The Importance of Demos

In a time where many of us gamers judge potential game purchases by reading reviews on Metacritic or the video game publication of our choice, I’ve noticed the growing lack of immediate support for demos on our main consoles. We’ve progressed past receiving demo disks in the mail; packed with trailers and excerpts of a handful of choice games that are poised to be out, because next-gen games are so large in size it simply isn’t feasible. Now that I think about it, this was the main way that I decided what game I wanted to buy when I was much younger. While Youtube bridges the gap between reading about a game and actually playing it, nothing beats test-driving a game where you can judge it yourself, devoid of someone else’s insights and opinions which are inherent to reviews.

Back in the day, demos for the hottest titles dropped months or weeks before their release date. This gave ample time for the intrepid gamer to check out a game, and if they liked it enough, they went out to buy it. Now that demos are digitally distributed through avenues like Microsoft’s Xbox Live, Sony’s Playstation Network, or Nintendos Wii Shop Channel, I’d assume these games would be much more available to us all (since most of us have an internet connection, right). Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that demos for a lot of big name titles don’t go up until months after the game’s original release date. Mass Effect 2 as well as both Call of Duty Black Ops and Modern Warfare 2 are guilty of this. It costs a developer a significant amount of money to provide a demo for users to download, but I’m having trouble understanding why the likes of Bioware and Activision respectably took a while to get their latest games out for people to test out before buying.

As an aside, the only reason I ever considered playing Mass Effect 1 and 2 a few months back was entirely due to the fact that Mass Effect 2’s demo was released. If ME2 didn’t have a demo like ME1 didn’t, I’m quite sure I would have never played it at all.

This week saw the release of the demo for El Shaddai, an action adventure title that is said to blend the fighting elements of Devil May Cry, the platforming of Mario, with the visual style of Okami. After reading an article or two about it in a couple magazines, I was pretty excited to see that this game had been uploaded. My interest peaked after watching a gameplay clip followed by an interview with it’s producer. As I grabbed my credit card to renew my Xbox Live Gold subscription after 3 months of inactivity, I knew I was making the right choice. After completing the demo, I didn’t arrive at a definite conclusion about El Shaddai like I had expected. While the demo had brought something fresh to the table, I saw a couple problems that I knew I would be wrestling with if I went to buy the full game. Luckily, El Shaddai doesn’t release until July – people in my situation have will enough time to evaluate the game more, and most importantly, they haven’t missed the boat and are coming into a new game much later than everyone else. Although I’m personally unsure of if I’ll be buying El Shaddai right now, I still have the opportunity to play the demo as many times as I need to until I can answer that age-old question of “Is this game worth spending my hard earned money on?”

I think it’s very important for more games to do what El Shaddai did this week, regardless of if they’re guaranteed to reach astronomic sales like Mass Effect and Call of Duty does regularly. If there’s a demo to speak of, I believe it would be in everyone’s best interest that it should come out before the full game is released, so we can all play through it and decide to take the plunge and buy it, or choose to skip it. If more people are given the chance to support any given game, it’s preliminary sales would increase, as that demographic of gamers who still prefer trying a game themselves before purchasing them would be accounted for.

How to Beat the Scrub Out of You

Every fighting game match has the same outcome – someone wins and their opponent is the loser. By and large this is how things go, and very rarely will there ever be a draw. This is objectively true, but for every new fighting game people flock to, a staggering percentage of the player base has historically had trouble with understanding this fact. If you’ve been fervently playing Marvel vs. Capcom 3 like I have, your inbox that’s probably full of hate mail can verify that you’ve also come across this special type of player; perhaps you’re one of them yourself. I’m talking about the Scrub.

What is this Scrub you speak of?

For those of you who don’t know what a Scrub is, it’s the type of player (although not limited to fighting games, but this is where they flock to) that feels the need to take things a step further with their opponent after they’ve lost a match. Whatever tactic that was used to win will immediately be scrutinized; it was “cheap”, they used too many projectiles, they didn’t “fight like a real player,” they too chickenshit to get up close, their team was just so much better than the loser’s; the list of complaints go on and on. The sad thing is that each and every point of argument is so steeped in stupidity and rage that it cannot be taken seriously.

Because of the reasons I stated above, I venture to say that the only type of match a scrub would really enjoy would be one that doesn’t suffer from those “flaws.” Further, I imagine this fight would be perfectly balanced, so to speak. Perhaps it’ll go something like this: He does a number of tricks and really injures you, and you return the favor with your own arsenal of moves, while explosions are going off in the background and both of your fan clubs are hopelessly cheering you two on. But in the end, he wins, because he’s supposed to. If he doesn’t, then there’s something wrong. The perfectly scripted encounter is supposed to go his way because nothing else matters as long as the scrub wins. No matter how ridiculous a match goes, a scrub will never ever complain if they win in the end. If they lost, then they’ll suddenly feel violated, and the verbal insults fly in every direction. The truth is, anything goes. There is no code of honor when it comes to a fighting game. There’s no perfect way a fight is supposed to go, and that’s never going to change. You deal with it, and you focus on getting better. If you can’t do that, it’s best to stop playing for your own sake.

“If you’re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough…”

I know what it’s like. Over my years of playing fighting games I too have suffered so many losses that I’ve had no other reaction than blind rage. I would let my anger cloud my better judgment, leading me to make more mistakes. As a result, I was also more susceptible to falling for the same traps and the same attacks over and over. For example in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, whenever you get blasted by Doctor Doom’s beam attack your character falls to the floor. If you’re not immediately blocking, you’ll roll up, only to get blasted again. If I don’t wise up, why should my opponent do anything different?

It takes a certain type of mindset to play fighting games. Have you heard of the phrase “when you get knocked down, you gotta’ get back up?” well, I’ve never seen that idea apply more to anything than a fighting game. If you don’t start playing with the frame of mind that losing is an occupational hazard that will happen more than you’d like, you’re going to destroy yourself. The one thing that divides a scrub and a regular player (not even professionals) is that when a regular player loses a match, he or she doesn’t dive right into playing the blame game. Regardless of how the loss happened, a player that can rise above is taking notes. They are watching and analyzing how they are losing, and will promptly GO BACK TO PRACTICE MODE to iron out those kinks.

Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is unfortunately synonymous with a lot of scrubby debates, but I can definitely sympathize with them. I’ve gotten spanked by Sentinel more times than I can count. In fact, on the second day of playing online, I got so depressed from losing that I didn’t want to cover this game anymore. Every character has the potential to defeat every other character; it just takes a lot of effort and experimentation to find out what combination works for you. When all else fails, you just might have a bad matchup. In that case, take note of it, and move on.

But I’m so lost don’t know where to begin…

If you decide to play a game like Marvel vs. Capcom 3, you have to consider the fact that you’re going to lose. You’re going to lose often. The best way to deal with this is to pay a lot of attention to how the match is going. What strategies is your opponent using? Are you able to overcome them with your own style? If you’re losing a lot to a general playing style like ‘keepaway,’ where the opponent does everything in his or her power to keep you pinned with projectiles and other attacks to force you in the corner, use characters who excel at ‘rushdown’, who can bring a lot of pain when their right in the oppositions face. This is pretty rudimentary, but still effective, especially if you haven’t considered this. By really learning your characters and the characters that you’re facing online, you should start to develop strategies to beat them. Of course, it may be hard to think of all of this on your own, but remember, this is the internet! Go to message boards, watch technique videos, read a strategy guide! There’s a mountain of resources out there made for people trying to get better. Use them!

If you ever feel like you’re not getting where you want to be, go back into the lab. Keep experimenting, and come up with new strategies. Perfect your team and work on any weaknesses you have, or are learning about based on how you’re losing. The time you put into practicing will reflect on your overall skill. While spending ten or more hours a day like professionals do when they’re preparing to compete in tournaments may not suit you, find out what works best for your situation, And watch as you start to rack in some wins.

Here’s a couple links that can get you started if you feel like you want to improve your game:

http://wiki.shoryuken.com/Marvel_vs_Capcom_3

–          Shoryuken.com’s comprehensive “hyper guide” details EVERYTHING you need to know about Marvel vs. Capcom 3. While there’s a lot of material to sort out here, so my advice is to read a couple pages, and practice what you’ve learned. Once you feel like you’ve gotten a few things down, go back and read more. The front page also has video walkthroughs explaining each character’s strengths so you can start putting together your dream team.

http://www.gamefaqs.com/boards/995376-marvel-vs-capcom-3-fate-of-two-worlds

–          I’ve always made it a point to visit GameFAQ’s forums for every game I cover as a second resource. While this community is not strictly composed of fighting game enthusiasts like Shoryuken, I’ve found a couple of good discussions here as well.

http://shoryuken.com/f340/

–          If you wanted a more focused discussion about an individual character, this is the place to go. I usually go here when I want more information about a character that catches my interest after watching the introductory videos found on the first link above.

Good luck, and remember not to get discouraged if you lose.

And the Winner Is…

Japanese Role Playing Games have been a cornerstone of the realm of video games for years. When we’re tired of shooting, platforming or sports games, there’s nothing like an adventure that features memorable characters, a well written narrative that appeals to the fantasy fan in all of us. Most gamers have been fans of RPGs in general due to the many entries of the Final Fantasy series, as it’s consistently been one of the biggest gaming franchises of each console generation. Although one would think the winning formula that Final Fantasy always has to offer would be just that, a lot of unrest has been circulating over the past few years. The majority of JRPGs follow a number of the same troupes; which include effeminate male characters, cliché storylines to name a few, along with other points that often cross with anime, manga or Japanese culture in general. Many people have begun to call out why this has been happening, and have even shined the spotlight on Final Fantasy.

2010 was a year of turbulence in the Role Playing Game realm, because many household names suddenly found themselves having to fight to stay relevant and viable. Of the games that I reviewed this year, I feel that Final Fantasy XIII was the one who took up this challenge and responded to the growing concerns that ridiculed its waning popularity.

There are several vexing features that are unique to Final Fantasy XIII, which largely served to disgruntle many players who were used to many traditional concepts in the long running series. These changes, while unexpected, were the essence of moving the series forward in its own way.

Here’s what some of you elitists missed out on

Let’s talk about the biggest complaint people seem to have with Final Fantasy XIII: “It takes twenty hours for the game to get fun.” “Half of the game is an interactive tutorial.” “It’s too linear.” Every time I hear these comments, I can’t help but cringe. Yes, the game doesn’t “open up” until the group is fully assembled, and that doesn’t occur until the end of Chapter 9. (There are a total of 13 Chapters, of varying lengths.) In light of that, it would be pretty ridiculous to think that the player is being “held against their will” and forced to not get any enjoyment from the game for such a long time. While the player is “restricted” in that sense for this portion of the game, let’s look at why this seems to be complained about.

First, character growth is capped for each chapter, to discourage power leveling. Fortunately for those who didn’t notice, this maintains the challenge for the player. Secondly, each chapter introduces a new concept during combat for the player to grasp and master. This game features a new rendition of the Active Time Battle system that many of us are used to, and without learning the nuances of it, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. For example, during a boss fight in Chapter 3, players are faced with learning the importance of effective Paradigm Shifting. Near the end of the battle, the boss unleashes a desperation attack that will put each party member in critical health, and it soon follows up with another attack that kills everyone off. The player can only get through this boss fight once they understand that they have to shift to a Paradigm that focuses on healing to survive the rest of the encounter. If they are successful, the party switches to “healing mode,” and weathers the oncoming attacks with ease. Soon after the party is healthy again, they can finish off their adversary with little trouble. A quick decision like that was mandatory for this boss fight, and must be second nature for the player in order to make it through the more difficult fights later in the game. Each chapter during this linear section of the game has lessons that the player needs to understand fully in order to survive, because when the game finally affords more freedom to the party, any encounter can result in a game over if the player wasn’t prudent enough to understand the mechanics of the game while the training wheels were still on.

“So we’re all here to save the world; not just me, right?”

As I mentioned before, the party is split up for the first nine chapters of the game. One of the key reasons behind this is that the player is treated to one-on-one character interactions that really help to delve into each characters personality with as little interference from the rest of the cast. Ironically, most of this development occurs during the early part of the game that many players glossed over. Here’s a clip demonstrating the growing camaraderie between Lightning and Hope during some of the cut scenes throughout Chapter 5.

Video Credit: TheShatteredElement, Square Enix and Final Fantasy XIII.

Bonding like this isn’t possible in a group setting; and this is especially true in real life as well. Since the team was divided, it allowed more energy to be put into each character at each turn of the plot. In turn, players could better understand their personalities and make connections to them. For once, each party member had a direct stake in the mission at hand, and there wasn’t a character that was “just along for the ride,” or lacked any pertinent dialogue. When the team finally was formed, this cohesion continued to the end.

Multiple discs still work

Although we always thought the concept of console loyalty would still be upheld by Final Fantasy (despite it’s past on Nintendo’s systems), this too unraveled. Although this game was originally planned to only be on Playstation 3, an Xbox 360 port was also announced. Whenever a game has a port coming along for another system, development often has to be scaled back so the finished product can run nearly identically for each console it’s released on. The differences in graphics were notably small, but definitely blown out of proportion by elitists. A funny complaint involved the minor difference that the Xbox 360 version had multiple discs, while the Blu-Ray only needed one. The bottom line here is that the entire Xbox player base that may have never experienced a Final Fantasy game before now had its chance. This is just another idea of the changing landscape in the video game industry – There’s not much reason not to limit your audience, especially if the game in question is Final Fantasy. Playstation fans shouldn’t be whining, as they’re receiving the same olive branch with the soon to be released Playstation 3 port of Mass Effect 2.

It’s pointless to compare Final Fantasy XIII with the other big titles in the series, like Final Fantasy VII or Final Fantasy X. Each of those games had their own changes and additions that helped make them notable games that fans could easily identify with. Although their changes were much more subtle, they weren’t met with as much resistance as Final Fantasy XIII is facing. No two entries are the same, because there’s always a new story to be told, and new ideas and ways to help move the game forward.

Moving forward, like it or not

If you examine anything well known- be it a famous band, television or video game series, there will always be people who have problems when the franchise is taken in a new direction. Whether it’s because a long standing tradition has been broken, or new ideas have taken prominence over the old, it’s impossible to disagree with the fact that change is going on. It’s painfully clear that nothing is really safe in video games. In this landscape, a game that wasn’t afraid to leap into the unknown and to try something new, like Final Fantasy XIII has this year, is without a doubt deserving my choice for Game of the Year 2010.

Reader’s Choice Awards 2010

When I think of ‘Game of the Year’, I ask myself: “If I had to pick one title that would be representative of an entire year of gaming, what would that be?” What qualifications does this game in question have to meet? Is this a game that everyone knows about, or does it have a small yet dedicated following? Can it just be a personal favorite?

I think it would only be fair if I were to choose games that I have accrued a substantial amount of knowledge on – in other words, only the games that were released and I reviewed in 2010 could apply here. With that said, I’ll run through each candidate with a small excerpt from my reviews and my personal thoughts on them:

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep

“If anything, it’s hard to realize that this is still a portable game. Sometimes, I had to notice everything that was happening was indeed going on in the palm of my hands, rather than on a television. Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep is an excellent Action RPG that will definitely keep you at the edge of your seat from start to finish.”

I’d venture to say that the Nintendo DS is the more popular of the two portable systems. However, games like Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep are shining examples of the sheer advantages of higher technology the PSP wields over its rival. Without a doubt, this is a fully fledged Kingdom Hearts game on a portable system you can take on the go, which is really excellent. While the majority of the main quest was a tad redundant due to the fact that you tour the very same worlds three times, it was done through three different perspectives. I loved each of the heroes, and was genuinely sad to see their fates at the game’s climax. However, like every Kingdom Hearts game, the ending always sheds some light on the future game, where each of their fates will be rectified.

White Knight Chronicles

“White Knight Chronicles doesn’t bring anything extraordinary to the table. It’s a solid RPG for sure, and going online with your Avatar will be the reason to why you would still be playing after the story mode is finished. Aside from Geonet’s thoughtful interface and the exciting, but shortchanged combo system, it tries to be a MMO from the mid 2000’s. I’d like to think we’ve evolved from slow combat and lifeless quests. By haphazardly relying on the innovations of games in the past, White Knight Chronicles ultimately fails to set itself apart from the pack.”

Despite the few good things White Knight Chronicles has accomplished, it took a hefty beating for recycling a lot of conventions that helped define the JRPG. This ranged from very linear characters, inanimate quests that weren’t very involving, and an archaic battle system. While doing this, it couldn’t help but seeming like a combination of a lot of overused mechanics strung together. This Frankenstein of a game simply didn’t cut it.

Final Fantasy XIII

“Final Fantasy XIII will divide many fans. For those who rely on tradition, there will be some shock to get over. Once that has subsided, what remains is definitely an excellent adventure. It made a bold move to take a chance and change a lot of the elements players have held dear. In the pursuit of innovation, the result is a great game, and it deserves to stand proud in the canon of RPG’s.”

Despite being a household name in terms of RPG’s, Final Fantasy XIII is easily the most polarizing title in the long running series. Never before have I seen so many fans divided over the merits and complaints of this game. Regardless of your personal thoughts, it was a risk to change so many traditional concepts that Final Fantasy is known for. However in light of that, JRPG’s have been getting denounced for doing the same thing over and over again. If anyone were to shake up the pot, I’d like to think that Final Fantasy would have the most favorable results, right?

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit

“Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is deceptively simple. Because the focus is completely on what you experience behind the wheel, there are no distractions to take away from driving. While we never will be able to realize our fantasy of speeding down a highway going 140 miles an hour evading the law, or enforcing it ourselves, this is an excellent break from reality; a great racing game that never fails to disappoint.”

I had a blast with Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. Racing games like this are just what you need sometimes: Frantic aggressive action that never lets up until the race is over. While a lot of people may have gone straight to Gran Turismo 5 since it released in the same month, I’m one of the few that believe there’s other really good choices for those who want to get their racing fix. Fun fact: The last Need for Speed game that ever won an E3 award was the original Hot Pursuit, which came out in 1998. Even though twelve years have passed, a successful formula like this always will come out in first place.

Phantasy Star Portable 2

“By now, if you’ve heard of the Phantasy Star series, you either hate what it’s become, or have been sticking around, hoping that it will come around to achieve its former glory as one of the most prolific Action RPG series of this decade. (Phantasy Star) Portable 2 drives remarkably closer to that nostalgia that originally drew us in. This is definitely a game to get your hands on.”

Whenever I talk about anything related to Phantasy Star anymore, I feel as if I have to play Devil’s Advocate. In our ever growing history of video games, wherever I turn, it seems that the pages where this game would be mentioned are suspiciously left blank, or smudged over! The main thing that I like about this game is that at its most basic components, it is a port of the same game that came out in 2006. However, because of the numerous additions the game has had in the form of an expansion and a boatload of added content like tweaks to the mechanics, many new missions and equipment to hunt for, there was always stuff to keep players busy. This game is the pinnacle of all of that content, shrink-wrapped and ready to take in your pocket.

Now that each choice is pooled here together, it’s time to choose! Unfortunately, this year is the ‘Battle of the RPG’s plus a racing game,’ so I want to apologize for a lack of variety in genres. Next year will be better in that aspect! What game do you guys think should gain the honor of Hit Points’ Game of the Year 2010? Vote for your favorite game! Stay tuned, I’ll reveal my choice by the end of the year.

 

When I think of ‘Game of the Year’, I ask myself: “If I had to pick one title that would be representative of an entire year of gaming, what would that be?” What qualifications does this game in question have to meet? Is this a game that everyone knows about, or does it have a small yet dedicated following? Can it just be a personal favorite?

I think it would only be fair if I were to choose games that I have accrued a substantial amount of knowledge on – in other words, only the games that were released and I reviewed in 2010 could apply here. With that said, I’ll run through each candidate with a small excerpt from my reviews, and my personal thoughts on them:

Final Fantasy XIII

“Final Fantasy XIII will divide many fans. For those who rely on tradition, there will be some shock to get over. Once that has subsided, what remains is definitely an excellent adventure. It made a bold move to take a chance and change a lot of the elements players have held dear. In the pursuit of innovation, the result is a great game, and it deserves to stand proud in the canon of RPG’s.”

Despite being a household name in terms of RPG’s, Final Fantasy XIII is easily the most polarizing title in the long running series. Never before have I seen so many fans divided over the merits and complaints of this game. Regardless of your personal thoughts, it was a risk to change so many traditional concepts that Final Fantasy is known for. However in light of that, JRPG’s have been getting denounced for doing the same thing over and over again. If anyone were to shake up the pot, I’d like to think that Final Fantasy would have the most favorable results, right?

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep

“If anything, it’s hard to realize that this is still a portable game. Sometimes, I had to notice everything that was happening was indeed going on in the palm of my hands, rather than on a television. Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep is an excellent Action RPG that will definitely keep you at the edge of your seat from start to finish.”

I’d venture to say that the Nintendo DS is the more popular of the two portable systems. However, games like Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep are shining examples of the sheer advantages of higher technology the PSP wields over its rival. Without a doubt, this is a fully fledged Kingdom Hearts game on a portable system you can take on the go, which is really excellent. While the majority of the main quest was a tad redundant due to the fact that you tour the very same worlds three times, it was done through three different perspectives. I loved each of the heroes, and was genuinely sad to see their fates at the game’s climax. However, like every Kingdom Hearts game, the ending always sheds some light on the future game, where each of their fates will be rectified.

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit

“Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is deceptively simple. Because the focus is completely on what you experience behind the wheel, there are no distractions to take away from driving. While we never will be able to realize our fantasy of speeding down a highway going 140 miles an hour evading the law, or enforcing it ourselves, this is an excellent break from reality; a great racing game that never fails to disappoint.”

I had a blast with Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. Racing games like this are just what you need sometimes: Frantic aggressive action that never lets up until the race is over. While a lot of people may have gone straight to Gran Turismo 5 since it released in the same month, I’m one of the few that believe there’s other really good choices for those who want to get their racing fix. Fun fact: The last Need for Speed game that ever won an E3 award was the original Hot Pursuit, which came out in 1998. Even though twelve years have passed, a successful formula like this always will come out in first place.

Phantasy Star Portable 2

“By now, if you’ve heard of the Phantasy Star series, you either hate what it’s become, or have been sticking around, hoping that it will come around to achieve its former glory as one of the most prolific Action RPG series of this decade. (Phantasy Star) Portable 2 drives remarkably closer to that nostalgia that originally drew us in. This is definitely a game to get your hands on.”

Whenever I talk about anything related to Phantasy Star anymore, I feel as if I have to play Devil’s Advocate. In our ever growing history of video games, wherever I turn, it seems that the pages where this game would be mentioned are suspiciously left blank, or smudged over! The main thing that I like about this game is that at its most basic components, it is a port of the same game that came out in 2006. However, because of the numerous additions the game has had in the form of an expansion and a boatload of added content like tweaks to the mechanics, many new missions and equipment to hunt for, there was always stuff to keep players busy. This game is the pinnacle of all of that content, shrink-wrapped and ready to take in your pocket.

White Knight Chronicles

“White Knight Chronicles doesn’t bring anything extraordinary to the table. It’s a solid RPG for sure, and going online with your Avatar will be the reason to why you would still be playing after the story mode is finished. Aside from Geonet’s thoughtful interface and the exciting, but shortchanged combo system, it tries to be a MMO from the mid 2000’s. I’d like to think we’ve evolved from slow combat and lifeless quests. By haphazardly relying on the innovations of games in the past, White Knight Chronicles ultimately fails to set itself apart from the pack.”

Despite the few good things White Knight Chronicles has accomplished, it took a hefty beating for recycling a lot of conventions that helped define the JRPG. This ranged from very linear characters, inanimate quests that weren’t very involving, and an archaic battle system. While doing this, it couldn’t help but seeming like a combination of a lot of overused mechanics strung together. This Frankenstein of a game simply didn’t cut it.

Now that each choice is pooled here together, it’s time to choose! Unfortunately, this year is the ‘Battle of the RPG’s plus a racing game,’ so I want to apologize for a lack of variety in genres. Next year will be better in that aspect! What game do you guys think should gain the honor of Hit Points’ Game of the Year 2010? Stay tuned, I’ll reveal my choice by the end of the year.

It’s Been a Year Already?

It’s a calm night. I look to my fireplace altar, my college’s newspaper, and sometimes, Google. These are a few sources, but they’re all places where you can go to see what I’ve done. While it hasn’t been a drop in the bucket compared to the professionals of this field, I’d like to think I’ve made a great start. Somewhere out there, my words have touched someone else. I’m not saying that I’ve given a spiraling depressed person some hope for life, but in the span of a year, I would like to think I’ve done something nice. To me, it’s something important.

This month marks an anniversary of sorts. I’ve been pursuing video game writing for a year now! It really doesn’t feel like it, but it has been a great ride so far.

The duties of an aspiring video game journalist are always as tough as they want them to be. One could occasionally write game reviews, and just be satisfied with quietly submitting their work onto a blog like this. If that isn’t fulfilling enough, they could kick it into high gear; suddenly, they would be cycling through an endless queue of titles, playing and reviewing from sunshine till moonlight. Of course, people in my position aren’t being paid for doing the same bread and butter things that actual gaming websites and publications pay their staff for, and that’s okay. If you’re like me, you’re also a college student, and have a job to top that off. More often than not, it’s going to be difficult juggling two important responsibilities like those with a time consuming hobby. Nobody ever said it would be easy, but doing this for a year has definitely helped me grow not only as a writer, but as a lover of video games.

What have you learned in one year?

Writing about games has introduced me to a new sphere of knowledge in this field. I always had a relatively small view of the gaming industry – A select few entities were covering the entire scene. In a nutshell, I simply thought the scene was like this: Publishers and developers worked on the games themselves, while a couple of publications had the magazine aspect of covering games taken care of, and the rare but beautiful G4TV (when it actually has video game-related programming) occupied the airwaves, giving a face to the coverage. Anything in between previously didn’t exist to me.

What dawned on me was the legion of hopefuls that looked on at these lucky people who have the privilege of making a living being surrounded and working within the gaming industry. It was something I couldn’t fathom. By delving deeper into the communities of various video game publications such as 1UP.com, I saw many people just like me – people with dreams of working in the industry. Whether that may be as a competitive gamer, in art, programming, or writing, I started to see how dense and complex this industry I grew up alongside truly was. As a friend of mine took his first step as an art intern at a video game publication, I started to believe that it was possible. I also was inspired by another good friend whose designs were picked up to be the basis of an iPhone game. People close to me were making things happen! I began to see that it was possible to break into this world and work in it as well. Most importantly, I started believing that a pipe dream such as “working in the video game industry” actually had potential to be made true.

What have you accomplished thus far?

At the time of this article, I’ve reviewed six games. Each title has brought me great joy in covering because I’ve not only played through them like everyone else does, I went the extra mile in analyzing what makes them good, or bad. My reviews are my pride and joy, and my experience in doing them has helped me develop as a writer. Rogue writers such as me have to also make sure their stuff is getting out to readers, and for me, this has manifested in the formation of the Facebook Like page I dedicated to this blog. If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s another way that I can forward my stuff out for people in the vast social network to see.

For those of you that I’ve continually pestered in conversation to check out my blog, thank you so much for actually coming here and seeing what I’m doing.

I have tried my hand at contributing my work to video game blog sites (1UP.com, specifically) as well. I enjoyed sharing my writing with other like-minded people, and while I was doing it, it was a blast. Unfortunately I have stopped posting my work there a few months ago. I would love to start doing this again at 1UP or another place, when I’m able to make the time commitment in keeping up with another website that for the most part already accomplishes what I do here.

What do you plan to do next?

So where do I go from here? In short, I’ll keep plugging away. Like I said before, my blog stands between the two main demands of my time: work, and school. Both of these will definitely remain fixtures in my life, but despite that, they’ll never keep me down and out for too long. If I ever go a while without posting something new, just know my mind is constantly bouncing to this blog.

In terms of content, I would love to start writing a number of different types of articles in addition to what I’m already doing. Here are a couple ideas I’ve either been mulling around in my head, or have been suggested to try:

1.       More articles about the industry

2.       More interviews

3.       Nostalgia pieces

4.       Covering events such as E3 (this will be the hardest, but we’ll see!)

5.       Persuasive arguments

6.       Videos / Podcasts

7.       Getting my work published in a magazine

I’d love to hear from you guys. Despite the fact that I started this blog for my own use, each comment and every morsel of feedback help me so much. I strongly encourage all of you to take that small effort to write back to me. This could be a comment at the end of my posts, on the links I post via Facebook, or as a private message. Any way you think is necessary, I want to hear what you guys have to say! Do you want to see me review a certain game? Let me know! Was I incorrect in judging a game; too harsh or too lenient? Let’s talk about it. Responding and holding an ongoing dialogue with readers is what keeps writers doing what they do, and for me, I wholeheartedly agree with that.

Writing about video games is my ticket to accomplish my dream of working in the gaming industry. With that said, I want to thank all of you again for supporting me by coming to my page here and seeing what I’ve got to say. There are a number of websites and publications that do what I do and much more, and knowing that you guys make the time to check out what one person is doing really means a lot. Thank you all!

Here’s to another year!

Come on SEGA…

How many games get released in any given month? How many of them are titles you’ve been waiting a long time for? You’ve been quite the busy bee, reading up on every news report, press release and advertisement just to satiate your desire until you can get your hands on the game itself. If you’re going through this much effort, that’s a pretty good sign that you’ll eventually buy it. If this sounds like you, then please, continue as you are. The games you’ve been looking for have had a sufficient amount of coverage to follow, and I’d imagine all is right in the world for you. After all, you got what you’ve been waiting for.

On the other hand, how many games slip through your radar, only to be silently released with very little buzz? Unless a game is really popular, it needs try that much harder to force itself into the consciousness of the public. If people aren’t hearing about a game, how can developers expect them to sell, and more importantly, how can gamers on the fence be able to make an informed decision?

It’s becoming very obvious nowadays that aggressive, if not just prudent marketing tactics, are as important as having a game that’s actually fun to play. If a good game is released but no one really hears about it, what are we supposed to do?

I don’t know if it was just a really bad coincidence, but last year, SEGA released the Nintendo DS RPG Phantasy Star Zero (Which I reviewed, found here) on the same day as Infinity Ward released Modern Warfare 2. I ventured to a number of Gamestop and Best Buy stores in town and each and every one of them didn’t know what I was talking about when I mentioned Phantasy Star Zero, but they all had an absurd mount of copies of Infinity Ward’s pride and joy ready to throw in my face. Could you chalk it up to bad timing? I would say so. Did any of you know something else released on the same day as Modern Warfare 2? I doubt it.

Was that a smart idea? Of course not.

The same cycle has repeated again this year. SEGA’s Phantasy Star Portable 2 was released on the same day as Halo: Reach. Let that sink in. Another game was released on the same day as Halo: Reach and I highly doubt anyone knew about it. I hope it’s not just me, but I believe releasing anything on the day of a game as prolific as Halo is suicide. I think the worst thing to do to a gamer is to release two (good) games on the same day, because more often than not, they will be standing in line, making a decision on which game they’ll be spending time on. In this case, I’m sorry to say that SEGA seriously harmed its own game because of poor timing. Doing this once is understandable, but when the exact same scenario plays out for the second time, can we really just chalk it up to a bad coincidence?

Sure, PSP2 and Halo: Reach belong to two different genres, Action RPG and Shooter. They inherently would be getting the attention of different audiences, and theoretically, their subsequent sales shouldn’t interrupt each other right? To a degree, yes. However, what about the gamers who haven’t decided yet? How will they choose what to buy? It’s just like an election year. Presidential candidates of their respective political parties don’t have to do too much legwork to secure the votes of their own supporters, because they’re busy focusing on garnering those important votes from those that are undecided. Be it aggressive commercials, attack ad’s, it doesn’t matter how they do it, but they force their way into our homes, and more often than not, the one that makes a more memorable presence will be the victor.

I had my eyes on PSP2 last year, when I got my hands on the Japanese beta. I was instantly hooked, and couldn’t wait till it’s eventual release in the States. Of the various video game news sites I frequented, I never heard anything about the game, except for the thriving fansite PSO-World.com . To be more specific, SEGA put out a trailer, and an E3 booth for PSP2, but hardly any of this coverage made its way to more mainstream publications, where a lot of people go to for their gaming news in the first place.

It’s as if it didn’t even exist- although it has to be sitting on the sales racks of most video game stores now, I wonder how many people are still waiting for some kind of news about it to break.

Perhaps it still doesn’t exist.

Ventus, Complete!

I’m a little bit surprised that I cleared Ven’s storyline in four days. More or less, he romps through the same worlds as Terra, and now I’m seeing the point of the three-pronged approach to this game. It’s nice to notice when more than one hero is in the same world, and how their actions are seen from another person’s perspective; again, its encouraged to clear each story to get the full picture.

Gameplay wise, I would say Ven’s game was easier than Terra’s – that is to say, he plays the most like Sora, making him the easiest to get back into playing a Kingdom Hearts game. They’re both nimble, quick, and of course – they can fly. I went through Neverland as Terra just waiting for Peter Pan and Tinkerbell to sprinkle him with magic dust so he can take flight. It never happened, so I guess adults really can’t fly, oh well.

I liked Ven as a character. He’s the most cheerful of the three heroes, and his personality and interactions with others made each scene memorable. Terra’s brooding nature seemed to drive a wall between the bubbly Disney characters, but I’m just being nitpicky. Ven connected with people like Stich, Mikey, Donald and Goofy. The first thing that drew me to him was his obvious resemblance to Roxas, from Kingdom Hearts II. Why does he look just like him? Is this some kind of ploy to get all fans to collectively say “wtf, who is that?” Well, if I were to answer that, then what’s the point in all of you planning to play it? I’ll just say that it’s an interesting plot twist. Regardless, the overarching plot is sometimes difficult to follow, and when you have a new character that looks like someone we’ve already met five years ago, it’s a lot more complicated than just passing them off as something like an older twin…

To build off of my previous note about Final Fantasy’s presence in this game- I’m sad to report that no other characters have been found. Still, a young iteration of Zack is so far the sole representative for Final Fantasy, which is kind of odd. One of the main draws to Kingdom Hearts is seeing a universe that combines the elements of two really big properties: Disney (Duh) and Final Fantasy. Having only a side character (at best) weakens that very easy way to market this game to those fans who swoon at the chance to see someone like Cloud or Squall/Leon again. I still hope that this isn’t the case, but time is running out. Perhaps a bunch of characters are just hiding in Aqua’s story!

I suppose in defense of this decision, having a deficiency of Final Fantasy characters allows the game and the players to focus on the central protagonists. As a prequel, their actions are very important, and this game serves to answer a lot of those questions that still haven’t been answered, or have been speculated on for years. It’s all up to the individual player, but I’m sure a lot of Final Fantasy fans would be dissapointed there isn’t much for them.

If I learned the basics of Birth By Sleep with Terra, then I’ve gotten proficient with Ven. Chances are, what I’ve learned with him will make Aqua’s story a breeze-  but we’ll see.

Well, I’m off to start Aqua’s storyline. Happy Gaming!