Oh hai! I'm Reuel Santiago 20 years of age (turning 21 this July) and I live in the Philippines.
Currently, I'm studying at MIT (that's Mapua Institute of technology), the premier engineering school in the country. After 4 agonizing years, I'm finally at the homestretch, with only 11 unit remaining.
I don't own any current-gen consoles. It sucks, but MMO's and the occassional overnight binges of DotA are enough to sate my gaming hunger.
I love RPG's though. It all started with FFVIII (I have long since matured, and don't look back at VIII with the same fond memories I have of IX). As you can tell, I have a fondness for JRPG's and clicky games (Diablo II before my older PC broke down on me).
I might also get weaboo tendencies and declare my love for Japan on random instances, but that probably stems from my love of girls in tiny skirts and uniforms... I'm also into anime and manga, but not by much at the moment. I'm too busy balancing school, games and other stuff.
So there, I might edit this come July 12th, and remove parts of the first paragraph. GLHF!!!
I happened to think about this as I was watching my brother play DotA online. There he was, minding his own business when some guy from the other team started talking trash. He ignored it at first, thinking that it was some scrub who's getting a rare win (letting him bask in the glory). Later in the game, when it became apparent he wasn't a scrub and knew what he was doing, it hit me: there is no such thing as losing/winning gracefully in the online arena.
This transcends game and race. As long as it's ever-so-slightly competitive, it's guaranteed to bring out the worst in anyone who's playing. Speaking from experience, people who lose/win gracefully are in the definite minority.
Good luck getting to that screen with all players still in the game.
When someone's soundly trouncing the other team, for sure they will go out of their way to tell the other team that they're not worth their time, at best. At worst the other team will be called out on their lack of experience/skill and be called a waste of skin. On the other end of the spectrum, there's the ragers. Guys who quit without finishing the game just because they're being beaten, fairly. At best they'll just call it a day and quit, at worst they'll accuse you of cheating before quitting. And don't even try to get me started on the one guy who thinks he's teh l33tz who blames his team for losing because of his Rambo tactics.
I may be pointing out the obvious, but I ask thee,fellow Dtioders: Is there still hope for us all? or are we stuck with a dark future filled with 12 year olds who suddenly discovered swearing? Is it really that important to keep a hard e-Peen?
Before I owned my PSOne, I always went to my cousin's place for my videogame fix. He had an SNES, and with it, he had Mario Kart. Suffice to say, a lot of rainy weekends passed while red shells flew. It was wicked fun when there are a lot of people. It got real intense in "Change the Loser" scenarios which brought out the competitive maniac in everyone. Luckily, Naughty Dog took this solid foundation, threw in Sony's mascot and his friends, and added a ton of stuff to make it a game all its own.
Crash Team Racing combined Bandicoots and go-karts, with the end result being a fantastic take on the overcrowded mascot racer genre. This all started with Mario Kart, and after it, a lot of immitators popped up like mushrooms, trying their best to capture what made Mario Kart so magical. Most of them failed. While not totally unplayable, some elements are suspect enough that you'll have the nagging "Mario Kart did all this before and much better" thought at the back of your head. Playing CTR, that thought never once crossed my mind.
The game featured all your standard go-kart game modes. A single player mode, various multiplayer race types and a Battle Mode. The single player mode is a story mode of sorts, which has you selecting a character at the beginning and going through a series of races and challenges, in a bid to get to 100% completion. It's a bit on the bland side, but overall, it's a great mode that teaches you the game mechanics at a good pace while letting you polish your skills in the most devious of challenges.
The powerslide is the biggest skill one should master. When powersliding, the exhaust of your kart will start to smoke. When it turns black, that's your cue to press the trigger and do a slide boost. You can do this three consecutive times. This is the skill you'll be using early and often, since it allows you to retain speed while turning without relying on items.
Speaking of characters, there are a lot on offer here. If it appeared on any previous Crash game, chances are, they'll be here. Heck, even the animals that Crash and CoCo rode (polar bear in Crash 2 and Tiger in Crash 3, respectively) are accounted for. They also possess different stats (Acceleration, Top Speed and Cornering) that don't matter much, because it's all skill-based in the end.
Like any good party game, the single player mode readies you to eviscerate people in the meat and potatoes of the game: the multiplayer.
The multiplayer racing is a frantic battle for first place. It's you against one (or three) other people, racing around ingeniously designed tracks while firing homing missiles and flattening each other senseless. The power ups take their cue from Mario Kart, but the gameplay is fun enough that it won't matter. By the end of the day your group would be exhausted from all those missiles fired, fiendishly placed nitro boxes (Protip: drop them in the power-up crates and surprise a hapless victim). As I played this with my friends, much trash was talked, then more trash was talked when it came time for vindication.
Battle mode is another multiplayer mode, but I didn't play that all too much. In it, you and your enemies are placed inside an enclosed arena. You are given three balloons, which explodes if you get hit. You lose if you have no more balloons remaining. It's a great distraction, but when the racing is so damn fun, there's a big chance this mode will be neglected.
The comparisons between CTR and Mario Kart are unavoidable. However, CTR stands out in a sea of me-too immitators through sheer charm and solid gameplay mechanics. Also, this was the last Crash game Naughty Dog developed (the franchise was bought by Universal after this, which was responsible for the subpar Mario Party knockoff, Crash Bash). If you can track it, play it with friends. It's a good time, guaranteed.
God of War 2, one of the swan songs of the Playstation 2, starts of with a bang and never lets up until the sequel-hook finale. It showed Kratos cutting down a swathe of bodies of old Mythological figures and an Olympian along the way.
So you've played through Normal, or maybe even the Hard difficulty, and beat the game. I bet you're feeling real good with your accomplishment. Now you think you're ready to tackle the hardest difficulty of the game: Titan. This difficulty level is an unlockable for a reason: you'll need a good grasp of the game mechanics in order to even stand a chance of beating the very first boss. And by first boss, I meant the Colossus of Rhodes, the very first encounter in the game.
Titan mode basically stacks the odds against you: Orbs are worth less than normal (you only get 75% of their normal value), which means health, magic and upgrades are at a premium. You deal less damage, which means enemies take longer to kill, compunded by the fact that enemies are tougher and more agressive making them even tougher, and they are harder to stagger. Your durability is reduced, making you take more damage as is on top of the enemies dealing more damage. A simple footsoldier in Normal is more than enough to tear you to shreds in Titan. If there was a silver lining to all these, it's the fact that enemies deal more damage when they're used as projectiles.
In this difficulty, the whole game turns into one big chokepoint, where a combination of skill and luck would be required to get you past most of the areas that gave you problems in your first play through. Normally, these situations are boss fights in other games, but what I will describe is one scripted event that I haven't beaten to this day (two years and counting) : Protect the Translator, Part 1. This was the one event that made me feel inadequate.
Kratos is not amused.
Basically, the event is a three-step set piece, which trigger depending on how far you've carried the translator. The translator has his own health, and it's Fission Mailed if he dies, forcing you to restart the whole thing all over again. The first part starts once you get out of the door. A couple of dogs and soldiers are spawned and attacks you. So get to defending. Kick the dogs to the soldiers to finish quickly. The next wave starts once you get further into the bridge. Two waves A ninja Satyr and two soldiers will respawn. Dispatch them, though its easier said than done. Because of my lack of skill, I had to resort to using a glitch to get past the first two set pieces without a scratch, and trust me, you'll need all the help you can get for the third and last set piece.
The last stage of this whole ordeal starts when you reach the chamber where the book you want translated is, in the first place. You are now tasked at protecting the translator, who rushes to the center of the chamber, until all enemies are killed. This part spawns a heckuva lot of dogs and soldiers, in addition to three priests. Once you kill the first priest, two more will spawn. To illustrate why those priests are damn dangerous, here is a list of its abilities:
Teleport all around the place Fire Homing Projectiles Fire homing projectiles that don't damage, but glue you to the floor, making you unable to attack or defend Melee combo that deals massive damage Drain your magic SUMMON MINOTAURS
It is here that your target prioritizing skills are shot. Since you need to defend the translator, you're gonna have to go out of your way in order to kill the priests, because once they're dead, that's the time when all the other enemies stop spawning. So the Translator is in the center of the room, while the Priests are on the edges. If you go to kill the priest, the other enemies might kill the translator. This means you have to be quick (easier said than done). Once an enemy is airborne, he is counted as a projectile you launched. Remember the silver lining? You kick dogs for massive damage or launch a few enemies in the air. This works against you here. See, the room is filled with enemies, and kicking dogs select targets at random (though you have minor control over it, as the game picks enemies that are in front of you), if your target happens to be behind the translator, then kiss this part good bye, because you're gonna have to start all over again. Suffice to say, you're gonna have to use all of your Godslaying skills to finish this. It won't even matter if it's a decisive victory, what's important is you finished one of the biggest hurdles in Titan Mode, a feat that I am yet to accomplish.
This guy makes it look easy. No upgrades (even on health/magic) on Titan.
Now what happens after that gauntlet? You walk up to the translator, have him read the book, then kill him. Turns out that the blood of the translator is necessary to get closer to the Sisters of Fate (your overall mission). Kinda makes you wonder what the classifieds looked like when they were looking for people for this job. At least the second Translator was more of a puzzle, so you don't have to go through this nonsense.
I'm starting to believe that this is a metaphor for the futility of one's actions, in addition to making me feel depressed that I lacked "mad skeelz". Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna cry in a corner now.
[over on The Escapist, a video (a full movie at that) is posted for the movie: Second Skin. It chronicles the lives of a few MMO-obsessives, and shows them dealing with sudden changes in their lives. You can watch it here if you're American or here, if you're not.]*
If there was a group that took the most flak from people who don't play games, it would be the MMO gamers. Being a gamer in a society where games are deemed as "for kids" is bad enough, but being an MMO gamer will bring you a whole 'nother level of suck. The typical stereotype would be that you are glued infront of the computer monitor, day in and day out, playing your drug of choice, only pausing for the odd call of nature or meal. And while this stereotype is true for certain people, what we forget is that, like us, they are also gamers.
Try as we might, deconstructing the genre to find just what is it about it that lures people in, we can't seem to find a definitive answer.
This is where Second Skin comes in. It helps paint a better picture of MMO gamers and their world. The film is a documentary about a few people who played MMO's. There are people whose online love-affair crosses over to the real world. There are people who formed groups with other MMO gamers, and their level of camaraderie is greater than what they could have formed in the real world. It also chronicles the journey of a hopelessly addicted WoW player. There are a lot more, and I'd probably waste a lot of time trying to list them all. Face it, if there was a shortcut to obtaining that gear you've wanted, you'd most likely take it.
Other than the people, it also gives insight on MMO's as a social phenomenon. The viewer is served different statistics on certain things within the MMO community (surprise, surprise, one in three females are actually in an online relationship). It also tackled the 'sensitive' issue of gold farmers for WoW in China. If there was one thing in the movie that illuminates the reason why people opt for RMT (Real Money Trading), it's stated quite definitively here. A designer for Dark Age of Camelot summarizes that virtual items have no intrinsic value. When you trade for items using real-world dollars, what you pay for is the time necessary for one to obtain such an item. This puts a new meaning to the phrase "MMO's are a time investment".
I highly recommend this documentary. MMO gamers will be easily able to relate, as most of the subjects tackled hit close to home and other gamers and non-gamers alike will gain valuable insight to this phenomenon.
* the video will only be legally available for streaming until the 13th, so you have until then to watch it without thinking of the moral conundrums that is streaming movies off the net.
Shmups. Blowing stuff up while flying around in improbable locales, for even more improbable reasons hold a certain appeal for people. There's just something cathartic to seeing those pretty explosions. It's also one of the most Zen-inducing game types out there, requiring a lot of finesse in controlling your craft. You have to make it an extension of your soul, so that not even one stray missile will hit your aircraft.
Way back in the late 90's Squaresoft (they're not Square-Enix just yet) released one of the finest shmups of that era: Einhander.
Unlike most shmups, there is a sort of a story going on in the background, which is made apparent by the very first FMV that you see before the title screen. There's a war going on between the Earth and the Moon. As a lone wolf from the Moon, you are tasked to infiltrate and destroy key installations of the Earth forces. But is that all there is to it?
Don't think too much of the implications of the story, this is a shmup, after all, and the most important thing would be blowing stuff up in the most beautiful ways.
The game is a side-scrolling shooter a-la Gradius, but without enemies coming in from the left. It also featured a great gimmick when it comes to powerups. Instead of collecting random doodads that somehow make your projectiles stronger, it had Gunpods. These Gunpods are the weapons of your vanquished enemies. Once you kill an enemy holding a Gunpod, that weapon is yours for the taking (so it's less 'thief' and more 'pillaging'). There are a lot of different Gunpods, and the game keeps track of what you already obtained, so you can use them on another playthrough. There are three ships (initially) to choose from, and each one has different playstyles to them. It also featured variable speed, but I didn't use that one too much.
Then we get to the Boss battles. They look very menacing, and that makes it that much more satisfying once you see its appropriately spectacular death animation/explosions. Each boss has its own different attack patterns you would have to exploit if you want to stand a chance (though getting better Gunpods works as well).The game grades you after each boss fight, and while you would normally want to kill the boss as quickly as possible for a better grade, methodically destroying parts of the bosses will sometimes lead to special battle situations, which would almost always lead to a secret Gunpod. So, ultimately, there is not one "correct" way to take down a boss, as they usually sport different parts that affect how you fight them when destroyed (you may see a weapon installation and destroy it, only to have the boss pull out BIGGER guns).
To illustrate my point about the bosses, take a look at that video. That boss can be taken down in four seconds (one second to kill, three seconds for the death animation and kaboom), if you had the right Gunpod for the job (a fully-charged Riot / Flash) and knew where to target it so the "head" can be blown off in one shot by piercing through the armor. However, taking your time and destroying the boss piece by piece works just as well, because, it doesn't really matter how long it took, as long as it's the other guy that's smithereens.
The graphics are great for its time, and while it does suffer from slow down, it only happens at some very hectic firefights. This can be a good thing or a bad thing; you might appreciate the slow down because you can see clearly what's happening or you won't because the precision on the controls are a little shot. The way the game changes camera angles for certain events are also certainly a nice touch.
The soundtrack for this game is awesome. The first two level's boss themes are amongst the most memorable I've ever heard. Every explosion goes of with the appropriate "boom" and the sounds on the higher-ended Gunpod are decidedly high-tech sounding. It's one of the rare games that I could recall where there is no piece of music that is out of place.
All in all, Einhander is one of those games where the final product is more than the sum of its parts. Everything in it just melds with each other so beautifully that you won't even notice that you've been trying for the umphteenth time to beat that one boss, and it's already four in the morning.
When I was a wee little lad, I've had a fascination with Dragon Ball and video games. More like a fascination along the lines of "wouldn't it be great to play out this battle in video game form?" Dragon Ball GT was shit, and the last DBZ game I played with any semblance of being good was that fighting game for my cousin's SNES. Then, Destrega came.
Way back at around 1998, Koei released a little fighting game known as Destrega. It's premise is simple: two fighters are inside an enclosed arena, firing projectiles at each other with the sole intent of reducing the other's HP to zero.
The gameplay is also quite simple. Each of the face buttons are assigned an attack, plus a jump button. Square releases a fast attack, Triangle releases Power (strong) shots and Circle releases homing missiles. X is your jump button. There is a constantly recharging bar underneath your health bar, which denotes how many attacks you can pull off. Each attack has a very small delay time, so that combination presses could be accommodated. At a full bar, you are restricted to three button presses. Pressing each attack button once in any sequence results in your character firing off the biggest and baddest powers he or she can muster. When the combatants get near each other, the game switches into melee mode, which turns your energy bar red.
In its story mode, it had some rather nasty cutscenes. Nasty, because they're unskippable, and if you're like me, you can't be arsed to watch a bunch of polygons spouting gibberish (my copy was Japanese) before going on another epic battle. It was also unheard of at the time, since only RPG's has such a gameplay feature.
Success lies in clever usage of powers and creative dodging. You can't stay still in this game. Every time you try to attack, you leave yourself exposed and defenseless, so you have to make each attack count.
It was a very fun game to play with friends, as trashtalk flies if someone gets hit from a rather large attack. If you can track this down, give it a whirl. It's a surprisingly fun (if rather simplistic) game.