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9:57 PM on 04.04.2010

Let's talk about PAX, baby

So I finally experienced PAX. Well, PAX East, anyway.

My bros and I (which includes my gal bros) have wanted to go to a PAX for a long time. However, it tends to fall on the same weekend as Dragon Con, and that's right in my backyard so it's hard for me to justify flying across the country for a convention. Most of my gaming bros are sort of scattered along the north and east, so PAX East seemed like a great opportunity to meet up at a PAX, finally!

We had a great time in Boston! Despite the cold, the bars were within walking distance and plentiful, Captain Morgan showed up (it's like booze santa!) and gave us rum swag, and Bukowskis was the home base for quite a lot of our after hours shenanigans. Big ups to Boston! It's a great town, and every time I visit I have a good if bewildering time.

We had a great time at PAX too, but as always with a convention, I feel like I didn't get to do everything I wanted. I go to Dragon Con every year, so I mean, I'm used to not being able to do everything, but I'm not sure if it was the venue or the fact that it was my first PAX, or all the soul-crushing lines or what. I know definitely that part of it was that my friends that I don't get to see very often were experiencing their first convention EVER, so I did what they wanted to a lot of the time. I know you can split up the party, but I've played a lot of D&D, so that idea makes me uncomfortable.

Great things at PAX East:
Indie developers came out in FORCE.
The also-rans really ran away with the ball. I mean, I took a second look at a lot of games I've overlooked, and I got to talk with a lot of people about my game ideas and some coding tips and so forth. I kind of wish I suffered through lines (or got up early enough) for the developer panels. That's totally on me though.

Classic gaming... anything.
Even when there wasn't always time to put my initials up on Sinistar, I loved just walking into the classic arcade and "soaking it up" for a few minutes. It's probably my favorite part of the convention, to the point that I'm considering Classic Gaming Expo. That and classic freeplay took most of my time, honestly. Just meeting up with people over some controllers and playing Mario Kart is what this shit is all about.

The general.. aura?
I'm no hippie, man. Okay, maybe a little. It's like walking into your local gaming store, console coven, or D&D conclave. You just show up and you are home. D*C is the only other convention that's given me that feeling ever, and that's really a good thing, it's hard to capture.

Things I wish I had more time for:
Panels, obviously. I am really line averse, probably because I am spoiled. If there's a long line at D*C, there's like 300 other things to do. Maybe the change in venue will help.

Tournaments. I took one look at the SF tournament, saw it was 8 hours, and looked for other things to do. One of my buddies and some wow guildies tried out the bad company tournies and honestly, we dropped him off and didn't see him the rest of the day, even though they really only got one or two matches in.

Destructoid. Yeah, I had full intentions on at least dropping in on some of the stuff, but my IRL bros were around, it's hard to leave them and it was their first convention. I hope you understand.

I'm all psyched up for next year though!   read

12:19 AM on 03.10.2010

FFXIII: Thank you Internet trolls, you made me love this game!

I had some things to say about my playthrough of Dragon Quest 5 and some other retro Japanese games I had never gotten around to, and bits about coding my own rudimentary games, but I never seem to update here very often. Seriously I just wanted to write a few things down about day 1 of FFXIII.

Beloved game series, even a series as disjointed as Final Fantasy, seem to be a mixed bag now. At some point these series were new and groundbreaking, but some franchises release so infrequently that every one becomes an event, and purchasers are fueled by nostalgia for the old and hope or fear at what is to come. I was pretty hopeful for FFXIII, even though I groaned at the overall "let's make a FFVII remake, but not really" vibe I seemed to get from following the game's development.

I read Dale North's loves and not so loves and felt that they were pretty balanced. I started to gladly anticipate the game, and even contemplated importing it, since with native subtitles I can usually understand most Japanese media pretty easily. I held off due to the cost of that method though, although I could probably use the practice.

However, at some point, I let the trolls get to me. "This game is just trying to cash in on graphics", "this game is too linear", especially after the Japanese release, complaint after complaint about the game just bogged me down. I guess I can blame that on where I go to read game chatter outside of Destructoid. 2ch, 4chan, and SA aren't really the best places to read about games sometimes, you get troll points for shitting on everything and professing to like just about anything loses cred there.

What turned me around ultimately, was that I don't have any PS3 games right now and I don't want to exhaust my portable games before PAX, and that a beta code for FFXIV was included. I'm going to buy the game eventually anyway, I might as well get some perks out of it!

I'm glad I did.

In short, my expectations were almost lowered to the point that just the game turning on sounded appealing and above what people expected of the game. Frankly, having them firmly grounded sort of helped. It's easy to catch the hype train to disappointmentville, especially when a game like this comes out. There are flaws, but not so much so that you feel compelled to turn off the game or return it. I don't think the linearity is any worse than FFX so far. I think it's been long enough since that game was released that a lot of people have forgotten that the "arrow to the exit" was the huge controversy at the time. And it *was* fairly linear until maybe the last quarter of the game where you got the airship. I haven't completed this thing obviously, so you know maybe it doesn't open up at all, but I never really felt that FFX opened up much either.

I didn't expect to be so wowed by the battle system though. I guess seeing the demos and stuff in motion were just confusing, because there's a lot on the screen that happens and until you start messing with it yourself it is hard to really follow. The one thing someone could have told me was how much it borrowed from FFXII, which was my favorite setting (Ivalice) with probably the most innovative battle system I could think of for a Final Fantasy thus far.

Depending on who you talk to, the Gambit system was either the best thing or the worst piece of shit to ever grace a Final Fantasy game. It was basically ATB, but instead of having to mash A to attack all those weak enemies you don't care about, it just attacked them for you, you could set macros to hit enemies with their weaknesses, you could set up people to automatically cure wounded party members. It was still too limited to be a substitute for anyone with an understanding of RPG mechanics and tactics. It was admittedly, extremely slow in the beginning, when you only had one or two actions anyone could actually perform. Since the game I had completed right before FFXII was Star Ocean 3, the ability to program my party members' AI was a godsend.

This system is basically Gambit, but with common actions predefined for you and the necessity of having to mash X to make it all happen. (I guess people didn't feel involved enough in FFXII and didn't see it as saving our controllers from RPG X button death). Since the characters's experience goes towards filling out predefined roles instead of a huge non specialized license grid, optimal actions are easier to predict programatically. Someone specced to heal is going to want to heal, for instance. Instead of having to construct a gambit of "when enemies are clustered, use an AoE attack", the game already has one, it just does it. This is good, although slow in the beginning much like FFXII. I can forsee the game ratcheting up the challenge a bit more and it's more about defining your own paradigms and specifying manual actions you want characters to do.

With that, I am spent. I've gone from "meh" to "completely ready to strap myself to the couch and beat this game" in a span of less than 24 hours. I just wanted to share!

If I don't post again, see you at PAX East!   read

10:16 PM on 01.07.2010

Everything old is new again: The Quest of Ki.

After defeating the SHIT out of Dragon Quest 3, I went on the hunt again. It's easy to get retro game fatigue when you have a whole library of games in front of you, as Lazario's excellent blog post illustrated.

I watch a lot of Game Center CX raws nowadays, so that assists in my search for worthy games through the chaff of the ages. I'll probably end up mentioning it in just about every blog post, seriously. It's a charming show, kind of like AVGN but without the scatological references and beer guzzling. Arino doesn't really get too upset, although sometimes you can tell he really wants to quit, he knows that a lot of people are expecting him to beat the game, or at least make a good show of it.

The Game Center CX Christmas special unearthed The Quest of Ki for me. I had never really heard of this game, even though it's a sequel to the Tower of Druaga, which is fairly famous for it's difficulty. The Christmas episode of Game Center CX had poor Arino stuck on the same level for around 8 hours. Terrible!

Ninja Gaiden needs to step over, because this is the hardest game I have ever completed. It is ridiculously picky and unfair, and the worst part about it was I knew I could do better, much like Ninja Gaiden or Castlevania or Devil May Cry. When you know the challenge is surmountable it makes it even more aggravating.

It took me most of a holiday weekend to get through this one, which for a NES era action game is kind of long. If you prepare yourself for the challenge make sure you have the time and the tenacity. At level 60 the ending of the game is revealed, but if you continue there are 40 even more difficult stages to get through!   read

8:56 AM on 11.15.2009

Everything old is new again: Dragon Quest 3

Tis the season. While everyone is getting worked up about their Modern Warfares, Dragon Ages and the like, I sit at work agonizing over whether I should bite the bullet and make my priest into a sage. It's not a decision to be made lightly, if I do it my character will have more skills and better stats, but in exchange I will have to suffer through some levels until I can survive slogging through the dark corners of the world, looking for orbs.

It's my first time through Dragon Quest 3, and I am an addict.

It's hard to believe it's taken me this long to play this game. As someone who loves RPGs and retro games, my "first hit" was from the original Dragon Warrior. A friend had the game, and we spent many hours exploring, looking for artifacts of the world we were thrust into. When the legendary Nintendo Power promotion hit, somehow I convinced my mother to weasel a copy of the game from them in exchange for another year, the suckers! I was gonna subscribe for another year anyway!

Dragon Warrior 2 was released approximately around the same time as Final Fantasy. In a personal era where pocket money was limited by the number of yards I could mow, I could only choose one. My friend had Dragon Warrior 2 and we played it together in much the same manner as we played the first game, and I was captivated by the fact that you could see what your weapons and spells looked like in the original Final Fantasy. Between that and the insane coverage the game was getting at the time, I never really looked back. The rarity of the latter Dragon Warrior games didn't help (check ebay, marvel at the prices for games over a decade old!)

Dragon Quest came to my attention again when the DS re releases were announced. Final Fantasy has been stuck in my mind ever since the original, and while I obsessively bought, imported, emulated, and replayed each one, Dragon Quest has sat by the wayside, waiting patiently for me to come back to the fold. Playing through DQ4 on the DS was like reconnecting with an old friend from grade school, or like eating peanut butter and jelly after weeks of dining on finicky complicated food and being unsatisfied.

No one really wants to read my life story. In fact at this point you've either clicked somewhere else or are thinking "Why the hell are you playing dragon quest three in this day and age? Get on with it!". So here's the meat: has recently (okay, nearly three months old) put out a translation for the SNES ROM.
Follow the instructions and you're golden, enjoy playing the best port of this game you'll see unless Square Enix decides to put out a new version, which they may. Probable disclaimer: I don't know how or where to get roms, neither does anyone else.   read

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