The Sunshine Blogger Award Challenge, Part 2: Return of the Sunshine Blogger

I am honored to have received another nomination for the Sunshine Blogger Award, this time from Angie of Backlog Crusader.  Even if, once again, I have to stress that the term “sunshine” really can’t apply to me in any sense other than the sarcastic.

Here are the rules of the game, as usual:

Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog.
Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions
List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

Also, there’s a Final Fantasy VII spoiler in this post.  The game is 22 years old and everyone already knows exactly what “spoiler” I’m talking about, but I’ll put up the standard disclaimer just in case.  There’s also an SMT3: Nocturne spoiler.  No surprises there.

And here are Angie’s questions:

1. If you could have a pet from any game you’ve played, what would it be?

I have two answers.  The first is Skye from Grandia II, the talking falcon who accompanies the world-weary mercenary protagonist Ryudo.  But he’s not just a talking bird – he’s an intelligent talking bird.  Skye is basically a human in terms of personality, and he has a comedic dynamic with Ryudo that lightens the mood nicely.  He even helps out Ryudo with a move where he picks up an enemy in his talons and drops it at Ryudo, who swings his sword at it like he’s hitting a baseball.  If I had a pet like that, I’d be unstoppable.  Well, Skye isn’t exactly a pet but more of an equal companion.  Okay, I want to be friends with a talking falcon, how about that?

My second choice would be Eevee.  Because it’s cute.  I know I put up this bitter, depressive persona on this site sometimes, and that’s completely genuine (I wish to God it weren’t, but what can you do) but I do like cats and fluffy things to some extent.  I’m not completely dead inside, or at least not yet.

2. What game unexpectedly surprised you or surpassed your expectations?

Doki Doki Literature Club!!  The fact that this very standard-looking visual novel was so hyped up on Youtube and among all kinds of gaming boards made me a little skeptical, and I really didn’t like those two exclamation points in the title of the game (edit: there’s only one, my brain is scrambled today.  Still please don’t put punctuation in your game title.  More on that subject soon.)  But this game really surprised me, both in terms of its quality and the twists that waited in ambush for me.  I wrote an in-depth review of the game at the link above, though it does have spoilers past the first couple of paragraphs, so be careful if you want to go into the game raw, which I highly recommend doing.

It’s just a nice cute dating sim, I promise.

3. What game would you like to see be made into a film?

The prospect of seeing a game I like made into a film is too scary for me to even consider. I like the Sonic series, after all (well, some of it at least) and look at the abomination Paramount came up with.  Apparently the movie’s development is being delayed to change Sonic’s design, though, so maybe it will end up being more bearable than we think.  And even if it ends up almost completely sucking, which seems likely, at least we’ll get Jim Carrey hamming it up as Dr. Robotnik.  He was the only good thing in that trailer.

If an anime series counts, I guess I’d like to see another adaptation of the Disgaea series.  I’m surprised NIS hasn’t gone this route.  Maybe their games are just too weird and niche to make it work commercially.

4. What was your most meaningful relationship forged through video games?

My experience with video games has been a mostly solitary one.  I don’t play multiplayer games at all anymore, and I haven’t for a long time.  I do have a few friends who I met thanks in part to our shared interest in certain kinds of games (i.e. the weeb ones) so I guess those are the relationships I’d have to go with.  My gaming certainly hasn’t been a factor in my relationships with any of my family.  That’s an aspect of my life that I never bring up because most of them would look down on it and think of me as immature.  No sense in even opening that door.

5. What do you think will be the next fad in video games? (Ex: Battle Royales right now, season passes, zombie games in the past, etc.)

I’m tempted to say that virtual reality is going to be the next fad, but people have been saying that since I was a kid myself back in the 90s and it hasn’t happened yet.  The technology is getting there, though.  Once we get to a point where the tech is good enough and affordable enough to become popular, I can see it becoming the new standard in gaming, at which point it won’t really be a fad but rather an established thing.

But I have to admit that I just don’t know.  I’m not nearly as connected to video game trends as I used to be.  These days, I only have time to play what I’m fairly sure I’ll like, so I pretty much ignore whatever’s hot at the moment.  I’d love to see tactical RPGs or visual novels get popular, but since that’s not going to happen, there’s really no point in hoping for it.

6. Of all the games you have played, what scene was the most memorable?

I have to go ultra-obvious and boring here and say Aeris’ death scene in Final Fantasy VII.  Probably for the fact that it’s so talked about, but also because I was about the right age when I played that game for it to stick in my head.  Looking back 22 years later, it’s easy to forget how damn impressive FF7 was when it came out, during the dawn of the 3D age of games.  Also, I put actual work into leveling up Aeris because I like having a good healer in my party in an RPG, and the game just straight up kills her off.  Come on!

Now that the remake is confirmed and has a release date, I guess we’ll get to experience that scene again, but somehow I feel it just won’t be the same.  I guess we’ll see when Square-Enix puts out the first episode of the remake next year.  It would be more of a twist if they kept her alive this time, wouldn’t it?

7. What older or retro game most deserves a remaster or sequel?

I already mentioned Skies of Arcadia in my first Sunshine Blogger post as a game I’d like to see a sequel to, so I should pick something else this time.  I’d love to see Shin Megami Tensei I and II get remakes.  These games were originally released on the Super Famicom, then upgraded for the Playstation in the mid-90s, but even the PSX remasters retain a lot of the annoyances of the originals that are typical of old JRPGs.  Not that I don’t like a real challenge – after all, SMT3 is one of my favorite games, and I enjoyed Strange Journey despite the beating it gave me.  But SMT1 and SMT2 would both benefit from graphical and quality-of-life upgrades.  I’ve seen a lot of people calling for remakes of Persona 3 and 4, but as much as I loved those games, I don’t see the point; they’re both still pretty modern games, whereas the first two SMT games most definitely are not.

Or maybe a remake of SMT if…  I still love this cover, by the way.

That said, if it’s a choice between remakes of the first two SMTs and Shin Megami Tensei V, I’d go for V.  Come on, Atlus.  Give us something.  Anything.  I’m happy about Persona 5 Royal coming out next year and all, but please.

8. What game meant the most to you on a personal level and why?

If you’ve been reading this site for a while, this answer will be no surprise to you given the fact that I never shut up about it (including in the answer to question #7 above.)  It’s Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne.  People say the plot and characterization in Nocturne are thin, and when compared to, say, a Persona game, they’re right.  But what this game lacks in those areas it makes up for in the strength of its themes.  A while back, I wrote a piece about some of the themes of Nocturne, focusing on Isamu’s concept of his ideal world in which each person lives in their own separate universe constructed as they see fit.  If you don’t feel like digging through that essay, the gist of Nocturne is that the old world has ended and a new world is ready to be created.  Three remaining humans consisting of two of the human-turned-demon protagonist’s schoolmates and the one asshole cult leader who started the whole mess get the chance to shape the new world according to their beliefs and desires, and they have to fight it out inside an inside-out spherical demon-filled Tokyo world for the right to create their ideal world.

This was me throughout high school, minus the hat and the chest-faces.

Isamu’s world of isolation seems to be based on solipsism, the idea that you can only be sure of your own existence.  The game’s thin characterization means that we don’t really know why Isamu wants to build this kind of world, but it seems like he holds some bitterness towards society and just wants to be left alone.  And holy YHVH can I relate to that.  I’ve gotten better socially since getting out into the professional working world, but purely out of necessity.  I can still totally understand Isamu’s desire for a world of isolation.

9. Who is your favorite voice actor/actress?

I can’t say I have one favorite, but I’m a fan of Mamiko Noto, Rie Tanaka, Eri Kitamura – the list could go on a while, but they’re among my favorites.  I also like Masane Tsukayama, the guy who apparently plays every gravely-voiced old man in an anime or game, including Washizu in Akagi, Hyodo in Kaiji, Zouken Matou in Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night, and Igor in Persona 5.  Here’s a sample of Tsukayama’s brilliant work as Washizu (sorry that the subs are in French – the gist of the clip is that Washizu wants the protagonist to make a mahjong deal that he thinks will lead to his own victory.  Also, spoilers for Akagi.)

As far as English-language VAs go, I don’t have any particular preferences.  Most of the regulars seem to be highly professional and good at their jobs, though.  Much respect to them.  I’m sure they don’t get paid enough.  The gig economy is god damn rough.

10. If your favorite video game protagonist suddenly became a kitchen or cooking utensil, what would they be?

I admit, I would have never thought of this one myself.  I think my favorite game protagonist might be Garrett, the main character of the Thief series.  Garrett is an anti-hero who usually looks out for himself alone but who always ends up on the right side of the fight when the chips are down.  And true to his nature, he returns to the shadows to keep stealing from the rich and giving to himself after the fight is done.  Since Garrett is such a stealthy guy, he’d have to be a very sharp knife, something that can be wielded silently and quickly.  Wielded against tomatoes, I mean.  Then again, Garrett is a pro who doesn’t kill people, so maybe he’d be a pestle, since that somewhat resembles the blackjack Garrett uses to knock his enemies out.

11. How many more Final Fantasies do you think will be made before they finally reach the Final, FINAL Fantasy?

Ten thousand years in the future, the ruins of human civilization are crumbling.  Nature has reclaimed the land and oceans, erasing the marks of our very existence.  Yet somehow, Square-Enix headquarters is still standing, and they’ve just announced the release date of Final Fantasy MMMCCLXXVIII.  That’s the true irony: no matter how many Final Fantasies are made, there will never be a Final Fantasy.

***

Right, so that took a dark turn at the end.  Sorry.  Now to get to my questions.  This time I’ve geared them more towards game-related subjects.

1. Do you have a favorite game composer?  If so, who is it?

2. Same question as above, but for game artists/art directors.

3. Is there a character you’ve encountered in a game that annoyed you immediately?  If so, did that character grow on you over time, or do you still dislike them?

4. If you could own any vehicle from a game, which one would you own, and would it be a practical form of transportation?

5. How do you feel about contributing to crowdfunding campaigns for games and other works?

6. Reversing a question I was asked – what movie would you want to see adapted into game form?

7. Do you buy physical copies of games?  How important is it to you that the publisher releases a physical copy of a game, or does it matter at all?

8. If you could have dinner with/hang out with any one main cast of characters from a game, which one would it be?

9. How important are a game’s story, characters, and overall message to you when weighed against the quality of its gameplay?

10. If you were exiled to a desert island and could only bring one game console with you, which one would it be?  Not counting the PC – you’re allowed to have a PC on the desert island.  You also have access to power sources.  This is a really convenient desert island, isn’t it?

11. How much money do you think you’d get for your entire game collection in Gamestop in-store credit?  (This one might not be comprehensible to people outside the US.  If you’re not familiar with Gamestop, look up “gamestop in-store credit” on Google and you’ll see why I’m asking this question.)

And here are my nominees this time around.  12 again instead of 11 despite what the rules say.  Look, it’s my OCD, okay?  Just as before, if I haven’t included you on this list but you want to answer these questions anyway, please feel free.  And if I have included you, but answering these kinds of award challenge things isn’t your style or you’re having them thrown at you left and right, feel free to ignore it.

NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog

Extra Life Reviews

Otaku Alcove

I Played the Game!

The 3rd Player

Hundstrasse

Home Button

Tecsielity

Video Games and Things I Write About Them

Kimimi the Game-Eating She-Monster

The Hannie Corner

Lost to the Aether

Answering and posing 11 questions for the Sunshine Blogger Award

Nobody who knows me in real life, or who even reads this site for more than a few minutes, could possibly use the word “sunshine” to describe me, except sarcastically.  Even so, I have to thank Red Metal of Extra Life for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award.  As part of this nomination, Red Metal put eleven questions to me and the other nominees, which I’ve done my best to answer below.  If any of my answers seem like cop-outs, rest assured that that is completely intentional.

1) In which cases would you deem the manga superior to the anime on which it’s based?

Mahjong Legend Akagi is still near the top of the list of my favorite anime series, but the manga is better if only for the fact that it’s continuing to tell the story of Akagi’s mahjong deathmatch (a literal deathmatch) with the insane billionaire Washizu, while the anime had to cut the story off partway through… because the damn manga wasn’t done yet.  More generally, I’d say any work that goes through what TV Tropes calls “adaptation decay” falls in this category.  I’m not a big manga reader, though.  I can definitely say that anime series based on video games usually are not as good as their source material.

2) Which game do you feel has the best soundtrack?

There are a lot of great game soundtracks out there, so it’s hard for me to pin down one that’s the best. I’ll cheat here and say NieR:Gestalt/Replicant and NieR:Automata together. The two soundtracks do have some thematic links, just like their respective games, so I think it works to lump them together. Everything about these soundtracks is amazing.  In different parts they’re delicate and emotional, sweeping and operatic, powerful, crushing… well, I can’t really do it justice with words, so you should just listen to the music.  You can find most or all of their contents on Youtube, though they’re both well worth a buy.

As a pair of very close runners-up, I’ll put up the Persona and Ar tonelico series.

3) If you could revive a dead video games series, which one would you choose?

No need to even think about this one – Skies of Arcadia. Since there was only one Skies of Arcadia game (I’m not counting the Gamecube remaster) it’s not exactly a series, but I’d love to see a sequel, even though the chances of that happening now are lower than the chances of my winning the Powerball.

Well, a man can dream, anyway.

4) What game/film/album/book did you have a particularly difficult time adding to your collection?

I really had to dig around for a physical copy of a single album by Tokyo Active NEETs.  They’re a doujin music group based in Tokyo (obvious I guess) and their stuff typically has to be imported, if it’s even available for sale online.

Same goes for any limited-release physical copy of an album I want.  I was very happy to get the CD release of Moe Shop’s Moe Moe EP, even though I had to import it from Japan.  The damn thing sold out in a few hours.  It’s probably stupid that I’m into collecting physical copies of albums, games, and books, but there’s always the chance that a Carrington Event could happen and melt worldwide electrical grids and damage equipment, and there go your precious mp3 files.

5) Do you prefer to see a film at home or in the theaters?

When my depression is tamped down enough to get me out of the house on a weekend, I’ve always enjoyed going to the theater. Even if the movie turns out to be lousy, it can still be a good time if I’m with friends, especially if it’s a “funny bad” kind of movie. When I’m at home, I prefer to play games.

6) In what cases did you find yourself siding with critics over fans about a work’s quality?

This is a hard one. I guess I like some of the 80s pop stuff created by formerly ultra-artsy prog-rock bands like Yes and Genesis that’s praised by critics but shunned by a lot of hardcore fans (Yes a lot more, honestly – 90125 is a legit good album.)  This answer is one of my cop-outs, though, because I like most of their 70s prog work a lot more than their 80s work, and Genesis was total crap from Invisible Touch until they broke up.  Just listen to a Phil Collins solo album and you’ll get the idea.  (Better still, don’t.)

7) In what cases did you find yourself siding with fans over critics about a work’s quality?

The Sonic Adventure games. I haven’t reviewed either of them here, though I did take a look at a related soundtrack a while back in which I called them a mixed bag. I still feel that way, but on balance I do have a lot of fun playing them, especially Sonic Adventure 2. No, they’re not perfect games by any means; yes, they do have absolutely stupid plots that make no sense (especially SA2.) But they don’t deserve the evisceration they get from critics today.

More generally, I side with Sonic fans about the series’ quality for the first ten years of its run, and I’ll fight tooth and nail with critics who claim that Sonic has “never been good.” Sure, there have been plenty of mediocre to poor Sonic games, but that’s no reason to paint them all with the same brush. The Genesis games are still absolute classics.

8) What is the most difficult game you’ve completed?

In terms of cheapness factor, probably Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, though there may be a few old RPGs I played that I’m forgetting about. Nocturne features a lot of old-school difficulty in the sense that it almost never holds your hand or tells you what’s coming next. SMT: Strange Journey is even more difficult, despite the fact that it lets you save almost anywhere – but I’m ashamed to say I have not beaten it yet.  YHVH damn you, Mem Aleph.

9) Which game series have you been following for the longest amount of time?

The two series I still follow religiously are Megami Tensei (starting with Persona 3 in 2006) and Disgaea (starting with Disgaea: Hour of Darkness all the way back in 2003.) In a broader sense, I’ve been following the Mario and Sonic series for longer than either of those, but I’m not an ultra-dedicated fan of either, not even of Sonic, despite all the praise I was heaping on the Genesis games up in answer #7.  I still follow Megami Tensei for the variety of gameplay and stories the series offers, from the crushing existentialist terror of Strange Journey to the schlocky fanservice of Persona 4: Dancing All Night and the Arena games, and Disgaea for the characters and the insane level of post-game content available in every game in the series.

Etna is one of my favorite characters in any game, period. Not very trustworthy, though.

10) In what ways do you feel video game critics to be ahead of their film-loving counterparts?

If we’re talking professional video game critics/journalists, I certainly have my problems with them, but I do think they tend to be more in tune with the tastes of the consumer.  A lot of it comes down to the distinction between high and popular art that I consider totally artificial.  There’s good art and bad art (of course, these definitions are subjective) but how do you draw a clear line between “high” and “low” art?  Good art is good art, no matter what other labels you care to hang on it.  PC and video games are still a young medium, a medium that’s looked down upon by many critics of other media.  So I think a lot of video game critics don’t make that same high/low distinction with games that critics of film, music, theater, etc. make.

As the medium continues to “mature”, though, I think that will change.  We’ve already been seeing this with pieces by game critics calling certain kinds of games “unacceptable” and “immature”.  If maturity means that PC and video games generally become more mainstream, corporate, and safe, I think I prefer immaturity.  But nobody asks me what I prefer when it comes to video games or anything else in the world.

11) How does hype factor into how you ultimately feel about a work?

I’d like to say it doesn’t, but that wouldn’t be true. When a game turns out to be less than expected in quality, I’m more disappointed according to the level of hype the game was receiving beforehand. Mighty No. 9 is a good example. I did not give a single flying fuck about all the drama surrounding the community manager genderbending the main character in fanart or whatever that controversy was about, but I ended up disliking the game anyway because it wasn’t that great in terms of level design and control, and I think the game probably received more hate than it deserved just because expectations were so high at the outset. As I get older, I grow more cynical, though, so I don’t buy into hype quite like I used to.

*****

I held up my end of the bargain.  Now here are my questions.  Almost everything I write about on this site is on games and music, but I tried to keep my questions open to fans of all kinds of media.

1) What’s your favorite or most-used medium for entertainment?

2) What character in a work of fiction would you inhabit and why?  (Assuming you’re experiencing the entire storyline of the game/novel/film/whatever as this character.)

3) What work would you wipe all memories of from your brain if you could so that you could experience it all over again?

4) What’s the most annoying trend occurring in your favorite medium today?

5) What’s the most promising trend occurring in your favorite medium today?

6) How much or how little romance do you like in your games/films/novels/etc.?

7) If you had to be the ruler of one country in any work of fiction, which one would you pick?

8) Do you think virtual reality will improve anytime in the near future to the extent that it’s actually worth using?  Or are we already at that point?

9) I’ve heard people say that the novel is a dying form of art and that changes in attention span length and the constant multitasking our generation is involved in will make them obsolete.  If you have an opinion on that matter, do you agree or disagree?

10) Are you optimistic about the future of the human race?

11) Cake or pie?  (There’s only one right answer.)

And here are the 11 (edit: 12.  I can’t count.) people/sites I’m tagging.  Yeah, for once I’m following the rules of the game.  If you’ve already been tagged, or doing this kind of thing just isn’t your style, feel free to ignore my questions.  Of course, anyone else is also free to take part if they feel like it.

Retro Freak Reviews

Otaku Orbit

Strange Girl Gaming

Games Revisited

Otaku Alcove

Home Button

Blimps Go 180

Hi-Fi Adventures

The Bibliophagist

NekoJonez

Wordynerdbird

Shoot the Rookie