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Thursday, July 31, 2014

11 years later, I finally beat Wind Waker

I'll never forget receiving EGM issue #148 in the mail. The cover headline exclaimed "More Reasons to Buy A GameCube" and it had a picture of Mario, Link, and Samus. By the end of the year 2002 Super Mario Sunshine, Metroid Prime, and The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker would be released. I already had my Gamecube since #dayone, and as much fun as Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II, I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of those games.

Nintendo was looking to do something radically different with each iconic character, much like they did with the N64. Super Mario Sunshine was the continuation of the 3D Mario gameplay introduced in Super Mario 64, but this time he was running and jumping with the F.L.U.D.D. strapped to his back in the resort island of Delfino. Metroid Prime was bringing the series to the FPS genre, having last been seen on the SNES and skipping the N64 with the exception of Samus's appearance in Super Smash Bros. It was also developed by Retro Studios, an American company with Prime being it's first project. #nopressure.

As shocking as these changes were, the biggest response came from the new animated art direction presented in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. Gone was the dark, moody art style that was so critically praised and revered in Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. Instead Link had big cartoon eyes and eyebrows that overlapped his hair. The animation was impressive and smooth, but it divided much of the Zelda fan base and the "controversy" has become more memorable than it's extraordinary critical praise. I was excited for each of these games but I was most looking forward to buying Wind Waker, and exploring every bit of that seemingly endless blue ocean.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Twitch and me: 28 years in the making (or, how I'm learning to seize the day and stop complaining)

Kids today don't know how good they have it. Yep, I just said that. I'm officially an old curmudgeon. My 28th birthday was last Friday, and I thought I still had a few more years before I started shaking my fists at all these damn kids on my lawn. Maybe I'm being a little bit dramatic, but sometimes I feel like kids today take everything for granted. And when I mean everything, I mean video games.

To be fair, I don't hang out with a lot of kids, so I don't actually know if they are taking things for granted. I just assume they are, because I'm a little bitter they have so many luxuries available to them at the start than I did. So yeah, I'm projecting, but I'm old now and you will start complaining too when you get older and realize how much better the future generation has it. And how furious you'll get when you hear them say they're "bored" with things you never thought you would ever see come to life. 

Ok, let me take a step back. This is "How To Be A Better Gamer". This blog is meant to be a place where I grow and learn, not complain and whine. So what if I grew up with a NES and four year olds get to play on an iPad now. I like to think having played with the "classics" has made me more appreciative of the technology we have today. So what if kids today can record, edit, and publish to YouTube or stream on their footage of the Destiny Beta on Xbox One, while I wrote down in a notebook my best times in Diddy Kong Racing to compare with my friends. And so what if kids today have unlimited options when it comes to getting games whenever and however they want, with Amazon, GameFly, and Steam. I was the Blockbuster Store Champion baby!

Monday, July 28, 2014

What I learned from winning my first local Pokemon tournament

I've been playing Pokemon since Red & Blue launched on the Game Boy back in 1998. That's almost 16 years ago. I've played every single entry, completed the National Pokedex twice, and at one time owned all the event Pokemon. I started getting interested in the competitive meta game around Generation IV, and have been breeding competitive Pokemon since Gen V. One of my biggest dreams is to compete at a Regional VGC tournament, and maybe one day compete at the Nationals or Worlds tournament. And WIN IT ALL! (Also I just turned 28 years old).

I've only competed in two local tournaments in my lifetime. Both occurred this year. After 16 years of playing Pokemon, I've finally been able to go out and try to prove myself at a tournament setting. I've played a lot of battles against other people in my life. Back in the Generation I days we would battle at lunch time in school with our link cables under the table. We had to be discreet when we battled, or the teachers would take our Game Boys away. It was pretty obvious some intense Pokemon battling was going on as everyone crowded around on opposite ends of the table, trying to get a glimpse of the action.

But up until now I never went and played at a tournament. I guess the thought never really occurred to me that tournaments for Pokemon existed, until the 2009 VGC competition. Ever since then I've had a thirst for wanting to compete at a pro-level, but never got a chance to go anywhere because, you know, life and stuff. Now I'm at a time in my life where I want to be more proactive with my hobbies. I don't just want video games to be a past time. I want to take it to the next level where I have something to show for the 100,000 plus hours I've put into it (not an accurate number but I'm sure it's pretty close.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The importance of a video game wish list

I love making lists. I love video games. I love making lists of video games I want. I recently wrote a blog post (in two parts) about games from E3 2014 I want. The problem is I want so many games, across different platforms, it's hard to keep track of it all. Usually I would write down all the games I wanted in one of my many notebooks I use for gaming notes/ideas/list making. This worked for a while, but it wasn't an efficient or organized way to keep track of everything.

Steam lets you create a wish list, as does the 3DS and the Wii U. But what about my 360 or legacy systems? I do use Amazon to keep track of some games I want (mostly it's games I want people to gift me). Yet there are a ton of games I want and I would prefer to keep it all in one location to better organize, catalog, and update as easily as possible.

So I created a spreadsheet in Google docs. I know it's nothing revolutionary, and I'm sure thousands of gamers have use a word processor before, but that's what this blog is about. I'm learning how to be better in all aspects of gaming. Having a wish list, something I've always had in some form or another since I was a kid, is very important for being a better gamer.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Why I won't write game "reviews"

Reviewing games for a living does not seem like much fun. I'm sure there are some neat perks like early access to major games, invitations to private events, etc. But if you work for a major game magazine or website, chances are only one or two people are allowed to review games they actually want to play. Most of the time you have to review whatever your Editor-in-Chief wants you to. And if you don't particularly enjoy the game, it can make it even harder to try and finish it in time for your deadline.

Rather than waiting to land their dream job at a gaming website or magazine, a lot of gamers have started their own blogs and youtube channels to promote their own content. I follow a lot of these self publishing games journalists, critics, completionists, or whatever they may call themselves. I'm also trying to become a self publishing games whatever I may call myself with this blog. Practically all of the gaming channels on youtube I follow or independent blogs I read do video game reviews. Some review new games. Some review classic games. Everyone has their own scoring system, whether it be a 5/5, 10/10, stars, letters, thumbs, etc.

Are these gamers doing reviews in hopes they can one day write content for Gametrailers or Game Informer? Or are they doing it because they think their reviews are better than major publications? Or do they just want their opinions and criticism recognized? I don't know. I wish I knew. I simply don't understand why video game reviews matter.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Why I don't understand the Club Nintendo 2014 Elite Status rewards

I love Nintendo. I really do. I don't love them as much as say, my wife or my kids (they are a company after all). But I love 'em. The love comes from an appreciation of how much their products bring me happiness. I don't blindly pledge loyalty to them, but I do find myself playing Nintendo games more than Microsoft, Sony, etc. I am simply a consumer who enjoys spending money on Nintendo games.

Just because I love these companies, doesn't mean I always agree with what they do. And if I do disagree with their decisions, I don't turn around and suddenly hate them. I can't hate these companies, because at the end of the day it is a business, and what they do isn't only centered around my world or how I feel.

All I can hope to do is observe and try to understand the decisions companies like Nintendo make. I've been playing games for over 25 years, so I know the industry doesn't try to make only Jose (that's me) happy. There are millions of people who enjoy video games, and billions of dollars to be made. Sometimes companies can be very harsh and blatant about milking every penny from their consumers ::cough Activision cough:: Other times they can be clever and make us feel very excited and happy about throwing all our money at them ::cough Steam sales cough::

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wii U games I need to play before Super Smash Bros. is released

Another character reveal trailer for Super Smash Bros. launched Monday. As I predicted this past weekend at my local game store, Oogie Games, the reveal was for characters from Fire Emblem Awakening. Robin and Lucina join the fray, and in the video they mix it up with Captain Falcon, confirming his return as well. An old character being featured in today's video was another prediction of mine, but I was hoping for it to be Ness. Oh well, he's coming back too...unless Nintendo hates it's Earthbound fans.

My excitement for this game grows everyday. I'm most excited about the For Fun and For Glory online modes. Playing random matches with people all over the world was something I was most hyped about before Brawl's launch, but we all know how that turned out. Friend codes and random two minute time matches was not helping spread the joy of playing Smash with others. It actually hindered my enjoyment of the game. A lot of my friends I played Melee with during high school weren't around anymore, and unfortunately I didn't meet a lot of people at college who wanted to come over to my house and play Smash Bros. Brawl until 2am. Pfft, whatever.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I don't know if I will ever buy the Xbox One

I moved into my new apartment this past weekend. Achievement unlocked! My wife and I are really excited about our new place; we are closer to downtown Buffalo, each of my daughters now have their own room, and the rent is cheaper. Life is pretty good right now, and has been for the past few years. I spent all of last week packing, and most of this week unpacking. My new place is starting to look and feel like home, and I am just now getting caught up on everything video game related I missed in these past couple of weeks.

They say Summer is the slowest part of the year for games, but in my opinion things never slow down in the gaming world. Even if it is a slow news week, there is always my backlog of games waiting for me or gaming events to watch. Last weekend I managed to watch the Pokemon VGC tournament while I packed, and this weekend is EVO. Hopefully my internet will be up and running by then. I managed to keep my bank account safe from the Steam sale, but this week Xbox is having their Ultimate Games Sale. They usually have these "ultimate sales" one or twice a year, and they always sneak up on me. 

Like the Steam sale, there are quite a few titles I would like to buy, but I don't know if I would have the time to play them now so I think I will wait until the end of the sale to make any purchases. Besides I just moved, so I don't want to go throwing money around, even if I do got it like that (I don't). But every time I see a game for the 360 I've yet to play, like Skyrim or Witcher II or Dishonored, the question always comes into my mind: will I ever get an Xbox One?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

To be the best no one ever 2015 (probably)

I love setting goals. Do I complete them? Not really. But I love telling myself I will. My philosophy in life is "shoot for the moon, even if you miss you'll land among the stars." So I create different lists of goals for myself across different aspects of my life, as far reaching as the moon itself. Video games are no exception. There are a ton of things I want to achieve in the realm of video games. Blogging here every day is a goal of mine, as well as creating a podcast and streaming on Twitch. I also want to clear my backlog, reach 100,000 gamerscore, complete my Rock Band collection, and do so much more.

But one goal I've had my eye on since 2009, is competing at the Pokemon World Championships. My love and passion for Pokemon is no secret: I've been playing since Red/Blue and haven't skipped on any entry or generation. The main Pokemon series is one of my favorite franchises, and one of the few games I'll go out of my way to have at launch. In 2009, Play! Pokemon held the first ever Pokemon Video Game Championships and it opened my eyes to the world of competitive Pokemon. Platinum was the game of choice for that tournament, and I had extensive knowledge of the meta game and considered myself a decent battler, but watching the tournament finals I was amazed at the level of skill those players had achieved.