I’ve been using the same keyboard for almost four years by this point, so it’s become sort of like a comfortable pair of old shoes. I got my Logitech G19 back in the summer of 2012, and it was pretty much the first component I acquired of the gaming rig I have now. It’s been good to me, but like all good things do, it was reaching its end. The keys were spongey and getting spongier, strokes were unresponsive and sometimes failing to be registered, and the built-in LCD computer screen, while a fun novelty, has had basically no support by any games, and any of the games in which it’d actually be useful (such as Starcraft 2) don’t allow for its support. So, the time had come to get a new keyboard. I did a bit of research and decided on the WASD mechanical keyboard, mostly because it’s the one used by PC Gamer’s Large Pixel Collider. And it’s just as good as I had hoped it would be.
It could just be my obsession with quality sitcoms, but the entire time I was playing Undertale I couldn’t help but be reminded of, among many other things, NBC’s Community, specifically the character of Abed Nadir. The thing about Abed’s character was that he simply didn’t really make much sense within the context of actually being a character on a TV show. Of course, he worked excellently, since one of the things Community excelled at was being a very strange show. Abed’s shtick was that, most of the time, he seemed to be aware of the fact that he was on a sitcom, and it was taken as far as it logically could be within the scope of not having too large of a bearing on the plot.
Abed would constantly reference the mayhem and mania that took place on the show and point them out to the viewer through the lens of acting as if he were on a TV show, which, of course, he was. He would point out continuity errors, obvious plot devices, and gimmicks that only work on TV shows, and did so in a very tongue-in-cheek way that simply made the viewer feel like they were in on the joke, and not being patronized. TV Tropes calls this method of pointing out something that could otherwise be perceived as a flaw, and in doing so turning it into a joke, as “lampshading.” And Abed was excellent at it.
One particular instance involved a “bottle episode”, wherein, in order to preserve budget, an episode of a show (usually a sitcom) would take place all on one set, and with only the principle cast. Every sitcom’s done it, and Cheers’s entire first season comes to mind in particular as being made entirely out of bottle episodes. At any rate, when the bottle episode on Community eventually came around (it’s sort of a rite of passage for sitcoms these days, as they rely heavily on the quality of the characters and writing and not much else), Abed blatantly pointed it out, and said “This is a bottle episode. I hate bottle episodes. They’re wall-to-wall facial expression and emotional nuance.” Anyway, you get the idea. This is a long-winded introduction, but it really hits on what I love about Undertale. Abed was a great character because he had perfect awareness of the medium he was being portrayed in, and the writing used it to make great jokes, and ones that only fans of sitcoms would truly appreciate. Undertale does the exact same thing, but for video games.
Anyone familiar with my gaming proclivities knows that one of my absolute, all-time favorite series is the Fire Emblem series. I bought a 3DS solely for Awakening back in 2013 (the limited edition Fire Emblem model, to boot), and it was my game of the year. In fact, as it stands right now, I maintain that Fire Emblem Awakening is my second favorite game of all, right behind Sonic Adventure 2 (which … yeah). I’ve played Fire Emblem Awakening through several times, and I recently grew tired of my attempts at completing it on Lunatic difficulty mode, which lives up to its name. I was searching for a replacement, and I briefly found one in XCOM, though complications involving save files and a rapidly-filling SSD made such endeavors … frustrating. I remembered that a friend of mine had sent me several games I’d put on my Steam wishlist through the years as a Christmas gift, and among them was Valkyria Chronicles. I’d heard great things, and was excited to try it out. It did not disappoint.
To be clear: to imply that Valkyria Chronicles is in the same genre as Fire Emblem would be a misstep; while they are similar in their art styles and presentation, the gameplay of Valkyria Chronicles is different from anything else I’ve ever played, and that works in its favor. A mix of tactical strategy and third-person shooter combined with some really smart resource management mechanics make Valkyria Chronicles perhaps the most challenging and rewarding strategy game I’ve ever played.