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The Magazine Treasure Chest – Part 2 – My work sort of in print

Giggas' Nintendo Power art

During my sorting of the Magazine Treasure Chest I came across two game mags that actually featured my work. Oddly enough, I’m not actually named in either of these minor accomplishments, but when you’re a youngster with dreams of writing for magazines like this, it doesn’t matter how you appear in them. First up is the October 1996 issues of Nintendo Power.

Okay it’s confession time. Back when Nintendo ran the Nintendo Power Source on AOL, I took part in an interactive story that was based in Hyrule. I don’t really remember much about it to tell you the truth, I just remember the rules were that no one could write about Link and Zelda. I’m sure there are hundreds of boards that still do this sort of thing to this day, but at the time it seemed kind of unique. Anyway I pretty much sucked at writing these stories, though I’m sure they were all absolutely terrible when you get down to it. Regardless, I enjoyed taking part in the first round of this new community feature (I never took part in any stories past the first, so I don’t know how long Nintendo ran these things).

During the course of the story, users were asked to hand in drawings of their characters so they could display them on a board for people to download. Since I loved drawing so much in those days, I of course took part in drafting a shot of my characters. The problem is that actually getting your pictures into the computer was kind of complicated! In those days it wasn’t common for someone to own a scanner, and no one was taking pictures with digital cameras. I actually had to go to a friends house to use his scanner so I could submit this thing to the site. I was happy to have been able to hand in my work, but I never would have imagined it would land in the pages of Nintendo Power. I wasn’t a subscriber at the time and I had found out that I was in there from others that I hung out with on the NPS.

Of course it’s “By Giggas” and not my actual name, but like I said, that didn’t matter. All that mattered is that my drawing was in Nintendo Power. I remember running to a bunch of stores trying to buy a copy of this but I couldn’t find it. My cousin was actually nice enough to lend me his when he got it. I’m not so sure he thought I was going to keep it, but that’s kind of what ended up happening, sorry Brian. At least I took really good care of it! Ha.

Two years later more of my work would be featured in the now defunct Ultra Gameplayers Magazine.

A buddy of mine that I had met through the NPS actually collaborated together for years on lots of fun online projects. He used it as a means to teach himself web design and coding where as I mainly used it as an opportunity to crank out content. He was always good at coming up the big picture, and I was generally pretty good at giving it some substance.

One of our projects was a Nintendo 64 fansite, as if there weren’t enough of those already, but his nice designs and my desire to write about everything gaming related led to the creation of TGE Online (True Gaming Edge Online, how cool were we?). We actually weren’t running it for too long when we heard that it would be featured in Ultra Gameplayers. We were pumped and of course scrambled to try and make the site better. Since it was his baby, he decided that it should encompass all games, but since neither of us really had anything but Nintendo at the time, it was a strange idea that I disagreed with. Looking back, I had no right to disagree, it was his site that he was footing the bill for. He was a few years older than I, so I was a bit hot headed over the whole thing. He did put me in my place, and I deserved it. So the day this magazine hit news stands he updated the site to be more than the N64, we got into an argument and then that was pretty much it for TGE Online.

Still, it was cool being featured in the mag! We were only a small blurb in the back of the magazine, but for us it was enough. I’m pretty sure UGP came to an end itself not much longer. That was one of those ones that showed up during the 32-bit era and just never got to leave it.

So these two magazines will survive the great magazine purge. They’re such small little things, it’s hard to say if they were really even accomplishments, but they felt like it then. I wasn’t in any sports or anything when I was a kid, so I never got any trophies. Yes, I’ve never received a trophy in my entire life. I wasn’t an honor student either so I never got any certificates telling me how great my grades were. In my little world, these were my trophies and these were what drove me to keep doing the stuff I enjoyed doing. Insignificant in the long run, but still hold a lot of value regardless.

Also worth noting, my old Jacquo cartoons that I said I’d never show anyone again were featured in a handout that went to subscribers to EGM. Well they were sort of features on the sheet anyway. It was simply a list of links to sites they thought were worth checking out, and my Jacquo cartoons were cool enough to watch I guess! I have the paper somewhere, but that’s buried in a completely different area.

Read the rest of the Magazine Treasure Chest

Part 1 – First Drawings of Jacquo
Part 2 – My work sort of in print
Part 3 – Magazine Memories
Part 4 – Old Drawings

Another Nintendo Day One

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I made a crucial error last night before bed. I put in my earbuds and selected the latest episode of Weekend Confirmed. I usually like to listen to podcasts as I go to bed, it helps me doze off. However, this episode started out with a lot of talk about the new Nintendo 3DS. I’ve been holding off on reading or listening to too much about the 3DS because I know my track record. I figured I’d wait a few months and then pick one up once I knew the water temperature.

I don’t know if it was going to sleep listening to the Weekend Confirmed guys praising the 3DS, but I woke up with one mission to accomplish.

I went out to pick up breakfast for the family (a Sunday tradition) and decided to stop by my local Target… just to check. It was around 8:45 am and no one was waiting in line by the door. I saw about 10 people standing outside the GameStop on the other end of the shopping center. I figured if people were lined up at the GameStop then there was probably no chance that Target had any left.

I decided to go in anyway… just to make sure (you have to be sure, you know). The place was empty, bu there were a couple people working at the electronics counter. The guy asked me what I was looking for and I said “Are there any 3DS left or if have they all been pre-ordered up”. They both laughed and said they had tons of them, what color would I like? I bought a blue one and a copy of Pilotwings Resort.

Something about Nintendo systems always brings out the kid in me. I sat on a curb in front of a Toys R Us with my wife the morning the Gamecube was released. I stood in line with the Shamoozal crew for the Wii’s midnight launch. I even pre-ordered a DSi from Amazon and raced home from work on my lunch break to intercept it. For me, Nintendo reminds me of Christmas mornings playing Mario games or exploring Hyrule after my homework was done. It’s something I enjoy with my six year old daughter in the same way that a parent might enjoy riding Dumbo with their child at the Magic Kingdom. It’s a connection between your own childhood and the child you’re raising.

So far since getting it home, we’ve been playing with all the pre-installed stuff. The AR Card Games completely blew me away. I really wasn’t expecting it to do anything that neat with the 3D. As I write this, my daughter is walking around the house taking 3D pics of the dog and everything else she can. I figure we’ll try out Pilotwings at some point today.

So there you go, Nintendo gets another day one purchase out of me.

Zelda’s 25th Anniversary – My Favorite Zelda Memories

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Zelda Close Up

Today The Legend of Zelda turns 25 years old. That’s probably older than most of you people reading this! I won’t bore you with a history lesson because those can easily be found all over the internet today. Instead I want to go over some of my personal favorite Zelda memories.

The gold game and the title scroll


The day my brother brought home his NES he managed to borrow a bunch of games from a buddy, one of them being Zelda, which I referred to as “The gold game.” Zelda at that point didn’t really make sense to me, but I remember liking it despite walking around the world map and completely avoiding dungeons as I found them too frustrating.

What I really loved about The Legend of Zelda, and what I still love about it, is that title screen and scroll sequence. It made such a lasting impression on me that to this day I still get the same joy out of watching it that I did then. That scroll screen was a brilliant idea really, as it gave the player a hint of all of the amazing secret items that are tucked away in the game. It doesn’t tell you what they do or how to get them, but it lets you know that they’re there and ready to be discovered. It gives the player a sense of scope before even seeing the game itself. And the title screen? How cool is it that when you hit the power button you get met with that thing? Especially in this day and age where players are forced to sit through a million stupid logo and warning screens before actually getting to a title screen.

Shadow Link


Growing up I had a love hate relationship with Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link. Sometimes I’d love it, other times I’d hate it as I saw it inferior to Zelda 1 (I still sort of do think its inferior, but I still love it). Anyway, it sounds silly today because it’s been done so many times before, but the fight with Shadow Link at the end of Zelda 2 was mind blowing. We thought that we just defeated the final boss, but upon entering the next room Link stands for a moment and then his shadow breaks from him. It’s here we’re met with the true final boss. It’s a common thing to fight a “dark” or “shadow” version of yourself in a game now, but this is the first game I can think of that ever did it (I’m sure it’s not though) and the reveal was awesome. It’s actually a frustrating a brutal fight (if you don’t use the cheat spot) but it is manageable with some practice.

In another somewhat brilliant moment, we’re introduced to Shadow Link throughout the game. At the time video games never showed shadows, but in Zelda 2 you’d get glimpses of Link’s shadow like when you’d defeat an end boss. While it appeared to just be a flashy effect, they actually made use of it at the end, having it separate from Link and attack. Also, look at Nintendo doing the whole silhouette thing 20 years before it became cool in more modern titles (like Limbo and Donkey Kong Country Returns).

Breaking the Seal

Zelda Tip Book
A Link to the Past was a huge game. While it was much more helpful than Zelda 1 in terms of it giving the player several clues and tips, it came packaged with a Tip Book that was separate from the manual. In an attempt to make players think twice about opening it, the tip book was actually sealed with a triforce sticker. My brothers vowed to never open the tip book, that they would overcome the game on their own. As a result, I wasn’t able to open the tip book either or I’d be in serious trouble. It didn’t matter much to me because I watched them play most of the game and just applied what I knew from them when I’d get to play it. However, one day my brothers found themselves stuck. They completed every dungeon and knew that they needed to blow up the crack at the Pyramid in the Dark World but they couldn’t figure it out. What were they to do? Doing the unthinkable, they broke the seal. There, listed as it’s final tip of the six pages lie the answer to “How do I get the Super Bomb?” And such a simple answer! Just go to the bomb store where it was already available. To come so far without having to open the tip book only to find such a simple solution is truly soul crushing. Amazing that such a tiny little book was responsible for a couple of teenagers to lose their gaming dignity. It’s all because Nintendo sealed it with a sticker. Pretty brilliant move.

The Wind Fish


There is a lot to love about Link’s Awakening, but when I think back to that game the one thing I always remember is that Wind Fish. I can’t really explain why, but it’s pretty magical for whatever reason. I suppose because the whole mystery of it during the game. We’re shown the Wind Fish egg the entire duration of the game, we know that it must be opened in order to win. At the same time we’re also told throughout the game that if we open that egg all hell will break loose. He may not have popped out the way we thought he would when we finally do it, but when he finally appears, it is indeed magical (and surreal). Magical, and somber actually, as the citizens of Koholint Island were right in that awakening the fish did cause the end of the world. Their world anyway, but it was required for Link to awaken from his nightmare so that he could survive.

The Forest Temple


Ocarina of Time is probably my favorite Zelda game. I know it’s sort of cliche to list that or Link to the Past, but I’ll be damned if Ocarina of Time didn’t change my perception of what games could be. The Forest Temple, probably the best dungeon in any Zelda game, is what I believe to be the embodiment of what Zelda is. It absolutely nails the atmosphere as it’s spooky, beautiful, and mysterious. The puzzles are just right, tricky enough to where you’ll be running from one end of the dungeon to the other trying to find clues and solutions, but never to the point where you’re just flat out baffled to where it’s a game breaker. The ominous music that plays in the background is probably one of my favorite Zelda tracks too, perfectly complimenting the mood. Then the final fight against Phantom Ganon is just the icing on the cake. I’ve actually started new games in this just to play up to this dungeon. It’s fantastic. Unfortunately, it’s so good the rest of the dungeons in Ocarina don’t feel quite as awesome. Though that desert temple one is cool, if not a slight pain in the ass.

Anju and Kafei


I’m glad the internet has come around to this fantastic sequence from Majora’s Mask. Majora’s Mask probably wasn’t as celebrated as it should have been thanks to it’s release timing. Coming out only months before the launch of the Playstation 2 and during the Dreamcast’s semi-decent first year run, the N64 was just an old hat, and considering Majora didn’t look much different than Ocarina, it sort of got the shaft. It is indeed one of the finest Zelda games ever created and the quest of Anju and Kafei is proof of that.

Link is tasked with reuniting a separated couple during the three day span of the game. Anju and Kafei were set to be married, but Skull Kid turned Kafei into a child causing him to go into hiding. During the three days Link works his ass off to get the couple to reunite so that they can be married. There’s even a fantastic sequence where the player controls Kafei, the first time where the player controls anyone but Link in a Zelda game, where the two work together to get a mask from a bandit. When the couple reunites, they know that they’re facing the end of the world. With time running out, the two marry despite Kafei’s appearance and await their impending doom together. Of course Link resets time, but in this version of the story, the couple dies together. It’s the most touching moment in a Zelda game, and the lengthy side quest makes amazing use of the three day time span showing off absolutely fantastic game design in the process.

Conducting for the first time & the secret sequel


I wasn’t really sold on the baton when reading about it before The Wind Waker was released. I wasn’t ready to let my Ocarina go, but the first time you’re asked to conduct in The Wind Waker changed my mind immediately. I’ll admit that I was seriously confused by it. I sort of just starred at the screen not really understanding what it wanted from me, but I had fun just screwing around, listening to all of the sounds and getting a grasp on the timing. When I finally composed the song, I realized this was something special.

Before leaving Wind Waker, another great moment was how it was a secret follow up to Ocarina of Time, with the big reveal of Hyrule underwater and tales of the Hero of Time. One of the first times a Zelda game directly referenced the efforts of a previous Link. What a cool moment.

Final Battles of Twilight Princess


I’m probably one of the few that really, really loves Twilight Princess. I personally feel its the pinnacle of 3D Zelda games (though I admittedly have more of a soft spot for Ocarina). I’m not sure how someone could like Ocarina or Wind Waker and not love Twilight Princess, but that isn’t what this is about. Anyway, Twilight Princess easily wins the “best final boss” contest when it comes to Zelda games. There are no less than four different battles, all testing Link’s different strengths. It starts with the usual reflect magic battles made famous in A Link to the Past, but then it quickly changes into much more dramatic affair. Remember that goat herding from the first hour of Twilight Princess? Who would have thought Link would use those skills to fight Ganon’s pig form so much later? And then there’s a great horseback sequence, and if that wasn’t enough you finally go sword to sword with Ganon himself. I mean, this is the sort of fan service stuff that was teased all the way back in the Gamecube’s original Zelda demo reel. And although sword swings are just simple waggle gestures in Twilight Princess, I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t seriously swinging that remote around like my life depended on it. For those few minutes, I finally felt like Link fighting Ganon.

So those are just a few of my favorite Zelda memories scattered across almost all the mainline Zelda games. I of course have plenty of others, but those are all the first ones I usually associate with those games when I reflect on them. It’s crazy that I’ve been playing Zelda games nearly my entire life and how they’ve never really gotten old (with the exception of Phantom Hourglass, probably the only Zelda I don’t like). While Nintendo isn’t officially celebrating Zelda’s 25th at the moment, it’s a great year to be a Zelda fan. With both Skyward Sword, Ocarina of Time 3D, and Link’s Awakening DS for 3DS download, there is no shortage of great Zelda content coming this year.

And I’ll probably buy all of it.

SCROLL: A zine created with classically trained game fans in mind.

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Ray Barnholt has been doing the game writing thing for a long time, cutting his teeth over at the now defunct but highly regarded GIA and later landing a gig at 1up.com. He was unfortunately let go by 1up.com fairly recently and has since created a magazine of his own called SCROLL. After flipping through the preview of SCROLL at the MagCloud website, I decided to buy a copy of it for myself. I was pretty much sold on the beautiful Star Tropics spread, and I don’t even like Star Tropics that much! Still, I hadn’t been this excited about a fan made paperback project since Jeremy Parish first started releasing GameSpite quarterly.

Anyway, my copy of it arrived in my mail box yesterday and after giving it a quick flip through, it seems to be exactly what I expected. What we have here is a true labor of love, and while the slim 40 pages appears to be light on content at its 10 dollar asking price, we need to remember that this is mainly the work of one man. When you look at it that way, it’s pretty impressive. Oh, and it’s completely ad free of course. The first issue’s focus is mainly on the SNES including game highlights and insight into topics like the hardware itself to more obscure things like a look at the SNES Player’s Guide (something Nintendo released not long after the SNES launch). For someone like me that has extremely fond memories of the SNES, this makes for a good read.

The mag has a really nice feel to it with a clean layout and plenty of large images (though some are a little low rez, but it’s no biggie). Barnholt seems to take lessons from a topic he actually wrote about in the zine regarding the use of real pictures throughout the issue in order to ground the content in reality. There are plenty of great shots he took of his Super Famicom (though I would have liked to have seen the SNES, since that’s what the book is about after all!) in different out door settings. His final thought is backed by a great shot of a telephone pole during a sunset. The images lend a certain warmth to them and are not the sort of thing you’d see in gaming print magazines these days.

While SCROLL’s focus appears to be on retro hardware and software, Ray also includes some current gaming news and info but only just enough. There’s a clear focus on the types of games that Barnholt himself is into throughout the zine, like Japanese developed titles for example. This steers the appeal of the zine more towards someone like me, a guy that grew up during the 8 and 16-bit generations. I imagine if you’re the type of person that frequents sites like Hardcore Gaming 101, Gamespite, and likes to grab the occasional Retro Gamer Magazine that SCROLL would be up your alley.

From what I’ve read I think it’s a really solid effort. I doubt this is something I could keep up with monthly, but based on this I would buy future issues here and there for sure. Check out a preview of the book and/or grab your copy. I wish Ray lots of luck and success with his latest endeavor.

999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors

999 Cover Art (US)

I’ve had an itch that hasn’t been scratched since the day I finished Hotel Dusk on the Nintendo DS. That game introduced me to a genre that I never knew existed and got me playing awesome series like Phoenix Wright and Professor Layton, but they didn’t quite fill the void. Compounded by the sad news that the sequel to Hotel Dusk “Last Window” will probably never come to the US, I had pretty much given up hope on getting an experience like that again. Then I came across “999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors” developed by Chunsoft and published by Aksys Games. After spending more than a few hours in the game I can safely say that this is exactly what I was looking for.

999 (as I will refer to it henceforth) is a Visual Novel that relies heavily on exploration, puzzle solving and conversational dialog to tell it’s story. The basic premise is this: You wake up locked in a strange room with no memory of how you got there. You are presented with the challenge of finding your way out by following a series of clues hidden throughout the room. Once you escape you find that you are part of something larger than you initially realized.

Many of the game’s puzzles are numeric in nature (given the title of the game that should come as no surprise) but there is still a good variety. You’ll often find yourself combining items you find to alter them and use them in unconventional ways.

The game’s art style is your standard anime fare with a wide range colorful characters that you’ll meet along the way. The music, composed by Shinji Hosoe, adds an additional layer of suspense and creepy ambiance. I just got my mitts on a copy of the OST and I’m jamming out to it while I write.

So, if you’re a fan of Hotel Dusk and you’ve been waiting for a game with a similar narrative and experience, look no further. Pick up a copy 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors today and dust off your thinking cap. You’re gonna need it.

Update 1/24: I’ve now completed 3 of the 6 endings for the game. I won’t reveal anything about them other than to say it’s amazing how your choices change the outcome each time. My first play-through took me roughly 6-8 hours. Each one since then has gone faster because you can skip through any cutscenes you’ve already watched. I’m working on getting the ‘real’ ending tonight.

Music Monday – Masashi Hamauzu “Chocobos of Cocoon”

Chocobo

Today’s music comes from the OST of Final Fantasy 13, which I’ve been playing a lot of. I won’t get into the actual game here as I’ll save that for a future post after I’ve finished it. However. the Chocobo theme is one of those nerdy songs that haunts our memories as RPG fans. There have been many iterations of it over the years, but this is by far the most… danceable version. Enjoy Masashi Hmauzu’s “Chocobos of Cocoon”

5 Biggest Gaming Letdowns of ’10 from ‘Whenever

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Unlike the previous list in which I went over my five favorite games from 2010 that did not come out in 2010, this list is made up of anything I have played from this year. Regardless of this rule, only one game that I’ve played from 2010 made the list anyway, so whatever. Anyway, the following five games are in no particular order and they vary in quality. Some of them are outright awful, while others just managed to let me down mostly due to expectations. Some picks will probably make you angry, while others you might agree with. That said, let us begin our journey!

Tomena Sanner – WiiWare – Originally released 2010

You’ve probably never even heard of Tomena Sanner, and that’s actually an okay thing. Being billed as a “One Button” game, Sanner takes players through a wacky world of whatever the developers could think of. I was drawn to Sanner because I’m a fan of quirky Japanese titles and the price point of 500 Wii Points wasn’t too shabby. After reading a handful of reviews that actually liked it, I decided to give it the ‘ol download. It took me an hour to finish the “game” and I immediately wanted my Wii points back so I could spend them on a much better NES game. Sanner sure does have a wacky sense of humor, but this on rails “one button does it all” game lacks any real thrill. You might laugh, sure, but there’s not much depth here and barely anything to keep the player coming back for more. It lacks the addictiveness of the simpler, much cheaper (or free) Canabalt and Robot Unicorn Attack, or the sheer ingenuity of one button gaming captured in the free One Button Bob from early this year. I suppose it isn’t so much that Sanner is a terrible game because it’s okay at what it does, just that there’s much better alternatives out there and for a fraction of the price (or in this case, zero price).

Shadow Complex – Xbox Live Arcade – Originally released 2009

I’m a huge fan of Metroidvania games, so when I first heard about Shadow Complex upon its anouncement, I knew I had to have it. Factor in the rave reviews when it was released and that made it even more clear that this was the 2D HD Metroid game I was waiting for. However, the game came out when my Xbox was dead, so when I finally got around to downloading Shadow Complex this year I was rather let down. Shadow Complex has the right intentions. It’s aping one of the greatest games ever created, but it does so in the most boring way possible. It looks about as generic as any other HD game with sterile, muted colors and boring environments. The lead character that might as well be Nathan Drake is an uninspired as they come, and his corn ball Master Chief meets Samus costume that he eventually earns is a joke. All of this would be fine if the core game held up well enough, but the awful control holds it back from taking advantage of what is actually a well thought out world map. The jumping mechanic is about as off as you’d expect in a 2.5D game, and the pseudo 3D twin stick shooting is a disaster. I eventually just gave up shooting and spent the entire game running up to guys and watching the same canned animation of the dude punching guards in the face. It’s a bummer, because the game offers plenty to do and would be an incredible value if it were actually any real fun. I ended up taking the quickest route through the game and never played it again. As an aside, the bitter gamer in me sort of hates the fact this game has probably outsold the games that inspired it (Symphony of the Night included) and it just sort of bums me out that people just want to play generic looking stuff like this. Anyway, it’s heart is in the right place, it just needs better art direction and tighter, more simplified control. Some music could help spruce things up too. Oh, and forget the lame story next time too.

Crash Bandicoot – Playstation – Originally Released 1996

I only played the original Crash game briefly back when it came out. I never really cared for the character and as a result never played any Crash Bandicoot games ever. After playing Uncharted 2, I had this crazy thought that maybe Naughtydog was this amazing company all along and that’s when I decided to go back and play Crash Bandicoot. I was surprised to see that Crash had much more in common with classic platformers of the 16-bit generation than a real Super Mario 64 contender that it was made out to be when it came out. I was also surprised to find out just how damn brutal and punishing the game was too, especially since I expected to blow through it in an afternoon. I wouldn’t mind the challenge if dying was my fault, but generally you’re falling down holes thanks to a terrible camera angle, or getting hit by an enemy thanks to both awful hit detection and (once again) poor camera placement. It lacks the momentum based platforming of 2D greats like Mario, Sonic, Donkey Kong, and even contemporaries like Super Meat Boy, and considering the amount of evil jumps laced through every single stage, it just kills the entire flow of the game. It’s one of the most frustrating and poorly designed games I’ve ever played in my entire life. It amazes me that Crash Bandicoot went on to have a rather good career, though thankfully time has not been on his side and his latest games are pretty much ignored by the masses. It’s hard to believe that Naughtydog went on to create Uncharted, I imagine no one from the Crash days is involved, either that or that just learned a lot since then. If that’s the case, good on them.

Fantasia – Genesis – Originally released 1991

There are a handful of somewhat cherished Disney games on the Genesis, highlighted by Castle of Illusion and its successor World of Illusion and sorta spin off title Quackshot. Having played through Sega’s very capable if not a bit aged Disney platformers just a year ago, I happened across a copy of Fantasia for a whole dollar at this years MAGFest. I can honestly say that I think I played this game for less than 3 minutes before being completely disgusted by it and immediately turning it off, returning it to the shelf in which it’ll never be played again. The title screen was the dead give away that this was not going to be on par with the others as it was developed by Infogrames and not internally by Sega. It’s one of those awful 16-bit platformers with semi-okay graphics and animation but completely unplayable. The difference in quality between a game like this and Castle of Illusion is actually pretty amazing. An absolutely awful game, no wonder it has been forgotten by time.

Gears of War – Xbox 360 – Originally released 2006

I almost bought an Xbox 360 to play Gears of War, but that Christmas I had a hard time explaining to my then new wife that I needed another console after dropping close to 400 dollars on a brand new Wii and games that November. So I sucked it up and never muttered a word about it again. As time passed I eventually found myself owning a 360 anyway, but never ended up getting Gears until this past summer.

Let me start by saying that I can appreciate what Gears was in that it was probably the first game to really have that true next gen look. Most 360 titles up to that point basically looked like higher resolution Xbox and PS2 games, but Gears showed us the future of video game graphics. On top of that, I suppose Gears can also be credited for bringing co-op back to the forefront of a game experience. It could probably also be credited for its refined cover based mechanics that have obviously inspired the rest of this gen, but lets be honest here, cover based game design has been around since the sort of terrible Winback on the N64. In that way I can see why Gears was important when it released. It was a bold game at the time and its ideas have, for better or worse, affected this entire generation. That said, Gears is a boring, already out of date game which has given me zero incentive to stick with it let alone play more games in the series.

I was sort of digging Gears at first, the control is mostly solid and shooting guys was fun for a bit, but from my experience with Gears, what you see in the first hour is what you see for the rest of the game. The game never makes you learn much more than stop and pop, and it never adds anything new to turn the experience on its ear and demand more from the player. It does one thing semi-right and it sticks to that for what I’m going to assume is close to 8 hours. I wouldn’t know because I became so frustrated playing Gears on single player that I stopped completely.

Your buddies are the biggest dip shits in the universe. I made it to the sequence where stepping onto dark spots will send in a bunch of hungry bats that eat everyone alive within seconds and the only way through is by blowing up propane tanks to light the way. It’s not a bad idea, but the fact that I continued to be punished for the dumb choices my partner made infuriated me to no end. My partner, Dom I believe, must have died 10 times on this sequence alone (this isn’t counting all the other times he died). The poorly placed check point meant that each time he died I needed to go through a wave of enemies again (another part where he would become an idiot and storm the bad guys, falling and most likely dying) and then hope to the lord above that Dom would be able to control himself once we made it through them. The worthless commands assigned to the D-Pad didn’t help matters either. Your comrades are going to do whatever the hell they want to do regardless of what you ask of them. Why even have them in there? It completely breaks the single player experience. Between doing the same thing over and over again and having Game Overs left and right thanks to my idiot pal, I grew tired of the game and turned it off. I remember the night I made the decision to never play it again.

And that is the most I’ll ever play of the Gears of War series for the rest of my life. I’ll give it the credit it deserves, but time clearly hasn’t been kind to this game.

So what have you played this year that was a let down?