Metroid: Samus Returns [First Impressions]

-by Dylan DiBona

It seems like a large portion of the internet was and still is dedicated to hating Nintendo’s latest remake, Metroid: Samus Returns. After a group of fans spent years recreating one of the least spoken about Metroid games, Metroid II: Return of Samus for the Game Boy; Nintendo quickly shut the project down for no explicable reason. Players praised the fan-made remake dubbed AM2R or, Another Metroid II Remake. But the inexplicable became the explicable when at E3 2017 Nintendo revealed not only Metroid Prime 4, but their very own remake of Metroid II coming quickly for the Nintendo 3DS. Being an avid 3DS lover and visionary for the system, I had always hoped Nintendo would make a 2D Metroid with 3D visuals. You see, I’m one of the weirder Metroid fans who only likes the 2D games. So did I get what I wanted? Does Nintendo’s remake deserve all the hate?

Answer Sheet:

First question: Absolutely

Second question: Absolutely not

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To be honest, I have a lot going on in my life at the moment and couldn’t quite grasp the polish of this remake until my second or third time picking it up. The Game Boy is obviously an admirable system, but not too many games on the system scream “PLAY ME!” anymore. I appreciate the original Metroid II for being a fully realized game in the series for such a small system, but I wanted an update to the classic forever. The story always intrigued me the most out of every Metroid game. Here we have Nintendo, the family friendly company, basically making a story out of their main heroine committing genocide- or xenocide in this case.

Samus Aran is tasked with killing every single Metroid on their home planet SR388 after the threat of this species became apparent in the first game of the series. In typical Metroid fashion the game gives you an opening of about three minutes and then just leaves the player alone for the rest of the game. It’s an almost pure gameplay experience.

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I can tell you happily that the gameplay had been modernized and improved. I was a little fearful of the “free-aim” ability that allows Samus to essentially have a 360 degree free moving gun, but it works quite well. The new Aeion abilities are fun so far too and allow Samus to scan for secrets and electrify her armor.

As my faint memories of the original game tell me, there were 99 metroids to kill. They were simple enemies for this reason. But so far it seems there are only 40 in this remake and are more difficult because of this. Each metroid feels like a mini boss and in every new area they gain new abilities.

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Also new is the “melee counter” ability which is something else I had lukewarm feelings about at first. Many enemies will spark right before jumping towards Samus. But if you hit the Y button at the correct time, you can counter them and fill them up with energy beams. I didn’t want to be dependent on this ability since it seemed so many enemies needed it, but luckily this isn’t the case.

My last praise goes out to the map. Metroid is a series all about wandering and this game is no different, but what’s great is how this remake doesn’t force players explore without any clue for too long. I once remember being lost in Super Metroid for about an hour and a half until finding out that a certain area of spikes could be walked through. No such thing will happen in this game. There are places called “Chozo Ruins” which will reward the player with some directions to the next metroid if they’ve already defeated one. Think it’s too easy? Just skip them then! Chozo Ruin directions are totally optional. This combination of free exploration and wandering succeeds in my book.

People like me who vastly prefer the 2D entries of the series have been starved since 2004, and that was a remake as well. The last original 2D game was Metroid: Fusion in 2002. As somebody who never finished the original game, this title feels just like a new game, and I feel safe in assuming that anybody who has beaten the original will get the same fresh feeling.

While I’m still early in the game (I still don’t even have the classic Varia Suit), I’m glad to say that this remake of the second Metroid puts up competition for my favorite game in the series which is currently Super Metroid. Samus Returns has beautiful visual and audio direction, exciting spices in it’s gameplay, a truly fun map to explore and an interesting tale to tell. I can’t wait to keep playing it.


If you haven’t yet, I strongly recommend picking this title up. If you want to jump into Metroid but don’t know where to start, Metroid I has a fantastic remake called Metroid: Zero Mission for Game Boy Advance and Wii U Virtual Console. Then you can jump on into Samus Returns for 3DS! Thank you guys so much for reading.

Until next time.

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When is it Time to Stop Collecting?

-by Dylan DiBona

I believe the year was 2012 when I first discovered TV and Lust on YouTube. I didn’t understand it at first, but people online with video game collections would post videos on their finds and favorites. I always had a lot of games as a kid and continuously traded them in so I could keep playing more. But after exploring the gaming side of YouTube I decided I would not simply buy a game and trade it away, I would start collecting.

collection

Starting around the age of thirteen I hunted online vendors for good deals, watched countless YouTube videos like “Top 10 Hidden Gems on PS2” and played games endlessly. It was a fun way to really experience my favorite hobby. So why am I bringing this up?

I think I’m done!

Now don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I’m never buying another video game again. I’m still going to wait in line for a SNES Classic and I’m still going to buy Danganronpa V3. 

When anybody starts collecting anything, there’s that initial phase of “where do I start?” You make careful decisions on where to begin, move on from there and sooner or later you know what you like. After knowing what you like and experiencing everything in that series or genre, you “branch out”. After branching out and catching up with everything you love, things will get boring.  At least that’s what happened to me!

Let’s use a train as a metaphor for collecting. Starting the engines and going forward may be slow at the beginning, but once you’re in the middle you are zooming. Finally, when you get to your destination it’s time to slow down again until you come to a full stop.

I’m not at a full stop quite yet, but I’m definitely slowing down.

I think it’s time to “stop collecting” when the excitement and sense of wonder for the thing you are pursuing fades away. I was never one for the obscure video game systems. I don’t care about the Sega Mega Drive, TurboGrafx- 16 or stuff like that. I found out early that I loved Nintendo and pursued that with as much passion as possible. I then expanded into Sony until my current point of feeling fulfilled.

When I look at my video game collection I don’t really see anything unnecessary or worth disliking. I’ve amassed probably 150-200 video games that I enjoy and to me that is quite the accomplishment. I’m moving bedrooms soon and when I rearrange all of my games onto their respective shelves, I will take a seat and look back on what I’ve collected over the past seven years of my life.

As collectors we put so much pressure on each other to grab anything we can, experience it for at least five minutes and share an opinion. I never played video games like that. Some people post videos on YouTube like “Games I Bought March 2017” and they showcase 20-30 games. With work or school and other real life responsibilities, how do you play 20 video games in one month? You don’t. I usually ended a month with 5 or less purchases, gave them whatever free time I had and spent even more time cooking up a real opinion on them.

I’m a bit of an entertainment glutton and I was once on a mission to “experience everything worth experiencing”. If a game had a 90 or above on Metacritic, that meant it was “worth experiencing” to me. But now I think my mission changed to “find out what I like and soak it all up”. It’s a much more personal and cozy objective, and honestly as a collector it is immensely satisfying to say “I’m done”.


As always, thanks for reading.

Month of Less Failed

-by Dylan DiBona

For August 2017 I tried to dedicated myself to experiencing more through less. I “banned” myself from doing any of the following:

  1. Needless snacking
  2. Playing video games
  3. Buying things on amazon

It wan’t going to be easy, but I wanted to really boil down who I am and what I like to a simplicity. I believe when it comes to gaming, books and movies that “less is more”, so I wanted to see if that is true for people as well. I failed though.

Day 9 came and so did the urge to play some more Dragon Quest VIII and Danganronpa 2. Unfortunately I fell into those urges, but at least I had some fun. Playing games after a 9- day ban was refreshing.

If you find yourself falling victim to “gaming burnout”, I think taking a week hiatus should fix that right up.

Gaming is a beautiful thing and I guess I wanted to do it while I still had large chunks of free time. I plan to try a month of less soon again!

At least I read two and a half books! I also got my own writing done and am editing it in hopes of getting it published someday.


I apologize for the lack of blogs; I haven’t been feeling very motivated lately. I will get back to posting more once I feel up to it! As always, thanks for reading.

YOUR Gaming Coping Stories!

-by Dylan DiBona

A while back Athena from ambigamingcorner and I asked all of our readers to send us their stories on how playing video games helped them cope with something in their lives. Below are the questions and a compilation of excerpts from answers, completely anonymous like we promised.

If you would like to see my original content connecting to this, click here.

  1. Has a video game ever helped you cope with something difficult happening in your life? What was happening?

— When I was a sophomore in college, I was dealing with the death of my grandmother—the first loss that really impacted me in a major way—and a recent change of academic major that I was not at all certain about. It was a stressful time, but I found some reprieve while playing video games.

— Out of nothing, persistent nautical vertigo struck, while at work […]. I then developed debilitating anxiety because of doctors not figuring out what this crap is. That’s where all went downhill. [My girlfriend] cheated (several times), with a resulting breakup, quarreling, disagreement about who’s keeping the dog and apartment.

With a chronic disease, responsibilities and hell at work, [I] more than flirted with alcoholism as self-medicating the anxiety[…] I am, after a 4-year ordeal, out of this mess, after cutting ties, acquiring a new place to live, and in general reordered my life into a more comfortable existence (still dizzy as shit, though).

During this whole shit-storm, I found (de)focus, escapism (especially from the vertigo, still does today on my word days), and a small sense of achievement and control through playing RPG’s and building/management-games. Most notably Skyrim, Cities:Skylines, Zoo Tycoon (lol, I know).

I gradually said “no” to more and more destructive social gatherings, in favor of staying at home nurturing my favorite hobby, video games (and caring for my dog).

A life-changing realization grew in the back of my head, that the pointless, downward spiral would eventually prevent me from enjoying my favorite pastime at some point, I[…] changed behavioral patterns, slowly, one thing at a time.

— Yes. During my second year of university. I had been struggling with a bad break of OCD that started during my last year of high school, and it was made worse by the new environment.

— I’ve actually been using video games as a coping mechanism for almost my whole life. It all started when I was 5 years old. [I had been hospitalized and was] terrified out of my little mind, but when I picked up a video game controller for the first time, it offered me a happy escape from the traumatic situation. When I was released from the hospital, my parents got me my very own console, and video games have been helping me cope ever since. My parents always made sure I had the latest and greatest video game things, and I have fond memories of spending an entire summer playing games with my mom.

… Cheerful video games, like Diddy Kong Racing & Banjo-Kazooie, helped me forget about my constant fears of mortality during [my hospitalizations]. I refused to tell anyone (including my parents) about my fears. They didn’t show it, but I could sense that the situations were very difficult on my parents, and I didn’t want them to worry about me so I tried to seem strong.

[Between my health problems and being bullied at school], I started bottling up my pain in the form of volatile repressed rage. All that anger at least made me feel strong. Soon, I shut out my few friends and shut myself away from everyone, even my best friend. Games like Grand Theft Auto San Andreas and Resident Evil 4 helped me by giving me a safe outlet for my silent aggression. I also started blogging about video games online during this time. It was a blessing to connect with other people through this.

After I graduated college I [pursued] my first career type job in a small town I never felt welcome in. The work environment was hostile… My repressed rage frequently lashed out on toxic people, and… Eventually I was hauled into the unstable boss’s office and given a rather callous layoff notice (officially due to “economic reasons”)… In the unending days that followed, I felt like less than nothing as I dealt with my misery alone. All of my former coworkers wanted nothing more to do with me…The only thing that kept me sane during that time was World of Warcraft. At least I could still achieve things in the virtual world. In a few weeks, I had no choice but to move back in with my parents while looking for work. For their sake, I pretended everything was okay until even I was convinced.

I landed a dream job (I still have it too) and got back on my own two feet. It was an overwhelmingly positive work environment, [and] I got paid much more than my previous job, [yet] while I was all smiles at work, I was a lonely train-wreck at home… One distressing night, it just popped into my messed-up mind that I should just try this […] game I found in a discount bin…

— My father died on Christmas Eve when I was senior in high school. I was so angry. He had been sick for a long, long time, and I remember praying – I was actually a fairly religious person at that point, if you can believe that – that he would be healed. As Christmas came closer, and his health declined, I became desperate and my prayers were more frantic. A Christmas miracle… please? I’m not sure I could have asked for that any harder. It seems silly now, asking for a miracle just because it was going to be Christmas, but… Well, it was not only earth-shattering when my father died, but also a colossal cosmic slap in the face that he died on Christmas. I guess you could say I lost my father and my faith all in the same day. It’s not something I’d recommend, to say the very absolute least.

My dad and I had always been close, and I was so lost. More than lost. I’m not sure there’s a word to describe how I felt. But it was one whirlwind week, and after the wake was over and the funeral was over, I was left in my house alone with my grieving mother. I always stayed up late with my dad, talking or watching movies, sometimes playing games, and he and I were the only ones who made it to midnight on New Year’s Eve. It was so strange to be awake on New Year’s alone, my mother having gone to bed long before midnight struck. I popped in Metal Gear Solid 2 because it was the game that was in the console and I didn’t even want to bother deciding on a game to play. I played that game from around 9:00pm until around 5:00am the next day. It was like instead of my dad, I was spending New Year’s with Solid Snake.

— I was away at school. The stress brought up practically every insecurity I had, which took a toll on my sense of self. Old thoughts that no one would like me, I wasn’t worthy of friendship or love all came flooding back.

— A few years ago I was in an abusive relationship. My girlfriend took away the little self esteem I had and made it so I needed her approval for everything, or else I felt completely worthless. Although I felt completely worthless anyway. For a long time I was under her total control. I wasn’t allowed to be my own person, I belonged to her. She used my intense feelings of guilt to convince me that I was the worst person on Earth. And through it she had me convinced that I was always the one at fault for her actions. Even after she broke up with me she basically used me as her slave and made me feel like I was worthless. At this point self harm became a problem and I soon realized that it was clear I suffered from depression. And again, I had no control over my life. Because of her I was in a constant war with the people I cared about. My withdrawal from close family and friends and my constant dependence on my girlfriend caused so many fights I can’t even remember what most of them were about. For a long time there was no one and nothing I could turn to.

— Yes, by escape

  1. Was there one video game in particular that you were drawn to? What was it?

—  I had recently picked up The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Game of the Year Edition for pretty cheap. I knew nothing about the franchise, but the game quickly captivated me.

— Skyrim

— Yes. WildTangent’s Fate. It was a pretty ubiquitous PC game in the mid 2000s. I got hooked on the series and then its spiritual successors, Torchlight and Torchlight II (no surprises there, since Fate’s creator went on to develop those two games).

I think what made me want to try it was that you couldn’t perma-die, instead, you could be resurrected at the cost of experience, money or fame. If you didn’t want to lose any of those things you went back to the surface and had to fight your way down again. Spending experience and fame made you resurrect on the spot you died, whereas taking a wealth penalty resurrected your character on another dungeon level nearby

— Dragon Age: Origins

— A few months after she had broken up with me I discovered retro games I could play in browser and soon learned how to emulate. The game that stood out to me the most was Metroid on the NES.

— Yes; Tetris

–Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

 

  1. Was there a particular part of the game that you really connected with at the time? What was it (the characters, the story, the ability to feel strong, the way a character acted, etc.)?

— I was drawn to Oblivion because it offered a temporary virtual life. It was easier to get lost in a RPG because there were so many things I could focus on, so many paths I could follow. Instead of constantly thinking about loss and the future, I found something to distract me late into the night and in-between classes (in my car with a laptop that could barely run the game at medium settings).

— Creating an alter-ego, a hero. A strong, selfless someone, who always did the right thing, while caring for others. A kind of naive idealist, looking back. But it helped.

—  A few things. I realize now that it wasn’t a particularly strong game plot-wise, but it was really grindy and it helped me calm down and get lost in the dungeon-crawling. I died a lot, but the way the game worked made me feel some sort of accomplishment when I learned how to beat a level or boss.

The setting was also a big draw. I mean, this was my first fantasy RPG, but I was already into the standard fantasy trope where a regular person can grow into a hero. Another thing is that a E-rated fantasy setting helped me avoid my OCD triggers

Another point that made me connect was that the player character had a pet, one that you could take care of and took care of your character as well. I’ve always been an animal lover and I think I identified with that

There is also the soundtrack. It doesn’t have that many pieces, but they are great (the ones I always remember are O’Carolan’s The Clergy Lamentation and Captain O’Kane. I wasn’t in a good place, I had sort of stopped caring about the things that made me happy, like music, and the game made me curious about music again.

— From the moment I first saw the [main character], my frantic mind settled… I wished I was as strong and beautiful as she was. I became absorbed in the story and grim world, completely forgetting my selfish misery. I was shocked to discover the character seemed to behave like I did, and she made the same painful mistakes as me… As I guided her along her first linear journey, it felt like I grew with her character and learned more about myself.

…I started working out and eating healthier with the goal of becoming stronger like my hero. The healthier lifestyle had the unexpected benefit of stopping my panic attacks and controlling my depressed feelings. I no longer felt weak or helpless, and for the first time in my life I was proud of the strong woman looking back at me in the mirror.

[I gained a lot of insight into myself and the world, and I’ve learned to better handle some of the scarier aspects of the future].  I’m truly not sure where I would be today without that game’s influence. It’s almost like the main character punched the defeated mess I was in the face, and then dragged my self-loathing ass over to life’s Continue screen.

— The game was serious enough and challenging enough that I needed to pay attention and could be completely absorbed by it, but it wasn’t so difficult that my emotionally-exhausted brain couldn’t handle it. I think the other thing that I loved was Snake, because even though he wasn’t like my dad at all, the fact that he was so tough and strong despite terrible odds, and survived even though he shouldn’t have… well it was a rather attractive theme at the time.

— For those who don’t know, Metroid gives the player freedom. A whole planet to explore on your own terms, and if you can’t go somewhere, you find a powerful that lets you. Nothing can stop you from going where you want to go, doing what you want to do, and being your own person. That was something I had lost while with my girlfriend. She was like Ridley, this monster who took everything from me but in the end just couldn’t steal my independence and strength. And Samus’ arc taught me so much about myself. The series starts out with Samus realizing her potential and finding who she really is. As the series goes on, she starts to lose herself and doubt her ability to do good. The baby in Super Metroid serves as a parallel to this arc, and its sacrifice is really a showcase of Samus’ ability to do good. And as I got to these games in the series, I realized how much of myself I saw in Samus. My guilt had been used against me and Metroid helped me realize that. The next game, Other M, is Samus’ low point. She is dependent on an abusive figure almost the entire time. The game’s linear design shows her lack of freedom under this figure. He uses her emotional weaknesses to gain control over her. right after his death, the game opens up and finally starts to feel like the old free-roam exploration games we got from the NES to the Wii. The next and last game in the timeline, Fusion, ends feeling like a true free-roam Metroid experience. This goes hand in hand with the ending, where Samus regains her self confidence and independence. To me, this is exactly the goal I work towards every day. Learning to love myself and moving on from the abuse I suffered is so important. Metroid, with both its gameplay and story being about freedom of being, helped me realize this. It changed my life forever. Without it, I probably wouldn’t even be here.

— The characters. I role-played as myself, and despite always feeling like I need to prove myself in real life, the characters in the game all accepted me. One even fell in love with me, and never asked me to change, which was a somewhat new experience for me. And feeling competent even though there was so much going wrong…. I wanted to feel that way in my own life, and tried to take heart from the main character on the screen, who was dealing with so much more dire things than I was and handling them infinitely better than I was handling my own life. It’s strange to think that a character I role-played wound up being a sort of role-model, isn’t it?

— Yes –the lack of emotional investment required during a year of intense teen mourning, just keep stacking the blocks

  1. Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about your video game playing habits during this time?

—  I’m fairly certain Oblivion was the only game I played during this time. While I used a video game as a form of escape, it didn’t keep me from my other tasks or responsibilities; rather, it was a safe outlet I had control over during a difficult period of my life as a young adult.

— Before this (and part during, at the first half), I enjoyed multiplayer games a lot. Like battlefield, Guild Wars, Dead Island et cetera. Competitive games. I rarely play them these days. It became less and less rewarding or recreational for me to play them.

Now I almost exclusively enjoy single player games in a dimly lit room, while my SO watches Real Housewives in the living room (it must be lack of stimuli that makes them create a problem out of nothing).

— I hadn’t played many video gamed in the previous 3 years due to school and other activities, so while I wasn’t new to video games, it felt like rediscovering them a bit.

— Video games will always be my escape from life’s depressing issues. They give me worlds I can save, fictional characters to meet, and interesting stories to be inspired by. We all have our own issues to deal with, and my small problems don’t mean a damn thing compared to what hells other innocent people have to go through. I’m going to do whatever I can to help those people in my life I can, and stop wasting my life worrying about what fate is lurking ahead.

— I began studying the level design of Metroid. I realized why I and other people found it fun and intriguing, and now I am studying to become a game designer. Nothing would make me happier than being able to make others who suffer from depression or abuse feel better and maybe even learn about themselves.

— I have always been thankful that an uncle I barely know who came to visit from California gave me that game. It is the only way I survived that time of loss, sexual trauma, emotional trauma, bullying, and depression: I escaped to survive. Thanks Uncle. Thanks Tetris.

— I was pretty depressed, and so not a lot of my habits were healthy. School was out for the summer, and I literally played one video game for about three days straight (I wish I was joking). I realize now how depressed I was, because I barely stopped to eat or sleep. But I played through the game about three and a half times in a week, and at the end of it, I did actually feel a little bet


Thank you everybody for your honesty! It means the world to us as not only writers but gamers. As always, thanks for reading.

Why We Connect to Video Games

-by Dylan DiBona

It took a lot longer than we expected, but Athena from ambigamingcorner and I finally finished our project on the connection between video games and people who are going through hard times or have extra challenges in life. We compiled a list of the the stories which you can read here; Athena is going to be focusing on the more scientific and factual side of things which I like to think as the brain of our project. For my half I wanted to do what I believe I do best, write from the heart. So, why do we connect to video games?

Image result for zelda 1 art

The possibilities are as endless as the horizon.

I noticed a trend in all of the responses; people either experiences loss, familial problems or mental health issues. Maybe this is a rude blanket statement, but people who don’t experience these things are “whole” on the inside. I think that people like myself who went through or still go through tough times find that parts of them are missing, and not only is enjoyable, but it’s satisfying to fill those missing parts with video games.

Most games today take bits and pieces from all mediums; cinematics from movies, reading from books, music from- well music, and animations like in cartoons. But there’s one key element of video games that make them unique, it’s like the Chemical X for the Powerpuff Girls:

Interactivity

If you have a video game on your shelf, it needs you to be beaten and have those credits roll. I wrote in my own story about coping with video games that I like the sensation of being needed. Anybody can pop a DVD in their player and click play, but it takes a certain somebody to have the skill and wit to beat a video game (without a walkthrough). Sure you can watch a let’s play on YouTube, but that isn’t gaming. As an avid reader I do not want to buy a kindle because I’d miss the sounds of picking up and turning a page, the weight of the book in my hands or finally sticking a bookmark in and seeing that I’m more than halfway through.

Image result for breath of the wild

What’s beautiful about video games is how the memories and emotions we have with them can literally be replayed at any moment. When I go back to Kingdom Hearts 2, I’m instantly transported back to my childhood home where things were peaceful on the surface but familial tensions were at an all time high. And unlike other mediums, when replaying a game you can always have a new experience. Replay a song and the same notes will always be heard, but replay a game and maybe you’ll do certain things completely differently or maybe you’ll find something new and exciting.

It’s not even solely the gameplay that keeps us hooked; many people in their stories shared their connections to the stories and characters within our games. For people like us, gaming is the very best entertainment possible. It’s a pleasure, a passion and in our darkest of times it’s a coping mechanism. Maybe I’m biased, but to me video games are the most living forms of entertainment. It’s kind of like Toy Story where the toys are actually alive and full of emotion. These virtual worlds can be preferable to the real one sometimes.

Video games are beautiful. Never forget that


Okay guys I hope you enjoyed my homage to not only gaming, but to all of you for proving once again that video games are an amazing passion to have. Thank you to Athena; I know our project had a few speedbumps, but we got to our destination! As always, thanks for reading.

Obesity: A Dark Side of Gaming [2/2]

-by Dylan DiBona

So there I was in my new dorm, my new “home” with three kids I never knew. I made the stupid mistake of not going to the first party of the college year, which snowballed into me not making any true friends. Mind you, this was all after high school, a time where I also did not make any new friends. I was clinging onto my elementary school buddies, but now I was able to see them even less.

I was grossly overweight and like I said last time, I had braces on my teeth that would still last me a few more months. Self-confidence didn’t exist within me and after going to an all boy high school for four years, girls were an enigma. To make matters even worse, I fell absolutely head over heels for the girl who lived in the dorm directly next to me. We had a few classes together, she was kind enough to not treat me like a loser because of my weight or obvious shyness, and she had outstanding eyes. Every thing I’m telling you culminated into one of the worst periods of my life.

lived inside that dorm for the vast majority of my day. I would sleep nine to eleven hours, skip classes if I didn’t feel like going, and wouldn’t get food until my stomach absolutely screamed for it. I was terrified that my crush would see my fat braced face, so I stood in and played video games. My hair grew, my skin went pale, despite my plentiful sleep I had dark bags under my eyes, and I was beginning to lose weight because I was eating far less. I reminded myself of L from Death Note.

Image result for l death note

I did the opposite of what I should’ve done. I should’ve tried my best to socialize, but I didn’t. At nights I was so distressed that I would go for walks, far away from campus so nobody could see me and it gave me time to think.

One day when I visited my hometown on a certain weekend, somebody said “Dylan, you lost some weight.” Before I knew it multiple people were saying that. The pain and horrible decisions I made jump-started a small weight loss. I thought to myself “why stop?”

Those late night walks became runs, my one meal per day wasn’t a cheeseburger, but instead a chicken wrap with water (I always drank solely water). I also began eating more meals albeit smaller ones. I bought a 25 pound weight (too heavy to start with) and began working out my biceps while watching Dexter’s Lab on Hulu.

With the smallest amount of effort I said goodbye to the 300’s of weight. I wasn’t happy yet so I kept going. Even though I got my braces off, lost some weight and bought some fancy new clothes; I still never garnered the courage to admit my feelings for the girl quite literally next door. It’s one of my biggest regrets to this day, and when I packed up my bags to leave college forever I knew I’d never see her again.

I dropped out which was officially called a “leave of absence” (a decision I actually don’t regret). I kept up the healthy eating and pleaded with my father not to buy crazy snacks when he went grocery shopping. Fast forward to today while occasionally exercising alongside healthy eating and I currently weight 196 pounds. I haven’t touched the “one hundred” realm of weight since I was about 11. It’s an ongoing battle, one I’ve been failing lately by eating unhealthily. But I have a new found sense of dedication and hope to one day look half as good as Little Mac.

So what’s the point of this article? For me to brag? For me to relish in my previous sadness? Absolutely not. I want to tell everybody reading this that yes video games are the best form of entertainment out there, but don’t let them take priority over your health. Gaming fluctuated between a coping mechanism and the actual problem.

Sure the virtual worlds we explore are cooler than boring old Earth, but that doesn’t mean that our world isn’t beautiful too. Life is beautiful so go out there and explore, have fun. Don’t be like me and let a ball of bad feelings and self-hatred start your weight loss, start it because you want to!

As always, thanks for reading.

Five Best JRPG’s

-by Dylan DiBona

I know I hadn’t quite advertised it heavily, but I did a celebration this month called “JRPG JULY” where I wrote such posts like:

So You Want to Get Into Persona?

Tales of Symphonia Review

Dragon Quest V and Perfection

So You Want to Get Into Kingdom Hearts?

The month was a moderate success and I was happy to do it. Towards the latter half I felt my inspiration going down, but I figured there was only one real way to end JRPG JULY; by discussing the very best of the genre.

DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT LIKE FINAL FANTASY AND I HAVEN’T PLAYED MANY PS1 JRPGs. THIS WON’T BE YOUR TYPICAL LIST. ENJOY!

 

5. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Is “cult classic” even an appropriate title anymore? In a rare as hell moment, two powerhouse video game companies (Nintendo and Square Enix) teamed up for one amazing JRPG. Instead of the typical dramatic story of any game in the genre, Super Mario RPG relied on comedy and witty dialogue.

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For what I believe was the first time ever, players were able to explore the Mushroom Kingdom in a non-platformer fashion. Everything from its isometric graphics and iconic music stand out as top notch presentation. The “rhythm” based mechanics in battle make for more engaging battles as well. This is a game that should be experienced by any Nintendo fan.

Come for the: Gameplay

Stay for the: Humor

 

4. The World Ends With You

Where is my sequel?! Now this is still a cult classic. The World Ends With You takes you through the popping Japanese city of Shibuya as you are Neku Sakuraba, an antisocial teenager. Neku is thrust into a “game” with other teenagers where he must perform certain takes or face “erasure”. What unfolds is the best Nintendo DS game there is.

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I haven’t replayed it in forever, so maybe it’s just a game that fourteen year old me adores, but The World Ends With You is special. By pushing buttons to control the top party member and tapping the screen to control the bottom, the battles get to be hectic but pulse pounding.

Come for the: Story

Stay for the: Story and gameplay

 

3. Dragon Quest VIII

So I actually have a bit of an ugly history with this game. I picked up the original version for PlayStation 2 a few years ago, but back then I despised random encounters. After hearing that the 3DS version got rid of random encounters I was interested again. Today I don’t mind random encounters, as long as the encounter rate isn’t every two seconds and there’s a way to lower it a la a Repel in Pokemon. But again after trying it for 3DS I didn’t beat it. Why? I didn’t know what Dragon Quest was.

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Dragon Quest is all about tradition. Things like the gold helmeted macho men seemed weird to me. But after going back to DQI on my phone, and then IV and V; I realized what this series was about. When I jumped back into DQVII after those 2D games I felt like a kid in 1996 playing Ocarina of Time for the first time ever. Featuring possibly the best designs from Akira Toriyama, the series’ pinnacle of music (competes with III) and a world full of color and excitement, Dragon Quest VII is nothing to ignore.

Come for the: Gameplay

Stay for the:  Gameplay and characters

 

2. Persona 5

Okay now this is painstakingly difficult to put Persona 5 at number two, it could actually very well take the number one spot for gripping me like no other game had in quite some time. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again; Persona is playable anime and anime is addictive with its characters and story. There’s nothing like going back to high school (this time it doesn’t suck) and making friends, girlfriends and saving the world!

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It may sound cheesy and that’s because it is! But seriously, just like with Persona 4 we get one of the best stories in video games and an amazing world filled with great characters. I just can’t describe eloquently enough how much this game means to me. Here is my review for more details.

Come for the: Story

Stay for the: Finding the best girlfriend, trying to max out all relationships because the characters mean the world to you and collecting all Personas because of how cool and strong they are and-

 

1. Dragon Quest V

As much as I want to put Persona 5 in this spot for tugging at my heart strings, Dragon Quest V pulled off a combination of narrative and gameplay that I don’t think Persona quite did. Persona is amazing, but after a while you get a bit tired of pulling All-Out attacks. There also comes a point where the gameplay feels like almost like  chore when compared to  hanging out with your in-game friends. Dragon Quest V was a perfect see-saw of story and gameplay. Never did a battle take too long, never did a story event drag on. This is classic turn-based JRPG to its finest.

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You get moments where you can capture and fight alongside monsters, but also moments where you get humans as party members which adds a sense of variety and replay-ability. You get to pick a wife (probably one of the things I enjoy too much in video games) and explore a giant world. What more is there to want? I did safe after all that is the second video game I would consider perfect. An absolute gem.

Come for the: Gameplay

Stay for the: Gameplay and story


And there you have my personal definitive list of the best JRPGs! Do you guys like these games as well? Do you have your own list? Let me know down below and I’ll try my best to reply! Thank you for joining me for JRPG JULY and I hope you stick with me in August for my “Month of Less“.

Rewarding JRPGs/Video Games

-by Dylan DiBona

Leveling up, buying new gear and using new spells; it’s been done a million times, why are people like me in love with such an obvious cycle?


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m addicted to the sense of progression. Whether it’s turning each page in a book, writing another line in a blog or personal project or even gaining another level in a JRPG, the constant sensation of moving forward is enough motivation for me to see something to the end.

When I played Dragon Quest I, it was a unique experience for having solo fights and no party members. I distinctly remember a monster called Green Dragon. The Green Dragon destroyed me every time I encountered him. After about three or four levels and some new gear, the Green Dragon was easily wiped away. How can there be a better feeling in video games? It’s like finally sliding down that flagpole at the end of a tough Mario level. 

Sometimes JRPGs like any genre can be obnoxiously difficult and require an unfair amount of grinding. When it’s clear that developers didn’t balance their game, it usually deters me from wanting to finish their game. If they didn’t care enough to balance their game, why should I care enough to play it? 

Perhaps this all boils down to the obvious idea that an artist should care about their art, but have you guys ever played an unrewarding video game? One where even the solutions don’t seem to make much sense? Let me know down below and I’ll try my best to reply. I apologize for the short post today, but JRPG July will end with a bang!

No Video Games For August (Month of Less)

– Dylan DiBona

Playing video games has been a part of most of my existence. Since I first had full control over my motor skills, I wanted to play games and I usually have almost every day since then. Around the age of 14 I took about two weeks off from videos games because for some reason I cared that my image was the “kid who always plays games”. Now I don’t care, I embrace it.

Now I’m not blaming video games or anything, but I have some other things I need to accomplish. I want to see how my life would be if I “switched” passions and pursuits. Instead of gaming maybe an hour or two every day and more on my weekends, switch to reading, writing and exercise. For the month of August 2017 I will go without gaming and try to hit the following goals:

1. Hit 185 pounds and gain a more muscular appearance.

2. Read two books.

3. Finish writing and editing my own book.

If I can accomplish these three things then the future will be a brighter one. I will post  updates to inform and encourage.

Don’t worry, there will still be blogs.

Wish me luck guys!

Dragon Quest II and III Thoughts

-by Dylan DiBona

I’ve been playing games since I could first say “I want that” (“that” being a PlayStation 2). It’s not an easy task to become one of my favorite franchises, but that’s exactly what Yuji Hori’s Dragon Quest did. While the series may not change too much between games, it’s the sense of tradition and reliance that makes the franchise feel so quality tight. Lately I’ve been playing one infamous and one famous game in the series. Because I have some specific plans in August (more on that soon), I probably won’t be beating these games anytime soon, but as a somewhat knowledgeable fan I have some opinions I want to get out.

DRAGON QUEST II


Like most NES sequels, Dragon Quest II is a bit of a black sheep. But can you blame the poor game? The series didn’t have its famous tradition yet!

Unfortunately due to an inexperienced team and time constraints, Dragon Quest II is infamously difficult in the latter half because of a lack of balancing from the developers.

I picked it up on iOS today despite all the claims of difficulty and lack of knowledge on where to go; I told myself I wouldn’t get lost! And wouldn’t you know, I was lost within the first hour. The encounter rates are a little high, but everything else is pure Dragon Quest. Like I said before, it may take me a while but I will beat it someday!

DRAGON QUEST III


Only three games in the series compete for the title of “best”; DQ III, DQ V and DQ VIII.

My adoration of V was so strong I consider it one of two perfect video game. For my birthday I decided to treat myself to a long sought Game Boy Color and a copy of DQIII since I’ve heard great things about the handheld version.

The music is fantastic, story is interesting and I love the idea of custom party members like in Final Fantasy I. Unfortunately the hardware I’m playing in is halting my adoration; man I want a backlight! A great game, I will certainly beat it soon. 

If you’re wondering which one is better so far, III hands down.

Sorry for the short post today guys! Work has got me busy!