What originally brought you to NA/VGS?
I purchased a game from someone from eBay, and they said "oh hey, I'm also on NA, come find me" and I did! I don't remember who that was, but I was super excited to find NA -- a community of diverse and fun nerdy gamers
Story behind your username and avatar?
I was always a fan of the classic Ultima RPGs. In Ultima, the protagonist (player) is known as "the Avatar". So my avatar, is the Avatar -- and the image comes from the fabulous cover to Ultima V, released back in 1988 (did I mention I'm old)
Where do you hail from?
I consider myself a Midwesterner, although at this point I've lived most of my life in New England. It's cold.
Explain the difference between New England and the Midwest in 10 words or less.
Midwest is flat farmy. New England is angry and cold.
What do you for a living?
Academic -- basically I teach and do research. Many people envy my position, but believe me, there is a ton of stress and challenges just like any job. And just like most jobs, it can be wonderful, at times.
Spouse? Kids? Pet weasels?
Yup, got a happy full house. No pet weasels, but the family is regularly terrorized by Her Furjesty --
Top 10 games of all time?
In no particular order:
Ultima V -- you knew this was coming but if I may "cheat" a moment, I would actually say the Ultima series as a whole, in particular IV, V, VII were all masterpieces.
Fire Emblem Echoes -- I have finished every FE game released stateside! My favorite is Echoes, but Awakening, Path of Radiance, and the first game (Fire Emblem) for the GBA are all brilliant.
Dark Souls -- this is tough, because I feel like saying Dark Souls II or Bloodborne. I played the original Demon's Souls which I loved, but ultimately felt Dark Souls improved upon the formula. DSII in my mind was not perfect, but with the DLC (on the PS4) it was close to perfection! Same with Bloodborne, which is basically Dark Souls in Victorian England. DSIII not so much.
Myst -- I replayed through Myst Masterpiece Edition on the Switch not long ago. It had been years, so I had forgotten many of the puzzles. I was not sure how fun it would be, and wow, that game truly holds up to this day! The only negative was some screen tearing, and while the game was remastered, the videos were not remastered. Regardless, Myst truly captures otherworldly beauty few games can match.
Star Ocean the Second Story -- I typically prefer Western RPGs over JRPGs, but Star Ocean was amazing! I consider it a classic similar in vein to many games from the golden age of JRPGs such as Grandia, Thousand Arms, Lunar, etc. Many of those games combine magic with some science-fiction element, but I would say Star Ocean did it better than just about any of those. It was just plain ol' fun. Looking forward to the remake which is coming out soon!
Planescape Torment -- the first Baldur's Gate broke new ground as the most realistic D&D computer game ever produced. Then Baldur's Gate II blew it out of the water, truly epic! For my taste, the height of those classic isometric games is Planescape Torment. The story, the interactions, the characters... just brilliant. Also, you can purchase these on the cheap on Steam or get a physical copy for the PS4 or Switch. Can't recommend it enough to any RPG fan!
Divinity II - The Dragon Knight Saga -- before there was Divinity Original Sin which put Larian Studios on everyone's radar, there was the Dragon Knight Saga. Originally, Divinity II received mediocre or even poor reviews. However, people said the Dragon Knight Saga was much improved and many said it was brilliant! Really? Well, for $20 or so I'd give it a chance. It was amazing. One of the greatest RPGs I ever played and truly epic. I was astounded - why is this not more talked about! Just a gem of a game with one of the greatest RPG stories I have ever played. Betrayal, loss, death, turning into a flying fire-breathing destroying dragon - yup! oh, and it's more fun than Skyrim.
Dragon Quest IV -- I'm not a fan of random encounters... But of course Dragon Quest games (the earlier ones at least) are full of random encounters. However, the cute animations, cute monsters, numerous items, great cast members, all make any "flaws" such as random encounters just melt away. I rarely finish a game 100%, but I did in DQIV because it was just so darn fun! I wanted more and more. It's tough to choose - DQ IV, VII, and VIII are amazing.
LOOM -- I'm a fan of the classic LucasArts games such as Monkey Island, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Day of the Tentacle, etc. It's tough to choose one, but LOOM has always been a favorite. Part of it is the amazing music (much of it based on Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake) but also the story. It's beautiful, surreal, and I would go so far as to say even provocative. The height of point-and-click games. I'm also a fan of the King's Quest games... but wow, you sure do die a lot in a Sierra game
The Legend of Zelda -- big fan of the first two games, and many subsequent ones too! Not a fan, of Breath of the Wild actually. Most recent Zelda game I played was Zelda Outlands -- which is a hack of the first game, but it is just so fun to play... Makes me sad that Nintendo never released an Outlands-like Zelda back in the day. But hey, thank goodness for hackers! Of course almost certainly a lot of my joy in these games is rooted in nostalgia, but not just that. The sound of the ocean waves and simple theme and concepts are pixel perfect.
Did you beat Darkest Dungeon and both DLCs?
I did, and I really do not recommend The Crimson Court. I thought the dungeon itself was fabulous, and great enemies. However, the "infection" is very frustrating and can easily destroy your game if you have not progressed far enough. That said, I'm still looking forward to a physical copy of Darkest Dungeon II -- hope it materializes soon!
On Switch at least , Darkest Dungeon has Crimson Court enabled from the beginning, which tried it's best to fuck up my playthrough. A true sadist move by the developers.
On the PS4 you could choose to install it -- definitely do not recommend it! It had some nice ideas, but ultimately was too annoying to be really fun.
Did you play the old Bioware D&D games?
Baldur's Gate II is one of my favorite games of all time. The first Baldur's Gate was also excellent, as was Neverwinter Nights. Icewind Dale I and II are top-notch, although they were developed by Black Isle Studios and not BioWare. Same for my favorite of these isometric RPGs -- Planescape Torment. That said, what's also great is that you can get the "Enhanced" editions all dirt cheap for the Switch or PS4. While the graphics are obviously not current gen, the games themselves are still phenomenal. I'm sure 50 years from now these games will still be played.
Quick, rank every Bioware and Black Isle game you've played.
The following are all A+ games in my book (in no particular order):
Baldur's Gate II -- Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II -- Dragon Age Origins -- Mass Effect 2 -- Neverwinter Nights -- Fallout 2 -- Icewind Dale -- Planescape Torment
The following are all A games, but a notch below in quality compared to the games above:
Baldur's Gate -- Mass Effect -- Mass Effect 3 -- Fallout -- Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic
The following aren't bad games, but I wouldn't play them again:
Dragon Age Inquisition -- Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance
Did you play Wo Long?
I have not played Wo Long. Team Ninja game? I'm a huge fan of the Nioh franchise, I feel Nioh takes the Souls mechanism and makes it even better! Hey, Dark Souls will always be a classic, but there is room for improvement
Can't just choose one. While my favorite video game genre is RPGs, when it comes to books I am rather eclectic and can enjoy everything from classics to recent bestsellers. That said, here are a few of my favorite books of all time: The Oresteia, Heart of Darkness, Stardust, Poems of Robert Frost, The Wind in the Willows, My First Summer in the Sierra.
What are you currently reading?
When I need some R&R, I probably spend more time reading than anything else! I love books. I got into "higher-quality" books years ago, and then learned about book arts when I was in grad school... also years ago
I always tell people, if you want to just read, a paperback or even basic hardcover will be great. BUT, if you want to truly enjoy "fine" books with beautiful illustrations, you need to look into book arts and letterpress printing! Anyway, I'm currently reading --
My beautiful edition of The Blade Itself --
I'm not a big fantasy reader, but I heard such great things about the series and of course I couldn't resist this beautiful edition. So far, it definitely has Game of Thrones vibes to it, but it's engaging and I'm really enjoying it.
I actually have that Abercrombie trilogy on my backlog. I've heard many great things.
Very much been enjoying it. I'm not a huge sci-fi/fantasy reader, but I did enjoy Game of Thrones and feel like The Blade Itself is in a similar vein, which is not a bad thing at all. Also, it's nice that Abercrombie actually finishes his books...
Anything by Ingmar Bergman. Also Fantasia
Bergman Persona or Japanese High School RPG Persona?
They're both fun in their own right
Favorite musician? Album? Song?
I love classical music, as well as jazz, video game music, etc. So I don't have a favorite musician, album, or song. Last album we listened too was music of Vince Guaraldi, best known for his music to the Charlie Brown animated series.
Tea or coffee?
Tea, especially ginger tea... yummy!
Wine, liquor, or beer?
Let me just say that LongHorn Steakhouse makes the best mango margarita humanity has ever seen.
Star Trek or Star Wars?
I appreciate both. Not a fan of the new Star Wars movies, but the first trilogy will always be a classic. Also, always fun to watch re-runs of Star Trek, especially TNG
Genesis or SNES?
Tough call. Can't I have both?! Still, if I could only have one it would be the SNES, although that would make me sad...
PS1, Saturn, or N64?
PS1, hands down. Saturn had some amazing games, as did the N64. But the PS1 had thousands more games than both systems combined. While many were "meh", there are of course plenty that are fabulous and such a diversity of games.
Prize piece in your collection?
I don't have any one game or video game memorabilia I consider my precious -- but I will say one of my favorite pieces in my collection is actually a soundtrack. Soundtrack to Albert Odyssey Gaiden: Legend of Eldean which was released on the Saturn. I did play the game, and overall it was forgettable. Literally forgettable, I hardly remember anything from the game! I do remember the dialogue being witty (Working Designs did a great job with localization), the game being cutesy, and very very average in most every way. Apart from the music. Wow, I just loved the music, it was the best part of the game. It took me years before I managed to find the soundtrack, but I did. I still listen to it -
Gamecube, PS2, or Xbox?
Toss-up between GC and PS2. Both had fantastic games that are still classics today. Honestly, at this point I'm hoping Sony and Nintendo release mini-consoles in the same vein as the SNES Classic featuring some of the best games from the systems -- who wouldn't purchase it!
DS or PSP?
I think Sony's UMD is cute - there's something charming about it. While the PSP had some wonderful games, the answer is most definitely the DS. Aside from much faster load times, the quality and variety of games is phenomenal. Also, while the DS certainly had "gimmicky" features, games such as Etrian Odyssey made perfect use of the system's capabilities.
Vita or 3DS?
I never got into the Vita, although it had some really impressive games and I think it's destined to be very hot with collector's in the future. First time I saw the 3DS in stores it hurt my eyes. So of course I went and purchased one! Love it. Some of the best 3DS games, such as Dragon Quest VIII, are not playable in 3D -- but I don't mind.
Switch or Xbone or PS4?
Between the Switch and the PS4... tough call. I'm going to cheat and say the Switch, but only because the PS5 supports PS4 games! The PS4 was an amazing system. The Switch likewise is continues to release phenomenal games.
PS5 or XBSX or ...uh, Switch 2?
PS5 -- again, it plays PS4 games and I have a ton of those in my backlog. Not to mention there are fabulous exclusive titles like the Nioh Collection which honestly, is just as fan as Dark Souls I'm glad it's now easy to find a PS5, we all remember a year or two ago when it was scalper's paradise... did I mention I loathe scalpers?
Do you remember what your first game was?
Not sure I can say it was truly my "first", but I do remember that The Legend of Zelda really made me a fan of the NES and made me get the system (well, beg my parents to get it) and into video games
Did you solve it yourself without any outside help?
I did actually! For a little child who's certainly what today we would say "a bit on the spectrum" -- well, it was a big accomplishment
Did you have to hand draw every map?
Never had patience for that! I just winged it most of the time, although my memory was not bad either, well, if memory serves
What were your thoughts when Zelda II came around?
I was super thrilled when Zelda II came out! I remember the game even made the news (very unusual for video games back then) since it was hard to find, and it came out at a time when there were little to no spoilers. I thought the music and graphics were incredible -- the game itself overall was wonderful too. I still preferred the open-world in Zelda I, but it was so much fun and the last battle is to this day very memorable.
I am Error.
Were you able to beat it as well?
Sure did! I don't think it was as hard as everyone seems to remember
What does your spouse think of your collection(s)?
Very supportive... with a smirk and touch of sarcasm, but I wouldn't have it any other way! We both grew up with video games, so we both appreciate the history behind them, and of course they're still fun! My spouse's comfort-game is Super Mario 64 -
Has your wife gotten all 120 stars? Or... whatever the number is in DS version.
Oh yeah, 120 stars. In fact, "Just finishing the game is lame! If you're going to do it, get the 120 stars or get out"
What is the biggest gaming purchase letdown you remember?
I found Breath of the Wild to ultimately be rather disappointing. I enjoyed the actual dungeons, the "Divine Beasts". I thought the graphics were lovely. The gameplay was tight. Having an open world Zelda in the same spirit as the original is a great idea, at least in concept. BUT --
1)Lack of memorable story and/or characters. So yeah, Ganon again... end of world or something. Save Zelda and Hyrule. Got it. So... where exactly are the interesting characters here? Twilight Princess is a game with truly memorable characters. Everyone remembers Midna, so much life and character in her. In BoTW the characters are just...there.
2)The shrines... bleh. Same boring thing over and over and over...
3)Item durability. Who thought this was a good idea? It's a staple in many Fire Emblem games, but it's pathetic and annoying in BoTW. It would not be so bad if at some point in the game, say after you finish your first Divine Beast, you get a weapon that does not break. It doesn't have to be a powerful weapon. Even if the weapon lost some durability, as long as it didn't break that would be less frustrating. But nope. You have to wait until you get the...yawn, Master Sword.
4)Back to the open world concept. Cool, go anywhere you want! Or most places. Sounds fine, until you realize there's just not much to see and do. Oh sure, come across a bunch enemies, have a weapon or two break, kill them, find another weapon or two and some rupees. Then you move on... to another group of enemies which look just like the group of enemies you just killed. Rinse and repeat. The game sometimes feels like a walking simulator with some boring fighting.
5)Climbing. I don't mind climbing, I think it's cool to be able to go up a mountain and (hopefully) find something exciting. Skyrim did this very well. But, of course in BoTW it's going to rain and thunder. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
6)Horse riding. Why is it SO bad? On top of that, it's just not particularly useful.
7)Plenty of "little things" such as the mini-games and quests. Korok Seed hunting gets boring. Fetch quests get annoying. Cooking... you seriously can't save a recipe?
So many people and "critics" called BoTW a masterpiece. It's not even close to being a masterpiece. It's not a "bad game". However, imagine the game was exactly the same as is, but replace the Zelda characters with generic characters. It would have been a 7/10 which is what Breath of the Wild deserves.
And also, what upcoming AAA and upcoming Indy game are you looking forward to the most?
AAA -- Dragon Quest III remake. Super Mario RPG remastered. Pikmin I & II ...yeah, a lot of classic games are getting the makeover, and I'm fine with that. Games like that are an easy purchase because you know they will be great. That said, there are some AAA games that I'm hoping will live up to expectations such as Dragon's Dogma 2, Dragon Quest XII, Elder Scrolls VI etc. One AAA game that I know is going to be amazing, I'm waiting for it to be released on the PS5, is Baldur's Gate III.
Indie -- I usually keep an eye on what LRG and other such companies release. Many of those indie games I haven't actually heard of, and often I'll give them a go only to find that they're really great! Hades II will be fabulous. Darkest Dungeon II will be an instant purchase.
Hobbies outside of gaming?
In no particular order -- hiking, kayaking, reading, antiquing, writing.
Favorite local hike? Kayak spot?
White mountains up in NH. A few hours from Boston, always great!
Most of the kayaking around the Charles River is fun. Especially if you start a few miles away from Cambridge and then paddle downstream -- you can tell when you're back in the city because of all of the noise!
What do you write?
I enjoy writing short stories -- not sure there's any particular genre, just whatever comes to mind! Although I haven't written just for "fun" in a while since I have a ton of writing to do for my work.
Has any of your non-work writing been published?
It actually has! Although not for a while. Most of my writing time is work-heavy. Once my (scholarly) book is done back to having more of a life!!
Do you collect anything besides games (and books)?
That's pretty much it! I did have a large video game music CD collection. I sold most of my CDs, but kept the ones that really mean something.
Everything from Mediterranean, to steak, to sushi, to Mexican! So no one favorite place. Probably eat out once maybe twice a week. I think that's fairly typical. Definitely enjoy firing up the grill when the weather allows
What's your specialty on the grill?
I think simple is good when grilling. Just some chicken or steak with a bit of marinating goes a long way! Now, I'm hungry...
What do you have planned for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?
We were supposed to have a few family members over, and it now sounds like some will make it while others are unable. So, we expect a relatively quiet and peaceful Christmas eve and day -- filled with some great food and some presents
I hope everyone on VGS also has a relaxing and enjoyable Christmas -- preferably with a good video game or two!