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About
I first got into gaming through a NES I'd begged by mum to buy me for my birthday after playing Mario & Chip Dale Rescue Rangers at a friends house. I remember how bright the colours were, the crispness of the sound, and the sheer unputdownable nature of those games. It taught me how to rescue princesses, save worlds and shoot ducks. It also started my love affair with games.


What I'm playing now:

Red Dead Redemption
Mass Effect 2
Valkyria Chronicles
Super Street Fighter 3D
Zelda: Phantom Hourglass


Favourite games

Ocarina of Time
Ico
Mario 3
Fallout 3
Black & White


Games I wish were revived from the dead

Burai Fighter
Faxanadu
Low G Man
Player Profile
Steam ID:Noir_Trilby
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Disclaimer: I’ve only been playing Fantasy Life for about a total of 6 hours, so this is a review in progress that I’ll update as I go along, so don’t expect a score yet, just some general impressions of the game.

 

Do you like escapism? Do you dream of being a part of a feudal society with a stable job economy, able to switch jobs at the drop of a hat with no consequences? Well, look no further, friend! Have I got a game for you! Fantasy Life gives you the strength of a thousand men (or women), makes you fart fire, and piss good European beer! Disclaimer: Product does none of these things, but you might find it quite enjoyable. You begin the game with a create a character screen (are you a boy, or girl?) that lets you determine your sex, body type, hair style, moustache colour, and your starting job class. Once you’ve determined these factors you’re golden and can get on with the game.

If you’re familiar with the works of Level-5 then this isn’t a tough sell. Fantasy Life combines the cute visuals and charm of games like Professor Layton and Ni No Kuni, whilst retaining all of the great puns and humour from their tenure on Dragon Quest 9 (One of the first puns is a butterfly that masquerades as your bowtie so you can get into the castle to see the king. The butterfly calls herself, you guessed it, a “buttertie.”) I knew from this point on, me and Fantasy Life were going to get along just fine.

Here's a handsome fellow I made earlier.

 One of the things I liked about Fantasy Life was that you could change the job system without any fuss by going to the Guild Office. This is reminiscent of the All Trades Abby in Dragon Quest 9, but thankfully with the job system being the main selling point of Fantasy Life, you’re given the ability to change jobs at a whim at any time simply by going to the Guild Office. I chose Hunter, because it makes your character look delightfully like Snufkin from the Moomins books complete with silly hat, plus I like running away from enemies, like the coward I am, whilst peppering them with arrows, just like how I play Skyrim. I’m yet to experiment with the other jobs, but Level 5 have done a great job of making each job have plenty of quests as I’m wandering round getting quests of NPCs about half of them I can’t do yet because they’re to do with mining, or being a lumberjack or an fisherman. The world is replete with trees to cut down and lumber, ores to mine, and fish to...well, fish. The world feels really balanced, and it seems like there’s always something to do no matter what job your pick.

 

The game also has an Animal Crossing feel to it in the fact that you’re helping people in Reveria, but you’re also earning enough money to move out of the Inn you occupy and buy your own house. You can also buy multiple pets that you can bring into battle with you (I have a white cat called Samus) which is pretty adorable, and rent or buy a horse which makes getting around the world a lot faster than running or walking. Talking of which, you earn XP for your running skill the more you run, and for your sneaking skill the more you sneak, which reminded me of spending hours sneaking around Oblivion and Skyrim to become a silent treading ninja, and was a nice touch. Also, you can shake trees like in Animal Crossing and apples and beehives will fall down, if that’s your thing. The world is full of things to do, but there’s never really any great sense of urgency to anything you do in the world which strikes me as possibly the game’s greatest weakness and strength – weakness as there are times where you fall into lulls (why am I doing this?), but strength in the fact it’s ideal for portable bite-sized plays. Yet saying this, I can’t seem to stop compulsively flipping open my 3DS and continuing where I left off.

 Choose Life

The quests range from the simple (give an NPC 5 bottles of milk when he’s standing right next to a field with a cow in it), to preventing the fragments of a dark comet from turning formerly peaceful creatures into mad purple rage monsters which seems to be the thrust of the main quest, but I’ll say no more about that because I’d hate to spoil it for you, and I honestly haven’t progressed far enough into the main story quest to tell you all that much about it. What I will say is that the characters are quirky, the pace is leisurely but fun and there’s a little something for everyone here, whether you want to be magician, a chef, a paladin, or any of the rest of the 12 “lifes” on offer. So far I have no reservation about saying pick this game up and get a “life,” then decide that life’s not for you and become a tailor, because being a tailor is frikkin FABULOUS.

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Hunter S. Thompson wrote a book in 1966 called Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. Thompson lived amongst them, drank with them, rode with them, and wrote about them. “But, Noir, what’s that got to do with video games?” I’ll get to that shortly, just let me Columbo for a bit and I’ll go on to solve the case. (And, sadly, much like an episode of Coumbo, we know the perpetrator all too well before the show even starts…)

Thompson spent a year living the Hell’s Angels lifestyle until one day he spoke out to an Angel called Junkie George by saying “only a punk beats his wife.” For this, he was rewarded him a brutal beating at the hands of several of the Angels.

The point is Thompson not only wrote his story but he lived it to get to the truth of the story from a ground level. For his trouble he got the living shit beaten out of him by the very people he was covering. Sound familiar yet? We’re not Hell’s Angels, we’re not even the outlaws we imagine ourselves to be, but some of our number have sure as shit thrown some of our more interesting journalists under the bus. The mob drowned out their voices and left them with no choice but to leave.

Also, let us be clear here, there has been a lot of talk about how this is all about ethics, but what in the name of blistering fuck is ethical about harassing women out of the games industry? Fed up of gruff, brown-haired white guys as protagonists? Fed up of an FPS crowded genre with waist high barriers, a grey colour palette, and meathead space marines? These people are trying to make it so that we have a greater variety of games; they’re not taking games away from you. Stop your own “white knighting” for a status quo comprised of the same homogenous shite, the kind you were once only too pleased to commonly critique in the comment sections of numerous games blogs and forums all over the net. For what good that did you; I bet your stale observations about Call of Duty really popped the monocles of triple-A publishers around the world.

We live in a young medium, but that doesn’t mean our responses to criticism within this medium have to resort to being those of adolescents. Everything that is created is appraised critically – whether that be a game, a book, a movie, music or even a goddamn chair. You don’t have to like or even agree with the criticism, but by silencing the critics/game journalists/game devs you’re guilty of exactly the same behaviour that make up your own accusations: you’re censoring them. Also, to be quite frank, if you believe in free speech and you are one of the people doing this then you are a damnable hypocrite. All Anita Sarkeesian is doing is actually talking critically about video games. That. Is. It. This is the exact same thing that critics the world over have been doing with books, movies, and music (not sure about chairs) for the best part of a century. Agree with her or disagree with her, fine, but denying a critical discourse of any kind in the name of protecting video games will just lead to stagnation. These abnegation of mature and responsible discourse can only result in both audience and creators walking away from the industry in search of one that will foster creativity and imaginative thinking.
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There’s a lot of things I don’t like about Metroid: Other M, and I covered a lot of my pet peeves about the game in one of my previous cblogs, http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/Noir+Trilby/2010-sucked-any-objections-lady--192378.phtml so in keeping with the theme of this months cblog I’ll try my best not to retread old ground, and for each problem I address try to come up with a solution so I don’t look like a negative nancy.



In film one of the laziest and most staid storytelling devices is to have a character constantly narrating or monologing. In books it’s fairly acceptable as a book requires you to tell the reader how something is happening, but in a visual medium it’s something a lot of people find nonsensical to see something happening and then have a voice over saying “this is what’s happening.” Whenever Samus says “confession time” and decides to talk to us “the audience” about her feelings, the feeling that is evoked in me isn’t empathy or sympathy, it’s that this is bad writing and it destroys the atmosphere of the story for me. When Samus addresses us with her innermost thoughts, all I can think is “when can I skip this elaborate and overwrought cut scene?”

Another sore point for me is the game has a schizophrenic identity in terms of what it wants to be and how Sakamoto wanted to deliver its story. In this respect it reminds me of Deep Silver’s ill fated Wii exclusive survival horror, Cursed Mountain, which although it had some great ideas (set in Tibet, having to exorcise ghost monks) also suffered from an identity crisis. To put it bluntly, Cursed Mountain couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be Resident Evil 1 or Resident Evil 4 – some sections had an over the shoulder cam, bringing you close to the action, but it switched quite a lot to the Hitchcockian camera angles of Resident Evil 1, making the whole affair a very mixed bag. Metroid: Other M is similar in this respect, being part side scroller, part 2.5D shooter, part over-the-shoulder cam, part first person spot the object game. It’s a game that suffers from the weight of its predecessors and the expectation of other games, the first person pixel hunting and missile shooting is like a bastardised version of the scanning visor and first person nature of the Prime games, and bizarrely the over the shoulder cam is a strange nod to RE4. You mightn’t think a camera in a game would be such a big deal in the telling of a story, but again in a visual medium like video games the way in which something is presented is vital in conveying atmosphere and telling a story.



“But this is a video game,” I hear you say, “video games don’t need a story to be compelling.” You’d be partly right, some of the best games have a bare bone story or no story at all, like Galaga, any of the 2D Mario games, etc. Super Metroid had minimal supposition before it began, leaving you to escape a space station about to explode, and then you’re standing on SR388 in the pouring rain. Super Metroid had the perfect balance of exploration and narrative - it told you enough information for you to know what was going on without impinging on your freedom, and used the scenery of the gloomy caverns and ghost ships and brilliant music to evoke an atmosphere that told you the story implicitly and let you experience the story rather than having it told to you whilst you’re desperately pressing “A” trying to skip the cut scene. Metroid Prime is another brilliant example of storytelling done right. Handled primarily through the scanner visor, Samus reads the accounts of the dead Chozo race talking about a prophesised saviour, or read some of the Space Pirate accounts about trying to harness the power of phazon to use as a WMD.



So here’s what I propose, ditch the unnecessary exposition of Samus and make Metroid an open world game. I’d love to see Samus actually BE a bounty hunter rather than just taking down the Space Pirate threat out of the good of her heart. Planet hopping in Samus’s ship, taking on contracts, shaking down shady informants in cyber punk alleys, all the while keeping the theme of exploration and having a rich main quest line. My Metroid game would probably look a lot like Prey 2 or Mass Effect, but with evoking the horror of the early Alien films . Adam Malkovich would be relegated to the role of comms - think Oracle in Arkham Asylum or Pritchard in Deus EX: Human Revolution: nothing too obtrusive, just the occasional bit of quest advice or checking in on you. Story would be told by finding logs, audio accounts and in short interactive cut scenes, rather than from any voice over by Samus. Our heroine would only speak when others are speaking to her or if she initiated a conversation with an NPC, and would be given dialogue choices to decide which course of action to take. Nintendo have already taken minor steps towards this with Link in Skyward Sword, so why not go all the way with Metroid? I would also have Samus voiced by Jennifer Hale who based on her stellar voice work as Femshep, and her VO of Samus’s grunts of pain in Metroid Prime is more identifiable as Samus than the monotone voice stylings of Jessica Martin, but this is more of a personal preference, as I know Martin’s flat performance is probably more Sakamoto’s fault than hers. I think what I’d want to focus on the most with Samus’s dialogue, whoever it is that voices her, is for her to have the succinct brevity that she had in her written dialogue in Metroid Fusion rather than the long, introspective monologues of Other M.



I would also give the option for the player to be able to play Metroid in either 1st person or 3rd person view. The Wii U could make this POV switch even easier with the use of the Wii-U’s controller screen as the first person view, and the TV showing Samus moving in 3rd person, giving both fans of old school Metroid and fans of the Prime series the best of both worlds without seeming like some sort of compromise measure. I’d also give the option of switching the 1st person view to the top screen and the 3rd person to the controller screen on the fly depending on the preference of the player. This would solve the problem of identity I discussed earlier without sacrificing the freedom of the user.

Another thing I’d love to see in Metroid is RPG elements to be worked into the game. Metroid is already a game about attaining different powers and obtaining upgrades such as energy modules and missile packs, so why not extend the options to different varia suits and powers than we’re used to? Let us mix and match and make our own Samus and make “play style matter.” Imagine 4 DNA branches – chozo, metroid , X-parasite and Phazon – these would be your 4 skill trees. The chozo skill tree would focus on different types of varia armour and the more traditional abilities like morph ball, screw attack, etc. The Metroid skill tree would allow Samus to have life draining abilities and maybe have the power of summoning baby metroids to her aid using metroid mother pheromones, or maybe even allowing her to fire metroid hatchlings from her arm cannon to drain the life from enemies to give her an energy boost.
The X parasite tree would focus on stealth and mimicry abilities such as cloaking and the ability to infect people with the X Parasite which would allow you to possess an enemy and turn them against their allies . It would but also allow her to mimic the person/Space Pirate she killed. This would also give her the ability to absorb the host’s memories, such as secret item cache locations which would be added to the map or in the form of information logs that helped flesh out the back story. The Phazon tree would be focused on making Samus a tank, and would basically imbue her with all of the abilities of Dark Samus, the shrapnel beam, the laser beam, limited cloaking and teleportation abilities.

I don't think the Metroid I've suggested will be for everyone, in fact some people would probably be horrified with the changes I'd make to the game, and I can't guarantee that some of these wouldn't be game breakers or change Metroid into another type of game completely, maybe even risking it being Un-Metroid. However, I'd argue that the Prime series took the best elements of the Metroid series and evolved it into a fully realised 3D world, adding the scanning visor, log books, and a truly great first person adventure through Samus Aran's eyes. What I'm proposing here could evolve the Metroid series without sacrificing the core gameplay, but would in fact add to it and enrich it, giving the series the shot in the arm it has so sorely needed since Other M. Here's hoping Nintendo has similar ideas for the franchise.

See you next mission.


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To a lot of people The Legend of Zelda has been super ceded many times over by its numerous sequels. It’s a game that is so open it borders on directionless, the story laid out is basic and simple – Ganon captures Zelda, Impa runs for help, gets surrounded by hired goons, and then is saved by a wandering young man by the name of Link. It’s not explained where Link comes from, why he’s been wandering the land like Bruce Banner hitchhiking down a long and lonesome road, or how he single-handedly defeated a group of Ganon’s henchmen when he hasn’t even got a sword.



But to me these faults are to a large extent The Legend of Zelda’s faults are also the source of its greatest strengths. The game refuses to hold your hand – you go into a cave and get a wooden sword from an old man in a cave who says the famous line “It’s dangerous to go alone – take this”. However, it’s perfectly possible to not go into the cave in the first place and wander around Hyrule completely defenceless against the horde of moblins, octorocs and peahats who desire only your imminent doom. What I also loved about the openness of Zelda is it was possible to take on a lot of levels in a non-linear order, as you’re not told where the next temple is, you have to find them by exploring a huge open world. I’ll always remember wandering like an idiot into the 8th dungeon and getting completely creamed by the enemies within, after only finishing the 3rd dungeon. That was something I loved about the original game that I miss in the later iterations – the risk/reward of exploration. Sometimes you got lucky and you could get an item from a dungeon you weren’t meant to advance to, and then go back to an earlier dungeon and massacre the boss.



The fact that the story being barely explained is both something decided by the limitation of the technology of the time and because the sophisticated storytelling tools we take for granted now simply didn’t exist then, or were in their infancy. A basic rule of storytelling is show, don’t tell, and Zelda does exactly that, with no in game exposition apart from old crones and old men giving you the occasional obtuse hint about navigating a maze (north, west, south, west) to get to a temple or to walk up a waterfall to get the white sword. Link is our avatar, he’ll always look the way he does but we can change his name to whatever we want, as long as it’s only 4 spaces long. We know the basic story by an introduction in the manual but we’re left to piece together the rest on our own and use our imagination. Where did Link come from? Who is he? What is Ganon’s motivation? Who was it that built all of these temples full of death traps and helpful items to help you navigate them? These were questions I never asked myself as a kid, because I was Link. I defeated Ganon, I saved Zelda and I reclaimed the Triforce. You don’t ask those questions when you’re immersed in the world, because you’re playing the role of the hero. It was only later when I asked these questions and realised they probably had no answers, they were just there – mysteries of a lost civilisation who built these temples for an unknown purpose. One thing that is explained in the manual is that it is Zelda who splits the triforce into fragments and hides them throughout the kingdom to keep them from Ganon. Does this mean that the bosses in the eight dungeons are guardians that Zelda left behind to guard the triforce from Ganon? Quite possibly, but it’s also possible that the bosses are left by Ganon to impede Link’s progress. That’s the beauty of such a sparse storyline; there are no absolutes, only interpretation.



The Legend of Zelda is one of the first experiences I had of feeling like a hero, of embarking on a great adventure and feeling like I could achieve something beyond my own limitations. At the same time, it started a lifelong fascination with the fantasy genre, which put me on the path of wanting to become a writer. I’m still writing, still unpublished, and rather than feeling like a hero of my own life I feel like an uncredited extra in someone else’s story. But the original Legend of Zelda and its sequels gave me a chance to escape into a role I could never fulfil, and it also gave me a great appreciation of the subtleties of storytelling.
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Both No More Heroes and its sequel Desperate Struggle have some of the most compelling villains I’ve ever encountered within games, villains who elicit sympathy, amusement, ire and confusion. And sometimes villains who just aren’t villains. But today I’m not going to write about Shinobu, Margaret Moonlight (my favourite) or that kick ass cosmonaught who constantly cries out to a Mission Control that never answers. Today I want to talk to you about Jeane.

Jeane’s presence is very much in the background or the majority of the game. There’s a picture of her on Travis’ desk, and there’s the fact he’s named his cat after her too. It’s only when she kill-steals your final opponent, Dark Star that you actually get to see her in person. Moments before Jeane puts her fist through Dark Star’s testicles, Travis has flashes back to a memory of finding both his parents dead, and standing in between them, covered in blood is Jeane, his childhood sweetheart, his first love.



Jeane explains to Travis that she is the whole reason he has embarked on the road of the assassin, so he could kill her and at last have revenge. Cue a flashback of Travis sprawled out on the bar, complaining to Sylvia Christel how he’d lost everything that he’d cared about and how “that bitch took everything.”

Jeane then explains why she had to kill Travis’ father, but not before breaking the fourth wall and telling Travis she would have to fast forward through the explanation, otherwise the age rating of the game would be jacked up to an R, causing it to languish in development hell . Jeane’s explanation of what drove her to kill his father is horrifying. Jeane is actually Travis’ half sister who resents Travis and his family, as her father abandoned her causing her mother to commit suicide. Her father takes her back in, only to sexually molest her. Having no money to pay for training, Jeane has to resort to prostitution to train to kill her father.




Travis himself probably says it best when he says “maybe it had to be done, but vengeance begets vengeance”, which sums up his entire journey towards this point. The siblings fight it out, but after a long drawn-out fight, Jeane puts her hand through Travis’ chest, her literal action mirroring the metaphorical heartache she has caused him. If not for Shinobu’s timely intervention, Travis would surely be dead at his sister’s hand. At first Jeane pleads Travis not to kill her, calling him “brother”. But Travis is unrepentant and tells her it’s time to rest, before cutting her down.

Jeane's vengeance is threefold - first she killed Travis' parents in front of his very eyes, which causes him to go through the grief she had in losing a parent and makes him into what she is - a remorseless killer. If not for Shinobu, Jeane would have had her full revenge upon Travis and she would've ripped his heart right out of his chest. As it is, her revenge is still partly successful, and the reverberations of the revelations she tells Travis can be felt in Desperate Struggle, as he walks away from the ranking fights as the number 1 killer. He has killed his parent's murderer, but he has also killed his half sister and his first love. He discovers he has a twin brother in Henry, only to find they are both locked in the same interminable cycle of violence in which neither can win. Both of the No More Heroes games reflects a truth often found in the best Western movies, in which a cowboy hangs up his guns only to find that the violence in his past he has tried to escape has caught up with him. Travis has managed to escape his fate so far, but one day Jeane's vengeance may become truly realised when Travis is killed by walking the path of a killer.
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So, what’s brought about this latest run of “Nintendo is doomed” articles that have become more and more prevalent recently? For the most part it’s 3DS problems. I’m not talking about nubageddon, the lacklustre e-shop, or the 3D health warnings here; I’m talking about the games and lack thereof. When it was first shown at E3 we saw a big billboard full of games and devs committed to bringing quality titles and known franchises to the 3DS – finally, Nintendo has good solid 3rd party support. Right now the only 3DS game I own is Street Fighter IV, which is a great port, but it’s still just a port from the console versions. As are Ocarina of Time and Star Fox 64, enhanced as they may be, they’re still ports of old games given a new lick of paint. Everybody knows Nintendo rushed this launch due to pressure from their stockholders, and this has resulted in a pretty sizable games drought, and due to this a lot of the original E3 hype has died down to a death rattle moan. This also comes on the back of the whole Operation Rainfall fiasco and the resulting bad PR Nintendo garnered from it. I mean, Christ, even the retailers wanted Nintendo to bring those games to America, but it seems like Nintendo’s ears were closed to the pleas of their fans.



But I’m not here to kick Nintendo whilst they’re down – for a start it’s far too easy, and for another thing it’s lazy thinking to say “Nintendo’s doomed”. Or maybe for you it’s wishful thinking. “I already own a 360/PS3, but I want to have my cake and eat it, I want Nintendo games on my system of choice”. Fair enough, you’re a frugal person and you don’t want to miss out on Mario/Zelda/Metroid, etc. But here’s the thing: back in the halcyon days of Sega vs. Nintendo you just bought one console or the other, and you dealt with the hand you chose. Got a SNES but want to play Sonic? Tough shit, stop bitching and enjoy the games you already have. The 360 and PS3 both have excellent and compelling libraries without Nintendo’s games, but people still feel the need to rage at Nintendo for not collapsing in on itself like a black hole star and go completely 3rd party so they can reap the benefits of feeding on Nintendo’s maggoty corpse.



We’ve been in this trifecta position before with Sega/Nintendo/Sony, and Sega after having made many poor business decisions decided to turn into a software only company, abandoning their console ambitions entirely. From a monetary stand point it was a great move and saved their arses. But from a creativity point of view, not so much. Sega have seemed content for a long time now to just tread out a constant stream of mediocre Sonic games with only the odd great game like Valkyria Chronicles to tide them over. Sega's mostly a publisher now, and not the house of bright ideas it used to be back when they were console makers as well as software developers. That's exactly what would happen with Nintendo - you'd get Mario and Zelda games ad infinitum, but forget about getting Metroid, Pikmin, and Kirby as they're too niche. What happened to the Sega that did Streets of Rage, Jet Set Radio, Skies of Arcadia, etc? Yes, Nintendo going 3rd party would mean you wouldn't have to buy another console, but you'd also see less Nintendo games as a consequence, and less creativity. Of course this is just my opinion, it’s not fact, and just because this happened to Sega doesn’t mean the same thing would happen to Nintendo.

I want all of you to answer a few questions for me: Why do you really want Nintendo to stop being a hardware company? Is it that you feel betrayed by the casual focus of the Wii? Is it Operation Rainfall or the 3DS problems? Is it the games droughts? Maybe it’s all of the above. What I also want to ask you is are these reasons enough to want a company to stop making consoles and just focus on making games for the highest bidder that they may not have editorial control over?
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