Posts Tagged “nintendo”

I suppose I could apologize for the extended hiatus, but we all know that wouldn’t be very sincere—now would it? The holidays were full of weird things on my end, and the most prominent of them was that there was actual paying work floating around so I snatched it. Any of my spare time was obviously spent buried in my work shouting obscenities and firing off random sparks of hatred. The good news is that I actually played quite a few things between November and now, certainly more than enough to gallantly ride straight into 2011 here. I’ll open with the first in my next post. I just wanted to use tonight to metaphorically burst my hand from the ground in front of the gravestone that’s been ‘Video Games Music Archives’ for the past few months (though my views have surprisingly stayed consistent for whatever reason).

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Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is an interesting game in quite a few contexts, I mean that. Before I start ranting though, I should open up with a few things. After completing it for the first time today, I’m even more adamant that Sega either has absolutely no idea what they ever had with the series to begin with, or their perspective has developed into a radically sick sense of humor. I personally ‘gave up’ on Sonic a few years ago, as even if I got the game I actually wanted, my apathy would likely take precedence anyway. I’d much rather learn how to make my own ripoff of it than complain too righteously about Sonic Team these days.

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First off its been far too long since my last post, I apologize

I think a lot of the design is geared towards what Chris refers to when he talks about it as an e-sport. There are a lot of arbitrary interface issues where the line is drawn at this point INSTEAD of this point because they want to cater to people who think of StarCraft as a skill. StarCraft isn’t built to be just a cerebral strategy game. It’s also built to be a test of reflexes, micromanagement, and multitasking, things that have been—very often, sort of designed out of RTSes as far as necessitating how well you can play and how well you do.

— Tom Chick

One of my questions was just recently answered, and the other—well, it will be soon enough (which is another issue all in itself).

It wasn’t the game itself that inspired this post, but rather a recently released podcast featuring Rob Zacny, Tom Chick, Chris Remo and Troy Goodfellow talking about it on a podcast this week (good listen by the way).

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I’ll go into my take on E3 and the press conferences next week but for now I want to address two specific games I noticed that interest me

A sort-of recurring complaint of mine these days is that not nearly enough games make use of the in-play camera. There’s a sort of tendency for this to be ignored in a larger context for quite a few reasons. A big contributor is that PC gamers always have access to this in one way or another (and the progeny of all PC gamers still affect consoles significantly). The second extends into ‘real life’ and is indicative of how shallow most people have become now. One can learn quite a bit about someone by giving them a DSLR of any type and demanding that they ‘go take pictures’. An instant reaction to my complaint here usually runes along the lines of:

“Well wtf am I supposed to do with a camera? Take pics? That’s not fun!”

Anyone that writes about their experiences with games will/should easily be able to empathize with my demands here, as the simple relation of a one’s vision through a photo is like — I don’t know, photography? There’s a tendency to avoid the mere notion of ‘art’ and photography is one of the biggest proponents of this ignorance. This is to say, the willful avoidance of craftily organizing one’s one sight of the world. Yes, it makes you an artist, no it does not make you special. It’s one of the most easily accessible forms of art there is, but at the same time it isn’t, as the craft is DAMN expensive. That in itself kind of bolsters my case for more in-game cameras, as developers can build a simulation of even the most expensive DSLRs in their titles; if there’s one thing gamers are actually good at, it’s the fanatics making use of the tools they’re given. How about an achievement that unlocks such a feature/upgrades (instead of some dumbass trophy)?

Given that so many games are quickly becoming so visually dense, it only makes sense to capture some of those moments using the digital age we live in. It means more to me as a single-player experience, but I’m aware that the social-bugs can make just as much use of them (take a look at Halo 3 for example). Outside of some of the more well-known titles, simply having a sliver of one’s experience can be thunderously rewarding. Gamers are always raising endless arguments for their personal creation of context (and also how the developers are meant to communicate to them that context). However, when push comes to shove, asking them to actually display a piece of themselves in that argument is equal to hurling dirt clods at a house and expecting it to fall over.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on trying to find a decent screencap of a game (sans the horrific watermarks you sites sometimes plaster on your images) either. This would easily kill off that not having a decent shot of a game. I don’t mind the developers watermarking an image, but game sites doing it is just an obnoxious and unnecessary filter I’m tired of veering around.

I was linked to an ‘Iwata Asks‘ segment of Nintendo’s E3 site. Amidst the conversations on several of their revealed projects at E3 was the one I’m obviously most interested in, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. There’s a conflation with my complaints in terms of what Twilight Princess did/did not do and it’s one both Aonuma and Miyamoto admit to in this video. The density of play in Twilight Princess for example, was very —- for lack of a better term, erratic. It ended up becoming far more counterproductive and it simply didn’t help that another title had launched right alongside it. Admitedly, had not Okami launched in the same year, I probably never would have even noticed something like that (but let’s avoid that comparison today). However it did, and it has affected the Zelda franchise in general to some extent, at least to an extent we all should pay attention to now. It’s almost admitted by them in the video that the Wii individually was meant to communicate their ideas of a ‘better way to play’. I among many have a knee-jerk reaction to the mere utterance of that, but there is a certain train of thought explained that I can respect (and by extension, give a chance too).That admittance was the portion of the video where Miyamoto comments on the Wii MotionPlus, which essentially turns the Nintendo Wii into what we were all hoping for to begin with. The control which Skyward Sword now grants the player over their weapon is significantly more resolute than that ofTwilight Princess (i.e. waggle). The problem now is that Nintendo squandered its reserves by launching Twilight Princess to begin with. That’s not meant to bash the game but rather point out the degree to which it will deflate the actual prominence and awe the new sword palatability is meant to communicate. Many of ‘us’ will end up taking it for granted simply because we’re familiar with and complacent to the Wii’s entire visage now. This means that Shiggy & Aonuma’s excitement in design becomes layered behind yet another slab of ‘language’. It also means that at the end of the day, granting Skyward Sword’s most idealrelease, its greatest muscle becomes ‘lost in translation’.Concerning the game’s new visual path, I’d have to say I’m a bit torn in two. First and foremost, I’m not a fan of Impressionism. Even given its proxy toRomanticism, it’s a bit too proud of being an excessive tangent spawned from that movement (liking the parent doesn’t mean I have to enjoy their bratty child). On the other hand, there’s a distinct factor I’m willing to admit excitement for towards the game’s release: use of movement and light (both very key to Impressionist works). Only those at E3 have actually seen how the game moves up close, but this also sheds light (no pun intended) on a darker side of the game’s visuals as well; this is that I think only a few (even Nintendo here to some extent) will look at the game’s usage of such a period beyond the general gist of:

“Omg cool! It’s using a relatively popular 19th century art period as inspiration! I shallowly feel a bit more cultured now!”

They’re actually more likely to just say ‘cool! art!’ these days, but you get my idea…

The way this game moves and feels is going to be immensely important now. The way its landscapes are rendered, the way those polygons move, and everything the light touches will become subject to intense scrutiny to those such as myself. Color is also an extremely important factor, but my detesting of it as an artistic ideal renders my opinion here a bit — unstable. I don’t like the colors that were shown in the trailer and I don’t expect that to change over the next year. I will however, easily get over them, granted the game efficiently makes use of any of the above factors in relation to it. If there’s a way to make the models ‘bleed’ to some extent, Nintendo might be on to something huge. As it stands though, I expect the Ueda games to remain one of the few (if not only) Impressionistically visualized games in existence (and I don’t think those guys really did it on purpose either).

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This was supposed to go first, I apologize it has been very long days while working at Retro

I wanted to address only one issue with this series as I played through it but that idea jumped out of the window. So, I decided to tackle each game as an individual by using whatever arbitrary idea pops into my head. For Metal Gear Solid (PSX), I decided to write up on each individual sequence in the game as I play through them. The difficulty is on extreme this time, as I wanted a drastic change of pace.

Omnipresence Beyond Castration // Docks, Heliport, and Tank Hangar

Despite the fact that I’m playing on extreme, the warped sense of realism that it’s meant to inspire is pretty much mutilated by the concept of perspective. Angles, views, and corner-cameras all of a sudden become immensely important as the difficulty is kicked up. Placement in any stealth title is a top priority and a fair sense of surrounding just isn’t granted in this game on the extreme level (The Soliton Radar is stripped from the player here essentially leaving them ‘naked’). The sense of distance in a third person game reeks strongly of the omnipresence always granted to a player in ANY title. For Metal Gear Solid specifically, there is an individual aspect to it which exacerbates this distance, and it’s a feature I’ve hated all the way up until Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence..

…The damn camera…

The bird’s eye view essentially puts Snake in a terrarium for the player to look at only semi-joyfully. Once he/she realizes the nature of the game (which will happen pretty damn fast), they’ll start seeing some glaring flaws in design. For MGS however, this has sort of in itself worked to series’ favor (astonishingly enough). Consider the point I made above. Basic psychology can come into play when addressing Metal Gear, as the brain is simply more likely to recall events laced with negativity and despite the love one may or may not have with the game, Metal Gear Solid does this lacing. I’m certainly not suggesting this was done on purpose (I think Kojima admitted the camera was meant to hinder Asian proneness to motion sickness). Not only is it embedded with fundamental design flaws, but it’s layered over with the visual design of the game as well. I’ll detail this point later, but the heliport has to be one of the most memorable experiences in the game due to the small touches of ambiance granted by the lack of music a and the snowstorm backdrop. The player will be forced to engage this as a sort of half-hearted tableau vivant. The fact that the player is stationary during most (if not all) of their observations in this game is immensely important to it as an individual title.

For all the love-harping I’ll do on Metal Gear, it will remain the most minimal stealth game series as things currently stand (people get usually get confused here because thematically the games are a mess). Most other purposefully designed hide-and-seek titles will introduce variables that the player is to be aware of constantly (e.g. light meters). Metal Gear didn’t even formally adopt that until Guns of the Patriots (though it kind of started in Snake Eater). Metal Gear Solid forces the player to rely on basics during every sequence. Particularly on the harder difficulties, the player will be stopping every few feet to hit triangle and survey their surroundings. This is obviously frustrating to even the most patient players, but lovers of stealth are rarely impatient to begin with, so they’ll probably eke out some sort of begrudging enjoyment here. It’s a retroactive sense of engagement to always be enclosed by surroundings and palpably grasping one’s own deficiencies in surveying it. Metal Gear shines (and burns) here.

“Maybe so, but I’m starting to develop kleptomania, I just keep putting things in my pocket.”

-Solid Snake

Due to this aforementioned distancing, the player will have grounds to engage the game’s story as well (I will admit praise of the game’s minimal mechanics leaving room for this to happen between players at their own individual pace). Now whether you think the game is a beautifully crafted tale or a cinematic mess of glory is totally irrelevant at this point, as both extremities can/will/should appreciate the concept of a game with a message (no matter how contrived it is). Metal Gear Solid certainly wasn’t the first (nor the best), but it was a bold and perhaps relatively new step for games to make nonetheless (it still kind of is in many respects too). Within the first few hours, the player will be introduced to the concepts of nuclear deterrence, technological politics, and various other real-world counterparts in terms of ‘information’.

Metal Gear has always gotten an A for effort from me due to it consistently going just a foot beyond what most games only do by allegorical function (and even that’s a generous stretch on my part). The sad reality however (other than the fact that it still remains one of the few big-name series to do as much), is that Metal Gear (as an overall series) often doesn’t deliver its messages coherently. It will typically leave the stupid confused, the critical appalled, and the remaining fans unable to articulate the true strengths of the series. It makes sure not to cross any lines that will be upsetting and it even actively retreats in some aspects of its narrative. That said, it does go to notable lengths to accurately introduce to the player just the general importance of nuclear waste, and by the time they make it to the nuclear weapons storage building, the mechanicsactually try (albeit miserably) to become an extension of the narrative. We’ll get to that in the next entry though.

In short, there’s a difference between blaming Metal Gear games and criticizing them. If it can inspire even one twelve year old to go crack open a book and find the half-life of plutonium’s isotope (239), then that message is far from a failure. Most of the things that people paradoxically whine about in the Metal Gear games are delivered elsewhere by titles such as Splinter Cell, but that’s another sad story for another sad day.

“So they just close the lid and pretend like it’ll go away?”

“Essentially, yes. And they’re not even doing a good job of storing it. Many of the drums are corroded… with nuclear waste seeping out of them.

“Unbelievable”

—Solid Snake & Kenneth Baker

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Artistic Pixels // Canyon, Nuclear Weapons Disposal Building, Caverns

All of the Solid games have had a significant visual impact, but the ‘original’ was amongst the few to make gamers truly value underpowered systems for what they could accomplish in terms of graphical fidelity.

All of the cutscenes in Metal Gear Solid occur in the game’s own engine (with some effects masked over them), mouths/eyes appear more vague than most PSX titles at the time, and there’s an odd jitter to the characters as they speak. In fact, if one is looking for it, they can individually see the pixels in every corner of the game. Yet, because of these things — not in spite of them, the game looks better for it.

The odd jittering helps to give the characters life and often presses forth the illusion of individual mannerisms. The lack of facial detailing is compensated for (though a better word would be ‘complemented’) by the codec sequences, where the player will spend a good chunk of their time watching detailed drawings of the characters actually animating. If you would like to try something weird, play through the game while closing your eyes for every codec sequence (the difference is definitely jarring enough to make note of). Also, even though Shinkawa’s illustrations weren’t prominent in the first title (I’m not counting the codec avatars), this game helps to form synergy with his art as well. Despite the highly detailed illustrations of the series’ mainstay artist, there is consistently a type of vagueness to the likeness of how he drew the characters in every single game.

Tack these visual ‘strengths’ on to the general ambiance of the music (e.g. the sharp piercing sound cues) and the game becomes ‘coldly’ attractive in terms of its aesthetics (meshing with the game’s entire backdrop). The problem with such strength is that it quite effectively alienates some people, killing a chunk of its overall audience by giving off a distinct vibe of ‘aesthetic grit’; luckily for me, that plays to my passions.

“Well boss, I hope you are happy. He got the card.”
-Vulcan Raven

The codec/radio mechanism sadly becomes less integral in the series as it progresses and what’s really beautiful is that this even extends into Metal Gear Solid’s predecessors as well. If you want an example of this, in the Famicom titles, the radio was an often vital source for information while at the same time being essentially worthless due to localization, area cues, and just general weirdness in presentation (e.g. see getting the the rocket launcher from Jennifer in the original Metal Gear).

Around Snake’s first meeting with Otacon, the game does manage to find some wiggle room for itself in terms of dialogue and cinematics, but this comes at a cost as well. Again, it’s far from perfect, but some of the cues, transitions, and deliveries are more than solid (no pun intended), even by today’s standards in average films. This is mostly what Metal Gear Solid will be remembered for as well, its most sublime flaw.

“Huh, you don’t like girls?!”
-Psycho Mantis
(amusingly enough, it was that line that freaked me out more than Mantis reading my memory card)

So, after saving Hal Emmerich’s life is when Metal Gear Solid takes it’s most drastic and disappointing turn, which is also my harshest criticism of the game:

The cinemas take over.

Now, I don’t mean that in the strict literal sense some would take that as (especially concerning a Metal Gear game), but merely one where theExperiencism manifests rather violently in front of the players’ eyes (as opposed to the ‘global senses’ that the best games are known for). After this point in the game, the rest of it essentially cuts back on all stealth mechanics and strengths, and this lasts until the credits roll. Now whether or not the player is engaged at this point is a purely subjective phase, but the progression is as follows:

>> Finding Meryl by her ass.
>> The iconic encounter with Psycho Mantis.
>> A backtracking sequence intergrated into a Boss encounter with Sniper Wolf
>> Detainment and backtracking throughout the game’s initial areas.
>> A sequence of tension throughout the communications towers culminating in a boss fight and a ‘first grade math class’ problem.
>> Yet another encounter with Sniper Wolf.
>> Descending into the maintenance base where Rex is held.
>> Shape memory alloy craziness.
>> Betrayal, information, and the iconic boss encounter with Rex.
>> A high speed chase.

>> End of game.

Now the point of that isn’t to downplay the importance of the playtime in between these events, but to highlight that Metal Gear Solid is a game of experience, rather than play. It’s also why I won’t really argue with those who often take the stance that Snake Eater is the zenith of the series (which harkened back to Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake as a genuine synthesis of consistent ‘stealth play’ and story). The stealth portions in this game however, are so minimal they’re almost irrelevant for the latter 60% of the game. Every sequence not held in cinematic regard is merely edged along by a brief encounter with maybe two or three guards and every area is void of the terrorist occupation the game tries so hard to play with.

Metal Gear Solid lays its own definition out for the player, but the problem is that it’s the deviant of the bunch as well, drawing a rather fat-ass line between what should, could, and will happen in a Metal Gear game. It’s the only game that truly uses ‘the box’ and that box has ‘cinema’ plastered all over it.

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Perusing a few of the posts regarding the nature of the Pokémon franchise in the past week has compelled to me to make another post regarding the series (namely thisthis). A sentiment rightfully held by the fans of the games is that the series main formula isn’t exactly broken, so there’s no pressing necessity to overhaul the mechanics, aesthetics, or just general premise of the game. The only one of those I personally take issue with is the last, as Daniel’s opening paragraphs signify a collective will amongst many Pokefanatics:

First of all, Pokémon is primarily a competitive video game – a rarity in RPGs. Like a sporting event, it occupies the same space as StarCraft, CounterStrike, and most fighting games. It’s easy to eventually notice that those games don’t change a whole lot over the years – each sequel isn’t really a next level, but just a fine-tuning of existing mechanics.”-Daniel Sims

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It’s kind of hard to be a gamer (specifically a Nintendo fan) and avoid Pokémon. Sure, it’s possible to having a genuine disdain for the games, but I very rarely come across those people who just flat out don’t like the series. Either they’re indifferent to it from not spending any time with it, or they’re avoiding it out of some pseudo-hipster ideal. My personal trend of individualism and ‘passive ambition’ strikes my stance on this series with full force. I’ve never paticularly been bloodthirsty enough in any type of traditional competition, mostly because I always become bored after a certain level of skill or refinement is passed (i.e. I detest being proficient at most things). Where Pokémon comes into play here is why I’ve never been able to get on the train with battling and the likes of the card game (I’d much rather watch people play when it comes to that type of thing). (more…)

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