Monthly Archives: October 2011

Preview: Kitsu Saga

This is a preview that I wrote in June 2011 for the free-to-play MMO Kitsu Saga as a writing sample for a job I didn’t get. Nevertheless, I like it, so I’m posting it.

It was announced in July by Kitsu Saga creators Aeria Games that they were shutting down operations of the game. Even though I never made good on my promise to check out Kitsu Saga more thoroughly, I had planned to get to it eventually. Of course since the shut-down happened one short month after I discovered the game, it probably wouldn’t have mattered. Regardless, Kitsu Saga, unremarkable as it was, had some solid ideas behind it and I’m bummed that I’ll never get to investigate those concepts more thoroughly. Oh well. Continue reading

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For the Love of the Games: Three Reasons you Should Play El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron

The beautiful and divisive El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron… that’s the game I’ll be convincing you to play in this entry of For the Love of the Games, the bi-weekly column (or monthly… I’m still figuring it out, so bear with me and enjoy your free content) in which I give you X number of reasons why you should play an overlooked, under-appreciated or (sometimes) just straight-up bad game. Why would you do such a thing? Because if you love games as much as I do, you want your gaming horizon to be as panoramic as possible.

El Shaddai is a character action game from Takeyasu Sawaki, one of the creators of Devil May Cry and Okami, two of the classic-est classic games ever made, the latter of which is a torch carried by games-are-art snobs the world over (and if that bothers you, then boy are you going to hate the rest of this article).

The game itself is loosely based an an apocryphal text from the Old Testament. (“Apocryphal” is Bible-talk for “redacted,” which is government-talk for “Popes will decide what’s important for you to know”). It tells the story of Enoch, a human tasked by Heaven to track down seven fallen Angels who are corrupting humanity before He (that’s right, the capital H “He”… you know who I’m talking about) floods the world, which is apparently His solution for f***ing everything.

Now when I say that El Shaddai is “loosely” based on a Biblical text, I want to make it clear what “loosely” means. Yes, there are Angels and a guy named Enoch… but there’s also lots of Karate-fightin’, motorcycles, robots, designer jeans, and cute, cannibalistic monsters that look like they emerged fully-formed from Hayao Miyazaki’s butt… so… yeah, I guess it’s pretty much what you’d expect the Bible to look like in a Japanese video game. There’s even a Voltron in there.

El ShaddaiBehold the Divine Bulge of Enoch

El Shaddai’s critical reception was pretty split at its release. Some praised its beautiful visuals and bold design; others derided its repetitive combat and simplistic platforming. Regardless of its faults, here are three reasons why you should play El Shaddai, if only for the love of the games.

Note: This article is full of minor gameplay spoilers, which kind of subverts the argument I’m making — that you should play El Shaddai because of its consistently unexpected scenarios. Oh well, but if you want to go in totally cold, then you probably shouldn’t read this. Boy, I’d make a great pitch-man. Continue reading

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Five Reasons why Catherine is my Biggest Disappointment of 2011

Recently, after much anticipation, I finally got around to playing Catherine, one of my most-anticipated games of 2011.

Boy… what a piss-off that was.

SPOILER WARNING: This article contains plot spoilers galore for Catherine.

Catherine banner

If you’re unaware, Catherine is a thematically ambitious game about relationships, (in)fidelity and becoming an adult. The game relates this mature tale through the classic gaming tradition of the block-pushing puzzle, which is kind of like gaming’s iambic pentameter. Or whatever.

Kind of like how the Legend of Zelda games are actually about Link, Catherine is about Vincent, a 30-something man struggling to navigate a rapidly-developing relationship with his longtime, pregnant girlfriend Katherine, who’s pressuring him to settle down and start a family. After a late night of drinking, Vincent has a one-night stand with 22-year old blonde bombshell Catherine, and his world is turned upside down when, every night after, he’s forced to endure a series of life-threatening nightmares meant to test and punish unfaithful men.

These nightmares force Vincent to navigate a tower of falling blocks, frantically sorting them into something climbable so as to reach the top and not fall to his death. See? Block-pushing. Escaping towards a goal, navigating a life-threatening situation, pressure and fear propelling Vincent ever upward — ohhh! It’s a metaphor! Games are doing that now! Continue reading

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For the Love of the Games: Four Reasons you Should Play Nier

This is For the Love of the Games. What is that? I’m glad I asked. For the Love of the Games is a new column in which I’m going to give you X number of reasons why you should play a largely overlooked and/or justifiably-considered “bad” game.

Sometimes I’m trying to shine some light on a hidden gem, sometimes I’m digging through a game’s muck to find what little redeeming quality it has, and other times I’m simply exploring a game as an example of what not to do.

Basically, if you think one of these is a game not worth playing, I’m here to tell you why you are wrong and should die peacefully in your sleep (just because I want you to die doesn’t mean I’m sort of monster) knowing that you are forever and objectively wrong.

In this first column, I’m giving you four reasons why you should play Nier, a little-known Square Enix game from 2010 that, at first glance, seems largely forgettable. White-haired anime hero with a big sword, frail white-haired anime girl you need to save, an overly-sexualized white-haired warrior chick — pretty much all you’d expect from a JRPG of little renown. But, as I previously stated, you’re wrong.

Here are four reasons why Nier is worth playing, simply for the love of the games.

Oh yeah, and I’m spoiling the fecal matter out of this game, so — you’ve been warned. Continue reading

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Five Problems with the Dynasty Warriors Formula and How to Fix Them

In an unforeseeable twist, Dynasty Warriors 7 actually make[sic] some big changes from it’s[sic] predecessors. And they’re all for the worse. WTF Koei?

That’s what I tweeted on August 17, 2011. Cut to today, the sixth of September of the same year, whereupon I’ve logged over 30 hours into Dynasty Warriors 7.

Why? Call it a palette-cleanser. After embarking on a Summer-long JRPG bender in an effort to make something resembling a dent in my gaming backlog (almost all of which are RPGs of some ethnicity), I’d about had my fill of spending anywhere from 30 to 60 hours slowly powering up my heroes in order to achieve the strength necessary to save the world from a retro-tech cyborg Nazi and his land battleship that shoots lasers out of a giant lance that used to be a castle or a time-traveling military intelligence officer/monster made from pieces of ruined staircases pulled from a pocket dimension that looks like the only M.C. Escher painting that has any pop-cultural relevance…

JRPGs are weird.

After all of… that… there’s just something refreshing about being able to rush into a feudal Chinese war zone and come out the other side unscathed with 1,000 notches on my cartoonishly over-sized sword. But playingDynasty Warriors 7 made me realize something: as good-enough as this game is for what it is (a grind-fest), it has room to do so much more. I’m not talking about any drastic changes to the basic mash-X-and-stuff-dies grinding formula — just a few simple suggestions to add some weight to the game’s tertiary strategy elements. Continue reading

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Three Reasons you Should Play Winter Voices (Even Though it Kinda Sucks)

If you’ve been reading my not-reviews of Winter Voices: Avalanche, then you already know how I feel about the game. If you haven’t been reading them then I’ll humor you by legislating this introduction to the lowest common denominator ( you lazy reader, you). More studied readers can skip ahead to the next paragraph. To you, lazy reader, I say that I did not care for Winter Voices: Avalanche. It was boring and grueling and taxing and frustrating and exhausting.

It was also smart as a whip, ideologically brilliant, and well worth playing for anyone who considers themselves a connoisseur of electronic virtual gamez. Here are three reasons why the game deserves mad props, daddio, handily doubling as three lessons game designers could learn from it. Convenient how that worked out…. Continue reading

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Why I Quit Winter Voices Avalanche

I’m coming up on the end of Winter Voices: Avalanche, but I’ve decided that I’m done. I’m just done. “There is victory in defeat,” reads the only victory condition in this battle against my own grief — an obscure objective, but so cleverly simple in its true meaning: lose. Lose the fight to win. Easier said than done, or should I say, easier said than tolerated. Continue reading

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