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By Stephen Hilger, July 3, 2014 0 Features, Staff Musings

(Editor’s Note: Stephen’s views are his own and do not reflect on Pixelitis as a whole, but we expect everyone to be kind and remember Wheaton’s Law.)

As most of the internet knows, the glorious Arin “Egoraptor” Hanson recently made a video comparing The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Of course, by doing so, he has inadvertently ignited many hideously malicious internet arguments.

But the video itself is definitely worth a watch. Hanson’s Zelda commentary is part of an ongoing series dubbed Sequelitis in which he analyses a game and its sequel to unearth exactly what went right and wrong. It’s a great series that’s a perfect mix of his established sense of humor and admirable intelligence. He’s really a great critic whose individual thoughts promote great discussion, which is one of the end goals of being a successful critic.

So there was no doubt in anyone’s mind (including Hanson’s) that a video where he lampoons Ocarina of Time would cause a great stir among nostalgic twenty-somethings and Zelda fans as a whole. OoT is commonly hailed as a masterpiece and is almost untouchable because of that.

And while I greatly enjoyed the video and agreed with him on many points, I thought I might try to compose a formal counterargument (much like the deformed character at the beginning of his video). Hanson certainly seems to invite debate, and I thought it might be worthwhile to explore some of the reasons why Ocarina of Time is so widely hailed as the best game of all time.

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By Stephen Hilger, June 30, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

It’s nearly impossible to properly introduce one to the Katamari series.

I first played We Love Katamari on a demo compilation of Namco games. With no proper warning, the sight of people with pill-shaped heads and dancing red pandas deeply scared me for reasons I don’t wish to explore.

But regardless of my fear, I was intrigued. I opted to play the game again, and once I started rolling a katamari big enough to eclipse a school full of sumo wrestlers, I too loved Katamari.

The game quickly transitioned from nightmare fuel into a relished pastime. Essentially, you roll a ball (or katamari) around that picks up small objects. As you get bigger, you can pick up people, animals, buildings, and eventually the whole planet. It’s a little disturbing to hear people yelling and seeing the chaos that your giant katamari causes all while happy music is pumping. Alas, that’s the game’s sense of humor.

And speaking of sense of humor, the King of the Cosmos is the one of the series’ best features. He is one of the funniest and most imaginative videogame characters out there. I could describe his nonsensical tangents or regal diatribes (and strategic uses of hearts) but it’d all be doing him a disservice. He’s an experience that must be witnessed firsthand.

Underneath all the absurdity, the game is simple fun with a great soundtrack and off-the-wall comedy. I highly recommend it, but don’t say I didn’t want you about the intro.

By Stephen Hilger, June 20, 2014 0 Features, Staff Musings

Telltale Games is doing all the right things. They’ve proven that the point-and-click adventure genre is still effective while also being one of the few studios able to showcase how videogames can be used to uniquely tell a narrative.

As I’ve written before, I’m an embarrassingly huge fan of the company’s iteration on Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead.

While The Walking Dead is probably what they’re most known for, Telltale has also enjoyed critical success with their take on the Fables comic series The Wolf Among Us, and are planning on tackling the Game of Thrones and Borderlands universes in the future.

Considering how willing the company is to turn full-fledged fictional worlds into point-and-click adventures, here are a handful of series that I think would translate well into a “typical” Telltale game.

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By Stephen Hilger, June 16, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

Choosing a favorite Zelda game is a nearly impossible task. I’ve found that one’s answer is usually determined by the Zelda game they played first growing up, though the most common favorite seems to be a toss up between A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time.

If you want hip points, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is your game. Nothing makes you more of a pretentious Zelda fan than the phrase, “I actually prefer Majora’s Mask.”

While Ocarina of Time is a quintessential fantasy epic, Majora’s Mask is a psychedelic deconstruction of its predecessor.  There’s an unsettling detachment to the narrative. Link, stuck in his childhood body, is tasked with saving a world he doesn’t know. The residents are all strange doubles of characters from Ocarina and thanks to the time-travel mechanic, only a handful of characters even remember Link. Can you still feel like a hero when no one recognizes you for your actions?

Majora’s Mask makes for a very special kind of sequel. It’s emblematic of Nintendo’s dilemma of having to follow Ocarina of Time, a game immediately hailed as “the best game of all time.”

Microcosmic in its irony, both the game developers and Link himself find themselves lost, wondering how to follow their previous adventure. What’s left to save when you’ve already saved the world?

Anyone who enjoys seeing games as art is required to pick up a copy of this N64 classic.

Though I will refrain calling it my favorite Zelda because frankly, it is way too hard.

By Stephen Hilger, June 9, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

Resident Evil has had a long, storied run. Among the annals of survival horror, the series has evolved, changed and mutated heavily over the years.

A recurring criticism of the series is its perceived abandonment of horror in place of action. Though I haven’t personally played Resident Evil 5 or 6, Resident Evil 4 seemed to be the major turning point in terms of tone, gameplay and almost everything else.

While I think RE4 is the perfect middle ground between horror and action, RE2 will always be my favorite. While the first game hasn’t aged well, the second retains its power. There’s something eternally haunting about how the game opens up; Claire or Leon are thrust into a ruined Raccoon City, surrounded by zombies and other abominations.

It’s not hard to die within the first couple minutes of gameplay.

While a lot of other titles would show what happened to Raccoon City in a cutscene. RE2 throws you right in and has you run through it, not sure where safety is or if it even exists.

Pair that with a great soundtrack, slightly more polished gameplay than the first game and carefully placed – if sometimes tedious – puzzles and you have one of the best RE games out there.

By Stephen Hilger, June 2, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

Rare had an impressive habit of consistently one-upping Nintendo in the 90s.

While you wouldn’t have one without the other, to me, the Donkey Kong Country series trumps Super Mario World with its ageless graphics, sardonic sense of humor and unforgettably unique soundtrack.

I believe Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest is the pinnacle of the SNES trilogy, though the first game does get major credit for being the only one where you can play as Donkey Kong. But it is held back by its flawed save system and slightly inferior level design when compared to the two sequels. The third one’s a blast but it’s starring Kiddy, who is among the worst sidekicks in the series–if not overall, as I mentioned in a post before.

Save for the flaws of the other two, DKC2 is an amazing game all around. Enemies range from pirate crocodiles to possessed, flaming swords and each world has immersive art design that includes scenery such as a gloomy forest and a deranged carnival.

My only grievance is that the save system still isn’t perfect and all the Kong family’s services have been tragically replaced by the internet.

But years later, I’m still playing Donkey Kong Country 2 with friends. And I only recently got the pun in the title.

By Stephen Hilger, May 19, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

One could argue that in recent years, indie games have enjoyed a massive spike in general interest. While that may be the case thanks to more readily accessible and intuitive development software, there’s something to be said of the gems that boosted the genre into an area of critical and commercial success.

One such gem is Supergiant Games’ debut title, Bastion.

Right out of the gate, Bastion is fun and addictive. Its gratifying action, large range of weapons and high replay value crafted a phenomenal game that proved to be one of the best games in 2011.

That being said, while Bastion is fun, the technical gameplay isn’t the main appeal for me. On top of its light-hearted action lies a dark and touching story that’s masterfully delivered in small spoonfuls, despite its constant narration. Oh and the narration. I think we can all safely say that Logan Cunningham’s voice as Rucks does weird things to us all.

Bastion is a game that just feels good. The action-determined narration, mixed with the inspiring art design and one of the best soundtracks ever make playing Bastion refreshing and humbling.

Few games draw you in as naturally. It’s like jumping into a cold pool on a hot summer’s day. In the frontier west. Post-Calamity.

By Stephen Hilger, May 17, 2014 0 Features, Staff Musings

(Editor’s Note: Stephen’s views are his own and do not reflect on Pixelitis as a whole, but we expect everyone to be kind and remember Wheaton’s Law.)

The current generation is a strange era for the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing experience.

MMORPGs, as they’re more conveniently acronym-ed, were once a mystically appealing genre. The very idea that one could play a game with a whole community of people online seemed to be the next big step in videogames as a medium. But now that WoW is a shell of its former self and Elder Scrolls Online debuted with more of a lame thump than a boom, perhaps the era of MMOs is coming to an end?

I find myself tracing the history of the genre and my own personal experience to determine what factors may be contributing to the death of the MMO.

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By Stephen Hilger, May 12, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

Final Fantasy fans may be known to bicker over which game in the series is the best, but only one entry was so universally divisive as Final Fantasy VIII.

Cloud and friends may have tossed established Final Fantasy tropes, but Squall and Rinoa stomped all over them. Other than some recurring summons and enemies, there’s almost nothing Final Fantasy about this game other than its title.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I respect the game for departing from past entries. It’s just a shame the territory it plunged itself into wasn’t all that compelling.

The characters are weak, the story is a mess, and the combat system (while unique) is a bad mix of overly complicated and easy to abuse. Turning enemies into magical cards shouldn’t be the most effective way to level up.

For me, it’s really the cast that prevents me from loving this game. Even as a kid, I remember being disappointed that all the characters were humans from the same background. Almost every other Final Fantasy game has a rich and diverse cast of characters that make the fictional world seem bigger and more interesting. FF8 is stuck in its own bubble of teen angst and amnesia.

But at the end of the day, it’s still fun to play. The soundtrack is great, some plot points are interesting and the card game Triple Triad is disturbingly fun.

Also, I may be alone on this, but I love Zell. He’s the one character I rooted for. He’s cocky for no reason, which makes him all the more lovable.

Thanks for doing your job, Zell. You’re not a chicken-wuss.

By Stephen Hilger, May 3, 2014 2 Features, Opinion, Staff Musings

(Editor’s note: There are going to be spoilers for Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

The practice of creating an effective horror protagonist in games seems like it would be a hard one to balance.

If they’re too capable, all semblances of tension and fear go out the window. Make a character too helpless, however, and you run into a situation where it’s often hard to have fun playing as them.

That’s why in the second season of Telltale Games’ critically acclaimed The Walking Dead series, Clementine strikes a chord for so many people. She’s an 11 year-old girl trying to survive in a zombie-filled world. Thanks to her small frame, she can only do so much about any potential threat, but she’s nimble, quick and can handle a gun when needed thanks to Lee’s training in the first season.

It’s those facts, coupled with her constant teetering between life and death, that make her one of my favorite horror protagonists in games.

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