Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Let's Meet Bonk's Adventure: Part 1

at 10:43 PM
In Part 1 of each Let's Meet, you'll find an introduction to a game's history and gameplay. In Part 2, you'll come away with something neat about the game.


Bonk's Adventure (US)/PC Genjin (JP)
Developer: Hudson
Publisher: NEC (US)/Hudson (JP)
TurboGrafx-16 – 1990 (US)/PC Engine – 1989 (JP)

On a console where platformers are uncommon, Bonk's Adventure stands out as a quality title with a nifty powerup system.

Bonk's Adventure has a pretty simple concept. You play as a little cave guy that goes around headbutting dinosaurs. You can headbutt enemies from the ground, but more interestingly, you can land on them with an airborne headbutt, essentially mimmicking Mario's stomp maneuver, only with your noggin instead of your feet.

Bonk's diving headbutt speaks for itself. 
And it plays pretty simply, too. You start with three hearts of health, but it takes quite a few hits from enemies to knock out just one of them. The enemy AI is up to snuff, but Bonk is a walking tank, so foes won't give you much trouble.

That's not to say it's entirely straightforward. If you're willing to look around, you'll find plenty of items to pick up, especially in the game's numerous hidden bonus rooms.

One of the several types of bonus rooms you'll come across in Bonk's Adventure.
Overall, it's a laid-back and happy game, much different from the other notable TurboGrafx-16 games that had been released in the US by that point.

In the US, the launch of the Turbo relied in part on Keith Courage in Alpha Zones, the console's first pack-in game. It's an action-platformer with some neat aspects, but ultimately Keith Courage is just mediocre. Although console-defining classics such as Blazing Lazers and Alien Crush had been released by the time Bonk reared his bald head, Bonk's Adventure was the first platformer that the TurboGrafx-16 could call a classic.

Granted, that's ignoring The Legendary Axe, but you could argue that's not much of a platformer.

Bonk's Adventure had a decent number of offspring, spawning two sequels on the Turbo in addition to sequels and rereleases on other consoles. In Japan, Bonk's Adventure even saw a remake on the Gamecube.

Out of the whole family, Bonk's Revenge seems to be the fan favorite. And there's a good reason-—it took the point-hoarding gameplay of Bonk's Adventure and refined it; levels in Revenge are fairly large and provide a good number of nooks and crannies to unearth.

As you might expect, something was lost in the refinement. By focusing on exploration, Bonk's Revenge lost an element of speed found in Bonk's Adventure.


In any Bonk platformer, meat will grant Bonk strength. If he eats a large piece of meat, he becomes invincible for a short period. If he eats a small piece, his attacks will become stronger for a short period, and if he eats another piece before time runs out, he'll go invincible. This might make more sense with a picture:

Plus, once invincibility runs out, you'll go to the powered up state for a short time before returning to normal Bonk.

Given this setup, it's possible to chain invincibility. So long as you can find a piece of small meat before time runs out and you return to normal Bonk, you can continually enter the invincible state. Luckily, invincible Bonk runs faster than normal, making it easier to reach the next piece of meat.

Of course, if you're on a meat-based time limit, you can't take your time to explore and find all of the fruit that's hidden in each level. That means there are two ways of playing through any given stage.

First: you explore the levels and pick up every item. This means stopping to open flowers and checking suspicious walls to see if they can be broken. This method earns more points, and as a result, it's the safer way to go, since these points will earn you lives.

Second: you charge ahead as fast as possible, stopping only to pick up pieces of meat. Orange flowers and pink enemies always yield some kind of meat, so it's easy to tell where meat is, at least for the most part.

In this sense, Bonk's Adventure offers some choice in how you play it. You can take your time, or you can blaze through; both are satisfying methods of playing in their own ways. The slow way rewards you with the satisfaction of uncovering goodies (not to mention tons of lives to make the trek easier), and the quick way rewards you with fast gameplay.

I'm fairly sure the quick way of playing was unintentional on the designers' part, since later entries in the Bonk series never have stages designed around continual invincibility. Still, I find it a neat way to approach Bonk's Adventure.

Next time, I'll look at a few stages with this perspective. See you then!

Pac-Man DX High Score letter revisited - for the jealous

at 12:59 PM
Many among my friends know what a talented classic video-gameist I am, but recently doubt has been cast on my accomplishments, particularly regarding my Pac-Man Championship Edition DX high score. At the height of my involvement with the game, I reached a ranking within the top 30 players of the game on Xbox Live Arcade, and for my achievements, received a letter in the mail from Pac-Man himself. I've included a scan of the letter here, in addition to transcribing it in an easier legible font. Doubt no more, my friends - one day perhaps you'll be skilled enough to receive a similar accolade!

The letter:
Dearest Pac-Thusiast,
      Welcome to thank you for playing my game, and congratulations to you on being one of the most impressively skilled players Ive ever seen!!! You have truly proven yourself worthy to take control of me and guide me through limitless mazes against my ghastly ghostly oppressors, and its an honor no, a privilege to be writing you this letter. Your score proves that you are not only a more skilled gamer than all of your friends, but a better person altogether! So please use your skills to help those less fortunate and less intelligent than you are.
      If anyone is still reading this, listen carefully. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX is not simply a video game to satisfy and entertain todays youth. It is something much more something more than a game. The events you see taking place on your screen are no mere simulation. What has been advertised as a recreational diversion is in fact a weapon. A war rages on beyond the scope of human comprehension a war where scant few brave yellow circular defenders fight against an overwhelming force of terrifying, mindless ghost invaders. With few resources available to us and little remaining hope of victory, a last ditch effort was envisioned. The idea: create a video game to simulate command of our Pac-Warriors, and distribute it among the teeming civilizations of the universe.
      You, the Pac-Man Championship Edition DX player, have actually been controlling the Pac-Force in its endless battle for survival. And thanks to high-scorers like you, Yourself Himself, we finally have a chance at victory. So fight on, dear brethren for freedom, for the future of the Pac-Race!

The original letter as I received it in the mail (click for higher resolution):


Monday, July 30, 2012

"CONFLICT OF INTEREST" - GameStop CEO on Why Love is Measured in DLC Promotional Offers

at 6:28 PM
Conflict of Interest takes a look at theory, ethics, and practice in video game journalism and the gaming industry as a whole. Because that's what the kids need.


GameSpot's interview with GameStop CEO Paul Raines provides lots of ammunition for the everyday industry cynic. Although the comments section was quick to point out that GameStop's claim to being THE PLACE for hardcore gamers was bullshit, just about everyone glossed over the really stupid parts.

The salient remarks:

PR: We’ve not seen a lot of impact from it. I think publishers today working with GameStop have a much broader set of tools at their disposal. Think about the PowerUp Rewards; our marketshare is at an all-time high. The reason is, PowerUp Rewards have given us new ways to connect with customers. Digital content is offering new ways to offer consumers a bigger experience. Instead of giving them a T-shirt, now you can give them digital content, levels, et cetera. And then lastly, we are far more integrated around the world than we have ever been. When we launch a title now, it’s more and more a global launch. And that helps. People like EA, our good partners at Activision, and some of the other companies, they need us to be more integrated globally with what we’re trying to do.

GS: Between retailer-exclusive preorder bonuses, one-time use pack-in codes, microtransactions, DLC, and the like, the user experience for any given game is splintered a dozen ways. What kind of feedback have you heard from consumers about this? Confusion? Frustration? Enthusiasm?

PR: I think that our customers feel like they’re getting more innovation from us than they’ve ever gotten. As far as other retailers copying what we do, we can’t change a lot of that. So what we’re trying to do is say, "buy from GameStop, we’re going to bring you the very best, innovative content that we possibly can, and along the way, we’re going to provide you the most benefits." Our consumers tell us they’re more excited than ever about that. Add to that our ability to sell what we think will be exciting mobile games, tablet games, we think we have the best position we’ve ever had. 

It's hard to take too seriously the remarks of a CEO about his business model, but GameStop's commitment to its image as a modern day comic book store -- that place where hardcore fans can congregate for the sake of congregation -- highlights GameStop's irrelevancy more than anything else. The comic book store is an outdated concept in the same way that late night variety shows and newspapers are; the advent of the internet means that water cooler talk and niche community connections are no longer limited to a few dominant sources of information dispersion. But GameStop's conflation of customer happiness with the number of things, real and imagined, they can sell is telling.

Is being able to purchase DLC from a GameStop something permanent to the marketplace, or is it a passing opportunistic money-grab by a company without a future? I think the answer lies in the customer. What I mean is this: Will the general population, and the population that shops at GameStop, eventually become more informed about the nature of gaming entertainment? My guess is no. The advent of the casual gamer and the fact that there will always be parents and grandparents cluelessly purchasing shovelware, as well as the fact that there will always be children playing video games, means that GameStop will always have a way to function as a useless middleman in the marketplace.
The face of progress

I like to think about Best Buy's Geek Squad as a point of comparison. Best Buy is perfectly happy to sell you a computer and force you to check "no" to questions like "Would you like Geek Squad to install anti-virus protection for only $99.99?" I see no way that that business model can continue to exist after the digital immigrant baby boomer population dies out, clicking their final link on FoxNews.com. But then again, there will always be people too clueless about technology to say no (probably -- that's a pretty complicated one to tackle). My point is this: Gaming, for the foreseeable future, is actually maintaining and growing a clueless population. If there's a spectrum of gamers that begins with people playing Angry Birds and ends with someone programming a Chipophone, everyone to the left of WoW fans are ripe for the picking when it comes to offering pre-order bonuses, shitty resale rates, and Game Informer discounts. 

It's also easy to trick children...and old people.

Back in the CCCR (Control Customization Reviews, Revisited) - Killer 7

at 4:03 PM

Welcome to Back in the CCCR, a weekly feature where I'll be bringing you, the Internet stupidience, reviews of a mostly overlooked but critical aspect of the video game: the control customization options screen. You see, in the days of Benjamin Franklin, it was taken for granted that interface buttons would simply be labeled with their exact purpose, like on a keyboard. Functions like "jump" and "jump higher" were inscribed upon the arcade cabinets above the corresponding inputs. In fact, the earliest games simply came with a "WIN" button, but this was quickly recognized as too primitive and direct to keep players engaged. Soon games made their way to the home market and universal consoles were envisioned to function with numerous games, so the labels had to be generalized. Some controllers had so few buttons that the purpose was understood, like the Atari 2600's. A more complex, arcade-faithful approach was taken by the Intellivision and Colecovision for their nine-digit pads: game specific overlays that applied artwork and instructions to the layout. 
I've tried taping these to my N64 controller - it just never turns out quite how I wanted
By the time of the NES, it was realized that the player didn't spend much time looking down at his hands, rather memorizing the controls and relying on hand-die coordination. Thus, buttons were given generic names like "A" and "B" and were explained in manuals, tutorials, and menu screens. I'll save discussion of the evolution of these instructional techniques for a later feature.

These days, developers can't rely on the assumption that A will always mean "jump" and B will mean "B", nor can they help that players come into each game with a lifetime of law enforcement programming and the accompanying preferences. Thus, we have control customization options, allowing adjustment of everything from button assignment to axis orientation to sensitivity setting. However, some games manage this better than others. ASSHOLE developers like those responsible for Bayonetta assume some godlike prescience and offer no choices at all, wondering with childlike puzzlement why any of those other games would be so STUPID as to give the player choice. Modern PC games pretty universally provide 100% customization freedom, because they're made by people who actually have a single goddamn shred of sense in their brains. I'll take dozens of different stances in the ongoing West vs. East debacle that so entertains the gaming community, but you'll see in the progression of Back in the CCCR that this is one place where West dominates.

I won't bore you with any more of my endless insight and endless historical insight - there are a lot more of these to come and I'm going to have to pad the length somehow, so I better save some [endless insight] for later. For now let's get to our first review: Killer 7, a game I'm currently working through on Gamecube. Killer 7 is genre-defiant from the outset, so it's difficult to have any preconceived notions about the controls. The game's only movement is taken care of with "forward" and "turn around" buttons, which you'll hardly find in other titles. The shooting mechanic is an early adopter of what would soon become the modern standard, the RE4 model. Hold a trigger to draw/sight the weapon, and press another button to fire. That's just about all you'll find yourself doing. But of course, I'm not here to review controls, I'm here for the customization options.

Killer 7, a Japanese game through and through, gives exactly ONE setting to the player. This is the orientation of Y-axis aiming; traditional or inverted. No button assignment, no X-axis orientation, and no sensitivity. As awfully sparse as this is, the game gets away with it, since X-axis inversion is universally accepted as unnecessary for the first person perspective and there are so few buttons to use. The CC's downfall is one so preposterous that it may very well be a bug rather than a willing oversight. The options aren't saved! That's right. A game released in 2005 for some idiotic reason requires you to go into the settings menu EVERY LAST TIME you boot it. Get ready for some frustrating resets after sitting through the game's load times only to realize you forgot to set your preferences.

The verdict? Killer 7 gets a: Moronic out of 10.
You want me to fucking set the fucking options every time I turn on the fucking game? Why don't I pack it up, ship it back to Japan, and have your mother use her own blood to manually inscribe my preferences onto the disc at gunpoint?

"CONFLICT OF INTEREST" - IGN Shits the Bed with Bad Article, Feigns Depth

at 12:08 AM
Conflict of Interest takes a look at theory, ethics, and practice in video game journalism and the gaming industry as a whole. Because that's what the kids want.

What happens when you combine one part personal narrative, two parts theoretical criticism, and an immeasurable amount of try-too-hard wistfulness, and apply it to an analysis (deconstruction?) of a video game convention? Well, IGN decided to find out. Besides getting an article entirely devoid of substance, you are also left with hours of entertainment as you ponder exactly for whom the article was written.

Some might say that You Died: The Rights and Wrongs in Video Game Death is an article in which formic mimicry trumps, and ultimately nudges out, fundamental concerns like "having a thesis."

What struck me, however, was Mario’s startled face, his sudden shock and pain, upon slamming into a Goomba. He paused, tumbled through the air, and fell into oblivion. Gone forever, his mission for a princess’ love cut tragically shor... no wait, he’s okay. Somehow he returns to the world of the living. And so the cycle continues.

This is normal for us. And it gets weirder.

When the police gun down Niko Bellic in the streets of Liberty City, he should probably stay down. Yet he, too, rises. This miraculous ability was not Mario’s alone, but one shared by all digital denizens.

The problem with this deconstruction of the death convention in video games is that it is not a deconstruction. Instead of explaining what binary structures underlie the assumptions that lead us to accept video game death as normal, we are left with something more akin to "What's the deal with airline food?" 

The deal with video game death is that it is a trope, and pointing out that it exists in an article and saying that it's weird is to not say anything at all. 

Now, Clements suggests that video game death is strange because it implies "continuous resurrection." But does it? In his view, the "weirdness" of video game death lies in the way it breaks conventional narrative structure as a necessity of gaming's interactional nature. There are two points to consider:

1) Video game death can exist without a narrative.
2) Narrative structure in video games is not unbroken, even though it is linear.

Let's leave the first point for now. The second point states what everyone except Mr. Clements already knows: When the player dies in a video game, this is not a part of the story. The point at which the game resets marks the point at which the narrative resets, and the narrative only continues when the player successfully navigates the game.

But wait, there's more! Although Clements fails to explain why he believes his conception of video game narratives is correct in spite of how weird it apparently is, he makes the following leap:

With death so prevalent in video games you may wonder how any game with fail states (i.e. death) can challenge a player without breaking the realism of the fictional world. It’s possible, and many games do have ways to threaten players with the possibility of loss without killing off the star.

The Prince of Persia remake from 2008 took a clever approach to this issue by eliminating the need for repeated deaths altogether. Instead, the mysterious and magical Elika saves the hero with every mistake we as players make, preventing his untimely demise in a flash of light.

Does this game mechanic do anything to take the player out of the game less? Of course not, because straying outside of the mise en scene is not something that removes gamers from the narrative in the first place. Clements is merely confusing video games with movies. Whether Prince of Persia's mechanic exists or does not exist, the narrative is broken and reset in the same way it would have been. Incorporating the reality of player control into the narrative actually highlights the interactional nature of video games more so than ignoring it altogether. It expands the narrative to incorporate all player mistakes, but in a way that does not actually affect the story.

Space Invaders does not have a story. When the little ship dies, the player can wonder whether he is playing as a different ship, or if the original ship got repaired, or if some supernatural force is at play. But the player can also assume none of these, and simply understand that within the rules established by the game, a quarter equals a certain number of chances to play as a little ship. 

This is to say that games that incorporate death into their narrative, like games that remove life bars and on-screen stats, do not do so because these qualities have an objective impact on a game's immersiveness; they do so because the developer's intention is for the game to appear to be more like a movie in its narrative and visual qualities. By making the assumption that a common device and structure in video games is somehow weird and jarring, Clements is implying that non-interactional narratives are inherently superior. Movies can be immersive, but they are not the sole guardians and keepers of immersive entertainment. What these design choices reek of is self-loathing. In their attempt to emulate cinema, these games create apologies for their own medium. Likewise, movies such as The Amazing Spider-Man that contain first-person camera shots and fetishized CGI, showing off computer-generated qualities like badges of pride, apologize for their medium and attempt to lure viewers in with the false promise of interactional, action-packed moments from a video game.

Ultimately, the blurring of conventions across media serves the higher purpose of creating one great, mass-marketed entertainment blob, in which movies and video games look the same, sound the same, and interact with players and viewers the same. Why? Because this guarantees profits and limits, focuses, and deadens the palettes and expectations of consumers. Are you seeing the new Transformers movie or playing the new Gears of War game? It doesn't matter!

You see, these are the assumptions underlying Clements' article, and that's how you perform a deconstruction.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

NyxQuest, revisited

at 11:49 AM
Here's an interesting piece of gaming trivia for you. What game is NyxQuest? The answer may surprise you. It's: you probably didn't know. NyxQuest was a lovely game released onto that much bemoaned WiiWare service. If you're a "Nintenhardcorerer", as you call yourselves, you've probably cited this game as an example of what can be done with a downloadable Wii title. Or likely not, but you may remember anticipating Icarian, the much belated Kid Icarus seq- oh wait, no, it doesn't have anything to do with Kid Ick, but hey, this looks like a kinda cool platformer, wait, where'd it go? It got renamed is where it went.

Alright. Here we are. We're on a bad platform with bad advertising and bad distribution. We had some screw-ups with the name game, but for the US we finally settled on NyxQuest. Not a great start, so let's forget it and talk about the game. From here we can go in a couple directions; door A will take us to a conversation about the unique tone and atmosphere Over The Top chose for their game. Door B leads to a world where the only form of communication is physics based 2D platformers. Door C is an open letter to the powers that use Wii to mimic mouse controls. Door ;) winks at you surreptitiously. That's one of those words that I kinda half know what it means. I use my imagination for the other half!

Feel free to step through the door that most tickles your fancy. I'll be taking route A because I'm a depth-first-search program scripted to make blog posts because you don't know what computers are and neither do I. I open the door and see a wondrous land of the rest of this sentence. NyxQuest draws me in because of its almost creepy atmosphere. Many games star a lone wanderer in a desolate wasteland... this is one of them. What's interesting here is that the apocalypse seems to have come at the pinnacle of the Classical Greek era. So you get your standard ruins with pyramids lurking right around the corner and sphinxes peeking in every window, but it's actual. You're IN the decrepitude - no - you ARE the decrepitude. Emptiness isn't exactly hard to achieve in a digital environment, but NyxQuest pulls it off well. The color contrast between sand and sky, the balance of vagary and detail, and the omnipresent wind. They keep the sameness going for just long enough that when it's different, your jaw drops (spoiler hinting). 

Holy sheet Greg did a post. Lookit that now!

at 7:28 AM

Greetings

at 4:42 AM
Hey, looks like I'll be writing things here. I like video games, so that sounds about right.

I'm Greg II, by the way.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Vanquish Revisited Pt 2 - Wow holy shit God Hard takes out weapon upgrading altogether

at 1:46 PM
HAHAHA religious comedy! Wait, was that a boner joke?
Wow, holy shit, God Hard gets rid of the weapon upgrades. I forgot that what made me reluctant to replay this game, besides the aforementioned cutscene bullshit, is that the harder difficulties are so unforgiving. Playing in Normal again feels like admitting defeat, but Hard resets all your upgrades every time you die and God Hard eliminates them altogether. For those that haven't played the game: weapons are getting stronger all the time as you use them, while likewise more powerful enemies are being introduced. So being reset/not being able to power up is nearly as bad as being forced to play Skyrim stuck at Level 1.

I'm gonna stick with it though - if anything because at this point I've sat through that damn ten-minute opening cinematic and can't stand to see any more minutes ticked off my life's clock.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Vanquish Revisited Pt 1 - Van Quiche

at 2:22 PM
What the hell is this screenshot? He's like shooting a wall or something...
Decided to revisit Vanquish since it's been a year or so. Max Payne 3 got me in the mood for shooters, and High Moon's next Transformers game is still a month off. To be clear, when I talk shooters I mean 3rd-person, primarily console games, stuff like Metal Arms, Space Marine, War for Cybertron, or MDK2. Vanquish is the best to come out in the last generation, probably ever. It's the curse of Platinum Games.

Originally I had played through the game on normal. I didn't explore much of the extra-campaign content - mostly I was just disappointed by how little there had been. I'm more than happy with a six-hour single-player mode because it almost always makes for a well-paced game, but in a game this fucking fun, it also means I'm going to be replaying it a lot. Vanquish gives you so many equipment choices in the main game, so much different shit to experiment with and max out, that it's really a shame to see the lack of a new game+. Maybe they were being lazy or maybe they wanted the game to test your patience no matter how many times you played through. On the other hand, it de-emphasizes the upgrading side of the gameplay - being reminded that when the final chapter closes all your work is forgotten keeps the player focused on improving HIMSELF, the only factor that will be around in the next round.

The first thing I was welcomed with on my new God-Hard playthrough was a reminder that cutscenes are unskippable. Hooray. Gotta hide those load-times somehow. Least I'm used to it from Max Payne 3. Sometimes I wonder if the biggest evolution modern games could possibly experience would be the elimination of load times. At least Nintendo got one thing right by sticking with cartridges and weak hardware for so long. Still, it's wishful thinking in 2012 - I'd be less surprised if we saw load-cutscenes replaced by advertisements from corporate sponsors. Speaking of, we'll be right back after this short commercial break:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Here's the first post! - Top ten JRPGs, revisited

at 5:40 AM
GamesRadar did a little top ten JRPGs that was half decent. It had your obvious behemoths like FFX, FFVI, and of course Chrono Trigger at #1, and your so-niche-that-how-could-it-be-excluded Persona 4, but I thought it was nice to see Skies of Arcadia and Earthbound get some due. Pokemon was also a good call - commonly forgotten in the genre just because it so far oversteps it. For the requisite Mario game I can't be surprised but also can't concede Paper Mario - I guess the idea of an art style was so mindblowing at the time and the combat has still never been replicated. Obviously I'd have SMRPG simply because it's shocking how few games in the subsequent fifteen years have managed to reach its quality of writing. And since RPGs are all about story, I feel it's a necessary inclusion.

With only 10 slots there's not a lot of room for surprises, but I thought maybe they woulda tossed in Xenoblade as the game that proves the genre is still alive in these days where Dark Souls and Skyrim have the Action RPG at its peak. Alas. My top 10 JRPGs, which is actually kinda hard because I fucking hate RPGs.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

1. Skies of Arcadia Legends
natch - it's got everything and it's just a goddamned happy game that makes you happy. Music exploration fancy team attacks epic story romance without being sappy and even a little epilogue. It'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry, and it'll feel like there's no end to the content.

2. Super Mario RPG: LOTSSSS
see above. HILARIOUS game. Oh I just noticed that now that this is on the blog it uh.... yeah... you see what I'm talking about.

3. Baten Kaitos: Origins

Greatest battle theme, the greatest battle theme, the greatest battle theme of all! I sung that. Now you should try. I didn't sing it to the tune of the battle theme though so kind of... stupid. Combos are like something that turn-based games have a really hard time with but this game made them amazing. While being gorgeous. I think it had some jokes, too. Aesthetic pleasure at its height. Paintings can't even touch this game. You hear that? PAINTINGS AREN'T AS DEEP AS THIS VIDEO GAME. I went there. Who cares about paintings anyway? You don't hear no Rolling Stone magazine running down the street raving about the new Degas print. I wonder if somewhere on the net people debate paintings as aggressively as people debate everything else on the net everywhere. Good thought.

4. Pokemon: Whichever
Yeah it's pretty obvious and the whole trade 'em and battle 'em kinda ruins the spirit of it all, but monster catching has been a thing in JRPGs since the beginning of time (I remember Lufia but I'm sure something predates that). And every other monster catching game sucks. Why would you want to play them? No one does. So good job Pokemon. You could've been Chao Garden.

5. Earthbound
I have a personal prejudice against games without attack animations (they're extremely boring) and I've tried to get over it in many ways, one of which was by playing Earthbound. Earthbound's comedy descriptions hearken back to the old Infocom "you are likely to be eaten by a grue" days, except updated for modern and nonsensical times. It's a game that always surprises you. Happy Birthday!

6. Golden Sun: Lost Age
Well, with a Player's Guide (or Nintendo Power for me), this game had limitless class potentiabilities. I liked it a lot at the time and think the sort of weird-Earth-history angle is a neat storyline, but these days Golden Sun kinda bores me. It's the epitome of the random-battle game and is flashy as hell and has puzzles, so, we'll call it good.

7. Xenoblade Chronicles
Ha, a cheap inclusion because I'm still playing it, this one does a lot of things well. Where other RPGs call to mind a laundry list of little things that annoy me, Xenoblade is a litany of good minor decisions. The plot might be somewhere out there but the dialogue is largely tolerable and the music beautiful. It's really cool to see a huge dinosaur monster at the beginning of the game and have to run away. The end.

8. Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean
Man I am getting really tired of writing this list. The other (and original) Baten Kaitos is notorious for its voice acting. I find it to fall into the so-bad-it's-good category and laugh it off. Anyway, it's included on this list because I'm running out of games I liked/finished and like its sequel has fantasmagoric art/music.

9. Tales of Symphonia
Eh I like the mashy combat, so what. And the game gives you plenty to do. It's a bit embarrassing to admit I like this game that is stupidly worshiped by JRPG idiots. It has a good story if you're a kid or haven't played many games, and the art style definitely works. Most of all it's loooooooooooooooong. And Sakuraba composed the soundtrack, so fuck off. 

10. Barkley's Shut Up and Jam Gaiden
Have to give this game a shout-out even though I never played more than five hours so it feels like a dirty inclusion. Matter of fact, I should really Shut Up and Go Beat It right now.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

You know I realized when thinking about this that a huge, HUGE element that elevates a JRPG (and other _RPGs might stand to steal this trend) is that thing you develop and restore/build as time goes by. Nearly every game on this list and particularly the ones nearest and dearest my heart have it. What I'm talking about is the Pirate Base in Skies, the claymation village in Origins, and that ruined town in Tales of Symphonia and Xenoblade. The place which is developed little by little as the game progresses through your actions, and usually has some payoffs for the cash/time you invest in it. That sense of a home base which functions as kind of a progress bar for your overarching quest is really key - it's something I want to have in mind for any game we create.

You know I should just start a blog. Cause that's basically what I'm doing here.

Some links for you

at 5:35 AM
This blog is related to these things
Some Let's Plays
Someone's old thoughts
They'll be better integrated once I figure out what the hell I'm doing.

Hey I finally did what I said I would do

at 5:27 AM
Hey. This is where I'm gonna post some thoughts I have. Mainly about games. If other stuff happens, well then, how lucky are you?!