Bloodborne Diaries: Co-Oppin’ in Central Yharnam (Father Gascoigne)

While the multiplayer system in Bloodborne has its similarities to the previous Souls games, it has its differences as well. Instead of using soapstones to leave symbols on the ground for other to see, in Bloodborne summoning is done using bells. And while I received the Beckoning Bell (which let’s me summon other players) pretty much right away, I had to actually purchase the Small Resonant Bell with Insight, a currency similar to Humanity in the other games. And in order to even access the merchant where I could buy the Small Resonant Bell, I needed 10 Insight.READ MORE

Bloodborne Diaries: New Ways to Learn from Death

Two weeks ago today, Bloodborne was released. And while the last couple weeks have been busy for me outside of gaming, I’ve managed to beat the first two bosses and die a whole heck of a lot. In short, I am having a blast.

And for the first time with the Souls series, I’m streaming and recording a good deal of my gameplay, which has been a really interesting experience as well. Like a baseball player watching videos of his at-bats, I’ve been able to go back and learn from some of my encounters, particularly with the bosses.

This has made Bloodborne a bit of a different experience for me, as I have previously relied quite a bit on guides and let’s play videos to navigate parts of the Souls games that I was struggling with. My previous strategy was to keep chipping away at a particular part of the game until I wasn’t progressing at all, and then seek out a guide or video to give me another perspective.

With Bloodborne so far, I’ve been revisiting my own gameplay videos to see where my strategy is breaking down, particularly with the bosses. Many times I’m just confirming where I thought I went wrong, but a few times I’ve seen things that I was able to go back and do differently the next time around.

Make no mistake, I’ll still be visiting my favorite wikis and let’s players during the course of my playthrough, and I have the hardcover Bloodborne guide on its way to me (if Amazon ever decides to ship it). But, being able to watch pieces of my own playthrough is a new tool that I’m really getting a lot out of. And since learning from death is a core theme with the Souls games, having another way to learn just adds to the fun.


How To Level Up Fast in Dying Light! – Easy EXP & Money

When starting a new game in Dying Light, the first thing you want to do is level up your skill trees to unlock more abilities and perks. Skill points are earned by doing things related to each of the 3 skill trees (Survivor, Agility, & Power). I love leveling this way, because it means the things you spend the most time doing, are the areas you level up the fastest.
But what about those of us who want to level up much faster and gain some extra money in the process? Well, here is one of the easiest ways to level up fast and earn extra money. The best part is, you can do this as soon as you get to The Tower safe house.

Step 1: Go to The Tower safe house. Once you’re there, go upstairs and sleep until night.
IMPORTANT: Dying Light gives players bonus experience points for playing at night.
Step 2: Go to one of the entrances of The Tower on the bottom floor. Notice the fence traps on the ground at both entrances.
Step 3: Throw some firecrackers to lure some Volatile zombies close to the entrance. You can see the Volatiles on your mini map by looking for their vision cones.
IMPORTANT: The UV Flashlight is your best weapon against Volatiles and other zombies at night. Make sure it is equipped during this process.
Step 4: Once they’re close enough to the entrance, you need to get them to chase you. We recommend using short bursts on your UV Flashlight to make them mad.
Step 5: The Volatile will begin chasing you. Run back to through the entrance to the safe house. The Volatile will have to stop at the entrance.
Step 6: Once you’re inside and the Volatile is stopped at the entrance, activate the fence trap.
Step 7: While the Volatile is being electrocuted, shine the UV Flashlight on him. In my experience, this has helped kill them quicker.
Step 8: Profit. Search the corpse for cash, rinse, and repeat.
That’s it! You can do this as much as possible during the night. Once the night is over, simply go back upstairs and sleep until night again.
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First Impressions: Dying Light

Nick and I spent almost four hours with Dying Light last night, which was more than enough time to form some first impressions of the game. I’ll get this right out of the way–I thought it was decent when we first started playing, but by the end of our session I was really enjoying the game. Dying Light is a lot of fun.

Mechanically, Dying Light feels like Dead Island with a more elaborate traversal system. The combat feels almost exactly like Dead Island, although I can already tell from the skill trees that there are more layers to it, including a variety of combat moves you can unlock that will make melee combat a lot more satisfying.

Much like Dead Island, you begin Dying Light very under-powered. The weapons you have are very simple and break easily. You’re better off staying away from zombies instead of confronting them, especially if there’s more than one or two in any given area.

But like Dead Island, there’s a crafting system that allows you to repair and modify the weapons you find, and scavenging for materials is extremely important when you’re out in the city completing missions.

So as you can tell, my first impression was that Dying Light was pretty much a next-gen version of the Dead Island series. But there are a couple of major differences, and they really add to the Dead Island formula.

First, the traversal system. As you can see from the trailers and the video below, it’s very Parkour-inspired. Scaling up buildings and vaulting across rooftops is a little clunky at first, but as soon as you get comfortable with it, there is a smoothness to traversal that allows you to cover a ton of ground in a short amount of time. It also reinforces a major theme in Dying Light–stay off the ground whenever you can. The zombies are attracted to noise, and they swarm pretty quickly. Individually they seem slow, but as soon as you’re surrounded, you’re pretty much dead (at least early on). Your best bet is to navigate around groups of zombies.

The second big change from Dead Island is the day/night cycle and how it affects the threat level you face in the city. As you might imagine, nighttime is much more dangerous, but what surprised me is just how dangerous and truly scary it actually is. There are much more powerful enemies that come out at night, and it leads to some frantic chase scenes as you try and scramble away from something that can pretty much kill you in one hit.

I had commented to Nick early on in our co-op playthrough how there wasn’t that “Left4Dead moment” in Dying Light that I had been hoping the game would provide. But the chase that came near the end of our session provided the same kind of thrill I got when I was racing toward the evacuation point at the end of a Left4Dead mission. It was a panic-induced blast, and that was just with two of us. I cannot wait to get four friends together in Dying Light and venture out into the city at night.

So, what seemed like a bit of a slow start was really just Dying Light giving us time to get familiar with its traversal, combat, crafting and mission systems. There is a lot of fun to be had in this game, and once you start to experience the city at night, everything gets dialed up a big notch.

Look for an episode of “Co-Op Plays” featuring the co-op portion of the playthrough Nick and I did, and you can also expect a lot more Dying Light to be streamed on our Twitch channel over the coming weeks.


Exiting the Tomodachi Life

Though I’m an online creature, I don’t think that the online version of me is radically different than the meatspace version of me that occupies the physical world. The same brain directs both versions of me, even though the brain has to adjust to how each version of me interacts with and receives feedback from its respective world. The same soul is reflected in how the digital and physical me interacts with the people who inhabit each world.

Since I never made a distinction between the digital and the physical me, I never saw the point of playing social simulations like The Sims, Animal Crossing, or Harvest Moon. Furthermore, the physical act of playing social simulations like The Sims or Animal Crossing seemed particularly tedious; there didn’t seem to be the type of feedback that more active games like character action-adventure games or sports simulation games or first person shooters can provide.

So, I was surprised at my own reaction to what I saw of Tomodachi Life, specifically when the Giant Bomb crew played it on an episode of their weekly show, Unprofessional Fridays. The game’s quirkiness appealed to me, and for a while, it kept me glued to the game on my commute to work every morning. One morning, I found that Jesus of Nazareth, whom I had invited to live on island, named Tummy Isle Island, had been arrested for adding hot mustard to foods around the island. No explanation was given for why Jesus had made this his mission, and the other residents of Tummy Isle Island had muted reactions to this news. Another morning, Jesus attempted to break the world record of facial distortion by stretching his face but failed by an inch. Did Jesus go on his hot mustard mission because he failed to break this world record, or was it because I fed him something that he didn’t like the day before? Another morning, one resident dreamed an ill-fated romance between a brownie and a stack of pancakes. On a different morning, another resident dreamed that he was a bobblehead on a dashboard of a car that was racing through a dark forest. One night, my own avatar dreamed that he was a snail crawling along a blank white floor. These snippets sound like gibberish when I recount them to anyone else.

Though quirky and kooky stuff have a fairly limited lifespan (I’ve seen the dashboard bobblehead dream multiple times from different residents, so it seems like something with which the game likes to populate its characters’ dreams), that wasn’t what ultimately caused me to  finally put Tomodachi Life aside. Instead, it’s something that should seem impossible for a game that’s as theoretically personalized as Tomodachi Life: the feeling of homogeneity.

For a while, my game felt personalized enough that I wasn’t left wondering about the game’s nuts and bolts. The goal is to keep the avatars I’ve populated Tummy Isle Island with as happy as possible by meeting their essential needs (food, clothes, shelter, companionship). I populated my world with a mix of celebrities (Shaq, the Giant Bomb crew), my family members (my wife, son, brother, and sister-in-law), my friends, and fictional characters (Neon Genesis Evangelion‘s Rei Ayanami, Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Geordi LaForge, Yotsuba&!‘s Yotsuba Koiwai, and Left4Dead‘s Zoey and Louis). Though I inserted my wife and me into the game, but there’s no obvious guarantee that they would become sweethearts and eventually husband and wife. (Except, if you think about the game’s logic, there is, but we’ll explore that later.) As in real life, my wife’s avatar proposed to me, and I felt awful when I botched my wife’s avatar’s proposal to my avatar by tapping the screen at the wrong time.

As time passes and I continue to solve the avatars’ problems, the avatars’ levels rise. I think my avatar is at level 14; Shaq’s probably at level 13. The game’s simulacrum breaks not from the fact that the avatars’ measure their growth in levels, but from the homogeneity that this mechanic forces upon the avatar. At each level, the player is forced to give the character a gift from a limited selection, a catchphrase for when the character is angry, happy, or sad, an apartment design again from a limited selection, a song from a limited selection of styles, or some pocket money from the player’s own in-game funds. In the physical world, I can’t rap or sing opera. But, my avatar in Tomodachi Life does because I simply ran out of things I could give him as he gained levels. The player is limited in the number and type of gifts we can give the avatars; almost all of the avatars, including Jesus of Nazareth, on Tummy Isle Island have cell phones I had to give them something, and Jesus didn’t seem like the type to have a punching bag. Similarly, my wife and I both rap, sing opera, have cell phones, and have the same apartment designs. The distinctions between characters gets filed down by the limited variety of things we can do when the characters level up. In order to keep the avatars unique, I can either give them pocket change that they won’t use from a pool I need to use to buy things to keep the avatars happy or homogenize them.

Once the game’s own obstacle to avatar growth became clear, I was given the mental space to wonder how and why my avatars formed their connections. It was fairly obvious why my wife’s avatar formed a relationship with my own avatar: we were the only avatars on Tummy Isle Island for a while. Oddly enough, neither avatar ever formed a connection with my son’s avatar, even though I had designated in the Mii Creator that he was our son. This left me in a weird position of wondering what happens when our avatars have a baby in Tomodachi Life when our actual kid’s avatar is already in the game and seemingly estranged from our avatars. And this doubt led me to where social simulation games die: GameFAQs.

The moment I’m tempted to open a guide to understand the game’s nuts and bolts, the game’s illusions are dispelled. And because the mini-games in Tomodachi Life are shallow, the mechanics of clothing and feeding the avatars shallow, and the lifespan of quirkiness fairly limited, I took the cartridge out of the 3DS XL that I ostensibly bought so I could play Tomodachi Life with a small sense of relief.


Co-Op Critics Podcast–E3 and Left 4 Dead

In this episode of Co-Op Critics, Brian and Dan discuss their takeaways from this year’s E3, and profess their love for the Left 4 Dead series.

You can either listen to the episode here on the embedded player to the right, or download it here.

You can follow Brian on Twitter ( and check out his blog at

Dan Evans can be found on Twitter (

Send comments to OR leave us a voicemail at 860-698-0468. Check out for all things Secret Identity, and come back to for more gaming discussion!


Gaming Stories: Video Game Championship Wrestling III

WWE’s Royal Rumble 2013 will take place this weekend, so it’s as good a time as any to check on one of my favorite online video gaming streams, Bazza87’s Video Game Championship Wrestling.

Several developments have taken place since when we last checked in with Video Game Championship Wrestling. The most significant development has been Bazza87’s agreement to a partnership deal with Twitch, which caused a number of fans to raise their concerns about how the stream would theoretically need to change in order to maintain the partnership. In many ways, Bazza87’s partnership with Twitch, which would generate revenue for Bazza87 for the work he puts into making the stream one of the most interesting views on the Web, reminded me of when independent wrestling companies sign deals with television stations and must change. 

When Extreme Championship Wrestling, at the time the third largest wrestling promotion in the United States, signed a national television distribution deal in 1999 with TNN, which was then known as The Nashville Network and transformed into The National Network and is today known as Spike, Extreme Championship Wrestling fans balanced their hope for the company’s survival because of the revenue that this deal brought and the concerns that the company would have to tone down its content in order to satisfy TNN’s advertisers. In many ways, Extreme Championship Wrestling fans’ fears were ultimately confirmed. Recently, when Ring of Honor, the largest independent wrestling company currently in operation and in many ways Extreme Championship Wrestling’s successor, signed a national television distribution deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group, the same concerns about how Ring of Honor would have to change its content in order to satisfy Sinclair Broadcast Group and its advertisers arose among Ring of Honor fans. The fear boils down to the effect money has on art.

Extreme Championship Wrestling, the cautionary example for all independent wrestling companies that followed.

Modern professional wrestling tradition dictates that a wrestler who is perceived to prioritize money over the fans must be taunted with chants of “You sold out!” I can’t say that the chant originated in Extreme Championship Wrestling when its wrestlers would leave the company for more lucrative contracts with World Championship Wrestling or World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment), but its use in Extreme Championship Wrestling certainly popularized it. So, when Bazza87, through “Baz McMahon,” his avatar in Video Game Championship Wrestling show, announced his deal with Twitch during the January 22, 2013 Video Game Championship Wrestling show, he piped in the “You sold out” chant into his show to tie his show to professional wrestling tropes once again. He then addressed his fans’ concerns that the partnership would cause Bazza87 to stop using certain songs during the show by stating unequivocally, “If I play certain music that I don’t have permission to use…this channel could get shut down. Well, what stops me from making a new channel if that happens? I’d lose my partnership sure, but VGCW will live on. So let’s answer the question. Will I stop using certain music? No chance in hell.” And of course the scene ended with “No Chance in Hell,” the theme song for both Baz McMahon in Video Game Championship Wrestling and Mr. McMahon in World Wrestling Entertainment. 

Bazza87’s broadcasting pace has not slowed; since our last post, Bazza87 has held shows on December 23, January 1, January 5, January 13, January 16, January 17, and January 22. The regular scheduling has also continued, but it does not seem to have negatively affected Video Game Championship Wrestling’s popularity. Each show continues to be viewed live by 2000-3000 viewers, and the Twitch chat and the NeoGAF thread remain active during shows.
The Video Game Championship Wrestling championship churn that I discussed last time seems to have stabilized a little. The VGCW Championship bounced from Proto Man to Donkey Kong on the December 19 show and to Solid Snake on the December 23 show, but it has since remained with Raphael, who defeated Solid Snake on the January 1 show. Raphael has defended against Dr. Eggman’s master plan twice and Dan Hibiki. Meanwhile, the team of Dr. Eggman and Dr. Wily, collectively known as The Practice, defeated GameCenter FU, the team of the Angry Video Game Nerd and GameCenter CX’s host Shinya Arino, for the Co-Op Championship on the December 19 show. The Practice defended their titles against Ganondorf and Zangief’s Gerudo Skies before losing them to Mr. Satan and Dan Hibiki’s Raw Power, who have so far successfully defended their titles against Mega Man and Proto Man’s Team Light. 
F.K. In the coffee!

Bazza87 has also tried to refresh the roster by introducing new characters, such as Capcom’s Mike Haggar, Gary Oak, Locke Cole and Sabin Rene Figaro from Final Fantasy VI, and Ron Burgundy while also removing characters like Wreck-It Ralph. Every viewer probably has characters whom he or she thinks should be eliminated or added, and the Video Game Championship Wrestling Wikia now has a character suggestion page to accommodate the fans’ desires. As always, Bazza87’s ability to meet fan requests for characters depends on the availability of the Create-a-Wrestler model in the PS3’s WWE ’13 online community, the need to balance introducing too many new characters and eliminating old favorites, consideration of whether the character would appeal to enough viewers, and whether the character was imbued with enough personality in his or her home game to make him or her worthwhile in a freeform meme melting pot like Video Game Championship Wrestling. For example, Francis York Morgan from Deadly Premonition might be a great character to introduce because of Deadly Premonition‘s cult status, the notoriety of “Life Is Beautiful” from the Deadly Premonition soundtrack, the sheer number of remixes available for “Life Is Beautiful,” and the memes that originated from Deadly Premonition, but he wouldn’t be a good character to add because he’s visually similar to Phoenix Wright, who’s already in the game.

The intersection between the information that viewers bring with them and what happens in the game’s simulation continues to be a primary source of Video Game Championship Wrestling’s entertainment. In the Pokemon cartoon, Ash Ketchum toiled in Gary Oak’s shadow. On the January 6, 2013 show, Gary Oak debuted in Video Game Championship Wrestling to challenge Ash Ketchum and remind him that Gary Oak is better than Ash Ketchum. To the viewers’ surprise, Ash Ketchum beat Gary Oak, as the game’s AI decided that Ash Ketchum was better than Gary Oak on that day.  

Ash was no loser on the January 6, 2013 show.

Furthermore, Bazza87 has addressed the difficulty of creating compelling professional wrestling storylines caused by his inability to directly control the matches’ outcomes by relying more heavily on WWE ’13‘s story creation tools. The current storyline concerns Phoenix Wright’s quest to uncover who ran down Little Mac with a sedan. Nappa joined Phoenix Wright in this investigation, while Baz McMahon continued to hinder their attempts to uncover the culprit by pitting them against his stooges, Ezio, Raphael, and Gary Oak. On the January 22, 2013 show, Phoenix Wright, Nappa, and Solid Snake were able to defeat Ezio, Raphael, and Gary Oak in a tag team match, which then allowed Phoenix Wright to arrest Baz McMahon. However, Bazza87 was able to use another tool available to him, direct text insertion into the Twitch video player, to create a cutscene to show that Baz McMahon was only a red herring and that there is someone else responsible for Little Mac’s accident.

If Baz McMahon wasn’t the real culprit, who is?

While Phoenix Wright’s investigation continues to be the central storyline running through Video Game Championship Wrestling, my favorite has been the rise and fall of Vegeta, jobber extraordinaire. Vegeta had earned his reputation for futility by losing almost every singles match in which he’s participated until he faced fan favorite Charles Barkley. While Charles Barkley has one of the best theme songs in Video Game Championship Wrestling, he’s had middling success in matches. He reached his lowest point when he lost to Vegeta on the January 16, 2013 show; this loss started a small feud between Vegeta and Charles Barkley and between Vegeta’s fans and Charles Barkley’s supporters. While Charles Barkley was able to win a Best Out of 3 Falls match against Vegeta, Vegeta has actually won 2 matches against Charles Barkley, to Barkley’s eternal shame. Everyone enjoys stories of redemption, and Vegeta’s little redemption at Barkley’s expense was particularly entertaining.

Finally, the community’s involvement with Video Game Championship Wrestling expanded when the Video Game Championship Wikia opened. Fans sprang to action to create entries detailing each wrestler, the stream’s history, and documenting the universe that Bazza87 and the fans have created, such as the sordid history of Table-san. This type of community involvement is key to Video Game Championship Wrestling’s sustainability.

Time passes and things change, but Video Game Championship Wrestling continues to be one of the most enjoyable parts of the gaming community that I’ve experienced. There was a rumor that the organizers of the Evo Championship Series were willing to exhibit Video Game Championship Wrestling at Evo 2013, but nothing seems to have come out of that rumor so far. Bazza87 has addressed some of the major concerns about the stream’s sustainability that I outlined in my previous posts about Video Game Championship Wrestling, and I look forward to how Video Game Championship Wrestling will continue to evolve in the future. 


Gaming Stories: Video Game Championship Wrestling Revisited

Little Fraud, the Corporate Champion, until he wasn’t.
A lot can happen in a month, and a lot has indeed happened in the world of Bazza87’s Video Game Championship Wrestling. Championships have changed hands, lives have been altered, surprising alliances have formed, rings have been destroyed, and, according to the chat, Half-Life 3 has been delayed again because this happened:

I still can’t believe Nappa hit Gabe Newell with a supersuplex and collapse the ring to win the match via TKO.

When we last checked Video Game Championship Wrestling, Nappa and Zangief were engaged in a violent feud that involved backstage fights, Link had just debuted but lost, which earned him the nickname “The Jobber of Time,” Adam Jensen had stopped Ganondorf from beating on Ezio with a steel chair, and Little Mac had just become the viewers’ most hated villain because he was perceived to have screwed Zangief, who had won an opportunity to challenge for Video Game Championship Wrestling’s Hardcore Internet All-Star Championship.

Since then, the Hardcore Internet All-Star Championship has changed hands from Ganondorf to Bowser to Adam Jensen of Deus Ex: Human Revolution fame to Kratos to Little Mac to Proto Man to Donkey Kong, who is the current champion. Ganondorf’s loss to Bowser was a particularly memorable loss: it was a rematch between Ganondorf and Bowser, and it took place in an Inferno Iron Man Match, which meant that the two characters were in a ring surrounded by fire, and the character that scored the most pinfalls or submission victories in 30 minutes would win the match. Bowser won the match 32 pinfalls to Ganondorf’s 5.

The Dark Lord fell in dramatic fashion.

Meanwhile, the tag team championship has changed hands from the Team Fortress duo of Scout and Pyro to the team of GameCenter FU, composed of the Angry Video Games Nerd and Gamecenter CX’s Shinya Arino, to The Practice, made of Dr. Wily and Dr. Eggman. Little Mac and Zangief have resolved their feud, though Little Mac was recently run over by a mysterious black sedan, as these things go in professional wrestling.

The stream remains an arresting viewing experience, even though each show takes about 3-4 hours and they’ve occurred a little more frequently than I would like. Since November 26, Bazza87 has held a show on November 27, November 28, December 5, December 9, December 12, December 14, and December 19 and a special prototype show featuring female video game characters on December 15. The shows have all been entertaining, but it’s a significant time investment, and the pace could lead to burnout on both the presenter’s and the viewers’ sides. Some of the characters seem a little stale, but Bazza87 has tried to remedy this by holding elimination matches where the loser is erased from the roster. So far, Earthbound‘s Ness and President Obama have been eliminated.

The entertainment still comes from how nonsensical even the experience of describing what takes place during these shows can be. In the last paragraph alone, I mentioned that a character from a cult favorite NES roleplaying game and the current President of the United States have been eliminated from a made-up Internet-only fan-run professional wrestling league. The levels of abstraction from reality that exist in Video Game Championship Wrestling remain the key to why this works as well as it does.

The other part of the equation comes from the spontaneity that fuels the chat during the shows and how Bazza87 has reacted to the unexpected. Indeed, some of the best moments of watching Bazza87’s Video Game Championship Wrestling has come from dealing with WWE ’13‘s various bugs and glitches. The aforementioned epic Inferno Iron Man match between Ganondorf and Bowser showed that Yukes’s AI-controlled characters have trouble with specialty matches or matches with unusual stipulations. In that match, Ganondorf insisted on trying to force Bowser to submit to painful holds, but he refused to score pinalls on Bowser. On the other hand, Bowser had no such difficulties.

Also, the feud between Little Mac and Zangief began when Zangief won his shot at the championship in a match that lasted mere seconds because the game’s AI couldn’t coordinate six characters in a Money in the Bank Match, which requires wrestlers to climb ladders to retrieve a briefcase suspended above the ring. Because the match was so brief, Bazza87 determined that the match was glitched and held a rematch later in the show, which resulted in Little Mac winning the championship shot. Bazza87 then declared that Little Mac’s victory was the official result of the match, which led the chat to declare that he was “Baz McMahon,” styling him after Vince McMahon, who would involve himself in WWE’s storylines in overt and covert ways. Bazza87 would take to this role with relish, going so far as to control Vince McMahon as the referee in a match between Little Mac and Zangief.

A third example stands out. During a tag team match between the team of Dr. Eggman, Wesker, and Vegeta and the team of Duke Nukem, Donkey Kong, and Simon Belmont, Dr. Eggman glitched and stumbled around the ring while his teammates were beaten by their opponents. It seemed like Dr. Eggman’s glitch would cost his team the match, but Wesker and Vegeta were able to eliminate Simon Belmont and Donkey Kong, which forced Duke Nukem to fight all three villains alone. To everyone’s surprise, Duke Nukem was indeed able to pin Dr. Eggman, Wesker, and Vegeta, and the chat quipped that Duke Nukem’s performance in the match almost made up for Duke Nukem Forever.

Going forward, Bazza87 faces the challenge of continuing to deal with his league’s unpredictability. The recent championship churn demonstrates how difficult it can be to create compelling professional wrestling storylines when the organizer lacks the ability to directly control the results of matches. If we take our knowledge of how the Legend of Zelda games end, I think that Bazza87 introduced Link to Video Game Championship Wrestling to eventually dethrone Ganondorf, who at the time seemed invincible because he had beaten Dr. Eggman, the Angry Video Game Nerd, Scorpion, Little Mac, Bowser, and Ezio during his reign. But Link lost to Wario in his debut match, while Ganondorf lost his title to Bowser, so that storyline had to be scrapped. By wrestling logic, Zangief should have had an opportunity to challenge and possibly dethrone Little Mac after Little Mac won the championship, but Little Mac lost in his first title defense to Proto Man. Of course, Proto Man did survive this to win his shot at the championship:

Dr. Light builds them strong.

Bazza87 also needs to contend with the lack of continuity in WWE ’13‘s tournaments. Wrestlers cannot accumulate injuries in tournaments, so they cannot reflect accurately the results of earlier matches during a tournament. For example, Proto Man did not exhibit any damage from falling off the top of the cage during his match with Gabe Newell or in the other matches during that tournament.

In a way, Bazza87’s Video Game Championship Wrestling stream is the best stress test that Yukes and THQ can have to see how WWE ’14 could improve over WWE ’13. The popularity of Bazza87’s Video Game Championship Wrestling stream, which now has increased from 150,410 viewers as of November 26 to 343,759 viewers as of December 20, demonstrates that Yukes should consider enhancing the game’s build-a-storyline and streaming capabilities. The stream also highlights areas where Yukes could and should improve the game’s AI, such as the bug where wrestlers get stuck in endless cycles of sending each other to the ropes with Irish whips or cycles of reversing each other’s pins after the 1 count. Indeed, when the hashtag “#THQuality” is popularized because of all the varied ways WWE ’13 breaks under the strain of frequent AI matches, as shown in Bazza87’s Video Game Championship Wrestling stream, I can only hope that Yukes and THQ are paying attention.


Gaming Stories: Mega Man 3

Even robots get old. The Blue Bomber, Mega Man, celebrated his twenty-fifth existence anniversary this year, though you wouldn’t be able to tell based on Capcom’s quiet about the matter. Capcom recently discounted a digital compilation of Mega Man 1-5, 9 and 10 on the PlayStation Network in Japan, announced that it will be releasing Mega Man 1-6 on the Nintendo 3DS’s eShop, sold a collector’s tin full of soundtrack CDs in Japan, and published a fan game, Street Fighter X Mega Man, on PC this week.

Thinking of Mega Man always brings me back to third grade, when I owned my first and only Mega Man game, Mega Man 3.

At least Mega Man looks like Mega Man on this cover.

I rarely received video games as gifts; when I do, I was usually surprised by games that would not top any child’s wishlist, like Air Fortress. My parents noted my interest in video games and used them as academic incentives. In 1990, I was in third grade, and I was challenged to memorize the multiplication tables up to 12 times 12. To my parents, all problems could be solved with enough effort and guided motivation, so Mega Man 3 was held over my head until I could recite the multiplication tables. Tears were shed and threats were shouted leading up to the glass display case in Kay Bee Toys where the NES games were stored. Eventually, before the actual display case with Mega Man 3 in sight, I was able to recite enough of the multiplication tables to satisfy my parents.

At the time, my only frame of reference for my expectations for Mega Man 3 was composed of a weekend of playing Mega Man 2 when my parents agreed to rent it and reading the copy of Worlds of Power: Mega Man 2 that I bought from a school Scholastic book sale until it was dog-eared and looked distressed. I didn’t actually beat Mega Man 2 until I was high school and may or may not have downloaded an NES emulator and a Mega Man 2 ROM.

In Worlds of Power: Mega Man 2, Mega Man expressed doubts about his abilities and his mission. More importantly, Dr. Light accidentally turned Mega Man from robot to human while attempting to clone Mega Man. The science behind such a transformation eludes me to this day (how do you clone a robot, how does the process of replicating a robot turn the robot human), as does a human Mega Man’s chances of surviving his mission (how does a human being survive Heat Man’s stage, which is full of pools of lava).

On this cover, Mega Man lacks the gun that
he sports on the cover to Mega Man 2.

So, as I booted up Mega Man 3, I thought Mega Man was still human, which surprised me when he exploded into light for the first time when I died. Video games had, in my experience, treated death in strange ways, but it was a stretch even by video game standards for a human being to explode into energy balls. The manual revealed to my disappointment that Mega Man was actually still a robot.

I remember making my own grids on looseleaf paper so I could record passwords to keep my progress in Mega Man 3, which was probably the first time I played a game with a password function. My parents could not understand what these sheets of paper represented, but I guarded them with my life. They became the basis for my own gaming strategy guides, and they were treasured.

I had expected to face eight Robot Masters, since Worlds of Power: Mega Man 2 had laid out the expectation that I would fight eight enemy robots in a Mega Man game and the game’s manual and Nintendo Power described the eight Robot Masters in Mega Man 3: Magnet Man, Hard Man, Top Man, Shadow Man, Spark Man, Snake Man, Gemini Man, and Needle Man. The surprise return of the eight Robot Masters from Mega Man 2 made the game seem like a much grander experience; it’s amazing what happens when expectations are exceeded. The look of the Mega Man 2 Robot Masters’ spirits descending into the empty shells that Dr. Wily made for them was actually creepy to a third grader, and the idea that I could battle these bosses that I had mostly read about with weapons from Mega Man 3 was a thrill.

Silly names, but such fun bosses and stages. And then there was the version with the Mega Man 2 Robot Masters.

Mega Man 3 also introduced Mega Man’s slide, and it made perfect sense to me as a child. Mega Man can jump and shoot and even fly thanks to his robotic dog, Rush; why wouldn’t he also be able to slide around at will? I didn’t realize that it was such a divisive addition to the Mega Man games until much later, when I saw that the slide and charge-up shot that was introduced in Mega Man 4 were commonly cited as reasons for the Mega Man franchise’s decline over time.

Sliding and profiling.

No discussion of Mega Man 3 would be complete without a brief discussion of the terrific soundtrack. Snake Man’s stage music and Needle Man’s stage music, in particular, formed the foundation for many work and workout soundtracks.

My other lasting memory of Mega Man 3 was discovering the super jump and invincibility glitches, which are connected because both are caused by pressing Right on the directional pad on the second controller. I discovered them in a copy of Nintendo Power, and I could not have beaten the game without using these glitches. The platforming challenges presented by the disappearing blocks alone were too much; add to those blocks the difficulty of navigating traps in large stages and managing resources in the face of stiff combat (stupid giant robot cat in Top Man’s stage), and I had yet another game that I almost could not finish in my childhood.

These memories of Mega Man 3 make Street Fighter X Mega Man particularly disappointing. While the soundtrack, which features mash-ups of stage themes from Street Fighter games and Mega Man games, is terrific, the stages are unimaginatively linear and feature almost no platforming. The combat, in this case, actually is hampered by the charge-up shot, which really slows the game to sequences of “wait until the Mega Buster is charged, advance, blast the enemy robot, wait until the Mega Buster is charged again.” The weapons drawn from the Street Fighter characters are often disappointing linear projectile weapons, with Chun-Li’s Lightning Kick an exception, though it could be compared to Mega Man 3‘s Top Spin. And the challenge of energy conservation has been removed: when you die, your special weapons and Rush abilities are recharged. Presumably, this is to make it easier for the player to advance if they die on the boss, but it removes the challenge of managing your weapons’ and tools’ energy levels, scrounging for that last energy pellet before the boss fight, and figuring out other weapons that could work if the best weapon against a particular Robot Master is out of juice.

Nonetheless, no game or lack of games can take away the smile that appears when I think about the giant undulating snake in Snake Man’s stage, the robotic porcupine in Needle Man’s stage, the evil giant cat in Top Man’s stage, the bees in Hard Man’s stage, and all the other foes I conquered to defeat Dr. Wily in Mega Man 3. Wow, that game had a lot of robot animal enemies.