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Asagea_888 Blog

There's a Dragon in my Crown

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It took two years, but Dragon's Crown has finally been released, and I managed to snag my reserve the moment it became available.  I tend to think of Dragon's Crown as being one of the industry's little miracles -- a game that almost never got to see the light of day because a previous publisher (UTV Ignition Entertainment) pulled a Phil Fish (translation: abandoned the game industry) before Atlus stepped in to help.  Were it not for Atlus, Dragon's Crown would have been as good as cancelled.  I hope someone will return the favor to Atlus in their time of need. 

GameSpot gave Dragon's Crown a favorable review, but one thing that surprised me was a complaint regarding the character designs and illustrations, which they deemed potentially offensive and akin to "softcore porn".  While I think such a claim is an overexaggeration, it is somewhat understandable when you consider the Sorceress and all the controversy surrounding her ridiculously oversized breasts.  Still though, "softcore porn" is taking things a little too far.  I'll tell you this--I've been playing Dragon's Crown almost religiously since picking it up, and I've seen the illustrations up close.  Those things pale in relative comparison to the content I've seen in games like Catherine, God of War or the Witcher, which actually depict, more or less, intercourse and even full-on nudity.  God of War even had a sex mini-game, and GS did not seem to complain about the issue in their review.

Maybe this is because Dragon's Crown is a T-rated game, or perhaps it is the expressed opinion of a particular reviewer, but it's hard not to see just a slight hint of a double-standard.  I say this because the video review of Dragon's Crown proudly showcases various examples of suggestive illustrations seen in the game before levelling their obvious complaint of it being "softcore porn."  It's also worth noting that brutal, explicit violence doesn't seem to be a issue with GS much either, if at all.  I can recall a particular GS review for Hotline Miami 2 in which they affectionately tout the game as a "glorious celebration of violence."  I am not sure where they were going with that, but to me, that sends a wrong impression that GS is "celebrating" something that is obviously one of the biggest problems we face in society.  Just like "softcore porn".

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Look, I don't know about you, but a busty Sorceress neither bothers me nor does it allure me.  If anything is going to get me excited, it is the gameplay, and Dragon's Crown nails it.  The game is a throwback to old-school beat-em ups; games I've personally played and loved in the past.  King of Dragons, Knights of the Round, Golden Axe, Dungeons and Dragons Arcade -- these are just some of the influences that drive the mettle of Dragon's Crown.  The artwork is absolutely beautiful in high-def -- not since Legend of Mana or Muramasa: the Demon Blade have I ever been so entranced by the haunting, painterly beauty of a gaming landscape.  Apart from that, Dragon's Crown is simple to learn, difficult to master and a ton of fun to plow through with each of the game's six classes.  They're far from cookie-cutters---each class has their own individual skill set, feel and attack methodry that set them apart from one another, and certainly makes for some interesting replay sessions.  I like how you can edit your own messages for each character, but these are likely for the online portion of the game---which you do not unlock until way later.  It sounds strange, but when you think about it, it makes sense.  The game wants players to have some experience in the single-player portion before it allows them to play with others online.  Local multiplayer is available at the start, and you can create up to sixteen characters.

I'm playing the Elf as of this writing.  She's recommended for expert players, and I'm not an expert player by any means (not yet anyway).  As I said, the game is easy to learn, so it doesn't matter which class you start with; although the Fighter and the Amazon are good choices for starters who want to get their feet wet.

Anyhow, I hope to have more Dragon's Crown impressions in the future.  Current gen isn't going anywhere yet.  I may be holding off on the PS4 and XBox One, but I still have plenty of PS3/360 gaming to do---even if it takes me through 2014 to do it!

Food for Thought: An IP Nintendo should reconsider

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I've been reading up on "Shadow of the Eternals", an upcoming release that's not only a spiritual successor to Eternal Darkness on the GameCube, but one of several crowd-funded Kickstarter projects we've been seeing a lot more of these days.  The game is being developed by Precursor Games with creative advisory from Denis Dyack of Silicon Knights---the team behind Eternal Darkness.  If all goes according to plan, Shadow of the Eternals will see the light of day on the Wii U and PC (either as a digital download or a retail release) sometime this Fall.

Here's the interesting bit on Shadow of the Eternals.  As I mentioned earlier, the game is being touted as the spiritual follow-up to Eternal Darkness on the GameCube; quite possibly one of the scariest video games ever made.  The kicker here is that Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem could have been a successful Nintendo intellectual property.  Aside from being a survival-horror title, the game introduced a radically-inventive narrative framework (playing twelve characters across twelve time periods) and a groundbreaking Sanity Meter system. It was also notable for being one of very few Nintendo first-party games to receive a Mature rating.  Unfortunately, Eternal Darkness wasn't a commercial success despite praise from critics, and Nintendo has since all but completely abandoned it.   In the years that followed, however, Eternal Darkness achieved a cult following of sorts, which likely lead to the birth of Shadow of the Eternals.  That said, this Kickstarter darling has renewed interest in a game that, had things been different, could have been a successful franchise for Nintendo.  Yet, one question remains.  Is it too late for them to try again?  Would they want to?

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The Wii U is undoubtedly hurting, so it goes without saying that one of the best possible strategies for Nintendo to consider is developing new IPs that will ignite interest among hardcore gamers who aren't exactly dedicated Nintendo fans.  If Nintendo hopes to expand its horizons, they've got to open a line of communication to the vast majority of hardcore gamers and prove that they're more than just a kid-friendly, family-oriented game company.   Eternal Darkness could be something they can look into.  Shadow of the Eternals can only go so far as be a spiritual successor because Nintendo still holds the patents for Eternal Darkness and its Sanity Meter system.  Even more intriguing, Precursor Games has gone on record claiming Nintendo is highly supportive of the project. 

But being supportive doesn't necessarily mean they're giving them any right to develop a direct Eternal Darkness sequel.  Yet, should Shadow of the Eternals do well beyond its modest expectations, people that remember Eternal Darkness will want to look into it and take notice.  If Operation Rainfall can convince them to listen to dedicated gamers, perhaps Eternal Darkness has hope for a second wind.

Something Nintendo themselves should think about.  What do you think?

Thirty Five years young

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So, today I am thirty five years young.  Although I still have a long way to go before arthritis and the retirement home, it's safe to say that the fleeting fruits of an innocent youth are long behind me.  However, the fruits of life are still fresh, and I have so many other things to check off my bucket list. 

In only a few short days, I'll also mark my fifth year anniversary as a member of GameSpot.  This is a place where I can hide behind a Terra Branford avatar and talk about video games.  I've also been blessed, and cursed, to have a username that I've long abhorred since the day I chose it -- for reasons far beyond my own understanding. Asagea_888 doesn't have any meaning whatsoever---except when you want to create a character for an MMORPG, then it's suitably fine.  Hell, I don't even care if you plagiarize it and not give me credit.    But,the name has since grown on me -- in a rather weird way -- and I've long since adandoned my desire to get it changed.  Not that you could anyway!  Fortunately, most of you already know that I'm really a 35 year old Asian-American male from California, and that the Terra avatar is really just a shout-out to one of my all-time favorite Super NES RPGs -- Final Fantasy VI.  For those that don't know that bit of info yet......surprise?

Anyway, in the days leading up to my birthday, I've been catching up on Comic Con---not for the movies or the TV shows, but for the games.  Don't get me wrong -- I'm excited about the Avengers 2, the Superman/Batman crossover film, S.H.I.E.L.D., the Walking Dead and that incredibly sexy Peter Dinklage.  Yet, Comic Con isn't generally known for showcasing new video games because it ain't necessarily E3 or CES, but there are times when industry luminaries like Capcom and EA showcase a couple of new titles.  Strider was a big surprise in my opinion, but I'll discuss that and Comic Con in another blog.

Even at thirty five years of age, I'm going through major evolutions in my own life that may take me away from GameSpot and video games for major periods, but I always come back.  Of course, as much as I love being a gamer, I know that I won't be a gamer forever.  Until that time comes, I'll enjoy what I have while it's still exciting and fun.  Fortunately, the gaming industry, in spite of its problems, hasn't died on me just yet.

Live long and prosper, everyone!

5-second blog: The Twinkie reboot

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Rejoice.....one of my favorite snack foods has been spared a fate worse than death.  To celebrate, I went out and bought one today at a convenience store.  This new Twinkie, however, is smaller in size, but with less calories and an extended shelf life.  Creme on my face never felt so good.

Confessions of a Gamer: My real thoughts on the Wii U

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In my previous blog, I hinted at my feelings about the Wii U, a console I've owned since last year, yet haven't touched upon in many months.   Well, there's a reason for that.  I've got a confession to make -- the Wii U has been a disappointment for me.  

In fact, the Wii U has been a let-down overall.  I mean, let's call it like it is.  Yes, it has had its minor successes, but the general consensus has been relatively unfavorable.  It was supposed to have been a console that, according to the official website, promised to "change the way you experience entertainment." All the Wii U ended up doing was changing Nintendo's fortunes for the considerable worse. For me, I wanted to justify my decision in getting the thing on launch day.  I made every attempt to enjoy games like NintendoLand, Epic Mickey 2 and even Tank! Tank! Tank! And while Nintendoland was a nice distraction, it was essentially no different from the mini-games you can find on the original Wii.  At the very least, New Super Mario Bros. U was the only solid launch title that I truly enjoyed.  However, it was only that one game and little else.  I found that I didn't have an interest in getting Wii U ports of Darksiders 2, Arkham City or Ninja Gaiden 3 because I already had those games on other platforms.  The added GamePad functionality was purely a gimmick for those particular games.

Nintendo did the right thing in moving forward with the Wii U.  But it did so with poorly-planned execution that baffled investors and alienated most third-party publishers.  With the Wii U hardware itself, Nintendo cut a lot of corners to make the thing affordable, but in doing so, it compromised any potential of putting it on par with a PS3 and XBOX 360 performance-wise.  This is why you see a lot of frame-rate and loading problems with existing games like Mass Effect 3 and Darksiders 2, which perform better on existing consoles.   Few people were impressed with the GamePad because Nintendo did a better job explaining it than they did selling it, and many of the third-party launch titles did not extensively make the most intelligent use of its functionality apart from utter gameplay convenience.  Throw in a disappointing sale record of just over 3 million units worldwide, and it's a small wonder why third-party publishers are distancing themselves from the console---even those who were once supportive of it prior to its launch.  Every day, I see at least one GameSpot article about developers skipping Wii U ports of upcoming titles.  The Wii U, for the moment, is not profitable for third-parties.

As of now, Nintendo's changing their battle plan.  They skipped E3 in favor of showcasing their upcoming releases directly to the public via streaming online videos, and we caught glimpses of a new Mario game, the new Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS, the new Pikmin 3, and a new Mario Kart game; among others.  Shigeru Miyamoto hinted at a new IP slated to be announced sometime next year.  Even with most third-parties largely ignoring the Wii U, Nintendo can count on their tentpole franchises to turn a corner and help them keep afloat---even in the face of the upcoming PS4 and XBOX One.  In fact, Mario, Zelda and Samus are likely the only real hope Nintendo's got at this point.

So, is there hope for the Wii U?  I think there is.  But I go into it with cautious optimism, because Nintendo's still got a rough road ahead.  I may be a Nintendo admirer, but I am also a realist.  I'm also a man of faith.  Faith that the Wii U can still be an affable contender even when the Xbox One and PS4 comes steamrolling across the gaming stratosphere.  For now, as with all things, it's a wait and see. 

Thanks for reading, and live long and prosper.

Heeeeeere's Johnny!

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........(evil laugh)  Now that I have your attention! (I LOVE that movie.....)

I've been away for a while as many of you have noticed, so allow me to explain.  I've been going through major life changes.  I'll be moving into my own studio apartment sometime at the end of August, and I'm planning on returning to school to earn a Master's Degree in Illustration (or something similar to that) I'm also very close to landing a full-time job somewhere in the Torrance area.  The transitional period between now and the last time I posted anything here at GS has been nothing short of insane. In other words, I've been fairly busy outside of gaming and GS.  However, I still managed to maintain my gamer's pride, so I can let loose with some nifty updates for this month.  Here's the rundown on everything that has happened in my gaming life thus far.

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---I lamented, and bought another XBOX 360.  A new one.  Hopefully a model that's foolproof.  And I downloaded a game I so BADLY wanted to get since they announced it.....Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystaria, which is basically a compilation of two Capcom arcade games based on the D&D role-playing franchise enjoyed by nerds everywhere.

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---I preordered Pokemon X and Pokemon Y.  Per tradition, I get both games so that I lend one copy to a friend in the hopes of completing our Pokedexes.   For me, getting Pokemon games is like eating a piece of chocolate cake when you're on a diet -- you know you shouldn't do it, but you do it anyway because you think there's no harm in indulging just once.  As many times as I've given up/given into Pokemon, there's a specific charm to these games that I can't seem to ignore, even as a 35 year old.  Of course, I did not pick up Black 2 and White 2 because I felt those games were more of the same, but I have a gut feeling Pokemon X and Y will shake up the franchise in a fairly huge way, and not merely because it's gussied up in 3D like Dragon Quest XIII.

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---I preordered Diablo 3 console version and Batman Arkham Origins for the 360, and Dragon's Crown for the PS3.  I haven't done any pre-ordering in a while, but I did so because I wanted the bonuses.  Diablo 3.....yes, I have it for the PC, but I HATE the mouse-click control scheme.  I guess it's because briefly playing Torchlight has spoiled me into being comfortable with controller input.  For me, it is the preferred way to play.

 

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---I did NOT preorder either the PS4 or the XBox One.  The pre-ordering period has passed.  I don't have any regrets.  I got the Wii U on launch day and that turned out to be a mistake, because the console didn't live up to my expectations.  I cannot say this definitively with the PS4 and XBox One, but I am merely going to wait until more units become readily available.  And usually, they do.  I understand all the excitement over people wanting to get their PS4s and XBox Ones on day one, but really -- patience isn't a bad thing.  I'll likely end up getting the PS4 first.  The XBOX One may also be a consideration, but I'm not all that eager to own that yet.

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---I've decided to give Final Fantasy XIV another shot.  A Realm Reborn looks promising.  It seems to have improved dramatically since its asinine release two years ago, and the producer of this reboot is an avid MMORPG player, so he knows his stuff.  I have faith that FFXIV will turn out great.

---Did I mention I didn't reserve a new console?  And missed out?  Yeah, I suck.  :(

Anyhow, I'm glad to be back on the saddle, even though I never meant to say good-bye in the first place.  Hope everyone is well, and I'll be regularly visiting per usual.

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Oh, and before I sign off, I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Ryan Davis -- co-founder of Giant Bomb and a former member of GameSpot, who passed away a few days ago.  When I first came to this website, he was one of the contributing editors, and I loved reading his game reviews.  He had a great sense of humor, and was totally unique from everyone else. He had this insight on the game industry that couldn't be matched by anyone else.  He'll be sorely missed.  But he left a lasting legacy on this website, on GiantBomb and on the gaming community as a whole, so in spirit, he'll always be with us.

Live long and prosper.

PlayStation 4 quick thoughts

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I'll make this brief.  Just finished watching Sony's press conference.  I couldn't believe it.

No DRM, no restrictions on used games, a cavalcade of interesting exclusives (including Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts 3) and it's $100 cheaper than the XBox One!  I think Sony just launched a major offensive against Microsoft, and consumer reaction has, thus far, been remarkably swift.  However, the only bad thing about the PS4 is that PlayStation Plus will be required for online play, which is similar to the XBox 360's Live subscription service, but for offline single player games, it's not needed.

The console design itself, the one thing I was personally looking forward to seeing, looks uniquely strange, but serviceable.

Sony played their cards right and handily sucker-punched the XBox One like Rocky through Clubber Lang's face, but don't declare the PS4 the automatic victor just yet.  Microsoft has yet to respond to the press conference.  And from the looks of things, they've got a lot of holes to plug in that sinking ship of theirs!

But, in all fairness, I wish both consoles the best success.  For now, it seems, Sony's gained the advantage in this latest war between video game consoles.

People need to lighten up......

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I find it funny that people are in an uproar over GS' review of the Last of Us.  An 8.0 is a very good score and, despite what you may think of Tom McShea, I felt he gave an honest, trite assessment.  Would you have preferred Tom McShea had handed down a 7.0?  Or a 6.0 instead?  I'm sorry, but get over it.   It's only a number.  Opinions are based on personal experiences and shouldn't be representative of the integrity of the overall final product.  You the consumer determine whether or not it was worth the time and money.

I can recall when most people got upset over Bioshock Infinite's 9.0 score, which many had felt deserved a 10.0. 

It's troubling to see people get so worked up over a few numbers.  Numbers can't do anything.  A game's worth is determined by individual experiences and what a gamer gets out of it overall.  If they themselves found the game enjoyable and fun, then a number score can do little, if anything, to diminish that.  It should be noted that the Last of Us is, thus far, receiving universal acclaim from many major publications anyhow.  It already won well over 25 or so awards, including best PlayStation exclusive game of E3.

The Last of Us will be released on Friday, June 14th.  Draw your own conclusions, have fun, and be careful out there.

June Gaming Cookies -- "A One Console Pony"

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June's here, and it's looking to be an eventful month with E3.  The XBox One may have a second shot at redemption here, and the PS4 could FINALLY be revealed in its full form.  E3's about the games, and that's the big seller for me.  Both consoles haven't impressed me beyond fleeting curiosity.  That may change, but it's likely I'm not going to be a two console person this time.  More on that later..... in the meantime, how am I doing in my gaming queue?  Read on!

The Wii may be on its deathbed, but believe or not I'm still getting new games for it.  This one may likely be my last new Wii release to pick up, but I feel it's a good one; Pandora's Tower.  On the surface, it looks like a generic console RPG, but there's a unique charm to it.  A young woman is slowly being transformed by a curse and the game forces the player to defeat thirteen towers to save her as the curse ravages her body.  There are a lot of deep themes associated with the game's story; for example, the young woman, Elena, must literally eat beast flesh (believe me, the cutscenes depicting this are tough to watch!)  to curb the progression of the curse in spite of the fact that her culture is forbidden to eat meat.  What's also interesting to note with Pandora's Tower is the fact that you've got to clear an area within a time limit (and that includes defeating the boss at the end) as the curse transforms Elena in real time, but the game's environments are anything but simple.  Shortcuts are crucial, and so is collecting beast flesh.  Anyway, that's all I can tell you at this point......

Furthermore, I'm getting back into Darksiders 2 again.  I've made substantial progress since the last time I played it and just finished defeating the Guardian.  I'm tackling the PS3 version of the game this time.  The PS3 version's plagued with longer load times compared to the 360 port, but for me, playing it on my PS3 feels right.

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For gaming interests of June outside of the Last of Us (which I am primed to pick up in two weeks) I'm also doing research on Remember Me.  A 7.0 score here at GS isn't bad by any stretch; the common complaint here is that it is "frustratingly linear" when the world is so meticulously crafted that it begs to be fully explored.  Final Fantasy XIII suffered the same issue with linearity in a beautifully realized world.  Still though, I may get this when the price drops.

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Lastly, I'm making major changes to my gaming life.  You've probably noticed that I am starting to port a lot of my 360 games on my PS3.  There's a reason for that -- I've decided to be a one console guy (between Sony and Microsoft, of course)  Having both a 360 and PS3 is great for most, but for me, it's become unnecessary.  Choosing a multi-platform game between consoles is rather pointless when they're both virtually identical; sans some minor differences in performance.  As far as exclusives is concerned, the only notable 360 franchise that gave me interest was Gears of War (Judgment turned out to be a let-down.) I couldn't get into Halo 4, try as I might. And I don't have the time to play video games as much as I want to because my life has gotten a lot busier (I'm lucky to play Darksiders 2 in evenings and sparsely on weekends)   I'll always love the 360 and Microsoft and wish them and its fanbase the utmost success and fun times, and I WON'T be a Sony fanboy.  I'm just a gamer, and I game to have fun.  And right now, I feel I need to be just a one console guy, and I'm quite content with what I have; the PS3.  (matastig will be pleased with me, no doubt.)

Anyhow, that's it from this front.  Keep calm, game on and live long and prosper.

First-person shooter like

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So I think I'm getting slightly better at first-person shooters.  Bioshock was good training apart from the unforgettable experience and, although I'm still getting fragged more often that I would care to admit, I feel as if I'm getting the basics down pat to survive a full fifteen minutes or more.  I only now just need to work on ammo conservation and not haphazardly shooting everything that moves.... and missing my targets 45% of the time.

Of course, I wanted to go further than Bioshock, so I decided to try Resistance. I picked up all three Resistance games for my PS3 a few days ago, and have been playing the original Resistance practically non-stop.  Resistance is certainly an old-school kind of first-person shooter, and nothing like all the third-person shooters I'm a bit more accustomed to.   It's more challenging than Bioshock because the Chimera come in many different flavors and are far more aggressive.  For a PS3 game, Resistance looks a little dated, and understandably so seeing how the game was released around the time of the PS3's first cycle; made even more apparent by the utter lack of Trophy support.  Still though, as of this writing, I'm near the end of the game and hoping to start up Resistance 2.

No leapfrogging this franchise for me.   I didn't want a repeat from Assassin's Creed---even though that game is vastly different in every way from a first-person shooter like Resistance.  Storywise, I want to enjoy the games spoiler-free and, so far, it's pretty intriguing.

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The next game in line for me possibly is Killzone.  I understand there are three games in the series, like Resistance, and almost similar in style and substance.  But Killzone has you shooting soldiers, not aliens, and it's far more grittier.  Even though I do not typically buy first-person shooters on the PS3, these two franchises are solid Sony-exclusives that I couldn't ignore.  A good thing I waited, too, because Killzone's dead-cheap.  If you've played Killzone before and have varying opinions, let me know.  In fact, if you can recommend other good FPSes for either the PS3 or the 360, I'm open to suggestions!

Thanks for reading.  Now it's high time that I finished my business with the Chimera.