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The Silent Hill Retrospective: Origins

Nov 21 // Stephen Turner
Origins is, without being too harsh, a Xerox of the original. The big picture is always in frame, but many of the details, what made the original Silent Hill so special, are faded. Familiar faces fulfill their established roles, locations are revisited and remixed, and the journey from the outskirts of town to the middle of nowhere seems oddly comforting. It's Silent Hill re-told by fans; a closeness that robs Origins of an outsider perspective and player alienation. Narratively speaking, Silent Hill's success was down to its "one-and-done" attitude. For all the weirdness on display, its character motives were clear and the important historical aspects were found on every street corner; allowing us to fill in the blanks with little conjecture. Origins, as the name suggests, fills it in for us at the expense of brevity and credibility, as all those detours into exposition and connections actually harm the original's acts of desperation and improvisation. Be honest: Do you need to know exactly how a baby girl ends up at the side of the road in Silent Hill? Isn’t it more tragic and disturbing when the Masons stumble upon her, and letting our imaginations run wild? That's the major narrative flaw of all prequels, though. They can only embellish, not establish. Silent Hill never needed Travis Grady. While he’s actually a likable protagonist, and his profession as a trucker is quite metaphorical (motel suicides and freeway escapism go hand-in-hand), his story is, sadly, just an excuse for new gameplay ideas and player agency. Origins is Alessa Gillespie’s story, from the house fire to the rear view mirror. One passes into lore, the other is just a footnote, but both vie for your attention in an act of narrative dominance. Unsurprisingly, it seeps into every scene between Travis and Alessa, as he struggles with her manipulations, before succumbing to the role of catalyst. To its credit, Origins made good on its use of mise-en-scene when it comes to giving Travis definition. The various locations were grandiose, gothic, and theatrical - each one a conspiratory labyrinth beyond the understanding of a small blue collar man - with only the Riverside Motel being intimate and claustrophobic for the sake of acceptance and heroism. For a character dragged along by established events, Travis' only form of control is through the use of mirrors, now portals to The Otherworld and back again. Though it reinforced his strength to rebel against the ruling class of Silent Hill, the act also dampened its most foreign aspect. The Otherworld (here, a fire-damaged mess until the familiar rust-and-blood takes hold) was no longer this conceptual tour-de-force that made the audience endure for its narrative riches. Now it was a tourist attraction, one that could be appraised at the flip of a switch. Though their appearances are little more than novelty, seeing Silent Hill's cast all young and fresh faced left us with a wistful yearning, not unlike finding old snapshots of family and friends. Dahlia Gillespie was a white-trash brunette, while Dr. Kaufmann looked a little more dashing without the spare tires. Sure, their stories were already told, but if Origins couldn't escape the past, at least it would have fun reveling in nostalgia. Most affecting, though entirely arbitrary, is Lisa Garland. Instead of being seen through the eyes of a child, we see the drug addict once alluded to in her diary. At the motel, that sound of her having sex in a nearby room perfectly deconstructs the naïve adoration of her fanbase, bonding them to an equally heartbroken Travis in the process. Personally, it's one of the better parts of Origins, a subtle, real-time moment that Climax would refine in every one of Shattered Memories' car journeys. From then on, a grittier, gut-punch characterisation would permeate all of the Westernised Silent Hill games. Origins isn't an awful game, nor is it a stellar one. It simply exists. There's always a shallow memory waiting to strike, deep in the mist, lost to the shadows. Psycho-sexual images roam the halls, lumbering beats loosely touch upon its protagonist's travels, nurses make their return and substitutes like The Butcher step in for missing icons. Origins works best at conjuring up warm feelings when revisiting Central Silent Hill, left to your own devices and Akira Yamaoka's bite-sized score (which is more of throwback, than throwaway). But for every right, it's bound by a necessary wrong. Personally, that's what make the game so middle-of-road, rather than outright terrible. But it's impossible to ignore the fact Origins was meant to reboot the series with a fresh set of eyes, and sell a few PSPs in the meantime. Instead, it only served to strengthen the trepidation in its fanbase. Silent Hill would go through a difficult time, of which much is still up for debate, before Konami gave up on this outsourcing malarkey. From Origins to Downpour, as much as they tried new ideas, they were always reliant on what the fans liked to sell as many copies as they could in the face of dwindling interest. And who knows if P.T./Silent Hills will get that resurrection it deserves. But no matter what happens, just like Travis Grady, Origins will always remain the little guy in the big burning house, almost consumed by the flames of the past.
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'You all left that girl to burn!'
Silent Hill: Origins opened with an outsider saving a little girl from a house fire. But when you look back on its place in the series, it meant so much more than a simple rescue. Travis Grady had problems of his own, but the...

Does it matter if Link is a boy or a girl?

Nov 20 // Jonathan Holmes
[Art by  Kuvshinov-Ilya] To its credit, Nintendo has done an admirable job of concocting a way to help fans to imagine Link as both a specific person and an abstract concept at the same time. He's actually not always named Link. You, the player, choose his name before starting each of his games. He also never speaks, further solidifying him as non-character who's only purpose is to act as doorway for the player into the game world. Yet, by leaning hard on both the reincarnation myth and the use of multiple timelines, Nintendo has managed to shape Link into a series of individual characters in the minds of many. In doing so, it has squelched most of complaints the character/non-character used to attract, though it took them a little while to get there. Many fans were outraged when the Wind Waker radically changed who Link was and how he was drawn. A lot of these fans had become extremely attached to a singular idea of who Link was and how he should look. This new Link broke from those ideas, causing their suspension of disbelief to break along with it. It's no surprise then that it was fans who originally came up with the theory that the Zelda series takes place over multiple timelines. They were clearly more invested in believing that Link was real than Nintendo was. Strangely enough, it looks like a lot of those diehard fans are also against the idea of Link ever being a woman. Their devotion to their head canon feels similar to how some Catholics hold tight to their traditional gender divisions. Just a few days ago, a diehard Zelda fan was telling me that making Link a woman would be "pointless," and if someone wants to play a game starring a woman, that there are plenty of other choices out there. I pushed back with the idea that what's pointless to them may mean a lot to someone else. To counter that obvious point, they put on their best empathy-face and said that the Zelda series should not have to bend to the preferences of fans. It's the exactly line of thinking I've heard from well meaning but overly dogmatic Catholics over the years, who advise folks who want to bear confession to a female priest to simply abandon Catholicism in favor of Unitarian Universalism or some other wacky new faith.  [Art by Liart] Nintendo itself has been relatively inconsistent in explaining if Link has to be a man or not. The director of the recently released Triforce Heroes said for that game's story, it wouldn't fit the mythology for the leads to be women. So that's one answer. On the other hand, Eiji Aonuma, producer of the Zelda series as a whole, has never ruled out that we'd get a woman iteration of Link someday, stating that he was going to wait and see how the playable women characters in Hyrule Warriors were received before making that decision. I'm guessing the fact that Hyrule Warriors sold pretty darn well is one of the reasons Linkle went from being a rejected concept sketch to a full-blown character (who may or may not be a reincarnation of Link). In the absence of official word from Nintendo, fans have created their own schema around the question of Link's inherent maleness, just as they they created the split-timeline long before it was adopted as canon. The one I hear the most is that Zelda must always be a woman (because it's the Legend of Zelda, not the Legend of Zeldo) and therefore Link must be a man, as the potential for heterosexual romance between the two leads is a key part of the Zelda's legend. Of course, Nintendo has never explicitly stated any of that. Why would it? As a company that wants to appeal to as many potential customers as possible, it'd have little reason to insult its queer fans or cut itself off from the option of a female Link someday. Linkle is clearly a move towards testing those waters, though it won't likely jump all the way in until it is sure it will be profitable. It's a direction it has been publicly headed in for a while, driven in no small part by the stats showing how women are becoming a larger and larger part of Nintendo's customer base.  It's arguable that the company has been moving towards giving players the option to chose the gender of the green clad Hylian hero for years now.  [embed]321406:61194:0[/embed] It wouldn't even be the first time, technically. Some of the Satellaview Legand of Zelda games allowed for players to chose the gender of their character. So does every modern Fire Emblem, Pokémon, and Animal Crossing game, as will Xenoblade Chronicles X when it's released outside of Japan next month. It's not just in the RPGs either. Nintendo's latest hit character, the Inkling, also comes in boy or girl shapes. In fact, the vast majority of Nintendo's Wii U titles allow you to play as a woman some or all of the time. It could be that the publisher finally noticed that Monster Hunter, Mass Effect, Fallout 4 (the potentially biggest entertainment release of the year) and countless other modern Action-RPGs have let the player decide the gender of their "link" to the game world without suffering any loss in sales. Maybe they are on the cusp of allowing today's Legend of Zelda players to do the same.  That said, it's clear that many people would be upset if Nintendo began providing players with that level of choice. Ironically, a lot of these players are also harshly critical of Nintendo for not keeping up with the times when it comes to cross-buy purchases across consoles games and other consumer friendly practices. What we demand out of our game publishers says a lot about us, and will eventually determine what those publishers end up producing. My guess is that like everything with business, the question of how much Link's gender matters will be answered not in some political debate, but in dollar signs. 
Linkle photo
Linkle: The new Samus or a next Waluigi?
Linkle's debut as a playable character in Hyrule Warriors Legends seems to mean something big to a lot of people, but I guess that's par for course. Regardless of how long it's been since you actually played a Legend of Zelda...

'We're drift compatible': My favorite weird co-op games

Nov 19 // Nic Rowen
Bimini Run Bimini Run is one of those old 16-bit games where I wondered for years if it was just some kind of fever dream of my imagination or not. Forget showing up on lists of “classic Genesis games” or anything, I could never find another person who played it let alone had an opinion about it. But it was something special for it’s time. A bizarre Miami Vice meets proto-open world speedboat game with an even more bizarre two-player mode. Bimini Run could be played alone, but if you were young and had an annoying little brother who insisted on playing as well (like I totally did), there was an option to let you both play at once by splitting the driving and shooting between two players. Player one would take the wheel (rudder?) while player two would man the machine gun and mortar launcher (like all speedboats have, right?) and together you’d try and weave around a pixilated coastline and light up other boats, helicopters, and huts. Make no mistake, this was the worst way to play. But it was also the best. For a game that we only rented once and has wallowed in relative obscurity ever since (although some fans did come out of the woodwork when Giant Bomb did a quicklook of it recently), I have fantastic memories of Bimini Run. It was a trial by fire for my brother and I of just how dedicated we were to beating the game in a single weekend balanced against the urge to kill each other out of frustration. I’m pretty sure it started the long-standing tradition we have to this day in co-op games where he’s the designated driver while I man the guns. Quite a legacy for a forgotten game. Lucky & Wild Speaking of driving and shooting, did you know there was an arcade rip off of the ‘80s cinema classic Tango and Cash? It’s true. Lucky & Wild, released by Namco in 1992 was a sit-down arcade cabinet that played like a hybrid shooter/racing game. The player in the driver's seat would drive with one hand, shoot with the other, and try and keep track of everything else going on at once. Player two would shoot and feel jealous/relieved that they only had one thing to do. I suppose driving and shooting is one of the more common types of co-op play out there, but Lucky & Wild added up to more than the sum of its parts. It was an anomaly, offering something completely different from the legion of other lightgun games sandwiched into the dark and dingy recesses of your local arcade. If you were smart, you’d divide up the work; Let player one focus on driving and keeping his gun trained on large, easy-to-hit targets. Player two was on crackshot duty, responsible for shooting down incoming rockets or bombs and making your quarters stretch as long as possible. It was also funny for its day. Lucky & Wild played the braindead buddy cop setup for all its worth, an affectionate parody of the most popular kind of movies from the ‘80s. Lucky & Wild really was wild, and we were lucky to play it. It’s the kind of arcade game that emulation just can’t do justice to. You had to be there, sitting in that cabinet, mercilessly elbowing the hell out of the ribs of whoever just steered you right into another rocket or wall. It’s a co-op experience that would be difficult if not impossible to relive nowadays. I’ll be honest though, Lucky & Wild is a favorite of mine for personal reasons as much as it was a legitimately cool game. One of my favorite dumb memories is convincing my mom and grandma to sit down in behind the wheel and guns to give it try in a food court. After a few minutes they did surprisingly well! What can I say, my grandma loved dumb ‘80s action movies. Battlefield There are plenty of cooperative shooters out there, but let’s be honest, most of them just have two players doing the same thing at the same time. In Gears, Marcus and Dom are both diving into cover, shooting grubs, and chainsawing the occasional unlucky goober. Maybe you’ll divvy up the equipment -- Dom will grip the sniper rifle while Marcus keeps things clean with the shotgun -- but that’s about as diverse as it gets. If I included shooters, this article would be a lot longer and a lot less interesting. There is one big exception I’m willing to make to the rule though, because when it comes to usual co-op strategies I have to give it up for the Battlefield series. Not only does the series promote some of the coolest class synergies and co-op strategies in any game, but it tests you and your partners to make them work in a chaotic shit-show of a massive firefight that is constantly changing. Sure, there are a lot of shooters with the “I’ll drive and you shoot” divide, but none of them do it quite like Battlefield. It’s more like “I’ll pilot this specific type of helicopter and man the dumbfire rockets and flares while you take this specific gunner position and simultaneously repair the bird, man the gun, and occasionally fire a guided missile” or “I’ll drive the APC, you all get out behind the objective, toss out recon probes, and storm the place from an oblique angle while I draw fire.” If you want to make the most out of the vehicles in the Battlefield series, you’ll need at least one teammate you’re in total sync with and ideally a few more for proper Thunder Cloud Formation action. Of course I have to give extra props to Bad Company 2 and BF3 in particular. My brother and I played an unhealthy amount of both of them and had a few techniques down to a science. BC2’s amazing destruction system (pound for pound still the best in the business in my opinion) let us breach and clear like pros -- if by “breach and clear” you mean my bro opening up a hole in the wall with a grenade launcher and me running in and quickly tossing around enough C4 to bring down the whole building. Or when we’d go fly swatting in BF3 with the Recon unit’s laser designator and the Javelin missile system, keeping the skies nice and clear. With some good teamwork, just two players working together in the right way at the right time could make a huge difference in a game defined by its massive player count. Brothers gonna work it out, indeed. Portal 2 Goddamn do I love the idiot robots of Portal 2’s co-op mode. Yeah, GLaDOS get’s all the love (and she should, she’s excellent), but I gotta give it up for P-Body and Atlas, the robotic testing duo of dubious intelligence. You know that trust game where one person leans back until they fall and trusts that their partner will catch them? It’s supposed to reinforce bonds and break down suspicion. Well, Portal 2’s co-op is kind of like that, only instead of leaning back till you tip over, you’re suspended over a massive chasm filled with acid or molten slag, and instead of catching you, nine times out of ten your dickbag partner decides it would be hilarious to make you take a swim. It reinforces resentment, and encourages squabbles and problem drinking. Portal 2’s co-op mode wasn’t long, but it was memorable. It let you play with puzzles that would be impossible in single-player, forcing you and your partner to think laterally and develop all kinds of new strategies and ideas. Especially when you get far enough into the game to play with the frictionless gel and bouncy paint. What I love most about Portal 2’s co-op though was how the addition of an extra player opened up ways to break the game. If one Portal player can come up with weird speedrun routes and unintended solutions to puzzles, two players working together could bust the testing facility wide open. Me and the person I went through the co-op campaign with were so committed to being clever little assholes that I’m still not sure if we ever solved all of the puzzles “properly.” The only thing more fun than playing with your toys is breaking them in some entertaining way. Just like strapping fireworks to G.I Joes behind the school. Left 4 Dead Yeah, yeah, I know I just said no more shooters, and yes, as the default survivors in L4D, you’re pretty much all doing the same thing -- shooting zombies and smacking things with your medpack. But that’s for the boring old humans with their stupid guns and lame one-liners. What I’m talking about is when you play for the other team, when you take control of the zombies. I don’t think L4D ever got the credit it deserved for its multiplayer, but on the same blush, I can understand why. Playing as the zombies in multiplayer was a tense game of peek-a-boo, chicanery, guts, and teamwork. It took three other teammates with a solid understanding of the game, excellent communication, and the wits to make the best of things when the RNG just refused to spawn a freaking Smoker for your team when you really needed one. These qualities were what made it feel so damn good when it all clicked, and what made it fall apart into one-sided stompfests for the humans when it didn’t. Each type of special infected the players could take control of had their own role to play in the zombie apocalypse, and it took careful coordination and skill to make them work. Because you never got to choose your infected type, you had no choice but to get good at all of them if you wanted to take the multiplayer seriously. I spent a long time trying to perfect 25-point Hunter jumps and Smoker skillshots in the winter of 2008. I watched a lot of YouTube videos about just how far Boomer spray could spread or how much it would arc at a distance before becoming ineffective. Learning how to not crack under the pressure of suddenly becoming the frighteningly (somewhat less than his reputation would have you believe) powerful Tank and not just eat a molotov as soon as it spawned. I think it’s a strange and wonderful thing that playing as the drooling zombies became the “thinking man’s” part of L4D. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes Bomb disposal might just be the ultimate co-op game. Who would have guessed that the threat of sudden explosive death could bring friends and family together like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes does? Turns out that confusing instructions, bad second-hand descriptions of what a device looks like, and the ruthless pressure of a ticking countdown is the perfect recipe for a fun evening with your crew. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is another one of those games that you have to play to really get. The Oculus version is probably the best (I wouldn’t know), but the PC version works just as well so long as nobody cheats and peeks at the screen. For anyone unaware, it's a game where one person tries to disarm an explosive device by relaying a description of what it looks like and what it's doing to his or her team of “experts” who can look things up in a confusing, often poorly organized, printed-out bomb disarming manual. Bonus points if you find a battered old binder to keep the manual in and mess it up with some coffee stains and dog ears for that “authentic” experience. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a group co-op game. While it’s fine with two players, it’s fantastic with three or four. Not because it will make you more effective bomb disposal experts, more the opposite (at least at first). Getting more hands on the manual means more chaos and squabbling, more people talking over each other and pulling the book away from one another. More sudden BOOMS. Eventually, everyone will pick up on their own tricks or areas of expertise and you can start delegating certain roles to different players. Suddenly you’ll actually start surviving and taking on more and more complex bombs. It’s like watching the Keystone Cops transform into the Hurt Locker crew over the course of an evening. Well, until the drinks start taking their toll. Then it might be time to segue over to Gang Beasts or Jackbox, something a little less cerebral. I'm still waiting for the dream weird co-op game. A kind of Qctodad meets Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes where you and four friends control the different limbs and head of a mech, Voltron style. The day someone comes up with that is the day I'll press-gang all of my friends into the robotic defense force. Until then I guess I'll have to be satisfied with forcing someone into playing Cho'gall with me. I'm always on the lookout for other weird co-op games. If you have some you love that I missed, please share them with in the comments below!
Drift compatible photo
You can always find me in the drift
I’ve been thinking a lot about ogres lately. Specifically, Cho’gall, the recently released two-headed character in Heroes of the Storm. As far as I know, he’s totally unique in the MOBA world as the only her...

Figuring out which of the usual suspects I'll play in Fallout 4

Nov 13 // Nic Rowen
Character creation is something I love in games, maybe a little too much. As I’ve talked about before, I have a tendency to slip into an eternal planning mode -- sketching out possible character builds, ideas, and dorky little stories -- while never actually sitting down to play any of them out if I’m not careful. Or I end up chain-smoking characters, making one, playing around for an hour or so (which barely counts as playing at all when you’re talking about the Fallouts and Dragon Ages of the world), and wandering back to the “new game” screen to try out another one. Pretty soon, I’ve had the game for over a week and have only managed to see the tutorial area. Not a great use of one’s time. What I’ve come to over the past few years has been a system of recycling a few characters over in different games in different genres. I take the same characters with the same basic preferences and attitudes and run with them. Building around a few personality traits like “loves sneak attacks and charms his way through conversations” or “always goes with the most aggressive combat option available and never tells a lie” and try to fit them into whatever game I’m playing. Sometimes that means running straight at the enemy with a two-handed sword, other times it means teleporting to them with a nuclear-powered shotgun in hand. To me, it’s been the best middle ground between ruthlessly planning out my characters and pointlessly faffing about. Not only do I have a rough idea of what kind of skills, equipment, and storylines I want to lean towards with a character, but by having clearly defined characters with their own weird ways of going about their business, it also keeps the gameplay fresh. I’ve made characters based on myself in the past, or just gone with the generic hero type they start you with, but you know what? That’s boring. When I call a character Nic, curse him with a mop of red hair, a slightly round face, and send him out to save the galaxy or tame the wasteland, he always turns out to be a real fence-sitting drag about it. Because I can’t help but start approaching the game the way I would in real life, as a kind of generally decent guy who doesn’t want to set off a nuclear bomb in the middle of a crowded settlement, or really stick his nose in other people’s business either. I end up equipping weapons and armor based on stats and efficiency because it’s not like I have a strong preference in real life. Left to my own devices, things tend to be a little drab. But if I put myself in the shoes of Jabberwalk, a bomb-chucking madman, it’s a different story. Or Sophie, a de facto serial killer who always takes the most backstabbing or underhanded “solution” to a problem possible and has a real love for stilettos and straight razors. Or Gershom, a lumbering old man driven by his principals to help the weak as best he can, and grind the wicked into a fine paste with the biggest hammer or piece of unwieldy artillery around. Or maybe Piss-Pot, a disgusting lizardman who is always a treat to try and build in games that don't include lizardmen as an option. Things get interesting fast with those weirdos. Their baked-in preferences force me to approach the game differently, to play around with different perks, conversation choices, and gear that I might not touch otherwise. Which leads me to Fallout 4 and trying to figure out which of my little rotating cast would fit the game best. Fallout 4, annoyingly enough, starts out presupposing the player character is the type to have successfully held down a pre-war job and a working relationship, not exactly traits a lot of my characters tend to fit in with (which maybe says a little bit more about myself than my characters). I plan to spend a lot of time wandering the Boston wasteland, and I want to make sure I’m doing it with a character that will enjoy it as much as I’m hoping I will, so it’s not a decision I take lightly. I’m leaning towards a sneaky type of character; the villainous side quests in Fallout are always the best, after all. I’d love to know how other people do it. Do you make a fresh character out of whole cloth every time you start a new game? Brew up a self-insertion character and stab orcs or shoot super mutants as a slightly cooler version of yourself? Or is this the most obvious thing in the world and everybody has their own set of recurring characters like me and I’m the last one to know about it? Did Fallout 4’s implied backstory change the way you made your character this time around? Let me know in the comments!
Character creation photo
A man's character is his fate
I never walk into a character creation screen alone. Every time I start a new RPG where you have to brew up a character to spend the next 30-80 hours with, I bring a few familiar faces with me. A small cast of characters I&rs...

Podtoid 312: Call of Duty: Black Oddish III

Nov 12 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]320399:61078:0[/embed] Recent Episodes: Podtoid 311: The Fallout 4 S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Podtoid 310: Intergalactic Child Abduction Podtoid 309: Code Name Li Po Podtoid 308: Back to the Force Podtoid 307: The Millennials Podcast You can reach us by email at [email protected]
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Nuclear Blizzard
Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or download it here. On this episode of Podtoid, the gang chats about Fallout 4 again, Blizzard's Overwatch, StarCraft II, Rise of the Tomb Raider, not Steam machines, bad Pokémon puns, and Spectre 007.

Is Rise of the Tomb Raider the best Uncharted?

Nov 11 // Steven Hansen
Now, though, Lara's come out ahead. It was a mild challenge during the Rise of the Tomb Raider review to not compare it to Nathan Drake's adventures. The things that excited me about Uncharted 4, that differentiated it from its stale third entry, a lot of those have -- at least superficially -- been done by Rise of the Tomb Raider. The contextual stealth bushes (as seen in the upcoming Horizon Zero Dawn, too), the grappling hook. Uncharted has always had stealth and its grappling hook might prove more meaningful than Rise's I-can-jump-further-now tool, but those things might not feel like meaningful additions with two games from a direct competitor now released since the last Uncharted five years ago. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception was less than well-received for bringing little new to the table, instead offering a disjointed series of set-pieces that could have been strung together by throwing darts at a board. Rise of the Tomb Raider threads its hub worlds and set-piece sections -- a derelict Soviet gulag built vertically into the side of a mountain -- together much more organically. It also basically mushes Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3's antagonists into one game (spoilers in this paragraph). Konstantin is a Burberry-clad Lazarević, just as driven and merciless -- a common trope of a character -- and even serves as Rise's final boss fight in full tactical gear, not unlike in Uncharted 2. Here, though, it's a stealth affair with Konstantin disarming Lara, who must sneak around the ruined arena and stab him a few times. Meanwhile, equally posh Ana, the character really running things, has shades of Katherine Marlowe. Superficial, maybe. Maybe it stands out because of the general rarity of older-aged British women as villains. Rise of the Tomb Raider also handles the requisite third act turn to the supernatural better than any Uncharted since the first, which became a creepy, horror-tinged affair to smartly contrast all the lush jungle violence. In Rise, it means expansion to the visual palette with all the blue flames and orange embers (shortly after introducing the new class of regular enemy with the lens flare-ish flashlights and dot sights -- a good look). The enemies' melee focus makes sense and moves the third act away from strict cover shooting, which is welcomed for its variety but also because the cover shooting is probably Tomb Raider's weakest part. Then there's Rise's position as one of the prettiest games of the year, an Uncharted staple. It isn't just the technology or graphical fidelity, but a new focus on using color, lighting, and other visual cues to set the mood. It is colorful without Uncharted's more cartoonishness. Had Uncharted 4 made its holiday 2015 release, it mainly would've been up against itself, or its past self. Being better than Uncharted 3 would've been enough for a lot of people. Rise of the Tomb Raider raises the standards though, by iterating in a lot of areas where Uncharted excels. The former is still bogged down by bloat (crafting and skill trees and static menu audio logs and so on) and a go-nowhere story that was more than tired by the time Uncharted got to it (protagonists want thing, antagonists also want thing), but it nails movie-like visual direction (down to the color grading) and exhilarating platforming.
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Standards up five years post Uncharted 3
Both Crystal Dynamics and Microsoft lucked out that the tumult behind Uncharted 4: A Thief's End's development shift and scrapped work pushed Naughty Dog's adventure into 2016. It gives Microsoft the best exclusive holiday...

Review Drama photo
Review Drama

Fragile gamer says she just can't handle Destructoid reviews anymore (Fauxclusive)

She can't even
Nov 10
// CJ Andriessen
Wiping a stream of tears from her cheek, New Jersey gamer Claudia Bennet confirmed today she can no longer deal with reviews from "I just don't understand," Bennet cried while clutching her copy of Fallout 4....

Podtoid 311: The Fallout 4 S.P.E.C.I.A.L.

Nov 09 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]319617:61046:0[/embed] Recent Episodes: Podtoid 310: Intergalactic Child Abduction Podtoid 309: Code Name Li Po Podtoid 308: Back to the Force Podtoid 307: The Millennials Podcast Podtoid 306: Tales of Tokyo Game Show Send any questions and hate mail to [email protected]
Destructoid Podcast photo
So, bongo, bongo, bongo...
Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or download it here. Fallout 4 comes out tomorrow, so the Podtoid crew assembled a crack team of Fallout 4 veterans to have an in-depth chat about their experiences with the most-anticipated release of the year.

Experience Points .27: GoldenEye 007

Nov 07 // Ben Davis
No guns, mines only, final destination The main reason GoldenEye is remembered so fondly is no doubt because of the multiplayer. Four-player split-screen multiplayer was a big deal at the time, especially for a first-person shooter on consoles. It was actually my very first experience with a first-person shooter. I played GoldenEye so much with my brother, friends, and cousins that we started to develop our own rules and go-to gameplay modes which dominated our multiplayer sessions. My absolute favorite thing to do in multiplayer GoldenEye is to play "proximity mines only." Choosing proximity mines also comes with a few guns as well, but my friends and I played where we would only kill each other with the mines. Guns were only to be used to shoot mines, never other players. Of all the weapon types to choose from, and even of all the different types of mines to choose from, proximity mines were the most fun, in my opinion, due to how unexpectedly they can explode. Just toss a mine up on a wall, wait for someone to wander too close to it, and BAM! "Proximity mines only" matches were especially tense because of how tiny the mines are, making them rather difficult to spot. If a player sees one before walking too close, they can carefully aim and shoot it down, or even toss another mine at it to make it explode. This could also cause a chain reaction of nearby mines exploding as well, engulfing the entire area in flames as players run for their lives. I always tried to find clever places to hide mines, such as on the ceiling, on the floor, on an ammo crate, or on a glass wall (which I then shot, of course, leaving the mine floating in thin air). The element of surprise when someone walked into a room and suddenly exploded without seeing a mine anywhere in sight never got old. Sometimes a player would even respawn directly on top of a mine, dying in a dramatic explosion immediately after coming back to life. My friends and I would sit there and play with proximity mines for hours, blowing up and howling with laughter every single time. Nooks and crannies Speaking of multiplayer, the Complex stage was totally my jam. The Basement may have been the best layout for proximity mine matches, but I always felt the most comfortable running around the Complex. The reason for this was because of the Complex's secret hiding places. There are a few areas in the Complex where it's possible to sort of phase through the walls, leading to small rooms where I could hide and wait for people to walk by. Somehow, very few of my friends knew about these hiding spots, so I could wait in safety while they wandered around the building desperately searching for me, then pop out and shoot them while their backs were turned. They would never see me coming, and would get so mad because I surprised them every time. I felt like a ninja. The Complex also had some of the best sniping spots. Whoever managed to make it to the upper-level room in the middle first usually ended up racking up a ton of kills, since there were windows opening out to several of the main rooms all in one convenient location. There's also a spot in the room with the spiral ramp where it's possible to hide in the shadows and shoot people from below. I tried to take advantage of all of these different hiding spots to kill my friends from safe locations and confuse the heck out of them by staying out of sight. Of course, after a while my friends stopped picking that level because they knew I would win! Kong. James Kong. GoldenEye's cheat options were a ton of fun to play around with, and conveniently available to choose from a menu on the main screen. Paintball Mode was almost required to be turned on while playing with my friends. All it did was replace bullet holes with splotches of paint, but for some reason, it was the only way we played. I always liked to draw smiley faces out of the paint by carefully shooting designs onto the walls. We also played around with Turbo Mode occasionally, which greatly increases everyone's movement speed. This made "proximity mines only" even more chaotic! The weirdest cheat in GoldenEye, though, was called DK Mode. This cheat transforms all of the character models into grotesque shapes which are apparently supposed to resemble Donkey Kong, with huge heads, tiny bodies, and really long arms. The characters look so inhuman and ridiculous that it's almost impossible not to laugh. I mean, look at Natalya up there. What even is she? Combine DK Mode with Turbo Mode and my friends and I would be out of breath from laughter in no time at all! Crazy gorilla people zooming around at high speeds, their gigantic heads popping up out of nowhere with their freakishly long arms pointing a gun at me... it's just too much. I'm so glad Nintendo published this game, if only because it gave us these hilarious, hideously deformed characters as a cheat option. I am invincible! Everyone has their favorite Bond character to choose for multiplayer matches, whether it's the classic choices of James or Natalya, the villainous Xenia or Jaws, or even the more generic Helicopter Pilot or Moonraker Elite if you're feeling sassy. Just don't go picking Oddjob, or else you're probably going to lose some friends! My favorite character has always been Boris. He may just be a boring old computer technician, but I loved his bold fashion choice of wearing a brightly colored Hawaiian shirt and shorts for combat. There's no way to be stealthy while wearing a Hawaiian shirt, which means Boris is apparently confident enough in his abilities to attract the attention of everyone around him and still come out a winner (he is invincible, after all). Or maybe he's trying to confuse everyone into thinking he's a civilian. Or he's simply clueless when it comes to combat situations. Whatever the reason, I love his style and wouldn't want to play as anybody else! Far from the uncanny valley One of my personal favorite things about GoldenEye is all the bizarre faces on each of the character models. They're meant to look like the actors from the movies, and the enemy faces are meant to look like some of the staff at Rare. What they actually look like, however, is more like a cut-out of a real human's face stretched over a cartoonish 3D model, which I suppose is a technically accurate description of how they were made. The faces look so weird on the character models though, to the point that it's honestly hilarious. The enemy soldiers' faces are especially fantastic, because many of them have these exaggerated expressions that never change. So as they're rolling expertly across the ground, shooting with a gun in each hand, and falling over in dramatic death animations, they always have that same silly expression no matter the situation. I think my favorite face is the bearded guy with the crooked grin and what looks like a scar across one eye. I feel like I see him all over the place, and no matter what he happens to be doing at the time, his expression always makes me laugh. I wonder who that guy is? Spies on a train The multiplayer isn't the only fun thing in GoldenEye, of course. The single-player campaign is solid as well, taking Bond on missions throughout Russia and Cuba to visit all of the main locations from the film. There are a bunch of neat missions, including Frigate, where he must rescue several hostages on a ship near Monte Carlo; Statue Park, where he has to navigate a maze of creepy statues in the dark; and the Streets of St. Petersburg, where he drives a tank through the city while trying not to kill too many civilians. One of my favorite levels is the Train mission. This level was pretty difficult for a few reasons. It takes place almost entirely aboard a train, with Bond moving from the tail end up towards the engine, which means combat happens within confined spaces. Not only are the train cars small, but they're packed full of boxes and swarming with enemy soldiers, so Bond has to be very careful or else he might end up trapped between a group of bad guys all shooting him at once. The most intense bits are towards the end when he has to move through the passenger cars, since soldiers could be hiding behind any of the multitude of closed doors. Somehow, a few enemies always manage to end up behind me! The most difficult part of the level comes at the end, though. When Bond enters the final train car, he finds Natalya being held hostage by Ourumov, with Trevelyan and Xenia standing guard behind them. He must act quickly and shoot Ourumov before he can kill Natalya. The other two make their escape (I always tried to shoot them anyway, even though they always manage to get away), leaving Bond and Natalya trapped inside of the train with a short amount of time before it explodes. The rest of the mission involves trying to find a way out of the train by using Bond's handy watch laser to melt open a panel in the floor, while waiting for Natalya to hack into a computer in order to locate the Janus secret base. As usual, Natalya is slow as molasses and takes her sweet time cracking Boris' password, leaving just a few seconds to escape the train before she blows up. This is life or death, Natalya, hurry it up! Past Experience Points Level 1: .01 - .20 .21: Katamari Damacy.22: Tomb Raider.23: Mother 3.24: Deadly Premonition.25: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.26: Dark Souls
GoldenEye 007 photo
For England, James?
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Resident Evil photo
Resident Evil

Did the Umbrella Corporation help write the TPP? (Fauxclusive)

You down with TPP?
Nov 06
// CJ Andriessen
The full text of the Trans Pacific Partnership, the massive trade deal that will finally turn the Pacific Rim into one giant corporatocracy, was released yesterday to an expected amount of skepticism. While government offic...

Podtoid 310: Intergalactic Child Abduction

Nov 05 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]319173:61003:0[/embed] Things we talked about Professional athletes' male pattern baldness Putting razor blades in Halloween candy Bob Ross, a commenter, and Chris Carter Recent Episodes: Podtoid 309: Code Name Li Po Podtoid 308: Back to the Force Podtoid 307: The Millennials Podcast Podtoid 306: Tales of Tokyo Game Show Podtoid 305: The Voice of God Send any questions and Steven Hansen-Gardevoir fan art to [email protected]
Podtoid 310 photo
Attack of the Flash Clones
Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or download it here. Did you know Halo 5 is the Star Wars of video games and is secretly about abducting children and making their parents very sad? We learn all this and more on the latest episode of Podtoid.

Dtoid Designs photo
Dtoid Designs

Dtoid Designs: The Super Mario Maker Un-Mario Challenge

Can you make a non-Mario level?
Nov 01
// CJ Andriessen
UPDATE: The entry period for November's Dtoid Designs contest has ended. Dtoid Designs is back for round two. What's that? You missed the results from October's challenge? But they were posted at 9:30 on a Saturday night that...

Podtoid 309: Code Name Li Po

Nov 01 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]318540:60947:0[/embed] Stuff we talked about: Greg Rice, M.D. How free games on PlayStation Plus work Pecs and breast tissue Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle Remasters How Double Fine scored the rights to remaster classic LucasArts games Comedy in video games (and why it's so rare) Halo 5: Guardians Rocket League Quality testing Guitar Hero Recent Episodes: Podtoid 308: Back to the Force Podtoid 307: The Millennials Podcast Podtoid 306: Tales of Tokyo Game Show Podtoid 305: The Voice of God Podtoid 304: The Phantom Pain Send any tips, queries, and Jennifer Capriati-autogaphed apparel to [email protected]
Podtoid photo
Guest starring Greg Rice of Double Fine
Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or download it here. On this week's episode, Double Fine renaissance man Greg Rice joins the program to discuss the studio's Day of the Devs event and other topics both Double Fine and not Double Fine-related.

Dtoid Designs photo
Dtoid Designs

Dtoid Designs: The 5 best Halloween Super Mario Maker levels

See how creative this community can be!
Oct 31
// CJ Andriessen
Last month we asked you, the Destructoid community, to show us your level creation skills with the first Dtoid Designs contest. The challenge was to create a Super Mario Maker level based on the theme of Halloween a...

Video game ghost stories #3: Buried in the ground

Oct 31 // Ben Davis
~ I met all of my neighbors today. Most of them were really nice; I can already tell that Samson and I are going to be great friends. The eagle was a bit grumpy though, and the cat seemed full of herself. But I'm sure we can get along! A lot of them also have Gyroids in their homes. I tried to ask where they came from, but no one seems to know for sure. Buzz, the grumpy eagle, told me that he sees them in the ground sometimes when it's raining. Very strange... I'd never even heard of them before moving to this town. Aside from meeting the neighbors, I also got a job working at the raccoon's convenience store. So he runs the only store in town and manages all of the properties. It seems like he has as much influence on the town as the mayor. Maybe even more. He gave me a job and a place to live, so I definitely owe the guy. I'm not sure where I would be without him. ~ It was raining all day today, and guess what I found? As I was running late to work, I tripped over a lump in the ground. It was a Gyroid; Buzz was right! It was making this really weird gurgling sound and moving around every now and then like it was trying to break free of the mud. It had that sad, vacant expression that all the other Gyroids have. For some reason, I felt like I couldn't just leave it there, so I decided to take it home. ~ I got a letter in the mail today from Monique, the snooty cat. Apparently she's moving away soon. I've only been in town for about a week, so I didn't get to know her very well. The other neighbors say that people come and go all the time here, so it's not really strange for someone to suddenly decide to move out. Well, maybe someone a bit nicer will move into her place. In other news, that Gyroid I picked up the other day seems to be doing fine. It's still making that gurgling sound, though. I thought it was just doing that because it was stuck in the mud out in the rain, but it keeps gurgling away every so often. The sound mixed with its expression is a little unsettling. Sometimes it almost feels like it's trying to tell me something. ~ Today was the day that Monique was supposed to move out, so I decided to walk over to her place to see if she had left yet, and her house was gone! There was no sign of it anywhere. I got really confused, thinking I had walked to the wrong part of town, but her house definitely used to be right there. I remembered she lived directly south of the post office, so there was no mistake. Did they just bulldoze her house as soon as she left or something? Why would they do that? I went over to ask Samson what the deal was, and he says this kind of thing happens all the time. Whenever someone decides to move away, he gets a letter from them in the mail, and then a few days later they've left town and their house is gone. He thinks it must be Nook's idea to demolish old houses, since he owns the properties. It seems like a waste of money to build brand new houses for every new neighbor, though. Oh well. It's not really my problem. ~ It's been raining all week. I went to the post office today to deposit my rent and happened upon another Gyroid. Strangely enough, it was lying in the ground right where Monique's house used to be. This one was writhing around and making a horrible wailing noise, rather than the gurgling sound the other one makes. Wailing with that sad, empty expression... it sent a shiver down my spine. Once again I felt compelled to bring it home with me. I stored it in the basement next to the gurgling one so that I wouldn't hear the wailing all the time. They only seem to make noises when they see me. ~ Today was a big day! There was a sign near the museum saying that someone new was moving in soon, so construction on their house was underway. I also got a letter in the mail from Buzz saying he's about to move away. Things sure do happen quickly in this town. I went to say goodbye to Buzz, since we've been on good terms lately, but he seemed really distracted. I guess he has a lot to do to prepare for the move, so I can't blame him. I'll miss him, but at least I can look forward to meeting the new neighbor. ~ It rained again today. I had the sudden urge to go for a walk near where Buzz used to live, and guess what? I found another Gyroid, right where his house used to be. It was just like what happened when Monique moved. This one makes a hollow wooden sound, but it still feels like it's trying to tell me something. I took it home, of course. I'm starting to get a very weird feeling about these Gyroids, though. I keep finding them whenever someone moves. Could it be a coincidence? ~ Samson will be moving away soon, according to a letter I got in the mail. I can't believe he didn't tell me in person! I went by his house to talk to him about it, but he seemed out of it. It reminded me of how distracted Buzz had been before his big move. This is really sad news; I'm gonna miss that mouse. But it does give me a chance to settle some suspicions I've been having. I plan to camp outside Samson's house to see what happens tonight before the big move. ~ Oh my god. He killed him. Tom Nook killed Samson. I was hiding in the trees next to Samson's house, and around three in the morning, Tom Nook knocked on his door. When Samson opened it, Nook hit him in the head with an axe! I couldn't see what happened next, because Nook went inside and closed the door. All I could hear was the sound of an axe thumping. Next thing I know, Nook came back outside, dug a hole in the ground, and buried what looked like body parts. Then he stole all the furniture and disassembled the entire house with unbelievable speed and skill, and walked calmly back to his store with all of Samson's belongings in tow. My heart was pounding out of my chest as I ran back home. What just happened? I have to get out of town quick. Should I warn the other villagers first? A hollow wooden sound made me heart skip a beat. I looked in the corner and saw the Gyroid from Buzz's house, and suddenly it hit me. Nook had buried Samson's body in the ground outside his house. He must have done the same with everyone else. Is this how Gyroids are created? From the bodies of the dead? But why are they still moving and making sounds? Do they remember? My mind is reeling from everything that has happened tonight... ~ I must have passed out last night. I awoke to someone knocking on my door, and got up and answered it without thinking. It was Rasher, the new neighbor. He said he got a letter from me in the mail telling him I was moving soon. Was I being pranked? It took a moment for his words to register, but suddenly everything made sense. I didn't know what to say. I must have shrugged off Rasher in a haze as I stumbled back into my house. It must have been Nook who sent all those letters. No wonder Samson didn't tell me he was moving. It wasn't his choice. Tom Nook chooses who comes and goes in this town. And I'm the next to go.
Video game ghost stories photo
Happy Halloween!
Journal Entry #1: I moved to a new town today. It was a last-minute decision, and I didn't even have a place picked out, so it was a little scary. Luckily, a raccoon named Nook showed me some really cheap houses to rent, so I...

I wanted to be The Wizard

Oct 31 // Nic Rowen
Anyone else remember the movie The Wizard? You know, that piece of shameless Nintendo product placement released to the public under the guise of entertainment? The film where we learned to “love the glove?” Well I do. Frankly, it was a real piece of shit of a movie, but I saw at an impressionable time and it will always hold a small special place in my heart. The Wizard was a weird movie. It was a cynical exercise in co-marketing that waffled between cheesy narm and uncomfortable self-seriousness. It told the story of a traumatized autistic child but also featured a pubescent Fred Savage uncomfortably flirting with some poor 13-year-old girl.  At the time though, the only message I took away from The Wizard was about being wicked sick at video games. About being so unbelievably good that people would stand up and cheer when they saw you stomp on a goomba, that they would lose their shit when you set a record lap in Radmobile. That the solution to fixing everything wrong with your life was as simple as finding the the warp whistle. I was in love with the idea. I was never a cool kid, never popular. Even in the context of our lame-ass church youth group, I was pretty low on the old totem pole. But with this game competition I knew I’d been given a golden opportunity. I was good at games, way better than anyone else I knew. While the details about the competition were a little sketchy, the one thing they were sure of was that it would culminate with a big screen performance projected on the theater screen in the camp’s main auditorium (just like the end of The Wizard!) and the winning group would receive a brand new Sega Genesis console. This was my chance stand out and impress everyone. To win a prize for our group and be a big shot. To show them who I really was. And for better or worse, I did. I remember being so thrilled the morning of the competition. The tournament had a weird structure. There would be some preliminary games played during the afternoon to whittle down the herd a bit (which for the life of me I can’t remember) and for the main event that evening to determine a winner, we’d be playing Sonic the mother fucking Hedgehog. The fools were playing right into my hands. It was like it was meant to be. Sonic was practically my best friend. I was a fucking EXPERT at Sonic. In fact, I’d already won a small competition at a local video store years ago (a story I blogged about back in the day) playing Sonic. A little piece of trivia I decided to slyly keep to myself that whole afternoon, only sharing it with a few members of my group. I let them know that so long as we made it to the finals we were good. A few years before this, I pretty much spent a summer of my young life playing Sonic 1. It was the only game we had for the Genesis at the time and rentals for the system were scarce in my area, so I just ended up replaying it over and over again. My obsessive knowledge of the Green Hill Zone had served me before, and it looked like it was set to pay off again.   That evening we slowly filled the auditorium/theater room. The councilors, bless them, had done a really great job of making it a cool event for the kids. They’d wired up a system to play on a small monitor at the back of the room while the action was projected across a surprisingly professional movie screen for the spectators. They were even handing out bags of popcorn. As an uber-geeky 11-year-old who practically worshiped games, seeing the Sonic title screen displayed 30 feet wide and hearing the familiar music piped through a theater sound system was practically a religious experience (I mean, probably not the one the councilors intended, but still). They'd rigged up some kind of scoring mechanism that rewarded both time and points. Each group would pick someone to play for them and it was up to that kid to set as high a score as possible. Truth be told, I ignored them shortly into the whole explanation because I knew that in Sonic, time and points were the same thing. The person who finished the level the fastest and cleanest would always outscore everyone else, regardless of how many robots they popped or rings they collected. In fact, it seemed almost misleading to even separate the ideas (not that I was going to tell the other kids that). We were slated to be the third group up to bat. The way the competition was set up one member of each youth group would represent their little tribe for this final confrontation, and of course I was the designated hitter. I'd talked up my Sonic skills and knew I was the one to do it, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit to a little last minute doubt, some panic. I mean, it had already been a few years since I was really into Sonic, what if I was rusty? What if I choked? This whole thing could backfire. As soon as I saw the first two teams take their turn, I knew how mistaken such doubts were. Please know that I’m not trying to brag when I tell you how badly I beat the other kids. I’m not trying to hold up my skill at Sonic when I was 11 years old as some kind of point of pride. It is just the plain fact that I annihilated the other kids as soon as it was my turn. In whatever block of time they gave each of us to rack up points, I made it all the way to Robotnik, killed him, and started on the next zone before they told me to stop. None of the other kids made it that far -- some of them didn’t even clear the first stage. The worst part about it? I wasn’t even all that happy with my performance. I knew that if I had practiced I could have done A LOT better (#humblebrag before it was cool). You have to understand, the other kids were not “gamers” like I was. They were there to play around, see the hedgehog jump over the spikes and collect a few rings. For them, the definition of being good at the game was “not dying too much”. At the height of my Sonic obsession, I was measuring success by milliseconds. It was straight up rhino versus baby stuff. Shockingly, most of the kids weren’t exactly stoked by my performance. Instead of the cheers I expected, there was a decidedly uncomfortable atmosphere. A few scattered (begrudging) applause here and there amidst a whole lot of murmuring. Even the kids from my own youth group were kind of quiet. They were excited to win of course, but they took the temperature of the room and knew it probably wasn’t the best time to bust out in jumping jacks. I saw a couple of the adults running the event talking to each other. I got the distinct impression they were talking about me, like this was a problem. Like they thought I cheated somehow -- if not in actuality, at least in the spirit of the competition. I was a little 11-year-old ball of indignity, utterly galled at the injustice of it. Nobody thought it was cheating earlier in the day during the Shirts and Skins basketball match (FYI, I was a Shirt by insistence) when the kids that played youth league basketball scored easy rebound after easy rebound on me. Why should they have? The basketball kids put in the work, practiced, and were (way) better at basketball than me. But when I got a chance to take them on in the one weird arena where I excelled, suddenly it was somehow a trick? They were acting like I conned them when really I was just incredibly over-specialized at a game they were unlucky enough to turn into a competition (and yeah, I could have probably stood to branch out a bit more with my hobbies, but shut up). In the end, our group was declared the winner. I mean, what were they going to do, say my turn didn’t count? Much to my disappointment, there was no parade. The competition just kind of petered out as the last few groups took their (pathetic) turns and shuffled off. Our youth minister took the stupid prize Sega and I never saw it again. Either he kept it for himself, or decided that video games weren’t appropriate for a religious environment, or maybe the whole boondoggle just left him with a sour taste. After that, I was pretty sure I was doomed. I had my big chance and somehow blown it by being too good (which I thought was the whole freaking point of a competition, but what do I know). I started to wonder if there was anyone out there who loved games the way I did. This was 1994, way before I would even learn what the Internet was. The only other real game enthusiast I knew was my brother. It was the heyday of Jack Thompson and the popular idea that Mortal Kombat was turning kids into crazed serial killers. Magazines like EGM and Nintendo Power let you know you weren't completely alone, but it all felt so far away and removed from real life. It was a weirdly lonely time to love games. The deflated balloon of my misguided childhood dream is why I can’t get mad at modern YouTube stars who make 4 million a year screaming at the screen while they play games, no matter how much I don’t personally like the content. It’s why I don’t sneer at eSports, even when they struggle with growing pains and identity crises. It’s why I try to book days off every year in the summer to watch EVO. For as silly as it can be, I love the growth of games as a spectator event. The now-reality that people really will gather to watch talented players being wicked sick at games, to cheer them on and lose their shit with every big play and comeback. The fulfillment of The Wizard’s promise, delivered 25 years late, but finally arrived. If an 11-year-old were to stumble on The Wizard today, he or she could take it the same way I did, but they wouldn't be so wrong. The idea of a video game tournament people give a shit about isn't some Hollywood fantasy anymore, it's a daily reality. Now, The Wizard (however dated and cheesy) would play like any other movie about garage bands making it big, or underdog athletes with a lot of heart triumphing against the odds. Hollywood schmaltz of course, but the same kind that inspires some kids to pick up a guitar, or start running extra laps before school. The kind of schmaltz that sets some kids on an arc that will take them beyond dabbling in a hobby or pastime and take it further, to see if they can turn their passion into a profession. I was too early to be The Wizard, but there is a whole generation of apprentices out there just waiting for their shot.
The Wizard photo
Games as a spectator sport
When I was a kid in the ancient days of the early ‘90s I was part of a church youth group. Obviously this was before I morphed into a surly, foul-mouthed teen (and then an even more profane adult). Every year the youth ...

The Silent Hill Retrospective: The Room

Oct 31 // Stephen Turner
Though the town of Silent Hill was the series' stalwart, it was beginning to feel stale; a terrifying place in danger of being your favourite holiday destination. It was time to move on, put roots in new places, and we found one in the form of South Ashfield. Where the eponymous town excited us with a cautionary network of alleyways and dead commerce, South Ashfield was far more narrow and alive in design; a downtown apartment building on a busy intersection, all oblivious to the horrors of Room 302. SH4: The Room is a modern ghost story at heart, assimilating the usual Eastern commentary on social estrangement and visceral Western horror. It’s Rear Window and Ringu by way of House of Leaves or The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (and most notably, Coin Locker Babies). Worlds expand and contract, panopticon prisons take urban shapes, and ponderous social angst weighs heavily between the mod cons. Though Henry Townshend finds a way out of his apartment through a hole in the bathroom wall, escape is always an illusion, a false hope, and we buy into that through the contrast of a washed-out, lifeless Room 302 with the colourful and abstract worlds on the other side of the portal; not quite reality, not quite The Otherworld, but a misty recollection of both. For Henry, real hope is found in the people around him, usually just a locked doorway out of reach. Compared to Silent Hill 3's minimal cast, here, we find a microcosm of downtown life – party girls and nerds, old men who should be retired, bullies, and sweet social butterflies - while the rest are strangers tucked away in tiny shoeboxes across the street. Most aren’t destined for anything more than the 21 Sacraments, a ritualistic killing spree conducted by Walter Sullivan, but they're also refreshingly lacking in riddles and dreamspeak. Their everyday exchanges and daily routines make them real people rather than purpose built characters; which makes their inevitable deaths all the more disturbing. Voyeurism is SH4: The Room’s greatest strength, feeding and preying on our own inquisitive nature, producing horror and fascination through the flip of a coin. Information is doled out in piecemeal, letting us play the amateur sleuth on South Ashfield Height's tenants, before coming to the morbid realisation that this exactly what our captor (and the game itself) wants. And throughout it all, our intentions are never questioned when we linger on a subject longer than necessary; especially with Henry's neighbour, Eileen Galvin. “I don’t know if you’re a detective or a pervert,” wondered Laura Dern in Blue Velvet; a line perfectly apt for our machinations. When Henry and Eileen finally meet in St. Jerome's Hospital, she's a "broken doll", an image of sex and death in a plaster cast and party dress. The eroticism on display is meant to be simultaneously wanton and repulsive; a painful looking reminder of our obsession and regret. When Eileen struggles to keep up, or when Henry has to find new paths for her, the emotional attachment overrides the chore. Unlike Maria, Eileen never quietly shadows Henry on their journey. She fights back, decipher clues, and lends a comforting voice. Their companionship is constantly threatened by the presence of Room 302, as Henry is forced to leave her behind, and what was once a place of sanctuary becomes less inviting as time goes on. And the switch between needing Room 302 to Eileen becomes increasingly prominent in the second half, when the possessions and exorcisms get out of hand. [embed]317761:60935:0[/embed] The human connection ensures Henry and Eileen's survival. Between them, they quickly gain the one thing Walter Sullivan has always yearned for. His deplorable acts are underlined with abandonment issues and sinister adoption, asking the audience if its either down to nature or nuture. Walter's killings are brutal and inhumane, so divorced from his childhood that he's split into two forms. Though they want the same thing, both child and adult Walter are at odds with each other - the child being a manifestation of memory and guilt that the adult refuses, much like Locane Twins' murders, to acknowledge. As king of his own Otherworld, an inanimate space becomes a living being through the projection of self and a change within language. It's as much as a denial as the human form Walter takes, leaving everyone else to slither or stutter and peel away from the walls of his warped memories, unable to connect unless it's through white-noise and death. But despite this unique, abstract take on disconnection and projection, SH4: The Room is undermined by some questionable design choices. The emphasis on relentless, unstoppable enemies forces the player to miss out on details, the constant backtracking to Room 302 creates the slowest of start, an ill-thought out limited inventory, an arguably dull protagonist (though that's more the fault of an early lack of interaction), and most erroneous of all, a repeat of locations in the second half. Though it pains this retrospective to say this, with SH4: The Room being a personal second favourite, it's the perfect example of how video game narratives can live and die by gameplay itself. Still, when SH4: The Room works, it does so by tapping into a free flow of subconscious fears and moving on from the comforts of Silent Hill's clichés. No radio warnings, not even a single flashlight, but the Otherworld was still out there, still finding ways to reach relatives of former victims, still bleeding from the rotten core and into new corners. The idea was finally less about another physical world and more of our own human flaws writ large, all scored by Akira Yamaoka's best work. Most of it all, it made downtown life a little bit frightening again. Though it would be the last of the "Team Silent" games, it would also be the last time, for a very long time, that Japanese horror games would be this bewildering and confessional. SH4: The Room casted an assimilated eye and frustrated mind, not to mention the most violent of hands, on our deepest social anxieties. And yet, Silent Hill in its final Eastern form left us on a happy note, with Henry and Eileen joking about finding a new place, under a blinding sunlight. A human connection. After so many years of bittersweetness, you couldn't ask for a nicer send-off from the darkest of video games.
Silent Hill photo
'Did you find your mommy?'
What makes the difference between houses and homes? Is it the space itself or the people inhabiting them? Is it down to the memories we create for ourselves or the aged familiarity of the spaces around us? And if a room is in...

Video game ghost stories #2: The faces

Oct 30 // Ben Davis
"What's this? Green clothes... White fairy... Sir, could you, by chance, be a forest fairy? Oh my! My name is Tingle! I think I am the same as you, sir. A forest fairy! Alas, though I am already age 35, no fairy has come to me yet..." Link was very put off by Tingle's appearance. The grotesque features, the ill-fitting clothes, the overt jealousy of Link's fairy companion. He decided it was best to avoid this strange man for now. After reclaiming his lost ocarina, Link used its mysterious powers to travel back in time a few days and spoke with the Happy Mask salesman again. The man upheld his promise to return Link to his former self. He played a somber tune, and Link's body began to shift and change rather violently. It was not exactly a pleasant experience. As he left the leafy form behind, Link felt in his heart the soul of a Deku Scrub passing on to the afterlife. When he came to, he noticed a mask lying on the ground in front of him. A mask resembling the face of a Deku Scrub. With this mask, he would be able to switch between forms at will. Continuing on his journey, Link took to the snowy mountains. Just outside of the Goron village, he caught a glimpse of Tingle floating in the distance. Link decided to try and pass him by. He hadn't spoken to Tingle yet since going back in time, so the man shouldn't recognize him anyway. But as he trudged past through the snow... "Hello, Mr. Fairy! How nice it is to meet again out here in the mountains. You do not look yourself, though... You appear to have changed bodies! How can this be?" Link was taken aback. How did Tingle know who he was? He was certain he hadn't spoken to Tingle since the dawn of the first day. And he recognized Link even though he was no longer a Deku Scrub. Perturbed, Link gave Tingle a suspicious glance and continued on his way. In the mountains, Link met the ghost of a Goron which led him back to its grave. The ghost was restless, but after playing the Happy Mask salesman's somber tune, it seemed to be at peace. Once again, Link felt in his heart the soul of the Goron passing to the afterlife, leaving behind a mask in its place. He tried on the mask, and felt his body being ripped and molded into a new form. He could feel a remnant of the soul of the departed Goron pulsing through the mask as he admired his new body. Leaving the grave, Link was once again assaulted by the pesky 35-year-old. "Mr. Fairy! You have changed bodies once again! I am unsure how you have obtained this power to become a Goron or a Deku Scrub at will, but I must know. If I could become a true forest fairy... You must teach me your secret, Mr. Fairy!" Link barely acknowledged Tingle as he left the mountain in a hurry, eager to be far away from the unsettling middle-aged man. Returning to the first day once again, Link made his way to the Great Bay coast only to discover a Zora in distress out in the waves. He quickly dove in and dragged the body back to the beach, but it was too late. The Zora gave its final breath, and died right there in front of Link. He decided to play the somber tune once more and acquired the Zora mask. Remnants of the Zora's soul pulsed through Link's body as he donned the mask, transforming into a slender, aquatic form. Suddenly, he noticed Tingle floating in the air a short distance away. Was he being followed? Tingle approached with a shocked expression on his face. "I saw what you did, Mr. Fairy. You took that dead Zora's face. It made you turn into a Zora! Interesting. How interesting!" Link noticed a peculiar glint in Tingle's eye that sent a shiver down his spine. Why was Tingle looking at him like that? He thought about trying to explain that it was a mask and not the Zora's actual face, but he couldn't find the words. Instead, he backed away awkwardly, turning to leave as Tingle continued to look him up and down. Some time later, Link arrived at Ikana Canyon. Soon this whole ordeal would be over, and he could finally return to Hyrule. Unfortunately for Link, he would have to deal with the fairy fanatic once again. It seemed as though Tingle was able to be everywhere at once. Or maybe he really was following Link wherever he went... He approached and spoke in an unusually grim tone. "Mr. Fairy, I know now how I can finally become a real forest fairy. I've watched you do it time and time again. You took their faces. You wear their faces to inhabit their bodies. This is the key to your secret power, and it will soon be my power to wield as well." Link hesitated for a moment, caught off guard by Tingle's sudden malicious attitude. The man's expression told Link he was dead serious. He reached a shaky hand out towards Link's face, cackling excitedly. "Mr. Fairy... give me your face." Link turned and ran as fast as he could. Ducking behind a dilapidated hut, he whipped out the ocarina and hurriedly played the Song of Time. Back in the clock tower, Link fell to the ground, gasping for breath. He thought he would just stay put inside for a while. It was the best hiding place he could think of. Nobody ever seemed to enter the tower, aside from the Happy Mask salesman. And speak of the devil... "Ah, perfect timing! I just got done speaking with a client who is willing to pay an exorbitant price for a certain mask. However, this mask is not yet in my possession. But it shouldn't be too difficult to acquire. In fact, its source is standing right in front of me. All I need is... a little something from YOU."
Video game ghost stories photo
Counting down until Halloween
Link made his way out of the clock tower, still in Deku Scrub form thanks to the Skull Kid. He just needed to find a way to return to his regular body. The Happy Mask salesman apparently knows the secret. Wandering around Clo...

Video game ghost stories #1: Man eater

Oct 29 // Ben Davis
~ The new recruit has turned out to be very useful in battle, although their tactics are rather unsettling. I don't know how to put this delicately, but... they have literally been eating our enemies alive. They have a voracious appetite which seems as though it can never be satisfied, and they have a taste for almost anything. It's good for us, as they have been making short work of the monsters in our path and scaring the rest of them away. It's a bit disturbing to watch, though... All that slurping and crunching is gruesome. It makes my stomach turn over just thinking about it. ~ Today we were fighting some soldiers from Alexandria and our new recruit tried to eat them. Human soldiers. The rest of our party was horrified, and I told the new recruit that they could not eat humans. They seemed very disappointed. They kept muttering, "but it look so tasty," and, "I so hungry." Everyone has been a bit wary around them since the incident. Perhaps it's time to find a replacement. They're bringing down morale and making everyone uncomfortable. For now, I guess I'll wait and see if something like this happens again. ~ I awoke today to find that a member of our group had gone missing. His old rusty armor was still lying at the foot of his bed at the inn, but he was nowhere to be found. Maybe he ran away in the middle of the night? I guess I wouldn't blame him, and leaving his armor behind would allow him to escape quickly and quietly. I will miss him. Even though the two of us didn't quite get along, he was a tremendous asset in battle. ~ The new recruit has been acting stranger than usual lately. They keep giving everyone these really weird looks and their mouth starts drooling... I keep thinking we should just ditch them, but since we lost Rusty we really can't afford to lose any more members. ~ Another member of our group has gone missing. Her spear and clothing were strewn about her bed, and now I'm seriously worried. There's no way she would have left without her things. I think it's time to leave the new recruit behind... I'll let the other two in on the plan, and hopefully we can escape tonight. ~ I stayed up all night waiting for the perfect opportunity to wake the others and leave, but the new recruit apparently sleeps with their eyes open? Watching them... sleep?... sent shivers down my spine. I'm not sure what to do at this point. We might just have to make a run for it. ~ We made our escape while the new recruit was busy feasting on a large basilisk. The slurping and munching was quite loud, so hopefully they didn't hear us over all the noise they were making. We managed to hail a passing airship and returned to Alexandria to come up with a new plan for our adventure. The princess has been really scared lately, and we've all been mourning the disappearance of our two allies. I have a horrible feeling we won't be seeing them again... but at least the three of us are safe now. ~ The new recruit followed us to the Capital! How did they know where we were? How did they get here so quickly? They surprised us late at night, a crazed look in their eyes. I grabbed the princess and ran, but I didn't know where the mage had gone. I hope he found a place to hide or something. I don't know where else we can go, but we have to get away. For now, we're going to hide in the woods outside of town. ~ The princess and I became separated in the woods somehow. One second she was right behind me and the next thing I know she's gone! I've been calling her name and running around in a panic. What should I do?! ~ They're here. They followed me into the woods. I can hear their heavy breathing and horrible slurping sounds. I fear there is nowhere left to run or hide. They seem to know exactly where I'm going at all times. I've been running all day. I don't know how much more of this I can take... Just thinking about their awful, dead eyes and insatiable appetite fills me with dread. Is this the end for me? If someone finds this journal, heed my warning! Stay away from the Q -- (indecipherable scribbling) . . .
Video game ghost stories photo
Counting down until Halloween
Journal Entry #1: We recruited a new member to our party today, but they're a little... strange. We found them hanging out in a swamp eating frogs. At first, I thought it was an enemy, as their appearance startled me, but they seemed eager to join our team and we need all the help we can get. Let's hope for the best!

If Tales from the Borderlands characters were Vault Hunters in Borderlands 3

Oct 27 // Darren Nakamura
Character: Fiona Possible Action Skill: Hidden Gun. Though it isn't exactly intimidating, especially considering the vast arsenal a typical Vault Hunter carries around, Fiona's single-shot pistol could be buffed for enormous damage, like a Destiny Gunslinger's Golden Gun. If nothing else, the ability to add any of three types of elemental damage could be useful. Likelihood of becoming a Vault Hunter: High. The latter half of the season details Fiona's training to take care of herself in a fight. Those who visit Felix in the final chapter learn of his desire for her to give up the con game and find a new life. All signs point to Fiona as the most likely candidate to be a Vault Hunter. Character: Rhys Possible Action Skill: Echo Eye. Most Action Skills are used solely for combat, but this could be employed during exploration to find hidden caches and shortcuts. Additionally, it can be used during combat to highlight weak points and hack electronics-based enemies into fighting for Rhys. Likelihood of becoming a Vault Hunter: Low. Though Rhys did a bit of fighting throughout the series, he was never proficient with it. After stealing the rights to and revitalizing the Atlas corporation, it sounds like he is best set up as a supporting character for the future instances of Borderlands. Character: Sasha Possible Action Skill: Swindle. Sasha uses her feminine charms to stupefy enemies into inaction. Enemies defeated while Swindle is active have a greater chance of dropping valuable loot. Likelihood of becoming a Vault Hunter: Medium. Sasha has demonstrated basic weapon proficiency, and like her sister, could stand to drop the life of a con artist. She didn't receive combat training from Athena, so she might not quite be suited to the life of a Vault Hunter just yet. Character: Vaughn Possible Action Skill: Fudge the Numbers. Borderlands is about making bigger and bigger numbers pop out of enemies, so who better to manipulate that than an accountant? Activating Fudge the Numbers would grant huge boosts to Vaughn's attack and defense, and can be powered up later to add a confusion effect on bandits. Likelihood of becoming a Vault Hunter: Medium-low. Vaughn took to the wastes of Pandora well, and he has the rock-hard abs of a Vault Hunter, but he is probably too busy as the leader of the Children of Helios, who have a penchant for pacifism. Character: Gortys Possible Action Skill: Mech Mode. Normally Gortys scoots around in her cute ball form, but upon activating Mech Mode, she digistructs her arms and legs and becomes a brawler. Not only that, but she can adopt the abilities of nearby teammates, a little like Claptrap's ability from The Pre-Sequel, only less random and more useful. Likelihood of becoming a Vault Hunter: God I hope so. Gortys is the best new character and I would play as her in a heartbeat. Not only that, but she has shown she can fight and has the heart to protect her friends. She has also demonstrated having no qualms with bad people dying. Character: Loader Bot Possible Action Skill: Bulldoze. Loader Bot equips a BUL Loader arm and charges forward, pushing enemies together for area-of-effect damage or off cliffs for instant kills. This may be difficult given Loader Bot has lost most of his original body over the course of the series. Likelihood of becoming a Vault Hunter: "Hi." Loader Bot does what is necessary to get the job done, and his new body seems more than capable of handling the dangers of being a Vault Hunter. However, his main motivation seems to be protecting Gortys, so he might not have the desire to become a Vault Hunter unless she does it first.
Borderlands photo
Dibs on Fiona
Tales From the Borderlands (Season One?) wrapped up last week, and it was fantastic. One of the coolest things about Telltale's effort is how it will have an indelible impact on the main series. Once Borderlands 3 comes aroun...

Let's stop pretending Halo 5's gameplay matters

Oct 27 // Kyle MacGregor
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE CUTSCENES END There is a way to add new systems to an existing formula without fucking things up. The best example of this comes from Killzone: Shadow Fall, which has these aerial drones called OWLs. These things can create energy shields, hack computers, create zip lines, and even inject your character with drugs. They're great! Kind of like Cortana used to be, actually. You know, before she died. Be warned: The words you just read may be considered spoilers. With Cortana gone, Master Chief has made some new friends IRL. Sadly, despite having corporeal bodies, they're all incompetent, often walking into walls or standing in the open getting shot at instead of following simple orders. They're also very bad drivers -- even worse than my uncle Ted, who once ran over the neighbor's cat backing out the driveway and ruined Christmas for everyone! There are other problems, of course, including some mundane boss fights, no local co-op, and tedious level design. Seriously Bungie, how many arenas are you going to lock us in until we kill all the enemies? There's more than one way to flatten a cat, you know. HALO 5 IS AWESOME Thankfully, the cutscenes do a visceral job showing what the Xbox One is capable of from a graphical point of view, pumping out a story that's every bit as good as big-budget Hollywood blockbusters like Vin Diesel's San Andreas and Jurassic World. After finishing the campaign on normal, I went back and tackled it a second time on easy just to see all the explosions and hear Nathan Fillion talk all over again. And now that the game's out, I plan to watch a replay on YouTube and do a quote-along. I really love Halo 5, even despite the tiresome gameplay. It's not that I'm not upset with the horrific friendly AI, the endless corridor shooting, and cribbed Call of Duty mechanics. I am. It's just between all the fun to be had gazing at cinematics and listening to audio chatter, some garbage gameplay is a trivial detail in a package sold for only full retail price plus tax and microtransactions. You're guaranteed your money's worth with Halo 5. The crap parts shouldn't meaningfully impact your enjoyment at all.
Halolz photo
Halo 5 rocks, except for the shooty bits
Halo 5: Guardians is a video game much like any other; some parts of it are real good, others not so much. Take the story, for example, this part of Halo 5 is pretty nice. There's a reason why we gave the game ...

Fatal Frame V photo
Fatal Frame V

Despite all the hubbub, I'm still getting Fatal Frame

May I live to regret it
Oct 26
// Jonathan Holmes
Our own Zack Furniss had a pretty bad time with Fatal Frame V, as detailed in his excellent review. Having just finished the hour-and-a-half long free demo for the title myself, I completely understand where he's coming from,...

Podtoid 308: Back to the Force

Oct 25 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]317378:60841:0[/embed] Stuff we talked about: Back to the Future Star Wars Darren's naughty pics James Bond Jurassic World Destiny drama Nintendo shit Life is Strange Downwell Kingdom Fatal Frame V Recent Episodes: Podtoid 307: The Millennials Podcast Podtoid 306: Tales of Tokyo Game Show Podtoid 305: The Voice of God Podtoid 304: The Phantom Pain Podtoid 303: A Good Amount of Cocaine Send any tips, queries, and #forcefriday horror stories to [email protected]
Podtoid photo
The Future Awakens
Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or download it here. Steven, Kyle, and Darren are joined by PCWorld's Hayden Dingman to discuss the latest news in the world of video games: Back to the Future and the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer.

Experience Points .26: Dark Souls

Oct 24 // Ben Davis
Serenity Dark Souls is home to one of my absolute favorite locations in video games, but I might not have even known it existed if I hadn't looked up a guide. Deep in Blighttown, there's an illusory wall hidden behind an unassuming treasure chest which leads to the inside of an enormous tree, an area known as the Great Hollow. I probably never would have found this secret entrance on my own, but I'm really glad I heard about it. Carefully following the branches down the trunk of the tree, I eventually emerged out of an opening at the bottom. The discovery that followed was absolutely stunning. The Great Hollow led to an unexpectedly huge, open area called Ash Lake, which certainly doesn't look like it belongs deep underground. I found myself on a quiet island of sand, surrounded by murky waters and many more gigantic trees growing up into the air in the distance, much like the Great Hollow I had just exited. It was like I had just discovered the birthplace of the world. Though the area felt vast and secluded, I actually wasn't alone. Ash Lake is inhabited by a few other living creatures, including some territorial shellfish, an angry Hydra, and the Everlasting Dragon, a peaceful, immortal being who grants travelers the power to transform into dragons themselves. I don't know what it was exactly, but something about Ash Lake really resonated with me. There's this unimaginable peacefulness to the place, and everything about it feels so mysterious and magical. It's a secret beach where I could go and just relax and think about life without being bothered by anything (well, other than the Hydra). I spent a really long time just wandering the sands, taking in every inch of the landscape and admiring everything around me, and it quickly became my favorite place to waste time. I wish I had been able to discover Ash Lake on my own, without any prior knowledge of its existence, because that really would have been something. It would have been so exciting, like I had just uncovered the greatest secret of Dark Souls that no one else knew about, and Ash Lake was all mine. But alas, I was apparently not very observant during my first playthrough. Biggie Smalls As far as difficult Dark Souls boss fights go, the fight against Dragonslayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough is one of the best. The duo encapsulates two very different boss types: one small and agile, the other slow and powerful. Each of them would easily pose a threat on his own, but now they're fighting together and must be defeated simultaneously. It's one of the most taxing fights in the game, requiring players to keep track of both enemies at once and never let one of them out of sight, lest they sneak up from behind for a beat-down, all the while choosing the perfect opportunities to land any hits on the pair without being exposed to a counterattack. And as if the fight weren't hard enough already, once one of the duo is defeated, the other absorbs their fallen comrade's powers and their health is fully restored. If Ornstein goes down first, Smough takes his ally's lightning power to become slow, powerful, and electric. If Smough is the first to fall, Ornstein inherits his buddy's size to become giant yet still as agile as before. It's up to the player to decide which one they feel they can handle and try to kill the other one first. I can't even count the number of times I died to these guys, but eventually I developed a solid strategy for beating them solo. Personally, I always tried to take down Ornstein first, because Mega Ornstein is a bit too big and speedy for my liking. Mega Smough, on the other hand, is much easier to keep track of, and I found I could use the pillars to my advantage to keep him at a distance since he always seems to walk directly towards the player. Smough is not too bright, apparently. He's definitely the brawn to Ornstein's brains. The harrowing adventures of the onion knight A lot of people tend to think of Solaire as their trusted companion in the world of Dark Souls, but personally I always preferred Siegmeyer's company. Siegmeyer of Catarina is a jolly, yet somewhat lazy knight wearing an odd set of armor with an onion-like appearance. He can often be found napping or meditating near an obstacle he is unable to overcome, and requires the player's help to pass through. Siegmeyer's quest line basically involves getting him out of all sorts of predicaments as he goes off on his adventures. Eventually, the player will meet his daughter, Sieglinde, who shines a bit of light on her father's personality, saying that he's always going on adventures and getting himself into trouble, so she has to go looking for him to keep him safe. Their quest line culminates in a rather sorrowful manner, ending in Ash Lake where Sieglinde stands near her father's body. Sieglinde says he went hollow and she had no choice but to kill him. But evidently, this isn't the first time this has happened, as she previously stated, "If he goes hollow, I'll just have to kill him again." What a tragic existence, to have to constantly follow her father around as he slowly goes mad and then kill him before things get too troubling, and repeating the process all over again. My good friend Nic Rowen wrote a spectacular piece on this very moment from the game, where he compared Siegmeyer's condition to Alzheimer's, and now that theory is pretty much canon in my mind. Off with his tail! The one thing I miss about Dark Souls is the ability to acquire new weapons by chopping off the tails of my enemies. It was such a fun idea, but sadly it didn't return in Dark Souls II or Bloodborne. The "cut off its tail" strategy applied to many of the bosses in Dark Souls, provided they had a tail to attack. Once I discovered it was a running theme in the game, I made it a point to inspect every boss for a tail and made sure to cut it off before the fight was over. This made some fights a lot more intense, since I'd have to change up my usual strategy to move around behind the boss and try to lop off the tail without causing too much damage. I died many, many times to Seath the Scaleless, simply because I was so preoccupied with making him Seath the Tailless. The tail weapons were all great additions to the player's arsenal, so taking the time to obtain them was usually worth it. There's the Drake Sword, of course, every new player's saving grace which can easily be taken from the Hellkite Dragon, as well as the Dragon King Greataxe and Moonlight Greatsword taken from the Gaping Dragon and Seath, respectively. I also personally really liked the Gargoyle Tail Axe from the Bell Gargoyles, which I thought was one of the cooler looking weapons due to the way it bends when it swings around, even though it's not that great stats-wise. It's even possible to cut off the tail of the Everlasting Dragon, the massive NPC found in Ash Lake. This will net the Dragon Greatsword, which basically looks like a huge hunk of stone roughly shaped like a sword. Don't worry though, attacking the dragon won't cause him to become aggressive since he is apparently immortal. Hope he can grow his tail back, at least! Come out, come out, wherever you are I was never very good at Dark Souls PvP, but I still really enjoyed playing with other people just because of how great the summoning and invasion systems are. But since combat wasn't my forte, I started to try and find ways to mess with other players instead. One of my favorite strategies for toying with invaders is by using the good old Chameleon spell. Chameleon disguises the player as an object from the environment, such as a vase or a statue, something that will most likely appear inconspicuous to the other player as long as it's not moving around or sitting in an unusual spot. It became like a fun little mini-game for me, trying to find the perfect hiding spots for my Chameleon-disguised body and seeing if any passing invaders would notice. Some players were very observant and were able to locate me right away and attack, while others spent forever wandering around the area, passing right by me several times before giving up and leaving or offering me the perfect opportunity to sneak up and surprise them. It was always really tense whenever an invader would move near me, as I sat there wondering if I was actually well hidden or not. I saw a similar thing on YouTube where someone dressed up as an enemy knight and took their place, which is sort of like using the Chameleon spell only way more clever. I never tried this myself, but I really want to do it someday. Messing with invaders is just too much fun! He ran into my knife... ten times I've always liked the idea of permanence in the Dark Souls series. Attack an NPC enough and they'll become angry and fight back, remaining aggressive for the rest of the game (unless the player seeks absolution). Kill an NPC, and they'll be gone forever until the next playthrough. I learned this the hard way in Demon's Souls, when I was practicing with my new weapons in the Nexus and managed to piss off the Crestfallen Warrior. This made me particularly careful of my actions around NPCs from then on, since I wouldn't want to screw myself over by accidentally angering or killing someone important. Killing NPCs can sometimes be useful, though. The Souls games tend to have at least one evil character who will go crazy and start killing off other important characters if left unchecked, so it's sometimes a good idea to take someone out if they seem really shady. The NPCs often drop really great items too, so it's worth it to kill them at least once during multiple playthroughs. Usually, I would wait until the end of my second playthrough before going around and killing every NPC for their souls and loot, and then start a new game to bring them all back again. My first time through Dark Souls, I almost managed to keep everyone alive, aside from one small slip-up. When I found the hidden passage to the room housing Quelaag's sister, I tried to enter only to be blocked by something in front of me that I couldn't quite see. I looked down, noticed an Egg Carrier in my way (those creepy, egg-infested enemies that laze about and sometimes attack), FREAKED OUT, and quickly stabbed it to death without a second thought. I only realized it was actually an NPC afterwards, when I noticed the dialog at the bottom of the screen while he was dying. Umm... oops! Sorry, Eingyi! Maybe don't get in someone's way like that when you look so unsettling? Living with regret Every once in a while, the Souls games like to throw in an unexpectedly emotional boss fight to keep the player wondering about their own true motives. In Demon's Souls, it was Maiden Astraea, and in Dark Souls we have Sif, the Great Grey Wolf. Sif is a rather massive wolf with the unique ability to wield a huge greatsword with its mouth. Sif is not too shabby with the sword either, able to swing it around in large arcs and jump nimbly through the air while swinging downward. But aside from simply being an adorable, fuzzy wolf, the fight is not overly emotional at first. That is until Sif takes too much damage and begins to lose steam, sadly limping across the battlefield, attacking much more slowly and deliberately, and even falling over due to the sheer exertion of swinging a gigantic sword around while injured. Dammit, Dark Souls! Why do you have to make me feel so bad about killing a boss? I really wanted nothing more than to spare Sif and let him live his wolfy life, but unfortunately there's no way around it. And of course, after the Artorias of the Abyss DLC was released, the fight with Sif somehow became even more unbearable. During the DLC campaign, the player can find Sif in the Abyss, where Artorias left the wolf protected under a barrier to prevent it from becoming corrupted. Sif can then be summoned to help during the fight against Manus. If the player goes to fight Sif in the main game after completing the DLC area first and rescuing the wolf, the introduction cutscene will be noticeably different. Sif walks up to sniff the player, recognizing them from before when they fought together, and lets out a melancholy howl before taking up the greatsword with resignation. And then the player has to kill Sif and feel just completely awful doing it. Sorry, buddy... Past Experience Points Level 1: .01 - .20 .21: Katamari Damacy.22: Tomb Raider.23: Mother 3.24: Deadly Premonition.25: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Dark Souls photo
Praise the Sun!
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Cash money photo
Cash money

PewDiePie nearly has enough money to buy his soul back (Fauxclusive)

One more healthy quarter and it's his!
Oct 16
// CJ Andriessen
Earlier this week Forbes Magazine listed the ten richest celebrities on YouTube and to the surprise of absolutely no one, gaming personality PewDiePie ranked as the top YouTube earner with more than $12 million dollars m...
Elite controller photo
Elite controller

What if your garbage kid throws your Elite controller parts down a storm drain?

Questions for Microsoft and Scuf
Oct 16
// Brett Makedonski
I briefly tinkered with the Xbox One Elite controller at E3 as part of a larger platform demo about the direction of the system. I didn't play any games with it or mess with any high-level customization programming. Instead, ...
Is that a Game Boy? photo
Is that a Game Boy?

'Is that a Game Boy?' Navigating simple questions as a socially awkward adult

What is your name? What is your quest?
Oct 15
// Darren Nakamura
The other day I was sitting in the lunch room alone, playing on my 3DS. I was having a go at the current Pokémon Safari in Pokémon Shuffle, trying to capture the last 'mon I needed from the event. In walks one o...
Legend of Zelda photo
Legend of Zelda

Is The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes too formulaic? (Fauxclusive)

This all looks & sounds so familiar
Oct 15
// CJ Andriessen
The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is the first Zelda game for the 3DS to utilize co-operative play in a series that has traditionally been a single-player experience. So why does it feel so familiar? I played Tri Force He...

Experience Points .25: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Oct 10 // Ben Davis
Valiant villain I've always been a big Bowser fan, so I was very excited when I played Super Mario RPG for the first time and discovered that Bowser actually joins Mario's team. This was the first time the two rivals teamed up together, and it was awesome. Super Mario RPG actually begins with a boss fight against Bowser to save Princess Toadstool, leading the player to believe it's going to follow a similar storyline to the previous Super Mario games. But that all changes immediately when a giant monster sword descends from the heavens and lodges itself in Bowser's Keep, laying claim to the castle and kicking Bowser and his minions out. Mario spots Bowser and his army several times as they're attempting to regroup and take back the keep. Finally, they meet face-to-face in front of Booster's Tower where a lone Bowser reluctantly decides to lend his strength to Mario's team (because he knows they're headed for his castle anyway). He declares Mario and friends to be honorary members of the Koopa Troop for the duration of their travels together. Bowser is probably my favorite party member (sorry Geno!). He's a powerful asset during a fight, able to summon a Big Boo to terrorize enemies, wield a Chain Chomp as a weapon, and even toss Mario around like a projectile. He also brings a lot of humor to the group. This is the first game where he's characterized as sort of a goofball. He tries really hard to keep up the reputation of being a tough, mean bully, but it's pretty clear that he's really just a big ol' softie. You just keep being you, Bowser! It's axin' time! Super Mario RPG has arguably one of the greatest boss battles of all time: the Axem Rangers! After a particularly grueling fight against the Czar Dragon in Barrel Volcano, as well as its undead form, Zombone, Mario finally gets to take a break and revel in the light of the newly recovered Star Piece. Unfortunately, it's a short-lived victory, as the Star Piece is suddenly swiped right out of his hands by stealthy assailants. The thieves reveal themselves to be none other than the "amazing," "unbeatable," and "gorgeous" group, the Axem Rangers! They're clearly inspired by another group of similarly colored Rangers, only they're much more dastardly. Mario chases them up to the rim of the volcano where they attempt to make their getaway on the airship, Blade. The fight commences aboard the airship, where the Rangers declare their motto and attack. It can be a difficult battle, since there are five targets to focus on, each with their own attacks and specialties. Eventually they start to drop out one by one, each complaining about something trivial like being hungry, having a headache, having runny make-up, and accidentally breaking their sunglasses, to which Axem Red always has a snarky retort. Finally, Red changes strategies and takes control of Blade for their ultimate attack, the Breaker Beam. But despite their showmanship and underhanded tactics, the Axem Rangers are still no match for Mario and company. Of course, that doesn't stop them from being awesome and having the coolest motto! "We fight for evil! We live for disorder! We like what we do! We struggle for chaos! We are... the AXEM RANGERS!" Sniff competition Booster is one the most memorable characters in Super Mario RPG, but a big part of why I like him so much is because of his Snifit buddies. Booster himself is kind of insane; he never seems to have a good grasp on reality, so he relies on his Snifits to help him out and explain things to him. They help solve a lot of simple mysteries for him, like what to do at parties, how to eat cake, and what it means when someone is crying. Without his Snifits to keep him under control, who knows where Booster would end up. While Booster's main posse consists of three Snifits (simply named Snifit 1, Snifit 2, and Snifit 3), there's actually a secret side quest to expand his army. In Booster Pass, Mario might come across an enemy called an Apprentice, a blue Snifit who hopes to impress Booster by beating Mario in a fight. They are very weak enemies, so most players will probably just kill them and be on their way without a second thought. But I always liked the Snifits and wanted to help the little guys out, so I tried losing to an Apprentice on purpose once just to see what would happen. After a really long battle where I just defended and let the little dude pummel me with weak attacks, he finally "beat" me. Instead of getting the usual Game Over, though, it returns to Booster Pass where the Apprentice proudly exclaims that he'll become Snifit 4 and runs off excitedly. Congrats, buddy! Mario can actually keep battling Apprentices in this way until there are eight Snifits. They can all be found at the top of Booster Tower, where they're still super thrilled with their new titles. Well, all of them except for the eighth Apprentice, who woefully explains that Booster only wants seven Snifits and that all of his training was in vain. Poor guy... at least you tried your hardest! I am matter... I am antimatter... Monstro Town is my favorite area in Super Mario RPG for several reasons. For one, it has a great theme song and a bunch of cool, friendly monsters to talk to. All the enemy types Mario has been fighting have all gathered in this secluded villager in order to live peacefully with no wish to fight. There's also a few side quests to do here, such as fighting Jagger and his sensei Jinx at the dojo and playing a nice little game of "Find the Flag" with the Three Musty Fears. But my favorite side quest involves a sealed door and a mysterious neighbor. The friendly piranha plant hints about hearing their strange neighbor next door mumbling about crystals and evil. If Mario brings a Shiny Stone from Moleville, the crystal will react to the door and the seal will be broken. Upon entering, Mario finds himself floating in a strange dimensional rift and is greeted by a creepy purple being who calls himself "Culex, Dark Knight of Vanda." If Mario agrees to fight him, he will be up against the most powerful foe in the game, even more daunting than the final boss, Smithy. Culex is particularly awesome because of his ties to the Final Fantasy series, since the game was created by Squaresoft and Nintendo. While he's not based on a specific character, he's designed to look like a typical final boss from the series. The encounter with Culex also uses several songs from Final Fantasy, including the battle theme from Final Fantasy IV, the victory theme, and the main theme of the series which plays while they are speaking after the fight. I always thought Culex was a really cool idea for a crossover boss fight. Plus, the fact that he's so well hidden made it that much more surprising and exciting when I finally entered his door to find myself in another dimension speaking to a character who probably shouldn't exist in the Mushroom Kingdom. Well done, Square! Super Mario Shmup Super Mario RPG has a lot of fun mini-games to play whenever Mario wants to take a break from his grand adventure, but the one I spent the most time with was probably Beetle Mania. Beetle Mania is a handheld game that Mario can buy from a Toad in the Mushroom Kingdom Inn, which can then be accessed from the main menu during any area of the game. It's basically a really simple shoot-'em-up where the player controls a tiny beetle that shoots stars at incoming Koopa shells. The shells bounce around and remain on-screen until they are hit. Each shell grants two points when shot, and explodes into a burst of other stars that can hit more shells to trigger a chain reaction which can quickly multiply the score up to thousands of points per shell. Even though it only rewards two points for an individual shell, the score can easily skyrocket in seconds due to combos if there are a bunch of shells on-screen at once. I believe the high score is something like 99,999,999 points, which I never came close to personally, but I definitely made it into the millions a few times, and I wasn't even playing for that long! It's an addicting mini-game due to how satisfying it is to watch the score jump higher and higher so quickly, and I found myself taking breaks from the main story to play Beetle Mania for a while just because it was so much fun. Do you remember what your high score was? Wedding woes Super Mario RPG's story is full of goofy plotlines and even goofier characters, but the silliest part of the game by far happens in the town of Marrymore, where Booster attempts to marry Princess Toadstool. Crazy old Booster, who was holding Toadstool captive after she fell from the sky and landed in his tower, decides that their strange meeting must be destiny and that they should get married (obviously). When Mario climbs the tower to rescue Toadstool, Booster flees to Marrymore with the princess in tow and it's up to Mario and friends to crash the wedding. After barging into the chapel with Bowser's help busting down the doors, they accidentally bump into Toadstool, causing her to drop all of her wedding accessories. A quick mini-game ensues, where Mario has to collect all of her dropped items in a time limit. Afterwards, she says she'll reward Mario with a kiss. But this causes Booster and Bowser to feel left out, since Bowser thinks he deserves a kiss for breaking down the door and Booster wants a kiss too since everyone else is getting one. A confusing rush occurs as everyone goes in to try and get a kiss from Toadstool. Depending on the player's skill during the previous mini-game, Mario could get a kiss from Toadstool, Bowser, Booster, or even Bowser and Booster at the same time! The lucky bastard! Since the wedding is pretty much off at this point, Mario, Toadstool, and Bowser start to leave the chapel, but the way is blocked by the chefs who have just brought the wedding cake in and are distressed to see that the bride is leaving after they spent all day baking the (rather hideous) cake. In a fit of anger, the chefs attack, initiating one of the strangest boss fights in video game history. After a bit of fighting, the massive dessert the chefs were so proud of actually starts to move on its own, and the chefs flee the scene. Then the main battle against the living wedding cake begins, and it's a pretty difficult fight. After putting out the candles and eliminating the top two tiers, Booster and the Snifits arrive just in time to eat the remainder of the cake. They deliberate for a bit on the best method for consuming such a huge treat before the Snifits finally just toss the entire thing into Booster's open mouth (but not before Booster notices that it's moving!), destroying the evil dessert once and for all. It may have tried to kill most of the wedding party, but at least it was delicious! Say WHAT?! Super Mario RPG is so good at humor that even some of its more serious moments are rather hilarious. Take one of my favorite moments, for example, where Mallow's grandpa reveals his true origins. Mallow was raised by his grandfather, Frogfucius, in Tadpole Pond, an area populated by frogs and tadpoles. Naturally, Mallow grew up believing that he, too, was a tadpole, even though he really looks nothing like one. That is, until the fateful day that he met Mario. After retrieving his grandfather's coin from a thief with Mario's help, they return to Tadpole Pond to speak with Frogfucius about what to do next. He advises Mallow to accompany Mario on his adventure, but Mallow seems surprised, saying, "I'm only a simple tadpole! This adventure isn't for me!" Frogfucius turns around, the happy music fades out, and suddenly the tone becomes deadly serious. "Mallow, my boy, I've kept this from you until now, but you're... not a tadpole!!!" DUN DUNNN!!! (*Actual sound effect used in the game.) Needless to say, Mallow is shocked! His whole world is turned completely upside down. Everything he thought he knew about himself was a lie. It even starts playing a really sad piano tune and Mallow starts to cry. And yet... I couldn't stop laughing! Poor Mallow... but I mean, come on man, look in a mirror or something! Past Experience Points Level 1: .01 - .20 .21: Katamari Damacy.22: Tomb Raider.23: Mother 3.24: Deadly Premonition
Super Mario RPG photo
Fungah! Foiled again!
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Chibi-Robo photo

It's time to pray for Chibi-Robo

God have mercy
Oct 08
// Jonathan Holmes
Chibi-Robo is a refugee from GameCube country, born from the co-mingling DNA of the industry's most well-known publisher and one of its least mainstream-friendly developers, he was ready to die from the moment he hit the grou...

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