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Stupid S*** Gamers Do

I've decided to start a weekly editorial called "Stupid S*** Gamers Do." Why? Because us gamers do a lot of stupid s***, and if I don't rant about it, I'm gonna go f****** insane!

Number 1 on the agenda: Threads that read "Will I like this game."

You've seen 'em, probably daily if you frequent game-related discussion forums like the ones here on Gamespot, or over on the sister site, GameFAQs, etc.

How on God's green Earth could anybody know the answer to this stupid f***** question!? The latest one I saw was for the upcoming SMT game, Shin Megami Tensei IV. It's one thing to weigh in on a game you've played and say, "hey, yeah, this is a good game, you may enjoy it." But it hasn't even been released yet for God's sake.

Now, I know most of these threads are likely created by younger gamers, but it's still one of those things that when you see it waiting for you in your favorite discussion forum, it's impossible to not respond to with violent derision.

Please stop making these stupid threads.

Soul Hackers impressions

I think I just hit the nine-hour mark -- not too far in but far enough to offer some impressions of this classic Shin Megami Tensei entry.

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First thing I bet most folks wanna know is, does it feel old? Surprisingly, no. But a little, yeah. Okay...it definitely has a kind of PS1/N64-era feel to it, and of course, Shin Megami Tensei Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers was originally a Japanese exclusive released on the Sega Saturn and later ported to PS1. But ooh, do I dig that feel. Oddly enough, that is one of my favorite eras in gaming, as in many ways, gaming was reinventing itself to fit the polygonal era.

But visually, Soul Hackers doesn't actually show its age all that badly. It just looks kinda barebones. Visually, it almost presents itself like a Phoenix Wright game, with character portraits and such and very little in the way of actual animation. Everything still looks really tight, really clean, though, and the artwork looks contemporary to me.

The music, to me at least -- I know others feel differently about it -- is fantastic. I listen to the opening theme every single time I load the game up, and it's a joy to visit the headquarters. There's tons of variety, and the voice work really makes the characters that much more endearing.

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The gameplay feels like Shin Megami Tensei. There really are no outdated mechanics. If anything, this game was kind of ahead of its time. One example is a cool, little app you acquire that allows you to save anywhere. Now, I'm not sure if that was a part of the original version of the game, but it sure is appreciated when playing it on 3DS.

I think perhaps the biggest difference folks will feel is the reliance on fusing demons. In many other SMT games (Devil Survivor in particular), your demons leveled up like you did. However, in Soul Hackers, they only gain loyalty, which does improve their skills, but it's very limited. Instead, you'll have to continue to fuse demons in order to create new, more powerful demons to fight alongside you. It's not something you really have to worry about, though, as it all happens pretty organically.

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All in all, I'm having a really good time with Soul Hackers (3DS). It's still quite hip, asthetically pleasing, and fun to play. There's lots of depth, but it's handled wonderfully. I'll probably throw up a reader review after my first playthrough (there is a new-game-plus option, which I will definitely be taking advantage of), but for now, the game has my blessing. Comes with an OST too if you buy a physical copy, and if you are gonna buy the game, I definitely recommend going that route. Not only is the game fun, but I have a feeling it will only increase in value down the road.

(Disclaimer: This game is not Persona 5. Buyer beware.) :P

Year of the 3DS

I lifted that title from...well, everywhere on the Internet pretty much. But yeah, that seems to be the consensus around various gaming camps. For full disclosure, I was an "early adopter" of the system. I was really excited about it when it was announced, but at the same time, I didn't really feel I needed one right out of the gate. But my wife was feeling generous, and it ended up being my birthday present that year. I didn't complain.

But the system did get off to a slow and rocky start, at least that's the way I saw it at the time. There seemed to be some confusion on the part of consumers (parents mostly). I don't think a lot of folks got the differences between the 3DS and regular DS/DSi. There was also the initial price. I believe we paid something like $270 (USD) at launch. And of course, Japan suffered a great natural disaster shortly after the release of the system, which only further crippled an already delicate world economy.

Okay, enough of the negative...

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We had a pretty dang good year last year in terms of 3DS content. Sure, there were slow spells, but we still got some pretty good stuff. But this year -- fa'getta'bout'it! I'm waiting on SMT: DS Soul Hackers next week and then SMTIV this summer. Animal Crossing finally coming out here this June. My wife and I will be pre-ordering his and hers like we did with the DS games. And I'm ready for some Animal Crossing again. I kinda needed a break after the Wii game, but I'm ready again now. Project vs. Zone also looks pretty dang cool, even if it's merely a trimmed-down version of the Super Robot Taisen OG Saga game we got for DS. Lots of other great stuff coming and announced for this year. It really is gonna be one of those years (finally) where I simply cannot afford all the games I want for this system. Fire Emblem Awakening brought me back after a long hiatus, Luigi's Mansion 2 kept me around, and it looks like my handheld is once again gonna be my favorite gaming system.

Like I said, year of the 3DS...

Having a good day.

It's raining, my fence is still knocked down from the tornado we had about a month ago, yet I'm having a really good day. I applied for a job not too long ago, had a sit down with the company owner and his company director this past Friday, and last night I got an email saying they'd like me to come to work for them. This morning I hashed out the details, and though I won't be getting rich from the job, the pay is better than what I was expecting. Best of all, I'll be doing two things I love: reporting, and reporting on government. The job is as a local reporter covering mostly the government beat. I'm really excited. I start tonight.

Having a really good day. :) Hope you do the same.

Why perma-death is integral to Fire Emblem

Was diggin' the recent Gamespot article about perma-death, but as much as it's easy to romanticize the mechanic, it's more than merely a matter of "because it's more manly." I've plugged in over 120 hours (on all three slots) with Awakening, went back and finished Sacred Stones a few days ago, and I'm now midway through Shadow Dragon (the underappreciated, red-headed stepchild of the Fire Emblem series), while simultaneously playing Radiant Dawn off and on. I've got Fire Emblem on the brain right now. The new game has definitely inspired a personal revival.

But what about this whole "perma-death" thing. First, let me just say, though I didn't use the option, I was glad to see Intelligent Systems add the Casual Mode to Awakening (not its first appearance in the series, by the way). The series has had a bit of trouble gaining traction here in the States, in spite of a very devoted, albeit relatively small, fanbase. But it should be obvious by now, Awakening has really made a dent into the mainstream awareness of this series, I'm certain in no small part due to lowering the barrier of entry.

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All that being said, I still believe perma-death is absolutely an essential part of the gameplay because, well, if death isn't a concern, all you have to worry about is getting through a given battle. But with perma-death present, you have to think several battles -- even endgame -- ahead. It's really as simple as that. It's not about being elite or manly or hardcore; it's about a fundamental change in gameplay. With perma-death, Fire Emblem is, in a lot of ways, similar to chess. Without it, it has more in common with any number of other SRPGs on the market.

I love Awakening. It's up there with my favorite FE games. I love the options, the production values, the carefree changes that play into all the trappings that make us love games like Final Fantasy Tactics. But don't underestimate the importance of perma-death in a Fire Emblem game. Play it any way you like, but trust me, it's an integral part of the formula.

Fire Emblem: Awakening progress

Found a copy at my local Wallyworld, which was no small matter, as the game is out of stock on pretty much every online site and most retailers. I just finished Chapter 6 this morning -- had to play as soon as I woke up. It's one of those games -- you know, the kind that keep you up at night thinking about it; the kind you wake up thinking about how you want to build your characters up when you start playing again.

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That's Donnel up there. He's a villager you meet early on in the game. I hear he gets pretty beefy as you level him up, so I'm throwing him into the fray as often as possible.

The game is really great so far...and hard as hell, at least in terms of keeping everyone alive. I'm playing on Hard difficulty in Classic mode, so if a unit dies, they stay dead like they would in previous FE games.

And I have to say, the criticisms regarding grinding for levels and re-classing for endless stat boosts have been grossly exaggerated. Perhaps in Normal mode things are much easier, but you don't get free access to Second Seals (to re-class) 'til much later in the game, and it's hard to grind even the "easiest" sidequests, as the enemies can still send your units to the hereafter. Gameplay-wise, Fire Emblem is still very much intact. It just has a ton more to offer now.

Unfortunately, the story is very..."Tales of." Don't get me wrong, Tales of Symphonia is one of my all-time favorite games, but that series generally has a lot of silliness and plot devices that are a complete departure from realistic social situations. Awakening has a lot of that too. However, the actual plot is quite compelling. Chapter 6 was a good set-up to get you wanting more, in spite of the ridiculous premise.

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But the game does have a good sense of humor, I'll give it that. This is a Support scene. When you battle together, you raise the bond of relationship between characters. I'm trying to hook up Sumia and Chrom so they'll marry and have a kid. Sumia is really into Chrom, so it seems like a natural pairing.

The game has a lot of other, really cool features. The WiFi stuff comes with a boatload of downloadable fan service. The DLC maps should really satisfy anyone who's been into the series for a while. It's like a "greatest hits" of Fire Emblem. Great stuff.

Haven't really played on my 3DS or touched it much at all for months -- pretty much since Resident Evil Revelations -- so it's nice to have another really good reason to pick the system up.

Must...have...Fire Emblem Awakening!

I'm not even a diehard FE fan. I'm a moderate fan in terms of the number of FE games I've played (one on the Wii, a couple on GBA, and the remake on DS). But I have to have this game. And it's not the Casual Mode that has me starstruck, either, though I think it's a great addition, something to attract folks who were previously scared off by the series' perma-death mechanic.

First of all, the game looks gorgeous, something rare for this series. I will savor each and every battle animation -- nom, nom...

Honestly, though, it's that extra element of depth Awakening has, namely the expansion of support relationships (i.e. you can now have children). I love practicality wrapped in practicality: Supporting other characters adds temporary stat boosts, improves character relationships, further enhancing future battle mechanics until...if your male and female characters like each other enough, you can sire a child with inherited stats/abilities.

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Plus, tactical/strategy games are perhaps my favorite genre. I'm still playing Warcraft III 10 years later and currently finishing up FFT for the third time.

If there is one thing about this game that gives me pause, it's the ability to grind. That's a first for this series. I'm cool with giving players the option to not have characters permanently die off, but FE's challenge has always been so close to the chest. This series is kinda like the Demon's Souls of strategy games -- you simply can't rush in. But now, you can grind out certain side missions, as well as endlessly re-class characters for uber-stat boosting.

Ah well...I'm still grossly excited, and after seeing this game in action, I am hoping and praying Intelligent Systems get to work on an Advance Wars game (or three) for 3DS as well.

Power restored

Our power came on this morning -- yay! We were without power since Wednesday morning when our area was hit by a tornado. I'm very thankful our family and home are okay. We lost the front of our fence and a couple of pine trees came down in the backyard, but that was the extent of our home damage. Other folks in our neighborhood didn't fare as well. Emergency vehicles have been coming and going nonstop for the past couple of days, but only one life was reportedly lost. My heart goes out to the folks who will have to rebuild, some for the second time in a year, as it was reported that some of the homes that were rebuilt from last year's tornado were once again completely leveled.

Sunny skies now but cold. Nature says "hi" from Georgia.

Who needs food so long as there are apps? (Apple sees $60 billion in losses)

Wow. Never really knew they had $60 billion to lose. Leaving them at a mere $423 billion according to the Huffington Post, they're still the top company in the U.S., with ExxonMobil a close second.

Again, wow...

But what's so awe-inspiring (and alarming) about such a realization is that it's all in the name of entertainment.

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Not food, not fuel, not clothes or any other number of necessities humans need to survive. And ironically, most iDevice users probably spend the least amount of their time with their devices for phone usage or necessary functions. Let's tell it like it is: they're mobile-entertainment devices -- distractions on the grandest scale our species has probably ever known.

Anyway, the company took a big hit, evidently, in the stock market, but it's still a Goliath. Obviously, I love gaming, otherwise I wouldn't be here on Gamespot, and heck, I have spent more time gaming on my iPhone in the last year and half than any other system I currently own. But it sure is telling to see figures like that. We might need to re-examine our priorities as a global community.

Some like it bloody

Stumbled into a sale thread over on NeoGAF, and came upon this gif:

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After recent events and the reaction(s) from the NRA, it was no surprise to see no shortage of blog posts expressing frustration over various interests pointing at violent video games and blaming them for the many terrible acts we're seeing these days.

But it's also taboo on gaming sites to even ask the question: what is with this fixation with violence in video games? It's no longer merely a means of telling a more complex tale, it's a bullet point on the sales pitch for a "AAA" game (and it's been that way for a while). Perhaps there was a time when folks found it compelling to view and act out extreme violence in a mature game because it made us think about the human condition, but it seems like the focus now is just to...well, commit those actions in a fantasy world.

To me, the argument of "do violent video games cause people to commit violent acts" is a bit like missing the forest for the trees. I'm more interested in having the discussion of what does this say about us as people -- not just gamers, but thinking, feeling human beings trying to make our way through life, whether in a fantasy world or in the real world.

Is it so wrong to even ask the question? And if it's such a sore spot for gamers -- something that gets you easily riled -- why is that? What are we so afraid of? Why can we not have this discussion? Setting aside whether or not violence in video games causes people to act out violently in real life, what is the significance of such extreme and prolific violence in games? What does this voracious appetite for it in our games mean?