I’ve written a lot about losing my brother. It’s been over four and a half years that he’s been gone, and still the wound feels fresh. I think about him most days, especially when I’m spending time with my children and thinking how much they would have loved their uncle. Every once in a while I hear a song or have a conversation that reminds me of him and it’s like he’s there all over again, leaving that feeling of loss moments later when I remember the truth.
But in November, I was able to find some small measure of peace. The tears have stopped coming so frequently, the pain has become familiar enough to carry, and the anxiety over what comes next has mellowed.
In November, four and a half years after losing my brother, his murderer was finally declared guilty.
In my rare bouts of down time recently, I’ve been playing with game capture and video editing. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but it’s been fun to take what is usually net-zero productivity in my gaming time and turn it into a creative outlet. My channel is still bare-bones, but I’m going to keep plugging away in the hopes that at least a handful of people will find something to enjoy in there.
This first video is part of a series I’ve been kicking around where I look at niche or maligned games and run down what fans see in them. If you’ve ever been curious about the Dynasty Warriors series, this is a solid introduction to the early series!
[This post was originally posted on 10/20/2016 and was most recently updated 5/18/2018, with an “Alternatives” section added to each entry reflecting newer releases and potential alternate entry points.]
If you’re a big JRPG fan, you’ve probably heard of Shin Megami Tensei. Atlus’ demon-summoning RPG series has been around for nearly 30 years under its original Megami Tensei moniker. In the US, however, its releases were sporadic at best and often underwent heavy localization to fit Western sensibilities. It wasn’t until the 2007 release of spinoff title Persona 3 that the series started gaining traction in America. Since then, the series has become a staple of the genre in the West. Most titles make it to our shores are some of the most anticipated releases in their windows.
That said, it’s a rough series to get into. There are countless spinoffs, sequels, and genres across the series. That’s why I’m here! I’ll help you dip your toes into the series, with recommendations based on what kind of game you’re interested in as well as a quick rundown of what to expect in the series as a whole.
It’s time to keep marching along! You’ve caught up with the first post, right? This time, we’re going to dive deep into the story of the first series of .hack games. While I’ll go light on the character arcs, aiming to focus on the story beats that’ll help you understand the universe best going into .hack//GU, there will nevertheless be massive spoilers for the first four .hack games ahead! Hit the jump at your own risk!
We’ve talked a good bit about the .hack//GU remaster and what makes the series so special, and that post got a fair amount of traction. However, it also meant I’ve been fielding the question, “won’t I be lost in this story?” quite a bit. Thankfully, as I mentioned in the last post, the individual story stands on its own. However, there is a lot of nuance to be gained by digging deep into the story, and the shared world of .hack spans across not only games, but novels, anime, manga, and movies. Its density can be very daunting, but luckily the .hack//GU Last Recode release includes the Terminal Disc, a story summary that covers just about everything that came before the GU series. But y’know, some people don’t feel like watching an hour or more of videos before digging into the game. Some people would like to get started early. Some people just prefer reading to writing.
Well, I’m happy to oblige. What follows is a brief history of the .hack universe. I won’t be going as deep as the stories themselves do in the interest of keeping this readable. This should leave you with a good feel for the state of the world of .hack before diving into GU, but I won’t be delving deeply into individual characters and their arcs. But if you want an introduction to the series, well… this is one. This is that thing you asked for.
As you might guess, this contains massive spoilers for the original .hack series and its surrounding works.
The .hack series has always been a bit of an underdog. While most US fans would have heard of it via the anime .hack//SIGN that garnered some popularity on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block, the larger series is was an experimental multimedia franchise that told its story across manga, novels, anime, and predominantly, video games. While the games had some financial success, they never gathered much critical success and settled comfortably into a smaller niche. Over time the series faded, with later entries into the series never making it into the West and newer iterations on the concept like Sword Art Online reaching higher levels of success internationally. While the games were never powerhouses, and the first series has aged poorly, the sequel trilogy .hack//G.U. got some attention as a remaster of all three titles, including a new fourth episode, was announced for the series 15th anniversary. With a host of gameplay improvements built on top of a compelling game format, it’s a great time to dive in and see what you missed.
2017 has been an amazing year for games. Every month sees at least two new titles that make me want to drop everything and start playing. Games like Nier: Automata and Persona 5 have been standouts, with Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood poised to run over dozens of other game of the year candidates vying for my limited gaming hours. However, when my living room (and all of its related game consoles) got taken out of commission by construction related to an uninvited tree making its home on my roof, I broke out the handhelds and revisited a title I hadn’t finished from a series I adore.
We’re not quite done with 2016, but it’s safe to say that no game had a larger impact for me than Final Fantasy XV. While it had its faults, it brought so much of what I love about the series into the modern era that it hooked me from beginning to end. Even through chapters that others found overlong and dull, I was invested in the characters and story throughout and, after enjoying both the game and its side activities for 40 hours, decided I’d rush through the main story. Having heard that you could go back to the open world after beating the game (with some added content at that!) and that no side quests were missable, it was simple enough to rush through the story and reach its thoroughly satisfying conclusion. However, after returning to the open world to finish all the things I had put off, the cracks started to show and I realized exactly what I was missing.
Cries of censorship have grown louder with the recent release of Fire Emblem Fates. A few changes have rubbed gamers the wrong way, as gameplay elements and a story beats were removed to match American sensibilities.
After years of fighting to recognize games as art, it’s easy to see why this could be viewed as censorship. The original vision has, by appearances, been compromised for the sake of cleaning up a narrative and not offending the sensibilities of some. There are good arguments to be made against this practice, to be sure. However, the moves have been decried with a level of vitriol we don’t often see. Amidst record sales for the series, social media has been flooded with calls to boycott the games and stop these seemingly corrupt practices.
The story goes a bit deeper than these arguments allot for. Despite fan backlash, these changes are comparatively minor. We have seen larger changes implemented in the name of localization before, and these decisions can come from any number of sources. Not only does the background to these decisions matter, but the unique nature of the game industry can show us why these changes are not necessarily the dastardly “SJW machinations” they may seem. Even if they are misguided decisions, perhaps a frenzy is not the way to argue them.
I am not a fan of the term “clickbait.” It’s often used as a way to negate a person’s opinion without actually addressing the content of their statements. It’s most often associated with “SJW” (or Social Justice Warrior) topics, such as those discussing racial/gender biases in nerd culture. Sometimes, however, it’s the most appropriate term. Sometimes, an article is just pushing buttons for the sake of pushing buttons, whipping up a frenzy over a perceived slight to gain notice. I’m not even innocent of this, though I assure you I only do so with the intention to entertain and not to witch-hunt.
There are a few topics that geek culture is easily riled over, and these are easy topics for clickbait. The Star Wars prequels, the Matrix sequels, the Schumacher Batman movies, and many more are targets of nerdy rage whenever mentioned. There’s a common thread across most of these—they’re new entries in a cultural darling that don’t quite match up with their predecessors. Many use the same shorthand for these entries: they don’t exist. “It’s a shame there was only one Matrix movie!” “I sure am glad they stopped making Star Wars movies after Return of the Jedi!” “Final Fantasy ended after FFX!”
And hey, look at that last one! Final Fantasy is a series near and dear to my heart. The games are great comfort food to me, and I have fond memories of sharing those games with friends and family. Today, a friend posted a Cracked article about the decline of the Final Fantasy series. There are plenty of reasons to have lost interest in the direction of the series. I’m not here to defend some of the odd choices Square Enix has made regarding the series in the past few years. Rather, I’m here to examine the flawed logic and pointless rage that drives one to write an article like this, and the witch hunts that spawn in the comments soon thereafter.
Mostly, though, it’ll be fun to take the piss out of some nerd rage.