Thursday, June 15, 2017

Titanic: The Titan of Movies


I was very skeptical regarding the glowing reviews of Titanic (1997) which led to a breathtaking and improbable sweep of the Oscars, winning 11 out of 14 categories, which had me choke on my chocolate martini at that time. I am also very particular of how I spend my time, so I didn't watch the movie until September 2012, with the release of the new 3D version.

Since I'm very interested in the technology of 3D, I reluctantly pencilled this into my very demanding schedule. Looking back in my Moleskine calendar, it was September 15, 2012, a day I will never forget. After the movie, I came out thinking that Titanic was robbed, and should have won the last 3 Oscar categories. How can Kate Winslet NOT win Best Actress, the luminary Gloria Stuart should have clearly won Best Supporting Actress, and I'm truly appalled that this film did not pick up Best Makeup. I was also angered that Titanic did not do as commercially well as the overblown Gone With the Wind, making only 2.5 billion dollars (adjusted for inflation, 2014). Does this demonstrate that only critics (who universally lauded the film) have good taste compared to the General Public and the Awards Committees? I would dare say so.

Braque, Man with a Guitar, 1911
The movie evokes Greek Mythology at its most traumatic and tragic. I felt that this movie is the modern day Cassandra. The Titanic ended up sinking in real-life (as analogous to Cassandra's predictions), but during the movie, I felt that there is no way that this ship can sink. The movie really honed in that idea to the point where I questioned reality. Indeed, the Cubist portrayal of the verticality of the ship before sinking was so improbable, that the opposite conclusion was felt: yes, historians MUST have made up the fact that it truly sunk for good back in April 1912.

Again, I was struck regarding the invocation of Cubism, as I wonder, do ALL masterpieces have cubist elements, from Breath of the Wild (easily argued as the best video game of all time) to now Titanic? In fact, Braque's Man with a Guitar was composed one year earlier to the sinking, foreshadowing this worst of tragedies. I feel that evocation of Cubism is a major theme in masterpieces.

I literally gasped (along with all the audience members in the packed theater) when, near the end, the film's rendition of the Titanic went vertical, and then sunk. I was shocked when reality struck me, with the revelation that the Titanic really occurred, unfortunately. Not since the Greek dramatist, Aeschylus, has a work of art encapsulated human misfortune so poignantly.

The roles of Jack and Rose were masterfully portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, and they sizzled on screen. I took heed of the warning of the movie theater, that in case of a fire, do NOT run, but walk to the emergency exit, so steamy was their chemistry. If I can bottle that level of chemistry, this would be an aphrodisiac that actually works. I'm not one to swoon over actors, but, yes, I was quite jealous that I (instead of the amazingly lucky Ms. Winslet) was NOT the one being painted by the handsome (quite an understatement) DiCaprio. I checked my blood pressure and glucose readings during film as I swooned and fainted multiple times. So perhaps, in a Schadenfraude way, I took some small comfort that Winslet did not win Best Actress. However, at the same time, should not the Awards Committee be more objective and award what is due to Ms. Winslet? I feel this demonstrates that Awards, symbolizing crash commercialism, should not be used to judge Art anymore.

Billy Zane's dastardly depiction of the villain, Caledon Hockley, was quite subtle. I thought that he was Rose's clear choice (though I had some inkling that he was not a good man), and surprised at the twist, when it was revealed near the end of the film, that Jack was in fact Rose's one true love (?!??). Usually, in these triangular situations, the woman's love interests feature one extremely noble gentleman, and the other, a true rogue, so it's quite clear who the woman would chose. Not so in Titanic. The movie's eschewing this predictable trope is another demonstration of its brilliance. I have never seen such nuance since Mann's Buddenbrooks. In the future, Zane, such an under-appreciated actor, deserves more leading roles.

This film made me a better woman: after the viewing, I made a resolution to be more open-minded and not so quick to judge if I haven't experienced the work. I think when a film can change your perspective and how you view things, that's a mark of a masterpiece. Titanic deserves its accolades and more, truly a Titan amongst Titans.

-N.C., Esq.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Appreciating Dark Souls 3: Tips and Review

As a Dark Souls junkie, I was counting down the days until the release of Dark Souls 3, especially as it was directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki, the genius behind Demon's Souls and Dark Souls 1. I know that Dark Souls 2 was heavily criticized by fans of the series, but I loved the game almost as much as I did Dark Souls.  Some of 2's elements were better than the original's, and the entire game had consistently good level design, unlike the hated Demon Ruins and Lost Izalith of Dark Souls. I thought that since, unlike the second game, this was directed by Miyazaki and, with the success of this series, From Software will have even more resources to make a grander game, I was excited by the potential for Dark Souls 3 to eclipse both previous games.

Coming into the game thus with too-great expectations, I played without any guides, to fully immerse myself in the experience, and came away from it a bit disappointed, so didn't go back to collect items as I have done in previous Souls games. In my disappointment, I felt that it was trying to reprise the level design of Dark Souls and the atmosphere of Demon's Souls but didn't quite succeed with either. This might be unfair as I have never played games that had better level design than Dark Souls nor better atmosphere than Demon's Souls.

I felt it a pastiche of the past Souls games. Irithyll Dungeon is like Demon's Souls' Tower of Latria, but not as atmospheric and with simpler level design. The city of Anor Londo is almost exactly like Dark Souls' Anor Londo, but it didn't feature the rather complex interior of the castle, from the bonfire at the entrance to the infamous Ornstein and Smough boss-battle. Even though I found a certain development heartbreaking and devastating, the passage was nevertheless more linear than I would have liked. To avoid spoilers I won't mention what I saw that was so sad, but if you've played Dark Souls, you'll know what I'm talking about once you reach that point.
The infamous Ornstein and Smough

I'd say the game had too many enemies, and overpowered ones, all grouped together, thus making the game difficult for difficulty's sake, instead of being fair. In quite a few areas, I ran from enemies, missing the exploration, which is one of my favorite elements of gameplay. That was disappointing.

Despite that, I purchased the expansion, since the two previous Dark Souls games' DLCs are even better than the main games. However, when the last DLC (The Ringed City) came out this year, I didn't go back to Dark Souls 3, especially as 2017 has been the year of amazing games and  Dark Souls 3 struck me as "meh".

However, with the rumor of Bloodborne 2 possibly being announced at the E3 2017 conference (June 13-15), I got so excited, with renewed interest in the SoulsBorne series,  and decided to revisit. Further, it would give me a chance to experience the additional content of Ashes of Ariandel and The Ringed City, so that my purchase wouldn't go to waste, and reducing backlog is always its own reward.

My goals for this second playthrough are: to defeat all enemies so I can explore (to see if I was correct about the unfair difficulty), maintain realistic expectations, and get the platinum trophy. I used DieNoob's superb 100% item walkthrough, and the Xbox Achievements which I copied and pasted into a checklist form. You can either check off the boxes if you're familiar with Google Docs, or print it.

Thus armed and prepared, I started the game. I was struck by the clarity of the graphics, since recently I had played Nioh, so muddy I had to squint and crane my neck, and Breath of the Wild, which had even worse graphics, inducing headache and eyestrain. I appreciated being able to sit back and play Dark Souls 3 without it encouraging physical ailments. After a few seconds, I wondered how I'd missed the sharpness of the imagery in first playthrough. I never cared for graphics before, as even the retro games I played weren't so taxing. But with the current generation of games, I can see why some gamers obsess about graphics, and I'm coming around to their view.

The melee and ranged combat has the same tight, addictive and visceral feel as its successors'. I'd say, in this respect, the SoulsBorne series is best in class. I had fun playing with the Weapon Art of the Uchigatana, which has a parry moveset. The parry and riposte, as well as backstabs, along with the visceral sounds of all the attacks, are just as satisfying as ever. The Weapon Arts are a new feature and make combat even more fun. Each weapon class has its unique technique, adding to the diversity of combat choices.

I also appreciated more the diverse settings of the game and the variety of enemies; I kept thinking how polished the game is, and how each area is so well-crafted, in detail and design. I took this for granted first time through.

The snowy Irithyll of the Boreal Valley
An especially beautiful area to showcase is Irithyll of the Boreal Valley. In addition to the gorgeous landscape, the buildings have intricate architectural details. Even more so than Dark Souls, all the areas of this game are impeccably designed, as opposed to the aforementioned Demon Ruins and Lost Izalith areas. I feel that if this were the first Souls game I played, I would've been blown away by the game's beauty (terrible beauty in some areas), splendor, polish and carefully crafted level design. But because I played the other games, I blithely expected these.

Since I was using DieNoob's walkthrough, I missed a lot of intricacies, so I couldn't really appreciate this ingenious level design on my first blind playthrough. I was taken aback when I completely missed a major covenant, The Blades of the Dark Moon. This is equivalent to not knowing that a field goal in American football scores three points, the covenant is that well-known in the Souls community.

An example of the spectacular design is in the area that leads to Yhorm the Giant. Irithyll Dungeon leads to the Profaned Capital, which also leads back to the Dungeon's entry bonfire in a convoluted, clever manner. You find keys to open shortcuts, and end up going to very diverse areas ranging from: inside/outside the dungeon, rolling through a toxic swamp, climbing up and down a large building structure that includes towers and rooftops, jumping through a window, and riding elevators, all of which lead you back to the entry bonfire!

As for enemy placement, one of my initial gripes, there are a lot of them grouped together. However, if you aggravate one enemy at a time and take cover, it's easy to thin the crowd, albeit it takes time and patience to take the necessary care. A bow is a must, and doesn't require a lot of stat requirements. As I do my usual twist on "jack of all trades, master of everything," I aim for getting at least 40's in all the major stats, and so I used the Pharis Bow as it has the longest range. It takes Dexterity 18; however, if you're aiming for a Dexterity build, I recommend the Pharis Bow as it will aggro an enemy at an even further, safer distance.  But the short and long bows will suffice if you don't want to invest in Dexterity.

To kill all enemies to allow for exploration, I needed to use strategy, another welcome surprise. For instance, in the major square of Irithyll, there are so many tall, overpowered mages and other enemies clustered around them. The first time, I made a suicide run, grabbing items along the way. With this playthrough, I found that in going to the side and taking cover, I was able to bring down one enemy at a time, whereas heading straight on, they all attack you at the same time. I shot arrows until the enemy approached and then melee'd to death. Sometimes, they don't even approach you, and you can kill them with arrows. Interestingly, only the enemy you shoot at will approach you, the others ignoring and not wanting to help their "buddy". This first tip worked for all overpowered mobs throughout the game. I didn't realize that since this was not the case in the prior Souls games.

Elder Ghru
Getting arguably the best bow in the game brings up another complaint I had in my first playthrough: the overpowered enemies. In order to get the Pharis Bow, one faces a species of ridiculously strong demons in the Farron Swamp: the Elder Ghru. Each one feels like a mini-boss and there are, first, three clumped together, and there are four or five gathered in another area of the swamp. You also have to contend with being poisoned in the Farron. 

Two of the three drop either the Pharis Bow or the Pharis Hat. The latter can add range to any bow, which of course helps even more with sniping. The problem is that they respawn if you die, so you have to start all over again. I can beat one successfully, but three times in a row (or two if you know which ones drop the Pharis items) is not doable at my skill level, unless I spend hours on this alone.

This is where the save/copy/download method is crucial, a second major tip. For the Ghru, shoot an arrow to aggro. To make it easier (though it's not necessary), use one of the resins to buff your weapon: I found the gold pine bundle/resin useful. Upon each defeat of the Ghrus, save and copy. Download if you die so you can continue with the next Ghru. This would save not only time, but resources as they are limited at this point in the game. 
Orbeck of Vinheim: A Demanding Guy

The third tip is to get the Slumbering Dragoncrest ring that silences your footsteps. You do so by having Intelligence level 10, necessary so as to talk with Orbeck of Vinheim, the sorcerer. He is first located before the Crystal Sage boss fight, then moves to Firelink Shrine after you agree to get scrolls for him. After buying his spells Aural Decoy, Farron Flashsword, Pestilent Mercury and Spook, he gives you the ring. This would make sneaking up to and teasing out enemies one at a time even easier, though it's also not essential. Although you don't get the visceral crunch of footsteps, the ring gives an interesting feel of floating when wearing it, which is equally nice.

Other significant elements of Dark Souls 3 are the questlines, and they add to the world and lore of the game. I found the Siegward questline a great example of the usual fetch-quest-and-kill-monsters, done in a creative and subtle way. Another questline doesn't have any of the usual sidequest mechanics, and adds a fascinating, albeit grotesque, story through the cutscenes involved. This quest also adds to the lore of one of the major concepts, linking the fire to it, and spells this out in a clearer way than do the prior Souls games, which is very welcome. 

As for replayability, I'm not sure how good the PvP and co-op is in Dark Souls 3, since I haven't used these features. Like Dark Souls 2, the NG+ cycles not only increase in difficulty, but you obtain more powerful rings. So, for the Ring of Favour and Protection, in NG+, you can find the Ring of Favour and Protection +1, all the way up to the +3 ring.

Recap of tips, and appreciating Dark Souls 3
I would use the checklist as it's satisfying to get the Achievement/Trophy and it helps you to complete interesting questlines, which are extremely easy to miss. With my first blind walkthrough, I don't think I completed any of the questlines successfully. In fact, some players have missed questlines even when using guides.

Read the objectives before each area so you know how to answer questions from various characters, and to make sure you don't miss an event or item. Then go through the area on your own, keeping the objectives in mind, to enjoy the exploration and surprises. Note that the checklist doesn't have major spoilers, but I wouldn't use the checklist if you want to avoid the names of bosses, characters and items.

After completing each area, I would then use DieNoob's walkthrough to make sure you obtained all items, which will give you an edge, as well as appreciation for the incredible level design.

In difficult areas, use the bow and arrow method to tease out each enemy, and save/copy technique. To make stealth even easier, obtain the Slumbering Dragoncrest ring from Orbeck.

Rating of Game
As I came to the game expecting it would blow Dark Souls 1 and 2 away, I can see why I was disappointed my first time around. If I never experienced those two games, I would have been enthralled by and addicted to Dark Souls 3: I can see myself immediately buying and playing all the SoulsBorne games after finishing, wanting more. 

During my second playthrough, with my expectations in check, I was able to see the polish of Dark Souls 3. Given that polish, intricate level design, addictive combat mechanics with the new Weapon Art mechanic, variety of enemies, unique bosses, and interesting questlines, I rate the game an A+, a masterpiece.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Why Dark Souls is My Favorite Game

The first games I played when I got back into gaming were Fable 2 and God of War 1. I was (after so many years) again a literal noob, so I played both games on easy mode so I wouldn't feel intimidated. Fable 2 was actually too easy thus, so I pushed it up to normal mode, which was also too easy even for my beginner's skillset. In fact, I made the perfect choice of first game, as Fable 2 was great fun and very humorous, and there's a lot of hand-holding. With my bad sense of direction, it was nice to have a literal golden trail to show where to go on the quests. Fable 2 is an excellent choice for a first game due to the gamer-friendly design. God of War was also a great for me as it was also very accessible on easy mode, has a great story, and wonderful gameplay and puzzle mechanics.

However, I wanted a challenge, so I went to GameStop for advice, specifically asking for a difficult but fair game.  A very nice and helpful clerk immediately brought out Demon's Souls and Dark Souls. With the way she was caressing the boxes with such love the entire time, and repeating over and over as if reciting a mantra, "Yes, they are hard, but they are so good; really hard, but really really good." I was sold. She then jokingly told me to guard them with my life on my way out.

I played Demon's Souls first, then Dark Souls.  During the first hour of Dark Souls, I hated it...because "it's just not Demon's Souls".  However, I forced myself to go on, and by the third hour, it had become my favorite game so far. Thanks to the challenging nature of these games, my game skills improved exponentially, but after playing them, I couldn't touch another game for quite awhile because no other really did it for me.

Siegmeyer of Catarina-Onion Bro

Despite Dark Souls sporting quite a few of my gaming pet peeves, these were outweighed by the overall gaming experience. Among the peeves: you play as the Chosen Undead, who has no personality. When one of my favorite characters was killed, Siegmeyer (aka Onion Bro), I was upset since I'd followed him the entire game, but the Chosen Undead simply stood there with a blank stare. This is in stark contrast to Horizon: Zero Dawn's Aloy. As Aloy, when I was exploring and saw a woman with a black eye, my response was "WTF, what happened to her?" Curious, I talked to the character, and refreshingly, Aloy had the same sentiment, which made for a more satisfying emotional experience. This scene was especially memorable to me as that NPC woman directs you to your first epic cauldron. But no, unlike Aloy or Kratos, the Chosen Undead just stares into space even if something drastic is going down. I find that zombified unnamed characters detract from my emotional connection to a game.

The story can be described in one sentence; it's not as captivating as that of most games. I would also say that Dark Souls has the worst ending of all the games I've played. After defeating the Lord of Cinders, at the end of the most satisfying gameplay experience I've had, it finishes with, essentially, "You linked the fire. Bye".  This is in stark contrast to the end of God of War where you supplant Ares and become *THE* God of War, in a far more cathartic cutscene.

A third peeve is the notoriously awful framerate in Blighttown. It feels that it frequently dips to 10 fps (perhaps even lower?) on the PS3 and the XBox 360, both versions I played.  However, the PC version does not have these framerate problems, and it even includes the best DLC I have played, Artorias of the Abyss.  It can run on an average PC (I used the MacBook BootCamp), so I recommend playing the PC version, especially if you can connect it to a large TV.  I am hoping that From software remasters Dark Souls for current-gen consoles as it's sorely needed.

That being said, here are the pros that completely crush the cons:

1. Gameplay mechanics.

My beloved Great Scythe
For me, the absolute most important aspect of videogames is the game play. Just walking around in a metal armor, hearing the sound of your footsteps crunching is addictive. The squishy sound of my beloved Great Scythe hitting a hollow on its head never gets old. Backstabbing an enemy never gets old. A parry is even more satisfying, especially with the special sound and graphic effect when one succeeds. In other words, the visceral feel of the weapons, armor and shields, adds to the quality of the combat and traversal, as each weapon, armor and shield feel unique. No other game has so much visceral feel to it, so that in fighting an enemy, you are engaged and really feel like you're attacking actual adversaries. In contrast, the melee in Oblivion feels like waving one's hands around in space and can't tell if I'm actually hitting the creatures.

Further, the combat is very responsive. When you press a button, your character acts, rather than lagging or not registering at all, as I've found in quite a few games so very frustrating. The enemies all have consistent attack patterns and hit boxes so you can master defeating them, and I really appreciate this consistency and precision. The exacting battle mechanics are extremely satisfying as a result.

In addition to the superb melee combat, there's a lot of ranged options including bows, spells and miracles. Shooting the bow and landing head shots is also addictive, and spells and miracles, though "noobish," are fun.

The enemy placement is brilliant. There's never a point where there are too many enemies, so you can kill everything, and then take the time to explore the amazing world. They are spaced consistently so it's gratifying to be able to memorize their placements and figure out a route from bonfire to bonfire, as you only have so many estus flasks (healing items) to strategize.  The game's successors, Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3, have areas where it's better to run away from all the enemies (as some are too powerful and too numerous), taking away from exploration.

I really find an explorable world crucial to my enjoyment of a video game, and Dark Souls mastered that element more than any other game in part due to the careful enemy placement.

2. Game level design.

I'm still blown away thinking about the level design of this game.The entire overworld is a dungeon, with intricate shortcuts, verticality hidden treasures, t
Map of the Depths-note all the criss-crossing arrows
raps and the like. Even within one screen shot, you may miss a treasure that is somewhere tucked around in a corner that you may not think to look to. After beating the tutorial boss, you go straight on to be flown to Firelink Shrine.  However, if you do as directed by the orange message on the floor, it's easy to miss a soul item on your left, though you may notice the crow's nest on your right.

Indeed, in quite a few games, when you go from town to town, the world is usually a field where you go straight from point A to B; with none of the traps, twists and turns, shortcuts, nor surprises that you constantly encounter in Dark Souls.

The passage from the start, from the Undead Asylum to Firelink Shrine, and branches out to the Undead Burg and the Undead Parish, which then takes one to the Deep Basin and the Depths, both leading to the DLC final boss and one of the lords that you must defeat to beat the game, is something that will be difficult to eclipse. These areas also wrap around each other.  For instance, one can go from Firelink Shrine to Undead Burgh to Undead Parish, and then back to Firelink Shrine (via an elevator), and then into the Depths going directly back to the Undead Burgh and/or Parish.

Furthermore, not only do you have the complicated horizontal space to deal with, but also vertical. In the Undead Burgh, for example, you can find additional treasures and enemies by using the many ladders and ledges, and many more in Blighttown. Blighttown is nightmarish to me, with multiple ladders and/or ledges leading to different levels (differing heights) even within the same screen.  So I couldn't say that this item is on Floor 1 and the next is on Floor 2 as there are multiple-tier levels between those floors.

Solaire of Astora-Sun Bro

An even better example of brilliant level design can be found when one defeats the boss in the Undead Burgh for the first time (the Taurus demon) and chances upon fan favorite Solaire of Astora (aka Sun Bro). I was very nervous, not knowing how far to the next bonfire to rest and heal, and shouldn't I already have arrived at one since I beat the boss of that area? Surely I wasn't going to die and then lose all my souls so that I couldn't retrieve them? What poor game design, I thought on my first walkthrough. Nevertheless, I managed to cross the bridge, the red hellkite dragon's fire falling down on me, and found the staircase. Then I stumbled upon a ladder to kick down, and I was back at the starting bonfire of the area. I can then climb up that ladder to reach the next area. Opening up that shortcut was not only a relief, but a revelation.

I also appreciate that there are no maps in-game, despite my lack of a sense of direction. The level design is so brilliant and the world-building so incredible that you want to explore every corner... and getting lost adds enjoyable anxiety and tension. Blighttown's FPS-rate is really bad but at that point, I didn't care, being too stressed from getting lost in the complicated level design, and frantically finding a bonfire to worry about framerates.

The level design is so intertwined and intricate throughout the entire game that I was actually relieved that the path to the final boss was simple and linear with no odd traps, since my nerves were shot after defeating the four required lords.

I don't think that even Miyazaki-san himself, the game's developer, can improve on this ever-branching, complex level design, as I haven't seen this degree of intertwining and overlapping even in the next two games he oversaw, Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3.

The spectacular level design enhances the exploration and keeps you thoroughly engaged. It's almost impossible to be bored exploring such a well-crafted, bespoke world.

3. World-building and lore.

I know a lot of Dark Souls adherents say that there's a lot of story if you look for it, but there really isn't. There is a story, but not at the level of other JRPGs. However, the world-building and lore are coherent and expansive. EpicNameBro does a superb job discussing the lore. In fact, one can make an entire video game based on the lore of even Ceaseless Discharge. Ceaseless is not everyone's favorite boss, which is why he makes a useful example; his touching backstory describes how his mother and sisters created a ring to protect him against the elements, necessarily due to his unfortunate skin condition, as they loved him so. In turn, he viciously guards his sisters' gravesite. I'm sure a writer could flesh out a script for a video game from that.
Anor Londo

The variety of the environments is strikingly diverse, and often unexpected. I was surprised to see Ash Lake, after emerging from the vertical intentionally drab Great Hollow, not expecting such a colorful scene. Other standout areas are the Painted World of Ariamis, which is a breathtaking snow-covered land, and of course the awe-inspiring Anor Londo. There are dungeons within this overall dungeon-like world, such as Sen's Fortress and the Duke's Archives. If you click on the pictures of each of the Dark Souls areas, they are all very different (except that the DLC Oolacile township looks like a deluxe form of the Undead Burgh/Parish), and they fit together seamlessly as you move from each to the next.

4. RPG elements.

Along with the addictive melee and range combat mechanics, the RPG elements add another obsession-inducing level. As a noob playing this game, I found it difficult at first. However, after I got hooked, I saw it was not so difficult, because I would grind up levels upon each death, which is fun and easy to do given the addictive combat. I'm embarrassed to admit I think I was level 20 when I took on the Taurus demon, the first proper boss.

However, if you're an experienced player, I don't think grinding is necessary, because in addition to the experience you get from naturally fighting enemies and bosses, you also come across soul items that you can use to level up. This is a great game-design decision because those who hate to grind don't need to, and those who love to grind to be overpowered have infinite opportunities to do so.

In fact, given the RPG elements and the balance of play, you can even beat the
Weapon Upgrade Guide
game with your original equipment. You can improve your weapon and armor with various shards, and they go up to +5/+10 and +15 on elemental and non-elemental pathways. The staff cannot be reinforced, but when you get two of the top-tier staffs, you will find there's no need, as magic is rather overpowered in this game. So, if you don't like exploring and finding items, there's no need.

There are different stats that you can level up individually, as opposed to some RPGs where they level up your health, defense, and other categories all automatically for you. In other words, you can choose to increase your health, your stamina, intelligence or any of the other stats how you want to, so you can focus on specific builds, such as strength, dexterity, or others you fancy. I always go for a dexterity/intelligence build.

5. Boss fights.

Dark Souls presents unique and unforgettable bosses. I can't remember some bosses even from my other favorite games, but you can't forget any from Dark Souls. How can anyone forget the first tutorial boss, the obese and humorous Asylum Demon, who floats by flapping his miniscule wings? He has this rather goofy, buck-toothed expression when he squints at you before you do the plunge attack. Or the emotionally wrenching experience of killing Sif, who begins to limp as you kill him, or the ferocious grandeur of Artorias of the Abyss, who doesn't seem to have a stamina bar. Although you can co-op with all the bosses except for the tutorial one, out of respect for the incredible
Sir Artorias of the Abyss-YIKES!
challenge that Artorias poses, you owe it to yourself to duel one on one with him. I also enjoyed the challenges of cutting off the various bosses' tails such as those of Kalameet, Crossbreed Priscilla, Seath and others, including the Gaping Dragon.

The bosses are also memorable due to the foreboding one feels when entering the fog gate before every boss fight, the cutscenes before the fights, the specific music and/or sound effects for each boss (in some other games, all the boss music is the same), and most importantly, their unique and varied designs, and their consistent attack patterns that allow for mastering them.

6. Polished design.

Except for Blighttown's framerate problems on the last-generation consoles, and the unpleasing weird ugliness of the Demon Ruins/Lost Izalith area's design, in my hundreds and hundreds of hours, the only combat glitch and lag that I can recall is when entering Anor Londo and encountering the Gargoyle that "greets" you. When I push the R1 light attack button, there is lag, and it doesn't strike the Gargoyle. As that is the only major glitch that I can remember, this really distinguishes Dark Souls from the many rather glitchy games.

7. Variety of trash mobs.

The dreaded Basilisk
The great variety of enemies is staggering, from the hollows to weird slugs, rock crystal monsters, skeletons, rats, toad-like creatures (the dreaded Basilisks), and other, hard to describe monsters. Even six years after the game's release, they don't feel at all outdated nor surpassed. The details of the interesting enemy designs and their animation, whether the basic hollow or the sophisticated taurus and capra demons are numerous. Each enemy, as noted above, has different, interesting attack patterns and sound effects. Even the hollow warriors, versus the vanilla hollows, have different sounds they make when you kill them; they also attack differently...the warrior slashing his sword deliberately and the hollow wildly flailing with his broken sword.

8. Replayability.

Even without the multiplayer aspects, I could easily play this game for hundreds and hundreds of hours, in part thanks to the NG+ levels, where each level increases in difficulty every time you beat the game, and that the combat mechanics never get old. Since I loved the game so much at first play, I was determined to reach and beat the hardest difficulty level, despite my noob status at that time. I succeeded thanks to TechPhantomReviewer.

Because of the addictive quality of the game and the increasing difficulty levels upon completion, I keep coming back to Dark Souls while deciding what new game I want to play next.


The reasons for loving the game more than compensate for the few flaws. It's like winning the lottery in a country where you pay minimal tax. You get $250 million (overall Dark Souls experience), even if you have to pay $1 million in taxes.

If a game could otherwise have the same features as Dark Souls, but with a fleshed-out story and an expressive main character, that game will probably replace Dark Souls as my favorite. But I really don't foresee another game that has this incredible variety of world-building and lore so nevertheless cohesive and seamless, with a similarly mind-blowing level- and semi-open world-design, the variety and grandeur of the bosses/enemies, and the addictive, precise melee and range mechanics that never get old. This is why Dark Souls will likely remain my favorite game.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

South Park: The Stick Of Truth Review

PS4 Pro on 50 inch Seiki 4K TV.

I've never watched an entire episode of South Park, so I'm not at all familiar with the show, but I wanted to play this RPG (role-playing game), especially after a friend hyped it up. The trailer for the game I saw was humorous and otherwise promising. However, I didn't seek it out after reported issues of bugs, frame-rate problems and crashes on all the last-generation platforms and PC.

I was excited when I learned that digitallpre-ordering the upcoming South Park: The Fractured But Whole gets you a free digital code of the remastered version of The Stick of Truth for either the PS4 or Xbox One, immediately downloadable. If you prefer to have the physical disc and you can wait, the digital code for The Stick of Truth will be in the box. Reading reviews, prior adopters universally said that this remaster is a huge improvement. You cannot buy The Stick of Truth separately.

You play as a blank-slate character, by intention, called, by the South Park boys, "Douchebag." Every time Douchebag responds to an NPC (non-playable character) by staring mutely, there's a well-timed awkward pause and the NPC comments on that, starting with his parents, which is always funny whenever it occurs. I played as a cute African-American boy, which turned out to be a smart decision, since Douchebag is friends with the group's leader of sorts, Eric Cartman, improbably a Grand Wizard of the KKK. Since I didn't know beforehand that he was a racist, the surprise was satirically amusing. Further, it was a no-brainer to play as a game-unique Jew-class character, rather than as a member of the usual RPG classes of fighter, mage, or thief. As an African-American Jew in the game, I further alienated Cartman, and he said we couldn't be friends, which made me laugh.

The story and characters are very funny, but I wasn't dying to find out what would happen to any of them, or how the story will play out as I would with all the other RPGs I have played. There are missable achievements/trophies, but none are based on difficulty level. You can obtain them all in one playthrough, and if that's your goal, guides are essential, as well as liberal use of manual saves, of which you have 50. I like this missable guide, because it's short and to the point with minimal spoilers. The only thing it didn't mention is: do NOT sell anything until you get the Hoarder achievement/trophy.

There were no issues with frame-rate and the animations were nicely done. I laughed when I saw Douchebag's parents walk, as they were tottering, almost appearing to fall down. I believe that's the usual animation for adults in the TV show, but for a newcomer like me, it was unexpectedly funny. The graphics are good, and resemble those of the television show. I'm sure The Fractured But Whole will have even better graphics.

My game crashed twice in 20 hours of gameplay. The first time was when I kept loading to get a trophy. The second time was near the end, before the final dungeon, when the screen went blank. Due to auto-save, crashes were not an issue, since you can reload from the last checkpoint. On top of that, you have a generous 50 slots for manual saves. My experience was not really affected as only minimal progress was lost.

In terms of gameplay, it is turn-based with real-time elements. Unlike other RPGs, you get two moves per turn, but only if you attack last. The first action, you can use an item, or one of the designated special skills that your party member has, and then the second, you attack. Also, unlike many RPGs, your party consists of two members. You start with Butters, a Paladin, and then other characters open up, which I won't name here to avoid spoilers. You control both.

Early on when you're underpowered, the battles are interesting. You become overpowered very quickly in the game, so battles become less interesting. There are 4 different types of attacks: melee, range, Abilities, and Magic attacks. With every attack, you have to press a button on time, and it's satisfying when you get the perfect hit in, which confers bonuses. If you whiff the timing, you won't do as much damage. As for blocking enemy attacks, you need to press A (Xbox) or X (PS4) to guard whenever you see a circle under your character. Bosses may have special attacks, so guarding will involve various QTEs, an example being mashing a button as quickly as possible.

The game does an excellent, unobtrusive job telling you what buttons you need to press and when, so you don't have to memorize anything. There's strategy as to whether you should use melee, range, Abilities or Magic, depending on the enemy's stance, whether they wear armor or have shields, and their positions in the two rows. The attack strategy is intuitive and explained well in the tutorial.

As mentioned above, you chose your class: Fighter, Jew, Mage or Thief. Whichever you chose, the game is not challenging on normal, so you can't go wrong with your choice. Also, you really don't have to fret about what Abilities to level up. Abilities are special, powerful attacks that consume the intentionally named "PP" meter. 

Since you can only max out three out of the five Abilities, my general recommendation is to chose the three that most interest you. The maximum character level is 15 which I was able to reach 1/2 to 2/3 of the way through, without any grinding.

In addition to melee, ranged and Abilities, later on in the game, you're introduced to Magic attacks, namely the various Farts, that get upgraded with story progression. Magic consumes the mana bar, and it tends to be the most powerful attack that you have, unless the enemy is resistant to the status effect, "Grossed Out". The game also offers a tutorial on how to use Magic attacks.

Using Magic attacks (Farts) outside of battle, however, is not as intuitive as it is in battle. I had to look up how to use the "Sneaky Squeaker" and the "Nagasaki". Farts outside of battle are used to break walls, set fires, and so forth. Further, you will need to Fart on animals, your party members, authority figures, and downed enemies if you want some of the achievements/trophies. 

Your equipment has level designations. For some reason, I've never seen a weapon or armor at level 15; the highest was 14. Equipment, whether armor or weapon, can have anywhere between zero to two slots for patches. They give you extra defensive and/or offensive bonuses. An example is adding 50 extra fire attack upon a perfectly timed attack.

Another way to level up is by making friends. Once you reach a certain number you can buy perks. The most helpful perk is when if you use the revive potion, it restores the person to full health. You make friends through the main quest, side quests, and talking to them in town.

In your town, it is fun to explore outside, and you can enter homes and stores. I found it addictive to knock over parking meters and trashcans and often be awarded money. There are friends and treasures often cleverly tucked away in the environment. To earn some friends and items, you need to have special powers that are obtained through the story progression--so if you can't get to one, you'll have to wait until you get the power. The creators report that in the upcoming The Fractured But Whole, they want to make the world even more explorable, which is something I look forward to, though they already did a nice job with The Stick of Truth.

The combat isn't fully satisfying, but this was offset by the creative, diverse dungeons enhanced by puzzle elements. One such dungeon not only had the usual fun puzzles, but also a well-done disgusting atmosphere that can gross one out. Another example that's not dungeon-related is when you make Douchebag poop (a rather effective item that you can fling at enemies), that feels so viscerally real that I have him take a shower whenever it's available!

There are 20 side quests, of which one is missable. Most of the side quests are funny. You gain Allies through some of the quests whom you can summon in combat to demolish your enemies, limited to once a day (the game consists of 3 days). In other side quests, you get items as expected. You become friends with all the people you helped.

The developers did a brilliant job with pace. If it were any longer, I might have lost interest. When the game made it clear that you're about to face the final boss, I immediately thought, "that was good timing".

Conclusion: The Stick of Truth is a fun game, and I feel that the highlights are the humor, and the overworld and dungeon-design, which often require puzzle-solving and awards-exploration. The battles quickly become less satisfying since you soon become overpowered, and the story and characters are not nearly as captivating as those in other RPGs, all of which keeps The Stick of Truth from being a great game.

Recommendations: I would recommend pre-ordering if you're a huge South Park fan and you want to replay this game on your current gen console, since the remastered version has been improved significantly. The game is also recommended if you want to play an obnoxiously funny game and you're not worried about combat, story and character development. I don't regret my purchase, and I'm looking forward to The Fractured But Whole.

Rating: B-, Good


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Breath of the Wild Review, Another Perspective


I hated every single Zelda game, from the very first, The Legend of Zelda to Skyward Sword.  The dungeons were uninspired and the “find the tool, and use that same tool to kill the boss” becomes old, stale and tired. The graphics, pop-ins, frame-rates, story, characters were all inane, to say the least, and tread on down-trodden ground, I cannot count the amount of times. The boss designs are not creative, even as they are buoyed by the grand music, the design and animation failed nevertheless. Using the double (or was it triple) hook-shot and the glider to maneuver through the centipede (?) boss on multiple levels was a general trope taken from the very worst action-adventure RPGs. I don't quite see why Alice Chang, owner of this blog, nevertheless thought these games as "masterpieces", even as she admits that she didn't "quite enjoy the games".

Anyhow, it was with great trepidation that I played the newest Zelda incarnation, The Breath of the Wild on my Wii U. There was *no* way that I would invest over $500 on the Switch to play a series that I hate so much. This includes the system at $299, the game at $59.99, an extra memory disk to add to the meager 32 GB storage at $49.99, screen protector at $19.99, and the Switch Pro Controller at $79.99, and add 8% tax. My paws (I'm being cute and precious here to invoke the "cute cat" motif of this blog) won’t allow for such tiny Joy-Cons.

Monet, Water Lilies, 1916 - 1919
However, Breath of the Wild was a revelation, even so on the much-maligned (unjustly so) Wii U--on that point I do agree with Chang's love for the Wii U. The graphics are astounding. I think even 20 years from now (centuries in video game terms), it would still be revolutionary as it takes the concept of “gouache” to the next level in gaming. I see touches of Manet and Monet (especially the Water Lily series) in the Hebra mountains, as well as the Cezanne-ish forward thinking of what the future might hold, in terms of abstraction.  For instance, the ruined Temple of Time invokes Cubism, following the traditions of the lesser known Braque, who was actually the founding father of Cubism, but the tradition was disseminated more due to Picasso’s (dare I say stolen) take on Cubism, purely due to Picasso’s sheer name recognition and sparkling celebrity status.

Kandinsky's Color Study: Squares with Concentric Circles
But I digress. The organicity of the Great Plateau cannot be overstated. This area practically screams and rivals Kandinsky.  As I was chopping the trees in the area, the far-away rocks have a dynamic pattern of circularity (exposing one of the many delightful Koroks), imposed on a rather vertical structure (i.e. the mountain).  This reminds me of Kandinsky’s Color Study: Squares with Concentric Circles that is so well-known and beloved, that it is almost a cliche at this point. But, it has been discovered in modern art theory that depicting a painting as a whole, rather than part and parcel, is extremely difficult, and certainly not a tired rehash of cliches. As you are aware, Kandinsky was one of the major proponents of this school of thought.

According to this theory, children have this capacity of conceptualizing organicity, but then it tends to get lost as one gets older, as adolescents and adults might veer to more realistic depictions at the risk of forgetting how to plan objects in space in unity. The understanding is that adolescents and adults tend to feel that realism is more “advanced” (perhaps superficially so), and by clinging to that misguided conceit, they lose their abilities to conceptualize the picture as a whole that appears to be innate in young children. I found that the graphic designers noticed the trend of realism in video games (Call of Duty being one of the more egregious offenders), and opted instead for the more artistically daring, difficult and challenging vision of organic models.

I can go on about the other areas, from the majestic snowy mountain tops to the hot, barren desert.  I shiver and sweat, respectively, whenever I enter these areas, so realistic they are. The reason why they feel so real is because not only is the frame-rate mostly locked at 30fps (although I was hoping for 60fps as is the Nintendo Standard), while galloping with Epona (I was one of the lucky ones who has the Amiibo), the landscapes evoke emotional responses that remind us of the Romanticized past, precisely due to the framing and organic placing of objects and items, rather than scattered about in an incoherent manner, as often seen in the usual AAA titles.

As noted by Chang, rather ad nauseum, the game has been criticized for the lack of anti-aliasing, but I find that this is *not* a necessary feature as the graphics and animations more than compensate for the aliasing. Who cares about “smoothing” the polygons when the impact of the design is rather to challenge *how* you view things, and the much hated “jaggies” are criticized rather unfairly by the owner of this blog.  Not only that, I believe that the blog owner's other criticisms include the lack of draw-distance and the so-called “pop-in” effects of the game. This is clearly designed with intention. When the enemies and animals “pop-in”, it is an unexpected surprise and you must get your bow and arrow ready at all costs. Such immediacy is quite compelling, and heart-pounding. This concept fits perfectly in with the surprise narrative, which appears to be one of the central tenants of this game. Hello, Chang, this is an action-adventure RPG, and you need such urgency.

Michaelangelo's Pieta is invoked in-game
Although there are frame-rate dips as I mentioned above (and I reluctantly concede this point to Chang); however, this is clearly by intention yet again--the many stuttering effects parallel the hesitation that Link has regarding his quest. Remember, at the start of the game, he has lost his memory, so who is he, and why should he save Zelda after all? This appears to be an existential crisis that brings tension and excitement to the gameplay elements. How certain can he be that the Princess is indeed an important figure to save, and thus agree to play the role of savior, invoking the Christ figure symbolism and/or the tired Virgin Mary giving birth to a new world theme? This may be a rhetorical question, but nevertheless gripping in its mystery. The stuttering was well-placed throughout the game to hit home the point of Link’s hesitancy, and such internal conflicts lend realism to the game.

The emotional characterization of Link also follows a Freudian/Jungian conceit. Although overstated and overanalyzed throughout the years, the super-ego versus ego versus id structure inherent in Link and others was expounded in a nevertheless extraordinary way in Breath of the Wild and lends our hero and NPCs depth of character. It is no surprise that he remains a silent hero, as he wrestles between whether he should express his true feelings (the id) or in a more “nobler” way, suppress his more base feelings and follow his super-ego of de-facto saving Zelda? I cannot answer that question for you, and the answers appear to differ upon each play through, lending a compelling richness, re-playability and depth to the game.

Text on Taoism
I argue against Chang, as Link is in fact a very developed character as noted by the psychological aspects described above. I applaud Nintendo for NOT having a female playable version of Link, but this somehow gave rise to indignation amongst the press. I feel that we Westerners do not understand the importance of balance in Eastern traditions, namely the Yin/Yang of Taoist philosophies, first expounded by Lao Tzu, and then comically applied in storied expositions by Chuang Tzu. Tragically, Aonuma-san, the game director, did a rather spotty explanation as to why Link is *not* playable as a female in Breath of the Wild which worsened the situation, but it's not his fault. It's rather difficult to explain the reasoning behind Taoism, and all falls on deaf Western ears, the language barriers exacerbating the matter. Aonuma-san may be a genius game developer, but he really needs to hire public relations for his interviews, especially with a Western audience.

I think what Aonuma meant to pose is the question of the esoteric (at least to us) female/male dichotomy in a Yin/Yang pull of the Triforce. I hope that in the next Zelda, there will be a role reversal so there will exist a Prince Male Link, the hero and main playable character is just plain old Female Zelda (no epithets to parallel Link as in prior Zelda games), and final boss Ganon (the vaunted Triforce), but keeping the male/female dichotomy untouched so as not to disturb such a Yin/Yang balance.

At any rate, even though Link's personality is just as well-developed (due to the more subtle show not tell approach of Breath of the Wild) as the more narrative-driven Nathan Drake of the Uncharted series, I don't see the media complaining about not having a playable female Nathan Drake.

Prince Sidon
I disagree with Chang's position that the NPCs are also devoid of personality. Prince Sidon is a much hyped-up character, which is understandable, as women and men swooned over his charms in the social media space. His toothy grin reminds me of “vagina dentata” tropes--again, although played upon too much in modern “art media”--it appears more subtle in this game. The auteur wanted to fool the audience into thinking that Sidon is this threatening menace (i.e. his teeth structure), but in a surprising twist, we discover that he actually becomes a pivotal part of your quests. Again, the vagina dentata motif is very compelling in forcing the gender of Link as male, as it simply can *not* work if Link is playable as a cis-female, as this in-game concept necessitates the presence of the phallus.

This shock element lends an eerie foreshadowing of the end-game in rather nice parallelism. What if Ganon appears as a “sweet” creature, fooling you into thinking that he should be saved instead of destroyed as adhered by Zelda and her father? The fact that Calamity Ganon does not even speak to you (perhaps to disguise his intentions) is a clever counterpoint to Sidon (i.e. a role reversal).  So by appearing innocent, the shock is that Ganon is actually in fact a threat. These twists and turns are very much appreciated, and I don’t know why more video games don’t follow this model?

I believe the developers were concerned about the triteness in following the traditionalist concepts of Freud and Jung as discussed above, so there are subtle interplays further elucidated in characterization, invoking Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, that is much needed in the video game genre. Zelda did not succeed in defeating Calamity at the start of the game, but nevertheless she battles on for 100 years, keeping Ganon at bay. One then questions whether she can in fact self-actualize and help Link defeat Ganon? I was very concerned at this point, as per Maslow, basic needs and safety must be met FIRST before being able to self-actualize and transcend.

Therefore, the question is: has Zelda transcended so that she can not only contain Ganon, but additionally aid Link when it comes time for the final battle? Or by battling Ganon for all these years, has her basic needs *not* been met, thereby trapping her in the first rung of the hierarchy, namely, “Physiological” and perhaps the higher “Safety” step at best, so that no, she can’t help Link as there is no way for her to self-actualize? These worrisome questions lend tension and angst to the story, as it's unclear if we'll succeed against the threat. The emotional impact of this question pulls at the heart strings.

At any rate, I don’t mean to obscure the construct of hierarchical rungs, as this does not appear to be a “Dante’s Inferno’s circles of hell by the numbers approach” by the developers who eschew such simplistic explanations, but I could be wrong. But the richness is that I question whether it is better to analyze Zelda’s emotional and physical turmoils in a Maslowian manner as opposed to a more concrete “This is Hell” way. I fear that there are more interpretations to be had, that all theories and conjectures have *not* been extracted. In other words, more psychological analysis is needed here, and I leave this to the professional game journalists to explore, delve and discover.

So yes, Chang misconstrued the subtle presentations of Link and the NPCs personalities as lack of personality, crudely glossing over important Psychological themes and traditions so evident in this game. There is a richness and depth of characterization that surprises me, as we don't expect this in video games, or at least to this extent.

Further, Chang didn't even comment on the complicated relationship between Link and Zelda in the optional story cut-scenes. Although the cut-scenes present a Buber-ian vision of relationships, which posit that the very rare emotional connection and attachment to another is an expression of God (this is in his seminal piece, I and Thou), I feel that Aonuma-san goes even one step further from this great philosopher.

Yes, he depicts a Buber-type of bond, but at the crux there is conflict between the two, which implies that both needed to work through their dynamic relational issues throughout the century, but since that didn't occur (as Link was in stasis), it shows in the final cut-scene where it doesn't appear that Link and Zelda are truly attached, as they have not worked through or processed their relationship.

The question is what approach does the game use? I am emboldened to think that the game play elements show that adapting the tried and true structural family approach into couples therapy, may be a good strategy to use. In their family lines, are there relational patterns existing that echo their current situation, in which case, you need to break this unfortunate legacy? Or, does Aonumo-san posit the conflicts as more in the Beck tradition of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), where unrealistic distortions of how they view each other needs to be challenged? By replacing these negative, false views of each other, with positive realistic ones, the relationship will obviously improve.
The Master Sword

I think the game's richness allows for this ambiguity in the game play elements, as evidenced in the culmination of the Master Sword, as the triumphant symbolism of permanence, which Zelda preserved for Link. I believe Aonuma-san foresaw this, and that's why he made the Master Sword the only unbreakable weapon in the game, once Link and Zelda move past their problematic relationship. This is further expanded upon as it takes 13 hearts for Link to retrieve the legendary sword. The "working through" of their relationship is represented by the work you do in completing the shrines (4 shrines/heart). I like how this foreshadows the end as the hearts do represent their loving relationship, so it appears that after the final cutscene rolls, they resolve their issues and reconnect.

This is actually brilliant and clearly lost on the blog owner. As Chang didn't find these cut-scenes, I don't find her review as exacting as she had hoped.

As for combat, I do find the melee and ranged lacking a bit here, although not nearly as problematic as Chang expounds, but the enemy AI is intelligent in design, and I love how the lead archer moblin, who is always placed on surveillance duty, signals the troops to attack upon Link’s approach, even when he does so stealthily. I dare say that this is rather Marxist in approach as I noticed, why is there always ONE who is always at attention slaving away, while the other moblins are either sleeping, eating or partying? Is there an anti-Capitalist slant here? In fact, the various iterations of Talus was also fruitful, lending you many valuable items upon defeat, perhaps symbolizing the slaying of the so-called “capitalist Pig”, which is rather ironic. One gets rich *not* through Capitalism (symbolized by Talus, the golden promise of wealth), but through Marxist slaying of Talus and these enemies?

Another deep game play element is the much argued pros and cons argument of the weapon degradation system. I'm going to take a balanced approach here and present both sides of what I think are the crucial points. The degradation of weapons evokes this exact anti-Capitalist thinking. Due to the conjectured decadent period that exists 100 years ago, equipment was built in a cheap way, to maximize as much profit, at the risk to quality, so as to enrich the few. Therefore, the weapons that Link finds degrade rapidly.
Aonuma needs to flesh out Marxist principles

I wonder if such realism is necessary in a fantasy game? Indeed, it was upsetting and taxing to have to switch weapons even within 1 moblin group battle, but on the other hand, it plays nicely with the anti-Capitalist themes here, which I believe outweigh the constraints. So, I find that the weapon degradation system is pivotal to the game.

I’m not sure if Nintendo thought through the rain elements (Link can't climb due to the slippery rain) because I don’t really see a consistent Marxist elucidation intrinsically in-game. I can stretch things to an almost ridiculous extent by perhaps conferring rain and hiking boots as being too expensive and out of reach of the noble masses, who are championed by Marx, 100 years ago. So flash-forward to the current time in the game, Link, our noble hero (symbol of the masses) has to suffer sliding off mountains due to this injustice. Again, this is a rather forced explanation, and it doesn't seem to adhere to Aonuma-san's vision as neatly as I would have hoped. I'm confident that Nintendo will flesh this issue out more in the upcoming DLC, and if not, in the next Zelda. Indeed, I'm pleased that Aonuma-san will continue the tradition of Breath of the Wild in future games.

As I've discussed at length, this game has extremely rich and subtle nuances to the story, character development, game play elements, and keen exploration into relationship dynamics, and I hope I at least touched on the basics. I was very impressed with Nintendo for really changing the Zelda series from the first unpromising attempt, to the majestic Breath of the Wild.

Conclusion: Due to the richness, complexity and depth of the game, that requires more analysis than I can put forth, I argue that this is not just one of the best Zeldas, but perhaps the greatest video game of all time.

-N.C., Esq.

Titanic: The Titan of Movies

GUEST WRITER, N.C., Esq. I was very skeptical regarding the glowing reviews of Titanic (1997) which led to a breathtaking and improbabl...