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I've been into games since I was able to reach the joystick on the Pac-Man arcade cabinet. That was 1982 - ever since that day I knew gaming and I would be bound by fate in some way, shape or form that I've still yet to figure out.

Until then, I've decided to just play games, enjoy them, blog about games and otherwise not shut up about them. Well, I do think about other stuff, I just keep coming back to the whole games thing.

Metroid is probably still my all-time favorite series. Its the one I keep coming back to year after year despite which version it might be. Super Metroid and Metroid Prime 2 are my favorites of the series and I also often enjoy anything Metroid-like. I enjoy the solitude and exploration of such games.

I also enjoy Shin Megami Tensei, Fallout, Deus Ex, The Elder Scrolls - pretty much anything with a lot of solitary exploration and a large world makes me a rather happy camper. To contrast this I usually need some lighter and happier games as well, which could be anything from a Pokemon game to a fashion game. Retro games of most stripes are something I still enjoy. Sometimes you just need that sort of contrast to keep going.

My platforms of choice tend to be handhelds, I'm starting to consider dropping any non-Nintendo console in favor of PC since Sony's IPs don't appeal to me and Halo just ends up on PC at some point anyway. I don't hate Playstation per se, I just hate what its become under the current Sony.

I do keep a PS2 handy to revisit Playstation's glory days. Great console, easily one of the best platforms aside from SNES, DS and Dreamcast.

As for other things about me, I guess we'll find out, won't we?

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Metal Gear Solid is a samurai epic.

Yep, it totally is.

Whether this was Hideo Kojima's intention or not, the original Metal Gear Solid is very much a post-WWII samurai epic. Think Akira Kurosawa's most celebrated films or even Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy. An epic is the story of the rise of a hero or heroes and a great journey undertaken, with strong thematic repetition and strong supporting characters. In a samurai epic you can also count on the protagonist to be a psychologically scarred, disgraced and even rather cynical warrior.

That's Solid Snake except he was redefined as a voiced protagonist and there were consequences for that choice. However, unlike space bounty hunters or those who raid tombs that one day find themselves with full voices acting, Solid Snake was a protagonist with his agency fully taken away and then given back in full to the players within the sane story. This is accomplished by way of the samurai epic, thus the specter of lost player agency was deftly avoided.

Much like Christian Bale is a terrible Batman on his own, Solid Snake isn't much by himself even with David Hayter's wry and perfect delivery behind it. To make Snake or Bruce Wayne more than who they are, it's the wisdom and insight granted along the way - be it from friend or foe - that allows the player or viewer to have something to ascribe to the protagonist and let it help them enjoy the hero and empower them. You're not so much interpreting and occupying Snake's mind as you are aligning your view of him with that of Meryl, Otacon, Psycho Mantis, Sniper Wolf or whomever you find most agreeable.

As these other character relate their stories to Snake, players may be given things they may identify with from that ally or enemy, then they just imprint that character's views on Snake to give him that extra oomph. He becomes more than a cranky man in a sneaking suit.

Most people, when pressed to describe Solid Snake will say he's "badass." It's quaint, but it's because they're unfamiliar with how to frame the story and how it made them feel beyond the empowerment. The samurai epic narrative is just rarely employed in games. No More Heroes also fits, though intent is somewhat different.

Anyway, the next time someone asks you what's so great about MGS, tell them it's because it's a samurai epic. Solid Snake may not have a sword, but he's certainly a samurai. 

If they ask what MGS2 is, say it's Scream 2.

Just a thought.

Today my Dovahkiin, Nia Mistquiver, entered Riften's Ratway to be greeted by a surly high elf that said Nia was ugly and would fix it for 1,000 septims. Knowing high elves are snobby and mean and being one that snipes Thalmor for fun, I took issue with her statement. 

I mean, just look at this face. It could win pageants. I worked a good thirty minutes working on this face before sending it off to the chopping block in Helgen many months ago. Nia has been told to stay away from people's husbands, even!

But as I thought about it, she didn't really look like the Dovahkiin that shouted at dragons, that joined the Stormcloak rebellion, the one who had slain Alduin, became the Listener of the Dark Brotherhood, head of the Thieves Guild in addition to being a werewolf. She still looked like a fresh-faced barmaid. 

So I took the icy elf up on her offer. New war paint, some blush for the cheeks, darkened the complexion a little, tweezed and arched the eyebrows, let Nia's hair down and a made it a little wild, made her eyeshadow a little more earthy. Leaf green.

Oh, and if those vampires can have cool glowing red eyes, I wanted Nia to have cool eyes, too, so they've gone from blue to silver.

All in all. Nia's looking more traveled and experienced. 

And fabulous. A fine Dovahkiin makeover, if I do say so myself. I thanked the elf, then made Nia shoot her with a crossbow from the shadows for x3.0 damage! Plus it's an enchanted crossbow with exploding bolts, so that really stung.

It's sort of funny how real your characters can become to you, to the point you might even push them to age gracefully. I'll sink an hour into this kind of thing with each new RPG I start if the option's there, so it was nice Dawnguard lets you update your character's look.

So how's your Dovakiin looking lately?

I haven't blogged much of late, as my laptop is out of commission. I'm short on cash to fix it and can't upload images from the iPhone 4. I do have a blog I've been drafting, but as one might imagine it gets tiresome inputting all your thoughts on a tiny software keyboard. Still, I want to have something to offset the inevitable, mind-numbing deluge of Mass Effect 3 blogs that are sure to ensue this week. Fight the good fight and all that. I should have it tweaked by Wednesday, Skyrim: Dawnguard permitting.

Anyway, on to my topic - an image from Wreck-it Ralph and what it says to me:

Happy: Chun Li spotted in Wreck-it Ralph! 

So far it's mostly been a boy's club of arcade nostalgia for this movie, so it's nice to see Chunny is in. Dunno why she's as tall as Zangief, but I guess they want Ralph to be the real contrast of the movie compared to everyone else.

Word is Cammy is also in, though Disney might modify her outfit a little, for obvious reasons.

Sad: Here's where the image is worth a thousand words, though I'm not much for counting these words on this iPhone.

Qbert and company have fallen on hard times. One of the baddies has a sign saying he'll work in an FPS for food. Could there be an undercurrent of commentary on today's gaming trends? The story does point to Ralph wanting to transition from arcade baddie to "modern" hero in a game called "Hero's Duty."

Already, the movie seems to nudge at the differences with the games of today and those of the 80's and 90's. There certainly is a sort of whimsy video games from that time were allowed to have that's deemed uncool now by "hardcore" gamers. Were Qbert to be a new game today it would be an iPhone or indie game sneered at by the hardcore CoD fan. Sneered at until useful, anyway.

It has always bugged me that when gaming is under fire for violence by the media that gamers will run to arcade classics and games like Animal Crossing to show they're not all that way, yet when the coast is clear they turn around and condemn casual or retro games. It's becoming cliche.

Meanwhile they'll try to express how deep and mature a game like Heavy Rain is and people hope wank like that is what will bridge the gap to the mainstream non-gamer, to appease the Roger Eberts. I doubt it, as TV and film already have plenty of actually good crime dramas. 

Sorry, but I can't even sit through five minutes of anything David Cage writes without finding a logical discrepancy or something inconsistent with the way actual humans communicate. No More Heroes, on the other hand, knows its a game, doesn't apologize for it and while it's juvenile as hell it's also brutally honest and gets to its message faster. All that glitters is not gold and revenge is a hollow endeavor.

While it may be too soon to say, Wreck-it Ralph seems to already be looking at the past not for nostalgia's sake alone, but possibly also to put gaming in perspective. It can be a trivial, wacky thing and that's OK. In fact, that might be gaming's greatest strength. Most pastimes are trivial, wacky things, but that's where all the cool stuff comes from.

Four of my favorite games this year have been Kid Icarus, Lollipop Chainsaw, Xenoblade and Pokemon Conquest. They embrace the weird with wreckless abandon and are great for it. Feudal Japanese warlords catching Pokemon? Zombie-hunting cheerleader? Angel that needs help flying? Explore a world that is really two dead robot gods? All works for me. 

This year has really brought back some needed weirdness. I like my gritty moral dilemma RPGs, but I need something to offset them. Gaming can take us places we wouldn't have imagined logically. Qbert was born out of the design limits of its era (or drugs and too much geometry) yet that's what makes it special and worthwhile.  It's kind of sad to think this all could be abandoned willingly in the ongoing march toward greater realism.

Not that I'm overlooking games like The Journey, Fez, Limbo, Mutant Mudds, VVVVVV or Muramasa - they all do thier part to keep games honest and I'm very glad for that. There's still clearly a market for me, but it's sad to think one day there might not be.

Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale deserved better, that is really what it boils down to.

The problem really isn't that SuperBot quite clearly ripped off Smash Bros. as much as it is that by ripping-off Smash Bros. they've disrespected the Playstation brand on their first title. Sony makes it worse by being okay with this. Everything that makes Playstation what it is is jettisoned for a "me too" 2D brawler.

Let's be clear - Sony has every right to make their own cross-over brawler but crossovers aren't just about your favorite video game characters hitting each other. They're also about celebrating what you've created and what makes your characters special.

So ask yourself: What makes Playstation's brands different? How are they different from Nintendo, Microsoft or Valve?

If you have a comic book where Batman and Spiderman meet, it needs to be more than Batman taking down Kingpin and Spiderman being funnier than The Joker. Batman and Spiderman have their own ways about doing things. They also have common ground and relationships that can mirror each other. By setting aside their more negative differences and embracing their best qualities to have them work together, you get these little moments of growth for Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker. You're reminded of why you came to love these two guys in the first place.

Nintendo tends to go for this in a more historical sense and Square-Enix opts for copious amounts of fanservice, but whether its Smash Bros or Dissidia there are these special moments.

A poignant moment of Super Smash Bros. Brawl was when Samus rescued Pikachu from a device that exploited him for his electrical abilities. The characters quickly bonded after Pikachu's rescue and assisted each other in their escape of the facility.

Was there not a time where Samus rescued another child-like creature exploited for its abilities and it assisted her in an escape? The warrior became a mother and the child an equal as a protector. Isn't Pokemon's story about the bond of friendship between pet and master? These two characters with totally different origins and games come together to express some of the most notable and heartfelt aspects of their character.

Kratos has a lot of reasons to be an angry god but Rau from the Mark of Kri has totally different motives for his rage as a mortal. Kratos is plagued by loss, mistakes and driven by revenge. Rau is simply angry because his people and his only family in his sister were threatened. Rau had great responsibilities in his life and didn't want to lose those he loved. Obviously we have some differences and common ground here. Kratos had a family, but then he got mad. Oops.

I'd love to see these two characters team up for an action game. I've been kind of sad that not only was Rau left behind on backward compatibility, but also that Mark of Kri never got an HD collection or even a spot as a PS2 Classic. Mark of Kri might not have been a big seller for Sony, but it was still an incredibly special and ambitious game that warrants remembrance - a 3D action game with the hand-drawn animation sensibilities driving the 3D animation. It was a lovely game for its time.

I think Rau deserves another shot and meeting up with Kratos could get his name out there. People would buy a game just because Kratos was in it, so why not get Mark of Kri kickstarted again? And in doing this, Sony has copied no one else but themselves. A toon-style Kratos would also be awesome and he could be just as violent as always because MoK was also bloody. There's not much to lose here.

Nostalgic waxing aside, there's also the matter of the origin and identity of the Playstation characters. I wrinkle my nose at a 2D Smash presentation because 2D just is not where Playstation characters come from. Every character in SSB has a reason to be in 2D - its where most of them began, even guest characters like Sonic or Solid Snake. Playstation characters are not of the NES or SNES era, Most of those characters actually come from that second golden age we call the Playstation 2.

PS2 is where the majority of these characters were born, so I would have appreciated them in a 3D brawler as it that is part of their DNA, so to speak. Throwing them in the 2D setting Nintendo favors disrespects them as Sony characters. 2D is awesome, but its not Playstation. Had this been a 3D brawler, Sony could have borrowed or expanded upon whatever else they wanted and people would have been okay with that, I mean, its not like Capcom uses Power Stone for anything.

What really gets me, though, is we have people telling those that call it a "rip-off" to not judge a book by its cover. Well, how many Sony gamers have willingly passed on some great Nintendo first party titles simply because Wii doesn't display HD or have high-capacity storage? That's judging a book by its cover, plenty of people dismiss Nintendo's efforts in that way. So are people wrong when they call Playstation a rip-off when it really does have the looks of Smash Bros.?

Nope, they reserve the right to have such criticisms. Its hard not to see it unless you just wish to be willfully ignorant or had never seen a Smash Bros. game.

But the real tragedy here is that this should have been a celebration for Playstation's successes. All-Stars deserved to be its own game, its own celebration. Instead we're clearly getting a party Nintendo has thrown a few times because it can make money for Sony. Ugh.

Finally, we have people who say that they only care about fun. I can't argue with that, but for me part of the fun of these games is both a reverence for your roots and the ability to poke fun at yourself. Sony does have its own special place in history for me, but when its presented to me this way it feels as fake as Lana Del Rey.

I don't find that fun.

We deserve better and Sony's creations certainly do. But I guess Smash Bros.sells and that's all the reason Sony needs to emulate it. Copying GTA totally made Jak II better, right?

And yet Killzone only tried to beat Halo, not be Halo. Uncharted gave us another way to steal ancient treasure without getting a Lara Croft boob job. Resistance explores a concept I've never really seen with alien invasions. Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are stand-out works of art. Mark of Kri defied the need for realism in a time gamers demanded it and it looked great in its defiance. Ratchet and Clank could have been another vanilla platformer, but its weaponry is what sets it apart from the pack. Chicken guns, yo. Who wouldn't want to see Parappa with a chicken gun and rap about it?

Or at least step, turn and signal to the right?

Playstation characters have had stand-out moments. They simply deserve a game that stands out and celebrates what they are. Playstation All-Stars isn't an insult to me as a Nintendo fan, but it does remind me of why I sold my PS3 in the first place. Even if they do have some of the fanservice, its marred by imitation and a lack of respect for its roots.

I respect what Sony created, I just wish Sony would respect it, too.

So we heard earlier today that Miyamoto was, rather than head up remake projects himself, looking to perhaps pick up where the likes of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past left off - meaning a new Zelda or a game like it following the design principles of LTTP.

Now its been uncovered that Nintendo has registered a "Super Mario 4" domain and at a recent investors meeting it was said a new 2D Mario game was in the works.and slated for April 2013. Now, its not surprising Nintendo would have more Mario games in the works, but a Super Mario Bros. 4 does seem to fall in line with with Miyamoto's been talking up of late.

Why remake or 3D-ify Super Mario Bros. 3 when you can just make Super Mario Bros. 4 and build on that? With the success of New Super Mario Bros. Wii and DS, its pretty clear 2D Mario can still sell incredibly well, but NSMB didn't really take it to the next level for older Mario fans. It certainly stumped some kids for a bit but now that everyone's familiar with 2D Mario again, this could be a chance to build on the classics and that new following.

At points, SMB3 did also take advantage of the foreground and background, if only for accessing secret areas by ducking on white blocks and finding treasure chests with magic flutes in them.

Additionally, Super Mario 3D Land comes out and brings back the Tanooki Suit and makes a tribute to the Hammer Bros. Suit by way of tbe Boomerang Bros. Suit. Nintendo is again goading old fans with this stuff and charming a new audience with them.

So is it time for Super Mario Bros. 4?

Hell yes, but I'd like a few things this time:

We obviously need Princess and Toad back in playable form. Its been too long since Peach didn't get kidnapped. I like Buckenberry and Ali-Gold, but if we're building on SMB3, let's toss a little SMB2 USA in there. And let's invite Yoshi, too. No reason not to at this point.

But if we're going to do SMB4 right, I think we need it in 8-bit or 16-bit at least. I know I'm just wishlisting now, but spirte based 3D games can be just as charming, I know I love my Mighty Switch Force and Mutant Mudds that way. If anyone can still get away with going 2D and 8-Bit again, its certainly Mario given families still turn over Gamestops every weekend looking for a copy of NSMB Wii.

Anyway, I also want Kuribo's Shoe back in, if you can tell. I don't need the Frog Suit and Hammer Bros Suit is kinda still old hat, but I like that shoe, it was fun even if it smelled of fungus.

Bring it. I think we're ready for this.
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Do you find Juliet Starling's portrayal to to be sexist?
Have you ever played No More Heroes?
Have you ever played Shadows of the Damned?
Do you even know who Suda 51 is?
Did you swear up and down that you'd buy his games if they came to PS3 or 360?
Did you you swear your dollars if you got his games in a coat of HD frosting?
Did you not turn out for Shadows of the Damned and skip No More Heroes Paradise?
What if I told you Ubi Soft hardly promoted No More Heroes?
What if I told you EA didn't bother to market Shadows of the Damned at all?
What if I told you Warner Bros. as shown more faith in Lollipop Chainsaw than either of those games?
What if that's a good thing?

What if I told you that No More Heroes and Shadows of the Damned were layered with sex appeal?
What if I told you their protagonists were male stereotypes as much as the women?
What if I told you that Travis Touchdown is an otaku loser than becomes the best assassin ever?
What if I told you his motives were more about getting laid than getting revenge?

What if I told you Garcia Hotspur was a Mexican badass demon hunter?
What if I told you he was really passionate about his girlfriend, Paula?
What if I told you he had a demon sidekick named Johnson and the game was layered in dick jokes?

What if I told you No More Heroes on the Wii sold more copies than PS3 and 360 versions?
What if I told you Shadows of the Damned didn't sell more than 24k between 360 and PS3?
Don't Suda's games deserve better, all things considered?

Is it really surprising that Juliet Starling is sexualized given how Suda's other games are?
Is it really worth being offended by it?
Do you really want to be the gamer that complains about a stereotype in an iconoclastic role?
How often would she be replaced by a male character in other games?
Wouldn't that be expected?
And would a member of the high school football team be better?
Would a "strong woman" really be that interesting instead?
For men: could it be that Juliet's girlishness take you out of your comfort zone?
Are you scared to play a girl character?
For women: do you harbor resentment because she embodies the pretty popular girl you never were?
Follow-up; Do you think teenage girls are really going to compare their bodies to Juliet's?
Isn't Juliet just a charming spoof of everything women hate anyway?
How seriously can you take a girl with a talking decapitated head for a boyfriend?

Why are people being so serious about a cheerleader that kills zombies with a chainsaw?
Did they miss the sparkles and rainbows coming out of zombies as they die?
Or that Juliet goes to a school named after a zombie movie director?
Isn't this really just a game spoofing movies and games the writers and directors loved growing up?
Why so serious, gamers?

So many questions...

Lollipop Chainsaw is a Suda 51 game that finally has a shot at beating the odds that were stacked against Suda's previous games. Ubi Soft and EA put very little marketing into his previous efforts, but the promotion for this game has been amazing when you look at the gameplay videos and behind-the-scenes footage. its a shame people would take issue with this game's promotion. They clearly don't get the joke.

The game is more parody than anything else. Most people that walk into a Gamestop and see this game seem to get it and thing its awesome, yet every now and then there's someone that misses the parody and gets angry.

Parody isn't meant to glamorize, but to mock social conventions. If we put a "strong woman" or bookish shy girl in as the lead, Juliet would never have the opportunity to defy her stereotype in hilarious ways. She's gaming's Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a world where zombie games are a dime a dozens and women fawn over movies about romances with vampires in high school. It pays tribute to classic B-movies while openly mocking what's popular or acceptable.

In other words, despite all the glittery rainbows and perky breasts, its punk gaming. Maybe more Green Day than Suda's games usually are, but still punk. If you get angry about Juliet, you basically lose.

Between this and Mass Effect 3, I'm starting to question if gamers ever take a step outside their own medium or things related to it. I'm as guilty of it as anyone, but at 34, I'm old enough to see the references and get the jokes. The people making these games are around my age. I grew up with the stuff they're talking about and referencing.

How is it with the tools we have at our disposal today that people can play all these zombie games and not know who George Romero is? How is it the works of Issac Asimov and Blade Runner can come up in Mass Effect discussions and people new to that never stop to consider checking these things out by way of Hulu, on eBooks or Wikipedia?

I'm starting to think gamers are becoming immensely sheltered or just looking for an excuse to show some righteous indignation.

But you know what? Once the game is out this will all blow over. Once the game is out there and played, people will start to get the jokes that were always there. It happened with Bayonetta, after all. People will stop getting mad for no reason and move on to the things that really offend them - like Dante being given black hair and Sonic having green eyes.
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