Seth Trollins (Raw Reactions, March 16)

Raw, Wrestling
  • Seth Rollins handled the home state cheers exceptionally well tonight. Any time a main event player (or even midcarder) comes to the place they grew up, they’re going to be met with gigantic applause (even if they’re currently working heel). Often, heel wrestlers don’t really handle the cheers well, and tend to just ignore them. That makes Rollins’ acknowledgement and manipulation of the cheers so impressive. Rollins is one of the best in-ring workers in the company, but it’s the way he handles his business on the microphone that demonstrates why he’s going to be a top draw for the next decade or more.
  • I think everyone would prefer to see Rollins matched up with Dean Ambrose at Wrestlemania; however, Randy Orton isn’t a bad consolation prize, especially when he’s on top of his game. Orton looks revitalized after his time off earlier this year. I would expect some of that comes from the rest, but most of it has to do with him getting to distance himself from The Authority. Orton has always worked better as an insane mercenary who will fight anyone, anywhere. Now that he’s back to that gimmick, Orton is compelling TV again. It will be interesting to see what their long-term plans for The Viper are.
  • For a Bella’s match, that was actually pretty well wrestled. Of course, AJ Lee did most of the actual wrestling, but beggars can’t be choosers. AJ and Paige are much better performers than Nikki and Brie Bella and I would vastly prefer to see those two in a singles program at Wrestlemania. That said, it’s understandable to see the stars of Total Divas given a higher place on the card than their abilities probably warrant. It’s disappointing, but it’s part of the business. Vince McMahon wants to be seen as entertainment, not wrestling. and superstars who play that game with him will always get preferential treatment. Hopefully that changes when Triple H and Stephanie takeover, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up.
  • If this whole, “we’re mad at you Seth!” segment isn’t just a work to try and fool Randy Orton; I’ll eat my shoe.
  • Contract signings are almost always terrible, and it certainly doesn’t help when you’re casting local talent 15 minutes before the show. Rusev’s lawyer was the worst actor they’ve put on WWE TV in quite awhile (which is saying something when you look at guys like Roman Reigns). Really, the only redeeming thing about that overly long segment was Rusev’s prepared letter. The monster Russian is not a great talker, but he’s effective, especially when he gets to trash America. Rusev is what every USA-hating foreign heel should be, and he proved it tonight.
  • Brock Lesnar’s got a bit of potty-mouth, eh? Lesnar, much like Rusev, is not a good talker. He stumbles over sentences and has an extremely unintimidating voice. That said, Lesnar, because of his athletic exploits, can be an effective talker. When he says he’s going to give someone an ass kicking, you believe it. If he says he’ll end someone’s career, it’ll probably happen. When he gets to pre-tape his promos, he can actually hype an event in his own way. You want to tune in to see what Lesnar does to his opponents. You want to see if Lesnar really will beat the *BLEEP* out of Roman Reigns. End of story.
  • If you wanted to see a pointless segment that made two giants who were washed up five years ago look incredibly strong at the expense of quality young talent, you got your wish tonight. What does Kane or Mark Henry gain from that? We know they’re “huge threats” to win the Andre the Giant Battle Royale, so why do we need to be shown that at the expense of guys like Titus O’Neil and Curtis Axel? Guys like that actually need to be built up, not torn down to benefit “stars” that don’t matter. It’s just terrible booking and has been happening way too often over the past few years.
  • At first, I was just going to comment that bringing out Paul Heyman to hype Brock Lesnar just felt like overkill after Brock’s pre-taped segment. Then Roman Reigns came out and actually did a serviceable job on the microphone. Reigns didn’t stumble over his words like usual and handled the crowd chanting “Daniel Bryan” better than expected. That said, his final line, “I can. I will. And I believe that” was cringe-worthy. They’re trying to get that line over way too hard. It’s not organic and it’s not working. Catchphrases need to come about in the moment; they can’t just be manufactured like this if you actually want them to catch on. Hopefully they realize that soon and stop running it into the ground.
  • This circus of performers fighting over the Intercontinental Title might just be the best thing going right now. The main event storylines are interesting; however, the in-ring product is lackluster (some might say boring). The IC picture doesn’t have a narrative outside of “everyone’s stealing the belt” and “I really want that title”. That said, when the in-ring product is this good, it doesn’t really matter. This match is set up to steal the show at Wrestlemania (though the Seth Rollins-Randy Orton bout is my personal Dark Horse) because of the talent involved. If this match gets 20 minutes to actually give everyone enough time to play a meaningful part, this could be a Match of the Year contender; the field is that good.
  • Even though I have no real interest in this Bray Wyatt-Undertaker feud, I can’t help but feel this mounting curiosity over what kind of match Wyatt can drag Taker to. Wyatt’s style isn’t the kind that translates well to carrying someone like The Dead Man; therefore, I just can’t fathom the two men having a good match because of it. With The Streak over, Undertaker has no mystique, so you have to expect they wouldn’t bring him back for a situation where he’s set up for failure. Unfortunately, it seems like that’s exactly what they’re doing. I sure hope I’m wrong.
  • Can you just imagine for one second how incredible that final segment would be with Dean Ambrose in Randy Orton’s place? Ambrose would finally be setting up the finish to his feud with Seth Rollins and getting a mega-rub from Sting all at the same time. Instead, we get Randy Orton. A star who doesn’t need to be in the ring with Sting and whose program with Rollins is maybe an eighth as interesting as Ambrose’s would be. I realize that I just said that Orton is a good consolation prize, but it’s moments like these that show how much the WWE has screwed up this situation. This Wrestlemania card could be an all-time great. Instead it’s boring and uninspired. Hopefully, my low expectations lead to me being pleasantly surprised, but even that won’t change the fact that moments like tonight are largely being wasted.
  • Closing Thoughts: The Wrestlemania buildup is picking up, but that just makes it even more apparent how poorly booked this card has been. I can count on one hand the number of wrestlers that have been positioned well as we near Mania, and that’s a major problem. This card should have me more excited than any other event in the year and that’s just not happening. They have one more week to make it right. Can Vince McMahon and the WWE pull it off? Time will tell.

Road to the Review – Assassin’s Creed Unity Part 2

Reviews, Video Games

My time with Assassin’s Creed Unity over the past week has been spotty at best. I’ve been on the road more than expected and just haven’t had the time to put time consistent in. With that said, there are few things I’ve noticed when I have played that I want to note here as I near my actual review.

I think I mentioned in my last “Road to the Review” post that I felt Unity was vastly improved from its launch (or at least my perception of its launch). Almost every annoying hindrance people were talking about in November is gone. There are no chests locked to iPhone apps. The “in-app” purchases are extremely harmless and you won’t see them unless you go searching through menus. The co-op missions almost always work and can be fun with a good group. Heck, even the framerate issues are largely gone (though it does drop relatively harshly when the streets of Paris become heavily populated).

With all of those problems pretty much eradicated, you’re left with a really good Assassin’s Creed game. The main missions are interesting and varied; giving you multiple ways to approach each big assassination that the game puts in front of you. Sure, you can just run in, drop a smoke bomb, and kill your target, but who wants to do that? If you play the game that way, you’re missing out on some really fun and interesting bits of gameplay.

Does it take some thinking and planning to get there? Of course, but that’s what being an assassin is all about.

In fact, gameplay-wise, this about the closest an Assassin’s Creed game has come to really replicating the melee-focused Hitman experience I’ve always wanted this series to be. You actually need to be sneaky and really think through every step to pull off a perfect assassination. That’s really cool if, like me, it’s what you’re looking for.

The sidequests are, unfortunately, much less interesting. Often, it just involves you going to kill a guy or steal something. Sometimes it gets a little deeper, but not often enough to make them worth talking about.

That said, the game does introduce a swath of “murder mysteries”. These put you in a small area and you use your eagle vision to spot various clues. After thoroughly searching the area and talking to all the suspects, you have to put it all together and accuse the murderer. It’s not something you could build a game around, but it’s a fun diversion.

Speaking of diversions, I’ve finally taken part in a few co-op activities (three co-op missions and one heist) and I thought they were pretty well put together. It’s hard to really judge them because I’m just playing with random people, but you can totally see how fun these would be if you got one to three friends to come along with you.

Even with total strangers, the missions are worth doing. You might not get the highest score at the end, but the game still rewards you pretty well just for finishing. Plus, every once in awhile you’ll get a great team. That’s when the game opens up and demonstrates all the possibilities in front of you. It hasn’t happened often enough for me, but if you have a dedicated team, I would assume you’re going to have a great time.

If you can’t tell from reading this post, I’m pretty high on Unity. It’s a much different game from when it was released in November and I honestly think it’s a much better Assassin’s Creed game than Black Flag, at least in its current configuration.

It’s mission structure is the most interesting I’ve seen in an Assassins game in a long time; plus, it does some new things (co-op play, murder mysteries) that I think make the overall experience much more interesting. The controls are still a little lacking, though that’s understandable in a game that lets you climb on everything.

All in all, Unity is quickly becoming one of my favorite entries to the series. Hopefully that sentiment sticks through the rest of the game.

A-Ry Returns (NXT Reactions, March 11)

NXT, Wrestling
  • Enzo Amore has never been a great in-ring performer, but he definitely makes up for that with the most charisma of any superstar in the world right now. That said, it looks like he’s used his time out of the main rotation to really improve his skills. Zo demonstrated a few quality technical, mat-wrestling maneuvers along with an exceptional new tag team finisher. Obviously, Big Cass is always going to be the better actual wrestler in this team; however, it would be a huge boon if Enzo shows improvement in his technical ability. Cass can dish out the power moves, while Enzo plays a toned down version of Bret Hart in the Hart Family or Daniel Bryan in Team Hell No. Zo’s wrestling doesn’t hold up to either of those all-time greats, so he needs to continue killing it on the microphone. That said, Enzo and Cass have the makeup to be a team made up of a big, power guy and a smaller, technical guy. They just need to twist it ever so slightly to take advantage of Enzo’s ability to talk. These two might never be among the all-time greats, but I think they have a real shot. This is a gimmick no one has done in awhile and Enzo’s charisma speaks for itself. If Zo continues to work on his mat wrestling and Cass works on his body a little more, they have some real potential at the next level.

 

  • Alexa Bliss is obviously a good athlete. I would not be surprised to find out she has a background in something like gymnastics, given her moveset. However, in the ring she’s still super raw, which is probably expected given she’s in NXT. Unfortunately, with women like Charlotte and Sasha Banks as our barometer, the level of expectation has been raised greatly and Bliss isn’t there yet. She delivers a few great spots per match, but also routinely botches even simple moves. If she can get her consistency down, she might have a shot. Until then, she’s just a tiny ball of potential. Hopefully it gets there some day. Carmella, on the other hand, has yet to demonstrate much in-ring talent. Much like Enzo, she oozes charisma; she just doesn’t back it up. That said, in her match with Bliss tonight, she seemed to adopt a pseudo-brawler style. Given her character’s background (from Staten Island, has five brothers, etc.), that style actually kind of fits. I’m not saying she’s going to become the women’s version of Kevin Owens (she doesn’t have the body type for it), but she could take that brawler style and adopt it to fit the women’s division. Carmella certainly has less potential than the other women in NXT; however, if they make the right moves, she has a chance.

 

  • Alex Riley has certainly kept himself in ring shape since moving to the announce table. The looks great out there. His ring skill is still mediocre, but it’s hard to call it bad, especially in a glorified squash match against C.J. Parker. We’ll get a real demonstration of what Riley can do if/when he gets his match with Kevin Owens. It’s very hard to envision a scenario where Riley beats Owens; they just have too much invested in the NXT champion. That said, Riley could certainly turn in a good performance and make a case for a second shot at becoming an in-ring Superstar. I’ve always liked Riley on the announce table, but if he wants to give wrestling another shot, then he should be allowed to. He’s certainly given a lot to this company. The least they can do is give him a second chance.

 

  • This ongoing feud between Hideo Itami and Tyler Breeze is just a classic fight over who’s the better man in the ring. These two don’t need a gimmick to tell a great story. Instead, they just go out and kill it each and every time their number is called. You have to wonder how the feud ends though. I would guess we’re building towards a more gimmicky match at a future NXT Live special. Maybe a ladder match with a briefcase for a shot at the NXT title? Or a two out of three falls match? Maybe even a 60-minute Iron Man (admittedly wishful thinking). Either way, I think this matchup has to end with Itami finally doing the GTS. They’ve been teasing it too much for him to never break it out and I can think of no better time than his first real singles feud.

 

  • Closing Thoughts: Two weeks in a row I’ve been left with a single thought after watching NXT. This roster has some real depth. This marks two weeks in a row that neither Sami Zayn, Adrian Neville, nor Finn Balor have been in the ring. Heck, even Kevin Owens is barely there right now. And you can’t tell me that the quality of the in-ring product has gone down even slightly without four of the best workers in the federation in action. That’s incredible and I don’t know if it’s something the main roster could claim. Raw’s more loaded with talent right now than they have been in awhile, but if you get rid of John Cena, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Daniel Bryan for a few weeks, they’re going to have some problems. That doesn’t happen at NXT and that’s awesome.

How Randy Got His Groove Back (Raw Reactions, March 9)

Raw, Wrestling
  • Jamie Noble needs more time on the microphone. There’s something about that heavy (HEAVY) southern accent that makes me want to see him take over JBL’s slot on the announce desk. At the very least, let him manage a young tag team and become the modern day Jimmy Hart. I need that in my life.
  • That’s the Randy Orton we need. Orton has the skillset and character to be a more athletic version of Stone Cold Steve Austin; he just doesn’t consistently kill it on the microphone. Tonight was another example of the fact that Orton can talk; he just doesn’t do it that well on a regular basis. It’s difficult to pinpoint why he’s so inconsistent on the mic, but it surely is some combination of laziness (or a general lack of passion for that side of the business) and booking. It’s well known that Orton would rather play heel, if given the choice. Unfortunately, the RKO is such a face finisher that it’s always going to be hard to get people to boo him. He had a great heel move in the punt, but that’s been made so “dangerous” that he can’t use it normal matches. Thus, Orton is stuck in the tweener role, where he kind of has to play both sides. Seemingly, that leads to an uninterested Orton, whose promos are sub-par and in-ring product is often dull. Nights like tonight demonstrate the boundless potential of Randy Orton. Sadly, these nights don’t come around very often.
  • In an interesting turn of events, R Truth continues to be the reason to watch the ongoing feud for the Intercontinental title. Truth is absolutely killing it on commentary the last few weeks, quickly becoming the guy in this run-up that people are talking about. That’s impressive when you realize that his opponents are Dean Ambrose, Wade Barrett, Dolph Ziggler, Luke Harper, and potentially Daniel Bryan or Stardust. This ladder match is the most likely Mania match to steal the show and even though Truth has no chance at winning, you know he’s going to have a great time out there. Truth isn’t a star, but when he gets TV time, he knows how to entertain. That’s an important trait for a WWE superstar and it’s what has given him such a long career in professional wrestling.
  • That Heyman guy can do a promo, eh? The attempt to make it feel like a “pipebomb” fell a little flat, but otherwise, that was an A+ effort from Brock Lesnar’s advocate. I love when they bring some real-world business problems into feuds and Heyman did that tonight with Lesnar’s ongoing contract negotiations. Obviously, we all know that there’s no way Lesnar will “unite the WWE and UFC belts”; however, it’s fun to get lost in the moment and entertain the thought every once in awhile. Heyman is doing everything he can to make people care about the Wrestlemania Main Event, if only he get Lesnar a better opponent.
  • It’s great to see such quality up-and-comers like Kane and Big Show get so much TV time. Wait, what? They’re both well over 40 and can barely move in the ring anymore? Seriously, how are these two still in so many segments week after week? There is so much young talent in the WWE that could really enhance the product and instead we’re treated to this garbage each and every week. Oh WWE, I really wish I could quit you.
  • I’ve never been a Sting fan and, until recently, I didn’t watch much wrestling outside of the WWE, so forgive me if what I’m about to say is completely off base. That said, I find it interesting that Sting’s first promo on WWE was pre-recorded instead of in front of that smarkie Pittsburg crowd. Does the WWE not trust Sting’s ability on the mic in front of a live audience? Again, I don’t know much about Sting, so maybe he’s notoriously terrible at talking, but you would expect he can handle himself well enough given the longevity of his career. Of course, maybe it just all comes down to money. If that’s the case, that’s too bad. Pittsburg would have undoubtedly popped huge for a Sting appearance and with just 20-some days to go until Mania, an appearance would certainly make big headlines.
  • So many questionable things happened in that segment between Rusev and John Cena. First, even though there are no refs, Cena reset his STF when Rusev was nearing the ropes. Cena, there are no refs! You don’t have to let go of the hold when he grabs the ropes. If anything, it makes you look more intense and ready to do anything for your country. Then, Lana demonstrates how limited her acting range is by being completely unbelievable when she folds and gives Cena a title shot. And finally, Cena’s face to end the segment was probably the creepiest thing I’ve seen on WWE television. I don’t know if I want to see Cena go full-on Heindenreich-crazy or what, but that segment was nothing if not eventful. I’m not saying it was good, just that….things happened. Many, many things.
  • This Undertaker-Bray Wyatt feud continues to be unimpressive. The mystique of Undertaker is gone, so this mostly just feels like a normal match with a legend putting over a young gun. At this point, Undertaker is like an older, less able Chris Jericho. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that this feud isn’t going to have the kick it seems the WWE are expecting. I’m sure it’ll be a solid match, but this buildup just feels like another example of Vince McMahon and his team being extremely out-of-touch.
  • Did Orton just give Seth Rollins the double birds? I can confirm Orton just dropped the double birds. Remember what I said about him being a more athletic Stone Cold? There you go. As JBL said, “Randy is being Randy tonight” and I, for one, am loving it. When Orton gets to go on a mercenary tear like this, it’s compelling television. That said, I wonder where they go from here. Orton already delivered his revenge on Rollins, so a singles match would be relatively redundant. Could we have a situation where Orton gets thrown in a handicap match against three or four Authority members? That has some potential; however, it probably means we’d be getting Kane and Big Show in another match, which no one wants. It will be interesting to see how this feud develops over the next couple of weeks. The best case might be a tag match between Orton and two partners against Rollins and J&J Security.
  • Closing Thoughts: That was a decent Raw in September and a terrible one for a Raw leading up to Wrestlemania. The buildup just hasn’t had that Mania feel of years past. This seems like a middling Summerslam with an underwhelming Undertaker match thrown in for good measure. At least Randy Orton made this one watchable. He’s really back on the top of his game after taking a few months off to film a movie. Hopefully his impending Mania match with some combination of The Authority can build the card up. Otherwise, the only exciting match on the docket will be the six-man ladder match for the Intercontinental Title.

dj.ltuxtuaa copy

Citizens of Earth Review

Reviews, Video Games

If you listen to someone talk about Citizens of Earth, it won’t be long before they bring up a comparison to Earthbound. While that comparison works on a surface level, Citizens of Earth doesn’t quite live up to the lofty standards of the game it’s trying to emulate.

Citizens of Earth opens with an interesting enough set up. You’re the Vice President of the World and you’ve woken up from a nap to the sight and sound of a mob of protesters picketed your appointment to office. You quickly discover that there’s more at stake here when you find something sinister under the local Moonbucks.

From there, the game delves into the same absurdity of enemy types that made Earthbound famous. You’ll engage Angry Java Beans, Possessed Girl Scouts, and more on your quest to uncover the source making everyone and everything behave so strangely.

Unfortunately, even with the out-of-this-world, ludicrous setup, Citizens of Earth never really hits the humor it’s trying to deliver. You’ll play the game with a smile on your face, but it never gets to the bellyaching laughs the premise appears to suggest are coming.

The Bodybuilder is probably the funniest character in the game.

The Bodybuilder is probably the funniest character in the game.

Though the game’s overall narrative doesn’t live up to the set up, the game does do a great job of making its characters varied enough that you’ll want to collect them all.

I say collect because Citizens of Earth has 40 characters for you to go out and convince to be on your team. Sometimes the quests to get them are as easy as talking to your brother and telling him thank you for the gift he gave you. Others are more involved and will take a concentrated effort before you unlock them.

Every character comes with their own special power that opens up new aspects of the game. The Pilot lets you fly to various locations, while the Policewoman opens up sidequests to take out various mini-bosses. Obviously, with 40 characters, some are more important than others; that said, I found it to be worth it to pull a Pokemon and “catch ‘em all”.

In addition, each character possesses their own skillset that’s tailored to their archetype. So, your Mom’s skills include giving party members a hug; while the Gambler has a move called “52-card pickup” where he does 52 weak attacks at random.

These movesets are pretty hilarious to read through; unfortunately, the battle system they’re tied into can be pretty boring.

An example of Citizens of Earth's Combat.

An example of Citizens of Earth’s Combat.

Each character has a number of bubbles under their nameplate. Some moves fill these bubbles up, while others use them as a kind of currency. It’s an interesting approach and could work well if tuned just a little more, but it often just feels way too easy.

If the combat doesn’t turn you off, then the countless technical problems probably will. Within my first five hours, the game crashed to the Vita main menu seven or eight times. For a game that isn’t that technically impressive, that seems like an unacceptable number.

Get ready to see this a lot.

Get ready to see this a lot.

Even without the crashes, there were countless times where I either got stuck in the environment or had my game freeze and had to reboot the system to continue. Fortunately, the game autosaves ALL THE TIME. I have to use the emphasis because Citizens of Earth hits you long loading screens near constantly and it saves after each and every one.

Overall, the game just seems poorly optimized, both from a story and technical perspective. Citizens of Earth has a lot of cool ideas, it just feels like it needed more time in the oven to really get everything ironed out.

SHOULD YOU PLAY IT? MAYBE

As infuriating as Citizens of Earth was at times, I actually enjoyed myself throughout the experience. If you like games like Earthbound, Citizens scratches that itch. There aren’t many games like it on the Vita, so I feel confident recommending this game with the caveat that you have to be looking for that Earthbound-esque experience. It’s not a great game, by any means, but there’s enough here to interest old-school RPG fans.

My “Problems” With Persona 4

Video Games

I should start by saying that I absolutely loved my 110 hours with Persona 4 Golden. Mechanically, it built upon everything Persona 3 put forward, improving it in almost every conceivable way. The character arcs were compelling and the overall story more than held my attention from beginning to end. With that said, there were a few big problems I noticed with P4G, particularly in regard to your party members, that I want to talk about; especially with Persona 5 coming sometime later this year.

Main Party Character Archetypes Too Similar Across Games

One of my biggest complaints in playing Persona 4 so closely after playing Persona 3 is that the majority of my classmates (or party members) felt like the same people with slightly different character models. Take Yosuke and Junpei for example. They are nearly carbon copies of each other. They’re your “best friend” and take on the archetype of slightly stupid, funny guy within the party. Heck, they both are even constantly trying and failing to get with the various girls in the party. Sadly, it doesn’t end there.

Yukari and Chie are both set up as your main love interest and often seem annoyed with Yosuke/Junpei. Fuuka and Rise are support characters who just want to “help everyone”. Kanji and Shinjiro are the teams’ “tough guy” who demonstrate skill in a traditionally feminine skill. Yukkiko and Mitsuro both “have it all” and must learn how to deal with it. And the list goes.

I will say that Persona 4 did a decent job of taking the archetypes from Persona 3 and tweaking them just enough to make them feel like their own. However, it would be much more interesting if your party members felt different from game-to-game. We’ve seen these archetypes twice; do we really need them again?

Fortunately, from the early Persona 5 trailers we can see the four known party members seemingly living on their own in a decrepit building. Obviously, this doesn’t give us much insight into their personality, but it does tell us that these teenagers may be very different from the schoolmates in Persona 3 and 4.

Of course, even with varied character archetypes in your party characters, there are still a few more changes that I think would really make Persona 5 the game that truly brings this series to the masses.

Relationships That Last

A noticeable problem that both Persona 3 and 4 have is that, once you finish a character’s social link, they largely go away from your personal story. So, say you finish Yosuke’s Magician social link in the first month or so. Well, then you won’t be seeing much of Yosuke for the next eight or nine months, even if he’s a main party member.

It gets even worse if you don’t use Yosuke in battle, because then you really don’t ever see him and it feels weird when he’s made out to be a main character in cut scenes. You almost feel like Yosuke got a bad case of pneumonia and had to stay home for weeks at a time.

This is a hard problem to fix because choice is a big part of social link development. If Atlus decided to gate your progress, then that choice goes out the window and your game starts to become very similar to mine. However, I think there’s definitely some room for some of your main party character’s links to be gated just a little throughout the course of the game. It wouldn’t need to be too much; just enough to keep key party members involved in everyone’s game so they don’t feel like afterthoughts once the game is over.

Those two changes largely solve my problems with the interactions between your protagonist character and your party members; however, there is one other change I’d like to see that deals with how the characters interact with each other.

Let Your Friends Have Some Romance

When people detract from Persona, you usually hear them call it a “dating sim”. That slight has some credibility, but anyone who has played Persona, knows that it’s largely a false assumption. Sure, you can enter a romantic relationship with various social link characters, but it’s far from the main focus of the game.

That said, those romantic relationships do represent a major choice for you as a role-player. Who you decide to court can decide what takes place in quite a few cutscenes and shapes your relationships with almost everyone in the game. However, those characters you don’t choose kind of get the shaft.

This was very apparent in Persona 4 Golden when Kanji obviously had the hots for Naoto, but nothing was really done with it. And it’s not like I was trying to date Naoto (Rise was my choice, at least in my initial playthrough). In fact, I was actively rooting for Kanji and Naoto to somehow get together in the end. Unfortunately, it seems like the protagonist is the only who’s allowed to find love in the Persona universe.

That’s unfortunate because I think the Persona developers are missing an important element toward making the narrative feel more like real life. Think about your party members’ interactions in games like Dragon Age. Characters who aren’t romantically engaged with your character actually develop relationships between themselves, making the whole thing feel like a story unfolding around you.

When you see Iron Bull and Dorian engage in a relationship with each other, you realize that this story is bigger than just you. These characters are living and breathing humans (or Quanari, as the case may be) and have lives outside of you. That’s an important step for a role-playing game to take and one Persona 5 should really consider.

Persona 3 and 4 are great games and represent some of the best experiences can have on the Vita (or any platform, for that matter). I have complete confidence that Atlus will continue to build on those two games and make an excellent fifth entry to the series later this year. Persona 5 is set up to be a legitimate contender for 2015 Game of the Year. However, I would love to see them take the next step in making your social link and party characters feel like living and breathing teenagers. It would take some work, but I really believe it would be completely worth it.

That said, Persona 5 can’t get here soon enough.

Stay Here, Stay Here Forever (NXT Reactions, March 4)

NXT, Wrestling
  • This Alex Riley-Kevin Owens feud is a surprising development. It’s known (or at least rumored) that A-Ri wants to spend some time in the ring and it looks like he’ll be getting the opportunity to do just that. Sure, he’s not a great in-ring performer, but Riley was effective in his role with the Miz a few years ago. If NXT can get him into a similar situation, Riley might just have a second life as an in-ring superstar. That said, it’s hard to see his singles career lasting more than this transitional feud for Owens on his way to defending his NXT title against Finn Balor at the next NXT special.
  • Adam Rose is your classic case of a skilled wrestler stuck with a mostly lackluster gimmick. It makes you wonder what would have happened if Rose had stuck with his Leo Kruger gimmick when he debuted on the Raw roster. Would a psychopathic African big game hunter have more appeal than the party animal? You could definitely make the case for that being true. It’s easy to envision Kruger on Raw doing his take on Randy Orton’s old “legend killer” gimmick, stalking members of the roster around the arena and luring them into traps where he unfairly gains an upper hand in victory. It could’ve been a fun story and a much better way of getting a character over than what happened with Rose. Does tonight’s return to NXT signify that Rose is going back to the drawing board? Here’s hoping.
  • The NXT men’s scene is really crowded right now. The Tag division has six or seven teams that could easily be considered contenders and the NXT title picture is just as competitive. That said, I cannot wait for the Shoot Nation stable to officially debut and (hopefully) turn the whole promotion on its head. We saw Chad Gable debut a few weeks ago, and tonight Angelo Dawkins teamed with another stablemate to take on Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy. Factions are almost always exciting and one that is built around stars with legitimate amateur wrestling skill could be very exciting. If it works, this group of men could turn into the NXT’s version of Kurt Angle’s stable with Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas during the 2000s. Obviously, we’re still a ways from that happening, but if this group is as exciting as they sound, consider me a fan. They could really turn the NXT universe upside down when they make their inevitable debut.
  • In other news, Blake and Wesley continue to become more and more impressive each week. I had them pegged as transitional champions when they surprisingly took the belt off of the Lucha Dragons, but the young upstarts have more than proven me wrong. They’re explosive in the ring and possess very compelling movesets. The tag team division is too competitive right now to say these two will be on top for long; however, they’ve certainly proven a lot over the last couple of weeks.
  • Baron Corbin’s weekly squash match was merely a setup for a segment to advance the Riley-Owens feud. If Owens could just menacingly stand behind Michael Cole every week, I’d be happy. In fact, can we please just get a wrestler whose only job is to annoy the Raw announcement team? I mean, it seems like their job is to annoy us, so maybe it’s time to give them a taste of their own medicine? I can dream, right?
  • Solomon Crowe’s match this week was much more impressive than his debut last week against C.J. Parker. Unfortunately, because his debut was so weak, that’s not really saying much. So far, Crowe hasn’t done much to really impress and his size and body type don’t really scream “WWE Superstar”. However, it would be dangerous to write him off this quickly, considering how well regarded Crowe was in the Indy scene. Especially at this level, it’s a mistake to write off young wrestlers. With more time on the stick (and in the ring) I fully expect to see Crowe improve his standing over the next few weeks. His ceiling on Raw is probably a mid-card title belt; however, if they can find him a good partner, he has the makings of a great tag team wrestler. In fact, I could see Crowe and Dean Ambrose putting together a solid tag team in the near future. Both characters are kind of insane and teaming Ambrose with NXT’s resident hacker could make for an interesting program.
  • I don’t know if it’s true, but that “better than Reigns” chant after Charlotte’s Spear to Sasha Banks was incredible. Great job NXT crowd.
  • Say you’re AJ Lee, sitting at your house watching NXT this week, you’ve got to be wondering to yourself “what’s the point of coming back to Raw, when they won’t even let me wrestle like Charlotte and Sasha just did on an NXT TV show?” It really has gotten to the point where, if you’re a women’s wrestler, there isn’t a better place to be than NXT. Sure, the money’s (probably) better on the main roster, but if you actually want to perform as a wrestler, then you need to be on NXT. Every single week, these women come out and perform on a level that is on par with almost every men’s match we see on Raw or Smackdown each week. The fact that these ladies are immediately made into simply eye candy when they make the main roster is appalling. The women of NXT (and some of their Raw and Smackdown counterparts) are legitimate wrestlers, as good as many of the men, and it’s a shame that they aren’t allowed the time to show it. It’s even worse when a non-wrestler like Nikki Bella holds the division’s title for months at a time in an uninteresting storyline. She’s basically the champion because she plays such an integral part in Total Divas. When your champion is more known for her reality show exploits than her wrestling or acting ability, that’s a problem. Please stay in NXT Charlotte and Sasha; I don’t want to see you get screwed over by Vince McMahon.
  • Closing Thoughts: Tonight’s NXT was a pretty fun show to watch, which is made impressive when you realize that Adrian Neville, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, and Hideo Itami played a minimal role at most. We got a look at how deep the NXT roster is, and were treated to a glimpse of the future of the promotion. Obviously, the show is more interesting when the main players are on the card, but tonight was an example that NXT is in good hands when/if those main five guys are called up to Raw. Plus, Charlotte and Sasha Banks continue to prove to the world that women really can wrestle. If only Vince McMahon was paying attention.