Player 2 Press Start: A tribute to the unsung heroes

From Luigi in Super Mario Bros. to Jimmy Lee in Double Dragon, being the younger brother often means I have to settle for Player 2 characters. But using the term “settle” isn’t really justifiable because these lesser-known sidekicks were the ones I know and love; they were the ones who were there for me growing up.

LuigiMy love affair with support characters began with Luigi. Before Nintendo made Luigi a more distinguished, overall sloppier character we know (but mostly loathe) today, he was initially created as a direct replica from his A-list celebrity brother Mario. That meant that even though I was the second player, I had the same potential as Mario. Born with the same jumping gene as the so-called original, I was always the one who ended up saving Princess Peach Toadstool — not Mario.

In my mind, Mario games are wonderful, but it’s Luigi’s Mansion that’s captured my heart. The way he’s forced to vacuum the entire house (much like me growing up) only to clumsily fall off the stairs is infinitely more relatable than a fat man’s ability to fly from wearing a fursuit.

Unlike the main characters in videgames, born with gold PSN trophies in their mouths, stories of supporting characters are much more interesting to me. Gamers often talk about Cloud, Aerith and Tifa, but only those who went out of their way were able to convince Yuffie to join the quest in the battle against Sephiroth in Final Fantasy 7.

NightwingI’m more captivated by these unsung heroes in almost every thing I play, watch, and read. While Batman can’t seem to ever stop whining about his massive fortune and deceased parents, Dick Grayson is the one who has to deal with his parents’ death without any fortune left behind, all while struggling to become his own man. Sailor Moon may be the moon princess, but there’s something undeniably cool and admirable about the ever independent, yet unfortunately named, Sailor Uranus. Darkwing duck is the terror that flaps in the night, but Gizmoduck is the one who ends up saving the day with his built-in can opener.

At the end of the day, while everyone wants to be the main superhero who basks in the spotlight, I just want to be a useful sidekick who knows when to throw in the Master Sword (Ahem). Maybe being the younger brother makes me more aware of others, or maybe it helps me realize that I don’t need to be the center of attention in order to craft out my own identity. But just like Leslie Chow in the Hangover or Jack from Will and Grace, these under-the-radar, supporting characters may just end up stealing the spotlight at the end.

Should I give in to an increasingly shooter-based gaming future?

I have this problem when it comes to playing shooters: I may be the worst player in the world when it comes to titles that rely on aiming and accuracy.

My hands just don’t know what to do. To be more specific, the years have trained my right thumb to press face buttons to execute the perfect Hadoken in Street Fighter 2 or summon Shiva in Final Fantasy 7. Button mashing and stat-tracking have always been the bread and butter of my gaming credentials.

Menu screen of Final Fantasy VII
This is what I'm used to

Thanks to Super Smash Bros. Melee, I chose the Nintendo GameCube over the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox as my console of choice during college. Since there were very few role-playing games available for that system, I had to adapt to action-based fare like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Metroid Prime. It was a big transition from menu-driven RPGs to titles that require quick hand-eye coordination, but it was manageable, and I eventually became quite adept thanks largely to Nintendo’s innovative Z-Targeting system.

While it’s one thing to use the right analog stick to manipulate a camera, it’s another to depend on it for pinpoint headshot accuracy. I simply can’t do it. Like an old dog, it’s difficult for me to learn a new trick when my right thumb is so accustomed to pressing buttons. That’s why I’ve always avoided anything involving aiming and shooting as best I can.

But something happened in the past several years. Not only are there fewer and fewer traditional RPGs, but more and more games are increasingly adapting aiming and shooting as their primary gameplay element. Instant classics like Mass Effect and Fallout 3 are technically in the role-playing genre, but their shooter-based gameplay has kept me away for years.

The same could be said for the action-adventure genre: I was awesome at Batman: Arkham Asylum and Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time, but for me, Infamous was an utterly hopeless endeavor — an action game that had melee options, but focused primarily on accuracy and shooting. I eventually finished it, but not without letting go of my pride and setting the difficulty to easy. Ugh, I’m still ashamed.

Infamous is an open-world action-adventure that features aiming and shooting as a primary focus

I understand that a big part of the changeover has to do with the fact that technology now allows us to experience instant inputs that result in direct consequences. Developers no longer have to rely on heavy text or a four-minute Guardian Force summon to present an epic sense of scale. Now, everything can be done in real time.

No one was more excited than me when Nintendo unveiled the original Wii. Like a late-night infomercial, I wondered if this could be the product that would change my life forever and allow me to play shooters. And for the first time, I was a complete badass at Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition — games I had no chance in finishing if it wasn’t for the intuitive motion control. It’s an unfortunate reality, however, that developers never took full advantage of the console.

It’s not that I don’t like the concept of shooters. I’m just hesitant to see more and more games moving toward core design concept that I’m not sure everyone has a knack (or a desire) for. As I see this trend grow bigger every year, it’s quickly becoming a sink-or-swim issue for me.

Should I stick to the few remaining traditional role-playing and action-adventure games and risk missing out on the majority of medium’s best experiences? Or should I face the reality that shooters are the new standard and suck it up, even if it means toning down the difficulty to easy and retrying the same mission 50 times?

Update: This post has since been featured on the front page at Bitmob.com!

How Assassin's Creed became my favorite videogame franchise

tl;dr – The sense of freedom and style of the world made Assassin’s Creed my favorite videogame franchise.

Assassin's Creed Logo Whenever I ask my friends who their favorite videogame franchise of all time would be, a lot of them will mention Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Halo, Call of Duty or even Beyond Good & Evil (if you’re a hipster, in a I like it before it got big kind of way), but somehow, and out of nowhere, Assassin’s Creed stuck on me.

You see, I’ve always had a fascination with stealth games. From Tenchu to Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell to Batman: Arkham Asylum from 2008, I’ve always loved playing in the shadows. I like to be absorbed in this environment where the only way to proceed is by performing a calculating set of moves, as if a cleverly disguised chess match. To be able to see the enemy without them seeing me, my hair is standing on end just thinking about it.

Living in the shadows
Image from Gamershell.com

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