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3:55 PM on 10.31.2009

Nothing is Sacred: Post_____Post_____

Now I am by no means a hardcore JRPG player, but it is still a genre that has such potential for variation that when it does I can really get into it. What I hate about so many JRPGs is how they handle the battle system. There are so many different ways to encounter enemies and gain experience, but many still cling to old-fashioned methods, most especially the Turn Based Combat and Active Time Battle.

The way combat was handled was fine back in the last two decades before the introduction of 3D gaming. Chrono Trigger, despite using the Active Time Battle system, is still one of my favorite JRPGs due to its fantastic story. In reality, that is all that can save a game with these systems. However, this is the 21st Century, we have the technology and we donít need to fall back on these boring battle systems. You can see part of what Iím talking about in FFXII, as it allowed the characters to maneuver themselves instead of locked in static combat, but it still implemented the ATB system to interact with creatures. To contrast, let me give you examples of what I mean when games do it right.

First, we must look to the year 2002. The PS2 was in its infancy, and after a chance encounter between the employees of Square Enix and Disney, Kingdom Hearts was released. It realized everything that could be done with the third dimension. Instead of tying combat to boring turn based affairs like how Final Fantasy X debuted, it gave us direct control. Fighting would be in real-time, and while most battles would amount to nothing more than mashing the X button, it was still an infinitely more creative and fun way to play a game. Every button press felt like the player itself doing the damage, instead of feeling like the manager. Sure, it came at the expense of the at-times stupid AI of Donald, Goofy, or whatever shmup you decided to swap out Goofy for, but their patterns were highly customizable to compensate.

Now, when JRPGs come to the DS, you could be forgiven in have a bit more leeway in how it also has similar technological limitations as in the past. You could, if The World Ends With You didnít automatically void anything of the sort. TWEWY, for short, was a marvelous game. The game is set in Shibuya, a ward of Tokyo. For someone like me who isnít very keen to Japanese culture, I really struggled with the setting and the references made within, but Iím not talking about story here, this gameís saving grace was a really revolutionary gameplay that made fantastic use of the DS touch screen.

It really makes me realize what a giant corporation Square Enix is to have such dichotomies between their different games, even within the DS. They have the 3-d rendered yet traditional TBC Dragon Quest games and the sprite-rendered, real time combat TWEWY. The gameplay is really simple, you collect pins which give different powers. Some heal, many hurt, but they all differ in interesting ways. Some shoot energy, others are for direct physical damage, some heal, basically the entire move-set rainbow. You could argue that the cooldown effect using a pin has, where after a certain time or number of attacks the pin canít be used, is a form of active time battle, but it really differs in how you interact with the enemy. You can move around the screen at all times, and, really, using the pins is all about strategy, you want to put up a chain of attacks so when one is spent another is waiting to be used until the first one recharges, repeat ad nauseum. There are two controllable characters, f you have some mad multi-tasking skills you can theoretically use them both at once, but for those like me whos right hand canít even tell what his left is doing, youíre mostly just letting the computer fiddle around with it.

The heart of my problem with TBS and ATB is the end of which they are a means, grinding. It is simply not fun whatsoever flipping through menus and pressing a button continuously. If you do find it fun, more power to you but I would seriously consider getting your head checked because when I think of doing a repetitive motion constantly to obtain a goal I think of my old job bagging groceries. Kingdom Hearts and TWEWY are really no different in the set up, there be monsters, kill them to grow. Itís the execution that sets them apart. They bring the character actively in the experience of dispatching of creatures and the gaining of experience. Most of the time I donít even notice itís grinding until Iíve killed my 200th Ice Giant or my 50th Neoclassical Drake, because the way itís presented to me makes it fun.

You might have noticed a similarity between the two games, and maybe this is the key flaw with TBS and ATB, you have partners, but they can just be AI controlled to do their own thing. Most JRPGs just have too many characters to control. They need to limit what the player controls to just one character so that they can use them in real time while the allies back you up.

All I have to do now is hope for the future. With Final Fantasy XIII Versus taking a similar battle system to Kingdom Hearts, if it can deliver that kind of interaction with a good Final Fantasy story, it could easily change the way people think about JRPGs and easily become a new top favorite in my collection.   read

1:14 AM on 10.01.2009

The Forgotten: Champion of the Roadtrip.

Heh, apologise for the tardiness, but it's still September somewhere, so it counts.

When most gamers think of their first handheld, thoughts go to the Game Boy. Nintendoís grey block dominated the market when I was very young. Despite this, I was given a different gem. Iím not quite sure why, but until the advent of our familyís vacation to Tampa and my subsequent introduction to the N64, I lived in what you would call a Sega household. We owned a Sega
Genesis, and whenever we hit the road, the biggest must-have was our blue Sega Game Gear.

I would be the first to admit, the Game Gear isnít the prettiest thing out there. Itís more of a brick than the Game Boy was. IT also required six AA batteries just to get the thing running. At home, the game gear was a money sucker, but on the road, it was a life saver.

Conveniently, our family owned an AC charger that went into the car lighter, a good use for something our family never needed. This guaranteed unlimited playtime as long as the car was moving. There is no greater solace when driving the eleven thousand mile journey from Chicago to Orlando than being able to play games whenever you wanted.

One of the greatest features about the Game Gear was its backlit screen. It was amazing, the Game Boy wouldnít have anything like that until the SP over ten years later. While this didnít help the battery situation, as Iíve said, on the road that wasnít a problem. Come rain or snow or darkest night, we could play it non-stop.

What is a console without good games, right? The PS3 despite all its good qualities was an unlikeable choice until it bumped its library up. However, when it comes to the early portables, it wasnít that important. Most of this is probably chalked up to my bad memory, but there were only a few noteworthy games, and they really were good. First off to remember was the incredibly unforgiving Sonic the Hedgehog. This wasnít anything like the original, the landscape was much tougher to navigate and the boss battles, oh the boss battles. You know how in the genesis games, you fight the boss at the end of an act with all of your rings? This game seemed to look at that model and said ďReasonable difficulty? Fuck that.Ē In the boss levels you get no rings, meaning any misstep requires you to start the fight over until you win or run out of lives. Out of which I did entirely the latter.

The second notable would have to be X-men. The X-men game was pretty close to that of the console version in terms of gameplay, you had an HP meter and a Power meter for your mutant abilities. I really liked how they kept Wolverineís berserker mode, which allowed him to continue using his power in exchange for hp. What was cool about the game was, while you start out with only Wolverine and Cyclops, each level you beat gained you a new playable character.

However, the grand master of our family road trips was always World Series Baseball. It is by far the most fun portable game from that era that I have ever played. For those like me who were only familiar to the three division system, this game might confuse you. It takes place in the era immediately preceding it, yet with a league of 28 teams, the same year my beloved Florida Marlins were added as well as the despicable Wild-Card destined Colorado Rockies. Itís great to have a game that remembers the time that Gary Sheffield actually used to bat for the Marlins, but that was two World Series and two firesales ago.

The premise is simple, but incredibly unique in execution. You can play an exhibition game with no strings attached, or, using the in-game battery, play a season, ranging from thirty two games to an entire 162 game season. The ability to save after any game and come back later was what made it great for the roadtrip, what with meals or sleep or actually making it to your destination interrupting your play time. For all the praise I throw at this game, it did have some noticeable problems. For one, pitching was one of the easiest tasks ever. Go to the batterís opposite side and throw a curveball outside and then ease it in right at the strike zone, and youíll get a strike 90% of the time, a ball 5% of the time, a playable ball 5% of the time, and of those an actual hit 1% of the time. Secondly, while the controls for catching flies were pretty straight-forward, throwing could be sketchy, and if a hit landed sometimes just grabbing the ball was a challenge. However, positively the most glaring flaw comes in how the field is represented. Basically, World Series Baseball exists in a strange world where the major leagues are played on T-ball fields, and the outfield is just as short as the infield.

Let me give you this scenario for example: Say you have a sort of slow runner, and he gets a hit. Cool, right? Always a good thing. Next guy comes to the plate, and you get a single to short center. ďNice,Ē youíd think, ďnow I got a man on scoring position. Oh wait, the guy going to second got thrown out on a force from the outfield? How the hell does that work?Ē

Even when that doesnít happen, this is a game of singles and patience. You just have to hope the curveball strategy keeps the other team scoreless and you can either get four men on base for a run or a home run.

Still, despite these faults, whenever my Game Gear comes into sight, I pick it up, and the first thing I do is play a game of World Series Baseball and you know what? Itís still fun. I still cannot fathom whatever it did to deserve it being lost in the first place, but every time it is found, I remember when I was a little kid on the road to Disneyworld, because for God knows what my parents decided not to just fly there. I didnít mind, because I had my big blue brick, and that was all I needed.   read

3:01 PM on 09.02.2009

Improving Gaming Communities: Iíd like to talk to you about Jesus.

The eight most disconcerting words in the world, am I right? However, I think Iíve come here to put out a legitimate point. Whereas pixelpunk took from the Old Testament to drive his point home, mine, using the New Testament, will use a different approach. You see, I believe the messages of Jesus have an undeniable truth that transcends religion. I will start with addressing the problem of elitism which is near inherent in gamers. To answer this, Luke 14:8-11should suffice.

When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

A simple lesson, if I say so myself. Those who believe themselves superior only have until they are met by those who are superior to them to be shamed. On the opposite side, those who belittle themselves and downplay their accomplishments or status can only be brought up through the admiration of others. In this way we must treat those who act like this. Those who are haughty should be condemned for their behavior in an appropriate manner. Nothing overtly insulting but communicates that such actions are in poor taste. One way to try and stomp elitism is to stop judgment. Elitist often judge indiscriminately against the newer populace. To counter this I must bring up an oft quoted phrase from Matthew 7:1-2

[b]ďJudge not lest ye be judged, for you shall be judged in the same way that you judge others.Ē[/b]

Too many derogatory comments are derived from judgment. Judgment for inexperience, for a lack of skill or etiquette, these are all things that bring people apart. To stop judging is to stop making a distance between yourself and others. To accept people no matter how they are. This is a perfect tie in to my next section, dealing with others with love and patience. Letís start with Mark 12:31.

ďLove your neighbor as you love yourself.Ē

Now, even I once noticed the irony if you think of it in terms of how certain deranged people treat themselves, but Jesus is going on the basis that youíre probably not a masochist. The message is simple. You like treating yourself nicely, right? The same treatment should be done unto others. Treat your fellow community member as if what you are saying was to be directed at yourself. Would you want to tell yourself to STFU and the like? I would hope not. To extrapolate this further, I go to Matthew 5: 44.

ďBut now I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.Ē

I would include more into this portion but I would like to leave as little mentions of God out of the scripture I use so it can stay neutral as an overall philosophical teaching rather than a religious one. Regardless, itís really a tough idea, right? Thinking about the times Iíve seen people insult me and have the only response be to lash back out against them, theyíre innumerable. You see, this is because itís easy. To turn a phrase, patience is a virtue, one found little of on the internet. Itís almost too easy to respond when someone insults you to tell them to STFU or GTFO, itís almost tied to human nature. However, the people cannot behave any better if their animosity is met with further animosity, whether it through matching insults or bans. I believe bans are no good solution. They give time for people to either accept their faults or let their indignation stir within them, and Iím pretty sure we all know which one is prevalent. Cue Matthew 5:38-39

ďYou have heard that it was said, ĎAn eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.í But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too.Ē

Now, some people are genuinely angry, but for many, antagonizing is a game. We all know of trolls, we canít let them rule us. If someone tells you ďYou suckĒ or something to that extent, either ignore them, or hey why not even throw them a curveball, tell them theyíre right. The worst they can do is slap your other cheek and continue to deride you. Anyone who sees those comments would have to be equally cruel to find you in any fault, unlike what would happen if you also went into anger.

Even if you do not agree with Christianity I hope you would be able to put it aside to agree that the peace, understanding, and love that were inherent in Jesusí words would be influential in bringing harmony to any community, whether in real life or in the little virtual alcove of   read

2:49 PM on 08.29.2009

I suck at games: The Console Shooter.

I have a rare condition that perplexes me to this day. You see, I love FPSís. On my computer you can find every single Valve shooter you can imagine. However, once I leave the comfortable realm of the computer, forbid the mouse for the controller, and one thing becomes embarrassingly clear.

I suck at first person shooters, at least on the console anyway.

Itís not like Iím only mediocre at shooters on the PC too, anyone whoís played with me would attest I am a good sniper. Once I get into Halo 3 and try to wield a rifle? Iíd be better off just running blindly at the guy throwing grenades. If I were asked to pass blame, it would be the glaring difference between the mouse and the joystick. For every millimeter you move a joystick you can move the mouse a centimeter, accuracy goes right out the roof.

We all know thatís just an empty excuse, though. I know many people who seem to play just fine without it. So, why do I suck at console shooters? I would have to say itís because I just never play them. As the old phrase goes, practice makes perfect, and seeing as I own no shooters, only to play them when with friends, I just never exercise my shooter muscles. This has been going on for as long as shooters have existed. Back when Goldeneye first came out I played it, but I was never very good at it, and the genre never really interested me. This easily translated to playing multiplayer with friends, where getting a double digit score was a miracle, let alone winning.

I wouldnít even pay attention to any shooters, except the occasional times my friends wanted to play Halo, until I heard of Half Life 2. Playing HL2 was an epiphany. After playing with the mouse, I could never understand why anyone would play halo to begin with. This love only deepened when I learned of Team Fortress 2, and I never looked back.
I merely have to remember which one is the superior platform, and try and play for fun rather than score, even if I will never win at Halo, even if I really suck at videogames.

E: Heh, scratch that. I just came from behind to get four kills in a row and win a game finally. Granted, the best player among my friends wasnít playing, but fie on your logic, I won.   read

4:17 PM on 07.12.2009

My Gamer History

Iím a new face here, I joined a few weeks ago but havenít done anything, so I think itís high time I give an intro thread. The best way to get to know me on a gaming level is to go back through my history with my all time favorite source of entertainment

To truly start my chronology for gaming, we must go to quite the unlikely device, a PC. This was an ancient relic, even for its day, it still ran on DOS commands. Some of the greatest memories of childhood bonding with my father came not from sports, but from Where in the U.S. is Carmen Sandiego, on an old floppy. I still remember the opening credit for Broderbund Studios that haunted me to my very soul. We spent many games catching thieves and robbers, a near perfect career, but the simple mistake of believing wolves lived in Montana(which today, they do in Yellowstone) instead of Michigan. Itís one of those random facts that, because of a loss, youíll remember forever. We remember one day, finally, me and my dadís hard work paid off, we had caught Carmen Sandiego. The strange thing is, there is an option to check out a ďHall of FameĒ in the game. Catching the gameís namesake herself, we assumed we must be on that board now, but found it to be totally blank. That would end my experience with PC games until after my first console.

That would turn out to be the Sega Genesis. I had quite a few memories of that old machine. At this time I was far from what you would have called a hardcore gamer. Our collection of games only had one real hardcore title in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, we didnít even own the first one for some reason. The rest of our catalogue of games consisted of sports games, from the memorable NBA JAM to the glitch World Series Baseball, where my brother once scored an inside the park home-run because my pitcher seemed to find picking the ball off the mound beneath him, to cartoon franchise games like Aladdin, the Lion King, and X-Men.

Sometime in 1995, my uncle came over to visit, and gave me my first taste of an FPS. He managed to sneak Wolfenstein 3D onto our computer without the knowledge of our wary mother. I remember it being a really fun game for its time, only getting stuck once the dual gatling gun wielders showed up.

Eventually my mom found it and it was promptly deleted, I would not touch another FPS until a trip to Georgia.

After we had given up our Genesis from disrepair and with no PC games beyond rudimentary we were much lacking in terms of games. However, one trip would change that forever. On a minor note, when we stopped at Georgia I got my first taste of a Doom game at a family friends house, but it made no great impression on me. However, when we visited some other family friends in Tampa, we were amazed at the N64 they had, more specifically Mario Kart 64, which we played almost every chance we got.

Once we got home from that trip, it didnít take much convincing to get our parents to buy a new N64 with Wayne Gretzkyís 3D Hockey and Mario Kart 64. Goldeneye would later be purchased and the three became staples of the rivalry between my brothers and I. I also received a Game Boy in that time. Ironically, we never made much use for the system; I would not even touch the Ocarina of Time until I owned our sixth generation consol.

You could say the Sixth Generation was what defined me as a true hardcore gamer. When our family first purchased the PS2, I did not play it that much. The only true hardcore game I had was Kingdom Hearts, a game in a respected position among my favorites. However, this would all change with one simply fantastic game.

I had seen Psychonauts in an ad and decided to rent it to see how it was. The ad seemed to overemphasize the braintanks, I assumed they would be constant enemies in a game about a psychic war. What I found was a dark yet hilarious game about a summer camp for psychics, it was the wittiest game I have ever played, and well deserves its place as the favorite out of all my games. It opened my eyes to great titles. Soon enough, I bought games Shadow of the Colossus, Beyond Good and Evil, Silent Hill 2, and finally my gaming experience came full circle.

Hearing its rave reviews, I decided to buy Half-Life 2. This was the greatest story-based FPS shooter I have ever played. It also opened me up to Valve and its game downloading system, Steam. Ever since, I have been a big Valve fanboy. Four of Valveís games now grace my Top Ten, and Team Fortress 2 has easily given me the most bang for my buck out of any game Iíve ever played.

Well, there you go, my incredibly wordy intro, the history of my life as a gamer. If you made it this far, I thank you for your patience.   read

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