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I'm a guy who likes to write about videogames. Sometimes in funny ways and sometimes in artsy ways. You'll just have to read my blogs to find out the difference between the two!

I'm in my mid 20s, I'm from the United States, and this is currently the most productive thing I'm doing with my B.A. in English. I also tend to write really long comments in response to people that start to read like mini-blogs. I apologize in advance for the walls of text.

Also, I like to have fun. I write about controversies sometimes because I get compelled, but I much prefer using caps lock to convey my love for quality RPGs.

I'm currently playing the following:

Final Fantasy XIV
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
Final Fantasy XIV
Final Fantasy XIV
Final Fantasy XIV

I've been featured on the front page! Check it out!

The Ys Buyers Guide
I Love Final Fantasy: All The Bravest
Videogames don't let me think about the awful things I do in them
My fondest videogame memories involve breaking them

My blogs are like my childrens and I love them all. Having said that...

The following are my personal favorite blogs among what I've written here:

Why I Love Your Blog
A 100% Objective Review of the Ys Series
Sexualized is a lazy term
Klonoa 2 is awesome and you should play it

If you want to get in touch with me, send me a message here:
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Playing Pokémon X brings me back to a simpler time. And no, I don't mean the days of drinking Surge and watching Nickelodeon.

I'm talking about the years after studying for weekly spelling tests and before Steam sales flooded our game libraries. A time when you'd do chores and save allowance for a month because there was that one game you really wanted. A time when playing a game and finding all the secrets wasn't about getting an achievement or a trophy, but because that was the one game you were into. You'd want to play the game slowly, take in the sights to savor the experience, and only put it away once you got all the entertainment that you could get out of that $50 investment.

Not only does Pokémon X recapture this long lost magic, but it was a potent wake-up call to the flaws of my gaming habits. Maybe they don't make 'em like they used to, but I haven't been playing 'em like I used to either.

Pokémon X (and Y) gives the player so much to do without ever making demands. When we think of what makes a "nonlinear" game, we start to think of terms like "sandbox," or "branching narrative." Pokémon X's nonlinearity is the opposite of these things, yet there is so much to see and do that no two playthroughs will be alike. I've yet to reach gym seven and have run my game clock to nearly 80 hours by breeding Pokémon, planting berries, treasure hunting with the dowsing machine, and trying to catch as many Pokémon along the way as I possibly can. The funny thing is, it's not like I'm doing everything I possibly could be doing either. Pokémon X gives me plenty to do when I stop to smell the roses, and the main quest is always there whenever I want to get back to it.

I like to call Pokémon X a "funbox" game. Whereas sandbox games give players a plethora of toys to make their own fun with in a massive world, Pokémon X gradually provides the player small individual areas that are loaded with secrets and/or introduce new subsystems or gameplay elements. Whether you spend hours exploring a new map or race through to the next area is completely up to the player's choice, as both are equally viable options. Fighting trainers in the battle chateau or even trying to "catch 'em all" are systems designed solely to entertain the player, and there is never a sense that the developers intend for players to do everything in order to "100%" the game.

This "funbox" theme is reinforced by the gang of friends the game introduces to the player near the beginning. While each character is (supposedly) traveling the same path you are, each of them have different objectives they hope to accomplish along the way. Trevor is interested in filling out the Pokédex, while your rival represents the player who wants the strongest team and probably battles competitively (even though (s)he only uses three Pokémon most of the game but that's a detail). Shauna wants to enjoy the ride without thinking too much about it, and Tierno... okay I actually don't know what Tierno represents but just bare with me on this. My point is, Pokémon X isn't a game that has a best way to be played. The game can be a shallow experience if so desired, but there is enough depth under the surface to provide the player with countless hours of entertainment. The point at which Pokémon X is "finished" is completely on the player's terms.

Pokémon X doesn't have an achievement or trophy system, and I think it's much better off for it. Now, I don't inherently oppose achievement systems. In fact, games like Mega Man 9 and The Binding of Isaac intelligently incorporate achievements into the game's design to promote replay value. Yet in general, achievements have undeniably changed the way I play games. Even when I specifically tell myself to ignore these metagame statistics, I can never shake the nagging feeling that I haven't truly beaten a game unless I fulfill a bunch of arbitrary requirements dictated on my system's dashboard. Conversely, when I consider, say, playing a game on a higher difficulty mode and there isn't an achievement for it, my accomplishment feels less significant. Maybe I'm just insane, but I do think that there's a mind game at play when a looming progress bar indicates to your friends that you've only obtained 50% of a game's achievements, even if you've played it for 50 hours or more.

With games being so cheap and plentiful thanks to Humble Bundles and sales, I've grown to rush through games without stopping to enjoy them. There are so many games I want to play, and now they're all more obtainable than ever. This makes achievements become my personal indicator of "beating" the game, regardless of how accurate an indicator they are for getting the most out of the experience. Seeing the little bar of completion read "100%" lets me breathe a sigh of relief, as it means I can finally move on to the next game I've been wanting to play. At some point, I stopped having fun while I gamed. I played games and beat games, but I simply wasn't enjoying games like I used to. Pokémon X made me finally open my eyes and realize the errors of my ways.

I love you Persona 4 Golden, but there are some trophies that you can't rationally expect me to enjoy getting.

Had there been achievements like "Herbivore: Plant 100 berries" or "I caught 'em all!: Fill the Pokédex," I honestly don't think I'd still be playing Pokémon X. These subsystems wouldn't feel like fun things that the developers created for my amusement. There would be that same nagging voice saying that I've only "beaten" the game after doing what the metagame stats tell me to do. It is because it's my choice to deviate from the main path and smell the proverbial roses that I'm able to find the game such a joy to play. No one is telling me to do everything; my journey through Kalos is going to be played however I want.

The fact of the matter is, Pokémon X's very design would make an achievement system redundant. Everything you do has a direct and rewarding impact on your options throughout the game, so no side mission is a waste of time. Petting your Pokémon in Pokémon-Aime can give bonus EXP and stat boosts, and even catching a new Pokémon means a new option for battling or breeding. Very little - if not nothing at all - feels like filler, and this is Pokémon X's greatest strength. Being fun is all the motivation the player needs to explore.

It's easy to get lost in Pokémon X's world, yet hard to ever feel lost. There are enough short term goals in the game to make me go "ehh, just five more minutes," and then hours pass by before I even know what happened. That's the gaming experience I grew up with that has kept me at this hobby decades later, and it is my goal is to keep this mindset of "just have fun" alive as I go forth into my backlog.

Pokémon X isn't going to win any awards for innovation. In fact, I wouldn't even consider Pokémon X to be my favorite entry in the series. But I know that, years from now, I'll be looking back on this game nostalgically for all the joy it has brought me. I'm glad I didn't pick it up in a bargain bin during a sale, because Pokémon X is easily worth a month of washing dishes.
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It's Halloween, and there is literally nothing scarier we could be celebrating on this day of shock and terror than the Pokémon series.

I mean, seriously, have you read the creepypastas? Chances are, if you buy a used copy of any of the Gameboy Pokémon games, that thing is going to either be elaborately hacked or haunted. Playing these games will drive you insane and make you kill all your friends and family because binaural beats and reasons. Last I heard, it was some guy named Ben's fault, but everyone got sick of his shit and tossed his ass in the lake.

While Pokémon is full of spooks and ghouls, only ten of the monsters can be the scariest. So sit on the edge of your seat, pop open the candy corn, and enjoy this definitive list of the ten most spooky Pokémon. To enhance the atmosphere, I recommend you listen to this most infamous track.

(Picture by Hawk525)
10: Gengar

This Pokémon is a shadow that eats your soul while it smiles with glee. I can only suspect that Gengar was the result of a ghost having a smile-off contest with the Cheshire Cat, which then caused the Cheshire Cat to die and come back as a Gengar to murder the other ghost because ghosts can do that.

If you are a sentient being with a pulse then Gengar has stalked you numerous times during your life. It says right in the Pokedex: "A Gengar is close by if you feel a sudden chill. It may be trying to lay a curse on you." In other words, Gengar has probably cursed all of us a number of times and is probably responsible for the global economy still being a dump.

9: Excadrill

This Pokémon is literally a slasher film villain waiting to happen. It has knives for hands and it can drill through ground faster than you could run if your legs were made of rockets. Oh, and it can "bore through a steel plate, no matter how thick it is" and its speed doubles in sandstorms. The moment this thing gets a taste for human flesh, we're all dead.

Actually, what's with all those red splotches on its face and body anyway? ... Oh shit.

8: Glalie

There is no other creature that God or man has created that can look so mildly uncomfortable and still appear so deathly intimidating. It is a giant face without a body, and disembodied heads have been representative of spooky things since forever, until Slender Man came along and was the exact opposite of a disembodied face because he's a nonconformist poser.

But really, Glalie is extra spooky because "it prevents prey from escaping by instantaneously freezing moisture in the air." This reportedly is the reason that NASA is trying to invest in a moonbase.

7: Rhyperior

Rhyperior is a Pokemon that fires Geodudes at you. Imagine if someone hit you with a catapault, and then the catapult got up and starting punching the hell out of your face. Being stuck in a sleeping bag with Jason Voorhees would still leave your body in a better condition than that.

6: Sharpedo

Oh, Sharpedo isn't spooky? It's the combination of a shark and a fucking missile you dimwit.  It swims at 75 MPH, it can "rip through sheet iron," and in the event that you damage its fangs, "its cruel fangs grow back immediately." I heard a Sharpedo ate the iceberg that sunk the titanic just to prove a point.

5: Exploud

Hooooooly shiiiiit look at the mouth on that thing. Considering it's nearly five feet tall and its mouth covers almost its entire body, it would have no problem devouring a child in a single gulp. And for a grown person like yourself, it would likely need two bites for you to go down. You can decide which fate is worse.

You might notice that Exploud has no ears. This is because its ability is "soundproof," which means that it won't even hear you scream. And by the way, did I mention that its name is Exploud.

4: Kakuna

Kakuna might not look like much. It just sits there, stuck to a tree, as it watches you beat on its friends over and over again just so your turtle can get a little stronger. But know this: it never stops watching you. All around the forest are all forms of Kakuna, completely stationary, keeping mental notes of your misdeeds and plotting their revenge. You may be safe now, but someday Kakuna will evolve. And judging from the look in its eyes, it is not pleased.

3: Omanyte

Omanyte seems innocent enough. Except, at level seven, you might overlook that it somehow learns "bite."

Tell me, with what teeth is this snail managing to bite people with? Have you ever seen the underside of an Omanyte? Let's keep it that way.

2: Ludicolo

On a day like Halloween, a holiday when children will mostly be left on their own as they loot candy, there is nothing more horrifying than Ludicolo. Let's be honest here: would any of us trust this guy around children? His mouth agape, his beedy eyes wide open, his hands outstretched as he shimmies and shakes? Remember that time you said "oh, everything's okay around here, it's just that monster that 'appears to be a combination of a pineapple and a duck.'"

I bring these things up because, yes, the Pokedex specifically mentions that this thing appears to children when he hears them singing. What does it gain from appearing to children? Let's pray the answer is "nothing," and parents, please, make sure your kids are supervised if they are musically inclined.

Now, for my number one spot, I was very torn over whether I would put this specific Pokémon here. I mean, really, if you've been on the internet in the past two weeks, you likely would have guessed who I'm going to put here. But you know what? I just can't help myself, and no other 'mon has been so deserving of the title of spookiest Pokémon. This Pokémon has won over the hearts of fans and critics alike for its unsettling stare and shockingly dark pokedex entry, so make sure you don't pet him behind the ears and give it up for...






1: MissingNo

That's right, there is no Pokémon spookier than MissingNo. Before Pokefans were sprouting stories about Unowns spelling HE DIED and a spooky ghost Pokemon that kills its enemies and leaves tombstones, MissingNo was the original Pokémon haunting. I mean, come on, it's rogue data that took a life of its own, promising children dreams of infinite items as it ate away at the fabric of our games and would eventually lead to the complete destruction of some save files. Don't believe me? Well, my Pokémon Red, which held a file with all 151 Pokémon before becoming unable to remember a save game for more than six minutes, would like to have a word with you.

Some may argue that MissingNo is just a glitch, but oh, he lives. He would even eventually sing his own twisted melody to those who triggered him in specific ways. He would distort reality if you ever tried to use him in battle. He became Pokemon 0, and the internet has never forgotten him. And judging from Pokémon X and Y, it seems he's still around, watching over us ever since we ritualistically summoned him in Red and Blue to fulfill our desires.

I've heard many Pokémon fans suggest that MissingNo should be brought back as a canon Pokemon. Others have went as far as to make their own mockups to show what a possible inclusion could be like. But really, MissingNo was never our friend. He was born by accident, and he is content to watch us nostalgically reminisce about him when all he offered were shallow rewards and broken dreams. No, MissingNo doesn't need a comeback. He's hidden away from us, at the bottom of the box where we kept our old Pokemon games, laughing at the havoc he caused to spite those who created him.

Have a happy Halloween, and remember not to get spooked! Because if you do, that means a Gengar is nearby and you should start running to a well-lit room.
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ShadeOfLight says we need stupid things like "happiness" and "positivity" and "quotation marks" around here. Well tear down the pillow fort and throw out the pizza, because I'm about to add some much needed JOURNALISM to this site.

What follows is the most objective and accurate overview of the critically acclaimed Ys series as long as you don't count this one and maybe a few others. WARNING: I use intense amounts of undeniable facts. If you have allergies to journalism, reading this article could make two to four of your limbs fall off.

Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished

In Ys I, you play as Adol Christin, literally the most badass badass ever conceived. You want to know how this guy fights? HE RUNS RIGHT THE HELL INTO ENEMIES. AND WINS. I mean, look at him, he's just charging into everyone and doesn't give even the tiniest fuck.

Ys I was one of the grand daddies of the action RPG, yet compared to most RPGs of the era it remains amazingly playable. Oh, what's that? You spent three minutes just to kill a single metal slime in Dragon Warrior? Well Adol Christin just killed an army, and he's still going.


Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished - The Final Chapter

In Ys II, Adol Christin becomes an even more deadly badass by gaining the ability to THROW FIREBALLS AT ENEMIES. Now if this guy even SEES YOU you're dead.

What's that Uncle Ben? With great power comes great responsibility? Well toss your old ass back in the grave, because Ys II lets Adol set every villager on fire, and each person has a unique and silly reaction to reward your misdeeds. And if you feel bad, you can just give them apples and they'll like you again. But then after you're done with that, Adol also has the option to turn into a literal monster that can then go around and frighten all those villagers who thought Adol's reign of terror might be over. Ys II perfected the art of torturing NPCs, and really, what other criteria matters when judging a game?


Ys III: Wanderers From Ys

I can't say I like this game that much. It's kind of the black sheep of the bunch, and while it can be kind of enjoyable, the side scrolling combat is a little too sloppy for my tastes.

But wait a second, this game would eventually be remade into Ys: Oath In Felghana, which is one of the best damn games ever MADE. So, by extension, this makes Ys III one of the best damn games ever made.


Ys IV: Mask of the Sun

On the surface, this may seem like just another Ys game, but hold on, where have I heard this boss music from?

Oh right, it's only an SNES version of Yngwie fucking Malmsteen's Far Beyond The Sun, except somehow Ys IV manages to make it even more epic despite only using SNES soundfonts. You might want to call an emergency hotline, because this game just blew your damn mind without you even playing it.


Ys IV: Dawn of Ys

Some games go multiconsole, and usually those games stay the same with maybe a few technical differences. Except this Turbo CD version of Ys IV gives you a totally different game with a different storyline and a CD soundtrack, making this indisputably the best port ever made.

I actually haven't played this one, but supposedly this one is better than Mask of the Sun, so you do the math. Just kidding, too late.


Ys V: Kefin, Lost City of Sand

I haven't played this one either, and I hear this one is kind of an awkward middle child, so I'm going to have to dock some points for that reason. But this one was never released in English, so naturally I can't hold it to the same standards as the other games.


Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim

Remember how The Legend of Zelda was already great in the NES and SNES days, but then Ocarina of Time reinvented the series and changed gaming forever? Guess what, Ark of Napishtim is the Ocarina of Time of Ys.

This is a 3D action adventure with all the jumping and attack buttoning that modern gamers have come to expect, but Falcom expertly retained Adol's status as a walking death machine. I mean look at this guy, he doesn't even give a shit that he's falling to his death and he still manages to kill a giant flying bug monster just because he can.  

This game also features an opening sequence that feels incredibly epic despite nothing happening in it. Ys is so fast paced that even when the series does nothing, my heart is pumping at a dangerous rate. When I die, I can only hope that my cause of death is some kind of heart failure by playing too much Ys.


Ys: Oath in Felghana

You're asking me what I thought about Ys: Oath in Felghana? Don't you remember what I said about Ys III? Learn to read you fucking spaz.


Ys: Origin

What's that? There are no strong female characters in gaming? Get ready to pop a literal or metaphorical boner, because I present to you a female character that makes Kratos look like an infant Justin Bieber.

Yunica Tovah wields both an axe and a sword that are larger than she is just because she wants to keep things interesting after she's killed ten thousand different monsters. She is the only character in the game unable to use magic, yet she manages to kick everyone's asses just because who has time for studying when you could be murdering everything with your arms. And I mean, look at her, she doesn't even have to dress for combat, she could destroy an army on her way home from school.

Speaking of school, you might be thinking "oh, well there's an unlockable schoolgirl outfit, so clearly she's sexualized." Well think fast douchebag, because her schoolgirl outfit doesn't reveal any additional skin, and it only makes it more embarrassing when she takes your ass down for even suggesting she gets by using her girl parts. I am a grown man in my mid 20s, and Yunica Tovah is my power fantasy.


Ys Seven

I could talk about how this is yet another brilliant reimagining of the Ys formula. I could talk about how the battle system is reminiscent of Secret of Mana and Kingdom Hearts while perfecting both and kicking the adrenaline up to 11. I could talk about how all the special moves and team combinations makes it feel like you're playing a different game every time you mix things up. 

Instead, I'll settle with telling you that there is not a single bad song in the soundtrack.

I give this game a 7^7, but of course I had to round out the result, so unfortunately I can only give this game a



That is the extent of my journalistic criticism regarding this series. I know some fanboys are probably going to complain that I was too harsh, or that I left out some stupid feature that would have increased the score, but I'll have you all know that, when Ys: Memories of Celceta comes out, I am going to review it as critically as I possibly...

Wait, you're telling me I can listen to the soundtrack online!?


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Look, I get it, the reasoning for those images being changed in The Stanley Parable is a bit silly. I haven't played the game myself, and I hope to change that when I have a little bit more spare change, but I get why the impulse is to be critical of this bit of news.

What I don't get are the cries of censorship, the homogenization of gaming, and the corruption of the developer's artistic vision. There is no shortage of arguably stupid controversies about 'isms in gaming, but that doesn't mean each new controversy is related to all the others. Not all authors are the same, and there are differences in the parties crying foul in each instance. If we look at the facts in this specific instance, there are numerous reasons why this particular controversy shouldn't be all that controversial to begin with.

What happened here wasn't a controversy: it was a discussion. Whether you agree with the outcome or not, it's undeniable that this is a far cry from how these hot button stories usually play out.

Let's compare and contrast this particular news story to some of the biggest controversies of the past year:

Borderlands 2 and racism: Mike Sacco leads a public charge against writer Anthony Burch on twitter, saying Tiny Tina, a major character in the Borderlands 2 story, "has got to go" because of her "verbal blackface." Anthony Burch defended his decision to write Tina the way he did, but upon further badgering he began to consider changing the way Tina was written if gamers felt her dialogue was truly problematic. Enough speak out in support of his Burch's writing that he does not make any significant changes. 

Dragon's Crown and sexism: Kotaku writer Jason Schreier makes a front page post calling George Kamitani a "14 year old boy" and calls his work "cheap." After passively aggressively making jabs at one another, they eventually speak directly to one another and apologize, but by this point the controversy has already scattered throughout the gaming community and the internet.

The Stanley Parable's offensive image: Fiction writer Oliver Campbell finds a section of The Stanley Parable offensive, so he privately sends a message to developer Davey Wreden about his feelings. Wreden and Campbell have a discussion about retaining the integrity of the joke while removing what Campbell found offensive, and eventually they agree upon a way to change this section while keeping both parties happy. They come to a satisfactory conclusion, Wreden admits that he was not attached to the visual gag to begin with, and Campbell says Wreden was pleasant to speak to.

(Source: The Rough Sketch)

The Stanley Parable did not change because of controversy. Rather, there is controversy because The Stanley Parable changed. Both parties spoke to each other privately and directly, and at no point was a political correctness task force at work to strong-arm their agenda. What was done here was voluntary and - as mentioned by the author in this Reddit thread - was similar to how content in the game was changed as a result of playtester feedback. The experience of the game (and allegedly the joke in question) remains intact, and the most that any gaming news site has done to the issue is report the result.

I know emotions are likely high on this issue due to its similarity with other controversies like I've listed above, but we can't treat all of these issues as if the same circumstances are at play. If we look at the facts regarding this story and don't just skim the headlines, then it becomes apparent that this story is a completely different beast all together.

I'd like to also point out that "artistic vision" is not quite the sacred ground that some seem to treat it as. This may come to a surprise to some, but even the best authors do not make perfection with every word they write. The best authors will not defend every written word as exactly the way they wanted from the moment they conceived of a story. Wreden explicitly says that the joke of these two images falls into this latter category for him, noting "I'm not exactly married to the gag, it doesn't make or break anything about that particular section." Had Wreden's artistic vision been for that scene to be exactly the way it was originally portrayed, then logically he would have defended it. After all, as many like to point out, you could count the number of players who found this scene offensive on one hand. He could have just as easily chosen to ask players in some kind of public forum about the joke to gauge interest if he was really unsure about a decision, and surely he would have garnered enough support to keep the scene as is if that were the case.

Wreden goes on about this issue more extensively in the Reddit thread I linked to before, so I won't regurgitate the arguments that he makes so eloquently himself. For those who need a tl;dr, he does not feel his artistic vision has been compromised in any way, and there is plenty of content some might find offensive in game that he has no intent to change. But really, no artist has an absolute "artistic vision" down to every last detail. Putting out content and choosing to modify it in response to criticism is a regular part of the creative process. 

As a personal example, I've had parts of my own fiction critiqued in ways that I get upset about, and yes, sometimes there are accusations of misogyny or other similar issues that I obviously never intended. Yet more often than not, I wind up reanalyzing what was being critiqued in the first place, find a way to change it while keeping myself happy, and I usually wind up with content that I actually enjoy more than I did before. This is what friends, editors, and playtesters are for, and in this particular story, Campbell was acting more like an editor than someone who just wanted to feel offended. Maybe he shouldn't have felt offended. Maybe he has no right to. But if nothing else, he voiced his concerns in a responsible manner instead of going right for the media or a public forum to pressure Wreden to change the game. If more controversies begun and ended as this one did, then maybe we all wouldn't be so sensitive over controversies to begin with.

And if you're offended by the change Wreden has made, then clearly there is precedent for you to try to voice your concerns to him in a responsible fashion.

I'm not telling you how to feel regarding this situation, but I ask that you look at the facts. Gaming news outlets get so overrun by emotions that it can be hard to think straight, and as a result the truth often gets lost in a storm of anger and sensationalism. If you still feel outrage having grasped the full story for what it is, then by no means am I saying you're wrong. In fact, as I said in the beginning, I agree that the call to change the image seems a bit silly to me. 

All I ask is for you to be fully informed before embarking on a crusade, because there's too much in the gaming industry that's worth being angry over. Conversely, there's so many videogames that are worth being excited over, and I'm sure we all would love to feel a little more positivity around here. This controversy is only controversial because gamers are deciding it's controversial, as both the author and those who were offended seem to be perfectly happy with the outcome. Do as you will and feel as you will, but the moral of this parable is to pick your battles carefully.
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For all the times the words “sexualized” and “sexualization” pop up in articles and comments sections on gaming sites these days, have you ever taken a step back and asked what those words mean?

I mean, I’m sure we all kind of think we do, just based on the fact that the word “sexual” is in both terms, but I want you to actually put what you think they mean into words. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines sexualize as “to make sexual: endow with a sexual character or cast.” However, that only asks more questions than it does answer them. How do you make something sexual? Does sexual mean erotic or is it just pertaining to the act of having sex? Is the criteria for being “sexual” objective or subjective?

When you call a character or videogame “sexualized,” how do you answer any of these questions in your use of the word, and is there any hope that I, the person reading your thought, would answer those questions the same way? With how prevalent discussions on “isms” have become in gaming communities, something desperately needs to be done with the language we use in the process. The fact of the matter is, when you rely on the term “sexualized,” you aren’t creating conversation. You’re avoiding one.

The main problem with the term “sexualized” is that, when used by itself, no one has any idea what you’re talking about. The term has become so overused (and even inflammatory) that any meaning it may have carried in relationship to gaming has been lost. Only calling a character “sexualized” is the intellectual equivalent of saying you dislike something because “it’s bad.” Instead of actually formulating a unique thought and conveying your opinion, you create a vague blanket statement in which it’s the reader’s responsibility to assume what you mean. If I had a nickel for every flame war that could have been resolved if the participants in the argument actually explained what they meant by “sexualized” before shooting back and forth with “yes and you’re ignorant” and “no and you’re stupid,” I’d buy us all pizza.

For example, as someone who does not generally follow Metal Gear Solid and wasn’t really interested in watching any trailers for Metal Gear Solid V, I was fairly confused when I saw certain sites and comments calling out the “sexualized design” of the new character named Quiet. Without any effort made to explain how she’s sexualized, the arguments by themselves were virtually pointless. Sure, I can try to understand that someone thinks her sexualization is bad, but that’s like expecting someone you just met to legitimately believe that your grandmother makes the world's best meatloaf without explaining what’s in it.

I initially planned to put a picture of Quiet here, but after seeing this... I couldn't resist. You must understand. I could not resist.

Even after seeing pictures of her character, the term “sexualization” is ambiguous. Is “sexualization” referring to her attire? If so, is it because of how revealing the outfit is, how seemingly impractical it is for a combat situation, or both? Is it her figure or breasts that are sexualized (a point I’ve discussed in the past)? In any trailers or screenshots, is she specifically portrayed as a submissive sexual object? For all I know, her sexualization could be referring to all of these things or none of these things, but without any kind of clarification I have no idea what the discussion is even about.

Note: I did become aware after writing this that Hideo Kojima made some references to designing Quiet as a "sexy" character, but regardless of those sentiments (or other statements he may have made), my misgivings with these kinds of arguments still stand. And really, a good argument wouldn't assume everyone knows everything about every prerelease piece of information anyway.

The other problem with calling a character “sexualized” is that it can imply that you somehow know about a prior version of the character that was not sexual, but then someone came along and did something to make the character sexual. See, when these terms are used in reference to real life issues, “sexualize” is more often used as a literal extension of its dictionary definition. For example, when Bratz dolls caused controversy for being sexualized, it makes at least some sense with only a glance. The dolls portray young girls as older and, yes, sexual by the use of suggestive clothing, poses, and makeup. Modern society generally agrees that prepubescent girls shouldn’t be portrayed as sexually desirable, so the term “sexualized” makes sense. When something (in this case, children and childhood) is either made sexual or at least more sexual, the term “sexualized” is a bit less ambiguous. Granted, even in the case of Bratz dolls, those who argue the point still have to explain how they are sexualized, but at least there’s less confusion in what the term means.

This isn’t to say that the terms “sexualized” or “sexualization” can’t be used when discussing videogame characters; the terms just need clarification. To go back to Quiet’s design, instead of saying “Quiet is sexualized” and calling it a day, someone could say, for example, “Quiet’s uniform is as revealing as a sexualized army girl Halloween costume, and hopefully Hideo Kojima is able to justify the design in the game’s story.” Now the reader will know what perspective the commenter is coming from, and by having to answer the question of “what do I mean by sexualized,” the commenter was forced to make the argument more solid and justifiable as a result.

Just to be abundantly clear, I’m not saying we should avoid discussions about “isms,” sex, or sexualization itself. In fact, this couldn’t be any further from the truth. Particularly around here on Destructoid, I’ve seen some of the most thoughtful, intelligent, and persuasive arguments about these subjects, and I don’t want that to ever change. Yet it has become impossible to ignore those that seem to use these words just for the sake of trying to appear as politically correct to others on the internet. Before sounding off on a particular subject or issue, we all need to be honest with ourselves and ask whether we’re actually contributing something meaningful or are just making noise for the sake of attention.

Picture slightly censored for those who are offended by butts.

If you find yourself using these words, challenge yourself to clarify what you’re actually addressing and modify your argument to reflect this. And if you’re unable to do that, then relax; there’s other things you can do to be helpful and supportive for a cause! Say some nice words to someone if they make a great argument, support developers who create games with characters you particularly enjoy, or tell your friends about a great game or article you found. Bringing about change for a good cause comes in a variety of forms, so not being recognized by internet users as a champion of inclusivity doesn’t mean that you aren’t one. At the end of the day, we’re all just regular people trying to learn more about a subject, and sometimes it’s good to be silent to see what other people have on their minds.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be making several phonecalls to my internet service provider to let them know that “sexualized young girls” was a suggested Google search that came up in my research and I swear it’s not what it looks like.
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Not only is Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil the best game you’ve (probably) never played, but it’s also my favorite game. As in ever made.

I’m not here to convince you that Klonoa 2 is the best game ever made (objectively, it’s not), but I can assure you that you’ve never played anything quite like it. Beneath the façade of a child friendly mascot platformer, Klonoa 2 weaves an unforgettable experience that combines smart action-puzzle sidescrolling with a story that contains surprisingly deep themes that are reinforced by the accompanying visuals and music. Like any truly great piece of children’s literature (such as The Little Prince), Klonoa 2 is not a game you grow out of, but rather, a game you grow to appreciate as you begin to realize the complexity of what is going on under the surface.

Critically acclaimed, yet commercially underwhelming, Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil is a strong contender for the most under appreciated game ever made.

First, let’s take a moment to talk about how bold and innovative the console Klonoa games were for their time. The first Klonoa game, Door to Phantomile, was released in 1997, a year after Super Mario 64 revolutionized gaming in an era when 3D mascot platformers were all the rage. Klonoa: Door to Phantomile boldly strayed from the pack by pioneering the now-popular 2.5D perspective, and instead of taking the Mario inspired jump-on-enemies-to-defeat-them route, it created its own identity with a gimmick that opened the door to clever puzzles that served to enhance the action.

Instead of outright attacking enemies, Klonoa is able to grab enemies using his signature wind bullet. Once an enemy is in his grasp, he can throw the enemy in front of him to attack an oncoming foe, or he can toss the enemy beneath him while midair to double jump. It’s a simple concept, but it’s constantly reinvented throughout the games with various enemy types and layouts that cause the player to reassess each screen individually to survive (or to at least not take damage). Plus, as anyone who has played a Klonoa game can tell you, quadruple-jumping off a tall ladder of enemies to reach the top of a tower never loses its charm.

While many platformers of the PS1/PS2 era tried to bloat their playtimes by forcing the player to collect a bunch of arbitrary objects to advance in the game or to unlock the “true” ending, the Klonoa series instead dared to be short for the sake of maintaining a high level of quality that kept the game consistently fresh from start to finish. Although both the console Klonoa games are certainly on the brief side, they also feel short because there is hardly a minute of these games that could be considered filler. At the time, this caused many gamers to choose other platformers to spend their money on over Klonoa, but I can assure you that the Klonoa games have stood the test of time much better as a result. Like a fine desert, both console Klonoa games leave you wanting more, yet you also feel satisfied with the quality of what was on the table.

In short, the Klonoa games played like indie style platformers over a decade before indie style platformers were even a thing. Both mainline games felt new and innovative while feeling familiar and nostalgic at the same time, and if you’re the kind of person who is begging for innovation in this modern era of gaming, then you owe it to yourselves to check out these games.

Of course, while Klonoa: Door to Phantomile was great, Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil evolved the formula to create an unforgettable experience. Released early in the PS2’s lifecycle in 2001, the production values in this game were outstanding. Not in an obnoxious way, of course. The cel-shaded graphical style looked stunning while keeping a silky smooth framerate, and although some animations are a little primitive, the art holds up remarkably well today. Both the visuals and the soundtrack are brimming with variety, yet they always feel cohesive because they actively work with the theme of the story: an introspective tour of the emotions of a dreamer.

The genius of the narrative is how it’s blatantly hidden in plain sight. On the surface, the plot seems like typical kids stuff. A cute animal hero and his two new friends go on a quest to ring four bells to get a special power before the evil sky pirate (!) does. And for the most part, I’m confident that this childish first impression was intentional. Yet as the game continues, the story gets steadily darker until it reaches a point which it’s impossible to ignore the change in tone, and this, again, ties in strongly with the nature of the story to that point. At one point, a character is eventually overcome with such feelings of ineptitude that the character actually says “damn it… damn it all”, which isn’t exactly profane, but a serious departure from the seemingly carefree nature of the first half of the game.

As the characters in game are confronted with a new reality as the plot goes on (don’t want to spoil it, after all), it becomes impossible to not see the previous areas of the game in a new light. While each “world” of the game could be vaguely identified by genre archetypes (ice world, fire world, etc.), each world in-game is actually identified by a particular emotion. As residents of each respective area overindulge in the emotion of the respective world, the player witnesses the problems with each particular outlook on life. Keep in mind that the game is still aimed at kids, so don't expect it to go into deep philosophy or anything. Instead, each respective mood is reinforced by the visuals and music so as to let the player feel each emotion and let their mind fill in the details for how residents of each world must carry out life.

For example, the Maze of Memories level is located in an area defined by “indifference.” Before entering this level, Klonoa and friends talk with one of the residents who tell them that the world's citizens never bother to go outside, as they much prefer to stay inside and look at art and mirrors so that they can relive past memories. The level in general has an abstract art theme, and just by listening to the level’s music it’s hard not to feel this sense of hollow emptiness that’s reaching out to try to feel something. As one resident of the area says, “Just as art is a reflection of the soul, these mirrors are reflections of the past. Why leave, if you can keep reliving bygone days?” The player not only witnesses the pitfalls of overindulgence of one emotion, but the logic that actually ensues with it.

As the Klonoa games make it clear that each game takes place in a dream world, it becomes clear that the characters (outside of Klonoa himself, possibly) are less fully developed dynamic characters and more representations of particular thoughts or themes. As modern games try harder and harder to be taken seriously, Klonoa 2 embraces the surreal and asks the player to suspend disbelief and enjoy the experience for what it is. Much like an actual dream, Klonoa 2 doesn’t try to make sense, but this makes the moments of profound clarity richer when they come. Akin to many people you may know in real life, Klonoa 2 holds a surprisingly amount of substance beneath a seemingly shallow exterior.

Unfortunately, the Klonoa series never found the traction it deserves and, nowadays, is all but dead.  Of course, the blame is just as much the publisher’s fault as it is the fault of gamers. While many overlooked the console Klonoa games due to their brevity, the marketing for the series never came close to try to appeal to older and experienced gamers. Perhaps if more gamers knew that the console games were directed by Hideo Yoshizawa, the man who directed the NES Ninja Gaiden trilogy, it may have gained a little more interest. On a shelf next to other platformers, Klonoa hardly looks particularly distinguished, and undoubtedly gamers had their hearts set on true 3D games and would ignore something that is more or less a sidescroller that could be played with an NES controller. The only time the series experienced any kind of mild success was with the lower budget GBA spinoff titles which, while definitely good, lacked the fantastic presentation and stories that made the two core games so wonderful.

It’s a shame, because I strongly believe there’s an audience for all Klonoa has to offer; they just don’t know it exists yet. With the direction the series seemed to be going in with Klonoa 2, who knows what a third installment might have offered? As it stands, Klonoa 2 isn’t even available as a PS2 classic, and at a price of $10 this game would be an easy impulse buy. With so many fanbases revitalized with rebirths of their favorite franchises (Shadowrun, Earthbound, etc.), it seems almost criminal that Klonoa has been left in the dust at every opportunity for a revival.

Perhaps a game like Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil is a hard sell for teenagers and adults, but as time goes on, the game is becoming increasingly harder to obtain. If you happen to stumble on a copy, I wholeheartedly recommend picking it up. Perhaps the series’ fate was to end after two main installments, but it does not deserve to be forgotten. At worst, you might start to feel like a kid again, but I doubt that’s such a bad thing.

And if you’re still not convinced, I’ll ask you to listen to this sexy big band secret agent style track. Just try to tell me that you don’t want to play this game right now.
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