Mission [JRPG]: A new year, a new game project

Thank Kotaku. Now if you could just give me all the time in the world...

Thanks, Kotaku. Now if you could just give me all the time in the world…

Last year I dove head first into something that was brand new for me: a “follow me as I play” project of sorts in which I tackled my very first Pokemon game, Pokemon LeafGreen. The whole process was extremely rewarding as it provided me with not only a great gaming experience, but also opportunities to reach out to a slightly different and expanded audience. (As well, the project really opened my eyes to the universe that is Pokemon, and I’m currently having a blast plodding along in Pokemon Emerald.) Once I was done with LeafGreen, I almost immediately started formulating thoughts for another game play series. As there’s nothing less than a semi-infinite plethora of games old and new that have slipped my gaze over the years, a mountain of games came to mind. Even so, I kept placing one game at its apex: Chrono Trigger.

Chrono Trigger was released when I was right in the middle of college. During this time, my roommates and I didn’t have any game consoles, so the only time I gamed was at home, my resting place during various breaks. My younger brother was pretty much the only gamer in the house then, and he had taken over the likes of our Super Nintendo. While we had a cache of permanent games — mostly Mario, Mega Man, and Metroid, and Street Fighter, of course — he often rented new titles and traded games with friends. So every time I came home, there’d be a different selection of random games in the house. During one such stay (spring time 1996),  Chrono Trigger turned up in one of the random piles. I didn’t know a thing about it. The phrase “Japanese Role Playing Game” was nowhere on my radar. I had not played any pre-Ocarina of Time Zelda games, or anything similar. So when I started up the game out of pure curiosity, I was simultaneously confused and amazed. During its opening credits, I remember thinking that the game looked pretty, really pretty. I remember the bewilderment I felt watching a battle briefly play out. I remember thinking how much the game sounded like Mega Man. When the credits ended the game started up in earnest, but I remained unconvinced about playing. And then…the phone rang.

Long story short, the phone call was about a summer job that I desperately wanted. From the discussion came a date for an interview that was just a couple days away. Once I got off the phone, other phone calls happened — to my friends relaying the news and to my parents to make arrangements with the car. And in my excitement, you know what I complete forgot about? Yep. Chrono Trigger. In fact, I left the damn SNES on all day only to have my brother find the game in situ, probably. Ah well.

So that’s the extent of my experience with Chrono Trigger. I always wanted to go back to it, but just never had the opportunity…until now, just before its 20th anniversary, perhaps?

Maybe.

See, I did consider simply setting forth Chrono Trigger as this year’s mission (hence my title, rather than just called it a “project,” also with a to-be-determined tagline), but when I started looking into the game, the journey sent me down the path of examining other possible JRPGs for the SNES that I could play. And as some of you well know, there were sooooo many! Chrono Trigger, as seminal as it may be, was really just the tip of the iceberg. So that’s when I decided, once again, that I would turn to the community for advice. After all, so many of you were wonderfully helpful in advising me about which Pokemon game to play, it followed in my mind that perhaps I could get similar help for this project…I mean, mission.

So my mission for this summer (and fall, and probably next winter), as I have chosen to accept it, will be to play through a JRPG that was released in the 1990s for the SNES.  I already have a list of possibilities, including Chrono Trigger, but I welcome your thoughts on suitable games. What games are necessities and what are some to avoid? Is Chrono Trigger really the be all and end of 1990s JRPGs?

With this project, I’d like to stay away from the familiar, so that includes any game with “Final Fantasy” or “Zelda” in its title. For other reasons, I’d also like to steer clear of Super Mario RPG. I’m not opposed to the obscure, but the more accessible the better. And having a game that’s playable in short bursts (20-30 minutes per session), if such an animal exists, would be a welcome bonus.

Taking into consideration my list and your comments, next Monday I’ll provide a poll of choices, because everyone loves voting. (Don’t you?) The top pick will become my willing subject for “Mission [JRPG]!”

 

iTunes Diaries, entry #28: “Emerge” by Fischerspooner

I was once a little…um, okay, terribly obsessed with iTunes.  I got my first iPod in 2004 and became immediately entranced by Apple’s seeming infinite lists of music for sale.  Over the years, I spent way too much time on iTunes and spent way too much money on music, some of which was great, and some of which was not.  In 2011, for the sake of my sanity and my bank account, I went cold turkey.  I suspended my iTunes activities and completely stopped visiting site.  With the iTunes Diaries, I take a look back, highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly in music that I just had to have in the moment. 

********************

One of the first things I learned about getting along with the man who would become my husband was that I had to accept his love of “non-traditional” sports. That meant namely skateboarding, but also included surfing, snowboarding, BMX biking, and such. Having zero clue about any of these things outside of what I might have caught on the television, I was okay with learning about something new, as well as occasionally playing second fiddle to his first love. (After all, he accepted my ungodly love of the Muppets, so it was a fine trade off.) While I still can’t tell the different between a kickflip and a hardflip, skateboarding, and more recently, snowboarding, have strangely bonded us together.

While this journey has included trips to places where one can pursue in real life wood ramps and snow banks, a decent amount of our time together early on was spent watching skateboarding and snowboarding videos. Sitting down on a weekend to watch his latest acquisition became commonplace. Though I considered myself an outsider (and still do to some extent) to such a sports culture, it helped tremendously that the videos were mostly all set to music, and an amazing array of music at that. From classic rock to jazz to hip hop, skate and snowboard videos introduced me to sounds that I had never heard before.

And that’s where Fischerspooner came in.

I had heard the name “Fischerspooner” in electronica circles before hearing “Emerge” in the snowboarding video Video Gangs, but I didn’t have a sound to connect with the band. But when I first heard “Emerge,” I was like ‘Oh, that’s Fischerspooner,” as if I had heard the song a thousand times before without knowing who created it. There’s something oddly familiar about the song – like, you may not know it, but somehow you know it. Maybe another song copied its sinister opening beats. Maybe another song wrapped itself around its chorus. There’s something about “Emerge” that’s simply familiar.

But therein lays a problem with this great song. It’s so perfectly trippy, upbeat, and mellow all at once that, for me, it came to define the band. Like, “Emerge” was Fisherspooner and anything else, even other songs by the band, simply was not. Nothing on the album “Emerge” was on, #1, was of any interest to me, because it wasn’t “Emerge.”

Redundant much? Christ.

I guess my point is that I don’t know how big of a hit “Emerge” was for Fischerspooner, or how much of an audience they’ve had since the album #1 was released, and I don’t really care. It’s a hugely fun and necessary one-hit-wonder in my book, and it resides in one of my iPod’s most miscellaneous of playlists. It’s both an accepted part of my musical regimen and an orphan in its own right, and “Emerge” remains a song I’ll always associate with snowboarding and finding new music through extreme sports videos.

Fischerspooner -- #1 (2000)

Fischerspooner — #1 (2000)

Entering the LEGO World of Harry Potter, Years 1-4

Alrighty folks, it’s confessional time.

Ahem.

I did not see any of the Harry Potter movies in full until…2012. Late 2012, at that.

Since I don’t see any flaming arrows or rotten vegetables headed my way, I’ll suppose that no one really cares. Regardless, it felt good to get that off my mind because lately I’ve felt quite out of touch with what all the cool kids are doing. What are people watching, wearing, and playing these days? Hell if I know. I’m just trying to get through Xenoblade Chronicles and wondering, through the joys of spring cleaning, how I came to be in possessions of so many hoodies? (Cold, cold, winters, I guess?)

But, Harry Potter. Do kids still talk about the books and movies? Since quidditch is still an all-out sport for some, I’m going to assume yes. I remain a bit in awe that the first movie in the series is nearly old enough to drive! Oh, how fast they grow up, dontcha know? When it came out almost a decade-and-a-half ago, I was not completely oblivious to the madness, but it was not a scene I wished to participate in. Kid wizard tries to find his place in the world? Eh, not interested. Over the course of a decade, my interest in Harry Potter waned even further. Sure, it was fun to watch how Daniel Radcliffe and the gang made the nightly news a bit more hectic for several summers, but that’s as far as I wished to go with the trend – just watching it all unfold on TV. Speaking of which, as the years passed and the HP movies made their ways to cable and basic cable, I did catch glimpses of the movies here and there. But sitting down to watch a whole movie? Nah, I’d rather play Mass Effect, thanks.

Continue reading

Want the Perfect Iced Coffee? Try Cold-Brewing.

cary:

I like coffee. A lot. Too much probably. And I certainly enjoy coffee while I’m gaming. (I’d say that’s because it helps keep me alert, however it’s more because it makes me get up every once in awhile *wink wink nudge nudge*.) Come the warmer moments of spring, my thoughts turn from a warm, rich brew to a cold, tasty beverage. Until the chill comes back to haunt us, iced coffee will be my preferred coffee. So here’s a recipe for great iced coffee using a cold brewing method that I recently shared on 8bit Kitchen.

Have a favorite iced coffee recipe of your own? Let me know! And be sure to check out the comments at the end of the article for more great iced coffee suggestions.

Originally posted on 8bit Kitchen:

ColdBrew_7-614x293

In my neck of the sorta-northern U. S. woods, it’s common to see the flip flops come out when the outside thermometer reaches 60 degrees. While I don’t follow this particular footwear routine, I do have a similar mantra concerning weather and coffee: “60 degrees means iced coffee!”

But the thing about iced coffee, as obtained from a proper coffee establishment, is that it’s expensive. Maybe I’m overly thrifty, but having to pay up to a dollar more to have someone add ice to a cup of coffee is perplexing. So over the years I’ve tried to make my own…without much success. I tried brewing my normal coffee, letting it cool, and adding ice, but that never cut it. The coffee always ended up tasting weak and watered down. I tried brewing exceptionally strong coffee – espresso and French roasts. The results were better, but since I’m not a…

View original 590 more words

(Vocal Reprise) There Once was an Earthworm named Jim…

Some games fit so snugly into the time capsule of my gaming past that to relive them in the present is futile. Earthworm Jim is one of those games for me. One of those games that was perfect for its time, and perfect for my time then. As I roundaboutly admit at the end of this post, I wrote it while wearing my favorite rose-tinted shades. Playing Earthworm Jim now is nothing if not infuriating. As was reading an odd written post about it. Someday, I’m going to learn to write fully-formed sentences. And what a day that will be.


There Once was an Earthworm Named Jim…, original post from 2/1/2012.
Duration: 5:42
Final thought: I might be too busy watching Ren & Stimpy to have a legit final thought.


To download, right-click the image below and select “Save Link As…”

Earthworm Jim, cover art, 1994 (c) Nintendo

Six Favorite Gaming Secrets…Or Maybe Five?

cary:

For United We Game‘s April writing challenge, I offered up this post which contains several real games secrets and one I made up. Maybe I could have worked harder at fooling everyone (all you smarty pants know your games, haha!), but it was fun making the sly attempt at trickery. Still, the secrets I listed remain some of my all-time favorites. Speaking of which, I could really go for some super-ultra-fast Street Fighter II Turbo right about now!

Originally posted on United We Game:

Image by Flickr user  Jason Devaun (CC)Image by Flickr user Jason Devaun (CC)

All month long, United We Game is celebrating secrets, hoaxes, and trickery in games with a new writing challenge. Click here for the details and join in the fun!


I’m not much of an artist when it comes to discovering secrets in games. While it seems that some players are imbued with a magical honing beacon that guides them towards easter egg after easter egg, for me, the act of finding secrets has mostly been the equivalent of blindly stumbling around in the dark hoping that I don’t impale myself on something sharp. I don’t necessarily go searching for secrets in games, so happening upon a secret something-or-other is a pretty special feat. Over the years I’ve run into a fair share of extraordinary moments where I feel like Indiana Jones grabbing that golden idol. And the giant rolling boulder of…

View original 1,008 more words

Batman: Arkham Origins was awesome, but QTEs can die in a fire

I lean forward in my seat, my thumbs lightly graze the buttons my Xbox 360 controller. Fuck you, Slade. I’m gonna beat you this time. My fists, your face; get ready for a beat down! I say to myself. Batman is there facing a difficult and defiant nemesis: Slade Wilson, a.k.a. Deathstroke. The fight between them is simply maddening. Batman’s (my) strikes against Slade don’t seem do a goddamn thing, and neither can I properly counter him. And just when I think the battle is getting somewhere, I fuck up a QuickTime event, and this sequence is rife with them. It’s my twelfth or twentieth attempt (I lost track after seven, really), but this time, I tell myself again, I’m going to beat him.

How the vision makes my blood boil.

How the vision of him makes my blood boil.

The battle begins and I do everything Batman: Arkham Origins had instructed me to do playing as the Batman, himself. And just as I think I might actually be making progress, I fail…again…for the twelfth or twentieth time.

I bolt upright on the couch. “I hate this fucking game,” I whisper to the television. And then I slump down. “I hate… SLADE,” I hiss-whisper-whimper in total defeat.

My husband looks over at me. (In my blinding rage, I had totally forgotten he was in the room.) “You know what time it is?” he says.

I silently and bitterly turn to meet his eyes. Shit. Yeah, I know, my mind resigns.

“It’s time to quit.”

I look down at my white-knuckled hands that are nearly crushing the controller. “Yeah…quit,” is all I say. I forcefully relax and turn off the game.

But the anger…oh how that anger remains.


Though it occurs more often that I’d care to admit, I hate getting angry at games. Wait…let me rephrase that. I…hate…dicking around with reprehensible game mechanics like, in the case of Batman: Arkham Origins, QTEs and hair-trigger counters. This stuff makes me say things like “Batman: Arkham Origins was a FANTASTIC game with a FANTASTIC story, but it might give you problems if you don’t like QuickTime events.”

I’ll just take my chances, thanks.

Me, I don’t like QuickTime events. This hatred goes way back to my Cookie and Cream days in which me and repeated, timed button presses did not get along. At all. Since then, I have played plenty of games that feature QuickTime movements to varying degrees, from the Prince of Persia to Phantom Hourglass to the Uncharted and Batman games. Never have QTEs caused me to all-out hate a game, but they have given me many a reason to dislike portions of otherwise wonderful games.

Batman: Arkham Origins cover art © DC Comics, WB Games Montreal, WB Games

Batman: Arkham Origins cover art © DC Comics, WB Games Montreal, WB Games

As it is the subject of this post, let’s take Batman: Arkham Origins. I picked up this game on sale late last year with the intention of completing it sometime before this summer’s release of Batman: Arkham Knight. Though it took place outside of the Rocksteady’s Batman canon (Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, and soon, Arkham Knight) and got some mixed reviews, I still wanted to give it a go. I like the Batman universe, I really liked Arkham City, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend a little more time with the Joker, even if he was the same but different. I finished the game last month, happily with my controller intact, along with most of my sanity. In short, I loved the game. Like, seriously. I think I even liked it even more than Arkham City.

Now when I say that,”I loved the game,” my mind immediately heads to three elements: the story, the depiction of Batman, and the setting. Arkham Origins is all about Batman’s beginnings and concurrently about the rise of criminal activity in Gotham and the GCPD’s role in both stopping it and allowing it to fester to some degree. In the game, “the Batman” is a crazy vigilante with unknown goals. Yes, he’s trying to defeat the bad guys, but he’s creating a hell of a lot of chaos for everyone else in doing so. As far the GCPD is concerned, Batman is little more than a big threat. Now I probably read a little but more into Batman’s background than the game set up, but still, I had a blast playing as the conflicted rather than heroic Batman. I questioned Batman’s true motives at several points and got swept up in his sometimes hellacious search for redemption (and revenge).

"Crazy" is just the tip of the iceberg.

“Crazy” is just the tip of the iceberg.

As far Arkham Origin’s depiction of Gotham went, it seemed more contained than the Gotham of Arkham City, but it felt large. I often found myself heading off towards a checkpoint, only to be distracted by a tunnel or a passage or something that looked explorable. This didn’t always turn out to be the case (lots of “locked” doors Gotham has), but taking the occasional side route sometimes led to a few goodies. The strange downside to this was that Arkham Origin’s Gotham was easy to get lost in. Despite having a number of major landmarks, I often got confused among all its gloomy pathways and dark buildings. (But this may have been due more to my poor sense of direction rather than flaws in game design. I’ll admit that I turned up the brightness on my TV with the game, because at times it really was too damn dark.)

As entertaining as it was to be the Batman swinging around the ominous Gotham City looking for people to save and thugs to battle, the game failed me at the boss battles, all of which involved QTEs. Overall, Arkham Origin’s fighting scheme is the same as in other Batman games. The right-hand action buttons controls your general move set, combos, and counters, while you access all of Batman’s tools, such as smoke bombs and batarangs, using the left-hand directional pad. It’s all fine and dandy in general street battles where you face a group of enemies. In basic story mode, the game clues you to what you need to do using occasional on-screen pop ups, such as telling you to counter or use a combo. In those cases, the pop-ups are more suggestion than direction. But in the boss battles (and there are number of them throughout the game), the pop-ups become absolute directions that you absolutely must follow without question. After being able to improvise in battles with boss lackeys, having to follow QTEs to a perfect tee in fights with the bosses themselves is a difficult transition to make. And that’s putting it lightly. Frankly, there wasn’t one boss battle in Arkham Origins that didn’t make me curse the high heavens. Even once I came to terms with the boss battle QTEs, I still had a hard time succeeding because of the perfect timing they required. Goddamn if Arkham Origins didn’t make me feel my age as I flailed about trying to evade or counter at the exact right moment. And I couldn’t even tell you what the “exact right” moment was for any QTE because sometimes they worked and often they didn’t. Nothing like being shit on for having terrible reflexes during vague moments of “press these buttons NOW! NOW YOU DUMBASS!”

The anger is still SO REAL.

The anger at this is still SO REAL.

*feels blood pressure rising*

My god, how I HATE goddamnmotherfuckingsonofabitch QTEs!

I…I…

*takes deep breath*

*exhales*

I’m really looking forward to Batman: Arkham Knight. I’m hoping for a great story, brilliant, graphics, and plenty of action. I’m sure it will contain QTEs, and I’m sure that I will deal with them in my own special way. And I’m sure that if I develop onset Tourette’s while playing, it’ll be totally worth it.

Gaming’s Best Foolery: Secrets and Hoaxes

cary:

This month, United We Game is back with another writing challenge for the gaming blogosphere! There’s no end of great topics to populate any game blog, so why not take a stab at what we’ve got going on now in the name of fun and sharing? With April Fools in mind, we’re talking about game secrets and hoaxes — your favorite game secrets and hoaxes and general foolery. If you’re feeling so inspired to write, click below for all the details, and feel free to share!

Originally posted on United We Game:

We swear we’re not fooling around with a new community writing challenge, for it is with a little April Foolery in mind that we offer up a new topic this month about secrets, hoaxes, and general (yet fun) trickery in games!

It’s no secret that developers have been hiding some fun and frustrating secrets in games for decades, from warp whistles (Super Mario 3), to Reptile (Mortal Kombat), to the Scarab gun (Halo 2), and finding Mew (Pokemon) to name just a few. And it seems that for every handful of known secrets, no matter how difficult they are to find, there are a few that remain unknown or questionable in their legitimacy. With the rise of gaming secrets and easter eggs has also come the rise of gaming hoaxes. Some end up in the form of rumors – remember the ones about…

View original 249 more words