Category Archives: Gaming

Review: Xenoblade Chronicles

Xenoblade Chronicles
Xenoblade Chronicles

Xenoblade is one of the most amazing games I’ve played in the past 10 years that I can remember, and it’s a shame most people in North America won’t have the chance to play it. Even though it’s been fully localized into British English.

I must admit the game was something I dismissed when I first heard the name of it a year ago, but it wasn’t until a few months ago it piqued my interest. See, Nintendo of America announced it would not release the game, even though Nintendo of Europe had the localization just about finished, and a group of people got together and started a letter-writing campaign to NoA begging for its release. Well, Xenoblade and two other games–The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower. This was called Operation Rainfall.

Well, I picked up Xenoblade Chronicles from an online store (Amazon UK doesn’t ship games outside of Europe, ugh) and fell in love with the game. 70+ hrs in and I’m not finished with the game. There’s just so much to do. Continue reading Review: Xenoblade Chronicles

Sweet places for games

Gamestop has never been a place I go to with a smile. No, I only go there when I need something right away, or for something quite old. We’re talking several years old, not the latest copy of Dudebro that came out last week with used copies currently selling for $55. I’m talking GBA-Gamecube Link Cables. But I almost always prefer mom & pop stores over Gamestop. Luckily, here in Austin, there are many choices.

Unfortunately, some of these stores (Gamestop too, of course) don’t quite know their gaming history. I understand you can’t hire someone who knows the release date of Goonies II for NES off the top of their head (1987, btw), but I’d at least like someone to be able to know what a Turbo Grafx-16 is. To me, that’s the litmus test. If a store has employees who have heard of it (even better if they’ve played it), I will be much more willing to give a store my money.

Today, during my lunch break, I stopped by Apollo Games, a store that opened at the end of 2008. The owner, Parker, knows his stuff. He’s a gamer through and through. Knew what a TG-16 is, could talk games for hours, and seems to genuinely want to spread his love for games to others and offering some great prices on his stock. People in the North Austin/Round Rock area should check it out.

Why does it work in Japan but not North America?

Last week, I made a guest post over at Sure You Can Fight, a new site started by some people in the Austin-area fighting game community. While writing that post, I found out that Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition is crazy expensive. Well, arcades in general. Roughly $5,000 per cabinet, and you can only officially purchase it in sets of 4 (more than $20k!).

Arcades are a tricky beast. Are they expensive because they’re dying out, or dying out because they’re expensive?

I remember as a child there was many arcades in the area. Heck, the local 7-11 usually had two arcade cabinets. Grocery stores had ’em too. Pizza parlors always did. Oh, and of course the dedicated arcades. In Texas, I only find them now in family fun centers–places with putt-putt, redemption games galore, bumper cars, etc.

In Japan, I was able to find arcades without too much difficulty when I wanted. Usually they are multi-level buildings with each floor dedicated to a particular genre of games. Sports, medal (redemption) games, UFO catchers (crane games), fighting games, shooters, music, etc. They’re fun places for me to go, and there are always people. So why are arcades still fairly sustainable in Japan versus North America and much of the rest of the world? I think it’s because of the society.

In Japan, if you want to do something social, almost everyone goes out. Homes are usually small, and having many people over is just not practical, so people go out. Want go drink? Go to a bar or 居酒屋 (いざかや/izakaya). Play video games? Go to an arcade. In the metropolitan areas of Japan, a large majority of people walk. And with all that foot traffic, arcades are a great place to stop off for a few minutes. And they’re usually not out of the way.

In Texas, everyone drives. When you go to an arcade, you might have to worry about parking. Is it easy to get to? Will there be other people?

The plus side to arcades here. They’re almost always non-smoking. In Japan, be prepared to cough a lot and have burning eyes from the smoke that inhabits many, but not all, arcades.

Silence is broken

Since returning from Panama, work has been non-stop busy.  But the month from hell is just about over, so now I may resume posting.  I’ve found motivation once again to really focus on my Japanese classes, so I’ve been focusing more on that when I’m at home.  Oh, and playing Street Fighter IV.

Street Fighter IV has been a blast thus far.  It’s easy to pick up for a few mins (which oftentimes turns into hours).. sort of like most DS games.  Pick up for a few mins, play, put it back down.  Of course, it takes a huge commitment to become really good at the game.  Lots of precision timing and learning to read opponents is required.

Continue reading Silence is broken

The fight is on, well, almost

Street Fighter IV is set to release in a little more than a week’s time, and I, for one, am pretty excited.  I remember when the original first came out on the SNES.  Some friends picked it up the week of release for something like $70.  We must’ve played it for several weeks before playing another game.

I’m hoping the feeling and nostalgia comes back in a few days when it is released here in the U.S.  And keeping with the tradition, the game is going to cost me some money to get into.  $60 for the game, then $80 x2 for the fighting sticks.  See, I’m picking the game up for the Xbox 360, and there’s no way in hell you can play a serious fighting game with the stock controller Microsoft provides.

The only downside to all of this is that unlike back when SFII was released, most of my friends that would be wanting to play are about three hours away now.  Thankfully there’s online gaming, but that’s nowhere near the same as playing a game in a room with other people cheering you on.  Seriously, something like this just wouldn’t be as cool if it were an online match between two people.

End of Gaming Magazines draws near

Electronic Gaming Monthly, a staple in the videogame world here in North America, has ceased to be.  We all knew it was coming, but some didn’t think it would be as abrupt an end as it was.

I subscribed to EGM for most of the time I was into gaming.  Elementary through high school, then post college when I wrote game reviews.  It had exclusives I wanted to read about, and the quality of writing was so much better than what I find on IGN, Gamespot and Kotaku, places I have ventured before.

Continue reading End of Gaming Magazines draws near