I'm a science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction writer by trade, but aside from writing, video games are my biggest passion. I also write over at Gamer Limit.
The first console my brothers and I ever got was an SNES for Christmas one year. Since then, we've owned an N64, Playstation, PS2, and an Xbox 360. I got a Gameboy Color one year for Christmas, but my brothers are more into handheld gaming than me. Every time they upgrade to the latest system I get their hand-me-downs. That's how I obtained my GBA and my two DS's. Handheld gaming for some reason doesn't interest me even though I know there are great games out there. The first console I've ever been the exclusive owner of is my PS3. The first games I ever played were Super Mario World, F-Zero, 7th Saga (which I've written about), and Out of This World.
My favorite genres are RPGs (Western or Japanese), FPS, action/adventure, and RTS (even though I suck at them).
I had an idea the other day about how GameStop could beat publishers at their own game. This isn’t fully fleshed out or anything, and who knows, it might be feasible at all. Well, here goes. Here’s how GameStop can beat online passes: they create a ReNewed games program.
Alright, let’s break down what this “ReNewed” pun actually means. We all know that GameStop is massively profitable enterprise. From their Q3 2011 earnings call, their pre-owned program grew by 3%. This was slower than the previous two quarters, but given the strength of the games that came out in OctoberthroughDecember 2011, it makes sense that a lot of customers bought new.
From their 2010 earnings report, GameStop’s business goals included “expanding our sales of used video game products and capitalizing on the growth in demand [of used games]” and “[increasing] GameStop brand awareness and loyalty membership” which includes their PowerUp Rewards program. My proposed ReNew program would go hand in hand with those stated goals.
To counteract GameStop’s influence and the allure of used games, publishers have been utilizing online passes. Recent games like Batman: Arkham City, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and others from publishers EA, THQ, Ubisoft have all had either singleplayer content or multiplayer modes locked behind online passes. Online passes force you to either buy the game new or purchase the pass separately on PSN or Xbox Live to access these locked away content nuggets.
On the surface these passes block GameStop from relying so heavily on used game sales because nobody wants to buy an incomplete game (and if you do, I don’t want to even know you). Well with ReNewed games, scrappy underdog (/sarcasm) GameStop can fight the power. Basically all they have to do is buy a bunch of the standalone online passes and bundle them with their used games.
How does this help GameStop with sales? Even though they buy the online passes for full price, they bundle them with the used copy of the game at a discount price. Say Awesome Game 2 has its multiplayer locked behind an online pass. The game is still retailing at $59.99. GameStop buys back used copies of the game from their customers for $14 and sells them for $30. That’s just the Pre-Owned copy of the game. If you want the ReNewed copy, it’ll cost you $38. Even though GameStop bought the pass for $10 and is selling it at a loss, the markup they put on used copies more than makes up for that.
By implementing some sort of program like this they can make it so people will still go to them for used copies even when a traditional used copy of that game needs an online pass.
Again, GameStop might already do something like this. I saw on their website they had a DLC section (but it was down so I couldn’t investigate it). Also another potential problem would be, how many codes do they download for each game that has an online pass? Obviously some games are going to sell more than others, and they wouldn’t want to get stuck with a bunch of online passes for games that consumers aren’t trading in or buying used.
I’m not saying this system is a good solution to the “used game problem” that publishers are always complaining about. Online passes and the fight against used game sales are both bullshit in my opinion. This is just a semi-sleazy tactic I could see GameStop implementing in the future. And if they do, customers are going to be the ones getting the shaft. Publishers will then try to come up with other ways to stop used games. Right now the situation is something of an arms race where the losers are average gamers who are just trying to save some money.
Games like Resident Evil and Dead Space aren’t horror. Now that I’ve got your attention, let me clarify that statement. Sure those games are classified as “survival horror” games, but they don’t represent horror to me, and it has nothing to do with the more action-oriented flavor these games have adopted recently. So what do I consider horror? The answer might surprise you.
Surprise hugs! But not truly horrifying
Even though I say games like RE and Dead Space aren’t horror, they’re still scary. How does that make sense? Simple. These kinds of games scare me when I play them because I know that something is going to jump out of an air vent or through a window at me. (Sorry for the stupid voice over in that video). I’m afraid of the surprise, that “Ah ha! Gotcha!” moment but nothing else. Sure those moments cause my heart rate to spike and maybe a small trickle of urine to escape down my leg, but they don’t inspire that lay-awake-at-night-type dread real horror does.
I’ve found that true kind of horror in the most unlikely of places: in space combat simulators.
Games like Tachyon: The Fringe and Freelancer are horror games. They might be dressed up like space sims with some trading elements and such, but they terrified me more than any zombie or Necromorph could ever dream of.
Why did these two games scare me that much? There’s no extreme graphic violence in either game. All of the combat takes place in space ships where killing enemies results in impersonal explosions. So if it’s not the violence that did it, what did?
Space did it. There’s that phrase that “in space no one can hear you scream”, but it should really be, “in space no one can hear you scream, and space is so goddamn big that no one will see you either, and nothing around you cares you’re screaming.” Space terrified my kid brain when I first played Tachyon, and then Freelancer a few years later made it worse.
So pretty, and yet so terrifying
In Tachyon you play down on his luck and wrongly exiled pilot Jake Logan (voiced by the one and only Bruce Campbell), and you end up choosing to side with a group of ragtag colonists and miners or the massively rich GalSpan corporation as they fight over a region of semi-colonized space known as the Fringe.
There’s one mission--Hell, I don’t even remember what it’s called or whose side it’s for--where you have to go escort some convoy from one star system to another. Anyway I’d been playing the game for a while at that point and jumped through the Tachyon Gate with no second thoughts. As soon as my ship arrived, a wave of panic came over me. In front of me, taking up almost my entire screen was a ringed gas giant, kind of like Saturn. It was drawn to scale, so it dwarfed my ship and the other ships in the convoy. It was the biggest planet I’d seen in the entire game so far. It didn’t do anything but just chill there in space. It wasn’t part of the mission. No enemies came out from its rings to ambush me. It did nothing, but still the thing scared me so badly I had to quit the game.
Scariest planet ever
The planet was just so big compared to all the other ships around it. All it did was remind me of how small I was, both my ship avatar and me as a person. That planet made me realize how small I was, just a simple kid playing a video game. Eventually, I got over that dread, went back, and finished the mission, but I had to force myself not to look at that planet or dwell on it during the mission.
A few years later, a similar thing happened with Freelancer. I loved playing the game so much that I cheated so I could just explore without consequences. I didn’t want to have to deal with pirate raids, enemy fleets, or just any damage at all. But while I might have avoided game overs, I encountered something far worse--that same paralyzing fear of being small and alone.
Other survival horror games try to make you feel that same trapped loneliness, but you’re never truly alone. There are usually always enemies around. While Dead Space had stretches where it was just me, some hallways, and brilliant sound design, I knew that at any moment I could be thrust into a fight with some slicey-dicey Necromorphs. In Freelancer you’re truly alone. You’re just a ship flying around in the darkness.
Flying into a gas cloud in Freelancer is fucking terrifying, especially in the outlying star systems on the edges of the game’s map. There’s just radiation, some space rocks, and a whole lot of nothing. Because unlike Tachyon, Freelancer is a more open game that allows you to explore. So that means certain areas have only a few enemy encounters and a whole lot of nothing. The backdrops may look pretty, but they just hide the existential horribleness that lurks underneath.
In TV shows, movies, and other games that deal with space, you or the characters always have companions. Han Solo has Chewie to keep him company when they’re out doing smuggler things. The Serenity has an entire crew. The Galactica even has a whole fleet around it that provides human contact. But in these kinds of space sims, it’s just you out there in your ship.
Sometimes in Freelancer there would be no banter or anything resembling human contact, just the sounds of the engines and the radiation alarms as you plunged into the depths of that radioactive gas cloud. It’s so terrifying on a deep personal level that I hate it. I love the games for their mechanics and space combat action, but I hate them for the soul-crushing dread they made me feel.
That’s true horror. A zombie dog jumping through a window is just an unpleasant surprise.
What about you guys? Does anyone else have stories like this where an ostensibly non-horror game scared you more than a “dedicated” horror game?
So there’s this little game that came out a few a weeks ago. You might’ve heard of it. It’s called Skyrim and Dtoid’s own Jim Sterling thought it was pretty good. I mean you can fight dragons in it. Awesome, right? Well what if I told you about a game where you can fight dragons with other dragons! Welcome to the wonderful, pixilated world of Bahamut Lagoon.
Bahamut Lagoon is a Japanese tactical roleplaying game by Square that came out in that mythical golden age of SNES RPGs. Sadly, it never made its way to American shores. I only heard about it by chance when I was surfing the Internet in college. I acquired the unofficial English translation and began an adventure that would make the Dragonborn envious.
Being a Square game, it looks gorgeous. The sprites look just as good as those in Final Fantasy III and all of the different types of dragons look different from each other. But gorgeous sprite-based artwork isn’t enough. Luckily, I found the gameplay just as awesome.
The little dragon sprites are so cute! Also deadly. But then they come back around to cute.
Unlike Square’s other games, in Bahamut Lagoon battles are fought on grid-based environments, like a dragon-flavored Fire Emblem or the more modern Advance Wars. While the cast of characters all have different classes and abilities, the dragons are what steal the show. Each party has their own dragon attached to it that can level up, use abilities, and learn new ones. While you can’t control them directly, you can give them commands like “Come!” to set how aggressive they are. It was such a joy to soften an enemy up with my troops and know that as soon as my turn ended my dragons were going to swoop in and finish things off.
Now enemy forces also get their own dragons, so it’s imperative that you keep yours in top fighting shape. And that’s where the game’s coolest mechanic comes in. Dragons are big, yes? Big things need lots of food. And apparently, according to Bahamut Lagoon dragons will eat goddamn anything. Got some extra swords and armor? Feed ‘em to Smoky, your firebreather. Oh you have some poisonous mushrooms, give ‘em to Jeff, the dark dragon. No need to worry about counting calories in this game!
By feeding your dragons equipment, books, items, literally anything, their stats go up. And then once you hit certain benchmarks they will evolve into other forms. Pokemon, who? Bahamut Lagoon’s got you beat (by like two and a half weeks). It was a lot of fun to experiment with feeding my dragons and seeing what they would evolve into. Granted it’s possible to just play random skirmish battles over and over, by certain items, and then make your dragons completely overpowered, but who cares?
To be honest, I don’t remember a lot about the story. There was something about a group of rebels led by a spunky youth with a destiny trying to save the world from an evil empire. Typical JRPG fare, but it definitely didn’t detract from my enjoyment. I mean it’s not like other dragon-based games are known for their earth-shattering main quests.
If you’re a fan of dragons, Square, or strategy RPGs from the SNES’s Golden Years, you gotta play Bahamut Lagoon. You’re all Internet-savvy people, I’m sure you know how to find a copy. It just goes to show that pretty much any videogame genre would benefit from a healthy infusion of dragons.
Confession time: I’ve never played a Rayman game. In fact I only vaguely associate Rayman with his own series. The first things that come to mind are those Rabbit-thing mini-game collections on the Wii. But I’ve heard a lot of good things about Rayman Origins so I decided to check out the demo. Read on for the impressions of a first time Rayman-er…Raymanist? I’ll figure it out later.
Who are these people...things?
First things first. Holy 2D graphics, Batman! The game looks amazing. I love the art direction and the colors. Despite lacking that (essential to some people) third dimension, everything looks crisp and colorful .And this is just the opening stages. The names of the stages and the locations mean nothing to me, but they sure look pretty!
Still on the topic of graphics and art, I really like the creature design. Everything looks like they belong to the same universe. It doesn’t matter that Rayman has floating hands and feet with no limbs (kind of like an Anti-Homestar Runner). His strange deformities (if they are truly that) come across as commonplace in this universe. I have no idea what kind of creatures I’m fighting, what the hell those things I’m collecting are--bugs of some kind, maybe--but they’re all unique looking.
However I did find some graphical and stylistic issues. In the beginning of the first level I couldn’t tell if there were different branching paths with one being “closer” to the screen. But then I realized what I was seeing was just part of the foreground. The problem showed up again in the third level when I was being chased by some giant eel monster thing. It was one of those classic Big Monster Chases You From The Left While The Level Collapses Around You sequences, but again at times I couldn’t tell what was on my plane and what was just set dressing. I died a few times just because I wasn’t sure what I could jump on and another time when I got squished by falling debris I thought was in the background. I don’t know if this will continue to be a problem in later levels after I get accustomed to Rayman Origins’ style, but it is a little worrying.
This frickin' guy, right?
So yeah the demo looks great, but how does it play? Here’s where my initial enthusiasm started to wear off. The game takes a very old school approach. Very minimal tutorials to start with. I didn’t know I could double jump and hover using my hair/head-parts (a little like Dixie Kong) until halfway through the first level. Also the decision to put the sprint button on the trigger and shoulder buttons seems a little strange. I’m sure I’d get used to it eventually, but it felt awkward holding down R2 or R1 to sprint. I’d take the classic Y to sprint, B to jump combination any day.
Like I said before, I never played a Rayman game before, so I don’t know his precise physics. Still something felt a little “off” during my time with the demo. Sometimes my jumps--especially when jumping off a vine--would go much farther than I expected and other times I’d fall short. This could just be part of the learning curve associated with playing a new platformer.
My time with Rayman Origins was short, but I walked away having seen some brilliant graphical touches and adorable sound effects. Each level looks like it’ll have some replayability as players can try to collect enough “yellow things” or free some trapped “pink” things to 100% the level. No idea what beating these challenges gets you. I also saw hints that the game isn’t going to pull any punches later on. I have a feeling this is going to be a difficult game. Whether or not that’s your thing, well…I couldn’t tell you that.
The question is: do I want to spend $60 on what, to me, is essentially a brand new IP? I don’t want to come across as one of those people moaning, “Ugh this game needs to be priced at $40 ‘cause it’s 2D” but at the same time I know I’d be more willing to take a chance on it if it was cheaper—not because of the graphics, just because I’m not the biggest platformer fan. Still every “new” IP deserves a chance, right?
Last time I wrote an article like this it was full of well-deserved vitriol and hate toward some of gaming’s worst feathered fiends. Well to prove I’m not just a Negative Nancy, this article will celebrate one of humanity’s greatest achievements: the moustache.
The moustache is the pinnacle of evolution, science, and art. It is a majestic, almost-sentient creature that covers the upper lips of worthy men (and some women--hey, that’s cool too). So without further ado, join me in celebrating the greatest moustaches in gaming!
First of all, I know many of you are saying, “Mario! Mario has the best moustache!” Well, you’re wrong. Sure Mario’s furry lip-warmer is a classic, but Wario has him beat when it comes to sheer moustacheitude. Look at those harsh angles. Do you know how much effort it would take to create a moustache that wonderful? Lots.
When Snake showed up in Metal Gear Sold 4: Guns of the Patriots he was sporting two apparent changes. One, he was old. Two, he had a moustache. Like his still muscled body, Snake’s moustache is sculpted with care and precision. Only a true, top tier commando could pull it off with such panache.
Class, grace, and elegance. These three words describe both Dudley and his fabulous moustache. Dudley could beat you to a pulp and still make you want to say, “Why thank you, my good sir!” as he’s doing it. I’ve never played Street Fighter III, but I think I might have to just to marvel at Dudley’s facial hair.
A special shout out goes to Mike Haggar from Final Fight. He’s a mustachioed mayor who fights crime. I think he and Dudley should star in a co-op beat ‘em up together.
He will never be Eggman to me. Sorry, I’m just not having it. What I will have is some of his ridiculous moustache. There’s at least enough hair there for two moustaches. I mean it perfectly completes his ensemble and just screams, “Evil scientist…with style!”
How do you think Blaine controls his Pokemon? His Volcano Badge? Please. It’s clearly his awe-inspiring moustache. When you start to go bald what do you do? It’s one of those old lemons to lemonade things. Grow a moustache. Blaine’s glorluxuriant (that’s glorious and luxuriant combined) moustache clearly makes him a leader among men, well…Pokemon.
I don’t know what a “Tekken” is. I’ve never played one. But I want to now! I don’t care that Jinpachi’s moustache also has a beard component because daaaaaaamn. That is a moustache among moustaches. I imagine it being really sharp, and I hope one of his special moves is stabbing somebody in the chest, stomach, and/or groin with it.
So there you have: my list of the most prodigious pushbrooms, stupendous soup strainers, and spectacular ‘staches. Not everyone made the cut, there were many honorable mentions, and I’m sure there are ones I missed. Let me know your favorites in the comments.
Dtoid, have I told you how much I love the Donkey Kong series? Well let’s just say I’m bananas over the franchise. Okay, that was awful. I promise there will be no more monkey-based puns in this blog. Back to the matter at hand, I love Donkey Kong. This is a tale of a young man’s nostalgia being crushed by imposition of motion controls.
My brothers and I got an SNES for Christmas in 1994 with two games: Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country. Mario holds a special place in my heart, but it’s a tight fit because good ol’ DK is right there next to him.
I spent countless hours playing the original DKC with my brothers. I learned all the tricks and secrets, including cheat codes. Then a couple of years later Donkey Kong Country 2. emerged onto the scene.[I could go on for pages about how much I love that game. Then came the not-as-good-but-still-damn-good Donkey Kong Country 3 during the SNES’ waning years.
Over my roughly twenty years of gaming I’ve owned and played: the 3 DKC games mentioned above, the Donkey Kong Land Gameboy games, the collect-a-thon [i]Donkey Kong 64, Diddy Kong Racing, and the GBA remakes of the DKC trilogy. At one point I also owned the Donkey Kong books for kids that were based off the Gameboy games.
Yes this is a thing that exists. But not even Amazon had a pic of the cover.
So imagine my delight when Donkey Kong Country Returns was announced for the Wii. The setting looked gorgeous. There was retro-remixed-throwback music. There was Rambi! Yeah there weren’t any Kremlings, but I was okay with that. Then of course, the catch. The proverbial turd in my nostalgia punch bowl: motion controls.
On the surface, the motion controls in DKCR don’t seem like such a big deal. You can play the game with a Wiimote or with the Nunchuck. However, the problem is that you have to shake the Wiimote in order to get Donkey to roll or pound the ground. Veteran DK players know that a well-timed roll/cartwheel jump can make or break many levels and tricky sections. The fact that this integral part of the game got mapped to a motion rather than a simple button press worried me. But, still I was enthusiastic. I wagered I could look past the motion controls and enjoy the game just like the DK games of old.
Nope. I was so wrong. People have made comments how DKCR is a challenging game. Yeah it’s challenging--in a completely bullshit way. I swear I’ve died more times from having DK not roll when I want him to than from actual enemies. I made it to the end of World 5 before I had to give up.
This is an instance where motion controls do far more harm than good. Imagine how amazing the game would be if you could play it with a Gamecube controller or a Classic controller. I would’ve done that in a heartbeat. Instead Nintendo and Retro Studios shoehorned motion controls into a game, and technically a genre, that didn’t need them. They turned simple mechanics tied to precise button presses into a garbled mess of me waving my Wiimote around in the air like I’m trying to shake a baby to death.*
*It disturbs me that that was the best analogy I could come up with
I’m not a motion controls hater--at least not completely. If implemented properly and in genres that work well with them, then motion controls can be great. I just dislike being forced to deal with suboptimal control schemes. For me Donkey Kong Country Returns is a failure. I’m probably not going to go back to it. Instead of waggling my Wiimote, I think I’ll fire up DKC2 on the VC and bask in my untarnished nostalgia.