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It's hard saying hello again when you never really said goodbye.

So I'm sure you've heard the news by now. Depending on where you saw the news, it was divulged with a handful of either pancakes or plain old text, but the fundamental facts, of course, stay the same and don't need to be regurgitated here, especially considering that you don't need to click any more than two links on any part of either site to know what's up. I'm also not going to spend time talking about my opinion on the matter beyond saying it's nice knowing that the community here seems to be very welcoming to us despite the implicit cultural rift and that I look forward to seeing what the future brings. It's pretty straightforward stuff that, again, you can see it reiterated anywhere and everywhere, including Twitter, judging by how the trending topics were shifting upon the announcement.

Instead, I just wanted to take this opportunity to make myself known again. As you can probably see, it's been a little while since I was last here. The last blog post before this one, for instance, was about my then completely new and relevant review of Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine, an MMO one could hardly call relevant within its own renowned series, let alone the genre it inhabits. The last actual review I posted here, on the other hand, was for Deadly Premonition, a game that probably needs no introduction, especially to any members of Giant Bomb who happen to be reading this as well. Both of those things were posted quite some time ago, nearly two years with regards to reviews. Contrast that with my most recent work on Giant Bomb, which in both blog and review form consists of a breakdown of Analogue: A Hate Story, a pretty low-key visual novel whose prominence I'm surprised is large enough to warrant an official page on this very site.

I bring all of this up to say that I had quit this site. I never wrote an official good-bye post or anything because I always thought those were terrible on here and it wasn't as though it was a completely sudden, absolute decision. As you'll notice I didn't stop posting until well after Giant Bomb had been founded, so I wouldn't say I had ended my tenure here as a result of everything that went down back in 2007. I was going to follow Jeff and company no matter where they went; that's just how much they resonated with me as writers and reviewers. But I also knew that obviously it was a dumb thing to automatically condemn the rest of the staff still working here and the users who stuck on, so I still contributed some content here from time to time. This site still meant something to me; after all, not only was it the place that made first consider that video game criticism was worth my time as a writer, but I'd also accumulated a pretty small following of people who were kind enough to read my work and derive some meaning out of it. I always knew that Giant Bomb and GameSpot would probably have some unfortunate tension, but I wanted to do my best to not stoke those particular fires, even if, as you might be able to tell from several of my blog posts circa 2008, I was pretty excited to be a part of something new. And I'm still excited to be a part of that pancake-loving, Luchadeer-sporting, Endurance Running web site that is Giant Bomb.

I guess that was ultimately the reason why I just stopped posting here in the end up until now. I didn't hate this place or anything, but I just felt like I didn't belong here anymore. Again, it was not the fault of any users, especially those I was and still am privileged to have on my friends list here. I just ultimately came to feel that my sort of content better fit with Giant Bomb's audience at that time and so, subconsciously, I suppose, I just shifted my focus exclusively to there. The work I've put out on there isn't a whole lot; I'm still in university, so time and money are both quite limited. But it shifted to there because I felt like it was ultimately the better home at the time, even if I met a good number of users on here who were just as intelligent and passionate about games as me, if not more so.

I'm back here with this post now mostly to make myself known again. Now that Giant Bomb and GameSpot are sister sites, I feel like I should openly acknowledge what's been happening on my end and hopefully I've succeeded in that regard. I've noticed on the few occasions I've checked back in that I'm still ironically accumulating followers despite the utter silence, too, so I figured it didn't hurt to show them that they are, in fact, following somebody who's still alive and writing about video games somewhere.

So where does this leave us now? I'm honestly not sure yet. I have my doubts that I'll regularly come back to using this site or at least this profile if only because, again, time constraints and whatnot. Having had my place at Giant Bomb and the pleasure of helping to shape its culture bit by bit since day one, I continue to feel that's really still home for me and my game discussion needs. But if you've been "following" me this whole time (I really wouldn't have been offended if you just stopped doing that), I figure you deserve at least a few details/updates about what's currently up with me. I'll just distill them in bullet point form because all of these paragraphs are making me look even more self-indulgent as a writer than usual.

  • You might know this already if you were reading my blog on here back in 2008, but I still go by the name of Pepsiman on Giant Bomb, the profile for which you can find here. And no, it's not a soft-drink reference. Or at the very least, not in the way you're thinking it is. Everything comes full-circle when it comes to how I do things on video game sites, we'll say.
  • I'm still the resident fan of Chie of Persona 4 fame. Sometimes I write ironically creepy things as a result of that and then sometimes the Giant Bomb community condones that.
  • I live in Japan now. Sometimes I even do really weird translation projects like this one. I also tend to skew pretty dumb in what I pick up, but then nobody says that to my face.

There's probably more I could write. But that's the gist of it. If you still actually want to follow me in some capacity, that Giant Bomb profile is going to be the way to go for the forseeable future. What happens with this profile depends on how the new relationship between Giant Bomb and GameSpot pans out. But at the very least, I look forward to sharing the future with some old comrades and new ones.

Thanks for reading and take care, duders.

I played through this game twice for both your sake and mine.

Much like how Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine was a precedent-setter for my own personal review in that it was something I both throughout disliked and spent too much time playing for my own good, the review I just put up for Silent Hill: Shattered Memories on here is special in its own way. You see, much like most other reviewers, standard protocol for me is to either beat a given game once or, as in Mad World's and Imagine's cases, spend enough time to get to know it well before providing my written verdict on it. But for Shattered Memories, I did neither; instead, I actually played through the game twice and upon falling in love with it during my first run, knew that was what would happen before posting a review.

It's really rare for me to a second run of a game, especially so soon after its release, but the reasoning is simple: Shattered Memories is a fairly short game, but the experience is influenced by your own dialog choices and actions (the game monitors whether you enter a bathroom in the beginning, for god's sake!) and the extent of it was enough that I wanted to do a second run so I could know its features better before confidently writing my review. It's a game that's certainly worth at least two runs for a bunch of reasons outlined in my own linked opinion already, but I thought I'd contextualize it a little bit anyway.

Well, to be honest, the point is to brazenly advertise my work in my own blog, but I digress. At least I accomplished something else while I was here.

Tales of the Abyss review is a go!

Oh man, it's been nearly two months since the last post? Wow, I guess I really was gone for a while. Then I came back and university life resumed within about a day after that. Then Japanese homework came in. Then Scribblenauts came out AND OH GOD MY LIFE IS BEING EATEN UP.

It's with that realization that I thought I'd take the time to quickly post another entry, if only to remind people that I am, actually, still alive and that I also wish to blatantly advertise my review of Tales of the Abyss that I just posted here on the site. I'm too mentally worn out to recap my thoughts here, but let's just say it's a pretty great game and that even if it is flawed, it may very well be worth your while to give it a whirl anyway. I hadn't played a Tales game since Symphonia, so while I still might be behind the times by going for Abyss instead of Vesparia, I'd say I still don't regret my decision to play the PlayStation 2.

So yeah. Are you guys still alive, too? I'd hope so, but you can never be completely certain.

Devil Survivor Review Ahoy

This entry is going to be pretty short and sweet because I'm pretty sapped when it comes to energy. My review for Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor, the franchise's first DS installment, has been posted here for all the Internet to absorb. As I pretty much imply in the review, Devil Survivor caught me by surprise. I had originally intended to outright ignore its release because the only good experiences I've usually had with Megami Tensei games were the recent Persona installments. But then I actually read GameSpot's review for it and after realizaing that it had things going for it that I could appreciate despite that history, I decided to give a shot. I'd say that, given the score I assigned it, you would be right in inferring that I thought the purchase was worthwhile.

So yeah. Review. Yay.

Pepsiman's Guide to Surviving Imports

Copying and pasting from one blog I wrote on to another is fun. Let's do it now.


I know that there are a lot of you today who already know plenty about the process of importing games. Really once you get down to it, it's a pretty simple process. But for those who are curious, yet uncertain about how to go about doing it, they might be interested in checking out myrecent guidefor this site. It's a blatant plug for my own work, yes, but I figure that since there are other guides on this site not devoted specifically to one game per se that my work might come in handy for someone here. Heck, I even discuss how to go about ordering games from Japanese stores directly, a topic which I don't think gets mentioned very much when the subject of imports is brought up.

In writing the guide, I tried to cover as much as possible that I knew personally. There are some things I'd like to have a bit more fleshed out, which is why there's a help wanted section in there, but if you can think of anything else you think I need to talk about, you're free to tell me that. Really, just feedback in general is appreciated. I've done other guides in the past, but those were usually way more technical, so I wouldn't mind hearing whether I did okay for something more casual in comparison. Also ideas about which pages to attach the guide would be greatly appreciated. It's attached to Final Fantasy XIII at the moment simply because of the inevitable import wave to come with that, but I'd like to include more for visibility's sake. (Retrospective note: This is all referencing features on the Giant Bomb site specifically. I'm just too lazy to cut it out here.)Thanks in advance if you check it out and, as a reward, here's a picture of the Persona 4 cast if they somehow wound up in a Mother game. Yep.

Dear MadWorld,

I would like nothing more than to really, really like you. You have a morbidly funny concept driving you and, on top of that, your development studio has some serious talent behind it. After all, some of the more prominent figures used to be a part of Clover, a studio whose games I usually loved the hell out of when it was still in operation. So I had high hopes. Maybe they were unrealistic, but I had high hopes because I know the leaders can churn out amazingly good games when they pour their heart and soul into it.

Maybe that just wasn't enough to save you, MadWorld. You're not broken and there's still fun to be had, but I'm just not feeling the magic. You have enough problems that make me wonder why more time wasn't taken to just playtest and QA some more so you could get the polish you deserved. As it is, though, you're just not all that.

But you know what? You're still special. Why? You're the second game I've chosen to do an actual review over an impressions blog before completing it. (The first such game would be LSD, an obscure PS1 import.) Some might cry foul at that, but after spending a scant few hours with you, I already get the impression that I've seen everything that can be seen. I know all of the important stuff that there really is to know about you. You kill dudes and sometimes you can change up the ways in which you do it, but that's about it. Maybe I'll miss out on a few minigames if I don't get around to completing it, but it doesn't feel like that much of a loss at all.

We all have our off days, though, so I understand. Not necessarily the brightest start for such a new development house, though.

Persona 4. $26 today on Amazon. GO GO GO!

It's a fantastic game. You know my sentiments about it if you've read the review I posted on this very site. If you haven't bought it yet, there's probably no better time than to do it today on Amazon, because bloody hell $26 is a superb dealfor a game that has the potential to last you 120 hours if you do multiple runs though it like myself. And since GameSpot hates me posting links, we'll do this thing with a good old URL copy-paste:

This has been yet another piece of Persona 4 propaganda brought to you by allmybase. Now to revert to being an online hermit again.

Persona 4: The Game Whose Footsteps I'll Forever Walk In

A lot of people have probably noticed one way or another, whether because of its inclusion in my games of 2008 list or because of my 5-star/9.5 reviews, but I believe that Persona 4 is among the greatest games I have ever played in my 14-year-plus career. That is a title I hardly throw around recklessly and, to be fair, there are a number of other really great games that I love, too. But Persona 4 is special to me for a number of reasons and even if nobody else in the world agrees with my sentiments, I want its denizens to at least know why I feel about it the way that I do. The game was and remains a deeply personal experience to me, one whose effects I am hopefully capable of detailing whilst going forward with this blog.

I'm only a freshman at my university. Naturally, this means that the memories of high school are still relatively recent in my mind. Some are extremely positive. Indeed, I met some of the most understanding people I have had the pleasure of meeting, many of whom I am still friends with to this day. Other memories are not so positive. I had some pretty vicious things happen in my home life and during the last few months of my senior year, not everything was cheery with graduation on the horizon. But all of that was okay and that's because high school was perhaps the most important time in my development as a human being. After years of being beaten by my sister, I came into high school deeply confused and resentful of the world around me. I had no sense of self, no unique identity to call my own. I had bits and pieces of what you could call a personality, but nothing that really formed a complete whole. Much of my existence had been devoted to simply surviving to the next day and not succumbing to the misery I often came home to after school. Yet once I came out of high school, it was as a completely different person. I gained a sense of humanity; I learned what it was to really feel alive and be a person, realizing that my life wasn't bogged down to my past as long as I didn't allow it to be. I could make the present and future a happy one as long as I faced my inner demons head on and learned how to keep them in check.

It is that last sentence which epitomizes the deep connection I now hold to Persona 4. Not unlike myself, the protagonists of the game undergo harsh trials in which they come to terms with how they feel about life within themselves. And initially they deny those feelings, saying that they aren't a part of themselves, much like how I did as well. Indeed, for a very long time, I had denied to myself that my life had been rife with sadness and I chose to not acknowledge it for a lot of reasons. Not only was it because I was afraid that other people would misunderstand what I had went through and presume that my life had indeed been normal, but also because I had believed that there was no benefit to be had from enduring sadness. After all, when you grow up as a Catholic like I did, you are told to discard a lot of things for what is supposedly your own good. But as I started to question why things were and why the world operated as it did as a teenager, I ultimately faced myself. I faced my fears. I faced my hatred. I faced my sadness. Out of those self-contemplations, I came out as someone who finally had an understanding of myself and why I acted the way I did. While I couldn't say that my inner feelings were instantly tamed or that they completely are to this very, being able to acknowledge them in the first place was a huge step to me finding a way to be happy in this life and not see the world as apocalyptically as some of my relatives would have my believe.

Likewise, Persona 4's cast ends up coming to terms with what they have stored deep within themselves, learning how to work with and not against those inner facets of themselves. The contents for each character are all different. Some have delusions about what it means to befriend someone, while others don't have a clear understanding of their sexual identity, while still others are lost and feel narcissistic about having a reason to live in the first place. They are, essentially, all deeply human emotions which do have a tendency to be bottled up inside. But even when they finally acknowledge the feelings they have within themselves, that in turn is only the beginning of their own personal journies. As their own Social Link events indicate should you choose to undergo them, they still have a ways to go before they begin to really figure things out. As I said in my review of the game, these teenagers are not perfect and it's the chance to watch them all grow up slowly but surely that makes for one of Persona 4's most enthralling and moving spectacles.

It is the fact that they all have very human lives, flaws, and journies to contend with that I have grown to love Persona 4 deeply as a game. I have found it utterly amazing how well I could relate to each characters' inner quandaries, let alone how well I could understand the struggle that it is to truly find yourself. It's something which can only be done on your own since nobody else can tackle the matter of who it is you really are and Persona 4's depiction of that internal struggle really resonated with me. Atlus crafted the most human characters I have ever encountered in a work of fiction. If I didn't know beforehand that they were all imaginary and had simply read about them in passing, I would have thought them to be real people, too, and that is to the great credit of the writing staff and those involved in the character creation process. Again, perhaps nobody else sees the cast that way, but on my end, at least, that's how I've come to perceive them.

And it is now my sincere hope that I can one day craft a tale which is just as impactful for someone else by making the setting and its denizens just as human. For years now, I've drafted various stories that I haven't devoted the time to fleshing out. But now that I've seen that it is indeed possible to infuse characters with as much humanity as people you can meet in real life, I want to author a personal masterpiece of my own where I pour my all into it and then some. I want to make something which is the culmination of the lessons I've learned and the experiences I've had as a human being and turn into something compelling. And perhaps because it's Persona 4 that's made realize how much I really do want to enter the storytelling realm, I want to achieve that within a video game. Once upon a time, I had dreamed of becoming a developer of some sorts, a dream I had gradually abandoned in pursuit of other interests. But in recent times, I've wanted to revive that dream of being a creator in some sort of field and I think Persona 4 has shown me which field I want do it in.

Will I actually be able to go through with the plan? I honestly don't know. But I feel compelled to see if I can achieve the same feeling Persona 4's staff must have found once they made a game of such personal profoundness. If the art of weaving a story can be so rewarding for me as a mere player, I now want to see how capable I am of doing so for someone else.

Such is what it means for me to forever walk in Persona 4's steps.

If I'm actually giving a game an 8.5... means I probably like it a lot and think it's worth your time to check out.

If I actually give a game a 9.5, though, then that means I thought it was one of the best experiences I've had in years. In Persona 4's case, it's the best RPG experience I've had period. Yes, I'm an Atlus fan at heart, but they still went out of their way to top all of the other good times I've had with their games. And I'm a guy who loves its brand of quirkiness.

So, in short, I'm not dead and this Persona 4 review of mine is evidence of that. Take it for whatever that is.