@Ravenlight: The reason for that is... I'm going to stop drawing guns. Now it's a badly artifacted AK-47 .jpeg. You happy?
Mento's forum posts
Hey all, back to my usual weekly structure after the resolution of May Madness and the comparatively less insane alternative E3 irrationality. This week's game Binary Domain - Sega's dumb action movie take on heady Isaac Asimov ideals - manages to raise an excellent and intriguing notion between characters wondering out loud if that's a control panel over there and teaching players to scream obscenities into the mic to piss off their AI comrades: That is, the flexibility of automaton antagonists. Robots come in so many different forms that a game like this can have a field day with its enemy design, drawing from animals and their bestial behaviours, random grunts, random grunts with shields, zombies, colossi and others.
I'm just going to be checking out a smattering of the different types of robots featured in this game, as well as examples from other games of a similar sci-fi predisposition towards multifarious mechanical malcontents. Wordplay!
Servants & Companions
The game goes about quickly establishing the grand, grand majority of robots as harmless servile entities happy to do the housework or automate our radioactive food-processing facilities. The Alfies and Bettys (the cute names derived from their Alpha and Beta designations) you meet throughout the game are almost always completely docile; killing them might be construed as cruel, or at the very least a waste of ammo and an indication that you're perhaps getting a little too jumpy. Then again, the game gives you every reason to be paranoid of every android you bump into, so it might simply be testing you. I played enough Jedi Knight to leave the Gonk bots well enough alone in case the game docked me light Jedi points for causing harm to an innocent, and I guess it kind of stuck.
The friendliest robot in Binary Domain is, of course, the all-purpose combat robot CN-7. Otherwise known as Cain, he becomes an integral party member for much of the middle part of the game, always answering you and applauding your efforts in his mildly condescending yet perfectly polite French accent. Like with the other members in your squad, maintaining a high trust level with him pays dividends in the late-game.
Other notable examples of the friendly companion robot include: C-3PO and R2D2 (of course), Anachronox's self-aware and increasingly irascible PAL-18, 50s' "super robot" Thursday, Clank, Robo, Chibi.. Heck, they're legion. Who doesn't want a robot buddy?
When designing a robot, specifically its function, it's a fine idea to look to the animal kingdom for sterling examples of natural design. Most animal species have had millions of years to perfect the function of whatever role that animal takes in the greater ecology of their environment, and while many don't apply to what we need robots to do (manual labour, let's say), there's a lot to inspire would-be robotics engineers. From a slightly less practical perspective, animals make for good, unpredictable nemeses with their inhuman movements and capabilities and developing a game about killing only robot animals is way more conducive to not getting your house burned down by eco-terrorists. (Though the chances are they'll simply just make terrible parody games involving tofu instead.)
Binary Domain presents several robotic animals, including an utterly implacable Gorilla bot that refuses point blank to take a hint and stay down. Through a slightly aggravating boss battle to a gauntlet of traps that culminates finally with you taking it out with a mounted gun, the simian simulant puts up a good fight and then some. You'll also see small robotic spiders (a mainstay of many a sci-fi game, especially the Minority Report and Chronicles of Riddick games) as well as one stonking great huge one, smaller ape robots that surround and pummel you, an elusive cat robot confusingly named after a mythical dog, a lifter/crane that transforms into a scorpion and something that's a cross between a squid and a chandelier. It's complicated.
Robot animals, especially ape-like ones, aren't new to games in general either. Almost all the Robot Masters of the Mega Man X franchise are animalistic in some fashion. The risible Rise of the Robots had an ape robot, for "lifting", and there have probably been more Spider Tanks in games than is perhaps healthy (including FF8's XATM-092, which I wrote about as part of a horribly mis-named Chase Boss article). Also, who could forget Grimlock (of "me Grimlock King!" fame) and many other electrical thunder lizards seen in too many animes to count? Why would you clone dinosaurs when you could just make robotic ones?
Perfidious Puppet People
Binary Domain's key plot elements are the "Hollow Children" and the globally-prohibited process of creating human-like robots that are indistinguishable from the actual thing until they start peeling their fake skin back like evil robot Bill and Teds. Robotics have been restricted to an extent that stops any AI from growing too intelligent (a concept the game, and other media that deals with the same idea I suspect, names the "Frankenstein Complex") and the game follows an anti-robot special task force as they take down a Japanese company that is purposefully disregarding this law for unknown reasons. But that's about as much as I'm willing to go into plot-wise in case I get too spoilery.
Robots posing as humans have been a thing for a long time in speculative fiction. Perhaps the best example is Terminator, though the movies tend to dilute the horror of a pitiless robot that you thought was a human tearing things up with the fact that everyone (including the audience) quickly figures out who the assassin automaton is (though his memetic alloy replacement provides more question mark moments). Blade Runner is a clear inspiration too, as is Snatcher; Hideo Kojima's earlier video game take on that movie. Binary Domain's robots aren't quite as insidious as Snatcher's eponymous bioroids - like many of Blade Runner's replicants, the Hollow Children aren't actually cognizant of their non-human origins - but there's plenty of the same skin-deep body horror that the game plays around with.
There's quite a few sci-fi-themed games that'll drop a drama bomb by exposing one of the cast as a realistic humanoid robot, which may or may not be evil. I'd give you examples, but I would get busted almost immediately by the spoiler cops. I don't want to give too much away, but those guys are all about the police brutality. Oh Hell, I wasn't thinking.. I CAN HEAR THEM HAMMERING ON THE DO-
Fight A Giant Spider In The Third Act
Acclaim and approbations to any who get that sub-title. One thing Binary Domain does amazingly well, if in concept but not always in practice, is set up some memorable boss fights. Robots can be as big as you like, given that it's probably less complicated to have a giant robot performing a difficult task than it is a much smaller one with less circuitry to go around. As such, many of the boss fights in Binary Domain pit you against something truly colossal. While the spider tank and helicopter bosses are present and accounted for there's a few other remarkable outliers, such as a giant roadster robot that takes up the entire freeway and tries to squish your innocuous delivery truck with its massive front tyre. There are also mobile howitzers (like those things needed legs), more than a couple "Grand Lancers" which resemble the Tower Knight from Demon's Souls (really didn't think I could make a comparison between Binary Domain and Demon's Souls) and the aforementioned gorilla and tentacle chandelier bosses.
As for other games with enormous robots, you can't really surpass the Mechonis of Xenoblade Chronicles. At least in terms of sheer size. Man, was that one big robot. Otherwise, you're generally restricted to large mecha suits, like the various Metal Gears or everyone's favorite giant singing attack robot Impact. The original Breath of Fire and Final Fantasy IV have at least one dungeon apiece that take place inside a giant robot (that will start moving on its own at some point). I also crafted a game idea some time ago that dealt with destroying giant robots from the inside too, clearly inspired by a Shadows of the Colossus marathon.
Having Your Brains & Eating Them Too
Zombies are done. Clearly. I can't speak for everyone, but Romero's necrotic nasties have long since lost their appeal with me with game upon game expounding on the same ideas and scares over and over. I hear the Walking Dead games from Telltale are decent, but from what I understand it's largely because of character development and the player agency placed behind important decisions. The zombies might as well be landsharks or aliens for all the importance to the plot they bring. It's why games are starting to experiment a little with the zombie concept in order to distance themselves from contemporaries, such as The Last Of Us' cordyceps-inspired "infected"s.
Because the Yakuza series (which is what the team behind Binary Domain had worked on previously) recently had a zombie spin-off game of its very own, the developers evidently weren't done crafting set-pieces that had an innumerable shambling crowd for our heroes to contend with. As such, there's a sequence late in the game where you'll be trapped in an underground scrap metal facility filled to the brim with faulty "prototype" Hollow Children - the robots, I'll reiterate, that appear to be human. As such, you have a big crowd of robots with deformed human(ish) faces that try to tear you apart with their bare hands as you look for a way out. It's a good sequence, though one that's a little too clearly inspired by those ubiquitous ravenous revenants.
Okay, I think that's enough robots for the time being. I hope this convinces a few of you to try Binary Domain out. If you liked how goofy yet polished Vanquish was, Binary Domain is very much the same kind of deal. That I'm becoming more appreciative of TPS games from Japan is sort of an odd development, but I guess those guys are serious about breaking into this typically Western market. Whatever, I'll have a review of it for you all soon enough. In the meantime, how about a...
@Video_Game_King: Because he would never clam up!
/edit: On closer inspection, I think you might have been asking a legit question. I'd imagine because it was all in Japanese? With a heavy Kansai dialect to make it even harder to comprehend?
From the title I honestly thought this blog would be about you playing a mediocre Wolverine game (like that NES one where you lose health each time you SNIK'T your claws) relatively well, in preparation perhaps for tonight's Marvel Ultimate Alliance TNT. But then I couldn't recall any exclusively Japanese Wolverine games. Not that I doubt they exist.
I loved the only Starfy game I've played, which was the one that got localized for DS. I don't have a problem with bright and colorful (or easy, for that matter) platformers, and Starfy's more imaginative than most. Also his best friend's name is Moe, dammit. Or Kyorosuke. I don't even know really. All I know is that he helps me find treasure and hosts an interstitial chat show, which are two invaluable qualities in a sidekick.
And now to help you with a few captions for that X-Kaliber 2097 image, since you asked nicely: "In my day, Raptors were only smart enough to open doors!" "Hopefully they'll kick out all the bad elements by the time Nova Neo New York shows up." "Global mob? The Cosa Triyakuzia?" "Thanks for telling me that a tyrannical mobster called Raptor is without mercy or I might have assumed he'd be setting up orphanages everywhere." "I didn't know they made suits that nice for 200 foot people. Neo New York's Big & Tall Man store must be something else."
I'd also like to remind folk about ThatFrood's thread where he intends to compile all our E3 2012 lists to find our collective best of show. Otherwise, I think you've probably scooped me on all the best E3 blogs and VGK's effeminate fiasco already. I think I can guess which barechested avian superhero will be making the banner this week...
As the sun sets on yet another "Alternative to E3" blog series, it's time to think about just how much we've not seen and not learned about the video games to be released in the near future. For instance, we did not learn what bananas have to do with Nintendo games; we did not learn how to effectively cast a fire spell with a Move controller; we still do not know why that one YouTube guy is beloved by so many; and we certainly did not figure out what happened to Kentia Hall, wherever it might be. However, we did recently learn that Hawkman won't be appearing in Injustice because of his hatred for Midway, so that's a boon at least. So to speak.
Since we're in the spirit of not being in California covering E3, let's go hit Vegas instead!
I have no idea what games' fascination with gambling is, but there's almost always some sort of gambling station that you can either manipulate for the massive amount of cash required for much of the end game content, or simply play a few times and completely disregard for something that is not random bullshit. This seems especially egregious in JRPGs that generally keep their technology level hovering somewhere between "medieval" and "renaissance". Sort of like how the slot machines in the Wavy Tube Man Chronicles QL were "old, but not old enough".
Slots are the absolute worst. They are entirely based on chance, unlike every other casino fixture. There's a reason why many a "hey, we're off to Las Vegas/Atlantic City/Branson!" sitcom set-up will quickly turn sour for the heroes when they happen to espy rows of despondent pensioners feeding their grandchildren's inheritance into a legion of one-armed bandits. "Boy, this gamblin' hole kind of blows!" one of those sitcom characters will inevitably observe, to canned applause from a device as equally soulless as the fruit machines in question.
Point is, these things are depressing. Why the heck would you want to spend any amount of time on them? Oh wait, because you need to win 7,777-10,000 coins for one of FFXIII-2's achievements. Great.
Something I didn't cover with the slot machines section that I won't be returning to for edits, because it just depresses me now, is how a video game will take the concept and play around with it. For instance, a lot of Final Fantasy characters will have a "random attack" system that is governed by a trio of slots. There's a few JRPG characters that do the same with roulettes too (as well as some particularly spiteful enemies), but more striking is how occasionally entire stages will become giant roulette wheels, like the example on the left from Super Mario Sunshine. It made for a particularly memorable boss fight with Oogie Boogie in the first Kingdom Hearts too, back when you could just about follow what was going on in that series.
I kind of like Roulette a little more than Slots. It's entirely chance, of course, but there is some element of strategy with the many different combinations of outcomes you can bet on. At the very least having six or seven concurrent bets running on the whims of a marble on a spoked wheel makes it more suspenseful. And hey, it gave birth to the concept of Russian Roulette, which gave us the tense scene from The Deer Hunter, the same scene - shamelessly stolen - in Black Ops, a vaguely racist Revels commercialand one really bizarre story moment from Illusion of Gaia where you purposefully condemn a Russian Roulette player to death by using your precognition to fix the contest, which is the only way to procure transportation to the next part of the game. If you wanted a fucking weird SNES RPG to check out and Earthbound's out of the question, there you go.
I really like poker, but only with the following provisos: It has rules that I can follow, it moves quicker the longer it goes on with bigger blinds and the like and that at absolutely no point must one of the contenders turn into a terrifying demonic entity. Poker's a fairly recent addition to games as a side thing, because of the difficulties in programming an effective poker-playing computer. If the whole game involves playing poker with a bunch of likeable, layered game-related personalities and Tycho, then that's fair enough, but it's harder to justify as a minor side-quest. One of the few things (in my opinion, at least) that Red Dead Redemption did right was to create a really compelling poker game that you could partake in if you ever got bored of skinning roadkill and dealing with ravenous cougarmen. Likewise, Tales of Vesperia has a neat little poker game that's easy to exploit and led to a cute few moments with resident taciturn cosplay-bait Judith.
I'd like to poker that?
However, what a game should never do is combine poker with dice. Especially when the dice poker engine is designed in such a way that for every third game you throw the dice on the floor like an ADD-inflicted child and all but automatically lose. Geralt is sharp enough to peg a guy a few hundred feet away with a ballista bolt during the prologue of Witcher 2, yet as soon as he hits the dice poker tables he's throwing that shit all over the place like he suddenly got hit with the DTs real bad. Maybe playing dice poker with random bar patrons just makes him nervous, unlike fighting all those dragons or manticores or 7-foot-tall murderers.
I'd be remiss to not mention the other major card-based activity of gambling locales, that of the humble game of Blackjack. Because it's such a simple concept to grasp, video games are able to rework it to suit their setting, like the absurd Quasar of Mass Effect. The only pertinent qualification to play this game is the ability to count to 21, but there's additional layers of strategy that you'd need a math degree from MIT to fully understand, if that Kevin Spacey movie is anything to go by.
I know a lot of you probably didn't play Deja Vu II: Lost in Las Vegas, because it's old as dirt and borderline unplayable in this modern age of adventure games that don't force you to play hours of blackjack to solve a puzzle, but in this game you're actually forced to play hours of blackjack to.. oh right. Fortunately any modern game that includes blackjack won't force you to play it - that is, unless you want all the achievements. And of course you want all the achievements. Better figure out how to count cards, bucko.
Part of the fun of designing your own game world is designing unique activities (games-within-games!) for that world's inhabitants to play while they're sitting around bored waiting for the heroes to turn up, so they can perform their singular vital chore of telling them which town they're in shortly after some pop-up text has already beaten them to it. I've previously mentioned Dice Poker of the Witcher games and Quasar of Mass Effect, so here's a few more notable examples:
- Pazaak - The game of Pazaak is apparently something the myriad denizens of the Star Wars universe play, or once did since the KOTOR games are chronologically set a long time ago. Or a long long long time ago, since we were already at two "longs" with the original movies. It's a mix of blackjack and dominoes, with you placing various numbered cards down in a grid to reach a golden number before your opponent can. I think. It's not something I wanted to spend a lot of time with, since I had a lightsabre sitting like right there.
- Arcomage - Might & Magic VII's main quest doesn't really involve a lot of urgency. After dropping a few Raid bombs to fumigate your newly won castle keep of its spiders and skeletons (man, do skeletons take a lot of Raid to kill), you discover that the town you now apparently rule by proxy is sitting smack dab in the middle of a potential warzone. The next part of the game deals with you finding a way to resolve this burgeoning conflict by any means possible before your cobwebby new digs gets itself smashed to pieces in the crossfire. Honestly, if I inherited a skeleton-infested castle at the epicenter of World War 3, I'd probably just walk the hell away. Which is what the heroes of M&MVII more or less do by instead going to pubs across the world and playing Arcomage, which is sort of like a version of Magic: The Gathering that's actually fun. You play cards that boost your tower (life points, in other words) and your wall (a line of defense that absorbs damage) and zaps those of your opponent's. You need resources to use the cards you have in reserve, with the stronger ones requiring more resources to activate. It's a very simple version of the popular CCG, but an amazingly well-balanced one for such a throwaway side-quest. There's more than a couple of reasons why @ArbitraryWater digs that game, y'all.
- Fable II - Fable II actually had three of these: Spinnerbox, Fortune's Tower and Keystone. I didn't really care for any of them. I didn't particularly care for Fable II for that matter. But they're remarkable since they were actually sold separately from Fable II in an XBLA release of dubious intent that fans of the first game - whom were eagerly anticipating farting and belching their way through the imminent sequel - could purchase from the service, play a little of until they inevitably stumbled upon the exploit and proceeded to irrevocably spoil their future playthrough of Fable II by becoming filthy stinking rich. But then according to Peter Molyneux, who knows a few things about making outlandish video game ideas feasible in the real world, this opportunity to let players utterly break his game before they could even play it was entirely intentional. Man, the balls on that guy.
So that's just a brief rundown of a few gambling distractions that you might see in many of your favourite video games. I recommend playing very few of them. Stay the hell away from Gamblor's neon claws, kids.
@Video_Game_King: By hyperlinking the King James' Bible GB Edition blog inside "it certainly won't be the last", I'm going to infer that you believe one of these ridiculous game blogs will bring about the end times. You'll cover two games that are so absolutely inane and reprehensible that the universe will have little recourse but to reboot itself.
I'm just saying, be wary of the power you wield. And maybe stay away from the CDi.
I don't... what was the reason behind covering these games? Do you need to ask SparklyKiss for a kidney? (Not that she'd have anything to do with MK & A, I'd suspect.)
Though while we're on a similar tangent, those Hamtaro games for GBA are actually kind of rad. Rainbow Rescue at least. You ought to do a double-bill of those while you're already alienating all the military FPS bros.
Welcome to Day 2 of that event we're not talking about! Because I've spent an ungodly amount of today Chocobo grooming/racing in Final Fantasy XIII-2 (which is thankfully far more truncated than FFVII's similar mini-game) I'm going to settle an eternal rivalry once and for all: Which is better, Slime or Chocobo?
I'll be presiding over this throwdown by reviewing a series of categories with which to judge the superior of Square-Enix's duelling mascot characters, analysed on a case-by-case basis. We'll total up the pros and cons for both and finally get some closure on this super important imaginary beef between a sapient blob of gelatin matter and a big yellow chicken.
A Chocobo provides a useful if limited form of conveyance in many of the Final Fantasy games they appear in. They might also be attached to fun side-quests, used for storage and, in the case of the game I'm currently playing, allow you to pass through areas without incurring the wrath of random encounters for a well-appreciated breather.
A slime will attempt to kill you, poorly. I think most of the reason why people find the Slimes adorable is because of how quickly you're able to overpower them in any given Dragon Quest game. But then you have the intensely annoying Metal Slimes and their deliberately vindictive bait-and-run-off tactics, and eventually the Metal King Slimes who tend to somehow be craven AND indestructable AND have all the best gear. Grrr.
Chocobos will often have a range of different abilities that are represented by the colour of their plumage. In games where you're able to actually use Chocobos in battle, like Final Fantasy Tactics (and XIII-2, again), Yellow Chocobos are ubiquitous, Blue are powerful magicians, Red & Black Chocobos tend to be aggressive and impulsive warriors, Green & White Chocobos tend to be friendly and therapeutic and Gold and Silver are usually fairly rare breeds capable of grand tasks, like striding across the very oceans to deliver you to priceless materia with five minute long summon animations. There's also a fat Chocobo and little Chocobos and one called Boko that vanishes for most of FFV. Honestly, there's not a lot of variation here, and it's not like most FF games don't just settle for the plain old yellow Chocobos and completely disregard the entire range of polychromatic poultry.
Slimes have always displayed a dizzying amount of variations. They began as simple palette swaps, that oft over-relied upon implement in the monster designer's toolkit, but evolved creatively to include the health-restoring jellyfish Cure Slimes, the crown-donning King Slimes, the metallic Metal Slimes and the spotty Spotty Slimes. Maybe the names aren't imaginative, but the designs are.
You know, the Chocobo games aren't too bad. Currently, we have a growing selection of Mystery Dungeon knock-offs (which also include the little guy's Pocketstation adventures that factor directly into Final Fantasy VIII) and one mini-game collection slash RPG for the DS that was kind of fun. I'm still not quite sure how a giant bird with no arms that's built to reach rapid speeds across vast expanses of land is meant to fight its way through the narrow corridors of a dungeon, but I'm clearly not the Chief Executive of Squeezing Marketable Characters Into Incongruous Roles of Square-Enix. Pity, because I hear that guy makes mad bank.
The Rocket Slime adventures blow those Chocobo games out of the water though. DQH: Rocket Slime for the DS is absolutely
subslime sublime. They managed to turn those rictus-grinned little sociopaths into a sympathetic society of gregarious little critters that are thrown into turmoil by the all-powerful organized crime network of Platypunks and have to defeat them in a series of duel battles between fortress-sized tanks, including a giant tree tank named Chrono Twigger. It's absolutely delightful.
It's important for any sovereign state society to have a corpulent King or Queen. The more well-fed your monarch, the better it reflects on the wealth and the bountiful harvests and game-filled forests of your realm. The inclusion of Fat Princess in Super Sony Smash Bros is a clear indication that potbellied potentates are especially valuable to the greater world of video games. With that in mind, let's compare the respective rulers of the Chocobo and Slime societies:
King Slime is portly, even for slimes. You can tell this from his adorably chubby cheeks. However, beyond those and a rather fetching crown that evinces his station among the Slimefolk, there's little to distinguish him from other slimes. He's a considerably bigger Slime, sure, but that seems to be it. Call it a limitation of the Slime shape that all slimes just look the same. Or maybe I'm just a filthy slimist.
On the other hand Fat Chocobo is obviously not a normal Chocobo. It's perhaps not accurate to call him the King of the Chocobos, but he's still clearly their leader. Simply because he's considerably fatter in comparison to his svelte and physically active avian subjects, I'll have to give the point to Chocobos.
Slime doesn't really have his own theme song. We can go back to Rocket Slime, but most of its music was repurposed from earlier Dragon Quest games. Like Mario, the DQ games tend to remix their own memorable themes and ditties over and over and - also like Mario - it tends to work for enhancing that whole nostalgia-based self-obsessive singularity these long-running series tend to compact into after a while. Subsequently, the Slimes don't really have any sort musical representation or leitmotif to call their own.
Chocobos, however, do have their own very recognizable theme music. This also gets remixed a lot, often depending on the type of tone the new Final Fantasy wants to set this week. Here they all are in this handy YouTube medley. They get increasingly idiosyncratic - though this is also in part because the technological advances in video game sound chips and console audio systems provides more opportunity to mix things up a little.
The clear winner here, then, would be our fine feathery friends the Cho.. oh, wait. I forgot about this.
Goddamn Slime Puns
Goo the jell-o figured the constant barrage of terrible slime puns could blobably ever be a gloop idea?
Complicity in Creepy Chauvinism
So I think we have our winner. The incredibly dubious sexual innuendo (HE THINKS THEY'RE BOOBS) of the Puff-Puff club is clearly the wors-
So let's tally up: That's four wins for Slime, three for Chocobo.
It looks like the Slimes won! So glad we were finally able to conclusively prove this. With science. So hey, maybe we should all collectively forget this blog ever happened? Onto Day 3 of E3!
The Witcher II: Assassins of Kings
Final Fantasy XIII-2