Hello. Here is everything you need to know about me.
My name is Tom and I am a dorky teenager going through the things that dorky teenagers usually go through.
Favorite Game: No More Heroes
Favorite Movie: Pulp Fiction. Scratch that, anything by Quentin Tarantino.
Favorite Artist: deadmau5
Favorite Band: Queen
Favorite Book: 1984 by George Orwell
Favorite Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Favorite Console: PC
My Hobbies: Playing instruments, video games and cooking.
What Instruments?: Viola, Bass, Drums, Accordion (although I suck) and Ukulele.
As of now, I'm currently giving my life away to Team Fortress 2.
You've been in my life for far too long, almost ten years to be exact. In fact, one of the happiest moments in my life was when I got a PS2 for my 8th birthday, hooking that beast up, and playing some Tekken 4. If it weren't for you, I probably wouldn't have been the gamer that I am today. It was like the proverbial Pandora's Box was closed, and you opened it with endless possibilities of prolonged enjoyment. Thanks for that, by the way.
From that point on, it was just smooth sailing between us. I was devoted to everything that you did in the gaming community. Hell, I was so committed to you, I even forked over the $599 for a brand new PS3. Now, if that wasn't proof of brand loyalty, I don't know what is. But, with every relationship, whether intimate or plutonic, there is always a dark side to each one, and ours starts with the PSP.
Don't get me wrong Sony, I was really excited for this handheld. I said, "Oh my God, a handheld with mind-shattering graphics, a mp3 player, video player, and a web browser? I must either be in Heaven or the year 2013.". So, $250 later, I popped Midway Arcade Treasures and played Mortal Kombat for hours on end. It was fun, for three months, but I later had an epiphany. I had this sudden realization that popped in my head that would change my perception of your PSP and its potential, and I think that we're at the stage in our relationship where I can feel comfortable saying this.
Sony, *deep breath*...
Now, as friends, I'm not trying to insult you. Rather, I am offering my constructive criticism on the PSP. I know you're scheduled to release the Playstation Vita sometime in 2012, and to paraphrase the great Jules Winnfield, "I'm not here to kill you. I'm here to help you.". So, here's why the PSP failed and what you can do to ensure the Vita's victory.
First off, and most importantly, for all the features that you were boasting for the PSP, like an internet browser, MP3 player and video player, where were the games? Most of the games during launch were either remakes of games that are exponentially better on consoles (Spider-Man 2) or half-assed games added to existing francises (Metal Gear Acid, Twisted Metal: Head On). Sure, there were new IPs making their debut on the PSP, but they just weren't very memorable and no one payed attention to them like Mercury. It would take another three years for the good games to start rolling on in, like God of War: Chains of Olympus, Dissidia Final Fantasy and, most notably, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, but that was when I had lost faith in the PSP.
Nintendo, however, knows what they are doing with handhelds. Let me tell you a story Sony. When the original Game Boy launched, it was initially mocked by its contemporaries, as it only had a small dot matrix screen and low-res graphics. People like Atari and Sega who came out with the Lynx and Game Gear, respectively, were among them. They had bragged about having larger and all around better screens with color and crisp visuals. Those handhelds inevitably failed because of a low battery life and poor-quality games, and were banished to the Nether Realm. Ironically, their biggest feature turned out to be their biggest downfall. The original Game Boy succeeded because of an awesome battery life and fun games like Tetris and Pokemon, compensating for the inferior display.
You see where I'm going with this history lesson, Sony? I feel like you fell into the same trap as Nintendo's competitors at the time the original Game Boy came out. All I heard about on the PSP from you was, "OMG! MP3s! VIDYAS! INTERWEBZ! EVERYTHANG!" But when someone merely mentioned the notions of a game on the PSP, you just froze up on stage and pissed your pants. You were pretty much left on the side of the road of the handheld market while Nintendo splashed mud on you as Nintendo rode off in a Ferrari made entirely of money.
This turned out to be the biggest problem in my experience with the PSP. As I would be enamored in games like GTA: Liberty City Stories, I would look on in awe at kids or even guys my age hypnotized by their shiny Nintendo DS, playing Pokemon within groups. At that point, I thought to myself, "Man, I cannot find a single person that has the same games to play with.".
Speaking of Nintendo, another reason the PSP failed was because you [Sony] like to copy Nintendo. Sorry, but this is how I see it. There's no use hiding it because I can see it in both your forays in handheld and console gaming. Whatever Nintendo did, you pretty much had to copy with things like handhelds, motion controls and, now with the Vita, dual touch screens and AR games. To me, you're like that girl from high school that wants to copy what the popular girls are doing so the boys will notice her.
Now, you're ready to launch the PS Vita in early 2012, and I believe you're heading in the right direction for the most part. You've got an impressive line-up of games like a new Uncharted and LittleBigPlanet and dual-analog action, which can help create some more complex gameplay. However, the two biggest gripes I have with your upcoming system: The touch screen on the back and a larger emphasis on social networking websites. Pantomiming playing the Vita with the touch screen on the back seems very uncomfortable and completely unnecessary. The social networking isn't as bad, but I just want to remind you that you're still making a gaming handheld.
Try to keep that in mind, Sony!
Now, I'm not saying that the PSP was a complete failure, but it could have been better if you had a better selection of games to offer before the PSP was burnt out. As for the Vita, I'll keep my optimism for now.
Being a gamer with that has a diverse taste, I feel that the Japanese are the only game developers that can give me something fresh and new each time. I've got nothing wrong with American developers, but I need something more than just shooting the Nazis or infiltrating the Zerg stronghold. That's where I can count on Japanese game developers to give me a completely different experience every time.
A story in a game is very important; it helps set the tone and further engages the player in this epic world that the game presents. In the hands of Japanese developers, they are able to spin yarns in games that the player will remember forever. In the Japanese story-telling spectrum, we have the serious and poetic stories by people like Team Ico and Square Enix to the more silly and off-beat like Grasshopper Manufacture. People like Fumito Ueda and Suda51 are masterful storytellers, creating worlds with interesting characters, enemies and settings that enhance the game, except Ueda tries to be poetic with his stories like in Shadow of the Colossus, while Suda51 is facetious with the subject matter in his stories and has incongruous locales within his stories, especially in Killer7.
Japanese games also delve into uncomfortable territory with some of their stories. The most recent example of this would be Catherine by Atlus, which challenges the ideas of marriage and commitment. Killer7, my favorite example, delves into the realms of terrorism, organ harvesting, child trafficking and rape. However, Suda's story is also very tongue-in-cheek, as you can fight Power Ranger knockoffs and a crazy cult leader with an afro.
Where am I going with this? In comparison to, for sake of example, Call of Duty series and Gears of War, all these games usually focus on the futility of war and patriotism. Those themes are fine, but they don't add to already dull stories in both. However, the Japanese games help bring in the elements to create a memorable story experience. To put it bluntly, stories is Western games are like small, timid Chihuahuas and Eastern games are like 300 pound gorillas loose on the streets of Tokyo.
Japanese games are notorious for being difficult, challenging the skills and even the psyche of gamers. Games like Demon's Souls and Catherine love to challenge their audience to point of banging their heads against a wall, but to combat this, difficult Japanese games reward the players as they complete sections of the game, whether that be a new weapon like in Mega Man or presenting progression to the plot like Catherine. This helps reward the player without having to punish them, reaching the perfect balance of difficulty and payoff.
What's great about Japanese games is that they also present gameplay that hasn't been seen before. The aforementioned Catherine has a gameplay mechanic where Vincent, the main character, must scale a large tower by moving blocks to create stairways. Games in that camp would also be Killer7, Katamari Damacy and Okami. Whether it be rolling a sticky ball gathering stuff or restoring plant life to the land with the Celestial Brush, these new gameplay innovations keep things fresh and new enough to make Japanese games more fun and challenging.
The biggest criticism of Western developed games is that they are either too easy or just feel the same every time. The majority of Western-developed games are shooters, and they all just recycle the same elements from the same genre. However, in Japanese games, the challenge comes from not only the difficulty level, but from the introduction of new gameplay to challenge the player as well.
It's So Beautiful!
Western developed games are also known as "gray games"; games that only use shades of brown and gray in its palette. Who can save us from the mindless menagerie of monotone? Why, the Japanese of course! The palette in most Japanese games are very bright, vibrant and appeal to your eyes. The atmosphere of Okami makes it feel like a feudal Japanese painting has come to life. The world of Katamari Damacy feels much more lively, even though some of its inhabitants would later be burnt up into a hydrogen ball. Even with Killer7's mature subject matter, the locales are very bright and lively with color and personality.
Japanese games usually pride themselves on being a bit odd, having unconventional stories or unusual aesthetics. Like I said about the stories in Japanese games, the games' oddity helps make the game a memorable experience. Katamari Damacy's quirkiness, the things that the King of All Cosmos says and an addictive soundtrack helps add to an already weird premise for a game. Killer7's weirdness is astronomical; there are a lot of weird ghosts, who were your former assassination targets, giving you hints within the game, the most unusual is one wearing BDSM clothing. Bosses are also weird, ranging from an extravagant anime chick to the already mentioned Power Rangers look alikes.
Western developed games cannot even touch the level of weirdness in Japanese games. The only unusual thing that Western games can tout is introducing a monster with 8 tentacles and 6 eyes. YAWN! You can't impress me because Japanese games have desensitized me to your tricks.
Conclusion I could gush on for hours, talking about why I love Japanese games, but that would require more work.
Japanese developers create great games using interesting stories, great characters, unique gameplay and odd elements that Western developers can only dream of creating.
I'm one who enjoys eccentric games made by developers willing to take a risk. I'm also the kind of person who also likes iOS games. But, sooner or later, one can get bored of flinging angered animals of aviation into structures made out of various materials in the hopes of killing green swine. One could want a much greater narrative in iOS games, other than that of taking revenge on pigs who just want some scrambled eggs for breakfast. If you are looking for something greater on your iOS device of choice that is somewhat of a foil to Angry Birds, than Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP might just be up your alley.
Developed by Superbrothers and published by Capybara Games, Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP tells the story of the Scythian, a young woman who ventures on a quest to retrieve the Megatome and later to reassemble the Trigon Trifecta. The Megatome is a book used to read the thoughts of other characters in the game, disguised as game hints. It also calculates when a certain Trigon can be activated and when it is ready to be tamed.
Okay, the obligatory summary is now over. The first that one will notice is that the game is visually stunning in all its blocky splendor. The game is represented in an 8-bit minimalist style that makes the world seem beautiful and lively, even if it isn't densely populated. Even with this chosen aesthetic, the characters and animals have enough personality to compensate. The landscapes in the game are beautifully rendered with enough warm color palettes and small details to put the environments of any of the A-list titles to shame.
One other aspect that I love is the humor. The game presents a juxtaposition of infusing a quasi-folkloric story with colloquial diction, subtle pop-culture references and a little fourth-wall breaking. In the game, the Scythian makes observations in the world in the form of text boxes. The word choice in these lines range from the grammar formally reserved by teenage girls to lolSpeak, and it's hilarious. The Scythian also has strangers helping her on her quest, like Logfella, a wood-chopping woodsman, Dogfella, and Girl. It's also worth mentioning that it makes some not-so-subtle references to street artist Shepard Fairey's Andre the Giant propaganda, with Andre gathering an obedient posse to reassemble the Trigon Trifecta. In addition, it also includes sequences where the game tells you how to cheat and having a jam session with the game's composer, Jim Guthrie.
Other than being hilarious, the humor also works in the game because it doesn't break immersion from this game world that takes place 'in days of yore.' So, it's totally fine for characters to make nods to things that would be anachronistic so long as they make sense to the game's setting and story and doesn't make you feel like this game should take place in the modern day, which the game pulls that off to an almost magical degree.
Of course, it wouldn't be fair to talk about S: S&S EP without mentioning the sounds and songs of Jim Guthrie. For a guy who has been out of the music scene for seven years, he made one heck of a comeback. His album for the game, The Ballad of the Space Babies, is a work of musical art. Guthrie uses lots of synthesizers to create celestial sounds that add to the looming sense of danger, excitement and fear, with honorable mentions being The Prettiest Weed, Lone Star and Little Furnace. It's recommended that you play with headphones, and you should take that recommendation to get the full experience, for your ears will be taken on a magical journey unlike any other.
The gameplay is great. In it's constituent parts, the game is one part adventure game, one part puzzle game and one part combat. The adventure game aspect has you exploring the world and finding objects to progress. The puzzle game aspect is where you find ways to awaken Sylvian Sprites to activate the Trigons. The combat aspect is where you flip your iOS device vertically to fight animals and tame the different Trigons. All of these elements fuse together very nicely and neither of them try to overshadow each other, making the game challenging and fun.
Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP is one of those games that is perfect in my eyes. Not only is it funny, weird and beautiful, but it's also really fun, making it my favorite downloadable game of all time.