Sorry if I come over as kind of a dick here, I like this site and its community quite a lot, but sometimes I don't get Destructoid, or gamers as a whole. On the one hand you repeatedly crucify every movie critic who doesn't take video games 100% seriously as an art form that is worthy of serious discussion every bit as much as film or literature. See Roger Ebert or, last week, Roger Moore.
Ironically, when trying to proof how video games are equal to other art forms, the argument that is coming up mostly is "But I cried when Aeris died in Final Fantasy VII", citing a game that is extremely cheesy and silly itself (I mean, come on). Do you really think you can impress Roger Ebert, whose favorite films include Au hazard Balthasar, Battleship Potemkin, The Bycicle Thief, Persona and Tokyo Story with Final Fantasy VII? It's cases like that when the seemingly splitted personality of the gamer ("Games are silly fun/high art!") unites into a bizzare whole.
So please tell me: Is the medium of video games, its possibilites and its industry worthy of serious discussion or will it never be more than a mindless diversion you shouldn't think too much about? Please make up your mind and tell me what you think.
Since the Dragon Quest IV remake for the DS came out a few days earlier in Australia and Europe than in the US, I've been playing it for quite a while now and thought I share some impressions.
First off, the game is pretty huge - I'm currently 30 hours into it and there are still parts of the world map I haven't explored. And most importantly, it is fun. The overall plot may be nothing special, but the chapter structure works really nice and adds a good deal of variety to the first half of the game (I especially liked the Torneko Taloon chapter) and an epic feel to the second half. There are also day-night cycles, a feature that I like very much in RPGs.
The difficulty is perfect so far. Some of the bosses are quite challenging, but with the right strategy you can beat them even without much grinding. Also, there are no Game Overs - when you die, you lose half of your money and are resurrected in a nearby town, but you keep your items and experience. Later in the game, you can deposit your money at a bank.
I love the visual style. It's detailed, colorful and makes good use of the limited 3D capabilities of the DS. You can play most of it like a classic 2D JRPG, but in many locations, like towns, you can spin the view around with the shoulder buttons, which is in a way pretty amazing.
The interface is very user-friendly. Party and inventory management is a piece of cake, and magic spells enable instant traveling between towns and minimizing of random battles. You can only save the games in churches, but there is a quick save feature if you have to interrupt your playing session.
One thing that pisses me off a little is that the party talk feature from the Japanese version is missing in the European release (and probably the US one too). I know it's not essential, but it's said to add a lot of atmosphere and characterization. I mean, we wait seven months for a localization and then stuff is taken out? Not nice.
But that's about the only bad thing I can say about this game right now (that and that the focus is on the bottom screen all the time, which I find wearisome to the eyes in non-stylus games, but that's a matter of taste I guess). Dragon Quest IV for the DS is simply fun, a pleasant and enjoyable experience.
I really can't remember which was first: The Atari ST or the Sega Master System. One of these two systems, both belonging to my parents, introduced me to video gaming. But I'm quite sure I spent more time with the Atari ST, just because it was always available, whereas the Master System spent most of its time in a closet and was only taken out occasionly. On the other hand, I still play on the Master System today, still buy games for it; the Atari ST however was thrown into the trash when my family moved - along with all its games. Thank god I kept a few pieces like the beautiful facsimile of Henry Jones' Grail Diary - a part of the copy protection for the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade adventure game.
I still remember many things about the Atari ST, like the loading sound of the disc drive, the klunky mouse, the wait cursor (which was a bee) and of course, most important, the numerous games that showed me the range of possibilities of this exciting new medium I was about to explore. "This way you can experience various adventures yourself!" My father's words, as he explained the concept of video games to me.
The most important game for me - and probably still my favorite - was the already mentioned Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, my first adventure game. I instantly loved exploring this world, being able to try a whole lot different things and proceed in the story (which was new to me at that point, I hadn't seen the movie yet).
But beyond classics like that (Populous, Dungeon Master, Winter Games, Railroad Tycoon - loved them all), there were also a few more obscure games. For example the point-and-click-adventure Chrono Quest, which had wonderful art design, but horrible game design. Most important though it was scary as hell: The sudden, cheap deaths, which were always followed by a really creepy, synthesized screaming sound, haunted my dreams for a long time. The story was quite interesting: It revolved around using a time machine to travel into different time periods. Too bad you couldn't cross a street in ancient egypt without a bunch of camels running you over!
Another one was called Starglider 2 - an action/simulation/puzzle game with polygon graphics, where you flew around in space and could land on different planets. Since the instruction booklet was in English - a language I couldn't speak at that point - I never figured out what to do. The coolest thing I remember about this game is that if you got too close to the sun, the whole screen began to melt. Which I found pretty awesome at the time. Also, there was a casette tape in the package that had the theme song on it. That was nice too, because the song really rocked.
Then there was a game based on the Pink Panther cartoon. Its gameplay was a little bit like Lemmings: You played as the Pink Panther, who had to keep a sleepwalker from waking up by pushing him, building ramps etc. Why? Because you were a burglar trying to loot his house while he was sleepwalking, that's why. Even Inspector Closeau was in the house, chasing you; it was really hard. I couldn't survive ten seconds without cheating.
There is one last game I want to talk about. It was called Hostages, and it revolved around some special-anti-terror-unit dealing with a hostage situation. Because of this realistic and quite violent scenario my parents didn't allow me to play it, which means I had to do it secretly. Oh, the taste of the forbidden fruit! There were four gameplay stages: Getting to the bulding in which the hostages were held while dodging searchlights, using a sniper rifle to kill a few bad guys inside, then breaking through the window from a helicopter and finally, moving around in the building to find and kill the terrorists and save the hostages. That last stage was my favorite: It was from first person and therefore probably my first FPS-like experience, which I found very exciting at the time.
Anyway, time went on, and when a 486 PC with Windows 3.1 entered the house I began to abandon the old Atari, like I did it with the Master System when the shiny new Mega Drive arrived. But you know what they say: You never forget your first time.
You may have heard of Namco-Bandai's upcoming DS pet game National Geographic Panda (Panda-san Nikki). Well, for those of you who can't wait, there is a flash demo on the official site now. The site alone is probably the greatest thing in the whole internet, but once you click on the second pink button at the top, the demo starts.
Granted, it's not exactly massive; all you can do at the moment is rolling a panda baby over. But I swear to you, once you've started, you simply can't stop doing it over and over again, for hours and hours and hours - especially because of the amazing background song that will stick in your head probably forever. And just look how happy the little fella looks everytime you did it!
God, pandas are so awesome. What's Final Fantasy IV again?
Today Eurogamer asked LucasArts employees Chris Norris (PR manager) and Jeffrey Gullett (Fracture assistant producer) the one question that's on the heart of possibly every adventure game nostalgic in the world:
"Are you ever going to make a graphic adventure again and why at least can't you just re-release them?"
Which is especially a good point considering that classic point-and-click adventure games are going through a kind of revival in terms of popularity. Just look at titles like the Sam & Max series on the PC, Hotel Dusk and the Ace Attorney series on the DS, or Zack and Wiki (and soon Sam & Max again) on the Wii. And don't forget that many people get an R4 just to play LucasArts adventure games on the DS using ScummVM.
Well, Gullet really has the balls to tell us that "the cart size of the DS makes it impossible to put out ports of any of our old graphic adventures." He says that "there's literally not enough room on those carts to put the games out."
And Norris adds that "we're still making adventure games but they're a little bit different than before with survival horror games and the like."
Okay, so in summary you tell me that The Secret of Monkey Island won't fit on a 256 MB DS cart and that I should go play Dino Crisis instead?
Fuck you, LucasArts. Not that I'm really mad that you don't want to make adventure games anymore - fortunately there are others now who do that quite well. I'm just a little mad at how little respect you have for the people that made your company as big as it is today, telling them such a bunch of bullshit.
My love for Indiana Jones and my love for video games, specifically LucasArts adventure games, began at the same time. That's because the source of both was the highly underrated Last Crusade adventure game - one of the first games I ever played. This way I became a fan of Indiana Jones before I had even seen one of the movies, and when my parents finally decided that I was old enough to watch the movie the game was based on I felt like it was christmas, only better.
Later I watched the other movies too, of course, and today the state is the following: I love Raiders of the Lost Ark, don't really care for the most parts of Temple of Doom and still adore every single second of The Last Crusade.
Therefore the announcement that in the fourth movie Sean Connery wouldn't reprise his role as Henry Jones Sr. made me quite sad. And that wasn't the only bad thing I heard about it. Especially the fact that Frank Darabont was replaced as a screenwriter by David Koepp because George Lucas didn't like Darabont's script weren't exactly great news. And it seemed to went on in the way that Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford constantly had to fight against Lucas to somehow keep the franchise in the realm of dignity - because we all know Lucas loves to rape childhoods with a spiked stick.
Anyway, despite of all this I didn't give up hope, mainly because the director was still Steven Fuckin' Spielberg, a man who understands the childlike wonder and magic of Hollywood cinema like maybe no one else. Also, Cate Blanchett!
To make a long story short, I've seen it now and here is my opinion: I think it's a great movie. I also think it's a horrible movie.
That may sound weird and/or pretentious at the first moment, but the thing is that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a schizophrenic beast. There are scenes that made me think: "Oh my, that's awesome, I want an Indy movie every year now". And then there were the little moles. And the monkeys. The scenes that are way too much over-the-top even for Indiana Jones. The bloated finale. And finally the single most ridiculous and cheesiest closing sequence I've probably ever seen in my life. What. The. Fuck.
Why is this movie so amazing at one moment and so bad at the other? Well, a tantalizingly simple explanation would be to credit all the bad scenes to Lucas. It sure looks that way when considering the discussions he and Spielberg had in interviews, concerning filmmaking philosophies. The scenes that work are the ones with good old-fashioned action and humor, reminiscent of the older movies. The moment you see CGI, it's generally going downhill. I may sound like a grumpy old geezer and of course there are exceptions to the rule, but the main impression of the movie is a constant power struggle between Master Spielberg and and Digital Guerilla Lucas.
However, despite of that the movie is definitely worth seeing. There are just too many great things about it. Harrison Ford's smirking charme. Playfully executed action sequences, fist fights included. Caves. Mummies. Snakes and scorpions. And last but not least: The many little homages and easter eggs. There is even a small Han Solo moment. If that was Lucas' idea, then I may manage to forgive him.