Dalai's 2013 VGXTs: (Video Game X Thing): GOTY Episode

You're an episode.

I swear, this is the last one. Some of you probably know my choice for Game of the Year, but there's some other games worthy of praise so let's conclude this (X) thing.

Best Use of Nostalgia - The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

People love to shit on Nintendo for using nostalgia to prop up their games, but I love when Nintendo adds those Easter eggs to their core games. It's a reminder that my childhood was awesome and maybe better than yours. So when Nintendo unveiled a direct sequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the world split into two camps. One group criticized Nintendo for making a nostalgic cash grab. The other group was drooling in amazement. I mean, can a game set literally in the same world as its 20 year old predecessor work in the present day? According to Gamespot and one Vinny Caravella, absolutely. A Link Between Worlds uses that classic world to its advantage. I love how nearly everything is right where it was 20 years ago, yet the subtle differences work so well it feels fresh and new. Even in a game where the entire world is a giant A Link to the Past Easter egg, they find a way to throw in references to other games like Majora's Mask and Skyward Sword.

Also A Link Between Worlds wins the Game To Convince Me to Buy a 3DS Award. Thanks for the hole in my wallet, nostalgia.

Runner-up: Super Mario 3D World

Wii U Game of the Year - Super Mario 3D World

Speaking of nostalgia, here's the king of nostalgia himself, Mario.

I think even the most die-hard Nintendo fan can see the Wii U hasn't lived up to its potential yet. That doesn't mean the fledgling console is void of good games because as long as Nintendo makes games for it, the Wii U will have great games. Take Super Mario 3D World, for instance. It's not quite the second coming of Super Mario Galaxy or Super Mario 64 or Super Mario World depending on what you played when you were 11, but 3D World is pure magic in motion that never likes doing the same tricks over and over again. Mario has some new powers like illegal human cloning and being a cat and yes, the cat suit is quite prominent and often vital to finding many of the stars and stamps. The cat suit is destined to become a classic in its own right, but Super Mario 3D World also loves its one-off concepts like Kuribo's "motherfucking" Skate! Nostalgia with a twist! Perhaps the best part of 3D World is that Mario can be dragged to the sidelines for the awkward Luigi (it is his year you know), Peach (clearly the best choice) or Toad if you wanna be that guy. So yes, it's like Doki Doki... I mean Super Mario Bros. 2 in that fashion. If Mario bores you, you can mix things up.

Super Mario 3D World gets the win here because it's the same wonderful 3D Mario experience while blending parts that make the 2D games great. It's that one game that Wii U owners have every right to brag about.

Hottest Mess/Garbage - SimCity

The SimCity I was introduced to during E3 2012 looked like the SimCity I had been dreaming of for 20 years. Curved roads, 3D, online regions, this game could have had it all. I rode that hype train for months all the way until March when that train suddenly lost its brakes, derailed, caught on fire and crashed into an elementary school full of children. I was willing to forgive EA and Maxis for forcing me to be connected online at all times since my internet rarely goes out, but when the server side is swamped with a million people trying to walk through a single door, I was pissed as was you were probably... unless you don't own SimCity, then lucky you! So a week passes and tensions are high amongst the SimCity community, but they got their servers in order and things were normal. Except for the lack of key features like cheetah speed and achievements. At some point, EA and Maxis had to apologize for underestimating demand and releasing SimCity with servers at less than adequate capacity. At least I got a free copy of one of the Dead Space games, whichever one it was.

So after all the troubles and tribulations of the launch, we all found out that SimCity was actually pretty mediocre. I understand Maxis had a vision of a SimCity with more social interaction and cooperative play which makes a ton of sense if SimCity were structured better. City plots are unbelievably small and fill up way too quickly. Key components to city building like highways are nowhere to be found. The traffic system was horribly flawed. The mining of resources and trading with other cities sounds neat on paper, but never worked all that well in practice. The list goes on and on and on. I really wanted to justify my $80 pre-order and played a decent amount of SimCity finding some sense of enjoyment whenever I can. Sadly, all I have to show for it are some cities that haven't been touched in months and one game in my Origin account that I completely forgotten about.

I remember now. It was Dead Space 3. Fucking hell, EA!

Best Unfinished Game - Kentucky Route Zero

It all started with a package to an address located on a mysterious highway in the middle of Kentucky, but I am not sure how it finishes yet. Nobody does. Five episodes were promised, but only two have been released, the last one way back in May. Back to the plot, it's basically a story about a man and his dog as they try to find this place on Kentucky Route Zero and... adventures. I'd rather not spoil anything, but let's just say its style of writing is damn near poetic and quirky enough to where I couldn't put the game down. Well... is it a game again? I had this issue with Gone Home and Proteus in Dalai's 2013 VGXTs: Episode 1 so the hypocrisy could possibly ring true except the other parts around the game are phenomenal. Those surreal parts where the camera zooms in breaking apart the scene with such brilliant artistry to show something even more haunting and beautiful, the bits of bluegrass which made me stop and contemplate about the travels ahead, the weird bits of humor scattered across the countryside, all those components and more made me appreciate games more as a work of art than ever before.

That and the bears.

Runner-up: Starbound

Game of the Year - Bioshock Infinite

Spoilers ahead so tread lightly.

Jeff and Drew were right.

Bioshock Infinite felt much more like an event than just a game during the first few weeks it was released. I was fresh off my PAX East trip and was going to jump right into Bioshock Infinite since SimCity was a total bummer and I had a feeling Infinite was going to be something special. About two weeks after launch, I finished the game along with thousands of others and like those thousands of others, I had to talk about the ending, ask questions about the ending, read about how it was the best conclusion to a video game ever or in the rare case, an underwhelming ending with a cheap excuse for the reason this world existed. This game was hailed as a lock for Game of the Year prematurely, but also for good reason. No other game was discussed in detail and to death this year like Bioshock Infinite. Weeks and months passed and all of a sudden everybody seems to be on this Bioshock hate train. The Monday morning quarterbacking continues today with even more vigor and more barbs thrown at the game for almost cheating the system by using the multiverse and time-travel tropes to fill in the plot holes. People bitched about the politics, why the racism angle wasn't explored deeper or why the Vox Populi had to be these asshole murderers who burned everything to the ground or why that whole conflict was eventually turned into background noise in favor of this Booker = Comstock narrative or... I need to stop before my head explodes. Seriously, who the fuck cares? The game was awesome!

Bioshock Infinite is a spectacular roller coaster ride of action and exposition that surpasses the original Bioshock in so many ways. The combat is fun, especially when you start experimenting with the vigors. There are several memorable characters you meet, kill, and follow you around. The use of music is original and inventive. There are countless moments where my jaw figuratively dropped like when Elizabeth creates a rip to reveal 1980s Paris in all its Tears for Fears glory, or when the millions of lighthouses were shown to Booker's amazement, or the death of Songbird in Rapture of all places. It's an extraordinary world that looks great, plays great, and tells a story I'll remember for years to come.

And for the record, Back to the Future II is a kick-ass movie.

The Top Ten

Game of the Generation - Super Mario Galaxy

Let's end this awards show with a big bang, not a shitty concert. I've been expanding my horizons over the past several years trying out games in genres that are out of my comfort zone like the occasional JRPG and first-person shooter. I've loved games across a wide spectrum of styles and tastes, but for me there's nothing like a platformer that reminds me of my gaming beginnings. That's where Super Mario Galaxy comes in. Giant Bomb's own Alex Navarro said that Super Mario 3D World is what he imagined a Mario game would look like when he was a young lad, but Super Mario Galaxy was how I imagined a future Mario would play like back when I was a young lad. Super Mario Galaxy was the most fun I've had with a game since I was, well, a young lad. Each level is crafted to be pure fun without any filler or unnecessary bullshit difficulty. The controls were precise and felt natural making great use of the Wii tech, possibly some of the best use of the Wii Remote ever. It even looked great, but I had the advantage of having a standard definition TV at the time, but holy crap it looks so colorful and pretty even today. And if you finished the game, you got to see one of the most surreal endings Nintendo has ever made. Super Mario Galaxy was that rare game that brightened up this dreary, brown generation and made me grin from ear to ear like no other game can and that's why Super Mario Galaxy is my Game of the Generation.

And that's it for this, the Year of Luigi and oh fuck.

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Dalai's 2013 VGXTs (Video Game X Thing): Episode 2

You're a thing.

Everybody has an opinion about video games this year and people love to make up... wait I said that already. Nevermind, then. More awards!

Funniest Game - The Stanley Parable

I could say that The Stanley Parable is the Duck Amuck of video games, but it's the player that seems to have full control, not the creator. For my first run through, I went the straight path the narrator wanted me to go, no deviations, nothing out of the ordinary. That's fine and all, but the fun in this game is finding new ways to mess with what could be the best narrator in a video game ever. The narrator is really the centerpiece of this... well, I guess it's a game. It's genuinely funny and also points out and openly mocks some of the common tropes we see in video games on a daily basis. Good job, The Stanley Parable. Everyone thinks you are very funny.

Runners-up: Divekick, Guacamelee!

Best Single Player Co-Op - Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Brad was right.

Brothers is in my personal top 10 despite only buying it yesterday and I had to scramble to find a suitable award for Brothers. Sure, the style is beautiful and I can't resist the urge to sit on every bench I stumble upon, but there are a few other games with better graphics. I'd give it a award for Best Video Game Moment, but I haven't gotten into the good parts yet. So I made up a bullshit award devoted to the game's most unique mechanic. The concept of controlling two people with both analog sticks has been done and in Brothers it works very well even if it can get confusing sometimes. I will continue to play Brothers the remaining of the year and from what I played is just lovely so I had to mention it in some way.

Best Atmosphere - The Swapper

Patrick was right.

A lot of love and attention was put into The Swapper judging by the game's visuals. I believe every object in the game was crafted by clay and everyday objects which gives The Swapper a distinct look that works wonderfully. There's a sense of loneliness and hopelessness wandering around this abandoned space station traversing through dimly lit corridors, wide expanses of space and eerie sounds rarely duplicated in other games. The Swapper is what I'd imagine a modern, dark 2D Metroid game would look and sound like. And if atmosphere is not a big deal to you, there's an excellent puzzle game thrown in here which makes you feel smart every time you complete one.

Runners-up: Kentucky Route Zero, Bioshock Infinite

Game I Should Probably Play More Of - Gunpoint

I should play more Gunpoint. Sometimes adulthood and video games don't mix and I have to make due with the free time I have. There are a number of 2013 games I need to finish like Mario, Zelda, Brothers, the list goes on. At least I played those games long enough to form an opinion on them. Gunpoint, not quite yet. I'm only about 40 minutes in and I enjoy the whole idea of planning my missions, stealthily moving my way into buildings and crashing through windows before escaping with the goods. It's a fine game and I hope to find time to complete Gunpoint because my backlog is large enough already.

Runners-up: BIT.TRIP Presents: Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, The Wonderful 101

Game I Most Avoided - Dota 2

I think Dota 2 might be the most polarizing game on Giant Bomb. Some people swear by the MOBA, others won't touch it with a ten-foot pole. I have done an excellent job not playing any Dota 2 although the temptation was there. Many of my Twitter/Giant Bomb friends are very active Dota 2 players. Brad "Bad at Games" Shoemaker is the official Giant Bomb spokesperson for Dota 2. I even watched bits of The International this summer just for the hell of it. Dota 2 was gifted to me. There is a llama courier which I would buy in an instant. DOTA 2 IS INSTALLED ON MY FUCKING PC!

Never played it, probably never will.

Runner-up: Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Best Controls - Rogue Legacy

My family tree in Rogue Legacy is soaked in blood and I couldn't be happier.

Rogue Legacy is a fairly unforgiving side-scrolling rogueish-likeish thing that fed my completion addiction for a solid week or three. After several hours, the game shows its repetition and the rooms start looking a bit samey and familiar, however the gameplay never gets dull. Part of the variety is due to the character traits that change with every new heir. I found myself rooting for my guy to win even though I knew he was destined for failure. My OCD, dwarf assassin with bowel troubles can kick some serious ass, but the reason Rogue Legacy is so great is its tight controls, like Super Meat Boy territory or classic 2D Mario territory. It's pure gameplay bliss that just gets better as you progress through the game. Unfortunately my current save might be useless since I'm currently at New Game +5 which is so goddamn hard it hurts! Maybe it's time to pick a guy with vertigo.

No... on second thought, fuck vertigo!

Runners-up: Super Mario 3D World, Divekick

Tomorrow, the thrilling conclusion! Stay sober, everyone!

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Dalai's 2013 VGXTs (Video Game X Thing): Episode 1

You're a blog.

Everybody has an opinion about video games this year and people love to make up awards for shit. I am here to continue that tradition with my contribution to this farce we call the year of Luigi. 2013 was not the best year for anything including video games, but the year did have some amazing moments like... hey those new consoles, right? And that Steam controller might be neat. Cookie Clicker? Holy shit that Wii U has so many games like... Pikmin 3? Anyway, I played a fair share of games this year and it feels like I played more current year titles than in the past. I guess building a PC and succumbing to the urges of the 3DS can do that to a man. So I can actually make up awards this year without feeling like an asshole. So let's kick off this shitshow.

2013's Old Game of the Year - Earthbound

Earthbound is one of the few games that I return to every few years just to relive the story of four unlikely heroes taking down the embodiment of pure evil, and I was happy to see Nintendo recognizing the passion for Earthbound in America and re-releasing it on the Wii U almost 20 years after its original run. So naturally, I had to shell out several dollars as a statement to Nintendo that there's an audience in America that loves Earthbound and the Mother trilogy even though I have the original cartridge... although that Supaboy I purchased early this year so I can replay it was ill-timed and pointless now. Anyhoo, Earthbound on the Wii U is exactly that, but the best part about playing it again on the Wii U was being able to share my joy with the Miiverse community and chronicle the adventures of Ness and the gang as well as seeing the thousands of players from all around the world sharing their experiences (first or fiftieth) with me. Earthbound certainly holds up very well in almost every way, from its traditional, but quirky combat system to its trademark humor. And it hit me this year that Earthbound is my favorite game ever made. No other game can put a smile on my face or turn me into an pile of emotional mush like Earthbound.

Sorry, Windjammers.

2013's 2012 Game of the Year - Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs was the game that basically convinced me to build a PC since my 4 year old laptop couldn't run the game faster than 3 frames per second, but the investment was worth the money. Sleeping Dogs can be easily be dismissed as a Grand Theft Auto clone, but it manages to trump GTA in a number of ways. The story of Wei Shen digging into the underground crime scene of Hong Kong is not exactly original, but it's not the star of the show. Sleeping Dogs shines brightest on the streets where you're taking down criminals using your fists and feet as weapons. It's the melee combat that future open world games should emulate, period. Add to that a vibrant Hong Kong street scene and brutal environmental props, I realized why it's a favorite among the community. And goddammit it looks amazing. I guess I should give Sleeping Dogs the award for Most Graphics, too.

Now I want a pork bun.

Runners-up: Dust: An Elysian Tail, Cook, Serve, Delicious!

URL of the Year - http://www.saltybet.com/

My love of gambling and video games finally came together with the arrival of Salty Bet, a site that lets you bet on MUGEN fights. Really dumb MUGEN fights. The premise is simple: Salty Bet gives you a few bucks, you guess who wins, win fake money. The bigger the upset, the more money you win. But is Salty Bet really about winning? It was really nice to crack $100000 in Salty Bucks (twice) before I pissed it away, but the star of the show is the fights themselves. The characters cover a massive spectrum of culture from Dragon Ball Z (never bet DBZ) to Touhou to Marvel to fucking fast food mascots and their dark alter-egos. It's a waste of time and dumb as shit, but whenever Darude - Sandstorm plays on the stream, I just need to DUDUDUDUDUDUDUDUDU... until it's over.

Runner-up: http://orteil.dashnet.org/cookieclicker/

Best Video Game Moment - Divekick at PAX East

Let's get a bit more personal, folks. I had a great time at PAX East this year, more fun than I ever anticipated. And a good chunk of that fun was centered around this booth where people were playing this fighting game with a ridiculous 2-button controller that looks like it would find a great home on some dumb game show. Naturally I'm attracted to this kind of stupidity so I had to give this game its due. As much as I like Divekick at home with a keyboard with way too many buttons, this particular game in this particular setting was close to perfect. It didn't matter that I lost every match I participated in, the competitiveness and the humor that game oozes out made my week at PAX much more entertaining. There were other games I played at PAX, better games I played at PAX, but nothing compares to this moment for me.

If you didn't care for this pick, I guess the part in Bioshock Infinite where you return to Rapture was fucking awesome.

Runners-up: Bioshock Infinite - Returning to Rapture, The Swapper - Ending

Most Nothing - (Tie) Gone Home and Proteus

I found a way to play Gone Home and Proteus this week for the first time and... are these games?

I'll start with Gone Home, a 2-hour long story about a girl coming home for the first time in a year finding the house empty and garbage strewn about. She finds a bunch of journal entries chronicling her sister's escapades with another girl and some highlighters, some dinnerware and some books her JFK-obsessed dad wrote. It's basically a love story with some teenage angst and rebellion set in the Pacific Northwest in the tail end of the Grunge era with a short side-story about her parent's dirty laundry mixed in. It's a story told pretty well, but I wasn't entirely captivated by it. The story seems fairly mundane to me, but maybe I don't fit the demographic for this game. That's not really my beef with Gone Home. My problem with Gone Home is that it's barely a game. The whole experience of Gone Home consists of a lot of meaningless pointing and clicking with zero challenge, which might be the game designer's vision, but I think it needed more. I could be missing the point on Gone Home and if people like it, that's cool. There was nothing for me in those 2 hours.

At least Proteus looks neat. It's got a style and some interesting visuals, but once again, no game. You walk around a bunch, look at stuff, then turn the game off because I would like there to be more interaction somewhere. Once again, Proteus wasn't my jam. It's a walking simulator. Let me at least drink a soda while gazing at the stars.

Gone Home and Proteus are in the same boat as one my more disappointing games of last year, Little Inferno, another game with little game in it and where the story hogs the stage keeping gameplay relegated to being a useless stage prop.

Best Music - Guacamelee!

Guacamelee! is a game that does a lot of things well. The controls are solid, the humor is humorous, the visuals are sharp and colorful, and the difficulty is just the right amount of quasi-masochism. Guacamelee! is not an easy game, but it's a great game. But I'm here about the music.

The music of Guacamelee! seems somewhat forgotten in the Game of the Year award talks, but without it, this game would be like eating a burrito without the beans. A good portion of the soundtrack is straight-up mariachi and listening to that while walking through town feels so positive and happy and colorful and some other words. Just give it a listen. It's beautiful.

Runners-up: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Super Mario 3D World

Part 2 should be coming tomorrow. Have an awesome 28th of December!

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The last generation's weirder, uglier side.

I guess since the final wave of new consoles is arriving this month, now might be a good time to reminisce and say something about how awesome video games are or how influential these handful of games changed the way we think about and play games. I can describe the feeling I first played Wii Sports and seeing the joy on the faces of my friends and family as they were trying to bowl a strike. Or share my feelgings on the final moments of Portals 1 and 2. Or explain how estactic I was when I gathered all 240 Stars in my personal best game of the generation, Super Mario Galaxy. Or show how much time I wasted/spent with Team Fortress 2 or Borderlands or Terraria. I can find my list of my favorite games of the generation and write a simple paragraph about why that game is awesome or changed my life. I can dig through the news archives looking at all the reactions to various announcements, trailers, etc.

Or I can go in a completely different direction and blog about all the strange, stupid shit we had to suffer through the past 8 years or so.

Like this game and the musical syles of Jonathan Davis.

Nothing Is Certain but Death and Shovelware

We always look back at the best of what was offered and we like to forget the worst of the worst, but those shitty games exist in somebody's closet stuck between your old tax returns and some old porno mags. Licensed games will always exist and even though Batman managed to buck the trend, many licensed properties kept the tradition of bad going. And as always, bad games extend to original properties based on the trends of the era, Rock Revolution. No console is immune to shovelware, but the Wii in particular became the dumping ground for awful games thanks to its popularity, cheaper development costs and its simplified control scheme. Oddly enough, some games actually sold well while most probably made enough to make a profit from the gullible Walmart bargain bin Christmas shopper. The Wii made Calvin Tucker the redneck he is today and Jerry Rice the dog football lover we never expected. I can list several more games, but the ultimate example of shoddy game design came from Data Design Interactive, makers of Ninjabread Man and about 30 other terrible games IGN were forced to review. Later on, the shovelware migrated to the Kinect and made for some great material for the Giant Bomb crew, but it was the Wii that ruled over the land with some of the best games along with some of the worst.

Deadly Premonition... Depending on Who You Ask. Right, Zach?

A surprisingly normal scene from Deadly Premonition.

This one gets its own spot in the weird category. On one hand, Deadly Premonition is a broken piece of hot garbage with a story that is too ridiculous to comprehend. On the other hand, it's a broken piece of hot garbage with a story that is too ridiculous to comprehend... in a good way. Many of us here are familiar with the Endurance Run and many of us have memories of that giant ghost dog or Thomas and his dancing, but there was a clear love/hate relationship with Deadly Premonition from all sides, virtually no middle ground whatsoever. There are actually some crazy people out there who are trying to make a case for Deadly Premonition as Game of the Generation, but there are even crazier people who think Swery 65 should hang from a hook through his face. In any case, Deadly Premonition is a game too horrible to play with a story too good and surreal to ignore.

This Part of the Blog Is Sponsored by Doritos and Mountain Dew

Product placement and advertising isn't new to games, but advertising and promotions took some odd turns this generation. As stated above, Doritos and Mountain Dew became the de facto products to ridicule this generation since it became synonymous with Microsoft, particularly the Halo and Call of Duty franchises, although Sony attempted to retaliate with its love affair with Taco Bell and poorly planned giveaways. Call of Duty went so far as to associate itself with Jeep for Christ's sake. In general, in-game advertising was limited to sports games and the occasional Cool Spot or Yo! Noid, but now we see ads everywhere, even on the Xbox Dashboard. Even the President of the United States put up ads for his re-election campaign.

Corporate advertising is difficult to avoid in daily life, but video games used to be a place to escape the bombardment of ads, but now we must live like hermits and renounce technology in order to get away from Pepsi ads and Obama.

Phil Fish

That's really all I need to say, really. NEXT!

The Derailing of the Hype Train

All games have to start somewhere and unless you're Typing of the Dead: Overkill, they get a press release or a big reveal at E3. And before a game's release, we are surrounded by trailers, gameplay footage, news, celebrity endorsements from Kid Rock and other wackiness which is done deliberately to boost hype and ultimately sales. For example, Final Fantasy XIV was officially announced at E3 months before Final Fantasy XIII was released. Want another one? How about Wii Music and the infamous Ravi Drums? One more? How about just all of Sony's E3 press conference in 2006? I can divide this into a separate blog if I had the manpower.

Video game companies often pitch their games to the public in unusual ways as they attempt to capture a certain demographic or their fanbase, but often announcements and demos go awry like the live demo issues for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword in 2011 or BAM! the Kudo incident of 2009 or this.

The industry never ceases to disappoint sometimes, but then I think of Cammie Dunaway and I just fucking smile. If you're wondering where she is, she's an executive for KidZania, a Mexican kid... job thing where they dress up and... work or something? Child labor maybe? Just be glad she's not selling statues of bloody, headless torsos... or is she?

Several Generations in the Making

Never forget.
Not actual gameplay footage.

Duke Nukem Forever began as a game slated for the 5th console generation of consoles, but somehow through sheer ineptitude it found its way onto shelves during the back half of the 7th generation. There are often games that get delayed or go through major shifts in development, but Duke Nukem Forever took that to the extreme by shifting from the Quake Engine and eventually to its own version of the Unreal Engine, yet the game itself felt stuck in the 90's, just not in a good way. It was the game that wouldn't die, but should have been shot in a Detroit alley years ago.

Thanks, Gearbox.

Conclusion

Let's end this farce already and open up the floor. What about this generation made you question our species as a whole? I know I missed some crucial WTF moments like all the company closures and broken launches, but I don't have all day to research it all so have at it. And with that, here's something about Too Human.

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Thanks for the laughs, Ryan.

When I saw my Twitter feed explode this afternoon, I hadn't bothered to read any of it at first. I had expected either some major video game-related news or something horribly tragic, but I didn't expect both to be true simultaneously. So naturally when I heard that Ryan Davis had passed away, I felt like someone kicked me in the stomach. It's always difficult to even imagine someone as young as Ryan (just a few years older than myself) dying suddenly, especially right after perhaps the greatest moment of his life, yet here we are trying to cope with this realization. His passing seems way too soon and I always expected Ryan to continue making people smile and laugh for many more years whether it's here at Giant Bomb or wherever his future would have taken him.

I share many of the same memories of Ryan as most people here on Giant Bomb. I watch the Quick Looks, read his reviews with curiosity, listen to the Bombcast while in the car or at home. Oddly enough, I was listening to an old Bombcast hearing that infamous giggle Ryan would do on occasion when the news broke. I was also glad to have met Ryan once just a few months ago at PAX East talking about breast milk and other stuff. It's one thing to hear Ryan on a Bombcast or watching him on the site with friends and colleagues, but after talking to him at PAX, you understand why people follow and admire him. Ryan might have been an asshole, but his brand of assholishness was infectious and always cheerful. And of course, he always was the most charmingly garrulous of the group.

It's been 5 years since Giant Bomb officially opened for business and the core four of Jeff, Ryan, Vinny and Brad was a constant for all that time, but I don't know if I will be able to get used to Giant Bomb without its podcast host and summer jam expert. They say time heals all wounds and maybe that will ring true someday, but for now the best way to heal those wounds is to remember those awesome moments. Trust me, there's no shortage of awesome Ryan Davis material. The internet proved that today.

So with that said, my condolences to the staff, friends and family. Thanks for all the great memories.

I will always remember his affinity for Asian bicycles.

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I survived PAX East. Here is my story.

So how 'bout that PAX East?

The madness that was the Expo Hall.

Being my first ever video game convention, I wasn't sure what to expect from PAX. I've all heard many of the horrors of PAX ranging from massive lines for demos and cramped spaces to potential malnourishment and dehydration to the flu/pox/plague. With the exception of the illness, that was mostly true. However, the true PAX experience is about playing video games and talking to people who passionately love video games. I was really glad to spend some time playing several games during the convention, but was even more glad to meet several developers and gamers (many of them from the Giant Bomb community) just to talk about... anything, really.

But enough with the intro, let's start with the games.

Divekick

I was sucked into the Lang Zone, guys. This might sound like a bad thing to the uninformed, but the Lang Zone is a fantastic place where people love to dive, kick, divekick and occasionally jump. I was able to play Divekick on a number of occasions throughout PAX and I think I lost every battle. I don't really care about that because I couldn't stop laughing or smiling or thinking about how brilliantly dumb this game is. And even though I sucked at Divekick, it could be the only fighting game I might be able to master at some point. Besides the goofy characters and wacky antics, Divekick excels at being a fun and surprisingly complex fighter despite having only two buttons at your disposal. It's a fighting game without filler and that's a beautiful thing.

Remember Me

Remember Me was the only "AAA" game I actually played during PAX and the only "AAA" game I wanted to try out since the style and action looked pretty cool. After a lengthy demo, I was actually impressed with Remember Me in many ways. It's almost like a 3rd person Mirror's Edge with splashes of Deus Ex and Uncharted thrown in for flavor. It's technically impressive and the action can be intense, but if I have one criticism, the combat was simplistic in the demo. Hopefully the combos aren't just hitting X until you're blue in the face in the finished product.

Saints Row IV

I've never played a Saint Row game before, but I appreciate the absurdity that they strive for every few years. This year looks like they've gone for something more subtle. You see, you play as the President of the United States with superpowers fighting aliens. If that doesn't sell you on the game, you can also kill with dubstep, just like in real life. Even if I don't ever play Saints Row IV, its existence is a wonderful thing. Thanks, Deep Silver.

The Wonderful 101

I made a beeline for the Nintendo booth on the morning of PAX on day 1 so I was able to play The Wonderful 101 fairly early with little wait. And while the Nintendo booth was disappointing overall, The Wonderful 101 was the main bright spot at the booth. Platinum Games did a wonderful job (no pun intended) on the art direction and action in this game. There's a Viewtiful Joe vibe I get while playing it, and I really liked Viewtiful Joe.

Some of the others include:

If that wasn't enough, here are all the tabletop games I played while at PAX.

Tabletop Games

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Oh, the panels! PAX isn't just about games. It's about people talking about games. Here are some panels I went to where they talked about games.

The Giant Bomb one

Vinny and I about to kick some ass.

I've seen Giant Bomb panels on the website, but seeing it's nothing compared to seeing them live. Yes, they were hilarious. Yes, breast milk was consumed. Yes, many of the questions were dumb. And yes, I love mariachi bands. You can see part one of the panel right now to see the circus for yourself so I won't delve into details. I will comment on the pre-game show where our group started the official start of the line for the panel. Then, a game of Spaceteam broke out with me, @mattbodega, @epicsteve and @voxel during the lengthy wait in line. Yes, Kessler sold me on Spaceteam. Yes, Spaceteam is awesome. After the panel, it was the casual meet and greet with the Giant Bomb staff. It shouldn't come as a surprise, but they're all very approachable and easy to talk to. They all seem like a group of awesome guys who love their craft and are willing to share their love of games with anybody, even the nervous and awkward like me.

The other one with Ryan Davis

The 404ing it: Breaking (Down) the Internet panel had its moments, mostly Ryan Davis being Ryan Davis. It couldn't top the Giant Bomb panel in terms of hilarity and it was just a bunch of stupid internet shit like Heather O'Rourke tribute videos and AYDS, but I laughed at Ryan's hijinks. So mission accomplished.

The other one with Jeff Gerstmann and Ryan Davis

The magic before the Cards Against Humanity panel.

People love Cards Against Humanity. I think it's because we hate humanity or maybe the card game that makes you feel dirty is actually fun to play. The majority of the panel consisted of user submissions and most of them were... good? There were a few gems and very few shitty submissions.

After the panel, I can say I am a proud(?) owner of CAH and the PAX packs which I will never use because inside jokes. The only regret was not getting able to play the game amongst the people I met.

The one with Randy Pitchford

The Main Hall right before the panel began.

The Gearbox panel was about 50 minutes of Borderlands 2 talk with about 5 minutes of awkward Aliens: Colonial Marines apologies in between. Randy Pitchford did some magic tricks before the show officially began and then some Borderlands 2 magic. The group of Gearbox panelists introduced us to increased level caps, a new playable character, a teaser to the 4th DLC pack and telling us how they're fixing the Aliens game they may or may not have worked on. Overall, the panel was neat and they seemed really sorry about Aliens seeing how they gave away so much shit like hats, the Psycho character pack and even some loot boxes.

They were really sorry for Aliens.

The Stuff Not PAX-related

Boston, Massachusetts from the Skywalk Observatory.
Massive burger from Eagles Deli. I finished it because this is America.

Video games are great and all, but I just can't spend my entire trip in a convention center in the middle of nowhere. That's why I spent some time actually seeing the rest of the city. Thursday was my alone time as I did a power tour of Boston. If you have an extra day to waste and want to see some history, walk the Freedom Trail. It cuts right through downtown Boston and it's odd to see skyscrapers mixed with 18th century buildings and 300 year old burial grounds. But a word of advice for those willing to walk as far as Bunker Hill Monument, don't climb the monument after walking for several hours. The view from the top is nice, but fuck the 300 steps.

Speaking of walking, just walking around the city was one of my highlights of the trip. One of the best/worst parts of Boston is the layout. I've been in large cities before like Philadelphia and New York, but they had urban planners laying out the city. Boston is a clusterfuck of roads going in all directions without any order whatsoever. The best way to see Boston is from the ground just getting lost downtown or in the North End just getting immersed in the city's architecture and vibe. Seriously, Boston is a beautiful city with lots of friendly people (some with that famous Boston accent) and excellent food and I would love to visit the city in the summer when Boston Common is actually green and the wind doesn't destroy my face.

I never did get to visit every place I wanted to during my stay in Boston, but there's always next time... if I return to PAX East.

The people

Giant Bomb PAX group picture from EpicSteve stolen by me. I'm the one in the middle with the black jacket.

I'll keep it short and simple since I'm now way past the TL;DR stage, but the users I got to meet at PAX were all friendly and not at all representative of the typical dicks we associate with the internet. I spent much of the 3-day event hanging out with several people from the community from charming Englishmen to moderators who keep people like myself from ruining Giant Bomb for everybody else. I could have easily spent PAX by my lonesome playing several sessions of Divekick with random strangers, but that's not the ideal PAX experience.

Time to end this thing already.

So in conclusion, if you get an opportunity to go to PAX whether it's in Boston, Seattle, Australia or wherever, go and have a great time like I did. Go play some amazing and unusual games you never thought you'd like. Talk to developers about anything from getting in the business to what that giant yellow button does. See the town for yourself just to get away from the PAX madness. Eat awesome food, but don't eat at the convention center. Don't be afraid to talk to random strangers, unless they're dressed in League of Legends cosplay. I still know nothing about League of Legends. Get lost among the indie games. Take lots of pictures. Avoid tabletop games if you know nothing about them. Don't drive anywhere in Boston. Take the T. Walk if you can. Find the Lang Zone and divekick in. Drink a Double Gulp. Spaceteam. Ask Ryan Davis if that really was breast milk he drank. Bring Yuengling because it's nowhere to be found in Boston.

I'm done. It's been a great PAX and I would love to go back next year.

And get yourself some cannolis from Mike's Pastry. They're wicked good.

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SimCity thoughts.

EEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So how about that SimCity?

SimCity servers up ahead.

First off, I would like to apologize to anybody who saw me hype SimCity and made a decision to purchase the game because of my actions. Now that I've got that out of the way, I would like to express my thoughts on said game.

My SimCity history goes back a long way, from staring at Will Wright's green hair in the SNES version to obsessing about SimCity 4 to the point where other video games didn't matter to me. I have always had nothing but positive things to say about SimCity in general, but SimCity (SimCity 5, SimCity '13) has done nothing but disappoint me and probably you, too. I can rant for ages about the lack of an offline mode and being at the mercy of EA's 3 or 4 servers for the first few days, but that's been talked to death already. Now this may be hard to believe, but I actually was able to play SimCity at various times the past few days despite EA's attempts to sabotage my cities. What I played had potential, but there are issues outside of internet stability that have me concerned.

And my opinions on the "game" portion of SimCity were cemented in place when I popped in SimCity 4 while the servers shit their pants. After a 6 hour session, I realized that SimCity 4 was the superior game, not this newfangled version. Despite all the fancy graphics, statistical output and building flexibility, SimCity feels small and constricted due to the city size and lack of customized regions. So here are a list of thoughts that popped in my head during my sessions.

  • I want to build a city as big as New York, but I can only build Hoboken.
  • In fact, that 3 city region should be the city itself.
  • Square cities are for squares.
  • These pre-made regions suck ass. I wanna make my own, dammit.
  • And this empty space makes everything look weird.
  • And would it kill these "neighborhoods" to have more than one access point?
  • Look at that data layer. Hmm... they should make another Mirror's Edge.
  • It does look pretty, but I don't see these layers being that practical for me. I could use more numbers.
  • I should check out the color filters because I'm such a hipster.
  • I need a new PC. This game is slow as frozen shit, even at low settings.
  • Herding llamas... cute.
  • I can't access my cities because they're stuck in Ocean Quigley's beard.
  • I can draw roads in the shape of a penis, but I refuse to.
  • Some poor fuck wants me to build Brandenburg Gate for no reason. I'll get on that, sir.
  • They're pushing some of this "green" bullshit a little too much.
  • Fuck that, I've got coal to mine.
  • Should I revisit Cities XL? I kinda liked that game.
  • My city seems to be doing just fi... a fucking earthquake? Really?
  • That one fire truck is going to really busy for a while while my city burns to ashes.
  • There is a great game in here somewhere, but it will probably cost me about $100 EA DLC bucks.
  • I think an indie developer could make a great city building sim.
  • Wait, they want $250K? Good luck with that.
  • Fuck this, I'll play SimCity 4.
  • Wow, SimCity 4 is still awesome.
Just go play this already.

The smoke coming from my ears still hasn't dissipated from all the thinking.

SimCity is the first game in the series (SimCity Societies doesn't count) to take several steps backwards in some areas in order to move a few steps ahead in other areas. Simulating cities down to the individual schlub sounds like a great idea on paper, but if that compromises the overall size and scope of the game, then it's failed on a fundamental level. Like I stated above, people want to build megalopolises like New York, but the size limit forces us to build Hoboken, or maybe the East Village. Even when I see the option to build a university, there are actually universities that are the size of the plot of land given to you in SimCity.

But it's not all about size.

What disappoints me more about SimCity is what's not in SimCity. The elimination of subways and the inability to build your own highways are a major blow to some virtual urban planners, but I expect a new SimCity game to have more transportation and building options. For example, where are the mixed-use buildings? Where are my prisons? No courthouses? No natural gas? Where did the amusement parks go? What about zoos? Are there even museums in SimCity? And what's with the lack of farms? In fairness to Maxis, some of these issues are alleviated with the option to upgrade existing buildings and the addition of brand new buildings like oil refineries and bus terminals. What this tells me is that EA is going to go microtransaction crazy a la The Sims 3. EA could follow the Sims model easily by adding expansions and building packs to squeeze more money out of us. At least vanilla versions of The Sims feel finished and could be all you really need if you haven't dug too deep into expansion hell. SimCity never relied heavily on expansions, but more on the community to enhance the experience. And even SimCity 4 sans Rush Hour felt complete. SimCity 2013 just feels like a game that might have needed a few more months of development just dedicating to adding as much stuff as possible. At least arcologies are back, right?

I always hated arcologies.

The SimCity servers must be on the other side.

As I'm typing this, I'm wondering if Giant Bomb needed another negative SimCity rant to clog up the site? And my answer is yes, yes it does. Despite EA's best efforts, there may be hope for the future. SimCity's existence is putting the city building simulation genre back on the map so that's a plus. If EA or another company wishes to revisit the genre, they know there is an audience of wannabe urban planners who would stab their own mother to get a hold of a new SimCity or a competent SimCity clone. Cities XL came surprisingly close, but that game had its own issues, one of them being an uninspired MMO portion that was scrapped after just a few months after the initial launch. Some SimCity fans might be a bit demanding, but what we ultimately want is lots of customization, as many building types/styles as possible and enough space to build the city of our wildest dreams. Sadly, I don't think SimCity does any of that.

On the other hand, it's kinda fun?

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One wiik of Wii U later.

You may have heard of a new Nintendo console that sounds very similar to their last console. They call it the Wii U and it's taking America by storm, I think. Anyway, I got one of those things and the Wii U is actually a landmark moment in my video game life as it is the first console I ever brought home at launch. So here's what I think of this oversized DS for your living room.

Yeah: The Miiverse is actually brilliant!

I think we all know Nintendo's history with the internet. They either ignored it the past several years or didn't know how jack shit about the internet. I think the Miiverse is a gigantic step forward for Nintendo and they found a way to make it interesting and fun. The Miiverse is like this weird amalgamation of Xbox Live, Steam and that Nintendo magic. Friend Codes are gone (Yeah!) and the Miis have meaning again. (Fuck Yeah!) The Miiverse experience is mostly a giant bulletin board separated by game or app so yes, there is a Nintendo Land community and a TANK! TANK! TANK! community. Some have been hijacked by the insane like the Funky Barn and Rabbids Land communities (fucking Jim Sterling) and some are clusterfucks due to their popularity and game-specific Miiverse features (Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Bros. U) and yet it's one of the coolest online features on any console. What makes it so awesome is the option to go all Mario Paint and draw a picture or write something by hand. Oh, and there are a lot of artists in the Miiverse. Seriously, there are lots of talented artists in the Miiverse which makes for some impressive imagery despite its limitations.

The Miiverse is pure Nintendo in all the right ways.

Yeah: The eShop is actually user-friendly!

The Wii Shop was (and is) still a chore to navigate. It's even more of a chore now that there's an extra step or two to go to Wii mode. I think Nintendo learned a few things along the way and finding and buying games are much easier in every way possible. I just wish you can access the Virtual Console and WiiWare games from the current eShop. It's nice to see Nintendo adding day one downloads for full retail games, but I will stick with discs for now since it's not the standard.

Unyeah: Not everything works or works right.

On day one, the Wii U was missing a few things like YouTube, Amazon, Hulu and Nintendo TVii. Today, Nintendo TVii is still unavailable and the YouTube app is a mess. If the Miiverse is to be believed (and in this case it is), YouTube on the Internet browser is much better. The browser itself is serviceable, but it's not perfect. Giant Bomb works alright, but not everything will work properly. It's a bummer, but I never expected the Wii U to replace my laptop or my phone in that department.

Unyeah: And it took a lot of time to get shit to work!

That first night with the Wii U was spent setting up the internet connection, transfarring my Wii info to the Wii U and that dastardly update. That update was a fucker! It was until a good night's sleep later that I finally got to try some games. First world problems, I know. I guess if there's any consolation, I found out that Pikmin lived in my Wii the whole time.

Yeah: The Gamepad is a pretty sweet device.

I never expected to be playing games on the Wii U with the TV off, but I've been doing just that fairly often. It's not the best-looking screen I've seen, but the games still look great and the lag is not even noticeable. It's much lighter than I had anticipated and it's comfortable, just not Xbox controller comfortable. Then again, would I expect that level of comfort with a controller housing a 6" screen? Anyway, I see tons of potential with this device and hopefully 3rd party publishers can find cool ways to use the extra screen.

Yeah: The games, yo!

Nintendo Land

Pikmin!

Nintendo Land is trying to become the next Wii Sports and it does in some respects, not so in others. First things first, motion controls and camera controls don't mix. It's more distracting than fun. Now that the big unyeah is out of the way, the games i have played are pretty neat. The personal favorite has been Animal Crossing: Sweet Day followed by Donkey Kong: Crash Course. As expected, Nintendo Land is better with friends, but some of the single player experiences are worth trying out. Nintendo Land is a decent package that gives newcomers the basics on how the system works and in that sense, it could be the next Wii Sports. It's also a decent minigame for us "experts" who eat, sleep and breathe Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Pikmin, pretty much anything Nintendo. However, I don't see grandma warming up to Nintendo Land like they did Wii Sports.

New Super Mario Bros. U

Flying squirrel Mario.

It's a Mario game. There's no big surprise or innovation this time, it's just a well-made Mario game where you have to save the Princess from Bowser. Stomp on bosses three times, drop down pipes, don't fall into pits, the usual. If you hate Mario, this game won't persuade you. If you love Mario, you're in for another great Mario experience. The most ironic thing about New Super Mario Bros. U is that the Gamepad doesn't add much to the experience. The game states that you can use a Wii Remote to play and the only reason to use the Gamepad is if you're either too lazy to turn on the TV or everybody else wants to watch Honey Boo Boo. Oddly enough, I haven't tried the multiplayer yet, but I can say it's chaotic based on the previous game.

Little Inferno

Just for me.

I fucking love World of Goo. I don't fucking love Little Inferno, but I do like Little Inferno despite not really being a game in the traditional sense. To be honest, it's more of a fireplace simulator with a weird story attached to it. The objective is to burn things together to create combos which makes you more money to buy more stuff to burn. Lather, rinse, repeat until you finish the game. While I am disappointed that Little Inferno didn't move me like World of Goo did, it ended up being pretty addictive, humorous, dark and even a bit emotional at times. I have no problems recommending Little Inferno, but keep the expectations down a little.

The verdict!

It's impossible to say if the Wii U will be a massive flop or the second coming of the Wii, but I think Nintendo has something here that can be amazing if they don't screw it up. I don't see that killer app just yet, but don't ever count Nintendo out... that's what they're expecting. What the Wii U has now is a good launch lineup with a handful of games worth researching to find out if they're right for you. Yeah, there are some unnecessary ports like Mass Effect 3 and Batman: Arkham City, but people are enjoying ZombiU and Scribblenauts Unlimited and even the often ridiculed Funky Barn is getting some positive feedback. Maybe the Wii U is destined for great things? Wii will see.

600.

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The future and the games of my said future.

2012 has not been a good year for video games so far. It doesn't bother me that much since I have several games I can fall back on... yet I don't. So that's why I'm looking ahead at the games of the 2nd half of 2012 and early 2013. I won't bore you with the obvious ones (SimCity, Bioshock Infinite, Borderlands 2, Watch Dogs, Mario Bros. University) so I can tell you about some that haven't received much attention. Here we go!

3. Bit.Trip Runner 2

WiiWare had a few solid games, many of them are part of the Bit.Trip series. They were all great games and I include Bit.Trip Runner as one of the greats, but goddamn it's hard. It is not an easy game when you lack rhythm. So why Bit.Trip Runner 2? I'm hoping there's hope for me yet. I can still give Runner a chance now that I have both the Wii and PC (thanks Steam sale) versions. I'm also positive the game will be on the affordable side so I can skip Taco Bell for a day. For the benefit of my colon.

2. Retro City Rampage

I'm a sucker for faux 8-bit nostalgia, something Retro City Rampage is all about. Take your favorite NES games, add some Grand Theft Auto, and you've won me over. Now all it needs is to be released. I've been waiting for quite some time now and patience is wearing thin.

1. Little Inferno

Any group of people which includes one of the dudes who made World of Goo is okay in my book. If they want to make a game, go for it. And apparently that's happening. There's also some Henry Hatsworth dude and... another guy who did some stuff. It doesn't matter, the game looks promising, even if it's about a fireplace.

And that trailer. Fucking dark.

So excited for these and more. Video games.

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Xenoblog Chronicles or Monado: Bloginning of the World.

Xenoblade Chronicles Edition
For those who know me well, you may know that I've always been a skeptic of modern JRPGs to the point where I avoid them at all costs. I believe I can count the number of post-SNES JRPGs I've played to some degree on one hand. And I think I may have a finger or two left to fill. So it's hard to believe that I even acknowledged Xenoblade Chronicles let alone buy it, play it, and spend nearly 100 hours taking out monsters and Mechon. A game like this would normally be ignored by the likes of me, yet here I am making my glorious comeback blogging about it. So what (or who) is to blame for this? 
 
  • The glowing reviews from critics and fans who praised Xenoblade Chronicles?
  • The grassroots organization known as Operation Rainfall who began pushing the release of Japan-only Wii games last year?
  • The lack of anything worthwhile on the Wii in 2012?
  • The hope of a JRPG that maybe I might like?
  • Hailinel?
To be brutally honest, I blame all of that. With the promise of a great and uniquely refreshing JRPG on the Wii during the end of its cycle, it was just a matter of whether I wanted to spend the money on something I can ultimately dislike in the end. Then I spent the money. It was well spent money. 

The part of the blog where I explain why Xenoblade Chronicles is awesome.

Yes, a Wii game can still be beautiful.
I guess the first thing that comes to mind is its setting. The entire world consists of two sleeping gods, Bionis and Mechonis, who fought each other and... got tired I guessed. Or mortally wounded each other. Life forms on both gods, one bionic, the other mechanic. Makes sense so far. Now these gods are massive and make for some beautiful settings. With plenty of variety, lovely vistas, and spectacular landscapes, it's hard not to stop and just look around to enjoy the scenery. How did they pack in all this world on the Wii? The fuck do I know, but I don't care. 
 
The second thing that comes to mind is the story. My biggest gripe with the JRPG genre has to be the general "spiky-haired boy of destiny finds ultimate weapon, fights to save the world alongside a rag-tag group of friends." Xenoblade Chronicles is about a... spiky-haired boy of destiny who finds the ultimate weapon and fights to save the world alongside a rag-tag group of friends." To be honest, Shulk's hair isn't really spiky in the traditional sense... it points downwards so it's cool. The rest still applies. But to Xenoblade's credit, the characters are likable and there are some twists and turns in the plot that kept me interested. It's a good vs. evil story done right. Personally, I'm partial to Riki for a lot of reasons. I can't find a reason to hate the guy. He's great for comic relief and he's so underappreciated by the group. And from my experience, he's the most versatile of the bunch and a great asset to have. Also, he's a sex machine. 
Blades of steel.
  
The next thing would have to be the combat and sometimes, the lack of combat. It's much more action-oriented and fast-paced which makes it tougher to strategize at times. I did feel a bit overwhelmed trying to understand some of the nuances of the game and it does take many hours to discover and understand everything, but once you know the strengths and weaknesses of your characters and enemies and what weapons and gems are worth equipping, the combat feels great. The best part about the combat is the ability to not just avoid fighting anything not worth fighting. Basically, you fight enemies whenever you feel like it with few exceptions. And even if you decide to kill something, you can just jump right in and start slashing away. The only issue I have with the combat is how easy it becomes if you are like me and must finish every side quest you can find. Those who like a challenge should probably skip the more annoying side quests (the majority of them) and earn those kills. 
 
Another reason why Xenoblade Chronicles is awesome is all the moving parts in the game. Monolith Soft made sure to add as many mechanics in this game as they can. For those who like meeting everybody, there's the affinity system. Like making friends? Talk to your fellow allies... which may lead to intimacy. For those who like making stuff, there's gem crafting. Like learning stuff? There's an arts system with the ability to upgrade. Skill trees? Sure, why the fuck not? Achievements? Absolutely and on the Wii of all places. If you've played Xenoblade Chronicles for any extended period of time, you probably had to spend a solid 20 minutes or more just messing around with your inventory, learning and upgrading your skills, choosing which armor will give you the best advantage, and on and on just to maintain maximum efficiency. 
 
Lastly, Xenoblade Chronicles does all of the things above smoothly. If there's one thing Nintendo hates, it's waiting. And if there's one thing Nintendo knows, it's its own hardware. Combine the two and you have one of the smoothest games of this size and scope. Xenoblade Chronicles doesn't waste your time with loading screens or unnecessary traveling and I am so grateful because if some other company was in charge of the game, I'd lose a week of my time just looking at loading screens. Instead, I wasted time collecting flamingo nut sacks for the local cook. Fucking side quests. I can only take so many fetch quests before going mad. 
 
So in conclusion, it's a game. And it's really good. 

But Dalai, did Xenoblade Chronicles change your opinion on Japanese role-playing games?

No.
But at least somebody dared to be a little different. With the sheer volume of games that are released, there will always be a few oddballs that stand out in the crowd. And with the world proclaiming that Japanese gaming is as dead as PC gaming, Xenoblade Chronicles came out and showed America that Japan is still a threat, or at least can be with a little originality and great design, but it's still the exception. Just like I believe Persona 4 and The World Ends With You were exceptions a few years back. What the genre needs is another Final Fantasy VII
 
If you're facepalming at the moment, I don't mean we need more Final Fantasy VII clones. That's the problem. I think what Japanese developers need to do is some type of dramatic Final Fantasy VII-esque shift in the genre, whether that means incorporating some elements seen in Western games without compromising the "Eastern"ness of JRPGs or... more guns, maybe? I'm drawing a blank here, but some things need to change. The Operation Rainfall constituency might like things the way they are, or maybe not. I don't know them all personally. I'll have to ask around. 

Speaking of Operation Rainfall, Dalai, did it change your opinion on petitions?

No. I didn't sign a goddamn thing and it made its way to my living room. The only ways I contributed to this operation was a simple tweet and actually buying one of the games. I don't think Reggie Fils-Aime is following me... yet. 
 
Nobody truly knows if Operation Rainfall made any impact in bringing Xenoblade to America, but it really doesn't matter at this point. What matters in the end is that two of those games championed by the group has or will be released in the U.S. But I think it was all about padding out the lousy 2012 Wii lineup and in a way, fulfilling a promise of a U.S. release that was hinted at long ago and less about a relatively small group of individuals pushing for games that are too Japanese for the general public at large. It's not like Xenoblade Chronicles came out of nowhere... remember Monado: Beginning of the World? It did have one of those vague TBD release dates back in 2009. People remember these obscure games that get little fanfare and will often never forget about them. I see these passionate cries for something unique as being healthy to the industry and helping get the word out about unknown games. Xenoblade Chronicles would not have done as well as it did if not for the outcry of support and it will likely be true for The Last Story and maybe Pandora's Tower if it rains down upon us. I do think petitions do have an impact on sales and spreading the word around, but I have my doubts petitions persuaded the suits to take a risk like this. 
 
But if it helps you sleep at night, go for it. I'm always up for different game experiences. 
 
Now all that's left to do is actually finish the damn game. Technically, I'm near the end, but I think I have some side quests left undone and if ZombiePie is listening, I also have some shit to suck out of a lead pipe. You know what the lead pipe is marked. 
It's marked "shit delivery system", son.
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