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The Soulsborne Diaries, Part 3: Quitting Demon’s Souls

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After more than two months since my last entry, I admit I’m in a bit of a rut.  I don’t want to go back and play Demon’s Souls and I also don’t feel I’m getting any better.  As it stands I’m trapped in area 1-4 about 15 or so hours into the game and I have no desire to play it.  Yes, as my previous entries have stated, I’ve found the right items, I’ve discovered how to outwit (and even kill) the red dragon, and I have upgraded my equipment.  I think my biggest problem is leveling, which is a grind of the grandest degree, and no matter how many times I run 1-1 to kill the red knight for my 2,000 souls it just doesn’t feel rewarding.  I’m at level 18 or so and none of the stats seem to have a large effect, especially compared to the gap from levels 1 to 5 or even 5 to 10.  This game’s jank is also starting to get to me.  Whether it’s the stuttering at the top of the stairs in 1-1 or the framerate hitches in the back halls of 1-3, I now get annoyed with the glitches.  I’ve heard all of the decries as well.  Play as a mage, do this thing here to cheat, do that thing there to by pass some of this, “git gud.”  Yeah, I’ve heard it all before and I don’t like any of it.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 21, 2018 at 11:00 am

The Soulsborne Diaries, Part 2: Beginning Demon’s Souls

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Someone pointed out that I claimed to have the European “Black Phantom Edition” in my story from Part 1, but then when I posted to Twitter that I was starting this crusade I clearly had a copy of the US “Deluxe Edition” in that photo.  Keen eye, although many are aware the box art is completely different.  Yes, it’s true, I no longer own the “Red Phantom Edition” because I sold that sucker for over $250 on eBay back when Dark Souls took off and demand was extremely high.  Mind you, I did this only after walking into a local GameStop and seeing them selling a copy of the US Deluxe Edition for the standard $59.99 price tag, which I think was a discount.  In the US the Deluxe Edition only came with the strategy guide (with a worse cover), but those that pre-ordered also got the art book and soundtrack as a bonus.  The employee admitted that a pre-order had never shown to claim their copy and despite being rare and in high demand, no one in the south suburbs of Kansas City seemed to care at all.  He also admitted that one of the other employees had already snagged the free bonuses (art book and soundtrack) so I wouldn’t be getting those and thus the discounted price.  Side note: it always baffles me nonchalant GameStop employees are about the terrible things they do to their customers; this was not the first employee to flat out admit that when a pre-order goes 5 days unclaimed that the employees are allowed to descend upon it, pick it apart, open it, take it home to play it, and you get this semi-used sloppy seconds version of a game you are paying full retail price for.  The game had been out for at least several weeks in the US and, yep, this copy had been opened and clearly played but thanks to that magical circular sticker they put on the box it was considered “sealed” by the GameStop gods.  I didn’t care, I could keep my copy of the same game – now specific to my region – and it came with the most important item: the strategy guide.  It also helped that I was able to rip the soundtrack before selling my other copy and you could find quite a few amazing high quality scans of the art book in PDF form, which are still live today.  Granted, it’s not the tangible book or disc, but neither are the art books, strategy guides, and soundtracks in future versions (other than my UK version of Dark Souls III), so technically this now just matches my others.  Either way, that’s why my pic had the US Limited Edition, which is not that far in value these days from the Black Phantom Edition so bully for me.

Black Phantom Edition (UK)

Deluxe Edition (US)










Back to School

It was time to go back, return to the game that brought me nothing but defeat and frustration.  A game that I paid a very high price for, imported when it wasn’t in my country, and thought was utter hype garbage.  I wouldn’t be going in half-cocked, however, despite what some may think this is not a crash course in masochism.  I wanted to be prepared, not only for the rough mechanics, but also how to overcome many of the flat out bad design choices that were played off as a difficulty spike.  When a game drops a boulder on you that you cannot avoid unless you know it’s coming, that’s just bad design, not a challenge.  The easiest way to prove this is when you have the knowledge of the boulder, it isn’t a challenge at all and can actually assist you in taking out enemies you no longer feel you need to fight.  This is where and how I draw the line between difficult and bad design, and I knew Demon’s Souls was chock full of both.  So I did what any planner or student would do: I read the guide.  It was so coveted, even by me, for so long that surely it would have some helpful information.  It did, but like everything else with this franchise, it was hardly straightforward and read more like an encyclopedia than a guide.  Again with my definitions.  A guide should walk you through the process of the game, allowing you to basically follow your progress in the game along with the page number of the guide with the occasional diversion chapters for filler.  An encyclopedia just dumps all the information in one organized place and forces you to determine what knowledge you need and seek it out.  This guide had spreadsheets, characters sheets, leveling info, item lists, enemy lists, tips, and several sections on higher gameplay tactics, but it never has a single page that covers how you start out.  There are 10 starting classes all with different stats, abilities, and perks, many of which won’t even matter until you’re at least 10-15 hours into the game and at which point you may have to restart the game if you selected the wrong build.  Additionally this title is a game of melee combat, ranged combat, magic, or different combinations of these attacks so you can understand why I was puzzled by a Thief class or the difference between a Knight, a Soldier, and a Temple Knight.  If you know this game well you’re probably tearing your hair out because the differences are distinct and real, but you would never know most of this without looking it up online.  While my guide gave me the different stats of each class and some random distinguishing characteristics, it really didn’t help you decide who to go with.  Hell, I had played Bloodborne and I still didn’t know who I wanted.  In this regard, the guide was somewhat useless because although it gave me stats and told me equipment, I didn’t know what the equipment did.  I later learned that if I went over to the equipment section, I could have looked each item up, but I think it would have been more helpful to just simply say something like “Silver Coronet – increases MP” to assist.  Games typically tell you what an item does when you get it, right?

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 15, 2018 at 11:00 am

Retro Review: Afro Samurai

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afro_boxAfro Samurai has identity issues. It’s not that the character does, anyone who has watched the cartoon series knows that Afro is quite aware of his personality to a fault. While the game works very closely with the cartoon series, despite the game’s claim in various moments to convince you it’s deterring from the original plot (a few major points are changed, but you have to know the series to catch them), the game itself doesn’t know what it wants to be. On the positive side, it does manage to sprinkle these various types of games in a relatively strong light.

Any fan of the series will feel right at home as Namco Bandai have captured the aesthetic feel perfectly. The original gritty feel of the anime allowed for a cell shaded game that literally brings the series to life, complete with the player controlling a living, breathing (and smoking) Afro Samurai. Couple this with a great mix of sound design and everyone’s favorite Samuel L. Jackson (voicing Afro’s loudmouth sidekick) making a mockery of both Afro and the player at the same time and the immersion is complete. That is, until you begin getting later in the game.

For starters, Afro Samurai is a short game; it took me probably five and a half hours to complete and there is no initial choice in difficulty. It starts off with a few levels of good old fashioned hack-and-slash gameplay, teaching you some moves here and there, and occassionally having you fighting a boss. I have to admit that while many people may find this repetitive, I felt right at home with the button mashing bloody mess that begins the game.


Shortly after that, in the quarry level to be specific, the game begins to deter from its original pattern and takes on several new qualities. Timing becomes very important as you enemies begin to learn how to consistently block, parry, and even throw you. Additionally you are forced to do things like split bullets in mid air and cut thick ropes that require a timed slash, which took me a while to figure out was connected to the controller vibrating. That is the one thing you’ll slowly learn about Afro Samurai, it consistently assumes you know things you’ve never been taught. More than a few times I’d confront a situation or a boss battle and wonder how the hell I was supposed to do it, and while it took everything in me not to consult a walkthrough, I found no sense of accomplishment when finally figuring things out. It usually ended with me loudly exclaiming, “Really? Really!” and then moving on.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 26, 2014 at 5:00 pm