A Breath of Fresh Air

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time fell into my hands after I played it at a friend’s house when I was a child. In a few minutes, I found the Kokiri Sword, something they had been unable to do despite owning and playing the game several times. They handed it to me, since I was “smart enough for it.”

My grandma owned a Nintendo 64, so I played Ocarina of Time at her house. Her and I grew close through it. I remember many late nights, both of us in the CRT’s glow as we worked our way through the temples. I wouldn’t have solved many of the puzzles without her help.

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Surviving Tselinoyarsk: Degradation in Metal Gear Solid 3

For Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Hideo Kojima, series creator and director, decided to step out of the series’ trademark urban infiltration environments in exchange for a Russian jungle that doesn’t exist. Tselinoyarsk, with its swamps, high mountains and dense jungles is quite the departure from Shadow Moses Island and the Big Shell of the two previous games.

Camouflage became the new focus of stealth. Line of sight was still important, but guards had increased detection ranges. They saw farther and heard better. Their hurried hustle became lazy walks. Stealth became a game of lying in the grass and sneaking by as slow as possible instead of trying to dart behind cones of vision displayed on the Soliton Radar of the previous games.

Kojima Productions decided to take full advantage of the game’s jungle setting and added in some extra features to really sell the locale home. Operation: Snake Eater takes place over several days and that means that Naked Snake needs to feed himself. Enter a wildlife and hunting system.

MGS3 isn’t just a stealth game. It’s a survival game, one man versus an army and the unforgiving world around him. Everything in MGS3 has an effect on Naked Snake’s resources. It’s a fight not only to survive the Russian guards but also the player’s ever dwindling resources.

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On Cut Content and a Phantom Pain

MAJOR SPOILERS FOR METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN AND METAL GEAR SOLID 2: SONS OF LIBERTY BELOW.

Let’s talk about review scores, formal analysis and cut content in video games.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is composed of two chapters. The first, “Revenge,” focuses on Skull Face and enacting vengeance for what happened to the original Mother Base in MGSV: Ground Zeroes. The second chapter, “Race,” focus more on the language parasites with an outbreak on Mother Base that leads to Mission 43, “Shining Lights, Even in Death.”

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Top 10 Games of 2016

It’s that time of year again. The following list compiles some of my favorite games that I played this year. They are not all 2016 releases. Like last year, here are the rules that I adhered to when organizing the games.

  1. In the case of a non-multiplayer-only game, I must have played its single player experience to completion. This does not require a 100% of all that the game has to offer. Instead, a completion of its main quest, story or campaign will suffice.
  2. In the case of a multiplayer game, I must describe how I played it. Whether cooperative or competitive multiplayer, I will detail whether I played with friends, matchmaking, or online or local multiplayer.
  3. I must have accomplished the above rules in 2016. The games on this list are not all 2016 releases. It is a list of what I played this year.

The 2016 list is missing older classics that made up a significant portion of last year’s list. That’s not because I didn’t play many older games. Far from it. Most of the games that make up this list are contemporary releases or those from recent memory. They were strong enough to distract me from the classics I meant to play and out-charm some of those that I did. 

I also included a couple of the categories from The Steam Awards for fun and I didn’t notice any spoilers below.

Let’s get to it.

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Stories From Los Santos

Franklin Clinton – The Gangbanger

I wake up and leave my house in Vinewood Hills. I hop on the motorcycle I kept after a repo job with Lamar and ride down into the city. Los Santos is peaceful mid-morning. I drive down to the city to meet up with a friend at the airport. He’s an adrenaline junkie.

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Undertale: Or, I Dated a Skeleton And It Ruled

Undertale is a game that a lot of people don’t like because a lot of people do. Its rabid fanbase poured free from the boundaries of Tumblr and /r/undertale and into mainstream social media. Undertale is everywhere, with memes made out of its most famous lines and moments adapted to other games and aspects of pop culture. If you weren’t yet a fan of Undertale in the months following its release in September 2015, you probably had a bad time.

I played Undertale sometime around the turn of March, after the initial hype died down. Before that, I heard it all. How Undertale, despite its apparent Earthbound-esque simplicity, is deceptively complex and clever. How it subverts traditional role-playing game tropes, manipulating player expectations of what an RPG should be. How it uses its gameplay systems, primarily combat, to further its theme and story. Characters supposedly develop just as much as they do through overworld text as they do through their attacks and actions in battle.

Let me be clear. Subversion is nothing new in video games. In a world with releases like The Stanley Parable, Spec Ops: The Line and the more recent Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and the Terrible Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist, subversion is almost expected from darling indie releases. What makes Undertale special is that it operates on an interactive level. It is effective in the same ways as The Stanley Parable: you have the freedom of choice. It doesn’t seem heavy handed when the game isn’t making you do anything you don’t want to do.

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On Nostalgia and Nostalrius

Blizzard is suing Nostalrius, a private server that hosts World of Warcraft (WoW) in its original state without any expansion packs. As one of the most popular private servers of all time, people are outraged, both Nostalrius players and retail (Blizzard’s servers) WoW players.

To understand why people are outraged, one has to understand Vanilla WoW. Writers and players far more skilled than me have struggled over the last decade to explain what made Vanilla so special. There are a variety of objective changes to the game that people can point out to be what changed World of Warcraft for them. For me, and I think a lot of other people, it is a combination.

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