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Jomonoe's blog

12:52 PM on 02.15.2011

Platinum Games becoming my favorite studio

I am currently on reading break from school. Since I haven't played a new game in a couple of weeks, I hop on over to the local blockbuster and rent Killzone 2. The reason I went with this game is because I usually play RPG's and I like to own those types of games. No, a one week break calls for something that is simply fun to play without getting too emotionally invested. Killzone 2 seems to be a pretty good choice.

Wow, I really hate Killzone 2. I suck at FPS games. That doesn't mean that the partner AI needs to exasperate my lack of skill by dieing all the freakin' time. There's this one part where me and my "buddy" are being chased by an enemy tank and around a dozen dudes. Ahead of us are our own troops with a tank of their own and a rocket launcher ready for use. Logically, the appropriate thing to do would be to haul ass over to our side. I hit sprint and do that. I look around and see my buddy trying to take out a dozen guys and a tank by himself. He falls down and a symbol denoting that I should go save him appears. No. No I won't. I ready the rocket launcher and leave my "buddy" to die. For some reason, when he dies, my guy suffers from a literal broken heart as he undergoes cardiac arrest and falls to the ground. God dammit. I hate it in games where if your partner dies, you die to. Plus 50% more hate if said partner is of no use to the story and you have no emotional connection to him/her. I decided that I wasn't going to use valuable break time playing a game I don't like so I go back to blockbuster and return it for Vanquish with my stealthy skills of lying. I think I made the right decision.

Unlike in Killzone 2, the default control scheme and stick sensitivity in Vanquish feels absolutely refined. There was no reason for me to fiddle with the controls at all. Graphics were beautiful but, more importantly, they were varied. Unlike the brown upon brown of Killzone 2, Vanquish has stunning and brightly lit open spaces that allow for intense fire fights. The main thing that sets Vanquish and Killzone 2 apart, though, is that Vanquish innovates while Killzone 2 decides to pretty up it's graphics.

In shooters, mobility is often overlooked. Yes, we get a sprint option but usually that's it. Uncharted 2 did something new by introducing climbing elements to the mix. Vanquish goes the route of extreme speed. The power armor that you find yourself using in Vanquish is pretty much a self contained rocket. Pulling the L2 button on the ps3 controller, you can rocket forward or backward or in any direction you want. The inclusion of speed and most of all controllable speed (no roadie running like in Gears) innovates the third person shooter genre by giving you the tools needed for you to not be stuck behind cover for 90% of the game.

What do you usually think when you see ammo for a weapon that you are already topped off with? I have this feeling of waste when that happens. Whenever I see ammo that I don't or can't pick up in shooters, I feel like that ammo could be put to something useful. Vanquish answers this trope of shooters by giving superfluous ammo stores a point. If you pick up a gun which you are already holding in Vanquish, it will upgrade that weapon after a certain number of pick ups. This simple change in gameplay suddenly makes all those useless doubles of triples of guns that you are already holding have a point. Instead of seeing the same assault rifle I am holding and leaving it (so wasteful!), I can now pick it up and know that after a couple more, my rifle will get powered up. Platinum games is so good at these beautiful and simple changes in gameplay which change entire genre tropes. With Vanquish and Bayonetta both being made by Platinum games and both games being clever tongue in cheek commentary about the genre's that they are in, it puts Platinum Games in a special place in my heart for their innovation and commitment to quality.   read

12:59 AM on 01.15.2011

I like feeling important

Over the past couple days, I've been feeling this weird sense of unease. It feels like I've been missing something that I am very accustomed to but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. This feeling felt like a sore spot that needed rubbing but I didn't really know which place needed to be rubbed. Almost unbeknown to me, I started to look through any new videos for the upcoming Dragon Age 2 and the Witcher 2 as a reaction to this strange feeling. It wasn't until a day ago that I realized that I hadn't played an RPG for about a month. It was then that I figured out what had been bothering me. I being bothered because I didn't feel important enough.

Before I continue, I would clarify that this feeling didn't apply to my IRL life. Rather, I missed being important in a video game setting, specifically, RPG's. I missed the feeling of knowing that the fate of the world rested on my choices. I missed the feeling of power and authority at being able to help people. I missed the feeling of being an integral part of many people's lives such as the Warden in Dragon Age. In that game, your choices can dramatically alter your party members' outlooks on life, from being whiny and joking to being responsible and dependable. To sum it up, I missed feeling like the most important person on earth.

When I came to this realization, I was kind of freaked out. It just seemed to self centered, border line narcissistic. I began chastising myself on allowing myself to develop such a pathetic need. I didn't like the thought that I had become accustomed to being able to change people's lives and change the course of history. This might be getting WAY too serious, but some of the most infamous people on earth also believed that changing people's lives and the course of the world was something that they not only needed to do but were entitled to do. Obviously, I don't believe myself to be capable of doing such extreme acts of cruelty that could be on par with histories worst people. I'm trying my best not to sound ridiculous here, I just want to get across that what I saw developing in me, I saw it as being bad. After some more thought, however, I began to put myself at ease.

In video games, the player is often given the role of someone who is absolutely pivotal to the game world and also has the power to change the course of people's lives. I think that deep down, many of us wish for such power. Why else do people work for money, do well in school, try to get ahead in life? This might be extremely cynical of me but I think, to some degree, it is to gain some more control over our own lives and the world around us. If gaining control over our own lives and the world around us is the goal, then what would be the next goal if we did gain absolute control over our lives? It seems like the answer to that would be control of other people's lives. This desire to control could either be put to good like improving someone's living conditions or it could be put towards completely selfish reasons like enslavement. I think that videogames allow us to experience the feeling of not only being able to control our lives but the lives of those around us and that this feeling is something that I grew to greatly enjoy.

Now that I've figured out what it was that's been bothering, I think that I'll be able to enjoy games with a new level of self consciousness.   read

7:44 PM on 01.13.2011

Preorder dlc: bonus or bogus?

First off, please excuse me for such a terrible title. It was too cute not to put up.

I found out over the past couple days that Dragon Age would be getting another slew of DLC on launch. Some of it you get by preordering at participating retailers (there hasn't been a list of who those retailers are so far as I know) and some you get for simply buying the game new. I really like day one DLC that the player can get at no extra cost. A lot of the time, the DLC in question is something cool like the cupid themed guitar that came with Brutal Legend or just a nice looking piece of armor or a mid-tier weapon. The items being given away with Dragon Age, however, caught my eye because Bioware specifically said that they are epic-tier weapons and items. In other words, they should rank as some of the most powerful items in the game. At first, I was excited at the prospect of being given epic items just for buying the game new. After some thought, however, I wondered whether I was getting juked or not. If a game maker creates content that is meant to be a "bonus" on release date, is it really a bonus at all? Shouldn't it have been on the disc? How are we, as consumers, supposed to tell when we are being given content that really does count as a bonus or content that was just set aside to be used as DLC?

The way I see it, bonus content can be considered as a bonus when their absence from the game does not create any kind of hole in the gameplay or plot and can only be counted as a bonus if they offer something unique that adds to gameplay or plot. So, for example, let's use Shale who was a bonus character for those who bought Dragon Age: Origins new. Shale's questlines are all about digging up his past and trying to find out how he got created. While the story is quite entertaining and emotionally charged, it's absence would not have a great impact on the main plot line. There would be no gaping holes in either the gameplay or the story if Shale was left out of the game. As such, I consider Shale to be a bonus. Now, let us look out the preorder DLC that is coming with Dragon Age 2.

We get a hound, a mirror that let's our reset your faces, a sword and shield, and access to a shop full of high end weapons, armor, and gear. This shop also has quests and secrets attached to it. Which of these items/ places would create a dissonance if they were left out of the game? For me, it is the shop. It is one thing to include one or two good items with a game if you buy it new. It is another thing entirely to hold a shop full of end-game tier items separate to certain players. Gear is fundamental to many RPG's. They are what all those number and thrown dice revolve around. Better or worse gear can completely change a player's strategy by expanding or limiting what a player is capable of doing in the midst of battle. For these reasons, I feel that the Black Emporium shop should not have been used as a bonus but be included in all copies of the game.

Now, some people might say to me, "How does anything you are saying matter at all? Most of these bonuses are meant to deter people from buying the game second hand. There's nothing wrong with the game developers wanting to try and cut down on lost moneys due to companies like Gamestop or Play N Trade so quit your whining and buy the game new." I would respond that whoever said those words are completely correct and that I do plan to buy the game new. What concerns me is not that I must buy the game new and/ or preorder to gain bonus content. Rather, it is that companies like Bioware seem to be using more and more elaborate pieces of bonus DLC in their preorder programs. This concerns me because how are we, the consumers, supposed to know that this piece for bonus content is, indeed, a bonus? What separates content that is truly a bonus and content that was simply set aside to be used as DLC? I am asking the same questions that I asked at the beginning of this train of thought. The reason for that is because I really don't know how to answer these questions. While they aren't questions that keep me up at night, they do hint at a future of gaming that is heavily tied into preordering games and buying new copies not because you get cool bonus items, but rather, because you are afraid of missing out on something that others might have. That is sickening to me. I don't want to be motivated to preorder a game just to get a shiny sword. I want to be motivated to preorder a game because I truly want the game to succeed and want to do my part by preordering.

Imagine this. The Fire Flower! This flame imbued piece of floral wrath grants Mario the ability to hurl flames at his enemies. Decimate your foes from afar by preordering are your nearest *******.

Biggoron Sword! Gain access to an epic quest of delivery as you make your way across all of Hyrule in your quest for this powerful and unique blade. Only available through preorder.

Mega Buster Over Charge! Equipped with the ability to store energy instead of firing it, the Mega Buster Over Charge gives Mega Man a whole new level of depth in his combat tactics. Hold for power, or fire for speed? You decide! Preorder now.

What separates content between being a bonus and being something that should have already been on the disk? Can you finish the Mario without the fire flower? Yes. Is it right to withhold it just because you can? No. Same goes for the Biggoron Sword and the Mega Buster's charge. Will taking these items out of the game keep you from finishing the game? Obviously not. But that doesn't mean that they should be withheld as "bonus" content.   read

9:41 PM on 01.12.2011

I really like it when games give me blue balls


I played two games this year that tricked me into thinking that the game was going to end but then carried on to the true ending. For some reason, I find this immensely pleasurable. The games that tickled me bawls (guarana drink) were Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker and Bayonetta.

The "last boss" in MGS Peace walker is, surprise surprise, Peace Walker. Peace Walker both follows the MGS tradition of "walking tank" bosses, but also injects injects freshness into these fights by having Peace Walker not only have a walking-tank form,but also give it a high speed four legged sprint form and a large variety of weapons that really keep you on your tows. Add to that the boss also moves through different movement patterns, that forces you to change tactics on the fly. It can walk behind a barrier of warehouses making it difficult to fire at it. It can power up for a high speed body check that is difficult to dodge given the immense size of Peace Walker. When in it's normal, "walking" mode, Peace Walker is still unpredictable because it moves a la monster hunter style in that it seems to be alive without following a specific set of canned movement patterns. The boss's huge arsenal of weapons and varied methods of movement coupled with it's insane amount of health makes Peace Walker the best end boss I have ever fought: it took me 40 minutes to finally defeat it.

Metal Ge- er, I mean, Peace Walker?!

Even after you finally manage to take this behemoth of a boss down, the pacing of the story is still intense as you watch Snake try to convince the US government not to launch nukes at Russia (Peace Walker was broadcasting false signals that made the US think that Russia was attacking them with nukes). Survival of an entire country is at stake if not the entire world. When the game reached it's highly emotional climax, I felt fully satisfied. The part where Snake finally accepts his title as Big Boss still sends chills down my spine. But wait... there are more missions to play? Awesome! I kept playing these missions which had me hunting down an escaped prisoner over and over again and, to make things brief, ended with ANOTHER WALKING TANK BATTLE. This boss battle surprised me to no end: I thought that that 40 minute boss fight with Peace Walker was more than enough to close the game on, but then the game just went and threw me another walking tank battle. This battle even keeps the player's emotions engaged by making the pilot of this walking tank (Metal Gear ZEKE) someone that you thought you could have trusted throughout the entirety of the game. For some reason, I found this turn of events immensely enjoyable. Maybe it's because I got to play more of an awesome game, or maybe it's because of some kind of unconscious desire that yearns to be led on and led on and led on without a true climax. Whatever it is, though, I found the two endings of MGS: Peace Walker to be the most intense and enjoyable experiences I have had in gaming to date.

Bayonetta's end boss is also extremely epic. You fight Jubileus, the creator of the universe. The scale of this fight is like none I've ever experienced. You fight in a gigantic orb that separates you from the cold vacuum of space. It was an interesting feeling to fight in this manner because the same thing that is keeping you alive also traps you with a god of creation that is really pissed off at being woken up. As the fight progresses, the boss changes the orb that you both reside in by first turning everything around you into an inferno of magma, then into an arctic hell, then into a gigantic raging storm with plenty of tornadoes thrown in. The ever changing and chaotic nature of the environment makes the boss fight truly exhilarating. After whittling down the bosses health to nothing, Bayonetta summons her own god which looks a lot like Jubileus except made of hair and easily hundreds of times Jubileus's size. Your god gives it's fist a kiss and it punches Jubileus's soul into the sun. After that, we see Bayonetta stuck on the remnants of the boss's body, completely exhausted, as it enters the atmosphere and begins to burn. The credit roll and sad music plays. At this point in the game, I thought that Bayonetta was dead for sure. I mean, the credits are rolling, that usually means the end of a game, right? Well, not in this case. Jeanne (your rival) comes to your rescue and literally stomps the credits out of the screen. After a bit of banter, you both begin to pummel the falling remnant of Jubileus and the game goes on to it's true ending and end credits. Again, I have no idea why I find this teasing style of ending a game so enjoyable. When Jeanne came and stamped out the credits, I felt a surge of exhilaration and braced myself for more Bayonetta. Although I wish that more games played out like this, I also fear that if every game ended in this manner, it would take away the novelty of it.

If you wanted to see some of the ending for yourself

Some questions to the reader: Any other games you know that play out like this? Do you like this kind of ending or does it feel cheap to you?   read

3:28 PM on 01.10.2011

Response to Bayonetta being a souless shell

Reading through the comments in the article that Mr. Holmes wrote on Kamiyama's views towards women ( brings to light 2 disparate views on the Bayonetta character. In one camp, there is the thought that Bayonetta is nothing but an over sexualized toy, used to obtain the money of guy gamers. The other camp believes that it is because of this dominating sexuality that makes Bayonetta a self conscious parody of sexualized video game women. I think that these to camps of thought are fascinating because they seem to be separated by a thin line. This line would be the question: is the sexualization of Bayonetta just stupid sexyness or is this same sexualization so intense that it transcends "souless sexy shell" and into the realm of character archetype parody? I firmly believe that Bayonetta is able to place it self into the category of parody and I hope that my examples will convince you of the same.

Bayonetta and the Pussycat Dolls are alike because they both make use of intense sexualization. The difference between their approaches to this sexualization, however, is what sets them apart. The Pussycat Dolls' form of sexualization does it's best to empower the members of the group but ultimately fails because sex is both the tool and the goal. When I watched Pussycat videos I thought that the were being very sexy but to what end? It seemed like they were strutting their stuff and showing off in order to become more empowered so that they could... strut their stuff and show off more. Here lies the fatal flaw in the Pussycat Dolls approach to "sexuality = empowered". When the tool (sex) is also the goal (more sex), it makes the Pussycat Dolls ultimately fail at empowering women because, in the end, they are still doing one thing and one thing only: pleasing men. This is important. No matter how hard the Pussycat Dolls try, no matter how "empowered" they become, they are still just wank material for men. Bayonetta does the opposite.

Sex is, indeed, a tool that Bayonetta uses. However, unlike the Dolls, sex is NOT the goal. Instead of using her sexuality as a means to further pleasure us guys a la Doll's style, Bayonetta uses her sexuality as an implement of killing. Her goal is not to strut her stuff and show off. Her goal is to obtain dominance over her enemies. Here lies the fundamental difference between Bayonetta and the Pussycat Dolls. Instead of having to be sexy in order to be more sexy and thus ultimately falling prey to the whims of men, Bayonetta uses being sexy in order to obtain dominance. This fundamental difference between having to and using is why Bayonetta is able to transcend mere "plaything" label and catapult herself in the realm of clever character archetype parody.


Bayonetta also differs from your usual over sexualized gaming women on an artistic level. Look at the character design for Chun Li. She is the strongest women on earth yet when she wins a match, she breaks out into her "yatta!" little-girly-speauling routine. This is purposely done to soften her character so that the men who are playing her can still feel sexually superior to Chun Li by way of softening her character. In the back of men's minds, Chun Li is just a perky little girl who happens to be really good at fighting, not the other way around. Now look at Bayonetta. There is absolutely nothing about her that is even remotely close to being submissive. Her personality is dominant, her fighting abilities are dominant, and, more importantly, her sexuality is dominant. Bayonetta is not softened at all and instead of trying to make her sexually acceptable to men, she is, in fact, sexually intimidating. Can you believe that? A video game female that actually makes the male player feel small and insignificant in bed. Sure, Bayonetta wants sex. But are you the one to give it to her? No way in hell, you're not. This complete sexual dominance over the player is also why Bayonetta transcends the shackles of sexy video game women. Instead of being really sexy and stopping at a point where men still feel in control, Bayonetta says "Oh, you like sexy women in your games? Well how about this much more, then? And more? And more? And more?! And MORE?!?! AND MORE?!?!?! AND MOAR?!?!?!??!?!". In other words, she gives male players exactly what they want, sexy women in game, BUT she gives them so much that they are completely dominated by her onslaught of sexual power. Also, remember that, unlike the Pussycat Dolls, giving the player sexual pleasure is NOT her goal. As was said above, her sexuality is a tool and unlike the Pussycat Dolls having to use their sexuality in order to gain enough empowerment to still do nothing but use their sexuality, Bayonetta uses her sexuality to obtain a different goal which is domination over her enemies.

I hope that this bit of writing has clearly expressed my views as to why I think that Bayonetta does not stop at just being sexy and, instead, breaks through to a new realm of sexually dominating and sexually intimidating video game women who also parody the archetype of sexy video game women.

Note: I will post a link to the Game Overthink'ers video later but for now, is not accessible.   read

11:16 PM on 12.15.2010

A game of 2010 that isn't gonna win any awards, sadly, Yakuza 3

I've been thinking back on the past year and the games that got released during that time. There have been some heavy HEAVY hitters like Mass Effect 2 and Uncharted 2. I noticed, however, that the games that I enjoyed the most were not the highest profile games, but rather, the ones that probably won't win any awards though not because they lack quality. Bayonetta is one of them along with Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale and, of course, Yakuza 3. Living in Canada, it was amazingly refreshing to play a game so steeped in Asian culture. Also, this game made me feel hella manly, like, punch a tiger with my fists of rage angry. Oh wait...

4:00 is the tiger punch. This is Yakuza 2 on the PS2

There were a lot of elements of this game that spoke to me on a personal level, mostly because I'm Asian. I sometimes feel a little bit removed from my heritage what with being raised in Canada. This game allowed me to feel like I got a little bit closer to Asia. The details are everywhere in Yakuza 3. If you've ever been to Japan, specifically Kamurocho, then you can tell that this game emulates the crowded, dirty, and yet oddly ordered Japanese atmosphere perfectly. Being orderly even amidst a congested environment is Japanese culture to it's very core, imo. That's why you see some of the cleanest, most well organized homeless people in Japan, with their cardboard houses and shelters. This comes across in Yakuza 3. Everything is tightly packed into the environment but you still get a feeling of order in the level layout of the game.

The story in this game is so typical of Asian gangster movies like Hard Boiled that it transcends being corny and barges it's way into clever commentary. You've got the old (but not "old" old!) dragon personifying ex-Yakuza member, Kazuma Kiryu, who just wants to live a peaceful life. HOWEVER, the Yakuza world just keeps on dragging him back in. You've also got the young upstart who thinks that he can handle anything. Rikiya is his name and being tough is his game. He's also from a little island community which makes his naivety all the more believable. These two guys are embody done to death Asian gangster movie tropes, but their presentation makes them seem larger than life, often due to excellent facial animations and camera direction that really highlight what a particular scene is trying to convey. Like these ones.


As you can see, the camera often centers the character in the shot, almost making them take up the entirety of the screen. When it isn't focusing on the characters, it is often panning out to show an impressive seen. These are staples of Asian film direction which work beautifully in Yakuza 3.

The combat in Yakuza is arcadey. Your not going to find super precise and slick combat like in Bayonetta. You'll sometimes miss your attacks, when you do a counter enemies "jump" into your attack, and just odd things will happen like getting caught in multiple enemies attacks that bounce you around every which way. These moments can make combat in Yakuza 3 frustrating but they are far out weighed by the plethora of awesome moves that you can do. Instead of trying to describe these moves, I'll just post another video.

Please excuse the ad, it'll be worth it to see these moves, trust me.

Being able to pull of such insanely painful looking moves and dominate your foes makes Yakuza 3 make you feel like you could actually pull shit like this off in a fight. The moves are not so over the top that they are completely unbelievable which makes them seem all the more painful. This is because we can all imagine what if must feel like to take a baseball bat in the shin. It would hurt like hell. Being decapitated by a sniper rifle from, say, Gears of War is much harder to quantify, at least of me. Thus, the violence in Yakuza 3 is effective because of it's solid basis in real life.

A bit of Asian culture that I've noticed when playing Yakuza 3: combat is almost all melee based. This isn't GTA. You won't be going around offing people in cold blood. You can't kill random citizens and you can't rob people. You're playing the good guy. Instead, fights feel much more personal in Yakuza 3 than any of the fire fights in GTA. Your not shooting them from a distance away with you assault rifle. Instead, you are beating them down with the strength of your body alone, no guns to get in the way of a good old fashioned ass whoopin'. Combat feels all the more satisfying in Yakuza 3 because the camera work is done in a way that you can actually see the pain appear on your opponents faces or the shock that they experience at being picked up and thrown against a utility pole. This level of gritty, up lose and personal combat is what makes Yakuza 3 such a thrill to play, to feel like you are the baddest badass on the street not because you just bought yourself body armor and some guns, but because you don't need that stuff to take guys out. All you need is your fists and some Heat meter.

Last point of interest. There is a ton of walking that your going to have to do in this game. No cars are available to you except in the form of taxis. I think that this heavy emphasis on walking is brilliant game design because it forces you to mingle with the many characters that appear on screen. Congestion is a major part of Japanese life, and forcing the player to wade through the masses is an amazingly smart way of giving them a taste of real life in Japan. You also don't need to worry about wasting time because you are stuck on foot, either. While you are limited to running, the size of the environments are not so large that it'll take you half an hour to make it from one side of the map to the other. The size of areas are made with your mobility in mind so getting to places on foot is not a chore at all.

One thing that I didn't like about the game, the portrayal of Chinese people. China-Japan relations have never really gotten to the point of "friendly" after WW2 what with Japanese war crimes which came out of the countries need for expansion via imperialism. In both countries, you see a lot of denouncing of each in the other country's media, often using a Japanese person as the villain in Chinese media like films and stuff or vice versa in Japan using a Chinese person as the villain (Shenmue). Yakuza 3 took things a step too far, though, imo. The main Chinese bad guy is presented with little to no redeeming qualities and is portrayed as an underhanded asshole. Also, he is dressed in stereo typical Chinese clothing, Qi Pao. It just stereo typed Chinese people too much and I felt a little bit offended when I played to that part.

Besides some personal gripes with the game, Yakuza 3 impressed me in almost every department, especially in it's nuanced presentation of Asian culture. The game gave me a taste of what Japanese culture is all about. Actually, my mom lived in Japan for a long time and when she watched me playing the game, she pointed out that old ladies selling stuff in the game looked exactly like the old ladies that she used to see when she went down to the fish market in Japan. So anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this game and am sad to see that it isn't going to get any recognition over here in the west.   read

2:48 AM on 12.14.2010

A question to the community: What makes Uncharted 2 great?

I wasn't sure if I should post a question like this just to satisfy my curiosity. From what I understand, blogs are supposed to be well thought out contributions to the site. Still, this is probably the best community to ask my questions without being met with a backlash of angry flames.

I just want to make it clear that I'm not trying, in any way, to bash the Uncharted series. Instead, I would like to ask what makes the game so loved by so many and my own thoughts on why the game is just "meh" to me.

1) The shooting: When I played through the game, the shooting didn't feel all that special to me. It was point and shoot mechanics with cover based tactics. Nothing really new from what I see. The shooting was indeed tight, aiming and firing felt good, just not mindblowingly good. I understand that the ability to climb obstacles and gain different vantage points on enemies is something new in this game, but trying to climb a building with to get to a good sniping position when your enemies know where you are usually got me killed or heavily wounded.

2) The writing: I never really got attached to any of the characters. That part is completely subjective so there's not much to talk about on that point but something that I didn't like about the writing is that conversations constantly set Drake up to say something smart to the point of making everyone else look dumb. Eg:

They find a map:

Sully: Look like we've got a map.

Drake: Let me take a look at that... it says that "the fires form the Himalayas point to the true path"

Sully: Well what the hell does that mean?

Drake: Don't you see?! The Himalaya's is where we're we've gotta go!

It seemed like every time the characters found some kind of clue, they required Drake to explain it to them even when the answer was obvious.

3) The platforming: It's not challenging but then again, I guess that the point of the platforming is to show off the grand vistas which it does a good job at. However, I found myself sometimes unsure as to which direction to leap in once in awhile and sometimes jumping to my death.

4) THOSE DAMNED G'NADES!!!!!: Ok, this is one point I'm gonna rant on. Why is it that enemies chuck grenades with impeccable precision? The don't throw the grenade so that it lands in front of your cover, oh no. Those freakin' pineapples land RIGHT ON TOP OF MY COVER INCHES FROM MY FACE. So naturally, I need to vacate my safe spot so that I don't get blown to shit. But if I do that, enemies will cut me down, especially if a close range shotgun wielding enemy happens to be close by. So whenever a grenade lands, I'm forced to dash away from it and run around like an idiot for awhile, waiting for it to go off, and then get back into cover. I have an aching suspicion that there is some kind if "throw grenade back at enemies" command that I never noticed. If so, then please excuse me.

So to summarize, I found the core elements of Uncharted 2 to be plain and simple when playing. Those elements are: the shooting, the writing, and the platforming. Nothing wrong with the game, as I said, I'm not out to bash Uncharted 2. It just didn't hook me as being "50 perfect scores" amazing. So anyway, I was wondering if some people could share with me what makes Uncharted 2 great since I would really like to understand the general consensus.   read

7:28 PM on 12.08.2010

Thoughts after playing The Witcher: Enhanced Edition

So I finally picked this game up over Steam. Going into The Witcher, I thought that this game took a different approach to RPG narrative and gameplay than other recent RPG's that aimed to be traditional such as Dragon Age. I think that I was right; The Witcher not only plays differently but the whole tone of the game feels very refreshing.

Sorty telling is a whole different affair from games like Mass Effect.. In a lot of western RPG's the game throws a lot of decisions at you but you don't ever really get to see them play out. Instead, you have to wait several years for the next game to come out and even then, you find that the decisions you made a only superficial or are not addressed at all. In The Witcher, major decisions that you make drastically change which characters you meet, who you are friendly with, and who is alive or dead. The Witcher seems to be made with a lot more thought put toward player satisfaction since the game shows you exactly what consequences your actions create by changing the story as you play instead of just throwing a bunch of choices at you and then making you wait for the next game to see them play out.

The tone of the game feels much more mature than other RPG's I've played such as Dragon Age. When I say mature, I don't mean the large numbers of sexual encounters that Geralt can participate in or that the game features quests that contain mature themes like incest but rather the way that these mature elements of the game are handled. In Mass Effect, sex was treated like the ultimate pinnacle in a relationship which is unrealistic and insulting to the player's intelligence. In The Witcher, sex is just something that people do and enjoy. You can have sex with a large number of people without having to court them throughout the entire length of the game. This change of pace when it comes to romance makes me believe that the games attitude to mature themes is a well rounded one. Instead of focusing a romantic engagement into the one moment of sex like in Mass Effect, The Witcher deals with sex as if it was banal or common. This difference in treatment of sex makes the game feel like it is much more able to handle it's mature themes without getting wrapped up in trying to make sex a big deal. For example, picture a grade schooler talking to his friends about porn and they are all snickering and acting uncomfortable. That's what I feel games like Mass Effect do when compared to The Witcher. Mass Effect is not as bad as grade schoolers. In fact, it does a pretty admirable job of creating a playable relationship. It's just that when compared to The Witcher, it feels like The Witcher is the grown up who treats sex as just something that people do instead of putting all their attention on it, a la grade schooler style.

I think that the character class that you play in The Witcher is quite unlike any others that I have played in recent RPG's. Most RPG's have three distinct classes and their iterations: the warrior, the rogue, and the mage. In The Witcher, gameplay feels like a mixture of all three. You have the abilities of a warrior in that you are proficient with melee weapons and thus can use brute force if you choose to. You are also like a rogue in that your attacks are fast and agile and you can switch styles on the go to fit the situation. Finally, you have access to five different magical spells to further add to your combat repertoire. At the same time, though, Geralt is not a master of any of the three classes. He can't, for example, grab a shield and tank or pick up a two handed weapon and one hit kill enemies. He can't go invisible and stun lock someone and then proceed to crit them to death. Nor are his spells complex or have nuclear level capabilities. Still, The Witcher's mix of the usual three RPG classes makes a truly unique class, The Witcher, which feels completely unique and refreshing. Alchemy further adds to this class.

The Witcher's ability to create potions, oils, and bombs is the final piece of gameplay that makes Geralt truly stand out from your usual RPG classes. In The Witcher, brewing potions and other helpful mixtures is vital to many fights. However, if you think that this game encourages crafting 100 health potions before a boss fight, then you would be mistaken. This is because the game includes another gameplay element, blood toxicity. Each potion you drink increases this green bar and if it fills up all the way, you're dead. Thus, the game encourages brewing and using potions that have an effect over time instead of "winging it" in fights by using whatever potions you want. Typically, if you go into a fight having already drunk your potions (for example, one that increases you vitality regeneration, one that allows you to see in the dark, and another that makes you immune to stun or knockdown) then you will often finish the fight relatively easily and with minimal damage. Attempt that same fight without preparing, however, and you'll be dead within seconds. This element of careful preparation before a fight changes up The Witcher's pace and makes the game feel very different from other RPG's. Instead of winning because you had an obvious level advantage or had stocked 100 health and mana potions, it becomes much more rewarding to know that you brewed your own custom made potions that buffed you up in a way that was tailored for that particular fight. In short, it makes you feel like professional monster slayer which is what you play as in The Witcher.

A weakness of this game is bad voice acting and lack of polish. Some textures, especially ones for buildings, lack detail. Also, character models are used over and over. You'll see the exact some model for a random villager in one part of the world used for another character that is key in the story, right down to the clothes that they wear. Characters also have very limited facial expression if any at all. By far, though, the biggest upset is the bad voice acting. Geralt's voice has a cool growling aspect to it, but he delivers his lines in a deadpan, monotone style. This is evident in many of the characters you meet which is disappointing. One of the worst examples of bad voice acting would be the character Dandelion. He is a famous bard who should be eloquent and have a marvelous singing voice along with a great range of expression in his voice. However, Dandelion's voice sounds like any other random NPC that you would meet, completely ill fitting to his character. The translation from Polish to English can also be wonky. Characters will say things that don't make sense when heard in the context of the conversation. It is evident that several details got lost in translation which is a pity since some great voice work and writing are crucial to narrative driven RPG's.

In summary, The Witcher stands out by being truly unique from a story telling aspect as well as catering to the hardcore audience by having deep and rewarding gameplay.   read

3:44 PM on 12.01.2010

Why Bayonetta is my character and game of the year

Guy gamers love it when they get treated to a sexy digital piece of ass. I may just be speaking for myself but I think that it’s a perfectly natural reaction to have your blood pump a bit faster when you are presented with a woman who is sculpted to be the object of your desire. But is the physical aspect the only thing that video game women have that makes them attractive? What about those other things that people have: personality, interests, thoughts, morals, souls. A lot of video game women lack these things. Now I don’t mean characters like Alex Vance and Elena Fisher. Those two and others show us that women in video game women can be more than just eye candy or princesses in castles. But those two lose something that the “sculpted” video game women have in abundance: raw sexual appeal. Please excuse me for saying this but I find it hard to take a video game female seriously when they are wearing armour that defeats the point of having armour or are walking around with double H size hoohas. It’s just too far removed from reality for me to truly believe that these women are more than just objects for my hormonal drive. So can video game women be both compelling and sexual? I thought that for them to be taken seriously, video game women would have to lose the thing that women have an innate greater control of over men, their sexuality. That is, until Bayonetta came along.

Bayonetta has sexuality in abundance. Every cutscene that she is in is oozing with sexual appeal, sometimes blatant like when she equips here trademark weapons, the Scarborough Fair, and sometimes sublime and simple like the tone of her voice or her movement as she walks. Now, some may ask “So what’s the difference between Bayonetta and, say, Lara Croft when it comes to sexuality? Both of them are created to get a rise out of male players. They are there to show off their bodies so that us strong men can enjoy them”. While it may be true that both Bayonetta and Lara are made to appeal to guys, there is an important difference in the ways that these two present themselves. Lara Croft does her flips, jumps, and other body presenting motions for your enjoyment. Bayonetta does it for her own. I think that this is an important distinction. Imagine, if you will, a stripper who is dancing for you because you have paid her to. In this example, the power is in your hands. But what if that stripper is dancing not because of the money but because she simply wants to? What if it makes her feel great to dance? This suggests that control and power over the situation lies not with whoever is forking up the money but with the performer themselves. It is not that they must perform because they need to. Rather, they (or in this case Bayonetta) does what she does because she loves doing it, and your just lucky that she wants to do it around you.

Another comparison to a video game woman: Kasumi. Kasumi has big boobs. She was pretty much to flag ship character for boob physics. For most gamer guys (i.e. me) big boobs= hurr hurr hurr purdy. Unfortunately, those boobs also completely dominate Kasumi’s personality. I mean, how many of us saw Kasumi and thought “Man, that must be an emotionally deep character. I should go onto the DoA wiki and check out her back story”. Ok, maybe some of us. For me, it was just, “Wow, those are some nice looking hoohas. I wish I wasn’t in public.” Also, take a good look at Kasumi’s expression.

Kinda vacant, isn’t it? Maybe even deer-in-the-head lights vacant. It doesn’t tell you anything about what she is thinking. It doesn’t even seem real, like just something that would be on a mannequin.
Bayonetta has pretty small boobs for a video game woman. I mean, they don’t shake and wiggle at the slightest touch of the control stick. WHAT BLASPHEMY IS THIS? I think that Bayonetta’s boobs are really important to the character. Having small (again, for a video game character) boobs is the first cue that this is not your regular boobs-over-character video game female. What do we look at after her boobs? Well, depending on if she is facing us or not, I would say her face. Studies have shown that men actually tend to look at a woman’s face first before the boobs because it gives men an instant clue as to if the women is receptive or not (lol, look at me using studies). And once I saw that face, that’s when I realized that Bayonetta is more than some digital body for me to drool over.

Her expressions speak volumes. Sometimes playful, sometimes receptive. Other times scathing and
oh so dangerous but you just always come back for more. Bayonetta’s face is a big part of what makes her a whole other breed of video game female. You can see the intent in her smile, the thoughts on her brow and the soul in her eyes. Next up, we have her hips. Obviously, she has one hell of a nice butt. Beyond that, though, I think that Bayonetta’s hips contribute a lot to her stance and that stance is what makes her so sexy to begin with. Bayonetta is able to convey emotion and intention with just her posture and much of that posture rests on those hips. I think that her hips and butt have obvious sexual appeal but their ability to create a strong pose at any times Bayonetta feels it is necessary is part of what makes her such a powerful character. At any time she wants she can put her hands on her hips, calk them just to the side and she instantly states what she thinks with her body. A lot better than vacant expressioned Kasumi, eh?

The gameplay of Bayonetta brilliantly emphasizes feminine power. The gameplay is able to achieve this by the use of Witch Time. Now, a lot of games have slo-mo in them. Mass Effect 2’s Soldier class, Max Payne, and Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time trilogy are but a few. But the difference between these uses and of slo mo and Bayonetta is implementation. In those game, you could use go into slo motion whenever you wanted as long as you weren’t out of sand, in cooldown, etc. In Bayonetta, you can only use slo mo when your being attacked. I think that this simple change in pace sets Bayonetta apart from other action games that, coincidentally, feature the manliest of men. God of War, for example. Gameplay in God of War often consists of hitting fast and hitting hard. Of course, for bosses you are supposed to counter attack a lot of them but that is beside the point. In God of War, you are supposed to utterly overpower and destroy your opponent. It is a test of one character’s strength against another. If you do not keep on the offensive, then you risk being overpowered by the enemies numbers. Thus, you must keep up a constant show of aggression. How very manly. In Bayonetta, if you try to play it God of War style, you’ll be dead very soon. This is because enemies take off a lot more of your health with each hit than in God of War and also their attacks often carry greater consequences like knocking you down for a time. This is why you must use Witch Time to succeed. Dodge the moment that your enemy attacks you and the world comes to a standstill, giving you precious few seconds to lay the hardest smackdown you can before the world starts back up. I think that this simple change does wonders to juxtapose Bayonetta’s femininity against Kratos’s overbearing manliness. Instead of going balls out and smashing your enemies beneath your boot, you wait for them to walk into your parlour. Instead of matching your strength with theirs, you let them put themselves in front of your barrels and capitalize on them when the time is right. I think that this difference is powerfully feminine. To not use brawn but rather grace and elegance to defeat the enemy is what makes Bayonetta’s gameplay so compelling and how it says so much about Bayonetta as a character.

Last point. Lara Croft and Kasumi’s sexuality are both sad affairs, imo. They are made to be sexual because whoever creates them knows that their hot figures are what draw guy gamers to them. This makes their sexuality submissive since it is made for our enjoyment. In stark contrast, Bayonetta’s sexuality is wielded like a weapon. Again, she is not doing what she does for our enjoyment. She does it because she loves to and it is this difference that makes her powerful. Often in the game, Bayonetta defeats her opponents with, literally, her sexuality. Summoning up the beasts of hell by sensually dancing is just one example of how she uses her sexuality as a weapon. I think that this differing use of sexuality makes Bayonetta unique in that, in a way, she is the one playing the game and the one who is in control, not the player. I feel this way because Bayonetta’s personality and her being is so powerfully commanding that it becomes the player who submits to her and plays the game just to be able to see more of her, instead of Kasumi or Lara Croft who are but dolls for guy gamers to play with.


Bayoneta showing of her moves. All credit goes to blaze and his expert play!   read

3:08 PM on 11.20.2010

Watching a grown man get the shit kicked out of him by a child

I decided to to get my snow tires put on today but when I went down to Canadian Tire they told me that they were booked up. Thinking that I should make the most of my trip, I went over to the nearby Best Buy to do some Christmas shopping. To my delight, there was a demonstration of Kinect set up and I watched something that I never thought I would see. A grown man getting the shit kicked out of him by a five year old in Kinect boxing.

It was David versus Goliath. I could tell that this man had some experience with boxing because his guard was up high instead of hanging about his mid section. The child had no guard up. As the match started, the man began to dip and swerve, throwing hooks, rights, and uppercuts. The child decided to channel the power of the Fist of the North Star. Arms flailing, feet kicking out to no discernible rhythm, this child unleashed a wave of rapid, snake-like strikes that overwhelmed and confused this grown man. In fact, when the man fell, it took him a moment to realize that it was his avatar lying on the ground, broken and defeated. He said "Wait, is that me?". Yes it was you, my friend. The man bravely got back up by punching the stars out of his avatar's vision, trying to shake off the mental anguish at being on the receiving end of a five year old's fury. Sadly, he didn't realize that he was already dead. Again, the child went into his crazed assault, not allowing any quarter even when the man was clearly out of range of his punches. To an untrained eye the child's technique may have been called "cheap" but I could see the brilliance in this little behemoth's onslaught. You see, while his wave of tiny fists lacked power, they made up for in sheer numbers and variety. The child even used his feet to amazing effect, kicking them out and withdrawing them so fast that it seemed as if they were the spasms of a dieing snake. This was an obvious psychological attack. His kicks served no purpose when it came to offense but the simple fact that he was using KICKS in a BOXING match threw his assailant into confusion. Glorious. What came next was inevitable. The man fell once again, then another time. TKO was announced. The man left the stage defeated, his mind and body shattered. I would have offered him my help but I dared not incite the wrath of what was obviously the reincarnation of Kenshiro who stood triumphant in front of me. As the replay started, I witnessed the boxing match again in slow motion which only served to make the losing avatar's pain all the more obvious. The child's avatars fists were so blindingly fast that even in slow motion they were difficult to make out and his feet once again showed their amazing psychological assault upon the victim's mind. Picture four jackhammers jury rigged onto a steel girder with each jackhammer working as a human limb. That was what this avatar looked like, a four pointed device of pain.

Another brave soul (who was also fully grown) challenged the child to a "friendly" game of volleyball. He lost 7-1. Nuff' said.

My own turn playing Kinect was thankfully not against this child-demon-warrior-king, but against one of the staff. I have to say, Kinect is surprisingly impressive. My time spent with Wii boxing was what I used to compare to Kinect and I have to say that Microsoft did a great job when it comes to actually making Kinect work as advertised. When I was playing Wii boxing, I could never get down the proper way to move my body so that my punches were registering. It felt like I was supposed to make certain movements that would then serve as a button to activate a type of punch, rather than a one to one representation of what I wanted to do. With Kinect, each punch I threw was represented on screen down to even the speed of the punch. What was more impressive was that the heavier the punch I threw, the more damage it would do when it connected. After I discovered this, I began to use my hip to get the most power I could out of an attack and when one of my "power" attacks hit my opponent, it took off an appropriate amount of health. It was a very satisfying experience, to immediately be able to pick up and play Kinect boxing with little to no learning curve and to discover deeper mechanics as I played. When I threw a punch at the head, that was what my avatar did, when I aimed at the mid section, that was where I hit. Kinect really does work, at least in boxing. I came away the victor in my match and was quietly satisfied that I had beaten one of the staff.

All in all, a pretty cool experience that came from needing to get snow tires.   read

9:58 PM on 11.15.2010

Calling things gay: What the... I don't even...

I'll just start this off by saying that this blog won't be too gaming related. No, I'm not going to be bashing the uber macho ten year olds who pervade Xbox Live, although my train of thought did begin with them. No, this essay has more to do with everyday observation.

What does it mean to call something gay? When I was in high school, I called things gay all the time. If I thought that a test was hard, it was gay. If a teacher was being unfair then he would be gay. If the vending machine took my money but failed to give me what I wanted it would be gay. Anything or situation that was detrimental to me in anyway would immediately be labeled as gay. But what was I saying? That the test that I failed liked to have sex with other tests of the same sex? How does that even make any sense? These thoughts occurred to me in my highschool days but I never payed them too much heed because calling things gay was just so easy, the word fit so many situations and with this ready made adjective that fit any and all bad situations, I could turn off my brain and just say "That's really gay." I didn't need to analyze the situation, to find the root of what was bothering me, nope, just call the whole thing gay and continue on without any sense of hindsight. A group counseling session held in PE changed my mind.

At this session, the counselor asked us all a question: "How would you feel if everybody in the school, instead of calling things "gay", called them whatever race or ethnicity you are?". My first reaction was at how ridiculous that would be. Why would be people call things Asian (in my case). How is calling something Asian a good descriptor of the situation of thing being bad? Not only that, it would be offensive to all Asian people because then you would be insinuating that simply being Asian was a horrible thing and thus calling something Asian would fit perfectly since horrible things deserve horrible names.That was my immediate reaction. Then came the inevitable wave of realization. "My God..." I thought. How horrible would it be to be if you where walking around school and constantly hear things like:

"Seriously? That teacher is so fucking Caucasian."

"That test I took back there was so Black."

"I've never heard of anything that Asian."

"Fucking Hispanic."

If people were constantly using my race was a derogatory term for anything and everything they find repulsive or otherwise unacceptable, I would be mortified. My life would be one big reminder that I am a horrible person for simply being the way I am and I would not be able to say anything against the status quo because I am few and the few are always victimized. I think I finally understood just a little bit about how stupid it was for me to call things gay. I had never thought about the damage I would be doing to the secretly gay guy or girl beside me by bashing them indirectly.

I decided to stop using gay as a term of hatred after high school. Sometimes, when I am talking, I stop in my speech as I search for words that would describe a situation where I would have used "gay". It's actually harder than it sounds, using words when you are so used to using "gay" as a one size fits all insult. I think it's worth it, though, if not for those around me then for myself.   read

2:43 AM on 11.15.2010

The music of MGS and how it moves me

I've had this idea in my head for a couple of weeks now to write about one of my most beloved pieces of music, the MGS theme. The problem is, I'm not sure how to quantify my feelings in relation to a piece of music. I can't talk about the mixture of harmonies and how certain notes combine with others to make me feel a certain emotion because I lack this knowledge. Still, I want to get the amazing feeling that I get from listening to the MGS theme down in writing so I'll just try to use descriptive writing to the best of my abilities. For the purposes of this essay, I will be using the piece "Metal Gear Saga".

A lot of Metal Gear has to do with persistence. Snakes, be them Naked, Solid, Liquid, or Solidus, always seem to be very hard to kill in the games they appear in and all of them rage against their obstacles time and time again before either finally overcoming or succumbing to death. Even in death, though, the snakes still persist as is seen in the persona of Liquid Ocelot, an amalgamation of Revolver Ocelot and Liquid Snake, and Naked Snake, who even in death moves the world with his past actions and his unshakable will. This theme of persistence seems to be at the forefront in "Metal Gear Saga". When listening to this piece, I couldn't help but notice that the theme of Metal Gear was being played quite prominently. In fact, most of the song is made up of the MGS theme. The theme also goes through different stages, first beginning with a rousing score that grabs your attention. This part of the song makes me think about all the high-lights of the MGS series, all of the snakes' most triumphant moments such as then Solid Snake uppercuts Liquid Snake off of Metal Gear Rex or when he engages Psycho Mantis and negates Mantis's mind control. This part of the song makes me think of how Snake is always unbeatable. The next part, though, reminds me that though he will always complete his mission, he is nto immune to pain and torment.

The song moves onto a guitar version of the theme. This part of the song seems to be meant to evoke a sense of melancholy that stands in contrast to the previous orchestrated version of the theme. It is almost like the many instances when the Snakes are faced with great pain and sadness such as when Boss broke Naked Snakes arm at the elbow and threw him into a river or when Solid Snake was withstanding electrical torture on Shadow Moses Island. The strings version of the theme makes me remember these instances because the strings echo, making me feel alone and exposed which I hazard to guess the Snakes might have felt in their times of utmost pain. The strings, however, are quickly replaced by the brass, the trumpet to be precise. The trumpet version of the theme brings with it a whole other tone.

While the strings where lonely, the trumpet's clear and stalwart sound makes me remember that the Snakes always persist, no matter what. Just like when Solid Snake slowly crawled through a corridor saturated by microwaves as his friends fought off certain death, he persists. The trumpet makes me think of these times, the times when the snakes continue on even when every fiber of their being is telling them not to. This is because the sound of the trumpet is so clear and the tone is so fresh that it simply cannot be ignored, much like Snake's missions. These missions cannot be ignored for the fate of many rest within Snake's hands and failure to complete the mission is simply not an option. So like the unignorable sound of the trumpet, the snakes also never ignore their mission and carry it through regardless of any pains that came before, like the haunting strings that came earlier in the song.

Phew, that's my attempt at trying to describe what I feel when I listen to a song. I hope other people also feel deeply moved and awed when listening to the MGS theme. Please, if anyone has any suggestions on how to describe music, clue me in. And remember... you're always better than you think you are. In fact... you're pretty good.

Added link to song:

[embed]187790:34105[/embed]   read

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