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10:06 AM on 07.30.2012

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things - Episode 8

So this time around I figured I'd throw in some stuff that's actually pretty clever. Most of the time games are fairly predictable, so when one can up and surprise me, it warrants attention. It should be noted that the examples I give will almost definitely include spoilers, so just a heads up. Confused? Intrigued? Indifferent? Then read on, my friend!

Also, two things. First, I'm terribly sorry about the lack of updates. I've actually been working on my own site over here. Second, I have links to movies tucked away in the images. Good? Good!

Risen 2 - Garcia

So I recently got to Maracai Bay in Risen 2 in order to hunt down Garcia, as he is one of the supporters of Mara who holds a weapon, talisman, or whatever that can defeat her. The key objective in Risen 2 is to get these artefacts so that you may defeat Mara, at least as far as I understand currently. The game is fairly straightforward, very open world, and offers a decent amount of exploration.

What I didn't expect was a clever ruse. Really, most of the game plays fairly predictably. Something happened recently, however, that turned that shit upside down. So upon arrival at Maracai Bay, they state that Corrientes, a member of the inquisition, set out to find Garcia, a devious pirate captain, and that they hadn't heard back from him or his squadron.

So you trek through the jungle and find him at the Maracai native village. He tells you that his men were attacked by Garcia's men and that one fled. This next part is important...he tells you that the man that fled needs to be taken down for being a deserter. All of this sounded very plausible, but I felt bad about it. See, you find this guy, discover that he was barely able to escape because of a leg wound and fled in the opposite direction to tend to his wound.

You have a few options here, so I decided to take the high road and instead of killing him myself, bring him back to Corrientes. Well, I do that and the first thing that happens is Corrientes shoots him dead, quipping "I thought I told you to shoot him." He then scoffs and it's over. I decided I didn't like that outcome, so I loaded my game and instead took him all the way to the beach, presumably to see if he'd join my pirate crew instead.

Well, I got kinda cut off by the inquisition members at the beach. I explained what happened and they stated the following: "What? We don't kill deserters! You must have heard him incorrectly, we would never authorize such action." So I was fairly satisfied, though confused with that, until through more conversation you find out that that wasn't Corrientes; it was Garcia.

See apparently, yes, Garcia's men DID ambush the inquisition search party, but none of them the deserter. Not knowing what Garcia looked like, he was able to throw you off. He would've gotten away with it too, were it not for them meddlin' save files! Honestly, I felt this was a brilliant move that would have been very easy to fuck up for the player (and I did initially) and seeing how both ends turn out, it's, well...brilliant.

Tales of Vesperia - A True Anti-Hero

When we think of an anti-hero, we often think about characters that don't quite match the look and feel of a traditional hero to the point that they're not really a hero at all, yet they still end up being the hero. A good example of this is Squall from Final Fantasy 8. I'm still not a fan of FF8 for many, MANY reasons, but he's a good example because he doesn't really WANT to do anything and he's just kinda forced to do so (by the player's hand, of course).

Often when we consider what a vigilante is, we think Batman. But even then, that's a "controlled" vigilante in that he's disciplined, has unlimited funding, and lives by a strict code. Yuri is neither of these...and yet, he's the very epitome of what it means to be an anti-hero. When you initially start playing Vesperia, you're treated to Yuri's wisecracks and overall sarcastic attitude, but overall he's still a very traditional hero.

Until...a specific incident. Now, my memory's a bit foggy, but there are two specific moments in the game that set Yuri apart from nearly any anti-hero you have or will ever have experienced. There's one point at which a corrupt senator or something is finally found to be corrupt. He's ruined peoples' lives for his own personal gain and, having been found guilty, he's being escorted off to trial where, more than likely, he will get off scot free because, hey, them's the breaks.

But NOT SO FAST. See, this is where the traditional story would've taken over and that would have been that...but Yuri decides fuck that shit, leaves the inn alone late at night, ambushes the escort, and kills the whole fucking lot of them, dumping them in the river. If that's not bad enough, later he finds a fellow knight who's gone totally corrupt and, wouldn't you know, same circumstances.

He's going to fact trial, but will most likely get off. Yuri's solution? Toss his ass into quicksand. The most awkward part to this is there's a rope right there...the knight cries out...and Yuri completely ignores him. Then he's caught by Floyd, a more righteous knight and former friend of Yuri's and the corrupt knight. Not going to spoil it anymore, but ultimately Yuri is a very complex character that deserves a closer character inspection and is easily one of my favorites of all time for any Tales game.

Saints Row 2 - Monster Truck Rally

In a game like SR2, you expect death, destruction, and all kinds of crime-related activities. What you don't expect, however...well, I'll just come out and say it. So upon arriving back in Stilwater, you find that new gangs have taken over the Saints' territory you worked so hard for in the last game. Naturally, you want it back. You have multiple informants who do their share of spying and whatever on the individual gangs.

Carlos is sadly looking into the latino gang (don't remember what they're called, sorry). Well, after a few missions, one of which involves you getting some nuclear waste to poison the water lines of a local tattoo parlor so that the gang leader gets a ridiculous amount of permanent facial scarring (yeah, very roundabout passive aggression), Carlos gets dragged by the face behind a truck.

When you finally free him, he's barely alive, so you put him down and GET PISSED. Alright, what's your retaliation? Well, let's see. First, you kidnap the gang's boss. Then, you drive her to the monster truck rally that the gang's about to compete in. Okay, so what? Well, what happens next is the most horrifying thing I've ever seen in any of the Saints Row games.

You lock her in the trunk of your car and line the car up with the other cars in the monster truck know, the ones that get smashed. And wouldn't you know...the gang's leader then amps up the audience, then proceeds to unknowingly obliterate his girlfriend with his monster truck. I don't think I even need to say any more about that.

Xenoblade Chronicles - Reyn And Shulk's Co-Dependency/Bromance

Initially Xenoblade's characters seem fairly normal...and really, they are. Actually, that's what I like about them. There are a few quirks in their personalities, but it's nothing obnoxious or forced. They all seem very believable and overall "normal." But I think the two characters I like the most, especially with the chemistry between them, are Shulk and Reyn.

Shulk is the main character, of course, destined to wield the monado, a sword of ultimate badassness that can destroy mechon. Reyn is, well...a big, dumb idiot. But here's the thing...Shulk ISN'T a badass, no matter how hard he tries. For the greater part of Shulk's life, Reyn has had to step in and protect him like a big brother.

But that all changes when the monado is activated again and causes Shulk to get all kinds of wacky superpowers like the ability to see possible futures, stun enemies, put up shields, and all kinds of stuff. But, well...two things. Firstly, though Reyn can't wield the monado, he's still the stronger of the two. Through most of the game (or at least that I've played), Shulk is still very uncertain, unconfident, and hesitant.

Even when he knows something's about to go down, he still wembles and worries about it, often opting to keep the information to himself until he learns more about what's going on and what may happen. As a result, despite all the power he's been handed, Reyn often steps in to take control because he feels he needs to. He also begins to feel useless as he's no longer a match for Shulk himself and his only real strength is...well, strength.

The chemistry between the two is very buddy buddy at all times, but you're constantly left wondering what will happen next because of the constant changes within both characters. It's not as though we haven't seen a good "buddy story" before, but it's interesting how it plays out here because of the circumstances at play.

Final Fantasy 4 - Cecil, Ex-Dark Knight

From moment number one in FF4, we know something's up with Cecil. He's supposed to be this big, bad, intimidating dark knight...but he constantly feels remorse for what he knows is wrong, so much so that even in the opening scene he questions his king's motives. Those are some serious balls right there. I mean, they don't really go into it in the game, but he could've just as easily been executed right then and there and considering how bastardly the king had been acting up to that point, I'm surprised that ISN'T what happened, looking back on it now.

In any case, through the course of the game, Cecil is revealed to be...a pretty good guy, actually. It's almost like playing as a demon in the game, but being an absolute saint. It just doesn't work, really. Even still, I don't think anyone really predicted Cecil becoming a fucking paladin of all things! Now, it's been a number of years, so I don't remember the scene entirely, but if I remember correctly, Cecil must fight his past self in order to become a new man.

It's an interesting take on the development of characters because often, yes, a character will undergo a transition upon his journey, but it's often one that's more subtle and told through the story, not an actual physical transition. The reason I find this so fascinating is that even though it was totally unpredictable, it also felt necessary and unforced.

Cecil's an interesting character anyway, but seeing the story evolve as it does and seeing him become a paladin is one of those nice little moments in gaming that make you feel good for the character.


I've been gaming for 25 years, so it takes a lot for a game to surprise me...and no, I don't mean jump scares. There are actually quite a few other examples I could've cited, but most people either know them already or they weren't that interesting. Here's to hoping that game devs will continue to intrigue us with interesting stories, characters, and twists! Don't forget to check out my site when you get the chance!   read

10:08 PM on 05.14.2012

RPG of the Year 2009

It's entirely possible that I missed some games, but I'll say this...this list took me a good 4 hours to put together, therefore, if I missed anything, just let me know and I'll fact check it just in case. I'm confident, however, in the top 5 and let me tell you, there are some FANTASTIC games this year. Some not so great ones, too, but mostly fantastic ones. Also, you may be wondering where I've been at.

Well, there's a simple answer to this. Up until a few months ago, I was posting here and at Wonderpod Online. Unfortunately, another site I used to write for as well went down. This particular website contained probably 80% of the things I've written...some of which are irrecoverable now. To ensure this never happens again, I made my own site, which you should totally check out at your earliest convenience.

In any case, there are 42 games this year, so let's get to it!

#5 - Shin Megami Tensei - Devil Summoner 2 - Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon (PS2)

I don't remember if the first Devil Summoner made one of these lists or not...I'd have to go back and check. Either way, the first one, while certainly interesting and having a kickass opening, was kinda slow, a little hard to figure out, and often the encounter rate got annoying. Devil Summoner 2 fixes all these issues and gives us a more incredible action RPG all around while also tossing an equally great story at us.

Combat is kept very quick and basic while adding layers of complexity in the form of allies and demons. And hey, it's Shin Megami Tensei...did you really think it wouldn't place this year? And yes, I do still have the little Raidou Jack plushie.

#4 - Muramasa - The Demon Blade (Wii)

Again, not sure if Odin Sphere, a previous Vanillaware project, made it on these lists or not, but that's irrelevant. While Muramasa does suffer from the same amount of repetition as Odin Sphere, one simply cannot deny how incredible the graphics, animation, story, music, and overall style of the game are. Being able to play as two different characters with individual storylines helps, too.

The upgrade system could've been a little better and I definitely pouted when they didn't have a more expansive cooking system like in Odin Sphere, but truth be told, these games are mostly played so you can be wowed by the incredible visuals. Seriously, this game is a living work of art.

#3 - Torchlight (PC)

While I'm fairly certain that at least 99% of us have played this title, I need a description all the same. Torchlight is basically Diablo, but in 3D and with all kinds of new, tricked out features that serve to only enhance the original formula. Add in all kinds of bonus dungeons, special zones, fat loot, great boss battles, lots of enemy variety, and an emphasis on new game+ and you have a dead ringer...well, were it not for the top 2 titles, that is.

#2 - Super Robot Taisen OG Saga - Endless Frontier (DS)

Goddamn, what can I say about this one that I haven't already? Look, the battles are insane and fun (if a little repetitive), there's all kinds of anime pervy goodness, the graphics and animation are top notch, the music and sound design overall kicks ass, the dialogue is hilarious (though the story is rather forgettable), and overall you will not be able to put this title down. So what could possibly beat this title?

#1 - Shin Megami Tensei - Devil Survivor (DS)

That's right, ANOTHER Shin Megami Tensei title and quite possibly one of the best of all time. I wasn't sure what to think when I initially went into this game. It's SMT, but as an SRPG. And yet, it totally fucking works. The battles are intense and require excellent strategy, planning, and grinding. Sometimes even the regular encounters are enough to fuck up your day, such is the case with many SMT titles.

The dialogue, story, and characters are excellent, as are the graphics and music. Really, the only thing I could harp on here is the difficulty, but you should already know what to expect if you've ever played SMT titles before. This is one title you absolutely cannot pass up.


It's been suggested that I highlight honorable mentions, you know, games that didn't QUITE make the top 5 list. So starting this year, I'll be enboldening any games that I feel could have been on the top 5, were it not for the insanely great top 5 that was already there. Also, some people might complain that...certain...PS3 titles didn't make it in the top 5. I don't have a PS3. I will totally recommend them based on recommendations from other people, but again, these recommendations are not my own as a result.

Runner Ups

Avalon Code (DS)
Black Sigil - Blade of the Exiled (DS)
Blue Dragon Plus (DS)
Crimson Gem Saga (PSP)
Demon's Souls (PS3)
Dokapon Journey (DS)
Dragon Age - Origins (Multi)
Dragon Quest 5 - Hand of the Heavenly Bride (DS)
Drakensang - The Dark Eye (PC)
Dungeon Hunter (iOS)
Fighting Fantasy - The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (DS)
Final Fantasy 4 - The After Years (WW)
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles - Echoes of Time (Multi)
Fossil Fighters (DS)
Half-Minute Hero (PSP)
King's Bounty - Armored Princess (PC)
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (DS)
League of Legends (PC)
Magna Carta 2 (360)
Mario & Luigi - Bowser's Inside Story (DS)
Marvel - Ultimate Alliance 2 (Multi)
Mega Man Star Force 3 - Black Ace (DS)
Mega Man Star Force 3 - Red Joker (DS)
Might and Magic - Clash of Heroes (DS)
My World, My Way (DS)
Nostalgia (DS)
Phantasy Star 0 (DS)
Pokemon Platinum Version (DS)
Risen (PC)
Spectrobes - Origins (Wii)
Star Ocean - The Last Hope (360)
Suikoden Tierkreis (DS)
Valhalla Knights - Eldar Saga (Wii)
Valkyrie Profile - Covenant of the Plume (DS)
Witch's Tale (DS)
Wizard of Oz - Beyond the Yellow Brick Road (DS)
Zenonia (iOS)   read

12:45 PM on 03.07.2012

RPG of the Year 2008 (Revision)

We're going to give this another shot...and hopefully Wiki won't be such a dick in the ass this time. For those of you just jumping in, RPGs have been a huge impact on me ranging all the way back to the original Final Fantasy. I apologize it's taken me so long to continue, but I've been working on my all new site, which you should totally check out here. Also, don't forget that the pictures include youtube links as well.

Also yes, there really is a game called "Tales of Game's Presents Chef Boyardee's Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa." Yes, I thought it was fake, too. Don't forget to check on previous RPG of the Years here. By the by, this is the first year that's had so many free to play titles,'s pretty massive. That said, this year there are 95 games! Man, I hope I didn't miss any...

#5 - Tales of Vesperia (360)

It was a toss up between this and Eternal Sonata to be honest, so don't hate. The Tales series is has been a long time running series and has had a lot of really good games within it, but nothing too mind-blowing, especially after the first few installments had boiled over. Vesperia presents us with a story that, on the surface, is pretty standard and seems like it's just an excuse to get the heroes out there in the world.

However, and I'm not going to spoil anything, the character interactions are great, hilarious, spot on...and often do things you wouldn't expect. That last point is especially crucial. Yuri's character is an interesting one that truly defines what it means to be a vigilante. He makes decisions that most main characters wouldn't make and in a way that often surprises you. In a way, he does what you WANT to do, but can't because you're supposed to be the good guy.

He's a very complex character and everyone that surrounds him, even the bit characters, are done incredibly well...and that's not even counting the great voice acting present in the title. Naturally the battle system makes a comeback and while it can be a bit difficult at times, the game overall is fit for any action/RPG fan. A welcome addition to the Tales series and potentially the best one, Vesperia is spot on in nearly every category.

#4 - Lost Odyssey (360)

To say that Lost Odyssey is a game that grows on you is a gross understatement. It was actually the first title I ever purchased for my 360 and almost 2 years later did I finally beat the first disc. Why? Because OH MY GOD IS IT SLOWWWWWWWW. There. That's an honest, genuine criticism. Well then, why the fuck did it make the top 5? I mean, come on...this top 5 list is supposed to be the absolute, definitive BEST of 2008, right?

And it is. How so? Look, I don't want to spoil anything, but if you make it through the first disc, you'll immediately become a fan. That's all I can say. Yeah, the story's slow, but it's also very traditional and the 1000 Years of Dreams stuff is pretty incredible. Of course, I'd expect it to be so as it was written by the dude who did Final Fantasy. The game has lots of high production values including great voice acting, music, graphics, and so on.

While the story is slow, it's also a very well told story. Mostly the game is slow from a technical angle as combat is turn-based and you have to carefully plot out your movements well to survive even the simplest of battles. And I get that most modern gamers may simply not have the patience for this title, but trust me when I say it's one of the best RPGs you will ever play.

#3 - Fable 2 (360)

I had high hopes for Fable 2 and while they fell a bit short, the bottom line is it's still a game that's very fun to play, has a lot of the spirit of the original within it, and there's plenty to do even after you've beaten the game. I think one of the most addicting aspects to it is the rent system. See, yes, there was a property/rent system in the original, but it was very basic and you were never really expected to own a bunch of properties.

Fable 2 is almost like a monopoly hybrid. Seriously, one of the first things I do when playing anymore is buy up as many cheap ass properties as possible, then when I actually start getting bigger developments and shops, I start furnishing and refurnishing properties until...wait wait...isn't this supposed to be an action/adventure/RPG? And that's when it hits you.

Despite the fact that this game fell short in some respects and went super casual, it was still a very solid title overall with many addictive things thrown in more or less just because Lionhead could fucking well do so and I truly appreciate them for that. I mean, come on. What other game can you say that between adventuring you got half the town in on an orgy, just because you could?

#2 - Fallout 3 (Multi)

Really, what more do I have to say? Well, I guess I should say something. I mean, I hate to be facetious enough to believe that at some point this will be looked at as a time capsule of sorts, but hey, maybe, right? Gamers were understandably skeptic when they first heard of this title. I mean, sure, Oblivion was a damn fine game and Morrowind...well, OTHER people liked it, so they couldn't have done wrong, I suppose, but Fallout was originally an SRPG, so seriously, how was that going to translate well?

And yet, it did. I mean, it REALLY did. I sunk hundreds of hours into this title just wandering the wastes, doing random tasks, rolling over achievements, trudging through DLC...yeah, the whole nine yards. Didn't get tired of it until months later, in fact. It was easily one of the strongest post-apocalypstic games ever and yet it was such a perfect, unbelieveable blend of genres.

Effectively, it's a stealth/action/first person shooter/RPG/adventure game. Yeah, I couldn't believe it wasn't a garbled mess myself, but there you have it. True to the original, insanely fun, easy to pick up and play, and nary a negative thing to say about it, Fallout 3 should be number one this year. Should be...but there's simply no beating...

#1 - Shin Megami Tensei - Persona 4

Now now, put down the pitchforks. While Fallout 3 was an incredible title, this is my second favorite RPG of ALL TIME. There was a while where I was strongly debating whether I actually liked this one more than Final Fantasy 7, and if you follow my writing, you know that's a pretty grand statement coming from me. See, Persona 3 was an incredible title, but it had its problems.

The difficulty curve spiked early, the characters were good but could have been better, the dungeons got fairly repetitive, there was a lot of trial and error, you couldn't manually control your allies, there were very few save points, having your characters get "tired" was fucking frustrating...the list goes on and on despite it being an incredible title.

Persona 4 fixes every single last one of these with effectively difficulty balancing, better characters, better voice acting, better character situations, innovative shop item acquisition system, jobs, lots of save points, automatic checkpoints, trading the tired aspect for having to pay to heal, and much more. While the story isn't as dark as P3, it succeeds tremendously from a technical angle and I liked the characters, story, visuals, and music more in this one.

It absolutely succeeded in taking a system that was already great with just a few minor flaws and polished it until it was platinum quality. I absolutely cannot say a single goddamn bad thing about this title and that's with me really, really trying. If you haven't tried this title, you are truly missing out on an incredible JRPG experience.

Final Thoughts

I know I'm going to be stepping on some toes for the order and also not including titles like Valkyria Chronicles and Eternal Sonata, but hey, this is my list, so fuck off. It is possible that I missed a few titles, but I tried to reference and cross-reference as many different places as possible to produce this list. Let me know if anything is out of place or missing. And again, thanks for the read!

Runner Ups

2Moons (PC)
Age of Conan - Hyborian Adventures (PC)
A.I.M. 2 - Clan Wars (PC)
Asda Story (PC)
Atlantica Online (PC)
Avernum 5 (PC)
Away - Shuffle Dungeon (DS)
Baroque (Multi)
CABAL Online (PC)
Castle Crashers (360)
Crisis Core - Final Fantasy 7 (PSP)
Crazy Tao (PC)
Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble! (PC)
Deco Online (PC)
Dekaron (PC)
Dimensity (PC)
Disgaea 3 - Absense of Justice (PS3)
Dragon Quest Swords - The Masked Queen and The Tower of Mirrors (Wii)
Dungeon Explorer - Warrior of Agent Arts (Multi)
Dungeon Runners (PC)
Eternal Eden (PC)
Eternal Poison (PS2)
Eternal Sonata (Multi)
Etrian Odyssey 2 - Heroes of Lagaard (DS)
Fate - Undiscovered Realms (PC)
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles - My Life As King (WW)
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles - Ring of Fates (DS)
Final Fantasy Fables - Chocobo's Dungeon (Wii)
Final Fantasy Tactics A2 - Grimoire of the Rift (DS)
Florensia (PC)
From the Abyss (DS)
Gaia Online MMO (PC)
Ghost Online (PC)
Global Conflicts - Latin America (PC)
Holic Online (PC)
Infinite Undiscovery (360)
Izuna 2 - The Unemployed Ninja Returns (DS)
Key to the Kingdom (PC)
Kingdom Under Fire - Circle of Doom (360)
King's Bounty - The Legend (PC)
Last Remnant (360)
LaTale (PC)
Legend - Hand of God (PC)
Legionwood - Tale of the Two Swords (PC)
Luminous Arc 2 (DS)
Lunia - Record of Lunia War (PC)
Mabinogi (PC)
Masters of Belial (PC)
Mega Man Star Force 2 - Zerker x Saurian (DS)
Mega Man Star Force 2 - Zerker x Ninja (DS)
Mount & Blade (PC)
Operation Darkness (360)
Opoona (Wii)
Penny Arcade Adventures - Episode 1 (Multi)
Penny Arcade Adventures - Episode 2 (Multi)
Perfect World International (PC)
Pirates of the Burning Sea (PC)
Pi Story (PC)
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Explorers of Darkness (DS)
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Explorers of Time (DS)
Quest for Glory 2 - Trial By Fire VGA Edition (PC)
Requiem - Bloodymare (PC)
Rise of the Argonauts (PC)
Rohan - Blood Feud (PC)
Rondo of Swords (DS)
Rune Factory 2 - A Fantasy Harvest Moon (DS)
Sacred 2 - Fallen Angel (PC)
Secrets of the Solstice (PC)
Sewer Goblet - The Wu-Tang Clan and the Wu-Tang Baby (PC)
Shin Megami Tensei - Imagine (PC)
Sho Online (PC)
Silverfall - Earth Awakening (PC)
Song Summoner - The Unsung Heroes (iPod)
Sonic Chronicles - The Dark Brotherhood (DS)
Space Siege (PC)
Spectral Force 3 - Innocent Rage (360)
Spectrobes - Beyond the Portals (DS)
Spirit Engine 2 (PC)
Star Ocean - First Departure (PSP)
Summon Night - Twin Age (DS)
Tales of Game's Presents Chef Boyardee's Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Chapter 1 of the
Hoopz Barkley SaGa (PC)
Tales of Symphonia - Dawn of the New World (Wii)
Talisman Online (PC)
Valhalla Knights 2 (PSP)
Valkyria Chronicles (PS3)
Warhammer Online - Age of Reckoning (PC)
Wizard101 (PC)
Wonderland Online (PC)
World Ends With You (DS)
Zoids Assault (360)   read

11:36 AM on 02.09.2012

Epiphany - Shitty Sequels

When I heard there was going to be a new Shadowrun game, I was stoked. I remembered playing the SNES Shadowrun and thinking it was cool, then more recently playing the Genesis version and thinking it was absolutely badass. I couldn't wait for the new Shadowrun. Then it came out...and I was thoroughly disappointed. Seriously, a dumb FPS that barely captured the spirit of Shadowrun, had no true RPG elements, and was basically an over-glorified Team Fortress 2.

Something similar happened when I played Final Fantasy 13. "This is it. This is Squaresoft's final chance to prove to me they've still got it." And they blew it. I felt like it was over. "Well, that's it! No more Final Fantasy! Way to go, Squaresoft." And then I doesn't matter. How so? Recently I started playing more Final Fantasy 5 and 12. I enjoyed these games as though they were classics because realistically, they are now.

I didn't like Final Fantasy 8 when it came out. Guess what? I don't play it. Sure, there may never be another Final Fantasy ever again, but that doesn't mean there won't be Dragonquest, Persona, Mass Effect, Fallout, Elder Scrolls, or countless other Western and Japanese RPGs in the future. Furthermore, it doesn't soil my memory of classic Final Fantasies and I can always go back and play them.

It's not as though Final Fantasy 13 is solely responsible for the end of a series; Square already made it 100% clear they weren't interested in that kind of big budget for a game anymore. Besides, come's 13 titles long. Well, more than that technically, but you get the idea. Isn't that long enough for a series? Besides, Squaresoft and Enix were always more interesting when they were trying new things that weren't Dragonquest and Final Fantasy anyway, so what's the big deal?

I cannot begin to tell you how much fun I had going back and playing classic games, especially lately. Sure, I'm not happy that I don't have a working 360 in my possession, but it's been more of a blessing than anything because it's helped me rekindle my relationship with all things retro. In fact, it's even inspired me to build my game from the ground up entirely in 16 bit graphics complete with 16 bit sounds and music!

And that's not to say modern games don't impress. Despite all my hate for FF13, I'm still looking forward to trying FF13-2. You know I'm looking forward to Mass Effect 3. I mean, there are all kinds of games, casual or otherwise, coming out everyday that are interesting to me. The industry will continue to get money from me because as many bad games as there are, there are also plenty of brilliant ones pumped out all the time.

So let's assume someone offers to make a new Crusader game. We'll call it Crusader: No Rebuttal. And let's say it absolutely fucking sucks. So what? You can always go back and play the old Crusader games and have plenty of fun with them. It's the same deal with the new Syndicate game coming out. Sure, I hope it does well and helps revive the series, but let's be doesn't really matter if it does well or not at this point.

When you look at it from this perspective, you don't have to worry about a shitty sequel, prequel, or remake being made because you always have the original. And in the event they succeed, hey, awesome. I think from now on this is the way I'm going to view the industry. They often grab from old ideas when they don't have any of their own (much like the movie industry), so when they fuck up, just go revisit the classics. That's what I'm going to do, anyway.   read

12:48 PM on 02.05.2012

Under the Scope - Stealth in Videogames

For me, stealth is a very mixed bag. I really appreciate games that allow you to use stealth, but don't completely shove it down your throat with unnecessary and unforgiving trial and error sequences. The early Splinter Cell games were a perfect example of this in action. It's very hard to get stealth "right," especially because you need the enemy AI to act appropriately to what we would expect in real life, but I think I've found three games that seem to match this well. Don't forget that I attach videos to the pics!

Metal Gear Solid 2

I would normally say the Metal Gear series overall, but I wanted to highlight this one for a few reasons. First, let's talk about the MG games up to this point. You have the original NES version (the MSX version is better), where you just have to watch line of sight and not use noisy shit, evading enemies is fairly easy, but it's also easy to die. You have Metal Gear 2 (MSX), where there are noisy surfaces, you can crawl to mitigate noise, you can hide under things, and overall stealth is a much more desired trait.

And of course, you have the original Metal Gear Solid where there's an incorporation of all these elements along with pressing against surfaces, tapping on walls, the cardboard box (which was also used in the last one), more noisy surfaces, footprints in the snow, and all kinds of clever shit. In my opinion, MGS2 is the apex of Hideo's stealth action genre. Now, I say this not having played MGS4, so keep in mind some of what I discuss may in fact be better in the 4th game.

Everything that occurs in the previous MG games is taken into account, plus there's a new hoisting/hanging system. You also have the ability to make people surrender at gunpoint, but different guards will react differently. You can drag around bodies and hide them. Furthermore, you can hide yourself in more locations, but this comes at a price: smarter AI. For the most part, the AI does what it's done all along: moves in on your location and prepares for a shootout.

However, let's say you've fled to a locker room and the alarm has gone into caution mode. They will start checking lockers. They will start checking in usual hiding spots. See, in MGS, they didn't do this. As long as you hid somewhere they didn't see you enter, you were safe. In this one, they're more self aware and as a result, it becomes harder to hide. The reason this is especially good is because stealth isn't just about hiding; it's about never being found in the first place.

They won't necessarily find you every time and it's not as trial and error, again, as earlier Splinter Cell games, but it still makes for some damn fine stealth and more than a few hair raising moments when you're wondering exactly where they're going to check.

Deus Ex - Human Revolution

The original Deus Ex was a game that prided itself on stealth. That makes sense. The same team behind Deus Ex also made the Thief series, which is a game that's so heavy on stealth that if you're even a little unaware, you're completely and thoroughly fucked. Of course, Deus Ex was also a game that featured shootouts, continuous improvement of the character in a variety of ways, and so on, so really you didn't even NEED to use stealth if you didn't want to, but it was preferred.

I was sure that Human Revolution was going to get this wrong, yet they managed to blow me away. First, the stealth is very traditional. Not a whole lot is done that's new other than cranking the enemy AI. Suffice to say, firefights are almost never a good idea. It's not that you can't win's that the enemy AI is that good. Regardless of whether you're fighting street punks or a small army, you're in a world of fuck if you get in a firefight.

Nevermind that, guard patrols actually make sense, they don't always face just the one direction, and you have a lot of paranoid guards, too. They're smart enough to check everywhere and while you can flank them, they watch for that, too. Overall, the system in DX:HR is a very smart system built on a very classic formula. I'd say it's easily the best traditional stealth engine on the market.

Splinter Cell - Conviction

...which brings us to the best modern stealth engine. Conviction really surprised me. See, I really enjoyed Double Agent before this, but it was set up very much like the previous Splinter Cell games, just with less trial and error, which is really all the formula needed. Conviction, however, blows you away with all kinds of new and interesting mechanics that don't just work, but manage to keep the game hardcore while adding a layer of casualness to it that only adds to the gameplay.

How is this possible? Firstly, we do away with the whole "stealth gauge" thingy. If you're running, you can be detected because of sound. Keeping your head low keeps you in better stealth, but if you're just moving at a normal pace they also can't hear you. Simple. You know they can't see you if you're hidden in a dark area because everything goes black and white except the enemies, which pop out vibrantly.

This is an interesting effect because it immediately lets you know without cross-referencing a bunch of gauges and stuff that they can't see you. Furthermore, it allows you to hone in on them with that much more ease. Another nice touch is if you're detected, then run into hiding, your last known location will pop up as a frozen silhouette, which you can use to your advantage for flanking purposes.

A lot of really clever stuff like that was done in the game which added to the already high production values and made the game more playable without seeming too easy or too punishing. All in all, Conviction is easily the best modern stealth engine on the market and I highly recommend it.


Of course, I also highly recommend all three of the titles today. Sure, I get that MGS2 is a bit dated, but it's still worth playing through if you never did. Stealth has become a major factor of today's gaming, so it's worth looking into as a new genre. Now if only Tenchu could make a major comeback...   read

4:25 PM on 02.01.2012

How An Achievement Caused Introspection - Skyrim

Skyrim is a fantastic game where even something as minor as sidequesting can be fun, interesting, and even a well told story all in its own. Some of the sidequests in Skyrim are much more entertaining than the main much so that the main storyline pales in comparison to it. This seems to be something that Bethesda does well. It almost sounds backwards, yet it really is quite brilliant.

Imagine my surprise, then, when a serious epiphany followed by a long moment of introspection occurred when I sought out to get an achievement. Which achievement? Master criminal. For those that haven't played the game yet, shame on you. Also, the master criminal achievement is gained when you successfully have a bounty of at least 1000 gold on your head in all 9 holds. In other words, you have a major crime spree, completely witnessed, and got off scot free well enough to do so in all 4 corners of the Skyrim world, effectively.

First I'm going to start by telling you a little bit about me. While it is true that I play most games that offer lots of choice as either a master thief or a bloodbathed barbarian, I also strive to be "the good guy." You know the type. Even when the opportunity presents itself to get a great reward by doing something malicious, I'll turn it down because I know it will tarnish my reputation...even though I just successfully robbed the entire town blind probably.

"They love me! Well...till rent is due anyway..."

It seems like such an odd contradiction, but I'm going back to the Zelda example that I didn't quite flesh out in my last article. Here we have the hero of time, Hyrule, green fairy land, or whatever, we know he's supposed to be the good guy and goes around doing nice things, BUT HE SEEMS TO HAVE SOME MAJOR VENDETTA AGAINST CLAY POTS AND THINKS NOTHING OF STEALING BOTTLES, HEART PIECES, AND OTHER GOODS FROM PEOPLES' HOMES.

The same could be said for most Final Fantasy games as well, but I digress. In any case, I played Skyrim fairly neutral. I chose sides when I was asked to, but for the most part I would do nice things, steal like a sticky fingered bastard constantly, and do just about any mission someone would throw at me, good or bad. I kept telling myself I would do this achievement know, maybe after I beat the game or something.

Then I decided "Eh, I'm at level 56 and I'm bored. I bet this achievement will be easy enough to knock out." It was, but that's hardly the point. Allow me to elaborate. The first thing I did was set a manual save game so I didn't have that one MANIAC autosave or whatever haunting me. I attacked a child. Nope, can't kill children. He ran like a little bitch and the guards swarmed on me. They were no match and fell pretty quickly.


It didn't take very long to earn the 1000 gold bounty and as soon as I did, I ran from the village, set a marker on my map, then kept using stealth until I was safe. When I was finally safe, I fast travelled to the next village. A bunch of people were coming out of a bar. I remembered a few of them being fairly snooty and just plain all around bastards. I came at them with my axe. BAM, HEADS FLEW CLEAN OFF, ONE AFTER THE OTHER.

I was getting excited. The 1000 gold bounty was already there, but it kept saying something about "last witness killed, 1000 bounty removed," so just for good measure, I killed the entire crowd, sparing the guards. I then fast travelled to the next town. I did it again...starting with another asshole, shouting "ha, yeah, fuck that guy!" It was liberating. They were dying with just one hit, totally uncharged. They were in no way prepared for me and it was hilarious.

I did this over and over, often running into the main taverns when I couldn't find people readily available. Hell, there was one town where I had to FIGHT A DRAGON before I could kill anyone, which was especially hilarious because I began the massacre shortly after they'd just cheered me on and thanked me for saving them from death. Bloodbath after bloodbath occurred at my hand. Guards were no match for me, often submitting after one or two well placed hits...but I don't take prisoners...they all died unless they were necessary for being a witness.

"You will tell EVERYONE what happened here today or you will get 500 arrows to the knee!"

Then...the achievement rolled over. It seemed to happen almost too quickly. "Already? Man." I loaded up my manual save adrenaline was still surging, but...the first thing that happened was the kid I initially attempted to kill came up to me. "When I grow up, I'm going to be a miner. Just like my dad!" I turned and his father came out of the door behind me. "I'm a miner, just like my father and his father before him."

Everything was peaceful again. There was no chaos. Certainly the game surrounds itself around dragons, all kinds of evil monsters, a rebellion, evil gods, and even the corruption of man...but not now. I had been the monster not but a few seconds ago. I had attacked this child; the child of the man behind me. From there, I simply started killing people because hey, fuck them, right? Gotsa get my cheevos!

And sure, it's just a videogame, but let's think about this just for a second. I could have just stolen a bunch of stuff right in front of the guards, but I did the thing I thought would rack up my bounty the quickest: murder. I could justify killing bandits. They often strike first, usually don't give you any other option but to fight them, and, come on, THEY'RE BAD GUYS! So really, I don't feel bad fighting and killing them.

Plus trolls. EVERYBODY hates trolls.

If I was just killing guards it may have been easier, too. The guards in Skyrim have a closed helmet, so in a way, it's easier to look at them as not human and a symbol of oppression. However...these were just civilians. Sure, most are far from "innocent," with even some of the children being outright little shitheads, but they're no warriors. One or two hits and...that's it. Often their heads just flew off...just pop...there goes your head...and that's it.

The sudden shift from aggression and adrenaline to calmness and peace made me realize...sometimes, that's how videogames are. In Doom, everything is out to get you. You have to kill them, hoards of them, before they can get you. The same is true for many FPSs. And really, the same is true for Skyrim in many areas. But it also has established areas of peace...and I shattered that...all for the sake of an achievement.

And sure, I had my handy little reset button, but I couldn't help but feel bad. I actually had to stop playing for a bit and play something a little more lighthearted before I could return. Once I did return, I smiled and went on to the shops as though nothing had happened. Because it never had in the eyes of the save game. But the achievement is there...and I will never forget it.   read

12:14 PM on 01.30.2012

5 Things I Hate About Skyrim

Skyrim has hit most gamers' Game of the Year for 2011, if not their personal top 10 list. In saying that, I must admit it's one of the finest games I've ever played. There are a few problems, however, that could have been ironed out to make the game even more fantastic and unfortunately these problems, while ranging from mildly annoying to sort of annoying, culminate to create frustration in a game that is otherwise flawless. Things like...

Lacking In Mystery

I don't feel like I'm ruining things here for Oblivion, especially since it's a 2006 title, but if you haven't played it and really want to, you may as well skip this point. In Oblivion, it wasn't too terribly easy to figure out how to gain entrance to "secret society" archetype guilds like the thieves guild or the assassins guild. And really, that makes sense. Actually, I ended up having to scout an FAQ to figure out the assassins guild one.

The thieves guild wasn't as difficult. All you have to do is talk to the right homeless people and you start acquiring info that eventually leads you to where you want to be. But in Skyrim? "HI HI HI, THIS IS DA THIEVES TOWN WHERE THIEVES ARE AND I HEARD A RUMOR THEY'RE IN THE SEWERS BUT IT'S ONLY A RUMOR ACTUALLY." Yeah. Subtle. Oh, but hey, at least it's hard to figure out how to get into the assassins guild, right? Right?

Wrong. You have a mission that's delivered to you by some random means where someone wants to call upon the wrath of the assassins guild and you just happen to get the call...but you're not a member. Easy to figure out. Easy to do. Stupidly simple. Now you might link this in with puzzling elements saying they're trying to make it more casual, but come on. If you REALLY want to be a thief and/or assassin, shouldn't this be more, I don't know...INTERESTING?

Levelling Up Is Too Subtle

I like subtlety. Games like Shining Force Neo make this fun because allocating just a few points into something won't be the difference between a deathblow and missing the enemy entirely, but it will, over time, account for something grand. Unfortunately, Skyrim plays this hand with such subtlety it may as well not exist. As a side note, I WAS trying to be a master thief first and foremost, so it may just be that I didn't notice immediate gains for that reason, but I digress.

The first 10 levels, it seemed like nothing was truly improving. Sure, I was technically getting stronger, more adept, etc. from a numbers angle, but there was no noticeable gameplay difference, especially because of level scaling. Worse still, so you'd go "Ah shit, I'm really getting raped in the HP department. That does it. When I level up, I'm working on light armor and improving my HP!"

Yeah okay...only you'd still be getting screwed over anyway. The change is so subtle it's unnoticeable. In fact, I didn't start noticing major gains until probably in the 30s or 40s of character level. Granted, I'm level 54 now and I rarely die anymore, but the bottom line is there's a point at which, especially if you're trying to dedicate yourself to a certain class, you get totally screwed over regularly because you're not really training yourself as a warrior and the level scaling suddenly jumps out of nowhere.


One of my biggest gripes about Oblivion is trying to climb mountains. Often you'd have to work on your acrobatics skill, constantly jumping, and hope you find those few "sweet spots" that actually allow you to progress upward rather than sideways until you find your way up. Oh, and THEN when you finally do find your way up, you find a very clear pathway down that you didn't find AT ALL when humping the entire perimeter of the mountain for about an hour. FUN.

At least there weren't many mountains in Oblivion and at least in the new Fallout games there are rarely mountains at all, but SKYRIM IS ALL ABOUT FUCKING MOUNTAINS. You know, they took out various "redundant" abilities like acrobatics...why not replace them with a climbing skill? Maybe just have it where you can get climbing gear and over time it will break, but if you have a higher skill, strength value overall, etc., then it won't break as often and you'll move faster or something.

Seriously, what the hell where they thinking? The environments are fucking beautiful, but JEEZ. Navigating these mountains and finding new areas is often a chore because the landscaping is done...well...but not well enough to allow for actually showing the way properly. The same goddamn thing happens as in Oblivion, but constantly, and worse because there's no acrobatic ability. FUCKING FUCK.

Quest Items Suck

In my inventory I have quest items that I can't drop, stow away, or sell. Alright, that makes sense. You wouldn't want a situation where you accidentally did away with something important and totally jeopardized a task, side mission or not. No, that does make sense. WHAT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE is often these have an associated weight, often glitch, and sometimes have a highly unnecessary value.

I've got various quest items I can't get rid of, but there's a weight for them? The fuck? And it wouldn't be so bad, but the missions for a lot of these have technically been completed, but the item was never removed, so it's a constant hindrance for no reason other than derp game design. And again, there's a value associated with it? Why? I can't sell them even if I was totally hard up.

Oh, and it gets better. There are certain quests that, despite the fact I've completed all the objectives, didn't roll over to complete, cancelled out, or to a new objective...meaning they're just taking up space. Not nearly as annoying as the quest items themselves, but an annoyance all the same. When you're looking at a game this close to perfect, even the smallest speck doesn't go unnoticed.

Nearly Impossible To Not Be A Warrior

What is an RPG? Depending on who you ask it could be an epic journey, a game that involves a lot of strategy and planning, a game that focuses heavily on story, a game that focuses even heavier on grinding and character development, and/or a game that's all about beating the shit out of monsters to gain experience and level up, which allows you to beat the shit out of stronger monsters easier without getting the shit beat out of yourself quite so easily.

Really, I'd say it's a healthy combination of everything, but the Elder Scrolls series has always been a little...different. It's not entirely combat centered. There are MANY ways to level up and all of them are useful. Or they were. Until Skyrim. Let me be frank...if you go into this game attempting to be a master thief, you are going to fail, fail, and fail again in order to accomplish this.

Any guild will have you doing the same thing. Go here. Kill this. Come back. While the thieves guild is supposed to be about non-violence, the ideas are still similar in nature. Effectively, if you're not already on your way to being a master thief by the time you choose this guild, you will not succeed. Oh, but that's okay, BECAUSE THE TRIP TO RIFTEN ALONE WILL TURN YOU INTO A MONSTER TESTICLE WEARING WARRIOR OF INSANITY ANYWAY.


Skyrim is a game for warriors. If you do not set out initially to be a warrior, there will be a point at which the game becomes difficult enough that it becomes annoying. You will evade dragons. You will focus only on stupid non-combat shit you can to level up, just so you can add perks to something that IS combat related and probably your max HP so MAYBE...just won't get a cornholing the next time you enter that cave to JUST STEAL SHIT OR WHATEVER BUT END UP HAVING TO FIGHT SHIT BECAUSE HOOOOOLY SHIT THAT'S WHAT THIS GAME IS ALL ABOUT, ACTUALLY.

And yet, I fucking love this game. It can feel unbalanced and unfair at times, but it's totally worth sticking with. Hell, I just love rolling over achievements, completing quests, and levelling up. It's still fun, even 100 hours in. And if I'm 100 hours in, then you know that these are still minor gripes. Seriously, if you don't own this game, you fucking suck. Go get it!   read

1:44 PM on 01.27.2012

FPS of the Year 2003

This is going to be an interesting year. There are 40 games this year. This is going to be an odd year because prior to this writing, I've only played two of these. Let's hop to it!

Call of Duty (PC)

Well, what can you say? It's the original CoD, in all its...uhhh...glory? Yeah, we'll go with that. By this point I was wrapped up in RPGs more than anything, and for good reason, but the point is this wouldn't have appealed to me anyway because it's another WW2 shooter. Yeah, I said it. The CoD series, minus the Modern Warfare ones, really never appealed to me. And even with MW, it's a hit/miss scenario.

So no, I didn't play this when it came out. It's not bad and it certainly has its moments, but I wouldn't say it's anything grand.

Chaser (PC)

Here's a more obscure title nobody really knows about. That doesn't mean it's any good, but this is the reason I love doing these. It's nothing mind blowing, but it's got good atmosphere, story, and it's not a tactical shooter. What more do you want? Naturally, it's no major contender for the #1 spot, but it's worth checking out all the same.

Chrome (PC)

Yet another obscure title that deserves mentioning. I'm going to paraphrase the youtube uploader here, but this is confirmed with wikipedia as well. The Duke Nukem voice actor plays the main guy, there are huge outdoor environments, and several types of vehicles ready for you to wreak havoc with. Very nice stuff.

Codename Nina - Global Terrorism Strike Force (PC)

Okay, no. I'm going to paraphrase the youtube uploader here for a sec. The voice acting is horrendous, the action is mediocre, and the environments are bland. Screw that. Especially now that FPSs have really taken off, there just isn't room for a game like this anymore. Pass!

Contract JACK (PC)

So basically this is a side story set in the NOLF universe, but it lacks the charm and spunk of the other two. Worth checking out if you really liked NOLF 1 or 2, but nothing groundbreaking.

CTU - Marine Sharpshooter (PC)

Yet another military tactical shooter, but at least it attempts to have an interesting story. That's about all I have to say about it.

Day of Defeat (PC)

I LOVE this game. This was one of the first online multiplayer mods I ever played. Yes, I played this alongside CS. Basically it's axis vs. allies, but set up sort of like CS, but with varied classes and weapons, excellent environments, and lots of great tactical chokepoints and what have you. This is easily one of the best online multiplayer experiences I've ever had.

Delta Force - Black Hawk Down (PC)

Jesus...could that mini-map be any larger? So this is a generic ass FPS that is military based, but not nearly as good as CoD...or as pretty. Yeah. I mean, it seems to be an interesting concept, but still.

Delta Ops - Army Special Forces (PC) looks and sounds worse than Codename Nina. Pass.

Deus Ex - Invisible War (Multi)

This game is upsetting for three reasons. One, the original Deus Ex was an incredible game and idea all in one. It had so much potential for sequels, branching out to other projects, and so on. This game doesn't hold a candle to the original, but the second reason this is especially bad is because it's not a good game at all. See, it'd be one thing if it was just alright or pretty good, but oh no.

This game is AWFUL. It doesn't even try to share the same room with its predecessor and instead breaks into being a generic FPS. And finally, only in the last year did we FINALLY get another Deus Ex and while that one was GREAT...I just can't help but think we would've gotten it a lot sooner if this one was even a slight amount better. This really is the bed shitter of the series and almost prevented it from being continued in the first place.

Devastation (PC)

...why is everyone made of pink kool-aid? Also, why is it "oonce oonce" time when you start fighting enemies? And why would you bounce around when you receive a headshot while pissing on the sidewalk? Nevermind...this bland shooter isn't worth it anyway. Still, it is kinda awesome that the dude seems to be holding 500 guns at once.

Elite Forces - Beyond Normandy - Assignment Berlin (PC)

There's no movie for this one, but again, I've not been impressed by the Elite Forces series up to this point, so it'd have to be something incredible to warrant my attention in the first place.

Gods and Generals (PC)

...No. What, you want a longer comment? Okay then. Fuck no.

Great Qin Warriors (PC)

...uhhhhh...that is easily one of the most retarded stories I've ever heard for an FPS ever. Anyway, it's basically a mech shoot-em-up. Pretty standard, just with a really terrible story.

Hidden & Dangerous 2 (PC)

Didn't I already review CoD? Oh, this isn't CoD? Are you sure? Really? Huh...okay. Pass.

IGI 2 - Covert Strike (Multi)

Running through the mountains with heavy metal playing with your knife out is no way to go through life, son. In all honesty, I've watched a few vids of this and it certainly seems fun, but I never got into the original, so I never checked this one out either. I know that seems sloppy, but listen, the #1 this year is virtually untouchable. Trust me.

Line of Sight - Vietnam (PC)

This game looks incredibly boring. The youtube user and commenters aren't much help either as all they say is the "the game is hard." Really? How hard? Farcry hard or military tactical shooter hard? You know what, nevermind. Pass.

March! Offworld Recon (PC)

So it's Quake 2, only not as fun, interesting, or graphically advanced. In 2003. No thanks.

Navy SEALs - Weapons of Mass Destruction (PC)

BAAAHHAHAHAHAAHAHAHHAA. Oh my God this game is hilarious. No, not in the good way. I could watch that video all day, but I will NEVER play this game. Pass.

Nosferatu - The Wrath of Malachi (PC)

Alright, so it's ugly. I mean, REALLY ugly. But let us remember what the brilliant and all-seeing Jim Sterling has said, that horror IS ugly. Were this me playing the game, going into it my first time, a lot of what's going on would cause me to jump. This guy already knows the score and is playing the game masterfully, taking part of the fun out of it. It actually looks pretty fun, creepy, and possibly even scary.

Maybe not on the level of Condemned, F.E.A.R., or Amnesia, but come on. This is quality stuff for 2003. Yeah, I'd give this a shot.

PlanetSide (PC)

So it's basically Battlefield 1943, but with sci-fi. Look, I'm probably not the best person to report on this at it seems there are entire communities for it still today, but it definitely looks like it's worth checking out, especially if the BF43 crack sounds intriguing all the same to you.

Postal 2 (PC)

This game is ridiculous, violent, and hilarious. Honestly, I'd stayed away from these games because I heard they were crap and don't get me wrong, it looks kinda crap. Even still, I'd probably give this one a shot because of all the crazy and funny shit you can do.

Quest for Saddam (PC)

Now some people may say this game is more for shock value than a qualifier for an actual game, but here's the thing. It is an FPS, so I am going to rate it accordingly. It sucks. I mean, come's 2003 and THIS is the best they could come up with for something controversial? Goddamn, Postal 2 got it right and these fuckers didn't even try. Pass!

Resident Evil - Dead Aim (PS2)

Resident Evil Survivor didn't work, so why the hell would Capcom ever try that awful formula again? Oh yeah, money. They won't be getting mine for this garbage. Pass!

Robocop (Multi)

...what in the blue fuck is this? Man, I LOVED the original Robocop movie, but this is terrible. Why is Robocop going "Ohhh yeah" when he takes people down? Why did the develop think cluttering up the screen with crap was a good idea? Hell, why did they think using something that looks like a basic rework of the original Half-Life engine for a 2003 game was a good idea? Man, fuck this game.

Savage - The Battle for Newerth (PC)

So it kinda looks like World of Warcraft...only not. It's actually really hard to tell what's going on. I watched about 5 different videos and each one has frenzied action that's almost set up like a hyperactive MMO. There's nothing wrong with that, but for someone who doesn't know anything about the game, it's fairly problematic. It doesn't look terrible, but it doesn't quite have the graphics of the time, nor does it seem to be much more than Counterstrike, but with a fantasy theme. Pass.

Secret Service 2 - Security Breach (PC)

It's slow. It's dumb. It barely looks better than the original. Pass.

Star Trek - Elite Force 2 (PC)

This might sound odd, but anything from Star Trek - Next Generation onward bores me. Sure, the movies are okay, but the show never really grabbed me. I think the original Star Trek series is boss, but pretty much everything from then on is just kinda...meh. I won't say this game is crap as it's actually got pretty good production values, but I wouldn't have any idea what's going on as I don't follow this series. Give it a go if you like the later Star Treks.

Star Wars - Jedi Knight - Jedi Academy (Multi)

This actually doesn't look half bad. A little dated, sure, but not bad at all. Plus, there's so much going on with it. You've got vehicles, lots of lightsaber play, and all kinds of environments. Honestly, this is how a modern Star Wars game should operate. Not disappointed in the least. I'll have to give this a look later.

SWAT - Global Strike Team (Multi)

Finally, a SWAT game that isn't tactical. It doesn't look that great, but at least it's not all about the tactics. Of course, that's kind of the point of SWAT, sooooo...yeah, I know I'm presenting a "have your cake and eat it too" scenario, but let's be honest...SWAT belongs in the realm of tactical shooter, unless it's one of those flashback/side missions in a normal balls to the wall action game.

Terminator 3 - Rise of the Machines (Multi)

Sloppy and just okay. I guess that's the best we can hope for with a modern movie game.

Terminator 3 - War of the Machines (PC)

So it's basically Counter-Strike, but with Terminators vs. humans. Not a bad idea, but nothing too brilliant either.

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 - Raven Shield (Multi)

Ayup, more of this. I'm not big on tactical shooters, but by now you should know that. If you like them, give this a shot. That's about it.

Tron 2.0 (PC)

Look, I don't know a whole lot about Tron. That could partially be because I've never watched any of the movies. *ducks ensuing objects flying at head from nerd rage* In any case...this looks okay. Not terrible, certainly. And it has decent enough graphics.

Unreal 2 - The Awakening (PC)

Never got a chance to try this, but it looks pretty fun, actually. Very Quake 2-like and I mean that in the best sense possible. Yeah, I'd give it a shot.

Vietcong (PC)

Not half bad. Honestly, I don't think there are enough games about wars like Vietnam or Korea, so it's good to see a fairly faithful shooter for it every so often.

Warhammer 40000 - Fire Warrior (Multi)

It's a bit dated and doesn't have great production values...or much else...but if you're into the Warhammer 40K series, I suppose it'd still be worth a look. Personally, I'm not, but hey.

Western Outlaw - Wanted Dead or Alive (PC)

Honestly, I'm not that big of a fan of wild west games. Sure, there are rare exceptions like Red Dead Redemption, but this game is very meh. The graphics are blah, the music is ehh, and the production values overall are ecch. That's about it.

Will Rock (PC)

So it's basically Serious Sam, only not as good...not even by a long shot. A lot of people like this one, but I'm not convinced. Pass.

Winner: XIII (Multi)

This game is fan-fucking-tastic. Why? Well, let's talk about the one and only one negative thing I can say about this title: yes, it does look a bit cartoony. This was the early days of cel-shading and while it's the first I know of that did it for an FPS, it looks dated and a little silly at times. That said, it actually comes as an advantage to the game in the form of production values, because it's set up almost like a living comic book.

For example, in the image above, you can see that there are comic panels. This occurs every so often when you take someone out with a good shot, often with a throwing knife or crossbow. It's actually a pretty cool effect. Plus, it's an amnesia story done right. One of the best angles this game has to work with is they throw all kinds of crazy stuff at you because you can't remember shit and you're smack in the middle of a major conspiracy that goes all the way to the top.

The cutscenes are great, the voice acting is...well, it's decent at least, but it also has major players like Adam West doing a few voiceovers...and the production values and level design for the game overall are very good. This is a very fun, long single player campaign that will keep you hooked until the very end. I highly recommend this title, even though there are games that, visually, looked a hell of a lot better this year.


Graphics aren't everything, but they are important in FPSs. We saw a bunch of games with terrible, dated graphics, even for 2003. There were many titles that didn't feature music, ambience, or anything remotely interesting in the form of background noise. FPSs need to have atmosphere, lots of action, and above all else be INTERESTING. This was a year with a lot of boring games, but at least the winner was a gripping title that could keep even the most diehard action afficianado interested for a long time.   read

8:48 AM on 01.25.2012

Location: Mode 7 Madness

I know they're a bit dated now, but mode 7 and raster effects were pretty impressive effects in the 16-bit era. Most of the time all a game had to do was have a generic mode 7 effect and suddenly it become 500 times more awesome. Many games did this well, but the one I remember most vividly was Super Castlevania 4. If you really have no idea what I'm talking about, you could just skip over the article and view the stage here.

Yes, I'm referring to the infamous Stage 4. Look, up to this point, you already had some impressive environments absolutely dripping in atmosphere and ambience. Everything from the enemies to the music to the sound effects to the subtle, little touches like vines growing over stuff, skulls all over the place in the backgrounds, various water effects, and so on just added more and more to the already incredible environments.

And while each stage had something like that going for it one way or the other, the one that to this day I still come back to is Stage 4. I've gone over this stage time and time again...and I'm going to yet again! It starts out simply enough. You have a couple of standard enemies, classic Castlevania platforming in the forms of flipping platforms, moving platforms, enemies coming out of walls...then you have a giant skull that you have to fight until you completely chip away at it...then shit gets crazy.

Above: crazy.

You enter a seemingly harmless and somewhat generic room, go up the stairs, hang on a bathook...THEN REALIZE YOU'RE HANGING ON FOR DEAR LIFE AS THE ROOM SLOWLY BEGINS TO ROTATE. You have to drop down at one point to fight some medusa heads who will, I assure you, thrust you into spikes if you're not quick and accurate with them, then more hanging on for your dear life.

It's at this point you realize you're hanging over a pit of spikes with nowhere to go. When I first played this section, I didn't know what to do next, so I tried to swing off into the great unknown. BIG MISTAKE. Eventually platforms stretch out to you as if to say "Ha ha, well, it's over now. The next area's normal, I promise." THEN THE GAME TOTALLY TROLLS YOU. The next room is constantly rotating, but in a different direction that is highly disorienting with skeletons flying out of the walls at you!

And does it end there? As if you had to ask. The floor suddenly starts rising in different areas trying to thrust you into the ceiling. You have to have quick and good platforming skills to make it through to another, that's right, ANOTHER boss. Now to be fair, the skull boss and this one, a golem that throws blocks and makes blocks rain down, are fairly easy. Really, it's the stage that's a treat.

Above: easy.

You know, almost every stage in Super Castlevania 4 has great memories attached to it. I think the reason I keep coming back to this one, though, is it kind of defines both what Castlevania was and also what the Super Nintendo was capable of. Yeah, you see games like Star Fox that have that super FX chip thingy or Chrono Trigger that have incredible graphics, an incredible story, great characters, and so on...but this, right here, is what I think of when I think SNES.

It has great music, great graphics, makes full utilization of the controller features, shows off the mode 7 effects, and is easily recognizable. Seriously, all I had to do to find this on youtube was type in "castlevania 4 stage 4." That doesn't seem too impressive until you realize most of the time when you do that on youtube you find a complete stage list or redundancy because 4 was listed twice or maybe you find the wrong game or whatever.

Really, the only two things I'd have to criticize the stage on would be I would have liked for it to be a little longer, especially in the first mode 7 room, and the second would be that the first mode 7 room is a bit lacking. I mean, you have an off white background, just the one stair case, no true platforming elements, just the one bathook, and a mini-swarm of enemies. That's about it. The room isn't hard to figure out, it's only fun the first time you do it, and while it does show off the mode 7 effects, the next room is much more impressive.

Above: crazier.

Even still, for someone that hasn't played the game before, this stage totally takes you off guard and is an absolute treat. For anyone that HAS played the game, admit it, this stage is fun as hell to come back to every so often. My stepbrothers and I used to play this game every Christmas. We would play it until we beat it and often replay it again right after. It's not the hardest Castlevania by a long shot, but it's easily one of the most fun and impressive ones.   read

11:29 AM on 01.12.2012

The Fantastic World of Japanese Games - Episode 5

Sometimes the mere mentioning that a game had RPG elements was enough to shelf the idea to bring it over. You're going to see me pulling this excuse a lot because for every Mega Man, Castlevania, TMNT, Mario, Zelda, and whatever title that came out, you'd have a dozen or so RPGs that didn't quite make it. While this happened less with the SNES, it certainly happened a LOT with the NES. For example...

Chronicle of the Radia War

If you've never seen or heard of this game, I'm not surprised. Also, you should immediately check it out. No really, go. Minimize this window, go check it out, and come back. You back? Awesome, right? You're welcome. Chronicle of the Radia War is a story about...well, I don't remember and it doesn't matter. Here's what you need to know about CotRW. It's an action/RPG with random encounters that feels similar to Final Fantasy Adventure, but made by Tecmo and therefore has awesome music, animations, sound effects, and so on.

The only major gripe I can make about the game is movement speed is very slow. Beyond that, it's fun, tough, and highly enjoyable. So why didn't it come to America? Action/RPG. Sure, it's pretty heavy on the action, but come on. It's still an RPG. For those of you that don't get it, consider this. I have two stepbrothers. These guys were big into sports and also enjoyed action games on the NES from time to time.

So games like Contra, Ninja Gaiden, Burai Fighter, Castlevania, and various others were immediately recognizable to them. There was one day I brought over Robotrek, hoping they'd play it. I toted it as being a game about robots. As soon as they saw it was turn based, they stopped watching. I got Chrono Trigger one Christmas. They liked the music and graphics, but recognized it as an RPG immediately and didn't give it a second thought.

Granted, Robotrek isn't exactly the best RPG ever, but to see easily and readily dismiss CT? Every so often they'd look up and see the incredible visuals, then go back to doing whatever they were doing. I couldn't believe it then and I still can't now. Unfortunately, that's the way most of the American audience of gamers were back in the day. Therefore, the next game couldn't possibly have made it here...


Look, every Mother/Earthbound fan out there can blow me. And no, it's not because I don't like the Mother/Earthbound series (because I really, really fucking love it, actually). "Ooooh, why didn't Mother 1 and 3 ever come to America? It doesn't make sense!" YES IT DOES. Mother 3 didn't come out to America because there's an implied rape scene where Lucas allegedly gets his cornhole tonguepunched by a transvestite in a hot know, to learn psychic powers or whatever, because LOGIC.

Look, we have the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but I highly doubt anyone wants to see that in an RPG, especially one that's cartoony and has the appearance that it's made for children (inb4 South Park reference). Second, the original Mother was slow, tough, even stranger than Earthbound at times, AND WAS AN RPG ON THE NES. I think if you're really reaching you could claim there were 10 American NES RPGs made and that's it.

Remember, this was a time when games like Contra and Castlevania were kings and even the mere mentioning of Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior could get your ass kicked. The 80s and 90s were a brutal time for RPGs even after we entered the more accepting PS1 era. And again, I love the Mother/Earthbound series, but the more bizarre games often took a backseat to balls to the wall action titles.

It made sense, especially considering the NES was mostly about platforming and action games. That's not to say there WEREN'T RPGs, but again, they weren't popular. They just fucking weren't. What IS strange, however, is when a truly fucking awesome RPG doesn't come out to America. You know, such as...

Bahamut Lagoon

This game rules, but sadly I've barely played it. What usually ends up happening is I download it at the same time as other great RPGs that are easier to stay focused on and this ends up getting shelved. Even now I have it downloaded, but I haven't even verified it actually works. This is an SRPG with dragons, dragon riding, floating islands, and all kinds of awesome 90s Squaresoft goodness.

It has incredible graphics and animation, great music, and all kinds of great concepts like feeding your dragon random stuff to make them evolve. Okay, that might be about it. Really, I wouldn't know because I haven't played it much, but what I have played is great. With this one I really only have one guess as to why it may not have come out: turn-based SRPG. And I know what you're thinking..."Wha, noooooo...come on, we loved the shit out of games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea, and all that. That can't be right."

Name me one turn-based SRPG on the SNES that came to America that you love. Any takers? Anyone? Unless you bounce into the territory of Koei strategy games and claim that "well hey they're RPGs too" as an exception, there really weren't any, were there? Sure, Front Mission, but that never came to America. Neither did Fire Emblem. Now, Ogre Battle did, but it's slightly different from what I'm talking about.

Also, Tactics Ogre didn't. I can't think of even ONE American SNES turn-based SRPG set in the vein of an overhead or isometric view right off the top of my head. Not one. And again, I'm going to fall back on RPGs still not really doing that well, so adding strategy to the mix certainly would not have helped things.


In this episode all three games really didn't have a solid reason for not hitting American soil other than...well, just being RPGs. Sadly, all three still have yet to officially hit American soil, forcing us to import or emulate for these experiences. Even sadder is that still today we are being denied great RPGs for seemingly no reason. Anymore, unless sales were terrible, I honestly cannot think of any reason to NOT bring an RPG over to American shores.   read

12:34 PM on 01.08.2012

Predictions: I Don't (And Can't) Give A Shit

Early in 2011, my 360 decided to throw a big "fuck you" party and go down for good. Being that this is the brokest I've been in years, I couldn't very well replace it, even though I really want to, but specifically only so I can get back on XBL with my friends, try to actually beat some of the games I have for it and XBLA, and I really, REALLY want a kinect because games like Dance Central give me boners.

So now I have Steam, a Wii, a PS2, a DS, a PSP, and that's it. The 3DS seems like a poorly chosen gimmick by Nintendo, though I've yet to try it, so I'll hold my bias until I actually do try it. I haven't been keeping up on the PS Vita, Wii U, or the alleged X Box 720. Nor do I have any sort of mobile gaming platform outside of...well, in my opinion, handheld consoles that were MADE for it in the first place.

Sure, I've got a couple of friends that have various smartphones and they go on about various apps all the time. And sure, I'm sure they're awesome, but good goddamn I'm not shelling out that kind of cash for a goddamn cell phone, nor am I subscribing to a dataplan that has an even more insulting monthly price tag. No thanks. Again, maybe I don't see the usefulness because I've never experienced it and I hear people all the time citing they "could never go back" to their old piece of shit cell phone.

But if you really must know my predictions, here goes. Keep in mind, most of these are speculation and some without any real investigation, just simple probability at work.

We'll Get Another Tales Game

The fact that Tales of Graces, the real Tales of Destiny 2, and most likely a few others still haven't hit American soil leaves me hopeful for this. I've been hooked ever since Tales of Destiny and went back to play the original Phantasia for the SNES on an emulator. Also, for those that wondered why ToP wasn't highlighted for the GBA, here's the SNES version and here's the GBA version. There.

We'll Get More "Shoot Enemies In The Face And Have A Giant Military Boner" Games

As if I need to tell you, this will be a year of more sequels and games desperately trying to claim they're not sequels but they totally fucking are. And of course, among them will be more military shooters. Don't get me wrong...military shooters can be fun. Unfortunately, the market's been oversaturated with them since about 5 years ago. It's been so far done to death that I almost passed up awesome titles like The Saboteur only because it has a WW2 theme to it.

The Wii Will Still Mostly Only Be Useful For Netflix

Skyward Sword. There, you don't need any more games from Nintendo, right? Sure, The Last Story and Xenoblade MIGHT come to America, but unless you're those few handfuls of rabid fanboys who give a shit, you'll probably completely pass over them forgetfully. Hell, I forgot about Last Story until I just compiled a list of wanted games for different consoles because I have some Gamestop giftcards.

Goofy, Piss Poor Third Party 3D Games Will Come Out For The 3DS

This is a given, but it needs restated. Anytime Nintendo comes out with something truly innovative, third party developers often fuck up again and again while trying to incorporate it unnecessarily in their games. Sometimes it's works, but usually it's only done right by Nintendo itself. So sure, Kid Icarus will probably kick ass, but pretty much everything else will look like garbage because they have no idea what the fuck they're doing.

Square-Enix Will Continue To Rape Final Fantasy, Give Cuddles To Dragonquest

How many Kingdom Hearts gaidens do we really need? Make Kingdom Hearts 3 already, dammit! See, this would've been me a few years ago...and now I honestly wonder why this company is even still around after Final Fantasy 13. Oh wait, Dragonquest. That's right. A game I never really followed until number 8, which was an incredible RPG, is ironically the only thing keeping a company together made of two previously massive RPG giants.

There Will Be More Console Wars Bickering, Even With New Consoles

Used to be Nintendon't, now it's RROD vs. PSN going down vs. Wii being useless vs. 3DS giving you migraines vs. PSP being useless vs. ...fucking whatever. This is another reason I've been perfectly content playing retro titles and buying up shit on Steam. I refuse to pick a side on this because it's gotten to the point that EVERYTHING'S annoying and console fanboys are only making it worse.

Steam Will Continue To Rule, Console Exclusivity Will Soon Become A Thing Of The Past

What does Sony have exclusive rights to? Naughty Dog and Insomniac? Really, that's it? What about Microsoft? Halo? And that's all, isn't it? Nintendo has the most first party support, but they've been falling seriously behind lately. Worse still, they have very little third party support now. The only good news here is anyone who's been doing PC stuff all along will have missed very little and will continue to miss very little because though digital piracy will always be a thing, Steam has more than rekindled most gamers' relationships with their's a beautiful thing, really.

Place Your Bets - Someone Will Go Bankrupt

And here's where the fun starts. With as many bad ideas that have been thrown around lately, I very strongly believe a major company is likely to go bankrupt, belly up, or be completely absorbed soon. It's hard to say who. My guess would be Konami. Really, what have they done lately? They've fucked up Castlevania, don't make anymore Goemon games that I know of, are basically done with DDR, can't seem to make a solid Silent Hill title anymore, the last good Contra was from about 5 years ago, Kojima's no longer a part of their company anymore, nobody cares about Gradius and they probably won't make anymore of those anyway, and they probably won't make anymore Suikodens...seems like a fair bet.

A Classic Will Be Reborn And Suck, Another Will Rule

This is kind of another game I like to play. We know that various developers are working on new titles for X-Com, Shadowrun, and Syndicate. There's a good chance that others are in the works as well. I strongly believe this next year will feature one that will absolutely suck and probably completely destroy the series. However, another will totally rule and prompt us to want to make more games like it. Again, just a prediction, but this seems to happen every so many years.


That's about it. Sorry, I'm just a little burned out and I'm also working on various GotY stuff at the same time, so I'm a little fried. Hope you enjoyed my predictions. Hopefully most of them are proven true.   read

7:27 AM on 01.07.2012

The Fantastic World Of Japanese Games - Episode 4

Sometimes a game is deemed "too weird" to come to American soil. This doesn't happen all the time and usually when it does, it's for good reason. I mean, I guess so. I've decided to include youtube embeds on all the game pictures this time. Aren't I such a nice guy?! All three of the games highlighted here definitely have their quirks, but should still definitely have come to America. Sadly, all three are RPGs as well, so that may have something to do with it. Anyway!

Mystic Ark

When I originally saw screenshots for this title way back in the early 90s, it was being called 7th Saga 2. To this day, it's still inappropriately titled as such by some gamers. And to be fair, it both is and isn't 7th Saga 2. It's basically like stating Illusion of Gaia is Soul Blazer 2 or Terranigma is Illusion of Gaia 2. These statements are wrong, yet they aren't, because they're "spiritual sequels," which I guess means they're done in the same vein to being almost identical and dealing with the same themes, but not being it makes you wonder why they keep calling it Final Fantasy, then.

In any case, Mystic Ark is a very strange, but interesting title. I actually found it more fun to play than 7th Saga, yet I can...kind of...understand it not coming to America. In one area, you converse with people who live in giant, hollowed out fruit. In another, you deal with animal pirates. In yet another, it is entirely ruled by children. I mean, you get the idea. It's like this through the whole game.

See, in 7th Saga, it was kind of a medieval/sci-fi mashup very similar to that of certain FFs or even Phantasy Star, but with an Enix touch to it. This is more like a very confusing mashup of several different sci-fi ideas all at once. It almost feels like a predecessor to the Mother series in a way, but not quite. Actually...maybe I should've mentioned Mother 1 or 3 here, but...nah.

If you liked 7th Saga, there's no reason the strangeness should dissway you from playing this title, but yes, it's very...VERY...weird at times.

Adventures of Hourai High

Actually, with this one it's almost more about "games that are just too awesome to come to America." And it's strange. And it's an RPG.'s a very fun game. I mean, any game that starts with you being transported by airplane to an island that's effectively a giant high school, but missing your stop, so they chuck your ass out of the plane, then you land on the honor student of the local newspaper, then the students decide to make you the new editor to take his place...well, you're already off to a great start.

There's a penguin army, clubs you can join and learn abilities from, a traditional level up system with some interesting touches, equally interesting turn-based battle system, lots of hilarious enemies, equally hilarious dialogue and situations, and...and...well, it's just about the funniest, most engaging game I've ever played on the SNES. Yeah, Earthbound included.

I mean seriously, kudos to the translation group Aeon Genesis. Without them, not only would I not have heard of this title, but there's a good chance the rough translation wouldn't have been all that funny. These guys bust their asses to make a lot of great translations, but in my opinion, this is one of the best. Hourai High is an instant classic, but I do get that RPGs really weren't taking off that well, the developer wasn't well known in America, and there are some questionable situations.

Wonder Project J

There is really only one reason I can think that this game didn't come to America and it's a really, really stupid one: the game is a little slow at times. No really, that's it. I've beaten this game frontwards to back and I can't think of any one reason it didn't come to America. It's an absolutely incredible game experience. You get to play as a fairy. Okay, then maybe two reasons.

That aside, you watch over a mechanical boy and try to teach him right from wrong, how to do stuff, inspire confidence in him, and so on. There are various stages where you have to fulfill various tasks to move on. Some are fairly simple, like learning how to do various sports, or sing, or fight, or whatever...and others require...well, a little trial and error...sometimes even forcing the kid to unlearn and relearn certain things differently.

The game has a great story, charming characters, good dialogue, excellent graphics and atmosphere, and...well, I could just go on and on and on. There's also a sequel on the N64 that I'm taking a crack at, but so far it's not quite the same. Wonder Project J was a great game that takes a very different approach to character development and is itself inspiring. I could very seriously see another sequel working as a casual title on a variety of consoles.


Weird or not, insane or logical, Japanese games truly are amazing. I won't be as pretentious to assume that ALL Japanese titles need to come to America, but at the very least, as strange as these titles are, they are among some of the best that were never released. Stay tuned!   read

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