The Guide on Being a Mature, Distinguished Gamer: Part 2 – Failure, Success and The Gaming Mindset

Hello and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee!

This is Part 2 of The Guide on Being a Mature Distinguished Gamer! In our previous edition, I discussed about priorities. If you’ve missed Part 1, please check it out here.

Today, I’m going to share some thoughts on success, failure, the importance of maintaining a gaming mindset and the value experience of any kind brings. I spoke about something similar in an earlier post when I started a brand new position a year and a half ago. Now, I feel that I can expand and elaborate on this further. You can read the original post here.

Finally, I’ll speak of a philosophy that I’ve recently embraced; the notion that the majority of people around you remember the starting point and the end of your journey, not the journey itself. It basically means that only the journeyer will recognize and appreciate the path one takes from start to finish, no one else. It’s highly relevant to this discussion, so I’ll cover that here.

Without further ado, let’s start the second part of The Guide on Being a Mature, Distinguished Gamer.

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Failure and success. Those two words are associated with strong feelings, actions and messages for all kinds of people. Growing up, we are told repeatedly that success is what matters and failure is something to be avoided altogether. This messaging is so prevalent, parents are literally doing whatever they can to prevent their children from feeling any sort of failure whatsoever, with dire consequences as a result.

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It’s not a scary word people!

The thing is, we need to take risks and feel failure from time to time. Sure, it’s hard to deal with when it happens, but it’s important because failure is how we get better. It’s how we as people grow and learn. Continued success is both unsustainable and impractical to happen consistently. Furthermore, if you’re constantly successful, you’re missing out on opportunities to learn and grow as a person; success creates stagnation, but failure can provide a new path forward.

Accepting the cyclical nature of success and failure comes down to the mindset. And a mindset I’ve adopted and made my own is the Gaming Mindset.

Success, Failure and The Gaming Mindset

Level 1-1. Super Mario Bros. This iconic level showcases just how accessible video games can really be. As my good friend, The Well Red Mage, discussed in his #magecrit of the legendary title, Level 1-1 was designed in a way to teach players how the game and its mechanics work. It also actively encouraged players to experiment and make mistakes. With each drop into a pit or strike from a Goomba or Koopa Troopa came one more opportunity to learn and adjust for the next time. At the end of the level, players should be familiar with the basics of the game and also should have the confidence to tackle the challenges ahead of them.

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Do-do doo do-do DOO do…

What if I told you that that specific level can act as a metaphor for teaching the importance of the cyclical nature of success and failure?

Playing video games allows for individuals to make risky decisions and actively learn from their mistakes in order to win. Gamers play the game, they fail at something, re-evaluate what went wrong and try again, repeating until they pass the challenge, all while never giving up. To me, that sums up what a gaming mindset is.

The Mature, Distinguished Gamer (MDG) adapts this mindset to everyday life.

Let’s say you work in an industry where you engage directly with clients and one day you make a mistake that damages your relations with one of them. The MDG should be able to recognize where they went wrong, apologize for the transgression and adjust for the next time. Recognizing and learning from your failures, like adjusting the timing to jump and land on that tricky platform, helps you to become better for the next time.

The gaming mindset can also be expanded to new things, like learning a skill or starting a new opportunity. If you think about it, when a game introduces a new mechanic, you’re treated to a tutorial on how to use it. It’ll take some time, but eventually you will master it and adapt it to a numerous amount of situations. The same can be said about learning new skills in the real world: one only needs to learn and master the basics before applying them in a myriad number of ways.

Quite possibly the best examples of the above in gaming has to be the moment when Link receives the Runes in Breath of the Wild. The major runes are introduced in the first four shrines that rise out of the Great Plateau. In each of these shrines, Link obtains the rune and is then presented with different scenarios in which he must learn and master the basics of how the rune works to progress. Along the journey however, the game subtly hints that these runes can be used in completely unorthodox ways, like using Magnesis on metal boxes to use as a makeshift weapon, or using Stasis to launch yourself across vast distances. What Breath of the Wild teaches is that, by mastering the basics, any skill or tool can be used to achieve greater heights.

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And by “achieve greater heights” I mean doing silly stuff like this!

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Or cool stuff like this!

And in the below case, I mean literally achieving greater heights:

What the gaming mindset also does is give the chance to take catastrophe and turn it into a learning opportunity. Because as the saying goes:

What Doesn’t Kill You, Gives You EXP

Before we continue, I have to give credit where its due: I got this header from a post by the venerable Kim from Later Levels! She’s written a great series on older gamers that can practically be a complement to this series: a lot of what she and others in the WordPress Gaming comunity have said in these two posts espouse the attitudes and beliefs an MDG should hold. Check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

With any success or failure comes experience that can be used when a similar situation emerges later on. As demonstrated by every RPG in existence, experience is only obtained after something happens, whether it’s good or bad (or from a random encounter). It’s up to the MDG to analyze, interpret and meditate on the experience they’ve obtained in order to grow, learn and ultimately level up.

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Ah, good ol’ stat growth. It’s what experience gives you.

I can speak of the many, many failures I’ve endured in my near decade as a design engineer. The position itself requires one to be vigilant on the littlest of details and I struggled mightily with that as I’ve been more of a big picture kind of person. However, what I learned and what experience I gained as a designer has helped me in my current role as a field inspector. I’m able to point out fine details on a job site that would have otherwise been overlooked by contractors constructing the space. I wouldn’t have had that unless I failed consistently and learned from the experience that these failures gave me. Which brings me to my final point:

The Journey Itself

“The only person who will appreciate the journey itself, is the one taking the journey in the first place. Most others remember only the beginning of your journey and the end of it.”

So what exactly am I talking about here? Well, it’s more of a philosophy I’ve recently embraced. I’ll give you an example of how it works:

In Final Fantasy I, at the start of the game, four characters with Orbs/Crystals of the elements approach the King of Cornelia. He requests that you rescue his daughter to prove yourself as the Warriors of Light.

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At the end, when the princess is rescued, the King and his subjects are overjoyed and they reward you by rebuilding the bridge to the next land.

However, neither the King nor his subjects would have seen the work the four Warriors put in to accomplish the feat. No one but them would appreciate the effort they put into arming themselves, stockpiling provisions and training against Goblins, Crazy Horses and sometimes Wolves until they were strong enough to defeat Garland.

 

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Yeah, right buddy.

In fact, these Light Warriors endure many difficulties throughout their journey and the people of the world reap the rewards that they sow without truly seeing just what it took for them to accomplish what they did. The most they would recall would be when they arrived in their bleakest moment and when their town or castle was liberated from the forces of evil. The same can be said for the MDG working in their choice of trade.

Whether it’s a design for a very important client, a program or an app to better lives, a service to be provided to help those in need or even something like preparing for post-secondary education, it’s the experiences you take away during the journey that you’ll truly cherish. It’s also something that many people would not notice unless they were paying close attention. Working hard, making mistakes and failing and sometimes even disappointing others only helps to make you stronger and that much better for the next time. Nobody else can or will really see that but you, except in very specific circumstances. So appreciate the journey, accept the highs and lows that come with it and ultimately, don’t worry about what people on the sidelines say. They won’t be able to fathom the amount of work you put in every day without actually being there for the ride.


And here ends Part 2. What do you think? What kinds of successes or failures have helped you grow as a person? What games have you played that made you think about how you process success and failure? And what sorts of journeys have you gone through that no one else but you would have appreciated? Discuss in the comments below, or on Twitter!

See you all in Part 3: Respect, Empathy and Kindness! This has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, always reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing.

The Guide on Being a Mature, Distinguished Gamer: Part 1 – Priorities

Good morning and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee.

So, I’ve kinda slipped up on the blog here, in regards to updates and what not. The busyness of life has kept me away from maintaining a strict schedule (or any schedule at all, really). However, I’m not treating it as a bad thing to be honest; rather, the time off has allowed me to really think about the direction of this site and the direction where I’m currently heading in as a person.

Oh, now don’t be alarmed: This site and I aren’t going anywhere! However, I realized I had to make some decisions about the quality and quantity of the writing I produce here on Games with Coffee.

A Mature, Distinguished Gamer recognizes that sometimes, you can’t get everything you want done, no matter how hard you try. Time, unfortunately, is limited and one can only stretch themselves so thinly on many things to the point where progress on said things grinds to a complete halt. The example being the mini-series I promised to write about.

Three years now, I’ve been trying to define what makes a Mature, Distinguished Gamer. Almost three years now, I failed. Partially because I was embarrassed – Who’d listen to a guy wax on about being a responsible adult who plays video games? Partially because of lack of motivation – it is super hard to summon the energy at the end of the day to write when all you want to do is plop down on the couch and play some Moonlighter or God of War or even some retro games. And partially because I feel overwhelmed with so much to do and so many experiences to behold. I’ve found it hard to fit the time in to do this series justice.

So here I am, trying once again to define the tagline for this very site. We’ll start this series on an issue that should be on the top of the Mature Distinguished Gamer’s mind (and is certainly on mine for most of the time): Prioritization.

And now, without further ado, this is The Guide on Being a Mature Distinguished Gamer.

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One aspect of being a Mature Distinguished Gamer (Abbreviated to MDG for the remainder of the series) is the importance of prioritization. There are always times when one just wants to play video games, but responsibility – whether it’s to your job, your family or some other commitment you’ve made – always takes precedent before that fact. And even then, sometimes one takes on more responsibilities that one can handle – a thing all too common with our current generation of hustlers spouting tags like #HustleCulture, #AlwaysBusy and #TeamNoSleep.

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It’s even on a T-Shirt!

Let’s face facts: When you’re over-prioritized with several things that need to be addressed right this second, mistakes may happen, people may be let down, promises may be broken and nobody ends up winning at the end of the day, regardless of if you make those priorities or not. In a sense, you’re not only hurting others, you’re also hurting yourself.

I’m guilty of over-prioritizing a bunch of things, only to find them falling off the wayside when I eventually cannot make those tight deadlines. However, I’ve started to learn and master the subtle art of deflection and delegation and the difference an objective list can make in tackling the backlog monster.

Deflect and Delegate

In the same way that Fox’s Reflector Shield in Super Smash Bros. deflects projectiles aimed at him and delegates it back to the attacking party, so too can you deflect and delegate tasks to others when possible in order to maintain your priorities.

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The visual equivalent to “I’m sorry, I have enough on my plate right now. Could you please try someone else?”

Obviously, this predicates on the fact that you’ll need to be in an environment that fosters an amicable level of teamwork, whether it’s at home, work or wherever. Nevertheless, the MDG should recognize when they can do it alone or when they can delegate some tasks to that backup mage or warrior in their party. That isn’t to say that one should throw all of their tasks at others entirely, but to recognize that when you’re in over your head and the priority items keep piling up, you just have to ask for assistance. As I always say: “All you can do is all you can do. When you need to do more, ask for help!”

As for the deflecting part of the equation, the MDG is not adverse in assisting others. However, when assistance is preventing you from getting your own stuff done, then it becomes a big problem. In any case, it’s perfectly and reasonably acceptable to say no and deflect the request back to the requester. Chances are, they’ll delegate it to another person or do it themselves. There are also chances that the person may guilt you into doing so. Unless it’s your direct supervisor asking you to place this at the top of your priority list, do not back down and be firm in your denial. Cave once, and you’ll be doing others’ bidding for a long time while neglecting your own duties. I’m serious about this because I speak from experience.

Priorities: Breaking Them Down & Checking Them Off

Well, asking for help and delegating tasks are great things to do, but you will still have tasks for yourself remaining to do at the end of the day, and those things are on a priority sequence. So what does one do in this situation? How would you get it done?

My solution: Checklists. But there’s more to it than that.

In every modern RPG or open world adventure, you are given a quest either as a part of the story or as a sidequest from an NPC that you must accomplish. But have you ever noticed that the quest itself is broken down into small, measurable chunks and gave you clear direction on what you need to accomplish in order to complete the quest?

Did you know you could apply that to your current situation, whether its a critical report, a ton of housework or some other huge task to accomplish? Well, you can! In fact, breaking down large tasks into smaller chunks helps to overcome that overwhelming feeling you get when you are faced with a daunting task. It’s especially helpful for those who have ADHD (like myself), where any task seems monumental, regardless of the size.

So, how is this accomplished, you ask? It’s as simple as taking a task that you normally do, breaking it down to its primary components and then writing each of those components on a sheet of paper or on an app to track. Make sure that the components are clearly defined and easy to follow. From there, start with the first small task and go down the list. Before you know it, you’ll have finished your quest and can tackle the next one that’s on the priority sequence. Once you get the hang of it, it become much easier to plan out your approach when you’re under the gun. Plus, drawing and marking off the little check boxes are both fun and satisfying to accomplish.

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Here’s an example! Checking off those boxes feels so satisfying!

One Other Thing

A final thing to recognize is the importance of consequences. In a video game, there are no major consequences to delay a side quest for a long period of time. Even when you fail, the most that happens is a conciliatory statement from the requester and an opportunity to replay the quest. In the real world, it’s a different story. Consequences can include losing opportunities due to being unreliable, loss of trust in your ability to accomplish tasks and, most significantly, doubt as to your convictions to your chosen craft or to the people most important to you. These things are some of the most daunting obstacles to overcome and are why prioritization is a skill paramount for the MDG to learn. After all, while we can escape the real world at times by delving into the worlds we love, we can and should use the mechanics within them to make our lives in the real world much more easier.


And there’s Part 1 of our series. Part 2 delves into success, failure and managing a beginner’s mindset, a topic I broached in a post nearly two years ago. (You can check it out here). I’ll talk a bit more about how to keep having a beginner’s mindset even when you’re at your lowest point. Part 3 will go in depth into kindness, empathy and respect for others and finally, Part 4 will touch upon goals. At the end of it all, I have some important announcements to make, so I hope you’ll stay tuned until then.

With that said, how did you like the first part of this series? Are these strategies helpful in any way? What strategies do you have when it comes to setting priorities? I’d really like to know as I’m always looking for new things to try. Drop a line in the comments or on Twitter to discuss!

So, to you fellow Mature, Distinguished Gamers, I bid you farewell and I’ll hopefully see you at Part 2 of our series! This has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing.

“A Hopeful and Hyperactive Discussion About The SEGA AGES Collection” – A Retrospective on the Discussion

Good morning and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee!

It’s been just over a year since I had a fantastic conversation with the Hopeful Sega Mage (@carrythegary) about the SEGA AGES Collection on The Well Red Mage. We talked about the games and the numerous features we would like to see from each game in the collection.

Read: “A Hopeful and Hyperactive Discussion About The SEGA AGES Collection”

To celebrate this, I wanted to do a short retrospective on a few games of the collection, in terms of what features have been added to the games. So far, a bunch of games have been released, including but not limited to the following:

  • Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Phantasy Star
  • Thunder Force IV
  • Virtua Racer
  • Alex Kidd in Miracle World

What’s impressive is the dearth of features M2 added to each of these games. You have your typical ones, like online leaderboards, the ability to put on a CRT scanline filter and the like, but each game has additional modes of play. Some haven’t been released on a digital platform until today, like Sonic the Hedgehog’s Mega Play arcade version; a significantly more challenging version of Sonic 1 released in arcades.

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Leading off with Sonic 1, available features include the use of the Spin Dash and the Drop Dash, introduced in Sonic Mania. Two challenge modes – Score and Time Attacks – are available with leaderboard support. Time Attack plays through normal Sonic, but Score Attack uses the Mega Play version and gives you one life to maximize your score as much as possible. Finally, players can switch between the Japanese and International versions of the game.

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Phantasy Star has tons of neat gameplay tweaks built into it that alters the game in many ways. Players can play the game as originally intended or they can play the new Ages Mode, which reduces the encounter rate while bumping up experience and gold earned from fights. Additionally, dungeons are mapped, significantly reducing the rate at which players would get lost (due to the way dungeons operate in this game). Players also get a help screen to show what items do and what the truncated names of these items stand for. Finally, players can switch between the Japanese and North American soundtracks, which seems to be pretty awesome.

It appears that the Sega Ages line is going to continue on strongly, what with the announcement that Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is getting the Ages treatment. I’m personally hoping for a Special Stage mode featuring tons of alternate special stages, similar to the Blue Spheres bonus game.

What about you guys? Have anything from the Sega Ages collection? What are you liking about it so far? And what would you like to see in the future? Drop a line in the comments or reach out to me on Twitter!

Getting my nostalgia fix in, this has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing.

 

 

Daily Inkling – March 22 – “Mario Kart in Real Life”

Good morning and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee!

Ah yes, spring has finally arrived where I live and with it comes potholes of epic proportions to face on both morning and evening commutes. And that leads me to today’s subject: a Daily Inkling from my good friends at Normal Happenings, who so kindly tagged me for this writing prompt! Thanks Matt and Nikki for keeping me in mind!

Today’s prompt is: “In your experience, what city or place has the craziest drivers?”

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to weave together a story using that prompt above. So, start your engines and Let’s-a-go!


OK, a city or place that has the craziest of drivers… Well, that’s an easy answer: my hometown.

It’s a small city about 30 minutes north of Toronto called Brampton. Known as the City of Flowers, this 150+ year old city is also known for having some of the highest insurance rates in the country thanks in part to the crazy drivers.

I mean, it wasn’t that bad growing up, but the huge population growth over the twenty-plus years I’ve lived there may have had a hand in getting that insurance rate so high. And the funny thing is, the people here don’t realize how bad or how dangerous their driving is at times!

Some drivers are older folk who drive slowly in an effort to be super careful. There’s nothing wrong with being careful. Their actions, however, enrage the impatient folks behind them. In their infinite wisdom, these drivers decide to swerve around the elderly ones quickly, not realizing that they themselves could be causing an even more dangerous scenario to unfold, like sideswiping another vehicle for instance.

Some drivers are these hot-shot youngsters who race down the road with expensive luxury cars like they’re spamming the Golden Mushroom item, all while flaunting how awesome mom and dad were for buying the car for them. I shake my head at the ridiculousness of it all; not only are they showing off their wealth, they’re doing it in such a dangerous way as well. My advice? Save it for the track.

Some are just freaking tractor trailer drivers who are so entitled to think that the whole road belongs to them. Yes, I’m talking to you, person driving an eighteen wheeler on the passing/fast lane! Stay in the right lanes unless you need to make a left! And for the love of the Coffee Gods people, give these semis and other large trucks their space! They do not stop on a dime like regular cars and they can’t see you!

Some are newbies or drivers who don’t drive very often. Some are totally distracted by their cellphones or other things in their car. And there are some pretty good drivers, but they are fair and few in between.

And don’t get me started on winter driving. Just a mere inch or two of the white stuff on the ground is enough to add on an additional hour of driving time, thanks to the slippery and messy conditions. Add in ice and freezing rain with the current bad crop of drivers in and around the city and you have a recipe for commuting disaster. Winter driving is so bad around here, that insurance companies give an incentive to people who choose to install winter tires in the form of lower rates!

I’m not perfect myself, but I try to be as good of a driver as I can be. After all, I got my driving education by learning in the only other city whose drivers are worse than those in my hometown: Toronto.

Between the potholes, the cyclists, the pedestrians and the streetcars, not to mention narrow and winding streets, driving in the downtown core is both an exercise of patience and a test of reflexes. Fortunately, I’ve been well prepared for this thanks to all my years spent playing games like Mario Kart.

And my uncle with whom I worked with for about a year and a half as a driver/labourer for his contracting company after he got a DUI, by which I only got this opportunity thanks to my then-girlfriend’s dad who also had a hand in starting my career as an engineer in the construction industry and eventually became my father in law after six years of dating his eldest daughter, in which three of those were done in secret, behind his back, which also led me to fear for my life a few times during that period of time.*

But… that’s another story for another day.


And that’s that folks! Hope you enjoyed it! If you’re stuck in a writing rut and looking for something to spark that writing interest, do check out the Daily Inklings: they’re filled with interesting prompts!

Full disclosure: I’ve collaborated with Matt and the gang on a little collaboration called “The Games That Define Us!” (TGTDU!)** Check out my contribution here! It’s about Final Fantasy VII, Cloud and how he changed my life for the better.

Oh, and be sure to check out the Tracking Shells Mario Kart collab on NH! It’s brilliant!

So, that’s it for this edition. Stay tuned here though as I got a special little miniseries lined up in celebration of this blog’s two year anniversary! It’s currently in development and may take a while for its release, but it’s gonna be exciting! I can’t wait to share this with you all!

So, this has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, breaking through my writer’s block, stretching out my grey matter and, as always, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

*I’m submitting this sentence as part of the March 23 Daily Inkling. Might qualify, might not. Eh.

**I came up with this acronym. TGTDU 4 LYFE!

Beans and Screens Ep. 4 – Enter Team Star Fox!

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to another episode of Beans and Screens here on Games with Coffee! I’m your host, Ryan.

Woo, it’s been a minute since we last aired an episode here huh? I’ve decided to number these babies, so we’re at… number four now? I think?

The last few months of 2018 have been quite insane and have left me little time to find new guests for the show. Thankfully, the Christmas break has given me some opportunity to invite a bunch of interesting characters to be interviewed. I traveled far and wide, searching high and low. And, in this particular case, beyond the skies and stars themselves. Which leads me to today’s featured guests on the show:

They are a crack team of space faring mercenaries piloting advanced starcrafts known as Arwings. The team consists of a veteran pilot, a technical expert, an ace flyer and their leader who inherited this team from his late father. Together, these four protect the Lylat system from a variety of threats including, but not limited to, evil scientists, parasitic hive-minded organisms, raging dinos and the occasional crime boss or two. They’ve even recently assisted the Starlink Initiative with liberating the Atlas System from the grip of the Legion. And today, they’ve taken time off of their busy schedules to talk with me about their recent adventures!

Everyone, put your hands, paws, feathers and other appendages together and join me in welcoming… Peppy Hare, Slippy Toad, Falco Lombardi and Fox McCloud of Team Star Fox!

*The audience erupts in raucous cheers as four anthropomorphic animals walk onto the set, waving to the crowd. Fox McCloud stops mid way and throws a quick salute and a smirk to the audience, which only serves to intensify the cheers and applause. The other three members make their way to the two guest couches.

Fox soon joins them and they all sit down. Fox is sitting with Falco, who has been smiling cockily at the audience the entire time. Peppy shares a seat with Slippy, who gazes wide-eyed at the stage and the audience with all the wonderment of a child.*

Ryan: Welcome to the show! I’m so glad you’re all here, I’m sure the audience is more than ecstatic that you all are here –

*Audience erupts in loud cheers.*

R: Woah, hey all, settle down! *motions the crowd to settle down* We have an interview to start here!

Fox: Thanks for having us here today.

Slippy: Yeah, this sure beats getting shot at!

Falco: You’re only getting shot at because you rush headfirst into a dogfight only to get overwhelmed. And then one of us has to save your hide from getting blasted out of the sky.

Peppy: *To Slippy* Slip, I hate to admit it, but Falco’s right. You need to exercise some patience and restraint. You should carefully assess your surroundings and trust your-

Slippy: Fooox! They’re ganging up on me!

Fox: *Looks at his three teammates.* Knock it off, boys, we’re in a professional setting here! *Turns to me.* Sorry about that, they can get a bit rowdy at times. But they’re the best teammates a guy could ever ask for.

R: *Laughs.* Well, you all certainly get along with one another well! That’s good to see. So, let’s start this off right: Anything to drink? Water, tea, juice? Coffee perhaps? 

Fox: Coffee for me, please.

Slippy: I’ll take some water!

Falco: Got anything with alcohol?

R: *shakes head* Sorry pal, no dice. Apparently, it’s in my contract to not serve alcohol on set. My hands are tied.

Falco: Tch, fine. Coffee for me too.

Peppy: Water, if you don’t mind. These old bones can’t handle coffee the way they used to.

R: On it! *Digs behind the couch and produces four bottles of water, a percolator, ground coffee and three mugs. Handing two of the bottles to Slippy and Peppy, I prep the coffee* Now that that’s going on, how’s about you tell us what you all have been up to lately?

Fox: Well, Falco and I were invited to participate in the Smash Ultimate Invitational Tournament.

R: Oh, nice!

Falco: Yeah, except for the fact that it was all a trap set by Galeem, some Lord of Light, or whatever. *Scoffs.* More like the Lord of Losers. Seriously, those spirits were hardly a challenge.

Peppy: Says the guy who was royally embarrassed in that Geno spirit fight! *Laughs.*

Falco: *Muttering.* Zip it, old man…

Fox: Anyways, before that, me and the boys here were on the hunt for a guy by the name of Wolf O’Donnell, leader of the Star Wolf mercenary team –

Slippy: Our eternal rivals!

Fox: *continuing as though Slippy didn’t interrupt.* – who went into hiding some time after our last encounter on Venom. A while back, Slippy picked up a faint transmission from a nearby star system called Atlas. It was a bit of a garbled mess, but Slip managed to untangle enough of it to determine that Wolf was in that part of the galaxy for a particular reason.

Peppy: And not a good one at that.

Fox: Turns out, he found some sort of ancient alien technology and planned to take it back to Lylat. Now, normally we wouldn’t be concerned with something like this – Andross was dead and gone, Wolf was out of our hair in another system far away and Lylat was at peace. But there were two things that made this pretty fishy.

Slippy: One – this is Wolf we’re talking about. He’s always up to no good and I bet he’s out looking for revenge. We really screwed up his operation when Andross and his goons tried to take over the Lylat system.

Falco: And two – That alien technology might not be so friendly, considering point one.

Fox: So, we decided to head out to this Atlas system and find out what Wolf was up to.

R: Woah, that’s crazy. So, you guys get to Atlas, tell us what happened next?

Peppy: Well, we get to this system and wouldn’t you know it, we get dragged into a skirmish between this space exploration crew calling themselves the Starlink Initiative and some tough looking drone fighters. We sat on the sidelines watching until Fox has the crazy idea to join in and help them out.

Fox: What can I say? I couldn’t just sit there and watch? It looked like they could use our help, anyway. *Shrugs*

Peppy: *Places a hand on his head, massages his temples and sighs. Looks back to Fox.* You’re just like your father, Fox. *Smiles at him.*

Fox: *Smirks.* Anyway, we fended them off, but not before the enemy got in a last shot. The enemy rammed a small interceptor into the hull of Starlink’s flagship, the Equinox, stole the ships main power core and kidnapped their captain. The loss of the power core sent all of us heading towards a planet called Kirite.

R: Wait… How is that possible?

Slippy: The power core that the Equinox uses is really unique. Any ship that’s tethered to the core’s energy signature leeches off of it in order to accomplish interstellar travel at nearly the speed of light. So naturally, if the core is lost, then our ships can’t achieve flight. It doesn’t mean we can’t move though, since we could use the ship’s own power to activate the null-gravs and skirt along the planet’s surface.

R: But how did it affect your ships then?

Slippy: It seems like when we entered the fight, the Arwing’s engines synchronized with the Equinox’s core. So, when the core was stolen, our ships were affected as a result, despite the technology being vastly different from one another.

Falco: I dunno Slip, it seems like one huge and convenient plot mechanic or something.

Slippy: *Shrugs at Peppy* Well, that’s the explanation Mason gave me when we did a diagnostic on our ships after the Equinox was fixed?

Fox: In any case, we crash landed on Kirite and we had to gather up a valuable substance called Nova to restore power to the mothership. Once that was done, the folks at Starlink were kind enough to help modify our Arwings to use their technology, as well as help us track down Wolf. We, in turn, assisted them in fighting off the Legion and their leader, Grax.

R: Grax? *Pours coffee into three mugs, hands two to Falco and Fox.*

Falco: Yeah, this whacko obsessed with an ancient civilization called the Wardens, or something. They created the Legion using that Nova energy and now Grax was using them to take over Atlas. Go figure. *Adds half-and-half, stirs and takes a sip.*

Fox: With the Legion, Grax took over all the planets within the Atlas system and we were the only ones capable of stopping them. With Starlink, we traveled to each world, liberated them from Legion control and established an alliance with the residents to prevent the Legion from taking back control. All while we researched a way to get to Grax’s stronghold. *Doesn’t add anything and takes a sip*

Peppy: On top of that, we sniffed out Wolf’s trail and found that he’s made a few buddies before we showed up. It seems that they were assisting him with transporting Legion tech back to Atlas. That included developing his own Spindrive for faster than light travel.

R: I see. That must have been quite the experience. What were some of the best parts about this journey that you can tell us?

Slippy: *Grins* I think the best part was all the exploration we got to do! Atlas is covered with lots of flora and fauna. Plus, the Warden technology was really interesting to research. It really helped stimulate the mind. Did you know that none of the planets in the Atlas system rotate?! They’re all set in a fixed position, which is really weird! The Explorers believe that the Warden’s may have been involved with that, among all the other weird things on each planet. Like Kirite used to be an ocean planet before a supposed Warden terraforming accident turned it into a desert, and-

Falco: OK Slip, calm down buddy. *Shakes head.* As for the best part about this trip: I’d say the dogfights. There’s something about taking down a bogey that really sends a tingle down my feathers. Oh, and ruining Wolf’s parade. *Chuckles.* Ahh… the look on his face when Fox took down his ship full of Warden tech, it was priceless!

Fox: *Smirks at Falco.* Yeah, that was pretty fun, actually. *Turns to me.* I’d say that helping out the citizens of Atlas was rewarding in of itself. Getting to know the folks at Starlink was a treat as well.

Peppy: Mmhmm, that’s right. Best bunch of flyers I’ve seen since my days flying by your dad’s side, Fox. What I enjoyed was meeting the citizens. They’re a hardy lot; surviving out there in some of the harshest conditions imaginable, exploring every corner, either for science or for riches… I respect that.

R: That’s awesome! OK, now that I’ve gotten the obligatory stuff out of the way, allow me to say this one thing: I’m still freaking out that you guys are actually here! The legendary Team Star Fox! Here! On my set! I mean, you’re exploits are legendary here on Earth! Even before you met Starlink!

*The four members bow their head sheepishly, flattered as the audience cheers loudly.* 

Fox: Again, thanks for having us here, we’re glad we have a lot of fans here on Earth.

Slippy: Yeah, you humans are pretty cool!

Falco: Eh, they’re not bad.

Peppy: *Nods in agreement.* Mm-hmm.

R: *After the audience settles down.* OK, so what’s next on the docket, team?

Fox: *Laughs.* Well, we plan on returning home. I think General Pepper – the leader of the Cornerian Army – might have some new work for us. But other than that, it would be nice to kick back and relax for a ch-

*Suddenly, a shrill beeping noise cut off Fox mid-sentence. He digs into his pocket and pulls out a square device.*

Fox: Ah, sorry about that, I have to take this. *Fox activates the device. A hologram of a gold robot with a thin, rectangular head, a thin, visor-like red eye and a lantern jaw with slats running vertically where its mouth would be.* Hey ROB, what’s up?

ROB64: *In monotone.* I have received a message. Sender is unknown.

Fox: Alright, play it back for us.

ROB64: Affirmative.

*The screen flickers as the video playback begins. Mason Rana appears on screen. He looks agitated.*

Mason: Hey Fox, it’s been a while? By the time you get this message, I think about a week or two of Earth time may have passed, but anyway. *He lets out a deep sigh.* OK.

Look, we’ve picked up some chatter along the outskirts of Atlas, near the Dark Sector. Normally, I wouldn’t bother you with this sort of thing but… It involves your old enemy Wolf. Give this a listen.

*Mason plays an audio recording.*

Wolf *on recording.*: Hmph, so you lot finally decided to show up, eh? About time.

Peppy: *Stands abruptly.* What the heck? I thought we showed Wolf the door-

Leon *on recording.*: I’m so sorry we’re late. You didn’t exactly give us clear instructions on how to get here.

Andrew *on recording.*: Yeah, what gives? Do you know how hard it was to find a warp space gate not controlled by the Cornerian army?

Wolf *on recording.*: Shut it! Look… there’s been a setback to the plan, but the tech described in Andross’ research does exist. Almost had my hands on it too until that whelp got in the way…

Pigma*on recording.*: Fox again? That no good, boy scout daddy’s boy? Well, grease my-

Leon *on recording.*: Aren’t you worried about this transmission being intercepted?

Wolf*on recording.*: Let ’em. I want Fox to hear this. I’m not leaving this system empty-handed, nor am I gonna let him and his team get away with humiliating me. I will have my revenge. Meet me at these coordinates. It’s time to go to work.

*The recording ends here.*

Mason: That’s what we picked up. *Sighs.* I got a bad feeling about this. I hope this message gets to you sooner than later. See ya Star Fox.

ROB64: That is the end of the recording.

Fox: Thanks ROB.

Falco: Fox, this smells like a trap.

Fox: *Nods.* I agree. But we can’t let them bring the Warden tech back to Lylat. *To me.* Sorry Ryan, we’ll have to cut this interview short. ROB, prepare the Great Fox! Boys, let’s move out!

*Fox and the gang get up, wave to the crowd and swiftly head backstage. A few moments later, the roar of engines could be heard as four starfighters launched into the stratosphere.*

R: …Well, there they go, out to save the galaxy once again! Thanks for being here guys! Hope to see you back here again soon!

Well, another day, another episode completed. Audience, what do you think, was that rad or what?!

*Audience cheers loudly.*

And to you reading this, I hope you enjoyed it as well! If you want more, drop a line in the comments or send out a tweet on who else you want me to hunt down and share a coffee with! Let me know also what you liked, what you didn’t like or if you want to say hi!

My next episode will hopefully feature an awesome guest I’ve been dying to interview for some time! I’m telling ya, it’s gonna be electric! Beyond that, keep an eye on the Twitter feed: I’ll be sharing some sneak peeks of future guests at random, so if you’re not following me, you’d better do so!

With that, I’m signing off! You’ve been a great audience! See ya next time on the next episode of Beans and Screens!

The Legend of Zelda: Black and White – Part III

Welcome again to another installment of The Legend of Zelda: Black and White.

If you’ve missed the first two installments, you can check them out here:

Last time, Link and Midna discussed about the mysterious Sheik on their way back to the castle, and his supposed discovery of an ancient temple that may hold the key to Hyrule’s victory in the war against Ganondorf.

Sheik instructed Link to see him the following night to go over the full plan in more detail.  Before Link can think about meeting the Sheikah again, he needs permission from the Queen to take extended leave to pursue this quest. And so, he resolves to speak with his childhood friend in the morning, hoping to convince her that this mad scheme could be for Hyrule’s benefit…


Part III: The Queen

I awoke abruptly as one of Zelda’s attendants entered my chambers, opening the curtains to let the morning light in. She proceeded to drop off a basin filled with fresh, warm water and my cleaned chamber pot as I rose out of bed, groggy and exhausted.

I had slept fitfully, my mind racing about the Sheikah I met last night at Telma’s and the conversation I had with Midna afterwards. I knew, deep down that I had to see this ‘Sheik’ again tonight. He held a stick, dangled a carrot in front of me and I wanted it. I wanted to know more about this plan of his, what it entails and to determine if he’s on the up and up or if he’s as shady as Sakon the Thief. To do that, I’d have to convince the Queen and the Council to let me take a break. And honestly, I could use one… I’m still exhausted from the dismal mission I’ve just returned from.

On that note, I turned wearily to the attendant. “Hey, can I get an audience with Her Majesty before the council meeting today? I have updates to share with her regarding the war effort on the front lines.” And to boldly ask her for permission to solve a mystery that may save us all.

The attendant smiled at me. “Ah, what perfect timing Sir Link,” she said to me. “I was instructed to inform you that the Queen has requested an audience with you before today’s war council meeting.” She let out a girlish peal of giggles upon seeing my eyebrows shoot straight upward. “She is already in the audience chamber waiting for you, I will let her know that you will be seeing her shortly.” After delivering the message and shooting one last smile, the attendant left as quietly as she came in.

I sighed, a small smile creeping on my face. Goddess Hylia must be on my side today. I had hoped that this good fortune would mean that the Queen and I would be on the same page once I tell her about last night.

With that, I rose out of bed to get ready. After washing my face, I put on a fresh tunic, strapped the Master Sword and my shield on my back and adjusted my hat. Leaving my room, I headed for the Queen’s audience chamber. It was on the way to the small meeting room where we held the war council.

As I rounded the corner, I picked up the snippets of hushed conversation between two of the castle’s waitstaff. Pressing against the wall, I listened in.

“… you know she was not in her chambers last night? I had slipped in to drop some documents for Her Majesty when I saw that the sheets were not even disturbed,” one of them said.

“Oh yes,” the other one said in a heavy accent. Ordonian. “I saw her in th’ gardens as I was on my way to th’ kitchens to fetch something fer Master Rauru. She looked so forlorn, sitting there on th’ bench,” I heard her let out a tut in what I assume was out of genuine concern. “Oh that poor girl.”

“Hm yes,” the first maid replied, agreeing. “Even though she’s been queen for the last three years, her inexperience still shows… You’d think she would have had more time and opportunity to prepare for the role, but it seems that the Goddess Hylia had other plans, I suppose.”

At that point, I had heard enough. I strode out from the corner I was hiding out of. “Morning ladies, is Her Majesty in?” I asked, a little bite in my voice.

The two biddies separated faster than a pack of Kesse after shooting an arrow at them. “Y-yes Sir Link, she should be ready to see you now,” the first maid stuttered out, flustered at my sudden appearance.

Moving past them without a second glance, I entered the audience chamber. It was a warm and decorative space designed to make visitors feel comfortable. There were a set of cushy chairs in the centre of the room with a small table in between them. On my left was a refreshment table, on which a tray with a warm pot of tea and some cups and saucers lay on top. On my right was a large window providing a stunning view of Castle Town and the surrounding countryside, all illuminated with the orange glow of the morning sun.

Sitting in one of the chairs in straight-backed, regal manner and daintily sipping tea was the Queen of Hyrule and my best friend growing up: Zelda.

She had straight, honey-blond hair with bangs framing her porcelain oval face, a petite nose and piercing, violet-blue eyes that sparkled in the morning light shining through the window. That same morning light highlighted her radiant and flawless alabaster skin. She was wearing her favourite violet and lavender gown this morning with white gloves over her delicate hands. Her crown, a simple, silver band with some ornate designs and a few gemstones, rested on her head. As simple as it was, it suited her perfectly.

A smile graced her lips as I entered, the first I’ve seen on her since I left several nights ago. She was beautiful.

“Morning Your Highness,” I said to her, grinning. “Dressed for a special occasion today?”

She arched an exquisitely shaped eyebrow at me. “Whatever are you talking about Link?” she asked.

“Well, you only wear that dress for one of two reasons,” I said. “Either you’re setting yourself up to make a tragic announcement-”

Her eyes suddenly narrowed. I think I touched a nerve.

Quickly, I continued. “Or, you’re in a good mood today.”

Despite glaring daggers at me, Zelda let out a giggle. “Of course I am, you’re back after all,” she said to me. “And you will be happy to know I do have an announcement to share at the meeting today: I will be revoking your title as Hero of Hyrule-”

“Woah, wait what?!” Now, THAT touched a nerve. She wasn’t finished yet though, her polite smile transformed into a devilish grin, not unlike that of Midna’s.

“-On the grounds that you have an atrocious sense of fashion. I mean, honestly,” she gestured to the hat on my head. “Who wears a floppy green hat?” She made a noise of disgust.

I chuckled, realizing that she was only kidding around. Zelda may look quiet and reserved, but she’s a lot like Midna; feisty when agitated and quick to respond with a witty retort, usually at my expense. “Hey, give it some time, it’s an upcoming trend,” I said, crossing my arms. “All of Castle Town will be wearing floppy hats soon enough, I guarantee it!”

Zelda smirked, her nose scrunching up cutely. I wonder if she even knows that she does that? “Well then, maybe you should change your profession to fashion trendsetter, seeing as you’ll be officially retired from hero duties?”

“Yeah, wouldn’t that be nice. Link: the former hero-turned-clothier,” I snarked. “Please.”

“Do not roll your eyes at your Queen,” she said, testily. Hm, I thought I could resist that urge; eye-rolling is one of her biggest pet peeves. “I can have you exiled for that.”

She and I both knew that she’d never do that. She liked me too much.

I took the seat in front of her and slouched forward, my arms resting on my legs. I saw Zelda bite her lip, resisting the urge to correct me for the hundredth time about my poor posture. I honestly did it both to annoy her and to cheer her up. Damned if she needed some right now.

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, all good things come to an end. After some time, Zelda placed the cup and saucer on the table in front of her and her eyes morphed from playful to serious.  “Your report, Sir Link,” she ordered, her voice level and measured.

I sat up straight – one tends to correct their posture when delivering bad news – and let her know what happened a few nights ago. How our guerrilla party tried to infiltrate one of Ganondorf’s largest camps to put a dent in his invasion force. How they were ready for us, ambushing our group the moment we entered their perimeter. And finally, how they brought out a new weapon that made us retreat, our tails between our legs.

“…I can’t explain it, Your Highness,” I said to Zelda shaking my head. “One of Zant’s followers from Twilight had this device that shot this… bolt at Barnes. The moment it hit him, he started to change, morphing into this horrific beast of darkness. It was then that I made the call to retreat. We all split up so we all wouldn’t be captured.” I sighed deeply. “That’s why I returned alone last night, separate from the other troops.” That, and I needed a stiff drink after barely escaping that fiasco.

Zelda placed a hand on her forehead, massaging the temples with her thumb and index finger. “Link, this is the third failed raid in this month alone,” she said. “And now, it seems that the country’s enemies have a new weapon at their disposal. Based on this, I cannot approve of any more of the council’s raids – I will have to veto the next one.”

I’ll admit, I lit up when she said that. The raids were totally ineffective and I would be glad to never do one of those again. I held my tongue though as she wasn’t finished yet.

“But this presents an even greater problem,” she continued, looking directly at me, her brows creased in worry. “With this new development, there is likely nothing to stop Ganondorf from invading the castle. With little options available to us and more bloodshed expected soon… I may have to consider the possibility of surren-”

“No.” I cut her off. One normally doesn’t cut off royalty, but now was the perfect time to. “I’m sorry to interrupt, Your Highness, but we do have another option available to us,” I said.

And so I proceeded to tell her about last night, the meeting with Sheik, his discovery of the ancient ruins where powerful artifacts may be housed in and the keys required to open the sealed door. The more I spoke, the more I could see the gears turning in Zelda’s head, her mind going over the details, the logistics and the optics. Finally, I stopped speaking and waited for her to process everything.

The wait seemed to go on for hours and the longer the time stretched, the more Zelda’s brows furrowed. I was half convinced that she would call me crazy and disregard the whole thing as a hoax to get her spirits up.

But then she said something that I didn’t expect.

“Let us do this,” she told me, picking up her cup and saucer, taking a sip from the now lukewarm tea and then placing it back on the table. “It is an asinine plan, one built on the unlikely chance that there is anything that we could use to win this war and it is not guaranteed that whatever we find in this shrine will be useful, but…” she sighed, her eyes filled with desperation and a glimmer of hope. “It is likely the best and only chance we have to save our kingdom.”

My eyebrows rose so much they might as well have been stuck like that. “Y-you’re sure, Zel?” I asked her stupidly, still in shock about her decision. I flinched as she gave me the most severe look I’ve ever seen. And boy, have I seen plenty.

“I am sure!” she replied forcefully, the calm veneer of royalty dropping. “I will not be the Queen that allows that tyrant Ganondorf to take over this kingdom! So, yes Link, we are doing this!”

She heaved as her body shook with barely repressed rage, her shoulders bunched up and hands balled into fists tightly against her body. Slowly, her breathing settled, her body relaxed and the calm, neutral expression required of the crown returned.

I however, sat in shock. In all the years I’ve known her, I’ve never seen her this angry. Maybe the fact that she had ascend to the throne following her father’s death, coupled with the war that broke out immediately after has finally taken a toll on her? Or maybe, this ongoing war and our countless losses were finally starting to get to her? Either way, I was starting to get worried for her. I wanted to reach out to her, hold her and tell her sweet nothings, to let her know that things will be OK, so long as we were together. I wanted to tell her how I felt about her, after years of repressing them due to our differences in rank and status.

I wanted to tell her how much I loved her.

I held my tongue however. Now was not the time to express my desires. It was time for action. Romance could follow afterward.

A knock on the door broke my current train of thoughts. A maid entered and curtsied to the queen. “Your Highness, the council is ready for you and Sir Link,” she said.

Zelda nodded. “We will be there shortly,” she responded. “Tell them to give us a few more moments.” The maid bowed and left the room to relay the message. After she left, the Queen turned to me.

“Link, who else is aware of this ‘Sheik’ individual?” she asked.

“Just Midna,” I said. “She was working the bar yesterday when he talked to me. I also told her the whole story.”

Zelda nodded. “Good, let us keep it between the three of us,” she said. “I do not want to bring false hope to the council. Now, you said Sheik wanted you to meet him tonight?” She tapped her chin in thought. “I also surmise that this quest will require some travelling around the kingdom?”

“Yep, to both things,” I said.  “So I’ll need an excuse not to do any missions during that time.”

“Yes, that is true,” Zelda said, frowning. A sudden, sly smirk crossed her face shortly afterward. “And I think I may have the perfect cover story to allow you to partake in this quest.” She rose from her seat, straightening out her gown.

“Come, Sir Link,” she said regally. “Let us go and address the council.”


Disclaimer: Hey! Listen! I don’t own the characters and setting in this story, they are owned by Nintendo!

Espresso Shot Review: Severed (2016) [PSVita]

Good afternoon and welcome to the first edition of Games with Coffee for the new year!

Yes, I’m back after a couple of months off. It’s important for Mature, Distinguished Gamers to take a little R & R every once in a while and boy, did I need one. That’s not to say I wasn’t busy; nay good friends, I’ve been working away on new content that I can’t wait to share with you for the coming year! 2019 is sure to be an exciting one, filled with new games, new stories, new interviews and (of course) more coffee.

Speaking of which, let’s get to our subject.

Today, I’ll be taking a look at a quirky, touch-based game that originally was released on the Playstation Vita, before being ported to other platforms like Android, iOS and even the Switch. It consists of hack and slash mechanics and RPG elements revolving around using the severed remains of your enemies to level up and get stronger. It’s set a land heavily steeped in Mexican influences, with labyrinth-like environments filled with terrifying monsters, secrets and hidden areas to find. Finally, the game presents a captivating, mature story starring a strong-willed female protagonist armed with a living sword, suffering from severe losses in both the familial and physical sense. From Drinkbox Studios, this is Severed.

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Background

Severed was developed by Drinkbox Studios, a Toronto based developer known for the popular Guacameele! games. Originally pitched during an internal game jam by concept lead Augusto Quijano, Severed was initially released for the Playstation Vita, before being ported to other platforms.

It was met with high praise from critics and has won several awards, including 2016’s Apple iPad Game of the Year and the Canadian Videogame Awards for Best Musical Score.

As of now, the Playstation Vita is officially dead. I figured that to celebrate this underrated handheld, I would shine a spotlight on one of the system’s most interesting indie games. So, let’s get into it.

Story

Severed tells the story of a girl named Sasha, living with her family in small farmland with her mother, father and brother. One day, Sasha mysteriously finds herself in a strange, parallel version of her home, alone, with the stench of death surrounding her. Entering the ruins of her home and looking into a mirror, she discovers that she had her right arm mysteriously cut off, a bloody stub of a limb being the only thing that remains.

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The mirror reflected another figure behind her. Turning around, Sasha briefly encounters the Stranger – a skeletal, alien-like being who gives her a living sword to protect her from the monsters she would encounter in this world. He instruct her to find her family, taken away by a monster only known as the Dragon, before promptly disappearing and leaving Sasha on her own. Now, she must journey through three sprawling areas to recover her family and escape from this world before the Dragon finds her.

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Severed’s story is told through Sasha’s perspective and is very metaphorical in its presentation. Sasha is desperate to find her family, even if it means cutting through and killing everything in her sight to do so. With every enemy that she cuts down, she uses their severed remains to strengthen herself. This is especially prevalent with the bosses, as she gains a new ability after cutting out a body part of theirs and then wearing the dismembered piece as part of her armor. However, the more progress she makes in her journey, the less human she looks and acts until she’s barely recognizable at the end of the game.

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At the onset, Sasha feels hopeful from the Stranger’s words that her family could be found. Upon finding each member of her family however, she discovers to her horror that they are already dead; their bodies in a state of decay with some sort of fungal/coral-like organism growing out of them. With each member she returns to her home, her rage and hopelessness only grows until she reaches the Citadel, the third area of the game. Here, two important plot points happen.

First, after reaching the top of the tower, Sasha reunites with her mother’s body only for it to be taken away from her by the Dragon. It then steals her other two family members, creates a portal within the mirror in her home and dares Sasha to come get them.

Second, Sasha reunites with her severed arm within the Citadel; now an autonomous, multi-coloured appendage which gives her enough power to possibly defeat the Dragon. Yet, during the final battle, it’s revealed to her that the Dragon has influence over the arm, as the arm rebels against her at random moments throughout the final battle. This suggests that that the creature had a hand in it’s creation (via its removal at the start of the game) and has possibly shaped Sasha into what she was at that moment; a creature of rage and despair.

In order to free herself from those feelings, Sasha makes the decision to re-sever her right arm. The Dragon then swallows the arm and mutates into its final form; a terrifying, multi-headed beast. After finally slaying the Dragon, Sasha removes all the armor and severed pieces of monsters that she had accumulated and gives her family a proper burial. The Stranger appears and tells Sasha she has a choice: stay in this alternate realm or return to the real world. The ending is then left to the player’s interpretation as the game cuts to the credits just as Sasha moves.

There’s very little dialog within the game and much of the story is left to player’s interpretation, but the visual style of the game does a really great job in portraying the environment that Sasha currently inhabits on her quest, which I’ll discuss later on. Along the way, she encounters only two other individuals that are not out to kill her: a friendly two-headed crow and an overly-paranoid old woman holding a dark secret. Literally.

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Overall, the story is very dark, but it captures the essence of what it must feel like to go through a heavy loss and what it would take to move on. It’s also short; clocking in at roughly eight to ten hours total, so it’s great for those who don’t have a lot of time on hand to play. I also like how the story requires a lot of player interpretation to get the gist of what it’s all about.

Gameplay

The decision for the game to be heavily touch-screen based was met with some criticism from other publications, but ultimately I felt like it was the right choice. Controls for the game utilize both the thumbstick/D-pad and the Vita’s touch screen. The D-pad is used to move Sasha while the touch screen is used to perform several actions. For left handed players, the face buttons can be also used to move the character.

Tapping objects on the screen allows Sasha to interact with them, whether it be eating fruit to restore health, picking up dropped items, reading signs, examining things or talking with NPC’s. Sasha can also slash things on the field to reveal hidden objects and secrets or break objects to reveal their contents.

Encounters are fixed and denoted by a black and white wisp on screen. Approaching and touching it starts a battle where Sasha must kill the creature in front of her. Swiping the screen makes Sasha slash in the direction of the swipe and is her main form of attack when she encounters enemies. As shown in the game’s tutorial, the longer the swipe, the more damage is done, so the player must make sure to make long, sweeping slices back and forth against enemies in order to deal tons of damage. Later in the campaign, Sasha gains the ability to charge up her slash by pressing down on the screen for a short time until the charge is ready and then slashing in the direction of choice. This can be used both on offense and defense, as some enemies have attacks that can break through a normal parry.

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Enemies don’t just stand there and take the punishment though. A circular meter is associated to each monster. When it fills up, the monster will perform an attack. The meters fill up in two ways, depending on the enemy: one type of meter fills up constantly and a second type decreases as Sasha attacks. When an enemy is about to attack, it displays a tell of sorts; an animation that shows it’s about to attack and in what direction (horizontal, vertical, diagonal, etc.). When that happens, the player can execute a parry to block and avoid damage by swiping in the direction of the attack. So, if the enemy’s attack is going horizontally from left to right, the player must swipe horizontally from right to left in order to parry the attack. This attack and parry mechanic allows for fast and frantic combat.

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The training wheels come off after clearing the first area, the Domain of Crows. Enemies from that point on have buffs that affect many stats, such as Attack Up, Defense Up, Health Regeneration and the like. Luckily, Sasha gains a few abilities along the way that help make battles much easier, like the Blind spell (stuns enemies) and Devour ability (steals buffs).

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Also, some encounters spawn multiple enemies, up to four at a time. Tapping on a direction on the D-Pad in battle will allow Sasha to face whatever enemy is associated in that direction. Each of those enemies will either attack or charge up their attacks in real time, so the player must be aware of when to strike, what enemy to attack, when to defend, when to stun enemies and what buffs to steal in order to survive.

The Focus Meter is at the top of the screen, represented by Sasha’s sword. As she attacks, the meter slowly fills up. The meter fills up faster as you keep chaining slashes, but the multiplier resets if you are hit. Parrying attacks sustain the multiplier though. When the meter is full and the enemy is defeated, the game enters what’s called Severed Mode and is the main mechanic where the game derives its title from.

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In Severed Mode, the enemy is briefly suspended in midair, its limbs splayed out with markers showing where to cut. Cutting through these markers allow Sasha to pick up the remains and use them to enhance her skills through the Skill Tree in the menu screen. Players have to be quick to sever as many limbs and parts as possible, as there is a brief time limit before the monster disappears permanently. The game offers plenty of opportunity to gather parts though, so there’s no need for the player to worry about not gathering enough parts to enhance skills.

severed-upgrade

The skill tree is a big part of enhancing the Severed experience. Skills require severed parts of monsters, such as arms, eyeballs and such, to acquire. They range from basic attack increases to improving efficacy of special abilities. Skills are practically a requirement to progress further in the game, as the battles only get more and more challenging. New skills also unlock when Sasha gains a new ability to use.

Sometimes, players won’t have the parts on hand to improve on a certain skill. In this case, they can transmute small components called giblets to create the part they need. Giblets are found virtually all over the map in breakable objects that Sasha can slash open on the field.

Health and Mana (used for abilities) can be increased by collecting hearts and brains. Sasha must find five Heart Pieces or Brain Stems and then devour them to gain the upgrade. It’s a visceral and interesting way for a character to increase their life or magic.

Out of battle, there are many puzzles that Sasha has to solve in order to progress further in the story. Some include finding crystals, hitting a gong to open or close doors, travelling to parallel dimensions even creepier than the realm she currently inhabits and the like. The puzzles are fair to the player; not too hard, but not too easy at the same time. There are also plenty of secrets and hidden passages to find. Some of them require some exploration within the room to open, some require certain abilities, while others require having a certain item in your possession (Such as the Mask of Birds or the Jaws of the Cryptolith) and touching a symbol on the wall to open a passageway to the secret.

One criticism I have about the gameplay revolves around how uncomfortable it felt playing on the Vita. After a prolonged period of time, I found that my left hand ached as I held the system while using my right finger to swipe. The ports released after the Vita version addressed this by making the game fully playable through the touchscreen. I’m unsure of what Drinkbox did for the Switch version, but I would like to think they learned from the Vita version of the game.

Beyond that, the gameplay itself is very tight and engaging. The difficulty curve feels natural; there doesn’t seem to be any point within the game that the difficulty spikes up intensely during the main story. There are some difficult battles, yes, but many of them are optional and are not required to complete the story.

Visuals

Despite the dark and depressing atmosphere presented in game, Severed has a striking artistic style, to the point where it looks like it was drawn on paper. The visuals are colorful and bright and the backgrounds are look fantastic.

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The enemies look like something out of a horror film, with multiple, grotesque limbs, jagged teeth and quivering tendrils. Speaking of which, the enemy animations are incredibly well done. Everything, from the way they move their limbs, to the slight twitches they make when they are stationary, looked so polished and fluid. I was very impressed.

The bosses also look incredibly well done. Not only were they difficult to defeat but they looked fearsome as well.

The most visceral image in this game though is when Sasha sees herself in the mirror at the beginning of the game, her arm freshly cut off. It’s a haunting image that really sets the tone for the rest of the game.

Audio

The soundtrack certainly fits with the game’s atmosphere. Home is a very poignant theme and reminds me of the feeling of loneliness and despair, while Death (the theme when you see The Stranger for the first time) evokes a foreboding feeling, like there’s something underneath the surface as he explains what Sasha needs to do to leave the alternate world.

The music within the areas of Severed are divided into two types: Exploration and Battle. Exploration music seems to be influenced by Mexican/Central American sounds, with plenty of drums, bells, chimes and the like. The Battle themes however are grungier, remixed versions of the Exploration music. They fill the original with guitar riffs and more percussion to increase the tension while fighting.

One of the best songs in the game is when Sasha returns to her home at the end of the game. It’s a haunting track filled with despair and accurately reflects how Sasha may have felt at the very end after the Dragon stole her family. It’s a great setup piece for the final battle.

Replayability

To be frank, Severed is a fairly short game with little to do once completed. The most a player could do is take on the optional and highly challenging battles in hidden rooms within the three main areas. Defeating the enemies under special conditions yield special items called Mementos which serve two purposes – powering up Sasha and changing some of the final scenes in the game’s ending.

However, this game is one of those titles that’s easy to pick up and replay at a moment’s notice, due to simple nature of its control scheme. I’ve replayed it already a couple of times since and I found myself changing my strategies when fighting and severing limbs on each playthrough – trying to do one full swipe to sever all limbs instead of doing quick, individual swipes, for instance.

The Last Drop

Severed is one of the most interesting games I’ve played in recent years. It really takes advantage of the Vita’s touch-screen/direct control dynamic and presents a very compelling story that’s tied together with some solid gameplay. It’s short, but had it been any longer, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it the same way I do right now. It’s definitely a game worth checking out if you are able to.

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Pros:

  • Tight gameplay mechanics that combine elements from Action and RPG games.
  • Uses the Vita’s touch-screen effectively.
  • Beautiful visuals.
  • A great story centered around loss and grief.
  • Has a great lead character, whose silent nature belies an fierce spirit that’s relentlessly pursuing a way to save her family

Cons:

  • It’s fairly short, but this is only a minor issue for me.
  • Not much to do once you’ve neared the end of the story/not much post-game content.
  • Holding the Vita can be awkward and uncomfortable after prolonged periods of play.

Score: 4/5

4 out of 5

A Year in Review [2018]

Hi all! Welcome to the second year-end edition of Games with Coffee! It’s December 31st; the final day of 2018 and what a year it has been folks. Much has happened in the span of twelve months since I wrote my Year in Review, so I’ll do my best to condense the highlights. So, let’s begin where all years and stories begin:

At the beginning.


January

Probably the biggest, most important thing that happened this year was the fact that I became a father on Friday January 12th, 2018, at 8:02 pm. Yes, on that day, yours truly became a Mature, Distinguished Gamer Dad to a baby boy name Arjun Ryan Cheddi. A couple of fun facts about my little guy’s entry into the world:

  • He was born in the middle of a really bad storm: it started with regular rain and as the temperature plummeted, the rain turned into freezing rain and finally into snow. By the time we rolled into the hospital at about six pm or so, we were already at three inches of snow and counting.
  • From the time my wife went into contractions to the time he came out: almost six hours. He wanted out really quickly.
  • Speaking of which, between the first examination when we arrived at the hospital and the second, he went from head first to feet first (breach) and facilitated the need for a C-section. The surgery was the scariest moment of my life.
  • He was born weighing four and a half pounds; grossly underweight. The medical team taking care of us at the time put him in the NICU and spammed Cure (AKA IV needles and formula) to get him back to a proper weight. We spent two or so nights at the hospital, but I swear it felt like months…

I joined Twitter earlier and posted some of my exploits when my little buddy was born. The reception I’ve received was wonderful and I thank each and every one of you for making the wait much more bearable. Another thank you goes to Nintendo and the Switch. Super Mario Odyssey and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild both made things much more bearable as the wife and I waited to see how our son would be fairing.

The first few nights after becoming parents were hard on both of us, but luckily my in-laws let us stay at their place while we got our bearings straight and while my wife recovered from the surgery. We spent the better part of three months there and a lot of other important things happened during that time.

Another great thing that happened was that Games with Coffee received its first award! So that was also quite wild! I have to give a shout out to YahariBento for the nom; hope you’re doing well buddy!


February

February was the month where I participated in my first blogging collaboration! Ian from Adventure Rules held a Valentines day collab, where myself and nineteen other bloggers signed up to be randomly assigned another blogger, read their blog and talk about the wonderful things that they write about. What I loved about this was that it wasn’t limited to just gaming; this event brought out all kinds of writers writing about all kinds of subjects.

Case in point, I wrote a post about my secret Valentine, Debi from Womb 2 Cradle n’ Beyond! Her blog talked about her struggles with conception before giving birth to twins. She continues to write about her experiences with her new children and provides little hacks and such to make the parenthood job a lot easier. Hope you’re doing well Debi!

February was also a big milestone for me as I signed up to become The Hyperactive Coffee Mage on The Well Red Mage!

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My first post would not debut until April, but joining this group at the time I did changed my life for the better. It was here, hanging out with the Mages and Warriors of Light on the Discord Mage Chat that I truly understood what community meant. Beyond video games, we talked about family, friendships, work and other important discussions. Red Mage and I have had a few personal discussions about parenthood when I first signed up that I truly and wholeheartedly appreciated from him. So thanks fearless leader, let’s make 2019 truly magical!


March

Work-wise, March was the start of how things could get extremely busy extremely fast, especially when you’re down a team member. Balancing this, writing on my blog, starting up as a Mage, being a part of a clan in Clash Royale, my Quest and being a dad to my almost three month old son at the time was truly a test of how to prioritize my time.

Sadly, I didn’t really pass it. I got booted off my old Clash clan, but joined another one shortly after learning that a good deal of co-workers were on a clan of their own. I stayed there for some time, until the new overhaul came into effect, but I’ll get into that a little later.

Also, I had to give up most, if not all of my Quest resolutions that I worked tirelessly on back in December. That stung the most. The important thing here was that I learned that I needed to reduce my priorities and be more flexible to change. I was supposed to write a post about this, but… Well, let’s just say that parenthood makes you forget about things until the last minute (ie. now for instance!).

This wouldn’t be the first time that the ebbs and flows of my work would affect my life. To be honest though, I enjoy it. I love what I currently do at my job. I feel that I’m thriving better here than I ever had at any other job prior to this one, so I’m super thankful to work where I am today. I’m also happy to say that having a beginner’s mindset throughout this time has helped me out tremendously. I recommend taking a look at that link if you’re having a hard time at work.


April

A quarter of the way through. April was a busy time for me. My wife, my son and I recently resettled back into our house and set up a night time routine for the little guy which was definitely starting to work well.

I also celebrated my blog’s first anniversary by starting up a brand-new feature: Beans and Screens! It’s an ongoing series set in a talk-show format where I interview guests and let me tell you, it’s a lot of fun to do! My first guest was my alter-ego, The Hyperactive Coffee Mage, who actually interviewed me! I shared a couple of things about myself that I’d normally not share to others outside the Internet. You can check it out here.

Along with that was the debut post on TWRM! My first long-form review was about Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Game Gear and I had so much fun writing that up!

I also continued my write ups about my experiences with Path of Exile. I really like this game, the only problem I had was getting time to play it. Unfortunately, Part 6 is the last one I’ll be doing for some time until I get more of an opportunity to play and write about this massive game. Fortunately though, PoE is coming to PlayStation 4, so there’s something to look forward to!

Finally (and this is most important), I picked up and started playing God of War for the PS4. I didn’t know it then, but this game would mean so much to me when I finished playing it.


May

May was a very sad time for my family. My wife’s grandmother, her Aaje, passed away after a short bout of cancer. She had health problems earlier in the year, but they didn’t exacerbate until closer to the end of the month. On May 28th, she passed away, but she was able to pass peacefully with her dying wish fulfilled: to live long enough to see her great-grandson, AKA my little guy.

I used several examples from gaming to help cope with this loss, as I discussed here. I was very sad when she passed; she considered me her grandson, despite me only being related to her through marriage.

May was also the month where a huge Clash Royale overhaul happened. Gone were the old Clan Crown Chest (say that three times fast) events. What replaced it were Clan Wars. Basically, it’s a new mode that encourages participation and teamwork from all members of a clan. There are two phases to a war. Phase one is the Collection Day, where clan mates participate in battles to collect Clan Cards. Winning battles nets you more cards for the clan. Phase two is the War Day, where five clans battle one another using the cards they’ve collected in the Collection Day phase to gain victory medals. This is where teamwork within your clan is paramount as you work with your clan mates in practice battles to determine the optimal deck to go into your final battle with.

The more medals won, the higher your clan’s rank at the end of the war. At the end of the war, Clan War Trophies are awarded, similarly to regular ladder battle Trophies. First place earns 100 trophies while last place loses 100. It’s a dynamic, exciting way to interact with the clan and makes working with a clan more meaningful. It was here in this month, after being kicked out from my latest clan that I joined the Pantheon – a group of ten clans. I started in one and then transferred to my current clan, aptly called KRATOS. Honestly, they’re the best bunch of clan mates I’ve ever had the pleasure of battling with!


June

Halfway into the year, June turned into one of the busiest months of this year. Work was ramping up and I participated in a new collaboration with the Mages, where I listed the top seven best PlayStation (PSX) games! I followed up with seven other PlayStation Hidden Gems to compliment this list! Check it here!

I also had the pleasure of having a massive discussion with the Hopeful Sega Mage (Previously known as the Hopeful Handheld Mage) about the upcoming Sega Ages collection! It was a fun talk between the two of us that you can take a look at here.

June was also the month when I finished playing God of War. It was the first game that I’ve beaten since I became a father and I felt profoundly changed by it, thanks to the interactions between Kratos and Atreus.


July

July marked the half year we’ve had our little buddy in our life. It also marked my 31st year on this plane of existence. I celebrated both of these milestones by getting my first tattoo:

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This design was special to me for several reasons: The Hylian Shield from Ocarina of Time was my favourite shield design from the games and I’ve always wanted it on my arm. It represents my desire to protect the people important to me. Along the edges on the top though, I put two other things on it: My son’s name in Norse Runes and his birthdate in Roman numerals. I was inspired to use the Norse runes by God of War and its take on fatherhood, while the numerals were an awesome take on immortalizing the date of my son’s birth. I have to shout out to my tattoo artist, Steve from KLA Ink for putting this together for me!

Meanwhile, July remained to be a busy, busy month. I wrote a review for one of my favourite games on the PlayStation: Alundra! I also had a few interviews on Beans and Screens featuring Link and Zelda from Breath of the Wild and with my good buddy and fellow mage, Daniel Flatt, the Mail Order Ninja Mage! Both were great interviews!

And finally, July saw the release of a new fanfiction: The Legend of Zelda: Black and White! I’ve written up both parts one and two and they were inspired by the Noire TWRM Radio mix! Check out both and stay tuned for further installments!


August

August was the least active this blog has ever been since its inception. I joined in on two collaborations: one was the Writer’s Raid by NekoJonez, a really good friend I’ve gotten to know quite well throughout the year. The second was the massive Games that Define Us headed by Matthew from Normal Happenings. Both of those released in November, but I was hard at work at writing those up.

I also put up my latest long-form #magecrit of Soul Blade, one of my favourite fighting games for the PlayStation. Check it out here!

August was also the month when my little guy used rolling as his primary mode of transportation. He would roll around until he got stuck, roll onto his stomach and then rotate until he finds a direction he wants to roll in. He was basically Tank Baby and it was so cute!


September

Both August and September were busy months, with September being the busiest, at least in terms of work. My job kept me busy in the summer months leading into fall and winter. Coupled with the fact that I was knee-deep in collaboration work I was left with little time to write on my own blog. I did end up catching up on a lot of great games I picked up from April onward, like Octopath Traveller on my birthday, Splattoon 2, Stardew Valley and Shovel Knight, Mega Man X Legacy Collection and others. September was a hardcore month for me in terms of getting games completed! This also included Tomb Raider Anniversary, which was my entry for the Writer’s Raid collaboration.

The biggest contribution for September was the Hyper-Ninja God of War Spoiler-Filled Discussion! Truthfully, this was supposed to go out since July, but I procrastinated with posting it. Nevertheless, this was a doozy of a post and filled to the brim with spoilers from the game, go check it out (if you’ve beaten it, of course!)

Last but not least, I was a guest on a podcast! Specifically Mage Cast by the Well Red Mage. Myself, Red and our musical jazz master of a mage, The ABXY Mage discussed Earthbound in its entirety and I learned a few things about the game during our discussion that I’ve never realized or overlooked in its entirety! Go check it out!


October

October was my half-assed attempt to catch up. I did end up writing up a post on Pokemon and growing up with the series. That brought up a lot of good memories with my brother and best friend Anto as I was writing it.

On top of that, I (in my infinite wisdom) decided I wasn’t busy enough, so I tackled a review of a game I’ve never played before: Another World for the Nintendo Switch. Easily the fastest review I’ve ever written on TWRM, I had to say, I really enjoyed playing the game! It has a definite impact long after you’ve beaten it; in fact, I’m still thinking about it right now…

October was also the month that I took my first family vacation. My little buddy really liked Jamaica. It was also very relaxing for myself as I got in some good writing, the aforementioned Another World review included.


November

And here we have the biggest, busiest month of this year. November saw the release of The Games That Define Us: a collaboration of over thirty bloggers who each shared a game that truly impacted their lives for the better. Working with these individuals was a true, true blessing, similar to that of working with the Mages. These pieces need, NEED to be read! In fact, I have to declare that The Games That Define Us is the collaboration that defines 2018 in general. Gamers of all shapes, sizes, nationalities, genders and backgrounds coming together in the spirit of harmony and community to share their feelings on the games that truly helped them be their best selves.

If you guys from TGTDU are reading this, I love you all! I can’t wait to work with you guys again in some way, shape or form!

By the way, my contribution was no big deal compared to the others. The Game That Defined Me was, of course, Final Fantasy VII. But the thing is, it’s only one of four other games that define who I am as a person. I’ll be writing about these other three games in follow up posts throughout next year!

The next collab released was the Writer’s Raid by my good friend NekoJonez. He got together a crack team of writers, including my good friend, the ABXY Mage and we shared our thoughts about the venerable gaming icon, Lara Croft, and the games that she starred in. My contributions included the Legacy of Lara Croft, spanning from the original Tomb Raider and beyond and an Espresso Shot Review of Tomb Raider Anniversary. Go read these and then head to the hub to read up on other entries!

Baby-wise, this was the month where my little warrior child transitioned from rolling to army crawling. All I needed now was a baby-sized Sneaking Suit, a bandanna and a cardboard box and I would have a mini Snake.

*looks up baby-sized Sneaking Suits on Google*

November also saw my return to Mage Cast, along with The Mail Order Ninja Mage, Daniel Flatt as we three mages talked about (arguably) the greatest Zelda game ever: Zelda II Breath of the Wild. This was a fun podcast to record and even more fun to listen to at the end of the day, so go listen to it. Like, right now! Do it!

And finally, I helped usher in a new age of TWRM in the form of Instagram. Yes! Yours truly is the administrator for the The Well Red Mage’s Instagram account! The plan is to regularly post thrice a week with content featuring our Mages, our content and what we’re all playing over the weekend.


December

Alas, from the end of November into December started the biggest and maddest rush for work yet. It was year end for most companies and that meant lots and lots of requests to get things finished so that people can get paid. This, coupled with new jobs and such put a real damper in write ups for the blog, here or otherwise. It also killed any chance I had to complete any stories that I’ve either been working on during the year or have started back in summer.

With collaborations, trying to catch up with my own content, keeping up with the massive workload and making sure I had enough room for family time, it then occurred to me that I evidently took on more than I could chew. Thus, I’ve made the decision to lay off a bit on collaborations and posting on the blog altogether until after March of 2019. I want to focus a bit on getting some content prepared ahead of time and to get some headway with my stories. I promised myself I’d get my Final Fantasy VII-inspired Sonic story finished and I’m gonna make do on it, somehow.

In the meantime, I finished up my second annual Last Minute Christmas Guide, split into two lists. These gifts are good suggestions for the new year as well, so go check them out if you ever need gift ideas for someone next year!

And as of now, my little Arjun has three whole teeth and is crawling like a cute little boss. My god, he’s gonna be a year old in two weeks time! It’s gonna be amazing to see this little kid grow. It’s like my love for that mini-me grows every second of every day.

Fatherhood has, so far, been the most rewarding thing to happen to me and it’s something I’m determined not to take for granted.

Which now leads to today. As I said earlier, I’m now on hiatus from today up until March 1st. My hiatus might be longer, depending on the rhythm I’m on during my time off, but I’ll keep everyone posted. I’ll still be working the TWRM Instagram account and promoting content on Twitter and such, but you won’t hear from me for a bit.

As for what to expect for next year, definitely more Espresso Shot Reviews. I’ve had a blast playing tons of games (my latest obsession is Smash Bros. Ultimate!) and I want to get into the groove of reviewing games. It’s quite fun actually!

More Beans and Screens are upcoming! I have some interviews secured and with the time off, I should be able to get some solid Q & A’s in.

More personal stories! Maybe! I’m still debating it actually. *Grins*

More music posts!

Definitely more advice columns! Living as a Mature, Distinguished Gamer is not an easy path to live, but I’m hoping to share some advice for those who want to walk that path.

Most importantly, more actual stories. I want to fully finish, edit and post up the first part of my FFVII/Sonic fanfiction this year. The title: Mobius VII: Escape from the City. This has been a decade-long endeavor for me and for me to finish this off and put it up for public reading would truly be a blessing. I also have the rest of my Zelda fanfic to write up. I’m hoping that the climax and ending will make my readers react the way I want them to. *Laughs*

And then there’s my magnum opus: an original story that’s been in the world building stage since I was fifteen years old. It was only a few years ago though that the ideas finally cohered together into something that I wanted to write about. I’m going to take the time in 2019 to work on this story, get the plot, the characters, the setting and the magic system (it’s a fantasy story) to the point where I feel that I can finally put pen to paper and start writing. It’s exciting and scary at the same time and I’m looking forward to it.

To close off, I want to send a huge, huge shout out to my friends the Mages and Warriors of Light on the Mage Chat. Shout out to The Well Red Mage for being such an awesome dude to hang out and work with. Shout out to Matt from Normal Happenings, Ian from Adventure Rules and NekoJonez for the excellent collaborations. And finally, shout out to you, the reader. Without you guys reading my posts, writing comments and promoting my work, I would be naught but a blip on this vast ocean of gaming related blogs. I love you all and I wish you all the very best in 2019.

With that, this is Ryan from Games with Coffee, wishing you all a happy and healthy new year. See you all in March.

The Second Annual Games with Coffee Last-Minute Christmas Shopping Guide! Part 2: Stuff!

Welcome to Part 2 of the Second Annual Games with Coffee Last-Minute Christmas Shopping Guide! It’s only a few more days until the big day, so if you’re stuck on what to get or need some inspiration for gift giving, you’ve come to the right place!

If you haven’t read Part 1, click here to check it out!

Continuing on from my previous list, Part 2 will cover apparel, accessories, trinkets and other recommendations that would be great to give this holiday season, if you haven’t already went and made your purchases! As I mentioned earlier, I won’t be providing links, just ideas on what to get for your favourite person this holiday season.

Warning: Shameless Plug Incoming!

Once you find that perfect gift or gifts, chances are you’ll need to wrap it up and put a neat little gift tag on it, right? Well, instead of some generic, boring tags you can find at the store, why not print out a set of really spiffy, hand-lettered tags made by my awesome wife, Usha from the blog Lettering by Usha!? For a paltry sum, you can get a PDF copy of a set of beautifully designed printable tags that you can print out, cut up and attach to your gift! Tags like these make a gift that much more personable, so when you’re done with this list, click here to get to her Etsy shop and pick up a set today!
End Shameless Plug!

And now, onto the list!


Apparel and Accessories

Alright, let’s face it: sometimes you just wanna wear and show off your favourite gaming series. From casual to professional and everything in between, I’ve got a few gift suggestions for the Mature, Distinguished Gamer.

*Note that several of these items are available for purchase on ThinkGeek, however they’re note sponsoring this post.*

Socks

Dress codes in professional settings can be a tad restrictive, but it doesn’t mean you can’t show off your gamer pride in some ways! And one of the best ways to do that is by wearing an awesome pair of socks, like these ones:

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Eye-catching and comfortable!

Socks are one of those items that you need (unless you live and work on the beach, then no socks for you!), so why not make it fun! These Mega Man socks aren’t the only ones available though; you can find a whole slew based on your favourite series or characters online! For example:

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Metroid: Samus Aran Socks

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(Clockwise from top left) Super Mario, Mario Kart, Metroid, Legend of Zelda, Super Nintendo-motif.

Image result for halo socks

Halo Casual Crew Socks

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There are even God of War Socks!

The choices available are only as limited as your search terms on Google or Amazon!

T-Shirts

For Casual Fridays, weekends or anytime in between, nothing beats a T-Shirt. Again, there are tons available, but here’s some ideas to choose from:

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Princess Peach T-Shirt

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“Scarface” Legend of Zelda Shirt (I have this one, it’s awesome!)

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Divine Beasts Women’s T-shirt

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Shovel Knight Shirt

 

Sweaters and Hoodies

Still on the hunt for an ugly Christmas sweater? Here’s a few suggestions:

Pokémon Winter Sweater

Pokemon Ugly Sweater

Pokémon Pikachu Holiday Sweater

Pikachu Ugly Sweater

Ugly Christmas Sweater: Nintendo (S)

Legend of Zelda Ugly Sweater

Hoodies are also a great choice to get. Who doesn’t want to feel warm when it’s -30 degrees Celsius outside!

Kingdom Hearts Evil Heart Hoodie (MD)

Kingdom Hearts Heartless Hoodie

Mass Effect N7 Long Vinyl Ladies' Cowl Hoodie

Mass Effect N7 Hoodie

Space Invaders Sleeve Print Hoodie

Space Invaders Hoodie

Wallets & Watches

If you’re eyeing some wallets, here’s some ideas for you!

Yoshi Flap Wallet

Yoshi Flap Wallet

Kingdom Hearts Sora Wallet

Kingdom Hearts Sora Flap Wallet

Kingdom Hearts Fandom Wallet - Exclusive

Kingdom Hearts Fandom Wallet

Atari Black Katakana Wallet

Atari Black Katakana Wallet

Nintendo Mario World Wallet

Super Mario World Wallet

Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Wallet

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Wallet (Also available in a large format)

NES Controller Zip Wallet

Nintendo NES Zip Up Wallet

Watches are also a great gift to give for this holiday season! Here’s a few ideas:

Legend of Zelda Leather Watch - Exclusive

Legend of Zelda Men’s Watch

Pokémon Pokeball Watch

Pokemon Pokeball Watch

8-Bit Hearts Watch

8-Bit Hearts Watch

8-Bit Watch

8-Bit Watch

Fallout RadGlow Watch - Exclusive

Fallout RadGlow Watch (Looks pretty neat!)

Nintendo Mario Watch - Black

Nintendo Classic Mario Watch

Sonic Hedgehog Watch

Sonic the Hedgehog Watch

Toys and Collectibles

Have some young’uns in your life? Or just a collector yourself? Then behold some ideas for you!

Amiibo - Ridley

Look at him, standing there all menacing-like…

Amibo

The collectible that does more than collect dust on the shelf, it can unlock a wealth of content in compatible Nintendo games. For instance, in Smash (referenced in my previous post), using an amiibo unlocks a figure player to use and level up. Young and old, amiibo make the perfect stocking stuffer for your favourite person!*

*Just make sure they own a Switch or any other compatible Nintendo system first…

Nendoroid - Kratos

Kratos as you’ve never seen him before!

Nendoroids

Nendoroids are representations of your favourite gaming, anime and pop culture characters chibi-fied. These cute collectibles are highly poseable and come with a wealth of accessories so that you can recreate your favourite scenes! An excellent, albeit pricey, present to give!

Hasbro, makers of board games aplenty, seems to have a pretty good relationship with gaming IP’s of all kinds. Hence why you see icons like Mario slapped on Monopoly all the time. I haven’t had a real opportunity to play any new board games, so I can’t put forth any recommendations on that front.

Books

However, I can recommend a couple of books! For instance:

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Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology is a great companion to anyone playing God of War. It provides backstory to the many characters you see in the game and provides some context to some of the tales you hear from Mimir. I highly recommend paring this book with the game.

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The Little Red Writing Book is a great gift for the writer (or blogger!) to give this season. It’s got a Well Red Recommendation from the Well Red Mage himself. (I’m totally coining that one Red!). This book helped me a lot in terms of my writing, both here and on my fictional works, so it’s on my recommended list.

And now for a couple books that may seem out of place on a list like these, but here me out:

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If anyone you know is looking to make some changes for the new year, I recommend these two books. The Code of the Samurai and How to Live Like a Gentleman are books that have helped me become a Mature, Distinguished Gamer over the years and I find myself re-reading these on occasion.

And last but certainly not least:

Coffee Mugs

Of course on this list we can’t forget about coffee mugs! Here’s a few to look for:

Zelda Heat Changing Mug

Legend of Zelda Heat Changing Mug

Super Mario Turtle Mug

Super Mario Red Shell Mug

Spyro the Dragon 3D Sculpted Mug

Spyro 3-D Mug

PAC-MAN 20 oz. Sculpted Ceramic Mug

PAC-MAN Mug

Super Mario Group Photo Mug

Super Mario Group Picture Mug

Crash Bandicoot: Crash Mug

Crash Bandicoot Mug

Come To The Dorkside Mug

Come To The Dorkside Mug

Game Boy 16oz Heat Change Molded Mug

Game Boy Heat Changing Mug


And there you have it! All the ideas you’ll need over the next day and a half to get you shopping done! But don’t think these are only good for Christmas; you can pick up these items any time during they year as a gift for any occasion!

So, good luck on your shopping everyone! This is Ryan from Games with Coffee reminding you to stay safe during that mad rush, enjoy the holidays and the food and gifts they offer and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

See you at the end of the year!

The Second Annual Games with Coffee Last-Minute Christmas Shopping Guide! Part 1: Games!

Hey everyone! Welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee!

With Christmas just around the corner, I’m once again creating a list of last minute gift ideas that will be sure to please the cherished gamer in your life!*

*Results may vary.

Unlike last year’s list, I’ll be splitting this entry into two lists. The first will be solely about games and the other will be for gaming and pop culture merch (apparel, toys, collectibles, etc. ). Also, I won’t be supplying any links: I’m just here to supply the ideas to either jump start or help complete your Christmas shopping! The items I list here and in the next entry should be relatively easy to find/procure (Google and Amazon will be your best friends during this harrowing time…)

Warning: Shameless Plug Incoming!

Once you find that perfect gift or gifts, chances are you’ll need to wrap it up and put a neat little gift tag on it, right? Well, instead of some generic, boring tags you can find at the store, why not print out a set of really spiffy, hand-lettered tags made by my awesome wife, Usha from the blog Lettering by Usha!? For a paltry sum, you can get a PDF copy of a set of beautifully designed printable tags that you can print out, cut up and attach to your gift! Tags like these make a gift that much more personable, so when you’re done with this list, click here to get to her Etsy shop and pick up a set today!

End Shameless Plug!

Now, onto the list!


Nintendo [Switch]

Games-wise, the Big N’s second year post-Switch hasn’t been as exciting as the first year’s, but nevertheless, the Switch has a solid lineup of games. Surely, you’ll find the perfect one for that special someone in your life, but how’s about I provide a few suggestions?

Two of 2017’s best games are still perfect gifts to give to someone looking for a deep and riveting adventure to immerse themselves into! Super Mario Odyssey presents a fun, light story about Mario and his top-hat looking buddy, Cappy, as they journey through each kingdom to stop Bowser from marrying Princess Peach and rescue both her and Cappy’s sister, Tiara. Odyssey shows off the best that Mario platforming has to offer, borrowing heavily from games such as Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy. 

Breath of the Wild on the other hand, is one of the best Legend of Zelda games released in a long time. You can hear myself and my good friend, The Mail Order Ninja Mage (Daniel Flatt) talk highly of the game on The Well Red Mage’s podcast, Mage Cast. I’ll let you listen to that to tell you just how good of a game it is.

Splatoon 2 is also a great choice for the consummate FPS gamer owning a Switch. It operates differently than traditional shooter in that the focus is on inking turf for your team as opposed to blasting everything that moves. There are all kinds of modes to play and practically all of them focus on teamwork.

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Super Mario Party is also a great game to get this holiday season for family get-togethers. Like Smash, it’s the best version of its series released in recent years as it goes back to its roots and shows just how great Mario Party is. A definite holiday classic!

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If you’re aching for a JRPG with a classic, Final Fantasy feel, look no further to Octopath Traveler! I adored this game so much; eight separate stories focusing on a character’s particular struggle, fantastic battle and job systems and a beautiful graphical style that I hope is used more often in RPG’s of this caliber. Honestly, this should have won awards for Best RPG, but I digress.

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Seriously though, let’s get to the biggest game being released this holiday season: Super Smash Bros. UltimateUltimate is THE game to get this holiday season for anyone who owns a Switch. Don’t take my word for it, just talk to everyone about the hype this game has generated. Also talk to me about it because this game is off the CHAIN! The venerable multiplayer fighting series where fighters knock their opponents off-screen to win is the biggest iteration ever released, with over 70 characters, 100 stages, tons of game modes and endless hours of entertainment. Definitely, definitely recommended to get for Christmas!

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If online Smashing or Turf Inking is high on your special person’s priorities, consider picking up the Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Not only is it required to play online, but a subscription comes with access to a ton of old school NES games! Win-win.

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Sony [PlayStation 4/ Vita]

PlayStation 4 has had a banner year this 2018 with its list of exclusives. My biggest pick to get for the holiday season would be God of War, recent winner of Game of the Year at The Game Awards. God of War continues the story of the Kratos, former Greek God of War, who lives in the harsh, cold wilderness of Midgard, one of the Nine Realms in Norse Mythology. He had cast aside his old life and settled down with a wife and son up until his wife’s death. Her final wish was for Kratos and his son, Atreus, to climb to the highest peak in all the Nine Realms and scatter her ashes. And while that is the main objective of the story, the majority of the game tells the story of the bonds between father and son and the trials and tribulations they both endure throughout their journey.

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Another must-get exclusive on the list is Marvel’s Spider Man. Easily one of the best Spider Man games in a long time, Spider-Man continues Peter Parker’s story as the web-slinging superhero. It’s a game that’s on my radar to get for Christmas (*wink wink!*). From what I heard, the web-slinging mechanics are as good or better than the ones in Spider-Man 2 [PS2] (which I played a ton of!). Grab it and check it off your Christmas List!

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Want some more suggestions? Pick up Guacamelee! and Guacamelee! 2; Both are excellent games to play!

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Ni No Kuni 2 is a great choice as well for the RPG fan!

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Yakuza 6 is great for those who are fans of Action-RPG’s and badass ex-Yakuza bosses.

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Detroit: Become Human is an excellent choice for those who love narrative-based gameplay.

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The remastered Shadow of the Colossus is a masterpiece that can’t be missed.

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And last year’s fantastic exclusives, like Horizon: Zero Dawn, are also excellent gift ideas to give as well.

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There’s a fairly good chance that the majority of these aforementioned titles will be available for free on PS Plus, so why not get them a yearly subscription for them?! PlayStation Plus grants members access to multiplayer games, allows for free pick up of select games monthly and let’s players in on exclusive sale prices for games. A great gift idea IMO!

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Microsoft [Xbox One]

Xbox fans! Don’t think I left out you out of the loop! I don’t own one, but I know of many people who own the Microsoft system who have suggested some solid games to gift, like Sea of Thieves

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Forza Horizon 4

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Sunset Overdrive

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Gears of War 4

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Halo 5: Guardians

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and Rare Replay (My biggest recommendation due to all the great Rare games available on the compilation!).

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Another recommendation put forth to me is a game called RecoreIf your gamer is a big fan of old school gaming, this would be a good choice to get as well.

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And finally, the best gift that should be in every Xbox One gamer’s stocking is the XBox GamePass. AKA the “Netflix of Video Games,” GamePass grants Xbox One gamers access to a huge catalog of games all for a monthly subscription fee.

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With exclusives done with, onward now to third party/cross-platform games!


Third Party/Cross-Platform

Beyond the above exclusives, there are a ton of of other games to pick up, from third party games developed by well-known studios to indies that have made quite the impact.

Moonlighter is one of those indies that I want to pick up and was recommended to me by The Well Red Mage.

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CelesteI’ve recently played and I absolutely adored it! The game easily deserves the nods it gained for The Game Awards, especially the big win it earned for Best Independent Game.

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I recently started playing Undertale and it operates more as a thought experiment with RPG mechanics; it’s quite interesting, despite it being the older one in this list.

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Dead Cells is also high on the recommended list, as are other Metroidvania’s like Axiom Verge and a game I’m recently playing (for free this month on PS Plus): Iconoclasts.

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Once again, I’m recommending Stardew Valley to pick up;  a relaxing farming simulator that’s incredibly engaging. A multiplayer patch is about to drop on the Switch any minute, so it makes it worthwhile to pick up!

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Along with that is Shovel Knight; an excellent platformer whose title character is an Assist Trophy in Smash.

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SNK released a 40th Anniversary Collection of games, which includes titles like King of FightersMetal Slug and Crystalis.

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Capcom also joined in on the action, releasing the Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 and 2, consisting of the first eight Mega Man X games.

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Activision published the Spyro: Reignited trilogy; the first three Spyro games remade from the ground up in glorious HD.

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Even Sega got in on the retro re-release train, bringing out (yet another) collection series called Sega Ages – older titles given new life thanks to new modes and online leaderboards. The Hopeful Sega Mage and I had a lengthy discussion about this new collection that you can check out here.

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Dragon Ball FighterZ is one of the best Dragon Ball Z fighters since Budokai! I definitely need that one in my life, and it’s one I recommend as a gift!

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If assassinations and exploring Ancient Greece are your thing, go check out Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey! Highly recommended to me to play, so I’ll recommend it to you as well!

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SoulCaliber VI seems to be a return to form for the series (I haven’t played it yet – gave up after IV which I loved…), so that might be a good gift to get?

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Starlink: Battle for Atlas is one of the best spacefaring shooters I’ve played in recent memory. A combination of Star Fox, Skylanders and No Man’s SkyStarlink allows players to explore a bunch of different, visually stunning planets and liberate them from the Legion, all while giving the ability to hot-swap virtually every component on their ship with different pilots, ships, wings and weapons depending on the situation. Unlike most other Toys-to-Life games, Starlink allows players to purchase and download new weapons, ships and pilots without the use of the toys themselves. Arguably, the best part of this game is the additional Star Fox content for the Switch! With the Switch version, you get the Arwing, Fox McCloud as a pilot and a set of weapons, with an additional pilot and ship available digitally. On top of that, Team Star Fox has its own story mission that runs parallel with The Starlink Initiative; find Wolf O’Donnell, who’s fled Lylat after Andross’ defeat. It’s a great addition to the Starlink story!

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And finally, I cannot forget about Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2. If there was a game that was as highly anticipated as God of Warthis would be it. Set in the backdrop of the eve of the American West era, it weaves together an incredible story revolving around one last heist. Or so I’m told (I haven’t played it).

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And that’s Part 1 of the list! For more gift ideas, Part 2 is right behind this one, so go and check it out here!

With that, this is Ryan from Games with Coffee, hoping that your quest to get the perfect Christmas gift is successful and always reminding you Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!