Commadore Amiga 2600
Neo Geo AES
Neo Geo Pocket Color
Bandai Wonderswan (Monochrome)
PC-Engine CD (JAP)
Sony Playstation 2
Microsoft Xbox 360
AMD Phenom II X4 965be w/Radeon 6850
Sony Playstation 3
Let me start off by firmly stating: I love Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne.
While it wasn't the game that introduced me to the MegaTen world (the original NAPlaystation Persona was), it was the first game that captured my love for the series as a whole.
As I've spent more time with the series (and it's spin-offs) over recent years, I've come to the conclusion that Nocturne is the "odd man out" of the SMT universe, despite being such a critical success and fan favorite.
Officially released in Japan nine years after Shin Megami Tensei II, Nocturne was a drastic departure from everything that made the MegaTen series what it is. In many ways (both good and bad) Nocturne drastically changed the formula and created a new standard that MegaTen fans would compare future SMT releases to; much in the same way Persona 3 redefined an entire era of JRPGs.
But, as Persona 3 seemingly became the future model for the Persona series, the new formula established in Nocturne was promptly dropped as both Strange Journey and Shin Megami Tensei IV became strict returns to form.
In trying to understand the series arc as a whole, I found it near impossible to place Nocturne on both the continuity line, and on my list of favorites. While I still attest Nocturne is a phenomenal game made by an incredible team of people, these are the reasons why I believe Nocturne shouldn't be considered a mainline Shin Megami Tensei game:
No Demon Summoning App.
This is at the very heart and core of what is considered not only Shin Megami Tensei but MegaTen at all.
For the uninitiated, the MegaTen (or "Megami Tensei") series came from a novel by Aya Nishitani. In short, the novel is about a computer programming high school student who opens a portal to Makai (think "The Underworld"). This is the basis for the cyberpunk storyline (ie. digital devil story).
Shin Megami Tensei refined the idea: a highly intelligent computer programmer (Steven) is creating a new teleportation technology that goes awry, unleashing demons from the Makai realm. In response to the dangerous demons that are beginning to break through to our realm, he designs the Demon Summoning App: a computer program that allows users to converse with and capture demons.
Shin Megami Tensei II doesn't do much to expand on the idea but being a direct sequel to Shin Megami Tensei, it uses the same Demon Summoning App as a means of plot. Both Strange Journey and Shin Megami Tensei IV also use the Demon Summoning App as a central plot device.
In Strange Journey, the human characters can't even see the demons until they receive the App from a third party, and in Shin Megami Tensei IV Steven himself shows up and approves of the protagonist's usage of it.
Nocturne is the only SMT game that doesn't use any kind of Demon Summoning App whatsoever. No means or measure is communicated at all to express how or even why the protagonist of Nocturne recruits demons; which leads me into my next point:
The protagonist of Nocturne isn't human.
The Shin Megami Tensei series is a very humanistic journey; each game asking questions about morality, law and order, compassion, kindness, brutality, control, right and wrong... Nocturne tries (keyword: tries) to ask those same questions but from the perspective of a demon.
At the beginning of Nocturne, a young boy gives the protagonist the power to become a demon. This unfortunately changes the nature of right and wrong as the other human characters he interacts with (himself as well) question his humanity until he finally accepts the status of "demi-fiend" (half demon).
While it is an interesting plot choice, it ultimately takes the "digital" out of "digital devil story" and makes the humanistic choices somewhat unrelatable and far-fetched.
As a side note, Nocturne is the only mainline entry that doesn't let the protagonist equip or use weapons and guns.
No Law or Chaos path.
In every other SMT game, there are three story paths: Law, Chaos, and Neutral. Instead of this tried and true mechanic, Nocturne opts for multiple "reasons" that create a multi-tier'd story, if you could call it that. The truth is, Nocturne doesn't really have a story; only more of an atmosphere.
The main character wanders the wasteland listening to everyone's stories, and simply picks one to agree with. None of the "reasons" have an actual ending (save one; the pseudo-Neutral path) nor do most of the reasons have a complete story arc. The most you can do is answer predetermined dialog choices for one reason or another. It's more about world building; never once in Nocturne did I ever feel like I was creating "my" story.
What's worse is that every one of the characters which represent the respective "reasons" are entirely unlikable. They are vague caricatures which can be summed up with various stereotypical tropes: "The Pretty Girl", "The Weak Willed Boy", "The Caring Teacher", "The Controlling Badguy", etc.
I admit it's an interesting perspective, "a man struggling to define his own humanity amidst humanity's worst, clawing for control"; but it pales in comparison to the series familiar Law and Chaos heroes.
In previous (and future) SMT titles, both the Law and Chaos paths are represented directly by characters. Not just NPCs you interact with on occasion (as in Nocturne), but characters who travel with you and constantly give you opportunity to understand and explore the different paths.
Moreover, they are both likable. They react to each story situation in a believable way according to their alignment. Both perspectives (law and chaos) become acutely relatable and you struggle knowing that choosing one path will ultimately alienate (and lead to confronting) one of your two "companions". While Nocturne's "reason" system was an interesting departure from the series, I strongly affirm the series' law and chaos hero scenario is much more emotionally engaging.
There were originally no fiends in Nocturne.
This is a big deal in series continuity and lore.
The "fiends" were originally special demons that were only in certain dungeons with extremely rare encounter rates in previous SMT games. Because of the absolute rarity of their appearance, combined with their ridiculous difficulty (often considered harder then any other enemy, including final bosses), they became something like "urban legends" of the series.
However, when Nocturne first released, they were entirely omitted from the game. Due to fan outrage, Atlus decided to add them back into the game, along with a new dungeon and an entirely new ending pertaining specifically to the fiends. Despite series fashion, the fiends were not added in as random encounters; you could encounter them at predetermined points along the story.
The new version complete with fiends (originally titled "Shin Megami Tensei III: Maniax") would be the only version to reach Western shores. Most Western players don't even realize one of the highest and most iconic points of the game (the fiends) were not originally included.
The universe breaking retconn.
The new dungeon (entitled "Kalpa") included new story scenes in the Nocturne/Maniax re-release. I can only guess that in an effort to please series fans, they tried to link Nocturne with SMT I & II; but only very loosely, and broke the universe continuity at the same time.
Shin Megami Tensei I and II were continuations of the same story; II was a direct and related sequel to I. Both took place in the same post-apocalyptic Tokyo. From the beginning, Nocturne didn't take place in the same Tokyo; it was obviously a different story.
One of the Kalpa story sequences makes a vague reference that a Nocturne character is actually the reincarnated protagonist from Shin Megami Tensei II. It's speculated that due to his actions in SMT II, he is unable to rest, eternally damned to die be reborn.
However, in a separate Kalpa story sequence, it's explained to the protagonist that the world in which he operates is actually one of a multitude of worlds which are constantly in a series of death and rebirth.
If the Nocturne world is one of many, why is Tokyo the only setting? Are all worlds the same Earth, making it a multiverse? Why is a character from a different Tokyo in this Tokyo? It just doesn't work.
On the flip-side, it's opened the door for every new SMT series game to take place in the same Tokyo while simultaneously becoming it's own unrelated game. Fortunately, Atlus decided not to take that route and opted to maintain universe continuity in both Strange Journey and SMT IV.
It's because of these reasons I feel that Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne shouldn't be considered a mainline Shin Megami Tensei game. There are additional reasons I could include (drastically different style of music, missing more iconic demons from SMT I & II, fantasy setting divergent from series norm, lack of any cyberpunk elements, "cubist" art direction, conflicting series themes, introducing entirely new convoluted and unnecessary concepts to the universe)...
I still feel Nocturne is a great game and should be experienced by everyone; it's just not a "true" Shin Megami Tensei game (pun intended).
<Author's note: This blog is simply my own understandings and interpretations of the SMT series of games. In no way do I infer my beliefs are correct, they are simply my beliefs. I also recognize that the Persona series is not a mainline MegaTen series but I include references due to the similar natures.>
BPD is a very difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to treat psychological disorder that results from a conflict of self. Something both the SMT and Persona series revolve around...
The conflict of self that comes from BPD affects people differently, but for my father, it appeared as an over-inflated sense of narcissism. Consequently, he wasn't present much during my childhood.
My mother and I had a difficult relationship. Coming from a past of abusive men, she had difficulty relating to me in the way a mother should. It didn't help that in the early 90's she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and was forced to retire.
When I was a teenager, my father forced my family and I into a Christian lifestyle. We started going to an evangelistic church 2-3 times a week and actively engaged with other Christians.
As a person with BPD, the "black and white" Christian mentality made it easy to justify his own actions while elevating his own sense of self. Yet another SMT theme...
I became a Christian later by choice.
In 2004 Atlus released Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne in North America.
I was in my first year of "Bible School" at that time. Instead of college I had opted to go through my denomination's ordination process. I was studying to discover the very nature of what it meant to be a Christian and have a relationship with God.
I managed to play through Nocturne despite my busy classes. I was in love, though, I feel that the depth was lost on me at the time.
Two years later I left for Japan with a position as Youth Pastor at a church in Osaka. In all the time I spent there (not long), I brought only a few things back with me: boxed SFC copies of Shin Megami Tensei I, II, If..., and a Japanese PC Engine CD Duo with the rare voiced SMT I port. (The later of which cost me upwards of $300 USD and several trips around the Kansai area.)
In my experience with the SMT series since then, I've come to a unique perspective position:
[u]The Shin Megami Tensei series is all about parent-figures; and the journey from being a son/daughter to becoming a parent.[/u]
Traditionally, Japanese culture is parent-less.
In Japanese (and other Asian) culture, men are expected to work outrageous hours in service to their companies. Their off hours are often spent in compulsory meetings with clients, co-workers, or bosses. While this culture has changed over the years, the very nature of each SMT game starts with the absence of both a mother and father figure.
In the first SMT, you start with a mother figure but very quickly you leave her to embark on a demon summoning quest. No mention of a father is made.
In SMT III, there is a unique scene early where the Protagonist is reunited with an old friend shortly after the catastrophic event. The other character (Chiaki) makes a reference to the loss of her parents but the protagonist pays no mind and shows no emotion.
As the SMT series has evolved, it has incorporated these elements to include the absence of both parents (as in Persona 3 and 4).
While the average gamer might not take simple plot devices like these seriously, it has become uniquely acute to me that they are intentional.
The absence of parental figures is not only relatable in this generation, it sets up what is probably the most important exploration of character. Psychology tells us that children require authority figures to help set the boundaries that make us who we are.
Without those boundaries, we are essentially subject to (or freed from depending) moral ambiguity. The confusion that comes from uncertainty of direction and safety are what makes every moral choice both enthralling and terrifying.
As someone who has suffered under Borderline Personality Disorder, being uncertain of who you are as a person makes choices more difficult. If I choose this direction, is that who I am? The SMT games have the power to make you question that, and often takes your choices to the extreme.
Relationship with a strong yet flawed "mother" character type.
In almost every SMT game there has been a plot setup for a strong woman "type". By "type" I mean a symbolic representation of guiding womanhood and unconditional love.
In an absence of a proper mother figure, most people (men especially) would be drawn to strong women figures. The SMT games directly relate these first two points with underlying depth.
In SMT I it was Yuka (alt Yuriko):
In SMT II it was Hiroko (who ends up being the Protagonist's literal mother):
In SMT III it was Ms Takao:
In Strange Journey it's Zelenin:
They are meant to appear "pure" and "untainted" by the chaos. At the beginning of SMT III Ms Takao says "I'll be your strength and guide you"; in Strange Journey Zelenin refuses to use demons, even to survive.
These figures are expertly crafted to represent our desires for unconditional love and acceptance while at the same time abusing those desires for ulterior motives by putting the protagonist in harm's way. Ms Takao wants the Demi-fiend to fight a deranged psychotic killer for her; Zelenin constantly requires "saving" from the Protagonist; Yuka forms a mind-meld with the Protagonist which causes him debilitating pain once a moon cycle.
Even though my mother suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, I'm sure many people can relate to mothers who may (willingly or unintentionally) take advantage of our love for their benefit.
God is the enemy, but who is this Louis Cyphre?
When you combine the first and second points you start to see that the SMT series paints a picture of flawed authority figures. Fathers who aren't around and mother's love that is just out of reach.
To continue the theme of authority figures, it reaches to a much deeper level. While parents are supposed to be our safety and support system during our development- if we develop without them, what authority figures do we relate to?
The next logical step is the innate morality present in the world around us. Law and Chaos; represented by God (YHVH) and Satan (Louis Cyphre) respectfully.
Of course, these are represented by "Black and White" choices; either all Chaos or all Law. While the games do offer a "neutral" path, in all cases these paths are essentially "non-endings" where either the world continues on or starts back up where it stopped.
Coming from a Christian background I have to admit I find humor in SMT. I was originally intrigued by the idea of the Hebrew God as a final boss. The "black and white" Christian way of thinking would probably condemn such a game.
The point behind this, I feel, is to set up the transition between childhood and adulthood.
Generally speaking, most people try to "graduate" from their parents. There comes a time we have to strike out on our own and create our own life.
In each SMT game the protagonist is tapped to become the catalyst (or "Messiah") for a new world. He/she becomes the "parent" of the next generation of man. In our journey to adulthood, we have to overcome our parents.
The idea of "God" or "Satan" plays into all the things we wish to do away with when we think of our parents. We would try to be free from pride, greed, lies, hypocrisy... All these traits and more are represented in these "boss" figures.
Accepting ourselves for who we are as people, good or bad.
In reality, there is no "black" and "white". The world around us is made up of greys. Just because I said something mean to a stranger, does that mean I'm also a murderer? Shin Megami Tensei tricks us into choosing a path knowing that both being neutral and being one sided is wrong.
In the end, there is no right answer- and that's the thrill in replaying the games. Not in simply seeing the different endings, but imagining ourselves as different people making the different moral choices; aligning ourselves with different demons to boot.
In the end, who we are is what we create.
Shin Megami Tensei paints this message as we make the transition to adulthood. Most RPGs have static elements and static endings. In the world of SMT, your ending is determined but what you've become over the course of the game. An angel? A demon? A messiah? A destroyer?
In that way it's much like parenthood. Despite our best intentions to be the best parents we can, our children become a representation of ourselves. Just like we did, they will have a choice someday to become different and create their own world. Fortunately for us, they won't be able to summon demons to do it with.
It's an interesting life picture; however flawed. In all of the SMT games, you are required to choose from other people's choices, never allowed to make your own.
Regardless of it's little flaws, SMT is a series I love wholeheartedly and will continue to support with my means as long as they keep making them. In many ways, SMT helped me confront, converse with, and persuade my own demons...
Bioshock was originally developed by Irrational Games under the direction of Ken Levine. Huge success.
When Bioshock 2 was announced, the gaming press was skeptical. Bioshock didn't really need a sequel, and how could you possibly top the original? 2K Games commissioning Digital Extremes to add competitive multiplayer didn't help. While some were titillated by the idea, more felt it was insulting to the source material.
Fortunately, Digital Extremes had a solid track record. Makers of Unreal, Unreal Tournament (and it's sequels), Dark Sector; even porting the original Bioshock from Xbox 360 to both PC and PS3.
Despite such a solid MDS (Multiplayer Deathmatch Shooter) resume, it must have been difficult giving Bioshock a competitive edge while maintaining the story elements that made it Bioshock.
What is it supposed to be?
From the outside, Bioshock 2 Multiplayer looked to be nothing more then a "tacked-on" element from a bullet pointed list of game mode requirements in a post Modern Warfare industry.
Playing it, you can't escape it's obvious desire to copy Call of Duty. Level up ranking system (swapping EXP for ADAM), weapon attachments, trials, perks; even direct match mode copies like CTF, TDM, FFA, and S&D (renamed "Last Splicer Standing").
Regardless: locations, weapons, plasmids, characters, dialogue, even story elements did, admittedly, fit well into the BS universe.
When is it good?
The mechanics may have reeked of MW but the atmosphere was truly Rapture. I can't say I've ever played a MDS with such an interesting level of immersion before.
The map design is also quite stellar. Every map is crafted to look and feel like a fleshed out part of the experience while at the same time being easily maneuverable. The maps are perfect in functional design but at the same time filled with subtleties.
The highest point in the experience is the level of interaction the players can have with each other and the environment. Throughout each level are vending machines, turrets, oil spills, water puddles, grab-able objects, and breakable passageways. Everything is interact-able on various levels.
Doorways, for instance:
Is someone chasing you? Shoot the doorway with Electro Shock to open it before you even reach it. Are you chasing someone? Shoot a doorway with the Winter Blast plasmid to freeze it and prevent it from opening. Want to help your teammate? Put a Geyser Trap in front of the doorway and send enemies that walk through it careening into the ceiling. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
It's possible (and proven) you can play the game successfully without even firing a gun. No MDS in history has ever come close to that level of depth and interactivity. You can play in a wide variety of styles while still keeping to the MDS ascetic.
What BS2MP does well, it knocks out of the park.
Where does it come up short?
I imagine Digital Extremes had a choice: either tone down everything to a point where balance is attainable and gameplay is fair or throw balance out the window in true Bioshock fashion. They understandably went for the latter.
Every weapon, perk, plasmid, and environmental object is in someway unbalanced. Not just slightly, every single thing is in some way broken beyond belief. Every plasmid stuns enemy players. Every weapon either does frightfully massive damage (2 are single shot kills), or can be fired almost indefinitely.
Late game perks that resurrect you upon death or turn your body into proximity bombs become both annoying and punishing to lower level players. The game breaks even further when 2 or more people work together to chain stun and insta-gib players who spawn away from their teammates; then are rewarded with further damage boosts creating a steamroll mechanic.
I won't complain about broken spawn systems because so few games have a spawn system that works; it does seem the system works fine when consistently spawning the Big Daddy suit closest to the winning team though.
How does it all come together?
If you can get past the issues on the surface, Bioshock 2's Multiplayer is both a fun and funny experience.
Fun in it's crazy level of depth and unique atmosphere. Fun when it turns every enemy encounter into "throw everything but the kitchen sink". Funny in it's chaotic and frenetic nature. Funny in it's laughable brokenness.
Despite the game's obvious (and immediately apparent) flaws, I can still say it is an enjoyable experience. It may not be a particularly long experience, but the time you spend with it is definitely memorable.
Why should I play it?
Bioshock 2's Multiplayer mode asks all the right questions in a post Modern Warfare era:
-Do we have to copy the MW format with every type of MDS?
-Can primarily single player games have engaging multiplayer modes?
-How far can we push the bounds of unique MDS without being too unbalanced or gimmicky?
-Can MDS have deeper depth to accommodate wildly different styles of play or even storytelling?
It doesn't answer any question with certainty but you can't blame it for the asking. Bioshock 2's Multiplayer should be played by all people who consider themselves MDS fans or purists. Even if only briefly.
This question has been rattling around in my head the last couple of days.
It's not necessarily a question I desire to ask; it is however, a question of a lot of people are asking.
First are the developers, both indie and studio funded. Followed by the publishers trying to sell finished games. Then there are the retailers who stock the games but also sell game related merchandise. Even farther down the line are game news and review websites like this one.
Then there is the recently emergent group of users asking "How can I make money playing games?"
Most gamers have been touched in some way by this phenomenon. Either we've seen professional gamers on TV, through stream networks like Twitch, or we've probably clicked on one of the endless "Let's Play" videos on youtube. Even seen some examples in-game.
Some of these people have more financially successful careers then most average people; conversely more and more young people are quitting their menial jobs in pursuit of a successful career in video game entertainment.
Before we consider societal implications, let's consider the moral question behind such a thing: should we make careers out of playing games?
Companies like Avermedia (producing affordable capturing hardware) and more games including Twitch/Youtube functionality, the opportunities for everyone are increasing. However, when more people do a certain thing (any thing really), it makes it harder for everyone to find success. It "waters down" the culture as a whole.
Being professionally involved in the music media business, I have to say this reminds me of what happened to the music industry in the late 90's.
Indie music groups/labels were having major success, the digital age of music was beginning, and professional level recording equipment was becoming affordable at a consumer level. It wasn't long before everyone could say they knew someone in a band or knew someone who had their own recording studio.
Consequently, an indie revolution occurred which brought a great change to music; but ultimately created more hands dipping into the same pot. Major labels went from being full talent development to only publishing marketable material that had proven successful, ie. everything on the radio started to sound the same.
The video game industry is going through the same trend at this very moment. We have a lot of great indie games and myriad choices of small, affordable releases; while on the major studio side of things we see the constant repeating of grey and brown cover based ultra-manly shooters being endlessly churned out to retail.
I'm getting off track a bit; I didn't want to start talking about the game industry as a whole. Back to the question of should we try to play games for money.
If I compared video gaming to music, I could easily say that just because you like playing guitar in a band doesn't qualify you to be professional musician. On the other hand, I know several people who have had semi-successful careers as musicians without ever breaking into "star status".
Most notably would be my cousins. Two brothers who play the most awful mix of grunge rock and art-house garbage you've ever heard. Think of sludge-rock groups like The Melvins... but not good.
Despite the lack of popularity or quality, I can't question their creativity and for the last 10+ years they've managed to play on several successful tours throughout the midwest and even the east coast. When they are off tour, they usually work whatever minimum wage job they can just to save money while writing more music. I wouldn't call their music good, but they are happy living that kind of life; and they even have a following.
By that logic we could say that there is no reason someone can't or shouldn't try to make money playing games. They may never make six figures, but if someone can be happy doing something they love, what's wrong with that? I certainly couldn't criticize, calling myself a professional hip hop producer.
But... There is still the question of how can someone make money playing games.
Unfortunately at this time, I can't answer that. I've given 3 examples of how people are trying to: pre-recorded play videos, streaming live, and competitive play.
All three are quite exclusive. I would doubt there are more then a handful of consistently successful streamers (successful meaning they can afford to solely live off streaming/uploading); and while there are quite a few major successful professional players in the world, I would imagine the ratio of professional players (successful or otherwise) to gamers as a whole is less then 5%.
I "made beats" for almost a decade before I sold my first piece of music. It wasn't because I wasn't serious about what I did, I just never realized I could sell my music.
Discovering my music was both profitable and desirable, it changed my perspective. I would bet there are more ways to make money playing video games then we've discovered so far.
[i]Oh hey guize I'm new I like gaems and play the fun ones like halo and CoD which is the best one easy. I hope I like tacos! I want to meet you but I know like trolls klolz hopefully your fun!!! -Me
[/i]That was just my impression of Niero. Well, one impression anyway *ahem* let's move on.
So this is my "obligatory" first blog post. I don't really actually like Halo or CoD that much (although I have been caught playing them on occasion); I'm more into a mixture of unique and interesting games.
Truthfully, I'll play anything if it's good and I have a three point criteria to determine the games I try and spend time with:
1) The game has to be intelligent or at least vaguely stimulating. This could be a lot of games but you'd be surprised how many this excludes.
2) The game has to have panache. Typically this means a unique audio, visual, or gameplay aesthetic. Some of my favorites: SMT III: Nocturne, Unlimited SaGa, Lumines, Binding of Isaac... All of which have that certain something.
3) The game must have either a difficulty curve which ramps; or becomes liquid through human interaction. Simply put: I don't like playing the same forever. Ether give me depth or give me solid multiplayer. I like to chew so it better have meat on it.
There are some debatable exceptions though and it is worth noting I tend to stick with games that make me particularly angry. So you might see my 400+ hours into Dota 2 or 200+ hours into Battlefield 3 when viewing my library.
Even though I'm the typical age of most game buyers these days, I still feel like I'm older then most. I'm always interested in finding more people to play with but finding people who stick with it and can have fun winning or losing are few and far between. If you're one of those people, hit me up and I'm sure we can have a good time together.
Anypoo, what the description says on the side is true: I am a professional music producer...
But don't tell my family! God, if they knew...
Seriously though I do love and make music. I don't feel at a professional level but my music does sell so I can't say that still a hobbyist, can I? You can check my soundcloud or youtube if you're interested. Obviously video games have a lot of involvement on my music.
When I'm not making music, or selling various crap on Amazon, I'm playing games. I also happen to like writing (and happened to spend the last 3 years working as an English teacher) so let's see if we can't something interesting down on the page!
If you read all the crap I just typed; thanks. If you just skimmed down to here; just hit the fap button and no one will know...
EDIT: I realize there's a few missing words and otherwise confusing sentences here. It's currently 5:31am and I'm too tired to fix them :/