Mod Aria’s Most Anticipated September Game Releases!

August is more than half way over, so it’s time to start thinking about what September has in store for us gamers! Summer is always what gamers call “the dry season”, as there aren’t many anticipated titles released from June to August. But everything changes when the fall months come around, so there’s tons of new stuff waiting for us on the horizon. I can’t talk about every single game that’s coming out, but this article will serve as a brief list of all the games that I’m excited to see. So without further ado, let’s talk about my most anticipated September games!

Game Number 1: Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite

I think I’ve mentioned that I really like fighting games, yes? One of the fighting games that I really love is the Marvel vs Capcom series. Marvel is my beloved comic studio, so when a large cast of Marvel characters are pitted against people like Dante from Devil May Cry and Chun-Li, I honestly can’t find a reason not to play that kind of game. Naturally, Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite, the newest installment, is a highly anticipated game for me.

The game itself will have 30 characters at launch, which is already better than Capcom can say for it’s Street Fighter franchise. However, some characters that were available in the game’s previous installment, like Deadpool and Phoenix Wright, have yet to appear in the game. While I’m disappointed that the character roster is a bit scant from last time, I can only hope that DLC will help make up for it. There are also some terrific new characters, like Black Pather, Gamora and Mega Man X.

All in all, I don’t think this game is going to be fantastic, but I think it will be a fun experience for fans of the series as well as people who want a fun fighting game to play. I highly recommend trying out the previous installments of the franchise to get a feel for the atmosphere of the new game.

Marvel vs Capcom Infinite releases on Xbox One, PS4 and PC on September 19th.

Game Number 2: Bad Apple Wars

The first thing everyone reading should remember about dear Mod Aria is that I am an avid otome gamer. Naturally, when a visual novel with anime boys comes out, I’m incredibly hyped to play it. The second game on this list is Aksys Games’ localization of the otome visual novel Bad Apple Wars.

Bad Apple Wars is about a girl who wakes up realizes that she has died and gone to limbo. In the world she is currently in, she ends up attending a school for students who have also died. There is a small group of students called the Bad Apples who refuse to conform to the rules of the academy, and the main character must choose to side with the school’s Disciplinary Committee or the rebels.

The game itself is very similar to the anime Angel Beats, but with some changes in situation and gender. It originally released in 2015, but is finally getting an English translation. The art style for the game is quite unique, and the game itself does not conform to traditional visual novel gameplay. It’s not just a “choose and answer, get a result”; there is a bit more exploration to this game. Though it is still a visual novel more than anything else. I’m looking forward to see what kind of world Bad Apple Wars presents to its players.

Bad Apple Wars releases for PS Vita on September 29th.

Game Number 3: Metroid: Samus Returns

Last but certainly not least is the (kind of) new installment in the Metroid franchise. Coming to 3DS in September is a re-imagining of the original Metriod II: Return of Samus in the form of Metriod: Samus Returns.

While the game will follow the story of Metriod II, the gameplay and graphics have been completely reworked to suit the 3DS in the current gaming era, as Metroid II first released for the Game Boy in 1991. The controls for the game have also been revamped, so it should be much easier to control that bounty hunter we all know and love. Samus will also be given a handful new powers and abilities that you can use to blow the enemies to smithereens. And, because this is Nintendo, the game will absolutely have amiibo support.

I think re-imagining/remaking Metriod II is a smart move for Nintendo. It’s been a long time since a core Metroid game has been released, so I’m certain this game is coming out in prep for the Metroid 4 game that was teased at this year’s E3. The younger generation of gamers must be introduced to Samus Aran, and hopefully, they will love her just as much as we do.

Metroid: Samus Returns releases for 3DS on September 15th.

And that’s all for this time! Please feel free to let me know if there’s any games you’re excited for coming out in September, or even if you just wanna hype about one of these games I’ve listed. Let’s look forward to more great releases; not just in September, but in the months ahead as well!

Thanks for all the support you give NWG. Until we meet again!

Top 5 Worst: Games of 2016 with Mod Aria!

Mod Aria’s back! 2016 was a dark year for a lot of people, but it was definitely a dark year for everyone in regards to video games. 2016 saw the release of so many disappointing titles and sequels that it was hard to get excited about playing anything. Despite the few gems that did hit the shelves, like Overwatch, Doom and Dark Souls 3, the majority of the titles that game out of 2016 were mediocre at best. But which games can objectively be called the worst of 2016? Come along with me and find out!

#5: Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst 

The first game on our list is the highly anticipated sequel to the beloved Mirror’s Edge game. This game quickly earned a cult following and is truly an underrated title from the previous generation. However, it’s sequel just does not do the first game justice. Many critics and fans praise and pan many different elements of the game, but what it really comes down to is that the gameplay just wasn’t fun. It was too repetitive and the combat was not as smooth as it should have been.

Combine that with a mediocre story and you get, well, a mediocre game. It’s quite disappointing considering this game stars one of the few solo female leads in gaming history. Perhaps EA can revive the franchise with a better installment. But with EA running into snags left and right, it’s hard to say what could be a success for them. Either way, if EA can’t revive Mirror’s Edge, maybe someone else will…someday.

#4: Star Fox Zero 

Waiting for a new Star Fox game was making hardcore fans like myself go absolutely crazy in anticipation for a new title. When Star Fox Zero was announced as a 2016 game for Wii U, I was so ready to play the game. Sadly, I don’t know why anticipated it to be a fun experience when I knew the game was going to be on the Wii U. And that’s mostly the reason why Star Fox Zero shows up on this list. Despite it being a soft-core reboot of Star Fox 64, the game is not only difficult to play, but not fun either.

The controls force you to aim through the Wii U game pad, but actually aiming with accuracy while playing with the game pad is basically impossible. So you have this wonderful Star Fox experience that so many want to play with a platform that makes the basic controls a huge chore. It was a huge letdown for me last year; frankly, it still is. I’d like Nintendo to consider porting Star Fox Zero to the Nintendo Switch in order to make it better, but I don’t even know if that’s possible. I’m now just hoping for a new Star Fox installment at all. Please don’t give up on it, Nintendo!

#3: Street Fighter V 

While Street Fighter V received accolades for being the best fighting game to come out this year, those accolades are not deserved. Street Fighter V is the saddest excuse for a game I have ever seen, and I do not know how people can defend this game. There isn’t really any single player support, as is mandatory in fighting games. No Arcade mode, no timed or challenge modes, and you can only play against online players or against a second player. You cannot fight the AI. Most of these had to get patched in after launch. Let’s not even add in the tons of online server issues. How can an online game be playable if the online mode is crap? This isn’t a game!

The most disrespectful thing, I think, is that far too many of the game’s characters were locked behind a DLC pay wall. While you could play as certain returning characters like Ryu and Chun-Li, others like Guile and Akuma were DLC only. Including the other characters, there were only sixteen playable characters at launch. That’s just not acceptable in the 2016. Combine this with the pitiful excuse for a story mode, and you’ve got a fantastic dumpster fire. Hope you learned your lesson for Street Fighter VI, Capcom.

#2: Mighty No. 9 

You want to talk about jaded fans? Let’s talk Mega Man fans. Though Capcom has decided to all but disown the Mega Man franchise, fans and creator Keiji Inafune are really trying to revive any concept of Mega Man that they can. Hence the Kickstarter for Mighty No. 9. Fans through developer Comcept over three million dollars to make their dreams come true, yet it was not to be. What was supposed to be a new reboot of the Mega Man concept turned into just a disappointing knock off. Mighty No. 9 failed at many things: the story wasn’t engaging, the gameplay was either repetitive or unplayable, and the graphics were just pathetic.

The disappointment that was Mighty No. 9 (as well as other Kickstarter failures like Yooka-Laylee) prove something to us older gamers. It’s that, despite our nostalgia for these games, there is a reason that they disappeared in the first place. Nostalgia is a powerful and dangerous thing. And if we as fans cannot recognize that change, all these remakes and remasters will definitely fail. I could write a whole article on what nostalgia is doing to the game industry, but I’ll save that for another time. Instead of Mighty No. 9, maybe Capcom should just sell the Mega Man IP to someone like Nintendo so we can get an actual new Mega Man game.

#1: No Man’s Sky 

The game that wins the not-so-coveted title of 2016 Biggest Gaming Flop is certainly the over-hyped train wreck that is No Man’s Sky. This game was set up to be one of the biggest achievements in video game history, and definitely could have been. But the promises made by developer and publisher Hello Games just wasn’t delivered when No Man’s Sky launched last year. The game promised a huge variety of planets with a vast universe to explore, only to offer a product with the most monotonous gameplay any living human has ever seen.

The only success No Man’s Sky has is that the game itself is graphically beautiful, and the planets generated in the game are indeed numerous. However, the look and feel of these planets are incredibly similar due to the algorithm in No Man’s Sky. As for the gameplay, it’s basically a more boring version of Minecraft. There’s no one to interact with, nothing to experience. It’s just walking around collecting things, then flying in space. It’s a massive universe of emptiness. If the game had some kind of story or goals in mind, maybe it could have been interesting. But there’s no crying over spilled milk now.

I know that many say No Man’s Sky has the potential to be fun with new patches and DLC, but because of the horrid launch that the game had, I don’t think that will save the game from the hell it landed in. Because of the blatantly false marketing the game received, I honestly don’t trust Hello Games to deliver anymore. I don’t think No Man’s Sky needs to be forgotten though. We need to remember it so that no game companies can make these awful mistakes ever again.

That’s all for this Top 5 Worst list. Did I miss any games that you thought were terrible? Or perhaps you liked these games and want to tell me why? I’d love to talk about it with you! Thank you so much for supporting us here at NWG; until we meet again!

Feminism In Gaming: Final Fantasy 12 with Mod Aria!

Mod Aria’s back! Since the HD Remaster of Final Fantasy 12 has recently hit the shelves, I thought I’d take the chance to have a brief feminist discussion about the game. I’ve played many a Final Fantasy in my two and a half decades, and to say that Final Fantasy 12 is a treasured memory of mine would be…an exaggeration. The game just cannot compare to any of the others in the franchise for a myriad of reasons. But does it hold it’s own under scrutiny of my feminist lens? Come along with me and see!

The first to know is that a point of frustration in Final Fantasy 12 is the situation involving who is considered to be the “real main character” of the game. I usually see fans argue between four characters, but the typical argument is against Vaan (who Square Enix identifies as the main character) and Ashe (who the story really focuses on). The point Square Enix argues is that the story is told from an outsider looking in; a good example of that in another piece of fiction would be Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby.

The difference between Nick and Vaan, however, is that Nick has the opportunity in the narrative to actually talk about his own feelings about the situation. Vaan hardly ever comments on what’s going on, shows no kind of growth from the events of Final Fantasy 12 and is only really tied to the story by the flimsiest of fringes. All in all, it feels more like he was tacked on at the last minute. His character is not whole in comparison to some of the others. And a main character that does not feel whole in the sense of creation does not make for good story telling.

So why then, is Ashe not the main character? She is the one leading the party; it’s her that makes a difference in the world. We see her struggle with her own personal demons while confronting the antagonists of the game itself. She’s dynamic and interesting. She has all the markings for a great protagonist. Yet the representative for Final Fantasy 12 is Vaan. What happened here?

Let’s take a step back for a second and talk about another Final Fantasy in a similar situation: Final Fantasy 6. When you ask a fan of Final Fantasy 6 who the main character is, usually the answer is immediately Terra. But, Terra is only the the titular lead of the game. That’s right. Square Enix has stated that, technically, there is no real main character of Final Fantasy 6. Terra is simply the poster girl for the game. This situation is quite an odd one considering how beloved Final Fantasy 6 and Terra are. And it’s even more interesting to compare the situations in Final Fantasy 12 with Final Fantasy 6.

If the stories focus around these fantastic women, why are they not considered the leads? Why give these weak responses when the status of central protagonist is called into question? Two even more pivotal questions arise: Is this considered bad writing? Did gender come into play when making these calls?

I’m going to give my own personal opinion to answer these questions, but I’m going to do my best to support my answers. Let’s start with the second question first: did gender come into play when making these calls in Final Fantasies 6 and 12. The answer is a resounding “Yes!” from me. These games were created in the span of decades where gaming marketing was heavily targeted towards male gamers and young boys. Naturally, playing as a character that shares your gender helps you relate better to that character. Hence why there are so many classic games with controllable male characters.

And I hear you already; “Final Fantasy is turn based! You control all the characters!”. Yes, but that doesn’t really dismiss my point. Final Fantasy 6 claims there is no main character, so it’s an easy claim to make when you can control all the characters despite the default sprite falling to Terra. Final Fantasy 12 is in an even more interesting situation, as the game isn’t fully turn based. Not only that, but the camera fixes on the lead character in the party. Vaan is also the default map character. Final Fantasy 6 is taking the focus off of Terra, and Final Fantasy 12 is putting the focus on Vaan.

So, my point still stands. I think that Terra being denounced as the main character of Final Fantasy 6 and Vaan being appointed as main character of Final Fantasy 12 was a marketing attempt to get the game bought by male gamers.

The first question is also easily answered by me: “Is this bad writing?”. Frankly, yes. Saying Vaan is an “outside looking in” main character when he is so horribly created comes across as just pretext. Square Enix had to create a crappy DS sequel of Final Fantasy 12 in order to force that reality down their fans’ throats. Vaan isn’t experiencing the narrative, he’s watching it. And any attempt to tie Vaan into the story was terribly done. So, when push comes to shove, I think Final Fantasy 12 was not well written.

Final Fantasy 6’s writing hasn’t really come into play here, I just think Square Enix’s marketing team is a bit sexist.

So what can you take away from this article? Mainly, that game companies need to let female characters be the main characters of a game if they’re really the main character. Inventing some dumb reason why they aren’t when it’s clear that they are is no longer acceptable in 2017. Game companies need to stop forcing every story to star a male character in order to sell a game. It’s sexist and unacceptable.

The market is not the same as it was in the 80s, 90s and even the 2000s. More women are playing games, and therefore more women deserve the see their gender well represented in a story. The gaming climate needs to adjust, or we will see the fall of beloved game franchises like Final Fantasy. Only time will tell.

Thanks for reading this article and please continue to support NWG. Until we meet again!

Tropes in Gaming: The Fanservice Pack with Mod Aria!

Mod Aria’s Back! This week I’m taking the reigns on our popular Tropes in Gaming segment, and I’ve decided to talk about a trope that everyone knows, but didn’t exactly know the name of it. This trope is dubbed “The Fanservice Pack”, and it is quite common in the video game industry. Particularly, this trope is quite common among fighting games, as you can tell by the flagship image of Soul Calibur’s most recent rendition of Sophitia. But what is The Fanservice Pack? I’ll tell you, but get ready to say an audible “Ohhhhhhh!”.

The name of this trope is a bit strange, but oddly appropriate. The Fanservice Pack, in essense, is the idea of characters becoming more and more attractive as a game goes on. However, this trope mainly centers around the progression of female character measurements. As a game series follows this female character, her secondary sex characteristics will change to make her appear more desirable. Sometimes it’s a chance it clothing, sometimes it’s not. Typically, it is denoted by a drastic, yet steady, increase in chest size. But enough beating around the bush, right? Video game companies just want these girls boobs to be bigger than they were.

Where can you see this? I counter with: where can’t you? Let’s look at Sophitia. Compare her Soul Calibur 2 sprite to her Soul Calibur 5; can you honestly say that nothing has changed? Oh yeah, there’s change. A couple cup sizes worth of it. Mortal Kombat, BlazeBlue and Tekken are also perpetrators of The Fanservice Pack. Because of the regular installments of the series, the excuse “Time is passing, a woman’s body changes” is easy to use as an excuse to up the fanservice for these female characters.

But fighting games aren’t the only victims. The Fanservice Pack can be seen in JRPGs like Final Fantasy X-2 and the Final Fantasy XIII installments as well as The Neptunia series and even Pokemon. Western games, like Mass Effect and The Elder Scrolls series, don’t dodge the The Fanservice pack either. Now, male characters can also be affected by The Fanservice Pack, but the effect is nowhere near as drastic or frequent. As I said earlier, The Fanservice Pack is not necessarily a change in body, but also a change in clothing or hair design. Male video game characters often see new outfits as a series goes on, and they can sometimes be more revealing than before. Whether or not this is actually fanservice is debatable, but that’s a topic for another time.

So this trope can be a bit of a toxic one for gamers; there are some obvious and some not so obvious reasons. At the center, the reason why this trope is toxic is that it is blatant hypersexualization of female video game characters. There is a stigma in gaming that we are only just now starting to move away from: in order to be a strong fighter, a woman must be physically appealing.

This argument falls apart in so many areas; the definition of physically appealing is dynamic, the phrase “physically appealing” usually comes along with an addendum of straight, cis males, and the argument itself is nonsensical. A woman’s beauty and sex appeal does no way correlate with her athletic prowess. Breast size does not equal a stronger punch. An hourglass figure does not mean she can dead lift a car.

Nevertheless, it is the true heart of this trope that forces sexist notions on gamers: that the kind of transition these games are showcasing is a natural one. This goes for women and men too. Bodies come in all different shapes, sizes and skin tones. We should accept that our bodies are wonderful things, and that they are wonderful no matter what they look like. Having women grow three cup sizes in a matter of two games that take place within a few years of each other is absolutely unrealistic. And no excuse can justify it.

Take our poster girl today, Sophitia. It’s easy for people to say that her breasts have steadily enlarged because she had children. People know that having children can increase a woman’s breast size. But that argument is weak at best. Enlarged breasts is not the only sign of former pregnancy, nor would the increase in size be so dramatic. Everyone knows why Sophita was changed. The same goes with men’s bodies and their musculature. You don’t get ripped just by practicing martial arts. There’s way more to bodybuilding than just working out.

The first step to recovering from this idea that excuses can justify sexualization in the media is acknowledging what is happening. These fictional characters are being hypersexualized in order to appeal to their audience. Some people like curvy women with large breasts, some people like beefcake men. And what I’m about to say might blow your mind, but follow me on this: to an extent, I don’t have a problem with that.

Let me explain: there’s nothing wrong with catering to your fans. There’s nothing wrong with embracing your sexuality. You’re attracted to what you’re attracted to. You should embrace that. If fanservice is harmless, then there’s nothing wrong with sexy girls in bikini’s or cute boys in suits. Does that mean fanservice can’t be harmful? No. Fanservice can be harmful in numerous ways.

Forcing others to partake in sexual gratification via sexy fictional characters is wrong. Destroy the idea that everything must be sexual. Secondly, fanservice can be harmful because of unrealistic expectations it enforces on human bodies. Remember that these bodies are fictional for a reason. Do not hold others to standards that they will never be able to meet. Thirdly, justifying one type of fanservice while condemning another is not fair. Claiming that Sophitia’s huge chest is acceptable but a topless Kilik is not makes you no better than a child who didn’t go to a birthday party because they didn’t like the cake. The world does not revolve around you.

The Fanservice Pack isn’t necessarily a trope I think should be completely eradicated from the media. However, I think that we as gamers and creators need to take a step back from fiction and learn what we need to do to make this right. Stop making excuses for fanservice, don’t force others to consume types of fanservice they detest, and realize that fanservice can be okay if it’s not appealing to you. And, most importantly, separate fiction from reality. The sooner we can do that, the sooner we can all learn to love our own bodies. And appreciate fictional ones, too.

Thanks for reading this article and please continue to support NWG! Until we meet again!

Character Spotlight: Futaba Sakura from Persona 5 with Mod Aria!

Hello all Nasties! Mod Aria is back today with another Character Spotlight. As Atlus has just announced a Persona 5 anime set to air in 2018, I decided to celebrate. So today, I’ll be talking about one of my favorite Persona 5 characters, Futaba. I feel as though Futaba is a character so many people can relate to (especially female gamers), so it’s no surprise that I find her absolutely wonderful. But there’s so much packed into Futaba’s character that I feel like goes unnoticed. So I’ve made it my mission today to discuss it with our dear readers! Warning: Spoilers Follow. Suicide discussion also appears.

Naturally, if you’ve played Persona 5, you know what’s up with Futaba. She suffers from a mental illness due to a horrific incident in her past. But before we get into her psyche, let’s just talk about some fun things. Futaba is a computer geek, a gamer and an otaku. She is also a genius; Futaba reveals at one point while bonding with her that she was so much smarter than the other children in her school that she faked failing tests just to fit in. Futaba may be young and immature, but she is leagues beyond all of the rest of the Persona 5 cast.

In regards to her Persona, she spends her time on the sidelines. Futaba maps the dungeons that you spelunk as well as offers support during combat. I think her support role fits her character very well; even though she is healing, that process takes time. Having her engage in combat would seem too unrealistic for her. Even her mannerisms as the game progresses symbolize her own nervousness: her hunched posture, her mumbling, her emotional range. What I’m trying to get at is that Futaba is a very well made character.

Futaba suffers from a very unique, yet very tragic situation. The death of her mother leaves her scarred and frightened, and her trauma is justified. Being blamed for the apparent suicide of her mother has given Futaba severe agoraphobia; she hardly even feels comfortable leaving her own bedroom, let alone her home. This interferes with Futaba’s life so heavily that even her existence is a rumor. What’s amazing about the situation is this: despite feeling there is nothing she can do, Futaba is (or was) on her way to recovery even though she didn’t realize it.

The fact that Futaba approached the Phantom Thieves at all means that she recognized how her PTSD had taken control of her life. She wanted to fix it; to be free of her fear. You know that saying “the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem”? There’s merit in that statement; you can’t fix what you don’t think is broken. Futaba wanted to take those steps. She just thought that the Phantom Thieves stealing her heart would be the only solution. But is that really the case?

Because Futaba is cognizant of her agoraphobia and wants to fix it, I personally don’t think that she wouldn’t have recovered without the Phantom Thieves. However, that’s just what I think. The game presents quite the opposite: if you miss the deadline to steal Futaba’s heart, she commits suicide because of her crumbling mental state. It’s quite a dark ending, but not an uncommon scenario. Many people who know they need help and want it can end up hurting themselves due to the melancholy over thinking there is no way out. Especially if the only way out they know ends in failure. She likely not only had agoraphobia, but severe depression as well.

This is just another reason why I think Futaba is a terrifically crafted character: her mental illness(es) is/are showcased in such an accurate way, and seeing her take the steps to heal is one of the best parts about bonding with her in the game. While it is a miraculously fast recovery, the game’s fantasy elements justifies the quickness. And while Futaba leaving her home is a strange move, I still think her full recovery showcased in her bonding scenes makes sense. She sets reasonable goals for herself. She doesn’t take on too much all at once. Futaba surrounds herself with a support system as she tries. It’s stunning how healthy it is.

All in all, Futaba Sakura is one of the most interesting characters to come from Persona 5. Her writers and creators knew what they wanted her to be and knew exactly how to portray the heavy topics of PTSD, agoraphobia and metal illness. I think that Futaba’s transitions from unhealthy to healthy are great examples others with mental illnesses should use as a template to help them understand what true recovery means. As long as they know that Phantom Thieves can’t make everything go away instantly.

It’s not an easy task living with a mental illness, but Futaba can help you understand that it doesn’t mean you cannot live. You can get better. You can be free.

Thanks to everyone for supporting NWG. Until we meet again!