There Should Be a Happy Coexistence Between Copyrights and Fan Passion  


Last week saw the release of a four year one-man fan project to remake the classic sequel Metroid 2: The Return of Samus, titled AM2R (Another Metroid 2 Remake). Gamers rejoiced as the game was made available for free on the internet looking and playing better than ever. It was then almost immediately taken down as Nintendo served up a piping hot plate of takedown notices amidst charges of copyright infringement. Just prior to that, they had shut down the fan-made  Pokemon Uranium, and a month before that Lucasarts shut down a group of fans working to finish the canceled Star Wars: Battlefront 3.  


Looking good, old friend.

Needless to say, fans were not super pleased at the corporate giant bringing the hammer down on the little guy just because they could yet again. After all, popular opinion has it that Nintendo has abused and neglected Metroid and its fans in recent years. But the love for the franchise remains, making the situation perfect for this kind of culture clash. Fans want something, the company ignores them, fans make what they want for themselves, the company litigates. Tale as old as time (or money, at least).

This brings us to the infamous fair use debate, in which a copyrighted work can be used for educational, non profit, or commentary purposes. While the developer who made AM2R wasn’t charging for it and was arguable preserving and restoring a classic work of art, he loses a lot of leverage to the fact that 3DS owners can purchase the original Metroid 2 digitally. One could see how creating a free and arguably superior alternative to Nintendo’s own product and potentially disrupting their business, even if just a little, could cause this reaction.

Legally, AM2R probably doesn’t have a leg to stand on since you can technically buy the original game. But fans reeeeaaaalllllyyyy want to play this remake on their PCs. Personally, I owned the game when it was originally released on Game Boy and as memory serves it was an absolute masterpiece that was hampered by the portable format. I would love to play an upgraded version of that game on a real console or PC. But the law isn’t written for fans, it’s written to make sure the wealthy get as wealthy as possible. Stop hating ‘Murica, you.

The developer himself is actually on Nintendo’s side in this, taking the opportunity to show what a true fan he is. He took the project on in order to learn how to make a game by reproducing a classic step-by-step en route to a legit programming career and has actually gone so far as to encourage gamers to buy the original game to show that there is a market for it instead of harassing Nintendo for protecting their business interests. He even plans to continually tweak and update AM2R for the players who managed to download it before the hammer came down. Do people this nice actually exist?  

But still, gamers want a Metroid 2 remake and not this Metroid Prime: Federation Force thing they’ve got going on. Classic Samus or gtfo. The struggle between companies’ business interest in their intellectual property and fans’ desire for artistic expression, preservation, and improvement of the things they love is not a new thing. It wasn’t so long ago that Hasbro put the kabosh on the fanmade My Little Pony: Fighting is Magic game, leading to series creator Lauren Faust collaborating with the devs to create original characters for them to use for the game instead. The Battlefront 3 remake is also continuing without the Star Wars theme.  


Thank our corporate overlords for leaving this one alone.

Game development fan projects aside, countless displays of fan art, fiction, cosplay and other such things cover the web. Any of these could technically be seen as copyright infringement, but for the most part they are left alone. And games like Abobo’s Big Adventure have blatantly used Nintendo assets as well with no retribution.

Remaking an entire game is obviously a different level and, as I stated before, one that may in some small way affect the company’s bottom line, which is a surefire way to get them to release the hounds. And yet, fans keep on pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into these projects, likely knowing that it will possibly all come to naught.

But I feel there’s a better way to go about this where everybody can be happy. For instance, what if gaming companies bought the games and made them official? Clearly there is a market for upgraded versions of old school classics. If Nintendo were to purchase the Metroid 2 remake and release it, all problems would be solved. Fans would get their game, the dev’s hard work would have paid off, and the corporation would make money from their IP having had somebody else do all of the work for them. Win. Win. Win.


”Samus is kill.” “No.”


And let’s be honest: the majority of business that Nintendo has done in the past two decades has been largely based around slapping their classic gameplay with fresh coats of paint and games such as Prince of Persia, Goldeneye, various Final Fantasys, Resident Evil, and Leisure Suit Larry have all been officially remade for new generations to enjoy as well. Plus, the internet doth provide a bounty of other less legitimate remakes, emulations, and ports as well, AM2R only being the most recent.

When a company stops delivering the goods, it’s normal for fans to want to pick up that slack and keep their favorite franchises alive, even if it means rolling up their sleeves and doing it themselves, consequences be damned. To us games are art and passion; not just a quarterly budget/profit chart or a property to be policed. Hopefully in the future, companies like Nintendo will give some thought to these situations and potentially find a way to allow fans their creative endeavors and see these contributions as an opportunity instead of something to be crushed at a moment’s notice.


Crush Crush May Resemble Real Life More Than I’d Like to Admit


While Gamemoir was in a digital coma, this gamer was suffering through the late summer gaming doldrums. Between the Steam and PSN summer sales, I’d thought I had this thing licked, but eventually it always comes to this at that time of year: broke, tired, and out of new games to play. Early accounts of No Man’s Sky indicated that it wasn’t the savior we’d have hoped and Ark: Survival of the Fittest got canceled a few days after it was supposed to be out for the PlayStation 4. Tired of Overwatch and Battleborn, too broke for Deus Ex, and not finding any definite winners in my backlog of free PSN titles; what was I to do to pass the time? Write a silly article maybe?

I found myself idly scanning Steam’s free to play titles list and happened across an interesting find, Sad Panda Studios’ Crush Crush, still in early access at the time. It looked cute and unique and had very high rating. Plus: free. What did I have to lose? The same thing you always have to lose, you fool. EVERYTHING! Perhaps even your very soul. The following chronicles my experiences with the early build of the game.

Crush Crush is unlike anything I’ve ever played before and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a terrible, terrible thing. It’s self-described as an “Idle Dating Sim”, which is to say that after a few hours your active participation will be minimal. It’s not so much a game that you play as it is an insane grindfest where you alternate between managing your time to build levels, adoring the girls and their humorous commentary, and wondering what the fuck is wrong with this game and why you are still playing it as you wait hours and then days and weeks on end for it to progress. So basically, it’s like life itself.

Essentially, what you do is you meet girls at work and then proceed to stop them from hating your guts en route to maybe them even liking you some day. And to do this, you’re going to need an amount of determination that would send the protagonist of Undertale running for a butcher knife. I think this makes the perfect soundtrack:

“It’s gonna take time

A whole lot of precious time

It’s gonna take patience and time

To do it right, child”   

-George Harrison

To gain relationship levels with each potential waifu you’ve got your mind set on, you must meet all of her needs and standards in addition to raising her affection. Early in the game, this is mostly accomplished by clicking the ever-loving shit out of her portrait in a process I could not help but mentally refer to as “fingerblasting” (I know, I know; I’m sorry). One affection point per click and only a few thousand points to go for each girl. Your doctor will thank you when the checks from your carpal tunnel treatments clear.  

To get new jobs to get money and meet new girls and please the ones you already have you need to build up your skills and attributes. As one girl states: “I like big stats, I cannot lie!” Is there a word for when you chuckle and groan at the same time? There should be. Gruckle. There, now there is. You have a certain number of “time blocks”, based on your in-game achievements with which to assign to jobs and hobbies to increase your skills, income, and appeal. Once your necessary affection levels with the ladies reach the hundreds of thousands to millions, fingerblasting is not going to work anymore and that’s when the game stops eating your time and starts eating your brain.

My first day playing Crush Crush, I obsessively micromanaged and deftly switched professions and hobbies like it weren’t no thang. Each of the girls had their own charm and each relationship level brought more amusing witticisms that kept me coming back to see what else they’d say. I was particularly taken with Mio, the resident gamer girl, who I was embarrassed to admit had me googling 53xy as if it were some mathematical reference I wasn’t getting, to no avail. Then I remembered l33tspeak was still a thing. [angrily mutters] Stupid, 53xy Nick…

But eventually, the new wears off and stuff just takes too long for you to devote all of that time, energy, and constant attention to it. I mean, you could sit and wait six hours for your next job promotion where you make a few dozen dollars every few seconds while you save up to buy a girl who is blatantly a humanized Rainbow Dash a puppy for only $149,011,612. And that time-traveling scientist lady who keeps referencing Terminator and warning me about the imminent weaponization of 4chan wants twenty five drinks. Those will only set you back $610,352 apiece. One Steam review in its entirety simply reads “WHO PAYS ONE MILLION DOLLARS TO GO TO THE MOVIE THEATER!! WHO DOES THAT?” Inflation is a bitch, ain’t it?

And that’s why most of your time in Crush Crush will be spent with your window minimized in your system tray (or closed as the game will bank up to a week’s worth of progress for you) while you watch Netflix, browse the web, or (blech) spend time with your 3DPD loved ones. After your hot and heavy first eight hours or so and a few prestige resets to increase the game’s pace, you settle into a nice routine. You just check in every few days or so to see if there’s anything you can do for your ladies and then you allocate all of your money and time for their capricious whims while they continue to take up an unacceptable amount of your headspace throughout the day and in return, they maybe act kind of nice towards you….

Wait a minute. Am I married to a video game now?

I’m a veteran of almost seventeen years of IRL marriage and this feeling is familiar to me. The hopeless devotion to somebody else’s satisfaction, that same person’s growing indifference and increasing demands towards you, the way they just keep saying the same things after a while, the time spent thinking about how awesome they are, wondering what they are thinking about, and sitting around just watching and waiting for them to do something sweet and surprising to make it all worth it. Damn it. How did I not see this coming?  

I’m not an ambitious man. Give me a roof, some food that’s bad for me, and a decent PC and I’m pretty much set. But throw human affection into the mix and it’s all sixty hour work weeks to pay for crap like housing decorations that will spend most of their lifetime in a box in my garage because that lovely creature who captured my heart wants it to be so. Now I’ve got a dozen more of them. And one of them is a fucking bear wearing a pink dress and bonnet with lipstick named Bearverly who thinks that I stink. And I don’t mean like a cute anthropomorphized bear girl. I mean a literal bear. And I’m STILL trying to get her to love me for some reason. What has my life come to?

I’ve now spent most of my life endeavoring to please the object of my affection with only fleeting results. There’s always something else, you know? The returns diminish and the cost keeps rising, but the truth about any relationship is that you have got to keep at it. Get in that groove. Improve yourself. Play the long game. Nothing is ever complete or perfect, but if you can find joy in simply progressing one bit at a time without obsessing about what you are immediately getting in return, then you’ve got half the problem beat. Sometimes you’ve just got to minimize your relationship to your mental system tray and let it do what it does while you go do your own thing for awhile. It’s true in real life and it’s true in Crush Crush.   

Am I desperately twisting my brain trying to find some philosophical moral to this story to justify the amount of time I’ve wasted on this stupid kawaii grindfest clicking simulator? Probably. I mean, my rewards for giving each girl every single thing they want until they want no more is a mildly sexy picture and a checked box on her screen proclaiming “You did it!”. But knowing that Mio-chan doesn’t want to mod my face into an Elder Scrolls game so she can smash it with a cudgel anymore fills me with a strange sort of pride. She even calls me her “Player 2” and looks at me with hearts for eyes now! My real wife doesn’t do those things. So in conclusion: totally worth it. After all, there’s no checkbox for keeping your self respect in real life and you can’t put a price on a good old-fashioned gruckle .    

Five Reasons Why I Sold Overwatch and Kept Battleborn


It’s now been about three months since the MOBA/FPS hybrid Battleborn was released and then promptly kicked out of bed by the the insanely-hyped Overwatch. I owned both games. I played both games extensively. I enjoyed both games immensely. I wrote multiple articles about both games. Then I moved on for a while and played other games.

But competitive FPS multiplayer never really dies, does it? It’s an itch that occasionally needs to be scratched. It’s why Halo and Call of Duty continue to be massively successful franchises even as the single player campaigns continually degrade. It’s why Destiny is still a thing. Many of us need games like these in our lives to give us something to fight against and get better at; something that isn’t predictable like AI opponents are. Gamers like me crave the chaos that can only come from other gamers and so I feel like I always need a designated PvP shooter on my shelf.

I’ve already detailed my thoughts on things Overwatch did better than the competition as well as being released as half a game because Blizzard crafted it as an afterthought to a failed project in order to recoup expenses, whereas Battleborn was at worst a full game that was a bit light on content. When Gamestop offered me thirty dollars to sell back a sixty dollar game I felt was highly overpriced, I was actually excited at the thought of recouping my own investment in Overwatch having done everything worth doing many times over. But Battleborn? I felt like I had so much more left to to do in that game. I couldn’t part with it.

So why is somebody else probably playing my copy of the current big thing in gaming and likely Game of the Year while I continue to spend time on a game that got creamed on Metacritic and is usually laughed off in the gaming community as a nonentity? Well, I’ve got five good reasons right here…


The charactersbb-ow2

Battleborn has one of the best playable casts in any game ever, and perhaps the most ingeniously developed. There are characters I played for over ten hours in-game and was still hearing new dialogue from them. And there are twenty-seven of them with more on the way. Admittedly, Overwatch has possibly the best character models ever in a shooter from a visual standpoint, but beyond the pretty graphics and endearing animations they are shallow, shallow, shallow.

The quotable quotes from Battleborn’s cast could fill this article. They are routinely hilarious and each have random quips for every situation both in the campaign and in PvP. If you are 3edgy5me and are enraged by the thought of your characters actually SPEAKING in-game, you have the option to turn it off, but personally I find the vocal performances and writing in this game to be absolutely outstanding. You can infer so much about the characters, their pasts, and their relationships to each other from their in-game trash talk and observations that it’s actually staggering to think about how much care went into it. No cutscenes are necessary. You learn about them while you actively roast their compatriots or the bad guys.

Beyond that, by completing certain milestones, you unlock lore files which can take the form of backstory details coupled with cool art or even funny little voice-recorded skits that are almost always good for a smile. My favorite so far has to be aquatic avatar Alani’s recorded message drafts as she tries to find a way to make friends on the team. In PvP you can occasionally hear her mention that she hasn’t received her invitation to the after-battle party yet and other little hints about her social awkwardness, but unlocking her outgoing voicemail really helped expand on it. Check it:

                                                                                               Beats the hell out of hearing Mei tell you that our world is worth fighting for for the millionth time, don’t it?


bb-ow4Multiplayer modes

Overwatch’s awesome visuals and smooth gameplay have all of the makings of a true classic shooter. It’s a damn shame it doesn’t really give you anything to do beyond stand next to a car or stand in a glowing rectangle and shoot anybody who tries to stop you. I can’t wait for Blizzard to release a sequel that makes it all it could be, but right now Battleborn not only has a substantial co-op raid campaign that is a ton of fun, but their PvP modes are far superior to boot.

Overwatch thrives on a lightning fast pace; get in, git ‘r dun, next match. Battleborn’s multiplayer has a strategic depth to its objectives that goes so far beyond that, it can’t even be seen from where Overwatch is. The pace is slower (matches routinely last for half an hour) but the pay-off is there, and more time in each match means less time in menus.

Every match is much bigger than just a simple 5-on-5 (or 6-on-6) competition. There are fortifications to build, upgrade, and destroy, armies of minions to guide to victory or obliterate to hobble your opponents, currency to collect and spend to activate your gear boosts or build with, and that’s all on top of battling with the other team towards your objective.

You level up your character in-match to unlock new buffs and abilities as you go and as you complete challenges you gain experience and currency for unlockables as well. There are so many ways to help your team beyond either basic objective-sitting or player killing. If you maybe don’t have the skill to take on pros head-to-head, you can focus on slipping past them and destroying their base’s fortifications, gathering currency and building up your own defenses, or preying on minions .

Alternatively,  you could be a harassment player using speed and maneuverability to hit enemies when they aren’t looking and then lead them away from the objective when they try to retaliate. You can focus on healing and support. There are characters that excel at all of these things.  I love the thought of a FPS where you don’t have to just kill, kill, kill to succeed. That’s the kind of depth that doesn’t get old. For me, an evolving multi-faceted battle beats repetitive objective sitting all day, every day.



Fun fact about me: I don’t do microtransactions. Not ever. Battleborn is not an exception, but at least it has made me think about it. Overwatch’s approach literally appalled and insulted me. For one thing, Battleborn gives you in-game currency for every thing you do in the game.Win a match? Kick some ass during a loss? Complete a challenge? You get paid accordingly. And you can use that to buy loot packs on top of the ones you already get for leveling up. You can also buy the new characters if you save up enough.

To their credit, Overwatch gives new heroes for free, but that’s where the good ends. All other unlocks are tied purely to chance, which with my luck means I got almost nothing but tags, weak vocal lines to repeat ad nauseum, player icons (dozens to unlock, but can only use one), and skins for characters I seldom used. In-game currency that can be used to get things you actually want is also part of this lottery, but I seldom received any. But if I was willing to pay a dollar a pop (at a two dollar minimum) for the possibility of maybe getting something I might like -but probably just more worthless crap I don’t want- well, that’s a thing. Yay?

In Battleborn, unlockables are partly tied to leveling up each character and partly tied to the lottery, which you can enter using in-game currency which, as mentioned before, is not hard to obtain while you play the game. They introduced real money microtransaction credits for skins and taunts, but guess what? YOU CAN DIRECTLY PAY FOR THE THING YOU WANT! Again, I don’t spend money on such things, but it’s genuinely pleasing to know that if I want Thorn’s middle finger taunt to blast onto somebody’s screen every time I get a kill with her, I can just pay the two bucks and get it and not spend an open-ended amount of time and money feverishly praying that the next loot pack bestows it upon me.



I’ve got to say that the Overwatch community is the nastiest gaming community I’ve encountered online. From rampant fanboyism to unnecessary aggressiveness to general grossness, all negative stereotypical bases are covered. From the get-go, the fanart was full of childishly oversized T&A, the message boards were filled with arguments about whether Mei is “bay” or fat in addition to the usual screams that every single character needs to be both nerfed and buffed, and in-game chat was usually limited to people yelling at their families in the background, blasting bad music, or otherwise making terrible noises that ruin the game.   

Not that the Battleborn boards don’t have people screaming for nerfs at all times, but the game genuinely seems to have attracted a different class of player.  I actually had somebody thank me for healing him in-game. Literally, I was taken aback. He then invited me to PSN’s Battleborn Community which has built-in features making it really easy to find parties and matches and make friends, which is something I’ve sorely missed in recent years. It’s a whole different experience than playing with randoms, but I’ve met some really fun people randomly as well.

The message board discussions themselves seem to be more focused on technical discussion about the game and characters rather than how hot the girls are or how much they weigh. Plus, my search for bad sexual fan art yielded next to nothing. I’m sure it’s probably out there somewhere, but with Overwatch it’s everywhere.

But there is one thing that has been said about the Battleborn community that’s true and that is the inferiority complex that developed after the release of Overwatch. People who gave Battleborn the time of day as a general rule really love it, are pissed that there aren’t more people playing it, and are very vocal about their disdain for Overwatch. Unfortunately, this has created a rivalry they can’t win. Badmouthing a game everybody likes does not really inspire that game’s fans to want to support the one you like so much as trash it back. That said…    


Only scrubs don’t root for the underdogbb-ow3

Battleborn is a different beast than Overwatch. Unfortunately, they are also really similar in and came out really close together. One had a massive advertising budget that would have been better spent on in-game content, but was released with cobbled-together assets of a failed MMO project from one of the richest companies in gaming to recoup expenses from said project. The other was a smaller game from a smaller developer best known for its quirky Borderlands series.

Borderlands was never expected to compete with Call of Duty, but somehow Battleborn has been completely eclipsed by Overwatch amidst the rampant and never-ending media hype. Such hype can be purchased easily online and it carries a ton of weight among casuals. That’s just life. It’s up to the hardcore to carry the smaller titles. Sales for Battleborn have been slow, but reports of empty servers have been more dire than the situation really is, which only serves to drive more gamers away when they should be giving the game a try without fear of not being able to find a match.

Wilt Chamberlain once proclaimed that “nobody roots for Goliath”, but in this case, that’s proven to be false. It’d be a tragedy to see a game like this fade away while mainstream gamers are arguing about which Overwatch girls are the hottest. It just makes me want to play it more. If you haven’t tried it and you prefer thoughtful strategy to a lightning fast pace and personality to eye candy, do yourself a favor and give it a go sometime. If you want to wait until the price goes down, there’s nothing wrong with that either. There’s plenty of room for two hero shooters on the market and supporting both is the best way to ensure more games like them get made and supported in the future.

Exclusively supporting Overwatch as it currently is sends a message that less content and depth in a game coupled with more hype equals more success, and rest assured other gaming companies are watching those numbers. Why put the work into fleshing out your characters or work on exciting and nuanced game modes if gamers just want the bare minimum gameplay and some waifu bait? I’d rather support companies and practices that focus on making the best games possible as opposed to just the most profitable business models.

Battleborn feels like a passion project built to be exactly what it is: a multiplayer-based companion to the rightfully beloved Borderlands series. Overwatch feels thrown together to make money as quickly as possible with as little investment as possible; a teaser of what could well become the dominant shooter franchise in years to come, but still just a teaser. There’s nothing wrong with loving Overwatch as it is, as it’s a really damn fun game, but let’s not get carried away and forget that there are other games out there either that give more bang for buck.

Personally, the current iteration with its massive hitboxes and condescending feature of counting every assist as a kill to make the player feel better about their K/D lost its flavor in weeks. But I feel like I will never run out of things to achieve and earn in Battleborn and the fact that a game with so much to offer has been discounted makes it an easy choice for me. And that’s probably the biggest reason I sold Blizzard’s billion dollar afterthought and kept Gearbox Software’s spunky alternative. Gamers know what it means to be swept under the rug and treated as not good enough by the mainstream. That’s reason enough to flip off the critics and support the little guy.

Six Stunning RPG Character Deaths


Historically, more than any other genre, role playing gamers have been about the characters. The likes of Mario, Sonic, and Link may be the big celebrities of gaming, but the truth is we as gamers connect a lot more with RPG characters because the stories are often much more in depth. We’re not just running, jumping, hacking, and slashing towards whatever arbitrary goal the game says; we build them and watch them grow in ability and in depth. We make choices for them. We experience their lives.

And that’s why when one of them is taken from us as part of an irreversible story twist, it sticks with us in ways that simply don’t translate to other genres. It not only leaves a hole in our hearts, it leaves a hole in our party; a role we can no longer play. Role playing games are some of the only games that really make you feel the death of a fictional virtual avatar like the loss of a friend, and as a result they are more dramatic, tragic, and fulfilling than in a shooter where maybe the bro who was machine gunning monsters next to you goes out in an explosive blaze of glory (and cliche).

These make for some of the most outstanding moments in gaming history, and while most of them  get overlooked by the public at large (RPGs being more of a niche genre), we remember them. How could we possibly forget? Needless to say that the following sections contain spoilers so proceed with caution. These are six characters that were taken from from us in surprising ways at unexpected moments and made us feel the loss, often in more ways than one.  


Final Fantasy IV is and shall ever be the bestrpgdeath1 Final Fantasy. Make no substitutions unless you want to forever label yourself a scrub. It was the first first epic RPG to truly earn the title of “epic” and put gaming on the same storytelling footing as other forms of media. And for a lot of gamers, it was the first video game to meaningfully cross the line and permanently kill a playable character. Sage Tellah was not the first nor last to sacrifice themselves over the course of this amazing story, but he was the only one who didn’t come back.

Tellah’s story arc is a meaningful one not only because of the fact that it ends conclusively, but in the way FFIV melds subtle gameplay challenges that enhance the story. When you get Tellah, he is a moderately powerful magician who has forgotten most of his spells, but his combination of black and white magic is intrinsic to your party’s early success in this tough RPG. After losing his daughter, his quest for vengeance against your common enemy leads to him remembering his lost spells, which is an intimidating array, to say the least.

At this point the character gets really interesting because although he knows about every single spell there is, his MP is very limited; not even enough to cast Meteor. Tellah is a frail old man who’s reached his limit and your younger mages, Palom and Porom, were surpassing him before your eyes as they grew. But when he finally comes face to face with the object of his vengeance, he converts his very life force into additional MP to cast Meteor and takes the big bad out, saving the party from the same fate as his daughter at the cost of his own life.

Not only is this the first important character death in a video game I that I ever experienced, but it’s still one of the best. Tellah’s passing away marks a major turning point in the game and FFIV is still the only instance I can think of where the concept of aging is worked into gameplay. What seemed so strong in the beginning doesn’t stand the test of time as new and more powerful abilities and enemies emerge and by the end, the powerful sage is barely an asset to the party. Using his last breath to save his compatriots was a powerful gesture made even more so by the context.


rpgdeath2Isara Gunther

Valkyria Chronicles was the most underrated RPG of its era and has thankfully been remastered and ported to the current gen to be rediscovered. The story was so good it even received its own anime adaptation, and the defining moment of both is the sudden death of a beloved compatriot that altered the entire tone and scope of the story.

While the game is largely about war and regular people banding together to fight for their homes against those who would dehumanize them for their own gain, there is a less-than-subtle parable about racism woven into it. Isara Gunther is Welkin Gunther’s adopted sister and part of an oppressed race known as Darcsen who have become a cultural scapegoat. She is your militia’s tank driver and mechanic and an essential part of the war effort, but is still treated with suspicion by some of your fellow soldiers.

Over the course of the game’s plot, it eventually becomes clear that the prejudice against Darcsens is poorly founded and Isara’s kindness wins over even the most stubborn bigots (Rosie!) in the squad. She develops smoke shells which become an absolute necessity to continue the attack in the face of overwhelming resistance, proving herself in every possible way. After the first battle where her shells lead to victory, Rosie comes to apologize and offers to do anything to make it up to her. Isara requests a song (Rosie being a professional singer) and just as the two reach to shake hands as friends for the first time a sniper shot rings out…

The subsequent funeral where Rosie fulfills her promise to the deceased is one of the most beautiful and touching scenes in RPG history as well as being the most memorable moment in one of the best console SRPGs of all time.


Shinjiro Aragakirpgdeath3

The connective theme of the Persona series has always been about subverting expectations and appearances. The titular entities and corresponding Shadow Selves represent the hidden negative emotions of the people whose minds they inhabit. So naturally, the characters of the series have internal struggles and hidden depths that do not always go hand-in-hand with the front that they choose to show the world. Enter Persona 3 and Shinjiro Aragaki.

Shinjiro is the very picture of the Japanese delinquent; stoic, indifferent, cold, large in stature, and rough in demeanor. He joins your team reluctantly as a returning senpai, but remains extremely disconnected. But secretly, he is concealing a profound depth of sadness and -when nobody is looking- can be genuinely gentle and kind. Eventually it comes out that Shinji’s Persona was responsible for the death of young team member Ken’s mother and Ken plans to kill him for vengeance.

When Ken finally corners his teammate alone, Shinjiro appears to accepts his fate and merely cautions that taking a life will only make Ken like himself: cold and withdrawn. At that time the primary antagonist, Takaya, shows up to mock the two’s predicament. Shinji has been taking pills to suppress his Persona to avoid losing control again ever since the accident with Ken’s mother and they are killing him so he has little time left anyways. Takaya is there to kill Ken once he finishes Shinji off and get two dead enemies for the price of one, but Shinji rushes him and takes the bullet in his junior’s stead.

It’s a selfless and sentimental act from a man who portrayed himself to be selfish and unfeeling, and that makes his death a perfect metaphor for the Persona series as a whole. Shinjiro’s atonement is a tragedy with a layer of triumph. Even when he felt he had no reason to form relationships or even continue living, Shinjiro managed to save a young life in more ways than one, and that’s something few characters ever do.   



The original Baldur’s Gate II came out as the standard for PC RPGs in 2000 courtesy of BioWare, who have since gone on the become the gold standard of console RPG devs as well. Thirteen years later, gamers were still playing it and the Enhanced Edition as released with new content, one of which was a new character with the capacity to break your heart not once, but twice.

The story of Hexxat begins in the Copper Coronet inn where a strange woman pleads with you to help her explore a crypt in the Graveyard District. Her speech pattern suggests mental difficulties, but her thief skills were not to be messed with so Hexxat makes a great addition to the party, distant personality and all.

Depending on what order you do your quests, what eventually happens to the cute purple-haired thief who joined you will affect you differently. But let’s just assume that she spent quite a lot of time in your party before you actually completed her request because this is an open-world RPG and we’ve got things to do, damn it! When you open up the coffin she’s so desperate to get to a vampire rises out of it and drinks her dry, killing her on the spot. It turns out that that woman wasn’t “Hexxat” proper, but some random peasant named Clara who was being mentally possessed from below the Earth by the real Hexxat, who stands before you now, presumably still dribbling her slave’s (former) life’s blood from her chin.

At this point you can strike the monster down or take her on as a replacement. It’s a bit fucked up, really. I can never say no to a potential party member (much less a vampire), but I was genuinely upset about poor Clara. I’d adventured and leveled up with this girl and refined her skill set to suit my needs and preferences. Now I was picking up her gear to give to her murderess, who was taking her spot in my crew. And depending on how things play out, the real Hexxat may end up deliberately departing this (im)mortal coil once her personal quest is complete. So really, Hexxat can be two deaths for the price of one. Absolutely brutal.    



Natural Doctrine is the strategy RPG that was made for people who think Dark Souls is for casuals. This. Game. Is. Rough. Even on normal difficulty. It revels in handicapping the player at every turn and facing them against overwhelming odds because life isn’t fair and it’s survival of the fittest. That’s the real natural doctrine. The game illustrates this point very early on with what I like to call its Scream moment.

So the face of the game is this spunky girl named Vasily. I mean like her face is literally on every save file. Every time you load up a game, there she is, cute as can be. You start out with a party of four and it’s hard going. You’ve got a power attacker, your well-rounded main character, and your gunner/healer with Vasily ideally as a defensive specialist. She defends, everyone else attacks. It works out. Barely.

Early in the game’s story your party discovers a particularly aggressive breed of insectile monsters breeding in mines and devouring the local goblin population. With fighting being a losing option, you barely escape alive, closing a stone passage behind you. After recruiting a mage to report the menace, he insists on proof of the creatures’ existence so you have to return. Once again, you escape behind the stone door. But this time is different. The insect queen smashes through the wall, snatches Vasily in it jaws, and thoroughly mangles your partner before spitting her onto to cavern floor where the rest of the monsters begin devouring her. Damn,  Natural Doctrine. You scary.

This not leaves you with a fractured and weakened party, but a distinct feeling of “that did NOT just happen!” Who does that? Who murders the most likable character right off the bat like that? And still Vasily stares out at you from each and every save file. Every time you save. Every time you load. She won’t go away, and yet she will never return. I actually found a GameFAQs thread of players speculating on possible ways to save her or bring her back to life, which reminds me…


rpgdeath6Aerith Gainsborough

Admit it: this was the first thing that crossed your mind when you read the title. And not just because it’s the header image, either. The death of Aerith is one of the most defining moments in many a gamer’s virtual life. In spite of it not being the first permadeath in the series (see above), it was a game changer not only because of how unexpected it was, but with the relatively young art of the cutscene, it was portrayed with an unheard-of level of cinematic panache that made it like a dagger through the heart. Or a katana, in this case.

The damsel in distress is a classic (read: cliche) fiction trope that has a very long history in gaming thanks to its general laziness as a storytelling device. I explain this in case this is your first day on the internet or you’ve never read a book, watched a film or television show, or played a video game. Bad guy kidnaps your girl. You get girl back. Happily ever after. That’s how it works. That’s how it’s ALWAYS worked. But not this time.

After an adorable slow-burn romance (although I prefered Tifa, personally), Cloud and Aerith are on the verge of love when that dickhead Sephiroth (he of the epic theme music) makes off with your Black Materia and the heroine leaves to stop him. When you catch up to her, you see her angelic face as she kneels in prayer for the world…and then you see Sephiroth’s blade skewer her from behind while he smirks at you with his epic dickface. Congrats, Aerith, you’ve successfully graduated from damseled to refrigerated. And to make it worse, she was your party’s only healer, so going on without her was another standard RPG trope broken.

This is pretty much universally pointed to as a major landmark in video game storytelling and the way we look at it. Grown men cried. Critics raved. Gamers never forgot. For years, we searched for some in-game Easter Egg that would bring her back to us. Rumors abounded, but that’s all they were. Square teased us by scattering equipment meant for her throughout the rest of the game, but that was just to salt the wound.

A truly great fictional character death carries with it not only the loss of a present friend, but the loss of your future adventures together. What would Aerith’s ultimate Limit Break look like? We’ll never know. At least not until the upcoming remake comes out. But then again, how many gamers are going to be buying it just to relive that heartbreak all over again? It will be extremely interesting to see what curve balls Square throws at us knowing how high expectations are going to be.

Shin Godzilla: Scrap and Rebuild



This is my first bonafide original post on this “blog” (I’ve used it exclusively to retain copies of my output from Unreality and Gamemoir thus far), but with Amazon being a fetid wasteland and no other sites I’m actively writing for, I’ve decided to post the only review you need to read for Japan’s first Godzilla film in a dozen years. Why would a normally humble and self-deprecating fellow like myself declare his halfass amateur review the one review to rule them all? Because a) I’m a rabid kaijuphile and anime fan, but not an otaku, b) I’m a longstanding admirer of Japanese pop culture, but not a weeaboo, c) I’ve seen every last Godzilla film-including Godzilla 1985 (aka Godzilla Returns) in theaters when I was seven- and retain a undying passion for the big lizard that hasn’t diminished in the least, and d) if we’re using Wikipedia as a judge, I’m the foremost expert on all things Neon Genesis Evangelion and, by extension, Hideaki Anno. Okay, that was a bit much, but a quote of mine does head up the “Reception” section of my all-time favorite anime’s Wikipedia page (and I didn’t put it there), so I figure that’s got to mean something. Enough preamble. Let’s do this.

Shin Godzilla (aka Godzilla Resurgence) is if nothing else, an interesting film.  I think I would have loved it if it wasn’t a Godzilla film. But it is, and in a lot of ways it simply does not live up to the legend that this icon of cinema has built. After twelve years, this is a bizarre way for Japan relaunch the brand and reclaim ownership of their most famous export. I was a huge fan of Gareth Edward’s 2014 American reboot. I was seven years old all over again watching the final act of that film. Edward’s Godzilla felt like a legendary rock act making a triumphant return playing all the hits. By comparison, Anno’s Godzilla is in its weird experimental phase. It’s got some truly inspiring ideas and a brand new approach, but it’s also confounding at times. I believe that Anno is a genius who always knows what he’s doing, but I also think he’s a madman and the audience doesn’t/can’t always know what the hell he’s doing.


Pictured: epic shot.

I was slightly concerned that out of the three feature length films (not counting the Eva remake) of his I’d watched, two out of the three featured a male character ejaculating into a non-consenting teenage girl’s hand. I mean what are the odds? On the other hand, End of Evangelion is a fucking masterpiece and the best series finale of any show ever, and Love and Pop put on display the director’s penchant for creative camerawork, making even the most mundane actions seem interesting with crazy shots from places you’d never expect. And really, what’s a little errant semen between an auteur and his fans? Thankfully, Godzilla keeps it in his pants, and there are definitely some awe-inspiring shots, but overall, I feel that the Big G’s return to his native stomping grounds is a bit of a let-down.

Without getting into too many spoilers, let me break down the good, the bad, and the ugly of the version of the king of monsters that I have dubbed “Godzillavangelion”. First, let me note the overall tone and style of the film. As other reviews have noted, the plot is less about the monster himself and more about the bureaucracy and logistics involved with a giant unstoppable monster laying waste to one of the greatest cities on Earth. While a great fresh take on the kaiju genre, in Anno’s hands that means a lot of the scenes are “shot of character/line/shot of different character/line/shot of a third character/line” and so on with rapid fire exposition. It’s not a particularly dynamic storytelling approach and it’s not great for building characters either, it only serves to convey information before moving along and the director’s apathy kind of shows.

The film’s score alternates between a limited number of themes that often brought Eva to mind, interspersed with some of the classic themes we all remember. All of is good-to-great music, but they often feel lackadaisically implemented. A well-applied soundtrack can make a cool moment goosebump-inducing or a killer scene truly epic. I feel like the material was there for Shin Godzilla, but seem to be used indifferently. Almost randomly. The classic Akira Ifukube pieces are among my most cherished cinema score classics, but they need an update. The way they are used here, they almost sound like they are being played through a gramophone or some other ancient audio technology. This may have been a deliberate choice to tug on our nostalgia strings, but it feels artificial. Those are evocative, powerful, and timeless pieces of music. But even timeless music can do with an upgrade every now and then. The cast gets the job done, but don’t really stand out much. Some ironic humor makes its way into the political wrangling, but the only character who really leaves an impression is a beautiful bilingual Japanese-American woman aspiring to be president of the United States in spite of the fact that she’s clearly not a native English speaker.


Jeepers creepers…wherever you got those peepers, take them back!

Then there is the titular monster. Shin Godzilla is most certainly a win for Godzilla as a metaphor for potentially apocalyptic disaster. But for Godzilla as an icon of cinema, not so much. The first time he is shown onscreen, I thought it was a joke. I literally laughed out loud in the theater and I was not the only one to do so by a long shot. I kept waiting for the real Godzilla to show up and eat that goofy-looking thing. But this isn’t even the resurgent Godzilla’s final form. He’s able to evolve himself with a thought. Yes, like a Pokemon. I don’t want to give away how far they take this silly idea, but let’s just say that by the end he’s more mecha than kaiju. And I don’t mean MechaGodzilla. And the fact that he spends a large chunk of the movie sleeping upright for no reason with his beady eyes wide open and his tail still sticking up in the air in the middle of Tokyo is just….why? Why would anybody do that?

Speaking of Godzilla’s eyes, if you were building a case that an entire film could be ruined by a single pair of eyes, Shin Godzilla would be your star witness. They looked better in the ’60s. Way better. From that first comedic shot where the eyes are obnoxiously large (they’d be cute if they weren’t so goddamn lifeless) to the climax where the eyes are still the same size but the rest of him is several times larger and his eyelids are metal sheets or something, I can’t imagine how they decided that was the look they wanted to go for. It’ becomes an unnecessary focal point that threatens to make the movie an unintentional comedy. Even the killer fish in Beneath looked more lifelike, and that was practically a Roger Corman flick.

The monster is designed, I think, to put the “God” back into Godzilla. He’s portrayed as extremely massive, indifferent, and all-powerful. Given Anno’s obvious fascination with religion -evident from Eva (Evadent?)- I’m pretty sure that’s what he was going for. He stomps through Tokyo tanking headshots from every piece of artillery the Japanese SDF can muster up without so much as turning his head to acknowledge them. Like a Lovecraftian elder god, he just does not care about the impotent and cosmically insignificant race known as humanity. We rage and flee and plan his demise while our cities crumble around us and he just keeps ambling along, oblivious to any of it. Until we really piss him off, that is. Again, cool as a metaphor, but is a Godzilla this boring and devoid of personality really Godzilla? I guess it has to be since the GINO acronym was already taken by Roland Emmerich’s 1998 abomination, but I feel like this is the least lifelike kaiju I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a whole lot of kaiju.

Along with some jaw-dropping shots, the interest generated by the new approach of focusing on the government’s dilemmas with figuring out what the hell to do when a gigantic irradiated beast starts tearing your country to shreds definitely saves the film, though. The Japanese government struggles with all sorts of problems of when and where to open fire while citizens evacuate and how much control to surrender to outside forces. Naturally, the good ol’ US is concerned about where the big lizard might go once Japan is stomped flat and their preferred reaction is to let history repeat itself and drop the bomb. I mean, they’ve already eaten two thermonuclear blasts. What’s one more? As one character says, they must be prepared to “scrap and rebuild” for the good of the nation and the world. Naturally, there are some in Japan who would rather not blow up their country’s crown jewel metropolis, and therein lies the fascination. At what point does a creature like this become a world issue and not a local one? As Godzilla evolves more and more powerful and destructive traits and could potentially even begin replicating itself, it becomes clear that something drastic must be done NOW. But what?


Moar of this, plz.

Personally, after all of the political intrigue I found the resolution of all this to be rather lame. While the artistic aspirations were clearly reaching for that first perfect 1954 masterpiece of Japanese cinema -the American cut was little more than a narrated highlight reel, check out the original Gojira for reference- for the first time since then, I’m afraid they fall well short. That said, I still recommend this film to any kaiju fanatic. It’s certainly not all that it could have been, and that hurts because it’s so close to great in some aspects. But the handling of the titular monster is stiff and often unnecessarily cartoonish, which is kind of a dealbreaker when dealing with such a beloved icon. Like I said, if it wasn’t a Godzilla movie, I think it would have fared better. But on the other hand, Anno’s fresh set of eyes have provided a lot that could be built upon and refined. Political intrigue is all the rage in pop culture and if they could integrate that approach into a more realistic and recognizable version of the king of monsters, I can see this as a stepping stone to a potentially amazing future.

Shin Godzilla didn’t make me feel like a seven year old trying to stop myself from jumping out of my seat and cheer for my favorite giant fire-breathing dinosaur, but the adult in me appreciated a lot of the intellectual aspects of it regardless. Marrying the former with the latter is all I want from the franchise and it seems only a movie away at this point. There was greatness in this concept, but too many poor choices along the way that I feel will alienate both older fans looking for nostalgia and younger ones looking for more action and visual stimulation. The final shot before the credits roll implies the possibility of a sequel, but I’m not convinced that I want one unless the next is a different beast altogether. Literally. I feel like there’s nowhere else I want to see this version of Godzilla go. It was an interesting experiment with some successes that arguably trump the failures, but I feel like the best thing to do is to nuke this stiff, beady-eyed lizard and move on to yet another reboot a few years down the road utilizing more aspects of what we love about the franchise along with the more adult themes. In other words: scrap and rebuild. I just hope it doesn’t take twelve more years.


Four Things We Hopefully Won’t Be Seeing in Berserk Warriors


I had some serious mixed feeling when Koei Tecmo announced they were making a new game based on the brutal dark fantasy manga/anime series, Berserk, and releasing it in the West. On one hand, Japan’s strongest fantasy manga is begging to be an awesome video game and with the anime finally getting a second season after nearly TWENTY YEARS and it being a primary influence on the beloved Dark Souls series there is no time like the present to do that. This series has the potential to deliver one of the greatest action role playing games of all time.

But that’s where the mixed feelings come in. Because this is Koei Tecmo (the game devs formerly known as Tecmo Koei) and their bread and butter has somehow become the repetitive Dynasty Warriors series and its ever-growing list of offshoots, spin-offs, and franchise adaptations where gameplay consists entirely of mashing buttons while your chosen avatar obliterates dozens of idle bad guys with each attack. I’m not saying a hack-and-slash Berserk game is a terrible idea (it’s been done before) considering the amount of hacking and slashing present in the source material. I’m just saying they could do better. A more Dark Souls-inspired take could have been something really special.

And then there’s tone to consider. The Warriors series so far has consisted of things like fictionalized Asian history, Gundam, The Legend of Zelda, and One Piece. Going from there to Berserk…not the best idea. Gamers with fond memories of wrecking shop with the adorable likes of tomboy princess Sun Shang Xiang, elastic pirate goofball Luffy, or gender-swapped cutie-pie Linkle who decide to step into the shoes of Guts and his band are going to be met with a world of WTF.

This list is going to include some aspects of the franchise that some of us here in the West might refer to as “problematic”. As in this is one of the most brutal and twisted non-hentai properties I’ve ever encountered, and I seek those sorts of thing out. Berserk is full of horrific violence, misogyny, full frontal sex; pretty much all of the things your mama (and Tumblr) warned you about. So I feel like going from One Piece to Berserk is going to require a disclaimer. Here are some aspects of Kentaro Miura’s fantasy epic that probably/hopefully will not be darkening our virtual door.


Phallic Monstersberserk2

As stated above, the manga has a certain….flair for putting certain unsavory aspects of humanity front and center. If you think Game of Thrones has too much sex and violence, you know nothing, Jon Snow. Miura-san’s artwork is among the most detailed, revered, and stunning in all of the very large universe that is manga, but he is seldom shy about pushing whatever is in his head onto the page. And apparently his head is often filled with penises.

I’m not one of those people who goes around pointing out that every single thing that is longer than it is wide is a phallic symbol of our oppressive patriarchal overlords shoving their privilege into our faces, but sometimes a cigar (or a giant cock demon) is not just a cigar. Like I said, a lot of recurring aspects of this franchise are just not going to gel with Western audiences and I’m pretty sure that this is one of them. Miura deserves props for the creativity of his designs, but not all of his Lovecraftian monstrosities are video game material.

While the trolls’ prodigious shnozzes are no worse than, oh, say ALF’s, some of the creatures have more definitive features that make it pretty hard not to see a giant dick when you look at them. Also, some of them actually have giant dicks. In the manga most of these creatures make pretty brief appearances as background baddies in chaotic demon swarms and whatnot, but in a video game, you tend to see a lot of the same enemies over and over again and that goes triple for a Warriors game. I wouldn’t expect those designs to pass muster, so don’t expect to be wading through oceans of wieners with teeth. If that happens to be a personal fantasy of yours, I’m sorry in advance for the letdown, but as a condolence, don’t be too surprised if the above boss monster shows up.


Too Much “Reality”berserk1

Right off the bat, series protagonist Guts is the anti-est of anti-heroes. In the very first episode of the new anime he lets it be known that he has no fucks to give after his presence causes the death of two innocents (including a young girl), brushing it off by declaring that he’d never be able to take a single step if he was always worried about stepping on ants. Then he spends the next couple episodes mocking the Christian faith. No. Fucks. That’s kind of Berserk’s attitude about a lot of things, which is probably why nearly every story arc has scenes of non-consensual intercourse and/or constant threats of it whenever a woman is present. Hell, the very first shot in the new anime is of a dude dragging a screaming woman into a house by her hair.

A lot of fans of the series brush this particularly disturbing and prominent recurring theme off as being “reality” for that time period. But then again, when one is enjoying a series about demons and magic, a dude who swings a sword bigger than he is with one hand and wins fights against a hundred trained soldiers, I think reality may not be the most important factor in play. Still “reality” is a better word than “rape” when it comes to bold-face header titles so thanks for that, at least.

But yeah, I do think the Berserk game could do with less troll rape orgies, if that’s okay with everybody. I’m not saying that you have to censor the story and make it all G-rated, I’m just saying that there doesn’t have to a cutscene every other battle where helpless women are brutalized and violated by some hellspawn or bandits just to give you an excuse to cut them all down. On the other hand, a Berserk game just won’t feel right without a Rape Horse (see above image) boss battle, so it doesn’t all have to go. Just don’t make it seem like the main theme, yeah?


“Derp” Cascaberserk3

Moving right along from that note of Berserk not exactly being a safe space for women, we have perhaps the most questionable story development in manga history. After the initial eight issue arc in the manga, the story did something really super weird. It spent nearly a hundred issues on a flashback. That’s eight issues of present day story followed by eighty-four of backstory. That was six years worth. The Golden Age arc is what the franchise is best known for and it was adapted as an anime for television in the ‘90s and again as a CG film trilogy a few years ago, and it is confirmed to be a part of the upcoming game.

Serious spoilers are coming up so feel free to skip to the next section if you don’t want to dive down this rabbit hole of fuck. At its heart, The Golden Age is a love story between Guts and Casca, who is a badass warrior woman that falls for him while the two are fighting in the same mercenary band. It’s an amazing story worthy of the best that fantasy fiction has to offer. Then the end happens. It’s truly a stunning and horrible sight to behold and I love a great many things about it, but the aftermath is troubling. Long story short (and I am truly sorry for my language here, but it’s necessary to paint the proper picture): Casca gets raped retarded by a demon and that’s what kicked this whole shitstorm of death off.

Now, it’s bad enough that a strong woman is used as a sexual pawn in an act of violence between men and is rendered mentally disabled by the act, but the worst thing about it is that they kept her that way. I assumed she would recover her sensibilities, but nearly three hundred and fifty chapters in, “Derp Casca” (as she is often referred to by fans to separate her from the original character) is still drooling on herself and occasionally serving as the most depressing attempt at comic relief ever. I’m about 99% sure this is going to factor into the game majorly, seeing that the initial Japanese trailer partially depicts the act that left her in that state, but I’m still hoping her participation is minimal. Golden Age Casca is confirmed playable, but Derp Casca will just be an unwanted irritation that will make us long for the days of simple damseling.


berserk4The Voyage of the Damned

The Golden Age may have represented the most unusual pacing decision in the history of fiction but since then Miura has found more creative ways to test his readers’ patience. Six years of essential flashback is one thing, but seven years on a boat? Damn. The latter volumes of Berserk had the heroes spending sixty four issues at sea, essentially putting the entire main story on hold yet again as the characters journeyed to the elvish homeland. Adventures were had, backs were flashed, friends were made, characters were developed, and there were mermaids, etc, but still. Seven years is a long time to wait for…well, pretty much anything.

This thing has become such a joke that it’s pretty much all the fandom was for a while. The author’s repeated hiatuses and the lack of story momentum drove readers away (including this one) as the pace drew to a grinding halt. Instead of furthering Guts’ campaign for vengeance against the man who murdered his friends and derped Casca, we were treated to an irritating recurring villain in the form of a goofy pirate who began to feel like Ultros in Final Fantasy VI after a while. How do you make this into a hack and slash video game? Hopefully you don’t. A proper RPG maybe could use it as a character-building section, but as a Warriors-style game I just don’t see it happening.

The manga is only a few issues past the loooooooong-awaited arrival at Elfhelm, a world away from the enemies Guts seeks to eventually defeat, so there’s no good reason for the video game to include the voyage when there’s nothing to adapt beyond that, so it’s pretty safe to say the trip will not be in-game unless it’s start is the finale. As for the manga, now that our heroes have finally arrived at their island destination, there’s only question in the minds of longtime Berserk fans: how long is the trip back home going to be?

One way or another, I’m fated to play Berserk Warriors (if that’s the title they go with). If nothing else it’s going to be really interesting to see how Koei Tecmo integrates these insane elements and story pacings into a cohesive video game (if they do) and how gamers deal with it when they go in expecting another typical Warriors game and get a faceful of all that is Berserk. At least it won’t take seven years to find out.


The Trials and Tribulations of Waiting for ARK: Survival Evolved on Playstation


Last year I happened across a trailer for a video game that has been one my most-anticipated releases ever since. It just looked….really awesome. Basically, it’s an MMO version of Minecraft’s survival mode with full current-gen muscle and it revolves around my favorite thing since I was a child: dinosaurs. You could fight them and, if you were too badass to stop at that, you could tame and ride them into battle against your foes. Who wouldn’t want to play that?

ARK: Survival Evolved went into Steam early access a little later and sold a million copies inside of a month, quietly becoming a massive hit. And I mean really quietly. Looking on IGN, there are only ten articles involving it on the entire site. Compare that to Overwatch, which seems to get that many a week over a month after release. There was very little available in the way of updates, but in December I became aware that the game was also in early release on Xbox One because a coworker of mine wouldn’t shut up about it. The dude was really hyped to be playing this game, and that sort of enthusiasm is contagious as hell.


Do I want to start a giant scorpion biker gang? So much.

After hearing it talked up to such extent, I went looking for info and found that the PS4 was getting no early access love, but went to preorder it at Gamestop anyways. The employee looked baffled and informed me that it was a digital-only release set for May. Think maybe you could have told me that, internet? Oh well. Something to look forward to, right? Then the release got postponed to “late 2016”, which in my experience means “sometime in 2017. Maybe. If you’re lucky”.

Normally when a game gets pushed back my reaction is “good” because it means they are taking the time to properly polish the game and deliver you the best possible product, which is as it should be. But with ARK, it’s different because everybody else gets to play it but me. And oh, the tales that have been told. Tales of tribes of merciless griefers imprisoning players and forcing them to commit fecal suicide or feeding them to their feral pets like action movie villains. Tales of riding giant sharks like Aquaman and soaring through the sky on pterosaurs. OH MY GOD, I MUST PLAY THIS GAME!

In March, it was announced that the game may be pulled from sale altogether, because of course. By that time it had sold some four million on Steam and over a million on Xbox One and the full game wasn’t even close to the full release yet. That is no joke for an indie release, and it’s no surprise that people would be trying to get a piece of that pie. In this case, a former member of ARK’s development team at Studio Wildcard had been under a no-compete clause with another company who were looking to cash in on that fine print. Fantastic.


Do yourself a favor and browse the Steam reviews for Ark. I promise you will not be disappointed.

In late April, it was announced that Sony would be the first to host a free-to-play standalone multiplayer build of the game called Survival of the Fittest that would be all about PvP and release July 19. Other gamers had had to pay for their early access, but we are going to get a chunk of it for free! Or are we? Once again, the lack of coverage leaves me baffled. An update on the Playstation Blog states that the release has been put on hold in order to focus on the full game. Really?! I don’t know. I can’t seem to find any confirmation of this fact a less than a week from the title’s supposed release. Every site reported the announcement of the release date, but this supposed cancellation just got an updated annotation on the old announcement article on a single site; not even it’s own article. Am I ever going to play this game?    

Eventually the lawsuit was settled out of court, so at least it won’t stop the game from coming out entirely, but this has been a lot to go through for one indie game. The constant shuffling of release dates and taunting from PC and Xbone gamers and the search for updates has left me feeling a bit burned out. But thanks to our early access friends, the game’s number of prehistoric species has increased from seventy to over a hundred and the game has expanded in all directions as a result of its success, so at least there’s that.

With any luck, Sony gamers will be riding T-Rexes and imprisoning noobs in fecal death pits like our gamer brethren by Christmas and won’t have to suffer through the gameplay bugs and growing pains of a game in development. Better yet, those of us who have been reading the chronicles of their adventures and get in first will be prepared to quickly form up tribes and consolidate power so we can be in charge of griefing new players. Hey, survival of the fittest, man. You want to play on my server, you’d better EARN that shit.  

While daydreaming of my future conquests and horrifying deaths and awaiting more news on when we can bring them to fruition, now just seemed like the time to reflect on a game that came out of nowhere and has kept people more captivated in its pre-release state than most games ever will. It’s been a strange road waiting for it to hit the PS4, filled with delays and disappointments and I’m more ready than ever to play what may be the best dino game of all time. Let’s ride.    


I Experienced Mass Effect: New Earth and Didn’t Even Get a Lousy T-Shirt

Mass Effect: New Earth (PRNewsFoto/3D Live)

You know, I’d actually forgotten that they were making my favorite video game series into an amusement park ride when I suddenly found that Mass Effect: New Earth was opening last month in Santa Clara’s Great America amusement park in my home state of California. My first instinct was to run out my door and drive straight there, forsaking the earthly amenities of job, home, and family for the opportunity to be among the first to experience BioWare’s masterpiece in ride form.

But being the calm, cool, and collected geek I am, I bided my time, let the hype and the crowds die down a bit, and scraped together some cash to do this properly. Hell, I even brought along the wife and kid because why not. The words “Great America” hadn’t really entered my mind since I went as a teenager due largely to the inordinate number of awesome theme parks residing in Cali, but one way or another, I knew I was not getting out of this summer without experiencing firsthand the temple they’d practically built in my backyard paying tribute to my most revered gaming franchise. And last week, experience it I did.

mass effect new earth entrance


In the month I waited since the ride’s opening, I was careful to avoid any and all articles that may have spoiled the experience. I wanted to go in knowing nothing, and I succeeded. Was there any possibility that this thing was going to live up to the hype I was burdening it with? Fuck no. It’s a five minute amusement park ride. It was never going to encompass the insanely epic trilogy spanning dozens of hours and worlds and hundreds of cosmic possibilities. You can’t even adequately sum up the basic concepts of Mass Effect in five minutes.

And then there’s the fact that Disney’s Star Tours had done the same thing with the Star Wars franchise nearly thirty years ago and many have trod that ground since. Hell, the Minions have their own 3D ride at Universal Studios. So maybe a little underwhelming, then? Yeah, a bit. But still, anything worth doing is worth redoing Mass Effect style. New Earth is a fun little romp through a small section of the Mass Effect universe during the events of the third game that revamps the old concept with some added twists borrowed from other Disney attractions.

When you read that this is a “4D holographic journey” you may wonder what kind of mind-bending astrophysics are implemented to bring this fourth dimension into play in a world that consists of a mere three. All it really is an added immersion factor that stimulates you with various well-timed sensations during the ride. Ever wondered what a rachni’s breath smells like? Well, now I know. That and the temperature of their slobber. So basically, I’m a better fan than you now. Thanks, Great America!  

Where Star Tours put you inside of a room that moves in time with the show to give the illusion of movement, New Earth has each individual seat move while blasting you with air and occasionally water as well as some scents, so you see, hear, feel, and smell it all. You can even smell the dust when your ship brushes against a mountain. Along with the live performer acting as your captain and the gigantic screen with 3D effects, it’s a really cool experience.

mass effect new earth spectre armour display

Spectre armour on display in both fem and bro models.

There’s plenty of fanservice on hand (both times I rode it, fangirls screamed when the captain mentioned that a certain Commander Shepard may have once ridden that very ship) including appearances from the Normandy and some of her crew, but the experience is very friendly for non-gamers as well. A pre-boarding video gives you the basics of Mass Relay travel and you don’t need to know much to enjoy a virtual space ship ride with 3D lasers and monsters and stuff.

All in all, New Earth is a great premise whose only downfalls are that it’s already been done and the experience is all too brief. The games are better, but after I shut them off I don’t have an entire amusement park full of badass thrill coasters, water slides, and churros at my disposal either. Great America was more than worth the cost of its admission (assuming you get the online discount) so the addition of a Mass Effect attraction is just geek-flavored icing on the cake. And the lines weren’t even bad on a Sunday.  

Surprisingly, I actually had trouble finding any merchandise for the recently opened ride, unless you count getting my picture taken with a life-size cutout of Urdnot Wrex. I went into most of the shops over the course of the day and found everything from a giant dragon skull replicas to multiple stores dedicated to Peanuts to a t-shirt of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy that was suggestive enough to prompt my wife to photograph it and text it to her lesbian friend, but no Mass Effect gear.

mass effect tali shirt

You shall be mine….

I’ve always wanted a Mass Effect t-shirt, but have only ever run across some pretty bland N7 logos. I was really hoping to go home with a really awesome one, but as we headed for the exit and the park darkened around us, my quest had failed. Ironically, I am irritated when other theme parks dump you from a ride directly into a themed gift shop, but the one time I actually want a whole store dedicated to an attraction, I can’t find anything. But wait! What’s that? The gift shop right at the entrance so you don’t see it coming in, but can’t miss it going out has the shirt I need but never knew I wanted sitting in the window! A killer stylized design of notorious space waifu Tali’Zorah vas Normandy herself stared back at me, beckoning.

If this seems like a fairy tale ending to a quest for merchandise from a man who normally despises souvenirs, it is. That is to say, it didn’t actually work out in real life. The shirt was there on display, but when I ran in to sing “how much is that Tali in the window?” they were sold out. My entire life, in a nutshell, folks.

It was a great day I had prompted by my love of Mass Effect, but I do have to question Great America’s merchandising stratagem. I mean, come on! You just opened this awesome ride based on one of the greatest gaming franchises last month. You knew Biodrones would be coming from near and far to throw their money at you and you drop the ball on stocking t-shirts? Shame!

Still, if you’re in the NorCal neighborhood and looking for a great way to spend your time, you could do a lot worse than stopping by Santa Clara to give Mass Effect: New Earth a go. It’s -as Tali would say- totally worth it. It doesn’t reinvent the Star Tours wheel, but it does give it a nice new video gamey coat of paint (and monster drool). Who’d have thought video game rides would turn out better than video game movies? Admission to the park is about forty dollars a pop if you order online, the crowds were extremely manageable, the roller coasters are top notch, there are carnival games and an in-house water park; there’s literally something for everyone. Just don’t go for the Mass Effect merchandise.

Mighty No. 9 Presents: How to Turn an Entire Industry Against You

What do you get when you mix the hopes and dreams of millions of old school gamers with a legendary video game artist, a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, and more bad choices than Election Day? You get Mighty No. 9, Keiji Inafune’s spiritual successor to his classic beloved Mega Man series.

It was a high profile game with everything going for it. Fantastic-looking characters, recognizable gameplay with a fresh coat of paint just how we like it, a legit pedigree, and an army of backers ready to shell out their money for what was essentially a rebirth of one of gamings’ most famed franchises that has lost its momentum over the years. How exactly does this not spell success? Weeeellllll……

dina karam tweet

Interesting idea, but I would suggest examining the sustainability of that reproductive model before carrying it out…

It started small enough with the game’s online community manager baiting “gaters” on Twitter with ill-advised rants and calling for them to boycott of the game in addition to the occasional call for male genocide (gendercide?) and banning people from the forums. You know, the usual internet stuff. But still, as a general rule a company shouldn’t hire a community manager to represent them that publicly threatens to murder half of their game’s potential user base, calls for people to boycott the game, and generally attracts, agitates, and embodies the exact elements that it’s a community manager’s job to keep under control.

But then again, they only gave her the job because of her personal relationships within the development team. It’s not like that’s a dealbreaker. As fans awaited the game after paying for the entire development process out of pocket, they were treated to multiple delays that saw the game postponed by over an entire year from its original release date. But hey, that’s more quality time to spend with the charming community manager (who was eventually removed) while you wait!

The game had to come out at some point, and come out it did. All of the years of hype and drama and four million dollars in donations and finally gamers were able to purchase this mythical unicorn of a beautiful 2D shooter last week. Surely the pre-launch trailer was going to be epic. Surely. Let’s check it out.

Oh. My. Fucking. God. Did that really happen in 2016? I honestly don’t know where to begin with that train wreck so I’m going to go with my line-by-line thoughts on the single worst advertisement in video game history; one that makes us long for the days of “she kicks high”.

“Hey, you! Looking at the screen!”

How did he know?!

“Let me ask you a question: do you like awesome things that are awesome?”


“Then you gotta play this game, dude.”

Okay, dude.

“It’s freakin’ COOL. And CRAZY addictive! Like popping BUBBLE WRAP addictive!”

Bubble wrap doesn’t cost four million dollars to make, though…

“See, that’s your dash move. There’s a short dash and a long dash, jump dash, spiral, slide. There’s probably a dash that makes you breakfast, I don’t know!”

Is this the first trailer to list every control in the game and then make one up just to be stupid? SETTLE DOWN, MAN!

“Point is, you’re dashing around like a friggin’ moon man and I love it.”

Do moon men have a reputation for dashing around?

“Oh, and look at this! There’s all these combo moves you can do.”

Go on.

“And you can do combos on combos to rack up your score.”

If you say so.

“And I know you like that combo on combo action.”

Please stop now.

“But I saved the best for last: absorption boosts.”

Breath status: baited.

“You kill an enemy, and you can absorb their power ups!”

What a wild idea for a video game.

“Stuff that’ll make you faster, and stronger, and make the bad guys cry like an anime fan on prom night.”

I’m not sure you’re understanding who your target audience is here, friend.

“So what’d’you think? Are you ready to play?”

I was up until the exact second you started talking…

Just…. How? Why? Condescending and insulting while giving off that desperate vibe of a middle-aged grandparent trying to sound hip and cool hanging out with teenagers without any knowledge whatsoever of current popular culture. Far out, brah! Totally tubular! Raise the roof! I can see some imbecile writing or even recording something like this in an awkward “that sounded better in my head” situation, but I can literally not imagine anybody in any corner of the gaming community trying to sell people a game giving that a pass. I wonder how many people were instantly unsold with that one fell swoop of stupidity.

But really, if the game is amazing, who cares? A little half-assed marketing here, a possible homicidal maniac on the internet managing the forums there, it’s not like these things will make an awesome thing that is awesome not awesome, right?

mighty no 9 sonic tweet

As far as commercial slogans go, “better than nothing” may beat “cry like an anime fan on prom night”, but it still needs work.

But what if the game is just kind of meh and filled with technical issues? You may have a problem on your hands. And when the creator’s apparent response to gamers’ lukewarm reception is that it’s “better than nothing”, it may be time to worry. Or perhaps when the most popular meme generated by your game is based on how the explosions look like cheap pizza, it may be a bad sign. But when Sonic the goddamn Hedgehog (who hasn’t had a decent game in how long?) starts looking down on you, you are officially in trouble.

It’s one thing when a company hypes a game to the gills and it comes out less than great. Gamers still swarm upon them like a plague of entitled mosquitoes to publicly shame them and attempt to drive them from the industry, but when the game is a Kickstarter project promising a return to the good old days if only you, the gamers, will pay for it to be made it tends to make things more personal and nasty.

So fair warning to game developers both aspiring and legendary: here is a list of things to keep in mind if you don’t want everybody to hate you. A) if you take fans’ money, make damn sure you can deliver on quality. B) Don’t hire a community manager who expresses a desire to massacre your player base or suggest boycotts of your product. C) Don’t speak to gamers like you are the people who bullied them in junior high in your advertisements. And D) maybe consider that fans of old school Japanese video games with anime-style art may also be anime fans.

Instead of a glorious statement about the power of crowdfunding to put the Capcoms of the world on notice, Mighty No. 9 has become a cautionary tale about mismanaging assets, overreaching, and general cluelessness about your target audience. It’s kind of sad that I still want to play it. And maybe I will some day, but the thing about the current gaming industry is that we are being served up an absolute glut of quality titles at all price ranges at all times. We just don’t have time for games that don’t deliver or developers that don’t respect their audience anymore .

When you put the wrong foot forward as epically as this game has, there may be no way to recapture the attention ormighty no 9 hype train comic regain the trust of your audience. Crowdfunding is a great way for artists to cut out the corporate middleman and let gamers choose what they want to play. But the double edge of that is that the artist assumes all responsibility for the product and the funders are gambling on the dev’s ability to deliver.

A high profile flop like this one casts shade on the potentially bright future of crowdfunded indie games. While I personally don’t care for the idea of major game developers putting development costs entirely on their customers, I am all for choice and an alternative to corporate gaming so it hurts to see something like this happen. I can only imagine how the backers must be feeling. Inafune appears to not only have burned bridges in the industry, but he’s now lost the trust and respect of his audience as well. Let’s hope that this can somehow be salvaged.

Positive Contact: OPUS is a Universe of Emotion in a Tiny Game


“Drift by a star, absorb it, and leave tourists porous.

My galaxy’s gorgeous.

Quantum jump, I’m right at your doorstep…”

 -Deltron Zero

There’s a lot of discussion in the game community about value and content. As gamers we have only a finite amount of time in this meager life to absorb all of the sights, sounds, and sensations that this universe holds for us while trapped in hopeless relative immobility on this cosmically insignificant ball of rock, water, and atmosphere.

opus cast

Happier times.

Video games are one way we have of vicariously experiencing things digitally that we will just never get to do in real life. But with so much to choose from, how do we decide what to play? That brings us back to the question of value. With only so much time and money, do we measure a game’s worth by it’s depth, width, and length or by its quality? And when we say “quality”, what are we even talking about? Fun factor? Artistry? Emotional impact? The answer varies from person to person.

While playing through the extremely brief and largely bereft of gameplay indie game OPUS: The Day We Found Earth, I found myself seriously considering this once again. You can clear this game in the time it takes you to watch an episode of Game of Thrones, and it’s not one of those games you play through again and again to get different endings. But it’s not quite a precedent setter in that regard either.

In the past, amazing works of fiction like The Killing Joke and Voices of a Distant Star (do yourself a massive favor and watch that on Crunchyroll) have proven themselves to be brief experiences well worth their cost in spite of their premium price tags, and OPUS carries that obscure tradition into gaming like Journey and many indie titles before it. As with all works of art, the experience of the journey far outweighs the destination and I’ve seldom seen so much packed into so little.

opus galaxy


In OPUS, you play as Emeth, a lone chibi robot awakened after an indeterminate amount of time offline on the titular space station with one mission: find planet Earth. After traveling across the galaxy, mankind has lost track of their homeworld as their gene pool has degraded, putting their future in doubt. A single scientist, Lisa, and her gruff partner, Makoto, were the only people who volunteered for this insane dream of locating the planetary needle in a cosmic haystack and perhaps recovering a sample of our original DNA.

As Emeth, you can explore the station and the cosmos (using a telescope) along with the onboard AI (a digital duplicate of Lisa). Each newly discovered star system is one infinitesimal step closer to Earth, but OPUS is on the verge of shutdown and the scientists are nowhere to be found. Still, the universe awaits…

Gameplaywise, most of your time is spent following directions to locate potential Earth candidates. It’s quite simple and not particularly challenging, but the main purpose it serves is to advance the story, as each valuable discovery is accompanied by a furthering of the plot back on OPUS. Emeth’s child-like single-minded determination to locate “Doctor” and the AI Lisa’s existential crisis make up the bulk of the characterization, but by unlocking rooms and exploring the station in classic point-and-click fashion, a truly tragic narrative builds towards a climax that can make even a machine cry.   

opus distort emeth alone

So say we all, little guy.

The mood is intensified by a truly stellar (pun intended) soundtrack and, of course, the awe-inspiring beauty that is our universe. I also found some fun in naming each heavenly body I discovered, doing my best to further expand mankind’s mythological roots from all religious pantheons across the galaxy. Maybe a little too late in the game as my knowledge of ancient deities waned I figured I should have named them after video game characters to spread geekology throughout the stars, but them’s the breaks.

The well-paced story picks up a surprisingly urgent velocity as you approach the end with the system on shutdown and the monitor (YOUR monitor) distorting as the station loses power. It’s a very nice touch. The implications of what you learn from exploring the various leaving of the scientists leave as many questions as answers and forces you to look stark reality in the eye and question whether your mission has any worth whatsoever. But like Emeth himself, you’ve been given a task as a gamer and you must see it through at all costs, even if only to honor the memory of a loved one or to remind yourself that even out in the infinite, indifferent void of space with nobody else there to see it, there is still beauty to be experienced.   

Under an hour’s worth of gameplay -most of it spent stargazing- and yet I feel as though OPUS: The Day We Found Earth is an experience I will carry with me for a long time, even with the minimalist graphics and lack of voice acting or meaningful gameplay. This game is exactly what I mean when I talk about the power and potential of interactive fiction. No other medium could have provided this experience.

opus emeth lisa

Hark! What light from yonder galaxy breaks? ‘Tis the solar system and Lisa is the Earth.

A story well told molds itself to any format and this one was made with care to successfully convey a breadth of emotions from melancholy loneliness to humor to despair and hope. It’s in the music, it’s in the character designs and cutscenes, it’s in the text notes and files left around the station and in the original Lisa’s comments that accompany her past discoveries.

It may be tiny by video game standards, but OPUS: The Day We Found Earth manages to encompass not only the vast wonder of exploring the infinite universe, but the trials, tribulations, and fortitude of the human spirit (even with no humans around) in an hour’s time. That’s an amazing accomplishment no matter how you look at it and it’s one I’m happy to have experienced.