My Best and Worst of 2012

In terms of gaming, 2012 was a long, strange year. A year in which the game I spent the most time in was a game that originally came out in Japan two years ago. OK, maybe that's not so strange in my case, but regardless, this year we were introduced to a new console while developers are preparing for two more (presumably coming next year). Kickstarter came along, shook things up, created rumblings that it would create a new industry paradigm, and then proceeded to annoy the hell out of people with an influx of projects asking for funding that may or may not succeed.

So no, it's not been the usual sort of year. But for all of the oddities that this year has brought, there have been a lot of good and bad as well. Here are my best and worst of 2012!

Biggest Disappointment: Games Journalism

In lieu of posting the overplayed Geoff Keighley photo, here's a picture of Missile instead.

There area lot of things that I could have declared the, er, "winner" of this category. The insanity, reactions, and counter-reactions to Mass Effect 3's ending (and subsequent rewrite of those endings. The Cross Assault sexism fiasco. The debate over sexism in games in general. The questionable behavior of game journalists in their relations with publishers.

What it comes down to, however, and what all of these items (and others this year that I may have failed to list) have in common is one thing. The complete and utter bungling behavior of the games press. Now, my expectations for games journalism has never been particularly high, though I'd wish that more in the press would aspire to do better. But if this year didn't showcase a complete and utter joke of what the press was, is, and may always will be, I don't know what else possibly could.

I should not that this award is not specifically for the staff of Giant Bomb, though they certainly share some of the blame for what a mess this year has been in their industry. No, this blame also goes to other major and minor outlets at both the reporter and executive levels. For those looking for some examples of what went wrong:

  • The discussion behind Mass Effect 3's ending: Regardless of your own stance on the ending, and regardless of how insane the Retake Mass Effect movement may have been, members of the press consistently missed the forest for the trees, focusing on the notion that fans just wanted a happy ending and ignored the more reasoned critical analyses. By constantly shifting blame and pegging the debate as a whole as the ravings of idiot fanboys, they failed to recognize the debate for what it was at the time and some still do.
  • Aris and Cross Assault: Man, was this ever a disaster. After the sexist idiocy that Aris put on display at Cross Assault, the event meant to promote Street Fighter X Tekken, there was an attempt at digging into the fighting game scene to determine how deeply entrenched this behavior was. When the fighting game community as a whole elected to turtle and shut out the press, well, that was that. Investigative journalism at its finest.
  • SEXISM IS BAD YOU GUYS: Man, if this wasn't a ridiculous debate. Let me state point blank that yes, there is sexism in the industry, and you're either ignorant or an idiot if you can't recognize that. But the way that the press took up the debate this year in particular by focusing on an ill-worded quote from a Tomb Raider developer about protecting Lara Croft turned it what could have been intelligent discourse into a sideshow, right up until Square Enix revealed that a woman was responsible fro writing the script, at which point all discussion was dropped until attention was clumsily brought to an otherwise well-intentioned Twitter campaign that could have led to more intelligent discourse if journalists hadn't fumbled the ball again.
  • Doritosgate: I'm not going to get into this one too much, other than to say that Eurogamer shouldn't have edited the column that sparked that fire. It was the one bright, shining moment this year when games journalists were forced to take a look at themselves, but that moment seems to have more or less passed in a cloud of razzing tongues and fart noises.
  • Jason Rubin is an asshole and wants to destroy Saints Row!: Except he doesn't. People only thought he did because Brian Crescente couldn't be arsed to write up an interview with him without putting words in Rubin's mouth that led to that confusion in the first place.
  • Medal of Honor trivializes war!: Tom McShea's on-camera interview with a Medal of Honor: Warfighter developer served as my introduction to Tom McShea. It also gave me a staunch reason to stop listening to him as he belligerently and immaturely forced the developer into a circular argument and more or less showing why he isn't qualified to give on-camera interviews. Any salient points that McShea might have had were sabotaged by his own inability to conduct himself in an intelligent, professional manner.

And for as disappointing as this year as been, I just don't see it getting any better. Part of the problem being that even the biggest sites (and some of the smaller ones) are staffed by people that lack even basic backgrounds in journalism. Hell, just look at Giant Bomb; Jeff comes from a time and place where, as far as I can tell, the only reason he's in the position he's in today is because he happened to be a guy that loved writing about video games living in northern California circa 1996, putting him in the perfect place to be hired by a video game website that just happened to be based in the region. This appeared to be the hiring pattern for years, and many of those faces are still active in the profession today, whether they've improved at their craft to a meaningful degree or not. At all levels of the press, from the biggest sites to the smallest, the majority of the people writing about game news aren't journalists; they're people that like games and are capable of stringing sentences together to form coherent thoughts. Are you roughly twenty-four years old, love video games, and can write with a modicum of skill? Congratulations! You too, have the qualifications to work at mid-'90s Gamespot, so long as you can work in an office and conduct yourself in a manner appropriate to the environment. (Oh, also, you have to live in the Bay Area. Tough noogies if you live anywhere else since that's where all the big outlets are located.)

Yet, even more embarrassingly, even those with actual journalism experience aren't necessarily people to look toward, either. The aforementioned Brian Crescente was once a journalist at the Rocky Mountain News, which was an actual newspaper in Colorado. Then he became editor-in-chief of one of the worst game news sites on the internet (Kotaku) before becoming part of the Polygon team, which elected to introduce themselves to the world via a hilariously overwrought documentary series that more or less proclaimed them the saviors of the games press. (Insert Nelson Laugh here.)

We are fucking doomed. Every last one of us is doomed. And I say this as someone that this past year has taken my own stab at the whole games journalism thing. From the inside looking out, I implore you to heed me when I say that we all have a long way to go if games journalism is going to ever be worth more than a bottle of Mountain Dew.

OK, rant over. Moving on!

Worst Game of the Year: Dream Trigger 3D

I have no idea what the fuck is going on.

I haven't really played any bad games this year. At least, none of the games I've played that came out this year have left me clawing at my eyes and screaming for the horrid banshees within the game to take my soul and be done with the torment. The absolute worst game I played this year was actually something that came out last year. Dream Trigger 3D is an example of an early 3DS game that, as far as I can tell, tried to get by on it being in 3D and little else. I say this because there's nothing else for this game to get by on. While it's at least technically competent to the point that it won't crash upon booting up, its abstract graphics are nearly impossible to decipher, leading to numerous quick and early deaths that are almost unavoidable. Despite playing through the tutorial, I honestly couldn't tell you what in the flying hell is going on in that game because it does such a poor job of explaining itself, other than the fact that it's thematically wrapped in the same philosophical dream butterfly motif that defines the Persona series. Only with absolutely no clear reason that I can find other than an excuse to put "Dream" in the game's title.

I bought this game used at a discount because I was both curious and stupid. It was too much, and I have since paid my penance.

Best New Hardware: The Wii U

It has a silly name, sure. And the Wii U's raw power will probably be leapfrogged by whatever it is that Sony and Microsoft are cooking up right now. But none of that detracts from the simple fact that the console's central conceit, a controller with a big touch-screen in the middle, is actually sound and works as advertised. And while the games that make truly innovative use of the touch screen capabilities may be further off, it's no slouch, either, as games like ZombiU do a lot to demonstrate using the touch screen in tandem with the TV.

It also helps that the console's internet functions are enough to make one easily forget the days of having to exchange friend codes. The new Nintendo Network ID system, friends lists, and the Miiverse all stand in stark contrast to the overly simplistic (if far more secure) exchange of alphanumeric codes. There's still room for improvement, that much is certain, but in terms of features and functionality, there's no question that Nintendo has learned their lessons well and have taken steps to implement systems and services that wider audiences can appreciate. Will the quality games follow? Time will tell, but I can certainly see myself playing games on the device for years to come.

Best New Character: Labrys/Best Fighting Game: Persona 4 Arena

Take a bow, Labrys. You deserve it.

This has been a hell of a year for fighting games with seemingly something for everyone. But the best of the year is also the most unlikely; a fighting game set as a sequel to an RPG. But Arc System Works and Atlus pulled through big-time on this one, with elements of ASW's experience working on BlazBlue and incorporating gameplay and aesthetics that perfectly evoke Persona 4. Even more impressive is the way that Persona 4 Arena manages player expectations; there's depth for those tournament-savvy players that want it, but for anyone that just wants to play the game because they're a fan of the RPG and not necessarily a fighting game fan, there are perfectly viable options for them, as well. These elements really come together to make it the best fighting game of the year.

But a major appeal of the game, particularly for Persona fans, is its story mode. And while the game features a number of returning characters from Persona 3 and Persona 4 in its narrative and roster, their importance to the proceedings takes a back seat to Labrys; a mysterious android that serves as the heart and soul of the narrative. And her particular story in the game's story mode is easily the most enthralling of them all, despite the fact that the player is only ever asked to fight once in its entire duration. She's sympathetic, fits in with the existing cast, and is well-written and acted, from her early days as an emotionless test prototype and on through her evolution into an emotive, expressive, sensitive being that has to come to terms with who and what she is even though the truth is agonizing. She's easily the best new character of the year, and just happens to star in the best fighting game of the year, only making it better with her presence.

Best Revived Characters: Pit, Palutena, and Medusa

Kid Icarus: Uprising reintroduces Pit and makes him a full-fledged character.

The core cast of Kid Icarus, the heroic angel Pit, the goddess Palutena, and the villainous Medusa, had not been heard from in a long, long while. Over twenty years had passed since the last Kid Icarus game, and aside from Pit's (and to a lesser extent, Palutena's) appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, not much had been done with them in the meantime. These are characters without much personality, and no history other than being relics from the nearly forgotten depths of Nintendo's NES and Game Boy era.

And then something crazy happened. Masahiro Sakurai pulled them all out of storage, dusted them off, gave them a new game to star in in Kid Icarus: Uprising, and then wrote a fantastic script that defines them as characters, as personalities. It gave them full spectra of emotions with a surprising amount of depth. They evolve beyond jokes about the NES game and into complete personalities that don't need to lean on the olden days as a crutch. And the stellar localization and English voice acting go a long way in bringing them to life, from Pit's goofy, innocent charm to Palutena's trollish sense of humor to Medusa being an equally sharp-tongued antagonist. And that's all before the game really kicks into high gear.

Best Story: Kid Icarus: Uprising

No, I'm not joking.

Uprising's story is by far longer, deeper, and better than I imagined it could be.

Once the game gets through its requisite NES jokes and its first nine chapters, the high gear is kicked in and a new antagonist is revealed. The story grows more complex as new conflicts arise, new characters are introduced, and the plot takes some genuinely surprising, heart-wrenching twists. There's a moment in the game that I like to call the mindfuck, where my expectations were kicked in the head and left bleeding on the curb as the game threw its best curve ball. I was so genuinely stunned and so amazed by this turn that I absolutely couldn't put the game down until I had beaten it. It took me the rest of the evening and into the night. I had to plug my 3DS into the wall as the battery wore down, even as I kept the Circle Pad Pro plugged in, because after that moment, I absolutely had to see that things were set right. And when the game was finally beaten and he credits started to roll, I knew that I had played through one of the best game stories I had quite possibly ever experienced. It was absolutely beautiful, pitched perfectly from start to finish.

Best Graphics: Asura's Wrath

That's a giant finger coming down at him HOLY SHIT.

Vibrant, otherworldly, colorful, and insane. Asura's Wrath explores a wide range of environments from a mundane, yet still fantastic Earth to the war-torn depths of space. Its characters are beautifully designed and perfectly encapsulate their roles in the story, from Asura himself to his mentor Augus to his daughter Mithra. The fact that the game is running on the Unreal Engine 3, which has often been criminally underused to produce bland game world after bland game world, is put to excellent use here. The cinematic nature of the game's presentation, structured just like a televised, episodic anime complete with commercial bumpers, further emphasizes the artistic work on display, whether it be during one of the game's quieter moments or when Asura is in a full-blown rage.

Best Original Soundtrack: Xenoblade Chronicles

There is no contest here. Xenoblade Chronicles has an absolutely massive soundtrack, and every song is golden. Its pumping battle tracks, its environmental themes (each area in the game has their own individual daytime and nighttime themes), and its cinematic music are all beautifully done and perfectly evoke the mood, whether it be a battle against a mechon enemy, exploring a massive field or city, or doing just about anything else. Even the fanfare that plays when discovering a hidden location is awesome enough to make me raise my fists in triumph when I hear it.

While Xenoblade's graphics may not be as stellar as a game like Asura's Wrath because of the hardware limitations, being on the Wii does nothing to stunt the abilities of the soundtrack's composers and musicians.

Best Game of 2012: Xenoblade Chronicles

The massive scale of the game world is absolutely breathtaking.

There is a lot of game in Xenoblade Chronicles. I mean, really. You can spend over a hundred hours in it and still not be done, just because there's so much to see an do. More importantly, however, is that the game is absolutely fun and well designed in its every aspect, from simple-to-understand gameplay systems and an easy-to-manage quest log to its strategic combat aspects and the different gameplay styles of the primary party members. It might be easy to lean on Shulk for the bulk of the game with his control of the Monado, but there were large sections of the game where I was having fun being in control of the magic-wielding Melia or the goofy fuzzball of death, Riki.

The story and world behind the game are nothing to sneeze at, either. If you're a fan of Tetsuya Takahashi's other Xeno-titles, Xenogears and the Xenosaga trilogy, you should be right at home here. While Xenoblade Chronicles has nothing to do with his previous games in a narrative sense, it does feature a very rich world and an interesting story that are steeped in gnostic inspirations and influences, as well as characters and events that likewise take inspiration from those earlier games. A friend of mine that considers Xenogears one of her all-time favorites absolutely ate Xenoblade up, and could certainly do more to talk about these influences than I ever could, so don't go asking me for deep analysis (my relative knowledge of gnosticism is amateurish, at best), but if you have the interest, it's there.

But all talk of influences aside, the story and characters are well worth playing the game to see, as well. The story is entertaining, spanning the world (a world comprised of two gigantic titans!) and full of mystery. The characters the game follows are an entertaining bunch, and sometimes throw the old JRPG character tropes for a loop in some surprising ways. They're a group that's well worth journeying with, traveling across and exploring the vast reaches as their adventure takes them further than they could ever possibly dreamed.

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Hailinel's Top 10 of 2012: Another GOTY List Post

The List of the Ten Games That I Enjoyed the Most This Year and is Sure to Get a Lot of Dislike Votes Like My Other GOTY Lists (Fuck You Guys)

This is my Game of the Year list for 2012. DEAL WITH IT.

OK, snark out of the way, these are the ten games that I got the most out of this year, for one reason or another. In putting this list together, I wasn't particularly thorough in my explanations, but this list was slowly cobbled together over the past year as it went along. A few games were on the list, and then got moved off as better games took their place, but after all was said and done, this is what it came down to. If you want to discuss these entries further or accuse me of being an unrepentant Japanophile (as happens without fail at least once every time I make a GOTY list), then we can chat about these further.

Because debates are fun.

1. Xenoblade Chronicles

It took far too long to reach North America, but the wait was worth it. It's easily the best game I've played all year and the best RPG I've played in a very long time.

2. Kid Icarus: Uprising

A fun game with an excellent story and wonderful characters that does the original NES game more justice than it could have possibly deserved.

3. Persona 4 Arena

Who would have thought that a fighting game sequel to an RPG would feature such an amazing story and such a fun fighting system?

4. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy

A Final Fantasy rhythm game with classic tracks and beautiful design.

5. The Last Story

The last major Wii release in North America turned out to be one of the console's best.

6. Asura's Wrath

While it may largely be a QTE-driven anime in video game form, that doesn't make Asura's Wrath any less entertaining in its own right. The game does what it sets out to do with aplomb.

7. Pokémon Conquest

Pokemon and Nobunaga's Ambition? Together? Who would have thought something so crazy could result in something so fun.

8. Warriors Orochi 3

Specifically the Wii U version. Easily one of the best Warriors games to date.

9. Double Dragon Neon

A fun, hilarious revival of the series with great music and a terrific villain. What more could I want out of it?

10. Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom

Visual Novels don't come to North America in an official capacity very often, but Hakuoki is a quality entry in the genre.

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My brief jaunt into Dragon Age II.

Well, I gave it a shot.

After Animasta asked me to at least try the game before criticizing it, I went out and bought a cheap copy of Dragon Age II on Saturday. That is, seventeen dollars cheap, at least. Even then, I think I paid too much for hit. But anyway, fair's fair, and I decided to at least give the game an honest try.

Hoo boy.

It's bad. I mean, really bad. The gameplay is decidedly Dragon Age (even though tthey apparently had to patch in the auto-attacking after release? What?), which is fine. I enjoyed the first Dragon Age. But god damn, I don't remember the fights in Origins being anywhere near this tedious. People seriously aren't kidding when enemies just fall out of the sky and come in waves. And too many fights are stretched out by too many waves. For fuck's sake, stop spawning, you assholes, I just want to do this quest!

And as for the quests, they range from the fairly interesting to menial tasks that shouldn't even qualify. Tracking down a murderer or hunting down a blood mage I can understand, but finding a random nicknack and turning it in to some random person in town for a pittance of a reward and a hilariously detached thanks? (Seriously, I just returned a woman's remains to you, dude. Why are you treating this as though I just returned your cheap-ass watch?) And this is pretty much all the first act is. Random quests that often mix together (I can't count the number of times I forgot which quest I was specifically on because so many involved either looking for someone or tracking something) until I have enough money to go on the Deep Roads expedition.

For the most part, I played the game on the standard difficulty, and in the rare times it wasn't brain-dead easy, it suddenly spiked into "fuck you" territory. Like a room in a cave filled with spiders, undead, and a lich, all suddenly swarming out of nowhere. After playing that battle maybe seven times, I finally got out of it by the skin of my teeth with only Varric left alive, running through the halls and desperately holding on to those last few precious hit points long enough to be allowed another healing potion.

And that rock demon at the end of the Deep Roads can suck it.

And then there's the faults in the story. I understand that this is all being told in flashback from the recollection of an unreliable narrator (which will make it easy for Bioware to retcon by saying Varric was making shit up), but it just gets weird, especially toward the end of the Deep Roads, when oh, wait, Bethany is dead because Darkspawn. And yes, this is just oen possible outcome of that scene, but just the way it's handled, where it cuts in after five days of hiking through the Deep Roads only to suddenly reveal she's ill. It almost feels like a DM somewhere just expelled Bethany's player from the group and killed the character out of spite.

The whole act is nothing more than an elaborate set-up comprised of uninteresting bullshit with a character death thrown in at the end, because I don't know. It's not even so much that Bethany dies as much as it is the manner her death is depicted. It felt clumsy.

Anyway, after that, I started in on the second act, got as far as Hawke's mansion, and pretty much had enough. I'm pretty sure I know what to expect at this point. Tedious bullshit quests, Hawke's mother gets murdered and turned into a zombie bride (is there a particular reason why Hawke's entire family has to be murdered as they are? I mean, holy shit, guys), and something major happens a the end that leads into Varric's next echange with the interrogator as a lead-in to the following act.

At this point, I've had enough. Maybe my interest is tempered by my knowledge of what's to come (Anders, Orsino, and Meredith all being colossal dipshits, blood mages fucking everywhere), but seriously, this game is just dumb. It's bad enough that I spent fourteen hours running around in the first act mostly doing a lot of nothing before story time in the Deep Roads, but if I have to fight one more wave of bandits falling from the sky, it'll be one too many. Seriously, seventeen bucks is too much for this game.

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So, I'm a Games Journalist

Well, sort of.

I had been frequenting oprainfall.com for some time since the site made the transition from campaigning for North American releases of Xenoblade, The Last Story, and Pandora's Tower to becoming a volunteer-run news and review hub. And in my time there, I had also gotten into some rather heated...debates with certain staff members regarding their writing. I'm sure some of you can guess what a lot of those arguments revolved around.

Anyway, after a particular row with one of their writers (this time having nothing to do with anything Metroid-related), I was contacted by one of the site heads and offered me the chance to basically put my money where my mouth is by bringing me on as a member of the staff. I accepted.

So what am I doing, exactly? As a newcomer, I'm strictly assigned to writing news; editorials and reviews aren't within my jurisdiction. At least, not yet. You could say that I'm still in a trial period. Anyway, as a news writer, I'm not exactly Patrick. The work I'm doing is mostly researching story leads and writing short bits on them. Some of it's new aggregation, some of it's more original than that, but it gets content on the site.

But like I said, this is a volunteer position. I get no compensation, save the gratification of people reading what I wrote (and possibly bitching at me over the internet). And I don't know how long I'll stick with it and get the chance to write articles outside of basic news, but I'll see how things shake out.

(Obviously, this is not attached to the forums or any game pages because this could be construed as advertising.)

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PAX Prime 2012: Days 2 & 3

Always be hydrated.

PAX is over once again, but it was a lot of fun, as were the friends that accompanied me this year. This was their first PAX, and with the exception of one of them falling ill from dehydration in the evening of the second day, it all went smoothly. And everyone made it through day three with no ill health!

Games, Games, Games!

NintendoLand

I could see this getting a lot of play in a party setting.

I know that everyone gave this game shit when it was unveiled at E3, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have fun with the games I tried out. The first was the Legend of Zelda game, in which one player, using the Wii U gamepad, is an archer and the other players, using Wii Remotes, are swordsmen. The swoirdsmen move along a guided path, hacking and slashing their way through guys, while the archer shoots dudes from afar. There are also light puzzle elements; at one point in the demo, we were each stopped by an orb. To progress, the swordsmen had to strike their orbs, and before a timer counted down, the archer had to strike theirs as well. The game is purely cooperative and ends if any of the swordsmen go down.

The second was the Luigi's Mansion game, which, despite its Pac-Man Vs. similarities, was pretty hilarious in its own right. When I played, I had the Wii U controller, and so I was playing the ghost tried to kill the other players, who were trying to find me and shine a flashlight in my direction to damage me. I didn't quite win; there was a point where I had killed two players, but they can be revived if the remaining survivors are quick enough, and I eventually just got corralled and finished off.

Minigame collection? Yes. Fun? Also, yes. I'm honestly interested to see what the rest of the games are like.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale

No. Just...no.

I have been heavily critical of this game for some time now. The time I spent with PlayStation All-Stars at PAX did nothing to change my mind. In fact, I'd say it just confirmed what I felt when watching things like the Giant Bomb Quick Look. The game desperately wants to be Smash Bros., but it's too slow, the UI does nothing to inform the players as to who's winning and losing until the match is over, and divvying points based purely on hitting with supers is a terrible, terrible idea. I was playing a fairly decent game, not particularly good or bad, when the player using Kratos busted out his Level 3 super near the very end, which basically lets him run around the arena with an instant kill weapon. It's less a trump card or comeback mechanic and more an "I Win" button.

I should note that, even though I was standing in the middle of the Sony booth at the show surrounded by other people playing this game, I didn't hear that much praise for it from anyone. Maybe the Sony fans just weren't out in force at that moment, but the reception to the game, as far as I could measure, was lukewarm at the very best.

The Vita

Yes. Just yes.

During my time at the various Vita stations, I tried my hand at Zen Pinball, Little Big Planet, and Retro City Rampage. While my time with LBP did little more than remind me that I can't stand LBP platforming, Zen Pinball and Retro City Rampage were a lot of fun. The only problem is that neither is a Vita exclusive and I could get versions of both elsewhere.

But they did have Persona 4: Golden on display as well, and while the demo wasn't anything elaborate (the game was just started and left to run, so it was still in the opening, exposition-heavy hours), I did get to hear a fair amount of Chie's new voice, and she does a good job. I'm fairly certain that Golden is and will remain my sole reason to own a Vita for some time to come.

Tomb Raider

A more human Lara makes for a more captivating game.

The demo of Tomb Raider on display was an old build; probably the same one shown off at E3. It's early game exploration and bow-hunting elements, and despite the occasional bug (at one point, Lara would just float across the ground with her left arm outstretched to the side whenever I ran forward), it's looking very, very sharp. I've never really been a fan of Tomb Raider, but the presentation and the feel of the gameplay make this very likely the first Lara Croft adventure I actually spend money on.

Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion

This is my friends Game of the Show, right here.

The 3DS Epic Mickey title that serves as an ode to the old Genesis game Castle of Illusion is another game that's looking sharp. This was an extra-fun stop especially for one of my friends, who is a huge Disney fan. She had the chance to talk with the rep handling the demo, who also happens to be a graphic artist on Epic Mickey 2. Really, that part of the show made her PAX, and this game is now at the top of her list of upcoming games she wants. And you know? The platforming and the use of the paint and thinner mechanic in the 2D setting really does work well. She'll have a blast when it comes out; I'm sure of that.

The Panels

I went to three panels this year; one on Friday, one on Saturday, and one today. The first panel, which I neglected to mention in my Day 1 blog, was on the depiction of religion and religious content in games.

It was terrible.

The primary problem stemmed from the fact that all three panelists had a very narrow view of religious content and context in games. All of their favorite examples came from either the Dragon Age series or the Mass Effect trilogy, and in general, it felt more like a Bioware love-fest than any sort of discussion on religion in general. This is possibly a predictable outcome, since one of the panelists is a QA Lead at EA Canada. Despite a fleeting reference to El Shaddai, they didn't have much of interest to say on the topic that didn't devolve into "Bioware is awesome!"

Saturday's panel was on sex in games, particularly in relation to tabletop RPGs, though some video game discussion came up during the Q&A. For me personally, as well as the friend I attended it with, it was very entertaining and informative, particularly since we both have experience dealing with a DM that could learn a few things (well, everything, really) on how to depict such in the game, but also on how to prevent "bleed." (i.e.: "Her character wants to shag my character, so that must mean she wants to shag me!")

Yeah, bleed is a bad thing when it escalates to that level.

The final panel we attended was another table-top/card game panel in which a number of creators of humorous tabletop games talked about how to insert humor into games. It was a very funny panel with a lot of self-depreciation (one of the panelists, a friend of a friend, was even dressed in a goofy cow costume he was using to promote his latest game, which he is putting together with Kickstarter help). It can be an odd thing, where some games succeed because they contain the right amount of inherent humor, whereas in other games, the humor is mostly there because of the way the players create it themselves.

As one particularly colorful anecdote, one of the panelists had also done writing work on a Marvel MMO title that happened to be on display at PAX, and mentioned how he'd be assigned particular characters, and for the most part, they're not difficult to write for. And then he was given Deadpool. He constantly missed his deadlines for Deadpool because it takes so much more effort to write him, particularly when all of the dialogue needs to be that Deadpool sort of funny.

Freeplay

Every year, I try to get in a little bit of the Console Freeplay area at PAX and play something I don't normally have the opportunity to try. This year was slightly different.

Yeah, I bought a 360 for this. I don't regret it one bit.

I used to own a 360, though I finally go sick of it after having repeated hardware issues that caused constant crashes and scratched game discs. On the list of freeplay games, I decided to spend a little bit of time with the game that I originally bought a 360 in order to play, when the console honeymoon was in full effect and before the rather nasty divorce. And that game was Ninety-Nine Nights.

Yep. What, did you expect me to say Oblivion or Halo or something?

OK, so N3 had its problems, but my time with it in Console Freeplay was enough to remind me that my fondness for that game isn't merely rose-tinted. I really do enjoy it.

The Swag and the Purchases

My wallet cries for mercy before the end of every PAX I attend, and this was no exception. The main reason being that I bought some furniture while I was there. Gaming furniture company Geek Chic was on display once again, and for the second PAX in three years, I ordered furniture from them. The first time, it was a coffee table. This time, it was their Alexandria Codex; a shelving/drawer unit that should be perfect for storing my games and DVDs. My collection has grown unwieldy, and if I'm going to get it under control, then I might as well do it in style.

On the faaaaaaaar less expensive end of the spectrum, I stopped in at the Pink Gorilla Games booth and bought a number of cool things. My favorite among them being the Final Fantasy Trading Arts Yuna figurines; the package comes with Yuna in her FFX outfit and her X-2 Gunner garb, and they are adorable. I also got some Samurai Warriors 3 trading figures.

I also picked up a few old PS2 games. A few I bought because I played them many years ago, and for one reason or another, carry fondness for them: Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore I played a lot in college. Dynasty Warriors 3 got me into the Dynasty Warriors series, and I logged more time in Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII than should be considered healthy.

And then there are the other games I got. Namely, Chaos Legion, which I bought mainly because of an old Penny Arcade joke from eons ago, and Bujingai, which is just hilarious for the fact that it stars Gackt in the role of the protagonist. Really, it's just impossible to take seriously. And if you don't know what a Gackt is, Google is your friend.

The Conclusion

PAX Prime 2012 was a rousing success all around. Certain health issues aside, my friends and I all had fun, and we all came away with things we enjoyed and are looking forward to. It's difficult to really name a game of the show simply because there was so much on display that really grabbed me. Though Tomb Raider certainly gets a lot of props, as does what Nintendo had on display for the Wii U. I didn't even have a chance to demo games like Pikmin 3 or Project P-100, but that time I spent with the new controller was well worth it.

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PAX Prime 2012: Day One

The first day of PAX Prime 2012 had its definite highs and lows. One of the highs was that this was the first PAX I've attended as part of a group, rather than going by myself. It's a lot more fun being able to enjoy it with friends than it is to go alone and maybe stumble across people I know. But then, that could also be said for a lot of things. In any case, it was a blast, and I'm sure that the next two days will be much the same.

Before I go on, however, I should note the biggest low of the day. Traditionally, before each day at PAX starts, tables are set up in the queue room where people could pick up their lanyards, programs, and a complimentary swag bag. However, this year, apparently after some snafu at the last PAX East, the decision was made to hold off on handing out the bags until later in the morning (around 11:30). Also, for whatever reason, rather than having the bags pre-stuffed, people were to stuff them themselves as they went down a line.

This turned out to be a disastrous decision. What should have been a simple grab-and-go somehow turned into a long line that took multiple hours to clear. A lot of StreetPassing was done while waiting ('sup, !), and I saw some cool cosplay and footage of the League of Legends tournament on the big screens, but otherwise, holy shit, what a mess. The only real upside was that Robert Khoo of Penny Arcade showed up to personally apologize to people coming through the line and promised that this error would not be repeated.

My condolences to anyone with a single-day pass that had their time wasted in that line.

Now, on to better things.

The Wii U

Nintendo has playable Wii U stations at PAX, and I had the chance to get in on one of them to try out Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge. Despite the poor reviews of the original version, Razor's Edge is looking pretty sharp (no pun intended). Dismemberment is back, the short demo obattle was pretty fun, and possibly most important of all, that crazy controller is actually very easy to hold. Yes, it's a bit large, but it's also thin, light, and comfortable. I hope to try out more of the demos in the next two days, but even that short time was enough to increase my hopes for the final product.

Epic Mickey 2

The demo for Epic Mickey 2 was pretty fun, and covered the tutorial portion of the game. The game still retains the basic mechanics of the original, but now has things like voice acting and an overall better presentation (judging from the first few minutes), and most important of all, a better camera. The camera is now fixed to the critical path, so you always know where to go, but you can still make manual adjustments to go exploring. I didn't have a chance to try the multiplayer (that was reserved to other demo stations), but if you liked Epic Mickey, you'll probably like this game. And if you didn't like Epic Mickey, there's a better chance you'll like this one.

Hitman: Absolution

I had never played a Hitman game before. But the few minutes I spent with the Hitman: Absolution demo were pretty eye-opening and demonstrated my hilariously poor skill. As in, bashing a guy over the head while surrounded by cops, and then trying again, waiting until he's alone, get spotted anyway, kill the target, run, get hurt, hide in a dumpster, climb out, get found again, and get killed.

Yeah, I'm not very good. But the demo was still pretty entertaining.

Final Fantasy

Square Enix held a separate, non-PAX Final Fantasy museum event at a different venue today, and I actually skipped the Giant Bomb panel in order to attend it. It was actually pretty awesome. There were TVs running all of the Final Fantasy entries from the original through XIII and XIII-2, and each TV was appropriate to the era that the games were released. So the earlier games were played on CRTs of various makes and models, while the more recent were on HDTVs. The Japan-only releases of FFII, III, and V were also playable and on display...in Japanese of course. I played a bit of the original FFIII, and it was pretty fun. Someone had set the save file up so that one of the characters was a Level 99 warrior, so I was steamrolling over dudes in the part of the game I found myself.

The museum was also sort of like a nightclub, with drinks at a bar, as well as a DJ playing nightclub appropriate music. Finally, a bit-screen played the Japanese presentations on Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and Lightnings Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.

I want Lightnings Returns. I don't care how many people are disinterested or would rather see the XIII series die by now, I want this game.

EDIT: Also, I am a a derp and keep reading Lightning Returns as Lightning's Return. I have corrected this error, but I am still a derp.

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The Long, Strange Road of Final Fantasy Versus XIII

Final Fantasy Versus XIII may have been a case of ability unable to match ambition.

Depending on your point of view, the recent rumors regarding the cancellation of Final Fantasy Versus XIII has likely elicited any number of responses. For those that were looking forward to the game a great deal, there’s disappointment, shock and dismay, or possibly even anger. For those that weren’t as heavily invested, there’s indifference, or possibly even relief, either for the fact that a seemingly tumultuous development has been brought to a merciful end, or for the fact that the people involved in its development may now be at work on other projects like the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts III. And of course, for those more malicious malcontents, a sense of glee.

I myself am somewhere between the first two. If it’s true that Versus XIII is cancelled, then I’m not too disappointed because, well, not much of the game was ever shown, so I couldn’t ever judge whether it was going to turn out well or not. On the other hand, given the people involved, I could hazard a guess at least that the game would be of my taste, and there were obviously a lot of people that had spent years working on it for no apparent avail, and so I’m disappointed as well. But I can’t say I’m angry; bad things unfortunately can happen to well-intentioned projects.

Square Enix will apparently make an announcement regarding the direction of Final Fantasy XIII in the near future; most likely on how the company intends to conclude Lightning’s story, which was left with a major, dangling cliffhanger at the conclusion of Final Fantasy XIII-2. If Wikipedia’s page on the game is to be believed, such an announcement will come on August 31.

Final Fantasy XIV was a major embarrassment for Square Enix, but they're trying to make amends.

This, of course, says nothing regarding the fate of Versus; sources that have leaked the news of the cancellation suggest that Square Enix will just leave the cancellation as quiet as it can in order to prevent disruptions related to stock prices and shareholders. And I can’t really blame them, if that’s their intent. Shareholders can be a fickle crowd, and if they’re invested purely for financial reasons and hear that a much-anticipated game has been canned, it can cause trouble. I doubt that such a cancellation would cause as much trouble as the launch of Final Fantasy XIV, which not only got hammered critically on release, but was so poor that Square Enix President Yoichi Wada felt it necessary to make a public apology. The game’s failure led to a financial wash, and the company is only spending more money in an effort to right the ship. They’re still in the process of overhauling the game for its 2.0 relaunch.

And in that sense, if Versus XIII was truly troubled, then it may have been better that it was cancelled. If it launched to scathing reviews, then that would be that. Unlike an MMO, there’s no way for a single-player RPG to receive a design overhaul after the fact. It’s just not the type of game that gets a mulligan.

Then again, no one outside the company knows precisely why Versus was cancelled, if the cancellation did indeed happen. The game was meant to be part of a collection of titles that revolved around the universe of Final Fantasy XIII, which the company had branded Fabula Nova Crystallis. It was supposed to comprise Final Fantasy XIII, Versus XIII, and another game called Agito XIII. For those that don’t remember, Agito XIII was a PSP title that Square Enix was mostly quiet on, until the day that it was announced that they decided to drop the FFXIII connection and turn it into its own thing called Final Fantasy Type-0.

Final Fantasy Agito XIII, one of the original projects in Fabula Nova Crystallis, is now its own thing.

This was at about the same time that the company also announced that they were developing the previously unannounced Final Fantasy XIII-2; a direct sequel to the original game. And it could just be that about the time that XIII-2’s development was decided upon that the company’s plans for Fabula Nova Crystallis were cracking at the seams.

So how did that happen? Well, Final Fantasy XIII was by no means a failure. It sold millions of copies around the world. Despite what some might suggest, it was far from being any sort of flop. I’d also argue that the combat system in the game was excellent and the characters and story were, while not among the best of the series, far from the worst. What shot the game in the foot, at least perception-wise, was an overly linear world design, and the mechanics were rolled out over a pace that resulted in the player not having full control over their party until around the twenty hour mark.

And so, hearing these criticisms, Final Fantasy XIII-2 was made. The game still uses the same basic concepts of the Final Fantasy XIII combat system, with a few tweaks, and it features far less linear terrain. Really, it addresses just about all of the legitimate complaints that were levied at the original game, and tied it all together with the presence of a highly memorable villain. The one major knock against the game compared to the first is that, as I said before, it ends on a major cliffhanger. It also introduced some oddball DLC choices, like Mass Effect N7 armor costume sets, which were mostly just tacky and out of place.

But all of that aside, with Agito no longer what it once was and XIII-2 produced to address fan criticism of the original game, we’re left with Versus; a game that has been shrouded in secrecy for most of its development and has only rarely been shown in any form publicly. The music track used for the game’s trailer was even released as DLC for Theatrhythm last week. A lot of fan expectation had been built around a game that Square Enix has rarely said much about, and many of those that weren’t interested in it just wanted it done so that the team could get to work on KH3.

That is a public relations nightmare of an obstacle course to traverse, if there ever was one. Yikes.

And then there’s the rumored fate of what’s actually become of Versus. Was the project entirely abandoned? Were any of its assets merged into the development of Final Fantasy XV? Did they just up and change the game’s name to Final Fantasy XV? It’s impossible to say, and depending on the truth of the matter, we might never find out.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 showed that Square Enix is not averse to addressing criticism that could have been ignored.

As for my own personal take on this, if Versus XIII was canned, my sympathies go to the team behind it. The expectations for the game from some corners were just too much, and whatever led to the game’s cancellation, I hope it doesn’t impede their work going forward. It’s fun to think that, perhaps, the game is being retooled into the next main Final Fantasy game, but I suspect that’s probably not the case. And to those of you tap-dancing to this news, thinking that means that KH3 is just around the corner, shame on you.

But as for the future of Final Fantasy XIII and whatever its shattered crystallis holds, I’m ready to take it. Lightning is actually one of my favorite protagonists in the series, and I’d like to see her story brought to a proper conclusion. That, and a proper resolution to what Final Fantasy XIII-2 set in motion. XIII-2 showed that Square Enix is willing to learn from its mistakes and adapt. Whether the next phase is a DLC cap to XIII-2, or a XIII-3, I’m willing to play it. And if Versus XIII reappears down the line in some form, I’ll play that, too.

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I Delight in These Games Eating My Soul

Xenobladin'

Over the past few months, I've been splitting my time between a few different games. FIrst and foremost has been Xenoblade Chronicles, which I bought at the U.S. launch back in April and have only sunk some ninety hours into so far. (Yes, "only.") If this had come out a few years ago, I probably would have beaten it in less than three months, but my life has more responsibilities these days, and I can only devote so much time to my gaming habits, particularly when there are so many games that I want to play. That being said, Xenoblade Chronicles is easily one of the best RPGs I've played in years. And I have a Xenogears/Xenosaga fan of a friend that is not only soaking in every minute of the game herself and doing everything she can within the game's world but is also having a blast recognizing a lot of the tropes and references to Xenogears that I just flat out would not get.

Behold. For he is Riki, destroyer of worlds.

There are a lot of reasons that I enjoy Xenoblade. There's the way the game plays, which is in some ways comparable to Final Fantasy XII. There's its massive, enormous, humongous, gigantic (have I used enough adjectives?) world, where all manner of hidden nooks and surprises await those willing to explore off the beaten path. There are the characters, who while filling obvious tropes and archetypes are genuinely likeable, and sometimes surprising. There's the story that starts off simple and takes some surprising twists and turns, and is always entertaining thanks to a fantastic localization. Even NPCs I've come across have caught my eye and tugged at my heart despite what limited time their stories are given.

In all honesty, I can't think of a single thing that I don't like about the game. I'm even loving the fact that I feel like I can take my time with it, and not have to rush to the end. It's not a game that I really want to see end at this point because it's just been so enjoyable.

Conquestin'

Another game I've been playing, and which I've put far less time into thus far, is Pokemon Conquest. I've never really enjoyed the core Pokemon games. I can understand why a lot of people do, but every time I've tried to play one, it's never been able to hold my interest for more than a little while, and I've never even come close to completing one. But Conquest looks like it's going to break that trend for me.

Ginchiyo is still awesome, even when paired with a Pokemon.

Some of you are already aware of this, but Pokemon Conquest is actually a crossover game with Koei's Nobunaga's Ambition strategy game series. And after putting maybe six or so hours in, those influences are numerous and obvious. Not just in the inclusion of Japanese historical figures as warlords bonding with, training, and engaging in combat with Pokemon, but in the general elements of the game outside of battle. The way that officers have to be managed, their stats and abilities play just as important a role in the game as the Pokemon do.

But make no mistake, because this is still a Pokemon game at heart. This means capturing new Pokemon, evolution, getting familiar with each types strengths and weaknesses, and everything else. Master those points, and so long as Pokemon are properly trained, the game doesn't seem that challenging (which is fair, given the audience the game is targeted at), but man, there is a lot going on here. And there's apparently a range of secondary campaigns focused on the historical officers to play through once the primary campaign is cleared, so there's really no shortage of content, either.

Theatrhythmin'

Finally, there's Theatrhythm. This is a game that has, in no uncertain terms, made me feel good about rhythm games again. Really, it's the first rhythm game I've enjoyed since Guitar Hero II and Rocks the '80s. Once the plastic instrument boom phase of the genre escalated and both Activision and Harmonix (with Rock Band) got stupid with the number of plastic instrument bundles, and Neversoft took a giant dump on the genre by creating large swaths of note highways that were little more than note spam, I just could not take it anymore.

This game is pure joy, even when its Dark Notes become nightmarish in their challenge.

In any event, the rhythm games I preferred were always the more esoteric of the bunch; games like Ouendan and Space Channel 5 that married their gameplay, which have little or nothing to do with instrument, real or plastic, to premises that are both outlandish and charming. To me, these aspects were lost to a great degree during the Activision/Harmonx arms race. And when I learned that iNiS, the creators of such great games as Ouendan and Gitaroo Man, was reduced to making a fucking Black Eyed Peas video game, I felt as though the genre had hit its nadir and lost its heart.

And then Theatrhythm came along, with its ridiculous premise, classic track list, and a mix of gameplay styles that's one part Ouendan mixed with new concepts ranging from the basic gameplay to the ability to outfit and customize a party and actually have it affect gameplay, and I am hooked. I mean, make no mistake; I am a big Final Fantasy fan, and the track list has a lot to do with my appeal toward the game, but it's also due to the mix of odd rhythm gameplay and style that permeate it. And I cannot tell you how happy I am to see someone make a rhythm game of this type. No plastic instruments, no need for a Kinect and ten feet of open floor space, and no Fergie. I don't know who had the idea to make this game, but whoever it was, it was goddamn brilliant.

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End Boss Month #30: Super Mario & Kid Icarus: Uprising

Here we are, folks. The final day of End Boss Month is upon us. As I noted yesterday, thinking of the proper subject to bring an end to end this month-long series was among the most difficult tasks I’ve had in writing it. But now that we’re here, I’ve decided that once more, we’ll look at not one, but two very special final bosses. One that has been around since Nintendo’s earliest console days, and one of their most recent creations.

No discussion of final bosses is truly complete without the One Koopa to rule them all; Bowser, the fire-breathing turtle-esque villain of Super Mario Bros. and so many others.

The one and only.

Bowser has the simplest of desires. He’d like nothing more than to take Princess Peach hostage and conquer the Mushroom Kingdom. Though to be honest, the kingdom has always seemed to be a very distant second in Bowser’s wish list. And what does Bowser want with Peach? Well, if the Paper Mario series is to be believed, he’d just like to marry her. He’s love struck, and he goes about it in all the wrong ways.

Of course, Bowser’s kidnappings are fairly routine at this point. He shows up, goes “Bwa ha ha,” ensnares Peach in his scaly clutches, takes her back to his castle, and then is summarily trounced by Mario. And you know, for as old hat as the scheme is, would we really want it any other way? I mean, kidnapping Peach is really the thing that Bowser knows best, so why should we demand anything different from him? He’s the one villain in the entire world that can still pull off that trope without making it look tired.

Bowser is like that old friend that, no matter what changes, you can always count on to be the same as ever. He’s overcome repeated failures, a horrific, ruffle-headed portrayal by Dennis Hopper, the indignity of having to team up with his enemy after a freakin’ evil anvil took over his castle and the most amazing indigestion medical science has ever witnessed. And yet, no matter what, he’s right back at it, chasing after that cute blonde in the pink dress. He doesn’t settle for easier targets and he doesn’t let the constant thwarting of his plans get to him.

And Bowser is always on the lookout for new and creative methods of bringing Mario’s destruction. Breathing fire? Raining mechanized death from a clown-copter chariot? Just turning the tables and jumping on him? His plans may always end in failure, but he has a very busy drawing board. Just look at some of his greatest hits.

Really, more villains could stand to learn from Bowser.

One villain that certainly doesn’t need lessons, however, is the final boss of Nintendo’s Kid Icarus: Uprising. Going into the game, I thought that things were going to be pretty cut and dried. The marketing made it very clear that Medusa, the final boss of the original NES game, was making a return appearance. And appear she did. I fought and defeated her at the end of chapter nine.

Of a twenty-five chapter game. Wait, what?

Well, no sooner is Medusa defeated than the real villain revealed. It’s none other than the true ruler of the underworld, Hades. Yes, Hades, who had resurrected Medusa to unwittingly do his bidding. And his sudden appearance transforms what had previously been a fairly straight-forward story into something with multiple, surprising twists and turns. Like the other characters in the game, he’s also incredibly, hilariously chatty. He has no qualms with being evil. It’s pretty much his lifestyle. Even when the plot takes a turn that sees the gods all working together, he still finds ways to impede Pit and sling some zingers in the process.

Not pictured: Nipple Cannons

What I am saying is that he is a dick. Which really shouldn’t surprise anyone. I mean, he’s the ruler of the underworld. And yet, despite his wisecracks, penchant for hitting on goddesses, and all of his fun-time loving, he is seriously, maliciously evil. As in, he creates servants by harvesting and destroying the souls of countless mortals and throws the cycle of reincarnation into a chaotic mess. And he does it all pretty much just because he can.

To make matters worse, he’s powerful enough that, the first time Pit faces him, he destroys the three sacred treasures the angel had used to fight Medusa. Even when Pit returns for the final battle, which encompasses the entirety of the game’s last stage, equipped with a heavily armed transforming armor, Hades still manages to destroy it, leaving Pit defenseless on the ground.

And then, a special set piece kicks in; the player must help Pit keep his focus on Hades while a mysterious force heads straight for the underworld king. Is it friendly? No one knows. But just when Hades is about to blast Pit into oblivion...

Medusa comes back.

Even though she was rendered into an unwitting second banana, almost an afterthought with her defeat so early in the game, Medusa charges in and shows Hades who’s really boss by punching his head clean off. It doesn’t quite kill him, and he takes Medusa down soon after, but there’s a sort of poetry to the way it all happens, letting the final boss of the original get in her shot at the usurper, and leaving him open for a final blow.

Unlike Bowser, Hades will probably never be back. Well, not for a while, anyway, if at all. But even so, he leaves a mark, not just for his remarkable wit, but for his incredible evil. The game he’s from is only a few months old at this point, but for everything he says, does, and represents, I’d say that, years from now, there’s a good chance that a lot of people will fondly remember him for being so deliciously vile.

Ugh. Why did the best Youtube video I could find of the battle have to come with a giant-size watermark and no touch screen shenanigans? Oh well. But in the spirit of Uprising, let's give Medusa some due of her own, just as a bonus.

Man, the 1980s sure did love giant, stationary final bosses.

Ladies and gentlemen, it has been fun writing this series, but like all great games with final bosses, it’s time to bring it to an end. I hope you’ve all enjoyed my month of rambling as much as I’ve enjoyed the actual act of rambling. And once again, I apologize if I just didn’t get to a boss that you really would have liked to see me cover. There’s just an insurmountable number of possibilities out there. But that doesn’t meant that you can’t talk about your favorites yourself.

So, as I close things out, I ask you this? Who are your favorite bosses? Your least favorite? Are there any that just struck that special something in you? End Boss Month may be over, but the discussion doesn’t have to end here.

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End Boss Month #29: Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne

In previous installments of this series, we’ve taken looks at bosses with a range of villainous motivations, from instinctual hunger to nihilistic psychopathy. But what about a final boss that isn’t the villain? No evil intent, thirst for destruction or hunger for pretty, pretty princesses? Such is the case in the third and final of Atlus’s games we’ll be examining in End Boss Month; Kagutsuchi of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne.

In all of his bath-tile glory.

What exactly is Kagutsuchi? He is, like Izanami and Izanagi, an ancient Japanese god. In fact, he is the fire god responsible for Izanami’s death; he burned his own mother as she gave birth to him, and upon her death, Izanagi took his revenge by cutting Kagutsuchi to pieces. These pieces in turn resulted in the creation of yet more gods.

Though Kagutsuchi’s mythological existence was short and painful, his role in Nocturne is central to the entire game. After a cultist performs a ritual to bring the world to an end, or more accurately, unmakes the world into a fetal, unborn state, Kagutsuchi appears in the center of this Vortex World. In terms of gameplay, the god acts as the moon does in other Megami Tensei titles, going through different phases as the game progresses and affecting the moods of the demons that inhabit the wasteland.

But Kagutsuchi’s most important role is that which he plays in the creation of the next world. When a human has succeeded in creating a Reason, the natural laws that shall govern a new world, it must be presented to him. The god then tests the will of the Reason bearer in a battle that shall determine if the chosen philosophy shall become the seed of the world’s rebirth.

Or, perhaps not. In addition to the three Reasons that the Demi-Fiend may choose to present, the player can choose to subvert the process. If the Demi-Fiend plays his cards right, he can fight Kagutsuchi with no Reason, thus allowing the world to be returned to its prior state. Or, if the player should go through the amazingly challenging steps required to ally with Lucifer, the Demi-Fiend will fight Kagutsuchi to prevent the birth of a new world, effectively becoming a villain himself.

Or, if the player does things wrong, Kagutsuchi will recognize the Demi-Fiend as a colossal screw-up and not even give him the chance to fight. Adios! No final boss for you, loser. Enjoy your wasteland, devoid of natural laws and reason.

He’s the supernatural force behind the creation of the next world, but he’s a supernatural force with standards.

So really, Kagutsuchi isn’t the bad guy here. Potentially, you are. And if you aren’t, well, Chiaki is there to run away with the crown. And she will sprint gleefully away, wearing it atop her head while callously murdering anyone she comes across.

(She’s not the final boss, but you fight her pretty damn close to the end. So, there’s that.)

As for fighting Kagutsuchi, you better be ready. Like all things Nocturne, he’s not exactly a pushover. Not by any means. And he has two forms. One is a giant disco ball. The other is a face that conjures up memories of YHVH, the final boss of Megami Tensei II and Shin Megami Tensei II. It is only with Kagutsuchi’s defeat that the fate of the world will be determined. But in that regard, he’s only doing his job.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I bring to a close the penultimate entry of End Boss Month. Tomorrow shall be my final write-up of this series. There are a lot of bosses that I’ve wanted to highlight for this feature. Picking out the roster was the toughest thing about this, and figuring out which boss to end the feature on was one of the toughest tasks. Because frankly, people are going to be disappointed no matter who or what I pick. But check back in tomorrow as I bring End Boss Month to its conclusion.

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