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TheTrueMagusX1 Blog

Mixing Gaming and Religion! It Can Work...

Castlevania

When I was a youth playing my NES back in the late 80s and early 90s, I did not realize how much of the games we played were censored to say the least. Was it because I was younger and did not notice? Or Perhaps it was because I did not care to notice and was having to much playing the game at hand.

Wow, my how the world has changed since those early days. Our technology has devloped, our games have grown up, and my religious views have changed. From a boy who was raised by very Catholic grandparents and at one point active in my church, to now a young man who has a very agnostic point of view on religion.

What does censorship though and my views on religion have anything to do with each other? Well its to elaborate the point that religion while covered in many many Japanese games was something that was shied away from on our side of the ocean. We had everything from Crosses to Satanic images were not allowed in their games. Why? Were we afraid of offending some one or were we afraid of just the topic of religion in gaming?

Let us also note that the guidelines themselves contradicted themselves. While religious images were not allowed, there was the exception that Roman gods were allowed. Yes, but why Romans?

To Be honest I really donot know why that was the exception or aside from the point that Nintendo wanted their games to be family friendly. So why is the issue still to some degree to this day not tackled as heavy? Is it the fact that it is such a touchy subject on both sides? Well I donot know why, but what I do know is that the medium itself can handle such a topic. And it can handle it to a degree that explores it in so much depth that it can make one really think about their positions on life. How Do I know this? Because the gaming has already done this, and it did it twelve years ago.

xenogears

Xenogears was released in Japan way back in February of 1998. Eight months later in October of1998 we got this game at our very shores. And be glad we did, because due to the sensitivity of the subject matter handled in this game we almost did not get it.

Now those who are familiar with my Youtube channel will know how much I adore this game. And for those that donot, I adore this game to the point that this game is my favorite of all time. Why? Because like all the games in my top games of all time, like any great form of art it had a very profound effect on me. And that effect was to make me explore my views on religion.

I got this game the day it came out, and I was only fifteen when it did. At that time I was not really sure about religion, more confused about it. For me the game opened up the possibilities that there was more to religion, and that there were view points aside from being in a religious view point.

Of course before we get into the tangent that I was at the rather impressionable age of 15, I have since replayed the game several times and it still has an effect to this day on me. And why is it that this Japanese Roleplaying game of all games should make me reconsider my thoughts on religion?

Well Xenogears, while at the surface may be a story about warring nations, and gaint mechs being used in the conflict, it really becomes a story about faith, identity and the myteries of life. And there is a beauty to Xenogears I feel that the story covers the topic of not only organized religion, but that of the beliefs themselves.

Whats interesting here is how they present it. For example on one hand we have a organization, that is representation of how organized religion can be good to people. It teaches them tolerance and respect. Then on the side of the board we have the religion that blinds people to it. That people take overly granted and force beliefs upon others. It also shows religion can be used to blind and manipulate people to its own end.

What this ultimatley does is it shows two sides of the story. Alot of the time in anything we tend to side only one side and we see that side as either positive or just purely negative. In this game we take the theme of religion and we see it brilliantly handled as something that is powerful. Something like any power is both good and bad, and that religion in itself is not bad or good, its really the people who are.

Also Xenogears also handles the topic of, what if our beliefs are discovered to be true but not exactly the way we think they are? Say the idea that god exists but he is not as we imagined him to be. Or that what we believe seems true at first, but we discover the utlimate truth is quite horrifying.

What Xenogears did to me is show me that there are viewpoints that vary for the view of god and that what we may believe may not be true, but we may also never know. And to me as I got older I developed a view point that is open to any possibilities while living my life to the fullest.

Now I will do a blog someday dedicated to Xenogears alone, there is much to cover in that game. The story alone could be analyzed and dissected to no end. None the less I used Xenogears as an example that gaming can cover such a topic as religion in such a mature manner.

Now while more games are being released that cover the topic of religion, I think there could be more of them. Some games such as Persona 3 are magnificent in its subtle way of handling it, or lets put it out there the whole Shin Megami Tensei games. Other games such as Mass Effect handle the topic of religion in a more social context then rather it being the sole focus of the story. It even at one point has you as a player determine your one beliefs when having a conversation with a character. Or there is a side quest letting you determine if a Hannar preacher is being pushy or simply expressing his beliefs. And it does it in a matter that is rather tricky.

Heck even Halo tackles the topic of religion and shows its negative effects thanks to the ever so villianous convenant. So there are more signs that this topic while again not handled as much as it should, its getting there.

The one thing I have learned though is that no matter our thought processes whether a Theist, Agnostic or Atheist we should always respect each others views on the matter.(Being married to my wife who is a devout christian has taught me this the most).

I think in the end that to me, Videogames are a credible place to express ideas about topics. Like any medium, topics handled in this manner could make it our gaming experiences alot more worth while. So in the end with that guys, Magus Out!

The Different Worlds of East and West Gaming! I Defend Both!

Guile

Its kind of funny when I look at my game collection and see the variety of games that greet me. I will look at the shooters and see Modern Warfare 2, Bad Company 2, Killzone2, Halo, and various others there(A good mix of WWII Shooters are there as well.), and then I will look at elsewhere and see the action games like your God of Wars and Dead risings. Then I look further in my collection and I see the more quirky games out there. I see my Shin Megami Tensei games and then I look further and I see the Atelier games, the Ar Tornelico games, the Disgaeas, and various otehr JRPGs. In the mix of course are the more known JRPGs as well such as your Final Fantasies, Dragon Quests, Star Oceans, or Tales games in the loop. At this point I realize something funny...

I love all these games equally and donot just prefer one genre or in this case one different cultural boundaries I could say. And the reasons why I enjoy each of these games in the first place are for various reasons. If I want a good match of say Street Fighter, I will pop in Street Fighter IV and duel it online. Need a quick adrenaline rush? Pop in a shooter and take it online as well. Want a quirky odd little game? Play say Altier Rorona. I want Bloody Fun? Gears of War or Dead Rising 2.

Now the point I am making is that for me personally I enjoy most genres of games(Not a big fan of realistic racing games or Sports). Though I do understand that there are those who prefer say different games over the other, genres, or even west or east over each other. The point I am trying to make here is that I feel that there are some unfair stereotypes on both sides of the fence. This blog is basically my thoughts on this particular matter.

Now the Eastern side of things, there is an unfair stereotype where we assume all JRPGs are stupid cliche games with girly men that wield giant swords and save the world. I think that is a silly and very very misrepresented argument. Now I will admit that JRPGs have their shares of cliches, such as the princess in disguise or tragic villain. Though to me its the execution that works as opposed to the idea. I find often times that some of these "cliche" ideas while they have been re used over and over, are executed better in some games, and in others they are not executed well. A game say like Tales of Vesperia used this idea in a pretty fun way, but there are others where it was just lazily used. And also saying that cliches are only in JRPGs is rather unfair to say the least. I love my Western Games but they also have their share of cliches....

Also I think that there are some very unique JRPGs out that do not get that attention. The common complaint is the JRPG is exactly same. This means that the games are the same in Plot, gameplay or structure. That is purely untrue for there are games such as Persona 3 and 4, Atelier Rorona, Demon Souls(yes an action rpg technically but works well in this context), Disgaea(Yes an SRPG, but the same in this context as well), Ar Tornelico, and others that break away from these so called standard set in JRPGs. But these games rarely get attention in the first place, nor do they even get considered for being different. Atelier Rorona is about keeping your store from shutting down, Demon Souls(which is the only one that gets mentioned for being different) implements a very unique online system of play, Disgaeas are comedies to say the least, and the Persona games are dark, Urban Fantasies. Quite different then the stereotypical Airship world saving games the genre gets pinned down for(Those games in themselves are not bad either, again depends on execution).

The last aspect that bothers me about this is that in the last year or so, there has been an outpouring of criticism over the Japanese gaming industry, from both people in it and outside of it. Bioware said that FFXIII was not a true RPG(it was a different type) and even those inside it said that Japan was five years behind. Well...


I think the main thing at least on our side of the ocean that a lot of people do not understand is that well Japanese games are a different culture in themselves. Japanese gamers do not like what we like. For Example Shooters are not popular in Japan, but Horse Racing Sims are. When was the last time I played a Horse Racing Sim? None, cause they do not really get released here, but that's what they like over in japan. The fact of the matter is that the games from Japan are different because its a different culture. And a different culture will polarize some. Than some may not like it because they do not like that type of game. That's fine, but that does not make the game bad per se. Its just that we do not prefer that type of game.

Now to close out my arguments on the Eastern side of things, I was thinking of how prevelant Japanese gaming was back in the NES days or the 16 bit days. Those days the games were as quirky and odd as all can be. Those games had obvious cultural difference, but the reason we did not notice back then was that western developers were not prevelant on consoles in those days(PC gaming is a whole different story.)

With that said let us head back to our side of the world and defend the Western Game. Yes, despite the popularity of the western game there are those that feel that western games are destroying the old ways. So with that comes some common misconceptions about the western game that are well as I said with the Japanese gaming market that are just misrepresented.

For me the most annoying is that the stereotype that in western gaming we get nothing but shooters. Or that we are over saturated with shooters, which I feel is greatly untrue. I think the real problem with that is that they get the most attention in the Gaming media, and other games are relegated to the back burner. So that's why we get this misconception but lets put in this perspective. This holiday season we already got Halo Reach, later this month we get Medal of Honor. In the beggining of November we get Call of Duty: Black Ops. OK that's three, and they do get alot of attention for various reason, but this fall we also got Castlevania Lords of Shadow(Developed by a Western Developer), Dead Rising 2(Same situation there), Fable 3, Fallout New Vegas(Has some shooter mechanics, but the mechanics are made mostly of RPG mechanics), and Enslaved. These none shooter games greatly out weigh the shooter games, and let us not forget the number of Indie games and hand held games that outweigh these more hyped Shooter releases. So with that I think there is a greater variety then what some think.

There is also another negative stigma that some associate with the Western Game. Similar to the spiky haired protagonist stereo type that plagues JRPGs, there is the muscle bound Arnold stereotype that plagues the Western game. Like the JRPG stigma, its an excuse for those that want to bash on the western game but its far from true. Characters like the weary, tired John Marston, the Shady Niko Belic, the cast of Heavy Rain from various sizes and even gender, the brooding Cole, and even the loveable Sack Boy proves that there is great variety in its Character design. These characters donot fall into that stereotype.

Now yes the imposing Arnold type figure is used. But in the context this figure is used it works. Master Chief, Marcus Fenix, and Duke Nukem are the epitome of this image, of this macho man, but the thing is that they are neccesary for the game they used. For in the context that these characters games are set in, you have to have that image as a one man wrecking machine because thats what the game is design to do. But that figure would not work in say...Infamous, for Cole's(I know some did not like it) design of a coureir forced into this fantastic situation works in context of what that game was. A unlikely man getting power deciding to use it for the greater evil or the greater good. A macho figure would not work for this game.Its in the context that it makes sense.

Another stigma I see again is that these games again are dark and macho. Now I mentioned in my argument for the eastern game that those games are known for quirky and odd titles. Let us not forget that this is very very true in the west. We have our shares of odd, and quirky little games on this side of the ocean...and we do not really see these games get much attention. We just see the shooters that are hyped. So when some one attacks western games in this manner, they seem to forget games like your Braids, Castle Crashes, Death Spanks, Costume Quests, Limbo, Peggles, and Cloning Clydes. These games are all very different then what we associate the stereotypical dark image that the western game begets.

Now before I close this, I thought that the image for this article Guile would be perfect for the subject at him. He is an American character created in Japan, the ultimate amalgram for this particular issue. So I thought I would explain that...

Though despite my off shot talk about Guile I think that in the end, we should understand that like anything else in life, gaming is prone to its own stereotypes that can be proved false. Now I understand that one may prefer western over eastern type games, or vice versa and that's fine. However I do not think its unfair to place these stereotypes on either type because quite frankly they are not true. For me as a gamer I enjoy both types of games tremendously. I love my western games and I love my Japanese games all for different reasons. And that's the beauty about games or movies. When you choose genres or in the case say film and watch say a French film and admire it for what it is, its the different in its own way. I respect each type for what it is and for that I do not like these stereotypes at all.

So if you agree or disagree with me let me know. I know its a long blog but I had alot to say about this subject. I still do to be honest. I hope you guys enjoyed this blog and with that guys... and as I say on my Youtube Channel, Magus out!

Alchemy, Zombies, Space Marines, and Teenage Kids in Shibuya!

Atelier Rorona

The last couple of weeks have been pretty hectic to say the least. With college in full swing and the home work getting crazier to say the least, a four year old Son, and helping my wife with her college, there was not much time for gaming. But the last two days though changed and I had some time surprisingly so. And with that I was able to get some gaming in, and hope to have a few more free days. None the less, I got this weeks big release Dead Rising 2, along with the sleeper title Atelier Rorona. And add to the fact that I have Castlevania and Final Fantasy Four Heroes of Light next week along with Medal of Honor, Fallout New Vegas, Lufia 2, Fable 3, in the coming weeks I may have a growing back long. And that does not include Golden Sun and Assassins Creed Brotherhood in November either. None the less, enough about my rant on not having time and so many games...lets talk about my thoughts on what I am currently playing.

Halo Reach

So I have had Halo Reach since the day it launched, but the problem of course was time. So last night I was finally able to complete the Campaign. Lets also add as this is Bungies final Halo game, they went out with a bang. They were able to do a very competent and interesting prequel to their series with out adding plot holes(George Lucas I am looking right at you for that one) and deriding from the series cannon in general.

I know some of you guys donot like Halo, and thats cool by me, but I am a huge fan of this franchise and to me this is the finest Halo Game of them all. And the one thing that they did right was competent and just plain out great level design, which is something that earlier games seemingly lacked. The Original Halo I know is considered a masterpiece, and thats fine. But for me, the original game had a serious flaw, and that was the repetitious design of the levels in the later part of the game. It felt like a chore playing through those parts and I just got tired of that part up till the end of Halo where you must destroy the Halo, and escape. None the less that game had a serious flaws, and Halo 2 and Halo 3 while I thought were better in that sense still suffered from Repititious design at parts. Halo Reach though on the other hand did not have this problem. Bungie mixed it up quite a bit in this game, puting you in different situations with diffferent weapons. And for that I commend you. Also a balanced and just well made multiplayer conponent that is just plain out fun adds to the game. As for the annoying twelve year olds, or the angry and bitter thirty year olds, I just play with my head set plugged in but not on my head. Thats when I am not playing with friends.

I will probably do a review of this game down the line but thats my thoughts, now let us move on to something a bit different...

Zombies

Alright so I got this as well this week, and I gotta say played a bit, but not enough. I only got Chuck leveled up to level 2, and only fought the first bosses or psychopaths if you prefer. The fact of the matter is that from what I played this game lives up to the potential that the first had. For example, I had to rescue some one which if you played the first game was not fun as you were dealing with a group of brain dead lemmings that ran over the poverbial cliff. In this game, I saved some one and they listened to me. They LISTENED TO ME! Thats amazing huh, and she never felt overbearing in the least. Good Pharmacist lady, good!

In all seriousness it retains what made the first game better but retains its best elements. You got multiple save slots, a friend of mine who does not have a hd tv tells me the text is readable(in the first this was not the case.) and that the level system worked out quite well. Also the game opens with a rather fun vehicle sequence that sets up the stage for the fun. So far so good, but need more time to make sure my arguments for the game stand.

Rorona

Atelier Rorona for me is going to be the ultimate Sleeper game that no one cares about. Interesting that was true enough at my gamestop as I was the only one who preordered the damn game. None the less, this game is just plain out fun, and its a nice quirky little title.

The games story is fun, and its fun in a light way. After an amazing epic year of gaming to say the least, alot of the games that are going to be on my best list, i.e Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect 2, Heavy Rain, and others were darker games. But Rorona in this darker world gives me a welcome addition to my PS3 library that is just fun. A cast of characters that I like and enjoy, and a story thats enjoyable that I want to find out whats next but its still fun to be had.

Now while the story which is about Rorona and her quest to keep her story from being shut down by the king, and dealing with her incompetent and lazy boss, is fun, the gameplay helps this fun story shine. Instead of just going town to town fighting monsters to save teh world, you got various forests or ruins to collect items, and fight monsters for Self Defense. Now while you do spend some time traversing fields and dungeons, you do spend alot of time working at your work shop.

So in all honesty this fun little quirky game is a favorite of mine at the moment. Now to the last game...

Neku

Ok so let me get the gushing out of the way first....


I love love love this game, I love the world ends with you. Amazing story, excellent gameplay, fantastic looking graphics, and great urban soundtrack.

Ok lets now be a bit more logical, but my previous gushing sentiments how I feel about this game. This is the game I have spent the most as that it is the game that I play before school betweenlessons and even at home. I have spent a long time with this game, I am sure over the 6o hour mark and not even completed with the main story yet. No another day or secret files yet. Those will come. But none the less this game is older yes, but I finally discovered it and I am utterly blown away by this game which I consider to be one of the best games in the DS library

I love how combat and everything is controlled by the stylus. The combat is fun and furious but that is where the only downfall of this game comes from. I feel the controls can at times be a bit unresponsive or do another attack you donot want to but mind you this is an occasional issue and really is not a big deal for the most part.

The story and the setting really are strong for this game as well. The story which has a heavy super natural element and thus for me is an urban fantasy is unique. We really delve into the minds of the characters, such as Neku, Joshua, Shiki, and Beat, which you come to care for. I care for these characters, these kids who are in this rather unfortunate situation. The urban setting is also cool, and gives you a heavy feel of urban. The soundtrack mixed with pop and rap really helps give this game the urban atmosphere it deserves.

None the less thats what I am playing at the moment and though I would share these with you guys. I know its an odd mix of games, but I am a guy who loves obscure JRPGs, to the big shooters. I love everything except realistic racing sims(Gran Turismo) and sports title. So thats my mix bag at the moment and see ya guys next blog

The Wonderful World of The Arcade

Arcade

How I love the loud, digital ringing sounds that surround me when I enter the arcade. From the dinging of a pinball machines, to goofy circus music that plays at ticket games like ski balls. Then comes the loud sounds of machine gun fire from a light machine gun game, to the revving of engines and speeding cars. The grunts and battle cries of street fighters or Mortal Kombatants can be heard over the sound of Pacmen eating their way to victory. It is an overwhelming collection of sounds, but one that is quite delectable.

Yes, I still love the arcade. Always have and always will. Why? Because while I love the long gaming sesions I can have at home, the quick ones as well, or even those on my handheld the arcade is still a rather special place. Playing a game there gives you a sense of energy since its a more, chaotic and wonderful energized place. I can play say a fighting game there, and it feels different as opposed to playing it at home. Its just different, not better then the other, but different and for that I love the arcade.

It is sad to see the state of arcades here in the United States. There are not as many of them, and some of them are kiddified to the point of nausea, but fortunatley there are still some good arcades left. And while they are in decline, I want to urge fellow gamers to visit any good arcade you can. Yes its still worth visiting the arcade, a good one that is, but thats easier said then done though.

I am lucky to say the least, I have an arcade in my town that has been opened since the seventies. Yes, it went through well two name changes, but its still the same place. Littered with old school games, and some newer games, its a place I like to visit in my local mall(Conveniently one store down from the Gamestop I regualrly visit.). And the arcade luckily enoguh gets plenty of visitors there, from Fighting game afficianados to Kids wanting to play ski ball. Yes it has kidde games, but its not littered to the point that it breaks the place.

Whats unique is that there are experiences at this arcade that, I cannot have at home. Well what are those? Well there is this wonderful sega game called Lets Go Jungle, that is just alot of fun to play. No home release of that game, and to be honest, none would be possible since the game is in a giant mock jeep that shakes and moves as you shoot down giant spiders. A Harley Davison game, also by Sega that is a giant Harley mock up, and you can steer it each way. Of course you cannot do that at home.

There is also something fun about going to the arcade and finding some one playing a fighting game that you yourself may be pretty good at. Yes, people come to my local arcade and play fighting game. Inface about a week or so, I ran into some one playing the Original Marvel Vs Capcom, and I decided to drop in my quarter and play him. Playing some one face to face in that scenario is just amazing. You can feel the tension, look at his face, it becomes a sort of more intense experience then playing some one online(Yes I love online MP) but its just something more intense. Your going head to head, as the chaotic environment surrounds you. Sometimes a group of people will surround and watch you adding to the intensity of battle. It is no longer an arcade but a heated Battle Arena.

My arcade even has that old but fun X-Men Beat em up. And guess what is cool? I will go play it, and people will join me in battle. Myself and the others are off in battle, and we even come up with battle strategies for the game. But of course you can do that in Halo on live, again its different doing it face to face.

I know this Arcade of mine will probably not close down, and thats good. It has many memories for me, for it was there that I first met Ryu and the wonderful cast of characters in Street Fighter. The first time I ripped out a heart thanks to Mortal Kombat. Myself and friends led a group of Adventurers fought dragons and beasts in Capcoms Wonderful Dungeons and Dragons Beat Em up games. I raced through a city in a crazed furry picking up customers in Crazy Taxi, and even sniped a few corrupt individuals in Silent Scope.

Those are but a sample of my memories at the arcade. I may share more, but alas it is sad to see it dying here in the United States. Though in Japan on the other hand its quite alive, I would like to see the arcade flourish. Probably not though...but none the less...

I gotta say, to you my fellow gamers, find a good arcade. It may be hard but worth it, and if its been a long time since you been to one, feel the difference. If you never been to one, go find one, because its worth it. Lets keep them from dying guys, because they are unique and different from gaming at home. Not better, but they are more of a special treat to go and visit one then just gaming at home. We may not revitalize it, but lets keep them alive. So with that said share your memories of the arcade here...and tell us why they are special to you!

Overlooked Gaming Gems 1-2009 Edition.

So from here on out, there will be a periodic series of articles focusing upon games that have been overlooked and that games I find are well quite awesome, but not talked about at all really. Games that are great, but forgotten unfortunatley.

Now mind you these are brief summars as to why I liked the games, and not full reviews.

So you will this blog series every now and then, as I will focus on other blog subjects. But let us begin with this first topic, and that is of course forgotten gems from last year. And that year is 2009. Now 2009, to me was a slow year on the console front, sure we had some great games from that year, games as Dragon Age, Uncharted 2, and Assassins Creed 2 among few others, but I really felt that hand helds shined last year. And both of these games I am going to mention by the way are handhelds, and both on the Nintendo DS. They are highly reccomended if you have not played them, and I will tell you....

Lets begin with the first forgotten gem...

Sir Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling Adventure

Henry Hatsworth

This very unusual game was developed by of all people EA Tiburon who is known for well developing the Madden series. Yes, this odd game was developed by some of the people who work on Madden, and to be honest, this game shows that these guys can develope games that are quite different. I would like to see what else they can do.

But none the less, this game came out early in 2009, and it was well recieved for the most part. Though it surely is not a title that would appeal to the masses, it still very charming, and I find it to be quite niche to say the least. Now what is it all about...
Well you play as this old time adventurer named Sir Henry Hatsworth who is quest is to find the "Gentlemans Suit" or the pieces of it at least. The Suit allows one to control the Puzzle Realm, a world filled with treasure, and Henry is out to get that suit and stop those that may use it.

Now Admittedly, the story is ridicilous but fun. Though its not deep, the game has cutscenes that are filled with cleverly written dialogue and it has a nice sharp wit. Henry comes across as a stereotypical English Gentleman, but that makes his interactions with other characters far more entertaining. Add to the fact that the supporting cast, including Cole, his side kick are just hillarious to read.

Yes the dialogue is text only, but the sharp writing makes reading it great.

Now the gameplay itself, basically is platforming mixed with puzzling, and really utilizes the Nintendo DS dual screen. The mechanics of the puzzling of the Platforming and the Puzzle game go hand in hand. You use the puzzle aspect to make things easier for you in the platforming aspect, or vice versa. Its kind of hard to describe, but I will go more detailed in a review.

Now the reason I think its overlooked is one, its odd premise, and its different gameplay. Also add to the fact that this a hard game. No doubt about it, it starts off easy enough, but this game gets very very challenging, maybe even frustratingly so in later levels. The puzzle mechanics get faster and the level design gets trickier, and some of the boss battles are just plain hard.

Though none the less if you are looking for a challenge, or just a game to play on the go, this one to go. Highly Reccomended.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor

Devil Survivor

There is no doubt that the Shing Megami Series has gotten more popular in recent years, at least here in the United States thanks to Persona 3 and 4. And that popularity that its growing is quite awesome to see. The series is great for being quite different in the realm of JRPGs, but still there are some games in this series that are well over looked none the less.

Devil Survivor is one of those, its a game that no one ever talks about anymore, or did not talk about a whole back when it was released. Why? I am not sure, it had incredible reviews, and to me is a masterpiece.It was one of the best games of last year, and one of the best hand held games I have ever played, and to me it deserves more attention.

This game does many things right, and one of the things it does right is it streamlines a genre that is infamous known for being overly complexed, and thats the Strategy Role Playing game. But streamlining thoughd does not mean this game is easy. You have less things to manage true, but the game is still very very deep and its very easy to learn, but difficult to master.

Basically the premise starts off simple enough, its the start of Summer, you start of as a nameless main character you of course name, and your two best friends Atsuro, a computer hacker, and your child hood friend Yuzu. The three of you meet with the main characters cousin Naoya who gets them comps. It turns out all hell breaks loose later on, as a demon invasion of Tokyo happens, and the Japanese SDF locks down tokyo, trapping the three protagonists. Armed with only these comps, they learn they can summon demons, and take the role of Demon Tamer. Though they soon learn that they have seven days left, and only seven days left or everyone will die.

The story is complex, and there are so many facets to it, that you will not see it all in one sitting or even two. There are multiple endings yes, but different paths. You make choices on who you want to meet , on how you treat people, and if battle out comes donot go the way you want it, it may not be game over, but may effect your story path. You and your two friends will meet people, but your decisions will decide who lives and who dies. Add to the fact that the game is very good at showing a society crashing down, slowly but surely its very intense.

The games battles are played out as typical grid based sequences, your character has a set amount of moves, but once you encouter an enemy, the game turns to an old schoolturn based first person perspective, something akin to say the early dragonquest games. The gameplay is again easy to learn, but as you progress and particularly the final battles go, they get very very difficult.

In closing perhaps it was the fact that it was already in a niche series, even one that is more popular these days, but none the less it was a low key release. But one that is to me great and a masterpiece, personally I cannot say anything bad about the game.

Both of these games were overlooked last year, but if you can track them down, they are worth picking up! I suggest both of these games highly! See ya Next Blog!

The Nintendo Effect

Mario Galaxy 2

Its amazing when I put in Super Mario Galaxy 2 into my wii, and seeing my sons eyes light up like that. Seeing him get excited and willing to enter the wonderful world of that game. And to be honest, I feel the same way. And No I am not embarassed by it by any means.

Despite what one thinks, there is a reason why Nintendo is the only Console maker in the game from the eighties. Sega went third party, Sony popped in the mid nineties, and MS popped in about nine years ago. Nintendo, despite tough times managed to hold on, through tough time and bad times. They made a few bad choices as well, such as the N64 going cartridge, and the Virtual boy being their most infamous, but despite that, the old Big N is still here.

Nintendo is still around because they take ideas, they take risks, and lets simply put they are damn good game developers. Look at the upcoming 3DS, or the Wii even. They brought in the rumble pack, and despite the N64 being cartridge, they managed to make several beloved games. They even had some ideas that were inovated and could work today, such as the Satella view, and in Japan they had a disk drive for the Famicom.

I am going to personally say this though, it gets me annoyed when you have people knock on Nintendo, for being kiddy or for being too "casual". Now I will admit there are many games that Nintendo has on the wii that simply donot interest me, but I cannot deny the fact that they bring in alot of people. And in some ways, bring our hobby closer to being more accepted in some ways.

And that to me is one aspect of what I call the ever so amazing "Nintendo Effect". And that is what I love to call the ever so humble wave that sweeps through our beloved game industry, and has so for nearly three decades. Hell, this Nintendo effect began with Donkey Kong, and still to this day we see that effect. Its a massive shock wave, and whenever Nintendo does this shock wave the reprecussions can be seen. But what exactly is the Nintendo Effect?

Well this Effect, this shock wave happens just as I will describe it. Whenever Nintendo comes up an idea that is innovative, that idea will spread like wilde fire. As the proverbial fire burns from place to the other, that idea is picked up and copied or in some cases even made better. But despite if it is made better, the fact remains, Nintendo came up with the idea first. And that effect shows why Nintendo despite how you feel about them is still relevant and very important to our industry.

Remember the Rumble Pack? Hello Dual Shock! And that is one example. Lets take a look at Kinnect and Move. Yes they may be camera operated but they are still motion sensors. Those move wands? Yep you guessed it Nintendo. Nintendo to me is the leader of a pack of wolves, and the other major console makers are the pack.

Let us also not forget Nintendo single handly created the Hand Held gaming market. This generated from the Game and Watch games, to the creation of the game boy. This market has been dominated by Nintendo, and will most likely continued to be dominated them. Nintendo has mastered the handheld market, anoter effect of Nintendo.


Now donot get me wrong though, Sony and MS have had their share of good ideas. MS mastered the art of a intricate and competent online Network, and Sony mastered the idea of turning their consoles into not only gaming machines, but versatile entertainment devices. They have had their share of great ideas, but Nintendo seems to continously make big strides in the field of gaming.

Zelda

Now that was my defense of Nintendo in the innovative front, now off to the defense of them in general. Yes Nintendo has in recent years begot the ire of many angry gamers out there. And Hell even the gaming media has joined in that Ire. But was it deserved? In my Opinion, No.

Again I will restate the fact that the Wii does have alot of shovel ware, but that shovel ware is not targeted towards me. Thats targeted towards that new so called "casual" market, and despite how you feel about this market, its a brilliant move buisness wise. It is also another step forward to attract many none gamers into our hobby.

Now let us not forget about Nintendos Game Design. And again they have had their missteps but, none the less they are among the best, if the not the best developers out there. Why? How many glitches do you see in a Nintendo game? Usually none, Their simple but fun controls combined with amongst the best level designs help establish Nintendo as the best out there.

Super Mario Galaxy 2, while personally its not my game of the year, its surely one of the best. Yes its a simple concept, and one that is reused, but the game is just so well made it feels immersive. Yes, it has this sort of wonderful child like wonder that does not feel old or dated. Its as if you entered a whole other world, a surreal one, but one that is just full of wonder.

Now before I close this blog, i need to thank one of my readers, and that is Rottenwood. He is a lover of Nintendo, and his simple reminder of Metroid Prime help inspire this very blog. He is probably one of the most passionate lovers of Nintendo out there, and has a similiar appreciation for the company that I do. And by the way go read his blog, its quite good, and I will admit I donot agree with his views all the time, but he has very good points all the time, and his blogs are enjoyable.

In general, I think Nintendo is quite relevant, and they are still very important. If you hate them fine, but let us not deny that they are important.

Simply Put, Nintendo still leads the way in this industry!

The Atmospheric World of Gaming

A Link to the Past

It is a dark and rainy night, but a night that is ordinary as any other. You are peacefully asleep, deep in your dreams when suddenly, a sudden jolt awakens you. The echo of words heard in your head pound you out of sleep and then you awaken to see your uncle getting blade and shield ready entering into the oncoming storm. Knowing that terrible omens abide, you take the lantern from your chest and enter the night. As the voice of a desperate princess pounds in you head, you go into the rain, with only the clothes on your back and a lantern to light your way. As the rain soaks and chill you to the bone, you keep on going to find the desperate princess who so desperately needs your help. And add to the fact that you are surrounded by guards armed to the teeth.

Though maybe the following statement may be a bit on the melodramatic side, this is how I felt when I first played The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which to me is finest made Zelda Game(Yes I like it better then Ocarina) and one of my favorite games of all time. And yes it is quite the master of taking you into its masterful game world.

As described in the opening, this help set the stage. When I played this game the first time, I could not felt that things were going wrong and that I had to leave the safety of my house to face my destiny. This opening sequence set the stage better and playing it is far better then my overly dramatic intorduction. But despite everything else, this introduction set up the world I was about explore and the adventure was I about to set on.

The atmosphere would change from a down pouring rain, to sneaking into the now hostile Hyrule castle. Then a tragedy would befit you and you would get your sword and shield. With that, it was time to do battle and as you entered the castle the thundering castle music would greet you letting you know that you were not in friendly territory. Dimly lit corridors and numerous guards seem imtimidating, but you got this far. Its time to press forward and save Zelda, and get the hell out of there.

A Link to the Past is a fine example of game atmosphere. Yes granted the game is nearly twenty years old,but despiteit still holds up well, both in gameplay, and both in its presentation. The colorful sprites, and the wonderfully done music by Koji Kondo helps add the immersion that your this young adventurer facing a destiny he never intended to face.

From ominous music of when you enter a dusty tomb, to when you travel to the shadowy dark world, the games atmosphere changes to fit your situation. This to me is key to the best gaming experience, are those that have fantastic atmospheric design.

Spacewar!

Now as I said in my last blog post, gaming can be an immersive experience. A place where we can be what we cannot be in our normal lives. We call them games sure, and they are games, you can win and lose, they are also interactive immersible experiences where we can travel to whole new worlds.

The earliest games, and when I mean earliest, these are the days predating the golden age of arcades and the nuclear warhead that was Pong. This is the days of Xs and Os, or Tennis for Two. These are the days when people were tinkering with the idea of games on some sort of display. And then came Steve Russel...

Spacewar! as it was called is known as one of the earliest games to come into existance. It also was ahead of its time, where it was actually rather complicated more so then the games the preceded it, and even more so then some of the games that would come after it. Space War to me is one of the first games to set a sort of atmosphere and make it immersive.

The concpet was simple none the less, but it was successful. You piloted a small ship, and your oponnent piloted another ship. From that point on, you basically tried to duel each other to death in the middle of a stars gravity field. As you tried to blast your openent to kingdom come, you had to also escape the grasp of the star your fighting around. As stated earlier space war was quite of its time, and these basic gameplay mechanics were testament to that.

Bioshock!

Now in conclusion, thanks to games like Bioshock and many others through out the year, we are seeing a sophistication in what is good game atmosphere. Of course though in this conclusion atmosphere can be mistaken for just horror games, but thats not true....

Bioshock worked because its atmosphere was that of a society that collapsed upon itself and is now a scavenging corpse of chaos. Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 worked because you lived in a world that was while that of a Sci Fi world, but one that was under threat, and filled with tensions, a world that was not real, but not much different from ours. The Persona games capturing the feel of what the world would be to a teenager growing up in Japan, and one that is put into incredible situations and ones that are of a darker nature.

The best games use atmospherice tension to build the worlds we visit. These add to our experiences and really invite us more into the worlds and stories they games are telling. So in the end, while not all my best experiences are in this blog, I would still like to hear about your best atmospheric moments in a game. Thanks guys see ya Next Blog!

Why Gaming is a Powerful Form of Storytelling?

(There are major spoilers for Persona 3, Read Dead Redemption and FFVII(There are people who still have not played this game) When you get to those points you will be warned)

Before you read this there will be some spoilers in this for Read Dead Redemption and Persona 3 at one point. Those spoilers are important to elaborate my point guys. I will give you heads up before we get to that point.


Well anyhow, I just completed Infamous, yes, a year late, I know but it kicked started a thought about gaming I have been having for years. And it is something that just keeps hitting me over and over the head that I need to not only blog, but possibly do a video of this on my youtube Channel.


Whether Videogames are art, is subjective, but one thing I know and this speaking for me, is that damn, Videogames are a powerful form of Story telling.

Back when I was a kid, and pretty young, I got my NES, and mind you this was in the eighties, and I remember being fascinated by those games. I played Super Mario Bros, determined to rescue the princes, and while I did not quite get Zelda at the time, I remember it was darn fun to just explore. Then came the first game that really struck me with its story telling.

Ninja Gaiden blew my young mind away. At the time of course I did not understand it, but when you put on that opening cinematic of Ryus Father losing his fated duel, I remember man I wanted revenge. What of course I did not know after seeing that sequence was that the game would be a much deeper narrative then just that(Note:For its time the game was rather deep for its narrative in terms of console games) and I got involved in Ryu Hayabusa quest to get revenge. And I remember that I kept playing that game, for not only how fun it was, but to find out what happened to Ryu and Irene Lew, his love interest, and to find out the mystery of the Evil Jaquios Machinations. Yes it was a frustrating game, but eventually I beat it, because I wanted to know what happened, and I cared for the characters. Then of course the sequels of the game came along, and those had me just as interested....well maybe Ninja Gaiden 3 not as much.

None the less that game even at that young age, showed me how gaming could be a valuable platform for story telling. Of course over the years, the games and storys and methods of telling story would be more and more elaborate. And as I grew older and older, I started to understand why that game and others have captivated me in the story telling. Because essentially in the end, I was put in the role of Ryu and numerous other characters over the years. I was part of the story, my actions, whether it was simply killing enemies or determine this path or that path, I was in the story.

A good friend of mine told me about a year ago, after I told him these thoughts, he explained to me why I had these thoughts about why it was so effective. Because no matter what game you play whether its a multiplayer or a heavy story driven game, ultimatley your the one thats writing the story. What does that mean exactly? When he explained what it means it explained everything that I had been thinking those many years.


That very conversation reminds of me of a conversation I had with a gamestop employee a couple of days after the release of Fallout 3. Actually it was me and two other employees and we were having a rather indepth lengthy conversation about the opening sequence of the game. We each discussed about how we used different methods to escape the vault in the beggining and who lived and who died. Ultimatley, when the conversations were left over the three of use realised something....none of used the same exact methods to escape the vault and go search for your father. Our interpretations of events were different, and while we were playing the same game in, the same setting, our situations and the way we approached them were very very different. And in terminology, they beacme our story, our tales that we have carved out in the game.

This philosophy again does not only apply to games that have multiple choices, but really to any games. Linear or not, when we talk about a game, even if we have a different strategy or a way of approaching it, we are doing differnt takes on the same situation. Its kind of like, how you approached Bioshock with different Plasmids, what weapons you used in the latest Halo, or what spells did you use in whatever Final Fantasy, or what did you unlock in that game.

Now mind I love Movies, I love great serialised TV series, I love books, but each of these mediums have something that sets themselves apart from each other and makes their method of story telling unique. Gamings interactivity makes it very unique and that in itself allows you to have some power in the narrative.

I think one thing that gaming is proficient at doing and making it very powerful is the impact of death. Now death in a game is something that can evoke a number of emotions from frustration to joy, to frustration. We get killed in a multiplayer match, its a mark of failure but one we can make ammends. We die multiple times in a multiplayer match or in a very difficutl games, it can lead to frustration but also lead to discovery. When we kill a foe that we dislike tremendously or a player in a MP match thats giving us trouble, will lead to a certain satisfaction. The foe may be disliked again for a number of reasons, from simply being very challenging, or for some reason in the story we tremendously hate that villian, so its good to get our revenge on them.

Now just a word of warning guys, again you have been warn the spoilers for Red Dead Redemption and Persona 3 are coming. And one for Final Fantasy VII if you can call that a spoiler these days. Stop reading if you donot want one or all of these games spoiled.

When death effects a comrade in a game, a character that you yourself fought with side by side it can be powerful. Yes folks I am talking about the death of Aeris/Aerith. Now whether you consider FFVII overrated or not, thats subjective, and a totally different topic, there is no doubt that single event in gaming is one of the most talked about and there is reason. Why?

Beacuse Aerith/Aeris is well a love interest, an unlikely character to die, and that you actually fought side by side with her and she was a very kind character. When you lost her, it was more the sad, and not only did it make one want to hate the villian more, but it was a sad and very unexpected event. It did not help that you used this character in combat as well, and one would get emotionally attatched to the character.


Other games may make you have to make choices that result in a character death or make you feel guilty. Mass Effect in general while I will not go into the forementioned event, actually both of them, made you responsible for your characters. A character died, it may very well be your fault. Whether you feel guilt or not for that characters death, that depends on how you felt for the character, but again its another example of powerful story telling.

Now the final example of death in a game is when the main character, the character you have played for many many hourse is the one to die, and there is no reloading the game, more lives, or anything, thats that...your character who you have been playing the role of is gone, its going to hit hard.

And thats why I bring in two of these games in as example Persona 3 and Red Dead Redemption. Yes in both games the Main Character dies at the end, but each one does it in a different way that you feel different about it. In Persona 3, I felt very sad for the Main character, as that he used his life force to seal up the being known as Nyx and he waited to be with his friends till he died. He waited to die, and that makes it melancholy...and beautiful at the same time. His death was bittersweat and his work was done. I felt sad to see the character I inhabited die, it hurt, but in the end it was bittersweet and I felt rewarded with a well done ending.

Red Dead Redemption on the other hand, I was mad, not mad, Pissed off to say the least. John Marstons complex character and tortured character was one that I had no problem playing the part. The characters deep backstory, and quest to redemption was a powerful one. But when you get to that moment when that Edgar Ross leads the attack on Marstons farm, I did know what to expect. But when John Marston was shot dead, in a sense I saw his redemption, but boy was I pissed. This character I had spent playing as for so much time, and trying to be a good husband and father, had died....and when I inhabited the role of his son Jack, I was out for the head of Edgar Ross. And when I got Edgar Ross, man was I satisified.

Main Characters die in books and movies, plenty of times, but in a game its a bit different. You played that main character and its probably because your actions effected the games, the effect may be a bit more hard hitting.

There is plenty more I want to write on this subject, and if you guys want I will go into it more. There is how simple conecpts can be effective story telling devices, to the implication of very big and open worlds have. But for now, thats mainly why I feel that gaming is a very powerful effective story telling device.Tell me what you guys think about this topic and if you feel the same way. Are there are other games that you feel do this just as well? Or other reasons, or you disagree with me altogether about the topic. Thanks and I will see ya next blog.

Confession: Yes I like Remakes and Enhanced Ports!

Yes, I know there are people who donot care for ports of older games, but I am a sucker for these. I am even a sucker for game remakes, as that while Movie remakes are all over the place, game remakes can be a little bit more on the rare side. But to the point at hand why do I enjoy these ports and remakes in the first place?

Well theres a number of answers to this question, but if I have to have a main reason why...well thats because I like to explore the differences between the original game and its brand new shiny port. And as for a remake, well some remakes its fun to see what an old classic looks all bright and polished up. But there are more substantial reasons that actually build up this main reason...

First of all lets talk about online implementation into some older games. Now I understand that some games this will not work for but others it can work in other ways. Lets take a look at the various ports of such games such as Galaga and Pacman . Why those? Well those two games have over the years been ported over and over again in numerous packages. But over the last couple of years, we have seen both PSN and XBL ports of the game. Those are unique as that it brings back an old aesthetic in the game to a new forefront. It took the old leader board feature and made it online which allows for a sort of old school scoring competition. Now mind you leader boards before these ports were not new, but none the less it enhances the game.

Other ports such as say Perfect Dark which was recently released back in March is another that adds online play to an already fun multiplayer component. Again this enhances an old feature in ways that it could not have been ported in its earlier incarnations. These online implementations can be great, but then there are times when they can be disastrous as well. But thats another discussion for another day, this is about why I liked enhanced ports.


Another thing that attracts me to enhance ports is particularly to Japanese Roleplay games. Yes, and the reason for that is often times you get games that had poor localization efforts in earlier years, and these ports can fix them. And sometimes they were not poor localization but no the best. Now I just did a review of Star Ocean the Second Evolutionfor the PSP which is a prime example of this. This port fixed the major issue the original port of the game had and that was a very shoddy translation. This new translation flows well and is quite fun to hear, and it makes already great characters even better. And let us not forget the superb DS port of Chrono Trigger which had a fantastic translation job.

Let us not forget the often little bonuses that some of these games can bring. Chrono Triggers extra endings, new characters in Tales of Vesperia, new modes in Virtual Fighter 5 360 version, Super Street Fighter IVs whole host of new characters are all great selling points for me to get a new port of an older game. Extra goodes like that, as long as they are well done, can bring a whole new dimension to an old game.

Now lets be straight, people sometime mix up the term remake with an enhance port. For example some have said Final Fantasy IV DS is an enhance port but really its a remake. A remake initially will update elements of something, such as a movie with say more modern elements, or special effects. Final Fantasy IV DS is a remake, and its not an enhanced port.

I think the best example too of the whole difference of Remake and Enhance ports is well the Star Ocean games on the PSP. This is interesting because Star Ocean the First Departure is a remake of the original game, where as the Second Evolution is an enhance port of the second game but not a remake. Why? Well the first game if you ever played it on the Super Famicom is quite different in terms of gameplay and graphics then it is on the PSP. It plays exactly like its sequel in terms of combat and things like that, compared to well the original game. And also it looks more like a PSX game then it originaly did. But in the mean time, its sequel is not reworked in any way aside from the aforementioned new character, translation and things, but nothing drastic to the music or gameplay as with its predecessors.


None the less, it is my confession that I like enhance port. Yes I like waiting for the next big release, and yes while I love my JRPGs, I am also anticipating upcoming games like Dead Rising 2, Halo Reach, Fable III, and Medal of Honor, and of course Atelier Rorona. But there in the back of my mind, I am waiting for a port of one of my favorite JRPGs in recent years, and that is the PS3 port of Tales of Vesperia. And while those games and others are on the top my list, I wish in the back ground that port comes to united states, for the very reasons in this block.

Yes sir, I love my Enhanced ports and remakes, and I am damn proud of it too!

The Other Negative Videogame Stigma

Hey guys this is my first Gamespot blog, and hell this is something that I have spoken out before on other ventures. On my youtube Channel, I have done a rant on this very subject, and I figured I need to talk about it again since, sadly its not rarely adressed in the least.

To begin with there has been I am sure hundreds of rant on the old Videogame makes kids into serial killers stigma that seems to still plague gaming to this day. And yes its a very very valid rant to make since that stigma is well, silly, but I think we often overlook another negative stigma of gaming. And what is that Stigma?

Well let me explain, first and foremost, I am a father of a four year old son. A four year old who watches alot of edutainment shows like Sesame Street, Big Greeen Rabbit, Dragon Tales and things like that. Well while those shows I can commend on what they are doing, in another sense they seem to portray videogames as this "evil" bad thing that causes kids to become overweight or even to a greater extent a antisocial jerk.

Now I will admit that alot of gamers though act like jerks, but there are alot of gamers that donot. Its like anything else, you have the people that are cool and decent, and then you have the plain out douche bags who fight about their consoles and things like that. But those shows display a sense of ignorance, and discourage kids from trying out the hobby.

And the funny thing is that they always promote "Try new things" or "Try New Foods" or something like that.But when you portray something as negatively as those shows do, all it does is to discourage the very message that your trying to convey in the same sense.

Now let me give you an example of the very negativety these shows display. One show, a newer PBS kids show called the Big Green Rabbit(and to be honets, its terrible...its as bad as Barney, and lacks the charm of say Sesame Street) did an extreme example of this. One episode followed the main character and her friend the big green rabbit go to her school and share their experiences with animals and nature. Well of course there was one student who was simply put the jerk of the school. And this jerk was this snotty girl who was obviously spoiled and of course she always said that going outside is stupid and played video games all the time. The show of course preceded to show all the kids that went outside as normal, and the show even went further and siad that videogames rot your mind, and even noted that the spoiled girl was gaining weight. And at the end the girl jerk ended up converting with the other kids and even said that she would give up videogames cause they are a waste and learn about nature. Pretty ironic though, I say this because ultimately the show is about a girl that hangs out with some creepy guy in a giant green rabbit suit right?


Now I am not saying Promoting excercise is bad. I am all for promoting excercising and eating healthy. What I am against is portraying gaming as a pathetic hobby that makes you an anti social jerk and as purely bad. With all kinds there is too much of anything and that is true with games. But lets also put there are people who do tend excercise way too much but hey no body complains about that do they?

In the end, what can we do? Well one we can act a bit more mature about our hobby because the image those shows portray gamers as antisocial, withdrawn, overweight kids. And simply put the reality is alot of us are not the pathetic basement dwellers or the jerks. Alot of us gamers are normal people who have jobs, familys, are married, have girlfriends boyfriends whatever. Thats the reality, and we need to be a bit more mature about our hobby to show that like anything it has a good size and we are not all jerks.


The only unfortunate part is, can gamers do this? Sadly I donot think this will happen in the near future, due to rampant fanboyism and just plain out immaturity, but it should be done someday. And maybe gaming can get the respect that it deserves as a defined entertainment medium.

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