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Month: July 2010

The JRPG For This Generation

It’s StarCraft 2 Day! Actually, the UPS man won’t get here with my copy of the Collector’s Edition until later, so I won’t be starting the Southerners in Space Wings of Liberty campaign until this evening at the earliest. I have much to do in the meantime, anyway. Such as brushing up on StarCraft canon, for starters; I remember the original (“vanilla”) game’s plot pretty clearly, but need to rewatch much of Brood War‘s cutscenes. On the non-StarCraft front, I’ve taken up DDR again, and want to sink more time into Dragon Quest IX.

Ah, DQIX. Originally, the plan was to beat the game before today, but as time went on, I realized that this would be an impossibility. I’m currently some forty hours in and (by my own rough estimate) a bit of a ways from the end—not because of any steep difficulty or lengthy story, but due to the fact that there’s so much to do in between main quests.

The central story revolves around the player hero character, this time an angel—sorry, Celestrian—who gathers the thanks of earthly mortals to feed the Yggdrasil Tree. Something bad happens, and the quest starts in earnest. The bare-bones plot moves forward by means of smaller, compact stories that occur in each new town the hero visits. Naturally, this bite-size approach to questing is ideal for lots of side-questing and other distractions. One of these is the Alchemy Pot, a modern-day Dragon Quest mainstay which is used to fuse multiple items into new ones that are stronger, rarer, or just all around better than what they were before. New to the series is a job/class system, reminiscent of—but not entirely comparable to—the ones in certain Final Fantasy games.

The job system is only one indicator of how different this Dragon Quest is from its predecessors. The look of the hero is entirely customizable. There’s also the other party members, none of which have the distinct names and personalities of the past, and can either be randomly generated or created from scratch. In terms of the world, the Goddess has been replaced with a male Almighty, and the abstract religious symbols typically seen in the series are different in most places. All enemies are visible when walking across the field, and in dungeons. Certain things have been tweaked easier, though the overall difficulty feels about the same as ever. Much has already been written about the ad-hoc multiplayer features and the platform that its on (it’s worth noting that nearly the entire game can be controlled with the touchscreen, which, incidentally, is how I’ve been playing it). It’s no wonder that, in Jamin Smith’s review at, he felt the game was more like a spinoff than a true main-series entry.

However, despite all of change DQIX has brought with it, two hallmarks of the series shine throughout: its aesthetics, and its quality. There is no mistaking this as anything but a mainline Dragon Quest, with all its Koichi Sugiyama musical stylings Akira Toriyama visuals, and much more care and polish than any of the (still great) spinoffs get. The controls are intuitive and, though the menu arrows could be a little larger for those of us using the stylus, sensible. The graphics and sound are among the very best on the DS. The game itself is diverse, easy to play on-the-go, and addictive. On top of all that, all of the new stuff (at least that which I’ve dealt with so far) is well done, and much of it enhances the overall experience; the visible enemies is one feature I would love to see in all future entries. This is a Dragon Quest for today, a JRPG for those who doubt the viability of the genre in a time when WRPGs have stormed consoles like FPSes did before them. It makes me want to play more, and also to wonder what a Dragon Quest MMO would be like.

It’s going to be really hard to juggle this and StarCraft 2.

Drought? What Drought?

I’ve been back for awhile now, but have been either too lazy, busy, or tired to update this place. I did, however, post at my CAG blog; there, I shared a whole set of photos from the Dragon Quest IX launch event that took place a little over a week ago at Manhattan’s Nintendo World Store. There were lots of people, demo stations, freebies, and frozen treats from a Dragon Quest-themed Mister Softee truck.

This slime is almost as big as my backlog!

Funnily enough, although I got DQIX a day early, I didn’t actually start playing the damned thing until the following Monday. I’ve played quite a bit of it since then, though. It’s an unusual game for the franchise, in terms of how it breaks with tradition, though I don’t have anything bad to say about it so far. I do wish the dungeon designs were more puzzle-intensive, along the lines of certain ones in earlier Dragon Quest games, but that sort of thing doesn’t seem to be Level-5’s strong suit. This game also seems to have eased the difficulty in certain subtle ways, which I feel ambivalent about. On the other hand, a feature that I really like reminds me of one of Earthbound‘s best: enemies—which are all now visible on the field—are likely to run away from your party if you’re too strong.

I’ve also made a lot of progress in Pokemon Platinum. Actually, that was the only game I played on the trip, which means Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes has been relegated to the backlog for the time being. Later, I put Platinum down upon starting DQIX, then picked it up again this weekend. I’m currently up to five gym badges and am beefing up my team before taking on Pokemon Gym #6 (not its real name).

Along with the DS RPGs, I’ve been plugging away at Kirby Super Star, but I don’t know when I’ll beat it, though I’m very close to being done with everything, save the minigames, which I’ve mostly ignored. And then there’s StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, which will arrive here in less than ten days in all its Collector’s Edition glory. Right now the plan is to beat DQIX before SC2 gets here, which will leave my August free for a super-long, and super-shiny, Terran campaign, plus some possible multiplayer and/or modding.

Oh, and my birthday happened. One of the presents I received was an Amazon gift card, which was spent in part on a used copy of Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja, an Atlus-published roguelike I’ve had my eye on. It’s now in the backlog pile, along with Clash of Heroes. Plus, I preordered Etrian Odyssey III, which is due out in September, since I had to have that artbook.

Every year, gamers complain about the “drought” that happens in the summer. Pssh. Even without Dragon Quest IX and StarCraft 2, I would be overwhelmed; there’s just so much in my backlog, and so much more I haven’t even picked up yet, like late-winter and spring releases Bayonetta, Nier, and Super Mario Galaxy 2. Come the fall, while my husband is consumed by Civilization V and World of WarCraft: Cataclysm, there will be the aforementioned Etrian Odyssey III, along with Rune Factory 3 and, if it turns out to be any good, Front Mission Evolved. Then there’s the “epic” games that I will not get right away but will likely pick up sometime, namely Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Disney Epic Mickey.

I want more “drought” time, dammit!

At Kotaku, the Fireworks Come a Day Late

So I came home the night before last, exhausted. The next day, I caught up on internetty-type things. One of the sites I sifted through was Game Journalists Are Incompetent Fuckwits, a recent find and the best angry video game blog I’ve read since the deceased (and missed) Pre-Order Pushers. As usual, there’s a ton of stuff about Kotaku, including a link to a funny Something Awful parody, but little did I realize that a raging, gusty shitstorm was on the horizon. I’m still piecing together the entire story from GJAIF posts, Kotaku comments, and other places, but here’s what I’ve gathered:

• On the morning of July 5th, Kotaku EIC Brian Crecente posted an entry titled “This is Kotaku”. It’s an introductory article for newbies to the site, with links to articles, broken down by category, that serve as “a taste of what we do”. iambeaker on CAG later noted, in a thread titled “What is up with Kotaku?”, “I know many of the Gawker blogs place an article similar to this when a blog is featured on a major network (i.e. The Today Show) or when the blog is being sold (i.e. Consumerist).” FriskyTanuki replied: “That post is their response to the Game Journalists Are Incompetent Fuckwits blog that criticizes sites that post stupid articles or gets information completely wrong and Kotaku accounts for probably 60% of the blog’s content.” If that’s true, seems the post didn’t work.

According to GJAIF, “After Crecente posted the ‘This Is Kotaku’ article, there was a bit of a meltdown in the comments.” To say the least. Evidenced by the handful of comments still left on the post, many more were “disemvoweled” (the vowels were stripped from them) and later deleted (or at least, hidden from non-Kotakuites). One critical comment by lineypi—which I am unable to link to directly—stood out to me as I began putting this post together. I’m not sure if it is representative of its deleted brethren, but here it is in its entirety, in case it should disappear later on:

Just out of curiosity, but are the other Gawker sites doing something similar to this? I feel like there’d be a lot of overlap between things on here and things on Gizmodo (and a few of the other gawker sites) just based on this overview.

It would also be interesting to see these different things sorted into what you plan to post most about compared to what you see the least of.

At the moment the impression is that top of the list is what Kotaku has chosen to rank as the highest importance.

So for instance, you’ve got Sex really high on that list, but personally I don’t see sex & games as something intrinsically linked. Gawker has ..alternative.. sites for sex.

So the implication here is that Kotaku will have a sex article posted each day or something, but if that’s the case then I can see that driving away (the mature) gamers rather than attracting them.

I dunno, I just feel like with this summary list Kotaku isn’t really representing itself the way that I, as a visitor, experience it. And if this list is indicative of changes that are going around or about to occur, then I’m concerned that the experience will change.

PS – I’d also really like to see some sort of internal news that is purely a response to the mass banning/censorship that has recently occurred.

If there’s a way you can tag something so that it is only visible to registered members, or if you just use the internal messaging system, then I could see that being a solution that would answer a lot of the community’s questions without having something so off topic & purely internally focussed end up in your blog feed.

In the #speakup section of Kotaku, I found much more. In particular, the banning of a user named dean seems to have been a major flashpoint for the implosion. kanji08 goes into further detail about yesterday’s events in this comment.

• The conversation and arguments continued beyond Kotaku, spilling into a fan forum and Steam group. Again, GJAIF has more details regarding that, including a lengthy bit of chatlog from the Steam group, for which Kotaku writer Owen Good is present. GJAIF is later kicked out of the chat.

That’s about all for now. There’s still some fuzzy bits here and there, such as the precise role of certain individuals, and the nature of the deleted comments. It’s disconcerting how much has been covered up. I understand editors wanting to have a certain degree of control over their site, and I’m pretty neutral in my feelings toward Kotaku, but this is kind of nuts. It doesn’t seem like much is being written about this implosion right now, which is a shame; I’d like to see more. Something tells me that the meaning of “community” on Kotaku has just been considerably altered for its users, and it’ll be up to the Kotaku staff (and parent company Gawker) to decide what this means for everyone.