Tuesday, May 2, 2023

The Platinum Log: The Jak Series

Oh wow, it's been YEARS since I've last done one of these. The "Platinum Log" is a series I started to discuss games I actually took the time to do everything in -- or at least enough to get the game's Platinum Trophy. I was hoping to get through all of my games, and then start making new posts as I earned new ones; however, I slacked off... A lot... Life got busy, and I never got back to it. That is, until today!

For the first time in 6 years, I'm here today to talk about the next entries in my log book. This entry isn't just one game however; it's actually three. Platinums # 4, 5, and 6.

As previous posts mentioned, Gravity Rush for the Vita was my first platinum. I went on to buy Resistance Burning Skies for Vita because I wanted more games, and it too was an easy platinum to get. This lit a fire in me that urged me to finish off some of my other games, and actually start hunting for trophies -- which lead me to go back to Rune Factory Tides of Destiny to finish it off. Instead of jumping to my next backlogged game though, I changed directions and once again went for something new: The Jak series.

Jak is something I never got to play as a kid. I didn't have a PS2, and by the time I did I didn't feel like trying these games out. I thought they were "kids" games and I had better things to do/play. (I was a dumb teenager.) Well, one day as I sat there at college I discovered something. The Jak and Sly collection were on sale on Amazon, and I had the extra money to buy them! In reality, the only reason I even bothered buying them was simply because I had missed out on them. I now had a PS3 that was lacking on exclusive games, and these two PlayStation exclusive series just seemed perfect for it. Plus I liked Naughty Dog, so of course I decided I'd play Jak first once they came. (I found the cringy post I made back then also... Ouch me... And seriously? I didn't like DMC? What was wrong with me?)

I still remember sitting there on one of the final days of college, as I talked to my friend Ryan as I ordered them. We were sitting in one of our usual spots in the math building, while also talking to another friend through my laptop. Nothing crazy happened that day, but it's the memory I always think of when I go back to these games. The other memory that comes to mind relates to Pokemon Black 2, and our home getting new windows put in. During that time I was dealing with health issues related to my wisdom teeth, and games like Pokemon Black 2 were helping me keep my mind off of it. While I also didn't have access to my room (thanks to all the furniture being moved around) it gave me something to do anywhere. But once I was able to get back in there, it was all Jak and Daxter.

Although it was a simple game, the first Jak had me hooked right away. I actually enjoyed collecting every little thing, and exploring it's world. My dad was home from work so I remember him walking in and watching me play once in awhile, but I mostly went through it on my own. Then at night while I was getting close to the end, we suddenly heard a crash, and looked out the window to see my old picture window shattered into millions of pieces -- the wind had blown it over and it had fallen just right to bust it. Originally we were going to donate it to a family friend, but that didn't happen! I know it's random, but it's yet again another memory of mine from Jak 1. Of course the game isn't that long, so it was shortly after the thing broke that I finished off Jak 1, and got the platinum. The game was just flat out fun. It didn't do anything too crazy platforming wise, but it was one of those games I felt like I had to do everything to actually beat the game. Anything less felt like I was cheating. And if you're wondering what type of game Jak 1 exactly was? Well of course I had to write a review over it once I finished it! 

The moment I finished Jak 1, I went right for Jak 2. I had always heard this was the point in the series that it became aimed at teens, and apparently people weren't kidding. Jak started cussing, the world was a lot darker and more bleak, you could hijack cars and drive them around a hub city, and guns became the new way to fight. It was a clear evolution of the series, but it also felt like something new all at the same time. Those who liked the happy go lucky adventure in 1 may not enjoy what 2 became, but once again I actually loved it. In fact, I liked it more than 1, and enjoyed the story it had to tell! It wasn't anything too crazy either, but the way it played out kept me invested. (Also quite a few of the "adult" jokes made me laugh!) But anyway... It continued to keep me hooked just as the previous game did, but this time I wasn't able to do it all in one go. While Jak and Daxter took me roughly two days, Jak 2 took me two weeks. I had a bit more going on in my life at this moment, and I also mainly just played the game at night. Eventually I did finish it off though, and then went back to get everything I missed for the platinum. This time around the game had side quests/side stories you needed to complete also (as it had that open world hub area with NPCs), so it was quite a bit more work than the original. (And of course you still had to collect things to.) But ultimately, getting the platinum for 2 never felt like a chore either, and it left me wanting more. (Yes I reviewed this one also.)

Jak 3... I'm actually mixed on this one. It was a continuation of what 2 had done, but with a much larger focus on the vehicles. It wasn't bad by any means, but at this point maybe I was starting to feel the burn of playing the games back to back. That didn't stop me from finishing it in a day though! Overall the game did feel smaller/shorter though, and it seemed to have an even bigger focus on the side content compared to the main game. Even this isn't exactly a bad thing, but it left me feeling like 2 was the main game in the series, while 3 felt like a post game after story/conclusion for it all. For the platinum I actually didn't even get one of the trophies the legit way however, because a glitch caused me to pick up and respawn a collectible -- so I unlocked it before I had actually done it myself. But while I didn't enjoy 3 as much as 2, I still felt it was worth a playthrough, and would like to go back to it again sometime. Heck, might even go back and play through all of the PS4 releases for 3 more platinums!

So overall, I do really like the series. It's been 10 years since I've actually gone through them, but sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday. They were great platforming games, and a part of the golden age of PS2 platformers -- one that I missed out on as a kid. So getting to experience it years later on PS3 was a pretty great feeling, and something I do want to return to whenever I get the time. All three were well worth the platinum.

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Monday, May 1, 2023

MegaMan Battle Network - The Game That Made Me Who I Am

What makes a person? The answer? A lot of things. Who we are is determined by so many factors, that you can write entire books on the subject, yet never cover everything. Everything from genetics, to our environment influences who we become, and it is a never ending process. Sure, at some point people will become "stuck in their ways," but we are creatures that are able to adapt, and change as needed. So when asked "what makes you, you," many people will bring up things that were major influences on them. Not too long ago I made a post discussing how I grew up, but that's just one small part in the overall picture. As this is a gaming blog, I mainly discuss games and what not -- but there's so much more that has happened in my life, that it's shaped me into the person I am today. It's just sometimes games are at the center of such events, and sometimes these games lead me down a road I never expected to walk. When I look at everything that's happened to me because of games, then there's one series that truly made me who I am today. And that's MegaMan Battle Network.

Now, I'll be blunt. This isn't a short story. I'm sorry in advance if it feels like I'm rambling! But the simple fact is, this series means more to me than any other game series in existence. It's the game series that was the gateway to pretty much everything in my life, and because of that it really isn't going to be easy to explain it all. There's going to be a lot I miss, but I still wanted to take the time to go into what I can. I know I've mentioned some of these things in the past on this blog, but today I'd like to just get it all out there at once. I know it might sound stupid that a game had such an impact on me, but I hope you'll just hear me out, and maybe then  you'll understand. This is my story.

The first time I saw Battle Network, I didn't really care. I loved MegaMan thanks to my uncle letting me play MegaMan X, but I was limited on what games I could get as a kid (obviously). I didn't expect to play it, but I had to admit that the box art did look cool. I'd see it sitting on the shelf and look at it, but that's all the farther it initially went. This went on for an entire year, and up until the release of Battle Network 2 -- which again, I didn't expect to get. I was 10 at the time, and in my mind, I had other things to do, and other games to play. But then, things suddenly change.

I don't know why this happened, but I still remember the day clearly. It was the middle of summer, and I woke up at my mom's work home (again, I explained the situation in my previous post). It was a normal day, but for whatever reason I got this weird feeling like "you need to play Battle Network." I wasn't thinking about it or planning on ever getting it -- I seriously woke up with this thought in my mind, and a weird feeling that wouldn't go away. I didn't even know what the game was about. I just knew it was MegaMan, and at this point it might've even been months since I last saw the game in stores. (In fact, I know it had been months -- but I'll get to that later.) Even so, I just had to have it for some reason. It was seriously like something inside me was telling me to get it, and it wouldn't take no for an answer. I've only had this feeling a handful of times in my life, and this is the earliest example I can remember.

So what did I do? I listened.

Being 10, I didn't have a lot of money saved, but I had to come up with a way to get more. I knew later that day my mom and grandma would take me to pick up their paychecks, and usually we would go to Walmart after. So I got together all the change I had saved, and asked my mom if I could make a deal with her to earn whatever I was missing. She agreed, and I got to work doing chores around the house. I didn't know at the game I'd only need a few dollars, but as a 10 year old that was HUGE. Man, I can still picture myself running around the house doing everything I could possibly do just to earn a little bit more change... And then we got in the car and headed over to my grandparent's house.

The rest of that day went as usual. We drove 20 minutes away to the bank to get their checks, we stopped by McDonalds and sat in our usual spot, and then we went over to Walmart to get our weekly shopping done. At the time it wasn't a Super Walmart, but it still had the basics which were needed. Once we got there my mom took me over to the game section, and... It wasn't there. We looked everywhere, and we couldn't find a single MegaMan game on the shelves. Of course I was disappointed, but as we were getting ready to leave we noticed something -- the discount shelf. Apparently they did have it! For half off! Back then new GBA games were $30, and Walmart had one copy of Battle Network for sale for $15 -- such a great deal. I'm not even sure if my mom had to give me extra cash to buy it, but I didn't care! I was more than happy to give up everything I had for it. So that's what I did.

Walking around Walmart, I kept looking at and reading the back of the box. At one point though, for some reason the whole "Cyber World" thing bothered me. To put it bluntly, I was weird as a kid, and I'd refuse to play any game that had too much sci-fi or fantasy. I especially dropped things that featured magic, so this "entering the Cyber World" thing bugged me. Heck I actually put the game down on a shelf to leave it, but something inside screamed "WHAT ARE YOU DOING IDIOT, PICK IT UP" and so I did. I ended up buying the game after all, and we went home.

Of course I played it on the way back. We had a 20 minute drive, and a few other stops to make. I remember sitting on the Town Square as my mom ran inside her work's main office for a second, and that's when I first heard the ACDC Town main theme. It's a song I would end up loving, and a song I still think about every time I drive through that square (especially when my iTunes would happen to play it on my drive home as I went around that square). Eventually we'd get back to my grandparent's house, and my grandpa wanted us to ride with him somewhere as well -- so once again we took off. "Look mom I'm on the Internet!" Exact words I said as I continued to play the game while riding in his van. By 3:00 PM we had to be back at my mom's work, but of course that didn't stop me from continuing playing. I basically spent the rest of the summer on that game, up until I got stuck in Elecman's stage.

When school started again, and I went to middle school, I made sure to tell my friends about Battle Network as much as possible. (I thought it was cool that both me and Lan were 10.) We would play freeze tag outside in the school yard, but we'd put our own twists on it. We would pretend to be our favorite characters, and everyone had a special "move" to protect themselves from being frozen. I chose to be MegaMan.EXE, and I wanted my special move to be the Elect Sword Battle Chip. I explained to my friends how the sword would come out of the gun on his hand, and would do 120 damage if you managed to hit someone with it. In freeze tag terms, this translated to "I can freeze you once for 12 seconds if I slash you in time." Of course my friends didn't really understand, but throughout the year that would slowly change. I'd keep explaining the game to them, and eventually by the end of the year the show had been announced for Kids WB -- and of course everyone decided to watch it. In fact, I remember at the end of the school year we got to have a free day at the local park, and I spent a lot of that free day explaining things that would eventually happen in the show to them. That's also when we all started "playing" MegaMan at recess.

I think the release of the anime is what eventually pushed me to finish Battle Network 1, and move onto Battle Network 2. Again by this point the game was up for sale dirt cheap, but me and my dad had to run allover the place to track a copy down. We eventually found it on the discount shelf at Target in a city roughly an hour away, but man... It was complete luck. Me and him ended up spending the entire day together because my mom had to work a weekend, and it took most of that day to finally find it. I had a lot of fun though, and it was one of the few times we did something like that. Just him and me I mean... I often wonder if he remembers that day?

That summer was spent playing Battle Network 2, and swimming at my grandparent's house. I'd bring BN2 with me of course, but usually I was playing outside every chance I got back then. I have a lot of fond memories from the game however, and I remember it shocked me quite a few times. Seeing Lan cuss for example -- didn't expect that! Then you had the whole rap battle for whisky thing. (How did they get away with this?) It made me realize that Battle Network wasn't exactly a kids game, and now that I think about it, I think it was the first game I owned that actually had cussing in it. Er, except for Crazy Taxi on the DreamCast, but that's a little different... Anyway -- I loved BN2, and it is honestly still one of my favorite games. Going back to school the next year was me talking about Battle Network, and discussing the show with friends once again, but we also continued our new tradition of "playing" Battle Network during recess. Of course I wanted to be Lan, my friends Ryan chose Dex, Ian created his own character, and Keith was Chaud (little did he know he was the coolest character of them all).

A lot happened during 6th grade for me, but I guess I don't have much more to say related to BN. Yeah,  I kept playing both 1 and 2 non stop throughout the year, but this wasn't the moment things changed for me. It was actually that next summer that would start it all. Now at this point I was getting interested in the internet as a whole (thanks MegaMan), but my focus was actually more towards Sonic. I joined the Sonic Team BBS, and people there would talk about their own fan websites, so that's what lead me to create the "MegaMan BBS." It would eventually become a MegaMan/Sonic discussion forum, but it wasn't much more than us kids messing around at the time. I didn't get serious with forums until I used Invision Power Boards to create The Chao Hideout, which would become a focus for me and my friends during the rest of our middle school years. But even this wouldn't explode until a little later... So instead of going on that side tangent -- let's go back to the summer of 6th grade.

As I mentioned above, the school year of 6th grade wasn't too crazy, but the summer did change some things. The spinoff Network Transmission came out in the GameCube (which I ultimately ended up getting as well), but it wasn't my main focus. At around this same time MegaMan Battle Network 3 was also on its way, and my family decided to take us on a weekend get away around my birthday. The game would release around the same time, so she told me that she’d buy it for me once we found it. Our vacation wasn’t anywhere too far — it was actually to a city in Illinois called Bloomington, where we got to stay at a fancy hotel because of a deal my mom’s work had going on. So we took my grandparents with us, and spent the whole weekend just hitting all the stores and doing different things around the city. For me the highlight of the entire vacation was finding BN3 at the mall, but the trip was fun overall. I would play BN3 in the hotel at night, and on the way back home (of course), but even without the game it was still a nice trip. Once we got home however, I had to call Ryan and tell him right away that I was able to get it, and to my surprise so did he! This was a game changer.

Up until then it was always me talking about the games, and my friends watching the show. Now one of my best friends had the newest entry, AND to top it off, he bought Blue version while I had White. BN3 was the point in the series where multiple versions became a thing, and to 100% complete the games you needed to trade exclusive chips between the two versions. So since we both different versions, we were pretty much set. The rest of both of our summers (and the following school year) was spent playing the game, and it was amazing.

Both me and Ryan went to my church’s Bible School that year, and I remember we’d spend the car rides up (and back) Net Battling each other. Then every time we went to each other’s house, we made sure we always brought our copy of the game as well. We’d spend countless hours talking to each other on the phone, as we tried to complete everything and help each other, and of course we made sure to trade things to each other to help each other out. Eventually we did in fact 100% complete the game, but it was sooo much work, and took countless months and hours. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. It was a good 7th grade year. Although, me being “funny” about specific games did delay me some. (I’ll admit, the whole “demon” costume thing in BN3 bothered me at first.)

After yet another year went by, it was finally the summer of 7th grade, and my 8th grade year was quickly approaching. At this point I became much more involved with the internet, web design, fan sites, etc, and my friends were there with me. Chip Challenge would come out before Easter that year (which I've talked about in the past), but Battle Network 4 was the game me and Ryan would play off and on throughout that summer (again we got different versions), but the life changing stuff wouldn’t really happen for me until school started. Although we were getting older, all us friends kept role playing “MegaMan” during breaks, and that’s when I had the idea… “Let’s bring this ‘game’ to everyone.” And thus, Cyber Net was born.

Cyber Net was a MMBN rpg forum. We setup systems where you gained experience for every single post you made, and we used the profile signatures to give members their own personal navis. Originally we kept things basic, where stronger members would clearly beat weaker members, but we made sure everything was fair as well. If players had a creative way to win fights, then they win. It was all about using your imagination to come up with a way to win, while also staying within the limits of the Battle Network series. Shop areas were setup where you could gain different Battle Chips, some members opened their own "Custom Navi" shops for those who weren't experienced in graphic editing, and we kept up to date with what the series itself was currently doing. The Navi Customizer was there to add extra abilities and programs, and we allowed the form change and Double Soul systems as well. Basically we adapted everything that made BN into a forum RPG format, and it continued to evolve throughout the years. Eventually we borrowed from the anime, and introduced Net City as well -- a series of area based boards, each with their own functions and sub boards to explore. It became pretty in depth, and it attracted thousands of members. I never imagined it would become as big as it did, but... Yeah, it was a heck of a lot of fun. It's because of Cyber Net however, that I am where I am today.

CN (what I'll call it going forward) was what really taught me about the internet, and web design. It's what caused me to meet a lot of amazing people, and what got me more involved in the MegaMan community. I joined other fan sites and met great people (like Spikeman.EXE over at MMBN Online -- the guy who started the Rockman.EXE 4.5 Translation), and I learned more about the series in the process. One event that really changed things for me however, was when "Grave" attacked. Using the dubbed anime's version of "the bad guy's," we had a group consisting of unknown members attack CN. The group was lead by a member named Forte, and other members created alternate accounts to join under their ranks. These members were given extreme powers, and played out a story where I was kicked out of the site, and they took over. At the time I was using the username "Lan," but I rejoined my own site under the name "Netto" (Lan's Japanese name) to fight back against the Grave attack. As Netto, I united the members of the site, and went on an all out attack against Grave in CN's RPG. Grave made it clear that they would give up/return control of CN to "Lan" if they could be beaten, so it gave everyone a clear goal to fight towards. There were some members who were truly concerned about me/me losing the forum to a group of "hackers," but I ensured them that everything was okay. Eventually at the end of the story, Grave was "pushed away" and I revealed to everyone that I Netto, was in fact Lan, the creator of CN... But I didn't go back to being Lan. Instead, the name Netto stuck.

Of course to pull off a huge story like that, I had a lot of help. While many Grave members name's were unknown, some of my friends (who were also staff members) were a part of the group. This made sure Grave never gained too much power, and made sure they could not harm the site. Their attacks on specific staff members (such as banning their accounts/deleting their data from the RPG) was of course of their own doing (Staff Member B's Grave account, deleting Staff member B's Staff Member account.) Nothing was lost, but it made this evil group all the more convincing. I kept them under careful watch as well, and directed what they could or couldn't do. I wanted them to remain convincing, but ultimately it was all a game. What I didn't see coming however, is that eventually Grave inspired other members to form their own groups within the RPG as well. Without the same power of course, but these groups became new threats that members would fight against with a common goal. They were stories that I took part in, but had no control over -- and it was fun! This is how I actually met a lot of people, and made a lot of friends. These are people I would talk to for many years, and many of them would follow me to other projects as well -- including Netto's Game Room. Cyber Net as a whole shaped our lives at least in some way, but for me it was a huge impact... This site wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for CN.

During the height of CN's popularity, I didn't slow down. I still joined other fan sites as well, and went anywhere I could find to talk about Battle Network. That's when I got the crazy idea to check out the official Kid's WB forums. They had a MegaMan NT Warrior board to discuss the show, and I noticed a lot of people (most likely kids) wondering what happened next. The show got canceled after Axess in the west, but continued on for quite awhile in Japan. So I wanted to let them know that the series wasn't over, and that I had an answer to the question of "what's next." So I signed up for the site -- however, I ran into one issue. I couldn't use the name "Netto" and I wasn't sure what else to use. I didn't want to use "Super Shadow ?" like I was using on Sonic forums, so instead I went with the first thing that popped into my head. "NettoSaito." 

Netto, again, was Lan's Japanese name, but as for Saito? It's a little bit of a spoiler. Let's just say, it's a name MegaMan goes by in Japan. (The reasons why? You'll have to play the game to understand.) Anyway, I used this username originally just to join Kids WB, but it's what ended up sticking. Since that day I've been "NettoSaito" pretty much everywhere, and it's what would go on to inspire, well, things like this. Netto's Game Room. The name Netto would continue on since that day, and Cyber Net would continue to serve as the basis for pretty much all of my online projects. It's the reason I would branch out into fan game development, and the main reason I created an actual MMORPG for me and my friends (and those who happened to stumble upon it). But it's because of Battle Network in general, that I even got interested in the online world, and future technology. I never thought something like the PET would exist, but I always wished it would. Now days that dream has become a reality thanks to smart phones. So, in short, even my interests were influenced by this series, and it doesn't stop there.

While CN continued on, of course more Battle Network games were released. I was a 13 year old running a popular online forum, but I still had to make time to play the actual games as well. So Battle Network 4 is what continued through 8th grade, and Battle Network 5 was released the summer between 8th and 9th grade. For 8th grade graduation I finally got a PS2 so I could finally play the newer MegaMan X games, but for my birthday I managed to get a copy of Battle Network 5 as well. Actually, I didn't even expect to find it honestly. My cousin bought me Kirby Canvas Curse for the DS, and I wanted to use my birthday money to buy Amazing Mirror so I could unlock extras in Canvas Curse. When we went to Target though, Battle Network 5 happened to be sitting there on the shelf! Thankfully I had enough to buy both it and Kirby. What I didn't realize however, was that when we stopped by to see my grandma (on my dad's side) on the way home, it would be one of the last times I actually saw her. She had Alzheimer's and usually didn't remember who we were, but we still stopped by every time we were in the area to see her (and my dad's brother). I remember sitting there playing BN5 during the visit, thinking nothing of it... And then we headed home. It wasn't anything special honestly, and I'm pretty sure she slept the entire time like usual. But after that day, we didn't really make it back up there. In fact, that side of the family came to our house for Christmas, and my grandma passed away a few weeks later on Friday the 13th.

That Christmas was interesting... I got MegaMan Zero 4 (from my mom's mom), and Battle Network 5 Double Team DS as a present, but also Animal Crossing Wild World and Mario Kart DS. It was my first real experience with an online games, and it's because of these games I was able to help keep my mind off of my grandma. MegaMan Zero 4 stayed in my DS and was always there to play when I needed it, and Animal Crossing WW became my "I have to take it everywhere, and play every day" type of game. I didn't care as much for BN5 DS, simply because it wasn't too much different... But it was found in a clearance bin at Walmart despite being new (so I knew I was getting it), and it was grabbed to be just something extra to give me. Personally I was more excited for the future of the series, and Animal Crossing took over anyway... So yeah... Overall the end of 2005 was great, and I was pretty hopeful going into 2006. But then my grandma passed away, and I learned what it was like to lose a family member.

Summer of 2006 was when I finished my freshman year of high school, and it's also when Battle Network 6 released. The game was set to be the end of the series, and I was pretty sad about that (obviously). By this point Cyber Net was really booming, and BN6 would be the last game to give us content to keep building our RPG off of. But I was still excited to play it, and so were most of the other members on CN. With BN5, many discussions were opened about the game, and the whole community worked together to get through everything and 100% complete the games. With BN6 it would go on to be the same way, but it was the last time this would happen. It was sad, but cool to see at the same time -- the ending to the story we all loved so much. I remember talking to Ryan about it in PE as we were packing our stuff up from the locker room (as school was ending for the summer), but by this point he had moved on from his GBA. So this time around it was just me and the members of CN going through it. We couldn't play against each other of course, but it was still fun. And so, that's what I'd spend my next summer doing. Playing BN6, and wishing the series wouldn't really end.

CN continued on after BN6. We introduced the Cyber Beasts to the RPG, and members continued to create their own stories. Memberships declined, but it was never about the popularity -- it was about the good people who were there making it a place you wanted to visit. I met so many great people, and many would continue to have an impact on my life for the years to come.

Eventually MegaMan Star Force was announced as a follow up series, and we all somewhat got our wish. The series continued in a new form, and of course we all jumped on board. Cyber Net began focusing on the changes made by the Star Force series, but we made sure to not stray too far from our BN roots. Star Force 1 released not too long after I got my driver's license, and it was the first time I took off on my own in a car to get something I really wanted. Tracking the game down wasn't easy, and it was my aunt who eventually found it for me (I just had to go pick it up). I hated driving, so it was a big deal to me -- but Star Force was worth it! Star Force 2 released the summer before my senior year, and it's one of the last games I got to play while I was at my mom's worth home/office. It would close later that year. And then you had Star Force 3 releasing that next summer, right before I started college -- which was terrifying. Although these three games didn't have as big of an impact on me, I did enjoy them, and they released at the end of my childhood. They were the games that sent me off into the real world, and the true end to the series I had just spent the last 8-9 years of my life playing. From the start of middle school, up to graduation and college -- they were there with me through it all.

As for Cyber Net, it continued on up until interest died. The thing about a fan site is, it only lasts as long as the series it's based on. Discussion about Star Force continued while the games were coming out (if it wasn't for GlacialLeaf helping everyone out with SF3, who knows when we would've finished "that" section), but with only 3 games being released -- there was only so much to talk about. Eventually things died down, and the new members joining didn't even know what Battle Network or Star Force was all about... Which was fine, but it caused stories to go in a completely different direction. Eventually their interest died out too, and the site faded into history -- sorta. My other fan projects continued on, and members of Cyber Net jumped over to those projects as well, and eventually the CN spirit would be rebooted over at Capcom's official Capcom-Unity where Netto's Game Room was born in 2011. Then eventually during the summer of 2013, we'd open Nettosgameroom.com, and break off on our own -- where we are to this day! Ultimately, this blog wouldn't even exist if it weren't for Battle Network, nor would I have met all the great people over at Capcom-Unity either. So much happened in my life because of this series, and it all started with me getting a funny feeling. 

Crazy how things work out right?

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Monday, April 10, 2023

Why Harvest Moon Still REALLY Annoys Me

There's not a lot in the world of gaming that I really let bother me. Hey, if I don't like a game, then I just stop playing it. If people obsess over something I don't care for? That's fine -- if they like it that's all that matters. Everyone has their own opinions, and I'll always respect that. Of course there are controversies that arise here and there as well, but most of the time such things blow over. Something usually happens to bring justice to those who were wronged, or it becomes a case where everyone boycotts the game or something. While some of the things that happen are truly horrible -- it's usually not long lasting, and as such, it doesn't continue to bother me as the years go on. Yeah, well, I can't say the same about the video game series "Harvest Moon." It's one of those things that just... Gets under my skin.

Why is that? If you're asking, then chances are you're about to learn something to day.

Now let me be blunt about this. I love Harvest Moon. I got into the series after learning about it in Nintendo Power, and the first entry I played was none other than Harvest Moon 64. It was a fun game, and I loved the whole daily life/farm simulator gameplay. It was cool exploring the world, getting to know people, making friends, getting married, having kids, and of course building up your farm. It was a life sim where you were pretty much free to do as you wished, and you never knew what would happen each day. Sure, there was busy work involved with taking care of things, but this actually made it fun. I flat out enjoyed every minute I played of Harvest Moon 64, and it made me want to play as many of the others as possible.

Moving forward I would go back to the original, and basically try to get at least one Harvest Moon game for each console I owned. PS1, GBA, PSP, DS, etc. I didn't buy them all, but I did enjoy each one I played. Heck even Innocent Life (which was somewhat of a let down) became one of my most played PSP games. I just really liked the series! Heck, I'll never forget the day I tracked down Rune Factory, and Rune Factory Frontier was the first game I had ever ordered off of Amazon. It too had issues with it's gameplay systems and loading screens, but I still loved it. That's when I noticed something though... When I noticed the start of what was soon to change...

Up until this point, Harvest Moon was published by a company called Natsume. Games like Rune Factory had subtitles like "A Fantasy Harvest Moon" after it, but Frontier did not. Frontier was instead published by Xseed, which is owned by the developers of the Harvest Moon series (Marvelous Interactive). In Japan the game's name roughly translates to "Farm Story" however, and because of this, Xseed did not own the right's to the name "Harvest Moon" in the west. So when releasing newer Rune Factory games, they could not include "Harvest Moon" in the game's title. And that's where the issues began.

Although Natsume would continue publishing the "Farm Story" part of the series in the west, it was only a matter of time before they were pushed out. And that's exactly what happened.

After the release of Harvest Moon 3D: A New Beginning (it was a new beginning in more ways than one), Xseed completely took over publishing the series. HM3D was the game that would set the groundwork for the series going forward, and the future was looking bright -- for Marvelous that is. Natsume on the other hand, they were understandably not happy about this. They've been publishing the games for years, and it was a huge source of income. Sure they didn't actually make the games (minus a few spin off titles), but their deal to release the series was huge. The thing is, despite all of this, they still "owned" the "Harvest Moon" series. It ultimately didn't matter WHAT was created, or by whom, Natsume could include whatever they wanted as a part of the series name they owned. So with the 3DS becoming more and more popular, what do they do? They release their own "Harvest Moon," that's what.

While the real Harvest Moon (Farm Story) series got renamed to "Story of Seasons," Natsume hired other developers to create new Harvest Moon games for them. These games were low budget titles that looked and felt like knock offs of the real thing, but most people just assumed the game's quality dropped. With each new release Natsume would try to make it seem like they were going back to their "roots," but in reality these roots don't exist. They would continue to release game after game, attempting to cash in on someone else's IP, simply because they owned the name that people associated with that IP. It became a way to keep the Harvest Moon income rolling in, while doing something all their "own" at the same time. And this still continues to this day.

Now, I get how Natsume must feel about all of this. Again, the company they worked with abandoned them so they could do things on their own. I'm sure they felt betrayed; however, the way they responded will never sit right with me. The games they make now are clear rip offs, and not just games inspired by (what is now) Story of Seasons. For example, if you look at something like Stardew Valley, you'll find a game that was carefully crafted with love, and was inspired by Harvest Moon. It's an amazing game, that also finds it's own identity, while keeping the same heart that classic entries in the Harvest Moon series had. I mean, I can go on and on about how great Stardew Valley is, and there are many fans out there who would agree with me. There's no denying how much time and effort went into it, and how much the creator cared about his project. The new "Harvest Moon" games? I can't say the same.

Instead of finding their own identity, or being inspired by the originals, the new Harvest Moon series tries to be Story of Seasons. It copies mechanics (with some exceptions, like the Minecraft rip off entry), stories, character designs, and even tries to bring the "original" Harvest Moon characters back into the game. It doesn't hide that it's trying to be the real series, but ultimately it's still just a knock off. Of course being as it's called Harvest Moon, each game is released as a part of the series, but in reality it's not. Many fans do not know this however, and the games continue to sell. Sure it's reputation has gone down hill over the years, but ultimately, anyone who has any nostalgia for the previous (real) entries in the series, will instantly know what Harvest Moon is when they see it. They won't know Harvest Moon is no longer Harvest Moon -- and there's a high chance they'll give the new games a chance for old time sake. That's how this series is surviving... And it's unfortunate. Without it's branding, it most likely wouldn't last.

On the flip side of things -- Story of Seasons is typically seen as the knock off because of this. The back of the box usually mentions it's a part of the Farm Story series, but it's spelled out as it's Japanese name "Bokujo Monogatari"), but who will even know what this means? Or who even reads the back of a box, when it's sitting behind glass in a store? The only ones who know the truth are those who follow the series, and that's just sad. Natsume continues to cash in using the name people know and love, while the developers are stuck under a new title, and seen as the knock off.

Of course, now that remakes of older titles are coming out, more and more people are learning the truth about the series, but we'll most likely never reach a point where everyone knows. Harvest Moon will continue, and Story of Seasons will follow along behind it in the eye's of the general public. Again, it's understandable how Natsume must've felt when Xseed took over -- but it just doesn't feel right. But that's also how our world works. People will do what people want to do, and money is behind it all. 

The whole thing is just a raw deal for both sides, but I'll always hate the fact that knock off Harvest Moon games continue to enter the market. Pretty much yearly at this point. I know that there are those who truly enjoy the games, and I can respect that, but it'll always leave a bad taste in my mouth. So yeah, the new "Harvest Moon" series will always be the one thing in gaming that annoys me the most...

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Thursday, April 6, 2023

My Life and How I Became a Gamer

I can't believe it. I've had this blog for 12 years now, and there's one story I have never told. The story behind pretty much everything this blog stands for! The reason I became a gamer, and how my life went down this long, long road. It's not a standard story either -- nor is it one I can easily explain without giving more background. You see, it relates directly back to who I am as a person. It's a life that only a handful of people in this world have experienced, and it's the reason I have such compassion and understanding for the way the world is. You see, me becoming a gamer all ties back to this one thing... Sure, I might've gotten into games anyway, but I don't think it would've been as impactful. Of course I've mentioned this "thing" multiple times in the past, but I've never actually explained how it worked, or how it really related to me playing games. So, today, I'm going to do just that. I'm going back to the beginning, and sharing as much of the story as I can. Confidentiality prevents me from going into too much detail, but I'll say what I can. There's also some details I do not remember myself, so I'll be relying on what others have told me. That being said, it's not like I don't have some memories of my own of these events, but I was so young that it's just really small things I can recall. (Small, yet impactful enough on me that I remembered it for some reason.)

Anyway, this is the story of how I became a gamer.

So, growing up, my mom had a unique job. She managed a home for the developed mentally disabled. By the time I was born, she had two clients which I will simply call A and S. I cannot go into the details of what their disabilities were, but A was a younger lady at the time (although older than my mom), while S was the older of the two. My mom's job was to basically live with these two women, and make sure their needs were met. They were mentally not capable of living on their own, and were basically kids. It was my mom's job to teach them to be as independent as possible of course (and she did a great job), but ultimately it would never be possible. They would always need someone. During the day they went to their school/work program, and my mom would be back at the home after 3:00 PM to take care of them when they returned. Back then this house was located roughly an hour away from our real home, so my mom usually just lived there full time. My grandma worked for the same company, so she would take over for my mom on the weekends, but usually we would stay on the weekends as well. Yes, it was a demanding job for my mom with a lot of responsibilities, but it became a second home to us, and those two clients became family. Heck, they even spent a lot of the holidays with us throughout my entire life. Yeah it was a job, but it was also more than that.

Being born in 91, I only have so many memories of this "original" home. When I was getting close to turning 5, my mom's work home got moved to a house closer to our actual home. This way I could stay within the same school district of where I really lived. This original house is where everything started for me though, and I still have a lot of fond memories of it -- as well as some sad ones. For example, when I was really young, we had a dog named Ginger who got hit by a train... She got replaced by a dog named Daisy, who I then grew up with. I was really young when Ginger was around, but I still remember her, and I still remember the day she died. Then you have the house itself. I still remember it's layout nearly perfectly. It's been 28 years since I've seen inside, but those memories have never left me. Like when my dad would leave for work early in the morning, and he'd get toys out of the closet for me. I still remember sitting there playing with those TMNT figures. The memory was impactful enough, that it's never faded. Or that time I wanted to watch the Doug marathon on Nick, but he shut it off after possibly hours! Dumb little things like that are what I remember most honestly, but maybe that's why I remember this so clearly as well. The day I got my Nintendo.

I was 2 years old, and apparently I was already showing interest in video games. I'd go to my cousin's house, and apparently they would hand me a not plugged in controller to play with, while they took control of the actual game. Little kid me was smart enough to realize I wasn't doing anything, and I'd get mad at them and REALLY want to play. But I was too little, and they figured I wouldn't be able to. But eventually they replaced their Nintendo with a Super Nintendo, and decided to pass on the original NES to me. Now I don't remember seeing the NES at their house, nor do I remember them giving me the controller to play, but I do remember the day the NES was brought home to my mom's work home.

What I didn't know until maybe 5-6 years ago, was that my cousin's NES actually didn't work anymore. I knew they replaced it with a SNES, but didn't know about the NES being broken. In fact, I didn't even know that my uncle (my mom's brother who passed away back in 2013 -- not the father to my cousin's) had one as well. And wouldn't you know it? His was broken too! So the NES I received from my cousins? It was actually a mismatch of working parts taken from the two broken NES consoles. But none of that would've mattered to me at the time -- I just wanted to play with my new toy. And that's what I did!

I still remember my dad hooking it up in the corner of that living room. It was right by the window. He sat down with me and got Super Mario Bros working (putting it in resulted in a blue screen, so you had to jam the game cart into the corner, and mess with it until it worked), and I got to work playing it! I only really remember dying non stop, and not getting very far. I remember thinking that it would take me awhile to get to the end, and didn't know how I ever would. I guess I really was too young for it, as my parents did have to help me get through some of the basics. (I couldn't read, I was only 2 going on 3!) I know shortly after we did disconnect the NES and take it to our actual house, but eventually we would bring it back to the work home as well. That's when my gaming addiction began.

When I was a little older, my mom sat down and taught me how to play Mario. She taught me how to swim in the underwater levels, and started showing me all the tricks and secrets. Of course my cousins would play with me as well, and my uncle would invite me over to my grandma's house (where he lived at the time) to play his new SNES also. The more I played/watched, the more I learned, and the better I became. Getting older helped also, but it's mainly because I got to spend so much time just learning. Of course I still loved being outside as a kid, but when I was stuck inside, the NES became my best friend. My mom's client A also really loved watching Mario, and she'd actually ask me to play it for her -- so I would. This is how I would pass the time while my mom was at work, but I really didn't get too much freedom with this until we moved to the new house. Again, by then I was 4 (going on 5), and things became a bit different. 

Moving to the new house was a chore. The place was extremely dirty, and the old lady who used to live there had dropped pills allover the floor. I remember my mom telling me not to touch anything, and made sure I didn't get into anything that would hurt me, but she also hooked up my NES in the living room for me to play while we were there. We spent a lot of days (while the clients were in the work program) down there as she tried to get things ready to move in, and the entire time I just stood around playing my Nintendo on the little TV we had moved in ahead of time. I remember being excited that we got to go to a new house, but I honestly remember playing my games more than I remember what my mom was doing at the time. This new house had more rooms as well, so for the first time I was actually able to play my Nintendo without hogging the TV -- so I got more time with it. Of course A still wanted to watch me play Mario, so we did set it up in other rooms too, but overall I spent more time on my own with the TV than with others. Well, except for all the times my parents played them with me that is.

Over the next, many, years, my game consoles became my go to. This new work home didn't have a yard to play in, so I mainly would play inside with me toys while watching TV, or start up a game when I felt like it. It kept me entertained, that's for sure, and of course things wouldn't stop at the NES. I would later go on to get a SNES, N64, GameCube, Wii, etc, but those are all stories for another time. Some of which are stories I have shared before, but maybe I'll touch on them again sometime. 

For me, games aren't just something to play though. They're memories from different moments in my life. Looking at games, or replaying them takes me back to those days, and I realize just how special those memories really were. Sometimes it's not even the game itself that I remember fondly, but the memories of what was happening at the time of getting/playing the game are what makes me feel so nostalgic for it. Growing up in that house is what made me who I am today. Video games gave me something to do, and got me hooked for life, but living in that environment was a unique experience. It's the reason I am who I am today. It taught me to be more understanding when it comes to people with disabilities, and it helped me understand a world that many people overlook or know absolutely nothing about. For me, growing up around such people was normal, and it wasn't until I went to school that I realized just how unusual my life really had been. But even so, those clients were family to me, and I never saw them as anything other than... Well, people. Seeing the world how it is today, it's unfortunate that many still don't understand such things, but I'm also happy to see we are taking steps forward. I mean, heck, mental health has become more of a focus in recent years, and things like ADHD and forms of autism are being brought to the light. Of course there is still so much more out there, and being who I am, my life is still tied to those with such disabilities. My mom continues to work in the field, my dad retired from the field, and my wife has worked in the field and is currently a paraprofessional for a high school. She has grown up around and been connected with the population her entire life as well, and they will always have a special place in her heart -- as with mine as well. Yes, video games were there for me during all the time that I lived in that work home, but it's really the home and the memories of the people that I treasure most. When it burned down awhile back, that was one of the saddest days for me... I still miss that place, and wish I could return sometime -- if even just for a visit. But sadly, it's impossible. Modeling it in VR is as close as I can get, but even that's not the same. It's unfortunate, but life moves on. At least the memories remain.

And, there you go. Now not only do you guys know how I got into gaming, but you got to learn a little more about what makes me tick. I hope you enjoyed reading! 

Until next time guys.

Side Note: This picture still makes me sad. We moved out of the work home when I was 17, because S sadly passed away. This meant A had to be put in another home, and my mom lost her job as a result. She was already working at a second job at the time, so she switched over to full time, and continued working there. 

Years later the house was sold to someone else, and the boyfriend of the lady living there actually tried to kill her. He set the house on fire, and it was damaged beyond repair. It was torn down a few weeks later -- the picture was taken before the demolition began. A tragic end to a place I cared about so much.

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Friday, March 31, 2023

The Murder of Sonic The Hedgehog - Now Free on Steam

This year SEGA went pretty crazy with their April Fool's Day joke, and released an actual game! The Murder of Sonic The Hedgehog!

This game is a murder mystery visual novel game, similar in style to games like the Ace Attorney series. You investigate the crime scene, question witnesses/suspects, and figure out who it is who killed our favorite hedgehog Sonic. What more can I say? Check it out by clicking here! It sounds pretty interesting if you ask me.

(And no, this is not a joke. It's a real link -- don't worry.)


There, there's the proof!

And the trailer:

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Looking back at the 3DS eShop

The Nintendo 3DS (and Wii U) eShop has officially closed, and it's a weird feeling. We knew this day would come for roughly a year now, but now that it's happened -- the feeling of regret is just extra strong. There's so many games exclusive to the 3DS that may never be seen again, and now our only chance to get them is gone. Sure, many games received physical copies as well, but even those are in short supply and will now only become rarer since there is not an alternative to buying them anymore. Then you have the games that were in fact eShop exclusive, that will now just fade into history. Again, many of these games will never be seen again, and that's just sad to think about. Also let's not forget all of the DLC out there as well, that will now be inaccessible because of this shut down. Games like Fire Emblem Fates were unique, in that you basically had to have the DLC to experience the full title. It released in two versions which featured different story routes, but the third (and final) route had to be downloaded -- this is now gone forever. So again, it's just sad to think about. If you missed out on any of this, it's too late.

But all good things have to eventually come to an end. It's not surprising the shop closed. The 3DS (and Wii U -- let's not forget it's store closed as well) have been "gone" for some time now. The 3DS came out in early 2011, while the Wii U came out near the end of 2012, and were both replaced by the console/handheld hybrid the "Nintendo Switch" in 2017. The 3DS continued on after the release of the Switch, but it became obvious that it was slowly being faded out. The console held a huge part of the market, so obviously they couldn't kill it off the moment something new came out, but now we've reached the point where most people have long ago switched to the Switch. So why keep the store open? Well, us gamers have reasons for it to continue, but that's not good enough for Nintendo.

Anyway... The eShop has been a part of many people's lives for many years now, so I wanted to take the time today to talk a little bit about it, and my memories of it. You see, the part of the eShop I was most looking forward to is something long forgotten. It's sadly something that never came to be, and I'm still disappointed by it. Even so, I do have a lot of good memories from the eShop, and the exclusives I bought from it.

You see, when the 3DS first came out, I was one of those guys who bought it on day one. It was a Sunday, and my dad gave me a ride up to GameStop after he got back from Church, and before we were supposed to meet up with my cousin who had come down for a visit. Thing was insanely easy to buy too, didn't even have it preordered! Of course the 3DS had a rocky start, but I knew where it would eventually go. The DS was a success, and I couldn't wait to see where Nintendo took their new handheld. Eventually popularity of the system did go up of course, and the eShop was announced to be released in June of 2011. Along with the eShop, a tech demo was going to be released -- a tech demo of the then upcoming MegaMan Legends 3.

Now I've talked plenty of times about how Netto's Game Room was founded on Capcom-Unity. It was Capcom's "Dev Room" that drew me back to that site in the first place, and it's where I spent so much of my free time submitting and talking about ideas for MegaMan Legends 3. I was soooo excited for the game, and one of my boss designs even made it to Capcom's desk (it didn't win). With the release of the eShop, we were told that a tech demo of Legends 3 would go up for download, and it was going to be used as a way to let fans test the game, and gauge the interest in the Legends 3 project. It wasn't officially in full development at this point, but Capcom was trying something new with the whole Dev Room process, and allowing fans to help with the development. So there was always a chance the game would be canceled/never picked up, but with everything going on with the project it seemed unlikely. So again, a demo was being released (a paid one at that), and it would help fund the project/see how interested people really were. This demo was going to be there at the launch of the eShop, but... It didn't happen.

Legends 3 was canceled right before the eShop's launch.

It was sad. It's understandable the project was a risk, but I still feel like they should've followed through with the first phase of their plans. If the paid for demo was meant to see how interested people would be in the game, and if the demo was complete (which we knew it was, and had seen it being shown off previously), then why didn't it just launch with the eShop as planned? What was the harm in selling something, and letting it determine the fate of the project? Instead the higher ups pulled the plug before it even had a chance.

So needless to say, the launch of the eShop wasn't as exciting as I (and many others) had hoped. But that was just one small thing, in what would become the eShop. Many unique and interesting games would be released on it over the years, and for the first time Nintendo would dive into true DLC as well. Games like Fire Emblem Awakening got expanded, and other games received updates and patches to fix issues and add in new content. Until then this was unheard of for Nintendo (minus some updates for Wii titles for example), but the eShop made it common place. Not to mention, the eShop was filled with charm, and that made it more of a joy to use. The way the box filled when downloading items, and the whole unwrapping the present thing on the menu once it was done. The music, and the little bag boy mascot character. Sure, it wasn't the most organized shop, but it was packed full of character. And it was nice! 

Seeing the eShop close is still sad, but again, we knew this day was coming. It wasn't going to last forever, as nothing does. It had a good run, but it's still a let down that so many games will now be (officially) lost to history. With the Nintendo Switch being more streamlined, hopefully the same wont happen to it, but it's impossible to know for sure what the future holds. Eventually the Switch will die as well obviously, but let's hope in the future we can carry our games and purchases forward into the next generations.

Anyway... Goodbye eShop. It was fun.

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Thursday, March 23, 2023

My Memories of Resident Evil 4

With Resident Evil 4 Remake releasing tomorrow, I wanted to take a look back and share some of my own memories of the game. Now years ago I did make a post about my first horror game, but in that article I mainly talked about Resident Evil 2. You see (as I previously explained), the Resident Evil series is something I dove right into the deep end on, and my "first horror" game was only my first, because that's what I chose to play first. In reality, I bought Resident Evil 2, REmake, 0, and 4 all at the same time. It's just 2 was a digital copy, so I had access to it while I waited for the others. Anyway... Out of all of those games, Resident Evil 4 is the one I looked forward to playing the most, but it was (of course) the last one I played. Despite this, it's the game I actually have the most history with as it's the game I knew the most about before diving in. It's actually one of my favorite horror games still to this day, and it was the first "review" I ever wrote for Netto's Game Room. (That review didn't survive the transfer from Capcom-Unity to this website.) Anyway, these are my memories of Resident Evil 4.

The first time I heard about Resident Evil 4, was actually the Christmas of 2005. I remember talking on the phone to my friend Keith, as we both told each other what Christmas gifts we had gotten. One of the games either he (or his brother?) received was none other than RE4, and he was pretty excited about it. Now I knew that Resident Evil was about zombies (so I figured I'd never play it), but other than that I didn't know much about the game. So when he started talking about how it took place in a village, and how enemies came at you with chain saws, and how you could hide and block off doors to protect yourself -- I honestly didn't know what he was talking about. It didn't sound like zombies to me, but I had to admit that it did sound pretty cool. Being able to shoot out doors and such wasn't really hears of in games, so it sounded pretty crazy to me. Of course I never planed on playing it, but I could appreciate what it was (even though I was like 14 at the time). 

Moving forward, Keith continued to talk about Resident Evil. It's a series he really liked, but again I was too afraid to play. (Plus no way my parents would get it for me.) So over the school years I would continue to learn about what it was, but never try it myself -- unless you count the one time Keith showed me the intro to 3. Of course when I got an Xbox 360 I considered checking out Resident Evil 5 thanks to the commercials on TV, but that didn't happen either. It wasn't until me trying to kill time at college that I finally decided to give it a shot.

As previously explained in my old post -- I used to have a lot of free time before and after classes at school. I would sit on my laptop and just look up random things. That's when I got the idea to check out Resident Evil, as it seemed like an interesting series, and was one of the few I never really tried. By this point I had already gotten into games like Metal Gear Solid, so not playing other "big name PlayStation titles" made me feel like I was missing out. So I started doing my research, read the wikia pages, and then bought what I could. Thankfully Amazon had a pretty good sale going on for the Wii versions of 0, REmake and 4, so those are what I went with.


Resident Evil 4 surprised me. I honestly was expecting something similar to Dead Rising (as I had DR on 360, while my friend Ryan bought the Wii version -- which was built in the RE4 Engine), except with a horror twist. (Dead Rising is in no way horror in my book.) Instead what I got was a crazy action adventure game, that kept pushing me to explore and uncover the truth of the village it was set in. While I don't consider RE4 to be scary either -- it did have moments I never expected.

First of all, despite playing 360 games at this point, RE4 had things even modern games tend to avoid. Breaking doors/objects to progress goes against standard "locked door video game logic," and being able to block off windows and such really isn't used much in games. The way enemies react to being shot/hit tends to be a lot more natural as well, and the dismemberment completely caught me off guard. At first it lead me to want to just shoot everyone's head off, but when the parasites got mixed in? Now that was unexpected! I'll never forget the first time I saw a giant bug erupt out of someone's neck -- it scared the crap out of me. It made me want to stop going for head shots, but I still knew you had to take them down either way. Then you had the insanely detailed death scenes. Game overs in RE4 weren't just game overs -- they were insane "look at how you died" videos that played first! Leon's head being cut off was the first one I saw, and the deaths continued to shock me up until the end of the game. (Those bugs spitting acid on his face was just.... Yeah...) These parts were what added horror to the game for me, but the rest was an action packed trip through a crazy new world.

Playing on the Wii was also a pretty great experience for me. I loved the motion controls, but it did make the game easier than normal. The original controls of RE4 used tank controls, and limited how you aimed and shot at enemies. In other words -- before you could only turn left/right, and walk forward and back (with a quick turn around option), and if you wanted to shoot at something you had to hold down a button. Holding the button down locked you in place, and changed the movement controls into aiming controls -- something that feels a bit more clunky especially by today's standards. This added to the challenge of the game, and made it so losing your cool would prove deadly as you missed your targets. With the Wii release however? Tank controls remained, but aiming was changed to motion controls. Simply point/click at what you wanted to shoot, and you'd be pulling off non stop headshots like a pro. Not much different than using a mouse. Personally I prefer playing the game this way, but the old controls were still included for those who wanted the original experience.

RE4 was the game I would continue playing until the end of the school year that year. Also bought Code Veronica X at a GameStop sale, so I had plenty to keep me busy. That's when I started up the original Netto's Game Room as well (back in 2011), and got to work writing whatever was currently on my mind. I knew I was very late to the Resident Evil party, but RE4 has become such a special game to me, that I couldn't not post about it. (Especially considering I started this on Capcom-Unity, and Capcom Mods had to approve everything I submitted.) Looking back, it's the game that made me a complete fan of RE, and that's why I can't wait to give it another go with the remake. While I too get tired of the constant rereleases, I feel this remake is what we truly needed. It's what the game deserves, and is a great way to introduce it to a whole new group of fans as well. As great and as ground breaking 4 was back in the day, there's no denying that it could use some modern quality of life improvements. That's what I look forward to seeing the most.

It'd hard to believe it's been 12 years, but I'm more than ready to return to that village again. It won't be in VR this time -- but maybe someday.

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What’s a Game I Don’t Like? Hmm… More like the Worst Game I've Ever Played

 A few years ago I attempted to write a Top 10 list of “Games Everyone Else Likes But I Don’t,” and it ultimately ended in failure. It’s not that I couldn’t come up with 10 games that fell in that category for me, but as I was writing about them I realized some things about them and myself. It’s not that I hated those games, it’s more of I just wasn’t so enthused by them. They were games people passed off as some of the greatest of all time, but playing them myself left me with such an empty feeling. I wasn’t playing them to have fun — I was playing them because I felt like I needed to, and all I wanted to do was get to the end. That’s NOT the way a video game should be, as it completely ruins the experience. So looking at these games, and talking about them made me realize that maybe I didn’t not like them, and more of… It just wasn’t the right timing for me to play them… I was in the wrong mind set, and forcing myself to “like” these games just wasn’t the right thing to do.

So anyway, I didn’t publish that list. I stopped half way in, and just pushed it aside. Since then I did go back and play some of the games I added to the list, but I honestly only changed my mind on a few of them. (And it was other reasons that made me like them.) For example, Borderlands 2 comes to mind. Yes, I’m not a fan of these games in general, but Borderlands 2 in VR made it such a blast to play! I had so much fun running around physically using the guns, and I enjoyed driving the cars (which was originally one of the most annoying parts to me). So in general I don’t think it’s a bad game or anything, but I realize it’s still not a series for me, and it’s only because it was in VR that I came to like it. But I don’t hate it! That’s not what this post is about! (Heck I still plan on playing 3 at some point without VR.) Anyway, putting games like this aside… What game out there is it that I truly don’t like? Is there any? Well… Only a few come to mind honestly. Many of them I just didn’t like because they were “bad” NES or SNES games published by LJN — but I’m not going to count those. Nope, I want to look at something newer. A game called Valhalla Knight’s 3!

Oh man. To put it bluntly, this is the biggest piece of trash I have ever played in my life (that’s at least a complete game). Now, disclaimer: it did get an updated version that apparently fixed a lot of issues, but it never came out in the West. Even then I don’t think it could save it. It’s just…. No…

Valhalla Knights seems like a cool game at first. It’s an action JRPG that takes place within a prison, has a deep character builder and class system, and a large cast of characters to upgrade. This might sound like a good thing, but it makes the game even worse in the long run. While the game does have a cast of “main” characters, your party is actually going to be built up of user created characters instead. Characters that all start at level 1, and must be upgraded if you want to have any hope of getting anywhere — which means a lot of grinding. More than you can even imagine.

The first major issue with the game was its loading times. It being on the Vita meant it was limited on what it could do, and every single map is broken up into many, MANY, small areas. Each small area has its own loading screen, and these loading screens were LONG to say the least. Traveling around the hub, you spent more time in loading screens than you did walking. The massive 7 member party system is cool, but again, areas are small to make up for things like this being too demanding. 

The second major problem is the biggest one of all. This is a grind game, and there’s nothing else to it. Right from the get go you quickly realize that you need to upgrade your skills to even get past the intro… Or any party of the game for that matter. To do so you need to kill enemies, and each kill you get only gives you 1-2 points. When skills require 100 points to level up, that means you have to go kill 50 enemies. When skills require 1000 points… Yeah, that’s 500 enemies. Keep in mind we have 7 party members to upgrade here, with a wide verity of stats and abilities that need to be increased to even survive.

That right there is all this game actually is. You accept missions, you grind, you complete the mission, you accept the next mission (usually just to kill things by the way), grind more, finally beat said mission, and repeat. Moment you die, you are either reloading your save or spending all your money to bring back your dead party members — which requires more grinding for money. It’s obvious the point of this game is a time waster, and for people who enjoy the mindless grind to advance. Eventually they did release DLC that gives you SP points with each step you take, but the fact they had to do this tells you that it wasn’t worth playing without it. Not to mention that the game also doesn’t tell you what you need to do with characters, so it’s completely possible to have the wrong class, on the wrong character due to their personality type, and you could spend countless hours upgrading abilities that’ll never go to use. It’s just poorly done, and the game’s difficulty is ultimately artificial. No skill is involved — it just depends how much time you put into it. (How many dozens of hours you spend grinding.) But this isn’t the only issue with the game. Half the game is also dedicated to perverts.

Being in a prison, the female characters are all pretty much “escorts.” You need to “hire” them to get items from a specific area of the city, and the game makes you “become close” to them to unlock things you need. This comes down to you “going on dates” with them, and using the Vita’s touch screen to kiss them, rub their faces, etc. It’s…. Just no. The end goal here is to flat out sleep with them, and it’s just not needed. It was completely pointless, and clearly aimed at perverted dudes. As someone who watches a heck of a lot of anime, and usually laughs at ecchi content, this… This was just going too far. It was pointless, and just another annoying thing you were forced to grind to advance through the game. Er… Yeah I just said that… Anyway! It slowed things down, and I ignored it completely when I had the option to. But you need those unlockables to keep going, or you just have to go grind enemies even more — it’s a never ending battle.

WHY!?!? JUST WHY!?!?

So why did I put myself through this? I have no idea! It was recommended to me, and I had just started working my real job, so I had the money. Figured $40 was worth it for an RPG I might enjoy, and I bought it without doing my research. Jumped in completely blind, and it came back to bite me. Just… Yeah… I still regret the whole thing. I still want those 40 dollars back! It’s still a stain on my PSN Profile! It’s a game I completely hate. It’s playable, and I didn’t see any glitches, but it’s mechanics, load times, and non stop grinding made it not worth it. Heck, it didn’t even have a good story. As someone who actually enjoys grinding in games and in MMOs you’d think I would’ve been okay with it, but no. It pushed everything way too far. Now I did grab the walking SP DLC, but I never even bothered to go back. Even with that it just wasn’t worth it. It’s a game I truly hate, and never plan on replaying. Nor would I ever recommend it to anyone.

So yeah, stay away. You’ll thank me.

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Monday, March 20, 2023

Resident Evil 4 Anime Short

I know everyone and their mom is sharing this video, but it's pretty great -- so I'm sharing it too. In honor of Resident Evil 4's remake coming out this week, Capcom has released a mini anime short. Of course it's going to be funnier to those who are familiar with Resident Evil 4, but I'd say anyone interested in the game can still watch. It doesn't spoil anything.

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Saturday, March 18, 2023

How I Became a Fan of Bomberman

Here's something I don't talk about a lot. I love the Bomberman series! Sure, I'm not some super fan or anything, but I do really enjoy the games. I've played the vast majority of them at this point, and it's something I'll play once in awhile when I feel like playing something different. It's a series that has been around for a long time now, but for me -- it's actually one that I had a unique introduction to. Instead of going to the store and buying a Bomberman game like many others did -- it was more of an adventure for me. And that's the story I wanted to share with you all today.

So, technically the first time I ever even heard about Bomberman was back on the PlayStation. My uncle was the first person I knew who got a PS1, and he'd often invite me over to try out different games on it. Along with his actual games, he also had multiple demo discs, and both me and my cousins (not his kids -- he didn't have any) would sit around the TV and try them out. One demo disc in particular had a demo for Bomberman World. I don't think any of us knew what it was, but when we realized it was a multiplayer "battle" type game, I remember we sat around for an hour or so just replaying the demo over and over. I thought it was fun, but I never did ask my parents for a Bomberman game -- that's all I played of it as a kid. In fact, I wouldn’t see anything of Bomberman again, until I was in high school.

The reason I got into Bomberman technically all circles back to my friend “Vile.” Back when I ran my MegaMan and Sonic fan sites, he joined them and started using names like “Altair” with an avatar to go along with said names. One day I eventually asked him what it was, and he explained Bomberman 64 to me. He went into the story, who the characters were, and how the sequel continued to expand on things. It sounded really cool to me, and made me want to get into the series myself. I eventually managed to track down Bomberman 64 (and later played 64 Second Attack), but until then my go to became Bomberman Jetters — the anime. 

Back then Crunchyroll was a well known anime streaming service, where pretty much anyone could upload anything anime related. This meant it was mostly fan subs (as anime was not popular as it is today), and you never really knew what would be on there day to day. As I used the site to watch Macross 7 (which is finally getting released in the West after all these years!), I figured it would be my best bet to get into Bomberman Jetters as well. And yeah, I wasn’t wrong! They had every episode, and I started binge watching it every change I got… I loved it! While the story/characters were different from what other Bomberman games were (it’s even different from the Bomberman Jetters video games — there are technically 3 if you count Generations), but it was really cool. It followed the story of young White Bomber wanting to join the Jetters, and follow in his brother’s footsteps. It was sorta monster of the weekish, but it was a really fun kids show. It made me want to play Bomberman even more, and motivated me to make it a reality.

Although Bomberman 64 didn’t exactly click with me, I still liked it. I managed to find a copy at Slackers (a store for used games/cds/movies/etc), but unfortunately my copy looked like it had been stuck in the dirt. It took hours to clean all of the mud off of the contacts, but thankfully the game still worked. Vile gave me advice on how to get through the game (it’s pretty challenging), and later on I moved on to Bomberman 64 Second Attack (which I liked more). I also grabbed the old GBC and GBA games once I got the chance, and downloaded what the virtual console had on the Wii. I never actually finished them, but they kept me wanting more. Bomberman Land Touch became one of my favorite DS games at the time (a mini game collection style game), and Bomberman Land Wii became one of my favorite Wii games as well. Later on I eventually talked my mom into getting me Bomberman Jetters on the GameCube, but we had to pay a pretty penny from it, and got it from a short lived local used game store. I feel like it was worth the price, but it made me sad to see the opening theme song had been removed from the US release (which was also common back in the day). Heck, I liked all of these games so much, I actually considered getting Bomberman Zero despite knowing how bad it was! But that never actually happened. (Most likely a good thing.) While I did skip over rereleases and Xbox Live arcade and PSN release, I made sure Bomberman R was one of the two launch games I bought when the Switch came out. And that brings us to today.

Even though Bomberman isn’t my go to game to play, it’s a series that is special to me, and I always look forward to seeing more from it. I’d love to see another RPG or action/adventure entry in the series, and I’d love for the Bomberman Jetters anime to get an official release sometime. I know it’s very unlikely, but it’s one of the few series that we still have no way to watch officially. As for the older games — I’m still waiting for the day a collection comes out for them as well. As often as the original titles get released, I still find it weird that we haven’t seen 64, Second Attack, Heroes, Generation, or Jetters get another release. Maybe they weren’t as popular as I’d like to think they were, but I still feel like they deserve to see the light of day again. It’s just a fun series, and I wish more people could experience more of its highlights. 

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