Adventures in Collecting – The Journey Begins

To be candid, I’ve wanted to collect video games for a while.  It’s a daunting thing to think about, though.  There are just so many of them and when certain titles start to rise in price, they reach some serious heights sometimes.

At first, I took to the tactic of picking up odds and ends here and there.  I don’t have a ton of income and there are only a couple of retro video game stores in the area.  This meant I could moderate how much money I spent and slowly build up my collection with titles that I may not necessarily be seeking out but would bolster my number of pieces.  That worked for a while but felt aimless.  Also, I managed to double buy not once but twice, making my still tiny collection redundant.

That was when my new objective came to light to give me a little more direction in the midst of this new quest.

There are a few series that have made a huge impact on me but haven’t seen the light of day on stateside shelves.  In past overviews, I’ve made it clear that I absolutely adore the Fire Emblem series.  It hits all of my sweet spots- large casts, intrigue and grounded plots dressed up with strategy battles.  I also recently started my Atelier series overview which is another group of games that I’ve fallen for.  Given that they just reached their nineteenth entry (with the twentieth just announced as Atelier Nelke), the heavily anime-inspired crafting RPG has preoccupied me heavily over the past few years and was a big part of the bonding between myself and my husband.  Then there’s the Shin Megami Tensei series.  Specifically, I’ve been enamored with the Persona series, but every piece of gaming under the Shin Megami Tensei brand has enthralled me with their mature themes and modern day/post-apocalyptic settings.

The ‘trouble’ with these series is that a large number of their offerings live overseas and need to be imported to get them.  This actually benefits me, though, because I’ve settled on not purchasing a new game until the one I’ve ordered arrives, placing a few weeks in between orders.  It also means that I have more direction and the products I’m going out of my way for really mean something to me personally.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ll still be picking up other games along the way when I can.  This method fits my style a little better, though, and I’m excited to check out some items I wouldn’t have seen just perusing retro stores near me.

Much to my excitement, my first purchase arrived a couple of weeks ago in the form of Fire Emblem Gaiden for the Famicom.

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There were so many interesting things about receiving this game, not the least of which is that it is the first Famicom cartridge I’ve ever come into contact with.  The box itself seems like it’s about 2/3 the size of US packaging for Nintendo, and the cartridge is a rectangle rather than a square (I know this might be old hat for other collectors out there, but my mind was kind of blown!).  The game was also in near mint condition with only some damage on the corners of the cardboard containing the contents.

Now to be clear, I can’t read Japanese.  I dabble in playing around on Google translate to help with phrases here and there but that about sums up my ability to read kanji.  There is very little chance I will play these foreign titles and as of this writing, I haven’t even gotten a Famicom system and don’t have plans to do so yet.  That doesn’t change the awe I had looking through the manual and over the packaging.

For the personal note on this one, I loved Fire Emblem Gaiden since I played the fan translation a few years back.  Seeing some of the roots of the series I had become mildly obsessed with was a treat, and I loved the story of Celica and Alm.  It played a lot like Sacred Stones, one of my favorite Fire Emblem games, and it had a lot of interesting mechanics for its timeframe.  I was pretty ecstatic when Fire Emblem Echoes was announced so finding its source material at a reasonable price on eBay felt pretty fortuitous.  If I was going to start off with this mission, this felt like the right ‘first blood’ to be drawn.

My next purchase is already on the way and should be here in the next couple of weeks, though I do have another piece to write about in a few days.  My plan is to fill out these series as I can and to talk up some fun facts about the experiences as I can so I hope you’ll enjoy the journey along with me, collector or not!

(Also, if you’d like to check out more information on this game, check out the first part of my Fire Emblem Overview that goes over the first two games in the series here.)

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A Virtual Bounty Years In The Making – Super Nintendo – Super Metroid – 1994

Super Metroid (Japan, USA) (En,Ja)000Super Metroid
Super Nintendo
Nintendo / Intelligent Systems
Genre: Adventure Platformer
1994

All right.  Confession time.

Up until recently, I’ve never played through a Metroid title.  I’ve honestly only ever even picked up two of the games in my life- the original for the NES and Super Metroid for the Super Nintendo.  Fairly recently, I mentioned this on Twitter and after a few exchanges with some folks there, I resolved to finally play through the most vocally revered entry to Samus Aran’s adventures: Super Metroid.

I can pinpoint why it’s taken me so long to get to the series in a few ways.  In its prime, Super Metroid didn’t appeal to me as a gamer on most levels.  It’s taken me a while to embrace the science fiction gaming genre.  The general mechanics of exploration- now dubbed as an entire genre called “Metroidvania”- didn’t appeal to me in the slightest when I was younger, either.  By the time I started becoming intrigued by the Metroid games, the series already had a bunch of titles under its belt.

Since then, though, I’ve become endeared to a number of sci-fi flavored games and have played through a number of recent Castlevania games that play in a similar fashion to what I had been avoiding due to years.  Given my mission statement to experience and learn about as much gaming as I can, it felt like it was time to fill in this gap in my digital past.

One might ask “how did I feel finally having played Super Metroid”?  I’m more than happy to share my impressions about the experience with you folks!

(As a quick aside, I’m toying around a bit with the format of the reviews so you may notice some shifting of sections in the next few before I settle on the best format for what I’m going for.  Any and all feedback is welcome, as I want these reviews to be as reader-friendly as possible, too!)
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Top 5 – Video Game Villains

3pmegamanstyle

Welcome, fellow gamers!  It’s been a little while since I posted up a Top 5 list, and I spoke with a couple of folks to ask ‘what kind of list would you like to see?’  While I’m working on some reviews on some pretty killer games, I really wanted to do some more fun and subjective pieces to keep my creative factory running.

The first list I had pitched was by my good friend (and wife to my co-contributor) who asked about my favorite villains.  My top pick was easy; honestly, anyone who has ever talked to me about video games and knows the game they are from has heard me go on and on about them.  To fill in the other four spots, though, I had to do a little more thinking on a few different levels.

I got to wondering about what made a good villain to me.  There’s something about the feeling when you think of a good villain and specifically how they stand out to you.  Asking on Twitter warranted a lot of different responses including being drawn to comical villains or sympathetic villains that you can relate to.  A lot of great names came up- Bowser, GLaDOS, Ganondorf and one particularly well suggested James Sunderland from Silent Hill 2.  Seriously, if you like dark storytelling, you need to play that game.

But I digress.

Listed after the jump is my personal list of Top 5 Villains.  Your opinions may differ, and I gladly welcome you to chat about them in the comments or on Twitter with me.  You’ve been warned, though.  There are spoilers in here since you can’t really explain the villainy of characters without at least describing some of their actions, though they aren’t necessarily game ruining tidbits.  Also, this list is entirely subjective.  Did I mention that yet?  It also changes just about everytime I think about it so without rambling on too much more-

Lights.  Camera.  Villainy!

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Octopath Traveler – Prologue Demo Impressions

Octopath HEader
I’ve been trying to keep my list of games that I’m anticipating this year short, but ever since it was announced, Square Enix’s Octopath Traveler has been near the top of my list.  Never mind the slick ‘retro’ visuals, but when you incorporate the Romancing SaGa-esque party gathering and a combat system that calls to mind Bravely DefaultOctopath already has the mechanical trappings to pull me in.

Back in September of 2017, the first demo for the game was released on the Nintendo Switch’s e-shop.  It offered up experience with the introductions of Primrose and Olberic, two of the choices for your main protagonist once the full game is available.  I played through that demo pretty fervently and liked what I saw- Primrose’s introduction was engaging and well-written, though the demo felt a bit short.  After that demo, Square Enix offered up a survey to help improve and strengthen the game before release.

After nearly 50,000 survey responses, another demo was released a few days ago on June 14th.  Dubbed the Octopath Traveler Prologue Demo, it offers a larger sampling of what’s to come in the full game.  Offering up a three-hour dive into the beginning of the game, the demo allows you to choose the protagonist that suits your fancy and work through their opening scenarios as well as some of the preliminary areas of the game’s world of Orsterra.  While I still have an hour or so left to my demo, I wanted to get down some of my impressions regarding how my experience has been with the demo so far.

From the character select screen, I chose to follow the story of Ophilia, a cleric from the Frostlands who ends up starting a pilgrimage due to a twist of fate concerning her monastery.  While the set-up isn’t the most original plotline, it does offer a lot of information regarding Ophilia and the characters she is related to, along with the town and people within it.  The church is clearly a strong and positive facet of the area, and Ophilia appears to be a respected figure among the community.

Given that everyone has a special talent that they use in the overworld, this respect for Ophilia and her station plays in nicely to her ability known to ‘Guide’.  Much like Primrose’s ‘Allure’ skill in the original demo, Ophilia can approach certain NPCs and interact with them with an alternate action that will request the character accompany her- which they will if she is of a high enough level.  While in battle, she can then ‘Summon’ them, which will bring them in as a temporary party member who will attack, heal or perform other actions before disappearing after a few turns.
Not only is this a unique feature, but it really helps the common issue that healer types have when they start a game solo in that battles usually feel like they take too long given their focus on magic rather than physical offense.  My usual issue was addressed pretty early on, though I’m interested to see how relevant it is once you’ve leveled up to the point of having a full and competent party.

After an hour or so, I reached the climax of Ophilia’s scenario which also involved the requisite boss battle.  While the battle was difficult, it was nothing I felt overwhelmed by.  Having a townsperson to summon- who would randomly heal Ophilia and attack- left me more time to strategize how to exploit the boss’ weak points.  Given the turn-based nature of battles, exploiting weaknesses is important.  If you attack an enemy with its weakness, there is a chance of inflicting a ‘break’ which will demolish their next turn card and lower their defense until they recover.

The other tactic in battle is akin to Bravely Default but does it much more effectively, at least in my opinion.  Each turn, you gain a ‘Burst’ point.  Once you’ve accrued enough of these points, you can charge attacks.  With normal attacks, this means issuing a number of normal attacks equal to the burst points you use (a maximum of four at a time).  When used with a special attack, it multiplies the power of that attack instead.  Pairing these bursts with breaking your enemy is the best way to make battles turn in your favor and that fact that it’s easy to raise your burst level makes strategizing feel a lot more manageable.  To be honest, I didn’t gel as much with the battle system in Bravely Default as I would have liked, but if it has been more like this, it would have felt a little less cumbersome.  I know the battle system in Bravely was highly regarded by a lot of gamers, though, so the streamlining may not be a clincher to everyone else.

Outside of that battle, I’ve gotten Ophilia to the next town and met another of the protagonists, a scholar name Cyrus.  Upon speaking with him, the game informed me that to have him join, I would need to play through his prologue.  This is where I feel like the game took a misstep.  It’s not because I’m not interested.  Going into another 45 minutes or so of each character’s backstory and playing through their prologues feels like it really breaks up the action.  While I’m sure the stories all tie together into the main narrative, as well, if the full game handles this the same way, this sort of tanks the replayability of the game and makes it feel less like I picked a primary character.  It feels more like I picked a starting point.  It’s still interesting but leaves a strange taste in my mouth about the whole choice in the first place.

Despite that qualm I have with the game, I’m honestly still jazzed that the release date is coming up fast.  The game is gorgeous and the music is just as much so.  While I’m not entirely sure on what the overarching plot is going to be yet, the plots I’ve gotten to look at for Ophilia and Cyrus (and Primrose, if things haven’t changed much from the original demo) have gotten me intrigued in how they will tie together ultimately.  I’m glad that it seems like data from this demo will be able to be transferred to the full game and while a little bit of the content feels like padding, I’m still satisfied with how much I’ve experienced over the course of two hours.

If anything changes in my third hour, I’ll definitely update.  Right now, though, I’d have to say that I think Octopath Traveler is living up the hype it’s been gaining.  Have any of you played it?  Do you have any thoughts?  Feel free to let me know in the comments or over on Twitter!

Octopath Church

Do We Reap What We Sow? – PC – Harvester – 1996


TitleHarvester
PC
DigiFX Interactive / Merit Studios
Genre: Horror Adventure
1996

There are plenty of gaming discussions and topics that grab my attention and engage me, but few really stoke my fires like video game controversy and censorship.  I’ve definitely hinted as to how much I love exploring the how and why of a lot of these actions (see my article on Night Trap for a sample taste of that) come to be.  Even better, I love hearing the voices of the creators on these matters.

Once again, I dip my toe into a game that fought censorship and bred controversy in its day with Harvester.  When Harvester released back in 1996, it shocked plenty of people with its claims of being ‘the most violent adventure game of all time’.  Given its place in electronic history, I could maybe see where its claim could be valid. There was a lot of competition to push boundaries while balancing interesting gameplay not only to ‘stick it to the man’ but to also promote commentary on what was acceptable in video games and film at the time.  According to Wikipedia, Gilbert P. Austin who wrote and directed the game said that he wanted to use Harvester to explore whether violence in the media created violence in real life.  Sounds oddly familiar, yeah?

This brings a few questions to the table then: did Harvester achieve what Austin was looking for?  Were the shock and awe worth it? Above all else- is Harvester even a good game?

Well, I’m glad you asked! Continue reading