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The Gamer In Me - #3

I believe I'm not alone in this.

Like the vast majority of gamers, I was one of the many that was picked on for this. I was laughed at by a lot of girls, who tell me that gaming is a waste of time and that I was a loser for it. Men, such as the jocks and popular guys in the schools I attended years ago, would call me stupid names and say that gaming would get me nowhere. Not with girls, not with life, etc. I heard it all and overcame it. These days, I'm no longer dealing with that nonsense because I've learned to not give in and let my enjoy the hobby when others consider it to be useless.

For me, gaming is the one area of my life that I remain totally confident in. It's something that I don't need to ask people help on, because I can do it by myself and feel accomplished about getting certain, yet hard tasks done. It also allows me to achieve things that could NEVER be done in real life! Let's face it, I doubt that I have the talent, skill, or chrisma to entertain a large audience in a sport like professional wrestling. But in a videogame, I can enter that world and feel totally free in whatever choices I make. Ever wanted to be a rockstar in front of millions? Done! Ever wanted to hit the grand-slam homerun and win the World Series? No problem!

More impotantly, I can be with a group of people, in a videogame, that won't judge me for who I am and what I do. I can be with a cast of characters that don't mind me being part of the ride and undertaking the joys and dangers found within the quest until the ending credits roll. That's who I've had to deal with most of my life too; gamers, who have accepted me as one of them and don't judge me for it. Don't get me wrong though; I know a ton of ladies and gents that aren't gamers, but they too have learned to accept me for who I am. I also think they wouldn't want me to change. But still, just being with people of that nature makes me feel comfortable, to be with those that will never judge you by the way you look, the way you talk, the way you walk, and so forth.

And let's not forget, the world outside of gaming can be a harsh reality. Gaming is considered an escape by a lot of us, myself included, because we wish to be tuned off by the madness that we hear about on a daily basis. I would literally get sick and tired of nutjobs committing these acts of lunacy against people that were purely innocent or how a few places are embroiled in conflict, with a lot of violence and death happening. It's a sad world, which is another reason why I am very thankful for gaming entering my life at a young age. Plus, it's a great way to relieve stress!

Though I won't get too personal here, I know I had days where the world was totally against me and everything felt screwed up from the beginning. So once I would get home, angry and frustrated about what happened to me in whatever situation I was in, there were the videogames that kept my anger in check. It allowed me to relieve the stress and rage I felt building inside of me, just waiting to explode. After I played whatever game I had in my system for a good, long time, my anger was depleted and I felt fine again. On the outside world, I had no control over how people felt about me or what they did to me in a negative fashion. In a videogame, however, that's a different story. I was in total control of everything and I could do whatever I wanted without having to affect my real life outside of it. So, in other words, it was a healthy way of getting rid of my anger.

And that's me in a nutshell. If people in my life cannot accept me or love me as a person and as a videogamer that LOVES what he does, then you have no right in being a part of my life, because I won't tolerate discrimination or dislike towards me. I've had to deal with that in the past and now, I'm in a good place. Plus, as I said, things have changed for me; people see me in a different light. People see me as a guy that's very nice, loyal, and can speak his mind when needed and doesn't back down from anyone. Already in my late twenties, I still continue to game, soaking in the nostalgia while looking towards the future, engaging myself in new worlds and creating new memories out of the experience.

And that's the truth!

Final Fantasy Needs Fixing! - #2

Final Fantasy.

It's the one role-playing game series that I used to love back in my youth. It had a lot going for it; characters, story, gameplay, music, replay value. On top of that, I can still recall a lot of great moments that tied both the story and characters very well; Cecil becoming a paladin on Mt. Ordeals. Celes stuck on an island in an apocalyptic world. The death of Aerith at the hands of Sephiroth (although unlike a lot of people, I did not cry at that scene, though it was tragic). It is those kinds of scenes, along with everything else, that used to make Final Fantasy a special series, each installment interesting and always one to look forward to.

Unfortunately, it's no longer the same. After Final Fantasy X, which is considered to be the last good Final Fantasy in the franchise, things started going downhill. Visuals were in favor of all the aforementioned aspects of a videogame, Square Enix daring to push the envelope graphically in order to tell a story. No longer did we have an interesting cast or a good story, not to mention no fun gameplay whatsoever. How would I know this? By playing the mess that's Final Fantasy XIII. Before then, Final Fantasy XI and XII started to make me lose hope for the series entirety.

Final Fantasy XIII is the game that killed my faith in the series.

If you want to experience a great role-playing game, it's got to have a story and a cast of characters to stay interested in, gameplay that doesn't just stick to you main goal and lets you wander off the beaten path, a fun battle system that will keep you engaged and thinking at all times, a memorable soundtrack, and a lot of replay value. Sadly, Final Fantasy XIII has none of that. It's a game that I tried playing, tried so hard to even like, but just couldn't do it. I just couldn't believe this is the direction that Square Enix is taking with this series; a visual beast with no substance behind it. Then when Final Fantasy XIII-2 came out, in the form of a playable demo, I attempted to go through that one and did beat it, but again, no love for it.

So it made me think about what should happen for the next game in the series, which is now Final Fantasy XV. Perhaps, in that instance, Square Enix may have their chance to redeem themselves in my eyes. It's going to take a lot more than just pretty graphics to get me loving you again, Square Enix (or as I used to know them as Squaresoft back in the day). They will need to do the following in order to re-capture the spirit of the series and make us believe in them once again.

-Going retro. The series needs to go back to its roots, just like how Final Fantasy IX did when it was released on Playstation One. A world that's great to look at, one of the better cast of characters we've seen in its history, and fun, classic gameplay that harkens back to the original. That's what Final Fantasy XV needs to do, first and foremost.

-Bring back the original team. It was that team that made the series a major success in the first place. From Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator and father of Final Fantasy, to Nobuo Uematsu, who has made a lot of beautiful, memorable tracks within the series.

-Go back to the games that REALLY WORKED. Look at Final Fantasy IV or Final Fantasy VI or even VII. They need to be inspired by the games that made them a success in the first place. Hell, why not the first Final Fantasy? Without that game, Final Fantasy would not be alive today.

-A new battle system. And I don't mean the crap that we have seen in previous Final Fantasy titles. Something that's a lot more action-oriented, a game that makes you feel like you are in complete control of everything. They should take a good look at the Tales series and take a page on that, create something for the gamer to get involved in at all times.

-A world in the medieval times, like in Final Fantasy IV or the games before it. Then again, I wouldn't mind the type of landscape that we saw in Final Fantasy VI, VII, IX, and X. Why not go for something like that? It also has to be a place that you truly care about fighting for in the first place, something that Final Fantasy XIII failed in miserably, along with XIII-2!

-A cast of characters, one that stays interesting from start to finish. A good set of heroes needs to be matched evenly with a great villain. Final Fantasy VI's Kefka is the best example of an epic villain. And by the way, Sephiroth is overrated and overhyped. Just because he wields a big sword and has ominous music doesn't make him a badass villain, so a lot of you are blind about that guy, in my opinion!

-Bring back shops and treasures, along with chocobos, Cid, etc. That all needs to come back, not this Chocolina girl whose voice is god-awful and can be irritating as chalk scraping across a board!

-Non-lineraity. Sure, you want to finish the game at some point, but make sure you give us a lot more to do than to go from point A to point B. I saw that Square fixed that (somewhat) in Final Fantasy XIII-2. Still not enough!

-Lots of replay value! Previous Final Fantasy games allowed you to stay distracted with fun, simple minigames before going through the main story again. Plus, plenty of useful side-quests that give you meaningful rewards, not useless winnings!

-A great soundtrack, one that stays fresh and memorable in your mind long after you finished it.

Those are just some of the key items I want Square to address BIG TIME before they ever earn me back as a fan of the Final Fantasy franchise.

I'll just say this about Final Fantasy XIII and its sequel; just like every Final Fantasy game before them and after it, each of them are different. None are the same. However, that's no excuse. It's no excuse that Square Enix can do better and dig themselves out of the hole they are currently in right now. Square ruined the franchise with Final Fantasy XIII and the mess that's Final Fantasy XIV. You don't have to take my word for it, just read the reviews on those games and you can tell that Square is no longer the kings of that genre. If they wish to be back on that throne, they need to wake up and realize that what they are doing now is no longer working.

Stop favoring visuals. No more absurd story-telling with bad characters. No more strict linearity. Make the games FUN AGAIN. If you can do all that and address what I described above, then perhaps you may have another chance. Otherwise…the series needs to die a horrible death at this point.

Worried about Assassin's Creed - #1

So, for the first issue of my blog, which I hope to do on a daily basis, I'll speak about the things that I enjoy or perhaps am worried about in the world of video-gaming. Though I posted this on the Gamespot thread, I thought to reach out here with my thoughts and perhaps to gather insight from the others (at least on my friends's list or elsewhere) on what should be done with the Assassin's Creed series, the first subject for my first blog.

That being said...

Reading Shaun's thoughts, which you can find on the main page of Gamespot right now (link for some reason won't work on my blog, just check my post on the Gamespot Primary Games Discussion forums) on the Assassin's Creed series so far and it made me realize he made a few good points.

To be honest, I'm glad that Brotherhood and Revelations are out and both are good games in their own right. However, somewhere along the way, I think Ubisoft did get carried away. Minigames, such as tower defense and first-person platforming, along with little distractions like bomb crafting, are nice to have for variety, but those kinds of aspects loses focus on the series. The first game had you focus on finding out more information about your target, through pickpocketing or ease-dropping on certain people's conversations, before traveling to that destination and figuring out a plan to finish them off without being detected. Whatever happened to that? I know that some of that was kept in the later games in certain missions, but the series focused too much on the combat or through these Leonardo Da Vinci missions. Something has to be done...

AC, I feel, is definitely losing its identity and place in the gaming industry because of those key aspects of the game. Therefore, some of the key points Shaun spoke of, I repeat myself. There needs to be a new hero, either female or male, but with someone that can grow to care about, like with Ezio in Assassin's Creed II. Let it not be someone who just goes through the motions and keeps on playing a smaller and smaller role. I also feel that they need to focus on missions that make you feel like an assassin instead of following someone to a place without being detected. Having Assassin recruits is great, but unfortunately, it lessens the challenge, making the series FAR TOO EASY. Also, get rid of the strataegy element of sending out your assassins to reclaim Europe for your own. That takes up way too much of your time and only gives you few rewards, such as more gold/exp and bomb ingredients, along with Assassin control. Definitely wipe out the needless BS, such as the tower defense game (which is not mandatory unless you are aiming for 100% completion) and definitely get rid of the boring, dull first-person platforming. I could understand that they were just trying to make Desmond's portion of the game be different for fans, but was that REALLY necessary? Not likely.

What about you guys? What are your thoughts? What needs to be done in order to make Assassin's Creed a series that a lot of people can enjoy again, despite ACII, Brotherhood, and Revelations being great games in their own right, not to mention their negative flaws?