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My name's Ben. I'm pretty quiet but really easy to get along with. I've been playing video games since I was a little kid, watching my brother play the NES and sometimes playing with him. The first game I ever beat was Super Mario RPG, and that's when I developed a love for video games.

I was the Friday recapper for the Cblog Recaps team for 3 years!

I was on an episode of the Secret Moon Base Podcast! You can listen to me talk about video game bosses with the gang!

Games that I thoroughly enjoy:
Katamari Damacy
Shadow of the Colossus
EarthBound and Mother 3
Cave Story
Demon's Souls and Dark Souls
Persona 3 and 4
Team Fortress 2
Super Mario RPG
Tokyo Jungle
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
Mega Man Legends
Super Meat Boy
Bit.Trip series
Beyond Good & Evil
Dragon Quest VIII
Final Fantasy IV, VI, VII and IX
Mega Man 2
Majora's Mask
Super Mario Sunshine
WarioWare series
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Endless Ocean: Blue World
Mister Mosquito

My Backlog

Other things that I thoroughly enjoy:
Sweet potatoes
Studio Ghibli films
Eels (the band... and the animal too)
Cowboy Bebop
Kill la Kill
Jurassic Park
Spaghetti westerns
Crossword puzzles
Green tea
Giant squids
Player Profile
PSN ID:bbbain
Steam ID:bbainn
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Hello everyone! I meant to make a post on my actual birthday (November 22nd), but then video games happened, and I couldn't stop playing them. I am speaking of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Pokemon Alpha Sapphire, of course. I was also planning on buying a PS4 for my birthday, so I could play The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, among other games, but again, video games happened. I'll probably pick up a PS4 later this week instead. And then Persona Q comes out tomorrow... there's just so many games to play!

So yeah, I've pretty much been playing Smash Bros. and Pokemon non-stop since Friday. I figured I'd share some of my thoughts about both games, from what I've played of them so far.


Quick thoughts on Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

- I've tried out the majority of the characters by now, and I think King Dedede is still going to be my main. I already wrote a blog before about why I like him so much. He has changed slightly since Brawl, but not so significantly that he's no longer my favorite. I am really sad they changed his final smash, though. It might be more powerful now, I guess, but it's just not the same. Plus, I hate having to aim at a specific character now, rather than just activating the dance and sitting back to watch the chaos. Oh well... They also changed his side B attack so that he only throws out Gordos, rather than randomly throwing out either a Waddle Dee, Waddle Doo or a Gordo. I liked the randomness of his old side B, but the new one is good too. It's more useful, but it can also backfire if someone hits the Gordo back to you. Other than that, Dedede is pretty much the same. He's still my favorite character :)

- My favorite new character is either Pac-Man or Bowser Jr. I can't decide which one I like more. Pac-Man always just looks so happy, and I like how most of his attacks are retro-themed. Bowser Jr. has lots of cool attacks too, and is very fun to use, and I like how you can choose to play as any of the Koopalings. I usually go with Roy.

- I like Mega Man and Villager, but they seem kinda difficult to use. For some reason, Mega Man's buster gun feels weird to me, and I always screw up my side smash attacks. I like using the Leaf Shield, just because I love Wood Man, but it doesn't seem too useful or powerful. Some of his other attacks are really good though. As for Villager, my favorite thing to do with him is to plant and water a tree, and then run around hitting people with the axe (muahaha!). I really like both of these characters, so I'll have to practice with them a bit until I'm more comfortable with their moves.

- I really hate the Wii Fit Trainer, you guys. I thought it might be funny to play as them just to annoy people, but I end up getting really pissed off just using them, or even fighting against them. Their snarky fitness comments and yoga moves make me so angry, especially when they're beating me!

- Most of the other new characters I'm rather indifferent about. I've never cared about Fire Emblem, so I'm probably never going to use Robin or Lucina. Same with Shulk. Greninja is OK, but I prefer to use Charizard or Jigglypuff if I'm gonna pick a Pokemon. Duck Hunt is silly, and I'll probably experiment with them a bit. Palutena and Little Mac seem to have some cool attacks, and they seem kinda fun to use, but I'm not sure if I'll play as them much. Dark Pit seems entirely unnecessary, I'm not sure why he had to be a separate character. Also I don't really like Rosalina, she's kind of a boring character (I actually keep forgetting she's even in the game).

- For now, my usual rotation of characters includes King Dedede, Bowser, Bowser Jr./Roy, Ness, Diddy Kong, Olimar/Alph, Jigglypuff, Wario, Dr. Mario, Falco, and Pac-Man.

- My favorite new stage is the Boxing Ring. It's simple but fun, and seems like a perfect choice of stage for the game. I'm actually kind of surprised they didn't think of it sooner!

I actually thought it was a Kirby stage before I remembered Punch-Out is a thing.

- I also kinda like the Wrecking Crew level, but I'm not even sure why. Wrecking Crew was sort of a boring game, but for some reason I still kinda like it anyway. I feel the same way about games like Ice Climber, Balloon Fight, and Clu Clu Land. I hate playing them, but I like that they exist (actually, I do kind of enjoy playing Balloon Fight).

- I'm a little jealous of some of the 3DS-only stages. Especially Magicant, because I love anything Mother-related. Mother wasn't even a handheld game! Mother 3 was, but there wasn't a Magicant in Mother 3.

- The best new items are the beehive and cucco, for obvious reasons. Muahaha!

You all get BEES!

- Worst new item is the gust bellows. It was a stupid item in Skyward Sword, and it's a stupid item in Smash Bros.

- All the new assist trophies are so cool! I love seeing characters like Dillon, Ashley, Starman, Isabelle, Elec Man, Mother Brain, and Skull Kid on the battlefield! I'd actually love to play as any of those characters if they were made into fighters, especially Dillon, Ashley, and Skull Kid. I guess Mother Brain wouldn't really work as a fighter, though, haha.

I still think Sonic should have been replaced by Dillon.

- I honestly don't have a preference between For Fun and For Glory. They're both fun for their own reasons. Hopefully I can fight with some of you guys online someday, maybe during a Friday Night Fight?


Quick thoughts on Pokemon Alpha Sapphire

- I haven't acquired my ideal Gen 3 team yet, but my plan is to have a team consisting of Zangoose, Wailord, Relicanth, Ninjask (or Shedinja), and I'm not sure who else. Maybe Tropius, for flying. Who should I pick for the sixth slot?

- There are a few Pokemon I used to dislike based on appearance, but they look a lot better as moving polygons than they did a sprites, so now I kinda like them. Examples include Vigoroth and Poochyena, who both have really cool expressions now. I also like how Slakoth just splays out flat on his stomach, he looks really funny on a 3D plane.

This is me every morning.

- Polygonal Wattson is awesome! (He's one of my favorite gym leaders :D)

- I'm not too far into the game, just now got to Mauville City, so I haven't gotten to see many of the remade locations that I'm most excited to see, such as Fortree, Sootopolis, and the underwater section. I like what they've done with the locations so far, though. Mauville City in particular is really neat! I also like the remade gyms, they're all really cool looking.

- I mean, it's a remake so there's not too much new stuff to talk about, but I'm loving the game anyway.


That's all I've got for now. It's been a really exciting week for video games! Hopefully my birthday next year will be just as exciting!


Photo Photo Photo

Sometimes I find myself thinking a lot about the little things in video games, things that other people might overlook completely, yet somehow, they stand out to me as something particularly unique and intriguing. One such thing is the collection screen. Many games have collectibles, which you can find by exploring the world or accomplishing tasks, and some games will have a screen dedicated to viewing the things you've collected. Sometimes these screen might be a bit boring, but every once in a while, I'll come across a game where it's very clear that someone put a lot of time and consideration into making their collection screens fun and interesting.

My favorite example of this can actually be found in my all-time favorite game, Katamari Damacy. In Katamari, you spend your time rolling up random objects, people, and places into giant balls, and each unique item that you roll up is recorded in a collection. You can view every item that you've found, but the best part about Katamari's collections are the unique descriptions that somebody wrote for each and every item in the game. The descriptions are often hilarious, and were written from the point of view of The King of All Cosmos, who clearly has a very warped perception of the human race and the things that they use in their everyday lives.

I can imagine some gamers all but ignore these screens, maybe just checking them to make sure they've found everything, but I actually enjoy going through and reading every single description. I'd get excited whenever I found a new object in the game, wondering what the King had to say about it, and obsessively completing the entire collection just to read every last word. I think it's awesome that it was somebody's job to write all of these things; they clearly had just as much fun writing them as I did reading them!


A few of my favorite Katamari item descriptions:

Peach - A butt-shaped fruit that is more tasty than butts.

Canned mackerel - There appears to be fish inside. The fish may not be alive.

Gum (pack) - There is a trap which looks exactly like this. Be suspicious.

India ink - Black liquid for writing stuff. Squids puke this, but they are not writing.

Nail clipper - Used to clip human claws. We wonder if it hurts.

Flashlight - Very useful during blackouts, but difficult to find during blackouts...

Handcuffs - If you do something really bad these may be used on you! Or if you are good...


Many other games have created unique collection screens like this as well, offering all kinds of information to entertain and educate gamers as they collect things in-game.

Space Channel 5's collection screen gives you information about the civilians and aliens that you rescue throughout the game, with bits of trivia about their personalities and statistics, including random things like their blood type or their favorite ice cream flavor. This information is entirely unimportant to the story of the game, but still fun to read. Actually, the Space Channel 5 team made their collection screen even more interesting by including a sort of mini-game, where you had to talk to certain people in a particular order within the collection to unlock special outfit options for Ulala. I love getting rewarded for my completionist habits!

The trophies in the Smash Bros. games are another interesting example, as Nintendo used the trophy descriptions to relay a lot of different information about the history of the company, the games they made, backstory for the characters, and more. I learned a lot about Nintendo games just from reading the trophy descriptions, including some Nintendo games I've never even played, like Cubivore, Doshin the Giant, The Legendary Starfy, and more. Not to mention, looking through the trophies in Smash Bros. actually got me to play some Nintendo games I'd never tried before, including Earthbound, Animal Crossing, and Chibi-Robo, all of which I absolutely loved!

I still remember seeing the Totakeke, Tom Nook, and Mr. Resetti trophies in Melee and being excited for whatever game they were going to be in!

Other games use their collections to educate players with factual information. I spent a lot of time reading up on all of the biological information about the sea life in Endless Ocean: Blue World, via the in-game encyclopedia which unlocks as you discover new species while diving. I learned a lot about different kinds of fish and other creatures that I'd never heard of before, and also reaffirmed my knowledge about the animals I was familiar with.

Another game that went with the educational route was Valiant Hearts: The Great War, in which you can collect war memorabilia and read up on historical tidbits related to those items. I actually didn't know any of these historical facts before, probably because I never really paid attention in history class. History was always my least favorite subject in school, but somehow, Valiant Hearts made learning about history fun! It's like studying and playing video games at the same time... crazy!

There's even a small little (free!) indie game designed specifically around its collection screen. The game is called Tanaka's Friendly Adventure, and the joy of the game comes mainly from finding friends and learning about them in the collection. The actual gameplay is not very exciting; you literally just walk around and choose different paths until the game ends, and every new path you take unlocks a different friend. Yet somehow, I couldn't pull myself away from the game until I'd managed to find all the friends. It's really bizarre that such a simple, non-challenging game (a "walking simulator," if you will) could be so enjoyable to me, but it was. They took an often overlooked game feature and made an entire game around just that, and it made me smile.

Does anyone else enjoy browsing collection screens in games? Any other good examples? It's not something that a lot of people mention when talking about games, even though you can find them in many games. I really just wanted to express my appreciation for these things that tend to go unnoticed. I love that there are people out there who work hard to make these screens interesting for gamers, even though they probably never get feedback from gamers about their work. But surely there are other people besides me who enjoy perusing their in-game collections, right?


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I like to try using as many different characters as I can when playing Smash. I usually rotate through a rather large list of characters, including Lucas, Ness, Diddy Kong, Bowser, Wario, Olimar, Ice Climbers, Jigglypuff, Pokemon Trainer, Falco, Ganondorf, or maybe try someone new. But there's one character who I always come back to, someone who I feel I can claim as my own, at least among my group of friends.

King Dedede was by far my favorite fighter in Brawl, and he'll no doubt stay my favorite fighter in Smash Bros. 4. But why do I like him so much? I mean, I never had too much investment in the Kirby series, although I do really like Kirby Super Star and Kirby 64! Still, something about Dedede just makes me love him.


He may be the bad guy, but he's just so happy!

At least in Brawl, Dedede always has a huge, infectious grin which makes me happy just looking at him! It makes me wonder how such a happy guy could be the arch-enemy of Kirby, but then again, does Dedede ever do anything truly evil in the Kirby games? Usually, when he does something bad, it's because he's been possessed by some greater evil. In fact, he's sometimes even seen helping Kirby out on his adventures. I don't think Dedede is really a villain. Perhaps he just has a healthy rivalry with Kirby.


He's a penguin! (maybe?)

Everyone likes penguins, right?


For his final smash, Dedede does the happiest dance ever!

Other characters might have giant laser beams or armored tanks or impressive sword techniques, but how does Dedede defeat his enemies? By singing and dancing! His jolly dance also summons a bunch of Waddle Dees and Waddle Doos to join in on the fun, creating a hectic mosh pit of happiness. Any fighters who can't handle the groove may find themselves overwhelmed and unceremoniously bumped out of the battle!


He has an army of friends willing to help him out!

His Waddle Dees and other friends don't just help him out during the final smash sequence, either. At any point in the battle, Dedede and summon a member of his army of friends to help him fight. They can block projectiles and other attacks, provide a distraction, and even do some damage, so they're useful for a variety of situations. Plus they're pretty adorable!


His hammer is almost as big as he is!

Seriously, look at that thing. It's massive! It's almost as big as Dedede himself, and Dedede is just about the biggest character on the roster. That means Dedede's hammer is bigger than most of the fighters he's smashing with it! Not to mention he's secretly housing some kind of dangerous mechanism inside the wooden weapon, making it even more powerful. It's truly a force to be reckoned with!


He has the most impressive belly in the Smash Bros. roster!

And he seems pretty dang proud of it too!


His "crouch" is hilarious!

Instead of crouching, Dedede strikes a seductive pose when you press the down button. It makes me laugh every time :)


So basically, Dedede is the best. I don't see many other players choose Dedede either, so he feels special to me because no one else seems to use him except for me. He's a powerful, happy, lovable penguin, and he's my favorite character in Smash!


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7:24 PM on 08.21.2014

Boss music is often the most thrilling, intense music found on a video game soundtrack. Then there is the final boss music, which takes things to the extreme, highlighting the climactic action of a game. Everyone has their favorite final bosses, and I'm sure everyone also has their own favorite final boss music! Let me know what your favorites are in the comments!

The Battle for Everyone's Souls
Persona 3

If I had to pick one absolute favorite final boss theme, it would certainly be this one, hand down! It's just about the most epic battle music I can think of. Even the name of the song is epic! My favorite thing about this song is that they mixed in parts of Aria of the Soul, the operatic song that plays in the Velvet Room, only now it's faster paced and far less calming. Rather, it gets you pumped up for the grand battle against Nyx Avatar. Chances are, it's going to be a hell of a long fight, so you're going to be hearing this song for quite a while, but luckily it's so awesome that you won't even care!


Nier has just about the most perfect soundtrack I can think of, and the final boss music is no exception! Like many good final boss themes, this song starts off slow and ominous, but quickly builds up to an exciting crescendo as the battle starts to ramp up in difficulty. Like many of the songs from Nier, the Shadowlord's theme consists of Nier's mysterious language sung by a choir of angelic voices. It's really just beautiful to listen to. You'll definitely see more of the Nier soundtrack in future posts, because I cannot stress enough how great it is!

Gwyn, Lord of Cinder
Dark Souls

Not many games go with a somber tone for their final boss music. In fact, this is just about the only example I can think of, personally. And yet, I found it to be so incredibly effective! It really sets a unique mood for the fight against Gwyn. Like, should we feel sorry for this guy? He is ruling over a land of ashes after all, reduced to the title of the Lord of Cinder. Maybe Gwyn knows he is going to lose this fight, so the music reflects his current emotions. He's just trying to go out in the most noble way he can, by fighting with all his strength, maybe to return some of his lost honor? Well, he certainly puts up a hell of a fight, that's for sure!

Pokey Means Business!

Pokey may not be the actual final boss in Earthbound, but he basically acts as the battle's first form, since you fight Pokey and Giygas back-to-back. Plus, Giygas' theme is just unsettling noises and not really music. Pokey's battle theme, on the other hand, is absolutely awesome! The beginning of the song is cool enough, with an ominous chiptunes sound, certainly befitting a final boss fight. But then around 50 seconds in, it suddenly becomes this intense heavy metal song, with double bass drums and electric guitars. I was actually kind of surprised to hear this coming out of my Super Nintendo! I guess it was just so different from the rest of the music in the game that it caught me off guard. At the time, I thought it was so unique and unexpected, and I still kinda feel that way. It definitely sets the mood for a wicked final boss showdown!

The Final Battle
Final Fantasy IV

This was a really difficult choice: which final boss from the Final Fantasy series has the best theme music? They're all pretty amazing. Kefka's Dancing Mad is epic as hell, but I sometimes feel like it goes on a bit too long when I'm just listening to it. Necron's music is pretty sweet too; I like how they worked the sound of souls wailing in agony into his theme. I also have no problem with Sephiroth's One Winged Angel, which I feel gets a lot of hate these days. But I think my favorite will always be Zeromus' final battle theme from Final Fantasy IV. It was the first Final Fantasy game I ever played. Actually, it might have been the first RPG I ever played, so the music will always stick with me. The Zeromus battle has two forms. During the first form, the Prologue theme plays (possibly my absolute favorite song from the Final Fantasy series), but once you reach his second form, the battle music picks up and it becomes this epic fight for your life! I'm sure everyone else has their own favorite final boss music from the Final Fantasy series (I'm willing to bet it's probably Dancing Mad!), but this one has always left the biggest impression on me.

4:27 PM on 07.24.2014

The past few weeks, I've been playing Wild Arms. It's a pretty solid fantasy RPG, but what drew me to the game in the first place was its western theme. Much of the game seems to be tenuously related to the western genre at best, however. It's essentially a typical fantasy RPG, with some western flair to help it stand out from other RPGs. The game's soundtrack is pretty great, though. It was inspired by the music from some of my favorite spaghetti westerns, namely The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, as the overworld theme in the first game is a cover of The Ecstasy of Gold, my favorite song from Ennio Morricone's soundtrack.

This got me thinking about all of the great western-themed songs I've heard from other games. Westerns tracks tend to be a favorite of mine, because they always remind me of Sergio Leone's films. My fascination with the western genre is sort of a recent development, I only started watching westerns about four or five years ago, when I got the sudden urge to watch a Clint Eastwood movie and decided on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It instantly became one of my favorite movies, and since then, I've seen most of Sergio Leone's other films, and a few westerns from other directors as well.

This week's theme will obviously be the western genre. I thought of a lot more than five examples that I really liked, so there will probably be a sequel to this theme in the future (in case you're wondering where Guacamelee is). What do you guys think of western films/games?

The Shootist 
Red Dead Redemption

Ah, Red Dead Redemption... by far the most perfect game to play after binging on a bunch of spaghetti western films! If you ever want to play a game where you can pretty much be the Man with No Name, this is certainly the game to play. Of course, you do have a name, and a family and everything, so it's not exactly the same, but it's just about as close as you're gonna get. Obviously, the whole soundtrack is worth looking into if you like western music. The Shootist just happens to be my personal favorite track. It's got everything: whistling, rattlesnake noises, twangs, horns, men shouting "hah!"... and it's got a slick sound to it, befitting a talented gunslinger like John Marston.

Spike in a Rail 

The Bastion soundtrack is a beautiful thing. It manages to simultaneously bring to mind images of the Wild West and some sort of futuristic fantasy world. Some of the tracks sound like they could have been taken straight out of Firefly. The vocal tracks are definitely the highlight of the soundtrack (I'll no doubt be revisiting those in a future blog), but the instrumental tracks are, in my opinion, equally brilliant. There are several tracks I could have chosen here (Slinger's Song is another excellent choice), but the energy of Spike in a Rail makes it a favorite of mine. It sounds like a theme song for a badass cowboy riding into town like he owns the place, while outlaws stand around giving him the stink-eye.

Shadow's Theme
Final Fantasy VI

This song was an interesting choice for a character who is essentially a ninja. You might expect something with a little more eastern influence (kinda like Cyan's Theme), but Shadow's twangy theme certainly evokes images of the west. And somehow, it makes perfect sense. Shadow is a loner and a mercenary, much like the Man with No Name. Working on your own and taking assassination jobs to make money does seem like a very Wild West thing to do. Only instead of having a faithful horse companion, Shadow has a super loyal doberman partner.

Hidden Village 
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

I'll be honest, I actually completely forgot about this song until I heard it in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. This is probably because I played Twilight Princess before I started watching western films, so it didn't stand out to me as much back then. But now, the Hidden Village is one of my favorite areas in Twilight Princess. It's essentially a ghost town; only one resident still resides there (Impaz).The town certainly looks like something straight out of a western; I'd expect to see some tumbleweeds roll by as Link rides his horse up to the nearest saloon! Too bad the place is deserted...

Nowhere to Run
Rayman Origins

This one gets bonus points for the whistling. There's nothing like a good whistled tune to give something that old Wild West feeling. I mean, look at all the tunes the Man with No Name had, whistling as he rode into town. Or even the cowboy from Cowboy Bebop (you know the one). Aside from the music, the Land of the Livid Dead is not a particularly western setting, it's basically a graveyard of undead, agitated grannies. Platforming-wise, it's also the most intense level of the game, so having some awesome music to accompany the often frustrating difficulty certainly helped make these levels very enjoyable. I found myself whistling along to the music as I died over and over!

Confession time: I've only ever played one video game which is considered a part of the survival horror genre, that game being Amnesia. I've never played any Resident Evils, or Silent Hills, or Fatal Frames, or Dead Spaces, or Slender Mans or what have you. And it's not because I think they would be too scary, it's actually kind of the opposite. I think it has something to do with marketing. Video games, and movies too, which are marketed as terrifying experiences, excellent examples of the horror genre, just don't do anything for me. I'd go into them expecting to be scared, and it just wouldn't work. It's exactly what happened when I played Amnesia, which was a cool game, but it never made me jump in fright or feel dread or panic, because I knew the game was trying to scare me.

However, there are a few video games I've played which actually did scare the pants off of me, but interestingly they're never classified under the horror genre. And I think that's exactly why they were so scary to me. I'm not going into these games expecting any terrifying situations, so they creep up on me and surprise the crap out of me. Before I know it, I'm playing the game super carefully, as if I'm home alone at night, nervously exploring a darkened house to find the source of a mysterious noise.

The first game that ever truly scared me was the original Tomb Raider for the Playstation. Ugly graphics aside, the game was very immersive to my ten-year-old self who had just discovered 3D gaming. I was going into this game expecting an exciting adventure through caves and ruins in search of hidden treasure, probably fighting off bats and wolves and other adventurers, something like Indiana Jones: the Video Game (but hopefully without the melting skeletons!). And in fact, the first part of the game does feel very much like a video game version of Indiana Jones. There's caves, and bats, and wolves, and traps, and boulders, and secrets, and there's nothing that I can't handle!

Or so I thought. At this point in the game, everything seems pretty normal, save for a few unsettling things. The first weird thing I noticed was a nasty, half-mummified skeleton which is just lying out in the open. It doesn't do anything, other than provide some very creepy atmosphere. Not to mention it's constantly looking at you (due to being a 2D sprite in a 3D game). I spent a lot of time examining it because it seemed so weirdly out of place. What happened to this person? What kind of creature did this? My imagination was starting to run wild, so I decided to just put it behind me and continue on.

Then there was the music. While sometimes beautiful and mysterious, to bring wonder to the unknown ruins you're exploring, the 'music' for the most part consists of silence, interrupted by occasional strange noises. It puts you on edge, wondering what's making the sounds and what could be hiding around the next corner. There's also the enemy music, which can suddenly begin even when you don't see any enemies, so that you know you're being hunted! It can definitely surprise you, causing you to whip out your guns and look around wildly for the enemy.

The only other parts of the first couple levels that were slightly unsettling were the underwater parts, because you can't use weapons while swimming. Luckily, there were never any enemies in the water, so it was no big deal, but the first few swimming sections were pretty tense nonetheless.

So all is going well and good, until I get to the third level, the Lost Valley. As I wander around the level, picking up a shotgun and an abundance of health packs, I start to notice more and more skeletons scattered about. Maybe they were killed by all these wolves? Eventually I make my way to a jungle area, which must be the valley, and can't help but notice some odd tracks on the ground. They kinda look like they were made by a... no, it can't be. Then I hear footsteps and a terrible screech. What was that? Something red is running towards me. Oh shit, is it a dinosaur? Kill it, kill it!

After I take down the enemy, which took a lot more bullets than anything else I've killed up to this point, I carefully approach and examine the body. It looks like a raptor. Well this was certainly unexpected! I continue through the jungle, but now I'm being much more cautious. Any odd sound makes my heart skip a beat. I come upon a broken bridge way up above my head, and as I approach it, the enemy music starts up. More raptors? The ground shakes. Oh no. Out of the shadows leaps a massive T-Rex!

At this point, I shrieked, paused the game and promptly fell out of my seat. Like literally fell backwards off the ottoman I was sitting on. I just was not prepared for that moment at all, even after seeing the raptors. How could I fight something so big? I took a few moments to plan out a strategy of backflipping and shooting, before I finally unpaused the game. I hesitated, and the T-Rex bounded forward and ate me. It straight up grabbed my torso in its jaws, thrashed me around, and threw me to the ground, and I was dead. Welp.

Eventually, I manage to dispose of the T-Rex. I examine its corpse up-close, but very cautiously. I keep half expecting it to suddenly come back to life, I just don't know what to expect anymore. I make my way to the next level, the Tomb of Qualopec. This place is indoors, which makes me feel a little bit safer. But in the very first room, I'm assaulted by a rogue boulder and a pack of raptors. The dinosaurs escaped the valley?! Now I'm fully expecting to have to fight another T-Rex. They could be anywhere!

As it turns out, the Tomb of Qualopec is mostly devoid of enemies, save for the aforementioned raptors and a pack of wolves. But the scenery is becoming increasingly ominous. This level introduces the giant, bloody spikes of death, an obstacle that I quickly learned to avoid at all costs, because of how horrific Lara's death animation is when she gets impaled on them! There's like a popping, squelching sound as Lara doubles over, it was just too much for me. It sent shivers down my spine every time it happened.

After acquiring an artifact from the tomb, Lara travels to Greece, the second location in the game, to a place called St. Francis' Folly (probably my favorite level in the game!). The first part of the level isn't too bad, as we seem to be returning to more normal enemies. Lions and gorillas are much less frightening than dinosaurs! Then you reach a corridor which suddenly becomes a long slide down into a flooded sewer-like area. Water? No big deal. But wait, did I just see something moving? Is that a freaking crocodile? But I can't use my weapons in the water, so what do I do?! I gotta get out of the water, FAST.

And with that, I'm now terrified of the water again. No place is safe. Everything is trying to kill me. The latter part of the level is a tower with rooms devoted to gods of various mythologies, full of deadly traps based off of those gods' powers. Why not just Greek gods? Who knows. All I know is that even the gods are trying to kill me!

I make my way through the Grecian ruins rather uneventfully until I come upon the Tomb of Tihocan. I find myself at the entrance of the tomb, which is decorated with two majestic centaur statues. You can examine them to find that they basically do nothing, just decoration. You need to open the door of the tomb, though, which requires a switch. But after you pull the switch and make your way towards the door, one of the statues suddenly bursts and comes to life! You're faced with a grotesque, possibly undead centaur which appears to be all muscles and bones, and it starts shooting fireballs at you. I about had another heart attack, similar to the T-Rex reveal. And Jesus, this enemy is scary! What the hell is it? A zombie centaur? Once you defeat the enemy, it explodes, leaving no corpse behind to examine. So now I don't even know what kind of enemies I'm up against!

After clearing the second tomb, I find myself in Egypt, and now the game has entered full-blown horror territory. The Egyptian levels are crawling with all sorts of bizarre, hideous monsters. Mummies shriek and leap at you from nowhere, with freakish speed. Mummies are supposed to be slow and creepy, not quick and agile and fucking terrifying! Those things made my heart stop every time I encountered one. You'll find more undead centaurs, too, as well as other weird zombie creatures and even some horrifying, flying demon mutants! What the hell is happening? We've gradually gone from a grand Indiana Jones adventure to an unexpectedly gruesome horror game. And the creepiness doesn't stop here.

After Egypt, you finally make your way to the lost city of Atlantis. But Atlantis probably doesn't look like what you expected. The lost city turns out to be a pyramid of throbbing, pulsing flesh, filled with huge eggs which spontaneously burst open to reveal more zombies, centaurs, flying demons and the like. There's even a zombie which mimics your every move, and looks like a version of Lara that has been skinned alive!

This all leads up to the final boss of the game (essentially), which turns out to be a gigantic, legless, mutant torso, which pulls itself along the ground with its arms, as you stare in horror at its exposed bones, muscles and tendons. I mean, what else would you expect? Everything has been leading up to the most horrifying thing imaginable, and this is certainly it. The thing seems to take FOREVER to kill, and yet it can kill you with the flick of its wrist (literally; he'll grab you and slam you against the ground, breaking your entire body!). After it's defeated, you have to escape from the crumbling ruins of Atlantis, fighting one last boss along the way, the main antagonist, Natla. She's not nearly as tough or terrifying as the torso mutant (though she does grow demon wings), so I don't really consider her to be the final boss. After defeating her, you can finally escape from the horrifying hellscape that is Atlantis and beat the game!

The horror elements in Tomb Raider are exactly the kinds of things you would expect to see in a typical survival horror game. Foreboding music and atmosphere play a huge role, along with elements of surprise, grotesque monster designs, and an escalating amount of horrific situations as the game progresses. For a typical horror game, these elements would be expected. But since the game was marketed as an action-adventure game, they come as a complete surprise while you're playing. In this case, I'd say it was a welcome surprise!

It's interesting to see how the Tomb Raider series has developed over time. Most of the Tomb Raider games still retain that horror element to some extent, but the games have never been marketed as such. Even the newest game, the 2013 reboot, still has some story elements taken right out of the horror genre. There's gruesome human sacrifices, supernatural forces, and even a river of blood which Lara has to swim through. Yet you would never guess the game could be so horrific until you actually play it. I really think this is one of the Tomb Raider series' most entertaining qualities, and it's kept me coming back for more with every new release.  

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