Monday, April 2, 2012

A Journey into Darkness: 8: Why Am I Doing This Again?

Alright, so, this game is starting to actually wear on my nerves at this point. But I made this commitment (to absolutely no one but myself) and therefore I must finish what I started even though there are zero consequences to me just moving the hell on. Yep, you guessed it (or read it on my last post) I got caught up in another cave!

I'm gonna be... (gasp) the very best... (cough)

After being told that I need to retrieve the light stone I headed to the Relic Castle which I was kind of excited about. However the folks over at Game Freak apparently have never seen a castle because this was just another damn cave. In this “castle” there are these Sarlacc-less sand traps that drop you to next floor down. However, said anuses  sure do know how to find a new definition of pain and suffering, as you are slowly digested over a thousand years.

What drove me the most insane is that the castle is a maze and the random encounters happen CONSTANTLY. Now, I want you to imagine trying to do a Sudoku and every 5 seconds someone snatches it away from you and forces you to do a Scramble or a Word Search or a goddamn Kakuro, but the only one you NEED to finish is the damn Sudoku!

It’s infuriating.

Oh, yeah and lets talk about counter-intuitive approaches. Take a look at the image above. Do you think you could walk between that pit and the wall? No you wouldn’t because it looks like the pit goes to the edge of the wall. But guess what? YOU CAN!!! It took me way more time that I’d like to admit to figure that out. And when I found out I may or may not have angrily crossed out the eyes on images of all Game Freak employees.

"Now Mr. Masuda you see everything, EVERYTHING! HAHAHHAHAHA!!!"

Anyway, I get to the bottom of the castle/cave/oh, go jump off a cliff and I found the guy who had set up the Team Plasma HQ in Castelia City to look like a Pokémon Gym. And there was this other guy there who was a Gym Leader who had an old beef with the guy and blah, blah, cut to the end.

The Light Stone wasn't down there. But you know who did have the stone? The people who sent me in the first place. Hey, guys I have a transceiver, you could have rung me up and said something. I see how this game appeals to kids - I can't help but feel like I'm being perpetually lied to by every adult in this game.

...and then I told that little dumb ass to go look for it in the cave!

Next up: Something to do with surfing... I dunno I got nothing.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Journey into Darkness: 7: The Two Towers

Pokémon is a game for kids, right? You know all the colorful, chirpy Poke-friends are never going to leave your side because you treated them well and kept them in good health and didn’t chop them into bits and serve them as dinner to entitled white people.  Well, that is until they go to that great pokéball in the sky.

I was instructed by Skyla the Mistralton city gym leader to climb to the top of Celestial Tower because she saw a sick pokémon on top of the tower while she flew by (no, she’s not demilich (she’s a pilot (you dummy))). As I traveled to the tower I envisioned a majestic tower, standing tall like the Minas Tirith I assumed it would be.

Instead I got a healthy reminder of my paralyzing fear of death...

The Celestial Tower consisted of floor after floor of graves, ghost-type pokémon and weirdoes who were just standing around. You know, lookin’ at graves. When I got the top of the tower the gym leader was waiting for me (why did I need to to this again?). When I inquired about the sick pokémon, she quickly explained that she fixed it up and sent it on its way.

Yeah, I’ve read Where the Red Fern Grows.

I know what happened.
Pictured: Pokémon Mass Grave

Later I learned that N was searching for Zekrom (I hope he got my tweet) in Dragon Spiral Tower. At this point in the game I have a power team of pokemon so getting through the tower ends up being a little tedious. Not because it's hard but because I get interrupted with a random encounter of which I have to wait through opening animation, battle and closing animation. This wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have to do this every 2 seconds.

Finally, after thumping a bunch of Team Plasma grunts like the veritable Hot Topic patrons that they are, I finally find N. In typical N fashion, he as a lot to say in the most I-was-home-schooled way possible, wrapping it all up with the summoning of Zekrom. N hops on the obviously NOT tech-savvy dragon-type pokémon and flies out of the tower to wreak pokéterror all across the land of Unova.

It's kind of like a reverse 9/11.

Next up: who knows, haven't been playing lately because I got stuck in another cave...

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Journey into Darkness: 6: Naming Conventions

Throughout Pokémon Black, a theme of “live and let live” is constantly being hinted at. Everything from people want to be the most powerful trainers, others want to simply have fun with their Poké-friends and then there are some who want to disguise their Gym as a honeycomb and hire mimes to attack you with once-feral animals. 

I choose you, Distemper Ocelot!

The central theme was highlighted by the last conversation with N where he explained: 

"Many different values mix together, and the world becomes gray... That is unforgivable! I will separate Pokémon and people, and black and white will be clearly distinct! Only then will Pokémon become perfect beings!”

It’s no secret why Pokémon Black/White were given that specific name. The title implies the inherent conflict of the main antagonist. And if you want to get down to brass tacks the game isn’t really about the underaged mute you control – the game is about N.

So, why in the hell would you call the sequel to this game Pokémon Grey?

Nintendo has recently announced the release of Pokémon Black/White 2 but in the time before that every nerd game site in the world was talking about what “Pokémon Grey” would be like. I know that this may seem like a moot point but Jesus-pizzas how dumb do you have to be to have not picked up on how asinine that is.

It would be like claiming that "The Dark Knight Begins" or "A New Striking Back of Hope" or "The Girl with the Dragon Ta-2" or "2 Fast 2 Furious" are really great names for sequels. What it does is reaffirm that everything I assume about how dumb people are, I should stop assuming. Wait, what?! That last one actually happened?

ANYWAYS, as I continue on my path to be the best Michael Vick impersonator I am once again approached by N. He decides to give me a break from all the having-to-point-at-the-dolly-were-he-touched-me business and decided to mind meld with my Pokémon and grill him on my parenting abilities, which seemed a little unfair.

...and sometimes he converts me into energy
and puts me into a physics-defying "poke ball".

Next stop: the harrowing beauty of The Celestial Tower: the Pokémon cemetery.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Journey into Darkness: 5: That ****** Cave

You know what I hate in Pokémon games?


You know that scene in Xmen: The Last Stand where the Juggernaut says the whole, “I’m the Juggernaut, Bitch!” thing and every dumbass in the universe cheered? Then they went home to watch that video of He-Man singing whatever the hell song it was and laughed their asses off because he was SOoOoOo gay? And you remember when I finally snapped and murdered all those people because they are ruiners of all things ruinable.  

Just wait for the last one.

Caves in Pokémon White are for those people, people who don’t understand how to enjoy anything. For people who STILL insist that Pearl Jam was not the catalyst for all the crap that came after it. Or people who wouldn’t dare do anything different because if they did little gremlins would come out of the walls and turn all the quarters to pennies and all the pennies into copies of the Carpenters album Passage. In short, people who are crazy.

The lesser-known Gremlin of Neophobia
As I’ve explained before, I hate grinding. If you don’t know what grinding is let me explain. First you walk around and fight an enemy, then you do it a million more times. Why would you do this thing that sounds suspiciously like work? Because if you don’t your little Pokermans won’t get stronger.

In Pokémon White random encounters only happen in tall grass. The purpose of doing this is so that if your Pokémon are weak you can avoid random encounters by not walking on tall grass. But OH NO, not in caves where random encounters can happen anywhere. At the end of the day you end up being forced to grind which isn't good for me because I have authority issues. Caves in Pokémon games are typically mandatory, arbitrarily long and a huge pain in my ass.

There is also a problem with the random encounter coding.  You see, when your character walks around a piece of code runs to determine if there is going to be a random encounter from tile to tile. Apparently the people at GameFreak can’t set a range for how often this happens because sometimes you’ll walk forever and you’ll be encounter-free. Other times you can literally change the way your character is facing and that will register as movement and therefore the code must run, sometimes causing an encounter which causes me to lose my fist in my own skull.

It’s re-goddamn-diculous. 

At the end of the cave I found N waiting to share his most recent Winston Churchill/Hunter S. Thompson/John Wayne Gacy inspired speech. As usual, I politely listened and made note of height, weight and distinguishing marks for my report to the police. But then something really unexpected happened.

Enter Professor Aurea Juniper.

Professor Juniper is the Pokémon scientist who gave me the mission of “gather information about all Pokémon in your Pokédex, child of which I am not a guardian of”. However, N isn’t having any of that Biological Classification shit. He explained (in an uncharacteristically catty manner) that Juniper is putting Pokémon into categories that they did not choose and therefore denying Pokémon freewill.

fig 1: Shit, N will have none of.

As myself, it sure did sound like sexual tension to me.

As my character, it was just another reminder of the broken home from whence I came.

Next up: More Philosophy Lessons

Friday, March 9, 2012

Colored Blocks are Falling Down

What do I like?

I like puzzle games that feature boxes! Whether it be boxes falling from the sky to save Mother Russia or boxes hell bent on rating your IQ, I've always had a very special place in my heart for deviations from the Rubik's Cube.

I've been wanting to write this for a long time and Pokemon Black is starting to get on my nerves. I want to talk about something I love. So, today I'd like to give you a top 7 best games that have involve both boxes and puzzles.

This one is kind of long so, hit dat jump!

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Journey into Darkness: 4: Captain N

This is N.

I've been kind of holding off on talking about this guy because, Frank Quitely, he is weird. It's kind of hard to explain why a video game character is just so unsettling to me. But here's an excerpt of dialogue:

As they are now, my Pokémon cannot save all Pokémon...
The formula that can change the world is yet to be solved...
I require power... Power that will let everyone understand...
(He starts walking away.)
...I know what power it is I need.
...That of the legendary Pokémon that, together with a great hero, made this land of Unova... Zekrom!
I shall be your hero, Zekrom... and I shall befriend you!

I can't really make heads or tails of this guy because, on one hand, his intentions seem pure but he's also the leader Unova's Malevolent Agency of Destruction, Team Plasma. It's kind of nice to have a member of Team Plasma whose IQ ranges in the triple digits. However, whatever relief gained is immediately lost when N shows up soliloquizing like Orson Wells on the most epic of heroin binges.

There is one conversation in particular that just blew my mind...

In what I assume constitutes an AMBER alert, N made me ride a Ferris Wheel with him. After I asked him if he ever coached at Penn State, two Team Plasma grunts showed up ready to battle. N (with utmost contempt for clarity, using as many pronouns as humanly possible) explained that "they" were recruited to help "us" protect Pokemon and that "he" will battle "them" to facilitate "their" escape.

Then as though he sensed the extremity of my furrowed brow, N had the audacity to ask, "Do you follow my logic? [yes/no]"

No, I do not! And yes, I will be spending the next week getting my fourth Prestige in Modern Warfare 3!


Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Journey into Darkness: 3: Thus far...

Pokemon Black has taken a bit of a turn for the uninteresting...

So, I feel it may be worth actually chronicling my journey THUS FAR (hence the title). You know, actually letting you know what I've done up to this point. Hopefully, this will help to put a lot of what I'm doing into context.

I left my home town which consisted of about four houses (more of a hovel if you ask me). I traveled to the next town hoping to defeat the Gym Leader of that town. (Clarification) Each town has a Gym Leader who serves as a sort of symbolic leader of the town. Think of a Gym Leader as a sort of Cyrus from Warriors type - more spiritual than functional. When you defeat a Gym Leader you receive a badge that gives you different perks e.g. stronger Pokemon being more obedient, various abilities, and a SHINY PONYTA*.

I may have made that last one up... this is also where my Warriors analogy breaks down.

After beating the Striaton City Gym Leader I traveled to Nacrene city. This town was the self-proclaimed hipster nexus in the Unova region. There were coffee shops, seamstresses and guys playing music (specifically an accordion and a guitar). Nacrene City kind of read like an episode of Portlandia.

Beyond that I traveled across a long suspension bridge that lead into Castelia City, a bustling metropolis filled with highrises and business folk. It was then that I realized that I hadn't been in Portland but I'd simply walked from Williamsburg to Manhattan (later confirmed when I read that Castelia City was designed like Manhattan).

While in Castelia City I came across Team Plasma who had disguised their HQ as a Gym. This would be similar to drug dealers using a building that looked and was named after the town hall as a front. Not really playing with a full deck...

Team Plasma, once again, displayed their poor understanding of logic by telling me that they only fought me because I was using Pokemon (kind of preachy). But they fought against me with Pokemon (kind of contradictory). Then they told me that I can believe what I want (kind of existentialist). Then they just went away (kind of nihilist).

It's like a psychological rope-a-dope that they may win.

*Seriously if you have time sit and watch this kid nerd out like nobodies business. To this day one of my favorite Pokemon related videos... There is also this one.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Journey into Darkness: 2: Of Electric Mice and Men

In ethics there are two major schools of thought: the Consequentialists and the Deontologists. To the horror of every philosopher I went to school with, not only would I consider myself a Deontologist but I also like Kant. His works may have read like the Handbook for the Recently Deceased however the whole "never treat someone as a means to an end" thing just resonated with me.

Enter Team Plasma.

In previous games budding Pokemon trainers would find themselves pitted against the organized Pokemon crime ring, Team Rocket. If Team Rocket was Ziggy Stardust then Team Plasma would be Aladdin Sane. Technically the same people but with very different approaches.

I first encountered Team Plasma as they gathered in a town square (all Occupy Wall Street style) denouncing the use of Pokemon citing that trainers were suppressing the free-will of Pokemon. Half expecting quotes from Critique of Pure Reason, I found myself sympathizing with Team Plasma. Especially when the counterargument was that Pokemon love being trained! Who wouldn't want to be the best?

This logic lies somewhere between the justification for Gladiatorial competition and something Hitler would have said. However, I later come across a couple of members of Team Plasma and they attack me with Pokemon which made me wonder if anyone over at Game Freak had really thought this through. It's a shame really. I think if they had attacked me with robots or magic or hell just their fists I'd be okay with it. But alas Team Rocket is a flawed institution and I must align myself with the Pokemon supremacists.

Today's lesson: Game Freak probably didn't pass Contemporary Moral Issues...

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Journey into Darkness: 1: Snivy, I choose YOU!

Let's be Realistic here; Game Freak has released the same Pokémon Game for years now. I'm pretty damn familiar with it all but perhaps you are not. So, let me recap. You begin as a young Pokémon trainer. Eyes on the prize, you pick one of 3 Pokémon types (fire, water or grass) and set out to become the greatest Pokémon trainer of all time! It's like dog fighting if Caesar Milan redesigned it in a slightly less horrifying way.

Pokémon Black assumes you are pretty familiar with the universe they've spent a decade creating. Gender assignment and selection of a starter Pokémon is knocked out of the way pretty quickly. Pokémon Black also assumes you've seen the beginning of Apocalypse Now and understand that fire type Pokémon beats grass type Pokémon and slightly less intuitively grass is strong against water. I chose Snivy (a grass type Pokémon) because he looked kind of like my dog.

I commenced a Pokémon battle immediately with one of my so-called "childhood friends" (I didn't know these guys). After getting over the initial shock of sending out an animal that I've know for about 2 seconds to go kick another animal's ass, I remember that Pokémon is a standard turn-based RPG.

I end the bout victorious but am slapped in the face with the reality that this is a kids game with the intent to teach lessons. The Pokémon tussle had taken place indoors thusly trashing my room. Strangely, my "mom" suggested that I take my new Pokémon and go on an "adventure". Maybe not the best parenting advice but the world of Pokémon concentrates on kinesthetic learning.

Today's lesson: Do that shit outside!

A Journey into Darkness: Introduction

If you know me you may know that I kind of like Pokémon.

I'm pretty familiar with most things Pokemon from the first generation games which include (but are not limited to) Pokémon Red/Blue (and to a lesser extent Yellow), Pokémon Pinball and the Pokémon Trading Card Game. But now that I'm much older and wiser (and actually have friends) I've learned to extol loneliness in more age-appropriate ways.

However, I've moved to San Antonio recently and quite frankly I've been bored. I wanted something to keep my brain occupied while I wait for something new and interesting to happen. I can't tell you what exactly made me want to play Pokémon Black/White but one day I left work, went to the mall downtown and purchased Pokémon Black.

I assumed Black would make me seem slightly tougher...

I started playing and I came to a realization that (like my original fascination) Pokémon is actually pretty interesting. Well, at least as interesting as a game for children could be. So, I've decided to log my journey through Pokémon Black in an attempt to basically keep myself from going completely insane.

Even though the fact that I'm even considering doing this may be proof of said insanity...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ryan, play Infinity Blade... seriously!

One of my best friends and I bonded over a rare book. Ryan (see figure 1) came over to my ferret-scented, wood panel, shoebox of an apartment and browsed my books. In a cautiously sarcastic tone he said, “Ha, you ever read this?” I turned around to see him pointing at Myst: The Book of Atrus.

“Are you kidding me? I fucking love those books!”

Not the response he expected. From then a nerd pact like no other was solidified. I have yet to this day to meet anyone else that shared my love of the Myst series, which I find a little strange. The games are the high point in point and click adventure games and the books are surprisingly well written.

I never played any games beyond Riven (the second game in the series) because the project was handed off to another team of developers and the original creators, Rand and Robyn Miller didn’t have much of hand in the following games. The original two games and the Myst trilogy of books is to this day one of my favorite multimedia stories ever told, falling into a shortlist of series including: Discworld, Halo, and to a lesser extent: any Tom Clancy game/book.

But I write this as an appeal to that same friend to buckle down, buy and iPad and play Infinity Blade.

I recently was given an iPad and I was on a search to find the best iOS games that I hadn’t already played on the iPod Touch. Many sites had stated that Infinity Blade and its sequel were among the pantheon of greatness on the iTunes Store. However, I was skeptical. The screenshots were so very unassuming. Yeah, it was created on the Unreal engine and looked amazing for an iOS game but that hardly seemed like a strong argument for why the game was great (for references see all Final Fantasy games after 10…(actually, include 10).

Now, I’m on the other side of the two games and the novella Infinity Blade: Awakening written by Mistborn author, Brandon Sanderson and all I can say is CONSUME! The game is exceedingly creative in its simplicity. Every game mechanic has a purpose and fits into the paradigm of the game (well, except for the item shop but I guess we can’t have it all (for references see Metal Gear Solid 4’s item shop).

You begin the game as a nameless fighter out to avenge his father. However, as you start these journeys over and over again in attempts to fell the God King a feeling of something larger starts to reveal itself, like a beautiful videogame version of the pool hallucination scene from National Lampoon Christmas Vacation. Finally when you are strong enough to defeat the God King there is a simple but dramatic twist. But, like Lost, it only will tell you what you need to know to make the most basic inference.

I do recommend reading the book, which takes place between the two games before playing the Infinity Blade 2. The second game is more story driven that the first and is good in its own right. However, like most sequels, it goes for the WOW factor and starts to stray a little from what made the first game so good. You know, because higher fidelity equates to more douchebags playing.

Ryan, play this game. Find someone with an iPhone. I’ll mail you my iPod touch that doesn’t work properly (stupid sleep button). If you loved the way the story of Dn’i was told through the Myst games and books, you’ll really enjoy this. I loved it and I hope they make more.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Death of a Swordsman

Demon's Souls (DS) was one of those games that, if you believe that games are art, then you should play. Since I fall into that category of people, I decided to buy it with my new PS3 system. It was a greatest hits version so it was only $20 and considering the price of that little black box of processing it was all I could really afford. I got home installed it, created a dead faced old man avatar, and started my journey through a castle (I looked like Danny Trejo after a cheap facelift ).

Then I died.

And I died…

And I died.

If you don’t know, DS is a game that is purposefully difficult. Playing it reminded me a lot of trying to get through that one hall in the first Castlevania (Ryan, Krystn you know what I’m talking about (da da doo, da da doo, da daa)). But I beat Castlevania, I can beat Megaman without continuing, I should be able to handle this.

Apparently, I can’t.

DS refused to offer any sort of help to get through the game. Hell, it took me several hours to figure out that I could run. Also, when you die you get resurrected but with only a portion of your health bar. Most enemies will either hack off most or your life in one hit or they’ll call all their friends for a good ole rat king hello.

At first I guess I was enjoying it. However, I got this nagging feeling that I was giving the game way too much of a benefit of the doubt; that maybe this game is only good because I’m choosing for it to be good. So, I stepped back and reevaluated, realizing that I wasn’t actually having any fun.

To put this into presepctive, I'll quit a game in Modern Warfare because my team is getting pummeled. This isn't because I can't deal with losing but more so that I'm simply not having fun. I've learned that I can pop the battery out of the back of a 360 controller by twisting it enough. Being pissed off isn't fun for me.


I like a challenge but this game isn’t challenging, it’s obnoxious. You remember in Final Fantasy 7 having to fight the Emerald and Ruby Weapons and you had to build up all your characters to level 99, get their best weapons and hope that you got a little lucky when you went into battle? Yeah, I don’t either because I’m not a loser.

I don’t like grinding for hours just to get one stat to go up by one point and quite frankly neither should you.

DS has an illusion of epicness but at the end of the day the game seems grandiose because you have to spend a lot of time doing to same thing in the same place. This processes gets reset every time you have a pack of cyborg skeletons using your torso for a sharpening stone (trust me, it’s nowhere as cool as it sounds). Yeah, you start noticing subtleties in the brick laying of a prison but, at the end of the day, all I’ve really done is dodge a Chutulu-faced wizard a hundred, million, trillion times. I guess if that’s your thing then more power to you.

Maybe it’s a WOW thing.

I have yet to finish DS because when I started playing all of the worlds were white and I was still having trouble (there’s a mechanic that online players control the difficulty of the game, white: easy, black: hard).

I played for a couple of weeks then the worlds all turned pure black to celebrate Halloween or their 3rd year anniversary or whatever (yeah, I know keeping this thing current). I just didn’t have the time or effort. DS is a game for people who like Steven King or Robert Jordan novels e.g. high volume, low content.

Maybe one day I’ll finish it…

but it’s not likely.

I also want to apologize for the gross overuse of parenthesis in this post.