Alignment: Neutral Good (though occasionally Chaotic)
Interests: Video games (duh!), movies, anime, listening to music, programming, reading
I've been playing video games since I was 5, when my godfather gave me and my sister an SNES. My tastes in games are similar to my movies: varied with no particular genre loved above the others. You may not agree with me, nor I you, but that doesn't mean we can't get along.
Whenever there’s a discussion on the greatest games of all time, it safe to assume that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is going to be brought up at some point. And why shouldn’t it be? It revolutionized the Zelda series by introducing the ability to lock onto targets and having context sensitive button prompts, becoming the gold standard for action adventure games for years to come. It sold 7.6 million copies in its lifetime (not counting the numerous ports and the 3DS remake), won numerous awards, and was even named the “highest rated game ever reviewed” in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2008 and 2010; in other words, people really love Ocarina of Time. I’m one of those people (in case it wasn’t painfully obvious); it’s easily in my top ten favorite games of all time, alongside other instant classics like the original Super Mario Galaxy & Half-Life 2. But my love for the N64 classic is a bit different from most people. Don’t get me wrong; I loved everything about the game, but for me Ocarina of Time was more than just a really good game. It came out at time when I was still young and relatively new to gaming, and as I got older, it became my go to game when I was feeling down (which happened a lot in grade school and junior high), keeping me both sane and helping to realize what I wanted to do with my life.
I suppose I should start from the beginning. Even though my first console was a Super Nintendo, it wasn’t until I got my Nintendo 64 that I really started to get into video games. I got my N64 in the summer of 1997, as a present from my parents for doing really good on my report card, with a copy of the classic Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64. Eventually, other games would begin filling up my library, such as Diddy Kong Racing, Yoshi’s Story, Tetrisphere(which had an awesome soundtrack), Banjo-Kazooie, and Star Fox 64 (and I only got that last one because I kept annoying my parents with the video that I got from Nintendo Power promoting the game). You may have noticed that outside of StarFox 64, the games I first owned for the N64 were either platformers or games that were mostly aimed at a younger audience (I hesitate to use the word “kiddie”), and that’s because my parents were worried about me playing games that weren’t age appropriate. But that all changed in the winter of 1998, when my parents got me two games that would change my life forever: Pokemon Blue(which is a story for another day), and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Of the two games, it was actually Ocarina that I was the least familiar with. While Pokemon was quickly becoming a cultural phenomenon at the time, I knew absolutely nothing about this game with the sword and shield on its box; and I found out later that only reason my parents got me the game in the first place was because the sales guy at the store convinced them that it was just like the Mario games I loved so much. No sooner after booting up the game, starting a new file named after myself (in all caps because I was weird like that), and watched the opening cutscene did I starting asking questions. Who was that girl fleeing on horseback? Who was the boy in the green tunic; is that who I’m going to play as? Why won’t this fairy shut up? What’s up with that tree? Why can’t I jump? Why do I have a sword? Why can’t I control the camera like in Super Mario 64? Why won’t this fairy shut up? What the hell is Z-Targeting? OH MY GOD WHY WON’T THIS FAIRY SHUT UP? One thing was clear though; this was nothing like any game that I had played before.
After a bit of trial and error (and by trial and error I mean I died a lot, stopped playing, and asking my neighbor what to do in the first dungeon), I eventually figured out what to do and what not to do, and before long my initial confusion and frustration turned into joy and excitement. I still remember how sad I first felt when despite my best efforts, the Great Deku Tree still died, or how my jaw dropped when I first entered Hyrule Field. I remember my heart racing as I snuck through Hyrule Castle to meet the elusive Princess Zelda in a stealth segment that wouldn’t feel out of place in Metal Gear Solid. I remember laughing at the serious head of the Goron tribe Darunia dancing like an idiot after playing Saria’s Song, and being confused at Princess Ruto’s romantic advances before giving me the last Spirtual Stone. And when I first encountered Ganondorf after collecting all three Spiritual Stones, I knew that he was different than any villain I had seen in previous games. He had bigger ambitions than kidnapping a princess; he wanted to take over the world, and would do anything he could to achieve that goal, and when he successfully took over Hyrule in the second part of the game, I was determined to do everything in my power to restore the beautiful land of Hyrule that he ruined (even if it meant going through that damn Water Temple). Ocarina showed me that games could not only be fun, but have deep and engrossing stories with interesting characters and worlds to explore, and it was during these early playthroughs that I told myself these were the kind of games I wanted to make when I was older. I played it almost non-stop during that Christmas break, but when school started up again, it would take on a much more important role in my life.
You see, school kind of sucked for me as a kid. Right before I entered the second grade, my parents enrolled me and my sister into a K-8 Catholic School (since they felt that it would help us get a better education), and I would stay there until I graduated the 8[sup]th[/sup] grade. I hated most (if not all) of my time there. Most of my classmates made fun of me because of my weight and my love of video games and all things nerdy, and would even spread rumors about me as the years went on, causing quite a few of the younger kids to be afraid of me. I didn’t have many friends, and the few I did have I would often drive away because of my increasingly hostile attitude (I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t an easy kid to get along with). Teachers would move or reassign students so as to not have them cause me trouble, which very rarely worked. Hell, one of the few happy moments of my time there was when I was elected Student Council President, only to find out later that many of my classmates voted for me because they either A)felt sorry for me, B) wanted me to fail, or C) didn’t like my opponent. Add to the fact that my parents would always argue about me whenever I came home crying from school (which was a lot), and you can imagine that things weren’t exactly pleasant for me in my younger days. It was during this time that Ocarina of Time began to take on more significant role in my life, and it became more than just a game. It was my escape from a life that I wanted to run away; I guess you could call it my safety blanket. In Ocarina of Time, I was the one riding around Hyrule on Epona. I was the one wielding the Master Sword. I was strong and brave, things that I felt I wasn’t in the real world. In the game, I was somebody; I was the Hero of Time. And in those dark times, it was the one thing that kept me (somewhat) sane.
So far, this year hasn’t been one of my better ones. Some personal stuff has hit me and my family pretty hard, my job prospects aren’t going as well as I had hoped, and I’m turning twenty five years old this year, resulting in me questioning some of my life choices up to this point. Why am I telling you this, and what does it have to do with Ocarina of Time? Because of all the things that Ocarina of Time did for me when I was younger, the single most important thing that game did for me was this: it taught me that things are going to get better. They will always get better, no matter how dark they seem. And much like I made it through the Water Temple, I made it through grade school and junior high. I made it through high school (which didn’t suck as much as grade school and junior high, but still sucked). I made it through college and got my degree in Software Development (Major in Game Development). I can and will make it through this rough patch in my life as well. Games will come and go; what was considered classic years ago might be considered outdated now. But for me, Ocarina of Time will always hold a special place in my heart for providing me a safe haven whenever things were at its darkest, and for inspiring me to follow my dream of becoming a world famous video game developer someday, nor should I ever give up on that dream, no matter how hard things got. Well that, and the fact that the game was also really good.
Despite JRPGs being a dime a dozen on handhelds, there's been a lot of buzz surrounding Bravely Default. After releasing in Japan in 2012, many gamers in the West petitoned Square-Enix to localize it. Despite some weird tweets on Bravely Default's Twitter page and some unconfirmed reports of the game being localized at GDC last year, Square remained quite, causing many gamers to wonder if were getting the game. We finally got our answer on an April Nintendo Direct, where not only was it announced that the West was getting Bravely Default, but that it was being published by Nintendo themselves. Even better, the game was coming out in 2013....in Europe. The States would have to wait until February 7, 2014 to get it's 3DS JRPG fix, but thankfully Nintendo of America realized that the wait would be unbearable for some people (me), so they realized the a demo of the game on the 3DS eShop earlier today. After playing it for a few hours, I was left asking myself one question: WHY ISN'T FEBRUARY YET?
One of the first things you'll notice the minute you boot up the demo (besides the amazing music playing on the Title Screen), is that the demo takes place in a town called Ancheim and the area surrounding it, which is supposedly exclusive to the demo. The four heroes (Tiz, Agnes, Ringabel, and Edea) have come to the town to at the request of its mayor, who needs the four heroes help with some problems that the townsfolk have been experiencing. This usually involves you talking to someone in town, killing certain monsters, and then giving them a certain number of a specific item that a monster drops (though the demo does emphasize that the final game is not setup like this). As you complete certain quests, you get specific items that you can transfer over to the main game when it comes out (more on that later). Other than the quests having to be done in a specific order (you can't go onto the next one until you complete the one you're already on), I absolutely love this setup. It strikes a perfect balance between familiarizing the player with the core concepts of the game (going on quests, battling, etc.), while at the same time setting it in area that is separate from the main game, thus keeping spoilers to a minimum. The area is big and diverse enough that you can explore and grind to your hearts content without feeling constricted.
Combat follows the basic turn based gameplay of older Final Fantasy games, but with two interesting twists: the Brave and the Default systems. Here's how battling works: each character has a set of Brave Points(BP for short), with most actions during combat (attacking, using abilities, using items) costing a certain number of Brave Points. The Default command (which is Defense in other games) lets you give up a turn in exchange for earning an extra Brave Point. The Brave command is where things get interesting: using the Brave Points saved up in battle, you can use the Brave command to attack an enemy multiple times, heal your party multiple times, or even buff yourself up before unleashing a devastating attack. You don't necessarily need to use Brave Points to use the Brave command; you can use it even if you have zero BP, though the trade-off is you can't move for a number of turns based on how many times you attacked (for example, if you have zero BP and you Brave twice, you can't attack for two turns). Additionally, enemies can also use Brave and Default and in fact certain attacks take away or add Brave Points, adding a layer to the combat and guaranteeing that battles are never dull.
This level of depth carries over into the job system. Following the same structure as Final Fantasy V & The Four Heroes of Light, each of the four characters can be assigned a job that gives them special abilities and attacks to use in battle, such as using healing magic or gaining the ability to use a jumping attack; as you level up, you gain access to certain abilities within that class, such as protecting an ally in Critical addition or the ability to survive a critical attack. In addition, you can also assign your class special abilities from other classes; for example, you can have a Knight that can use White Magic or you can have a White Mage use Black Magic. While I don't how many or what jobs the final game will start you off with, the demo gives you a wide variety of classes to use, and include the a mix of traditional classes like Mages and Knights, while including some interesting ones like Performers and Valkyries (which are basically Dragoons from Final Fantasy games). In addition, the demo also gives you access to each of these classes base abilities, letting you experiment with a wide variety of classes to make your ideal team.
Earlier I said that you can transfer content from the demo into the main game. Whenever you complete certain tasks or reach certain milestones during the demo, you'll get a one of seven item packs that has specific items like Potions and Antidotes, which will then be transferred to the game when it comes out next month; how that's going to happen remains to be seen. In addition, the demo has StreetPass functionality, and works the same as it will work in the final game, in that you have people come to your village and help you rebuild it, after it was destroyed in an earthquake during the course of the main game. Both the item packs can be transferred from the demo to the main game. Unfortunately, you won't be able to transfer your character's levels (or their job levels), the items you buy and earn in the demo, or any of the abilities that you learn. I wasn't expecting that, but it should be noted. Also, every bit of dialog is silent, though in the final game, it'll be mostly voiced.
So overall, should you get the demo? Honestly, it really depends on how excited you are for Bravely Default. If you've been on the fence of getting the game, this demo isn't going to change your mind. However, people who have been excited for the game owe it to themselves to get this. It does everything a demo is supposed to do: it gives you a basic taste of what the final game will be like, and it gets you excited for the final product. It also gives players who are going to buy the full game an excellent incentive to play through the whole demo. While good demos don't necessary mean a good final game, if Bravely Default is as good as it's demo, we just might have another solid RPG to add to the 3DS's already solid library. Now, if you'll excuse me, my 3DS just finished charging, and I'm going back to playing some more Bravely Default.
As I’m typing this out, the video game industry is finally taking a chance to breath after two weeks of non-stop surprise announcements and controversy. Nintendo, after announcing that Earthbound was finally coming to the Virtual Console and we were getting a sequel to A Link to The Past, dropped a bombshell that it’s not holding a traditional press conference at this year’s E3. Meanwhile, Microsoft finally announced that they’ll be showing off the next Xbox at a press event up in Richmond, Washington, hopefully finally putting to rest the rumors of an always online console. Finally, a Kotaku writer got into hot water over a video game…again. Oh, and Activision showed off a teaser trailer for a new Call of Duty game, called Call of Duty: Ghosts, which will we’ll see more of at the aforementioned Microsoft event. But I mean, really, Call of Duty is a yearly franchise that sells millions of copies, with the latest game in series, Black Ops 2, selling 7.5 million copies in the first month alone; the fact that we’re getting shouldn't really be that surprising or controversial, right?
And yet not long after the game was official announced, the Internet wasted no time in letting their opinions be known about this new Call of Duty. Gaming websites and Youtube were flooded with comments ranging from your typical knee jerk reaction of “LOL COD IS FOR KIDDIES AND THE FRANCHISE IS SHIT” to the always clever “who cares, it’s just going to be like the last Call of Duty”. And while there were some people who were genuinely excited to hear more about the game, it was obvious that the majority of people were not looking forward to the newest entry in the franchise. As of the time of me writing this sentence, the debut teaser trailer has 75 positive, 215 thumbs down over on the Gametrailers website. Normally, I wouldn’t respond to this kind of negativity or I would dismiss it as the Internet being, well, the Internet, but in this case I feel it’s time to address because A) this outpouring of nerd rage was over a TEASER TRAILER, and B) it’s starting to get old really fast.
Now before I go any further, let me just address the elephant in the room: no, I do not like the Call of Duty franchise. I’ve never liked the series, even back in the early 2000s, when they were set in World War II. I think they’re repetitive, dull, lifeless, games with mediocre multiplayer that aren’t worth the sixty dollar price tag. Which of course begs the question: why should I care than that people are being negative to a franchise that I myself openly admitted to not liking? Why should I defend a franchise that clearly doesn’t need defending? The simple answer to both these questions is this: because Call of Duty is a series that was never made to be liked by me and people like me. And honestly, I’m okay with that.
That’s because Call of Duty games are aimed at a certain type of individual; the kind of person who likes high octane fast paced action, where every level in the single player campaign plays out like an interactive Michael Bay movie. Where every multiplayer match is a contest to see who can get a high enough killstreak to use the drone strikes. In other words, it’s made for people that aren’t me. While I personally enjoy the occasionally game of Serious Sam, when it comes to first person shooters, I often find myself leaning towards the single player focused experience, such as the always classic Half-Life 2 or more recent classics like Bioshock or its most recent sequel Bioshock Infinite. And if I feel like playing and interacting with other people, I have Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead 2. This doesn’t even include the first person shooter/RPG hybirds like Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Borderlands1 & 2.
Granted, there’s nothing wrong with liking the kind of gaming experience that Call of Duty provides. Based on its 100 million dollar sales as of November of 2011, it’s clear that the guys at Infinity Ward and Treyarch have a winning formula. They don’t need to win me over or seek my approval of what they’re doing, nor would I want them to. Infinite Ward and Treyarch should be able to make the games that they want to make without worrying about whether or not people like me are satisfied. That’s not to say that they should rest on their laurels and keep making the same game year after year, and in fact based on Black Ops II it seems that they are trying to get out of their comfort zone, at least when it comes to single player campaign.
So to those of you who are looking forward to hearing more about Call of Duty: Ghosts and plan on buying it, I say awesome, and I hope you have a great time with it. To those of you who don’t like it, just let it go. You aren't doing yourself any favors by complaining about something that wasn't made for you and never will be. The sooner you accept that and let it go, the better off you’ll be. Call of Duty: Ghosts isn't the only game that’s coming out this year, with plenty of other heavy hitters like Grand Theft Auto V and Rayman Legends coming out in September, and that’s not even counting the unannounced games that have yet to be seen at E3 this year. Besides, there are more important things to get mad over.