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January 7, 2016

The 4-Year Anniversary Box Social: The Answer Lies…


Okay, I know this is technically coming in a little before the official 4-year anniversary, but since I didn’t do an end-of-year post, I decided to get some of that stuff out of the way here, ASAP.  That way I could move on to other, better (?) stuff.

Now then.  Let’s start with a megaton of an announcement: I think I’m going to be a Birdie specialist in Street Fighter V.


Well, that’s tentatively speaking.  I was a T. Hawk main throughout most of SFIV’s life, so it makes sense to jump to another grappler.  In an ideal world, Guile would be among the initial sixteen and I would prioritize him instead -- but since he’s coming later (because I guess they need to figure out how to render his hair in an eighth-gen engine), the one who calls out to me the most is Birdie.  Besides Ryu, but that’s too much of a gimme.  Necalli’s all right, too, so I guess he’ll be an alternate…though I kind of feel like I’d like him more if he didn’t have all that hair flying everywhere.  So basically, Necalli minus what makes Necalli Necalli.

You should expect no less from me, given my thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens -- wherein I outed myself as Voltech, THE ENEMY OF MANKIND.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about Street Fighter, and not just because its fifth installment is going to drop soon (barring any last-minute delays).  Me being me, I pretty much have to think about video games, after all -- not just in terms of “is this a good game”, either.  If that was the case, I’d just write reviews and slap on a score.  If you’ve read my stuff for any amount of time, you may know that I’m more interested in figuring out why something works or doesn’t work.  And I try to relay that back to anyone with the kindness needed to read one of my posts.  Whether it’s in video games or in life itself, there are a lot of questions that need answering -- and I try to provide my own.


The thing is, there are always going to be more questions than answers -- plus, the answers out there aren’t always going to be good ones.  Or welcome ones; anyone who’s had an unpopular opinion (like, I don’t know, thinking that The Last of Us ISN’T some glowing testament to art in its most perfect form) knows what I mean.  That shouldn’t stop anyone from trying to find and dish out answers, though.  Doing so is what helps in the pursuit of knowledge.  And by extension, strength.

It should go without saying, but I want to find those answers.  I want to improve myself -- and if possible, improve others.  I want to know what it takes to become someone -- someone worthy of respect, of trust, of the title of “writing hero”.  I want to do so much more, and become so much more.  Again, you should expect no less from me; I’m no bastion of virtue.  Ambition is evil, as they say.

But let’s switch gears for a minute and talk about video games.  Like, a bunch of ‘em.


I think they’re in a weird place right now.  That’s a step-up from where I used to think they were; I used to argue that there wasn’t a single game that justified the purchase or presence of a PS4.  (That extends to the Xbone as well, maybe even more so.)  That changed within the past half-year or so, wherein some major titles finally made their debut.  Bloodborne, The Witcher 3, and Metal Gear Solid V have all left their mark on the gaming world, and signaled that maybe things are on the up and up.  That quality isn’t guaranteed, of course, but at least it’s out there. 

But a funny thing happened a few months back.  I popped in Dragon Quest Heroes for the first time, and expected to get a good feel for the latest remix on the Dynasty Warriors formula.  As it so happened, I was denied.  Apparently, the PS4’s memory had filled up or something, and I couldn’t even boot up the game without deleting something.  That was the first time I’d ever seen anything like that happen; I never would’ve guessed it was even possible, least of all on some of the most advanced gaming tech to date.


Weirdly, it wouldn’t be the first time I’d run into then-unseen gaming issues.  There was a certain PS3 game I’d never gotten around to playing, since there wasn’t enough space for it -- but once there was, I went in to try and play it.  As it turned out, the game -- which my brother had originally downloaded -- never actually installed.  Or something to that effect; the takeaway is that I had to wait an additional hour before I could actually boot up the game.  More to the point, apparently the license for the game expired in the time between downloading it and actually trying to play it.  It was an easy fix, to be fair (I just had to log onto the PSN), but still an utterly bizarre experience.

Now, far be it from me to seek solace in the past.  But even so, I couldn’t help but think back to the days when the GameCube -- purple lunchbox that it might have been -- roamed the earth.  Sure, you had to deal with memory cards as well, but that was about as complicated and esoteric as it got.  You put in the disc, you watch the startup sequence, and then you’re pretty much off to play the game…after it finishes loading up, but the point still stands.

Why do I bring this up?  Well, I can’t help but think back to those days.  Or to be more precise, to those games.  Or to be even more precise, I’ve started to remember that there’s a crapload of games I haven’t played yet.


These days, it’s beginning to feel more and more like games are more endeavors than simply just games.  That’s a blessing and a curse; it’s cool that you can spend a hundred hours with The Witcher 3, but the tradeoff is that there’s an overwhelming amount of content.  I’ve put my time into it, for sure, but I’ve barely gotten anywhere -- and the realization that there’s still so much more game left is honestly kind of terrifying. 

Same goes for MGSV; I won’t deny its quality, but my brother chided me for only making it to mission 13 or so.  Mind you, that was after I’d been playing it for weeks.  Now Xenoblade X is in gamers’ midst, and is the successor to a game famous for its massive world…and wouldn’t you know it, I’ve put hours and hours into it, yet haven’t even made it past Chapter 5.  As of writing, I haven’t even started Chapter 5.

I appreciate the wealth of content in eighth-gen games, but I feel like I need a break from them.  I need a change of pace -- a chaser from games big enough to qualify as galactic in scale.  I have enough content from a handful of releases to last me for the entirety of 2016, arguably. 

So maybe it’s time to change directions.  Because sometimes you need to go backwards to go forward.


Rest assured, I’ll be saying something about Xenoblade X in the near future.  But after that?  There are other games I want to get into.  Some of them are endeavors in their own right, but I’ve put them off for so long, and I don’t want to.  Chief among those games: Tales of Zestiria.  I haven’t touched it in months, and I hate that I had to do that to a franchise that’s been so good to me in the past.  So hopefully, I can start cracking that open for real, and learning something useful from it.  I already have, technically, but my lust for knowledge can’t be quenched by a short sample.

Also, I’m all too aware of the fact that Uncharted 4 is one of the next big games coming our way.  The problem is that I’ve never played any of the games before it; I missed the first one since I didn’t have a PS3 at the time, and I only watched the other two played (and even then, not from start to finish).  My plan is to change that very soon, thanks to the Uncharted collection that was recently released.  Chances are high that at some point in the future, it’ll become a miniseries in its own right.  Will it be in time for me to jump into the fourth game?  Will I even WANT to play the fourth game after experiencing the other three?  Time will tell.


But speaking of the PS3?  There are a number of games on there that I seriously want to write about.  And play, obviously, but I feel as if there’s some VERY good content I could get out of them.  That game with the licensing issues?  Yakuza 4, a game which I enjoy immensely, least of all because it’s got some of the most savage attacks I’ve ever seen. 

Beyond that?  Too many games have gathered dust for too long.  Under Night In-Birth is a fantastic fighter, and I want to get back to it.  Valkyria Chronicles was a game I wanted the moment it first announced, and I need to sate my past fanaticism.  Poor Ni no Kuni is another JRPG that went unfinished while installments in the dreaded Fabula Nova Crystallis series nearly drove me to rage-induced tears…and I need to fix that someday.  Preferably before the end of days.

But Ni no Kuni isn’t even the worst off.  I’ve still got a PS2 on deck.


How many games do I have that I’ve neglected?  It’s hard to know for sure -- but there’s probably a bunch.  Valkyrie Profile 2 is the first that springs to mind, thanks to a suggestion made by a Destructoid frequenter.  But I’ve got other games, as well.  Games that haven’t seen play in ages.  Games that, viewed by a present-day Voltech, might hold the answers to countless questions -- or even questions I never would have thought existed.  Games that may or may not have “The Legend of Zelda” in the title.

Now, let’s be real here.  Am I saying I’m going to play through every old game in the world?  Now, of course not; the fact that my backlog got this big in the first place should tell you that things are more likely to fall apart (and on me) before I see any major successes.  But the takeaway is that there are possibilities -- options waiting to be tapped as the days go by.  Who knows what’ll happen?  I certainly don’t.  But maybe when all’s said and done, I’ll be ready to declare that I’ve got a new favorite game.

Enough of that, though.  Let’s go under the hood.


Cross-Up is, typically, focused on video games.  But if there’s one answer that I’ve been trying to find for ages now, it’s the one that’ll answer the burning question: “How do I take it to the next level?”  I can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, after all.  I need to offer up something new -- and to that end, I’m hoping that 2016 is finally when I can work on some of the things I’ve had planned in earnest.  Chief among them: I want to become a good 3D artist.

I’ve already done a little bit of it, but I hope to do more, and here’s why: if I can boost my proficiency in that one skill, then it means I’ll be able to do significantly more with one step.  It’s about the efficiency.  Working smarter, not harder.  So as an example: if I can gain competency in using a program like Blender, then I’ll be able to make a 3D version of my avatar -- the sort of thing I could use in the header, my profile pic, and miscellaneous JPEGs with a few key strokes, rather than having to make three separate images from scratch.  On top of that, if I somehow learn how to animate that avatar, then it’ll be another tool in my belt.  And while it’s too early to even imagine the prospect, it could help me dip my toes into the game development pool.


But if we’re forced to stick with things in the realm of possibility?  I want to start producing video content.  That’s not only something I can do, but something that I intend to do in the weeks to come.  I feel like I’ve said as much before, but it’s worth repeating: in terms of scale, I want to do something like one of MovieBob’s videos, and keep going from there. 

That seems more feasible, and it’s as good a starting point as any -- least of all because it’s at my current (hypothetical) skill level.  I’m not opposed to doing lengthier stuff like an Errant Signal video, but that’s just it: it’s lengthier, and even the basic stuff takes some real effort.  Though I guess you could say the same about any consumable art: minutes of enjoyment for fans means hours, if not days of work for the creator.

Remember, kids: even the “laziest” product took a level of dedication rivaling the average blood pact.


With a new year starting up, it’s practically a given that you’ll see more content from me.  With that said, my intent is to also try and offer better content.  Maybe people don’t feel like reading thousands of words at a time; maybe they’d rather have a video with a core concept playing in the background.  Or maybe they’re tired of reading, listening, or thinking, and would rather look at some nifty pictures.  Maybe they don’t want to think critically about video games, but are in the mood for some straight-up fiction form a guy who acts like he knows better.  Maybe they want something out of the ordinary, delivered with style and savvy.  Who’s to say?  I’m not everybody.  I’m just a nobody.

But I don’t want to be a nobody.  I want to be somebody -- somebody worth listening to, or watching, or reading from.  What I’m asking for -- a mindshare of the people’s opinions, and a reformation of their worldviews -- is selfish, if not borderline villainous.  But that’s pretty much what anyone in the field is striving for.  They want to give answers, and people want to find them.  If nothing else, I understand that.  I’m looking for answers, too.  And seeing as how I’m not willing to brave a lost tooth or a black eye, I don’t plan on finding them in the heart of battle.

I’ll find them right here on Cross-Up.  And I hope that you’ll come along with me on this journey.


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