F-Zero Made Me a Better Driver in Real Life

Box art for the Super Nintendo F-Zero game.

Super Nintendo was the Golden Age of my video game-playing days. As a student in high school with few, if any, extracurricular commitments, I had maximum free time, and, being limited on my own funds, I had maximum opportunity to endlessly grind through the games I already had in my collection. Alongside Final Fantasy IV (in which I gained the notoriety of leveling all my characters to 99 without the aid of a Game Shark), the title on which I devoted the most time honing my skills was the futuristic racing game, F-Zero. As a curious side effect of my devotion, I found that I became a better driver, not just in Mute City or White Land, but on the mundane asphalt lanes of New Jersey.

While more recent versions of F-Zero feature well over two dozen different racers and car configurations, the Super Nintendo title had four: the “Golden Fox,” a swift but rather delicate racer; the “Wild Goose,” a tough-armored, all-business bruiser; the “Fire Stingray,” a flame-wreathed, cherry red heavy hauler; and the “Blue Falcon,” an all-around, even-stat cruiser. I came to race most often with the Fire Stingray. It had the slowest acceleration of the roster, but, once it hit its paces, it far exceeded the top speed of its competitors. It was also the second-toughest racer and lost the least amount of speed when it struck an obstacle. And, most importantly, it was the steadiest car and needed little, if any, course corrections in the straightaways; it took curves like a champ.

The "heavy hauler" Fire Stingray leaping over the expansive cityscape of Port Town.

The “heavy hauler” Fire Stingray leaping over the expansive cityscape of Port Town.

With the most sluggish pickup in F-Zero’s lineup, the trick with the Fire Stingray was to hit the brakes as little as possible. The key tactic I discovered was deceleration: easing off the gas to slow down and using the Stingray’s steadiness to keep on track through curves and around hazards. With practice, and liberal use of the shoulder buttons to cut tight into turns, I was able to rapidly burn past the competition on more complex tracks, such as Red Canyon and Fire Field. This trick helps in real-world traffic by putting less stress on my brake pads and on my engine. Also, it prevents the drivers behind me from getting faked out by “tap breaking” in instances where you really don’t need to slow down that urgently. I’ve read several articles over the years that liken traffic patterns to fluid dynamics, and how “tap breaking” (where a driver sees red brake lights in front, taps his or her brakes, and the process repeats down the lane), even for a brief instant, can cause a ripple effect that cascades into significant slowdown. I feel that deceleration vs. full-on braking, when safely done, is my little way of “paying it forward” to keep things flowing for the drivers around me.

Another trick I learned with the Fire Stingray was taking the curves. The Stingray’s steadiness and heavy bulk made it a challenge to turn at full speed, so cutting the engine was a necessary evil. Rather than spending the entire span of the curve slowing down and hitting the gas only once you straightened out, I learned to start accelerating towards the end of the curve, putting me at a faster pace by the time I hit the straightaways. It’s a gradual process; you don’t want to push it too hard, but an easy upswing can make a difference, especially when keeping pace in merge lanes and improving time getting onto a main road. This puts a bit more G-force on your passengers, so use this method with caution unless your riders know what they’re in for!

It’s been nearly 25 years since F-Zero’s release, and at least a score of years since I’ve last played this title, but I still hear the beats of Mute City whenever I take a curve or ease up on the gas pedal.

About brightmatrix

brightmatrix is a long-time casual gamer. His gaming journey has included Magic: the Gathering, the first, second, and fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons, and the first wave White Wolf games from the late 90s. If you are a denizen of the Twitterverse, you can read his posts on Magic, web development, puns, and other shenanigans at @brightmatrix.

Creating A Sequel To A Game You Didn’t Make In The First Place

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(Image taken from the Bioshock 2 Download Section of their website: www.bioshock2game.com)

Sequels are a part of gaming, for better or worse. Usually for the better, but sadly not always. As development companies struggle to meet deadlines set up but publishers or from fan expectations it’s hard to meet those without feeling the need to fill the time. This time can usually be filled with DLC but not always or the original game creators have moved on to s new project and have no interest in rehashing the same ideas again. This is when the publishers have to turn to another studio to develop a sequel. Today I want to take a look at how this doesn’t always produce the best games. Granted these games as standalone games are very good, even great but they are constantly held in the shadow of the original. I am going to focus on four games in particular that I own, have player, and pretty much enjoyed but still see the flaws in each in as they try to follow in their original’s footsteps.

(Warning I will probable spoiler all of these games and even the past games, you have been warned.)

Bioshock 2

Lowdown: Ten years have passed since Jack left Rapture and the city is no better for his leaving. Sofia Lamb, a psychologist, has taken control of Rapture after the deaths of Andrew Ryan and Atlas. She intends on getting the city back on its feet (or fins) she sends Big Sisters (Little Sisters not saved by Jack or Dr. Tenenbaum) to kidnap girls from around the Atlantic to make new Little Sisters. Dr. Tenenbaum and Eleanor Lamb, Sofia’s daughter) resurrect Subject Delta, the first Big Daddy to be pair bonded with a Little Sister, to stop Lamb from achieving her goal.

Game it follows: Bioshock

Original development team: Irrational Games (2K Boston at the time of Bioshock)

Developer: 2K Marin

Pros: Following in the shoes of the original Bioshock is not an easy task, but the story for Bioshock 2 is really good, it takes to task the extreme opposite opinion of Andrew Ryan’s. The view of looking out for the group to the point of the exclusion of the self is held under the same light as Ryan’s objectivist beliefs. The concept of playing a Big Daddy was an interesting one. Especially with the gathering points with the Little Sisters added to the tension. Additionally, seeing some of Rapture’s poor and less desirable neighborhoods was also a good idea as a way to separate it from the original.

Problems: As a stand alone game Bioshock 2 is really good, the DLC Minerva’s Garden is one of, if not the best DLC I’ve ever played, the only problem is that is has to follow the original Bioshock. The original was a very lightning in the bottle type of game that mix story with really fun gameplay and such a hook of the original games was the city of Rapture itself, learning about it and delving deep into its lord. So how do you follow that? You can’t reintroduce the city. So that part already had a tough hill to climb. The next is Sofia Lamb, she’s a good character but never really gives the commanding Andrew Ryan feel and tone, nor does she give you the friend/foe feel of Atlas/Fontaine. I mentioned it as a bonus, the guard the Little Sisters, and it can be but it can also be a pain in the butts. I Always saved before a gathering, because I knew what to expect. In game it was fine but the game also released a DLC for it called The Protector Trials, which was all protecting Little Sisters. I played but never finished because it’s nice in small doses but aggravating when presented too much. The game always felt like it was trying to justify its existence, part of that was so much press asking, why do we even need a sequel?

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Lowdown: Taking place between Borderland 1 and 2 The Pre-Sequel is set on Pandora’s moon called Elpis and the floating Hyperion space base Helios you play one of four new Vault Hunters (all NPCs from Borderlands previous games) and you are contacted by Jack, a Hyperion programmer and the main antagonist Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2, with a distress call to help him save Helios from The Lost Legion, a faction of Dahl’s former army. They have taken over Helios to use its powerful Eye weapon to open a Vault on Helios. You have to stop them.

Game it follows: Borderlands 2

Original development team: Gearbox

Developer: 2K Australia

Pros: The Pre-Sequel smartly follows in the footsteps of the original and doesn’t waver from it. The new characters are fun and very different, making the game’s replayability very high. The new locations can be fun and the levels are huge. The new oxygen booster allows double jumping which allows access to new locations and more exploration ability. I can’t talk Borderlands without mentioning guns, guns and lots of guns. This game adds new types and new types of elemental damage. The story is paced well and the well known characters are used to great effect without feeling forced and new characters a fun and interesting. Again, as a stand alone game The Pre-Sequel is a good time.

Problems: The Pre-Sequel suffers a bit from being a too much like Borderlands 2, it almost feels like a large DLC rather than it’s own game. The introduction of lasers is cool but didn’t add as much change up as I had hoped they would and the new elemental ice damage (with freezing enemies) meant I had to carry another type of weapon around and as never as useful as the salad weapons from Borderlands 2. The idea of having the game on the moon with its adjusted gravity was a fun way to mix it up and change up traversal but the lack of oxygen really caused problems for my gameplay.  I’m a guy who loves exploring the world given to me, but having a lack of such a necessity really hindered my desire to move to far off the beaten path. Worrying about looking for air pockets or where a building was to jump into if I needed to refill my tanks was annoying and distracting. Given how Borderlands fights go I never wanted to be too far from a building or a vehicle so I did have to worry about running out of air in the middle of a fire fight. Speaking of firefights I have noticed one really annoying thing about this game compare to the original, whenever I’m downed and in a Fight For Your Life moment all the enemies run off or behind cover. This may have happened in the original games but not to the point where I noticed. Psychos, the crazy melee enemies that can’t wait to cut into you suddenly run off whenever I’m downed and have to hope Jinx is there to help me up. Also I want to mention quick Jack himself, he’s awesome in Borderlands 2, because I don’t have him in my ear every few minutes but extending that over a whole game began to wear on me and I found this game story in the end to be Jack’s rise to power, which I really didn’t need the backstory for. I was hoping for more of a story not so heavily relying on the other games to support it. One more quick thing, the DLC characters of Jack’s double and Hammerlock’s sister? Really? I kind of understand but if all your other characters are NPCs from the original games, why not pull from there, I don’t mean Tiny Tina here, but other characters would have, to me, been more appealing.

Batman Arkham Origins

Lowdown: True to its name Arkham Origins is a prequel to Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. It takes place 2 to 3 years into Batman’s career as the Dark Knight, so most of his gear and items used or seen in later games aren’t developed yet, from r example the Batmobile. It’s Christmas Eve in Gotham City and crime lord Black Mask has put a million dollar bounty on Batman’s head and 8 of DCs top assassins are out to collect it. Aside from the main story there are a of side missions to accomplish, like breaking up Penguin’s arms deals or stopping a terrorist named Anarchy from blowing up the city. Plus did I mention the first meeting of Batman and Joker? Merry Christmas Batman.

Game it follows: Batman Arkham City

Original development team: Rocksteady Studios

Developer: Warner Bros. Games Montreal & Splash Damage

Pros: Origins actually has a lot going for it, in design, gameplay, and story. The much loved fighting engine from earlier games is still rock solid and still a lot of fun. Bouncing from enemy to enemy, countering, vicious attacks, and take downs are all still present and as visceral as ever. Using the Batwing to fast travel through the city made navigation of the open world quicker and easier. The first meeting with many characters from Batman’s world, like Jim Gordon, joker, Barbara Gordon (later Batgirl and Oracle) as well as Harleen Quinzel (Harley Quinn) were a good way to give the whole world feel to players of the earlier games and a little background for people who never read the comics. There are also a ton of Easter eggs and comic references for the comic book fans, I found Crime Alley myself by running into the movies theater playing Zorro. Gotham City is as cold, dark, and grimy as ever and the holiday decorations are well contrasted to the city’s dark atmosphere, like a Art Deco gothic Christmas. It strangely feels right for a Batman game.

Cons: As I’ve said of earlier games on this list Arkham Origins is by no means a bad game but it can’t hold up against its predecessors. If this games problems can be summed up in one work it would be: safety. It’s an incredibly safe game. It took everything that worked in the previous games and altered it, augmented it and re skinned it but never stepped beyond those games, feeling the safety in their shadow. On every level the game stayed well behind this line, it gets close at times, but never quite stepping over it. The city itself was mostly lifted from Arkham City, just with a holiday theme as opposed to a prison theme, I’ve even seen the huge prison walls. This of course isn’t surprising since it is the same city with a new theme, instead of a prison theme it’s a holiday one. The meat of the game though is the fighting, which is also lifted from earlier version as well, with one exception, the Death Stroke fight is difficult but very rewarding. Sadly he rest fall in line with previous version, the Firefly fight was very reminiscent of the Poison Ivy fight from Arkham Asylum and the Dead Shot fight was pretty much the Two Face fight from Arkham City. The Bane fight was pretty much the Bane fight from City and the Monster Joker from Asylum so there you go. The street level fights were also similar but all three games have been similar that way so I can’t knock the game for going with what works.another troubling point the game has is struggling out of the weight of the Joker, it can’t. He appears for the third time as the main villain, granted this was their first meeting but still with a rogues gallery like Batman’s to use him again feels like a wasted opportunity. That being said Troy Baker did a fantastic job as Mark Hamill’s Joker but from the selection of great Batman’s villains the safest choice would be Joke and the games suffers from the need to have him. Finally the side missions stayed on the safe side by never verring to far from the older games with the Riddler’s trophies still the standard hunt and find, as well as the Anarchy missions feeling like a reskinned Zazz missions from City. Again never bad in concept, but after finishing this trek I feel this is the safest Gotham has been in quiet a while.

I want to quickly express that I really do enjoy these games, I own all of them and have played and finished them. My real intention in this post is to point out how game creation can be a tricky thing and just because a game does well and plays great it does not mean that the follow up game will be infallible, especially if the original developers are not the creators of the new version. Also these are by no means the only games there are lot more. I just choose a few to point out the pros and cons. Games like Fallout: New Vegas, Halo 4, and Gears of War: Judgement all could have made this list for a few reasons and there are other as well. Some games I’m sure you can name some yourself.

In fact do that, I always like to end with a question so here it is, have you played a game you can see that would fit on the list of good but not as good as the original? Let me know. I hope you enjoyed the post and now I’m just looking forward to follow ups of some games I love, Batman Arkham Knight and Fallout 4, which I hope are even better than the originals. Keep hope alive.

About Ness

As a chaotic good nerd I try to be as well rounded as possible, from video games, comics, tabletop RPGs, anime, and cartoons I try to fit it all in. Although I enjoy all of it, video games have always dominated the majority of my time and attention. My plan for here is not to write previews or reviews but to talk about how I relate to the games I play. Hopefully we can all play along.

Choices and What We Make of Them

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Image of Hyrule from the new footage by Nintendo, don’t remember where I got the pic sorry.

“We all make choices, but in the end our choices make us.” – Andrew Ryan

Free choice is one of the newer buzzwords from the last generation of systems but it really has been around for a very long time. True, choices are more player driven than ever before but the idea has been around from gaming’s earliest systems. The original Legend of Zelda was as close to an open world game as most early Playstation games, the concept of beings able to choose which direction to go in was never really an option in earlier games. In those games you mostly followed a linear level until completion or you player a handful of levels, on slightly varying, until the game became to difficult to beat. Zelda for me, as an early gamer was a whole different concept. I could go in whichever direction I wished, true I was gated at some points, but mostly because I would have gotten killed if I wandered too far into Hyrule’s more difficult areas. The important thing was this changed my game experience from a friends, I may have gone left to find my first shop, where he went right and found the edges of the level. We might encounter different monsters and at least begin our adventure with our own experiences. Leaving players to choose the direction of their adventure has been one of the hallmarks of the series and still to this day is one of its most enjoyed aspects, the sense of adventure.

As games move to new systems they allow for more freedom for the game creators to allow the player to craft their adventure or at least to adjust their characters to the worlds around them. A big g step for me was The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which as s D&D guy, it gave me the freedom to play a variety of races and job classes, even allowing me to create one of my own. It gave me the freedom to play the game my way. Bethesda (creators of The Elder Scrolls) then followed it up much later with Skyrim (I know they did Fallout 3 in between I’ll get to that) which went much further in the ideas of player choice. Gone were the days of choosing primary skill sets and lesser ones, Skyrim says simply said, whatever you do you’ll do better. It allowed players to level skills that they used as they used them. If you wanted to be better at casting illusion spells cast illusion spells a lot, if you wore light armor a lot you’ll level up your light armor skill. This had a profound affect on my gaming as I was no longer afraid of choosing skills l would never use or creating a essential broken character. Grand Theft Auto: San Andres had an interesting system of choice as well, it affected your main character CJ. If you ate a lot of food dreamed “bad” for him (fast food) and didn’t work out he would gain weight and would lose endurance, speed, and stamina, but if he worked out at the gym he could get more muscular and his melee damage increased as well as his endurance and stamina. CJ’s clothing, hair style and tattoo choices also had an effect on his attractiveness. Aside from the main character you could choose to follow the law or do pretty much whatever you wanted in the confines of what the game allowed. Grand Theft Auto 3 opened up the concept of the “sandbox” or open world game as we think of it today, a world in which the player can choose to ignore the storyline of the game and cause mayhem or just drive around. The Saints Row series took this idea even further and allowed for the customizing of the main character, any gender, race, physical body type, you name it they allow and encourage it. Dragon Age and Mass Effect allow for character customization as well but what I find most interesting is they encourage romantic interaction between the player character and NPCs that the main character travels with, deepening the bond between player and game.

This leads to one of the more recent moves in gaming which is the moral choice. I really found this one to be a choice I never really expected to have in my games. The most powerful and earliest choice that affected me was dealing with the Little Sisters in Bioshock. We, as gamers, have really only had one choice when dealing with most NPCs, we killed some and not others. We kill the monsters and not the villagers, as an example, but we never have been given the reasoning of why or how will we feel about it. Bioshock asked are we going to choose to save a little girl to help her (with the promise of benefits later) or sacrifice the child to empower ourselves now. Of course the game itself did not make the choice easier as Dr. Tenenbaum begged us to save them, as Atlus insisted that we kill them to harvest the Adam slugs. If we decide to “buy” into these worlds do we buy into the choices we make? I can’t help but think we could. I’ve played Bioshock a half dozen times and still have never harvested a single slug. I always save the Little Sisters. Fallout 3 (told you I’d get here) gave us meter by which we could track our choices, but never try to influence us on our choices and truly you could save the whole of humanity or be a true monster based solely on you acted toward the NPCs and how you handled different encounters. Fable too gives us moral choices as how we our choices affect the town in which we live. If we side with evil Bowerstone gives way to poverty and depression, while good choices give us a flourishing city. The choices we make, make the world around us.

I quickly what to mention Minecraft as it really is the truest version of a creative experience. There is barely a “story” to be had (especially in the earliest versions). The whole experience is based on player choice. You create your own story based on what you choose to do in the game. The only real limit is your creativity and the limit of the game itself, and I’m not even sure of that to be honest.

So where do we go from here? The future looks bright. With games like Minecraft selling off the shelves and the world eagerly awaiting the next Fallout announcement I predict that player driven choices I games will not only continue but flourish with the newest generation of games like Shadow of Mordor playing heavily on how you choose your encounters and take on the Warchiefs to which powers you upgrade first are starting off strong. No Man’s Sky for the PS4 will soon give us a whole universe to explore where we get to choose where to go, who to go with, and how long we want to be there. It truly looks like an incredible experience, driven by the player. Ken Levine, creator of Bioshock, and his team have been working on a game where it is story driven by the players decision. He calls it “narrative Legos” as it has a base but the players choices build onto the world and affect many aspects of the game. I for one can’t wait to see and play it.

Thanks for reading. Please comment if you so choose. Question of the post! How does choice affect your playing style? I love it and Jinx knows this, will spend minutes choosing colors and heads for my Borderlands characters. Do you think about it or is it such a part of the game now you barely notice it? Let me know, I’m interested to hear what you think.

Thanks again, hope you enjoyed it.

Ness

About Ness

As a chaotic good nerd I try to be as well rounded as possible, from video games, comics, tabletop RPGs, anime, and cartoons I try to fit it all in. Although I enjoy all of it, video games have always dominated the majority of my time and attention. My plan for here is not to write previews or reviews but to talk about how I relate to the games I play. Hopefully we can all play along.

Can you become legend? SHOULD you become legend?

Good morning, 3SDers.

I’m going to talk about a game that’s garnered a lot of attention since its release, in both good and bad ways. Yes, I’m talking about Bungie’s Destiny.

Destiny is a first person shooter that was referred to as an MMO, or “massively multiplayer online” game. As someone who’s active in the MMO scene with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, I had some expectations as to what I was going to be walking into when I threw the disc into my Playstation 4.

DISCLAIMER – please do not throw anything at your Playstation 4.

I had expectations of being able to communicate with your teammates when you needed to, and Destiny is a game that you almost definitely need to communicate in, when things can (and almost always will) go south for your party, or “Fireteam” as it’s referred to. You have five ways of communicating with others in Destiny — sitting down, pointing, waving, dancing, and voice chat.

Now, voice chat is something I often do when I play Final Fantasy XIV when it comes to complicated raids or trials, because there’s very often a large amount of communication that’s required as well as coordination; healers communicating with tanks, tanks communicating with DPS, all sorts of things. Well, in Destiny, you don’t need a program to communicate as you do in other MMOs, such as Mumble or Teamspeak — just do it right over your console. However, other than voice chat, you *ONLY HAVE THOSE OTHER WAYS TO COMMUNICATE*, and that can get very hairy very quickly. “Well, is there a chat log you type into,” you ask? Well, no. There isn’t. You’re screwed. Period.

Luckily, communication isn’t exactly necessary to succeed. The game is very simple in that you go on missions that involve you holding the square button in numerous places, and often fighting off hordes of enemies. After that, you find other places to hold the square button in numerous places while fighting off other enemies. After that, you find even more places to hold the square button while fighting off even more enemies — except there’s also a BOSS. Nevertheless, despite the repetition of the game, it doesn’t actually feel as repetitious as you think it might be, simply because of the environments around you and the toughness of the enemies you have to kill. There are weak points to every one, though it’s usually a predictable glowing spot you have to shoot.

Other than the lack of communication, the game is hardly multiplayer. In raids, or Strikes, you have a maximum of three players, or Guardians, at any given time. Mario Party is more of an MMO than Destiny can ever hope to be, and that’s saying something for a game that cost five hundred million dollars to produce and promote.

F I V E H U N D R E D M I L L I O N D O L L A R S.

That makes Destiny the most expensive video game ever made; second on the list is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II at two hundred and fifty million dollars.

That’s right, Destiny was the most expensive video game ever created, by twice as much as the game that previously held that title. Well, where did that money go?

One thing I can say about Destiny is that the game is gorgeous; I mean it’s flat-out breathtaking. Everything is rendered perfectly, there’s an absurd amount of detail involved and the atmospheric effects of your enemies really bring out the power of the Destiny engine. It’s superb and flawless, though I do wish there was more equipment with enough visual differences so that a lot of the player base doesn’t look the same.

Character leveling is also something that was incorporated into the game, so there’s another positive thing that came from its development. There are lots of abilities you can learn as either a Hunter, Warlock, or Titan, (attacker type, caster type, and tank type) and mixing and matching them is a lot of fun; you can also use that to your advantage when you want to make things more challenging.

The storyline for Destiny, though, is one of the worst I’ve ever seen in a video game as far back as my memory banks can take me. It’s horribly made, horribly directed, and incredibly hard to follow. I’ve beaten the main story; and if you asked me to tell you what happens, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Not because I don’t want to spoil anything, but because I legitimately couldn’t make sense of any of it. You’ll more than likely figure out what happens at some point, though, because every time you repeat any part of the game, you’ll re-watch the storyline cutscenes again; it may be worth mentioning that you cannot skip any of the cutscenes in this game, no matter how many times you’ve already seen them.

My final verdict on Destiny is that if you can get past the fact that it’s essentially a glorified shooting game, it’s a very beautifully done game from a visual standpoint. If you’re looking for a story to follow, go find your favorite children’s story, as you’ll find a better story in those.

Final Rating — 7/10

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time!

Dave Rehm
@pizzaflare on Twitter

Final Fantasy IV Will Always Have a Hold on my Heart

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Of all the video games I’ve played since my childhood, the one that I’ve enjoyed, relished, and relived most of all has been Square’s Final Fantasy IV (or, as it was known in the U.S. back then, Final Fantasy II).

I had adored the original Final Fantasy despite its sparse, non-linear gameplay, so when its successor arrived, I was stoked. The local mom-and-pop game store (a kinder, charming alternative to Blockbuster) let you rent games as long as you wanted for a super cheap weekly fee. I borrowed their copy of Final Fantasy IV at least two or three times before I bought my own, keeping it out for weeks at a stretch.

There were so many amazing and enthralling moments in this game that keep me loyal to its legacy to this very day. The triumphant horns of the Red Wings anthem in the opening act. The first time you talk to one of the dancers in Damcyan, and, rather than offering up a repeating bit of dialogue, starts to whirl and spin around you. Edward’s sacrifice. The sinking of the ship by Leviathan. Cecil’s encounter with his father’s spirit on Mount Ordeal. The tense moment when you’re led to believe the royal guard, Baigan, will join your party, only to be brutally betrayed at the cost of the young wizard prodigies Porom and Palom. The opening of the Underworld and all its wonders. The multiple intrigues, betrayals, and redemptions of Kain. The list goes on and on.

While the initial U.S. translation was sloppy at points (the conversation where Kain talks about the key to the Underworld is particularly clumsy), the rich tapestry of heroes, villains, and monsters was akin to experiencing a storybook first-hand, more so than any other game I had played at that time (and more so than most I’ve played since then). Unlike turn-based RPGs that succeeded it, you were fixed to the party members you had at any point in the story. The transitions in your roster, however, always felt natural and never forced. That said, it was a delight to graduate to the extra levels in the Game Boy Advance version where you could choose anyone you wanted to conquer the new quests before you (take Cecil, Yang, Palom, Rydia, and Kain along for a “come at me bro” style of offensive might).

Whittling away the idle hours of my youth (and there were plenty of those), I managed a lot of whimsical, made-up accomplishments in Final Fantasy IV, which included:

1) Grinding around the town of Mysidia before Cecil’s transformation to a paladin, just to see what spells Porom and Palom would learn if you hadn’t played the game straight (spoiler: Palom proves to be quite the adept by mastering Bio, Quake, and other powerful black magics much earlier than Rydia would later in the story).

2) Battling endless ranks of monsters to see how many of the random summon spells I could earn in combat (not many, it turns out … I could only reliably ever get Imp and Bomb).

3) Gathering up all the vehicles in one location, which included Falcon (the original airship), the hovercraft, the Red Wings airship, the Black Chocobo, and the Big Whale (hint: the Serpent Road helps with this arduous task).

4) Patiently leveling up the five final characters (Cecil, Kain, Edge, Rosa, and Rydia) to level 99 without a Game Shark or other cheat device. As you can imagine, this took a very, very long time. I can’t even comprehend how many Red Dragons and Evil Masks I destroyed in the lunar dungeons to get everyone to this level. Rosa was the hardest of all, as she dealt the weakest amount of damage; I paired her up with Rydia to get her to 99.

If you’re brave or foolish enough, many second-hand stores still carry the original Super Nintendo cartridge. Be forewarned: I once paid $75 for a used copy as a Christmas gift for a friend well over 10 years back, and it still commands a steep price in that format today.

An updated, three-dimensional version for the Nintendo DS was released a few years back, and, while the visual styling and voiceovers are true to the spirit of the original, I can’t help but feel intense nostalgia for the 16-bit sprites and Mode 7 effects of the Super Nintendo version. It has that much of a hold on my heart, and I think it always will.

About brightmatrix

brightmatrix is a long-time casual gamer. His gaming journey has included Magic: the Gathering, the first, second, and fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons, and the first wave White Wolf games from the late 90s. If you are a denizen of the Twitterverse, you can read his posts on Magic, web development, puns, and other shenanigans at @brightmatrix.

Borderlands: The Pre-sequel – Jinx’s Top 5 Pros and Cons

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So, this week I’m jumping into the video games genre and talking about the newest installment of one of my favorite series of all time, Borderlands.  Their newest game, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel falls right in between the 1st and 2nd Borderlands games and brings you 4 new characters to play and also brings anti-gravity, lasers, Oz kits/tanks, and the cryo status effect.  There will be additional DLC, which will include 2 additional characters to play and additional places to explore.

For those that aren’t familiar with Borderlands, it’s a first person shooter that brings RPG’s, comedy, terribly interesting characters and their development, as well as a fun story, to it’s own unique and addicting level.

So, being an avid player of both of the first games, and with this game promising to be using the same structure as borderlands 2, I was pretty psyched.  So let’s jump right into the meat of things and discuss what this game has to offer:

Pros

  1.   You have 4 new and interesting characters to play, most of which are enemy characters found in previous games, including a cybernetic implant junkie, a estranged gladiator with a  absorption shield, a gun toting wild west sheriff type and a robot who has a personality disorder.  The characters have interesting and often funny backgrounds, have much more personality and interaction than in previous borderlands games (they talk in person when asked a question most of the time) and add new insight into the minds of the enemies you faced in the previous versions of the game.
  2. The new elements brought to this game, which include lasers, anti-gravity (you’re on the moon), butt-slamming, Oz kits (used for breathing and jet pack air boosts when needed) and the cryogenic status effect, provide interesting combinations.  There isn’t anything more satisfying that boosting yourself high in the air and then coming down hard with a butt-slam that freezes your enemies and then breaks them into floating chunks of ice that drift off into space.  Amiright?  The anti-gravity allows for really long jumps and adds a new dimension of playing, as now, going vertical is an option.  Lasers…need I say more?  The cryogenic status effects, which is added to the fire burning, shocking electrical, corrosive acid and overly explosive status effects is a nice fit.  The oxygen kits allow you to boost yourself even further and higher than ever before, coupled with the anti-gravity, make for some impressive jumps over bubbling lava or deadly ice rivers.
  3. They already have promised DLC, which is going to include at least 2 new characters to play (including the enemy from Borderlands 2, who is also the guy you’re working for in this game) as well as the sister of another Borderlands 2 character, who seems to be an Elsa double from Frozen in some form or fashion.  These guys gave 4 massive DLC’s as additions to Borderlands 2 including 2 new characters, along with level cap increases, etc.  They are by far the most committed gaming company I’ve ever seen.
  4. Legendary items were something that became almost a competition of farming in the previous borderlands series.  They were extremely rare and almost impossible to get, unless you resorted to “farming” the bosses (fighting them over and over again for their loot drops) until you got the legendary item.  While I agree that legendary items should be rare, they shouldn’t be so rare that it’s impossible to find one.  Who wants something in a game that you most likely won’t find or ever use?  So, in the pre-sequel, they fixed this in a couple different ways.  They have created content around a machine called the grinder, that allows you to take some of the weapons you don’t want, grind them in the machine to get guns you hopefully do want.  You can use moonstones (valuable stones found around the moon) that can be harnessed to ensure you get a higher rarity item.  With less than an ample amount of loot drops in this game, this was a great idea.  The second thing they did, was allow you to find legendary items more often, whether it be the rare find in a vending machine or a rare drop from a creature.  Whatever the case, they are still rare, but not so rare that you’ll never see them.  This allows those that don’t have the hours upon hours of free time playing/looking for these weapons to be the only ones to enjoy them.
  5. This game, while it structurally and visually looks exactly like borderlands 2, is a whole new game in itself.  There has been a lot of talk about how short the game is or that it’s not a whole new game in itself, but more like a DLC, however so far, I’ve put in about 35 hours and JUST beat the game.  Those that are saying this are most likely gamers who need to beat the game as fast as possible, without enjoying the experience.  I took my time.  The exploration of the environment, the interactions with my character, the enemies I face, the quests I’m given and the beauty of what the designers have put together for me, is something I want to savor.  I don’t want to rush playing the game, I just want to enjoy it as long as possible for what it is.  There are a lot of games out there that can’t say they are 25 hours long as it is, so it’s safe to say that this game is NOT a DLC and is more than enough game.

Cons:

  1. Now that you are on the moon, you need to be able to breathe, which is where the Oz kits come into play.  While there are usually more than enough air vents on the moon’s surface or air canisters dropped form enemies, the only thing I don’t like about this additional factor to consider, is that it takes away from exploration.  You can’t just slowly meander around the world that was created, without risk of taking damage (albeit slowly, but with reminders that your oxygen is at half or the sound of you gasping for air).  You may have found this new path you want to explore and maybe taking your time to see if you can find one of the elusive and secretly hidden vault symbols, but then realize you’re low on air and need to go back and find a vent or you’ll start taking damage.  This aspect stifles the game for all those that don’t play the FragTrap robot, who doesn’t require air.  When I replay the game with him, I plan on having him be the exploratory type, since the lack of air won’t be an issue and I’ll be able to wander aimlessly to my heart’s content.
  2. The moon has these beautiful large open spaces with lots of environment to explore, but unfortunately, it would have been nice if there was more to do in these places.   In games like Fallout, you couldn’t walk more than 50 steps without finding another quest or cool thing to explore and interact with.  I loved finding an abandoned shopping market with bandits protecting it or a school with some super mutants running around in Fallout; there was SO MUCH to do and come across.  It’s the moon and in some ways it makes some logical sense that they are not going to build an entire city there or that it wouldn’t be jam packed, but we’re there anyway and it’s a game, so why not?  I think they wanted to give you the open space to jump and utilize the butt-slamming technique, but I still feel that there were places that were TOO open and TOO sparse.  There is no reason why they couldn’t have added more content…game did feel a bit rushed in that aspect.
  3. So, as one of my pros, I talked about how it uses the same BL2 structure.  While I can understand that the Borderlands 2 structure worked well, I’m not sure why they didn’t improve upon it.  It would have been nice to give it a whole fresh new look, while still keeping the integrity of the game.  I feel as if they half-assed it a bit, which I would have been fine with if they would have made it up with additional content, as I said the old system worked, but why not spruce it up?  Why not give it its own feel?  Change up the colors a bit, see what would compliment to moon feel.  Why didn’t they listen to the fans and find out what they could have done to make the game more enjoyable?  How about simple fixes like having a button that purchases all ammo needed for all guns?  Why didn’t they bring back proficiencies from the first game?  Using a weapon more means you were better with the weapon.  Makes sense!  Why not include it?  Upgrades like this would have made all the difference and given the fans something more to appreciate.
  4. As mentioned above and especially because they used the same structure as borderlands 2, is that I wish there were more of the new elements to the game.  Sure, the anti-gravity, cryogenic and laser weapons are cool, but you didn’t have to create the structure, so how come their game isn’t a jam packed game overstuffed with content?  Where did all that extra free time go?
  5. NPC’s seriously lacked in this game.  Granted, I have not finished the game yet, but so far, I have not been impressed.  In the previous games, you had some NPC’s that were game changers, like Tiny Tina (worlds deadliest teenager and explosive expert) and Mr. Torgue himself (owner of Torgue weapons, and almost a replica of Randy Macho Man Savage, the WWF wrestler).  They were AWESOME.  What do we get?  We get Janey Springs and Pickle, who are completely and utterly boring in most cases.  I looked forward to hearing everything Tiny Tina and Mr. Torgue had to say, waiting as patiently as one could until finishing one of their quests to hear more of their dialogue.  While Janey Springs and Pickle had a couple funny lines, I just didn’t enjoy them.  The guy you’re working for in this game (Jack), who is actually the mastermind in Borderlands 2 was done fairly well and had a decent amount of good lines, but I still expected more.  The NPC’s lacked this go around.

All in all, I do love the game for what it is.  It gave me the content and answers to questions I needed, when moving from borderlands 1 to 2, but it needed to put more of and time into their NPC’s and population of the environment.  More places to explore, more creatures we’ve never seen, more fine tuning!  One thing I did confirm is that when you play the same character in the True Vault Hunter Mode, you get a nice new narration from Tiny Tina and Brick.  Gives something new to playing in the harder mode.  Plus, I look forward to playing each and every one of the 4-6 characters so I can hear their stories, as well as all the wonderful reactions and responses to boot.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this game and if you’re playing it!

Jinx

About jinx_the_bard

Longtime Dungeon Master, tabletop and video gamer. Been playing D&D and Shadowrun on and off most recently. Ran a post apocalyptic, paragon, 4th edition D&D campaign for a couple years. Running a 5th edition campaign now called “The Fall of Astia”. Enjoy Borderlands 1, 2 and even the Pre-sequel (which I tend to play with fellow author Ness), Fallout 3 and 4, Bioshock and Skyrim. (Games this good never get boring) I also indulge in Magic The Gathering, mostly in the Legacy and Modern formats. Please feel free to contact me at dungeonmaster.bm@gmail.com for any questions, thoughts or things you’d like to see featured on our site.

Hyrule Warriors – The Zelda game we weren’t looking for, but will take anyway

This week, I’ll be talking about a recent release that was anticipated for a very long time – Hyrule Warriors on the Nintendo Wii U!

hyrule-warriors-cover

You may or may not be surprised to hear that this is, at its very core, a Dynasty Warriors game. For those of you that are unaware of that particular franchise, allow me to break it down for you.

You’re part of an army with about a dozen main story characters, up against literally thousands of enemies on any given scenario. Luckily, these enemies go down in a couple of hits, however there still remains that there are thousands of them. For those of you that enjoy racking up kills, this is definitely a series you would definitely enjoy. For this particular installment, you will most likely enjoy this game even if you may not have been a fan of the Dynasty Warriors games themselves, which are reminiscent of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms games from a long time ago.

I enjoy this game very much, and find it to be the Zelda game we weren’t looking for, but will take anyway. There are many playable characters in Hyrule Warriors; though I won’t go into how many there are, or even who they are (because I’m typically anti-spoiler) you’ll be happy with who you’ll see. Obviously, you’ll play as Link. I don’t think I had to give that one away.

link

As you can tell, Hyrule Warriors is a gorgeous game. While gorgeous isn’t what draws people to playing games, typically, you’ll feel like you’re flowing through battles and effects that are made easily possible by the Wii U’s processing and graphic capabilities.

The combat in this game, supposing you haven’t played a Dynasty Warriors game before, is typically simple. All characters have combos with their weapons by entering button combinations, all characters have wide sweeping techniques to deal damage to more enemies at a time, (though with less power to make up for it) and you’ll charge up energy to unleash devastating attacks on a large portion of the field at once. In Hyrule Warriors, Link does make use of the popular subweapons you see in other installments, such as bombs and the Fire Rod. Other than that, though, it’s a pretty lather, rinse, and repeat style of gameplay, which can start to feel repetitive. However, as I mentioned earlier, if you’ve ever played a title in the Dynasty Warriors franchise before, none of this should come as a surprise.

Overall, I’m happy with Hyrule Warriors. While the gameplay is nothing new, it is still one of those rides through Hyrule that don’t seem to come up often anymore, and I’ll happily take it. As the story progresses, you do unlock additional characters to play as, as well as weapon and combo modifications that will, obviously, make your characters stronger. It’s a very fun game, and it’s probably worth playing anyway, even if you’ve never played a Dynasty Warriors game before.

Verdict – A very fun and beautiful game that does not require a steep learning curve, but can feel repetitive. 7/10.

Thank you for reading my entry this week! I’ll have another entry from my RPGem Files for my next entry, so you won’t want to miss it!

RPGem Files – Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga

Hey everyone, and welcome to my first post for 3 Sided Die!

Today I’ll be going over something that was released on the Playstation 2 in 2005, a pair of RPGs called Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga.

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The Shin Megami Tensei series is over 25 years old, first releasing in 1987 on the Family Computer console, or as some refer to it, the Famicom. The most popular series in Shin Megami Tensei is the Persona series, making its breakthrough in popularity with Persona 3, released in 2007 in North America.

I’m focusing on Digital Devil Saga because it’s my personal favorite in the Shin Megami Tensei series (referred to as SMT going forward). When it comes to the SMT series, most everyone thinks of Persona. This is a title that, while I can’t discuss the story very much, is definitely worth looking into if you’re a fan of darker-themed games.

image4Digital Devil Saga (referred to as DDS going forward) is a story focused on characters who are able to become demons that must consume their own to win a war, and then achieve Nirvana, a large part of Buddhist religion.

DDS is an industrial-themed game in both audio and visuals, as you begin the game in a junkyard with your tribe, called the Embryon, followed by almost immediate plot twists.

Unlike previous titles in SMT, you have no demons to battle alongside you as you would in the Persona and Devil Summoner series, and no personas to summon. The only demons you have to battle alongside you are yourselves, which you can shapeshift to and from at any time in battle.

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Each of the six protagonists you control in both games — Cielo, Gale, Sera, Serph, Heat and Argilla, have different weaknesses and strengths in battle, as you may expect from most RPGs. At times, you’ll be forced to make a decision as to whether or not you want to stay in demon form or revert back to your humanoid form. While your demon forms have large amounts of power that come from their “Atma Branding,” there are times you’ll want to remain in your humanoid form. While your defenses are significantly reduced, the ability to use guns in battle will sometimes outweigh that detriment.

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Digital Devil Saga has something for everyone. From experience, I can attest to it being not as difficult as some of the other entries in the SMT universe; Atlus wanted to “ease up” on its difficulty so that a broader range of their audience could enjoy it. It is worth noting, however, that there is one “hidden boss” in the first Digital Devil Saga, and while I won’t mention who it is (because spoilers,) said boss is widely considered to be the hardest boss fight in the history of JRPGs – so much so that it’s still on my bucket list to get past it. If you’re an avid fan of SMT, you’ll be both pleased and horrified to find out who it is, when you get to that point.

The soundtrack to Digital Devil Saga, just like SMT in its entirety, has a fantastic soundtrack. Every track throughout the game puts you in whatever mood Atlus wanted you to be in at the time – whether it’s feeling ready to devour your enemies for skill points to earn skills, or feeling clouded with doom and mystery, Digital Devil Saga will have you on the edge of your proverbial seat the entire time.

On a difficulty scale, I would put Digital Devil Saga at 7/10. The games definitely have their moments where you really need to think about your strategies for certain bosses, though it’s simple enough to where you can enjoy the ride the entire time.

Thank you for reading, tune in next time where I discuss a modern release, Hyrule Warriors!

When Video Games Entered The Real World

The underwater city of Rapture is falling to pieces

(Warning this post has some spoiler for Bioshock 2, which was released 4 years ago, if you haven’t played it, what are you waiting for?)

There was a time not long ago when I was fairly certain that games were things I played and enjoyed greatly but on my TV, computer, phone, or hand held. The idea of them effecting me emotionally had been long established, but actually contacting me in the real world was an impossibility. Until 2009, when they did.

I am a huge fan of the Bioshock series, ask anyone who knows me and they can tell you I will (with very little prompting) go on and on about the series, so to say in 2009 I was excited for Bioshock 2 was an understatement. I followed the forums on the 2K site, followed it on Facebook, listened to the podcast, you name it was all into it. The forums led me at one point to somethinginthesea.com a site at the time had only a cork board with some made up newspaper clippings about young girls who had gone missing around the Atlantic coastline of American and Europe. It was a site starting to build a story to the upcoming Bioshock do naturally I followed. as it progressed it went from the cork board to an office of a man named Mark Meltzer. in his office there were a host of things to click on to lead more into the story, one being a typewriter, with an address. From the forums I learned that you could write a letter to the address and you would get a response. Thinking a cleaver marketing move I wrote a letter, as though Mr. Meltzer were real, then waited. Assuming I would get a form letter response I was floored when I received a note and a record. Yes, a vinyl record. (Younger readers ask Mom or Dad what a record is.) It simply stated on the cover Rapture Records, it was a single called Rise Rapture Rise and it was awesome.

record

After receiving the record I assumed that was that, I wrote a letter and got a cool piece of in world item, but it was only starting. A few weeks later I was getting the mail on the way to my house (my mail box is in a group of mailboxes about a block from my actual house) when my I noticed a man pull up to my house on a bike, not just a bike but an old school bike (think 50s – 60s design) and an all white uniform, including hat. He rang my doorbell and waited. I was trying to get back into my car to drive over to the house (I was running some errands, I’m not lazy enough to drive to my mailbox, I case you were thinking that) to see who he was and what was going on. He put something in my door and rode off. When I got to the house I found a telegram stuck into my storm door. It was delivery from Speedy Delivery Service and it was from Mark Meltzer. I had just received a telegram from a character from a story I was following for a video game. The telegram basically said that I was found trustworthy and expect another package soon.

Soon was an understatement. As I was cleaning my house the next day in fact my door bell rang. My wife answered the door and called for me, telling me there was a strange man with a package for me. It was the same Speedy Delivery man as the day before, except this time he had more then just a telegram it was a large package. He greeted me, asked my name, and to sign for the package. I signed a sheet with a list of names, mine included. Once is signed he thanked me shook my hand went back to his bike and sped away. I took the package inside. It was a brown paper wrapped cardboard box with nothing on it, no address, shipping for, nothing. I opened the box to find a full page letter from Mark Meltzer, it talked about the missing girls and his investigation and that he found something and sent it to me to continue my research. Inside buried in shredded cardboard was a splicer’s welding mask. (Splicers are in Bioshock the former residence of Rapture, deformed by overuse of the genetic drug called Adam, the are most common enemy in the game.) This was a bit shocking to me (by a bit I mean a lot). Now as I had received recorded and a mask, other in the forums had received other masks as well. The site was changing to, almost weekly, with other little things you could click on and receive new clues, puzzles, or information. We were getting drawn more and more in.

mask

As the series progressed it would provide more challenges and more deliveries. At one point a new cypher puzzle was posted and when deciphered it gave locations and dates. The locations were at different points around coastal areas around the Atlantic. Unfortunately none of the locations were within an easy distance for me and I was unable to go at the dates, from what I read on the forums found on the beaches were items half buried in the sand. Items such as wine bottles, posters, and other Rapture based materials. Within the story Mark was getting closer to finding Rapture and we meet Orrin Oscar Lutwidge, a man also obsessed with finding the undersea city. He begins sending things as well. Many of the people who received items in the past became “inducted” into Lutwidge’s organization called the I.O.O.P (International Order Of the Pawns), for example I am the Peridot Pawn. Later from him I would receive an actual pawn piece that would help, along with others, another puzzle from the site.

IOOPcard        pawn

As the story began to hitting its third section the focus became less sending items and more on the puzzles in the website and getting Mark closer to his goal. The final setting went from his office to s boat in the mid Atlantic. The puzzles became harder with each new section but were still a huge focus of the forums and interest surrounding the site. In the end Mark found his way into Rapture and actually appears in the game. First through radio diaries found in the city (if you played the game it’s the audio diaries in color). Here is where it gets a bit spoiler heavy. Through the game you will finally find him in Dionysus Park as a Rumbler Big Daddy with his daughter Cindy as his Little Sister. It was a sad ending to a wonderfully build story, but that happens so much in Rapture.

In the end it was one of the most fascinating, enthralling, and strange events that took place in my life with games. It was interesting to see the story play out, changing day by day in front of me as the release date got closer and closer. I miss greatly the puzzles, I would copy the cypher and decode them at work and I enjoyed the challenge of finding a new key to a puzzle to unlock yet another puzzle. Add that to the community feeling of the forums when everyone was working together to solve the latest challenge, it was loads of fun. I think I miss most is the unexpected presents that would arrive unannounced at my door or mailbox. It’s great to have toys or items from games you love but to have them arrived to you from a character from the game brought that feeling to an other level. Also knowing you have something from a game you love and that there are only a few of them out there is pretty good too.
So many games come and go in our lives but experiences like this stay and greatly impact us and our view of what gaming can be. So how many of you have things from your favorite games. Does it (like me) help you feel closer to the experience you feel in the games or is it just cool stuff?

About Ness

As a chaotic good nerd I try to be as well rounded as possible, from video games, comics, tabletop RPGs, anime, and cartoons I try to fit it all in. Although I enjoy all of it, video games have always dominated the majority of my time and attention. My plan for here is not to write previews or reviews but to talk about how I relate to the games I play. Hopefully we can all play along.

Why I Play Video Games…

Image taken from the download section of Bethesda Skyrim website.

Image taken from the download section of Bethesda Skyrim website.

It occurred to me as I was thinking about my first blog post that I wanted to start with something easy. Something simple, like why do I play video games. I play because they are fun. There that’s it, simple, but there is a problem. I have in my time been frustrated playing, to the point of yelling, nearly throwing controllers (which are too expensive now to throw), and cursing at my TV. My wife has asked in the past why do I play if I’m acting this way. I usually respond with because it relaxes me (with a snarky tone). Thinking about it more though, there are many reasons why I play games, probably the same as you. Games are fun, that’s the most basic reason, if you are not having fun, what’s the point really. I have in the past slogged through a game just to try to finish it, but that generally ends in me hating the game and feeling like I wasted my time (which is precious now a days).

There are though deeper reasons why I play games; escapism is the most prevalent to me. I enjoy losing myself in the world the game lives in. I will spend hours in Skyrim just wandering around with no a real direction or spend too much time inspecting every room and nook and cranny in the beautiful falling apart city of Rapture just to find a little piece of something I’ve never seen before. How many of us have burned every bush in the original Zelda just to see what it would do? I love exploring the mean streets of Gotham in Arkham City or the not-as-mean streets of Steelport in Saints Row. I felt a sense of awe in Columbia, until I had to start taking out people, in Bioshock Infinite, the new DLC Burial at Sea promises a view into Rapture before its fall and I’m eagerly anticipating exploring there for hours,

It strangely feels like going home. There are whole worlds created for us to play in and I love that aspect of gaming. This is also why I love Dungeons and Dragons: the world building and exploring the world created by my DMs. Give me an interesting, fully-realized world (for a game) and I will most likely fall head into it, escaping my world just for a little bit (or a lot of bit).

I enjoy the challenges games give me. Portal provides me puzzles to solve that I feel like a genius for figuring out. Zelda provides me a different experience in every dungeon, many times within the same dungeon. Zelda feels particularly great at time because I can see the puzzle I’ve known for years when I walk into a room, even in a new dungeon, and know how to solve it … all I need to do is figure out how to do that. I enjoy the puzzle aspect to games like Batman, through the Arkham series, as I look down on a group of Joker’s gang and decide how to take them out as quickly as possible or how to grab them in the predator rooms without alerting the others. Fighting games alone provide a challenge against the computer or even more dangerous another person. Playing online has only increased the level of challenge for me. Halo and Gears of War provided me with hours of fun trying to figure out how to best my friends, or work with them to take out others. Challenge creates a fun environment and as long as everyone can keep it cool, I will always look forward to a night of chainsawing opponents or hitting them with a sticky grenade.

My wife helps me realize the next reason. Level building and moving, she has become somewhat addicted to Candy Crush Saga, and when I asked her why, she said she loves how her pieces move on the game board (it’s set up something like Candy Land). She said it gives her the feeling that she is getting better or she can see her moving on to a new level, a feeling of accomplishment. This one simple aspect has become one of the most powerful things in gaming. It has, in its own way, pretty much taken over gaming. It has been the staple of RPGs for years, though back when I was a kid, they were not as popular as they are now. The level-building concept has infiltrated almost every part of gaming, from shooters to puzzle games. As I talk about this, I know that you always gained new levels in puzzles games, but, I mean it in a more visual way or else my wife would be hooked on any puzzle game. Adding the simple piece of moving on a game board has made the game that much more compelling to her. I can’t tell you how many kids I know tell me what level they are in Black Ops or how what level they’re at in Final Fantasy. As an old school gamer, when you beat a level, you simply went to the next level, but now, the RPG element of giving you new abilities, making your character stronger, or unlocking certain aspects has become standard in games. Nothing feels better than playing Borderlands 2, hitting a new level, and seeing the giant Level 35 (example) explode out of the screen or seeing new perks open up in Fallout or Skyrim. Leveling is a motivating factor for many players. Jinx, for example, plays many games, and this is his favorite aspect of gaming. Many games have leveling available that you may not even realize, like Bioshock. It doesn’t present to you like a level building RPG but it does follow a path that provides powers in the beginning and more powerful versions later, along with more powerful enemies. This ,along with other games, keeps you leveling just to keep up with the game or it levels enemies to meet you, always keeping it challenging.

Why do I play games? For many reasons, you probably play for similar or for very different. There are as many reasons to play as there are games to play. We all play games to suit our interests or to suit our needs that the game provides. For many of us, the reasons we play are a diverse as we are. Armed with the knowledge of why you can even better find games that are perfect for you in the future. Some may think the “why” is not important, but to me it is, I play games for many reasons. Why do you play?

About Ness

As a chaotic good nerd I try to be as well rounded as possible, from video games, comics, tabletop RPGs, anime, and cartoons I try to fit it all in. Although I enjoy all of it, video games have always dominated the majority of my time and attention. My plan for here is not to write previews or reviews but to talk about how I relate to the games I play. Hopefully we can all play along.