The Fall of Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online, at its finest.

Note: the text below contains spoilers of every sort, from both the first and second seasons of Sword Art Online. Viewer discretion is advised.

The first season of Sword Art Online (SAO) starts with a few stumbles, lurches forward into a steady trot, and soon sprints towards greatness with the same wide-eyed determination that protagonist Kirito exhibits when leaping into battle. It tackles a variety of fascinating issues, and introduces us to a surprisingly unique pair of lovers -- especially when compared to the greater pantheon of anime heroes.

And in fourteen episodes, Sword Art Online has reached a level of tension and drama that few anime could ever claim to achieve.

But then it all comes crashing down, and we're berated with eleven more episodes that assault us with so many troubling stereotypes, I have to wonder if Director Tomohiko Ito and his writers were coerced into changing the direction of the series midway through (or perhaps were unfairly bound by the source material). Sword Art Online is the most disappointing anime I've ever seen, and I do not write those words lightly.

 

Kirito.

But let's take a few steps back. This is the first anime series that Neethi (my wife) and I watched together. We've seen plenty of shows before, of course, but usually I've already screened them, and I select ones that I think she might enjoy with me. With Sword Art Online, we both went in blind, based on the recommendation of an anime-watching friend (Hi Alisa! I don't blame you!). I originally planned to watch it myself, but Neethi asked if she could join in just for fun, and we ended up sticking it out together.

This made the first season of Sword Art rather special for us. As a newly-wed couple, we were treated to a story of two young people falling in love, despite the many troubles around them. It clicked with us at once.  This is in large part due to the strength of Kirito and Asuna as characters, who both shine as examples of "new age" anime heroes that defy the tired stereotypes we all know and love/dread.

Kirito is a brooding loner, yes -- that much we've seen before. But we witness his transformation much earlier than we might expect, and his growing love for Asuna is adorable and delightful in almost every way. It's devoid of the common sexual perversions found in anime, and it’s also mutually respectful. Their love blossoms from their partnership in battle -- a respect and honor that you rarely see in young couples. And instead of Asuna acting as the helpless damsel that needs saving, we see both she and Kirito protect each other. Seeing them fight side-by-side is such a thrill, as their love underlies their awe-inspiring coordination. They attack together, they defend together.

Yuuki Asuna.

Speaking of Asuna... Oh Asuna, a legend of our time! Here we have a female character so notable, so incredible, that I was shocked to see her in an anime at all. She's introduced with immense modesty, a cloak wrapped around her to hide her sex and beauty in a predominately male environment. I found this almost chillingly realistic, seeing as how so many female gamers feel compelled to hide their identity online in order to avoid abuse. A very real, very sad fact.

But soon she makes herself known. And her skill, authority, and courage rocket to the heavens. And, despite a slightly impractical skirt for battle, she achieves these feats with an attire most befitting a warrior! It's effeminate, but not (overly) sexualized. In fact, the most intimate moment we have with Asuna is not when she undresses in front of Kirito due to a delightful misunderstanding, but when she's lying next to him in bed much later, her back made bare by her nightclothes. This simple moment, shot from an unassuming angle, speaks volumes to the character and integrity of the Sword Art Online staff. It’s romantic, sweet, but never disrespectful to Asuna’s character.

(Not to say the first season is immune to its anime clichés. Most of the other female characters aren't nearly as noteworthy as Asuna, but we must celebrate our victories where we can.)

Together.

These strong character dynamics make Sword Art Online more than notable on their own, but the series' grasp on our collective fear of death, and how that fear influences our behavior, makes the story even more special. Even though everything in the first season is "virtual," the danger always feels real, and my fingers would tighten around Neethi's hand whenever our beloved heroes would enter a boss room or face a saboteur.

But all too suddenly, Kirito, Asuna, and the rest of the SAO players are freed from their long, long imprisonment. The beautiful world around them crumbles in a burst of sunlit color, and Kirito and Asuna enjoy one last moment together, side by side, as they watch their lives change.

And then Kirito wakes. And stumbles down the hospital hallway in search for the wife that he never truly met. It's sudden, perhaps premature, but utterly exhilarating.

Then season two starts. And Sword Art Online regresses into an almost infantile state, shedding any and all socially progressive thoughts in favor of an overtly sexualized female lead, embarrassing animation, and a once-great heroine reduced to the damsel in distress.

First, the most problematic of the issues above: Kirigaya Suguha. Kirito's sister, who previously was an unseen motivation and driving force in Kirito's exploits, emerges as a sexualized cliché with incestuous tendencies. Such tendencies aren't exactly groundbreaking in anime, as we all know. I'm, sadly, quite used to them. But to see them here, and in this way, is heartbreaking.

 

Sugu. Why this angle? I wonder...

The writers try and wave any dangers of this away by quickly explaining that she and Kirito aren't real siblings -- only cousins. But that's not much better, right? At least from our current understanding of family and biology, this is still an extremely troubling situation. So most of the entire season awkwardly attempts to both justify and exploit Sugu's feelings for her brother. And all the while we sit back and shield our eyes as close-ups of her chest and panties are peppered into almost every episode. It’s almost depressing, to see the series resort to such things.

This plot twist could have been so easily avoided, too! We learn that Kirito and Sugu had a pained relationship early on. Use that! Why not build on their friendship inside ALO? As they fight and fail to understand each other in the real world, they bond and connect inside a game. And the revelation of their identities helps heal their once strained relationship.

But no. Sugu has to be in love with her cousin. Because why not?

Meanwhile, the incredible Asuna is placed in a literal birdcage, given a more revealing outfit, and faced with an omnipresent threat of sexual violence. She is stripped of her power, groped by a slime creature, and only has a handful of spoken lines for the entire season.

What... what happened?

Where did strong characters go? What happened to the thrill of real-world death in a virtual space? Why remove Asuna from the equation? Why thrust Sugu into such an old and perverse plotline, with very little care as to how it’s handled?

Fond memories.

Neethi echoes most of my concerns with the second season. She loved Asuna and Kirito as I did, and was disgusted by the sudden shift between seasons. I had to urge her to keep an open mind, as she considered stopping partway through. And even though we soldiered on together, both of us were thoroughly puzzled. We would sit in silence after each episode, shaking our heads in disbelief.

How could it fall so fast, and so far?

No matter the reason, it's easy for me to point to Sword Art Online as the biggest disappointment in my long experience with anime. I'm so thankful to have watched the first season with Neethi. And I almost wish, just a little bit, we would have stopped earlier. Before the heart-pounding battle with Heathcliff. Before the confrontation with the Skull Reaper. Before they escaped the bittersweet confines of Aincrad. So we could forever remember Kirito and Asuna's precious few moments in their lakeside cabin, enjoying a simple and quiet love together, 'till the end of their days.

Cheers. 

Attack on Titan: Early Thoughts

Lo! where the Giant on the mountain stands,
His blood-red tresses deep’ning in the sun,
With death-shot glowing in his fiery hands,
And eye that scorcheth all it glares upon.
— Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812-18) canto 1, st. 39

 Facing off at last.

I'm only on episode 6. Please no spoilers! Similarly, if you haven't watched the first few episodes, skip this blog until you do! 

After watching the first episode of Attack on Titan, I was greeted with two polarizing emotions. In one instant, I was instantly smitten with the whole thing, especially considering my affinity for giant, fantasy walls.

(Not even joking. Just look at my obsession with The Old Kingdom series and A Song of Ice and Fire. I guess I really like walls)

So, in the shocking first few seconds of the series, a massive, steaming hand grasps the top of humanity's last wall of defense, and a horrifying face glares down on all of mankind. It's one of the finest openings of an anime I've seen in a while, and I was taken with it at once.

But then... in a scene later in the episode, we see scouts/soldiers returning from an expedition into Titan territory. Their unit is completely decimated, and wounded men glare broodingly at the ground, bloodied and beaten. An old woman shoulders through the crowd asking for her son Moses. The commander hands her a shroud, with Moses' arm inside. And then the yelling starts, complete with traditional anime speed lines, as I call them. 

I almost laughed. 

Despite the gravity of the situation, the radical approach to this scene left me baffled. The woman's pained sobs would have been more than enough to convey the tragedy, but the commander loses his sh*t and freaks out, screaming on and on. The emotional escalation here is simply too sudden to feel at all plausible, and I immediately questioned if I could take the rest of the show seriously. 

But, for better or worse, I soon realized that Attack on Titan is almost comically serious. In fact, certain scenes tease the characters for having such emotional reactions, like Eren's gaunt facial expressions when he's surprised or disappointed by something. Attack on Titan embraces this abundance of emotion and overreaction. And it even plays it up as a gag when the mood's right. Once you get past this, the series is much more enjoyable. 

 Eren, being a badass.

And there's actually a lot to enjoy. Like a great deal of anime out there, the quality of the animation is terribly inconsistent. Some scenes have a skeletal level of detail, with stiff character animations and precious few frames of motion. And yet, I suspect this is to clear the way for the combat scenes, which go far beyond the limits of action.

All hail the 3D Maneuver Gear! When our heroes careen through trees and over rooftops, the world a wash of color around them, Attack on Titan truly shines. Rarely does an anime capture that sense of speed and urgency better than what you see in this show. I almost suck in my breath as Eren and his fellow members of the Survey Corps whip up and around the Titans with swords glinting.

Mikasa, an amazing character.

But I'd like to make a special note about one of the best characters in the series: Mikasa Ackerman.  What a fine example of a female character in Japanese animation. Not only is she graceful, courageous, and beautiful, but she also manages to be strong -- without sacrificing her femininity. More importantly, she wears the same clothing as the male characters, and doesn't show extra skin by default! How refreshing.

I also appreciate her relationship with Eren. She vows to protect him, not the other way around. She keeps him grounded. She loves him completely, and that fuels her drive to fight. Assuming her character doesn't change radically in the episodes I've yet to watch, she seems like the kind of hero that women could look up to. At the very least, I look up to her very much.

Lastly, the plot twist. I, unfortunately, spoiled Eren's upcoming changes for myself while browsing the internet. I haven't actually seen this happen yet in the series, but I know it's coming. And it remains my biggest concern with the show as a whole. I fear that Attack on Titan could have been so much more if it kept that element out of the plot. The action is more thrilling when the heroes are so dwarfed by the Titans. They're vulnerable. And I loathe that this intentional imbalance is about to change in their favor.

But I still need to see it first. Perhaps it's handled in a great way. Only time, and a few hours of viewing, will tell! 

Until then, I'll leave you with one of the greatest parody videos ever created. 

Cheers.

 

The Delights of Drowning in Digital

For the sake of extreme clarity, let's begin here: I write to you from a place of immense good fortune and privilege.

Many gamers in the world are young and lacking in funds. Some are students struggling to make book payments, others come from big families with small bank accounts. Others still are faced with debt, tough decisions, or part-time jobs. Medical bills and marriages. All of them, despite their circumstances, still throw their efforts into gaming. I love them for that. I respect them for that. And I empathize with them to whatever degree I can.

I wasn't always in this position. I once had to save up allowances for months just to afford a single used game. I was a student who could barely afford a new controller, let alone the latest release. I was a new hire fresh out of college, with the crushing weight of Bay Area rent payments bleeding away my earnings. And even still, those problems were worlds away from the challenges that others face when food and shelter are their uncertainties -- not falling behind on leaderboards.

 Azure Dreams. Many old memories.

A great deal of the credit goes to my mother and father, who fought their way into higher education despite economic and social stumbling blocks that would have overcome the best of us. They pushed, dragged, and crawled through their early 20's and built a life for me. Without their efforts, who's to say where I'd be? 

But now, I have an incredible job and a supportive partner. With our combined incomes, we can not only live comfortably, but also afford fun purchases. I needn't writhe in guilt when I download something off PSN or Steam. Through these many blessings, my gaming library has grown exponentially since it's meager beginnings.

These turns of fate have emphasized a bittersweet problem with digital media today -- one that I've mentioned many times before. There's too much. There's simply too much of everything for one person to appreciate. 

It's a wonderful problem to have, to be sure, but it's sobering. There a games, films, books, and albums out there that I might very well claim are my "favorites of all time" -- and I will never know them. Our world is too vast, and our lives too small to experience all the things we might love. Many that have lived before me have been greeted by this same problem. "Life's too short," they all said. As I've grown older, I've seen the truth in it. 

Consider how much time you can spend with some games. I have a friend that's spent more than 800 hours in Guild Wars 2. A colossal investment! And that's just one  game in the hundreds, the thousands, that she could have selected. And that's just in the realm of games! Think of all the films and books that debut every day that we'll never enjoy.

It's exciting. It's horrifying. 

 Guild Wars 2.

And as we age, our free time slips away. We must dedicate our lives to our careers, our loved ones, and our children. How long ago it seems, those weekends when I'd seal myself in our basement gaming room and emerge bleary eyed and hungry after sweeping marathons and unbroken quests. For those of you gamers still enjoying such unbridled freedom in your gaming habits: savor it. It worms out of your grasp so quickly. 

I remind myself, almost every day, of how fortunate I am to live this life. I have food, shelter, and abundant love from my family and friends. I have drawers full of movies, hard drives brimming with games, and a metric ton of unopened Magic cards I should really organize. And there's so much more out there that will go unplayed, unwatched, unused. And yet still that catalogue of possibilities grows by the second.

Our only solace, one that I have insisted on repeating throughout my time as a writer and purveyor of gaming critique: cherish everything. Even if you can only play one game this year, let it invade your heart. Savor its highs and lows, both. Celebrate it. You cannot possibly entertain everything this life has to offer you, so enjoy what you can.

In despair there are the most intense enjoyments, especially when one is very acutely conscious of the hopelessness of one’s position.
— Fedor Dostoevsky, 1821-81

Cheers. 

Joining the PlayStation Family

Like many of you in the gaming community, I have memories of PlayStation going back more than a decade.

I recall my wide-eyed wonder watching Battle Arena Toshinden and Warhawk flash across my television in all their three-dimensional glory. I can still feel the uncertainty in my fingers as I worked out the location of X, Triangle, Circle, and Square. Now those buttons feel more like an extension of my hand.

And I remember Final Fantasy VII. Even still, the sound of that train cutting through Midgar's perpetual darkness coaxes an ache out of my heart; the dozens of hours I spent with Avalanche, which defined me as a gamer and -- perhaps -- as an individual.

So it was with great pleasure and supreme honor that I accepted a position at Sony Computer Entertainment America, to work alongside an incredible team on an incredible brand. This opportunity is made all the sweeter by my time at IGN, in which I befriended many past and present Sony staff, and also fell in love with the PlayStation community through my contributions to Podcast Beyond.

Kevin Butler, VP of New Opportunities.

When I was made aware of the opening at PlayStation, following my departure from Deep Silver, I realized how fortuitous of an opportunity it was. My role at PlayStation is "Social Media Specialist." At first glance, that might seem like a position focused entirely on social media platforms. And while I eventually will help the team with their work on Facebook and Twitter, my larger efforts will be spent with the upkeep of the PlayStation Blog.

In this task, I can further develop the skills that I built while writing at IGN. I can continue to write and edit video game content, as well as cover industry events. But I do so now as an official representative of Sony. And, if you haven't heard, PlayStation is incredibly well poised for the coming generation of consoles. To work on such a legendary platform, at such an exciting time, is seriously a dream-come-true.  And that's why I, yet again, feel so blessed to belong in this industry, and to enjoy the company and wisdom of so many talented people.

So please visit the PlayStation Blog and see what the team has in store. Though I still have quite a few things to learn in this new role, I'm (Beyond!) eager to delve back into video game writing and editing.

I look forward to seeing you on the blog, on PSN, and at PS4's launch. Greatness awaits, or so I've heard...

Cheers! 

 

P.S. For the few of you curious: yes, I will continue writing the Eras stories on weekends! I'm thrilled for the next one -- and I hope you are too. ^_^ 

 

Pacific Rim: Launch is a Go

 Gipsy Danger.

When the electric guitar riff kicked up amidst a torrent of metal and lights, I knew that Pacific Rim would be a fun movie. Not necessarily a "good film," but a fun movie. Any anime or Japanese monster fan, I imagine, knew the exact same thing.

We needn't spend time plucking Pacific Rim to pieces. Fans of director Guillermo del Toro already know his love for video games and nerd culture. We adore him for that. Most of us could easily list off all the influences that Pacific Rim had, and the nods that co-writer Travis Beacham included in its conception. We can largely ignore the corny dialogue, and the baffling direction giving to Charlie Day and Burn Gorman in their absolutely manic "dueling scientist" shtick.

What we really need to do is celebrate the thing that Pacific Rim did best, and it's one of my absolute guiltiest pleasures: giant robot launch sequences.  Not the robots themselves, which were already spectacular, but the launch sequences. 

Like many of you, my love for giant robot launch sequences started with Neon Genesis Evangelion, which I conveniently wrote about in my previous blog. I still remember the thundering drums, the mind-boggling digital displays, the barked status reports, the LCL-filled entry plugs, the bolts and restraints, and -- of course -- Unit 1 rocketing up through its launch tunnel to emerge in the neon-lit streets of Tokyo-3.

Striker Eureka. Proving that everything from Australia is lethal.

Pacific Rim really nails this part of the giant robot genre. It's obvious that serious thought was put into it when the Becket brothers, played by Charlie Hunnam and Diego Klattenhoff, are fitted with their Jaeger pilot suits. The detailed armor clicks and hisses into place while dozens of workers scurry around them, prepping to launch Gipsy Danger. The brothers are strapped into the elaborate harnesses that let them interface with the machine, and its head slides down a shaft to be literally screwed into the torso. All the while its reactor whirs to life, appropriately placed on its chest for maximum lighting. So absurd. So awesome.

Just like a piece of music, the launch sequence is the steady build of tension and excitement that comes before the crescendo. When properly paced, it can make the following fight even more invigorating, because the audience has already been coaxed (and in some cases shoved) into readiness. It feeds the action like kindling, sparking and flickering before bursting to life with 100-ton punches and chest missiles.

Really, you couldn't have giant robots without giant robot launch sequences. 

For Mother Russia.

Also, some important side notes. How awesome was the Russian Jaeger, Cherno Alpha? With its nuclear reactor head and background choirs roaring to life in every fight scene? Again, absurd and awesome. If you disagree, please see yourself to the door.

Pacific Rim does a lot of things well. It's not a great film, I admit, but it's hugely fun -- especially for those of us that grew up with mecha and monsters. If you haven't seen it yet, I'd recommend checking it out. At the very least, you'll be treated to a pretty amazing score -- which I wondered why I liked so much until I found out it was composed by Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones). Enough said.

Best viewed with an internal and external smirk. Beer optional, but encouraged. See with lots of friends that like anime.

Cheers. 

 

Spoiler P.S. I'm always a big fan of films that dare to avoid sexual/romantic tension in their lead characters. I was blown away that Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi never kiss during the film, and only embrace in the seconds before the end. Fairly rare for "mainstream" films, yes?

A Life of Love and Sadness: Evangelion Fandom

A beautiful ruin.

To feel joyously numb — that is our fate.

Please note: plot points discussed below, including the rebuilds. Be careful! 

Neon Genesis Evangelion first came to me on a single VHS tape. With scraps of money cobbled together from part time jobs, this paltry collection grew. Each new tape would unlock another pair of episodes in agonizing succession. Weeks separated the moments when more of the story would unravel on the CRT television in my childhood den, where I would sit alone. Enraptured. Heartbroken.

I was barely a teenager. It was one of the first anime I ever watched, outside of Tekkeman Blade and Sailor Moon. Yet I still recall, with crisp clarity, the feeling of numbness that would come when "Fly Me To The Moon" punched through the speakers at the end of each episode. The screams and pleas of the cast ringing in the hollowness of the room. The queue for another week or two of waiting.

 Rei Ayanami.

Evangelion is incredible, and its creators brilliant. I am one of the (Rare?) fans that have enjoyed every interpretation, every ending, in the almost two decades of debuts. The original series stands as a masterwork of animation and cinema, a philosophical and emotional whirlwind brimming with unbearable silence and blood-curdling laughter.

I would rewatch those VHS tapes until the picture faded and the colors bled.  Savoring the happy moments but biting back tears minutes later. Feeling as hopeless as Asuka as she lay naked in a rusted bathtub, or as relieved as Rei when she let a smile slip to Shinji following Ramiel's attack. It made her sacrifice against Armisael all the more wrenching.

The final episodes, despised by many, provided a strange sort of happy ending to the crippling depression that preceded them. And the End of Evangelion suggested a different sort of conclusion, marked by pain and blood. I drank it all like a man maddened by thirst.

But it was with immense hesitation that I set out to watch the Evangelion rebuilds a few years ago. It'd been ages since End of Evangelion debuted, and the thought of digging up all those memories and emotions was an exhausting prospect. Yet the promise of a more refined, bigger-budget Evangelion was too great a temptation. And so I dove yet again into that sweet blackness, towards light and ruin.

The first two rebuilds annihilated my expectations. They simplified several plot elements to make the story more clear, while preserving so much of what made the original TV series great. And they did this with eye-rending animation that was almost too beautiful to behold. To achieve something so blissful in the overwhelming shadow of the original is a testament to director Anno and his team's work.

Shinji Ikari.

Then, last week, my friends and I hunkered down late one night in my hometown to watch Evangelion 3.33. Through a building desperation to sleep, I sat bleary-eyed on the floor and let it wash over me.

In the immediate aftermath of the film, I was gravely disappointed. I don't know the intricacies of Evangelion as well as other devoted followers, I readily admit, but You Can (Not) Redo was a tremendous shift in the series' themes and trajectories.

Another viewing is not only appropriate for me, but essential. But based on that initial impression, 3.33 felt wrong. Jumping the plot forward so far into the future can create interesting dynamics in some stories, indeed, but in Evangelion it was wholly unnecessary. The series has so much rich lore and conflict in its narrative present that a 14-year time shift is all but a total abandonment of dramatic potential. Instead the film invests in new plots and a dissonant tone that drive it away from the classic "Evangelion DNA."

We need only look to the baffling inclusion of WILLE, and its flagship, Wunder,  to understand why this isn't the Evangelion many of us grew up with. The Wunder echoes notes much more in harmony with Anno and Co.'s other projects -- Gunbuster and Diebuster (both immaculate in their own right) -- to feel at home in the Evangelion universe.

Traditionally, the weapons, technology, and awe of Evangelion bore a bitter grit. The Evas needed to be powered by nail-bitingly fragile cords. Tokyo-3, for all its marvels, still had old traffic signals, train systems, construction sites, and honest-to-goodness imperfections. It was all real, and made the peril of the Angels more believable and more frightening.

But with the Wunder,  much of that realness evaporates, replaced by a sterile science-fiction that doesn't quite belong in Evangelion. It sabotages all the perceived realities that the other two rebuilds worked so hard to fashion. It represents all of the concerns I have with the film as a whole, which -- ultimately -- doesn't feel like an Evangelion film in the original sense.

Asuka Langley Soryu.

Could this be a massive ploy by Anno to misdirect and shock his audience once again? Always possible, especially considering the internet's discoveries hidden within the film, or the mind-bending theories that these rebuilds exist within the same timeline as the original, only much later.

And I respect Anno for his dedication to the Evangelion vision. This man, and those around him, have given their lives to a fiction that has defined us, and guided the course of Japanese animation as a whole. As a creator, Anno is free to do as he pleases -- he isn't bound by the expectations or desires of his audience, despite what that audience chooses to believe. Even still, Evangelion 3.33 is a departure. From the canon we worshiped in our childhood. From the relationship between Misato and Shinji. From the unity of mankind against The Other.

It, for lack of a better word, stings. 

Yet even with that sting of disappoint so fresh, I still love Evangelion. It's a part of me. It's a part of all of us who watched it, lived it, with the same breathless abandon all those years ago.

I anxiously await the fourth rebuild, having spent days stewing over my mixed reactions to 3.33. How could I not be excited? It's the third conclusion to a recurring chapter in my life. We as viewers have shared and debated and argued and loved and loathed it together. And no matter where it leaves us, I know now -- as I always have -- that it will make me numb. A sensation so fitting of the Evangelion legacy. So painful. So perfect.

Like any true work of art, Eva can reach into your chest, twist like a knife, and leave a black and blue mark on your heart. To be nursed over time with a weak smile, and never forgotten.

Cheers. 

And So, E3 2013 Came to A Close

Noctis, from Final Fantasy XV.

Funny, that after my previous blog in which I stated that I was "okay" with the Xbox One restrictions and would have to wait until launch to pass judgment, did Microsoft seemingly change it all. The company reversed a great number of their former announcements.

Did E3 go that poorly for them?

I posted about this original restriction topic on Twitter and received a lot of heated response. Extremely heated. Too hot to touch! There was some confusion there, and some anger, and that's okay. Such is the way of internet communication. My ultimate point, during the discussion, was that those restrictions wouldn't affect some people, myself included. However, I did eventually understand why people were so upset over the original limitations. Great points were made. And I never want to be the type that's so stubborn he won't back down or change his mind on something.

So now Xbox One has shed these restrictions. Freedom is always better than limitation, assuming that such freedom is not abused or used in unlawful ways. So, I celebrate alongside my gaming brethren that have a reason to return to Microsoft's camp.

However, it was thrilling to see Sony and PlayStation perform so admirably at last week's show. They have been the runner-up for a long time, suffering slings and arrows and all sorts of nastiness in the battle for video game dominance. The PlayStation 3 has certainly endured a difficult road. It's refreshing to see the team and its product change the tides and come out swinging. 

Please note, though, that I am mostly platform agnostic (though I do favor my PC for its technical superiority and Steam connectivity). But in terms of being a gamer, I think its wise to "enjoy it all."  Why limit yourself to one console and shout its superiority? Didn't we all just agree that limitations were dangerous?

Sora, of Kingdom Hearts fame.

Financial constraints represent a whole different beast -- one I know well. Not many can afford multiple consoles, especially around launch time, so favorites are picked, and picked quickly. But we should remember that gaming, as a medium, art, and activity, transcends companies and their platforms. Do people only watch films from Warner Bros.? Of course not. A weak comparison, I know, but hopefully it helps to make my point!

Okay, so, E3 2013. Microsoft had some issues, Sony did well, and Nintendo wore some Luigi hats. And we had some absolutely breath-taking surprises. We learned of Mirror's Edge 2 and Kingdom Hearts III, for a start. Final Fantasy Versus XIII changed its name and adorned itself the proper Final Fantasy XV. And some truly wicked trailers were released from the heavens. Incredible stuff. And! Saints Row IV garnered great reactions from the media, if I do say so myself...

Oh yes. And then there's this small matter of me being married in three days. That's happening. I will happily post some photos and thoughts after the ceremony. But, needless to say, it's an exciting and nervous time!

For now, I wish all of you well, and pray you have many victories in the game of your choosing.

Cheers!