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12:16 AM on 04.07.2013

Brotherhood Rekindled - Revisiting Dark Souls

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.   read

9:42 AM on 04.04.2012

5 Embarrassing Secrets About Bluelander

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.

11:59 AM on 04.03.2012

Kid Icarus: Uprising

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.   read

11:59 AM on 03.30.2012

My Massive Problem

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.   read

12:14 PM on 03.23.2012

A Better Ending

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.   read

12:46 PM on 03.21.2012

The Guardian Legend

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.   read

12:14 PM on 03.09.2012

Spring Break - Pile of Shame Edition

My family never really took vacations, so spring break was always a time for me and my brother to hunker down with the SNES, board the doors, close the curtains, and game until our eyes bled.

As we got older, like many of gamers, we started amassing games faster than we could finish them. This turned spring break into a time to finish the games that came out the previous year, before the release schedule started to fill up again. To many gamers, this is know as your pile of shame.

My pile of shame, which I hope to conquer, is as follows:

Dark Souls
Final Fantasy XIII
Saint's Row: The Third

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Super Mario Land 3D (100%)
Radiant Historia
Monster Tale
Dragon Quest IX

Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker
Valkyria Chronicles II

Now, for the bonus round. These are the games that everyone has playedÖexcept you. You know, those games that you're totally going to play someday, right? You've started them a million times, but something new always comes out and you don't ever finish them.

Bonus round:

Final Fantasy III
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Ninja Gaiden
Metal Gear

Majora's Mask

So, fellow Dtoiders, what does your pile of shame look like?
Extra points for including bonus round games!   read

11:56 AM on 03.08.2012

Toys Are For Kids

We've all heard the petty squabbles of the "video games are/aren't art" debacle in recent years. While this has been an ongoing discussion among gamers for quite a long time, it has been on the rise since Ebert decided to chime in on a medium he didn't fully understand. For this to even be an argument seems absurd to me. If you make something that is meant to elicit an emotional response in people, then it is art. It might not be very good art, but art it remains. Of course there are legions of linguistic fetishists that would argue against me about how art has no definition or that I'm wrong or whatever else they could conjure up just to argue for the sake of arguing.

But I digress.

The problem that games face today is not whether or not they are truly artistic endeavors, but that they can't seem to break away from being toys.

I listen to a lot of podcasts, I mean a lot, multiple a day, and something I've noticed is how gaming culture differs in Japan. Gaming is still viewed as the domain of the young, while American culture seems to be more and more accepting of older gamers. We have television shows that depict adult gamers, and while it's still a somewhat negative stereotype it has come a very long way. People still make our jokes about grown men wearing plastic headsets, but the fact remains that it is quickly becoming a well represented demographic.

Unfortunately, game publishers and hardware makers don't seem to see it that way. When the NES was released in America it was somewhat of a Trojan horse. It was marketed as a toy, because Nintendo didn't want to sell a video game console after the crash of 1984. So, it came with a robot, and was called an "entertainment system" instead of a or video game system.

This treatment has held in Nintendo's treatment of American gaming to today. Their consoles are toys, meant to be played with. Games like Fatal Frame IV are released in Japan on the Wii, but in America it will never see the light of day. The usual excuse within the community is that it's too "Japanese". This phrasing is offensive to American people, Japanese people, and anybody with a brain and eyes. Nintendo releases video game consoles in other countries, but they release toys in America. This toyification of games has gone on long enough. The most recent casualty is The Binding of Isaac, a game that was deemed to religiously thought provoking for their most recent toy, the 3DS. And don't get me started on profitability of games that are too niche, we all know that Nintendo can sell anything they want and make it profitable. They are truly a powerful force in marketing.

Of course, at the end of the day, publishers and hardware developers are allowed to do whatever they want with their consoles, it's their right. They reserve the right to censor, edit, and remove any content they don't like. Hell, if you want to really get down to the root of the issue, we don't even own the consoles in our homes. Let me state this clearly:

If you buy a Playstation with your money, and then take it to your home and open it up and make modifications, Sony can press charges against you.

They will void your warranty, ban your from their online services, and try to arrest you.

Their defense is that you may modify the hardware, just not the software. But the blurred line between hardware and software allows for a gray area that can include almost anything.

But again, I digress.

I paid a whopping $250 USD for a 3DS the day it came out. Now, I'm a grown man, why would I buy a toy that expensive? Surely I should spend my money on school, and food, and other adult ventures. Well, to be honest, I thought I was buying a video game console. It would make sense that Nintendo would want as many games as possible on their system, but it has become obvious that that simply isn't true. My 3DS is a toy, on which I can play Nintendo approved content. As a toy, this logic makes sense. You don't want small children dealing with powerful content out of context. As a platform on which someone can craft a piece of art for me to consume, it seems silly and offensive.

Of course it isn't all bad. Some game companies have been making an active effort to have more adult-oriented games on their platforms. The efforts have, for the most part, been feeble, but the effort is there nonetheless. Sometimes the good intentions of developers can survive the onslaught of publishers and we get truly fantastic games. Other times I'm told that I'm not allowed to play a certain game due to religious undertones on a game I bought.

I understand that people who work at publishers are business people. They look at numbers, and consult HR, and try to be inoffensive as possible; unless they can make more money off of offending people.

Publishers want round corners, high sales, and big returns.

The trick here is that many adults will buy toys, but few children are able, or allowed, to buy adult products. Many adults enjoy cartoons, but a significantly smaller number of children enjoy adult shows like Mad Men. It's a one way street, and publishers know that. They know that if they sell a toy anyone will buy it, whereas mostly adults buy adult products.

To pick on Nintendo some more, let's look at two games: Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario Land 3D. I recently bought these games, and I've thoroughly enjoyed Super Mario Land. It has a decently fun, kid/casual friendly style, and it takes little effort to beat the "main" game. I got to the final castle, defeated bowser, and thought to myself, "Well, that was pretty fun I suppose."

Then the real game started: a punishing platformer ripe with old references and hard as nails level design. I'm still playing through the game, and it continues to be a fun on a bun.

However, Mario Kart 7 is a toy. The mechanics are fun, but largely based on chance, and the extra content is being allowed to play the same track backwards. Woo. It's a fun toy, but it didn't challenge me or elicit any kind of emotional response. I enjoy it, I'll play a track or two every once in a while, but I'll also pick up a Rubik's Cube every once in a while.

In short:

1. Nintendo needs to wake up and realize that we've all figured out that they make video games, not toys. I am an adult that bought a platform, give me some content that I can enjoy on an intellectual level. Gamers deserve it.

2. Publishers need to die in a hole. We live in a rising digital age that allows content creators to interface directly with consumers. Publishers are dinosaurs shoving ancient business models down our throats. Here's looking at you, Capcom.   read

11:30 AM on 03.06.2012

A Love Letter to Game Boy

Things were a little weird in my house. My brother was technically my half-brother and our father was technically only my father, but it never really made a difference. Really, I donít even consider him my half-brother, and even thinking about it like that sounds silly and foreign. The only real side effect of his absent father was that he had a set of grandparents that I did not. Without delving too far into personal family drama, they bought him every video game he asked for. Any parent can understand the dilemma that my mother had: how do you compensate for one son getting better gifts on Christmas and birthdays?

Her solution was a Game Boy. I could play Zelda and Battletoads just like my brother did on his NES, but I got to play them on a super cool handheld! Now, obviously, handheld outings are generally less deep and many times inferior to their console counterparts, but when youíre a kid all you see is the cool gadget that you can carry anywhere you go and show off to your friends.

My parents divorced when I was eight, so I spent a lot of time being carted along with my mother as she ran errands and worked. Babysitters were expensive, and its much cheaper to buy an old Game Boy and take me with her. Dr.Phil might look down on this kind of parenting, but when youíre a single mom working a crap job, you do what you have to.

Immediately following the divorce I was given a Game Boy Pocket to replace the destroyed original Game Boy that I still played daily, and with it a copy of Linkís Awakening. This was a life-changing experience in my eight year old mind, because now I could literally play Zelda anywhere I wanted. Any younger brother from the 90s will tell you that watching your big brother play Zelda is exhilarating, and a slightly easier handheld friendly version was beyond exciting.

Then, Pokemon happened. Finally I had a game on my Game Boy that my brother didnít even have an equivalent of on any of his systems. I remember getting both games that Christmas and spending many nights covered in Pokemon merchandise battling my way through the countryside. Shortly thereafter the era of the Game Boy Color came and went, and I bought and played a slew of games on it. Anyone that owned a GBC knows that really the best thing to happen to that console was Pokemon and Linkís Awakening DX. It was a short-lived era in the late 90s that the GBC was king.

Then something miraculous happened: Game Boy Advance. My dated Game Boy graphics could finally stack up to the SNES, and once again I could carry it around in my pocket! I was just at that age where Pokemon was called childish by my peers who were trying to act like adults (AKA middle school), so I skipped that generation of the games. Even without Pokemon, the GBA was home to some amazing role-playing games, as well as an amazing new Zelda game. The best of the NES was even re-released for it. But best of all, there were two of my favorite Metroid games of all time. People talk about Super Metroid, and many fans hate the GBA outings, but to me they were amazing. The linearity in Fusion lent itself nicely to the handheld form, and Zero Mission was a fantastic re-make. If someone were to ask me what I think the best handheld ever made was, I would absolutely say the GBA. It came out right when I was old enough to begin really appreciating deep role-playing games, and delivered solid first party content to boot.

The DS and 3DS are chugging along quite nicely, and I love both of those systems. They go everywhere with me, and the majority of my gaming has still remained handheld. It actually bothers me to sit on my couch for more than an hour or two at a time and play a game the traditional way. Iím sure in the coming months Iíll be buying a Vita (come on, its gorgeous), but as gaming moves on I still have a Game Boy shaped hole in my heart. I've owned countless colors and revisions of the Game Boy, and I loved them all. So, goodbye Game Boy, you have become a Game Man.

Image source:   read

12:44 PM on 03.03.2012

Nostalgia for Sale

For anyone who is in their mid-twenties there seems to be a longing to return to the carefree days of oneís childhood. As far as I can tell this has been true for most generations, and will eventually morph into a hatred for anything new and a love for anything old (AKA being a crotchety old person). With that in mind, as I enter my twenty-fourth year as a human being Iím beginning to realize the strangle-hold that nostalgia can have on my media decisions.

I would rather watch a movie from my childhood that Iíve seen a hundred times than a new blockbuster thatís sweeping the country. Of course, at this point many readers will likely be thinking: ďWell duh, Ghostbusters is a million times better than any movie that has come out in the last ten years!Ē

Is it really? Or is it just that you prefer it because it makes you feel like a kid again. Now, obviously, this is the intent behind a lot of marketing. Nintendo, for example, knows how to play to that sense of nostalgia. They dish out just enough fan service to satiate the frothing fans, but they hold on to the best stuff. Things like Earthbound, which fans clamor for, are held just out of reach until Nintendo decides that the demand is high enough. Other companies like Square-Enix withhold a Final Fantasy VII remake, citing many developmental reasons, until they know they can make enough money off of it to be satisfied.

The joke has been made that Nintendo keeps repackaging our childhoods and selling them back to us; a rather apt description if you ask me. In this digital age companies are able to hold on to assets and products with more ease than before; the simple fact that many of our childhoods can be broken down into raw data is paramount in their business models.

Before this digital age began unfolding children played with physical toys, or became attached to locations from their childhood (parks, houses, lakes). These types of things are harder to monetize. How do you sell someone the lake they used to visit as a child, or the park their parents used to take them to? The simple answer is that you canít, at least not in any meaningful or easy to monetize way.

Now, for clarityís sake, Iím not saying that I donít associate certain locations or physical items with my childhood, of course I do. The point Iím trying to make is that these are in the minority compared to video games and movies. When I sit down and play The Guardian Legend Iím immediately brought back to a Thanksgiving trip I had when I was a kid, playing it all week during a snow storm. I can tell you what game I was playing during important events throughout my life, but not what year it was. I remember the summer I spent playing Buck Rumble and 1080į Snowboarding as the same summer I made a new childhood friend, but I couldnít tell you what year that was without some research on Wikipedia.

Weíve established the re-selling of our childhoods to us, and weíve established why this is an effective new technique. But is it a problem? Honestly, Iím not sure myself. I love the fact that my childhood is literally at my fingertips, but Iím very frustrated at the fact that these companies are tight-lipped and stingy with releases. Iíve used emulators, youíve used them, everyone has used them, but the fact remains that the use of them is illegal unless you own an ancient piece of plastic that the company printed. Jim Sterling pointed out on a recent episode of the Jimquisition [1] how Ubisoft is holding Beyond Good and Evil 2 for ransom until they make enough money on their current releases. Practices similar to this are not uncommon for major developers.

So whatís the point that Iím driving at? Video games are a part of our culture, our everyday lives, and our childhoods. Companies are able to hold them for ransom, and sue any individual that decides to fire up a Super Nintendo game on an emulator. Itís idealistic, but I feel that certain games should be freely available to the public. Nintendo has made truly enormous amounts of money off of Super Mario Bros. 3, a game which according to Wikipedia has grossed ď$1.7 billion, inflation adjustedĒ[2].

Many other games have made incredible amounts of money, and continue to sell for unreasonable amounts. The original Pokťmon Red can be found on Amazon used for $20 USD, a game which according to a paper published by Columbia Business School [3] had sold a total of 16.8 million copies in the US and Japan. Keep in mind, this was just four years after the gameís original 1996 release date and doesnít account for the remakes on the Game Boy Advance.

Now obviously it would be ludicrous for me to want these games in the public domain. These companies have a right to the product they have created, and things like the source code of the game are understandably protected. But, that being said, is it too much to ask that I be able to play these games without having to track down a cartridge from the late 80s or early 90s? Again, the idealist in me wishes they be released on existing platforms as free downloads and the ability to be played on a current console. I could argue that free copies of Pokťmon Red and Tetris on the 3DS would massively increase sales, but Iím sure there would be some businessman standing behind me telling me why Iím wrong.

One could again draw a comparison with movies, and I would agree with that to a certain extent. Movies are a huge part of popular culture, but they have the benefit of not being tied to a specific piece of hardware. Movies are constantly released on new and different mediums (I personally own the original Star Wars trilogy multiple times on multiple types of media), and I can watch a movie on any brand of television. I donít need a Sony television to watch something that Sony Pictures produced, but if I want to play a first party Sony game I better have a console that bears their logo. I could outline differences that also exist with books, action figures, and many other things, but I think the point is clear.

A skeptical business man would wonder where we draw the line in this ideal world of free classic games. Which games get released and how old do they need to be? My answer is one of personal opinion, and I donít think it is a very hard riddle to solve. I think any game that is over twenty years old should be playable and available for free. Again, this is my opinion, and one that will vary from person to person.

The problem here is that companies will not give away what they can monetize, but many of these properties are not being monetized. For someone like Nintendo to release a game on the Virtual Console that is the exact same ROM as the one they sold me twenty years ago is absurd. I have already purchased this product, and they have done nothing but repackage it and call it new.

Of course these opinions come from a place of nostalgia, and any business would tell me that my sentimentality over these old piles of bits should have no bearing on their business practices. After all, theyíre here to make money, not pander to my reminiscing. That is, they could tell me that, but I would tell them that I have a right to these games. Iíve spent more time with Mario than I have any movie, and Iíve marveled at the landmarks on planet Zebes more than many. These games were my childhood, and I take a deeply religious offense to how they are kept from me. I own the cartridges now, but how long until the chips in them crumble, and how long until a piece of legislature finally takes down the emulation scene? How many times do I have to buy Super Mario Bros.?




[3]   read

9:54 AM on 03.01.2012

Resident Evil 4 Revisit

Iíve decided to revisit Resident Evil 4 on my Gamecube in lieu of purchasing the recently released Resident Evil: Revelations. While this was largely based on the simple fact that I canít afford RE:R right now (college), its also because I remember loving RE4 back when it came out, and I havenít replayed it in all these years. My experiences with it changed how I thought about games, and had a profound impact on what they meant to me. Many people had the same experience with earlier Resident Evil games, but for me it was the fourth installment that changed it all. Back when Resident Evil 4 first launched on the Gamecube, I was shocked. Here was a game that looked great, got great reviews, and sold tons of copies. Capcomís famous franchise had done what other games on Nintendoís purple little cube could not: drop a mature, mainstream success and look good doing it.

I can remember rushing home from school to play RE4 on my old black Gamecube. I would spend hours in the afternoon with a blanket over the window, to create ambiance, shooting angry villagers and wailing on El Gigantes. Iíve never been much of a survival horror fan, Iím anxious enough in everyday life, but RE4 had just the right mix of player empowerment and atmosphere to keep me glued to my beanbag chair.

RE4 was also the first third person shooter I had ever played, and being able to see Leon getting attacked by the villagers only added greatly to the tension. I was a Doom and Goldeneye child, and played those games religiously, so actually having to see my avatar get his head cut off by a chainsaw, or crushed by a falling boulder was quite a shock. Suddenly I wasnít a beefy space marine whose entire presence consisted of a distended head, or a suave secret agent that popped up from time to time in a cutscene. Leon was right there with me the whole time, and it was up to me to keep him out of harmís way. I felt a connection to him, and I was genuinely upset when he died, something I canít say for Doom Guy or James Bond. The atmosphere of the world was something I had never experienced, having never played previous Resident Evil games I was unprepared for the foggy graveyards, fire-lit cathedrals, or putrid swamps that awaited me. Me and Leon would creep around corners, shotgun at the ready, and brace ourselves for the worst. When I was younger I had to take frequent breaks, sometimes just sitting at the inventory screen, to break up the tension.

The addition of Ashley to the game, which essentially turned the entire thing into a giant escort mission, was only a slight irritant. Her presence was handled with care, and I can still remember spending quite an embarrassing amount of time trying to look up her skirt (you know you did too). I did at times harbor a hatred for her, watching her flail about while a villager carried her off to her death, but being a good person, me and Leon would snipe the villager at the last second. Many scenes of RE4 have stuck with me: the first village, the lake, the cabin; all of which bring back chills. The simple fact that I only played the game a single time, and now, many years later, I can still vividly see myself throwing grenades out of a second story, or sitting in a rickety boat on a gray lake, really speaks to the power of this game.

I can think of few games that I played so little of and remember so well. So, cheers, Resident Evil 4. Weíre going to be seeing a lot more of each other in the days to come.   read

12:59 PM on 02.29.2012

Journal of Dr.Light

So I've started a more 'official' blog on Tumblr with a URL redirect so it looks all fancy, but I've decided tor revive this blog and cross-post anything video game related. The 'official' blog is really just a repository for my writing that will someday be compiled into a portfolio, but I thought maybe the video game related stuff will do well here.

Anyway, this post was a lovely Protomen inspired affair.

Journal of Dr.Light
February 23, 20XX

I thought I could change things, bring about a new age for humankind. Iíve discovered this is impossible. The things I have created, fostered as my very own children. I can feel them, out there in the night, destroying everything they were meant to protect.

Fire, steel, silicon, and code. Theyíre perfect, powerful, and they shall judge all who stand before them. Such a world I never wished for, I could never have anticipated the awful power they would wield

I had given them a respect for life, a moral compass, and, above all, compassion. I knew that as I had envisioned them, they would be powerful and benevolent. Giving to the people, and taking from those who wish to squelch freedom. They were meant to be protectors, and like a fool I took my partner at his word. We were going to create something magnificent, but he was overcome by greed and power.

Was I playing God? Perhaps, but in a world where people were dying to sustain the industry that the elite had pushed on us, what choice did I have? We needed the power to rise up, the power to stand on our own two feet, even though our legs were broken. I thought I was creating guardian angels, but I soon discovered that my angels had fallen. Wily altered their cores, replacing the laws of robotics with a loyalty to him.

By the time I realized what I had done, it was too late. They were on a rampage, and no one could stop them. Innocent blood was spilled, and I ran.

I was a fool, an aging man with a dream of a better world. Like Icarus, I flew to close to the sun and felt the wax running down my back as my wings peeled off. I told everyone that I was doing it for the betterment of all of us, but I did still want the glory of being the Man Who Saved the World. Perhaps this is what fate I had sealed for myself in my hubris.

A broken man sits here, not the future world famous inventor. But while I may be broken, I am not beaten. Wily will meet his match, and I shall have my vengeance. If not for myself, then for all those who could never stand on their own to begin with. I have the plans for a robot that Wily never saw, a robot that could change everything. We reached our quota for the first run of robots, so it remains a prototype. Some moving parts and blueprints, nothing more.

I will finish him, and, in turn, I will finish Wily. To truly combat him I must make instill within the robot a sense of vengeance, a sense of compassion, and a will to lift up the downtrodden. I will also instill in him free will, so that my previous mistake will not be repeated. In all the previous bots the emotions were added as modules, easily removed. This time free will will be the platform on which I build. He will be a machine in construct only, for I will give him the mind of a man.

To put this burden on another being, even if he is a machine, is wrong, I know. If I could do it myself, I would, but Iím just a man. A single blow from any one of them could destroy me.

All of humankind must rely on this bot, this Protoman.   read

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