Category Archives: Video Games I Play

Expand Your Gaming Horizons

When was the last time you dusted off your passport? You might think I am talking about the documents you use to explore, play, laugh and cry in foreign lands. You would be correct; only I am thinking of a passport to explore digital worlds made in foreign lands. I encourage you to play games made by foreign developers and explore digital lands made by people with different perspectives.

You might have already played games made by Japanese, North American and European developers, and I have as well. My passport, as it were, is both well-worn and stamped.  To focus on Japan, I have, of course, played Nintendo and Sega games but not much else.

Then I started playing Okami and Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. These are two beautiful Japanese games that I love. I started playing them because I had looked for titles I had not yet played on PlayStation 3. I was not looking for Japanese PlayStation 3 video games at the time. I was looking for great games because I had bought this console late in its existence and wanted to play the best this system could offer, even though new consoles had arrived. The art of these two games, which I saw in reviews and impressions, intrigued me and piqued my interest.

Okami is a beautiful game made by the now defunct Clover Studio in Japan. I think this Japanese team poured their heart and soul into this game, and you can see this in every stream and peaceful garden in this work. They made this beautiful world while also drawing on Japan’s rich stories to tell a tale about freeing the land from darkness. For example, Amaterasu, the main character, is named after the Shinto sun goddess. The game also features a world that looks like a moving Japanese painting. To save this world, players add to the beauty and paint a better day. I felt had much more to learn about Japanese history after playing, even though I had taken one course on the subject. That the game was beautiful was crystal clear.

Ni No Kuni, which I have not finished, is the second game. Level-5, also a Japanese video game developer, created it with help from famed Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli. The artwork, especially the varied landscapes of a dry desert, active lava-spewing Volcano and haunted trails worthy of a terrible nightmare, grabbed my attention. The adorable creatures begged me to keep playing. Then the game exceeded my expectations by sending me ascending toward the heavens on a dragon. Unlike Okami, I’m not aware if any of Japan’s central stories or myths are in this game. Yet Ni No Kuni features a Pokemon-like battle system and proudly sports Japanese in its title.

Okami and Ni No Kuni are both beautiful games, and I’m glad to have read about and then played them. I would encourage everyone to expand their gaming horizons: play video games made by developers in different countries. You might not learn anything about life in that country —  I know I did not — but you could learn to appreciate different perspectives on making games. You might change the way you think about video games. You might even understand the world and people better than you did before. You might become a more open-minded person who has developed a sense of beauty and a love for humanity, not a love of mere discs.

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Fly on the Purple Dragon

I have a secret. On weeknights, long after I’ve finished my button-downed day, I unbutton my dress shirt, make dinner and then fly to the sky’s edge. Based on my title, and my description so far, you might have arrived at any number of erroneous assumptions about this post and me. You might have thought I was talking about flying on a fun, new airline. You might have thought, and I’d forgive you, that I was talking about some crazy new drug. And you might have thought I’m talking about hitching a ride on a massive purple beast. You’d be wrong about all three of these. Wait! Yeah, I’m talking about riding on top of a purple dragon named Tengri.

A pirate I met introduced me to Tengri, who was very sick at the time. I managed to cure the dragon by traveling between two different worlds, just like any other Thursday night. Then Tengri became my loyal and faithful friend — several thousand feet in the air.

There’s an aura of elegance that surrounds Tengri both in the air and on land. His purple body shines a little as it gracefully flies through the air. Even the way I summon the dragon has a touch of class: I blast a trumpet in upward, and he swoops down to gingerly place me on his back.

Then we flew all over the world’s exotic locales last night. We soared over shimmering desert sands featuring palm trees and an oasis. From the sands, we made a wrong turn into a nightmarish cemetery with ghastly ghouls. Frightened, we flew away using Tengri’s speed bursts, where he collapses his wings, twirls and shoots forward, to ascend a giant volcano. Now the volcano wasn’t the wisest choice, but we couldn’t resist hovering over as it spewed molten lava all over the environment. He and I are both stuck in adolescent phase, after all, where we think fire is cool. Happily, we escaped without a scrape or a burn, and cooled off on an island where winter never ends, where your eyebrows freeze in seconds.

I bet that, after reading this far, you think I’m crazy. I might be. But I think you should fly on a dragon too. The flight might take you and your life to new heights.


In case it isn’t obvious, the video game I’m talking about is Ni No Kuni. This post is not a review of that game. This post is my impression of Tengri’s beauty and elegance in flight.

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Low Artificial Intelligence Is a Good Thing

Thanks Mr. Bad Guy for walking into the wall and getting stuck there. You were about to attack me. But you became lodged in concrete and started to convulse as if I was electrocuting you.

The developers of the game would probably be embarrassed by these convulsions. Maybe they would feel like they had done a poor job if some of their enemy characters had poor artificial intelligence. Maybe they’d wish they could fix all the game’s bugs.

I think the developers did me a huge favour. I was having a hard time getting through the level before the bad guy got stuck. Sometimes low artificial intelligence is a good thing.

 

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Even Heroes Lose Their Save Files

Master Chief and Mario, our heroes and the greatest protectors of life on earth, decided to unwind. They sat down to play video games.

***

Mario: “Heya Chief! Hows about we play Okami.  Take control of Ammy and let’s a go!”

Master Chief: “Sure, Mario I’ll show you my way mad skills. Is that what the kids say?”

Once there was a dark wasteland before the white wolf. The darkness threatened to consume the peace on the land. Then Chief took control of Ammy and suddenly blossoming flowers, flame and bright lightning cascaded together. A rainbow formed in the sky and everything shone brilliantly.

Master Chief: “I did it! I restored beauty to the land.”

Mario: “Chief, you da best.”

Master Chief: “Well, they don’t call me a master for nothing.”

Mario: “That’sa lame.”

Master Chief: “Well, I’m a professional hero who fights aliens; humour isn’t my thing. Lay off me.”

Mario: “Look! Something’s wrong with the screen.”

Master Chief: “Huh? Noooooo!”

The screen froze after Chief had unlocked the two trophies for catching all fish and beating  the last devil gate trial.

Mario: “Chief, is that a tear running down your visor?”

Master Chief: “N-no… it’s nothing” [sniffle]. Come on we better get back to work. My job is to save the world. I was a fool to think I’d be good at these stupid video game things.”

Mario: “Wahoo! Let’s ago!”

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Why I Love The Super Mario Galaxy Games

Why do I love these games? I find it difficult to concisely explain all the reasons, but I’ll try. I mostly love the games because of their worlds, including the art and music.

Of course, the gameplay was excellent and attracted my attention. The game started simple and gradually became challenging. It never felt unfair. I could master the rhythm and jumps, beat the game and feel like I accomplished something. Then, if I felt like a challenge, I could find purple coins throughout the worlds. However, I didn’t keep playing — didn’t fall in love — merely to overcome a challenge, an uphill climb.

I enjoyed the sights and sounds along the walk. The worlds in the Super Mario Galaxy games are beautiful. The music helped to make the worlds worth exploring. The music was lush, grand and at times orchestral. It was grand enough to inspire me to be a hero and keep playing. The music also had bleeps and bloops, perhaps a nod to the past, that provided a spacey atmosphere. The developers created a good marriage of sound and world. I felt like I was in another galaxy full of whimsy and joy.

The bright colours of the worlds enticed me to travel and traverse them. Even the enemies were cool, colourful and demanded attention. This emphasis on colour, fun and whimsical music was refreshing. The Galaxy games weren’t trying hard to be a “mature” and bloody Hollywood blockbuster. The Galaxy games weren’t grey and depressing. They were transcendent as they took me to another realm of beauty and colour. The beauty of these games even cheered me up when I was sad.

Yes, the games made me happy, and they left me in awe. The change of perspective while walking around a three-dimensional planet, full of colourful plants and creatures, was incredible. I’ll never forget touching down on the first world and then realizing I could walk around the whole thing. What an experience!

The worlds remined me of planets from the story The Little Prince. You know, the ones where the prince meets adults living in their own little worlds. Wait, I figured out why I love the Galaxy games so much. They’re joyful and don’t take life too seriously.

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I Miss the Super Mario Galaxy Games

I have much to say about why I love Super Mario Galaxy and the sequel. Tune in for my blog post next week. In the meantime, I want to hear from you. Do you love or hate the Super Mario Galaxy games and why?

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1001 Years before I Finish This Video Game

Woe is me as I lay here crying, for I have started a video game I may not finish.  Maybe I’m afraid of what will happen to me after I finish the game. Or, dare I say it, do I fear success in the game world? No, I’m sure I’m brave enough.

In truth, I must slay a mighty dragon, return a princess to her throne, return her crown that an awful thief absconded with and take out the garbage. That’s why I can’t play yet. When I’m done all that, then I can play my game and tend to my vegetable patch.

Sometimes I feel like all I can do is tend to my digital garden for a couple of minutes. I think the zucchini is ripe, and I’m excited to see it come back next year too. The tomatoes look even better than I could have imagined.

I’m not sure when this game is over. Maybe it’s after the land becomes barren and infertile. Maybe it’s after the soil seems parched, dry, crumbly under foot and returns to dust.

No matter when the game ends, I vow to keep my joy burning brightly in the face of dark days. I will finish this game even if it takes 1001 days.

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