“It’s totally fine to love something while still being critical.”
Coffee or tea? Secure your beverage of choice, pull up your hemp-rope quilt, and get cozy to enjoy with me our ninth blogger interview, which I would most closely liken to a heart to heart.
If you would like to flood me with requests for an interview, get in line and check out the post “Introducing Blogger Interviews”. I can’t guarantee the final results, but I do guarantee I will talk with you. Not at you.
The honorable linguist of Cheap Boss Attack is our current
victim interviewee this time around. I’m increasingly encouraged by these interviewees that there are still so many good people in the world willing to bridge gaps and emulate civility even in disagreement. I also sensed in him a tremendous degree of affection and knowledge concerning our shared hobby of gaming. He has many a story and many a recommendation, several titles of which I haven’t heard of. It was an enlightening experience, and I guarantee a much less frustrating one than dealing with an actual cheap boss attack.
“We can begin with the primary question, my friend:
How long have you been a gamer?”
“Well, the NES released in October of 1985 in North America, so I was 4 years old at the time. So roughly 31 years? My babysitter got one for her son and I took any chance I could get to fake sick and stay home to play it. I’ve been hooked ever since.”
“Wow! Gaming since you were a toddler!
And what better system could you start on than the crown jewel of them all? So do you actually remember your very first NES game? If you can remember back to age 4 with precision, you get a free high five.”
“The only game they had is what it came with, so my first game was none other than Super Mario Bros. I was TERRIBLE at it, too. It took about a week to grasp the controls and finish the first few worlds, and I think it was another month or two before I discovered you could hold down B to run. Embarrassing.”
Did you also raise your hands while holding the controller to make Mario jump?”
“I’m pretty sure I did, since that’s what most folks do their first time around, haha. I remember watching my mom and dad try to play games when I got my own NES, and they’d jerk the controller every time Mario jumped. I’d think “what in the hell are you monsters doing?!” now knowing I probably did the same thing in the early days.”
“We all wanted those motion controls.
Have you at all recently gone back to play Super Mario Bros. again as an adult? If so, how do you think it holds up? What made it so successful and what makes it so enduring? Is there some element to its game design that developers would still be wise to observe?”
“I still love the Mario series for the most part, and while I tend to check out the new games as they release, I don’t find myself going back to the holy trilogy much. I no longer own my NES, nor have I picked them up on any of the virtual consoles. I’m sure they hold up incredibly well, particularly SMB3, but I’m a slave to nostalgia and Nintendo, so what do I know? I think the NES was such a dramatic leap beyond the previous console generation, both in terms of graphics and gameplay. Super Mario Bros. clearly draws comparison to something like Pitfall, but in a more refined way that didn’t look like blobs on a TV screen. As a kid, I could easily identify Mario and Luigi and I wanted everything with them on it, from cereal to pajamas. I can’t say the same about the previous era, since it was hard to feel attached to the basic pixels of Pitfall Harry, Pac-Man, or the like. I think the best takeaway for any developer is the game’s near-perfect mixture of accessibility and challenge, along with the pace in which it implements said challenges. A lot of modern games tend to play all of their cards too fast or too slow, so it’s easy to feel over- or underwhelmed.”
“One would think accessibility and challenge would be mutually exclusive,
but Nintendo seemed to prove that theory wrong. I have to confess that I ruined this next question. I already know what your favorite game is, ’cause I peeked… Care to tell us why it is your #1 favorite?”
“That was actually a tough one to come to terms with, haha. I’ve always said that I’d never, ever choose between the original Legend of Zelda and Metroid on NES. So much so, in fact, that when it came time to get my first tattoo I got a Triforce being drained by a Metroid. However, I reluctantly decided on The Legend of Zelda as my all-time favorite. As for why, it was the first video game that introduced me to the freedom of an open world and give me a sense of adventure. To me, you were this little boy on a quest to save the princess (I was a little boy, therefore so was Link, dammit!), but you had to scour the world and conquer dungeons to acquire the necessary materials to do so. The music wormed its way in to my brain, and I’d hum the overworld theme in my bed wishing I didn’t have to wait until tomorrow’s babysitter visit to jump back in. My babysitter was a housewife who lived on her NES and she was completely obsessed with the game. I’d sit inside and watch her play, instead of going outside and making new friends. It was just such a dramatic departure from Super Mario Bros. and the first game to truly make me feel like I was a part of something huge, if that makes sense.
“There are clearly other, better Zelda experiences now, but it’s the game that helped shape who I am today.”
“No, I think that makes perfect sense.
I think a lot of individuals from our generation were just blown away by the original Legend of Zelda. It remains close to our hearts and the franchise has continued to deliver ever since. While we’re on the subject, what are your thoughts on the upcoming Breath of the Wild? Are you going to get it? Do you think it’ll be a smash hit? Game of the Year? Nintendo’s phoenix?!”
“I’ve already secured my pre-order for both the Switch and Breath of the Wild, so it’s safe to say I’m definitely excited. Going back to what I mentioned earlier concerning the original game’s open world giving me a sense of adventure, I’m getting a similar feeling from Breath of the Wild. I’m a little concerned about the estimated size and how Nintendo will manage to fill the expansive map with interesting things to do, but knowing that they’re focused on making Breath of the Wild this massive open-world experience, I guess I’m just nostalgic in a way I haven’t felt since the original game. The series has mostly been open-world, so this isn’t something new. We’ve always been dropped in to a map and given little direction, but the feeling is different I guess. I’m almost positive it’ll be a smash hit, pending Nintendo designs the open world effectively and it doesn’t end up dragging the experience along like the opening of Skyward Sword (nyuk nyuk). I expect a lot of high scores and I’m sure it’ll be on many a Game of the Year list, but I’m eager to find out for myself just how good it is.”
“So after taking in the NES through babysitter-osmosis,
what was the first system you actually owned that you could call all yours?”
“I became pretty enthralled with the NES that she got for her son the year of its release, and got my own that Christmas. But in an embarrassing turn of events, I asked for a TurboGrafx 16 or a Genesis instead of a SNES during the next console generation. Thank the deity of your choice that I ended up with a Genesis instead of the TurboGrafx!”
“A turdographic? A what? Hahaha! That is embarrassing.
So you ended up going the irreverent route with Genesis. Why that over the SNES? And know that I’m asking that question from the perspective of a die-hard SNES fan. Which I am.”
“The SNES is actually one of my favorite consoles of all time, but my friend was getting a SNES so I wanted to get a Genesis or TurboGrafx 16 so we had different things to play. It made sense when I was 7! I eventually acquired a SNES a few years later, thus began my lifelong obsession with RPGs.”
“Ah yes… RPGs. The SNES had some of the best.
What are five of your favorites and why?”
“Narrowing down a list of favorites is always tough, especially on the spot, but in no particular order:
“Final Fantasy Tactics – I sank an unhealthy amount of time in to this game, grinding out Job skills and levels to create the perfect army. I’m pretty sure I wasted an entire summer vacation on that. This was also the game that introduced me to SRPGs, which brings me to…
“Fire Emblem: Awakening – This was the game that sold me on the 3DS, so of course after purchasing it it sat in my backlog for what felt like an eternity. I finally got around to it while I was recovering from dental surgery last October, and was blown away by the character depth, the story, gameplay, everything… it’s an amazing game overall.”
“Chrono Trigger – A friend of mine in middle school introduced me to Chrono Trigger after its release, and I immediately took to its battle system and sci-fi/fantasy hybrid universe. I remember toying around with the original Final Fantasy on NES, but it was above my skill level at the time. Chrono Trigger is the first RPG I latched on to and still remains one of the only RPGs I’ve played through on numerous occasions.”
“Xenogears – I was a big Squaresoft guy in the SNES and PSX era, so I generally picked up everything they published. Xenogears was one of the rare games I knew nothing about going in, but loved its blend of 3D polygons and retro sprites, combo-based battle system, and philosophical/religion-themed narrative.
“Persona 4 Golden – Persona 4 was already one of my favorite RPGs of all time, and Golden somehow made it better. It was the sole reason I bought my Vita. I still think it’s the best modern RPG, at least for my tastes.”
“You had me at “Final Fantasy”… and I adore Chrono Trigger.
“Ah yeah I spent a lot of time on that one, too.
Such a great game, and it really showed that Final Fantasy can be anything. What do you think it is about RPGs that pulls you in? I mean, how would you explain it to gamers who typically don’t play RPGs, like the purist fans of first-person shooters and sports games?”
“With so many different games to choose from, especially nowadays, I tend to gravitate to the ones that focus on stories and characters. Getting lost in an RPG is like getting lost in a good book, it’s just more interactive in a choose-your-own-adventure sort of way. You don’t have to like dragons or magic or have a deep rooted love for all things Tolkien, but rather an admiration for the narrative aspect of gaming. And, of course, a lot of time.
“I think that’s also why I tend to enjoy a lot of modern adventure games, visual novels, and exploratory narrative games (what the cool kids derogatorily refer to as walking simulators).”
“Time, the ultimate tyrant and the ultimate benefactor.
You still find that you have time for the lengthy RPGs? Or has a change in lifestyle as you’ve gotten older dictated the kind of games you play?”
“RPGs are still my primary focus, but as a full-time student I don’t have a ton of free time. If I weren’t playing an RPG, I’d still be playing something else though, so I try to use that free time to focus on games I actually want to play. I’m also an insomniac, and while that’s mostly a downfall, it does give me a bit more time to focus on beefier games! Thankfully there have been a few modern RPGs with more manageable time commitments, like Undertale and I am Setsuna, but it probably takes me 3-4 weeks to finish a 60-hour game.”
“Thanks for the recommendations!
Those are great titles. Anyone who hasn’t played those yet, should! So a little bird told me you are into video game collecting?”
“Yes and no, haha. I’ve always had a fondness for collecting games and displaying them on my shelf, but that’s not always possible thanks to adult stuff like bills, interesting new games, and other hobbies. I had quite the collection of NES carts and CIB Genesis games, but lost a bunch of it after having a falling out with an old friend (I was storing them at their place, since I lacked the room myself) and fell in to some hard times where I had to sell off my PS One and Saturn collection. I just haven’t been motivated to build it back up. Right now I mainly focus on picking up JRPGs and horror games, with the PS2 and Wii making up the bulk of my collection. I have some good stuff in there that I’m really proud of, though!”
“Stuff you’re proud of! Such as?”
“A few years ago my girlfriend and I secured a complete copy of Rule of Rose on PS2, which is one of the rarest North American releases. It’s a horror game that had a limited run because of some questionable content, so of course I had to have it. We’re both horror fans, so there’s copies of stuff like Kuon, Haunting Ground, and Echo Night: Beyond Up There. On the Wii side we have complete copies of Shiren the Wanderer, Arc Rise Fantasia, Ju-On: The Grudge, Fragile Dreams, and the Operation Rainfall trilogy. Oddly enough, the rarest horror thing we own isn’t even a game, but a Bollywood film remake of A Nightmare on Elm St. called Mahakal: The Monster. We like weird stuff.”
“Rule of Rose is so rare I haven’t even heard of it!
Impressive treasures! Except for maybe the Bollywood film, ha! Shifting focus to your blog now, I’ve just got to say I love your blog name! How did you run into choosing it and why Cheap Boss Attack?”
“I actually started off blogging about World of Warcraft maybe 11 years ago. Yeesh, that feels like forever ago. It was a blog that focused on raiding as a Demonology Warlock, which wasn’t common back in the day, so it generated a ton of traffic and one of my posts even made it on WoW.com. I eventually fell out of love with WoW, and outside of the MMO I’m mostly a sewer-dwelling console heathen, so I wanted a fresh start away from the old WoW-focused blog name. I spent a few days brainstorming things and Cheap Boss Attack just came out of nowhere. I wish I had a cool story about it, but it was really just a random name that I came up with and liked the way it sounded out loud. Everyone hates when bosses use cheap attacks, so I guess I didn’t think that one out very well?”
“Haha no way, I think it’s catchier
because everyone loves to hate those cheap boss attacks. I was trying to think of one earlier but just couldn’t.”
“Coming up with a blog name is tough! It’s like naming your character in an MMO or an RPG, it’s the hardest part. I can’t tell you how often I’ve sat on a character creation screen trying to come up with a name that’s original, not super corny, and I don’t hate with every fiber of my being. Part of my brain tells me to “Google Norwegian black metal bands,” while the other is on the verge of a breakdown, screaming “just go with Skyf-cker already!””
“Is there anything more paralyzing than endless possibilities?
Charming name aside, what is your blog’s point of focus? It’s specialty that differentiates it from others?”
“It mainly exists as an outlet to talk about things that excite me in gaming, but I also love writing reviews. That’s all I did for two years basically, freelancing reviews elsewhere, and there’s just something enjoyable about not only sharing my experiences, but discussing them with like-minded readers. Since I have a fair amount of PR connections from my freelance years, I think what sets me apart from other blogs, particularly on WordPress, is the games I cover. I tend to review a lot of Vita games and console indies that are otherwise overlooked. I know it’s easy for smaller sites to regurgitate news from the IGNs and Polygons for the sake of providing content, but I tend to stray from that in favor of researched opinion pieces and reviews.”
“And what is something
you would love to see your blog achieve during its lifespan?”
“I’d definitely like to get more eyes on it, for sure. While I always write for myself first, exposure and recognition is one hell of a motivator. I’ve wanted to be a games writer since the Nintendo Power days, where I’d thumb through issues religiously like it was the Bible.
“Writing also helps keep me sane, drown out depression, and stay motivated in my gaming goals, so the blog is more than just crossing my fingers and hoping to make a career out of writing.”
“Writing is a kind of therapy for a lot of us.
I’m happy to know it has been such a help to you. What is a post on your blog which you are particularly proud of and why?”
“I tend to not get overly personal on the blog, since it’s mostly about games. So I guess the post I’m particularly proud of is my 10 Favorite Games of All Time list. Having avidly gamed for over 30 years, I’ve played tons and tons of stuff, and narrowing those down to 10 favorites was a rough task. It’s also the first time in my life I’ve had to choose between Metroid and The Legend of Zelda as my absolute favorite, haha.”
“Having been a gamer for so long,
I’m sure you’ve come across quite a few amazing games that nobody seems to talk about. Ever. What are three underrepresented hidden gems that you would commend to us all?”
“I’m not much of a PC gamer, but there’s a first-person platformer called A Story About My Uncle by Gone North Games that’s incredible. It was my runner up Game of the Year back in 2014, blending the exploratory narrative of something like Gone Home with an extremely rad grappling hook platforming mechanic like Bionic Commando.
“I just recently finished Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE on Wii U, which didn’t get much attention at all. It’s an extremely good JRPG that’s a pseudo-crossover between the Persona and Fire Emblem series, but it’s like playing a well made over-the-top anime with a Persona-esque battle system. It’s definitely my favorite game on the Wii U and one I highly recommend to any fan of JRPGs.
“Another recent overlooked gem that I’ve played is Actual Sunlight, which is available on PC and Vita. It’s a narrative adventure, though I use the term “adventure” lightly since it focuses on a man suffering from depression and throwing around the idea of committing suicide. As someone who suffers from depression and having felt stuck in various dead-end office jobs (like the protagonist) it hit a bit close to home. It’s a short game, maybe an hour or two, but it’s a standout tale that probably isn’t for everyone.
“I’d be remiss not mentioning SOMA, Risk of Rain, and Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax as well, so Google those if you’re after a new game to play!”
So where does Cheap Boss Attack go from here? Have you ever thought of taking it to podcasting or vlogging… or memoirs?”
“A memoir would probably be something only my mom would read, haha. I currently record a weekly podcast with Chuck Zodl (who runs CounterAttack Games), which has been fun thus far. I did the whole podcast thing while freelancing at the now-defunct What’s Your Tag?, and it’s just so different from writing reviews or opinion pieces. I always wanted to get in to the whole game streaming thing, but I live in the middle of nowhere and our internet speeds just aren’t up to snuff. It’s still something I’d like to do in the future, but right now it’s not in the cards.”
“You record a weekly podcast? That’s cool!
How’s that been going? What’s your angle and subject? I take it it’s gaming?”
“Well Chuck and I have known each other through Twitter for a while now, and while we’re both in to gaming we have our own likes and dislikes. That usually makes for more interesting conversation, I think. We’re only 7 or 8 episodes in to working with each other, so it’s still in that feeling-out period. It’s mostly gaming focused, for sure. We talk about what we’ve been playing throughout the week, run down the latest news topics, and sometimes break the mold to discuss movies, comics, and tabletop gaming. That’s more him though, haha.”
“This is good. Having your own likes and dislikes…
does that mean you’ve occasionally disagreed with each other? If so, what do you think is something that can help guide two people who disagree to continue to cooperate with and understand each other, keeping the dialogue going?”
“Oh, we tend to disagree on most things! I’m really in to quirky Japanese games and RPGs, where he’s more in to the westernized RPGs and stuff like Rocket League and Overwatch. Even the games we both enjoy, there’s still areas of disagreement. I think the most important thing for people to remember is that it’s totally fine to love something while being critical. It’s possible to have a discussion without having an argument, and that’s what we have going for us I think.”
“That is perfect:
“It’s totally fine to love something while still being critical”. Having spent some time in the WordPress community for as long as you have, would you say that’s a platitude well-honored?
“For the most part. I write a lot of reviews that my readers don’t always agree with, since a review is just one person’s opinion. Typically we take it to the comment section to discuss our likes and dislikes in a civil manner. The commenter and I both share a collective love of gaming, but have differing opinions about a particular subject. It happens. I love Nintendo, but I still posted 3,000+ words about my Switch concerns. I love my Vita, but I never waste a chance to condemn Sony for its absurdly priced proprietary memory cards.
“The WordPress community, particularly the gaming bloggers, have been great. In just over the last year or so I’ve met some incredible folks that not only keep my site’s comment section lively, but inspire me to put more effort in to what I do. These friendships have even moved beyond WordPress and on to Twitter, Twitch, and their YouTube Let’s Plays. With your site in particular, I’ve always loved long-form reviews… although I hate writing them myself (lol). Reading posts here always reminds me there’s more to dig up and discuss than typical surface features. It’s about sharing the experience, not reading the back of the box. Folks like Adrienne at The Shameful Narcissist, Hungry Goriya, Deviot over at Comma Eight Comma One, LightningEllen at Conquering the Gaming Backlog, Rob at IPlayedTheGame, Drakulus, Yheela, and many, many others are constantly providing interesting opinions that are always a pleasure to read. It’s inspiring.”
“Yeah writing them sucks…!
Haha, I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. So many wonderful people you mentioned. It’s this kind of spirit of togetherness and inspiration which makes me happy to have stumbled into this community, which makes me hopeful for our race. Also finding people that can write things I never could is another great pleasure.”
“I agree. It’s proof that common ground can lead to friendly discussion and the all-too-important support system that’s sometimes needed as a writer, haha.”
“The genius is, we’re our own support system as writers.
Not that what you’ve said isn’t already tremendously inspiring, I’ve got to ask you the final question: What word of wisdom and advice could you give to your fellow bloggers to inspire and encourage?”
“Keep pushing yourself to do better, to improve, and always let your writing speak for itself. I mainly focus on reviews, so my best advice there would be to remember you’re not there to sell anyone anything or read a list of features from the back of the box, you’re just sharing your experience. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or feedback, and if you enjoy something you’ve read here on WordPress don’t hesitate to leave a comment (even a small one!).
“The main takeaway from that, I suppose, is to always write your next post with the goal of making it better than the last.”
“Write that as my epitaph!
I can say with certainty that I’ve greatly enjoyed this chat and I wish you the very best at Cheap Boss Attack! Thanks so much for joining me for the interview.”
“Thank you for the conversation! I’m happy to have been a part of it!”
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