The National Hockey League does not care about ratings. That is irrelevant. It is not concerned about its tiny market in comparison to the other major American sports. The NHL does not care about its currently broken divisional playoff format. That is irrelevant.

No, what the NHL truly fears…

Is personality.

Some say that becoming a professional hockey player requires years of training, support, and practice. It takes constant hard work and the determination to always improve on every minute aspect of play. This is false. To become a professional Hockey player, you must undergo the “empathy draining method”, otherwise known as EDM. This is a rigorous process in which every feasible human emotion is drained over the course of five years. It begins with sucking away happiness, then sadness, then lust, then fulfillment, and every conceivable emotion is taken away until all that remains is a husk that can move a stick well.

This process is essential in making sure that the NHL has no major dramatic stories, and that the most meaningless slights against organizations can be major stories. Drama for the NHL is a player not agreeing to interview because they have a punctured lung. The monsters.

The NHL’s EDM process can be seen in action in the multitudes of post-game interviews. Every player brings up the exact same responses for the exact same questions. Here are some frameworks that are engrained into the players heads during the EDM process:

Q: How would you say your team did on the ice tonight?

A: Oh you know, we put pucks hard on the net, uh, you know, both teams are good teams, we just have to do what we can to get by and put more pucks on the, uh, net.

Q: John Jackson put up a 2-point night. Can you comment on their achievements?

A: Oh you know…Johnathan Jackson is a strong player, really brings the team together through intangibles. Uh…uh…you know he’s uh…kid’s a beaut you know and he puts pucks on the net you know it’s a team effort in there always but if one guy can shine then one guy can shine.

oh you know bud you know

But…every now and then…the process fails. Granted, it has a 99% success rate, but sometimes there are some…bad eggs, that overcome the EDM process.

They are capable of…smiling and even…I’m sorry, I’m about to gag as I say this, may god forgive me…crack jokes.

Sometimes they even have fun and say insults towards each other while playing. This is a big no-no, and we try to fine them with approximately the writer’s yearly salary...wait wh-

The biggest enemy of the NHL currently is a player by the name of P.K. Subban. He is one of the only extroverted and outspoken players in the NHL and I don’t like it. Not one bit. He is capable of happiness, and that makes me feel fear. He even…donated 10 million dollars to a children’s hospital. Generosity…kindness…all of these things terrify the NHL, so they do whatever they can to slander his name. They will call Subban a dirty player, a “clown” on the ice, a locker room “cancer”, because he does not adhere to the NHL’s desired system.

what is this emotion

So when you watch hockey, I want you to send your regards to the players. Know that, they are incapable of feeling emotions. Rally behind those who display it. When they attempt a joke, just laugh. Even if it is terrible, provide the most laughter you can. It will help them.

So in terms of games in 2016 for the 3DS, there was a major drought. At least, there was a drought for me. I got Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright the day it came out, and I was ecstatic. From descriptions from my friends and the internet, it seemed that people were in love with it. It turns out that I was…not one of the rabid fans. However, despite my conveniently rhyming title, I didn’t hate my time with Fire Emblem: Fates. I was decently satisfied with the experience as a whole.

But when I compare it to the nostalgic experience of Fire Emblem: Awakening, Fates crushes me. Birthright left me feeling empty. It was like I had my hours wasted. I tried to play Revelations after Birthright, but I couldn’t do it. It had all of the problematic symptoms of Birthright. It had the threadbare story, the recycled anime cliches, the plotholes – all the same issues but somehow worse.

So what makes Fire Emblem: Fates so disappointing compared to the other games in the series? That answer is easily explained with two problems: The story, and the characters.

PROBLEM #1: THE STORY

A strong argument could be made that the story of a video game is not a high priority. I concede that gameplay is the most important part of a video game, and thankfully, Fates expands on the great gameplay of Awakening. It remains addictive, while also requiring the player to think about their moves. It isn’t a generic RPG where battles can be solved through mashing the attack button until all the enemies go away. As a strategy RPG, Fire Emblem requires thought and deliberation. It requires knowledge of weapons and class weaknesses. It necessitates constant scouting of enemies and their abilities. Fates keeps the player constantly engaged. The gameplay in Fire Emblem Fates is very good, and it is the main reason why my overall experience with the game was positive.

Strategic movement

However, what makes an RPG so engaging, is its story. The plotline an RPG weaves can keep players engaged and compensate for poor or generic gameplay. A strong example of this is the original Nier, which is a game plagued with bad gameplay but blessed with a fantastic story and soundtrack.

Fire Emblem: Fates succeeds as a reverse-Nier. It has fantastic gameplay, but a very weak story.

The first problem comes in the way Nintendo decided to distribute Fire Emblem: Fates. The previous game in the series, Awakening, sold much higher than the projected numbers Nintendo had. Nintendo wanted Awakening to sell 250,000 units, and it managed to sell over 1 million. For game sales, this does not appear very significant, but for a niche franchise that has never broken the 1 million sales mark previously, this was an astounding achievement. Through the quality of Awakening, Fire Emblem developed a large and very passionate fan base.

Nintendo sought to capitalize on this new interest in their franchise by splitting Fire Emblem: Fates into three separate games, a series first. These games were titled Fire Emblem: Birthright, Conquest, and Revelations. Each of these three games starts off with the same five chapters but allows you to make a decision that branches off into their own individual stories. The part after the branching decision is where the player needs to play each game. They make that decision with their wallets.

I know all the versions, and this is still confusing.

DISCLAIMER: I have only completed Birthright and the first half of Revelations. Because of this, I will not speak a single word on Conquest’s story, as I have not experienced it firsthand. Perhaps these problems are rectified by that game. Please let me know in the comments if I need to make any corrections. I’m only human. Pls forgiv.

Immediately, the first issue with the story comes in its beginning chapters. Regardless of which game you purchase, the first five chapters of the game remain the same.

The player plays as the main character, Corrin. Corrin lives with the royal family of Nohr. It is here that you are introduced to Corrin’s siblings: Camilla, Leo, Xander, and Elise. These are all really cool characters in their own right, and they all have their own goals, motivations, and personality. I don’t have an issue with them.

Corrin and his family are eventually sent out on a mission by the king of Nohr, Garon, to fight off soldiers from the rival kingdom, Hoshido. Corrin obliges, and it turns out that the mercenary sent to assist Corrin, Hans, intends to kill Corrin, because he poses a threat to Nohr. Corrin is attacked, but it appears that a mystical dragon-like power is unleashed, and he destroys the bridge he is standing on. Corrin then plummets down the canyon, isolated from his Nohrian family.

Corrin is then found by members of Hoshido, who, through a big plot twist that everybody saw coming, turn out to be his real family members. Takumi, Ryoma, Hinata, and Sakura are Corrin’s biological siblings, and it is discovered that Nohr kidnapped him when he was a baby to raise him as their own. They did this because they knew of his draconic abilities, and King Garon wanted to hone that to be a weapon of war.

Corrin then meets his mother, who is the queen of Hoshido, Mikoto. She is incredibly nice and accepting of Corrin, but then is assassinated by King Garon during a political rally. This causes the tension between Hoshido and Nohr to escalate to the breaking point, and they organize a massive battle.

Once the battle begins, Corrin, while on the side of Hishido, sees his Nohrian family on the battlefield. The Nohrian family believes he has been brainwashed, and are there to rescue Corrin. Corrin’s Hoshido family believes that they are attempting to kidnap Corrin again and use his abilities to destroy their kingdom.

This ultimately leaves Corrin with a choice. Side with his biological family in Hoshido that he hardly knows, or side with his Nohrian family that have nurtured and cared for him throughout his entire upbringing.

This is a fantastic premise…but it is ruined by a lot of major issues.

Firstly, is how the choice of which family to side with is made. Although the choice shows a standard selection screen, the real choice the player makes, is through the cash that they spend. To choose Hoshido, the player buys Birthright beforehand, and to side with Nohr, the player buys Conquest. This destroys any sense of tension or build up the player may experience, as they either already know about this decisive moment before purchasing and playing the game, or they do not, and they become frustrated when the game limits their options to decide. Nintendo makes the assumption that the average player would follow pre-release coverage, and they do not account for the casual 3DS owner who may just purchase Fire Emblem hearing that the series is very good.

One could make the argument that Fire Emblem is a niche franchise, and obviously its fanbase would know about the major in-game decision beforehand. The issue with this claim, is that it does not account for the attention that the previous Fire Emblem game, Awakening, garnered for the franchise. It brought in a lot of newcomers, and the inclusion of Robin and Lucina in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U likely brought even more attention to the franchise. Knowing this, perhaps a consumer also heard that there is a new Fire Emblem game coming out, and they would like to discover what the hype is all about.

Another issue with Fates’ assumption, is it ultimately makes the first five chapters of the game pointless. It makes all of its attempted character development and world building unnecessary. If I bought Birthright, then the struggles of Nohr and the kindness of that family are irrelevant. I have made my choice without every thinking about it.

Notice I said “attempted” character development and world building. Because it isn’t very good. And that is horrible for an RPG series that has generally been able to display moral ambiguities and turbulent politics well. Nintendo wants you to feel conflicted about the choice you make. They want this game-altering decision to be monumental. There is no going back after you choose.

Nohr at its finest.

Knowing that a monumental impact is necessary, the morality of the two kingdoms is incredibly rushed, and biased towards Hoshido. Nohr’s kingdom is seen as constantly dark and depressing. Its inhabitants are starving, it is riddled with thieves and poverty. Its leader, King Garon, is a totalitarian dictator who pillages nearby kingdoms to gain resources. Garon employs strict curfews and regulations on his citizens, ruining their quality of life. He is only focused on bolstering his army and conquering more land. Maintaining the land and its inhabitants, formulating a market or any semblance of happiness for his citizens is seen as meaningless to his ultimate goal of conquering. Hence the title of “Conquest” for the Nohrian side.

Nohr’s place. How heartwarming.

Hoshido, on the other hand, is depicted as an idyllic, feudal Japanese kingdom. Its citizens are happy and healthy. The scenery is gorgeous and lush. There is bountiful food for its citizens, and its ruler is a kind pacifist that objects to any proposed conflict with Nohr. They are, as much as Nintendo wants to deny it, the good guys. They are not the aggressor or instigator in conflicts. They do not attempt to take more land.

Good ol’ Hoshido

One tiny detail that could have been included or mentioned at the beginning by any of the Nohrian characters, is that Nohr does not have fertile land to grow food. They must conquer lands if they are to survive. They are not blessed with sunlight or fertile soil. This gives them a hint of complexity. Rather than looking like plundering barbarians, it gives sense to their conquest. They do not do it because they are cackling villains, but that it must be done to survive. The world is a cold place, and it is not accommodating for everybody. This also gives King Garon loads of complexity as well. Rather than depicting a ruthless dictator obsessed with power, he could be seen as a man who is trying to keep his people alive. He imposes restrictions in an attempt to sustain the life of his people. It is a cruel solution, but is the extreme he must take in the horrible situation he is in.

But this depth is dashed in favour of making King Garon literally Satan. He is the epitome of evil, and he is the one who issues Corrin to be murdered by Hans. Why would the player, or Corrin, return to a family that endorses that? Conquest makes it clear that people listen to the kindhearted Xander, and not Garon. However, this is only discovered later in Conquest’s main timeline, and not within those critical beginning chapters.

King Garon

The morality of Nohr vs. Hoshido is summed up in the promotional art for the game. It is literally White vs. Black. Good vs. Evil. It is even seen in the characters’ outfits. Nohr has dark mages and sadists, Hoshido has pacifists and healers. Tough choice.

My moral decision was made as thus: My brother bought Conquest, and I bought Birthright. We then shared our copies. Nothing about the game’s content dictated our choice. Just a financial one.

As I completed Birthright, I will discuss its story mainly. I mean, I would like to go in-depth with it, tear down every small detail, but I can’t. Because Birthright was incredibly forgettable. Birthright’s story seems aimless and padded. Pretty much almost every chapter is “hey, let’s go to this place now. We are at this place. Woah a battle. That place is a place that happened. Let’s never talk about it again.”

This is what the first 10 chapters of Birthright feels like: filler until you finally get every Hoshido sibling together, and decide to invade Nohr. The characters you meet on this journey are not very memorable either, which is problematic. If the locations you visit appear once and do not have anything memorable about them, are they even worth the time?

The first few locations in Birthright have no consequence, and if they were cut from the game, then the overall story wouldn’t change. They are just mindless skirmishes with forgettable commanders who disappear after you kill them. Rather than feel you are formulating a Hoshidan army to invade Nohr, it just feels like the story is going through the motions.

Another crippling about Birthright’s story is the character Azura. Azura is a character who is a constant across all three versions of Fates. She is essentially Corrin’s sidekick and the second main character. Much of the story revolves around her and her abilities. Because of this, she is incredibly mysterious, and for the entirety of the game, gives off the vibe that she knows much more about the world than she lets on.

Her secrecy is constantly building up to a major reveal. It always feels like there is tension, and that she is about to drop a bombshell that re-contextualizes the entire narrative. When the characters attempt to ask her what is going on, she always replies with “I cannot say.” It is aggravating to say the least, but it is understandable if it all leads up to a satisfying conclusion.

…The conclusion never happens. It happens in the other games, but it doesn’t happen in Birthright. Birthright has the player going from forgettable location to forgettable location, fighting lackluster villains, and never really building up to anything other than a potential reveal from Azura.

I AM GOING TO SPOIL THE ENDING OF BIRTHRIGHT TO ILLUSTRATE MORE PROBLEMS WITH THE STORY. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

In the final chapter of Birthright, the Hoshidan army takes out King Garon, who turned out to actually be Satan. Once they defeat him, Azura begins to fade away, not revealing what she knows. Hoshido promises Nohr to have a peaceful relationship, and Corrin ponders if they truly understood everything that was going on.

Does that sound anti-climactic? Because it is. This brings me to the final, and most major problem overall with Fates’ story: it feels like a single video game story stretched out across three video games.

Birthright got the least of this story. From the summary I have provided you, would you have guessed that there is a hidden world called the Illusive Kingdom, and that there is a demonic force there commanding Garon to destroy the world? And would you have guessed that speaking of this Kingdom causes you to die and fade away like Azura does? Probably not, and that is because, in the grand storyline of all three of these games, Birthright is completely pointless. You learn absolutely nothing about the world and its inhabitants, and it plays out exactly as you think. There are no major twists other than a few shocking character deaths, there are no new developments, there is nothing. The mission from the beginning of Birthright was to take over Nohr, and you do. In fact, the ending to Birthright is insulting chipper and clean. Rather than take revenge against Nohr, a peace treaty is formed. It is calming, but it is ultimately pointless, because in Birthright, you don’t do anything to halt or destroy that demonic force from the Illusive Kingdom.

What truly sealed this horrible story for me, was Fire Emblem: Revelations, the third game in Fates’ arsenal. It is because I learned everything the story had to offer in the first two chapters of Revelations. You discover in Revelations that the conflict between the two kingdoms is pointless, as there is a world destroying being named Anakos who is getting ready to act. King Garon is not held accountable for his actions, because it was just a demon possessing him. All that war and political drama? Pointless in the grand scheme of things. Conquest and Birthright’s threadbare stories are meaningless. They are experiences that change nothing, and they are stories where you learn nothing. Other than great gameplay, they do not offer anything of value to the player.

Problem #2: The Characters

My favourite feature of Fire Emblem: Awakening, was the support system. If the player paired units up together in battle, they would gain friendship points, and you would unlock personal conversations between them. This really fleshed every character out and made the experience more personal. Maybe you could even discover a unit that you could relate to, or a character that you fall in love with and marry in-game.

It is what kept the game so addicting. After every battle, if you position your units strategically, you were rewarded with great cutscenes and exchanges between the characters. It gave the 50+ character cast so much depth and uniqueness to them.

Fates has the pretty much the exact same relationship system, but a problem arises through its bloatedness. Since Fire Emblem Fates is strewn across three games, it accounts for almost double the characters that Awakening had. It does not matter how skilled of a writer you are, this is too many characters to write hundreds of lines of dialogue for each. It is impossible to make all of these characters have depth.

Because of this limitation, Fates often latches onto a single quality of its characters, and uses that to define them. For example, Izama is a trickster who plays a lot of practical jokes and never takes too much seriously. This side of his character is almost all there is to him, and not much is explored beyond that point. His support conversations exist to show this characteristic mesh with another character’s traits. It isn’t very interesting, and again, what you superficially know about these characters is almost all there is to them.

The characters who get the most love are the siblings and Azura, which I totally understand. Priority had to be given to the characters who mean the most to the story. I have no problems with these characters having more development, but when it seems that they exclusively get character development, it becomes very noticeable.

It also doesn’t help that Fates literally re-uses characters from Awakening, but gives them a different name. Their presence is never explained unless you play through Revelations, which is incredibly frustrating. If you played Awakening and recognize the voice and design, but can never have a single character inquire about how they appear, it just becomes annoying.

They attempt to explain it away with parallel dimensions and that every Fire Emblem kingdom is somehow interconnected, but this story would fit a science fiction setting much better than a fantasy one. For a story that builds up to a war between two kingdoms, it has no problem disregarding it completely.

It also becomes too trope-ey for a lot of these conversations. Not only are a lot of the characters flat, they are also stereotypical anime characters. Very few of them are unique, and a lot of them are completely generic and forgettable. I am so sick of try-hard Naruto-esque protagonists whose only defining characteristic is how hard they work and believe in themselves. I agree that those are good values to have, but they are not interesting or unique.

CONCLUSION

Fire Emblem Fates is likely a series of games I will never replay. The story was stretched so thin over the course of multiple games, and it relied too heavily on generic, cliche characters. But, I like how ambitious Nintendo tried to be. I like the idea of seeing a conflict from a different perspective for each playthrough. I like the concept of actions having lasting rammifications on the world, but Fates completely flops in this regard. Fates wants to have moral ambiguity, but the conflict is generic good vs. evil. Fates wants to have a variety of locations impacted by warfare, but they all just feel forgettable and underwritten. Fates wants a massive cast of characters who struggle, develop, and change over the course of the game, but it only feels like a handful of them truly matter.

Fire Emblem: Fates was a disappointment. There is no other way to describe it. It isn’t at all the death of the series though. It seems Nintendo has learned from this lesson and the newest Fire Emblem Game coming for the 3DS does not split its story apart. I have high hopes for this franchise still, as Fates was just a small, tragic blemish on a series’ legacy.

 

 

 

Food Wars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Yes I will keep repeating the title like this. The amount of exclamation marks represents the over-the-top nature of this anime), is kind of repetitive. Sorry for that let down of a response. It doesn’t feel that there are stakes, it doesn’t feel that there are lasting consequences for its main characters, and it seems that the protagonist never truly learns anything. In terms of journey’s, this is one that is still ongoing. It does not appear to have a definite conclusion in sight. It feels like this is an anime that can easily devolve into a 100+ filler-riddled slog that wastes the viewer’s time.

But holy crap is it ever entertaining.

I don’t think cooking has ever engaged me as thoroughly as Food Wars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! has. That is actually a high compliment, coming from somebody who has seen way too much of the Food Network in his lifetime. I always enjoy watching cooking videos at night. They help me sleep, and sometimes, I actually learn something helpful for when I prepare lunches for work.

Anime has poured millions of dollars into making food look good.

However, Food Wars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! has no time for education. It only has time for entertainment, and I enjoy that. Personally, when I watch a cooking video, I hardly retain any of the information. I always believe that it has no practical use to me because I have no money, access, or enough time to make something lavish. I don’t have a massive crock pot to create a roast for my four children. Thankfully, Food Wars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! takes my apathy into consideration by creating a show that exists solely for entertainment purposes. I enjoy the lists of ingredients and cooking methods because they are representative of characters and show their strengths. I am not here to learn how to cook, I am here to have my brain rotted by Food Porn and (almost) Porn.

So tip #1 for watching Food Wars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! is not to expect a genuine cooking show. Tip #2 is as follows:

D O N O T W A T C H F O O D W A R S W H E N Y O U R P A R E N T S A R E T H E R E

Sorry for showing this.

If you haven’t seen the show, this probably sounds absurd. Why would a cooking show have nudity in it? And then you realize midway through that sentence, that you said “show”. You didn’t say “anime”. And now, it all makes sense.

See, the absurdity and the lack of censorship for ridiculous ideas is why I love anime. Japan does have tropes endemic to their own media, but it also seems that there is more freedom in their animation to explore more themes. This is likely because it is an art form that is respected by adults and children in its homeland, while the western equivalent of cartoons has the stigma of children’s entertainment. Because of this, I have been acclimated to simplistic plot lines and my nation’s own lingering tropes for animation.

Without delving into specifics of the content in Food Wars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, let me inform you that the term “Foodgasm” has never been so literal.

But what is Food Wars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! even about? Well, it tells the tale of a boy named Yukihira Soma attending the top culinary academy in Japan: Totsuki. The only catch is Soma grew up in rural Japan, and his father had been the owner of a casual diner. A food inspector comes to antagonize the Yukihira Diner to force it to move locations, and against Yikihira’s will, his father closes it. To make things worse, Yikihira’s dad, Joichiro, moves to France to work there, leaving Yikihira alone to attend Totsuki Academy. Totsuki’s acceptance and graduation rate is incredibly brutal; think of it as the Harvard of fictional anime culinary schools, minus the ability to buy your way in wait WH-

Yukihira now has to claw his way through the school using only his cursory diner cuisine knowledge, while combatting students who have been undergoing formal cuisine training their whole lives. Needless to say, it puts the protagonist in a stressful position.

#IvyLeagueSquad

I love this set up for the show. It gives an opportunity for Yukihira to learn and develop his techniques, circle of friends, and knowledge. He will have to face opponents much stronger than he is if he is willing to survive expulsion.

But it is through this set-up, that my biggest problem with Food Wars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! appears: Yukihira is too overpowered for the first 15 or so episodes. Sure, he has to utilize a lot of cunning and critical thinking to succeed, but he never ceases to make the best dish out of 100. He is always in the top percentile for any challenge. Because of this, it takes away a lot of that initial tension by conveying that Yukihira will never fail.

I also feel that the theme of Yukihira being an outsider could have been explored more thoroughly. On his first day, Yukihira provides a speech, informing his entire year that he is easily going to crush them. This, of course, enrages all of them and turns almost the entire grade against him. This could show Yukihira having to claw his way to making friends and earning the respect of others.

However, shortly after this occurs, Yukihira is placed in his dormitory, and they all welcome him with open arms. He immediately has a trusting, loyal clique of friends (who are incredibly underdeveloped), and the topic of others ostracizing him is rarely implemented again.

Another issue is the massive list of characters in this show, and their subsequent lack of development. The massive amount of side characters means that, for them to stick out, they must all have defining characteristics and designs. The option that Food Wars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! goes for, is to define them all by a single culinary technique, or trait, and never develop it more. Almost every side character is flat, and, for a show that looks to run for many more episodes, that is a problem. I recently completed the second season, and there are budding developments for recurring characters, but for a show with nearly 40 episodes, it hasn’t really developed anyone outside of Yikihira. Instead, Food Wars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! is determined to introduce more characters to display their own cuisine and skills. This is both a bad and a good thing. It is good because it gives new conflicts and new methods for Yukihira to overcome. It keeps the show feeling fresh, and the multitudes of real-life cuisines to take inspiration from compliments this form of progression. However, this only adds to an ever-growing list of characters, each one seeming more underdeveloped.

All very distinct designs, but not personalities

The issue of new characters wouldn’t be so egregious if Food Wars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! didn’t insist on making them recurring. This shows that they have the potential for their own growth and stories to flourish. And yet, I know just as much about the majority of Yukihira’s friends by episode 36 as I do on episode 4. That is not a good thing.

It somewhat feels like the show goes through arcs, but it doesn’t feel like these arcs have lasting effects or really change anything for its characters. This is bad for a show that paces itself deliberately.

But…despite that storm of negativity, I still love this show for pure entertainment. If you want something that will make you smile, something that will help at the end of a long day, something that will make your parents question your lasting existence in their household, then Food Wars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! is perfect for you.

I’m rolling out, I’ll be looking for you all next time on Nolan’s, Nerdy’s, and Knowledge.

*cue theme song*

 

I had a friend recently approach me and say that they have the urge to go back to Maplestory. When I heard this, I was terrified. Not because of the terrible experience’s it caused me, but because there was this slight, minuscule shared temptation. I wanted to play as well. But I stopped myself. I am making this post to help those who are relapsing and wishing to go back to Maplestory. These tales are to warn you of the horrible game it truly is, and how nostalgia is blinding you from what is another of South Korea’s free-to-play cash cows.

I made a video last year discussing three horror stories I encountered in my years playing Maplestory, and I realized, I have so much more to tell.

Plus I just want to make fun of the game.

Tale #1: The Grind

If you are playing Maplestory for the gameplay, I want you to consider, what actions do you do? What do you, as a human being, have to do when playing Maplestory? I’ll gander a guess and say it isn’t very sophisticated, and you probably hammer a single button occasionally, maybe hit another button to heal and move a little bit with the arrow keys. That is all there is to combat in Maplestory. Sure, they may claim that there are different skills to use, buffs to use, and tactics to employ, but it never gets more complicated than glancing at the cooldown time for a move and then acting upon it.

You just go into mobs of enemies, hit a few buttons. and watch numbers go. But it’s so addicting because it’s so colourful, and you just want to see the numbers get higher and higher. And the grind is never enough. You grind for a level, and then what do you do? Upgrade skills to grind more effectively. Is there a point to Maplestory? Is there a main, massive quest? Are there factions to fight for? Are there people to unite with and have a camaraderie with? Are there guilds to meet friends through? Well, Maplestory DOES have all of these things, but they are irrelevant to the grind. There is no ultimate goal in Maplestory, and you can’t really expect that in an MMORPG. But at least in other MMO’s, there is a reason outside of leveling to keep playing. Maybe you have friends to talk to, maybe there are raids and factions that are always changing and require you to be actively participating in.

Maplestory’s world has none of that. There is no purpose or effective change players can have on the world. All of the screens are set in stone, all of the spawns are set on random or specific timers, There isn’t even really a reason to fight any bosses because they just take too long and stop you from leveling as fast as you can. It is all just a numbers game. It’s Clicker Heroes but with a few more steps.

So why am I telling you this? Because there are multiple stories of the grind I have that negatively impacted my playtime. See, mobs on the screen could be killed by anybody, regardless if there is another player present. Nobody has the law to own an area, and that is a good thing. However, even though there is no law, it doesn’t really matter, because a stronger player could be present and just kill everything without even acknowledging your presence. This guy could be 30 levels higher than you, do double the damage, and have moves that kill more enemies. You can’t do anything to stop it.

It also doesn’t help that massive screen clearing moves also kill in one hit. This means that if another player activates a move that kills 15 enemies at once, there is no way for you to ever have any hope. Therefore, you either had to wait for them to go, politely ask them to leave, or find another area. It was horrible.

It also didn’t help if a player WAS the same level as you, but threatened to bring his friends to steal the mobs I was killing. This happened so much, and it got ridiculous. Like people would call their friends, who are 60 levels higher than necessary, take 20 actual real-life minutes to find this training area, and just start killing to bully me away. It was so stupid that there was this high-school mentality of being with the cool kids, and that there was no way to combat this scummy behaviour. You couldn’t report another player for this issue. In fact, you couldn’t report any player for anything. If they were visibly hacking, you had to manually write their name down and send Maplestory’s customer support an e-mail. It was such a cumbersome process, and it was why hacking and other unethical activities reigned supreme. There was little to no policing of these activities.

It’s likely especially worse now, as a lot of people likely have high-level characters pocketed on their account, so they can spawn in at any time and bully other players away.

I will always be proud of myself for never bullying other players when I got to a high level. I could have, but I said no. I would politely ask them to leave if they hopped in, or I would party with them. I tried to be as friendly as I could in a toxic environment, and you know what? It paid off! I didn’t make any friends, but they were all welcoming and I never ruined anybody’s experience.

Every change in Maplestory is made for the sake of the grind. It is to make the grind slightly easier or make it superficially different. The grind is everything.

Now you may hear this and think “well what’s so negative about the grind? Just party up, right?” Well, that leads me to:

Story #2: Why Make Friends?

What does the 2nd “M” in MMORPG stand for? Multiplayer. Well, Maplestory is an MORPG. Massive Online Role Playing Game. There is no advantage to partying or meeting new people in Maplestory. This is because they are a hindrance to the aforementioned goal of leveling as fast as you can.

See, Maplestory has the genius system of dividing the experience depending on how many party members are in a group. This makes sense, right? If there are two party members, each of you gets half of the experience you would get going solo. To compensate for this decrease, you kill more enemies, right? Well, there are three issues with this philosophy. The first is that a half cut in experience is way too much. In other MMO’s, they do reduce the experience, but usually by 25% instead of 50%. The second issue is that the spawn rates of these enemies do not increase or account for the fact that you’re in a party. You and a friend can easily wipe a screen of enemies, then be forced to wait 15 seconds to do it again. This drastically reduces the experience amount everyone gains, and ironically, makes playing with friends worse than playing alone. The final problem with this idea is that if you don’t put in the damage to kill an enemy, you get even more reduced experience. This means that if you are a class that focuses on 1-on-1 combat and you are in a party with a character who can wipe the screen clean, the screen wiper will get the majority of the experience.

These Party Quests were not worth the time

I know all of these specifics because I always played as an archer in Maplestory. I was a boss-killing class that had skills that were meant for smaller, much beefier enemies. Because of this, I was just forced to play alone if I wanted to have a slightly enjoyable time. This meant that in the 5 years I played this game, I met almost no new friends online. This wasn’t entirely the fault of the game, it was also me being very shy and introverted as a child, but the forced isolation did play a significant part. This meant that while my friends were doing party quests, getting married in-game, and socializing, I was out wandering on my own. Basically like a lone ranger. But it wasn’t cool or intriguing, it was sad and depressing because I was an 11-year-old in a video game.

So Maplestory is basically a single player game that you occasionally talk to other people in. And you usually end up getting insulted or end up asking them to leave because they get in the way of your grind.

Story #3: Cleric and Archer Slavery

As mentioned before, I played as an archer. And as an archer, when I reached level 120, I had access to a skill called “Sharp Eyes”. This skill enabled a higher critical hit rate for me, and my party members. Critical hits in Maplestory did 200% damage, and increasing the probability of them was essential for anybody who wanted to do more damage.

Therefore, I sold myself into slavery for experience and money.

People would offer rates like 2 million mesos (Maplestory’s currency) and shared experience for an hour of Sharp Eyes. I was desperate for money, so I obliged to a lot of these demands. I would usually hide in a very safe place, while a few other people grind, and I occasionally hit a single button. It was incredibly boring, but I was able to do other things like chat to friends, watch TV, do some homework, or anything else, really.

But it doesn’t change the fact that this was a booming industry and a legitimate way to make money in Maplestory. Classes that had great buffs were able to sell themselves for easy levels and more money. The better my Sharp Eyes skill, the better I was able to sell my virtual body. I was able to sell it for more and more, to buy skill books, to upgrade sharp eyes, to make more money.

But then I realized something: Why don’t I just use it? Why don’t I upgrade Sharp Eyes for myself, and actually play the game? What was even the point of waiting for others to do the work so I could do it myself?

Them crits boi

So I retired from the slave industry a new man, and I was going to forge my own path in this virtual world. Except, I was filled with rage. I was angry that I allowed myself to be used so much and set myself behind on my quest to make my damage numbers bigger. So I pull a Django Unchained and turn from slave to slave owner. I bought a Cleric to be used in my party, so I could mooch off their buffs.

The Cleric was a class designed to be support for parties. Naturally, this made them the least popular class because they were the slowest to level and did not adhere to “The Grind” philosophy. But the cleric was not completely dead because they possessed the best skill in Maplestory: Holy Symbol.

Holy Symbol, the greatest skill in the game

Holy Symbol enabled its user and party members to gain an experience boost. Naturally, this made clerics a high commodity, and they sold themselves very well, mooching off experience and providing buffs for money. And of course, desperate to outpace my real life friends, I hired a cleric for an hour, as they stood there, hitting a single button just for me. It was love at first sight. Except when I tried to talk to them, they didn’t reply because they were probably chilling somewhere else and had a weight pushed down on the button that casts Holy Symbol.

Because of that, I never bought another Maplestory slave again. I mean, what was the point? You get a few buffs for a few hours to level slightly faster? Is it even worth it? To some, it is, and to others, it may not be.

I’m just amazed that there was a legitimate market for training characters for hours of real-life time for virtual dollars.

Conclusion

Never play Maplestory again if you have before. And if you haven’t before, stay far away from this game. It will suck your time away, and leave you bitter and resentful. It’s also probably going to die in a year and nobody plays it so, whatever I guess.

Saying something is “not the worst probably” doesn’t sound like a very strong compliment, but please bear with me. Over and over again I have heard the faults of modern gaming echoed. Season passes, DLC, unfinished products, early access abuse, overhyping products, and much more other egregious issues are currently present. These are all valid complaints, and they are major problems with the current gaming climate.

But you know what, let’s be positive for once. Let’s look at the really good parts of this generation.

Growth Isn’t Always Bad

Attempting to pinpoint the value of a massive market like video games with a single number is impossible. Including mobile gaming, it is a $91 billion dollar industry currently, and it is only growing. I only bother to point this out, because there is a stigma behind growth, and that things just become mainstream. Now, this hipster mentality is a problem, but I am more interested in the job market for gaming. And on top of that, I care about the variety of positions available for people. This sounds odd, as video game positions have dropped in availability over time, However, this data is skewed, as it only accounts for developer positions for large companies. It does not consider mobile developers, indie developers, and smaller publishers at all. The growth of the gaming market is a positive with drawbacks, but a positive nonetheless.

Gradual Quality Increase

B-B-But developers release games that are so buggy and just fix it in later patches now! They don’t need to try anymore! This is a strong sentiment, and it does look truthful from a technical standpoint. However, does anybody remember Mad Max and Just Cause 3 from 2015? I sometimes do, but they were mostly forgotten to the passage of time. This wasn’t because they were bad or uninspired, it’s because they weren’t good enough. Mad Max currently sits at a 69 on Metacritic, and Just Cause 3 sits at a 73. Now, going off of Metacritic scores, this is basically a -1/10 and a 1/10 respectively, but looking at the critic’s wordings for these games, their biggest issue was that they did nothing new. They were massive, 40+ hour sandbox games that played it safe. We live in a time when massive games that should take a ton of hours and dedication are pumped out frequently. Massive projects come out fast, and as gaming goes on, there is quality of life improvements all around. We don’t use the six axis to aim grenades in Uncharted anymore. Standards have increased, and being able to impress a gamer is really hard now. It takes something truly special to astonish somebody. Most review scores are trending downward as opposed to the outrageous inclination to throw a 10 at anything in the past. Did you know LittleBigPlanet has a 95 average on Metacritic? This is back in 2008, so it was a novelty. But LittleBigPlanet 3 sits at a 79 average. This game is more or less the same as the first with a few minor improvements and tweaks, but it got treated worse. This is because it was stale and didn’t bother to try anything new. This downward trend is apparent in Call of Duty games as well, As Call of Duty stagnates, people lost interest. People crave new experiences and it is tough to determine what those experiences could be. It is exciting to be the new innovator, but it is also really hard. Stagnating is becoming a less desirable option, and I think gaming could see innovation in the next five years.

VR is lame, but also pretty cool

Passive-aggressive title aside, I think Virtual Reality has massive potential for video games. Specifically, I foresee an innovation in horror games thanks to VR. Horror video games try their hardest to evoke emotions out of the player, and the immediacy and intimacy of a first-person camera can be emphasized through human-controlled head movements. Resident Evil 7 already utilized VR to enhance its gameplay, and it has been universally praised by the gaming community. Indie horror games can also push the hardware and make use of it as well. I know SOMA would have been a much better game if I could use VR to experience it.

Unfortunately, looking up gameplay of a VR game does not do it justice. There are currently not enough system sellers for Virtual Reality to make it a desirable purchase for its lavish cost. However, with interest as massive as it is currently is, Virtual Reality can potentially become a household product.

First Person Shooters are Different

Thank you Overwatch for making a non-military style shooter a massive hit, and screw you Overwatch for setting another standard a lot of people will try to copy for years to come. 2016 was a fairly weak year for video games overall, but nobody can deny the quality of shooters that were released that year. Overwatch, Titanfall 2, DOOM, and Battlefield 1 are the four big highlights, and they are all game of the year contenders. Overwatch is the antithesis to the previous generation’s habits. Rather than a realistic style, it chooses to model itself after modern Pixar movies. Rather than dull, gray colours, it utilizes vibrant cartoonish colours. Rather than realistic guns that all feel very similar, each character is distinct in their weaponry and play style.

Unfortunately, the massive success of Overwatch will spawn clones, and it already has begun to. Much like Call of Duty 4, Overwatch will likely ruin the FPS genre for a few years. I pray that this does not happen, Stagnation was one of the worst aspects of the last generation.

Although I have only played Overwatch, I have glanced at these other games and have observed that they are all really strong. Call of Duty is attempting to stop their habits by going back to World War 2, but we will have to see how that pans out.

Indie Games

I’m a poor college student, so I very rarely buy games full price anymore. Couple that with being Canadian, most AAA video games are 80 dollars upon release. This is an obscene number, and if you factor in DLC, most purchases go into the triple digits. Thankfully, Indie games have been my saviour by providing me great experiences for cheap. It sounds weird, but my favourite part about the Switch currently are its projected indie games. Being able to play these awesome games on transit to work is fantastic, and it fits my lifestyle perfectly. I love that Indie games are expected to be polished, refined experiences that contrast the over-bloatedness of AAA gaming. Many indie games are often throwbacks to retro classics with a modern polish, so they have the snappiness and flow of retro gaming while utilizing modern efficiencies.

 

Conclusion

It is very easy to be pessimistic about the current gaming state. It often seems that the negatives outshine the positives. This generation has noticably moved slower, and called into the question of a console’s worth as well. However, I know for a fact that my PS4 is one of my favourite consoles because of its utility and vast array of games. The best games of any generation usually don’t come right away, and in this especially fantastic year of 2017, these slew of stellar modern releases is consistent and reliable.