Why I Love: Resident Evil 4

Conquer the darkness

Okay, I think for most people who play horror games, Resident Evil 4 is not really that scary.  But it’s scary enough to be called a horror game.  I think some people consider Bioshock to be a horror game, but I wasn’t ever really scared in that for some reason.  …maybe.

I get really scared in games.  Super easily scared.  (I know, Bioshock does have some scary moments.)  But like, this is how scared I was: I couldn’t get past, like, the first few cabin areas at the literal start of the game.  I think the biggest problem for me in horror games is anticipation.  I always think it’s going to be way scarier than it’s actually going to be.  My imagination goes wild and it’s never even close to what the actual scary thing is.  But that’s good.  I like games that create an environment that really scares me.

What really brings it up technically are two things which I was totally not expecting:

Inventory Management

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this made me really grateful for inventory management.  I’ve already played things like the Deus Ex series that has this, but for some reason Resident Evil 4 really helped me realize how much I do enjoy resource management.  I do like not having enough ammo at times.  Making difficult decisions with what I have in the inventory turned out to be really fun!  It makes it feel rewarding and risky, and for some reason I never really recognized that.  I probably felt it in Deus Ex, but I only realized it for what it was here, and looking at the time this game was released, it probably was the same for others as well.

Oh wait, I played Resident Evil 1.   And that was a nightmare.  Pun intended.

For me, it was Resident Evil 4.  It feels rewarding when I save something for later and it turns out to be useful, and it feels like there are consequences if I hoard and it turns out to be detrimental.  I like it.   Resident Evil 1 was a little too punishing in inventory management for me.

Gunplay

This is probably…the best third person gunplay I’ve had.  It feels so good.  It really feels like I’m aiming the gun.  I mean, obviously that’s what we do in shooting games, but it feels so natural here.  When I initially saw it for what it was, again I was really doubtful.  I was like, “This is not going to be great.”  But…every time I had an encounter and I had to shoot, it was fun.  Um…it’s really…it.  That’s it.  

———————

For me, this was also a turning point where horror games changed.  I became more willing to play them.  Which is good, because there are so many horror games that I want to play for the story, but still want to experience the original form of the game.  It’s because of Resident Evil 4 that I played Alan Wake, and then continued on with other horror games.  

Emotionally I really like Resident Evil 4 because I love the characters in it.  I love that Leon doesn’t really care about people being flirty or romantic with him.  He just brushes it off.  I really like that a lot.  I hate forced romance or obvious push for romance.  I like that allied NPCs don’t feel stupid.  And it’s interesting that the graphics still somehow hold up today. Which is kind of weird.

These things in Resident Evil 4 are present in other games, but I think the little nuances of a lot of eastern style approach to storytelling, character design, and enemy design really attract me.  I admit it.  This isn’t to say that western versions of the same are bad, they’re just different, and for the most part each does not have entire exclusivity. Again, there’s some cheesiness in all games, but there’s something both endearing and paradoxically profound about the way it is done in Resident Evil 4.  Most of the people throw it off as only cheesiness and maybe even cringiness.  I don’t know, because my approach to media is different.  I don’t see things like anime as cringy (I mean, unless it’s legitimate like, cringe).  I think it’s partially the culture I grew up in, but it’s also just…I don’t know.  I honestly haven’t found why this happens or where it comes from.

I think part of it is my whole view of treating these worlds and characters with a certain reality and respect.  I see them as people, even if their worlds have some cheese in it or are super fantastical, and they’re still people and worlds with backgrounds unbeknownst to me.  There will be bad parts and characters, this we know for sure, but for the most part I want to respect the strangers I meet here.  It’s more likely that I’m a guest in their world that doesn’t know enough, than for me to be arrogant to judge them with a personal ideal.

I wanted to see what I would write for a Why l Love for a game that has a greater emotional tie, and I don’t know if it was any good.  Heh.  But I would like to thank you for reading.  
Thanks for your support!  I hope you’re having a wonderful spooky season.  Stay safe, but don’t forget to enjoy the wonderful mise-en-scène of Halloween!

Elise

Yes. I’m totally going to get the remake.

Sentimental ULTRAs

In a minute, I’mma need a…

Objective lists of bests always make me scratch my head.  I know there will always be at least some bias in lists, but my favorite rankings I hear from people I talk with are the ones that are very emotionally biased.  I’m talking nostalgia, events that transpired during plays, purely sentimental acts, and emotions just taking over.  Even if this means emotionally attached to a certain game design.  Even if this means emotionally attached to a bad game design.


If you’ve been here, you’ve heard me talk about the ULTRA, the Ultimate Loosely-Thought Ranked Analysis.  This is my internal ranking of all the games I’ve ever played.  This list is processed by a current top twelve list that rotates as new games enter that list.  When games are added to that list and leave, they graduate to the ULTRA where they are ranked. 

There is no other process other than just sitting there thinking and discussing with other players.  Things move up and down that list all the time depending on discussions, thoughts, and epiphanies.  There is no extreme, numerical game design analysis.  It’s just thoughts.  While I have studied a lot about game and art design in video games, those things are not what I pride my list on.  I love my list because it’s so emotional.

When I speak to players I like to bring up the question, “What are some of your favorite games?”  I say “some of” because asking for a number one game is usually too difficult or stressful to answer.  Just give me a couple of games where, if you had to recommend to a random player, these are the ones you’d choose.  I want them to choose whatever loosely-thought, emotional choices they made.  I want to get to know the player as a person, not as a critic.  

Each viewpoint that the player brings to the table is what makes everything so unique.  Their likes and dislikes of the game tell me a story that gives me a greater understanding not just of their thought processes and perspectives, but also their goals and what they value.  I believe every experience in life does have an impact.  This is why I oppose those who bully others online and why I oppose those who think just because something inappropriate is on a screen and “isn’t real” is okay.  It’s the same emotional connection that gives the reason why you can’t go about saying that certain anime is okay even though there are definitely pedophilic things in it or other similar stuff.  Whether you like it or not, watching that thing is going to affect you for the same reasons that other “innocent” things affect you for good.  I can’t believe I’ve had to make that argument (and have it be ignored by said person).  Why do I always hate being part of this entertainment community?

I digress.  Let me talk about something a little less depressing.

I love Remedy Entertainment’s Control.  I deal with some addictions in my life, and I don’t handle them well.  I used to be addicted to gambling (darn you lootboxes), but thankfully I’ve gotten a lot better at that.  So that’s one of the many down.  I’ve been through therapy, drugs (ironically, for drugs), and other treatments.  It’s not an easy road, but it’s a road that always makes me feel like it is my choice.  Addictions blur the line between what is choice and what isn’t.  It also brings up a ton of other contextual sociocultural things that also ask the same question depending on said contexts.  It’s just…not fun.  (I hope if any of you are dealing with similarly degrading things that you are getting as much support as possible.)

Playing Control felt different.  I felt free.  It’s technically considered a horror game, and I don’t do well with those, but I managed to get through the main game.  (I haven’t finished the DLCs, I’m saving that for spooky month.)  I’ve thought about this a lot, and I’m not sure what it was.  That week I played Control I was free from all my addictions.  I felt like I really was in control.  It wasn’t because I played all day and night or anything.  They were normal sessions.  Maybe it was Jesse’s independent attitude and my role-playing as the characters that gave me strength.  Maybe it was the emotional connection I had with her confusing experience.  Maybe it was smashing stuff with the physics in the game.  What if it was just good gameplay and world building?  These are just some of the ideas, but I honestly can’t pinpoint why.  That whole experience is one of the biggest reasons why I love Control.  

It’s so…simple if you look at it.  The event was complicated for me, but if you look at it from the outside in, it seems so simple.  It’s very emotional, and it’s super insanely biased.  It is in fact, probably one of the most biased positions on the ULTRA.  Control sits at #6.

I think what I am trying to say is that I love people.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a hermit.  I rarely go to events for the social parts.  But I admit that I really love people.  Sounds like an oxymoron, but I think it somehow works.  I’ve been following other players like Later Levels, where life, games, and being a parent all coincide.  And how about The Gamer With Glasses, a gamer trying to get through life and talk about their love for RPGs.  Or Ace Asunder’s unique perspectives on gaming feel empowering and eye-opening.   Their views on games tell stories.  These are stories that help me grow.

I am far, far from a perfect person, especially as I have just been kind of vulnerable about my life just now.  I value the struggle, and all the hardships in my life have given me the opportunity to become a softer person.  I have chosen that.  I want to see that.  I want to see how video games are a force for good for people in the world.  How has gaming shaped struggles for you?  How has it helped, even in the most minor of ways?  


Hearing emotional lists and likes of games helps me realize that the player I am talking to is a human being, and with that human being comes struggle.  And with that struggle is usually someone who is trying to be a better person.  And with that striving person, maybe another reason for me to hate being part of this media community a little less and love it a little more.

Thanks for reading. I’ll see you again later this week if my work isn’t crushing my soul.

Elise

Why I Love: Subnautica

Fear and Fun

Subnautica is sci-fi, exploration-survival at its best.  Let’s dive right into it.  Er… sorry.

Subnautica is a survival game where you crash land on an ocean planet.  The normal survival mechanics exist where you have to manage hunger and thirst.  You’ll have to manage your oxygen as you dive into the depths.  You can scan objects and creatures to learn more about them and the absolutely rich ecosystem in the game.  You can build bases to expand your exploration prowess.  Subnautica excels at providing a beautiful ocean of creatures that gives you an amazing sense of wonder.  

I’m not exactly the keenest on survival mechanics.  They tend to get really annoying at some point.  I don’t want to have to find more food to eat.  I just want to explore, and while that option is available as a way to play the game, I definitely would not recommend it.  One of the difficult things about survival games is designing how the player manages their progression.  How do we make it so food is a challenge, but not annoying?  Should we make it so tools break?  And how do we design tiered tools?  Subnautica smooths out those experiences so these things rarely are an issue.  If you’re continuously doing your gameplay loop of survival, I feel like these things don’t ever feel like much of a problem in this game, but they receive just enough attention to make it still feel like you’re surviving on an alien planet.

This brings me to the thing that I enjoy so much: you don’t really have a weapon.  Okay, you get a knife early on, but that thing is puny.  It is clear in the game that you are a guest in a foreign world.  Creature designs are beautiful, strange, and sometimes dangerous.  The world is hand-crafted, so everything has its set place and I think that was the better way to go here.  Every time I stumble on a new area my mouth is agape.  I’ve really never felt such excitement and joy from exploring a new world as I do in Subnautica.  However, this may be a bit of a bias having studied biology as a focus in school.  I love learning about the physiological properties of creatures when I scan them.  I just…I need to scan them.  I need to know more.  If biological lore is a thing for you, then you’re playing the right game.  Or maybe you just like codices.

I’m also…incredibly scared of this game.  There is a story in the game and it is a game you can finish.  I love stories in games, but it’s also frightening that, in order to progress, sometimes you have to go into huge spaces of open water.  Maybe that’s also what makes Subnautica exploration so invigorating is that while there is a sense of awe upon finding a new biome or area, there is also fear.  You are a small human in a big ocean.  Sometimes all you can see is darkness or foggy water.  The fear is so natural.  It’s not like there is going to be a person with a pyramid head or a zombie leaping at you.  It is just…water.  I admit it, there have been times I swam forward and had my eyes half closed…maybe, maybe fully closed.  But I think this fear of the unknown is done very well here and is a core part of Subnautica.

Oxygen.  I’m going to say one thing that I think is both frightening and so visceral that I really love in Subnautica.  It’s getting lost in an underwater cave.  Perhaps you’ve heard this from divers or instructors before.  In real life, underwater caves are extremely dangerous to dive in.  If you don’t have a guide or a line to keep yourself in check, even experienced divers can die from lack of oxygen.  And all these things are definitely felt in Subnautica.  I think the intense panic I’ve had knowing my oxygen was running out and being completely disoriented from the multiple dimensions of being underwater is some of the best panic I’ve felt in video games.  Frantically and desperately swimming around hoping that I remembered things right.  It’s a rush.  I know I’ve run out of oxygen before in video games, but I think it’s the whole mise en scène and maybe claustrophobia of it all that makes it such a great underwater experience.  I mean, it is called Subnautica after all.

I hate spoilers, and definitely won’t ruin the game’s story here.  It is a good story though, and it is well worth your time, or at least I like it.  But like most things as games, it has to hold up well as an experience, and I don’t know if I’d play through the story if the way you move through the story wasn’t as well done.  I think in survival games, story tends to be pretty minimal.  I mean, actual survival games, I don’t mean open world games with survival elements.  Games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are open world games with survival elements.  You do have to “survive”, but you can also get stronger and survival kind of gets cast to the wayside.  That first area with the plateau in Breath of the Wild is the survival part, the rest is exploration.  Mostly.  In Subnautica, you’re always just trying to survive.

I think the biggest factor of all these things is just awe.  It is a game that puts my feeling of how much I love exploring the world of video games into overdrive.  But even if this is so great, don’t go forcing yourself to like something if exploration is not your thing.  Perhaps you may find a certain aspect of it exciting enough, like creature design.  No matter how much I can praise a game on its strengths, if they’re not to your liking, it may be an unnecessary playthrough.  While I won’t deny those strengths are there, I would like to remind everyone that your opinions on what games to play are always valid.  Just remember that there may also be a new thing to love if you’re willing to give it a go.

Subnautica is a game that brings me back to childhood exploring Super Mario 64’s levels again.  And for a game that is good enough for making me want to keep playing even though I’m so scared of open water, it is #29 on the ULTRA.

Thanks for reading, I’ll see you again!
Elise

Note: If you’re feeling woozy because of being in the water and going around disorienting caves, try adjusting things like motion blur (…if the game has them I don’t remember because I always go straight to options to turn this off) and the field of view.  If you feel like puking, adjusting the field of view almost always seems to do the trick.

Gaming Identity

Master of None

I’m usually trying to find a set arc of things to write about in every article, but this is also a personal “blog”, if I can call it that.  A lot of things here are based off of personal experience and opinions, but at the same time I want it to be worth reading and fun to read.

Sometimes I lament my lack of skill level in video games.  Granted, I think I am better than a casual player.  I think I am a little bit better than the average?  And yet, place anyone who has even the slightest bit more focus on a game or type of game that they like and I can assure you they will be better than me.  As I got older in high school I thought a lot about what makes my pride and identity as a video gamer important to me. The more I think about this, the more I realize there are certain things I want to be  part of me as a gamer, and some that I really don’t care about.

Socially, I used to be upset that I wasn’t as good as other gamers, but personally, why did that matter?  The joy people get from their competitive spirit is nothing bad, but to define myself and my value through someone else’s lens just wasn’t working out for me.  I think there are three main things I tend to focus and work on as a video gamer.


I value the history, diversity, and humanity in video games.  This is one of the driving forces behind me playing games that are perhaps more mediocre than others.  I want to see what makes games that aren’t the best still likable.  I want to see a development team improve over time.  I want to see the struggles of trying to make good game design decisions.  I love the stories of Iwata Satoru as he grew Nintendo, or the struggle of Eric Barone as he created Stardew Valley.  All of this included, I think I value my versatility and diversity in the games I play.

In terms of piracy, I am always on the front of anti-piracy, not for the sake of capitalism, but for the sake of morality and humanity.  Which is also why if it takes piracy to preserve history, I don’t necessarily discourage that side.  I think it is the moral responsibility for developers to preserve their games and the games’ history, and if they do not it may be up to the players.  This is the history side of my values.

Games that show humanity in their storylines and the poking at our lives to become better people are also very enjoyable.  Games don’t have to be deep to be good, but some games can be good because they are deep.  Undertale and some of the quests in Genshin Impact that really push what it means to be human and how we can improve are so valuable to me.  My siblings and I often poke at anime because they tend to hit the hardest notes in what makes us human.  I love the struggle between the self and what is right in Path of Exile’s implied lore.  “We see ourselves reflected in those facets, twisted beyond recognition.”  It remarks how people do not become mad in a single moment, but it is almost always a string of events unnoticed by those outside the mind.  And sometimes how certain things in their simplicity are what makes them impact how we feel and think, like in Alan Wake. I wrote an article about that.

I value the spread of knowledge that is good.  The only thing in the media industry I enjoy more than consuming is teaching about it.  I love talking about game design and helping new gamers find their place in the field.  I want them to discover what games really drive them to play.  Few things are as enjoyable as seeing a new gamer find out that they really love in a series or seeing their skill levels improve as they put in their efforts to be better at a game.  

I love seeing games as a diving board to raise interest in things.  I love studying, so learning new skills like lockpicking because of its universality in video games has been great.  Although, I’m still not as good as I’d like to be, trust me.  Learning about how politics and misuse affect the everyday lives of people in Deus Ex and relating that to real life.  Or other pokes like racism and refugee crises in Guild Wars 2.  To learn and see from outside my mind is good knowledge from video games.  

And bringing it back around, just people learning about the lore of worlds outside our own.  That excitement, the fandoms, the burning passion of it all.  These things are good knowledge because it brings people together and we carry joy together.  Just lore of games themselves, even if not as useful in real life, that is good knowledge that I love immensely.  

I value the relationship between myself and games.  This has been kind of talked about in my Breaking the Fourth Window article.  I value how games change how I treat others in positive ways.  Understanding communication and how to better be myself around others.  Setting boundaries and respecting boundaries.  I am not a social person, so all of this is a good thing.  I value how I feel about the characters and the worlds in these games.  When people cry over a beloved character’s death, and moreover why they were close to them in the first place.  Was it because they had a friend similar to them?  Was it because we loved or hated a similar situation?  Is it trauma?  …was it because they were hot?  Okay, that last one is not really something I could personally relate to, but to each their own in their video game relationships.

I think some people categorize my relationship with the game worlds as nearly as dangerous as what some…unhealthy fandoms do with characters, but I don’t relate to them in the same way.    It is a bond to strengthen my values and ties to everything around me.  I want to be with the hurt and misunderstood in games, to “talk” with them and interact and think about how I feel.  It has helped me relate to those who have been hurt in real life.  It is not that any of these relationships in our outside video games are fake, rather it is that they all uplift each other.  And in one full circle going back to my first point, it helps me become more human.


Is this all a bit cheese?  Maybe.  Does it feel a bit preachy?  Kinda.  But all in all, it’s what I pride myself in playing video games to be.  I think a lot of the reasons I play are for uplifting me and those around me.  I want to help people be more human, or even just have good fun.  Sorry if these rather personal posts are not as exciting as my other posts, but I just hope that we all have positive growth in ourselves by playing video games.  I want to prove that there is so much more to video games than just violently shooting at demons.    …although, that is fun too.

Stay safe, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

Elise

Lone Wanderers Together

Single Player Co-op

I’m definitely a single player gamer.  If it has to be multiplayer it better be cooperative play, and even then I might just play through the whole thing by myself.  For example, The Division series I played 98% by myself.  I like taking things at my own pace and style.  My playstyle tends to conflict with a lot of my friends’ styles so I’d rather just not be a burden on the whole group.  

I love being a long wanderer.  I have a harder time with games where you need to control a squad unless it’s a top down view like an RTS or MOBA game.  In the Fallout series I never travel with a companion unless I need to for a quest.  Same goes for the Elder Scrolls series.  Sometimes I’ll still have to go through it though, like in Baldur’s Gate or Mass Effect, but I can grit my teeth and “get along” with people.  Perhaps I’m just not a people person.

After all is said and done, one of my favorite things to do with single player games is to talk with other players who have finished it and hear their sides of the story.  What choices did they make that differ from me?  In my previous article I talked about how I tend to make choices that are more like myself, and that also means not experiencing a lot of things that other people chose.  I love to see why people choose different choices especially concerning factional, emotional, or moral matters.

I also like to hear where they wandered off to and what side areas and quests I didn’t see.  I purposely only do quests and side quests I truly run into on my own to make it more of a personal experience (unless I desperately need an upgrade or something), and so hearing of other’s exploits and adventures makes theirs even more unique.  Like, hearing a friend run into a legendary monster that I never knew about is so cool.  Them talking about some secret loot from it and what it was like is such a fun experience.  We’ve both played the game, but their treasures are all different.

This is a little harder to do with open world games where quests and areas are more laid out for you.   In Assassin’s Creed: Origins I ended up going to nearly, if not all, the markers on the map.  It didn’t feel very unique.  I was just checking off a list of things to do.  Every once in a while I’d run into something unique that made me smile, laugh, or be in awe.  I found the things that really hit that single player adventure spot were those few things that I ran into that were unmarked, or events that happened due to certain sandbox-based natural events.  

Guild Wars 2 kind of hits that same note, even though it’s an MMO.  MMOs are a little less like the nature of long wanderers together because of obvious reasons.  However, the way the game’s event based quests and renown hearts work, you can always just run into people and work together to fight some map boss or help a town of NPCs out.  Immediately after, we say thanks or share a cheer, and then off we are back again on our own adventures.  

Single player games offer that weird feeling of being back at base, and everyone shares their experiences and loot.  I hear their stories and I get amped up to go on another adventure.  In a weird way, I don’t feel alone in a single player experience, because we’re all on this smattering of timelines in our own worlds and I can hear what happened with them.  I know this is ironic because I don’t talk to a lot of people in general, but still.  All of this becomes more and more exciting as system based games like Dishonored and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild take shape.  They need not be super open world, but their dynamic systems allow for unique experiences that I continue to be amazed at or laugh at.  

It reminds me of times being united with gamers playing Super Mario World or other older single player games of the olden days.  We were all together because we all went on the same adventure, but when we reunite we all tell differing tales.  

Thanks for reading, I’ll see you again soon.

Elise

Why I Love: Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness

Ready to Work

Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness is where Blizzard Entertainment really started to shine.  They began to show the strong character of the studio.  Every song, animation, and voice line has so much personality.  You were fully prepared to delve into the world.

Blizzard has made games with quite a bit of personality like Blackthorne and more so with The Lost Vikings, but Warcraft II just exploded.  Real-time strategy games were on the rise and Blizzard Entertainment was leading the charge.  The flow would be helped with games like Command & Conquer and Age of Empires, but both of those games settled on a grittier, hard world.  Blizzard leaves enough soft world building to give a sense of wonder.

I think one of the things that really attracted me to Warcraft was how fast the battles took place:  the flying of arrows and axes, the galloping of knights, and cannonballs being fired from ships.  It was all so intense.  I think it may be annoying to some, but the constant clanging of swords when the units are fighting each other is super pleasing to me.  I just imagine them smacking each other with all their might.  It reminds me of playing with toys and making them go to war with each other.  Some toys had special abilities. Some toys were tanks that would just break through the lines.  I guess Warcraft was kind of what I imagined all that to be.

I messed around with the level editor and made some pretty crude levels.  I was pretty young so it’s not like I was making anything fancy, but again, it was one of those situations where I could set up certain situations and have them go at each other.  It was a dream come true.  

Most of the units in either faction were pretty similar which likely helped with balancing issues, but I loved how into the fantasy setting the voice-overs were.  They really felt like two different factions, when stat-wise they were mostly the same.  I think what I love most about Warcraft II is the fact that they fully committed to this fantasy war game.  

With most RTS games game theory is a thing so this is not specific to Warcraft, but I want to point out that this is where that really started building in my mind.  The idea that there are so many different variables and situations that makes each battle feel unique and fought for are what really make RTS games something I love.  I think the esports scene for RTS games are the most interesting because of how mentally intense it is with commanding an army and determining strategies mid-battle, especially in something as fast paced as Warcraft or Starcraft.

Maybe I’m just super biased.  Haha!  But these are the things that makes Warcraft appealing to me.  Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness sits at number 130 as of writing this.  I need to write more frequently or else I’m going to keep getting pushed down this list.  I’ll see you next time on the ULTRA!

Why I Love: Mega Man 2

Mega Struggle

…Why do I love Mega Man 2?  I looked back on this as it is number 130 on my loose list.  If you look at Mega Man 2, it has a lot of unnaturally rising difficulties.  Sometimes, you can’t even call it rising difficulty because it’s just straight up hard from the very beginning.  A few things are not very respectful of your time either.  I mean, I am very grateful for the E-cans and codes, because in Mega Man 1 you had neither of them.  If you died trying to figure out a level or a boss, you are also expending your time.  Now Elise, you mean you got experience right?  Yes, but we get literally nothing but that, and it’s difficult to find the game respectful of your time when it throws all that out the window because you had to try and figure out something that wants specific solutions.  Or glitchy ones.

So why do I even like this game?  Your top tier platformer gamers will be fine, but I would say the average gamer would have a hard time with game, this series even. So why do we like this kind of game that punishes us so severely for trying to figure out a design the developers do not explain?  Isn’t it partly the responsibility of the designer to make sure cheap shots like this don’t happen?  

Why do we like being punished so much!?  It’s not that we like being punished.  It is that we like climbing something rather difficult.  Although I personally DO enjoy the struggle of climbing a mountain, sometimes it is difficult to see that in game design.  The difficulty of designing a game like Mega Man 2 is that you are risking the retention of your player.  There are moments in this game where you may drop on one-hit kill spikes because you do not have insanely fast reaction times that are not normal for a human being.  UNLESS.  Unless you die to find out first.  Which again, is you spending your time to pay for something that blindsided you.

I guess we want the fight.  We want the fight of knowing that the designer is against us.  It is those games that have enough design in them to not push us over the edge.  Or games where the punishment is the sole deliberation of the designers in games like I Wanna Be the Guy.  They make it pretty obvious in that game that it is being unfair on purpose because that’s the point.  That game is a game where designs don’t matter as much.  The game will blindside you at almost every turn and in the end, the skill is some platforming, but it is mostly you remembering where the enemy will come from.

But Mega Man 2 is still on my top list.  I mean, this is the tops list.  It is some people’s favorite game ever.  Maybe it’s the exception that this game is old.  OR MAYBE.  Maybe it is mercy.

I mean, graphics act a little smoother.  The soundtrack is even better than the last one.  Lot’s of things are great.  But I think it is the added level of mercy in the game that makes it even better.  The game doesn’t reconcile with you by making the game easier than the last one.  It is still brutal, but there are always moments of mercy.  A tiny bit of health here.  A tiny bit of ammo there.  E-cans that fill your life to full can be used in times of desperation.

Climbing up a mountain without food or supplies is incredibly difficult, but so is climbing the mountain with supplies.  The difference is one is survival and feels unfair, and the other is a challenge.  That is what makes Mega Man so fun.  That is what makes Dark Souls so fun.  They crush us, give us some water, and then send us out to be crushed again.  Because of the bits of mercy here and there, it still feels like a game.  It still feels like a challenge, and just like a challenge, when we overcome it we look back and say, “Wow.  I made it.  I really did it,” and not, “Ugh, I’m finally done with that. Let’s get out of here.”

Ironically, the artificial difficulty in these games is balanced by the complete opposite of what these games feel like: sanctuary.  And I guess that’s why I love Mega Man 2 so much.  Also the soundtrack.  Listen to that thing if you can.  I love it.  I mean, play the game if you can as well.  The collection is available on Steam.  

This is the Ultimate Loosely-Thought Ranked Analysis, and this was Mega Man 2 at number 130.  I’ll see you next time!

Why I Love: The Stanley Parable

You Read This Article

Okay, how do I say this?  I guess I could just say it like this: The Stanley Parable is a first person adventure game, and I very, VERY, highly suggest you play it before you read this article.


You can go grab it here, where it is, as of this article, at $15 USD base price.  You’ll want to play it multiple times.  There is also a demo available on the page, if you want to do that.

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So, this game is one of those games that really reaches out as to what a video game can be like.  It does this without trying too hard.  There are games that want to have such a unique idea that they find one, but then they keep pushing it to the point where it is not really a good game.  Or they keep trying to shove new ideas in until the game is a mess.  It’s okay to have a lot of cool ideas in your game, but don’t force it.  It has to fit.

The Stanley Parable does not do that.  This is a game where you play as a man named Stanley.  Stanley works in an office, and one day his computer screen does not show its usual display and so Stanley must look for his higher ups to find out what’s going on.

However, what makes this game unique is that there is a narrator telling you what to do.  Now obviously you are Stanley, and you as the player are free to do what you wish.  That disjointed collaboration between you and the narrator is what makes this game so special.  Let me emphasize this as well: this does not just make it unique, it makes it fun as well.

A lot of games trying to be unique tend to leave behind the fact that games are meant to be fun or perhaps inspiring in some way, whether that is artistically or philosophically.  The experience that is played on in skits by comedy groups becomes something you get to play!  You decide whether or not you want to follow the narrative.  It also really helps that the narrator’s voice actor is absolutely wonderful.

This game sits at number 131 of the Ultra Loosely Thought Ranked Analysis.  

I mean, that’s it really.  This whole game revolves around this interaction with the narrator and I cannot say much more.  If the silliness of this premise is not intriguing, then maybe this isn’t the game for you.  However, as a game and experience I think it is something most people should play to see what it’s all about.  Play the demo at least.  It’s not my choice to make.  I’m just saying things.  It’s up to you.  In a way, we’re already playing the game right now, because I am telling you what to do, and you don’t have to do it.  For once in a video game, you don’t have to do what it says.


So…  what do you choose?

Why I Love: Metroid

Vania Begins

I would say I really started playing video games with the SNES and early PC games like DOOM.  I never really got into what Metroid was until Metroid Prime, and even more so with Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.  It wasn’t until after that I actually went back and played Metroid on the NES.  During that time I took a step back to play other NES games as well and, I have to say, I missed a lot of good stuff.

Before Metroidvania games became more commonplace as it is today, I didn’t…play any.  I played Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, but only for like ten minutes.  So that doesn’t count.  Metroid and Castlevania are the main ancestors of the genre, and that is why we are here today.  I wanted to know what this genre was really about.  And it is about a guided open world. 

Metroid is a game with a large, 2D world to traverse.  You play as Samus Aran, the bounty hunter, who is sent by the Galactic Federation to stop evil people from creating a bioweapon using metroids, those jellyfish looking things you see in relation to the series.  The main thing about exploring the planet Zebes is that you cannot explore all of it at once.  There are always limitations, some ability, some knowledge, or some event that prevents you from exploring everything, and that is the biggest thing about metroidvanias that make them the genre they are.

Different items like suits or weapons open new places where you’re allowed to go, and they also open new locations in old spots.  In a sense, every time you get something new, you unlock content for what’s ahead, as well as everything you’ve done in the past as well.  I think that is one of the big appeals for the genre.  Your character’s growth is shown by what you’re allowed to explore.  You genuinely feel stronger and better.  This isn’t because it’s the only thing placed in front of you either.  It’s not like, “Hey, with this ice pick, you can now climb ice walls,” and then they place an ice wall like, in the next room.  It is more like getting an ice pick and recognizing the fact I can go all the back to the beginning because it’s one huge level.  All those ice walls I saw before are now applicable.  (Ice Pick is not an item in the game.)

This means there are only so many things you can do before you’re forced to move on or to discover the next thing for advancing the story.  This is the genius thing about metroidvania games, and in this case Metroid.  You do have a choice to do what you want, but the game can still guide you to progression.  If you feel too weak, you’re not going to go grind.  You are going to go and explore.  The replacement of redundant grinding with exploration is what makes metroidvania games so satisfying.  If you are those of the adventurous nature and would do this regardless of your character’s strength, then your exploring will be rewarded!  So there is a good funneling of gameplay loops for either situation. 

This does create an issue of backtracking, and each game and gamer has their own way of handling that.  It’s a matter of shortcuts, transports, or fast traveling.  Sometimes it’s up to you to decide when to go backtrack as well.

Proper gameplay loops should be fun or rewarding in all parts of the loop and I think Metroid does a wonderful job at that.  Being an awesome bounty hunter woman is definitely a plus as well.

Metroid is at number 132 on the ULTRA.  Things have shifted around the ULTRA since we last wrote anything.  That is my fault, because we haven’t…written much.  Thank you for reading this though!  We’ll see you next time!

Why I Love: Iji

Rise of Indie

I’m going to skip a bunch of games to talk about this game, and then we’ll head back up to where we were before.

I grew up playing indie games.  I remember playing Jumper and Jumper 2 by what is now Matt Makes Games.  I remember scouring the internet for Mario-clones and playing bullet hell games like rRootage and Tumiki fighters.  I remember being hyped for Jumper: Redux because it had multiplayer.  I was curious how big indie games were going to get.  Well, as we know now, they’re everywhere, but I really feel like there was that second surge of indies that, for me, started with An Untitled Story (also Matt Makes Games) and Iji.

Iji is a free, side-scrolling shooter made by Daniel Remar.  The protagonist Iji is a young woman on Earth where an alien invasion is taking place.  She is turned into a cyborg to give humanity a fighting chance against the aliens.  However, as you go through the game you learn more about the aliens.  You decide how to approach the invasion.  It’s up to you to bring peace or death.

Iji proved so many things to the indie world.  It proved there were great stories and lore in indie games.  It also showed a great system with the level up of skills that affects the way that you play through the game.  You can choose between two different weapon technologies (or really, both if you want).  There are exciting secrets that you can find if you were cheeky enough.  And, there is also a bit of a “choices matter” element to it as well.

I also love that it is kind of a balance between classic side-scrolling shooter and metroidvania.  Your choices for your skills can determine if you can reach specific places.  Hm.  I guess that is just like a normal game these days like Dishonored or something, but still.  It’s really well done.  I’ve never had problems with glitches.  It’s fun discovering different weapons and enemies.  The world felt very new because this deep world wasn’t as common in the indie world back then.

Let’s be honest, a lot of indie games back in the days didn’t have super amazing graphics.  I think that never having the most amazing computer until later in my life taught me that graphics don’t matter that much.  They are always icing on the cake, and a cake without icing can be very delicious.  Having the option of icing and what you can do with it has the potential of deliciousness though.  

Indie games and growing up with games on the SNES also taught me one more thing: how graphics can represent things.  These days graphics try to be real.  They try to literally be the thing that they are supposed to be, but back in the days you had to create a representation.  The graphics had to make you feel like it was the thing without completely looking like it.  And limited graphics really weeds out those who can’t do it.  Iji does whatever it needs to make it feel like what it needs to show.  I don’t need perfectly detailed Tasen aliens to know what they look like, because Daniel already got the feeling down and that is a beautiful thing.

Also, the music.  The music is amazing.  The entire soundtrack is so strong.  The very first sector’s song, Kinda Green, nails that perfect feeling of waking up in a changed world with changed abilities.  The beginning is soft, with a repeating background and a soft melody.  After two minutes, the music kicks it up with an electric guitar, but it’s still not too intense.  It’s still a slower melody.  The music feels just as apprehensive as Iji’s attempt to approach this new life, but she’s now on her feet and she knows she has to move on.  The soundtrack’s increasing intensity keeps up with Iji’s emotional ride as she has to go through the story and as you go through the game.

The sounds are all fantastic as well.  The different weapons and their crazy effects feel bright and new.  The small particles of debris and rockets flying around.  Every sound just brings more environment to what is now Earth under fire.  I also absolutely love the short lines Iji says as well.  It helps her feel alive, human, and malleable.

Iji is #55 on the ULTRA list.  There are a few indie games that are higher on the list, but Iji is such an amazing game I still recommend to anyone looking for something to play.  I am a very emotional person, and so stories and characters are always a strong point for me.  I also loved that the protagonist is a female who isn’t sexualized or has some sort of romance.  She just is.  

Iji is also very high on the list because I feel like it opened so many doors to understanding video games and that is very important to me.  It accomplished so much and did so much for me as a gamer and I can only show thanks for it.  Just like with films, I feel like the ones that help us become better people or better at understanding people tend to resonate the most with me, and Iji has done that.


If you want to play iji go to Remar’s site here!

We’ll see you next time on ULTRA!