Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Weekly Top 5: Dustin's Essential Christmas Viewing

So you may be thinking that a better title for this blog would have been "Favorite Christmas Movies", but the problem with that is that some of the things I'm about to list aren't actually Christmas movies, and one is a television episode. Sure, there are some Christmas movies on this list, but other things I have here are movies that I associate with the Christmas season for one reason or another. Christmas is easily my favorite time of the year, and I've been trying my hardest to convince my wife to let me open a present, but she's holding it down better this year than in years past.

Let us begin.

5. Groundhog Day

With the exception of Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day is quite possibly my favorite Bill Murray film. Obviously, since the movie is titled after a completely separate holiday, it's not a Christmas movie at all, but it does take place in the winter, and it has all the fixings of what make a great Christmas movie: guy is a jerk, he learns lessons, has a change of heart, gets the girl, and saves the day. And by "saves the day" I mean "gets out of that weird time loop."

It's not known exactly how long the character of Phil is trapped in this loop, but several outlets have made guesses, and they range anywhere from 8 to 34 years, and when the original script was written, the writer had it in mind that it would actually be around 10,000 years. However, according to director Harold Ramis (R.I.P.), it's in the vicinity of 10 years. And ever since I first saw this movie, I've often sat and wondered what I would do in a similar situation. What would I do if I had all of eternity to waste away on earth with no repercussions? I'm almost afraid to imagine just what kind of person that kind of madness would drive me to be. But, in all likeliness, I would probably just sit down and master all of the ridiculously hard videogames from my childhood.

But if you're looking for a Bill Murray movie about Christmas, you can't go wrong with Scrooged, a modern retelling of the classic Dickens novel, A Christmas Carol, but with more Bobcat Goldthwait.

4. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Scott Pilgrim gets a spot on my Christmas viewing list for a few different reasons, but the main one being that the first time I watched it was on Christmas Eve when I received it as a gift. I'm not sure how everyone else feels about the film, but it's one of my favorite movies ever, and I find something new to love every time I watch it. I felt like the casting was great, and it wasn't until I watched it just recently that I realized that Captain America, Superman, and Punisher are all in the film, which seems fitting seeing as how the Scott Pilgrim franchise began as a comic-style graphic novel.

Speaking of the graphic novels, don't be that guy who says things like "the graphic novels are better." Yes, I agree with you, they're fantastic, but this is a 90-minute movie and not a six part book series, so some concessions needed to be made. There's also some neat trivia hidden throughout, which goes to show that a great deal of thought went into the making of this movie.

I also feel like the character of Scott Pilgrim is an easy person to recognize with for any guy who grew up in the gaming culture and struggled to be cool. But I think my favorite part of the movie is the world. I love the way Toronto is portrayed. Personally, I hate the winter, I can't deal with the cold, but this movie makes a winterized Toronto seem like a magical place. But for all I know, it's always winter in Canada, and I just wouldn't be able to handle that.

3. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

I love the majority of the Vacation films, and while there's an argument to be made for the original, I feel Christmas Vacation is the king of the series. The great thing about it is that I get more and more of the jokes as I get older. It's still kid-friendly enough that I would feel comfortable watching it with my 7 year old nephew (the TV version, at least), but with enough adult humor to still be enjoyable for all ages. It straddles that line better than most films, not just Christmas films. It's not A Charlie Brown Christmas, and it's not Bad Santa, it's right in the middle.

For some of you younger folks, you may not be able to appreciate just how great of a comedic actor Chevy Chase is, but if you ever get curious, Christmas Vacation is a great film to help you understand. In all of the Vacation movies, he plays the role of an out-of-touch father perfectly, and I see a lot of how my own dad gets around Christmas time when I watch Christmas Vacation.

Not to mention that it was one of the greatest rants ever put on film.

2. The Simpsons - "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire"

The Simpsons played a great part in shaping the personalities of my generation. There's a reason the show just won't go away even when it hasn't been good for a decade. Actually, that's not fair, the show is still good by modern television standards, but it's not as good when compared to its early-to-mid 90s heyday. But no television show takes me back to my childhood the way early episodes of The Simpsons do. It's easily my all-time favorite show, and I would likely crush most people who would dare challenge me to a game of Simpsons trivia. While the first couple of seasons are a little rough, as the show was still trying to find its voice, I consider this episode to be an essential one.

This is actually the first episode of the show after making the jump from The Tracey Ullman Show shorts to its own series. It wasn't supposed to be the first, but due to some problems with the animation of what was supposed to be the first one ("Some Enchanted Evening"), this episode took its place, and I'm glad it did. It's hard to imagine another episode that better conveys who the Simpsons are as a family. Sure, they aren't perfect, but they love each other. Homer isn't the All-American father, but he loves his children, and will do whatever it takes to give them a great Christmas.

There are some really great Christmas episodes of The Simpsons, but I still feel like this one is the definitive one.

1. Home Alone

I'm just going to get this out of the way: Die Hard is not a Christmas movie, and TNT has ruined A Christmas Story for me by showing it for 24 straight hours every Christmas. I love Christmas movies, and I had other titles like Elf, Ernest Saves Christmas, one of the Boy Meets World Christmas specials, and Jingle All the Way all vying for a position on this list, but Home Alone was never in danger of not taking the top spot. It's the alpha male of Christmas movies, and it still holds up just as well now as it did 23 years ago.

For my wife and I, this will be our third Christmas together, and we already have a Christmas morning tradition. I wake up early, make peanut butter pancakes with a side of bacon, brew some coffee, pop Home Alone into the blu ray player, and we open our presents after we finish breakfast. I've never been a big fan of the Christmas classics like It's a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street, but I think at this point Home Alone should be mentioned right alongside them.

I even enjoy the sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. It's basically the exact same movie except they swapped out the creepy old man for a homeless pigeon lady, but it still puts the warm fuzzies in my heart. I'm glad they stopped making Home Alone movies after that, it would have been a shame if they milked one of the greatest films of all-time for all it's worth.

Oh, wait...

Thanks for reading. You can follow me on Twitter and listen to my podcast.

-Dustin

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Gift of Gaming: The World's Greatest Coping Mechanism

A couple of months ago, I lost my best buddy to cancer. It was my boxer, Muldoon, and he had been my best friend for the past nine years. I dedicated an entire blog to him, explaining how he was with me through a lot of the best gaming moments in my life. It was a rough time for me, and now my wife is going through a similar situation with her cat. Unfortunately, death and other types of tragedy are things that I've had to deal with a lot in my life. Through all of it, though, I always had gaming.

I've never used videogames as a way to escape from the realities of life, I don't find that to be a healthy way of dealing with things, at least it isn't for me. I don't like to push things under the rug and pretend like they didn't happen, I instead choose to use videogames as a way to cope with loss, rather than to escape from it. I understand why some people would choose to do it this way, because I have friends and family that do, it's just not my style. Videogames and writing are the things that have always helped me to make peace with situations, that's why I wrote the blog about Muldoon the same day he passed away, I just needed to write about him and let everyone know how awesome he was.

He was indeed pretty awesome.

The first death I remember is my grandfather when I was four. I don't really remember him much, but I was with he and my grandmother every day while my parents were at work until I started kindergarten. I remember being sad, and I remember playing Super Mario Bros. because it would cheer me up. Shortly thereafter, my family's house blew up--not burned down, blew up--from a gas leak. The day after the fire, we went back to where the house used to be to try and salvage whatever we could. I remember picking our copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 from the wreckage. It was blackened from the smoke and soot, but you could still make out the smiling, raccooned Mario on the cover. I didn't expect it to work, but it didn't matter, our NES wasn't as lucky and didn't make it out alive. A while later, in one of the greatest acts of kindness I've ever experienced, my mother's coworkers pooled money together to buy my brother and I a new NES. As luck would have it, that copy of SMB3 still worked like it was brand new, which is why I'm convinced that NES cartridges will continue to flourish long after Skynet has become self-aware.

And when that happens, Fear Factory is the only band that will be spared.

Fast-forwarding a little bit, during a two year period beginning in late 2006, I lost my best friend to cystic fibrosis, my grandmother to natural causes, and my uncle to liver disease. Then the girl I was engaged to at the time and I split up. I was working a full-time job on the graveyard shift that I hated, I was working a part-time job that I enjoyed but couldn't get a promotion from, I was going to school full-time, and I was in the wrestling ring every chance I could get. I had a lot on my plate and had very little free time. I was battling a great deal of depression and anger, I was struggling with an eating disorder, I was frustrated because I felt like I deserved to be better off with my wrestling career than I was, and for the first time in my life, despite always being a believer, I was questioning my faith in God. There was one week that was so bad that I slept from the moment I got home from work to the time I had to go back every day.

But at the end of the day, I had videogames to help me. My friend Chris and I explored every inch of Pandora. We dispatched thousands upon thousands of zombies in Cajun country. I soared through space with a Lombax and solved platforming puzzles with his metal sidekick. I ran alongside the ghost of Sparta as we trekked through Greece in search of Zeus.

Kratos knows my pain.

That's around the time I started writing CBlogs on Destructoid after months of just being a casual observer and leaving the occasional comment. I knew I was a good writer, but would the DToid community think so? Well, there was only one way to find out, and I was amazed when the second blog I ever posted here on Destructoid made the front page. It felt awesome to see something that I had worked so very hard on make it to the front page, and trust me, I put a lot of work and research into that particular blog. It was cool seeing the comments rolling in, praising my writing. It only fueled me to write more and more. That was the first time I ever thought "Hey, maybe I could do this and get paid for it one day." Over the years I've had my fair share of blogs make it to the front page, and every time I get that same rush and it only pushes me to want to keep writing and keep getting better.

Ever since that very dark time in my life, I've lost other family members, I've lost more friends, and I've been hurt, either by people or by life in general. Today, I'm in a much better state spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally, but that doesn't mean that I don't still use videogames and writing as some of my coping mechanisms. I put God first in every aspect of my life now, but sometimes, this guy needs to cope by riding an elephant and liberating outposts in Kyrat.

Seeing how happy destruction makes that elephant also makes me happy.

I don't get through tough spots in my life by watching movies or television. Music helps sometimes, but it doesn't take my mind off things. Videogames do, thanks in great part to the interactivity and having to constantly be on my toes. Eventually I get tired of watching the same movies or listening to the same songs, but I never grow tired of hitting buttons on a controller and watching Mario jump around and stomp goombas. Videogames are, to me, the gift that keeps on giving.

Thanks for reading

-Dustin

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Weekly Top 5: Dustin's Videogame Pitches

I don't have the technical know-how to create a videogame, but I have the writing ability and a noggin full of ideas. I feel like every gamer has those ideas that they would love to see come to life and find a home on their favorite gaming console, and I'm no different. The ideas sometimes come out of nowhere, and then other times I'll get a little nugget and build on it over a period of time.

During the last week, however, I found myself coming up with idea after idea, and I'd like to share some of them with you. This week's top 5 are my videogame pitches. Although I'm being comical for some of these, I would legitimately love to see these games get made (except for one, which shouldn't be too hard to figure out).

Mario-Vania

This is an idea I had about two years ago, and I devoted an entire blog to it back then, but I'm still so convinced that it's a moneymaker that I'm going bring it up again here. The premise is very simple: combine two of Nintendo's best franchises, Mario and Metroid. How awesome would it be to play a metroidvania-style game as Mario? It would be very awesome, that's how awesome.

I wouldn't want the tone to be dark like in the picture up there, what I'm picturing is a huge world that gradually changes from the Sky World to the Water World to the Desert World and so on. Mario could defeat a boss and earn a new ability, like the fire flower, for example, and use that to burn down some pirahna plant weeds to make his way into the forest area. He could switch to the various abilities on the fly and backtrack to find previously blocked secrets. Even though I'm still a huge Mario fanboy, this would definitely give the Mario series a shot in the arm that it needs. If you want more details, click on the link above.

There has to be someone reading this who has a foot in at Nintendo. Someone call Chad Concelmo right now and tell him to get on it. I don't even want royalties and I promise not to sue if they use my idea, I just want this game to happen.

Malice in the Palace starring Ron Artest

In case you're not the sports type, a little over 10 years ago, one of the biggest brawls in sports history took place between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons. An altercation began near the end of the game between the Pacers' Ron Artest (who later changed his name to the incredibly stupid Metta World Peace), and the Piston's Ben Wallace. It eventually escalated into an ordeal that involved most of the players' teammates. After things had sort-of-but-not-really calmed down, Artest sprawled himself onto the commentator's table. We don't find this shocking in retrospect because we've already established that Metta World Peace loves two things: attention, and being weird.

While on the table, a Detroit fan hurled their coke at Artest, which hit him in the chest. This prompted Artest to proceed into the crowd and punch a completely different fan in the face. The ensuing chaos led to several players receiving suspensions and fines. Artest himself was suspended for the rest of the season and lost over $4 million in the process.

So my thinking is this: If Shaquille O'Neal can get a fighting game, Michael Jordan can get a side-scroller, and Charles Barkley can get a decent basketball game and two RPG computer games, then why can't we have a brawler where Metta World Peace--reprising his role as Ron Artest--literally brawls his way through the 22,000+ fans in attendance that evening at The Palace of Auburn Hills? The brawl itself has even been dubbed "Malice in the Palace," so it already has a title. Obviously, just fighting your way out of the arena can't be the whole game, so you would then take on the mean streets of Detroit. It's then that Artest tries to win the fans back by taking on thugs and ridding the city of crime.

The final battle would see Artest in a situation reminiscent of the final scene of Batman Forever, where he must choose between saving one of two Detroit musicians: Kid Rock or Eminem. If you save Eminem, the city rejoices and you win the game. If you save Kid Rock, however, you wind up dying because everyone in Detroit will kill you for making the wrong choice.

No one likes Kid Rock, not even Kid Rock.

Saved by the Bell: The Adventure

My wife's favorite show is Saved by the Bell. I loved it as a kid, but it's not the type of show I would go back and watch over and over again like The Simpsons or Boy Meets World. Because she loves the show so much, many nights before we head to bed we'll be sitting on the couch and she'll put on Saved by the Bell in the background while she's playing on her phone and I'm playing something on the 3DS. I can't help but look up every so often as it does bring back a lot of childhood memories.

About a week ago, we had another one of these nights, and I couldn't help but think that it's amazing there was never a Saved by the Bell videogame. There do exist a few homebrew PC games, but I'm talking about a real videogame from a real company that has a box in a store. How did that never happen? If Saved by the Bell was popular enough to be on Trapper Keepers then surely it was popular enough to have a game. And I noticed that a lot of the elements of the show are perfect for a point and click adventure game.

I imagine you would either play as Zack or wind up controlling all six of the students at some point. I'm not counting Tori because literally nobody liked her, and you likely forgot she even existed until I reminded you just now.

Just think of all the different scenarios: there's the episode where they create fake IDs (which could easily be implemented), Zach needs to outsmart Mr. Belding, the gang needs to find a way out of detention, they have to do battle against the Rigmas at some point, they need to convince the nerds to help them out of a sticky situation by fishing their retainers out of some hard to reach spot. Of course there would a teenage villain, who would preferably be voiced by William Zabka, and two endings. The "good" ending would see Zack saving the day and ending up with Kelly, with the polar opposite "bad" ending resulting in Slater winning the girl.

Kanye West Fashion Designer

This is a mobile "game" that costs $120 to download, and it's just a picture of a plain white t-shirt. There are also microtransactions that consist of 120 different pieces of a plain white t-shirt that cost $1 each.

Pro Wrestler Story

If you listened to episode 12 of PStoid, then you've probably already heard this idea, but now I have the opportunity to expand upon it. Given my past with professional wrestling, one thing that really bothers me about "realistic" pro wrestling games these days is the fact that they don't show the day to day life of what it really means to be a professional wrestler. Sure, you can create storylines and they'll show backstage events, but what about when the cameras turn off and you have to deal with things like backstage politics?

I want a game similar to Game Dev Story about pro wrestling where you do everything except the actual pro wrestling. It could lead down a potentially dark path, because the wrestling business itself is full of horror stories and men and women who are completely broken in one fashion or another. That's not the case with everyone, but the ultimate goal would be to create a Sim Wrestler so good at all the other aspects of wrestling that you eventually reach the heights of a Hulk Hogan. But if you're not careful, you could lead yourself down a road similar to Scott Hall.

I was referring to the alcohol problems, but this works too.

The game would be full of decisions, and each one could go one of several different ways. Let's say your wrestler got hurt, what do you do? Do you take painkillers that weren't prescribed to you, wrestle through the pain, potentially hurting yourself even further and possibly getting addicted, or do you take the time off you need to recover and possibly lose your place on the roster, in turn making less money and losing fans? There's the chance that you won't get addicted and you'll actually reach new heights, but do you really want to take that risk?

Or maybe because you're away from home so much that you miss your wife, which brings down your morale, but you need a high morale to perform better in the ring and increase your chances of getting better. Do you cheat on your wife? It boosts your morale but it could tear your family apart if they were to find out, which in turn makes your morale go even lower.

Let's say you're just trying to check into a hotel and a fan tries to pick a fight with you, do you fight the heckler or ignore him? Each decision could have possible repercussions or rewards. This would be something that I would pay full price to see if it were handled properly.

Every idea I've listed probably has little to no chance of ever getting made, but a man can dream. Anyone else have any ideas for games? I promise I won't steal them...maybe...probably not...okay I will.

Don't forget you can follow me on Twitter and you can also listen to my podcast, we just did a retrospective of the original PlayStation.

Thanks for reading.

-Dustin

Friday, December 5, 2014

Weekly Top 5: Favorite PSone Games

As most of you probably already know, this week the videogame industry celebrated the 20th anniversary of the release of the PlayStation. Say what you will about the Sony brand these days, but back in 1994 they truly revolutionized gaming not only technologically, but they also opened up our minds to just what videogames were capable of. Little did we know at the time that it was just the beginning for the juggernaut we know as the PlayStation.

Sony had incredible foresight in the mid to late 90s when it came to knowing where the industry was heading and making sure they were at the forefront. The first time I put a CD in the PlayStation and actually heard the music coming out of the television, I nearly pooped my jeans. There are well over a hundred titles that are deserving of being on a top 5 list, there was something for everyone, and my list, while having some classic titles and all-time greats, will likely look different than yours. I wasn't an RPG player, so I'm sorry in advance, you won't see any Square Enix games on this list. If this were my wife's list, it would probably be nothing but Final Fantasy titles, and if it were my list...wait a minute, it is my list! With that being said, let's put some arbitrary numbers next to videogame titles and get this list started!

Honorable Mention: Demo Discs

I really miss demo discs. Of course, with the advent of online services in the console space, their usefulness is basically zero these days. The demo disc shown in the picture above is the one that I played ragged. Every Saturday was pizza night at the Thomas household, and there was nothing I loved more at the time than a stuffed crust Pizza Hut pizza (hence the reason I was an overweight child). But on this particular Saturday, I got more than just cheese and bread stuffed with more cheese, I got the Pizza Hut PlayStation Demo Disc. I assume they just gave copies to everyone, because I had no idea it existed and my mother certainly wouldn't have asked for it. Inside the sleeve was a shiny green disc, and the contents of that disc were nothing short of awesome for one reason only: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater.

Yeah, it had four other games, and I tried all of them at some point, but they all paled in comparison to Tony Hawk's warehouse level with Goldfinger's "Superman" playing over top of it. Ape Escape seemed alright, Crash Team Racing was fine, Coolboarders 4 didn't interest me much because I had burnt myself out on the series with Coolboarders 2, and after dying on one of the first enemies in FFVIII, I said "This is stupid" and went back to busting out heel flips and trying my hardest to complete the "Holy Sh*t Grind." Of course, any time I mention THPS (or have an opportunity to plug something), I have to couple it with the story that my best bud, Chris, who is a co-host on my podcast, played the demo so much that he busted blood vessels in his eyes. If you want to hear that story, you can listen to it here.

5. Hot Shots Golf

Hang around me long enough and you'll come to find that I'm an avid sports fan. I grew up playing baseball and basketball, I've always been a football fan, and of course there's my wrestling career. But I hate golf. So why is it that I've always loved golf videogames? In early January I'll be doing a top 5 games of 2014 list, and there's a very great chance that Mario Golf: World Tour is going to be not only on the list, but very high on the list.

Hot Shots Golf was another game that I first discovered on a demo disc. The demo featured the last three holes on the game's first course, and I must have played those three holes at least fifty times. I knew I needed more, so I traveled to the local Funcoland and found a used copy for a very reasonable price. I'm not entirely sure, but this may have been the first time I ever purchased a used game. I remember bringing it home and on my very first 18-hole round, I got a hole-in-one. I don't know why, but it was one of the most exhilarating moments of the PSone era for me.

I'm really glad I gave that demo a shot, because to this day, I've owned every Hot Shots game and it's seriously one of my all-time favorite franchises. Unfortunately, the series seems to be mostly relegated to Sony's handheld platforms, but here's to hoping that the PS4 will one day receive an entry in their beloved golf series.

4. Twisted Metal 2

Car combat games certainly existed before the advent of Twisted Metal, but in my opinion, Twisted Metal is the undisputed champ (and if you're going to say something about Carmageddon or Vigilante 8 you can just go ahead and shut up). I played the original very briefly whenever my brother's friend would bring over his copy, and the three of us would always battle to the death, taking turns in the one-on-one mode. I wound up winning so often that I was banned from picking Hammerhead.

Why wouldn't I pick Hammerhead? It's a friggin' monster truck!

But when Twisted Metal 2 hit the shelves, it was practically the only game I played for months on end. I had to see all the different endings. I had to discover every little secret. And I never got tired of blowing up the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower. I knew where every health pickup was. I knew where every weapon pickup was and which weapon was going to be there. I knew how to evade and attack certain enemies. I even had strategies for every level, for instance, on the Antarctica level, I would teleport to the lone iceberg and just sit there allowing my special attacks to stockpile and unload it on whichever AI enemy was bold enough to use that teleporter to come find me. Today, we call that "camping", but back then it was called "conservation".

At times the game can be frustrating and can seem almost unfair, especially when fighting Dark Tooth, but you're always having more fun than anything else, so it's easy to forgive. The thing that makes the game so great are the different locations. You go everywhere from a New York skyscraper to the amazon to Hong Kong. There's even a Holland level which is completely flat with nothing more than a couple windmills for scenery. That may not sound interesting, but it somehow works, and is one of my favorite levels in the game.

After TM2, I didn't really care about the series much until Twisted Metal: Black on the PS2, which is an underrated gem. I haven't gotten a chance to play the PS3 version, and while I've heard mostly negative things, I'm still curious to play it at some point.

3. Resident Evil 2

The original Resident Evil was the first survival horror game I ever played, and ever since then, I've been a huge fan of the genre. Then Resident Evil 2 came out took everything that was great about the original and ran with it. I also really enjoyed RE3, but it seemed like a step back. It went back to only having a single protagonist, back to only one scenario (down from the four you had with RE2), the monster designs were less inspired than before, and overall, while still a solid game, didn't grab me like its predecessor.

I've already swooned over this game in my Top 5 Resident Evil Games list, so I'm honestly struggling to find things to say about Resident Evil 2 without repeating myself. It's revered by many fans as the best in the series and is undoubtedly one of the best survival horror games ever. It's still 100% worth tracking down and playing today if you've never had the chance, and you can pick it up reasonably cheap on PSN.

Fans have said this for years, but with the upcoming remake of REmake, it seems like a shame that we only got an update of the original and not this one as well.

2. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

This is another case where I'm going to struggle to think of new things to say. It's pretty much universally agreed upon that Symphony of the Night is not only the best in the Castlevania series, but also one of the must have PlayStation titles. Some PlayStation games are hard to return to, but that's certainly not the case here. I actually didn't play SOTN until 2005, nearly a decade after it was released, and to this day is an all-time favorite of mine.

Symphony is one of those games that I find myself purchasing over and over again. Between the original PlayStation version, PSN, XBLA, the PSP's Dracula X Chronicles, and then again on PSN because I lost my original account (and because I wanted to be able to play it on the Vita), I've bought the game a handful of times.

It takes the best of the 2D Castlevania games, says "screw you" to the N64 titles, and brings us a massive castle so full of secrets that I've played the game at least a dozen times over the years and continue to find things I never had before on each successive playthrough. The replay value on Symphony is on levels unlike most other games, and the fun hasn't diminished at all in the past 17 years.

1. Metal Gear Solid

I had already owned a PlayStation for several years when Metal Gear Solid was released, but MGS renewed my love of videogames after I hit a lull in my favorite hobby. My friend David procured a copy of the Japanese demo, which only featured the opening dock and subsequent heliport sections of the game, and even though we couldn't understand a word that was being said, that small taste was more than enough to sell us on the game.

Metal Gear Solid was the first game I ever pre-ordered, and I had done chores and begged my mother for months to give me the extra money I needed to get the game on release day. I snatched up every magazine I could find that had MGS coverage. I had to see every screenshot and take in every piece of information I could get my hands on.

I had never played the original Metal Gear on NES, and I certainly didn't play Metal Gear 2, so to my knowledge, this was the beginning of the series. You can imagine how confused I was when Master Miller called me the first time or any time Outer Heaven was mentioned. I thought maybe those were things covered in the manual, but no, I was just in the dark about everything.

Metal Gear Solid began my love of stealth-action games. To this day, any time stealth is an option, that's the path I go for. In Far Cry 4, getting noticed during my attempts to liberate outposts results in me letting myself die immediately so I can try again at finishing it perfectly. My wood elf in Skyrim spent a lot of time crouching and shooting arrows from the shadows. Metal Gear Solid started it all for me. Never before had I played a game where I felt like I was outsmarting the enemy.

That first night with the game, I remember getting to floor B2 of the nuclear warhead storage facility. I came to an area with poisonous gas and an electrified floor and having no clue what to do. I called David, who had purchased the strategy guide, and asked him what to do. After destroying the fuse box to the floor, I came to one of the most gruesome cutscenes I had ever seen (at least, as gruesome as you could be with PSone technology). After seeing the cyber ninja literally dismantle a few genome soldiers, I was totally freaked out, and knew that was where I had to call it a day. I wasn't mentally ready to fight someone that hardcore.

And that was just a prelude to the awesomeness that would come soon thereafter.

I worked my way through the snow covered fields, the sterile laboratories, I figured out how to escape Snake's holding cell, and I conquered Metal Gear Rex. I thought that was the end, but little did I know that the best was yet to come (<-- you see what I did there?). The final hand-to-hand battle with Liquid on top of Rex was such an awesome action movie moment that I got goosebumps.

There wasn't a moment in the game that I didn't love. I still play it on occasion, and I much prefer it over the "upgrade" they called Twin Snakes. I don't have anything against Twin Snakes, it was a noble effort, I just think it's inferior. Why try to improve upon perfection?

There you have it, my top 5 PlayStation games. I know there's going to be a lot of different opinions on a console that revolutionized gaming as much as this one did, but there's no denying it's impact on the hobby we're all so passionate about.

Thanks for reading.

-Dustin

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Weekly Top 5: Most Anticipated Games of 2015

The title of this Top 5 is pretty self explanatory. A lot of DToiders have been writing similar blogs, so I figured I would jump on the bandwagon. Here are the 5 games scheduled for release in 2015 that I'm most looking forward to.

Honorable Mention: Ori and the Blind Forest

The only reason this game missed the top 5 is because it's not going to be released on a console that I currently have, so it's not a guarantee I'll have a chance to play it in the year 2015. I love me some metroidvania games, and not only is this game absolutely gorgeous, but Moon Studios has stated there's a very heavy emphasis on platforming, which is the reason I loved Guacamelee so much. Yes, the combat was great, but those platforming puzzle sections were what I loved most about it. Hopefully Ori does something similar.

5. Hyper Light Drifter

I got an opportunity to play Hyper Light Drifter at Pax East last year. It originally wasn't on my radar, but a buddy told me I should check it out if it were there. It was, and even though I sucked at the game, I still had an immense amount of fun. Any game that has a retro art style will grab my attention, then throw in the fact that it's an action-RPG inspired by SNES classics, and you've pretty much got me throwing my money at you.

When the game makes its way to the PlayStation 4 next year, it'll be a day one purchase for sure, and hopefully that'll also grant me the Vita version, because Hyper Light Drifter seems like a perfect handheld title.

4. Splatoon

Any time Nintendo comes out with a new IP (which doesn't happen very often these days) I immediately want to know more about it. If there's one thing that I know from the 26 years of my life I've spent playing videogames, it's that I can trust Nintendo. Even if it's not the big budget title that we all think of when we hear the term "triple-A", at the very least I know it'll be a solid game, it'll control well, and it'll work when I open it up...so pretty much the exact opposite of most triple-A games these days.

I actively avoid competitive multiplayer in most games, and I could see myself getting really into Splatoon's multiplayer when it comes out. I love the way the game looks, it's wacky and fully of vibrant colors you don't see very often. This is definitely a game most Wii U owners should perk their ears about.

3. Resident Evil Revelations 2

I think the original Revelations is the best Resident Evil game since RE4, so why wouldn't I be excited for this one? I'm not entirely sold on the episodic structure, but at least they're planning to release one episode a week until the game is completed, with a full version coming shortly thereafter. I'll likely opt for the full retail version rather than digital episodes, I prefer physical discs and I'm a pretty patient man.

It's also good to see Claire Redfield in her first new Resident Evil game in 15 years, as well as possibly getting an appearance from fan favorite, Barry Burton, as Claire's partner is Barry's daughter, Moira (Barry Burton is good at naming his guns, not his children). Revelations was a return to form for the Resident Evil series, and after the poop stain on the series that was Resident Evil 6, I'm hoping this sequel puts the series back on the right path, and from what I've seen thus far, it appears it will do just that.

2. Yoshi's Woolly World

Dawwwwwwwww. How can you look at that and not instantly be filled with happiness? The greatest sidekick in gaming gets the Epic Yarn treatment and it looks like the purest form of joy that videogames have ever seen. Granted, I'm a self-admitted Nintendo fanboy (see Splatoon above), but I think most Wii U owners would agree that this looks like a must-play game for the system.

I was never a huge fan of Yoshi's Island, and I'm yet to play the 3DS sequel, but based on trailers and screenshots it looks like it plays like a traditional Yoshi's Island minus the crying Baby Mario, which admittedly was the main reason I never got into Yoshi's Island in the first place. I prefer platformers over any other genre, and Yoshi's Woolly World was very close to taking the top spot, but...

1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

...that goes to the next Big Boss adventure. I know we all went through the "Cost v Length" debate earlier this year with Phantom Pain's prologue, Ground Zeroes, but it did its job and left me thoroughly psyched for Phantom Pain. Everything they've shown so far fits right in with the Metal Gear universe, meaning it's not too crazy, but still pretty crazy. I mean, why wouldn't Big Boss have a wolf with an eye patch? Makes perfect sense in a world where giant walking tanks are a thing or where a dead man's hand can take control over another human being, and those are actually pretty tame compared to the rest of the game.

I'm very interested to see the open world that began in Ground Zeroes expanded upon. Metal Gear Solid games are legendary for giving you tons of different options during battle, but the one thing they've always been lacking is the ability to approach situations from different angles. And you know Kojima is going to give you tons of toys to play around with and Easter eggs to find. The series hooked me with Metal Gear Solid back in 1998, and with the exception of one title, I've found every game since then to be a masterpiece.

I don't usually pay the full $60 for games anymore, but I'll gladly shell out even more for a special edition version of Phantom Pain on day one.

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Thanks for reading,

-Dustin