Sunshine Blogger: The Four-ening

We’re continuing our Sunshine Blogging spree by taking on the questions that Red Metal posed for us in his nomination.

And frankly, if you hang around this place, you know Red Metal.  He and I have been blog allies for quite some time.  He does a lot of video game reviews, pulling some rather unsung parts of games history out of the pile as well as the traditional classics.  On top of that, he’s been doing film reviews as well.  Guy puts a lot of content out.  So go check his blog.  You won’t be sorry.  And thank you, Red Metal, for this honor.

Other than that, rules are the same as the last three times.  Or, frankly, any of the many other awards we’ve gotten.  Questions are different, however.  Let’s go!

  1. What do you feel is the ideal length for a studio album (or LP)?

Roundabout an hour is the perfect length for me.  Substantial enough to be getting at an artist’s sound from a variety of angles and to make for a full experience in the car, which is where most of my albums get played, but not so long that you start to get tired of it.

2. Have you ever accidentally rendered a physical copy of a game/film/album unplayable?

Aaaaahhhhaahahahahaaaaaa…. all the time.  Let’s see.  I think first was with a copy of SimCity 2000.  Dropped the disc underneath my computer chair, and in attempting to pick it up, ran the chair’s wheels over it.  Never got that recovered.  My copy of Saints Row wasn’t running as smoothly as I wanted it to, and I had my Xbox in the vertical position.  I wanted to see if it’s work better if it was horizontal, so moved the console while the disc was spinning, and that put in a thick circular scar that made it unreadable.  My local game shop was able to fix it, though.  A similar thing happened with Fallout: New Vegas, when the cat knocked the console over while I was playing it.  Game shop guy came through then, too.  Later, he went out of business, and I bought my own disc grinder for those knocks and scratches.  Got a lot of use out of it, but a few missteps.  I had a used copy of Eternal Darkness that was always in poor shape, but it had degraded to the point where it just couldn’t read anything past a certain point in the game.  Tried to get it in the disc doctor, but the tiny little Gamecube discs didn’t mount correctly, and it ended up in worse condition than ever, to the point that it wasn’t even readable.  And the used disc I bought for Yakuza 4 has a slight scratch in it that had absolutely no effect on the game except for one late game cutscene that it prevented from loading, completely ending progress.  I ran it through the grinder and got the disc in absolutely pristine condition, except for the fact that it didn’t work at all.  Apparently you can’t just grind down the scratches on blu-rays the same way you can with CDs and DVDs. I had to replace the disc entirely.  Save data was on the console, luckily enough.

I swear, I am truly an elegant and graceful person.  These missteps are totally unrepresentative.

3. What series do you feel has a confusing naming convention?

Godzilla is absolutely the worst at names.  The. Worst.  Seriously.  Let’s see if you can follow along with this.

Godzilla (1954) is a different movie from Godzilla (1985), which is different from Godzilla (1998), which is different from Godzilla (2014).  Godzilla, King of the Monsters! and Godzilla: King of the Monsters are different movies.  Mothra vs. Godzilla and Godzilla vs. Mothra are different movies.  King Kong vs. Godzilla is different from the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong.  Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla are different movies.  Terror of Mechagodzilla is the sequel to Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, not Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, which takes place in a completely different timeline than Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.  Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla was notable for having a direct sequel in an era where otherwise every other film around it completely restarted the continuity, but the sequel was titled Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. and didn’t refer to the previous title at all.  However, Mothra vs. Godzilla and Godzilla vs. The Thing are different titles for the same movie.  Same with Ebirah, Horror of the Deep/Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster, Invasion of the Astro Monster/Monster Zero, All Monsters Attack/Godzilla’s Revenge, and probably a lot of others I’m not perfectly aware of now.

On top of that, and this seems like a really minor issue now, most over the films are titled something in the structure of Godzilla vs. Other Monster which is only helpful if you can distinguish the names of the monsters.  Do you know the difference between Megalon and Megaguirus, and can tell me whose film features the coveted Big Dumb Godzilla Dropkick?  Becoming a Godzilla fan requires a guide of some sort.

4. What critical darling do you feel completely failed to live up to the hype?

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I remember people raving about Psychonauts.  I remember people bemoaning the fact that it’s not talked about more, didn’t sell enough, doesn’t take up enough space in our collective consciousness.

Then I played it.  And you know, I get what people like about it.  It’s got good ideas, it’s got a lot of creativity, it’s really high concept.  It’s just not very fun to play.  The controls are clumsy, the environment is often unresponsive, the challenges before you are really uninteresting, etc.  This is a game that’s a blast to watch, to absorb all the good parts behind it.  Just not to actually get your hands on the controller.

5. Which work do you feel should have deserved more attention?

Time is starting to correct this, but Fire Emblem has long been one of gaming’s unsung treasures.  I love turn-based strategies, but you very rarely get a good series going.  Fire Emblem has earned it’s place as one of the best.  I can understand why it never got much love.  Nintendo didn’t have faith in it on the American market until their character’s placements in Smash drove demand for it, and even then, the rampant permadeath, minimal developmental advancement between entries, and really basic presentation makes it hard to recommend for the general player.  But the strategic gameplay is really solid, and the series always deserved more than just surviving on the very edge of profitability.  From Awakening on up, though, the series has been getting a lot more success, and that’s really nice to see.

Now, if it would just get enough success that you could manage to find a copy on sale or for something less than MSRP even years later, that would make me a pretty happy man.  Nintendo doesn’t really cooperate with deal hunting.

6. Do you prefer a foreign work to be subtitled or dubbed in your language?

Film and TV, I prefer them to be subtitled.  I have a lot easier time with my film-industry burnout stress issues when watching a movie if I don’t understand the language being spoken, for whatever reason.  Video games, I prefer them dubbed, usually, especially if they’re going to be delivering any spoken content outside of cutscenes.  Given that I’m interacting with the work and my attention needs to be going in a couple different directions, having the dialogue draw too much of it away by making me both read and listen and mentally attach one to the other through translation conventions just doesn’t work on the fly.  Video games seem to get higher quality dubs than film and tv as well, that helps.

That said, I’m not super picky on it, and there are times when dubs can improve or reduce the quality of a work.  I just want the best experience available, and I can go between them as needed.

7. Can you remember an instance in which you managed to succeed in a game by the skin of your teeth (e.g. beat a difficult boss with barely any health remaining)?

Lots of times.  I think one of the most glorious times of that was in fighting Artorias in Dark Souls.  And you know what?  You guys were there for it.  Nice to have it recorded for posterity like that.

8. Can you remember an instance in which you got completely robbed playing a game?

Yes, and it still burns me.  No More Heroes has the absolutely worst overworld I have ever seen in games.  It’s big, expansive, takes forever to traverse, and mostly empty.  You have to deal with it, though.  It’s not an optional part of the game.  Specifically, to get your story missions, you have to grind for them.  You have to pay money to get your missions, and the only way to get sufficient amounts of money is through the inane minigames that are scattered around there.  To access them, you have to sign up for them at a central location, drive through the lame overworld to get to them, do the worthless thing, drive back, sign up again, rinse and repeat.  It’s not fun, it’s not engaging, and no matter how anyone tries to say it’s really satire, this is one of the dumbest and most disrespectful things I’ve ever seen anyone include in a game.  The core gameplay is pretty good, so you deal with it, but as you have to do more and more grinding to get to your missions, it really starts to wear thing.

Halfway through the game, you have to pay about $800,000 of game money to access a mission, if I remember correctly.  Tons of grinding.  Contrary to every other mission you’ve been through, when you start this one, it’s just a big long hallway.  No open areas, no twists and turns, nothing really to capture your interest, just long hallway that you fight basic dudes in.  But then you get to the end.  And the boss comes out.  And the bosses are the best part of the game.  This guy looks intense.  This is going to make up for it all.  But who’s that other guy in the cutscene?  And why did he just slice the big boss in half?  And now he’s leaving?  You never got to fight the boss?  Oh well, mission success, now grind $900,000 for the next mission.

I turned the game off then and I have never been back to No More Heroes.

9. What is your favorite arcade game?

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I have not played this since I was a kid, so nostalgia may well be twisting my perspective, but Ninja Baseball Batman was my favorite arcade game as a cub.  The only place I ever saw it was my local Pizza Hut, but I spent so many quarters on that game.  I don’t know if I ever beat it, but I do remember coming really close to the end multiple times.

10.  If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I would make a world tour, and visit the homes of the significant others of all my enemies and take them all on their dream dates.  No romances are so sweet as the one that ruins the life of someone you hate.

11.  What critics (in any medium) do you find to actually be reputable?

These days, not many.  I would much rather get an opinion from one of my fellow content creators than trust a review.  I trust the staff of PC Gamer more than anyone else, however.  It used to be because they were the only outlet I would see that would be openly negative in previews about a game that just wasn’t fun to see.  Everyone else, no matter how they trashed the game when it was released, you could always go back and see those same staff doing their jobs of being good industry outreachers and talking up that exact same game in previews, but PC Gamer would openly state that the games not good.  I don’t see as much of that these days, as I’ve moved away from traditional video games media as a whole, but I still see them taking a more balanced line than other outlets, not so much trying to partner with the publishers until they switch sides so they can milk a bad game or controversy for the big bucks then ingratiating themselves with the publishers once more to start the cycle over again.  I’ve gotten a little bitter about that, haven’t I?

Well, in the interests of sparing LightningEllen, no nominations this time.  Yet.  We’ll see if anyone displeases me first, then they’ll be staring 121 questions down as well.

Sunshine Blogger v3.00

We’re back, baby!  Went on a bit of an unintentional hiatus there, but yet again, Lost to the Aether rises like the phoenix.  You all now have my permission to rejoice.

We’re going to ease our way back in here by addressing the not one, but two Sunshine Blogger awards/nominations/whatever we received while I was out in that horrible, fearsome place we call real life.  Yes, both AK from Everything’s Bad For You and Red Metal from Extra Life Reviews have put us forward for this incredibly illustrious award.  Having received this already twice before, that obviously makes Lost to the Aether a shoe-in for this, whenever the people administering this bother to make my trophy.

Anyways, as always, in making these nominations, each of our fellow bloggers have posed a number of questions to us.  And your main man is always up to fill people in when they get curious about him.  So let’s get started.

Since AK got his nomination in first, will handle his questions up front.  Red Metal’s turn will come later.

But first, in keeping with the rules of the award, thank you, AK, for this opportunity to engage in my favorite activity and talk about myself.  If you don’t already, you should go check out his blog, Everything is Bad For You.  In spite of the name of his blog, he mostly posts about the good things, usually Japanese games and music, he enjoys.  Dude knows and loves his SMT.  And he’s a lawyer (poor guy), so you’ll sometimes see him working his law knowledge into his posts the way I do with business stuff sometimes here.  You like my stuff, you might well enjoy his.

Next step, on to the questions posed.

  1. Do you have a favorite game composer?  If so, who is it?

Motoi Sakuraba is my favorite video game composer.  I really admire him for the fantastic range and diversity of his works.  I know him best from his work with the Tales Of series, where you get mostly JRPG big bombastic emotion projecting pieces with a bit of rock instrumentation thrown in at times.  His work with the subtle, moody intensity of Dark Souls’ soundtrack was so different I never realized it had the same composer until I looked it up.  Going from there to the Valkyrie Profile series, to the Star Ocean series, to his Smash Bros. work, to so much more, every series of which seems to have a completely different type of soundtrack that is still of a really high quality, Sakuraba is a marvel even among all the talent in the industry.

Beyond that, Yasunori Mitsuda’s work in games is really limited, but Xenoblade Chronicles has probably my favorite soundtrack of any game.  Koji Kondo is a bit hit or miss for me, but when he hits, I think he has more impact than anyone else.  His theme from the trailer to Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess gives me chills every time I listen to it.  And Nobuo Uematsu’s soundtracks basically define my childhood, and still get my feels going.

You know, as I type this out, I realize this is really, really close to Red Metal’s post on the subject.  Guess I’m not that original.

2. Same question as above, but for game artists/art directors.

You know, I’m having a lot harder time with this one than I am with music.  There’s a lot of games I can point at having particularly good art direction, but I can’t bring any of the individuals behind them to mind.  I guess I haven’t connected with the individual creators on this front the same way I had with the music.

3. Is there a character you’ve encountered in a game that annoyed you immediately?  If so, did that character grow on you over time, or do you still dislike them?

Almost any child character in a game.  It always seems like the kids are just cancer to the story.  Nobody knows how to write them well, and they always seem to cause the characters I do like such huge problems and haven’t built up the sympathy required for me to tolerate that.  Walking Dead’s Clementine, Final Fantasy VI’s Relm, and Persona 4’s Nanako are about the only exceptions to this I can think of, where I actually enjoyed their presence from the start.  The rest of the kids just make me groan internally when I realize they’re going to be sticking around.

Sometimes they grow on me, and sometimes they don’t.  It really depends on how they progress from the initial brattiness.  Persona 3’s Ken never did.  In fact, I spent much of his arc moving from initial mild frustration over how “precocious” he is even though he doesn’t really do anything to great anger at the plot over how he does horrible things that have huge consequences yet his development through that is crazy rushed and everyone forgets about what he did almost immediately.  Anise from Tales of the Abyss, however, you start unraveling her character and finding out that, although she’s annoying, she’s got her reasons and traumas that make her that way.  Then there’s characters like Fallout 3/4’s Mayor MacCready, whom I had a burning firey rage for because they’re such a stupid little ratbag, then I have a lot more sympathy for them after they’ve gone through a bit of hell for being a stupid little ratbag, and I like them more once they’ve paid for the suffering they’ve imposed on me with their stupid existence.

Moral of the story is never have kids.

4. If you could own any vehicle from a game, which one would you own, and would it be a practical form of transportation?

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I’ll take the Jehuty from Zone of the Enders 2.  It’s good transportation, and you can park it anywhere.  Combat ready, for when I spy one of my many enemies.  And I have it on good authority that women love a man with a mecha.

5. How do you feel about contributing to crowdfunding campaigns for games and other works?

I actually have pretty strong feelings about that.  That drives me to never do it, really.

I really don’t like how crowdfunding campaigns are driven to treat those contributing to them like investors and selling them on that concept, yet really, all they’re doing it pre-ordering the material all in advance with potentially some special perks, and once the campaign is closed, treating them that way.  It’s telling the consumer they’re buying one thing, but selling them another.  And the fact that there’s no accountability in place and so many of these projects launch and fail because they’re sold on the strength of the creative aspects but they don’t have a producer or manager in place capable of keeping them moving forward, I just really have a hard time trusting crowdfunding.  I think one of my earliest awarenesses of crowdfunding was for the Homestuck game, yet once that campaign was funded, mismanagement led to it negatively impacting the webcomic it was to be based on, and the game itself was floating in the dead zone for a while and still has yet to fully come out.  Not a good first impression of it.

Yet, I can’t deny we’ve gotten some marvelous games out of it.  Your Undertales, your Shovel Knights, your FTLs, your Kingdom Death: Monsters, your Divekicks, the list of smashing successes goes on and on.  I can’t deny that it’s made for some great things, some of which probably wouldn’t exist without it.  I just wait until they’re all available commercially before I pick them up, however.

Fun fact, once upon a time I was going to do one of my business counselor posts about how I’d do a crowdfunding campaign, but then my last job proved that I’m really not good at those.

6. Reversing a question I was asked – what movie would you want to see adapted into game form?

Eh, I’m not really one to ask about movies.  I used to work in the industry, sucked at it, and got burnt out to the point that even now, years later, I get stressed out when I watch anything but just the right type of film.  So, sorry, but I rarely watch movies now, and I don’t have a good answer to this question.

7. Do you buy physical copies of games?  How important is it to you that the publisher releases a physical copy of a game, or does it matter at all?

Oh yeah.  I get physical copies all the time.  That’s my preferred way of getting all this going.  I live in a rural area, and internet’s not the greatest here.  It’s just fine for streaming movies, usually, but downloading games takes quite a while, and it’s usually a lot easier for me to swap out a card or disc when I want to play something than it would be waiting a day or two before I get to play that current gen piece of hotness I’ve got my eye on.

That said, I do have an extensive digital collection.  Mostly on PC, however.  The closing of the Nintendo Wii Store and the fact that my XBox 360 doesn’t work with my current internet has given me trust issues over games being taken away from me, and although Sony seems more reliable, it’s still a pain in the exquisitely formed butt to need to constantly manage system memory.  On PC, though, the various launchers I have make it easy, and the games get to be so cheap, it works wonders with my thrifty nature.  I’ll usually get a game digitally if it’s significantly cheaper than physical, but otherwise, give me my disc any day.

8. If you could have dinner with/hang out with any one main cast of characters from a game, which one would it be?

The crew from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance.  I don’t know why, really.  It just seems like they’d be the best time for just a big giant barbecue.

9. How important are a game’s story, characters, and overall message to you when weighed against the quality of its gameplay?

I want something to be good in a game.  I can take a bad story if the gameplay is good.  I can take bad gameplay if the story is great.  Best case scenario has both of them coming in line.  I’m willing to work with most any mix there, as long as at least one of the elements has something to offer.

10. If you were exiled to a desert island and could only bring one game console with you, which one would it be?  Not counting the PC – you’re allowed to have a PC on the desert island.  You also have access to power sources.  This is a really convenient desert island, isn’t it?

Well, I’ve got a couple hundred games in my PC library, so are you sure you’re going to let me have that?

Probably my Wii.  Largely because it’s backwards compatable with my Gamecube library, which has a little bit of everything in there, as well as it’s own.  So I think that could keep me occupied for quite a while.

11. How much money do you think you’d get for your entire game collection in Gamestop in-store credit?  

I have a pretty massive game collection.  Most of it’s digital or from a generation or more ago, so that’d be pretty minimal.  I could probably get a good steak dinner from what’s left, if I could find a restaurant that takes Gamestop in-store credit, but not much more than that.  Their going rate’s not that considerable.

Alrighty, now it’s on to the end times, the further nominations!  Normally, I would skip this part, but not today.  Today, I nominate LightningEllen for all eleven nomination slots here.  That’s right, LightningEllen, pick 121 questions, and answer them in your blog.  You have to thank me for it, too.  The rules say so.

And tune in next time, when we slam down the eleven questions Red Metal posed as well!

A Requiem for the Fallen

I’ve been blogging for over six years.  Which, at this moment, is feeling like multiple lifetimes in the WordPress blogosphere.  In that time, I’ve seen many great and inspired blogs rise and set.  I’ve seen several generations of my part of the interblog community get connected, then one by one wink out as people set their blogs aside.  I’ve been making the blog thing work lately, such as it is, and I’m not planning on going anywhere, but still, with some recent blogs I’ve historically followed now sunsetting, I have grown rather wistful about this hobby.

I can’t say for sure what I was looking for with blogging, when I first started out.  I always used to be big on forums.  That was how I got my online socialization out.  I made some good friends that way.  But, frankly, back in early 2013 when I started this thing up, I didn’t really have the capacity to be keeping up with that.  But I needed to do something.  I was a new father then and I found fatherhood to be incredibly isolating.  I had written articles about video game stuff for a few websites by that point, and was really fulfilled by adding content to this interweb, rather than just being a consumer.  I had always lurked on quite a few blogs, never really joining in the discussions, but reading the posts and watching the videos.  I could do that.  I could have a place of my own, a place to put my thoughts, I place to add to the discussion and take part in this whole market place of ideas.

I wasn’t expecting this whole community thing to be a part of it, getting to engage with other bloggers the way that really drives this whole WordPress network, but that’s been one of the more engaging parts of this whole experience.  Sharing thoughts has kept this whole thing going in times when the engagement just wasn’t enough.  This has never been a well-read blog, but having anyone take the time to absorb these thoughts is a powerful thing, and building a network of people who are all doing that with each other has been wonderful.

But blogging is not a convenient hobby.  It takes time (a lot of it if you want the kind of outreach to build an audience much bigger than what we have here), and energy, and creativity, and frankly, luck to get in with the type of community that we have here.  And it can be at times one that doesn’t fill in what you’re needing on it.  Particularly as time wears on and life shifts around and all of a sudden your priorities aren’t where they once were.  People burn out on blogging.  Or they just decide there’s better uses for their time.  And frankly, if blogging isn’t fulfilling to them, they shouldn’t blog.  There’s little reward to blogging other than personal fulfillment, and the blog itself will get worse when the writer can’t engage with what they’re writing about.

Hell, I was just there last year.  After a while of trying to keep up with the blog while also juggling a full-time job, some extra-curricular community engagement/professional development stuff, going back to school, convalescing from medical issues, and becoming a new father again, like I’m some kind of damned ‘adult’, something had to give, and that ended up being the blog.  I got drawn back into it, largely by the connections built here.  Seriously, new fatherhood is so isolating.  All your old friends get tired of having a screaming demon around all the time, parent groups only really want the mothers around, and it’s really hard to attract women when all your conversation topics are either about video games or child rearing.  So yeah.

I came back, but even now, it’s not easy.  I’ve had to reevaluate what I want from this blog.  Whereas I used to be able to dedicate some time several days a week before wrapping up the five page essay on whatever I felt was a thoughtful observation to be making, now, I’ve been mostly doing one to two page reviews on the games I’ve been playing as a record of my journey through this dumb gaming quest I set myself on years ago.  Both are fulfilling, just in different ways.  And it’s amazing how much my skills have dropped after that six month break.

Whatever, that’s all an aside.  Point is, I connect with fellow bloggers here.  And then given time, they head off in other directions in life.  That’s happened again, and again, and again.  We’ve just lost a few great bloggers who used to be often seen around here.  More will come.  And then they’ll leave as well.  Unless we leave first.

But for now, let’s take some time to remember those with whom we’ve been sharing this experience, only for them to vanish into the aether.  Your Mental Gamings, your Wastelanders, your Writer’s Life for Mes, your Explore Animations, your Paul Michael Egans, your Retrodragons, your Particlebits, and most recently, your Ambigamings and your Otaku Judges.  For that matter, the let’s play channels Super Best Friends Play and retsupurae, which were both super meaningful to me but are now retired.  You guys have made this journey all the better.  I hope your pastures are ever greener.

Sunshine Blogger!

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This is an award winning blog.  You know that.  And I suppose it’s purely natural.  I am the type of person that awards just seem to gravitate to.  And it’s happened again, recently.  Courtesy of Red Metal passing on his Sunshine Blogger Award to what seems like half the internet.  Including our not-so-humble private space on the internet right here.  Have we won the Sunshine Blogger Award before?  I don’t even remember.

You probably know the drill by now.  I’m not one to pass up easy content the chance to talk about myself curiousity, and Red Metal’s leveraged some questions at us.  Let’s run through them!

In which cases would you deem the manga superior to the anime on which it’s based?

I’m going to assume Red Metal’s really asking about when would I deem a manga superior to the anime based on it, because otherwise the only manga based on an anime I’ve read has been Samurai Champloo, and that wasn’t superior to the anime, so this would be a pretty awkward answer.

Having a story that actually finishes would be a big point in its favor.  A lot of anime, even good anime, even long running anime, has a tendency to end before it actually finishes the story.  I remember spending a lot of time with Tenjho Tenge, Eyeshield 21, Tokyo Ghoul, Inuyasha, etc, only for the anime to end long before the climax point they’ve all been building towards has been reached.  And I hate that.  I hate getting involved in a story, committing to a story, that just stops before it reaches its conclusion.  That’s the worst feeling for me.

Otherwise, it’s mostly an issue of pacing.  Which one delivers its energy and momentum better, and tells the story between major beats more effectively?  Sometimes it’s the anime.  The Naruto manga had a horrible sense of pacing, but the anime smoothed it out considerably.  Sometimes its the manga, when the anime creators weren’t able to properly transfer that over.

Which game do you feel has the best soundtrack?

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I’ve never even played Killer Instinct 2013, yet I still find myself digging the soundtrack like crazy.  At least the first season.  Mick Gordon made some absolutely beautiful music for that game that draws from a lot of very interesting cultural sources that still really fit for it.  I have to really admire it.  Later seasons of the game brought on Atlas and Celldweller instead of Mick, which… just didn’t grab me.  Which is odd, because I’ve loved Celldweller’s other music, and his style seems a perfect fit for Killer Instinct, but it just didn’t seem to synchronize.  But yeah, first season Killer Instinct 2013 is absolutely marvelous.  Check it out.

Otherwise Xenoblade Chronicles is probably the soundtrack I’ve gone back to more than anything else.  Some of the most honestly beautiful music I’ve heard in a game, on there.  And it’s incorporated beautifully into the game, matches the settings and events perfectly.

And for a bonus, the soundtrack to Bastion is pretty marvelous as well.

If you could revive a dead video games series, which one would you choose?

Saints Row.  Which is an odd one.  Developer would insist it’s not dead.  After all, Agents of Mayhem follows up on the ending of the final Saints Row game and uses a lot of the same characters, and they’re totally working on another Saints Row project otherwise!  Wikipedia says so!  But we haven’t seen a game in the series that wasn’t, in essence, just a stretched out piece of DLC since 2011, and the current franchise owners seem to mostly be sitting on it.

I’m not even sure what version of the series I’d want to see back.  The original Saints Row was a fun game with a lot of frustrating gameplay hooks and an irreverent but straight-laced plot with some surprisingly intelligent writing hidden beneath the surface.  The second was a pitch black comedy with a plot that went to some rather gritty places, but once again, had some surprisingly smart story beats if you dug into things.  Saints Row 3 dropped a lot of the hidden intelligence, took the idea that ‘haha, crazy funny game series’ up to eleven, and basically made an evil Saturday morning cartoon.  Saints Row IV and Gat Out of Hell took that change and went crazy with it.

So yeah, like I said, I don’t know what I would want from the series, but I want something.  I loved Saints Row 2.  Saints Row 3 dropped a lot of the things I loved about Saints Row 2 and replaced them with something else, but it was still a crazy fun game.  Following up on either of those would make me happy.

What game/film/album/book did you have a particularly difficult time adding to your collection?

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Persona 2: Eternal Punishment.  I’ve said it before, but my favorite game is Persona 4.  I fell in love with that game immediately upon playing it, and wanted to bury myself in the series leading up to it.  Thing is, before Persona 3 made it popular, the Persona series was a very niche JRPG series on the PS2 with a limited run, and it was hard to get copies of the game years after for a reasonable price.  Especially given that they weren’t available on the Playstation store at the time.  I was able to track down the original Persona easily enough, although I still had to pay more than I wanted to for it, but Persona 2: Eternal Punishment for a reasonable price was difficult to find.  Especially given that I wasn’t willing to pay more than original MSRP for a used copy, and I wanted one that came with its original case.  It took me a couple of months, and I ended up doing some minor negotiations with an Amazon seller to get a deal I was satisfied with, but I ended up picking it up for $50.

Of course, now it’s just like $10 digitally on the PSN store.  Progress is a wonderful thing.

Do you prefer to see a film at home or in the theaters?

At home.  Theaters are mostly a date thing for me.  I don’t usually just watch a movie or show on it’s own, I’ve usually got something else going on if I’m just going to sit down and watch something, so being at home lets me multitask.

In what cases did you find yourself siding with critics over fans about a work’s quality?

In general, when you’re dealing with an entry in a games franchise that throws in some deep changes to the established structure, critics seem to weather it better than the fans do.  And I would say I handle it more like the former camp, even for franchises I love.  I understand where it comes from, the new work isn’t meeting up to established expectations, but I feel my enjoyment of the game comes more from its own value rather than the expectations built up, so in general, I don’t get the ‘It’s different it sucks!’ feeling a lot of the fans seem to.

Silent Hill 4’s an example.  Critics thought it was ok, the fans hated it.  I was more in the former camp.  I felt it was a complete mediocre game, but one that wasn’t necessarily poorer than average for the time.  But it was missing a lot of the things that went so successfully in earlier Silent Hills, and for that, the game got blasted online.  Those didn’t really resonate with me.

In what cases did you find yourself siding with fans over critics about a work’s quality?

A lot more often than the above, really.  To be honest, I find the fan reception to be a bit of a better indicator of the chances I’ll have of enjoying a work than the critical reception, for a lot different reasons.  If a fan is excited for the game, and I resonate with the things that make them so excited about it when they describe or show it to me, that’s probably the thing that makes me most likely to get into the series.  Hell, I haven’t cared about Devil May Cry since I tried out the first game and found it too clunky for my tastes, but after watching an LP series by people who absolutely love the games, I’ve been convinced to give a second go to later games in the series lately.

DA 2 metacritic

That works the opposite way, too.  I’ve been finding critics to be a little too impressed with polish over substance, and too hesitant to give outright negative reviews to games that come from large-scale publishers.  Dragon Age II is an example of that.  Outside of the setting, I find the game absolutely horrid.  Combat is unengaging, enemy spawning is blatantly stupid, and you have to go through the same levels so many freaking times that it makes me wonder why I’m even bothering putting time into it if I’m just going to have to circle back and do the same things later.  The plot hits some interesting beats, but it continually undermines its own themes, and ends up feeling like a lot of what you did doesn’t really mean anything shortly after you did it.  I hate that game.  The fans hate that game.  Metacritic ranking?  Well, just see above.

What is the most difficult game you’ve completed?

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Does DLC count?  I don’t think Dark Souls is the hardest game I’ve beaten, but I think the Artorias of the Abyss DLC might be the hardest gaming experience I’ve had.  Manus absolutely took me to the wall and back, and before him, I had to enter some sort of weird zen state and tap into my pure gaming instincts just to get past Artorias.

Otherwise, Zelda 2 comes to mind, but I had copious amounts of save-state help on that one.  And I’ve beaten Binding of Isaac, which adds harder levels and harder bosses on top of the previously ultimate challenges each time you beat it, but I haven’t exhausted its challenges as yet.

Which game series have you been following for the longest amount of time?

The original Super Mario Bros. Was one of the first games I owned.  And I’m still digging it.  So that one.

Vanilla answer, I know.

In what ways do you feel video game critics to be ahead of their film-loving counterparts?

You’re asking the wrong cowboy here.  I have an odd relationship with film.  Got burnt out on it a while back, after some stressful experiences working on the borders of the film industry.  Since then, I’ve had a hard time looking at films purely for enjoyment, and as such, don’t pay much attention to it now.  So I guess that’s the way game critics are ahead, I might actually read a review from them every once in a while.

How does hype factor into how you ultimately feel about a work?

If other people are excited for something, and the features that they’re excited about are things that seem interesting to me, that can be infectious.  See the Devil May Cry example above.  I love a lot of character action games, but I didn’t enjoy the first Devil May Cry, so I never gave the series another thought.  Until recently, in prep for DMC 5, the Let’s Play group I followed played through the series, which is one of their favorites, and I find myself wanting to get into the newer games and get that same excitement for myself.

Hype can ruin a work too, though.  Like, for example, with Planescape: Torment.  With the dialogue surrounding that game, I was expecting it to be transcendent, that it would completely blow my mind.  It didn’t.  It did one thing very, very well, but that was surrounded by a lot of flaws and a gameplay engine I abhorred.  I don’t know that I necessarily would have enjoyed the game more were it not for the hype, but I do recall having a very distinct moment of disappointment early on that soured me for a lot of the rest of it.

Still Alive

It’s been what, like six months now?

Yeah, I haven’t been around for a while.  I’m not really one for talking about meta stuff, so was kind of thinking I’d just fade away.  But Lightning Ellen was kind enough to check in, which got me thinking I might owe you guys a little more of an update than that.  So, if you’re still seeing this six months on, this one’s for you.

So what happened?  Life, my great, mortal nemesis, got the better of me.  Between working full time, classes in the evening, some really major ongoing life changes that are currently putting a lot of constraints on my time, the amount of space I’ve been having available for these personal pursuits had become a lot more limited.  So, this summer, I’ve had to shift around some priorities in order to make life work, and unfortunately, blogging didn’t make the keep-list.  I’ve got a ton of hobbies and a very limited amount of time in general, so I haven’t been the most prolific blogger even in the best of times, but with my freetime fleeing before me much like my enemies, even what I had been able to muster had to go.

And I’ve missed it.  I’ve missed you.  Yes, you specifically, reading this.  There’s a missing part of my heart that only you can fill.  I’ve missed making content for the internet, rather than just consuming it.  And I miss the connections I’ve made through blogging, the networks and friends I’ve been able to tap into.  But, so far at least, I haven’t been able to make things work.

That might change.  No promises, but I’d like to make an attempt at blogging again.  My courseload this semester is a bit lighter, and I’ve got some ideas to throw in.  I’m want to give it a try.  No guarantees, and if I am able to do it, content might be a bit different.  I’ve always enjoyed writing at length and detail a lot more than I’ve enjoyed brevity and efficiency, as you may have noticed, but my current schedule may not allow for that, if anything.  Moreover, I may not be able to connect with others the same way I used to.  Or maybe times will change and I’ll be able to get into all that once again.  Time will tell.

In any case, whether you’re a fellow blogger, a reader, a lurker, a fan, just someone who checks in occasionally, thanks for reading my work here.  That’s really a powerful thing, that we’ve been able to share ideas like this.  Hopefully, we’ll see each other some more down the road.  If not, well, this blog has five and a half years of content behind it.  It’s been a good run.

The Sunshine Blogger Award

So, as we mentioned last time around, in addition to the Mystery Blogger award from Red Metal, we were nominated for the Sunshine Blogger award by master of the mental science, bloggess extraordinaire, and dominator of the post-apocalyptic wasteland, Athena. Ran out of time to get my response together for that last week, so let’s address that now.

Rules for the Sunshine Blogger award are:

Thank blogger(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.

Athena is a woman of impeccable taste and decision-making. And also she likes Dragon Age. Thank you very much, Athena, for this recognition. I appreciate your consideration.

Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.

Questions are:

1. If you could change one thing about AAA gaming, what would it be?

This is one of those somewhat trendy business management things, but I would increase the focus on Human-Centered Design. For a quick 101-level summary, the philosophy there is that generally, there’s three directions most people start from when designing a new product. There’s the business side, which seeks to build things that are economically viable, the practical side, which builds things you’re capable of doing, and the human side, which builds things that people want to use. Any product you release has to satisfy elements of all three spheres to be successful, but when you’re just in the early stages, planning things out, you typically start in one of those spheres mentally and move into the others after you’ve started prototyping and actually testing those projects out. Whichever one you start with has the biggest influence on what shape the product tapes. I get the feeling that a lot of AAA gaming starts more in the sphere of seeking financial viability rather than something that’s going to have an impact on the end user, and I’d like to see that shift.

2. Do you think pineapple belongs on pizza?

Absolutely. Pineapple and onion pizza is one of my favorites.

3. Is there an article on your site that you would write differently, knowing what you know now? Which one?

Eh, don’t think so. I can’t think of anything I’ve written that I wouldn’t stand by. Some of them I’d have plenty to add to, my opinions might have changed on a few, but I can’t think of any that I’d re-write.

My post about being unable to identify as a player in my professional life, though, I feel that one I’d have the most to add to with the way time has shaped up.

4. What’s the weather like near you today?

Warm and sunny. Which has been the case most winter. And that’s a problem. I live in an area where the economy strongly relies on the ski industry. So while parts of the country has been absolutely dumped on, we’ve been pretty dry. Our slopes have spent a lot of the season green. Without snow, we haven’t been getting our usual tourists, which has slowed the economy, which has made my job in workforce development a bit more interesting than usual.

5. Do you like pancakes or waffles better?

Waffles, typically. Evenly cooked all over, crispy instead of floppy? Yes please. Pancakes are good too, though.

6. Is there anything about your gaming hobby/habits that you don’t like?

The time available, mostly. As I mentioned in my last post, I am a multi-faceted individual, with multiple interests and responsibilities, and it’s hard to fit them all into a given day. It’s usually not until 9:00 p.m. That I’m able to start playing something, and I’ve only got a few hours to spare for my favorite pasttime. Even then, I often find myself combining activities, such as playing and exercising or playing and listening to something at the same time, if the game is of a kind to allow for that, just to fit in everything I want to before the day’s over. It’d be nice to have a few more hours added to each day so I can deal with that.

7. Do you have a preference between JRPGs and western RPGs?

No. I don’t typically think in terms of genre much, but both can deliver absolutely fantastic experiences. I feel like there’s a lot more half-assed JRPGs than WRPGs out there, but if you reach the heights of both, both genres can be great, and they can be great in very different ways. What I’ll play really depends on my mood.

8. When does an open-world game begin to suffer from open-world bloat?

I think it’s really a factor of time and engagement. When you’re spending a noticeable amount of time doing things that you just check out from, such as travelling through an empty and uninteresting locale, grinding boars for your quest to collect 20 pig asses to craft your Sword of Pork Butt, *ahem combat in Planescape Torment cough cough*, and you’re not actually paying full attention to any of it, I would say that that’s when open-world bloat starts to kick in. Experiences should be engaging. They should cycle mental energy through you. When they stop doing that, when you’re just checking the boxes and checking out, that’s when they start losing you.

9. What is the most memorable line of dialogue in a game?

I’m not a big quotes guy, but I am rather fond of “Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the president?”

No? You want something meaningful? How about Tales of Phantasia’s “If there is evil in this world, it lurks in the hearts of man.”

Still not satisfied? Fine, bonus round. “Only a jackass can change the world.” Probably my favorite moment from Final Fantasy X-2.

10. Quick! You have 3 seconds to grab one game from your collection. Which one to do you grab and why?

3 seconds?! Oh no, what am I… Persona 4. That’s also my desert island game, my game that describes me, my 8th degree of Kevin Bacon, etc. I think everybody has a work that truly means something to them. That’s special to them, no matter what the quality is. That there’s a connection there beyond just the work itself. Persona 4 is that for me, for reasons I went over in my last post. Persona 4 is my game of games.   It’s the one where context has transcended context, and it has touched me and my life in a way few others have.

11. Do you collect anything? What is it?
Can you collect memories? If so, that’s it for me. I enjoy novelty, building up new experiences, trying new things out. I am more apt to do something if it gives me something new to learn or an experience I hadn’t tried before. There’s a lot to life, and although I’m never going to experience even a fraction of it, I would like to build up as much experience as I can.

Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.

Again, nah. I’m just not that social. I don’t think I even have eleven friends. And all the people I would nominate either don’t really jive with the social awards or they’ve gotten one recently because we’re all part of the same circle. Sorry.

List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.
I don’t know what the award logo is. A quick Google Search shows about a hundred different logos. So you know what? Here:

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And that’s me!  I hope you all enjoyed me talking about myself as much as I did.  And it was a lovely break over a week when I spend half of it away from my writing computer.  We’ll be back with our regularly scheduled content in the near future.

 

The Mystery Blogger Award

This post could have been a couple things. A bit about how I tried and utterly failed to every one of our Fallout decision makers. Something reflecting on Planescape Torment’s unfortunate case of bipolar disorder. I could have finally publicly published one of the hundreds of posts sitting in my blog folder extolling the virtues of my hair. But, well, I’m a pleaser. I can’t help it. Just ask your girlfriend. I like leaving the people around me better off. And when those people around me combine that impulse with my natural enjoyment of talking about myself, well, I just can’t help it.

We’ve been touched by those viral get-to-know-you blogging awards again. You may remember our adventures with these in the past, when we were given the Double Lovely Versatile Liebster award. Well, that’s been expanded by not just one, but two steps. First, Red Metal was kind enough to send us over a Mystery Blogger award, thus guaranteeing we’d have easy content ready to go the next time a week got ahead of us. I was holding on to that in my back pocket, waiting for the most opportune time to slip that into my draw, but then Athena raises the stakes with by calling us for the Sunshine Blogger award, and, well, now it’s time for those cards to be on the table. I am nothing if not efficient, so let’s take care of both of those at once here.

Thank you both Red Metal and Athena. I appreciate your interest in opening up humble old me, the kindness you showed in your nominations and giving me the opportunity to talk about my favorite subject, myself.

Let’s start with Red Metal’s Mystery Blogger Award. Step by step, the rules are

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog.

You know what, let’s do that, but with a twist.
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  • List the rules.

Check, got it. Man, I’m the best at this.

  • Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.

Done already. But again, thank you Red Metal. If you’ve been around for most any length of time, you’ve seen him around in the comments at the very least. Dude’s one of my favorite game reviewers, and takes a pretty in-depth look at whatever catches his fancy on the regular. Check him out.

  • Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.

Methinks that one Okoto Enigma maybe started up this award as a means to Google Bomb themselves. But oh well. I won’t hold it against them. With a quick glance at their blog, they’ve got absolutely no crossover with what we talk about here, so, don’t know that you’d be interested, but just for the webcrawlers, here’s their site.  I chose a random post there, just to make the stats the get a little more random.

  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  1. Like many people, video gaming is just one of my too many interests. It’s the one I’ve kept up with the longest, and devote the most mental space to, but I’ve got a too long list of things I keep up with, such as comic books, physical fitness, men’s style, art, New Japan Pro Wrestling, wine, my hair, and so on. Makes my days a little too full. I’ve kept most of them from here, because, although I consider this more an Aether’s Interest blog than a video games blog, I want to have at least a little consistency, but I’ve noticed some of that popping into a few of the examples or analogies I may use.
  2. I fantasize about leading a band, but I haven’t actually picked up an instrument in years.
  3. I think of myself as pretty socially adept. I can hold my own in a conversation, use my network well, get people talking with ease, etc. Put me in front of a room of people, even, and I’ll thrive. I’ve got this huge block when it comes to approaching people, though. I don’t understand it myself. When I’ve got an in to a conversation, it’s easy. When I’m introduced by someone else, fine. But I just can’t figure out how to put myself out there like that. Social stuff is weird.
  • You have to nominate 10 – 20 people.

Nah. That involves approaching people, and see number 3 above. Also, I have a pretty small blogging circle, and most of those whom I would nominate either received a similar viral award recently or choose not to play along with these.

So here’s an inoculation against the viral spread, I guess.

  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.

Okay, done.

  • Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny

Here’s Red Metal’s questions:

Which game proved to be the biggest disappointment for you?

Justice League Task Force. When I was a kid, had a lot of fun with fighting games, loved superheroes, this seemed really interesting from the magazines, a perfect fight. Then I rented it, and it played like garbage. Slow, clumsy, special moves were really unreliable, just not a good experience. I’m sure I’ve been more disappointed by games since, but I remember this one because it was my first learning experience that not all games will live up to my excitement.

Which game proved to be the most pleasant surprise for you?

Persona 4. But this one’s going to take a bit of a story.

Around the time I picked this game up, I was in a weird place in life. Part of that led to me just not enjoying things, including video games, as much. Part of that was just general malaise, but part of that was that it was a lot easier to see the worst in everything than it was the good. And my gaming habits were hitting that wall hard. I was starting to think the whole medium had peaked, and was on its way down in quality. I had been considering giving it up.

I don’t remember why I had picked up Persona 4. I didn’t know anything about it, other than that Persona 3 was reputed to be really good, and I had very fond memories of its Super Famicom predecessor Shin Megami Tensei from a time when I was stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing else to do than to trial and error my way through a brutally hard JRPG that I couldn’t even read. But I gave it a try on a whim, and I was blown away. It was an incredibly tight story that was very well thought out, I built connections to the characters there in a way I was sorely lacking from the people I was with in real life, and the battle system had complexities at a level I wasn’t expecting from a JRPG of the time.

It didn’t exactly turn my life around, but it did single-handedly turn me back into a devoted hobbyist of video games. I had been a proponent for stories in video games beforehand, but that was the first one that really opened my eyes to the depths of just what unique feature the medium had for storytelling.  Not only that, it was fun.  I fell in love with it, and it showed me I still could enjoy video games at a time I really needed that.  I probably wouldn’t be playing today and having this blog here were it not for that game.

What is the most memorable scene from a film you’ve watched?

For me, it’s the climax to Beauty and the Beast. Where the Beast is fighting with Gaston, and the latter falls off the castle to his death. Between Gaston’s blind rage, and the first time I think I was exposed to a death as a kid, that really stuck with me.

What inspired you to begin blogging?

Blazes. Look at my sidebar there. This blog dates back to the start of 2013. For such a simple project like this one, that’s exceptionally long. Long enough that I don’t rightly remember.

I’ve been writing for a long time. Some of which has even seen the light of day. I used to admin for a roleplaying forum, and was a pretty active participant there. I’ve got a few articles scattered around other people’s sites, used to put together fun essays and games on various social media I was a part of, etc. I enjoyed it. I like creating. But everything I did was all scattered around, and it was all on other people’s sites. I had nothing of my own. I was also following quite a few gaming blogs at the time. I was frustrated with most of the forums and what not I had been dealing with, how much discussion went ignored there, but I was enticed by the idea of having my own little place that I could put my own thoughts up, keeping my own small corner of the internet, just having a place for me and whatever from my mind I felt I could share with the world. I figured I’d try it out, see how it goes, and five years later, I’m apparently still at it. I don’t have the time to post as much as I’d like to, and it doesn’t seem to have as much reach as the avenues I used to write through, but I’m very fulfilled with it.

If you could go back in time and see any band that has permanently broken up perform a concert, which one would you choose?

Nightwish is one of my favorite bands. They’re still around, but they’ve gone through a few lead singers, and each time, it changes their musical profile significantly. Would have been nice to have caught them with their original lead singer, with whom they put out a lot of their most notable work.

  • Share a link to your best post(s).

My best post? They’re all great, how can I choose? But I am particularly proud of having what I believe is the most comprehensive list of left-handed video game characters on the internet. It could probably do with an update, there’s two more I’ve come across in games since I put that list together, but it’s still a more thorough list than I believe you’d be able to find elsewhere. Occasionally, I track back the links leading people to the blog, and find that someone else has used that list for their own projects. That’s also fulfilling to me, that it’s started to take a life of it’s own.

Also, I’m really proud of our Dark Souls run here. If you have some time to fill, might I suggest that? The first post probably not so great, because I wasn’t expecting to do a LP out of it then, but from the second onward, should be hitting more our stride. That was the first LP I’ve completed, and I think it went really well. Especially one jumping in blind to a notoriously difficult game.

More recently, I think my post analyzing Nintendo’s business culture is pretty noteworthy. It was fun for me to step back into my business academic shoes, and although it’s mostly conjecture, I think it does come from a perspective and carries information you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

And, you know, because this is long enough already, and because it’s time for me to go play some games, how about we tackle the Sunshine Blogger award in another post.