This is the first part of a series were I jump into my games collection and find a classic that doesn't get the respect and love it deserves. There are so many games that don’t get remembered as fondly as other classics, so today we champion a unsung hero...
The story of Thor (as it was known in Europe) is the story of Prince Ali (no, not the one with the singing genie) as he travels the land fighting the forces of darkness to defeat the evil wearer of the silver amulet. Finding a golden amulet in a forgotten cave, Ali must follow in ancient footsteps to save the kingdom with the power of four elemental spirits.
So far so RPG…. But no. Story of Thor throws in a pretty comprehensive brawler fighting mechanic akin to Streets of Rage and other scrolling beat’em ups. Ali can leap, stab and combo with the best of them, altering his approach depending on his enemies. Adding in a collection of temporary weapons, an item inventory and the ability to summon spirits gives The Story of Thor a perfect mix of RPG, puzzle solving and hack and slash violence.
As a complete experience, the game truly does give the full spectrum you would expect from a multi genre title. A complete swash buckling story, fiendish puzzles and monstrous bosses. Graphically it is a testament to the 16-bit generation, with bright popping colors and spooky blacks and greys. The music is stellar, and the digitized screams of your fallen enemies was pretty ground breaking at the time.
The puzzles are truly a master stroke. In a metroidvania style, the player is encouraged to back track when more skills and spirit powers are unlocked to claim copious rewards. The spirits Ali can summon require their corresponding element to burst into life. A flame for Efreet the fire spirit for example. This begins simple, but becomes fiendish later on, requiring eagle eyed play. For example a stand out scene lands the player in a dead end with nothing but a single dripping leak. By summoning the water spirit the player can begin a chain reaction to progress. The game is full of little tricks like this that give it a charm all of its own.
The Story of Thor is still remembered by the faithful, but it seems to elude the love shown to similar titles like Zelda or Secrets of Mana. Whilst it’s not perfect, it does still give a fantastic RPG experience with a violent twist. It’s a shame that it didn't become a series or get a re-boot, as a HD version would be all my Christmases at once.
If you get the chance to delve into The Story of Thor, you will get a great old school experience, that really could show modern games a few things about pacing, combat and problem solving. A true diamond in the rough.
The story of Thor/Beyond Oasis was available for Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. Now you can get a copy on the Virtual Console as well as on the Sega collection for X-box 360 and PS3.
Yeah you heard me. That's what comes to mind when i think of my past as a video gamer.
My older brother was the first gamer in my household, he got an NES when i was about six, with Duck Hunt and Super Mario Bros. Right off the bat we had two games. TWO GAMES!Instantly a world of options and hours of fun to be had was available. The TV was set up in the living room, and as it was the families only TV, it could only be played when mother and father didn't want to watch one of the four (count it, four) TV channels we had in Britain. It was also always played on mute, as the 8-bit choons drove my father insane when he was trying to work.
As time progressed, our game collection gradually grew. And i do mean gradually. A game would take months of saving, and a new console? at least two years, two birthdays and two Christmases of saving before we could get one. I graduated to Mega Drive, whilst my brother when SNES. He even saved up for a color TV, whist i inherited my grandmothers black and white. I could play in my own bedroom! I could play any time i wanted! True, my games of Sonic and Theme Park were rendered very ugly on black and white, but at least i could play!
I would trade in games for the next new hotness at our local game trade shop, this continued into the N64 and then the Dreamcast. I was able to buy a color TV for my room, but getting new games was still a labor of love. Pocket money and weekend job salaries were put towards new games. Lylat Wars and Smash bros took forever to raise the money for.All the while me and my friend would pour over screen shots and previews, waiting sometimes years to get a new game.
This was where my love of retro gaming began. Suddenly i could get games for a fraction of the price by looking in the right places and taking advantage of those who traded for the newest gear. I got Megaman 2 for a pound and Killer Instinct for 2 pounds. Gradually my game library began to evolve and swell, and as my brother migrated to PC gaming, his "mad skillz" allowed for access to new games the he would crack to be able to play without the CD.
Why the trudge down working class memory lane? Its quite simple, most of us have shed loads of games gathering dust. We used to graft, work, beg and plead to get new games. We would obsess over games and consoles that were years away (okay so that bit hasn't changed much) and we would play one or two games over and over again because that is all we had. Now our shelves heave with games, Steam offers amazing deals constantly and PS+ and X-box Gold give us games for free. even our phones can download free to play games from THE FUCKING SKY that we can play anywhere, any time. And we delete and dismiss the shitty ones just as quickly as we gain them.
That's what i think of when i think of the past. Things are AMAZING in gaming these days, and sometimes i think we don't appreciate how far we have come. Compared to 8 year old me, compared to 14 year old me and compared to 19 year old me, I am like a game king. I have more games than i could ever play and more systems to play them on than i could ever imagine. We are spoiled brats.... and its awesome!
So the Steambox is beginning to be an actual thing, with commenters sizing up commitment versus fiscal woe. For me it begged the question, why are we accepting a machine we plug into our televisions that requires all software to be bought digitally, whilst we put the boot into the X-box one reveal with the same idea last summer.
Like all things, an eighties ska song put it perfectly:
[quote]“You've done too much
much too young
Now you're married with a kid
when you could be having fun with me”[/quote]
The X-box One did far too much, much too young. The third console from Microsoft introduced some big concepts, it pushed the envelope and it wanted to leap ahead of the market. It wanted to grow up faster than everyone else to be the big dog in the pound. Unfortunately for X-box, these leaps ahead were shot down and hastily reversed. The power of the community spoke, but not without a little unnecessary spitting and screaming. No offence to anyone out there, but there is a definite stigma for the community that when things don’t go our way, we can act like spoilt children throwing the toys out of the pram. The x-box, like the Playstation is stuck holding the baby that is never happy with anything.
Steam and Valve on the other hand, took the time to mature and grow. Sure there was the awkward teenage phase, the spots and pimples of community crashes and the abysmal PC ports still bring back bad memories. But we stuck with them, they had strong foundations in software development, and as a company Valve were lauded as forward thinking and consumer friendly. These beginnings took a long time to create, but I’m sure Valve are glad that they did. Now when they introduce their new offspring like the Steambox or that WEIRD controller, we look at the photos with pride, knowing that the parents of these lil’ns will help them grow up big and strong.
I’m not ripping on X-box, all is forgiven and the new Killer Instinct makes me hard. Just comparing two companies and two reveals.
[center][i]“Call me immature
Call me a poser
I'd love to spread manure in your bed of roses”[/i][/center]
There is a new Metal Gear stomping over the horizon, and while I will be first in line to pick up a copy, I’m worried that the insanity of the MGS universe will become even more prevalent. This is not a “these games are over rated” blog, far, far from it. I am a massive fan, its been a fantastic few years watching the series grow and develop.
However, my biggest fear is that Kojima will get carried away… again. His love for the media is not in any doubt, but his ability to construct a normal, well staggered story is not. Let’s have a look at the MGS games up to this point (bar portable ops because.. .shut up I don’t have a PSP) and see if Kojima will be building on a pedigree or adding another mongrel to the pack.
I’ve listed the games in the order of the story line, If anyone out there fancies a reply through them I would STRONGLY recommend you do it in story order. Like the Saw franchise keeping up with the meta story is very hard when large gaps between games are taken, this way its kept relatively easy to follow.
So lets load up a stinger missile, and jump on in.
(MASSIVE KING KONG SPOILERS!!!)
MGS3-Snake eater. Set in the cold war, MGS3 is one of the better paced games, Strong voice acting and some definite character development make it a strong opener (though fifth in the series) Having a historical setting takes a large amount of the pressure off of the writing, and with the Kojima flare for the bizarre there is the normal amount of magic and make believe to keep things interesting. Mostly kept in check, it does have those endless cut scenes that add little to the story, and characters that are hard to invest in. Plus, there is a painfully tacked on love interest complete with “ogle” cam which really was not required. Despite its poor qualities it does successfully tap into the Sean Connery era bond vibe to great success, and the fact that Kojima was able to write around the previous four games is nothing short of outstanding. At no point does the curse of the prequel occur, as actions in MGS3 are referenced in older games. MGS3 still remains one of the best metal gear solid titles, if not one of the best video games of all time.
In this game Snake pisses himself.
MGS-Peace walker. Until recently this PSP only title would have passed many of us by, and you know what? It would have been our loss. A pretty good cold war-esque story which could teach Black Ops a few things about pacing is the order of the day for this game. Again taking on the role of Big boss as he works for himself for his brotherhood and the greater good. A more open world affair with each mission only taking about twenty minutes to complete before returning you to your main hub when you can build your private army at Outer Heaven. The optional army builder lends hours of fun as you improve your squad and research new equipment. Whilst it might not be anywhere near as heart felt as MGS3, it is still a gem with amazing boss battles and unique concepts left, right and centre. Perhaps as it portable game the craziness is kept to a minimum and all the better for it. Although to be fair the open world mission approach breaks the tension as there never is a risk of running out of ammo or being overwhelmed. I would recommend that any MGS fan picks up a copy of Peace Walker and plays it solo, resulting in boss battles that will test your nerve and your skills to the limit.
In this game a soldier pisses himself.
Metal Gear Solid Skipping passed the NES games, (still hold up if you’re a retro head) we reach the classic. And by god it really does deserve to be a classic. Despite the PS1 marionette graphics the writing, level design and characterisation are second to none. Relationships are made and elaborated, the story is built slowly without coming across as convoluted, and the crossing character arcs are truly remarkable. The history and evolution of both Otacon and Ocelot stand out.
Unlike other titles, the characters are built gradually rather than throwing endless information at the player. many players ran into MGS and were promptly shot full of holes, and as the game gradually evolves into its perfection, its is a granular change rather than a sudden burst. Once you have sneaking mastered, then its survival, then its sniping, then its trap setting it all builds and develops without forcing any of it. Staggering pacing.
The set pieces and the small touches are truly amazing, but what impressed me the most where the sheer number of amazing touches. The battle with Psycho mantis is well known and for good reason, but I had completely forgotten about the battle with the helicopter on the top of a building, or the wolf puppy, or the bomb hidden in your gear or the camo suit guards battle or or or…. A true classic, every gamer should take the time to get hold of a copy of this game, yes its aged, yes the controls are antique and yes there are some difficulty spikes. But my god, its still amazing after all these years.
In this game Otacon pisses himself.
MGS2 –Sons of Liberty Ah we had to get to the black sheep some time. MGS2 divides opinions, by which I mean its hated or it is defended as quite good. My opinion is- its both. The old bate and switch with Raiden taking lead role and Snake relegated to supporting cast was an interesting choice, one that I think is worth merit. As Snake is the gruff old veteran by this point, having Raiden as his young foil works well. But it has to be said the endless Codec discussions and cut scenes drag on to a painful extent. Many cigarettes smoked while I yelled “get on with it” at my television. All the while the Colonel would chime in with useless tips (avoid the land mines being a personal favourite) and Rose would want to discuss our (clearly flawed) relationship whist I was being shot at.
That said, Raiden is developed and expanded from a VR soldier into a slick killing machine over the course of the story. And while the boss battles are not as classic, the sword fight finale was a wonderful (if aggravating) change of pace. Characterisation sometimes works and sometimes fails, Otacon’s back story works well, while I would have preferred the complete removal of Raiden’s missus Rose as she adds little other than a blushing and clique ridden female love interest. Story wise, Solidus seems a little tacked on, but by and large a successful piece of storytelling and the elaboration on the Patriots and explaining the epilogue of MGS go long ways to score positive points. The setting is clever, but the radar system flawed. For every phenomenal set piece like the sniping at sun set section or the trip wire disposal bit, there are too many occasions when you will be gunned down for tiny errors. MGS2 is not perfect, but it gets so much right as well as wrong it’s unfair to write it off. Story wise it is the episode that really elaborates the meta story that has been hinted at throughout the previous titles, worth a punt but bring your patience to the party.
Another note that is often over looked is this is the game that breaks the 4[sup]th[/sup] wall regularly and with great success. Re-visited in MGS4, this clever story telling technique really was a first, as rather than being a fun quirk, it adds to the over-arching story of media manipulation and gamers as playing at war. Impressive, and often overlooked concepts.
In this game Emma Emmerich pisses herself and Raiden is pissed on.
MGS4 Guns of the Patriots What is most impressive about the most up to date offering in the series isn’t the graphics (which are still gorgeous) or the control scheme or even the imaginative new ideas that Kojima et al have brought to this game. The most impressive part is that it ties all the other games up into a neat package superbly. Even minor plot holes are dealt with well. that’s not to say its without its problems, again it drags in places and like the TV show 24, the errors are glaring if you line all episodes against other.
Character development continues to build well, with Snake accepting his fate with grace but still constantly trying to rage against the light. Otacon builds well into the father role, something that I think we will be revisiting in the Phantom Pain (but I have no proof of this) although he is still a bit of a wet blanket considering both his family history and his adventures with Snake. An important character development that passed by me on my first play through is the passive change in Raiden. He is now a COMPLETE BADASS. What I liked was as well as being a limbless ninja it all makes sense, having scraped his way through MGS2, and having his heart ripped out by Rose, he is figuratively dead on the inside.
Combat and control are well done, with the introduction of the arms dealer Drebin being a particularly nice touch. Set pieces again play a major part, the stealth follow of the resistance soldier is a particular favourite, and the Beauty and the Beast boss fights are well crafted and developed. Harking back to several awesome moments from all the MGS series. Returning to Shadow Moses for another sniper fight in the snow, a roof top battle against a flying foe and a fist fight with Liquid all bring fond memories but with a modern twist. The reminders are a little over done, but they do not detract from the quality of the game and the experience.
Like MGS2, the story does drag on, and the cut scenes really do take the piss. Mostly kept to an acceptable length the 80 minute epilogue and credits really is too much. Whilst for hard core MGS’ers it rounds out the stories of the characters and concludes it satisfactorily. Though don’t finish this game with work in the morning, I was screaming for it to end so I could go to bed. Also compared to the other offerings this one is a little too easy, and the emotions are painted on a little thick.
Overall, a superb conclusion to the story so far. A great, but flawed game in places- Kojima still over righting and over wringing constantly. But its all forgiven for classic set pieces and perfect character development as well as of course tactical espionage action.
In this game Achiba shits himself…. So that’s a bit different.
Five Games, Four snakes. Honestly for all you PS3 owners out there, go and buy the Legacy edition box set. I enjoyed this series play through far more than I thought I would. Games I loved and chart as some of the best games of all time (MGS & MGS3) were even better than I remember, and ones that I traditionally was not that impressed with, surprised me with their quality. Granted there are ups and downs, and Kojima is no Martin Scorsese by any stretch, but he has a gift for character development, set piece and overarching meta-story. Three cheers for the MGS series, a truly classic series of games.
Where are all those heroes from the seven generation that maybe didn't warrent a sequel? I'll tell you, but its not all good news...
It was hard for Max to find work after he killed all of Brazil. The resulting lawsuits for questionable force and the medical bills really stacked up, and considering that most of the rich family he was charged to protect ended up dying Max was pretty hard up. So he decided to put those muscles and his bullet time ability to good use, and founded Payne’s removals. His days now consist of heavy lifting and leaping through the air firing two tape dispensers at the same time. Although business has been slow, when asked for a quote he could only reply “my job… my family….” Questioning the company’s motives our representative got the reply “all my fault, another one I couldn’t protect…” which pretty much was completely unrelated. He did catch that falling vase in slow motion which was pretty cool.
So the necromorphs invaded earth and that was gonna be a pretty massive battle, but seeing as EA pulled the plug Isaac has ended up on the scrap heap of life. The necromorph invasion was stopped… probably. And that meant there was only one job left for Mr. Clarke. He joined a crime scene clean-up crew. “Nothing gets it cleaner, and an engineer is obscener” ran the crappy tag line to “Clarkes Clean-up” . But it didn’t really go according to plan. Whilst his Kinetic power meant flinging bits of family member around was a breeze, Isaac had an overwhelming urge to stomp on anything possibly living. Isaac made a few quid selling the crap that fell out of the corpses, but only enough to afford a few med packs to kill the pain of his schizophrenia. That’s not funny, why are you laughing? It’s a real shame for that total dork.
Connor did some good work, but there was a harsh reality to all that climbing and jumping. His ankles were fucked. He tried to keep assassinating things, but revolutionary America was low on wheelchair access. So Connor found himself in the poor house,before ending up in the world of lost souls and the wretched- The civil service. He leapt, (well metaphorically leapt, what with the wheelchair and all) to the dizzying heights of an acceptable job with an average pension. In part mainly to being both mixed race and disabled, he stormed interviews. His dull, almost empty personality was perfect for data entry. But Ratonhnhakéton, could hear the whispers in the tea room of “the box ticker” getting all the perks, Connor struggled to hide his sadness at his mid-year review.
No one ever spells his name correctly on the emails.
Kratos survived his suicide, or maybe he pulled his way out of hell AGAIN. When he reached the surface he found that he had murdered all the gods and most of Greece, so Kratos decided to emigrate to Provo, Utah. Where upon he founded a children’s entertainment service. Unfortunately, Kratos wasn’t very funny, and gave most of the children horrific nightmares of a ghost with abs. After he lost all of his… I dunno… god money, in this career disaster, Kratos was forced to join a travelling circus where nightly he is mocked and teased. Because it turns out that a seven foot man with arms the size of whale penises, taking FIVE SECONDS to open a basic door is pretty funny. Even now, on a cool December evening you can still hear Kratos’ “HHHUNNNGGNGAHHH” as he wrenches open the drinks cabinet to drown another day.
Either that or he became a banker, whatever.
Sick of people telling him his surname was spelt wrong, Marcus left soldiering for good and hung up his machine gun chain saw thingy. He found his dad somewhere around the time Half Life 3 was released, and they both settled down to open a greengrocers. Marcus’ gutsy ‘can do’ attitude and his unpleasant way of making people do things they don’t want to do was ideal for selling sub-par fruit and veg. Unfortunately, they called the shop “Fenix right!? VEGITABLES AND SHIT” which violated serious copy right laws. To add insult to injury, the lawyers who owned the copy right defended themselves. Broke and kind of a dick, Marcus now works as a bin man. This was one wound he wasn’t able to heal with nothing BUT SHEER MASCULINITY.
Anxiety can sometimes be considered a dirty word. For some it can be a crippling complaint that plagues them all their lives for others it can be a mild annoyance and for some it is seen as a sign of weakness. But how does it affect us as gamers? Is it something we should consider personally and collectively?
I think it might.
Given the inherent nature of psychology I wouldn’t want to make wild speculations, but given my limited reading on the subject here are a few areas that that I feel anxiety does have an impact on us as a community and individually.
Games by their very nature are escapist. From Pac-man to Master Chief we are embodying another’s thoughts, fears and priorities. This can have a very positive aspect for those who suffer from anxiety issues.
By role playing as another person we can empathise with their concerns, by empathising with another albeit fictitious character, we can put our own concerns into perspective. On a subconscious level stepping out with of one’s self can be therapeutic for the Id, the part of the psychie that deals with the more instinctive aspects of human nature (according to Freud) I take this to mean that by encouraging empathy through games, we are widening our horizons without even meaning to, and with the basis of most games being a form of struggle, this will in turn be relatable to our own fears and insecurities. Meaning that through our hobby we are self-medicating in the best possible way- without even knowing it. Anxiety and the pain it can cause can be diminished through this escapism, providing us with experiences and feelings to draw upon and relate to both on a conscious and sub conscious level.
However, it’s not all good news. A study has shown that those who play over 30 hours of games a week can become increasingly anxious about other aspects of their life. The fear and the concern is that as we escape into our world of games, we become more and more distant from society as a whole. Preferring to grind on Dark Souls than finish that job application, choosing to play GTA V with strangers than have pizza with mates and then there are those who prefer to have a partner in their DS rather than meet people IRL ( in real life)
Now while I understand a game will not reject you, cheat on you or fuck your friends, there is a danger of detachment when it is used to replace real life communications. On a strictly biological level, the release of endorphins can alter the way we receive pleasure- like a smoker who is addicted because his brain has rerouted itself to crave nicotine, if you receive all your pleasure from virtual stimulation (no laughing at the back) then your desire for real life contact will diminish gradually. And fundamentally we are functioning societal mammals, not the loners that we can run the risk of becoming.
The vicious cycle of anxiety is very understandable. Life sucks, games rock, so we play more games. More games means less life, so we hide in a game to avoid the life we’ve missed. The game becomes better than our own lives and we begin to introvert into a world WE can control and importantly WE are good at.
And the Community.
Ah social anxiety you fickle beast, how many lives have you soiled over the centuries?
But gamers are different! We are like the ancient Greeks supporting discourse and discussion! Who the fuck are we kidding.
As the internet grows and we all have a larger and larger internet foot print, I’m convinced that I’m not the only one who feels anxious, genuinely anxious, about putting my own opinions out onto the internet.
Its why I blog on Dtoid, a safe haven compaired to other sites, a fear that my opinions and my views will be torn to pieces in seconds. It’s why I’ve liked the IDEA of a youtube channel about gaming for years, but am far too scared of being bad at it to try. This is not yet another “GEEKS- BE BETTER HUMANS!” rant, but pointing out that the environment we have made around gaming can alienate or at the very least, cause upset to other gamers.
For example, Dead Space 3 has sat un played on my shelf for at least 3 months. I lie to friends that “I’ve too many games” to play first, but the honest answer is, I’m anxious to play it because I might love it. Or I might hate it, or I might like it a bit but not enough, or I might dislike aspects of it… blah blah blah. I am confident in my opinions, but as a community I’m terrified of putting them out for others to see, it’s far easier for me to avoid the games that have caused division and stick with the ones I’ve been told are “good” so that I’m safe in the knowledge that I will still fit in with my favourite clique.
I know how strange that sounds, but to some it will ring with familiarity. I love videogames, but there is a inherent anxiety due to having the “right” opinions. I still feel like I have to get out the full soap box when defending Dante’s Inferno or the latest Prince of Persia, and they are both pretty old now.
In conclusion, I know gamer anxiety well- I’ve been riding that dragon for years now. Thankfully I’ve had parents and friends to pull me up when it’s got bad, pretending to be ill from work to play 140 hours of Skyrim comes to mind. But also I’ve been empowered through escapism and learnt SO much over my 20 years of gaming. As a community, we fight every battle without realising that they aren’t even battles, and by doing so we alienate others without even knowing it. Gamer anxiety cannot be avoided, but I encourage everyone to be aware of the positive and the negative effects of our beloved games can have on our psyches.