hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts


Noir Trilby's blog

3:29 PM on 02.05.2012

Improvement: Making a better Metroid

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, 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.


5:53 AM on 11.15.2011

Zelda Week: Greatness from small beginnings.

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.   read

6:09 PM on 10.09.2011

Villains: Vengeance is relative

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.   read

10:32 AM on 09.21.2011

Why Nintendo shouldn't go the way of Sega

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?   read

7:59 AM on 08.23.2011

Being Social: Couch Co-Op

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.   read

7:48 AM on 07.16.2011

Nintendo's drop in the blue ocean

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 ( ) 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.   read

10:48 AM on 05.28.2011

How to save Zelda from itself.

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.   read

12:25 PM on 04.12.2011

Smackdown I love you, but you're bringing me down.

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.   read

2:04 PM on 01.24.2011

2010 Sucked: Any objections, lady?

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.


Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -