How did gaming “Click” for you?

Ever since I was about 5 years old, we had some form of video game system in the house. My parents were not the type to play games themselves, so the hobby was a new one in my house, and it was something I took to immediately. I had this NES, and we had a handful of games that we owned. More often than not though, new games were experienced through renting them at a Blockbuster. I get it, I am old. However, it was those games that we owned, that I would get to play again and again that really made me realize how much fun gaming is as a hobby. Now some of the “classics” I owned as a kid were titles such as: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Konami, Captain Skyhawk by Rare, The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt obviously by Nintendo, and Infiltrator by Chris Gray. Some of those games are absolutely great, and some are…borderline unplayable really. But three of the games that I owned absolutely changed the way I looked at video games, and would go on to inform a lot of what I liked, and even like to this day. The first of those games is:

Super Mario Bros. 3 to this day is one of my favorite games of all time. It was probably the first title I ever played that gave me the sense that games could be expansive. To this day I still go back and forth in my head as to which is better, this game or Super Mario World. Right now I am leaning toward the SNES entry, but if you ask me again tomorrow the answer may change. This game had great new power-ups, fantastic level design, and music that was catchy as all hell (Thanks Koji Kondo!). The game had secrets, twists, level-skips, and even fun little additions, like being able to play classic Mario Bros. in 2-player mode. To this day I think the Hammer-Bros and Tanooki suits are two of the greatest power-ups the Mario series has ever seen, they are functional, look great, and have little-hidden tricks of their own. The NES was a time Nintendo was truly firing on all cylinders, and this game is a timeless example as to what the best of this era was. But this isn’t the only game I am going to share, oh no! The next title that really made “gaming” click for me was…

I am sharing the Japanese cover-art for Mega Man 2 because it is good. The American art, while better than the first game…isn’t saying much. Art aside though, the game itself is all-good, all the time. Featuring great level design, great bosses, great weapons, and amazing music, this is still my favorite Mega Man game. You could sit me down with this game right now, and I’ll leap right into playing like I did when I was 7 years old. While this title lacks some of the staples of Mega Man today, like the Mega Buster, sliding, and even Rush the dog, the game doesn’t feel substantially different from things that would come later. The platforming is tight, the bosses often have multiple good weapons to use against them, and the art still holds up, decades later. This is a game that is easy to play with the Legacy Collections out in the world, and it is one that no one should really miss. Now one last game I want to talk about, this one is a little bit less ubiquitous than the past two, but this title I hammered at for hours, gladly. Now let’s talk about…

Maniac Mansion! …for the NES? What? Yes, as a child, I cut my teeth on point-and-click adventure games by playing Maniac Mansion on the NES. This is a port from the famous Lucasarts PC game, and as far as I can tell, it’s a good one? I wouldn’t know how to compare, because I still have never touched the PC version. I can say playing a point-and-click on a NES gamepad was difficult, but really getting to play such a puzzle-heavy game at such a young age was a ton of fun, and I put countless hours trying to figure out how to beat the game…and not drown all my teenagers in the pool, or getting them tossed in jail, or abducted by mad scientists. This game may be a little harder to come across by legit means, but if you ever get the chance, please give it a go, Use Paint Brush with Paint Remover. In any case, these are some of the games that made “gaming” click for me! What about you, what games made this hobby more than a passing fancy for you? Comment, tweet, message, let me know.

Starting the Trails Series

Falcom’s Trails series currently has 8 games out in America, spread across 3 story arcs, with the middle one still incomplete. All of the games out in America are largely accessible, especially if you have a moderately-powered PC. With the release of Trails from Zero in late September, I have seen the question asked around the internet several times, where should one start if they find themselves wanting to try the series? Well, for those who find themselves Trails-curious, I will break down the 3 logical starting points, and make a final assessment as to what I think the order should be for people wanting to tackle this frankly huge series.

Trails in the Sky FC: This has a certain logic to it, it is the first game in the series after all. It is not only the first game of the series, it is the first chronologically in the timeline. The game is very good (they all are), and introduces many mechanics that carry all the way through the series, like Orbments, and the gameplay loop between main quests and side quests that is a hallmark of Trails games. The game is also very easy to get a hold of, it’s available on Steam, and I am pretty sure the game would run on just about anything. For that very reason though, that may not appeal to a newcomer, the graphics are very old-school, being based off of a PSP game. The story is also a VERY slow burn at the start, taking time to really set the table that pays off later, but the early pacing can be a bit rough for someone who isn’t used to this sort of game.

Trails from Zero: The newest release in the series is really not new, it first came out in Japan in 2010, and never made its way to America until September 2022. A lot of improvements were made to this title over its initial PSP release, and almost all of those additions made their way into the western release…almost all (Looking at you, Vita-exclusive side quests). This game does start a new arc, so new players could jump in and enjoy themselves; however there are some story elements that are derived from the Trails in the Sky arc, and the game doesn’t go out of its way to explain it to you. So some elements may seem random to newcomers, but help plug lore gaps for people who have put in the time with Trails in the Sky 1-3. Plus, while better looking than Trails in the Sky for sure, Trails from Zero features similar 2D sprites in 3D maps, making the game look dated. For some people, this is a feature, for some it is an impediment. Also, the second game in the arc doesn’t come out until March of next year, so if you find yourself wanting to continue the adventures of the Special Support Section, you’ll have to wait, where the other 2 arcs are complete in America.

Trails of Cold Steel: While this is the latest arc available in America, it is a strong contender for being the first Trails game that people play. First of all, it’s fully 3D, not stunning photo realism 3D, but very anime, and well done. Secondly, this is the first of the three arcs that were made for consoles first, so there is a certain sense of scale to the game that Trails in the Sky and Trails from Zero lacked, being made for handhelds. Lastly, the game has English voice-acting. While some people may prefer the Japanese VO, having the game fully be in English just provides a level of accessibility. Also this game is very self-contained in its story, you really don’t need to know much about the other arcs to fully enjoy this game. That changes as the arc progresses however, which leads into my final assessment.

Final Assessment: I really think new players to the series would be best served by playing Trails of Cold Steel first. Only the first one though. After you finish that game, if you fell in love with the characters and setting like I find most people do, then go allllll the way back to Trails in the Sky FC, and play in order from there. Trails of Cold Steel provides the right amount of evolution and modern sensibilities that will leave a new player grappling with less older game design issues. Also the story starts faster than Trails in the Sky, and Trails from Zero, which will help ease the player into knowing what to expect when they go back to the older games. Also by following this order, Trails to Azure should be out by the time it would come time to play that, so you should see minimal waiting on the story then.

However someone decides to tackle this massive series though, I promise that they will find a world like no other JRPG has. It’s massive, lived in, and the stories are crafted with such heart, that I only wish I got to this series earlier in life.

Review: The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero

I don’t know when it happened, but Falcom became at some point one of my favorite RPG studios. I can’t tell exactly when I put their output in the same thoughts as studios like Atlus, and Square-Enix, but it happened, and now here I am just wanting to dive into the lore of Zemuria and the events that take place therein. Finally, another piece of the Trails puzzle comes to America, the first piece of the Crossbell Arc, The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero. This game originally came out in Japan for the PSP in 2010, making downright ancient given how many titles we see coming out every week now in America. Remember the PSP? Depending on your age, you may not. In any case, was it worth it for Falcom to have this older title localized, and sold in America?

The short answer is: Yes. The longer answer is as follows: While fans have had ways of playing Trails from Zero in English already for a while, through fan-translations on both the PC and PS Vita, those methods can be involved, and are really only ever going to be done by the Falcom-faithful. By putting this game out on damn near everything that’s modern, it puts a spotlight on Falcom, and has the potential to get more people into what is a great, if very long series.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero(PC[reviewed], PS4, Nintendo Switch)

Developer: Falcom

Publisher: NIS America

Released: September 27, 2022

MSRP: $39.99 Digital/ $49.99 Physical 

So what is this game about? Fantasy RPG police procedurals. The 4 protagonists are part of a new unit in Crossbell City’s police force, the Special Support Section (SSS). Looked at initially as the Crossbell PD ripping off the Bracers (an internationally sanctioned vigilante force), the team gets the cold shoulder from most of the populace. But throughout the game, doing sidequests and interacting with the people help the group become more accepted in their own right. A bit unusual of a setup for a JRPG, but this premise helps set up Trails from Zero, in that it can follow the formula established in the Trails in the Sky series. Time in these games is very segmented, and the stories themselves very linear. Generally each chapter will be made up of a few connected main plot beats, where you can take on optional sidequests throughout the chapter. These optional quests have time limits attached to them, basically dictating how much time in the chapter you have to complete it. Doing so earns you Detective Points, which allows the protagonist, Lloyd Bannings to rank up, getting more rewards from the police department. To anyone who has looked at Trails in the Sky, or Trails of Cold Steel for any length of time, this gameplay loop should seem very familiar.

Like other Falcom games, Trails to Zero is a text-heavy, very traditional JRPG. Turn-based combat, radial menus, spells that take time to fire off, and good enemy variety. The combat is very much like Trails in the Sky, with a couple of tweaks, such as instances where the entire team can gang up on groups of enemies. The Trails series carries this combat system through all its story arcs, and it’s not complicated, not fussy, very functional. While the combat is good, as it always has been, the writing and story are incredible. These games are very much for readers, with every NPC getting something to say, and that something will often change as the game progresses. Crossbell City feels very lived in, as do its outskirts, with I believe almost everyone getting an actual name and some dialogue. The game rewards taking time out to talk to damn near everyone all the time, as items, and even whole quests can be obtained by talking to the right random street vendor at the right time. Also like pretty much every other Trails game, the soundtrack is wall to wall bangers. Falcom Sound Team is one of the best in the business, and this game was not given the short end of the music-stick. 

Verdict: Is this game a good way to start playing Trails games? I would say yes and no, more no. Trails in the Sky FC, SC and 3rd are all available on Steam, so might as well start from the beginning. The first entry in the Crossbell arc seems largely self-contained, but there are references to previous entries, and characters from those previous games show up. Trails in the Sky, the Crossbell Arc, and Trails of Cold Steel all tell stories in the same world, and feature characters who are contemporaries, and these stories can overlap at points. So if you dove into Trails from Zero as your maiden voyage, you won’t lose a ton, you’ll simply be more enriched by playing the previous entries.

Oh one more thing! It’s Deck Verified on Steam, and that has been the way I have been playing it the entire time. That being said, more people need to get onto the gems that are Falcom’s games, maybe one day we won’t be something like three Trails games behind Japan. Trails from Zero is a title that I was delighted to finally play, and was not disappointed by. Only thing that makes me sad is that the sequel doesn’t come out until March of 2023.

Review: Marvel Snap

Free to play games have never much appealed to me. Too often they are saddled with mechanics that are reminiscent of old-school arcades; they are designed to suck money from you at a very specific cadence. Sure, there have been examples in my life, and often, the ones I like I have put money into, especially if they eschew “Pay to win” mechanics. For instance, I think I put about 400 dollars into the now-shutdown Marvel Heroes because it was a fun Diablo-style game, with lots of very nice looking costumes. I am willing to pay for cosmetics generally, not an in-game advantage. I guess Marvel has some sort of rent-free space in my head, because the newest free to play game that has been taking up a lot of my time is once again owned by that infernal mouse, and that game is Marvel Snap.

Marvel Snap (PC, ios, Android)

Developer: Nuverse, Second Dinner Studios

Publisher: Nuverse

Release Date: June 9, 2022

MSRP: Free to play with micro transactions 

Marvel Snap is a card game available for iOS, Android, and Steam, and costs nothing to get into. The onboarding process has you playing a few games against bots, introducing the mechanics gradually, and what unfolds is a simple to learn card game that belies a skill ceiling that seems moderately high. The game starts you off with a basic deck of heroes and villains from the Marvel Universe and gets you right into the flow of playing the game. Winning matches results in ranking up on a ladder, and simply playing the game gets you experience towards your battle pass, as well as boosters, to increase the rarity of your collected cards.

The gameplay is relatively straight-forward, actually borrowing some basic mechanics from MOBAs, and other games like Hearthstone. There are three lanes of play, where players can place up to 4 cards. Each lane has different boons and penalties, which are chosen at random. Only the left-most lane is revealed from the start, with the other two being revealed on subsequent turns. You start with 1 energy, and you get another each turn, with the last turn granting you 6 energy to play cards. Like Hearthstone, and Magic: the Gathering, some cards are vanilla, with no abilities, while others can have abilities that are often “On Reveal” or “Ongoing”. For example, if I had 2 cards in the left lane, then I play Carnage, Carnage destroys those 2 cards, but as a result gets more power for himself. The abilities cards have are varied pretty much right away, and allow for a lot of synergy with heroes you would never imagine working together. One of my favorites is Blade and Apocalypse. At the end of the 6th turn, the game tallies the power level of each player’s groups in the three lanes. Whoever has more power in at least 2 of the lanes is considered the winner.

What makes this game so much fun is how freaking fast it is. Matches in general take between 3-5 minutes, and the penalties for losing are so low that getting back into a game is so easy. It has that “One more match” mentality that other games can’t compare to due to how quick the games go.

Okay, how does this game make money? Well, it’s actually not complicated. The game has two currencies, only one can be purchased with real money. You can buy gold with real money, as well as earn it through play. Credits can be purchased with gold, and earned through gameplay. Gold can also be used to buy variants of cards you already own, like a new picture of Iron Man in a different armor, or even chibi versions of characters. The offered variants, which change daily, will only be for cards that you already own, so you can never purchase new cards in this way. Credits are used to upgrade your cards in rarity. It is worth noting that your cards will never change in power by pumping credits and character-specific into them. All that changes is the level of detail present on the card, feeding into that collectathon mentality. Basic cards are just that, a 2D image. Upgrading to uncommon allows the picture to come out of the border, and moving onto rare gives the picture a 3D effect. Cards can be further upgraded, with things like animation being introduced to the image.

While upgrading the cards is purely cosmetic, it actually feeds into the main way you acquire new cards. Upgrading cards adds to your “Collector Level” which is a ladder granting rewards, which are typically either boosters for characters, credits, or new cards for your decks. The other way one can earn new cards is a common mechanic found in games today: The Battle Pass. There is a free one, giving some rewards every few levels, and a premium one giving out rewards like candy. The missions in the Pass are typically pretty easy, and I can tell you from experience, hitting level 50 was pretty easy.

At the low price of free, this is a great game to try for any fan of card games, and would love something that’s easy and fast to play on a bus, train, or sitting at your desk at work. The gameplay is tight, the loop is satisfying, and the game honestly doesn’t feel exploitative in how it tries to get money out of you. Marvel Snap is a download I can easily recommend. 

Late to the Party Review- Assassins Creed Valhalla: Wrath of the Druids

Late to the Party: But was it a fun party?

Depending on what power level you enter Ireland at, these guys are not scary at all

I have long been an Assassin’s Creed fan. Been playing since the first game, and I have beaten every mainline entry that the series has put out. I have rolled with the punches, story-tone changes, playstyle differences, bad modern-day crap, nickel-and-dime DLC schemes, XP boosters, and glitchy messes. I love the historical murder-tourism and generally I have enjoyed several of the changes that have happened with the curren batch of AC titles. While I miss the sprawling urban playgrounds of Ezio’s day, and especially the zipline utopia that was Victorian London in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, I came to enjoy the forays into the truly ancient history that AC Origins, Odyssey, and Vallhalla have put forth. While the latest entry, Valhalla, is probably the title I have enjoyed the least, it still presented enough new story beats, and a general mood that justified its existence. Does the first larger DLC pack, Wrath of the Druids justify its existence in the greater game? The short answer is no, no it does not.

Ireland, like all the other landmasses presented to the player in the last 3 Assassin’s Creed titles, has been a marvel of ancient beauty. Not since AC Syndicate have we seen a distinctly urban landscape, and Wrath of the Druids continues that trend. It is an island of rolling emerald hills, color, water, and natural majesty. It’s a great travel ad for ancient Ireland. Once one gets over the picturesque beauty of it though, is there anything new to do? Not really. You can stack rocks on other rocks, you can destroy cursed objects, and you can…gather trade materials to increase the renown of your homebase. Does this sound familiar? It should. There is a trading system that involves you taking over outposts that generate Irish Resources, that you trade across the world for stuff, whether that’s new armor, boat stuff, it’s not compelling. You can run through the stuff pretty quickly, and after that you’re just trading the resources for extra silver, which is nice, as it gathers on its own anyway.

Ciara is an important figure of the story, and one of the few standout characters

The story…is there. It is a story that would feel fine in any Assassin’s Creed title from the last couple games, but that’s because it follows that same formula. You’re playing king-maker, and there is an organization lurking behind the scenes that you need to murder so your king becomes the king of kings. In this case, the Children of Danu present maybe the least compelling cabal since this system started in AC: Origins. The targets are often not fighters, and even if they are, they bring nothing new to the game. Even the druidic enemies are lackluster, usually employing a hallucinogenic gas that makes Eivor see the human enemies as other-worldly. That seems unnecessary though, as AC as a franchise has already leaned very heavily into things that are straight-up otherworldly. Also, because Eivor is a murder-machine, there is no added terror to these enemies, they just get slightly more annoying to kill when they can kind of teleport.

Now I sound very negative when talking about this expansion, and I think largely it is not a worthwhile addition to AC Valhalla. However, I still liked it, because I do like the checklist nature of these games. People often complain about open-world bloat, and tons of icons being on a map. I personally love making lots of icons disappear from an open-world, it is relaxing to me. This is an action game where I make my own fun, and that fun is making the map clean. Is it the best use of my time? Probably not, but it makes me smile, and I think there are many people out there like me. If there were not, these games probably would not sell as well as they do. So really should someone buy this expansion? On its own, probably not. It’s part of the Season Pass, so if you have it, and liked the base game, you will find this is a perfectly fine, smaller-scale version of England, that while fun to play, offers nothing unique from the base experience of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.

-Ray McGill

I haven’t watched WWE in a long time, that will probably change.

Vince McMahon, the long-time CEO of the World Wrestling Federation, and then World Wrestling Entertainment, is gone. He has “retired” (he went away because his hush-money payments came to light), and now his son-in-law, Paul “HHH” Levesque is in charge of the creative output for the organization. Vince’s daughter, Stephanie is now the co-CEO with someone who I forget. The upper politics isn’t the point though, the point is that ding-dong, the witch is dead.

Vince McMahon is probably the greatest promoter to ever exist, and his contributions to the world of professional wrestling are incalculable. However, he had been a weight around the neck of WWE for years now. He’s old, something like 78, and is very stuck in his ways. The stories of his idiosyncrasies are legion, and his insistence on word-usages and such have added an odd dimension to the WWE product for a long time now. He has for decades, pushed stars that look a certain way, and shoves people to the side that don’t have a very specific look that he isn’t searching for. His creative buildups are stale, and he is known for creating writing chaos by ripping up scripts mere hours before a show starts.

HHH on the other hand, has already shown he has the chops for dynamic, creative booking, recruiting, and using the strengths of all the talent in front of him. He took NXT from a farm system, and turned it into a program that exceeded anything the main roster was putting out under Vince’s direction. Once Vince took NXT under his control, it faltered, and became very forgettable. What he may do with the keys to the whole kingdom is very interesting, and from what I have read, he is already making talent-based, and creative moves that Vince would not have done. WWE still has way too much TV on per week, but you know what? If the biggest exit in WWE history continues running this way, the WWE will be an organization running on renewed life, as opposed to institutional inertia.

Two Months, that Seems About Right

The best laid plans I guess. So let’s talk about stuff I have been doing lately, and how it related to what I am trying to do here. First, I just completed a writing piece for Sword Chomp that should go up the first half of next week, probably on the same day as the Chompcast, which I was actually on this week. We talked about a poll Atlus put out, regarding remakes of their older games. I think I will actually type up my exact thoughts on that as well to go up on the website. As before, my general goal is to pop my writing pieces over on this roughly a week after they go up on Sword Chomp. I just haven’t been writing much as of late for video games, really for two reasons. First, I have been in a Summer class at school, and the writing I do there takes up most of my energy. That’s over now, so that should change. Secondly, I haven’t been actually playing much. I just have been doing other things lately, going out more, trying some new things. I think I want to get back to some games though, and was actually just fiddling around with some of my devices, asking myself what I want to do.

I think the plan is to tackle two games at a time, something turn-based, and something a little more active. I think I want to hop back to The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Second Chapter Evolution. I remember devoting a lot of last Summer to Trails of Cold Steel, and I want to be caught up with Trails from Zero officially releases in the United States in September. The other game, I don’t know what I am going to be playing. Choices are abound, including the option to continue in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and do that Paris-centric DLC I have for getting the Season Pass. I have heard that is some good DLC, so maybe I will continue with that. I have missed urban Assassin’s Creed, and Paris was one of the few cities that was remotely built up in the time period. Charles the Fat, here I come I guess.

Essential JRPG Shame Pile

Ray’s JRPG Shame Pile:

I have spent a lot of time playing JRPGs in my game-playing years. I have played a lot of the big hits, gotten many playthroughs under my belt for some all-time classic games. I have also sought out niche titles, and evangelized them to those around me. However, there are gaps in my experience, and I wish to share those gaps with you dear readers, along with my everlasting and perpetual shame. This is a list of 20 JRPGs that I have never rolled ending credits on, which maybe I should have done instead of spending a few thousand hours in World of Warcraft. Hindsight as always, is 20/20 and I cannot turn back time. Instead, I can use this list as a guidepost, and maybe start ticking down some of these entries over the rest of 2022 and beyond. If any of these are in your piles of shame as well, feel free to join me, tell me how the list is going on Twitter. Without any further ado:

  1. Final Fantasy 1

Version I will probably play: PSP or GBA

I don’t know, this may be my biggest embarrassment. The game is not even that long, people speed run it with randomized items. I am not down with the old-school D&D magic system though, I will stick with one of the updated ones that use MP.

  1. Final Fantasy 4

Version I will probably play: PSP or SNES

This and the next entry are on the shame pile for roughly the same reason. I didn’t have a SNES as a kid, I went from a NES right to a PS1. I don’t know if I would have gotten to play this as a kid, but I know I didn’t have the chance. I tried the DS remake, but from what I understand, that version is very different, and frankly didn’t feel great. 

  1. Final Fantasy 6

Version I will probably play: SNES

I may have started this game more than any other on the list.

  1. Persona 3 Portable (Female protagonist)

Version I will probably play: PSP

I got a few hours into a file with this, and I have to say this is one in the pile I will tend to sooner rather than later. That music is absolutely amazing.

  1. Persona 2: Innocent Sin

Version I will probably play: PSP

I tried this game once, and got pretty far into it. This is a super weird one though, and I feel like to play it right you almost NEED a guide, and I hate playing games that way. This game is super quirky, and this and its sequel are the only gaps in my mainline Persona playing.

  1. Persona 2: Eternal Punishment

Version I will probably play: PS1

Same stuff as above, it will just look worse because we never got the PSP version of this.

  1. Any Dragon Quest (Either 8 or 11 really)

Version I will probably play: DQ8: PS2 DQ11: Switch

I have tried to play DQ games so many times, they just never grip me. The one that held on longest was DQ9 on the Nintendo DS. The newest one, 11 seems to be well-regarded, but that PS2 version of DQ8 still looks really nice, and the music is still great sounding.

  1. Trails in the Sky 2

Version I will probably play: Vita

I started this after beating FC Evolution, and plan on continuing this really soon. It’s the same mechanically as the first one, and the story remains top-notch.

  1. Chrono Trigger

Version I will probably play: SNES

Besides FF1, this game is probably the most shameful on the pile. Often cited as the greatest game ever made, I have only ever gotten up to prehistory. Shameful.

  1. Breath of Fire 2

Version I will probably play: SNES

My first BoF game was BoF3 on the PS1, and this game seems to be the first example of the series being good. I feel like I can skip the first entry and not miss much.

  1.  Breath of Fire 4

Version I will probably play: PS1

Fou Lou seems like a great villain/maybe not a villain. The game seems very dramatic, and like it builds off the momentum of BoF3 well.

  1.  Chrono Cross

Version I will probably play: Remaster

This game seems to have new life in it now, especially with that “Radical Dreamers” remake out now. This is a game I started a few times over the years, never got far in. People rave about this game, and I dig the vibe, will be worth checking out again.

  1. Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together

Version I will probably play: PSP

If any game deserves an HD-2D remake, it is this game. Amazing writing, gripping combat, need to get through this one.

  1. Lunar 2: Eternal Blue

Version I will probably play: PS1

I absolutely loved the first game, Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete. This game seems like more of the same, but that is by no means bad. These games don’t really get dark, the characters are well written, and it just seems like a joy to play.

  1. Shadow Hearts

Version I will probably play: PS2

I actually got pretty far into a playthrough on this, on an actual PS2. I could dig that back out, but really starting over doesn’t seem like the worst thing. I love how this series uses the real-world setting, where everything has a deeper, monster-laden layer. Feels like some of my favorite TV, like The CW’s Supernatural.

  1. Earthbound

Version I will probably play: SNES

This is the game everyone loves now, but was in the bargain bin for much of its SNES life. I assume I will enjoy it, also I would love to get around to Mother 3.

  1. Grandia 2

Version I will probably play: Remaster on PC or Switch

I remember trying this game on the Dreamcast forever ago. It seems incredibly competent, and it has gotten remasters lately, so it is easy to get to and play. The battle system seems simple, yet engaging and holding a depth that begs to be unearthed through the file.

  1. Trails in the Sky 3

Version I will probably play: Vita

Rich said good things about this one, it is just a little different than the first two games. Also if the Evolution entries are any indication, I’ll be getting the best version on the Vita.

  1. Golden Sun

Version I will probably play: GBA

This game seems to be beloved, and I really want to see why. I know very little about it.

  1. Lost Odyssey

Version I will probably play: X360

I have started this game many times over the last 15 years. One day I will sit down and play all the way through it. I find the story compelling, the characters great, and the combat systems deep, but not opaque. Also the way the story serves different characters in combat is fantastic. One day, I promise.

-Ray McGill

A Repository

So for a little while now, I have been writing over for a website that a friend helps run called Sword Chomp. It’s 3 guys who came together in a strange way, and they have their thing going on, and it is really good. Every once in a while, I help out by writing some dumb article or appearing on a monthly podcast. I love being able to contribute, and talk about the games I love. However, I mostly play the older stuff, and with Sword Chomp being a game website that is not dedicated to retro, sometimes my stuff gets pushed off quickly, in favor (rightfully so) of covering new stuff. So I think I am going to revive using this website of mine in order to sort of keep a running stock of my own writing, and give it a place to breathe a little more than what my words about the older games out there get. So in the coming days, I think I am going to play around with, and tweak the site, maybe learn how to use it a little better, so I can have a place for my writing to stand out, and get read by anyone who stumbles this here way. Also grad school is basically over for me, so maybe I try to start thinking of some new things to do.

In the meantime, you should go to Sword Chomp and check out the good stuff that is over there. Shea, Rich, and Josh are good people.

-Ray McGill

Let’s try something new

Okay, so I think I am going to finally try my hand at this streaming thing. The only thing I am sort of wondering is what to stream. I think I would like to focus on JRPG’s I haven’t played yet, and continue the Legend of Heroes series. So I may start with Trails in the Sky 2, or maybe I replay the first game to reacquaint myself with the story and the characters. I don’t know though, I feel like I would never get through those games if I only ever played them on stream. I don’t plan on trying this tonight, tomorrow seems like a better option. We will see. I need to play around with my stupid Twitch account to see how this all works.