#344: The Halo, Part 2

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This post is a continuation from my previous one, so if you haven’t read that one yet, you might want to so that this one makes sense to you.

Halo 3 forge mode changed my life, the same way playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare made me one with the cool kids at school I wanted to be friends with. It felt like I was on the same level as them, and my skill in this game mattered to them in some ways. If I did well in Call of Duty or Halo, that meant I was skilled and they would respect me in some way. Video games were then an avenue towards social acceptance. My parents likely didn’t realize this connection at the time, but when I was online playing multiplayer matches on my Xbox on the living room TV, it was because I saw it as a way for me to make unlikely friends. Even to this day, video games have brought together people and communities I didn’t realize were possible.

Halo is where all my high school friends played. It feels so nostalgic to me not necessarily because of the game’s quality, but because it represents something to me, an era of gaming, that’s passed and won’t be repeated again. We’ve all moved on and lead different lives than we did then, and I don’t have the contacts of everyone I used to have. Joe, for example, and Steve are nearly impossible to communicate with these days, and they were both a huge part of that time period of my life. It’s odd to think back on those days and the people I spoke with then, how drastically that has changed from here to now. I talk to different online friends, and times have changed with my habits and proclivities.

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#334: The Back Tattoo

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I’m pretty sure I’ve already written a blog post called “The Tattoo,” and in order to avoid repeating myself over and over again, I came up with a new title for this one, called “The Back Tattoo.” And I actually have pictures this time to match the description I’m giving it! So I’m excited about that.

Over this past weekend, Alex got a new tattoo, this time of our shared favorite character from the Persona 5 video game, Makoto Niijima. Makoto is the student council president of the game’s high school setting, and she joins the Phantom Thieves as their adviser and planner. She’s strong, smart, and deeply loyal and caring towards the people she loves. She’s also totally badass and comes up with brilliant plans that ultimately save people’s lives. As a character, I’m a huge fan of hers and so is Alex. When we were playing Persona 5 over the summer together, it was fun to talk about the characters and share elements of the story with each other. I used to text Alex pictures of their text conversations and general story happenings to keep her in the loop on things, and Makoto was one character that Alex seemed to take more of an interest in.

Having a smart character balance their maturity with their desire to fit in with others makes for a super relatable story. As you can see in the tattoo though, she’s definitely not the kind of character to pull punches. She enters the fray with nuclear magic, aikido training, and her overall intelligence to strategize and assess the situation. Now that she’s in tattoo form on Alex’s body, it’ll always be a reminder of the strength that’s required to survive and how powerful she really is. I’m super excited to see it finished in November when all is said and done.

#328: The Subscription

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Paying a subscription to a service feels like having partial ownership of it, depending on what type of service you’re paying into. If it’s something like Hulu or Netflix, I can’t say for sure how that feels, but it’s not the same as say, owning a subscription to World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV. In those games, you are a paying customer, and you get to pay with your wallet if things don’t go according to what you like. You have to, really, because ultimately you need to justify the extra $15 or so you’re paying a month towards something. If you’re living a frugal lifestyle, that $15 could be going towards groceries or gas or insurance or what have you, but instead you’re paying it towards a temporary permission slip to play a game. Is that entirely fair?

In my opinion, yes, because they fill the games with enough content and replayability to make it all worth it. If you are frugal, then of course it doesn’t work for you, but for me, I can give away a little bit of money a month to make sure I have a stable gaming community with my friends. Sometimes just being part of a group that’s larger than your own fills you with the right kind of team spirit to continue forward.

Being a part of a guild, which I’ve spoken about before on here, is a great feeling when the guild is active and supportive of each other. Paying money to get that access is totally normal, at least in my opinion. Money shouldn’t be an obstacle to that kind of social interaction, but I understand that Blizzard needs to keep their immense server database running somehow.

And if you’re wondering about this day’s picture, it’s because I searched “sub” and then “boat” and then chose something pretty. That’s all it takes!

#326: The Claw

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Using the clutch claw in Monster Hunter: World is going to be subject of this latest blog post, because I’m running out of ideas! Here’s the first picture I saw that works for “monster” in the free photo library.

The clutch claw is one of the latest additions to the game with the Iceborne expansion, and it promises to make up for the changes Capcom made to flash pods in Master Rank missions. They nerfed flash pods so that they don’t down flying monsters any more, so the clutch claw was added as a way to compensate for the changes. It’s a fantastic mechanism that allows you to tenderize certain key parts of monsters while also forcing them to drop slinger ammo. Many weapons received new moves in Iceborne, and a lot of them involve using slinger ammo for the first time in an effective, strategic way. I like being able to use the slinger burst with my greatsword, for example. It’s an incredibly powerful move and it enables me to do lots of damage by sacrificing my slinger ammo in the process. Without the clutch claw, I’d often not have enough ammo to use to make the move work.

The clutch claw also has a move that allows you to slam a monster’s head into a wall or terrain, like a tree or something like that. I haven’t quite mastered that move because it’s a bit complicated and you need to be very careful with how you use it, and carefulness and caution aren’t exactly my strong suits. But I still try my best, and with the help of some guiding videos on the Internet I’ve been able to learn the ways of the clutch claw. Capcom really made this game difficult to compensate for its aura of epicness. And it works!

#324: The Legend

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Reaching legend rank in Hearthstone has been a dream of mine for awhile, though I’ve never quite achieved it yet. It’s still one of those few gamer achievements that’s eluded me, like getting above gold rank in Overwatch competitive league. At least in this case, this is a fairly achievable thing that I can imagine myself getting. It just involves a lot of grinding and working towards a goal, without stopping anywhere in the middle. If I actually put some effort into it, I’m sure I could reach legend some day with the right deck. And then I’d memorialize that deck forever, if it were to happen. I’d keep the deck in my collection as a standard and then wild deck, with the title “this is what got me to legend, I will never get this rid of this ever.” Although that’s probably too long a title to have at once. I think it only allows a few words at most!

I mention getting to legend because I’m currently playing Hearthstone, and it’s something I can maybe see myself achieving this season. It’s within my reach and I can almost taste it. Unfortunately for me, there are only a select few amount of days left in the season, as each season lasts a month and you’re given until the end of the month to reach legend before your rank is reset back down a bit and your progress is mostly lost. The rank reset has been more forgiving in recent months, after they updated it so that you didn’t lose all of your progress. Now that I’ve made it to rank 7 this season, I’ll probably drop down to about 13 or so when the season resets, unless I can manage to climb up the ladder higher before that happens. We’ll have to see!

#306: The Banjo

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This blog post won’t be about actual musical banjos, though I did have to look up whether the plural of banjo was banjos or banjoes in order to write this sentence.

My very first video game system was the Nintendo 64, which my uncle got for me on my fifth birthday (I think). I remember being incredibly engrossed in Super Mario 64. I still hold a certain nostalgia for 3d Mario platformers because of that era. And there were so many games like it that came after! Donkey Kong 64 and Banjo & Kazooie are the two that spring to my mind quickly, and they’re both modeled after the genre Super Mario 64 practically invented. Banjo in particular feels nostalgic to me because I used to love that game, even though I never beat it. The music, with its classic country twang, feels right at home in this type of game. It makes sense and it fits Banjo’s aesthetic. The people behind Rare Studios really took Super Mario 64’s mold and created their own colorful, energetic game out of it. I’m not saying that Banjo-Kazooie is a fantastic game, but it’s recognizable to me the same way Mario and his games are. The game is full of magic.

So, when news dropped a couple months ago that Banjo & Kazooie were coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I was totally excited. Banjo was my biggest pick for Smash for a long time, and I knew it was unlikely because Rare Studios was traded over to Microsoft years ago. Microsoft is of course a rival gaming company to Nintendo, but to see them cooperate to allow this to happen shows that these video game companies are willing to put aside their (financial) differences to make great moments like this happen. I’m grateful for that, and I wish others would take their example.

#302: The OST

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I love listening to soundtracks, or OSTs. I have a deep fascination in the different songs that games and movies have, and I love listening to them when I can to bring back the memories of those experiences. When I listen to a song from a particular level, for example, it brings me into the situation, and it’s like I’m experiencing it all over again. Nothing will top that initial, first experience, but there’s value in re-experiencing the world and its wonderful moments when you can. I think that’s one of the key rewards of being into soundtracks. Though, it limits the amount of music I can discuss with other people because my recommendations are mostly built on personal novelty and nostalgia, which vary by the person.

As I write, I’m listening to “Chasing Daybreak,” a new song from the Fire Emblem: Three Houses video game. It’s no secret how much I love that game, but I don’t think I’ve talked about its soundtrack at length before.

There’s also “The Apex of the World,” which plays during the final map for each campaign and features a remixed “F√≥dlan Winds.” It’s intense, and the stakes couldn’t be higher during this encounter. I love when music matches the emotional beats of the level it’s a part of. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze did that really well with its soundtrack; it seems to be a Nintendo staple to have great music.

Then there’s “Between Heaven and Earth,” another track that plays near the end of each campaign during the battle at Gronder Field. It’s particularly memorable because it plays during a tense, consequential battle, and it features some character deaths on the opposing side of whichever house you are playing as. It’s always uncomfortable to have to see deaths on either side, especially after you got to know these characters.

#297: The Vanilla

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The classic experience. When people think about World of Warcraft, they probably think about the original game, the game as it was when it first came out and people flooded the streets of Orgrimmar and Stormwind, recognizable faces polluted trade chat, and Horde and Alliance alike waged war against Ragnaros, Kel’Thuzad, Nefarian, and C’Thun. This age, from 2004 to 2006, is referred to as “Vanilla WoW,” and the most basic (but not in a complexity sense) and fundamental aspects of the game trace their roots to this time period.

I never had the chance to play during this era, so my experience here is restricted. However, recently, Blizzard has released what’s called “Classic WoW,” which is included in the regular, retail WoW subscription price. “Classic WoW” is a separate set of servers that are tailor-made to restore the game as it once was. It preserves this two-year span of history forever in the state that it was at the time. For fans of the simpler days, before sharding took over and when servers had their own communities, this is ideal news. Blizzard’s decision to finally endorse and give in to classic servers was huge, considering their prior resistance to the idea. While I still dip into the retail game from time to time, I don’t currently have a subscription. If I did, I would consider jumping into Classic WoW to get a sense of how things were before probably going back to how things currently are. While I’m not saying the current iteration of the game is perfect, there are certain mechanics and systems to the retail version of WoW that I’m not sure I’d be able to do without, and I just learned flying again too!

Regardless, I respect Blizzard’s decision and the huge wave of support that Classic WoW has received is great to see. I’m a fan.

#296: The Crimson Flower

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Playing through Fire Emblem: Three Houses was an emotional experience. The ending almost made me cry, and reading all the different paired experiences for each character combination gave me just the kind of cathartic feeling I was looking for at the end of the game. Certain characters traveled the world and adventured together, some became romantically involved in unlikely combinations, and other characters went solo for a bit, accomplishing their dreams in their own ways. It was inspiring and made me feel things for my team that I had worked so hard to protect throughout each and every mission. I made sure to keep all my characters fairly overleveled through the repeatable battle missions.

My friend finished the same campaign, but the majority of his cast died in the process in that fateful final battle against the archbishop in her dragon form. The only surviving members of the Black Eagle house were Linhardt, Ferdinand, Edelgard, and the professor. I feel bad for him, but at least it was the final battle and at least he made it to the end after all. I’d feel bummed if I made it that far and couldn’t beat the game after all my effort and time spent building up my team.

The music is bombastic, epic, and over-the-top in all the right ways. It draws you in and gets you invested in the story of each mission, fitting appropriately next to the atmosphere they wanted to create.

The story was engrossing, nuanced, and memorable. It’s one I’ll remember for awhile. I’m also pretty glad I happened to side with Edelgard in this conflict, considering her philosophy was pretty agreeable (besides the obviously questionable parts of it, like waging war against your former classmates to reshape society). But overall, I liked the shades of grey that the story presented and I feel that the designers did a solid job of capturing that.

#293: The Season, Part 3

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But the best part about summer, and about looking back on the summer, is the ability to reflect on it later, to think back on the good times and the bad and change for the future. I know I’ll be doing a lot of changing over the course of the next few days and weeks, considering school will have already started by the time this blog post goes up.

One thing I’m particularly thankful for is the fact that I’ve kept this blog running in spite of everything, in spite of not having as many ideas of what to write about because I don’t have work going on. I was worried for a time that I wouldn’t be writing as much, but I’ve managed to keep steady and only drop below 2 scheduled posts I think once or twice over the whole season. I like to keep a long, steady list of scheduled posts in the bank, so that I don’t need to worry about keeping my blog up to date all the time every day. I consider it my 300 words a day, even though I don’t always write every day.

The summer was full of Uber Eats deliveries, long Monster Hunter nights, and Fire Emblem battle grinds during the day. It was full of Hearthstone ladder climbing, dog walks, and the occasional trip outside our apartment’s little bubble. It was full of birthday presents and celebrations, family visits, and family gatherings. I’d like to think that, when all is said and done, this long, eventful 10 weeks was worth it, that in spite of the sunken cost of living during this time period, I was able to make the most of the time I had. I believe that wholeheartedly, even though sometimes I doubt myself. I guess that means it’s not wholehearted then? Oh well.