Skyscraper is the writer identity of one Karl Göran Isacson, gamer to the bone and amateur reviewer of games on his spare time. He's studying (soon to be studied) game design at Stockholms University in the vain hopes of landing a career in game design, and is generally a hopeless nerd connected to the Internet far too often to get much gaming done. Blessed with an older brother with computer-savvy friends, he has been illegally playing a number of games on a variety of platforms far broader than what his paltry allowance could buy him at the time, and is now a repetentant game-buyer who spends far too much of his cash on the games he once pirated.
He thus has the super-power of having no particular biases to or against against any one console-maker, and just plays all of the games that he's interested. Expect this blog to be a varied one, because "variety" is a much prettier word than "no clear line of thought or planning". It's also shorter.
Been writing reviews since he was 16 years old (they sucked), and always trying his darn best to improve. He's here to play games, write opinions... and never answer why he calls himself Skyscraper as the answer would simply rob him of all mystique and intrigue.
Evening, Destructoid! Been a good long while since last time I went 'round these parts, but a surplus of free time means I’ve decided to sneak back in here as I have something to talk about. Something that will soon be relevant to my interests as I will get DmC as a birthday gift, and so I've spent December and January playing the demo and finally getting around to completing DMC4. All in all I've come out with some... insights, into the franchises current state.
Let's quickly recap my thoughts on the demo however, and the hour or so of gameplay I saw LP'd recently. Also, note: I haven't read reviews yet. I'm trying to go into this with eyes untouched by anything by my own biases.
-The weapon switching system. Not all the weapons seem like they’ll be very useful, but I do like the general idea of shoulder button ”style” switching, felt like it handled better here than in Heavenly Sword.
-The red glow on your weapon telling you when you can "branch out" with a new combo. I don't know if this came from Capcom or NT, but I like how it helps newcomers open up their eyes to the possibilities in the system. One minor flaw was that the Angel and Devil weapons had so much lightning effects on them that I didn’t notice they HAD a shine until it was explicitly pointed out in a video I watched, but maybe that’s fixed in the full game.
-Dante’s attitude and general character. Don’t think I need to explain why at this point, others have done it so well.
-The difficulty. High scores felt too easy to come by and most fights were far too simple and slow. Dunno if that's the frame rate thing or just generally unaggressive enemies. Can’t say I care much for piddly guns, getting Ikaruga in my DMC or the PS3's way of putting weird lines on everyones faces either.
-The story. It can go so many ways, but I wish, hope and pray that even if Dante has turned into yet another ”angsty and broody dude who doesn’t care about anything but learns to open up and yet never grows a sense of humor”, and Mundus has become so petty as to say ”You don’t fuck with a god” and other stylistic choices that makes me groan, I still hold out hope for Vergil. Something about the way he's presented in trailers and other material makes me feel like he'll be really sympathetic, perhaps even the break-out star of the game, and I do hope that when Vergil falls, which he will, it won’t be because he was manipulating everyone all along because he was brought up as a rich kid and the rich people are like always looking to screw over the little guy! FIGHT THE POWER! So, yes. I'm pinning all my hopes on a possible villain.
-The graphics. I think I’ll come to appreciate them in the end, but I felt all the colors were so vibrant they just blend into each other and make it really difficult to SEE what's going on and pick up visual cues like the shine on the weapons. The city-scape was not as impressive as in DMC4 and none of the environments I’ve seen so far have really grabbed me so far.
And now that I’ve gone through the stuff y’all have already discussed to death, what DO I have to bring to the conversation? With so much insecurity, why do I still think this’ll be a net gain for the franchise? Simply put- because effing Capcom, guys. Effing Capcom.
Capcom seems to be run by howler monkeys these days. The treatment of the Megaman franchise (slowly getting ”better” though), their inability to understand what its costumers wants (which hopefully the survey will change), the numerous PR-fiascos and what happened to RE6 (yeah, not a big fan) have not earned them much good will. Capcom’s strength may lie in pumping out sequels, but quality control of said sequels… not so much. See, I don’t really think Capcom knows what to do with DMC- having recently cleared DMC4 in preparation for this one I was struck by just how BAD the story there was, even if Nero was surprisingly enjoyable for someone I could swear would be a Poochy without equal.
Apparently he IS supposed to be Vergils son, yet for reasons unknown this was shunted from this game and left to be revealed in later games. Games that never materialized. Why? What sense did it make to introduce this new character and then never give him a satisfying explanation and solid background? There was also the blatant reuse of assets to save time and money, whether due to laziness or low budget: even if the stages were gorgeous and felt more varied than DMC3’s often barren cave and fortress environments, going through them twice was not a lot of fun.
Not much I can say about the gameplay either- instant style changing for Dante was neat but I can see why they cut it to simplify stuff for newcomers, and farming orbs to upgrade styles was a real drag later on. I liked Nero’s Devil Arm but Exceed felt pretty darn tacked on, and Dante’s weapons were either reruns or polishing other characters weapons (Lucifer was everything Vergil’s Summoned Swords should have been). I give Pandora a pass, but just barely.
But at the end of the day DMC4 was a decent game. A 6 or 7 probably, which I think is where DmC will end up as well for anyone not blinded by hate or hype. So if both are about equall okay, why do I think NT was a good choice? Because say what you will about Tameem and Ninja Theory’s less than stellar way of paying proper respects to the franchise, I do believe they have far higher ambitions and ability to maintain a consistent world and keep a story going than Capcom do. I feel like it’s safer to have Capcom create new franchises and then farm them out to other developers who can actually DEVELOP those worlds. This isn’t a very nice conclusion and it does make me a Gloomy Gus Doomsayer re: Capcom’s capacities, but my gut says what it says and Capcom hasn’t done much to disprove it as of late. For all the things this game does that makes me groan as a fan of the fun, devil may care attitude of Devil May Cry, I simply believe they can be better stewards of the franchise than Capcom.
In summary, Nu!Dante will not be the anti-Christ that dooms the franchise… just the anti-Charisma.
Okay yes, this whole thing was pretty much written solely because I needed a justification to post that pun, which I came up with after watching the Let's Play. I may be heinously late to the party with these opinions but dammit- I believe that it is NEVER too late for a good pun. The world which disagrees with me is one I for one will have no part of.
So, with that said, until I get around to posting a review of DmC (and maybe DMC4 if I feel like it), I feel like I've had my fill of controversialities and debates on radical alterations to a franchises spirit and respecting history without shutting doors to the future. I'm just gonna relax and turn my attention elsewhere, talk about something else...
So how about that Reveangeance trailer/demo out now/soon :D ?
So since I haven’t actually written an introductory post, I thought I could jump on this here bandwagon with reckless abandon since after all, ANYTHING I tell you will be considered “Things you didn’t know”. For I am an unknown quantity, elusive and mysterious like the platypus. Come, allow me to disperse some of my mystery with these ten truths…
10. I take pictures of my hair after I shower. Some people make duck-face pictures, I take snapshots of the amazing shapes my hair takes when it’s wet because that’s the only time my unruly mop looks interesting. Sometimes I seriously look like I belong in a shonen manga.
9. I am tall. I am 6,5 feet and after spending some humiliating years as a very stout pre-teen I was incredibly smug about shooting past my older brother and dad at the age of fifteen. Downside to this is that I get very self-conscious when there’s someone taller than me around- I want to be the top dog. Me. ME DAMMIT.
8. I was a violent kid. Between the ages of 9 to 14 I must have been one sociopathic little fucker, because mom and dad have a lot of stories from various fights that I’ve been in that have gone WAY beyond school-yard scuffles and that I… apparently just didn’t give a fuck about, because I can’t remember them myself. The prime example would be when I was nine and one of the class troublemakers cut in line in lunch. The teachers reported that I floored him with a headbutt, and then just went back to my place in the line. I don’t even think I liked the food there, I had apparently just had enough of his shit.
TO NO CHILD, SHALL I GIVE ACCOORD! HIS BRUISES ARE ON MY RECOOORD. BRUISES UPON MY RECOOOOOORD!
The strangest thing is that this apparently didn’t get me in trouble with the teachers what-so-ever, so if I did learn anything it was that the world rewards those who can channel destructive and dangerous tendencies in the right directions. And now you know. Don’t do it these days though, as I got sent into special ed when I entered my teens and it really helped me mellow out.
7. I lean heavily towards the “storytelling” side in the “storytelling versus interactivity” debate. I’ve been reading since I was three years. I’ve read books since I was five and game magazines since I was six, which means that I not only got it imprinted in me at an early age that games could be serious business and should be treated as such, but also that whenever the debate rages of favoring either interactivity or storytelling, I instinctively lean towards the storytelling side because I’ve enjoyed books far more than I’ve enjoyed playing with other kids. I feel like I should apologize to Jim Sterling just by writing these words, man.
6. I can't decide if my favorite console is the PS2 or the Nintendo DS. Because both consoles had an extremely varied line-up with a healthy amount of games for them, but also because those two were the first consoles I bought with my own money instead of getting them as a gift, and the games I bought were MY games. Not the familys, not co-owned. Mine. Those were good days, man. Good days.
5. Video games corrupting influence has taught me more about my own perversions than sex-ed ever did, and it all started with fighting games. This is gonna be a long one, and honestly tackle three subjects- why I prefer 2D-fighting games, my frighteningly broad taste in girls and humorously narrow taste in men. Due to their tendency to focus on highly detailed and ever so physical characters, fighting game ladies were some of the first to make me think naughty things (Cammy’s victory pose in Super Street Fighter 2 was the start down the road, man), but their most lasting influence was teaching me the merits of variety. I have often felt that sprite-based games, due to forcing the developers to make every character from the ground up often results in characters with their own unique builds, whereas with games that use 3D-models or scanned in real people (Tekken and Mortal Kombat basically) I end up feeling like everyone looks the same because they’ve basically use three models- one for regular guys, one for really bulky guys and one for the girls. 2D games like Street Fighter Alpha, Darkstalkers and King of Fighters were more visually appealing to me for this variety, which is why I’ve never found the Dead or Alive ladies very hot- too much same-face and same-body going on.
But once this discovery was made I found myself gravitating towards the more… unusual designs. I’ve always been the guy to pick people like Dhalsim, Faust or Arakune first because the odd intrigues me, and soon I found that preference slipping into the realm of “things I find attractive.” It started off light with characters like Natsu from Rival Schools who just happens to be a very tall girl, then to King from King of Figthers who’s a female cross-dresser (I coincidentially happen to find Ivy far more appealing when she’s wearing a mens uniform), then chars like Felicia from Darkstalkers and Sheeva from Mortal Kombat started catching my eyes and from THAT I went into the survival horror genre where I saw characters like Alexia Ashford from Resident Evil and Mellissa Pearce from Parasite Eve and couldn’t understand why my coplayers were so grossed out…
Basically I am Tycho and the people reading this are slowly turning into Gabe. I’m so sorry. And if it hadn’t been for videogames, I may still have been blissfully unaware of the part of me that finds ladies with bug-parts attractive… or, for that matter, the part of me that isn't interested in men UNLESS they are classically handsome with long black hair, well-kept goatees and asian facial features.
The reason I’m not going to apologize to Jim Sterling- because he thinks Zhang fucking He is hotter shit than THIS handsome son of a gun.
Dynasty Warriors 4 was a rather educating playthrough for me, in that regard. At first I was “WELP DIDN’T KNOW THIS PART ABOUT ME”, but then I went “Okay if I get all hot and bothered over Kerrigan, throwing a hissy-fit over something this comparatively mainstream is just silly” so I didn’t. Xiahou Dun’s cropped boy-band look from Dynasty Warriors 6 can just go die in a burning ditch though.
4. I’m studying game design with a focus on level design, modeling and being the “idea guy”. While Extra Credits has taught me that nobody needs an “idea guy”, I have none the less often ended up being just that guy when I’ve worked on game design. I’ve been responsible for the basic concept and storyline for two small games, and fleshed out the story and done level design for a third which is kind of like story-telling for a third, and just about generally been the guy people ask for ideas when it comes to world building. It gives me hope that somehow, even if I’m just average in coding and modeling, I have a future in game design. Not a bright one, but a future none the less.
3. Only one game has ever made me cry. Secret of Mana. The ending. I mained Sprite. Nuff ‘said for those who know what I’m talking about. Also I was like six at the time so that might've helped.
2. The first game I ever wrote a review for was Shadow of Memories. I’ve been part of a website that reviews games for over twelve years now. For my first review they basically just handed me the game since I was the only one who was interested in a story-based adventure game from Japan, so I sat down, played it until the end, got the worst ending because I completely misunderstood how to play the game but wrote that I loved it anyway. I’ve been writing and improving ever since, and hope that posting the occasional review here won’t be some kind of breach of contract… not that they’re paying me for it.
1. I will never be able to truly leave Capcom behind. The first game I ever played for the NES that wasn’t Mario was Megaman 3. Megaman X was the second game I got for the SNES. Street Fighter 2 captured my imagination when my bigger brother would let me play it, the curmudgeon, in ways that Mortal Kombat never could. Breath of Fire 3 was the first really big JRPG I ever played on the Playstation (and the less said about my thoughts on Myrias design the better for the weakminded out there), and Devil May Cry was the second game I ever bought for the PS2. I am hopelessly, HOPELESSLY trapped in the web of storied franchises that these guys have spun. Seeing what they do these days and what they are more and more turning into makes me weep, but… it’s alright. I’ll just smile, and tell the world that it’s okay. My wallet just walked into a door, that’s why it’s so empty. It’s… it’s so clumsy. It does that sometimes. That’s all.
In order to understand why I consider Kingdom Hearts 2 one of my greatest disappointments, some historical context is necessary. I buy the very first Kingdom Hearts game six months after its initial release, having at first passed it over as a baby game for silly babies in soiled diapers. A significantly less prejudiced friend had bought it and insisted we play it together. I was prepared to have myself a good laugh at what was sure to be Squares ultimate sell-out move of all time, and I did until the smarmy bastard started playing it when I wasn’t around and forced my hand into buying it so I could miss the no doubt VITAL plot elements of Halloween Town. I was mesmerized by this strange world were Donald Duck wielded the lightning like a vengeful, feathery God. To me this series along with Devil May Cry IS Playstation 2, games that molded my expectations of what a game for the console should be like (and we’ll see if I write about THAT series future the next time this theme rolls around).
Please don't be half as bad as I expect you to be.
Kingdom Hearts woved me with its graphics, its music and its deceptively interesting worlds, full of hidden little nooks and corners to explore. Back then I didn’t complain about things like a missing mini-map: I just learned to navigate the gameworld. Add to that a secret ending that blew my mid-teen mind with all the endless potential and awesome stuff it promised and Square had me hooked, had me spending day in and day out scouring the internet for any word of a sequel. What I got… was Chain of Memories.
And boy do I love Chain of Memories. To you nay-sayers already hitting the back-button, I welcome your slings and arrows. I won’t deny that the changes made to the battle system to accommodate the lower horse power of the GBA were jarring, or that the worlds were very bland or that their recycled stories were boring. But I can’t lie, at the time I found it a worthy “interquel” as they come. Don’t know if I’d still feel that way now, but back then I loved how it expanded Soras roster of attacks and spells and how the card-system forced you to limit what resources you brought into the field. You had your set and you better make sure it was built well enough to tackle whatever challenges came your way. Did you mix it up with healing items or spells? Did you go all in on offense? Switch between different pre-set decks for different situations, and you had a feature I could spend oh so much delightful time mixing and playing around with.
This screen. Bane of my spare times existence. Sweet mother of so much sweet loot.
And as bland as the “in-world” storyline was, the story taking place outside of it more than made up for that. The Organization wasn’t like the squabbling group of barely co-operating Disney villains. They had personal motivations, cool uniforms, (I was a teenager and hoodies and matrix-coats were cool, sue me) and seemed to be so much more personally involved in the plot than the Disney villains lackadaisical repeat performances, save of course Maleficent who is always awesome. These guys played Sora like a fiddle while plotting against each other, there were backstabbings and betrayals and sadistic bad-touchy villainy, and one of them was even a woman! And she did things! In a Kingdom Hearts game no less! (everyone screaming Birth By Sleep don’t worry I love Aqua too but still, come on)
And they weren’t the only ones going through interesting developments either, the heroes felt that much more interesting this time around. Donald and Goofy were valuable assets to Sora rather than just glorified meat-shields/potion banks. They balanced Soras naïve optimism with calm, easy-going maturity and cynical skepticism, not as his side-kicks, but as his friends. They were a team. And to top it all off they took Riku, who I couldn’t stop groaning at during the first game and made him likable! Mostly by relentlessly dumping in his face how DUMB he had been during the first game and what a tool he was, and while he paid for that and emo’d about it I was okay with it because holy hell, making Mickey Mouse the “Yoda” of the Kingdom Hearts-verse, surprisingly wise, affable AND powerful in the force was the best move they could have ever done.
Everybody chill- the mouse's got this.
Mickey helping Riku cheer up and move forward instead of moping around was the second most heart-warming part of Chain of Memories, next to finally rescuing Namine. They actually made me sympathize with a willowy maiden who just sat around waiting for a rescuer because she didn’t spend much screen-time whining about her predicament, she was surrounded by some seriously wicked child molesters AND when she had openings she did not fuck around- girl TOOK those suckers even if it meant giving a guy a metaphysical stroke (Riku Replica is the saddest replica ever get out Xion) because she had had enough of his stalkery ass. Add to that another mystery opening up (the ‘other side of Sora’ and the whole existence of DiZ) and how could I NOT be super-hella-ultra jazzed for Kingdom Hearts 2? I expected the rest of the Organization to be just as wily as these guys, the stakes to be raised that much higher and be that much more personal and moving, the twists to become even more twisted, the gameplay to be just as intriguing and offer as many interesting options as Chain of Memories, but with even more lush and detailed worlds than Kingdom Hearts 1, and for Donald, Goofy, Mickey and Riku to come together as an awesome team!
I got a game where some of the antagonists had less than five minutes screen time total.
I got a game where the prologue is the biggest fuck you to any player ever who just wants to enjoy a game about cartoon bros being cartoon bros.
I got a game where Sora runs around and whines, is manipulated by personality-less douches the game somehow expects me to feel SORRY for and swings between moods so wildly I wonder if the kids hadn’t gone schizo from the pressure of saving the universe. I got a game where triangle-button became the “win this battle” button. I got a game that utterly crushed my expectations… and you know what?
I want to thank Kingdom Hearts 2 for that.
This strange urge comes partially from the fact that somewhere along the line we must all meet with disappointment and betrayed expectations in order to properly harden our hearts to the world. There are plenty of things wrong or half-assed about Kingdom Hearts 2. The mechanics it introduces such as Drive are ill explained and end up underused, it heaps on abilities that you have no reason to use strategically as you can just equip everything and mash the attack buttons until the enemy is dead, the stages suffer from bland level design where you often just walk around on empty backdrops with no interactive parts (which prepared me for Final Fantasy XIII’s pretty but soulless corridors), none of the villains feel threatening or properly explained (why are the Disney villains back, why are they so useless, why do the Organization have so little screen-time etc)… and even if the game was easier to control and navigate, it was still a bland snooze-fest.
Whereas Kingdom Hearts 1 had been lighthearted but gradually building up to the mysterious and bizarre environments at the end by the journal excerpts one picked up here and there, and Chain of Memories started with us neck-deep in an amnesia mystery where every answer just seemed to lead deeper down the rabbit-hole, Kingdom Hearts 2 just felt like jumping around from dark to light to high to low with no sense of build-up, as its characters dialed up the melodrama without ever feeling like they earned it.
But… in one way, Kingdom Hearts 2 also taught me not to let my expectations run away with me. After Kingdom Hearts 1 and Chain of Memories I was expecting nothing less than a balls to the walls dramatic finale in which every character arc would come to fruition, every Gun putting a hole in Schrodingers forehead. Every story would be tied together and every gameplay element be brilliantly linked in a way that made them all necessary to win. I saw the scene where Donald and Goofy give Sora the thumbs up as they charge into a massive army of behemoths, drake and soldier heartless, and thought that was how the whole game was going to be like, and the final battle against whatever mysterious entity was pulling the strings of the Organization was going to involve every single Disney and Square hero and heroine charging balls to the walls into the mouth of darkness.
Kingdom Hearts 2 on the Playstation 2 was never going to be able to do all those things. I had heard a rumor that KH 1 was going to have the Disney princes saving their princesses alongside with Sora and thought they were saving that for 2, not realizing that was never gonna be an option due to Disney’s veto. The processing power of the PS2 was never going to be able to give me the Thousand Heartless battle my imagination craved. I thought the reason Sora could wield duel keyblades was because he was becoming stronger in “the force” and by the end he would have a veritable shield of Keyblades following him, but that turned out to be due to his convoluted connection with “other halves”, explained only in the portable console interquels and prequels. I was thinking that maybe, just maybe, the Gummiship was going to be like in Final Fantasy 6 and 7, a base in which we would gather allies and chat with them, perhaps have some kind of minigame where we could practice magic with Donald, combat with Goofy, minigames with a resident moogle, and the whole series would conclude in that installment. I was, in short expecting them to blow their entire creative load on Kingdom Hearts 2, and it was going to be best game ever.
This, but with two Keyblades tied together instead of nunchucks.
We didn’t get that. When I finished playing Kingdom hearts 2 I just sat down and asked myself “is that it?” Expect it wasn’t- Nomura was going to take this series on some of the craziest turns I’ve ever seen, spreading it out over every format known to man, and adapting and experimenting with the formula in order to fit it the best he could to that format. I can’t think of a series that’s done that before or since save the Mario franchise. I wanted something simple and straightforward, and Nomuras plans were anything but.
Some would say his decision to turn the franchise into his own personal Frankensteins monster has been to its detriment, that they cannot abide spending the kind of money they have to in order to follow the story and that so many unplanned installments have spread the storyline far past what it can support. All I can say is that I’ve liked some and disliked some, but in the end Nomura has made filthy amounts of money with the franchise seemingly without losing too much of the core audience, so whatever plan he has seems to be working just fine.
Now I still feel justified in calling Kingdom Hearts 2 a disappointment. The mood felt inconsistent, the story never grabbed me since the stakes never felt high enough to warrant the characters emotional drama and the combat was the epitome of style over substance: flashy but boring and far too simple. But it taught me things. It taught me that as you grow up, you will be disappointed and you will have to face those disappointments as they come. You can cling to the past and be angry about it, but in the end you’ll just hurt yourself by lingering on what could have been. In the end I took those disappointments and channeled them into something productive- shortly after Kingdom Hearts 2 I started participating in the fan-community and discussed why I disliked it, how I would have done things instead, and in those talks I was stimulated- I even saw counter-arguments that I took to heart. Nowadays I’m merrily channeling my creative sparks into my own writing and I’m all the happier for it. Kingdom Hearts 2 taught me to handle disappointment with grace, and gave me the insight that in the end, you always have the option to reject canon and substitute it with your own.
Which is why I’m currently writing my own cross-over fix-fic for Mass Effect 3 instead of throwing myself into a dead-horse debate, because hey- it may be silly, childish and awkward all around in case anyone here ever finds and reads it, but at least in this way... I'm having fun. It's my experience, I'll cheese it up if I want to.