N00b Diaries: Bioshock Chapter Three – The Wide Road to Hell

Day Eight:

By this point, I thought the game had etched the peripheral line past which other games fear to tread; etched that line and stepped boldly over it. Then I got to the theater level, and found that Bioshock had actually power-vaulted over said line. About the time that I hear Sander Cohen’s reading of “The Wild Bunny” while transfixed by the mask on the wall perched in front of the statued man, I really understood that all bets were off.

But this isn’t profanity for the sake of mere shock value, or the macabre as seen by the sane. This is gorgeous and unmitigated insanity! For example: I had to stop in the flooded men’s room for the purpose of admiring the shadow play of the three arranged figures. →  Read the rest

N00b Diaries: Bioshock Chapter Two – Splicers Beware

Day Four:

I have ammo. Lots of ammo. I am having a great time finding all the little crawl spaces, hacking every safe I can find and robbing every corpse rotting up my path. I already have the three photographs of the Spidey Splicers, have had them for quite some time. Got a really cool action shot of one, on a hunch; just turned a corner and clicked. Yeah, I’m a regular Mama Weegee over here. But despite the urgings of my rather vocal spectator to “follow the damn arrow, that’s what it’s there for”, I decide to go on a treasure hunt and take in the scenery.

I am still dumbfounded by the simultaneous beauty and sheer creepiness of this world. I have to pause to look at the ceiling of the bathroom and stop by the windows every once in a while to gaze through the aquatic distortion at the city scape beyond. →  Read the rest

N00b Diaries: Bioshock Chapter One – Getting Comfortable

Day One:

Dear Diary,
I want to become a more knowledgeable video game player. I have expressed this, and have found that I have an excellent source of tutelage in my long-time gamer boyfriend. He has compiled a list of games that he considers the “must-play” list, and today I begin my journey, starting with: Bioshock!!! (Da-da-duuuum!!!) I begin by treading water for longer than I could possibly manage in real life. I spend as much time as possible taking in the flames, and then the desperately black horizon in every direction but one. I like it already. Entering the lonely lit monument, I try to grasp what the hell could possibly be going on and if the entire game is supposed to take place on this island.

Quick prologue: unlike 99.9% of the gaming populace, I have no idea what this game is about except for the word “Big Daddy”. →  Read the rest

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). →  Read the rest

Destiny of a Fan

Everyone has a couple of games they particularly like, regardless of how good they are, because of the memories they have of them. Unless, of course, they don’t like video games, in which case they must be card-carrying communists. For me, one of those games is Capcom’s greatest RPG: Destiny of an Emperor for NES.

I have to avoid making this into a Best Game Ever, but I still want to summarize: The game runs very quickly, with fast text speed and auto-battling. You can recruit many enemy generals after defeating them, over 100 in total. The tactic system is somewhat more fleshed out than many other RPGs magic systems, although it can also be more restrictive. The game’s backdrop of China’s Three Kingdoms period makes the world a bit more solid than many other games of the time. →  Read the rest

PS1 games you may have missed: More RPGs edition

In my last entry I took a break from mentioning RPGs. Since, however, RPGs are my favorite genre, you’re just going to have to live with a few more of them now.

Before we begin, I would like to briefly mention the first two games of both the Suikoden and Wild ARMs series. I have discussed them in more detail elsewhere, but all four are great games.

Lunar & Lunar 2: Originally released on Sega CD, these classic games were once again translated by Working Designs. Therein lies a lot of the appeal of the Lunars: Not only do you get a solid battle system, you also get a fun-filled localization. The voice acting leaves something to be desired, and the translation isn’t always true to the original, but the Lunars were the first games where I enjoyed simply running around talking to people in towns. →  Read the rest

PS1 games you may have missed: Non-RPG edition

Believe it or not, I like a few PSX games that aren’t RPGs! Of course, several of them are still hard-to-find (because I like to like things nobody knows about).

Unfortunately, I do not have copies nor solid recollections of all of them. But I can tell you about a couple more to look into that I’ve left of the upcoming list: Tomba! and Einhander are both solid games that are a good deal of fun. Tomba! being an action/adventure, and Einhander being a solid Square-made shoot-em-up.

However, on to the games!

Yes, aliens did give the ancient Greeks their superior technology and philosophical insight.

A solid co-operative game as well as an action-adventure game of some depth, Herc’s Adventures is an entertaining romp through ancient Greece. It’s a spiritual successor to the SNES game Zombies Ate My Neighbors. →  Read the rest

Gaming Meccas of Japan Pt. 2 — Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan

Every hobby and every religion has their sacred place. Baseball fans have Cooperstown. Gamblers go to Las Vegas. Catholics go to the Vatican. Maple syrup lovers go to Canada. For us, the nerds, the geeks, the otaku, we have Akihabara. It is here that we can fulfill our wildest, dorkiest dreams. If we feel like buying the newest video game, Akihabara. If we have a craving for that awesomely drawn manga, Akihabara. And, if we just must be called “Master” by a cute little maid while we have our morning coffee, you got it, Akihabara. There are very few places in the world where a video game lover can come anytime of the year and feel at home. And just like home, Akihabara also has plenty of porn.

The downside to the place also called Akiba is that it is in an inconvenient location for most of the world’s electronically inclined. →  Read the rest

Fishing for Quarters – Remembering arcades

Being a kid of the Eighties and Nineties, I spent a ton of time feeding quarters into arcade games. We at videolamer may rain praise upon our little console buddies but we rarely talk about their much larger, and these days dumber, brothers, the arcade machines. If it were not for these coin-gobbling behemoths, consoles would not exist. There would be no Pac-Man to munch on stuff, missiles to command, or Tron…to do whatever it is that Tron does.

We owe a lot to these big guys and sadly, like all overly-huge things such as woolly mammoths, dinosaurs, Sony, the RIAA, and The Ultimate Warrior, they are becoming extinct. Not many people visit arcades these days, and for good reason. What was once a bustling, multi-genre industry has deteriorated into a handful of companies making fighting games, shooting games, racing games, and beat games. →  Read the rest

A death in the family – Sega leaves the hardware business and I rediscover video games

Towards the end of highschool I stopped gaming. For the first time, I had a girlfriend, was preparing to go to college, and had a wicked meth habit. Beyond these time wasting activities, something about video games seemed to have changed. Though I had been a Sega faithful since the Master System, my highschool days marked the first console generation I spent in bed with a Sega competitor. I loved the PS1, but it didn’t carry me through to the PS2 by any means.

More fun than games?

I don’t even remember the launch of the Dreamcast. Murmurs of Sega’s new system made their way through school but I knew it was destined to failure and didn’t have the time to care. Freshman and sophomore years of college were spent playing Diablo 2 with roommates, hanging out, surfing the web and strung out on heroin. →  Read the rest

Requiem for a Dreamcast

I used to think I was pretty clever when I told folks that “Nintendo made me a gamer. Ocarina of Time made me hardcore”. I kept thinking this for quite some time, but eventually realized that pre-OOT, I wasn’t really a “gamer”, just a kid whose game experience consisted of little more than a string of Nintendo consoles, a few hours on the Genesis, and a dusty old 486 PC. This was a time when fresh games came to my house twice a year if I was lucky.

After Zelda I truly became a “gamer”, though now I think it had less to with that game in particular and more to do with the fact that around that time I was introduced to a modern day computer, Next Generation Magazine, and a Sony Playstation. →  Read the rest

Can’t Escape the Escapism Part 2

There are reasons why we can’t escape certain games. And there’s a reason why it matters. Sometimes a game comes to mind simply because something in our real world reminds us of it. Once, I was on a campsite standing at the edge of a cluster of trees and the light of the setting sun fell in such a way to make me say, “ohmygoditlookslikezelda!” Now, I love Zelda games and I’ve spent many hours with them, but that’s the only time the land of Hyrule came close to interfering with my perception of the real world.

Other times, a game comes to mind simply because it’s awesome. We like it enough that we wish some of its elements actually existed. When I was younger, I wanted to be Strider Hiryu. →  Read the rest

Gaming Meccas of Japan Pt. 1 — Den Den Town, Osaka, Japan

Being a geek and living in Japan is kind of like mixing Ecstasy with LSD – it’s one hell of a trip. There are four places in Japan that should be on the must-see list for anyone who calls himself a nerd. The big one is Akihabara in Tokyo and I will be covering that in September along with The Tokyo Game Show. The third spot goes to Nintendo’s world headquarters in Kyoto but there isn’t much to see there because no one is allowed into the facility and tours are never provided. The fourth spot and topic of today’s installment is Den Den Town in Osaka.

Den Den Town can best be described as the poor man’s Akihabara. It is smaller in size, about four or five square blocks instead of an entire section of Tokyo. →  Read the rest

The Worlds of Power book series

Strange as it may seem, video games and reading have always been closely related in my mind. When I was four years old, I would watch my older brother play RPGs and other text-heavy games. After a year or so of observation, I could more or less understand what was going on. Eventually, I figured out that letters written on paper were the same as those shown in Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy, and thus I “learned” to read all at once (naturally, my kindergarten teacher took the credit).

Astonishingly, terrible game cover art is also terrible book cover art.

Back in the NES era, there were a lot of random game-related paraphernalia. Nintendo had merchandising on its side, and Super Mario towels, sheets, lunchboxes, etc. abounded. All well and good, but a more interesting event during this time was the publishing of the Worlds of Power series of short novels. →  Read the rest

Hidden Beneath the Waves: Tech Guide to your PSP

Having trouble figuring out how to make the most out of that super-sexy but dust-covered Sony PSP? Well, you came to the right place. In this guide, I will help you understand and utilize all of the abilities of the Playstation Portable. You’ll finally understand how to get podcasts, mp3’s, videos and demos working on your PSP. Sadly, this does not include homebrew, as that is beyond my technical expertise. I’m trying to make you use your PSP more, not break it in the process, as it is not legal to put homebrew on the system (dictated by Sony, of course).

Before you start, I suggest you go out and buy a 1GB Memory Stick Pro Duo from Sandisk. The memory card that Sony supplies (256MB) is far too small to use for anything worthwhile. →  Read the rest

Farewell to the Game Boy

Since I, like many of my fellow videolamer staff, now have a DS Lite, I am enjoying many new and interesting games. It even has backwards compatibility, making my GBA titles more vibrant and colorful than ever. But I was left with a small pang of sadness when I noticed that the original Game Boy games – as had been reported – simply don’t fit into the GBA slot. This isn’t so much of a surprise, although I had been keeping up hope.

And so, I must bid farewell to my old portable games. They kept me engaged through even the longest road trips when I was younger, and I will now move on to newer, more colorful and touch-friendly games.

The original Game Boy somewhat resembles a grey brick. It’s large and quite heavy by today’s standards. →  Read the rest

Parents just don’t understand

My parents recently started reading this website. I’m confident they are happy with what their 120 thousand dollar college investment has yielded. The down side is I may have to watch my language and sexual innuendos from now on because those things didn’t exist in the olden days and would surely shock anyone over 30.

A more disturbing problem is that my parents have no idea what any of these articles are about. It’s a proven fact that most specialized fields use vocabulary outsiders cannot understand just for the sake of being exclusionary (cardiac arrest? Yeah, sure doctor, those are real words). Gaming journalism is no different and I’m afraid this site is part of the problem. What problem, I’m not sure, possibly global warming.

Because my parents never discouraged my gaming and only encouraged me to get off my ass from time to time, I owe it to them to explain some of the terms this site uses on a daily basis. →  Read the rest

Recovering from World of Warcraft Part 2

Continued from part 1

What ultimately made me stop playing WoW wasn’t so much the new content or the failure in clearing it, but rather the monotony of clearing the old. Let me explain for those not familiar. When you kill a boss in WoW, it drops 2-4 pieces of loot. This can be class specific armor, or a weapon, or jewelry, or whatever. Your average dungeon has 7-12 bosses. A raid dungeon is typically cleared once a week due to reset timers. A raid group has 40 people. Each player has 19 slots of possible gear that can be worn at any time, not to mention extra sets of gear for certain battle roles (such as resistances, damage absorption, damage dealing, etc). There are also special “recipes,” and other miscellaneous items. →  Read the rest

Recovering from World of Warcraft Part 1

This article is long overdue, particularly because I haven’t played WoW in months. I’ve tried to write it several times, but it’s hard to capture all of my feelings about both the game and the genre and transmit it to you in a meaningful way. Plus, I’m lazy. Pimpin ain’t easy, yo.

Let me give you a bit of my MMO background. First, if you read this site and any of my postings, you know I crave connectivity. As a console RPG player, and an occasional table top gamer, I crave persistence. Although I love Final Fantasy and leveling my characters, I get frustrated with the fact that once they are topped out, the secrets of the game revealed and last boss beaten–they are done. These two factors together set me up to be an MMO junkie from the start. →  Read the rest

Laying this generation to rest: Xbox

The Xbox cost Microsoft a lot of money but as far as first entries into the console market go, was pretty successful. Not NES or PlayStation successful, but it sure made the Master System and CDi feel stupid. Microsoft’s machine thrived in Western markets and is seen by some as the hardcore system of choice. Apparently to these people, terrible Japanese support equals hardcore. Still, if you are a fan of FPSs and PC developers console games, the Xbox is an excellent system to own.

What would zombie Jesus do?

Joe –
Ninja Gaiden (Team Ninja/2004) — Told everyone what I’d been trying to say for years. Nintendo may have bought Sega (not literally) but Xbox got most of the games and the teams that made the Dreamcast fly. Ninja Gaiden also did major things for the way we look at arcade games and their interaction with Xbox Live. →  Read the rest