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Member since: 2009-11-06 13:56:00
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    Is Dragon’s Crown really that controversial of a game? What, exactly, is wrong with the art style? Sitting here and listening to TotalBiscuit’s podcast, I’m stunned. I’ve seen coverage of the game on Destructoid, but I didn’t realize how bad the public image was.

    For starters, I haven’t been the most accepting of people online. I typically over-react to situations and condemn developers for their indiscretions. Even this past weekend, I expressed how I was happy that Phil Fish was leaving the games industry.

    Still, when I don’t have a problem with the sexual depiction of women in a game, you should probably come to the conclusion that nothing is wrong with the art style. I don’t care if you find fault with it, but I don’t really see the point.

    It’s like we’re shouting at our own problems. In the past, I’ve typically lambasted things like Street Fighter and Dead or Alive because of how scantily clad the women are. The real issue; there were no women in my life to talk to.

    About the only complaint I can hold up is unfair difficulty curves. Sometimes games just do not teach the player well enough. They Bleed Pixels is an example of such. The first 4 worlds have a steady increase in difficulty, but the last level is maddening.

    Regardless, I think we, as adults, need to grow up a bit. Most of the debates come from how insensitive the depiction of women is and how they might traumatize our children. Since we have the power to buy product, you can simply not buy the product.

    That’s a startling revelation, I know. I truly believe, though, that we’re projecting our own failings onto gaming. There is always going to be a game that truly sucks, but if the only problem you can find in a game is how bad the art style is, why are you complaining so much?

    It’s a valid complaint and I accept it as the reason you may not enjoy something, but it’s not the sole factor for deeming something as bad. Just because you disagree with something doesn’t mean it’s objectively bad.

    My time watching Game Grumps has taught me more about how to view gaming. I even wrote a piece that focused on some aspects of Dust: An Elysian Tail that ruined the game for me. My opinion wasn’t based in hatred or even subjectivity.

    When you can tangibly call out a feature of a game instead of relying on pure emotion, it feels great. It’s much better than throwing stones at self-conflict. Obviously your own investment counts for a lot, but I’m tired of reading opinions where the only negative is how uninvested someone is.

    So, this blog is unfocused and probably totally off base. Regardless, I’m fed up with spreading hate and seeing hate. I just want us, as a global community, to stop being so entitled and righteous. Sometimes, we just need to have fun.
    I may be completely unable to have fun, but dammit if I’m not going to spread cheer around!

    I also must add, I don’t mind the Polygon review of Dragon’s Crown, which sparked the debate on the podcast. The reviewer, [font=Calibri]Danielle Riendeau, doesn’t focus on the supposed “sexism”. It’s just a minor thing that conveys her opinion to like-minded people. Just find another review to agree with![/font]
    Photo




    On Twitter today, Phil Fish of Polytron has confirmed that Fez 2 will be canceled. This comes right off the heels of a debate that Fish was having with Marcus Beer from GameTrailers "Annoyed Gamer" segment.

    A series of high-school quality insults were thrown back and forth before Fish tweeted, "im done. FEZ II is cancelled. goodbye." This isn't the first time that Fish's mouth has gotten him into trouble.

    In the past, Fish was cited as claiming that Japanese games suck. He later clarified that modern Japanese games was what me meant, still doing no good for his public image.
    There are also tweets where Fish has insulted fans after they made some snide remarks about the original Fez not being released yet.

    My person two cents: I think Fish should cancel the game and disappear. He constantly is making the games industry look like some childish playground with ridiculous antics like this. I understand if he wants to voice his opinion, but instead of throwing a literal temper tantrum, why not act like an adult?

    A few hundred thousand people have handed money over to Polytron in support of Fez. The fans are the ones who made you famous and helped you climb out of the rut that was the 5 year development cycle for your only game. Instead of acting high and mighty, I think it's time you were cut down to size.

    If I never hear another thing from Fish again, then honestly my life might be better. It's hard to remain optimistic about gaming when imbeciles like him spout off without thinking.
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    I was a bit busy at SGC this weekend. Not intent to sit on my ass and enjoy everything, I got some interviews about upcoming games! These were posted to a site I'm contributing to, Gamer's Association.

    Since they deal with upcoming games, though, I figured I'd post them here as well. You guys are more than welcome to check out Gamer's Association. We'd appreciate some more views.

    The first interview is with Cassie Chui. She is a level designer for Electronic Super Joy. I really enjoyed my time with the game and even handed some cash over to her for her hard work.



    When I saw Craig, I knew I had to chat about the upcoming AVGN Adventures. I like that he gave me a sneak peek of things to come, as well.




    All in all, this SGC was definitely a lot better than the previous years. Getting indie devs to come down and showcase their works was a fantastic idea. If this becomes a recurring thing for Screwattack, I'll gladly attend every convention they host.




    Sexy and video games are just two things that seem to fail together. I cannot claim that I haven’t been aroused by a digital temptress, but more often than not, sexy in gaming just falls flat. For the worst possible example of it, look no further than “Heavy Rain.”

    Regardless of my disdain for the aforementioned title, I find myself turned on by the ideas and thoughts present in gaming more than the physical characters. The reason for this is that I tend to shift a character’s abilities on to people I know in real life.

    I recently began playing “The Last Story.” I’ll save my criticism of that for another day. Still, one character in particular has captured my interest. One of your party members is a foul mouthed, loud, angry, drunken, strong, bisexual woman by the name of Syrenne (Seiren in the original Japanese script). These traits epitomize the last girl I thought I was in love with.

    As I play through the game more, I keep thinking of that girl. Syrenne comes on the screen and I’m mesmerized by the positive thoughts I had with this girl. I feel sorry for hurting her and want to reverse my misdeeds simply because I realize how wonderfully charming she is. I’m aroused by her and its all thanks to this damn game!

    But the game itself is not really doing anything to be “sexy” to me. Sure, Syrenne is fairly attractive and is obviously dressed in such a manner to appeal to horny imbeciles like me, but she also has a personality that is incredibly realistic. Now if only she played video games and had brown hair, the transformation would be complete.


    She's the one on the left...

    Another game I finished late last year, “Lollipop Chainsaw,” starred a young, beautiful, quirky, blonde bombshell of a character that had a punk charm and some strong verbal skills. Well, I happened to work with someone like that for the better portion of two years.

    Sure, I saw the short skirt, the ridiculous excuse for a bra and the vivacious and limber moveset, but I wasn’t picturing Juliet Starling. No, that wonderful girl from work was where my mind drifted. Why would I want pixels (despite how tempting they are) when the real thing was mere feet away from me?

    As far as situations go, I don’t think video games have really nailed it yet. The most effecting women in games for me are the ones written with pure fantasy in mind; the romance that blossoms in a fairytale manner or where the guy gets the girl after many trials and tribulations.

    Film just gives a much more realistic look at interpersonal relationships. I hate to say that, but the quality of storytelling in gaming just isn’t on the same level. To me, games are much better at tackling the atrocities of war or giving players a sense of adventure and meaning. Film and literature is better at capturing love and introspective thoughts.

    My honest to goodness favorite romance in a game has to be between Link and Ilia in “Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.” Link never utters a word and Ilia is never portrayed as anything vulgar or mean. The game focuses more on her attention to Link and how his strength pulls them through. There is even a scene in the game that humanizes Link by tempting him with dark power.



    It certainly isn’t as strong as the bond that “Ico” forms or even as emotional as many of the Final Fantasy relationships, but the thread between Link and Ilia is so pure and simple. It just makes me happy seeing them together.

    I can’t say that video games lack the ability to be sexy. Any form of media can take a sexual idea and spin it into a sexual fantasy that tantalizes the right mind. For me, though, I want my sexual visions to be more realistic. I’m still a virgin and I’m pretty much set on the path to being alone. If I keep myself in pure fantasy land, I’m never going to switch roads into reality.

    Sadly, I view almost everything through idealized lenses. I have no doubt that at one point in my life video games will be the only thing that I find sexy. It doesn’t help that more and more games are beginning to explore sex in a more realistic and mature fashion. Sure, something like “Seduce Me” may be a stupid little point and click, but it definitely doesn’t tackle sex with a pre-teen kind of view.

    We’re also starting to me a surge of women in the games industry taking the reigns behind projects and lending their own voices and values to scripts. I fully believe that female characters in the not so distant future will be properly written and wholly attractive.

    As gaming stands now, though, I do not find it particularly sexy. I have more respect for sexual content in gaming now than I ever used to, but I still honestly just do not get it (both literally and figuratively).
    Photo Photo Photo


    So, that “Spec Ops: The Line” was quite the game, right?........Right?.......Ugh, sometimes I hate being me.



    Just the other day, I finished my journey through Dubai in what seems to be record time; 5 hours. I played on the hardest default setting, otherwise known as Suicide Mission. This game was far from that.

    While I found the narrative very ambitious and intriguing, “Spec Ops: The Line” seems to run at breakneck speed through all of its high points. I mean, in the first hour alone, I conquered 5 of the games 15 chapters. They get considerably longer after that point, but I hadn’t even realized how little time I had spent.

    I have no problem with games being short, but I just feel a little short changed here. This game was touted as having a very deep and complex narrative and most of the anecdotes I’ve heard from gamers are how affecting they felt the games “decision” scenes were. I saw them so close together; I don’t even know how the hell I’m supposed to think.

    This contrasts with “Hotline Miami,” another game that brings up questions of violence and does so in an even shorter time span than Spec Ops. I managed to plunk through that little gem in about 3 and a half hours, but the pacing worked much better.

    Some missions gave some breathing room in terms of combat and there was even a break from the constant murder for a stealth mission (even if that level was a little crappy). Hotline wasn’t a constant bloodbath and it worked to make me more interested in the combat and plotline.



    Spec Ops, though, doesn’t give you a single minute to reflect on anything. Even the cutscenes aren’t that long, with the longest probably being around 6 minutes. You simply deal with a firefight, walk to the next room and repeat. When a decision comes up, you make it in a snap fashion and then proceed to shoot some more.

    I can’t say I was disappointed with the game (and I got it for dirt cheap, so how could I truly be?), but I feel like it would have been a greater story if I was just given more time to explore it. Let me sink in the details of the game’s world, let me reflect on my awful actions and give me periods that help build character instead of pushing me directly into the action.

    One of the best moments in “Uncharted 2” comes during chapter 16. After practically non-stop action, Drake finds himself stranded in Nepal. The only task for the chapter is to walk around and soak in the sights. This gives you ample time to think about how you arrived at this location and reflect on what Drake has gone through.

    NaughtyDog understood that packing a game with minute to minute firefights would sully the experience and leave the gamer wishing for a break. While you don’t want to have too much time dedicated to simply doing nothing, even just the smallest amount of leisure or padding can create a sense of relieve and a desire to continue.

    For all the flack the Zelda series may get for sidequests and lack of innovation, the padding in that series really drives home the desire to press on. The early games in the series (namely Zelda 1 and 2) suffer because there is nothing else to do. You simply proceed with quest or you don’t play the game. Without any break of alternate activity, the quest feels longwinded (even being only an hour!).


    This is completely related to saving the Princess...trust me!

    So honestly, while I won’t deem a game of lower quality because it’s short, some titles need extra game time to justify their existence. I can’t sit here and whole-heartedly recommend “Spec Ops: The Line” because I feel like it’s incomplete. It’s too damn short and leaves too much unexplained.

    If I only simply had more time to feel the anguish that Captain Martin Walker was going through, maybe I’d be in love with the game. As it stands, it’s a very ambitious experiment, but one that ultimately doesn’t feel as impactful due to a sense of being rushed.
    Photo Photo Photo




    Inspired by Magnalon and his constant destruction of entire game series, I’ve decided to finally jump in the fray and represent a series that is often overlooked: Professor Layton. You probably wouldn’t expect someone like me to enjoy Layton games (I often go for shooters), but I’ve been smitten with the series for awhile now.

    Sadly, though, I’ve only ever finished 1 game. I own all 4 DS titles and will be acquiring the 3DS sequel in short order. Still, what better way to send off the year then by beating a game that has become a Christmas tradition for me?

    Why Professor Layton?

    Why Layton at this point in the year? Quite honestly, I lost power a few days ago and just turned on my 3DS. I had left the games out on my desk as a reminder to eventually finish them, but nothing spurred me toward my quest.

    I’ve done every Zelda last year, all three Deus Ex games, the 3 main entry Quake games with their expansions and a crap ton of Mario games this year: why was Layton eluding me? I really cannot say.

    So while I don’t really have a clear motive on why Layton finally got lucky, I just know that I’m happy to be playing them after having the games hang around my house. I always felt bad since I asked my mom to get them for me and just let them sit around.

    See, as I’ve become older, I’ve demanded that my mother stop lavishing me with gifts and boil it down to a single thing each year. For Christmas, since Layton happens to release later in the year, I just ask her to grab me that.

    Thankfully I’ve been able to pay it forward this year as I currently have money. My mom is now the proud owner of a red 3DS XL and it’s all thanks to me! I hope that’s one of the best birthday’s she’s ever had; living with me is a nightmare unto itself.



    Professor Layton And the Curious Village [Nintendo DS – Owned]

    COMPLETED

    I actually did manage to beat this one when it originally launched. I was studying in Florida to become a Chemist (hahahaha) and I was having troubles with my “friends” at the time. While I’ve come to miss them, they definitely weren’t offering words of advice with my depression or school work.

    Regardless, I was able to shut myself away in my dorm and power through some puzzles. The first thing I remember about Layton, though, are the FMVs. I was blown away at how good looking those cutscenes were in the DS screen. How did Level-5 even manage to compress these videos down so well?

    Then comes the puzzles. There are just so many of them (130 to be exact). I took this game with me everyone. In class, over to friend’s houses, out to eat; I couldn’t be separated from it. It was fun having some of my friends come up with solutions with me and us all being completely wrong.

    As I replayed it, I missed a lot of that community element, but I really got sucked up in the story again. I love a good mystery and Layton certainly provides that. The characters aren’t insanely deep, but they do provide chuckles. I still laugh at how stupid Luke sounds saying Professor.

    I managed to beat the game in about half of my previous time, too. I am going by the save file, but 11 hours and 30 minutes was knocked down to 6 hours flat. That’s not too bad!



    Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box [Nintendo DS – Owned]

    COMPLETED

    I really prefer the Japanese name to this (Pandora’s Box!), but Diabolical also sounds pretty intimidating. Now, I have actually played this, but I never managed to finish it. At the time in my life when the game came out, I just couldn’t muster up the strength to sit through a DS title.

    That usually happens to me at the end of a console’s life-span. When Shadow of the Colossus originally came out, I wouldn’t be caught dead playing it as I was ready to move onto the 360. PS2 was a distant memory for me.

    I’ve since changed my views on that matter, but obviously not before this Layton game came out. What do I remember about the short span I played? Well…the graphics were nicer. It also took place at night!

    I was having fun with it, but I think I just got stumped somewhere and turned it off. I was heading to my uncle’s house for Christmas dinner, I believe, and my aunt was terribly ill at the time. I didn’t want to waste any precious seconds playing some game when she was so close to death.

    EXTENDED THOUGHTS

    Just….wow. I really missed a damn good game. Strange thing is, though, my save file was actually around 70% done. I had sunk 6 hours and 48 minutes into the game with around 68 puzzles solved. Holy shit! I remembered a fair chunk of them, too.

    For starters, the presentation is just ace. The cutscenes come back with a vengeance and are much better. The lip synching is tighter and the animation is just stronger. There are also some text segments that are fully voiced and it’s just much easier to get sucked into the plot.

    The plot is also a bit more heartwarming. I am not afraid to admit this, but I shed a few tears at the end. I was just so overwhelmed with the realization that comes during the conclusion. Makes you think about your own life, too.

    Gameplay wise, though, this one is strong and weak. For starters, there is much better variety in the puzzles. You’re almost always doing something new and exciting and most of them actually have something to do with the plot. Most, I must mention.

    While the game boasts around 153 puzzles, I think that number isn’t quite right. One puzzle about mid-way through the game tasks you with moving a chess piece around a board and hitting each square once. You then do this again…and again….and again.

    There also happen to be a few more puzzles that each have 4 levels. Claiming to contain over 150 puzzles is kind of false when you just come up with one idea and repeat it with variations.

    Still, I actually like this one more than the first game. It’s story is stronger and the length is pretty damn good (took me about 10 and a half hours!). Just like in the first title, there are DLC puzzles and a crap ton of unlockables, so I’d recommend this to everyone.



    Professor Layton and the Unwound Future [Nintendo DS – Owned]

    COMPLETED

    I know the name is different in Japan again…That’s honestly it. I have not the faintest idea of what this game entails. It follows Luke and Layton solving puzzles. Sounds fine to me.

    I’ve heard reviews claim it’s the best of the first trilogy of titles. Apparently the puzzles really come together or something. I’m not quite sure. I just know that if it has another great story, then I’m game to waste countless hours on it.

    Oh, as the box informs me, there are at least 165 puzzles. We’ve effectively added half another game on top of the original.

    EXTENDED THOUGHTS

    So, I’m a bit indifferent. This was a great game with a long playtime (about 12 hours!) and I was blown away at the story in parts, but there is just something off. It doesn’t feel like the soul of a Layton game is there. Everything gets so larger than life that I’m not sure what to think.

    We have time travel coming into the equation (even though that later gets debunked…and then reinstated) and there are an insane amount of FMVs peppered throughout the story. The plus side is that there is also more voice acting during the text sections.

    The polish is just through the roof and there are some very clever ideas that integrate puzzles directly into the story. There also happens to be crap where you’ll look at a flight of stairs and Layton will say, “This reminds me of a puzzle.”

    At the same time, I was just more interested in seeing the plotline finish then actually tackling most of the puzzles. I just love the acting and writing, even if this story falters a bit, so I think that’s probably a negative to people who enjoy the puzzles more. Now I understand how a Layton movie would work out.

    Regardless, this was a very good game. I’m not sorry I played it and it’s probably my favorite of the first three, but there definitely seems to be a small drop in overall cohesion. Whereas the first two games kept things quick and often made puzzles feel organic, this one just throws everything and the kitchen sink into the mix.

    I mean, how many games have you played where two London’s exist at once and one gets decimated? Yeah…I can’t name a single one. I did shed tears at the end, though. So it’s definitely powerful under the right circumstances.



    Professor Layton and the Last Specter [Nintendo DS – Owned]

    COMPLETED

    While I know nothing of the main game, I do know that this DS entry comes with an Animal Crossing style mini-game called “London Life.” That sounds pretty killer to me. I doubt it has “100 hours” of content, but I could see myself wasting time with it until “Animal Crossing: New Leaf” comes out.

    Regardless, I’ve heard this entry is fairly lackluster in terms of what Layton is. There are puzzles abound, but they never push farther than the other 3 games. It’s like a retreading of ideas (something Nintendo is glorious at!).

    I do know that, canonically speaking, this is a prequel to the entire series. This game details the first time that Layton met his apprentice, Luke. I suppose that makes sense as the two seem acquainted during the beginning of Curious Village. Whatever, I just want more puzzles.

    EXTENDED THOUGHTS

    Well, it’s not my favorite in the series, but “The Last Specter” is a very solid game. Like I mentioned with the last game, though, I’m far more interested in the plot line. This game tones down the main puzzles, though, giving you more extras instead of just bloating the campaign with needless padding.

    The ending is completely amazing, though. While pretty much none of the puzzles flow directly with the plot, the ending has a series of 8 puzzles that all deal with exactly what’s going on. It’s very thrilling.

    There’s even a section where you get to play as Layton’s new assistant, Emmy. I find it strange that a third character in introduced in the prequel trilogy and never mentioned in the original games, but she’s actually not so bad.

    There’s almost an over abundance of cutscenes, though. I definitely love them, but considering the plot is shorter (Only 11 hours this time), it seems like practically half of it is spent watching.

    Most of the puzzles are also incredibly safe. What I mean is, there aren’t a whole lot of fresh ideas presented during the course of the new mystery. Lots of slider puzzles, marble jumping and a cool little pseudo-puzzle story wrap-up thing. Still, nothing 100% fresh.

    Whatever the flaws are, I did like this game. The Layton stories are very well written, even if they are completely far fetched at this point. I’m eager to see what the movie holds, since I’m far more invested in the character of Layton instead of his actual puzzles.

    Oh, and London Life is boring. It’s Animal Crossing without the funny, circle shaped people.



    Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva [DVD, Blu-Ray]

    This is the first film in the series. While I technically can’t play it, I would like to watch it to get a full understanding of the series story. The movie is a flashback that takes place after the events of Last Specter. The flashback occurs during the downtime between Curious Village and Diabolical Box…That honestly makes no sense.

    Honestly, why bother with this? Well, I love the animation in the FMVs, so I’m sure there will be something I can enjoy out of this film. I’ve heard that it’s actually quite good, so why can the harm be? I really can’t fathom how puzzle solving works as a film, though.

    EXTENDED THOUGHTS

    ...WATCHED?..

    Hm…..I don’t really know what to say. I’ve been more interested in the plot lines of Layton games for the last few and then this movie failed to produce a decent plot. Like most anime video game adaptations, the script focuses too much on including every character without actually understanding why they work.

    One character from the prequel trilogy, Inspector Grosky, does absolutely nothing with the narrative other than provide his famous line, “I AM GROSKY OF THE YARD!” It’s infuriating. Emmy, too, has no relevance in this movie, despite being introduced and fleshed out fairly well in the “Last Specter.”

    Even with these problems, though, the film is an okay watch. As far as game to movie adaptations, I’d say this is easily the best. The humor is lighthearted, the film has some fun action scenes and the integration of puzzles into a different medium works very well.

    The animation is also exceptionally beautiful. I was awestruck at how the Layton universe looks in fullscreen HD. I really would like Level-5 to develop something for the Wii U, now!

    Particular mention needs to go to the soundtrack, as well. All of the themes are done by a full orchestra and they sound wonderful. It’s great hearing the tunebox theme and even the puzzle time theme come to life. The main theme is used far too often, but it is very loud, bombastic and high octane, so I’ll let it slide.

    So, would I recommend this to the casual anime fan? Eh, not really. The film, on its own merits, isn’t worth a watch. For those interested in Layton, I’d almost say to skip it, too. But, just seeing Layton in a full movie and gasping at the animation can provide some joy to viewers.

    So, whatever. Take the good, take the bad, put it together…blah blah. Not too bad.



    Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask [Nintendo 3DS]

    COMPLETED

    The first 3D entry in the series and a launch title in Japan for the 3DS, Miracle Mask is supposed to be a…fairly typical Layton game. Oh well. I’ve heard that regardless of how comfortable this title is with the series legacy, it does make for some quality entertainment.

    I’m not sure how I feel about the characters finally being rendered in 3D, but I don’t really have much to complain about. If the only detractor is that the graphics look weird, then I think I’ll be okay.

    I do also know that this game had a full year of DLC. That’s right, some crazy bullshit like THQ promised with Saints Row, but for free and actually decent! Since the game has only been out for a week or so, I think only 14-21 puzzles are available in the US. By the time I get to this game, hopefully there will be a sizeable amount for me to comment on.

    EXTENDED THOUGHTS

    I don’t know why people called this a typical Layton game. For starters, it’s the first game in the series to not focus solely on puzzles. There is an extended sequence that plays out similar to Zelda and it’s amazing.

    Also, the changes made to the way one interacts with the world are incredibly welcome. While I don’t mind the old games, it was frustrating to be looking for hint coins and just tapping everything imaginable. Now you can simply scroll over items of interest and a little magnifying glass will highlight if you can click there.

    Also, the graphics are incredible. With the 3D effect on, this game just pops off the screen. The colors are vibrant, the added depth makes the world feel huge and alive and the character models (now in place of the old sprites) animate like Wind Waker. It’s wonderful.

    The variety in the puzzles is also stepped up, which is surprising considering there are less puzzles here than every game since the first. You do get a few repeats (I guess making cats and penguins jump is just too good to pass up), but for the most part, every puzzle is unique.

    The story is also very touching, delving into a time when Layton was younger and dealing with the passing of close friends. I cried again, but considering how depressing this series tends to be getting, I don’t think I’ll ever stop. I’m really not sure why Layton hasn’t killed himself or how he remains so jovial.

    So, I’d say this one is close to the top of the list. If I had to rank the games, I’d go: Unwound, Miracle, Diabolical, Spector and Curious. Funny, seeing as how the only game I’ve finished twice is Curious Village.



    So while Layton isn’t exactly the biggest hitter that Nintendo has up its sleeve, I’ve been a fan of the series for years now. It’s sad that I’ve actually only completed 1 game, but that will soon change. Since no one seems to give this series any coverage, I’ll be the harbinger of progress for Destructoid!

    Hopefully I’ve gotten a few of you to pick up your DS’ and get cracking on some mind benders! If not, then at least you’ve read my thoughts on this wonderful little series.
    Photo Photo Photo




    I hate video game reviews. I truly do. With this week’s release of Jet Set Radio HD, I’m just reminded of how deep my hatred for game reviewing has become. How can a website rightfully justify giving a classic a 4.5 when they previously rated it a 9?

    Now, I understand that tastes change and people move away from the things they used to love, but how does a quintessential Dreamcast title suddenly become something broken and unpolished? For that matter, was the Dreamcast ever worth owning? All I’ve been seeing from the re-releases of its “classics” are reviews that top off at 6 out of 10.

    It just boggles my mind to try and figure out how a game becomes so awful over the course of a decade. I haven’t played a single title from my youth in recent years that hasn’t held up to some degree. Sometimes awkward dialog or story progression rear their ugly heads, but level design and controls have always been a constant for me.

    If I disliked the way the camera moved or the way combos were executed back in the day, I clearly remember all of that and expect it in the future. Hell, sometimes games I disliked back in the day are actually better with age, so what gives with “Jet Set Radio?”

    I’m also getting really tired of reviewers claiming that titles are antiquated or feel old and that is their reason for being bad. Well, why do new games like “Castle Crashers” and “Scott Pilgrim” come out and get high marks for being old-school and retro? The contradiction doesn’t make sense to me. You can’t praise one thing for the same reason you hate another!

    For that matter, old games don’t suddenly become bad over the years. I understand that the philosophy behind developing anything should be to improve on the predecessors, but I still enjoy “Super Mario World” and “Street Fighter II,” despite the fact that their sequels may have improved in certain regards.

    Not that film or music can even really compare to video games, but you don’t see Roger Ebert going back and claiming “Hotel Rwanda” actually sucks. When he states that his opinion of a movie is positive, he always sticks to it. Just because things have changed in cinema or methods or production doesn’t mean that Rwanda is no longer worth it.



    I'm sorry, I can't control this properly anymore...

    If I go and ask my friend if she still likes the older Dave Matthews albums, she’s not going to say no! I don’t dislike old Tool albums or Daft Punk, either, despite their styles changing and evolving over the years. When something is good, it is good!

    My only real understanding of this situation comes with my old passion for Slipknot. I used to love their direct and dirty style of metal, but as I grew older and broadened my range of music, I drifted away from them. I no longer listen to them and I don’t really have the desire to.

    I still recognize their greatness, though. Nothing is wrong with the band and their music will always be a shining example of power/hard metal done right. Hell, their live album is fucking insanely good!


    In fact, I went and re-beat “Super Mario Land” last night just for fun. That game is still good. I have lots of nostalgia for it (it was my second Gameboy game ever), but the title is a quick, quirky, fun little game and is well worth playing through. Hell, it’s even better now because of how similar newer Mario games are becoming.

    Maybe I just hold video games closer to my heart? I really can’t make up an excuse or claim my passion is stronger, though. That’s very selfish. I’m just finding it hard to understand how “Jet Set Radio” is now considered a waste of time when it was once proclaimed to be a revelation.

    I suppose my friend Corey sums it up the best, though.

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    There are two franchises I will almost never speak about on this blog: The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. The reason for that is simple: BIAS! Those are my two favorite franchises and I personally enjoy each game in them, even if I truly don’t like a title (Zelda 2 and Mario Sunshine come to mind).

    Why do I bring this up? Well, I recently 100%ed “New Super Mario Bros. 2” and I really enjoyed it. I’m surprised to see it held as the lowest ranking Mario game to date on GameRankings, but I also cannot disagree. It’s a very strange feeling.

    Usually when I feverishly love a title and reviews are low, I just write them off and continue playing. This time, though, I’m beginning to question if my own bias is blinding me. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I believe I’m a part of the problem when it comes to modern AAA games being all too similar; maybe that’s true with Mario and Zelda?

    I haven’t purchased more than 3 games this year at full, retail price. After the abomination that was “Uncharted 3,” and my extreme disappointment with “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,” I vowed to wait for price drops or sales before jumping into anything new. It has paid off extremely well for me.

    Still, the only titles I will buy immediately without question are Zelda and Mario games. I don’t even care if they suck out loud, I need to play them. This kind of devotion is clearly what a money grubbing company would love, but it most definitely is not helping the creative lull that Mario has found himself in.


    The next Mario game should have an art style like this!

    Even though I loved every minute of my 9 hour jaunt through NSMB2, I can’t help but feel like I’m growing weary of this entire “New” series. The level design, in particular, wasn’t as fresh or invigorating in this 3DS title and the overkill with the Tanaooki leaf is making that feeling of wonder and joy from “Super Mario Bros. 3” feel dated.

    I always wanted a “true” sequel to Mario 3; now I have two of them. The sense of déjà vu and complacency is starting to take its toll on me. Seeing as how my favorite Mario games aren’t even from the “New” series, I’m completely conflicted on how I feel about “New Super Mario Bros. U.”

    I want it to be the return to form that 2-D Mario desperately needs, but I can’t help but feel like I’ve been burn to death on sidescrollers. For that matter, I want someone else to step up their game so that Mario has a reason to try newer and braver endeavors.

    People point to “Rayman: Origins” as some bastion of bliss, but I found the game completely dull. When in a Mario game does it take Mario four worlds to gain the ability to swim? Rayman is like playing Mario in a coma, even if its graphics are nice.

    But maybe that’s just my bias coming into effect? If I didn’t “love” Mario, maybe I could see the beauty within Rayman and embrace him as the sidescrolling king? I have no idea, but even adventure gaming doesn’t compare to Zelda for me.

    I’ll tell you left and right that I do not like Twilight Princess. The game is essentially a retread of Ocarina of Time, yet with more listless pacing and easier puzzles. It’s still better than “Darksiders” to me.

    In fact, I remember back in 2001 when “Ico” was just coming out and Official Playstation Magazine labeled the game a Zelda killer. I hated the game for eight full years! It wasn’t until I gave it a play in 2009 and subsequently wrote a final paper about it that I truly fell for the game.

    When I have debates about potential “Game of the Year” candidates, I almost always try to leave Zelda and Mario out of the equation. It’s not even fair to other games for me if I include them. Obviously I’m just going to pick Link and Mario!

    As a matter of fact, my room is surrounded with the guys. I have three plush Mario’s, a bean bag Yoshi, a stuffed Link and numerous posters from both series. My room is a venerable shrine to these gaming gurus.


    Look how cute they are together!

    How does one get over such a bias? Is there even really a point in doing so? Does my bias borderline on obsession? What could that possibly mean to the friends I keep in my life?

    Whatever the implications, I cannot be without these two franchises. If Nintendo were to ever collapse and get out of gaming, I would too. I just will not fathom a game industry without these two icons, even if it may inevitably become a reality.

    So, yes, I do think “New Super Mario Bros. 2” is a damn fine platformer. It kills “Rayman: Origins” in every conceivable fashion for me. Excellent, hand drawn, HD graphics be damned, I’ll take Mario any day!
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    Every now and then, a treasured developer will produce a game so dissimilar to their previous work that fans will begin to rage. They’ll lament the good old days and chat about how said developer has lost their way. What happened to the tight level design? Where are the classic monsters? Why does this game feel so different?

    Id Software’s “Rage” is such a title. Playing almost nothing like their previous games, “Rage” feels very awkward to a longtime Id fan. Why would you even bother with this title, outside of the developer’s legacy? After playing through the game, I can’t answer that question.

    Still, I can’t help but think I’m a part of the game industry’s biggest problem; creative stagnation. Id Software tried their damnedest to create a brand new IP and I hate the game. Hell, even when they took “Doom 3” in a different direction than the classic games, I was first in line to bitch and moan.

    “Rage” definitely isn’t a shining example of game design, but it’s not poorly made. When the characters finally shut-up and you’re thrown into a dungeon, it plays like a better version of “Fallout 3.” The guns have great weight and the graphics completely sell the putrid creatures and their agility. It can be really tense.

    In the same instance, though, nothing about the game is original and most of the ideas are half-baked. The upgrade system shouldn’t even exist with how few options are available, the car combat side missions feel like half of a game (or early PS1 era cash grabs) and the weapon crafting is entirely pointless when you can just buy everything.

    “Rage” is mind blowing if you haven’t played a single game this generation. If you have, you’ll just keep thinking about “Borderlands,” “Fallout 3” and “Call of Duty.” It’s sad when even in a brand new game, I can’t escape thoughts of everything else.



    I can't even tell which Call of Duty this is.....

    At the same time, because I made those previous games successful, I’m partly responsible for “Rage” being an amalgamation of features from other shooters. I can’t imagine playing a classic style game in the modern era, even though I’d probably enjoy it to some degree.

    Still, when new IPs are released, I’m the one responsible for sequels never happening. I’m the guy that craps all over “new” ideas and stops developers from taking chances. I dictate to them that Call of Duty and Battlefield are the only way shooters should be, so why even try something new?

    To that degree, I also disliked “Sonic 4.” I’m not one of those people who abhor the physics, though. I was more in the camp that the level design wasn’t adequate and that the boss encounters lacked originality. Since I love classic Sonic, though, what else was Sega supposed to make? How do they make me happy?

    I’m also the same person that is lambasting Square-Enix for “Final Fantasy XIII.” I can’t stand the auto-battle system or how streamlined combat is. The linear level paths for an RPG do nothing for me and the absurd story just brings my piss to a boil. How else is Square-Enix supposed to innovate, though?

    If I could embrace “Rage” as an actual beacon of creativity, then maybe we’d be a better and more realized sequel. Maybe Id Software could expend more time in designing new mechanics or fleshing out the groundwork laid down with the first title.

    If I treated “Final Fantasy XIII” with more respect, maybe Square-Enix would finally give us that “Final Fantasy VII” remake or another title in the classic, 16-bit style (excluding the FFIV pseudo-sequel).

    Since I don’t allow developers to try anything new, I fear that the next generation of consoles will just keep producing the same garbage over and over. I keep buying awful sequels in hopes that some of the original joy will be contained; I almost never leave happy.



    Even this looks like Call of Duty....

    So my only conclusion is that I am a part of the problem. I’ll do my best to embrace the indie game scene, but I don’t see how I’ll be helping triple A title’s become more diverse in the future.
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    Developers and stupid comments seem to be going hand in hand these days. First we get Crystal Dynamics shooting themselves in the feet and now we have Gearbox making asshats of themselves. It’s insane to think how grown adults can’t figure out how to properly speak to journalists about their games.

    Still, the most recent instance with Gearbox’s John Hemingway just does not make sense to me. Are the developers intentionally trying to not sell their product to women? When I first read the quick blip for Eurogamer’s article, I immediately thought of a mode where the female character would bond to one character and heal them.

    Instead, the gaming world is now treated to something unintentionally sexist. To say that female gamers require additional assistance in their games is ludicrous. If the main idea was to appeal to significant others who are bad at video games, why not just label the mechanic as noob mode?

    Still, I’m a white male and I’m getting outraged at something that doesn’t really impact me. I’ll never know what it’s like to be a woman and have people constantly harassing me, so I took to Twitter for some quick comments.

    I asked my co-worker’s girlfriend and another co-worker of mine (the now infamous Jozie). Both play games and while they may not be experts or as hardcore as I am, they certainly can hold their own in terms of ability.





    As you can clearly see, both aren’t too happy about Hemingway’s comment. While he may not be a ravenous sexist, he certainly is unfounded and ignorant. Just like the controversy over “Dead Island” and their “Feminist Whore” skill, developers need to realize that in-jokes aren’t funny to the masses and knocks against female stereotypes are unfounded and ridiculous.

    To further drive the point home, an old friend of mine was quite the gamer. She couldn’t best me in Call of Duty or Gears of War, but she certainly wasn’t a slouch, either. Gaming with her on “Hard Mode” wasn’t some futile attempt to make myself look better. She honestly was up for the challenge and liked not having the game be a cakewalk.

    I’ve also known quite a few female workers from local GameStop’s that are interested in some pretty awesome stuff. My best friend Jim’s old boss loved “Dark Souls,” a game that makes most grown men cry. This very lovely girl, Jen, was a huge fan of Fable and Call of Duty and she used to ask me pointers on how to get better, instead of cowering in fear of harder difficulties.

    I also recall of two twins who were gigantic PokeMon fans. While that may not be the most daunting of titles to topple, just having the sheer dexterity to finish any of those titles is a pretty monumental accomplishment. I’ve only ever beaten 2 PokeMon games and I sink hundreds of hours into each.

    My point is I don’t understand why developers are still treating women like unskilled peons. According to ESRB polls, around 40% of gamers are women. If you total up all sales of the previous “Borderlands” (as presented by VGChartz.com), you get about 4.55 million copies. Imagine if 40% did not buy the sequel. You’d sell close to 2 million copies less.

    That is something that Gearbox probably doesn’t want to face. Sadly, they may see a pretty big decline come September. “Borderlands” didn’t have the easiest start of any new IP, but it did well on the charm of its gameplay and word of mouth from gamers.

    If the new word of mouth is that Gearbox is a bunch of sexist idiots, maybe “Borderlands 2” won’t sell so well. While I can’t predict what will happen, I will say that developers need to start treating their potential customers a lot better.

    Enough of the bullshit where women apparently suck or that being offended is solely your fault. Start thinking about what you say and maybe I’ll give a shit about your work. Until then, you’ve lost a prospective customer.



    Cate Archer is not pleased.
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    Ever wanted to see my face? Well, now you can!

    I’m not quite sure why gamers are so afraid of change. I recently watched GameTrailers “Top 10 Fallen Angels” segment and their comments about Splinter Cell confused me. While they are right in stating that the series is now becoming homogenized, they belittle “Splinter Cell: Conviction” for straying too far from the series’ roots.

    Why is that a bad thing? Is it wrong to have reboots and reimagining with franchises? Looking at the upcoming “Metal Gear Rising,” the comments and threads are just ridiculous. People criticize Kojima for not doing anything different with MGS, but then yell at him for trying to make another game in the same universe. I don’t understand it.

    I grew up with Mario and Zelda and you’d be hard pressed to find two games within the series that follow the same style of play. While more recent Mario titles are adopting a similar art style and there are a few direct sequels in Zelda, almost every game looks and plays differently. It’s great seeing seven interpretations of Link, all so bold, pronounced and true to the original.

    Going back to Metal Gear, even those games follow entirely different setups. No controls or aesthetics change, but each title centers in on a different aspect of Snake’s training. The original PS1 classic is all about confrontation while remaining silent. 2 is about exploration. 3 is about avoiding enemies at all cost and survival. 4 is practically a run and gun shooter. No game is the same!

    For as much flak as Capcom caught with “Street Fighter III: Third Strike,” the game has yet to be replicated. The previous Street Fighter games played with an emphasis on showmanship, where Third Strike catered to the more meticulous and cautious fighter. Hopping between the two is an exercise in frustration as new skill sets need to be learned.



    The reason most series grow stagnant and boring is because of their unwillingness to change. I’m not saying you need to adapt to new standards and embrace things like iron-sight aiming or cover mechanics, but why would I want to play what is virtually the same game again when I have the original? Just look at the NES Mega Man titles; Everything is fun and challenging until you get to 4, then the series takes a nosedive.

    Or better yet, anything that developer Neversoft gets their hands on. The Tony Hawk series, once a proud trailblazer of genuinely new mechanics, became so complacent with offering incremental changes that the series devolved into an autopilot mode. I could bust out the newest Tony Hawk with no practice and break a few million points.

    Guitar Hero became so set on introducing the rhythm genre to new gamers that the later games actually got easier by design. Remember all those tricky hammer-on sections from “Jordan” in “Guitar Hero 2?” Well, now you can just tap the buttons and the guitar will auto-strum. No skill required.

    Call of Duty, for all the legitimate things it does right, is so boring and stale now that the campaigns lack any enthusiasm and the multiplayer is simply a means to milk more money out of consumers. Why put actual effort into crafting new mechanics when people will just buy the same shit again and again?

    Why do I bring this all up? Well, I recently dyed my hair another color. Over the course of my lifetime (24 years), I’ve flirted with different styles. I used to get mushroom haircuts in elementary school and I screwed around with hair-gel in high school. I’m now into ridiculous colors and I even have a Mohawk!

    I’m not afraid of changing myself up. While I may lack the courage to actually speak with people, I’ll never lose that spark of impulse that shows my inner thoughts. I hope that my hair color shows people to expect the unexpected, because I certainly love to just do whatever I want.



    Developers should, as well. Instead of treading the easy road of contention, why not mix things up within your franchises? Give me a first person game without guns or puzzles. Give me a platformer with an emphasis on stealth. Give me an adventure game with combat (and that isn’t as boring as Gemini Rue).

    I want to see new things. I want to look into the faces of change and come out rewarded!
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    As gaming evolves and budgets become larger, there seems to be a trend going on: lavish cutscenes. You’d be hard pressed to find a modern, mainstream, triple A title that doesn’t feature cutscenes in some significant way. Be it “Metal Gear Solid” or “Alan Wake,” games just push their narratives onto us through the use of cinematic cuts.

    I’ve seen this trend bemoaned as the death of gaming. I’ve heard critics lambaste titles that rely too much on scripted events and FMVs. I’ve read complaints from fans that most games are more movies now than they are game. Is this really a bad thing?

    I just recently finished “Binary Domain.” The game was created by the producer of the Yakuza series by Sega. If anyone has played any entry in the Yakuza series, they will tell you that the cutscenes are long and plentiful. Still, the narrative set-up by those scenes is leaps and bounds ahead of most games in the modern climate.

    Regardless, as gaming grows and matures as a medium, why is it so bad to include cutscenes in your game? Much like a musician who seeks to tell a story through the use of a concept album, can a video game not decide to display its narrative ideals through cutscene?

    I suppose there is a point where enough is enough. The Atlus RPG Classic, “Persona 4” starts off with a 2 hour prologue that is text-based with limited interaction. Capcom’s brawler/adventure hybrid, “Asura’s Wrath,” is composed of 80% cutscenes. Hell, “Yakuza 4,” one of my favorites, includes over 5 hours of non-interactive FMVs. Isn’t that just too much?

    I say no. Much like every movie isn’t about broken cops or drug lords and every book isn’t a fantasy novel in the vein of J.R.R. Tolkein, video games do not have a single mold with which they can convey their message. If a developer sees fit to include 6 hours of cinematics, why is anyone even complaining?



    This is pretty damn close to Lord of the Rings...

    Maybe the ability to skip said cinematics should be included in every title? Well, I just finished “Shadows of the Damned” three times for the Platinum trophy and I was able to deal with the cutscenes each and every time. They even took on new meanings during my third playthrough as I focused on other elements to the game design, namely Akira Yamaoka’s glorious soundtrack.

    I suppose gaming just provides a radically dissimilar interaction than movies, which is why people are sick of seeing so many FMVs. Instead of having control ripped away, most gamers want to keep going. I like getting breaks from the action, though.

    The Uncharted series, for as generic and unoriginal in gameplay as it may be, has some very well done cutscenes. Extraordinary motion capture and superb acting combine to make the cut aways something you seek out. While I enjoy popping soldiers in the head, I’m more eager to see Drake’s interactions with Sully and Elena. It gives me a nice chance to catch my breath.



    “Max Payne 3” was an exceptional case for having more cutscenes in games. The transitions Rockstar employed to make game and cinematic blend are so ahead of the competition that I barely knew when to stop playing and hardly ever wanted to. I blitzed through the title because I was sucked in by fierce opposition and tight controls and compelled forward through wonderful acting and supreme direction.

    After playing such a great game like that, I’m left pondering why I ever thought ridding games of cutscenes was a good idea. Still, I do understand that some people just cannot stomach their existence and want nothing to do with them. I appreciate that viewpoint.

    But when did our medium ever conform to one idea? The amount of games I’ve played where there are no cinematics far outweighs the amount that do. You can fire up any number of indie games and get your old-school fix, but even titles like “Portal 2” and “Doom” do not feature any FMVs in sight.

    So to any naysayers of cutscenes, all I have to say is just avoid the games that have them. I, on the other hand, am looking forward to the day where an entire game may just be one long cutscene (Hotel Dusk doesn’t count!). I’m all for a slightly interactive movie, as long as the plot isn’t as garbage as “Heavy Rain.”
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