Review – Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn

Sequels suck. Prequels putrefy. And spin-offs spin out of control. And yet, so often when a story we enjoy ends, whether in the terra-forming of Arrakis or bodily ascension to heaven, we are reluctant to let go. We refuse to accept that resurrecting something so that it can go on eternally is usually a bad idea (I’m looking at you evangelicals.) The exceptions, (and there are a few: Godfather II, Red Dragon, The Simpsons, The Bible Goes West) prove the rule. So, when one of these quality exceptions of a continuing storyline comes onto the scene, especially in our medium, I think it’s time to take a holiday from derision and give the credit where it’s due. Such is the case with Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. So, sit back and let me tell you about the shining dawn of a radiant path in brilliant storytelling and those who have strayed from the light. →  Shadow of the Article

Review – Grand Theft Auto IV **

Grand Theft Auto IV is the greatest game in the history of electronics. No game since GTAIII has revolutionized digital entertainment this awesomely (ok — maybe since Halo 3). I bought my copy the night it launched and have already put in over forty hours of play, merely enough to scratch the surface of this diamond in the rough.

For those of you who don’t know, GTAIV was made by Rockstar Games, a company made exclusively of the “who’s who” of game developers. Everything they touch turns to solid gold and the innovation they bring to the table is easily enough to drive dozens of smaller developing studios. I think their true brilliance lies in the fact that they’ve managed to keep all of that innovation from leaking out and diluting their unique IPs. →  Article Kombat

Non-Review Footnote – Persona 3:FES

Last week marked an interesting release on American shores, as Atlus shipped out Persona 3:FES. FES is both an expansion pack and a revision to the original P3 – it mainly serves as an epilogue chapter to the story, but was also served with the original game as a “director’s cut” that added new goodies to the entire quest.

This kind of release is very rare on consoles. For example, whenever Square releases an International Edition of a hit RPG, you can be sure this nation won’t see it. Yet for whatever reason (likely due to success of P3 last fall), Atlus decided to grace us with more of this excellent game, rather than leave Western fans out in the cold as happens so many times. Not only that, but the price is only $30! →  In all ages, hypocrites, called producers, have put crowns upon the heads of thieves, called publishers.

Discussion Review – Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Smash Bros Brawl is no doubt the biggest game to hit the Wii yet, and if history indicates anything, it very well could be the best selling Wii game by the time the console retires. Such epic expectations seem daunting, though we know that many fans are already more than pleased with the results. With experience in all three games, videolamer’s Chrises explore the world of Brawl.

Christian: Alright Chris, we’ll get right down to it. As a “love letter to the fans”, how does Brawl stack up? Personally, I am impressed with the sheer amount of content, but am shaky on the execution. The music is abundant, but too many of the tracks are straight out of the game they came from, and the newly arranged tracks are often a little too conservative for my liking. →  Rayman Reading Rabbids

Tales From Behind The Counter – Mutant Powers of Femdom

One thing that sets my store apart from other video games retailers is our game testing stations. Each of the two stores I flutter between during the week is equipped with just about every major gaming console made in the last twenty years and we encourage people to try out the games before they take them home. This also means that when it is slow, I pretty much play any game I want. Life is good. The other night the battle of the sexes erupted at my Xbox 360 test station.

These two high school kids were playing one of the Soul Caliber games and the girl was absolutely rocking this poor guy’s newly pubescent world. You see, this naive young man confidently entered into a contest of furious button mashing with a girl that had no clue how to play the game. →  Final Fantasy Mystic Post

Gaming Industry Advice from a Non Gaming Industry Member

Hey, that title looks like our slogan! This started as a comment to Derek’s post, but I decided I would kick it up a notch and give you all some Golden Jew advice on the gaming industry, if you actually want in. Matt is probably a better source than I, since he’s active in the industry and it’s been a decade since I was, but being Jewish, I know a little something about business (and about dodging Nazis).

Although the matriculation rate of QA peon to game designer is low in an institutional setting (EA, Maxis, Bioware, etc…shit… those are all the same company now!), it’s comparable to most other popular industries. Examples of “popular industries” include sports teams (going from bitch peon to normal peon), video games (QA peon to developer peon), and the movie industry (production assistant peon to producer peon). →  It’s not you, it’s me.

GET PAID TO PLAY VIDEO GAMES!

I like having sex. Who doesn’t, right? (answer: Condoleezza Rice) That said, I don’t think that I would be a ho if it were somehow possible. I like to choose who I have sex with, and I don’t think I could do it all day, and it’s illegal and immoral and dirty and all that. Similarly, I like to play games, but I don’t think I’d want to be a game tester. For as long as I can remember, the reality of my gaming world has been shaped by the fact that most games simply suck, and are less fun than almost anything. I don’t want to play Virtua Tennis 3 for thirty minutes, let alone 40 hours. But there are many among us who believe that because you like doing an activity, then wanting to do it every day for months (and getting paid!) →  The only thing we have to read is read itself.

A design element that deserves to die: The time limit

Ahh, our old enemy the time limit. Is there a lazier way for a designer to increase the difficulty of a game?

The latest object of my scorn due to this lazy design element is Star Fox Command on the Nintendo DS. Before you get to the Star Fox part of the Star Fox game, you plot out flight paths for Fox and his allies on an overhead map of the planet, keeping in mind enemy squadrons that approach the Great Fox, cities that need liberating, and objects on the map that may assist you in your quest. The caveat? You have a limited number of turns in which to accomplish the planet’s mission objective. You can increase the number of turns you have remaining by liberating cities under enemy control. →  [put on your VR headset now]

Random Old Game – Snake Rattle ‘n Roll

The NES had so many goofy oddball games, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of them all. Snake Rattle ‘n Roll stands out from the hordes via upbeat jazz music, a bizarre (therefore original) sense of style, and fun cooperative gameplay.

You play as snake(s) appropriately named Rattle (and Roll). To get through the stages, you avoid or defeat strange, snake-hating enemies, from water-dwelling sharks to razor blade traps to giant, snake-crushing disembodied feet. Your objective is to get to the moon for reasons unknown. Placed at specific points in the level are pellet dispensers, which shoot out pellets which you can eat. The pellets try to avoid you in a different way each level; the early ones simply roll or walk, while later ones will bounce or fly away. In an interesting touch, the walking pellets have tiny white feet; after your snake consumes one, it spits out said feet. →  Read me now, believe me later.

Review – Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney

After finishing last year’s stellar Trials and Tribulations, and damn near falling out of my chair during that final case, I immediately went online and pre-ordered the next installment of the Ace Attorney series, titled Apollo Justice. And as I did this, I realized how lucky we all are to get another lawyer adventure game so soon after the last one. It took Capcom no more than four months to give us a new sequel, which is quite possibly a miracle in the video game world.

But wait? Who the hell is Apollo Justice? Does this mean no more Phoenix Wright? No more Edgeworth? And more importantly, no more Dick Gumshoe? How could this be!? Why would Capcom stoop so low? We’ve become extremely attached to all of these characters through the course of the last three games, willingly living and breathing their crazy and complex lives. →  You may say I’m a gamer, but I’m not the only one

Tales From Behind The Counter – I Am A Snobby Bastard

It is inevitable that this topic is going to come up so I will tackle it now. Today’s secret word is a fun one: elitist. When I hear that word, my initial response is a simple, “Yes. I. Am.”

Every genre of media has its upper echelon of assholes who insist that their opinion on the topic is really, truly the only one that matters. I consider myself to be above that upper echelon. I have titled myself a “post-gamer”. I have basically played so many video games for so long that I really don’t like them anymore. In fact, talking about video games usually bores the living daylights out of me and watching people play video games is akin to making small cuts with a dull knife on the fleshy, inner part of my thigh. →  An article approaches.
- Read
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Eve Online: Second Life for Hardcore Gamers

I hate Second Life. I don’t understand it. I already have a job. I already have a house. I understood Sims because the part where your Sim went to work (at least in the versions I played, they put out so many expansions my view is probably distorted) was skipped and my Sim just showed up home with money. Periodically he’d play on the computer or play chess and get smarter and get promoted. Then he’d come back from work with a bonus and I’d spend his money on nice shit. It wasn’t bad; in fact, I wish my life were like that, where I’d step outside my house, 8 hours go by and I’m home and playing video games again.

Second Life fails to me because it’s like the Sims, but you have to grind out money (or directly buy it). →  Now you’re reading with power.

Tales From Behind The Counter – The Long Joystick of the Law

Last night I achieved a sales goal that I don’t think will ever be topped by another mortal.

It was a quiet evening and my boss, Jason, and I were being good little worker bees. Alphabetizing and sorting titles, rearranging aisles, trying to restructure the layout of my store so that it may actually generate a couple of bucks profit. One of our big tasks of the night had been to weed the crappy and older games from the shelves and make a bargain bin of marked down titles that was placed prominently in front of the door so would-be customers had to walk right past it. Both of us were sitting on the floor of our empty and serene establishment when the front door burst open and two police officers rushed into the building, hands on guns and tasers. →  A reader is you.

Review – God of War: Chains of Olympus

Reviewing God of War: Chains of Olympus can be done in either a paragraph or several pages. Actually, describing the game can be done in one hearty breath, though its existence makes for a longer and frustrating commentary on the industry.

Let us get the first part out of the way; Chains of Olympus is developer Ready at Dawn’s attempt to bring the full God of War experience to the PSP. In this goal they have succeeded; the game looks and plays so closely to the PS2 originals that Chains (almost) sits right up there with them in terms of quality. It really is amazing to think that this game is being played on a handheld. Unfortunately, in trying so hard to emulate the PS2, the experience also becomes excessively generic. →  Is that an article in your pants, or are you just happy to read me?

Add to the pile

My old college friend is coming to visit this weekend. What does this have to do with videolamer you ask?

He’s bringing his copy of Mass Effect for me to borrow for an indefinite amount of time. That means yet another person gets to weight in his opinion about this RPG.

I warn you; I haven’t been a fan of most of Bioware’s work, save for the games that also had Black Isle stamped on it. That includes Knights of the Old Republic. I’m wary about how much I will enjoy Mass Effect, but I will give it a fair shake, as I’m always up for being proven wrong. If I still don’t like it, I won’t go saber rattling about it. I still will discuss it, which could lead to a massive, 61 comment debate that will be the first true entry in the Hall of Lame. →  Post of Tsushima

Review – Real Soccer 2008

When I first spotted “Real Soccer” in my local game shop, I was initially under the impression that the game’s name was an indication of a metaphysical breakthrough at Ubisoft labs. Sick of titles stuck with the “virtual” nomenclature, Ubisoft had determined – Matrix-like – that they could decide what is and is not real. I mean, what is “reality,” anyway, right? Yeah.

Sadly, however, the title instead betrays the pathetic lack of sports titles for the DS. Not “this is real soccer,” but “omigosh! Honest-to-goodness real soccer on the DS!!” It makes more sense when one appreciates that the title’s name is Real Football in the UK, and there are probably plenty of British dudes who are sick of us calling our decidedly un-foot-centric game by the name of football, but whatever. →  Read Dead Redemption

You have to Burn the Rope

By now you might have heard of You Have to Burn the Rope, the flash game which will become a new phenomenon for some time to come (though likely nowhere near the likes of Portal). I’m not sure how this sits with me, because I’m not sure people understand the game. Or perhaps I don’t understand it.

What I mean is that there is really nothing to understand about it. It is an incredibly simple, completely straightforward 30 second boss fight. Why are there video walkthroughs and FAQs and speedruns? Because every game, no matter how big or small, seems to attract this kind of attention and scrutiny. Is it stupid? Hell yes, as stupid as it is that so many other games are treated as such. Sure we could do without the creators and their friends trying to be so cute and clever, but the fact that we will likely see 50 or so similar guides from people who also wish to be cute and clever is even sadder. →  All you need is read.

Metal Gear Solid: The Settle Collection

As the PS2 winds down, it has become quite popular to release cheap three game collections for it. Until now, the best one out there was the Devil May Cry pack, but now it has been usurped by Metal Gear Solid: The Essential Collection. With the first three MGS games for $30, this is the perfect way for MGS newbies to experience the series before it signs off with its fourth and final entry. Whether it is worth it for long time fans is a tougher question to answer, as this package is shy from perfect.

The content is the toughest question. Metal Gear Solid comes in a nice DVD case, but is the original Playstation pressing, meaning you will need a PS1 memory card. Annoying, but you can’t really ask them to recode a budget release. →  A delayed article is eventually good, a rushed article is all we post.

Tales From Behind The Counter – Come One, Come all! Hear my tales of Mystery and Excitement!

Welcome to the inaugural release of my new and (hopefully) weekly column. Since returning to America, I have found myself short on cash and pretty much willing to do anything for a buck or two. Yes, I have even tried to sell my body but for some reason or another, most prospective customers frown upon my “by the pound, by the hour” pricing scheme. This lack of cash and abundance of free time meant that I spent a lot of time hanging out with my friend who works at a small video game shop close to my house. Well lets be real honest, it isn’t my house, it’s my parents’ house and I live in the basement.

One night my friend and I were talking while there was a lull in customers tooling around the shop and it came up that if I was going to hang out with her at the video game shop, I may as well be getting paid for it. →  Four out of five dentists recommend reading more.

Online play – the kids aren’t alright

Gamasutra recently posted an article about how annoying people in online play may very well be hurting sales. Regardless of whether this is a stretch, any discussion from developers about the problem of griefers is welcome. Like it or not, multiplayer features are becoming critical to the success of a game, so it is important to see those making them look at the issues that surround providing a good online experience. Otherwise all those Gamespot reviews that call for multiplayer everything start to look even sillier.

The more I play Call of Duty 4, the more I notice the trends among idiotic players. Among your older players, the supposed majority of the gaming world, you get your typical racists, wanna be gangsters, and so on. The most annoying of the bunch, the people who frequently teamkill, spam the voice channel, and use foul language and racial slurs until the words lose all meaning, seem to be in the 18 and under crowd. →  Apply directly to the forehead.