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5-10-15-20 [GO]
Jun 2nd, 2011 by Dan

Dan helps Tony with Pokemon

I got this idea from Kill Screen (who got this idea from Pitchfork) to talk about my gaming life in five year increments. Pitchfork does it with music and really it can be done with any media, but I’m doing games.

AGE 5 (1991)

One of my first video game memories is sitting in my parents’ living room in Hialeah watching them play a Bowser level in Super Mario Bros. I remember being scared of the creepy black castle level. This was the launch year for the SNES, but I’m sure we didn’t get it until 1992 or 1993. Instead we mostly amused ourselves with Contra, Mega Man 2, and Bubble Bobble.

AGE 10 (1996)

I’m pretty sure my brothers and I discovered the JRPG in 1995 or 1996. We would have played Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, and Super Mario RPG over those two years and changed our gaming landscape forever.

Of course 1996 also marks the genesis of 3D gaming for me. The N64 came out that September, but we didn’t open it until Christmas. Super Mario 64 would be the first of many great games I had for that system.

AGE 15 (2001)

Big things were happening in the gaming landscape on the PS2, but I knew nothing of that. A $400 system was way out of my price range, so I missed the launches of GTA3 and MGS2.

It was freshman year of high school and we learned partway through that we were going to be moving to Tampa. My dad got a new laptop from his job that I used to finally play the PC version of FF VII on road trips to and from Tampa. I remember breeding a Golden Chocobo and thinking that it wasn’t really all that hard. Don’t think I ever beat FF VIII. I think I also played a lot of Final Fantasy VIII that way too. More importantly, that year I got Civilization 3 and tons of Lucasarts adventure games including the Monkey Island series, Grim Fandango, and Day of the Tentacle.

We also got a Gamecube that year for Christmas and Super Smash Bros. Melee along with Pikmin, I think.

What a banner year for gaming, wow.

AGE 20 (2006)

By now I’m a sophomore/junior at university and I’ve got a job to help me pay for my video game habit. I picked up a PS2 in 2004 and started working through the back catalog of games I’d missed. Early in the year I remember playing two RPGs, Kingdom Hearts 2 and Shadow Hearts: From the New World.

They’re fun, but 2006 is a year of PC gaming for me. I spend WAY too much time playing World of Warcraft in 2006. I started the summer of 2005 and I end up quitting around Christmas of that same year, but I come back to it over the summer and it consumes a lot of my days and weekends as I try to power level my Horde character to join a raid guild with my friend Chris. It’s funny, I couldn’t remember why it was that I didn’t play so many console games this year until I remembered that my WoW habit started in force during 2006.

I also grew into the PC shooter this year with a lot of Counterstrike: Source with my roommate, Simon. We played that to fill a lot of our spare time and I also pushed through Half-Life 2: Episode 1 way too quickly.

Unfortunately I’m only 25 now, so I can’t really continue the feature until next year. I keep much better track of what I play nowadays, so it’ll be even easier.

Otakon 2010 [Photographic Memory]
Aug 3rd, 2010 by Dan

Street Fighters

Most impressive ensemble goes to the gaggle of Doctor Whos, but this was definitely my favorite Otakon cosplay ensemble.

The USA’s second largest anime convention came and went and I took pictures of it. Yes, Otakon 2010 happened, but, no, I didn’t want to actually pay admission to go in since I don’t watch as much anime anymore and I didn’t know any of the artists that were appearing, so I freeloaded along with my brother and took pictures of the cosplayers who were coming into or leaving the convention center on Saturday.

Cell

As long as there are anime conventions there will be Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon cosplay.

I’d only ever been to one similar convention before, MegaCon in Orlando, but I was thoroughly impressed by the degree of cosplay on display. Maybe it’s because it’s an anime convention and not a general comics convention, but it seemed like the majority of the attendees were in costume rather than just shlubbing it like I did back in the day.

Phoenix Wright!

I refused to leave until I saw some Phoneix Wright cosplay.

We spent two hours or so just hanging around the front and side doors (we weren’t allowed inside without badges) snapping pictures of cosplayers who didn’t mind the attention, marveling at all the costumes. I don’t have much more to say beyond that, so here’s a gallery of my favorite costumes from Otakon 2010 (sorry dialup users!).

Faye Valentine

Good to see such faithful Bebop cosplay is still going strong

Louis

PILLS HERE!

No Clue, but Cute

I have no idea what anime this is from, but this girl is quite good looking, so I snapped a shot. For bonus points, check out the old man behind her looking at her ass. EDIT: It appears to be a Disgaea 3 Gunner costume.

Zoey!

"I can't get over how FAST they all are, it's not even fair. I'm calling zombie bullshit on that, you know? They're not...ALLOWED to be so fast." Plenty of L4D cosplay, which makes me a very happy Dan.

Doctors Who

The Tenant Doctor Who on the right was actually a fairly good looking lady. Great costume, too.

Ash and Pikachu

Anyone who visits this blog knows I love Pikachu cosplay.

Servbot Crew

A crew of servbots! Not super complicated, but it works. Makes me want to play Dead Rising...

Ashitaka

One of the most impressive costumes of the show. This is an amazing Ashitaka from Princess Mononoke.

Servbot

A MUCH more elaborate servbot cosplay.

Sazh

All he was missing was a chocobo in his 'fro, but he had the L'Cie brand on his chest and an accurate magicite thing (I forgot what they were called!)

Yoko from Gurren Lagann

Very accurate gun and costume for Gurren Lagann.

Edgeworth

I love all Ace Attorney cosplay! We need to see more Apollo Justice too!

Depp Mad Hatter

Fantastic Burton Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter

Cloud

It's a shame this girl had the huge Buster Sword with her becasue this shot is so far away from her elaborate costume and ridiculously blue eyes (HAD to be contacts)

Shanks

Great Red-Haired Shanks cosplay.

Bayonetta Cosplay

Bayonetta. Her heels aren't guns, but still a good costume.

L4D2 Nick

Nick's got a bile jar!

Buggy the Clown

The most fearsome pirate on the seven seas, Buggy the Clown

Otakon 071

Mihawk cosplay. Nice sword and costume!

One Piece Cosplay

A great cast shot of One Piece. I took this one mostly because I noticed Water 7 Nami in there.

Rockman X

I could never pass up Rockman X cosplay.

Super Saiyan

SUPER SAIYAN! I love the level of dedication to make blond eyebrows too

Luffy

Mugiwara (Straw Hat) no Luffy. He asked me if I wanted him to pose. I said "Of course!"

Code Geass

The heroes of Code Geass

Sora and Namine

I was wondering why she didn't move out of the shot until I realized she was Namine. Great cosplay pair.

Doctor Who Crew

Doctors Who throughout the ages.

Scouts

BONK! Great Scout costumes!

Scouts

Better Scout Cosplay

Soldier and Engineer

I love that she's even got herself a turret!

Yuffie

Another convention staple, Yuffie the ninja.

Hunter

"I think I hear a hunter!"

Lucario

A fantastic Lucario costume that is crazy detailed. Too bad the Internet ruined such things for me by making me immediately think furry.

Team Fortress 2 Spy

I also photographed a sniper. Wait a second! It's a spy disguised as a sniper!

Dark Sora?

Dark Sora? Elaborate and awesome all the same.

Snow

Amazing attention to detail with the full L'Cie brand there too. Wow.

Wolverines!

Growing out those sideburns takes real dedication.

SUPER CUTE DOG!

Not cosplay, but my favorite part of the convention. So cute!

The Villains of Final Fantasy Week 7 [Game Overview]
Dec 5th, 2008 by Dan

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

With every Final Fantasy game there exists great (and not so great) teams of heroes bent on saving the world from some sort of evil force. While we could take a look at those heroes, let’s instead take a look at the evils that motivate these heroes to do what they do.

It should be noted that this feature will be full of spoilers.

Week 1 – Garland
Week 2 – Emperor Mateus of Palamecia
Week 3 – The Cloud of Darkness
Week 4 – Zeromus
Week 5 – Exdeath
Week 6 – Kefka

Final Fantasy VII…

At the risk of looking like a snobbish, elite jerk, I don’t like FF VII mainly because it’s the game that everyone likes. I know, I know…it’s lame, but it stems from my love of FF VI, trust me!

The game was the first to penetrate the North American RPG market. It was a daring, risky move by Squaresoft to widen its appeal. No more swords and sorcery (so you think, it comes back a little later) and a departure from past innocence.

It does lack in many places where VI excels. Cloud Strife is a douche. He’s a jerk, he’s a moron, he’s not as cool as everyone makes him out to be. The rest of the cast is also asinine aside from Cid and Tifa.

Then there’s Sephiroth.

I will never understand the gamer obsession with Sephiroth. Ok, so he kills Aeris (there’s a statute of limitation on these things, sorry if this was a spoiler, but you were warned) and that sucks. Did I tear up about it? Naw, I liked Tifa more. It sucked cause I had just wasted time training her up to get what was apparently her final limit break. I wasn’t happy about that…

Sure, he wipes out a village or two, but how evil is he really? Kefka reshaped the entire planet. Sephiroth has mommy issues, is ambiguously male, and is all-around not that satisfying an enemy. He truly believes in what he’s doing. He’s not lusting for power or just trying to destroy existence like Kefka.

Maybe one day the world will realize Sephiroth isn’t that awesome? Who am I kidding…

Evil Rating:

Burned down a city. Killed Aeris, wiping out my progress on her character. Wanted to destroy the world. :yawn:

6/10

Cool Rating:

No. Sword is too long, hair is too long, looks too much like a girl.

4/10

Images:

Character art from FF VII
Crisis Core
Sackboy Sephiroth

Video:

Kingdom Hearts II:

Advent Children:

Game Overview: Post 16-Bit, Pre-Current Gen Runner-Up: RPG Edition
Jun 17th, 2008 by Dan

Our continuing examination of the best games of the post 16-bit, pre-current gen, we will be looking at two PS2 RPGs that I particularly enjoyed.

Our first game was a groundbreaking collaboration between two entirely unrelated, gigantic companies that were leaders in their industry. What resulted was a great game that wasn’t quite simple or clean, but was surprisingly interesting and fun despite its flaws. That’s right, the game is the multi-million-selling Squaresoft and Disney collaboration, Kingdom Hearts.

Runner-Up: Kingdom Hearts

Let’s get the cons out of the way right off the bat. Kingdom Hearts has a flawed camera system, the Disney planets and story sections are particularly uninteresting, and the Gummi Ship missions are pretty lame. Two of the three of these issues were addressed in the sequel (I’ll let you guess which ones), but the sequel just lacked the charm and appeal of the first release.

So what was good about Kingdom Hearts? Surprisingly enough, the formula works really well. Who could have EVER imagined that teaming up a Nomura-designed character with Donald Duck and Goofy would result in a game worth playing? The game is essentially constructed to make fanboys squeal with delight, with cameos from Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and X, moogles, and a bevy of popular Disney characters. Again, for some odd reason, the fact that these characters interact with each other like nothing was strange about meeting each other just works.

Gameplay revolves around solving, more or less, the plots of several Disney movies as you visit each planet. In many cases, the planet you visit will have a Disney protagonist like Aladdin or Beast to join your party. These guys are usually pretty strong, but using them is kind of a waste since Goofy and Donald are part of your party for more of the game, so leveling them up should take precedence. Battle is handled in real-time, with Goofy and Donald being controlled by the game’s AI, while Sora’s attacks and magic are handled by you.

The story is actually somewhat basic. Great evil is consuming the worlds that each of the characters are from. The Heartless (beings who have no heart, makes sense, no?) are the planet destroyers and they manage to reach Sora’s world. Sora’s girlfriend of sorts, Kairi, is kidnapped by this evil and Riku seems to join the Heartless.

At the end of the day, Sora’s story is way more interesting than the Disney stories and it left one of those “Wow, that was cool” impressions on me back four years ago when I first played it.

If you’ve never gotten around to beating Kingdom Hearts, get to it!

Here are the intros to the first and second game in the languages I prefer them in:

The last game we will be examining today actually had characters in Kingdom Hearts. If you’ve been paying any attention to which Final Fantasy games I like and dislike, then you already know, by process of elimination, that we’re about to talk about Final Fantasy X.

Runner-Up: Final Fantasy X

A lot of firsts hit when Final Fantasy X landed on US shores. It was the first Final Fantasy on the PS2, first Final Fantasy without a world map to traverse, and, most importantly, the first voice-acted Final Fantasy game. I don’t think anyone’s gonna argue with me that the voice they chose for Tidus does kind of wear on you a little bit. Some of the acting is a little wooden too (See the “laughing” scene…that one hurts to this day. Also see “I hate you” at the end. There was supposed to be emotion there, but I just found myself laughing my ass off.), but, overall, the voice actors they chose were top notch and quite good. My favorite of the bunch was Wakka, but that might be because he’s essentially a water polo player…

A lot of what I particularly like about FFX comes from the small things they did to revitalize the series. Squaresoft eschewed the active time battle system in this iteration in favor of a pure, turn-based system that, awesomely, allowed you to swap in party members on the fly during any turn of battle with no turn penalty. Since every party member who completed at least one action in battle received experience points for the battle, this little system allowed me to swap in a whole party in each battle, prolonging the battle, to be sure, but also ensuring that my party remained balanced and usable in any situation where a swap was required.

Coupled in with the radical new way to earn XP was a radical new way to level, the Sphere Grid. Each party member started on a particular spot of an epic, sprawling array of stat bonuses, new moves, and locked paths. While each path initially shoehorned your character into a set “class” of the olden Final Fantasy days, you were able to use those locked paths to branch your characters out and increase the variety present in each of the characters. In fact, a devoted enough player could have a full cast of characters with all of the Sphere Grid slots unlocked with the only real differences between characters being Overdrive attacks (like Limit Breaks or Desperation Moves).

The Sphere Grid far trumps the License Board of Final Fantasy XII, IMHO, solely because it forced more differences among your party, at least at the start of the game, instead of the homogeneous party of adventurers that I ended up with in FF XII. Turn-based battles are also strategically more fun than ATB battles, but can sometimes be more boring since there is no pressing need to complete an action.

After a series of stories that I will only go so far as to call disappointing in the four preceding Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy X made major leaps in storyline maturity. Gone were the silent, emo protagonists of VII and VIII, back was someone who wasn’t super-damn depressing to control, even if his voice actor was obnoxious. The party was pretty varied and mostly fleshed out (I’m looking at you Lulu and Kimahri…who the hell are you guys and why don’t your stories really matter?) and rather interesting all at the same time, particularly Rikku, Auron, and Wakka. The drama of the summoner’s quest and the ultimate sacrifice they must make to stop Sin, coupled with the intrigue of just how Tidus ended up in Spira really carry this story and make it really interesting. So interesting that it garnered a rather…lackluster sequel, but still a first for a Final Fantasy game.

Final Fantasy X isn’t the best of the series nor is it second best (I like VI and IV more), but something about it just clicked for me when I played it. XII, while I do believe it has a more interesting cast and even more interesting story, just doesn’t execute either well and just falls short of PS2 greatness, in my opinion. Let’s hope that XIII brings back some of that VI spirit to revive a series that has been in somewhat of a same-y slump in its more recent outings. They’re already making some efforts to differentiate with what seems to be a female protagonist, so my hopes are already higher than usual for a Final Fantasy game.

Product Placement!:

Watching some of these FF X videos I also noticed that Final Fantasy characters, at least in X, look a lot more realistic and also a lot more Asian than they used to.

Anyway, tune in Thursday for the exciting conclusion to this category’s runner-ups!

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