Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Few of my Favorite Things: Video Games

Like a great poet once said, a blog truly is the window to a person’s soul. Read someone’s blog, and you can know the inner workings of their mind even more familiarly than the most intimate lover. And since I lack any of those, you have even less competition!
Since my blog is more or less an unrestricted periscope into my personality, it’s likely that I come across as quite a gamer. I spend unhealthy amounts of time on the internet, fancy myself smarter than I am, and have the audacity to think that people actually care about my opinion. These are all qualities common to both bloggers and gamers, so it only makes sense that I might spend large amounts of my time gaming. And during for the beautiful days of my life, I did. But then college happened, and I find myself with only just enough time to piss away on the internet. I’ve managed to play a few games in the past year, but more than half of the games bought last year were Christmas presents for other people. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, I genuinely do not know. Anyway, since this is a list, I guess I should get to listin’:
5. Pokemon Conquest

Like Pokemon Mystery Dungeon before it, Pokemon Conquest was a Pokemon crossover with a Japanese-exclusive series that promised actual Pokemon combat. Also like PMD, it disappointed me in its dissimilarity to Fire Emblem. While it was a Turn-based Strategy, unlike PMD, (I don’t really know how I’d classify PMD, other than “shameful”) it was more similar to the Final Fantasy Tactics series. But I love the Final Fantasy Tactics series, almost as much as I love Fire Emblem, so what was the problem? Well, Whenever I have a mental debate over whether I like Fire Emblem or Tactics more* (This is a shockingly common occurrence  and my number one cause of [insert joke during proofreading]). What I decided is that, of my two favorite TBS RPGs, I prefer Fire Emblem’s tactical gameplay, but FFT has superior role-playing mechanics . This is hardly the place to talk about this at length, but Pokemon Conquest sorely lacks the level of customization provided by FFT, as well as the tactical challenge of Fire Emblem. This leaves one great, unanswered question: “Why the hell did I put this on a list of my favorite games, if it was such a disappointment?” I guess I could go the route of Time Magazine, and say that this is a list of games of great significance, rather than ones that are actually good. But it says “My Favorite Things”, so that’s obviously a handwave. I guess I’ll just say that the fact that I had to pad this list with a game I didn’t really like is indicative of how few games I played this year.
4. Assassin’s Creed 3
Special Blogspot Note: Pictures of Assassin's Creed 3 can go straight to hell. For some reason, this is the second picture in a row that won't properly load. I doubt I will fix this any time soon, because I think it's funny that I just told pictures to go straight to hell.

Speaking of games that were obviously added to pad the list: I haven’t actually played this game. You see, I was pretty into the Assassin’s Creed series at first, but when they couldn’t be bothered to put numbers in the titles, I couldn’t be bothered to follow along. And now I’m afraid to jump back in without catching up, and I’m not sure I have the time to do that. Because I haven’t played it, I really don’t have much to say. The first two Assassin’s Creeds were super fun, (The moment I realized that you could kill someone by throwing them into a scaffolding remains one of the top moments of my life. It was also pretty fun in the game.) and people are saying good things about the fifth, so I bet Assassin’s Creed III would be right up my alley. So if you find yourself with a hot copy of this game, and you don’t know someone who can keep a secret, you could always pitch it to me.
3. Pokemon White 2 (And also Black 2, I guess)

For the second time on this list, I have a Pokemon game, and this time, it’s one I actually liked! Well, it was OK, anyway. After the near death experience of buying Pokemon White 2, (I almost bought Pokemon Black 2. The cashier had it all ringed up, and I freaked out as I realized my mistake at the last minute.) I didn’t care to finish this sentence. My feelings on the fact that they opted to make Black and White 2, rather than a singular “Grey”, were conflicted. On one hand, it was an obvious cash-grab, and that’s not something I like. But on the other side of the coin, the fact that it was a true sequel, taking place 2 years later, meant that they could have a completely new story, and the story was one of my favorite parts of the original Black and White. Pokemon games usually aren’t known for their story, (You want to be the very best, like no one ever was. Ect.) but Black and White brought up the complicated moral implications that Pokemon had always skirted around. When the names were announced, many of the more unsavory internet folk replied with “Blakc? Wihte? Dat’s racist! lolololol”. I never would have guessed how close they were to making sense, as the story of Team Plasma’s attempted Pokemon revolution mirrors our own civil rights movement, with the Player Character and the mysterious villain N acting as analogues for Dr. Martin Luther King Junior and Malcolm X, respectively. While I am somewhat serious about  the previous comparison, It’d probably be better for my policy of political neutrality if you just assumed that it was a meaningless joke.
But this post isn’t about the original Black and White. It’s about 2. And the problem is that the story, the one thing I looked forward to most, just wasn’t as good. While it was satisfying to see how the region had changed in the two years between games, with all the little shout-outs to continuity, (I eat that shit up) the lack of a morally ambiguous villain made it bland. The best bad guys are often the ones that you’re almost kind of rooting for, and that absolutely did not happen here. But, despite all that, it was still a Pokemon game, so I had to buy it, I had to play it, and I had to enjoy it. And I did. Also, it had a bunch of different versions of the amazing “Team Plasma Battle” song, so that was neat.
2. Katawa Shoujo

Oh boy. Here we go. Well, since my number 1 video game is basically a visual novel, there’s precedent. And that means that I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t include this. If 4leaf studios could have only rushed this out 5 days earlier, I would have been spared this humiliation…
Katawa Shoujo is a visual novel made by weeaboos on 4chan. The title translates into English as “Cripple Girls”, more or less. As much I’d like to leave it at that, I feel like I should explain myself. Katawa Shoujo is a piece of interactive fiction in which you take control of Hisao, a teenager with a major heart defect, as he has sex with 5 different girls, each crippled by a distinct disability. And now that I’ve got this fat check from the “Research on the absolute minimum amount of respect one human can have for another Institute”, let’s see if I can salvage some of my dignity. Despite having a premise exactly like the kind you’d expect from a place like 4chan, it’s a very touching story about LOVE and COMPANIONSHIP. The fact that there are naked bodies, (which one can choose to censor out, I feel compelled to add) is secondary. Or even tertiary, if you listen to the great soundtrack. If you’re the kind of person that didn’t have to Google what a “visual novel” is, then I guess I’d recommend it to you. Bring some tissues. What you do with them is entirely up to you. 
1. Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward
This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, considering the post I made fawning over the first game in the series, which ended with the statement that this game is better in most ways. I spilled a lot of electrons on the subject there, so there’s not much else to say, since the two games share a lot of the same strengths. I guess I’ll parrot what GameInformer said of it, and say that VLR makes you feel like you’re interacting with actual people, in a way that few games manage. Much of the game revolves around the “Ambidex Game”, a game in which players must choose to ally or betray in order to get enough points to escape. The game is based off the Prisoner’s Dilemma, and carries all the moral and ethical ramification’s entailed. It also has some of the best voice acting I’ve ever heard from a video game, with Zero III doing a particularly great job.
As much as I recommend this game, however, I STRONGLY advise against playing it before you’ve played Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. It spoils much of 999, and some of the big moments lose their edge if you don’t have the context of the first game (I continue to eat that shit up). And if you needed a more heartfelt endorsement  look no further: I love this game so much that my avatar, my very ambassador to the internet, the land I love so much, is a character from this game. Assuming, that is, that it’s still a surprised looking robot man at the time you’re reading this.
And there you have it! I’ve somehow managed to spin a dry year of gaming into one of my famous Havoc Mantis walls of text. I guess that procrastinating job applications gets the creative juices flowing in a way few other things can. I can only pray that if my mother ever does read this, it’s far enough into the future that she doesn’t care.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The whole thing about “Insert a joke while proofreading” was left there on purpose. It was a joke, and not at all indicative of me not proofreading my posts, because proofreading is totally a thing that I do.
*I realize that I totally left that sentence hanging, but I’m not really sure how to fix it, so I’m just going to take the easy way out and lampshade it.

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