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What I Look for in a Great Game

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Everyone has their favorite games. They can give you a million reasons why they love their games, but rarely do I hear about what people actually expect from games in general. With so many genres and play styles out there, it’s difficult to figure out what makes an individual game “great” in the midst of so many constants and variables. So I’m going to attempt to explain what I personally look for in a game that will make me stop and say “yeah, that game was pretty freaking sweet.” This will be a list of three things that make a game great for me, but it will not be in an order of importance. I’m just going to consider what goes into a game and say what I look for with each individual piece, as well as how it should fit into the whole package. I won’t be talking about graphics, art style, sound design, etc., as those are just basic yet important accessories to any game, and each game is too different for me to talk about these features at length. With that said, let’s get started.

1- The gameplay must work to fit the tone and feel of the game

I don’t know how often I hear about how some games don’t have “excellent” gameplay. There are those who think the best games are those that handle smooth like butter, have a deep system of mechanics, and must be “fun”. Now, I love a game that can deliver on all of those, but it’s gotten to the point where I started asking myself: does gameplay really need to be fluid, complex, and specifically for fun?

I then recalled my first experience with two games: Silent Hill and Shadow of the Colossus. Neither of these games handle in a particularly good way. Silent Hill has you playing a writer who gets tired easily and can’t shoot straight, and must fight through a town filled with nightmarish creatures in order to find and save his daughter. Shadow of the Colossus has you playing a kid who is clumsy and a poor swordsman, and is tasked with taking down gigantic beasts by climbing on their bodies and killing them with an ancient sword. And yet, somehow, these games still managed to engage me through their mechanics, because they did serve their purpose for the game they were in. Both characters aren’t the most powerful, and yet their triumphs felt even more like such because of their limitations, both in character and in the gameplay.

Many other great games do the same thing, but these two were the most obvious examples I could think of. Sure, the games that control like heaven are incredible to play every now and again, but for me, a truly great game is one which takes its mechanics and uses them to enhance the environments, characters, and world in which you’re playing in. Speaking of which…

2- The world must be engaging to play in

In the aforementioned games, their worlds play a big role in how I view them today. Silent Hill’s bleak, abandoned, and depressing town; and Shadow of the Colossus’s peaceful, quiet ruins made me feel as though I wasn’t just playing a game, but I was the narrator of each scenario. However, there are some games that go one step further in atmosphere.

For example, BioShock has Rapture, a dystopian paradise squandered greed, vanity, and ego. What was once a paradise for the unrestrained became a shambled war zone for crazed mutants and stubborn fools. The broken and eerie lighting from the ocean, the psychotic ramblings of splicers in the distance, and the creepy little sisters roaming with their hulking guardians sucked me in from the get-go, and did not let go until I decided to stop the game for that one session, and even then, I couldn’t get the place out of my head.

The Last of Us is another example of a game with a thick and engaging atmosphere. Staring at the crumbling buildings succumbing to nature while you travel through a familiar world ruined by a raging infection that’s slowly wiping humanity out, coupled with encounters with humanity at its most desperate and depraved makes for an flat out terrifying look at what the apocalypse holds for us, and you have to endure it for the entire journey the game takes you on. Never have I felt so excited to be a part of the apocalypse, only to be physically and emotionally exhausted by the true nature of humanity’s most primal instincts.

Its games like BioShock and The Last of Us that engage not only through their narratives, but also the environments by which you travel through. To have a world is simply not enough anymore for me. There has to be a reason for it to be the way it is, and there must be narrative reasons for them to be there. With that said…

3- The story must be well-written and must work in tandem with the gameplay

That statement may seem odd, given my mention of The Last of Us, a game that tells a story in part with cutscenes. Now, I’m not opposed to cutscenes and scripted sequences as long as they do not show things that go against the game’s rules. The Last of Us follows that philosophy well, but this is more than just about cutscenes. When I mention a video game story, I look for one thing, and one thing only: do my actions mean something in any part of the game’s narrative? With The Last of Us, my actions dictate how much development Joel and Ellie go through with optional dialogue moments that you can choose to partake in, as well as how I flesh them out in their combat styles. Is Joel a risk-taker, taking aim and aggressively taking enemies out regardless of the odds, or is he the cautious type, taking foes down one by one with a chokehold or a lethal hostage negotiation? These are things that only the gameplay can tell you. Storytelling is just as much about the actions characters take as it is world-building, lore, and dialogue.

And I go to yet another set of games that showcase the awesome power of gaming’s narrative capabilities: Metroid Prime and Mass Effect. Yes, Metroid Prime has a story, and it’s told through everything the game gives you. You play as a skilled and dangerous bounty hunter searching for a dark power that’s killing a planet. You discover narrative bits while you scan environments and read logs, all while you maintain full control of your character as the environment and enemies tell you of what’s been tainting this once peaceful and secluded planet. And you even control how strong Samus gets while obtaining upgrades as the story goes on.

With Mass Effect, the narrative can go many different ways depending on actions you take within an important element in the game: dialogue sequences. While the gameplay serves to show how you and your squad are especially skilled for defending the galaxy, it’s through the many interactions with the galaxy’s many aliens that truly show how much the story can change with a single sentence. Show compassion and mercy to an enemy, and they may reconsider hunting you down in next game. However, be the ruthless badass, and you will suffer the consequences if you think it’s worth the trouble. These come in many shapes and forms, and seeing the story change so dramatically with different choices shows just why video game storytelling is powerful: it gives the player choice in how they form the story.

I know I’ve gone on long enough, but those are the three main things I look for in a great game. I love seeing a game that wants to tell a story, but allows the player to build the story themselves and dictate how it turns out. This can be either by changing the written plot altogether or by showing a different side of the action, or maybe bypassing the action altogether to make your character a bit more complex than a madman hunting and killing everyone in sight. And with gameplay, this can be achieved well, but only if the developers see that the game doesn’t have to adhere to the rule of fun, but adhere to what the story and world are like. I know this is all my opinion, but this is how I see things. There will be games for those who disagree with me, and you have every right to disagree. However, I will always seek out the games which do the things I’ve mentioned and I will enjoy them if they’re done well. Thanks for reading, and I hope I gave you some insight into my gaming choices.

P.S. - all games mentioned are what I consider to be great. Obviously, the opinions I express about each game are simply that: an opinion. If you disagree, that's fine, but please try to keep any and all debate about their quality as civil as possible.

Why I Love The Last of Us

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In a feat I can only describe as unexpected, a game came out last year that not only awed me with its technical and storytelling achievements, but also moved me to tears at several points throughout the powerful and dark adventure. If the title didn’t clue you in, this game was The Last of Us, Naughty Dog’s latest effort after rolling off the success of their excellent Unchartedseries. Right from the beginning, this game brought me to the verge of tears, and yet also filled me with this nausea-like sensation in my gut that things couldn’t possibly get any worse.

As I soon learned, this game revealed its dark, sadistic, and downright depressing atmosphere in my face, with my body consistently weakening and my eyes filled with dread over things to come. Yet, in the most unexpected places, I found slivers of light that didn’t force me to throw a Molotov at myself. It’s in these moments, along with the connection I felt and shared with Joel and Ellie, the stars of the show, that proved to me that The Last of Us was more than a mere survival-horror action game. It was proof that even humans can exist in games, and that they can be to us as family.

The basic story premise is nothing special, or even new. A fungal infection spreads to humanity, creating a zombie apocalypse. Though usually a virus, this synopsis can be found in many films, comics, and TV shows, such as The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, etc. Zombies have been a part of our culture for a long time, and that’s not likely to change. It made sense for Naughty Dog to want to capitalize on this trope, but here they tried something slightly different. Instead of focusing on the collapse of civilization as we know it, as other media are prone to do, they instead focus on two characters: Joel, a hardened smuggler, and Ellie, a girl who grew up during the apocalypse and has no real connection to anything from how it was before. Again, nothing new, as Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road shows a father and son’s journey through an apocalyptic wasteland while focusing on their relationship. However, where The Last of Us shines is not in how it emulates its obvious influences, but rather expands upon them in possibly the most casual and restrained manner possible.

The evidence is in the sharp and natural dialogue that comes out of these characters. Rather than simply talking about how hopeless everything is or how they’re to go about their daily lives trying to survive, most of the exchanges between characters revolve around the mundane, such as explaining what an ice cream truck is to a young kid, roleplaying what it’s like to check in at a barren and desolate hotel, and being mildly irritated/amused by a book filled with some of the worst puns and jokes you’ll ever hear. And these moments come almost immediately after shooting a guy in the face while his pal soon gets his head smashed into concrete. Hey, I’d want to lighten the mood too if I were them.

All of this is presented in one of the most beautiful settings I’ve ever seen. Images of lush plant life swallowing entire buildings whole while tearing apart streets and sidewalks have been shown before, but never have you really had the chance to walk through and admire the haunting beauty of this scenario. Forests are abundant in wildlife, as are the mostly barren cities that have become less a jungle of steel and concrete and more an ancient, overgrown ruin, a grim reminder for the people in the game of a life that was, but is no more. Take that in for a second. You only see this in a few abandoned buildings here or there nowadays, but it’d be hard to fathom a place like Boston succumbing to the same fate. Well, once you see it, it leaves a lump in your throat as your eyes quiver with unease. At least, that’s what I felt as I gazed upon the landscape, made even more impressive by the quality of Naughty Dog’s game engine that allows the PS3 to utilize its full graphical potential and give us a downright gorgeous scene.

Yet I haven’t touched on the story much, have I? With all this talk of writing and setting, I’m surprised I didn’t spoil anything yet. Well, I won’t be doing that, but I will tell you that, even with its seemingly uninspired setup, it’s how the sum of all its parts come together that really matters. And as a new addition into the ever-increasing tome of zombie lore, it’s a damn fine entry. The typical themes are all there—the collapse of civilization, survival, keeping your humanity—yet are not in-your-face about it. It only leaves clues like newspapers and old notes to help you understand what happened during the twenty year span that the fungus nearly destroyed everything. The development of a rebel group known as the Fireflies to fight an increase in military power also adds a new dimension, as we see what the U.S. has been reduced to over the timespan, and also try to find a cure for the infection plaguing humanity. Even Joel and Ellie’s relationship is an example of a few of these tropes (more on that soon).

All of this is told in a very mature manner, as opposed to the lighthearted nature of Naughty Dog’s previous efforts such as Crash Bandicoot, Jack & Daxter, and Uncharted. I admire any writer of any medium who can attempt to go out of their comfort zone and try something unique and unknown to them. I become even more impressed when they can pull it off, and Naughty Dog certainly surprised me with their level of maturity and skill, especially with my initial skepticism that they would revert to try and make the game more lighthearted as that’s what they know how to do best. In fact, the game almost tries to be like a theater play, rather than anything resembling a TV show or film, partly due to its structure and the way the performances are driven and how everything is set up and revealed.

Another thing they do exceptionally well is character development. In both Jak & Daxter and Uncharted, the devs at Naughty Dog made wonderful and memorable characters that have come to be known as gaming icons over the years. I laughed at the antics of Daxter, I felt Jak’s anger over the abuse he suffered, and I sympathized with Nathan Drake on his daring and often suicidal hunt for hidden history. Not that any of these characters are perfect—Nathan Drake is a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to violence—but they did leave their mark. Admittedly, I had a hard time sympathizing with Joel in this game. He suffered heavy losses, yes, but he became a selfish bastard afterwards. Throughout the game, however, I understood why he became like that, and eventually felt pity. I cheered for him during the end sequence as well, which might confuse you if you’ve seen what happens, but that’s because I came to know his plight. I saw the pain in his eyes, and it made me feel the same kind of pain. His will to survive—heightened by survivor’s guilt—is only matched by the love he’s capable of showing, made evident by the excellent intro sequence. He’s a stereotypical badass done right.

Ellie, on the other hand, was the immediate star of the show in my eyes. Born within the apocalypse, all she grew up knowing is how to stay alive. She has no concept of what a girl her age should’ve been doing had the world not fallen apart. She should worry about boys and what she wants to be and which shirt goes with which skirt, not living with a throbbing fear that her life could be ended by a zombie the next day. However, unlike Clementine from Telltale’s The Walking Dead, she is more than able to take care of herself, even if she needs a bit of a push to do so. She always carries a knife, and is more than capable with a gun. She’s also one of the most foul-mouthed fourteen year olds you’ll ever encounter, likely a product of the harsh militaristic environment she was forced to grow up in. Yet in her eyes there’s this innocence, a longing to understand the world as it once was, and an optimism that it can all be that way someday. She and Joel develop a bond throughout the game—as can be expected—yet the circumstances surrounding their meeting don’t exactly foreshadow that. Or if it does, it’s likely from the jaded feeling of “oh that’s been done before.” Yet I’ve never seen a relationship develop this well or this slowly. What starts off as convenience eventually becomes necessity, and that’s where their characters really come into their own. For Ellie, this journey is her coming-of-age moment, and it’s where the narrative truly shines.

They meet a cast of varied and colorful people along the way, whom I won’t spoil as that would give many plot reveals that I’m desperately trying to avoid. I’ve liked more people than I’ve hated, even some people I would normally consider scum for their actions. I could say that they represent one or more aspects of the fall of civilization and humanity, but then I’d be boring you. So instead, I’ll just say that with each character, I can pretty much quote them by this point, and I even chuckle at some of their idiosyncrasies. I love their respective roles in the story, and their own interactions with Joel and Ellie.

The part that struck me the most, however, was the gameplay. Again, not much here is being done that hasn’t been done before...if you look at each individual system separately. It combines the elements of a third-person shooter with survival horror and adventure parts built in. You collect and scavenge items to craft for weapons and health kits. You take cover when in a fight, though it isn’t at all sticky so it feels more natural. There’s the famous over-the-shoulder perspective that Resident Evil 4 popularized and has since been beaten to death by several games. Lots of things you would find in horror games is here. Lots of things you would find in shooters is here. Lots of things you’d find in survival horror games is here.

Now, I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to combine game genres and gameplay tropes, you better have a reason for it apart from “I like these two styles, so I’m going to put them together.” No! It needs purpose. Thankfully, The Last of Us gives a reason for these things, which I’ve heard people complain against. If you see a rag on top of some sheets, you can’t take all those sheets with you. That’s counterproductive, and ripping them takes time you don’t have before your skull is caved in. If your enemies drop only one or two rounds of ammo, that’s likely all they had left while they were trying to feed the rest into your body. You find supplies in the most likely places you would find them in real life, and in these scenarios, you’re in areas that have likely been picked mostly clean by whoever happened to be there first. If there are any left for your use, it was either human error or lack of space.

Either way, it’s there to aid you in the various fights you find yourself in with the humans in the game. Being able to outmaneuver a group of armed scavengers in large asymmetrical arenas in as many different ways you can—guns blazing, stealthily, avoiding them altogether—is a gameplay experience I haven’t had since I played Dishonored, a game that also had many different play styles. However, unlike Dishonored, the game doesn’t subtly force you to play a certain way in order to obtain the best possible result. Whether you want to maim and tear your assailants apart with guns and shivs or quietly give their necks a gentle wringing from behind like a dirty used towel, that’s entirely up to you. It tries to adapt to most peoples’ play styles, while still making sure that you follow the rules the game sets out for you.

For me, I tried to conserve supplies as often as possible, which meant that I picked the stealthy route. However, if I ever got spotted, I would do my best to pick enemies off one by one as accurately as possible without consuming important things like ammo and health kits. The humans here don’t give you a break either. They will hunt you down, try to flank you, and basically play cat and mouse with you while you attempt the same. Your AI companion helps you out whenever you’re in a rough spot by either throwing bricks, shooting them, or telling you their general location if you can’t see them. These moments were cerebral and satisfying, even if afterwards I got the sense that I did a bad thing. I don’t know if it was the gurgling and struggling of everyone I choked out, or that last man standing begging for his life as I point my shotgun at his face.

You even have to fight with the infected, which is not much easier to do. With runners barreling towards you like that one fish in Spongebob with a chocolate addiction, clickers that kill you in one hit if they so much as touch you, and other variants the reveal themselves much later, your strategies for each encounter are different depending on the environment you’re in, how many of certain types there are, and whether or not you have enough supplies to take them all down quickly. Outsmarting them is usually the best tactic, as their sight is compromised, but their hearing is enhanced. Creeping past them is usually the best idea, as getting into a fistfight with a large group of runners and clickers is likely going to leave your neck a bloody mess of strings and meat. Guns help to, but some like the clickers have so many layers of fungus growing on their bodies that they take bullets like a boat full of sailors take cheap gin. Sneaking past them or going behind them to jam a knife down their spore-filled throats is usually your preferred method of taking them down, even if their buddies are trying to sniff around for your urine-soaked pants along the way.

In every fight, I never felt as though anything was getting monotonous, even with the more predictable infected encounters. I enjoyed every tense moment. Crafting happened in real time, so if I had to make something, I had to hide, soaked in my own sweat and blood, and create my next item before they found me. It doesn’t have the same exact level of tension that traditional horror games do, however, since your AI partner is basically invisible to every man, woman, zombie, cat, and brick except for very few instances where I had to save them from an enemy grapple. I would’ve been annoyed at this had I not been so disdainful of most escort missions in games (looking at you, Ashley from Resident Evil 4). While it is true that the AI is suspect to the occasional lapse in judgment and higher-order thinking, they quickly recover from this and go back to the hunting.

These elements appear in the game’s multiplayer mode, which is practically an extension of the universe. It has a basic deathmatch mode, but with limited respawns and a more tense atmosphere and limited sprinting and listening mode. It also has a survivor mode, which is a last man standing mode where respawns are laughed at until the next match—in other words, you die and stay dead until the next match. The gameplay is the same—including the real-time crafting—and keeps that same level of tension as in the game. However, this mode feels more dangerous, as you’re fighting actual human players who behave very much like a pack and will take every opportunity to ruin your supposed fun. You hunt for supplies, but not just for crafting. These supplies are meant for your survivor group outside of the matches. This part is what helps you level up, get more upgrades and weapons, etc. The more people in your group, the faster you level up, but the higher the demand for supplies is as well. I felt protective of my group during every match. The fact that they all had names helped out as well. It’s a great multiplayer experience that I always keep coming back to.

Blah, blah, blah, tell us what you really thought of the game, why don’t you. In short, I can summarize my experience with The Last of Us in three words: surprised, depressed, and enlightened. Surprised by how damn well every component of the game—story, gameplay, art style—blended together into an unforgettable experience. Depressed at the darkness and hopelessness the atmosphere felt throughout, even as I rooted for the characters more and more. Enlightened at the hidden moments of pleasure and human decency that I found within the game. I’m not the only one who thinks this about the game, but the dissenters would disagree.

Look, I realize that this game isn’t for everyone, and I know that some can’t overlook the fact that the gameplay mechanics aren’t refined in the traditional sense. I know some people found the realism jarring and too dark. For me, that’s just what games should accomplish. I’m not saying get rid of fun and entertaining games like Call of Duty or Super Mario. I’m also not saying that you’re wrong to have these opinions—not every game is for everybody. But this is the game that showed me how much games overall need to grow up. Point me to games in the past that accomplished what The Last of Us did, including its level of restraint and maturity. I can show you exactly where the fourth wall is broken for humor, where the jokes come in because the game needs to be “fun”, and I can show you the silliness of the overall plot. Even in some of the best horror games that are meant to frighten have moments that you laugh at because of how silly it all is. Games don’t need to just be “fun” anymore. We need to get past that. I didn’t exactly have fun playing this game, and I felt that it was for the best. I needed this experience to show me that games can have the same level of sophistication that cinema and literature has without having to resort to “fun” to keep people entertained.

And that is why I love The Last of Us.

Why I'm Still Skeptical of Microsoft and the Xbox One

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With the next generation of console gaming already on the way, there seem to be two top contenders vying for the top spot: Sonys PlayStation 4 and Microsofts Xbox One. Over the course of the announcements of these two consoles, many things have changed, backlash was given, reversals were made, and conferences were won and lost. This is especially the case with the Xbox One. While the main features of the Xbox One are currently more accessible and user-friendly, I feel as though Microsoft has become afraid of innovating and instead are trying desperately to tame their angry, unfed customers instead of offering the benefits their policies were to have, if any were to be had at all.


There are two things I want to get out right now, so as not to draw any confusion. One: this is not going to be bashing on the Xbox One itself and its features, old and new. This is merely me taking about Microsofts policies regarding the console. And two: this will not be a console comparison with the PlayStation 4. Sonys console will have to sit this one out. Now that thats out of the way, let me get started.


Lets rewind a bit first. Its May 21, 2013. The gaming world eagerly anticipates the announcement of Microsofts brand new gaming console. During the event, the device is revealed. Named the Xbox One for features that would make this device the main entertainment center of your living room, it quickly drew confused and angry looks from the crowd, both at the event and those watching the live stream online. Restrictive policies regarding used games, needing the Kinect 2.0 in order to simply function, region-locking, and an always-online connection no matter what would become synonymous with the Xbox One. It seemed almost too difficult to believe, considering how consumer-friendly the Xbox 360 was and has been throughout its lifespan.


Yet hope remained for these policies to maybe change with the passing of E3 2013, when games would be shown off and the new features, such as the Cloud and brand new Kinect 2.0 functions, would be given the spotlight. Well, not only were those policies still being implemented (all after showing off interesting game after interesting game), but the price point seemed a bit too much as well. At five-hundred US dollars, it seemed like a steep investment for something so restricting and consumer-unfriendly. Gaming journalists and economists stepped in to say that the Xbox One was going to fail in the face of its competition if these policies stayed, resulting in Microsoft losing its strength in the gaming industry.


Fortunately, people didnt have to wait long for Microsoft to finally get it, as it were. June 19 came around, and what did Microsoft do? Drop everything. No always-online requirement, no used game restrictions, and no region-locking. Months later, the need to always have the Kinect 2.0 on would also be dropped. The internet leaped for joy. The Xbox One was a pure gaming console once again, much like the Xbox 360 was and is.


So why did I remain sountrusting ever since? Why did these policy reversals do nothing to change my mind about the Xbox One for the longest time? Granted, Im still going to get an Xbox One down the road, but I will always question Microsofts decision making in this whole ordeal. It will always seem to me that they care more about owing something to their customers rather than introducing a product that people should at least give a chance.


Ive figured out at least two reasons why these policy changes made me skeptical of Microsoft and its new console. One: when Microsoft announced the Xbox One, it was intended to be some sort of gaming evolution. Digital trades through a family sharing plan, Cloud-based computer AI resulting in more intelligent and challenging games, and an upgrade to a subpar motion sensor that proves it can be responsive and add to the gameplay experience rather than hinder it. These things would not function as well without the original policies being implemented in the first place. While I feel the disadvantages far outweigh the benefits, it wouldve been great on Microsofts part to keep these features and still maintain that accessibility that gamers were going to lose. Instead, they opted for the safe-route, which was keeping the traditional format of having only those with online capabilities experience these wonderful new features.


This alienates a key demographic for any console and game developer: the non-online, single-player only gamer. Contrary to popular belief, gamers like this still exist. I would know, since Im one of them. And they, too, yearn for the chance to experience the evolution of gaming that includes more intelligent AI and game sharing. They just do it in a different manner than the rest of the community. In some cases, they opt to share the experience through video of them going through a game while explaining how each section is done. Having to hold these features back from them through the paywall of the Xbox Live system seems like a lost opportunity in my eyes, especially for those who cannot consistently pay for Xbox Live Gold, yearly or otherwise.


The second thing that bothers me about this whole ordeal is Microsoft basically bending to the will of people who could or could not be their customers. As a business, Microsoft has to decide what the future holds for them and their customers while at the same time making sure their product sounds appealing. In other words, sell your product instead of telling people that this product is great and you should try it no matter what.


Now, their initial representation of the Xbox One was by no means great. They did nothing to make their product sound the least bit appealing. The problem here is that instead of finding a better way to market the new, innovative features of their console, they decide to reverse their policies and thus become exactly like their competition. Whereas Sony and Nintendo played it safe from the beginning, Microsoft decided to take that huge risk in the hope of gaining some sort of reward in the long run. But what did they do? They reversed their position and decided to play it safe for the sake of not angering anybody. While a noble act, there were several features that not only sounded appealing, but couldve helped Microsoft gain a slight edge against the competition, such as digital game sharing and their Cloud AI support. By taking the online features and hiding all of them behind the Xbox Live Gold paywall instead of making it mandatory that the console always remain online, they have limited those with low incomes from experiencing all these new innovations. Its taking away from that demographic I mentioned earlier, and ignoring some of your customers doesnt always turn out to be a good thing in the long run.


All the decisions Microsoft has made continue to make me skeptical. Instead of finding a new way of marketing these features and fixing the major issues with them, Microsoft decided to completely remove them and essentially sell a prettier, more stable Xbox 360. Since people already have one of those, what incentive are we given to try out their new console in the first place, if all were essentially getting is better graphics and a newer controller? Thats the only thing I ask. Again, I do not hate the new console, as I do plan to get it eventually. I just want people to keep this in mind before making it a purchase priority this holiday season.

Is Hating Microsoft Mainstream Now?

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What is this... Mainstream hate for Microsoft and its Xbox One? Why is it necessary? Is there something I'm not understanding?


No, this isn't something I am now just recognizing, and no I'm not a Microsoft hater/Sony fanboy. Obviously it's been going on for a very long time, ever since May 21st when the Xbox One was first revealed. People were excited to see the next generation of gaming fall into the hands of one of the most successful companies around, and they pissed themselves in overwhelming joy and content when the day of May 21st came around. That is, till the reveal actually came along...

For the first week or so of the Xbox One reveal, it seemed like Microsoft was already in it for some bad news. Many of the complaints listed from how it drove away from hardcore gamers, to some that were just stupid to continuously hear about (which I will get to later.) During the first moments of the reveal, the Xbox One was shown to be a very impressive entertainment console for the home. Now that's where one of the complaints come in... Entertainment console. Not "gaming" console.

--Title of "Entertainment Console"--

Microsoft was known to be quite smart and knowledgeable with the ideas they had for their previous consoles, the Xbox and Xbox 360. Sure, some complaints came along at the time such as paying for a full online experience, but that's irrelevant to what I'm writing about now. These two previous consoles were known as gaming consoles, more or less the Xbox. The Xbox 360, however, spawned up new and innovative things added that also made it an entertainment console, rather than a gaming console. It had advertisements, you had full control to watch movies, listen to music, customize your personal avatar, and even search the web. None of which are really related to the topic of gaming. So why is the Xbox One getting hate for something that's been going on for such a long while now?

I don't have any idea and this baffled me, honestly. Apparently, not many liked this idea because it sort of drove away the hardcore gamers, the ones who just wanted to play video games. No more, no less. It wasn't ever necessary. There was no reason to have to surf the internet, watch TV or movies, because hey, that's why we have computers, television and Netflix, right? Well, because my argument against most of my friends failed it's not necessary to even really continue on about it, which was the fact that no one really ever seems to know how convenient it actually is to have all of that on one console. Why did the argument fail? Refer to the second sentence of this paragraph for that. Not to mention that there was a recent post referring to "Why are so many gamers so disgusted with the fact that Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo want to appeal to more than just the "hardcore" gamers, the casual gamers?" This actually contradicted a lot of what was previously said around here, and this surprised me. For this, I never understood why it was a bad thing. No one seemed to like it, and everyone acted like gaming was going to soon vanish which obviously isn't going to happen. But it sure as hell seemed like it. Extra entertainment added to what is already a gaming console isn't a bad thing. You just get a side of fries with the burger you ordered. You don't have to eat those fries though.

--DRM, Used-Game Restrictions, and Other Bull**** MS thought was a Good Idea--

This is what practically nailed the, well...nails in Microsoft's coffin. Ideas like this caught even me off guard, because it seemed near unbelievable for a company to even think this up. Well, in the perspective of gamers of course.

The DRM restrictions had a lot of stress put into it because it was Microsoft's best way to "combat piracy", as well as bring more profit into their company (which apparently, not a lot of people seem to get.) This was sort of like a big ****storm just raining down upon us while we were force to look up and open wide, because if you wanted an Xbox One this was the crap you were gonna have to deal with. Things like:

- Buying used games now being near-impossible
- Paying fees on borrowed games
- Having an always-online internet connection

And etc. It seemed like they were just targeting one type of people: the rich, incredibly lonely and socially awkward douchebag who did nothing but sit on his fat ass and play the new games the day they launched. And even those bastards thought it was a bad idea.

At the time, these were actual legitimate complaints that, in my eyes, I could properly understand. I'd sure as hell would be bothered by this whole thing if I had an Xbox One. I still remember the days when some of my friends (and myself included) posted all the crap Xbox One was doing, while some of my friends were trying to actually say that while all of this nonsense they were shoving down Xbox gamers throats is definitely infuriating, there could at least be hope...and then it came weeks later.

They reversed everything they had on their mind. The immense amount of sheer fury and rage that spawned through the voices and fingers of many fans, bloggers and commenters had reached Microsoft's stubborn ears. Almost when we thought the days of Microsoft and Xbox were over, they had listened to us and brought it back to the standards we all begged for. No more used-game restrictions, DRM, or always-online connections. Hell, even I promised myself I'd get myself a Wii U rather than this box-shaped ***. But after they took it all back, it gave me the choice to pick this once again, instead of refusing it altogether. Now, it doesn't deserve the amount of hate it got before, when it ACTUALLY was necessary. And even then, people got annoyed by it, which I completely understood. 'Cause I didn't even like hearing that ****. Which brings me to my next topic...

--The Loyalty from Microsoft to Gamers--

This, aside from the minor complaints I'll be listing shortly, is what seriously made me think of the bull**** coming out of people's mouths. Let me get something straight here with you guys. You know, the ones actually reading this. I am getting the PS4 either way, but I am still interested in what the Xbox One has to offer. That being said, let's get this out of the way:

A gaming company DOES NOT have to be strictly loyal to its gamers. To the ones that said they should be, that's crap. Why is it necessary for a company to bow down to the gamers, rather than the other way around? You know, the way it SHOULD be. A company is successfully a company for a reason. Because what they were previously doing obviously worked and IS working. And yet because what we see is new to the tradition we use to play games, it's suddenly headline news controversy.

Listen guys, this topic here is suppose to follow the previous DRM and restrictions topic. It doesn't have to either. But this is what gets me. Why is what they tried considered betrayal toward us gamers? This is what they wanted to do. Something they wanted to start new, hell even to maybe spark SOME extra profit for themselves. It was obviously highly flawed and didn't work, which is why they reversed the whole thing to serve our needs. But seriously, they didn't do this because they intentionally wanted to throttle our collective throats until we begged for mercy. Why in the hell would a company do this action for that purpose? It makes no sense, and yet many, MANY of us think that's what it is. "The damage has been done..." and "You betrayed us, M$!" is just a set of examples of the **** I'm always seeing on the Internet. And because of this, this is happening:

Seriously? Is it because of a mistake in the past that you're taking it so extremely seriously, therefore leading you to just isolate yourselves from anything near-looking like an Xbox One or anything that has an Xbox logo on it? That disappoints me. A lot. No, I'm not complaining about the Xbox One definitely losing this generation's console war. I don't give a rat's ass about any console war.

But my point is, this has nothing to do with Microsoft breaking "loyalty" to its fans (even if it really has to live up for it anyway.) They wouldn't do anything like that now, and if they realize their mistakes at the moment, they definitely won't try to do it again in the future. You guys just make it seem that way because YOU felt like you looked up to the console. You obsessively put yourselves in that position. And because something was done that you didn't like, it knocked YOUR loyalty for the company to the curb. But hey, it happens. Falsely accusing a company for doing something in an obnoxious manner won't solve it either. Things like the Kinect "spying" on us is being pushed to the side, because it blows my mind on the ridiculous level. To keep it short, they're definitely not "spying" on us. And if they were, it's not for the reasons you think it is.

--Minor Complaints--

- Shut the **** up about the name "Xbox One" and about how "dumb" it sounds. Just please, save yourself from complaining about something as ridiculous as the name of this product, regardless of how much sense it actually makes. You don't see me complaining about Hot Pockets, even though you're not suppose to put them in your actual pants pockets.

- The shape of the console. For the love of God, it's called the X "box" for a reason. It's boxy. It lives up to its name. When you guys give me an explanation for why the 1-and-a-half foot eraser-shaped Playstation is better, I'll be sure to read them. Each. Carefully.

- Advertisements. Everything nowadays has advertisements. Even if that's something to complain about, they're gonna be at the side. They're not mandatory to watch, not to mention they'll ALL be console related.

- Why every Xbox One must have a Kinect. Seriously, this is something that goes back and forth in my mind. I never really wanted a Kinect previously. But it needs it now, so what's the point of complaining? It NEEDS it.

- Pricing. The Xbox One is expected to launch at the price of $499. Well, why so expensive? Because the extra $100 comes from the Kinect. Seriously, there shouldn't be any complaints. Buying the Kinect for the Xbox One is like buying an extra gaming controller for the console, or a monitor for your computer. You can't use it without it, so go and get it with no complaints. This is probably more or less the reason most of my friends (and myself) are probably are getting a PS4. 'Cause of its price. Sure it's understandable if you can't afford it. But don't complain because of an accessory that isn't even an accessory anymore.

- No backwards compatibility. I'm not even getting into this since most consoles this generation can't do the same.

- Etc. Seriously, there's more I can go on about it. Apparently, everyone just loves to be part of the mainstream community now known as "**** the Xbox One".

That last one really urks me as well. The whole Internet is in uproar with useless memes, stupid complaints, and unnecessary trash-talk about it, even though most (and by most, I mean basically 95%+) of the problems are now GONE. Am I butthurt about it? No, 'cause it doesn't affect how I decide if I'm getting the console or not. But if you guys can really complain about the Xbox One only because of past mistakes that you can't just let go of, then it spells out the type of person you pretty much are.


This wasn't meant to be any sort of fanboy rant on anti-Xbox One people. Rather, a very thought out "something" I had on my mind, just to inform people that it's not necessary to keep the actions of Xbox One bashing up until it is once again appropriate. This itself obviously isn't enough to bring it all to an end, but at two hours of thinking as I type this up, I think I did a pretty fine job on expressing this. I'm sure I missed a few deets about it all, but hell, I did what I could and I'm not willing to do anymore than writing the longest blog I've ever written so far. So I hope you guys enjoy reading this, and maybe find the Xbox One in a better light, rather than being a part of the mainstream media of the "Let's Bash Microsoft!" club. As I've always been saying, these things happen for a reason. Think things out, and sometimes just give it a chance.

The First-Person Shooter Problem

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Its no secret: the First-Person Shooter (FPS) is one of the most popular video game genres ever. With numerous AAA franchises like Battlefield, BioShock, Call of Duty, Halo, and Killzone, the genre doesnt seem like its going to go away any time soon. Now, Im not the biggest fan of the genre myself, by any means. Ive never really been able to pinpoint why, however. What about these types of games turns me off so much? To understand my issue with the genre, we have to look at every aspect of the FPS and figure out why I dont much care for shooting aliens, soldiers, or anything else that moves.


When it comes to the gameplay, you pretty much know what to expect. The gun youre holding is right in front of you. You can sprint, crouch, and toss grenades, all that good stuff. Taking cover is essential if the enemies arent completely brain-dead. There are cramped corridors that emphasize quick reflexes, and there are open areas that serve as arenas for giant set-piece battles. All of these things can be expected within the FPS. Some games like to mix it up a little though. Call of Dutys fast, frenetic pace allows for an increased level of intensity and reflex. Halo and Killzone play slower, but also have intelligent enemies that force you into hiding on more than one occasion, and force the player to plan out strategies on the fly.


Most titles like to add little bits of variation into the gameplay, like a cover system in Killzone, and elemental powers in BioShock. Most titles are copycats of each other, however, stemming from a well-known template. You know what to expect gameplay-wise, so it becomes mundane that players dont feel the same level of excitement that came from playing all the big-name titles. This is one of the reasons why the FPS genre doesnt interest me. If I find Im going to be playing another Halo clone or Call of Duty copycat, I know what Im getting into, and I dont bother with it at all. In turn, these clones make me see the shortcomings of the original titles, and turn me off from them completely, even after playing and somewhat enjoying them at first. But in all honesty, as long as the game is functional, Ill still give it a chance.


That being said, theres not really much developers can do to spice up the gameplay. Sure, recent titles like BioShock Infinite added little tricks like the skyline, and Far Cry 3 adds RPG elements that add perks to make the game easier, but they both still follow the same basic FPS formula. If anything, the formula has become dated as a whole. How else can developers depict shooting someone? I dont think theres a lot of new ways, to be honest, without attaching other genres onto it, which doesnt necessarily assist the evolution FPS part at all.


As much as I talk about the gameplay, what really immerses me in a game is the story. This is where most modern FPS games are severely lacking. Now, mind you, there are a lot of FPS titles that have outstanding stories with some impressive themes. BioShock is a social commentary on the human condition amidst the background of a Randian dystopia. Far Cry 3 challenges the player to understand the depths of ones inner demons and how far redemption can truly lie. Many other titles are included among these, but I wont list them all.


The rest of the pile, however, doesnt even bother with a good narrative. Battlefield tries to capture the brutality of war, but suffers from stiff voice acting and clichéd dialogue. The Call of Duty series, while impressive in relaying the war is a necessary evil message, suffers from uneven pacing and a few WTF moments that make no sense in relation to the gameplay. Halo is a sci-fi shooter that shows very good technological and philosophical depth, but lacks in the human department when it comes to the human characters, of all things (Cortana is the most human of any character, and shes an AI). Killzonebarely has a story to begin with. As impressive as the action and visuals are, the stories of most FPS games seem to always fall flat in some area or another of the typical narrative structure.


So then, why do I constantly find myself playing these games, in spite of their now dated overall gameplay and limited amount of truly epic stories? Well, not only are headshots immensely satisfying, but theres just a sense of gratification in clearing out a mass of fifty well-trained soldiers and aliens all on your own. Taking a shotgun and clearing a room is brutal, but awesome. Sniping an annoying rocket launcher just makes you clench your fist in a yes victory pose. The satisfaction from killing these usually competent enemies just keeps me going. Add in multiplayer, where taking down a skilled gamer amplifies that feeling, and you understand why I, as well as other doubters, continue to play these games.


This is the problem, as we know what we like and continue to buy games within the comfort zone of the FPS, and avoid those that attempt to chance the formula in general. If youre used to the way Call of Duty plays, youll avoid anything that plays like Halo or BioShock or whatever else feels different. The thing is, they all pretty much play the same at the core. Sure, the buttons are different, the pacing is changed, and the gun weight is varied, but each game is still powered by the same gameplay philosophy, with a few exceptions here and there. Once these problems can be addressed, only then can the shooter truly evolve into something better than itself. Until then, youll just have to settle for bland stories and gameplay you swear youve played before.

Why is Assassin's Creed 3 Getting Such a Bad Rap?

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Been playing some Assassin's Creed III lately. And honestly...I feel I need to increase the review score I gave it from a 9 to a 9.25. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I've had friends tell me that the game doesn't feel like it was in development for almost 5 years. I can see where they're coming from, but I have to respectfully disagree. Think about the time it took to try and retell events from that period in history, to perfectly map out areas like Boston and New York and the frontier areas. Even the coastline areas where the naval missions take place had to at least resemble the coasts as they looked back then. This, along with the accurate representations of famous Revolutionary figures, makes me think they put more effort into this game than the initial impression gave off.

Also, I never felt that I was hindered from taking to the rooftops as many reviewers claimed (I've done a bunch of rooftop runs without the guards ever coming after me). All I do is just kill any guard I see with my arrows, just like I did with rooftop guards in the previous games. The graphics might not be that great, but graphics were never the series' strong suit to begin with. They never really did anything mind-blowing with the animations, textures, and lighting, it just stayed relatively solid.

People say there are too many glitches in this game. Okay, it bothers me how Skyrim got away with this while AC3 didn't, but that's another story. I found some of the previous titles to be just as glitchy before they got patched, and I never heard anybody complaining about them. Why is it that this game just barely escapes the free pass that the previous titles got? Makes no sense to me.

The side missions are fun, the busywork is rewarding once you know how it works, and the weapon variety is awesome. Some would argue you don't need many weapons aside from the first ones you get, but the blame there has to be put on Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. That was the first game that introduced chain-killing, which basically destroyed any need for extra weapons apart from your starting ones, in my experience.

Also, the Desmond part of the story. Okay, I'm going to be brutally honest: I didn't mind the ending. Yeah, it was disappointing to me, but not for the reason you might expect. I won't spoil it for those who haven't played, but the disappointment mostly stemmed from the game's apparent lack of decent pacing. The ending felt a little rushed. It should've been a whole other Desmond mission to get to that end part. Maybe then people wouldn't complain so much, I think (doubt it though). I felt it made a strong case for itself considering the backstory within the Desmond moments. I can think of very few loopholes that don't necessarily tie to the ending so much as the series as a whole. The ending was a solidly written one, and finished off Desmond's story without sacrificing who his character was, like so many games seem to do lately. It might not have been the absolute best ending, but I didn't feel as disappointed as most people claim.

In short, I enjoyed Assassin's Creed III very much. Maybe it's not the best in the series, but it's still very high up there. Yeah, I can see why people would be disappointed, but I view it in a different way. Everything made sense, the mechanics were smooth, the attention to detail was great, and the overall story was very solid and graceful, barring the awkward pacing of the whole ordeal.

Why Chrono Trigger is One of My Favorite Games Ever

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A day at the fair is usually nothing special. There are tents with stuff to buy, games to play, and a few demonstrations from the town genius. For Crono, however, it would be the start of a new adventure. After bumping into a girl with a mysterious pendant, he and the girl run towards his best friend Lucca, whos showing off her latest invention: a teleporter. After the demonstration on Crono works without a hitch, the girl, whose name is Marle, quickly volunteers to test it out. However, her pendant flashes the moment the machine is turned on. A spark of light shoots out of it, tearing apart the space-time continuum and sending Marle off into God knows when. Crono takes it upon himself to save the girl he just met, and in doing so will uncover events that could potentially cause the end of the world.

The beginnings of Chrono Trigger are enough to keep anybody interested. The game starts off simple enough. By the time youve begun to understand the complexities of its time travel rules, however, the game opens up in both story and content, creating a game that keeps you at the edge of your seat with fingers firmly on the controller. Tragedy unfurls, characters are found and lost, and the seemingly irrelevant things that most video games take for granted are those that cause the most important changes. This is what Chrono Trigger offers, and its what makes it a terrific one.

The story offers time travel in a way that, though familiar, is easy to follow and never dives too far out into the paradoxes that time travel comes with. Its a game that uses the device for the adventure, not the implications, and its all the better for it. What drives the plot the most, however, is the cast. While Crono is a silent protagonist, the rest of the cast is very vocal. From Marle, the girl you find at the fair, Lucca your best friend, and a slew of other characters that become part of your main party, each character is well-written and have personalities that make them feel right at home in their respective timelines and the ones they encounter. They all develop well as the story progresses, and never feel like stereotypes or annoyances.

Chrono Trigger follows basic JRPG rules when it comes to gameplay, with a few noticeable differences from its cousin franchise, the Final Fantasy series. Gone are the random encounters, for one. Every enemy you fight is right there on the screen, along with a few ambushes. Youre never taken to a separate battlefield, making the combat flow much better than most Final Fantasy games of the time. This also allows for some battles to be avoided altogether, should the need arise.

If stuck in a fight, however, its still pretty simple to use. You have an attack command, an items list, and a tech command, which are basically special moves that use up MP (magic points) for magic spellsboth restorative and destructiveand specialty moves. You can even use two characters at once, combining two of their techniques to make harder hitting combos. This allows for dynamic combat flow, and really brings about some of the games great 16-bit visuals.

Speaking of which, the graphics of Chrono Trigger are really some of the best that the Super Nintendo had to offer. Using the color palette to its fullest, Chrono Trigger is one of the brightest, most colorful games Ive ever seen. It could even enter some dark and grim areas whenever it had to, but the awesome environmental detail was there to make up for it. Hell, even the character models are rendered beautifully and dont look the least bit off or frighteningly distorted. Even the animations are smooth for what they are, and the sprites used in combat are flashy, vibrant, and arent overdone to where theyre a strain on the eyes. Every area and level you go through is well detailed and designed, with nothing being too confusing or insultingly simple, even though it is an RPG.

The audio design is grand as well. I rarely feel the need to comment on audio in a game, since for the most part developers know what theyre doing in this department, I think. Chrono Trigger, however, deserves special mention. When an enemy gets hit, it feels like you hit them. Every attack has memorable sounds, and even the atmospheric stuff like water falling and wind blowing is done very well.

Even better is the musical score of the game, which has some of the best music tracks ever created in video game history. Its spiritual successor/sequel Chrono Crosss score may be a bit better in terms of quality, but Chrono Triggers score is marvelous. From the epic main theme, the jazzy ocean palace theme, and even the sinister theme of the antagonist, each tune in Chrono Trigger is expertly crafted and helps push the game to new emotional heights.

The best features about this game, however, are the dynamic qualities of the story. Events will change depending on certain tasks you complete or things that seemingly have no importance, like saving a little girls cat, helping a woman grow a seed in a dystopian universe, and even allowing one character to have their revenge. These things change Chrono Triggers story drastically, and can even give or take away some important items.

The real prize, however, is when you defeat the final boss. All your actions culminate into an ending that varies depending on whom you take to the fight and when you fight in context to the story. This allows for multiple endings. Even the new game plus feature, which allows you to play the game once again at the levels you ended at, gives more incentive to play this game multiple times through. Its these unique aspects that push Chrono Triggers story that much more into the emotional range.

In all, Chrono Trigger is a masterpiece. The dynamic story, the loveable characters, the simple yet awesome gameplay, and the amazing attention to detail in both graphics and audio/music all make this game a flat-out joy to play. Ive played through this game a few times, and admittedly havent gotten all the endings yet (still working on that). Even still, there are so many amazing and memorable moments that I dont care how often I see them happen. This is a game for the hardcore RPG fan, and Im proud to call it one of my all-time favorite video games.

Why Journey is One of My Favorite Games Ever

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I stood on the golden sands, gazing towards the sun. My form is of a robed red figure. I walked, the sands shifting underneath my feet, towards the top of a sand dune. In the distance, a bright beam of light beckons, calls out to me. The further up the dune I go, the more the light takes on a shape. Like that of a mountain, I thought. I found myself at the top, the mountain peering down at me, a nothing compared to its majesty. That mountain is my destination on a long, purposeful journey through the desert. What purpose? I would have to figure that out on my own.

Its no surprise, actually, that I love Journey as much as I do. Video games have always owned a part of my soul. Their enticing stories, addicting gameplay, and jaw-dropping presentation (well, for some games, anyway) all converge into a wonderful experience. Journey, however, only has the presentation down. The narrative is sparse, and the gameplay is nothing spectacular. So with that logic in mind, why do I dare say that Journey is one of my favorites after playing it fairly recently? Well, its simple: its just that damn beautiful.

The scene I described earlier is the first moment in the game. From then on, you discover just how much more to this game there is. The only controls are these: left stick to move, right stick for camera, X for jump and floating, and circle to create a chirp sound. Simple enough, right? Theres honestly not much more to it. And yet everything is responsive. No hitches, delays, or anything like that. The game controls the way it should, and it works. Floating works by collecting these flying scarves that activate the one around your neck. The more symbols that appear on the scarf, the longer you can float. There are even power-ups that increase the length of the scarf for more air time.

The beauty of this game lies with its overall visual appeal. Each area you find yourself in is surrounded by sand and the remains of what appears to be a lost and ruined city. The game never outright tells you where you are. There are several ruined locations that serve as landmarks of sorts to ease you along its relatively straightforward path. And its a lonely path as well. I was constantly struck by this sense of desolation, as though I were the last living being in this desert wasteland. And yet something drove me towards the mountain in the distance. What was it, I wondered? Was it my kinds salvation of sorts? Or was it the final destination? I wouldnt know until I reached it. The stone tablets I occasionally found gave little pictures that told their own story, though they were incredibly vague and open to all sorts of interpretation.

The vastness of the world is deceptive. It appears as though you can go anywhere you wish to go, regardless of where the path wanted you to truly go. However, you accomplish nothing except finding more power-ups for the scarf and getting to see more of the world youre in, which isnt a bad thing at all. I oftentimes caught myself sitting down and looking into the distance, seeing the sands blowing in the wind, which also buries the trails I left behind. By the way, whoever designed the uncanny sand physics in this game deserves an award.

This emptiness is only accented by the sounds and the musical score. Its funny though; I almost cant call it a score in a way. It feels more like a symphony with several movements. The music swells as you discover more of the magic the world has to offer, rests and relaxes as you take your time, and even delights as you slide down past broken parts of the city in one of the more majestic moments of the game. No musical score in a video game has ever filled me with so many emotions all at once without a silent break in between. Delight, isolation, downright fear, and wonderment all at once, and I regretted nothing throughout, even the tears I occasionally shed at the wonder of it all.

However, it turned out I wasnt as alone as I thought I was. Lo and behold, as I continued my adventure, I saw a figure in the distance. Being that this was a desert, I took it for a possible mirage. It couldve been a psychological trick that wouldve heightened the emotional intensity of the game, strong as it already was. However, the close I got, the more the figure took on shape. It lookeda lot like me, garbed in red and everything. The smile that burst through my face couldnt be held back. All this time throughout the game, I thought Id be alone, but it looked as though I would have company for the rest of my trek.

I moved to greet the figure, figuring Id communicate using the chirp feature I had, up until then, only used on the floating scarves. I chirped at them, and felt my body tingle the moment they chirped back. I chirped again, they responded in kind. I decided to chirp louder by holding the button down longer, and expanded the bubble of effect I had. What I witnessed took me by surprise. Their scarf, which was about as empty as can be, had suddenly gained symbols once more, without the aid of the flying scarves. I chirped again at them, and more symbols appeared to fill the remaining space. They did the same for me, with my own scarf gaining more symbols for flying around.

We got closer to each other, and both our bodies instantly began glowing. I had to catch my breath when this happened. When either of us flew and then got close again, we found we were helping each other fill up the scarf power. Our means of communication brought us stronger, yet companionship seemed like a life bond that held our power within the spirit. What a way to cooperate, huh?

We continued along the path, eventually coming across another expanse of desert. Cloth dragons dotted the landscape, and we found we could ride them to the next landmark, which held a darker hue then the rest of the game. This is where we parted ways, my companion and I, and I found myself with the same isolated feeling once more.

There were checkpoints that told the story of a game in chapters, only they were just as vague as the stone tablets. However, the cutscene stories play out a much darker fate for the red robed figures, as told by the white robed figures. It was the rise and fall of the entire civilization, which only increased the lonely sensation. Everything pointed to the entire population either leaving off to die or being killed off by something sinister that they created. I even face those sinister beings as I continue, and whats worse is that they take my scarf and make it smaller with each hit. I never die, but my power decreases with every hit.

Moving along in the story takes you to places where so much happens and fills you with this sense of just pure awe. An ocean of light fills a room to where you can fly as long as you feel like; dark tunnels lead towards dangerous foes, and yet have a brilliant calming feeling at the same time. All lead up to a snow-filled region where your powers have diminished and you can barely survive, even if you have companions nearby.

By the time you reach the ending, which I wont spoil, youre left feeling immensely satisfied with the entire experience. Seeing what happens and how it happens is marvelous. Even more amazing is what I found out later after the credits rolled. A list of PSN account names popped up, and it showed me all the people I traveled with throughout the game, even though their names were never given within the game. Multiplayer thats subtle, non-competitive, and still makes you feel lonely? I never in my life have seen such a thing, and it made me appreciate the game that much more.

Overall, Journey left me in such an emotional state that I couldnt recover for at least the next hour after I completed it. Itll take roughly three to four hours to complete the game, and yet the amazing sensations you feel are all the more reason to play it again and again. While it may not be much in the way of gameplay, story, or initial appeal, its a truly emotional gaming experience. Its just another reason why video games should be considered a new art form. Its one of those games you have to try out at least once. And Im glad to add it to my favorite games list because of it.

Mega Man X in 3D Done Right

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Mega Man X was a wonderful series. It was original, action-packed, and a great sequel to the classic Mega Man. However, Capcom has decided to take the series away from people, claiming there?s not a large enough fan base to make any more sequels. If you consider the games from Mega Man X6 on, it?s not hard to tell why Capcom made this decision. People weren?t happy with the end result of these video games. X6?s level design was difficult to navigate, X7?s gameplay style and visuals were frustrating and annoying, and Command Mission was?a turn-based RPG, which goes against everything that made the series? gameplay great. I leave X8 out because that actually had ideas that could make this series work. It was the side-scrolling and the confusing level navigation that led me to think that something more was needed in this series.

I?ve always wanted Mega Man X to be a 3D action platform game like it?s cousin series Mega Man Legends. Although the game?s side-scrolling nature brings a nostalgic feeling towards fans of the series, I feel that bringing a 3D perspective to the game?as per the example of Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time?will give the Mega Man X series a fresh breath of much needed air.

My ideas for making such a game possible are as follows. Please understand I?m not a game designer, so most of my ideas are personal theories on how to improve the gameplay and story of Mega Man X. So here they are:

  1. A Brand New Villain
    1. Sigma was a staple of the X series since its inception. However, his ability to stay alive even after X blasted his head off on more than one occasion has left me feeling weary. What they did with Mega Man X8 was *SPOILER* introduce a new villain into the mix, even if it was near the end (a frustrating move that only films seem capable of doing right). Command Mission actually did one thing right by adding a new villain into the mix that doesn?t somehow relate to Sigma at the end. This formula could be a possible tie-in to a story set after the events of the Sigma Wars (as I call them).
    2. If Sigma does manage to stay the villain, put more emphasis on his vague backstory. Give us audio, text, or video logs (or anything similar) depicting the events surrounding Sigma?s turn from hunter to maverick. Give us more of a reason to respect this highly persistent foe.

  1. 3D Exploration
    1. The world of Mega Man X is a great use of sci-fi backdrops and motifs, such as the Laws of Robotics. However, not enough of it is seen or experienced. It suffers from the ?it happened off-screen? syndrome, which hinders a deeper connection with the world and its characters. Give players the option to explore the Maverick Hunter?s HQ, the unnamed cities that X and his partners explore all the time or even just towns to have people talk and give more background into this world.
    2. Bring in some deeper themes, such as discrimination against reploids (the freethinking human-like robots built after X), politics involving robotic rights, and even the effects of overpopulation due to the increased number of free-willed people and machines. These would be welcome changes to the Mega Man X fans know and love.
    3. Have Hunter HQ be the primary starting point for every mission, save for the ever present intro stage. You can roam around the area and the surrounding city, but boss stages have to be accessed through the command center. Shops around HQ will be available, as well as training arenas to enhance your abilities. Completing training challenges will also yield bonuses.
    4. Use a mini-map to navigate the various levels in the game. You can bring up the actual map by pressing on one of the D-pad buttons. This feature makes things less frustrating that way when navigating a new area without a map.
    5. Navigation should be simple enough for the main characters to get through with jumps, wall climbing and dashes, but include challenges for whatever ability is unique to the character. For instance, Zero is the strongest of the group, so using him to take down barriers and tougher enemies might be useful. Axl can hover for a short time, so he can be used to cross large gaps. His copy ability can also be used to perform stealth missions. X has the largest arsenal (weapons and armor included) and longest range, so he can be used to take out annoying swarms of enemies, such as flying types and armored foes.

  1. 3D Gameplay
    1. Controls should be the same as the previous side-scrolling installments on the PlayStation consoles?using X to jump, O to dash, [] to fire, all that good stuff?with similar mapping on the Xbox 360. The L2 button can be used as a targeting function similar to The Legend of Zelda, where the characters can strafe around enemies while firing and maintaining a safe distance (Zero can use a hack-and-slash style, but targeting keeps his focus on one enemy at a time if needed). Weapon upgrades for the three main characters X, Zero, and Axl should not be so hard to navigate through and should not have to take seven centuries to find. What I propose is the following: a weapon wheel for X and Axl?s guns (that pauses gameplay as you make a selection), and a moves list for Zero?s saber. This allows for quicker selection of weapons when in the heat of battle.
    2. Players should have the ability to switch between all three characters. Limiting people to just two characters every time you go into a new level just holds back chances for exploration and getting through tougher obstacles. Use them as either a party of three or as solo missions where you can switch at any moment in the level. A simple button press (the Select button, for instance) can switch instantly between characters. If one should fall in combat, take them to a recharge station (save points) found across the map, or collect specific energy pellets that replenishes team members.
    3. X controls much like Mega Man from the Legends series does, only with better targeting and jumping abilities, along with smoother animations. He and the others can climb walls as well. His targeting can be done at a certain distance, which will vary with each weapon he obtains from bosses. Due to his armor capabilities and his massive arsenal, X would be the best choice for taking out numerous enemies if the group is being overwhelmed, since his arsenal and high level of defense make up for his low strength.
    4. X Upgrades: armor upgrades for X can be found in various areas of the levels. X can also switch between armor sets he?s completed with a press of the Triangle button (which is almost never used). Each armor upgrade can use a different super attack, which can be accessed by collecting certain rare power up that fills something called the LP (Limitless Potential) meter. When activated, a timer shows up that gives the player about ten to fifteen seconds to execute the attack. For X?s normal armor suit (which is obtained through story elements), there are two main power attacks. The Nova Strike allows X to input similar commands as Zero to execute powerful melee attacks. The Giga Attack is an energy-firing frenzy, using the action buttons to fire off different forms of energy blasts while X moves in a strafing pattern.
    5. Zero can input commands similar to hack-and-slash games like God of War or Devil May Cry. Defeating bosses gives him new moves like in previous installments. He can also guard if the L1 or R1 (take your pick) is held down while targeting. His high level of strength allows him to pick up certain items (and enemies) and toss them towards targeted foes or obstacles, though at the price of speed. Zero can also obtain various weapons as in Mega Man X8, such as a bladed lance, Sigma?s blade (unlock), and many others. These weapons will go on Zero?s weapon wheel.
    6. Axl will play similarly to X, with hovering and copying certain enemies being the exceptions. He?ll be the fastest of the bunch due to his lighter and smaller frame. His agility allows him to climb higher and faster, as well as dash faster, though at a shorter distance. His defense will suffer greatly for this, but the other elements make up for it. His copy ability will only work if enough info is collected on his copy target. After that, he will be able to transform any time after the initial transformation and usage (some story missions could require it). Weapons will be similar to X, but limited to bullet abilities. Weapon wheel reserved more for copy ability than anything else.

  1. Additional Content
    1. Side quests would be invasive in Mega Man X. Instead, have there be challenges for each character, such as combo strings, killing certain types of enemies, and so on. These not only give the player more money, but it will also allow them to unlock hidden armor sets and add-ons.
    2. Implement the X8 formula of using money to buy perks, such as more HP, buying weapons, and special abilities, like auto-charge for X, extra combos for Zero, and more copy possibilities for Axl. Things like Sub Tanks (for additional health and weapon energy) and Heart Containers (increases overall HP) still have to be found throughout the levels of the game.
    3. Training simulators must include platforming challenges (time attack, for instance), combat training (combo breaking, time attack, survival), and stealth training for Axl (time attack, shortest route).
    4. Game logs can be accessed at any time at HQ to review mission status, story, and codex of the world.