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Game Overview Editorial: Difficulty in Video Games
May 8th, 2008 by Dan

You’re playing through an RPG. You’ve gained five levels, found some sweet equipment drops, minimized the use of your precious items, and then it happens. You come up against a behemoth of a monster. Your party is decimated, your progress lost, your controller tossed through the screen.

Does this even begin to sound familiar to anyone? It’s like modern gaming, in an effort to bring in an even broader audience, has started to dumb down our video game experience. Think back to the last four, at the very least, Final Fantasy games (not counting XI). Aside from side quest bosses who are geared to be a challenge, how often did you even find yourself remotely challenged in these games? I honestly don’t think I worried much about save points in any of these games (aside from when I was hunting the harder mobs in XII) at all. There was none of that between-save-point stress and worry that a game with any difficulty might throw at me. I just go on through the game, breezing through the fights and find myself at the final boss, sometimes taking more than one try to kill him, but, more often than not, just breezing through him too.

It’s not just RPGs either. Think back to Mario Galaxy. The only challenge in that game came from the green stars where the developers were given free range to punish players into some of the toughest, most fun challenges possible. Even The Legend of Zelda isn’t safe. The last two console installments, The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, were among the easiest games I have ever played. Sure, their stories were epic and fun, but the bosses were jokes compared to past Zelda games. They dealt close to no heart damage, they had hyper-predictable patterns, and they were just plain not challenging. I don’t think that I’ve evolved much in skill as a gamer since about the sixth grade and I definitely remember more challenge in both Link’s Awakening and A Link to the Past when I played them (late to the game, I know).

There is hope. Mistwalker’s latest RPG for the Xbox 360, Lost Odyssey, will actually make you hope that a save point is imminent. The enemies will brutalize you if you mess up. It seems odd that I’m actually hoping for a game to punish me for screwing up or not leveling up, but I just can’t take a game that doesn’t even challenge me in the slightest. I consume games mainly for story, this is true, but I don’t want the story-telling to come so easily that I might as well be watching a movie or reading a book. It can get frustrating when a game is difficult because it’s broken or the computer cheats :cough: Mario Kart Wii :cough:, but it’s also tremendously satisfying to spend an hour bashing your head against the wall trying to defeat a boss only to finally get it down and win with just a sliver of health left.

This is why I look forward to the day when I will be able to devote more time to Persona 3: FES. The short time I spent with the game already almost beat me in a random encounter and I’m sure that an actual boss will own me several times. I fully believe that a game should punish you for making a mistake and I already know from experience that Persona will wail on me for being an idiot.

There’s certainly a market for casual games and casual gamers out there, one only needs to look to the Wii to see that fact with obvious clarity, but surely it wouldn’t be too difficult for developers to go out and actually make a game tough for players. The inclusion of difficulty levels, even with the fact that it means more work, will satisfy me. Here’s hoping that we see harder games in the future.

Game Overview: GT What? – Game Drought
May 2nd, 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.

So a little game flew in under the radar on Tuesday known as Grand Theft Auto IV. I’m pretty sure none of you have heard of it, but I picked it up and it’s pretty fun so far. Nico Bellic is, by far, the best GTA protagonist I’ve ever played as and the city itself is just so much fun to get around. I told my brother when I first got it, but it’s super eerie to drive around the game’s “Hove Beach” when I’m so used to driving around the real Brighton Beach where my sister-in-law used to live. Correction: it’s so eerie to run over pedestrians and shoot cops around the neighborhood where my sister-in-law used to live.

Now that GTA is out, surely there must be a huge influx of…what? Nothing? That’s right, GTA has basically scared away the month of May. There are almost no high-caliber launches until June, when Metal Gear Solid 4 comes out. Now, this may be because the Summer is typically slow for game releases, but I’m pretty sure that, Nintendo aside with its ballsy pre-GTA Mario Kart Wii launch, is about the only company who would want to even think about competing with Rockstar this month.

Of course, if GTA IV is the 100-hour ordeal that they claim it to be, then you should be more than set for the month, stop complaining. If you don’t have a PS3 or Xbox 360, go play Mario Kart online, it’s the best online service they’ve got on the system. If you’re a PC gamer, there was a Team Fortress 2 patch recently (or it will launch soon) and at least Mass Effect PC comes out at the end of the month.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my MGS soundtrack CDs have all come in and I’ve got plenty of gaming and Slope Day-ing to do. Enjoy this video review of GTA IV from IGN.

Wednesday Morning Quarterback: Fukudome
Apr 30th, 2008 by Dan

You’ve probably heard the saying that hindsight is 20/20 on Monday morning, so just imagine how well I can call ’em two days later on Wednesday. That’s right, it’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

It’s been a long while since I last posted due to homework, projects, and a general game overload (MGS3, MGO, Persona 3: FES, GTA IV, MKW), but I’m back in business today and we should be seeing a return to our regularly scheduled programming for the foreseeable future. So let’s get back to it!

There’s been quite a bit of buzz about one of the most interesting new baseball players to hit the MLB and my new favorite players, Kosuke Fukudome. While he’s not technically a rookie (Fukudome already had a productive career playing for the Chunichi Dragons of the NPB), this is his first year of stateside play and he’s already making quite a splash in the Cubs’ roster. You see, Fukudome comes to the states with a very interesting new philosophy that’s translating to one of the highest on base percentages in baseball for the Cubs.

Kosuke Fukudome brings patience to the batter’s box, a quality that’s not generally present among the current Western-bred baseball players. When he’s at the plate, Fukudome basically refuses to swing at anything that’s not clearly a strike and he’s getting amazing results. His batting average is somewhere in the high .300s and a very high, for someone who’s not a power hitter, walk count (13th in the leauge). You see, Fukudome subscribes to a Japanese philosophy of kotoshi koso, which translates to “It’s going to happen,” so as a result he’s got the highest pitch count of any batter in the MLB. He waits for his perfect pitch and he doesn’t swing recklessly, putting him in the bottom 15 of all MLB htiters for strikeouts.

The best part about his philosophy is that he’s positively influencing his teammates as well. At least two of the new players on the Cubbies are also actively drawing way more walks. The team as a whole has shifted to a brand new, for the Cubs, philosophy of patience that has pushed Chicago up to the top of the NL Central (tied with the surprisingly powerful Cardinals).

Enjoy some articles about the great Kosuke Fukudome along with this great embedded video of some of his NPB highlights (hopefully this makes up for my lack of a video yesterday)

http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=3363255
http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080422&content_id=2569206&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

Game Overview: GTAIV, Mario Kart Wii, MGS Online Beta
Apr 18th, 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.

Tired of Metal Gear coverage on this site yet? Man I hope not, because we’ve got even more news. Thanks to my Insider subscription to IGN, I’m eligible for the Metal Gear Online beta (!). MGO is a standalone multiplayer title set to tie in with MGS4 once it launches. I don’t know much about the game other than that it features man-cannons, persistent character development, cardboard boxes (comic for the old MGO), and that it will most likely include body dragging that will inevitably degenerate into corpse-humping. I’ll have more details once the beta opens on Monday.

Mario Kart Wii has been in the hands of just about everyone but the Americans so far this year. While there remain some really tough detractors for the slightly more casual perception of the game :cough: IGN :cough:, just about everyone agrees that the online portion of MKWii is amazingly well done, as is the Mario Kart Channel. Personally, I’m not sure I’m gonna be a first day purchaser, I may wait until I graduate and get to my new apartment. With a pre-order on Persona 3: FES coming in next Wednesday, MGS3 to beat, the MGO beta, and needing to get enough work done to graduate, I just might have too much on my plate to handle MKWii. This also means one other important game will have to wait:

GTAIV comes out a few days after Mario Kart and the promise of at least a 100+ hour single-player experience seems quite daunting, to say the least. That doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the game, as it apparently offers some kick-ass multiplayer modes to really keep you interested. I don’t know all of these modes, but one of them that I heard about, Cops and Crooks, has a lot of promise. One team spawns in cop cars and they’re the cops. The other team spawns throughout the map and their goal is to escort their team leader to an escape point (a helipad or a dock) without the slightly tougher than usual team leader crook dying. All of the franticly fun stories I’ve heard about this mode have more than made me interested in this game, so we’ll see how that goes. Rumors of the Xbox 360 exclusive DLC being a whole new city are also very intriguing.

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