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About


Twitter: @TheDustinThomas

Greetings and salutations.

TheDustinThomas here, you probably don't know me, but I write things here on Destructoid from time to time. Occasionally I get on the front page:

The Most Inexplicably-Often Rented Games At Blockbuster

The Top 10 Videogame Pro Wrestlers

A Retrospective of Pro Wrestling Videogames from the Perspective of a Pro Wrestler

I'm also the host of a pretty sexy gaming podcast that I do with a couple buddies of mine. You can download and subscribe to it here. You should totally do that.

All of my games writing you can find on DToid, but I also write about other things on my personal blog. Here's my top 5 most read blogs:

Let Me Tell You About My $250 T-Shirts

Tempting of the Doon

5 Ways Getting in Shape Has Messed with my Head

Tim Lambesis: A Fan's Struggle to Understand

Why I Already Dislike Planet Fitness

You may notice that most of those blogs are somehow related to pro wrestling. Why? Because I spent 10 years as a professional wrestler before retiring in October 2013 due to back injuries. I actually wasn't too bad.

A bit about me? Well, obviously I love to write. It's not a paying gig yet, but I'm certainly trying to make that happen.

I'm a happily married man, and my wife is smokin' hot.

I have a huge, manly beard.

God comes first in my life above all else. I'm a leader at my church, as well as the head of our media department.

I've been a metalhead pretty much my entire life.

I'm also a die hard fan of The Simpsons.

Other miscellaneous fact.

-Dustin
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I always wrestle with myself when it comes to my podcast. I always feel like I shouldn't post it on here because no one cares. But then I remember "Hey, my fellow DToiders don't care, and maybe some of them will like it." So here it is. I'll try to be more dedicated to post them in the future.

Anyway, you can download the latest episode here.

If you want to be a pal, you can subscribe on iTunes here.

And before I go any further, we're recording a new episode tonight, and every week we have a topic discussion and try to keep it relevant to things going on in the industry today. Due to the recently announce "New 3DS", we're going to be discussing console iterations. We'll discuss things like the top-loading NES, the Game Boy/Game Boy Color, the GBA/GBA SP, and so on. Feel free to leave a question for us in the comments. It doesn't have to be relevant to the topic, or even about videogames at all, we just like questions.

On this week's episode, Dustin, Heather, and Luke discuss important social issues, like:

the new RoboCop film

Heather rediscovers her love of Swedish Fish

Jungle Jim's International Food Market.

Games of the week:

Dustin - Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

Heather - SteamWorld Dig

Luke - Azure Striker Gunvolt

In this week's topic, we count down our top 5 gaming shames. We talk about games that are widely considered to be great classics, but we either haven't played or haven't finished. Which one of us has never played a Castlevania game? Which one never completed a Mega Man game? Who has a scathing hate for R-Type? You'll find out in this very episode.

We're participating in the Extra-Life.org 24-hour gaming marathon for the Children's Miracle Network on October 25th. We're only $75 from reaching our goal. If you're interested in donating to this awesome cause. click this link. http://www.extra-life.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=92599

Follow us on Twitter @TheDustinThomas @HeathaSonYo @BygJuce @FakeChrisCramer

Thanks for reading/listening.

-Dustin

Photo Photo Photo








Every fighting game series has those certain characters that no one likes. Let's take the top dog of fighting games, Street Fighter, for example. Everyone hates Akuma, and in the interest of not being torn to shreds, I'll clarify now that that was just a joke. Outside of Mortal Kombat, I've never been much of a fighting game fan, and after MK: Armageddon wound up being spectacularly dreadful, I swore them off for good. But Mortal Kombat was instrumental in growing me as a gamer in the early and mid-90s. I spent more nights in 1995 playing MK2 and 3 with my friends than not, and I've written before about why the series as a whole has a very sentimental place in my heart. So for the next two weeks, the Weekly Top 5 will be Mortal Kombat related, this week being the worst characters, and next week being the best. And no, I will not be that guy who spells everything with a 'K' in case you were wondering.

Dishonorable Mention

Jax - Mortal Kombat 2 version

Jax has never been a favorite of mine. With every MK, I feel the need to beat the game with everyone so I can see their endings, and in every new entry in the franchise, Jax is always one of the last ones I pick. The one thing that stands out about Jax are his cybernetic arm enhancements, but if you're new to the franchise, or started playing at or past MK3, you may have forgotten that when he was introduced in MK2, he didn't have them. He was just a generic black guy with a mustache and a muscle-gut. His one redeeming quality is that he does have the sweet "arm rip" fatality.

Once Jax got the arm enhancements and they started making him look more like the U.S. Special Forces that he was meant to be, he became incredibly less boring. He's still not one of my favorites, though.

5. Drahmin

First Appearance - Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance

Apparently Drahmin's magic power is that he doesn't bathe? I mean, that's how it seems when you consider that one of his major attacks is that he shoots a giant ball of houseflies at you. The sad part, though, is that Drahmin actually has an interesting backstory: He wears the mask to control his murderous insanity, as he at one point was a cruel warlord in Outworld. He was later exiled to Netherrealm to be punished for his atrocities. He was then hired by Shang Tsung and Quan Chi, along with his fellow Oni, Moloch, as bodyguards. Without going into greater details, Drahmin is one more or less responsible for the plot of Deadly Alliance.

Here's the problem with Drahmin: he's uninteresting and no fun to play. With Deadly Alliance, every character was given two fighting styles and a weapon. Drahmin's weapon is the metal club that acts as his right arm. I mean, I guess it is technically a weapon, but when it's attached to you, and you use it during your other fighting styles, what's the point of still having the option to use a weapon like every other character does? Seems rather pointless to me.

4. Stryker

First Appearance - Mortal Kombat 3

If you're the type of person who says things like "Actually, I like Stryker" then you're saying it to be confrontational and I hate you for it. That was mean. I'm sorry, I don't hate you. But seriously, stop it. No one likes Styker, not even in an ironic way. I was told that he is actually pretty powerful, but I never found out if that were true or not, because again, no one likes Stryker.

In a game full of awesome new characters like Sektor, Cyrax, Sindel, and Kabal, it's a shame that Stryker was introduced alongside them. So we get matching robot Predators, the resurrected queen of Edenia, a dude with a weird breathing machine and awesome hookswords, a female Shokan (Sheeva), and then we get a human cop with no powers. Let's play a game, it's called "One of these things is not like the others." The only interesting fact about him is that the name "Kurtis Stryker" was originally the name they were going to give Jax in MK2, and then they sat on it and gave it to this loser.

3. Dairou

First Appearance - Mortal Kombat: Deception

The one big negative that the Mortal Kombat franchise has working against it is that they've created very few good new characters since Mortal Kombat 3. It seems that when the series made the jump from 2D to 3D that they lost their creativity, and their roster is the thing that suffered the most. WithMK:D, they jam-packed the game with all kinds of diversions from the main fighting game. There was a Puzzle Fighter clone, there was Chess Kombat, and the new Konquest Mode (which I actually found to be the funnest part of the entire game) was more or less an open-world adventure game. With all of those things going on during development, it's no wonder the new characters suffered.

The only new character in Deception worthy of being a Mortal Kombat character is Havik. Here, let me show you all the new playable characters:

Havik: the least worst.

Ashrah: boring.

Darrius: aka Shaft.

Hotaru: He has flags.

Kira: MK needed a redhead.

Kobra: better in Street Fighter.

Shujinko: main character of this game's story, also, old.

and finally...

Dairou.

Yup, that sure is Dairou. I know I haven't spoken much about the character himself, but that's because there really isn't a whole lot to say about him. He's a mercenary, his parents were killed by Darrius, Dairou has no idea, and then Darrius hired Dairou to kill Hotaru. Got that?

However, much like MK2 Jax, Dairou's single high point is his rib-ripping fatality.

2. Taven

First Appearance - Mortal Kombat: Armageddon

If you're looking at that picture and thinking "Who?", you're probably not the only one. Taven is the most bland character in MK history, only Stryker even comes close, I think he uses fire as his main element of attack, so that should be another indicator of his uselessness. The only notable thing about Taven is that he's the one you control in MK: Armageddon's "Konquest" mode, which isn't saying much, because the Konquest mode in Armageddon is far inferior to the one in MK: Deception. They basically took the premise of Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, which is an absolutely fantastic game, dumbed it down, tacked it on, and pooped it out.

Perhaps the reason he doesn't stand out is because he was introduced in the worst MK fighting game, or maybe it's because he was introduced in an entry that featured literally every other Mortal Kombat character ever. How do you expect to be noticed on a character select when everyone is specifically looking for characters that don't suck?

1. Hsu Hao

First Appearance - Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance

Hsu Hao is so bad that even the creators of Mortal Kombat hate his guts, which makes you wonder why they even bothered to include him in the first place. There's literally nothing positive to say about him. He was introduced in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, and in a game that was littered with lackluster new additions, he was without a doubt the runt of that litter. I'm not kidding, either, I could have made this entire list be nothing but characters introduced in MK:DA.

Hsu Hao (pronounced Soo-How) is basically just a pawn for the Red Dragon crime syndicate under the orders of Mavado, another dumb DA character. Hsu Hao was actually acting as a secret agent for the Red Dragon and infiltrated the ranks of the Chinese sect of the Special Forces (Jax's organization). Then he was ordered by Mavado, who was being ordered by Quan Chi, to kill Shang Tsung. On his way to do so, Jax catches up with him to get revenge and rips his cybernetic heart out.

He has a terrible design, is no fun to play, and is universally despised by the MK community. Most characters in the franchise have at least one redeeming quality, but with Hsu Hao, he could have been taken out of the game in the 11th hour and literally nothing would have been affected by it. Hsu Hao is the worst of the worst.

Cue the sweet Mortal Kombat theme song here, because that's the end of this week's top 5. This list was hard, because there are a surprising number of bad characters in the MK franchise, but I have a feeling it's not going to be nearly as hard as trying to rank the top 5 best. See you next week.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @TheDustinThomas, and to listen to the Error Machine Podcaston iTunes.

Thanks for reading.

-Dustin









I know, I know. You young bucks are probably sitting there thinking "Dustin, of course Super Mario World is your favorite game. I can tell from the gray hair in your beard that it was probably the only game that existed when you were a kid."

First of all. Rude.

Second, I'm only twenty-nine.

Third, I'll have you know the gray in my beard makes me look wise...

...and metal as EFF!

All joking aside, it is kind of cliche to say that your favorite game is an early Mario title. Ask my dad what his favorite videogame is and he'll probably tell you King's Quest VI because it was the last videogame he played and was the best thing he had played up to that point. My dad stopped gaming shortly after King's Quest VI, but I, on the other hand, didn't follow in his footsteps in this regard and continued gaming up to the current day, and nothing has come close to comparing to the feeling I get every time I play Super Mario World.

One of the oldest (and silliest) arguments in the gaming community is whether Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World is the superior game. While SMB3 is without question an all-time classic, to me, there's no debate--Super Mario World wins the battle, hands down. The reason I think so is because it took everything that was great about SMB3, cranked it to 11, and made it bigger and better.

 The only way to play Super Mario World is cranked to 11.

Bigger and better enemies (I nearly pooped my jeans the first time I encountered Banzai Bill), bigger levels, more secrets, better level variety, a greater challenge, and even though they scaled back the amount of new suits, I prefer the cape to the raccoon tail/Tanooki suit. Lastly, let us not forget the greatest addition to the game: Yoshi.

That bipedal dinosaur companion became one of the most cherished characters in the franchise. Between Yoshi and the cape, I felt like I could literally go anywhere and do anything, no challenge was too great. With Yoshi next to me--or rather, under me--I no longer feared treading into uncharted territory. I now laughed at the Valley of Bowser; no amount of lightning crashes could deter me from seeing my mission of saving the princess to the very end.

 HA!

I have a handful of games that I wind up replaying every year. Games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Resident Evil 4, and Metal Gear Solid, but there's never a time in my life where I don't have an active game going on my SMW cartridge. I'm basically in a constant state of playing Super Mario World.

There's no such thing as a perfect game. Gaming is a subjective medium, and everyone is going to have their own opinions on every game they play. It's the reason I don't consider Devil May Cry 2 to be a bad game, despite constant community outcry to the contrary. A lot of it is circumstantial, too. I received DMC2 as a Christmas gift from my brother, and it was the first DMC game I played. So, considering I had no history with the series, and that it didn't cost me any money, it's somewhat easier to understand my feelings toward the game. So where am I going with this? Well, I'm basically just trying to say that there's no such thing as a perfect game, but to me, Super Mario World is as close as we're ever going to get, and I don't think it's because of circumstances or a case where it was the right game at the right time.

A few paragraphs ago I rattled off reasons why I preferred SMW to its predecessor, and now I'd like to take a few moments just to break them down a little bit.

I mentioned Banzai Bill when talking about enemies, which is what happens when you take a Bullet Bill and crank it up to 11 (see what I'm saying), and then you have enemies like Torpedo Ted that only appear in one level--a level you can only access by discovering a secret and committing an act of betrayal. You have the varying colors of Koopa Troopas which give Yoshi different powers and attacks depending on which one he swallows. And let's not forget just how great the final battle was with Bowser riding in his clown-face copter...stomper...thing. Whatever it is, it's awesome. Also, Blargg.

 I repeat, Blargg.

The levels were much larger than anything we had seen in a Mario game up to this point, which is why this game threw in the addition of mid-level checkpoints. Not only did these checkpoints save your progress should you happen to die, but they also gave you a much needed boost from Mario to Super Mario if you needed it. Gone was the hoarding inventory system of SMB3, and in was the ability to carry an additional item into the level with you.

There are 96 exits in this game. Not 96 levels, but 96 exits. Any time you came upon a new level and it was colored red instead of yellow, that was your signal that there was a secret exit. And some levels didn't even give you that luxury, like the ghost house in Donut Plains, or the secret exit you needed to discover to find your way out of the Forest of Illusion, or to find Star Road.

 I know what you did to find that secret. You're worse than 1,000 Hitlers.

Speaking of the levels, let's talk about the variety within each world. Unlike SMB3, where you had 6-10 similar levels in a row, here you may have an underground level, followed by a ghost house, followed by an ice world, you never knew what was coming next, but you knew it would be different and exciting. Instead of navigating your way across an airship, here you went after the Koopa Kids in traditional castles, but each castle was unique and added a different challenge, whereas each airship was similarly laid out.

Did I say challenge? Yes, I would say that this game is challenging, but what I really mean is screw the Star Road Special World. While there were definitely other levels in the game that offered a great deal of trouble to a six year old Dustin Thomas, Star Road Special was where Nintendo took off the kiddie gloves and started punching me in the face with their bare fists.

 Screw this level, in particular.

But then, when it's all said and done, after you've left Yoshi's Island, made your way past the Donut Plains, traversed the Vanilla Dome, crossed the Butter Bridge, solved the Forest of Illusion, chomped your way through Chocolate Island, braved your way out of the Sunken Ghost Ship, brute forced your way through the Valley of Bowser, you hit your mortal enemy with that final Mechakoopa, and you see the very person who made all of your struggles worth the prices you've paid, worth the sacrificing of friends, worth the struggles of Star Road. You lay your eyes on your fair maiden, Princess Toadstool.

She kisses you, and you blush both in the game and in real life (because you're six year old Dustin, remember). Time to sit back and reflect on your journey. But wait, there's no time for that, the final treat is still to come!

Without question, this game has the greatest ending credit sequence in history. You get to meet all the enemies you've encountered, as well as listening to one of the greatest pieces of gaming music ever made. I love the ending theme song of Super Mario World so much that when I got married, I kissed my lovely bride, and we left the sanctuary while this song played. Let us enjoy it together.

Is it boring to say Super Mario World is my all-time favorite game? Maybe a little, at least according to some people. It's not that I didn't branch out, I've been playing videogames for a quarter of a century now, and I've run the gamut of genres, but Super Mario World is where my heart lies. I'm completely open to a new game coming out and just completely blowing my mind and usurping the throne away from the portly plumber, it just hasn't happened yet.

Don't forget that can follow me on Twitter @TheDustinThomas, and you can also listen to my podcast on iTunes.

Thanks for reading.

-Dustin









(Hey, you get a bonus blog this week outside of my regular Weekly Top 5, but before you begin reading, be aware that there are spoilers for Walking Dead: Season Two and Spec Ops: The Line ahead. I will warn you when spoilers begin for each game, and also when the spoilers end.)

The reason I've always enjoyed gaming more than movies, television, or music is because it's interactive, I'm actually doing something. But with that comes a certain drawback--the ability to make you feel bad. Yes, a movie can do the same thing, but in a completely different way.



Let's take a movie like Full Metal Jacket, a fantastic movie by all accounts. It shows the gritty, dark reality and horror of the Vietnam War. The last section of the movie is the entire platoon (or company, or regiment, I'm not sure when one it is) trying to find a way to take down an enemy sniper. Some marines get killed in the process, and when they finally do kill the sniper, they discover that it was a teenage girl. The girl winds up mortally wounded, and there's a debate among the marines whether they should mercy kill the girl or not.

You watch this scene and feel bad because not only is it heartbreaking that a teenage girl was put into a situation where she had to fight in a war, but also that she winds up dying because of it. But with a videogame, sometimes you're forced to be the one that has to make these kinds of decisions. Since we're already talking about war, let's begin with Spec Ops: The Line.

SPOILERS FOR SPEC OPS: THE LINE BEGIN HERE



Maybe this is just me, but throughout the game you're given several choices in tough situations, and I was completely unaware that certain choices even existed. One situation involves you having to decide who to kill: a man who was caught stealing water for his family, or the soldier that was sent to arrest the man and wound up killing the man's family. My decision was to kill the soldier. I would have preferred to kill no one, but between these two, I felt the soldier was the obvious choice. Everyone would steal water to provide for their family, and the soldier disobeyed orders and murdered five people.

You're surrounded by snipers during this scene, so choosing not to kill one of them is not an option...or so I thought. After completing the game I looked back at an achievement guide and discovered that there was a car nearby for me to take cover and take out the snipers. I also later discovered that none of it was real (play the game, it'll make sense).

Another big decision was near the end of the game, and one of your fellow soldiers, who has been with you through the entire game, dies at the hands of some angry civilians. You're completely surrounded, and they attack you if you try to walk by. I sat there and thought "Are they really asking me to murder civilians? I don't want to do this, but I guess I have to." Then, upon further reading after I finished the game, I found that I could have shot my gun into the air and it would have scared them off. I hadn't even thought about that while in the moment, and I felt genuine remorse when I realized that those people didn't have to die.


This is also a particularly horrific scene.

Yes, I know that they weren't real people. I can discern the difference between fantasy and reality, but I felt like my soul had taken a hit. Even though shooting my gun into the air wasn't readily apparent as an option, why didn't I--as a person--think to try that first? And this comes from a guy who is a youth leader at his church. I consider myself to be a good human being, and then I let this happen. How could I?

I'm being a bit hyperbolic here. I didn't really have an existential spiritual breakdown, but I did genuinely feel bad about my decision before I came to my sense and realized "Oh yeah, it's just a videogame. No one actually died."

If you haven't played the game and decided to read the spoilers anyway, I still suggest playing the game. It's probably the best story I've ever experienced in a military shooter, and what I've talked about is only a fraction of what the game brings to the table. Also, Nolan North.

SPOILERS FOR WALKING DEAD: SEASON TWO BEGIN HERE



I adore the Walking Dead series from Telltale Games. I had a spurt where I enjoyed the show, but then I stopped watching due to disinterest, and I've never been a comic reader. But the games still enthrall me. That's what I was talking about earlier when I was explaining why I enjoy gaming more than any other medium.

The first season of The Walking Dead is surely a contender for the finest piece of storytelling in game history. There's a reason it won several "Game of the Year" awards from major publications, websites, and even the Video Game Awards, and it wasn't for its great controls or cutting-edge graphics.

That being said, I was super excited for the second season, but after the first four episodes, I was underwhelmed. That's not to say that it was bad, by no means is that true, I still enjoyed them very much, just not on the same level. That is, until Episode 5: No Going Back.



Just so I don't have to give you all of the details leading up to the final scenes, I'll make a long story short. You play as Clementine, who you were tasked with protecting in Season One. At the end of the of Episode 5, you're given the choice of either killing Kenny, who is someone that you've known since the very beginning of the series and have been through a lot with, or killing Jane, who has become somewhat of a big sister to Clementine.

During Episode 4, one of your party members, Rebecca, has a baby and winds up dying of exposure. Within 24 hours, this child is an orphan (his father having been killed before his birth), and Kenny has taken it upon himself to protect the baby at all costs as a way to make up for the fact that he wasn't able to protect his son, Duck, in Season One.

Up until I was given the decision on who to kill, I had been siding with Jane on everything. She's tough, and seems to genuinely care for Clem. Not to mention that Kenny had been going through a slow descent into madness since Episode 3, and by this time he had become completely unhinged. Kenny and Jane hated each other, and when the three of you wind up separated in a snowstorm, Jane hides the baby in an abandoned car. When the three reunite, it's insinuated that Jane killed the baby (you're given scenes earlier in the game showing that Jane doesn't have a particular affinity for infants), and Kenny attempts to kill her.


When Kenny and Jane's fates are put in your hands, you're given a much longer amount of time to decide than you do with normal actions. I debated internally until the final moments, where I decided to shoot Kenny. The ensuing dialogue between Clem and a dying Kenny was heart-wrenching; I had been through so much with him. Then you discover that the baby wasn't dead, and that Jane had merely hid the child. Plenty of games have twist endings where someone you've been working with turns out to be a villain ("Would you kindly..."), but never before had I felt as betrayed as I did when Jane revealed the truth.

When I play The Walking Dead, I play it one time, because that's my story. That's how it happened tome. Those are the decisions I made. And if I regret a decision, I deal with it and move on. But I just couldn't do that here. I restarted the checkpoint and changed my decision, that's how bad I felt. Kenny later goes on to redeem himself for all the crazy, and I felt better with that decision. The game actually made me break my own unwritten rules because I felt so bad about a fake decision I made about a fake person in a fictionalized universe. On one hand, that's fantastic, on the other hand, it really bothered me. It maybe didn't help that I played these games back-to-back.



END SPOILERS HERE

Games like Mass Effect or Skyrim or any other game where you're given choices about the morality of your character never leave me regretting my decisions. Most of them are cut-and-dry. That's not to say there aren't tough decisions in other games, I just haven't experienced any that made me go back and question them after my decisions were made. Maybe it's the fact that in Skyrim I play a wood elf who looks like he should play bass for Amon Amarth and slays dragons with his trusty arrows, and in The Walking Dead and Spec Ops I play a pre-teen girl who I don't want to turn into a monster and an American soldier trying to save some folks, respectively.

All I'm saying is that sometimes I just need to step back from all this seriousness. Sometimes, I just want want to control a round, pink blob with a smile on his face who makes adorable sounds and occasionally cooks stuff.


Ahh, much better.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @TheDustinThomas, and to listen to the Error Machine Podcast on iTunes.

Thanks for reading,

-Dustin










I've been a collector for as long as I can remember. It wasn't always games and gaming memorabilia, as a kid it began with baseball cards. As I got older, I got really into metal music and action figures. Then in my late-teens and early-twenties, I got serious about building my gaming collection, and while I'm far from being one of those guys who have made themselves Internet famous for being collectors, I've managed to get some pretty fun stuff.

While I do have a pretty good retro game collection, you won't find anything too rare in there outside of a few NES and SNES games that go for $80-$100, things like Contra Force and Demon's Crest. But I do have some things that I think are pretty cool, and I just wanted to share them with you.

Honorable Mention: Steelbooks and Limited Editions

I'm a sucker for a good limited edition, I just love all the little knickknacks that come with them. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do with a necklace in the shape of Africa that came with Resident Evil 5, but I'll take it. I've spent a lot of extra money on limited editions simply because they had one item I wanted. The Killzone 3 Helghast Edition maybe wasn't worth the money I dropped, but I really wanted that Helghast helmet.

I also have a thing for steelbook cases. While I don't have a lot of them, if there's a game that I want on day one and it has a steelbook (which usually comes as part of a limited edition), I'll always drop the extra $10-$20 for it. They just look nice and they're hard to damage unless you're actually trying to ruin it.

5. Resident Evil 4 Chainsaw Controller


I feel like I mention Resident Evil 4 in my blogs more than I mention any other game, but there's a perfectly good reason for that: it's an incredible game, one of my personal top 5 of all-time. You may have noticed from the earlier picture that I picked up the limited edition with the steelbook case, I love that thing; it also came with a t-shirt that wouldn't even fit my 7 year old nephew. Anyway, back when RE4 came out, I was a big proponent of trading in games. I traded in a bunch of PS2 titles and came away with a decent amount of credit. I had intended to buy a new game or two, but then I saw the chainsaw controller and knew I had to have it in my life. I thought to myself "It costs more than a full-price game, I should just pass on it and get some new games." But that internal debate lasted all of 7 seconds before I convinced myself by saying "But it's so cool!"

The only bad part about the controller? Well, it's not really conducive to actually playing videogames with, it's actually very uncomfortable on your hands. Also, it's supposed to have some sort of motion technology in it, because it claims that if you raise or lower the controller while Leon has his gun drawn that it'll cause him to aim upward or downward, and that's just not true. Not once did I ever get it to work that way. So, as a controller, it's not that good, but as a collector's item, it's great.

4. Borderlands 2 Loot Chest


You know what? I was wrong earlier. I've written about the Borderlands series more than any other games. Here, read about why the original Borderlands is a contributing factor to my wife and I getting married. When Gearbox announced the Ultimate Loot Chest Edition of Borderlands 2, I already planned on picking it up, but when they said that it was actually going to be limited to a small amount, I went the next day to pre-order it. Yes, it cost $149.99, and yes, I got the seasons pass for an extra $29.99, but I still feel as though I've gotten my moneys worth from the game. This is how you do a special edition. I mean, just look at everything that came with this thing:



For someone that loves the Borderlands series as much as I do, the asking price was well worth it. If there were a similar edition for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, I would be picking that one up as well.

3. Superman 64 Signed by AVGN


This is going to sound very hipster of me, but I've been a fan of AVGN since before he got hugely popular. Back in 2006, a coworker of mine told me about him and I went home that night and basically watched his entire catalog, which only consisted of about 10 videos. It seems as though his popularity has subsided somewhat over the past couple of years or so, but I still get excited any time I see that he releases a new episode.

Back in 2008, I attended the first Screwattack Gaming Convention, which of course featured the Nerd as a guest. Most people have heard that James Rolfe is nothing like his Nerd character, and it's very true, he's genuinely one of the nicest dudes I've ever met. Being the big Rocky fans that he and I both are, we stood and chatted about the Rocky films for about 10 minutes before he had to leave for a panel, he genuinely enjoys just talking to his fans. While the whole convention was a blast, I'd be lying if I said the Nerd wasn't the main reason I wanted to go. So when it came time for his autograph signing, and I realized I didn't have anything for him to sign, I went to the room containing all the game sellers. I knew immediately which game I wanted to get for him to sign, so I went to the N64 section, and there it was: Superman 64. Now that it's signed by a pseudo-celebrity, that ups its value from $0 to about $3.75.

2. Paintings by My Wife

My lovely wife is very artistic, and she enjoys making me things for special occasions like Christmas and my birthday. She did our wedding invitations in 8-bit designs, and she's even made me a kitchen table painted to look like an NES controller.


8-bit Dustin comes complete with 8-bit lumberjack beard.

It really is true that it means more when someone takes the time to make you something rather than just buying you something. Don't get me wrong, I like when she buys me stuff, but the paintings she's done for me mean so much more. The first one she did was for our first Valentine's Day together, and it was this 1-Up mushroom.



Then for Christmas that year, she did a portrait of my favorite character from The Simpsons.



And finally, for my birthday, she did my favorite character from my all-time favorite game.



Yes, that's Blargg from Super Mario World. The enemy that appears in one level in one game. Blargg is the absolute best. Bring back the Blargg, Nintendo.

1. NECA Retro Figures


I mentioned at the beginning of this blog that I started collecting action figures in my teens, and that's never stopped. I kind of go in spurts and collect one kind of figure at a time. It started with Hasbro WWF figures, then moved to the World of Springfield figures, then the Jakks Pacific Rocky and WWE Legends figures, then I started getting into gaming figures when NECA brought out their Player Select series. They eventually started bringing out entire series based on specific games. Resident Evil 4 (there it is again), Gears of WarGod of WarCastlevaniaResident Evil 10th Anniversary, and I collected them all. I just recently sold off my entire collection of NECA gaming figures with the exception of my favorites (I just can't part with the Big Daddy figure from BioShock 2).

But last year, they started releasing figures based on NES games, the first of which was Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th game. Remember how it was really weird that Jason was dressed in purple? Well, he looks great in purple as an action figure:



At this point, they've only released four: Friday the 13thNightmare on Elm Street (which I unfortunately don't have yet), RoboCop, and Predator, with a Rocky figure (from the Sega Master System game) and NES Batman soon to be released. These figures are absolutely great. They come in packaging designed to look like the NES box art, they're even complete with fake wear and tear on the packaging.



There you have it, my five favorite pieces of my gaming collection. Not the greatest stuff in the world, or the rarest, but pretty cool if I do say so myself. What's your favorite part of your collection?

Don't forget you can follow me on Twitter @TheDustinThomas. Also, listen to the most recent episode of my podcast, this one is about old Nickelodeon sitcoms.

Thanks for reading,
-Dustin








This weeks top 5 is a little late, sorry about that, I spent all week on a missions trip, but better late than never, am I right?

A few weeks ago I counted down my personal favorite console games of the previous generation. This week, I decided to downsize, and count down my favorite games that appeared exclusively on handheld systems, meaning the PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo DS. Last generation was the first generation where I really got into handheld gaming, and now, most of the gaming I do is on my 3DS or PlayStation Vita. Not a whole lot more to explain, so lets get going.

Honorable Mentions:

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars



Probably my favorite GTA game, period. I was amazed how great it felt driving around a scaled down Liberty City, and the drug-dealing side game was strangely satisfying. I would love to see a downloadable version made available on the consoles, I would gladly double-dip for that.

God of War: Ghost of Sparta



I just felt like I had to list a PSP game on this list, and even though it later got a console release, I'm still counting it because it's my list. It was a late PSP title, and the first PSP entry in the franchise, Chains of Olympus, proved you could have huge, console-like experiences on Sony's handheld, but Ghost of Sparta took it and ran with it, and created an entry superior to some of its console brethren.

And now, let's get to the games that made the cut.

5. Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia



The Nintendo DS had three different Castlevania titles done in the 'metroidvania' style, and all of them are superb. Sure, the stylus implementation in Dawn of Sorrow was a bit wonky, but it was still a great game. Portrait of Ruin was an even better game, giving you two protagonists that you can switch to on the fly, and going into different worlds via portraits gave them the freedom to get creative with the level design. But Order of Ecclesia is still my favorite of the DS trilogy. It's actually somewhat similar to Castlevania II: Simon's Quest on the NES, in that you travel to several different locations before being able to finally tackle Dracula's castle.

The game gives us a strong female lead, Shanoa, who is part of the Order of Ecclesia, a group of people who have taken up the battle against Dracula and do their best to try to prevent his return. Through the use of different glyphs, Shanoa can alter the abilities of her weapons, which was a breath of fresh air from the traditional swords, axes, and magic found in most action-RPGs. The game was a bit longer than it needed to be, because if you want to reach Dracula and get the true ending, you need to do a lot of backtracking, which is standard for these types of games, but it was a bit overdone, but the awesome (and challenging) boss fights make up for it.

4. 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors



I love a good story in my games. I don't enjoy games that only have good stories, but I count it as a bonus when it does, as long as the gameplay is still solid. Never before have I been as engrossed in a game's story as I was with 999. The funny thing here, however, is that there really isn't much gameplay at all. It's an interactive story, and the interactive bits are just puzzle-solving, choosing which of the remaining survivors you wish to continue into the next room with, and choosing your dialogue branch when prompted. Other than that, it's a lot of reading, but at least they gave us the option to skip the dialogue rather quickly on subsequent playthroughs.

The game has 6 different endings, and the craziest part about that is that the true ending gives explanations of how all the other endings are true and actually happened. It has a lot to do with alternate realities and timelines, and can get a little confusing. It was fun trying to figure out who you could trust and who you couldn't, and some of the story revelations will blow your mind. Think of 999 kind of like a Saw movie, but with a story worth paying attention to.

Also, the game has a pretty great sequel called Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward that appears on both the 3DS and Vita.

3. Professor Layton and the Unwound Future



It seems as though the Professor Layton series lost something after this particular entry in the franchise, but I still clamor for more each and every time. Much like 999, the puzzles and wandering that constitute the gameplay are just window-dressing for a fantastic story, they're there to give you something to do, otherwise you just dropped $35 to watch an animated movie on a small screen. Regardless of how you feel about the puzzles in the series--I couldn't tell you which game had which puzzle, also, way too much math--you can't deny that the stories run the gamut of emotions, and none more heart-wrenching than this one.

All the games are very cleverly written, and the titular professor always reminds you of a younger version of your wise grandfather. In this entry we get to see a more personal side of the professor, as the overarching story involves a lost love of his. It also has a lot of time travel, and the twist at the end, albeit implausible, was very good.

2. Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story



I've never been a fan of turn-based combat. In my entire life, I've only finished four games that have it, and all four of them have Mario in the title. Bowser's Inside Story was the first of the four, and it was a monumental accomplishment for me. With JRPGs, the combat just wears on me after a while and I just put the game down and never come back to it. That's the reason I never finished games like Final Fantasy III/VI and Chrono Trigger. I'm aware that that's borderline blasphemy for someone as into retro gaming as myself, but I can't help what my tastes are. The important thing is that I tried, right?

Anyway, I took a chance on Bowser's Inside Story. I knew going in that it was turn-based, but I thought the idea of Mario and Luigi controlling Bowser from inside his body was fun enough to take the risk, and I certainly wasn't disappointed. They switch control from the Bros to Bowser and vice versa often enough to where it never got monotonous, and the humor--which is a staple of the series--kept me interested in the story throughout. This entry is my favorite in the Mario RPG/Mario & Luigi series.

1. Picross 3D



I've never had $20 go as far for me as it did with Picross 3D. I've spent more time twisting and turning these 3D puzzles than I have in Skyrim, and that's no small feat, because, like most gamers, I played a lot of Skyrim. This game is now over four years now and I still play it with consistency.

Most people don't expect this coming from me, but puzzle games are one of my favorite genres (perhaps that's the reason I never grow tired of Professor Layton), however, I had never played aPicross game before this one. I've spoken with a buddy of mine on several occasions who has a particular affinity for Picross DS, so I decided to give it a shot, and I still disagree and think Picross 3D is the superior game.

It's the perfect time-waster, it's the perfect pre-bed time game, it's a near-perfect puzzle game.Picross 3D gets nothing but my highest recommendation. If you have a Nintendo DS or 3DS, this is an essential item for your collection.

That's it for this week's top 5, but don't forget to follow me on Twitter @TheDustinThomas and listen to my buddies and I muse about videogames on our podcast.

Thanks for reading.

-Dustin