From the Archives: Shadow Hearts – A Classic Series from the PS2 Era

Back in the PS1 and PS2 eras we were very much enjoying a Golden Age across a variety of different game genres, but many people regard this as a very special time for the JRPG in particular.

This period in gaming history gave birth to some truly “timeless” and gloriously experimental titles which remain immensely entertaining today, despite their obvious technical limitations.

Several such examples can be found in the Shadow Hearts series, a collection of games that sound completely batshit crazy on paper, but which actually turn out to be some of the finest role-playing games I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy.

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2012 as part of the site’s regular Swords and Zippers column on JRPGs. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.

Continue reading From the Archives: Shadow Hearts – A Classic Series from the PS2 Era

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MoeGamer: The Third Birthday

Somehow, I only remembered recently that I actually share a birthday with this little corner of the Internet.

Sure enough, if you check the first ever post on here (complete with old-style Midori and Yumi) you’ll see that it was published on April 29, 2014. That’s three full years of this site being in existence, after it launched on my thirty-third birthday. And while it hasn’t been three years of constant content — the regular posting schedule is something I’ve only introduced relatively recently, beginning with the introduction of Cover Games around this time last year — it’s still quite an achievement in the cutthroat world of “writing about games”.

MoeGamer is something I’ve come to do simply because I enjoy it. But it originally came about as a result of the state of the modern mainstream commercial games press — and how apparently there wasn’t a place for someone like me in it any more, despite working in the field having been a lifelong dream.

So let’s look back at how MoeGamer came to be, why it exists now and why it’s important to me personally.

Continue reading MoeGamer: The Third Birthday

From the Archives: Reading Deeper into Magical Diary

I realize I’m being terribly unorthodox here, but after playing the subject of last week’s column a little more, I feel the urge to talk about it for the second week in a row.

And this time I’m going to get spoilery, so those of you who have not yet played Magical Diary and are intending to do so may wish to look away now.

Today we’re going to examine the character of Damien and the protagonist’s relationship with him, because this is by far one of the most interesting things about Magical Diary’s magical high school drama.

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2012 as part of the site’s regular READ.ME column on visual novels. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.

Continue reading From the Archives: Reading Deeper into Magical Diary

Nier Automata: A Game Better With — And Because Of — Its Narrative

Writing for The Atlantic, academic and media commentator Ian Bogost put forth the rather bold claim that “video games are better without stories” and asked “film, television and literature all tell them better, so why are games still obsessed with narrative?”

This is an interesting question to ponder in light of any discussion of video games, but it’s a particularly pertinent discussion to have when we’re considering something as ambitious and audacious as Nier: Automata — a game which not only tells a compelling story, it tells it in an incredibly fascinating way.

Bogost’s article meanders around the point somewhat, but ultimately seems to come to the conclusion that purely environmental storytelling — be it through the use of audiologs, a la BioShock, or less explicitly through the environment itself, as in “walking simulators” such as Gone Home — is not a particularly effective approach to presenting an interactive narrative, though it can provide an interesting playground for a player to explore.

And he’s not really wrong in this regard… apart from the fact that it’s only in relatively rare cases that a game exclusively relies on this approach.

Continue reading Nier Automata: A Game Better With — And Because Of — Its Narrative

Virtual Intimacy

The arrival of relatively affordable virtual reality solutions has the potential to allow us to explore narrative and characterisation in all-new ways — and I’m especially excited to see what Japan comes up with. 

An oft-cited strength of narrative-centric Japanese interactive entertainment is the sense of “intimacy” it engenders between the player, the protagonist and the core cast. Visual novels in particular are noteworthy for their in-depth explorations of characters and in allowing the player to “ride along” inside the protagonist’s head as they encounter various situations.

So what might virtual reality bring to this kind of experience? It’s an interesting question to ponder, and an exciting prospect to imagine.

Continue reading Virtual Intimacy

Wii U Essentials: Nintendo Land

It’s easy to write off a pack-in bundle of minigames as being somehow “lesser” than full-scale titles. But the Wii U’s Nintendo Land was special — and in a different way from its spiritual predecessor Wii Sports.

Functioning as a joyous celebration of Nintendo’s most beloved properties — and a few slightly more obscure ones, too — Nintendo Land is an enjoyable enough experience in single-player, with several games specifically designed with solo play in mind, but it’s in multiplayer that it truly shines: Nintendo’s same-room party gaming at its finest.

And it’s an evergreen title, too; some five years after its initial release, for many Wii U owners it’s a game that still gets regular play, particularly when friends come to visit. Let’s take a closer look at what makes it so special.

Continue reading Wii U Essentials: Nintendo Land

From the Archives: Battle Systems I Have Loved

Given the amount of time you spend kicking the crap out of everything from small woodland creatures to skyscraper-sized giant robots in JRPGs, it’s fair to say that the battle system is one of the most important aspects of the game.

It’s also one of the most commonly-cited reasons for the genre’s supposed stagnation, as many assume that modern JRPGs still make use of the old Final Fantasy/Dragon Quest-style “Attack, Magic, Item” menu systems rather than doing something a bit more interesting.

While many JRPGs certainly do still make use of simple turn-based menu systems, there are just as many out there that either put an interesting twist on this basic formula or mix things up entirely with something completely wild.

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2012 as part of the site’s regular Swords and Zippers column on JRPGs. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.

Continue reading From the Archives: Battle Systems I Have Loved

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