Category Archives: The Attic

The Attic: Musical Prostitutes

I’ve seen a lot of eras in video games come and go, this is the result of having lived so long vicariously through a controller. Not just gamings fictional empires mind you, real ones too. In a similar manner, trends are a dime a dozen, their existence dependent on the whim of the public. You’ll see people move from one weird to the next, without ever questioning themselves.  Along will come these creatures of popular habit, lacking any real devotion to a particular cause. They in turn, become professional, in their attempts at being topical.

When the weird turn pro?

When the weird turn pro?

Some trends last longer than others, however. Many thought Pokemon was a trend, yet, it’s gone on to become the second best selling video game series of all time. Other trends, like shooters, seem to phase in and out of relative popularity, with major examples setting precedence. The music genre is another good example of something that seems to phase in and out of existence, as if a genre without a game, and a paradox that endlessly troubles.

Or put another way, a grin without a cat.

Or put another way, a grin without a cat.

As with many video games, the music genre was just one more I enjoyed. Going back to my earliest days with PaRappa,  to my fondness of getting heavy with DDR in the waning days of the arcade, my interest has come and gone with the genre’s champions. Guitar Hero represented a new take, and a certain potency of entertainment the likes of which I was unfamiliar. I was rocked, shredded, and jammed deeply into the plastic music scene like never before.

Somewhere between this.

Somewhere between this.

Somewhere between this.

And this.

The halfway point between made up and unreal.

Immersing yourself so greatly into anything this distracting has it’s down sides, however. Between finding it more difficult to lead a balanced gaming lifestyle, and the always regular rowdy social outings involving Guitar Hero (and eventually Rock Band), the game took it’s toll. Despite the sacrifices, I was always on high when playing the game, enjoying the titles intrinsic arcade sensibilities, with the substantial mix of new music exposure to always fuel my rage. The genre seemed destined to succeed, and remain on top, a conclusion of my delusion, and one my fever pitch seemed to induce.

Then this, as you may recall, this happened.

Not all too surprising for anyone following gaming news with any regularity. Bobby Kotick is infamous for his brutal business sensibilities,  and used Guitar Hero as a whipping boy of low quality chum entertainment. The series started out and lasted in a top tier quality for awhile, but once the wheels of success started to turn, all hell broke loose on the farm that was Guitar Hero. I was so busying enjoying the ride, I never stopped for a second to look down to realize what had happened.

This shit died long ago.

This shit died long ago.

Despite this, and never being one who gave whim to trend, I stuck by the series, long after it’s declared time of death. I played the series long before it became popular, and and nothing would change long after it had expired. The last title of note that came out, Guitar Hero (6): Warriors of Rock, was a bitter sweet swan song, and the focus of my last review from gamersinfo.net I will look at in “The Attic”. Weirdly enough, it also marked the last review I ever wrote for the site, before I moved on to other personal projects, and continued my freelance endeavors else where.

All in all, a punctuation mark in many regards, and one I hope you will enjoy in it’s finality.

This review (which has not been post edited), was posted on November 24th, 2010.

And now, our feature presentation.

The Attic Presents:

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock

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What seems like a lifetime since the last installment — at least compared to the torrent of regularity we witnessed on theGuitar Hero front last year — the joyous inevitability marches on. Another Q4 means another metric fun ton of gaming to carry on our shoulders, running to and fro with the burden of what many would consider an excess of entertainment. Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock tries its best to solidify and streamline one heap of an experience, rather than spread its epic self thin across several titles.

GH6 Pic 1

Songs, plastic instruments … I hope anyone reading this has played at least one Guitar Hero-related game sometime in the past five years. By now, the formula has been noticed, rediscovered, engineered, stabilized, experimented with, tortured, abused, re-imagined and exhausted, much like this description. You pick up your music controller of choice and either strum, slap, strike or scream your way to victory.

Between the guitar, bass, drums and vocals — and any band combination thereof thanks to recent innovations — there should always be something for everyone who wants to jump in. The only thing friendlier than the ways to play is the amount of difficult tuning involved. Ranging from picking a song and letting no fail do its work, or sweating out every ounce of effort while trying to FC (100 percent) the hardest song in the game, there are few rivals in the gaming universe that involve such constant evolution as far as the chance to understand and continually improve your skill and involvement in the experience. The instruments may be plastic, but to conclude that you couldn’t spend literal years mastering any one instrument and still not be anywhere near close to perfecting the craft is nothing short of a reality. Easy mode exists, too.

GH6 Pic 2

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock takes all of this for granted going in and already has all of the basics under its belt. The main focus of the game is to remind any wayward Guitar Hero fan why they loved the series in the first place by providing an amazingly diverse yet endlessly fun set list, with an array of ways to play, challenge and enjoy. The two largest portions of the game you’ll be spending most of your time with will be Quest mode and Quick Play+, and both are executed with bloody goodness.

Epic cheese is a great way to describe Quest mode, and the mood begs for nothing else. Narrated by Gene Simons (with a precise amount of corniness in his delivery), the tale of the quest to save the Demi-God of rock and music itself could only be undertaken by the Guitar Heroes that have been featured throughout the insanestorylines. Quest mode itself tries to play with what you would expect from a basic presentation of the set list and pushes itself to impress and dazzle you without ever shifting the focus away from the rightful heir to everyone’s attention, and that’s the music at hand.

The mixture of the set list with the cinematic presentation of the story is really what creates the charm of quest mode when combined with the all new rock transformations. More than just distractions, the rock powers acquired after said transformations add not only to the on-stage visuals, but fundamentally change how you will play and score in any of the songs. Some might reward you for hitting a lot of notes with more star power, while others actually bail you out in case of failing so you may continue playing without delay. Taking the journey with all of the different Guitar Heroes, watching a ministory unfold and then having their powers combine was way cooler than I was expecting. Top it off with an awesomecameo by Rush (the entire 2112 album), custom songs made exclusively for the game by Dave Mustaine and an ending that hilariously defied expectations, Quest mode starts, continues and ends with mindfully ridiculous style.

GH6 Pic 3

Though Quest mode offers a lot of bang for your buck — and a very cool new way of playing — the core experience of picking a song and rocking out still rightfully exists in Quick Play+. The + signifies the amount of options you have from here on out. The sizeable set list (93 songs) at base value (without any of the downloadable content or imports available) has instrument-specific challenges for you to accomplish even past that infamous five-star rating that might push you to see the set list to its insane ends.

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock has a decided focus on harder rock and metal, doing its best to emulate what Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock was known for, blistering fast passages and awesomely thicksolos. Though, as to stifle any concerns about learning curve, the many features and charting quirks of Guitar Hero 5are also present. So although the hard rock and metal focus exists, the extra features, such as no fail and, even in its simplest musical form, variety, makes sure everyone will find a favorite tune that doesn’t require head banging to enjoy.

GH6 Pic 4

found myself intrigued and downright addicted to several bands I had either never heard of or didn’t spend more time listening to. Some of the acts in question include Blind Melon, The Runaways, The Cure, Band of Skulls, RX Bandits, Red Rider, Snot and Arch Enemy, to name but a few. Half of the songs mentioned aren’t even extreme shred fests and are just good old-fashioned musical talent and note charts that entertain without being boring or trying. The game seems to have the most thoughtfully varied set since Guitar Hero III, somewhere between surprising and superb, without a boring chart in the mix, even on the slower numbers.

A good time to mention on top of the large pile of improvements I’ve mentioned is the redone music store, the borrowed (and very slick) lobby system from Guitar Hero 5 and the party play mode (press a button and you’re playing). The team at Neversoft seemed to have thought long and hard about what best parts from the Guitar Hero series to pick from, and from my perspective, cherry-picked all of the best to borrow. The game from its tip tops to its low bottoms are a special kind of polished, which might be a direct result of them focusing on one project instead of several.

GH6 Pic 5

You might be wondering if I’ve saved the next half of the review to bitch and complain about all of the negatives I forgot to mention in the first half. Nah, they are few and far between. One of the only major letdowns is the online community seems to be already in the process of destabilizing. I can’t count how many different times of any number of different days in the week I tried getting games only to have my bandmates pick the same four songs and then promptly rage quit out. I wasn’t able to discern if some unforeseen network issues existed or if everyone in Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock is really that sporadic when coming to terms with what song you might want to play, but I do know it was one of the only Guitar Hero titles I had such extensive trouble with online — and from a very early time after release. The functionality there works, and the integration with unlockables and progressing through set lists with friends definitely exists, but don’t be expecting many random jam sessions to work online, as it didn’t for me.

Still, a nice feeling washes over me as I sit back and listen to some nice tunes from the Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rockmenu, satisfied after a solid week of almost nothing but rocking out and looking forward to the intense replayability that awaits me. There exists a feeling of something bittersweet as well. Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock marks Neversoft’s last entry into the Guitar Hero series, after working on the games for more than half of the lifespan. This final entry drips with thank you, and the quality there definitely shows.

GH6 Pic 6

I have no reservations recommending Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock as a definite music experience and would push everyone, even those who had better luck in full rock bands than as standalone Guitar Heroes to invest. From here on out, the obvious uncertainty might indicate this might be the last time convenience and reliability meet with such ease, but you never know. Entertainment and appeal aren‘t synonymous. A game series doesn’t need to cater to millions and millions of people to be fun … that’s just how you make a ton of money.

GH6 Pic 7

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Needless to say, you can see a decided improvement in writing style, and quality from my Space Giraffe review I posted three years prior. At this point, I had written dozens of reviews over a series of years with consistent regularity, with GH6 being a fine culmination of my writing experience. More so in compartmentalizing what we already knew about Guitar Hero, without being redundant and remaining entertaining. I normally take this moment in The Attic to go into greater lengths about several mis-steps I made in the review or it’s erroneous ways, but this one represents a step up. Far closer to a more modern sense of how I produce work and execute it.

To add a relevant and interesting side note, I was immediately going to book end this review with a write up of Rock Band 3, due to me being a massive fan of both. This didn’t end up happening, due to a weird restructuring of the site, and my own personal agenda. I had lived in NH for my entire life up to this point (I was 22), and had recently found an opportunity to move to Colorado. This was written and posted just one week prior to the massive change in scenery, not just in my physical life, but my virtual one as well.

I never got around to writing the RB3 review, but irony rears it’s ugly head, as it so often does with the contradiction that is life and hobby. I refer in regard to the quality of both GH6 and RB3, at least in my humbling contrasted opinion. I thought GH6 represented an appropriate and high quality mix of the best GH had to offer, and was a far more solidly built game with few flaws overall. In contrast, I thought RB3 was, in many ways, a disaster. From engine problems, to odd design ethics, and tertiary execution, the game had a list of problems far outweighing that of it’s counter part, GH6.

Despite this, I ended up playing RB3 far more than GH6, and enjoying it for a greater amount of time, with play sessions happening to this day.

At the end of any rationale  a music game’s greatest strength lies in it’s set list, and Rock Band’s focus on a digitally fueled downloadable library, provided a breadth of ease and quality GH just couldn’t match. In many ways, GH was a victim of technology, which was the very same element that made it a power house.

With the recently harsh reminder Rock Band DLC was to come to an end, and Guitar Hero remaining dead, after having been killed by abusive masters, I arrive at just one more observation in a long line. We repeat ourselves, endlessly so. From a CEO who doesn’t know to leave well enough alone, to the sad untimely demise of a series we love. This deafening record skip of moving forward, is a painful mimicry of repeating the past. Upon retrospection, some of us are lucky enough to notice these doomed repeats of history, but are normally without voice, or any real power to change it.

As an industry, we become mis-guided, and often astray due to this ever lasting focus of finance. In turn, we as gamers, are led by a song and dance we don’t even know is forcing us to move.  We commit to these actions without awareness, and thusly, sell ourselves without question to these unjustified values of betraying movements.

Very often, we all just give in to becoming musical prostitutes.

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The Attic: Cel-Jaded

The oh so cyclical nature of moving forward, often involves recapturing the past…

In this way, I find myself fascinated with my own transformations within gaming, what attracts me, how I’m motivated etc…One doesn’t pursue the same interest for two decades with out some serious introspection, along side some heavy personal alterations.

Then again, some things never change.

Mega Man seriously re-considering his stance on capital punishment.

Mega Man seriously re-considering his stance on capital punishment.

All for the better that some things remain the same. Various video games have built mass empires based on the success of their formula, something I recently mused about in Encyclopedia Muranica. The idea isn’t that games can’t do something differently, it’s just that they can’t turn their back on formula entirely to do so. One series I point out as having the best of all worlds is the Legend of Zelda, with a history that has become so massive and rich, Nintendo recently released the Hyrule Historia. The tome chronicles, in great detail, the in’s out’s and what have you’s of the series, from the inner workings of Hyrule, to behind the scene commentary. The information on hand is quite explicit, and helps to explain the motivations and design ethics of the series as a whole.

A Miyamoto Quote Taken from Hyrule Historia: "What we really wanted to do with our Zelda preview (of a realistic fight between Link and Ganondorf) at Space World in 2000,   was to really piss all of the Zelda fans off, once we showed them what Wind Waker was actually going to look like. It was very successful in that regard."

A Miyamoto Quote Taken from Hyrule Historia: “What we really wanted to do with our Zelda preview (of a realistic fight between Link and Ganondorf) at Space World in 2000, was to really piss all of the Zelda fans off, once we showed them what Wind Waker was actually going to look like. It was very successful in that regard.”

In any case, I’m very satisfied that gaming has become renowned enough, so that a book like this can exist, and even make it to the top of the New York Times best sellers list. A good sign, if nothing else, that Zelda fans like to read as well as game.

Wisdom, Power, and Courage rolled into a single package.

I touch upon some of the qualities of the Zelda universe now, as I take another Link to the Past myself, and dig through The Attic to bring you an antique. With my recent efforts in showcasing Theory vs Execution, I brought up my own personal struggle in accepting Phantom Hourglass for the game it was. Not that I ever really embraced the title, but went out of my way to understand why PH went so astray from a series of such consistent quality.

So, in an effort to better detail my complaints in Phantom Hourglass, I now present to you my review of Phantom Hourglass, in it’s originally posted form on gamersinfo.net, from May 21st, 2008.

And now our feature presentation…

The Attic Presents:

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass Review

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Cel Jaded PH1

I LOVE Zelda games. Love, love, love them. A fanboy of Zelda? Sure! But… I think one of the harder things to do is ignore or deny such bias when taking a more critical approach to the material you have grown to love. To me, the Zelda franchise represents one of the cornerstones of the videogame medium, which has introduced, influenced and charmed generations of gamers with its simplistic yet stunningly beautiful gameplay mechanics. Phantom Hourglass has the task of giving Nintendo DS users a taste of what a little Link would be like in touchscreen format, after a waiting period quite familiar to most Zelda players. As DS and Zelda fans have been waiting eagerly to see the next big adventure in Hyrulian (or in this case, Great Sea) lore, does the game merit a “Get out of Jail” free card on the Zelda name alone?

The game starts out confidently enough, or familiar enough at least. After having saved Tetra (Zelda) from Ganondorf and maintaining calm waves on The Great Sea, she and Link continue on their way, mucking around in a boat and doing the pirate thing. There wouldn’t be an adventure if nothing happened, though, and in good fashion, the evil comes in the guise of the mysterious Ghost Ship and ends up enticing Tetra to come on over, leaving Link in the wake of a huge clean-up detail in getting her back.

The story with Zelda games more or less stays familiar, though the focus on Phantom Hourglasswas definitely the functionality and not the narrative. The DS has maintained itself as a legitimate system for a while now and little needs to be said on how well they’ve been able to use the features of the machine, especially the touchscreen. The move to control Phantom Hourglassentirely by touchscreen is bold to be sure. Not all of Nintendo’s biggest franchises have embraced the touchscreen mechanic, and pushing it for Phantom Hourglass really shows a combination of two different strengths the Big N knows its in possession of.

Cel Jaded PH2

You’ll start with the basics: how to move, control and attack with Link and the stylus. Little to no response has been lost to the transition in stylus control, as the way you hold a pencil will have more affect on you controlling Link than the system itself. It’s obvious they spent a lot of time fine-tuning how sharply you can turn, how fast you can move, and the recognition of when Link rolls and attacks every which way. The game possess a strong sense of intuitive control with the touchscreen, and the only people who will be beside themselves are those who won’t be able to distance themselves from the traditional style of D-pad and analog control for Zelda in the past couple decades.

The sword combat reminds me of the games somewhat 2D, 3D nature, as there isn’t the “z-targeting” feature found in the 3D ventures and the mechanics stick to short jabs and limited variety in the swordplay department. While implementing the sword art is very easy with the stylus, only a few variations are found, with your shield being an automatic battering ram when lined up with the enemy attacks. For the 2D mechanics (3D being the graphics style), it works fine, as I never really had complaints with the Oracle’s (or Link’s Awakening) combat “systems,” or any of the top-down Zelda games for that matter. The only reason it gets mention here is how enjoyable I found the rather cultivated sword arts to be in Wind Waker, despite people cries of sorrow for the game’s “shallow kiddy atmosphere.”

The other quirks of the DS system are used in complementary and unique ways here as well. While there will be certain times when you will have to use a combination of voice or breath to solve small puzzles, you also will use the structure of the DS itself in an interesting way. The ability to make notes on almost all the maps and write and draw symbols and diagrams to further your way into the several dungeons and overworld areas cements this game as a strong practitioner for excellence in DS controls. The game’s exploitation of DS functionality is superb and its strongest suit, whether that be for better or for worse.

The worse I mention lies within the reflection that Nintendo and the DS has had on the Zelda series itself. Nintendo’s “blue ocean” strategy of attracting as many new gamers to its systems as possible is affecting the very way its games are being made, and subsequently played. Even with the DS system having a more casual crowd, I’ve always been impressed by the ability of several of the familiar franchises to allow for many roads to be travelled by several types of gamers and have none worse for the wear. Phantom Hourglass has missed this treatment, unfortunately, and has made this old Zelda fan bitter because of it.

Cel Jaded PH3

While I’ve had a slight problem with the Big N’s recent changes to its traditional formulas, this is clearly highlighted in Phantom Hourglass. Every Zelda may have the same age-old feel, but this was always a positive notion — you’re back in the same place you love to visit. Each Zelda is dressed up in marvellous ways to differentiate itself each time it starts anew so that you never feel bored, even with the same pattern of events. Each portrays a new unique take on adventure and exploration so that you never get bored with what the game has to offer.

In fewer words, Phantom Hourglass just doesn’t seem up to Zelda standards. The handheld arena is no excuse, as previous Zelda games have delivered in exactly the same way you’d expect the console brethren to live up to. The progression is too slow, with the first three dungeons holding your hand for far too long. The magic of sailing on the Great Sea has all but vanished, as so much of the travelling is automatic; there seems to be little room for the boat mechanics to really even take a large part in interactivity. I realized that something was missing when I had yet to complete any major side quests halfway through the game, and how most of what was offered on the various undiscovered islands were tiny minigames for rupees and the occasional heart container.

The item selection is a bit tawdry as well. Things like the boomerang and bow and arrow aren’t causes of major complaints, but I guess there really isn’t enough content here to spread out the gadgets’ usefulness. I felt as almost all of the previous items became superfluous after their newer counterparts were received. You would get a better version of the last dungeon’s toy, with the exception of the grappling hook. The grappling hook provided what was one of the only exciting dungeons for me in the entire game, and then later abandoned some of its more entertaining aspects shortly thereafter. The hammer feels to cheapen combat; and to make bombchus a main level’s item … felt a bit lackluster to me, considering the last level’s items were already bombs. Also, when making a dungeon, make sure the dungeon’s premise is not backtracking on time limitations. I couldn’t count the times I felt like I was being hassled through the Ocean King temple with only the feeling of chore on my mind.

Another huge gripe I had with the game was the puzzles it offered. I’m all for exercising the brain in a bunch of goofy ways to pass the time in the Zelda franchise, but Phantom Hourglass would chime in with the puzzles solution before you even got a chance to solve it yourself! With the exception of one memory puzzle (which you could still practically bypass by paying rupees), the game would present you with a seemingly cool little time sink in creativity, only to have the game allude to the answer and then give it completely away. The worst area I’ve ever played in a Zelda game, the Island of the Dead, was the main offender in this case. The entire thing was set up as the big puzzle island; yet you arrive there to find that every time you think you’re about to be given a step to solve something, you’re walked right through the solution in what turns out to be a terrible waste of time. The game breaks so many of the cardinal rules of Zelda in my eyes, and the entire experience feels lacking because of it.

Cel Jaded PH4

Changing gears a little … I’m glad to see the graphics for the DS still being pushed to the limits, as Wind Waker-esque visuals are being used here as much as possible. Cell shading has lost a little in translation with the smooth rounded textures, but the enemies and character models don’t fail in an eye-catching sense because of this. The little water and fire effects are still appealing, and aside from the weird shape of Link’s head (he looked far more expressive inWind Waker), the only source of contention I would have is with the dungeons themselves.Phantom Hourglass seems on the whole a lot darker then the brighter contrasts you find inWind Waker. From rather bland rooms to an overall feeling of missing description, the transition in graphics is a good rendition, even if it falls short of being a fantastic recreation.

I’m driven to habit every time a Zelda game comes out. It’s like clockwork. The game launches, I run to grab my copy and I play the hell out of it straight until it’s beaten. Then when I’ve finished, I go back for more because I couldn’t believe how incredible it all was. It’s been this way for me since way before I could even buy games myself and way before 3D was even “the next generation of gaming.” So were my expectations too high for this game? No, because I try not to read into hype and, generally, avoid a lot of information on the game before release to stay fresh. My problems may have simply laid in the series itself and putting a lot of stock in what I expected from it (and how it always seemed to deliver without fail). So when I say that Phantom Hourglass has this problem, or that problem, or how much I didn’t enjoy this, it’s simply me disliking the direction the game was given and not that the experience overall wouldn’t be fun for a lot of other people.

Even though it felt like the gameplay took backseat to showcasing what the DS could do, I’m saying as a long-time Zelda fan, it seemed that the game lacked so much flavor I’ve known with the other entries, and Wind Waker in particular. While I believe that a lot of DS owners could get some mileage out of this Zelda game, it’s definitely not my Zelda game. With missed aspirations to a spot-on translation, this game not being of Zelda quality seems like an oxymoron in premise and, ultimately, leaves me wondering if this is the sign of rocky times ahead in the series. If you’re looking for a slew of quick fixes when you’re on the road, try the game. If you’re looking for the kind of epic nature Zelda provides, even in a smaller portion, be happy you have the GameBoy Advance slot on the bottom of your DS.
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Where to start…

Thinking back to this review, and reading it here now, I sometimes wonder if my editors at gamersinfo read through my reviews in their entirety  Clearly, this review needed some extra time, but a simplistic gaming  faux pas, like the common misspelling of Cell-Shading instead of Cel-Shading, makes my skin crawl. Posting these old reviews without any touch ups can be a painful reminder of my own historical flaws, at the very least. Quite surprised I come off so positively through out this review. Phantom Hourglass was a very real kind of frustration, in every sense and meaning of the word.

I believe I tried to be too falsely optimistic in this review, perhaps with the denial that a Zelda game could actually fail so hard. I know this second hand critique of my own opinion brings into question my entire credential as a reviewer. All I can say to this line of thought is, I am just as flawed as the next gamer. While some of the DS functionality is fun (note taking), and the touch controls do their job, it’s more of a lack of in game control that bothered me.  The whole pseudo 3D feeling  (2.5 D really), is what truly irked me. I liked Link’s Awakening for the faithful 2D translation it provided, and greatly disliked PH’s  failure in re-creating a true 3D environment, much like Wind Waker was. Phantom Hourglass, and this lazy reliance  on the aesthetic of Wind Waker, rather than the depth of Wind Waker, is where the game falters the hardest.

I felt as if I stumbled in warning how much of a Zelda fan I am, with my own correlation of how lacking the game really is. The finishing line “If you’re looking for the kind of epic nature Zelda provides, even in a smaller portion, be happy you have the GameBoy Advance slot on the bottom of your DS.” seemed to accurately express my own distaste for the game. I am further surprised reading the review today that I didn’t take this more caustic approach in describing it from the get go.

Well, I’m not sure if this is the last time you’ll hear about Phantom Hourglass from me. The succulent irony of a huge Zelda Fan, going on about the only game he didn’t like, rather than all of the one’s he does, should give you an idea of I derail myself in every day life. Phantom Hourglass left me in strange places, with strange questions, and helped to blur my own sense of the fictional. I no longer was seeking Zelda in my spare time…I desperately needed to find her.

Eventually, I looked to the skies for my answer.

But that’s for another time….and that about wraps up my thoughts on Phantom Hourglass…again.

The oh so cyclical nature of moving forward, often involves recapturing the past…

In this way, I find myself fascinated with the Zelda Series transformation within gaming, what attracts me, how the games motivate me etc…one doesn’t pursue the same gaming series for two decades without some serious introspection, along side some heavy personal alterations.

Then again, some things never change.

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The Attic: Hyper Dimensional Long Necked Rainbow Future

Title and picture Related, I swear.

Title and picture related, I swear.

Support for the Dreamcast, at this point, far beyond it’s twilight hours, is nothing short of astounding. For anyone unaware, official hardware support ended for the system in 2001, so games coming out on the damn thing in this day and age has many aghast. Heart warming to others who yearn for the past (and those who appreciate it).

The Dreamcast still holds a special place in many gamers hearts, and for good reason. The system’s main competitive downfalls foreshadowed the future of the industry, with piracy being a key point. The PS2’s multimedia functionality with the DVD drive, and a lack of third party support also acted symbolic as the final nails in the DC’s coffin. Despite this, the system had an unmatched launch lineup (even to this day), and an oddly fantastic library of titles.  This is on top of many of the system’s seemingly premature tech rationality for consoles at the time, like a dedicated start up menu hub, online support, and screen in controller action with the VMU’s.

Too Future.

Too Future.

In any case, the system still has my admiration too, and some of the games still trickling out for the system from indie devs stands to impress. One of the latest, Neo XYX, is a schmup after my own heart. The game looks to be smooth as bullet hell games get, and anything that helps to build the house that Silvergun and Ikaruga did, is okay in my gaming book.

Due to the optimistic realization I had about a new Shoot’em up for the Dreamcast, I thought I’d take another opportunity to add another chapter to my feature “The Attic”.

My first round of posts involved the earliest of days, in the before times.

Bobby Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard, speaks at the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York
In the Long Long Ago
(Clicking on the above link makes the joke funny!)

While my first attempts at humor and game relating writing are, adorable, I marched on with confidence, always striving to improve. This next post for The Attic, entitled, Hyper Dimensional Long Necked Rainbow Future, is my very first freelance game review for the site, gamersinfo.net, which was posted on December 30th, 2007.

Enjoy…

And now for our feature presentation.

The Attic: Hyper Dimensional Long Necked Rainbow Future
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Review: Space Giraffe

In my mind, a company by any other name than Llamasoft could not do justice to a game entitled Space Giraffe. Be prepared for a bombardment of chaotic visuals, an audio track as helter-skelter, and gameplay that can only be described as an abstract twist on classic arcade gaming. Obi-Wan Kenobi once said, “Your eyes can deceive you, do not trust them.” He could have been talking about Space Giraffe. The aforementioned gameplay might dissuade the faint of heart, but reward anyone who would give the game the chancesto see that it something beyond sight and sound: it is a feeling, and that is one quality that many games fall short of.

Rainbow 4

Obscured by layers of visual happenings is a very addictive and simple game – once you get into the groove of things. Your avatar is of course a giraffe, with a clearly visible extended neck and extruding hooves to move you on the long trek. Your giraffe stays on the outer rim of a gigantic 3-dimensional surface – think of it as a far stretching tunnel rave drenched in an explosive rainbow of madness – while you try to navigate to and fro, all the while avoiding enemies tasked with your demise.

The gameplay begins with learning to defend your giraffe using bullets he is able to shoot from his hooves that can either destroy foes or reflect back the enemy’s bullets and buy some much-needed time. As a last ditch effort, your giraffe can jump – allowing ample clearance for aerial destruction with your hoof projectiles – boosting you to the neutral zone in between the giraffe’s safety and the enemy’s home field: the Power Zone.

The almighty Power Zone can be as small as mere centimeters or as far reaching as to invade the area where enemies spawn. The crux of the battle is fought in the Power Zone as the exchange of enemy fire, hoof bullets, and number of power-ups is excitingly evermore present as time progresses. The Power Zone not only slows enemy bullet speed, but allows aid in the form of more accurate hoof shots. Here is also where the Bull Rush occurs.

Rainbow 5

As you destroy enemies (or the giraffe does his aerial acrobatics), the Power Zone becomes extended and weakened. When enemies reach the outer rim of this extended Power Zone and the giraffe is near, you may in a delightfully satisfying endeavor, use your avatar to physically bull rush any number of enemies in a domino effect and rack up a much needed multiplier which in turn gives you a greater score.

However, if the Power Zone is not extended, very little can be done to continue self-preservation. A single smart bomb is issued per life, and its effects are great indeed. If all else fails, activate the smart bomb and any enemy within proximity will be instantly obliterated, allowing you another opportunity to continue your quest for high score domination.

Rainbow 6

What I feel really makes Space Giraffe stand out from many other arcade titles, is that while all of this crazy jumble of incoherent madness is going on, there’s a seemingly conventional humor underlying all of the levels. From Mario quotes to obscure fighting game references; Monty Python to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; and even the eyes of Jay Allard on the introductory level – not to mention some far left of conventional level names – it all really sets a mood of subtle hilarity.

After spending as little as 30 minutes with Space Giraffe, you’ll find yourself  responsive not only to the action on the screen but also to a smorgasbord of color leaving you with a feeling of success at overcoming wave after wave of bizarre enemies. It is a sense of accomplishment and fun, added to the humor, which separates an arcade game from the truly fun arcade games.

The bonus levels are a nice touch to the already nutty trip, by giving you a breather among the madness. Once activated after certain power-up requirements are met, you let your giraffe drift in nothingness as you steer his hooves through flower pedals as he remarks on how tasty they may or may not be. Accompanied with the music, they are somehow calming and very welcomed among the incredibly hectic later levels. I thought the music, while not memorable, did a very good job of accompanying the onscreen action at any given point, and further cementing the norm space giraffe never frequents. Of course, even for Space Giraffe, the good comes with the bad. Luckily in this case, I don’t believe the negative outweighs the positive by a long shot.

Rainbow 7

There is one true negative that comes to mind with the level variety – not the variety itself mind you but perhaps some of the design within. Within the later levels of Space Giraffe, when all the baddies are present and accounted for some of the levels power zones are that of pure insanity. And it’s not the crazy good I’ve mentioned thus far, but the kind of crazy only the maniacally evil in possession of mustaches they may fondle could possibly enjoy. Some are clear and away unfair as they are a straight shot to the enemy spawn point, with little to no respective camera control to the action. Others are so mangled in zigzag, that there is little time to react and therefore no way to determine from which angle you met your demise. Memorization of levels is obviously a must for the latter portions of arcade architecture, but I feel to a point and purpose. Understanding abstract is wild enough, but comprehending and thusly moving thru what can’t be seen? A might unfair me thinks. Luckily, the poorly designed stages are few and far between and the vividly entertaining levels progress nicely with advancing skill and entertainment.

For those who have physical limitations and cannot tolerate intense light and sound the eyeful that Space Giraffe emits may not be for you. The graphical engine based upon the neon light visualization software from the Xbox 360, that accompanies the music player when listening to music. If you might be one of the people who is even remotely aggravated by its mere mention, I give condolences for your anger management problems, and advise you, among other things, to steer clear of Space Giraffe.

I grew up and continue to love arcade experience and the challenge they provide, and Space Giraffe is no exception. While a learning curve exists – with level 32 standing at a wild exception to an abnormal difficulty bump early on – I can only comment that the later levels will truly test dedication and arcade merit, as I have only marched my giraffe a bit past the afore mentioned third of the games entire content.

Rainbow 8

I find this to be the greatest feature the game possesses, in a charming way to compliment an experience that may have been lost otherwise on all but the hardcore and giraffe fetishists alike In the end, as much as entertainment is first and foremost for me as the most basic of principles, difficulty is always a close second when dealing with any game – and an underlying rule in arcade experience. In this example, you can only play through a game once, so any arcade game worth its numbers in high score has to maintain on the value of replayability. With what I feel is a falling standard, or the very least, a shortage of purely awesome challenges in gaming, something like Space Giraffe is easily refreshing for an old school challenge, and well within the reaches of sane learning curves to boot. Conveying what Space Giraffe has to offer is only offset by how much of a strange first impression the game gives. I would point out that anyone with a healthy appetite for the alternative would benefit greatly, leaving plenty of room for the curious, and just as much for anyone else thirsting for a greatly unique arcade experience.

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A little rough around the edges, to be sure. One of the main elements I enjoy about looking back at some of my old work, was my aptitude in analyzing game design, but not possessing the articulation to do so. I will hide behind the fact that this work was edited by someone else on the site, which relieves me of some of the intense pains the grammatical errors bring. As a younger writer, I also adhered to the bad habit of run on sentences, and my prose is quite dry in describing some of the more technical aspects of the game. Space Giraffe is a hard exposition to convey, and with sentences as awesomely confusing as “allowing ample clearance for aerial destruction with your hoof projectiles”, you can imagine the difficulty I had as a first time freelancer in writing an effective review.

I was super excited to get the chance to be free lance, and few smiles on my face have reached both ears as effortlessly, as the smile I possessed when I got the code to unlock this game for free. For free! All I had to do was play the title, and tell people about it!  My Cloud 9 was sitting dead center in Giraffe Space. Needless to say, I’ve put a lot of years and efforts into honing my craft, which you will likely see in the future when I post more topical reviews. My true confidence pushing me forward involved an endearing critique from my first Editor, Kelly who said “Your reviews all come together at the last minute. If I’m ever unsure or weary about the game, your last paragraph perfectly surmises everything I’d ever need to know about what that game is all about”.

A long march in back of me, and a rainbow future in front.

(Also not Bobby Kotick, which is a form of success).
 

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The Attic: The Bog of Backlog

When I was younger, I created a rather short to do list in my life:

1. Beat every game I play
2. Meet Future Me

I’ve since crossed one of those off of my list as implausible.

What I'm realistically expecting to see any day now.

What I’m realistically expecting to see any day now.

Something like the inevitability of never finishing every game I play is secondary to the fun I have of course. I see this in my later years, not soon enough realizing the value of quality vs quantity. This doesn’t make my gaming life any more predictable, mind you. Not a day passes where I’m not reminded of the unexpected happening, the future excels in this regard. My expectations in gaming are always adjusted, which can elevate and dissipate my mood, very normally in a 24 hour period. The every day is a balancing act, and coming out even at the ass end is a victory in my book. Sometimes, it’s not a matter of IF you can, but a matter of WHY you should.

Pictured: A man who doesn't know the difference between the IF and the WHY.

Pictured: A man who doesn’t know the difference between the IF and the WHY.

I remain positive, retaining my adjusted expectations, fully aware of the daunting tasks ahead. Even when I’m reminded of all of the things I don’t have at the moment, I’m motivated to not accept defeat. Double Fine’s new IOS game is a unique example of far outside my applicable back log, still not even owning an I-device for which I could use to play the game.

A game about super heroes, Tim Schafer, and it’s free.

For all of those able, back log be damned…

…and with that, I move onto my my last entry (for now) into my feature “The Attic”, with my final piece from The Myspace Era of early writing. This piece, with the rather horrific name “Mungo Jerry Knew”, was likely written in an insomniastic rage fueled by little more than caffeine and a lust for gaming. The date of post was June 15th, 2009.

Enjoy.

The Attic presents…

OUR FEATURE PRESENTATION
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Mungo Jerry knew…

 …almost everything about the summer time except what a considerable boon to your gaming it can be, if one were to designate time properly. Well, time management is a skill that should be considered by everyone, not just the busy. I say this only to convey the message that with proper time management skills, you can be busy whenever you feel like it, which is a plus for the lazy and motivated a like.

I speak of summer as a golden ace with almost a certain clarity. Being the time of year any rational gamer would use as a catch up method is no dark secret, anyone who’s been around for even one half assed gaming cycle should know. Though I’ve somehow found myself entrenched in the bog of backlog far too long (circa the Outer Haven incident), I could easily list the experience as one of the best problems I’ve ever had. I would struggle trying to have all of the fun I could, marching on with an insatiable appetite parallel only to my eclectic tastes which drove me to this amazing swamp in the first place. I’ve yet to decide whether drowning forever in a bog of backlog is a comfortably doomed experience, or a celebratory spice that only variety is aware of in a lethal kind of way.So far, thanks to certain people who will be named (Jess), I’ve been able to discern and concentrate on how and when. “The List” has dulled my sense of chaos, and I have claimed success in pushing through swarms of enjoyment like you wouldn’t believe. The rhythm based scene still has me deep in a snare, but I maintain a careful balancing act, knowing one day that my dual analog will out weigh my colorfully clicky axe in destructive enjoyment once more. My parade of gaming shenanigans will no doubt eclipse the summer in full with priority after priority of everything I may still need to purvey…which is fine in the long run. The challenge is only outweighed by how much fun I usually have, whether or not that entails establishing my own series of brutal cock fights with adorable creatures, or longing for a more accurate way to roll a monkey around, which is as amazing as the sex involved might be if my waggle wiggled right. Motion control will continue to be the bane of my existence, until the parties responsible go through with the ever so important equation of 1:1 control, a nice fuck you other wise.
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(As an aside, like my first few Myspace rehashes in The Attic, this write up was untouched for authenticity)

This piece is quite loaded, and as mentioned, was thrown onto a screen without any proper care for intent or reason. I cover a lot of stuff here, not in the least of which is my recently discovered backlog problem, which I’ve referred to lovingly as the name of this attic post. Mungo Jerry was a British rock band responsible for the 1970 song “In the Summertime”. Pretty sure I was in a groggy state of silliness, and found the lead singer’s voice hilarious.Just to get that out of the way.

For the rest of the unfocused thoughts, I still maintained a nice clarity about my writing. This makes sense, as I have mentioned, I was knee deep in my freelance work for gamersinfo.net at the time, and was writing a variety of gaming reviews for them. Still, my editing and proofreading skills…not 100%. More to the point of gaming, I touch on a few golden basics, like the summer catch up, and what would be the standard of back logs. I refer to The Outer Haven incident as signifying one of the earliest moments of realization. This confuses me, as I remember the Christmas of 2007 being a more proper genesis of backlog  related crises. Being completely absorbed into the Guitar Hero/ Rock Band scene didn’t help, and would dilute my free time to the point of contradictory woe. One truly grisly example is buying the collectors edition of Fallout 3 on launch day, and never opening it.

Ever.

I also bitch a little about the Wii, forecast my inevitable disappointment with Nintendo’s lack of engaging 1:1 motion control titles, and also put forth the mention of “The List”. This was a tool I used to combat The Bog of Backlog. While it really only was a simple check list, it helped greatly, and marked the beginning of a new era for me. “The List” ended up being of a legendary status in completionism, with an added ripple effect of self-awareness. I mean to say, that this was about the same time I evolved my original concept of “The Minor Rules of Nothing Major” idea into something of an actual tangible tome of knowledge.

Encyclopedia Muranica was concocted, and then put into motion as a legitimate outlet for my writing and gaming to reach new heights of collaboration.

The stage was set, the players present.

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The Attic: A Man Chooses, A Slave Advertises

Many important things happened today, to someone, somewhere.

Not necessarily in gaming….

Seems to be a shit storm kicking up in regards to box art, but the whole back and forth is the classic dichotomy of creativity vs. industry. The inevitable 180, when an artist comes up with an idea, and someone tries to thank them with a mis-directed  smile and a  mugging.

The first box art bonanza popped up a couple of days ago, in regards to the motivations behind the rather uninspired BioShock: Infinite cover. Ken Levine simply responded with “meh” (citation needed), and went on to say further that anyone needing the box art to decide their purchase, needs a cover like that to convince them.

He followed his initial statement with the helpful sentiment that you’d be able to participate in a community vote here, which will ultimately lead you to printing a much more attractive cover art.

Some of us plagued by this issue, sadly, predate this useful mediation.

The first reason Dr.Wily didn't create Suicide Man.

The first reason Dr.Wily didn’t create Suicide Man.

With those thoughts out of the way, I continue my foray into the past,  by presenting yet another piece of older writing in my feature “The Attic”. This next piece was chosen as the second of three entries from my earliest days of writing personal jive on Myspace. This particular piece was posted September 17th, 2008, more than a full year after “Gotta Ban Em’ All”.

More thoughts after the write up…

and now…

OUR FEATURE PRESENTATION
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A Man Chooses, A Slave Advertises

I am Pashford Murano, and I’m here to ask you a question. Is an MMO player not entitled to the sweat of his brow? No says the EQ player, it belongs to me. No says the FF11 player, it belongs to the designer. No says the WoW player, it belongs to everyone. I rejected those answers; instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose, Warhammer! An MMO where the player would not bore of the PvP. Where the users would not be bound by petty collision detection. Where the great would not be constrained by the small! And with the sweat of your brow, Warhammer can become your MMO as well.

Now play around with the trial version, would you kindly?
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A far different write up than my first attempt, and with a lot of my style attached to it. While the bulk of the post is largely just a modified version of Andrew Ryan’s speech at the beginning of BioShock, you can see where I’m headed in my efforts. The amount of time that had passed between this post and my last one, isn’t quite as important as the amount of writing practice I got in the interim. I was lucky enough to be offered a position writing for gamersinfo.net as a reviews writer, based off a random two in the morning exchange I had with the owner while playing Beautiful Katamari.

She was thrilled she met someone on Xbox Live who used punctuation instead of racial slurs.

I succeed at impressing, and wrote a couple dozen  video game reviews, helping me to strengthen  not only my writing habits, but my gaming resolve.

The concept within “A Man Chooses, A Slave Advertises” was directed at my hearty swath of friends, who always tried to get me to play WoW. I enjoyed playing a variety of games, and could never commit to the rather involved endeavor of an MMO, let alone Warcraft. Yet, time after time, their “unwavering devotion” and love was routinely second guessed by some impossible hope the next MMO was somehow going to top WoW. They had gone on to such great lengths about Warhammer (releasing at the time), that even my interest was peaked.

I wrote “A Man Chooses” as a sly poke at the inevitability of Warhammer going top side. While they might have been under the impression, I quickly observed that Warhammer  would in fact, not represent the ideal of Rapture. It would instead,  sink in spirit as fast as the hopes and dreams of an underwater Utopia motivated by narcotics, and the genetically enhanced corner store magic powers they represented.

And oh, how things got wet.

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The Attic

After a long rampancy of posts regarding the Wii U, and shouting about the consoles initial endeavors, I take a moment of pause. Not to say you will hear no more about the system, mind you. Nintendo will likely get another five good years of magic out of the S.S Wii U. Shortly there after,  metaphorically start sinking, and responding by turning the on board faucets to full blast…

…all in the name of collecting on their insurance money returns.

Nintendo's Accountants.

Nintendo’s Accountants

In any case, this not being my first online venture, I figured I’d provide a little historical context to my writing. While the story of how I’ve progressed my skills won’t dazzle, I suspect my “online clippings” from writings of old will better help to frame how far I’ve come. This will take the form of a new feature called “The Attic”, and will chronicle some of my earlier attempts of gaming entertainment.

My first scrapped idea, as the alternative to this feature, was attempting a cyclical approach of posting content. That is to say, write enough content for one month, and then keep re-posting it, and disavow any knowledge of the intentional repetition.

One example of my "new content".

One example of my “new content”

Once the site attracted enough readers, and my perceived apathy/trolling caught enough flak, I would then pass it off as some kind of viral marketing ad scheme to advertise one of the re-releases of the Bill Murray film, Groundhogs Day. This would trigger a thoughtfully aggressive debate between my fan base, on whether I had “past my prime” or was too avant-garde for the internet masses to understand. All the while, fueling the debate on both sides by releasing the same content.

One example of my "new content"

One example of my “new content”

Of course,  I enjoy the prospect of writing about video games, and immediately condensed the idea into a two paragraph and three picture joke.

Seen Here.

Atic New

Digressing intensely to my much better second idea. I present to you one of the first major thought’s I ever posted online. I wanted to avoid pulling a Lucas, and did no editing whatsoever to the piece, presenting a more accurate picture of who I was at the time. Therefore, the initial concept is left untouched, leaving it in it’s original incoherent state from April 5th, 2007.

Try to enjoy it.

AND NOW OUR FEATURE PRESENTATION

Today in The Attic:

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Gotta Ban Em’ All!

The following excerpt was taken from (at least) a post on Daily Gaming News on April Third:  “The Kansas Board of Education approved a controversial measure yesterday that will ban all Pokemon video games, trading cards, and related merchandise because of the franchise’s blatant promotion of evolution. The vote, which passed by a narrow margin after weeks of debate amongst members of the board, is being hailed as a victory by conservatives and religious groups.

Teachers will now be required to search their students at the beginning of the school day to make sure that they aren’t carrying any copies of the game. Any copies that are found will be immediately and permanently confiscated, and the student may be subject to punishments ranging from a temporary suspension to outright expulsion for repeat violators.”

In other news, Kansas has not been laid in 50 years.
I’m now severely convinced at this point that to spawn an idea, any one idea, regardless of content or nature, you are in fact spawning hate, with little or no warning, to with no answer could possibly suffice as response. Hmm…well, I suppose I should just rephrase that whole thought with this: would it even be possible to hire enough man power to remove all the sticks in everyones ass in todays society, without effectively, needing to re-holster gathered timber to shut someone ELSE the hell up? The answer is no of course.
You’ll Always have too many sticks…

Far be it from me to point out how pissy the south always has to get over anything that doesn’t end in “car” or begins with kk. The Kansas school board should be proud of the fact that it can free up enough time to tackle the overwhelmingly difficult issues, such as banning a video game about pocket monsters, instead of something as trite and trivial as to say…I don’t know…SCHOOL WORK. Maybe trying to focus on the increasingly high drop-out rate, lowering test scores, or the ever existing drab conditions most public schools face now a days just wouldn’t keep them busy enough huh? Not to mention all cited problems all seem to be an even greater source of contention specifically in the red states.
Hmm…
I’m sure before this though, they were way too busy focusing on pouring way too much money on something even more idiotically pointless, like building up there athletics curriculum or sports teams. Couldn’t they just get back to half-assing all the problems they can’t solve rather then invent new ones? Man…they should have really made a law about separation of church and state somewhere, or at least have some actual proof of this whole “evolution” thing.
Oh well, in the end, it all really boils down to a damned religious fiasco with a key statement “being hailed as a victory by conservatives and religious groups.” Good job guys. You’ve taken a big step to disproving years of scientific effort and grounded fact of how monkeys never existed and inter-family relations has absolutely no correlation to how many broken vehicles you have on your front lawn…And to think…all they had to do was ban a video game!
It all makes sense now. Christmas is saved!
I think next on Kansas’s agenda is banning that “fancy witch-craft” known as homosexuality by disallowing the sales of Harry potter books throughout the state. I’ve read their thorough and highly detailed outline on the back of a Denny’s napkin.
Very impressive.
I tell you…fucking Kansas.
Digimon Fans…every last one.
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That was not my first gaming related piece of writing, but the earliest I could find. Back in the summer of 2002, an old high school friend and I made a very basic website, centered primarily around video games. Not much content ever made it to the site, and one of the few substantial pieces that made it to post was indeed, my first actual attempt. This was in the form of a Super Smash Brothers Melee review, followed by a review of Dark Cloud, and lastly Halo.

Sadly, those write ups are beyond the void, and only remain in memory. This piece “Gotta Ban Em’ All!” was actually not posted on any gaming site to speak of, and was a random blog post I made on Myspace. As you can see, my style…barely existed, and I seemed to have a vague sense of speculation that I translated to fact on the spot. My experiences were next to nothing at that point, so some of my accusations are just  stereotypical non sense. I surmise a younger me was emulating the likes of Seanbaby and Maddox, poorly I might add. I had little to draw from, and they were two internet satirists I grew up reading, and being endlessly entertained by.

The cause and effect seems obvious.

The attempt is adorable, and when compared to idea’s I’ve presented on this site, infantile in structure. If nothing else, “Gotta Ban Em’ All!” foreshadows my efforts at conveying ideas. Ideas  involving my passion of playing, and doing so through the use of jokes, which is way better than some of my other earlier attempts of communication. One of my earliest posts involved me writing about winter, which is really fucking weird.

That ends my small commentary on what is, for all intents and purposes, my first recorded write up. The only other thing of mention before this post involving Myspace blogs, was a reference to “…chronicling the Minor Rules of Nothing Major…” which was an interestingly perceptive comment. More so on where I was headed within my own destinations of writing.

This is due in part, to “The Minor Rules of Nothing Major”  eventually taking on a new name entirely…

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