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On the wings of death, by the hands of doom;
By the darkest light from the darkest moon;
On the wings of life, by the hands of hope;
By the brightest light from the brightest sun.

And vice versa.

I'm ShadeOfLight.
I'm a Dutch law student who loves to play the vidya. I'm a Nintendo-fanboy at heart, but I don't feel that I'm blinded by that, at least not very often. I am also currently on the Cblog Recaps team for Thursdays, so if for some voyeuristic reason you want to know more about me, check out my weekly Shadeisms.

I'm obsessed with the Monolith Soft RPGs Xenoblade Chronicles and the Baten Kaitos series. I will not pass up the opportunity to mention them, ever, and I consider myself Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean's biggest fan. Finally, as is to be expected I'm super excited for the new WiiU "Xeno-" game!

The Wii is one of my favorite systems of all time, and my favorite games on this system include, but are most certainly not limited to;
Xenoblade Chronicles (see also: Baten Kaitos - Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean for GC)
Zelda: Twilight Princess / Skyward Sword
Smash Bros.
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Muramasa - The Demon Blade
Wario Land: Shake it!
Sonic Colors
and Metroid Prime Trilogy.

I love my WiiU as well, and even though the library still needs expanding, I had tons of fun with:
New Super Mario Bros. U
Darksiders II
Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Pikmin 3
Super Mario 3D World
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Mario Kart 8

Apart from Nintendo, I'm a huge indie game enthousiast. Give me a game like Trine, VVVVVV, Sequence or Recettear, and you've made me a happy camper for sure. You can keep your shooters to yourself.

Favorite indie game round-up:
Trine (+ Trine 2)
Super Meat Boy
The Binding of Isaac
Dungeons of Dredmor
Thomas Was Alone
Mark of the Ninja
Cthulhu Saves the World
Recettear - An Item Shop's Tale
To The Moon
Cave Story
Orcs Must Die! 2
The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom
and many, many more!

Besides gaming itself, I like reading up on gaming-related news on my favorite website in the whole wide world: Destructoid. I love all the people here, and I'm glad that I get to be a part of this. Wouldn't know what to do without you!
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Steam ID:http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198005145371/
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As most if you will probably know, I don't tend to blog all that much. This is mostly due to time reasons, and because I don't always have anything interesting to say. I often write something when something specific has popped up that I want to talk about, but that only happens every once in a while. With this blog, I want to try things a little bit differently.

I've often made it a point that I love to share the things I like. There's just something about giving other people the chance to fall in love with the things I've been enjoying for so long that makes me want to do it time and time again. Besides that, it's also a great way to show my own appreciation of the things that mean so much to me. Finally, this allows you guys to get to know me just that little bit better. So I've decided that, rather than doing posts based on random things that pop up every now and again, I'm going to start a sort of series of just me sharing good shit. Or just regular ol' shit, if I feel so inclined. I'm not going to promise that these are going to be weekly (God knows I can't), or even monthly, but I hope to be able to update this whenever I have time and inspiration.

Here's how it's going to work. In every new edition of Shade Shares, I'm going to pick a particular theme. These can be genres, gameplay elements, plot points, or anything else really. In the blog, I'm first going to try to explain why this theme is so important to me, followed by as many of my favorite examples as I feel the need to share.

"So basically it's a top 10 only you call it something else?"
Shut up, you.
Seriously though, these are not actually meant to be Top 10's or anything like that. I don't intend to claim that the things I post here are the best, or the only good ones.

Basically, if I'm going to sum it up, it's this:
"Look you guys, these are things I like, have some."
Simple as that.

Anyway, let's be off! For the sake of trying the new site with Youtube embedding and because of the already large number of posts regarding OSTs in the past week, this time Shade Shares Soundtracks!*

Shedding a Light**

Ah, the soundtrack. Was there ever a greater piece of music than that? Beethoven, Mozart or even Justin Bieber, all the greats have nothing on the likes of Koji Kondo, Hans Zimmer or Nobuo Uematsu. Personally, I can't tell you how much I love Original Soundtracks, and those of video games in particular. Currently, I have over 14GB worth of soundtracks on this computer alone, spread over almost 4500 files spanning well over 50 games, including some that most people won't even have heard of. It's gotten to the point that I rarely listen to anything else anymore. I can hardly remember the last time I listened to an actual band and I can't for the life of me tell you which "hot" songs are on the charts right now. I guess "Gangnam Style" is on there? Is that still a thing? If "Call Me Maybe" still is I might have to go and punch something.

Either way, what is it that I love about video game soundtracks? There's a couple of reasons for this, actually.

Most importantly, it's because they bring back great memories. With one exception which we'll get to later, all the soundtracks I have belong to games I've played and loved. Because of this, I can listen to any song on its OST and instantly be transported back into the game. Hyrule Field is only two clicks away, as is World 1-1, Phendrana Drifts or any of the other worlds I've had the joy of visiting in all my time as a gamer. Even when I don't actually remember hearing a specific song in the game, just hearing it and recognizing its style is enough for all sorts of great memories to come rushing back. Once we get to my actual sharings, I'll be sure to give you some which invoke this particularly well. If you love playing video games, wouldn't you want to take that feeling with you everywhere you go? Off course you do, and that's what OSTs are for. Either that or handhelds I guess.

Secondly, I believe that video game soundtracks are developed in a unique way, like no other music before it. Above anything else, game music is designed to be listened to on repeat, more so than any other type of music. Think about it, if you've created a three-minute song for the Obligatory Fire Dungeon of Dragons and Lava, how are you going to deal with a player that takes an hour to get to the end? There's just no composing against that, so you do the only thing you reasonably can do; you make your song loop. And don't even get me started on battle themes, which you have to hear hundreds of times in a single playthrough! But then, that poses a new problem. How do you make a three-minute song play twenty times in a row without it becoming annoying is hell? Honestly, I couldn't tell you how. I have the musical ability of a deaf chimp on crack, so you really shouldn't be asking me these things. Luckily, less crappy people than me have managed to find a way, and they are the greats that we all remember.

All of this results in music that you will know by heart at the end of the game, being exposed to it for so long, as well as music that you can always listen to without any problems. Video game songs are rarely linked to specific scenes, as movie OSTs so often are, so they will invoke the general feeling of the game without causing a disconnect if you don't have the game itself in front of you, and you can listen to them as many times as you want, because that is exactly what they were designed for! That really is unique in the music world, and it's just another special factor in my undying love.

Alternatively, you get a 20-minute song like "Dancing Mad", that also works

There are many other things that I love about these pieces of music, and I'm constantly finding more. The fact that you can interact with the music in many games (you know that at some point in your life you tapped the fire button in time with the music, don't deny it), and their ability to have an amazing variety of songs (tied to different areas in the game) but still maintain a single general theme are just some of the things I really like. All in all, we should always cherish all the great things about this hobby of ours, and the video game soundtrack is one of those things that deserve our recognition.

Shade's Sharings!

Well, here we are! Hopefully this is what you've been waiting for. Now that I've tried to explain my thought process regarding game music, allow me to share some specific ones that are special to me. There are many more were these came from, and they aren't even all my favorites, but I picked these because I had something specific to say about them. Well, that, and the fact that they're awesome. So yeah.

Ocean Theme - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

This is bar none my favorite song to travel to. I honestly can't think of any song that sounds more adventurous than this one. And how could it not be awesome? After all, it plays when a young boy and his magical talking ship take to the seas on an epic journey across the seven seas (or one giant one)! I've never found anything quite like it, and that speaks volumes for this song. Not even other Zelda themes like "Hyrule Field" can compete. Whether you're traveling by plane, bus or even by foot, every mile will feel like an adventure with this in your ears. You'll almost be able to picture the Great Sea, and the many tales you have to tell about it.

People's thoughts about The Wind Waker are mixed. Hell, mine are. Many people thought that the sailing in particular could be kind of boring, and should have been sped up. Me, personally? Not once have I had any problem with any of the sailing I had to do. And I'm sure you can already guess why.

Kainť~Escape - NieR

Above, I mentioned that almost every OST I have belongs to a game I've played, but for one exception. NieR is that exception. I never actually picked this game up myself, but I did watch a Let's Play of it. Normally that wouldn't be quite enough to make you fall in love with a game or its music, but it was for NieR. This song in particular stuck out for me, and I honest to God believe that this is one of the best songs ever in video games and perhaps even beyond. I wish that there was more that I could say about this one, but I really can't. It's just great and that's what it is. So beautiful and great that I never even cared that I haven't played the game.

Ironic, for a theme based on one of the most sluttily-dressed and foulmouthed characters in video game history.

The Lost Court of Mushroom Caves - Trine 2

I wish I could post all of Trine 2's music, I really do. I had an easy time picking one song from each of the OSTs I featured here, except for this one. If there ever was such a thing as "hauntingly beautiful", I think some of these songs would definitely be it. This one right here caused me to take my hands away from the keyboard for a second just to sit there and listen. I still get the urge to do that every time I'm playing this level.

The unfortunate thing is that the music from Trine only really shines when combined with that game's awesome visuals. Regardless, this is still some of my favorite music from video games, and a big reason why I love the Trine series as much as I do. (which is to say a lot)

Soul - Madworld

I included this because it really shows how powerful video game OSTs are for me. Why? I hate rap music. Despise it. I can comfortably listen to almost any kind of music. I might not also exactly like it, but I can stand it at least. I can't stand rap music. I couldn't exactly tell you why, but just take my word for it here. So what's the deal? I actually like Madworld's soundtrack, which consists entirely of rap music. Not only can I stand it, I genuinely enjoy listening to it. I never expected to, that's for sure.

I wanted to try this game for its hilariously violent gameplay and its artstyle, but from the beginning I was set to mute this game whenever the music would start to suck. It never did. I liked all of its music, and that completely stunned me. I'll admit that this isn't my favorite soundtrack by any means, but just the fact that I like it at all is amazing. Again, I'm not sure what it is about it, but I just think its catchy and fun.

But it really is about the big picture here. Apparently video game OSTs are so great, that they not only make a genre I normally actively hate tolerable, but they even make it good.

Nega-wisp Armor Phase 2 - Sonic Colors

I love it when video games do this.
Picture this: you're fighting the final boss, big orchestral music in the background telling you in no uncertain terms: "You are fucked, my friend." This music plays throughout about 80% of the fight. But then at some point, when you get really close to beating him, the music changes. The haunting music from earlier is no more, and in its place you get awesome victory music even before the fight has actually finished. "Holy shit, you got this man, go for it!"
I remember that Super Castlevania IV did it (just watch this), but other than that I can't think of many, which is a damn shame. Recently though, I've found a new game that also does it, and it is none other than Sonic Colors.

This is the victory music that starts playing near the end of the final boss. As such, it brings back so many memories that it's not even funny. Colors was a great game, and this was a great boss, so that just happens without even trying.
But actually, there's another thing that's special about this song. It's actually a orchestral version of "Reach for the Stars"! If you don't know, "Reach for the Stars", besides a Will.i.am song (thanks for that, youtube), is also the main theme of Sonic Colors, performed by Cash Cash. It is one of the cheesiest songs ever in a Sonic game, only outdone by "Speak with your Heart"...which is also from Sonic Colors. I'm not going to lie, I like both of those songs in that special "so bad it's good" kind of way, but this version is just something else. I don't know how, and I don't know how anyone even thought of doing it, but somehow the composer for this game managed to take that horribly cheesy song, and managed to turn it epic. That's one of those things that's just crazy enough to work, and apparently they went with it. I love it, is all I can say.

Engage the Enemy - Xenoblade Chronicles

This song. This song right here. Man.
I'm going to try to be coherent here, but I can't make any promises. It's just...I mean...damn. This song gives me the chills.

Okay, I'm going to make a fair warning here. If I do make more editions of Shade Shares, expect to see Xenoblade on it more than once. I'm obsessive about that game, and I love everything about it, so don't be surprised. It's going to happen, just so you know.

This song, "Engage the Enemy", is basically the "shit is going down" song of Xenoblade. Whenever a particularly plot-important scene starts to play, this song plays with it. It works particularly well, because the song actually scales up as it goes along, so it will always coincide with the scene too. When the scene picks up, so does "Engage the Enemy". After my 120-hour playthrough of this game, some scenes will forever be etched in my mind in the best way possible. As a result, so is this music. From the two minute mark onwards, I completely lose it.

I know full well that this is not a song that is really suited to be listened to by anyone who hasn't played the game yet (even though you should), but this is still a song I wanted to share with you guys. It may very well be my favorite one ever, and at the very least it's the one I'm the most emotionally invested in. If that's not a cause for sharing, I don't know what is.


And there we go! Shade has now officially shared soundtracks! I hope you've found things to enjoy, but even if you haven't I still hope that you've learned just a tiny bit about my own interests. That's why I do what I do, and hopefully I get to do more editions of this in the future. There are still some topics up here in that brain of mine, so maybe I'll get them to come out at some point in time.

In the mean time, don't hesitate to share any songs you like, because I like receiving just as much as I like giving!
*insert sex joke here*

*Also, one of these days I'm going to find a less obnoxious way of incorporating my name into this, but for now you're all stuck with this crap right here, so there you go.
** I warned you.
Photo Photo Photo

This is not a blog I was planning to do, really. But holy shit does this feel awesome. If there was ever a thing I wanted to share with you guys, this is it.

So, I just got mail. Normally this wouldn't be anything special, but today is different. Just now, I received my new favorite pieces of video game swag. I'm psyched! Here, let me guide you through it. Also, excuse the quality of my massively shitty camera phone. I was way too excited to take the time to look for a better camera.

So this was the first thing I saw. At first I wasn't exactly sure what it was, because I didn't remember ordering anything from Club Nintendo.

But it started to dawn on me soon enough.

Which is to say it hit me right around here. I hadn't ordered anything recently. But there was still something special I was waiting for. Something I had already ordered months ago. Something exclusive as fuck. This had to be that something.


So, a little backstory. I'm pretty sure that everyone still knows what Operation Rainfall was all about. Three JRPGs: Xenoblade, The Last Story and Pandora's Tower, which were already out in Japan to great reviews, weren't going to make it to the US or Europe. However, RPG fans everywhere weren't going to take this. Operation Rainfall was launched to get these games overseas. In a stunning turn of events, it worked, and in an even more stunning turn of events, Nintendo of Europe just ran with the entire thing. Europe was the first, after Japan and way before the US, to receive Xenoblade and The Last Story, and as of yet is the only one to receive Pandora's Tower. But NoE, infamous for not getting several great games released over here, decided that this wasn't enough. Almost as if they had something to make up for (they did), they went further than ever expected. They hosted a Let's Play-contest for Xenoblade, for one thing, and even seemed to support Pandora's Tower, the least requested game, quite a lot.

But they weren't done.
As a final measure of good will, they decided to go all out. They knew that there were still hardcore JRPG fans out there, fans who weren't waiting for one of these games, or even two, but all of them. Nintendo of Europe had something in store for those exact people.

This is that something. They were going to give away an exclusive set of coins based on all three of the Operation Rainfall games to the first people who would register all three games on Club Nintendo. As far as I know, this was only done in Europe (although US may still follow, I guess?), and I'm not sure how many exactly were made, although I don't expect more than a couple thousand.

Either way, you have already guessed it: I'm one of those people.

Did I mention I'm excited as fuck right now? Because that's what I am.
So, what next? Roll call!

First up is Xenoblade Chronicles. As far as the three games go, this is definitely my favorite. I was the most excited for this one, and it did not disappoint in the slightest. The story's great, the characters are pretty good, the combat is great, the art direction and music is great, I just love this game to death and then some. This side of the coin has the title logo, which you can barely see because I suck at this. That's going to be a theme here. Also, each coin is going to have a title logo side and a symbol side. You'll see what I mean in a second.

This is Xenoblade's symbol side. The design isn't all that special, as it's just a Japanese character, but this is still my favorite. I've already said that Xenoblade is my favorite game of the three, and if you love the game, this symbol is really clever. The game's combat is completely focused on so-called "Arts". These are basically special attacks which you can perform during combat. It's difficult to explain, but it works fantastically. Shulk, the main character (with a stupid name, can't be helped), gets a set of extra-special Arts, which are activated by using his legendary sword. Upon activation, the sword will show a different symbol depending on which power is used. This is one of those symbols. It's the symbol for "Monado Enchant", which powers up your teammates and allows them to hurt the otherwise-impervious "mechon". It's the first power you gain, and completely vital from start to finish.

Artwork of Shulk performing Monado Enchant

So yeah, a great choice for this coin's symbol. Off to a good start here!

Next up:

The Last Story's title side. Of the three, this was my least favorite game, although I really wanted to love it. The combat didn't feel right for me, and the story was only so-so. I did like the characters though, and overall I still consider this a good game.

While I really like the design of this one, it actually took me a while to figure out where this symbol came from. I don't remember The Last Story as well as Xenoblade, for obvious reasons, and the symbol isn't as clear as the one coming up. I finally worked it out though. At the start of this game, Zael, the main character with a much less stupid name, gets a power called "Gathering". With this power he can pull the enemy's attention to him and he can command his allies more effectively. When that power is activated, this symbol appears on his hand. The flame actually technically isn't part of the symbol, but you can see blue "flames" rising from his hand whenever he uses Gathering, so that's where it came from. It's quite difficult to see in-game, but this pic should show what I mean:

Note the blue crap in the middle

I think there probably would have been better choices for this one, but it's still cool in my book!


This game was actually quite a bit better than expected. The story's quite good, despite that fact that this is the least "RPG-ish" of the three. The girl you have to rescue from a horrible curse, Elena, is the sweetest damn thing ever seen in video games (to the point that I felt just as strongly about saving her as the protagonist did), and other characters are good as well. The bossfights are nice and cool, and the dungeons have some interesting ideas behind them. This game does have some problems with the camera and combat, but I otherwise found it to be a very solid game, although I was expecting this to be the least good of the three.

If you've played this game, or have even just seen some official art, this symbol should be instantly familiar to you. Of the three, this must've been by far the easiest choice for the designers as well. This symbol is featured in the game's logo, for one thing. But more importantly: this is the symbol of the curse that has been put on Elena, the one you're trying to rid her off. The symbol on her back shows that she's still under the curse, which basically means that the entire story revolves around it. It actually has a double meaning as well if you've played the game all the way through, but that's not something I'm going to spoil here.

It was a no-brainer of the best kind

By your powers combined, we are:

Fucking awesome is what we are. So yeah, this is basically what I wanted to show you guys. I'm probably one of the first people to receive these, and as far as I'm aware there aren't that many to go around in the first place, so this is completely sweet. And considering that I like each of the three games to a more or lesser extent, these commemorative coins are just icing on the cake. Well played, Nintendo of Europe, and keep up the good work!

...Wait a minute, did I miss something?

This is a poster I won several months ago, signed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, who created a little something called Final Fantasy. Like I said, The Last Story definitely isn't my favorite game by any means, but I do really like the art here. Besides, that's not the least of names on the bottom there. Unfortunately I never managed to get my hands on Xenoblade posters, which I know are going around, because that would've been even more awesome.

Anyway, that was basically it. I'm going to find a nice place for these three coins, because these are going to get me all the ladies. I mean, ladies are into that, right?

Off course they are
Photo Photo Photo

Hey everyone, guess who's writing again? I've been busy with my studies for quite a while, and on top of that my personal life got massively shaken up a couple of months ago. Luckily, everything is back in order, leaving me with time to write a piece that I had planned to do for some time. And considering all the recent comments that the community needs to step up its game again, what better time than this to finally do it? This blog deals with a more personal side of my (gaming) life.

This is a story about me, about my life and about my experiences with video games. It is also, as so many are, a story about a girl. This girl is in a strange way special to me, but not in the way you might think. Now stay a while and listen, for I will tell you all about the girl with the Triforce bag.

Does anyone know what the absolute best way to play video games is? How can you have the most fun playing video games? Actually, let's go through some of my own experiences and see if we can find out.

A controller is in my hand. In twelve seconds' time I will put it down because I'll have beaten the game. Ten seconds now. It is 2011, and I have just defeated the final boss of Xenoblade. It took me over a hundred hours to get this far and I had an absolute blast. This is a great game and at the very least one of the best RPGs ever made. And yet, something is missing...

It is August 15th 2012, and I am at home alone. One hour ago, I achieved 100% completion on The Binding of Isaac. It's a really (really) addicting game, in which I happily invested all the time and effort I could spare. And yet, something is missing...

It is July 11th 2008. I am playing as Luigi in Super Smash Bros. Brawl because he has a killer air-game. Four years from now I will still be playing as him and loving it. I can already beat several level 9 cpu's without too much effort. I like to think that I'm pretty good at this game. And yet, something is missing...

It is October 16th 2011. Me and my friend have just finished the last co-op room in Portal 2. This is more like it.

Hopefully you can already see where I'm going with this. But just to really bring it home, let me show you what I think the best way to play games is:

But on the off chance that you don't have personal Black Cat and X-23 cosplayers, this will do:

So, while I am madly in love with a great many singleplayer video games, nothing in the world will ever beat the joy of on-the-couch multiplayer. If that's not available online multiplayer works too, at least as long as you can opt to just play with your friends. Whether it be a versus mode in Smash Bros., co-op in Portal 2 or a mixture of both such as in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, it's all great. If you have ever experienced it, I'm sure you know what I mean. The only thing you need are friends to play with you.

And that's exactly the problem.

I've mentioned this before in my 10 things blog some time ago, but I feel the need to go a bit more in-depth. When I was still in high school, I had several friends who played video games. We'd share experiences, hold get-togethers, all the good stuff. I still remember fondly one special multiplayer session where just me and the girl I liked spent all afternoon playing Smash Bros., during which I secretly let her win on several occasions, much to her amusement.

After high school though, over three years ago now, we all went our separate ways. Myself, I moved to a new place about 100 miles away to attend university. And while 100 miles may not sound like much, it is literally half the country over here, so it feels huge to us. As a result of this, combined with everyone having a busy schedule these days, I don't really know the guys from high school anymore. I only managed to keep in touch with my best high school friend, and he is now the only gaming friend I have. I do still know the girl I mentioned above, but our schedules prevent us from getting together all that often and she's not that big of a gamer either way. I am giving her Portal 2 for her birthday next week though; hopefully something will come of that.

When in doubt, Portal 2.

Off course none of this means that I'm a lonely person (none of you should be worried), just that I'm a lonely gamer. I've made lots of great new friends at my new place, guys and gals I wouldn't trade for the world. None of them, unfortunately, have any real experience with gaming, or particular interest in it. They accept the fact that I'm a gamer and they will listen to me when I tell them what I've been playing in my spare time, but that's about the extent of it. I have yet to seriously ask them to play with me, because I'm not quite sure how they'd respond, but I'm thinking of buying New Super Mario Bros. Wii if they would be up for it. Right now they are the people I hang out with the most, talking about all sorts of crazy stuff. Little of that crazy stuff involves video games though.

As it stands, my experiences with multiplayer games are lacking as well. I love to play co-op with my gaming friend: we've played Magicka, Lara Croft, Portal 2 and recently Orcs Must Die 2, and we had a blast during all of them. But here too the lack of gaming friends rears its ugly head. I personally love the Trine series...but he doesn't. This means that even though those games are supposed to have a pretty fun co-op mode, I won't be able to experience that. Similarly, he will never get me to play any RTS with him, because I can't manage to play an RTS for more than 5 minutes without getting bored for the life of me. Still, there are a lot of games we can play together, and this is closest I can get to the experience I want: it's pretty damn close. Nevertheless, none of these online experiences can ever match the chaotic joy of a 4-man Smash Bros. match or similar games. This has become painfully obvious to me after watching several Let's Plays of a bunch of guys playing multiplayer games together; a series of every (console) Mario Party being the highlight. They laughed together, cursed together (because hey, it's still Mario Party, if you're not swearing you're not playing it properly), and in the end had tons of fun together. As I was watching it, the same feeling would keep creeping up on me: "Man, I wish I could be a part of that..."

I would absolutely love to have more multiplayer sessions, but that just doesn't seem possible right now. I want to laugh at my friends when I beat them in a fighting game, I want to think of clever ways to get that out-of-reach Star Coin without someone dying, I want to give them Luigi's weird-ass Final Smash right in the face, I want them to tear me a new one at any shooter ever, and I even want to get a Blue Shell up the rear end when I'm just about to cross the finish line. I want all of that and more.
Alas, that was not meant to be.

But perhaps...perhaps I know what the problem is. Perhaps I know why I don't have enough gaming friends.
Maybe I'm simply lacking the confidence to declare my gamerness to the world. Maybe I'm simply not as courageous as the girl with the Triforce bag...

Technically it's the crest of the royal family of Hyrule, but eh, same difference.

I "met" this girl about a year ago. She was walking around town, apparently heading for the book store. She had dyed red hair, gothic-style clothing (but not too overdone) and, off course, a bag with the famous Zelda emblem printed on it. Now, I say I "met" her because I don't actually know anything about her. I don't know who she is, where she lives or what her major is. In fact, I have never even spoken to her, nor do I even know her name, so I'm going to have to disappoint all of you that were hoping for me to reveal a secret crush. Really I didn't so much meet her as see her walking down the street. Still though, seeing the Triforce on her bag struck me. "Wait, did I just see that?! Because it be pretty awesome if I did!" After that I didn't think too much of it, though. "After all", I thought, "it's a pretty cool looking symbol, so perhaps she doesn't even know what it's from." My doubts where quelled about two weeks later. I saw her again, a little closer up this time, and I noticed that besides the bag, she was wearing another special item. On her jacket she had a picture of the 1-up Mushroom from every Mario game ever. This could not be a mistake. You don't just wear that without knowing what it's from.

I reached a conclusion then and there: This girl is a gamer, and she's proud of it.

But at the same time I reached another, less happy, conclusion: I am nowhere near as confident as she is.
The Triforce of Courage was never granted to me, it seems.

In a way this also relates to a question Dale North asked just last month: "Do you wear video game t-shirts?"
He answered his own question right away: "I suppose that's a silly question. Of course you do. I do. We all do."
I don't.
I have never worn any video game related clothing, and I'm not entirely sure why. I'm always tempted to buy one, but then I back down at the last second. I don't even give a single fuck about fashion whatsoever. I can barely tell the difference between any of my jeans, wear nothing but old shirts, and my only accessory is my digital watch which I never take off and is apparently so horribly out of fashion that nobody even sells the damn things anymore. Besides, it's not even like there aren't any cool t-shirts available.

I like this one, simple and to the point, but instantly recognizable.

I think what it ultimately boils down to is that I'm not confident enough to wear video game t-shirts, despite the fact that I would really like to. I just don't think that I'd feel comfortable wearing one, which I admit is pretty damn stupid. As much as we like to deny it, gamers still tend to get looked down upon, and I don't think I have the heart to test my luck in a crowded city. I'd feel weird shouting to the world that I'm a massive geek, even though I'm perfectly comfortable doing it here. Hell, I even assured my friends (gaming and otherwise) that "I have reclaimed the word 'geek'; it's now a compliment". However, when it comes to everyone outside my circle of friends, those bold claims tend to leave me...

But I am a gamer, and everyone who wants to hang around with me is going to have to accept that fact one way or the other. And yet I hardly ever tell it to anyone I meet for the first time. For fear of ruining my first impression, of them judging me? Perhaps so. In the end, I may be just a bit ashamed of how important games are to me. The fact that I prefer Nintendo games to all others also really doesn't help matters. Imagine this scenario:
"Oh, so you're a gamer are you? What are you playing now?"
"...Kirby's Epic Yarn"
"I'm sorry, what was that?"
"...I'm playing Kirby's Epic Yarn right now...but it's actually really good, honest!"

Pictured: Your first impression going out the window

On the other hand, maybe being more confident in myself as a gamer is exactly what I need! At 21, I'm too old to be ashamed of what I do...aren't I? I've got my life on track, I've got my priorities straight, my studies are going well, and I just so happen to really enjoy video games. There's nothing wrong with that, is there?

In his blog, Dale also talked about some stranger coming up to him to talk about his Prototype 2 t-shirt. Personally, I would love something like that! Maybe if I had worn a Zelda-themed t-shirt I would've had the perfect opportunity to compliment the girl with her sweet bag. Who knows, maybe I would have gained a gaming friend from something as simple as that. In fact, maybe the city is full of potential gaming friends but I just never really bothered to look. Just walking around town when all of a sudden a fellow gamer compliments you on your "kickin' rad" t-shirt would be pretty damn awesome if you ask me.

Ultimately, I think I need to learn to be more open about what is and will be for a long time to come an important aspect of my life. Gaming has changed my life and made me who I am, and I owe it to myself to make the most of it. Playing Smash Bros. against CPU's is no fun at all compared to the real thing, and letting more people know that that's what I want is the simplest solution I can think of. Off course this doesn't stop at wearing a new t-shirt, I need a boost of confidence all around, but it can be a nice place to start. Another step would be to simply ask my non-gaming friends to play a game with me. They can't hate Mario that much, can they? Hopefully this will pay off in the end.

And as it is written in ancient gaming law, I get to be Mario, they get to be Toads.

All in all, I think I've gained some new insights over the past year. My experiences with my co-op buddy, the Let's Plays I've been watching and, most importantly, the girl with the Triforce bag have all helped me to realize that I'm not as confident being a gamer as I would like to be and, moreover, that this is something that I should work on. It can only go up from here because, let's be honest, having most of your playtime in Smash Bros in singleplayer mode is at least a little sad.

I would also like to ask you, fellow 'toiders, what you think of my plight. Does anyone else recognize being the only gamer in a group of friends? What do you do in such a situation? How does one boost his gaming confidence; where does one find his Triforce of Courage? What tips can you give me for my next course of action? In short, what Wisdom can be found here on the Dtoid Cblogs, and where do you find the Power to live your life fully as a gamer?

Either way, I only have one thing left to say to round this off:
I don't know where or who you are, Triforce bag girl, but I just want you to know that your bag is friggin' sweet!

...and, thank you.

Photo Photo Photo

The stage is set: E3 2012. It's the fifth of June, and Nintendo's press conference is about to start.
They are going to nail it this year. Yesterday Microsoft once again fell flat on its face, and while Sony did well, it was nothing that can't be beaten. Nintendo has a fresh new console to promote: all the more reason for them to knock it out of the park today. They've got this one in the bag.

The show starts: a nice little video featuring Miyamoto being followed around by pikmin. Man, they're starting off with Pikmin 3! I told you this was going to be glorious! I can't wait to hear what else they have in store! "You've got to have a Mario game", Reggie says a little while later. He's right, you know. New Super Mario Bros. U is shown, people like it. A little Van Gogh there in the background, Nintendo? Nice. The game looks good, but it's not that spectacular. Also, Nintendo really needs to work on its naming conventions. Harley Quinn starts talking to Reggie. A little bit of disguised DLC promotion? Oh well, it was a clever little segment, so we'll let it slide. Warner Brothers comes up to show a few games. Arkham City looks great, but it was already great on the other consoles a couple of months ago. People are largely unimpressed. A nice little trailer reel. It includes Trine 2, but nobody seems to notice despite the fact that it's goddamn TRINE 2 FOR WII U!

About half the show is over now, and it was alright, but nothing stellar. Nintendo's saving the big guns for last. Or Wii fit U (naming conventions!), I guess? Well, Reggie admitted that his body was ready, so it's all good. Wait, singing? People are looking over to the person sitting next to them: "why would they show this?" 3DS is next, that apparently also exists. Couple of Mario games, couple of trailers, pretty okay. Wii U is back. Ubisoft? That looks promising, let's see some more Rayman! Oh, dancing. Drat. ZombiU looks cool though. Also naming conventions.

We're nearing the end of the show. Those big guns are coming any second now. But first, Nintendo Land. Bunch of minigames that will surely be sold together with the console. Nobody really cares at this point. After more Nintendo Land, Reggie is thanking everyone for coming? Wait, was that it? No big guns? Fireworks play. They're blasting away Nintendo's major E3 victory. People are standing up, a little disappointed. It wasn't a bad show, but Nintendo didn't nail it like they should have. And what was up with ending with Nintendo Land? Sighs are heard as people stand up to leave.


But then it happens. The lights dim again, the screen goes black. "Wait, what's happening?"
Music starts playing. Awesome music.
Several people start wooing: they obviously know what's up. The rest hasn't caught on yet.
Until, out of nowhere...
The guitar comes in, the Mute City theme in full glory! The crowd goes wild! Some people are playing air guitar along with the music, others are applauding and being otherwise just excited as hell.
And on the screen? Gloriousness. It's a short trailer, but it's showing off nothing short of a brand new F-zero game! The game looks fast as hell, and the visuals rock! Captain Falcon is back baby!
At the end the screen simply says: "F-zero UX". Naming conventi-ah screw it. New F-zero!

Everyone finally leaves the Nokia theater, ecstatic: Nintendo has won E3.

At least, that's how it went in my imagination. Off course we all know that it didn't really go this way. Now, I've gotten over my disappointment and am now able to see that Nintendo still had a pretty decent show, even without a big surprise. Still though, many people were hoping for something really exciting, and while any of the "big guns" would've done fine, I believe F-zero in particular would have been completely perfect, for Nintendo's sake as well as ours. In fact, here are three reasons why.

1: We haven't seen it in forever
Many people of the internet have already pointed out that maybe it was too much to ask for a new first-party title right away. The last Zelda, after all, was only a couple of months ago. Yes, we're getting new Mario games, but those also aren't really what we were talking about. Off course, Pikmin 3 will also be great, but we already knew about that one. We wanted to be surprised.
And what would be more surprising than reviving the series that has skipped the Wii entirely, despite launching one of the most meme-worthy characters in Nintendo history?

With F-zero making up one of Nintendo Land's minigames, it's clear that the big N hasn't forgotten its racing franchise. Unfortunately though, the only video of it we've seen so far shows that it's much slower than an actual F-zero game would be, and the racetrack seems rather bland. Why not go all out with it instead? Hell, you could even get cameo racers in there. Have Samus unlockable in her gunship, Olimar in his rocket, Star Fox in an Arwing. Go for it! Nintendo fans would love it. Seriously, show that in an E3 trailer and watch the crowd completely lose its shit.

A small step in the right direction

2: It is "the hardest of the core"
Did you know that F-zero is hard? Like, really hard? Because it is. Only the most well-trained and experienced intergalactic racers had even a chance of beating F-zero GX for the Gamecube on the harder difficulties. This actually makes F-zero a great game through which Nintendo can show that the WiiU is indeed intended for the hardcore audience. Your grandpa wouldn't play F-zero (and if he would, he's awesome!) and neither would your little sister. No, F-zero is for us, and for us alone. We'll curse and scream when we just barely finish in second place. We'll spout memes like it's nobody's business. We'll post our records on youtube for others to tell us we suck. We'll do all of that and more, because this, well, this is our game.

In fact, this would be a great series to use with Miiverse. We've already seen that future games may get some sort of achievement system, and racing games are quite suited to that, as beating a certain time is half the fun of playing it. Actually, why stop at achievements? Get full-on online multiplayer in there! Man, if you can get a fast-paced racer like F-zero running online, no one will ever doubt the WiiU's online functionality again!

3: It could show off the WiiU's graphical power
The common consensus right now seems to be that the WiiU is about as powerful as the other consoles, perhaps slightly more. Because of that, people fear that Nintendo will be left behind once the new consoles come out.

Nintendo has a few tricks up its sleeve though. As Jim Sterling recently pointed out, gritty shooters don't make for very beautiful games. If you get a bit of color in there, you can actually get a much better looking game. Nintendo has always been able to make "outdated" hardware sing. Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3 and Skyward Sword all looked better on the Wii than they had any right to. Monolith understands it as well, as evidenced by Xenoblade. And finally, Pikmin 3's visuals also managed to wow people, despite WiiU apparently not even being all that powerful.

F-zero is the perfect series for Nintendo to show that they can still do it. It's bright and colorful, with lights everywhere, and different racetracks can be used to showcase all kinds of different visual splendor. If you want to show what WiiU can do, let's say in an E3 presentation, this is one of the best ways to do it.

You want to play this in HD and you know it

All in all, the WiiU's launch line-up seems pretty good. A couple of first party games, one of which has been awaited for a long time, and some nice-looking third parties too. Some of them show off what WiiU can do better than others, but still. Nintendo's E3 presentation, however, was kind of underwhelming. Ending with Nintendo Land was especially hard to swallow for some people, but that game was somewhat saved by the inclusion of an F-zero mini-game. Could a full F-zero have saved the conference too? Yes.
F-zero, or even a small trailer, could show off the WiiU's graphical power, show that the WiiU is for the hardcore gamers and would have ended the show with a nice surprise to have them go home feeling good about life again.

In all honesty, I'm not sure how F-zero would utilize the new functions of the Wii U Gamepad. Then again, does it need to? Maybe it would be good for Nintendo to show the world that not everything needs to use the Gamepad for something special. Simplicity has its own charm, and the fact that the game could be playable on the Gamepad itself could also be a nice bonus in its own right. At the very least it would quell some shouts that every WiiU game is going to be "gimmicky" if Nintendo itself came with a game that didn't use the controller as much, but used its newfound graphical power instead. At any rate, a well-made trailer showing off cool stages, online play and whatever else Nintendo could come up with would have been eaten up by the crowd and would have surely won it some confidence.

Pikmin 3 is cool, but Captain Olimar can only get you so far. Perhaps it's time to call on the other Captain as well.

Photo Photo Photo

Iím liking this recent surge of information on the Cblogs. It's nice to see what kind of little, and not so little, things you can learn about your fellow gamer. So what the hell, time for me to chime in!

Look everyone, it's a phoenix! Oh, and some guy in the background I guess. Not sure what that's about.

1. I donít watch TV, ever.
I donít even have access in either of my regular homes. Thereís simply nothing on TV that I canít watch more easily online and everything else is just crap. The Daily Show, Colbert Report, My Little Pony, I can watch all of those practically in realtime. I donít deal with commercials, godawful people who have gotten famous for literally no reason whatsoever or any of that crap. Instead, I bought a television set to serve as an external monitor for my laptop, and I watch everything I could possibly want on that.

2. I hate giving myself compliments for fear of becoming arrogant
People have told me that this is an ďage thingĒ an ďintelligence thingĒ and even a ďDutch thingĒ. Honestly, Iím starting to think itís just a ďShade thingĒ. My studies are going really well, and Iíve made some nice achievements here and there. I was the top-scoring Law student during my first year (out of about 600 people), and Iím still in the running to graduate Cum Laude at the end of next year. But when people tell me that Iím ďsmartĒ or anything, I just feel like backing down. I feel like an idiot much more often than I feel even remotely smart. I just so happen to like what I do and I work hard for it. That really makes all the difference in the world. Above all though, Iím scared of becoming arrogant. Iíve seen people change once they got it into their heads that they were one step above the rest, and I donít ever want that to happen to me: Iíd absolutely hate myself for it. So while I can fully admit that Iím doing well in my studies, Iím more than a little hesitant to call myself smart or intelligent or whatever. Itís not in my nature to do so, and I donít really want it to be.

I love this shirt. Honestly, I think a little self-deprecating humor is healthy for everyone

3. The word ďflickĒ is awful and should be banned
Yeah, everyone has those one or two words that he just hates with a passion. I hear that ďmoistĒ is a favorite for many. Mine is ďflickĒ, as in the action movies. Damn it. Damn it to punishment and pain eternal. Call it a ďmovieĒ, a ďfilmĒ even, call it ďa series of rapidly changing pictures to give the illusion of movementĒ for all I care, but just for all that is good in this world donít call it a flick. And yes, I know Destructoidís sister site is called Flixist.

4. Hypnosis helps me relax
What can I say? It really does. This will sound weird, but Iíve actually gone through a time where the concept of ďsleepingĒ really bugged me. Trust me on this, you should never think about what actually happens to your body while you sleep. I mean, going into some kind of unconscious state until the morning, and you wonít even know how or when it even happens? Creepy stuff. I have some hypnosis sessions on mp3, however, and itís the most relaxing stuff ever, Iím not even kidding. They can really help me forget about the worries of the day (video games do that to me too, but in a different way somehow) and get me relaxed and ready for sleep in minutes. I donít have any sessions with a manís voice though, because a guy whispering into my ear to lay back and relax creeps me the fuck out.

5. Clumsy is my middle name
And I donít mean clumsy like Bella from Twilight is clumsy. This is not a flaw that is kind of cute when you have finally accepted it. I just break things. Any and all things, everywhere. I canít draw at all and am even worse at arts and crafts. Something, somewhere will always go wrong. Hell, I can barely assemble a piece of Ikea furniture. I trip, I drop things, my balance is terrible, I make even the simplest solutions incredibly convoluted and itís all just completely UGH. If I ever get a job offer as a waiter for December 2012, I'll be sure to turn it down, because I think that is what the Mayans were referring to.
Strangely though, I do consider myself good at video games: Iíve even finished the original Ninja Gaiden and 100%ed Super Meat Boy. So apparently, I am still really skilled with my fingers. (Ladies.)

6. Letís Plays have recently taken up more of my time than actually playing games
Iíve made it a point in #2 that I work hard for my studies. This has been doubly the case in the last few months. Iíve been working on several important essays which really take up quite a bit of time. It doesnít help that academic works often take an half hour of research for writing one sentence. At the end of the day, when Iíve finished all of my work, I just canít bring myself to stay in front of my PC playing a video game. My other option is the Wii, which also isnít all that when youíre tired. So instead, I hook up my laptop to my TV, search through the Letís Play Archive, drop on the couch and watch away.
Iíve actually come into contact with many games that I wish I could play, but canít. I love Muramasa, for example, but I donít have the console to play its predecessor, Odinís Sphere. Letís Plays truly save the day here. Iíve even put a game on my ďmust play before I dieĒ-list, based on what Iíd seen in an LP. Iím hoping that once I have more free time on my hands I can go back to actually playing games again, especially my massive Steam backlog, but for now Iíll settle with a nice night on the couch watching a guy play Super Mario 64 with his feet.

7. When it comes to girls, Iím a walking friend zone
I like girls. That sounds like me trying desperately to convince myself that Iím not gay, but that truly isnít the case. I just so happen to really like talking to girls, more so than guys I would say. I pretty much have more girl-friends than guy-friends too. Only rarely do I meet a woman I dislike, especially if I get a chance to talk to her one-on-one. And it works too: I often get along quite well somehow, despite (or because of?) Iím somewhat overweight and havenít inherited anything like bbainís staggeringly awesome beard. I donít even do anything besides being me and being friendly (both of which I think you should always be regardless) but often it seems to click rather well.
As friends, that is.
For as good as I like to believe I am at generally being friendly and making friends, Iíve never been romantically involved with anyone. Iíve been in love several times for sure, but always ended up in the dreaded friend zone. And as it is written in the story of my life, my gift then instantly becomes my curse.

8. This one is blank
What did I tell you about living by my own rules!?

9. I am currently trying to memorize Edgar Allan Poeís ďThe RavenĒ
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door
ďĎTis some visitorĒ, I muttered, ďtapping at my chamber doorĒ
Only this, and nothing more.

Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.

Anyway, you get the point. The first time I read this poem I was absolutely stunned. Iím not much of a guy for literature, and poetry even less so, but I found The Raven to be just completely gorgeous in every way. I can recite the first 9 stanzas (out of 17) pretty consistently. The rest hasnít been that easy yet, since English isnít my first language and there are some pretty obscure words in there. Really now, ďQuaff, oh quaff this kind nepentheĒ? What does that even mean? The point being, I really liked it, and some of Poeís other works as well (be sure to recommend some!). My favorite part is, I think, where the Ravenís name is first asked:

10. Out of all of my friends, only one is a fulltime gamer
Itís true, unfortunately. I have a friend I share all of my gaming-related stuff with. Weíre on Steam together, host co-op sessions, et cetera. All of my other stuff I just saddle onto all of my other friends. They donít seem to mind. A lot of them have played some games in the past, so they can understand what it is that I do. And really, they are getting good at being interested/feigning interest when I talk about ďwhat Iíve been doing all weekĒ.
Still though, I wouldnít trade these guys and girls for the world, but it would be nice if I could get any of them to play Smash Bros with me.

11. Iím actually typing this using Dvorak for the first time
Okay, no Iím not. Thereís some potential in here for sure, but holy crap this is going to take a while to learn.

12. My dream is to become a judge for the European Court of Human Rights (or for a not-even-in-existence-yet Universal Court of Human Rights)
Talk about shooting for the stars, eh?
Nonetheless, Iíve been interested in the law for years and years, but during my actual studies in this field Iíve found that human rights are my true passion. They are, quite simply, the very things that allow us to live the lives that we do, and thatís something very special. Iím writing a thesis right now on whether or not access to the internet should be a human right (my supervisor wouldnít accept ďthe right to visit DestructoidĒ) and stuff like this is what I could see myself doing in god knows how many years. Seeing as how the European Court is the single most successful human rights court in existence that is really what I should be aiming for. I believe I'm getting a feeling for human rights and the law in general, and I'm willing to do all the work it takes, so I don't believe this is impossible in any way. Itís a long ways away, surely, but dreams bring out our full potential, do they not?

Besides, Xenoblade has made it to Europe, so apparently anything is possible.

Yes, that was a set-up just so I could use this picture.
Photo Photo Photo

I've never made it a secret: I love Nintendo. The Legend of Zelda is my favorite series of all time, Mario games are quite simply the best platformers around, and while I don't like the FPS all that much I gladly made an exception for Metroid Prime. I even fondly remember Nintendo's "B-series" such as Star Fox and F-zero. Off course, all of this also means that the Super Smash Bros. series is basically my dream come true, and I have indeed played all three of them to bits.

And yet...
And yet from the very first Smash Bros., there was one character that eluded me. One character I just couldn't quite place.

A character called Ness.

In the following years, I would learn that Ness was from a game called Earthbound, or alternatively, Mother 2. I would keep learning more and more about this character and his game. Earthbound was supposedly an RPG, and the other members of your party were apparently called Paula, Jeff and Poo. Finally, some thing called Giygas was the main antagonist, so I was told.
Until recently, I had left it at that.

However, just a couple of weeks ago I finally managed to find the time to start my own playthrough of Earthbound. I thought that this was way overdue, because based on everything that I had heard throughout the years, Earthbound was going to be right up my alley.

What I got was something that was certainly very interesting, but also one of the most frustrating games I have ever played. Now, before grabbing your pitchfork, please allow me to share my thoughts on this game below, as well as my ideas for simple improvements. Because for all the things wrong with it, there is still a very clever and unique game underneath.

Of Rowdy Mice and Men
The most fundamental shortcoming that this game has absolutely has to be the difficulty. Now, I'm not a person who shies away from difficult games. Throughout my gaming years I've beaten some of the most difficult platformers around, I've beaten Roguelikes with permadeath, and many a Bonus Boss has felt my wrath. Basically, if I tell my friends that I found a game "decently challenging", they interpret it as "this game is hard". When I tell them a game is "unfairly difficult", it translates to them as "avoid like the plague".
Egostroking aside, Earthbound often landed in the latter category for me.

A major example occurs right at the beginning of the game. Ness is tasked with finding the first (of eight) "Your Sanctuary" locations, which in this case is located at the other end of a cave. Unfortunately, this cave just so happens to be crawling with enemies called the Rowdy Mouse. These guys take about two or three hits from Ness' standard attack. This wouldn't be so bad in and of itself, but these mice have a nasty tendency to land critical SMAAAASH!! hits for major damage. In fact, they quite literally land a critical hit almost half the time, while Ness can only survive about three of them. And since you don't have any party members yet, prepare to take massive beating throughout this cave. Luckily, Ness has healing magic, and you can always use items (but will I come back to that later), but even this only gets you so far. You'll be completely worn out by the end of the cave, making you a sitting duck for the boss, who also packs a mean punch.
Really, the only way you can do halfway decently in this dungeon (which I would like to remind you, is the first one in the game), is if the enemies miss a lot, or are kind enough to waste their turns for you.

This man knows what he's talking about

That is not the mark of a good RPG. A good RPG should give you a decent chance to survive if you play it smart and come well prepared. Earthbound doesn't always act like it ever got that memo. To be fair, it gets a little better later on: you have more party members to share the damage, and you are more versatile in your methods of attack.
And yet even then there are still many, many enemies who serve no other purpose than to mess with you. There are lots and lots of creatures who would rather die than let you go without a fresh status ailment. They find it fun to make you "feel strange" (and not in the good way, wink wink nudge nudge) at the beginning of the fight, or make you catch a cold with just about a 100% success rate. Some of these ailments you can heal yourself, but this costs precious PP ("magic") which is relatively limited in this game. Others you can only get healed at a hospital in town, which is even more of a pain. At one point a mushroom-themed foe inflicted an ailment on me that reversed my controls, so I was desperately looking for the hospital while I kept moving in the wrong directions.

Really, there is only one real way to improve upon this, and that is to make the enemies do their regular attacks more often. Any time any enemy uses its special move, people die and controllers are thrown. However, regular attacks are far more survivable. I'm not against status ailments in games, off course not. And many moves in Earthbound fit their delightfully quirky source very well, so it would be a shame to get rid of them completely. But honestly, does that Gigantic Ant really have to poison me every single time I see it? This only serves to make the beginning of the game much harder than it needs to be, and continues to be incredibly annoying throughout the rest. Ness' adventure wouldn't be half as frustrating and twice as fair. So please, can we tone it down just a little? Pretty please?

And while you're at it, can we have more enemies like this?

"Poo, could you carry this for me?"
Another thing that really needs improving is the inventory system. Simply put, your inventory space in this game is much too limited. Earthbound handles its inventory similarly to Golden Sun: every character has a separate inventory which is quite limited in size. In this case however, "quite limited" means that every character can hold a total of 14 items. This includes equipment (four pieces for each character), and key items.
Furthermore, every duplicate item takes up a separate spot in your back-pack. So if you have two hamburgers, instead of one spot which reads "Hamburger x2", each hamburger has its own spot.
Finally, you can buy things like packets of ketchup, which you automatically use when you eat a hamburger or other such food item: they cause you to recover more HP. But off course, these also take up a spot in the inventory. Together, this ensures that your inventory is always full at the worst possible times, and I've had to drop more items than I'm willing to keep track of.

Like I said, this has a very simple solution: simply make the inventory bigger. Making the inventory shared would have my preference, because separate inventories always lead to more trouble than they're worth. This game is absolutely no exception. At the very least install a counter for duplicate items, and allow me to use the packets of ketchup on my hamburgers instead of keeping them around until I eat one.

Silence is golden
Earthbound is known, among others, for its clever and funny dialogue. Rarely will you see a game where talking to random villagers leads to such silly conversations. However, for all its well done NPC's, the main characters rarely say a word. In fact, pretty much all of Poo's dialogue can be summed up as: "Hello Ness, I am joining you." This is really a shame, because it makes you wonder what the developers could've come up with. As it stands, Paula and the others don't have much in the way of characterization, which is unfortunate.

Recent "parody-RPGs" like Cthulhu Saves the World and Penny Arcade Adventures show exactly what you can do when you create funny main characters and have them interact well with each other. With Earthbound being one of the first in this "genre" it is a bit of a missed opportunity here, because it also causes the characters to feel a bit more removed from everything that is happening.
This one is not so easily fixed however, because I can understand that writing good dialogue and create convincing characters can be difficult. However, based on the rest of the story, I think that this dev team could do a really good job.

"Fuzzy Pickles!"
Okay, photograph man? Yeah, you were funny the first time. The first time was 10 hours ago. Please get lost.

Look, if you interrupt my game one more time, I swear I will personally feed you to Pokey

But, the more things (should) change, the more they (should) stay the same
While the above are genuine criticisms that I have while playing Earthbound, I can't help but feel that I'm being a little hard on the game. Sure, less annoying enemies and a better item system would go a long way, but there is much that this game does right.
So the final improvement I would like to suggest for Earthbound 2: stay the way you are. Or become even weirder, if you want. What I'm saying is: "Go all out".

Because honestly, the weirdness and setting are what save this game. They're what's keeping it interesting throughout the experience. While the first part of the game wasn't all that, it quickly picked up after that. So far I've already encountered a hostile circus tent, a religious cult devoted to the color blue, a drug-fuelled version of a major city, a barely functional robot who happens to be a pretty though boss, lethal hieroglyphs, and much more of such silliness. Truth be told, I haven't finished the game yet, and according to word of mouth the ending takes a turn for the creepy (which I love, so bring it on!), but even right now I've already seen enough to justify playing this game.
The NPCs also stand out, from the aforementioned Blue-cult to the perpetually contract-burdened Runaway Five and even just some random people you find around town.
Special mention must also go to Pokey, who I think is actually a pretty effective villain for a game like this. Who better to be a major rival to a child than another child who finds all sorts of creative ways to hurt Ness and his friends?

Pictured: Pokey's biggest fan

So if there is one thing that a (direct) sequel to Earthbound must absolutely keep, it is the quirkiness that made it a cult classic in the first place. If anything, I think gamers could survive an Earthbound 2 that is even sillier than the original. Get some extra meta-jokes in there. Make the main characters funnier. Make me fight guys riding Penny-farthing bicycles who attack by falling on you. Actually, the developers are probably far better at this than I am, but you get the point. It is vital for Mother's survival that the weirdness stay in place, preferably at the center of the experience.
However, we shouldn't go so far as to sacrifice story-telling for being silly. The story that we already have is, at least so far, pretty basic, but it works. It functions as a sort of coat rack for the developers to hang all of their crazy ideas on to. This is something that in my opinion works particularly well and doesn't really need to change either. A little bit more depth might be nice, but nothing else is necessary. There's a nice balance here, and it would be a shame if that got disrupted.
All in all, this game is great at its core, and it would be fantastic of the developers could bring that to the surface even more.

And that sums up my feelings on my first playthrough of Earthbound. There is a great game in here, but unfortunately you have to dig through at times unfair difficulty and several other flaws to get to it. These are all things that I would've liked to see different in Earthbound. But for all the things that have to change, just as many have to stay the way they are, because this is still certainly an interesting and creative game.
Now, I must confess that I don't know if Mother 3 fixed any of these issues: maybe it has, maybe it hasn't. It hasn't been released outside Japan, so I can't really be sure.

Either way, it's safe to say that Earthbound is a game that I won't soon forget. Often for all the right reasons, but sometimes also for the wrong. If there was ever a Mother 2-2, besides breaking the space-time continuum, it could be one of the best RPGs ever made by virtue of its clever setting and story. However, it needs to take the above suggestions to heart to truly become all it can be.

Or alternatively we could just Earthbound-ify Chrono Trigger
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