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6:27 PM on 06.06.2009

Sometimes I play video games. (Setup)

Odd. With classes ending for the summer, I seem to be far busier than normal. I had plans to update this blog a lot when the semester was over. Oops! It appears that between working two jobs, summer work and playing golf with my dad I have become lax in the field of this C-blog and video games in general. Seeing as how I am in school to become a writer/journalist, I think it would be in my best interest to actually write.

I am staging my return process with the simplest of all the blog postings out there: the obligatory gaming setup post. Exciting! Beats me rambling on about how Left 4 Dead has actually made me social, or various other gaming ideas and thoughts. But who cares about that stuff? Behold! My lame setup!

My room is fairly small; I have a large bed and lots of things. Mostly books, games and movies (and Legos, but those are in the attic). I am pretty limited on what I can do for a setup, because I need bookcases for my books, and a large desk for when I am writing and working on schoolwork. The large bed also hinders the arrangement a teensy bit. I manage, and for what it is, my setup just works.

First, we have my entertainment center. It is a fairly straightforward Target brand center that holds my things nicely. On the top is my newest baby; a Sharp 26inch 720p HDTV. How I managed without an HDTV for so long is beyond me; everything looks freaking amazing on it. Even regular DVDs pop better than they did previously.

Below is the Xbox 360 and my Slim PS2, my two most used consoles. The shelf below is my RF Modulator box...thingy. I can hook up older consoles there and whatnot for when I want to play them, and under that is my Comcast cable box. The Wii is so lonely down there. Maybe with the games coming in the next few months it will get some loving. Maybe. I doubt it. The Conduit does look good, though...

My anime shelves with a random shelf of some of my CDs (just the ones I listen to frequently).

My desktop. Messy messy messy. The Mario/Luigi is from a display I snagged from work. My computer is slow as shit, and I need to upgrade soon. Below is my laptop, which is a decent piece of hardware. Gets me through classes everyday, and makes college a bit less boring. I am awaiting the arrival of my HP Mini 2140, and already have my Ragnarok Online private server ready to be installed on it :D

The corner above my bed is where I put almost all of my video games. The lower left is Xbox 360 games, and above that are Wii, Gamecube abd Xbox. Above that is just a shelf full of my favorite manga series. The lower right contains all of my PS2 games (except Time Crisis 3 + Guncons). Nintendo DS and PSP inhabit the spave above, with a few PC games in the corner. On the very top are my PC-DVD games, TurboGrafx 16, Dreamcast and PSOne.

I think at last count I have nearly 450 games. Not shown in any of the pictures are my jewel-cased PC games, because I have so, so many.

These are just drawers next to my bed that have my SNES and Game Boy stuff and various controllers for my Wii and 360. Nothing too exciting.

Handhelds. I love my DS to death, and am slowly loving my PSP again now that good games are on the horizon and with the recent Final Fantasy VII release on PSN. The Turbo Express handhelds are two of my most cherished things, as well as the actual Turbo Grafx system (not pictured)

Systems I do not currently have hooked up. Two slim PSones for some reason? I can not recall how I acquired a second. The NES is in absolute perfect condition, except for the smudges on top. When I was younger, my parents smoke. So my SNES yellowed a bit, but otherwise works perfectly. Obligatory Dreamcast as well.

I could have sworn I had more Gameboy / Gameboy Advance games. Oh well. Most notable is the HOLY CRAP SO MANY POKEMON GAMES. Also, Golden Sun 1 and 2. I actually have four copies of each, because I love the series so much. Needless to say, my pants were tight when Golden Sun DS was announced.

I know this is not all of my SNES games; I just did not feel like digging the rest out. That is a Super Game Boy on the left. Notable in here? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4, and Super Metroid. I got into video games pretty late, so I lack the more notable titles. Same with NES.

NES games. Why do I have so many copies of Tetris? Gold Zelda and a copy of Final Fantasy? Yeahhhhh. I scored a copy of Bomberman with box and instructions a few months ago for $3 at a yard sale. Not a bad deal if I say so.

These are games I will never get rid of, no matter what. Neutopia is just far too amazing of a game to let go, and my copy of Ikaruga on the Gamecube was the first game I got with my little Cube. Parasite Eve 1 and 2, Vagrant Story and MvC2 are just far to awesome to pass up as well.

Err... I like Final Fantasy a lot. I will also never give these up for obvious reasons. Squall makes me swoon.

Shin Megami Tensei <3<3<3

That is my lame setup. Not much I can do until I get a place of my own, what with school and work and blah blah blah. Like I said, it gets it done. I have plenty of pillows on my bed to make an amazing gaming cushion, and the acoustics and speakers on my TV work well in the small space.

I also included close ups of the shelves in the thumbnails below if that is your thing. Go ahead. Take a look. It may be sexy. Maybe. Wear a condom.   read

1:42 PM on 05.15.2009

Like Ragnarok Online and have a DS? XSEED has you covered!

I am a huge fan of Ragnarok Online, despite a lot of its shortcomings and problems. I play it on a regular basis, on a free server and occasionally on iRO.

So, when I found out they were making it for the DS, I was ecstatic. But, I knew they would never bring it to the States. Until now.

Found this on Kotaku a moment ago, and I creamed my pants:

I am so pumped for this. I have an import copy of the Japanese one, and from what I can tell and are able to play the game is a blast. This is a guaranteed day one purchase for me.

Are there any fellow Dtoiders who are excited for this, or who are just simply RO fans?   read

7:39 AM on 04.13.2009

RetroReload 2: Neutopia

The TurboGrafx 16 is a system that holds a special place on my heart as a console that helped define how I view games today. While it was actually my second console (the first being the SNES), more games on this system stand out to me. Games like Blazin Lazers introduced me to the vertical shooter, and games like Bonkís Adventure sealed platformers as a fun genre. The TurboGrafx was also a system that had a wider array of violent games on it, which for a child of about seven, was a treat. Splatterhouse and Bloody Wolf were two games that I remember for having gratuitous violence, but were nonetheless fun to play.

But, for all of these games that defined genres to me, there is one that truly stands out from all of the gems. A game that surpassed what thought was possible to do in games (at the time), and one that had a memorable story and characters. Neutopia was the game that allowed me to live out that fantasy of a medieval-esque adventure, and was able to embark on a harrowing adventure.

Still my favorite retro start screen

The game, I admit fully, is a glaring Legend of Zelda rip-off. But, at the time, I had no idea what the Zelda games were, seeing as how we had few SNES games at the time. So, Neutopia still stands (in my heart) as a great game, and revolutionary one at that, even though it is a near carbon copy of the Zelda series. Both games have a young warrior-hero (Jazeta in Neutopia), the princess gets captured by an evil nemesis (Dirth, in Neutopia), and you walk along a huge map going screen-to-screen advancing in dungeons. The similarities are endless, but I do not care. Neutopia was original to me, and a game that had enough polish to keep me coming back.

While it may be a clone game, Neutopia still struck a chord. Games like Blazin Lazers and Keith Courage were fun games with a lot of depth, but for a seven year old, they were merely a thirty minute distraction. I would insert the HuCards, and just shoot things to pass that time. But with Neutopia, I found myself playing for hours at end, walking along the map and fighting the same slime creatures and armored warriors, and earning gold and silver for the shops. The game used a password save system, and I had a small notebook filled with various passwords at different times, just incase I made a mistake or used a bomb in the wrong place.

One of the things that really struck me as a kid was the sense of freedom the game gave me as a kid. Since the entire world was open to you from the start (and having the option of obtaining bombs early), you could easily wander around the map and see what there was to do. I remember sitting in my living room one snow day, and just walking around seeing what there was to see, and trying to find every little secret I could. While you did have this freedom, the game did get punishing if you didnít go and complete the dungeons and collect the orbs (Triforce). Doing so garnered new armor and upgraded swords, and allowed you to take the harder dungeons on.

The dungeons also stand out to me after all these years, and playing the game again on the Wii Virtual Console reminded me of why. While this was the first game of this type I played, I remembered how dark, gloomy and frightening the dungeons were. The chip-tune music was creepy, and the enemies were darker and scarier, and a lot tougher to take down. The bosses, though, still amaze me. The first time I faced the low-level boss, my heart was pumping and I was filled with adrenaline. Facing this huge dragon down in a rather small room, armed with only a sword and shield (and a fire-wand), it was like a fantasy come real. The good knight slaying the dragon to get to the princessÖonly to find out I had about seven more to go.

Dirth; The battle still annoys me, but is loads of fun

The only thing that irked me with the game was the lack of really useful map system. The world was rather large, and as a result, I tended to get lost easily. The menu system does give you a compass that points you in the way of the next dungeon, but due to some weird glitches, the compass would spaz out and spins wildly around. It was supposed to spaz out inside of dungeons, to make you take longer on the puzzles and navigation within. This was a negligible flaw to the game, though, because if you got lost, you could use an item and warp back to the main temple and navigate from there (which oddly reset the compass for me as well).

Neutopia is a game that will always stand out in the retro category. Itís puzzles, gameplay and story was, to me, the best that you could get (before I knew about Final Fantasy and other Square/Enix games). The day that this gem was released on the Wii Virtual Console, I downloaded and bought it instantly and played it all day. There are better Zelda ripoff games, and I fully admit it. But, for what the game is, I still adore it. HudsonSoft struck gold with Neutopia (and its sequel), as well as making many of the more memorable TurboGrafx games that I played.   read

8:06 AM on 04.03.2009

RetroRedux: Doom

With all the big name AAA title games coming out, there is a large part of me that still owes a sort of respect to the games of old. Without these, how else would I be the gamer I am today? In the next few entries, I will be chronicling the top five games that I remember fondly playing as a youngster. I am also interested in hearing what games you guys remember as a huge influence on what type of gamer you are today.

Let us rewind, shall we?

The first game I always remember when I think of this is the classic id Software shooter, Doom. Doom was the very first game I ever played as a little tyke, and when I was only around 5 years old. I have to admit, that for a first video game ever, the super violent shooter is a sort of...odd choice. But, I do not care.

It was a summer morning where I walked over to the computer and asked my father what he was doing. He looked at me surprised and said to me "Well, I am playing what is called a video game", and I inquired as to what a video game was (oh, childhood ignorance). I was intrigued, and I asked to play and try it out. He showed me the controls, and restarted the level for me. After I walked across the entry room and encountered and killed the first zombie; I was hooked.

There were so many things that kept me coming back to this game for many years after wards. At the time, the graphics were simply amazing and lifelike to me. The realistic lighting and shadows gave a very ominous and horror filled experience, and that fear of charging into a level with 10 pistol shells left was a very frightening experience. For a five year old, this was the equivalent of a really scary movie, but one we had more control of.

There was also the simple pleasure of taking a shotgun and running headfirst into a room crowded with Pinky Demons. Doom offered me that thrill and stress relief of just mindlessly killing hordes of zombies and hellbeasts. I remember fondly coming home after having a bad day at school, and booting up Doom and entering the famous "IDDQD" code for God-mode (as well as IDKFA for all guns and ammo)and just running through levels ending some zombies undead lives.

Now, the stuff I have mentioned is standard stuff for remembering games. The first time, the gameplay, etc. But, what really sticks this game in my mind is that I was able to share this experience with my father. From what I can remember, this was the first truly bonding experience we had. He stood behind me at the computer laughing as I gleefully shot down my first zombie, and poked fun at me for being scared of the imp on the ledge. We had out separate game files, and we would talk for hours about how to beat a level, or best way to take down a Baron of Hell while taking minimal damage. This was just one of those moments as a child that I remember connecting with a parent about something I feel strongly about and have an interest in, and that they themselves actually cared about. This is something, regrettably, that they don't share anymore. At least I had that two years to bond with them about video games, though.

Doom is still a game that I play quite frequently. On quiet moments here on campus, I boot up my old copy of the "Doom: Ultimate Collection" and squeeze out an "Ultra Violence" game, or when I am home I play the Xbox Live Arcade version and do some deathmatch action. Even after 10+, the game is still captivates and keeps me hooked.   read

7:21 AM on 03.20.2009

Gamestop Observations: 01

Gamestop is a company that many gamers either love or they hate. Gamers are vocal about their adverse thoughts on the company, but what does a part time employee think?

This is what I hope to be a multi-part blog series on my observations and experiences working for one of the largest video game retailers in the world. I have been there for about a year, and I have seen some pretty interesting things from the customers that come in and how they act inside the store.

I see some really interesting people when I work, and I must say that many gamer stereotypes are highly present in a normal days operations. You get the soccer moms and their annoying spoiled children, the hardcore gamer, the collector and the sketchy people trading in games for cash. Trust me, this is the norm and it stopped being interesting the first day. What really excites me is when I get the off-beat customers who generally seem interested in what you have to tell them. Or, the ones that break the stereotypical mold that is the norm.

Just the other day, a customer who was in her mid 40s, give or take, came in and wanted to buy a copy of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. Trying to make small talk, I asked her if the game was for her child or for a gift. She gave a small chuckle and smiled at me. "No, this game is for me" she told me. This was surprising, because she just did not seem to be the type of woman that would play this game. It was a slow night, so I asked what other games she played, and she told me. "What do I play? I am mainly a PC gamer, and right now I am getting back into Oblivion. My Dark Elf just upgraded his stealth, so I can sneak around Skingrad pickpocketing".

After she left (I spared her the reserve + subscription stuff because how nice she was), I realized how mainstream gaming really has become. I know games are advertised as much a movies and music and all of that, but the fact that it is now reaching into the older demographics is a nice change of pace. This woman is playing a hardcore RPG that requires time and a fair amount of skill. My parents can barely operate a computer let alone sneak around with finesse and pickpocket NPCs.

We get all sorts of gamers at my store, and as a result I do have to adapt my service to accommodate them. This sounds extremely superficial, and yes it is. I put on a facade when talking with many people, but I do it because I like to observe these people. Too often you get the stereotype nerdy gamer image, but when you actually look, you see everyone and every clique. The way these people (some, not all) talk about games is a really enriching experience.

Coming to this site, you easily get opinions from other gamers. Each and every user has their own way of gaming and their own habits. But, this is a "gamers" website, so everyone here is accustomed to games and talking about them. At Gamestop, you get the normal customer who does not have this experience that we do. So, when they tell me how amazing a certain game is, or tell me why they did not like it, you get this other voice that you never hear. How does the rich executive feel about Ratchet and Clank? How does the high school jock feel about FEAR 2? You can not get this anywhere else. While customers can be jerks (that comes with a customer service job), the few that actually engage you in conversation can truly offer you a new perspective on things, something which I realized I was sorely lacking in.

Yes, Gamestop is a company that does things wrong sometimes. But, they do things right, and I have no right to complain whatsoever. I have a job that pays my bills, and I work at a place that caters to a hobby of mine. What do i get out of working here, though? The people that come in and care about games and actually are interested.

Those customers that do sketchy cash trades, though? Do not get me started on them.   read

7:31 PM on 03.04.2009

Watchmen: The End is Nigh Demo Impressions

Honestly, I would never have thought that the Watchmen would ever get a video game. I know they are publicizing the movie quite a bit, but after reading the graphic novel a few years ago, I just could not see how a game could be produced. How does the Watchmen: End is Nigh stack up from my time with the demo?

(I am shamed to say I have not read Watchmen for about five years. As a result, my knowledge of what happens may be dusty)

[b]Watchmen: End is Night
System: Xbox 360 Arcade
Demo Impression
Available now: 1600 MSpoints[/b]

The Watchmen: The End is Nigh weighs in at over 1gb on the 360 hard drive. So, on my connection it was sort of a slow download. But, after it finished I booted up the game, and felt this wave of relief. This wave signaled to me that I would enjoy the experience.

The game opens up with an animated comic of sorts. You are in Nite Owl IIs basement, and Rorschach comes in talking about conspiracies in the Nixon administration. The game is set prior to 1977, and thus before the Keene Act, if memory serves me right. The comic looks nice, and has that minimal movement to it to make it seem like you are reading a comic. My complaint, is that the text on the bottom of the screen for the subtitles is rather small. But, this is only because of my Standard Definition TV.

The game then loads to the menu screen where you can select between Rorschach and Nite Owl. I have yet to play as Nite Owl, so my only experience for the demo is Rorschach. After you select your masked hero, the demo really begins. Nite Owl and Rorschach fly to an island prison where the inmates have broken out and caused the place to go to hell. Fires are set, police are not present...and there are lever puzzles. The game focuses on a co-op experience, so as you play one character the computer controls the other. From this, the PC player faired well on his own, and did not get in the way. The only time they took the lead, was during a cooperative "puzzle" sequence, where Nite Owl lifts a gate, Rorschach crawls under and then pulls a lever to raise that gate. Simple.

Graphically, the game looks marvelous. Easily one of the best XBLA games, sans Braid. The character models are nicely done, and look exactly like their movie-version counterparts. One little touch that I loved was that they did make Rorschach's mask change over time. This little detail was a huge plus for me. The environment looked rather decent, though repetitive.

Combat? In the short sense, it is simple. X + Y are attacks, and B is a throw button. But, I will say that even though the controls are simple, I actually LIKED it that way. It brought to mind Streets of Rage and that combat. Rorschach attacks at a slowish speed, but packs a punch. When you start stringing together attacks, he kicks some serious ass. He has this feral quality that just makes combat seem visceral. Combos are as simple as X+X+X+X and Y+Y+Y (or so I unlocked in the demo). You get a "bull rush" ability later, but it does not get much use.

I am honestly happy to say, that from this demo I would not mind a simple brawler. I can tell, though, that the combat will get repetitive. I do not mind that, however. The game just clicked with me, and I will gladly pay the 1600 point price for it in the coming week. For those, however, that expect a deep gameplay, look elsewhere. The game is just a simple brawler thus far, and from the reviews I have read, it lasts only a few hours (at most), and will not be worth the price. Download the demo, for sure.

Demo Score: 7/10

(Note: I wrote this earlier today before I saw Destructoid's actual review. The review supports my theory that the game does get repetitive. I still say try the demo, at least.)   read

9:10 AM on 02.25.2009

The Final Level: Never Finished

I love video games. That is why I am on this site daily checking for updates on the new happenings in the industry. While playing video games, I am at my center of peace. They offer me an escape from the real world at the time, and let me just forget what has happened earlier in the day. I get immersed in games with epic stories, and tend to feel a slight attachment towards some character. Examples of this are Final Fantasy IV. No matter how many times I play, Cecil's internal struggle still get to me to this day. But, even though I love these games (and it not limited to genre specific games), I cannot bring myself to finish them most of the time. I do not know why, but it is just hard for me to finish that last part of gameplay. Yet, I am not upset over it.

I have had Final Fantasy IV since it was released so long ago. I first played it when it was called Final Fantasy II, and was interested in the gameplay and story at the time. But, since I was so young, I did not become attached, simply because I did not understand it. The rerelease of it on the GBA sparked my interest, and I played it.And I played it. And I played it. I felt Cecil's pain as him and his troops annihilated the town. For me, it was very emotional and the rest of the game struck me with his introspection. For a game that is that old, the story was simply amazing and utterly unforgettable. I have only beaten the game once, and that was by accident. I thought the game would be longer, and for some reason my brain did not interpret the final boss as THE final boss. I was detached instantly from it. I could not believe I had finished the game. I could not go back and play with Cecil and his crew again. It was over. They were gone.

In recent times, the only games I have actually felt compelled to beat were Max Payne 1 and 2, various Pokemon games, and Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Otherwise, I just cannot beat the game for the life of me. I just feel that if the game ends, the part of me that was so immersed dies as well. In Final Fantasy X, I am right at the part where you fight Sin for the last time. I know it is the end-game, and I will not finish it. The only thing that could drive me is to find out what happens at the end of the game, but even then I cannot see myself ending my time with Yuna, Tidus, or Auron. Yet, games like "Spider-man Web of Shadows" I actually want to beat, because it plays out more like a novel than anything. I always finish books (when I can), and the story of it flows like a good comic book. I want to see what happens to Spider-man, Black Cat and Venom. But, I don't want to know what happens to Yuna and Tidus. Or what happens to Sora and Riku in Kingdom Hearts.

Like I have said before, I do want to finish the games. But, I a lot of times set myself up with huge expectations. After playing through Kingdom Hearts I, I had felt this rush of excitement everytime a boss came up. To me, they were varied and challenging, and I kept wanting more. But, when the final boss area came up, it stale. I was expecting a huge challenging "end all" boss. But, the selection at the end was just...not right to me. The same sort of thing happened to me and Golden Sun. Each boss was challenging and tough, but not within a range that made me expect more and more from the next. The average enemies gave me that boosted expectation. But, what stopped me from beating the game (at first) was the final boss itself.

The final climactic battle against Saturos and Menardi was something I grinded in preparation for a good week. I guess I did not prepare my Djinn well enough, or maybe I did not have enough potions on me. But, after the initial battle against the two of them, my characters were drained. My Djinn were in the resetting process. Then Saturos merges with Menardi into the Fusion Dragon. The battle begins again. In one attack, I am wiped out before even defending myself. I was livid. That week of nonstop leveling for nothing, it had seemed. I gave the game up for a year, and refused to touch it again after that. I had never experienced a boss that reinvented itself mid battle, and on such short notice. About a year later, I saw Golden Sun: The Lost Age was being released. That made me feel compelled to go back and beat the first one. But, I could easily go back and beat the Dragon this time. I had overcome that frustration and fear of ending a game, simply by putting it down for an extended time. I had lost my compassion for the characters and what the game had meant to me. It was an odd feeling. Relief set in when I saw the credits roll, and after the cliffhanger set in, I wanted the new game.

I love games, and I love story and plot. But, if I am just sucked into a game and sucked in deeply, I feel an odd desire to not part with the characters and their experiences. Games like Fallout 3 and Oblivion offer the player solace by being able to continue their character after the game ends, which is refreshing for me, because that means I do not have to depart with that feeling. I just simply have to get over my fear of something good ending, and I think I am slowly making progress on it. I want to see what happens at the end of "Prince of Persia" and I want to see the outcome of Albion in "Fable 2". Hell, I even want to see what happens to Nero and Dante.

Image courtesy of, and not of my own making   read

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