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Opinion Editorial

Does it matter if Link is a boy or a girl?

Nov 20 // Jonathan Holmes
[Art by  Kuvshinov-Ilya] To its credit, Nintendo has done an admirable job of concocting a way to help fans to imagine Link as both a specific person and an abstract concept at the same time. He's actually not always named Link. You, the player, choose his name before starting each of his games. He also never speaks, further solidifying him as non-character who's only purpose is to act as doorway for the player into the game world. Yet, by leaning hard on both the reincarnation myth and the use of multiple timelines, Nintendo has managed to shape Link into a series of individual characters in the minds of many. In doing so, it has squelched most of complaints the character/non-character used to attract, though it took them a little while to get there. Many fans were outraged when the Wind Waker radically changed who Link was and how he was drawn. A lot of these fans had become extremely attached to a singular idea of who Link was and how he should look. This new Link broke from those ideas, causing their suspension of disbelief to break along with it. It's no surprise then that it was fans who originally came up with the theory that the Zelda series takes place over multiple timelines. They were clearly more invested in believing that Link was real than Nintendo was. Strangely enough, it looks like a lot of those diehard fans are also against the idea of Link ever being a woman. Their devotion to their head canon feels similar to how some Catholics hold tight to their traditional gender divisions. Just a few days ago, a diehard Zelda fan was telling me that making Link a woman would be "pointless," and if someone wants to play a game starring a woman, that there are plenty of other choices out there. I pushed back with the idea that what's pointless to them may mean a lot to someone else. To counter that obvious point, they put on their best empathy-face and said that the Zelda series should not have to bend to the preferences of fans. It's the exactly line of thinking I've heard from well meaning but overly dogmatic Catholics over the years, who advise folks who want to bear confession to a female priest to simply abandon Catholicism in favor of Unitarian Universalism or some other wacky new faith.  [Art by Liart] Nintendo itself has been relatively inconsistent in explaining if Link has to be a man or not. The director of the recently released Triforce Heroes said for that game's story, it wouldn't fit the mythology for the leads to be women. So that's one answer. On the other hand, Eiji Aonuma, producer of the Zelda series as a whole, has never ruled out that we'd get a woman iteration of Link someday, stating that he was going to wait and see how the playable women characters in Hyrule Warriors were received before making that decision. I'm guessing the fact that Hyrule Warriors sold pretty darn well is one of the reasons Linkle went from being a rejected concept sketch to a full-blown character (who may or may not be a reincarnation of Link). In the absence of official word from Nintendo, fans have created their own schema around the question of Link's inherent maleness, just as they they created the split-timeline long before it was adopted as canon. The one I hear the most is that Zelda must always be a woman (because it's the Legend of Zelda, not the Legend of Zeldo) and therefore Link must be a man, as the potential for heterosexual romance between the two leads is a key part of the Zelda's legend. Of course, Nintendo has never explicitly stated any of that. Why would it? As a company that wants to appeal to as many potential customers as possible, it'd have little reason to insult its queer fans or cut itself off from the option of a female Link someday. Linkle is clearly a move towards testing those waters, though it won't likely jump all the way in until it is sure it will be profitable. It's a direction it has been publicly headed in for a while, driven in no small part by the stats showing how women are becoming a larger and larger part of Nintendo's customer base.  It's arguable that the company has been moving towards giving players the option to chose the gender of the green clad Hylian hero for years now.  [embed]321406:61194:0[/embed] It wouldn't even be the first time, technically. Some of the Satellaview Legand of Zelda games allowed for players to chose the gender of their character. So does every modern Fire Emblem, Pokémon, and Animal Crossing game, as will Xenoblade Chronicles X when it's released outside of Japan next month. It's not just in the RPGs either. Nintendo's latest hit character, the Inkling, also comes in boy or girl shapes. In fact, the vast majority of Nintendo's Wii U titles allow you to play as a woman some or all of the time. It could be that the publisher finally noticed that Monster Hunter, Mass Effect, Fallout 4 (the potentially biggest entertainment release of the year) and countless other modern Action-RPGs have let the player decide the gender of their "link" to the game world without suffering any loss in sales. Maybe they are on the cusp of allowing today's Legend of Zelda players to do the same.  That said, it's clear that many people would be upset if Nintendo began providing players with that level of choice. Ironically, a lot of these players are also harshly critical of Nintendo for not keeping up with the times when it comes to cross-buy purchases across consoles games and other consumer friendly practices. What we demand out of our game publishers says a lot about us, and will eventually determine what those publishers end up producing. My guess is that like everything with business, the question of how much Link's gender matters will be answered not in some political debate, but in dollar signs. 
Linkle photo
Linkle: The new Samus or a next Waluigi?
Linkle's debut as a playable character in Hyrule Warriors Legends seems to mean something big to a lot of people, but I guess that's par for course. Regardless of how long it's been since you actually played a Legend of Zelda...

Fear and loathing in Halo 5: Guardians

Nov 17 // Jed Whitaker
Anyone who knows me on a personal level knows I love Halo; I've played every game at or before launch, no matter the means necessary. While the hype train has been in full force for Halo 5 for months, I've stayed out of it. I hate getting hyped up only to be let down, and after the disastrous launch of The Master Chief Collection, I had little faith in 343 not screwing up Halo 5. At E3, I even purposefully avoided playing the build available there, though I had played and mostly enjoyed the beta earlier in the year. I say 'mostly' because it went from being fun and fresh yet familiar, to quickly catering to the screaming minority of MLG players that eventually lead to Halo 4's multiplayer being ruined when 343 heavily changed the balancing to favor the battle rifle, the go-to gun for wannabe eSports E-thletes. Suddenly the beta was all battle rifles, all the time, just like many of the game types included in The Master Chief Collection. I hated it. Almost every Halo game has launched with the default guns being assault rifles and the pistol, or something similar. The battle rifle was considered a power weapon that had to be collected from the map. Halo was a mad dash to obtain power weapons and to remember when they would respawn so as to grab them before your opponents. Not this starting with the best weapon in the game bullshit. Fast forward to just a few days before launch: I've avoided basically all hype and news regarding Halo 5, aside from thoroughly enjoying the amazing Hunt the Truth audio series. Then I slipped up and watched a video on REQ packs by GreenSkull, a popular Halo YouTuber. As much as I don't like microtransactions I have a thirst...neigh...addiction to opening blind packs of cards brought on by my obsession with Hearthstone. My hype meter instantly went off the charts. I couldn't wait. Midnight hits. My boyfriend and a couple of friends set out to finish the campaign. I typically play the campaign on the Normal difficulty, but my friends insist on playing on the game's hardest mode, Legendary. After about three grueling hours of dying, swearing, and respawning, the game freezes right at the end of chapter three for me. I can hear my teammates, and they can't hear me. They finish the mission. My progress doesn't save, and I receive no achievements. A nearby salt shaker falls, spilling salt everywhere. "Great! This new dashboard is a real piece of shit. It lags, games and apps crash, and I have constant issues with it. Somehow the Xbox One has managed to get worse since launch!" My friends sit in silence while I lament how console gaming has morphed into a bunch of hoops you have to jump through. "Remember back when gaming consisted of putting in the game, turning on the console, and pressing start? Those were the days. Now I have to update my consoles software, sign in to Xbox Live, install the game, update the game that just installed, open a party in a separate app, pray to a god I don't believe in that others can connect, and then I can play." Since then, the new Xbox One dashboard has gotten far better, but it doesn't change the fact that so much bullshit stands in the way. It is just me and my first-ever Xbox Live friend Kevin left now. Everyone else has gone to bed. It's getting pretty late. We decide to play some multiplayer, only to discover that my headset is cutting in and out. At this point, I'm still not sure if it was the software or hardware. I haven't bothered to attempt chatting since. I just yell into my Kinect, which works surprisingly well now, as if Microsoft has refined its voice functionality through updates.  After a few games of SWAT, which my friend is absolute shit at, we move onto Team Slayer, which my friend is also absolute shit at. "Kevin, we have played Halo together since the second game in the series. How are you suddenly so terrible?" He laughs. His laughter is one of my favorite things; it is contagious. Kevin heads to bed, so I decide to go back to completing matches to be assigned a rank in each of the online game types, starting with one of my go-to playlists, SWAT. In SWAT, there are no shields, a single headshot will bring opponents down, and you either start with a magnum or a battle rifle (one of the only times I don't mind BR starts). After ten qualifying matches, I am awarded the rank of onyx, or what was previously known as semi-pro in the beta. Onyx is the highest rank you can qualify for apart from being one of the top 200 players in each playlist; those players are ranked as champion. After achieving onyx in SWAT, I decided it would be a good idea to go ahead and get ranked in all the other playlists. Next on the list was free-for-all, because I'm a wolf pack of one. Free-for-all is probably my most-played game type across all of the Halo series because I don't have a lot of people I play with and tend to avoid making new Xbox Live friends for no particular reason. Even though I'm confident in my skills, I lost a few of my ten qualifying matches but still managed to achieve onyx. Then I set my sights to the all-new Breakout game type. I wasn't a fan of it in the beta, but perhaps I'd like it now. I got destroyed nearly every single match for my first few matches and managed to get carried for a few wins by my teammates. After winning my last few qualifying matches, I was feeling confident I'd be ranked at least in silver or higher. Nope. Bronze. Me in bronze, the lowest rank in the game!? The person who has played every game in the series at launch given the lowest possible rank!?!? Bullshit. I went to bed after angrily shutting off my Xbox One while cursing 343 and Breakout. The next day I finished getting ranked in the other playlists by achieving gold in Slayer and platinum in Team Arena. I couldn't stand that I was ranked bronze in Breakout, so I decided to torture myself some more and give it a go again. Turns out, I was hilariously under ranked.  "What a relief," I thought to myself, "but wow are these kids awful." My opponents and teammates were so bad, it was like competing with someone that had never played an FPS before, or like a young relative. They walked into walls, stared at the sky and ground, and were just all-around bad. I'm not saying this from a place of feeling superior, but the people I was playing with were clearly ranked correctly. Suddenly Breakout became fun. I'd hear people on my team cheering me on as they watched from the grave as I mowed down the remaining three players on the other team. This happened again, and again, and again. Eventually, I hit rank six of bronze, and the competition picked up a smidgen but would wildly vary between matches; some were a piece of cake, others were more evenly matched. Then it finally happened: I hit silver with a nice five-round sweep. I know it wasn't much of an achievement since I was grossly under matched, but I was thankful for it. Thankful for the opportunity to learn how to play Breakout without having much in the way of competition, and learning from my opponent's mistakes, as well as seeing the error of my ways in the qualifying matches. Plus, it doesn't hurt that I could easily get commendations for kills.  Breakout has quickly become one of my favorite game types, and not just because I win a lot, but because it is fun. I know a lot of Halo players aren't huge fans of it yet -- including the team that rage quit during the finals of a tournament recently by suiciding and afterward tweeted at the official Halo account, "I'd rather commit suicide on mainstage than play your shitty game type." But really, people should give it a chance. It might just grow on you. I'm sure I'll be playing Halo 5's multiplayer for some time, as it feels like one of the most balanced games in the series thus far. If you'd like the chance to hear me angrily swear from time to time while playing Halo 5, then be sure to join Destructoid's Spartan Company and prepare to be carried.
Not your dad's Halo photo
Or how I learned to love the Breakout
"Fuck this stupid fucking Call of Duty bullshit. Get your shit together,, whoever!" This is how my first night with Halo 5 ends, in a fit of rage after a kill-less losing streak in the game's new tepidl...

Is Rise of the Tomb Raider the best Uncharted?

Nov 11 // Steven Hansen
Now, though, Lara's come out ahead. It was a mild challenge during the Rise of the Tomb Raider review to not compare it to Nathan Drake's adventures. The things that excited me about Uncharted 4, that differentiated it from its stale third entry, a lot of those have -- at least superficially -- been done by Rise of the Tomb Raider. The contextual stealth bushes (as seen in the upcoming Horizon Zero Dawn, too), the grappling hook. Uncharted has always had stealth and its grappling hook might prove more meaningful than Rise's I-can-jump-further-now tool, but those things might not feel like meaningful additions with two games from a direct competitor now released since the last Uncharted five years ago. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception was less than well-received for bringing little new to the table, instead offering a disjointed series of set-pieces that could have been strung together by throwing darts at a board. Rise of the Tomb Raider threads its hub worlds and set-piece sections -- a derelict Soviet gulag built vertically into the side of a mountain -- together much more organically. It also basically mushes Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3's antagonists into one game (spoilers in this paragraph). Konstantin is a Burberry-clad Lazarević, just as driven and merciless -- a common trope of a character -- and even serves as Rise's final boss fight in full tactical gear, not unlike in Uncharted 2. Here, though, it's a stealth affair with Konstantin disarming Lara, who must sneak around the ruined arena and stab him a few times. Meanwhile, equally posh Ana, the character really running things, has shades of Katherine Marlowe. Superficial, maybe. Maybe it stands out because of the general rarity of older-aged British women as villains. Rise of the Tomb Raider also handles the requisite third act turn to the supernatural better than any Uncharted since the first, which became a creepy, horror-tinged affair to smartly contrast all the lush jungle violence. In Rise, it means expansion to the visual palette with all the blue flames and orange embers (shortly after introducing the new class of regular enemy with the lens flare-ish flashlights and dot sights -- a good look). The enemies' melee focus makes sense and moves the third act away from strict cover shooting, which is welcomed for its variety but also because the cover shooting is probably Tomb Raider's weakest part. Then there's Rise's position as one of the prettiest games of the year, an Uncharted staple. It isn't just the technology or graphical fidelity, but a new focus on using color, lighting, and other visual cues to set the mood. It is colorful without Uncharted's more cartoonishness. Had Uncharted 4 made its holiday 2015 release, it mainly would've been up against itself, or its past self. Being better than Uncharted 3 would've been enough for a lot of people. Rise of the Tomb Raider raises the standards though, by iterating in a lot of areas where Uncharted excels. The former is still bogged down by bloat (crafting and skill trees and static menu audio logs and so on) and a go-nowhere story that was more than tired by the time Uncharted got to it (protagonists want thing, antagonists also want thing), but it nails movie-like visual direction (down to the color grading) and exhilarating platforming.
Rise of expectations photo
Standards up five years post Uncharted 3
Both Crystal Dynamics and Microsoft lucked out that the tumult behind Uncharted 4: A Thief's End's development shift and scrapped work pushed Naughty Dog's adventure into 2016. It gives Microsoft the best exclusive holiday...

Halloween games photo
Halloween games

What are you playing this Halloween season?

The season of the witch
Oct 14
// Nic Rowen
Halloween is my favorite holiday. Aside from being a great excuse to dress up like an idiot, party with friends, and drink terrible pumpkin-flavored booze (that any other time of the year you’d dump into the nearest gut...

Chibi-Robo photo

It's time to pray for Chibi-Robo

God have mercy
Oct 08
// Jonathan Holmes
Chibi-Robo is a refugee from GameCube country, born from the co-mingling DNA of the industry's most well-known publisher and one of its least mainstream-friendly developers, he was ready to die from the moment he hit the grou...
Snake Eater photo
Snake Eater

Snake Eater is still the best Metal Gear game

Kuwabara kuwabara
Sep 04
// Chris Carter
Having played Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain for roughly 100 hours, I think I'm ready to make an assessment of it in terms of how it relates to the rest of the franchise. While it's definitely up there, it's far fr...
amiibo photo

What other indie amiibo would you like to see now that Shovel Knight is confirmed?

A Binding of Isaac amiibo would be rad
Aug 28
// Chris Carter
Now that the Shovel Knight amiibo is officially official, the floodgates have presumably been opened for other indie collaborations. While we aren't 100% sure that he'll appear in Super Smash Bros. as a guest character, ...
Episodic games photo
Episodic games

How long is too long to wait for updates on episodic games?

Six months to a year and I lose interest
Aug 20
// Chris Carter
Episodic games can be a mixed bag. While there are many examples of some incredible successes, others fall by the wayside, partially due to the restrictions involved with the model. Take a look at Sons of Anarchy: The Prospec...

I used to love Konami

Aug 12 // Jonathan Holmes
There aren't many video game characters from 1987 who are still relevant today. I've selected a few for your perusal below. See if you can pick out which one is not like the others. I've added a generic chart of realistic human proportions to help you guess the answer.  While not quite "realistic," Castlevania's Simon Belmont is far and away the design who comes closest to following actual human proportions. He doesn't rely on bright colors, baby proportions, expressive facial features, and other tools borrowed from the language of traditional hand drawn cartoons to win over the crowd. He's an earnest attempt to harness the style of a classic action film hero and apply it to a video game. Most of Konami's games back in the late 1980s went for this style. While other publishers tried to tickle players with clownish antics, Konami titles like Gradius, Rush 'N Attack, Castlevania, The Adventures of Bayou Billy, Contra, and Metal Gear rejected cuteness in favor of a feel that payed tribute to Hollywood action films of the day, though they often walked dangerously close towards the line between tribute and theft. It was common practice for Konami to "borrow" the visage of big name actors for the games. Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Boris Karloff, Sean Connery, Kurt Russel and Mel Gibson are just a few of examples of big names who bear a strong resemblance to classic Konami characters. That kind of thing is pretty common in our modern world of games, with actual Hollywood actors (like TV heartthrob Norman Reedus) regularly lending their names, faces, and voices to AAA titles, but back in the 8-bit era, only Konami had the balls to consistently leap over tech limitations in an effort to deliver something more like an R-rated film. If the ESRB had existed back in the '80s, chances are a few of Konami's games would have flirted with an M rating.  While Konami may have worked to divorce itself from the cartoon mascots of '80s gaming, it did not work to avoid video game logic. Castlevania payed tribute to the dark, intimidating worlds depicted in classic Universal monster films, but it also hid meat behind walls and implanted Valentine's hearts inside of candles. Metal Gear combined James Bond's spy action with Rambo's lone soldier in a politically unstable world, but underneath that macho exterior, it's basically Pac-Man with guns. It's a game where characters may discuss the seriousness of World War III in one scene, only to have a large exclamation mark pop up above their heads in the next. That's a tradition that the series has never let go of, and has gone on to be one of its defining characteristics.  Playing off the tension between film and video game logic lived on in the Konami brand for over 30 years. The Silent Hill series centers around entering worlds that defy conventional reality, where subconscious thoughts and feelings fuse with the horrific and supernatural to create an environment that's emotionally real but physically impossible. At their heart, that's what most video games are -- worlds that feel real even though we know that they are not. Konami used to dart between realism and surrealism, symbolism and literalism, unplayable cinema and interactive gameplay, to create something larger than the sum of its parts. That interplay is the natural evolution of its old 1980s practice of depicting real life Hollywood icons with stripped down, iconographic sprites. It's something we see so often in modern games that we may take it for granted, but if it weren't for Konami working to pave the way, who knows where we'd be now. I sincerely hope that Konami returns to this kind of game design, or any kind of game design that doesn't involve sexy Pachinko machines.
Konami photo
I also used to love Mel Gibson
There aren't a lot of good things to say about Konami these days. Its missteps over the past few years have been frequent and severe, including: the embarrassingly poor Silent Hill HD Collection; the cancellation of Silent Hi...

The 90s are bad photo
The 90s are bad

Rude old PC ad suggests all men are casual console babies

The 90s are bad
Aug 08
// Steven Hansen
Can you believe this 3Dfx ad from the 90s recently unearthed online by Felipe Pepe? In the era of "attitude" (or just 'tude), 3Dfx had the gall to suggest all men, the fairer sex not graced with breasts, are all casual consol...
Metal Gear Solid V photo
Metal Gear Solid V

What is your platform of choice for Metal Gear Solid V?

I'm going with PS4 first, then PC
Aug 07
// Chris Carter
When Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain hits next month, it'll arrive on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One platforms all at once. I totally forgot it was being developed for last-gen consoles, and thought that was o...
Dynasty Warriors photo
Dynasty Warriors

Dynasty Warriors as we know it turns 15 years old today, so what's your favorite game?

Mine is super old at this point
Aug 03
// Chris Carter
I still remember where I was when I discovered Dynasty Warriors. I was in a Blockbuster Video just perusing some games, and my friend shouted that I needed to hurry up so we could get to a meetup of some kind. So I kind of ju...
ZombiU photo

How do you feel about Ubisoft's ZombiU and the current-gen remake?

I'm fairly apathetic towards both
Jul 31
// Chris Carter
I'm kind of apathetic towards this new ZombiU re-release on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. I remember playing the game for the first time at a preview event, and being generally blown away by the Wii U GamePad's comfort factor wi...
Rare Replay photo
Rare Replay

What's your favorite game from Rare Replay?

You have 30 choices
Jul 29
// Chris Carter
I got my hands on Rare Replay, and I've been playing it quite a bit for our review next week. It's crazy how addicting Blast Corps is, as I just completed it earlier this year on my N64, and was enticed to beat it y...
Super Mario Maker photo
Super Mario Maker

Will you be buying Super Mario Maker?

I wonder how this will turn out
Jul 23
// Chris Carter
I'm very interested in seeing how Super Mario Maker will turn out when it debuts on Wii U later this year. While there have been a lot of people vocally supporting the project, I see a lot of indifference towards it. In ...
Virtual Boy photo
Virtual Boy

Did you ever own or play a Virtual Boy?

I wish it was more readily available
Jul 21
// Chris Carter
On July 21, 1995, 20 years ago today, the Virtual Boy was released in Japan. It was widely considered a failure in just about every respect, and Nintendo pulled sales seven months after it debuted in August of 1995 in the US....

Mistakes were made with the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter

Jul 16 // Chris Carter
Lack of transparency When Shenmue 3 was announced during E3, the whole world (myself included) went crazy. Series creator Yu Suzuki was teasing it a day before, but no one really could have expected it given how long the series had been on hiatus. Then the questions starting coming, and things got a little more complicated. It came out the day after the announcement that even though the team was asking for money on Kickstarter, Sony would be funding the game. I kind of feel bad for Suzuki as he had to apologize for "misleading" people, but the entire "Sony is funding some of it, but we're not actually going to tell you how much" business was a bit weird. That's definitely something that should have been explained at E3. If there's one thing we learned about backers over the years, it's that they want an idea of what they're contributing to, and where their money is going. With Shenmue 3, there are still some doubts though in terms of the latter point Yu Suzuki has confirmed that all of the campaign proceeds are going directly to the game, and not Sony. Stretch goal wackiness Yes, one of their stretch goals, one they haven't reached yet, is actually a "new Kickstarter [cash] record." I'm speechless. While the campaign runners did end up catching on to the concept of stretch goals, it took them days to scramble to come up with ideas. At first, the campaign only had a mere few mentions of what they'd do if they surpassed their funding amount. The days of "let's just see how much we get on Kickstarter and be surprised later!" are over. Campaigns need to think about the big picture and keep the train running with constant engagement and new goals and activities. IGA's Bloodstained campaign did this impressively, with multiple social media metagames and daily stretch goal updates. Maybe the Shenmue team can up their funding with a good post-Kickstarter PayPal campaign and reach that lofty $10 million mark. Of course, a lot of future Kickstarter success is going to be contingent on luck and timing. Having Sony announce Shenmue 3 during its E3 press conference did wonders for the campaign, yet Inafune is struggling to have lightning strike twice with Red Ash -- his unofficial Mega Man Legends project, announced at Anime Expo. The Shenmue 3 team has your money -- now we just wait for the finished product. As for myself, I backed it at the $29 level. Shenmue means a lot to me as a series, and it got me through some really tough times. If the campaign was handled a bit better and was more focused, I may have upped my pledge.
Shenmue 3 photo
But everyone loves Shenmue so it's okay
The Shenmue 3 Kickstarter has surpassed five million in funding with just under a day and a half to go, but creator Yu Suzuki has insisted that they need roughly $10 million to have a fully realized open world. It's shooting for the stars for sure, but a number of different choices could have been made to bump the campaign up significantly.

Online game talk photo
Online game talk

Do you go out of your way to help people in online games?

Why or why not
Jul 11
// Chris Carter
As a general rule, I play online games by myself if at all possible. In Final Fantasy XIV, the game I've been playing most lately due to the release of the recent Heavensward expansion, I politely declined most groups to...
Patriotic video games photo
Patriotic video games

What is your favorite 'patriotic' video game?

It can also be ironically jingoistic
Jul 03
// Chris Carter
Over the years, we've seen a ton of games featured in America. Whether it's the days of old with Oregon Trail and Assassin's Creed III or a snapshot of modern consumerism with the American Gladiators on the SNES, it...
Video games on Fallon photo
Video games on Fallon

The Tonight Show's (lack of) video game coverage has been disappointing

Show some Fallout, Fallon
Jun 30
// Darren Nakamura
I have been a fan of Jimmy Fallon for a long time now. I used to have to qualify that statement with something like, "I know it's not cool, but..." These days it's a lot more acceptable to enjoy his playful take on late night...

Which is your favorite Batman: Arkham game?

Jun 29 // Chris Carter
Batman photo
Don't say 'Origins!'
Let's start at the beginning, shall we? Batman: Arkham Asylum, through and through, is just a good video game. It took a simple concept ("Be the Bat"), introduced the free-flow combat system and the Predator stealth...

Troops vs Women photo
Troops vs Women

Murder women in SJW Riot: Troops vs Women - in Video Game

'Terrorising men, just for being men'
Jun 27
// Jed Whitaker
An Indiegogo campaign for a new game called SJW Riot: Troops vs Women - in Video Game, in which social justice warriors -- who are apparently only women -- have "lost their mind, again, and are terrorising men" according to t...
Broken games photo
Broken games

The Arkham Knight PC port proves yet again that only suckers pre-order

A real shame
Jun 24
// Nic Rowen
Tuesday morning, I had a moment of weakness. After reading some stellar reviews (of the console versions) I allllmost pre-purchased the PC version of Arkham Knight. I've loved every other entry in the series and with those re...
Feminism! photo

E3 2015: You play like a girl

And that's a very good thing
Jun 19
// Matthew Razak
[Here's a guest editorial from Matthew Razak, Editor-in-Chief of Flixist, and former Destructoid staff. You may remember him as Cowzilla. It's nice to have him back.] This year as I sat at home watching press events from all ...
amiibo photo

What is your current take on the state of amiibo?

Are you out, or still in?
Jun 08
// Chris Carter
Wave 4 is over, collectors! Robin and Lucina have been fully confirmed as unicorn figures, making them near impossible to find. Peppered in there are some rarer exclusives like Jigglypuff (Target) and Ness (GameStop), and the...

22 (probably) games that are way harder than Dark Souls

Jun 01 // Steven Hansen
Conversation around From Software's turgid-uttered sacred cow, the Souls series (Bloodborne, too) has such a strange fixation on difficulty, of shuddering players shivering under its hurts so good sadism. Namco Bandai fed into it with Dark Souls and Dark Souls II's marketing. I've died hundreds of times in hundreds of games. And it's very strange how people nod in agreement to the novelty of death and difficulty as if instant fail states were not one of gaming's founding blocks (to the point where some people have stupid arguments about whether things are or are not games). It reminds me of how Telltale's recent adventure games trump up "player choice" as if players haven't been choosing since positioning their Pong paddle. Ok, "narrative" choice? Umm, how about text adventures from 1981. Come on. Souls games aren't hard. I don't say that as a nose-upturned, "gotten gud" vet. They are about endurance and resilience more than sadistic, chronic difficulty. They are a challenge, but not monstrous or mean as people often make them out. Heck, I've seen someone who plays maybe one or two games a year get a platinum trophy in Demon's Souls. There's no club. Anyone can do this. They're designed to let anyone play and finish. Over on the webpage (and mobile application) Twitter, one-time Destructoid contributor Stephen Beirne (no relation!) loosed a series of posts about Souls and I am in accord. "I can't get behind the argument that Dark Souls is abusive due to its (presented sense of) difficulty. And I think this is because I find Dark Souls to be far, far less difficult than a game like, for example, Super Mario Brothers. Platforming is difficult! It's very difficult! It's not fun and it's agonizing and it's pointless and hateful." I love platformers, but this raises some great points, aside from the subjectivity of difficulty. No one's good at everything. I am bad at not having loads of sex, for example. Irish Stephen (not to be confused with Welsh Stephen) is bad at platformers. Young Steven (me) was bad at telling Kurt Russell and Patrick Swayze apart. There is a relative novelty to Souls games, though, and I think that's where some of the obsession over exaggerating the difficulty comes from (aside from general chest pounding reinforced by marketing to try and create a positive-feeling in-group). But it isn't in death. It's as a 3D action game. Late '80s, early '90s gaming was filthy with platformers. Mario, a pop culture icon up there with Michael Jordan and the wild shirtless Mark Farner, comes from New Jump City. The genre has only gotten easier, shedding quarter-gobbling design (the removal of "lives"), allowing you to skip levels after repeated death. While some folks are plum bad at 'em, we've had a lot of tries at being good at them. Compare to the 3D action game, which might not have even hit its stride until the PS2-era in the 2000s (PS1-era ones tended to be wonky and platforming-heavy), but at least didn't even exist until 3D graphics. In our young medium, the 3D action genre is younger still, (blood)born(e) of platformers and agèd over the last decade. Souls games occupy a genre that has a decent chance at being a new challenge to folks. It also operates different than genre-defining stuff like Devil May Cry or God of War, thanks in part to the RPG bits. The latter, reflex-based ilk are linear and need momentum. And so you can limp along, button mash, and be not all that good, for which they'll stratify you (chumps skirt by with C-ranks and stamina, experts carve up the world with SSS-rank endless combos). But you're still getting through, moving along. Even I meandered my way through the "hard" Devil May Cry games. And on the RPG side of the Souls mix, there's a history of having the numbers and grind fallback, limited reflex-oriented fighting. And suddenly, Souls, where the difference isn't "coast by or be good," but, more closely, "coast by or die." It rewrites the expectations of 3D, third-person action relative to genre standard bearers. All it asks you to do is get by, and so it skews the relationship to death and performance. The general experience of Devil May Cry is that sometimes you'll die. Mostly, you'll empty out rooms with the killing precision of a child flailing at a piñata. Eventually, you'll be an expert slayer. Souls changes that bell curve. Mostly you'll die. Eventually you'll get by. Rarely, you'll be a wrecking machine, an offensive weapon. It's about winning, eventually, instead of winning more and more impressively.  Souls offers other outs, too. You can go grind and level up, get more gear, buy more arrows. You can often fuck off elsewhere, to another stage, or on another path, rather than bang your head against one boss. Masochistic? When's the last time a text adventure let you type, "this is stupid, next question?" How about trying to suss a point-and-click puzzle that expects you to pry open a manhole, stretch a patch of human skin over it into a trampoline, and jump up through an open window? Souls games are designed to encourage you towards eventual success, even if it means breaks, detours, or extra hours. You don't get a gold star for killing the Flame Lurker without the ribcage exploit. You don't get a demerit for safely perching yourself with a bow and taking 100 potshots to down a far off creature. In Souls' judgment, it's all the same. What matters is you did it. I don't find that sadistic at all.
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Why the Souls series' hardened rep?
"Prepare to die," Dark Souls warns, flashlight under face, as if 30 years of video games hasn't already prepared me. "I'm not a masochist," people say, letting six years of Souls pass from afar, like they're looking out a tra...

Fighting games and roguelikes are my personal school of hard knocks

May 26 // Nic Rowen
Titles like The Binding of Isaac, FTL, Nuclear Throne and (my latest obsession) Darkest Dungeon make it their business to stymie and frustrate your futile attempts to get to the credits screen. They delight in throwing a wrench into the works, tearing apart promising looking runs or dungeon crawls with a few merciless rolls of the RNG. They move around the win conditions and goalposts from the traditional idea of “I gotta get to the end and dunk on the last boss!” to “oh God, please just let me survive a little longer this time.” Victory isn't just marked by, well, victory, but by discovery and learning. Seeing a new enemy, figuring out a new trick or strategy, and learning to avoid whatever awful thing killed you last time. Those small successes are what dubs a run a win. It's tough to turn that switch that demands progression off in your brain. It has been dutifully conditioned by years of games where victory is the expected outcome. But it's those wild unfair swings in a roguelike that completely mess you up that makes them so satisfying. The emotional roller-coaster of suddenly losing a beloved party member, or picking up an item that completely gimps your current build, or getting screwed by a few unlucky rolls that leave you facing almost certain doom. These factors that push you out of your comfort zone and force you to come up with new strategies broaden your horizons, you have to think about the game and really consider all of your options rather than relying on one or two recipes for success. Those runs that truly are hopeless? Well, they just let you appreciate the good ones a little more. It took me a long time to realize it, but fighting games are much the same when you get right down to it. While you always want to win a fight, just adding more notches to your W/L ratio isn't, and shouldn't be, the goal. What you really should be aiming for is learning. When Street Fighter IV came out, I was very hot-to-trot for some online play. I remembered dominating at SFII in grade school, all the hours I sunk into collecting every ending in Alpha 3 on the PS1, the times I used to rush through Marvel Super Heroes on one quarter in the arcade. I thought I was good at fighting games, and was looking forward to a chance to prove it. I swagged online like I was O'Hara from Enter the Dragon, obnoxiously breaking boards in front of Bruce Lee like it meant something. My fights ended up going about as well as his did -- Boards, and CPU opponents, don't hit back like the real deal. [embed]292757:58670:0[/embed] I'll be completely honest, I almost quit playing fighting games at that point. Nobody likes to lose, especially when you're losing at something that used to be a point of pride for yourself. Thankfully, despite its rough and tumble exterior, the fighting game community actually has a great attitude about these things. EVERYBODY loses. It's what you take away from those losses and how you come back from them that defines you as a player. Shortly after SFIV came out, I was introduced to David Sirlin's Playing to Win, a book that is all about the philosophy of fighting games and is as close to a bible for the fighting game community that exists. I remember when I first read it I distinctly thought “this guy is an asshole.” Playing to Win can be a very abrasive read if you come from a background of playing fighting games for fun. If you ever thought your next door neighbor was cheap for constantly sweeping in Mortal Kombat 2, or angrily called someone a “spammer” for repeatedly tossing out fireballs from across the screen, or think there is such as thing as too many throws in one round (a philosophy I can no longer recognize except in direct reverse), Sirlin's opinions will probably rub you the wrong way. These self-imposed rules and ideas about how the game should be played are the foundation for what he considers a “scrub mentality,” a mental framework that will always limit how far you can go in fighting games, and ultimately, how much joy you can derive from them. Embarrassingly, I saw a lot of that “scrub mentality” in myself. The way I'd get angry at “coward” Guile players for tossing endless sonic booms, or frustrated with people constantly choosing the blatantly over-powered emperor of Muay Thai, Sagat, for easy wins. But when you stop looking at what other players are doing as “cheap,” and start looking at your losses as learning experiences rather than straight out defeats, a lot of that frustration evaporates. It takes real effort and time, but when you internalize that outlook, fighting games become less stressful, more enjoyable, and infinitely more beautiful. Of course people are going to throw sonic booms as Guile, he's a machine made by the Air Force to do exactly that. It may be true that Sagat (or whatever character) is over-powered and easier to win with and disproportionally popular as a result, but how can you blame people for making a choice that will tip the odds in their favor? You have that choice and opportunity too, and if you decide to stick with a different character you'll just have to make peace with the fact that you'll run into tough matches and try and develop a strategy to deal with them. You can either get frustrated, stomp around, and quit/uninstall the game forever, or you can thicken your skin. Learn how to roll with the punches, and take something away from the mistake. Either figure out ways to avoid it in the future, or come to peace with the idea that sometimes things are out of your control. These are not new concepts, ideally we should always be trying to find the positive side to a set-back or learn from a mistake. But to me, at least, nothing else crystallizes the idea of learning from a loss into a rock hard truth than pitiless rougelikes and fighting games. And after spending so many years immersed in both genres, I like to think that I've been able to take those lessons and apply them to other areas of my life. It's not always easy, and I won't claim to be some kind of Zen master who never gets frustrated, but I know I'm definitely a more patient person now than I was five years ago.
Learning from failure photo
Learning from my (many) failures
The last few years of games for me have been all about defeat. Constant, unending, expected defeat. I think I'm better for it. It wasn't always like that. In fact, for most of my life, games have been all about completion, vi...

MOBA photo

What major MOBA are you playing right now?

I'm down with Heroes of the Storm
May 26
// Chris Carter
"MOBA" is often a bad word/phrase in video game circles. As a fan of them since 2005 I kind of just shrug it off though -- this genre is here, and it's popular, guys. Embrace it or don't play it!  My MOBA history has bee...
HD remakes photo
HD remakes

What is your take on HD remakes this generation?

I'm for them, depending on the situation
May 19
// Chris Carter
Are you ready for some remakes? Capcom is, as are a ton of other publishers. It feels like every other week there's an announcement for a "remastered" or "definitive" edition of a recently released game, and at times, it can get a bit ridiculous. I've seen a lot of talk recently regarding this practice, and I figured it was time for a discussion.
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Do you still use demos to make a purchasing decision?

Sadly, demos are rare these days
May 18
// Chris Carter
We now live in an era where an "exclusive Early Access beta test that can only be obtained by pre-order customers at participating retailers and download the app" is a thing. Whereas demos used to be straight-forward marketin...

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