Category Archives: Editorial

For the Love of the Games: Three Reasons you Should Play Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom

Well, here we are again. I’m relaxing in front of the hearth, enjoying a glass of brandy with my ever faithful manservant, Theodore Skeffingtonson, and my only temporarily faithful canine, Santos.

And if I’m drinking brandy with my dog and butler/chauffeur/housekeeper/dog-walker/tailor/cobbler in front of a roaring fire, then that can only mean one thing: it’s time for another For the Love of the Games, the monthly column in which I BEG you ON MY HANDS AND KNEES to play a certain obscure, mediocre-but-full-of-great-ideas, or just plain bad game.

Why?

Literacy, my dear Skeffingtonson!

This week we’re not talking bad games. We’re not even talking kinda, sorta bad games. We’re not even talking old games — in fact, you may remember hearing of this game in the last couple years. This week we’re talking a game that I love, a game that didn’t get much play, a game that was marked down from $60 to $40 on the day it released, a game that was sent to die amid the bigger, beefier Q4 releases of 2010. This week we’re talkin’…

Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom!

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My Top 5 Games of 2011

There’s no denying that 2011 was a big year in games. Every year’s holiday season seems to be better than the last, and 2011 was no exception. Unfortunately, that also means there were a ton of games I couldn’t get to. Bastion, The Witcher 2, Anno 2070, Uncharted 3, Too the Moon — these and so many others are games that would have probably been strong contenders for this list. Alas, I either never got to them or I’m just getting to them now (as is the case with Bastion, which is a fucking delight).

So with that small caveat out of the way, here are my Top Five Games of 2011. Continue reading

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For the Love of the Games: Three Reasons you Should Play Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines

There once was a developer called Troika. Created from the spirit of old Interplay by three prominent Fallout designers (Tim Cain, Leonard Boyarsky and Jason Anderson), they went on to make three of the most technically troubled but brilliantly designed RPGs of the early ‘00s: Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, The Temple of Elemental Evil and Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines.

And also they were SOVIET SUPERMEN!

Seeing as we’re just on the heels of the release of a certain major Vampire-themed romance movie/Mormon propaganda piece, I think it’s only fitting we discuss the latter of those three games in this month’s For the Love of the Games, the monthly column in which I advise — nay — implore you to play a certain overlooked, forgotten, or (on occasion, as is my wont) just plain bad game.

But first, some (more) history: Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is a PC RPG set in White Wolf’s World of Darkness, an old-timey analog (aka pen-and-paper) RPG system wherein vampires, werewolves, spirits and other monsters vie for power. As a freshly-sired vampire of your making, you have to navigate the murky waters of LA’s vampire underworld as various factions compete for possession of a recently unearthed sarcophagus that may spell doom for vampire kind. Really serious stuff.

You also do the day-to-day stuff, which is way interesting when you’re a vampire.

Bloodlines is notable for being one half stellar RPG following the tragically discarded Deus Ex formula, and one half boring, punishing hack-and-slasher bristling with glitches and pacing issues. And those would be the first and second halves of the game, respectively. Hey, at least the good half is first, so you could just play that and look up the multiple endings on YouTube if you really want.

But I’m not here to tell you why not to play the game. (Or, in this case, how to play some of the game and avoid the rest of it….) Just the opposite, in fact. Let’s begin with something any nerd born after 1990 probably doesn’t remember. Continue reading

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For the Love of the Games: Three Reasons You Should Play Alpha Protocol

Alpha Protocol, the espionage RPG developed by Obsidian Entertainment – that’s the game I’ll be convincing you to play — to enjoy, even — in this week’s For the Love of the Games, the monthly column in which I give you X number of reasons why you should play an under-appreciated, overlooked, or outright bad game, simply for the sake of game appreciation. Continue reading

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My Year of Gaming – 2011

Well, dear readers. Here we are. The end of one year, the birth of a new year; the last year, if some are to be believed. Will we all die horribly in a planetary, perhaps, galactic upheaval? Time will tell, dear readers — time will tell.

It has been quite a year though, hasn’t it? A year of revolutions, fallen dictators, I think there were some natural disasters in there. And while all of that happened, we played video games. Join me in a contemplative moment of righteous self-loathing, won’t you?

Ah, there we go. Clean conscience.

It was a banner year for video games, as well. Too good a year, if you ask me. So many titles I wasn’t able to get to, but so, so, so many I did. Countless hours, in fact. Hmm… shall we quietly hate ourselves again? Yes, I believe we shall.

Ah. Like a cold shower on a crisp winter’s morning.

Yes, it was a fine year that is now at an end all too suddenly. How could we possibly sum up? Why, the only way TV year-end summaries have always taught me, of course — awful rhyming! 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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