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Are there games you've never played but still love?

Sep 06 // Jonathan Holmes
[embed]309528:60257:0[/embed] Still, hearing friends' stories about The Phantom Pain, watching videos of it on YouTube, and reading spoilers about its story on message boards and social media this week has been a lot of fun. I'm going to guess that in-between baby care, I've spent an accumulated four hours in the past few days just thinking about the latest Metal Gear release, through either passive self-education or talking to others about it. Not a bad deal for the grand total of $0 I've spent on the game so far.  Looking back on it, I've always enjoyed watching friends play Metal Gear. My first time with Metal Gear Solid 3, my favorite title in the series, was mostly spent as a spectator. It wasn't until the friend I was playing it with got stuck on a few bosses that I took over playing for us both completely. Having had it both ways, I found that playing the game was different, but no more or less fun, than just watching someone else play. That's probably because Metal Gear Solid does such an amazing job of melding movie logic and game logic together into a seamless whole, creating an action/comedy/drama that's larger than the sum of it's parts. You don't necessarily have to control the game's characters directly to enjoy that formula, In fact, it's often easier to enjoy if you aren't the one left frustrated with being spotted by an enemy that you had no way of knowing was there, or stuck fumbling with the sometimes unwieldy button layout. Where the player may be left annoyed with these moments, they can be laugh-out-loud hilarious for the friend in the passenger seat.  Thanks to the Internet, I've been able to experience a lot of The Phantom Pain from that perspective, and it's left me loving the game just as much, if not more, than if I had actually played it myself. I'm sure to run through the game first hand someday (maybe after my son is able to dispose of his own poop independently), but for now I'm a happy to enjoy it as an audience member, rather than an actor. I've heard people say the same thing about EarthBound and games in the Persona series as well. People love the characters, settings, and fandoms around these games, but the act of actually playing them doesn't add up to enough fun moments per minute to justify the time sink. Of course, many fighting games today have way more fans than they do players, but as "Smash 4" world champ ZeRo told me not long ago: you probably need to have some understanding of Smash to get the most out of watching high level play. But the same probably isn't as true for Minecraft, which has millions of fans who are quick to say they like watching Let's Play groups like The Cube play the game way more than they like playing themselves.  How about you? Are there games that you like watching, talking about, or thinking about more than playing them? If so, why is that?
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The joys of being a spectator
I'm really enjoying Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, despite the fact I've never played it, and probably won't do so for a while. My understanding is that The Phantom Pain plays a lot like a cross between its two pr...

What games are you never ever ever getting back together with?

Aug 05 // Jed Whitaker
Thank you, Mortal Kombat X, For driving the final nail in the coffin of secret characters. I now accept that unlockables, especially in the form of hidden characters or outfits, are dead.  --   Thank you, League of Legends, You kept me company when I was all alone, sometimes for up to eight or more hours a day. I'm sorry that you started seeing other people; people who mostly spout garbage and toxicity. I've heard you've cleaned up recently, but I've moved on.  --   Thank you, Words With Friends, For ripping off Scrabble and capitalizing on it. I actually enjoyed our time together until I started getting text messages -- on top of your already plentiful notifications -- telling me it was my turn.  --   Thank you, Mario Kart, We had such fun times together on the Nintendo 64, back before you were all about micromanaging parts of karts and had far too many items. Back before you needed a spreadsheet to pick your karts, there also used to be dedicated balloon battle arenas. Those were the days. --   Thank you, Sega, You were a large part of my childhood. Golden Axe, Sonic the Hedgehog, Ristar, and others were my jam. I'm glad you never remade Golden Axe or made a game where Sonic the Hedgehog is a werehog with stretchy arms or kisses a human. I'm so not in denial.
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Never say never
Are there any games or series out there that you gave a chance and really tried to like until they inevitably broke your heart, as many boys games do? Sometimes you might even still have feelings for the games, or even love t...

Video game movies to watch this weekend instead of Pixels

Jul 23 // Jed Whitaker
Ace Attorney (Gyakuten Saiban) [embed]296492:59644:0[/embed] Whether or not you're a fan of the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney games, the movie based on the series is pretty decent. All the characters look and act like their game counterparts and even with the subtitles the movie still nails the games' humor. Sadly the film has never officially been released for sale in the US, but if you have a way to watch it I highly recommend it. Sweet Home [embed]296492:59645:0[/embed] Sweet Home had a Famicom game by the same name, which Resident Evil was planned as a spiritual sequel to. It might not be the best horror film but it is certainly worth a watch. Those who go in thinking the movie will be a Resident Evil movie will be disappointed, as this is more a haunted mansion story than a zombie story. The Sweet Home game influenced a lot of survival horror games and could be painted as the original survival horror game. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters [embed]296492:59646:0[/embed] This documentary follows Steve Wiebe as he attempts to take the world record high score in Donkey Kong from (at the time) current champion Billy Mitchell. While that alone may not sound exciting, the real life characters in the movie make it something special. The film plays more like a drama than a documentary, so much in fact that a scripted film adaptation has been said to be in the works. The documentary was also parodied in a South Park episode where Randy Marsh attempts to take a larger shit than U2 frontman Bono Vox. It's one of my favorite movies ever and highly recommended. Dead Rising: Watchtower [embed]296492:59647:0[/embed] When the free-to-watch Dead Rising: Watchtower was announced I wasn't too excited, and upon release I went into it with low expectations. Turns out it is a rather competent zombie film and has enough fan service to make Dead Rising fans happy. Frank West may not be the lead character but he makes many appearances throughout the film as part of a news program, dickish charm intact.  Animal Crossing (Dōbutsu no Mori) [embed]296492:59648:0[/embed] Does anime count? Well I'm saying it does and you should watch the Animal Crossing anime film that was released in Japanese theaters. The anime follows the same plot as the games; a new girl moves to town, is an indentured servant to Tom Nook, and befriends and helps the other animals in town. Animal Crossing's anime adaptation was never officially released outside of Japan but a fan dubbed version is out there somewhere. The Lawnmower Man [embed]296492:59649:0[/embed] What list of video game-related movies would be complete without The Lawnmower Man, a movie that is more relevant now than when it came out as it deals with virtual reality headsets. A dumb dumb lawnmower man in town is approached by a scientist to be his human guinea pig in an experiment using drugs and a VR headset, and this somehow turns him into a genius with magical powers... I remember watching the movie when it came out and being amazed at the cutting edge special effects, though today they look extremely dated. Strangely enough the effects were made by Angel Studios, which later became Rockstar San Diego and went on to make Red Dead Redemption, L.A. Noire, and Grand Theft Auto V.  Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World [embed]296492:59651:0[/embed] Whether or not you've read the graphic novel series you should give the Michael Cera-led Scott Pilgrim vs. the World a shot, as it may be the best video game movie out there. The film is basically oozing with references to video games from band names, to Zelda music, to epic fight scenes that would feel at home in any beat 'em up. Speaking of which, if you haven't already, give the game a try because it is just as good as the film and plays very similarly to one of the greatest beat 'em ups of all time, River City Ransom. -- These are some of the best video game-related movies I've seen and surprisingly I don't see them getting the credit they deserve. Also don't let me stop you from watching Pixels, by all means tell Hollywood you want more garbage Adam Sandler films if you so wish. I know I'll probably be watching Pixels sometime this weekend because clearly I'm a masochist, and I'm part of the problem. 
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Think of the children
This week the critically lampooned Pixels movie opens in theaters nationwide in the United States, and if you'd rather spend your time and money on movies that don't blow consider these other video game-related films. Don't worry though, this list won't just be the movies you've all seen before, because I'm so much cooler than that.

Batman: Arkham Knight full combo and move list

Jul 06 // Steven Hansen
□ (square) - Hit. This is Bruce Batman's main way of interacting with the waking world. "Hit" manifests itself in a surprisingly diverse manner of ways, going from a "punch," to "elbow," to "knee drop," to "why the fuck is the brake mapped to square, fucking hell why do I have to use this car tank at all." It's a triple threat!  △ (triangle) - Counter. This is like "Hit," but with the excuse that someone else is trying to do a "Hit" on you first. ↑ (up) (d-pad) - Detect. Like soccer is "the beautiful game" or Jim Harbaugh "the zodiac killer," Batman is the "world's greatest detective." Pressing "up" on the d-pad runs a filter over the game that highlights things in the environment Batman wants to talk to you about, like how much he needs to use the power winch. L1 (ell won) - Even the odds. Use this button to even the odds. R2 + R2 (are two, are two) - Freeze, sucker. Not to be confused with the garbage can robot from Star Wars, this unleashes a grenade that freezes enemies, provided you noticed the gadget sitting on a random bar stool in Batman's prison, just waiting for an unattended child to stick the dang thing in its mouth. ← (left) (d-pad) - Oops. The "oops" button is what you push when you mean to push → (right) (d-pad) to open the mission select menu, but accidentally make an oopsie instead. I don't blame you, there are a lot of buttons. ↓+↘+→+□ (quarter circle forward, "hit") - Switch characters. This combination will instantly switch from Batman to one of the other playable characters while in combat, initiating a tag-team fighting system, as Rocksteady definitely did not make the "Dual Play" system just so you could do dual combat once or twice and never again and instead you'd have to do more "kill 50 tank" segments. Rocksteady would never do that. Yell "Catwoman" - Switch to Catwoman. In Arkham City, you could roam around the entire game as Catwoman after beating the main story. Arkham Knight adds so many fun new gadgets and pieces of technology (like the Batmobile) that there simply weren't enough buttons to have a dedicated "switch to Catwoman" button. Instead, just yell "Catwoman" into the built-in controller microphone. If it doesn't work, you're not yelling loudly enough. → ← ↑ ↓↖↗↘↙ (right, left, up, down, up-left, up-right, down-right, down-left) - Batarang. Use this button combination to make Batman throw one of his patented Batarangs. | (weird touch sensitive line) - Eject. This button will eject Arkham Knight from your console. Depending on your playstyle, you may use this after your fill of killing 50 tanks, or upon hitting "96% completion" and noting the 700 Riddler trophies and puzzles left to go. - I hope these tips help you really feel like the gosh darn Batman!
Arkham photo
Tips, tricks, highlights, scores & stats
Holy guacamole, Batman! Arkham Knight sure does have a lot of buttons. Left (d-pad), up (d-pad), up (analog stick), square -- it's got 'em all. Grab any modern day controller and there are more buttons by default than on the ...

Five great (not) Metroid games you can play right now

Jun 19 // Jonathan Holmes
Guacamelee! Available on just about every console but the 3DS, Guacamelee! is more of a brawler than any Metroid title to date, but if you think of protagonists Juan and Tostada as luchador versions of Captain Falcon and Zero Suit Samus from Smash Bros., then it's a little easier to take as a Metroid-like. There are actually fan mods that can make that kind of thing a reality, but only on the PC version. The good news is: every version of Guacamelee! has tons of action, atmosphere, and weapons-as-tools-for-exploration gameplay, just like Metroid! There are even statues of Chozo and Metroid-looking characters in a few places, one of which grants the power to morph into a "chicken ball," which you use to crawl through some tight spaces and lay "egg bombs." Still skeptical? Our own Chris Carter recently said "I think Guacamelee! is literally the most Metroid out of all of those games," so there you go.   Environmental Station Alpha At first, I was only interested in Environmental Station Alpha because it reminded me of Metroid. More specifically, it reminded me on Minitroid, the now abandoned Metroid fan game that seemed to be the perfect antidote for all the ways Other M made me poisoned. Now I don't dislike Other M as much as some. The game turned Samus into an emotionally stunted nerd, but I can relate with nerds, so no problem for me there. Most of my problems with Other M come from the fact that it does so much to hold your hand, and left so little to the imagination. That got me down. Minitroid worked to do the opposite of both of those things, which made me happy.  So does Environmental Station Alpha, which feels a lot like a lost Metroid prototype from the old days. It's got cute but creepy alien environments, a bunch of neat power-ups, and more questions than answers about the protagonist and their world. If the game had been on the 3DS, maybe it would have found more of an audience.  Xeodrifter While it's never been confirmed, I'm pretty darn sure that Xeodrifter is a 2D demake of Moon, another title from developer Renegade Kid. A lot of people say that Moon is like a cross between Metroid and Metroid Prime Hunters. If that's the case, then it would make sense that Xeodrifter is a Moon demake, as it wears its love of Metroid and Super Metroid prominently on its sleeve. One of the ways that Xeodrifter harnesses the original Metroid feeling is by dropping brick walls in front of the player. The game allows you to fly from planet to planet in a cute little ship. but that sense of freedom is balanced out by danger at every turn. Most planets are so hostile and difficult to traverse at first that chances are you'll be running for your life back to the ship in no time. The first Metroid did something similar. Though it may be hard for many Metroid veterans to imagine, most people who pick up the game for the first time do not run left to get the morph ball first. They run to the right, like almost everyone does in a 2D action platformer, only to find themselves stumped in the end. Only by returning to the start and trying something different can you obtain the tools you need to move on. Thankfully, Xeodrifter is so densely packed that backtracking rarely takes very long, so you'll rarely feel like you're time has been wasted. Eventually, your tenacity and optimism will be rewarded to the point where there is no obstacle that you can't overcome. That brand of feature pacing is one of the basic principles behind Metroid-style games, but that's pretty much Xeodrifter in a nutshell. It nails the Metroid basics and never wears out its welcome.  La-Mulana La-Mulana is like the most evil, alienating, and suddenly fantastic areas of the original Metroid, but for 12 hours. It will require you to draw your own map. It will leave you completely stumped as to which way to go next. It will also blow your mind when you stumble into a new area that will make you think "what did I do to deserve this?" for better or worse. Through equal parts luck and hardcore action-archaeology skills, you'll most likely end up in heaven or hell, and it all feels like one big happy (or not so happy) accident.  That style of "anything goes" world design was something that few Metroid games were really willing to embrace after the first title. It seemed that later games were too afraid that players would feel alienated if they were given a truly disorienting, unpredictable world to explore. La-Mulana, and its upcoming sequel, are not encumbered by that fear. They aren't afraid to hurt you, because they respect you. They believe that you're strong enough to tolerate some pain, and that your unwillingness to accept defeat will keep you coming back for more. Axiom Verge In a lot of ways, Axiom Verge takes all the elements that these (not) Metroid games and maxes out on them. It looks so much like Metroid that even Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime couldn't help but shout about it. It offers multiple questions about the protagonist and the world he's invited to explore while giving few concrete answers until much closer to the end. It isn't afraid to provide the player with road blocks, but it also goes out of its way to reward the player for defying conventional thinking, to the point where actually "breaking the code" of the game becomes a legitimate gameplay mechanic. The problem for Nintendo fans is, Axiom Verge is currently not on the Wii U or the 3DS, and given how it took one-man development team Tom Happ about five years to make the game in the first place, chances aren't too high that we'll be getting in on Nintendo consoles any time soon. Unless, of course, Nintendo decides to step in and lend Tom a hand.  I have to wonder how fans would react if Nintendo announced it was aiding in the publishing of Axiom Verge, and allowed the developer to create some Nintendo-exclusive Metroid-tribute section with a Samus-like character in the lead. In the end, all most Metroid fans want is the opportunity to play a game like Axiom Verge but with Samus as the lead. If Nintendo were to recognize that by allowing Tom Happ, Renegade Kid, Joakim Sandberg, or any of the many other talented developers who have proven that they understand what we love about Metroid to take a crack at the series, I have to wonder if fans would still be salty about side games like Metroid Prime: Federation Force. 
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Pacify your Metroid urges (Metrurges?)
When it comes to Metroid, I'm an entitled baby, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. When I heard that the next official game in the series was going to be like the Metroid Blast mini-game from Nintendoland mixed with s...

Hot Pockets photo
You see the depths I go for yous guys? I ate a Hot Pocket.

Horror and secrecy need to be better bedfellows

Jun 08 // Zack Furniss
[embed]293479:58861:0[/embed] Don't Do This In this year's Resident Evil: Revelations 2, Capcom felt the need to release videos that focused on the various beasties players would be facing throughout the episodes. Any surprise or confusion that should have been reserved for a first encounter is squandered by any fan wishing to keep up with a product they are excited for and have most likely already decided to purchase. Though some consumers make the decision to go on media blackouts to prevent this exact situation, it shouldn't be on them to decide not to watch. This effectively renders these marketing efforts useless. Another title that gave away too much before anyone played it is last year's The Evil Within. One of the bosses, an amalgam of limbs and hair, was arguably the most unique creature in the game. It could teleport from corpse to corpse by climbing out of their coagulating puddles of blood and your best bet was to flee. This made for a thrilling moment in a mostly monotonous survival horror, but by the time The Evil Within came out, anyone who had been following it knew exactly what to do to survive. So what do we about this? Publishers want to make money, and the best way to do that is by showing the most exciting, gruesome sections of their newest product. But is that the only way? There are a few successful games from the last couple of years that prove there are other viable methods. So What Can Be Done? This is the part where I talk about P.T. (you knew it was coming). On August 12 of last year, P.T. was released alongside a short teaser at Gamescom. The teaser only showed reaction shots of people afraid of whatever they were playing. I immediately downloaded it out of curiosity and found the best horror game of last year. That it ended up being a teaser for the now-cancelled Silent Hills was icing on the bloody cake (I can already hear DashDarwin fuming in the comments). P.T. diffused through gaming media like a drop of blood in a glass of water; even with (and, let's be honest, because of) its utter destruction by Konami it will be remembered for a long time. I'd be foolish to deny that P.T. being free had no bearing on how often it was downloaded. However, I think if a new game came out of nowhere for only a few dollars it would have a chance of replicating this viral success. It's worth a shot at least.  Next up, we have Bloodborne. Sony spared no expense with providing images and videos of From Software's latest, but players had no idea what was lurking in its back half. BLOODBORNE SPOILERS FOLLOW, SKIP THE NEXT PARAGRAPH AND IMAGE TO KEEP YOURSELF SAFE. Though Bloodborne started off with beast-like enemies and Gothic environments, its latter half brought enough Great Ones, cosmic horror, and tentacles to merit numerous comparisons to the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Most players would likely have been content with fighting lycanthropes in their various forms throughout the dark descent, but this unexpected tonal shift provided an identity that separated it from the studio's previous work with Dark Souls.  Providing media only from the first half (quarter, eighth, whatever) could be a way for publishers to keep the horror skulking about in the shadows and allow room for players to be surprised. An example of the downside to this method would be Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and its Raiden fake out. Though I appreciate that surprise now, Hideo Kojima earned a well of ire for that back in the day. There's definitely a risk here, but Bloodborne is proof that it can pay off beautifully. The last idea I have isn't exactly for releasing new games, but for adding content to them. The wonderful Lone Survivor: Director's Cut added extra endings, a new enemy, and fresh music to the original, yet no one could find them upon release. Creator Jasper Byrne teased this, and mentioned looking forward "to hearing your thoughts about the new edition, and interpretations of the new content… especially the secret endings!" And so began a mad hunt to uncover anything new, and no one could find anything for a few weeks (and if they did, they didn't tell the internet). Byrne created more excitement by doing this than he would have if he had just said "here's how you get the new ending, and here's where you fight the new monster." Though it isn't explicitly a horror game, Batman: Arkham Asylum did something similar. Just around the time the sequel Arkham City was announced, it was discovered that there were hidden blueprints for the Arkham City itself in the original game. How cool is that? Rocksteady Games waited until time had passed to expose this and it made players go back to see it for themselves. I understand that developers want everything they've made to get some time in the sun, but this delayed gratification can be just as, if not more, impressive. I'm not a marketing expert, and I won't claim to be. But in a time where the Internet can be used as a tool to spread information via experimental methods, we may as well try to change things up. P.T. and Bloodborne show that these risks can be well worth taking. Here's hoping some of these ideas are implemented next week at E3. Please don't show us everything!
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We can do better
Horror games, as much as I love them, have a serious problem right now.   In the modern-day media maelstrom, almost every scare, monster, and plot twist is given away or hinted at before a game is released. Of course, us...

What recent games have actually had good box art?

Jun 03 // Steven Hansen
The Gravity Daze box art was supremely my shit (it's slightly better than the American Gravity Rush one). That full piece of artwork is one of many Gravity Rush pieces that long served as a desktop wallpaper for me. It's still my Vita lock screen. It sells the world instantly. "Gravity" in the title? Beautiful city and lead not adhering to gravity? I'm interested. Of course that box art gets to take full advantage of pulling from one of the most beautiful games ever made. Like the ICO box, it's just a great piece of art, used on the box. Hey, good thing I made 2011 an arbitrary cut off, right? Maybe I can sneak Rayman Origins in here, too. I think I just like how pink Catherine is. Aggressively. It might be the hottest pink thing I own (I have pink shirts and things, mostly pale, though). Especially given how dark the story gets. It subverts the idea of naive femininity the same way both characters (bubbly, but dangerous; serious, but pink-loving) do. Holy shit yes. It is basically a war crime that this isn't a box I own in my home. I either have to A) import the Japanese boxed copy or B) just get this as a giant poster, sans logos. Actually, let's just go with B. How the hell do I make that happen. -- All right. I've already had to dip into non-North American cover art. Help me out. Which games have done it right recently? What stands out on shelves full of thousand yard staring main characters and inscrutable action?
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Uncharted is uninspired
So, the Uncharted 4 box art is a bit shit, isn't it? It's not particularly bad. It even has a nice swoopy subtitle font much better than the one used for Uncharted 2 and 3. But it also follows the trend of central, silhouette...

22 (probably) games that are way harder than Dark Souls

Jun 01 // Steven Hansen
Conversation around From Software's turgid-uttered sacred cow, the Souls series (Bloodborne, too) has such a strange fixation on difficulty, of shuddering players shivering under its hurts so good sadism. Namco Bandai fed into it with Dark Souls and Dark Souls II's marketing. I've died hundreds of times in hundreds of games. And it's very strange how people nod in agreement to the novelty of death and difficulty as if instant fail states were not one of gaming's founding blocks (to the point where some people have stupid arguments about whether things are or are not games). It reminds me of how Telltale's recent adventure games trump up "player choice" as if players haven't been choosing since positioning their Pong paddle. Ok, "narrative" choice? Umm, how about text adventures from 1981. Come on. Souls games aren't hard. I don't say that as a nose-upturned, "gotten gud" vet. They are about endurance and resilience more than sadistic, chronic difficulty. They are a challenge, but not monstrous or mean as people often make them out. Heck, I've seen someone who plays maybe one or two games a year get a platinum trophy in Demon's Souls. There's no club. Anyone can do this. They're designed to let anyone play and finish. Over on the webpage (and mobile application) Twitter, one-time Destructoid contributor Stephen Beirne (no relation!) loosed a series of posts about Souls and I am in accord. "I can't get behind the argument that Dark Souls is abusive due to its (presented sense of) difficulty. And I think this is because I find Dark Souls to be far, far less difficult than a game like, for example, Super Mario Brothers. Platforming is difficult! It's very difficult! It's not fun and it's agonizing and it's pointless and hateful." I love platformers, but this raises some great points, aside from the subjectivity of difficulty. No one's good at everything. I am bad at not having loads of sex, for example. Irish Stephen (not to be confused with Welsh Stephen) is bad at platformers. Young Steven (me) was bad at telling Kurt Russell and Patrick Swayze apart. There is a relative novelty to Souls games, though, and I think that's where some of the obsession over exaggerating the difficulty comes from (aside from general chest pounding reinforced by marketing to try and create a positive-feeling in-group). But it isn't in death. It's as a 3D action game. Late '80s, early '90s gaming was filthy with platformers. Mario, a pop culture icon up there with Michael Jordan and the wild shirtless Mark Farner, comes from New Jump City. The genre has only gotten easier, shedding quarter-gobbling design (the removal of "lives"), allowing you to skip levels after repeated death. While some folks are plum bad at 'em, we've had a lot of tries at being good at them. Compare to the 3D action game, which might not have even hit its stride until the PS2-era in the 2000s (PS1-era ones tended to be wonky and platforming-heavy), but at least didn't even exist until 3D graphics. In our young medium, the 3D action genre is younger still, (blood)born(e) of platformers and agèd over the last decade. Souls games occupy a genre that has a decent chance at being a new challenge to folks. It also operates different than genre-defining stuff like Devil May Cry or God of War, thanks in part to the RPG bits. The latter, reflex-based ilk are linear and need momentum. And so you can limp along, button mash, and be not all that good, for which they'll stratify you (chumps skirt by with C-ranks and stamina, experts carve up the world with SSS-rank endless combos). But you're still getting through, moving along. Even I meandered my way through the "hard" Devil May Cry games. And on the RPG side of the Souls mix, there's a history of having the numbers and grind fallback, limited reflex-oriented fighting. And suddenly, Souls, where the difference isn't "coast by or be good," but, more closely, "coast by or die." It rewrites the expectations of 3D, third-person action relative to genre standard bearers. All it asks you to do is get by, and so it skews the relationship to death and performance. The general experience of Devil May Cry is that sometimes you'll die. Mostly, you'll empty out rooms with the killing precision of a child flailing at a piñata. Eventually, you'll be an expert slayer. Souls changes that bell curve. Mostly you'll die. Eventually you'll get by. Rarely, you'll be a wrecking machine, an offensive weapon. It's about winning, eventually, instead of winning more and more impressively.  Souls offers other outs, too. You can go grind and level up, get more gear, buy more arrows. You can often fuck off elsewhere, to another stage, or on another path, rather than bang your head against one boss. Masochistic? When's the last time a text adventure let you type, "this is stupid, next question?" How about trying to suss a point-and-click puzzle that expects you to pry open a manhole, stretch a patch of human skin over it into a trampoline, and jump up through an open window? Souls games are designed to encourage you towards eventual success, even if it means breaks, detours, or extra hours. You don't get a gold star for killing the Flame Lurker without the ribcage exploit. You don't get a demerit for safely perching yourself with a bow and taking 100 potshots to down a far off creature. In Souls' judgment, it's all the same. What matters is you did it. I don't find that sadistic at all.
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Why the Souls series' hardened rep?
"Prepare to die," Dark Souls warns, flashlight under face, as if 30 years of video games hasn't already prepared me. "I'm not a masochist," people say, letting six years of Souls pass from afar, like they're looking out a tra...

Obscure Video Games: Magical Doropie

May 30 // Obscure Video Games
Obscure Video Games photo
Mega Witch
Yes, video game nerds, I know Vic Tokai localized Magical Doropie as The Krion Conquest in North America. However, the Japanese version is superior (and has a nice fan translation), so that's why I played it. For those of yo...

Your future gaming TV might be a wallpaper magnet

May 24 // Niero Desu
We've been reading about paper-like televisions for years, and it seems like they're finally going to be commercially available. This prototype was unveiled last Tuesday, and looks similar to convex OLED panels shown by Panasonic a year ago aimed towards commercial display applications. Mashable and Yonhap are reporting that this new line of OLEDs may be see production from 55 to 99 inches this year, though no price or date have been set though LG hopes to ship as many as 1.5 million OLED sets by 2016. It's unlikely that this is the model you'll be taking home this year. I meant the television. The company was not quick to talk up the quality of such displays, so we can assume that they're similar to the 1,200x810 flexible OLED panels can be rolled up to a radius of 3 centimeters from CES 2014. The cool factor is indisputable, though. [embed]292686:58648:0[/embed] Sony can enjoy the title of thinnest 4K TV for the summer Earlier this year, Sony announced "the world's thinnest TV" which is a cow in comparison. Their 4.9mm 4K television at it's thinnest point out-slims the Experia Z3, their other cutting edge waterproof phone whose marketing department forgot isn't actually waterproof. At least their other guys got publishing Bloodborne accidentally right. Between this, the disputed islands, and Yoshinoya gouging their beef bowls it's been a shitty year for the Japanese, but LG's wallpaper TV not a high end 4K TV. How long until Sony announces expensive magnets? Anyway, how about those $300 42 inch TV's at Walmart, eh? I was going to make a joke about Vizio (because we own one) but the famous budget TV maker looks like they're close to making the best TV ever: the same Dolby Vision technology that's making people almost jizz over George Clooney is making its way to the home theater with their yet-to-be-priced reference series. We saw this set during CES this year, which promised a 120 Hz low-latency refresh rate for gaming (which they call 240 Hz Effective, but don't believe the BS). Like Sony and high-end Sharp TV's, you'll see a $2k extra dollars added to the price tag when they say stuff like "local dimming array", which is a second grid of sensors to help boost contrast, but will always have love handles because unlike OLED units it requires some form of back-lighting hardware. There's no real standard for this, so companies can put anywhere from 30 to 384 sensors and still call it the same thing. Its unclear if you can tell any of these televisions apart when you're not running around looking at all of them in a show room. It might be fun to kidnap the most serious television editors, cover all UHD televisions in duct tape, and have them tell us which ones are closest to Rec 2020, the holy grail that Vizio hinted at delivering but fell short. If you're keeping track of buzzwords this is similar to Sony's "X-Tended" technology in their higher end Bravia line, which by the way isn't compatible with HDR. It's all shit, send it back, start over. X-cept that we're halfway towards some serious pretty.  Chauncey spends his evenings in silence hoping that GTA 5 will someday play like this one frame 4K wallpaper There's not much new tech to talk about over at Samsung. The're busy making high-quality TVs tainted by Orwellian privacy concerns and pop-up ads in smart televisions. I do have one gripe, in that the company insists that their high-end TV line should be curved. This seems like the dumbest trend in TVs possible. On one hand, you have PR reps hamsplaining that OLED makes non-OLED TVs look washed out if you look at them at an angle, but what good is that when the television is then angling away from you? What if I want to watch all the amazing available 4K content in 3D at the furthest possible corner of my house? Lastly then there's Toshiba, who made a mirror. Sharp lost 1.6 billion dollars somehow. Apple was praised for ditching its 4K TV plans, as it makes more sense to market its "retina" displays, which your mom thinks means UHD but instead refers to ultra-dense pixel density.  After researching a dozen of these future television articles you might lose your mind in trying to determine what television has the best darkness contrast, in the same way you'll lose your mind actually trying to get a 4K stream that isn't about nature or more Korean women. But back to the girl. Just look at her. She's like, "Why am I wasting away my late 50's modeling? I could be installing LG TV's all day." You'll probably want to start stapling metal sheets around your toilet or moving into shipping container, because it's just as economic as it sounds. Upsampling shows, I've upsampled a few It seems there's a ton of 4K content until you actually buy a 4K TV. Enjoying 4K is mostly the art of upsampling non 4K content, unless you (1) bought an expensive computer or (2) are convincing yourself that 4K 30 Hz on your mid range equipment is the future. Chotto... I truly want 4K to happen in a bigger way already, but delivering that content over Blu-Ray or typical internet it is super inconvenient. You can't even use a GO PRO 4K with most 4K TVs. CNET says they can't tell the difference between House of Cards in 4k or 1080p with a $4K 4K Samsung. So brace yourselves for another year filled with hints of 5K, as all of the above are in an arms race to convince you that your most excellent 1080p television is garbage because you're sitting too far from it. Then there's 8k or Super-High Vision, which is different from what you did in college. We'll likely see more of this during the next Olympics. Your children and cool uncle that works for the CIA will enjoy 8k at home. For the rest of us we'll likely have to wait a decade. Let's not forget Ultrasonic TVs [embed]292686:58647:0[/embed] Did you ever have one of these when you were a kid, or recently as a hipster? Our Zenith held up for ten years before it hissed, turned pink on the edges where the giant magnet held the remote, and sometimes you could hear trapped fried moths dying a slow death from boldly going into it's dark forbidden crack. One clever colony of termites focused their efforts on its rotating base, a 20-pound slab of wood that was supplied ideal damp conditions by a mother's well intentioned mopping. Prior to that, I thought it was pretty keen and daydreamed I could stack all my gaming consoles or just come home after a hard day and plank on it.  Dtoiders, what TV do you game on? Any plans on picking up a new TV soon?
The future is anemic photo
What TV do you game on?
Doesn't it look like she's just putting up a glossy poster? They're calling them wallpaper TVs.  That's an OLED flexible TV being affixed to magnetic sticker. Put up a sticker, install a TV. The unit is light enough to b...

Squid Now Art Film photo
By your favorite person alive, me!
"Better than anything David Cage has been making" - Edgar Velasco (MoonSpiderHugs) "You've gotta be squidding me." - Zainré Fang "So Nintendo hired David Lynch to create a Splatoon commercial?" - quetzalcoat...

Castlevania's IGA back with 'dream game' Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

May 11 // Steven Hansen
Bloodstained stars Miriam, an orphan stuck in the middle of "a classic tale of magic, or rather faith and belief, versus science," Igarashi told me through a translator. A group of alchemists, fearing its waning relevancy as science captures the 18th century setting, try to warn against the world losing faith. Start fucking loving science, they warn, and a bunch demons will take over. When that doesn't happen, egg on face, the alchemists start fusing demonic crystals into orphans to call the demons to earth, attempting to instigate a global annihilating "told ya so." The demon crystals have a, "natural inclination to expand, eat away at hosts' bodies," not unlike bad videogame companies, perhaps. "Stained glass" acts as an artistic motif reflected in the art style, but those pretty shades in characters' skin are also the basis of gameplay. Enemies drop materials, which are forged into gems, which can be formed into weapons. Rare materials can be forged into ability crystals that can be stuck in Miriam's body. They can also be combined in a number of ways, like adding a strength+ attribute crystal to a double jump for a double jump attack move. Igarashi explained the new system would be a little less repetitive than old Castlevania's, naming Aria of Sorrow specifically, where "you're just grinding on the same enemy to create the same thing." Why stained glass? "Stained glass is already cool-looking as it is, but stained glass weapons is badass." A recent walk through Grace Cathedral in San Francisco has me in agreement. Igarashi, "wanted to have a more colorful palette," and so on top of the stained glass, you have a blue-heavy protagonist, purple tinted key items (candles, keys), and an active blood orange sky in the background (thanks to parallax scrolling) inspired by an 18th century Icelandic volcano eruption that killed 23,000 Brits and bore a "bloody sun rising." All of this is framed by classic Gothic gray. If the mock up is any indication, it could look lovely. That's a "could," of course, because the game has not been made yet. Igarashi is someone you can likely depend on to make a Castlevania-style game. Inti Creates has been delivering for a long time. And Bloodstained isn't even held hostage by its Kickstarter, though it's meant to fund the last "20%" of development (and make for physical, pressed Xbox One and PS4 discs). Still, it's a way's out. Igarashi hasn't been gone from Konami much more than a year and shopping this proved difficult, hence last year's "hold." Igarashi "scoured the globe" and "pitched every major -- even minor -- publisher on this concept." "There was a ton of interest, but for various reasons, from, 'we do distribution for Konami and...don't want to anger them,' to 'Oh, this looks like a Japanese game.' But they didn't realize Igavania games sold better in America than any other territory." Incidentally, despite the widening popularity of the term "metroidvania," the team is eschewing the "castle" and "metroid," opting for the term "Igavania," explaining, "We want to make sure we don't anger Nintendo, and Igavania is a more accurate name." This project will likely irk someone at Konami regardless -- "Konami doesn't know about it," Igarashi said last month -- perhaps even more if it proves successful, like Mighty No. 9 or the recent not-Banjo-Kazooie platformer from ex-Rare folks, Yooka-Laylee. Given those examples (or Double Fine Adventure Game, or a number of others), it feels like a sure thing, but Igarashi does seem a bit more unsure after constant publisher rejection. "A lot of them were more interested in AAA stuff," he said. "There's a big disconnect between what the publishers are giving people and what the fans want." Inafune's success, specifically, "proved that the Western audience would put its money where its mouth is and support the creators that it loves." Igarashi doesn't expect he'll generate "anything close" to Mighty No. 9. He remains modest about the whole thing. "I spent the last year trying to make this work because I believe that's what the fans are telling me. And if the Kickstarter campaign shows that's not the case, then in the end the publishers were right and I was wrong." "From Iga-san's perspective," the translator, explains, "the most frustrating, saddening part is that he did his due diligence. He tried to work within the standard publisher model." It does seem surprising that Mr. Castlevania shops around a Castlevania and no one bites. Then again, why did Igarashi have to leave Konami in the first place to make this sort of game? "In the good old days, it used to be, as a producer you'd put your neck out on the line to make a game and if it's didn't work out, then you'd be done," Igarashi explained. Speaking specifically of Konami, at least as far as he left it a year ago (and somehow it was in a better state then), "Recently, there's more of a delicacy at [Konami] towards how they handle IP to the point where rather than maybe making new games, 'let's just not touch it'" becomes the mantra. "Or, 'we have to do it a bigger way." The 3D Castlevania, perhaps. Igarashi thinks it's "more risk averse" because someone used to, "pledge it would be okay, and it was their responsibility," but given that he would've have pledged on a new Castlevania, or Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima's likely ending relationship with the company, I'm not sure that's all of it. But Konami is in the past now. Inti Creates is making Bloodstained under Igarashi's direction. "We had several developers that were interested," he explained. "We needed a team that was both capable, but more importantly passionate. "They said, 'Listen, ever since becoming an independent studio, we've wanted to do three games.' One was a Mega Man type game, which they're now doing. The second was an Igavania game. And the third is a Zelda-type game, which they will probably never get a chance to do," Igarashi chuckled. Nintendo seems more open these days, though. Igarashi did dredge up some past, scoring the composer of Symphony of the Night, Michiru Yamane. "I basically tricked her into joining the campaign by getting her really drunk and making her promise she would help," Igarashi said. "You think that's a joke, but it's the truth." I believe it. And I believe Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night's campaign shouldn't have a problem, "proving that this is a concept that the fans really want." I mean, all you have to do is ask "Sword or whip?" and they flip.
IGA's metroidvania photo
Publishers wouldn't touch it
Last year, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night assistant director and subsequent series producer Koji "IGA" Igarashi left Konami after nearly 25 years with the company. At GDC that year, Igarashi ended his interesting Symphony...

Swery: D4 on PC is '100 percent bona fide D4'

May 07 // Brett Makedonski
The reason that Swery doesn't feel that the Kinect-to-mouse transition is a concession of sorts is because control method isn't what's at the core of D4. Swery elaborated "D4 is a game that doesn't derive its entertainment value merely from the fact that you can control it. My design has always been focused around the 'sensory replication' element. All input devices have their own special characteristics, and I feel that I've created separate control schemes that are all designed specifically for the Kinect, controller, and now the mouse." This "sensory replication" Swery speaks of isn't some marketable-sounding term that he tacked on to describe control schemes; it's something he spends a lot of time thinking about and crafting experiences around. In fact, further hypothesizing by Swery is the reason the PC port is even happening. He explained how D4 on PC came to be by saying "I started working on the PC version at the end of last year, through to GDC this year. At that time, I had made no plans about releasing it. It was just an experiment to help prove the contents of my GDC speech. To sum up [my speech]: 'Even without Kinect, the theory of symbolization and sensory replication through minute observations is still possible, and pieces that replicate sensations in this manner can enhance the overall empathy that people experience.' In order to prove this, I started making a sample version of the game that could be played using only the mouse. I revealed it to people at GDC and PAX East, and since people responded more positively than I had expected, I decided to develop an official release." That official release won't come as easy as one might think. This is Access Games' first time working on a PC title. (The poorly-received PC port of Deadly Premonition was controlled by another studio, and Swery says that Access wasn't able to exert control over the process because it didn't own the rights to the game.) Because of Access' inexperience developing for PC, Swery describes the process as including "a lot of unexpected surprises and problems." He went into detail by saying "Like I talked about earlier, we had to figure out how to create sensory replication with the mouse. Since we couldn't use Kinect, we needed to figure out how to make the PC version a game that anyone could easily enjoy with the mouse. Our game designers, programmers, and UI designers really had to rack their brains about this. Next, we had to think about adding user options and confirming minimum system requirements and recommended specifications that didn't exist in the console version. Since we created an original shader for D4 using our own code, it was hard to make it backwards compatible simply through changing settings in Unreal Engine, so we had to adjust the code and add new parts to it. Since we've only worked on console games so far, this was a brand new experience for us." Above all else, Swery's says he's dedicated to not letting the PC version of D4 go the way of Deadly Premonition. "The team that worked on the Xbox One version of D4 is in charge, and I've also been taking part in the adjustments. We're really serious about this, and intend to treat the D4 IP with the utmost care." One thing that he wasn't too serious about was commenting on his feelings about Microsoft announcing one year ago that it'd release a version of Xbox One without Kinect. After all, Swery had likely undertook this project with the understanding that Kinect would be something that's in every living room that an Xbox One is in. All of a sudden, that wasn't the case. Swery took the high (and humorous) road by simply chiming in "#ThanksObama." Temporary comedic relief aside, Swery seems very serious about D4 and its future. When asked about reading fan theories (a pastime that's dominated the Destructoid office at times), Swery said that he refrains out of respect for the fans. He clarified by saying "D4 is of the mystery genre. With this genre, the fun comes from 'enjoying' all the mysteries up to the end. I think it's natural for people to closely watch the developments, hypothesize, and then think up their own opinions and theories. That's what's so great and important about the mystery genre. With that in mind, I think I have no right to take part in those sorts of discussions." For all the transparency and openness behind the whole process of getting D4 to PC, Swery turned mysterious again when the topic on everyone's mind came up: Is a second part to D4 ever getting made? "I still can't talk about what'll be coming next. All I can say is that I'm working my hardest!," he said. Figures. But, maybe with the help of a PC audience pushing for more D4, we'll get the resolution we need. Or, maybe we'll get more fights with a cat lady. Both are welcome with open arms.
Swery interview photo
Kinect didn't make the game
To say that developer Hidetaka Suehiro -- or, Swery65 as most everyone knows him -- has a knack for creating unique and strange videogame experiences would be an understatement. He has a loyal cult following, as anyone that l...

We crunched the numbers: Pacquiao wins tonight's fight (according to Smash Bros.)

May 02 // Brett Makedonski
The thing about these kind of events is that they really lend themselves to gambling. The fight's in Vegas, which will naturally draw a lot of action. But, more important than that, a fair contingent will look to bet because it's the quickest way to go from interested to invested. Without loss or gain on the line, it's an occurrence for casual viewing; putting money down makes it personal. Lucky for you, we have the inside track on any legal (or otherwise) wagering you want to do. Pacquiao wins, but it's a nail-biter. Plunk down cash now without a fret in your mind. This is as good as gold. We counted your chickens for you. How do we know? Super Smash Bros. told us. But, it took some science. We set Darren up behind a set of boiling beakers and test tubes. We outfitted Steven in an ill-fitting lab coat. Jordan shouted "We need empirical data, dammit!" over and over again. Chris cried in the corner. Eventually, our sciencing paid off. The simulation took place between two computerized Little Macs. Since Mayweather and Pacquiao are the best in the world, we cranked their skill levels up to nine. We decked Pacquiao out in red, white, and blue trunks to symbolize the Filipino fighter's national flag. Mayweather's in the standard Little Mac garb because it had a lot of green. That's for money. Because Mayweather likes to throw around a lot of money. Since the boxers are scheduled for a 12-round match consisting of three-minute rounds, we found it appropriate to let them duke it out in a 36-minute marathon match. No items allowed -- just fists of fury. The arena was a source of contention. The boxing ring holds up thematically. However, given what it's taken to get this fight to happen, Final Destination also seemed appropriate. We were also worried about the extra space in the boxing ring stage. Chances are slim-to-none that Mayweather and Pacquiao will take the brawling up the ramp, much less on top of the lighting rig. Ultimately, we went with the boxing ring. It was just too perfect for these two ferocious fighters. With all the details squared away (organizing a boxing match is hard!), it was time to get down to action. Pacquiao dealt the first blow as he took the initial stock. However, as one might expect, these skilled combatants went back and forth, no one really gaining an edge. That trend wouldn't hold up, though. Before long, Pacquiao pulled out to an eight to five lead, indicating that this might not turn out to be the coin flip we predicted. Mayweather was landing bigger punches, but Pacquiao was sealing stock, which is all that really mattered. Slowly but surely, Mayweather mounted a comeback. A lot of it was predicated upon rope-bouncing and ramp-fighting. If their well-trained strikes weren't so form-perfect, you might have mistaken this for a Chicago Street Brawl. At the 11-minute mark, Pacquiao was suddenly in trouble. He spent more time dodging, ducking, dipping, diving, and dodging than he did fighting. Mayweather was back, and he was landing K.O. after K.O. The tide had officially turned. Then, each fighter went on a flurry of small streaks. Two stocks here, three there. Time whittled down, and it was impossible to tell who was ahead. No one really outperformed the other noticeably. With 30 seconds left, the lights came crashing down for the first time in the match, but both escaped unscathed. When the timer hit zero, the announcer held off on declaring a winner, instead booming "SUDDEN DEATH!" Holy shit. Two titans now at 300 percent damage, the next blow cementing both their places in history. There was no predicting what would happen, just the assurance that it would happen quickly. No more than seconds after sudden death began, it was over. Pacquiao landed a monster upper-cut and Mayweather almost instantaneously disappeared into a flash of light. The long-standing debate over who's a better fighter had a clear-cut answer. Appropriately, for all the carnage in the extraneous areas of the stage, the match was settled in the ring. The tale of the tape reflects the close-fought bout. Each fighter took 27 stocks from the other. Mayweather inflicted slightly more damage. Pacquiao landed one percent more of his blows. Although, Pacquiao took the belt, which is the statistic that's most important. [embed]291378:58412:0[/embed] For posterity's sake, we also felt it necessary to simulate what would happen in a first to one stock fight. After all, no self-respecting boxer gets knocked out 27 times in one match. Different circumstances, but same outcome. Pacquiao's the man. This news comes mere hours before the big fight, but we still implore you to make use of the empirical data. Jordan did too much work shouting to let it go to waste. Go ahead and bet the farm on Pacquiao. If you don't own a farm, rush out and buy one. Then, bet it. Pacquiao's leaving Vegas with that belt around his waist -- Little Mac has foretold it.
Mayweather & Pacquiao photo
Bet the farm
[Update: Oops, sorry about your farm!] Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are going to fight one another today. Any two other names, and it's a run-of-the-mill weekend where boxing continues to be relegated to the far c...

Things that the Persona 5 trailer is better than

May 01 // Steven Hansen
[embed]287234:58408:0[/embed] The first thing I did the morning I knew the trailer would launch was paw around in the dark, eyes half closed, for my phone to watch it and it was somehow as good as I expected it to be despite unreasonable expectations. But how good is that? We need context. Here are some things that the Persona 5 trailer is better than: 1) Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones. 2) Having ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife. 3) The love and acceptance of a parent, because a parent is just going to die and leave you alone. Persona 5 will never leave you. 4) The Iditarod. 5) The episode of Seinfeld where Elaine dances badly. 6) When America legalized standing with your feet close together, thus freeing public transport from sweaty, leg splayed wafts. 7) Ants. 8) Some cats. 9) This joke: "Need a friend named Nick so I can say 'what do you call a guy with no balls?' Eunuch." 10) The time 50 Cent's grandma made him take out the trash and he tweeted, "I'm rich fuck this I'm going home I don't need this shit." 11) Brett Makedonski's basketball game. 12) The time when I was like five years old, playing on the top of a bunk bed. I grabbed the guard rail, looked over the side, and the guard rail came loose, taking me down with it. I split my head open and lost so much blood that I had to be carried around the house (no, of course I didn't go to the hospital, what am I, made of money?) 12) List posts.
Persona 5? It's good photo
The Persona 5 trailer is better than a lot of things and here are some of those things
Kyle posted some new Persona 5 screenshots earlier, which got me excited, which got me watching the Persona 5 trailer again, which just got me more excited. I like when a trailer can turn me on (not sexual). I watch a lo...

Great alternative hamburger toppings that wouldn't go so well in a first-person shooter

Apr 30 // Steven Hansen
EGG "Egg" is short for "eggscrement," as it is the foul (hah!) byproduct of most poultry. In America, egg typically comes from the chick-hen, named for being the ladybird amore to the male cock. But just because egg comes from a chick-hen's buns doesn't mean it doesn't belong on yours! A nicely fried egg over easy with a drippy yolk makes for a great treat when biting down on a hamburger. It ain't a burger if you don't have to wash your hand after! Why it wouldn't go good in a first-person shooter? You have to crack an omelet to make a few eggs and executive types are more likely omelet someone work on wall textures than devote the processing power necessary for shell splattering particle effects or new viscous liquid engines -- and that's just in the butt-fresh, pre-cooked state. While the egg would serve as a good "Easter Egg" (hah!) in a grenade lob animation, the only scramble I want in my multiplayer shooters is towards a flag that needs to be captured. TOMATO CHUTNEY Have you seen what's in your grocery store ketchup? The All-American spread has been perverted by some strange new system wherein quality and safety become secondary to profit. And so ketchup becomes a slurry of high-fructose corn syrup, tomato flavoring and "spice." Take beck-up the ketchup! Or substitute it with a sweet, fresh tomato chutney. The onion, vinegar, and brown sugar will get you where you need to be. Why it wouldn't go good in a first-person shooter? Sounds foreign? GUACAMOLE No, not the 2D platformer, Guacamelee! We're talking the foodstuff for which it was named. I wanted to go "avocado" here -- a fine burger topping in and of itself -- but why not go-uacamole all the way! There are quite a few spreads that make surprising burger fixings. I recently mixed guacamole and an even spicier Calabrian pepper spread and loved the unexpected kick to my 'burg.  Why it wouldn't go good in a first-person shooter? The only spread first-person shooters seem to care about it bullet spread when discussing weapons such as shotguns. Also another spread they like are sheets. You know, like for accounting all the money they're making. Making guacamole, even if you throw the ingredients in a food processor, requires some manual dexterity to deseed peppers, deshell tomatillos and garlic. If you tried to make guacamole in the next big first-person shooter, it'd probably end up like playing Surgeon Simulator while the your enemy makes a nice spread of their own -- you! From your gutshot abdomen stirred up by your sucking chest wounds. JETPACKS My co-workers, public transit companions, and dentist have always expressed a universal thought when asked on a date: "Yeah, when pigs fly." The desire for airborne swine transcends race, social classes, and the irresponsibility of my request based on my familiarity or lack thereof with the responder. While not a "topping" per se, eating a hamburger (named for the gentle ham, the most ground-bound of all the lord's creatures) while in the air would be a noble gesture to the beast from which we derive so much pleasure. Why it wouldn't go good in a first-person shooter? No, no, no. Tightly controlled lanes of combat and no-more-than-two-story buildings are the "name of the game," and the game they are the name of is the first-person shooter. Jetpacks would require a complete design overhaul to account for them and do you know how hard that would be? I already know the buttons for shoot gun, aim gun, throw bomb, damn it. Look at Titanfall, languishing with no one playing but Nic Rowen and the "story-mode" robots. They think he's one of them. They don't even know he is alive. They trade self-deprecating asides about their faulty coding and sometimes run menial errands -- oil changes, circuitry hacks, taxes -- like he isn't even there. The idea of putting a jetpack into a first-person shooter is preposterous. That's what the sprint button is for. Are we supposed to just throw the stamina gauge baby out with the we-must-have-jetpacks-and-a-new-gauge-for-fuel bathwater? It's like putting a pineapple on a burger. Redundant, stupid, dunderheaded. Let me know in the comments if you have alternative hamburger toppers!
Hamburger toppings photo
Lettuce think outside the gun!
I recently picked up a controller to play some Mortal Kombat X with my lawyer after we finished working out (not sexual!) in the basement of his hilltop home. While he'd signed, sealed, and delivered (legal jargon) some Morta...

Nintendo, your work isn't done on Mario Kart 8

Apr 25 // Chris Carter
New crossovers: The sky really is the limit for new franchises. While I initially wanted a full-on "Mario Kart All-Stars" for the next game, I soon realized after playing the Animal Crossing pack that Nintendo could just keep supporting 8, and it would be more than good enough. With a real online infrastructure and a visual style gorgeous enough to withstand the test of time, we don't have to wait years until a new console iteration. Keep the crossovers coming. Samus, Fox McCloud, Kirby (with his Warpstar) -- all of them would fit perfectly into the Mario Kart universe, and I can see some really ingenious tracks down the road due to Nintendo's rich history as a character factory. One request is to just go all-out for the new characters though -- no "half Mario half new" -- just go all-new. Just inject F-Zero into the game already: We've seen the Mute City and Big Blue homages, but really, with F-Zero considered by many to be the definitive racing experience over Mario Kart, that's a huge market ready to be tapped. I'm not even talking about a "Pack" here -- more like a full-on expansion in 2016 featuring cast members from F-Zero, at least 10 tracks from the series, and extra elements like new characters and planets. Use that as a barometer for gauging interest in a new F-Zero game. Miyamoto himself said last year that "the struggle is that I don't really have a good idea for what's new that we could bring to F-Zero that would really turn it into a great game again." I have an idea -- fans already like what you've done with the franchise in Mario Kart 8, so think about expanding on it. A real battle mode: Finally, we come to my one big problem with Mario Kart 8 -- a lack of a real battle mode. No, that sorry excuse of "racing with balloons" doesn't cut it. I want real, tiered arenas that are all-new. Although I loved the core game as a racer, it really loses a lot of its spark due to the fact that so many fans grew up only playing the battle minigame. It cuts down on the replay value for fans as well, as I remember plenty of Mario Kart marathons that would have ended after a few hours if it wasn't for someone suggesting that we play "just a bit more" within the confines of the arena. I'm hopeful for these additions because Nintendo has shown it knows how to to DLC right. For $12 right now, you'll net seven characters (Villager counts as two!), eight vehicles, and 16 tracks. For reference, the game shipped with 32 courses. While I wouldn't trust a lot of publishers with this charge, Nintendo has the opportunity to really make Mario Kart 8 one of the longest-lasting games in the series, as the company has proven that it knows exactly what it's doing.
More Mario Kart 8 photo
More crossovers and a real battle mode
When Nintendo announced its DLC plans for Mario Kart 8, there was a combination of collective groans and cheers across the internet. The latter group was on the right side of history, it seems. When the first DLC Pack dr...

What would a Daredevil game 'look' like?

Apr 14 // Nic Rowen
Illustration by Reynan Sanchez From the darkness So the Batman games give us a great formula to follow for a third-person superhero action game, but Daredevil isn't Batman. He doesn't have the tools, the armored suit, or the resources to throw himself into the fray like the Dark Knight can. I'm picturing a more restrained affair -- a crawl through the shadows more focused on stealth and surprise than taking on massive scrums of 20 thugs at once. I would like to see a game that rewards patience and observation for Daredevil, a world that only reveals itself when you take the time to focus on it. I'm thinking of something like Joel's concentration ability from The Last of Us, but turned to the max. A black and white world with occasional splashes of color that resolves in increasing detail the quieter and calmer Matt is, allowing the sounds, smells, and feel of his environment to paint a picture for him. A world you can navigate and use to your advantage to get the drop on criminal scum, but one that can also turn against you. If you blow the element of surprise and end up in a scuffle, Daredevil's attention shifts to the most obvious threat. While the attackers you're trying to subdue come into greater focus to let you get your knife-deflecting, arm-breaking kung-fu on, the environment around you would slip away, evaporating into an impressionistic haze. Only the most obvious and loud elements of the environment (a subway car racing by, an industrial air conditioning unit clattering away) would be left to provide you an anchor point. Fighting on a rooftop would suddenly become a treacherous guessing game as you try to remember just how close you were to the ledge before you had to start dodging gunfire. Again, I'll admit that I don't know much about the comics, so I don't know how true the Netflix series is to the source materials, but I like the tone and the limitations it sets. I like that Matt is not all that superpowered, that a group of four or five thugs are a credible threat to him. I think a stealth-action game that grounded itself on that level would work well. Besides, it would be a great chance to bust out something similar to the Nemesis system from Shadow of Mordor. Daredevil doesn't have a supercomputer in his cowl or a genius hacker in his ear to solve crimes for him. He has to go with his gut and old-fashion legwork. A game that would let you target individual members of the underworld and threaten them into giving up their bosses would fit Daredevil's aesthetic. An open-world version of New York, where you play gangsters and criminals off each other to work your way up the food chain. By taking every criminal as a serious threat, there would be a real intimacy and sense of accomplishment when you manage to bring a mob boss or trigger-man to heel. So, my idea is to make an open-world game based on a complicated, always changing, sense-memory representation of New York, filled with individual criminals and characters that interact with each other in complex ways. When you get into a fight, the game becomes a frustrating, chaotic scramble. There might be a reason I don't make games. Murdock Mysteries (or Hell's Kitchen Noire) Matt Murdock is a complicated character defined by his paradoxical position as both a criminal defense lawyer and a brutal vigilante. I think it would be a shame to miss that element of his character in a videogame. I mean, we can safely ignore Bruce Wayne because who really wants to spend time as a billionaire playboy driving fast cars, explaining away suspicious bruises, sleeping through investment meetings, and flirting with supermodels? Actually, that sounds like an amazing idea and I immediately regret throwing shade on it. What if you had a game that focused on made Matt's identity as a lawyer? As an investigator and seeker of truth? I want to play “blind superhero L.A. Noire” if only as an excuse to say the phrase “blind superhero L.A. Noire.” It would be an interesting experience to arrive at a crime scene completely blind. A black screen as the door shuts behind you or the car engine slowly cools. As Foggy Nelson, Matt's lawyer sidekick, describes the scene and known facts of the crime, a picture slowly comes together piece by piece. As Matt uses his super senses to take in the environment around him, more details emerge that you can follow up on. The crime scene resolves based on not only the observations you make and questions you ask, but the way you interpret that data. Focus on the wrong elements and you may end up chasing down pointless leads and compromising your defense strategy (or worse yet, wind up defending a guilty man). Interviewing clients and cross examining witnesses could also take advantage of Matt's senses. Small clues like a tiny quiver in a person's speech, a slight nervous tapping of the foot, or an increase in perspiration could help guide your questions. But again, it would still be on you to determine what that data means – did his heart skip a beat when you asked your last question because you caught him in a lie, or is he scared of something else? If they don't answer your questions like you want them to, you can savagely beat them within an inch of their life later. Just like I always wanted to in L.A. Noire. Fuck it, let's just blind the player You want to know what it's like to live in Daredevil's world? Fine, just put out your eyes. Well, okay, maybe that's going a step too far. But if we're going to talk about completely unmarketable ideas, a sensory-deprivation based game like Deep Sea that encloses the player in darkness and makes them rely on their sense of hearing might be the truest expression of the Daredevil experience. If you've never heard (har) of it before, Deep Sea is an arcade game/art project of sorts made by Robin Arnott, one of the creative talents behind the mind-screwy Antichamber. To play it, you strap on a gas mask that has a pair of binaural headphones that provide excellent 3D sound, but no screen. You play the game blind. It simulates a deep-dive-gone-wrong experience, forcing you to listen for unseen terrors amidst the low rumbling noises of the unknown deep. You try to locate these creatures with echolocation and blindly fire at them hoping to hit your mark in the darkness. It's a game about vulnerability, isolation, and oppressive fear. Daredevil has mastered those forces. He's the man without fear. Could you learn to master them too? To be so confident and sure in your sense of hearing and touch that you could live in that world as well? Hell no! But it would be a great gimmick game to take to PAX and NARPS. I'm sure Marvel will see the wisdom in my decision and hand over the license immediately.
Daredevil ideas photo
Do we dare envision it?
I've been watching the Netflix Daredevil series and so far it's good. It's so good in fact, it's made me rethink my entire opinion on Daredevil -- which prior to this last week had been an exaggerated shrug with maybe a sarca...

Won't somebody think of the children?

Apr 09 // Nic Rowen
[embed]290207:58107:0[/embed] Thankfully, I had a secret weapon to get MK off the black list in my home. Aside from being a nightmarish murder simulator, I knew that MK was also fucking ridiculous; a fact all those self-serious senators stumping on the public decency ticket always seemed to forget to mention. Despite all the media hubbub, my mom was, thankfully, still inclined to give me the benefit of the doubt and listen to reason. We struck a deal, I'd be allowed to rent the neutered, bloodless SNES version under the condition that she would watch as my brother and I played it. If she felt it was too violent for our sensibilities or somehow mentally damaging, she would banish it straight back to the Netherrealm of Blockbuster Video and the veto would stand. In the end she didn't watch for more than an hour before realizing that MK was just too stupid to be considered harmful. When you break it down, MK is a game about karate men fighting each other one-on-one to save the world from a four-armed claymation monster and his boss who looks suspiciously like Lo Pan from Big Trouble in Little China. Even the famed gore of the series, when not breathlessly described by a dour parental advocacy spokesperson, was too dumb and cheap looking to take seriously. The production values on those original fatalities were a joke, character sprites awkwardly sticking into and through each other at angles and depths that don't line up quite right. The obvious cost-cutting steps of re-purposing animations and sprites stole a certain degree of gravitas from the executions. MK 1 has the same disarming flimsiness of a student film effort about zombies. It's hard to take stumbling freshmen in thrift store clothes splattered with red food coloring seriously -- the effect is more slapstick than sinister. My brother and I were left alone to throw fireballs and exchange uppercuts with the understanding that we weren't to tell anyone we were allowed to play MK (because who wants to have to explain that to the other moms) and that any attempt to actually rip a sibling's heart out would result in a summary grounding. I thought it was a pretty fair compromise. I felt mature. I was proud that I was able to hold my ground and defend a piece of media I thought was being unfairly vilified. But more than that, I was gratified that my mom believed in my ability to separate fantasy from reality. To know my own boundaries and limits and be able to compartmentalize what was totally rad in a game, but horrific in real life. Which is why I feel like the biggest, shittiest hypocrite in the world when I worry about kids playing MK X. It makes me feel like a crusty old man shaking his fist at those damn kids for doing the exact same thing he did when he was younger. I want to be able to extend the same charity, the same vigorous defense I gave MK 1 to MK X of the difference between fantasy and reality. But holy shit, have you seen this game? It is CRAZY. The way bones snap and break during x-ray moves, how skin will peel and tear to reveal musculature and ligaments, the fully detailed models of organs and intestines that are ripped apart and strewn about during fatalities, it's just so -- ewww. You can't say the game is too silly to take seriously anymore. If anything, if I were a kid now trying to convince my mom to let me play MK X, I think I'd probably focus on how it would be a great way to study up on human anatomy for biology class. Now don't get me wrong, this isn't the twist ending where I say it turns out all those senators and other finger wagglers from back in the day were right all along. They were wrong (and hysterically stupid) then, and they're wrong now. I still don't think MK X is intrinsically harmful. I don't think that the kids who weasel their way into playing it (and I absolutely guarantee they will) and watch Scorpion cut Sub-Zero's face off to let his brains slide out on the pavement will turn into a generation into of serial face-slicers. But I also know I'd hesitate to let a nine-year-old play MK X, especially a nine-year-old I was in charge of raising and ensuring didn't turn into a complete sociopath. I also know I'd probably feel a certain brand of ugly judgmental smugness, a lofty “tsk, tsk,” over any parent or guardian who didn't. There is a disconnect there that I can recognize but have trouble explaining, even to myself. Because at its core, I don't think MK X is really all that different from MK 1. Ed Boon is honestly just making the same game he has been making for 20 years. I don't think he is a different person now, that over the past two decades he really has taken the villain's part and is trying to corrupt young minds. The tone and intention of the MK series hasn't really changed at all, it's still all about silly ninja-men killing each other in completely ludicrous ways. But the technology behind that intention HAS changed. With two decades of graphical advancement and a production budget that dwarfs the cost of anything imaginable in 1992, MK X has reached a point where the fatalities and violence really ARE as gory and disturbing as the moral hand-wringers always claimed. This is the source of that disconnect for me. I've always defended the MK series as campy fun under the guise of gritty violence, and I still absolutely believe that is true. While the fatalities are not as outwardly silly as Johnny Cage uppercutting a guy so hard three heads pop off, they still rely on a completely over-the-top kind of violence that goes so far it loops back to comedy. When Kano cuts open his opponent's ribcage mid-match, only for his victim to promptly stand back up and continue fighting like nothing happened, I think there is still a sort of winking-at-the-camera comedy there. “Don't worry, none of this is too serious.” But the joke isn't as plain to see anymore, and it's even more difficult to articulate to others. There is a small shitty part of me that worries that kids won't “get it.” Ironically, part of the technological advancement that has made MK X slightly uncomfortable compared to its predecessors also ensures that there has never been an easier time for kids to circumnavigate any attempts to keep that material away from them. I mean, not that any of those efforts have ever worked. When I was a kid trying to play MK in 1992, my back-up plan if mom did ban the game was to just sneak off to the arcade or go over to a friend's house who had slightly less strict parents and play it there. Now, thanks to downloads, YouTube clip reels, and streaming Let's Play series, kids won't even have to leave the house to sneak a peek at a few fatalities. And overall, it's probably for the best. You can't stop culture or technology. Games will get gorier and crazier, and kids will find their way to them younger and younger. If little Johnny is going to eventually see a bisected brainpan or a perforated liver in full anatomical exactitude, he might as well see it in MK X; a game that is ultimately stupid and non-hateful (and I mean that in the most affectionate sense). So won't somebody think of the children? Well I have, and it's complicated and uneasy and difficult, but at the end of the day the old tricks are probably still the best tricks. Kids will play MK X, and it's going to be a little fucked up. But with proper parental oversight and a good explanation of boundaries and the divide between fantasy and reality, it shouldn't be anymore harmful than watching a 16-bit Johnny Cage awkwardly stick his foot kinda, sorta, into another digitized sprite. With that off my chest and out of my brain, I can get back to feeding Quan Chi to a buzzsaw-hat -- guilt free.
MK X Gore photo
Decapitations for the YouTube generation
When I was a little boy, Mortal Kombat was a tough sell around my home. Like most pre-adolescents of the era, I was darkly attracted to the idea of ninjas and movie stars decapitating each other in bouts of gladiatorial comba...

Unsung Heroes: Bad Company

Mar 25 // Stephen Turner
[embed]289529:57907:0[/embed] Much like Kelly’s Heroes, Bad Company is a heist story first, war story second. What Marlowe and his squad try to achieve is pure robbery, plain and simple, and usually that can only lead to two things in a video game: Karmic retribution or a bittersweet resolution. The lead writer decides you have to grow a conscience and fight for the bigger picture. But B-Company doesn’t fit into the usual criminal mould, and for that they avoid the usual trappings. They’re portrayed as blue collar workers in a shit paying job, tired of each other and of the country they’re stuck in. But it’s those clashes of personalities (and yes, dreams of owning a Truckosaurus Rex) that makes them endearing to us. They’re you and me. Only they just so happen to be soldiers, too. As the new guy, Preston Marlowe is as good an avatar as any. He’s eager to get into the action and take orders, but he also delivers a sly narration worthy of 70’s Elliott Gould. We’re supposed to feel the same way as him, taking part in crazy set-pieces while making note of certain extremities, like flying a golden helicopter into enemy territory. But flying a golden helicopter is nothing in the grand scheme of things. These are desperate men, willing to die for something tangible and not for the detached whims of others. The beauty of Preston’s cohorts – Haggard, Sweetwater, and Sgt. Redford – stems from their disillusionment of being a soldier. That gold bullion is merely a character defining McGuffin. Sweetwater might be the panicky voice of reason, but all that reason goes out the window because of his infatuation with Mike-One Juliet, their sympathetic radio liaison. Haggard is in his element, revelling in his Gold Rush roots; his one man invasion poking fun at the invincibility of video game troops. And then there’s Sgt. Redford, who at first seems to be your typical Sgt. Apone knock-off, but ends up being quite the antithesis of that. He’s more Danny Glover than Al Matthews; Murtaugh (Lethal Weapon) and Harrigan (Predator 2) rolled into one. [embed]289529:57908:0[/embed] There’s a real litmus test for these characters about two thirds of the way through. At one point, Marlowe has to rescue the others on his own. As the action intensifies around a small hamlet, with all these exploding walls and deafening gunshots breaking the speakers, you come to realise something’s missing. There’s no dumb banter, no reassurances, no panic, nothing. Bad Company’s world is suddenly more lifeless without your “friends.” It’s also a reminder that, yes, the stakes are genuinely high, layering your resolve in the process. The odds are stacked against you, but these guys deserve that reward more than ever. That’s a sign of a good script, where characters and plot work together, pushing and pulling in each other’s favour. The comedic clashes might be come from an obvious place, especially with Sweetwater and Haggard, but it’s also the heist that defines B-Company. That’s why, personally, Bad Company works better than its sequel. Bad Company 2 feels more like The A-Team, and without anything truly personal at stake, B-Company drifted away from our original impressions, al a Ghostbusters to Ghostbusters 2. Marlowe and co. were still goofy, but now they were instilled with heroism and selflessness (especially at the end), and no amount of snide remarks to Modern Warfare 2 would hide that shift in characterisation. There’s little doubt that there was some focus testing going on, and we all know what EA thought of the original by now. Humour meant low sales! That was the problem, yeah! So we ended up with the no-nonsense Battlefield 3. And you remember the memorable cast of Battlefield 3, right? No? How about anyone from Battlefield 4 that wasn’t Michael K. Williams? Ah… When you look at Battlefield: Hardline’s campaign, there’s some sense that they’re trying to recapture that Bad Company magic. It’s got heart, but never in the right place; starting off like The Shield and Miami Vice, before turning into Burn Notice, and eventually into any number of 90’s action movies. You’re either one thing or your not, and in these PR disaster days for America’s police forces, you may as well just embrace Bad Boys and Lethal Weapon and give it a Last Action Hero spin. You see, in Bad Company, nobody cares about the war as much as you do with that controller in your hands. It’s a backdrop that colours in this cast of misfits and gives you an excuse to make detours through abandoned houses. So the games were deemed lower-than-expected with their sales. So what? That’s okay. In fact, that totally fits in with Bad Company’s theme. Marlowe, Sweetwater, Haggard and Sgt. Redford were never going to change the world, but they were always going to be your underdogs.  
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"Just tell me your favourite colour, baby!"
Way back in 2009, Charlie Brooker’s Gameswipe had this cutting observation about the po-faced nature of military shooters. During a particularly grim scene in Call of Duty: World at War, Brooker flambés several s...

Experience Points .03: EarthBound

Feb 07 // Ben Davis
Know your enemy One of the first things that stuck out to me in EarthBound was the enemies. Once Ness leaves his house, wild animals begin to attack him. They seem like somewhat normal enemies at first; crows, snakes, dogs. Except they aren't just crows, snakes, or dogs. They're Spiteful Crows, Coil Snakes, and Runaway Dogs. They could've just been plain old animals, but these additional descriptors really make the enemies sound way more interesting. Why is this crow so spiteful? Where did this dog run away from? Am I beating up someone's lost pet? This is a running theme for all of the enemies you fight throughout EarthBound. You won't find any run-of-the-mill ghosts or goblins here. Instead, you'll go up against weird foes like Ramblin' Evil Mushrooms, Moles Playing Rough, No Good Flies, and the Plague Rat of Doom. You'll also run into humans gone bad, like the Cranky Lady, the Unassuming Local Guy, the Annoying Old Party Man, and the New Age Retro Hippie (a personal favorite). And then things start to get straight-up crazy, with unusual enemies like Scalding Coffee Cups, Mad Taxis, Crazed Signs (which are apparently from Ohio?), Big Piles of Puke, French Kisses of Death... what the heck is going on in this game? The wide variety of quirky, unexpected enemies really makes this game stand out; it's not going to be any old RPG. I mean, what other game has you beating up mean old ladies and possessed vehicles with a baseball bat? It's completely bonkers, but that's exactly what's so great about it. You really can't help but smile whenever you run into a new enemy only to find out it's called a Worthless Protoplasm. The 13-year-old homeowner While exploring Ness's hometown of Onett, you'll probably notice a house that's for sale near a cliff by the sea. The current owner is willing to sell you the house for $7,500. Since Onett is the very first town, there's no way you'd be able to afford it unless you felt like grinding enemies like crazy, so most players will probably move on and eventually forget about the house. Later in the game, when your bank account is literally overflowing (geez, Dad, don't you think you're spoiling me a bit here?), you can return to Onett and the house will still be up for sale. Pay the steep fee, and Ness will become the proud owner of a beautiful seaside cottage. The things kids spend their money on these days, sheesh... Then you step inside your humble abode and... ummm... what the hell happened to this place? There are gaping holes in the floor, the furniture is all torn up, and what on earth happened to the entire back wall?! It's just not there, it's straight up gone. Is this what the guy meant when he said the house had "an ocean view?" What a jerk! I guess this will teach Ness to inspect a house first before buying it, at least. You gotta learn these things young, you know? The strangest thing about this ramshackle house, though, is a weird magazine you can find in the open drawer. It contains an excerpt from a story called "My Secret Life" and describes an incident where a man tries to get out of a speeding ticket by claiming his wife is in labor, and then when the officer offers to escort them to the hospital, the man refuses and exclaims that the baby is actually a demon child. It's truly a bizarre find, and along with the decrepit state of the place, it really makes you wonder just what kind of person owned this house before Ness. A cure for what ails you Most RPGs have status ailments that affect your party during battles, and EarthBound is no exception. There are your RPG staples, of course, like falling asleep, getting poisoned, or becoming paralyzed. But then EarthBound gets a little more creative with its ailments. Ness and friends can catch colds, start feeling nauseous, begin crying uncontrollably, get sunstroke from walking in the desert, become possessed by a ghost, get turned into a diamond, and more. One of the strangest status ailments happens when a mushroom enemy scatters spores all around and you become "mushroomized." In battle, this basically works like confusion; you'll randomly attack your allies sometimes. Outside of battle, you'll have a mushroom growing out of the top of your head, and the controls will be all scrambled, causing you to move in random directions. These have to be removed by healers rather than doctors, and the healers actually pay you $50 for each mushroom, so it's almost worth it to be hit with spores. The effect is kind of annoying, but it always made me laugh whenever it happened, because of how silly everyone looks with a fungus on their head. My favorite EarthBound ailment, however, is homesickness. Ness is the only character who can become homesick, and it could happen randomly at any point during your adventure. This causes him to occasionally waste a turn with messages like, "Ness misses home," or, "Ness suddenly thought about his Mom." To cure homesickness, all you have to do is find a phone and give your mother a call. Is that not the most heartwarming game mechanic ever? Star-crossed sesames The Dusty Dunes Desert may seem vast and empty, but if you take the time to explore, you can find some really neat stuff out in the sand. There are items to be found, skeletons to talk to, sunbathers that sleep out in the desert (how are they still alive?), an oasis, a lost contact lens, and more. My favorite desert attraction, however, is probably even more difficult to find in the sand than the contact lens. If you're observant enough, you may notice a couple of off-colored pixels out in the dunes; one black pixel and one white pixel amid a sea of orange and yellow. If you try interacting with these tiny specks, you'll learn that they're actually sesame seeds, and they can talk (?), and the pair of them were once in love. The black sesame wishes he could apologize to the white sesame for hurting her, while the white sesame wants you to tell the black sesame that she still loves him. You can walk back and forth between the two and relate their tales to each other, which seems to bring comfort to the white one, and causes the black one to begin weeping. I still don't know why Ness couldn't just pick them up and reunite them. Instead, he heartlessly leaves them separated out in the vast desert like a jerk. It's still a lovely moment, though. Incredibly random, sure, but heartwarming nonetheless. And it's something that most players will probably pass right by without even noticing. Music to my ears It would be remiss to talk about EarthBound and not mention the music, but choosing a favorite song from the soundtrack is nearly impossible. There are so many wonderful tunes that evoke a range of emotions, each one more memorable than the last. There's the comforting song that plays in your home, the upbeat Onett theme, the silly shop tune, the pleasantly mystical melody of the Snow Wood Boarding House, the ritzy Fourside theme, the funky music that plays when you fight a hippie, and so much more. EarthBound's music is just as important for setting the tone of the game as its witty dialogue and modern setting. Ness' main quest revolves entirely around music, as he goes in search of melodies from his childhood and records them all in a Sound Stone in order to truly understand himself. Plus, you befriend and follow around a band, attending several of their concerts throughout the game. Music is a central theme, and the accompanying soundtrack definitely does not disappoint. I'm sure if you asked anyone who has played EarthBound what their favorite track was, you'd probably get a wide range of answers. If I was forced to choose just one, I might go with "Home Sweet Home" or "Snowman" (see? I still can't decide!), but I could easily make a convincing case for pretty much the entirety of the soundtrack.   An insignificant quest There's one side quest in EarthBound which is so hidden that you'd be hard-pressed to even discover it without a guide, but it involves a very peculiar item that never fails to make me smile. There's a man in the Twoson hospital who apparently left something very precious to him at the Threed hospital. You can go and look around for it if you happen to remember the man's offhand comment, but its location is not obvious. Rather than being inside of a gift box, like most items, you actually have to go up and search one of the hospital drawers. There you'll find the man's precious... "insignificant item?" Well, that was a little anti-climactic... but also kind of hilarious. If you try to use the object, you get the following message: "By using the insignificant item, you had a very fruitful experience that cannot be understood by someone who does not use something insignificant." For some reason, that message always spoke to me. It's like it perfectly describes the essence of side quests in general and what they mean to the player. They may not be important to the main storyline, and they usually involve searching for trivial junk, but they're oddly comforting to complete anyway. After this revelation, you can return to Twoson and give the man his pointless thing back. He's very thankful, and rewards you with a Magic Truffle, which is actually pretty useful. So, hooray! You had an epiphany and you got a neat gift! Hi, hi, hi! Even if you haven't played EarthBound, you've probably heard of Mr. Saturn before. He's that weird walking head creature with a huge nose, whiskers, and a bow that you can throw around in Super Smash Bros. There's a reason why he made it into Super Smash Bros., because he happens to be the most adorable, cheerful character in all of EarthBound. Mr. Saturns are actually a species of alien creatures who reside in Saturn Valley. They speak in broken English, which is characterized by a strange, swirly font. They have a habit of using words like "boing," "ding," and "zoom," after every thought, or shouting unexpected things like, "Dakota!" Just going around and talking to each Mr. Saturn is a delight. Their dialogue is incredibly random and silly; it's really hard not to smile at everything they have to say. They're also very peaceful and kind, offering you free coffee, free health care, and a place to rest. They like to eat weird foods like peanut cheese bars and piggy jelly (whatever that is) and play strange games like "ladder," where they pile up on top of each other. Mr. Saturns are just so innocent and positive that it's impossible to dislike them. I probably spent way too much time in Saturn Valley just playing around and chatting with them, but their happiness is so infectious that I couldn't help myself. "I so happy, happy, happy... Zoom!" Past Experience Points .01: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.02: Shadow of the Colossus
EarthBound highlights photo
Say, 'fuzzy pickles!'
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...

Casting The Legend of Zelda: A Netflix television series

Feb 06 // Kyle MacGregor
Ryan Gosling as Link Gosling is the perfect leading man. He's a total crowd-pleaser, blonde, handsome, and already has the silent protagonist thing down pat. Did you see Drive? It was great. Gosling stood around looking pretty for about 100 minutes and hardly said a word. What more could you want in a Link? Willem Dafoe as Ganondorf Dafoe is a fan favorite around these parts, and I'm clearly not above pandering to my audience. Just think of the potential for cross-promotion with the Dafoeverse. Think of the possibilities! He's also a skilled actor, you know, one adept at playing the villain. It's truly a match made in heaven. Aubrey Plaza as Zelda Good lord, this needs to happen. Plaza is just the best. She's not going to allow herself to be damseled either. She's liable to lock Gosling in a broom closet somewhere before proceeding to gallivant around Hyrule, rolling her eyes and spewing deadpan, sarcastic one-liners all the way. Horse as Epona Look, we're already over budget and it's not like Mister Ed (or more updated reference) is going to add all that much to the production. Any old horse will do. I'd even be okay with a pony. Morgan Freeman as Navi (or other sidekick) Okay, let's take that cash we skimped on Epona and splurge on Link's sidekick. Since it's probably going to be something supernatural, we're really only looking for voice talent. This makes Morgan Freeman is the only logical choice. Let's put it this way: If the man can send shivers down my spine by saying "More people go with Visa," then just imagine what he can do with "Hey! Listen!"
Zelda Netflix series photo
Produced by Kyle MacGregor
Netflix is reportedly making a live-action television series based on The Legend of Zelda. The news immediately sent the country, nay the world into mass hysteria. Some folks expressed unfettered glee. Others were upset,...

Dream cast: I want these actors for Netflix's live-action Legend of Zelda

Feb 06 // Steven Hansen
Kristen Stewart as Zelda  I'm leading with a bit of a dark horse here, but I think Kristen Stewart would be great as the series' titular lead, Zelda. With the show being more narrative-based than the games, acting chops outweigh nailing a look. Stewart has evinced the former post Twilight (and, really, before Twilight too) despite her internet meme status as stone-faced. Seriously, check out the Clouds of Sils Maria trailer. As an added bonus, if Stewart does carry residual clout with teens because of Twilight, that could help sell this show to the zeitgeisty audience Netflix is obviously going after with irresponsible Game of Thrones comparisons. Runner-up: Carey Mulligan. The Drive actor is a safer, more conventional choice for Zelda with her blonde pixie cut and soft features.  Charlize Theron as The Princess Assuming the show goes tried-and-true with the "Zelda has to save the princess" narrative because TV is rarely challenging, I at least want the actor that plays the Princess to be more than just a pretty face to save. I know Theron doesn't do a lot of television, but, hey, this is a dream cast, right? She has a fire in her eyes capable of elevating her above a boring damsel in distress, even if the script is bunk and tries to write her as thus. Oh, and can we give her a name, please?  Runner-up: Liv Tyler. Remember her in Lords of the Rings? There you go. Danny DeVito as Tingle DeVito's made a career out of being a small, impish weirdo (also a good producer and a pretty good director), so, yes, it's low-hanging fruit, but I'll take a bite. Plus, DeVito's been deep into the television game since Always Sunny. At least I didn't go for the dwarf from Game of Thrones. That would have been too easy. I did just spoil my runner up, though, so now I need a new one.  Runner-up: Mickey Rooney. Yes, he just died. Dream cast! Or, slightly more realistically, Capcom's Yoshinori Ono. Oscar Isaac as Ganondorf It was tempting to go Tim Conway for a Dorf on the Diamond joke, but I want to be serious about this cast list so if I nail it I can sue Netflix for royalties. Watch the trailer for A Most Violent Year and tell me you don't get chills. Isaac is finally getting his due as a hot as fuck, but also extremely talented actor (Inside Llewyn Davis, Drive) with appearances in the upcoming Star Wars and X-Men franchises, so I almost want him to cool off with the "young adult fantasy" roles, but no doubt that strong chin slathered in face paint could make for an intense Ganondorf.  Runner-up: Idris Elba. Uhm. Speaking of the literally hottest fucking person on the planet. The Wire's Stringer Bell has gotten a bit more big budget American play with supporting roles in Thor, Pacific Rim, and Prometheus, but god dang does he need some starring roles. Even him as a villain isn't enough. He better be the next James Bond.  They both get pictures because I made the Isaac one first but need an excuse to stare at Idris Elba pictures for a half hour. Rinko Kikuchi as Tetra Now's the time when I remember we have little idea what characters, if any, from Zelda lore will be making an appearance in this possible new TV show that probably won't happen. Now is also the time my dream cast casts its line seaward and I double down on the idea it be a Wind Waker show, because Wind Waker is the best Legend of Zelda. Runner-up: No one. Rinko Kikuchi. Make it happen, Netflix. Roberto Benigni as Linebeck Yes, it's a Wind Waker show, but a show is a show, and a show needs a few more defined supporting characters. Linebeck fits into the nautical journey. And, really, this is some acecasting. I've kind of impressed myself with it. Watch him as a taxi driver in Night on Earth and tell me that isn't a good choice. Runner-up: Al Pacino.  Kang-ho Song as Happy Mask Salesman The actor who sold me on Korean cinema a seeming lifetime ago (The Host; The Good, The Bad and The Weird; Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) while I shuffled my feet and worked my way up to Old Boy, Kang-ho Song recently showed up in Snowpiercer as an oddball. I think he has Happy Mask range.  - Who do you want to see in the show?
Dream cast photo
Produced by Steven Hansen, Executive Produced by whoever got a second season for The Big O
I'm sure you've heard the bizarre news. Netflix is working on a live-action The Legend of Zelda series that is described as, "Game of Thrones for a family audience," which is kind of like if Breaking Bad was ab...

Obscure Video Games: Mad Panic Coaster

Jan 31 // Obscure Video Games
Obscure Video Games photo
They're certainly not showing any signs of slowing
Roller coaster riding should be in games more often. It's easy to simulate and usually a really fun part of any game that has it. A great example is Rocket: Robot on Wheels, which even lets you build your own coaster. The pro...

Gaming in the Rust Belt: The story of the Buffalo Game Space

Jan 30 // Mike Cosimano
If it seems as if I’m belaboring the food aspect of this meeting, it’s because it’s hard to separate the location from the interview. Cole’s, a downtown Buffalo staple, nestled between other downtown Buffalo staples, is a great place to eat if you’re way into satisfyingly thick burgers and delicious chicken wings. But there’s more to it than that. Food is intrinsic to Buffalo’s culture. The Taste of Buffalo is the largest two-day food festival in the country. Hell, you probably know Buffalo through its main export: buffalo wings. We just call them “chicken wings” back home, because we know what city we’re in. Buffalo is so connected to food because we don’t have much of an identity beyond it. Unless you’re already familiar with the subject of this feature, when you think ‘Buffalo, NY,’ you don’t think videogames. Perhaps you think of the legendarily inept Buffalo Bills, best known for their four consecutive Super Bowl losses. Maybe if you’re way into sociology, you know that Buffalo is one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States. Point is, Buffalo and the games industry couldn’t be further apart. John Futscher and Chris Langford, the co-founders of the Buffalo Game Space, feel differently. They see this traditional blue-collar city as the next big startup town. “There's an image of this area that's very blue-collar and I think the attitude here is very blue-collar, but the level of education is much higher than people expect,” Futscher said. “I don't see those as mutually exclusive,” Langford added. “A lot of people in our tech community come from blue-collar backgrounds and we kind of bring that in with our attitudes and the way we work.” “I don’t know about you, but after this, I’m going back to my tractor,” joked Volker Einsfeld, the BGS’ treasurer of the board. The aforementioned Cole's (Harry Scull Jr, Buffalo News) The Buffalo Game Space was founded around two and a half years ago when Futscher began making videogames full time. “I was starting to make games on the side. I'd been doing that for a while and hit a wall.” He started looking around for fellow Buffalo-based developers and eventually met Langford online. “It turned out we were working three blocks away from each other at the time. I was at CitiGroup and [Langford] was at HTO. We got together with a couple people and started bringing more people into the fold, starting hosting meetups. That's where we found PJ and starting hosting meetups at Canisius, and those grew a little bit,” Futscher said. PJ is short for Przemyslaw Moskal, another lunch guest. He’s an associate professor in Digital Media Arts at Canisius College, a private school in the heart of Buffalo, where he once taught Langford. It’s a nice enough place. I even considered going there when I was looking at schools. Thanks to him, the Buffalo Game Space has a working relationship with the college, hosting meetups and game jams on the campus. “When they met, Chris sent me an email, ‘Hey PJ, we are cooking something out here. At that point, naturally I invited the group because I knew they were homeless. I invited them,” PJ said. “As someone who teaches interaction design, games are sort of a subset of that. I'm always interested in creating opportunities for my student because of the way Buffalo is. We don't have that many high-tech companies. I'm always interested in creating a community around that, I just never really had a starting point, an anchor point to start with. When this opportunity arrived I just quickly jumped on it and I guess the rest is history.” Canisius College The first Buffalo Game Space couldn’t hold the rapidly expanding group of developers, much to everyone’s surprise. “The warehouse space wasn't being used for anything else. Along with PJ and these guys, we pitched them the idea of, ‘Hey, this isn't really being used for anything else. What, say, we use this? If we clean it up and set it up, can we use this spot?’ They were all for it. “It gave us access to this room, and we revamped the whole place and made it our own and started hosting bigger meetups and events and game jams and our own game jams and workshops and talks with industry professionals and so on and so forth,” Futscher said. Eventually, the space became too cramped, bringing us to the group’s Kickstarter. In September, the Buffalo Game Space launched a funding campaign. For most of the campaign’s running time, it looked as if local game developers would be stuck working out of a warehouse forever. “Towards the end there it was getting kind of -- I don't want to say we cut it close, but it was getting tight towards the end. I was fairly confident the last couple days that we were going to pull through because we were getting good feedback from people,” Langford said. “When you kickstart a campaign, that middle run is dry. You get that plateau, a lot in the beginning and then the big call to arms in the end and that's where we saw the community come out and support it. It was exciting. You get a lot of people in the middle that's like ‘Sure I'm going to donate to that.’ Until the deadline is looming they don't sign in and do it,” Futscher said. Despite looming odds, the Buffalo Game Space 2.0 was fully funded on October 16. They were looking for $40,000, crossing the finish line at the last second with only 441 dollars to spare. Concept art of the forthcoming Buffalo Game Space If you had told me a videogame-based nonprofit would have found success in Buffalo, NY, I would’ve called you a liar. This is an area where you’re more likely to see enormous trucks carrying equally enormous Confederate flags than a Prius. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single hybrid car. The city has always been saddled with a very Midwestern reputation: politeness is the order of the day, ‘soda’ is actually ‘pop,’ and innovation is several states away. But the team behind the Buffalo Game Space thinks Buffalo is on its way to becoming relevant in the larger tech industry. “We're seeing a lot of big companies recognizing the amount of cost to live here versus how smart and educated the people are. You're seeing the Googles and the Yahoos and the IBMs or whoever are all looking to put like data centers and stuff around here now too. While the attitude is still very much blue-collar you have these Elmwood neighborhoods, Allentown neighborhoods, and the downtown tech groups that are all springing up,” said Futscher. “There's a wellspring of start-up talent in this sector right now that I think people are just starting to kind of take notice of.” This increase in startups may be a result of the Medical Corridor -- a sizable expansion of the already popular Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus -- bringing permanent change to downtown Buffalo. The Corridor essentially replaces an unused part of Buffalo’s Allentown neighborhood with even more Medical Campus buildings, giving wealthier medical students a place to live and spend their money. It’s not quite Silicon Valley or the Bay Area, but it’s had a real effect on Allentown’s rent prices, and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Allentown has become your basic gentrified neighborhood, except the artisan food trucks have been smothered by mountains of snow. A more gentrified Buffalo would be a “good problem” for the Buffalo Game Space to have, but they currently aren’t worried about being priced out of the area. “The trajectory right now is definitely moving in the right direction. 10 years from now, if everything is gentrified and pricing everybody out, then we'll deal with that problem as it comes. That's a long way coming and a lot of good things would have to happen on the way to that before that becomes a problem,” Futscher said. “We have all these old industrial places that are just dirt cheap and that's why it was rather easy to find this space in comparison to, you know, places like New York City or San Francisco. I think it's a great place to be if you are starting any kind of business,” Moskal said. The Gates Vascular Institute, another part of the Medical Corridor Even though Buffalo’s tech sector is starting to grow, Langford, Futscher, Moskal, and their compatriots are still the faces of videogame development in Western New York, and there are challenges inherent to being ahead of everybody else. “We’re the canary in the coal mine. We have to get it right. We do everything that we can to make it, to help grow this community. It's not just the jams and stuff. It's making sure that we offer things that people are interested in,” Langford said. “Without going into clichés, the stronger we make the community around us, it builds itself. You make everybody else more confident in what they're doing, other people see them, they get inspired to jump in and do it too. “I think a lot of people are scared to come out and try something. That's where we all started at some point. Whether we went to college for it or not. Whether we started on our own or not. We all started not knowing anything and got to the point where we're at now. Making sure that people know that. They should be comfortable to come and nobody is going to look down on them for not being a pro. To get that started, I think that's the big thing from my perspective.” Spend any real length of time with Futscher, Langford, & the others and you’ll get a sense of genuine pride mixed in with just the right amount of trepidation. To them, building up the Buffalo Game Space is an altruistic pursuit, and they have every reason to be proud of what they’ve accomplished. Just a few days before our interview, the group signed a lease at the Tri-Main Center; a mixed-use office building located in downtown Buffalo. Even with the understandable apprehension that comes with being the first of anything, nobody seemed truly worried. But when you’re about to take a big risk, excitement and worry start to blend together. When I started wrapping up the formal interview, Futscher made sure the final word was dedicated to Buffalo’s indie game community. “We are not out there trying to take advantage of anybody. Any dollar that comes in and spent is very well planned, we know exactly where that's going to go and how it's going to go back into the community, none of us are trying to leech off any money,” Futscher said. “We are in it for the group and not to get rich off some trend or something.”
Buffalo Game Space photo
Yeah, the place with the wings
It’s not often I pause an interview because a sizzling plate of loaded fries, topped with thick diced bacon & monterey jack cheese, was just dropped in front of me, but maybe that’s because I don’t condu...

Get your knives out: A list of the best pointy objects in the business

Jan 30 // Nic Rowen
[embed]286902:57093:0[/embed] Resident Evil 4 Until the fourth installment of the series, the knives in Resident Evil almost set the standard for terrible videogame knives. They were not a tactical option, they were a punishment. A sentence you were forced to carry out until you were able to scrounge up a few precious shotgun shells, ideally learning to be a little more judicious with them in the future. In RE4 though, the knife became your best friend. No longer hidden away in a cumbersome item menu, Leon could draw his blade with the push of a button, allowing for near-instant access to a blade when you needed it the most. In the faster-paced, more action-heavy climate of RE4, the knife provided you with vital close-in protection for those times when some shambling zombie or horrid flesh-monster got a little too close. While it still did fairly low damage, a good slash could send a monster reeling, giving you the time you needed to regroup, or set up an awesome Wrestlemania-style suplex. Leon's knife gets a lot of screen time. It shows up in cinematics where he uses it to save his life, quick-time events where he climbs on some humongous boss or another to slash its weakpoint, and of course, the clash of knives is the focus of his vaguely intimate confrontation with Krauser. Krauser's instrument might be bigger, but Leon can handle his better. Innuendo? Only barely. Turok: Dinosaur Hunter The knife in Turok has all the hallmarks of a shitty videogame knife. It has a typically unsatisfying swipey animation that never feels like it's connecting with an enemy and does piss-poor damage, the kind of utterly inferior weapon you'd never want to use if you had even a single bullet or arrow left. However, for all of its flaws, the Turok knife is saved from the trash pile of ignominy by one amazing gimmick, that by the nature of its novelty also incredibly dates the game -- slow-motion. By collecting spirit talismans (hidden away in inscrutable caches as was the grand tradition of late-'90s FPS games), Turok could slow the world to a psychedelic crawl. Reality would warp and bend, replacing the ever-present gray fog of the world with pulsating Hotline Miami-esque neon while the sundry velociraptors and poachers of Turok's ire would move like they were submerged in rapidly settling cement mix. That was when it was time for your blade, when each inhumanly fast swipe would draw a crimson dash of blood that would hang suspended in the air, layering on top of each other over and over again as helpless enemies fell one by one. It doesn't sound like much, but that cheap slow-motion effect was the height of technological gimmickry the N64 was capable of, and about the goriest thing you could find on that platform until Doom 64 eventually chainsawed its way onto the scene. I'd use a cheat code to lock myself in slow-motion permanently and hypnotically, methodically, work my way through entire stages slicing up each goon or monster a dozen times or more. Staring at the screen dull-eyed and mechanical, gone blood-simple in my single-minded dedication to the knife. Hey, don't judge. It was about the only way to actually enjoy that game. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater Naked Snake's knife is notable for reasons almost entirely divorced from any kind of play mechanic or practical use. Yes, using the knife to kebab tree frogs, or to unzip a KGB officer's neck after an impromptu field interrogation was immensely satisfying (at least to my ghoulish tastes), but it wasn't a game changer. The same sorts of techniques had been in the series before, in the form of punches, silenced tranq darts, and the classic neck snap. What the knife offered in MGS3 wasn't about new mechanics, but about setting a tone, about establishing who Naked Snake (the man who would become Big Boss) was and where he came from. There is an overwhelming amount of attention paid to Snake's knives in MGS3. The careful slow draw and of his leather-braided fighting knife as he remembers the basics of close-quarters combat. Whittling down the handle on his 1911 mere seconds after acquiring it to better accommodate his knife/gun akimbo fighting style. The long-winded radio conversations about the merit (or lack thereof) of survival knives stuffed with gear in hollow handles. Hell, the CQC knife is in the frame every time you aim your pistol in first-person mode. Say I'm reading too much into it (this wouldn't be the first time when it comes to the MGS series), but I don't think that was a mistake or a coincidence. You're supposed to have that image of the knife floating around in your head while you play. The knife is the raw edge of the game, the old fashioned kind of murder that grounds the action in spite of all the bumblebee-men and ghost-astronauts you fight. The thing that really reminds you of the moral grime and dirty dealings of the espionage world during the height of the cold war. The subtle reminder that while Naked Snake might be the hero of this game, you know he has a darker, more ruthless turn waiting in store. To me, MGS3 isn't “the prequel” or “the one set in the '70s.” No, it will always stand out in my mind as “the knife one.” I think that's telling. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor When it comes to open-world games about stabbing people, we enjoy an embarrassment of riches. While the Assassin's Creed series might be built on the blood-soaked foundation of the sheer joy of leaping from the shadows to stick a blade in someone's back, I think top honors in the field of shivving must go to Mordor instead. While Colonial Redcoats might be a (slightly) more satisfying object to work murder on than orcs, the way Talion goes about his grim business edges out the Ezios and Connors of the world. I'd take Talion's ragged, broken hilt of a sword-turned-makeshift-orc-sticker over the facile slickness of AC's spring-loaded wrist-blade any day of the week. The near-endless variety of ways he can use it to end an orc's life is simply breathtaking in scope and imagination. You don't just “stab” an orc in Mordor. No, Talion will arch an orc over his knee like a lover, only to drive that broken blade into its guts. He'll hover the knife in the air for three-fifths of a second too long above a prone orc scrambling in the dirt before finally plunging it into his back. He'll drop from a height to sticking the blade into a woefully exposed throat before pulling it sideways free with both hands, awkwardly straddling the line between just slitting a throat and full-on decapitation. Grisly, horrible (and thrilling) stuff. This is all without mentioning the “brutalize” variant of his stealth kill that is specifically designed to butcher an orc so horrifically that any other monster witnessing it would rather drop their weapons and run than face the same fate. When the fucking uruk-hai are startled by your savagery, you might have gone too far. Team Fortress 2 How could you have a list about awesome videogame knives without honoring the Spy's iconic butterfly knife? You can't and you don't. So that's what we're doing now. The Spy's knife gets EVERYTHING right. Slick, practical, powerful in the ways it should be, limited when it's out of its element, just perfect. From the super satisfying click-clack of opening the knife when you select it (I would absentmindedly fiddle with the quick-swap button every few seconds whenever I was out of the action just to hear it) to the quick downward jab of a backstab – it just feels great. Of course, the big difference between the Spy's knife and the other fine-edged weapons on this list is that you get to use it on other people as opposed to A.I.-driven cannon fodder. As a Spy you get to stalk, hunt, and prey upon other actual players, using your skills and wits to maneuver into just the right place at just the right time to put the knife in. It's a dynamic that has brought out the best of the worst in Spy players. As TF2 has aged, the old tricks just don't cut it anymore. You can't spam out cries for a Medic while disguised as a Pyro and assume you've duped everyone anymore. An entire substrata of players have worked out every possible sneaky angle and head-game you could care to think of to keep the Spy relevant and dangerous as the meta-game has churned on. I've never experienced anything more gratifying in an online game than pulling off a hard-earned backstab. Finding a way to sneak past an enemy team specifically watching and checking for Spies, worming your way past all the random explosions and possible mishaps, stabbing someone just as they look away, confident in their security. Nothing tickles the black recesses of my heart more than watching the enemy roster empty out of Medic, Heavy, and Sniper players as they switch to more aggressively anti-Spy classes like the Pyro, Scout, and Soldier in an attempt to extract revenge. And of course, I've never experienced anything as white-hot frustrating as having a good Heavy minigun-rampage cut short by a shiv to the spine courtesy of some clever Spy. Cheeky bastard. Honorable Mentions Far Cry 4 – The chain knife takedown, where you stab one dude in the back, then pull his own knife out of the scabbard to throw at his slack-jawed buddy, is too damn cool to go unmentioned. Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Jensen's arm blade things remind me a lot of RoboCop's data-spike. Only with a lot less data and a lot more spike. Super Street Fighter IV - Cody has some nerve bringing a knife to a street brawl. I like it. Soldier of Fortune 2 – SoF2's knife would leave these horrific gashes on an enemy model and it didn't stop there. Dice a corpse long enough and you could dismember some poor sod until all that remained was a pool of blood in a hallway. Ewwww.
Best knives photo
Enough to make even Gabe Newell blush
Knives in games are weird. They're either way too weak and flimsy to be any fun (the weapon of last resort you mess around with for a few moments to delay dying or before you restart from your last, hopefully ammo-rich, save)...

Obscure Video Games: Nanashi no Game

Jan 17 // Obscure Video Games
Unfortunately, Nanashi no Game never received a proper localization. The main reason is probably the DS itself -- a system with rampant piracy, a glut of brilliant titles, and the fact that playing on a bus totally kills the spooky atmosphere. Luckily for those of us who don't speak Japanese, a group of fans put out an excellent English patch in 2011. There's technically no legal way to patch the game, but if you do decide to emulate it or put it on a flash cart, you can ease your conscience by importing a Japanese copy. You wouldn't want to risk upsetting the ghosts, would you? Nothing makes ghosts grumpier than game piracy. 
Obscure Video Games photo
The DS game that dare not speak its name
[Update: Sorry for the confusion everyone! As you said in the comments, the link below is actually for the sequel to Nanashi no Game and not for the original. Thanks for the correction!] Nanashi no Game (The Nameless Game) is...

Give me games inspired by weirdos and madmen

Jan 11 // Nic Rowen
[embed]286041:56845:0[/embed] Captain Murphy I know Captain Murphy, the alter ego of professional oddball rapper Flying Lotus, exclusively through his sublimely bizarre animated music videos on YouTube. I understand there is an Adult Swim short out there that tries to establish a little more of a backstory for him, but I haven't seen it, and more importantly, I don't want to see it at the risk of tainting the magic. I don't really care about who Captain Murphy is or where he comes from, I'm just in love with the vibe I get watching his videos on repeat. I don't want some 60-hour RPG explaining the origins and desires of Captain Murphy, I just want some kind of game that taps into his style: a bizarre, beautiful mish-mash of psychedelic imagery, B-roll samples of 1970's PSAs, cult-member brainwashing, and a fixation with comic book superheroes. It's a potent stew of the kind of floating debris that drifts around in my own head, but expressed in a way I could never articulate. I honestly have no idea what a Captain Murphy game would be, or what it would look like, I just know I want it. Call up the Hotline Miami guys and let them loose on it. Tom Waits In my mind's eye I see an adventure game where you play as Tom Waits wandering around a cocaine-blasted version of 1970's New York, adopting stray cats, bouncing between dingy coffee shops and dive bars. Maybe he's looking for inspiration for his next album, maybe his old lady kicked him out and he has nowhere else to go. The crux of the gameplay would revolve around a Telltale-style conversation system where you swap stories with vagabonds, taxi drivers, and talk show hosts, all with the same level of interest and haphazard disregard for rational narratives. There is a wealth of dialog choices at your disposal that reach across the full berth of human emotion, but none of them really matter since the options you select bear almost no resemblance to the crazy shit that actually comes out of Tom's mouth. You stumble into a bar, shivering calico swaddled in your scarf, and tell the drowsy-eyed piano player about the time you got caught in the middle of a pimp war in a grease joint two towns over and had to use a napkin dispenser to defend yourself. That's basically the entire game because that's all you really need. Dragonette Now you might think a game based on the neon-soaked dance music of Dragonette would be an easy fit for a rhythm game, but that's a little too predictable isn't it? No, what I picture is a stealth based puzzle game where you have to try and sneak back into your apartment building at 4:00am without waking up your jealous boyfriend after clubbing it up all night. Use your dance moves and irrepressible charm to navigate past revolving doors, fool judgmental doormen, and avoid tripping over the cat in the middle of a dark living room and waking up the whole damn building. Think Mark of the Ninja, but with less hook-neck hangings and more cheesy video effects. Tyra Banks “Now hold up Nic, didn't you start this article bitching about reality stars making crappy games?” Well, yes, that is true. But I'm not interested in a game about Tyra Banks herself so much as I'm morbidly fascinated by the idea of a game about her nakedly obvious self-insert character, Tookie De La Creme, from her Modelland novel. If you've never heard of Modelland, or (God forbid) read it, it's like some kind of batshit insane mash-up of The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, but where all the districts are dedicated to making different kinds of clothes or jewelry and all the wizards are replaced with supernatural fashionistas. Tookie is a “forgeta-girl” who comes across a magical trinket called a “smize” (based on Tyra's technique of smiling with the eyes) and is whisked away to the titular Modelland to survive a variety of physical dangers and passive-aggressive social knife fights to become one of the world's seven “intoxibellas” the most famous, and therefore most important, people in the world. I could be snarky and compare the basic structure of the plot to any number of RPGs that do the same basic thing (“You touched a funny space stone? Well shit, guess you're the savior of the galaxy now!”) and remark on how easy it would be to translate that into a workable, conventional game (probably the most conventional on my list really), but cutting industry satire isn't my goal here. I honestly would just love to see a game set in such a gloriously stupid world. I mean, the fashion designers are wizards! Sweet Jesus. Get Ty Ty Baby and Swery in the same room together with some drinks and just let the magic happen. Maybe Duncan from D4 can make a cameo. [embed]286041:56846:0[/embed] If celebrity games are going to be more common in the future, I hope we can at least get the occasional strange and lovely experience out of it. We might not be able to stave off a future dystopia of mobile freemium games inspired by reality show garbage and manufactured pop stars, but we can at least dream of a better one.  I've shared my top picks, but what celebrities or pop icons would you want to see in a game?
Celebrity games photo
These pop icons should have their own games
Celebrities are making games now, this is a thing we're going to have to live with. Kim Kardashian's done it, RuPaul's done it (and apparently her game is surprisingly fun, as our Jonathan Holmes discovered), and of course, 5...

Zoku Segare Ijiri will make you scratch your head

Jan 10 // Obscure Video Games
Sadly, Zoku Segare Ijiri is tough to come by these days. Most online retailers don't carry it at all anymore, and those that do are charging a fairly good amount for it. Also you would need a Japanese PS2 and fairly decent understanding of the language to figure out what's happening. I must confess that I was barely able accomplish much in it at all (though I had a lot of fun trying). The mini-games included look enticing, ranging from a shmup, a soccer game, some sort of punk-rock board meeting, and even more punk-rock people doing something... naked? I can't tell for sure, but if the rest of the game is anything to go by, I wouldn't be surprised.   Any soft serve-style poop comedy lovers out there in the audience? If so, let us know and we'll do out best to run a stream of Zoku Segare Iijiri in the future. Even if only five of you show up for the steam, it will still be worth it.
Obscure Video Games photo
Looks like a fun party
Hey everybody! My name is Steve, and you may or may not know me from a blog I do over on Tumblr called Obscure Video Games. I enjoy digging up weird old games that most people have forgotten about and sharing my findings, usu...

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