Madness Returns, in more ways than one.

You know what's funny? I recall my brother having some computer trouble around the time he first bought American McGee's Alice, so much so that he had to get it repaired. Now here I am, having trouble using my laptop when I am in the middle of playing Alice: Madness Returns, and I want to finish it, but I can't.

I would like to write something on the game, and point out that I find its mechanics dull and repetitive, but like I said, I haven't finished it. I had my computer wiped the other day and I lost my save file, which led me to download a completed save file off some website, and I made a little more progress that way. With fully upgraded gear and lots of health, I was breezing through the game...but then my laptop had trouble booting again for reasons I'm not smart enough to understand. My feelings for Madness Returns mirror my feelings for the first game - aesthetically, it's impressive, but I feel bored playing it, especially in long stretches. This opens up some other debate on whether a boring game is worth sitting through if you're engaged in the story, and I don't have an easy answer for that. There are times where I'm able to overlook some of those problems, and other times where I'm so uninterested I set it aside and might get back to it later. Off the top of my head, I resumed my Fragile Dreams and Final Fantasy XIII save this month. Both are games I had started, but lost interest in and dedicated time to other games I found more enjoyable.

So, these are games that try to sell you on their story, or at least they should. I can't really explain it, either. I enjoyed Killer 7, but I couldn't stand Deadly Premonition. Why? I dunno, I'm too lazy to come up with an explanation. Yeah, this blog isn't gonna be as thought provoking as some of my other ones....

I spent some time looking at this NeoGaf thread and started making my own weird "mirrored-box art" pictures. This is what happens when I can't play games!

Start the Conversation

Quick Thoughts: ICO

I just finished ICO, which I played in the HD PS3 re-release. I had started the game a couple times before on PS2, but I never finished it. I recall that the first time I played it I had gotten stuck during one of the puzzles, and in the second time I didn’t beat it because the GameFly disc would freeze past a certain area. I still enjoyed the game, although guiding Yorda can take some patience.

ICO was originally released on the same day as that PS2 Spy Hunter reboot, and I remember this because my brother chose the latter over ICO on launch day. What interests me about ICO was how the game has very little dialogue, and because of that, I find the game more aesthetically pleasing than Shadow of the Colossus. While the “game” aspect of Shadow of the Colossus is more engaging, I appreciate ICO more from an artistic perspective, although I’m hardly an artistic scholar to comment on those merits. Anyway, considering how cluttered some interfaces are in modern games, the minimalist approach is a pleasant change. The experience reminds me of 2010’s Limbo, and though the two games have very different art styles, the mechanics and silent atmosphere are comparable. You could argue Limbo takes the abstract approach a step further, since ICO does have some dialog in it, and a clearer narrative.

How does ICO hold up? I’m not very good at puzzle games, and ICO doesn’t have a hint system. I had forgotten about how you needed to light up a bomb to destroy a column, for example. The combat is also pretty bland, and is mostly there to slow you down from making progress. I still think the game holds up visually. The thing about the pseudo-language is that it does have a tendency to repeat during gameplay, which can get repetitive, but I recall it being more distracting in Shadow of the Colossus. It is essentially one giant escort mission, but Yorda isn’t going to make you reach a ‘Game Over’ screen unless you get careless. What bothered me mostly about Yorda was how slow she was at responding during certain areas, such as climbing up ladders.

I still like ICO, and I do think it’s worth playing through, especially since it isn’t very long. Still, I’m feeling skeptical on whether The Last Guardian is ever going to be released.

Start the Conversation

Anime Los Angeles Convention (1/7/2012)

Anime Los Angeles 2012 was held this weekend over at the Hotel Marriott, near LAX. This was my second anime convention, and it was similar to my experience at Anime Expo 2011, except this one was a smaller venue with less people. There was still a wide variety of cosplayers at the event, some interesting panels, and exhibits selling art and collectibles. I don’t know as much about anime as some of the people I’ve met here on GiantBomb, but I’m still fascinated by the atmosphere these events have.

Ryu and Guile playing Street Fighter...

Unlike Anime Expo, there seems to be a bigger emphasis on cosplay at this event. The information packet I received included a schedule of when and where to expect gatherings of a certain series or franchise. I went to the Persona gathering, and I was hoping someone would compliment my Whiskey Media shirt, but no luck there. Even if you don’t watch anime, you’ll still see superhero and video game outfits, and even some more random stuff like people trying to embody internet memes. I don’t think I’d ever cosplay, but the amount of dedication and creativity put into these outfits is admirable. I’m not sure how I’d react to having strangers approach me for a picture frequently, but I imagine I’d be uncomfortable with the spotlight.

What about the panels? They were much smaller, and usually less crowded than the ones I went to see at Anime Expo. The Guest of Honor was Stan Sakai, the creator of Usagi Yojimbo. I briefly attended his panel, but soon headed out to make my way to “Voice Acting Tricks of the Trade”, featuring Chris Cason, Kyle Hebert, Jessica Straus, Cristina Vee, Kaiji Tang, Jon Allen, and Derek Stephen Prince. I didn’t recognize most of the panelists by name, but thankfully the information packet and website had info on their major works. These voice actors discussed their works in anime and video games, how they got started, and funny moments they remember. There was the usual Q&A session, in which one attendant asked the panelists if there was a role they wished they could go back and redo, or if there was one they were not proud of, to which Derek Stephen Prince said that he worked on a hentai. Prince said he blocked out of his memory what the title of project was when asked, but now that I have access to his IMDB page, it was called Sins of the Flesh. I suppose it’s funny to see that next to his other works, which include a lot of Digimon and Kingdom Hearts.

A friend once told me that I have the same personality of Crona from Soul Eater.

The hotel itself was nice, although it took me a bit to get used to finding my way around. There was a nice swimming pool area outside, where most of the cosplay gatherings took place, and there were some complimentary snacks for the attendants. It got a little chilly there during the afternoon, and I was pretty exhausted at that time from. The last panel I went to was Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 “Assist Me” Panel, which got a little into the history of these guys’ YouTube series, and what they plan for the future. This was by far the most crowded of the panels I saw.

I overheard one cosplayer say, "Parents are gonna sit here and wonder 'where did I go wrong?'

That about does it for Anime Los Angeles. I was pretty tired by the last panel, so I didn’t stick around for much longer than that. I’m planning on going to Anime Expo 2012, and hopefully I’ll be able to endure standing and walking around for more than one day. You can see random footage at the event at the bottom of this post!

Miscellaneous thoughts:

- I overheard a Mike Haggar cosplayer saying that he brought a metal pipe as a prop but they wouldn’t let him bring it in.

- I should probably buy a better camera if I’m going to keep going to these things. And get better at editing these videos.

- I didn’t realize the limitations to street pass, so I only received ten tags for the entire event. I’m told I need to let some more in manually via that Mii channel in-between passes.

- It’s a good thing I brought cash for parking.

- made me talk to Cristina Vee (voice actress for Noel Vermillion from BlazBlue) and record this:

11 Comments

Anime Los Angeles (1/7/2012)

Anime Los Angeles 2012 was held this weekend over at the Hotel Marriott, near LAX. This was my second anime convention, and it was similar to my experience at Anime Expo 2011, except this one was a smaller venue with less people. There was still a wide variety of cosplayers at the event, some interesting panels, and exhibits selling art and collectibles. I don’t know as much about anime as some of the people I’ve met here on GiantBomb, but I’m still fascinated by the atmosphere these events have.

Ryu and Guile playing Street Fighter...

Unlike Anime Expo, there seems to be a bigger emphasis on cosplay at this event. The information packet I received included a schedule of when and where to expect gatherings of a certain series or franchise. I went to the Persona gathering, and I was hoping someone would compliment my Whiskey Media shirt, but no luck there. Even if you don’t watch anime, you’ll still see superhero and video game outfits, and even some more random stuff like people trying to embody internet memes. I don’t think I’d ever cosplay, but the amount of dedication and creativity put into these outfits is admirable. I’m not sure how I’d react to having strangers approach me for a picture frequently, but I imagine I’d be uncomfortable with the spotlight.

What about the panels? They were much smaller, and usually less crowded than the ones I went to see at Anime Expo. The Guest of Honor was Stan Sakai, the creator of Usagi Yojimbo. I briefly attended his panel, but soon headed out to make my way to “Voice Acting Tricks of the Trade”, featuring Chris Cason, Kyle Hebert, Jessica Straus, Cristina Vee, Kaiji Tang, Jon Allen, and Derek Stephen Prince. I didn’t recognize most of the panelists by name, but thankfully the information packet and website had info on their major works. These voice actors discussed their works in anime and video games, how they got started, and funny moments they remember. There was the usual Q&A session, in which one attendant asked the panelists if there was a role they wished they could go back and redo, or if there was one they were not proud of, to which Derek Stephen Prince said that he worked on a hentai. Prince said he blocked out of his memory what the title of project was when asked, but now that I have access to his IMDB page, it was called Sins of the Flesh. I suppose it’s funny to see that next to his other works, which include a lot of Digimon and Kingdom Hearts.

A friend once told me that I have the same personality of Crona from Soul Eater.

The hotel itself was nice, although it took me a bit to get used to finding my way around. There was a nice swimming pool area outside, where most of the cosplay gatherings took place, and there were some complimentary snacks for the attendants. It got a little chilly there during the afternoon, and I was pretty exhausted at that time from. The last panel I went to was Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 “Assist Me” Panel, which got a little into the history of these guys’ YouTube series, and what they plan for the future. This was by far the most crowded of the panels I saw.

I overheard one cosplayer say, "Parents are gonna sit here and wonder 'where did I go wrong?'

That about does it for Anime Los Angeles. I was pretty tired by the last panel, so I didn’t stick around for much longer than that. I’m planning on going to Anime Expo 2012, and hopefully I’ll be able to endure standing and walking around for more than one day. You can see random footage at the event at the bottom of this post!

Miscellaneous thoughts:

- I overheard a Mike Haggar cosplayer saying that he brought a metal pipe as a prop but they wouldn’t let him bring it in.

- I should probably buy a better camera if I’m going to keep going to these things. And get better at editing this videos.

- I didn’t realize the limitations to street pass, so I only received ten tags for the entire event. I’m told I need to let some more in manually via that Mii channel in-between passes.

- It’s a good thing I brought cash for parking.

- made me talk to Cristina Vee (voice actress for Noel Vermillion from BlazBlue) and record this:

Start the Conversation

How I lost interest in online gaming.

Greetings, bombers and bombettes! It's the beginning of 2012, and as you know, long 2011 deliberations were all the rage last week. I gave more thought in my list this year than some of my earlier years (mostly because I wasn't very active back then), and it really gave me a lot to think about on how my tastes in games have changed. In the early years of owning my Xbox 360, I've played a lot of competitive multiplayer, but now I've lost interest in that kind of experience. People often like to compare video game experiences to books, movies and music, which is an apt comparison for the most part, but other times I feel that video games can be more akin to board games and sports. Certain games are social experiences, and if you don't have a group of friends to play with, you're missing an important part of what the developers had in mind. It ruins the point of reviews if not everyone is going to have access to a wide group of friends to play with.

Could you imagine being told that you need three friends in order to fully appreciate a movie?

I first bought my 360 in the summer of 2007. My first game was Dead Rising, which was frustrating when civilians were dying on you. I was playing the game on a small, standard definition TV, and continued to play these games in this format until sometime in 2010...yeah. Anyway, Halo 3 came out that year, and was one of the first multiplayer games I found myself playing with friends from high school. I recall having Jeff on my friend's list at one point, but when I joined his lobby he booted me...

The various custom options kept me interested for some time, and to date, Bungie.net says that I've played 461 matches. Now, 2007 had a number of big games: Super Mario Galaxy, Bioshock, Halo 3, The Orange Box, and, of course, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I played Modern Warfare frequently, and pretty much every time I logged on, there was someone on my friend's list playing the game. I probably wouldn't have played it as much as I did otherwise, since these were people I had known for many years. They were also better at the game than I was, so I would go to them for advice on what weapons and perks to use, and which strategy to implement on what map. According to the game, I've accumulated a play time of 6 days, 12 hours, and 47 minutes. Granted, sometimes if a friend was over my house it would be him playing the game instead, but it is still a lot of hours.

Eventually, my time spent in competitive multiplayer was reduced, and certain people I used to play with weren't logging on as much. Some sold off their systems and games, saying that they just “grew out of it”. Others spent more time at work and started a serious relationship, so I haven't seen them around, online or in person. This didn't happen overnight, and to put it in perspective, I've taken note of the hours I've spent in other Call of Duty games. In World at War, I've spent 1 day, 6 hours, and 15 minutes. A huge drop from Modern Warfare. I'm not certain if it records time spent on Nazi Zombies, or just the traditional matchmaking, because they are on separate menus. On Modern Warfare 2, I spent 3 days, 0 hours, and 45 minutes. The increase in this case can be explained Modern Warfare 2 being more anticipated, as well as having more friends interested in the title. But in Black Ops, there was another fall, accumulating just 1 day, 3 hours, and 5 minutes. This was true with Halo Reach as well – Bungie.net states that I've only played 41 matches.

Rounded to the nearest hour!

Where does this leave me now? I didn't even bother purchasing Modern Warfare 3. It may be because I just lost interest in the Call of Duty formula, but even if you look past that, and the financial trouble I was going through at the time, I just wasn't playing these games as much as I used to. There are other games that cater more towards cooperation, such as Left4Dead, but I would still find myself in the same situation of not having many friends who are interested in playing those games.

Granted, there are worse messages to receive, but you get the idea.

This leads me to my next point – most people who play these games suck. I don't mean that they're bad at video games. They're very good at them, actually, but you know where I'm going with this Getting cursed out by loud children and arrogant tools from various parts of the world isn't my idea of an enjoyable evening. As much as the mainstream media likes to bash violent video games for corrupting our youth, I'd be a lot more concerned as a parent in thinking about the kinds of idiots he or she might encounter over Xbox Live. Of course, this is something that you'll encounter everywhere on the internet, but video games are supposed to fun! My go to example of how bad Xbox Live can get is this audio clip from the CAGcast:

It's funny, but in the end how much enjoyment you get out of a multiplayer game is proportional to whether or not you're playing it with people you enjoy spending time with. Not everyone is going to have that group of friends to play through a campaign, though. It reduces the overall enjoyment if you can't take advantage of the game's strengths. Brad Shoemaker chose Gears of War 3 as his sixth Top 10 Game of 2011 and supported it by saying the following:

“The Horde mode alone is worth the price of admission. You haven't lived until you've squared off alone against a Brumak with all your spectating teammates cheering you on.”

He's describing a great moment, but one that isn't as easy to recreate as something experienced over single player. It's not the equivalent of that tearful moment at the end of Toy Story 3, but more like someone getting a the final touchdown and narrowly winning the football game. I've never cared about sports either, which could also have altered that competitive inclination I once had. Still, now that my old social network has been reduced, that moment Brad described is meaningless to me.

11 Comments

Obligatory GOTY 2011 blog post

Hello, gang! I figured it would be easier to read to give my explanations for my choices on here. There are still some games I never got a chance to play or finish, which is disappointing. Just a heads up before any of you say that the list needs more Batman! Let's get this over with:

10. The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile

Vampire Smile made several improvements over the first game – two playable characters, better bosses, and a more forgiving checkpoint system made for a better experience. It still had the twisted graphic novel art style, and the combat was still fast and intense. Despite the game being produced with a very small team, there were plenty of challenges to test your reflexes, and the downloadable game I enjoyed the most this year.

9. L.A. Noire

While certain segments in L.A. Noire did drag, the game as a whole was a great accomplishment. 1940's Los Angeles was an interesting world to interact with, and the facial animation was impressive. The shooting could get monotonous, and there was clearly a “right” way to view the story, which would otherwise make Cole Phelps' interoggations seem like he's turning into The Incredible Hulk. However, traditional point-and-click adventure games are not as common these days, and L.A. Noire does take that genre in a interesting direction.

8. You Don't Know Jack

2011 was a year where a lot of popular 90's franchises made some sort of return, with varying degrees of sucess (I'm looking at you, Duke Nukem: Forever). You Don't Know Jack manages to capture that same sense of humor I remember from the older games, and thankfully had a more reasonable price in comparison to most new releases. It's a great party game, and it's indirect way of asking it's trivia questions is much more entertaining than what you'd see in your typical game show.

7. Ghost Trick

Being a huge fan of the Ace Attorney series, I was intrigued by Shu Takumi's latest project when it was announced, and I was definitely not disappointed. Just like in the Phoenix Wright games, you have over-the-top, colorful cast of characters, an energetic soundtrack that kicks in all the right moments, and plot twists that will keep you guessing to the very end. Ghost Trick's unique logical puzzles and premise are worth seeing, and really shows how the DS can still provide quality experiences, even if 2011 was the year it's successor was released. Now if only Capcom would localize Ace Attorney Investigations 2...

6. Pokémon Black/White

The fifth generation of Pokémon games streamlined some mechanics, and gave the visuals a much-needed upgrade. Having a new batch of Pokémon along with being able to explore modern-looking cities differentiated Black and White from older Pokémon titles, but it still stuck to its familiar roots. Some would say that the lack of evolution in the Pokémon formula is a problem, but there aren’t many video game titles that capture what makes Pokémon so appealing. You are still able to train a unique party of Pokémon , and interact with other players over the internet. I traded with an acquaintance on Twitter earlier, and we were both pretty shocked that the DS microphone was picking up our voices (Not a new feature, but it was my first encounter with it. It’s a good thing I didn’t say anything embarrassing!). It was also a surprise to see Pokémon Black and White bring up themes such as the ethics of raising Pokémon, and Bianca’s subplot about growing up and finding independence from her family. Recently, many analysts were predicting a fall in the handheld market because of the increasing popularity of smart phones, but as long as Nintendo keeps developing quality Pokémon games, I’m convinced there will always be a place for handheld gaming systems.

5. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked

I never got a chance to play through the original Devil Survivor when it was released in 2009, so the arrival of Overclocked was a new experience for me. Customizing your party with a variety of demons was engaging, and it was always satisfying to fuse demons to create even stronger minions with more powerful attacks and abilities. I was frustrated with how difficult the later levels were getting for me, which made me wish I chose an easier difficulty setting earlier on, but I was able to play through Atsuro’s path, one of the game’s multiple endings. The game’s mechanics were solid, but it’s the story that kept my interest and had me grinding to beat more high-leveled enemies. The characters are distinct, and we are revealed what each characters motivations and intentions are now that they have access to these powerful demons (a theme I wrote about in this blog post). These are teenagers who had trouble fitting in, and in response they saw comfort in internet friendships. It’s a topic I found fascinating, and I would like to see other works of fiction explore that kind of human interaction. Of all the 3DS games I’ve played, Devil Survivor Overclocked is the title that I will remember for years to come.

4. Portal 2

Portal 2 still has the great sense of humor you encountered in the first game, while also expanding of the background of Aperture Science. The puzzles are what you'd expect from a Portal sequel, which isn't a bad thing when you consider how impressive the first game was. The inclusion of co-op also changed the dynamic in puzzle-solving, and it's always great hear GlaDOS teasing you after completing each room.

3. Mortal Kombat

Now here's how you do a reboot! Mortal Kombat brought back all the familiar characters you'd want, and provided enough content to satisfy both competitive and solo players. The story mode was a clever way of integrating a narrative while also forcing players to learn most of the game's characters, and while the ending felt rushed, it's still an idea with a lot of potential. Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe had a similar mode, but 2011's Mortal Kombat was a superior experience overall, with smoother fighting and plenty of extra content to unlock. Whether you're new to the series or a veteran, there's a lot to admire in Mortal Kombat.

2. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Although it wasn’t mandatory, playing Human Revolution as a stealth game was the more enjoyable option for me. Having just finished a couple third-person shooters prior to Deus Ex, it was nice change of pace to try something more methodical. The abilities were fun to use, opening new possibilities on how to solve the obstacles that I encountered as I leveled up Adam Jensen. Layered between these stealth segments was a fascinating story about the conflict between humanity and technology, and whether human augmentation causes us all to lose what makes us human, reminding me of the Locke’s Socks paradox that I learned about in last year’s Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (GAMES ARE EDUMECATIONAL!). The game isn’t black and white in portraying this conflict, and without getting spoilers, you do see explanations on both sides on how augmentation can be both beneficial, and harmful. This ambiguity does leave room to continue expanding on the game’s universe, and I hope a sequel won't have awful boss fights! Even with these problems, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is worthy of being in my top 10.

1. Dark Souls

Dark Souls can be a very polarizing game. No other title has instilled the wide variety of emotions in me while exploring and trying to survive the game’s obstacles. There were times when Dark Souls infuriated me to the point I set it aside and had to return to it at a later time, but even then, I would feel accomplished and relieved when I finally did manage to finish off a tough boss, or locate a new bonfire (Dark Souls’ checkpoints). It requires a lot of dedication and focus; otherwise the game will penalize you. When I wasn’t playing the game, I still found myself talking to others about their experiences, secrets we may have uncovered, and strategies we have used on certain bosses. It’s a game that follows a “show, not tell” philosophy. So many recent games have ridiculously long tutorials, but Dark Souls makes you learn by participating. While I died many times in Dark Souls, by learning from those mistakes I was finally able to overcome every challenge I faced.

Biggest Disappointment - Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds

It’s no secret that Capcom got a lot of bad PR this year: they published a ‘Splosion Man rip-off, when Twisted Pixel had pitched the game earlier to them; they cancelled two Mega Man games, one of which had the gaming community involved throughout the development process via forums and polls; They won't localize Ace Attorney Investigations 2, and they still continue re-releasing versions of the same game, making Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds obsolete in less than a year.

Even if Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was never released, Fate of Two Worlds still felt like an unfinished product. The game didn’t allow for spectators in multiplayer, a feature that earlier fighting game titles did have, and when you consider how Mortal Kombat had a lot more content and was released in the same year, I couldn’t help but wish for something more. I don’t usually care for stories in fighting games, but early interviews promised that it would have a strong narrative

The final game wasn’t like that, and once again, Mortal Kombat had a story, and implemented it well. I’m not as good at fighting games as the people who play them competitively, but it’s a shame how a recent product no longer allows me to play with the more active community. G4TV gave the Best Fighting Game award to Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of the Worlds, and I'm here scratching my head how they can overlook all of the game's problems, and give the nod to such an unfinished product. I was hoping there would be more backlash over Capcom's actions, but many seem to have forgotten about these events.

5 Comments

GamePro Memories

On November 30, I looked at my Twitter feed and saw that GamePro was soon to print its final issue, and that its website will no longer exist. While I haven’t been following GamePro lately, it was my main source for video game news, reviews, and overall coverage in my early teenage years. This announcement made me dig through my garage and see what I could find, and I was glad to see that most of my magazines were still around.

Starting around summer of the year 2000, my brother got a subscription to GamePro. This wasn’t my first exposure to the magazine, and I recall my brother saying that he had subscribed years ago, but this is the time period I remember reading the publication regularly. What I liked the most about GamePro was that it had a very colorful look to it, complete with cartoon personas that represented their reviews editors, a look that isn’t all that foreign to all of us users here on GiantBomb. I remember reading GamePro’s extraordinarily positive review of Golden Sun (issue 161, which I still have access to), and on one weekend, I went out to a BestBuy with my mom and picked it up. I also remember cutting out a $5 coupon on that same magazine, which was likely my first step into eventually becoming interested in searching for video game deals, wherever they may be. Whenever there was a game I was interested in, I would look at the GamePro review. That same year, we bought a PlayStation 2 at launch, and because we never owned a PlayStation, GamePro’s “PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Encyclopedia” was very helpful at introducing us to some earlier games we missed out on.

GamePro had a number of recurring articles I found both entertaining and informative. Every April issue there was a “LamePro” segment, which included reviews of fake video game titles, and if you’re a sucker for puns, you’d get a good laugh out of game titles like Lap Dance Dance Revolution and Super Mario Moonshine.

If you’re curious on what issues I could find, the majority of my GamePro collection ranges from issue 144 to the early 200s. Some issues are missing, but I’d say it would be about 60 in total.

Anyway, I’m gonna open a couple magazines and talk about what I find, starting with issue 144:

Just like you’d expect, there are a lot of advertisements in every issue. After getting through the table of contents, you’ll find Head2Head, which showcased some mail, and the editors would respond. The magazine had a sarcastic sense of humor, which was often conveyed in their responses. A reader calls Major Mike a “giant ninja turtle in a military outfit”. From what I remember, their snarky answers dwindled as time went on, though. Their Buyers Beware feature was very informative, which would address new customer concerns every month on whatever software or hardware problems they may be having. It was particularly helpful whenever there was a new hardware being released. For example, a customer writes in issue 144 asking if the PS2 is compatible with PS1 accessories.

Every month had a three panel webcomic called “Hidden Characters”, usually showcasing the GamePro characters goofing off. I occasionally got a laugh out of them, but it’s unfortunate that these comics aren’t compiled anywhere.

This particular issue has an exclusive of Neversoft’s Spider-Man, which received a very positive review from Dan Elektro (a.k.a Dan Amrich), who now works as a Social Media Manager for Activision. Other reviews included in this issue are Deus Ex (which received a perfect score), Diablo II, and Chrono Cross. The formatting for the coverage was divided by certain genres and platforms. PC games were in one section of the magazine, and then you had a Sports section for sports previews and reviews, which made it easier for me to skip over sports games since I had no interest in them! Last come the strategy guide and cheats section. Combos for certain Marvel vs. Capcom 2 characters are included in this issue, which I would put into practice whenever I would play the game.

Their rating system was streamlined later, but for those who don’t know, for many years GamePro reviewed games in 0.5 increments, 5.0 being their maximum score. Games were scored in four categories: Graphics, Sound, Control, and Fun Factor. By today’s standards, this all seems superfluous, because Fun Factor was the only score to really care about. Accompanied with the scores is a cartoon character expressing enjoyment or disgust depending on the score, just like Giantbomb! Also included in reviews were ProTips, which were just brief advice on how to accomplish something within the game.

When Dan Amrich left GamePro, he made a farewell post on the website stating that he posted under both the moniker “Dan Elektro” and “Bad Hare” which was a shock to me and many other readers. I do remember learning enough about some of these writers because of their persona and the articles associated with them. “Bad Hare” was supposed to be a pun on Dan Amrich’s bad hair, D-Pad Destroyer was left-handed, and Fennec Fox was fluent in Japanese, so he did a lot of the JRPG coverage.

For some bizarre reason, years after I stopped reading GamePro I decided to purchase a couple of the Joyride figures, specifically Major Mike and Dan Elektro. Dan Amrich held a contest on OneOfSwords.com to give away some extra Miss Spell figures (the character was based on his wife, Katrin Auch, who also worked at GamePro), and I was fortunate enough to win one of the figures. The only figure I’m missing is Dr. Zombie, who would do Gamepro’s artwork, if I recall correctly.

Anyway, this concludes my ramble about GamePro, from the brief revisit I did on a couple issues. Did any of you read the magazine?

ProTip: You'll see a lot of these in old GamePro issues.
Yes, this was an actual advertisement in the magazine.
Major Mike's figure appeared in the film Runaway Jury.
Not the portable PlayStation you may be thinking of!
18 Comments

Special When Lit: a random pinball documentary

Hey, remember pinball machines? They were all the rage in the 70s, plummeted in the 80s with the rise of video games, gained popularity again in the early 90s, and many of the big companies stopped making machines later that decade. Special When Lit is a 2009 documentary that gives some insight on the history of pinball, the culture that surrounds it, and the people who are passionate about these machines. I learned about the film’s existance via Shipwreck from CheapAssGamer.com, who mentioned it on a recent CAGcast. The documentary is available on Netflix Instant Watch if you’re interested in checking it out for yourself.

Pinball does have a fascinating history, and the community that surrounds it does have a lot of parallels to what is seen in the video game community of today. The movie does explain how pinball machines were often catered to young men, often being covered with art of dark creatures and attractive women. Most pinball fans were young men hanging out amongst themselves, often in locations where you wouldn’t expect to see a family. There was even a period of time where pinball machines were banned in the U.S., apparently, which further showed a rebellious stigma attached to the machines. One of the commenters even drew a parallel about men who play pinball often seem to pose as if they are making love, which is an image I can’t unsee now that the documentary made that fact explicitly clear. @.@

Unfortunately, the pinball fans themselves aren’t very interesting. The film does not focus on specific people, such as Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell were made the center of The King of Kong. Some of the collectors who were interviewed were made to look like outcasts, and I’m not sure what the intent was by showing how they differ from other people. For example, in one scene two pinball fanatics were asked by an off-camera person (presumably the director) if they ever planned on settling down and getting married, to which one of the fans said that it would just get in the way of his interest.

...And trace amounts of fifteen other elements.

The game design explanations will appeal to programmers, such as how a machine is structured, how the rules vary, and how the machines themselves evolved into something skill-based, opposed to being a game of chance in the earlier days. Despite the similarities between the two, a segment of the film had fans blaming the rising popularity of video games as a reason for pinball losing money in the 80s.

The film, as expected, doesn’t have a happy ending. Pinball designer Steve Ritchie comments in the film’s closing that he doesn’t know whether people will care about pinball in 10-15 years. The joys of pinball machines are tangible, and with entertainment going in an increasingly digital direction, I wonder if pinball will ever that same appeal. While a few scenes do drag, I do think Special When Lit does show a platform that was once a major part of the arcade industry.

Start the Conversation

Dark Souls talk!

Alright, let’s talk about Dark Souls:

At the time of this writing, I have over 35 hours into Dark Souls. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to pick it up immediately, since I didn’t preorder it, but when I called a GameStop, they happened to have an extra Collector’s Edition lying around. Apparently the collector’s editions were having some stocking problems, so I went ahead and bought it.

The best thing that can be said about Dark Souls is that it can instill a number of different emotions that few games can. There is a sense of dread whenever I am near death, and when I manage to beat of boss or find a new bonfire (which is essentially a checkpoint), I feel rather accomplished. That being said, there are times when dying repeatedly just infuriated me, and I felt that the only way to progress would be to set it aside for a while and resume my progress when I have a clear head. Even when the game is off, I find myself looking up information about how to fight certain bosses, how to use items to forge new gear, and discuss my progress with other people on the internet. I’ve heard many people compare it to the first Legend of Zelda, in the sense you’re placed in a huge world with very little sense of direction. Dark Souls functions similarly.

To give some specific examples in the fluctuations between joy and fury I feel while playing the game, I was having a fair amount of trouble with the twin gargoyle bosses. When I talked about this with other Giantbomb users, I was told to get the Drake Sword, and when I did, I beat the bosses in my first try. I found myself in a similar situation when I reached Anor Londo, because the Drake Sword didn’t feel all that effective at that time. This led to me farming some souls, increasing my stats, getting a new sword, and learning pyromancy spells. Even with all of these new abilities and equipment, I still died a fair amount, but I did make more progress. Ultimately, I think that’s the appeal of the game – you will die many times in Dark Souls, but in those failures, you will learn from the mistakes, and thus progress in areas a little more because of it.

With that said, I can understand why others will hate Dark Souls. It is certainly more demanding than most titles, and not everyone will want to research item locations, and such. On that note, I’m just going to leave this catchy song by Justin McElroy.

Start the Conversation

Random love letter I got on a PM

Hello
My name is miss Jelin, i am looking for a new friend i saw your profile today and became interested in you,i
will also like to know you the more,and i want you to send a mail to my email
address so i can give you my picture for you to know whom l am.Here is my email

address (__)

I believe we can move from here.I am waiting for
your mail to my email address (__) Remember the distance, color or age
does not matter but love matters allot in life Please reply me with my email

Jelin

What?

Start the Conversation