Persona 5

It’s time for a new game review! While I have some others pending, it’s been such a long time since I played some of those games that I might have to go back for some studying or even replay some of them. However, recently a special colleague of mine turned me onto something new and ever since I’ve started playing it, I’ve been engrossed. I finished this game a month or so ago, though I never thought I would have given how much content there is! By the way, have I mentioned the game in question is Persona 5? This game was developed by Atlus and was released in 2017. The only other game I’m familiar with from this studio is the bizarre perversion Catherine; much like that title, Persona 5 is designed with Anime-styling in mind and has some otherworldly subject matter. However, if you’re a fan of RPGs and looking to get a bang for your buck, this game might be worth it for you. I must say I’m very much enjoying it and I was definitely sad when it was over, to the point where I actually started playing it again right after! Without further delay, here is what I believe makes Persona 5 a great buy!

Easy to jump into and start playing.

The ‘5’ in Persona 5 can be pretty off-putting, making you believe you are missing out on games 1 through 4. Thankfully, this title was in such a long development period that it would seem the developers spit out a pretty singular game. Bottom line? One doesn’t need prior knowledge of the Persona universe to play this game and fully enjoy it. My understanding is that each game features its own array of different characters and story-lines, making them quite independent of each other. The only inherited characters are the ‘Personas’, types of monsters that exist in a parallel universe referred to as the ‘Metaverse’. The story takes place in modern-day Tokyo and follows some pretty dynamic students who travel into this Metaverse to solve underlying problems that are affecting people in the real world. As the game progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that the magic of the other universe is spilling into the current one and massive catastrophe is looming unless the matters are resolved by your group of ‘Phantom Thieves’. The Thieves received that name based on the major story premise that they target a wildcard “bully” in the real world, travel into their metaphysical dungeon-world, and steal their heart back to make them into a better person. Further and further into the gameplay, though, this mission becomes increasingly twisted and more difficult. The good news is that the game provides in-depth tutorials and hints for almost every thing. Perhaps the hardest thing to keep up with will be the exam questions, unless you’re way smarter than I am and happen to know those answers!

The liberating freedom to develop how you want to.

Unlike most games where time is a very scarce concept (with some games always having daytime, while others may run on a 60-minute cycle…), Persona 5 works with a very specific day-to-day calendar up until the last event of the game. Each day, the player dictates what events occur between the ‘after school’ to ‘evening’ brackets of time. You can hang out with certain characters to build strategic relationships, go to work to earn money, study at school to become smarter, or even explore ‘Momentos’, one of the parallel universes in the games where one can level-up against the monsters known as Personas. Every action provides some type of benefit to the main character (you) and will critically determine how well you progress through the story-line. Building relationships is essential in this game, as deeper bonds with certain characters allow for stronger stats in the battlefield and all kinds of additional benefits. Be careful, though, because although the game is lengthy and the days can seem expendable, there will come a point in the game where you wish you had more time to get more things done.

A long journey ahead.

Persona 5 is no quick game. Once the Metaverse and Momentos portions become clear, there is A LOT to do for the main story and in terms of side missions. After my play-through of the first Palace (the fancy term for dungeon in this game), I felt like I had pretty much finished half the game; I WAS VERY WRONG. The Palaces are jammed pack with so much exploration, fighting, rewards, and secrets, that it is alarming to think the game has 7+ of them. Each time a Palace is located, the player has around a calendar month to finish it before a specific deadline (wherein I assume if you fail, it’s game-over?). This is where that concept of time comes back into play. In the real world, the days can escape you quickly, but in the Metaverse, time flows differently and the Palace CAN be played through fully in one single day (providing you have the best resources and tools to ration your SP). Because of the strategic thinking it will take to plan out which days to go into the Metaverse versus which days to stay in the real world and strengthen your skills, the game becomes even longer to play through because of the mass potentials and consequences. Think things through before wasting time!

One set of crazy stories and characters.

I think at this point it’s safe to say that Japan is a weird place and entertainment in Japan, especially in Manga/Anime, can get very strange. Persona 5 is no exception to this and you will notice that right-away. The first plot-line (referred to as the Kamoshida Palace) features a narcissistic gym teacher who beats his male students and sexually assaults his female students. There are suicide attempts and bouts of depression that follow. While I realize this can sound a bit freaky, the more hardcore subject matters plays into the strength of the many protagonists this story has. There are 8 core members that make up the Phantom Thieves, and even more special characters that tie-in as Confidants in the story. Each one is very different and lovable in their own way, perhaps catering to something each player me like. You have the freedom to decide who to grow the closest too and who to spend the most time with. In fact, because there are so many key characters, it will often be challenging to decide who to carry into battle and who to leave behind, but the game’s length and content allows for plenty of rotation. The game thrives off of a lot of bullying, especially cases where adults bully the youth. Besides Kamoshida, there are a lot of antagonists to take on in the game and bring to justice. For any fan of RPGs, this game rewards big time with a lot of dialogue, emotion, and drama.

Gotta catch’em all; Personas that is.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the general gist of Persona 5, but obviously I need to talk about why the game is named as such. Once venturing into the Metaverse, each core character takes on an alternate super-being form known as a Persona who embodies all of their heart’s wills and desires to fight. The Personas given to each character are unique and have their own set of strengths and weaknesses. The main character’s Persona, Arsene, utilizes curse magic to inflict the power of darkness on foes. If we look at the second character to unlock a Persona, he uses Captain Kidd, who attacks with electric magic to shock enemies. You see the theme here? Each Persona can use different elements and each core character has a different type to offer. What really makes the story become super interesting is that the main character can actually capture any Persona opposed in battle and keep a personal collection of them to use in future battles! You can easily switch between Personas in combat to inflict all kinds of elemental and physical damage, or beef up defense tactics and use healing magic. The only sucker-punch here is that there is a limit to how many Personas can be stored, but the game offers the ability to release, merge, and create new Personas at any point. As you progress in the gameplay, you will encounter higher-level Personas as you level up your own, but it will become necessary to collect new ones to keep up with the more difficult boss battles to be faced in the closing stages of the game. Personas will use up either HP (health points) or SP (skill points) to cause damage, so there is always a price to pay. The good news is that HP can be healed using various items or even using Persona magic, but SP is hard to come by. There are very few items in the game that will restore useful amounts of SP, or they are rare, time-consuming to obtain, or quite expensive. If one runs out of SP, the Persona is either limited to only HP-based attacks or has no use at all. Alas, though, if all else fails, the characters can still use their own physical attacks or guns to inflict damage. One other thing to keep in mind? The Personas can be VERY weird. There is no way I could write this review without making reference to Mara.

Added bonus: the grooviest soundtrack ever.

ASK ANYONE WHO HAS PLAYED THIS GAME… the jazzy, upbeat, grooving music is probably the big win here. At first it caught me by surprise, but after a while I found myself singing the songs over and over again in my spare time. The funny thing about the vocal songs is that they were actually recorded in English, not Japanese, but they sound like they were horribly dubbed into English all the same. Some of the most iconic pieces are the game’s suspense music and battle theme. I don’t think there is much else I can say on this topic, other than the soundtrack does get better as the game progresses and by itself is a good listen. As always, I advocate that we support our industries, so go ahead and snag a copy of the Original Soundtrack here.

In conclusion, I have to say that Persona 5 was a very unexpected surprise. It brought back the nostalgia of my Anime-watching days and I even recognized a lot of the vocal talent used here. For purists, the dub is not too far removed from the original Japanese game, so you can expect a mostly uncut experience. Actually, you can even download the Japanese language track and play through the game that way as well.  I managed to get this game on sale as a PlayStation Plus member, but I would have easily paid the full price given the great experience I had.  I most definitely recommend taking a look at the trailers below and then getting your copy here. By the way, if you did play this game and found you loved it, there was an Anime series released in Japan and so far it’s an AMAZING adaption of the game! I hope all of you find a place in your hearts for this title as I did.

GTA IV – The Ballad of Gay Tony ~ K109 The Studio

Today I want to flashback to an epic compilation album I made years and years ago; I STILL jam out to this a lot. I would love to take credit for this amazing playlist of songs, but the real credit goes to Rockstar Games for their amazing work on Grand Theft Auto IV: Episodes From Liberty City. The first DLC for the 4th game was The Ballad of Gay Tony; this story-line featured the life of a bouncer named Luis Lopez who worked as a bodyguard for Tony Prince, a nightclub owner. One of the nightclubs, Hercules (a gay-friendly club to be precise), featured the killer disco arrangement that I’ve put together here. As with the other games in this series, one could also enjoy these songs on the radio while driving, particularly station K109 The Studio. I remember being addicted to these songs at the time, so I researched the full list of them and threw this album together. As always, I encourage supporting the original artists, but I admit that might be hard given the age of these songs. For now, I’ve uploaded them here for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!

  1. 01 Young Hearts Run Free Candi Staton 4:03
  2. 02 Everybody Dance Chic 3:22
  3. 03 He's The Greatest Dancer Sister Sledge 3:38
  4. 04 There But For The Grace Of God Go I Machine 7:13
  5. 05 I Need You Sylvester 4:28
  6. 06 Relight My Fire Dan Hartman 6:38
  7. 07 Boogie Oogie Oogie A Taste of Honey 6:21
  8. 08 A Lover's Holiday Change 6:13
  9. 09 Any Love Rufus; Chaka Khan 4:51
  10. 10 Put Your Body In It Stephanie Mills 5:58
  11. 11 (Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop The Fatback Band 3:14
  12. 12 Shake Your Groove Thing Peaches & Herb 5:32
  13. 13 Disco Inferno (Burn Baby Burn) The Trammps 6:25
  14. 14 Still In Love Rose Royce 5:08
  15. 15 Doin' The Dog Creme D'Cocoa 7:27
  16. 16 Menergy Patrick Cowley; Sylvester 5:36

Credits

Young Hearts Run Free

Performed by CANDI STATON
Written & Composed by DAVID CRAWFORD
Sourced from Candi Staton – Young Hearts Run Free (1976)

Everybody Dance

Performed by CHIC
Written & Composed by NILE RODGERS ; BERNARD EDWARDS
Sourced from Chic – Everybody Dance (1978)

He’s The Greatest Dancer

Performed by SISTER SLEDGE
Written & Composed by NILE RODGERS ; BERNARD EDWARDS
Sourced from Sister Sledge – He’s The Greatest Dancer (1979)

There But For The Grace Of God Go I

Written, Composed & Performed by MACHINE
Sourced from Machine – There But For The Grace Of God Go I (1979)

I Need You

Written, Composed & Performed by SYLVESTER
Sourced from Sylvester – I Need You (1980)

Relight My Fire

Written, Composed & Performed by DAN HARTMAN
Sourced from Dan Hartman – Relight My Fire (1979)

Boogie Oogie Oogie

Performed by A TASTE OF HONEY
Written & Composed by JANICE JOHNSON ; PERRY KIBBLE
Sourced from A Taste of Honey – Boogie Oogie Oogie (1978)

A Lover’s Holiday

Performed by CHANGE
Written & Composed by DAVIDE ROMANI ; TANYAYETTE WILLOUGHBY
Sourced from Change – A Lover’s Holiday (1980)

Any Love

Performed by RUFUS & CHAKA KHAN
Written & Composed by DAVID WOLINSKI
Sourced from Rufus & Chaka – Masterjam (1979)

Put Your Body In It

Performed by STEPHANIE MILLS
Written & Composed by EDWARD MOORE ; HOWARD KING
Sourced from Stephanie Mills – What Cha’ Gonna Do With My Lovin’ (1979)

(Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop

Written, Composed & Performed by THE FATBACK BAND
Sourced from (Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop (1975)

Shake Your Groove Thing

Performed by PEACHES & HERB
Written & Composed by DINO FEKARIS ; FREDDY PERREN
Sourced from Peaches & Herb – Shake Your Groove Thing (1978)

Disco Inferno (Burn Baby Burn)

Performed by THE TRAMMPS
Written & Composed by LEROY GREEN ; RON “HAVE MERCY” KERSEY
Sourced from The Trammps – Disco Inferno (1976)

Still In Love

Written, Composed & Performed by ROSE ROYCE
Sourced from Rose Royce – Still In Love (1982)

Doin’ The Dog

Written, Composed & Performed by CREME D’COCOA
Sourced from Creme D’Cocoa – Doin’ The Dog (1979)

Menergy

Performed by PATRICK COWLEY ; SYLVESTER
Written & Composed by PATRICK COWLEY
Sourced from Patrick Cowley – Menergy (1981)

FF X/X-2 HD Remaster

It’s been a good couple of weeks since one of the greatest things arrived at my doorstep: my Limited Edition copy of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster for PS3! These two titles (plus two more bonus adventures merged onto one disc) have been keeping me busy for the last little while, honoring my memories of my first RPG (Role Playing Game). I remember all the hype when the commercials would play on TV advertising FF X-2, which is what lead to me playing both games. I was apprehensive about buying this release, though, because I never finished either title when I first played along on PS2. I also wondered what the chances of me playing a game over again would be, especially lengthy games like these. HOWEVER, let me just say, I’m SO glad I went against my doubts and bought this bundle! Here are my reasons why:

A classic never fails.

As soon as I heard Tidus‘ monologue in the beginning sequence, all the memories of Spira, fiends, and FMVs (Full Motion Videos) came back to me. Final Fantasy X really pushed borders for the series being the first to receive a PlayStation 2 release; it had plenty of story and playback, many complicated battles, legendary music, and probably the best character development. All of that is still here, yet it all seems even better than before. When I first began to play around with the battle system, I immediately thought it might have been upgraded, but alas, I’m still using the old BradyGames Guidebook and everything matches up. I think I might have been too young when the game first came out to fully understand the politics of the story-line and intricacy of the relationships, but seeing it all now lends much respect to Square Enix and team for their efforts back in the day.

A true visual ‘re-masterpiece’.

The key here is that these two games have been remastered in HD, not remade. When I first took a look at the trailers, I wasn’t feeling what I saw because I had those two words confused. There is no crystal-clear perfect CGI or motion capture action going on here; the games are very much the same as they were in the early 2000s. However, even though those odd character gestures and lip syncing terrors are still present, the visual quality is simply amazing. The team behind this cleanup did a very good job of ironing out the characters’ facial expressions and cleaning the edges. Much effort also went into redrawing the background environments, which are now basically flawless. The optional subtitles is another treasure, as the older games were hard-subbed in a not-so-clear font. One of the biggest (and obvious) differences is the native resolution; any true follower of the series would know both titles had a very TERRIBLE screen size, outlined in a black box to prevent the characters from running off the screen in scenes. Now, everything has been re-rendered to fit the high definition standard and it all looks GREAT. The FMV sequences, though, definitely went through upscaling since the quality falls short of what HD video should look like in 2014. Nevertheless, just the fact that a fan can now relive everything in such beautiful quality is a blessing.

A melody to your ears.

The remastering did not end with the visuals (not at all)! One of the things that really stood out as a problem back then was the balance of music against the vocals. A lot of the time the volumes would be too harsh or not harsh enough. Say goodbye to that problem as the vocal cleanup here is basic perfection. Yuna and Tidus‘ horrific voice-acting still survives, but that isn’t something anyone can do much about at this stage, right? As if the vocals weren’t ambitious enough, this project also showcases the re-arrangement of most of the music in the two games. Die hard fans of the music of Final Fantasy, like myself, will notice this change right away (especially during battles). Most of the tracks are the same, but simply revived with lighter instrumentals or more powerful ones where needed. Opinions will vary, and I personally am a fan of the original soundtrack, but I also like the change as it keeps me wondering what each step of the game will sound like. Never fear, though, Suteki Da Ne is still in tact in its original form!

A bonus or two? Yes please.

Aside from grouping the two main game onto this disc, fans are blessed with two additional bonuses! One is the Final Fantasy X – Eternal Calm bonus sequence, acting as a brief movie that bridges the gap between the two games (story-line-wise). It was never released with the original game, but later was made available in English to exclusive PlayStation club members online. The second bonus is the Final Fantasy X-2 – Last Mission game, which is basically a short after-story adventure the girls go on. It was released as a repackaged PS2 title Final Fantasy X-2 – International Version, though an English version was never made until now. I have yet to dive into these two bonuses as I’m still in the hardcore game-play, but I am so excited because I remember being younger and jealous of not having access to these. Some other treats include a new 30-minute audio drama that plays after the credits in the second game and for fans that purchase the Limited Edition or Collector’s Edition, a printed artbook and Blu-Ray of all the remastered music is included!  If anything, this release is comprehensive to the series, which makes buying it a must!

A heartfelt story of the ages.

RPG titles have mixed reactions from gamers because while the adventure is lengthy and challenging, there is a lot of cinematic-watching and story-drama to endure too. I live for this. I remember crying when I was younger from the beauty of the characters and their lives, deaths, and romances. The story told is actually very engaging and endearing, especially since both games are long. The music in the series lends a great helping hand to gathering the emotions, but the romance between Tidus and Yuna is generally the theme of games and it is a great one. There are a wide array of characters to like, such as Lulu, Wakka, Rikku, Shuyin, Lenne, and so forth between the titles. Both games teach of many things, such as morals, friendships, politics, power, religion, and good versus evil. FF X-2, more specifically, seems to have been a move to gather more female fans since it stars a cast of three women as the main players, so the gender barrier is officially broken down for anyone to love the series.

Enough of my rambling on… both games were originally PS2 Greatest Hits, so believe me when I say that the price paid for this is nothing in comparison to all that one gets in a single package. Anyone who hasn’t landed their copy of this bundle yet is missing out, so definitely head over to Square-Enix’s Store and pick up a game that will definitely make a lasting impression for life.

Are Video Games Bad?

One of my favourite things to do in all my loser spare time is play video games. You’re looking at someone who owns every generation of PlayStation (LIE… I don’t have a PS4 yet!), a WII, an xBox 360, like three DS‘, and then all of the old relics, like SNES and Gameboy Color. All of this is to show that I AM a fobby super geek in designer clothes (I suppose it’s possible to be THAT diverse in live).

The beginning of the school year (2013-2014) was rough because Rockstar Games decided it would be a good idea to release Grand Theft Auto V at that specific time; WEIRD decision if you ask me, because all other focus in life was lost by millions all over the world. I know many will agree that this was the best video game of the year, best in the series, and probably best ever in general! That kept me entertained for a little while until Christmas came and I was gifted Ubisoft‘s Assassin’s Creed IV. The thing about this, though, is that I had never played the previous games, meaning I had much catching up to do! I already owned AC II, so I went from there and before I knew it I ordered Brotherhood, Revelations, and III off eBay for dirt cheap and finished all those titles too! [NOTE: I think this will explain to all my friends why I haven’t had liquor since the New Year began.] Anyway, I finally know why everyone loves Assassin’s Creed; it’s a damn good series! Finally, I’ve been looking through my older games and spotted one that I really would like to revisit: L.A. Noire, also by Rockstar. It’s been a good three years since that gem came out, but what an amazing game it was! This is what got me to thinking about writing this article…

The bottom line that I’ve heard all my life is that video games are bad for you. They are a pointless waste of time, teach and encourage violence, and damage one’s brain from being productive. Examples of people who commonly say this? Parents and teachers. I can see where both parties would get this impression from. Parents would much rather see their kids being physically and socially active (never mind there is the WII and xBox Live for this), and teachers will argue video games distract from homework, which is definitely true (as given from my earlier mention of GTA V and my classes clashing). There is truth in the fact that video games, especially ones like Grand Theft Auto, are violent and can teach violence, but I think one should keep in mind that the games are rated for their target and whoever underage gets their hands on them… well? To each their own. If someone decides to go shoot up bitches in the streets and blame it on that GTA lifestyle, I think that person is simply nuts, not influenced. Video games being damaging to the brain is a joke at best considering they stimulate the hell out of the brain. What kills me, though, is the thought of games being a pointless waste of time. I actually beg to differ.

The video game is a very misunderstood thing. Admittedly, thanks to the innovative tech of the Wii U, PS Move, and xBox Kinnect, many non-gaming people are seeing where games can be educational and physically exercising, as well as for making good bonding activities for families and parties. However, the conventional one-player action game that usually absorbs the big time gamer is so incredibly underplayed for what it truly is; a spectacular masterpiece.

GRAND THEFT AUTO

This game has such a bad reputation, it’s not even funny. It is well known for all of its vices, including reckless driving, gun violence, massive explosions, gross brutality, sexual obscenity, big time association with drugs, and, of course, very strong language. By that amazing sentence alone, even I have to admit this game sounds BAD. They say, however, never judge a book by its cover, and that statement holds so true here. While the earlier versions of the game were developed at a time when many concepts like cinematic sequences and in-game voice acting were not possible, GTA III and beyond definitely made good use of the changing technology. Bearing in mind the next-generation titles like GTA IV, the two DLC Episodes, and GTA V, here are some points that might surprise those who harshly judged this epic book by its brazen cover:

  • The geography of Grand Theft Auto is PERFECT! Rockstar Games especially seems to love the setting of Liberty City (aka New York in the real world), so much that the in-game map is shockingly true to real-life. I’ve driven by places in the game that I’ve driven by in real-life! Although the game uses fake monument and street names, if one learns their way around in the game, he/she could ACTUALLY relive the same footsteps in the real big apple. The developers have also mapped out Miami and California in other games too. It’s exciting to think which city will be next!
  • There is a lot of soul given to each character and a very deep story-line too. I think the biggest misconception is that the player gets in a car and start running over people and that’s the end of the game (this actually can be done, but the true game has storyboard missions to carry through). Many of these missions that end in violence and usually relate to drugs are the result of the complicated lives the protagonists have been given. They’ve all been men so far (Niko, Luis, Johnny, Michael, Franklin, Trevor, etc…), but men with families, love-lives, and a lot of messed up friends. For me, personally, I found the relationship between Luis (a straight Latino guy working as a bouncer) and Tony (his extremely gay boss) amazing in The Ballad of Gay Tony. It was an entire story arc about a straight man working for a gay man and helping him, as a friend, avoid the gangs and dealers out to get him. There is a lot of rich story behind GTA and each story teaches many lessons and morals that are completely relative to this day and age.
  • THE MUSIC! Yes, the one thing not widely advertised, but definitely extremely important to any fan of the series. There had to be a good enough reason for the player to want to jump into a car and drive from one end of the city to the next, and that reason would be the radio stations. It was a very small thing the game implemented initially, but is now a staple in the culture of the series. Each game features a collection of different radio stations that cater to different genres. In GTA IV, my personal favourites are San Juan Sounds (Spanish music), Electro-Choc (all clubbing beats), and K109 The Studio (the disco era reborn). Each station features about 15-20 different REAL SONGS that the developers fancy and play at random during different times of the day. What is very interesting is the fact that the game features some very unlikely music too, especially on the worldwide stations. Culturally, one will hear things they’ve never heard before and will love it all as well! Best example? THIS. The artists most definitely love it, as many of them now have very high-ratings on their YouTube videos which, according to the comments section, is all thanks to GTA.
  • If you break the law, they’ll come for you. 1-star, all the way to 5-stars; stars in this game don’t represent quality in this series, but how heavily wanted the player is by the authorities. Every crime committed will create a wanted warrant for the player’s arrest as police will arrive, followed by SWAT, the FBI, Interpol, and so forth. In the earlier games it was easy to lose the wanted status by simply speeding away as fast as possible from the cops, but in the newer games like GTA V, it’s tricky! I was really surprised when I found out something as simple as slapping another character could get the cops alerted and keep them alerted unless I cleverly hid  in the city. Of course, if one gets busted, the only real consequence to suffer is getting all money and guns taken away, but the point is that the game does not evade reality enough to let players think all crimes go unpunished.
  • The freedom to do what you want when you want. The words ‘open environment’ have been given a new meaning by games like this… Now, why would this be a good reason why video games aren’t bad? Well, simply because one can take the time to learn many things in the game. There are many sports and activities available in the game to sharpen real-life skills. Another thing is the feel of the cars when driving as each model is based on the real life counterpart. The most recent game, GTA V, allows players to invest their money for different outcomes in the game. as well as buy properties and assets. The con of the open environment is that, yes I can go to the bar, yes I can drive drunk, yes I can go to the strip club, and yes, I can have sex. However, there is this thing called living a little and this game definitely allows the player to do so!

ASSASSIN’S CREED

Up until the beginning of this year, I had no idea what this series was about and could have easily gone my whole life not knowing. That being said, it sure would have been regrettable if I didn’t end up finding out! The title of the series says it all; a set of stories that focus on a society of assassins. That’s pretty bad, right? Well, the real deal is why that society exists and what it stands for. Unlike GTA which always takes place in the present day and in modern Western society, the bulk of this series takes place in the past within different countries and across different historical eras. While the premise of the game is essentially murder, there are many valuable things this title brings to light:

  • Again, an astonishingly accurate geography. This is the very thing that won me over when I started playing… the sense of diversity and culture given in the environment. The second game and its spin-off counterparts took place in Italy during the 15th-16th Centuries and it is very surprising how accurate the details of Venice, Florence, and Rome are in these games. One can tell even by just knowing modern-day Italy as it has remained largely the same throughout the decades. Unlike in the GTA series where the developers used fake names and areas, Ubisoft very much stuck to what’s real by ironing out each district to be distinct to real life. The game also features places like Constantinople (now Istanbul, which this game taught me!) and England. Because of the diversity of the settings, each location features characters speaking the local languages, wearing the traditional clothes, and selling common items from the time period. One could actually impress their teachers with such geographical history.
  • Character’s, real and not real, that you’ll connect with. As with the GTA series, thus far the protagonists have been all men (DesmondAltair, Ezio, HaythamRatonhnhaké:ton, Edward, etc…), all with very intricate stories. Given that all of the games take place during past eras, it makes sense that the game would focus more on the male characters than the females, but there are all kinds of relationships within the story. I think the character everyone will always love the most is Ezio Auditore, who suffered many loses, but grew up quickly and became an icon for the creed. The developers followed his story up until his death, showcasing why and how he became an assassin, and that his ultimate realization was the importance of love in his life. Another personal favourite character for me would be Leonardo Da Vinci; yes, THE Leonardo! It might be fascinating to know that some of these characters and their stories WERE REAL! Ezio’s friendship with Leonardo, I thought, was very sweet. Even Prince Suleiman was a good entry into the story. Talk about effort.
  • A teacher’s dream: a game that takes insight into real history! Many of the events in the game are based off real wars, elections, politics, and big revolutions. What more could teachers want? The games introduced many kinds of characters that were prominent throughout the ages, such as the Courtesans in Europe and the Natives in America. I have to say, I found it interesting to see how the creators hand-crafted their own original stories about the assassins into real historical events. HOWEVER, the key is just that; not everything is real! One thing that may surprise players is that the series includes the Apple of Eden, a strange object with magical powers. There are also Gods revealed that controlled the Earth during a certain time and plenty of fantasy-like components hidden in the story-line. To me, it’s quite interesting because it’s such a collaborative mash-up of so many different themes and stories. It turns out the path of an assassin can be very educational after all.

L.A. Noire

I would have to be an ignorant asshole to forget this magnificent work of art created by Rockstar Games. L.A. Noire came right out of the blue and took the gaming world by surprise. The makers of GTA took a step in a very different direction, setting this game in 1940s Los Angeles in a film noir style, similar to a city detective movie. Because this game is the first in its series (rumors still suggest a sequel is on the way), it does not have as much hype as the previous two titles, but it did have a very profound impact on the video game world. This game also contains mature content, such as violence, nudity, and bold language, but there are so many great things about it that make me even want to go back and play it again. Here are some highlights:

  • Yet again, a very realistic map. Obviously, Rockstar cannot go wrong when it comes to their geography, but this project took a little bit more work as the map predates anyone alive on their team today! Definitely the look of L.A. will not be anything like what it is today, yet many critics have confirmed that the locations in the game are very nostalgic. It is refreshing to see the level of detail put not only into the world, but also into the objects, such as the old vintage cars made available. Even the music in the game add the perfect noir touch needed. Again, another great look at some history!
  • The realism of the characters is almost horrific. MotionScan made its wonderful debut in this game, a new technology using 32 cameras to film the actors as opposed to motion sensors commonly used for most other games. What does this mean? The main character Cole is ACTUALLY someone to develop a crush on because no one can declare the concept crazy, considering he is basically a real person! The biggest selling point of this game was the facial reactions of the characters, especially during criminal interrogations were the player would have to choose if the character was lying or telling the truth. The realism of the characters, especially throughout the many cut-scenes, definitely make for an appreciation of how much effort went into the art direction of this game.
  • Decisions, consequences, and an ultimate story. Another big seller for this game was the idea of the player having the choice to declare the outcome. Many video games are programmed with set missions and conclusions, but this one relied heavily on the player using all his/her best judgment to make the best choices in order for the story to progress. To me, it was almost stressful since screwing up could lead to the wrong person being convicted of a crime and a string of consequential murders occurring. It was very much trial and error for me. Beyond that, though, the story-line of the game was simply art. The title says all; a classic detective story unearthing many scandals and scenarios in a very entertaining way, much like a grand movie. The crimes are not censored in any way, and the player gets to live every step of the journey from the crime scene to the court room. Not to spoil anything, but the ending of this game is so tragic that it really makes the player CRAVE a sequel. In the end, L.A. Noire is so riveting that there isn’t a soul, young or old, who wouldn’t say it fails to impress.

In the grand scheme of things, I hope my points have illustrated that video games can be quite surprising to those who are not experienced with them. They can expose a lot of culture, religion, history, and morality lessons that influence the player for the better. They are most definitely not anti-social given that character and story development are so important in games, just like in shows and movies. Just like other forms of visual entertainment, the music and sound score are as equally important and can be very enriching to many. Some of these games urge players to make their own decisions that can have immense consequences or benefits, which can very much boost real-world confidence. I neglected to mention earlier that the entire tactical process of playing video games enriches the brain functions and allows for quick reflexes and processing. None of this is to say that video game are the holy pillar of society and can change the world, but they certainly cannot be as bad as people make them out to be. They certainly have great value to me, and I hope that (if anything) this article has been inspiring enough for people to go check out some of these titles. See some more below!

OTHER INSPIRING GAMES

There are many other games out there by many other developers that are so fascinating and deserve more appreciation. I couldn’t possibly write anymore on this topic, but here are a few great ones:

Uncharted Series by Naughty Dog
Mirror’s Edge by Electronic Arts
The Last of Us by Naughty Dog
inFamous Series
by Sucker Punch
Little Big Planet by Sony Entertainment
Catherine by Atlus Persona Team
Portal Series by Valve Corporation
Journey by ThatGameCompany