You’ve seen it everywhere – news, media, politicians, and parents who all swear on their life that if video games were removed from society, it would end gun crimes, violence, and homicides. Whether or not there is a measure of truth in this, those whose lives have been shaped by video games are thrown to the wayside. Very rarely do you hear a personal testimony of the industry’s goodness, and if you do, it’s because the conversation was prompted.
My definition of a gamer is this: Someone whose life was shaped, molded, and inspired by the gaming industry. While gaming throughout the years has changed me and continues to do so, most of us can agree that there is one game that is held near and dear. For me, that was Final Fantasy 7.
This is my story.
I was about 9 circa 1998 when my parents would drag me around to do errands. Whenever I would go to Circuit City or Best Buy, I always bee-lined straight to the musical instruments aisle. I would spend the whole time trying to learn the songs that were built into the keyboard’s library. Eventually, my parents bought me one of my own. To this day, it was the best thing they ever have done.
My older brother would play Final Fantasy 7 and I would always beg to sit and watch him play. I don’t know why, I just really wanted to. He hated the fact that whenever he was playing, I would ask him to watch, and with a disgruntled moan, he agreed. After weeks of doing this, there then came the scene of one of the most memorable cut-scenes in gaming history: Aeris’ death. Mouth agape, eyes peeled open, I watched as Cloud tried to kill her as she knelt in solemn, silent prayer. In one swift motion, from the darkness came Sephiroth with his katana, and without hesitation impaled Aeris. Her arms fell to her sides, motionless, and took her last breath. My mind fixated on the emotional storm that was now raging inside of me, allowing Aeris’ theme to embed itself into my head.
I was depressed for days, and at 10 years old, I couldn’t understand why. I didn’t think about it; I just knew I was upset. My dad tried to cheer me up, but his attempts were met with quiet shrugs. I played piano, but I would just plink them, not knowing what I was doing. A particular key that I hit was the same one that starts out Aeris’ Theme, so from there, I just figured out how the song went somehow. Matching the melody in my head to the instrument in front of me, I learned how to play the song. That was 14 years ago, and it’s because of Final Fantasy 7 that I am a pianist and currently a music teacher.
That was one chapter of my life.
Eventually I got tired of watching my brother and cousin play video games. It was my turn. I started Final Fantasy 7 from the beginning and it opened an impossible world that I could escape into when reality became chaotic. Throughout the hours spent on the game, so many scenes stuck in my head like a still image. At night, my mind would drift to the events that unfolded. Not too soon after I started playing the game, I was with my father and I told him I wanted a sketchbook. I never took an art class save for what was mandatory in school, and never doodled anything. It just hit me like a ton of bricks that this was what I wanted.
My father bought me a sketchbook. Nothing fancy – just something you would pick up at CVS. I sat down at my white desk one day, lights off except for my small desk lamp, and drew the back of the Final Fantasy 7 case. I didn’t stop there though; I drew Midgar in the background, and then drew the FF7 logo to try to make it look like a promotional flyer. At 10 years old, no experience, I thought my drawing was terrific.
I continued to make more – Aeris with her arms spread out and the Lifestream covering Midgar, Aeris and Red XIII in the Shinra building before she was about to be eaten, and everyone around the campfire in Cosmo Canyon. Soon enough, I couldn’t stop drawing and my sketchbook came with me everywhere I went. To this day, I still have a giant plastic box with all of my drawings and sketchbooks from when I first started out. My artistic skills have made me a great deal of money and also has become in decent demand within my friends and family.
I was enraptured by the story. Coming from playing simple and fun games like Sonic and Monopoly for the Genesis to grandeur worlds was something I had never imagined possible. I fell in love with each character and their contribution to the story, all the plot twists, the expositions, climaxes, and resolutions. When I beat a game, I felt accomplished, but I still yearned for more. This is not an uncommon feeling within the gaming community, I began to realize. By the time FF7 was complete, I had moved onto Tomb Raider, Chocobo’s Dungeon, Wild Arms, and Chrono Cross. Every game, every story – everything was always different and I couldn’t get enough.
AOL/AIM was the popular thing back in the day, and eventually I found out about chat-rooms. Some nice, some… well, questionable. I found a chat-room called the Dark Chocobo Knights (Final Fantasy X reference for those who haven’t played it), where people would role-play various Final Fantasy characters. For a while, I simply watched and tried to figure out what this trend was all about, and then I picked up on it. I could create my own fictional story with my favorite Final Fantasy character. For years, I role-played with the DCK and other forums, chat-rooms, and websites. Coupled with having a certain aficionado for reading, my diction and syntax within my short stories and poems became strong due to my constant role-playing.
The Jane of All Trades
Gaming shapes character, and I don’t think anyone could doubt that. It has won me a number of jobs due to confidence and my ability to speak, which only came from my ability to write, which only came from role-playing, which consequently was because of gaming. Aggression and competitiveness are prime traits a gamer gains. In addition to everything stated above, I model because I love to cosplay. I developed a love for theater because during my younger years, I took my online role-playing to reality, where a few of my like-minded friends would act in character when we hung out.
What It Come Down To Is…
… Gaming changed my life. It changed who I would have become if I was never introduced to this world. No words I could ever say would describe how vital video-games were and are to me. Frankly, the person I might have become might have been terrifying because of the different friends I would have surrounded myself with.
For those who agree with the politicians and activists that wish to eradicate gaming from society, please take heed to these words. To take things a step further, the gaming community saved me from breakdowns, freak outs, or worse. It was therapy. When my home was torn apart (as many homes are), I could escape somewhere else instead of covering my ears with a pillow. I made some of the best friends anyone could ever ask for.
To sum it up, video-games literally saved my life.
Everyone has a favorite teacher; that dedicated, funny, sympathetic role model who helped shape your formative years and provided comfort from the often callous and vicious world of school angst and the pitfalls of growing up. Think about that person for a moment, and what made them great. Picture them in your mind, hear the memory of their voice in your ears. Got a clear image of them? Good.
I bet your mental image looks nothing like this:
This man is Eikichi Onizuka, age 22, virgin, and for a class full of misfits and “social rejects,” he was that favorite teacher, the man who challenged and taught them all about the “real world.” How? By just being himself, and teaching them how NOT to act.
Great Teacher Onizuka was one of those “unlikely anime,” the type that is completely devoid of fantastic elements, lolicons, twenty minute power-ups and skimpy clothing, but still manages to pull the viewer in and keep them interested. Rather than deal with otherworldly enemies threatening human existence, it focused more on the trials and tribulations of being a high school student, which at times could be just as chaotic, and just as terrifying. It lacked “good guys” and “villains,” eschewing instead for a whole lot of gray-shaded cast members who were as petty as they were devoted to their jobs. In short, GTO (as it was so fondly referred to) was a sort of “dirty shonen” slice of life series, more concerned with its world and residents than impressing its reader base.
And that was not a bad thing at all.
A lot of that appeal centered around the aforementioned Onizuka, himself a social misfit more concerned with sex and violence than educating the youth of Japan. A former biker gang leader, he somehow managed to leave the “thug life” behind, enroll in a “5th rate college” and graduate with a degree in…something. You never really find out how studious he was, nor where his “academic” inclinations actually lie, given his preoccupation with porn, fighting and “keeping it real.” But next thing you see, he’s trying to find gainful employment, and failing miserably. Blame his bleached hair, his “yakuza tendencies” or the constant mountain of arrogance that he’s the proud king of, but poor Onizuka can’t seem to catch a break.
All that changes the day he meets, then loses, the “girl of his dreams:” a spunky high school student whom the future Great Teacher is absolutely positive he will finally lose his virginity to. And just as they’re about to do the deed, she literally jumps out a window and into the arms of another man. Who does he lose this wellspring of sexual energy to? Her high school teacher, a dumpy, bespectacled man with a sour face and apparently all the pull in the world. On that day, he swears to become the best teacher in Japan. Why? To get laid.
Let’s put aside the blatantly horrendous motivation for this decision, and focus on Onizuka for a moment. What does he have to offer his students? Forget about the three “R’s,” as Onizuka can barely read himself. Valuable lessons on life? Does one really want to accept the words of a “reformed” biker and generally viewed “lowlife?” Common sense? Not at all, since he’s doing this for the worst reason possible. For all intents and purposes, this man should never be anywhere near children, let alone given the task of teaching them. And yet, that’s exactly what he does.
Finally scoring a job at a prestigious private academy, Onizuka is immediately given the worst class in the school, made up of people either just like him, or well on their way to becoming just like him. Wannabe gang-bangers, unmotivated geniuses, promiscuous girls, awkward kids, and all manner of students who just don’t fit in. These are the students destined to fall through the cracks of the educational system, that the rest of the faculty have given up on, but can’t simply expel because their tuition checks have already been deposited. So, shunted off to the side and ignored, they plod through one ineffective teacher after another, until Eikichi ends up at their door one day, the latest in a long line of schmucks suckered into teaching the class. The “Great Teacher” brings in bluster in the door with him, trailing arrogance like a proud bridal train, ready to talk some “sense” into these students. How do they take to this new teacher, so completely “different” from any they have ever encountered before?
As far as they’re concerned, Onizuka isn’t any different from the others, except maybe that he’s dumber than any one of them, and starving for respect and attention. And they hate him.
Why? Because they can see right through him. They know he’s not a teacher. They know he only cares about having fun. From his “tough guy” facade to his horrible sense of humor, this is a man worthy of only their contempt, which they heap on him in droves. hell, the only reason he’s even in this class is because they’ve driven off every single other teacher assigned to them, and the administrators hope that they will do the same to Onizuka.
Until he starts saving them, one student at a time. Whether it’s giving them a reason to live, putting their problems into perspective, telling them to get over themselves (often with associated punches, kicks and getting his own ass handed to him), helping them get “revenge” on those who wronged them, teaching them to stand up for themselves or just not take any s**t from “the man,” the Great Teacher imparts whatever wisdom and street smarts he can, while often taking lumps and plenty of attitude along the way. It’s like the School of Hard Knocks, 90210-style.
His tenacity eventually overcomes even the most stubborn (or stuck up) of the students he encounters, and by year’s end, he manages to reform the worst class at the academy into something resembling a productive learning unit, while teaching even some of his “colleagues” the value of knowing themselves…or at least giving them lessons in self-extracting their heads from their own asses. A little humility goes a long way, and while Onizuka might not know the meaning of the word, he sure can impart its value on others.
That tenacity is the key to GTO’s appeal. Knowing from the outset that Eikichi Onizuka is an “eternal f**k-up who just doesn’t give a s**t” lends him a certain humanity that drives the story. You know he’s going to fail, yet you cheer for him anyway. When he occasionally succeeds, you celebrate with him. When he gets caught with his pants down (literally, on more than a few occasions), you feel for him, but also realize that it’s only going to make him more careful in the future. His crass manners have a certain charm to them, you root for him to find the “right girl,” and when he finally gets the better of his naysayers, you want to clap him on the back and buy him a drink.
Onizuka is the ultimate underdog. And like most underdogs, you want to see him win, regardless of whether its against “corrupt” educators, “conniving” students, or even his own shortcomings. You want Eikichi Onizuka to win. And I guess in that regard, he already has.
Gratuitous shot of…well, everything.
You can consumer GTO in a number of ways: the 1997-2002 manga, while out of print, is excellent. The 1999 anime is a faithful adaptation of the manga, and easier to track down. The 1998 J-Drama (with 99 sequel film) is a bit short on the plot, but the actor who plays Onizuka is phenomenal. Or you can look for the 2012 reboot. Honestly, it doesn’t matter: any version of GTO is worth consuming. Honestly, how many properties can say that these days? There is also a prequel manga “GTO: The Early Years,” and sequel”14 Days in Shonan,” both available now from Vertical Publishing.
It’s a time in which it has slowly gained more recognition, depending less on the 3D it marketed with, and focusing more on the games, that as most of us know, is the main focus AND the selling point of any system. Because some may not know this, but it had an abysmal start. A trend that other gaming devices followed, not learning from the mistake this particular handheld committed.
But we are not here to compare these systems, instead, I’d like to talk about what Nintendo did to dig themselves out of the hole they had sunk themselves into. It was an easy thing to do (albeit a somewhat risky decision) they lowered the price of the 3DS, allowing many to grab the system and increasing sales for an actual profit. But as it turns out, there was a small detail they hadn’t taken into account.
Only 4 months had passed since its original release, and of course, earlier adopters were furious.
So Nintendo did something odd; they announced something called the “Ambassadors Program” a sort of way to appease to those fans they had enraged by doing something so unexpected by, well, responding with something just as unexpected by giving the loyal fans free games.
20 games were given to these “ambassadors”, 10 NES games with titles such as the original Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda were part of that deal, but that’s not the focus here, since most fans were looking forward to the other 10 of the bunch: The Game Boy Advance titles.
This will be a weekly article, reviewing those games released for the system, that ideally, play like their original GBA counterparts. This will also be encouraging you, the readers, to perhaps find them and give them a chance if you can.
In any case, I will start today with my favorite game of the bunch – The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap.
Originally released for the GBA back in 2005, Minish Cap was the last title in the series to use the over the top perspective it had been known for, and unlike previous Zelda titles, it did not get the publicity it deserved, thanks to the Nintendo DS taking it away, since the system had just been released at the time. But 7 years later, thanks to the power of downloadable content, many of us were able to relive, or in the case of many, enjoy for the first time, this Zelda adventure.
The story starts with Princess Zelda visiting Link at his home, where she asks him to go with her to the Picori festival, an event that is celebrated every 100 years in the land of Hyrule. You spend the time hanging out with Zelda in the festival, looking around some knickknacks here and there, until you finally get your shield.
After the festival draws to an end, and a tournament (that happened off screen) winner has been declared, a ceremony is held for the winner, who is given the privilege to touch the Picori Sword as a special price, this is a sword that rests upon a tomb of sorts. But as it turns out, the winner is actually an evil mage by the name of Vaati, who opens the tomb, releasing monsters into the world, and then proceeds to turn Zelda into stone, defeating our hero while he is at it.
The Zelda story is slightly different, but the good ol’ Zelda staple remains: save the princess, save the world.
The game controls as well as any other Zelda title in the veil of Link to the Past, you move with the control pad, you assign items to buttons A and B, as well as having a roll with R to increase your speed and to dodge attacks faster, kind of like in Ocarina of Time.
But there is yet another element included in this title, and that is the Minish Cap (you know? The one from the title) and is a pivotal item of the game. On your way to the first dungeon, you find a lone talking hat being attacked by a pair of Octoroks, after saving it, it joins you (by riding Link‘s head and giving him his iconic green hat), and gives you the special ability to shrink down in size by stepping in special stumps.
This ability alone adds a clever integration of puzzles on dungeons, or even in the world itself. Being able to go through small holes in houses and finding small creatures called Picori (the same from the festival), or even activate a switch from another room, an entrance that the normal sized Link would never be able to get into, this alone creates a new way to navigate the temples.
As always, there are items, like the usual Boomerang, to Bow and Arrows, and of course, to newer items such as the Gust Jar, an item which you get in the first dungeon that allows you to absorb dust, shells from enemies, or even travel in lily pads One thing I like about the items in this game, is that they are used outside of the dungeons they came from and are actually useful in getting to different areas, unlike other games in the series where once they are used in the dungeon, and then they are useless pretty much everywhere else… I’m looking at you Twilight Princess and Spinner.
On the graphical side, this game brings the art style of the Wind Waker to the portable system, and it fits the game well, creating colorful environments, and even giving the enemies and NPCs a certain charm of their own.
The music isn’t necessarily memorable as it just is… There. Outside the classic Zelda overworld theme, a few tracks come to mind in terms of how memorable they are. It’s not the best Zelda music, but it has its moments.
As all Zelda titles, this game has some good replay value, whether it’s getting the usual pieces of heart, or getting Kinstone pieces, which are gems to fuse with NPC characters, affecting the world somehow, whether it is opening a secret cave, or paving the way to a piece of heart. You can also spend your time looking for the Tiger Scrolls, which allow you to do more advanced combat techniques. And lastly, the figurine collection minigame, in which you use shells and bet them to get new figurines that give some small backstory and details about the characters in the game. So as you can see, there are a few things that will keep you occupied even after the game is done
Another thing I’d like to add, is that this game was developed not by Nintendo, but by Capcom, and I must say they did a fantastic job with it. I hope they work on at least another title in the series.
Now, while this game is great, it has its small share of flaws, or must I say nitpicks from my part. There are only 5 dungeons in the game plus the final dungeon, making it a bit shorter than others, not to mention its difficulty. I was not particularly confused on any of its puzzles, and heck, I did not die even once when fighting against enemies… UNLESS you count the time I attacked a cucco, it’s sort of sad that they are the most threatening enemy in the entire game.
Overall, this game is fun, and while it may be an easy game, it is a pleasure to play, not to mention that it is accessible to newcomers thanks to said difficulty. But if you are one who has not liked Zelda and its previous releases such as Link to the Past or Link’s Awakening, this won’t appeal to you. Still, I say you are missing something good here.
A story written based off the Chinese classic, “Outlaws of the Water Marsh” by Shi Nai’an & Luo Guanzhong. The story revolves around a brotherhood and the circumstances that destine them to become heroes for the people in the most extraneous circumstances. When corrupt governments foul the land, and bandits rove the countryside terrorizing the people, and government officials skimming off the top while others starve. The Brotherhood of the Outlaws of the Marsh will respond with Justice. It’s a great book; read it however you can get your hands on it.
Suikoden is loosely based off the novel mentioned above, but it takes the best elements of the story and turned it into an amazing story, with colorful characters, back story of the more important ones, fleshed out history and simply, just amazing writing. The basis of the Suikoden series: The main hero, being thrust into circumstances out of his/her control and their destiny, pushing them towards the final confrontation with the overarching Big Bad of the story. The game has produced many installments in the series, albeit, in a weird chronological order, but they all have their place. And here is the timeline for the main 5: Suikoden IV (143 years before Suikoden V & 150 years before Suikoden) ? Suikoden V (6 years before Suikoden) ? Suikoden (3 years before Suikoden II) ? Suikoden II (15 years before Suikoden III) ? Suikoden III. I’ll be primarily focusing on the main Suikoden titles mentioned in the timeline.
The story does follow a pattern, which I realized as I was writing this. The unlikely hero, has a traumatic event sparked by the all encompassing, all-powerful True Rune. And the True Rune is the catalysis for the Big Bad’s organization or their anger, to allow the government to be toppled or supplanted with their own. And during that time of consolidation or advancement by the Big Bad, the hero and his crew are forced into exile, to regroup and to take the fight back to the Big Bad. But it’s never an easy road, riddled with the deaths of loved ones, betrayal, sacrifice, and more. Each of these events in the game’s story is never seen coming, and simply just well written and timing, pinpoint. But all the troubles of the World, come down to the True Runes, and them controlling inadvertently and sometimes, on purpose the World’s events. But in the end, the Hero emerges victories, changing the country for the better.
You know how there are hidden gems on each system, no matter the generation. And how everybody has their own hidden gems that they still own, even though they don’t have the system anymore. Mine is the Suikoden Series along with a slew of others. Which, hopefully I’ll get to talk about, eventually. But Suikoden II was the first one I played, but I played them out of order. But the story of Suikoden II, drew me in. It wasn’t the graphics even though, it was during the PlayStation era. Sadly, as I was approaching the conflict with the Matilda Knightdom, my game disc froze. Never to be played again, and couldn’t do anything. But then Christmas rolled around and I got Suikoden. And I’ve been a fan since that day and even though Konami has broken up the developing team, it’d be amazing if they did make another main series Suikoden title, instead of side stories.
As I mentioned before, the game isn’t built on amazing graphics and over the top visuals. The backbone of the game is its story and colorful cast of 108 characters and even the villains, depending on the game, you begin to feel for them, and slightly want them to survive, but then they do something that screws the hero over. But the graphics that it uses, for the first 2 games on the PS1 and the next 3 on the PS2, make sense and even with the dip in 3 and 4, and upping the ante in 5, it still made each game worth playing and permanently on my shelf. For instance, in Suikoden, they have almost cheesie, 8-bit graphics, but not exactly there. But it worked, and it made the game more about the story and the loss, than oooo shiny.
The graphics didn’t take away from the gameplay and it being your six party members with varying ranges they attack from. Like Flik, the Blue Lightning, is a short range attacker, while Tir, the Hero, is a medium range. This allows Flik to be in the front rank and Tir to occupy the front or back rank. Combinations come into with new, pre-existing or old relationships within the story. It gives it an added sense of strategy in the battles. Moving along with battles, you’re also fighting in a war, and as you have these major battles, and in each, they are unique, with a rock-paper-scissors feel. Within the first, Charge loses to Defend, Attack loses to Charge, and Defend loses to Attack. But it’s never a set pattern and no two times are alike, which gave the game a great randomness to the battles in the war, even though you can just save before the battle and redo it. But just as the story is the filling, the characters are the pie crust.
This is one of the most phenomenal games I’ve ever played ever. This is a diamond in the rough. To me this was one of SquareSoft’s best games ever.
The games story revolves around these mysterious items called Relics. Relics are magical items that all have different powers and properties. The two 2 protagonists, Rue trying to Resurrect a dead friend and Mint trying to rule the world. Both of their personalities are vastly different, which fit the game perfect for the other characters and antagonist they meet.
The gameplay is pretty solid and simple with a few flaws. Its a platform/hack-and-slash game, if you were to compare it to another game the best way to compare it is Kingdom Hearts 1. The menu in this game you never ever really need to go to. You buy items to increase your attack and defense but that’s about it. No potions or elixirs, but if you die you can use these coins you can buy or find to bring you back to life with a certain MP. Character skills vary for whoever you play with. Rue can transform into enemies he defeats and gain there abilities and attacks, while Mint gains magic throughout the story and finding scrolls. An interesting concept with the game is the Health/Magic system. The more you get hit the more your total HP increases, where as the more you use magic the more your total MP goes up. The A.I. isn’t really anything to worry about, pretty simple and bosses aren’t too hard or annoying.
The bad thing about the gameplay is the camera angle. Depending on your area you can be in a 2D, Streets of Rage like area, or full 3D, to a Crash Bandicoot like angles. With the camera switching it can make jumps harder then it needs to be. If you can get past that you will enjoy this game like no other if you cant…then you wont.
The visuals for a PSX game are pretty good. Every character and npc have the same physical attributes just scaled smaller or larger. No go into cutscene then cutscene graphics (all the same graphics) The special effects for the game are nice but not astounding. The explosion effects aren’t top notch either. The buildings and atmosphere aren’t too bad for a PSX game but nothing amazing.
Now the music, however, will grab you and fit every situation you tend to be in during the game. Every single area of the game has a different music or musics depending on the stage. Also the boss music changes and gets more epic to show the extremeness of the fight going on.
I went out of order but I have to rebring up the story. The plot twist and character development are amazing. How different every character in the game is, is just amazing. One of the bosses is a guy that reads books, and his power is to be able to learn whatever he reads and its characters like that that just compelled me to play the game even more. I love seeing actual legit character development in games instead of a powerup or another mode but actual progression. The game just makes you feel accomplished to play it.
The replay value is high for this game as well. After you beat it you can play the game again with the other character to get the true/final ending!. AND after THAT you can play the game again with your super powered up/powerful characters.
In conclusion. I definitely say if you like RPG/action/platformers this is for you without a doubt.
Replay Value: 9/10
To be completely honest I am going to give this game 2 total grades. The first one is for the game as a whole. If you can get past the camera angle then it gets a 8/10 but, if you cant then it gets a 6.5/10.
Nights Into Dreams came out in 1996 for the Sega Saturn. My memories of the game involved begging my mother to take me to Toys R Us so I could play for an hour or so each visit (for a few weeks) on the demo set up in the video game section. It was with an excitement bred of nostalgia that I anticipated this HD update, remembering a game with a soaring purple jester-woman that I loved so much.
As I started playing the game this weekend, I realized one very important fact, a fact a few others who played the game mentioned realizing as well: I had no frikkin clue what I was doing when I played this game as a child. No clue. I did not know the story, I did not know that my goal was to attain 20 blue crystals to restore my stolen Ideyas – none of that.
Playing this game as an adult was a very different experience for me. Overall, this is not a game I would have picked up for myself as an adult if I’d never played it as a child. It is hard, repetitive and strange. It is also glorious, original and deceptively rewarding.
Haha what’s that? Just kidding. There is a plot, but it must have been explained in the game’s insert because it sure isn’t explained well in the game. You control Claris and Elliot, two children who fail at their “dream”. That night, they both dream about Nights, a Nightmaren resident of Dreamtopia, who needs their help to stop the evil wizard Wiseman.
My first discovery upon reading up on some wikis: Nights is actually not mentioned as being male or female, and is rather androgynous. I remember really enjoying that I got to play as a girl, and then also as a beautiful purple girl. I appreciate their technique even more now. This was a game that both boys and girls could play. It didn’t exclude anyone, and I really appreciate that kind of forward thinking in such an old game.
Starting this new HD version up, you will be given the choice to play the remastered version or the Sega Saturn version. They are the same as far as I can tell, but the remastered one is prettier and less clunky looking so I recommend choosing the remastered version. You can save the other version for when you want to show off to your kids “back in myyyy day graphics were horrible and people’s feet were the biggest parts of their bodies nyah nyah” etc.
Another cool little detail is that your save counts for both versions. In other words, if you start with the old version then decide you want to see the new version, you don’t lose any progress. I switched between the two a few times to get a sense for the difference and it kept track of where I was just fine.
As for the gameplay itself, it will take some getting used to if you haven’t played it in a while. This game was basically a 3D world on rails. With all of the 3D we are used to nowadays, it was very jarring not to be able to get to things I was seeing in the background. I got some pretty low scores the first few runs because it confused me into flying in circles like a lost fly.
Switching between Claris and Elliot, I honestly found Elliot’s levels to be a little bit harder. The final level, which you only unlock after getting at least a C in all of the other levels (another plot detail NOT revealed in the actual game) is the same for both Elliot and Claris. I played about 3 times with Elliot and couldn’t beat it before time ran out. I beat it the first time with Claris. I went BACK after beating the game to play again with Elliot and still couldn’t beat it in time. Very peculiar.
The boss fights are initially difficult, until you figure out what in the world you should be doing or in case you accidentally do the exact manuever necessary to kill them. While it was annoying as heck to watch the clock tick down as you helplessly tried one or two things (and even more annoying to see the hint that tells you how to beat the boss AFTER you die the first time and have to replay the entire level before you can get to the boss) it also felt MUCH more rewarding when you finally beat the boss with a decent score.
My favorite boss was the bouncing lady that I got to toss all over the place. It was a really fun and memorable fight, even if it was the easiest boss.
Grades matter in this game, because you will not be able to unlock the last stages until you get at least straight Cs. Want to know how to do it? I honestly can’t tell you. I played each level over and over until I was magically awarded a higher number. Maybe you can figure it out lol.
As a child, with a limited set of needs, I could play the same level over and over again no problem… as an adult this was infuriating. Until I beat it, and felt rewarded for all that time spent doing the same, repetitive levels. Then after beating them all, I suddenly wanted more levels to play!
In all, the game took about 5 hours to beat, and that was with me playing the levels over and over to get a better grade.
The final boss was oddly easy. What was really cool is that your friend (whichever character you are not playing) swoops in and joins you in the fight as a second Nights. This brought up the interesting idea of making this game multiplayer. How much more fun would it be to fly around these levels with a friend? Uber-fun, like the Christmas one. I still enjoyed seeing them think of that little detail to add to the final battle. In general I found it pretty creative that they had two characters doing separate dream tracks and then joining together at the end.
Learning Curve and Fun Factor
The learning curve is probably steeper for adults than young children. We think about the game, we try to get high scores and find secret paths. Kids are going to enjoy flying around in loops until things happen. The game is not as fun to me as an adult, because it is difficult and repetitive. Yet it is, as I’ve mentioned, ultimately rewarding, leaving me satisfied that I played. Would I go back and try to get Bs and As? No. This is a game I will probably never pick up again. But one thing is for certain: playing this game, you will know that this was a true classic and visionary game for its time.
Already a fan? Get this game and relive your childhood. If you are not a fan and the price sounds steep, you may want to skip it unless short, on-rail-games are your thing.
A hardcore gamer used to mean someone who played a variety of games because the welcomed the challenge and different game play experiences that the world of gaming offers. Today the so-called hardcore gamer is someone who is loyal to a gaming genre or franchise and doesn’t want to play anything that is not gritty and dirty. They are also people who are so loyal to their favorite consoles or gaming genre that everything that is not what they like, are regarded sub-par and not worthy of a single look. This contrast could be the fault of the game makers who are after the next big game or there is truly no creativity in gaming anymore.
Back during the mid 1980’s through the mid 1990’s Nintendo could basically do no wrong. Nintendo had some of the best companies in the world working on some of the best games in the history of video games. The Game Boy was the best-selling handheld gaming device in history. Most Hardcore gamers had the Nintendo Entertainment System, The Super Nintendo and a Game Boy and enjoyed the games on all three platforms.
Now in the mid 1990’s The Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation consoles were released and brought CD based Gaming to the mainstream. Those consoles changed the way video games looked and sounded with the advanced CD technology in the hardware. The hardcore gamers were seeing games in a whole new light. Then came the Nintendo 64 system, and that is the day the love died for most hardcore gamers.
Deny it if you want, but when Nintendo announced that they did not choose the CD format because of loading times and they were going to stick with cartridges some fans abandoned them. Some of the “hardcore” gamers never went back. In the eyes of the hardcore, Nintendo dropped the ball and they were from that day on, a generation behind. However, in the grand history of video games, the Nintendo 64 was a gaming marvel. If not for the N64, there would be no Goldeneye 007, Super Mario 64, Super Smash Brothers, The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time or Mario Party. These are games that broke the mold as far as game design and game play mechanics.
Super Mario 64 is the blueprint for all modern platformers.
Super Mario 64 was the blueprint for the 3D platformer. Goldeneye 007 single-handedly brought the first console first person shooter into the mainstream, until Halo on the original Xbox. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time helped mold the 3D action adventure genre into what it is today. Super Smash Brothers and Mario Party both were a phenomenon like no other and they have both spawned numerous clones. However some hardcore gamers couldn’t get past the cartridge hump. Which, in this writer’s opinion, doesn’t make them hardcore at all. With that being said, let’s move on.
Enter the GameCube. Now this was the last time that a Nintendo console was technically comparable or superior to the competing consoles. The PlayStation 2 and Xbox dominated that generation with the third party support. The GameCube had great games like Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil Zero and the remake of the first Resident Evil game. They also had Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, Killer 7, Skies of Arcadia Legends, Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes, and the Metroid Prime series. Other games like Super Mario Sunshine and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess would have been included in that list, but those are not considered hardcore because they are not M-rated.
This is one of the best GameCube games you didn’t buy.
Next is the first lightning rod of all the hardcore Nintendo hate, The Nintendo Wii. Now it is a popular saying among gamers that the Wii console is for your grandmother, little kids or casual gamers. This author begs to differ. The Nintendo Wii DOES have some hardcore games, you just need to open your eyes and look. Games like Sin and Punishment: Star Successor, Madworld, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, Donkey Kong Country Returns, No More Heroes, and many more. Most of these games were overlooked by the so-called “hardcore gamers” because these were franchises that were not established. That is the fault of the gamers not being willing to try anything new.
Another Wii game many of you slept on.
Let us turn to the Nintendo 3DS/DS. This is one of the highest and fastest selling handhelds in history. With that being stated, The Sony PlayStation Portable was considered the handheld for hardcore gamers. The Nintendo DS outsold the PSP in the US at a ratio of 4 to 1. The thing about the DS/3DS was the fact that many of the classic gaming franchises we consider hardcore we released on the device. Titles like Contra, Metroid, Castlevania, Chrono Trigger, and The Zelda and Mario series helps keep the DS/3DS in the hands of the hardcore gamer who likes true portable gaming. The unique game play styles the DS/3DS gives us is one of the main reasons the handheld does so well.
Now, the second lightning rod of Nintendo hate, the Wii U. A console that is not released yet, but already has the hardcore gamers generally dismissing Nintendo. Some gamers have even suggested that Nintendo set the gaming generation out because in their eyes Nintendo is dead and buried. More suggest that Nintendo go the route that Sega has gone, third-party developer. Both are nonsense, in this author’s opinion. What most of these gamers don’t realize is the Wii U is made for us core/hardcore gamers. It has HD graphics for the graphic whores and even a new pro controller for traditional game control. After Nintendo gave you all that now you are complaining about the games. Have we become a nation of whiny gamers? That is for another editorial by this same author.
Hardcore Gamers think this is the only cool game for the Wii U.
Now with all of that said, the hardcore gamer still questions the relevance of Nintendo. While their consoles and companies of choice have been playing catch up with the innovation of Nintendo, now the hardcore are throwing stones and the Wii U and now at the 3DS. This practice is sad by this author’s standard. While Nintendo is finally catching up to Microsoft and Sony on a graphical level, Sony and Microsoft have not caught up to Nintendo on an innovative level. So is the Wii U the console that will both innovate and satisfy the graphic whores? It will probably not. One thing it will do is get even more people enjoying the gaming experience in other ways than currently available. As previously stated, the thing about the Wii U is that it was made with the hardcore gamer in mind. This is the Nintendo console for you. The fact the Nintendo made a Classic Controller Pro is proof of that.
Hopefully this editorial doesn’t come off as a fan-boy rant. It is not intended to seem that way. All companies and consoles deserve their shine and when a segment of society bashes them without an informed opinion, it is not fair. The bottom line is, Nintendo has always had the games and the audience. Many of you have grown up with Nintendo. The problem is many of you are not growing with Nintendo. Nintendo never abandoned the hardcore gamer, it is the other way around.
This game is not considered a hardcore game. Why not revisit it and see for yourself?
Modern day fans of anime take a lot of things for granted. Like access. While today it’s a simple matter to just log online and visit sites like Hulu and Crunchyroll to sate a fix for some animated goodness, back in the day it was a bit harder. Especially when television was the main outlet of consumption, and you were at the mercy of whatever Toonami or the *shudder* FoxBox decided to air. And doubly so if you were a fan of a particular genre of anime.
Back in the late 90s, this was the case for the budding mecha fan I was becoming. I knew of Gundam Wing, and through that a bit of the Gundam franchise, but I was blissfully ignorant of the rest of the wide world of giant robots, heroes and damsels, and wars to end all wars. So it made sense that I would be drawn to Wing for its military overtones, interesting characters and flashy battle sequences. And when I was done with Wing, I had few options save to watch it again.
And then I discovered Escaflowne. While casually flipping through Saturday morning cartoons, trying to find something to watch for the next hour or two, I landed on Fox of all channels and caught the openings minutes of something with giant robots, knights, dragons and some girl caught in the middle. That was all I really needed to get hooked.
Vision of Escaflowne was the second mecha series I ever watched, and from the outset I knew it would bare minimal resemblance to Gundam Wing. No clusters of pretty-boy pilots (but more than a few bishounen badasses), no politically savvy young heroines or eccentric scientists with axes to grind and mountains of invulnerable metal to work with. Oppressive regimes were there, but they’re part of every mecha franchise when you think about it. And the suit designs, a mix of old medieval armor with some modern edges, were close enough to angels and shinigami for me to appreciate them. But that was about as close to the mecha I was used to as it got.
Escaflowne is rather unique in its interpretation and storytelling, preferring to take only minimal science fiction elements while weaving a complex world that would feel more at home in an old Squaresoft game, or someone’s low-tech Dungeons and Dragons campaign. While mobile suits exist, they are few and far between on the mystic moon of Gaea, and those that do exist outside of the powerfully advanced Zaibach Empire are prized above any other weapon. And make no mistake, these suits, called Guymelefs, are little more than fancy suits or armor used exclusively for combat…at least when the series begins.
Dullindau: This guy would make a therapist crazy rich.
The delicate balance of nations on the mystic moon becomes threatened when the Zaibachs, borrowing a page from pretty much every other “big mecha baddie” on record, decide to conquer the entirety of Gaea. And, fitting the notion that they alone deserve to rule, they have the best suits, the most ruthless pilots and the biggest military, easily crushing the other nations and forcing pledges of fealty from defeated rulers. Anyone currently watching Game of Thrones could appreciate the ruthlessness of the Zaibachs, draw parallels between the subtle politics of betrayal and honor, and throw support behind the hopelessly outmatched kingdoms of Gaea as one by one they are overwhelmed and subjugated.
At the same time, Escaflowne draws heavily from mysticism and magic, presenting an interesting blend of old world Tibetan mythology with the divining tools of the Tarot. On Gaea, card readings have power, even influencing the outcome of events, and revealing the nature of upcoming conflicts. Honor and duty are put into stark contrast as plot developments introduce new characters, explain relationships of older characters, and force hard decisions to be made, often with only a vague notion of the consequences.
At the middle of this milieu is the stranded Hitomi, a resident of Earth, pulled into Gaea when a dragon attacks her school. Hitomi has visions, knows the cards well, and serves as the linchpin holding the fragmented resistance forces together. As an outsider, she sees and experiences things the residents of Gaea take for granted, and offers as much help as any “mundane” human can, powerless as she is in the face of warring kingdoms, political subterfuge and matters of the heart. While not the sole “human” member of the cast, much of what the viewer sees and understands comes through Hitomi’s eyes- she has to struggle to accept a world far different from her own, while trying her hardest not to stand out, despite being the stranger in the room. Her need to balance conflicting emotions while still remaining as level-headed as possible is something any viewer can relate to, and in turn grants her more sympathy than an Asuke or a Relena. She is both the odd-girl-out and the every-girl, occupying two very different, yet challenging positions at the same time.
Knights become dragons, heroes fight and die, and kingdoms rise and fall as the series veers off from the usual tropes and ventures into high fantasy and adventure, while still maintaining a swift pace that easily suits marathoning episodes. And then it ends, leaving the viewer with a mix of emotion and satisfaction, and a yearning for more. Vision of Escaflowne is an interesting entry into the giant robot genre, to say the least, because it chooses to eschew those tropes and embrace new ideas. While this might seem more commonplace in the modern arena of anime series, at the time this was still largely untested water, especially when licensing the show for US audiences. And, despite some of the heavy criticism leveled at Fox for “butchering” the content and producing a “questionable” dub, the show holds up remarkable well 15 years after its first airing- something many other series of its time have trouble doing.
So if you are ever in the market for something old-school, with 90s animation, an interesting narrative and plenty of action, Vision of Escaflowne is a worthy choice. You will not be disappointed.
Oh, there's also a cat girl in this show…no idea why, really. A lot of late 90s anime had them for some reason.
If you haven’t seen RUROUNI KENSHIN on Toonami or the original Samurai X yet, or both now available on DVD,your missing out on one of the most beloved Action Anime series of all time and this Summer Warner Bros and Studio Swan are set to bring this classic to the big screen.
The movie stars Takeru Satoh (Know for his role in the long running Kamen Rider Den-O) as Kenshin as well as other big name Japanese actors. The Folks at Studio Swan are really pulling out all of the stops for this movie and it looks like they are trying to make this into a full blow series. Either way the movie looks like its going to be a blast and we at ROG hope that the movie is brought stateside and released on Blu-Ray and DVD if they don’t bring as a theatrical release. Stay to for more updates on this story as they develop.
With a new year in full swing, it’s time for us to step back and assess our faults and weaknesses, as well as how we can improve ourselves. However, if you’re making the same old resolutions year after year and nothing’s changing maybe it’s time to make some new resolutions. So instead of promising to lose weight or get a boyfriend/girlfriend (again), it’s time for some REAL change. Here are my recommendations.
1. Watch an anime a day: By that I mean watch an episode everyday. The busy person needs a chance to relax, and a 30 minute break is a good way to recharge and get back into action. Plus, if you have more free time or nothing to do, instead of wasting time scrolling through Facebook you can do something you actually enjoy. Plus most of the time, it’s FREE! Funimation and Anime Network have YouTube channels you can watch entire seasons of anime from, with sub and dub options and sometimes high definition. And if there’s something you can’t find, some libraries have many anime options.
Those are just the DVDs that make up an entire season. And all the ones available are nothing compared to legal anime on Youtube.
2. Read a manga per week: Don’t forget about manga! Read a manga in your free time or before going to bed. Surprisingly, some libraries have a wide selection of manga, mostly really popular manga but also some lesser known but nonetheless great manga. Or pay homage to the culture and buy some for yourself.
3. A change of clothes: By that I mean if you’ve worn the same shirts for more than three years, it’s time to buy some new ones. With Internet shopping and after Christmas sales it’s easy to overload on pop culture and video game shirts without breaking the bank.
HA! Obscure references.
4. Redo your room: Buy posters of your fave anime characters. Get some shelves to display those figurines. Arrange your video game collection and get those clothes off the floor. And maybe let some natural light in before you forget natural light exists.
I would post a picture of my real room, but I don't want to traumatize innocent people.
5. Go to a real life nerdy event once a month: You only live once, so make this the year you begin truly breaking out of your shell. By going somewhere where people like you are gathered, you open yourself up to new encounters. Plus you have fun! When I began participating in the nerd scene, I realized how much I was missing out on, and I wanted to tell everyone I knew they had to get out there. So get out there and attend conventions, Nerdcore concerts, zombie walks, collectibles shows, the possibilities are endless! Look for events on social media, check out events other nerdy friends talk about, check out the Animecon website to look for cons, Google for events, whatever you do just do it. This might just become the best promise you’ve ever made to yourself, but you won’t know until you’ve tried it.
The joys of living. I'm in there, somewhere.
Happy New Year everyone! I truly hope the next year is your best and following also, on behalf of everyone here at Real Otaku Gamer.