Lately there has been this back and forth argument of sexism and oversexed female protagonists. Some people find the humorously voluptuous features of the amazon or sorceress characters in Dragon's Crown offensive, this of course leads me to believe that the people complaining haven't played any of Vanillaware's older titles which have female characters that have these features. I'm all for it, I don't like staring at the backside of a male character, nor do I enjoy playing as a male hero as much as I do female heroes. I'm not white, and I'm also not 17, but I have a high level of love for the soft and curvy female anatomy and character.
Rewinding to a time when video games were new to me, I was probably the only 5 year old that I knew that had more than 40 NES games, and oddly enough, not one of these games featured a playable female protagonist, except maybe X-Men, I never owned Mario 2. My mother was the top dog when it came to video games, playing all the way through Zelda II and Castlevania 2, with no game genie, using an NES advantage. This was inspiring and put the thought in my mind that girls play video games too. Seeing as how my mother was a pro-gamer, I wondered why there weren't any female protagonists in video games. My dad played games like Metal Gear, Golgo 13 and NARC.
I remember watching my dad play Golgo 13 on the NES, I never understood the game but he did. There is a scene in the game, where you get to sleep with some of the women you encounter in your adventure. My dad took pride in playing this game as it was his testosterone pumped, dudebro FPS/Action Adventure game. I asked what they were doing in the window, and he responded with, "They're doing the nasty."
Meanwhile, I had fun playing Ninja Gaiden II, Contra, and Zelda II, and the occasional Ninja Turtles and Battletoads. The games I played featured damsels most of the time or dudes solving problems by punching them in the face or blowing shit up. However, there was always one thing floating in the back of my mind, "why aren't there more girls to play as?" This question was answered with the advent of the SNES, again, there weren't many games for me to choose from when it came to female characters, but being able to play as Princess Peach in the remake of Mario Bros 2 after missing out on the NES port was pretty damn awesome. X-men: Mutant Apocalypse, allowed me to play as a pear shaped Psylocke, it's also when I understood button motions for fighters. Donkey Kong Country 2 and 3 was always played using Dixie Kong unless I absolutely needed to use Diddy, or Kiddy Kong. I would always play as one of the two female characters in Secret of Mana when my cousin came over, and Super Metroid also had a female protagonist. Celes and Tina(Terra) from FFVI are also my two favorite RPG heroines of all time, next to Lucca and Ayla from Chrono Trigger.
The Sega Saturn brought about Virtua Fighter 2 and while I might have used Pai and Sarah, my true main character was Lion. Fighting Vipers I would use Picky, Grace and Candy(Honey). Wipeout was also a game I played much on the Saturn, but I would always pick the cars with female pilots. Virtual-On would be played with Fei-Yin and Temjin if I started to suck. Nights was another favorite of mine, I liked Claris' levels a lot more than Elliots, be it music or design, her levels were better in my opinion.
Then the PS1 era came about, two of the four games I got for the Christmas that I got my PS1 were Parasite Eve and Resident Evil: DC. I love PE and currently have it on my PS3 and Vita, RE on the other hand, I never liked, but powered through it as Jill until I couldn't take the terrible gameplay anymore. Xaiyu was one of my favorite characters in Tekken 3, and Morrigan, Felicia, Lei-Lei(Hsien-ko), and Akira from Darkstalkers and Rival Schools were also my main characters.
When Dead or Alive shipped for the PS1, what drew me in was the boobie physics. I would crouch just to see the breasts jiggle. I remember having a friendly match with my old man, and I used one of Kasumi's throws in which she jumps on the opponents face and throws them. My dad responds with, "you letting me smell that pussy huh?" I laughed, and thought "what does it smell like?" Regardless of that thought, the unlock-able costumes all the female characters had were three times that of the male fighters. The hardest part of that game was unlocking Ayane, which required you to unlock everyone's costumes including Raidou's, and finishing arcade mode nearly 100 times to do it can burn you out.
Then the PS2 era came about and things kind of took a turn for the worst, Beyond Good and Evil and Primal, two games I never played, featured female protagonists as tough as Samus and Lara Croft. While I missed those, Final Fantasy X and XII gave me a little hope but in the end, were commercial games aimed at a "specific demographic." Suddenly, more female protagonists were becoming increasingly objectified. FFX-2 was made in less than a year and SE knew it would sell because it had sexy female heroes in it. Penelo was created for the sake of drawing in the teenage kids of that era to the Final Fantasy brand and Princess Ashe took a backseat and Vaan ended up being the main character of FFXII.
Dead or Alive was using sex more than ever to sell Xbox consoles, they even added rape to the stale plot just to show how Ayane came about. No, there was nothing edgy about it, last generation was straight up pandering when female characters came about. Even Nightshade(Kunoichi) the sequel to Shinobi on PS2 was pandering and emotionally weakening obviously capable ninja's because they were female, although in that game's defense, it isn't uncommon to read up on a story about samurai and ninja and seeing female characters swooning over men 20-40 years older than them. That still doesn't excuse SEGA from making Hibana and Hisui so weak in comparison to Hotsuma and Joe Musashi. This is something that would be revisited in the next generation with Mass Effect.
This generation gave way to a bunch of unfashionable, cardboard copy's of great male hero's of video game past, and writers too lazy to create a main character, so they gave the user the ability instead. Character creators are a god send to me, they allow me to create the ideal female hero I've always wanted, and whether she has scripted dialogue like in Saints Row or Mass Effect, it doesn't change the fact that I can create an awesome female hero. But then Borderlands allows me to take a pre-existing female character and go to town with all the cool abilities, the Mechromancer is another awesome addition, but the difference here is that in the first game, Lilith was the only character I liked but she didn't have much about her as the plot and characters weren't written to where you could be arsed to care. The second game changed that and made the other male characters fun in both personality and appearance. Regardless, as I am now, I only have eyes for women in video games, I will play a game with a male hero and enjoy it, provided it's a good game, but if I had a choice in gender, I will always pick the female.
Enter Mass Effect, I have a little issue with Mass Effect and it's writing. Jane actually runs slower, and doesn't hit as hard as John. The other issue is that John is a jerk, Jane can be a bitch, but is overall, easier on the ears and eyes to boot. The sex scenes that I had only seen done in a licensed NES game, were back, and this time they made more sense to me and were better detailed. They had romantic and humorous dialogue and while it isn't the pinnacle of a well written sex scene found on shows like the L-Word, Queer as Folk or Sex in the City, it was a step forward in video game writing. But if anything I would rather not allow my Jane to have sex with any of the men in the games, except maybe Jacob, but then I was a little turned off when he mentioned that I need sex.
Now that this generation is coming to an end and female protagonists are becoming more prevalent and relevant, it almost seems like some of the games that are out or releasing are trying too hard. I liked what I've seen of Remember Me, but it almost feels like the developers are trying too hard to make you like or be interested in the new female hero. The same can be said about the new Tomb Raider, there was nothing wrong with Lara Croft except maybe her anatomy and that was already rectified 7 years ago. Elizabeth might be an interesting character in how she helps and relates to the hero of Bioshock: Infinite, but her paradoxical and slightly incest relationship with the hero is also a big WTF to me, at least I didn't have to tell her to go hide in a dumpster.
Regardless, male or female, if the protagonist isn't visually appealing, I'm not gonna like playing the game, thankfully most female characters have enough style and when tasked to bear their fangs, are awesome.
Not all video games are created equal and there is definitely a good, bad and ugly side to some of the best video games out there. Borderlands 2 is currently one of my favorite games right now, trumping the likes of Skyrim and Dark Souls. After glossing over how pretty this game is in 1080p with all the fancy physics effects on high, I noticed that Borderlands 2 has a tendency to take a serious plunge in the framerate department. As a PC gamer, it is imperative that all my games run at a buttery smooth framerate. I don't mind a little screen tearing or a few dropped frames, but having to go out of my way to edit an .ini file to make sure things like cel-shading and dynamic shadows don't tax my system, is a bit much.
Surely graphics aren't all Borderlands 2 has to offer, there are things like shooting and looting and that, more or less is the whole point of the game, at least for me. Yes, the story is more interesting this time around, yes, the guns in this game are friggin' awesome. There are, however, things I don't like about this game that are in most cases, things I don't like about other games like it. Being an RPG and being limited to min-maxing your respective character through 3 different skill trees would be awesome if there were enough points to get all the cool abilities, the problem here is just that. Although I have yet to reach the previous level cap with any character, even with the advent of 11 more levels, I can't help but feel a little cheated by the "challenge" True Vault Hunter mode offers.
Unlike the the previous difficulty, True Vault Hunter turns every enemy into a damage sponge, and since I play with the Siren class, I'm currently feeling the pain of using a support character in a situation where I need a one man army. The thing is, I've fared better with the other 4 character classes very early in the game, whereas the Siren class, I literally have to shoot and duck for cover fairly often. This wouldn't be such a problem if I wasn't constantly surrounded by many of the games various baddies. Of course the Siren class has some of the best crowd control abilities if you go down the Cataclysm and/or Motion trees, the problem is that everyone else is so much better at going solo on any skill tree. To me, this is a problem, not because the other 3 male characters are better, Gaige and Lilith put Maya to shame any day, but I honestly think that the developers saw how broken Lilith was in the first game and decided, the Siren class needed to be hit with the Nerf gun.
Aside from the fact that the Siren is the weakest character in the game, the many gunfights that you encounter can go from slightly frustrating to some straight up bull that annoyingly delays the inevitable. Respawning when you should have gotten a second wind, makes for an experience that goes from fun, to tedious. Many times I've bled out to a respawn after a shootout with a group of bandits that I should have been able to easily dispatch, but because several bandits flanked me by way of spawning, I literally found myself getting frustrated time and time again. Bullets fly from several different directions, and flying enemies make some gunfights more difficult than they have to be. Other enemy types like Threshers and Stalkers also make for some tedious play sessions, while I'm pretty sure the developers probably meant for these creatures to be annoying, it still makes the game frustrating as a result.
Regardless of how much better the enemy AI is better than you at tanking, flanking, or dodging, your skills and strategies are what matters most. Except the best and most useful strategies that I've used are simply spamming my characters respective skill, shoot, reload, and snipe or find cover if absolutely necessary, or possible. Oddly enough, my friends all play the same way, regardless of what characters they use, to me this means that developers haven't figured out how to make an RPG with multiple strategies to the player that are just as useful as straight up attacking, and when they do, it almost always feels forced upon the player for specific instances. Crystalisk giving you a hard time? Shoot them in the legs, Shield Nomad? Shoot the midgets off the chains to reveal that hole in the shield or phaselock them. Regardless, forcing the player to be smart about a particular situation in a video game isn't the same as letting them be smart about it.
Time is also another issue, whether it's shooting, reloading in the heat of battle, fighting for your life, or a timed mission, all of these things require time that the player may most likely not have. Guns with exploding rounds are especially slow, and inaccurate to boot. While they do massive damage, they aren't that useful when you need a second wind. Switching to another weapon or reloading in fight for your life tends to add to my frustration, or even worse, when bandits "smartly," run away when you need a kill, when this happens, I give up and sit through roughly ten seconds. I never counted how long respawning from death actually takes but it's long enough to try my patience especially when I have to run from a checkpoint a fair distance away from where I died. Timed missions are also the most annoying part of any mission type in this game for me, especially since the map isn't all that good at directing the player. Thankfully, there aren't that many, but having to clear out all enemies, and strategically place vehicles so the mission can be completed is not my idea of fun at all.
Regardless of all the nitpicking I've done, I still enjoy Borderlands 2, it's a good game, and in my humble opinion, better than Skyrim. I do think that it could have used a little more polish, but given how advanced new video games are increasingly becoming, I can cut Gearbox some slack, for now. Borderlands 2 will not be the only game that I harp on, I will be nitpicking other games as well, if anyone has any suggestions, I'm down for whatever, even bad games.