The NettoSaito Review Writing Process

Ok so over the past few months or so I have had a few people ask me for some advice when it came to writing reviews, and well, let me say this now. I AM NO EXPERT GAME REVIEWER! Everything I review has been either for fun, to help someone out, or to get some of the lesser known games known again. Even so, I would like to say that I do really appreciate you guys asking me, so I decided to go ahead and make this blog post ^_^

Step 1: Picking the Game

Ok so before I write a review, I have to start with this very basic step. Picking a game (or show/movie/anime) to review. I know this may sound like a simple step for me, but it really isn't! There are actually many different factors that go into my decision, and it's really important that I decide on the right game. How do I do that though? Well, really, it's just a little bit random.

Before I review a game, I look at the games that I can review, and I really think about what game just "feels right" to me. You know how sometimes you just don't feel like playing a game, so you turn it off and play something else? Well, the same idea applies here. If I'm just not in the mood to talk about a game, I'll normally put it on hold, and either walk away from it and come back later, or I'll just review something else. The review for Jak II is a prime example of this.

As of right now (11/20/12), I have yet to complete my Jak II review. Now don't get me wrong, I loved the game (heck I made sure to 100% that sucker), but as of right now the timing just isn't right. Just lately I've got my hands on a few other great games, and some of them I feel need a bit more attention than Jak and Daxter. Sure I could go ahead and just type that review right now, but I found that writing a review you don't feel like writing is one of the worst possible things you can do. The writing tends to come out choppy, aspects of the review become forced, and I tend to completely forget to talk about subjects I planned on covering. In short, it isn't pretty.

So anyway, if you're just doing a review for fun (or to help someone), make sure you're feeling it. Make sure it's a game you feel like talking about, and make sure it's one that you understand enough to review. (PLAYING A GAME FOR FIVE MINUTES ONLY TO TURN AROUND TO REVIEW IT IS NOT THE WAY TO GO PEOPLE! Sadly though... That happens quite often.)

Step 2: Think About the Categories

After I've picked my game to review, I start thinking about how I want to review it. What are the major features of this game? Where should I bring them up in the review? How much of the story should I explain? All of these are questions I ask myself, and it normally comes down to the same pattern. I'll give the game a nice intro to just basically explain what the game is, I'll then talk about the story (which believe it or not is something that can make or break it for most people), and then I'll get into the gameplay. The thing is though, many games have many different aspects to their gameplay, so you can't really just cover it all in one big paragraph.

Once I start talking about the gameplay, I start to think about how the standard levels play out (if there are levels), the alternate gameplay modes/extras, the VS modes, and I'll also think about any mini game that might be included. Although some games tend to stick to the same basic pattern/controls throughout the entire game, many do change it up, and I always felt that it was very important to explain it all.

The thing is, you don't want people to go buy this game without knowing anything about it, so I always try to explain the gameplay as much as possible. I mean, do you really want to make someone who hates a puzzle game buy a puzzle game just by leaving out that one piece of information? Just think about it.. In your review, you could have said that it has a good story, there's exploration, and that the fighting is awesome, but you could fail to mention that it is mostly a puzzle game. Your review would most likely make people want to buy that game, for them to then turn it on, and find out that the exploration/story/fighting takes back seat to the main gameplay... The puzzle solving...

So anyway, in short, it's very important that you fully explain what the gameplay is like. Don't leave out anything, unless its to avoid a major spoiler.

Once I've covered the gameplay, I then normally move onto a section where I talk about the good and the bad. Normally this section just sums up a lot of the major points of the review, but I'll also normally put some of the smaller detail as well. For the most part I tend to keep what I find "bad" out of the main sections of the review, but that isn't always the case. If the "bad" aspects of the game actually are a major feature in a game, I will make sure to point it out throughout the review, but if it's just some little minor detail I found annoying, then I'll normally just put it at the end.

Really though, for all of the categories, it's best that you just decide for yourself how you want to review the game. Although I have my standard structure that I follow for most reviews, sometimes it just doesn't work out, and I find myself using another outline. (The Dead or Alive: Dimensions review I did a long time ago is a perfect example of that.)

Step 3: Understanding BOTH Points of View

This step goes along with Step 2, but I really think this might be the most important step to remember. EVERYONE has their own personal tastes, and YOU shouldn't try to force someone to change. Basically everyone likes different things, and there's nothing you can do about that. Some people like comedy movies, other people hate comedy and rather watch horror. This is just the human nature, and it is something we've had to deal with our entire lives. Just look at your friends or family for example. Do they ALL like the games you play? Do you like all the stuff they do? Let me answer both of them questions for you; no.

When writing a review I always try to see both points of view. I'll talk about all the main features the game has to offer, cover the story, and basically explain it with as much detail as I feel is needed, but as I'm doing that, I'm also constantly telling myself that not everyone will like the game like I do/dislike the game like I do. I know I keep going back to examples, but this is is an easy way to explain it, and it's also an example you can go back to read if you really feel like it.

Back when I reviewed Metroid: Other M, I did something most people wouldn't dare to do. I gave the game a solid 10/10. Now, is Metroid: Other M the best Metroid game out there? Heck no. Is it a pretty solid game that many people will have fun with? Well, yeah! Metroid: Other M is one of them games which really upset a lot of fans, and a lot of people found reasons to hate on it. It wasn't up to Team Ninja's standards that most people were expecting, and it wasn't the Super Metroid like Nintendo wanted people to believe; it was something completely different. Even so, the story was interesting, the controls worked very well, the level design was nice, and it's a game I just enjoyed playing. Although I did give it a perfect score for what type of game it was, I also mentioned that it wasn't what people expected. Throughout the entire review I made sure to point out that Metroid: Other M wasn't the game fans were asking for, and that I would be rating it based off of it alone, ignoring the rest of the series. In short, if you wanted a standard Metroid game, stay away from Other M, if you wanted something new, Other M was at least worth a shot.

Another example would be my Resistance: Burning Skies review. Now this is a game I might have personally gave about a 3/10, but in my review it ended up scoring a 6. The thing is, the game couldn't hold up to the standard Resistance games, it was extremely short, and it's multiplayer was nothing more than running around with shot guns, so really, I just didn't care for it too much. Sure I may pick it up from time to time, but I haven't actually played it since the day I bought it and 100%ed it. That doesn't mean it is a COMPLETELY bad game though. While I did point out the standard issues with the game, I also made sure to keep in mind that there would be people who would actually love this game as well. I made sure to talk about the game's good points, point out why people might want to play it, and well, I ended up rating the game higher than I expected. Not because I really liked the game, but because it truly wasn't that bad. It was still a solid shooter, and fans would find at least 10 or hours of enjoyment from it.

So anyway, just try to keep in mind what other people might think as well. Just because you hate it or love it, it doesn't mean it is a good or bad game. Heck I like Sonic 2006 for reasons most people wouldn't understand, but that doesn't mean it deserves a 10/10 does it? Chances are, most of you would rate it a 1/10 (if not lower). Actually, that's one of my older reviews that I did, and back then I didn't even bother giving it a score.

Step 4: Screenshots

This really depends where you type the review, but screen shots can play a major role in the review when it comes to letting people know what the game is like. Sure your words will paint a picture in someone's head, but that doesn't mean the image they created is what the game is actually like. I found by placing a few screen shots here and there, you can really help make your points stronger. If you're talking about how nice the graphics look, why not include a picture to help show that off? Little additions like these can really come a long way in a review, but you SHOULDN'T be depended on them.

All of my reviews here are also uploaded on other websites, GameFAQs and GameSpot for example, and on them websites images cannot be included with the reviews. If I were to completely base my reviews around the pictures I have, then the people reading the reviews on them sites would be completely lost.
Also, although I used to do it all the time, I recommend avoid using videos as well. Sure maybe a trailer or a song from the game is nice from time to time, but don't base your review around that either. Remember not everyone may have sound on their computer/be able to listen to it for whatever reason, so it's always better to explain everything in your own words when possible.

Step 5: Post it!

Yep that's about all I can really say! Once you've finished everything, well you might want to read through it first, it is then ready to be posted for the world to see! Since I post my reviews on sites such as this one, I normally have to wait for it to be approved before it actually goes up for the public. Also please remember to give credit to anyone where credit is due!

Well, that's about it. Thank you all for taking the time to read this, and also thanks again for asking my opinion when it comes to writing reviews! I won't say who all asked me, well not all of you are actually from Capcom-Unity lol, but anyway... There ya go ^_^

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