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About
I'm a gamer, anime fan, and writer spearheading "Kiss Me Sweet", a initiative pushing to get Sakura Wars 1-4 brought to North America on the PC via digital distribution.

I also run a blog called Atlanta Fried Critic where I try to be funny and mostly fail, and I published a book about serial killers, forbidden romance, and annoying Game Boy Music called "Twisted Complex: A Love Story."

So yeah. Nice to meet you.
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April 21st, 2007. I go to bed in my clothes and shoes, ready to wake up the next morning. Little thirteen year-old me is giddy with excitement over waiting in front of GameStop the next morning. Why? Because of Pokemon, of course. The fourth generation was at hand, and according to reviews, the series was better than ever. So I got a ride to the store from my generous mother, ready to play the hell out of both versions. With my collectible styluses in hand, I sank untold amounts of hours into those games, much like I did with the first and second generations. 

A similar thing happened with the fifth generation. This time, though, I only bought one version. After all, I couldn't possibly finish both games, what with high school, and other games, and other commitments. I knew people who had the other version, so I'd just trade with them, right? Fast-forward to college, and the fifth-gen sequels come out. I put a few hours into a version, then never touch it again. Now, with the sixth generation here, I've been enjoying myself, for sure, but I'm coming to realize something now, more than ever. 

Pokemon, at its heart, is a game for children. It is training wheels for broader gaming experiences, and while still very well-made games, they are ultimately not fulfilling enough to sustain my interest. Here are some reasons why.



There's Very Little Actual Challenge 

When I was a kid, battling the Elite Four was a terrifying proposition. I scrambled to make sure my party was leveled up enough, but still made sure that I had enough room for my favorites. I wasn't going abandon my starter, or my cool-looking one, or my cute one. Somehow, in the end, I always managed to push my way through with my favorites in tow. That was on top of pushing through challenging trainers, caves infested with wild beasts, and other obstacles. In recent years, however, I've begun to realize something about the game. There is a set formula for blazing through the narrative, and once you learn it, there ends up being very little fun to be had. Make sure you have the right types, stay a level or two above the trainers you encounter, about five to ten levels above most wild Pokemon, and at the same level as the gym leaders. Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat. Any challenge to be had relies on nothing more than pure chance, like a leader getting consecutive critical hits or something like that. The difficulty is artificial, and the formula is way too simplistic to keep my interest. 



The Story Is Rudimentary At Best

Hunting down the legendary Pokemon, bringing down the evil group attempting to control the world, meeting the eclectic characters... these were the staples of my childhood experiences in this franchise. Every entry made me so excited to do all of this, and much, much more. But with each entry's increasing emphasis on plot and characters, I'm starting to see something that should have painfully clear from the very beginning: these stories have never been very good. The characters are pretty one-dimensional at best, the villains are superficial, the legendaries no longer all that special. Basic narrative devices stay unchanged despite the addition of new elements that fans claim to be "darker" and "edgier." Reviews and casual players alike have commented on how the story has been getting better with each entry, but honestly? The narrative is still pretty shallow when held in comparison to other RPGs out there, with characters that are more complex, worlds that are more fun to explore, monsters that are more fun to catch. Sure, it's still addictive, but is it very good? In terms of gameplay and fun, yes. In terms of narrative and intrigue, not particularly.



What's The Point In Catching Them ALL, really?

It's right there on the package. "Catch 'Em All!", the print ecstatically demands. There was a time, yes, where I really cared about doing that. But when I look at a Pokemon that's a split-open garbage bag, an ice cream cone, a panda, a sapling... well, I start questioning just why I'd want to catch them. Sure, there are Pokemon that I like, and love raising and discovering their abilities, but honestly, there are more of them that I think are flatout stupid. It doesn't matter what I personally feel, according to series fans, just catch them and hoard them, give them to other people. But what's the point in using my time that way? I'm sinking several dozens of hours of my life to catch little in-game creatures that, bluntly, I couldn't give two damns about. It's not like I can do anything with these little beasts that I don't care about. Trading is an option, but eventually, I can only trade so much. It gets to a point where I realize that I'm becoming the virtual equivalent of a hoarder. I'm not really into the story, or the world, or the characters, and I don't have any attachment to what I'm collecting, yet I press on. For what? And really, that's the question: what am I getting out of this? 



It's Always Been Shin Megami Tensei For Kids

Around the same time I got my hands on the fourth generation of Pokemon, a friend at GameStop set aside a rare game for me that he thought I might enjoy. I'd vaguely heard of it, and so I decided to give it a shot. What I found was an intriguing plot, fantastic characters, an imaginative setting, an excellent amount of challenge. Not only that, but it also had a monster collecting element (just like Pokemon, right?!) that was deeper, allowed combination, encouraged experimentation, and taught me how to let go of attachment. That game was Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army, and it was my induction to the MegaTen franchise. Later on, I realized that Atlus had created the same thing Pokemon popularized, but better and with more complexity. With characters that had real depth, and stories that actually meant something. Furthermore, it was never the same thing regurgitated with each new entry. MegaTen's influence can be seen in Pokemon X/Y, even. The increased focus on a cast of young teens, and the friendship that builds between them, reeks of Persona 4; the horde battles are ripped wholesale from Shin Megami Tensei IV. Pokemon, at its very core, is a series that took something popular among a niche audience and made it easy to consume, easy to market, and easy to capitalize off of. And it worked, because last time I checked, there's no Jack Frost balloon next to Pikachu at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.



Pokemon, at a very base level, is not a bad franchise. Far from it, actually. With each entry, it manages to implement new features that function flawlessly, and to crank out legions of cute little creatures for people to catch and argue over. However, that's just the thing: in my mind, the series can only be taken at a base level. Because if you compare it to peers in the same genre, it begins to come apart at the seams, much like a Trubbish spilling out into a Garbodor. The story is mindless, the characters are trite, the world fails to give any real sense of exploration. It is to RPGs what Call of Duty is to first-person shooters. That's not a bad thing, by far. I still enjoy playing the occasional entry in Activision's flagship franchise, just like I still give Pokemon a whirl to see what new stuff they've implemented.

But in the end, I will never be able to get real satisfaction from the series. It's passive fun, but it will never grab me like Shin Megami Tensei IV, immerse me like Persona 3, challenge me like Soul Hackers. I'm left feeling like Stevie Nicks in the Fleetwood Mac classic, "Landslide." I climbed a mountain, and turned around; I look around at children getting older, and realize that I'm getting older as well. And with each passing year, the idea of catching them all gets a little less enticing. It tears me up to say this, and honestly, I'm getting choked up as I accept this about myself.

Then again, I guess learning to cry is part of growing up, isn't it?
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I have messaged NIS about this, and I need support from the fervent Sakura Wars fanbase here in North America. Together, we can make what others thought was impossible come true via the magic of digital distribution.



This year, XSeed has proven that niche JRPGs can succeed on the PC with their moderately successful releases of two "Ys" games via Steam. While "moderately successful" does not equal "smash hit" in retail sales, there's a crucial factor at play here: digital distribution barely costs anything. With almost nothing to lose, releasing a PC game via Steam and having it be mildly successful is still making a profit. As you may know, there are PC ports for every Sakura Wars game up until "So Long, My Love." What you may not know is that there are preexisting Russian translations from Akella for the first two PC ports. Russian is easier to translate into English than Japanese, so their argument for translation costs would be almost moot. For SW 3&4, the profit they gained from releasing the games via channels such as Steam, GamersGate, and (potentially) GOG would most likely be enough to do a quick translation for those two entries.

NIS spends most of it's time cranking out retail releases of games that barely sell at all, yet they could be sitting on a cheap license for guaranteed PC profit with almost zilch distribution costs. Akella releases English language games regularly via Steam, and thus could work together with NIS for join profits from the original two entries. As for Sega, the original owners of the SW franchise, well, they're no stranger to PC releases. They would gladly take any extra profit they could potentially gain with such minimal risk. With no boxed releases or special editions or extraneous junk, they could pump the games out at a rapid rate and suck in the fans who have been waiting for these releases for such a long time.

I can't do this alone. So, if you want, let's do the following:

1) Contact NIS, Akella, and Sega. Bring up these main points in a courteous fashion.

2) Find sales figures for XSeed's "Ys" series on the PC and wave them in these companies' faces.

3) Spread the word about the SW franchise to friends by showing them "So Long, My Love", as well as the several anime and manga adaptations that are legally available in the US.



The fact that SW didn't sell well on the PS2 and Wii was not the game's fault. No, it was the fault of Sega and NIS for not knowing how to properly market the series. With nothing to risk, not a lot of translating to do in comparison to their other games, and more potential profit than almost anything NIS is putting out these days, there is very little reason for them NOT to pursue this.

Operation Rainfall worked. They pushed for something they believe in. I believe in this series, and I believe that it has an audience in the PC crowd. Whoever's with me, let's push for this legendary franchise to be available in it's entirety for the first time in North America!

Rainfall has stated they would consider doing an interview at 500 Facebook "Likes", so I'm really pushing to get this out there. All of the information you need to be a part of this is in my profile information, so please, if you want to check it out. This is not a nonprofit, or a donation box, or anything like that. Kiss Me Sweet is something I'm doing because I care about this series, and I want to see it brought over here. Spread the word, if you want, and let's show NIS and Sega that people want these games!

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Japanese role-playing games and I have been good friends since I was around twelve years old. A criteria I held as a standard before I picked the GameStop I went to was always based upon how many JRPGs they had in stock during my last visit. Even if they were the most cliche, tired tripe that NIS slapped a translation on, I snagged it up eagerly and began to play it. This obsession stemmed (big surprise, folks) from my fandom and passion for anime and manga. Throughout high school, my interest in this genre of games waxed and waned, but I still kept up a consistent pattern of buying based on that standard. Doing this introduced me to some of my favorite game series, such the Shin Megami Tensei franchise. But during my senior year, I discovered something sinister about this practice of snagging any JRPG I could get. Namely, I wasn't finishing any of them.



It's not that I didn't finish my games. In fact, most games that fall into my hands, I finish. Hell, I even finished Catherine, and that game was one of the most brutally difficult ordeals my thumbs have ever endured for an upwards of 20 gameplay hours. But something about all of the JRPGs I purchased kept scaring me off. Whether it was the unfair amount of cheap deaths, the incessant need for level grinding, and the intimidating amount of hours I was required to sink into many of them, I wasn't sure. Trying to stay on track in high school, maintain an active role in my drama ensemble, and managing anywhere between 5-15 long-winded RPGs was simply too much for me to handle. So I quit many of them. Even worse, the ones I didn't quit just sat on my shelf. As an example, I bought Persona 3 Portable around the week it launched. Guess what? It's still sitting in my PSP. The PSP whose batteries have been dead for months. I've only logged about 18-20 hours into the damn thing, over the course of nearly two years.

Financially, this is terrible. I'm spending my money (and my mom's money, because I'm a spoiled little heathen) on games that I never finish. P3P was around 40 dollars, and I've haven't come close to making that money back in gameplay hours. In terms of the narrative and level progression, I've barely scratched the surface of the game. Essentially, that was 40 dollars blown on something that, despite having ready access to, I barely use. Any money manager worth his or her salt would most likely lynch me for this egregious practice.

Furthermore, doing this is a giant waste of my time. Thinking more critically of my purchases, I've found that I'll typically sink 7-12 hours into a game before banishing it to my shelf. For most games, 7-12 hours is going to give you a full experience, with a complete narrative, satisfying gameplay progression, and balanced difficulty. That's never the case with JRPGs. With most of them, you've made it about one-third to halfway through the experience with that time. With more extreme cases, such as the Final Fantasy[/] and [i]Shin Megami Tensei series, you're lucky if you've made a tenth of the way through. So, by buying all of these games, and not making it through any of them, I've accumulated hundreds of empty gameplay hours. I've started dozens of stories that I'll never finish, and I'll die with those tales left incomplete.



Maybe this says something about me as a person. At the age of 18, I've been in a few relationships. Before you dismiss this as normal for somebody my age, hear me out. These relationships have been incredibly emotional, filled with promises of commitment and marriage. Talks of having kids and getting old together. Guess who started these talks with grandiose ambitions, and guess who brought the relationships to an end when heavy conflict began? If you guessed me, congratulations, you get a cookie. I always have the best of intentions, yet my personal unwillingness to commit and push through misery brings it all crashing down around me, leaving me alone to bring my plague to another poor girl. It's not fair to them, because I was the one who instigated it.

Which is why I'm pleased to say that I've been in a relationship for over two years with one of the sweetest, kindest human beings I've ever known. Over the course of the last month, though, things got a little turbulent. It's not like it hadn't happened before. I was a complete douche and had fallen for two girls during the course of this relationship (never cheated, though, because that's a whole other level of wrong). I was with this amazing girl while my mind was on the others at times, and as much as that hurt me and made me feel conflicted, it wasn't myself I should have been concerned with. It was her. By letting myself get distracted and sidetracked, I hurt her, and abused her trust. That guilt cut me like a knife, digging down and burning like a thousand salted paper cuts.



Poor metaphors aside, this was a serious problem. And this past month of arguing, primarily stemming from my going off to college, brought that to light. I was on the verge of breaking up with this girl when something finally hit me: I wasn't unhappy. There was nothing wrong with our relationship. Sure, she had done some things to piss me off, but so had I. It was no reason to get huffy and storm out of something I'd stuck with for so long, something that given me more good times than I'd ever had with anybody. Furthermore, she had stuck with me more than any sane person would, and given so much. I saw all of her efforts, and she saw mine. What's more, whenever I chose a girl in a game featuring a romantic component, their personality matched hers' closest. I'd never felt so in touch with somebody before, and it took me way longer than it should have to realize that I was with my dream partner. It's kind of like that song by Rupert Holmes, the one about Pina Coladas. Except minus the actual Pina Coladas. Seriously, those things smell nasty.

What does this have to do with my nasty habit of quitting RPGs, though? Honestly, it has everything to do with it. This month, upon realizing that sticking with something instead of bailing on it is infinitely more rewarding, I picked up a game I bought back in December: Sakura Wars:So Long My Love for the Wii. I told myself that I would put every other RPG on hold until I beat it. Lo and behold, within less than a week, I'm almost through with the game, with only one more chapter of gameplay left. This experience has been more rewarding than any time I've ever spent with a game of it's type before. Instead of quitting when the dialogue grows tedious, or when a fight keeps kicking my ass, I persevere and push through to the next battle. Doing so has beget bonds with characters I'll never forget, and carried me through some of the most stellar battles I've experienced in a game. All it took was a little effort.

And now, from my girlfriend and this stellar game, I've learned a valuable lesson about both the games I play and myself. Instead of picking a bunch of games that look cool, I'm learning to pick one RPG at a time to work on. Sure, I can play some other shorter games in different genres, but my main commitment will be that one RPG. Kind of like my relationship. I can still chill with friends, and go have fun by myself, but the one constant love and receiver of my romantic/physical/sexual attention will be her. It took two years, a bunch of mistakes, and one giant robot dating sim to teach me something that most people probably already know.

The moral of this story is when something gets tough, and seems tedious at times, stick with it. It may end up being more rewarding than you ever imagined. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a JRPG to finish.

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With the release of Duke Nukem Forever earlier this year, many were outraged at the portrayal of women in the game. Critics left and right decried it’s content as “sexist” and “offensive”, even going so far as to imply that Duke himself was a sexist blowhard. While the “blowhard” part may hold some water, no amount of convincing will sway my opinion that Duke is, in fact, one of the greatest feminist heroes in fiction. This may come as a shocking claim to some, but it’s really quite an easy one to defend.




My opening argument is the sheer amount of danger Duke puts himself in for the ladies of Earth. Here we have a seemingly superficial douche, who dwells at bars and strip clubs. He cruises around on a loud motorcycle, guzzles booze, and leers at strippers. At face value, he is nothing more than a drunken lecher. But when aliens invade and attempt to enslave only women, Duke undertakes a one-man mission to save them all. It should be pointed out that he has nothing to gain from this. There are still women around, as evidenced by strippers and other NPC women visible in the series’ games. But he doesn’t want the bodies of whoever he can find. He genuinely wants safety for each and every woman, and will stop at nothing to see this goal through.

One would figure that he would get immense military support for these acts of heroism, but they would be mistaken. In many entries, this is something that Duke does entirely of his own volition. No pay, no guarantee of help… nothing. That in and of itself is truly admirable.



But that means nothing if Duke himself isn’t a genuinely remorseful human being, correct? This is something critics of this year’s Forever would have you believe. The scene that supposedly is the primary source of this criticism is in the disturbing board “The Hive.” In this level, we see woman bound to oozing, parasitic walls that sexually violate them, impregnating them against their will. It goes without saying that this is a disturbing situation that is absolutely nothing to be laughed at.

And 3D Realms doesn’t make it laughable. Instead, they play up the horror of the scenario by showing Duke’s constant disgusted reactions to what’s going around him. The game gives you an option to kill women who are bound to the wall, but Duke never cracks wise about this. Instead, he groans with a melancholy tone, “Believe me, it’s for the better.” And it is. This game is giving you the option to spare women from being constantly raped for years to come. If there’s nothing else to do, and no way to save them, then Duke is taking the truly humanitarian route by choosing to end their suffering.



One particular scene seems to fall under fire a bit in this level, and that’s when Duke runs across the Holsom Twins impregnated and bound in place by parasites. The Holsoms are a pair of blond girls whom Duke was fornicating with earlier in the game, and seem to hold his primary interest at the moment. Here, our hero finds them in a significantly less attractive state, as they beg for an answer to what’s happening to them. Duke curtly replies, “It looks like… you’re fucked.” This happens just moments before their stomachs burst open with baby alien bugs.

Now, some interpret that line as an attempt to squeeze out a laugh, but this writer begs to disagree. That’s because the man uttering it is obviously not the brightest bulb on the Hanukkah tree. He is in poor control of some of his baser instincts, and responds to aggression with intense violence. Expecting him to have a grasp on what’s happening to these poor girls is like expecting a dog to fly: it’s just not going to happen. He responds with his best explanation, which comes out as a half-hearted joke. However, it is apparent that he finds this to be anything but funny. In fact, when the girls die, Duke gets flung into a blind rage, infuriated that anybody would hurt defenseless women in such a way.

This scene is an important point in the game, because until then, it was a walk in the park for the veteran alien slayer. In “The Hive”, though, he’s shown just what’s at stake. This is no mere romp to kick hostile ass; it’s a vendetta to ensure a peaceful life for womankind. He shows care and sympathy for the opposite sex that is rarely displayed by male protagonists in First-Person Shooters, and he must be lauded for that.



Duke Nukem is as far from a sexist as Mother Teresa was from a serial killer. He never implies that women are inferior, and puts his own life before theirs routinely. While he may be as dumb as a post and one aggressive bastard at times, he has a heart of gold underneath it all, and he gives that heart to women at regular intervals. If that’s not feminism, then I don’t know what is.

NOTE: This essay was also posted on my Tumblr page, so if you run into it there, be assured that it is my own work.








Last week, Atlus' latest in-house effort Catherine was released to American audiences. Despite some critics being put off by it's somewhat unorthodox gameplay, it received generally positive reviews from most major sources. However, one point of interest of many players was how "mature" the game is. Some labelled it as mature simply because it dealt with sex a good deal, and others because of the fact that the characters aren't all young twits, running around with super powers or high-caliber weapons. But that word, especially in the medium of interactive entertainment, is becoming so loosely defined that we're beginning to really analyze what true maturity in a story is.

Earlier this year, People Can Fly's Bulletstorm was released. Because of the, er, kind and informed staff of Fox News hounding the game prior to it's release, many critics began to emphasize on the fact that this was a game only for adults. The protagonist, Grayson Hunt, spews dick jokes and mocks enemies as he dismembers them in increasingly violent fashions. There are a great deal of "your mom" and dick jokes thrown around, and the game rewards you for killing in humorous fashions. One such kill is the "Mercy" kill, in which you blast an enemy in the scrotum, then proceed to blow off his head. Certainly, this is something that Sally the Soccer Mom wouldn't like Little Timmy playing. By no stretch of imagination is this game intended for children.

But is it really what you could call "mature"?



Let's analyze Bulletstorm and the parts of which it's comprised for a moment. At face value, it seems to appeal strictly to the seventeen and up crowd. But honestly, is that really who it's intended for? Many adults will tell you that throwing in a never-ending barrage of dick jokes and intense violence doesn't automatically something appeal to them. Think about the "Average Joe" adults, the type who don a standard suit-and-tie for their 9-to-5 desk job, come home to their middle class home, eat dinner and go to bed. Now, one of these types may tell you that they enjoy more "mature" humor or thrills, in the guise of critically acclaimed movies or television shows. Now, what key word in there is problematic?

That's right: "mature."

A comedy like 30 Rock will be lauded for it's "mature" sense of humor, which is generally comprised of wry dialogue and snarky bits of intellectual humor, and a drama like Friday Night Lights will be celebrated for it's "mature" plot, which is deeply human and reliant on character relationships. However, that same critic may go and call Bulletstorm a "mature" game. This is a complete and utter contradiction to their prior definitions of "maturity", for the game revels in having paper-thin characters, blatantly rude humor, and ludicrous amounts of gore. Even so, that critic will use the word "mature" to describe all three of these works. This may be the most liberal use of a word since stoners picked up "like" and began to insert into every sentence they could think of.

Historically, the word "mature" describes something, or something relating to, reaching it's full mental and/or physical potential. If you wanted to apply that word to Bulletstorm, well, you couldn't. The dialogue is stubbornly stuck in an adolescent state of mind, and the action is somewhat akin to the horrifyingly violent things that a third grader will sketch on the back of his math homework. To call it truly "mature" is not only grotesquely inaccurate, but further proves that the word is becoming bastardized by critics who think that something possessing maturity simply means that it's not technically suitable for children.



Another game associated with the word "mature", though, is the aforementioned Catherine, in which protagonist Vincent Brooks is caught in a downward spiral after cheating on his longtime girlfriend, and must begin to make adult choices and deal with the ramifications of them. These choices are never black and white, and typically tap into a side of the brain which only one who has experienced the suffering and confusion of loss can truly understand. While advertised with blatant sexuality and overtly sexual dialogue, the game is anything but a celebration of perversion, and instead a questioning of what it means to be truly responsible. With multiple outcomes, the game forces players to ask whether it's better to be responsible for yourself or for others, or to cut loose and follow your whims to achieve perpetual happiness and pleasure. While some outcomes could be seen as "negative", the reality is that none of them really are. All of them are positive, really, depending on what type of person you are.

Now, to me, this is true maturity. The questioning of established ideals, characters who are more than meet the eye, and a plot that never panders to our prurient interests unless we make choices that veer it that way. To say this game is "mature" would not be because of it's interest to teenage boys looking for some kicks, but because of it's exploration of ideas that are simply best left suited to adult minds. It's both challenging and entertaining, and definitely something geared to those who are both developed fully in both mental and physical aspects.

Yet in the same breath, a critic will use the word "mature" to describe Bulletstorm and Catherine. The same, exact word, labeling both a game designed to titillate and shock, and a game designed to make gamers examine themselves and the morals they live their lives by. How is it that, just because something has "inappropriate" content for children, it can be fairly called "mature" by critics? Is this not a gross underestimation of the average adult mind, and an all-around misuse of a term?

The reason I enjoyed Bulletstorm, House of the Dead: Overkill, and Duke Nukem Forever is because, to put it bluntly, they were fucking stupid. There was nothing put in the games to elevate or enlighten, nor anything meant to challenge our notions of what the human condition truly is. They were, in fact, a celebration of things that teenage boys the world over hold dear to them: violence, swearing, boobs, more violence, and more swearing. Instead of using these things in an ironic fashion to tell a secretly sophisticated story (a'la South Park or Team America), they simply served them on a silver platter, or in this case, crammed them into a game. They were not bad games, by any means. All had clever humor, engaging gameplay and deep replay value. However, were they what a proper "Average Joe" would call mature? I'm going to put my bet on a big, fat "no."

The word "mature" gets thrown around far too loosely. While the ESRB's treatment of the word for it's "M" rating is understandable, critics using it to describe anything with content that Sally the Soccer Mom may not want little Timmy playing is not. Writers should look beyond the dick jokes and violence of a game to determine whether it truly is a mature experience, or if it's just pandering to the teenage boy in all of us. To not do so is a disservice to players seeking more from their games, who enjoy games made for adults, not just those containing "adult content."
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Duke Nukem Forever has gone gold. Wow, now there's something I never thought I'd say. Let me take that in a moment...

Okay, I'm back, and I've got news for any self-respecting gamer worth their salt. You see, despite what Gearbox and 2K Games would have you believe in the hypefest that's surrounded the inevitably awesome Forever, the first three Duke Nukem games were not the only entries in the series. There were multiple games prior to this game's impending release, and they seem to have been thrown under the bus. This denial of history is particularly sad to me. Why, you ask?

That's because I wasn't introduced to Duke Nukem, one of my favorite franchises, by 3D or the two platformer games. No, my first taste of this crazy world was when I was almost seven years old, through the fantastic PSone games Time To Kill and Land of the Babes. It was only later that I went back to play 3D. But by that time, I had already indulged in other entries like Zero Hour and Manhattan Project. My positive experiences with all of these games has gotten me to thinking: where do gamers get off forgetting about solid entries in the series?

Now, it could be forgivable for the average Joe or Jane to forget about these games, and it's understandable for 2K Games and 3D Realms to stay quiet about games that they had nothing to do with. My beef is really with game critics, who often times make it sound like the only Duke game that truly matters is 3D. They forget about the hard work and effort put into making those side-entries hold true to the franchise, about the blood sweat and tears developers put into these games. It's painful to see some of my favorite childhood PSone games get kicked to the curb, just because they aren't "part of the timeline". You know, I was honestly unaware of ANY freaking timeline in the Duke Nukem franchise until a few days ago. As far as I was aware, the games were never something that strictly adhered to any serious chronology.

Technically, the last Duke Nukem game (excluding the mobile phone entry) was Manhattan Project, an incredibly fun and well-rounded sidescroller for the PC, which has since been ported to Xbox Live arcade. If you're a true Duke fan, you'll go back and play that, along with the PSone and N64 entries. They're all fun in their own right, and will even tide you over until Forever.

Don't believe the hype, and acknowledge the other teams who put forth effort into preserving Duke's legacy.