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8:26 AM on 08.29.2010

In response to Kauz: Not yet.



(the following started as a response to Andrew Kauz's exceedingly good, recently-promoted blog. Read it now: http://www.destructoid.com/videogames-and-the-pursuit-of-harmless-entertainment-182361.phtml)

"We can't tell our kids to do well in school and then fail to support them when they get home," Obama said. "You can't just contract out parenting. For our kids to excel, we have to accept our responsibility to help them learn. That means putting away the Xbox. Putting our kids to bed at a reasonable hour. It means attending those parent-teacher conferences and reading to our children and helping them with their homework."
~President Brack Obama, at a July 2009 NAACP speech.

“Children are playing a game that encourages them to have sex with prostitutes and then murder them... This is a silent epidemic of media desensitisation that teaches kids it’s okay to diss people because they are a woman, they’re a different colour or they’re from a different place.”
~Hillary Clinton, 2005, at a childcare symposium speech.

I'm sorry, Kauz. I can't fight with you on this one.

The television industry is firmly entrenched in American culture, as is the movie industry. Nothing short of massive social upheaval will ever loose these two juggernauts of modern entertainment from their thrones, no protest, no comittee, no act of congress could ever be potent enough to shut down the cameras for good. They're completely immune to the effects of criticism, from themselves or from anyone else. Neither the Chomskys nor the Bozells of the world have any real power to go after these titans of world media. Americans of all stripes and affiliations would dress themselves in copies of the First Amendment and take to the streets at even the mere hint of a crackdown.

But video games? There's an entirely different story.

In 1985, when the modern American gaming industry was born, the people who run our government and our media today had already left their childhoods far behind. When tasked to recall the phrase "video games", they're most likely to come up with some vague recollections of Pac-Man or Space Invaders, and will rarely fail to mention it in some dismissive, patronizing tone. You know, for kids. If they played video games at any point in their lives, they certianly don't indulge in such a pointless waste of time anymore, no sir. They're too busy doing important stuff to bother with them Worlds of Warcraft or Super Mario Men.

And that's the best we can hope for. They were happy to simply ignore us when we were kids. We're just playing with toys, after all, we'll grow up and watch sitcoms all night like responsible Americans. But, we didn't stop playing. We grew up, and our games grew up with us. When the blood hit the screen, their jaws hit the pavement. We're their babies! These are toys! How could they be so violent and corrupt?! These game companies are clearly trying to destroy our children! We've got to save them!!

That's been the rallying cry ever since. We all know what they think of us and the games we play. The fictional portrayals of gamers as overweight, pastrami-stained, pasty-faced shut-ins too busy arguing with their loser friends over their Faceyspaces to get out of the house and find a girlfriend. The endless stream of news stories about that Grand Theft Auto game in which you can run over hookers and cops without any Real Life Consequences, and pedophiles using Pictochat and Xbox Live to lure YOUR CHILDREN into a real-life game of Dig Dug. The unyielding exhortations of demagogues, congressmen, and the freaking president himself about how simply putting down the Xbox or the Ipod will magically transport you to a world where people are nice to each other, God loves everyone, and there aren't five job seekers for every one position created.

At best, the generation that runs the world misunderstands gamers. At worst, they hate us.

In 20 years, should nothing change, our generation will start to take control, and the concept of video gaming will be secured in the American landspace every bit as much as TV and movies. At that point, we can begin to take the swords to the industry. We can make all the criticisms we need, cut out all the dead wood, and demand a higher standard from the purveyors of the medium.

But not yet, dammit. We're too vulnerable. We're already besieged by our media and our governments. We can't give them the rope to hang us with. They'll most assuredly use it, so that we've got nothing better to do than watch Two And A Half Men every night and see Vampires Suck on the weekends. They're suffering too, and they'll sooner smash every controller on the planet than take even one look at their own issues.

So, we must endure. We must suffer gladly the things about this industry that piss us off, the Gamestops and the red rings and the wave upon wave of pandering. We have to. The gaming industry now presents a direct threat to old media, frightened parents, and the politicians thatcater to both. Any blade we stick ourselves with will be thoroughly salted and run straight through by these people without a moment's hesitation, in the hopes that somehow, we'll all wake up from our lives of visual junk food and watch some good, old, wholesome Desperate Housewives.

We have to be positive, even to the point of cloying. We have to defend our industry whenever we can, no matter how much it hurts. Now is the worst possible time for an overhaul of gaming morality. We even try it now, and everything we've loved and grown up with will end up crushed and rotting in a desert landfill.

Your points, Mr. Kauz, are all valid and worthy of greater investigation by everyone involved in the gaming business- players, critics, and developers alike. But, not yet. Not when a chink in our armor, any wavering in our insistence that video gaming is how we wish to spend our free time as responsible adults, can cause the whole thing to cave in.

The wolves are at the door. Now's no time to renovate.   read


10:03 PM on 03.31.2010

PAX East: Wins and fails

So by now, you get the gist of what happened at PAX East. Guys like Arctic Fox, Kauza and Analoge have already weighed in on the important stuff, so I’m just going to leave a few thoughts here.



Win: Monday Night Combat
One of the highlights of the expo hall, Mega Entertainment’s class-based shooter earned a lot of fans with its playable demo on the floor. Monday Night Combat is one impressive mashup of a game, combining the class-based team warfare of Team Fortress 2 with the game physics of Unreal Championship and the slick, corporate-sponsored backdrop of Smash TV and The Grid. My chief concern for this game is that heavy online play will lead to the discovery of game-breaking strategies- it took nine years to properly balance Team Fortress 2, and Uber Entertainment is planning on having Monday Night Combat up and running on Xbox Live Arcade before the year is out. Still, the demo was a solid, fast-paced bulletfest, and if the game comes anywhere close to realizing its potential, it’ll become the darling of Xbox Live.

Fail: Lack of cosplayers
Maybe it was the horrendous weather, but there weren’t as nearly wild costumes as I was hoping to see. What few that I saw were really good- but overall, I’m hoping to see a lot more familiar faces at PAX East 2011. I’ve got every intention of dressing up myself next year- I just don’t know who it’ll be yet. (I’d love to be Mordecai from Borderlands, if I can pull it off.)



Win: The Rock Band Lounge
Nicole and I spent hours and hours in this one place alone, and we could have hung out here for the whole con. Harmonix created the perfect party lounge for the perfect party game, with a shining stage, professional-level equipment, a black-lit, spacious décor, plenty of free swag and tag-able walls, tables, and countertops. It was exactly the kind of experience that, frankly, I was expecting out of…

Fail: Gamers Gone Wild
So, this was much ado about nothing. I waited in line for nearly an hour for this event at Lir, and what I got was simply a crowded basement packed with a smattering of gaming consoles- hardly the party I was prepared for. The Rock Band tournament was filled by the time I got inside, and the only real fun to be had was on the upper floor, which was VIPs only. Super, super lame.

Win: THE POWER GLOVE
They marveled at it. They shouted slogans at it. They begged for pictures of it. They wanted to know where to get one for themselves. In 2010, the Power Glove is still…



Win: Twitter and my Samsung Bonk
Twitter was once described as the tool we didn’t realize we needed until we had it. For me, this weekend proved it. Getting up-to-the-second updates about Dtoid’s goings-on kept me connected to the community, and a second-hand look into some parts of the con I can only dream about getting into. Honorable mention goes to my little Intensity cell phone, which, due to its wallpaper and text alert sound, I have lovingly dubbed the Samsung Bonk. As my makeshift camera and connection do the Dtoid community, it served me beautifully. And to think I was going to trade one in for a Blackberry- the keyboard on that thing would have given me some very inconvenient thumb cramps. Protip: If you have text messaging, you can get Twitter feeds. Text 40404 for more information.

Fail: Lines, Lines, Lines.
The last time I attended the Hynes Convention Center was for Anime Boston in 2008. The line for registration on both days stretched through the entire convention center and at one point had a maximum wait time of 10 hours – longer than the convention would be open for the day. I was a volunteer that year, and had the somber duty of telling people that there was simply no room at the inn. It was one of the most grating experiences I ever had to go through.

Between this experience and my time at PAX, I am now convinced that cons should stop trying to cram so many freaking people into the Hynes Convention Center. It’s a nice place. Its rooms and halls are attractive. Its accessibility to hotels and restaurants is exemplary. It’s generally a good place to put a convention of any kind. But, it’s small. It’s compact. It’s cramped. There was only so much room to put everyone and everything, and thus, there simply weren’t enough events and attractions to give 60,000 people everything they wanted.

That’s right. Sixty thousand people packed the cozy, 193,000 square-foot confines of the Hynes this weekend. It’s a miracle nobody was trampled. (In comparison, Otakon routinely gets 22,000 a year, and not only fills the 1,255,000 square-foot Baltimore Convention Center, but had to spill over into the nearby First Mariner Arena). This was a ludicrous amount of people to even begin to manage, and it showed all over the place. There were lines for waiting in lines. There were people turned away from the 8:30 concerts at 7:15. There was an hour-long wait to get your hands on a controller in the console freeplay room. I can appreciate that the clearly overworked staff were doing the best they could with the situation- and they did so with grace and good humor- but attempting to get anything or go anywhere in this overpacked convention involved a great deal of patience and fortitude.

This, of course, leads me right into…



Win: PAX East 2011: BOSTON CONVENTION CENTER!
PAX East attracted more than twice as many people as they planned for. In response, they’re moving to a place more than twice as big. The Boston Convention Center (516,000 square feet, since we’re keeping track) isn’t in the heart of the city like the Hynes, but the breathing room, the expanded selection of panels and events, and a game room that will hopefully challenge Otakon’s hangar-sized version will be more than worth it.

Fail: My ability to remember names and faces.
“Hey, JT!”
“Um… hey?”
“It’s me, Arctic Fox, we’ve met like twice already.”
“Oh! Heh… hi!”

“Hey, Samit!”
“I’m not Samit, he’s sitting right next to me.”
“Oh! Um, hiya, Samit.”

And so on. I’m getting better, I promise!



Win: The Destructoid Community
You guys turned a good time into a great time. I wouldn’t have had nearly half as much fun if I didn’t run into BunnyRabbit at the food court, or meet Arctic Fox at the expo, or watch Cataract hold court at Street Fighter 4. The highlight of my weekend- my whole weekend- was Saturday night, when about 50 of us descended upon an unsuspecting Uno Chicago Grill just off of the convention center for a night of beer and happiness. Dtoiders took over the entire lounge half of the restaurant, packing the place from front to back. It was a thing of absolute beauty. We met, we networked, we chatted about video games and nonsense, we made plans for the future. For the first time since signing up with this outfit, I truly felt like I was part of the community, and not just on the outside looking in. For that, I’m grateful to all of you guys.

I met a lot of fantastic people this weekend, and I’m almost afraid to try and name people out of the fear I might leave someone out. But, special thanks go to Arctic Fox, Jon Bloodspray, Funktastic, Adam Dork, Topher Cantler, Samit Sarkar, powerglove, DanlHaas, IcarusKills, Senisan, Cataract, CasualWeaponry, Necros, Zen Albatross, Tino, walkyourpath, Oh! The Humanity and especially BunnyRabbit2 for being so friendly and hospitable; to Greks224, Nick and Matt for being excellent roommates, and Gaping Maw for putting me in contact with Greks and making this whole trip possible. I’m happy to have met all of you, and I’m looking forward to spreading the Dtoid gospel to my friends back home.


Me with new Dtoid member Nanashi- AKA, my girlfriend, Nicole!   read


11:02 PM on 03.24.2010

Random thoughts, two nights before PAX.

- I'm nervous. I've always been kind of a wallflower at these Dtoid meetups, and if I'm going to make something out of Dtoid Penn, that really should change. If anything, the copious amounts of alcohol flowing at Gamers Gone Wild should really help with that. Of course, having an entire freaking lounge where I can whore the Rock Band microphone also helps.


This is going to be awesome.

-Speaking of which, here's my rough schedule for PAX:

Friday:
5:45 AM - Train departs from Trenton.
11:00 AM - Train arrives in Boston, drop off stuff at hotel and beeline for the convention hall.
6:30 PM - Watching CTZ rock Paul Bellezza's world in the eating contest to end all eating contests!
8:30 PM - OMG PROTOMEN PROTOMEN PROTOMEN


Gods among men.

Saturday:
10:00 AM - Shake off possible hangover, depending on what's left of me after Protomen concert.
10:30 AM - Chiptune concert- coming out to see the mighty Zen Albatross make 8-bit sound boards his bitch.
11:00 AM - More general PAXness!
1:00 PM - Last I heard, this is when we're doing the picture thing. Hope Hamza brought enough shirts for the class.
6:30 PM - Heading over to Gamers Gone Wild early to recruit a band for the Rock Band competition. Probably going to be there the entire night.

Sunday:
11:00 AM - Last laughs at the con before heading home.
2:00 PM - Train leaves back to Trenton. Home in time for Wrestlemania.

- Cosplay: Looking forward to some mind-blowing costumes. I have the gear for a Travis Touchdown outfit myself, but I'm leaving it at home: in my current shape, I'd look like Travis' mid-life crisis. You know, after Sylvia divorces him for the third time because slicing people open just doesn't cause as many coins to fly out of their bisected corpses as it used to.


Besides, even Sylvia can't compete with these three.

- Blogging: It's a thing I should do again. I've written maybe three full articles by this point that I've thrown out. Part of this mess of ramblings is just a desperate attempt to put something out there before the next rotten round of second-guessing. On that note, here's an idea: MikeyTurvey does pictures on demand for the Dtoid community, and he is awesome for it. To help me break my writer's block (well, not so much a block as a gelatinous cube), perhaps I should open up a similar idea for articles or short stories. What say you, community? Ready to make me the blogging equivalent of A Night At The Improv?   read


6:05 PM on 02.23.2010

Things I learned at 8 on the Break


A diamond in the rough.

- So, the NARP didn’t happen quite as planned. Thanks to a Murphy’s-law-esque series of last-minute cancellations, the only members of the nascent Dtoid Penn group who showed up were myself and FunWithBonus. I admit I gambled with trying to set up a NARP this quickly, and it simply blew up in my face. There’ll be time to try a get-together again in the future (perhaps this weekend?) but for now, Dtoid Penn’s not off the ground just yet.


We have not yet begun to NARP.

- That being said, I still had a great time. 8 on the Break is a time-tested hangout and it shows. Its state-of-the-art dancing and fighting games contrast sharply with the wood-grain paneling, dark, non-functioning jukeboxes, and cheesy, neon-drenched storefront. It all looks like someone put a $5000 entertainment center in a $500-a-month apartment. It’s exhilarating and homey at the same time.
The game selection is less reminiscent of a typical arcade as it is the basement of your rich best friend. Not a single inch of floor space is given up to redemption garbage. Every game is fifty cents or lower, and everything here is either state-of-the-art and fully upgraded (In The Groove 2, DJ Max Technicha, Pump It Up Pro, Blazblue: Continuum Shift, Tekken 6) or a beloved classic (House of the Dead, DDR Extreme, SF3: Third Strike, the hundred-or-so options in the MAME cabinet). Or, it’s pinball.


FunWithBonus (right), with friends Koi and Jim, being awesome at pinball

- When I arrived at about 8 PM, I already found Dtoid pinball wizard and 22nd-ranked Pro-Am player Steve “FunWithBonus” Bowden and two of his friends, Jim and Koi, on a Star Trek: The Next Generation table. Since everyone else had bowed out of the NARP idea at this point, I introduced myself and spent the next few hours playing a few rounds with some of the best pinball players in the world.

When taken to a professional level, many games get modified, transformed, and stripped down to nearly unrecognizable versions of their original selves. Pro Super Smash Bros. rips away all the game’s character and charm to fight with pure game physics on a stark, barren platform. Pro Team Fortress 2 makes a precise, 6-on-6 war sim out of a Looney Tune. Pro Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is an incomprehensible whirlwind of precision strikes and dial-a-combos, with matches that functionally end as soon as the first player makes the first mistake.

Pinball, however, looks exactly the same no matter who’s playing it. There are no standard tricks or game-breaking exploits or self-imposed restrictions. The game is exactly the same no matter who’s at the flippers, and the mark of a professional is simple longevity. This is why, in spite of a sheer disparity of talent and experience, I had a great time playing pinball with Steve and his friends.


Friday night at the Break

- Tino, Keener, and Casualweaponry were around the arcade as well last Friday, and I briefly met them when I was at the pinball table. I would have loved to hang out with them more than I did, but I got caught up in my own bad habits- a local at the arcade approached me needing an emergency ride home, saying he didn’t live far. Now, I’m a total sucker for helping people out, so I figure, what the hell- it’s worth the 30-40 minutes I’d lose to give him a lift. That’s all it would have been, too- if the guy didn’t have a bad sense of direction. The 20-minute ride to his place turned into an hour-long excursion across North Jersey. Eventually, I did get the guy home and get back to the arcade, but by that time it was already 11 PM, and Tino and the others from Dtoid NY were already gone. Sorry I missed you guys- maybe someday I’ll learn better time management.


Next time, cheesesteaks on me.

- I spent the rest of the night exploring the arcade. I messed around on the MAME cabinet, clumsily trying to rekindle some old X-Men vs. Street Fighter magic. I revisited my dual-wielding ways in House of the Dead and got all the way to the second boss before being done in by those damned bats. I played a few rounds of my old obsession, Pump It Up, and for a few brief moments, I felt seven years younger and twenty pounds lighter. I even stopped by the Break’s high-fat, low-price snack bar for a darn fine cheesesteak, some RC Cola, and a few brief words with the owner and some of the locals. On top of everything else, the Break just struck me as a warm, friendly place to be.


I missed you too, Pumpy.

- 8 on the Break is the kind of hangout that every gamer deserves and everyone should visit. The locals are friendly and the place is always moving- the arcade was crawling with people from the time I arrived to the moment I left. I’m looking forward to going back, and I hope I can bring a few people next time. PA Dtoiders, I hope we can try this one again.


8 on the Break. Yeah.   read


10:53 AM on 12.11.2009

Listen up, maggots!



Sons of the shovel! Bearers of the mighty rocket launcher! Defenders of America! The time has come to FIGHT! There's a top-secret weapon out there with our names on it, and I swear to G.M. Chrysler I'll be three feet face-down in a swimming hole of haggis before I let those foul-mouthed, bagpipe-playing cyclopses get their grenade-spamming hands on it! If you love America more than your daily bowl of Lucky Charms, you will be right there with me, fighting the good fight!

You see, this war of ours reminds me of a story I once heard. There once was this soldier being chased by a hungry tiger. He pulled off an awesome rocket jump to get away from it, but he overshot, and found himself hanging from a branch on the edge of a cliff. The impact shook all of his weapons off of him. The one dirty, stinking tiger hunched over the top of the cliff. A second dirty, stinking tiger waited at the bottom, gnawing at his accoutrements. Then- he saw a strawberry hanging from a branch nearby. With no option to choose, he reached out to take the strawberry...

and it blew up in his goddamn face!

It wasn't a tasty fruit, it was a fruity bomb! That's how these Scotch people fight, son. They deceive. They use "angles" and "geometry" to kill their prey. They fight from afar, like cowards, each and every one of them hoping they don't have to stain their precious one eye with the sight of a man's liver disintegrating into a purple, gooey mess that they probably would find delicious with some nuts and a good whiskey.

No, we soldiers are cut from a different cloth! First, we have two eyes. That automatically makes us better at seeing things. Things like the jaundice-yellow, dinner-plate sized lone eyeball of a Demoman as the business end of a glowing rocket drills him where the sun don't shine! That's the second thing. We look at the things we kill! We don't just pop off a few caltrops and run away to go get even more drunk- no, we stay for the whole goddamn show! We pull the trigger, and we revel in the sight of the poor bastard as America pulls down his pants and spanks him with a high-explosive tank-piercing paddle!

There's a top-secret weapon out there waiting for us, boys, and whatever it is, it's too good for those skirt-wearing, Scotch-taping wannabes! So let's get out there, and go finish what that Loch Ness Monster started!

FOR THE WEAPON!

FOR THE TWO-EYED RACES!

FOR AMERICA!!

  read


5:41 PM on 12.10.2009

Backlog Backlash: The Warriors


Backlogs. Everyone's got 'em, few dare to take them on. For the next few weeks/months/years, I'll be diving into the significant wad of games I've stockpiled over the years and surfacing with reviews, opinions, or whatever else comes to mind. Let's kick things off with a little Rockstar love.



The Game:
The Warriors
Microsoft Xbox (also released for PS2)
Rockstar Games
Released: October 2005
Purchased: 2009

The Gist:
Rockstar brings its trademark open-world gameplay to this video game adaption of the 1979 cult action flick, The Warriors. Nearly the entire cast of the movie returns for a fresh look at New York's armies of the night.

The Story:
Everyone has a handful of titles that stick in the back of their minds, ones that you always promise yourself you're going to buy, but never seem to want to pony up until it's way, way, out of date. This one made that list years ago, when Gamespot, then my game-review drug of choice, gave it a favorable rating, and when I saw this little green box marked down to $7.99 in a supermarket bin one day, I didn't think twice before snapping it up. Yet, it sat unplayed for months afterward, forsaken for nightly sessions of Team Fortress 2 and Guitar Hero 5 throughout the year. It was only one recent weekend, with my resolution to bust through as much of my backlog as possible before Christmas, that I sat down before my black-and-green behemoth and refused to get up until I'd painted the town red.

Here's how it went:
The Warriors started life as a stylish, exploitative action flick that only the 70's could have created. It features a dark, dirty pre-Giuliani New York overrun with dozens of colorful street gangs. I don't mean “colorful” as in “one gang wears red, the other wears blue”. I mean, “One gang dresses like mimes, the other dresses in baseball uniforms and Braveheart makeup.” Yeah, it's the 70's, alright.


Batter up.

In this sprawling mess of a city filled with young, identically-dressed street toughs, one man stands above them all. He's Cyrus, leader of the militant Gramercy Riffs, the single most respected man among the some 60,000 soldiers of the night. He's got a plan to unite every last one of them under his groovy fist, overrun the police, and plunge New York City into complete gang rule.

This is not his story.


I guess he couldn't dig it.

Nope, on the night Cyrus attempts his masterstroke, the inevitable happens, and that's where the plot kicks in. The Warriors, an small, ambitious unit from Coney Island, gets the blame for the murder. Their leader gets iced right away, and it's up to Swan, their second-in-command, to get the rest of the crew to the safety of their home turf. Along the way, they battle through skinheads, skater boys, hot chicks, and those baseball-and-Braveheart guys to get there, and pick up a romantic subplot or two along the way.


Again, 70's.

This is where the creativity ends. The Warriors- most of them, anyway- find their way home, and discover the true killers: the very least interesting gang that the writers could come up with. Like with Cyrus' assassination, we're robbed of a whole world of potential. There's a ton of ramifications that come with a city playing home to dozens of rivaling underground factions. Thankfully, Rockstar Games agreed with me, and built this 93-minute chase flick into a rough approximation of what it should have been: West Side Story and The Godfather thrown into a blender and drenched in neon.


It's on.

Rockstar's totally the right company to have undertaken this license. They'd already released two games in the GTA3 series and were well on their way to giving us San Andreas. That same world-building ethic they pioneered with that series- the dark humor, the sprawling urban playgrounds, the several days' worth of ambient voice acting- it's all there, as you start from three months before the movie to build the Warriors from a tiny upstart into the kings of Coney. Along the way, you'll engage in open warfare with all of the gangs the flick shamefully overlooked- the pimps, the kung-fu fighters, the hot-headed vatos, and yes, those wonderful killer mimes. The orginal cast of the movie returns to record hours upon hours of new dialogue, and while the characters aren't as enthralling as any you'll find in Rockstar's other titles, the sheer volume of the vocal work, both in the cut-scenes and in the action, grounds the absurd premise firmly in its own reality- another Rockstar trademark. (If there's one character worth remembering, it's the sultry, omniscient DJ, whose smooth, sarcasm-tinged nightly gang-war updates subtly blare through the Warrior's hideout- when they're not taunting you at the Game Over screen.)


Pat Floyd does a remarkable job filling in for Lynne Thigpen's mouth.

It's not quite GTA: Coney Island, however. Shooting and driving are out- very few characters in the Warriors' world pack heat, and the back-alley hideouts of New York's gangs don't lend themselves well to open-road mayhem. In its place, however, is an advanced fighting engine that produces as many organically awesome moments as any joyride through Liberty City. In addition to the basic punches and kicks you get in GTA, your Warriors get a slew of Double-Dragon inspired techniques- grapples, mounts, combinations, wall smashes, special moves, stealth knockouts, and a landscape littered with melee weapons- to use against the hordes of police and rival soldiers you'll come across.


Yer gonna die, clown!

The real fun, however, comes in that you never roll alone. At all times in the adventure, you'll have at least one Warrior covering your back, and in Rockstar's most miraculous feat, your AI-controlled partners are nearly always more useful than annoying. You get six orders to issue to your crew, all of which have their uses. This is where the real magic comes in. When you tell your boys to fight, they don't stop until every one else has stopped moving. When you tell them to scatter, they split up all over the entire neighborhood. When you tell them to follow, you get a legion marching to your every step. This is a game feature that would probably have been horribly broken if given tasked to any other game company, but Rockstar nails it perfectly.


They got your back, no matter what.

There's a lot that I liked about The Warriors, which makes its ending chapters a total letdown. The first three-quarters of the game serves as a direct prequel to the actual movie, with you guiding all nine main characters from a small-time Coney outfit to the baddest brawlers in New York. Make no mistake- the game makes you work your ass off to bring the Warriors to the top, from wiping your turf rivals clean out of existence to tagging your logo across an entire fleet of subway cars. It's a long and difficult road to the top, and it's all so frustrating when it all comes crashing down in the span of one elaborate cutscene.

[embed]157549:25678[/embed]

Just as you bring the Warriors to all-city notoriety, the gameplay grinds to a halt to deliver a shot-by-shot reenactment of the beginning of the actual movie. This scene is breathtaking. It's one of the best uses of engine-rendered FMV of the entire last generation. The whiplash in the actual game experience, however, is palpable, and you're reminded of why most people never heard of the movie in the first place. Gone are most of the gangs you spent all those hours struggling to overcome, relegated to vague mentions and background appearances. Ridiculous side plots and extraneous characters are tacked on. Your own gang members are picked off, one by one, as you struggle to guide your troops back home. Remember Cleon, the gang founder? He doesn't live through the meeting. Ajax, your womanizing brawler, gets cuffed and hauled away out of the clear blue. Poor Fox did all that scouting in Chinatown just to kiss the grill of a speeding subway train. The final chapters are a near-perfect retelling of the movie, but when compared to the rich, nuanced world that Rockstar creates for New York's armies of the night, the movie plot is narrow, poorly-paced, and ultimately unsatisfying. The world Rockstar made for The Warriors, is, to be blunt, simply too good for the movie that spawned it.


The ending to both the game and the movie. Not pictured: Enemies driven before me, women lamenting.

There's a second major letdown, and this one's on Rockstar. When your sadly-reduced gang returns to HQ and the game returns to normal. I had been hoping since well into the single-player campaign for some kind of free-form gang warfare metagame, like in GTA: San Andreas, where you can take on all the other gangs in the city for control of turf. There's plenty of gangs left to fight, there's plenty of boroughs to conquer, and there's an engine versatile enough to make it happen, but Rockstar doesn't quite put two and two together and give your Warriors a chance to conquer the city like C.J.'s crew. Instead, your reward is “Armies of the Night”, a cute but pointless Double-Dragon-style minigame. There's also “rumble mode”, where you can take any of the game's gangs into a series of one-on-one challenges, but this, too feels tacked-on and unfulfilling. There's also a mode where you can play as the Baseball Furies, but unlocking it requires finishing the game on the hardest difficulty.


It's still not as bad as Street Brawl.

There's a lot of potential in this brew of killer mimes, baseball-playing maniacs, pavement-pounding pimps and preppy rollerskaters, and it could have made for a hellacious war, a great game all by itself. I wanted to wrest Chinatown from the Savage Huns. I wanted to drop the curtain on the Hi-Hats in Soho. I wanted to yank every Orphan out of their Tremont ratholes. I wanted to punk the Punks, bop the Boppers, bankrupt the Jones Street Boys, snuff out the the Satan's Mothers, and take on the Gramercy Riffs in a climactic showdown for the whole goddamn city. Sadly, this was not to be, and my time in the Warriors' world has come to a bittersweet conclusion.

The Warriors is a franchise that had been ripe for a video game adaptation since the NES days, and it's a shame that it took this long to get one. Judging from the more recent The Warriors: Street Brawl, however, perhaps it was only with the skeleton of Grand Theft Auto that it'd be anything worthwhile. If you like 70's schlock, open-world crime games, or beating up mimes, you'd do well to recruit this title into your collection.   read


12:09 PM on 09.02.2009

How to make game communities suck less: Not every problem is a nail



It is a fact that fish will not live where the water is too clear. But if there is duckweed or something, the fish will hide under its shadow and thrive. Thus, the lower classes will live in tranquility if certain matters are a bit overlooked or left unheard. This fact should be understood with regard to people's conduct.

-Hagakure, the book of the samurai

In yesterday's Guitar Hero 5 review someone who I won't bother naming left in his comment: “wow another reviewer paid off or the organization he works with.”

He has since commented again, and his c-blog is still up and running.

Allow me to italicize.
Someone accused a writer of this site of taking payments for favorable reviews, and Dtoid- and its community- let out a collective yawn. Nick Chester just laughed at him, and that was the end of it. No drama. No theatrics. No “ban-hammer Monday”. Just a little laugh and then on to messing around with a much more persistent troll.

And if something as stupid as that can be posted with barely a whimper, then maybe my half-baked ideas can find a home, too.

I'm going to level with you here. I hadn't been part of a gaming community for a long time between the closing of Antagonist, Inc. in 2001 and my discovery of Dtoid in 2008. The reason? I'm shy. I'm suggestible. I have the emotional maturity of a Sham-Wow. I simply can't handle the ridicule and suspicion that comes with joining your average game community. In most of these places, you walk in on thin ice. You're assumed troll as soon as you walk in, and cracking the social order takes an impossible amount of persistence, luck, and brown-nosing- more work than the reward could ever be worth.

In contrast, It takes a lot to get banned from Dtoid. You have to make yourself famous to get banned from Dtoid. You have to become a stock punchline to get banned from Dtoid. (See: Wiisucks, Bill Holbrook). Much more than any well-meaning lurker or newb could ever inflict. It's no coincidence that Destructoid now has the biggest, most varied, and most creative game community on the web.

When game communities suck, it's never because of the trolls. Trolls can be beaten. Trolls can be ignored. In the case of Antagonist Inc, trolling can even be turned to friendly discourse. When game communities suck, it's because they've closed themselves off to their own elites, freely banning trolls, critics, and other harmless jackasses, and thus creating a chilling effect on anyone new who dares try to add something of value.

Let trolls be trolls. Let newbs be newbs. The former will get bored and leave, the latter will become another grateful, productive member of the community. Let there be room for error, room for stupid, room for ignorance. Much like a flower, you can't expect a community to grow when you keep hitting it with a hammer.   read


8:13 AM on 08.17.2009

Shirt.woot takes you back to the past (shortblog)

Shirt.woot has started a new "classics" line, and first on the list is the very first shirt they ever released: this delightfully blister-inducing piece of work right here.



It's up until next Monday. If you want to pick it up, point your browser over to shirt.woot.com/classics.   read


5:58 AM on 08.05.2009

(Shortblog) Cal State student facing 10 years in prison for modding consoles

Source: http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/tech/Cal-State-Student-Faces-10-Year-Prison-Term-for-Playing-with-Video-Games-52386872.html

Lloyd Crippen, recently admitted to Cal State Fullerton, appeared in federal court Monday after his home was raided by the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The agency had been acting on a tip provided by the Electronics Software Association, the video game equivalent of the RIAA, as well as the organizers of E3. Police found "more than a dozen Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony video game consoles", all of them modded to play pirated games. According to ICE deputy special agent Kevin Kozak, Crippen had been advertising the service online and accepting payments for console modding.

When contacted by the OC Register, Crippen only commented: “Somebody tipped them off and they came."

Crippen now faces up to 10 years of jail time from two counts of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. His arraignment is scheduled for August 10th.



Apparently, bringing litigation against small-time violators worked so well for the music industry, the games lobby decided to give it a shot. Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about this frightening case is that there's no charge of actually pirating games, it's the modding itself that's being punished. While it's doubtful that the feds will come for everyone with a modchip or a Homebrew Channel, the result of this trial may set a frightening precedent for what people are allowed to do with the things they buy.

Are we actually paying for ownership of game consoles, or just the right to use them? We're about to find out.   read


1:21 PM on 07.23.2009

I, the author: The meager



(The following is an excerpt from the Durai papers.)

We've made camp on the familiar plains of Lenalia Plateau. This simple layout of shallow grasses and rocky mounds has been our home away from home since the very beginning, and now, appropriately, serves as the spot upon which our collective will spend its final peaceful evening. Orbonne Monastery beckons to us just over the horizon, its facade stolid and grim, like a funeral dirge. Within a few hours, we will be inside, confronting the Lucavi in a battle that will surely decide the fate of all Ivalice and beyond. We few, we very fortunate few, will be witnesses to history, and I can only pray it is of our own making. Yet, as extraordinary as our circumstances are, it is my companions here that are truly worthy of history's note.

In my conversations with Ramza, I have learned that our leader believes our cause will remain eternally silent, and that, no matter the outcome, it will be the schemer Delita whose name resides in history. I sincerely hope he is incorrect, but unfortunately, hope is the only objection I can find. Blessedly, the people who join me around this campfire do not share my concern for this fact, or for the eye of posterity at all. We all have our own greater cause to serve, and in its pursuit, each one of us has become something truly remarkable. Indeed, as I look at the faces of my comrades, I can say with no doubt nor hesitation that the sixteen of us in this camp tonight compose the single, most powerful fighting force in recorded history.

There are those of us here whom enter with their own legends, their own stories which will surely blossom through the roots of history, and whom I myself have reported on in an earlier volume. Among the luminaries who remain here are Agrias, the Hokuten's noble swordswoman; Mustadio, the innovator of the gun; Meliadoul, the former Temple Knight; Beowulf and Reis, the star-crossed lovers; Cloud, the hero of another world; and Orlandu, the legendary T.G. Cid himself, and a man utterly unconvinced of his own reputation.

But then, there are we, the meager. When the story of our journey is ultimately written, I believe it is those of us who were here from the start who will slip through the cracks, our actions thoughtlessly joined with those of the man who found us, the “heretic” Ramza Beoulve, who I firmly believe future generations will one day consider the true hero of the Lion War.

Of the five of us who originally joined Ramza on that fateful day in Gariland, Kuwabara, the monk, has emerged as our most stalwart ally. A self-described “force of nature” in his days at the academy, this bull-demon of a man has since replaced his untamed ego with pure, humble spirit. His demeanor never wavers from gentle optimism, and his knowledge of nature and self has evolved to the point where even magic cannot duplicate his skills. True to his youthful boast, the very earth itself now rises to meet his command, and his spiritual force can kill or heal with a mere touch. Since his awakening at Sand Rat Cellar, he has been perhaps the least emotionally disinterested in the purpose of our mission, stating simply that the planet itself dictates his movements- and given that our fight has brought us to the crossroads of history itself, there is no reason to disbelieve him. His faith in himself and in all of us has been the rock upon which we have conducted our war on fate, on inevitability, on the belief that only nobles can control history, and so as the planet has guided him, so has he guided us.

If Kuwabara is our rock, then Aday, our wizard, is the river, always moving, expanding, consuming everything in his path. Once a town priest, Aday used to invoked the name of St. Ajora in all that he did, including the study of magic. This faith of his eventually turned him into a master of all four schools of traditional wizardry, an authority of all things arcane, and, to those of us who once believed, a beacon of the glory of St. Ajora. We imagined this would all change the night we read the Germonik scriptures, and learned the truth about Ivalice's savior. Indeed, we were correct for a time- Aday became despondent and depressed, his once-potent magical energies then hardly strong enough to light a candle. Then, somehow, he performed a miracle. Legend had spoken of a way to invoke and transfer magical energies through logic, rather than faith, however, this had always been dismissed as bunk by most magical scholars, and it had driven to insanity all those who attempted to discover it. Who better, then, to unlock its secrets than a man who'd already been driven insane?

While Aday remains unpredictably neurotic, at times frighteningly so, his newfound ability to use mathematics themselves to project his will is, frankly, otherworldly. He speaks entirely in equations and figures, and even claims to see numbers inside people, numbers which he then transfers through an impossible string of calculations- about six or seven notebooks full of them now- to come up with a resonance he can then use to affix any spell he can think of. The effects are horrifying- I have seen him invoke the power of Holy itself upon entire squadrons at once. It is the height of fortune that while his instability has brought him power, his commitment to us, however unspoken, has never wavered. I shudder to think of the horrible cost of going up against the power of the Calculators.

Perhaps least affected of all of us by the revelations of Germonik is Raine, the summoner. Since our days together in the academy, she has regarded everything- people, nations, causes- with an educated, haughty disgust. Naturally, then, she would gravitate toward the aether, developing relationships with the creatures within far stronger than any she'd deign worthy of a human being. Cynical, disagreeable, negative beyond all reason, she fights with us merely because she considers us “the least of many evils”. Yet, for all her sneering discontent, she fights as passionately as any one of us, bringing the power of the eidolons themselves to our cause. She has tamed the most powerful creatures in the extradimensional plane through her ferocious will, even the mightiest of myths, Zodiac himself. She communes with him now, likely telling him, as she tells everyone, how hopeless we are.

We encountered Zodiac in the Deep Darkness, a place that may as well be a second home to Madiera, our thief. Sly, curvaceous, and libertine, Madiera is pure temptation poured into a ninja's costume- one into which she is currently slicing strategic nicks and cuts, each one inviting the masculine eye, baring just the right swatch of her caramel flesh. While she is a master with daggers and knives, it is seduction which serves as her most potent weapon. With just a flip of her hair or a sway of her hips, she has convinced members of our enemies' side to drop their morals, their beliefs, even their financial interests, and fight in her defense, only for her to rob them of their worldly possessions and send the poor boys home with broken limbs and broken hearts. Kuwabara calls her cruel. Raine calls her shameless. I consider her a genius. Half of the powerful weaponry in our possession has come from her swift, elegant hands- but perhaps more than that, her penchant for pranks and practical jokes keeps us on our toes, and never fails to add much-needed levity to our dark path.

There were five of us meager souls when we departed the academy with Ramza, but I feel the need to include here our adopted sixth: Chanel, our eternal ray of sunshine, and our living reminder that those souls aligned against us are not always wicked. A desperate peasant girl for most of her life, she was recruited by Gafgarion for her competence with a bow and her uncanny resemblance to Princess Ovelia. She was the bait for his trap at the Golgorand gallows, and the only one left on the battlefield after her commander had fled and her allies lay dead or dying around her. She struck at us like a blinded panther, aimless arrows flying everywhere as Raine closed in to deliver the killing blow. Ramza, following behind, gazed into her eyes and saw a frightened soul, one too kind for the rigors of war, a stark reminder of the last time he saw an innocent girl die on the battlefield. Our commander ordered our retreat. He would meet us some hours later with the girl in tow, tears dried into her childish face, clinging to him for dear life. From this wretched soul, he would create the sweet, sunny dancer we now know today, a vibrant, indomitable spirit whose faith in our captain and our cause infects us all even in our darkest times. While Madiera uses her body as an effective tool, Chanel now uses hers as her sole weapon, one she uses to draw the life force itself out of our adversaries. The only thing I can compare it to is my own voice, the eldritch power of which I still have no comprehension. Her only sadness comes from her failed attempts to repay Ramza in kind. From where I sit, I can see her body sway with the wind, and I can tell from her frequent glance that she would much rather be performing in our leader's tent.

It may be for the best, though. Ramza tells of how he fights for the love of his sister alone, the kind of small concern which fuels us all. The fate of humanity, after all, is too enormous a burden to bear at all times, and so we each have found a microcosm of such to aid us in this war. Chanel, of course, prays that rescuing Alma will lead Ramza's tired eyes to her elegant waltz. Kuwabara considers himself an extension of the Earth, and has tied himself to its fate. Raine wishes to prove herself a worthy inhabitant of the espers' world. Madiera, ever the anarchist, fights for her right to petty rebellion, to deny the Lucavi their totalitarian rule. Aday seeks sanity in an insane world, and fights to stamp the ultimate Q.E.D. on his theorems. And myself? I don't particularly know. Maybe just the simple pleasure of chasing a certain nimble thief from town to town for the rest of my days. As for the others, I leave their stories for another day, to another witness to history.

By the time you read this, Olan, the confrontation will be over, and our fate- the world's fate- will already have been decided. Regardless of what becomes of us, I hope these words find you and humanity in good health, and that your efforts lead to a rightful place in history for we, the meager.

Your humble and obedient bard,
Radcliffe   read


12:47 AM on 07.02.2009

Fangame Spotlight: Mario Adventure



Mario Adventure is a ROM hack for Super Mario Bros. 3. Actually, that's wrong. It's a fully-realized 2-D Mario game that only seems like a hack. It's that good, it's that ubiquitous, and it's the very first project that should come to mind when it comes to fan-made game mods. It was released in 2004, ancient by Internet standards, so there's a good chance that you may already have played it once or twice. Even so, it's such a well-developed and complete Mario experience that it still deserves to be brought up five years later. If you love classic Mario gameplay, you owe it to yourself to hunt down this ROM and plug it into your favorite NES emulator.


Epic battles such as this await

What makes Mario Adventure so good? It's all about the levels. The design and layout of the game's dozens of stages is clever and intuitive, satisfyingly difficult without being overly punishing. There are occasional times where you can feel like you're playing I Want To Be The Mario, with some portions that require guesswork or a leap of faith to overcome, but even these spots never come across as being cheap for their own sake. There are some areas where you'll have to dig deep into your Mario-playing lore to progress, a nice wink and nod to the game's target audience.


If you can figure out how to get out of here, you've done Mario proud

Like in SMB3, there are seven stages to traipse through before you get to Bowser's castle. The first five are faithful, well-worn archetypes- grassland, volcano, forest, ice/underwater, and outer space, all places you've been with Mario before, and all places with distinctive, unique terrain to cover. Worlds 6 and 7, however, are particularly worth notice.



World 6 is Colossal Classics, which remixes level designs from SMB1, SMB3 and the Lost Levels, and sends them all into Giant Land. The double-sized classic stages force you to find new ways to traverse familiar terrain, a quality of any good remake.


You're going to need bigger mushrooms

World 7 is Desert Dares, which puts an entirely new spin on the Mario experience. Awaiting you here are about three dozen mini-levels, each one requiring a clever trick, a specific path, or a distinct feat of platforming to complete. There are no instructions or hints to help you out, it's all up to you to find out if you need to limit your jumps or collect all the coins or do whatever else you need to complete the stage. You'll need a great deal of trial and error to pass this challenge. Good thing the game's way ahead of you on this one.


This one screen is the entire level. Good luck

If you've played any Mario game since Super Mario World, you know that the life count is a mere formality. A good player in any Mario game made in the past two decades can rack up extra lives in the triple digits before the end. So, Mario Adventure does what the main series needed to do a long time ago- ditches the 1up system altogether. Dying just sends you spiraling back to the beginning of the level, and you get as many lives as you need to complete each level. Coins are still as plentiful as they ever were, but now they're used to buy items at the Toad Houses.


Yes, Toad finally discovered capitalism

A few of the other mechanics have changed as well. Like in the Lost Levels, Piranha plants no longer always retreat into their pipes when you stand next to them, or even on top of them. Shyguys are back, but they now act exactly like Koopa Troopas, a good stomp turns them into kickable masks. The wandering Hammer Bros. on the map now take you to full stages loaded with all four brands of bros- the woefully-underused Fire Bros. well-represented among them, Most importantly, Boom-Boom has moved out of the fortresses and now awaits you at the end of nearly every level in the game. Thankfully, three quick stomps does the job as swiftly as it ever has.


ohshitohshitohshitohshit

Like with any worthwhile Mario game, there's some new items at your disposal. The super mushroom, invincibility star, and raccoon leaf are joined by a few welcome additions to the classic arsenal.


- Flowers now turn you into Fire Fire Mario, an upgraded version of the classic power with higher jumps and straight-flying fireballs that pass through obstacles.
- There's also the invisibility hat from Mario 64, a curious addition to a 2D game. Clearly hacked from the Tanooki suit (you can still whack enemies with a tail that isn't there), this power-up lets you disappear behind the background of the stage, keeping you safe from enemy harm. Naturally, this ability is more useful in some places than others- it's a godsend in water stages but totally worthless in the air. It's one of Mario Adventure's roughest edges, but it's an easy one to overlook.
- Ever wonder what would happen if Mario kept one of those magic wands for himself? Then you'd get Magic Mario, whose super-powered stomps and star-shots make this powerup a solid stand-in for the fan-favorite Hammer Bros. suit. Unlike the classic outfit, however, this power-up takes three hits before it vanishes.
- Finally, there's Kuribo's f'n Shoe. It's back, it's as badass as you remember, and now it comes with you between levels. Who loves you, baby?


Cry some moar, Boom-Boom

Of course, Mario Adventure isn't without its faults. The difficulty is steep by modern standards, you'll need to be a pretty adept Mario 3 veteran to stand a chance. That you have to find a hidden key in each world to progress to World 8 is more aggravating than innovative, and the game's weather system – the graphics cycle from morning through night, and occasionally coat a level in rain or ice – is only as novel as it is annoying. Still, these are faults that would be forgivable for an official Nintendo release, let alone the work of a single programmer.


WTF, Mother Nature

That's right, this game is the work of only one person- DahrkDaiz, whose work here speaks for itself. Mario Adventure is the product of sixteen solid months of work, including coding on notebook paper while working at a fast-food restaurant. DahrkDaiz was at one point working on a sequel prominently featuring Luigi, but that work unfortunately remains unfinished to this day. Still, in a community where promising coders and projects vanish on a weekly basis, there's a quality finished product here for posterity, which is more than can be said for the great majority of fan-made games.

If you haven't had the pleasure of playing Mario Adventure yet, the ROM isn't hard to find. Just run a Google search, or click right hereand scroll to the end of the article for a link.   read


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