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4:54 PM on 07.13.2015

In My Heart, I am a Gamer. Remembering Iwata-san

Iwata and Luigi

On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer.

Satoru Iwata

Sad Kirby

The gaming industry suffered a huge blow on Sunday when Nintendo president Satoru Iwata passed away at the way-too-young age of 55. Better people than I have put together some wonderful write-ups on the man already, so I'll try and keep this brief.

Whenever Nintendo put together a Nintendo Direct, there would be three people that I would look forward to seeing: Reggie Fils-Amie, Shigeru Miyamoto, and Satoru Iwata. They are all very important corporate figures in gaming, yet you can tell that there is a certain wonder about the business they are helping shape and move forward. You can tell they love what they're doing and that they truly are gamers. This was especially true of Iwata as, whether he was dressing up as Luigi or "fighting" Reggie, you could tell he was having fun doing this.

Iwata 3D

The contributions of Miyamoto to the gaming industry are well known. The man created Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, and Pikmin. If you have ever picked up a controller or held a joystick, there's a very good chance that you've played one of his games. While Iwata doesn't have a resume that includes some of the most recognizable faces in games, his contributions are no less significant.

As a programmer at HAL Labs before being hired full-time at Nintendo, Iwata helped develop some NES classics like Balloon Fight and Open Tournament Golf, the cult-hit Earthbound on the SNES, and Super Smash Bros on N64. Possibly his greatest contribution there was a lovable little pink puffball known as Kirby. While still working at HAL, Iwata assisted in the development of Pokémon Gold/Silver and Pokémon Stadium. When he became Nintendo president in 2002, the company was struggling with lagging sales of the GameCube and Game Boy Advance. With his guidance, the company introduced its two best selling video game systems of all time, the Nintendo DS and Wii.

Iwata's Kids

It's rare that a corporate president doubles as the well-loved face of the company, but Satoru Iwata was that man. Rest in peace, Iwata-san; a shrewd businessman, a talented developer, but a gamer at heart.

One last time...

Nintendo Puppet Dance


4:56 PM on 07.07.2015

Worse With Age: Majora's Mask

This post contains some Majora's Mask spoilers. You've been warned.

I know, I know. The Bloggers Wanted post is about gaming experiences that became better with age. But I'm a contrarian and it just so happens that I am the middle of a gaming experience that's having the opposite effect.

At the risk of aging myself, when Majora's Mask hit the N64 in October of 2000, I was a sophomore in high school and I loved it. Life was different back then. Gaming was my jam, so any free time I could find was dedicated to it. And in high school, free time wasn't praticularly hard to come by. Sure, there was class, sports, homework, hanging out with friends... But there was always time for a few hours of gaming.

Fast forward to today, I'm married and have a full-time job that requires a ~45 minute commute each way. I still get a good amount of gaming in, but it's nowhere near the amount of time I had to spend on my favorite hobby 15 years ago. With the announcement of Majora's Mask on 3DS, I got excited at being able to replay a favorite of mine from my teen years on the go. Unlike Ocarina of Time, A Link to the Past, and the original NES Zelda, I had never replayed Majora. Picking up the updated version was a no-brainer. I should have left those rose-tinted glasses on.

When I started it up, everything was wonderful. I made it through the first segment with a smile on my face. Then I played the Song of Time, went to the beginning of day one, and started the game proper. The first dungeon wasn't much of a problem. Defeating the boss here would clear up the water that was currently poisonous and clear up a sticky situation involving a monkey and some sentient plants. Boss defeated, monkey freed, on I go. I played the Song of Time again and went back to the first day. Now was time to go back to the swamp and clean up some of the side quests there. When I arrived, I was greeted by the swamp in its poisoned state. Whoops. I had forgotten about that important time travel aspect of the game. Going back to the first day resets everything.

"Nuts to that," I thought, "I'll just come back later when I have all my items and clean up in one go of it." So, onward I went to Death Mountain. This area was covered in snow and defeating the boss in the local dungeon would clear it all out, similar to the poison swamp and the first dungeon. While it was a little trickier than the first dungeon, I made it through  too. With a little more than half an in-game day to spare, I explored the newly snow-free mountain range. After upgrading my sword, I ran into a frog on a lilli pad. I remembered the frog mask quest and quickly headed to Clock Town to retrieve said mask. After getting it there wasn't much time left so, after another Song of Time, back to the first day I went. I ran back to the mountain to speak to the frog there. Nope. The snow was back and the frog was gone. Whoops again.

That's when I stopped playing. I understand the logic behind the time travel mechanic and I apprecite the thought and effort behind it. Several years ago, I even enjoyed it. But these days, I have neither the time nor the patience to repeatedly defeat the same bosses over and over to clear areas in which I need to access side-quests. So that's where my game save sits. In a different time, I was the savior of Termina. Today, I am content to sit back and watch the moon destroy everything in its wake.

Have any other people had similar situations to Majora's Mask as I did? Am I being too harsh on the same mechanics that I loved 15 years ago?


4:00 PM on 07.06.2015

REVIEW - Batman: Arkham Knight

Knight Rider

Batman: Arkham Knight Review

When Batman: Arkham Asylum released in 2009, the comic book landscape was in a very different place. The Dark Knight and Iron Man had just seen a theatrical release in the previous year and comic book culture was on the cusp of becoming mainstream; Batman himself was still living in a pre-New 52 universe. Now, in 2015, we're neck deep into a Marvel cinematic universe and about to jump headfirst into a DC one, multiple comic book shows air in network TV primetime, Comic Con is one of the biggest events of the year. Comic books are no longer "geek culture", it's part of the mainstream. So with more eyes on them then ever, did Rocksteady provide a satisfying conclusion to their phenomenal Batman trilogy?

Batman: Arkham Knight's story setup is simple enough: Scarecrow has returned after the events at Arkham Asylum left him scarred and deformed. In order to exact his revenge, he plans on releasing a new batch of fear toxin on Gotham City. After a city-wide evacuation, it's up to Batman and his supporting cast to stop the madman and make the streets of Gotham safe once more. It's very difficult to speak on the story beyond that without spoilers, as plot twists happen early and often. Even the identity of the titular Arkham Knight himself is a mystery waiting to be solved, though the game drops enough hints that most Batman fans can probably piece it together before the big reveal.

The Arkham Knight

That being said, there is an interesting story being told here. Not only is there a solid main storyline to follow, but most of the side missions tell self-contained stories unrelated to the central plot. While the stories are very hit-and-miss, the amount of time that went into multiple narratives is much appreciated. Unfortunately, some of the characterization of the classic Batman cast is questionable, especially when it comes to the women. While still trying to avoid spoilers, fans of Oracle and Catwoman may not be pleased.

No longer confined to a prison or a prison-that-is-also-a-city, Arkham Knight gives us a fully realized Gotham to explore. The city looks great, with many landmarks fans will recognize. The fact that the city is free of civilians is a little disappointing because it makes Gotham seem fairly deserted. I understand the rationale behind this (Batman running over pedestrians is not exactly in character) and the story conceit makes sense, but it's a bummer nonetheless. Still, traversing the city is a lot of fun on foot. Grappling up the side of a building, running across a roof, and gliding across the skyline is a joy... when the game allows you to do so. There's another way that you can get around: the Batmobile.

The Batmobile

There was much said about the inclusion of the Batmobile leading up to the game's release. The vehicle has two modes: car mode and tank mode. Car mode is fun enough. Driving around the streets is fast and chase missions are furious, but the controls are loose and the physics of the car seem much lighter than it should be. The tank mode sees far less success than that. Once transformed, the Batmobile initially gains full 360 degree movement, a machine gun, and a cannon. Controls in this mode are sluggish and slow, a huge juxtaposition to the speed of car mode. Tank "battles" boil down to firing, slowly moving around as you wait to reload so enemy tanks don't hit you, rinse and repeat until everything is blown up. Why Batman, a non-lethal hero, would have heavy artillery handy is beyond me. Even the game seems aware of that, as they go out of their way to let you know that enemy tanks are unmanned drones.

Had the Batmobile been used as an alternate optional mode of transportation with a couple chases thrown in, it would have been great. Diving off a building and summoning your vehicle in midair so that it arrives just in time to catch you is a really cool feeling, as is driving at top speed and ejecting straight into a glide. There's fun to be had in the car. It's the frequency of which its required that makes it frustrating. The game forces you into the Batmobile at any opportunity it can. For example, at one point I had to get into the Arkham Knight's base. In Arkham City, the would have meant fights, sneaking around, stealthily dispatching henchmen... You know, fun stuff. In this game, that means I had to get into the Batmobile, drive into the underground compound until I hit a closed gate, get out of the car to find a control panel to open it, return to the car to come upon a group of tanks to dispatch, then I got to enter a grate and do cool Batman stuff. Even then, that was followed by another tank battle and chase sequence. Many missions involve you exploring an area to find a way to get the Batmobile in there as well. Typically the reasoning for this involves needing the vehicle's winch or dealing with other tanks. I'm already in there, let me explore! Why do I need my car too?

When the game does let you get into fights on foot, the series' lauded combat shines here. If you've played any of the previous games in the series you know what to expect. There are a few new wrinkles thrown in for good measure, such as new combos, new gadgets, and a deeper weapon counter system. In certain battles, Catwoman, Nightwing, or Robin will fight along side Batman, allowing you to switch back and forth between characters. Building up your combo meter during these battles allow you to perform a takedown that involves both of them. While it looks cool, these sequences don't really change much as everyone fights pretty much the same way.

Catwoman and Batman, fighting side-by-side

Besides the main story, the side-quests carry quite a bit of range on them. Some early ones involve you investigating strung up bodies found around the city or searching for kidnapped firefighters. Riddler trophies return as well, but even those are woven into a bigger plot thread. These missions each carry an independent storyline with them, which provide a worthy distraction from the main quest and give you plenty to do after the credits roll.

As the first Batman game on current-gen consoles, Arkham Knight looks and sounds wonderful. Gotham is a fully realized place, with tons of detail and no fog or load times between areas. Character models vary in quality, but all the important players look great. The soundtrack is great and the voice acting is sublime. Some people say Michael Keaton or Adam West will always be their Batman, but Kevin Conroy will always be mine. The supporting cast does an excellent job as well. Given that Scarecrow is the main antagonist, the mood of the game can get a little creepy at times with crazy effects and creep outs. There are even a few genuine jump scares that caught me completely unexpected.


Gotham skyline

Batman: Arkham Knight does a lot right. There's a (mostly) well-told story, impressive sound and visuals, and the game plays beautifully while on foot. Unfortunately, the Batmobile segments slow down the pace of the game and are far too plentiful. Had it been limited in use, the game would have fared much better. I wanted to play as Batman and beat up bad guys, not get involved in races or tank battles. Still, Batman: Arkham Knight is a worthy successor to the franchise that ends the series on a mostly positive note. I'm having a lot of fun with it and Batman fans or fans of the series will likely feel the same way. For everyone else, expect a solid action game that's a good time, but won't set the world on fire.


7:08 PM on 02.23.2015

Destiny Isnít Very Good. And I Canít Stop Playing It.


I know I'm late to the party here, but I'm just getting into Destiny and I've come to this realization: the game is weird. In concept, it’s really pretty cool. In practice, they’ve made a lot of mistakes. For all intents and purposes, it isn’t a well thought out game. It has a ton of flaws and there isn’t much of a story to speak of. So why can’t I stop playing it?

Destiny has a level cap at 20. So that means that you’re as strong as you’ll get when you hit it, right? Nope. That level 20 is a “soft level cap” that can only be passed using a means other than experience. Some armor has light attributed to it. Get enough light points and you level up past 20 to go as high as 32 (as of this writing). But wait! Even though you stop getting experience to level up, you’re still gaining experience to unlock weapon upgrades and new abilities. Sounds confusing? You’re damn right it is!

Not only is it confusing, it’s frustrating as hell. In any other game, you would complete missions, defeat enemies, and complete tasks to gain experience and level up. It’s a known quantity. Since Destiny’s levels above 20 require specific armor, and the armor drops are random, leveling up becomes a practice in repetition. You’ll find yourself completing the same missions over and over just for a chance to get the armor you need. I got lucky and went from 20 to 24 in a couple days. Now I’ve been stuck at 24 for weeks. There’s no control over how and when you level up.

At least there’s the option to buy light armor or upgrading armor you have for more light. That just requires using some of the game’s multiple currencies and/or materials. There’s glimmer, Motes of Light, Strange Coins, Vanguard Marks, Crucible Marks, weapon parts, armor parts (three of them, one for each class), Spinmetal, Helium Filaments, Spirit Bloom, Relic Iron, Exotic Shards, Ascendant Energy, Ascendant Shards, Radiant Energy, Radiant Shards, Crux of Crota, Embalming Orb, and Runed Cores. Got all that?

The light system also limits what you can use. I had this helmet that gave perks to my grenades, which I use often enough that boosts are helpful. But then I found a helmet with light, something the grenade helmet didn’t have. The defense boost it provided was minimal enough that in any other game I would have kept the one I had. But since this is Destiny, I had to dismantle the helmet I liked for the one with light. Why is limiting your player base to specific armor types a good idea?

But here’s the catch in this monstrosity of an end-game: the game is fun to play. If you played Halo, you know what to expect. Bungie took what they did well with Halo and applied it to Destiny. It controls like a dream and the AI is legitimately challenging. When I’m in a match or in the game world, I love it. Once I get out and return to the Tower to see what drops I got is when the frustration starts. It’s the most conflicted I have ever felt about a game.

That’s where I stand with Destiny. I love it, I hate it. I can’t wait to play it, I think I’ll play something else. If nothing else, the game has made me feel about it in ways I haven’t felt about any other before it. That has to count for something, I suppose.


2:37 AM on 02.23.2013

Hi! I'm Manny, Mighty Pirate!

So this is my blog. Feel free to make yourself at home. Take a seat and put your feet up. Can I offer you a refreshing Fresca?

The main purpose for this blog existing is because I love video games and I love to write. Unfortunately, I don't get many opportunities to do so. Thus, this blog. But now that I have my soapbox, I need something to yell about when I climb on top of it. I can make this a personal journal, but who wants to read that? I mean, sure, maybe some people are interested. But my life is pretty dull in general, so I'd have to really be reaching to update this with any sort of regularity. Does anyone want to read about how my annual physical went or the great deal I found on parsnips at the market? That's not what one does to get hits.

I can write about celebrity "nip slips", but I get the impression that the market on that is pretty well covered.

Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that I should keep this true to myself and what I'm all about. After all, if I'm bored with what I'm writing about, what are the odds that anyone else will care? And who would care to read it? No one, that's who!

What does that entail then? I am a big, fat gamer geek and that's what this blog is about. That part should be obvious, since this is Destructoid after all. Will I review stuff, give thoughts on things? Sure. This is the Internet and I have opinions. My main plan, however, is to write editorials and whatnot. I have a few in mind already and have already began writing one.

So please, come follow me in my geeky ways. I hope you enjoy what I have to say.   read

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