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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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Some of my fondest gaming memories are centred around playing couch co-op with my brother on the NES . I still have to pay the bastard back for pressing Pause and unpause on the 2nd controller on Mario 3 every time I jumped over a pit, and we both have a Battletoads rivalry that will never be settled. But today I’m not focusing on the NES, I’m going to fast forward to my highschool years and talk about when I first started gaming with friends.

The year was 1994. It was the year of the Playstation and the N64, and I was lucky enough to have friends who had both systems. Having stupidly sold my NES for a mere £20 with my collection of 12 games I’d pretty much left myself little to no outlet for gaming other than a few PC games, so having friends who I could hang out and play games helped keep me sane through my generic teenage angst.
I remember getting my arse handed to me repeatedly on Tekken 2 & 3 playing 8 man team battles, because my mate had a PS1 and I didn’t, so when I didn’t see him, he was practicing and I was at the same level of noob amateur. I relish the memories of the bizarre mech game LAPD Future Cop which I could never beat him at, because he was insanely good at it. Oh, and Crash Team Racing! Chaos, bowling balls, the ugabuga invincibility mask, and my other friend who used to dominate people on battle mode because he was looking where you were on split screen as well as concentrating on what he was doing. The PS1 was the SNES of my spotty adolescent years.



One of my other friends had an N64. Although it’d only be years later when I would play a got of these games properly, due to me just not having the money to buy consoles at the time, due to me and my brother’s mutual obsession with comics. But I’ll always remember him asking me, “Do you want to play the new Zelda?” I didn’t play as much of the N64 as I did the PS1, mainly because there just wasn’t as many games as the mammoth PS1 library. But I’ll always fondly recall corridor crawling and shooting friends in Goldeneye and avoiding red shells Mario Kart 64

It was one of the first times I realised it was acceptable to be geeky and how cool it could be to just hang out with friends. I’ve never liked sports, I’m pretty unfit and I find playing sports to be pretty boring with little reward. But games was something I could be competitive at with friends and rivals and have a sense of accomplishment and winning that I never cold get with playing sports. Years later we would grow apart due to everyone getting jobs and girlfriends but me, and due to a fission driven between us by a girl. But despite all of that I really miss couch co-op and the instant reaction of swearing friends who try to sabotage you by unplugging your controller or pausing and unpausing at critical moments to kill you.



I’ve never really took to online gaming. There’s probably a lot of arguments to be made in favour of it, but I’ve always been intimidated by all of the stories of sweary, racist, homophobic 12 year olds who like nothing better than to shoot you dead and teabag you. I know that not everyone who plays online is like that, but I can’t really shake that fear. Maybe I just need to find the right game to start with and the right people to play with.
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Right now there's a drought in the blue ocean strategy. Nintendo is like the childhood sweetheart you used to hang out and play with and you have so many great memories of, then you see her years later and she's changed into some one you don't even know. My retro rose-tinted nostalgia glasses look back fondly at the times I used to share with the NES and SNES and the varied and massive libraries of games both systems used to afford. Somewhere along the way Nintendo, my childhood sweetheart stopped caring about me, and you and everyone else. Right now as we speak Nintendo is pulling cheap tricks for casual customers on a street corner somewhere for a quick hit of dirty cash. Sure there were some great games on N64, Gamecube and Wii – but steadily they became less and less, and people's love for The Big N began to wane.




So, come E3 2011 they show us the Wii U, which is supposed to seduce us back to Nintendo's side. Not just the Nintendo loyal fans, but all of the people that have left them over the years due to feeling burned by a company they have bitter sweet memories of. They plan on winning back “the core” by bringing out a HD console with very little in the way of specs, confirmed games, price and a ridiculous name. So you'd think in the Wii's last year they'd have planned some sort of last hurrah for the system, such as localising games that America/Europe have never had (*ahem* Mother 3). That'd be logical, right? Wrong. This is what Nintendo had to say:

"Thank you for your enthusiasm. We promised an update, so here it is. We never say "never," but we can confirm that there are no plans to bring these three games to the Americas at this time. Thanks so much for your passion, and for being such great fans!"

It's like Nintendo's saying to us “Thanks for caring. I promise I'll clean myself up and try and be a better person.” But you know Nintendo can never be the company they were. There's a great article on IGN by Rich George ( http://uk.wii.ign.com/articles/118/1180293p2.html ) saying that Nintendo has lost touch with it's fans both literally and figuratively, and that there is no real Nintendo community like Sony and Microsoft has – no real forum in which to communicate with the Big N other than a meagre Twitter and Facebook page.



But you're European, I hear you say, you're going to get Xenoblade and possibly The Last Story and Pandora's Tower, if rumours are to be believed. Be that as it may, Nintendo's shoddy localisation and business practices affect us all. Plus treating your most loyal fans and customers this way is disgraceful. Would you ever see Valve pulling this shit with it's customers? Christ, even Microsoft and Sony wouldn't do this, and that's saying something.

But I'm not just going to be a "Negative Nancy", as I believe if you criticise the way something's done the least you should do is have some suggestions on how to make things better to back up your argument. So, what's the solution to all this bad PR heat Nintendo has brought upon themselves?

1. Take a loss to make a gain. Nintendo seem for the most part incredibly risk averse, especially when it comes to new franchises. Localise more titles and part with some of that Scrooge McDuck money you've got in your vault made out of gold plated Wii's and DS's and buy a bunch of 3rd party exclusives. This also includes taking more risks with their consoles. Give us great online, cutting edge graphics, a well implemented digital store with a bigger back catalogue and a decent hardrive at least. Or, if they really want to impress people offer cloud saving and cross game cha into the bargain as well and keep the online gaming aspect free, and I guarantee you people would jump on board.

2. Advertise your games heavily, not just the first party ones, but the second party and third party also. Show the people that are making games with you some support and they will flock to you. Show them no support and they will spurn you.



I'll end on a point Jim Sterling made on one of the Podtoids recently where he said (and I paraphrase "Nintendo's used to be the Mick Jagger and David Bowie of the video game world, but now they're just old farts"). I think it's a point that deserves thinking about, salacious as the comment is, I think he's made an excellent point. Nintendo still make great games, but when was the last time they truly made something completely out there? (And no, Steel Diver doesn't count). I'd go as far to say Pikmin was the last time Nintendo took a crazy chance and made a new franchise. I would love nothing more than for Nintendo to be the crazy company they began as - a company hungry to experiment, to innovate to make something vibrant and new. It's ironic that to become something new Nintendo must return to the roots that made them the company they are today. I can only hope one day they will realise this.
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I thought I'd write this opinion piece as a reply to Jim Sterling's article "The Question: Does The Legend of Zelda need an overhaul?"

There are a lot of things I personally want from a Zelda game: fully orchestrated music and full voice acting (apart from Link who should forever be mute) being the tip of a titanic iceberg. It's not that I don't love Zelda, every time a new Zelda game is announced I'm more excited than Stewie from Family Guy going to Disney Land. It's just that I feel Zelda could be so much more than what it is, and there's a lot of story elements that aren't explored as well as game mechanics that could really change things up for the franchise whilst still keeping the core mechanics and ideas of what makes a Zelda game.



I've already mentioned fully orchestrated music and full voice acting (Link excepted), but there's still a lot that can be done with the Zelda series. One idea I had was co-op. Now, before you all go up in arms of the idea of “co-op in mai Zeldas?!” just hear me out. Player 1 is Link: his skill-set is largely unchanged from previous games – master sword, shield, boomerang and various cool items. Player 2 is Zelda whose principle weapons are the bow, kunai and smoke bombs, but is also very focused on using magic and various disguises. Zelda would play completely different to Link and would focus on stealth and keeping your distance from the enemy for more effective attacks. What also appeals to me is the concept that each town you go to Zelda is in a completely different disguise, whether that be pirate, ninja (Tetra and Sheik costumes!) or whatever and that the disguises get progressively more absurd as the game goes on, which prompts eye rolling from Link that he's the only one that finds these disguises completely unconvincing and obvious.



I know what you're thinking: what if I don't want to play Zelda in co-op and I want to play single player? I don't want some dumb AI companion gumming up the works and messing up my enjoyment of the game! Well, there's a few solutions to this as I see it. One of which is you have a similar mechanic to Enslaved which allows you to give Trip a set amount of simple instructions, which means you aren't constantly having to save your companions arse whilst you get completely massacred. Another of which is just make it possible for co-op to just be disabled and that there is more than one way to solve a dungeon/kill an enemy depending on what character you play as. Personally I'd prefer the first option, as I feel it works more organically for the story and doesn't get n the way of single-player fun. Plus I like the idea of drop-in/drop out co-op online and couch co-op for a Zelda game.



There are other ideas I've been playing around with that would streamline the game a lot more, such as a map that you can mark things on, DS style, like item locations/treasure chests, even write on the map – which if the Café controller does have a touch screen you could maybe type letters or just draw an item on the map or even trace a route with your finger – all of which would be cool. Whilst I'm talking about maps, please, for the love of god get rid of the compass, it's completely unnecessary – if I see a big locked door with a skull on it, I know it's going to be the boss room, OK? Good.



Another bugbear of mine is the items in Zelda – I just think a lot of items are used for one dungeon then become an afterthought and you never use the damn things again outside of that particular dungeon (spinning wheel from Twilight Princess I'm looking sternly at you). We need more items like the dual hook shot and boomerang that are useful everywhere, or just have items that are upgradable and be able to use them for multiple things, ala Arkham Asylum.



I also think that in a lot of ways Zelda has strayed a lot from it's open world roots of the first Legend of Zelda, and I'd welcome an option to wander into the seventh dungeon after the first and get my arse completely kicked. Although I did love the challenge dungeon in Twilight Princess – that was a master-stroke of masochism wherein the greater reward was in the fact you cleared it rather than he measly item it gave you. Whilst we're back onto the subject of items, I would love to see some of the cool optional items from A Link to the Past Return, such as the Pegasus Boots and Cloak of Invisibility – stuff that's not necessary but is nonetheless cool and makes traversing the game a lot more fun. I also think the Master quest should be a reward when you clear the game and no a separate game you have to buy – the first Zelda game had it, hell, even the first Mario had a new game + which changed all the koopas into buzzie beetles and changed things up. This should be standard with Zelda.




Another big thing for me is the story. Nintendo deliberately hints at things that have happened in the Zelda universe but never expands upon them, justifying this by saying they want the player's imagination to fill in the gaps. This is all well and good until you understand the only reason they're doing this is so they can keep the story as loose as possible so they can insert Zelda games at any stage of the time line without restrictions. There's so many unanswered questions: why did the Hyrule royal family betray the Sheikinah? What was the war that made Link's mother flee from Hyrule to leave Link in the care of the Kokiri? Why is the eternal champion always mute?How did Majora and the Fierce Deity Mask come to be created? Who is Dark Link – is he simply a magic clone made by Ganondorf to stop Link? Is he Link's darker nature stripped from him by the Triforce of Courage when he becomes the Hero? Or is he the representative of the fourth piece of the Triforce that is only personified as a blank spot, a shape in absence? Whilst we're on that subject, why the hell is there a gap in the Triforce? Look, I know tri means three, but isn't it strange to have a gaping triangle shaped hole in the thing? These questions and more bear closer examination by Nintendo, but without making the story elements the equivalent of midicholrians and ruining the mystery of the Zelda universe. In conclusion, I still think you can keep in a lot of familiar aspects of Zelda but that the series needs evolution and not revolution. Nintendo have a lot of great ideas that if they expand upon and explore could make a great series a true Epic.
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I've been playing Smackdown vs Raw 2011 on the PS3 on and off again recently, although to be honest it's been more off than on. Although it's still a fun game, it just seems like a game that hasn't evolved since the PS2 days, and even then the PS2 games seemed to take something away for every small enhancement it made to the game play. Although the season is more open and gives you more freedom about how you arrange your matches and with who it just feels like playing a series of soulless singles matches with the occasional ring invasion by an enemy rather than a fleshed out storyline. Also I'm convinced Yukes/THQ used the PS2 character models and just uprezzed them a bit by giving them better skin textures, giving the game the look of a slightly more polished version of a PS2 game rather than being on par with other games such as Fifa 2011 or the sumptuous looking Enslaved.



So this got me thinking, rather than just sitting whining about it, why not write an article saying how I think it could be improved and refined by borrowing techniques/ideas from other game engines? There are a lot of simple things that should be fixed such as the poor collision detection that the series still suffers from, a greater list of moves to draw from, a bigger selection of clothing and parts for your created wrestler, and less of an emphasis on constant reversals of moves. However the biggest two issues they need to address are the graphics and how to reinvigorate the season mode and make it fun to play. The graphics are an easy fix, they just need to actually make the effort rather than just reusing the same engine they've used since the PS2 days. I'd love or them to use something like Unreal 3 or something of equivalent power that can make the game not look last-gen. I think the best way to achieve this goal is to stop making Smackdown games an annual release. I know THQ makes money off it each year, but let's face it: annual releases are what killed the Tony Hawk franchise(for now at least), and the same goes for the Guitar Hero games. The point being annual releases of a franchise can make people fatigued and fed up, as for the most part they're just getting an expansion pack of the previous years game with a few negligible add-ons. This would help them refine the graphics and also give them enough time to work on the season mode, which brings me to my next point.



The reason I play Smackdown is to make my own ridiculous created character and cut a swath through all the greats and the jobbers in the WWE roster, getting them to tap out with a well-placed Hellsgate or Crossface can be immensely satisfying. But aside from facing off against other people's wrestlers it's the season mode that's the bread and butter of the game. Smackdown 2 on the PS1 still has one of the most satisfying season mode I've ever experienced in a WWE game, which is pretty damning considering the amount of Smackdown games that have came out since. You'd start off at the lowest rung, going against random low carders like Billy Gunn or Road Dogg, and work your way up the ranks to dethrone the current champions, and then spend the rest of your time defending your championship. In that time you'd make alliances and enemies and have some measure of choice in who you'd help and who you'd hurt. It also had an ingenious way of unlocking moves and costumes, in which you fought wrestlers called “Unknown A” who looked like wardrobe disasters, being composed of costumes and body parts you could unlock, and sometimes having that one killer move you had to have.



This is what I propose should be done: Year One of our season you are an up and coming rookie on Tough Enough, the season acts as a tutorial on how to pull off the moves as well as starting off your character. Your wrestler would start as a complete and utter noob with only basic moves such as arm drags and dropkicks and would be extremely underpowered. The aim of the first year would be to face off against the trainers/fellow contestants and prove your mettle. At the year's end if you'd progressed enough you'd win a WWE contract and be hired to either Smackdown or Raw and start off at the bottom of the ladder against a series of jobbers, proving your worth one fight at a time.

However, if you fail the season doesn't end, it just goes a different route. Imagine, your character is knocking a few back in the bar, a miserable never-was dwelling on what could have been. Your character is approached by a heel, say Jericho, who says he sees your potential and thinks that you were screwed out of the chance to get hired. How would you feel about getting even and proving the WWE they were wrong at the same time by interfering in a match? You'd say “yes” and it'd jump into the match in which you're in the crowd and you jump in and interfere in Jericho's match to much controversy. You're hauled into Vince's office by security and he demands an explanation, and this is where I'd offer branching dialogue options. Depending on what you'd say in this occasion Vince will either be pissed off, impressed or amused, either way Vince will put you in a different match dependant on your answer. i.e., if you pissed him off he may put you in a Triple Threat match, if amused he might put you in a singles match against Jericho suspecting it was him who got you to interfere in his match giving you approval with Vince but negative points with Jericho, and if he's impressed he may enter you in King of the Ring for a minor title like the Intercontinental title or the European title.



The option for branching storyline and dialogue has a lot of potential to be well implemented in a WWE game, and RPG elements have proved to have a successful fusion with the FPS and third person shooters such as Fallout 3, Bioshock and Mass Effect. We can only hope in future installments that Yukes and THQ don't just settle for evolution when they should be shooting for revolution.
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I'm sure I'm one of many people who was disappointed in Metroid: Other M. Although I still enjoyed Samus's latest adventure on Wii, there is a lot of flaws that prevented a good game from being a great game. Call me a fanboy if you will, but when Nintendo releases a game I come to expect a great game rather than a good game. This obviously sets my expectations so high that I'm going to get let down a lot. Even though none of the flaws are game breakers (apart from that buggy save thing earlier on in the game), these points do lessen the game.

The awful dialogue, Samus's monologing, not using the nunchuck to navigate in 3D space, lack of any music for most of the game, no energy/missile pick-ups and the decision that Adam had to authorise the suit functions (ok, not using powerbomb was understandable, but having to run through the lava sector for 15 or twenty minutes before Adam goes "um, Samus, I notice you're on fire! You can use your varia suit now!" was ridiculous), also the transition of going from third person into first person just to shoot missiles was immersion breaking for me, and seemed like a cheap tactic of ramping up the difficulty, especially when against a swarm of enemies or the later bosses.



A lot of people lay the blame squarely at Team Ninja's door for the hammy writing of the game - it's an easy thing to do, right? Team Ninja aren't a first party dev team, and Nintendo rarely make bad games. But if this was the case, how do you explain the stellar Metroid Prime trilogy by Retro? Granted, they were a second party dev owned by Nintendo, but the games were not developed in-house by Nintendo themselves, they were handled by "shock horror" outsiders.

The truth is that the buck stops with Sakamoto. Yes, I know he's directed all of the side-scrolling Metroid's since Metroid 2, and in many ways he fleshed out the Samus we came to know and love in Super Metroid. In truth I have never played the original Metroid on NES, Zero Mission or Metroid 2. My first Metroid was Super Metroid for the SNES, and I'll always remember the voice at the beginning telling me "The last Metroid is in captivity. The galaxy is at peace" followed by the Metroid theme and Samus giving a summary of her story so far. And I'll always remember the sacrifice the hatchling Metroid made to save Samus, saving the woman whom it thought wasit's mother ad practically crying out "No!" at the screen, despite the fact I'd spent a good portion of the game devoted to erradicating the little jellyfish-like buggers. Samus to me, and I think to a lot of people, was defined by her strength and her determination to complete the mission at any cost.

An impression that was swiftly shattered by Samus's portrayal in Other M. I have no objection to a character speaking if they have something vitally important to say, if it's relevant to the story, or enriches the experience by interacting with other characters. What I got instead was Samus reading "diary entries" about her feelings to a captive audience who reached for a skip button that wasnt there. This was not the Samus Aran I had grown to know and love.



By today's standards it's below subpar to have a character monologing, telling you about their feelings rather than just letting the story unfold. It's acceptable to have a character narrating action in a book because that's all you have to describe the action. But in video games and movies it comes across as lazy and largely unneccessary seeing as both are visual mediums. For example, if you compare the banter between Drake and Sully in the Uncharted games, it moves the story along by interaction between the character rather than the "dear diary" narration that makes Samus sound little better than an emo. Just to clarify: I'm not against Samus having emotions or a voice for that matter, it's just she should have been handled with more respect as a character. You can still write a character as fragile but still strong without making her sound weak-willed and without making her sound like a herp derp space marine.

I'm not saying take the franchise away from Sakamoto, but when a guy pulls a George Lucas and is clearly out of touch with the motivations and nuances of the character, Nintendo should at least get someone in there who knows dialogue and story to co-write/direct with him to make sure he doesn't repeat the flaws of Other M. As I said earlier Other M was a good game hindered by big flaws that prevented it from being the great game it deserved to be. Also, Sakamoto was originally only a co-creator not the sole creator of Metroid. Maybe if Makoto Kano returned to the series in a supervisory position Samus could once again beome the character I personally connected to.



Just to reitterate: I am not against change in Metroid, I just want the changes to improve the gameplay and enrich the story, not to hinder it. Changes they could implement to make Metroid better:-
- Have Samus voice by Jennifer Hale who voiced her in the Prime series (Well, her grunts anyway)
- Keep the 2.5D aspect of the game and the dodge mechanic as they worked well. Get rid of the forced 1st person point of view and the forced 3rd person point of view. They add nothing to the game.
- No more monologing! Only have Samus talk when she is interacting with another character, and it is important to character development or story progression.
- Bring back exploration in Metroid. Games like Mass Effect and Fallout 3 show that you can still have exploration and side-quests and still have a compelling main story arc. Christ, even Super Metroid excelled at this.
- If the next game will be motion controlled, have the shooting mapped to the wii remote and the moving in 3D mapped the the nunchuck. I would've loved to have been able to shoot wherever my pointer was whilst moving with the analog stick.

The literary critic Roland Barthes once said “birth of the reader must be at the death of the Author” , meaning that no matter what message the author/creator wanted to convey by his story, once that story is read/watched/played, it doesn't matter how the author intended the story to be interpreted, the true interpretation(s) of the story and the characters within lie solely with the audience. We as the audience are as much the writer of Samus Aran's character as Sakamoto is, let us hope in future Sakamoto's vision is married with our own and that we get a great Metroid game we all deserve.

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