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About
Gamer. Scientist. Smartass.

On the pads since 1986. Hardcore (or stupid) enough to attempt to beat Ninja Gaiden 2 on Master Ninja mode (still working on it). All genres except racing games except Burnout Revenge.

Recently beaten: Portal 2, LA Noire, GTA 4, Fallout: NV

Currently playing: Mass Effect 2 (for the 4th time), DJ Hero 2, Resident Evil 5 (it's like crack), Madden 08. For the record, I fucking hate all Madden games. But I love football and try to live vicariously through this shit. It does the job for 30 minutes at a time. Bring back the NFL 2K games dammit!
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For us working and soon-to-be working folk, there was a pretty significant piece of good news that came out yesterday, which is that the US economy seems to be picking up quite nicely. While unemployment is still way higher than it was a few years ago, many jobs were added to the private sector and the unemployment rate dropped to 8.3% (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-03/payrolls-in-u-s-jumped-243-000-in-january-unemployment-rate-drops-to-8-3-.html). Most importantly, people are starting to think that the job growth is organic, which means that the economy can grow without external stimuli like new tax breaks and stimulus.

As far as gaming goes, let's hope this is a good start to a year where game publishers take more risks and generate significant new IPs. The video game industry as a whole was pretty weak last year, dropping about 14% for software and 28% for hardware (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=145139341). No doubt the recent bout of sequelitis was due to the weak economy and these developers having to bank on things they knew would sell. While I'll probably pick up a Mass Effect 3 or a Ninja Gaiden 3 at some point, I pretty much know what to expect from those games, which makes it harder to get excited for them.

The new 2012 IPs seem a bit sparse - I have Anarchy Reigns, The Last of Us, Dragon's Dogma, and The Last Guardian on my radar, but that's about it. Details are a bit slim for most of those, so we'll have to see whether they can build up enough hype. With things getting better now, game developers will probably nut up and start making new stuff, but we may not see the fruits of that labor until 2013.

And regardless of what you're looking forward to, here's to a better year than we had last year. What are you all looking forward to?








and my first impression is, this is a guy that masturbates to the thought of how smart he thinks he is.








As someone who has done research for a living, I often think about how thoughts and ideas tend to get "incubated" in the scientific community. What I mean by this is that it is common for someone to come up with a deluge of ideas to test a theory, have all of those ideas fail, and then be stuck at a roadblock, which can be anything from a lack of resources to an unforeseen technical problem, etc. Sometimes this roadblock can be solved through brute-force methods of simply trying every combination or permutation of things that might get around it until something works. Other times, when the solution isn't obvious, the problem can be set aside, sometimes for months or years at a time, and the people working on it let the problem "incubate." One day through a flash of insight or inspiration, someone might miraculously come up with a clever solution that gets around the roadblock and allows progress to continue. You also hear about this often with people who like doing crossword puzzles, or perhaps have played puzzle games like Portal 2 (aka the Eureka moment). Way back in the day this also happened to me with Arena, the first Elder Scrolls game, where you had to answer riddles correctly to proceed in the game. These days it would be easy to just tap out and get the Gamefaq for a game, but back then, if you didn't know the answer, tough shit.



In the instance of Portal 2, I feel that the idea of incubating would make a lot of sense, since it's common to get stuck at a puzzle, only to try it again the next day and get it after the first or second try. However, I had an experience with Ninja Gaiden 2 recently that made me think this might not be limited to "mind" games like Portal.

I've been trying to beat Ninja Gaiden 2 on Master Ninja mode (because I'm a masochist) on and off for about two years now. At first, I just popped it in on MNM, not expecting to make any real progress since I heard it's largely regarded as the most difficult thing to beat on the current console generation. I'm definitely not above a challenge - I've beaten Devil May Cry 3 on Dante Must Die mode, and gotten through a bunch of other games on their hardest difficulty levels. But you definitely hear from people that MNM is unreasonably hard. I often joke to people that even after I got my PhD., beating the first stage of NG2 on MNM is the proudest accomplishment of my life. This is much less of a joke than you might think.

Anyway, I eventually got to a point, somewhere around the 3rd stage, where even I had had enough, and was just about ready to tap out. The sadistic bastards who made this game have something in there called Trials of Valor, which is basically a gauntlet of fighting regular enemies in the game, 60 to 100 in waves, continuously. The very first one in MNM, where your weapons are still pretty underpowered and your life bar is short, is absolute brutality. After failing for maybe the 50th time, I just about threw my controller through a wall and decided I was done with punching myself in the face. I mean, don't I play these things to have fun?


If Ryu is Ninja Gaiden 2, that's me getting dismembered.

I gave NG2 a break for a good 6-7 months or so, playing a whole bunch of other things that happened to be in my backlog. After defending my thesis, I was between jobs for a bit, and I figured, what the hell, why not give the Trial of Valor another spin?

I beat it on my first try.

I was shocked, and happy as fuck, but I got to thinking, how the hell did I beat it with relative ease when I was pulling my hair out and causing property damage a few months ago? While a lot of games have skills and techniques that are translatable, action games typically require a lot of practice to get really good at. Not playing a specific one for a while will usually cause skills to atrophy. Did I just get lucky? That's the only explanation I was able to come up with. Then, my scientist brain decided, why don't I save somewhere else, so I can keep the save that lets me try to Trial of Valor again, just to see if indeed I just got lucky.

I played through the game a little bit more, then went back to the Trial of Valor again after a week.

Same result, 1st try success.

Now I'm not saying that I could beat it whenever I want to, but to have two successes in a row means that I've truly gained a skill of some sort, though I couldn't name it offhand. Did I somehow recognize patterns better? Was I taking fewer dumb chances? In any case, even though I'm still not exactly sure what happened, this experience in my gaming life taught me that video games are truly problem-solving platforms, even the ones that seem like fast-twitch, hand-eye coordination killfests. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, it looks like you can indeed "incubate" an experience and become better at it down the road without active work.

So what of it DToiders, anyone else had this happen to them?
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Hi Destructoid community, long time reader, first time blogger. A quick bit about myself before I go into my main topic: Iíve been gaming for a long time, since around the original NES days, though I never owned one. Back then, I would crash my friendís house every day to play Dragon Warrior. I think my fondest of that was facing off vs. the green dragon holding the princess captive, underleveled, and not really expecting to win, Three consecutive fluke critical hits later, we dragged her ass back to the castle and demanded an award, only to get sent off to do more menial shit. Good times.

Anyway, a lot has been made these days about the demise of the JRPG. Iíve only played a few in this current generation, namely Lost Odyssey (which I mostly loved), Tales of Vesperia (which I mostly hated, fucking Karol!), and Resonance of Fate (which was a mixed bagÖcan anyone explain the plot to me in a sensible fashion?). Like many of the gamers these days, I would definitely agree that the Western RPG has taken over in terms of depth, gameplay, and story telling, with companies like Bioware and Bethesda leading the way while the traditional JRPG companies continue to put out pretty contrived and mediocre bullshit. That having been said, the one thing that JRPGs still have on their Western counterparts is EPIC FUCKING MUSIC. In my opinion, the Western RPG thatís really matched the JRPGs in terms of epic-ness has been Morrowind, but no one besides the Japanese can through 262737 different genres of music together and get something completely fucking awesome out. Here are a few of my favorites from the PS2 generation, with some massive spoilers to be mentioned.

5. Grandia 2

This was one of the first RPGs of the PS2 generation that I played, and still one of my favorites. While thereís not much of a theme involved, it seems like the tracks were just made to be as awesome as possible. And thatís OK with me. I could always use a sweet guitar solo, even when Iím just exterminating insects and birds.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3J_fCr_r7Jk

When you hit the evil transformed priest, thatís when the violins, guitars, and drums go to work:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIkj-Kb0C9Q

Now thatís the kind of shit I want to hear if Iím saving the world.

4. Persona 3

While some people may think of the Persona games as having cheesy Jpop soundtracks, I think it fits the bill for the games perfectly. We have a bunch of high school students running around trying to hold their social lives and academics together, while whupping some ass for an hour at night. The main battle track has blathering pop diva vocals (baby baby baby baby baby!) and testosterone-y rap over jazz trumpets and rock guitars. I think it captures the co-ed battle teams and raging adolescent hormones perfectly. Then when you get to the last boss and you have to fight the big bad world-ender, you have the hyped-up guitars and dance beat combined with Belladonna belting out a 2x speed Velvet Room vocal. Itís a lot like the main battle theme, but with a lot more gravity. And itís fucking wonderful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N79QsMfWKeU

Iíll also mention that I love the French house music that goes along with the change to the Spring semester. I just imagine Mitsuru whispering sweet nothings into your ear while the house music keeps things light and fun. Hell, I donít even like house music, but again, the music composition is just the right thing for the occasion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCl1fksEbcM

3. Star Ocean 3 Ė Till the End of Time
This game hasnít aged well with time, and itís unfortunate that the Tri-Ace team hasnít really learned by taking the worst parts of SO3 and amplifying all of them to make SO4 pretty much intolerable to anyone over the age of 15. NoÖmoreÖbadÖvoiceÖactingÖ.That having been said, SO3 had a fantastic soundtrack that apparently spans 4 CDs if you were to go out and buy it. The compositions range from grand, room-filling cathedral music to tongue-in-cheek bad rap music. And then you hit the part with the pissed-off, giant dragon who wants you to leave him the fuck alone, but nooooo, you need him to transport experimental phase cannon thingie made of archaic materials that will probably blow up the second you attempt to fire it. And the epic fucking metal commences. While fighting a giant, pissed, fire-breathing dragon.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZclyF9ZOR0

The unfortunate thing is that I whupped his ass in 27 seconds without taking damage. At least the game gave me three battle trophies as a consolation prize.

2. Shadow Hearts: Covenant

I think on average, this game has the best soundtrack of any game of the last generation. The tracks are the epitome of the Japanese mash-up style, with opera, metal, jazz, and freaking Indian vocals thrown all together. Even cooler is the way the music speeds up to manic paces if someone in your party loses all of their Sanity Points. And really, if Iím going to be listening to a battle theme 5000 times in a game, it better be cool. And this game nails that and then some. Like the incendiary Kodo drums when youíre psychically following your nemesis into the core of the earth:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gptycE0xKGs (skip to ~ 7:00)

Or the wailing and violin solo when he opens the gates of time:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlMZ0jCAI7E&NR=1 (skip to ~ 4:10)

So many good tracks in this game.

1. Xenosaga 3

While I think Xenosaga 2 (yay for brooding and ominous-ness!) actually had a better overall soundtrack, thereís one track in particular that stands out: Godsibb. Itís so epic I even know its name. This is another game where the plot is convoluted enough that Iím not sure exactly what happens at the point the awesome music comes in, but it seems to be something like civilization has used an ancient artifact powered by Jesus and Mary themselves to create giant robots and travel space. And apparently having a madman trying to collect this power for his own ends is grounds for singing in what sounds like a 2000-year old dead language over rock music complemented by violin solos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aN2c_62mSnQ

SoÖfuckingÖawesomeÖ.

What about you? What games tickled your eardrums?