Monster Hunter X: Why I’m Taking Deep Breaths

Give me some time to settle, Capcom! Jeeze!

I’ve been playing your new game on and off since launch, and it’s great. Like, really great. I know it’s going to be a long, long time until this (maybe) comes to the west, but… look, I’ve definitely developed a heart condition. Feel my pulse. FEEL IT!

1:01 – Light (Heavy?) Bowgun: Wind-stylized vault over the Rathian to fire on it’s back as you rise.

1:26 – Great Sword: Demonic roundhouse slash into a charge-up stance.

1:31 – Long Sword: Dramatic “full moon” preparation into devastating cut.

My breathing was irregular during the whole combat display.

I didn’t want this blog to turn into an archive of me gushing about Monster Hunter, but these games keep pumping me up. My journey into MH4U was a series of pleasant surprises among already expected quality. The increased verticality of areas added depth and excitement to hunts. Jump attacks, the mount mechanic, and critical tweaks in returning weapon attack-trees were massive additions. For example, the Long Sword gained a stylish sweeping attack available after a fade slash, which can also lead into the spirit combo. The extra movement while attacking paired with the addition branch into the spirit combo makes the LS slightly more intricate, fluid, and overall buckets of fun. So I’m starting this trailer up for the first time wondering, “What meaningful addition to combat would actually improve their formula?”

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Finishing moves. Strong, dynamic, sweet, sweet finishing moves.

The thought didn’t even cross my mind. Of course that’d be the next step! I’ve hunted a lot with the Switchaxe, Long Sword, and Gunlance in the last two games. I dabble with other weapons, but I always come back to these 3. Finishing moves, baby. I still haven’t gotten over how stylish the Spirit combo finisher is with the LS. It’s a combination of the moves being more aesthetically pleasing than others, paired with the knowledge that you’ve just done a wack of damage. You’re doing well, and looking awesome at the same time.

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I’m jazzed about the Gunner finishers in particular. There’s 14 weapons in the game (unless they unveil new additions to MHX in the future) and only 3 are part of the Gunner class. Gunner’s and Blademaster’s have their own sets of armour, resulting in a much higher opportunity cost to make a Gunner set. Unless you’re really going to commit to being a Gunner, it’s a lot of work to have a usable Gunner and Blademaster armour set, on top of creating and upgrading all the glorious weapons you’d like. That being said, the moment at 1:01 almost single handedly changed my opinion on the class. If those are the types of animations I can look forward to in this new game, then I have my money ready Capcom.

Are you a MH fan like myself? What did you get out of the trailer? Let me know in the comments!

Smashing on the Big Stage: My 1st Tourney

Between Monster Hunter, and a few books taking a firm grip of my free time, I haven’t been thinking about posts recently. March 22nd was no ordinary day though. March 22nd was special. (I don’t have any photos for March 22nd though. Planning.) March 22nd was the day of my first Smash Bros. tournament.


I’ve been playing Super Smash Bros. regularly since Brawl came out for the Wii in ’08. From release, it worked out that my “active” group of friends at every point was into the game. I’m not sure if it stemmed from me advocating for it, but regardless, many hours have been put into this series. I live with some high school buddies now, and of course, we all play. It’s an odd week where we haven’t accidentally stayed up till 3 am at least once playing 2-v-2’s. We go for style, and it’s always a blasty blast.


Where it all started for me

My roommates had heard about a monthly tournament at a local bar, and went a few times. I kept forgetting to take that Sunday off work, so I only got a retelling of the excitement. I wised up. I would be there March 22nd with Donkey Kong, and would take names.

The day arrives. I had played more Smash in the week prior than probably in my whole life. I would joke that I had to “practise” so I wouldn’t get showed up, but hell, I just had an excuse to get people to play more Smash. This is a basement pub I’ve frequented since the summer, so I know how it usually looks. The place was packed. There was 4 different Smash games being played at the tournament (64, Melee, Project M, Smash 4), so yeah, lots of set-ups. I found out that the organizers had recently been sponsored by MLG, and it showed. There was a row of 5 obviously new flat-screens for the Sm4sh event, and it looked mighty official.

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I sit down to play the first match. It felt like my chest cavity had been replaced by a large, living parasite, numbing my extremeties. My hands were bricks. Quite surprisingly, my on-screen character was doing the things I wanted him to. I played Donkey Kong against a seasoned Toon Link. He was half dedicated to a projectile game, his aerial approaches were repetitive, and he rarely succeeded in punishing my reactions. I was thinking clearly, and muscle memory took over after I knew what I had to do. Cool! I took the first game in the set, I was feeling a bit better. He switches to Sheik for the second match.

I’m thinking, “Okay, this is going to be tough, but I have a game in hand. Just do my thing.”

I watch my character take 80% damage almost unanswered. He plays differently than the other Sheik’s I’ve seen, and I’m not reacting enough to his movement. He puts me on the defensive, and by the time I start figuring him out, I have a steep mountain to climb. Game 2 to him. Game 3 was a blur. I switched to my Brawl favourite Peach, and I gave him a close round, but I never really felt in control for the second stock. I’m not out of the tournament, but I can’t lose another set. Not a great start.

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At first, I was bummed. My first test against someone not in my immediate group of friends ended with a loss. I was just another player who thought he was good, but couldn’t stand up to the big boys.

I watched more games as I calmed down from the match. I saw friends go out and win games. Lose some too. They played characters they thought were fun. They typically joked around in an otherwise tense situation. I realized not everyone is outgoing or willing enough to make a friend during a brief, competitive set. They took the rigid formality of talking about the stage choice, and turned it into carefree enthusiasm. We’re playing a game where a cartoon gorilla can beat the crud out of a small (albeit magical) child. Loosen up, right? Go have fun! I met tournament regulars, and played tons of non-tournament matches, with really solid players and individuals.

I went on to win the next 4 sets in Loser’s Bracket. I played against characters I hadn’t before, because my friends typically don’t play them. Most people hadn’t played against my character either. I played a hype Zelda player, who was landing almost all of his forward and back air’s; the lightning kick. I perfect shielded 3 in a small string, and felt damn lucky. The whole time I complimented his play, instinctively ooo-ing and aah-ing. After a minute or so, he reciprocated with the same enthusiasm. I finished the first game with a down-air dunk (spike), and we both chuckled at how ridiculous the game was.

After that excitement, I realized a change had taken place in me over the course of the evening. I knew the nerves were there, but they didn’t dominate my senses. I laughed more, played better, and I moved my way up the bracket.

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Right at my peak of play, a fantastic Link player stood in my way towards Top 8. He was cancelling jabs into kill moves, boxing me out with projectiles, and reading my approaches often. I was always under pressure, and even though I was playing my best, I don’t feel like I challenged him much. Just like that, I was swept.

…That’s it!

Unlike the aftermath of the first match, I honestly felt great! I had such an appreciation of his style, and his calm adaption to my moves. He was a great guy too. I probably would’ve felt different if he was a douche, but luckily that wasn’t the case. I watched incredible play all night, and learned how good the scene is in my area. I now know how high the bar is set, and it’s exciting in a new way. I cheered on friends and strangers alike, and had some great moments with both.

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March 22nd was a solid day for a lot of reasons. I knew Smash had a passionate following, but I hadn’t experienced it live (outside friend’s houses) for my decade of involvement. That’s where the game was intended to be played, but I’m floored at how much it holds up in a crowded bar of strangers. I loved looking down the row of TV’s, and losing it about a hype play a Yoshi player made. At the same time, I thoroughly enjoyed watching an entire set, seeing how capable players baited and conditioned each other.

Man, I just love Smash. Needless to say, I’ll be heading back this month.

Do you have any experiences with fighting games, or a competitive gaming scene in general? Do you have any sure-fire way for a DK player like myself to make it to the top? (Please.) Let me know in the comments!

Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. Demo Impressions

Going into this demo, I was fairly certain I’d end up buying the full game later. It’s a turn-based strategy game made by Intelligent Systems; the studio who developed the Fire Emblem, and Advanced War series’. My expectations were justifiably high.

Were high. Were.


– I like the importance of verticality. Putting characters in higher places offers strategic benefits. The view you see of the level is over the shoulder of all your characters. So placing someone high up give you a better idea of what’s going on, which is key in a strategy game. It calls for a different mental approach than the standard 2D fare Intelligent Systems is known for, and that has the potential to be great.

– Steam conservation is a neat idea. In the game, you use steam to move around, and attack. Some weapons, like the main character’s Eagle Rifle, can use reserved steam from your last turn to attack spotted aliens during the enemies turn. I could see this inclusion of a defensive option that isn’t hide, or be hit, making the later game a lot more interesting.

code name steam2


– Kind of wish you could fast-forward through the enemies turn, like in Fire Emblem: Awakening. When you’re not controlling multiple characters, in a variety of vantage points, having to wait for each alien to move in real-time is pointless, and frustrating. They move slowly, and you can’t even see them most of the time. Why would you make it mandatory to stare at nothing for 20+ seconds every turn? Come on.

– Strongly dislike the voice that tells you who’s turn it is. It was too much for me, and I couldn’t even manage to get through the demo. Much rather prefer voiceless, visual transitions.

– The characters vocally identify everything they see. Lots of repeated, uninspired phrases. Just in your turn alone, whenever a character sees an alien, they shout about it. “ENEMY SPOTTED!”, or, “THEY KNOW I’M HERE!”. Walking in and out of cover (which just happens while you’re advancing) triggers the same statement, from seeing the same alien. The voice acting is serviceable, at best. Making players listen to these poorly delivered, fairly useless lines over and over was a huge oversight.

– The game doesn’t look great. I liked the idea of a comic book, steampunk art direction, but in practice, it’s kind of plain. It sort of looks like old Sly Cooper games, which some are into, but I guess I’m not. You’d think steam punk soldiers based on animals, running around in third person, shooting aliens would look cool. At least I did. The enemies in the demo didn’t have any style, or personality. I think I would be more okay with this if the general gameplay was tighter, but unfortunately it isn’t.

code name steam1


In some aspects, I feel like I might be comparing this to Fire Emblem: Awakening too much. But that game had a more compelling narrative, even just from the demo. Better soundtrack. Tighter gameplay. Style. It had that Nintendo polish right from the get-go. That polish that lets you know right from the intro level that this is going to be incredible. Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. doesn’t have this vibe to it, even though I dove into it with trust. Trust that it would be fun, challenging, and interesting.

No. Nope. Not really.

At least we still have Awakening, right?

Did you play through the demo? What was your take on it overall? Let me know in the comments!

My Weekly Fix: Feb 15-21

I have a problem, everyone. A glorious, glorious problem.

I recently picked up the special edition Monster Hunter 4 U “New” Nintendo 3DS. I also grabbed Majora’s Mask of course. Oh, and Intelligent System’s Codename S.T.E.A.M demo came out recently. Huh.

Not to mention, I (finally.) purchased the Metroid Prime Trilogy, and I still haven’t finished the beautiful Transistor. Well.

I’m only one man.

I played minimum about an hour of everything, but MH4U took a firm grip of me once I gave it some attention.

I knew the game would have new beasts to conquer, look better, have some intuitive tweaks…


Is it just me, or is this game funnier than the last? There was wit in MH3U, but a majority of the conversations here make me chuckle. The Quest lady (Guildmarm) is the comedic star, for sure. She calls your avatar “Doodle”, because she wants to, and no other reason. Then there’s moments like these, which I would normally be tempted to mash through. NPC’s make me laugh in this massive game, and that is a feat.

I hope this quality lasts for the rest of the game. Solid localisation, Capcom.

What have you been playing this week? Whether you’re clearing out your backlog, or moving through something more fresh, sound off in the comments!

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate – “He’s strutting. That bitch is strutting.”

To mark the release of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate arriving in the west, I thought I’d share my most memorable hunt of the last iteration. I’ve played MH3U since its early 2013 release, and in that time, this hunt easily takes the cake. A story of one gunslinger, his quest, and a boy swearing too much in a room by himself. Here we go.

2013 marked my first year of University. It also marked the release of the tremendous Fire Emblem: Awakening. Just days after completing that absolute ride, I found myself insatiable for another immersive experience. Yeah, I had studying to do, and yeah, the last game sort of consumed my February, but I knew deep down what was going to happen. I studied the game before purchase (something I’ve always practiced). I liked what I read. I liked what I heard. I liked what I saw. Time to take the plunge.

Monster Hunter games are very unique. Common criticisms of the series include it’s necessity to grind, slow start up, lack of plot, and some less-than-stellar looking backgrounds. I completely understand, and for these reasons, I have yet to seriously recommend MH to someone. That being said, I love this series.

These are games that require you, (not your avatar) to do the learning and progressing. That’s more true here than with any other game I’ve played. You have to better understand the individual signs and patterns of these fierce creatures. You have to prepare your gear to better suit the monster, and terrain of each hunt. Over time, you grow dramatically as a player, with maybe one, or several of the 12 distinct weapon types the game offers. This is what MH is to me, and as a lover of games, I’m thrilled that this kind of challenge exists.

Back to the story.

After a dozen or so hours into the game, I made the leap from Low-Rank to High-Rank. In High-Rank, the monsters you hunted in Low-Rank have more health, and hit harder. More importantly, you get to hunt some new and sweet looking beasties. I went through the list of new quests, and looked primarily for dope sounding names.

Queue the Zinogre.


Listen to the pompous brass and dramatic strings in the theme. Just look at the thing! It’s a wolf that draws in large electrically charged bugs to make itself more formidable. That’s fucking incredible.

“I want to conquer it, and wear it’s skin.”

(You can make armour out of all the monsters in the game. Phrasing.)

I said that line verbatim when I saw it in the first hunt. Little did I know, I would be saying that for several more solo hunts. (To myself, over and over, while I slipped deeper and deeper into obsession.)

The thing is, I was wearing shitty Low-Rank armour. I figured that would be a factor, but I was fighting one of the tougher High-Rank monsters off the bat, with not even good Low-Rank armour. It did make me look like a cowboy though, which was specifically why I kept it for so long.

wroggi armour

Easily the best armour set.

Disclosure: This is how I pictured the main protagonist in the “Dark Tower” Trilogy.

After a few crushing defeats, I realized the significance of my unpreparedness. Despite this understanding, I relished the seemingly insurmountable challenge. This asshole was killing me in two hits, easy-peasy. I couldn’t have that. What’s more, the wolf had character, style. He (it’s a he now, because societal gender roles) stomped with dramatic pauses, like he just knew was going to squash me. He took his sweet-ass time to lunge out with his chest, as if it was his way to remind me how massive he was, rather than focusing on actually hitting me.  He STRUTS for god sake. For close to 10 seconds at a time, the dude saunters confidently around while eyeing me.

It didn’t matter how long it would take. I would defeat him on my terms.

As a cowboy, goddammit.


Not me hunting, but this is the particular location I had my first Zinogre quests on.

I’m not sure how many times I failed the quest. It takes 3 deaths in the 30 minutes allotted to fail, and I was maxing out within 15 minutes most of the time. For a brief spell, I considered getting better (!?) armour. Luckily, I came to my senses soon thereafter.

It was a magical run. I hit over 20 minutes, albeit with 2 deaths. I was down to just a few remaining potions, but I felt like I was in the blasted beast’s head. I had done so much damage. Tail cut off some 5 minutes ago. Claws broken. Horn too. I just needed a limp. Just a limp.


Rage mode Zinogre. Still an ass.

He finishes his charge-up for what I hope to be his last rage mode (a period of increased frequency of attacks, with an altered attack pattern). Just as I go in for a distance-closing jab with my Switchaxe, he reels back with a sharp howl. I know what that means.  Fuck. Tatsumaki. He flips with a rapid spin, rear end first.

I accepted death in that moment. It had happened so many times. Such a devastating move.

Hold the phone. There’s no depressing failure music. Yo. I’m totally standing there holding my axe. I panic roll out of the way of his dash, and collect my thoughts.

“Wait a tick. I cut his tail off. The move has less range.”

“…I’ve been given a gift.”

I sheath my axe, and run towards this now doomed creature; a man possessed. He’s cut out of rage within a few hits, and turns slowly towards the exit of the area. Here it is. I’ve waited for this moment for days. I go into my gestures. I remember I go with the “clap” animation for some reason, which retrospectively seems awfully morbid, but hey. My moment.

I follow him hobbling into the next area, tranquilized and pitfall trapped em’.

Even though I prematurely celebrated with the virtual clapping, when I heard that victory music again (it had been ages now) I friggin’ lost it. Popped out of my seat, fists pumping towards my body in tandem, I hollered,


(among other choice words of course)

Games never do this to me. At that moment, I felt a mixture of pride, exhaustion, and embarrassment. I’m unbelievably jazzed about besting this thing, mentally tired from hours of intensive focus, and a bit apologetic from concerning my mother (2013 also marked the last year of me living at home). It was a strange cocktail, but I’m glad I got to taste it nonetheless.

I’m not sure what game, if any, will spur that reaction in me again. If and when it happens, I’ll think of my other triumphant victory as the wildlife-murdering outlaw, and surely blurt out a number of similar profanities.

zinogre armour

Oh yes, I would soon wear his skin.

A Better Outlet

Summer of ’09.

I sit on a bed in my childhood home’s basement, lights off, back firmly pressed against the wall. Arms relaxed, hands still gripping the controller, I’m overcome with a sense of achievement. I’ve beaten games at a younger age. I’ve explored virtual worlds before, and yeah, it was fun. This is different though.

I’ve just defeated Ganon in Nintendo’s 1998 masterpiece, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

Amidst this satisfaction, and the visual splendor of the final cutscenes, the thought, or at least the sentiment repeats itself:

“How many other games are like this? How can I enjoy a game this much?”

Years pass, and I find entertainment in other mediums. I’ve played soccer, and the alto sax for a large chunk of my life. I deeply enjoy a compelling novel. Since moving out with roommates, I’ve actualized a once vague love of food through cooking for myself. Nothing, however, compares to the enjoyment I still get from a well crafted video game.

I haven’t found a sufficient means to express my love of games, and the memorable moments these games have shared with me. There’s been the occasional instance of mutual fervor with another enthusiast, but these have been too few and far between for my satisfaction. That’s where this blog comes in.

Here is an outlet for my emphatic appreciation, but mostly, excessive praise of games. An outlet where I can gush without fear of seeing the confused faces of those who want to, but really don’t understand why I’m so jazzed about, “oh man, this one game I’m playing”. More to the point, a better outlet for myself. If you read my posts, and relate to these moments at all; amazing. That’s more than I could ask for really, because I’m almost strictly doing this for my own catharsis.

Rather than reviews, I’ll be writing about specific moments that left an impact on me. My opinion of the game overall may be low, but if it spurred a strong reaction at any point, I’m looking forward to sharing it in the gamepad gallery.

I’m here to write about the special moments of gaming from my past, and the eventual future, and I couldn’t be more excited.