[Nintendo just released details of their 'new' 3DS; a more powerful version of the 3DS with more irrelevant crap than it needed. Look, I'm not feeling very fun today, so I'm going to get down to the point at hand: this was obvious, the signs were there and it's all pretty obvious if we remember the Wii]
This saved a console AND a series, that's how important this bundle was
Oh Nintendo! You crazy assholes! It seems like your inability to keep up technologically has finally caught up with you, as you desperately attempt to iPhone 4(i) your handheld. The 'new' 3DS; a colour-buttoned, extra analogue stick-ed, micro SD carded, faster and more powerful console...announced a grand total of three years after your released the 3DS, word really can't describe how shit a move this is, but I'll use many to at least attempt it. Now, let's not forget how the initial launch went, insofar as it had a terrible start, had a price cut, and ambassador thing, perks for early adopters and so on. But it looked like we were finally getting an proper infusion of games for the console as time moved forward, and to date there have been some excellent titles released for the 3DS that've made all the growing-pains worthwhile. From Fire Emblem Awakening to Bravely Default, even Shovel Knight, we've seen games coming in at a faster rate than anyone thought they would have. Hell, the Fire Emblem series was actually saved by the 3DS' lack of titles, and subsequently saved the 3DS itself. Except, as of 2014, there haven't really been any significant releases...and suddenly, with this announcement of the 'new' 3DS model that'll have 'exclusive' games like Xenoblade Chronicles, an unsettling realisation is descending on this situation that we thought was a second-wind of the little handheld that did: this is exactly what happened to the Wii.
Starting here wasn't a great idea, 3D was always shite
Think about it: Nintendo allowed the last two to three years of the Wii's lifespan to become a stagnant wasteland of shovelware, attempting, in some way, to add slightly more money to the mountain they already had, despite the fact that they really didn't need it. Operation Rainfall emerged to try to infuse the console with some form of life, Nintendo of America held out months after Europe caved, and Wii owners got a series of titles they desperately needed. How can anyone now ignore that the same thing has happened to the 3DS? As they say; hindsight is a bitch. All of the signs were there: Shin Megami Tensei IV's European release disappears only to re-emerge as a costly eshop download, plans for Final Fantasy Explorers heading Westwards are nonexistent, and the titles available on the 3DS are so sparse, it's almost insulting. To attempt a counterbalance, Nintendo even released a 'big' list of 3DS titles coming soon, alongside their 'new' console announcement: a pile of shit third party titles with - depending on your taste - 5 games of any value (Persona Q, Monster Hunter 4, Harvest Moon, Azure Striker Gunvolt, Theatrhythm). Given how poor the beginning of the console's life was, is it really worth putting the millions who now own it out with another console that'll have exclusive titles on it, that will inevitably replace the 3DS as console of choice for developers?
Removing 3D entirely was the next big thing I guess...until now, for whatever reason
Look, I'm keeping this one short and sweet: this was a bad idea. Not only are Nintendo going to suffer from branding issues (like the WiiU did), but their history has shown that their launch lineup is going to be incredibly poor. If all they've got in the chamber is Xenoblade Chronicles, then they're dealing with an accident waiting to happen. Why would I - someone who has a 3DS XL (Fire Emblem Awakening Limited Edition, thank you very much) - want to buy yet another expensive console this early into the generation? Especially since the initial console has received so little in terms of lifetime support? It has gone through so many variations that they've removed the damn 3D from it entirely with the release of the 2DS. More to the point, since we're actually dealing with the Wii's tortuously slow end transitioning to the 3DS, how do we know that the lack of games we're seeing currently, and the limited amount of games in the future, won't be the last for the console? Nintendo are no strangers to slowly killing their consoles to force the hands of consumers, they've done it before, they'll do it again. It's the staggeringly perplexing way they handle it that pisses me off; as they've always seemed to prematurely cut off titles, long before the successor console has even been announced. It's not that they're hiding it, it's in plain site, but it's so obvious it's impossible to see because logic can't comprehend it. I mean, a wealth of shitty shovelware games? A stingey, almost begrudging release of titles across a period of time that seems incredibly unnecessary, even for Nintendo's standards? It once again seems like an eerie comparison to the Wii's twilight years...only that was, what, 7-8 years, instead of 3?
Let's remember that this piece of shit existed, which has now been place on the 'new' console
I said it so many times myself on Nintendo-related stories: where's the 3DS support? It's dying a death out here, it's not getting an infusion of titles regularly enough, and it's suffering because of that negligence. After three years, nobody expected a 'new' 3DS model - more powerful than the last with exclusive titles on the horizon - to appear, nobody thought Nintendo would be stupid enough to fragment their consumer base on a console that struggled to get off it's feet. This 'new' 3DS is essentially an entirely new console, much like the WiiU to the Wii, and it would seem that Nintendo are up to their old tricks of utterly abandoning a console too soon, counting their chickens before they're even close to hatching. You can argue that this'll be slow, that the console may not see international release until 2015, but it really shouldn't matter. This is a case of doing something they've never done before: creating an entirely new, more powerful version of a console with exclusive games that could very well be the platform future titles will be released on. Unlike the GameBoy to GBC jump which had fairly long times between their launches (1989 - 1998) and were two completely different consoles, the GBA variations and the DS variations, none of these offered up console-exclusive titles that couldn't be played on other models. This has changed the game entirely, for the worst, given that this follows the Wii-death pattern, and could be pushed in a manner which leaves the current 3DS starved and devoid of future releases. This is pretty much an insult to anyone who bought the damn thing to begin with, and shows a disturbing trend that - if fed - could lead to more terrible shit in an industry that really, really doesn't need it. It's not just anti-consumer, it's anti-business and anti-common sense.
Then again, this happened:
So really, the whole Wii comparison is apt given the random shit they've attached to the console over the last 3 years.
[So my PC decided that today it was going to stop working, it's a power issue brought on by the case. I was looking for an excuse to write my Transistor review anyway, so why not now? Just to prepare you, this features my - unprofessional - opinion. Sit back and relax: I've to unload my under-used reviewing skills on ya'll, and the first three rows may get wet.]
It took me a while to get around to Transistor - SuperGiant Games' successor to the hit game Bastion. I enjoyed Bastion, I knew this would be different, but I was looking forward to the charm hidden beneath a simplistic game. I found out, albeit slowly, that Transistor, while a great game, falls flat (dya get it, because music) with more than a few questionable design choices.
Ok, the story is basically a retroactive tale to figure out what's going on, and simultaneously a progressive tale to push the story forward. You play as Red; a former singer - I say former, as she had her voice stolen - who wields the Transistor: a weapon/USB stick that holds the 'soul' of her boyfriend who was impaled with it. Their home - the City of Cloudbank - is being overrun by The Process: think weird, nonspecific creatures that want to convert everything to it's original state, i.e. white-washing the whole city, who were unleashed by the Camerata: a group of assholes who use the whole 'we don't want shit to change' excuse to kill millions of people. Red and the Transistor have to stop both the Camerata and the Process, and save Cloudbank. The player is only given hints as to who Red is, in that she's a singer who has significant influence in the city, and no information on who her boyfriend/talking sword was. Over the course of the game, bits and pieces are given to the player to allude to what's going on, as the city slowly becomes overrun by the Process.
Look, I'm going to put it to you this way: the story isn't great. It's inability to actually answer any of the important questions by the end of the game makes the entire affair a little pointless - backstory is filled through unlocking all the slots in the Functions: the abilities you use to kill things - but there's no real sense that the developer had a solid idea of what the story was meant to be. It only hints at why things have happened, even the explanations given to the player are 'come to your own conclusion' bits and pieces that never really culminate in anything of worth. The real issue is that in an interactive medium with voice-acting, they really didn't have to split the explanations 80-20 in favour of written information, that you may never get (I'll explain this later). And even if you get all the information available, the whole reason for Red's significance doesn't adequately explain anything. Huge chunks of explanation are missing, and it shows.
Transistor is a mix of real-time and turn-based gameplay. You're given access to Functions: the 'souls' of other dead members of the community you place inside the Transistor, that each give their own abilities, either offensive or defensive. They can be placed in one of four slots as attack Functions, each of which has two potentially unlockable sub-function categories that offer bonuses to the primary functions, and there are four slots that offer passive bonuses to Red. You also gain XP from killing Process, and can rank up and receive more Functions - albeit limited in amount - and Limiters, which grant more XP by making the game harder. When you kill an enemy, they drop 'cells' that you can collect for XP, which have a timer that counts down to when enemies can respawn from them. It adds some tension to the combat, as a Limiter will add shields that need to be broken before collection - an interesting mechanics that struggles with the cooldown of the 'Turn()' ability. In combat you have the freedom to move around the arenas of battle, and can activate 'Turn()' to freeze the situation and plan your attacks within a set limit, before activating it and blitzing through enemies. The only downside is that is take time to recharge and all functions are essentially useless in this cooldown mode. You've a health bar, of course, and when it reaches zero, instead of outright dying, you lose your most powerful Function and continue fighting. There are also 'backdoors' which bring you to an Oasis-like area where you can complete challenges for XP. They're useful for trying out new Functions, and after completing each challenge, you get some of the game's great music tracks to play. Functions are also limited (though as you gain levels certain unlocks boost the number of functions you can have), which means you need to be strategic in your choices, but effective. This means that the player needs to know the Functions inside and out, which is an interesting way to get them to engage with all aspects of the Functions they wish to use.
So many Functions, so much choice...some you'll never even use more than three times.
So, with the basics laid out, the question to ask is: does the system work? The answer is: sometimes. It's a simplistic game that has annoying levels of complexity within. Among the biggest issues of the game is how limited the XP and ranking systems are. They grant you bonuses, sure, but it simply slows down your progression by keeping you within certain limitations to make the game seem more challenging than it actually is. XP is gained at a snail's pace, to the point where Limiters aren't just needed, they're necessary to get the more powerful Functions for later in the game. Functions also gain more backstory when used in certain slots, so to get the full story, you may have to use Functions in places that you'd rather not, suffering through gruelingly difficult combat situations just to figure out the full story of characters.
When you finally do gain a level, you're given a limited choice of Functions to choose from, and what you're not told is that one boss fight in particular is damn-near impossible without a specific Function you'll avoid because it won't seem logical to have in your arsenal when you get it. The game limits your XP and choices to keep you just weak enough to lose, but strong enough to progress - which would be fine, except for said boss fight - but one of the bigger issues is the fact that you'll feel your play-style struggling against the game's sense of difficulty. I had a set ups which, by all accounts, had allowed me to beat bosses and enemies fairly quickly and efficiently, while I changed around some Functions now and again, the game simply threw more enemies at me than I could manage, so I had to reevaluate and rebuild my set up once again. The Process gained more irritating and powerful enemies, while I could only react within my confining, irritating limits. The problem is that while there isn't an issue in having to adapt, one Limiter in particular (which remember, you need to progress effectively) not only breaks your most powerful Functions when you lose all your health, but breaks all sub-Functions too. When this happens, you could be out a total of three of your best Functions, forcing you to restart from a checkpoint because the game's slow progression leaves you little to work with around the three-quarter point of the game. You hit a dead-zone which attempts to bring in artificial difficulty, spiking the enemy power and doubling it with the necessary Limiters. It's annoying, and can cripple the game entirely if your play styles or strategies don't match what the developers designed.
The Turn() concept adds strategic elements to combat, but has more than a few drawbacks.
The game is beautiful, just heart-breakingly beautiful. It's just...I'm putting in pictures, because it's hard to describe. Words don't convey how amazing it looks, the art direction just works; it's bright, colourful and matches the setting perfectly. It's like cel-shading and a colour-palette had a baby. If nothing else, the game looks amazing, with the stark contrast between the white/red/black of the Process and the colourful city of Cloudbank (which can have it's weather changed by terminals throughout the city) perfectly balanced to reflect the progression of the Process threat. That's all I have to say on the matter, the pictures explain more than I ever could.
Pretty, pretty game.
Again, something Transistor does amazingly well is the soundtrack, which is full of great, original music. There are dozens of songs and ambient music tracks that cover a range of situations pitch-perfectly, and resonates with the situations they're played with. There are some mildly interactive cutscenes which convey the dire or humourous tone of the situation well, and it'll bring a smile to your face regardless. The voice acting of the Transistor/Red's boyfriend is superb, showing that there's at least some ability for the player to see a kind of rapport between Red and the Transistor, which alludes to them actually knowing each other before the events of the game. At times, however, the voice-acting falls flat. Some of the Camerata are conveyed in an overly-whiny manner, and even the primary villain you face is underwhelming; they're calm and collected, but in the least threatening manner possible. While the soundtrack is great, and you can even make Red hum at the push of a button, there are some elements that obviously needed a lot more work...the underlying issue with most of the game.
Transistor is a small game with seemingly a lot to offer, but limits the player in such a way that, when they finally finish the game, they'll notice the severe lack of anything significant under the hood. SuperGiant Games wanted to tell a story, player agency be damned, and that hurts Transistor on many levels. It also wasn't as expansive as Bastion, and is geared towards a 'new game plus' mode. Overall, it's a great game that suffers from a developer's conservatism, offers snippets of player choice, only to stomp agency out entirely, just because. A great art-style and soundtrack help salvage a lot of good will, but overall, Transistor failed to reach its potential. It's a great game, but disappointing.
- Amazing Soundtrack
- Excellent Art-Style
- Combat can be rewarding and fun
- Function experimentation allows for unique play-styles
- In-game banter is interesting and adds depth to the world
- Weather changes give the player a sense that Cloudbank is a living, breathing city.
Difficulty, at least in the beginning, is just right and rewards strategic thinking.
- Limiters & false difficulty are a bad combination, culminates in game railroading you into specific strategies
- XP gain is a poor cover for developer-made 'balance'Some voice acting falls flat
- One especially awful boss battle requiring specific Function
- World/story building relies too heavily on Function-experimentation, doesn't pay off in the end.
- Storyline feels bare and in need of more depth that's missing.
WTF? moment: The beginning, the end, the total lack of any explanation of any of the smaller story elements. General incoherence.
[I'm pretty spent after a day of being down, but I've been playing the crap out of Warframe, it's good stuff. Anyway, with the not-so-stunning revelation that SE won't be bringing their heavy hitters; Kingdom Hearts 3 and Final Fantasy XV to E3 this year - Christ that's a lot of numbers - I figured I'd write up a quick blog on my thoughts about the company that rarely approach a situation with grace and dignity. Hold your mind buns wide open and let your brain-orifices relax, I'll be gentle.]
For those of you not keeping up to date on, well, dates; this is 2014. If you've heard anything about the development of a certain Final Fantasy game in it's fifteenth iteration, you'll know that it was rebranded from Vs.XIII and has been in development hell since the announcement in in or around 2006. Eight years, and other than some 'new' trailers and some very minor gameplay footage, nothing has really come to light about what this game is, what it's about, or why people should care at this point. Kingdom Hearts 3, the long, long awaited sequel to the 2005 predecessor, is having a lot worse treatment. Teased at last years E3, the internet was ablaze with ecstatic fans - who SE then cut down by remarking that it was early in the development process. Fan estimates put the game in the 2017 release bracket...but apathy started to seep in.
This, this was going to be a thing.
This same apathy is what many have remarked upon in debates about the company that, in eight short years, crippled itself financially, to the point where they had to refurbish an MMORPG they apologised for just to break even and finally, this year in fact, start making some cash. I read comments like 'people bitched for years, they don't bitch so much after the explanation from SE!'...well, your attitude is counterproductive, and your critical thinking skills need work, but you're on the right track. People have begun to stop taking issue with Square's awful treatment of its fanbase. Counting, in the last eight years; a complete deviation from traditional JRPGs for no reason with FF XIII, XIII-2 and XIII-3; Lightning Finally Becomes Her Creator's Wetdream, hyping The World Ends With You only to release an iOS version and claiming 4.5 million Tomb Raider sales was a 'failure', why would they?
If you listen closely, you can hear her creator furiously masturbating - in fact, it's the sound that accompanies her ultimate attack: Wish Fulfillment.
Let's face some facts here; Bravely Default was like a cold, hard dick-slap in the face of every SE executive, because people actually enjoyed it. Some would argue that it isn't a fantastic JRPG...well, once again, an application of critical thinking is necessary to understand why people loved it so. When was the last time that a company synonymous with JRPGs actually put out a traditional JRPG in those eight years? The World Ends With You was the closest thing the consumer got, and that was insanely hard to find. Being starved for a particular genre of entertainment only makes that genre more popular when it finally makes a return.
This sort of game was deemed 'dead' by SE. Why? Paranoia? Stupidity? Who knows!
In those two instances, what exactly made all the difference? It was the attitude of the audience. Of course, SE executives were amazed at Bravely Default's success, planning, once again, to continue the trend they had long since abandoned for no reason. How does this apply, then, to Kingdom Hearts 3 and Final Fantasy XV's resounding lack of fan outrage? Well, apathy is a strong thing, and it's also a sword that cuts both ways. On the one hand, in the case of Bravely Default; the apathy the audience had for the companies rebranded concept of JRPGs meant that a return was met with a resurgent sense of hope and joy. In the case of the E3 announcement, however? It simply means that people are beginning to get wise to the way SE do business and, as a result, are starting to lose interest entirely - in many ways like Valve's Half-Life 3 situation. People only care so long as they aren't getting jerked about, but in this case? There's been a considerable amount of neglect thrown in the collective faces of the fanbase, and that neglect is making them disinterested. Sure, putting Final Fantasy III on Steam was a great idea, remaster it and sate their hunger, but all you're really doing in that case is reminding people of what your games used to be, versus what they are now. It's unintentional negative reinforcement, and while I've had my issues with the company over the last eight years, many of the more forgiving fans are starting to lose interest in the broken promises from a company that spends more time making expensive, limited game engines and announcing games, than they do actually making them.
So there's the conundrum; how long do you put up with unnecessary neglect and confusing actions before you pack up shop and move on to pastures new? Has Square Enix really given fans the attention they deserve? Or have the recent developments with Bravely Default and the outright stunning apathy surrounding the lack of Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts 3 information shown that times are indeed changing, and that the most beloved JRPG creators of the industry are losing touch with their audience? One could argue that XIV's success says otherwise, but let's not forget the outright shambles that game existed in before it's two-million dollar revamp. Missteps on this scale throughout an eight year period have consequences, and whether or not you agree, you've got to admit; nobody really expects Square Enix to show anything at TGS that is in any way significant. Sure we can all live in hope, but the doubt eating away at the back of your mind? That's the effect of eight years of terrible decision making by a company who has more money than sense.
Really, if you want to play a great JRPG from the previous generation, play Lost Odyssey. I love that game more than I can ever say, and it deserves to be praised for how it put every FF game this generation to shame.
[It's late, I'm tired and I've just finished gutting a blog I was considering putting up. I decided against it because it was nothing I haven't said already, so I've decided to do something a little different: I'm migrating some of my favourite reviews from the old site I used to frequent, to the blogs here. This is one of the best reviews I ever did, and it's for a little game called Sleeping Dogs. I hope you enjoy it.]
Sleeping Dogs: Don’t Let This One Lie
Sleeping Dogs is the spiritual successor to the True Crimes series. That’s all you really need to know, other than it was in kind of a development Hell scenario for years. Eventually, Square Enix bought up the right to the game, but not the True Crime name, this Sleeping Dogs, a gritty undercover cop drama set in Hong Kong, was born. Without further stalling for word count and time, let us dig into this most unique of dishes: an open-world crime-based game whose plot and characters are both realistic and worthy of your interest.
The story follows Wei Shen, an undercover cop who has recently moved back from California in order to infiltrate the Triad and take them down from the inside. He must gain the trust of the Triad, work his way up the ladder and obtain enough evidence to take the criminal syndicate down once and for all. Wei’s morals are challenged, however, by his loyalties to his new brotherhood, who, despite being criminals, are honourable and, for want of a better term, good people. This is a pretty simple set up for a story, a kind of classic cop drama that every procedural cop show gets around to eventually. However, what really breaks this game off from the trope is how it handles Wei’s integration to the Triad and how it impacts his instincts as a cop. As the game progresses and Wei is forced to do more and more morally ambiguous or downright violent things, he begins to be haunted with nightmares of the events. As he connects with his fellow gang members, you can feel the game starting to show off a certain duality to Wei’s personality. On the one hand, he knows that when all is said and done, he is a cop, one of the good guys. Yet the allure of this lawless group with their own set of moral codes begins to seep into his ideology, leading him to more readily take an active role within the Triad. The game straddles the line between what is truly right, in this case the law, and what feels right, in many cases, defending those who take care of their own in a cutthroat world. It’s an interesting experience to see a character go through a moral crisis that genuinely disturbs them to their very core the more they experience, and in my mind, the story adds weight by showing Wei’s constant attitude changes, along with just how easily he seemingly fits into this world.
Gameplay is centred on a classic sandbox-orientated game style. There are, of course, the main missions that you do to progress the game’s storyline. There are also cop investigations that take place as the story continues too. Although this does seem linear, the game has a tendency to mix things up an impressive amount. The world has, within it, activities that help raise your ‘Face’ meter; this in turn allows you to wear new, more stylish clothing, and throughout the ten levels available, gives you upgrades to your fighting skills or bonuses to certain things in the world, such as buying vehicles, clothing and the like. There are fight clubs littered throughout the four islands of the game, each can be entered and emerging victorious grants you cash and Face. As missions commence you will also get Cop and Triad XP which then allows you to upgrade abilities that show up in their particular trees, such as new ways to disarm an enemy, or the ability to steal a parked car without setting off an alarm. A slight issue that I have with this is that the Cop shield meter - which fills to three in total - starts off full but then slowly lessens the more property damage you do, people you injure, or, believe it or not: how clumsy you are free running. Oh yes, another staple in Sleeping Dogs is the free-running mechanic, which is actually pretty good. You can scale, slide or mount obstacles by holding down the ‘A’ button, then pressing it again when you’re close enough to the object you wish to manoeuvre. The system is extremely slick, though in some chase scenes it tends to get a bit sticky, which can be frustrating. There are also some noticeable glitches involving some face-missions, which require that you stick to the perimeters the game silents creates, leading to failure if you approach them in any sort of innovative manner. You can also engage in hand-to-hand combat, as guns are not in great supply in Hong Kong, which is all sorts of fun.
The combat system is very Arkham City-esque; with the ‘Y’ button controlling counters, the ‘B’ controlling grabs and the ‘X’ button in charge of hitting things. There are a decent amount of initial moves which you can pull off with the right combos, using upgrades and finding Jade Zodiac Statues throughout the world can help you train and gain more powerful moves and combos. The statues can be handed into the martial arts club, where your sensei will teach you a new move, twelve in total, and allow you to take part in a training mode to get to grips with your new moves. You can also take part in races, which are fun if you’ve bought new, more powerful bikes or cars. You can explore the waters surrounding Hong Kong and the satellite islands too. Some of the vehicles, however, do require some getting used to, with each having different speeds, handling and tricks to getting the motions just right, as to not mold with an oncoming wall and/or other vehicle. Karaoke is also a big thing in Hong Kong, as you’ll find out when you go on a particular date...which are also pretty important. Dates with important women you meet during the course of the game are beneficial if you want to find all of the lockboxes, statues, health shrines and hack all of the spy cameras to engage in drug busts throughout the city. You also get access to new houses as you complete sections of the game, starting with a small, unpleasant apartment in the less well-off area, to penthouse apartments with massive TVs and other nice things. It may seem like I’m rambling here, but honestly, there’s so much to do within the game itself that it’ll last you for a very, very long time. For example, Face-related missions come up as favours on the map in yellow circles, each with their own quirky objectives. One could have a character ask you to be bad at karaoke to make him look better to a girl he’s on a date with, while another could be helping a guy escape enemy gang territory. For god’s sake, you can even hijack trucks full of money by jumping from you vehicle to the back of that truck...I mean, in the car, the ‘A’ button is only used for that! This game has everything you could ask for, and more, as I think I’ve made the point extremely clear now.
Graphically, the game doesn't shine so brightly; I mean, there’s a lot of sheen that reflects light, but not purposefully. The character models don’t look terrible, but you’ll be fighting the same guys over and over again because there’s only really four classes of enemies: normal, brawler, heavy and boss. The world itself is actually very well detailed though, with big buildings off in the distance, to insanely beautiful skylines and some pretty amazing Hong Kong architecture. Still, the game looks good, just not fantastic, but given the sheer scale of the world map itself, I can see why graphics had to take a hit, it’s just a pity that some character models look semi-rendered sometimes, and the lip syncing is visibly off at very obvious moments. Still, it’s well detailed for the scale of it, and it doesn’t ruin the enjoyment of the game, instead giving it a few quirks.
Sound wise, we’ve got a strong set of voice actors and some genuinely incredible oriental scores, mixed with a variety of radio stations, which gives the game some of the most impressive sound displays I’ve ever heard. Seriously, this is coming from the guy who plays Skyrim with the sound turned off, listening to music and/or podcasts in the background. Wei’s voice is an excellent blend of Asian and American, with other characters sounding exactly how you’d expect them to sound as residents of Hong Kong. There are some amazing voice actors at work here, giving it their absolute all when it comes to their performances. Even little moments where characters become bi-lingual with even a few words is an interesting take on communication, and really adds to the atmosphere and story that the game is putting forward. The music reflects every situation, it hits the notes required for every gut-wrenching scene, or quite reflective moment. It just works as a soundtrack to a game that is so unique in its intentions...the soundtrack is resonant because it complements the world it’s part of and you can’t really ask for better than that.
Overall, Sleeping Dogs is a spiritual successor in every way possible to the True Crimes games of old. This more than makes up for the development trouble the game was having, and in the end, it was worth every moment playing. The compelling story, amazing voice-cast, the music, the gameplay and the world itself make a perfect blend of rich, engaging entertainment. This is a must-have despite some graphical hiccups, some control issues and vehicle learning curves.
· Compelling and excellent storyline
· Wei’s moral issues are conveyed convincingly
· Voice acting is top-notch
· World is huge with plenty to do and plenty to explore
· Soundtrack is excellent
· Combat is slick and fun
· XP and upgrade systems mean something in the scheme of the game
· Collectibles galore
· Graphically decent but not amazing
· XP system for Cop upgrades leaves a lot to be desired
· Face-mission approaches require to-the-letter progression, or glitches commence
· Free-running, combat and driving can suffer due to some in-game input lag.
WTF? Moment: Mrs. Chu is one badass mother with a Cleaver.
[A lot of big issues are finally coming to the fore in the Nintendo world. They seem to be pushing to create new ideas and develop older concepts more than they have before. However, something has been bugging me about the debate involving a playable Zelda, not that I’m against it, I’m 100% for it, but there’s a pretty big pitfall in the idea that I want to address. Shut your eyes and relax your facial muscles...I’m about to blow my load and I don’t want to cost you your eyesight. Goggles will not be provided...sorry]
So here’s the thing, Zelda. People want to play as her, they want to see what a game series would be like from her perspective. And I agree with them on that. But there’s something we have to be aware of, something fundamentally wrong with the title of ‘Zelda’, and something that, through an examination of a pivotal point in Wind Waker, becomes disturbingly clear about the actual name, versus the character: Zelda is a title that immediately gives way to a disempowering of the character.
I know people might not agree, after all, Zelda helps you in several games, including the Wind Waker during the final boss fight. The issue is this; in this game, Zelda wasn’t always Zelda...Zelda was Tetra, and Tetra was awesome.
Tetra’s first appearance shows her as being one of the strongest, most assertive and downright badass iterations of the character we’ve ever seen. She stands as a character who isn’t just on par with Link, she’s more than a match and somewhat more likeable than the Hero of Time. See, she commands and entire pirate crew, all of whom are afraid of her because she’s a force to be reckoned with. She’s got a temper and a sword, she’s powerful and commanding, right from the off. Hell, she outright saves Link. She inherited ship and crew from her mother, yet still earned the place of leader despite her age. Though she seems pretty self-interested, she’s actually a kind-hearted individual, so what isn’t to like about her, really?
You see, Tetra aids an inexperienced Link in assaulting the forces of Ganondorf when his attempt fails. She rescues him over and over again, and does it all using her power as a leader, not of a kingdom that, let’s face it, can’t keep her safe to save their lives, to help Link...and then this leads to the very moment where I found things take an odd turn. Zelda, as a series, had featured the game-titled character many times, but this time around, with Hyrule sunk and the kingdom in ruins, I didn’t think they’d pull the ‘Zelda-card’ quite as poorly as they did here. See, during her rescue of Link, we learn that Tetra is, in reality, a descendant of Zelda. As such, she’s the heir to the Hyrulian family...which is pointless, given the fact that the family is all but dead, and has instead used their talents to become pirates, which is a cool and interesting new take on the world in which the characters are living. However, this discovery leads to the utter and complete sidelining and disempowerment of Tetra, as she is magically transformed into Zelda.
No, I don’t just mean she’s wearing the classic, recognisable clothes...her personality is shattered as a result. The small expression voice clips become more timid, the dialogue becomes more refined and ladylike, her attitude changes to a more, albeit unnecessary, regal air. Why? Because shut up, that’s why. She becomes the old-school Zelda, despite the kingdom not existing anymore, the royal line being irrelevant and the triforce being the only connection to the family lineage that’s left. For all intents and purposes, Tetra is dead, wiped clean by the curse of Zelda...which contradicts what the game told the player: that she is a descendant of Zelda, a member of the royal bloodline, not the actual character. Which leads me to my point: a character who is a descendant of an important character, as hard as it is to believe, is not that character, especially when they’ve been shown to have more individual traits than a generic doll.
Tetra is an independent leader of sorts, to a gang of pirates through succession, as they followed her mother, who passed away, only to be moved under Tetra’s control. They’re her subjects, her army. While the setting may be drastically different, the same basic points apply. Her kingdom is her boat and the seas she moves upon. So why then, did the writers feel they had to shoehorn in the ‘character’ of Zelda, in place of Tetra, and effectively bungle their own message?
Well, as a person who rips on Nintendo any chance he gets, I’d say it was classic Nintendo, being as creatively bankrupt as possible, and shoving in the uninspired character because, hey, it’s the name of the series right? And this character is a descendent right? So that means, though the transition of properties, that Tetra IS Zelda...right?
Wrong. This is why the series needs to change. This is why a playable character, a descendent of Zelda, would be pretty awesome; because Nintendo couldn’t cop out and move the player’s character into a state of non-agency. They’d be forced to make an interesting character, develop her, and not just make her another ‘Zelda’, through some pretty shoddy reasoning and magical crap that isn’t fooling anyone. You see, Link is the easy-way-out. He’s a blank slate, sometimes he has a family and friends, but he’s always the same, always with the same fate; to rescue the princess and stop Ganon or the equivalent evil-doer. This also makes him predictable, shallow and unappealing. We see Dark Link, but what does he really represent? How evil Link could be? How did something like this come to be? Does Link, as a character, have doubts about his fate? Does he, at times, feel cheated that his life is taken away so he can fulfil some frigging prophetic fight with an unkillable demi-god? We never know, just that there is a Dark Link, and he’s bad, and because of...stuff.
That last example conveys precisely what I’m talking about here. Nintendo think players want a blank slate character because it makes them imprint personally on the story...but after dozens of Zelda games, who actually buys into that anymore? This is archaic thinking, it’s creatively bankrupt...it’s playing it safe. The same can be said of Tetra’s sudden and somewhat insulting character change. She simply becomes another person altogether, she doesn’t retain her traits, she becomes Zelda. This is not how you write a story, not matter what angle you’re using, eliminating the character’s personal traits and replacing them with familiar ones because you, as a writer, aren’t able to expand on an original idea is nothing short of playing it safe, and conveying how poor your writing skills truly are. Instead of moving the story forward with the new character they had, Nintendo flipped the default setting and made the game too familiar...and familiarity is doing more harm than good to fantastic characters and concepts.
So in summation, I hope that we get to play a Zelda game where the title character is the protagonist...so long as they don’t act like Zelda. Something akin to Tetra would be acceptable, but I think it’s time we let the stereotypical Zelda characteristics rest for a while. The series almost got it right with Wind Waker, for the time at least, and if Nintendo could just make a game where the descendent of Zelda, not some generic princess character herself, could be the protagonist, I think we’d be onto a winning formula. They’ve admitted that they need to change or die...this is the best way they can do it, by avoiding the pitfalls of the previous games, and making a character in the same vein as the character of Zelda, without resorting to pretty unappealing decimations of character traits that defined the character.
[Settle down, it’s not what it sounds like. Seriously, I’m not even joking, if you came here with your anger, ready to rumble, relax, it’s just a very dickish move on my part to try to draw in a readership that can look at what I’m about to write – also, worth noting that I brought lube this time, so the message can slide right into your knowledge holes...good and smooth]
Right, let’s get down to business here: female avatars in Multiplayer modes. I know the Jimquisition tackled these issues quite a bit, but I want to approach it from the perfect world view:
Female avatars in Multiplayer shouldn’t be an issue...and why is that, you ask, fists shaking in ever-growing anger to a possibly sexist answer? Well fear not, it’s because, when it comes down to it...we should really just have those avatars in the games. Yeah.
It’s simple, right? In a perfect world we’d all be able to choose our genders in videogames, customise them to whatever degree we wanted, and make them our own. Assassin’s Creed has been doing it for three games, so why is it so hard to do it for other games? The latest comes from Battlefield 4, where the developer mentioned that female characters wouldn’t be available in the multiplayer mode, despite the fact that there are rumours of an alleged female character in the gripping (trying to keep a straight face) singeplayer mode. So why not just migrate it to MP, add voices, fiddle with the hitboxes (of which BF has had issues before) and ship the game?
Well I have an issue with this, mostly because people are calling it ‘unimportant’ that in a first person setting, it doesn’t matter who you’re shooting, gender-wise. I’d have to disagree there. A little diversity goes a long way, and given EA’s inability to actually garner any fan-love or favour over the last couple of years, the little things in a game this big would make for some interesting changes, even aesthetically. This is to the benefit of a series that needs, now more than ever, to differentiate itself from the pack of brow-gray, gritty and ‘realistic’ shooters on the market (since I’m not seeing a BF 2143 on the cards).
People have also put it down to discomfort with violence against women...eh no. Given the reaction to Tomb Raider, that’s not the issue. Besides, as Jim has covered, Blacklight: Retribution can offer gender swaps...they’re not ideal, but they get the job done. Halo, since I believe 3, has offered the player the ability to swap genders, only really introducing model changes in Reach. In the AC series, all the models are virtually the same in terms of height, hitboxes and the like, so there’s no issue there.
The monetary value has also been raised against this...no. Just no. Right now, EA cannot afford not to gobble up the scraps of good will flaking down around them like the dandruff from an old man’s unwashed, crusty ballsack, they need something, anything, to show that they’re willing to play ball. (not my best explanation given where that sentence went) EA have no issue pouring money into pathetic attempts of games – I’m looking at you, TOR – and if anything, the simple fact remains...it’s 2013, and we’re having a discussion over something that, by all right, should have been in the multiplayer from the getgo. So it requires a little more work, a bit of extra cash...it’d be worth it in the long-run...which is seemingly a term lost on publishers of this generation.
I guess what I’m getting at is: placing female avatars in a game’s MP mode like BF4 shouldn’t be that big a deal, because it should have been done already. The situation in the industry is dire, and someone needs to take even the smallest steps forward into the puddle of female representation in order to begin the ripple that will lead to the big wave, breaking the banks of poor, anti-female ideologies that have pervaded an industry which has been paralyzed by a fear it wrought itself.
I’m by no means a feminist, I kinda have plenty of those influences, but people are starting to talk about these kinds of things with raised eyebrows and questioning tones – I think it’s about time publishers step up and start representing for the female avatar, lord knows, we’re overdue getting back to the early 2000s.