I remember when the generation was starting, I assumed history would repeat itself, after all we were getting a new Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo console, so it seemed fair to assume that it would be a repeat of the last generation, with Sony unequivocally on the top, Microsoft following close behind and Nintendo firmly within the niche it found itself in the Gamecube, however I couldn't have been more wrong on that front.
Another thing that I assumed was a given and turned out to be tragically wrong about was I assumed Japan would always be an important place in the video game world, wrong again, so tragically, tragically wrong.
let me put it to you this way, the last Japanese developed game that felt Japanese that I played start to finish was Persona 3 over five years ago and that wasn't even technically part of the 7th gen, that was a PS2 game! Japan used to be the place you would go if you wanted games with actual thought provoking stories and characters that you actually cared about (Silent Hill 2, Metal Gear Solid), Western games (with plenty of notable exceptions of course) was primarily where you went to see Space Marines blowin' shit up, football games and terrible "Gangsta" themed games, during the 7th generation Western games got smarter (Call of Duty aside), with games like Bioshock and The Last of Us, which is great! I love that fact! I just wish Japan could have continued to thrive.
Yes, Japanese developed games still exist, but here's the problem, pound for pound they're vastly outnumbered now by the amount of western developed games and on top of that, many of the ones that do come out try to court Western gamers by hiding the fact that they're Japanese, like the Gears of War ripoff Quantum Theory, a game that neither I, nor I'm willing to bet anyone else, has actually played, even already established franchises like Resident Evil have intentionally been trying like hell to "Westernize" themselves, watering down the formulas that made them popular in the first place and replacing them with stale "me too" tropes.
Even rarer are Japanese games that actually and look and feel like Japanese games, why do you think people flipped out over Deadly Premonition so much? because quirky Japanese games like that have become all but extinct, if Deadly Premonition had come out circa 2004/2005 or so it would have barely been a blip on anyone's radar, games like that used to be a dime a dozen, don't believe me? well have you ever played or even heard of Deadly Premonition's developer's previous game, Spy Fiction? I thought so
Point is, Japan, outside of Nintendo and Hideo Kojima, has become irrelevant, no one but the "weeaboos" care anymore, you used to get even "dudebro" gamers excited about the latest Final Fantasy for example, now no one gives a shit, including many former Final Fantasy fans themselves, I've given a lot of thought as to why this happened and I have a million different theories, but I think it all boils down to two simple things, 1. games got a lot more expensive to develop and 2. Western gamers, who have always been just as important to Japanese devlopers as Japanese gamers themselves, stopped caring, for lack of a better word Japan used to be "hip" in the first half of the 2000's, but there was a sea change in the culture and now it's considered more of an embarrassment than anything to admit you like anime, Japan etc, it's just not where our culture is at anymore, there's no place for Japan at the table anymore in the world of Call of Duty, Gears of War and Halo themed Mountain Dew
Now is there hope for Japan's gaming future? I'm too cynical to believe things will ever go back to the way they were before, things are too far gone, but the lesson the 7th generation taught me was you can't predict how video games will change, so I suppose there is hope for some kind of a comeback for Japanese games, I hope so anyway.
So for me, that's what defines the 7th generation of video games, it was the era in which the West gained total dominance and Japan, once a crucial part of video games, was banished to the land of wind and ghosts.
I'm not gonna make this long because the last cblog I did was read by almost no one
anyway my opinion on sex in video games is that it's not a big deal, oh sure I could write long paragraphs about the philosophicalness (a new word I just invented) of it, but instead I'll just say this
the first time I ever saw nudity in a video game was the original God of War almost 5 years ago
I remember my mind was blown, I literally couldn't believe I was seeing bare boobs in a mainstream video game (I'm referring of course to the ladies that Kratos has on his bed near the beginning of the game)
up until then nudity was a major taboo in video games, it just wasn't done, nudity was for those Japanese porn games, not good ole Christian American games! the most you might see is someone's ass in a thong
God of War pretty much broke that taboo thankfully, these days you can show boobs in a video game and the world wont end, the fact that Indigo Prophecy covered nudity in sometimes Austin Powers style ways and now it's followup Heavy Rain doesn't speaks a lot about how gaming has matured
but wait a minute, before I ever saw a pair of breasts in a video game I had seen tons of bloodshed and violence, I distinctly remember playing Metal Gear Solid 2 (one of the first M-rated games I played) and being shocked at shooting an enemy in the head and seeing blood splatter on the wall next to him, today that's something I wouldn't even blink at
I had also ran over a bunch of pedestrians in Grand Theft Auto 3 and laughed at the squishing sounds they made
which brings me to the next point, it's a gigantic cliche to say this, but Americans seem to be more offended by sex than violence, I just thinks it's backwards that violence was long accepted in games, but sex is just recently being accepted
I mean look back at Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, it was controversial over the violence of course, but what was the thing that resulted in the game being all but banned? that's right Hot Coffee, a "minigame" that wasn't intended to be in the final game and contained no nudity, only robo humping and was in an M-rated game anyway, resulted in people acting like Barney had had just cockslapped a bunch of kids
ok my final point is that we should be mature enough to accept that sex is a part of life and thus a large part of entertainment and not have our monocles pop out when a game dares to show a pair of boobies or robo humping
I have a dream, that one day there will be a Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 and in it the DOA gals will walk around with their gigantic boobies free for all to see and it will not cause gigantic controversy and riots in the streets, it will be glorious
ok so this is not gonna be a really long thesis or anything, but this is something that I've been thinking about a lot lately
people often compare video games to movies or describe them as "cinematic", the most recent example of this is Heavy Rain, but it's been going on for years
but obviously no matter what video games will always be different than movies obviously, but one difference between gaming and movies and as a matter of fact gaming and all other forms of entertainment and art is time, or specifically the passage of it
recently EA announced that they're going to shut down servers for various online games http://www.destructoid.com/say-goodbye-to-online-functionality-in-these-ea-games-164055.phtml#commentbox and this got me thinking how video games are a pretty finite thing, trapped in the era in which they were released (or more generally the console generation they were released in), we might say we don't care about these games being shut down because no one plays them, but what about your favorite online games today? will they be shut down a few years from now? Microsoft announced that they're shutting down Xbox Live for the Xbox 1 entirely meaning the experience of playing all those games online is now a thing of the past (including Halo 2), you also have to wonder about the 360 and the RROD, when Microsoft stops producing 360s and stops replacing them when they break, will we one day live in a world where there are literally no functioning 360s left? I can easily imagine a world where with no Xbox Live support for the 360 and all the consoles eventually breaking over time only people who modify or repair their consoles will be able to play anything on them
basically what I'm trying to say is that I can watch a movie from the 1980's as easily as I could watch a movie made today, I just buy it on dvd or movie companies even spend money to release it on a modern format such as a blu ray, but when it comes to gaming video games companies seem to not care about a game if it's old, "who plays that anymore?" they may ask themselves "why would we bother making that available to people?" it would be as if movie companies never invented home video and assumed no one would want to watch a movie again after it stops playing in theaters, this used to be the reality, before home video the only way to watch a movie was to see in theaters or see it on television, did you miss a movie or want to see one again? you were SOL
to expand the metaphor I can a novel from centuries of years ago as I easily as I could anything new, there are these amazing things called libraries that have been around for a while, video games though are like books that no one bothers to maintain or reprint and the pages wither over time
so I can watch a movie or read a book from the 80's easy as pie, but if I was to play a video game from the 80's and the actual cartridge on the actual console as opposed to roms or whatnot that would require me hitting up Ebay or trying to find a used copy and hooking it up to an older tv, or even if I was to play a game like Ocarina of Time on the N64 it would require the same effort
but what about PC games? with those older games have compatibility issues with modern OSs that require a lot of work to get running
so bottom line if gaming is going to ever be on the same level of an art form as movies or books it needs to think about the future and the preservation of games, we need a way to play any older game just as easily as we could play a modern one, game companies need to value their back catalogs instead of letting them be lost to the sands of time, there needs to be a way that future generations of gamers (I'm talking decades from now) can play the classics of the past
ok so I'm a big Stephen King fan and every once in a while I like to check his official website for any interesting news
well it seems that there's a mysterious new "Dark Tower project" going on complete with a trailer and rumor has it it could be a video game
here's the trailer http://stephenking.com/multimedia/dt_video/ a word of warning though, the trailer contains a few spoilers, so if you haven't read the Dark Tower series and wish to remain as ignorant about plot details as possible you may want to skip it
anyway while watching the trailer myself and seeing the words at the end "come and play" leads me to believe that it may in fact be a video game of some sort, whether it's a console game or some kind of web game remains to be scene however
personally the idea of an open world video game done in the style of Elder Scrolls 4 or Fallout 3, but set in the world of The Dark Tower is such an awesome idea that if I think about it too much I risk making my head explode like that guy in Scanners
I also wonder why there haven't been more Stephen King video games over the years (I think there have been only two, a text based adventure game based on The Mist in the 80's and a point and click adventure game based on The Dark Half movie)
Haunting Ground is yet another game I loved that got a lukewarm reception by both the gaming press and the gaming public and that is a crying shame, it does have a healthy cult following though which more than I can say for Ghost Hunter
Haunting Ground is a survival horror game much in the vein of the Clock Tower series (it was in fact supposed to be Clock Tower 4 until Capcom changed it to a new IP) that has you running from enemies that you can't kill while solving puzzles and exploring a castle. It's interesting to note that the upcoming Silent Hill Shattered Memories has adopted unkillable enemies that you must run from
the game follows Fiona Belli, a beautiful young gal with impossibly bouncy boobs whom one day is out driving with her family when they're suddenly in a violent car crash, she wakes up to find herself in a mysterious isolated castle somewhere in Italy and finds herself being chased by a large evil deformed retarded guy who's like a malevolent version of Sloth from The Goonies, thankfully she's not alone and has the help of a trusty dog named Hewie who can attack the enemies and help her retrieve stuff
there's other bad guys who chase Fiona over the course of the game, but I wont say who they are since it's fun to discover it on your own
the best thing about the game is the wonderfully surreal and intensely creepy castle that's more akin to Silent Hill than Resident Evil that you get to explore, it really feels like your exploring the home of a madman with lots of cool rooms to see, there's one room filled with dolls, another room with creepy marionette's hanging from the walls and ceiling, at one point in the game you find a modern hospital room in the middle of an old castle (strange huh?), there's even a stairway that's a reference to M. C. Escher's Relativity, but be warned, some of the rooms have traps
the castle is divided into several parts and another cool thing about the game is after you have a "showdown" with some of the enemies you're free to explore the part of the castle they roamed for fun
running from enemies sounds like it could tiresome, but it's fun and scary as hell, plus the game thankfully gives you enough breathers that you can explore the castle without being chased constantly (provided you're clever enough to lose them)
a few other things worthy of note is the great music, great graphics for it's time and the unlockable costumes for Fiona (that I've included pictures of below) that include a dominatrix outfit called "illegal in some states" and a cowgirl outfit, there's even a "Fiona the frog" outfit, all of which makes the game all the more awesome to me
another strange bit of trivia is Moira Quirk, the referee in the 90's Nickelodeon sports show GUTS voices one of the characters, sadly the game does not include the voices of Kirk Fogg or Marc Summers, talk about missed opportunities man!
so there you have it, Haunting Ground, a game that is an excellent example of a genre that is sadly dying these days (survival horror)
it's obvious Capcom was hoping for a new franchise with this, there's some cross promotion with Resident Evil 4 strangely enough, "that dog" who makes a cameo in RE4 is apparently none other than Hewie! (how a dog could go from Spain to Italy I have no idea) meaning that Haunting Ground and Resident Evil may take place in the same world, doesn't that blow your mind?
but alas the game just didn't sell well enough I guess so no sequel, damn you people who didn't play this game! DAMN YOU!
*clears throat* so this is the first Monthly Musing blog post I've ever done (so forgive me if I fuck something up) and the first blog post I've done overall in a while, but here goes....
this is a game that I seem to be one of the few people on earth who played and enjoyed, it got mostly a cold shoulder from the gaming press at the time and seemed to come and go without much fanfare
but for me this is a game that holds a special place in my heart that I still revisit every couple of years and back before the official Ghostbusters game came out, this was the closet thing to a good GB game you could get
the game follows Lazarus Jones (what a name eh), a Detroit cop voiced by Rob Paulsen (of Animaniacs fame) who after investigating a creepy abandoned school where murders took place years before with his partner, unwittingly stumbles upon a secret lab containing a machine filled with ghosts that a scientist captured before the murders, of course he presses a big red button like an idiot and releases all these said ghosts (one of which kidnaps his partner) and must now recapture them all
Ghost Hunter is a game that's more than the sum of it's parts, the basic gameplay is mostly standard third person shooting with controls that can sometimes feel a little sluggish, but what makes the game interesting of course is the fact that you're fighting ghosts
some of the ghosts float through the air, some just walk on the ground and some (the troops in the above pic) even have (ghost?) guns that they shoot you with, there's even poltergeists which float objects around and have to be exposed with smoke or water to see
another twist to the gameplay is that you have to "capture the ghosts" ghostbusters style, while it's simple (just toss a doohickey at them after you've weakened a ghost enough) it's still surprisingly satisfying in a "bustin makes me feel good" way
but what REALLY makes the game allot of fun are it's graphics, story, characters and settings (plus the cool ghosts themselves)
while the Bayou level goes on for too long and eventually becomes dull, most of the levels are really cool, ESPECIALLY the haunted mansion level (where you fight the teddy bears and see the baby-doll thing pictured above) which is like a surreal trek through some creepy painting and is surprisingly scary. That's another cool thing about the game is it's balance of humor and horror, there's plenty of other cool levels too like the ghost ship (filled with silly bloated ghosts of WW2 era British soldiers) and the school (filled with poltergeists)
this has gotten a little long winded so I'll try to wrap it up with some bullet points
* the game features the voices of Sir Michael Gambon (as the villian) and Joe Morton (as the scientist who captured all the ghosts the first time)
* the music in the game is good and sets the mood, plus there's a great spooky piano theme that plays in some of the levels, sadly a soundtrack was never released
* the game was developed by SCE Studio Cambridge, makers of MediEvil 1 and 2 and Primal (another very underrated game), the game even includes a very fun reference to MediEvil with the ghost of Sir Daniel Fortesque's descendant in the Ghost Ship level
* the final level in the game is pretty out of left field and bizarre (I wont spoil what it is though) and unfortunately one problem with the game is that the ending is disappointing (disappointing endings in games seems to be a rising trend lately)
*at some points in the game you actually take control of the ghost of a woman in a shear robe who helps Lazarus solve simple puzzles, these parts are mostly a gimmick however
* one bizarre thing about the game that has confounded me for years is for the first chunk of the game the game lets walk around the laboratory that acts as a hub and view the ghosts you've captured in the "array" complete with descriptions of them, I found this really cool, but for some reason after a certain point the game no longer gives you control between the levels and instead moves from level to level with cutscenes not allowing you to view the "array" again, why the game does this I have no idea and it even seems to taunt you at one point by having Lazarus say "check out that array!" and then walk through the portal to the next level not allowing you to view the cool ghosts you've captured, I guess the writers got too lazy to come up with descriptions for all the ghosts
whew, so there you have it, Ghost Hunter, a game that I really wish got more recognition, I highly suggest anyone who hasn't played it pick it up