Blog Archives

Right in Front of Your Face

Elitism still is the big divide. It’s the biggest obstacle facing games today. Elitism is the belief that some individuals, who form an elite — a select group of people with intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or other distinctive attributes — are those whose views are the only ones that matter.

We are that elite.

Many of my friends resented when Nintendo positioned itself as a beacon to attract non-gamers (including some of my non-gamer friends, interestingly enough). Now, after piling them with shovelware for years, we see our dusted Wiis and state “The Wii Is Dead” in a dismissive tone that implies “See, we were right all along. You shouldn’t have abandoned us. We are the ones that get it, not them”.

Because (OMG!) gaming is art. And we are (obviously) the only ones who can see it.
Some pieces of art are difficult to understand or appreciate. That’s why the elite is the elite; and have Bach playing on the background as they discuss the peasant situation. The thing is that while there is only schooling and experience in the way of turning the Average Joe into H. E. Pennypacker, for gaming there is also the issue of skill. How can grandpa even start to appreciate games when just comprehending the controls is bound to take more spasmodic accidents than his patience and time could afford?

Yes, folks, this is my Omnitopic entry!

No matter how unapproachable a book or a movie may be, one can always get through it. The same is not true for gaming, as the skills it requires are primarily related to manual dexterity – which is not a trivial thing to acquire. It’s mostly an aptitude after all. Gaming is built on progression and not matter whether this progression if linear or open ended, the plot is not. One cannot skip to world 8-8 if one cannot even pass world 1-1 (and the first warp zone is hidden in the world 1-2, mind you). This is troublesome. It’s like buying a movie without knowing how to read it.

I find this unfair, especially now games are maturing into a narrative driven medium. Read the rest of this entry

LA Noire Will Allow Players to Skip The Action

In an effort to court a wider audience with LA Noire, Rockstar will be implementing a type skip-the-action system. “You can skip those action elements and still experience the bulk of the narrative,” states Rob Nelson, LA Noire’s art director. This is only an option after a player fails a section a couple of times, though. Almost like Nintendo’s “Super Guide,” only this isn’t a game centered around action–and that is a crucial difference. MTV states that “80% of “LA Noire” is an absence of action.” The star here isn’t the shooting bits–it’s the narrative, the investigation itself. “The hour-long case demonstrated at the screening had maybe five minutes of typical action,” states the MTV Multiplayer blog. Thus, the choice to include this feature may tell us that this is just how much faith Rockstar is putting on the narrative of LA Noire.

This news has cemented my purchase. As someone who abhors most single player shooting games (“Single player is just me killing algorithms,” as someone on Twitter puts it) being able to skip the parts I don’t care about might mean I actually finish the game!

Weekly Gaming News And Articles Collection Week of April 17th – 23rd

Hey all!

So, this is my first post and figured I’d start with a collection of some of the more prevalent news that’s come around this week so ya’ll can catch up if you’ve been working for the weekend and haven’t had a lot of time to check up on the news! My first review will be appearing on here later on, but until then, enjoy!


Playstation Network Is Down! Everyone Keep Calm!

So first of all, those of us with PS3’s (myself included) know what’s been going on since Wednesday. PSN outtage! And its been down for quite a while! It’s Saturday now, officially by the freckle on my arm anyways, and it’s still down! Reports have been coming in from various sources, but so far, the official word from the Playstation Blog is that they believe this whole event was caused by an outside intrusion–a hacker, perhaps. Some people say Anonymous is behind it, but hell, that’s more speculation and unfounded conspiracy rumors that I just don’t feel like getting into. Hit the link for all the deets!

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Will the 3DS be relevant?

I wrote, quite negatively, about the Nintendo 3DS a couple months ago, when its lack of launch titles and low battery life were announced. Now that it’s out, we’re hearing that demand isn’t quite as strong as Nintendo would hope. This would be a shame if I didn’t despise the idea of 3D technology. Can’t say I’m not a little gleeful.

We got a chance to play the thing, and…is the 3D important? Will it be relevent? That’s why you go under the cut!
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The Last Story and the return of Japan only

Anyone whose followed video games in the past few weeks knows about the Last Story. It’s being developed by Mistwalker, the company founded by Hironobu Sakaguchi once he jumped ship from Square Enix in the early/mid 2000’s, and has released some relatively passable JRPGs, most notably Lost Odyssey (oh, and Blue Dragon, which Fern didn’t like very much). They’re good guys, and The Last Story looks to be a game following through on a lot of good ideas about how to fix the JRPG. Hell, I think it’s so cool, I covered it before it was cool.

The question, of course, is American release. Which is no longer a given. It became that way because of a related, but different, title, Xenoblade.
Read the rest of this entry

The Great Sucking Sound

That noise you hear? That is the wind being violently ripped from the 3DS’ sails.

It sounds a lot like three to five hour battery life, which, supposedly, is only when the backlight is turned down. We in the trade call this the “Non-Nintendo handheld” trap, because it’s what has doomed every handheld going against Nintendo since day one: no one wants a handheld console with no battery life. We want Nintendo’s weaker toys, because we can take them places and not be tethered to the wall.

No one expected Nintendo to fall into a trap with its name on it. Really. How fucking ludicrous is that? You’re a company who have made billions of dollars off of doing things one way, and then you decide, whoops, not good enough, let’s change it.

Of course, that’s big news, but coupled with the other news of the week, it’s a clear sign of something big: that Nintendo is punting on the 3DS for the year. No other way about it.
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Kirby’s Epic Yarn – Review

Kirby's Epic Yarn box art

not epic, but still cute

Developers: Feel-Good and Hal Laboratories

Publisher: Nintendo

Director: Kentaro Sei

Platform: Nintendo Wii

Perhaps “epic” is not the adjective I would use to describe Kirby’s new patchwork tale. “Clever” is the first thing that comes to mind, though I suppose “Kirby’s Clever Yarn” does not quite have the same impact. Kirby’s Epic Yarn is, despite being another puzzley side-scrolling platformer starring our inflatable pink friend, is innovative enough to avoid being just another Kirby game.

Epic Yarn‘s textile aesthetic is the first thing anyone will notice. It is, frankly beautiful, with anything and everything being made of stitched-down cloth, loose thread, yarn, buttons, zippers, anything one might find on their clothes. It is colorful and bright and does it without being gaudy, which is a nice break from all the brown and grey “realism” so popular these days. Of course, the idea of a textile-themed platformer brings Little Big Planet to mind, but playing the game I never once found myself comparing the two. Kirby is much brighter and more animated looking. Instead of having the world look like an actual construction of random objects and cloth, Kirby does not try to look at all realistic. It looks more like, well, a game. Also unlike Little Big Planet, Kirby’‘s textile look is not just a look—it is the whole game. Instead of Kirby’s trademark inhale-eat-transform trick, he tosses out a loose piece of his own yarn body and winds his yarn foes up with it. Instead of transforming for powers he can transform at will by warping his outline into things like a small car, a parachute, and submarine, among other things. He can even unwind himself to fit through narrow crevasses.

Kirby's Epic Yarn boss screenshot

if you couldn't tell, it's a squid with a knit hat texture on his head

It’s not just Kirby, either—the levels also embrace the cloth theme. Instead of filling levels with swarms of enemies to avoid, the world is filled with little platforming puzzles based around unwinding things, swinging from buttons, undoing zippers, pulling loose thread, you get the picture. Of course, being a Kirby game there are still transformation puzzles like drifting on air currents as a parachute, but they are the clear minority and even they rely on yarn transformations. As mentioned before, the fabric visual style is more than just the graphics and visuals, they are the entire game. It is great integration of graphics and gameplay, which is for some reason absent in too many titles. There is not much in the way of plot, but even that is all about the game’s theme. An evil yarn-made wizard is turning everything into yarn and cloth, and at the end of each level Kirby is awarded a piece of magic yarn that is literally the thread that holds the fabric of the world together. The cinematics are little more than an excuse to make sewing puns, though Kirby games have never exactly been plot-heavy, so we can excuse that. It does not really even need it to push you along—I was interested enough in just seeing what the next level would look like, for throughout the game there is not a single stage theme that gets repeated. Every level is noticeably unique, which another thing done right on the design front.

Though the sewing motif lends the game its unique feel, the lack of real challenge strips the mechanics of their depth. There is literally nothing standing between the player and success. You cannot lose in Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Once you start a level, the only way to fail is to give up, and this is unlikely considering they are not all that difficult to get through. The only penalty for “taking damage” or falling in a hole is loss of beads, which are collected throughout the level for a grade of either nothing, bronze, silver, or gold. It is almost instinctive to aim for a gold even knowing there is no punishment for not getting it, but even that is not too difficult, for whenever beads are lost they can be reclaimed again unless they fall into a hole or disappear after about thirty seconds. The removal of lives is interesting and a little appreciated, but without a way to fail they might as well stay. If levels could be failed based on score, so only gold or silver medals would advance, Yarn would be a much better game—still pretty easy, but at least there would be incentive beyond that which the player creates. Kirby has always been aimed at younger audiences, who I am sure find no objection to an easier difficulty, but it will ruin the game for most players.

The no-fail aspect of Kirby’s Epic Yarn is reminiscent of many art games, actually, where players are practically carted through to see everything in between. It makes me think a little of Limbo, since in both Kirby and Limbo the player is pushed to the right, stopped almost exclusively by puzzles (seeing as you have no health to lose in Kirby, enemies are usually little more than puzzles or the answers to puzzles themselves) and advancing by solving them.

Kirby's Epic Yarn multiplayer screenshot

The other guy's up top

There is also a two-player mode, much like a few older Kirby titles, wherein player two plays as the scowling, blue, crowned Prince Fluff, who shares Kirby’s shape and yarn powers. There were segments within the game that I was glad to have a partner to get or give a boost to where I could not easily find a way onto a platform with some beads or a collectible on it. On the other hand, there were some parts, usually more platform-ey bits, where we would find ourselves trying to be in the same place at the same time so as not to drag the camera behind and make advancing difficult for whoever decided to go first, which almost always ended with both players falling to their doom. It is much better than, say,New Super Mario Bros. Wii where you can footstool each other and have no real way of aiding one another at all. Players can pick each other up, but it is easy to escape and this mechanic proved to be quite helpful after we had beaten all of the enemies in an area and only after the fact found that we needed a projectile to break a certain type of block. The players can also stand on each other without interfering with each other, allowing two players to double their total jump distance. Players can also teleport to their partner at will, which allows for some useful cooperation.

Overall, Kirby’s Epic Yarn is a charming game. It is not great—it leaves no lasting impression, it does not take much effort to get through it, and it won’t last all that long, but it is cute and pretty and I would not go so far as to call it a bad game. It is a game for Kirby fans, or a nice pick-me-up, or an easy transition for new gamers, but not something I would recommend to most players.

METROID: OTHER M – Review

METROID: OTHER M is a videogame developed by Project M, published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Wii. It was directed by TAKEHIKO HOSOKAWA, YUSUKE HAYASHI and YOSHIO SAKAMOTO.

Shigeru Miyamoto has had some pretty inspiring ideas in the past. The last genius idea attributed to him that I can remember was turning the third-person perspective of Metroid’s gameplay into a first-person perspective. The jump from 2D to 3D is a dilemma every classic, pixelated game eventually has to solve and Metroid’s case was particularly difficult. The franchise actually skipped the Nintendo 64 generation simply because Nintendo could not come up with any viable idea. Now, the first-person perspective solution made so much sense (thanks in large part to the sensitive efforts of Retro Studios) that it became hard to think of future 3D Metroid games in any other way. So that was my first interest when I approached Metroid: Other M: a game that was probably what most gamers had in mind for a 3D Metroid before Metroid Prime was created.

Directed by three people, Metroid: Other M is mostly Yoshio Sakamoto’s brainchild, who was also the game’s writer and producer. He was the person who directed Metroid Fusion, my absolute favourite Metroid game (and I have played them all, even the Pinball one). So that was the second reason I was anticipating this game.

Other M, however, doesn’t feel like a Metroid game. Until now, the franchise hasn’t really been about Samus Aran or her apparent loneliness, but about the place she is in. This concept is inverted in Other M with controversial results. In the end, despite the game’s boldness, Other M is a soulless affair filled with innocuous good intentions. It is schlock.

Read the rest of this entry

Check Out Some of DK Return’s Tunes

Hyped for the return of Donkey Kong? Well, here are some samples of the DKR soundtrack, featuring both remix and new tracks alike. First, we have what is probably the most iconic song, in remix form:

 

Remember Cranky’s theme? Of course you don’t! Back in my day we had to walk fifteen miles to remember this track!

Seems like the composers are running high on the nostalgia factor, but hey, it is DK’s return. If you’re interested in hearing a couple of the new tracks, make sure to head on over to Nintendo Everything, who has a couple more tracks for your listening pleasure.

I’m just crossing my fingers that the DK rap finds its way into the game. Yeah, it’s pretty much the worst song ever, but that’s why it needs to be in the game!

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn exists

Here’s a question. You are Nintendo. You decide to make a sequel to a much beloved niche franchise, and put it on the best selling console in the world, the DS. You then do not publicize this game at all, to the point where gamers who *loved* the original games have no idea that the sequel is coming out in less than a month.

Apparently, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is Nintendo’s golden egg, that it’s going to use to fight piracy. “This game no one bought that we didn’t publicize at all that you all were excited for at E3 didn’t sell because it was pirated!” No, no, Nintendo, your game won’t sell well because I have had to inform numerous people of its existence.

So, yes. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn does in fact exist. It is an RPG, for the Nintendo DS, and is coming out at the end of November. It is already out in Japan. It looks pretty exciting, if the above video is any indication, if very traditional. Of course, both the Golden Suns were fantastic, so that’s no problem. Thank you. This public service announcement is not brought to you by Nintendo, who will put this game out in a crowded holiday season to die.