This is a two parter Valentine Day Special. Check out my Lovey Dovey article over at the Japanator C-Blogs.
With Valentineís day on the Horizon, I thought I talk about my experience of Love in Video Games. It is not new for games to have a romantic sub plot or if they are feeling especially brave, to base their whole mechanic around falling in love. It doesnít matter if its fantasy worlds on a quest to slay evil or inter galactic politics, video games still have time to play match maker with our characters and a limited number of NPCs. Tifa Lockheart, Alyx Vance or Samus Aran are to name a few famous gamer sweet hearts but Iím here to talk about an unorthodox flame.
Resident Evil 4 is a top notch game. Revolutionary in itís game mechanics and adored by gamers everywhere. Resident Evil 4 even provides for both sexes in the fan service department by re-introducing the Asian Beauty Ada Wong and Emo-Pretty Boy Leon S. Kennedy. But the lady that caught my eye was Ashley Graham.
A simple google image search of this name and people can see that she is no slouch in the looks department. Young, blonde, subtle fashion choices and ďarmed with ballisticsĒ she is the epitome of the American Girl Next Door. Her fiery temper and constant shrieking for help may have turned gamerís towards Ada Wong but itís Ashleyís role in Resident Evil 4 is what enticed me.
To me, Resident Evil 4 biggest strengths was creating an extremely hostile and isolating world. There was danger around every corner and the only friendly face was a hooded merchant that mysteriously appeared from time to time. I was alone.
And then along came Ashley. Rescuing Ashley and having her tag along in game should have been the death penalty of this game; turning it from survival action to prolonged escort mission. It should have caused me to HATE Ashley for ruining my enjoyment by being a constant thorn in my side. But it did the opposite. Having Ashley by my side made the world slightly less isolating but retaining the vulnerability of survival. She added support emotionally by cheering when I made a good shot but still being something I needed to think about and protect.
Resident Evil 4 does a great job when it comes to Ashley being a bearable escort. Escorts are typically dumb, annoying and get in the way of the gameplay. Ashley takes a back seat and lets you get on with the combat while she hides in the dumpster. This says two things about her character. She is smart enough to know Leon will get her out of Spain safe if she follows his orders and isnít stubborn to argue about hiding in a garbage dump. It goes against the stereotypical affluent American blonde by making her competent and a more likeable.
When she was captured and the infamous ďLEON HELP!Ē scream rattled through the speakers, my heart skipped. Losing Ashley and being left alone in rural Spain is a thought that seemed like hell to me thus giving me an external incentive to rescue her. The game wants me to rescue Ashley because itís Leonís mission but I want to rescue Ashley because I donít want to be alone again.
The great part of this virtual love is that Resident Evil 4 did not intend for this type of relationship to form. Games like Persona that have a romantic element feel a lot faker. They give you a select number of romanceable characters and have you jump through hoops to attend their affections. This is flawed when translating Love into Code. In real life, Love isnít limited to a certain number of people nor about talking to them everyday and making context sensitive choices. Making it play in this binary fashion diminishes the effect of Love.
Resident Evil 4 in an indirect way made me feel for Ashley thus being a more organic representation of Love.
To this day I have never finished Resident Evil 4 because I was too afraid of facing that Regenerator†but when discussing Romances in Video Games I couldnít think of one character I felt for. Attractive NPCs are a dime a dozen, apart from being attracted to their virtual assets there is not much else. They were always characters falling in love with the player character or vice versa but the player isnít part of that equation. I was the omnipresent third wheel playing match maker or seeing it all unravel before me. But then I thought of Ashley and how she made playing Resident Evil 4 slightly better.
Sometimes Love does come in the most unexpected of places
Katawa Shojo roughly translates to "disabled girls" from the Japanese Language and has it's birth place in the seedy underbellies of 4Chan. Now don't jump to conclusions when I say you need to play this game! It's not the product of the worst scum of the Internet nor full of distasteful images and words that make you hate the human race. No, in fact it's quite the opposite.
If you have ever seen a slice of life anime based in a high school or played one the many MANY†MANY†dating sims out there then you'll be familiar with the premise of new boy in school gets his choice of girl to befriend and eventually have sex with through choice dialogue.
The twist (if you can call it that) is Katawa Shojo is based in a school full of disabled people whether blind, amputees or in the case of our protagonist Hisao an unstable heart. Hisao must come to grips with his new disability which is a hard emotion to project towards people who aren't disabled. A lot of the opening is focussed on this and it makes the game seem slow but adds a greater purpose. It allows us to relate to the suffering Hisao is going through by making us simulate the disability of going slow through a game when we are so used to racing through them.
Obviously the girls are beauties and tailored to a our personal†moe†instincts. Each girl along with a disability has a story and Hisao can assist them through the hard times through companionship. This isn't a harem so pick your girl wisely or none at all to see a darker end to the story.
It wouldn't be a dating sim without some smooth loving and each girl comes with one or two H-scenes. These are actually pretty tasteful and don't go overboard with the images. One of the biggest praises I can give to the game is actually a subtraction of the sex scenes if you just wanted to experience the story. That's fantastic! Dating sims primarily rely on their sex scenes for sales, Katawa Shojo goes above the filth and shows that it can be above it if it wants to.
The writing is good. All the girls are charming and have their own distinct personalities. The auxiliary cast also have their own back stories that are interesting to piece together through out each play through. It's like settling down to a good book. You always want to see the next chapter, you want to know where the next step in the relationship will be. You become invested in the characters specifically the girl you are courting at the time that pushes you onwards.
Dating Sims have also come under another name, "visual novel" and I have to agree on the latter moniker as a replacement of the word "game". Games invokes some interactivity and Katawa Shojo although interactive is 9/10th reading and clicking through the dialogue which can be akin to turning a page of a novel. There is literally three choices you can make to change the outcome of the story so whether you have†THAT†much interactivity in the matter is very much debatable.
Katawa Shojo is available now via the†site for free†and there are also many goodies you can download from the site like soundtracks and fan artbooks. The soundtrack is an absolute necessity after playing the game. Listening to "Ease" or "Fripperies" will take you back into the classroom and you can almost hear the light chit chatter of your classmates.
I've been a fan of both ScrewAttack and Pure Pwnage for a while and this has kept on bugging me. Why do these T Shirts look soooo similar. They aren't even different colours, only the font has changed!
I'm not too sure which one came first or who ripped off who but I have to side with the Pure Pwnage guys. Even if the spelling sucks on both shirts, the PP guys at least have their grammar correct.
Ultra Street Fighter IV has been stirring a lot of musings and guesses ever since they announced, that they weren't going to announce the 5th character. They did however leave Seven clues for fans to ponder upon;
1.) It is a Capcom character.
2.) It isnít Asura or Bad Box Art Mega Man.
3.) Ultra Street Fighter IV will mark this characterís fighting game debut.
4.) It is a character that isnít on anyoneís radar.
5.) The character will be a perfect fit for the Street Fighter universe.
6.) The character is a female.
7.) She is in the Street Fighter comics.
Using my superior knowledge of Street Fighter and it's related media, I have made a list of possible candidates. Some are obviously going to be more likely than the others but please bare in mind this list is in no particular order.
Any one of the M.Bison's Dolls (except Juni and Juli) [b]
Juni and Juli were the lucky two given fighting roles in Street Fighter Alpha 3 and the rest were played for cameos. Now this gives another one of the lucky dolls a chance to share the limelight with their superior sister Cammy. Honestly they are all pretty much the same apart from two character traits listed in the wiki, so Capcom could freely choose whichever and no one would suspect it. Although I'm going to guess they will go for Noembelu because she is special enough to get a whole webpage of the wiki dedicated to her.
Teenage Back-Up Girlfriends (Kei Chitose and Sarai Kurosawa)
I was going to have separate entries for each of the girls but they are essentially the same, apart from the leads they follow. Kei Chitose is Sakura's best friend and reluctantly follows her through around the world, being featured in her fight openings and endings. Sarai Kurosawa appears to be more pro-active as after being attacked by Ibuki in Street Fighter III she appears to be training to be a Ninja in Ibuki's Arcade mode ending. Capcom can put either one of these two into the USFIV as a joke character and I'll be happy.
With the many clones of Ryu that have spawned; from Ken to Gouken and from Akuma to Evil Ryu, why not have a clone based off Sakura? She would also fit the criteria listed above; she appears at the end of Ganbaru Sakura, never was considered by anyone since she is already a character in SFIV, female Capcom Character and will be making her fighting game debut. You could even say it was hinted at in the SSIV Sakura ending. Just as a side note; isn't Sakura supposed to be like 20 in the Street Fighter canon when SFIV rolls round??
[b]A Transgendered Woman
We all know that Final Fight's Poison when brought to the West was changed to a cross-dresser because hitting women is bad. But why can't we have a Woman who wants to fight and so dresses as a man? I bring you Wong Who from Final Fight!
How can you say that isn't a woman cross dressing? Look at the long hair, Asian beauty and look at that chest! It's enough to make Ingrid jealous. Wong Who fights for the women who want to be treated as a man in a battle and not be pitied because of their appearance or social etiquette.
She spoke to Elena for a few panels in the Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki comic series. Having a speaking role, name and appearance makes her good enough for Street Fighter.
Capcom can be a stella company when it wants to be. It brings fantastic ports of popular Japanese titles for us to play and Ghost Trick is no exception. If you've played Phoenix Wright then you'll be familiar with their wacky loveable characters, reams of dialogue intertwined with spurts of gameplay then you'll feel right at home with Ghost Trick.
I've dabbled in Phoenix Wright previously on the DS and although I loved the court battles and art style, the investigation parts were a tad dry. Ghost Trick cuts the fat so to speak and keeps it's gameplay solely on the Ghost Tricks. No other gameplay variations, just solve this puzzle then watch a cut scene. You would think it would get boring quick but the unusual situations they put you in and different mechanics they introduce keep the tedium from seeping in. Some puzzles are trial and error but there are check points mid way through each puzzle so the punishment for mistakes is low. A very ingenious mechanic is having to solve the puzzle within a time limit. I know it sounds crazy but it makes the game ten times more engaging.
The reason being is that you are given solid context for why you are solving this puzzle and what will happen if you don't. This is what separates it from timed sodoku.
When Ghost Trick was released it reviewed well and was praised for it's presentation. There is nothing I can add to that. It simply sounds, looks and plays wonderfully. The characters are especially nice, bringing a lot of personality to the game and carrying it above the typical iOS or DS title. I played this on an iOS device (iPhone 4) and it handled marvelously. The presentation doesn't falter either as the character portraits and animation are as good as the native system.
There is only so much praise I can give this game before I beg people to go out and play it. The first few levels are free on iOS and additional stages will cost. But for a limited time this holiday the whole game is yours for a buck!