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Welcome Post

Who Loves Video Games? Everyone!

Hello to all you gamers out there!

Do you like video games? Interested in video games that you may not have heard of? Are there video game franchises out there that you love? I know I do!

I have been playing video games my whole life and I want to become a video game designer after college. I have owned dozens of systems over my lifetime and I wanted to find a way to talk about video game history, obscure titles, or basically anything that pertains to video games and consoles. I’ll have weekly postings on various topics and get some user polls up to see if anyone wants to have a specific game or console highlighted in a post. I look forward to talking about video games with such a diverse community and expressing my love for all things video game.

Until then, take care everyone!

Great Games – Minecraft

Logo used for the Title. Different platforms use altered forms, usually adding what version it is,but still retain this design.

I may have mentioned this in a previous post, but I’m 21 years old and I still play Minecraft, get on my level. There is a lot that this game has offered different aspects of video games and the sandbox genre overall. A certain charm and simplicity coupled with an extensive modding community and fanbase are the real components of what makes this game was noteworthy. Without further adieu, let’s dive into this title that has seen lots of attention over the past 10 years.

Screenshot of Minecraft’s Survival mode. The game features many environmental features and different atmospheres to help the player project themselves into the game.

Minecraft was created back in 2009 by Markus “Notch” Persson for personal computers (PC), but wouldn’t see the official release until 2011. The objective of Minecraft can take two main routes: Survival and Creative. In Survival mode, players are placed into a random, procedurally-generated world, where their objectives are to gather materials, find shelter, explore the land, fight monsters, and ultimately fight the Ender Dragon. As players move throughout these worlds, different biomes, mobs, which can be designated as animals, villagers, or enemy creatures, and generated structures can be found. There is the option to play the game in a “Hardcore” mode, which makes the standard survival much more difficult and if you die in this game mode, your world will be deleted. In Creative mode, players are given infinite items, the ability to fly, and general invulnerability. Players have been able to create massive structures, new landscapes, and other marvelous builds through this game mode. Though many people like to play the vanilla game, Minecraft has cultivated one of the most dedicated modding communities in video games. Many mods have been able to change the atmosphere and tone of the game and produce an entirely different gaming experience for many. The game has grown to be one of the most popular video games of all time, and has established itself as the best selling game of all time and one of the greatest video games of all time.

Many Minecraft Creative builds are impressive both in detail in magnitude. This city was built using over 60 million blocks and took nearly three months to complete.

Now Minecraft is one of those special cases of it being applicable to many STEM fields and other academic disciplines. Spatial awareness, problem-solving, communication, and teamwork are some proven benefits of playing this sandbox game, but that is not why I chose this game for this category. Rather, I want to point out the level of potential that this game has offered the gaming community and it’s continued approach at expanding the creativity of gamers. The mods that have come from the community are incredible, some requiring large teams to see them fully recognized, and show what people are capable of. The creative projects and structures built by the community have inspired other to reach even further than they thought was possible in their own mind. I mean someone created a 1:1 replication of Earth recently and is already inviting builders and other community members to add famous structures and locations to this world. It is not very often that a video game can bring people together in this caliber to achieve a common goal. It is truly remarkable what this Java-based game, that was designed and programmed in a person’s spare time, has evolved into one of the most widely played games to date.

Minecraft mods have been able to recreate elements for many popular books, movies, TV shows, and even other video games. Pixelmon recreates the concepts, design, and other items found throughout the Pokemon franchise.

If you haven’t ever played Minecraft, I would suggest trying it on one of the many platforms it has released for. Your opinions of the game might change after playing and seeing what it has to offer.

Great Games – Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Box art for the North American Release.

To celebrate my 25th blog post, I thought I would take a look at a game that I realized I haven’t talked about yet. This game holds a special place in my heart as it was the first video game that I ever played. After seeing what video games could be and the variety available to me, I was immediately hooked. So, in honor of this game and the milestone of my blog, let’s dive into the wonder world of this 16-bit platformer.

Screenshot of Emerald Hill Zone, the first level in Sonic 2. Notice the detailed background and textures around the stage, which creates a visually stunning environment.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was released in November 1992 for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis around the world. The game centers on Sonic, the titular blue hedgehog, and his partner Tails, a two-tailed fox, as they work to stop Dr. Robotnik or Eggman (depending on the region of release) from stealing the Chaos Emeralds. Gameplay revolves around moving through different stages, each having two or more acts with the last stage having a boss battle, in a 2-D side-scrolling fashion. The player can choose to operate Sonic, Tails, or both with Sonic taking the lead while Tails is control by AI. Each level has unique features and different environmental designs, which creates many atmospheres for the player. This game features many of the same abilities found in the original Sonic the Hedgehog, such as jumping on enemies to defeat them, but this game also features a new ability known as “Spin Dash”, where sonic curls into a ball and begins spinning in place before moving forward with speed. This ability is useful for taking down enemies, moving pass environmental obstacles, and giving the player that extra speed boost necessary for certain stage segments. Players can find different power-ups throughout the levels that will reward them with shields, invulnerability, super speed, or extra lives. The health gauge for the player is through collecting golden rings found throughout each stage, which will award the player with an extra life for each 100 they collect, but be careful, environmental hazards and enemies will take away ring if Sonic collides with them. If Sonic takes any damage when he doesn’t have any rings, he will lose a life. Similar to the previous entry, this game also features special stages, which give the player an opportunity to collect one of the many Chaos Emeralds. Collecting all the Chaos Emeralds will grant the player access to “Super Sonic”, a form that resembles a Super Saiyan, but for Sonic, giving him invincibility and speed at the cost of rings. Introduced in this game was the competitive mode, where two players have to make it through stages in a race fashion, however only 4 stages are used for this game mode.

The Special Stage in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was unique for the fact that it is played in a pseudo 3-D style, which is the only place in the game that is like this.

All of these things being said, it was a lot to take in when I was 4 years old, but it really opened me up to what was possible through video games. The hours that I spent playing this game gave me the appreciation to the hard work, detail, and design that goes into making a video game, which in turn inspired me to go to school and learn these trades. This is the best game in the entire Sonic franchise, in my opinion, because of it’s level design, the bright, detailed visuals, and the music that you find in each level is just beautiful. The sense of thrill a player has jumping, dashing, and essentially flying through levels at such speeds is always fun to watch and makes this game a perfect candidate for speedrunners. This game sold nearly 6 million units, second only to it’s original entry, and has been proclaimed as one of the greatest video games of all time. Sonic himself really helped in establishing SEGA as a major contender in the video game market and even pulled ahead of Nintendo for a time due to their aggressive marketing and advertising campaigns. I grew up being a Sonic fan through-and-through and many of the games afterwards were either good or disastrous (Sonic 06 I’m looking at you), but no other game can compare to what this title achieved at launch and beyond.

Every stage holds new obstacles and enemies that the player can encounter, but still holds to the basic principles of platforming and Sonic’s end goal.

I would highly recommend playing the original Sega Genesis games before playing more modern console titles and you will see the difference that I am talking about. I hope that one day SEGA will go back to it’s roots and create another title that lives up to the same hype as Sonic the Hedgehog 2 had.

Obscure Gaming – Deadly Premonition

Box art for the North American Release.

It has been awhile since writing a post for this category, so I thought I dive back into the world of obscure video games. Although the original release for this series was given varying critical reviews and wasn’t commercially successful, the title has gained a dedicated fan base and is considered to be an example of video games as an art. Without further adieu, let’s set the clock back 10 years for the release of open-world, survival-horror game.

The game world has lots of detail and implements a good use of weather and a day-night cycle to help build the atmosphere.

Deadly Premonition released in 2010 for the Xbox 360 in Japan, North America, and Europe, but it released for the PlayStation 3 only in Japan. A director’s cut released for the PlayStation 3 and Windows in 2013 and a Nintendo Switch port titled Deadly Premonition: Origins released in 2019. The plot of the story follows Francis York Morgan, an FBI Special Agent, as he investigates the murder of a young woman in fictional Greenvale, Washington. The gameplay revolves around the interactions of the residents of Greenvale and how it all pertains to Morgan’s investigation, however, players will soon encounter supernatural entities, where you can either implement a fight-or-flight approach. Realism was a key component of making this game’s atmosphere and tone stand out. In order to enact this idea, the town was built to a staggering scale and NPCs follow their own set schedules. Players can get paid for their work in solving levels or other puzzles, but they can be fined too, if they are not working to solve the case. Food and sleep are necessary components to keeping Morgan functioning normally, much like any other real person would need to complete their daily tasks. The investigation requires the player to conduct interviews, search for clues, and complete other tasks within a specific time frame. The game world is quite impressive in scope and scale, featuring weather and day-night cycles, various side-quests and mini-games, and collectible trading cards can be found throughout the player’s exploration.

The game’s HUD features lots of information about the player’s current status of hunger, sleep, and weapons, while keeping the player with an over-the-shoulder third-person view.

As I mentioned earlier this game received less than optimal reviews from some critics and outlets, but it didn’t see any commercial success either following release. The game was cited as having difficulties with the PhysX engine, shadow and other lighting issues, and trouble with proper memory allocation. However, that didn’t mean that the game didn’t capture the attention of players, who saw the game beyond it’s flaws and enjoyed the story, visuals, and the realism the game had to offer. Guinness World Records even gave the game a record for “most critically polarizing survival horror game”. The game itself is rather interesting and players can appreciate the dedication put into developing the setting, game mechanics, and story following Morgan’s search for the Raincoat Killer. It feels like a justice was done by having a director’s cut release and a port release to a newer generation console, which shows that people still care about this game. Sometimes the best games are hidden away and only get discovered years after release as being fantastic displays of art, such as Okami and Shadow of the Colossus.

Character design in this game is done well, and it gives the player that sense of realism with each NPC and even the creepiness of the Raincoat Killer is captured nicely in this screenshot.

I highly recommend people play this title when they need a change of pace from current titles, and hopefully by the time you finish this game, Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise will release sometime this year.

Console Talk – Xbox (Original)

Original Logo. The trademark “X” has become one of the most recognized logos in the world.

Fittingly enough to have talked about the PlayStation in my last console post, it just makes sense to talk about Microsoft’s own answer to the console market and reestablish America has a contender in the gaming industry. I haven’t played that much Xbox in my lifetime, but I will try my best to provide the best possible information and view about this console. Without further adieu, let’s step back nearly two decades and see how a computer company released this major home console.

Screenshot taken from Halo 2. This series has become the poster child for the Xbox brand, and it’s easy to see why.

After having seen success with video games for PC, Microsoft wanted to push the envelop further. Bill Gates had taken notice of the recently announced PlayStation 2 in 1999, which Gates saw as a threat to the PC gaming market and he needed a solution. From there, developers of DirectX, a collection of APIs used for game programming and video on Microsoft computers, put their initial talks of creating a home console in motion and Microsoft’s Xbox was released in 2001 for North America and 2002 for Europe, Japan, and Australia. The Xbox itself was extremely powerful in terms of it’s graphical capabilities, featured an on-board hard drive, and featured the use of DirectX technology, which made develop for these systems more compatible with PC development tool sets. Considering the hardware on the inside of the console was impressive, the game line didn’t fail to meet or even exceed those expectations. The Halo series was born on this console and has become of the best and most recognized franchises in gaming history. Other notable titles that released on this console were Panzer Dragoon Orta, Fable, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. The Xbox immediately got the attention of gamers, as it sold over 1.5 million units on launch day, and later 24 million units worldwide. This boosted Microsoft into becoming quite the formidable company in the market for years to come.

The design of the original Xbox, both inside and out, is impressive. The choice of the green on the console was to make it appear to have some kind of “nuclear” energy, which gave the system its power.

As I stated previously, I haven’t played lots of Xbox compared to other consoles, but I have been able to play many titles hands on and seen these series grow since their introduction. I must say that the Xbox series really has shown to be a powerful console that shows the depths of how far video games have evolved. Not only that, but it really did bring more attention to American made consoles, as it was the first game console to come from the U.S. since the Atari Jaguar back in 1996. However, the Jaguar didn’t live up to the expectations that the Xbox broke since it’s release. The design of the console inside and out was incredible for it’s time and the games released on the console were truly incredible through their visuals, gameplay, story, and sound design. The fact that a company devoted to computer technology could develop a console of it’s caliber is not surprising to me, but it definitely proves that Bill Gates knows how to market what his company is capable of and the talent that his employees have to offer. At the end of the day, many things have changed since 2001, but it is apart that the Xbox consoles to come will continue to grip the interests of the gaming community and push the ceiling for where video games are headed.

Screenshot of Fable. Though this image doesn’t do the game justice, the game world, characters, and abilities looked amazing for its generation alongside the story, mechanics, and sound design.

After researching more about the console, I might think about getting an Xbox, Xbox 360, or Xbox One (maybe all three) to add to my games collection. Like I always say, there is always room for more video games!

Serious-ous Talk – Pokemon

Logo used for the series since 1998.

If you were a kid growing up, chances are you owned a Game Boy or a Nintendo DS. Walking around the schoolyard, people would be trading cards, that they would forget about, but suddenly have a burning passion for them when they are in their 20s-30s. Waking up early Saturday mornings to watch the cartoon/anime associated with this franchise. Pokemon has become one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time and it’s easy to see why. The merchandise, DVDs, VHS Tapes (if anyone still remembers those), movies, and of course the video games are what have created a dedicated fan base, whose love for the series has been unwavering for decades. I want to talk about this video game franchise, not just because it has always been in my gaming life, but because this series deserves praise and attention for it’s contributions to video games and the industry. Without further adieu, let’s dive into the world of Pocket Monsters.

Screenshot taken from the original releases. Leveling up in these games requires experience you get from battling and type match-ups determine whether or not you will deal significant damage to your opponent or not.

Pokemon Red and Green originally released in 1996 in Japan with later Pokemon Red and Blue being released internationally in 1998/99. The series is a culmination of various game genres, including action role playing, fighting, digital pet, and puzzle, where players catch and train Pokemon, monsters found throughout the various lands in the franchise. Each Pokemon has it’s own unique typing and abilities that cause players to strategize the building of their team for the trainers and challenges ahead. The purpose of the game is to collect all the known Pokemon, which started of at 151, but now reaches over 800, and battle Gym Leaders in towns. After collecting all the gym badges, the player can then challenge the Elite Four and the Champion, all of whom are considered to be the best in all the land, in order to become the new Champion. On top of regular Pokemon, there are legendary Pokemon that can be found during game or in post game events. Each game even follows its own unique plot involving evil organizations, rivalries with a different trainer each game, and interactions involving the various NPCs and Pokemon you meet along your journey. All of the games in the franchise have allowed players to trade and battle Pokemon with their friends and around the world, creating a vital communication to fans everywhere. The series has been able to adapt over the years by taking advantage of each system it’s released for and further push the boundaries of what the series is capable of. There have been over 35 games released, not including spin offs from the main series, and thousands of cards, various seasons of the anime, and countless numbers of merchandise released since the initial release. The popular Pokemon GO released in 2016 has been downloaded over 1 billion times, and only seemed to grow the popularity of the franchise.

Screenshot taken from Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire. Notice the improved graphics and larger game world thanks to the powerful hardware found in the Game Boy Advanced.

The first games that I played were Gold and Silver, released in 2000 for North America and Australia, but I took the time to go back and play the original titles before moving on to the rest of the series. I will say that Pokemon is definitely one of those games that you really can become attached to your virtual creatures. Very similar to Tamagotchis, players begin to have that sense of having pets that you raised over time, but you don’t consider them to be like pets, rather they are your comrades and friends. The overall whimsical feel that each game gives the player allows them to take on that hero role and helps you escape from reality for a bit. I’m not saying you should stay in a fantasy for the rest of your life, but having that opportunity to escape reality does wonders on your mentality and can boost your creativity as well. Everyone wanted to be like Ash Ketchum, the main protagonist of the anime, and leave your home at 10 years old and battle monster threes or more times your size and complete strangers for money, who wouldn’t? This franchise has been able to touch the lives of so many people, that those who have played the old games play the newer titles with their own children. It is truly a series that has a lasting impact on not just gamers, but the industry as a whole. It really helped show the potential of handheld gaming consoles to developers and companies, while Pokemon GO really flipped the industry on it’s head as mobile games started to show considerable weight to many other budding or already established studios. The series still has much potential and it’s always exciting to see what innovations, Pokemon, and games are coming in the future.

Pokemon Sword and Shield released November 2019, and really brought the best Pokemon experience to the Nintendo Switch (sorry Let’s Go Eevee and Let’s Go Pikachu).

I highly recommend anyone go out and play a main series title, you won’t regret it. Finding yourself becoming friends with your Pokemon as you explore the different regions will feel fulfilling and give you a different take on what video games are supposed to be.

Console Talk – PlayStation (Original)

The original PlayStation logo design.

You ask someone whether or not they play video games, most of the time they are either going to say PlayStation or Xbox, another sign of the long standing console debate. However, most of people started their love for a console with some of the earliest consoles in the brand. Many would think back to the original PlayStation as the catalyst for devotion towards one brand over another. Today I want to talk about the console that started it all for Sony in the games market and how it became one of the most widely known and used gaming consoles in the world. Without further adieu, let’s dive into the background to how this console was born.

An FMV sequence taken from Final Fantasy VII, notice the quality of this scene is much more detailed and shows the improved lighting, models, and art.

The PlayStation originally started life as an add on for the Super Nintendo, that would allow for the device to use disk-based storage and technology. Sony and Nintendo’s partnership had setup for Sony wanting to create it’s own home entertainment system that would play both SNES/Famicom Cartridges and CDs. However, Nintendo backed out of the deal and halted Sony from continuing any further with their use of Nintendo IP’s and formats. Sony, furious with this betrayal, was ready to cancel the project until Ken Kutaragi, the “Father of the PlayStation”, said that the project could be salvage and made unique in it’s own right. With this consideration in mind, a new direction was taken and the project launched in Japan in 1994 and the rest of the world in 1995. The device was considered to be the most powerful home console of it’s time. Not only was the system capable of playing video games, it was able to play audio CDs and specific models could video CDs. The use of CDs over cartridges allowed for greater storage, which means more games could hold lots of content and give the opportunity of creating longer gameplay. The CPU was outfitted with a MDEC, a motion decoder that allowed for higher quality playback of full motion video (FMV) sequences. The console was faster than other market consoles and the controller utilized a layout similar to the SNES, but featured the iconic X, Circle, Square, Triangle Button configuration and four directional buttons rather than the D-pad. This controller design would later evolve into the DualShock controller that most PlayStation fans recognize today. The console recieved huge praise for it’s design, software library, and the console sold over 100 million units over it’s lifetime. Not only that, but this console helped set the stage for the PlayStation 2, 3, and 4 for years to come.

The original PlayStation model (bottom) and the redesigned PSone model, which released in 2000. Several hardware and model revisions were released during the PlayStation’s lifetime.

The original PlayStation was a defining moment for Sony to really enter an emerging technology market and grab the reins quickly. The legacy that this console left behind has had a lasting impact on the game industry and made many companies successful through this medium. Sony really showed just how working with third party developer could provide equal or greater success in the titles released to the public, which shows different for Nintendo, who has been widely known for their first party titles. The console also paved the way for how CD-ROM technology is far superior to cartridges both for development and cost efficiency. Games that released for the console, such as Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid, Crash Bandicoot, and Spyro the Dragon, have been noted as some of the best game series ever created and established fan bases across the world. The console itself was also what really showed just how far video game technology was progressing and the advancements found in the PlayStation further proved this argument. Growing up, I was a PlayStation kid, my first experience was with the PlayStation 2, but I was able to play several PS1 titles during this time. All of the games that I played were lots of fun and never seemed outdated when I played through them, even now playing this titles I don’t try to compare them to graphics nowadays. I appreciate the aspects of gameplay, the origins of these franchises, and overall how much fun I have playing the game.

Crash Bandicoot has become one of the most widely recognized faces in all of gaming and is considered a mascot for the PlayStation brand.

With the release of the PlayStation 5 coming in the next few months, I am ready to see what Sony has been able to achieve since the humble beginning of the PS1. I hope the impact will resound throughout the industry and the hearts of fans, so that the brand will live on far into the future for the next generation.

Series-ous Talk – Grand Theft Auto

Logo for the series since the release of Grand Theft Auto III. This font type has become a staple of the franchise.

It took me until the other day to realize that most of the games that I have had on my blog have been geared towards all demographics, but mostly towards younger audiences. However, I heard some interesting news the other day about an announcement or something major being disclosed about this series sometime this week. So I wanted to take some time to highlight a franchise that has built a following and brought lots of controversy in it’s wake and really made an impact on the games industry as a whole. Without further adieu, let’s dive into this action-adventure series that has released over the past two-and-a-half decades.

Screenshot from the original Grand Theft Auto, notice the Top-down perspective that really sets this game apart from it’s later releases.

The original Grand Theft Auto released in 1997 for Windows, MS-DOS, and the Game Boy Color and the original PlayStation in 1998. Out of all the games in the franchise, Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto 2 are the only titles to be released in a 2-D, Top-down design. The plot centered around criminals causing a spree of robberys, assassinations, and other illegal activities for their respective syndicates throughout three different cities. These titles received mixed feelings from critics, but it soon grew a larger following of devoted fans. However, the industry and fans were not expecting the depth that the jump to 3-D would offer the franchise with the release of Grand Theft Auto III in 2001. The game introduced a third-person perspective and open world design that the series has become quite known for on top of a more complex gameplay structure and concept of story. This game has been noted as as one of the most significant games from it’s generation and has been cited as one of the best video games ever created. Other notable titles that released during this 3-D era were Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, another universally acclaimed title, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the best selling PlayStation 2 game and one of the best selling games of all time, both titles have been cited as being some of the greatest games of all time. The two most recent installments have become more noted as being part of the “HD” universe. Grand Theft Auto IV released in 2008 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC was also cited as being one of the greatest titles of all time and is one of the best selling games for the PlayStation 3. Grand Theft Auto V released in 2013 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, 2014 for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and finally 2015 for PC. This final title holds records for sales and being the fastest selling entertainment product of all time.

Grand Theft Auto III offered a much more detailed open world and the introduction of the third-person perspective gave the series a much better direction and aesthetic.

With all of that being said, there are many reasons for this franchise for receiving all it’s praise despite the various moments the game’s rating, depictions, and story elements that have it become notorious for controversy. The games themselves have provided each title with different stories with characters that have unique backgrounds and personalities. Gameplay has different missions, activities, and other things that the player can take part in with their playthrough. The open world that each game has presented players continues to grow in scale and detail, especially the most recent release having some of the most detail to environments, vehicles, NPCs, etc. I have ever seen. The customization available to the player lets them become part of the game by injecting their own brand of fashion, physical traits, and decisions they make in their gameplay. Not only that, but players could honestly spend their time playing these games and always find something new to take part in without ever losing that sense of discovery and adventure. I have never really been a huge fan of this franchise, but I do feel as though they are made with lots of love and it shows when you pick up the controller, which I think is extremely important to the overall appeal of a game.

Grand Theft Auto V really set the bar in terms of attention to detail and variability in NPCs, vehicles, and designs with each area the player visits. This game also introduced the option to play the game in first person.

At the end of the day, players will grow to appreciate the design of the game and level of dedication the developers had in creating the series. With the wait for Grand Theft Auto 6 seemingly coming closer to the end, all I can say is that it is going to break more records than it’s predecessors and create new standards for game creation entirely.

Console Talk – Nintendo 64

Nintendo 64 Logo.

Time to break up the past few posts that I have done with a new category for the blog! I want this to focus on some of the most influential, redefining game consoles that have ever been produced. Giving some background and history on these platforms is just my way of showing some love to all the great systems we have seen over the past few decades. Without further adieu, let’s dive into the console that brought Nintendo into the 3-D era.

A variety of color options were given to the Nintendo 64 over it’s lifetime. Some colors have become collector’s items and are widely sought after.

The Nintendo 64 was released June 1996 in Japan and later September 1996 and March 1997 in North America, Europe and Australia respectively. The system claimed to bring arcade-level graphics and gameplay to the home setting. Nintendo started partnering with Silicon Graphics in the creation of what was codenamed “Project Reality”. The system was one of the last home consoles to feature the concept of using cartridges rather than CD-ROM technology as Nintendo claims that “the graphical capabilities could not be done on disc”. Nintendo needed to set up it’s game as companies like Sega and Sony were beginning to take a larger hold on the gaming industry. This console would elevate Nintendo’s status in the gaming industry as they pushed forward from 16 bit to 64 bit entertainment. Upon it’s release to the world in 1996, the console received universal acclaim for it’s controller and many titles that saw release, such as Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Orcarina of Time, and Goldeneye 007, are considered some of the most influential games in history.

Super Mario 64 has been widely regarded as one of the greatest video games of all time. Several developers and designers have stated that this game inspired them to create games and see it as a work of art.

I’m going to take a step back to explain what this means in terms of it’s notoriety in gaming history. For starters, Nintendo had already established itself as the powerhouse of the gaming industry after they saved it from total collapse after the Video Game Crash of 1983. The influences that they had presented already in terms of game design, consoles, and memorable titles have always provided them with opportunity to take it to the next level (no pun intended). This console was the really point that showed just how well Nintendo could handle competition in a market that saw many changes in demographics and preferences. Secondly, The N64 is just an amazing piece of hardware both inside and out. The outer designs and various colors produced over it’s lifetime made each console unique and told a story about the owner themselves. Beyond the difficulties in programming for the console, the addons and accessories paved way for many different routes of development for a variety of genres. Not many consoles could offer the ability to expand the amount of memory available and give players games that had longer draw distances, better textures, and more details to game worlds without the need to rip apart the console to do so. The customization of the console really gave it that character that any gamer would want to own. Lastly, the games that came from this console are still some of the best games made in history. Goldeneye 007 was responsible for creating new standards for the shooter genre and Super Smash Bros. became the fighting title that resounds across the industry to this day. Not to mention that Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time are considered two of the greatest games ever made. Though many of these titles are first party licenses, that is why Nintendo is still a powerhouse considering that they can make consoles and games all of their own. That truly speaks volumes about Nintendo as both a company and an icon.

Screenshot taken from Rayman 2 showing the graphical improvements when using the memory expansion. There were some games that had the peripheral as optional, while other games like Donkey Kong 64 needed the expansion to run properly.

I would say to all those out there looking for a good game from the past, pick up a N64 and play one of many titles that released over it’s life cycle. I promise that you will see the start of many of today’s best games that take influence from this era of gaming and come to appreciate what this one console did for the industry and Nintendo’s reputation.

Great Games – Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Box Art for the Nintendo Switch release.

Alright, how is everyone doing? I apologize for the lack of posts this past week, I decided to take some time and enjoy my spring break despite all the happenings in the world. On the bright side, it gave me some time to take care of school work, projects, and video games that have been on my backlog for awhile. However, I thought that I would highlight one of the more noteworthy playthroughs that I have been putting off for some time. Strap in folks because here comes information about this RPG of epic proportions.

The art style and narrative found within this game have that Studio Ghibli vibe that adds to the charm of the gameplay.

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was originally released in Japan in 2011 and the West in 2013 for the PlayStation 3. When the game released last year for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Windows I knew that I had to buy it again (I never got to finish it when I had a PS3). The story centers around Oliver, a young boy who sets out to another world in order to save his mother. Upon reaching the new land with his new friend Drippy, the lord high lord of the fairies, Oliver learns of a plot by the dark djinn, Shadar, to bring chaos and the end of the world. With this in mind and friends he meets along the way, Oliver must work to save this world and his mother before its too late. The game features many of elements that you would find in typical RPGs, but there are some things that really make this game stand out. One of the first things that I have to mention is the collaboration with Studio Ghibli in the creation of the animated sequences that add some extra to the game (not to mention every movie the studio has made is an absolute gem). The combat system features ranged, melee, and magical attacks, but with the addition of “familiars”, creatures that are found throughout the world and can be tamed to help you in combat. Familiars can be evolved to different stages, much like Pokemon, and they can have differing paths of development with the final stage of evolution, such as being more attuned to fire or water. Combat will also give you the opportunity to receive “Miracle Moves”, special moves that either deal large amounts of damage or provide benefits for your entire team. Players have the option of carrying out specific errands in the game, such as NPC given tasks or bounty hunting, giving players the opportunity to earn some extra currency, items, weapons, or upgrades.

Screenshot of one of many battles the player will encounter throughout their playthrough. The player is given several options for creating tactics and diverse teams of familiars to provide the best experience possible.

I will come out and say it plainly: I have never been that great at RPGs. Most of the time I don’t have the patience to sit around and farm experience to level up my characters or I get stuck and never really get back into the groove of gameplay. However, I didn’t ever experience that feeling during the course of this game. I found myself playing throughout the day exploring the areas, recruiting new familiars, and becoming enthralled with the narrative. I will say that the story and characters that I met along the way I really grew to care for them and especially the bond between Oliver and his mother (I will fully admit that I did cry at the end of the game). Something about the aesthetic of gameplay and the art style really motivated me to finish what I started. The music throughout the game was composed so beautifully and every score fit the respective area it was tied to. Sound design always sets the mood just right for playing a game and even can play a larger role in the grand scheme of it’s design. Even writing this now I can hear the overworld theme play in my head, which is always a sure sign that a game has an impact on the player.

I would say that the animated sequences are some of the best that I have seen in any game. I could sit and just watch all the cutscenes and think that I was watching something akin to Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle.

With the conclusion of this post, I just wanted to say that more uploads will be coming in the soon and that I look forward to discussing video games with you all. As always, I would highly recommend this game to any gamer out there or any fan of the Studio Ghibli movies, you won’t regret it I promise.

Obscure Gaming – Dog’s Life

Box Art for the European Release.

I decided to put this game into this category due to the lack of public knowledge and attention this game has received. Also, it has been sometime since making a game in this category and I thought this game would fit the bill. Without further adieu, let’s dive into this action-adventure game from the days of the Playstation 2.

In order to have the ability to control other dogs, players must first complete small challenges of following button combinations on screen to learn some new moves before gaining access to a new breed.

Dog’s Life was released in 2003 in Europe and later 2004 in North America. The game follows the perspective of Jake, a small town farm dog, as he witnesses Daisy, a dog who he has feelings for, being taken away by the dog catcher. Jake decides to follow the dog catcher no matter where he goes to save the love of his life. Gameplay consists of taking control of Jake, as well as, over 15 different dog breeds with each one possessing different abilities that help the player overcome challenges and some puzzle elements. Missions are given to the player by humans in exchange for bones, which operate as a kind of level system that increase player stats. The game also features a mechanic known as “Smellovision”, which shows distinct scents that help the player compete in challenges where the rewards are bones. Some of the challenges include “territorial” games (in a game about dogs, this shouldn’t need to be explained), obedience trials, races, and tug-o-wars. The game also takes the player through 3 different areas of the game each with it’s own separate areas and districts. Clarksville, the rural hometown of Jake, Lake Minniwahwah, a ski resort set on a snowy mountain area, and Boom City, a cityscape that is home to the dog pound. There are several instances of interaction between NPCs and the player, such as their reactions to your tricks resulting in them giving you dog treats and if you pee or poo in front of them, they become very disgusted at you.

Example of Smellovision in action, each color represents the different challenges that a player can participate in with each unique area of the main levels.

All of these things being said, the game does have lots of crude humor or visuals that make it fun for pet lovers alike to play. I will say that having played this game when I was younger to having played it recently, it is very obvious that this game is more for kids rather than teenagers and adults. Nonetheless, I would say that there are unique elements to this game that people don’t typically see in your everyday game. Even critics were quick to praise the game for these kinds of elements, but became divided due to the blandness of gameplay and some outlets saying that the game was “fun but forgettable”. That last comment I would say is not always the case, I mean I still remember the game after nearly 15 years from when I first got it. That is what makes video games such an interesting topic is that despite the thousands of games created, people can still remember even the most obscure games they played years ago. Just one of the many reasons why video games have been a passion of mine ever since I can remember.

Screenshot of Jake interacting with one of many NPCs found throughout the game.

I would say to anyone to play this game, but I actually want to offer everyone a small challenge. Go to your local game store or online gaming service and just look for a game you have never seen before. Don’t read any prior reviews about the game, just buy it and give it a try. Who knows, maybe you’ll have found yourself a hidden gem of your own.

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