Silent Hill and the Stationary Terror

This article contains potential spoilers for both Silent Hill 3 and Silent Hill 4: The Room. Also, a ton of gross gnarly images. You reader have been warned.

I want to talk about this…thing.

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A child’s fairy tale simply calls it “The Glutton”, this more-object-than-monster works as a puzzle boss in Silent Hill 3. Described on the Silent Hill wiki as “ While it is a major obstacle in Heather Mason’s escape from the Otherworld Hilltop Center, it doesn’t pose a legitimate threat to her”. Heather Mason’s long journey home to her father Harry Mason is no longer restricted by rabid dogs or a giant worm, but something closer in shape and size to a large refrigerator. Glutton is terrifying. This might come off as glib and a little obvious when discussing a Silent Hill monster, a world rife with no limit of messed up antagonists made of broken limbs and melted flesh. But Glutton is uniquely scary, especially since it can never actually hurt Heather (or simply, the player).

Glutton’s home, is the Hilltop Center, the Otherworld version of Silent Hill 3’s most mundane location. This “scary” small business location (Japan’s big building answer to an office park) is too poorly lit to fully see Glutton’s collection of shapes and jerky motions. Simply put, it’s a circular cage with either skin or metal slats draped over a sharp mouth-shaped front. Inside it looks like a twisted body, with noticeable dangling feet and a torso. The worst part though are Glutton’s two screw top heads, which unnaturally twist in unsynchronized movements. The kicker is that if the puzzle is done correctly the first time or with a walkthrough, Glutton only needs to be seen once, if at all. In other words, it’s one final messed-up speed bump before reaching home.

Glutton

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When Less is More: The Problem with Too Many Party Members

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Roughly a year ago, I managed to finish playing Chrono Cross, the interesting but messy sequel to Chrono Trigger. While I have plenty of issues with CC, one of the more glaring problems I noted with the game was its bloated cast. Yet, looking back on my criticisms of CC made me question why I had this specific problem, compared to other games with many characters, such as Suikoden or Fire Emblem. It turns out that this problem is more multifaceted than it initially seems.

I want to discuss Chrono Cross’s cast specifically. The various party members you can recruit in Chrono Cross fall under three specific categories: a) are heavily involved in the story (Harle, Viper, Karsh, Zoah, Marcy), b) are involved in the story only during specific points (Guile, Nikki, Korcha, Irenes, Sneff), and finally have little to no direct involvement with the story at all (Poshul, Draggy, Starky, Skelly). To give specific examples, you encounter gruff guy Karsh and his band of goons early on as an antagonistic force, but they end up teaming up with protagonist Serge later when story points shift. Meanwhile, German mermaid Irenes is only directly involved in a specific story point involving the help of a certain pirate, while the undead clown Skelly is linked to an optional sidequest. Chrono Cross has an interesting plot conceit by way of jumping between two different versions of the same world, but the bloated cast (and some of the game’s bizarrely confusing/cryptic writing) takes focus off the more relevant characters.

Skelly1

You wouldn’t expect a skeleton dressed like this to have one of the most heartbreaking sidequests, hmm?

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Blood, Sweat, Tears, and Unlockable Costumes

Recently I’ve been trying to return to my childhood years of early YuGi-Oh! videogames. Mixing nostalgia for the only trading card game I ever really got into and a desire to play a handheld game that was not another RPG, I recently played through both Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Tag Battle for the PSP and Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Spirit Caller on the DS. While I grew tired of Tag Battle’s Persona-style dating sim mechanics wherein I fed weird sandwiches to the high school cast of Yu-Gi-Oh GX’s duel academy, I did complete Spirit Caller.

Spirit Caller’s big draw for me was the character customization, which was mostly a superfluous addition to the game that would allow me to dress up my hapless Slifer Red duelist child prodigy into someone the rest of the campus respected. In Spirit Caller, the player can unlock different outfits and duel disks after winning against certain characters. An early example is beating old Ra Yellow dorm Professor Satyr; I had to beat his easy Japanese curry-themed deck over thirty times before he gave up his Ra Yellow student uniform. Yes, I was going to have to work overtime, dueling these other characters dozens of times for something as basic as a cosmetic addition to a player character I was expected to stare at for a rather long game. My Obelisk Blue dreams died that day.

iwantedtobeathighschoolerandtheirprofessors2catacardgame2cinthatjacketsooooobady.

I wanted to beat high school boys and girls, and their professors, at a card game, in that jacket sooooo badly.

What is the point of burying unlockable costumes? Similar to my old video game room article, unlockable costumes are one of my favorite non-essential aspects of videogames. Costumes are the sole reason I played the job class-focused Final Fantasy X-2 with its dresspheres, where in the Gullwings’ Yuna, Rikku, and Pain all got their own version of the Dark Knight armor. They are often a selling point when it comes to longer games.

Many games like to put unlockable costumes on the same level as a secret bonus dungeon or optional boss. In other words, a prize to be given to players who either play though the game multiple times or seek out pure difficulty. Sometimes, costume changes are even restricted to the post-game, a no-man’s land for lots of players such as myself.

Take, for instance, survival horror games like Silent Hill 3 and the early Resident Evil games. SH3 restricts all of Heather Mason’s amazing outfits, which range from 2003-era video game websites and magazine t-shirts, a magical girl costume and the superior god of thunder outfit, to the post-game. Nonetheless, SH3 makes the costumes easy to unlock. On top of that, SH3 is also a short game with new-game plus weapons like the doorknob saber, and multiple endings which gives the player opportunities and incentives to wear the new outfits.

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Best character costume in a videogame. I do not make the rules, I just enforce them.

This is not so with RE and its hidden costume rooms. These cheeky secret rooms are only available to players who have at least beaten the game on normal. I love the RE series to death, but I am pretty bad at the games. I got through RE2 and 3 because of easy mode and infinite ammo but couldn’t beat Code Veronica due to its lack of easy mode. I understand that, back then, especially with the original RE, costumes were rewards for players who found value in beating the game multiple times on higher difficulties. But to me, was the infinite rocket launcher not a good enough reward for skilled players that snowboarder Chris Redfield also had to be bundled together?

A rather glaring example combing both Spirit Caller’s obtuse busy work with RE’s difficulty costume rooms would be One Piece Unlimited Adventure on the Wii. I really enjoyed Unlimited Adventure’s little details and design nuances (for instance, how multi hand Devil Fruit user Robin will sprout extra arms to reel in a fish) in a game that combined low-level item crafting (before it became bog standard in every early-access indie game) with Metroid-style adventure game exploration. Unlimited Adventure was a game that kept trying my patience when item crafting was an important part of providing certain Straw Hat Pirates with their best weapons and special attacks. However, when it came to costumes, Unlimited Adventure lost me entirely. To be given the “privilege” to even make new costumes, I would have to unlock and beat optional boss Mr. 2 Bon Clay (or Mr. 2 Bon Kurei for you scanlation kids), then dig up a treasure chest located in the final dungeon, build an actual costume/dressing room in the crew’s camp site, and finally craft each costume character by character.

atleastmr.2bonclaye28099sdisguisebasedclone-clonedevifruitpoweristhematicallyappropriatefordifferentcostumes.notlikethechangingroomhadtobeunlockedbybeatingundercovercriminalvivie280a6wa

At least Mr. 2 Bon Clay’s disguise based Clone-Clone Devi Fruit power is thematically appropriate for different costumes. Not like the changing room had to be unlocked by beating undercover criminal Princess Vivi…wait a minute!

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Final Fantasy VIII: The Bizarrely Effective Adolescent Narrative Nobody Expected

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Final Fantasy VIII is a strange and somewhat frustrating game for me to discuss in nearly any context because the game inexplicably embodies elements that I adore and despise in many Final Fantasy titles, as well as video games as a whole. In VIII‘s case, the otherwise interesting sci-fi elements and world building are unfortunately undercut by the game’s messy story, bizarre plot reveals and hilariously unbalanced stat modifying system. Nonetheless, I feel that Final Fantasy VIII manages to succeed at telling a story about adolescent conflict present within a specific setting, and the reasonable problems that arise as a result. Furthermore, I also think this interpretation of an adolescent-focused story has the potential to be utilized in plenty of other stories. Please note this article will spoil major story elements in Final Fantasy VIII.

A major element present within Final Fantasy VIII‘s world building is the military academies known as Gardens, which train young individuals to become members of SeeD, an elite mercenary group. While the SeeD members are usually hired to provide military support or perform covert missions, it is revealed later in the story that the SeeD’s primary purpose is to defeat evil Sorceresses, human women who possess powerful magic capabilities. For the most part, the Gardens and the SeeDs commandeer a specific level of respect within VIII‘s setting (though appropriately, certain NPC’s express annoyance at the overt military presence in certain cities), but as a result nobody seems to question the fact that SeeD members are explicitly required to apply between the ages of 15 and 19.

While most games focused on a “teens in the military” type of story would probably not care to explore the obvious issues of having adolescents in this setting, Final Fantasy VIII does the opposite; VIII highlights some of the issues that would logically come from using teenage soldiers in such a world, but does so in an indirect way.

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Odd RPG Attacks: When Swinging A Sword Is Just Not Enough

A month or so ago, I was looking through eBay to see if I could find some cheap import games. As it turns out, I found Exstetra for the PS Vita at American retail pricing, around 40 dollars (to put this is in perspective, most games sell for at least 60 bucks in Japan). I remember sending the link to Franklin to have him take a look at it. Franklin thought that the aspect of having the main character Ryoma power up his allies by kissing them on the lips was kind of cool. Ryoma’s kissing powers got Franklin and I talking about how some RPGs have attacks that are just downright bizarre. So I decided to put together a list of games, mostly RPGs really, that feature attacks that are odd, bizarre, or have some kind of strange effect that will make you say “what?”.

Yes, Ryoma can kiss guys too. And no neither side is particularly pleased about it.

Suikoden Tierkreis has your allies attacking as groups, including one group that blinds the enemies with their bare scalps.

I’m not terribly acquainted with the Suikoden series but I had a jolly old-time playing Tierkreis on my DS. One of my favorite features were the Unite Attacks, in which characters linked together in some thematic or story-based reason perform powerful attacks.

The attacks themselves ranged anywhere from absolutely badass to just plain goofy. Here’s a link to the majority of them, but highlights include a love-dovey couple fighting together (and pissing off everyone else), a mother training his son and embarrassing him in the process, dandy young men destroying opponents with their bishonen good looks, combining robots, and, perhaps craziest of all, a trio consisting of an assassin, a blacksmith and an ethereal cosmic entity blinding their enemies with their bare scalps.

I wonder is she polishes her head...?

I wonder is she polishes her head…?

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Gaming With Family: A Link Between Our Pasts

Videogames have been a huge part of my life ever since my earliest memories and I owe them for getting me through some tough times.

Even before learning to read, I wanted to play the same games my older siblings played. That meant clicking randomly in PC games like Super Solvers: Gizmos & Gadgets!, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?, and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. In that little kid fashion, I felt like I was at least doing something. Yet, something inside me yearned to play for real.

Fight me jerk!

The time and quality I had playing videogames were directly connected to my living situation. Both my older brother and I were still in school, but even though he was 7 years older than I, we both had infinite free time, even more so during the summer breaks. This gave us LOTS of time to rent and buy numerous videogames. Our plan of attack consisted of recycling the games we’d beaten to fund the new ones. We lived together in the same house hold for the majority of my life and, because of that, I garnered a special situation with him.

Now that he is married and raising a family of his own, and we live our own separate lives, we still try to find time to reconnect with new games. During the recent Steam summer sale I bought my brother Double Dragon Neon and Sid Meier’s Civilization V with the complete expansions for us to play together. In this day and age though, we cannot return to that nice infinite free time we once had. A place lost in time and space, only accessible now through memories.

Super 90’s as hell!

I was lucky enough to grow up in a house hold where both of my parents were a bit nerdier than most adults (and attributing to who I am today). My father liked to play computer games and I vividly remember him, my brother, and I all huddle around the monitor playing/trying to solve King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity. By the time I had gotten my Nintendo 64, I already had a stack of Game Boy cartridges lying around. Even with all those I was still just wading into the world of gaming. The introduction of my new and specifically first console opened up a whole new world of interaction with my father and brother. We could now play multiplayer games against each other. Before it was all working as one unit (mostly me watching) or us taking turns, but now we were shooting each other and having fun facing off in GoldenEye 007. My parents would soon divorce and the trio became a duo as my brother and I lived with our mother, leaving us the only gamers in the house. With every dark patch there is a bit of light as he and I grew closer and bonded over the Nintendo 64.

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Interior Decorating In Videogames Never Looked So Compulsive

I want to start this article by doing something out of the ordinary for me, which is discussing current video game news. When news of the 3DS remake of the 3rd Generation Pokemon games Ruby and Sapphire dropped, the first thing my friends and I got excited about was what the secret bases would look like running off  Pokemon X and Y’s visuals. A refresher for those of you reading who skipped those Hoenn adventures of which I feel are the second weakest of the Pokemon Gens (after Gen Four if we are only counting non-remakes, because Heart Gold and Soul Silver were fantastic). Hoenn’s secret bases were located in trees, bushes, and sides of mountains where a player with a Pokémon who knew the move Secret Power could access large hidden rooms.

The only real draw the secret bases had were that they could be decorated with various furnishing like cushions and desks made of leaves to trinkets like Pokémon plush and ornaments like breakable doors, tents, and slides. This has me thinking about how, in general, getting a house or base to interior decorate is one of my favorite added parts in video games (up there with character customization like outfits and hair styles).

You can tell that this is a fan mod image because it was impossible to walk across those ditches. Let alone transport all that plush.

Some games make the player’s base or house an integral part of game progression and the Lost In Blue games on the DS are the first to come to mind.

The Lost In Blue games were spiritual successors to the Game Boy Color series Survival Kids, where the player controls a young kid who ends up as a castaway on a deserted tropical island. The first Lost In Blue was an early DS game for me back around 2006, a bygone time where you could actually find a reasonable copy of Trace Memory. While the original first Survival Kids fostered you with late 90’s card-battle anime protagonists Ken and Mery and their mascot ready pet monkey, the first Lost In Blue assigns you the serious young man Keith and the near-sighted quiet young woman Skye. The goal, learn to live off the land and build a way off the island. Every day has you controlling Keith in finding food and water for the pair, as Skye stays in the cave and preps food.

The cave base as a core concept is great, as building new beds and better fireplaces not only spiffs up the joint, but also either makes the daily progress easier or helps restore Keith and Skye’s stamina and overall well-being. You even get to decorate the place with a nifty barrel so that you can keep water inside so these two young youth don’t die of thirst.

I know I rap poetic about Harvest Moon a little too much on this site (less than the average super fans of the series, but more than the average sane person), but no Harvest Moon game ties game progression as heavily to how big your farm house is as much as Harvest Moon: Back to Nature on the Play Station.

Ah the life of a bachelor. A time where you don't care about the random liquor bottles by the entrance or if you have enough shelves for your miscellaneous boxes.

Ah the life of a bachelor. A time where you don’t care about the random liquor bottles by the entrance or if you have enough shelves for your miscellaneous boxes.

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