Graphics vs. Gameplay – Can’t we all just get along?

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Rexis here!

What is up internet? Are you doing well? I’m doing well. I’ve had a busy weekend playing two very different games that I love. I’ve been rocking Minecraft, playing on Spumwackles fan server, where I’m building a massive mall for the server residents to utilize. When I’m not stacking blocks, I’m on my PS3 playing Skyrim. Yes, I’ve played it before, but that was before all the DLC and it was on PC. I picked up the legendary edition a few days back and I love it. It feels good to be Dragonborn again.

So playing these two games back to back has got me thinking about a post I put up a long time ago that’s since been deleted and I wanted to touch on its subject matter again for anyone who wasn’t around back in the day, which I think was a Tuesday. I’m talking specifically about graphics vs. gameplay.

The reason this is an issue to me is because we have a very serious divide of gamers who would consider games with dated looking graphics as unworthy when the sales numbers prove otherwise. I work with an individual who believes this and refuses to play older games. He certainly wouldn’t waste time on Minecraft. Couple this with the number of comments I see on a regular basis calling Minecraft players children and I feel I need to say something.

Graphics do not make a good game!

Remember all the hype about Grand Theft Auto V earning over a billion dollars for Rockstar? A quick Google search and a little math will reveal an interesting statistic. Tetris has over 135 million copies between Gameboy and mobile platforms.  That number is staggering. Wii Sports has sold over 82 million, which I believe is due to the overwhelming popularity of the Wii it was bundled with. Minecraft has sold over 64 million including the mobile version. Do you know how many copies of GTAV have sold? 45 million (small in comparison, but still huge). That means GTAV, a game with amazing detail and graphics, has so far been outshined by two games that focus on blocks! No story. No amazing graphics. Just blocks. (And Wii Sports, whose game play was a fad at the time. Looking at you motion controls. )

That’s not to say that GTAV suffers from its amazing graphics. The gameplay is equally good which is why it’s sold so many copies. For those of you thinking that the buyers of these games are children, I’ll take this moment to remind you that GTAV is rated M and the average gamer age is 30.  So what gives? Where do graphics fit into all of this? The short answer is that they really don’t. It doesn’t matter how beautiful a game is in the grand scheme of things. Go ahead and take a look at a list of best-selling games and you’ll find a solid mix of games on both ends of the graphics spectrum. The thing they all have in common is good gameplay. They are games that were fun to play. You may not like all of them, but there are enough people out there who did. That’s how they ended up on the list.

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and I agree. I’m guilty of passing games over based on their graphics as well. When Windwaker came out, I skipped it for a long time because of the cell shaded style. When I finally did play it, I fell completely in love with it. It’s one of my favorite Zelda titles for sure. These days, I’m more open to new games. That mentality is what led me to Minecraft in the first place. I didn’t think I’d like it at first, but the gameplay sold me completely.

Now I’m not one to tell you how to game. By all means, play what you like. I just hope that when you see someone playing a game you wouldn’t play because you think it’s a kid’s game, or that the graphics suck, or that it’s a fad… Maybe take a minute to try and understand what drew them to that game in the first place. Don’t be judgmental of others because they like something different than you.

One final thing before I go, a short story of sorts. When I was in high school, Pokémon Red and Blue were still new. Of course, I played at school. I’d get a lot of crap for it, but I didn’t care what other people thought of me (never have, really). There was this one guy named Joe. He was an athlete, on all the school teams, as far away from a nerd as a guy can get really. Joe always took the time to come check out what I was doing. He’d ask questions about Pokémon and I’d let him try the game out. I’d explain the weakness chart and how to battle friends. He never criticized me for it. Not once. He didn’t become a gamer, but the fact that he took an interest in something outside of his comfort zone always resonated with me. Later in life, I remembered Joe’s inquisitive nature and I started asking question more often. I learned so much about politics, guns, physics, religion, and more, all because I didn’t make negative predeterminations.

Maybe we should all be like Joe.

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GameStop Controversy, Resellers, Poachers – In Perspective

What don't you understand about this?

What don’t you understand about this?

Rexis here!

I got online today with the best intentions, but I was hit by a whole new controversy. Twitting along on my twitter-er, I see that GameStop is under attack because they threw out some products. I followed the article links to YouTube where I found some clown digging through a dumpster complaining about the business practices of a video game reseller.

The first thought that came to mind was “What did you expect?” GameStop is a multi-billion dollar retailer. They are not in the business of selling obsolete, unwanted products (many of the items in the video). I wonder how many people, the guy in the video included, know that GameStop used to se

ll retro games as well. It was a video game hub and the only name in the business for quite some time. Then, a transition occurred and they made the jump to sell current gen tech and games only.

This did two things. It opened up the resellers market for small time retro game stores and it led to a lot of old games being dumped. If YouTube had been a thing back then, you’d have seen the most epic win videos of all time. Why wasn’t it donated like the guy in the video asks? Because it’s not cost effective to save up a bunch of crap no one wanted to buy and bring it to a children’s hospital. Not to mention the kind of publicity they would get for donating games like Grand Theft Auto 5 to children. Seriously? (I’m not going to get into all the charities GameStop does support.)

Now my favorite part of the video, and the part that got me riled up, was when he said “You buy cheap and you sell high,” as if that’s a bad thing. Wake up world! That is what all businesses do! It’s an essential part of the economy. The best part about all of this is that GameStop is only able to this because of the consumer. If there weren’t people selling them systems, they wouldn’t have such policies in place.

In summary, GameStop tossed some products that weren’t selling and they destroyed it first because their dumpster is not a charity. They want you to shop inside, like a normal business. Don’t go into a dumpster looking to find anything other than trash. Nothing vile was exposed here.

Let me tell you a story of a guy I work with who utilizes GameStop’s trade in program to his benefit. This particular individual is not a collector. He plays current gen console games, not retro. He was really into the XBOX 360 and had a nice collection of games. When XBOX One came out, he preordered and traded in every 360 piece he owned. At first, I was floored by the idea of selling all those games, but then I realized something. He had gotten his monetary value out of the system and games. For example, if he bought Halo for $60 and felt he’d gotten $60 worth of fun out of it, he was ready to trade it in for whatever he could get and move on. He’s not a poor guy. He can afford to keep this stuff, but chooses not to.

These are the type of consumers who keep resellers in business and, believe it or not, we need them! I can hear you scoffing already, but you have to understand that without resellers, a lot of games would fall to the wayside, end up in dumpsters, or worse. While we slave away at our 9-5’s, there are resellers out there picking through flea markets to salvage what amounts to our collective video game history. To me, that’s far more important than you getting a good deal on Little Samson. To add to that, resellers prices are typically higher than if you were to find the game on your own, and that’s understandable. They are doing the work after all. Those higher prices ensure that those games get into the hands of people who really want them. You aren’t going to drop $130 on a SNES title to throw it in a box and forget about it.

I prefer to avoid the resellers myself, but only because I like the thrill of the hunt. If I can find something in good shape at a flea market or Goodwill, I get a rush. That’s just how game chasing go (kudos if you get the reference). The real problem, in my opinion, is not GameStop or resellers, but poachers. These are the guys who buy up every rare thing they can to resell it online. You’re probably familiar with this. Most recently, Nintendo Amiibos and Majora’s Mask 3D have suffered from price gouging.

There was a public outcry for Nintendo and retailers to do something to curb this onslaught of wallet tightening terror. Unfortunately, there isn’t much they can do aside from limiting the number of copies they can sell to a customer. Poachers could be considered a money hungry lot, but they are simply instituting that same age-old practice of buying cheap and selling high. Supply and demand reign supreme. You want the answer to the poacher problem? Stop buying overpriced goods online. Hit them where it hurts, the pocketbook.

In closing, I know GameStop gets a bad rap, but I feel like that’s due to how cool it is to hate on a successful corporation. I’ve made my jokes about GameStop in the past, but the truth is, if I want a current gen title, I typically buy it there, and, yes, I appreciate the $5 off for the used copy. A used copy is not inherently worth less. You were going to use it anyway, weren’t you? The point is, unless you have a solid understanding of business, maybe you should go stick your head in a dumpster and let the professionals, the ones making billions of dollars, handle the situation.

Who Are You? – A Lesson from Sonic’s Identity Crisis

Sonic Shrug

Rexis here!

Work has been crazy hectic. Feels like I haven’t had time to write in ages. Through all the monotony, however, I have had time to think. I want to ask you a question.

Who are you?

Does that send a rush of self-identifiers to your mind? Gamer? Father? Brother? Soldier? Hero of time? I often like to think I know who I am and I know what I want, but then I end up second guessing myself. Is this really what I want? Is it just our nature to be unhappy with what we have and to always want more? Are we destined to constantly self-evaluate our lives based off some unconventional, unrealistic basis? I suppose it’s a pretty deep philosophical discussion.

Do you know who it reminds me of? Sonic the Hedgehog. How the mighty have fallen. If there were a mascot for not knowing who you are, he would be the one. The blue blur of 90’s attitude. The chili dog eating speed machine. The savior of Mobius and master of the chaos emeralds. What happened? Sonic has seen his share of identity challenges and it leaves me wondering if he stay up late, drinking alone, wondering where it all went wrong.

I’ve seen a lot of hate on the internet towards Sonic and his franchise. It’s unfortunate. People, for some reason, loved Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 even though they were both riddled with glitches and sound issues. Replay it and read my post about nostalgia. They were good games at the time, but they didn’t age well. Sonic ’06 (yes, I said it) was similar and everyone said that Sonic Team had failed. They didn’t fail. They maintained the status quo of bad design. Years later and we’ve seen Sonic as a werewolf thing, there’s one with a black knight, and for some reason a slew of characters with bad spin off titles became a thing. I’m looking at you, gun-toting Shadow. (Seriously?) Most recently, Sonic Boom disappointed fans everywhere.

Sonic doesn’t need to die or retire, as is so rudely suggested by the internet users of the world. Sonic, like many of us, needs to find himself. The reason I mentioned the Adventure titles is because Sonic did not transfer well to the 3D platforms. Mario did fine and revolutionized the gaming world with his N64 debut. Sonic… not so much. The problem came from the fact that Mario’s primary means of gameplay is jumping. Sonic never relied on jumping as much. His focus was speed. Isn’t it obvious that the developers had no idea what to do with this mechanic in the new age of gaming? As soon as Sonic hit the new 3D consoles, he joined some buddies and the gameplay just got weird. Why did we have to play as Knuckles digging holes? Why did I need to play as Tails in a mech? And why, why, why would I want to be Eggman?! The ability to switch between hero configurations in Sonic Heroes was just as bad.

Sonic Boom comes off as an attempted reboot, but fails on so many levels. If you want to reboot Sonic, here’s what you do… (Get ready for this ride.) Sonic should be a non-speedy, non-powerful citizen of planet Mobius when Dr. Robotnik (not Eggman, take your villains seriously) comes in search of the legendary Chaos Emeralds because he wants immortality. He already has wealth beyond our wildest dreams, after all. He is quick to overwhelm Mobius’ animal armies, but hits opposition when he encounters Knuckles, the guardian of the emeralds. Knuckles is ultimately defeated (not killed), but the emeralds scatter (DBZ style) before Robotnik can get them. One finds its way to Sonic and essentially chooses him to be a guardian. He is granted speed and the ability to use power rings. The rest of the story revolves around Sonic fighting Robotnik from the forest to space (a staple for the series).

The gameplay itself, as mentioned, is where Sonic Team struggles. Sonic should be the ONLY playable character. Include whoever you want in the background, but let’s get back to the roots here. Sonic is NOT a platformer. There should be no pitfalls. There should be no impossible jumps. There should be a 3rd person camera that follows Sonic as he controls similar to a kart racer or perhaps Star Fox. Yes, treat him like a vehicle and you’ll have a solid form of game play for a fast moving character. Now take this big pot of awesome, stir in some sarcastic attitude and inflated ego, and you’ve got the Sonic game we all have been dying for.

It’s honestly sad to think that so many people would want Sonic to just fade away because he is suffering from an identity crisis. Would we wish that on people as well? He’s been a favorite character of mine for a long time and I’m not ready to give up on him yet. To me, he represents my gaming roots, my childhood, a time when I knew who I was better than ever. Whenever I start questioning myself I like to think that Sonic and I have been through a lot, but all we really need to do is be ourselves. Our questions about who we are and who we are meant to be are so shrouded in illusion that all we can do is embrace what we love, do what makes us happy, and share that with anyone who will let us. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Life is a game after all, so learn a lesson from Sonic’s past failures and make it a FUN game! 

Game Review – Majora’s Mask 3DS + Nostalgia and Memory

MM

Rexis here!

Bringing you guys another quick game review with an extra bit tossed in.

So I’ve been playing through Majora’s Mask and having a great time with it. I’m going slowly since it isn’t a huge game and I really don’t want to resign it to the shelf too quickly. MM is easily in my top three favorite games. Not favorite Zelda games, but favorite games ever. I first experienced it in 2000 when it debuted on the N64. I remember having the golden cartridge with the holographic label. I spent a lot of time working through it back then and enjoyed every minute of it, hence my love of the game. Imagine my sheer giddiness when the 3D remake was announced!

I loved what Grezzo was able to do with Ocarina of Time 3D so I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed with MM. I picked the game up the day it launched and dove right in. I was flooded with nostalgia almost immediately. I haven’t actually played MM in years so it felt like I was in a familiar place, but it was somehow changed, like when you visit your childhood home and find a new tree in the yard. As I went along, I couldn’t place my finger on the differences between the N64 version and its 3DS counterpart, so I looked it up.

I was disappointed in a lot of the reviews I saw that decried the changes. The biggest issue I saw was that the game is too easy. I had to take a step back and ask “When was MM ever hard?” Then it hit me. Nostalgia is the real problem, not the changes in the game.

In his report, “Nostalgia: A Neuropsychiatric Understanding,” Alan Hirsch explains that  nostalgia is “a longing for a sanitized impression of the past, what in psychoanalysis is referred to as a screen memory — not a true recreation of the past, but rather a combination of many different memories, all integrated together, and in the process all negative emotions filtered out.” Unfortunately, memory is subjective. Our memories can actually alter over a period of time, and what’s more interesting is the role emotion can play on memory. These things, when combined, influence in ways we don’t even realize.

For example, when you were younger, you played a video game and you loved it. As you grew older, memories of your childhood begin to trigger nostalgia and filter out the negative. We tend to look back at our childhood as one of the best time of our lives (Not everyone of course. I’m personally more nostalgic for my teen years.). Anyway, that video game joins the ranks of your favorite childhood television shows or activities you enjoyed. The emotions you experienced during those activities are the reason those memories are so prominent to you. This is why you may not remember a drive down the road, but you do remember your first kiss. Unfortunately, memories can be altered. People can be influenced to believe things happened, or didn’t. The brain is a strange thing. So now, when you think about that video game, you remember the emotion you felt during that time and you feel nostalgic. You remember your adventure, but forget the parts that challenged you. You remember that the princess is in another castle, but you don’t recall how many times you died getting there. See? We filter out the negative.

Applying this to Majora’s Mask, is the game really easier? It may have taken you a while to overcome the challenges as a child, thus the emotions you connect to the game are of a grander adventure. In reality, you’ve been a gamer for the last 15 years, since the game was originally released, and you’ve gotten much better at gaming. When reviewing a game like MM, a remake of a classic title many people hold dear, I understand the desire to compare it to the original. Is that what we really want though? Do we want a snapshot of our nostalgic view of the N64 version? I don’t. The N64 is dated, really dated. Many of its games didn’t age well and the library of titles worth playing is rather small. So in an effort to review the game effectively, I say review it as a new stand-alone title.

Majora’s Mask is a remarkable adventure where you take on the Hero of Time’s adventure to save Termina from a prank playing skull kid possessed by an evil entity intent on bringing down the moon. The game is solid and fun throughout. The difficulty is what we have come to expect from a Zelda title, not too difficult, but still challenging. It manages to be somewhat easy to play through, but the real fun is in the puzzle solving and side questing. Utilizing the Bomber’s Notebook, the NPC’s daily activities are recorded so the player can easily keep track of all events. It can feel a bit tedious as the primary play mechanic relies on traveling back in time before the moon can destroy Termina. You may find yourself short on time and repeating the same area, but I believe that is the fun of the game. In the early age of video games, you had to learn sequences to pass certain areas and MM is no different in this regard. The music is nothing short of incredible. The sound effects are familiar without going over the top. The gameplay really shines as it incorporates masks and even allows the player to transform into three different races familiar to Zelda canon.  And it accomplishes all of this without the Master Sword or Zelda (except for a small cameo appearance).

Majora’s Mask is a great game and a stellar title for the 3DS, but I believe the 3D truly brings the game to life, especially if played on the new 3DS with face tracking technology. It is insanely satisfying to use the bow so accurately in 3D. (In the past, you’d have to turn off the 3D because tilting the system would cause it to go out of focus.) Changes or not, if you are a fan of Zelda, this is a title for you. Don’t let your nostalgia get the better of you and try to enjoy this game for what it is now rather than what it was back then. Can you imagine if we held a game like Elite Dangerous to the standards set by Asteroids? Seriously, go make some new memories in Termina!

Zelda Items and Zombie Survival – A Brief Walking Dead Respite

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Rexis here!

Do you have zombie fever yet? The Walking Dead is more than half-way through its fifth season (so intense!) and I have been enjoying this ride since the beginning. Seriously, the only reason I have cable is to watch the show legally and as soon as it airs. I guess this makes me a fan. I’m also a fan of Zelda, if you haven’t realized that by now. So I got to thinking, what weapons and items from the Zelda universe would be most useful in a zombie apocalypse? Let’s touch on a few items from the game and examine their usefulness, shall we?

The series staple is the Master Sword. This seems like a good place to start, but would the Master Sword hold up well against zombies? Assuming the sword is completely powered up and we have access to the sword beam, it could be relatively useful for handling one off zombies at range. Close up and surrounded by a group, you’re as good as dead. The Master Sword is a double-edged longsword. (according to the Zelda wikia and who am I to argue?). This means ist an “effective, and versatile weapon capable of deadly thrusts, slices, and cuts” (wikipedia). That means it is effective against people, not zombies. Cut, slice, and thrust at a zombie and you’ve accomplished very little. What you are looking for is more of a chopping action. Bones gotta be cleaved, man! My verdict is that the master sword is too heavy and useless in the apocalypse.

What about Link’s trusty bow? Assuming you are an effective archer, the bow is extremely useful. Headshots are the key to putting down zombies and the piercing of an arrow is exactly what you need. The silence also plays an important role as you wouldn’t want to attract more walking corpses. Link’s bow comes equipped with a few special arrows, including ice, fire, silver, and light. Light and silver arrows are known to destroy Ganon and his forces, but that’s not who we are fighting. They’d be as effective as a plain arrow. Ice arrows could freeze zombies where they stand, but they would thaw quickly as enemies in the games do. You might be thinking fire arrows are a good idea, but I’d ask “what’s worse than a charging group of zombies?” The answer, a charging group of zombies that are on fire. With this weapon, stick to plain old arrows (especially if you can get the Hawkeye) and conserve your magic meter. You’ll need it for…

The magic cape. Since the ice and fire rods would be useless, the magic cape that allows you to be invisible would be a handy, dandy item for getting in and out of sticky situations. Zombies in The Walking Dead can smell, so it’s safe to assume our zombies can too. Don’t get too close and the magic cape will keep them from noticing you as you slip in and out of abandoned buildings on supply runs. If you do find yourself stuck and out of magic, you could always rely on the…

Pegasus Boots. These boots had Link zipping across the map, easily outrunning some of his fastest enemies. Zombies tend to be walkers so you should be able to escape fairly quickly with these strapped on. They would certainly be a better option that the iron boots. If they are hard to acquire, perhaps try to get your hands on the bunny hood (Majora’s Mask) and you’ll find enough pep in your step to escape.

Another Zelda mainstay is the hook shot. You might think this is a useful item, until you realize that no one painted any white targets for you to hook onto. Shooting enemies could bring them closer, so that’s out along with the Deku Mask. There’s no flowers to shoot yourself out of. And, honestly, would you want to be a small tree with no real means of defense in this chaotic world? The Zora Mask would benefit you if you found yourself near a large body of water, assuming there are no floating corpses waiting to latch onto you. Even the Goron Mask has its downsides. What happens when you roll into a tree and you’re left recovering? The last thing you want in the apocalypse is to spend any time “recovering.”

It would seem that a lot of items in the Zelda universe are not suited for the eventual zombie outbreak. This makes sense as Link has never really had to contend with zombies. (Gibdos and redeads don’t count.) There is one item Link receives across the ages that I believe could be the most beneficial. It doesn’t use magic. It doesn’t require killing anything. And you don’t need any skill or proficiency to use it. I’m talking about the Stone Mask. This allows Link to move through the world unnoticed, as plain as a stone. I don’t think zombies would be interested in a stone.

Are there any items you think could be useful that I might have missed?