Guess the best way to start this overdue update is by wishing all of you a happy new year and a happy new decade! There’s something overwhelming about the idea that we have a new blank slate to work off in 2020, especially now that I’m at an age where I can appreciate relativity and the passage of time.
But I’ll have to table that existential stressor for another day.
While I have you here and now I’m sure there are other matters you’d rather I discuss. Most notably, I assume, where that classic “Top 10 games of the year” list is. It’s been at least a year and 24 hours since the last one came out.
Probably too many opportunities, according to this wrap-up email from Nintendo:
Yet things have circled around to kill my my motivation to write about all those video games by the end of 2019.
I put this blog on hiatus for the second half of the year to focus on my novel — with a brief resurgence talking about my vacation in Florida. Yet even after I finished the book’s first draft, I couldn’t bring myself to start writing things here again.
Getting the opportunity to professionally write about video games has honestly been very exciting. What a way to start 2020, right?
So if you want to see what I’m up to regularly right now using all the experience I garnered writing on this here blog, go follow my burgeoning career on GameRant.
I likely won’t return to the ‘daily posts’ schtick anytime soon. That whole Avengers Summer Initiative thing was mostly about giving myself a regular writing project when I had none — but real world career stuff is going to take precedence now.
That said, I really appreciate how people have been keeping up this web traffic during my absence.
Don’t know how often I’ll throw full posts up on the blog from here on, but I wanted to put this update together so all you loyal viewers would know I haven’t abandoned you. At the very least I’ll try to regularly update my GameRant stories.
Part of my plans for 2020 are to finally spruce this joint up so it’ll stand up as a better professional resume. Stay tuned to see if I hold myself to it.
I hope you all have an amazing 2020 and plenty of great opportunities in the upcoming decade!
I’m going to try keeping this brief because I have a new game to return to.
Today was racetrack day in Florida.
The idea that we would be watching horse races was interesting for me to prepare for. It’s been a long time since I’ve personally gone to any kind of races, and in the time since there have been controversies at the track I’m most familiar with in Del Mar due to a series of horse deaths.
Obviously Florida is a whole world away, but I was curious to see whether any hint of animal rights backlash would reach across the country.
I didn’t see anything of the like.
What I did see is one of the coolest god damn landmarks ever built:
Look at this. A Pegasus stomping on a dragon? How could you not be excited to go to Gulfstream Park?
I wanted to get a photo of the statue myself… But naturally heavy weather picked up the moment I separated from my grandparents to get a nice angle on foot.
Here’s the best I got:
That said, I did get some nice photos of the area in-and-around the track. The whole place is like a Las Vegas gambler’s dream.
I’ve been enjoying my “book writing sabbatical” perhaps a little too much. A lot of my novel has gotten done, but there have been plenty of things over the last month I easily could have blogged about.
I was almost completely by myself for three weeks as Mom and Aly went to New York for a summer music program.
I'm putting down Mario Maker 2 so I can focus on writing today, but I've been having such a great time building levels again that I thought it would be fun to share what I've made so far. If you have the game, feel free to check some of them out!
I completely skipped the Three Houses banner in Fire Emblem Heroes.
Normally I’d be writing something for the new Fire Emblem Heroes banner today, but I decided not to for a couple reasons. So here’s the Featured Image you’d see in case you’re feeling blue about my recent lack of blog writing. pic.twitter.com/v1dCw3q05M
Gold, Silver and Crystal started the trend of different versions having unique legendaries that changed details about an overall identical story (though Yellow technically led the way by making an anime-inspired version of Red/Blue/Green).
Arguably the first major game-to-game change was the Magma/Aqua split in Ruby and Sapphire, even if they were just different villains in the same circumstances.
It wouldn’t be until Emerald version that they truly stood out as different entities.
This new Rock-type is essentially a mobile ball of coal with a lamp that must have been a godsend during the Galar Industrial Revolution. It’s new Steam Engine ability increases the Pokémon’s speed when hit by Fire or Water-type moves.
Gigantamaxing Pokémon are extra exclusive variants of Dynamaxed Pokémon that trainers can sometimes find during Max Raid Battles.
They look different, have better stats and a more powerful “G-Max Move.”
Like… Is this something we’ll have to breed onto our Pokémon if we want competitive Gigantamaxing over Dynamaxing?
I don’t know, man. The official website only has so much information, so I can’t fully speak to the merits of this mechanic.
All I can say is I’m unfortunately still not into it.
And that’s that, ladies and gentlemen. New Pokémon information to salivate over.
While I’m not enamored by Gigantamaxing and the latest crop of monsters are more on the weird side, I’m still plenty excited overall. Especially by the prospect of having more unique trainers to meet on each journey through Galar!
So let me know what you think of this latest trailer.
While you do that, I’m going to make use of this closure and go back to sleep.
Even if part of my interest in Stranger Things comes from our long-time investment.
Stranger Things season 3 clearly went to the Suicide Squad school of overemphasizing plot details with spot-on song lyrics, but surpassed its teacher by actually having a fantastic product around that gimmick.
The game has been far more fun than I expected, and incorporates a number of intriguing elements in a novel gameplay style for my prior experiences. Interesting elements that might make for a perfect post.
Yet I haven’t written about any of those things.
You see, let’s go back to my Summer Initiative. It was a sort of challenge to myself:
“You’re not working on the Daily Titan right now,” I said. “So why not try writing something every day to keep your skills sharp?”
The drive to write more led to an increase in site traffic and a subsequent sense of pride that has extended my near-daily posts for about a year.
So much so that I used its existence as a part of a freelancing pitch.
With all that said, you might be wondering why I haven’t written in six days.
It turns out I might have conditioned myself to care about blogging a little too much. For some time now, what I’m blogging every day has been the focal point of all my writer’s stress.
Which is kind of a problem when you have a book you want to finish.
Thus I decided to scale back as a test. Would I be more productive on my book if I stopped focusing on daily blog posts?
Over the last week I’ve gotten myself to nearly 300 pages, and I believe that’s as good a sign as any that I should scale back my blog stuff until I get through the novel.
Currently my anti-Summer Initiative is shaping up to be blog posts over the weekend while keeping my weekdays free to write the book. I’d like to finish my first draft before Mom and Aly get back from New York at the end of July.
The weekend will probably have at least one week-in-review and quicker one-offs like a piece on Spider-Man: Far From Home that I’ll write after seeing the film tomorrow.
And I’ll leave myself open to the occasional weekday post. Because I’m a Fire Emblem Heroes addict and Intelligent Systems lied about fewer summer banners.
But otherwise I’m trying more life updates through Twitter and Instagram during the week — as you can see throughout this post.
So if you’re interested in keeping up, go ahead and follow me there!
When the roguelike rhythm-based dungeon crawler was released by Vancouver game studio Brace Yourself Games in 2015, it got a lot of good press for being a unique Indie game that blended disparate genres seamlessly.
I’m not sure why I didn’t try Crypt, so I’ll just say I assumed a lack of rhythm as a suburban white boy.
I showed my sister the #CadenceOfHyrule trailer and she’s begging me to buy it as both a musician and a Zelda fan, but when I looked it turns out the original @NecroDancerGame is on sale for four bucks?
Cadence is a fascinating beast in concept. Nintendo let an Independent studio with a bizarre gameplay hook handle one of their most popular franchises. Hopefully it succeeds and encourages more experimentation!
There’s a good chance it will, because if Zelda is known for anything, it’s solid music. Why not use it in a rhythm-action game?
That’s where Cadence shines brightest: Homaging and using elements from Zelda’s history.
The game’s story is as simple a vehicle as they come. Cadence (the hero from Crypt of the NecroDancer) is transported to Hyrule and must help defeat the wizard Octavio before he puts the world to sleep with musical magic.
That framework is all you need to just run into a world of classic Zelda locations with a new rhythmic twist:
In the 20 hours it took me to beat the final boss and collect every item, I never quite acclimated to running into enemies and avoiding telegraphed attacks on-beat.
There’s only one screen that really requires an expertise in the mechanics, but I’m not sure I’m excited to go back to the original Crypt having heard it’s much harder.
Now to be fair, I like the use of different weapons with different patterns, from three-square wide broadsword slashes to two-square long spear stabs — especially for unique weapons like Zelda’s rapier.
Speaking of, how amazing is it that this is a Legend of Zelda game where you can play a Smash Bros.-inspired Zelda, who utilizes Din’s Fire and Nayru’s Love, for the entire runtime?
Some items like the bow are also solid, but others like the Rito Feather are incredibly underwhelming. Also, why not use the Zelda-staple Roc’s Cape?
But to be completely honest, those complaints are somewhat negligible.
After all, Cadence of Hyrule is a two-player co-operative game.
Being able to fully complete a game with my sister, who is both a musician and a Zelda fan, is an experience I don’t get very often.
And that, alongside the incredible attention to detail, makes Cadence of Hyrule an experience I’ll not soon forget.
Even if I’m still iffy about Crypt of the NecroDancer.
The premise was simple: Throw a bunch of computers onto a tournament bracket and watch them fight. Alpharad and a few friends commentated the matches, providing insights into actual competitive strategies and general comedy.
It was fun and apparently so popular that he would have been a fool not to do more.
However, the CPU tournaments were clearly Alpharad’s bread and butter.
Over time they grew into more than just a showcase of computer intelligence. Jokes about certain fighters repeated to the point of giving them distinct personalities. Then came clever brand integrations by having his video sponsors “sponsor” the winners of previous tournaments like they were sport stars proving themselves.
Then the series grew further. Original characters were added via Mii Fighters that developed entire plot threads cleverly delivered by commentators on the spot.
I’m not sure how much was pre-planned or improvised based on genuine tournament results, but either way it was impressive to see a cohesive narrative emerge that culminated in an “Endgame” duel between light and dark.
In the lore, two years had passed. Thus, much of the first episode was spent doling out exposition about what had changed — from new Mii Fighters to the off-screen reigns of joke characters like Rosalina.
What stood out most about this structured direction is how much more planning and effort clearly went into the season’s pre-production. Everything down to anime-inspired intros that are just cringe enough to be great.
Whereas the first era of the CPUCS emerged from completely different roots and had to develop into something more, the second era is immediately running with the aftermath and presenting more foreshadowing for underlying story bits.
Yet I felt like this guy when I discovered that the blog not only exists, but has been used since May to create a more lived-in environment:
I too am now a big fan of Agent Naomi.
For what many would write off as a silly YouTube series about Smash Ultimate where cashing in is easy because no human interactions are needed for gameplay, this is an awesome bit of committed world building.
It shows how much Alpharad genuinely cares, and I can respect the hell out of that.
So if I haven’t convinced you yet, go watch the CPUCS.
I swear it’s more than just your average Smash Bros. series if you stick by it.
I’ve never played a DQ game or Banjo-Kazooie, but I know plenty of people who love those series and I’m happy to see them so happy.
Especially given the love and attention both fighters are getting. The Hero has multiple alternate costumes and a final smash featuring different protagonists from that series, Grant Kirkhope was involved in doing the music for Banjo…
Masahiro Sakurai truly is the king of reviving Nintendo history, and looping in Rare was a great way to include a fighter with die-hard fans who fits in the roster far better than Minecraft Steve or Master Chief.
Look at how hype the Donkey Kong characters are for Banjo and Kazooie
Look I played the first couple Olympic crossover games with my sister and they were decent minigame collections.
But the fact that this series is still going astounds me.
Some of you would probably prefer I put Cadence of Hyrule in this major slot since it looks cool and is only $25 bucks, which definitely entices me to buy the game when it drops this Thursday in spite of never playing Crypt of the Necrodancer.
Breath of the Wild is getting a direct sequel, bringing it in-line with Majora’s Mask and the Wind Waker series. A sequel where Link and Zelda are going to be traveling the ravaged Hyrule together and discover some demented shit.
The trailer was just an “in development” teaser, but they sure did succeed in making it emotionally provocative. I’m curious to find out more… Though a lot of that is based on hype from my friends’ speculations.
Which means I guess I have to go finish Breath of the Wild.
Damn you, Nintendo. Quit monopolizing my time when you’re about to monopolize my time with all these new games!
Those were the big ticket items out of this E3 Direct for me, but there were a lot of smaller things that piqued my interest too.
My apologies for the absence this last weekend, oh loyal viewers — wherever the five of you may be.
I took a little time for myself following the Honors Conference (both my panel and a few friend’s panels I attended on Saturday) to focus on the last few assignments I have to complete before the semester is over. Next week.
I’ve also spent a good chunk of the weekend letting the existential dread of realizing that “this week is my last full week of college” drape over me like a heavy blanket.
Seriously, what? That’s not real. Who allowed this?
To be fair, I may go back to school one day and get a Masters or teaching credential so I can be a teacher in my later years. Seems like that would be a cool way to give back after I make a name for myself.
But that’s not really a matter for here and now. I’m mostly just nervous about the incoming inevitability of having no excuses to not go after that name.
But not really, because Amazon isn’t paying me. If anything, I’m paying them — or at least my family is.
I will say the re-listen has been pretty worth it. Not only does the audio book make it easier to reacquaint myself with differences between the written and cinematic versions while doing other work, the act of listening is that much more fun because Wil Wheaton is reading it.
Wheaton’s reading leads to some beautifully meta moments, because he is personally mentioned in the story.
For instance, Wade Watts (the story’s protagonist) talks about Wheaton as a great representative of user interests on an elected council in the virtual reality world of the OASIS.
He says those lines without a shred of irony or winking to the audience, and it’s great.
But yeah… That has basically been my life. Everything y’all missed over the last couple days, other than helping a few friends through their own stressful life situations and watching Kill Bill with my family. Alyson had never seen it, and we needed to rectify that.
I know it’s a hot take for me to say it, but that movie is genuinely still incredible. A visual splendor.
If you need a little stress relief, like I have with all this impending graduation fatigue, go watch yourself some Tarantino. Or play a little Don’t Starve.
To be fair, I mostly haven’t used it up until now for two reasons.
First being the obvious fact that I just haven’t had a whole lot of time to play as the semester has progressed. But also I’m just a stubborn baby that tried to convince himself his janky left Joy Con was still usable, despite a significant drift.
In retrospect I don’t know why I was such a stubborn baby. The Pro Controller is actually a solid accessory!
Not only does it fit comfortably in my hands, but I appreciate the grips not being made of the same material as the semi-transparent body, meaning they don’t get covered in fingerprints.
However, I did immediately come across some trouble with the concept of using a more traditional controller for the Switch…
It doesn’t work with every game.
I notably found this out while trying to play some Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee with Aly.
She was complaining about the drifting Joy Con, so we tried to use the Pro Controller.
Turns out you can’t use it to do things like throw Pokéballs without the same gyroscopic technology, so they just didn’t add any functionality for the external apparatus.
On the bright side, I’ve been able to properly try out the device with a pair of Indie titles I picked up again:
Wizard has a new locale called the Sky Palace (similar aesthetically to The Minish Cap‘s Palace of Winds, much to my nostalgic pleasure), new enemy types and a bunch of additional spells.
Meanwhile Gungeon got… Basically tons more of everything.
It’s amazing to me that such an already stuffed game has been filled with an almost imperceptibly large amount of extra content again. That’s good service if I’ve ever seen it.
The funniest thing about playing both of these titles in quick succession is how different the control schemes are, which makes it difficult to swap between the two.
For instance: In Gungeon, item pick-ups and general interactions are done with the “B” button, while shooting and dodge rolling are done with the triggers. But in Wizard, “B” cancels out all interactions and every action/magic command is done with the A/B/X/Y buttons.
Joker is finally here with all of his funky Persona 5 music (and a ton of really well-done fan service by the looks of things).
Sakurai is appeasing his hordes of complaining fans by adding the Stage Builder we all thought was gone. Now with moving platforms!
Clips can be edited together and posted online via the Nintendo Switch.
Move over Adobe Premiere Pro, turns out I could have been learning how to edit video in Smash Bros. all along! That’s the future of journalism.
Frankly the only “bad” part of this whole update video is the fact that no teaser was dropped for the next DLC character. Nintendo could have kept us strung along for years if they doled out teasers for new fighters one at a time.
Yet that’s not even a reasonable “bad.” The fact that all this content is coming deep into the game’s life-cycle shows it has a god damn ton of longevity.
It’ll be rough switching between all those control schemes, but it’ll be worth it.