Author Archives: Steven Santerre

About Steven Santerre

I live life. I play games. It's cool. I believe video games are a serious medium of entertainment with deep and involving stories no other form of media can portray. I love all video games, but criticize when it's deserved. I have my own tastes, but everyone is different and no one is perfect. "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw Games and fellow gamers have done so much for me in my lifetime, and I want to do my best to give back to the gaming community. My dream is to influence the gaming industry in a respectable way, and to help the industry grow. If I had one wish, I would wish to be a Wizard.

On the Topic of Zelda

In 1996, I was four years old when we were gifted a few games by my older cousin. One of those games was The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It sank into my flesh as a part of me. I still love this game, the adventure within it and the adventures it has inspired me to take on in the real and digital world.

In 1998, after a streak of repeat rentals from Blockbuster video, my mother realized she had spent more on renting the same game than she would have if she had just bought it. Enough was enough, so she went out and bought me The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and it was finally only mine to explore.

In 2000 and 2001 I had the pleasure of getting Zelda: Majora’s Mask for my birthday, and following up the next year I delved into the Capcom created masterpiece Oracle of Ages for the Gameboy color. At this point, the love for Zelda would be something I held for the rest of my days and nothing would change that.

In between, I played both classics I had never played and new games as they came. Some of the favorites in the list include Zelda 1, Link’s Awakening and the Wind Waker.

On November 19th, 2006, the day had come. I sat outside Best Buy patiently and excitingly awaiting the Nintendo Wii and with it, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I know this game is held dear by many, and over time I’ve come to enjoy it overall, but it remains to this day one of my least favorites and biggest Disappointments in my gaming history.

The reason for this is because of how I was misled. The trailers leading up to the release demonstrated a new kind of Zelda. One with a stronger call for adventure and the freedom that comes with it. Maybe I was just an overexcited kid who overhyped himself, but a common description of the game from Nintendo themselves was, “the next Ocarina of Time.” To me it just didn’t hold up. 

Since then I’ve always loved Zelda, and as I said, I always will. I played and enjoyed every Zelda since then, but today it seems there is an opportunity. Nintendo may have finally made that game I was excited for ten years ago. However, excited I am, I’m holding out from the levels of the past.

I’m holding out because even as I seen site after site published reviews with max scores, that chance, that small chance of still exists that I’ll be disappointed. Now I really don’t THINK I will be, but I’d rather hold steady than fall apart from the disappointment.

On top of that, however good Breath of the Wild will come to be, I know infinitely within myself it could very likely BE better. The inflated 10s/5s/40s the reviewers are offering are representing something more. It’s not that Breath of the Wild is a perfect game, it’s that Nintendo is finally along the right path. It’s very likely the Zelda we wanted ten years ago, and it’s finally here.

However grand this game is, it can’t stand alone. This is a new beginning for Zelda as a franchise. It is being reinvented as an open world action/RPG that emphasizes freedom of adventure over collecting objects and solving static puzzles.

The future of Zelda and Nintendo is being forged tonight in either our praise or disappointment. To those joining me in the adventure I wish you the grandest of quests and the finest of treasures.

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Opinion: The Age Old Criticism and How it’s Partially Blindsided

The age old idea that “graphics don’t make the game” definitely has a lot of truth to it. You can make a wonderful game without amazing graphics. However, aesthetics are an important piece to particular kinds of games, helping to weave memorable and powerful narratives into your gameplay experience.

I see this video as proof:

When you add the extra layers on via graphics and sounds, it greatly improves the mood and environment of your game, which in turn greatly improves the experience the player has exploring those areas and creating memories while playing your game.

The Wii U was a good console and it leveled up Nintendo’s IPs aesthetically (1080p Mario Kart, Wind Waker, Pikmin look great), but I really hope the NX takes the next step to a real upgraded experience comparable to, say, the N64 or Gamecube eras.

Wii and Wii U were cool (well, at least the Wii U), but I’m ready for a traditional 3D Zelda, Mario, Metroid, Star Fox, etc., experience on vastly improved hardware that’ll give us the kinds of memories from the N64/GCN eras that I still live with today.

I can remember the first time playing Mario 64 after getting an N64 for Christmas. The first time seeing Ocarina of Time on a Wal-Mart demo blew me away. The time I opened my Nintendo Power and seeing how visually improved Super Smash Bros Melee was over it’s predecessor had me calling friends to tell them how excited I was. I recall the unveiling of the Space World 2000 Zelda trailer and feeling immeasurable amount of excitement for what was next.

I’m ready for the NX to be something big. If it’s not, I’m not sure how excited I could ever be for a Nintendo console again. When one programmer can create a visually impressive demo like this and Nintendo won’t, it makes you wonder if they’ll get back to serious business again.

Using graphics and sound, you can further send a player on a magical journey while threading a whimsical narrative through the outer shell of the gameplay creating lifetimes of memories, fans and followers.

Our generation will probably be using some of these stories similar to how fairy tales are now.

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Sorry that a glitch that effects less than one percent exists in a title developed by 2 people. 

I seriously hate “gamers” nowadays. I’m definitely going to sound like a hipster saying shit like this, but gaming has become so mainstream it hurts.

Playing Call of Duty doesn’t make you a hardcore gamer. Playing, experiencing, socializing about, reading about, writing about, researching development, supporting and being passionate about games is what makes you a TRUE hardcore gamer.

It’s sickening watching “gamers” literally SHIT on an independent developer consisting of TWO employees because they won’t patch a glitch that effects less than one percent of the players. Why won’t they patch it? Because they owe Microsoft lots of money, and patching a game on XBLA/PSN costs you a total of $40,000 dollars to get it re-certified. 

Play the game for what it is. Give it credit where it’s due. Experience what the developers intended you too. Read and write opinions. Attend gaming events and parties! Host your own! Look into your favorite developers. “Yeah, I saw a game I wanted so I pirated it” – F*CK YOU, BUY IT. Be passionate. 

Gaming is no longer an activity associated with 30 year old virgins in their mom’s basement. Be mature about it. It’s the fastest growing entertainment industry OF ALL TIME.

It’s a BIG f*cking deal.

Dark Souls: Tips to Success

Prepare to Die…

…A lot. But don’t fret! I’m here to help. Dark Souls is one of my favorite games ever made, and for good reason. It has amazing combat, intense strategy and near flawless RPG elements. It also has fully functional co-op play and PvP. To top it all off, it’s addicting. Very addicting.

I started my journey in the original game, Demon’s Souls for the PlayStation 3 in early 2011, the same year Dark Souls would be released that winter. It took me several months of playing, but I eventually overcame the obstacle that in Demon’s Souls and beat the final boss! Hurrah, but my journey was not over. A few months later, I was waiting patiently in the line at Gamestop for Dark Souls’ midnight release. I grabbed the collectors edition.

I was in love.

Three years later, I have all the trophies in Demon’s Souls and all the achievements in Dark Souls and Dark Souls II. I am here today to give my best three pieces of advise in honor of Dark Souls pricetag of FREE on the Xbox Live Games for Gold in the first half of June 2014.

If you’re new to the Souls series welcome. Most people will give up. You won’t because you have one thing they don’t. The knowledge that everyone who is in love with this game was just as bad as you are right now when they started. They became powerful demon hunters through hours of gameplay. They discovered these basic principals of victory through hours of play.

You’ll start with it.


1. Go Beyond Death

This is something you just need to come to terms with: Dark Souls is a game that will kill you many times. Instead of allowing the game to fill you with frustration, allow these moments to teach you what to do next time, after all, you have one chance to collect your Souls (character experience and currency) before you die again. Make sure you make that one chance worthwhile!

If you fell, remember there is a hole there. If you got crushed by an enemy’s attack while blocking, try dodging next time. The best advice I can give you with Dark Souls is to never let yourself get frustrated and to always learn from your mistakes, because most of the time you die in Dark Souls will be your mistake.

 

2. Environments are the Friendliest Enemy

Environments can both guide you and kill you. Out of all the tips you’ll hear, remember this one. Always take in your surrounding area, plan ahead and move at a steady and sure pace. Always watch your step in an area you’ve never been before and always be ready for the unexpected. Take note of the theme of the area because it can give you some powerful hints on what kind of enemies to expect.

If you are in an area that the enemies just seem impossible to kill because of how little damage you do, you’re most likely in a more advanced area. If you’re in a massive fortress, be prepared for floor and wall traps at all times. If you’re in a lava infested area, remember there will probably be hellish demons on the prowl.

You should also remember to always explore. You might find useful items, gear or even key items to help you progress more quickly.

 

3. Your Weapon is an Extension of You

Never be afraid to keep using a weapon you’re comfortable with as long as you know how to scale your character with it. If it’s a longsword, balance your points into strength and dexterity, if it’s a hammer balance them into strength almost exclusively, if it’s a scimitar balance them into dexterity almost exclusively.

Then again, if you’re using a weapon like the Drake’s Sword, one that does not scale, I highly suggest dropping it and picking up a standard weapon, one that you can reinforce and scales with your character. These allow for you to add additional buffs with pine resin and the likes as well as do extra damage from your character’s attributes.

And last but not least, don’t let someone tell you your weapon of choice is bad. Nearly all the weapons in Dark Souls are viable, which is one of my favorite things about the games in general.

Again and Again.

You will die. A lot. Remember these tips and they will help you succeed where many gamers give in. The Souls games are about the reward you’ll receive through learning the game mechanics. The feeling of success you’ll receive playing through this series is a one-of-a-kind feeling that I’ve felt little of elsewhere in the gaming world.

I hope you fall in love with this series just as I did four years ago!

Review: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

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As I’m sure many of you know, I am a very ambitious video gamer, and I’m sure you also know The Legend of Zelda is my favorite video game series. It’s always been a big part of my life, and as weird as this might sound, it actually helped shape who I am. As a child I would get lost (literally) in the land of Hyrule for days on end, adventuring, discovering secrets, and saving the world. I yearn for that feeling again – a grand adventure.

For the past few years most video games have left me empty. There are very few I can say I sat down and played through from start to finish and really, REALLY enjoyed them. Even recent Zelda games (Twilight Princess, Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks, and Skyward Sword) all felt somewhat dull to me. Like they’ve lost their way and become “just another action/adventure game.” Then at E3, Nintendo surprised us all.

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An official sequel to my favorite video game, A Link to the Past, was announced, and was coming out later this year for the Nintendo 3DS. At first I was cautious, but as time moved closer and closer to launch, I became more and more excited. I am pleased to say that The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds delivers a game I’ve been waiting for years to play. It’s a wonderful sequel, an exciting adventure, and filled with the classic Zelda adventuring we haven’t felt in a long time.

The game starts off with our hero, Link, as he is lazily sleeping in instead of doing hard labor as the resident Blacksmith’s assistant. The Blacksmith’s son, Gulley, is sent to wake the dallying young hero from his seemingly eternal slumber. Eventually Link is woken up and heads out to make up for his prior idleness. The Captain of the Hylian Guard is there to pick up his newly crafted Shield, but as he leaves, he forgets to take his sword.

As you can guess, Link is given the assignment of returning the sword, but after tracking down the Captain, something horrible happens. Seres, a young maiden, is transformed into a painting by a new villain to the Zelda franchise, Yuga, who proceeds to kidnap the girl and claims to be heading for Zelda soon! Time to head for Hyrule Castle where we meet the famed lady who needs no introduction.

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So Link’s Quest has officially started. Soon after he acquires the ability to morph into a painting himself to help traverse environments and enter the portals to Lorule, a dark realm in the later parts of the game. He also meets a helpful salesman named Ravio who has seemingly convinced the baddies of Zelda to join his little scheme of renting or selling Link his tools and weapons, instead of just waiting for Link to inevitably find them. Cleaver guy! These new mechanics were some of the best ideas Nintendo could have provided to make this game fun, unique and overall memorable.

The world is virtually the same as A Link to the Past‘s world, but with the whole “centuries passed” feel to it. Some things are slightly different, but it will still be easy to navigate for those who have wandered this rendition of Hyrule before. Lorule, however, is a very different world compared to the previous Dark World. Lorule is littered with mighty trenches and seems more like a land in peril than an inherently evil world, which is exactly what it is.

What’s wonderful about this game is that Nintendo took a risk; you now purchase or rent items you’d normally find in dungeons before you go to the dungeon. This is a great new mechanic for a few reasons. It allows you to be able to fully explore the map very early in your playthrough. It erases the linear gameplay that Zelda has seemed to have embraced in recent years. It also allows you, as a player, to really explore what tools of the trade you like the most and become comfortable at your own pace. This idea is undoubtedly the next step in the Zelda franchise.

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However, it doesn’t come without cost. When you rent an item, you lose it when you die. There were a couple times where I died back to back (for silly reasons) after re-renting those items. I cannot tell you how annoying it is to die within five minutes of renting a bunch of items. It essentially is throwing away a lot of rupees. Another, bigger, reason is that the dungeons seemed shorter, because there wasn’t a pre-item section of the dungeon.

This might just be me looking into it too much. Maybe the game is designed that way because it is, at the end of the day, a portable game. The dungeons could just be designed for an experienced player to easily tackle them in one sitting before class, or while on a lunch break. Most dungeons take about a half hour to an hour to complete once you get there. The most difficult sections of the dungeon are usually the bosses, which are just spectacular.

The bosses in this game are many times throwbacks, and many times completely original. The original bosses are exactly what you’d expect from an original boss. You jump in relatively blind and have to figure out their weakness as the fight goes on. The bosses that have a similar look to the old ones, on the other hand,  do not fight like the bosses of A Link to the Past, many times requiring a completely different item and strategy to conquer. It’s the perfect balance of nostalgia and new gameplay and I love it.

ImageOne thing I would like to see changed about this mechanic of buying/renting items is simple. Keep the idea for Zelda Wii U but instead of getting them from a shop, get them from mini-dungeons around the land of Hyrule that you will naturally come upon. Of course, some of the items should be acquired through a store or another NPC via a mini-quest, but I would love that feeling of discovery several mini-dungeons with real reward would give me.

The other huge mechanic to this game besides the item buying/renting is Link’s new ability to fuse with the walls around him to traverse environments. This mechanic alone is a huge deal. It forces you to rethink the game completely and overtime, it really becomes second nature to you. Whenever I would get stuck when I first started the game, it took me a minute or two to figure out what to do next. When I was nearing the end of the game, I was popping in and out of the walls like it was my birthright. It’s a wonderful mechanic and it helps to see the classic Link to the Past world from a very new perspective.

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A new addition, which isn’t really a new mechanic to the franchise, is the reformatted saving/fast travelling. It’s essentially what we had with Majora’s Mask where you can save at save point and fast travel between them. In the previous game, you would hit owl statues and play a song to teleport. In this game they are weather vanes, and you ring a bell that a friendly young witch gives you to have her swoop down and chauffeur you throughout Hyrule. Not bad!

Exploring this classic Hyrule has never been better. There are collectibles to find like the classic pieces of heart as well as the new family of Maiamais who will upgrade your items for every 10 baby Maiamai found! There are a bunch of minigames including cucco dodging, octorok baseball, footracing, an endless monster-slaying tower, rupee rush, and more, as well as a street pass distraction where you can fight against other player’s characters as a Shadow Link. The world features a fully orchestrated soundtrack remixing many classic songs and many secrets to uncover along the way, opening new paths or mini-dungeons leading you to treasure.

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The classic Zelda feel is still here though, and that’s what makes this game amazing. It has all these new features, yet seamlessly integrates them in the series we all know and love. It really feels like the next big step for the series and I’m excited to see where these new additions head in the next installment. Nintendo have been talking about mixing up the formula for a while now, and I can tell you they’ve definitely done it right this time.

This is the best Zelda game since the fabled Ocarina of Time.

I give The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds a 5/5.

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