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My Top 10 Favourite Video Game Franchises

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Konnichi wa, minna-san!

I finally got a chance to copy the blog post on here. I had originally finished it a couple of days after I announced it, but because of school, and my being lazy, I'm only posting it on GameSpot now. It really is a pain to be on GameSpot. I think I'll wrap up my time on this website by posting my GOTY awards and then I'll slip away into the darkness. In the meantime, I think I'll try and find a new home for my blog. But anyway, time for business.

With the end of this console generation, and my turn to almost exclusively playing JRPGs, I think it’s time to do a countdown of my favourite video game franchises. Especially while other franchises remain fresh in my mind; I don’t want my list of favourite franchises to turn into all JRPGs :P I’ve been playing video games for 15/16 years, and while I stuck to what I knew best in my childhood, I was still introduced to other series through my friends. Once I had the money, I started experimenting with various franchises to discover what I liked best. As such, a lot of influence comes from this past console generation. So expect to see a lot of current franchises on here.

So, the rules for this countdown are as follows: I must have played at least 3 games in the series but I’m not required to complete the games. I would be hard-pressed to come up with franchises if I had to complete games. Also, remakes and re-releases do not count as a game. For example, I’ve technically only played 2 Monster Hunter games: Monster Hunter and Monster Hunter Tri. I have Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate as well, but since that’s a remake of Monster Hunter Tri, I’m not putting the Monster Hunter series on the list. I’m sure all of you know, but I have a serious soft spot for Nintendo. So, to be fair to other series, I’m limiting the number of Nintendo franchises to 4. It’s a pretty high number, but Nintendo was pretty much all I knew growing up, and this past generation wasn’t enough time to break away from the Big N. Critical reviews and my own reviews don’t count here so it’s based purely on how much I love each series. After all it’s MY list of MY top 10 video game franchises.

10. Halo

Developers: Bungie, Ensemble Studios (Halo Wars). Publisher: Microsoft

Games Played: Halo, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo Wars, Halo: Reach

Upcoming games: Halo 5 (officially unannounced)

In my early teenage years, I was pretty big on Halo. MLG had arranged for the Halo Pro Circuit to appear on TV and this series was the first series I saw people playing professionally. I found it amazing that people could play video games for a living and be on TV. Thus, began my hopes of becoming pro one day, and the countless hours I dropped into Halo 2 and 3.

I couldn’t even begin to tell you how much I played Halo from that point on. I was so determined to be a pro that I played Halo almost religiously. Of course, these dreams didn’t last too long, but I still continued to watch Halo professionally until the release of Starcraft II when I started watching that instead.

Nowadays, Halo is just a series for me to pop in every once in a while and just have fun with it. I don’t take Halo too seriously anymore, and to be honest, I never should have.

9. Hyperdimension Neptunia

Developers: Compile Heart, Idea Factory. Publisher (North America): NIS America

Games Played: Hyperdimension Neptunia, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory

Upcoming games: Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection, Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 (NA release unconfirmed), Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation (in development; NA release unconfirmed)

For my close real life friends, this may come as a surprise. If any of you guys are reading this, you’re probably thinking: “What series is this?” “I’ve never heard of this series before.” There are two reasons for this. One: It’s a series I only got into at the beginning of the year. Two: It’s not exactly a series I’m going to announce to the world that I love.

The first game I will admit, heck, I’ll even say it without batting an eyelid, sucks hard. It’s probably the worst RPG I’ve ever played in my life, and since that’s my main genre, makes it one of the worst games I’ve ever played. The only thing that kept it fun was the humour and references, and that’s a plus for the entire series. However, thankfully, the sequels turn it around with great gameplay, music, character art, and (for me) loveable characters. That may just be my anime self coming in there, but I fell in love with these characters… quite literally. One of the girls from that series is gracing my desktop right now. This is probably getting too weird for my real life friends but my online friends, or anyone who knows my anime side, knows exactly what I’m talking about :P

With the anime that just finished, the series is becoming more well-known, at least to those who pay attention to the niche JRPG world. I actually had no idea sales were that good for this series in the West: I would never have imagined we would be getting a spin-off game in this series. But just last week, NIS America revealed that they were going to be releasing Idol PP (officially renamed Producing Perfection) in NA and Europe. It’s a management simulation game which I can’t imagine that doing well here, but hey, if they want to do it, go ahead. If they would release Re;Birth1 and Re;Birth2 here too, that would solidify my decision to pick up a Vita. Yes, I love the series that much. I’m willing to pick up a Vita just to play these games.

8. Gears of War

Developer: Epic Games. Publisher: Microsoft

Games Played: Gears of War, Gears of War 2, Gears of War 3

Upcoming games: N/A

I was first introduced to Gears of War through one of my close friends. When the first Gears of War came out, it was fascinating in the way it used cover-based gameplay. I had never played a shooter quite like it. Now, we see all sorts of games using the cover-based system that Gears of War made popular.

Once I got my Xbox 360, this series was one I played religiously, to the point where I made my own Gears of War 3 team for MLG. Sure, since we had conflicting times nothing really worked out, but that’s how far I went with the series. I even bought Bulletstorm just for early access to the Gears of War 3 beta. Sure, my interest in the series went down after Gears of War 3, but the series itself was influential in my decision to get an Xbox 360.

7. Total War

Developer: The Creative Assembly. Publisher: Sega

Games Played: Rome Total War, Medieval II Total War, Empire Total War

Upcoming games: N/A

I remember receiving Rome Total War for Christmas one year. At first, I was disappointed, because I had asked for Age of Empires III. That feeling of disappointment vanished very quickly about 2 hours later. After I did manage to buy Age of Empires III later, I realized how lucky I had been to get Rome Total War first. It’s not that Age of Empires III was bad, but Rome Total War blew it out of the water. I can’t recall how many hours were burned in front of my computer playing this game. The strategy part of the game is what I was used to at the time after playing tons of Civilization, but the battles was something new to me.

Battles in the Total War series rely on actual military strategies. Pincer attacks, diversions, ambushes, and positional arranging of your soldiers is all part of a typical battle in the Total War games. This is probably the series that really got me into military history as I found all of these real-life tactics fascinating. Another thing about this series that I love is the music. It just fits every situation it’s used in. Whenever you start a battle, start marching, and enter combat, the music changes accordingly. It just gets you in the right mood for battle.

It’s a shame that almost every single PC game has to pass through Steam now, and that’s what has prevented me from playing the latest Total War games. I bought Shogun 2: Total War TWICE, one through Steam’s store and once through retail, and both times it wouldn’t work on Steam. When I asked Steam’s support about it, they just said, go find out about it yourself and they offered no solution. People ask me why I’m not a PC gamer even though I have an awesome gaming rig. Steam is the reason. I hate having to use Steam for pretty much every single PC game that I play. I’d rather to stick to older PC games that don’t use that pathetic excuse of a service. Console and handheld gaming for life!

6. Rune Factory

Developer: Neverland. Publishers (North America): Natsume (Rune Factory, 2, 3), XSeed (Rune Factory: Frontier, 4)

Games Played: Rune Factory, Rune Factory 2, Rune Factory 3, Rune Factory 4, Rune Factory Frontier

Upcoming games: Rune Factory 5 (producer has confirmed that it will be developed in the future)

Ah, the high-ranking sleeper on the list. If you know me as an anime fan, you know that I love anime that’s based in simple, everyday life. No fantasy, no superpowers, none of that. Well, occasionally I don’t mind if that everyday life has a few supernatural or fantastical elements to it. And that’s where my love for the Rune Factory series comes from. It’s a simulation series based in real life, with a bit of fantasy tossed in to make it more interesting.

If you’ve ever played a Harvest Moon game, or at least know about the series, Rune Factory is the same thing except it contains RPG elements and fantasy. So, farming, making nice with the townspeople, participating in festivals, and finding your ideal mate, are all part of the Rune Factory formula. Romance has always been a big part of the series but the latest game, Rune Factory 4, steps it up to another level with dating, and a whole sub-plot that involves the person’s past and how they choose to deal with it.

The series is also ridiculously addicting. It may sound boring to some people, but my god, once you start playing you can’t stop. I’ve been playing Rune Factory 4 for over a month now, and I’m showing no signs of stopping. What’s more, I have 4 save files running at the same time. Yes, I just said that. But wait… the game only has 3 saves files… ;) That’s how much I love this game right now.

5. Mass Effect

Developer: BioWare. Publishers: Microsoft (Mass Effect), EA (Mass Effect 2 and 3)

Games Played: Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3

Upcoming games: possible MMO, Mass Effect 4?

I don’t think I’ve ever played through a series with a better story than the Mass Effect trilogy. Playing through the game is like playing a sci-fi epic. The story progresses along at a great pace, and you can also twist how the story goes at certain points with the decisions you make. Great storytelling was also combined with characters that you grew genuinely attached to. The cast in this series stands out in my eyes as one of the best in gaming. One of the characters, Garrus, is one of my favourite video game characters of all time. Serious about his job and has a great sense of justice, but he’s also one of those characters that you can mess around and crack jokes with. He’s also not afraid of his past and dealing with it and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to set things right.

Gameplay in the series changed with each game and it never truly knew what it wanted to be. The first game was clearly an RPG, the second game was kind of a mix between RPG and shooter, while the third was mainly a third-person shooter. While unfocused, it did prevent the gameplay from becoming too stale.I can only hope that for future games in the series, they make it more like a combination of Mass Effect and Mass Effect 3. Great RPG elements combined with a great shooter.

Notice how I said that there would be 4 Nintendo franchises on my list. Did you see any in the past 6? No, right? Well, here they are.

4. The Legend of Zelda

Developers: Nintendo EAD. Publisher: Nintendo

Games Played: Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker, Four Swords, Twlight Princess, Skyward Sword

Upcoming games: untitled Wii U game

The Legend of Zelda series is a series that I never truly got into myself, but I’ve seen enough of my dad playing it in my childhood to influence me even now. Although I’ve never finished a Zelda game myself, I have experienced enough of each game to get the impact of it. Yeah, for some reason I can never finish a game in this series. It’s one of my dark secrets as a gamer that you guys now know.

A lot of games in this series are masterpieces. They’re filled with great gameplay, music, graphics, and for those who play really close attention, a great story. All of the above things are what you need to create a great game. Nintendo EAD just seems to recreate magic for each game they make in this series.

The future of the series continues to remain bright as there has never been a bad Zelda game made by Nintendo EAD. Actually, has Nintendo EAD ever made a bad game? None as far as I know. At their worst, they make a good game.

3. Mario

Developers: Nintendo EAD (main series, Mario Kart series), Camelot Software Planning (Mario sports), Next Level Games (Super Mario Strikers), Hudson Soft (Mario Party 1- 8), Nd Cube (Mario Party 9), Retro Studios (Mario Kart 7), Intelligent Systems (Paper Mario series)

Publisher: Nintendo

Games Played… I’ll give a short version: Super Mario Bros. 1-3, Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy, New Super Mario Bros., 2 and U, Super Mario 3D Land, most of the Mario sports games, a few of the Mario Party games, every Mario Kart.

Upcoming games: Mario Kart 8

How can I make a top 10 video game franchises list and not include Mario? How can anyone? The only reason Mario should skip a top 10 list like this is if the person has never played a game in this series before. And that’s sad if someone has never played a Mario game. Anyway, aside from Pokemon, Mario games are what I played for the majority of my childhood. I have so many fond memories of playing the Mario sports games in my childhood. But what I remember most is my days of playing Mario Kart 64. I remember sucking at the game at first, naturally since I was only 5 years old. But I went at it every day until I got better at the game. For a long time, that was the only N64 game I played. Soon enough, I was able to challenge my dad at the game and then eventually I would start beating him.

Ever since then, I bought every single Mario Kart in the series. I made sure I knew the game inside and out. Every single shortcut, exactly how to best use my mini-turbos and with the new games, what car parts suited my needs. Last year, I was in a Mario Kart 7 tournament that was held within Ontario for EB Games employees. At the start of the tournament, there were quite a few competitors in the tournament. I usually don’t brag, but at the beginning of that tournament, I slaughtered everyone else. Almost right from the start, I had the lead over everyone else in the province and I held the lead for the vast majority of the tournament. By the end, there were only a few competitors that were even close. The only reason they were even close was because they were both from the same store and they were boosting each other in order to keep up with me. I had my 3DS on constantly to prevent them from boosting off each other; I beat them in races a lot of the time but they were both still pretty good. The only reason I lost was because I had to go on vacation in the last two days and I couldn’t get a connection from the hotel to my 3DS. As such, I came in second.

Mario Kart is one of the few series I’m competitive with. I stake my reputation as a gamer on my skills in this series. As someone who has played this series since I was 5 years old, and playing every game in the series, I take pride in my knowledge of these games.

This turned into a conversation about Mario Kart instead of the Mario series as a whole so let me talk about the main games. Just like The Legend of Zelda series, almost every single main game to come out of this series is a masterpiece, especially the 3D games. The 3D games are some the best games in each of their respective console generations.

2. Super Smash Bros

Developers: HAL Laboratory, Sora Ltd. Publisher: Nintendo

Games Played: Super Smash Bros., Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Upcoming games: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS

Ah… Super Smash Bros… Whenever I reminisce about playing video games with my friends from my childhood, this is the first series that comes to mind, followed by Pokemon. This is my dream come true: Get a bunch of Nintendo characters from different franchises and throw them into one game to smack each other around.

While I never owned the N64 game until this year (WTF is wrong with me? :P ) my former best friend always brought his over to my house or I would go to his and play it there. Once I got my GameCube, I was able to play Melee. I just played for the heck of it, until one of my close friends showed me how to properly play the game. Now this game, along with Mario Kart, are the two games I feel confident in facing anybody in.

Naturally, the next games in the series are my most anticipated games for next year. I’m going to have sleepless nights over it, just like I did when Brawl’s release date approached.

1. Pokemon

Developers: Game Freak (main series), Genius Sorority, Ambrella, Spike Chunsoft, Tecmo Koei (spin-off series). Publisher: Nintendo

Games Played: Pokemon main series [all] (to save the trouble of naming them), Pokemon Mystery Dungeon [all], Pokemon Colosseum, Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness, Pokemon Dash, Pokemon Trozei, Pokemon Ranger, Pokemon Stadium 1 and 2, Pokemon Snap, Pokemon Puzzle League, Pokemon Conquest, Pokemon Rumble and Rumble Blast… I think you guys get the idea. :P

Upcoming games: Pokemon Trozei 2?, untitled Pikachu mystery game, unconfirmed Wii U game

Anyone who knows me knows I love this series to death, so it’s unsurprising that it makes its way onto the top of my list. I’ve played almost every single Pokemon game to be released, even the bad ones, just because I love the series that much.

As a kid growing up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, it was impossible to avoid Pokemon. It was IMPOSSIBLE. Pokemon was so popular back then, it had penetrated popular culture. Of course there was the wildly popular anime and games, but then there were movies, action figures, cards, and so much more. I even remember going to see a play of Pokemon. A freaking PLAY! So, naturally, I grew to love Pokemon, and as I got older, nothing changed. Even as the anime lost its popularity and the cards went into hibernation, me and what friends I had were still playing the video games. I was constantly surrounded by Pokemon, so that is why it never lost its appeal for me.

Last year, I was shocked by my lack of interest in Pokemon. Black/White 2 are the only main Pokemon games that I have not completed to this day. I thought to myself: “Am I done with Pokemon?” Until Pokemon X/Y was announced, that’s what I was thinking. But once I saw X/Y for the first time, I knew what my issue was. It was fatigue. Fatigue from seeing 2D sprites battling it out in a 2D world. With Pokemon X/Y, the main Pokemon games have finally evolved into the third dimension. And it is awesome!

Just like with Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros., I plan on becoming more competitive with Pokemon. Starting with Black/White and the rise of using the Internet to do battles, Pokemon has become increasingly competitive. It has reached the point where The Pokemon Company now hosts world tournaments for Pokemon. Being in both an anime club and a Japanese culture club in school has lead to more influence to become competitive since I don’t want to lose to anyone.

I hope you enjoyed my list if you took the time to read through the whole thing. What do you guys think? I'll bet you were surprised by a few of my picks.

Upcoming Top 10: Top 10 Video Game Franchises

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Konnichi wa, minna-san!

It's been a while since I last did a countdown hasn't it? It's been more than 3 months now. Since my busy gaming month in August, school starting in September, and playing the drug in game form that is Rune Factory 4 at the beginning of the month, I haven't had much time to do a top 10. But now that I have reading week for school and with not a whole lot to do with it, I figured hey, let's do a countdown.

As a gamer for 15/16 years, I've played my fair share of games. While I was a poor gamer that mostly stuck to what I knew best during my childhood, I had plenty of gaming friends who introduced me to other gaming series. Once I had the money, I was able to try out all of these different franchises that I was interested in. So after a period of frenzied, varied gaming that has recently ended with my turn to JRPGs, and with the end of this console generation, I believe it's time to name off my top 10 franchises so far in gaming.

Although the majority of the games I've played in my career as a gamer have been RPGs, I'm going to try and make my top 10 as varied as possible. Of course, there's no guarantees on this though. My list will go like this: I've had to have played at least three games in the series (so that means no Valve series! :P ) and overall enjoyment is going to be factored in. Critical reception, both from myself and pro reviews, will not be factored in. This list excludes expansions and remakes so no Starcraft for me. Also, given my love for Nintendo, it would be unfair if the list was completely dominated by the Big N. To be honest, if I don't put this rule in, I can guarantee AT LEAST 7 out of the 10 slots would be taken by Nintendo franchises. So I'm going to limit it to just 4, maybe 5. I don't like the number 4 but it seems like a fair number.

You guys may be in for a couple of surprises on my list unless you know me really well. In any case, keep your eye out for the real thing!

Mata ato de!

Pokemon X/Y First Impressions

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Konnichi wa, minna-san!

So... GameSpot's changes have gone through it would seem. Doesn't look too bad, but it's going to take me quite a while to work my way around. Not to mention, most of my friends have now left so I don't know how long I'm going to continue this blog. The reason why I started to write so much was because people actually looked at my blog and commented on it.

But anyway, time to talk about Pokemon. While I wasn't crazy excited initially, the more and more Nintendo revealed, the more and more excited I got. 3D battles, 3D movement, new Fairy type, and Mega evolutions were dispersed at nice intervals to increase my excitement. The last batch of reveals the week before the game came out, along with constant discussions with club members at my university, only made the wait more painful. Finally, Saturday morning rolled around and I finally got my hands on the game. And so far, I'm extremely happy with what we've recieved.

X and Y finally does away with traditonal grid-based movement. It's still there if you're still not used to free movement, but you can put on roller skates and go anywhere you want without having to stick along a predetermined path. So that means we can finally move in 8 directions in a main Pokemon game! It took 15 years for the main games to enter the third dimension, but it does it in style. The 3D models and animations are fantastic and it makes battles a lot more exciting as Pokemon actually move in for attacks and recoil in pain as they are hit. In addition to the great animations, Pokemon games have never looked better from a graphics standpoint. I can no longer see obvious pixelation on the Pokemon and the backgrounds and buildings really pop out. There is some minor framerate problems but they don't happen during the battle animations, and I can hardly complain about that since everything else just looks so good.

Gameplay remains largely unchanged. But it's always the minor tweaks that Pokemon fans recognize. For example, the Exp. All from Red/Blue makes a triumphant return as a beefed-up Exp. Share. When it's turned on, all of the Pokemon in your party earn EXP. This means that you don't have to go through the tedious process of constantly switching Pokemon in and out of battle just to earn EXP. They have also reduced the expereince level for all Pokemon so it's easier to level up. Also, they got rid of that stupid rule from Black/White, where your Pokemon earn less EXP the higher above your opponent they are. If it is still there, it's barely noticeable. The new Fairy type will also drastically change the competitive scene. In recent years, Dragon-types were stupidly powerful and it became common practice to put two or three Dragons on your team. Fairies look to do away with that by making their moves do double damage to Dragons as well as being completely immune to Dragon-type attacks. Fairies also have few weaknesses, only being weak to Poison and Steel-type attacks. We'll see if Fairies will completely throw off the balance of the game or not but on paper, it seems like a good idea.

It's still a little early to call, but this might be the best generation of games since the second. I haven't had this much fun with a Pokemon game since HeartGold/SoulSilver back in 2010 which were remakes of the second generation games. Pokemon is back!

The only unfortunate thing about this situation is that I'm still not done with Rune Factory 4 (as a life sim, it's almost impossible to really "finish" it anyway). Since I reached a good part in Rune Factory 4 right before Pokemon came out, I'm finiding myself playing Rune Factory 4 on one of my 3DS's and Pokemon X/Y on the other.If I really wanted to divide my attention I could devote one 3DS to Rune Factory 4, one to Pokemon X, and one to Pokemon Y but I don't feel like carrying that many 3DS's around with me. 2 is enough for me. Besides, I'm still in school and I've got one heck of a demanding schedule. As time goes on, we'll see how everything turns out. For right now, these two games will be my last purchases until December when I do my own Christmas shopping.

Mata ato de!

Rune Factory 4 Impressions

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Konnichi wa, minna-san!

I'm extremely busy with school and work so I shouldn't be writing about this but I want to. So, Rune Factory 4 was one of my most anticipated releases of this year. Although I have only really played the first game in the series, it put in enough great ideas for me to fall in love. The wait for this game was excruciating; it only drawn out longer by the fact that it was supposed to come out in the summer. I heard about the game's release in Japan last year and I was hoping it would get picked up. XSeed announced back in January that they had picked up Rune Factory 4 and they would be localizing it. So, now that I've finally got my hands on it. Let's see what got me so excited.

The Rune Factory series is a spin-off of the Harvest Moon series so you'll see a lot of things in common with the two series. Farming, making nice with your neighbours, festivals and, of course, picking that one girl you want to marry. So in a nutshell, a simulation game. What Rune Factory does differently is dungeon-crawling along with RPG elements like leveling up, skill-building, and a more in-depth story. So Rune Factory gets an infusion of fantasy alongside the toils of everyday life. The story goes like this: as you are flying to the town, you are ambushed by unknown soldiers and you lose your memory in the fight. When you wake up, one of the soldiers accidentaly kicks you off the airship and you land in the town's castle, on top of the dragon Ventuswill. Ventuswill thinks you must be the prince who has been asked to start leading of the town, you are given the duties of the prince and are in charge of developing the town. Ventuswill however, seems to know more about you than she lets on...

The goal of Rune Factory 4 is of course to figure out who you were before you lost your memory and the second goal is to marry the girl you like. Or boy, since you can play as a girl for the first time. In between you mingle with the townspeople, tend your fields complete quests, recruit monsters, and go dungeon exploring.

I'm not sure how far I am into the game, but I'm making good progress. The story just got dramatic as the plot twisted. I'm also making some good progress towards the girls I want to be with. I'm still undecided on exactly which girl I want to marry but this game does give you the weasel option: multiple girlfriends. Because i'm such a nice guy, I'm going to try and avoid that but I may do it just to take more time to decide.

In only 4 days, I'm already approaching 30 hours in spite of school midterms and work. I really should get my mind off of it for a while so I can focus on school but... it's so addicting! Last night, I was up until 6 AM playing it! I also want to play as much as possible before Pokemon X/Y come out on Saturday. I'm going to be really busy this week with school with midterms and such. Why did Rune Factory 4 have to come out so late and so close to Pokemon?

Mata ato de!

Nintendo Direct 10.01.2013

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Konnichi wa, minna-san!

Today Nintendo had a Nintendo Direct. I've been incredibly tired lately so I slept through my alarm clock for the first few rings so I was a few minutes late to the Direct.

- Sonic confirmed in the next Super Smash Bros.

- Pikmin 3 software update and announcement of DLC

- Third-party releases like Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millenium Girl, Skylanders: Swap Force, Lego Marvel Super Heroes, Batman Arkham Origins: Blackgate, Sonic Lost World

- Indie games

- 2DS

- more StreetPass improvements

- Nintendo Zone SpotPass distributions

- Bravely Default: Flying Fairy. Q1 2014

- The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Core gameplay change: buying important items at shops instead of getting them in dungeons; meant to be more open.

- Untitled Kirby 3DS title. TBA 2014.

So that's about it. I went back and watched the Nintendo Direct to see what I missed at the beginning.

- New trailer for Super Mario 3D World. A bunch of new power-ups. Mario and Luigi Wii RemotePlus controllers coming out.

- Wii Party U. October 25.

- Delay of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Now releases in February 2014.

- Mario and Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Online play for some events.

I'm glad to see Sonic return in Super Smash Bros. Now, that's the last third-party character I think they'll announce but if they can do one more, I won't mind. The Super Smash Bros. roster is shaping up nicely. Now, score one more for Japanese game localization with Bravely Default coming soon. They announced recently that we will be getting the updated version of Bravely Default that is releasing in Japan later this year. So while Japan has to buy it twice, we get the improved version. Also, there will be dual audio. The change to The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is pretty exciting for this casual fan. No hand-holding in this game. I think the game will feel more open with this change to the core formula. I'm also excited to see Kirby arriving on 3DS. He's always slow to the party but that's ok. This latest Kirby game seems to be heavily inspired by Return to Dream Land.

Today, one of my most anticipated titles this year releases: Rune Factory 4. I've been waiting for this game for pretty much this whole year, and if count the time I've been hoping for its localization, over a year now. I may be able to finish it before Pokemon X/Y comes out but given my incredibly busy school schedule next week, the chances are unlikely. Anyway, that's it for today. Oh yeah, one more thing. I was going to put up a friend recognition blog as part of my anniversary but I've been so busy with school and other things that I just haven't had time. Sorry! I'll try and get it done at some point.

Mata ato de!

Sniper-Gamer's 7th Anniversary (Last Anniversary?) Part 2

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Chapter 4: Returning to GameSpot: 2011 - June 2012

After my constant gaming habits settled down in mid-2011, I decided to return to GameSpot and see how my union was doing. As I expected, it was pretty much dead. However, there were other reasons why I wanted to return. I had started working at EB Games (GameStop) in October 2010, and being in constant close contact with video games greatly influenced my gaming habits. I started buying up games that struck my interest. I also began to get into reviewing after watching the Angry Video Game Nerd and other YouTube reviewers. Most of the initial games I bought were older Wii classics like Metroid Prime 3, Muramasa, MadWorld, No More Heroes and other such games. I also began to build up my DS collection. The reason why I stuck with Nintendo was in no part because I was a huge fan of them yet. I only became a hardcore Nintendo fan in 2012. Earlier in 2010, my Xbox 360 broke again, and my dad had enough of it breaking. So we went out and bought a PS3. Now, never being a fan of Sony's published games, I mainly used my PS3 to play games I originally owned on the 360 and I had no interest in buying Sony games. To this day, the only company that Sony owns whose games I'll play and enjoy, is Team Ico. But anyway, getting off-topic. In 2011, I returned to GameSpot to catch their E3 coverage. GameSpot, back in 2011, was still the only site I went on to see gaming news. Also, for reasons I still feel are unknown to this day, I wanted to write about my gaming life. Prior to this, I had only done the occasional blog and my anniversary posts. So I began to write about the Big 3's E3 presentations, criticizing them and putting out my opinions. Later, I did my first game impressions as well as my first Game of the Year Awards. Video game countdowns soon followed. I had found a reason to blog; for me, it's fun to write about my hobby. In June 2012, I recieved an invite to join the Pokemon Regions Union. I had visited the occasional union since my return, but most of them died out quickly or weren't very active to begin with. I thought: Why not? I'll join another Pokemon union. That's when I feel my union life changed forever.

Chapter 5: Pokemon Regions Union

The Pokemon Regions Union was made up of people I've never met before. The leader, dorthie2, and the officers: megamannt123, fablesway, HybridKing, GamerofMario1, and Giratina98. Since I had my ideal vision of what a union should be like, I was surprised to find out that Pokemon was often NOT the main focus of discussion in the union. Instead most of the time was spent goofing off, and talking about random things. I was a bit taken aback at first but I soon got used to the relaxed environment, if only because all my attempts to make Pokemon the main focus of discussion were brushed aside by the others. :P I soon learned to talk about other things, like anime (which I just got into prior to joining the union) and other games. A lot of time was spent making fun of each other and just generally messing around. It kept me occupied and it kept me coming back to the site day after day, just to see what crazy shenanigans the other members were up to. We initially had recruits, but they left after only a short while. Nevertheless, I was soon promoted to officer and we just continued to shoot the breeze. And this continued, right up until GS's announcement of the union shut-downs. I still have yet to join my fellow union members on Zetaboards yet, but not everyone from PRU has joined up yet so I'll hold off for a little bit longer.

Chapter 6: A Dedicated GameSpot Member

After joining the Pokemon Regions Union and making friends with all of the members, I started writing more than ever. Now that I actually had comments on my blogs, it gave me more incentive to write. Now I wasn't just writing about E3 and doing the occasional first impressions blogs and countdowns. Now I'm talking about everything, particualrly Nintendo news. Since PRU changed my outlook on unions, I joined more to see how I could expand my horizons. This led me to two other unions in which I still spend a good amount of time in: The Niche Stuff and Off-Topic Union and the All-Out Nintendo Union. Through these two unions I've met a whole bunch of awesome people that I gladly call my friends. Every day, I always come here to see what my fellow union members are talking about and to join in on discussions.

With GameSpot changing, I don't know how I'll like the new changes, especially with unions not making the cut on the new site. The alternative that they're using to replace unions does not satisfy me in any way, since trolls and other such unwanted people could come in and pick fights. I know I'm a pessimist; I always think up the worst possible scenario so I'm never disappointed when things happen. So, as of right now, me and a few other friends from The Niche Stuff and Off-Topic Union have moved to Zetaboards to continue our fun. This is where you'll find me if you wish to join: http://w11.zetaboards.com/lazy_folcks_forum/index/

Don't worry, I know how people like to tag others on their anniversary blog. I will do that next time so look forward to it! Hopefully I don't forget anyone...

Sniper-Gamer's 7th Anniversary (Last Anniversary?) Part 1

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7 years...

Hard to believe that's how long I've been on this site for. Although I was inactive for a good 2 or 3 years of that time, I've had fun. I usually don't make my anniversary blogs too special, but with GameSpot's changes coming up, I may leave the site for good. So this year's anniversary blog will be different and split into two parts. I'm going to talk about my life on here, from my humble beginnings to the present day. Have a seat, grab some popcorn, and listen to this old man's story. :P

Chapter 1: Joining GameSpot

My GameSpot life began when my good friend, ultamite_gamer (he's one of my close real life friends), recommended me to join a gaming website. GameSpot was his favourite website and so invited me along. Until that point, most of my gaming world revolved around Pokemon and Super Smash Bros. I didn't know much about the gaming world outside of that. He was a huge gamer back then and he wanted to make me into a hardcore gamer like him. So on September 15 2006, Sniper-Gamer was born. My username came from my e-mail account at the time (I don't use it anymore) and I was starting to develop a taste for shooters back then as well.

Upon joining GameSpot, I was amazed of how much the gaming world had to offer as well as its past history. Finding such a huge database of games, came as such a surprise to me. I spent most of my early days looking around for games, adding to my game lists etc. In search of places to chat, I stumbled upon these places called unions. They were places for like-minded people to gather and talk about games. Naturally, with my main interest in games being Pokemon, I joined a few Pokemon unions and started my union life on GameSpot. I decided then that I would like to make my own union. I was into MMOs at the time, and I was leading a few guilds so I figured I could handle a union too. As soon as I hit level 6, I applied to create my union. It would be about Pokemon of course. Because you need 6 people to form a union, I invited my friend ultamite_gamer, as well as a few other people I had met in the other Pokemon unions. On October 5 2006 my union, The Ultimate PKMN Fans Union was born!

Chapter 2: The Ultimate PKMN Fans Union

In addition to my friend ultamite_gamer, my initial officers were: -Predatorian-, Burningwolf216, cpman, and pikaby. My friend only joined me to help establish my union; he's not a RPG fan, let alone a Pokemon fan. Since I was still relatively new at the time, I left it up to my officers to recruit people. We reached a good number fast though after the initial rush, not too many people joined. It also didn't help that I had set the union to invite-only since I kind of had the vision of an exclusive club. :P Now since my friend wasn't a Pokemon fan, I mostly talked to my officers and the recruits we had. I grew especially close to cpman and pikaby and they became my first friends here on GameSpot. We had a great system going; Pokemon news would be met with a lot of cheer and some criticism as we analyzed the games. And of course, there were specific threads dedicated to individual games. My union was active for a good three years before activity started to drop. By the time the last posts came around in 2010, it was just me and pikaby left along with a few random recruits that had just joined (I had set the union to open in hopes of reviving the union). I believe the last post was in June 2011 shortly following the release of Pokemon Black/White.

Chapter 3: The Inactive Years 2009 - June 2011

Around 2009, when the union started to die, I found myself coming to the site less and less. My video game playing had increased significantly around then, particularly non-stop hours playing Modern Warfare 2. I no longer felt like coming to the site to look up gaming news. I had Pokemon and Call of Duty and that was all I really needed. I still visited the site from time to time to post in my union and other unions which I had joined. But I felt like I was done with GameSpot. The website had become boring to me.

So... what happened to change my mind and what would lead to my eventual return? Find out next time! ;)

Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses + A Link Between Worlds First Impressions

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Konnichi wa, minna-san!

Last night was very exciting for me. The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses played last night in Toronto. I've been waiting for this for over a year. I missed my chance last year since it sold out so fast but, there was no way I was allowing it to happen again this year. I went with another one of my friends who is a Zelda fanatic. The venue was packed when we arrived. I believe it was a full house again this year. So after waiting in line for 20 minutes to buy a t-shirt and poster, we took our seats for the show.

The show was divided into two acts with two sections each. After the opening overture, the composer and producer came on stage to tell us about what we would be listening to. They would play a few random songs from Link's Awakening and Spirit Tracks before moving on to the main tracks. The first and second parts of the first act would feature music from Wind Waker and then Ocarina of Time.

They paused for a 15-minute intermission. However, in between one of the sections, the composer and producer told us that there were stations set up with Wind Waker HD, and A Link Between Worlds. My friend and I missed it when we walked in since there were just people everywhere in the lobby. So as soon as the intermission came up, me and my friend bolted for the game stations. Since I had already seen Wind Waker HD in action at the Nintendo E3 Experience event back in June, my priority was A Link Between Worlds.

After waiting my turn, I got a feel for what the game was like. The gameplay was extremely smooth and fluid. Watching the early trailer made it seem a lot more deliberate but this game's frame rate is pretty fast. When it comes to the gameplay, it's a great return to a 2D Zelda game. We haven't gotten a 2D Zelda game in quite some time. The slash wave projectile that was introduced in the first Zelda game makes a return here so it allows for ranged attacks when you're at full health. The graphics are as beautiful and vibrant as ever. I didn't get to experience too much of the gameplay since I felt like I was hogging the system for too long and I wanted to make sure other people, who are probably bigger Zelda fans than I'll ever be, had a chance to play. Me and my friend went back to our seats and we prepared for the second part of the show.

This act focused on Twilight Princess and A Link to the Past. After those performances, they played three more encore songs. The first was Majora's Mask, one of my favourite games in the series and I was really hoping they would play tracks from it, a remixed version of Dragon Roost Island from Wind Waker, and a remixed version of Ballad of the Goddesses from Skyward Sword.

It was a glorious thing to be surrounded by music from one of gaming's best series. One of the reasons why this series is so good is because of the feelings you get from the music that plays. You can feel the sense of adventure, dread, happiness, and other such feelings as you listen to each track. They all perfectly suit the mood of each area and scene you hear the tracks in. Koji Kondo makes the Mario games sound great, but his themes for The Legend of Zelda series is where you can clearly see how much talent he has. It's not often you get to experience gaming music live so I'm glad I had the opportunity to experience these amazing musical themes. If they were to come again next year, I would definetely go again.

Well, that was a great way to end my summer. Now, starting tomorrow, it's back to school for me. Just as I was last year, I'm both excited and worried about the upcoming year. Hopefully all goes well and I end up with good marks!

Mata ato de!

Sniper-Gamer's Thoughts: Digital vs. Physical Releases

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Konnichi wa, minna-san!

Before I get started, a quick update. Since I'm already short on money going into the school year, and I NEED those two Pokemon 3DS XLs, I've cancelled most of my pre-ordered games which included: Sonic Lost World, The Wonderful 101, Rome II: Total War, and Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl. The only ones I kept were Rune Factory 4, since I've been impatiently waiting for that game for almost a year now, and Pokemon X and Y. I will only pick up those games until maybe December when I go Christmas shopping for myself and my family. Then I'll decide what games I really want and what I can afford.

So, while I was returning home from my store, I thought about how Nintendo is releasing the Zelda Wii U console alongside Wind Waker HD. While I would love to have the console too, I have a rule of only buying one of each console. I can't justify buying two of the same home console. Handhelds are fine and I've always had multiples of each handheld. I was a lonely person when it came to Pokemon, so I would always buy both versions and then battle and trade with myself using two of the same systems (two GBAs, two DS's etc.). Yeah I know. I'm pathetic. But back to my original point. In only two weeks' time, Nintendo will release the Zelda Wii U console. It has everything the current Deluxe consoles have just with Wind Waker replacing Nintendo Land. Nintendo is also dropping the price of the Wii U Deluxe down to $299.99 and completely phasing out the Basic model. I don't know if stores will continue to sell the Basic model or if they will be sent back to Nintendo. Anyway, the copy of wind Waker HD that comes with the console is a digital download. While normally I would not be all right with this, this version comes out two weeks before the physical version does (the physical version comes out on October 4). So that got me thinking: If a game that I really wanted came out early in digital form, would I buy it digitally? I'm conflicted about it.

I've always bought games physically unless I couldn't get them any other way. I only buy digital games if there is no physical form of it. I enjoy having an actual physical collection that I can show off to people. It's not as much fun to show off your digital game collection to other people. Not to mention, I feel safer having the game in physical form. I take really good care of my games now (thankfully GameCube games are tough as nails, otherwise they probably wouldn't play anymore; they're so scratched up :P ) so I'm not worried about something happening to it. All of my friends take care of their stuff too, so I'm not worried about lending my games to them. That's another thing: sharing games isn't possible digitally. Unless my friend lends their account to me, there's no way to share games digitally. In addition, I work at EB Games (GameStop in the US). So in order to help out my store, and to get my discount, I always buy physical games. While I'm on the topic of EB Games/GameStop, trading in games is also impossible digitally. Microsoft was going to introduce some roundabout way of doing it with Xbox One games but that's not happening anymore. While I know I don't get a whole lot for trading in games, it's far better than nothing.

Then on the other hand, there's digital games. Some games can only be found in digital form. I can understand why though. Indie developers, smaller companies, or games that bigger publishers think won't do all that well, release their games digitally. It's way cheaper to publish a game digitally than sell it physically. You don't have to worry about packaging, shipping, and paying people like me, to sell the game. It's how Steam does so well. But then there's other game companies who are still getting used to selling games digitally. I look online for games sometimes on PSN or the Nintendo eShop, just to see what's available and oftentimes I see digital games priced the same as physical games. Why would I pay the same price for a game that I don't physically own? There's also the games that come in limited editions. Take Shin Megami Tensei IV for example. For $49.99, you get an artbook, strategy guide, soundtrack, and of course the physical game. I look on the eShop and its priced at $49.99. Why? I'd much rather pick up the game physically!

If companies are going to convince console gamers to buy their games digitally over physical, they need to do something special with the digital release. I am liking Nintendo's mindset right now when it comes to digital over physical. With Super Luigi U, you had the option of buying the game digitally at $19.99, and you got to play it a month before the physical game came out. If you waited for the physical release, you needed to pay $29.99 for the game. Wind Waker HD's digital release will be out two weeks before the physical release. The hardcore fans will likely pick up the game early. If they released Pokemon X/Y two weeks early, would I grab them early? Most likely, yes. I mean, just one of them. 100% yes if they released the next Super Smash Bros. early. There's also the price. Since the game is being released digitally, it will cost far less to produce. So major companies should price their games at least $15 cheaper than the regular retail price. If I was saving that much money on digital games, I may change my tune. But as it stands right now, some companies are only releasing games $5 cheaper than physical so I'm always going to choose physical.

Remember that list of games I posted a couple of months ago? Remember how I said I was going to pick up all of them? Yeah... that's not happening anymore. Nintendo just threw a monkey wrench in my plans with those 3DS XLs. I suppose I should have been careful what I wished for. I wanted them to bring over those Pokemon 3DS's that they had released in Japan. Well, I got my wish, but now it's going to cost me $450 I was planning on spending on those other games. Now I kind of wish they kept the 3DS's confined to Japan. Because I wouldn't be so tempted to buy them. *sigh*

Mata ato de!

Nintendo Direct 09.04.2013: Pokemon Direct

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Konnichi wa, minna-san!

So, after only a couple hours sleep, I woke up to catch the latest Nintndo Direct. Today's focus is on Pokemon X/Y. Because Nintendo is never clear where you can watch the Pokemon Directs, I stumbled around for a little while trying to find it and I missed the opening minutes.

- Pokemon Bank. Internet box. Can store 3000 Pokemon. An annual fee.

- Poke Transporter. Works with Pokemon Black/White and Pokemon Black/White 2. Transport Black/White and Black/White 2 Pokemon to the Pokemon Bank. Download add-on after you download Pokemon Bank.

- You recieve your starter from your friend this time. Also, you can choose Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle from your professor to take with you. The original starters all have Mega evolutions.

- Mega evolutions are dependent on the friendship between your Pokemon.

- 7 languages to choose from

- The Blue and Red Pokemon 3DS XLs that were released in Japan, are also getting released in North America on September 27th.

Crud... there goes my money. As a diehard Pokemon fan, I simply must have those Pokemon 3DS XLs. I don't even care over much if I'm being put $450 down the hole. Nintendo... why must you do this to a poor university student? In any case, I'm now more hyped up for these games than ever before. If all goes well, these might be my favourite games to date. It certainly seems like they're pulling out all the stops for these games. I haven't been this hyped for a new entry in the series since Diamond/Pearl. I really do hope these games live up to my now colossal expectations.

Mata ato de!