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The Silent Protagonist's blog

11:52 AM on 10.10.2012

Allow me to fill your ears with win.

Ahhhhh, new blog format. So fresh, so shiny. How I've longed to use it since Niero showed off the beta and I saw it could let me embed videos to my heart's content. Now people can see just what the hell I'm babbling about directly without having them constantly redirected to Youtube. I can whip out my obscure gaming and sometimes music preferences in full view without making you open new tabs. Welcome, blog reformat, my you live long and prosper... until Jim Sterling violates you in some cruel way like Jonathan Holmes.

So, ya like music? Silly question. Everyone likes music. Some people are picky, but my parents dumped me in rollerskating rink for an after school program at a young age, so I was made to listen to all kinds of stuff and ended up enjoying the full spectrum of genres... as I was tricking the Nintendo coin-ops in the arcade into taking nickels rather than quarters.

Anyway, let's get started. I'm gonna give you a nice little playlist to work with here from games and various remixers I've come across on the web just because its something new to do with this blog reformat. in fact, I'll probably be finding some of this on the fly since any good mix should flow. Here, have a baby polar bear.

First off is a song based off a save point theme. Not many games have a save point theme, but Ico did and a fellow named Super Green X liked it enough to make a lengthy trance remix out of it, which can be found on OC Remix, obviously.

I've been playing Metroid Prime again lately. Actually have some things I want to blog about this one since its actually an interesting time to be doing it, but I'll save that for later this week. That aside, Famouskoifish of Youtube makes use of Mario Paint Composer to do a pretty faithful rendition of "Phendrana Drifts"

The "Underground" theme of Super Mario Bros, has remained probably my favorite song from any Mario game. While I've pretty much gotten used to the version with the hip-hop beat since Super Mario Bros. 3, Dimmer of OC remix does rather inspired rock version and we need a little rock after all that breezy, trancy mellowness.

You were probably waiting for a {i]Final Fantasy[/i]theme of some kind to pop up eventually. Well, even though i didn't plan it, I felt one might fit after that Mario rock. No, not "One Winged Angel." Screw that overplayed theme, everyone defers to that. Gilgamesh has the best FF boss theme and this is proven by science. The Black Mages and "Clash on the Big Bridge" forever!

And really, if there was another boss theme that I personally feel trounces "One Winged Angel" outside of Final Fantasy, It's "Battle for Everyone's Souls" by Shoji Meguro from Persona 3. In fact, we'll be playing more of him later, but just this for now.. Seriously, anything that can just work in the Velvet Room theme is a winner

Ok, time to bring it back down, but let's stay frosty. Very few songs can keep their heads down, take cover and still shoot things but Halo once did with Martin O'Donnell's "Under the Cover of Night." This "Cloaked in Blackness" update comes from Halo CE Anniversary.

A good gaming playlist wouldn't be complete without something from Donkey Kong Country. It's not a rule, but should be. "Aquatic Ambiance" has always been a favorite of mine and DJ Ephixia has, well, my fix for that: Its sped up a tad, but actually still works.

To close up, I'm going to do some more Shoji Meguro. I don't know who mixed this Nico Video medley, but whoever it is they freaking love the guy even more than I do and have culled his work from Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne, Persona 2, Persona 3 Portable, Persona 4, Maken X, Digital Devil Saga, Devil Summoner (Raidou versions PS2), Soul Hackers SMT Strange Journey and Trauma Team... and it stays amazing for sixteen minutes. So enjoy this "Recarmdramix."

And that's all for now, that was probably only like 40+ minutes of your life, right? That was actually kinda fun. Might do it again sometime.

Stay classy.   read

10:23 PM on 10.06.2012

The secret past of Style Savvy's developer, Syn Sophia.

I've posted before that I'm rather obsessive about create-a-character modes. When Skyrim's Dawnguard expansion came out the option to remake my character's face and body shape was more than welcomed and resulted in this fabulous look I have only posted like three times in my own blog. As such, it stands to reason that a game all about dressing up characters would eat up lots of my time.

With that fascination/obsession in mind I downloaded the Style Savvy Trendsetters demo off of the 3DS eShop and, sure enough, my fixation with what my models were wearing quickly took hold. At first it felt like a game the folks behind Animal Crossing would do on between its iterations but once I did some digging on the developer Syn Sophia I learned something really awesome.

Syn Sophia was originally known as AKI Corporation. For those that are still going "Wut?" allow me to clarify:

Yeah, they made that. AKI Corporation made WCW vs NWO, Wrestlemania 2000, WWF No Mercy and Def Jam Vendetta - pretty much some of the best professional wrestling games ever made. And in Wrestlemania 2000's case, I was rather fixated on the create-a-wrestler mode even back then, making all sorts of nutty characters to do career mode with.

On top of that, AKI's games really strove to capture the atmosphere of the WWE and WCW's shows. They don't look like much now, but for its time it arguably did its presentation better than most sports games, possibly even the Madden series back then. It was also one of those precious few licensed properties that didn't suck - a feat also accomplished by Goldeneye also on N64 and Spiderman on PSX later. These games stood as proof that developers actually could put a lot of love and attention into a franchise and make a great game out of it for the fans. When AKI fell off the map, I was kinda bummed.

I happened to find that Style Savvy has similar qualities, though.. The same detail was now shifted into creating clothing ensembles for various models, customers and it certainly seems to strive for establishing the atmosphere of retail and runway environments. They might not use real clothing brands, but the game does do a good job of emulating many styles. Its all just steered worlds away from the testosterone-fueled soap operas for men that the WWE and WCW games were.

The demo and retail version could stand to have some characters that are a bit less the "twiggy" supermodel archetype but at least the characters of differing ethnicity aren't "white-washed" like they tend to be on covers of magazines, so there's at least that. Maybe some feedback to Nintendo and Syn Sophia will bring about realistic body types in a future sequel or even DLC. That this is the biggest gripe I have is not enough to bring the game down, I just think its important to promote different body types.

I mean, seriously, #3 has me worried she could become #4 when #1 and #2 are just fine - but i digress, there's enough good here to offset my gripes for now.

So Style Savvy Trendsetters is now is a thing I feel I need to have,. I often had wondered just what became of AKI and now that I know, I don't think I can turn down a charming little game like this from a developer that gave me great memories in the past. The fact that a purchase of the digital version gets the arcade version of Donkey Kong as a bonus kinda sweetens the deal, too.

Plus if this does well, maybe Syn Sophia wii return to roots with Style Savvymania: From the Runway to the Ring!   read

3:40 PM on 09.16.2012

"The best launch line-up since the Dreamcast!"

If there's an odd thing to say about launch line-ups, its that a launch line-up is "The best launch line-up since the Dreamcast." I see it happen with several people regarding any launch since, well, after the Dreamcast. Apparently the Dreamcast had a really great launch line-up. I can't really say because I didn't buy one at launch as a poor college student - I only got one year later when I was suckered into one of those two-year deals with MSN at Best Buy that would net me a Dreamcast for "free."

Meaning, I was pretty stupid back then. Two years of an internet service I couldn't use, but had to pay for. I really didn't think that one through.

Anyway, I feel like "best launch line-up since the Dreamcast" is just something people say for gamer cred and to make the console or handheld they're excited about look exciting to others. I mean, if we're to take Dreamcast's launch line-up as the best a console ever had that means whatever I relate it to is also really good and must be awesome.

And those that hated Dreamcast must also hate babies.

No one really even mentions what the great launch games were for Dreamcast because it is clearly not important when you're stating an absolute. That Dreamcast was ravaged by Playstation's comparable and cheaper library and crushed under the hype for the PS2 at the time is not important. That Dreamcast, like Saturn before it, was short-lived and had no games by 2002 - also not important.

Never mind that stuff. Dreamcast had a great launch, launches are important and that is all that matters for the sake of people who want to liken PS4's launch line-up to it after E3 2013.

No one ever compared PS2 to the Dreamcast, even though it did have a really great launch. This is because PS2 was the vile beast that had slain the heroic Dreamcast in its prime. Well, that's how the remaining embittered Dreamcast fans would later frame it, anyway. I thought the PS2 launch was good, not so much the nine-month dry spell that came after, but all systems have that no matter how much Vita fans sweep it under the rug. At least they can play Final Fantasy VII again now.

This Dreamcast comparison really started with the Xbox, which inherited just a tiny bit of Dreamcast's glory in the form of exclusives like Jet Set Radio Future, Gunvalkyrie, Crazy Taxi 3, Panzer Dragoon Orta and Shenmue II. It was a savvy move by MS to lure some Dreamcast fans into a console that would eventually be buried in angry, brown shooters. Most of the exclusives were indeed good, but I'm not sure about Gunvalkyrie going along with that that "glory' bit. I thought the soundtrack and its insane monologues were cool, though.

The clever swine and porcupine have gone their separate ways - and neither one has spoken for a thousand years and days.

For a console to even begin to warrant a comparison to Dreamcast, its games must be high on ambition, a mixed bag on execution and generally make people look at it and go "WTF." Sega was the Master of WTF in the Dreamcast era. Space Channel 5, Crazy Taxi, Samba de Amigo, Jet Set Radio, Seaman and Typing of the Dead all make you wonder what world you just fell into and why you are so happy to be there. If that era of Sega games had its own gated community then Wario Ware, Katamari Damacy and No Heroes Allowed! would be invited right in because they are straight-up bonkers.

So basically, there have been no Dreamcasts since the Dreamcast. Dreamcast-esque games, perhaps, but no console has really claimed the mantle. One does not simply compare another console's launch to that of the Dreamcast or even a console's lifespan to it because of the density of insane content required will not be able to be matched within two years - and then console would die and the platform holder would go third party.

If you're wishing this on your future platform of choice, do so at your own peril.

There will never be another Dreamcast, no matter how much you want there to be one. The Vita is clearly not a Dreamcast and I don't see how the Wii U will be one. I really think that spirit has passed on to the indie market where risks are taken on a regular basis. Its not in the mainstream market now, save for rare moments like Rhythm Thief, Tokyo Jungle or Rhythm Heaven Fever. The only games even in spitting distance of Dreamcastyness for Wii U right now are The Wonderful 101 and Tank! Tank! Tank!

What the Dreamcast has is a special place in history and perhaps as it fades into retro status in the years to come its spirit will continue to live on in other ways. There was lots to love about the Sega Dreamcast and while that goodwill may not be shared by fans toward the Sega of today its kind of unfair to both Dreamcast and other consoles to compare them to each other. Dreamcast catered to a special niche in a risky time to be doing so and that's what made it a real standout. I don't think any launch line-up or console could recapture the zany times of that little white box   read

5:19 AM on 09.02.2012

Music that made a summer - Sega's Quartet

Sometimes a song gets stuck in your head. Sometimes it get stuck there for over 20 years, Such is the case of Sega's Quartet for me, composed by the relatively unsung Katsuhiro Hayashi. He was a master of FM Synthesis that worked with Sega from the 80s and left several years back, but his work on this game is every bit as memorable to me as legends like Koji Kondo or Nobuo Uematsu. If you need to know what FM Synthesis is, just click here, but if you've played any old Sonic game or just Etrian Odyssey, you can expect some great stuff in the video links below.

Quartet isn't a game that would stand the test of time. It was - more or less - Sega's answer to the first four-player arcade game, Gauntlet. Yeah, yeah, WARRIOR NEEDS FOOD BADLY. That Gauntlet, but this is about Quartet. It clearly wasn't a winner for arcade nostalgia, but perhaps after this post you'll see why it should earn some.

So have a listen as you read!

Click here to start the music.

During the summer of '87 my mother and stepfather worked at a booth at Water Country USA in Williamsburg, VA. Pretty much every day of the summer I was wandering around the park, which was more freedom than a ten year-old usually gets. I'd start with the wave pool, then move over to the relaxing inner tube river, fetch food and drink for my parents, attend the stunt diving and sea lion show - because seeing divers light themselves on fire and sea lions spit on hosts never gets old.

And just about every moment in between those I could be found in the arcade at the Quartet machine. I always found it a touch strange that people with sopping wet swimming trunks, swimsuits and hair were allowed around these electrical coin ops, but then, it was a water park. It also had a distinct smell from other arcades - the typical mix of cork, burnt wood, nicotine, dried bubble gum, spilt sno-cone syrup, cola, candy corn and popcorn were now accompanied by a layer of chlorine.

Quartet was a side-scrolling platform shooter perhaps best described as Contra with jetpacks and lots of death. Players worked together to defeat enemies, find the key and complete the level and in the meantime, ninja loot power-ups and screw each other over so everyone could try to get bragging rights at the end of the level. Anyone that's played Bomberman, Zelda Four Swords, New Super Mario Bros. Wii or just Uno knows the experience I'm getting at.

Its like this with more back-stabbing.

Those that owned Spiderman: The Video Game on Genesis might be interested to know that "Oki-Rap" and "FM Funk" were snatched from Quartet for some of Spidy's music.

Sega later released remastered editions of many Sega classics in the Sega Ages collection on PS2, but Sega being the cruel bastards they can sometimes be, they released none of them in the West. I'm still rather bitter about that point, actually, but this is the same company that still hasn't made Shenmue III and seems reluctant to rerelease their Dreamcast classics in a logical fashion.

Oh well, at least Jet Set Radio is doing it right.

Still, thanks to the eventual rise of YouTube, some of the arranged music was able to reach our ears and it was pretty good stuff. Some of Katsuhiro Hayshi's work even has made its way into Project Diva Arcade in Japan, so while Quartet may never see a rerelease or a XBLA/PSN remake we'll always have the music and that's something.


10:39 PM on 08.19.2012

A silent protagonist begs you to speak in fighters

Its been so quiet on the blogs today. Kind of like when I play fighters online and there's no one talking. Actually, there's almost always no one talking, but perhaps there are two people in two different places swearing at a TV screen and blaming lag for losing.

I'm not much of a social gamer to start with. Its not that I hate talking, its just that I don't feel a huge competitive streak and especially not in places where there's no talking. I don't like that low-class epithet spewing shit I hear in FPS, so I tend to not play them online, but I kind of do expect people playing fighters to talk every now and then. I mean, what's the point in me having a headset if no one talks? I go online and whether its PSN or Xbox Live I don't hear trash talk in fighters - just silence.

Oh sure, go on and tell me "they're probably just concentrating'." Well, fuck that, I want to hear you talk shit and show me your wits along with your moves. We didn't "concentrate" when I grew up in the arcades - we talked shit, seeing if you could make the other guy laugh was kind of an advantage on top of knowing the movelist and combos.

I know why some of you do it, though. Its because you think you can tag team with your friend that's better than you and think I won't notice. Yeah, I'm totally not going to notice I blew you out in the first round and then you awakened to incredible skill in the next one. People have tag-teamed in the arcade in public view. It was still lame back then and its still lame now - but at least they weren't hiding how lame they were.


But oh well, this is just a shortblog rant. I've been playing Persona 4 Arena all week and I'm kind of getting better with Elizabeth. I've gone from constantly losing to about 33 percent of my playing being wins. Liz does have low HP, but she's got a fun moveset so I'm sticking with her. She also seems to just have more fun than anyone else in the game.

Labrys' story also got me a little weepy, which is a first for a fighting game. Well, there was no real fighting in her story - just text, but it was really good text that I enjoyed reading with my seeing organs and thinking about with by mind.

Also, I wish Yu Narukami would shut the fuck up. The guy used to not say anything and now he has all these weird mind-thoughts. I would never have thought that way about Nanako if I were still occupying his brain. Sister complex indeed. Damned perv is what he is now.

So I beat him up. Oh well, its not as bad as when Jak started talking in Jak II, so I guess this is slight progress.[b]   read

12:14 PM on 07.04.2012

Why a Pokémon MMO would be a bad idea.

Seems like every few Pokémon topics or so someone says something along the lines of "Nintendo should totally make Pokémon into an MMO, it would make loads of money!"

I'll admit it sounds cool on paper, but it's a terrible idea for Nintendo to pursue and it would suck out the soul of the series. The only kind of person who thinks it would be a cool idea has not played an MMO or Pokémon enough to consider what would be lost.

If we break Pokémon down, it is to handhelds what The Elder Scrolls is to consoles and PCs... minus the bugs plus competitive multiplayer. In terms of single player you're free to be whatever kind of pokémon trainer or ex-con that you wish to be. What's more is no one imposes a particular playstyle on you too much. A pokémon trainer has to mix it up for gym battles just as a mage might consider having a mace or a atronach summon as a fallback. Outside of that, save the world or don't, best the Elite Four or just breed critters for trade. The world is your oyster and you are seldom bound by time to do anything.

Stepping out of the games for a moment, talking to friends about Skyrim or Pokémon is often to relate a story of your adventures or what your team is rather than telling your friends what they should do. Then there's trading pokémon and downloading mods for TES on PC. The community exists to augment these single player experiences without imposing themselves on other players.

Ultimately these are games about taking pride in what you do. Freedom and pride are the emotional core of Pokémon and TES.

Yeah, another excuse to post my sexy Dovahkiin.

However, this is not what Pokémon is like competitively and anyone that knows MMOs is wary of the genre being applied to TES for similar reasons.

In competitive Pokémon multiplayer (as well as co-op multiplayer in other games) you can "do it wrong" and people do tend to impose upon you if you seek advice. Competitive Pokémon is about tiers, meta-game elements like EV training and picking the right TMs and HMs for the best pokémon. Brought into the context of an MMORPG, this would trickle down and seep into every corner of the game, even with co-op play and soloing. Gym battles, beauty pageants, breeding - it will all inevitably be tainted by and shoved through the lens of high level play and efficiency. This is because of a persistent internal community creating peer pressure. Now people are scared to be seen "doing it wrong" - they don't want to be seen as noobs.

This is why TES fans are wary of The Elder Scrolls Online. They know that "Gee, this enchanted bow is neat. Oh, look! Butterflies!" quality is going to be sucked out systematically by the community's need for efficacy in high level play. TES might be a match for MMOs, but not without giving up much of what makes it special.  You may not get to be that Battlemage in the way you were hoping. 

Just look at Final Fantasy's Red Mage. He's basically the same idea - white magic, black magic and a sword, but since he's got that white magic he's the "tag, you're it" healer of FFXI Online. Even though he has that sword and can cast fire magic in groups it's generally preferred he heals and buffs people instead. 

Fun. He might as well be a White Mage.

Yet this isn't meant to be oppressive, this is because efficient use of time is really important in an MMO, especially for high-end raids and even hunting rare monsters. Everyone wants to get in, get out, get stuff and go about their lives or a lack of one. Everyone needs to be on the same page and ready to go, but if Pokémon became an MMO the trainer who lovingly raised his full Charmander team might be crushed to find it is not wanted or accepted. He probably wouldn't even be invited to join a league after submitting an application, not to mention he's any Water Type's punching bag.

Yes, I did say "application." Joining an endgame guild is like finding a real job. Fun, right? Your life as an adventurer, reduced to a one page of highlights -   preferably one confirming to the needs of the guild.

The external social element of TES and Pokémon that makes them fun now is replaced by a persistent online community with a need for efficient time use and digs deep into the metagame. Freedom is replaced by conformity and pride is broken and subjugated. The Eevee you loved you'd later look at with disdain for not being ideal for EV training.

Let me reiterate - an MMO endgame and high level content strategy is not intended to be sinister or oppressive, just efficient. This has to be respected for group functions, even if it does act like a wet blanket to your personal ambitions and Charmanders. It is what it is.

But it's clearly not a good fit for all of Pokémon as it is already in the competitive multiplayer and not fun for everyone for the above reasons. TES players are chilly toward TESO  because Skyrim, well, it does the job and does it well without giving up that freedom and external social boost Pokémon single player also shares.

So let's take that thought about the Pokémon MMO and Torchic.

I mean, torch it. Yeah.   read

6:52 PM on 06.28.2012

Just a thought: A Solid Samurai

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.   read

7:24 PM on 06.27.2012

Faces by Galathil: My Dovahkiin makeover

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?   read

8:16 PM on 06.25.2012

I'll wreck your Ralph... or something...

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.   read

6:47 AM on 04.29.2012

Playstation All-Stars deserved to be a stand-out, not a knock-off.

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.   read

6:20 PM on 04.12.2012

Is it safe to break out Kuribo's Shoe again?

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.   read

9:11 PM on 04.08.2012

Sparkles, rainbows, lollipops and a whole ton of breasts... er... QUESTIONS!

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.   read

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