Category Archives: Video games

Burkas in Final Fantasy? Why is Saudi Arabia Investing Billions in Gaming?

Saudi Arabia has just invested billions of dollars into gaming. In particular, the middle-eastern country has purchased millions of shares in Activision-Blizzard, EA, and Take-Two.

Because of this, gamers the world over are wondering to what end the country is investing in American game companies, with emphasis on those having published big-budget titles played by many gamers the world over.

If one wanted to be suspicious, they might suspect that it was a cultural power-play. Game companies tend to try to avoid upsetting investors, especially those with large stakes in the company. To this end, the game companies may feel a stronger inclination to avoid publishing content that would be insensitive to their investors. That connotation of self-censorship would likely impact any creative works the companies might produce, and there may even be added pressure to present Saudi Arabia in a more positive light.

What may also be relevant is that Saudi Arabia has a rocky relationship with Iran, to put it lightly. Considering this, it’s possible that game companies may feel an inclination to publish content portraying the Iranian regime negatively.

Of course, it’s also possible that Saudi Arabia is merely interested in increasing its wealth through investments, and has observed the gaming industry as it has been growing. Saudi Arabia is an oil-rich country, and this commodity has long been a source of its wealth. However, western countries are more aggressively pursuing renewable energy sources, and seeking to decrease dependence on fossil fuels. In light of this, investments may be a practical choice for Saudi Arabia to maintain its wealth.

It might just be another case of people who are already hugely-rich finding ways to make piles more money, without having to work.

If the games offered by the publishers that Saudi Arabia invested in (Activision-Blizzard, EA, and Take-Two) don’t interest you, this news might not be terribly relevant to you. This holds especially true if your primary source of games is from Japanese companies like Nintendo and SquareEnix.

It doesn’t seem likely that the women of Final Fantasy would be redone by SquareEnix to depict them in burkas. If that’s your concern, you can rest easy.

Does this year-old story indicate Joe Biden will be unfair to video games?

There was an article from a year ago on ComicBook.com that may be relevant now, now that Joe Biden is in the President‘s seat.

As you may remember, the controversy surrounding violent video games was another sensationalist story in the nineties concocted by the legacy media in an effort to prey on your parents, who likely didn’t know it wasn’t really a big deal. Since then, we’ve seen oodles and oodles of studies that showed that there was no link between violent behavior and violent video games.

The story quotes Biden as paraphrasing game industry executives with his own personal takeaways, rather than presenting us with what they actually said. How’s that for intellectual honesty?

By the way, the story is titled, Joe Biden Slams Game Developers as “Little Creeps” and “Arrogant”. Does a lot to cultivate the expectations, doesn’t it?

Here is what Biden told the NYT:

“And you may recall, the criticism I got for meeting with the leaders in Silicon Valley, when I was trying to work out an agreement dealing with them protecting intellectual property for artists in the United States of America,”

So, Biden wants to be friends with artists? Not so fast. Pay attention to what he says of these artists:

“And at one point, one of the little creeps sitting around that table, who was a multi- — close to a billionaire — told me he was an artist because he was able to come up with games to teach you how to kill people…”

If someone has already made up his mind that someone is a creep, there is no expectation that they’d be given a fair shot. But also notice the divisive use of a person’s supposed income level in a pejorative sense. Class warfare has long been an eager arrow in leftism’s quiver.

The article points out that Biden “proposed an additional tax on violent media, including violent games.” It’s interesting that Biden perceived that a form of expression was harmful to society, but felt no moral qualms with extracting the wealth it generates.

“And then one of these righteous people said to me that, you know, ‘We are the economic engine of America. We are the ones.’”

It’s apparent that the person that Biden sarcastically called “righteous” was speaking on behalf of workers all over America. Working Americans can be rightly described as the “economic engine of America”.

But notice how eager Biden was to divide him against other industries:

“And fortunately I had done a little homework before I went and I said, you know, I find it fascinating. As I added up the seven outfits, everyone’s there but Microsoft. I said, you have fewer people on your payroll than all the losses that General Motors just faced in the last quarter, of employees.”

That Joe Biden came specifically prepared to argue against that statement with data requires a generous suspension of disbelief. But putting that aside, notice his lack of respect for industries that are smaller in size than one of America’s largest companies?

And, for that matter, notice how he refers to wages as losses? I understand that a person can accidentally pick the wrong word, but it sounds as though it would pain him to admit that General Motors employees deserve their income!

“So don’t lecture me about how you’ve created all this employment.. The point is, there’s an arrogance about it, an overwhelming arrogance that we are, we are the ones. We can do what we want to do. I disagree.”

Joe Biden does not respect the people who create employment, nor does he respect those employed. He does not respect the game industry, nor does he respect those who create content.

If the Joe Biden sitting in the White House is the same Joe Biden from a year ago, if gaming were to thrive in the next few years, it would be in spite of Joe Biden, not because of him.

Gamers, Joe Biden is not your friend.

Japanese Police Arrest Man Over Illegal Pokémon

A shiny Sobble, image from Serebii.net

They say that it’s legal until you get caught. For an Aichi prefecture man in Japan, it just got more legal than he was counting on.

A 23-year-old man from Nagoya was arrested for running afoul of Japan’s Unfair Competition Prevention Act after using external software to change the ability of a Pokémon (a shiny variant of Messon, called Sobble in English), and sold the Pokémon to a man in Kyoto for 4400 yen (about $42).

Wow, you can get that much money for shiny Pokémon? I’m sitting on some bank, and didn’t even cheat to get it!

The same man reportedly made 1,125,000 yen (about $10,000) in about a year’s time. Assuming the same rate, that comes to about 238 Pokémon sold.

Is anyone else considering selling some Pokémon to supplement their income? Imagine how much it would rock to buy a house with money made by selling Pokémon! Working to pull it off is taking way too long.

Of course, there are some I’d like to hold on to, like Kona, my shiny Alolan Raichu.

Nintendo has previously announced their intention on banning those using hacked data in Pokémon Sword/Shield, as well as Pokémon Home. Because the Pokémon franchise has taken on paid subscription-based elements (features in Pokémon Home, Sword/Shield’s use of Nintendo’s online service), Nintendo now has a more financial incentive to ensure that the Pokémon characters exchanged using their online services maintain their integrity. Otherwise, players wanting legitimate Pokémon may feel cheated, and may possibly discontinue their use of subscription-based services.

There’s also the point that if Nintendo wants the competitive aspects of Pokémon to be taken seriously, they cannot allow cheating. Considering that they live-stream their competitions to an international audience, there’s a lot at stake.

My shiny Lugia is kinda making me feel like a jet-setter.

Is Activision Ditching Activism?

The social justice movement may have just lost an ally in the huge game company, Activision. The company has announced that it will be ending a program in its hiring process that considers at least one person from a group traditionally considered oppressed for each position posted.

Diversity is something that usually naturally occurs when one doesn’t consider race, class, gender, or what-have-you as part of the hiring process, but instead focus on merit.

However, there are businesses that certain groups generally find more appealing. As Kotaku points out in their article (linked to above), the game industry has long been dominated by white men. There is plenty of potential in that observation for the assumption that discrimination plays a huge role in their representation, but that would overlook the possibility that there are fewer qualified women and minorities that are interested in making games. There are many nuanced reasons for this, but people with different ethnic backgrounds tend to appreciate different trades differently. What’s more, women don’t seem as interested in game design, generally speaking, even though their interest in games is comparable to that of men.

While companies have long virtue-signaled on social justice issues, Activision was among the few to implement a policy to expedite diverse hiring. But now, they’ve decided to end the policy on the reasoning that it limits their ability to run their business.

Another point to consider is that the coronavirus lockdowns are making it far more difficult to run a business. Because of this, there’s far more at stake to hire strictly based on merit, to the likely expense of diversity hires. And if a person actually is an underqualified diversity hire, they’re likely sweating bullets now, knowing that their department may be downsizing, and they might actually be the least qualified among their peers!

Considering how bad the lockdowns are for diversity hires, the left might want to rethink their passion for lockdowns. Assuming, of course, that they actually gave a care for minorities.

When it comes down to it, diversity-hiring is an expensive form of virtue-signaling which appeals to the premise that diversity is properly expressed by a room of people who look different. An overemphasis on diversity-hires is symptomatic of a certain toxicity in corporate culture that assumes bad intentions in the event that certain diversity quotas are not met.

Most companies in the western world don’t really care what race or sex you are, but mainly consider whether you’re the best fit for the job. The reason for the diversity hires is because those companies are being put under a lot of pressure. Mainly by people who don’t actually know how a business is run, or understand that few people who run a business are wealthy.

Having said all this, it’s hard to ignore that there is an under-representation of blacks in game development. I know of blacks that are highly interested in games, and have a high degree of creative ability. I’d like to see more of them get into game development, because I’m interested in seeing what they come up with.

Terraria Developer Blocked From Stadia, Withdraws From Platform

The developer of Terraria, Andrew Spinks, has been banned from the Stadia platform and from other Google services. The developer retaliated by declaring the bridge burned by Google themselves, and decided to no longer develop for the platform.

If you’re wondering what Stadia is, it’s like a streaming service for video games. There’s no need to download the games, they are just streamed, and you play them on your device. I can justify digital download games, and that’s primarily what I’ve been doing on Nintendo Switch. But the dealie where you don’t even store the game digitally comes off as some creepy Great Reset mushugganah where you’re expected to own nothing and somehow be happy.

The news of Spinks’ decision to withdraw from the platform (after apparently being unfairly banned from it) comes days after Google decided to pull the plug on its own internal game development studio.

I’ve never had to interact directly with Google personally, but from what I’ve heard, it’s just about impossible to get a human being at Google to actually see your complaint. Therefore, it’s a challenge to get an account reinstated if it got a strike, or worse, a ban.

This is ironic considering that Google is enormous, and rich enough to easily buy their own country, if they so wished. Certainly, they could afford to pay the wages of a few more staffers who would interact with customers. You know, customer service? But as companies get bigger, they can upset more of their own customers, and not see much in the way of backlash. It’s a way large companies become too “big-picture” for their own good.

Here is what Andrew Spinks has to say about the matter on Twitter:

This wasn’t just a simple banning, thousands of dollars in content associated with the account has been lost, and his associated material linked with Google (Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive) has been lost. And, to make it all worse, Spinks hasn’t even gotten an explanation.

What I’d be pointing out here may be obvious, but perhaps his business should not have leaned so heavily on Google, or any external company, for that matter. While having a YouTube account is understandable, even small businesses have gotten custom email accounts. Then there’s the decision to store sensitive company information on the cloud; why would a person do that? If you have your own personal data storage, why wouldn’t you use it? To go to Best Buy and get an external hard drive would be trivial, and it would certainly be far more secure than storing files on the cloud.

But now, Google messed with the wrong guy. Terraria is one of those games that’s ubiquitous, available to play on smartphones, game consoles, PCs, and even graphing calculators.

But now, not through Stadia. Stadia has become one of the few platforms that the developer of Terraria won’t support.

It’s a matter of personal philosophy, but I suspect that Google could use this idea to solve their own problems: When making a product or offering a service, you make sure that the customer is getting a quality product or service. You don’t take the risk of upsetting the customer, whether it’s someone big, or an apparent nobody. While this may rub some people the wrong way, efforts to offer a quality product is of greater priority than most company policy. Managers usually have this understanding when resolving customer disputes.

If you take risks where it becomes more likely that you lose the customer, you don’t just risk losing the sale, you also risk losing future business. Not just from that customer, but from potential or current customers that that customer may interact with.

Your company policy is not more important than your customers, or the quality of the product that you offer. Google is likely to learn this lesson the hard way, soon.

“Those who sit up high have the farthest to fall.”
-Egyptian proverb

In the Early 2000s, Microsoft Tried Buying Nintendo

When Microsoft’s Xbox brand was first getting started, things weren’t looking so great. There was relatively little third-party support, for a long while after launch the number of triple-A titles on it could be counted on one finger, the company had a poor corporate image, and cracking the Japanese market was a difficult hurtle.

Microsoft decided to do something about it, and they decided to shop around for second-party support. And it so happened that Nintendo was one of the companies up for consideration. So Microsoft sent some reps and approached the old Japanese company, and it went about as well as you’d expect.

Nintendo pretty much laughed at the offer. Hard.

Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft president, explained it this way: “Like, imagine an hour of somebody just laughing at you.”

Because, of course they did. While explaining as much may only benefit the random boomer whose gaming outlet is strictly PC, Nintendo is not merely some random game development studio, they are one of Japan’s oldest, richest companies.

While PC gamers may chalk it up to it being Nintendo wanting to do things their way, there’s more to it than that. The fact is, Microsoft has nothing Nintendo would want. Nintendo has already been a massively-successful company, for a long time. Not only that, Nintendo has so much money that they can fund their own projects, and not have to turn to external financing. If you can imagine a person being so rich that they can just buy a car outright, or purchase their entire college education up-front, it’s like that, but on a much larger scale.

One can imagine the confusion of Microsoft execs who, after having thrown their money on the table with the full expectation of compliance with their wishes, were instead met with laughter.

When American companies meet Japanese companies, the difference in cultures becomes apparent. As I’ve pointed out before, the Japanese are more strongly characterized by a desire to produce a superior product. While Americans tend to view profitability as justification for a company’s existence, the Japanese tend to be more altruistic in philosophy. Japanese companies usually justify their existence in their belief that society is a better place for the services and products that they provide, and Japanese workers are generally sincere in their desire to excel at what they do, whatever they do. Exceptions to the generalities exist on both sides of the ocean, of course.

When Microsoft initially tried winning over SquareEnix, they ran into some hurtles at first. Mostly because the Microsoft reps sent over to Japan to SquareEnix treated their meeting like an American business meeting. You know the kind: where a bunch of overpaid suits loudly boast about being “in the money”. The Japanese weren’t as fond of that, and the SquareEnix employees distanced themselves from them, resulting in a huge setback between the two companies.

After the meeting, a SquareEnix rep met with a Microsoft rep, and asked him, “What is your philosophy” when it comes to game-making. If you understand Japanese corporate culture, you’d understand such a question for the blow that it is.

Considering all this, it becomes clear why a company like Nintendo would not allow a company like Microsoft to purchase them, though one wouldn’t expect an ethically-challenged American conglomerate to admit as much: For the owner of a Japanese company to sell his company to a company like Microsoft would be like betraying all the people in his employ who count on him to maintain the company’s cultural identity.

On a related note, Sony Computer Entertainment became headquartered in California, USA. Now, you see the game company tending more towards western notions of woke culture, alienating the company’s initial Japanese culture, who is turning more towards Nintendo for games.

Oh hey, I’ve got an excuse to use this piccie, again:

As the situation with SCE develops, it’s likely to become yet another case study in what happens when a company compromises with its culture.

The fact is, corporate culture does matter, and there are people out there that wouldn’t give up their company’s identity, even if presented with a huge mound of money. I don’t know how many of America’s wealthiest people would understand that, but I suspect that it might not be very many.

The Right Way to Play Pokemon Sword and Shield

This was not an easy guide to write. It’s obvious why; it’s because shortly after the outset of the game, you’re placed into the Wild Area, where you get so many team choices, it’s easy to be sunk by indecision.

This guide takes on the difficult task of determining the best team to use to play through the game out of the many, many different pokemon available. It’s not about building a competitive team, it’s about picking among the most practical choices for a fast, efficient playthrough so you can quickly get to the meaty, delicious postgame.

This guide makes the assumption that the DLC bonuses found due to the purchase of the Expansion Pass aren’t being considered. If they were, the matter of smashing your in-game opponents would be largely trivial. If you have access to the Crown Tundra, you’d have access to randomized over-leveled legendary pokemon, and much of the game wouldn’t pose any challenge.

If you’re in a hurry to win, but wanted someone else to do the nerding-out for you, then this guide is for you.

The first pokemon on this team is Sobble, and it’s easy to find, as it’s a starter pokemon, and the starter for this particular run. If you pick one of the other two, you might be getting a pokemon you prefer, but then this team might not work.

As much as I’d like to recommend Scorbunny for you, the starter for this run would be Sobble. It’s great on it’s own, especially thanks to the fact that its final form, Intelleon, is fast and hits hard. But Intelleon works well with the rest of the pokemon on this team, so the nod goes to Sobble.

Shortly after starting out, you’re going to be heading to the Wild Area. The place is huge, but it’s possible to get to the next destination quickly. But before you do, there’s a couple items you’ll want to seek out before leaving.

One of which is the Thunder Stone. The Thunder Stone is located on an elevated area on the northeast of the Lake Miloch area. It’s in a red item ball near a cliff.

The other is the Fire Stone. The Fire Stone is located in the Motostoke Riverbank area, north of the bridge, on the west side of the area by a group of three pipes. It’s also in an easy-to-find red item ball.

Both these items will come in handy for other pokemon on this list, and when you have them, you’d be glad you had these items on hand.

The next pokemon on this team depends on which version you are playing: Vulpix (the Fire-type Kantonian variant) if you are playing Pokemon Sword, or Growlithe if you are playing Pokemon Shield. Either one can be found on Route 3.

These two pokemon may have been overlooked when GameFreak was balancing the game, and both break the game in the same way. Either one can be evolved immediately after you capture it using the Fire Stone, giving you a pokemon with end-game base-stats before the first gym, albeit at early-game levels.

As if that weren’t sweet enough for you, you can teach these pokemon any move in their level-up learnsets, for free, at any Pokemon Center. Both can learn Flamethrower, but Arcanine can learn Crunch and Flare Blitz, and Ninetales can learn Nasty Plot and Extrasensory.

Also, they have a type advantage against the first gym.

The next pokemon for this team is Tyrogue, which you can also find on Route 3. The idea is to evolve the guy into Hitmonchan. However, Tyrogue is one of those pokemon with an abstract evolutionary method, and it might end up becoming something you weren’t planning on if you weren’t paying attention.

Tyrogue starts evolving at level 20. If its Defense stat is higher than its Attack when it starts evolving, it’ll become a Hitmonchan. There are a couple methods you can use to help this to happen. One is to catch a small handful of Tyrogue, and go with one which has a Defense that is significantly higher than its Attack. Also, you can send your Tyrogue to a Defense Seminar Poke Job to give its defense stat a boost.

Hitmonlee is a great pokemon for its high Attack and Speed, but the reason Hitmonchan works better for this playthrough is because it learns punching moves of different types which can help Hitmonchan against a variety of opponents. Ice Punch is super-valuable, and if it also has Thunder Punch, Hitmonchan will have coverage that most opponents won’t be able to resist. Hitmonchan learns these moves at level 24.

Drilbur is located in Galar Mine. No ridiculous evolution method required, Drilbur evolves to Excadrill at level 31. But when that happens, Excadrill picks up the super-useful Steel typing, and its attacks come harder from its high Attack stat. At level 40, Excadrill learns Swords Dance, giving an already-mighty pokemon the ability to sweep entire teams with ease.

Are you skeptical that Pokemon’s signature hug-em-squeeze-em, Pikachu, made the team? Remember the Thunder Stone you picked up in the Wild Area? Because we’re about to pull a Lieutenant Surge and use a Thunder Stone on a Pikachu right after catching it!

Now, why would we do that? Because Raichu benefits similarly to Ninetales and Arcanine, that’s why! You’ll have a long list of awesome moves to teach it at a Pokemon Center, including Thunderbolt, Nasty Plot, Nuzzle, the list goes on.

You’d have yet another endgame tier pokemon with an excellent moveset, with the only drawback being that it has early-game levels. And you still haven’t made it to the first gym.

By the way, if you’re playing the Shield version, you might want to settle for an Eevee, instead. It seems GameFreak decided to be cute and made the Sword version into the Pikachu version, and the Shield version into the Eevee version, by giving Pikachu a 5% appearance rate in Sword, but only 1% in Shield. The rates are the reverse for Eevee in the Shield version, so it might not be a bad idea to go with Eevee in the Shield version. Jolteon is still a strong Electric type, but it takes longer to teach it it’s power moves. But hey, you’d save the sanity you might have lost searching for a Pikachu.

This team is rounded out by a Morgrem you can catch much later on in Glimwood Tangle. You can also catch an Impidimp in the same area, but Morgrem is already evolved, and comes at a higher level. Morgrem evolves to Grimmsnarl at level 42.

If you can obtain a Morgrem with the Prankster ability, that would be strongly preferred, because then he can help you turn things around against strong opponents by giving priority to status moves. Aside from that, his typing makes him an excellent choice against this game’s many strong Dragon types, as well as Psychic, Dark, and even Fighting types that appear often in the late game.

That team should get you through the game, with power-leveling at a minimum. But here’s the point in which some of you might be asking, “But what about…” There are a lot of great pokemon that could have made this team.

A. Lot. Of. Them.

The Wild Area gives options, and plenty of them, and much of the difficulty in writing this guide had to do with considering from among the many pokemon that are available there. There are many viable pokemon that could have made the list.

Some players might be wondering why I didn’t include Zacian or Zamazenta. Those two are seriously strong pokemon, but neither of the two are available until the post-game, so they don’t get considered for a playthrough. Eternatus is another strong pokemon, but by the time you catch it, you’re one battle away from the post-game, and it’s comparable to what would already be on your team.

Do you like Scorbunny? So do I. But Ninetales and Arcanine offer amazing power for the point in the game that they become available, and it’s hard for another pokemon of the same type to compete with that. Gyarados packs a wallop, and it boosts its own stats with Dragon Dance. Gengar hits hard and fast, and comes with helpful type immunities.

And there’s more. The list goes on and on.

But hey, now you know what works, so you don’t have to guess around.

The Pokémon Company to Start Banning Cheaters

I’ve repeatedly heard the sentiment that if Nintendo didn’t want us to cheat, they wouldn’t have made certain Pokémon so hard to get.

Cheating has long been an ethical dilemma among gamers, though among game makers, the matter is pretty clear. But if only there were some way that game makers could make their stance clear…

…Oh, hold on. Yet another one is doing just that.

The Pokémon Company has just announced its plans to roll out bans for those who used “altered data”. These bans would impact Pokémon Sword, Pokémon Shield, and Pokémon Home. These bans would be either temporary or permanent, and no refunds would be issued in the instances in which violators were using paid services.

What I can say about this is, it’s about time. Pokémon was already the single highest-grossing intellectual property of all time, and with it, there’s a huge competitive community. There are yearly competitions, some of which live-streamed, to audiences all over the world.

If The Pokémon Company wants their games to be taken seriously as a competitive e-sport (as much as one could take such a thing seriously), they cannot allow cheaters to continue to run about unchecked.

This is an especially serious issue for Pokémon Home, elements of which are renewable paid services. Particularly impacted would be the GTS (Global Trade System), the economy of which is driven by the rarity of certain Pokémon. If players could duplicate rare Pokémon at will, their rarity becomes diminished in a sense comparable to over-inflation, and any incentive to use the paid service for long becomes effectively diminished.

As it has been, Pokémon Home’s GTS feature is like a game of hot potato, where players pass around an obvious hack until they get something they’re willing to settle for, in exchange for the legit Pokémon that they deposited to begin with. Somehow, I doubt that that was the kind of experience Nintendo had in mind when publishing Pokémon Home.

But now they want to do something about it? It’s about time. In fact, they could have done something about it a lot sooner. Because in doing so, they’d be enforcing their own Terms of Service. You know, the rules of the game that people are paying to play and use Nintendo online services for?

But if banning a bunch of kids will make them cry because it turns out that there are consequences to cheating, then maybe Nintendo is going to be the ones teaching them the lessons that their parents aren’t.

And maybe the games will become a lot more fun once the field is thinned out by banning those with no regard for the spirit of the game.

Win: Study Finds No Link Between Violence and Violent Video Games

Most of us would likely file this under “No Kidding”, but a study out of UTA has found that there is no causal link between violent behavior and violent video games.

The study found that the only correlating factor was due to the fact that males, who were more likely to play video games, are naturally more predisposed to committing violent acts.

I think we can agree that this study would have been more helpful a decade or so ago, when the virtue-signaling moral busybodies were making an issue out of this. However, a 10-year study would have been more valuable in providing insight into the longer-term effects of video games. It’s like the difference between waiting a year to hear “you’re right” versus waiting 10 years to hear “you’re definitely right”. At least we’ve won that battle in the time since the study started.

But here’s an idea: Why don’t we wait until after we have the conclusions of studies before considering placing restrictions on content creators?

The usefulness of this study doesn’t just apply to video games. Other forms of entertainment and artistic expression benefit from the case being made that people aren’t influenced by entertainment media. This study bolsters the case strongly, by flying in the face of the expectation one may have that video games might do more to influence one to violence, by their interactive nature. As the study finds, they don’t, and it really seems to be the case that sadism comes from within.

That video games don’t influence a person’s outlook is obvious (putting aside the rare cases of those who are especially delusional). This is because video games are obviously just made-up, and usually don’t even serve the purpose of cultivating a person’s expectations.

I’ll be honest, I had no expectation that I could beat people up with colorful laser-beams and space-ninja acrobatics.

Review: Touhou Eiyashou: Imperishable Night

Th08cover.jpgCover art.

Can we agree at this point that making games easier doesn’t make them more fulfilling? I ask this because someone showed me his new copy of Mario Kart 8 that rewards him for playing a no-lose mode without input.

The Mario Kart in question isn’t the only offender in this regard. There was a recent Mario game that awarded the player with invincibility if they lost enough times on one level. I think that the best games to represent this generation of gamers would be the clicker games, which award players with prizes just for clicking, and sometimes even allows them to play without input.

Because of this, I’ve decided to write up this review of Touhou Eiyashou: Imperishable Night, the eighth entry in the Touhou series. It’s a game that harkens back to a time when men were men, women were women, and Burger King cashiers were who-knows-what.

Touhou 8 is a Danmaku Shooter, which means that you’re going to have screens full of bullets coming at you, and the real test is in your ability to avoid beautiful patterns of projectiles.

touhou 8 stars.pngDeal with it.

If you’re the kind of guy who thinks himself above games that look cute, you missed out on the masterpiece that is The Wind Waker. You’d probably also let your guard down because you’d think this game is easy just because of its art style, only to get whooped on the easiest setting. Let’s not kid ourselves here, Touhou is hard. Like, monumentally break-your-face hard. I wanted to get that out there before someone decides to give it a try only to discover that it’s actually challenging to win, and then complain to me because this game about anime girls that can fly and fight each other with fireworks made them feel bad.

When it comes down to it, that’s the great thing about Touhou. It’s challenging from beginning to end, and there’s no way to cheese your way through it. So if you want to beat the game, you actually have to be good at it. It’s not like the American education system that gives you credit just for showing up and reciting Marxist propaganda. So when you make it to the ending where these girls are celebrating with rice wine (Just how old are these girls?), it actually feels like an accomplishment in which you can take true pride. You’ll have earned the right to see the ending, and it’s more rewarding than just finding the results of a simple Google image search.

Touhou 8 has four difficulties:
Easy: The difficulty for newbies and those who want to chill, but is still hard,
Normal: Usually ignored.
Hard: A tertiary setting that’s usually ignored in favor of the next one.
Lunatic: Touhou at it’s most rewarding, most YouTube runs are probably on this setting.

Aside from multiple difficulty levels, Imperishable Night offers variety in gameplay in the form of having four teams to choose from, with one character being the lead, and the other swapping in when focusing. A playthrough has different possible bosses depending on characters selected and certain other conditions, such as the fact that the true final boss doesn’t show up unless you’ve beat the game already and didn’t use a continue on the current playthrough. It’s another way in which you don’t beat the game unless you actually get good at it. There’s also an extra stage which is harder than anything else the game throws at you, which is unlocked by beating the main game.

touhou 8 mokou.pngNot many players make it to this part.

For those who think that games like these are too hard, there’s a practice mode that allows players to take on stages or specific attacks, so that players can improve and play more consistently. It’s not about making it easier on the player, so, once again, if you want that rewarding thrill of having beaten the game, you actually have to get good at it. This isn’t one of those click-and-win travesties that’s passing for video games nowadays.

The main thing that Touhou 8 tests is the player’s focus. There is actually more to the gameplay than “the screen fills with bullets”. There are actually patterns to attacks, and each attack is unique. Not only that, the attacks are pretty well telegraphed, so that when the player loses a life, it feels like less of a cheap shot and more of a mistake on the part of the player. After all, Touhou is a game of skill, not of rote memorization. There is no being trapped in a no-win scenario, but if that does somehow happen, it should be pretty obvious to the player how they could have avoided it. As hard as the game is, if you lost, it’s pretty much your fault. There’s no excuses, and excuses don’t let you win, anyway.

Another great thing about this game is the music. The game’s soundtrack has a nostalgic oriental theme to it, and it’s very fast-paced and upbeat. I don’t know what the consensus is when it comes to video game music, but to me, it’s a valuable part of the experience. When I ask someone who has played a game what they think of a certain track, and they tell me that they had the sound off, they’re telling me that they missed out.

While the same general thing can be said for each of the Touhou games, I picked out Imperishable Night for this review. Why this one? It’s my personal favorite because of a combination of different factors, such as the theme of the game being more epic (Searching for a moon that goes missing and battling an immortal princess? Cool.), and this one introduced some of my favorite characters, such as Reisen, which is an interesting character on several levels, and her concept is very appealing to me. It shouldn’t be hard to understand why.

Th155Reisen.pngReisen – her gun has bunny ears.

So if you want to take a stand against the oversimplification of video games, a great place to start is by purchasing a copy of Touhou. And by that, I mean actually support the guy who makes these games by buying one. Touhou is one of those games which, like Cave Story, is genius even though the whole thing is made by only one guy. Yeah, this guy who goes by the moniker ZUN has written, composed, and programmed the Touhou games by himself. So if you want to play his games, go ahead and support him by buying them so it’s easier for him to buy beer.

Score: 9 / 10