I used to blog a little bit on here, but school kind of made me stop. Recently I've been playing more Dark Souls, and the last thing I wrote about the game was a cblog from a while back. So, I thought it would be nice to continue writing about my new experiences with the game where it all started.
Growing up I spent more hours playing games at my friend's house than I ever did at home. I would ride home with him after school and we would fire up whatever piece of garbage we had rented for the N64. Eventually my Mom would finally get off work and come pick me up, and as much as I would try, gaming just wasn't the same by myself. I don't think I've ever shared that with him.
So, time went on and we both grew up. I found myself attending college and dating the girl of my dreams, but my friend's life turned out to be more of a struggle. His family had always been unstable, but as the years progressed things just got worse for him. Abusive families have a way of keeping people down, and victims often blame themselves for what's going on around them. It's hard to tell someone that their own family is a toxic environment, so most of the time you just sidestep the issue. Eventually me and my friend stopped talking regularly. He was so busy with the absurd situation he was living with that everything else fell by the wayside, and I wasn't sure how to approach him anymore.
I still live close to him, and from time to time I'll give him a call and try to talk like I don't spend every week worried about him. Sometimes we'll talk about how badly he needs to get out of there, but it's hard to gain any ground in that conversation when you don't want to sound pushy, or like you know what's best for them. I had always imagined we would start our own company someday, or invent some stupid gadget, but life has a way of turning the tables on you I suppose.
Recently I've gotten back in touch with him, and was a little happy to hear that things at home seemed a little better, or at the very least a bit more stable. We started talking like old friends do, like not a second had passed since the last time we spoke, and I mentioned I was playing Dark Souls. To my excitement, a friend who is currently living with him had a PS3 and a copy of the game, so I tried to schedule a time for us to play.
The time rolled around and he wasn't responding to my messages, and I figured he had just flaked out. I wasn't surprised, he does this kind of thing a lot. He might be planning to come hang out right when some fight breaks out, or someone stumbles in drunk and yelling. I tried again the second night, and I actually managed to get him on Skype and Dark Souls at the same time. After several minutes fiddling with placing summon symbols and arguing over the exact rules of summoning, I was a white phantom in his world.
Minutes into playing we were laughing hysterically, conquering enemies, and strategizing around every corner. We both started as deprived, meaning we were basically naked. He had barely played before now, and I was by no means an expert, but we were having the time of our lives battling through the Undead Parish and tackling Gargoyles.
He's always preferred atypical hero characters with big swords, big muscles, and a filing cabinet full of soliloquies about honor and justice. I've always preferred ugly, battle-scarred old warriors who've forgotten the difference between right and wrong. In the game this translated to him wrapping himself in a full set of black leather armor and carrying the Uchigatana, while I stomped around mostly naked, absurdly overweight, and wearing the rather hideous Gargoyle Helm.
As time went on and one night morphed into three nights of playing Dark Souls, I found myself feeling something I thought I had lost. I was playing games with my oldest friend, and it felt like fourth grade all over again. We have to fight to make progress, but when we do it's a sweet victory. His life is in no way miraculously fixed by us playing a game together, but it's given both of us a way to be close again. Aristotle used to say that tragedy puts viewers into a state of catharsis, a sort of emotional cleansing, and watching our two emaciated corpses scrape, claw, and struggle their way through death and dismemberment in Dark Souls has most definitely emotionally cleansed both of us.
We've recently made it to Blighttown, and we've started experiencing something new the game has to offer: dread. We've both been this far before and remember how much of a frustrating slog it can be, but with teamwork and an ample dose of hilarious antics we seem to be making solid forward progress.
I'm not sure what the future holds for our two characters, or how much longer he's going to be able to continue playing on a regular basis. After we finish playing together our lives may once again drift apart, but the game has given us just a little more time together. With any luck we can overcome the hurdles of both the game and our lives, but only time will tell if a black knight waits around the corner for either of us.
Iím not much into talking about myself so Iím cutting this down to five items, and insisting they be embarrassing gaming-related secrets. Hopefully you all still have respect for me after this, that is, if you had any before.
5. Iíve never played more than an hour into Earthbound.
Iíve tried to play this damn game so many times, and I just canít. I have save states in emulators on the following devices: R4 cart, Android tablet, Android phone, macbook, and desktop. None of them are past the first boss battle. Maybe I just played to too late in life, or maybe it just isnít for me. I donít know.
4. I hate Smash Bros.
Yes I know, itís a party game, youíre supposed to play it with friends. Bollocks to that. My brother is some kind of Smash Bros. rain man, and Iíve spent a large portion of my life being juggled and laughed at by him in this damn game.
3. I loved Metroid: Other M
You just closed your browser, didnít you? I do indeed love this game. The characterization of Samus is stupid, and she is irritating, but I thought the 2.5D gameplay was fantastic. I had just finished MGS4 so maybe I had built up an immunity to long stupid cutscenes, because they didnít bother me that much.
2. I cried until I threw up when my brother beat my copy of Pokemon Snap before I had the chance to.
I was eleven years old and in love. I played it everyday after school until I was at the last level, where you snap a pic of Mew. I had been trying over and over again to beat that damn level, and he snuck in while I had it paused for a snack and beat it. When I came in he was gone and the credits were rolling. I know. I told you these were embarrassing.
1. I once got so mad at WWF Super Wrestlemania that I bit the controller hard enough to knock out a tooth.
I still have the tooth-mark riddled controller. I almost never get mad at games, and if I ever feel myself getting frustrated I tend to just turn them off. If I remember right I was playing as Jake ďThe SnakeĒ Roberts. The details are boring and typical: it was a level I couldnít beat and I got fed up and decided to take a bite out of my controller in a rage. My tooth popped loose, and came out a couple of days later. Luckily it was a baby tooth, otherwise I would have had to make up a much more badass story to tell people.
Bonus Round: Here's a picture of me with my girlfriend.
I've been lazy lately and haven't written much, so here are some impressions on KI:U. This is probably more dry and less original than most the stuff I try to do (emphasis on try), but I do need to keep the wheels turning.
As a 3DS owner I was required to pick this one up. At E3 a while back it was touted as the killer app of the system, and it has been quite a long time coming. I havenít finished it yet, but I am really enjoying it. The constant references to the original NES game alone is enough to make me smile, but the writing is truly something groundbreaking. Itís rare that a game has such good humor, and even more rare that I actually smile and laugh aloud multiple times per level. Really, this writing is top notch.
The game is also gorgeous, and in a real way, not a ďgood for a handheldĒ kind of way. The graphics are most impressive, and the visual design really makes the game feel huge. Iím constantly flying into new landscapes that give me a sense of awe and wonder. Massive battles, underworld volcanoes, giant cities, itís all there. The bosses themselves are huge as well, and you really feel like a hero defeating most of them.
Loot is thrown at me constantly, and the system for fusing items is really addicting. I find myself spending almost as much time looking at stats and comparing weapons as I do in the actual campaign. Then again, that might also be because half of each level gives me hand cramps. Thatís right, Iím going to complain about the controls. Iím a big hairy six foot tall man-ape, and I have big hairy man-ape hands, so know that going into this.
The ground controls are not ideal, and I find my hand cramping by the end of each level. This keeps me from playing levels back to back, which is really disheartening. While I doubt that any normal person could say they love the controls, those with smaller hands may find them passable. I was not surprised at all to learn that this was originally a Wii game, and it shows.
The online is a fun 4v4 romp that can feel a little unbalanced at times. Some games go great, and you get in a few hits and have a great time, but there are games when you spend the whole time being juggled by a player with a better weapon. Good way to get loot, fun for a while, but nothing too spectacular. A healthy amount of content and unlockables will keep people more OCD than myself engaged for quite a while as well.
Overall I find myself returning to the game for the writing, and thatís a rare thing indeed. The flying segments are excellently done, and I think the best thing they could do for the game is have a flying-segment only mode. Also, the stand holds my Game Boy Micro quite nicely.
Final Score: 12 bananas out of purple.
I don't do scores, go somewhere else for that kind of pandering.
Itís easy to see the growing trend of MMORPGs, something that the frothing hordes of WoW (and growing hordes of SWToR) fans can attest to. Unfortunately, these particular games, while they have held my interest for short bursts before, have always failed to maintain a lasting appeal. The problem is that Iím a mainly single player gamer. Years of handhelds have made me unaccustomed to online communities, especially those created in MMOs.
This all terminates at an end that I can always predict. Iíll hop back on to an MMO, play for a couple of months, and then realize Iím spending hours a day to run around by myself in a forest for fifteen dollars a month. I join guilds, make friends, and run dungeons just to forget to play for a week and realize that those people have all moved on and forgotten about me. A week is a long time in an MMO. Coming back to WoW after being busy for a week or two is kind of like returning to Animal Crossing after putting the game down for a month. Suddenly Iím surrounded by strange people, and my house is surrounded by weeds and filled with bugs. Which I guess is also a lot like leaving town for a month in real life.
A secondary problem for me is the world in MMOs, and their static nature. While there are occasionally cataclysmic events that change the world, they are always in line with specific expansion releases, or large patches. This leaves me to defeat massive towering bosses, only to see someone else gathering a group to go destroy the very same creature.
ďWell thatís impossible, I just killed himĒ, I would think. Alas, his respawn timer is more permanent than any death I can bring upon him.
As these feelings grow I begin to feel more and more out of touch with gaming. Hiding behind my obscure DS RPG and looking with disdain as the rest of the world discusses the newest expansion.
ďKeep your damnable WoW,Ē I would sneer, ďall I need is Radiant Historia and an extended battery.Ē Then I would saunter off with smug satisfaction that I am, in fact, superior.
Of course with time Iíve begun to wonder if Iím just getting older and losing touch. Being in my early twenties, this sounds completely absurd. Iím still young! Ripe for exploitation by an fresh young MMO!
Not only do I have my occasional week long affairs with World of Warcraft, but I also find myself digging through the sludge ridden bowels of the Internet and turning up obscure and aging MMOs to try. Iíll find a seven year old Korean MMO that still has a massive following, and convince myself that this time I will become addicted. Then a week later Iím ripping my hair out, leaving it in unsatisfied clumps on my desk as I wander through my house searching for my DS.
They all feel the same. WoW does the same things, albeit better than all the others, but the same tropes nonetheless. These MMOs are just the same game smeared over a wide gradient of boring. Some are boring and terrible, others are boring and very cleanly designed.
I guess you could call this a rant of sorts, but the term rant generally implies strong feelings, which I find myself hard pressed to produce. These games certainly draw out an apathy within me, but no deep burning passion or hatred. I donít understand, and I donít think I ever will. I see new MMOs on the schedule, and I find myself excited.
ďThis one, this one will be the one. Iíll finally know the joys of helpless gaming addiction this time!Ē says I, staring longingly at Guild Wars 2. But you know, I know, we all know, that Iím just going to play it for a week and then forget about it.
My personal MMO graveyard is vast and restless, with titles rising for week long spurts as wandering zombies before the smoking barrel of apathy and boredom puts them back in their place.
I wish I had a substantial point here, something that I could carve in stone and hold up with conviction and say, ďThis is what is wrong with MMOs!Ē
But I have no such conviction. I seek comradery in my boredom with MMOs. Surely Iím not the only one that is too blind to see what the excitement is about. Yes, teamwork; yes, loot; yes, gaining levels. These are all things that can be found in other games, but coupled with riveting stories and memorable characters. This cycle is becoming tiring, and I donít know how much longer I can keep it up. But Guild Wars 2, yeah, thatíll be the one.
As video game playing individuals, we have a certain stake in this industry. Our money fuels it, and our continued fervor has bolstered it as an art form and an industry to ever-escalating heights. That said, as consumers who expect a certain amount of return on our investment, we deserve something more. A great discrepancy has been made, and I feel that it is time that we, as a community, speak out against it. Please join me, my brothers and sisters, my friends, my comrades, as we stand tall and tell this vicious company that we will not take this kind of blatant disregard for our well-being lightly.
For a game to end like this is unfathomable. This is not a game, it is a travesty. Let us raise our voices and let it reverberate in the halls of these companies until they hear our cries.
By now youíre likely standing at your computer, applauding loudly. My comrades, the time has come. We will storm the gates of Capcom in protest, and tell them:
The ending for Mega Man 3 must be changed.
And we shall burst forth into their compound, and punish those responsible.
For too long the Blue Bomber has had turn his back, and look shamefully over his shoulder at this dark chapter of his past. Capcom, this will not be tolerated.
We all remember Mega Man 2 with what can only be called reverence. A game so great, it evokes a religious response. I know that when I played it, I fell to my knees in joy. Such a game was thought to be impossible, one that so perfectly encapsulated the very essence of humanity.
And when I sat in front of my NES and saw Mega Manís helmet sitting in a beautiful green field, I knew that my life had been irrevocably changed. I knew that all was right in the world, and that Mega Man could finally rest. Yes, the alien boss fight right at the end was a little weird, and didnít fit well in the story, but the experience was still stunning.
Oh, but my joy was short-lived. Mega Man 3 arrived, the game to end all games, and I slogged through the hours upon hours of awesome gameplay to get to the part that truly mattered: the ending. The fact that Capcom would even put such an engaging, and interesting game in front of my ending is already tantamount to sacrilege.
And then it happened, I sat staring at the ending of Mega Man 3, with an image of Proto Man in the distance. My hands balled into fists, crushing my NES controller.
What the actual fuck, Capcom. What happened to Protoman? Where did he go? What is his favorite color? We have a right to know, and we will not rest until Capcom reveals these details.
Again, my friends, I implore you, write your congressman. My life, no, our lives, will never be the same unless Capcom corrects this great injustice. I have filed claims with the Supreme Court, the FCC, the FTC, and the ATF. Well will not stand for this.
I want to write about this game, but I donít want to review it. I guess, in a sense, you could say that really any writing about a game is a review, but I donít want to just spend time breaking down a game and telling everyone why itís so amazing/terrible. The practice of reviewing games in general is already shaky, since everyone has a different experience with them. With that in mind, allow me to share some thoughts on a game that had a profound impact on me, and spurred a lifelong hobby.
I can remember being a fresh faced sixteen year old, sitting in an interview at my local Gamestop when the store manager asked me: ďWhat is your favorite game of all time?Ē
Without hesitation I answered, ďThe Guardian Legend, on the NES.Ē
Afterwards, I continued to think about my answer. This was the first time I had really been directly, without context, asked that question, and it was immediately the game that came to mind. I was a Nintendo kid, shouldnít a Zelda, or Mario, or even Pokemon game be my all time favorite? While those franchises to hold a special place in my heart, I realized that none of them were what I based my definition of the words ďvideo gameĒ off of. TGL, as I will refer to it henceforth, defined what video games could, and should, be to me. It is by no means a perfect game, and when I stand back and try to be objective, I can see that it has flaws and blemishes just like most other games.
But still it persisted, TGL is what gaming is to me. For the uninitiated, TGL is a hybrid adventure/shmup game that is very reminiscent of a Zelda and Gradius sandwich. On the surface, it was a competent foray into multiple-genre games, something still very new. Of course, this was back when genres were defined along rigid lines, before games became the grey mish-mash of every genre that they are now.
Iíve stated before that my family took very few vacations as I was growing up, and one of the most well remembered ones was when we went to Amarillo, Texas, to visit my uncle John during Thanksgiving. At the time he didnít have any children, so me and my brother brought the NES to keep us company in the evenings. We knew we would see snow, which was an exciting prospect for us, but we had not expected the large amount that we actually received. Anyone that lives farther north that us would probably laugh at the paltry amount, but we acted like it was the North Pole. Of course with Texas snow comes the biting Texas wind, and we ended up spending a lot of time inside with the NES.
My brother has owned TGL as long as I can remember, but for that week it was his game of choice. I sat for hours and watched him, sneaking my own turns when he wasnít around. The main part of the game follows the basic adventure game formula: wander around, get weapons, fight bosses. I was accustomed to this from sneaking into his room before he got home in the afternoons and playing Zelda. The shmup sections, however, were very new to me. The enemies were unlike anything I had ever seen, and the lush (at the time) backgrounds made it the first really immersive experience I can remember having in a game. The music was just as memorable as melodies from the pile of first party Nintendo games we had sitting back at home. Even the box art, ripped off from a scifi movie poster, gave me chills to look at.
For many years I would look back on that week and remember marvelling as the boss monsters, and how they genuinely creeped me out as a child. My handle, Blue Lander, is ripped directly from the game. Blue Lander is a round creature that acts as the merchant, selling you new weapons for chips. This was a game that had it all: and RPG style levelling system, rad monsters, Zelda-esque discovery, and badass space battles. I was hooked.
Miria, the Guardian and protagonist, was also important to me in that she was a female. Samus is arguably a more important female video game character from the NES, but I spent many years with Miria on Naju blasting space fish before I discovered Zebes.
To this day I still pop in TGL and have a blast running around in the gameís world. When I was seventeen I even setup an NES and old TV (the kind with the physical channel knob) at the end of the bed so I could play the game while I was laying in bed at night. My mother wasnít too thrilled about that. At twenty three, I still find myself humming the corridor theme in the car on the way to school.