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Did You Know Gaming? – Final Fantasy [GO/ER]
Jul 26th, 2012 by Dan

Not a lot of new info for series stalwarts, but there’s an interesting tidbit or two nestled deep within this video.

E3 2012 – Agni’s Philosophy: A Final Fantasy Tech Demo [GO/ER]
Jun 7th, 2012 by Dan

Check out Squeenix’s new graphics engine. Very pretty. Now if only they could start producing popular, modern RPGs again…

May: You’ve Been Cheated [Fukubukuro 2010]
Jan 6th, 2011 by Dan

In their last show as a band, the Sex Pistols played one song and left the stage. Before leaving the stage, Johnny Rotten quipped, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

The thing is, I don’t feel this way for the reasons everyone else might think I might. I suppose we’ll go after the biggest point of contention first.

Linearity

“Final Fantasy XIII is The Worst Final Fantasy Ever (TM) because all the dungeons are straight lines and there are no towns.” Guess what. The non-linearity of those Final Fantasy games you all hold so dear is an illusion. Final Fantasy XIII draws so much ire because it has the gall to tell you what you already know.

I mean, really, you might be able to wander around the world man, but that doesn’t mean you get to pick what you do. The plot only advances when you go to specific places in a particular sequence (also known as a linear progression) and locations on the map are artificially locked from transit by story gates.

In fact, non-linearity is a joke across almost every video game. The main fun of any GTA game may not stem from following the story, but when you do decide to start on it, you will never be able to sequence break or do anything but follow it linearly to its conclusion. You might be able to pick which order you complete mission paths, but, with the exception of GTA IV, every event has a pre-determined outcome. If that’s not linearity, I don’t know what is.

I applaud a game that doesn’t try to conceal its story behind a veneer of faux choice. Final Fantasy games have only ever allowed choices once: The World of Ruin in FF VI. There are countless story details and sidequests to experience, but once you get Setzer, Edgar, and Sabin, you don’t have to see any of them. You’re free to grind and face Kefka at any point.

Bonus points really should be awarded to FF XIII for having the guts to let its story carry the momentum, but they are immediately lost on their failed attempt to make anything remotely interesting happen.

Foremost in my annoyance with the game is Hope’s subplot. In the first hour or so of gameplay, Snow, a big, earnest, stupid guy in the tradition of anime big, earnest, stupid guys, manages to get most of his ragtag squad killed, including Hope’s mother, standing up against the world’s government. Naturally, this infuriates Hope, who now desires revenge.

Hypothetical: A man seems directly responsible for the death of your mother. Do you:

1. Stutter and stammer every time you see him
2. Stew silently while enjoying revenge fantasies every time you see him
3. Figure out some way to confront him (in rage or otherwise) the first chance you get.

Maybe I’m being presumptuous here, but unless you’ve got some sort of emotional disorder, option three seems like the healthiest and most logical choice. Hope is all about the first two options because he is a gigantic pain in the ass.

I don’t think this is the result of some kind of cultural difference. I mean, hey, I’m not the most emotionally open person. I don’t really go around sharing my feelings with everyone I know, but I’m pretty sure that if a man were responsible for killing my mom, he’d know about it ASAP. It’s got to be a contrivance (and an annoying one). Why are characters in media so unable to just open their mouths and talk? If writers think this is an effective way to build narrative tension, then I’ve got news for them. As a rule, if your characters are forced to behave like they’ve never interacted with another human being for your plot devices to work, said devices are cripplingly contrived.

Honestly, it’s just lazy writing and it removes me from the narrative. Maybe Hope has a Deep Dark Secret that makes him act so stupidly, but we never learn about it. The game goes out of its way to say that Hope has father issues to hand-wave away his social idiocy, but when we meet Papa Hope, we’re confronted with a loving father who seems to care very deeply about his son. Did I miss something somewhere? Someone seems to have dropped the ball.

You know what, I think I know why this happened. Somewhere along the way the story gurus at Square Enix decided that many young men, their prime and target demographic, seem to have issues with their domineering fathers. Some of them wrote this detail on his character sheet. Somewhere else the scenario writers were coming up with how half of the player characters would unite and escape. They decided they’d meet at Hope’s mansion and Hope’s awesome dad would help them out. When you’ve got a game this massive and important, you’d think that these two teams would discuss these idiosyncrasies, right? How does such a glaring contradiction make it into the final build?

One of my other big “WTF?” moments comes at the end of a sequence at an amusement park. Sazh struggles with whether or not to kill the traveling companion who has betrayed him. Pretty soon after that starts, the physical manifestation of his emotional conflict attacks him. For most characters, fighting their eidolons, as they are called, brings them emotional peace allowing them to understand their path. In this case in results in Sazh deciding to commit suicide. What. The. Fuck.

Repeating this same emotional pattern six times (one for each main character!) seems like it would get old fast. It does. Suicide does not freshen the experience. It makes no sense. We all know he’s not really dead because we just unlocked his summon!

It’s a shame to see so many missteps in such a promising premise. Roll with me here. In the world of FF XIII there are two primary sentient beings: Humans and Fal’Cie (ignore the stupid name of the second species (typical Squeenix pretentious nonsense)). The FC, as I will now call them, are magical creatures specializing in producing food, power, or other more advanced functions. Unfortunately, the FC are split into two warring factions, Cocoon and Pulse. FC also have the terrifying ability to brand humans, saddling them with cryptic quests. Failing to complete these quests turns the human into a mindless monster cursed to wander the earth slowly solidifying until he finally petrifies and can no longer move. If they magage to succeed in their quest, they are transformed into crystals for eternity. Those in “crystal sleep” are not dead, but they are also not alive.

It’s the perfect deconstruction of video game protagonists. Each character has a singular purpose. Failing will result in a fate worse than death and succeeding will result in the end of the narrative, dooming the characters to non-existence. The much maligned linear nature of the game represents their inability to turn away, especially when you learn that the antagonists have been helping you the whole time. The big bad wants the characters to kill him. For once the game realizes that its point is to be defeated by the player.

If Squeenix hadn’t gone and relied on a deus ex machina ending like they had, the world would have ended with mankind and the FC extinct. It would have been brilliant.

Here’s another idea for the writers out there. If we have no idea (and no hint) a character can do something until you dramatically reveal it in the penultimate cutscene, it will feel cheap when you make the ending rely on that skill. Not to mention, of course, that the physics of arresting the momentum of a giant biome falling thousands of feet through the atmosphere would probably result in the deaths of nearly every inhabitant.

This is all stacked upon the naive and bullheaded solution that our heroes come up with to counter the manipulative FC. Get this, their plan is to just keep going along the path hoping that something will save them from dooming themselves (ok, so it does, but that’s because of narrative bullshit). It makes my brain hurt in ways I cannot fathom. It’s idiotic.

Now we’re going to take a moment for a quick aside into my personal life that will invariably lead back into the game.

I don’t know what university was like for non-math-type majors, but for my ECE degree I was forced to read and watch tons of mathematical proofs. Invariably (math pun! (so lonely)) we’d reach a point where the professor would skip to the end of the proof and tell us students “I’ll leave the rest of this proof as an academic exercise for you students”. When you’re the professor, you don’t have to waste your time doing the grunt work.

That was quick, back to the game:

Why are we forced to load the battle engine against enemies who are drastically weaker than the player’s party? What’s the point of that? The only time I’ve ever seen this problem intelligently avoided was when I played Earthbound. Once Ness is sufficiently more powerful than a given enemy, enemy encounters result in an instant KO. The battle engine isn’t loaded and XP and items are awarded as appropriate. The game surrenders a battle whose result is a foregone conclusion, saving you from wasting unnecessary time.

Shouldn’t more games do this? Why do I have to load up the battle engine to complete a fight that lasts five to ten seconds? What does the game gain by forcing me to sit through this? It’s not like we’re strategically managing resources in this game (unlike, say, a Persona or Shin Megami Tensei game); the entire party is fully healed after every battle. So why not? Does Squeenix think that if we don’t sit through a five second battle while pushing ‘X’ once we will be livid that the game is playing itself?

Of course, this makes even less sense when you think about the way the battle system works in FF XIII. There are two ways that you can fight: Auto-Attack and Abilities. If you select Auto, the AI will select a series of commands faster than you could based on the knowledge it has about the enemy you are facing. All you have to do is set the roles (Tank, DPS, Healer, Buffer/Debuffer) and the game will pick the most prudent course of action. It’s also streamlined to such a degree that if you die, all you’ve got to do is pick retry and you are respawned just outside the battle you just lost. It’s that easy.

Final Fantasy XIII wants so badly to be a well-oiled machine, like a Disney ride pushing you toward the goal, that these time sinks become way more pronounced. Fighting with auto, like almost every player does, with your only responsibility being character roles can still be strategic and fun, but at a certain point I start to think, “Why do I have to select auto every single round? Why can’t I just toggle it off when I need to change my tactics?” It’s like the game asks me every turn if I still want it to play the game for me.

Don’t get me wrong here, XIII is not a bad game…or maybe it is. Perhaps FF XIII is a better experience than it is a game. You’ve got stunning cutscenes and top-notch voice acting combined with a game that mostly plays itself along a straight line. Almost sounds like a movie to me.

Lightning cosplay at Otakon 2010

The Heroes of Final Fantasy Week 3 [GO]
Aug 25th, 2010 by Dan

The Heroes of Final Fantasy Week 3

One of the first major features on this blog was a Villains of Final Fantasy series that ran for 13 weeks covering the main enemies of every numbered Final Fantasy game from I to XII including X-2. With Final Fantasy XIII launching in the states in just over a month, I figured it’s high time to give some recognition to the teams who are actually responsible for bringing those villains to justice and saving the world. I bring you the Heroes of Final Fantasy.

Week 1 – Final Fantasy
Week 2 – Final Fantasy II

FFIII-onionknight

Kinda chubby

The Onion Knights are actually a band of cipher protagonists with no real personalities or backstories. Later remakes of the game attempted to revise this and shoehorn in some identities and personalities to the characters, but the fact remains that the protagonists of FF III are nobodies in the same way that the cast of FF I are nobodies, only this time they have so many different class combinations that it would be prohibitively difficult (i.e., I don’t want to do it) for me to list and describe them all.

Coolness

Who are these four mysterious warriors and why do they fight? No one knows. Would I invite them over to my house to hang out? No way. Too boring.

1/10

Hero Quotient:

Killing Chaos or an inter-dimensional, trans-existential beings bent on destroying existence is kind of impressive, I guess, but that’s what everyone does in an FF game. Mastering a bunch of jobs and skills seems pretty hard, so I’ll give them a small boost for that.

4/10

Akihiko_Yoshida-FF3

Ok, these guys look kind of cool. Reminds me of Amano

Dragon Questing V: Conclusion [Game Overview]
Jun 4th, 2010 by Dan

Dragon Quest Slime

Dragon Quest is inexorably tied to the Japanese video game space. The series was the first big hit RPG and its core qualities, simplicity, relative ease, and lightheartedness touched that first generation and continue to bring the same degree of fondness with each installment. It is unquestionably the premiere mega-franchise of Japan. Somehow it just never caught on in the states. In the states we play Final Fantasy.

Until Chrono Trigger, I’d never played an RPG with Enix’s stamp on it. The difference is unmistakable. Final Fantasy’s most iconic figure is an angsty blond teen with a huge sword. Dragon Quest’s most famous character is a smiling ball of slime. The difference speaks volumes. I think the most hilarious part about it is that Dragon Quest V, for all its puns and lighthearted humor, feels way more mature than any self-serious Final Fantasy I’ve ever played.

There was a period of time shortly after I left home for university that I had a somewhat contentious relationship with my family. Like many 18-year-old kids, I needed my independence and I went about grabbing it in the most contentious, painful way possible. I’m not proud of it, but it happened and it left a hole in my relationship with my parents that needed patching. The inflection point came, not coincidentally, as I started to mature and grow as an adult. Over the course of the four years I was at school and the few after I started to realize that I needed my family more than I cared to admit and I did my best to begin repairing the damage I had done.

I grew up in a family that valued family. It’s not out of the ordinary for a movie or game to awaken the memories of my upbringing and cause me to get emotional. Both Secondhand Lions and Mother 3 made me want to call my brothers. Dragon Quest V made me call my dad and tell him how much he meant to me. Sure, it feels a little silly to say that playing a video game caused me to feel guilt about my stupid actions as a kid, but that’s exactly the point. What I’d done was stupid and immature. This game, with its smiling slimes and stupid puns, recognizes the truth about family. It knows that there is nothing more important than the bonds we make with each other. It knows that life is beautiful and fun. It also knows that life is cruel, random, and unfair.

The angsty, loner teens with huge swords may learn by the end of the game that they need their friends, but the Hero knows that he needs his family from the moment the game is turned on. Everything about Dragon Quest’s systems point to family building. There’s more maturity in this one game than the entire Final Fantasy series combined (save one or two of the thirteen). I don’t mean to bash Final Fantasy here; I just want to emphasize that Yuji Horii is doing something different here.

Shigesato Itoi started the Mother series because of Dragon Quest. Mother games carry the unmistakable sign of Itoi’s authorship. The games are highly personal to him and every detail, from the dialog to the art, is a reflection of one man’s vision. I would be seriously shocked if Itoi ever consulted a focus group to help him design even one character in his games. I have a strong belief that Yuji Horii has similar creative control over his Dragon Quest games (or at least over V). Recent Final Fantasy games reek of audience pandering. Everyone loved Cloud, so Nomura has been designing endless rehashes of the same idea since then. Squall, Tidus, and Lightning are all iterations on the same theme. Every other cast member is expressly designed to cover some kind of anime trope. It seems like their designs are festooned with endless amounts of nonsense for the express purpose of selling replica jewelry.

Maybe I’m getting a little too conspiracy theory here, but it feels too purposeful. It feels like they are trying too hard. It feels like they are creating sequels to make sales rather than to tell new stories. I sound like a hippie artist and I realize that. Square Enix’s job is to make money, not write the next Homeric epic. For some reason, Dragon Quest just feels beyond that. I need more experience with the series, but I wonder if the merger will bring a tonal shift in the series.

It’s hard to not talk about Final Fantasy when I talk about Dragon Quest, especially since I just beat XIII last night, but I’m going to do my best for the rest of this post. Dragon Quest V did more than I ever expected an 18-year-old game to do. It was equal parts touching, funny, and gut-wrenchingly depressing and I enjoyed every minute of it that I played. I’m looking forward to experiencing more games in the series.

State of the Table: January [Uncat]
Feb 2nd, 2010 by Dan

Way less hot.

Not quite the Pikachu cosplay most people come to the site for.


Here at IBNttT we like to take a moment every so often to look inside and get a feel for what’s popular and important to people coming to the site. With that in mind, here are the top search terms and pages from the month of January (remember kids: I only started taking data on 4 January, so some of the data is missing).

Page Views

The Villains of Final Fantasy Week 10 [Game Overview] – 51 hits
(Pink) Masks [Game Overview] – 37 hits
Game Overview: The Villains of Final Fantasy Week 6 – 30 hits
The Villains of Final Fantasy Week 11 [Game Overview] – 29 hits
Game Overview: The Villains of Final Fantasy Week 1 – 27 hits

The Heroes of Final Fantasy series comes directly from the success of my Villains series in attracting so many visitors to my blog. Four of the top five are from that series while the second highest comes from a long comments discussion with readers that I had in the post.

Search Terms

final fantasy concept art – 29 hits
jecht – 28 hits
cosplay cleavage – 16 hits
pokemon cosplay – 15 hits
ffx – 13 hits

The concept art, Jecht, and FFX searches can find what they’re looking for with the links above. The other two, cosplay cleavage and pokemon cosplay, are probably a result of me posting that picture of a blonde at San Diego Comic-Con cosplaying as Pikachu in a mini-skirt and corset.

It’s interesting that my Villains of series is so popular and attracts so many views. I really wasn’t expecting that much attention for them, but that shows what I know. Welcome to any newcomers seeing this page. Maybe I’ll do a search terms post like I did once before to try and answer questions that people coming to the site are asking sometime soon.

The Heroes of Final Fantasy Week 1 [Game Overview]
Jan 26th, 2010 by Dan

One of the first major features on this blog was a Villains of Final Fantasy series that ran for 13 weeks covering the main enemies of every numbered Final Fantasy game from I to XII including X-2. With Final Fantasy XIII launching in the states in just over a month, I figured it’s high time to give some recognition to the teams who are actually responsible for bringing those villains to justice and saving the world. I bring you the Heroes of Final Fantasy.

Not to kill the momentum of this first iteration of the series, but the first Final Fantasy was too traditional RPG to actually have any characters. Instead you just pick classes and name your four characters and that’s that. I’ll do something a little different (how can it be different when it’s the first time?) this week and just show all of the classes that comprise the Four Warriors of Light.

Warrior

The original Warrior

He looks so cute, but he's also scowling. Mixed messages there.

A generic, beefy tank class who relies on expensive equipment to be effective. The Warrior is not exciting, but it’s not his job to be. Surprisingly enough, this boring dude was selected as the representative for Dissidia. My guess: they had an unused 3D model of him floating around and decided to finally put it to use.

Monk

Final Fantasy I Monk

Kind of reminds me of Ryu

Known as Black Belt in the original translation to avoid religious connotations, the monk fights with his fists and wears light to no armor.

Thief

Final Fantasy I Thief

Really reminds me of Link. It's almost theft.

Surprisingly unable to steal anything in this first iteration of the series, the Thief’s main skill is being able to run away easily and reliably. He also has high agility.

Black Mage

Final Fantasy I Black Mage

The most famous of the bunch. I bet it's because he has no face.

With an iconic design that has held from Final Fantasy I all the way to throwbacks in modern iterations, the Black Mage casts black magic, AKA offensive spells.

White Mage

Final Fantasy I White Mage

Typically portrayed as a woman.

Another design that has remained relatively unchanged, the White Mage and his/her iconic white robe casts white magic, which is mostly curative, but also holy.

Red Mage

Final Fantasy I Red Mage

Looks more like a rogue-ish character than a mage.

A jack-of-all-mages class that can cast white and black magic spells, but specializes in neither. The top level spells are unavailable to him, but he is versatile.

Coolness:

Lame. These guys are all ciphers. No personality, no motivation, and no story. My pet rock has more personality.

1/10

Hero Quotient:

Saving the world is kind of the status quo for these heroic parties, so they won’t be getting bonus points for that. Eliminating the guardians of all the elements and deciphering the nonsensical plot centered around a time paradox does earn them some bonus points in their score.

3/10

As a bonus, you can check out Brian Clevinger’s webcomic, 8-Bit Theater, to see the personalities that he feels these heroes should have.

Super Ichiban Travel Blog Part XVII: In Which Our Hero Casually Greets Professional Players [II]
Oct 29th, 2009 by Dan

Thats the second largest autographed baseball Ive ever seen!

That's the second largest autographed baseball I've ever seen!

The last full day of the trip! Even though I was ready to go home, it still felt like I had unresolved business out in Japan. I wanted to go home and be back in my apartment and not traveling, but I also wanted to stay and watch more Japanese baseball and chow down on more curry.

After an early morning check-out from the Tokyo Garden Palace and a short taxi to the train station, we made our way deep into the station’s bowels, down several storeys on our way to the station that housed the shinkansen bound for Sendai. Along the way I got my last taste of onigiri, only this time it finally looked like it normally did in the cartoons.

Finally, onigiri that lived up to the expectations and stereotypes I held.

Finally, onigiri that lived up to the expectations and stereotypes I held.

Deep in the cavernous depths of the station, the stations were so tall that I saw my first double-decker trains. The Poke-craze continued down there too as I saw whole trains decorated with Pokemon characters.

A summer travel-themed Pokemon train.

A summer travel-themed Pokemon train.

The train ride to Sendai was rather uneventful. Once again I failed at napping, but I did get more Devil Survivor time in and achieved another of the six or so endings of the game, but this is all boring, so let’s fast forward. Sendai is one of the major cities of the Northern part of Japan, but we didn’t really have much time to explore. Our train arrived in what seemed like the heart of the city and we left the station to go to our hotel, a grueling 300 meters away. We were too early to check-in, but our bags remained while we all spread out to explore and I set out to get Min a gift.

Pictrued: What I should have got Min. Not pictured: The book of piano music that I actually did get him.

Pictrued: What I should have got Min. Not pictured: The book of piano music that I actually did get him.

If you saw the spoiler above, you already know what I got Min. Thinking that I might see something cool in there and looking to kill time, I stepped into a music shop to see what kind of stock they had. Since an instrument was totally out of the question, I was about to head out of the shop when I noticed a huge shelf of music books. Inspiration struck and I remembered that Min is a pretty good piano player who plays both on a keyboard in his room and on a grand in a Hopkins practice room. Shelf browsing produced a book containing a “greatest hits” piano selection from the Final Fantasy series.

Unrelated: This public sink does everything. Soap dispenses from the left, water from the right, and holding your hands over the inside (closest to the handwasher) activates a hand dryer.

Unrelated: This public sink does everything. Soap dispenses from the left, water from the right, and holding your hands over the inside (closest to the handwasher) activates a hand dryer.

My next task was to find a replacement sake cup for the one I broke. Lucky for me, there was another Seibu Loft right next to the train station. After exploring the building with the music shop and seeing a convenience store and an anime/manga store, I went back to the station to explore the Seibu Loft, hoping that they would have the sake cup, unlike the one in Tokyo. Lucky for me, they not only had the same set, but an even better looking one. I decided to keep the more spartan one whose glass I replaced and get a new set for a gift.

I did see a ridiculous timepiece at the Seibu Loft that I have to share here:

When retro goes too far.

When retro goes too far.

Another welcome surprise in Sendai was spotting some Eagles-themed vending machines. Like the Carp in Hiroshima, the Fighters in Hokkaido, and the Hawks out in Fukuoka, the Eagles are pretty much the only team in their region, allowing them to spread out and create an identity for the team, unlike the over-congestion of teams in the Tokyo area. This sight started to turn me to the Eagles, but for the time being I was still wearing my Marines jersey and looking to root for Chiba that night.

Looks like the lame crushed penny machines are on this side of the Pacific too...

Looks like the lame crushed penny machines are on this side of the Pacific too...

Lunch that day was pretty cool too. I ordered a dish that was the “kitchen sink” of this omelet restaurant. It was complete with shrimp, crab croquettes, hamburger steak, a tempura shrimp, and the Japanese-style omelet that has rice nestled inside the egg.

Rice inside omelets...strange, but delicious.

Rice inside omelets...strange, but delicious.

Once enough time had elapsed, it was time to check-in and then hop on the train toward Kleenex Stadium.Miyagi. As I waited for my bags to be retrieved from the back room, I noticed a steady stream of surprisingly Marines-themed dress coming out of the elevators. It suddenly dawned on me that we were staying in the same hotel as the Chiba Lotte Marines. These were the players coming down to the lobby to head over to the stadium to prep for the game!

Instead of freaking out, I decided that I would play it cool. When one player walked by, I pointed at my jersey and then at him and nodded to show my support. Since I’d received my bags by then, I shot out a smooth ganbare as I passed by him. When the elevator discharged another Marines player, I said the same and headed upstairs to my room.

After dropping some stuff off and settling in, we met again downstairs to take the train to the JR station. Like other teams in good fan regions, the stadium station, nicknamed Baseball Station, was chock-full of Eagles decals, colors, and spirit. My kind of station.

The Baseball Station in Sendai has a lot of Eagles pride.

The Baseball Station in Sendai has a lot of Eagles pride.

Kleenex Stadium Miyagi has a pretty unfortunate name thanks to the evils of corporate name sponsorship, but it’s actually a really nice ballpark. Since the team is so new (started in 2005, I think), the stadium is filled with open hallways, bright colors, and a modern look.

Its unfortunate that thinking about this place makes me think of blowing my nose.

It's unfortunate that thinking about this place makes me think of blowing my nose.

Outside the ballpark they had a stage with live music being played and a bunch of food stalls and games for kids. Also present were these go-karts that had the names of the mascots written on them…but there was something strange about the naming convention.

Clutch...

Clutch...

...Clutchina...

...Clutchina...

...and...Mr. Carrasco...? Where did he come from?

...and...Mr. Carrasco...? Where did he come from?

Since the Eagles were having a great year (they ended up finishing in second place), they were also advertising for the Climax Series and selling merchandise, but they chose a different phrase from the Lions and Hawks.

Its super different. Now it says Go *TO* Climax

It's super different. Now it says "Go *TO* Climax"

The other great thing about the stadium was that all the employees were dressed like Gordon’s fishermen.

They make fishsticks in between innings.

They make fishsticks in between innings.

Before the game, I picked up a Masahiro Tanaka jersey, one of the two real ace pitchers for the Golden Eagles. When I noticed that he would be taking the mound for the game that night, I decided to switch allegiances and throw on my Tanaka jersey that night. It turned out to be a good choice for me, since the Eagles won 9-5 and I found myself drawn to the team, allowing them to become my Pacific League team.

Batting Practice at Kleenex Stadium Miyagi

Batting Practice at Kleenex Stadium Miyagi

The only real downside of the Golden Eagles is that they suffer from too many mascots. Aside from Clutch, Clutchina, and Mr. Carrasco, there were two walking cacti, a hawk-man with wings and talons, and three gnomes. Too many mascots…

You can see tons of the mascots in the distance.

You can see tons of the mascots in the distance.

Another great thing was this group of drunk salarymen whose boss had way too much to drink. All game long (that he was there for), he was yelling and rooting for Todd Linden, no matter who was up. It was hilarious and the crowd around him started to join in and scream about Linden too.

The outfield and the scoreboard.

The outfield and the scoreboard.

The game was fun, but the most hilarious part was when I got back to the hotel. Right when I arrived, staff was setting up spaces for people to wait for the players to arrive, but I quickly noticed that all of the fans awaiting the players in the hotel were young ladies. I got to walk past a bunch of groupies who cared nothing about me on my way up to my room. Another crazy early morning was ahead of me. The last day…

Dr. Feelgood: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Social Gaming [GO]
Jul 16th, 2009 by Dan

This was a piece I wrote for Gamers With Jobs to try and score a writing gig. They ended up going with two other writers, so I figured I’d post what I wrote here. Enjoy.

It was last month when I realized that something had gone terribly wrong . There were fifteen people in my apartment, maybe a tenth of them lifelong gamers, and they were all here to play video games. Most strange of all: there I was, microphone in hand, belting out “Don’t Stop Believing” in front of my friends. As my voice cracked on the high notes I wondered how I reached this point. Wasn’t I the same guy who refused to go to karaoke bars to avoid singing in public? Weren’t these people the same ones who scoffed at Final Fantasy and Halo?

I still remember what social gaming used to be, back when I was a kid. A mere ten years ago it was some combination of me, my brothers, my cousins, and my buddies all crowded around our tiny television set playing Goldeneye. If we weren’t cackling at our proximity mine craftiness, we were smashing in dunks while setting the net on fire, boom-chaka-laka. There was one constant and it was that we were all boys of various ages playing simulations of things that boys love. Shooting spies, hitting home runs, killing monsters, hand-to-hand combat, all of the social gaming conventions out there catered explicitly to teenage males.

Those times are over. The success of the Nintendo Wii has all but erased the teenage boy stereotype from general gaming. All Nintendo had to do was keep toeing that same party line that dated all the way back the days of the Famicom: make gaming fun and uncomplicated and they will come. In droves, apparently. The Wii went and did what we all thought impossible. All of a sudden grandma was playing. Wives, girlfriends, kids, old men, they were all playing and it was more than socially acceptable, it was cool. I didn’t have to force my girlfriend to pick up a controller, she wanted to come over and play tennis. It’s still kind of crazy, when I think about it.

Ignoring the power of the Wii when considering other social gaming phenomena like Rock Band is naïve, at best, so we must consider that the Wii created the culture of social gaming that enabled the success of Harmonix’s band simulator. After Nintendo convinced everyone that swinging a remote around and pretending it was a golf club was cool, getting them to jam to music they already loved on fake, plastic instruments seemed trivial. So it came to pass that I pre-ordered a copy of Rock Band and threw the first of many Rock Band parties the day it arrived in the mailroom of my dorm.

A former electrical engineering student like myself is easily able to cultivate a large group of friends who love video gaming in general, so rounding up gamers to try out the latest video game was a trivial ordeal for me. The real trick was rounding up the non-gamers. Word of mouth spread slowly at first, but it wasn’t too long before the people who had last played a video game in 1991 started to outnumber those who could recite the Konami Code on command. The moment it should have dawned on me came that January.

I had returned for my final semester, classes had yet to start, and I had rounded up two of my buddies who were similarly in town early to play some of the DLC that had come out over the long winter break. As the three of us rocked out, a very confused face peeked into the open doorway, clearly wondering what all the commotion was all about. Her name was Allison, she was a transfer that semester, and she was super cute.

“You wanna play?” I asked

“I don’t really know how to play…” she protested, clearly not wanting to embarrass herself.

“It’s easy, all you have to do is sing the words.” I was doing my best, but I was losing her. Singing in front of people she hardly knew was not on the agenda for the day.

“Come on, it’s house rules, everyone has to sing. We’ll all go too,” my friend Lee chimed in. We had no house rules, but he was a genius because she picked up the microphone and a friendship was struck up with a pretty girl. It later turned out that Allison had transferred to Cornell to be closer to her boyfriend, but the point was that my gaming that day was social.

I think it’s perfectly fair to say that Rock Band is responsible for me growing out of my shell that last semester at school. My guitar skills developed to an expert level and I soon stopped worrying about failing in front of the weekly attendees of Rock Band night. When I picked up the guitar I started thinking of myself as a performer and I began singing and dancing. Whenever I picked up the microphone and embarrassed myself, I laughed it off and developed confidence in front of my friends. The only thing I feared more than singing in front of people was dancing, but thanks to those parties, I found myself cutting loose on the dance floor more and more, even sans alcohol. Still, the revelation had yet to sink in.

We’re back to last month and I’m belting out “Don’t Stop Believing” on expert, my voice cracking on the high notes. I can’t believe that I’m singing in front of a girl I’m actually trying to impress, that it’s not even crossing my mind to be embarrassed, and that I’m actually passing the song.

A lot of criticism is levied against Nintendo for diluting the player base and creating the hard/softcore schism. After E3, the Wii Vitality Sensor was trumpeted as proof that Nintendo had lost sight of the goal, but, as someone who has grown as a person due to social gaming, I can’t stress enough that they’re among the few who have got it right. Gaming should be allowed to be social too. Who knows, you might end up someone.

-Dan Mesa is just a city boy, born and raised nowhere near south Detroit.

Pew Pew Pew [Game Overview]
Jul 3rd, 2009 by Dan

Insert another credit, because it’s time for your weekly video game news and you’ve just hit the Game Overview screen.

The most amazingly adorable Mega Man ever.

Sweet Brothers Art

Ever wanted to see some great renditions of the Mario Bros.? Well, BAM!

SNES!

It’s kind of old news, but here’s a neat way to use an old SNES to connect to a PC and play your carts on an emulator.

SNL Hilarity

Ever wonder what a game based on a depressing drama would be like? Wonder no more.

Floyd-tastic!

Daniel Floyd, with Leigh Alexander’s help, has put out a new video! Check out “Video Games and the Female Audience”

Red, White, and Blue!

The Fourth of July is tomorrow! If you love Little Big Planet and you love America, you’ll no doubt love the new Sacktue of Liberty Sackboy skins to celebrate your love for both.

Blizzard Gets Chilly with Audience

Do you love to play Starcraft at LAN parties? Too bad! According to Kotaku, Blizzard has decided to completely remove LAN support from Starcraft II.

I understand why they’re doing this. They’re trying to curb piracy. No doubt you know tons of people who totally pirated a copy of Starcraft or Warcraft 3, so now this cuts out one of the major draws, since players will have to connect to Battle.Net to play other people.

There’s also the fact that Battle.Net is ad-supported. Guess what you don’t see when you play a LAN game? This is one of the best ways to completely milk all of the money that they can out of Starcraft.

The one downside: super-low latency games will now be impossible.

I usually have so much goodwill for Blizzard, but this reeks of Activision. I don’t like it and I think it’s an awful idea. I’m not mad enough to not buy the game, but this is definitely uncool. Online petitions are pretty dumb, as I’ve said before, but feel free to sign!

Ero-Banning

There’s been a developing situation on the Internets involving the Ero-Game industry in Japan. Again, according to Kotaku, due to the controversy over RapeLay, an increasing number of Japanese H-Game developers are blocking any and all foreign IP addresses from accessing their websites. This seems like a rather drastic response to the recent threats of legislation upon their industry that have resulted from an increase of sexual crimes in Japan coupled with poor international press from the rest of the world.

I can see where Japan is coming from here in trying to insulate themselves from the rest of their world that doesn’t “get” their hentai games, but I really can’t support segregation on the internet.

Emulate!

Sony seems to have patented a software emulation technique to run PS2 software on non-PS2 compatible PS3s (thanks again Kotaku!)

Too Hard? Just Cheat!

Is Guitar Hero too hard? Here’s a control that will play the game for you!

New FF

Kotaku reports that a new Final Fantasy side story is coming to the DS. Story details are light at the moment, but I’m definitely supporting all of these DS games by Square Enix.

That’s all for this week!

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