Launching Into 2019 – My Blog and Gaming Resolutions

MarioWorldGoalPost
I’ve haven’t really been one for New Year’s resolutions for a while.  When I was younger, it was a great benchmark to look at my past year and try to make myself a bit better in the coming year.  Of course, my follow through on these resolutions was pretty hit or miss, so it tended to lead to disappointment and a bit of self-deprecation in the end.  For a while now, my “resolution” has just been to “be better”.  Be a better person, be a better son; whatever was pertinent.

This isn’t to say that I’m against the idea of resolutions.  Plenty of people use them as reminders of how they want to be and what they are doing to achieve their goals.  While I have a couple of thoughts as to how I want to improve in upcoming days, weeks, and months, this has turned me toward my gaming and blog habits.

I mean, let’s face it- 2018 has not been a hot year for a lot of people for a myriad of reasons.  Maybe having a few goals in mind could help me with reaching some desired results and working toward being a “better” me.  After a lot of thinking and retrospect over this last rotation around the Sun, I’ve come up with a few aspirations I have going forward.

Write More Regularly
I’ve actually managed to stick to my goal of not beating myself up when I don’t post frequently.  Life is unpredictable and a lot of things, both negative and positive, can really muck up a writing schedule when it’s not paying your bills.  I had a good solid amount of time, though, where I was putting out content regularly and got into a rhythm that seemed to suit me well.

Things came up.  I started a new job that didn’t have regular hours and life became a bit of an overturned toy box for a number of reasons.  I’ve done very little to hide that depression has been a big factor in my disconnect at times- and that’s okay, too.  Mental health is important.  While writing has been a mitigator in curbing some of my more depressive states, getting the ball rolling has been a struggle at times.

I don’t plan on having stringent deadlines or pushing myself to write when I can’t; nothing good comes from that so far as I’ve experienced.  What I do want to do, though, is work on writing more pieces in between reviews.  I’ve really enjoyed writing the overviews for Fire Emblem and the Atelier series.  I miss jotting out a quick Top 5 article to get some discussion and conversation going.  I’ve wrapped my head around the idea that not every post has to be a deep dive into the innards of a game that doesn’t warrant it.  Sometimes it’s nice to just write to get some thoughts out there.

Read More Regularly
My goal was to read at least three to five posts a day.  I love a lot of the blogs and bloggers I’ve come to get to know through this medium.  They put out some amazing work and opinions.  Not to mention that my interactions with the folks behind these blogs have been eye-opening and have made me feel like a part of a community of sorts.

If you think it’s tough to write while depressed, though, you should see me trying to focus on an article in that state.  Between working with some of the attention deficit I have and events going on around me, I haven’t read nearly as much as I would like.  Slowly, though, I’ve been getting back that spark to hone in and really dig into some good books, blogs, and articles lately.  I feel like this goal may not be as hard to reach in the future- so long as I actually stay cognisant regarding the goal itself!

Game For the Sake of Gaming
This isn’t a hard goal for me at this point, but it’s one I’ve tried to keep at the forefront of my blogging mind.  I grew up playing games.  They’ve been my getaways, my friends when I’m lonely, and my art and composition studies.  I want to write about games because I love them and discussing them.  It’s the same reason I love discussing horror movies and comic book characters.  There is so much to be passionate about- but that passion doesn’t work (at least to me) if I don’t enjoy what I’m being passionate about.

I’ve talked to a few friends who have been streaming and writing lately, and the consensus seems to be the same- play games when you want to and play what you love (or think you might enjoy, at least).  Don’t get me wrong- if 3PStart suddenly takes off or I suddenly start seeing income from my writing, I may have the occasional duty to perform.  I don’t see this as being more than a passion project for a long time, though, and I’m actually okay with that.  This is why you’re going to see the same articles going forward on weird obscure games, retro titles, indie hits, and the rare looks into the current superstar games.  I’ll be more than happy to have you along for the ride!

Let’s Ring in the Holidays and the New Year!
There’s so much more to say and plenty of other goals to reach that are a bit less “personal”.  I’d love to give the site a visual overhaul among a few other quality-of-life improvements.

Saying thanks to everyone who reads, comments, interacts or any combination of those things feels important.  This community has meant a lot to me.  So many of you are so hard-working in your lives and with your hobbies and blogs of your own that I feel pretty amazing that you stop and check out my little corner of the Internet when you do.  I strive for positivity and analytical conversation, and I get it in spades here and with plenty of folks on Twitter.

Whether you’re a few miles away or across an ocean from here, just know that your hard work and passions are admired- even if I haven’t gotten to leave many comments or interact much with you.  I’ve got my goals going forward to try to rectify some of that, and I’m sure everyone who reads this has their own, as well.

If you want to share some, I’d love to engage in discussion.  If not, I wish you well on whatever your goals are going into the next indeterminate amount of time and hope to engage with many more of you throughout!

Until next we meet!

– Matt (a.k.a. The3rdPlayer)

Muted Seething at Best – Super Nintendo – Kendo Rage – 1993

Kendo Rage (U) [!]002Kendo Rage
Super Nintendo
Seta U.S.A. / Affect
Genre: Action Platformer
1993

Plain and simple confession right up front before this article commences: I absolutely adore “magical girl” anime.  I think there’s something to be said for a genre that emphasizes friendship, inner strength, and over-the-top transformations and special powers.  I grew up watching Sailor Moon among other cartoons in the morning and when I started dabbling back into anime, I managed to find a few series that fit the tropes that still hooked me today.

When I was a kid, I visited one of the three rental places in town and came across a copy of Valis IV for the Sega Genesis. I popped it in and played it non-stop until I had to bring it back.  While I don’t remember renting it again, I do recall that it felt like the closest thing to a Sailor Moon game that I had seen, given the young girl protagonist transforming into a sword-swinging warrior fighting off grotesque enemies as she tried to save her world.  Given my fantasy-slanted role models growing up, it was no surprise that I would gravitate toward games and heroines like that.

This story is not about Valis, however.  This story is about Kendo Rage, a game that looked a lot like Valis on its cover- and turned into something a bit different once the game powered on.  I’ve turned the game on a few times since the first time I played it, but I finally completed it recently, once again finishing up a memory from my gaming past that was incomplete.  Given the twenty-five or so years of build-up it had gotten, I have more than a few thoughts to share on this little-known title from the Super Nintendo’s golden years.
Continue reading

Atelier Series Overview – Part 2 – The Dusk Trilogy

A14_English_Logo
As a whole, the Dusk Trilogy of the Atelier series concerns the world of Dusk and its inhabitants.  The world itself seems to be dying in a number of ways- seas are drying up, lands are becoming barren, and there appear to be new dangers every day.  If this sounds dismal- it kind of is. The world of Dusk is probably the darkest of the Atelier worlds. The art direction and stories of this trilogy feel grittier, despite still dealing in a lot of anime-flavored tropes and styles.


On a personal note, this trilogy is my favorite of the Atelier series that I have gotten to experience.  As a horror and drama fan, this game appealed to my tastes in a strong way (despite nothing involved to actually be considered “horror”).  While I have my qualms with how it was handled overall, each entry felt strong in this trilogy and the mechanics were sound. The art direction- now in the hands of an artist named Hidari- also veers toward the more ethereal feeling that the games have been sticking with since.

While the Dusk trilogy is not quite as lauded as the Arland trilogy or as current as the Mysterious trilogy, it weaves an intriguing tale that stands apart from the usual fare of the series while retaining most of the elements that make the Atelier games so unique and engaging.
Continue reading

An Eerie Echo of Time and Place – PC – Perception – 2017

20181006201905_1Perception
PC
Deep End Games/Feardemic
Genre: Survival Horror
2017

Having lived in New England my entire life, I’m no stranger to films that involve the Boston and general North Shore areas of Massachusetts.  Given that authors like Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft also center quite a bit of their work around the New England area, there is plenty of horror related literature to reference that center around Maine and Rhode Island.  Gaming has also recently had a few prominent settings in the area, notably Fallout 4 which takes place in The Commonwealth a.k.a. Massachusetts.  In most media, you only have to look in a general direction to find work that centers around this section of the country.  I mean, it’s been around long enough to gain some kind of attention.

I had originally heard of Perception at PAX a couple of years back and while I didn’t get to check out the demo, my friends did and raved about it.  I threw it on to a list of games I would keep an eye on and when I looked into it, I realized that not only did the game take place in New England, but it was also developed by a company based right out of Boston.  From that point, I don’t think the game fell off of my radar until I purchased it during a sale on Steam.

Given my backlog, I had tried getting into the game once before and wound up distracted by other things in my life (and probably other games, to be honest) but given the time of year, I’ve been trying to work through some of the spookier games in my library.  I settled on the fact that I owed it to myself to play through Perception to see if my initial hype could be lived up to, especially given the unique mechanics of the game that I had heard so much about.
Continue reading

A Grotesque and Beautiful Love Letter – Friday the 13th’s Virtual Cabin and Challenges

20180525102833_1
Given that we’re smack in the middle of the spooky season- and yes, for many of us, Halloween is a month-long celebration- I find that this is one of the easiest times to marry two of my pop culture passions: video games and horror movies.  I’ve made it a mission to play through a few of the horror games I’ve been stowing in my backlog, hence my last review of Layers of Fear and hopefully at least one or two more before the pumpkins and sheets with holes in them are tucked away until next year.

Something keeps bringing me back to GunMedia’s Friday the 13th, though.  I’m not big on multiplayer that involves matching up with random people and trying to play a game as I’ve had one too many toxic encounters and, to be honest, it makes me a little anxious to think about despite having had plenty of pleasant rounds of this one.  Oddly enough, though, I’m enamored with the single-player offerings that the game has on display.  For those of you who are hesitant to grab the game but are fans of the series, allow me to expound on why I still love this game despite not jumping into the real heart of its contents as a stellar-but-still-flawed asymmetrical horror romp.  If you’re not a fan- well, obviously I still hope you enjoy this little off-the-cuff spurt of excitement.

Also, just as a precaution, there are some minor spoilers involved below, just in case anyone wants to go in completely blind to either of the single-player parts of the game.

Give Me Something To Scream About

20180525093419_1It’s easier to pinpoint exactly what I love about the single-player Challenges.  With a total of ten ‘vignettes’, Friday the 13th puts you in the grimy boots of the infamous Jason Voorhees as is in the middle of trying to murder a number of teenagers.  While this is exactly what one might expect, there’s a degree of difficulty in opening the next Challenge from the one you are attempting, as you have to put to use keeping track of where your targets are, who might be in their line of sight, and what tools are at your disposal.  I’m told this is a lot like the Hitman games, but I honestly haven’t tried those yet so I have to take other gamers’ words for that.

The beauty of these Challenges is all of them are slight variations on scenes from the films.  The first finds you just off of a clearing where two young men are having car trouble and while one attempts to fix the car, the other goes off into the woods to relieve himself.  Fans of the series will almost instantly recognize this from Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning.  Another has you causing a power outage, resulting in a stoner couple who have to fix the problem among other people on the grounds.  This echoes back to my favorite entry, Friday the 13th Part 3, and winds up playing out much like the climax of that movie does.

20180525095913_1The developers were smart about this, however, and they vary up the scenarios so that they feel fresh and a little unfamiliar, partially due to the plugging of the game’s counselors into the roles fans already know and also due to the aspects that sometimes, characters will do something completely different than their analog in the film does.  They really do become challenging after the first few, given that I still haven’t actually “completed” the final scenario.  Challenges are good fun snippets that play out like a highlight reel for the Friday the 13th series and if like me, you aren’t fantastic at stealth style games, you’ll get some hours worth trying to perfect each mission.

“Paul, There’s Someone In This Room…”

20171222014550_1Where I really spent a lot of time, however, was in the game’s Virtual Cabin.  When you first ‘boot up’ the cabin, you find yourself in a nice cozy space that has been frozen in time.  Teenagers lean against the railing of the second-floor overhang, the room is in just enough disarray to show it’s been lived in, and the only way anything moves is if you pick it up or manipulate it.  After inputting some information on a nearby computer, you can move about and hover over nearly every item that stands out during which you are given the option to interact with it.  Most of these items will result in a pop-up with some snippet of information about the game, the film series, or something about the actors and development involving both.  At its core, the Virtual Cabin is an interactive encyclopedia of knowledge on Friday the 13th that even I, as a pretty stalwart fan, found some new bits of information from.  That in and of itself was pretty worthwhile to me.

20171222014622_1Then I noticed the puzzles.  Small items that were out of place made their way into my ‘inventory’.  The first time this happened, I stopped and my heart got a little fluttery- I wasn’t just looking up facts.  There was a game to be played here and I would be damned if I wouldn’t solve these puzzles.  Some of them involved putting figurines into a diorama of a scene from one of the movies in their correct positions.  Another involved putting the different masks that Jason has worn in order on hooks against the wall.  Every piece brought me closer to- something.  I wasn’t really sure what.  Eventually, I found my way into a part of the cabin I couldn’t get into before and with one interaction, it was over.

That didn’t seem right.

20171222012939_1I jumped back in and after some struggles (and I’ll admit, a quick glance at a walkthrough), I found myself in a very different Virtual Cabin.  To be clear, it was the same but after a few actions, the lights were out.  The power box now had a large axe jutting from it.  The frozen teenagers weren’t in their spots anymore in the main lobby of the cabin.  There was a sense that someone was definitely in the cabin with me and that I was no longer safely doing puzzles and learning about my favorite film series.  It felt like I was plunged into a survival horror situation.  Hovering over things now gave different information which was still interesting trivia but stressed that I was now in a very unfamiliar setting.  Once again, there were puzzles to be solved- but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little tense and dangerous to be walking around at that point.

All of that was before the third run through.

Some Folks Sure Got a Strange Idea of Entertainment

I won’t go any further with describing the Virtual Cabin experience since hopefully, you’ll get the chance to check it out yourself some time if it interests you.  Are the Challenges and the Virtual Cabin worth the price of the whole game?  Not really, though you can definitely get your hours worth out of them if you’re a big fan of the film series.  While the multiplayer aspect of the game is pretty fun, I’ve honestly gotten a lot of mileage out of the single-player that I didn’t expect.  I also think that this aspect gets swept into the shadow of the online aspects of Friday the 13th unfairly.  If you’ve bought the game as an enthusiast and you haven’t spent time in the single-player modes, you really should.  A lot of love for the source material and quality work went into both aspects and neither aspect really seem to get the recognition they deserve.

On that, happy haunting and have a great time until we meet again!

– Matt (a.k.a. The3rdPlayer)