Category Archives: 30 days of gaming

30 Days of Gaming meme is now completed

It took me 287 days to complete the 30 Days of Gaming meme, which is a list of thirty topic trains meant to be derailed one after the other in thirty consecutive days. Another way to look at it is as so: 9 months and 12 days. Let’s go further down the rabbit hole and reduce the final count to these: 24,796,800 seconds or 413,280 minutes or 6,888 hours or 41 weeks. Fun with numbers, I know. It’s all the rage on blogs these days.

Yeah, I never promised I’d be fast with the meme, as it was meant to fill in the gaps at Grinding Down, but at some point, I just forgot about it for a good while and then later struggled with some of the tougher topics. But I have triumphed, and so here’s the roundup of all those posts. Clicky click, y’all.

Day 1 – Your first videogame (Super Mario World)
Day 2 – Your favorite character (Gremio from Suikoden)
Day 3 – A game that is underrated (Primal)
Day 4 – Your guilty pleasure game (Pokemon White)
Day 5 – Game character you feel you most like (Joker from Mass Effect)
Day 6 – Most annoying character (Tom Nook from Animal Crossing: Wild World)
Day 7 – Favorite game couple (Fran and Balthier from Final Fantasy XII)
Day 8 – Best soundtrack (Chrono Cross)
Day 9 – Saddest game scene (Nanami’s death in Suikoden II)
Day 10 – Best gameplay (Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves)
Day 11 – Gaming system of choice (Nintendo DS)
Day 12 – A game everyone should play (Limbo)
Day 13 – A game you’ve played more than five times (Super Metroid)
Day 14 – Current (or most recent) gaming wallpaper
Day 15 – Post a screenshot from the game you’re playing right now (Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar)
Day 16 – Game with the best cut scenes (Jak 3)
Day 17 – Favorite antagonist
Day 18 – Favorite protagonist Craziest thing in a game (Zodiac Spear in Final Fantasy XII)
Day 19 – Picture of a game setting you wish you lived in (Fable II)
Day 20 – Favorite genre (RPGs)
Day 21 – Game with the best story (Suikoden II)
Day 22 – A game sequel which disappointed you (Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty)
Day 23 – Game you think had the best graphics or art style (Aquaria)
Day 24 – Favorite classic game (Pac-Man)
Day 25 – A game you plan on playing (Deus Ex: Human Revolution)
Day 26 – Best voice acting (Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain)
Day 27 – Most epic scene ever (Mother Brain boss fight in Super Metroid)
Day 28 – Favorite game developer (Konami)
Day 29 – A game you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving (LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game)
Day 30 – Your favorite game of all time (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past)

Whew. Lots to read. Or not, that’s your call. To speak nicely of my own writing for a moment–and trust me, this does not happen a lot, as self-deprecation is my main form of medication–I’m pretty proud of the posts for Day 2, Day 5, Day 9, and Day 11. These are more personal than traditional, the kind of writing where there’s a story before we get to the meat of things. I dunno. Overall, I’m kind of meh about how this meme went and turned out, and I suspect I won’t be doing another for a long while. I think I am better at videogame musing off the cuff, and I now never want to write about my favorite videogame ever again; it just can’t be done, folks. Unless you’re Jeremy Parish.

All right, moving on now…

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30 Days of Gaming, #30 – Your favorite game of all time

Well, this has been a long-time coming, but here we are, the final topic. “Of what?” you ask, looking around with wide eyes, a dribble of drool leaking down your chin. Clearly you’ve forgotten. That 30 Days of Gaming meme that I started back in…oh gawd, March 2011. With the new year swinging on in, we’re almost at the 365 days mark for a meme meant to be completed in thirty days. Thirty topics for thirty days. Don’t label me a slacker just yet as I was totally honest about this meme in that it was going to be a slow crawl, a thing I went to here and there to fill in the gaps when all I could find inside my cranium were dustbowls and old photograph albums. In truth, the final few topics have been pretty tough to nail down, and I’ve been less interested in thinking about them discerningly.

And the final topic is the topic, the one that puts it all out there. The kicker: name your favorite game of all time. OF ALL TIME.

::inhale::

::exhale::

Right. It’s actually quite easy to name my favorite videogame of all time. That’d be The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I mean, the image on Grinding Down since its very birth has been the Master Sword in all its forest-hidden glory. Should’ve seen it coming, people. The hard part comes with writing about it, as it’s a game so close to my shaping, a game so perfect in memory and nostalgia that I am scared if it’s even possible to express so with an ounce of success. Guess I’ll give it a shot. Maybe even a hook shot.

I don’t remember how A Link to the Past ended up in my SNES collection. I don’t remember saving up money as a kid from mowing the lawn or washing neighbors’ cars or my allowance in general to pay for it. I don’t remember trading with friends or borrowing it from a friend and then just keeping it like a horrible goblin. I don’t remember getting it as an older boy, a teenager, or a man, meaning it had to come into my hands around the time it came into many others’ hands, near its launch date of late 1992. I don’t remember how I got it, but I’ve had it ever since, as it’s one of the few SNES carts that did not get traded in when I was young and dumb. I do, however, remember playing it. And playing it again and again.

For those that don’t know, A Link to the Past is a coming-of-age tale where a young Link has to save a princess and defeat Agahnim not once, but twice and then slice Ganon apart for peace to return to the land of Hyrule. To do this, he has to travel between a Light and Dark World to collect the Master Sword and three mystical pendants, as well as uncover the Seven Sages. In between all that, you’ll explore villages and dungeons and rivers and forests for items and people to help you along the way.

There was a time when the Internet didn’t spoil videogames for everyone, and during that time I played A Link to the Past. I found my way into the castle during a rainstorm via a hole in the ground without anyone pointing it out to me. I attacked chickens until they attacked me without knowing that would happen. I made it through the Ice Palace dungeon without a walkthrough. I totally cried in frustration when I couldn’t figure out how to beat Moldorm, and it knocked Link off the screen for the umpteenth time. I helped the lost old man on Death Mountain without knowing whether it was a trick or not. I revealed a monster with sunlight, I blew apart cracks in walls, I dashed into a tree to unleash a swarm of bees…I…I…

This is a videogame stuffed to the brim of little moments, tiny secrets, and gleeful nods. And that’s a big part of why it’s so special to me. The “main quest” of stopping the evil overlord is by the books, but it’s all the little moments that make the adventure so spectacular. And the music. And the fact that there’s an entire second world to explore, which comes seemingly out of nowhere, and you can flip to and from it with ease, on the fly, giving you freedom to explore and try things out. And the graphics, the kind that are ever-lasting, the kind that evoke warm feelings upon seeing them today, tomorrow, and years down the road.

I love it immensely, though the last time I sat down to play it on my still working SNES was many moons ago. Maybe even in the early 2000s. I’m probably overdue for a trip down memory lane with a game that has still not been reproduced today. There is nothing else like it, not even other games from The Legend of Zelda. Though the DS ones come close in spirit.

So there ya go. My favorite videogame of all time. A Link to the Past. I probably didn’t do it enough justice, but whatever. This isn’t a college thesis here. Agree or disagree or move on silently to something else on the Internet. We’re done. Though there’ll be a roundup post on the 30 Days of Gaming meme soon, too. Until the next meme, I guess!

30 Days of Gaming, #29 – A game you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving

I have to believe that the last time I played with LEGO blocks–actually played with them, like used them to build the most buffoonish of homes loaded with booby traps and secret rooms–was when I was still only in the single digits. Now, as a man of twenty and eight years, I play with LEGOs all the time, but digitally, with a controller in hand, using them to collect a bajillion studs, form platforms, and as a means of transportation. That’s right. From toys to videogames, the building blocks of life.

At first, when LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game came out, it was hard to think of it as anything else but a children’s game. I mean, it uses the toys of children to tell a simplified story of something much more epic, with no punishment for failing, minimalist controls, and bright, colorful characters. It plays everything safe from a visual standpoint, and at that point, no one knew what a LEGO game was. Some kind of sandbox thing where you just play around in a room with virtual LEGO blocks? A racer? Multiple choice trivia? Nowadays, everybody knows what a LEGO game is, and you’ll either love love love each one that comes out or find them uninspired and repetitious. Me, I’m addicted to their goofiness and collection-based gameplay.

I remember the very first time I played LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game quite well. I was beardless then, and in a Target, wandering around the aisles. Many of my weekend evenings were spent doing this, as at the time I had no girlfriend, no wife, no friends. A playable PlayStation 2–behind glass and locks and the occasional employee with shifty eyes–was making noise, and that noise sounded pretty dang familiar. Upon closer inspection, it was the theme to Star Wars. You know how it goes. I grabbed the controller and started playing. I was a little LEGO Jedi, and the first action I took was to use the Force to push a battle droid all the way across the screen until it exploded…into LEGO bits. Like magic, every ounce of me warmed and tingled, and it never got tiring, Force-pushing dudes. Some young kids stopped behind me to watch, ooh-ing at all the right times.

Getting to the know the LEGO games more intimately, I saw that they were just as much for adults as they were for children. In fact, many of the puzzles were overly complicated, involving planning and meticulous placements of key items. Kids might enjoy seeing characters falling down or opening a treasure chest to find a lone banana in cutscenes (those folk at Traveller’s Tales love their fruit jokes), but it’s the little nods and things unspoken that hit home for older gamers in the know. Such as LEGO Jack Sparrow’s swagger or the way LEGO Malfoy heckles Hermione or how LEGO R2-D2 floats perfectly across a chasm. And they are fun to play co-op, though maybe not at first, as the camera tech hadn’t come around until LEGO Indiana Jones 2, allowing players to split off in any direction and join back up whenever they were ready.

Since that infamous day in Target, I’ve played every single LEGO-based videogame save for these: LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars and LEGO Rock Band. That’s not surprising as I’m not interested in much Star Wars lore other than episodes four through six, and plastic instruments are inferior to true instruments. Sorry, it’s true. And I’m picking up LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 on the same day I get Skyrim, and while I’m naturally more excited about traversing mountains, cooking salmon, and stealing spoons, I’m also giddy to get back to Hogwarts with my wife and cast some spells. Very curious to see if this LEGO game gets as dark as the final books/movies, though I’m mostly confident that TT will have handled the material a whole lot better than the film franchise.

30 Days of Gaming, #28 – Favorite game developer

Still struggling with these final few topics for the 30 Days of Gaming meme, this one in particular. Why? Well, I don’t really pay developers much attention, to be honest. Sure, they are the people behind the products that I either end up falling in love with (Suikoden II – Konami) or absolutely hate (Grand Theft Auto IV – Rockstar) or find confusing and hard to pick a solid stance on (Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Eidos Studios Montreal), but they’re the puppeteers, not the main show. Yes, it is their ideas and work and coding and crafting that make the product come alive and end up on retail shelves, but at that point, I’m eating up the product and not those that made it. I’m not leveling up and thanking XYZ for creating the leveling up aspect of the game. Let me try it this way: when you go out to a restaurant and eat a great meal, do you talk more about the meal or the specific chef that cooked it?

So, with that all laid out, I guess Konami is my favorite developer. Mostly because they developed a lot of games I love. Suikoden, Suikoden II, Silent Hill 2, Metal Gear Solid, and Castlevania for NES and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night to name a few. And they also worked on some other games from my collection, which I do not love per se, but did play (or watch Tara play) for a decent amount of time: Magician’s Quest: Mysterious Times, X-Men Arcade, Yard Sale Hidden Treasures: Sunnyville, and Dance Dance Revolution.

However, I could not name a single person that works or worked at Konami. Not for a million bucks. But a lot of their games really hit home for me, and that’s more than enough reason to call them my favorite developer. And now I’m imagining a universe where this company made every game ever, including a proper new entry in the Suikoden series; this Genso Suikoden: The Woven Web of a Century for the PSP is no good. Simply no good, ya hear?

Right. Well, I know there’s not a whole lot of text here, but I can’t figure out what else to say about my purported favorite developer. Only two more topics to go, and then this meme is complete. I know you’re all excited for me to count up how many actually days it took me to round up thirty posts of content. While we wait, tell me a bit about your favorite developer and what makes them oh so special. Please. I need to comprehend this all better.

30 Days of Gaming, #27 – Most epic scene ever

Hey, remember this meme? Me too. Actually, I did forget about it for a bit, seeing as the last update to it was way back in early August 2011. My bad. I can’t wait to count up how long it’s taken me to blog about 30 days’ worth of topics. Probably in the triple digits by now. Grinding Down has truly earned its namesake. To be honest, these last few topics are a bit of a struggle, all of them seemingly heavy-hitters in terms of constant forum topics and debates. Hopefully I can do them justice, but truthfully–I’m a little worried about my choices.

This is Super Metroid‘s second time appearing in the 30 Days of Gaming meme. The first was for the topic of “a game I’ve played more than five times,” which you can read about by clicking this clickity part.

To start, the last Metroid is in captivity, the galaxy is at peace. Until it’s not. Super Metroid begins by tilting this utopian idea on its side, with the Metroid larvae Samus brought to the Ceres Space Colony for researching being stolen by her nemesis Ridley. As she hurries back, she finds all the scientists dead. And she’ll be soon too if she doesn’t escape before the planet explodes. Narrowly missing the chance to become space particles, Samus then tracks Ridley to the planet Zebes. Ridley is the second-to-last boss, and despite his involvement in this whole mess, he’s not the show-stealer. No, not by a mile. Leave that honor to Mother Brain.

Good job, bounty hunter. You’ve made it to Tourian. This is Mother Brain’s base of operations, and it’s been relocated and rebuilt. Tread carefully. As you make your way closer to the end, you’ll pass former victims of the life-sucking Metroids; they crumble and turn to dust as Samus hurries past, a haunting image. But that’s only the beginning. You find Mother Brain, all encased and hooked up to too many tubes, just like in Metroid, and you blow her to bits, watching with glee as the machinery around her explodes and drops her to the floor, defeated, nothing more than a brain without a body. And then she gets up.

Clearly, it makes no sense how a pinkish lump of brainstuffs is able to grow out an entire dinosaur-like body like that, but it took me by surprise the first time nonetheless. I remember my own brain squirming in my skull, trying to find its own “grow a T-Rex body” switch and make sure it was set to OFF. Frightened, you launch every single rocket and super missile you have in your arsenal, relentless in your attack. And Samus is putting up quite a fight, dodging mouth-fire and bombs–but then Mother Brain hits her with an eye beam of stunning. Down she goes, forced to endure Mother Brain’s attacks as her health depletes block by block. It’s frustrating and heartbreaking to witness. Just before the end, when all seems hopeless and the final attack is being charged up, a Metroid swoops in to save Samus, sucking the life from Mother Brain. The Metroid then transfers her energy and powers to Samus, sacrificing herself in the cause. The remainder of the battle is a snap thanks to a kickass supercharged beam shot, and Mother Brain’s brain is disintegrating before you know it. No time to celebrate though; you have three minutes exactly to escape the planet before all is blown to bits.

What I love about this scene is how unexpected–and unpredicted–the Metroid’s saving swoop-in is. There’s no pausing, no jarring cutscene, no weird sounds like you’d get on a PlayStation when a FMV was readying to load; it’s all one fluid moment, filled with fluid movement, and the scene is nearly impossible to not watch. I remember thinking my controller was broken when I couldn’t get Samus to move after Mother Brain’s stun beam, and that sadness quickly turned to elation when I saw who had Samus’ back. One can only assume that this was the Metroid she had originally brought to the Ceres Space Colony.

This scene still resonates with me today, some fifteen-plus years later. That’s epic enough for me.

30 Days of Gaming, #26 – Best voice acting

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain is infamous for its truculently long loading times, but I actually really liked the game, especially its voiceover work. If anything, that’s what I remember most, Kain narrating his own journey to the Pillars of Nosgoth. Now, I know the topic train for today’s meme entry calls for the “best voice acting,” but there were really too many choices to pick from these days, as the bar has been raised and re-raised over the last few years thanks to titles like L.A. Noire, Mass Effect, and Bioshock. So, instead, I went with a game that had great voice acting though I’m positive nobody would back me up if I called it the best.

As will soon be revealed, I love The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It’s a game I’ve played and replayed, discovering new things in it each time and just losing myself in the world and its characters. I can still remember how confused I was when Link switched between the Light World and Dark World, turning into a bunny elf thing, a sad reflection of his inner self. And when he…wait, no. I’m not here to talk about Link’s journey to rescue Zelda from Agahnim, as well as get the Master Sword and three mystical pendants. That’s another blog post, definitely forthcoming.

Transitioning on, when Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain came out in 1996 for the PlayStation, it was like getting an adult version of A Link to the Past. There was blood and violence and cruelty and creepiness, all played in a top-down perspective with a journey across an expansive land where collecting items and power-ups would help the hero explore even further. Plus, you drank blood from unsuspecting humans to regain health. I don’t even remember how I was able to buy it at the sweet age of 13, but I had. Or maybe someone else had for me. Can’t really picture that happening, as the only times I used a neighbor’s help was for getting discounted games from the now extinct Kay Bee Toys, such as Suikoden and Wild Arms. Either way, I had a copy of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, and I played it night after night, my best friend over, stretched out on the floor, wide-eyed at the crazy beheadings and bloody swordsmanship. It was crazy times back then.  And while FMVs were a new and cool thing at the time, they were bereft of voice acting. For that glorious work, you had to play the game and discover.

Going back, it’s amazing to hear how similar Kain narrates his journey in an almost Bastion-like way, commenting on items he picks and locales he passes by in real time. It’s hard to say what was more exciting: gaining a new power or hearing Kain’s description of it. Simon Templeman‘s confident, scorned voice does wonders to bringing Kain to life, and that’s saying a lot considering he’s undead. The soundtrack also plays ally, backing Templeman with bells and choir harmonies and ominously held notes. If medieval times had a soundtrack, this is it. Kain is certainly the star of the show in Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen, but there’s some other spectacular performances to call out, such as Paul Lukather as the ancient and reclusive vampire Vorador and Tony Jay as the cunning puppet-master Mortanius.

Some of my favorite quotes from the game follow. Naturally, they do not read as well as they are heard, but whatever. I’m not in the mood to link to a bunch of YouTube videos. Those interested can certainly seek Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen out to see and hear what it’s like. Right:

“In his life, he was unknown…a petty noble. In death, he was unknown. Yet by choosing oblivion, he restored balance to the land. Shades cast no shadows.” – Ariel

“I am the last Pillar. The only survivor of the Circle of Nine. At my whim, the world will be healed or damned. At my whim.” – Kain

“The world had changed to my eyes. I had not expected such cruelty from the light. For in the embrace of the sun, I could find no comfort, only malice. This would change in time for the worse, along with other thing.” – Kain

I never got to play any of the other games in the series, like Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, but it seems like some of the same voice actors carried over. Might have to try and find a used copy or two. Y’know, just to hear my friends again.

30 Days of Gaming, #25 – A game you plan on playing

As with many other topics for the 30 Days of Gaming meme, there are always a number of choices. Or at least I assumed there would be for today’s topic train. But when I sat down and took the time to mimic Auguste Rodin’s most famous sculpture, I found very few game titles coming to mind in terms of “playing soon.” Especially in terms of new releases. Sure, there’s two big blockbusters dropping in November 2011–The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations–but to me, that’s not soon. That’s a couple months away. That’s an entirely different season.

And as a 3DS Ambassador, I’m getting a boatload of games over the next couple of months, but all of those titles are nothing new. Most pre-date fire. I’ve already played a majority of them at some point in my sad, little life, and I kind of suspect that–while I will download them all–not all will get love and play-time. I’m too busy for even 10 new games at once, and it might very well just break me in half.

Looks like the next game coming out soon that I’m gonna get to play is Deus Ex: Human Revolution. That pops up towards the end of this month, August. I’m quietly interested in it simply for the fact that it will be as close to a new Fallout experience as I can get currently. And probably won’t have as many bugs as that game does. Though I’m a little worried about how blurry it looks, with a lot of bloom and lens flare effects, and whether or not I’m going to be able to read its text. It gives off the tiny text vibe.

Funnily enough, weeks ahead, I already know that I’m going to play it as stealthy as possible. According to developers, with a combination of certain skills and augmentations, it is possible to play through the entire game killing nobody, but the bosses. I’m down with that, regardless if there’s an Achievement linked to it or not. Confrontation is for kids–or braver people than myself. I’d rather talk my way in or entirely avoid danger or just walk around in another universe, happy to be elsewhere. Might have to pop back in Deus Ex: Invisible War to refresh myself on how this series ticks.

So, yeah, this is a game I plan on playing. What an exciting meme topic. For my next trick, I’ll share with y’all some food I plan on eating.