world. Jen Zee, the art director for Bastion, really showed off when creating the art for this game.
Other great examples include: Don't Starve

The Photo Realism Look: Infamous: Second Son




The hyper realistic approach to visuals is attempted frequently and is often one of the first to show its age. We've got games like Crysis and Ryse, but my favorite so far is without a doubt Infamous: Second Son. People can talk about consoles holding back gaming but one look at this PS4 exclusive is enough to impress anyone looking for realistic looking graphics. The visuals in this game are just phenomenal and the gameplay is pretty fantastic as well. Second Son was a welcome surprise when it released and it does a great job of showing the potential of the PS4 as a system.
Other great examples include: Crysis 3, Ryse: Son of Rome

The PS1 Era: Breath of Fire 4




This is going to be an odd category because it's not really a set art style per se, but the PS1 is home to some utterly fantastic games as well as some of the worst aging (visually speaking) games ever. It's amazing to me that so many developers chose to go the route of 3D models when they looked so poor at that early stage, especially when the extra power that the PS1 housed made possible some of the most fantastic sprites in gaming. Sprites like Alucard from Symphony of the Night or X from Megaman X4, but in my opinion one of the greatest examples of art given life in a PS1 game is the fantastic sprite work done in Breath of Fire 4. It was held back a bit by its inclusion of 3D environments (and a few models) mixed with the 2D art, but that art still shone out. I even recorded footage of the battle system just so you can see the great sprites and animations in action!
Other great examples include: Symphony of the Night, Megaman Legends, Megaman X4, Final Fantasy IX

The Retro Look: Shovel Knight




Many indie games go for the retro look. It's a relatively low budget way to make your game not look like shit when you've got a small studio making a game for the modern market, but no one has done the retro look better than Yacht Club with their recent release of Shovel Knight. This is a game that perfectly understood what made classic games so fantastic and managed to plant itself right along side the greats without feeling like a clone or wannabe. No game has ever, and probably will ever, be more faithful to the NES era of gaming.
Other great examples include: Lone Survivor, Cave Story +

There are plenty of other great games with wonderful art styles that weren't mentioned here. Journey is one of the most beautiful games I've ever seen, Darksiders II has a great look about it, Dust: An Elysian Tail has a fantastic cartoon sort of look to it. What are some of your favorite art styles? Are there any games that you think have managed to live long past their dues thanks to its art style?

Preview for Next Week:


I generally try not to rely on list type pieces like this because I see them as an easy way out for my weekly write up, but I'm currently working on a bigger project that should be ready for next week. In the comments of an article on Breath of Fire 6 on Destructoid a fine fellow by the handle of R.Hoffman asked what was everyone's favorite Breath of Fire title. I realized that I STILL hadn't played any of them past 1 & 2 on GBA. I've since finally played both 3 and 4 and plan on doing a full series retrospective in the vein of Chris Carter's old 100% series retrospectives once I've replayed the others, so look forward to that next week. (It probably could have been done this week but I may have gotten side tracked by finally playing Earthbound and Mother 3 after finishing BoF 3&4, oops.) Thanks for reading!
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Video games are unique as a medium. If you went to read a book you'd likely be looking for well written characters and a good story. If you go to see a movie you're probably looking for both of those things along with good cinematography. If you go to play a game though you could be looking for anything from visuals to story to characters to gameplay. Different people will weigh these factors differently and many will tell you that gameplay is the single most important thing in any game, but lets talk about that and the importance of other factors in comparison to gameplay.

The argument for gameplay as the most important factor in a game isn't a hard one to make. Gameplay is arguably what makes a game what it is. Without gameplay then what's the point of calling it a game and charging $60? You can also point to old games like Pac-Man or Super Mario Bros that manage to be great games that people still enjoy today even while those games lack any other standout features. I'm not really here to argue that gameplay isn't important, in fact depending on the game it may indeed be the most important, but many people fail to appreciate the fantastic amount of variation in our medium.



The first example I'd like to use is Thatgamecompany's Journey. Journey is an utterly fantastic game. It's reasonably priced, has great visuals, and is fun to play through. I have never played another game that exuded such raw emotion. This game was well received and is loved by many, but is its gameplay anything fantastic? Not particularly. You run around, don't really solve puzzles, don't fight anything, you do some basic platforming and run around a lot. Why then did I sit down at my PS3 the night that Journey came out, ready to disagree with the world because there was no way that a game could be that good in that short of a time frame, and then immediately become so fully immersed in that beautiful scenery that I was sad when I lost track of one of the other nameless people online who had wandered into my world?

How about a game that isn't trying to be the ideal example of video games as art? How about a game like Telltale's recent adaptation of Fables: The Wolf Among Us. This is another game that has been well received. It tells a good story, has interesting characters, and yet has very limited gameplay. You do control a character in The Wolf Among Us and you do walk around a world and interact with other characters and do things, but in the grand scheme of things, and in comparison to the large majority of video games, there is very little actual gameplay. You look for clues in the environments and make choices but there isn't really much of a way to fail. This isn't like an old Sierra point and click adventure game like King's Quest where you could leave a room and go the rest of the game without realizing that you missed something necessary to complete the game. Is this game worse off because of its lack of more compelling gameplay?



On the other hand, games like Crytek's Crysis series are paramounts of visual fidelity. They rely on your love of beautiful visuals and “run and gun” gameplay (and your sense of exploration if you're playing the first game) to carry you through relatively mediocre stories with no real interesting characters to speak of. It's fun to go full on Predator and sneak around cloaked, firing arrows from a bush to take battalions down one man at a time, and it's certainly nice to look at, but it's not gonna be for anyone who wants to hear a great story. And if you enjoy any of those games after the point where aliens show up then god bless you.

For the sake of fairness we could easily point out plenty of games that absolutely rely on gameplay to be successful. Look to just about anything that Platinum releases! Metal Gear Rising, Bayonetta, these games thrive on fast and fun gameplay. It's the reason they exist at all. The stories they tell and the writing for the characters is anything but fantastic, but that's not intended to be the draw of those games.

The ideal game, at least in my opinion, would be a balance of all these things. An interesting story, well written characters, fun gameplay, and beautiful visuals. Whether or not a game scratches those itches for you the way it scratches them for someone else is obviously subjective. Personally I find that Last of Us manages to balance these things well. It's a gorgeous game, I enjoy the gameplay, I find the characters interesting, and I like the story. It's set in a zombie-esque world (something that we can probably all agree is a bit overdone) but the game isn't about the “zombies”, it's about a man and his evolution from a cold and selfish guy who is just trying to survive and protect this girl because its his job to someone who is protecting her because she means something to him. That may be how I feel, but I know for a fact that plenty of others disagree with me, and that's okay.



Now I'm not here to try and tell you that you should start liking games for different reasons, I just want to show you the importance of variety. The way that you weigh the different factors that make a video game against each other is entirely up to you. No one can rightly tell you that you're wrong for liking a game for its graphics even though the gameplay is mediocre, and no one can tell you that you're wrong for liking a game for its gameplay even if the story is terrible. You should enjoy the games that you enjoy. Never let someone else's opinion of a game make you feel like you shouldn't enjoy it.


Just appreciate the fact that others play games for different reasons than you and have different tastes. I personally have never seen the huge draw that Uncharted has. I dislike the “fight off 15 guys, move 5 feet, fight off 15 more guys” type of gameplay in a game that's supposedly about a treasure hunter / explorer, and I really hate the “we don't believe in anything supernatural even though every game we fight off supernatural things” trope and the fact that they constantly break up the male and female leads so they can redo the same love story every game, but to each their own. The fact that there are so many different games for people of so many different tastes is one of the biggest strengths of the video game medium. If you take anything from this piece then take this: variety is indeed the spice of life, and that absolutely applies to video games.
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Shadow Tower: Abyss is a game you likely haven't heard of before, and no one could really hold that against you. This is a game made by From Software of Demon / Dark Souls fame. It is actually the sequel to PS1 game Shadow Tower which released in the US in 1999. Unfortunately, unlike its predecessor, Shadow Tower: Abyss was never released outside of Japan. Agetec Inc, the publisher who brought the original Shadow Tower to the US, was in the process of bringing the sequel over, but it was canceled by Sony before it could be finished. A fan translation was eventually created so that english speakers could give this hidden gem a try.

Shadow Tower: Abyss is without a doubt one of the strangest games I have ever played. This is an action/adventure/rpg that does not even attempt to hold your hand at any point. You're dropped in with a very brief bit of story from the intro cutscene, no real idea of the mechanics, and even less of an idea about what you should be doing. The only way you'll even know the controls is to open the menu and go to the controller layout section of the options.

There is very little story to experience in this game, but I'll do my best to give you the setup for it as well as I can. Long ago there was a ruler who obtained a powerful spear that granted him the power to bring peace to the land. You play as an explorer who seeks this powerful spear. Your character is led into the jungle by a strange old man and is then dropped into the abyss within which there is nothing but a tower reaching down. After the first level you'll learn from the strange creatures who live in the abyss that the only way to seek the spear is by proving your power, and the best way to do that is to take on the seven lords who reside in the tower.



The first thing you'll do once you have control over your character is walk over to a lit torch on the ground and read a stone tablet with some writing on it. The tablet informs you that as someone who has been sacrificed to the abyss you are now stuck here. Only the spear-bearer has power here and only he can leave. The torch goes out, leaving you in the darkness for a moment until your character's eyes readjust, and you begin your journey. And then immediately die and have to start over if you don't take your time and use caution while walking down the game's first hallway.

Gameplay is done entirely in first person and shares many similarities with From's previous series King's Field. There is no leveling system and there are no autosaves here. Your character's attributes are improved by finding gear in the environment or by having it drop from enemies. Any item you find in the environment will literally just be laying around somewhere and you have to actually be observant if you want to find things as none of it will glow or any such nonsense.

The types of gear you will find are actually a good bit of what make this game's approach interesting. The tower you're making your way down has been attempted by many people over many centuries, you are by no means the first explorer to come here. As such, the weapons and pieces of armor you will find on your journey will be made up of items from many different ages of history. This game has everything from swords to axes to bows to flintlock pistols to assault rifles. You can easily put a 9mm in one hand and a one handed sword in the other. You can also find rings that grant you magic, so while shooting your pistol or slashing with your axe you can hurl a fireball as well.



Combat is actually handled decently well considering it is a first person game. When using a melee weapon your number of attacks you can do at a time is dependent on the weapon you're using. If you're using a knife you may get four bubbles of stamina above your health bar, if you have a large axe you may only get two. Guns work off ammunition obviously and each gun has its own type of ammunition. Ammo is not always easy to come by however so you may find yourself swapping guns out to match what you actually have ammo for.

When fighting with a melee weapon you can swing said weapon in a few different ways, but this is actually a mechanic that matters rather than just being there for your amusement. There are three different types of physical damage you can do: slash, break, and pierce. Guns will usually do piercing as you'd expect but melee weapons can do any of the three. You'll want to swing your weapon in a way that fits the type of damage it does best. Your stats are actually cumulative for your gear, so if you have a pistol that does a particularly large amount of piercing damage then you may want to stick a good piercing weapon in your other hand and do the stabbing attack for a while. Different enemies will also be more susceptible to certain types of attacks. The first enemy type in the game may take quite a lot of stabs to kill but they can be dispatched quickly if you aim a sideways slash at their neck to decapitate them.



Each piece of your gear has its own durability and this is leads me into one of ST:A's most unique mechanics: the shrines. There is a lot of gear in this game so if something breaks you'll likely be better off simply replacing it with a different piece of gear. However, if you have a piece of gear you're particularly fond of, you can repair it at one of the game's four shrines. The repair shrine will allow you to repair a piece of gear's durability at the cost of your health. This may not sound like a huge deal but keeping yourself healthy can be a trial in this game. There are only three ways to get health back in ST:A: you can use a health potion, find a piece of gear that happens to have a health regen enchantment on it (which is rare), or by using the healing shrine which requires you to sacrifice a piece of gear to heal your character.

The other two shrines are more straightforward, there is a shop shrine where you can spend the “cune” currency on gear or items and there is a save shrine. This game also lacks a map, so if you want to know where you are at any point or what the layout of your surroundings are then you will have to stumble upon a place where a former adventurer has left a crude drawing on the wall. This will also be one of the very few ways you'll find anything out about the story.



Visually the game looks about how you'd expect considering the time frame it came out in. While the visuals are nothing spectacular, the game does manage to keep new and interesting environments coming your way. You'll travel through bug infested hives, poisonous temples, and icy caverns. The game has its share of puzzles but where the game really shines is in its desire for you to just explore everything. There is music in the game but it is only played very briefly upon entering an area, once you're in a new area you'll be listening to your footsteps and the sounds of the enemies around you.

Shadow Tower: Abyss is not some amazing diamond in the rough and it's not the best game you've never played, but it is a very interesting and unique first person action adventure rpg. The game is around 9-10 hours long and I'd certainly recommend giving it a try some time. If you're a fan of strange obscure games or just a big Souls fan then this is a really cool bit of history to experience. You can find the fan translation by way of a simple google search for “shadow tower abyss english.”


This would also be one of the incredibly rare times I'd actually recommend having access to a guide, but alas the only one I know of online seems to be unavailable now. One tip I can give you is that as soon as you start the game you'll want to go into the control layout options and change the controller layout to option 4 which will give the game your typical fps control scheme. If you have any trouble finding the game or setting it up feel free to contact me and I'll try and help out. Thanks for reading!
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