Interview with NekoJonez by the Well-Red Mage

Today I want to bring you an article from a website that has totally rebranded. The website is of a good friend of mine, the Well Red Mage. Together with a lot of other co-writers he runs the amazing the-pixels.com. Before the rebranding, he did a series where he interviewed other bloggers. Now, during the rebranding, the decision was made to remove these articles. Since I personally really liked the article, I asked if I was allowed to rehome it. He agreed that I was allowed to republish the article and give it a new home here. An editorial note: this article was published at least 7 years ago. Around 2015-2016. Some information is out-of-date, and some branding has totally changed. But, please do enjoy this old blast from the past.

“Sharing your thoughts and feelings can help so much since you can feel so connected with people going through the same things.”

For our sixth blogger interview I had the pleasure of corresponding across the wide oceans with the collector extraordinaire, NekoJonez of arpegi.wordpress.com. I had a great time chatting and getting some substantial responses! If you’re interested in joining our series of interviewees, but don’t know how, then improve ze mind! Check out our post “Introducing Blogger Interviews“.

“Hello again, NekoJonez!
It is about time we started your interview! Yay, get excited! Let’s start off with the question: How long have you been a gamer?”

“Hello there, I’m pretty excited to do this. I have been a gamer since I was about 4 years old. The year was 1996. I got my first experiences with early computer games and the best handheld line ever made; the Game Boy and DS line. I wasn’t allowed to play consoles when I was a child and I didn’t get a lot of computer time… So, I played a lot on my Game Boy. I ran through so many batteries when I was little, I think the battery companies earned a fortune from my pocket money. Mario & Yoshi, Pokémon, Pac-Man, Tetris, Zelda: Link’s Awakening are just a few games I have played back then.”

Can’t go wrong with the Game Boy. Such an influential system and so accessible for us as children. What was your favorite game for the original green and black Game Boy?

“That’s a very difficult question to answer. Since there have been so many great titles on the green & black Game Boy. Games like Kirby’s Dreamland, Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Super Mario Land 2 are honorable mentions. But if I have to choose, I have to go for the most predictable of them all. Pokémon Red & Blue. There is no game in the Game Boy library that can top that and the childhood memories it created. But, truth to be told, I started playing on the Game Boy Color quite quickly since the old Game Boy brick broke… Thanks to battery acid. Yeah. Right before my birthday. Not too long after, I got my own Game Boy Color, which I still own.”

“Ooh, rest in peace, classic Game Boy.
Wherever you are. Great list of games by the way. It’s hard to overstate how insane those original Pokémon games were when they came out. Still remember your favorite first-gen Pokémon?”

“Yes, and my favorite first-gen Pokémon isn’t picked because it’s the strongest or the best Pokémon in the generation… It’s just because both my nickname and my personality. Also, I loved his character in the anime! Yes, it’s the cat Pokémon, Meowth. The Alola region variant is also in my personal favorite color. Silver-y. . Little story time: I was known as the catlover in primary school and when we played Pokémon on the playground; I always got the role of Meowth or Giovanni. Which is strange, since I’m kindhearted and caring by nature.”

“I can hear Meowth’s grating voice and urban accent already!
So beyond a love for Game Boy, tell us a little more about yourself!”

 “I’m NekoJonez. A 23-year Belgian man who works in education. My biggest hobbies are writing, playing games, blogging and acting on stage. Besides games, I like to watch anime to chill. I’m also studying to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science. I love playing games, it doesn’t matter to me when they are released. … Oh, before I forget, I also collect games since I was a child. So, I’m quite proud of my collection too.” 🙂

“Where did the name NekoJonez come from? Neko is ‘Cat’ in Japanese is it not?
I’m guessing Meowth maybe had something to do with that.”

“Well, it has a history. Neko is indeed the Japanese for cat. Because I love cats and I have a big interest in everything that’s Japanese… I added Neko to my nickname. But that addition was only added like 5-6 years ago. Jonez comes from something else. When I was 7 years old, I think, my aunt and I went to a video rental store. I was allowed to rent Indiana Jones and The Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Oh man, I was hooked. My cousin got this amazing PC game of Indiana Jones. It was called, The Infernal Machine. And yeah, I know it from the first level to the last by heart. And because of that, people started calling me Jones. And… as a child I was afraid for getting sued for copyright, so I changed the last letter to a ‘Z’.”

“That’s a charming story! So you’re like a feline treasure hunter. From Belgium!
Are the waffles really famous there?”

“Kind of, but there is one Belgian product way more popular: French fries. In some households it’s a big tradition to go and get fries each week. We also have special stores that only sell French Fries and special meat with it, besides the usual chains. But the waffles are most popular in our capital with tourists. I personally love the one with chocolate on top and sugar in it. Man, those are tasty.”

“Now I want waffles…
How long have you been writing/blogging for and how did you get started? Was it like a sudden epiphany or something?”

“The writing is something that started when I was a child. When I watched movies, read a book, played a game… I was so interested in why people got drawn into the story. So, I tried to write my own. With various levels of success. I once got in the finals of a competition in early high school with a story I wrote in 15 minutes. But in 2010, I thought to myself…. What if I can share my love of games with the world and start reviewing? I’m not too good at designing and things like that, so I ditched the video review idea. I still wanted to share my gaming life with my family, so I can avoid the usual questions of ‘what are you playing and what do you think of it?’ Around early May 2010, I created my blog. I first started to write in Dutch. Since I wanted to share my reviews and such with my family and friends. That was a fun journey. It taught me a lot on the basics of blogging. I once got into a small argument with a TV-channel here. In 2013, I both stopped my Dutch blog, archived it and replaced it with my current English blog. And when my articles got picked up by other blogs, my own blog started growing.”

“That’s pretty cool writing in different languages.
What was the argument with the TV-channel about?”

“Well, it was right around the first E3 presentation of the 3DS. Back then, there was a Belgian gaming TV-channel covering the event. And when the Nintendo event got covered, they did it in such a bad manner… I wrote a lengthy article about it, giving my views and arguments on it. To my surprise, in the next episode, they mentioned my blog by name! They also left a comment on my blog kindly inviting me to the studio to record an episode with them. Sadly enough, I wasn’t able to go, but I still have the article and comment archived somewhere. But yeah, TV-exposure really boosted my blog and from then on out, I went from 2-5/visitors a day to 20-50/visitors a day. And it was a big boost for me since they actually agreed with some of my arguments! Sadly enough, I haven’t recorded the actual shout out and the TV-channel doesn’t exist anymore. Otherwise, I would have posted a link, so it could be added in this interview.”

“Wow, that’s some really awesome exposure.
What are your current thoughts on Nintendo, the Switch or the NES Mini?”

“About the NES Mini, I’m both happy and afraid. I’m happy that people get to play retro games on a dedicated box. This would put retro games more in the spotlight. It does make me afraid though, since now it’s possible I get even more competition when I’m hunting games down at garage sales and flea markets. And the Nintendo Switch looks like an amazing concept to me. Like, it’s almost made for me. I love playing my handheld since I’m on the go a lot. But when I’m home, I can play my games on a big screen. LOVELY. I know that Skyrim is being ported to the Switch, but if I may choose one game that could be ported to the Switch, it’s the Bioshock Trilogy. But the Nintendo Switch has a ton of potential, and I’m avoiding reading up about it as much as I can. So, I can be blown away and amazed when it comes out.” 

“I think I can echo most of those thoughts as well.
Here in the states, the accessibility of the NES Mini is next to nothing. Like it’s impossible to find. I’ve got a visually retro themed blog, so obviously I’d like to get my hands on it whenever that becomes possible. I’m excited about the Nintendo Switch too! Tell me, what would be the best thing you think the Switch could do to be amazing, and conversely what would absolutely ruin the Switch for you?”

“The Switch would be great if it enhanced our way of play. I would love to see games take advantage of the fact that the Switch is portable and a console. Just imagine for a second, you go on a physical Pokémon hunt and when you plug the Switch in, you can have Pokémon battles on a big screen. Think of the possibilities.

“What would ruin the Switch for me is when the battery life sucks. It’s marketed as being portable and fun for the whole family. Also, I hope that the first games that are released for it isn’t all Wii U ports. I want something new and fresh in the launch titles too. But actually thinking about it… Something that raises a red flag is the facts it’s portable too. I am worried that developers will have trouble with it. Since the way how handheld games work versus console games… Time will tell on that. We could spend hours and hours speculating about amazing ideas and red flags for the Switch, but I think we should wait for when more information drops.”

“The battery life will be a big one for sure.
What about your collection you’re so proud of? Care to share more on that?”

“I have been a collector for a long time. It all started because my family and parents found games too expensive to buy. So, when they found out that you can buy big titles on a garage sale, they took me to garage sales. And I love it. Now, I go to various garage sales and thrift stores to let my collection grow. I also talk to coworkers and friends and ask them if they don’t need their old games anymore. So, most of my collection comes from there. I have posted some pictures a while ago, but I always wanted to write and create an updated list of my collection, but it’s such a big project, I rarely find the time for it. I love getting up early to go and buy games for my collection. Something I’m most proud of is the fact that I have a collection with games that interest me, have a history, can be interesting to review on my blog, have some major value. I also have one rule, I try to avoid buying games on sites like eBay or buying them online. I wish to find them all in the wild. And that’s something else I’m quite proud of.”

“That is really cool! You must have some good luck with thrift stores and yard sales.
Seems like nobody in my town is selling stuff like this anymore. What is one of the rarest items in your collection? And which item are you most proud of?”

“Well, I have two different versions of Pokémon Crystal v1.0 and v1.1, I have StarFox on the SNES boxed. I also have a means to play almost every Zelda game released. The most rare items are a few games that were only released here in Belgium. Like educational titles. Those are extremely hard to find in my native language. And some educational titles from other countries in Europe that got translated into English. I enjoy playing educational titles once in a while. Freddi Fish is one of my childhood favorites. If I have to pick the item I’m most proud off, well… It’s my (3)DS. Since I have played so many games on both those devices, it’s ridiculous.”

“That’s awesome! Sounds like a breathtaking collection.
I wish I could just come over for the weekend to hang out. Haha! Well in wrapping this up let me ask you for a bit of encouraging wisdom, if I may. There are many people who are lonely this time of year. What would you say to some of them if you could?”

“If you have family, go and do something with your family. If you have a pet, give it an additional present this time of year. Also, don’t stay lonely. Go out in the world and explore. Go to events and try to enjoy yourself. Instead of keeping the feeling inside, seriously talk about it with family and friends. Seriously, life will be a lot more fun this way. You will have a lot more stories and experiences. And honestly, start to blog and/or vlog. Sharing your thoughts and feelings can help so much since you can feel so connected with people going through the same things.”

“I hope those words touch someone who needs to hear them.
Well, it’s been a real pleasure talking with you across the oceans! Thanks very much for spending your time with me.”

“You’re welcome. Thanks for the interview! Have a great rest of your day!”

End Transmission.

Review: The Legend Of Zelda – Minish Cap (GBA) ~ Easiest Zelda Game?

The_Legend_of_Zelda_The_Minish_Cap_Game_CoverZelda wiki entry

Ah man, I have a ton of memories of this game. I played this game when I didn’t have enough money to buy games myself. I was quite young. If I remember correctly, I was just getting into high school. So, I was 11 – 12 years old when I rented this game from the video game store. I almost finished the game before my rent time was over. So, after I returned it, I rented it the next weekend. As it turned out, somebody else rented it and saved over my save file. I was so let down, I actually didn’t play the game that much. After a year or two, my local game store stopped renting out games. They sold them all second hand. Then I bought this game and I finished it in a week. But how was my experience? Well, let’s take a look at it! And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game. 

Easy?

45103-The_Legend_of_Zelda_-_The_Minish_Cap_(U)(DCS)-6So, I claim in my title that this is the easiest Zelda game in the series. And I stand by that claim. This game is rather on the easy side. Not only that, it’s quite short. But more on that, later.

The story in this game tells the story how Link got his green hat. Once every 1000 years, there is a special festival for the Minish. A race that helped create the master sword. Link is the grandson of the blacksmith with the Princess Zelda as childhood friend.

You get asked to deliver a sword to the King. After you play a bit around on the festival, you see Vaati, the winner of the sword contest destroy the Master Sword and turn Zelda into stone.

That’s all I’m going to “spoil” from the story. (It are the first ten minutes of the game anyways.) The story is pretty well crafted. The characters are memorable and written pretty well. There is one thing that Nintendo implemented that I’m not a big fan off. That are the Kingstones.

These stones are pretty much the ways you open secrets in this game. You find them all over the world and your goal is to match your piece with somebody else. Then you open a cave or something along those lines. On paper, this can be interesting… But in theory, it isn’t. The two flaws here is that you see where the secret opens AND you have way and way to many Kingstones in the end. This gives the Kingstones less value and ruins the fun.

New items

zelda_minish_capGraphically, this game looks amazing. It gives off some Wind Waker vibes. The world is really colorful and bright. It’s really pleasant to look at.

The animations also give off this Wind Waker vibe. There isn’t anything I didn’t like about the visual presentation of this game.

What I really liked in this game was the world design. In this game, you can shrink down to a really small size, to the size of the Minish. This makes some locations that more memorable. When I replayed this game I often thought: “Oh hey, there are Minish living in this roof.” Oh, also, like in the Legend Of Zelda Link’s Awakening, this game also has references to the Mario games. Have fun looking for them!

In this game, you get some classical Zelda items like the boomerang and the bow and arrow. Yet, there are also some new items. The Mole Mitts you can use to dig your way in certain areas. A special cane that helps you flip over enemies and an upgraded Roc’s feather. You get a special cape to jump around. This cape also makes your jump longer. Oh yeah, and the vacuum cleaner… I mean the gust jar. This nifty item can suck up air and spit it back out. Guess what it’s used in a water puzzle.

The items are used very creatively. But one part that is introduced extremely well is the Four Swords. When you defeat a dungeon, you get a new element. With this element, you can create clones of Link in certain places. This makes the puzzles in some areas really well done.

Earlier in the review I said that this game was easy. To a seasoned Zelda player, this game can be easily beaten. When this is your first Zelda game, it will take you a bit longer. I felt that in some areas, the game could be a bit harder. It’s one of those games you play through because it’s a fun game. The atmosphere is there.

Music

 45103-The_Legend_of_Zelda_-_The_Minish_Cap_(U)(DCS)-16The music in this game is one of the strongest points in this game. When I listen to music from the GBA, I think that there aren’t that many soundtracks that sound as nice on the gameboy advance then this one. At least, as far that I played.

The soundtrack also has some remixed tracks from the previous games. This got a smile on my face.

The sound design is well done. There weren’t any sounds I thought were out of place.

The controls are responsive and spot on. I didn’t have much trouble controlling Link. Apart from some ice puzzles, I think the controls are perfect.

This game isn’t that long. Instead of the usual 8 dungeons and one final dungeon, this game has 6 dungeons. I wished there were a bit more dungeons then that.

In any case, I think I said everything I wanted to say about this game. It’s time for the conclusion! (Oh, for my new readers… Yes, I left some things out. Gameplay wise and such… Just because if you are interested I want that there things that you can discover.)

Conclusion

The bad:

 – Kingstones aren’t well implemented.

 – This game isn’t that difficult.

 – I wished this game was longer.

The good:

+ Solid gameplay.

+ Fun new story.

+ Nice visuals.

+ Great music and sound design.

+ Fun new items.

+ …

Final thoughts:

This game is quite well made. It came out near the end of the Gameboy advance’s life cycle… So, it’s a bit overlooked. While it’s not the best Zelda game out there, it’s a really good one. Apart from Zelda fans, I would recommend this game to any new Zelda player. This game is the perfect entry level Zelda game to start with the series.

While this game has some flaws, I think it doesn’t take much away from the experience. I didn’t find that much negative things to say about this game. That’s why I give it full marks. It’s one of the best games out on the GBA and it’s a must own!

Score: 100/100

Anyways, thank you for reading this review and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to welcome you in another article sometime, but until then… Have a great day and game on~

NekoJonez: Are digital downloads really a benefit for the market?

steamos_2_web-100055303-large_thumbAre platforms like Steam and Origin really a benefit for the games market? Must everything now go digital or is that something that might doom the market? Let’s think about it. I think that this movement is a double-edged sword. It’s good but there is a big “But”. Cap was intended. I can’t deny that platforms like Steam and other have many advantages. But clearly, I have also a blaming finger to raise. I talked and discussed with many of my friends about this. From people in ButtonSmashers, Arpegi and outside of both of them. And after many rewrites, I think it’s time to voice my view on this. Feel free to debate with me on this in the comments. Flame comments will be removed of course. 

My biggest problem

Many people see this as the way of the future. Everything needs to go digital. It makes things so much easier. Yet, there is a big issue that comes with this. Security. Think about this, that your account is hacked and you lost all your progress and games. Or worse, they got your bank information. I have no doubt in my mind that this is something hackers in the future will be able to achieve.

Another issue is the fact that privacy is gone. Some people want to hide that they game since for some companies that are a big no if you want to be hired. Gamers have a big reputation thanks to some events that the media blew out of proportion. So, you have to hide. In addition to that, you can’t really hide your “guilty pleasure” games anymore. You know, those games that make your reputation of “hardcore gamer” go poof as snow for the sun.

And don’t get me started about abusing the system. There are some many ways to cheat the system and make fake money that can be used to buy games then. I wouldn’t be surprised if a good percentage of the sales on those digital platforms are actually illegal purchases gone undetected.

Android market feel

 

Best-Free-Android-Games-Of-2013I’m not going to lie, I bought a ton of games on Steam the past month. But I really man, a lot of them. And my fear got actually confirmed. I felt like being in some online app store. Where you can easily download games and install them. And I kept playing a part of the game and when I got a bit bored of the game, I downloaded the next one.

Isn’t that a bit harsh? There can be boring moments in a game but when you wouldn’t have this Steam or Origin, it was your newest game and then your motivation was higher. At least in my case.

Also, as a retro gamer, I saw that nearly all the games I played in the past are on Steam as well. I’m afraid I won’t survive any sale if one happens of a game on my wishlist.

My point here is that it became too easy to find new games and you start to think less about your budget. It’s not new that I hear people say that they got a ton of games from a sale but if you really look to it, how many games are actually played and or finished from the ones they bought? Probably not all of them.

Big dogs smelled money.

Before I explain my next point, I want to talk about another thing. I’m a big-time collector. If I’m at a garage sale, my mood is like: “Buy all the games!”. If I had the money for it, I would. Yet, going to a garage sale and trying to hassle or look for a game. That feeling of going home with a new stack of games felt so rewarding. And that’s a feeling I have lost with Steam and Origin. You just push in some numbers and do one or two clicks. You can’t hassle or try to lower the price. And looking for a game is just a search away.

But this is actually a nightmare for collectors. Physical copies are a thing of the past. I love being able to hold a game in my hands and showing it off to my friends and being like: “Hey, look I got this new game.” That might be a bit bragging but hey, who doesn’t do that from time to time?

But what in the name of the good games are big companies like Atari and Square doing on Steam? Selling their big titles like Call of Duty, Final Fantasy and various other franchises. Honestly, I don’t think it’s good for that. If I would be Steam, I would have only allowed indie or start-up developers to make their big entree in the market.

Scary

I’m also afraid that the ease of DLC for developers on Steam might slowly be the new norm. The satire game DLC Quest might become the future reality one day. In this game, you can’t even go left at the start of the game. You have to buy the DLC for it when you have enough in-game coins. And I have this one game called Tomb Raider that has a big load of DLC and yeah, I bought it all. Just because I hate when I don’t have the complete package.

One of the final issues I can come up with is maybe one of the scariest things. The fact you and those developers become independent (Edit: Thanks for noticing my mistake here BloodCat.) from one company. Image how big of a catastrophe it would be if Steam went bankrupt. Or when they couldn’t handle the server load and much data is lost. Scary thought no? Or that they become so big that local game stores go out of business. Many jobs lost.

In conclusion

I can’t deny that platforms like Steam or Origin are great things. Many indie developers can show off their games. You can also buy games that your local game store might not offer. And if those stores are too far away, you can easily buy them on those platforms.

But if you look at it, there are big flaws in this system you can’t deny. I won’t go explaining them again since I talked about it in this article. I’m sure that I forgot some things in my article but I’m sure that I got the most crucial written down.

Maybe a good message is that you shouldn’t forget that there are retailers and various other things to get your games outside of Steam and Origin. It’s such a nice thing in our gaming culture so let’s not go to a culture where we sit in front of a computer and don’t much a muscle to get our games since you can easily get them on Steam.