Currently residing in Portland after attending Portland State University and earning a bachelors degree in communications with aspirations of working in the videogame industry in some capacity, preferably as a writer. I've always wanted to work in the industry, but I'm really not into the idea of 70 hour work weeks while on the development side of things, so I'm looking for alternatives. I'm 24, a big Portland Traiblazer fan, and I've been enjoying my newfound post graduation freedom quite nicely. My all time favorites include Metroid Prime, Yoshi's Island, Sonic CD, and Metal Gear Solid (The whole damn series). I haven't really been involved heavily in a gaming community for a few years now due to a crazy schedule, and I look forward to getting to know all the fellow uber nerds here. Come to my blog for high quality reviews and the occasional rant.
The phrase passed through my head once or twice this past Thursday evening. My New Years resolution was to up the workload and graduate by the end of the calender year, and taking classes through the summer was part of the deal. The extra work upfront paid off, as now there's only two classes left on the docket before I happily accept a fine, crisp piece of paper from Portland State University for the past five years of hard work and perseverance (which I am positive the administration cares far more about than the $41,000 I've given them to continue and fund our shit football team with). The only downside being the lack of a vacation added with the previous twelve months spent grinding my brain into mush has turned the remnants of my physical being into an empty shell; devoid of tangible thought and lacking in purpose.
But a tiny rainbow of relief sparkled across my path on Thursday evening. My final final of the term had finished earlier that afternoon, which left me with about two weeks worth of vacation before school ďstarts back upĒ in the fall (I still gotta work but, hell, Iíll take three days off a week with no homework as a vacation at this point) . This brings me to The Wall, as my roommates like to call it. Our basement/Foosball room/laundromat/moped repair shop also became the home of The Wall along with all my equipment and a couple of comfy chairs. The Wall is where the vast majority of my minimal disposable income has gone pretty much since I started working, and this beacon of architectural design has formed over the years to become a video game collection a large percentage of my extended family would probably find alarming.
So there I was. In the basement, with me and The Wall. Finally we had some time together. Being a full time student while also working as a full time pizza delivery driver on top of trying to find work as a freelance writer in addition to attempting to have any semblance of a social life has left me with a fraction of the gaming time I had as a young lad, but the next two weeks were going to be different. All I wanted to do was just kick back in the recliner and tackle a couple of games off the backlog before I bought another round of fall releases doomed to also fall into the backlog. The only question being what games to cross off the list before heading back to school to turn my rainbow of relief into a double rainbow of rejuvenation.
I stood there at The Wall for what felt like hours as side bindings peered into my soul as my wallet shrieked in horror. Somewhere along the line, as I kept buying games and adding to The Wall, the radio of games purchased to games completed derailed into sheer absurdity. I had absolutely no idea where to begin. Once in a while I would get motivated on a day off and plow through Vanquish or a Sam & Max season, but these occasions have become a far too sparse exception to the rule. This true viewing of the current state of my main hobby left me somewhat demoralized, almost as if Mt. Backlog had become a perch too tall to conquer. What started as a quest to layeth the smacketh down on some prior purchases quickly descended into watching Top Gear.
But it was Top Gear America, so that only made matters worse.
In the immortal words of Fred Willard, ďHey, wha' happen?Ē The seventeen-year-old me always scoffed at people who would complain about not having enough time to finish eight hour games while I ripped through whatever 60+ hour excursion was currently on my plate. Seventeen-year-old me would be pointing and berating me if he was here right now. In response, I would probably hit him over the head with a sock full of nickels and make him pony up for my car payment this month, as that little twerp living rent free at home without a care in the world doesn't seem to comprehend how reality can make the prospects of completing a strategy RPG the length of an aircraft carrier somewhat bleak.
Which brings me to Saturday. It wasn't a particularly pleasant day on the job, but I made a killing in tips. So what do I do? Maybe save that money for fall term or buy that oil change that's due? Pfft. Fuck that! If I made responsible decisions with my extra scratch, I wouldn't be in this predicament. Naturally, my first inclination is to go to the store and buy another game, which is clearly the first step in recovery! This was around the time when I finally realized I was probably never going to finish H.A.W.X. It was a big week for releases with Dead Island, Resistance 3, Driver: San Francisco, and Warhammer 40K: Space Marine, but one title in particular made that seventeen-year-old in me perk up with some enthusiasm.
My internal reasoning at the time for buying Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten is partly why I'm in this mess. ďI've always loved these games, and I have the other three games in the series, so what's one more gonna hurt, right? Never mind the fact Iíve never actually...y'know...finished one of them, but if I wait, I may not get that premium edition with the little figurine!Ē You see the problem with this strain of logic? Nowhere in this little monologue going on between my earlobes while I was waiting in line did I think, ďBoy oh boy! I sure can't wait to get home and PLAY Disgaea 4!Ē The $60 I spent on this game could have been my share of utilities at the house next month, and I've already written it off as a cool collectable that will look nice on The Wall.
Then something clicked.
The seventeen-year-old is officially mad as hell, and he's not gonna take it anymore. He has sat by and watched me add to The Wall only to allow it to balloon out of control while I continued spend worthless hours doing things like homework or attempting to further my career path. Obviously, three months before I graduate is the perfect time to forgo these habits! But seventeen-year-old Jarrod has made up his mind and shoved Disgaea 4 straight to the front of the line to conquer like I used to in the good old days, and that's where this blog comes in.
So here's how this is gonna go down: I'm dropping everything video game wise. No more Deus Ex, no more El Shaddai, no more Shadows of the Damned from here on out until further notice. Until it's done, with the exception of games I'm assigned for review through the Portland State newspaper or other outlets, Disgaea 4 will mostly be the only console game I play. Furthermore, I'm not buying another game until I finish it. On top of the time advantage I had in my youth, it was a lot easier to knock these RPG's out when it was the only new game you had to play for months on end. At the end of each week, I'll post a new blog here tracking my progress while sharing my thoughts on the game up to that point. Lastly, I will also be writing a column on a bi-monthly basis for the Portland State newspaper on the same subject, which I will also post here. These articles will have a 500 word limit, so expect the tone and style to be somewhat different. Writing under the constraints of print is a strange beast when compared to the vast wilderness of the internet, but its a skill I would still like to hone even if it is a dying medium.
Whether things turn out the way I hope is yet to be determined. Will I fall back into the same cycle that has done irreparable damage to my inner nerd cred? That seventeen-year-old is gonna do everything in his power to see to it that doesn't happen, and he's bringing plenty of Pepsi and Doritos along for the ride. Now is the time. Now is the moment where I ride atop to mighty steed and take control of my hobby once more! The return to my roots starts NOW!
Wait...Holy hell it's 1:30!? How did that happen? Damn I gotta get to bed. I got work in the morning. Seventeen-year-old me can wait til tomorrow nig...Shit, the Cowboys game is tomorrow night. Umm...well ok MONDAY IS THE TIME...probably.
I sat down here today with the intention of writing why I thought 2010 sucked, and after being convinced by the internet that it was the worst year in video game history with precious few awesome games, I decided to take a moment and reflect to see if I could recall what games from 2010 I thought were awesome. This is what I came up with:
No More Heroes 2, Mass Effect 2, Alan Wake, Enslaved, Super Meat Boy, Limbo, Singularity, Starcraft II, Yakuza 3, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Epic Mickey, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Dragon Quest IX, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Darksiders, Red Steel 2, Vanquish, Dead Rising 2, Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, Scot Pilgrim Vs. The World, Metro 2033, Sam & Max Season 3, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, NBA JAM, Red Dead Redemption, The Sly Collection, Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale, Monkey Island 2: Special Edition, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, Halo: Reach, Sakura Wars: So Long My Love, Transformers: War for Cybertron, 3D Dot Game Heroes, Super Street Fighter IV, Gran Turismo 5, Fallout: New Vegas, NHL 2011, NBA 2K11, VVVVVV, and Sin & Punishment: Star Successor.
That's 41 games, and I'm sure there's a few that I'm forgetting along with the games I haven't even gotten around to playing. I really don't see how a year featuring that giant run-on sentence worth of neat-o games can suck, especially when I can count the number of movies I liked this year with one hand.
C'mon, isn't "sucked" a little harsh? Is it because 2010 was the year in which the gaming world found out that Activision is *gasp* only interested in making money!??! No shit. It's a publicly traded company with a stockpile of shareholders who are also only interested in making money, and they want to spend as little money as possible to achieve this goal.
Is this surprising to you?
Activision is currently in possession of the biggest moneymaker in video game history, and you don't think every other publisher on the planet wouldn't ride that gravy train as hard as they could in the same manner that Activision does? You mean like when Capcom made 238 variants of Street Fighter II? Or how Nintendo has made Mario the Jim Thorpe of the video game world by making him compete in every sport known to mankind at one point or another? You don't think these companies scrapped ideas for new IP's in pursuit of another home run (or goal, or hole-in-one, or strike)? Guess what: publishers care about your wallet, not the pursuit of artistic enlightenment, and most certainly not you, and that's how it's always been.
My point here is that the things people seem to think make 2010 a terrible year happen just about every year. "Evil" publishers churning out endless sequels? They've been doing that for three decades. A bunch of games you were looking forward to slipped to next year? Check. Mass firings and studio closures? Once again that is nothing new. Frankly, considering we are currently in the middle of the greatest economic downturn in eighty years, it could've been much, much worse. Aww, you're sad because Alan Wake didn't outsell Black Ops? BOO-HOO. Alan Wake is nearing one million units sold, and given its recent inclusion as a pack-in game and Microsoft admitting they fucked up its release, a sequel is looking highly likely. Hell they made a Blinx 2, remember?
So ignore the business end of things. If that's a barometer for judging the quality of a year, it's been a shitty lifetime for the entire medium.
2010 was fucking awesome. Just look at that list up there! Did you play all of that? I sure as hell didn't have the time to finish all of those. My wallet is PISSED looking at that list. If anything, 2010 sucked because there were too many awesome games with too little time to play them. And I totally forgot about Bayonetta. That game was amazing! Holy fuck, what about God Of War III? Y'now what else happened in 2010? Starcraft II ACTUALLY CAME OUT. Seriously, I'm looking at the game's box as I type this and I still can't believe it's there.
So why did 2010 suck? Is it because of motion controls? Well the Wii had a fucking awesome year, so the dead horse that is the "Wii is destroying my precious hobby WAHHHHHHH" argument doesn't apply this year. So is it because Sony and Microsoft entered the fray? It's too early to tell. It's obvious from all the awesome hacks people have come up with for Kinect that it's a amazing peice of technology, and I've played enough awesome Wii games to see the potential for the PlayStation move to be great as well, so are we going to bury them forever because their launches were less than stellar? By that logic, you should have chucked your PS2 out the window after your first rousing play-through of Fantavision.
Oh and if you still think 2010 sucked, go ahead and play the 85 games you spent $12 total on during the 2010 Steam holiday sale. Wow what a shitty way to end a shitty year.
Optimism is a lost art form on the internet. Yeah Square-Enix continued to be baffling, a bunch of really talented and cool people lost their jobs, and Microsoft pulled a Microsoft by hiking the price of XBox Live, but don't lost sight as to why we pay attention to the bad news in the first place: because we love video games, and if you love playing video games, then there was plenty to love in 2010. Glass half full, people. Glass half full.
And for my closing statement, no year featuring Deadly Premonition even has the ability to suck. Case muthafuckin closed.
Metroid Prime Triolgy (Wii)
Developer: Retro Studios
Release Date: August 25th, 2009
If you were to tell me in 2002 before Metroid Prime was released that in 2009 we would be celebrating the re-release of one of the greatest videogame trilogies of all time in the form of Metroid Prime Trilogy, I couldnít even be able to put into words how dumb I would think you were. The fact that Metroid Prime was good, let alone the masterpiece that it is, defies any and all kinds of logic. The game was being made by Retro Studios, who prior to the games release was the laughing stock of the industry. This was a all star development studio made up of hand picked members from Texasís finest development houses (id, Gearbox, Ion Storm, etc.), who since their inception in 1998 had cancelled four separate titles, and hadnít released a single one. Then it was later discovered that the head honcho of the company, Jeff Spangenberg, was running a porno site (with content starring himself) and hosting it on company servers. All their eggs were in the basket of Metroid Prime, which Nintendo fans worldwide had already written off as a blasphemous insult to a once great franchise. Not only did Nintendo hand over development to a bunch of unproven westerners, but they were turning one of gamingís premiere side scrolling franchises into a first person shooter of all things. Anyone with a brain could see this as the recipe for diasaster that it was surely going to be.
Then it came out, and everyone seemed to shut up pretty quickly.
Seemingly overnight, Retro Studios went from running gag to the toast of the town, and suddenly a franchise that had been dormant for almost a decade was once again thrust into the spotlight. It was, as the great Jeremy Parish put it, a miracle. Seven years and two stellar sequels later, we have yet another franchise reboot on the way with Metroid: Other M, which makes it a great time to go back and bask in the glory of the Prime trilogy, and Nintendo has decided to give these games a proper send off with this fantastic collection.
Itís quite obvious from the moment the game is in your hands that Nintendo had the hardcore Metroid fan in mind when designing the packaging. In a word: Gorgeous. Every version of MPT is housed in a beautiful steelbook case with a nice little art booklet/timeline thrown in for good measure. The menus from the three games have been condensed into a single menu designed to look like the inner workings of Samus Aranís arm cannon. This menu is slick, easy to navigate, and a nice alternative to the basic static screen where you pick which game you wanna play that you see in most other compilations.
Letís move on to the actual games in the compilation, starting with Metroid Prime andÖFuck, I donít even know where to start.
Metroid Prime is a generation defining work of art. For my money, itís the best Metroid game ever made, itís the best Gamecube game ever made, and probably the single best game from the last console generation, which I think probably puts it as one of the top five or so best games ever made. Retro Studios greatest achievement in Prime 1 was the transfer of the core gameplay of a 2D side scrolling platformer into a first person viewpoint, and they did it flawlessly. Metroid Prime is a platformer through and through and any resemblance to a first person shooter is completely superficial. Somehow, Retro Studios made Metroid Prime truly feel like a Metroid game. One of the big reasons for this is something you might take for granted: Jumping. up until that point (and frankly it still hasnít been properly replicated) jumping in any kind of First Person game felt stiff and janky. In Prime, it works flawlessly.
Another one of their accomplishments is just how immersive the game is, and the way they pull this off is how well the game makes you feel like you are in the Varia suit. Raindrops hit the visor, steam builds, and once in a while you can see Samusís reflection when it gets really heated. This feeling is further heightened by the most intuitive and all around best HUD in any game ever created, that at any point in the game will tell you everything you need to know about your current status without ever getting in the way. However the most important thing Retro did to keep the mood intact throughout is they have removed the #1 mood killer in all of videogames: Load screens. There is not a single load screen at any point in Metroid Prime. Granted, thereís lots of hallways to make up for this, but thatís far better then the alternative.
One of the few complaints thrown Metroid Primeís way is the games lack of a story, and this is completely unfounded. In Prime, the story surrounds you, you just have to seek it out. Using the games genius scanner, you will see that every plant, every piece of architecture, every creature, and every computer screen has a story to tell. There is a hidden narrative where you learn of the fate of the ancient Chozo race, the Space Pirates biological experiments, and maybe a little about the one they call ďthe hunterĒ. There isnít a upgrade shop with a jive talking merchant, no commander feeding you intel from a base somewhere, and there isnít some evil overlord spouting rhetoric every chance he gets. All of this leads to a feeling rarely felt in gaming: loneliness. Itís just you, your gun, and a giant (and I mean giant) world for you to explore. Tallon IV is a dark, claustrophobic place, and one of the most detailed and well designed locales in gaming, with beautiful art design and more secrets then the CIA. Add to this the phenomenal soundtrack by Kenji Yamamoto, and you have one of the most atmospheric games ever created. Everyone who loves videogames should play and own a copy of Metroid Prime.
So needless to say Retro had their plate full when work started on the sequel, as Metroid Prime 2: Echoes had a lot to live up to. Given the mammoth pedigree of the first Prime, expecting the same type of revolution from Echoes would just be unfair, but it is a nice little evolution. The core gameplay is basically identical to the first (this is a good thing) sans for a few weapon swaps and the inclusion of the almighty screw attack. Prime 2 is a much darker, more sinister title the first game. While Tallon IV had more of a organic feel to it, the world of Aether is far more technologically advanced, especially when the dark world takes over and you see the light world twisted and distorted. Some people didnít like aspects of the dark world, such as it constantly draining your health while in it, but I didnít mind it. I thought it added tension, and the rate it drains health at isnít really enough to put you in serious danger in most parts, plus you get an upgrade later to protect you. From a design standpoint, Echoes is every bit the game Prime 1 was, but Prime 1 did it first, so Echoes doesnít have the same wow factor, but itís still is a absolute joy to play. One leg up Echoes does have on itís predecessor is in the graphics department, as this is probably the best looking Gamecube game ever made. Prime 2 also has four player split screen multiplayer which I have never played and probably never will, as the idea of multiplayer goes against everything I like about the series. Plus even in 2004 I was already past split screen multiplayer for shooters, and in 2009 thereís no fucking way Iím doing it.
Now we come to Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Being a Wii game and all, Corruptions big thing was the control scheme, which I think works flawlessly, however it does have a fairly steep learning curve. Give it an hour or so and youíll get the hang of it. Some people have said itís the best controlling console first person shooter ever, and I donít know if thatís a fair comparison as, like I said earlier, the Metroid Prime games arenít really first person shooters, but for what Corruption is you really couldnít ask for more out of the controls provided. Corruption is, in my estimation, the weakest of the three games. While Echoes did have a ďrealĒ narrative to it with the occasional cutscene, thereís simply way too much in Corruption. Thereís lots of badly acted Star Trek techno babble between characters you wonít give two shits about while Samus just kind of stands around waiting for a order. Also instead of taking place in one giant world, Corruption takes place on numerous smaller ones, so the pacing isnít as smooth as in the previous games, and the overall level design suffers because of this. Granted Corruption is still fantastic and one of the top two or three games on the system (and from a technical standpoint itĎs the best looking game on the system), but itís not the game it couldíve been.
Metroid Prime 1 and 2 have both seen some pretty significant upgrades for Trilogy, the most obvious being the control schemes. The fantastic controls from Corruption have been ported over without a hitch, and they are a improvement over the original Gamecube controls. The other big addition is the ability to play the games in true 16:9 widescreen for us with HDTVís, and that is a really big deal. Going from playing the first two games in the series on a 19 inch CRT with a Gamecube controller to my 40 inch flat screen with the Wii controller has been a great treat so far, and both games still look better then 90% of Wii games anyways, so anyone going back to play these games will be very pleased. One last thing is that apparently Retro went back and tweaked the difficulty of Echoes in certain spots, so the Boost guardian isnít as much of a total bitch to get through as he was in the original. Really my only complaint with this box is the exclusion of the original Metroid, which was a unlockable in Prime 1. Granted you needed to connect your GBA to your Gamecube with a copy of Metroid Fusion to get it, but it wouldíve been nice to have it here as well. Buy hey, why do that when you can buy it on Virtual Console for $5, right?
A thought crossed my mind as I was driving home with Metroid Prime Trilogy: thereís quite a few people out there who will be buying this who have never played these games before. If that person is reading this before, I just want you to know just how jealous I am of your precarious position. Ohh how awesome it would be to go back to when I was fourteen and my jaw was on the floor as I traversed Tallon IV for the first time. Unfortunately you canít go home again in this situation, but playing Prime again on an HDTV with Wii controls has been a wonderful experience so far. I cannot stress how awesome this package is. You get probably the best game of this millennium fully upgraded with its two awesome sequels thrown in to boot with great packaging all for $50. while I hope most of the people reading this played Prime 1, Iím sure many of you missed out on Echoes for whatever reason, and now is the perfect time to go back and play a overlooked gem. Hell even if you didnít like Prime when you first played it, maybe youíve smartened up a bit in the last seven years and youíre ready to appreciate its greatness. This has gone on long enough, so I will end with this: There is no better disc to spend $50 on for Wii then Metroid Prime Trilogy. Buy it right now.