Obligatory "It's my Birthday!" post

Lately I've been noticing a lot of birthday blog posts, so I thought I would throw my hat into the ring here. Today I turn 20. Turning 19 and 20 are such forgettable birthdays. You don't have the excitement of turning 18 and finally being a legal adult, and you haven't yet reached the legal drinking age. But, its still a good day, and I am glad to share this with my Giant Bomb family! Maybe next year I can join the drunken blog club (not really).

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From the Desk of the President: Fighting Game Frustration

MORTAL KOMBAT!

Mortal Kombat is a great game. However, it’s also a frustrating game. I’ll admit this up front: I don’t play fighting games all that often, and I’m not necessarily very good. That being said, I feel like I’m in a position where I can’t have fun with the game. I’m not really someone who wants to dedicate hours upon hours struggling to get better. Hell, any time I’ve TRIED to get better, it never seems to help any. I always hear from fighting game pros that the way to get better when you are new is to repeatedly get your ass kicked, but honestly, that doesn’t seem to do much except aggravate the situation. Getting beaten into submission when you don’t really understand why doesn’t exactly help you learn anything except how far you can throw your controller down the hall.

DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE!

Another suggestion I’ve seen tossed around is playing the arcade ladder as a way to practice. But to be honest, playing against AI is probably the furthest thing from helpful.The AI doesn’t function like a player; it just tends to rattle off combos constantly. I had to turn the difficulty all the way down just to beat the story (on a side note, I would love to sodomize Shao Khan with that hammer of his for that last boss battle).

I don’t know, I guess what I’m trying to say is that the game is very frustrating to play online, and I feel that the reason for that is there is no skill segregation. There are many open multiplayer rooms that are labeled “beginner” or “rookie”, but more often than not they seem to be filled with veteran players looking to beat up on people who identify themselves as not very good. I’ve always thought fighting games could use a Starcraft II style ranking system so people who aren’t very good don’t get subjected to repeated beat downs. It’s also really hard to get better when you can’t play people of similar skill level.

The spammer's favorite!

That brings up my last major annoyance. Whenever you do find people who don’t just stomp you into the ground, it’s usually people who just want to turtle in the corner and spam projectiles. It seems like I can’t catch a break.

I’m rambling now, so I think I’ll just end it here. What do you guys think? Am I on the right track, or are fighting games just not for me? Do you think there is a better way to group players in fighting games, or does it just come with the territory?

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From the Desk of the President: Kingdom Hearts without Disney?

Hello everyone! This is totally my first blog here! Anyways, I decided I would start a semi-regular blog series where I sit down and muse about certain things in the video game world. Most of the time these will be in some kind of question form, and I really would like to hear what people have to say in response. 
 
With that out of the way, lets get started!
 

Kingdom Hearts - Disney = Better game?

 Let me first start out by saying that I really really liked the first Kingdom Hearts game. This was a game that had no business being as charming as it was . I really think it
 Blah blah blah pop culture reference, blah blah blah topical celebrity impersonation.
took a lot of people by surprise, including myself. I think the reason I was more surprised than anyone else was that I have a distinct hatred of Final Fantasy (more on that later). Having grown up watching a lot of Disney films, I cannot adequately express the joy it gave me to travel to the different worlds. The most fun part about it was that you had all the big bads of the different movies in a sort of Legion of Doom type conspiracy to take down Sora and friends. I was also pleasantly surprised by the gameplay, the combat had a really good flow, and I'll never get tired of seeing Genie come in to offer assistance.  The game also created a distinct feel in each world with the various costume changes that the characters went through. Seeing everyone turn into their underwater creature in the Little Mermaid level for the first time, or flying around in the Peter Pan world were really special.
 
 Oh god, those shoes.
  I mentioned earlier that I don't like Final Fantasy at all. I'll admit that I have never played much of an FF game from any era, but I did have some friends who were really into the series and I did see it played a lot. My hatred for FF comes from the strange story beats that it seems to take, and the ridiculous character design. I don't know who dresses these people, but I don't think there is a single FF character that wears an outfit even approaching normal. Fashion statements aside, I never really liked how a lot of the male FF characters are either "Dude I am way quiet so that must mean I'm a troubled badass" or "Angsty teen #1138". And the women seem to be either "I am so trusting and nice to everyone" or "I am a total tomboy and just want the men to accept me as an equal!". The story in FF also always seems totally convoluted and really difficult to follow along with. It also usually has something to do with pure hearts and messianic sacrifice and...I don't even know.
 
Now, at this point, you may be thinking "This guy is a total asshole, but I'll continue to read this blog to see him make more of a fool of himself" to which I say, a view is a view. But you might also be asking "Kingdom Hearts was a blend of Disney AND Final Fantasy, how could he like it so much if he hates FF". To this point I say, the stuff that I really hate about Final Fantasy was very muted in the first game. While the characters still retained that classic "5 year olds who dressed themselves" wardrobe, they as characters didn't figure much into the story aside from kinda just being there. The main story of that game (at least up until the end) also didn't annoy me. It had a very Star Wars vibe as well with Riku turning to the dark side and helping the villains. I found it very compelling. The endgame with Ansem, however, seemed totally unnecessary and I didn't much like it outside of seeing a good use for the scary volcano guy from Fantasia. The melodrama of some of the story beats really rubbed me the wrong way.
 
 Yeah, its about as awesome as you think.
With my genuine love of the first game, I was understandably super excited for KH2. However, that's when my good will for the series started to run out. It all started with the stupid opening sequence where you play as some new kid Roxas in some new area that has nothing to do with Disney or anything you saw in the last game. Now, the first game started off in a similar manner, but not only was that necessary exposition, the one in KH2 goes on for a fucking long ass time. Aside from that, the game seemed to have a lack of plot focus. It seemed like 2 different games going on at the same time. KH2 also cranked up the angst meter to the max. Organization XIII was completely composed of angsty teens, and they even brought mopey Cloud to the party along with them. Smooth move Squeenix, smooth move. That's not to say I totally hated the game, there were some really enjoyable things about it. Going to the Game Grid and fighting alongside Tron as voiced by Bruce Boxleitner was a real joy, and James Woods as Hades is always a delight. But the FF elements were starting to become really noticeable and wear out their welcome. Rather than be a game anyone can appreciate like the first, it followed the tired "only for fans" approach Square seems to take for all of their other games.
 
Now, I have not played Re:Chain of Memories, Birth By Sleep, 358/2 Days or any other of their ridiculously named spinoff games, so I am going solely off the two main entries. I guess this brings me to the point of this blog. I have seen quite a few people express on the forums a desire for the Kingdom Hearts team to, in the words of one poster, "nut up and remove the Disney stuff" from the game. I have to ask, why? Why is this a good idea? Does the series then not just become another Final Fantasy series in the vein of Crystal Chronicles or something like that? The Disney elements add charm and a good frame of reference for people (like me) who know nothing about Final Fantasy. Moreover, KH2 would have been a HORRIBLE game without the awesome new Disney levels and characters. So, the question of this blog, to you, the reader: Why are there so many people who want to remove the one element that made the series unique and enjoyable?
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