Persona 4 Golden: 40 hours in

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Discovering the doorway to another world

I love RPGs, but I’m basically horrible at playing them. A former colleague asked on Facebook the other day what percentage of role-playing games people finish. I’d say under 10% for me. It’s not a matter of difficulty, mind you. So often start them, then just stop around 6, 9, or 20 hours, never to return again. 

There’s myriad excuses why; things just happen when you’re gaming. But as a result, I’ve only beaten 2 of the 10 numbered Final Fantasy games I played (including 13, which is probably the most-hated). I’ve completed 1 Disgaea, 1 Breath of Fire, 1 Fire Emblem, 1 Suikoden, and zero Persona games. I was playing and digging PS2’s Persona 3: FES when my launch-unit Playstation 3 shit the bed, around the 9-hour mark.

But now, I’m playing Persona 4 Golden on my Vita. And I’m loving it. I’m loving it so much, I decided to write about how great it is despite the fact that either people already know or don’t care about it.

Persona 4, like the others in the series, follows a group of high-school students in modern-day Japan. This setting has always appealed to me, and stood out in a genre so stuck on the medieval. Your characters rely on their Personas to do much of the fighting – demons they come to fuse with in one way or another. Not terribly dissimilar to Pokemon though predating it. And more recently, Persona installment stories entail going to a special netherworld – in P4’s case, by entering the TV with the help of a hollow bear named Teddy.  Continue reading

10 Games I Loved With Predecessors I Didn’t

Sequels aren’t just commonplace in video games; they’re practically the standard. More now than ever, new ideas are risky so developers stick to well-worn themes and franchises to give them the best chance at keeping the lights on. The results are often disappointing, however. Going to the well multiple times, one may find the well dried up. At times, new teams are brought in who struggle to keep up with the vision of previous games, much less surpass them.

However, there are some games that completely overshadow their predecessors. They fix whatever was wrong or add tweaks to perfect the formula. These are the games I want to shine light on in this article. These are some of my all-time favorites, which are sequels to games I played but didn’t get into for whatever reason – be it design flaws or my impatience. Continue reading

I Played 110 Games This Year (A List)

I like to track things in my life: weights lifted, events experienced, and just about everything related to my video game collection. Last year, I added a listing of every game I played that year. Of course, I made one again this year. On the off chance someone cares, I’m publishing the list, along with (exactly) 8 words on each one. Enjoy, and have a happy and safe New Year!


1. Mega Man 2 (NES) – An NES fave played for music video footage
2. Super Paper Mario (WII) – Played last in ’07, came back to beat
3. Mario Kart Wii – Another lost relic I dusted off and replayed
4. Def Jam Rapstar (360) – I was ranked #5 on “Can’t Truss It”
5. 1000 Heroz (iPhone) – I literally played this iPhone platformer every day
6. Bastion (360) – I like indie games that you can download
7. Batman: Arkham City (360) – Not quite Asylum, but darn good. Excellent story
8. Binding of Isaac (PC) – I’m a naked baby, armed only with tears.
9. Dead Space HD (iPad) – High hopes for my first iPad exclusive. Nope
10. Dungeon Raid (iPhone) – My favorite match-3 game ever. Still a go-to


11. Flight Control HD (iPad) – Another iPad exclusive I didn’t play too much
12. Jetpack Joyride (iOS) – Played on both iPhone, iPad for great fun
13. Kirby Epic Yarn (Wii) – Still haven’t beaten this adorable platform game yet
14. Mario vs. Donkey Kong (GBA) – Thanks, 3DS Ambassador program, for this 22 minutes!
15. Portal 2 (PS3) – If only Kate would finish co-op with me
16. Puzzle Agent (iPhone) – It’s Professor Layton meets Fargo. I beat it
17. Skyrim (360) – On 02.06.12, my epic 280 hour quest ended
18. Super Mario Land 3D (3DS) – Deserves more than the 5 hours I’ve played
19. Uncharted 3 (PS3) – You ever beat a game out of spite?
20. WELDER (iOS) – I like word games; just not this one


21. Angry Birds: Space HD (iPad) – This definitely rikindled my love of Finnish fowl
22. Aces Cribbage (iPad) – I like cribbage. Got a problem with that?
23. Bioshock (PC) – Crapped out on 360, gave PC a try
24. bit.trip Complete (Wii) – Man, was I NOT into this game collection!
25. Chu Chu Rocket (iPhone) – Ended up really liking this Dreamcast puzzle game
26. Don’t Run With A Plasma Sword (iOS) – Another “runner” style game. Okay but not memorable
27. Dungeon Village (iOS) – Kairosoft makes awesome titles, including this one here
28. Fairway Solitaire (iPad) – Of course golf and solitaire would mix, silly
29. GP Story (iPhone) – More Kairosoft. I like cars that go vroom
30. Homefront (360) – Only military console FPS I played in 2012


31. Journey (PS3) – Beautiful. Innovative. Short. Kind of like my wife.
32. Infinity Blade 2 (iOS) – I decided I don’t like Infinity Blade much
33. Mahjong Towers Touch (iPad) – Shanghai. Nabisco World. I dig these tile pushers
34. Mass Effect: Infiltrator (iPad) – Liked this way better than Dead Space iPad
35. Metroid Fusion (3DS) – Loved on GBA, played again on Ambassador Program
36. Pac-Chomp! (iOS) – A fun twist on Tetris Attack style puzzlers
37. Persona 3 FES (PS2) – First Persona I played since original on PSone
38. Rock Band Blitz (360) – Harmonix relives the majesty of my beloved Amplitude
39. Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins (3DS) – Mario Land 1 didn’t really feel like Mario
40. Swordigo (iOS) – Played a couple minutes; only remember it’s ugly


41. Jamestown (PC) – I love shmups. This one isn’t crazy difficult
42. Temple Run (iOS) – I recall LeBron James loves it. I’m ambivalent
43. NFL Flick Quarterback (iPad) – Cool concept to get behind the QB’s helmet
44. Portal (PC) – Loved it on console and tried on Steam
45. Real Racing 2 HD (iPad) – There’s a theme here, with meh iPad games
46. Rock Band Reloaded (iPhone) – Rock Band is pretty decent on iPhone, too
47. Catherine (PS3) – Sexy, mature game about climbing towers in briefs
48. Katawa Shoujo (PC) – Visual novel about dating handicapped schoolgirls. It’s true
49. Russian Dancing Men (iOS) – Rhythm game which features the infectious “Amazing Horse”
50. Contra Rebirth (Wii) – Sure, I’ll try a cheap, easier Contra game


51. Pushmo (3DS) – Probably my favorite 3DS game. Haven’t bought sequel.
52. Wooords (iOS) – Make many words with colorful fridge magnet letters
53. Rayman Origins (PS3) – Beautiful and intuitive. Only played a short while
54. Antrim Escape 3 (iOS) – One of those “escape the room” puzzle games
55. Bugdom 2 (iOS) – A very poor knockoff of Banjo Kazooie type
56. Falling Fred (iOS) – You fall. As Fred. Until you kill him
57. Mario Kart 7 (3DS) – This formula has yet to get old yo
58. Mole Cart (iOS) – Let’s rip off Mario Kart cuz we’re China!
59. Starfox 64 3D (3DS) – Sadly, I have only played a couple minutes
60. League of Evil (iOS) – Fun Meat Boy style platformer on iPhone/iPad


61. Mass Effect 3 (360) – Ended with a wimper, but what a series!
62. NBA 2K12 (360) – Love me some Visual Concepts hoops, says I
63. Dark Souls (PS3) – Games don’t get much better than this one
64. Epic Mickey (Wii) – Kinda disappointed by the filler in this one
65. Parasite Eve (PSP) – Didn’t play on PSone, but it’s darn good
66. Final Fantasy VII (PSP) – I still have yet to beat this classic
67. Mega Mall Story (iPhone) – Another fine Kairosoft effort. Build your mall, y’all
68. 10000000 (iPad) – Puzzle and RPG join with hip retro graphics
69. Batman: Arkham City Lockdown (iPad) – Infinity Blade knockoff. I’m burnt on Infinity Blade
70. Dynamite Jack (iOS) – Overhead stealth. Gotta go back to this one


71. Lollipop Chainsaw (360) – Not as endeering as it should have been
72. Pizza vs. Skeleton (iOS) – Roll over bony bastards as a large pizza
73. Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones (GBA) – No game was played more on my 3DS
74. Bad Piggies HD (iPad) – Creating suicide machines didn’t do much for me
75. He-Man: The Most Powerful Man in the Universe (iOS) – Dripping nostalgia, trace elements of fun. It’s okay
76. The Room (iPad) – Solve your way through a giant safe. Maybe
77. Twist Pilot (iOS) – Console dev superstars: Don’t phone in iOS games
78. Driver: San Francisco (PS3) – Very creative driving game with some design issues
79. Puzzle Craft (iPhone) – Close to a Facebook game, I completed anyway
80. Terraria (PC) – Sorry, but video games need more than digging


81. Dishonored (360) – The muse for this entire blog. Hells yeah
82. Spelunky (PC) – Instead of buying on XBLA, free PC download
83. Punch Quest (iOS) – Really like this runner with a brawler soul
84. Street Fighter X Tekken (iPad) – Not a bad fighter for being on iPad
85. Quantum Conundrum (360) – Gal behind Portal does something Disney-esque. Still playing
86. The Walking Dead (PC) – Yes, I bought this on Steam’s Black Friday
87. Sonic Generations (360) – Mixes 2D and 3D Sonic, and mostly succeeds
88. Asura’s Wrath (PS3) – This dude is pissed! It’s like we’re twins
89. Quiet, Please! (360) – Endearing little indie adventure game on Xbox 360
90. Rayman: Jungle Run (iOS) – Pretty, playable and perfectly suited for portable pleasure


91. XCOM: Enemy Unknown (360) – Jumped off wagon with this, but so good!
92. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (iOS) – Freaking Vice City! The whole game! On iOS!
93. Extinction Squad (iOS) – Like those old Nintendo LCD games, but funny
94. Super Mole Escape (iOS) – Like Doodle Jump, but in reverse. Make sense?
95. Robot Wants Kitty (iPhone) – Metroidvania game where a robot wants the kitty
96. Waking Mars (iPad) – Intriguing, attractive game. A bit bland so far.
97. Angry Birds Star Wars HD (iPad) – 2 played out properties, but still really fun
98. Party Wave (iOS) – Surfing game by the dude behind Final Fantasy
99. Fast Fast Laser Laser (360) – Indie game blending Bomberman with guns and swords
100. NBA 2K13 (iPad) – Don’t own it on console, just iOS. Decent


101. Karoshi (iPhone) – This platformer/puzzler’s goal is to kill yourself
102. Slydris (iOS) – Tetris or Lumines, but without needing to hurry
103. Tiger Woods 2012 (iPad) – Robust golf game to take with you anywhere
104. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (iPhone) – Oh FPS and iPhone. You shouldn’t be together
105. The Curse (iOS) – Variety of puzzles and a creepy villain’s taunting
106. Penny Arcade: Rain-Slick Precipice 3 (iPad) – Impressive old-school RPG that I’m definitely hooked on
107. Beat Sneak Bandit (iPad) – Rhythm based sneaking is a pretty neat concept
108. Sonic Jump (iPhone) – Elevates the Doodle Jump genre immensely. Free now
109. Wordament (iPhone) – Boggle with a leaderboard and Xbox achievement tie-in
110. Mutant Mudds (iPhone) – The 3DS action/platformer is now smaller and cheaper

My game buying: 2012 vs. 2011

Every year, Game Informer magazine makes a list of their top 50 games of the year. I was an editor for them for 4 years, so I at least pay attention to the list. This year, it’s a great way to gauge just how little I’m buying games.

Of the 50 games on the 2012 list, I own 9 of them, and have beaten 4 of those 9. Not a bad record for your average gamer. Here are the 9 games:
Journey (beaten)
Mass Effect 3 (beaten)
Dishonored (beaten)
10000000 (beaten)
Asura’s Wrath
Dragon’s Dogma
Final Fantasy XIII-2
XCOM
The Walking Dead

I decided to revisit the 2011 list. I own(ed) 32 of those games, and have beaten 8 of them. Now, some may have been purchased in 2012, so there’s not a direct correlation. Still, it’s a big difference, isn’t it? That’s 350% more than the 2012 list, but I beat only 25% of them compared to 45% of the 2012 games, even with the extra time. I guess that shows a portion of my backlog. Here’s the list of games owned/beaten from the 2012 list:
Bulletstorm (beaten)
Portal 2 (beaten)
LA Noire (beaten)
Gears of War 3 (beaten)
Dark Souls (beaten)
Batman: Arkham City (beaten)
Uncharted 3 (beaten)
Skyrim (beaten)
Little Big Planet 2
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
Dead Space 2
Marvel vs. Capcom 3
Killzone 3
Radiant Historia
Crysis 2
Mortal Kombat
The Witcher 2
Infamous 2
Shadow of the Damned
Bastion
El Shaddai
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Jetpack Joyride
Driver: San Francisco
Dead Island
NBA 2K12
RAGE
Super Mario 3D Land
Rayman Origins
Saints Row: The Third
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Infinity Blade 2

My favorite Star Wars games

I assume you know about Disney buying LucasFilm. I could talk about how Walt Disney is controlling the global economy, its superheroes, and Tom Hanks’s facial hair from the grave on his way to a monolithic monopoly; but I’m keeping MYOB about games.
More specifically, I want to talk about Star Wars games. The brand’s games, much like its films, have run the gamut from game-of-the-year shoo-ins to insta-coaster. I want to talk about my five favorite games with Star Wars in their title. And spoiler alert: I never played any of the X-Wing games. There are multiple X-Wing games, right?


5. Episode I: Phantom Menace (PSone)
I know this is a controversial pick. However, let me explain: I moved from Richmond VA and my job with GWAR to Minneapolis MN and a gig with Game Informer magazine. I may not have had anywhere to live – and, in fact, I spent several nights in a hotel and one awkward (showerless) night at a fellow editor’s – but I did have a sweet stack of games that served as a welcoming gift. They were Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Final Fantasy Anthology, and Episode I. The first two are all-time favorites. But Episode I surprised me with its action/adventure retelling of the (awful, in hindsight) film. I remember lying on my inflatable mattress, talking to the impoverished NPCs of Tatooine. It was not a bad game (though it was ugly), and was a friend while I was a stranger in a strange land. So cut me some slack!


4. Dark Forces (PC)
I’m a sucker for DOOM style games. I feel like limiting things to branching corridors kept the gameplay tight and the level design honest. While I completed Quake and played my share of Duke, I feel like going 3D kind of messed with a good thing. It became more of a slog than a fast-past puzzle game with guns. Admittedly, I didn’t play a ton of Dark Forces, but I remember it being about as good as one could hope for a Star Wars DOOM.


3. LEGO Star Wars (every system ever)
Traveller’s Tales struck gold, melding two things that everyone loves. It was quirky, it was faithful to the franchise, and most importantly it was fun. I hope whoever came up with this became set for life. It’s up there for the best multiplayer series in video-game history. Remember how Eidos published the first one? Now, you can buy the whole Star Wars saga in one package for about $20. Steal!


1. Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox/PC)
If you notice, I went from #3 to #1. That’s because if you’d seen #2 first, you’d have known this was coming anyway. KOTOR is one of my favorite RPGs of all time. It expanded the Star Wars universe. The gameplay was amazing, finally making RPG battles worth watching. And the story? The stuff of legends! When this came out, my Xbox was on the fritz. Every time a load screen came up, there was a 50/50 chance the system would crash. I still played through the whole thing and didn’t once complain. The game was worth the wait. I’m pretty pissed they went the MMO route for the pseudo third installment. In hindsight, I bet Bioware is, too. Those meatbags.


2. KOTOR II (Xbox/PC)
Anyone who expected this to be better than the first KOTOR is ignorant. It was done by a totally different studio, in much less time. All things considered, it turned out pretty awesome. Sure, it didn’t have the twist its predecessor did, but I did not regret my time spent with it. I should probably play it again sometime.

Honorable Mention: Star Wars Rebel Command
I have yet to play this, but it’s supposed to be pretty dope. I’m sure the teammate AI has long become inferior, but my shrinkwrapped Xbox version has sung me its siren song several times since I procured it.

Masser Effect 3


First off, let me say I will try to be as spoiler-free as possible.

One of my favorite video-game series is Mass Effect. It showed Bioware didn’t need the Star Wars universe to craft an epic role-playing game. And in the last couple of generations, I’ve tended to lean more toward Western RPGs like Fallout 3 and Skyrim – Dark Souls notwithstanding.

As many know, Mass Effect 3 had an ending that disappointing many people. After finishing it, I couldn’t help but side with them. It seemed like a hasty way to wrap up a series that was all about choice and branching narrative. Comparatively, look how Metal Gear Solid 4 expertly tied all loose ends for what was widely considered the most convoluted franchise in entertainment.

It was announced Bioware was going to make things right with a free DLC expansion of Mass Effect 3’s ending. It released about a month and a half after I beat the game the first time. As I was knee-deep in the above-mentioned Dark Souls, I was in no hurry to revisit the Citadel or the Banshee-filled last hour of ME3.

It’s worth mentioning that I have the Mass Effect Datapad app for iPad. With it, you can boost your galactic readiness by assigning ships to missions that would gain you a percentage after a certain time limit. I’m really not sure even having 100% readiness does more than net you an Achievement, but I wanted to ensure I didn’t miss a single cutscene. So, before diving back in, I needed to Datapad it up. Problem is, the server is very finicky. For every 4 times I tried to access it, I got no-connection errors 3 of them. Since inaction led to your percentages dropping, I often lost all my progress and had to start over. Frustrating, to say the least.

But last night the stars were aligned: I had some free time and I had 100% galactic readiness. After dying a few times on those damn indoctrinated Asari banshees, I made it to the ending.

For better or worse, my choices were almost identical to the previous time – sorry, Illusive Man! But that also meant I could somewhat gauge what had changed. Despite the many months between beatings, I have a pretty good memory. Not an insignificant amount of content was added. Had this been the original ending, I would have left satisfied. It doesn’t do an update on all the surviving characters like, say, Final Fantasy VI; but it did the job.

I haven’t really checked the word on the street on the new ending(s); the chalk words have probably faded from the cement as it’s been a little while. Maybe people have unrealistic expectations since this was an unheard-of action by Bioware. To me, it made a great game that much better. Let’s just hope Bioware’s next game is not a damn MMO.