Posts Tagged ‘Video Games’

Media Update 3/15/18

March 15, 2018

Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic

I love fairy tales, folktales, and mythology and I really should buckle down and read more of the 1001 Nights. I am not extremely familiar with Arabian/Muslim lore beyond Ali Baba, Aladdin, and djinn. Lucky for me, those three are what this anime is about. Basically, Ali Baba is a fruit peddler/shipping working who dreams of making his way into and through a legendary magic dungeon to get at the riches and magic items inside. Aladdin is a naive little boy who has made friends with a djinn who resides in a magic flute. Together, they set out to accomplish their dreams. I love media where different stories are reimagined and mashed together (see Once Upon a Time). This series is pretty zany and a little bit adult kind of like Kill la Kill. Similarly, all of the adult humor is in good fun and there is nothing malicious or too racy or the average viewer. I am excited to see where this leads as I like stories that have strong archetypes who are fleshed out into real characters (like American McGee’s Alice or various Oz adaptations). The animation is beautiful but also unexpected at times, kind of like FLCL. I have watched very little so far and I imagine that soon it will really pick up. I definitely recommend it. Besides, watching the trailer just now, I have to at least get to the part with Matt Mercer in it.

Sword Art Online

I had heard that many people did not like this anime but I did not want to research why because of possible spoilers. I decided to check it out for myself and I at least found a reason for myself. Without major spoilers, I did not like how there were huge time jumps going to episodes 2 and 3. I felt like I missed a lot of interesting adventures. However, from what I have seen so far, it is a fairly good anime. The premise is that a whole bunch of people sign up for a virtual reality MMORPG and the programmer traps them in it. If they die in the game, they die in real life and they cannot log out or be removed from the VR apparatus. The whole game operates in a fantasy setting that focuses on (wait for it) swords and the art of using them. The animation is very pretty and the character design is interesting. As expected, the anime is not light-hearted in the least as it deals with mostly young people dreading the next battle which might cause their death. I hope the series slows down a bit so I can really get into it. I guess I recommend it although it is a bit dark and there are plenty of other good anime series out there.

The Irregular at Magic High School

When I hear ‘magic school’, my interest is immediately piqued. I wish I could have gone to magic school and, somewhat related, I wish that magic was real. I guess I was expecting somewhat of a more grown-up version of Little Witch Academia (which was whimsical and dramatic) but instead I got something else. Something else that was not exactly bad once I started to settle in. In the world of the anime, magic is known to be real the world over and it is readily combined with technology to improve its use. This and other details make magic a very specialized thing where people almost have magical majors that they focus on. Families are known for certain techniques and magic is intimately connected with intellectual aptitude and studying. I definitely immediately got a Naruto vibe because of this but it is way slower and more drama-based. Still, I am very interested to find more about the seemingly complicated system of magic. I do have to drop a spoiler here because something really bothered me. The show centers on a brother and sister and the sister totally has the hots for her brother. I thought it was my imagination at first but yeah, it is made clear in the second episode. Based on Internet comments, it is one-sided and neither makes a move but it is fairly disturbing to me. Just a friendly warning. Because of that, I would not recommend it but also because it just did not grab me. There are plenty of high school dramas in English that I could watch.

Music of the Week:
Red Velvet – Stupid Cupid

The Regrettes – Come Through

Portugal. The Man – Feel It Still

Foo Fighters w/Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up

Attila – Bulletproof

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Anime Magic and Fantasy”
– I started watching Jessica Jones Season 2
– I continued watching iZombie Season 4
– I continued watching the Joel McHale Show
– I continued watching Fate/Apocrypha
– I continued watching Freaks and Geeks
– I watched a ton of Barry Kramer on YouTube
– As usual, I watched Game Grumps, GT Live, and Critical Role on YouTube
– I am so proud of those who participated in the National Student Walkout Day


30 Days Video Game Challenge Pt. 3

July 31, 2017

Day 21 – Game with the best story.

I am actually going to go with Borderlands 2 which was a whole lot of fun. The original Borderlands was fun but I felt like it was lacking something. What it was lacking was the more fleshed out story and characters of Borderlands 2. I am not a fan of first person shooters in general partly because I am bad at the gameplay elements but also because they don’t have enough story for me. They were also banned from my childhood house and I did not really see the appeal when I played Doom or Unreal Tournament at a friend’s house. There are exceptions, of course. I like Fallout 3 and New Vegas because exploring is really fun and the characters are interesting. However, back to Borderlands 2, the game surprised me several times throughout the storyline. There were parts that shocked me, made me sad, made me angry, scared me, and made me laugh. The game built up to several climaxes that left me needing to save the game and take a break but they made me eager to start again the next day. The game was written by Anthony Burch (of HAWP fame) and it really shows with relatable characters in a fantastic setting.

Day 22 – A game sequel which disappointed you.

This may seem wrong but actually, I would pick Jak 2, the sequel to Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. I loved Jak and Daxter so much despite being annoyed by Daxter’s constant yammering. The game play was so intuitive and it felt both unique and nostalgic at the same time. It had levels that felt like they were part of a greater world which had a long and mysterious history. There was plenty to do and plenty to collect along with some whimsical humor. The sequel, while an OK game, felt like a futuristic take on GTA 3. The GTA and some other sandbox games are fun for a little bit but I often got bored with them. I would play some missions until they got frustrating. Then I would just want to explore but a lot of areas are off limits until later in the game. Then I just wanted to run around and blow stuff up and that got boring quickly. And so it was for Jak 2 and Jak 3 was even less of a game. It was just the arena mini-game from Ratchet and Clank with different guns.

Day 23 – Game you think had the best graphics or art style.

I am going to go with Arkham City for the best art style. So much detail was put into crafting a vast playground for you to Batman around in. More than any other game it is one that I love just paging through the concept art. The re-envisioning of the characters for starters is great. There is a unified style but everybody looks unique and interesting while paying tribute to their comic book origins. There are so many easter eggs thrown in that I was geeking out every few minutes. More than any other sandbox-ish environment, this was one that I could wander around for hours without actually accomplishing anything. They lovingly crafted an environment where you could really crawl into the story. They brought new elements into the Batman universe but also rejuvenated older elements. In a lot of ways, I thought this was the perfect game and part of that was just how excited I was at how it looked. The other Arkham games (Asylum and Origins) work too but City remains my favorite. I have not played Arkham Knight yet.

Day 24 – Favorite classic game.

Strangely enough, Bubble Bobble. I have really fond games of playing this simple game on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was so satisfying to trap enemies in a bubble and solve jumping challenges. It was also a game that I could easily play alongside my brothers without being competitive. Cooperative gameplay is way more fun. Something about the simple, repetitive game always made me excited. It was uncomplicated and back when I had an NES I loved to put two televisions side by side and play video games and watch television at the same time. Also, I have fond memories of playing it with my brothers.

Day 25 – A game you plan on playing.

Assasin’s Creed IV: Black Flag for sure. I love pirates (I am a pirate descendant after all) and I loved the earlier Assasin’s Creed games. The earlier games were difficult at first but they were actually pretty intuitive and forgiving in the end and fun to run around and explore in. Adding a boat and the pirate culture sounds like fun.

Day 26 – Best voice acting.

This thing says video games but I am going to cheat a little and pick The Stanley Parable. The voice acting is pretty much just a single narrator but it is some of the weirdest and funniest stuff I have ever heard. In fact, most of the fun of the game is doing stuff and listening to what the narrator says because there have to be hours of unique dialogue for various situations. From the same developer, there is also Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and the Terribly Cursed Emerald which also has some really great sound effects to go with the great narration. As long as I am cheating, I have to heap some praise onto Gone Home, a simple yet very emotional game. There is a lot of pivotal and incidental narration and voice acting that really sucks you into the deeply personal story the game is trying to tell.

Day 27 – Most epic scene ever.

I think that Shadow of the Colossus takes the cake on this one. The first colossus you encounter is mind boggling and I just shook my head and wondered how anyone could defeat such a thing. Each successive colossus is more epic than the last, ending of course with the final one. The fights are some of the tensest, awe-inspiring things I have done in video games. The deaths of each colossus are also full of epicness.

Day 28 – Favorite game developer.

Easily Take-Two Interactive which has developed some of my favorite games of all time. That includes the Borderlands series, Firaxis titles like Pirates!, Red Dead Revolver, WWE 2K games, and Bioshock among others.

Day 29 – A game you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving.

I cannot really think of one. I do not have the time or money to buy games that do not look good to me.

Day 30 – Your favorite game of all time

For the reasons mentioned in earlier questions, I would have to pick Arkham City which is still the best Batman game of all time.

30 Day Video Game Challenge

July 17, 2017

I saw this floating around and I thought I would do the 30 Day Video Game Challenge… in 3 days. All answers are spur of the moment and may change as days go by.

Day 1 – Very first video game.

Donkey Kong on the Atari. I remember going over to a friend of mine’s house and in his bedroom he had an Atari set up. I had never seen one before but I had played a few games on the computer. The Atari had challenging games but I was totally blown away. I loved video games immediately. It is of interest that my first game starred possibly the most iconic character in gaming history, a character I still enjoy very much. That is the only time I ever remember playing the Atari as the Nintendo Entertainment System was not far from release.

Day 2 – Your favorite character.

Razputin from Psychonauts. He was awkward, overly-excited, snarky, and not actually invited to the psychic summer camp that he attended. However, his heart was in the right place. He cared about the other people around him and was not interested in just blasting his problems away. When he saw something was wrong, he set out to solve the mystery not only to save the girl but also to prove his worth to the world and himself. His glib behavior covers up the deep psychological struggle he has to go through in more ways than one.

Day 3 – A game that is underrated.

Dark Cloud 2, hands down. In Japan, it is called Dark Chronicle but it got a full release in the United States on the Playstation 2. It was the sequel (obviously) to Dark Cloud, a game I also enjoyed and is also underrated. In the game, you play as Max and Monica, two characters who each have specialized skills. You go through dungeons to beat the bad guys and obtain the pieces necessary to rebuild the future that Monica comes from. The main mechanic is hacking and slash with some shooting. There are also sim city – like elements, fishing minigames, photography minigames, weapon customization, and plenty of characters to meet and get to know. I really like how they deal with time travel and the story ends up being pretty deep if you allow yourself to get into it. On top of that, it has beautiful cel-shaded graphics and intuitive controls.

Day 4 – Your guilty pleasure game.

I can’t really think of a game that I played that I was embarrassed to play. The closest I have come is probably Sailor Moon SailorDrops on my phone since it is the girliest game I have played. But I am not embarrassed about that. It is a lot of fun.

Day 5 – Game character you feel you are most like (or wish you were).

Maybe Squall from Final Fantasy VIII. He is determined and works hard but definitely has a streak of anger in him. He also finds it hard to socialize with people while more charming characters like Zell, Selphie and even Quistis find it easy to talk to other people. Though, I am not as bad a student as he was since he has to take a makeup exam of sorts in the first part of the game. Also, Max from Dark Cloud 2 is a good pick. I am curious about the world like he is and loyal to those around me when I know I can help and especially when I am the only one who can help. Like him, I like solving puzzles and figuring out the different answers to a problem.

Day 6 – Most annoying character.

That would probably be a tie. The first is the dog from Duck Hunt on NES. If you miss shooting a duck, the dog will laugh at you like you are a complete fool. Many of us wanted to shoot that dog by the end of the game because using the light gun was not that easy, especially for a little kid. After that, I would pick Daxter from Jakk and Daxter whose voice and incessant talking can grate on your nerves. He actually grew on me eventually but he added nothing to the gameplay. He just added to the visuals of the main character and was another voice in cutscene conversations.

Day 7 – Favorite game couple.

The one that felt the realest to me was Eddie and Ophelia from Brutal Legend. Finding each other after Eddie traveled through time and space (twice) was almost meant to be. The two of them fall for each other pretty quickly and Eddie is quick to defend Ophelia when everybody else is distrustful of her. In the end, their relationship hits the rockiest of patches and they break up but if you’re persistent enough (and curious once you have beaten the game) you can find them a happy ending.

Day 8 – Best soundtrack.

I am torn here. Off the top of my head, I want to say Kingdom Hearts. A lot of the game has original compositions that are really beautiful and fit the situation you are in. On top of that, it was the thing that introduced me to Utada Hikaru and her J-Pop and her beautiful, soulful voice. The rest of the game has music composed from the Disney movies you are moving in and out of which gives the score a nostalgic boost. Other than that, I would have to once again pick Brutal Legend because heavy metal is one of my favorite genres and the catalog is really deep.

Day 9 – Saddest game scene.

The end of Kingdom Hearts 2 where Sora tries to drag a wounded Riku across an alien beach and they see that there is nowhere left to go. The danger is past, they saved the multiverse but they are stranded with no obvious hope of rescue. At that moment, they are oddly at peace with their death and Sora admits that he may have let the darkness into his heart just like Riku had. They are completely at peace with being separated from their friends because their friends are safe. The moment was just so sad for me and I bought it because the first game had ended on a bittersweet note as well. Then I happily got whiplash from the next moment when they are reunited with their friends.

Day 10 – Best gameplay.

I would go with Psychonauts. The combat and platforming is intuitive and fun to control. You get a multitude of psychic powers that can solve different problems and beat different enemies. All of those powers are visually pleasing. On top of that, the mechanic of going into different people’s minds gives you many different settings to play around with different rules. This made it so the gameplay never got old for me. It was also legitimately challenging as it progressed but I never abandoned the game. It was so satisfying to beat that game because I felt like I had accomplished something but I never raged against the machine.

Interview Questions 4

August 1, 2016

I have heard from a few people that they would be more likely to hire somebody if they were an Eagle Scout. I was not in the Boy Scouts of America when I was a little boy. On a side note, I am glad I never was because they turned out to be a bit of a bigoted mess anyway. I was in Indian Guides instead and I was not incredibly committed to it besides pranking the Boy Scouts on camping trips. So would I factor being an Eagle Scout into my decision if I was making the hiring decisions? Sure. However, there are other things that would impress me. I spent a lot of time growing up playing video games. If you told me you had beaten Battletoads or I Wanna Be the Guy then that impresses me way more than the ability to start fires in the wilderness and helping old ladies cross the street. So here are some interview questions I might ask (and would like to be asked) in an interview.


What’s your favorite Pokémon? Why?

For the longest time, my favorite Pokémon was Growlithe because the idea of having a friendly dog that breathed fire on command was awesome. When I worked in theater, I wanted an electric pokémon like Magneton because it could help me with electrics and could float to hand me things on ladders. I can still remember my original Elite 4 beating team and I think especially fondly of the three original starters and their evolutions. However, that was the past. Lately, I have been getting acquainted with the new generation and unlike the genwunners, I have loved the new stuff and adapted fully. I recently played Pokémon Omicron, a fan game, and fell in love with Hawlucha. I always had a flying type on my team in the past because they were so useful. I always loved the fighting type but never found much of a use for them because they always got wrecked. Hawlucha is different for me. Hawlucha flies and fights and is even a luchador. So, I would have to say Hawlucha would be my favorite because he represents skills I had mastered combined with skills I wish I had mastered.


What was the most fun you ever had beating a game?

I remember beating Super Mario World and being astonished that I actually beat a game probably for the first time in my life. The feeling was exhilarating and amazing and tiring and I did that in front of at least one of my brothers and that was awesome. It was probably the hardest game I ever beat. I struggled to beat many games after that. I rejoiced at beating Kirby’s Dreamland on long car rides as a kid and then beating the secret New Game Plus over and over until I could do it in my sleep. Games used to be harder than they are now but they have gotten better at presenting a great story which really engages me. I got misty when I beat Kingdom Hearts and saw that even though the heroes won, their journey was not yet over. That game was just challenging enough to drive me crazy but the story kept me going forward. However, I think that I had the most fun beating Psychonauts. The game was just the right mix of funny, disturbing and sad. The gameplay was innovative and there were so many different things you had to do. Some parts were hard as hell but they were satisfying. I also liked what it said about the life of the mind and emotions and what it is to be disturbed.

Hand Holding

What part of video games do you dislike the most?

While many parts of video games are designed to frustrate you in order to entice you to keep fighting so you feel like you have accomplished a victory, there is one in particular that I hate. I absolutely hate escort missions. Escort missions are a part of video games where your character must accompany a Non-Player Character from point A to point B. Sometimes that NPC is armed and able to help you out but often they are defenseless and need your protection. I do not object to the concept of these missions. Protecting somebody en route during a dangerous trip is frankly something that comes from real life. The problem comes with trying to manage a character that you have little control over. Their AI is not exactly dedicated to self-preservation and thus you have to risk yourself in order to protect them. It is often worse than herding a cat and more like herding a toddler high on sugar. Moreover, I hate failing these missions because you have to watch the person you were trying to protect die or get hurt. Over the years, the escort mission has improved but it still is an aggravating part of video games.

Magfest 2016

February 21, 2016

So for the past two days I attended Magfest 2016 down at National Harbor, MD in the Gaylord National Harbor Hotel. This was my first time going to Magfest and I was really excited to be on a little adventure, something I could not have done a few years ago. I listened to Welcome to Night Vale, Ninja Sex Party and TWRP on the way down and I was pumped. I knew I would have to keep a head of steam up until at least midnight if I was going to accomplish everything I wanted to do. The National Harbor was as beautiful as I had been led to believe and when I stepped into the Gaylord I was blown away with how huge and beautiful it was.

The fandom factor was in full effect as it looked like the entire hotel had been taken over by fictional characters of every description. The cosplay was one of my favorite parts of attending the con. People put so much effort and skill into good cosplay and it was really cool to see. At times that I was tired or overwhelmed, I saw a character I enjoyed walking around and I smiled. That sort of thing has such a powerful effect. Here’s a short list of great stuff I saw: Mojo Bubbles, The Kingdom Hearts Cast, The Undertale Cast several times over, Carmen Sandiego, Waldo, Classic Harley Quinn, Mario Maker, Artemis and this gaggle of Ricks right here.


The con had a huge arcade that I went to the first day over and over.  It was loud and heavily populated so it would become overwhelming.  I played Bad Dudes, Fist of the North Star, Galaga 3, Killer Instinct 2, Wild Gunman, Tron, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Street Smart and Metal Slug for the first time.  Arcade games are so much fun even though they all are pretty much super short on story.  The gameplay usually makes up for it and it’s just easy enough to want to continue when you fail.  In this arcade, the games were free so I could try over and over until somebody looked like they wanted the machine.  Ten year old me internally high fived 33 year old me.  I also visited the Museum of Computers and got to play Dragonfire on Intellivision, a game system that was obsolete by my  second birthday.

I had a lot of fun hanging out and people watching and just enjoying the convention for what it was. I never once attended a panel but that was not what I was there for. I loved the energy of the convention. While waiting on a meet up with Barry Kramer, I got to chat briefly with some Game Grumps fans. Then Barry arrived and was promptly swarmed by us, the poor guy. I got his autograph and I was able to tell him how much I liked his work on Table Flip and Game Grumps.

Now it was time for the main event. I had come to the convention with several objectives but the number one mission was always attending the Ninja Sex Party/Tupperware Remix Party concert. So I went into the concert hall and watched the One Ups and they had a great set that was very chill but enjoyable. After that, I stayed put near the stage and chatted with NSP fans for a full hour. When I looked behind me at that point the place was mobbed and I was lucky to be about five people from the stage. I felt so lucky even though I was short and knew I would still have trouble seeing everything.

We flipped off Brian Wecht during the sound check and happily chanted at him as he and TWRP did their thing. TWRP hit the stage and, although I wasn’t as familiar with them, their mini set was absolutely electric. I need to pay more attention to them. Then NSP hit the stage and one of the loudest reactions I have ever heard nearly blew the roof off the place. NSP joined TWRP on stage for “The Decision” and “If We Were Gay” and we all sang along. Then they started in on there upcoming cover album with “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Take On Me”. Finally they jammed out to “The Hit“, the first TWRP song that featured NSP.  At some point in the evening, Danny informed us that 5000 people were in attendance. It was so awesome. I stumbled out of the concert hall like I had achieved victory and limped off and drove to my hotel room.

I relaxed a little the next morning in my hotel room wih some free breakfast, the first real meal I had had in a while. I slide back over to the convention and did some more people watching and exploring as I thought about the day before. I started to wait outside the autograph area for Danny and Brian to show up for autographs. While I was waiting there, the Game Grumps fanart I was carrying attracted some interest. I got into a great discussion with a girl with pink hair and two Grump/NSP fans from Puerto Rico. We reminisced over great moments in Grump history and the concert the night before. After three and a half hours of waiting, they opened and closed the line and I did not get an autograph. It was disappointing but there were thousands of people who were also disappointed so I sucked it up.

I ate a big meal at a sports bar inside the hotel and rested my poor tortured feet and legs for a bit. Then I went and sat in a hallway and did some writing for the blog and played Pocket Mortys for a while. More people watching happened. Finally I rolled on over to the Commander Holly tweetheart meet up and I had a lot of fun. I met Kati Schwartz and let her know that she inspired me because she is a writer and I am a writer too. I met Kati’s friend PattNardz I chatted with some tweethearts and then guess what happened? Ninja Brian himself wandered into the meetup and graciously signed my poster. That was the perfect topper for the weekend and I drove back to Baltimore to crash in my own home.

Here is the Game Grumps poster with the three signatures I was able to get. There’s Barry’s signature, Brian’s signature and Kati’s signature hiding down near the bottom.  Thanks to @OnstaMonster for the art!



Top 11 Video Games

August 1, 2015

This list illustrates my preference for games driven by both story and fairly simple game design which are very enjoyable to play. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like games like Super Mario World, Zelda: A Link to the Past, Ratchet and Clank and Katamari Damacy and any number of other games. However, I do have a serious bias toward console games as a controller is so much easier to handle and I never had a serious PC to run games. So take that into account.  This is a follow up to a discussion on why I like video games at all inspired by the Game Grumps.

11 Deadpool (X-Box 360)

Ok, this one is cheating a little bit. There is source material outside of the game in the form of a long-running comic book character from all the way back in the nineties. However, I contend that you can play this game and enjoy it without ever reading a comic book. The gameplay is mostly hack and slash but the story and voice work makes the game really surreal and fun. Deadpool is a character who is very meta and tends to nuke the fourth wall from orbit. The game ends up feeling like something from the Marx brothers mixed with a parody of video games in general. Coupled with that, the character spouts a million funny one-liners. The gameplay is fun enough but the comedy kept me going.

10 Red Dead Redemption (X-Box 360)

I’m a big fan of westerns. My personal favorites are The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Two Mules for Sister Sarah and the True Grit remake. Every bit of this game feels like walking through a really good western movie and that’s exactly how it’s designed. However, you also get a lot of the feel of the scenes they cut out from the movies. Sure, you participate in gunfights, pitched battles and you even get to engage in bounty hunting. However, you also fight and skin animals and ride your horse across empty plains. The game is really beautiful and I find it so easy to get sucked right into the world. The game has a morality system so you can play the game differently every time.

9 Final Fantasy IX (Playstation)

I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game that I absoulutely hated and most of them I’ve at least enjoyed. However, if we’re going for enjoyable gameplay and story, I’m actually going with number nine. The game is a very long Japanese RPG that uses a lot of cool fantasy archetypes but, at the time, shook things up a bit. The female protagonist isn’t just a damsel in distress, the male protagonist is a thief and some of the heroes just don’t get along with each other at all. There’s a lot of story about what it means to be a hero and doing what’s right. There’s also a pretty heavy message about questioning reality and what makes a person a person. It gets fairly philosophical and heavy at some points but it’s a really beautiful game.

8 Psychonauts (X-Box 360)

This game absolutely blew me away when I first played it. I have fond memories of summer camp. The idea of kids attending psychic summer camp amused me. Above all the game is really funny but below that humorous exterior is a really creepy, offbeat story. There are a ton of really neat characters including a whole host of fully developed extras. The concept behind the game is that you enter people’s mindscapes to sort out their psychological issues. Very rarely do you actually fight anybody or anything in the real world. So a lot of the time it feels like there’s a sunny world where very evil things are happening just out of sight. As mentioned before in this blog, I love the juxtaposition of happy and scary so this was right up my alley.

7 South Park: The Stick of Truth (X-Box 360)

I don’t really think you need to have watched South Park to enjoy this game. However, it makes it infinitely more fun if you’ve seen most of the series. If you’re not ready for a ride that is super obscene and incredibly inappropriate then just skip this one. Just skip it. However, if you have a good sense of humor and you were ever a fan of the show then I suggest you pick this one up. The gameplay is simple and based on a lot of turn-based RPGs. There’s a lot of character customization that further immerse you in what feels like playing in a three-part South Park episode. Because of decisions, side quests and easter eggs I’ve played this one over and over and enjoyed it every time. It’s not very long but a very fun (and raunchy) ride.

6 Brutal Legend (X-Box 360)

I must have mentioned that I love heavy metal music. In fact, I love a lot of different genres of metal. I even love BabyMetal but that’s another thing entirely. The fact of the matter is that DoubleFine (the makers of Psychonauts) teamed up with Tenacious D and they made a video game celebrating the Metal. The game is full to the gills with heavy metal music, album cover imagery and even has the voice talents of Jack Black, Kyle Gass, Ozzy Ozbourne, Lita Ford, Rob Halford and Lemmy Kilmister. The game is funny most of the time but actually hits some deep felt moments. The game is full of epic atmosphere and, as the great story unfolds, the gameplay evolves. You also get to cast spells with a guitar which is something I had often imagined in my high school and college days.

5 Dark Cloud 2 (Playstation 2)

I bought Dark Cloud 2 on a whim, mostly because I enjoyed Dark Cloud which I bought heavily discounted. I was expecting more of the same and boy was I in for a surprise. The basic gameplay is the same but with heavily updated graphics. However, the story received a huge boost as in Dark Cloud 2, the stakes feel 200% higher and it includes time travel. More than that, the time travel actually makes some sense. In the game, you play as young inventor Max and also as Monica, warrior princess from the future. Your job is to rebuild the present in order to make sure that the future happens as it should (so it can help you in the present). There’s magic, sci-fi and plenty of fun characters to interact with. The game play is simple but not really ground breaking but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun as hell.

4 Borderlands 2 (X-Box 360)

I never really liked first person shooters as I was growing up. Most of them were on the computer and I never had a good system to play them on. I also was forbidden from playing first person shooters by my mother. I really don’t blame her. The media had drummed up a lot scary stuff and being a parent is really hard. I was never really good at them anyway. For some reason, the Borderlands series instantly clicked with me. I tried Borderlands 2 because I found out it was written by Anthony Burch of Hey Ash Whacha Playin’. It’s clear through playing the game that Anthony understands a lot about comedy when it comes to video games. The game is surprising at times, beautiful to look at, funny and above all the characters feel pretty real. Everytime I play it I find some new detail I never noticed before. It’s a non-stop adventure that is endearing and just challenging enough to keep you from pulling your hair out.

3 Kingdom Hearts (Playstation 2)

Disney animated movies are great and they have been adapted so many times into video games but I can’t think of a single one that was worth playing. They all felt too half-assed and most of the ones I played were way too hard. I’m looking at you Lion King and Alladin. They also had to adhere to a set script because that’s what was expected of them. Kingdom Hearts combines fun Disney storytelling with some creative parts from the Final Fantasy series. It actually forms a new animal that’s equal parts new and equal parts nostalgic. The gameplay is fun and it’s really great to run around with Goofy and Donald to save the Disneyverse. It’s very hard to describe how good this game (and its sequel) is without giving too much away. This was the first game I can remember having a very real emotional release when I finished it. After this game, and its sequel, I teared up and felt so good and bad at the same time.

2 Portal 2 (X-Box 360)

I never played the original Portal but I was definitely well aware of all of the memes. I’ve since played the game and it’s a cute little game using the Source engine. I actually played the sequel first and I absolutely loved it. From the first five minutes I knew that the game would be exactly up my alley. The game immediately immerses you in a complete environment with amazing detail and really fun gameplay. As the game progresses, you’re introduced to extremely rounded characters who only become more interesting as you go. It’s not just the constant voiceovers that unfold a really cool story but also the environment your character is walking through. My only gripe is that I wanted for their to be more game, more story to follow. There’s so much quotable dialogue and moments that actually packed an emotional punch. If they ever make a Portal 3 (doubtful) I will be in line to buy a copy.

1 Arkham Origins (X-Box 360)

I love Batman. It’s been a pretty key fixture in my pop culture life since I was 7 years old. I’ve greedily gobbled up every piece of Batman whatever whenever I have a chance. My problem was that games based on comic books mostly sucked. When I played Arkham Asylum, for the first time I felt like I was Batman. I didn’t just beat up criminals, I did detective work, I climbed and swung and faced down the rogues gallery. When I played the sequel, Arkham City, I felt even more like I had been dropped in a comic book. When Origins dropped I was expecting good things but it exceeded expectations. Just like all of the Arkham series games, the characters have gravity and the storyline is told in such a way that you don’t have to be familiar with the Batman mythos to understand. However, it’s also a Batman fanboy’s dream as it an adaptation that strikes new ground while also scratching so many nostalgic issues. If you take anything away from this post, play all three of these games. Eventually, I will play the final game in the series, Arkham Knight.

Video Games

July 15, 2015

Like a lot of people, I was recently shocked by the death of Satoru Iwata. He was the president and CEO of Nintendo and an Executive Producer on a lot of games. I think I’ve mentioned it here before but my first experience with video games was watching somebody play the Atari. However, the first system I played was the Nintendo Entertainment System. The original dull gray box with rectangle controllers. I was a console gamer from that point forward mostly because I never had a high performance computer to play to many things on PC.

I’ve been thinking about gaming and gaming culture for a while now. Video games seem very different from when I was just starting out but also the same. Massive improvements in technology have created a diversity in games that was unthinkable years ago. I think it has led a lot of people to play games that never would have before and I think that’s awesome.

When I played Nintendo games way back in the day they were so hard. The graphics were simple so back then it was pure gameplay. There are a lot of people that cling to that version of gaming. They don’t care about the story, they don’t want cutscenes or text. I don’t really look back on this period of gaming with great fondness. At the time I played these games relentlessly but I think I can count on one hand the games that I finished. I played the hell out of games like Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Brothers, and Bubble Bobble. However games like Contra and Bart Vs. The Space Mutants made me want to throw the controller through the screen.

Eventually, video games with more complicated stories showed up. Up until that point, all of a game’s story was in the manual or on television or in a movie. The first game I remember playing that had real story to it was Pokemon Red but it still wasn’t much. Then I played Final Fantasy VII which was my first game with a real story in the game. It was also my first game with real cutscenes and dialogue and more rounded characters. It was also the first game I played where you could make choices that mattered and a whole world to explore.

My eyes were really opened up to what games could be. It wasn’t just the advances in graphics and sound but there was more writing and character development involved. Now when my character died, I was more angry at the enemies than I was at the game. So far games had only evoked anger and joy but with this new wave of games came all sorts of emotions. When I reached that final boss and gave him everything I had, I felt a much bigger emotional release when I landed that final blow. When one of my companions died I felt bad and outraged at the enemy for doing such evil things.

Now I know some people don’t care about all of that. It all comes down to gameplay vs. story and the argument can be made for either or both. I happen to love a game with excellent gameplay but I often need a story too as motivation to play. I know there are people who are unwilling or unable to identify with their avatar in the game and are just in it for the challenge of the game. I can respect that but I’ve always needed some sort of narrative even if I have to make it up myself. This makes games with RPG elements in them among my favorite games and also any game with a strong story.

Please look foward to a follow up to this when I do a Top 11 Favorite Video Games where I’ll be able to give further examples.


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