Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Voice Change: Snake's Downfall

During Konami's pre-e3 stream, it was revealed that Big Boss would indeed have a new voice actor with Kiefer Sutherland replacing David Hayter as the voice of the iconic hero of the Metal Gear Solid series and fans have been up in arms.  Die-hard Hayter fans took to Twitter and various message boards in protest:    How could Kojima Productions replace Snake's signature grumbly voice after over 15 years of devotion to the series? How could Hideo Kojima forsake the man that sacrificed a portion of his paycheck to ensure that the original voice cast could be hired once again for the remake to Metal Gear Solid. Kojima stated that Kiefer Sutherland was chosen to give Big Boss a more subdued demeanor in order to compliment Metal Gear Solid V's much more darker themes such as race and revenge.  Revealing a top notch actor along with a valid reason for the replacement still hasn't calmed the masses raving on the internet who have even threatened to boycott the game if Hayter is not cast.  As much as Hayter deserves this love from fans and a role in the latest MGS installment, the decision to recast Big Boss is an absolute necessity not only for the character to grow but for the series to expand further into unexplored territory.

This article isn't meant to compare either actor's performing abilities: both men are amazing actors in their own right. This article is meant to provide an argument why the voice of Big Boss must change in order for the entire series to progress.

The main reason why Big Boss should not be voiced by David Hayter is because of the fact that Big Boss is no longer a Snake.  Hayter is credited for voicing two characters in the entire series; Solid Snake and Naked Snake (aka Big Boss).  He voiced Solid Snake in MGS 1, 2 and 4 and Big Boss in 3, Portable Ops and Peace Walker.  Like father like son, these two Snakes share very similar characteristics and very similar character arcs throughout their lives.

During the events of MGS1, Solid Snake accepted a mission that proved to be more than what it seemed to be. The U.S. army black ops group turned rogue, Foxhound, took control of Shadow Moses Island and made a threat to launch a nuke if their demands were not met.  It turned out that this group of terrorists consisted of disciples of the legendary soldier, Big Boss, and was led by none other than Solid Snake's biological brother, Liquid Snake, who wished to carry out a plan bigger than the United States government itself. Snake realized that the motives of a higher power was bigger than even himself.  This is mirrored in his father's epiphany during the events of MGS3 where a mission of Soviet espionage turned into a tale of betrayal that made him questioned his allegiance to his own country.

Another parallel between the two is that they were both betrayed and used by their own mentors which led to both establishing their own view of the world and their own ethics. Big Boss was betrayed by his mentor, The Boss, and was forced to end her life.  This drove him on the war-torn path that would ultimately create the world and lore of Metal Gear.  Solid Snake, during the events of Metal Gear (NES/MSX), would be led by his commander Big Boss throughout his entire mission in Outer Heaven.  It would be revealed that Big Boss was actually the leader of Outer Heaven and intentional led Solid Snake into traps and gave him false intel.  In the end, Solid Snake would end the life of his mentor and father whose philosophies of the world could not co-exist with his own.

With such similarities, it is no doubt why both men shared the iconic voice for 15 years.  Both men have been  portrayed as the persevering warrior that would only wage war for the good of the world, however, Big Boss's path leads to a much more tragic end than that of his son's.  Solid Snake would live to be the hero that would free the world of the Patriot's grasp while Big Boss would live to become the evil war monger who used child soldiers and an entire war state to bring the world to the brink of Apocalypse.  With Kojima's need to give the series more darker themes and with the franchise's chronology creeping closer to Big Boss's own climax, the need to bring a new voice actor to emphasize this tragic shift becomes tragically apparent.

The trailer for Metal Gear Solid V, which takes place in 1984 (11 years before the events of Metal Gear) foreshadows Big Boss's downfall in the last few moments where he rides off on a black motorcycle, wearing a black leather jacket, with a black piece of shrapnel embedded in the right side of his skull.  The piece of shrapnel is symbolic of a demon's horn sprouting through his head yet only on the right side. This may mean that he is slowly traveling down the evil path that he will end up during the events of Metal Gear.  With MGSV being the start of a new chapter in the series and for Big Boss, it would be inappropriate for David Hayter to voice a man who will commit such heinous acts of war and death.  Hayter's voice is reserved for the hero who puts the needs of his comrades and the world first before anything.  He is only reserved to voice a Snake.

There have been four characters that bear the name Snake throughout the game series; Naked Snake aka Big Boss, his perfect clone, Solidus Snake, and his twin sons, Solid Snake and Liquid Snake. Liquid Snake and Solidus Snake have different voice actors; Cam Clarke and John Cygan respectively. Both the main villains of their respective games, neither is referred to as Snake.  Liquid Snake is simply referred to as Liquid and Solidus Snake (after being mistaken for Solid Snake) was referred to as either George, The President, or King.  The only characters repeatedly referred to as Snake are Solid Snake and Big Boss who are both voiced by David Hayter.

At the end of MGS3, after Big Boss proved his loyalty to the mission and his country by killing The Boss, he was awarded by President Johnson the title of Big Boss.  However, during the events of Portable Ops (6 years after MGS3) he refused the title, preferring his old codename, Snake.  This whole time he refused the call to carry on the torch of The Boss, the woman he most respected, believing he was tricked into killing her. During the events of Peace Walker (4 years later), his respect and devotion for The Boss would be put to the test when he is forced to face a Metal Gear like machine that contained an A.I. designed to resemble the mind of The Boss.  After preventing a nuclear launch and killing his mentor for a second time, Big Boss would toss away the head band that he took from The Boss in MGS3; a head band that not only represented The Boss but a signature piece of attire closely associated with Solid Snake as well.  He would then announce to his devoted soldiers at Mother Base of his plans to create Outer Heaven, the same soldier-controlled state that would nearly bring the world to an end. Finally, 10 years after being awarded the title, Snake would abandon his codename and accept the title of Big Boss and, incidentally, the fate of becoming a monster. "Monster" was what his former comrade and close friend during Peace Walker, Kazuhira Miller, would call Big Boss when he would speak to his son, Solid Snake, almost 20 years later.

A monster is certainly not someone that Hideo Kojima wants to be associated with David Hayter's Snake, a character loved by many gamers with the most distinct voice in all of gaming.  He instead opted to give Big Boss a more subdued and serious actor like Kiefer Sutherland to guide the character on his dark new journey.  People might still complain about the voice change but it's evident that Kojima planned everything with pure intentions and with great respect and love to the fans of his series and to David Hayter who had just as much responsibility in bringing to life such a powerful character.  Let us not bicker over the artist's direction but allow him to take us for another wild, cinematic and emotional ride.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Review: Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon

Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon

Developed by Next Level Games
Published by Nintendo
for the Nintendo 3DS
Released March 24, 2013

This Moon Shines Bright

With 2013 being the Year of Luigi, it's only fitting that it all kicks off with the sequel to Luigi's defining role in 2001's Luigi's Mansion for the Gamecube. For the debut of the Gamecube, Luigi was brought to the forefront to lead the way for the budding console and provide a perfect example of how high quality the games Nintendo had planned to bring to its audience for half a decade would be.  Fast forward 12 years later and Nintendo finally decided to give Luigi a second go in the spotlight, this time on the 3DS.

The original Luigi's Mansion was a unique departure from anything that had been presented by Nintendo and the best thing about it was that it was so quirky and weird that it worked.  Dark Moon attempted to rekindle this magic that breathed life into the Gamecube and give fans a well deserve fix of the green-clad hero but ended up not only improving on virtually everything offered in the original game but gave a fitting kick off to Nintendo's proudly promoted "Year of Luigi."

Dark Moon is so cartoony and enamoring in its representation of its characters: Luigi, E.Gadd, and the lovable yet frightful ghosts. With each passing dialogue box containing adorable puns left and right to its quirky and cartoony cutscenes that play out with charm reminiscent of a 1950s Bugs Bunny cartoon, I found my smile harder and harder to suppress. From Luigi's comical reluctancy of the adventure at hand, to E.Gadd's almost sadistic yet delightful take on the matters, to the ghosts' Three Stooges like interactions, the humor stays with entrances the player from start to finish.

While the original game was slow-paced and encouraged exploration, Dark Moon moves at a much hastened rate while regrettably sacrifices an emphasis on exploration.  Dark Moon consists of eradicating ghosts from five separate mansions which are divided up into five or six chapters.  These chapters then can be replayed to earn a better ranking, capture hidden Boos, or just to see how fast it can be beaten.  The game, as a whole offers so much more than in Luigi's first ghost adventure. Not only will Luigi suck up as many ghosts as possible, he can also reveal hidden objects using his Dark Light. The Poltergust will not only be used for ghost hunting but also puzzle solving; Luigi can reveal hidden pathways in the mansions' walls and use the Poltergust's suction to hang on ropes and swing across treacherous gaps. Luigi's Mansion is no longer a spooky game of hide-and-seek but a game of survival that will rely on the player's wits to safely escort Luigi through the mansion intact.

Another addition to the series is a multiplayer mode called Scarescraper which can be played locally, online with friends or online through matchmaking. The mode involves a group of two to four players as they scale the terrifying and seemingly endless Scarescraper, floor by floor, completing a goal at a time through cooperation.  The goals consist of either capturing all the ghosts, finding the exit, finding a certain treasure, or defeating the boss ghost.  Players can interact with each other through four different sayings but it'll quickly overstay its welcome once one of the players spams the HEY! button nonstop until the only means of action is to shut off the 3DS. The online appeared to be very responsive and the mode overall gives the game a lot more replay value than what is already offered through replaying single player chapters.

Dark Moon is everything a sequel should be and does everything one should do. It took everything that made the original game good and improved upon it. Dark Moon combines witty writing, great puzzle-solving, wacky action and hammered on an addicting multiplayer mode for good measure.  Luigi certainly kicked off his year right with a must-have title that certainly will not be forgotten in his older brother's shadow.


Take Luigi's Mansion and multiply the action, puzzles, humor, charm and exploration tenfold.  Dark Moon improves on every mechanic in the first game by incorporating ghost hunting, with puzzle solving, with tech upgrading and improved item usage (the flashlight needs to be super flashed using a button in order to stun a ghost).

A major complaint about the original Luigi's Mansion was the awkward looking movements inputted on the C-stick. Dark Moon simplified this by only allowing Luigi to look up or down using X and B buttons. However this complicates matters a little when trying to input multiple commands simultaneously during heated situations. Also with a lack of a second stick, turning Luigi another direction while already shining the light or vacuuming is impossible and can leave the player in a tough spot. Otherwise the controls feel more polished than ever before.

From comical situations, to ghost capturing, to puzzle-solving, to tech upgrading, to raiding the Scarescraper with friends Ghost Busters style, Dark Moon never leaves room for a dull moment.

While not necessary, the camera can be moved using the gyroscope or the X/B buttons otherwise the camera stays with Luigi appropriately.

Lasting Appeal:
The game is quite lengthy with its five mansions that include around five chapters each and allows for replaying to get better ranks, unlock more items, and capture hidden boos. The multiplayer Scarescraper (local and online) adds a ton more replay value as well.

The graphics are the only thing that the original has over Dark Moon. The graphics are bland and lack detail and textures in both character and environmental models.  It could have really added a lot more spirit to each mansion. Although it is worth noting that in certain sections of the mansion the framerate does increase dramatically giving the game a much crisper feeling.

The game uses its signature Luigi's Mansion theme appropriately but also adds a new score adapted to each mansion.  Luigi's screams and E.Gadd's chuckles are just as memorable 12 years later.

The game starts off easy enough but then the hoards of ghosts start attacking relentlessly while puzzles will begin to require more and more thought.

The game moves at a fast pace and never slows down.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Xbox One: One step in the Wrong Direction

Microsoft unveiled the next generation Xbox, the Xbox One, Tuesday in Redmond, Wash. to a tent full of journalists, planted Microsoft cheerers, and to the world via livestreams. The world awaited for Microsoft's answer to Sony's Playstation 4 reveal but certain rumors about always-online connectivity and no used games set a dark cloud over the entire event. Instead of subsiding these fears, however, Microsoft reinforced them by confirming daily-online connectivity, used game fees, a focus on television and sports, and having no games showcased other than EA sports titles and Call of Duty: Ghosts.  It became instantly clear that the Xbox One is not only forgetting to keep the wants of the core game enthusiast in mind, it's leading the industry on a path that will hurt the consumer and the video game market as a whole.

Daily-Online Connectivity:
One of the main concerns people had with the new Xbox was a rumor circulating that it would require a constant connection to the internet to be able to continue to play games. This would be a form of digital rights management, most commonly implemented for game distribution services like Steam and Origin, that safeguards against piracy. This may sound like a good idea on paper but when a game requires an always-online connection this causes problems most notably with games such as Sim City V and Diablo 3 where if the game detects a lost connection it will boot them out of the game entirely even during single player mode. This greedy form of safeguarding compromises the comfort of the player in order to prevent piracy and displays a total distrust of the consumer.

The entire subject wasn't mentioned until after the conference when Geoff Keighley asked Don Mattrick about the shady subject to which he responded by saying that an internet connection is necessary for the many functions of the Xbox One but it won't prevent you from playing the games.  However, later in the day, news articles began popping up about how Mattrick restated that the Xbox One would indeed need to have an online connection once every twenty-four hours.  It wasn't clear what would happen if the Xbox One fails to detect an internet connection and while it may not seem as bad as how certain PC games have it currently, this is all a slippery slope. If the Xbox One is successful then it'll give Microsoft and other companies the go-ahead to implement harsher DRM in the future.  This could lead to future consoles becoming always-online machines in the future which will blur the line between owning purchased software and just borrowing it from the publishers.

Fees for Used Games:
Another concern about the next Xbox was that used games would be unable playable on it. This ended up being true. Microsoft confirmed that in order to play used games the consumer would have to purchase the ability to install the game onto the hard drive. Microsoft confirmed that the price for a used game would be the same as its retail price. Taking a look at the 360's track record of lowering prices on their on demand service some games take up to two years to lower in price. This means if a game costs $30 dollars at Gamestop, it would cost an additional $60 or so to be able to activate it on your console. This model would definitely put a dent in sales in video game novelty stores such as Gamestop. While it's not yet sure how Gamestop will adjust to Microsoft's model for selling used games, it can be expected that consumers will not find it convenient to pay over retail price for a game that not only has been on sale for years but is also used. Gamestop might end up just ending all trade-ins of Xbox One games altogether.

The inconvenience will not end there. Imagine asking a friend to borrow a game. He gives it you and after you pay the $60 installation fee, you download it onto the hard drive. Your friend then calls you and complains that he can no longer play his game that he too bought for $60 at the store. After you're done, you give it back and your friend has no choice but to pay an additional $60 in order to install it back onto his Xbox One. It all, once again, displays a total mistrust and control of the consumer.

No removable hard drive:
The Xbox One is reported to have a 500GB hard drive but unfortunately it cannot be removed. Considering that every game must be installed in order to play, that hard drive is going to fill up quickly and the only other option is to connect an external USB hard drive dedicated solely to Xbox One games in order to expand the memory.

A Focus on Television:
The Xbox reveal event was a little more than an hour long and more than half of it was dedicated to how the console can also work as a television. The first thing shown was Yusuf Mehdi's attempt to showcase how well you could watch The Price is Right on the Xbox One. Later on, they revealed that a Halo television series is in the works. Not a new Halo game or even an expansion, but a tv show. They advertised a television program during a video game conference. Microsoft proved through their reveal conference that being a glorified DVR comes first before being considered a video game console.

Video Games on the Backburner:
I've come to expect Microsoft presenting anything but video games at their e3 conferences. They literally Ushered in a new age of gaming at last year's e3 conference. From pushing the whole television gimmick to showcasing nothing but EA sports games and the new Call of Duty: Ghosts (which is going to be multiplatform), the desire to create innovative, original, and compelling titles is not needed for the new console. Instead the consumers are getting annual franchises that have brought nothing new to the table for a decade. Microsoft did announce 15 exclusive titles coming to the Xbox One, but my concern is just how many of those will be Kinect titles. Just like this article states it; "Xbox One is the first games console for people who don't like games."

Kinect Focused:
Ever since e3 2009, Microsoft has had a goal of putting emphasis on Kinect games in every conference. Kinect has proven to either not work or the games never live up to expectations.  Kinect should have been a dream come true for gamers yearning innovation but ended up being a broken mess and with every Xbox One coming package with a Kinect everything will based around it. Not saying that it will totally substitute a controller, but the always-on Kinect may cause some problems with the overall system. Even during the livestream of the conference, those people watching on their 360s would be cancelled out whenever the presenter would make commands using the Kinect. With  broken technology being on the forefront of the new console, the Xbox One's future looks dull.

No Backwards Compatibility:
We should be used to no backwards compatibility by now as only the first batch of PS3 units could play PS2 games and only a select few Xbox games could be played on the 360. However, Microsoft takes it to a whole new level; not only can you not play 360 games, reports say that you won't even be able to transfer previously purchased Xbox Live Arcade games over to the new console. It's another tactic to get consumers to buy games that they already own except now they have an "HD Remake" sticker attached to it. It's a shame neither Sony or Microsoft has embraced Nintendo's view of backwards compatibility.

Aside from no gameplay being shown in the gameplay trailers, Call of Doggie, Sports galore, water coolers, the Xbox One is a frightening look into the future of the video game industry; a future where total control is taken away from the player and put into the company's hands just to ensure no dollars or cents will slip through the cracks. One can only hope, Microsoft considers these concerns travels down another path. A video game console should be just that; a console made for video games. Video game innovation should be the highlight of the conference, not tv shows. Give me the video games first and let everything else be icing on the cake, not the other way around.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Review: Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock Infinite

for the PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Developed by Irrational Games
Published by 2K Games
Released March 26, 2013

Creating a rift in itself

The beauty of video games is that they are a type of media that encompasses all other forms of entertainment; literature, cinema, music.  As long as it's interactive it's still considered a video game.  People complain that visual novels like Katawa Shoujo or cinematic dramas such as Heavy Rain are not video games because they focus on literature or cinema rather than gameplay.  I believe it's wrong to assume that a video game is good or bad based on how many cutscenes it has but rather how well it's able to engage the player in whatever it's trying to accomplish.

Bioshock Infinite is a game that plays with this idea that a video game can be something more than just gameplay by trying to bring the player a riveting narrative and engaging FPS action.  Unfortunately, its achievement in presentation overshadows its effort in gameplay which leaves the game unbalanced.

From first entering Columbia to the mind-numbing finale, the game embeds your brain with beautiful imagery, symbolism, and narrative through its gorgeous graphics, stellar musical numbers, and believable voice-acting. Every line of dialogue and event appear to be carefully scripted and well thought out.  Every character and their intertwining fates, the backstory and subplots, and every situation comes about in such a cinematically, methodical and beautiful manner that it's obvious that the developer's first priority was to tell a story as exploration is compromised for almost on-rail story-telling.

The main and most damning problem that Bioshock Infinite has stems from its methodical story-telling.  As stated earlier, the story appears to be Irrational's first priority making the gameplay an obvious second.  This becomes a problem for two reasons; with a story that's the main focus the gameplay becomes a glaring distraction, and the gameplay loses a ton of potential.

While the story may have some problems, it's evident that the developers put forth the time and effort to bring the player a thrilling cinematic experience and they succeeded.  The player has a reason to continue, not because they want to shoot mindlessly at random enemies but because they want to continue the tale of Booker and Elizabeth.  The problem here is that the gameplay is not thrilling enough to compete with the game's cinematic elements and therefore becomes a distraction.  The same problem arose with Spec Ops: The Line where the bland third-person shooting felt like a hindrance in the wake of the narrative.  While the gameplay of Bioshock Infinite definitely has a lot more depth than Spec Ops', it, nonetheless, becomes a hindrance as well.  While vigor combinations and dimension-tearing are amusing for a bit it all starts to lose its shimmer when with every room comes a wave of the same enemies that can be killed with the same vigor/weapon combination.  While experimenting with vigors, I found that Shock Jock and Possession are really the only ones needed.  As far as the weapon choice goes, I found very little difference with each weapon or not preferring one over the other.  The only reason I would switch a weapon was when I exhausted my ammo, then I would continue the assault the same as before.

All of this brings a lack of strategy among other things that really would have other-wised balanced out Infinite and made all of its parts shine.  Picking up a certain weapon should bring about a sense in the player that they should switch up their style of gameplay to suit the gun or choose a gun based on the situation.  All Infinite offered was a sniper rifle, the only different gun in the game.  Every other gun from the pistol to the rocket launcher felt exactly the same albeit the blast radius and that was a problem.  There were also other elements in Infinite that felt like they could have been expanded upon.  Using sky-rails could been implemented better as they were only used as a way to progress the story or for a quick escape when a wave of enemies became too tough.  I imagined entire fights above the skies on the rails, switching from one to the other, using melee and grapples, or electrocuting them through the metal with your vigors . . . but no, none of that.

The world of Columbia is such a strikingly beautiful place but as you play through the game it becomes apparent that all Columbia was meant to be was a setting.  The game itself is very linear not just in a narrative sense but in a gameplay sense as well.  There is no emphasis to explore the beautiful city and lacks the ability to backtrack and explore Columbia in spare time.  I find it unforgivable, given this gorgeous world rich with lore, that an emphasis on exploration was not accentuated.

Infinite suffers from being a mindless shooter as the game is composed of wave after wave of enemies.  There were a few tiny portions, and I mean tiny, that if expanded upon, could have really improved the gameplay.  One was a stealth sequence in which an enemy would be on look out and if spotted, he would call a wave of creepy prisoners to attack you.  It was a breath of fresh air to be able to use the environment as cover and sneak your way passed, or if you'd rather, just rush in and take them all head on.  There were only two instances of this and they occurred near the end of the game.  The other example of lost potential being the controlling of allies on the battlefield (I'm not talking about Possession and I can't say who you control exactly with the fear of giving away spoilers).  Controlling an ally, only happens once, while was not the most thrilling, it was a change in gameplay that was another breath of fresh air.  Infinite's problem comes down to a lack of variety.

With such a strong narrative, it's a shame that the gameplay, while not the most thrilling but by no means awful, disrupts the flow of the entire game and leaves the latest installment of the Bioshock series an unbalanced loss of potential.  The narrative and presentation are so engaging that the gameplay, as fulfilling as it may be, becomes a distraction.  Bioshock Infinite's brilliant story and mediocre gameplay leaves the game far from perfection but has enough substance to keep the majority of players entertained.


Gameplay 7/10:
-Simple FPS gameplay expanded slightly with the use of vigors.  The gameplay is focused on simply defeating waves and waves enemies by using a balance of weapons and vigors to dispatch them.  Unfortunately, I found strategy to be unnecessary when simply blasting away enemies with any weapon you have and spamming Shock Jock will get the job done about 90 percent of the time.  Elizabeth also simplifies fights to the point where I had to stop using her assistance. As soon as you run out of ammo, health, or salts she will instantly replenish them. After accepting a few of these items from her, it will take her a few seconds before giving you anymore. There is literally a price to be paid every time you die. Upon death, you will lose a reasonable amount of money before the battle once again restarts (from where you ended off and with the enemies' health slightly restored).  The only boss fight in the game is very dull and the final standoff left more to be desired.  There is a small change-up during the final moments of the game where some stealth elements were implemented but only lasted for a few sequences leaving the player to return back to the monotonous gunfights.

Playability 9/10:
The game plays quite well with the only complaint being that turning is a bit slow especially when you need to get out of a top spot and running only works when moving forward.

Camera 10/10:
The camera really shines when trying to move the player through the narrative.  It worked in a very cinematic way to focus on the narrative.

Fun 8/10:
The enjoyment stems from the desire to continue the story and exploring the world and is held back by the sometimes monotonous gameplay.  Not to say the gameplay is bad, it's just not as in depth as the narrative.

Lasting Appeal 6/10:
Infinite is a good-sized game, taking your time it'll probably give you over 15 hours but after that the only thing to do is play a higher difficulty or try 1999 mode.

Graphics 10/10:
Stunning visuals that bring the bright and grim world of Columbia to life.

Sound 10/10:
Top-notch voice acting, musical score, and 1900's renditions of modern songs add to the brilliance of the presentation.

Difficulty 6/10:
Pretty constant but things like Elizabeth's aide and tears give the game unnecessary dips.

Flow 5/10:
The gameplay slows down the gameplay especially when the main focus of the game is the story.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Glitch City: Tragedy in Motorville

Just as Oliver returned home from his adventures with Drippy, tragedy struck Motorville.  A nine car pule-up devastated the small community.  The wreckage could be seen all the way from the diner straight to the auto repair shop.  Death toll unknown.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Rayman Legends Delay Spells Frustration For Wii U Owners

The most upsetting piece of news, Thursday, came as not so much a shock to devoted Wii U owners but more like a slap to the face.  Ubisoft announced that the much anticipated Wii U exclusive Rayman Legends would also be available on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.  The sequel to the critically acclaimed, surprise hit of 2011 would now garner a much more widespread audience; something fans of Rayman Origins had complained about since Ubisoft's initial announcement that Legends would be a Wii U exclusive. The shocker comes from the news that Legends would be delayed until September because of the title becoming multiplatform.

The February 7th announcement came just three weeks shy of the expected February 26th release date. Now, Wii U owners will have to wait an additional seven months to get their hands on the game. Rayman Legends was originally announced as a launch title for the Wii U back in November 18th but was delayed until the first quarter of 2013. The fans waited the extra three months only to be hit with the news that they must wait another seven. 

Fans began questioning whether the delay for the Wii U version is necessary when the game was set to release in a couple of weeks. Was it because Legends wasn't yet ready or is it because they planned to make it a multiplat?  Ubisoft then issued a statement:

“There are no issues with the game development. All of the information was in the press release, the only reason for the delay is to release on multiple platforms.”
“We usually release all of our platforms simultaneously (aside from PC). We’ve made special exception sometimes in the past but it’s definitely just on a case by case basis and not our standard practice.
“In this case, Ubisoft recently decided they wanted to release the game on multiple platforms so the decision was made to launch them all at the same time rather than separately.
“I know it’s not an elaborate, ‘convincing’ answer, but it’s the simple truth.” -Sarah Irvin, Ubisoft public relations specialist
It seemed clear that Wii U owners would have to wait longer for their game drought to end as the console has not had a major title release since launch. With the recent news of Tecmo making Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge go multiplatform as well, has been frustrating for Wii U owners and spells trouble for the console as a whole.

Within hours, Uplay's Miiverse community along with Twitter lit up with complaints of fans threatening to cancel their preorders due to the extended wait.  Analysts suggest Nintendo should be worried about the console's future.

Wii U owners can, however, look forward to Nintendo's plans for games when e3 rolls around along with the fact that Platinum Games' still has not yet made Bayonetta 2 a multiplatform game, but with the recent bits of news, anything may happen.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ganondorf - The Fated King

The Legend of Zelda series is filled to the brim with fantastical characters but there are none more important to the lore than the intertwining fates of three; Link, Zelda and Ganondorf. While Link and Zelda are different people in each installment, related only by ancestry, Ganondorf remains the same man, allowing for a metamorphosis of character through each game. While his alter ego Ganon, appears in a majority of Zelda games to date, Ganondorf has only appeared in three; Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. This is my analysis of the evolution of Ganondorf; from his ancient origin to his fallen fate, how the bandit king would be known as The King of Evil.

A Tragic Origin (Skyward Sword/Ocarina of Time) -

Ganondorf was born into the Gerudo tribe of female thieves and raised by a surrogate mother/witch, Twinrova to be their king. The Gerudos themselves are cruel and dangerous warriors and no doubt raised Ganondorf to replicate these very characteristics. It is assumed that, during the period when no male king is present, that Gerudos reproduce by using Hylian soldiers thus Ganondorf, along with many other Gerudos born around the same time, has Hylian blood in him.

The desire to take is a trait given to him by his Gerudo blood, but his desire for power is something engraved into his fate. At the end of Skyward Sword when Link defeats Demise, it is stated that an incarnation of him will follow the descendants of both Link and Zelda and torture the inhabitants of the land. This is an obvious reference to the constant threats of Ganon, however, it should not be assumed that only Link and Zelda's descendants were punished for the killing of Demise.  There was another hero that had just as much to do with Demise's fall as the heroes.
If the conflict between Princess Zelda, Link and Ganondorf was turned into a high school play, it would be the rivalry between Link, Zelda and Groose.  Each character is analogous to their Ocarina of Time counterparts.  Groose being the rival of Link while still displaying a great amount of strength, cunning and motivation as seen in his helping of Link to defeat the Imprisoned.  In fact, if it wasn't for Groose, Demise would have awakened much too early for the heroes to prepare. In Demise's eyes, Groose may as well be just as much responsible for his death.
It's not a coincidence why Groose plays such a vital part in Skyward Sword. With his darker skin, red hair, brute strength, and red jewel on his chest, a color representing Din (the goddess most recognized with the Gerudos), it could be that Groose is the beginning of the Gerudo line. Demise's plan is to also punish Groose's descendants by sacrificing one in particular to be the host of his evil spawn. Ganondorf is being punished by his ancestor's original sin, so to speak, and because of Ganondorf's actions, the entire Gerudo tribe is eradicated.

A Power-Hungry Fool (Ocarina of Time) -

The first chronological appearance of Ganondorf is in The Legend of Zelda's first venture into 3D.  Ganondorf is the king of a tribe of desert bandits known as the Gerudo. Every one hundred years a male is born into the Gerudo tribe, which comprises nothing but female bandits, and becomes their king. After the Hyrulean Civil War, Ganondorf creates a relationship between the Hylians and the Gerudos. By gaining the trust of the King of Hyrule, he enters the Sacred Realm through the Temple of Time (previously opened by Young Link's possession of the Sacred Stones) and takes the Triforce of Power.  Using his piece of the Triforce and his army of Gerudos, Ganondorf easily usurps the Kingdom of Hyrule.  He remains in power for seven years until Link awakens to defeat Ganondorf and banish all evil from Hyrule.
Ganondorf, in OoT, has a very arrogant and intimidating disposition. He is young, strong, cunning, manipulative and knows he is destined for something great. He manipulates the trust of the King to find his way into the Temple of Time. He attacks the kingdom at full force, knowing that the army of Hyrule is still re-cooperating from the Civil War that took place a few years before. Through all this, Ganondorf still sees his successful overtaking as destiny rather than fate; a fate established ages before his birth.
Demise's resurrection is fulfilled when Ganondorf uses the power of the Triforce to transform himself into a monster of unimaginable power, Ganon.  This would be the beginning of the reoccurring plague that Hyrule would have to endure for ages. However, even with his share of the Triforce, the might of Courage and Wisdom proved too much for Ganon thus Ganondorf became sealed in the Sacred Realm.
Like Demise before him, Ganondorf vowed revenge on Link and Zelda's descendants.

A Humbled King (Wind Waker) -

Ages after the events of Ocarina of Time, Ganon escapes the Sacred Realm and wreaks havoc on Hyrule but unfortunately, no hero came about this time, leaving the Sages to fend off the evil threat by flooding Hyrule and everything in it.  The descendants of these Ancient Hylians took to the mountaintops (now islands) and began a new era. The history of the once great kingdom became nothing but a legend.
Ganondorf began to rebuild his troops in an attempt to find the other two pieces of the Triforce beneath the sea. A portal to Hyrule was opened where Ganondorf held both the Triforce of Power and Zelda's Wisdom. Link would battle Ganondorf in the sunken Hyrule Castle to prevent him from succeeding in completing the Triforce and gaining fearsome power.
Ganondorf in Wind Waker appears older than he had in OoT and also wiser. He carries himself much more regally and speaks in an eloquent and poetic manner rather than how brash his younger self spoke. Age has certainly granted Ganondorf experience but it also allowed him to see matters more sensibly. Whereas Ganondorf during the events of OoT seemed to be driven on blind hatred; Ganondorf in WW is driven by hatred stemming from deep cynicism.
Ganondorf has attempted twice to forge together the Triforce and both times he had been met with extreme punishment from the Sages. He formed a cynicism inside him not just at the Hylians, and not just at the Sages but at his own fate as well. He now realizes that he has no control of his fate; it was something that had been been bestowed upon him since birth. It is something that even death or imprisonment can not wash away.
"It can only be called fate. . . . That here. I would again gather the three with the crests."
When Ganondorf turns into Puppet Ganon, it's an obvious metaphor for the position he finds himself in. He's nothing but a puppet controlled by the remnants of Demise to fulfill a vengeful prophecy created ages ago. The only way Ganondorf knows how to break this curse and end his fate is to fulfill it. When the Triforce becomes whole he wishes to rule Hyrule, a forgotten and ancient land. If he was still the power-hungry fool he had once been, he would have wished to rule the entire world, to rule over the descendants of the Hylians residing above the waves, yet desires only to break the curse. Ganondorf even states that he has no desire to kill Link or Zelda, he just wants to take the Triforce. In this manner, he chose to rule an empty, forgotten land in spite of his fate.
After Ganondorf has a sincere moment, speaking to Link about the fate of his people and his own intentions, he headed for the Triforce to make his wish at last. The King of Hyrule, however, took the Triforce for himself and wished that Hyrule would be sealed away forever along with the evil Ganondorf. He couldn't do anything but laugh and sought instead to end his cursed brethren by his own blade instead. He failed to fulfill his fate for a third time. Ganondorf, in turn, laughed quietly to himself as he was freed from his fate.

An Unrealized Destiny (Twilight Princess) -

After Ganon was defeated, Princess Zelda sent the Hero of Time back to relive his childhood. When Young Link met the young Zelda, he warned her of what Ganondorf had planned to do which confirmed her own suspicions. Zelda informed the King, which led to a Hylian invasion of the Gerudo Desert and the capture of the Gerudo King. The Hylian army desecrated the Gerudo's holy Spirit Temple and modified it into a makeshift prison to house all of the desert thieves and dubbed it The Arbiter's Grounds.
The Sages had planned to execute Ganondorf by sword, however, the Triforce of Power awakened inside of him allowing him to break free and kill the Water Sage. In a fit of desperation, the remaining Sages imprisoned Ganondorf in the Twilight Realm.

After one hundred years in the Twilight Realm, Ganondorf, convinces Zant, who had been refused the Twili throne by Midna, to take over the light world and usurp the Kingdom of Hyrule.  With the castle in his possession, Ganondorf now had the means of making the Triforce whole and realizing his true fate.
It should be noted that in this timeline, Ganondorf never transformed into Ganon. He was captured before his armies even stepped foot in Hyrule. In fact, Ganondorf and his people were imprisoned merely on the words of two children. Ganondorf is just as arrogant and cunning as he was in OoT as he never had the humbling experience that his WW self had. Fueled by the pent up desire to rule Hyrule and his true power still chained inside, Ganondorf became even more disobedient and short-sighted. He planned to lie, cheat and steal his way to the Hylian throne.
Ganondorf finally realizes the extent of his power by unleashing Ganon but like his OoT self, he is slain by Link. Perhaps showing a little more reserve than his OoT self, he opts to battle Link in a sword fight in his Gerudo form. After being defeated, Ganondorf echoes the words of not just himself in OoT but by his master, Demise, by saying Link and Zelda's descendants will be plagued with his presence. However, much like his WW self, he dies instead of being imprisoned leaving the inhabitants of Hyrule to never fear a return of the Gerudo King again; his dying words never to be realized.
From this timeline, Ganondorf is never seen again but Ganon is reincarnated hundreds of years later during the events of Four Swords Adventures. Ganondorf died a fool with a heart full of vengeance never to be quenched. He was perhaps blessed with the naivety of believing he was in control of his fate.  He died never realizing the role he played in a legend much bigger than himself.

An Undying Evil (A Link to the Past/Legend of Zelda/Adventure of Link) -
In a timeline where Ganon defeats the Hero of Time, Ganondorf fulfills his fate given to him by Demise. Transformed into Ganon, he returns time and time again to wreak havoc on Hyrule. Ganondorf, the Gerudo King, would be forgotten through time and the King of Evil, Ganon, would take his place in the winds of the declining kingdom for the rest of time.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Glitch City: The End of The End of the World

In the first edition of Glitch City, where I take games and I break them to find the delicious glitches that rest inside; I decided to take a look at a glitch I happened to stumble upon without any prior knowledge of it. There's a way to leave the Destiny Islands portion of End of the World and have Sora walk on sky and water alike! Not only can you take a look at what's behind Destiny Islands but you can also bury Goofy's stupid face in the sand.

Here's how you do it:

  • Beat the game. The glitch is in the Destiny Islands portion of End of the World where you fight the first round of the final boss battles.
  • As soon as Haley Joel Osment says "Is this, is this my island?" run directly behind you and jump onto the wooden shack. Going near the shore (or was it the hidden cove?) will trigger a cutscene.
  • On the wooden shack, go to the far right corner of the roof and start jumping around.
  • Eventually, you should have landed Sora on an invisible platform.
  • Spam the jump button and watch as Sora crab walks to the heavens!
  • Keep jumping until you're above the trees then head towards them. This insures that you will not fall back into the game's boundaries.
  • You are now free to traverse the empty world of Destiny Islands. Not much to do really but mess around behind the island and to see how far away from the island you can get.
It's definitely a neat little trick to do and just proves I played this game too much when I was 10. I mean look at how high I got Donald's magic . . . seriously?

The Games That Will Make 2013 Awesome

Anarchy Reigns
The long awaited sequel to the fantastically bloody Wii title, Mad World, hits consoles and promises to be even more bloody, more violent, more colorful, more multiplayer, and less waggly.

The Cave
While they're finding ways to spend all 3.3 millions dollars on their Kickstarter adventure game, Double Fine teamed up with Sega to release a puzzle/platformer called The Cave.  If it's anything like their previous titles, it should be just as charming and humorous.

Ni No Kuni: The Wrath of the White Witch
I absolutely love anything that Studio Ghibli churns out. So when I heard that they teamed up with Level 5, creators of the Professor Layton series, to make an RPG with an original story AND a definite North American release date, I nearly entered a comatose state just imagining getting my hands on a game that's dedicated to gameplay just as much as telling a great tale.

Fire Emblem: Awakening
The Fire Emblem series enters Nintendo's newest generation with the apparent return of Marth.  Also you'll get to kill undead soldiers as Marth . . . in 3D!

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
While playing Metal Gear Solid 4, I thought how cool it would be to play a fast-paced action game starring cyborg Raiden. Then Hideo Kojima unveiled Metal Gear Solid: Rising that would have you play as Raiden and would bridge together the events of MGS2 and MGS4. Then nothing. And more nothing. Then it was revealed that the game had actually been canceled! But luckily for us, the fine folks at Platinum Games took up the reigns of the development process and thus the oddly named Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was born.  The game now looks to take the over-the-top hack n' slash route and while its place in MGS canon is still debatable it looks to be a hell of a lot more CRAZY than that dumb DmC reboot.

Rayman Legends
Rayman Origins was a surprise hit for me back in 2011.  Ubisoft made a cooperative multiplayer platformer that is actually enjoyable unlike those hacks at Nintendo with their New Super Mario Bros. games.  The Wii U exclusive not only looks to bring more of that glorious platform but gamepad elements that actually look fun. A lot more than those Nintendo hacks can pull off. PFFT!

Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon
I have no idea why it took Nintendo twelve entire years to make a sequel to this game but they have finally come to their senses and continued the tale of Luigi's real estate escapades. There will also be an odd multiplayer addition which means 4 times the Luigi!

South Park: The Stick of Truth
I find South Park to be a pretty great show so for me hearing that Obsidian is joining forces with Matt Stone and Trey Parker to make an RPG was pretty similar to me finding out about Ni No Kuni except replace beauty and magic with Crab People and Jew jokes. Although the death of THQ and the game's acquisition by Ubisoft hopefully will not disrupt its release.

Pokemon X & Y
Remember back playing Pokemon Red/Blue and thinking to yourself "Wouldn't it would be neat if they made an awesome 3D Pokemon game?"  Well, our childhood dreams have come true with the latest Pokemon generation and it might actually get me to play a Pokemon game since Gold/Silver came out.  I might even be willing to endure all the stupid new Pokemon designs that they've unimaginatively mustered up.

Killer Is Dead
WOAH! It's like it's No More Heroes, mixed with Killer 7, mixed with a little Shadows of the Damned.  Basically, it's everything that defines Suda 51's style wrapped up into one thrilling looking title.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf
When I played Animal Crossing for the Gamecube, I was devoted to that game. I did everything; I collected all the bugs, caught all the fish, paid off my home, designed the coolest shirts, and pitfalled the most annoying neighbors.  I haven't played an Animal Crossing game since then on the count of me not being able to find enough time. So with New Leaf being released on the 3DS, I felt it would allow me to dedicate a ton of time with the game as I could take it anywhere.

Bayonetta 2
With all the butthurt that surrounded Platinum Games' reveal that Bayonetta 2 would be a Wii U exclusive, it's not going to just be about playing a climaxing sequel; it's also going to be fun watching everybody boycotting and hating a game that they can't even play.

Grand Theft Auto V
My favorite GTA game is San Andreas due to the huge map that allowed for maximum exploration, something I enjoy doing more than the actual missions. GTAV brings the game back to Los Santos with Rockstar promising a map bigger than the worlds of GTAIV, San Andreas and Red Dead Redemption combined.

Pikmin 3
How great would it feel to play a Pikmin game with a touch screen, being able to point where your Pikmin will be thrown; RTS style. Thanks to Nintendo, we'll soon be able to realize that feeling.

The Wonderful 101
The Wii U drought ends with Platinum Games' interesting puzzle/brawler that has you control 101 super heroes that form together to create different objects like a sword or a ladder.  Also the main character looks and sounds an awful lot like Viewtiful Joe, perhaps a throwback to Platinum's original gig as Clover Studios.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Review: ZombiU


Platform: Wii U
Developer: Ubisoft Montepellier
Publisher: Ubisoft
Released: November 18, 2012

Dead Potential

I never thought much about ZombiU prior to the launch of the Wii U.  It just seemed like another generic Zombie "survival/horror" FPS except with fancy Wii U controls.  In fact, I hadn't even bothered to play the game until a month after launch.  At first I thought it was due to me being preoccupied with other Wii U games like New Super Mario Bros. U and Nintendo Land. Looking back now, what kept me hesitant was that I saw a lot of Red Steel, Ubisoft's launch title for the Wii, in the release of ZombiU.

When the Wii launched in 2006, Ubisoft's Red Steel released alongside it with a promise to display how motion controls could be properly used for the budding system. Instead we were shown a mediocre game that emphasized the problems that would overshadow the path of motion controls for the rest of the generation.  Now, with the newest generation beginning, I saw a repeat of Ubisoft's promise with the release of ZombiU, except this time I am surprised to say I am wrong . . . for the most part.

ZombiU does two things right; it showcases how the Wii U gamepad can be used in a creative and efficient manner, and how a survival/horror is meant to played.  When Nintendo first showcased the gamepad, an entire world of possibilities opened up about how it could be used to enhance the gaming experience. This idea ran wild in fans' minds up until the first batch of titles released and it became instantly obvious that developers had no intention of expanding creativity in the industry with the gamepad; rather they opted instead to use the controller as handheld map an options scroller.

Then comes ZombiU; Ubisoft's vow to Nintendo that they can show the consumers how the gamepad can be used properly with ingenuity.  ZombiU succeeds in giving the player a multitude of ways to use the gamepad in order to survive the hoards of zombies waiting around every corner.  If the player wants to check the inventory to equip a weapon or item, the player must turn their focus away from the action on the big screen and onto the gamepad leaving the survivor vulnerable to a zombie attack.  If a player finds a locked door, the player must perform certain actions on the gamepad that, once again, deter the player's view away from the screen. The use of the gamepad emphasizes patience, strategy, and discretion instead of a guns-blazing, leave-no-prisons mindset that so many modern "survival/horror" games rely upon for some reason.

With how well Ubisoft implented the gamepad controls and created a survival/horror game worthy of the genre's name, it's a shame that the overall game is quite mediocre.  Underneath all these creative mechanics, a very plain and run-of-the-mill zombie game lies.  The story is predictable and almost transparent, while the missions follow the same formula of "get from point A to point B and back to point A" throughout the entire game.  If it wasn't for the constant fear of death lingering around every corner and the necessity of using strategic gameplay, ZombiU would have absolutely nothing else going for it.

ZombiU only works because it is a Wii U game but unfortunately the mechanics can only take the game so far.  The core of the game feels so bland and rushed to the point where it becomes a glaring flaw in an otherwise potential and smart title.  If you have a Wii U this is a definite must-have title in the midst of a drought of content especially for someone craving a challenge. If you are wondering whether or not to buy a Wii U to play ZombiU; ZombiU is not a game that can carry the console until the next batch of titles hits the console.  So basically, ZombiU is a must buy merely on the fact that the Wii U has very few first party titles that use the gamepad to a certain extent and when more promising looking titles hit the market ZombiU will be set aside and forgotten.


The clever use of the Wii U gamepad offers the player strategy, depth and immersion lost in many modern survival/horror games.  With this said, the fact that underneath the mechanics lies a soulless zombie cash-in cannot be ignored.

Switching weapons with the touch of a finger feels smooth while controlling the survivors is as responsive as any other FPS on the market.

There are a ton of clever uses of the camera; using the gyroscope and the screen to look for hidden objects, its position on the survivor character while you search through your backpack to give you a view of any creeping zombies coming to ambush you.

The Wii U gamepad mechanics are what give the player the motivation to continue with the game.  The elements of difficulty and survival add to the appeal but the variety of game-breaking bugs and unnecessary loading doors drop the fun factor sharply.  In my playthrough I ran into about five glitches that made me reload a save file and, on one occasion, even create a new save file altogether.

Lasting Appeal:
The game is short and after that there isn't much to do afterwards except try your hand at Survival Mode which has the player go through the game with one survivor and if that survivor dies, the player must restart the game from the beginning.

This is not a pretty game.  With abysmally bland textures and mediocre character models, this game negates Nintendo's initial claim that the Wii U is graphically more powerful than current-gen systems with visuals that seem to come straight out of 2007.

It's a breath of fresh air to see a game dedicate itself to being a true survivor/horror game.  During your missions, you'll find that ammo is scarce, your health runs out fast, and you will find yourself trapped at any moment.  On death, the new survivor must go out and kill the previous survivor's zombie self and retrieve all of their precious weapons and recovery items. Be aware if you die without retrieving these items, they will be lost forever.  ZombiU urges the player to consider their options and plan ahead and even goes as far as to suggest retreating as an appropriate option if the going gets tough.

The piano based score is forgettable as is the voice acting.  It's the little sound effects such as footsteps, a gun blast, rain drops, and zombie moans that take the player for a ride.

While a neat concept, dying and having to start back at the hideout as a new character halts the flow of the game as you backtrack all the way back to where you last died, retrieve your items and finally continue on with the mission.  Sometimes dying during a mission will end it, leaving the next survivor character to reap the rewards and continue on.