Waiting for Arc the Lad – PlayStation RPG Memories

In the early months of 1995 my friends and I poured over every drop of PlayStation information we came across, whether it be a magazine ad with Polygon Man telling us the system was more powerful than god, Sony suggesting we were UR NOT E, or the giant cardboard cutout of whip wielding Sofia at the local Palmer Video that still managed to be half an hour away. The older consoles were looking less appealing by the day (thanks, Vectorman), especially when compared to generation-defining beauty such as the widely advertised Battle Arena Toshinden (Sofia wore leather, you see, which really pops when rendered in cardboard).

By the midpoint of the 90s my friends and I were all 13 and desired a higher caliber of digital entertainment regardless of platform – the RPG. →  Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatarticle

The Quest to Make Everything Playable

I have been on a long, expensive, two pronged quest to (1) make all games playable with original hardware (2) on my modern television. The two huge caveats are that it may all stop working at some point when the HDMI standard is replaced by something good, and “all games” actually means a lot of games, not “all games” as you would reasonably infer by my choice of the words “all games.” I covered some of my journey setting up old consoles for my OLED months back, so it is time to discuss the game portion. I will spoil it for you now – the answer is piracy.

Just joking, obviously I have cartridges and CD/DVDs for anything I have in ROM or ISO form because I deeply respect copyright law. →  Read more? No, I’ll read it all.

Maximum Spoilage: Inscryption Loses its Edge

The Maximum Spoilage series of writings is focused on discussing aspects of a game that would spoil said game to any normal person. Please continue reading at your own riskryption.

Inscryption is a great game that perhaps begins with more greatness than it ends. If you have any interest in playing, and you should, I would really not read this. Anyway, after being forced to “Continue” a game from the top menu when you start the game for the first time, you realize your character is playing a card-based board game under some duress. The game is legitimately unsettling when it dawns on you that you’re a prisoner and the in-game game you are playing likely has mortal consequences. The Frog Fractions-esque ability to step away from the board game – where you play the in-game board game – and examine your gloomy confines, all while your captor remains invisible sans his eyes, lends the game an ambiance of true horror. →  Final Fantasy Mystic Post

Thoughts on Wasteland 3 from Quarantine

As I sit here in the few hours of peace I will have today, and maybe this week, I must consider how best to populate this site with content. Some goober in my kids’ day care was diagnosed with COVID last week, and in what I would consider an abundance of caution (and I am generally for more money spent, more masking, more testing, more boosters, more lockdowns, and more bleach drinking) the school has closed for the week. So we have 10 days without day care despite the kids not being sick (after copious testing, at least). Anyway, life sucks at the moment but here are some thoughts on Wasteland 3.

CRPGs

I really like this genre. Why do I play other games between finishing every good PC RPG? I don’t know, good question. →  READ3R

Triangle Strategy is Better than Fire Emblem: Three Houses

For no apparent reason, I have pitted (often unrelated) things against each other since I was a child. Well, probably for deeply disturbing psychological reasons. Sega had to be universally better than Nintendo, chocolate better than vanilla, coffee better than tea, and orange juice with pulp truer to nature than that pulp-free orange water drink. No Country for Old Men is a better movie than There Will Be Blood, and Shenmue is just superior to Yakuza. In a weird variant of this psychosis, I once told a friend that Meshuggah should be a melodic metal band like the other bands from Sweden and not whatever rhythm based, incorrect metal they were. Lines must be drawn and sides must be taken, damn it.

It is in this spirit I bring you a comparison between Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Triangle Strategy. →  Read Danger!

The Future of (my) Video Games

Hoping for the best, planning for not the worst

I spend a lot of my time thinking about retiring in my 50s. I spend the rest of my time planning for the breakdown of society. The incompatible ideas constantly vying for my conscious attention will occasionally drown each other out and allow general concepts of family, work, and video games to briefly occupy my brain. These short moments of distraction are usually then reframed in my mind so as to view them through one of the primary thought patterns – where will I live in relation to my children after I stop working, or does a year’s worth of water for an infant equal a year’s worth of water for an adult?

Sometimes I think of my physical game collection through these lenses of retirement or environmental destruction. →  50 Cent: Readproof

White Flag – Giving up on Saga Scarlet Grace and Monster Train

I recently came to the conclusion that only chumps play every game until completion. And so here is the first entry in what will likely be a long, if not entertaining, series of posts on games I gave up on. I got lucky in that both are very good games that just couldn’t hold my attention until the credits rolled.

Saga Scarlet Grace: Ambitions

Scarlet Grace is the best Saga game I have played, which is similar to being the smartest Qanon believer. The series has managed to improve in stature amongst people who care about long running JRPGs, no doubt assisted by Jeremy Parish’s constant Kawazu fawning. I am happy the games exist because having something weird and different is preferable to not having it, but the games do not really come together from what I have experienced. →  Imagine all the gamers playing for today

On the Rejection of Writing Formal Game Reviews

Being a magnanimous business owner (of videolamer Corporate Consolidated Holdings LLC), I allowed Editor in Chief Pat to take a week off for vacation with his family on the condition he return with a Panzer Dragoon Saga write-up. This means that there is no one here to make my writing less bad or to talk me out of posting short, pointless, half-formed thoughts. So enjoy this one while you can.

In this site’s first run from 2005-2011ish I reviewed some games. Being in my 20s, I didn’t put much thought into my qualifications – I had a keyboard, a poorly reasoned and loud opinion, and an internet. All the pieces were there for insightful critique, as far as I could tell. The game industry was also smaller in those days and it was possible for a single person to comprehend huge chunks of context, history, game design lineage, developer and studio formation and attrition, and so on. →  Can you read me now?

Top 10 Trends I Ignored – An Old Man is Prideful of His Ignorance

In the dozen years since I used this site as a platform for bad jokes, Wii apologia, and po-faced discussion on design, many gaming trends have come, and in some cases, gone. Having ignored most of these shifts in the industry, I will now document these trends and explain why I am better than each of them.

  1. MMOs

These already existed when this site launched in 200…something. As I am competing with my dead grandfather at having the fewest friends, I worried social gaming would lead to comradery and therefore defeat. This fear was unfounded, however, as years on gaming forums have led me to accumulate exactly zero new acquaintances. “Who is that condescending guy who only posts single sentences that are obviously sarcastic?” is what I assumed people would say. →  Eh, I've got nothing better to do.

Connecting Old Consoles to New TVs: Now with Fewer Details

My old Pioneer plasma that now lives in a closet covered in a blanket had a lot of video inputs. Component and VGA inputs were casualties of my recent upgrade to OLED. Time marches on, unless you still want to play old game consoles or accidentally slip and fall and become frozen in a crevasse. Then, assuming you fall into the former and not the frozen category, you need to decide if composite video is sufficient for your fully-thawed, unconventional, yet not uncouth tastes.

For me, composite would not do, partly because I realized my new TV was capable of it only after I finished the project I will be explaining in excruciating detail. This fact aside, in order to get the best picture out of the old games I always plan to play but rarely do, I learned I would need to embark on a potentially never-ending-always-spending project. →  Now you’re reading with power.

Some Favorite, Disappointing, and Interesting Games from 2012-2016 part 3

In this final part (part 1 here, part 2 here) of this series looking back at the years videolamer spent wrongfully imprisoned over a trumped up jaywalking charge, I look back at the many games that left an impression on me. Just not enough of an impression to have more than a few paragraphs to say about them.

Virtue’s Last Reward

Virtue’s Last Reward disappointed me on multiple fronts. The tone of the game is different from its predecessor 999’s because, according to an interview, the overt horror theme hampered sales in Japan. And so VLR tones it down. This is a big blow to the game; 999’s plot is stupid bullshit, yet it managed to be compelling because of the palpable tension. People could and did die in the game, including your character on most paths, and that made the game thrilling despite the paranormal pseudoscientific plotline and anime tropes. →  The only thing we have to read is read itself.

White Flag of Freedom – Why not give up on a game?

There is something almost therapeutic about finishing a game. Another accomplishment, another disc to put back on the shelf (metaphorically if you are not obsessed with collecting slowly decaying physical media), and the freedom to move on to another game without the slightest twinge of guilt, regret, or sense of failure.

Completing games has been enshrined in the culture by sites like Backloggery and How Long to Beat. I have a 6 year old spreadsheet I use to track what I finish and know other people who do the same. Gaming forums have threads on backlogs frequently; many of us feel the weight of our unfinished games.

Why do we want to finish games, and should we? You’re right, those are good questions. Let’s dive into the why first. I have heard our drive to complete games described as internalized capitalism, oddly enough from self-professed once-libertarian Heather Anne Campbell (shout out to my Elysium comrade Nick Weiger). →  Tony Hawk's Pro Reader 3

Who was brave enough to pioneer unique console names?

The first video game console was the Magnavox Odyssey. The follow up to that system was a series of consoles that appended a number after the word Odyssey. This was just good business sense. Why confuse customers by changing the name of your product? Atari saw the wisdom in maintaining a name and followed the 2600 with the 5200, publicly declaring it twice as good. There are other generational products beyond consoles but my mind jumps to the automobile as a template for how to treat new models. It would be bizarre to rebrand the Honda Accord next year with a new name (the Honda Discord, obviously) and then continue to do so with each significant rehaul. It would just be bad business.

Unique console names ended when giant corporations Sony and Microsoft moved into the video game space, but where did they start? →  I’m gonna take you for a read.

Remembering to Forget to Remember Sega

The original sin that man is responsible to

Part of being a jerk on the internet is having unnecessarily heated arguments about irrelevant things with strangers. One of my go-to topics, mostly borne out of authentic emotion, is Sega and their current state. Unlike sane people who see the branding on a box of some Total War game, notice Yakuza doing well, or wonder why there are so many Sonic games and intuit Sega is a moderately successful company, I think they died almost twenty years ago. 

What’s the problem?

I am haunted by nightmares every night

There was a distinct Sega-ness that was removed from life support the day they were acquired by pachinko manufacturer Sammy in 2004. The end of the Dreamcast foreshadowed the demise of the company’s soul. →  Shining Post: Legacy of Great intention

Away Games: Recommendations for Places That May No Longer Exist

In the long years without videolamer updates, I passed time staring at walls, counting the seconds until death would release me from my meaningless existence, and watching TV. I also did a little bit of traveling. Whenever possible, I coerced, tricked, or bamboozled my girlfriend/fiance/wife/ex-wife into doing something at least video game adjacent on these trips. And so I present you with my research and recommendations for places to visit that were likely closed years ago due to the pernicious whims of capitalism. With pictures!

Galloping Ghost Arcade: Illinois

A family vacation to South Bend put me within (multiple hour) striking distance of this arcade I had read good things about. Knowing fellow videolamer contributor and all-round site admin Chris was from this region of Earth, I asked if he would like to meet and play some games. →  Uncharted Waters: New Horeadin’s

Triangle Strategy Demo Thoughts Likely to be Invalidated by the Full Release

Triangle Strategy employs a design technique I named “branching linearity” when I was pretending I was a game designer in the halcyon days of college. Instead of many choices with usually subtle or no effects on game flow, this design focuses on fewer but more dramatic choices that can significantly and (hopefully) irrevocably change the path the player takes.

It is true that Triangle Strategy also tries to weave subtler effects into its design, asking you to choose between the three virtues of thriftiness, relaxation, and stick-to-it-ivness, but the larger choices put you on distinct tracks; for example, early on in the game (and playable in the demo), you choose to visit country A or B. You cannot then go visit the other country – your choice is binary and it affects the plot and characters you may recruit. →  It’s not you, it’s me.

From did not consider what I want from a game when creating Elden Ring

There is something to be said that the best part by far in my over 30 hours of Elden Ring has been rummaging through a large castle. Why the area is significantly more fun is plainly apparent – level design. Reminiscent of the amazing Boletarian Palace from Demon’s Souls, this demigod’s castle is quasi-linear. Complex webs of horizontal and vertical paths cross, interlock, and overlap in one of From’s most satisfying stages. This area also highlights what I think is wrong with Elden Ring (or maybe all open world games).

The nature of an open world is to be large and expansive. Core strengths of the Souls games are level design and atmosphere. This style of game is at odds with From’s compelling design tenets. Wandering around to find points of interest (the damning-with-faint-praise term people use to discuss open world games) like the giant archer from Dark Souls, the fire breathing dragon from all Souls games, the mining guys from Demon’s Souls, the poison swamp from all Souls, the rot swamp that’s entirely distinct from the poison swamp, the giants pulling some treasure, the resurrecting skeletons from Dark Souls, five giants hanging out on a plateau, another dragon, etc. →  The only thing we have to read is read itself.

Oh Joy, an old video game site

Step aside Web 2.0, here comes videolamer 2.lame. Or lame.0. Whichever is stupider. We have returned to offer articles, reviews, complaints, and jokes about video games to the new generation. A lot has changed since we stopped regularly updating the site nearly a dozen years ago. Back then we didn’t even call them video games, but moving interactables. Also, we could pretend we had enough time left to do something about climate change.

2011’s best looking game.

To fill new readers in, this is a site where each contributor can write mostly whatever they want, though we generally share a passion for older and Japanese games. What we lose in unity and coherence, we gain in distinct perspectives. And what perspectives! We are all straight, white men, but one of us doesn’t even live in America. →  Did I do that?

When are graphics good enough?

In an old Edge column, Mr. Biffo commented that he remembers thinking that at a certain point in console history graphics became good enough. Meaning that at whatever point he picked, the release of the 3DO, say, graphical fidelity in games ceased being an issue. Art could be better or worse, of course, but all in all games simply looked good enough.

This era of good enough began for me in 1999 with the release of the Dreamcast. Early 3D looked kind of terrible and even the PS1/Saturn/N64 games with “good” graphics make my eyes bleed today, but Sega’s early jump into the 4th generation (that’s 4th going by Japanese consoles I care about, starting with the NES/SMS) gave us mature looking 3D that still looks good today.

Compare a good looking PS1 game:

To a good looking Dreamcast game:

Trying to prove my subjective position is correct is less interesting though than the basic concept that to some people graphics become simply good enough at a certain point. →  Xenosaga 2: Jenseits von Gut und Pöst

Features for Monster Hunter 4

I try to deny it but I may have secretly been interested because it’s on the Wii and as any Wii game review on most major sites will tell you over and over again the system lacks a plethora of high-quality third-party titles. Maybe it’s just that I don’t have a PSP and the series has always somewhat appealed to me. Whatever the case, I think Pat put it best when he said, “I thought the game would be fun because we could play online together but it’s legitimately a good game.” I agree, Monster Hunter is better than I expected.

Still, there are a few things Capcom could have done better to really capture that hunting spirit (I say this from a position of absolute authority as I have never been hunting in my life). →  Ring of Read