I should really call this blog Love/Love: Realism, cause whoa dude: realistic games rule. Thanks to realism, I get to bound across rooftops in a beautifully rendered Renaissance era Venice, slide into cover mid-gunfight in a snowy Tibetan temple, or drift a photorealistic Audi TT through a hairpin turn in a photorealistic race track in Belgium. Hot Christ, is there anything realism can't do?!?!
My friend told me that playing Gran Turismo is stupid cause it's boring and too realistic. He had me play this game Burnout instead. It's totally dumb, and by dumb I mean retarded. You crash and your car flips and breaks into a billion pieces and you don't even die. Your car just magically re-forms on the race track and the game allows you to keep racing. Oh, how fun (note sarcasm). Clearly I would have died in that crash. I should be made to do the entire race over.
Realism also means that if I fail an active reload in Gears then I get viciously chainsawed in half. Which is awesome, by the way, because it's what would really happen in real life.
There are retarded games out there that cast any semblance of realism aside. They claim they do this in the name of "fun".
I mean, seriously? Why don't Bill Rizer and Lance Bean ever have to reload? Some people say it's because their guns are too afraid of them to ever run out. I think it's because it's a stupid game, for babies. Marcus Fenix' gun jams and runs out of ammo all the time because Marcus Fenix is awesome, and lives in a realistic world. Of fun.
Mirror's Edge was pretty awesome for how realistic all the Parkour moves were, but what's up with all the stupid ass colors? The only colors in the real world are brown and gray. If I wanted to see color I'd go buy some crayons or something. Bright colors don't belong in my video games. Video games should only deal with real things, in real life colors.
Let's talk about Link for a second. Everybody knows Link is supposed to be an effeminate Legolas knockoff, am I right? All I know is that Link does NOT look like THIS:
What an unrealistic piece of shit
A lot of games also don't seem to understand Ninjas. Ninjas should be stoic, blood-soaked assassins accompanied by breasts with women attached to them. Ryu Hayabusa is the best ninja in gaming so far, really. Realistic ninjas look nothing like this, by the way:
Then there are these war games that think wars are fought by stupid anime looking characters.
I guess Sega forgot that REAL wars are fought by REAL soldiers against REAL Russians, like in Modern Warfare 2.
I'm sick of all these cartoony bullshit games like Little Big Planet and New Super Mario Bros. claiming to be fun. There's almost nothing realistic about them, so how can they be fun? And what's with all these nostalgia freaks endlessly droning on about how only older games have any heart. I mean seriously, does this look fun to you?
So, umm...I made a owie. I accidentally posted like a bajillion blogs (hyperbole) and never thought to introduce myself. I'd like to finally remedy that. Everyone acknowledge my trespass? Can we move past it? Ok, good.
Down to brass tacks:
-My name is Lindy. People seem to have gender confusion when they hear that name, so allow me to clarify. I am a 26 year old dude, and not a lady.
-I work tech support for a software company in Phoenix.
-My avatar is "Guy" from the first Fire Emblem on GBA. He's a myrmidon, eventual swordmaster, and supreme badass. Fire Emblem is my favorite RPG series. Pick up any of the handheld iterations if you're interested, but avoid the Wii FE at all costs.
-I own a Wii, PS3, DS, and a respectable gaming PC. I recently sold my 360 because there just wasn't enough exclusive content to keep me interested. Also, I never, nor will I ever, pay for online play.
-Prior to this current generation of game consoles I was the hardest core Nintendo fanboy. I still have a hefty NES collection (roughly 80 games), and the SNES was a true friend during my formative years. The N64 was my pride and joy - the pinnacle of my gaming career. I wouldn't even touch a console that belonged to an opposing company. That's all changed now. Nintendo and I haven't broken up officially, but we both know it's over. Sure, we still have the occasional fling (New Super Mario Bros.), but I'm certain that our best days are behind us. Shame. I find that I'm more excited about virtual console releases than anything else in the Wii lineup, and that's just sad.
-I find the lack of pretension at Destructoid very refreshing, so I plan on sticking around. But if my last blog is any indication, you'd better get ready to read (because christ, that thing was wordy). I'll try to keep the word vomit to a minimum from now on.
***Very mild spoilers for Uncharted 2 to follow – no plot stuff***
This blog post by Kauza got me thinking. He discussed the “mediocre” shooting gameplay of Uncharted 2 sort of smudging the otherwise brilliant image of the overall package. He argued that the situational happenings (ala the train climb in the beginning) aren't as compelling as the game itself. I disagree.
The reason: I am a passive gamer. You probably are too and just don't know it.
Consider all the mechanics built into the combat in Uncharted 2:
You can slide into cover, stop and pop
You can hang on a ledge, pop out and shoot.
You can hang on a ledge, and pull enemies over cliffs.
You can drop a grenade on unsuspecting enemies.
You can sneak up behind enemies and perform silent takedowns.
You can melee attack, and counterattack.
You can run and gun.
You can blind-fire.
You can throw gas tanks into crowds to use as impromptu explosives.
You can use riot shields to slowly advance on foes, firing with your pistol.
You can snipe.
You can use RPG’s.
You can mow down waves of foes with a Gatling gun or Stationary Turret.
That’s all well and good, but I ignored most of these mechanics. On my first play-through, I just stuck to my “win” strategies from the first Uncharted: Take cover as far away from enemies as possible, lob grenades when necessary, stop, pop, rinse, repeat. I was probably ¾ of the way through the game before I even started using run and gun, or blind-fire.
I ignored several weapons too. I’m finding I still need the kill count trophies for weapons like the Wes-44, Desert-5, M32 Hammer, and the FAL. I just never cared to use these weapons, really. Sure, I used the grenade launcher when I had to beat the helicopter, but avoided it other times because it had such a limited ammo capacity. Same goes for the handguns I mentioned. I came into the game with a bias for the M4, 92FS 9mm, and the Moss-12 that carried over from the original; so I used these as often as possible and generally ignored the rest.
This is the behavior that needs to end, and what I believe contributes to the mediocrity that we experience in many games. I purposely avoided tools (in this case, weapons) that were built into the game because I had already chosen favorites. This myopic thinking doesn’t just apply to Uncharted. Think of your favorite FPS. Let’s assume I’ve never played that game before. Without ever having played it, I can still tell you what my two favorite weapons are: The Sniper Rifle, and whatever the one-shot kill weapon is called. Be it the torque bow in Gears, the Bolt Gun in Killzone 2, the Crossbow in Uncharted 2/Half Life 2/Bioshock/Killing Floor, whatever. I will always seek those weapons out, and ditch the rest.
I know I’m not the only person who does this. But why? Isn’t it more fulfilling to explore all options in a game? Yes, it definitely is. The reason I often don’t? Comfort.
Here’s the rub: if I have decided to play the game then I have a responsibility to my own fun. If I'm not having fun, is it Uncharted 2's fault? Perhaps, but it's more likely that I'm simply not challenging myself to explore all options laid before me.
So I’m going through Uncharted 2 again on hard, and this time I’m switching my character model every chapter break just for the hell of it, and I’m trying to swap weapons as often as possible by not picking up ammo for the weapons I’m currently using. Once the ammo runs out, grab something new. I’m also trying to use different tactics. Would Drake sit tight behind the same piece of cover and methodically, drudgingly pop out and shoot enemies one by one until the room was clear? No? Then why the hell am I doing it?
I like to think that before, I was “passively” playing Uncharted 2. Sticking to norms, comfort zones and weapons I was used to. This time around I consider my “active” play-through. Long awaited thesis: there is no reason the “mediocre” gunplay can’t be just as cinematic as those scripted “holy shit” moments, it’s likely that I just wasn’t doing MY job as the player of this badass game. Self inflicted mediocrity is no fault of Naughty Dog’s.
I don't consider it a flaw that Uncharted 2 allows its players to be passive and stick to what they know; that's actually a selling point. I just find it to be contradictory to the idea of gaming in general.
*as a brief aside, I'd like to note that Uncharted 2 does have a bad tendency of forcing you into a gunfight when it deems one necessary. As lauded as these new stealth mechanics were, I had hoped they would have given you the option to more or less finish the game without resorting to tons of gunplay. This isn’t really the case. On more than one occasion I would go to great lengths to avoid a gunfight, being careful and killing silently, only for the game to decide arbitrarily that a firefight needed to happen to keep the excitement up. In pour the enemies and suddenly all that sneaking around I’d done was a waste of time. Sigh.
A perfect example of a game that gives you the tools, and lets you decide whether or not to use them is the Prince of Persia trilogy. Most notably the “freeform” combat offered in Warrior Within:
There are a ridiculous amount of moves in this game. Easily more combos than you can memorize. But I remember memorizing as many as I could so that each combat encounter would feel brand new. The passive gamer in me could have easily found one sick combo that worked 95% of the time on every enemy and spammed it to beat every level, but why? To beat the game? If that’s all I cared about, why play games to begin with?
Another example: I’ve trained up with Kilik in Soul Calibur(s) 2 and 4. I know a decent amount of his combos, and I try to throw as many of the ones I know into any given fight. However, despite how many hours I’ve spent training, I still lose to button mashers and spammers. Be that as it may, I don’t mind losing because I’m actually playing the game, and not just mindlessly trying to win. I find absolutely no joy in a button mash/Spam victory. Button mashing is passive gaming. It’s like yelling “Bingo” after every number is called. Maybe at some point you’ll actually have Bingo, but you clearly don’t understand the game and you’re going to annoy the shit out of everybody. If you’ve made the decision to play a game, at least respect the process enough to learn the rules.
You likely know someone who ALWAYS chooses Falco in Super Smash. Or they ALWAYS choose Ken in Street Fighter. Maybe you are this person. This is another passive gaming behavior; and frankly, it’s just a waste of money. Would you pay full price to see a movie and only watch the first 15 minutes? Those 15 minutes may be your favorite part of the movie, but you’re still not getting the whole picture, or your money’s worth.
When it comes to competitive multiplayer, I’m actually pretty good about being “active”. In Super Smash I tend to suck in 4 player matches when I play as Fox. One on one, I can kick my fair share of ass with McCloud, but in a 4 person fight I seem to have more accidental or just plain stupid deaths. So if I know I’m going to play a 4 person brawl, I usually switch it up to Donkey Kong – a stronger, heavier character who I feel is more tailored to fights with more combatants. A passive gamer doesn’t do this. They stick to the character they’ve trained the most with, and don’t mix up their strategies to accommodate the game.
Same goes for Team Fortress 2. So often I’ll jump into a game and find that no one on either side is a Heavy, or Demoman, or Engineer etc... Instead of jumping into my comfort zone and choosing sniper, I’ll usually try to choose a class that my team could use more of at the moment. And it almost always pays off.
Short story long: you can’t make a shitty game a masterpiece, but you can exercise what agency you have to avoid making your game as bland as white toast. Next time you pop in a game you consider mediocre, try surprising yourself with some Strawberry jam on that toast. And by Strawberry jam, I mean: Don’t Use Falco. Or do. If you don’t normally, I mean. It’s a broken metaphor, shut up.
My friend and I are trying to spruce up our otherwise boring ass whiteboard in time for Halloween. He made the badass jack o' lantern and I contributed the Boo. I might throw in a dry bones too. Any suggestions?
Simple criteria for making it on this list: does it have a knack for getting stuck in my head? Does it remind me of why I love video games in the first place? The following ten are all a given based on those qualifications.
#10 Batman - Stage 1
This song is too grand for the unassuming visuals that accompany it. Imagine Christian Bale in the climax to Dark Knight: Running around taking out swat team members, ninja style. Now imagine that same scene set to this song. Better? I thought so.
#9 Castlevania 4 Treasury Room
I remember going to the BGM section of the options page just to listen to this song. A lot. I love the stumbling, off-putting piano in the beginning; then at the 1:02 mark the song stops fucking around and lets you know it's time to get down to brass tacks. An unforgettable (yet unfortunately forgotten) piece of music. It's a shame that this tune hasn't made a re-appearance in a later Castlevania.
#8 Mario Galaxy â€“ Observatory Music
Pure Joy. This waltzy 6/8 song is brimming with whimsy, and it's impossible to feel sad while it's playing. Oh, by the way, you won't get that shit out of your head for DAYS.
#7 F-zero - big blue
The Big, simple, almost silly notes that open Big Blue contradict the complex melodies to come. This is a tune I'll catch myself whistling randomly, on a weekly basis. The song has a death grip on my subconscious, and when it wants to be heard I'm its unaware vessel. I'm ok with that.
#6 Ducktales - Moon
What makes this song great? How about the unlikely 7/8 intro, the delightful interplay of the various melodies, or the saccharin pop that permeates every note and chord? The song is drenched in nostalgia, and makes me long for two-button controllers and blowing dust out of cartridges. Also, Ducktales is a fucking awesome game.
# 5 Windwaker - Dragon Roost Island
If happiness could be captured in music form, this would be the result. This song alone conveys what Windwaker is all about: lighthearted, joyous adventure. I want to stop writing this and go play this game right now. Dammit.
#4 Kefka's theme
Where to begin with this masterpiece? Starts off brilliantly: light, charming, innocent notes lead into a more questionable, unnerving melody that tells you all is not well. Then the facade is dropped, and the song explodes into an outright fascist death march. A sequence that is perfectly suited to its Joker-esque namesake.
#3 Actraiser - Fillmore
Every moment with Actraiser is aural ecstasy; Just when you've gotten comfy with the safe, docile tones of your sky kingdom the game shakes you out of complacency with this turbulent, beautiful, juggernaut of a song. Mark me: this is what will be playing during the biblical Apocalypse.
#2 Castlevania 4 “ Bloody Tears
It speaks to the spectacular soundtrack of Castlevania 4 that I can't even go a full top ten list without including two entries from the game. But I simply can't. Hands down the best Castlevania song ever, and that's saying a lot. Even in simple midi form, this song still makes the hair on my neck stand up. I taught myself the deceptively simple main riff on electric guitar, and used to play it loudly, ad nauseum, with lots of distortion. I'm sure my neighbors appreciated that.
#1 megaman 2 - wily's castle
I could say the theme to Wily's castle is epic, but that word isn't strong enough. This song IS video games to me. It belies the humble 8 bit graphics and transcends the silly comic book story. It makes me feel determined, angry. I have to save the world, and I alone. Hear that driving bass? That means I also have to save it in a big damn hurry.
Take a moment to consider that this is on the original Nintendo. Astonishing.
Almost made the list:
Rush n' attack stage 2
Another gem of the 8-bit era. Worth playing this brutally hard game for this song alone.
Megaman X Storm Eagle
An epic tune, but a little too repetitive in hindsight to make my top ten.
Metal Gear Solid Alert music
Nothing activates the 'oh shit' part of your brain faster than hearing this classic kick into action. Also, I definitely prefer this version to the neutered, chemical brothers-esque alert music from Twin Snakes. Why fix it if it isn't broken?
I found myself whistling the haunting introductory notes of this song on my bike ride to work the other day. I knew it was from some Final Fantasy game but I couldn't for the life of me remember what it was called, or even which FF it was from. I haven't played FF6 in years, yet this magnificent tune lodged itself in the recesses of my brain and decided to remind me of its greatness at 5:30 in the morning. Thanks, Terra's theme, for making my ride to work much more enjoyable. This one's a keeper.
I'm sure I forgot some of my absolute favorites while compiling this list, so throw in a comment and refresh my memory. What are your favorites?
Ah, 6th grade. A time of Pogs, Magic Eye books, and crippling pubescence. I suppose my own hormonal shifts coupled with the visual rhetoric of games like the Nes Castlevania caused me to whip up one of these bad boys on a daily basis, likely during “Science” class when I should have been reading about Chlorophyll or some shit.
I remember calling them “death houses”. Still a good name: brief and to the point.
This crude MS-Paint re-imagining hits the highlights:
-There were always spikes and spike pits.
-Lava was a must.
-There was always a locked door and a key to find in order to open it.
-And then usually some weapon that was “hidden” that had to be collected in order to kill the boss.
I remember my friends always scratching out the boss to symbolize his defeat. That always pissed me off cause he usually took the longest time to draw. Fucking 6th grade art critics.
And then Jordan Mechner totally stole my ideas and built some game franchise on it. I’m still seeking royalties from Ubisoft. Court date pending.
So how about it? You ever draw these? Have a friend who did?