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Vito Gesualdi

DOTP 2014 preview photo
DOTP 2014 preview

Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 introduces sealed play


New mode promises to shake up multiplayer
Jun 17
// Vito Gesualdi
The Duels of the Planeswalkers series has been a serious boon to Wizards of the Coast, Stainless Games' polished digital experience helping introduce new players to the company's flagship card game: Magic: the Gathering. Unfortunately, the game’s previous installments have all lacked one crucial element of the Magic experience: building your own original deck.
Namco Bandai Gets Towed photo
Namco Bandai Gets Towed

Dark Souls II caught breakin' the law


Big game publisher no match for Global Towing Inc
Jun 14
// Vito Gesualdi
While Namco Bandai and From Software may have proven their mastery of the fantasy RPG genre with the critically-acclaimed Dark Souls series, this scene outside of E3 2013 shows that even the mighty game publisher is no match ...

Review: Anodyne

May 03 // Vito Gesualdi
Anodyne (Windows [reviewed], Mac, Linux)Developer: Sean Hogan and Jonathan KittakaPublisher: Analgesic ProductionsReleased: February 4, 2013MSRP: $9.99 The primary difference is Anodyne’s dedication to minimalism. Whereas the Zelda games offer the player an inventory filled with various sub-weapons and tools, Anodyne’s protagonist Young carries only his trusty broom (and eventually a pair of jump boots). The plot is similarly sparse, leaving players to fight their way through the game’s oddly disturbing environments without any real explanation as to why, with the cryptic NPCs and their bizarre philosophical ramblings not helping to shake that sense of unease.     Luckily, Anodyne’s lacking complexity never seems enough to discourage one from exploring its unique world in search of cards (the game’s collectable of choice). Hidden in treasure chests scattered around the various areas and dungeons, these cards are the key to unlocking various gates and progressing through the game. Though I wish the importance of the cards had been stressed before forcing me to backtrack, Anodyne’s streamlined navigation makes it easy to zoom around in search of missed items. The entire world is interconnected by a series of portals, the main portal hub helpfully informing players which areas still have cards to be searched out. Meanwhile, the sprawling dungeons are all helpfully tracked by an in-game map, showing which paths have yet to be followed. These are perhaps Anodyne’s strongest features, letting players enjoying explore this strange realm without worrying about getting lost. However, while this scaled-down take on the Zelda formula leaves the thrill of exploration intact, the actual game mechanics are perhaps a bit too simplistic. The game’s puzzles are the worst offenders; without an inventory of tools to choose from, their solutions are easily narrowed down to something involving your broom, or using dust clumps to dismantle traps and block enemies. Boss battles suffer similarly from the lack of different items, not forcing players to exploit weak points using specific sub-weapons, but simply having them dodge attack patterns and get in some broom hits when possible. Thing is, early in the adventure I was more than willing to overlook the lacking gameplay -- I was more interested in learning what I could about the mysterious world. Anodyne offered me moments of beauty: climbing a massive windmill in the rain, scaling a sun-painted mountain. It also offered me moments of horror: killing a fisherman and jumping into the blood portal left behind; walking around a black-and-white village, unable to talk to the NPCs without stabbing them. Though as the cryptic statements began piling to the ceiling, I started to wonder when the game would start getting to the meaning behind these abstractions. Unfortunately, as the credits roll, it becomes clear the developers have no interest in defining their world properly; whatever theories you might devise about the game’s hidden meaning given no real justification. It would be one thing if the clues were stronger, or if the dialogue was truly novel. Problem is, at times it feels more like an elaborate joke: bears talking about having sex, the final boss inviting you to go get a sandwich. Perhaps there’s some grand truth to be gleaned from the abstract philosophical ramblings, or perhaps the cute cat rambling away about the nature of life and death is exactly the kind of unnecessary pretentiousness it feels like.   Point is, Anodyne’s weaknesses would’ve been greatly justified by a solid narrative. Instead, we’re left with a semi-decent dungeon crawler featuring some rather attractive sprite art and great soundtrack. So while Anodyne’s minimalistic riff on Zelda is definitely unique enough to warrant a purchase, it unfortunately never comes close to inheriting the legacy of its father, too lost in its odd pretentiousness to ever arrive at the point.
Anodyne review photo
Like Zelda, but pretentious
Anodyne is a cool little top-down dungeon crawler with an obvious problem: it isn’t Zelda. Though I would normally feel like a jerk criticizing a small indie title for not stacking up to Nintendo’s legendary series, the game itself forces the comparison, lifting not just the basic gameplay elements of the classic 2D Zelda games, but also various art cues and enemy designs.

Fire Emblem Censored photo
Fire Emblem Censored

This Fire Emblem scene was too hot for North America


Sorry America, no butt for you
May 03
// Vito Gesualdi
Nintendo has done a fantastic job supporting Fire Emblem: Awakening so far, with new DLC dropping so frequently it's hard to make time for it all. However it was yesterday's map release that caught the eye of NeoGAF board mem...

In defense of boobies

Apr 25 // Vito Gesualdi
It’s the same realm of harmless fantasy that inspired my fourteen-year-old self to rewind the shower scene from Starship Troopers a few hundred times, or spurned me to save up an absurd amount of money for Chie’s maid outfit in Persona 4 Golden. A cheap erotic thrill which in no way influences my attitudes towards actual women. This would be the weirdest crossover ever. I bring this up because of the recent controversy surrounding Vanillaware’s upcoming hack-n-slash Dragon’s Crown, a game whose female characters possess some rather obvious assets. The game’s brazen character art inspired a news post by Kotaku writer Jason Schreier, who jokingly accused it of having a fourteen-year-old for a character designer. The insinuation, of course, was that only a teenage boy could design something so blatantly over-sexualized, scribbling his depictions of Amazonian fantasy women in a dark corner of the middle-school cafeteria. I personally found this joke both lazy and offensive, diminishing the abilities of character designer George Kamitani and missing the obvious elements of parody evident in the art style. See, unlike our fourteen-year-old strawman, Kamitani’s seems entirely aware that his absurd depictions of the female form are beyond even the realm of fantasy, which seems to be the point. The game’s art is obvious satire, taking the already unrealistic anatomies laid out by fantasy art masters like Frazetta, and cranking them to 11. The fact that his characters are being compared by critics to the outdated fantasy heroines of yesteryear is precisely what makes them such a brilliant homage. Frazetta - the reason fantasy women don't know about armor. While we could easily get sidetracked regarding Kamitani’s arguably offensive reply to Schreier, it did force the writer to elaborate on his particular criticisms of the game’s art style, an eye-rolling attempt to demonize Dragon’s Crown simply due to its attempts to titillate.  Says Schreier: “Why complain? Because it's embarrassing. Because I wouldn't want to be seen playing it in public. Because I love Japanese games and Japanese RPGs and I don't want them to perpetuate the ugly "boys' club" mentality that has pervaded gaming for almost three decades now.” For Schreier to make the point that he’s embarrassed by this game, or that he wouldn’t want to be seen playing it in public seems bizarre, insinuating that games shouldn’t offer material which might be offensive to certain audiences. No, I wouldn’t play Dragon’s Crown with most of my female friends, nor would I invite them over to watch the latest Girls Gone Wild release. Though the game doesn’t appeal to all sensibilities, why should we expect it to? It's kind of like arguing for more family-friendly porno stores. Though the gaming industry should be taking efforts to attract a more mainstream audience, this is something that requires a diversification of offerings, not simply doing away with potentially-offensive outliers. This is similar to how Citizen Kane can be rented from the same video store as Dangerous Dongs Down Under Vol. 5. Same media, though the latter is kept in that roped-off section in the back (which given the niche appeal of Dragon’s Crown is probably where it belongs as well). Meanwhile, regarding the “boy’s club” complaint, it is worth admitting that the gaming industry is definitely lacking in strong portrayals of women. However, I take special exception to Schreier’s claim that media does not exist in a vacuum. His argument is that while Dragon’s Crown alone is not cause for concern, because it contributes to a growing selection of games which fail to portray women maturely, it should be considered part of a larger problem and decried as such. This thinking is wholly unreasonable, burdening creators with restrictions on what sorts of characters are “acceptable.” The creators of Dragon’s Crown do not owe us effective female characters, nor are their elaborate cartoonish fantasies something that could be considered morally unsound. It’s a simple stylistic choice, and though the game fails to provide the positive-gender portrayals the industry needs, looking for such things in your silly arcade hack-and-slash is honestly absurd. You might as well complain about how the game unfairly stereotypes dragons. While some accuse Dragon’s Crown and similar games of “holding the industry back,” it seems they have a different idea of what direction the industry needs to head in. I personally don’t believe every game need to include fleshed-out characters and plotlines, that I can sometimes be content to simply hit bad guys until they fall down. I even think it’s okay to show players some boobs, even if there’s about as much character development contained within them as in those pornographic movies I’m so fond of. Now admittedly, there is an obvious sexism problem within the gaming industry, with some still believing it’s appropriate to display women-objects at our “professional” events, or for news outlets to publish booth-babe photo spreads. However, to try and hold individual games responsible for this culture is entirely misguided. Yes, these games are often male power-fantasies, though that’s not a problem in and of itself (even if the fantasy involves large-breasted women). Few games seem truly malicious in their sexualization of women, and are guilty of nothing more than providing some cheap (and often lazy) thrills. The real problem is when these cheap thrills are interpreted incorrectly by the audience, potentially contributing to an unhealthy attitude towards women. Though again, the solution is not to outlaw titillation, but simply to broaden the realm of media, giving people more exposure to how actual women both look and act. However this will still leave room for the occasional science-fiction shower scene, or RPGs which let you dress up your characters like little dolls. We don’t need such harmless sexual depictions to disappear entirely, just for them to be balanced out by the mature characterizations the industry obviously needs. More of this please. Point is, Dragon's Crown has boobs. I can both enjoy them while simultaneously hoping for more realistic depictions of women in gaming. You can too.
Keeping Games Sexy photo
Or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the fantasy
Let me preface this article by stating a few simple facts. I am a young, white, American male who consumes vast amounts of pornography. As such, I am occasionally drawn to depictions of the female form which are perhaps outsi...

Why people hate Electronic Arts

Apr 22 // Vito Gesualdi
Lack of creativity Electronic Arts is terribly afraid of the word "creativity." Being creative means taking risks, trying things which haven’t been tried before. EA, meanwhile, prefers to release the same game as many times as possible, seeing just how much money they can milk out of a franchise before the public realizes they probably don’t need the “Extreme Farming” expansion for The Sims.  I've said it before, but this is still the stupidest thing ever. For a good example of how shameless Electronic Arts is about their lack of original ideas, look no further than Goldeneye: Rogue Agent. After snatching the Bond license away from Rare and churning out an endless procession of uninspired shooters, EA finally decided to just try and trick people into thinking they'd crafted a sequel to the N64 hit. The game wasn’t even based on the movie Goldeneye, it was about a dude with an actual golden eye, which makes literally no sense whatsoever.  Worst of all, EA doesn't even have the decency to recognize when they've published another uninspired piece of crap. Medal of Honor: Warfighter was universally panned by critics, though rather than recognize their failure and learn from it, EA execs decided to loudly whine about how unfair the scores were. Is there anything more pathetic than a bunch of filthy rich executives crying because reviewers judged their game based on its merits rather than its gigantic marketing budget? Buying out the competition As established, EA hates coming up with new ideas, and nowhere is this more apparent than their massive lineup of cookie-cutter sports titles. Of course, who can really fault them for taking advantage of those knuckle-dragging cretins who are happy to pay $60 for the exact same game they bought last year? Look at how excited John Madden is about his royalty check.  That being said, it’s pretty pathetic to see how terrified EA is of their competition, likely aware that any developer with even a sliver of respect for the customer could easily blow their half-assed efforts out of the water. That’s exactly what happened in the case of Sega’s NFL 2K5, a game which was not only hailed as one of the best football games of all time, but actually sold for $10 less than EA’s latest lazy installment in the Madden franchise. Sweating profusely as they considered the idea of actually having to work for their consumer's money, the EA execs frantically called up their chums at the NFL, negotiating an exclusive contract and killing off any competing NFL game series, including NFL 2K and NFL Blitz.  Of course, Electronic Arts themselves actually brought back the NFL Blitz franchise in 2012, which is pretty disgusting when you think about it. It’s one thing to commit murder, it’s another to reanimate your victim's corpse and force it to dance for nickels.  Treating workers like Slave Labor You might argue that EA can’t be faulted simply for being good at business, and I’ll be the first to admit I’ve got nothing against good old fashioned capitalism. Problem is, Electronic Arts is a little too old fashioned, the company clearly pining for the days when where treating your workers like slaves was just par for the course. Ah, the good ol' days. See, in America we have something called “overtime law,” where any employee working in excess of forty hours in a week get paid at 1.5 times their normal rate for those additional hours. It’s supposed to encourage companies to hire additional workers, rather than simply hiring a burly guy with a whip to provide encouragement. Somehow though, EA never got the memo about not forcing your programmers to work like sweatshop laborers. In 2004, Erin Hoffman, the so-called “EA Spouse,” posted a scathing expose on how the electronic giant had treated her husband and other employees, forcing them to work as many at 84 hours a week  without any overtime compensation. Her speaking out led to three separate class-action lawsuits being filed against EA, the software giant forced to shelve their plans for motivational shock-collars. Beatings will continue until morale improves. Ruining companies In the 90s Electronic Arts set about buying up every awesome PC developer they could find, with the hopes of working with these talented studios to create great software values for the consumer... Wait, that’s wrong. What EA actually wanted was to buy up a bunch of already popular franchises, then force the developers to release an endless stream of crappy bug-laden sequels. Remember the biblical story of Abraham, who was commanded by god to take his son Issac up to a mountain and stab the kid with the first sharp rock he could find? It was kind of like that, except Issac was the Command and Conquer series and Electronic Arts wasn't kidding around about the “murder your child” decree.    C'mon Abraham, just ship Ultima IX. Who cares if it sucks? Not that EA cared as they helped run studios like Westwood and Origin into the ground. Once the studios were no longer profitable, they simply fired everybody and pocketed whatever cash they'd made. Everybody wins, except of course for those developers who were forced to stab their most-beloved creations to death.  Poor Richard Garriott. I hope he's happy now that he lives in space. Shamless Money-grubbing Though most publishers these days have resorted to a variety of tactics to earn some additional cash, Electronic Arts is perhaps the most shameless about these practices, eagerly trying to squeeze every possible dollar out of your wallet. Countless hours of login screen fun. Downloadable content - You can be sure every EA release will come loaded with it, much of which probably should’ve been included in the retail release.  Used games - Sorry buddy. If you want to play with your friends, you’re gonna need this ridiculous online pass.  Micro-transactions - Because your favorite video games are made better when you're constantly being asked to feed them quarters Digital-rights management - EA promises to make sure that playing the game you bought is as frustrating as possible, either loading your computer up with DRM software, or forcing you to wait weeks for them to fix the servers before you can actually play that copy of SimCity you bought. See, the reason gamers love companies like Valve, is because Valve makes it clear they loves the consumer. Gabe Newell has proven you don’t have to constantly shit all over your customers just to turn a profit. Every time I buy a game on Steam, I feel like I’m supporting a company which actually cares about me as a customer. With Electronic Arts, I get the feeling my money is being used to purchase orphaned children, whose souls are used to power EA's massive fear engine, gradually opening the portal to the hellish nightmare realm where their demonic overlords plot the total enslavement of humanity. Call it a hunch. Non-Existent Customer Service It’s interesting to see how different companies approach the issue of customer service. Many retailers hold by the old adage “the customer is always right,” going out of their way to please every patron. Electronic Arts goes by the motto "we hate you, give us your money," something which has unsurprisingly earned them few fans. Hi! How can we make your life miserable today?  EA's inability to care about their consumers was less of a problem back in the retail days, though the move towards digital downloads has forced people to deal with Origin's incompetent customer service reps. Got charged twice for Battlefield 3? That's a banning. An opponent swore at you during a game session? That's another banning. You pre-ordered Command & Conquer: Generals 2 before it got announced as free-to-play and now need a refund? Sorry bro, better luck next time. The recent SimCity debacle was excellent evidence of how little Electronic Arts cares about their customers. When you sell somebody a $60 product that doesn’t work, the right thing to do is offer them a refund. However, the idea of swimming in a slightly smaller money pool was enough to send EA executives to tears. No refunds for anybody, though you do get a free copy of whatever game EA calculated would least affect their bottom line. So, Electronic Arts has established the precedent that they are allowed to sell you something that doesn’t work, then refuse to give you back your money, and potentially ban you for complaining about it. If that’s not enough cause to cancel your Battlefield 4 pre-order, I don’t know what is. Preorder your inexplicable Origin banning today! In summary, Electronic Arts is like most American companies, their blind greedy love of money resulting in a terrible experience for the consumer. Though we can't argue that they put out some great games now and again, it's their crappy business practices which are the problem. The Worst Company in America? Maybe not, but they're definitely working hard to keep the title.  
Why EA Sucks photo
Worst company in America? You decide.
It wasn't much of a surprise when Electronic Arts was recently voted the Worst Company in America by readers of Consumerist for the second year in a row. Though the game publisher's sins are arguably less substantial than tho...

Why does Capcom hate Mega Man?

Apr 13 // Vito Gesualdi
Seriously, there's a lot of Mega Man games. That all changed in 2010, when series supervisor Keiji Inafune announced he would be leaving Capcom. The move was unexpected, especially given that Inafune had been with the company for 23 years and was promoted to Global Head of Production just six months prior. The notorious developer had previously made many inflammatory comments about the Japanese gaming industry, and his exit statement seemed to infer that he felt his creativity was being stifled. In the uptight Japanese business world, such comments could be considered highly insulting, and though Capcom claims Inafune's departure had no bearing on any in-production Mega Man title, it's hard to ignore that within the next year both Mega Man Universe and Mega Man Legends 3 were canceled. Oh, what could've been... The cancelation of Legends was especially shocking to fans, many of whom were helping to shape the game's content through Capcom's unique social media experiment: The Devroom. Though the future of the long-awaited sequel had always been wonky, the planned Prototype never even made it to the 3DS eShop, while Inafune's offer to help complete the game after his departure went ignored by his former employers. Now it's obvious that 2010 was a bad year for Capcom, which drastically scaled back its operations following the disappointing sales of Dark Void and Bionic Commando. As such, it's not entirely unreasonable to assume the focus on Western-themed IPs like Lost Planet and Dead Rising was responsible for Mega Man getting the axe. Yet that's exactly what makes the recent news of a canceled Mega Man FPS seem like such a missed opportunity. Say what you will, this game could've been awesome. Maverick Hunter was to be handled by Armature Studio, a company formed by ex-Retro Studios staff; X's new look was designed by Adi Granov, who designed Iron Man's movie armor. Despite the knee-jerk reaction some fans had to the idea of taking the side-scrolling series into first-person, similar criticisms were leveled at Metroid Prime back in the day, and look how that turned out. This slick modern take on a classic franchise could've been a chance for Capcom to appease the loyal fanbase while also re-inventing the Blue Bomber for a new audience. Knowing we could've finally had a next-generation Mega Man title makes the speculation that a petty feud is at least partially responsible for its early cancelation so disheartening. Regardless of why Maverick Hunter was dropped, it's time for Capcom to get behind the franchise once again. Heck, in the last three years, Mega Man cancelations have outnumbered the Mega Man games I actually played! Aside from a quick Mega Man X remake for iPhone and the "official" fan game Mega Man X Street Fighter, the iconic character seems to have been almost completely forgotten by Capcom. He was even overlooked for Marvel vs. Capcom 3, not to mention that the appearance of the overweight "Bad Box Art" Mega Man in Street Fighter X Tekken was a bit like rubbing dirt in fans' wounds. Not cool, Capcom. This year is Mega Man's 25th anniversary celebration; closing out 2013 without any new game announcement would be one hell of a shame. Regardless of what happened in the past, the Blue Bomber is an important gaming icon and deserves better than to be left stranded on the moon. Get it together, Capcom! [Collection picture courtesy of Siliconera, Maverick Hunter screenshot courtesy of Polygon]
Where is Mega Man? photo
The Blue Bomber deserves better
I've always been a big Mega Man fan. As I type this, a figurine of series villainess Tron Bonne (see: mai waifu) is currently watching over me. There's just something very unique about the series -- the idea of not only defea...

Zelda photo
Zelda

Fan Art: Zelda is the hero in 'Clockwork Empire'


Webcomic author puts the princess in charge
Apr 12
// Vito Gesualdi
The first part of Anita Sakeesian's Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series recently hit the web, focusing on the "damsel in distress" theme common to many popular game titles. In the video, Sakessian points some of her c...
Remember Me Interview photo
Inspired by Starbuck
Remember Me is an exciting new title Capcom plans to publish this coming June, and put together by Paris-based developers Dontnod Entertainment. The intriguing cyberpunk adventure follows Nilin, an elite memory hunter who tr...

Collecting games photo
Collecting games

Collecting videogames for fun and profit


Buying games without going broke
Apr 04
// Vito Gesualdi
There's nothing that gets me more excited than a truly epic game collection, like the one being sold earlier this year for $550,000 (pictured above). I’ve been a game collector myself for a long time now, my high s...

Interview: Social networking gone bad in Remember Me

Apr 03 // Vito Gesualdi
I sat down with Remember Me's creative director Jean-Max Moris (Dontnod), art director Aleksi Briclot (Dontnod), and senior producer Mat Hart (Capcom) to try and find the answer to that question, and to see whether this cyberpunk adventure will make Capcom's change of heart worth it. From left to right: Mat Hart, Aleksi Briclot, Jean-Max Moris Destructoid: Now obviously any new IP is always a bit of risk. I was down in the (Capcom) booth and I saw a giant line for Ducktales, but for Remember Me the people seem to be saying: "What is this? What am I looking at?" What do you want to say to those people? Mat: We want to say very much that we've got a great game that you should play (laughs). It's an incredibly powerful story about a young woman called Nilin, who is an elite memory-hunter, searching for reasons why her own memory was wiped and taken away from her. Destructoid: What can you tell me about the universe of Remember Me? Jean-Maxime: Remember Me takes place in Neo-Paris, 2084, where everyone is carrying a brain implant called 'Sensen,' which is short for 'Sensation Engine,' that allows them to record and digitize in real time everything that they see, that they hear, that they experience, and they turn that into little memories that they can exchange with people, buy from strangers, sell to strangers. It's really just the future of today's social networks; it's a brave new world of knowledge and emotion sharing. But, on the flip side of that wonderful coin, there is the looming threat of huge mega-corporation called Memoryes, that builds the hardware and oversees all the memory transfers. If there's any resemblance to any company in today's world, that's obviously just a coincidence. Destructoid: Is this like an evil Facebook? Jean-Maxime: Anyway ... there are people that think someone should be there to watch over the watchmen, a group of people called the Errorists. Nilin, the main character of the game, is basically the most gifted of them all. She's an elite memory hunter and, unlike the others, she has the power to dive into your mind, penetrate one of your memories, and 'remix' it.  The game is her story, the story of getting her memory back. Destructoid: She has the ability to alter people's memories? Now how does the player do that? Mat: The player is going to effectively have the 'hand of god.' They're able to literally scrub backwards and forwards through the memory that she is manipulating. What's she's looking for is tiny little glitches, little weaknesses in the memory that she is able to manipulate. Manipulating the tiniest, most innocuous thing can actually have quite the large butterfly effect when you extrapolate it out. At key points in the narrative, you're gonna have to remix someone's memories to take the story further, or get some crucial information, or save yourself. These are the key turning points in the storyline. Destructoid: Now, obviously the setting of the game is very unique; you have this kind of futuristic Paris. What was the inspiration for that? Aleksi: There's a lot of different influences, but one of the main challenges was to always keep a connection with today's world. It's sci-fi, but we're not dealing with space opera, spaceships, stuff like that. It's all about intimacy. Jean-Max was talking about technology and dichotomy between technology and humanity, memory, a mix between all of those. For the world, we have to create something strong with a sense of history, something you can believe in, and then we are adding layers -- big buildings, robots, a lot of crazy enemies, and stuff like that. But we always keep in mind that we have to build a believable future. Destructoid: This game really wants you to think this is a possible future, assuming everything goes wrong. Aleksi: Don't forget that we are not scientists. We try to create a believable future, but we're not doing a thesis. It's fun, it's entertainment, it's a game... Jean-Maxime: An immense amount of research went into designing the game world, and the game makes sense from a technology point of view. We researched memory, types of different memories, types of brain control that can be done on machines today, social networks and the kind of potential threats or features they have embedded in them. But when it came to the gameplay, it was about making something that was immediately enjoyable. There's combat, there's platforming, there's stuff that they know. And then, we introduce the crazy stuff. Destructoid: Now Remember Me, is a very interesting title. The 'Me' in the title, does that refer to the main character? Is that her saying "Remember Me"? Jean-Maxime: Or is that you? There was a lot of back and forth between Dontnod and Capcom on the title, but Capcom came with Remember Me. I really like it. I know it's a Robert Pattinson movie as well... Matt: Do you love the movie? Jean-Maxime: I haven't seen the movie. It doesn't mean we can't use the same two words of the English language to build a new work of art. There's this layer of the character needing to remember who she is, because she's lost her memory; there's this layer of her saying "remember me," like "you're gonna remember me once I'm done with you." Then there's the narrative of social networks, and an era in the future where that's been taken to the very next level. What can we do to remember who we are once our identities have been shared with the rest of the world? Aleksi: Something funny about the name. The catch-line of the game is 'remix memories, change your world,' the beginning letters of Remember Me. You can remix the letters, make the connection between 'Remix Memory' and 'Remember Me'. Destructoid: We haven't been seeing a lot of female protagonists in these kinds of AAA titles. What drew you to a female lead? Was that a natural progression, was that a choice you consciously made? Jean-Maxime: I think that cyberpunk is often about identifying technological trends today and extrapolating them into the future... though other cyberpunk works focus on computing power or physical augmentation, and how that can affect you as a human being. We went for something that is sort of a yin/yang of both, though is more connected to social networks and themes of human intimacy, and identity. It was just natural that we went for a female character. I'm not saying male characters can't have emotion and intimacy, and I'm not saying female characters can't kick ass. This just made sense for the story we're telling. Destructoid: She's also ethnic. Jean-Maxime: She's mixed race. She's half Caucasian, half... Aleksi: Egyptian. Jean-Maxime: (laughs) Not Egyptian. You got the background of the story wrong! She's basically half-white half-black. I don't know... Destructoid: The technical term? Jean-Maxime: The technical term you use in the US that would be politically correct... but she's mixed race, yeah. Destructoid: It’s definitely kind of a very unique character compared to many other gaming protagonists. What went into designing Nilin? Jean-Maxime: It's really been a collective work. Lots of back and forth with the narrative team, Aleksi's team -- the art team -- the game designers. She basically had to be a combination of attractive looks, sure, but also resonating character traits. We came up with two defining traits in the beginning, which were 'rebel,' and a minor term, which was 'vulnerable.' Actually, the emotional palette which we went or was inspired by Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica), and although they're very different in many ways, the range of emotions we wanted for her was like that. We defined those traits and worked hard at to them permeate through every line of dialogue, through every animation, through every situation she was put in, every reaction from NPCs. That's an immense body of work, trying hard to make her a significant action-adventure character. Aleksi: There was a lot of iteration. She has to fit the setting, look like she can fight really well, she has to fit in the universe, to look specific, to have a specific visual signature, as well as to look like some kind of usual Neo-Paris citizen in 2084. A lot of different points in the recipe. Destructoid: How did this relationship between Capcom and Dontnod come together?  Mat: Capcom first became aware of Remember Me at GamesCom 2011. We moved very quickly to secure a relationship with those guys, to sign the deal. We were thrilled with what we saw, and the potential of the game. Destructoid: Now, Capcom has before gone out to capture new studios, but it seemed like you guys had shied away from that for a little while. Is Capcom looking to build a new selection of IPs outside of the traditional brands at this point? Mat: (laughs) What? Destructoid: I know you guys had Bionic Commando, you had Dark Void, and these didn't perform very well. It seemed like Capcom was focusing on their core brands for a while. We saw a lot of Street Fighter, we saw a lot of Resident Evil. It's interesting to see a new IP that Capcom is taking charge on. Do you see more new IPs in Capcom's future? Matt: (long pause) Destructoid: You haven't thought too hard about it, I guess? (A Capcom rep interjected here to mention that Matt likely wasn't in a position to comment on that question). Mat: There's just nothing I could say that wouldn't sound like complete publisher [expletive]. Destructoid: Well, are there any plans for Nilin to make her way into any other part of the Capcom universe?  Jean-Maxime: I'd love to see it happen, and I've made the joke already about 23 times to Ono-san, who is our producer at Capcom Japan. So who knows? Destructoid: You’d like to see her in Marvel vs. Capcom then? Jean-Maxime: Not Marvel vs. Capcom... Street Fighter V. Destructoid: Street Fighter V? Jean-Maxime: Yeah, I'd love to see her in Street Fighter V. (Note – After the interview, I was assured that Street Fighter V is not actually in production) Destructoid: So you guys are big Capcom fans, going back. Is it really exciting for you guys to be working with Capcom? Jean-Maxime: It is! The whole design of the game was done by Dontnod, and Capcom were very respectful of that, but at the same time it's great to be able to benefit from their experience, and also fine-tune the game toward the end of production, and also be part of the Capcom family as thirty-year-old video game fans is... it's just amazing. Destructoid: Are there any games that you would cite as influences? I'm definitely getting an Uncharted vibe from some of the platforming elements. Jean-Maxime: Well, the reference game is a dangerous one for game developers, because then it comes around and beats you over the head. (laughs) Games like Uncharted, Batman, these are amazing games to us, and it's an honor to be compared to them. Destructoid: Alright, I’ve just walked into the game store, I look on the shelf and there's Remember Me. Why am I gonna buy this game? What makes this the title I gotta have? Jean-Maxime: Because it's new, and you're tired of playing the same sequels every year. This is a brand-new action-adventure IP that will give you what you already know in terms of accessible combat and storytelling methods, but it's gonna escalate that through new levels of innovation with the memory remix that you've seen, with the Combo Lab that'll allow you to customize all your combos, and that's gonna tell you a very unique story: the story of Nilin, this new female character. You don't see enough of these female characters in your games. Those are all good reasons to buy Remember Me. Destructoid: Alright, I think we've hit a lot of different points. I wish you guys good luck with this one. Jean-Maxime & Co: Thank you! (Transcribed by Jeffrey Haenftling)
Remember Me interview photo
Watch out for the Mark Zuckerbots on level eight
I recently got the chance to attend Anaheim Wondercon 2013, swinging by the Capcom booth in hopes of scoring some cool Monster Hunter swag. I must admit however, it was a bit disappointing to see how heavily the company conti...

Wondercon Cosplay photo
Wondercon Cosplay

The cosplayers of Wondercon 2013


Looking awesome in Anaheim
Apr 02
// Vito Gesualdi
Anaheim Wondercon may already be over, but we've got some awesome cosplay pictures from this past weekend's event! Check out some of the truly epic match-ups we happened upon, including Ryu vs. Sub-Zero, Batman vs. a Giant Mech, and Legend of the Hidden Temple's Orange Iguanas taking on their deadly rivals: the Blue Barracudas. 
Anti-nerd humor photo
Anti-nerd humor

My personal crusade against anti-nerd humor


Why Hollywood owes us some respect
Mar 26
// Vito Gesualdi
I recently had the chance to shoot the sitcom spec pilot posted above with some friends of mine, a project which dredged up a lot of thoughts on how nerds are portrayed in the media. See, I've always had a big problem with t...

In defense of shorter games

Mar 26 // Vito Gesualdi
Now it’s worth noting that videogames are definitely a unique media, with few rules of thumb regarding proper length. With a movie, you expect 90-120 minutes of entertainment; with a book, you expect 80,000 or so words. With a game though, you might get anything from five decent hours to a few hundred, depending on the genre. This is why it can seem confusing when a reviewer mentions a game is “too short.” Heck, even our own score guide specifically mentions that a game which is otherwise solid could be knocked down from ‘Great’ to ‘Good’ due to its brevity, again, with no firm rule regarding what the proper length might be. It seems that, most often, the issue of game length is related to price. After all, videogames are expensive, and to justify that expensive purchase you want something that will occupy a good deal of your time. That being said, this pursuit of value has led some people to the misconception that longer equals better. In fact, this unfortunate belief seems responsible for convincing many developers to artificially pad their games with content, adding repetitive missions and lackluster multiplayer modes so that players get the extra hours of playtime they demand. Resident Evil 6 would've been better as a shorter, more polished experience. Thing is, the time developers spend on adding additional hours of content often would’ve been better used polishing up the core experience. Resident Evil 6 is one game which seemed to suffer greatly from its desire to provide hours and hours of content. Though the promise of four different campaigns looked great on back of the box, in reality we got four sloppy action shooters which barely did justice to the already tarnished Resident Evil legacy. It seems obvious Capcom would’ve been better off devoting its resources to one solid 10- to 12-hour campaign. Many recent games seem the victim of a similar desire to go overboard with content, one reason I’m quite pleased that Irrational Games scrapped Bioshock Infinite’s planned multiplayer mode, wisely choosing to focus on making the single-player as strong as possible. On another note, as much as I enjoy a good epic 40-hour-plus quest now and again, I am a grown man with a variety of adult responsibilities, which means I actually tend to prefer something a bit more bite-sized. For instance, I recently purchased Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and though we’re not even through March yet it’s definitely a contender for my personal game of the year award. Its campaign is only about 6-8 hours long, but that time is packed with more nonstop action than any other game I've played in a long while. This boss fight would not be any better with an extra hour of hallways before it. Still, even though Revengeance has gotten almost universally positive reviews, I still see users commenting that they would never pay $60 for a game of this length, something which concerns me greatly. Its length is something I actually think Platinum Games should be commended for, as the studio could’ve easily thrown together some uninspired and repetitive levels to make the game feel longer. Instead the developer focused its effort on making a game so incredibly fun to play that there’s almost never a dull moment. A lot of the complaints I see about shorter games also seem to forget to factor for their replayability. It was just five minutes after beating Revengeance that I jumped back in on a harder difficulty, eager to unlock the remaining VR missions and max out Raiden’s various stats. Shorter games give you a chance to actually master their content, and it feels awesome to re-challenge old enemies and bosses now knowing how to handle whatever they might throw at you. Not every game can be as huge as Skyrim, nor should we want that. Point is, a game’s length is perhaps the least important factor to consider when judging its quality. If gamers choose only to purchase the games which promise epically long campaigns, you can be sure we’ll be seeing more and more titles jammed full of lazy, uninspired content, while superb action titles like Revengeance fall by the wayside. There is room in this industry for both sixty-hour epics and six-hour romps, and pretending that the "longer equals better" mantra is valid can only hurt us in the long run.
Shorter games photo
Why "too short" is rarely a valid criticism
I was recently listening to a keen little gaming podcast done by some friends of mine, when they got on the interesting topic of what common game review critique they would outlaw, if possible. After a bit of thought, they unanimously agreed that they were tired of baseless complaints about game length, something I definitely agree with.

Skullgirls photo
Skullgirls

Creator of Skullgirls porn officially joins Lab Zero


How big is your joystick?
Mar 20
// Vito Gesualdi
[Update: Skullgirls lead designer Mike Z has contacted Destructoid to say that ZONE's pornographic work was not considered during the hiring process. The writer apologizes for not making it clear that this was ...

Review: Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk

Mar 12 // Vito Gesualdi
Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk  (PS3)Developer: GustPublisher: Tecmo KoeiRelease: March 5, 2013MSRP: $49.99 Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk is the fourteenth entry in Gust’s long running Atelier series, an RPG franchise which has experienced only limited success in the west. As both the first installment in a new Atelier universe, and the first Western release to be published by Tecmo Koei rather than NIS America, Ayesha looks to be a fresh start for the series. It features a notably different tone than the previous ‘Arland’ trilogy of PS3 titles (Rorona, Totori and Meruru), which are perhaps as well known for their adorable protagonists as for the too-hot-for-Australia sexual fanservice. Though the skimpy swimsuits stick around as optional DLC, the game’s storyline looks to attract an audience beyond the Lolita fetish crowd, Ayesha’s storybook fare so innocent it’s actually hard to imagine what earned this one a T for Teen rating. At the outset of the game we’re introduced to Ayesha, an adorably naive apothecary who spends her days brewing medicine to sell to passing merchants. During a visit to her sister’s gravesite within the nearby ruins, Ayesha encounters the ghostly specter of her missing kin, a passing academic informing her that her sister may well be alive. Now filled with the resolve to discover the truth behind her sister’s disappearance, she sets out on a search for answers, meeting a variety of new friends and expanding her natural alchemic skills along the way.   Overall, the plot is your standard cutesy-anime fare, with spunky underage witches and attractive young swordsmen rounding out the by-the-books cast. It’s honestly good fun, and a refreshing change of pace from the obtuse philosophical narratives other Japanese RPGs offer. Most importantly though, with the creep factor removed, Atelier Ayesha is a game one almost wants to recommend as a starter RPG for younger women, proving that one can wear a flowery dress while still kicking ass in monster-infested dungeons.  I must admit that as a red-blooded American male there’s only so much candy-sweet narrative I can stomach before starting to choke, though if I had a twelve-year-old daughter and the kind of reckless parenting style that involves addicting my children to fetch-quests, this would be an automatic purchase. Along with the new narrative tone comes a few small additions that definitely help improve the Atelier experience. During combat, characters can now expend a slight portion of their action gauge to move about the battlefield, and maneuvering into position for a back attack or to provide cover to a weakened character adds some needed variety to the simplistic turn-based system. Meanwhile, the alchemy process has also been altered, now allowing players to use a wider variety of ingredients in their recipes instead of being forced to tediously seek out specific items within the game’s dungeons. As item creation is still the most confusing aspect of the game it’s nice to see an effort to streamline it, though the game still yearns for a dedicated tutorial mode to explain what it means to add the “flame soul” ability to a medical bandage.   Despite the sense of newness surrounding Ayesha, the series’ basic formula remains almost entirely intact, for better or for worse. The checklist style of game design tasks players with rushing about the barebones world map in order to complete an ever-growing list of minor tasks: clearing areas of deadly monsters, gathering up new alchemy materials and fulfilling an endless procession of fetch quests. The one thing which helps to spice up these otherwise unremarkable elements is the alchemy mechanic, every aspect of the game tying into this item creation system in some way. Throughout the game Ayesha fills her inventory with a baffling variety of ingredients, found at gathering points scattered about the world, dropped by fearsome monsters, or simply purchased from the game’s many vendors. Back at the workshop these ingredients can be jammed together to form new equipment, necessary quest items, and a wide variety of bombs and tools for Ayesha to use in combat. Notable is that unlike regular RPGs, monsters in Atelier Ayesha don’t carry wallets, and the only reliable way to fill one’s coffers is to deliver requested items to the various NPCs littered about the game’s collection of towns. This money can then be spent on expensive alchemy books, allowing Ayesha to craft exciting new items, requiring her to seek out materials from a newly discovered dungeon, and so on the cyclical gameplay rolls.   The real hook is that, though the tasks Ayesha is given are rather easy to complete, the plucky alchemist has just three years to plow through the various quests and save her sister. Almost every action in the game; gathering items, traveling about the map, performing alchemy, etc; expends a certain amount of time, and I definitely felt a sense of anxiety when my lack of planning for a particularly challenging dungeon forced me to lose a week returning to town for healing potions. At its heart, Atelier Ayesha is less an RPG than a lesson in resource management, with your most limited resource being this ever-ticking game clock. Players who waste their time gathering needless materials or crafting unnecessary items will find their adventure ending with Ayesha’s sister trapped forever in the ghost realm. Meanwhile, those who can expertly budget their time will not only solve the mystery of the ruins, but hopefully have some time left over to improve their friendship level with the game’s various characters, earning all of the game’s special endings. The real tragedy about Atelier Ayesha is that all of the elements involved are so well polished, yet still feel as though they’d serve much better with a true RPG adventure beneath them. Instead we’re left in a sort of repetitive fetch-quest hell, with some enjoyable character skits scattered around to help disguise the tedium. The minimal exploration elements make the game feel less like an epic quest and more like a prettied up text adventure, with the majority of the map areas just a single flat environment filled with some sparkly gathering points and a random assortment of monsters. Another area where the game suffers is its inconsistent graphics.Though Atelier’s anime-styled character models are make incredible use of cel-shading, the game’s environments are largely flat-textured bores from out of the PlayStation 2 era. For me personally however, the biggest letdown was the lack of voice-acting in many of the game’s lesser skits. Previous Atelier titles have had me laughing out loud as some of the jokes, though while Ayesha includes that same generic anime wackiness I enjoy ("the warrior lady is trying to cut steak with her buster sword, ha!"), without the voice cast these bits fell completely flat. In short, Gust definitely seems to be straddling the line with Atelier Ayesha, showing that they have the talent to construct a plot which doesn’t rely on swimsuit competitions, yet aren’t quite ready to dedicate themselves to the taxing demands of a full RPG adventure. What we’ve left with then is a game without an audience. Fans of traditional RPGs will be turned off by the minimal exploration elements; fans of anime babes in skimpy costumes are unable to get their fix, while fans of generic cutesy anime nonsense really don’t command the buying power to make Atelier Ayesha anything more than a niche title. Again, I really enjoy these characters, and Atelier Ayesha is definitely a well-polished experience, but it simply lacks the ambition to be a true hit, or worthy of its $50 price tag. So, if you’re a middle school girl currently confronting your blossoming womanhood, or just a fan of overwhelmingly cute things, maybe grab a copy. Otherwise, I heard Tomb Raider is pretty good.
Atelier Ayesha review photo
For the pretty pretty princess in all of us
It’s a well-known fact that the gaming industry is sorely lacking in strong female leads, with the game shelf at the local Best Buy sometimes looking like a page torn from “Who’s Who Among Expressionless Whi...

Winning the console wars: Sony's not-so-secret weapon

Mar 02 // Vito Gesualdi
The Wii U's traditional pricing model is one of the reasons consumers have been slow to embrace it. See, the digital age has greatly affected how we value entertainment products. iTunes has taught us that songs are worth no more than a dollar (if we choose to pay for them at all), Netflix has taught us that thousands of movies are worth $7.99 a month. Though the publishers of $60 retail games have desperately tried to put themselves in a different category than $1 App store titles, it’s becoming clear that many consumers don’t make the same distinction, seeing the former as wildly overpriced. Nintendo’s Wii U is a reflection of the old way of doing things, an expensive new toy with expensive new games. Rather than learn a lesson from the abysmal first-year sales of their overpriced Nintendo 3DS console ($250 before a massive price cut), Nintendo launched the Wii U at $350, alongside a suite of $60 game titles. As a result, the Wii U is now selling worse than the GameCube did, with a pitiful average of just two games sold per console. With these numbers, many analysts are already predicting that the Wii U is a disaster Nintendo won't recover from. Meanwhile, game publishers who have been bold enough to challenge the traditional pricing models have experienced huge success. Valve’s popular Steam service continues to offer significant discounts on even newly-released games (as of writing, Tomb Raider on Steam is $44.99, as compared to $59.99 at retail), while the free-to-play market has gone from a fringe experiment to a recipe for printing money through microtransactions. Steam's sharp discounts on popular game downloads have put a dent in many a gamer's wallet. Point is, the simple promise of “better games” is no longer enough to convince people it’s time to plunk down hundreds of dollars on a new console, especially with the majority of consumers happy to tap away at casual fare like Angry Birds. Steam is especially noteworthy, with many gamers revealing they'd rather have a ton of cheap games than one marquee title, even if they don't have time to play everything they buy (I still have games from last year's holiday Steam sales that I've barely touched). It’s becoming clear that in order for traditional consoles to remain viable, there has to be a major effort made towards offering better value to the customer. Thankfully for Sony, they’ve already shown off a game-pricing model which is quite genius, and could stand to make them the clear winner of this console war: PlayStation Plus. I’ll admit to being rather skeptical when I was given a free one year pass to PS Plus at Sony’s E3 2012 press event, though in the months that followed I was blown away by the constant stream of quality games which continued to be offered through the subscription service. So many that I actually had to purchase a 500GB hard drive just to make room for the wealth of downloads. Perhaps most telling of the power of PS Plus is how it has completely swayed my opinion of the PlayStation 3 console. The PS Plus "relaunch" this past June offered up even brand-new titles like Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown. As a supposed professional in this here game industry, all manner of family and friends are constantly asking me for my opinion on which console they should purchase. For the past five years my answer was always the same: Xbox 360, a platform which had historically been cheaper than the PlayStation 3, with access to a library of games far superior to that of the Nintendo Wii. However, since my time with PS Plus, my recommendation has fully shifted to Sony’s console, simply on the basis of value. PS Plus is fantastic for new console owners, whose gaming budget is likely running thin after the purchase of the machine, extra controllers, HDMI cords and other needed accessories. A year subscription to PS Plus lets these virgin gamers compliment their purchase with an instant library of titles, letting them immediately dive into everything the console has to offer, while exploring various genres to discover just what sort of games they most enjoy. Take a look at just some of the awesome games which have been available since Sony’s relaunch of the service this past June, many of which prod gamers into trying out game genres they might have otherwise avoided: Action: Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, Darksiders, inFAMOUS 2, Vanquish Adventure: The Walking Dead Episodes I & II Classic/Retro: Mega Man 9, Mega Man 10, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Pac Man DX Championship Edition Family: Little Big Planet 2, Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One Fighting: Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown, Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition, The King of Fighters XIII Multiplayer: Lord of the Rings: Guardians of Middle Earth, Payday: The Heist, Dungeon Defenders Puzzle: Quantum Conundrum Shooter: Bioshock 2, Borderlands Sports: NBA Jam On Fire Edition, NFL Blitz  Hell, you could probably find just three games on that list you like and still have made back your $50 investment (without even factoring for all the free Vita games also offered). Meanwhile, on Microsoft’s side of the aisle, gamers are still paying $60 for simple access to online play and Netflix. My Xbox Live subscription came up for renewal recently and I happily let it lapse, a move I think more and more gamers will be making so long as Microsoft fails to provide the kind of value Sony is (while continuing to cheapen the Xbox experience with those obnoxious dashboard ads). Booting up my PS3/Vita and checking for free games is my new favorite pastime. In short, PS Plus is the right way to sell a console, providing the kind of value that consumers now expect from their entertainment. However, as great as the service already is, I think Sony is in a position to push it even further. Imagine if the PlayStation 4 console were sold in a similar manner to cellphones, with Sony taking a loss on the hardware and making up their costs by enrolling users in a recurring PS Plus subscription. Given the excellent quality of games and frequency of new releases that PS Plus has offered thus far, I can guarantee that I’d be first in line for this new machine, as would many gamers. Take it another step further and supplement the rotating selection of newer games with a consistent Netflix-style library of classic PlayStation titles. Want to boot up Mega Man Legends? Grand Theft Auto III? God Hand? Just connect to the service for a quick download, and you’re on your way. Sony has mentioned looking into different price tiers for PS Plus, and I'd be happy to pay for the top tier if it in any way resembled the above suggestions. If this image is making you drool, you're not alone. The biggest concern, and one which prevents the above scenarios from being feasible, is Sony’s announcement that the PS4 will not be backwards compatible, something which seems to be a major misstep. Sony has mentioned that older PlayStation titles may be made available sometime down the line, through either software emulation or cloud streaming. Though I personally believe that passing up on the chance to launch the PS4 along with the immediate library of games offered by PS Plus is insanely shortsighted, and my secret hope is that Sony has some sort of ace up its sleeve in this regard, perhaps even offering a small selection of free PS4 launch titles to PS Plus subscribers. Sony has confirmed that PS Plus will play a "prominent role" on the PS4, but it remains to be seen what that will mean.  In a perfect world, we'll never have to step foot in this horrible place again. Point is, this is Sony’s chance to truly shake up the market, offering potential gamers some seriously juicy values rather than simply pointing them at the tired wall of $60 titles. Sony should recognize that the brilliance of PS Plus could put them far ahead of the pack in this coming console war, and take full advantage of the groundwork they've lain out before either Microsoft or Nintendo jump on the game-subscription bandwagon. Or worse, before the console industry collapses entirely. 
Console War photo
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of value
This next generation of gaming is looking to provide the biggest industry shake-up in decades, with dedicated console manufacturers facing ever-growing competition from tablet devices, smartphones, and an upcoming wave of bud...

R18+ photo
R18+

Atelier Totori Plus gets R18+ rating in Australia


Aussies think magical girls are more dangerous than Grand Theft Auto
Feb 28
// Vito Gesualdi
Obviously the Atelier series of RPGs isn't for everyone, these adorable tales of magical anime heroines a few steps removed from the "burly men with assault rifles" narrative most gamers are familiar with. That being said, th...
RIOT photo
RIOT

RIOT on iOS will make you want to break something


Take that, society!
Feb 22
// Vito Gesualdi
If you're like me, you are eagerly awaiting the day that the continued decay of society reaches a breaking point, citizens spilling into the streets to wage class warfare against the corrupt establishment. Unfortunately, we'...

Five most notorious videogame ripoffs of all-time

Feb 22 // Vito Gesualdi
Zynga wasn't even creative enough to come up with their own RGB skintone values... Thing is, the laws regarding which aspects of a video game are covered by copyright are actually quite fuzzy, and unfortunately, EA and Zynga have settled the matter out of court, failing to establish the precedent so badly needed in this legal gray area. Just one look at the app store and you'll find hundreds of blatant clones, quick hack jobs thrown together to capitalize on the success of other popular games. Though if you dig deeper into the history of the industry, it becomes obvious that ripoffs have been a big part of the gaming industry since its very beginning. So, as a bit of a history lesson, here are five of the most notorious game ripoffs of all-time. The Great Giana Sisters When Super Mario Bros. first released in 1985, it revolutionized gaming forever; the wildly successful game laid the foundations for the side-scrolling platformer and showed off just how powerful Nintendo’s Famicom system was. In fact, the Famicom was actually more powerful than many home computers of the time, something made very apparent by Hudson’s disgustingly ugly PC port of Nintendo's most famous game. Who needs sidescrolling when you've got screen flicker? Interestingly enough, though developers eventually figured out how to make sidescrollers work on the PC, by that point Nintendo was no longer interested in porting their games, even turning away a spot-on a Mario demo put together by id Software (who would go on to use the technology in Commander Keen). So, with PC gamers eager for their own Mario game, it seemed obvious that someone would eventually come along with a simple clone to help fill this hole in the market. What people didn't expect is just how blatant they'd be about it. See, Time Warp Productions might’ve almost gotten away with cloning Mario if they’d had the sense to not make their lifts so painfully obvious. Despite some minor graphical changes (diamonds instead of coins, owls instead of goombas), The Great Giana Sisters looks exactly like Super Mario Bros. In fact, the first stage of the game is an almost perfect copy of the first stage of Mario, with the few extra pits thrown in before the final flag not enough to fool Nintendo's copyright lawyers. See, our warp pipes are orange. It's a totally different game. Though Nintendo never took any legal action against Time Warp, they did make it very clear to retailers that those continuing to peddle this blatant Mario clone might find their orders for Nintendo product going strangely unfulfilled. As a result, the game was quickly removed from store shelves, and is now quite a desired item for Atari ST and Amiga collectors.   However, the strangest thing about The Great Giana Sisters is that this strange, forgettable clone survived to the modern age. While as recently as 2009 the series was still ripping off Mario, the latest Giana Sisters’ game was actually a wholly unique puzzle/platformer. Though the series will likely always carry the stigma of having ripped off gaming’s most beloved franchise, it’s definitely interesting to see a series finally trying to find its own identity.    Most of Square's early game catalog Though Square (now Square Enix) has earned a reputation as one of the finest purveyors of RPGs (at least until Final Fantasy XIII…), there was a time when this fledgling game company was barely a blip on the radar. It wasn’t until Square got approved to develop games for the original Nintendo system that they really got to work… ripping off Sega. And don't ask why a company named Square has a stylized Triangle in their logo... See, in the mid '80s Sega had some of the most popular arcade games around, but the home ports were only available on their own Master System console. Square saw the chance to cash in with some quick clones and capitalized on it. One of their first releases, 3D World Runner, was a terrible ripoff of Space Harrier which kept most of the action on the ground, only letting you fly around and shoot dragons (see: the fun parts) during the tragically short boss battles. Not long after came Rad Racer, a blatant copy of Sega's arcade racer Outrun, which, despite being a minor hit, wasn't enough to pull Square's revenues out of the red. With Square’s money running out, company director Hironobu Sakaguchi decided to take a risk on ripping off the work of a different company, now looking to Enix’s wildly popular Dragon Quest (itself a ripoff of Origin’s Ultima series) for inspiration. Knowing that if the game failed he’d quit the game industry and head back to school, Sakaguchi realized this ripoff could be his “Final Fantasy.” Ms. Pac-Man When Pac-Man first hit American arcades in October of 1980, the little yellow circle immediately began gobbling up not just power pellets, but quarters as well, quickly becoming one of the most popular arcade games of all time. Given this wild success, North American distributor Midway was eager to put out a sequel, though the developers at Namco were strangely dragging their feet. Around this same time, three young programmers were realizing the potential market for arcade conversion kits. Arcades were constantly purchasing new games in order to keep players interested, but each new machine was a risky investment, as a bad game might not bring in enough money to cover the cost of the machine. Conversion kits were the perfect solution, letting arcade operators upgrade games that they already knew players would like, while costing much less than a new machine. The trio quickly formed the General Computer Corporation (GCC) and set to work making plug-in boards. The original Plug n' Play game. Unfortunately for the boys at GCC, their idea wasn’t too popular with arcade manufacturers, who stood to lose plenty to this new technology. Atari was the first to react, taking GCC to court over Super Missile Attack, a mod of Missile Command. Though the two parties settled, GCC realized it could be fairly risky to continue with their new venture. However, they’d already sunk much of their time into a ripoff of Pac-Man, called Crazy Otto. With nothing to lose, they decided to see if Midway would consider buying their mod. See, it's like Pac-Man with legs! Totally new! What happened next is gaming history. Midway liked Crazy Otto so much they actually signed a deal behind Namco’s back, rebranding the game as Ms. Pac Man and quickly releasing it to arcades. Though Namco’s own sequel, Super Pac-Man, would release later that same year, the souped-up ripoff of the original Pac-Man’s code was the better game by far. What’s even more interesting is that GCC would later take Midway to court over their game Baby Pac-Man (a similarly unauthorized sequel), claiming they were originally responsible for the idea of a Pac-Man family. I mean, it’s one thing to ripoff a game, another to have your ripoff become the game’s official sequel, and another entirely to sue the company who helped make your ripoff an official sequel because they liked your ripoff so much they started making their own ripoffs based on it. GCC makes laser printers now, which seems like a much less confusing industry. Angry Birds If you think you're sick of seeing crappy Angry Birds merchandise littering your local shopping mall, imagine how the developers of Castle Clout must feel, having devised the simple game formula which has now made Rovio millions of dollars in app sales and licensing deals.  This ranks right below Decca Records not signing The Beatles on the "missed opportunity" list. Though Castle Clout is definitely a bit rough around the edges, all the basic elements of Angry Birds are in there. Structures waiting to be toppled, various bad guys to be squished by the falling blocks, and a big catapult firing off a variety of projectiles. Though Angry Birds added some serious polish, and replaced the awkward catapult mechanism with some wonderfully responsive slingshot touch controls, at heart, it's still a clear evolution of this now forgotten flash game, and you hope they'd at least have the courtesy to send the guy a free t-shirt. Indeed. Thing is, it’s kind of hard to be upset at Angry Birds. After all, the mechanic of using catapults to knock down structures can be traced back to, oh I don’t know… the ancient greeks? If anything, the real moral of the story is that if you have a successful flash game, get that thing on mobile phones as soon as possible, preferably adding a bunch of crappy cartoon animal mascots to it, so you can later brand every piece of merchandise known to humankind. The Simpsons: Road Rage The Simpsons: Road Rage is what happens when you have the rights to one of the most successful television franchises of all time and zero total creativity. I like to imagine that someone in the planning meeting for this game asked, “Why would the Simpsons be driving taxis?” before being dragged down to the basement and bludgeoned to death with sacks of money. Remember, this is Electronic Arts: the same guys who invented a bunch of crappy original characters just so they could try to ripoff Marvel vs. Capcom. The same guys who wanted to make their own Goldeneye and came up with the idea of a guy with an actual golden eye.  This is unfathomably stupid. Point is, EA is full of dangerous psychopaths who care more about money than logic, and if they say the Simpsons are going to be driving taxis then you best shut your mouth and start programming. So, you might be wondering what makes Road Rage a notable ripoff. After all, there are plenty of crappy licensed titles which blatantly steal their ideas from other games, with The Simpsons having copied everything from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater to Grand Theft Auto without incident.  See, our game has a hand instead of an arrow. totally new! What Electronic Arts didn’t know is that, unlike the other developers they stole from, Sega actually owned patents on some very specific Crazy Taxi features. For instance: pedestrians that jump out of the way of a car, or giant floating arrows which show the player where to go. That’s right, Sega owns the rights to people not wanting to get hit by cars and arrows that point at things. They should’ve really pushed their luck and tried to get a patent for cars that drive really fast. Rather than take a chance on forfeiting all the money they’d made from the million or so copies of Road Rage sold, EA choose to settle the eventual lawsuit, much like they did this month in response to Zynga's counter-suit (saying it's okay that The Ville ripped off The Sims Social, because The Sims Social was ripping off CityVille to begin with). It seems that until a big company like EA decides to grow a pair and actually fight it out in court, small game developers are pretty much forced to accept that their original ideas will be endlessly cloned, as has been the case in this industry for decades now. Now, if only we could pass some laws outlawing crappy Simpsons games…
Videogame ripoffs  photo
Okay games, great lawsuits
When I first heard that Electronic Arts was suing Zynga over The Ville, a rather blatant ripoff of EA’s The Sims Social, I was pretty excited to see the outcome. After all, there’s nothing worse than a company whose only business model is to steal the works of small game developers, and given some of The Ville's obvious lifts, it seemed as though EA had a very solid case.

The nine worst girlfriends in videogames

Feb 14 // Vito Gesualdi
Jessica – Final Fight On the surface, Final Fight’s Jessica seems like a rare catch, a high-society gal with a definite knack for fashion and a particular interest in bad boys. Not to mention how hard it can be to find a decent date in Metro City, unless you’re into having beautiful transvestites beat the crap out of you. The real problem with dating Jessica though? Meeting her parents, specifically daddy: Yes, Haggar is pile driving a shark, and no, he doesn't need to explain why Meet Mayor Mike Haggar, the man who pioneered the pro-wrestling politician angle (long before Jesse “The Body” Ventura tried to steal his swagger). This is the kind of father-in-law you don’t want to mess with, as one wrong step will result in a literal whirlwind of hurt. Remember, this is the man who tackled his city’s gang problem by punching it to death; the kind of guy who goes to work in suspenders because he knows that he’s just going to rip through any dress shirt he puts on once he thrusts those beefy arms out to his sides and spin-punches the crap out of whatever junior assistant screwed up his coffee order. So, how do you think he’s going to treat the guy who forgets his little girl’s birthday? If your answer was anything other than “pile drive his skull into the pavement,” you've got a lot to learn about Mike Haggar’s America. And don’t even think about trying to report your savage pummeling to the police, because Mike Haggar IS THE LAW. How do you really think Jessica’s former boyfriend wound up in jail? I really shouldn’t have told her she looked fat in that dress… Aeris – Final Fantasy VII To be fair, Aeris actually seems like a pretty fantastic girlfriend. She’s a dedicated church-going woman, maintains her own small flower selling business, and despite being relentlessly pursued by the evil corporate goons at Shinra she manages to maintain that winning smile. I'm dying Cloud... you'll carry this moment with you for the rest of your life... If anything is wrong with Aeris, it’s the fact that she’s well… deceased. But beyond the obvious fact that necrophilia is generally frowned upon, the bigger problem is this girl doesn’t know how to stay dead. And I'm back!  See, one of the great things about dead people is that they stay dead. For instance, I miss my grandfather a lot, but because he has the decency to remain in his corpsebox deep beneath the earth, I’ve mostly been able to cope with the loss. Aeris however, seems to pop her head up in just about every new SquareEnix game that comes along, which has got to be weighing a serious emotional toll on her former boyfriend. What’s that Cloud? There’s a movie sequel to the game where you watched me get a sword jammed through my heart? How’s about I show up and help reopen those terrible wounds? Oh, Square’s making a fun Disney tie-in game meant for preteens? How do you feel about my dead ass prancing around? Would a corpse woman tormenting her former lover be appropriate for this E-rated title? Thing is, though it’s creepy to watch Cloud chase his dead girlfriend through the streets of Toontown, watching Tifa continue to pursue that spikey-haired jackass is even worse. Seriously, girl, it’s time you stop crushing on that mopey loser and get with a real man. Might I suggest a little bit of brown sugar to spice up your life?Catherine - Catherine Many men hope to wake up with a beautiful woman in their bed, though before you start pining for the titular character of Atlus’s Catherine, know that this privilege comes with a horrible price. You think it’s bad when your girlfriend forces you to watch some crappy Ashton Kutcher romantic comedy? Imagine if instead she forced you to fight for your life in a terrible nightmare realm, featuring the two worst things in the world: trippy demonic manifestations of your darkest fears, and CRATE PUZZLES. [embed]244682:46909[/embed] To be fair, main character Vincent totally deserves to be impaled by a giant fork. He’s got a perfect girlfriend already (Katherine), and he wants to sleep around with some blonde hussy. Why? Because he’s afraid of commitment? Get it together jackass. Point is, if you happen to be dating a fantastic woman and some random chick with a suspiciously similar name starts flirting hard up on you, it might be time to GTFO. Anybody - Fire Emblem: Awakening When battling your way through Nintendo’s blistering tough series of strategy RPGs, it’s hard to not get attached to the game’s many capable women. Beautiful sorceresses, graceful Pegasus knights, even scantily clad immortals, so the Lolita-fetishists can pretend they don’t have a problem. She's 1000 years old! IT'S NOT CREEPY! Problem is, as attractive as these women may be, your chance of forming a lasting connection is slim. Because let’s face it, you suck at strategy RPGs. Half these girls are going to die before you even make it through the tutorial missions. Rose – Metal Gear Solid 2 Making a relationship work definitely requires a lot of communication. Thing is, while many men complain about their girlfriend’s constant texting, imagine how it would be if you had a stealth communication device implanted in your ear canal, and for no good reason, the military decided to give your girlfriend the frequency code. I know a lot of people weren’t fans of Metal Gear Solid 2’s Raiden, but regardless of how you feel about long-haired pretty boys with samurai swords, you have to have some sympathy for a guy who’s busy trying to rescue the goddamn President of the United States, only to get forced into a conversation about his “feelings.” Hey baby, I’m about to fight an immortal vampire atop an oil platform. Can we maybe talk about this later? Yorda - Ico Look, I get it, there’s a certain exotic appeal to having a foreign girlfriend. Hell, there’s even an entire industry catering to supremely lonely creeps who would rather buy a wife from abroad than take the chance on becoming a decent person. That being said, somehow the weird glowing girl from Ico leaves much to be desired. Thing is, it’s going to become very hard to make a relationship work when the only conversation topics your significant other understands are “climb that crate” and “dammit, you stupid girl, I’m all the way over here -- will you please get away from those shadow monsters, please!” Seriously, don’t even get me started on those shadow monsters. What’s that, all your guy friends are having a poker night? Sorry, buddy, but you’re stuck at home making sure your significant other doesn’t get pulled into a swirling portal to oblivion. Pass.Tails – Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Look, I’m not personally into the whole “furry” thing, but even if you were going to pick an animal partner I think you could do much better than Sonic’s stupid fox girlfriend. Not only does she have one of the most annoying voices in all of gaming, but--Wait, Tails is a guy?Oh. Well he still sucks.Sakura – Street Fighter Though I understand the whole schoolgirl thing definitely appeals to many fellas, you may want to seriously reconsider breaking your state’s statutory laws for a fling with this spunky street fighter. As cute as Sakura may seem, her methods of showing affection are borderline psychotic. I mean let’s be honest, Sakura has a major crush on Ryu. Though rather than express her affection in a sane and rational manner, she instead decides to basically become his female clone. So while taking to wearing a similar headband is on par with your typical teenage obsession, putting in countless hours of training to learn all of a man’s signature fighting moves? That’s beyond the realm of creepy obsession. Do not want. Every male game protagonist ever Sorry fellas, but you’ve gotta admit that for every lackluster gaming girlfriend, there’s about fifty muscle-bound morons who offer literally nothing in terms of dating potential. Just take a look at some of our most beloved gaming stars: a fat middle-aged Italian plumber who still hangs out with his brother; a guy who thinks mullets are still in style; a physics nerd. This douchebag. And of course, legions and legions of muscle-bound morons whose only real method of communication is some indiscernible grunting and a burst of fire from their plasma rifle.Point is, as much fun as it is to jump into the shoes of these digital heroes, real girls aren’t hiding in castles. As nice as fantasyland might be, maybe it's time for losers like us to turn off the console and get ourselves a real date. Nah... [Haggar image courtesy of jnkboy]
Worst gaming girlfriends photo
Suddenly my prom date seems alright
If you’re anything like me, Valentine’s Day is a very special time of year. A time to be reminded that your crippling social anxieties and complete lack of desirable personality traits mean you’re likely to ...


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