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Gaming has just always been something I've loved since I was a wee lad. Ever since I picked up that NES controller and played Super Mario Bros...much like any gamer, really!

Video games were actually the impetus for me going to college and earning a journalism degree. If not for EGM, Nintendo Power, OPM, Expert Gamer, GameNow and countless other magazines I don't know what I would have done after high school! I'd like to think professional footballer for Liverpool...well, a man can dream can't he?!?!

Right now I'm replaying Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. I keep up with all the big-time releases, (Marios, Halos, etc.) but I'm also always trying to whither down my pile of shame.

I game on all systems. PC is my least played platform, but five years ago I've finally started to play classics after finally buying a home computer. I've now enjoyed games like Half-Life and others I had only read about before having a mouse and keyboard controlled gaming rig.

Some favorite games of mine: Metal Gear Solid series, almost anything Mario, Halo, Xenogears, Fallout series, Final Fantasy Tactics, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Suikoden 1 and 2...Well, pretty much any good game from any genre except for sports released from the NES era and on. Then it is only Mario sport titles and Winning Eleven and FIFA.

Sad fact about me: I'm desperately (perhaps hopelessly) waiting for a new Shadow Hearts game. :(

Update: It's September in Minnesota (getting chilly), and I'm enjoying Borderlands 2.
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Struggling against his mass, I gripped onto him as best I could until I was thrown into the metal towel bar. I deflated as it dug into my back...but it was enough for everyone to get away.

Many of the most vivid memories from my childhood, the ones that stick with me, are frightening montages of screaming, yelling, hitting, choking, and horror. My father was terrifying when he drank.

Papo & Yo creator Vander Caballero also suffered similar nightmares from an alcoholic father, and the video game he made to tell that story does a superb job of expressing the feelings and hardships children experience in a horrific life with few escapes.

The game itself is a generic puzzle platformer, but the story elevates it into an important experience. Papo & Yo takes that dire situation of growing up with an alcoholic parent, and explores those memories in parallel to lead character Quico's adventure in South American favelas with his monster.

Papo, or Monster, looks like a cross between a rhino and a gigantic gorilla, both unrecognizable and beyond your control. Similarly, my father came across as a gentle giant when sober. He was an ex-marine, able to bench 300 pounds, with a hulking figure full of love and care. But just like Papo, when a certain substance entered his body, he completely changed into something I couldnít identify, something terrifying and uncontrollable filled with misguided indignation. He seemed like a fictional force that couldnít be stopped by anyone but my fictional childhood heroes.

Quico's world reflects this, too.



The environment represents a childís escape into imagination, full of fanciful details and opportunities for adventure. Itís also very quiet. Outside of the pleasing acoustic music playing in the background, the world itself is almost entirely mute. That's how I felt growing up: alone.

Where Papo and Quico play in South American favelas, I had the woods of Wisconsin...which also had a large number of frogs (Papo's substance-abuse substance) I would poke and prod. Soccer balls sat around with no one to kick them to. The woods -- though full of adventures waiting to be had -- all felt very lonely to me. I looked for something, but I never knew quite what I wanted to find.

While searching those woods, I sometimes needed my father to help me traverse an area. Just like in Papo & Yo, we relied on each other. At times, he would use his strength to help me up a tree. Other times, I tended to him when he passed out on our couch in our tiny trailer home, only for him to return later that night in another drunken rage. He might break a favorite toy that made me feel safe, just like Lula, protagonist Quicoís helpful robot toy. Sometimes my father just broke my dreams. I never knew what would happen that night.

In the end, Papo & Yo becomes about Quico vanquishing his monster. Itís what we all have to do when we grow up with an abusive parent.

I wonder what younger me would think about this game. I doubt I would've taken much interest in it, having already found a good home in role-plaing games and action-packed adventure games. But as an adult, it reminds me of important things, prompts me reflect on the hardships I grew up in, and makes me determined to never put my own children through those horrors.
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My knees are close to being useless; the cartilage has all but left me, and arthritis plagues me. Even though the injuries keep me at a lower level than what I used to be at years ago, I can still play a great game of soccer.

Thatís kind of where the Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) series is at. The game is years past its prime (the PlayStation 2 era), but it can still pull out a great performance when it needs to (the current console era). This yearís game seems as though it wonít break the mold -- but that hasnít stopped me from putting together a list of the good, the bad, and the average experienced in the new demo.



Goal!

Being able to press a button to make a player dart into space for you is great in FIFA Soccer 12, but I like what Konamiís offering seems to have -- smarter runs by the computer.

Itís nice to see a darting Wayne Rooney cutting in front of his defender so I can quickly loft a ball in front of him for a chance on goal. Having to control when my players make a run can sometimes use up a precious moment I needed to beat a defender or open a defense.

The smart runs didnít always materialize, but when they did I took notice, and they worked.

Those runs led to goals.

Unlike in the FIFA series, I see a more eclectic mix of goals when I play Pro Evolution.

I scored a bicycle kick and a rocket to the upper right corner in my first game; scored after a snazzy one-two just inside the center of the 18 in the next; and then I fell victim to a game-tying diving header in my third match.

PES used to have a tagline that was something along the lines of, ďYou never score the same goal twice.Ē I firmly believe thatís held up.

Passing is another gameplay element that shines like one of Christiano Ronaldoís new Nike boots. This yearís iteration of Konamiís soccer game keeps the passing game slick, accurate, and useful. The new PES FullControl is a noticeable improvement.

Chief among the changes made with FullControl is how players can trap the ball. Players can actually tap a button to receive a pass with a much more cushioned trap to keep play tidy, or go a different route by flicking a ball as it reaches you to try and round a defender. They may be little things, but the way you trap a ball can decide your very next move, what options are available, and offers new ways to control the speed of play.

In FIFA 12 -- and I know Iím comparing the full release of a year-old game with a new gameís demo, but bear with me -- it seems that through balls, and through balls over the top are the best passes. You can certainly play a great game without them, but more often than not, if I want to rack up some online wins I just play the two types of through balls and lay waste to the competition.

In Pro Evolution 2013 it feels as though the short, long, and mid-passing game is a legitimate way to not just hold possession, but to also weave around the defense and create a scoring opportunity.



Indirect kick

Youíre either going to love or hate the pace of the new title. The game isÖ more action-packed. However, that shouldnít be taken to mean the game is more arcadey. It just doesnít slog along like FIFA 12 sometimes can, and fast players actually feel quick, and professional players turn and control the ball like they should -- on a dime.

Red card

Try as I might, I could not get my keeper to throw a ball far out for a quick counter. Instead, he seemed destined to act like heís from a lower division, and prone to throwing the ball short to a player under pressure no matter where I aimed and how long I charged the throw. This is especially disappointing as Konami claims that Ďkeeper distribution is something theyíve improved upon.

Another item of concern deals with both the menus and graphical prowess of the game. In short: both suck.

FIFAís menus are resplendent, enthrallingÖ and honestly, I could go on with more adjectives and verbs. There were times where I would get caught up checking out the 2010 FIFA World Cup menu more than Iíd play the actual game on the pitch.

Pro Evolution Soccer has had the same boring menus for years. Now, I know that the soccer on the pitch is more important, but putting a little more effort into something so simple would be a nice change of pace.

In terms of graphics, good lord is this game ugly. I like to tell people that I wear snazzy indoor soccer shoes and outdoor cleats because itís really the only thing people are seeing when Iím heading out to a game thatís unique and flashy.

I consider the player models and graphics in a sports game to be similar, as itís really the main thing you see in the game. Thatís why I have to be disappointed with PES 2013. Iím normally not a graphics snob, but when you stare at soccer players for the majority of the game I expect the visuals to be much, much better (though it would be remiss not to add that the likeness to star players such as Ronaldo is accurate, just not always pretty).

Final whistle

This new game of soccer (football if you prefer it that way) doesnít feel that much different compared to last yearís game. The changes arenít as monumental as, say, FIFA 12′s were last year from its previous iteration, but PES 2013 is still a good game.

Itís hard to tell just how good -- or lacking -- the new game is based on such a simple demo. After three matches, however, it seems that if you were a fan of last yearís game, youíll enjoy the new one; and the new FullControl is a genuine improvement. The gameplay on the pitch isnít revolutionary, just another solid outing.

But hey, at least I can still sub in anyone for my Ďkeeper.
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NHL 12 does something quite unique that sports games don't normally let you do. It allows you to create female pros.

This doesn't happen too often, and sometimes it's because the leagues the games are made to represent won't allow it -- but the industry can do better.



NHL 12 Created female

Why do we not have the ability to create more female pros in our sports video games? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure that plenty of popular women and women's sports could be included in the male-only titles...or in their own.

The FIFA Women's World Cup just finished this past summer. It's insanely popular -- especially in America. People get into the men's team during World Cup time, but is their keeper on Dancing With the Stars? No.



Here we have Hope Solo, one of the greatest female athletes to ever play the sport. She's in FIFA 12 ads, Dancing With the Stars, and all over talk shows during the aftermath of the United States' defeat in the World Cup final.

Hope Solo Video Game

You could argue that she's more popular than any current USA player -- possibly more popular than any male player, ever -- yet she isn't in FIFA 12, even though she makes appearances in commercials for it.

Apparently, at least one development team at EA Sports succeeded at getting women into a hockey game. Developers for other titles should try the same. The United States has a professional women's soccer league (I know I'm focusing a lot on soccer, but that's what I know), and women star in countless other sports around the world.

And though including some women's leagues may present roadblocks, FIFA represents women and equality -- a good reason to try and include the women of the sport in a game.

For all the U.S. women's soccer team has done to popularize the sport, being in a video game -- in however large a role that may be -- seems like a no-brainer. I don't mean for EA to take a huge gamble and have a game just about the Women's Professional Soccer league (though down the line that would be nice if the league doesn't fall apart). But maybe they could just add the women into the men's game, much like indoor soccer was added in FIFA 11.

The option should be there; it's amazing that this doesn't get talked about a lot more often. If I can do something asinine like put my star striker in goal to block shots in Pro Evolution Soccer, I should be able to play as Hope Solo or unlock a classic team starring Mia Hamm in the next release of FIFA.

And although a game like FIFA 12 is all about realism and having the most accurate physics system, video games excel at one thing: allowing us to experience things we normally can't. I would love nothing more than to have a digital Hope Solo line up against the U.S. men's national team in a match to see just how many of Landon Donovan's shots she could block.
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I spent more than 100 hours playing Borderlands. That's partly because I am obsessed with it.

I now find myself returning to the title once again. This time I'm doing so with an old friend who just discovered the unique shooter after reading about its highly anticipated sequel.



Diving back into Borderlands seemed like a fun enough idea. I'd already played through it twice, reached the level cap with my siren, and completed all the downloadable content.

I thought this would be a great opportunity to revisit Pandora while showing my buddy the ropes.

Although I'm unemployed and trying to become a professional video game journalist, that doesn't mean my also-unemployed friend is in the same boat. He has three kids which means he's super busy.

Feeding, changing, holding, coddling, playing...it's a hectic job, but it needs to be done.

Adulthood has been the biggest obstacle blocking our gaming paths.

And what about those people who do have jobs? Ah yes, the dreaded nine-to-five commitment needed to buy video games, pay rent, and fill the fridge. A job in itself isn't a bad thing, but not everyone works the same hours. Plus, people have other hobbies too.

I'll never find time to manage these little guys like I could in high school.


I'll never find time to manage these little guys like I could in high school.

I prefer playing soccer instead of video games, and I also like to do a plethora of other things that make my free time disappear quickly.

With conflicting hobbies, busy friends, and even busier schedules, turning on a console becomes difficult. And sometimes after a hard day of work, I'm only using my Xbox 360 for Netflix.

When I was younger, I could play outside, do chores, and still pump more than 400 hours into Final Fantasy Tactics. That kind of life is nothing more than a memory now.

How has adult life affected your gaming habits? Let me know in the comments.
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Tom Lipschultz is Xseedís resident translator for the Japanese developer Falcom, makers of the Ys RPG series, and the newest addition to their localization team. I had a chance to chat with him about what itís like to localize niche role-playing games, how to get a career in making sure a video game never has a line of text that reads ďAll your base are belong to us,Ē and more.



Tom Lipschultz

Louis Garcia: What do you do at Xseed?

Tom Lipschultz: Iím a localization specialist. As Xseed is a fairly small company, I tend to do a bit of everything. We all sort of pitch in and help out with each otherís jobs. You never know what each day is going to be here. My primary job is translation and editing.

LG: What is the localization process like?

TL: One of the things I think a lot of people donít understand is that Xseed is a localization house; weíre not a programming house. So we donít actually do the programming side ourselves, we actually work with the developers of the original game for that.

The first step is to secure the game, get the licensing and get in touch with the developers. Then itís a matter of getting a text dump. For a lot of them itís an Excel fileÖit depends.

Once we have a hold of the text dump, usually one person will translate and one person will edit. Sometimes there will be multiple translators or multiple editors. Sometimes it will just be one person doing both. It depends on the project and the complexity of the dialogue.

Once thatís edited, we send it back to the developer and itís put into the game by their own programmers, and we receive an English ROM that we then get to test and run through QA process to fix up typos and things.


LG: How large is the localization team at Xseed?

TL: (Laughs) Pretty small. Weíre a company thatís barely in the double digits as far as the number of people here. Officially the localization team is three people, but we do often get outside contractors to assist us. We have a few trusted outside contractors and freelance translators that we like to work with.

When three people are not enough -- which is often the case -- we will get some outside assistance from trusted sources.

LG: What is the importance of localization?

TL: The big importance -- especially when it comes from Japanese to English -- is that Japanese and English are notÖtheyíre kind of mutually exclusively as far as nuance goes and natural speak.

If you take a line of Japanese and translate it 100 percent directly into English, itís going to sound stilted, itís going to sound awkward, and it might not even make sense. You really need to know the nuances of the language, and you really need to be able to take something thatís in Japanese and translate the meaning rather than translating the words. You need to basically figure out what is being said in the Japanese and figure out how to express that same idea in English rather than translating it word for word.

If you donít do that, youíre going to have a game thatís kind of difficult to get into because youíre constantly breaking the fourth wall. Youíre constantly aware that your reading something that is translated instead of something that might have originally been in the language.


Ys Seven

LG: What makes a good localization: staying true to the source material or putting in your own pop culture references?

TL: It depends on the source material. The Ys games -- Iíve been working on the Ys games since Iíve been here -- are a really great example.

For instance, Ys Seven does have a few pop culture references, and theyíre subtle ones, but we tried to put a few in there. The game also has a certain tongue-in-cheek kind of humor, and itís because the game lends itself to that; in the original Japanese the text was very simplistic with a few goofy, almost breaking the fourth wall things on purpose. It leant itself to that kind of translation, whereas Ys: The Oath in Felghana -- the game which we will be releasing by the end of this year -- is very much like a stage drama the way the dialogue is done.

Itís very melodramatic and soap opera-esque. As a result, yeah there are a couple humorous interludes in the game, and I do actually have a couple of references I put in the humorous parts of the game, but theyíre kind of few and far between. For the most part itís a very soap opera thing, so I tried to stick to that sort of general feel.


[i]From left: Translator Tom Lipschultz, taskmaster (localization manager) Kenji Hosoi,
and editor Jessica Chavez are totally metal.[/i]

LG: How do you guys go the extra mile to make sure the localization is up the quality youíd like it to be? Do you guys do a lot of research?

TL: If weíre not experts, we try to become experts before we work on the title. Weíll play through the game. Weíll research it. Weíll find out about previous iterations.

For instance, with the Ys series, everybody kind of enjoyed the games, but very few of them knew much about the series, and thatís part of why I was hired, actually. Iím kind of Xseedís resident Falcom expert. I donít know if I can call myself that; I kind of feel weird saying that.

Xseed has a partnership with Falcom as of right now. [Xseed] wanted to make sure they had someone on staff that really knew the material. Part of my job is to go over any advertising material they come up with, any trailers to help out with footage, and look over them and just make sure everything is consistent with the series legacy.

To go back to one of Xseedís earlier releases, Brave Story: New Traveler, was a game based off of a novel in Japan. The novel was also translated separately from Xseed, but we wanted to make sure all the terms in the game and all of the names of locations and such matched what was in the novel. We worked with the novelís translator to ensure there was that sense of continuity between them.


Tom Lipschultz and Jessica Chavez

LG: What are some of the most difficult things you encounter when localizing a game?

TL: The biggest challenge is if youíre not 100 percent sure where a line of dialogue is spoken -- context isnít always there to help you. Japanese can be a very vague language.

You may have heard that Japanese is a language that doesn't really use pronouns, and if you donít know where a line is spoken and there are no pronouns, itís kind of hard to figure out who is being talked about and who is doing the talking. One of the biggest challenges is tracking down the source of those stray lines where you just have no idea what is going on.

LG: What would you tell someone who wants to be a localization writer or editor?

TL: Thatís actually a really good question. I kind of feel like I lucked into the role, but I think part of what did it for me was I have a degree in English and East Asian Studies, which is a good combination for localization. I knew English literature quite well, and Iíve studied Japanese quite extensively.

Iíve also done quite a bit of freelance translation and fan translation in the many, many years before looking into a job at Xseed.

I had a bit of experience I pursued on my own, which I think really helped. It looked good on my resume and to be able to say, Yeah, Iíve done freelance translating, and Iíve done fan translating, and hereís my portfolio" -- it looks good to show that you take initiative like that.

I think if anyone else is looking to become a localization specialist, they should probably start picking out a game or an anime or manga or something and just try translating it. Send a text file around to people; let them see what youíre doing. Try to get on some websites like Translator Cafe where you can register to become a freelance translator and have people pick you out and hire you for things. It helps.
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I haven’t enjoyed a FIFA game this much since the GameCube days. I’ve kept up with the series since then, but have always found it lacking when it came to gameplay. And honestly, FIFA 2011 for Wii plays more like a Major League Soccer side on the pitch than an English Premier League team, but it has a new addition this year that makes it quite street soccer.



Two modes allow you to play street Streets to Stadiums and Hit the Streets.

Streets to Stadiums had me absolutely hooked for its entire five seasons. In it, players create a character who starts out playing soccer on the streets. These five-a-side matches are so fun they should be the template for EA’s next FIFA Street game.

Wall passing to yourself and teammates, constant back heels, crazy volleys in tight space, taking on your man one on one…it’s all in there and it’s all perfect. As someone who enjoys real street soccer I haven’t enjoyed a FIFA game this much since the GameCube days. I’ve kept up with the series since then, but have always found it lacking when it came to gameplay. And honestly, FIFA 2011 for Wii plays more like a Major League Soccer side on the pitch than an English Premier League team, but it has a new addition this year that makes it quite addicting: street soccer. Two modes allow you to play street soccer: Streets to Stadiums and Hit the Streets. Streets to Stadiums had me absolutely hooked for its entire five seasons. In it, players create a character who starts out playing soccer on the streets. These five-a-side matches are so fun they should be the template for EA’s next FIFA Street game. Wall passing to yourself and teammates, constant back heels, crazy volleys in tight space, taking on your man one on one…it’s all in there and it’s all perfect. As someone who enjoys real street soccer quite often, I found the representation of its nuances to be quite accurate in FIFA 2011. The ultimate goal in Streets to Stadiums is just that: to take your player from the dusty blacktop pitches to the glory that is Anfield or Camp Nou. To get there players will have to perform well and earn fame. You gain fame by choosing up to three tasks you think you can complete in the upcoming match. Some can be as simple as stringing together five passes or scoring off a one-timer. Players have to take a gamble when choosing which fame moments to shoot for because if you fail, points are subtracted from your fame score. I found this to be similar to real life street soccer. Succeed at an audacious shot or dribble and you’ll be lauded for your class by your peers. Fail, and you’ll get an earful. It’s a real system of reward and repercussion that totally works. In addition to gaining your player recognition, fame points will also unlock new cleats, goal celebrations and dribbling moves to customize your character with. As you play through the mode, your created player will also gain experience points that can be used to increase his skills such as speed, heading or awareness. The Hit the Streets mode is an exhibition mode featuring fanciful items like a power shot which can be turned off when you’re not in the mood for something resembling a Super Mario sports title. The street soccer is miles better than the 11 vs. 11 found on the pitch. On the pitch your characters feel like they are on stilts. The game doesn’t utilize full 360 degree movement, and thus feels like a last-gen soccer game. The “actual” soccer has an arcade feel to it. Playing as the above average Fredy Montero doesn’t feel any different than using superstar Lionel Messi. Also adding to the arcade vibe is the fact that it’s much harder to shoot the ball over the crossbar than it is to actually get a shot on goal and force a save from the keeper who miraculously manages to barely push the ball around the post each time. Most of your time spent playing 11 vs. 11 will be in Hit the Pitch and the lackluster Battle for Glory modes. The Battle for Glory mode (similar to Manager mode in other versions) uses stars and transfer points instead of money when it comes to buying and selling players -- a way to simplify the game for casual players on the Wii I assume. It’s problematic because it erases the fun of trying to lure top talent to your side. If you have the required amount of stars and transfer points, you’ll get your player as soon as you select him and click on buy. It’s not rewarding and really takes away from the feeling of accomplishment when you assemble an unbeatable team of superstars that would make Chelsea envious. Similar to Streets to Stadiums, players can choose a goal such as scoring two goals before a match to be rewarded points. Instead of fame points however, players receive points that increase the overall rating of your team and earn you game boosters. Game boosters are cards you can use to increase your teams skills in tackling or shooting for the duration of the match. They can be saved for difficult matches and even combined to make stronger boosters. Ultimately, Battle for Glory is pretty bare bones. It does what it needs to do, but for true soccer aficionados, not being able to tweak every part of your squad is a major blow to keeping the mode interesting for more than a season or two. Playing online is limited to one on one and two on two matches. There is no lag (I played online by plugging in an Ethernet cord into my USB adaptor; I didn’t use the default WiFi) and players can log into an existing EA online account, create a new one or sign in as a guest. Using an EA account is a definite plus because it allows you to search for others with accounts and add them to a friends list instead of wrestling with friend codes. And although the online play feels a tad bit slower than normal matches, they were fun enough for me to add the first person I played against and rematch him to five more games of footy late into the night. The only major drawback is that there is no way to pause the game for subs or tweaking your squad when online. If there is, it must be mighty hard to access because I tried everything plausible. I also found it odd that the far superior street mode can’t be played online. Tournaments are present and allow players to win anything from the MLS Open Cup to the FA Cup. It’s not a real robust mode, but it’s there for those interested in winning the virtual representation of their favorite silverware. Like any sports title, FIFA 2011 has its share of problems. The controls for the game take some getting used to and are less than ideal. Gamers who choose to use a nunchuck and wiimote to play are forced to using a single button for both ground passes and aerial crosses. This doesn’t quite work for a sport that demands precision. Thankfully a classic controller can be plugged in. Those looking to put some serious time into the game against stronger opponents will have to purchase one or look forward to being frustrated as your players screw up that final ball. The Wii version also seems to be skewed towards the casual crowd with basics like camera control and difficulty settings. Players can choose easy, medium and hard, and camera settings consist of selecting height and angle. No choosing the tried and true tele setting from other FIFA games and no choosing more difficulties as you slowly master the game is a silly way to make the game more casual friendly. Similar silly omissions pertaining to game settings persist throughout the game. FIFA 2011 doesn’t have the gloss of its HD big brothers -- or the much better simulation experience -- but is still a lot of fun to play. In fact, I have more fun playing this version. The street mode really shines and carries the game. I’d like to see this mode explored further in future iterations of the series -- especially in the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions. If you own an HD console, go with that version if you want a more realistic product. However, if you only own a Wii, and if street soccer grabbed your attention, you won’t regret picking this up. Just remember to purchase a classic controller to get the most enjoyment out of it. The good: Street Soccer is an absolute blast. The bad: Soccer on the pitch is lackluster and a bit too arcadey. The ugly: Characters have a pixelated or jaggy look to them when playing on an HDTV with component cables.