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My name is meteorscrap.

Occasionally I'll post random thoughts and musings here which are too long, too detailed, or otherwise don't fit in the comments section. Given the length of some of the stuff I've left as a comment, you can well imagine what I consider long.

Do you like words? 'cause I got a lot for you.

Promoted Articles
I've written a couple really good pieces which no longer show up on this blog. Check them out below.

02/11 MM Groundhog Day: Final Fantasy Tactics
04/11 MM AaMaazing: Final Fantasy II
05/11 MM P2 Press Start: A torrid co-op love affair
Digital Distribution: Developers are poisoning the well
Downloadables: Sequence
Reveling In The Joy Of Movement

Destructoid owes me a six-pack! Woo!
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Given the Zelda series' proven quality, time and again, it's hard for anyone to say anything bad about it as a whole. Even if you disagree with the aesthetics of a certain title, such as the cel-shading of Wind Waker or the psuedo realism of Twilight Princess, the games are well put-together, well designed slices of gameplay which appeal to a very wide variety of gamers.

That is... When they're designed by Nintendo. However, I was in the unique position in 1996 of being old enough to work illegally while also being young enough to be fooled by the Philips CDi's advertisements in gaming magazines and the promise of three Zelda games in stunning graphics, accompanied by still shots of (presumably) awesome animation for various events in the game.

It's time to discuss the elephant in the room: Wand of Gamelon, Faces of Evil, and Zelda's Adventure.

To be fair, my opinion going into this piece is not going to be unbiased. At the time... I'd just turned thirteen, and a local business owner made the promise of a lifetime to a thirteen-year-old facing down summer: A job. I'd applied at McDonald's when I was turned away after the interview because my sloppy writing made my thirteen look like an eighteen.

Oh, and it was a hard job, too. Not having actually worked in the past (or knowing what, precisely, labour laws and minimum wage were), the offer looked too good to be true: Each of us would get forty whole dollars a day, along with an extra ten dollars for food and a half hour lunch break, to work at the man's vendor booth at the Toronto CNE from opening at 9:00 AM to closing at 11:00 PM. And we'd also get a ride to work at eight and a lift home at the end of the day, and a meal at the guy's bar on the way home!

It was every thirteen-year-old's dream job: Sell some crap to tourists for (what we thought was) great money, get to eat fast food for lunch and dinner, and we were at the Exhibition! After downing a cheap hotdog, most of my lunch breaks were spent going on The Zipper! Every. Damned. Day.

And after twenty full days of essentially working fourteen hour days, I had my prize in hand. Eight hundred dollars, a veritable fortune to a child my age. And I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it: Buy the CDi, as well as all three Zelda games.

After all, for what the machine cost, they HAD to be the most amazing things in existence, right? I felt justified: My Playstation didn't really have any games which caught my attention. Beyond the Beyond was the only RPG I'd seen on the console, and the Nintendo 64 which was coming out didn't have ANY good games. I mean, Mario? Again? Please. Zelda was clearly where it was at, and I was about to get THREE of them. I wouldn't need a new game for months.

And so, cash in hand, I went into Microplay. I bought a brand new CD-i and one copy each of Wand of Gamelon, Faces of Evil, and Zelda's Adventure. When I was done with my purchase, I had just enough to buy a McDonald's combo and a bag of chips from the grocery store on the way home. I had a full weekend until school started, and after I hooked my new console up I didn't intend to spend a minute more than necessary away from it.

I decided to start with Zelda's Adventure. The live-action look actually appealed to me over the cartoonish sprites of Wand of Gamelon and Faces of Evil, given the fact that Mortal Kombat did pretty well with it. So I put the game in, reading the instruction manual and wrapping my mind around the strangely-designed controller in this new, modern console. I do remember the lack of any sign of Nintendo in the opening company credits montage, but at that point I was too excited to notice it. Sort of like a hiker missing the hiss of a rattlesnake, I guess.

To say that Zelda's Adventure is an unplayable mess is a kindness. The game is not just bad for a Zelda game, it's just bad. It resembles a Zelda game in screenshots, and resembles your worst nightmares of what the franchise could be while being played. While the music is, for the time, fantasticly written and well-performed, that's the only nice thing one can say about the game. The live-action cutscenes are horrible and the gameplay is more backwards and illogical than some badly designed NES games.

I now know that part of the game's problems are the console: Despite the increased storage having access to CDs granted it, the console had a mediocre chipset and relatively little RAM. It wasn't designed to be a gaming system, and it shows in the performance, as the machine chugged to a halt for long periods every time the game had to load a new area. And whatever problems I had with the controls, I know now that the hardware was as much to blame. The controllers were uniformly terrible for the CD-i.

However at the time, I only knew that a game series which had brought me joy ever since the first Legend of Zelda game had now nearly brought me to tears with frustration and regret. Even Wand of Gamelon and Faces of Evil, while better than Zelda's Adventure, just didn't strike the exciting Zelda spark.

Mere hours after I'd purchased the system, I'd packed it back into my closet. It would be years before I unearthed them while moving out of my parent's home, and multiple moves beyond that one before I finally hooked the console back up and given them a fair shake.

These days, objectively speaking, Wand of Gamelon and Faces of Evil don't strike me as terrible. Quirky titles, yes, and certainly the controls could be tighter, but going back to them with the breadth of gaming experience and the patience of an adult, they're certainly less terrible than my horrified teenage brain remembers them being. They've got some interesting design choices, and as long as you don't go into them expecting a Zelda-quality title, they're not entirely horrific. I've certainly endured worse titles.

However, even with all the joy the series has brought me, a new Zelda title sends a completely unwarranted shiver of horror through my frame. Objectively speaking, I know that Nintendo could never produce a title half as bad as Zelda's Adventure. Objectively speaking, I know that no system produced by Nintendo will ever give a game controls as poor as Wand of Gamelon and Faces of Evil possess.

Yet nothing can erase the memories of having purchased the Unholy Triforce. Nothing.
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Full Disclaimer: I have pimped Sequence a lot. I've done this entirely because it's a fantastic title and I fully believe in supporting studios which do good, especially indies. My first contact with Jason Wishnov was contacting him for XBLIG codes for Sequence to give out.

Last week, I posted a Sequence contest and offered codes to the first twenty posters. Then I took my sweet time about things, mainly because I was in northern Ontario hunting with a friend. He broke his ankle, I learned why .45 magnums scare black bears, and the rabbits we'd been hunting were not, despite my friend's insistence, were not in season.

Now that I've PMed everyone involved their codes, I'm feeling restless. Time for more codes to hand out? I think so!

So guys? Post a haiku about rhythm games in general, and the first ten who do score a free copy of Sequence on Steam. But please, if you've already scored a free copy off of me (check your inbox), don't enter the contest unless you plan to give the code out to someone who'll appreciate it.

Rhyme, monkeys! Rhyme for your gaming codes!

Full Disclaimer: I have pimped Sequence a lot. I've done this entirely because it's a fantastic title and I fully believe in supporting studios which do good, especially indies. My first contact with Jason Wishnov was contacting him for XBLIG codes for Sequence to give out.

Alright, so way back when Iridium Studio's little gem Sequence debuted on Xbox Live Indie Games, I contacted Jason Wishnov, the sole, consistent employee of the studio, and asked him if he'd be down for giving me some bulk codes to give out to Destructoid. I offered to buy fifty, if I'm remembering correctly.

Sadly, he was unable to provide. But because Jason Wishnov is an awesome person, he gave me five of the fifty codes he was given, given to me freely for the asking, which I then passed on to various Destructoid users.

However now Sequence is on Steam, and frankly it's long past time I paid him back for his generosity. And even I can only buy a game once, so now I'm giving back to the community. I've purchased a hundred Sequence codes which I'm going to be giving out to people.

If you meet the system requirements and want a copy, it's as simple as asking. The first twenty people who ask for a copy below are going to get a code PMed to them. It's really that easy, folks.

And look forward to more giveaways in the same vein. These codes are burnin' a hole in my pocket.

Alright, so the "discussion" I got into with Revuhlooshun about Online Passes got a little bit personal. I accused him of touching himself at night, and as far as I can see from his response, he accused me of dogging his other blogposts to down on him, when, as far as my spotty memory and Destructoid's comment system are concerned, all I've done is Fap his FFV blog which got promoted.

Yes, I was a bit of a douche. Probably because we're somehow on opposite sides of the spectrum politically. I feel like the curmudgeonly conservative keeping an eye out for business, while a lot of his arguments are the bright-eyed liberal take on things. I was sort of getting into the spirit of things, I guess.

Funny bit is, I'm liberal politically speaking. I'm sure this means he's secretly a whitebread conservative.

Anyway, the whole point of this is... Let's get a Debatoid going. Me and Revuhlooshun, discussing some heated topic without Jpegs or Jew jokes, and let's get the entire thing out of our systems so that if we ever meet up at a community meetup, we're more inclined to buy one another a beer and laugh about things in hindsight than get into a fistfight while the rest of the community laughs.

Also, I respect his ability to write well, and I know I do, so there's that as well. Anything we debate is sure to be interesting to read, at least.

So Rev, up for a debate? Anyone have any topics they feel would be good to discuss?

It's this or sniping at one another randomly, and I'd rather not go that route. I can't access Destructoid from work anymore, so that rivalry might get a bit one-sided.

Let's face it: Online Passes or practically any other scheme publishers come up with to try to curtail the used market are never going to be popular with gamers. No matter how small the incentive is or how miniscule the hassle of attaining it, there are going to be people who insist that any attempt by publishers to reclaim a part of the used market is wrong.

To be honest, a part of me agrees. However another part of me sees exactly what and why publishers are doing what they're doing, and that's the part that I'm going to explore.

The thing a lot of gamers are either ignorant of or choosing to ignore is that the games industry doesn't really have alternate revenue streams the way other entertainment does. I mean, think about it: Any profit the publisher wants to see from a game is entirely dependent on the game selling well. With the high turnover of titles, usually a game has about a two to four week window where the game is going to sell at a large volume, with all but the most insanely popular titles seeing a sharp dropoff in sales afterwards. Beyond that... If the publisher is lucky, the title might see a rerelease as a "Greatest Hits" or equivalent and maybe they might see some sales down the road as a downloadable title from the Playstation Network or Games on Demand. That's it.

Nothing is guaranteed to be there to supplement that game's initial release, and a myriad number of complications can come up to turn the release into a disaster. Releasing the game during the wrong week might see the game competing directly with another, very similar title. Or it might get released during the launch of a huge game and be completely overshadowed or outright ignored. With millions of dollars invested in the development and marketing of a title, it's easy to see why publishers could feel an incredible amount of stress to find another revenue stream any way they can.

Games are things which take years to make and often the fate of a studio, even a well-proven one, rests on just how well the game sells. It's sad to say, but we as gamers often hear about developers closing their doors, sending a group of suddenly-adrift employees looking for new jobs. Every sale counts to many studios, especially when they have to go to their publisher and ask for money to make their next game. When a single title performs far under the expectations for the budget, it's hard to blame the publisher for refusing funding for another title when all they can see is a multimillion dollar hole where their profits from the developer's last title should be.

Is it any wonder that they're looking for some way, any way to help them make an extra buck on the games they're funding? The budget for a triple-A title these days can reach the same sort of cost of movies, and video games are one of the few pieces of entertainment we consume which don't have multiple built-in stages of profitability.

Movies, for example, have many stages. First, the movie gets released on the big screen. Often, a title can earn back the entire budget of filming just through the profits of the theater release. Next, the movie gets released on Blu-Ray and DVD for the home release. If the movie didn't do well in theaters, it's still got a chance to be profitable. A few titles, like The Chronicles of Riddick, did poorly in theaters but still turned a good profit for their home release. Movies then have the licensing fees from being played on TV and streaming services like Netflix to help pad things out.

TV shows are also raking it in from multiple angles. A good TV show not only has the profits from advertisements on the day a new episode airs, but also the licensing fees and/or advertising profits from repeats. If watching a TV show on TV isn't your thing, you can always pick up the episodes from a streaming service, or just buy the year's season on DVD if you want to just watch it all in a marathon.

Books likewise have a few avenues for consumer consumption. You can get the book right when it comes out, if you don't mind shelling out the extra cash for the hardcover edition. Too rich for your blood? You know you can still pick up the paperback or get the title on your Kindle or Ipad for a little less. Reading not your thing? There's always the audiobook edition, most of which are read by professional actors.

We can't forget, of course, that all of the above also have a far longer shelf life in stores than any game. If I'm lucky, I might be able to track down a new copy of a game six months after release if I hunt for it and it was a big title, yet I can walk into a store and find a new copy of a five-year old movie, TV season, or book with considerable ease.

Part of the reason games are so expensive is that the technology required to make them is always changing, and that technology is at the heart of what's required to make the game. The tools developers were using a decade ago are completely different from the tools they use today, unlike an author writing a book or a director filming a TV show or movie. Every developer out there has to either constantly adapt and work on newer engines for their games, or license an engine from someone who is doing that work. Every game a studio develops has to be on the cutting edge, because that's what everyone else is doing.

Not to mention that the profit GameStop and other places make from used games is a little... lopsided, to use a kind word. I'm not going to say that I'm against the used market, because don't get me wrong: I'm not. Yet when GameStop posts sales data where the used market's profit comes very close to beating out the new market, it's easy to understand why publishers accuse GameStop of profit-mongering at the cost of the industry as a whole and why they would develop the Online Pass in the first place.

However, the problem is that publishers are taking an attitude of "Screw GameStop" with the Online Pass mentality, when they should really be working with GameStop on this one. GameStop has no reason to want a war with publishers. They're just a store dealing in games, and having to fight your suppliers isn't any good for either side. The problem is that publishers haven't really given GameStop or other stores any incentive to share the goods of the used market.

Photo by OrangeShooter

The solution is so staggeringly simple that I'm honestly shocked that publishers haven't reached out with this one, but I'll throw it out there anyway: Publishers, you need to talk to GameStop about selling them extra passes in bulk at a discount to put into their used copies of your games. Better yet, work with them and their network technicians so that they can print out a code to give to customers right at the register without having to worry about finding which drawer it's in. Just scan the thing and the code gets printed out on the receipt, no fuss or muss. You might want to put a reasonable delay on the things before GameStop is allowed to hand 'em out, but that one's obvious.

Now, publishers, I know you're raising your arms and blubbering on about how GameStop doesn't deserve any more of your hard-earned cash. I know you think doing this will be cannibalizing the market even further, but allow me to make a two billion, three hundred and ninety four million dollar counterpoint: Doing this means that instead of a used sale maybe translating into a purchase of an Online Pass from you, every used sale from GameStop translates into a bit of extra coin. Every. Single. One. Every time that copy of Battlefield 4 or Dead Space 3 comes in and goes back out, that's a bit of money in your pocket. You're getting a piece of the action for every used sale, just like you want.

This is a deal that benefits everyone. Publishers finally get to have a taste of the sweet, sweet used pie they've been after since day one. GameStop gets to advertise that even used copies of their games come with everything, including the content normally reserved for the people who purchase new copies. Even the people who pick up their games used benefit, since they actually get the content they would have missed out on, normally, and they get it all cheaper than the new copy that they can't justify buying for themselves. Everybody wins.

For better or worse, Online Passes aren't going anywhere. No matter how much we gamers might complain about them. I think at this point we can either roll with it or get out of gaming, because the good ol' days of being free of this sort of hassle disappeared the moment when consoles being online became the standard instead of the exception.

Even though I don't really have a problem with them, I do think Online Passes have a long way to go. Having to type in a 25 character alpha-numeric code on a d-pad kind of sucks, but next generation most consoles will probably have cameras capable of reading a barcode or something to make redeeming goodies like this a little easier on everyone. Also, the sooner publishers look into an authentication process which allows players to get single-player content locked behind a code while offline the better. I mean, yeah, check the code if the console ever does go online with the game, but you don't need to screw the people without internet access.

Initially I was against the concept of the Online Pass. I felt like it was just a cheap way for the developers to make a quick buck at the expense of the used market. Then I had a brainwave and realized that the things also act like DRM, and a pretty benevolent form of it at that. Pirates gonna pirate, of course, but they're not going to be playing any upcoming games online using the company's servers unless they shell out the cash for the privilege.

If you think of the Online Passes as DRM they're about as unobtrusive as entering a CD-Key was for computer games a decade ago, which is pretty reasonable. Compare the Online Pass we console gamers have to some of the stuff the PC crowd has had to put up with, and suddenly it doesn't look quite as evil and draconian. Right now, a lot of the flaming hate for them is simply a PR problem, and one a good marketing crew could have avoided by phrasing it as unobtrusive DRM instead of as a dig at GameStop. That's already out of the bag, but they could probably still do some damage control with that line of thought.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to key in a code so I can play the Catwoman section of Batman: Arkham City.
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This was just a quick idea I had. I wanted to get it down in text before it slipped away from me.

Alright, let's not mince words here. While Lord of Shadows was a good game, it had its own share of problems... Not the least of which was that it didn't really feel like a Castlevania game. It was more an in-name only title, resembling the Castlevania series only by virtue of the name slapped on the title. It benefited from this, to be certain: The previous Castlevania titles in 3D were just not that good.

To be fair to Konami, Castlevania 64 (and the rerelease/sequel thing with the Werewolf) were released at a time when nobody really knew how to make truly 3D games work well. The critically far more successful Symphony of the Night was released as an underbudget, wacky idea that just took off spectacularly. And to be truthful, the 2D games have managed to keep the distinctive Castlevania feel even with the adoption of the Metroidvania formula.

Now, personally speaking, I feel that Lament of Innocence, however unusually executed it was, was the best Castlevania title in 3D. It had everything that made it feel like a Castlevania title and made the Metroidvania theme work in 3D, albeit in a funky and roundabout way.

So I thought about it and wondered... How could one bring that distinctive Metroidvania-style of exploration into a 3D Castlevania title and still keep the game fresh and exciting, while also keeping a strong focus on the platforming instead of relying on just the combat to keep things interesting.

The answer turned out to be pretty simple. See, I was finally unboxing my extensive PS2 collection, and I came across the box which had the last few games I'd been playing before I packed the whole thing up, and among the two titles were Prince of Persia and Spider-Man 2.

Now, imagine this: You are a Belmont, and your job is to break into Dracula's castle. All you have to start with is your whip and your wits. You can use you whip to latch onto pieces of the scenery, but then you have to climb up it. Trying to swing with the leather form of the Vampire Killer just causes it to slip free from the grab point and you to fall on your back.

So you assault Dracula's Castle, climbing up an outer wall, and you comes across a whip upgrade. Not only does it magically change your leather whip into a mighty flail, but you can now use those same climbing points (and other points) to use the whip to swing around. This allows you to explore more areas, and he eventually comes across a cape which allows you to glide short distances. And so it goes with standard Metroidvania upgrades, until by the end of the game you're practically freaking Spider-Man, swinging to and fro across the extensive Castle.

And when you face Dracula, you're not bound to some small room. He blows the roof off with a powerful spell and you fight him across his entire castle, showing you just how far you've come ever since you entered. Enemies which used to be major foes either run away or are mere distractions as you and Dracula battle in a fight which sees Castlevania reduced to rubble before Dracula's death as you use the arsenal of weapons and magical items you've pillaged to fight this supernatural monster on even footing.

Or hey, we can always say that Lord of Shadows was what we always wanted out of a 3D Castlevania game. I guess that works too.
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