I’ve seen Instagram accounts for models that have more depth than this game.
Made to attract North American kids to the new genre of RPGs in the early 90s, Square gutted anything that might have raised the difficulty level a microgram. ANYTHING. Not wanting to risk us getting lost, the locations are named things such as ‘Aquaria’ and ‘Windia’ and ‘Fireburg.’ The world map is more like Super Mario Bro’s 3 forcing you into predetermined sidewalks of adventure. There is an option to allow autobattle where the computer takes over your sole companion’s commands because hitting the A button for two party members would be too much.
The game makes sure we avoid strategy, story, exploration, or anything else that might be kind of like, ya know, the things we enjoy from RPG games.
Square had a ten year period where they could do no wrong.
In an age before copious reviews online, buying games was mostly winging it with a dash of expert advice from the Electronics Boutique employee. The only thing that came close to a guarantee was seeing a Squaresoft logo. Starting with Final Fantasy VI in ’94, Squaresoft would go on to produce some of the best games of all-time and in rapid succession.
Known mostly for traditional RPGs, Square began to explore other genres with the playstation 1. It’s amazing the amount of side projects they juggled which even included a realistic, one-hit-kill sword fighting game that is well regarded. Final Fantasy Tactics (FFT) is the company’s foreray into strategic gaming where they melded the genre’s typical elements with the Final Fantasy feel of chocobos, summons, and classes.
It might be their best game ever, and that’s saying something given their catalog which includes the ever popular Final Fantasy 7.
What makes FFT so good is the combat: the battles are intricate doses of choices, strategy, and chance where you become highly invested in the outcome. Even random battles become gripping as every decision you make has a ripple effect on the outcome. The learning curve is huge and the game mechanics are harsh, but as you get better, you start to unlock the beauty of the immensely customizable classes.
When I came out of my house, I knew something was wrong: why is my car light on? It took a few more seconds to process, but someone had thrown a rock through the passenger side door stealing everything not tied down. My change drawer was raided along with my sun visor CD case. Assessing the loses, I found the jewell case for Off the Wall underneath the seat. Not even a few weeks in my possession, it was empty. I had been bumping this awesome album everywhere, and now it was over….
Until I realized it was still in the CD player — the only thing that wasn’t stolen.
This was around 2008 before MJ died. I was diving deep into his discography when the legend passed. What makes Off the Wall so different than his other adult solo work is the fact that it’s his first entry and thus the most innocent. There is no super fandom for MJ to contend with via political statements or anti-media harangues. This makes for a fun free listen — every song is a pop hit single.
I’ve dabbled in Stoicism for the past few years. Sitting around feeling whipped by the waves of fate for most of my life, I welcomed this practical philosophy with open arms. Instead of growing dour due to feeling insignificant on a cosmic scale, I started putting more responsibility on my plate. Stoicism is a fine way to start regaining a sense of control.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is one of the cornerstone texts of Stoicism. Not only that, this book is fascinating just on a compositional basis: it’s the private diary of a Roman Emperor. Never meant to be published, it’s a one of a kind inlet to the personal thoughts from Ancient history. What a rare type of book.
Within it, you’ll find the universal concerns every human has expressed about their life. Aurelius struggles with meaning, justice, morals, and death. His writing style is concise and clear making his gentle reminders to lead a better life easy to apply to our own lives.
Since I played Borderlands 1 and 2 back to back, it made little sense to try and create two different entries. It makes even less sense given both games are almost identical. Sure, there is a reddit thread for everything, but most of the “differences” are nerds talking about math and skags.
I spent most of my evenings for the past couple weeks co-oping Borderlands with my BF. Exploring Pandora is best done with someone else; I’ve attempted to finish the first installment since 2012 but never had the motivation to finish in single-player mode. I think that’s because while Borderlands is pretty good at world building (I consider Claptrap and Scooter muh friends) the game doesn’t exactly suck you. Everything seems tangential and nothing important, particularly the story.
One of the best adult moments I’ve had is experiencing the music of The Beatles. Consider that I almost made it to 30 before really appreciating the breadth and endless selection from the best band of all time. How did I avoid it for so long?
When I was younger, I was extremely pro African American music. I was the only white 17 year old I knew in the county of Hanover that could list every Stevie Wonder album and owned Marvin Gaye shirts. When driving my friends around, I felt it was my job to introduce them to Ray Charles, The Four Tops, and the like.
Out of spite, I defended it against all potential perpetrators, particularly The Beatles. My main evidence? The early creampuff pop entries that were fueled by Beatlemania and teenage girl hysteria. I didn’t know, or care to find out, about the later albums when the band grew up and began to push music forward in all sorts of ways.
Rubber Soul is the demarcation. After this album, The Beatles were no longer boys singing about wanting to hold your hand. There might still be a lot of relationship talk, but the edginess and experimentation is evident. There was no going back after this.
Every system from the 90s required a mascot with side-scrolling adventure. Early Mario and Sonic games are not that different to play. Both involve making articulate jumps as you perilously move from L to R.
Crash Bandicoot isn’t any different either. Even though it came out in the mid 90s and is 3D, the game sends you down train tracks and tunnels. There isn’t anything to explore; it’s a decorated hallway with tons of traps.
Somehow, it still gives you that visceral gut check. I cringed with every “almost made it” slip up and rang out in glee when entering the exit tunnel. What I was most interested in was the extra challenge of breaking all the boxes. The game boasts 45 hidden gems along with the mandatory 25 crystals. I thought i’d been spending a good part of my Winter pulling off amazing feats of daring acrobatics to close out this game with a 100%.
Some games try and reach a higher plane of existence. Using powerful narratives, nostalgic music, and stylized imagery, some games really come across as high art and should be adored.
Diablo III is more like Candy Crush.
The backdrop is the typical fantasy trope, but what really sets Diablo apart is what happens in the foreground: button smashing. Each piece of movable plastic on the controller is mapped to a different ability with different recharge times and effects. Battle is the effort to smash each button in the most efficient manner possible by timing your reflexes to be in line when an attack refreshes.
Battles are nothing more than reaction tests without consequences. Endless battle against hordes of enemies don’t matter as you skillfully press X-B-Y-R1-X-X-B-Y-L1-X-X-B-Y-X-B-Y-R1-X-X-B-Y-L1-X-X-B-Y-X-B-Y-R1-X-X-B-Y-L1-X-X-B-Y.
This movie opens with a 30 minute sequence without a single speck of dialogue. It ends with a cosmic fever dream of technicolor leaving us only with questions. It’s completely weird, but it isn’t trying to impress us or convince us of anything; it just does what it wants to without a sales pitch.
It’s the difference between trying to convince you that it’s artsy (hey! look at how avant-garde I am!) and just being artsy (I don’t really give a fuck what you think). Somehow the latter dismissive approach was the better way to win me over. The pace is sometimes equal to the velocity of a snail, but the plodding builds to exquisite moments.
Taking total responsibility for all facets of your life can lead to great change, but it can also lead to great exhaustion.
The idea that you have untold potential beneath the surface waiting to be unleashed is enticing. Instead of being stuck with a body, relationship, or job you don’t like, you can accomplish everything you put your mind to. How?
Take complete ownership.
You are the reason you are in a job that sucks.
You are the reason you don’t have satisfying relationships.
You are the reason you haven’t lost weight.
There are no extraneous factors to blame, only yourself. It’s a bit irrational, yes, but this simple mindset was a breath of fresh air to my cognition. I could no longer hide from not living up to my potential because I couldn’t put the onus on something else.