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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

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!
Player Profile
Steam ID:http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198005145371/
Wii U code:ShadeOfLight
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(It's been much too long since I posted something here: I've been busy with my studies for a while now. And it turns out that trying to study while E3 is going on is really darn difficult. Who would've thought? :P Fortunately, I'm done for a bit, hence a new Cblog. This is a topic I wanted to write about for a while, since in a way it is 'where it all started'.)

Strategy Guides are really interesting things, and gamers seem to have many different opinions of them. Some people feel that using a strategy guide is almost an insult to their intelligence, while others follow a guide step by step because they simply don't like to get stuck. Finally, there are those who consider guides nice pieces of swag and little more. Personally, I tend to avoid them. I want to do as much as I can on my own, and I'll only use them if I'm completely out of ideas. Even then, I'm not likely to buy a guide, since I can find all the information I need on the internet. There was one exception though; there is a particular guide I owe a lot to.
(This will not be a sappy blog about how games have made me a better person, or anything like that. I'm not even sure whether or not that is the case, although I guess it might be. I'm sorry if that was what you were expecting)

Back when I was still a little ShadeOfLight, I wasn't much of a gamer. Some kids are practically born with controllers in their hands, but I simply wasn't. We didn't have a SNES, (or later, N64) and I hardly even knew what those things were. A friend later got an N64, but that didn't get much use either.
When I was about 7 or 8, I did receive a Game Boy (the original), and I played some licensed games on it. We got internet around this time as well, but since we paid per minute, my time was very limited. I could play some flash games (again, based on licensed crap), but that was it.
Yet, I can call myself a gamer nowadays, so something must have happened. And it did.

What happened was Pokémon Red.

The left one, which is blatantly better than Blue anyway

Like all kids at the time, I loved the Pokémon 'cartoon'. I watched it when it first aired (luckily, it got translated into Dutch), and was quickly hooked. I never missed an episode during the first couple of seasons. You can image my excitement when I heard that there would also be Pokémon games. Despite (and maybe even because of) the fact that I didn't know that the show was based on the games instead of the other way around, I really wanted to give it a shot. I already had a Game Boy, so it fit perfectly.
I received Pokémon Red as a present not too long after that. Interestingly enough, my parents had actually come across a special deal: buy the game, get the strategy guide for free.
Looking back, that was one hell of a lucky deal.

The Pokémon games are often seen as 'kiddy' experiences, as great games for children. But think of it this way: an 8-year-old kid who has never played a 'real' game, let alone an RPG, and doesn't even speak English, somehow has to figure out how these games work. I probably could've handled it if it had been a platformer, but RPGs really can be quite complicated. That even includes the Pokémon games.
I knew some of the core concepts from the show, but trying to figure out how to play the game can be quite difficult, especially if there is no one around to help. You have to figure out what you're supposed to be doing in the first place, how fights work, which attacks actually do something, how to catch Pokémon, how to use HMs on the overworld, how to not get slaughtered by gym leaders, etc. etc. etc. Sure, the game tries to teach you these things, but how much of a help is that when you can't read English and the game isn't translated?

This is where the Strategy Guide saved the day. The guide actually was translated, and it included basically everything I needed to know. It had maps of all the areas in the game and the routes I had to take, ensuring that I could never get lost and frustrated. It also had a incredibly handy table, which showed which types were effective against which Pokémon. This allowed me to actually stand a chance against the many trainers I would have to face. It had a list of Pokémon and it showed you where to catch them. (A nice touch: it also had a sticker of every Pokémon. There was room for a sticker next to every Pokémon on the list, so you could mark the ones you already owned)
Finally, a list of gym leaders really aided me with one of life's most important choices: "Which starter should I choose?" Bulbasaur would work well against the first 3 or 4 gyms, so that seemed like the smartest pick. Bulba/Ivy/Venusaur are still among my favorites.

You may have started as simply the practical choice, Bulbasaur, but you grew on me more than you know
(Get it? 'Grew'? What plants do?)

After faithfully naming my main character 'Ash' and the rival 'Gary', I went on my way with Bulbasaur and the guide by my side. It worked like a charm. I always knew what to do and how to do it.
Gym leaders fell one by one, Legendary Pokémon were caught (Zapdos was awesome), and the Elite Four was conquered. Mewtwo was added to the team by using the Master Ball, after the guide helpfully suggested that I save it for him. Finally, after many, many hours, it was done. 'All' 150 Pokémon were in my possession. At this point the Strategy Guide was literally falling apart because it had been used so much. But it was more than worth it. Safe to say, I loved the game throughout.

I really think that this guide was very important. Without it, there is a very good chance that I would not have been able to finish this game back then. I probably would've become too frustrated from not knowing what to do, that I would have given up by the time I got to the second town. I know this because I've seen kids around me trying to play Pokémon Black/White, without success. But with the guide, I was able to play through the entire game, loving it all the way. After that, I bought Pokémon Gold when it came out, and I became interested in many other sorts of games. At least now I had a notion of what such games wanted from me and how to play them. The fact that my English improved throughout the years (in fact, it improved even while I was playing Red) meant that I wasn't dependent on a guide anymore.

And in 2011, I'm a gamer telling the story of the Pokémon Red Strategy Guide on Destructoid. So in many ways, the Strategy Guide was what got me into gaming in the first place. When people ask me what my first game was, I answer Pokémon Red, because the others simply "don't count". Therefore, I think I can safely say that the guide changed my life, in a sense. And since I still love being a gamer, this is not something would like to change anytime soon.

Off course, I still have the guide in my possession. Here it is, in its current state:

This is the effectiveness table. It became outdated with the second generation of the series, but it was invaluable for the first

More or less a random page, it show how to get to Mewtwo and how to catch him, as well as some other stuff

Carry on being awesome, you three. Carry on
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Piracy has been a very hot topic these past few days, and I realize that I'm late to the party. However, that doesn't necessarily make my (counter)arguments any less valid. No, my illogical points and untrustworthy facts will do that just fine.

In all seriousness though, I am a bit bothered by the fact that piracy is often considered to be theft. And I mean not even 'similar to theft' but actual oldfashioned real 'theft'. Not only Jim Sterling has made this point on several occasions, pretty much every anti-piracy ad ever has included the line 'Pirating [X] is stealing!'
Below: the weirdest one I could find.

The irony in this? There's most likely a copyright on this ad as well. Uploading this on youtube is therefore also copyright infringement

However, the notion that piracy is theft is simply a false one. I fully understand why some people may feel this way, feel that it's the exact same thing, but that doesn't change the fact that it is untrue. This may be the law student in me speaking, but I also think that it's important to make that distinction. Piracy is not theft and therefore can't (and shouldn't) be treated in the same way.

Don't take this the wrong way though, I am not in any way saying that piracy is justified, for any reason, I'm only saying that it's not theft. And I'll tell you why I think this is important.

My reason is actually very simple. Accusing someone of something (s)he didn't do is simply not very effective. Imagine this situation, which may very well be the worst comparison you've ever seen (you're welcome): a 'stranger' walks up to a child and offers him an apple, the child takes it and the stranger simply walks away. You, the parent, see this happening. Now I ask you, what would happen if you went up to your kid and accuse him of stealing the apple? That's very easy, the child would simply say that he didn't steal anything and therefore did nothing wrong.
However, that was not the point. What the child did wrong was taking the apple from a stranger, since most will agree that you shouldn't take something from strangers just like that. This is where it goes wrong, because the next time a situation like this arises the child will have no problems with taking the apple again, since it still isn't stealing.
It would obviously be much more effective to tell the child that (while he didn't steal anything) he is not allowed to take something from strangers, and/or punish him for that. So, punishing him for something he did do wrong.

A similar thing is going on with piracy. Accuse pirates of stealing and they will respond with a simple justification: 'we're not stealing anything!' and continue on pirating. And they'd be right, more or less. In contrast, what we should do is condemn piracy...because it's piracy.

I hope you will agree with me that "You're pirating and pirating is wrong!" is a much stronger message than "By pirating you're actually stealing, even though you're not really!"

Still, I feel that I should give a short explanation on the difference between piracy and stealing, even though most of you have probably read about that by now.
The Criminal Code in my country defines theft as follows (translated): "the taking away of any goods which belong, as a whole or in part, to someone else, with the intention of obtaining these goods for oneself contrary to law."
While this is obviously not a universal definition, I think it sort of represents what we all understand to be stealing. So let's examine it for a while.
Two important parts of this definition are the word 'goods' and the phrase 'taking away'. Can data and information be considered a 'good'? Well, you could argue about that, but the court actually decided (in a case where an employee was taking company secrets by cutting/pasting them to an USB) that yes, yes it can.

More important is the phrase 'taking away'. You see, taking something is not inherently bad. If I obtain a new car, nobody will care. What makes it bad however, is if I obtain a new car by taking it from someone else. The core of theft is thus not my obtaining of an object, but the losing of it by the victim. Victimless crimes are rare, and theft is not one of them. Piracy is therefore evidently not the same as stealing, since there is no one who actually loses a particular 'good'.
A counterargument I've seen is that you're actually taking away revenue, money. I can fully understand where this idea comes from, as most people who pirate a game will consequently refrain from actually buying it. However, this is still a somewhat weak point, since the calculated lost revenue will be completely fictional. Not every person who pirates a game would've bought it if piracy hadn't been an option. Some people may download a file more than once, as it may not work the first time. There are all sorts of reasons to say that the number of pirates cannot be considered the same as the number of lost buyers of a game. As such, saying that by pirating you are actually stealing money is also highly questionable.

Which still doesn't mean that this doesn't apply

Does this mean that piracy is okay? No, it simply means that piracy should be treated differently than theft.

In this context, I would like to mention that piracy and using illegally downloaded games might actually be 'more illegal' than one would think. Copyright is the exclusive right of the creator of a work to copy and distribute said work (again, based on the definition found in my own legal system). Consequently, sharing the work, a game in our case, is an infringement of copyright since this is a form of distributing. Where it becomes more interesting is with the downloader. Obviously you create a copy when you download a game. Copyright infringement, that much is clear.
Additionally, since games usually require the user to agree with the EULA, the pirate will violate that 'contract' as well. The fact that nobody ever reads the blasted things doesn't mean that they're not binding on the user.

However, I'd like to go one step further. Think about what happens when you boot up the game. Your PC will automatically copy the files of the installation to your computer's memory. Since this could arguably also be considered a form of copying (as meant by the law concerning copyright), this would be a infringement of copyright as well.
Taken to it's logical extreme, this means that a pirate infringes on someones copyright every single time he even boots up the game.
The situation I describe here isn't even that far-fetched either. In fact, the courts in my country specifically decided that the above interpretation is correct. This doesn't mean very much to other countries, but it still shows that this interpretation could indeed be used and it even sets some kind of precedent. It might just be a matter of time before the courts of other countries come up with similar interpretations.

So in conclusion, piracy is bad. Big shocker, right?
However, piracy is not stealing, it's simply not. 'Stealing' implies that someone lost a particular item, which is not true for piracy. Still, piracy can be considered highly illegal. Not only is it illegal to download a game, thus creating a copy to your computer and infringing on the copyright of the creator, it might actually be illegal to even boot up a game obtained through downloading. Subsequently, a downloader may actually break the law an endless amount of times, simply by playing the game.
But while we have established that piracy is bad, calling it stealing might not simply be a question of terminology. By calling piracy something that it's not, we actually give pirates the perfect excuse on a silver platter. In my view, it would be much more effective to call piracy what it is and condemn it for exactly that.
So really, the core of my argument is this: We should not condemn piracy for being stealing, we should condemn piracy for being piracy.
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Well Destructoid, you finally did it. You just gave me the perfect excuse to talk about Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean for a while. I dropped many hints, even warned you, that I would be forced to shower praise upon that game as much as possible, should I be given the opportunity. And now with this Monthly Musing, that opportunity has finally come.
You see, Baten Kaitos is a 50+ hour Gamecube RPG, and I've played through it at the very least five times. It also had a prequel, Baten Kaitos Origins (I won't be going into any detail on that one in this blog), which I've played at least twice. Moreover, I intend to replay both of them again in the near future.

(I will try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but some might still slip in, so be aware of that from here on out)
But first things first: have you ever heard of Baten Kaitos? Chances are you haven't, since it doesn't seem to be such a well-known title...at all. However, if you don't know it yet, at least it will give me some nice open minds to convince of its greatness. So let's get started with my long, yet nowhere near complete, explanation of my love of and constant returns to Monolith Soft's wonderful world. Let's fly into the Belly of the Whale.

I would like to start with the setting of this game, the world that it attempts to bring to life, since that is one of the most important parts.
In ancient times, so goes the tale, there was a huge battle between man and the ancient god of destruction, Malpercio. Mankind was victorious, managing to kill Malpercio and seal him away. However, the battle had left the earth scarred and poisoned, making it practically uninhabitable. Therefore, a group of wizards decided to raise several large islands up in the sky, where the people could rebuild their lives. Fast-forward some thousand years, and people have adapted to life in the sky, even evolving wings to make life a bit easier.

So this is where the entire game takes place. For me, that alone is enough to make me come back to this game over and over again. As far as worlds go, Monolith was able to create one of the most interesting ones I have ever seen. What makes it even better is that every island has its own distinct look and feel. Even the people of each island seem to have their own kind of culture as well. For example, the island Diadem is known as the 'land of the clouds', since the entire island is covered with clouds. The inhabitants actually found a way to 'sail' on these clouds, and you will find many 'fishermen' in Diadem as a result. To name two more: Anuenue is known as the 'Rainbow Nation' and its people are pretty festive most of the time, and Mira is the 'City of Illusion'. The latter contains anything from a picture book-like village to a dimensional rift, so even that title is completely accurate.

What's also interesting is that the culture, background and personality of a person seems to also have influence on the wings of that person. One party member, Gibari, is one of those fishermen I mentioned, and his wings resemble those of a flying fish more than a bird. In contrast, Kalas' (see header) natural wing looks a lot more like that of an eagle. (Kalas was born with only one natural wing. The other is mechanical, made by his grandfather)
A final cool detail is that, in keeping with the 'sky'-theme, almost all of the islands and towns are named after stars. Mira and Diadem are two examples. In fact even 'Baten Kaitos' is a star, in the whale constellation, and the name is Arabic for 'belly of the whale'. I bet you were wondering when I'd finally explain that.
(The whale is actually also important to the story of the game, so even that has significance)

All of this combined makes for a very interesting, detailed and varied world, one that is still fun to explore even the fifth time around. It gets even better when it turns out that the five islands aren't the only things floating in the sky and that there may be other places to explore as well. But to say any more would border on spoilers, so let's quickly move on.

This is one of the five major islands that form the world of Baten Kaitos. Care to guess which one?

The story, then. The emperor of the island Alfard is after the so-called 'End Magnus' (more on magnus later), which hold the pieces of Malpercio. By bringing them together one could resurrect the god...which would be bad. Reluctant hero Kalas and not-so-reluctant heroine Xelha go out to stop him. You, the player, also have a role in this story: you take the role of a spirit which houses in Kalas, and which gives him advice and makes him stronger.
The story is kind of basic, explained like this, but it all works nicely and it includes some really cool plottwists. For example, this game takes the 'traitor in our party'-trope and turns it completely on its head. That twist (which I will not spoil) in particular had my jaw on the floor.
A reason for this is that the game did a really good job in making every party-member seem trustworthy. Even despite the fact that two of them had previous ties with the emperor and Alfard, I couldn't imagine any one of them turning out to be a traitor. Try the game to see how this all played out.

The rest of the story, sometimes basic and sometimes not, was always very able to keep my interest, even after I had already experienced it four times.
If you think the world and the story would be enough to make me revisit this game time and time again...you'd be completely right. But there's even more, obviously.

Off course, if the gameplay doesn't hold up, neither does the game.
In Baten Kaitos it all revolves around 'magnus'. Magnus are cards which are able to store the 'essence' of almost any object and spawn these objects when needed. This system is used for solving simple puzzles, but is most important for the battle system. In battle, you draw cards containing weapons to attack with. This means that there is a little bit of luck involved in battles (drawing the right cards at the right moments), but every player worth their wings can easily overcome this by finetuning the decks and using the cards well in battle.

The battle system gains some more depth by including up to four numbers (1 trough 9) on each card. Making poker-like combinations can consequentially greatly increase your damage output. But you have to be fast, since you only have a few seconds to choose each card. Besides that, some cards also have an element attached to them. Using cards of opposite elements in the same combo will make them cancel each other out. Therefore, the trick is making sure that your deck is well-suited to deal with the enemies at hand, and then quickly making the best possible combinations when your turn comes up.

I find that this battle system is a lot of fun to use. It keeps the player constantly involved by really calling upon the players quick eye, reflexes and above all quick thinking. It ensures that battles can never really become stale and don't become a chore. Toss in some truly awesome finishing moves, and you've got a system that's worth revisiting.

1-2-3-4? 4-4-8-8? Or hope for a 6 on the next card and try 3-4-5-6-7-8 for a huge bonus?

We come to the final parts of this blog. The last thing about Baten Kaitos that I really want to mention is its music. This game includes one of the best soundtracks for a game I have ever heard (as does the prequel) that is certainly worth checking out. Motoi Sakuraba, who also worked on Golden Sun and Tales of, did a simply amazing job.
From kick-ass guitar, to some really motivational tracks, to...whatever you would describe this as (from the prequel). There really are too many good tracks to mention (although tvtropes tried) and I once replayed this game just to hear the music once more in its proper context. I'm a pretty big video game OST fanatic, and the soundtrack to this game was the first step.

So, I think I have now mentioned the most important parts of Baten Kaitos, but I could surely go on (I honestly tried to keep it as short as possible). The game hosts many original and interesting ideas, and I love pretty much all of them.

In short though, in my opinion Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean is an underrated gem, known by way too few people. The world and story are great, the characters are interesting, the battle system is fun and engaging, and the music is awesome. All of this makes it one of my favorite games ever that I gladly revisit time and time again.

Now if anyone needs me, I'll be here gazing at the stars, looking for the Whale.
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Some games are instantly amazing, from the very first moment you enter their respective worlds. Others...may need a little help. And actually, you can give it that bit of help yourself. There's only one thing you need to do: find your Sanctuary Fortress.
That may sound a bit cryptic, so join me now, as I explain the Sanctuary Fortress effect and tell you how it can improve your perception of a game.

To explain this more effectively, let us first look at my own experiences. To do that, we fire up the DeLorean and travel back to Fall 2009, when Metroid Prime Trilogy was released.

I bought this (bloody awesome) collection because I loved both Prime 1 and 3. The control scheme in the latter was amazing and the original would surely benefit from it. I had never played Metroid Prime 2: Echoes before, which made the deal even sweeter. I had passed up on Echoes a few years prior, because reviews had informed me that it was 'more of the same', but somehow not quite as good as the first.

When I started playing it myself...I was unimpressed. I had some problems with the game, but the most important was that the areas I could explore were just not that interesting. In the original Prime, the first area you explored was called the Chozo Ruins. After that, you also went to the Magmoor Caverns filled with lava and to the iceworld, Phendrana Drifts. All them sound pretty interesting, and they certainly were. In Corruption, you went to the planet Elysia, which housed Sky Town, an entire city floating in the air. Are you feeling it? I was.

And then I played Echoes, and I could go and explore...the Agon Wastes.
...really? The wastes? How is that in any way something I would like to see? There's nothing there to even explore, as implied by the freaking title. Okay then, better luck next time. So next up was, Torvus Bog. Again, not really that impressive, it was sort of swamp...ish. I didn't even know what a 'bog' was, but according to Dictionary.com: "wet, spongy ground with soil composed mainly of decayed vegetable matter". Not that spectacular, right? Nope, not really. So again, there really was nothing interesting or special to explore here.
By then, I was almost ready to give up on the game. I figured I would beat it once and just leave it be afterwards.

And that's when this happened:

That, my friends, is the Sanctuary Fortress. It was the most visually interesting area in the game, the music was good, and had some nice challenging enemies. Not only did it instantly become my favorite part of Echoes, it became one of my favorite parts in the entire Trilogy, rivaling Phendrana and Sky Town.
I'll go one step further, I liked it enough that it pretty much saved the game by itself. No longer is Echoes simply 'the crappy one', it can now stand safely between the other two. I instantly became much more positive of this game, and I even noticed that throughout the rest of it. I started appreciating the details of the other areas much more, now that I knew how cool the details in the Fortress were. I noticed the hidden beauties of the Bog and even the Wastes seemed less...waste-y.

And that is what I would like to dub 'the Sanctuary Fortress effect'. It's when one part (any part) of the game is so good, that it lifts all the rest of the game to new heights. Heights it wouldn't have been able to reach otherwise. It doesn't mean that you considered the game bad before that part, though. It could be that a really good game gets even better because of specific parts.
Have you ever replayed a specific game simply because "then I'll get to experience [part X] again"?
That's the Sanctuary Fortress effect.

I'll give you another example. Psychonauts.

Now, Psychonauts is an interesting case. Because all of the levels are so completely different, there really is something for everyone. I think that every level is the Fortress for at least some people out there. However, the Milkman chapter (above) is often mentioned, and that's a good choice of you ask me. The Escher-esque design of the level, the entire conspiracy theory, and off course, the hilarious sewage workers/grieving widows/gardeners who are in no way government agents.

Okay, final one. Mirror's Edge.

Need I say more?
Not only was that part absolutely awesome in itself (it's even better when you actually experience it for yourself, by the way), it made me appreciate the rest of the game and its core concept much more. Every single jump from that point onwards seemed even better than they had before. A (even more) positive stance is very powerful.

This is really what I'm trying to convey, that many games have one or two parts that are simply amazing and lift the entire game to new heights. It doesn't even have to be a level, actually. It could also be a graphical style, a specific character, an interesting gameplay element, or maybe the music is simply so good that it lifts the entire game.

So when you're playing a game that is simply not that good or is somewhat disappointing, here's a tip. Have an open mind, take everything in by itself in separate parts and try to find the truly outstanding one, the part that is able to improve the entire game. In fact, even when the game is great already, find that part and be prepared to enjoy it even more. When you have nothing to do during the weekend or vacation, scan your mind for something like that and replay the game that it belongs to. Even (especially) if it's just to experience that specific part again.

In short, find the Sanctuary Fortress whenever you can.

(and finally, tell me of your own experiences with the Sanctuary Fortress effect in the comments!)
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Hello Destructoid, and thank you for buying your very own ShadeOfLight! Changing the price to 'free' was apparently a good choice, since sales have recently skyrocketed (relatively) and we have now sold exactly one. We of SoLcorp would like to add that we are very proud of this achievement.

We trust that you have had some experience already in dealing with this creature. However, we have also imagined that it could be helpful to get to know this being a little better. Therefore, we will provide you with some general tips on how to properly raise your new ShadeOfLight (or 'Peter' as it is sometimes known). We hope that you will have good experiences with your purchase and that you will have a fun, thought-provoking or just allround good time in raising and dealing with it.
(SoLcorp cannot be held responsible for any failure of the ShadeOfLight to meet such standards)


Tips on how to raise your new ShadeOfLight:

1) Be aware that this creature is unapologetically Dutch. Make of that what you will.
1a) As it is also often considered a law student, there is no harm in asking it for a legal discussion. However, it has a tendency to start talking out of its ass, desperately trying to make sense. When this happens, never take anything it says on its word. Keep grains of salt nearby.

2) Please be advised that the ShadeOfLight is very much a gaming creature. You would do well to make sure that it always has enough games to play. Consequently, you will also always have something to talk about.
2a) The creature tends to prefer games by Nintendo to others. While it may not be as familiar with games that are only available on the Xbox 360 or PS3, it usually tries to keep track of everything and while it will always be aware that it is not in the perfect position to discuss these games, it feels that it often has enough information (gained from others) to form at least some sort of opinion.
2b) Favorite genres of the ShadeOfLight include platformers (see the above point) and RPGs. Talking about such genres will thus surely keep its interest and might spark some nice discussion.
2c) Please be cautious when mentioning the game Baten Kaitos to it. The creature seems to have a sort of obsession with that game; it will be very able to talk about it for the rest of the day. Be prepared for this. This also applies to Xenoblade (see below) by the same developers: it will not pass up the chance to mention that game, or how much it wishes that this would come to Europe.
2d) In contrast, it usually displays little interest in First Person Shooters. The ShadeOfLight has enjoyed some FPSes in the past, but only very rarely. Therefore, we do not recommend giving it a random FPS on pure chance.
2e) Similarly, it does not seem to like Real Time Strategy games. It has been unable to like any RTS besides the recently released Aurora, which is a very stripped down version, so might not even count. Not even the Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-Earth games were able to bring any change to that, despite the fact that the ShadeOfLight considers itself a LotR fan.
Smarter would be to provide it with a Turn Based Strategy game, since it does appreciate those, strangely. Fire Emblem is recommended.

We have yet to find a way to get the creature to shut up about Xenoblade. Not showing it a picture such as this is a good place to start, however.

3) This being is a fan of almost anything fantasy. The Wheel of Time series is a good choice.
3a) Please remember that this does not apply to Harry Potter, as the ShadeOfLight finds that, quote: "the magic in Harry Potter is just incredibly lame!" and that "Gandalf, Rand Al'thor and Dr. Strange could kick Potter's ass with their eyes closed". A valid point, we must admit.

4) When on the subject of music, you would do well to keep anything rap or r&b away from this creature. It will instantly rage upon hearing the words 'nigga', 'bitches' or 'ho's' when used without a trace of irony. Make sure that creators of such works are at a safe distance when this happens, since it will want to strangle them.
4a) Instead, soundtracks of video games are always a good option. If the soundtrack belongs to a game that it has already played, even better. You can never go wrong with the soundtrack to Baten Kaitos, but please remain aware of tip 2c.

5) Contrary to popular belief, it is perfectly safe to pour water on a ShadeOfLight, or to feed it after midnight.


Thank you for reading these guidelines and for your attention. We of SoLcorp trust that you have learned something about the interests and disinterests of the ShadeOfLight by reading this. We hope you will have a worthwhile experience with it and that it will add something with at least some sort of quality to the site.
We would finally like to say that this was in no way an attempt to write an introduction (a couple of weeks after it would make sense to post it) to the cbloggers written in a 'unique' (read: weird) style to attract some attention and justify it being on the cBlog list in the first place. That is simply not the case at all. Really.

Have you ever had a game that you thought was really, really bad? It frustrated you to no end: maybe the controls were bad, maybe the story sucked, or something else was wrong. Yet, you continued to play it and actually enjoyed it. You haven't? Well, I hadn't either, and that's exactly why Mr. Robot, the indie adventure/puzzle/RPG by Moonpod, confuses me so much. I...did not find it very good. I just didn't. I had several major problems with the game, that served to frustrate me incredibly, and yet...I went back to it every time and I completely finished it after a while. My final thoughts were something like: "Pretty interesting game, I liked it!", and it baffled me that I thought that.
So let me now gather my thoughts and try to figure out for everyone who cares just what the deal is with this game.

Meet our main character, Asimov

First of all, lets start by explaining how I actually got this game, as most people probably have never heard of it before. As you may know, a couple of weeks ago, Steam held a holiday sale. Several packs of indie games were available. I bought the so-called 'Adventure Pack' because it included Gish and And Yet it Moves (seriously, get AYIM, it's great). The other three games, including Mr. Robot, I considered 'bonus'. And that's how I started playing Mr. Robot, and it didn't take me long to find some serious flaws...

Most importantly, this game is hell to play using a keyboard. You are looking down on the game from above from an isometric perspective, so the 'camera' is located at an diagonal angle. This means that the character will never actually move the way you want him to. Push the Up-key, and your character will move up-and-left diagonally, push Left and he will move down-and-left. You are able to move your character in a straight horizontal or vertical line by pressing two keys, but this looks and feels very awkward and sometimes doesn't even work properly. Normally, this would just be an annoyance, but not a deal-breaker. However, Mr. Robot includes jumping puzzles and other platforming elements. Safe to say, the weird camera angle does not help in overcoming these obstacles and I died a great many times simply because of the controls. Maybe it is better with a gamepad, but I don't have one available, so I was stuck with this.

It is difficult to explain the situation in words, so maybe this in-game pic will clear it up a bit

Secondly, the characters and objects in this game have a really weird 'hitbox'. It's kind of like the old NES titles, were you could float in the air as long as one pixel of your character was still on a platform. The same works here. If the very edge of your character is still located on the very edge of a platform, you will not fall off and just float there. The game even requires this from the player at some points. Some gaps are just barely wide enough to jump across, but only if you wait until the very last moment, when your character is already 'floating'. This hitbox is also present when pushing blocks. If the very edge of your character touches the very edge of a block, you will (almost telekinetically) push it. This can get really annoying because the game contains so many block pushing puzzles. You can easily screw up the puzzles because the game interprets you as pushing a block when you actually meant to just walk past it. Combine that with the controls as described above and well...good times it's not.

My final complaint (that I will mention) is that the RPG battles can be pretty boring. You can hack computers and other robots in this game, which will shift the game into an RPG with turn-based battles. These battles take way longer than they need to because the enemies guard nearly every attack you send at them. It happened often that I wasted two turns and did no damage at all, because every attack was blocked. Luckily, your characters also block nearly everything, so there is not even any need to worry about death during these sections. If everyone would block less, these battles would go much faster and be far less boring.

Okay, so let us talk happy now

Looking at the above paragraphs, I really should hate this game. It has several fundamental shortcomings that really frustrated me more than once. And yet, I can't hate it, I just can't. In fact, I can safely say that I liked it.
The story, setting and atmosphere is what saved it above everything else.

First of all, this game is simply a love letter to everything Science Fiction. In the first five minutes of the game, I saw at least five references to other important works and series, and I'm not even the biggest sci-fi geek around. As I mentioned, the main character himself is called Asimov. The main computer aboard the spaceship where the story takes place is called the HEL-9000, and the avatar HEL uses when communicating with the other characters looks really similar to the Autobot logo. (see HEL below)
But most interesting of all: There is a character called Zelda. At first glance that seems like a strange reference in a sci-fi game, until you realize, and this blew my mind when I remembered, that a robot called 'Adam Link' was the main character in the short story I, Robot by Eando Binder, and indeed Mr. Robot borrows some themes from that.

HEL's avatar, mocking you, on the left

Besides all of these references, which alone already make sure I can't in good conscience hate this game, the setting and story just work. The story takes place on a spaceship, where the humans are all in a state of hibernation, leaving the robots to run the ship until they arrive at the planet Prime (hello, reference #5). One robot takes over the ship and threatens to kill all the humans, so it is up to Asimov to stop him. You then puzzle and hack your way trough to game to stop the evil robot. It's a simple story, but it works. It even has some interesting plottwist at several points, which is not something I expected out of it, but greatly appreciated. The credits are another thing I will mention. I won't spoil it, but Mr. Robot contains one of the most clever credits scenes I have ever seen in a game.

However, throughout the story the robots become increasingly 'human' and this, right here, is exactly what changed my mind about this game once and for all. The game completely nails that theme.
The more human the robots become throughout their hardships, the more you start caring about them as characters. Asimov and Zelda in particular are really interesting to watch and follow, as they figure out who or what they are and what they want to be. The term 'permanent deletion' started to sound much more sinister, even moreso than 'death' does in other games. Not only do the personalities of the characters develop over time, during the game they actually completely gain a personality they never had. This is what made me come back to this game time and time again, even though I realized I would again get frustrated by the controls at some point. My anger and frustration just wasn't as strong as my interest in these characters, the story, and the other clever stuff the game has going for it. It's really a bad game from the gameplay side of things, I can't deny that, but I still can't help liking it. It's simply too interesting not to.

I hope I have been able to explain my own confusion and feelings on this game. One thing I do know is that I understand it better myself after writing this. So if you want to remember what it's like to actually care about the characters in an RPG, find yourself on a ship populated by robots and try your hand at some interesting block-puzzles in the meantime, try Mr. Robot, but prepare to be frustrated often as well.

In the end, I just found myself caring about all of these robots, even the unnamed ones in the background, much more than I usually care about the humans in other recent games.
And I think that, above all, is what the game was going for. If so, to Moonpod itself, but also to Asimov, Zelda and the others: DIRECTIVE COMPLETE: INITIATING PRAISE.
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