Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a part of the soundtrack, a gameplay mechanic, a line of dialogue, or anything else about the game that is particularly noteworthy and/or awesome.
This series will no doubt contain spoilers for the games being discussed, so keep that in mind if you plan on playing the game for the first time.
With Majora's Mask 3D coming out in a few weeks, I figured it would be fitting to make the first entry all about The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, which happens to be my favorite Zelda game. Feel free to share some of your own favorite things about the game in the comments!
“I don't think I can ever go back to the old style of Call of Duty.”
I've heard some variation of that sentence at least once per week since the launch of Advanced Warfare, and if I were Treyarch or Infinity Ward, I'd be sweating right now. Not “oh, this room is a little too warm” sweat either. I'm talking a glossy, dripping, full-on flop sweat. Sweat so profuse it could be more accurately described as skin vomit.
Sledgehammer broke the code, solved the Sphinx's riddle, and threaded the impossible needle; the studio found a way to make CoD feel fresh and interesting again without screwing up the the basic formula. The developers took all the best parts of the CoD experience and added a sleek sheen of sci-fi gizmos, meaningfully different weapon types, and late-'90s mobility (basically rebuilding all the FPS tropes CoD played a massive hand in tearing down over the last decade), and it worked.
Even scornful hipsters such as myself, who have made sport of the series for years as an easy target for our snark, are giving Advanced Warfare a second look. A good long “hrmmM?” with a flirty upward inflection. AW coyly wiggling its exo-skeletal frame, like what you see?
People love it, and they aren't about to go back to slogging it on the ground with a crusty AK-47 or accepting the dolphin-dive as the height of combat mobility. So what the hell do you do if you're Infinity Ward or Treyarch? Halfway through production on your own version of the CoD experience, knee-deep in code, QA, voice work, and the million other pieces that eventually assemble a videogame, and you find out that THIS is what the people really wanted all along (even after harping on Titanfall all year)?
Somewhere on the slopes of Mount Nintendo there's an oracle that straddles a chasm wherefrom vapors emerge. She speaks in tongues, relying on an intern to interpret her enigmatic ramblings. The system has its misfires (this is how things get named Wii U, for example), but relying on these portents and premonitions has kept Nintendo in business for over a century.
I ventured out to the vet's office a few weeks ago with a Miniature Pinscher in tow. Sam Fisher (the same of Third Echelon fame), my beloved pup, was to see the doctor for a regular checkup and heartworm test. While waiting in the lobby, I overheard other patrons discussing the abuse of a three-month-old Labrador puppy and the damage inflicted upon its tiny limbs. Tears welled up in my eyes nearly instantly. My fists involuntarily clenched themselves up, searching for the victim they would rain down searing pain upon should I ever meet them.
I tell myself every January that I'm going to stop inspecting cheese for fingerprints before putting it on a sandwich or that I'll actually start wearing something other than sweatpants and a hoodie out in public when it's cold, but it never happens. And it never will happen. What would I even wear? A pair of Uggs and leggings with some kind of lame scarf? How do you even wear a scarf? And what if my tongue somehow detects the wrongness of a fingerprint on the surface of my Deli Deluxe cheese slice? There are some questions we're just not meant to know the answers to, just like there are resolutions that we'll make and break in the span of 24 hours.
While sitting on my lunch break today I ruminated on the deeper meaning behind player agency, the male gaze and how it pertains to gaming, and whether Hatred should or shouldn't remain on Steam. After giving a glut of heady topics much thought, I decided I didn't care about any of them, so I started to write an article about my video game resolutions for 2015, none of which have anything to do with those concepts. Here's to being a better video game enthusiast gamer in 2015.
And, suddenly, another year passed us by. It seems like 2014 had only just arrived, and already it's being hauled away, kicking and screaming, never to be seen or heard from ever again.
It's important that we take this time to reflect on the previous twelve months, to remember the good times and repress the bad. Soon we will be looking to the future, or anywhere else really, so long as we can stave off the here and now. So breathe deep, my friend. Take in those plummy aromas. Savor their toasty bouquets. And espy the subtle hints of oak and herb.
It was a good year. Hot and dry, no mildew, few pests. Soon it will be time to award ribbons and medals to the finest varieties, you know the ones. Not yet, though! No, it's time for a special treat.
Feast your eyes on this here list of the most wonderful games of 2014, according to yours truly.
Yeah, thanks asshole. I've already done this like two dozen times. You might have noticed I rode up to your mission marker ON a Caragor.
“WHEN UN' ORC IS DOWN, THA'S WHEN YOUR CARRRAGOR CAN POUNCE ON EM!”
DIE IN A FIRE.
I loved Shadow of Mordor. You know, unlike some people. I could ignore the generic revenge-driven plot, put up with Gollum's shenanigans, and embrace the hell out of the unique cast of orcs the game generated for me. Hell, I even loved the Arkham-style combat and the kill-crazy orc murder sprees it enabled. I'm not sick of that brand of carnage yet, not by a longshot.
But the game committed one unforgivable sin – It was still tutorializing basic mechanics well into the back half of the game. Every time it happened it was enough to make me want to pitch the game into Mount Doom's lava basement.
When I was a young warthog, I didn't know diddly about the games I was buying. I simply made a beeline for the nearest video game section, be it PC or otherwise, and browsed until there was a title that immediately leapt out at me. I kept up with magazines and the like, but I remained mostly oblivious to the development cycles surrounding the titles I wished to procure, the personalities behind them, and in many cases, the content within them.
Sure, I'd check out Seaman in the back of an Electronics Boutique or lust after Monster Rancher Card Battle GB for Game Boy, opting to trade in half of my cartridges for a meager discount off the new title. But there was none of the "announcement trailer, character trailer, preorder trailer, launch trailer, trailer trailer, trailer trailer trailer" nonsense back then. There wasn't much of an opportunity for me to learn unless I truly went digging. And honestly, I liked it that way.
Don't mistake my nostalgia for bitterness. It's fantastic that we have so many opportunities to survey upcoming titles and appraise their quality before spending the $60 (and sometimes more) and ultimately being disappointed. It's only when these opportunities are used to trick consumers that I get heated. There are several ways that companies are marketing video games to this end, and while I can admit to falling victim to one or more of these marketing fads in the past, it's about time that we see them all put out to pasture. I'll be talking about a different stomach-turning technique each week.
First up -- Emotionally manipulative trailers with accompanying musical covers and/or deceptive footage!
We're outnumbered, down to our last pair of lives. The clock is ticking, it's as much of a threat to my team's survival as the four armed men bearing down on our position. I don't like our chances, not one bit, but moments like this, they're the reason I play the game.
In a cramped beachside arcade, sandwiched between Galaga and Mortal Kombat 3, sits my white whale. It's surrounded by restaurants, a roller coaster, churro vendors, and a carousel, this sad little Super Mario Bros. arcade cabinet.
It isn't much to look at, with its chipped, gaudy yellow paint and weathered artwork. The monitor is tiny and its picture quality about as clear as mud. The buttons are sticky, and the stick is buttony. You could look right through it, and never even know it's there.
Maybe that's what I like about it, this unassuming relic with a dark side.
It's tough for me to get excited these days. I ain't jaded, I just hate it. Actually, it's not like I hate everything. I simply feel anxious nearly every waking moment of my life. I need something to look forward to, no matter the context. If I know I'm going out for dinner with someone at the end of a long day, I'll count down the seconds. If there's an event in a month or so I'm particularly jazzed for, I'll plan it down to the very last detail. Because I'm always looking forward. I'm always waiting for the next email assignment, the next game, the next writing gig, and the next life-changing event. While I'm waiting, I need an appropriate soundtrack to set the mood.
Luckily for me I can turn to some of my favorite videogames to provide a bouncy soundtrack that gets me hyped enough for my next challenge...or at the very least, thinking about how to kickstart my life so that there is another challenge to look forward to.
It's hard not to sound like an old man when you go off on something like this. Decrying modern advancement in favor of some kind of nostalgic never-was is always a terrific way to seem out of touch. Intellectually, I know that the past is usually not as good as you remember it was, and you never appreciate what you have in the present as much as you should. But with that said, I really miss demo discs.
Secret Base it probably most well known for its incredible mock-ups for theoretical Ghostbusters and The Avengers games for the NES. It's clear that the developer has a passion for adapting live-action fantasy/sci-fi icons for classic games, even when they don't legally have the right to.
This passion is strewn all over Devil's Dare, its latest release on Steam. Horror is the theme here, and no expense was spared to pay tribute to all the modern horror icons, both familiar and obscure. Of course there's a boss based on Jason Voorhees, but you might be more surprised to see a tribute to both Baxter Stockman's and Jeff Goldblum's disgusting fly-man monsters. At least, I think that's what's going on here. It's hard to be 100% sure, which is part of the fun.
Devil's Dare is like classic, Glenn Danzig era-Misfits in game form, except it seems to be intentionally ridiculous, where Glenn might not have been as self aware. The references to horror classics, the low-fi aesthetic, the tension, and the levity all come together to form something larger than the sum of its parts. Even better, it plays a lot like a traditional four-player arcade beat-'em-up but with Smash Bros.-style flash and simplicity. This isn't the kind of crossover that Nintendo is likely to publish, but it will likely appeal to many of its fans.
[An aside: We're giving out Lone Survivor Humble Bundle and Wii U eShop codes on Sup Holmes today at 4pm EST. Today's guest is Ron Gilbert (Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island). Chuck the Plant appears in both Lone Survivor and Maniac Mansion, so it sort of makes sense, at least to me.]
Lone Survivor: The Director's Cut has been out on PSN and computers for a while, though it just made it over to the Wii U a few days ago. This post was originally going to be an impressions piece on how the Wii U port came out, but before I knew it, I'd gushed about how the game depicts psychosis with incredible nuance and sensitivity. It's a good thing too, as there isn't much to say about the Wii U port other than 'it's got remote play and it's nice to be able to plug your headphones into the Gamepad.'
Jasper Byrne, the one-man development team behind Lone Survivor, must know more about psychosis than what you can learn from TV and movies. That's the only way I can imagine how he pulled this off so well.
Vib-Ribbon is a game by NanaOn-Sha (Parappa the Rapper, UmJammer Lammy) that was originally released on the PS1. It came to the United States for the first time just recently, by way of PSN. The original game allowed you to take the disc out of the PS1 and replace it with any CD. You could then play levels based on the sounds found on that CD. That's part of why the game has such minimalist visuals. The game's code had to be small enough to be stored in the PS1 on its own. Hence the black and white vector-based graphics.
It's amazing how NanaOn-Sha was able to create such charming and memorable characters with just a few lines. Vibri, the game's star, is a lovable scamp with tons of personality. With this article, I will do my best to follow in his footsteps by using as few lines as possible in my effort to convey to you the joy of Vib-Ribbon.
So here is a dumb thing I do: I make up my own stories in games.
No, I'm not just talking about RPGs like Fallout or Skyrim where the entire point is to go out and make your own mark on the world. I'm talking about just about every kind of game. Action titles that already have stories, multiplayer shooters where there shouldn't even be a narrative; hell in a darker moment in my life, I once tried to make a fictional justification for I.Q.: Intelligence Qube, a puzzle game where you rotate giant cubes floating in a void. HELP ME.