Thursday, February 12, 2015

I'm On Board With the Monster Hunter 4U Hype Train: Here's Why

I'm fully on board the hype train for the upcoming title, Monster Hunter 4U for the Nintendo 3ds.  I might have a different reason that most, but let's begin with some bullet points about why it's a good game, before I tell you why I'm particularly interested in the franchise.

The points that most reviews focus on:

  • A game focused on killing bosses.  By yourself and/or with friends.
  • Finally has online multiplayer on 3DS.
  • 14 different weapon types.
  • Each weapon type plays COMPLETELY differently than each other in combat.
  • A more coherent story than previous titles.
  • A more approachable new player experience with better tutorials and weapon combo screens to view.
  • You can enjoy the game in short spurts... or delve into the hardcore realm and spend hundreds, even thousands, of hours.
  • THERE ARE 75 BOSSES IN THIS GAME.  I remember when Molten Core in WoW launched with what... 10?
  • The amount of polish in the game is staggering.  The bosses have amazing animations, the combat is deep, and the amount of gear you can get/make is unbelievable.
  • You can now do attacks in mid-air and even jump on the monsters backs and ride/stab them for a bit.
  • The combat is complicated.  It can feel clunky and slow to players that haven't learned the ropes yet.  Once you find the weapon that suits your playstyle... it's a whole different ballpark.
  • The game can feel grindy or even have boring quests.
  • The long boss fights (often taking 20-30 min) can turn people off, but the better you get at the game combined with the gear you receive from the kills can reduce this down to 2-5 minute kills.

The part of the game that I focus on, and why I'm pumped:

How long have I been asking for a pure co-operative player vs. environment experience!?  A game that I can enjoy with my friends anywhere I am.  A game that has a community that's focused on working together to down some dauntingly amazing bosses...

I was introduced to the Monster Hunter by some close friends and it held my attention for being a cult hit in Japan... but I wasn't fully on board yet.  The game being limited to Nintendo was my first hurdle, then the most recent version of the game only had online multiplayer support on the Wii U version.  Monster Hunter 3U also had horrendous camera control.  The 3DS Circle Pad Pro accessory really negated this complaint, but I'd much rather have some sort of right joystick built into the system for camera control.

Nintendo really hasn't had a game that I can just immerse myself into.  Sure they have fun titles like Zelda and Super Smash Brothers, but I guess I want something nerdier.  I want to geek out and get into the minutiae of the mechanics of a game but still have a great time with my friends that play much more casually.

This new version of the game, and the new 3DS have changed all of that.  My two major complaints about not being able to enjoy Monster Hunter previously were these:

  • I had no idea what I was doing.
  • The camera control was horrible using the d-pad/touchscreen.
  • Only local multiplayer.  (I'm an online presence!  I want to play with my gaming friends all over the country!)
All of these concerns have been fixed by Monster Hunter 4U.

They added much better weapon tutorials and guiding within the game.  The new 3DS has the new little nub joystick that can control the camera for Monster Hunter.  AND FINALLY ONLINE MULTIPLAYER.

I did go above and beyond and looked at GaijinHunter's amazing weapon tutorial videos, but it's something I highly recommend.  I played through the demo over and over again trying new weapons to see if I'd like new things, never even realizing some of the capabilities and combos that the weapons could perform.  If you have just ten minutes here and there, you should really check them out if you're interested in the game.

To get back to my main point without nerding out about game mechanics too much...

This is finally the PvE co-op experience I've been CRAVING!

A game that you can play with three other friends, conquering giant bosses, and working together with a helpful community in order to accomplish the harder goals within the game.  A game where a hardcore player like me can delve hours upon hours into, improving my character, and gaining mastery over my combat... then join my more casual friends to just "smash some monster heads" and I'll still love every second.

Maybe it's the smaller community because Monster Hunter isn't super well known.  Maybe it IS the fact that it's not on many different systems yet and the exposure to the player base seems low.  Maybe it's these points that help the small community vibe thrive and seem engaging.

This is the game that I got a 3DS for.  This is the gaming experience that I've been looking for.  This is a system seller through and through for me.  There is no price you can set for having those unforgettable "holy shit" moments with your good friends, and in this case even strangers.

Monster Hunter 4U is FILLED with "holy shit..." moments.

Just look at the sheer amount of armor sets in this game...  Each armor set changes every 3-4 seconds... and this video is 19 minutes long!?

Get this game.  Join me.  Let's go smash some dragon heads and then prance on their corpses.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My Mimi Passed and I'm Sad and Happy... Help?

I am sad...

...because my grandmother has passed away.  This is always a simple sentiment to express, but what makes me really sad are the finer details of why this moment is very hard for me to overcome.  I'm not really sure of the best way of putting my feelings into words, so I'm more in tune with making some bullet points about why she meant so much to me.

I'm sad because I lost the person that instilled my moral core that I still use and adhere to.

I'm sad because I lost the person that taught me to be kind to everyone.

I'm sad because I lost the person that taught me the social etiquette to be a polite and decent human being.

I'm sad because I lost the person that taught me countless lessons... like keeping my elbows off the table.

I'm sad that I remember playing my first Nintendo in the guest room on the first floor in the house in Barrington... then hiding it in the armoire and pretending to be playing with Legos.

I'm sad that she can't teach kindergarten anymore to wide-eyed young children.

I'm sad that I didn't send her enough thank-you notes for the presents I would receive on my birthdays and the holidays.

I am happy...

...because my grandmother taught me to really appreciate nature.

I'm happy because I'll never forget the times I'd get a hand-made lime-ade after doing my chores.

I'm happy that I know that she always loved me and supported me through my many life mistakes.

I'm happy that she enjoyed and approved of my girlfriend, Andrea.

I'm happy that she was able to attend my jazz concerts in high school because I know she appreciated them.

I'm happy that I was able to cook a turkey for the person that will forever put my cooking skills to shame for the rest of my life.

I'm happy that my favorite recipe of all time is my grandmother's breakfast casserole, that I always adamantly push for every holiday with my family.

I am confused, but hopeful...

...because I'm not quite sure how to handle this, or how to grieve properly.  I recently had the flu, which lead to an ear infection, which lead to a minor case of Bell's Palsy, which I have affectionately dubbed my "derpy face" so I kind of look like this...

I can't even cry normally... I feel really awkward.
I'm also scared that my family will take my grieving process in the wrong way.  I've been learning how to maintain my cool while my anxiety issues run rampant within my life... and my major coping mechanism is humor and the harder it is for me... the harsher it gets.

I'm worried I'm going to say something out of place, something harsh to my relatives that I know are grieving just as much, if not more, than I am.  I'm worried that I'm going to sound like a complete ass.  Unfortunately, this is just how my brain deals with this.  I'm worried that I'll say something to my friends or Andrea that is too harsh because of dealing with this.  I'm worried I'll get so involved about thinking about the importance of family, that I'll say something mean when someone just tried to distract me with something else, if only for a second.

I've been battling my issues with my faith recently.  I can't really say I believe in a God anymore, but I still believe that maybe eventually I'll be proven wrong that there will be irrefutable evidence that a higher power does exist, but until then, my brain is still more focused in science.  

It's always the easy answer to just say that my grandma is in heaven with my dog, Maisie (pictured above with her) and her dog, Goodie, my other grandparents, and they're just laughing at how skeptical I'm being about the afterlife... but I just can't get there yet.  I just don't really believe it.  Of course I'd like to believe that all my previous dead pets and relatives are in the same place, snuggling together on some large couch, and having a great time.  I just don't believe that.  

However, if there IS a place that good people go... it's where my Mimi is.  She was the kindest, most polite person I've ever met in my life, and she always had opinions that were based in years of wisdom and experience that I'm not even sure that I'll ever acquire.  If there is one person on this Earth that deserved to go to such a place, more than her, I couldn't fathom it.

It calms me to create these unrealistic visions of the "heaven" that she's in, and the more grandiose, the better.  It helps me to imagine that she's with her old dogs, walking through a limitless, beautiful garden that is the vision of perfection.  It helps me to imagine her with my grandfather, dancing together at Northwestern in their younger years.  It's heaven, right?  So why not!

This whole thing makes me really sad because...

...I never got to tell her how much of an influence she has had on me as an adult.  I've used countless tips about manners, dinner-table etiquette, and just social skills that she gave me while I grew up.  I'll always try, and probably never succeed, to be as polite and respectful as she was in everything that she said.

...I never got to really thank her for being so understanding when I felt like the "black sheep" of my family.  We never got to talk a lot about it, but I cherish the short bits that I was able to get between her, Pru, and I.

...I never got the chance to tell her that I finally understand her love of gardening.  (I'll probably have to re-type these sentences over and over again because I'll be projectile spewing tears at my computer monitor.)

...I never got to tell her that a garden is the one place that I feel relaxed and organized.  I never got to tell her that Andrea and I have been taking regular trips to the Chicago Botanical Gardens to have nice, stress-free days.  The garden has become the one area that I can escape to, where I don't have to worry about anything.  Everything is being handled.  The plants are being taken care of by people that love to maintain it, and by experts that will always have a deeper understanding of it than me.  I don't have to even consider that the plants might not get taken care of the right way... I can just go, and observe a very organized, and beautiful landscape that washes every ounce of stress away.

One day I'll have a plot of land to call my own, and I'll make a garden that will definitely be in her memory.  I'll do my best to keep all my plants alive, trimmed, and maintained so that it can provide the same comfort that my grandmother's love of nature gave to me.

Who knows, maybe I'll even have a Monarch butterfly stop by for when my Dad visits and we both remember our time with her, and the house in Barrington.

I love you, Mimi.  I'll never forget you, and the love that you gave everyone for those eighty-nine years.