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Fair and Balanced Reporting

“Variety is the spice of life”
 
I know I said I was going to blog about 7 Wonders, but honestly, I’m not ready to do that yet. I’ve played all of one time and was taught by someone who was either on crack or hadn’t slept in 4 days and had more Red Bull in his veins than blood. It’s been described to me as “the best game you can play in 30 minutes” and is beloved by all of the internets, so I owe it to some misguided sense of integrity to give it a few more plays to get a good feel for it. I’ve spent a lot of time here talking about board and card games. When I started this blog, it was with the intent to talk about games of all types, and I haven’t done that really, so today I am branching off into the electronic to talk about some of my favorite video games.
 
When it comes to video games, I think the term “gamer” takes on a different meaning. I think it still roughly encompasses all people with video gaming as a hobby, but with the introduction of playing games online, the general idea is someone who is playing an MMO (massive multiplayer online) like World of Warcraft or a FPS (first person shooter) like Halo. Honestly, these hold no appeal to me. The only FPS I have ever enjoyed was Turok: Dinosaur Hunter for Nintendo 64. I would probably enjoy World of Warcraft. A little too much, which is exactly why I will never invest into it. I’ve known people to lose themselves in these games, to play for hours, days, weeks, eschewing other responsibilities and even social interactions with other people. I understand that the game can be used as a social outlet, but only with other people who are in the box with you. Call me old school, but I can’t overemphasize the value of real human contact. Even in a post about video games. As a teenager, we gravitated towards multiplayer games for our consoles, and even on the single games, there were plenty of times we’d all hang out and watch the game, take turns playing or discuss while it was being played. I’m getting a little far off topic here, time to talk about some of my favorite games.

His clothes may weigh more than he does, but he's still a badass.

 
Final Fantasy Tactics is probably my favorite video game of all time. It was the first game I got for the Playstation. It’s a grid-based tactical RPG with a great storyline, something the Final Fantasy chain is kind of known for. I’ve played through this game no fewer than 5 times, and each time I played through, I tried to make it a little more difficult for myself. The first time I played, I just played normally. The second time I didn’t play any of the special characters, as many of them are just better than anything you can hope to make. The third time, I played using only Monks. This wasn’t actually that difficult, as the Monk class and its abilities are actually pretty bad ass. After that I played using only Mages. This was really hard for about half of the game, but once I broke into good spells, the game fell apart. After that came only Geomancers, which was fairly difficult, as they don’t have many healing options available. A friend of mine said that he was working on beating the game using only Dancers. Which I suspect would mean running from enemies until they eventually die from poison or another nasty status effect. My single complaint about this game was its lack of multiplayer options. When we heard that it was being re-released onto PSP with a multi-player mode, that alone prompted myself and several friends to invest in a PSP. I played the Final Fantasy Tactics: Advance but was unimpressed by it. I didn’t play the third title in the FFT brand. There have been a number of other games I’ve enjoyed in the genre, but none so much as this. The Disgaea series is fun and brought some interesting twists to the genre involving terrain and leveling up your gear in addition to your heroes, but the series is very silly as a whole and try as I might, I can’t turn my brain off to the story. Suikoden Tactics was almost a direct ripoff of FFT’s mechanics, but the story was abysmal. I played through and never looked back. I would love a true sequel to the original, complete with a mature storyline, but I don’t think it’s in the cards. I would also play a game like this that used 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons mechanics. I’ve recently caught wind of a playerhack called Final Fantasy Tactics version 1.3, which supposedly takes my favorite game and makes it exponentially more difficult. I can’t wait to give it a try. 
 

Yep. He looks exactly like Jake Gyllenhaal.

My awesome girlfriend who is awesome also likes video games. We’re still looking for the happy middleground on games that we both like. She said she liked “questing games” I had Final Fantasy 7 on my PS3, so I had her start that. She quit before blowing up the first Mako reactor. Let’s be honest, she quit before naming Cloud. One combat in, she said she didn’t care for “waiting her turn to attack”. Suffice to say, I will not be trying to win her over on Tactics. OK, so I dig into my brain for another game I loved for her to try and downloaded another blast from the past: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Man did I love that game. At the time, the graphics were gorgeous (they still aren’t bad), gameplay was fun and the score was awesome. Yeah, the dialogue left more than a little to be desired, but what an awesome side-scroller! She was going to love it! She played it for longer than she did FF7. I’ll give her that much credit. This also, wasn’t her cup of tea. She’s currently playing The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I’ve finally got some ideas of what I’m going to push next, and I’m torn. The Prince of Persia: Sands of Time was a great game. The puzzles were interesting, the combat isn’t too intense, and it’s really cool visually watching yourself perform the dizzying feats of acrobatics with short bursts of time travel to save you from bad jumps. It also has one of the best endings in all of video gaming. Dark Cloud 2 offers lots of questing and a decently engaging story that’s kid-friendly. In its weird video-gaming way, it encourages building. Both of these are solid titles that I will likely introduce to her, but what I ultimately decided on was…
 

Why so serious?

Kingdom Hearts is a better game than it had any right to be. Like most people, when I heard about the concept, I thought that Square had skipped a groove and that nothing in life would ever be good again. Why would you make a game blending Square characters and Disney characters? When had Disney ever been involved in a good video game? (Immediately after writing that sentence, I remembered that I enjoyed Aladdin for Sega Genesis and The Lion King for Super Nintendo) I was super skeptical. It was a huge undertaking. This was going to take childhood favorites from multiple generations and place them in stories outside of those that made them childhood favorites in the first place. There was so very much to go wrong here. I don’t really remember why I decided to give it a try, but I am very glad that I did. Yeah, the protagonist is a young kid with impossibly spiky hair. It’s still a Square game, after all. The Keyblade is as bad a weapon concept as the Gunblade from Final Fantasy 8. I don’t understand why the Gummi ship needs to be a playable thing. Failing those very minor quibbles, this game turned out to be fantastic. The story is very imaginative and takes meticulous care in constructing the the Disney locations in a way that makes them feel like their movies. They even went as far as hiring as much of the original voice talent as they could. Production quality in the game is top notch. The gameplay is fun and feels a lot like the newer Zelda games (which is why I think this one will take with my girlfriend). When Kingdom Hearts 2 came out, I didn’t hesitate to buy it, and I’m excited about news of a Kingdom Hearts 3.
 
This all said, I’ve got a sizeable post here and so much more I want to talk about! Next week I’ll have some of my other favorites. What are some of yours?

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6 thoughts on “Fair and Balanced Reporting

  1. I’ve reactivated my World of Warcraft account recently and have been playing it here and there. Still tons of fun. I’m not a raider, and I have no problem just playing catch-as-catch-can with whatever character I’m in the mood for. I’m amazed at how entertaining (and intricate) it is after all these years.

    Going to pick up my pre-order of The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim this week, obviously, but I almost certainly won’t get to play it until after the St. Louis Film Festival folds in a couple of weeks.

    Other than that, my gaming habits in the last six months have been mostly PS3-based. Finally got to play Arkham Asylum, but could not beat it on Hard. Finished L.A. Noir, though I still need to clean up some stray trophies when I get it back from my brother-in-law. Lots of Dynasty Warriors 7, which has one of the longest platinum trophy climbs I’ve ever seen. Did trophy cleanup on some old games: Rock Band 3, Red Dead Redemption, Grand Theft Auto IV.

    1. Despite my initial post being about some pretty old games, there are recent games I’ve enjoyed too. I didn’t play very far into GTA4, admittedly, but I *really* loved San Andreas, so the departure from CJ was a little bit of a turn off. I will certainly go back to try more, as the franchise is rock-solid. I have not played an Elder Scrolls game that I have enjoyed. I think it’s the aversion to FPS games, and that’s first-person hacking, which is even worse for me. I absolutely LOVED Dragon Age: Origins. I couldn’t play through a second time, and I didn’t play DA2 or and of the DLC, but that game kicked ass. I’ve heard nothing but great things about Arkham Asylum. I’ve heard Red Dead Redemption was great too. I wish I had a little more time in invest in these games. Thanks for reading!

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