☼ The Sunshine Blogger Award Challenge ☼

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Thanks to Adrian @ Inside the mind of a gamer for the nomination – I had a lot of fun coming up with these responses. I probably rambled on for way too long, but oh well. As I’m super new to blogging, I don’t really have enough followers to tag for this challenge, but I’ll include a couple questions of my own at the end. If you’re reading this and would like to answer these on your own blog, then consider yourself nominated! I’d also love to hear your thoughts on my answers, or your answers to my questions in the comments as well!

1. Favourite video game companion?

I’m going to cheat on this question a little and pick two – they’re both from the same game so let me live. It’s easily Atreus and Mimir from God of War (2018). Companions in games can be hard to pull off – they’re either annoying, you have to babysit them (escort mission style) or they’re just not very interesting compared to the protagonist. Both Atreus and Mimir are fantastic characters by themselves, but when they’re presented in contrast to Kratos, they’re made all the more endearing. Atreus is the perfect essence of positivity to balance out Kratos’ gruff, sometimes cold personality. The segments of the two of them paddling around the Lake of Nine, with Kratos telling terrible stories, and Atreus trying to make him laugh are so enjoyable to experience. I also loved the fact that they incorporated Atreus into the combat – it makes him a more valuable asset and easier to become invested in. Mimir is perhaps one of my new favourite side characters of all time – his voice actor is an absolute joy to listen to, and his tales of the Aesir and Vanir gods provide both the history and character backstories of the world the game takes place in. He’s funny, wise, and apt to point out the shortcomings of both Atreus and Kratos, giving the player additional insight into both. Overall, just two fantastic companions to enjoy a 40-ish hour long journey with.

2. First person, third person, top down, isometric, or side scroller?

For me personally, it has to be third person. Back in high school, when I was obsessed with shooters, I would have easily answered with first person, but as I’ve moved away from that style, the games I tend to prefer now are all third person. I prefer the camera view – I feel like I can see more. I also feel like I can more easily get invested in characters when I can actually see them in front of me. Especially in games that allow for customization, either with weapons, or outfits/armor – I mean, what’s the point in customizing a character that I’m never going to see? I’ve grown up with a lot of games in this style, like the Zelda franchise and Super Mario 64, but since playing the Souls series, and more recently, Persona 5, I’ve grown more attached the third person style of camera.

3. First console? And what did you love about it?

I remember my uncle giving my family his NES system when I was extremely young. We had Super Mario Bros 3, and Doctor Mario. I sort of remember playing these (mostly my mom mercilessly kicking my ass at Doctor Mario) but what I consider to be my true ‘first’ console was the Nintendo 64. This was a gift for my sister and I from our parents one year at Christmas (I couldn’t tell you what year to be honest, maybe ’98? ’99?) but my god, I had never been more excited in my life. There is nothing quite like opening a new game system, waiting impatiently for your parents to set it up, and turning it on for the first time. Knowing that you have a whole week off school, while it’s cold and miserable outside, to stay comfy and cozy indoors, curled up with a new adventure. I can’t remember the original games we had for the 64, or what I played that Christmas morning, but I know the games that I owned on this system have stuck with me for more than a decade now, and I consider many of them to be the source of my love for gaming.

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Some of my old favourites.

Simply put, this console had some of the best games of that era – I spent countless hours playing on my own, and probably even more playing with others: Mario Golf with my dad and sister, or Super Smash Bros with a group of neighborhood kids. Some of my favourite titles on the 64 were Ocarina of Time, Super Mario 64, Diddy Kong Racing, Mario Kart, Pokémon Stadium, and Mario Party (2 & 3). I still own both that original NES and my Nintendo 64. I still play those old games all the time, and I’m eternally grateful to my parents for that Nintendo 64, and all the great memories I have from growing up with it.

4. Favourite game series? Why?

Well this one is pretty easy! I usually have a hard time picking ‘favourite’ anythings, because how can you possibly choose just one? But for me, there is no series closer to my heart than the Legend of Zelda franchise. I was too young to have played some of the original games, but I started with Ocarina of Time on the 64, and kept up with the games ever since. Ocarina of Time consistently blew me away as a child, and I have so many fond memories of playing it – I don’t think another game will ever be able to recapture the sense of excitement and wonder I got from this title whenever I reached a new area or beat a temple. I remember when I would fight the boss of the Spirit Temple, Twinrova, I would try to turn off the 64 as soon as I completed the fight, so I would be able to go back and do it again – I loved that boss so much. This usually didn’t work out, but I tried anyway. Also not (too) ashamed to admit that, for a long time, I would start a new game every time I reached the Water Temple, before I figured out how best to approach it. I was disappointed in Majora’s Mask when I first played it (because lowkey I wanted it to be Ocarina of Time 2.0) but as I’ve gone back to it over the years, my opinion of it has changed significantly – it’s easily one of my favourites now. I adored Twilight Princess as well; I thought the developers made some interesting gameplay choices, implemented the ‘wolf’ gimmick fairly well, and the temple and boss designs are some of the best in the series, in my opinion. Though I’ve been disappointed in more recent entries, like Skyward Sword, and Breath of the Wild, I honestly don’t think I would ever be able to give up on these games. No other series I’ve played has been able to capture the same perfect balance of gameplay, puzzles, and visual magic that Zelda consistently presents.

5. Most hours put into a single game?

I’ve put hundreds of hours into a lot of games, but the single game that I’ve put the most hours into has to be The Sims 2. The Sims is one of the most bizarre, entertaining, hilarious games ever created, don’t @ me. Taking a simple concept, like a “life simulator” and creating a character, building them a house, and then running their lives (either successfully, or more amusingly, into the ground) sounds almost boring, but The Sims manages to take this mundane concept and transform it into a wild experience. There is a lot to do in The Sims beyond just making them go to work, building their relationships, and making sure they’re taking care of their needs – you can go on vacation and meet a ninja that teaches you to teleport. You can be abducted by aliens. You can insult a neighbourhood lady down the supermarket and get into a fist fight. The possibilities are endless. The Sims presents so many opportunities for (sometimes sadistic) comedy, like the classic taking-the-ladder-out-of-the-pool-and-trapping-someone-until-they-drown, getting struck by lightning for jumping in a puddle, having a satellite fall on you as you’re stargazing… there is just no end to the incredible stuff you can get up to. In what other game can you seduce your neighbor’s wife, break up their family, and ensure the kids are taken by social services, all to punish Bob for stealing your newspaper that one time?

The Sims 2 specifically was my favourite – the expansions packs, art style, and improvements made upon the first game made it the best for me personally. The games have genuinely clever writing, and enough activities and choices to keep you entertained for a long time. There is an online joke that you either play The Sims for 6 hours a day, for 2 months straight, or you don’t play at all – and it’s completely true. I have no doubt that I’ll return to this game at some point and devote another 100 or so hours of my life to cultivating the perfect life for my Sims. I think if I were to actually be able to see how many hours of my life I’ve spent with this game, I would be genuinely afraid.

6. What game world would you happily live in?

I’m cheating again for this question, fight me. I have two answers:

There are so many games that have gorgeous settings and places I would definitely want to live, but my childhood spirit won’t permit any answer to this question that doesn’t include the world of Pokemon. My favourite specific settings would probably be Kanto (from the original Red/Blue/Yellow or remakes), Kalos (from Pokemon X/Y) or Alola from the newest Sun/Moon series. I know, I’ve picked 3, I’m cheating again. But these regions all have my favourite Pokemon, fondest memories, and favourite visual settings. The original games for obvious reasons, the distinct European architecture style of Kalos, and the chill vibe of the Alola islands make these most appealing to me. I mean, I honestly can’t imagine a better world than one in which I can have no responsibilities, aside from taking care of my Pokemon team, being the best (like no one ever was) trainer in the land, fighting a team of bumbling fools trying to take over the world, and occasionally checking in with mom. I would even be willing to put up with Youngster Joey calling me 45 times a day to tell me about his goddamn Rattata, which allegedly is in the top percentage of Rattata. Just listen, he’ll tell you.

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My second answer for this question actually comes from a newly discovered favourite of mine – Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I love this game, and I’m sad that I didn’t give this franchise a try earlier. New Leaf involves being the mayor of a town, keeping it in good shape, taking care of your townsfolk, and generally just trying to create the best place to live that you can. I simply adore the sense of escapism in a more simple, friendly world that New Leaf provides. A world where my biggest challenge is dealing with a sassy neighbor who is requesting I fund some hideous public works project. Who wouldn’t love to wake up every morning, water their flowers, negotiate a new house expansion with the local raccoon, and have 5 million bells in their bank account? I love this world for all the common internet-joke reasons: that I can live out my wild, millennial fantasies of having my debt paid off, owning a house, and having friends. And these friends always remember my birthday.

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7. What game world would you hate to live in?

I wanted to cheat for this question and give two answers as well, but I’ll reign it in. For me, it’s a toss up between the City of Yharnam from Bloodborne, and Bioshock’s Rapture. I’ll go with Yharnam, as I’m talking about Bioshock in another answer. Yharnam is dark, dangerous, and just generally miserable place to live in, I would imagine. I mean, rent is probably cheap because all the residents are turning into bloodthirsty, mindless beasts, but who wants to deal with that? You walk into Yharnam on the night of the Hunt, ordered to mind your own business and simply hunt the beasts. You’re an outsider, and boy does everyone like to remind you of that. The townsfolk are either turning into beasts or hunting beasts, but all of them will try to kill you. Imagine just trying to get to the post office or the grocery store. There are vicious dogs, werewolves, and even worse, a really mean old lady. The heavy, nightmarish atmosphere of Bloodborne is so potent and oppressive that its nerve-wracking to even play sometimes, let alone live in. Though the narrow, switchback streets, and imposing Gothic cathedrals are compelling, and the focused, cohesive design of the city is a marvel to behold… it’s gonna be a no from me dawg.

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Gonna be honest, not what I thought when you guys said “neighborhood barbecue.”

8. Nintendo is always making inventive consoles. What crazy thing would you add to yours?

This is a fantastic question, and I actually have no idea how to answer it, other than some kind of element that would encourage co-op, or incorporate real life elements in-game. Some of my best gaming memories come from playing Halo with my dad, or Fusion Frenzy with my sister and friends. I’m including online gaming under this umbrella – I like elements that encourage you to get together with a group of people to play together. The co-op aspect of a game like Journey, that allows people to drop in and out of your game, to cooperative, or do their own thing, always interested me. In a non-competitive setting, I think more co-op options would always be fun. Otherwise, being able to utilize or incorporate real-life elements into a game would be super cool – something like Pokemon Go, in a way. Being able to take a photo of one of my t-shirts and see it on my in-game avatar for example, would be amazing. Obviously not my area of expertise, but it will be fun to see what Nintendo tries next.

9. What cancelled game would you revive?

The only game I can really think of that I was looking forward to that got cancelled was Silent Hills – the teaser of which was the immensely popular “P.T.” that is no longer playable. I usually avoid horror games, as I have the spine and fortitude of a flip flop, but Silent Hills was looking exceptionally good.

Instead, I’ll mention a game that I absolutely loved as a child (which apparently no one else on the planet played?) that I NEEDED the sequel to – but alas, they never made one. That game was called Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy. It was a really interesting Zelda-esque action/puzzle game that took place in ancient Egypt and was split between 2 characters. As Sphinx, you’ll be fighting monsters, bosses, and generally handling the combat action, while the Mummy constitutes purely puzzle-centered gameplay. Despite some pacing issues, this game was phenomenal – great design, fun gameplay, and genuinely challenging and creative puzzles (some involving lighting yourself on fire – how cool is that?) This game also had some crazy difficult moments, a couple of which involve trapping you in an arena to fight multiple enemies at the same time, and one particular boss, The Geb Queen, took me about a thousand tries to beat. To wrap up, the game ended on a GIANT cliffhanger, with the entire story of the game left unresolved – most likely setting up for a sequel. Except that sequel never came, probably because the game didn’t sell well enough. RIP.

UPDATE: in writing this, I have just discovered that this game was ported to the switch in January of this year. I bought it immediately. Gods bless THQ Nordic. You should definitely give it a try if you’re in the market for a fun oldie to play.

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10. Most memorable game moment?

I’m approaching this question as a cutscene/event in a game, rather than something I accomplished, or an experience I created myself in a game. So: SPOILER WARNING!! If you haven’t played Bioshock and are planning on doing so/don’t want to be spoiled do not read this. Seriously, it will spoil the whole thing.

An extremely memorable gaming moment for me would be the big reveal in the original Bioshock. You finally come face-to-face with Andrew Ryan, the founder of Rapture, and a man you’ve believed to be the villain up until this point in the game. In one of the greatest twists I’ve ever seen in gaming, it is revealed that Andrew Ryan is not actually the primary antagonist – rather, the ‘friend’ who has been feeding you instructions, the rebel leader, Atlas, has been manipulating you since your arrival in Rapture. Atlas is an alias for the true antagonist, Frank Fontaine, who has secretly been controlling the player character, Jack; when using the hypnotism-like trigger phrase “would you kindly?” Jack is compelled to obey his orders. Jack is revealed to have caused the plane crash in the beginning of the game (as Fontaine willed) and to be the child of Andrew Ryan – explaining his ability to use Ryan’s genetically locked systems in Rapture. You are compelled to kill Ryan, beating him to death with his own golf club, and subsequently flee from his office, and Fontaine.

My god, this scene left me shook when I first played it. I definitely didn’t trust Atlas while I was playing, but I never saw the twist coming. The excellent reveal, which explains earlier portions of the narrative, and changes your viewpoint on the character of Andrew Ryan was masterfully done. As it’s revealed in a cutscene, you lose all sense of agency – the scene plays out, and you are unable to intervene in any way. Ryan repeats one of his signature phrases “A man chooses; a slave obeys” as you look helplessly on. To this day, it is one of the most memorable moments I’ve ever experienced in a game.

11. Unpopular gaming opinion?

Ohh this is a fun one. Here’s my (most unpopular) hot take: Breath of the Wild is not a masterpiece, nor is it the best Zelda game.

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I’m not saying it’s a bad game – far from it, I think it’s a solid game, with a specific focus that does a lot right. However, I think in trying to make this game environmentally dynamic, visually breathtaking, and open to creative approaches to gameplay, the developers neglected to make sure the foundations of the game were equally strong. The combat in this game is awful. The weapon durability system is even worse. Every boss, dungeon, and shrine is fundamentally the same in terms of design, and it’s disappointing. Its emphasis on exploration is constantly undermined by the fact that burning through your resources (weapons) isn’t worth anything that you gain. Oh, you really liked that fire sword? Well too bad, it’s going to break after hitting 3 things, and you’ll never be able to get it back. But you picked up a mop and 50 rupees instead, aren’t you glad you raided that camp? I’m honestly happy that so many gamers loved this title – I adore the Zelda franchise, and I’m happy to see it continue to do well, but I was disappointed in this latest installment.

 

My questions, if you’d like to answer them:

  1. Favourite female character in a video game, and why?
  2. Game you loved but feel like no one else remembers, or is really underrated?
  3. A game whose ending you felt was really disappointing? Why?
  4. Favourite indie game? Why?
  5. If a friend who wasn’t a gamer asked you for a sort-of ‘first game’ recommendation, what would you suggest, and why?

 

As always, thanks for reading!