I take one day off of work and suddenly my internet's upside down.
Seraphim84's forum posts
@Shaanyboi: An entire game around that would be kinda hard, but just think of they made the last 2/5ths of this game to put you on a narrow path of some crazy world, be it present or first civilization? I feel like there's a reason they've been holding back on letting you see Desmond's world.
Storywise, this has great potential. Think of the dirty politics they can go nuts with?!
But the people who are voicing their concerns over city traversal have a point: there weren't really any huge buildings in most any of the US at this point. Boston, Philly, Baltimore, New York, none of them were particularly as awe-inspiring as the cities of the past two games. Maybe this'll be more about horizontal traversal, ranged fighting, etc. Or maybe they fudge it and throw in some anachronistic things to climb.
"Oh, the Statue of Liberty came 75 years early! Get up there!"
Alright, so I've combed over the episode of Archer that was supposed to have a Whiskey Media something in it. The tweet said to look at the file room scenes. Here's the best I could find:
Where I've circled in red at the top there. Best I can see, it says, "RD-JG-VC" which would of course stand for Ryan Davis, Jeff Gerstmann, and Vinny Caravella! I feel conspiratorial with how deep you have to go to get that reference, maybe I'm missing something way more obvious. That's what I have thus far though. Anyone else see anything?
I love video games, I really do. They keep me distracted when life is difficult, relaxed when times are stressful, and entertained when things are slow. But there have only been chance instances that games have made me truly feel for their stories. As a kid, I typically had no idea for my character’s motivations or mythology concerning the world around them. Once narrative became an increasingly important and ultimately primary part of the gaming experience, sure there were sparks of feeling for a dying love interest or a dark revelation, but very few of these sentiments carried past the credits. As for those rare experiences where my mind and heart were still dealing with what had transpired days or weeks after the story had concluded, I can only wish that more games would be so interactive as to truly affect me.
Warning: massive spoilers are involved, as only an elegant conclusion could ever bring about such emotions.
Was I upset that Aeris died? Sure, but only because she was my main healer and I had spent so much time getting her best limit break. Did I feel bad for what happened to Lucca’s mom in Chrono Trigger? Well yeah, but it was a short segment that even if you did realize the impact it held, it was hard to revel in it short of watching Lara walk about. The twist in Bioshock and the jump scares in Dead Space were neat but didn’t shake me to my core. Two recent games, however, have truly tested what I thought about not only games but my own principles. Perhaps the language is a bit inflated, but as the ideas both these games brought up still go unanswered in my head tell me that a chord was struck that hadn’t yet been plucked by any book, movie, or medium yet discovered by my humble bite into the knowledge of the world.
The first one is Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. A beautiful looking game that seems to have a somewhat controversial standing with most gamers, I easily fell in love with the game partly for my admiration for the eponymous Chinese tale of Monkey it draws on. The characters were stock, two-dimensional archetypes, but you didn’t need to know their backstory or motivations to appreciate the sincerity and realistic portrayals they were given. By the end of the game, Monkey, Trip, and even Pigsy were believable in a way only some well written scripts and nuanced actors can pull off. This made the climax of the story all the more tragic: our heroes are faced with the realization that the humans being snatched from their lives were (possibly?) being saved and brought to a sanctuary from the outside world and into a mental fantasy fabricated from memories of the past. Ultimately, the decision is made (not by the player, mind you) to destroy this sanctuary and its caretaker and free the people back to their savage world. But as Trip so aptly put it once it was done: “Did I do the right thing?” with no clear answer and a solemn song plays during the credits as you think about the choice.
The impact of this event hit my hard primarily because Monkey and Trip weren’t brazen heroes or pure-hearted and honorable. The characters went through a bevy of emotions with one another as well as the world around them before this point. It also helped that some moral choice wasn’t given to the player in some ham-fisted manner: this was a choice of the character, and anything else would have detracted from that character development. And I’ll be damned if anyone can so easily tell me what IS the right answer for that situation. Ignorant heaven or a cognizant hell, it’s a question that comes up often in such epics, and too often is it tackled by those destined to be heroes or the true-hearted souls. Monkey and Trip were just bystanders who didn’t even know what they were doing even after they had already committed to their choice. Who the hell are they to assume they know what’s best for humanity? But as the credits rolled, I realized that how I felt about myself too. Maybe I hadn’t pressed A to make the choice for them, but their emotions led mine to the same place, and even though their story had ended, I was left wondering how to feel.
Where Enslaved brought about feelings of sincerity and some true ambiguity from its end, Nier is a game that left me nearly troubled with the things that I not as a character in the game but as a player made happen. First off, I will say that the soundtrack for this game is the best I have ever heard from a video game bar none. The heartstrings this game pulls with only its musical cues much less everything else gave me genuine pause. Music aside, the story and how the world reflects that sentiment is so poignant it nears metafictional. The people at cavia know how to weave a story about suffering, and Nier is likely the pinnacle of this effort. What few characters there are in the game, each one has their own plight that is “Japanese” in that they are all intensely convoluted. But that does not detract from the effectiveness of each sacrifice or point of no return that happens. It’s easy to play the game without paying much attention to the story and seeing it as a half-finished product with little redeeming value, but as with many modern games, the story is of a high enough quality that what gameplay issues there are can be readily excused so that the story behind it all can be followed.
Perhaps what makes the game most effective in pulling you (and I mean YOU) into what its selling is its most traditional trappings mixed in with a complete abandonment of such notions. You have levels, boss health bars, different weapons, item collection, and modular magic spells. But this is a game best explained as a third person action-adventure bullet hell. An entire level is text-based while another is an overhead dungeon crawler where you collect keys to open doors. This mish-mashing put me in a state where it wasn’t so much about the game as what was happening, and for that I commend the developers for making me think more about what I was doing. What was I killing this whole game? Why do the people that help me out do so? And worst of all, am I any worse than the persistent evil that I’m fighting because I, like all other games, will do what is necessary to beat the game? Because after beating this game a first time, the biggest revelation is yet to come. The second playthrough of the game reveals something that simply cannot be expressed here, but I will say that it will, in a narrative context, make you feel bad for beating the game. I mean bad. Just telling someone what happens does not give you same impact as going through the story with these characters, only to see the truth unravel the second time, helpless to do anything but the same exact thing despite these revelations. And cavia knew exactly what they were doing when they designed the game this way! I didn’t do it, but if you collect 100% of the weapons (a la Drakengard) and play through the game 3-4 times, the true ending, in a narrative and metanarrative move, actually erases all your save data. Affecting the gamer so directly is a dangerous move, but this game pulls it off magnificently.
I strongly wish that there was a cinematic version of Nier where all cutscenes and important gameplay sequences were parsed out and available to watch. But where that would work wonderfully with Enslaved (which was originally supposed to be a CGI movie), Nier would lose something because of its direct interactions with its players. Sure, it could be a great, touching movie, but it makes an even better game. And for that, I have to say that that game has made me realize that video games can do more than simply be “as good as a movie/book”. They can actually accomplish more because of the medium they are. As of this writing, is it half a year later, and I still feel bad for the way that game made me feel playing through it. There’s no other way to play it – and that’s the point! – but I still harbor regret for what I did to some fictional characters, my protagonist’s avatar included. And that tells me that they did something right.
Most of my childhood friends were maintained by our mutual love for video games. Some weathered the test of time better than others, but games were an indelible segment of how my friends were made and enjoyed. And no friendship was stronger or more impactful both for life and how I saw a world of select and start buttons than the one with my friend Atum.
Atum was a pretty quiet kid who got crazy as soon as he was comfortable enough. His parents were relentless on him putting on a proper face for the world (i.e. the only 9 year old that wears a bow tie on picture day), and he was a great student. But he was also just as fun and excitable a kid as any other once the school day ended. We met in first or second grade and our common interests made the friendship blossom quickly. Before we knew it, we had planned to hang out at his house after school. Still at the age where we were anxious with anticipation the whole day, it was all the sweeter when we finally maneuvered our respective mothers to give us an entire two hours together!
Having spoken to Atum about his game collection before, I knew going in that I would be outclassed in sheer numbers and skill, but I was still amazed at his collection. His subscription to Nintendo Power humbled what I thought I knew about games. He was the first kid I knew to have Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. I had never before played on a Genesis. The controller was confounding, and Sonic 2 had no patience for a learning curve. Before I knew it, we had blown through our time together even though a literal pile of games I had never heard of yet lie in wait. I was in awe of this boy and what he had at his disposal.
In retrospect, I can see how I at times had put too much emphasis on my friend’s video games instead of his friendship like I should have, but I don’t believe I was too lecherous in this regard. If anything, Atum seemed to enjoy showing me the newest games his older brother and he picked up. He became my primary source of information in new games, cheats for old games, and how approach gaming in a whole new way.
We played the first 10 hours of Final Fantasy 7 together, giving me my first taste of RPGs and how satisfying watching those numbers go up could be. It was Atum that made me think that some stupid, nature-loving game box that held no interest every time I walked by it at Blockbuster was the complex and joyful world of Secret of Mana. He showed me the insanity of Japanese games like Bust-a-Groove (of the Kitty-N variety), and we grinded out the most lopsided character to fight that big ass Oozaru in DBGT: Final Bout. We laughed at how dumb the healing in Quest 64 looked. Whatever it was, we always had a great time together.
Once we got to high school and had no classes together, we kept in less and less contact to the point that we didn’t really talk anymore. There were never any arguments or ill feelings, our lives simply didn’t meet up anywhere. Now almost a decade since we last spoke, I miss the guy. Atum showed me games that had more than just getting to the end or beating a boss. Or that you could make your own fun in a game (think the avoiding the 1up in Mario 64 video). He showed me that I didn’t just like games, I loved them. And for that, I am forever grateful to the man, even if he’s moved on from such pursuits himself. I know that somewhere inside of him, he still looks back and remembers what we accomplished in so many hours after school.
It’s incredibly easy for me to remember when I got the chicken pox. I was in third grade and a girl named Emily who was absent for a few days was running next to me at gym. She said she was absent because she had chicken pox and that I shouldn’t be so close to her because she was super contagious. But a few days later, I was sat at home for the whole week. For most people, the ordeal is irritating to no end: oatmeal baths, oven mitts, and physical anguish. But I can say with complete sincerity that getting the chicken pox was one of the most fun weeks I ever had.
Why you may ask? This all just happened to happen in late November of 1991, mere weeks after my birthday where I had gotten Super Nintendo, Super Mario World, and Road Runner’s Death Valley Rally. As you can imagine, it was a dream come true for my eight year old self. But school kept me busy to the point that I basically hadn’t really touched the system until then.
Perhaps it was simply the psychological distraction, the physical occupation of my fingers, or a mix of both, but for that whole week, I might as well have not been sick in the first place. Playing a Mario game as exciting as SMB3 without that evil Sun, Big Bertha, and other such difficulties for my young self was exhilarating. And in a time before the internet, being cut off from the more traditional networking of talking to friends during recess about game secrets, I was left to find keyholes, exits of ghost houses, and block buttons all on my own. By the end of that week, I had gotten somewhere in the Forest of Illusion where Wigglers and football players were too new and overwhelming for me. And that’s to say nothing of the entrance to the secret Cheese Bridge (or whatever that one where you have to get Yoshi past all those saws) that I didn’t yet know about.
It says something about the caliber of that game that I didn’t once touch Road Runner in that week. And that’s without going through two main worlds and that baffling star road and its 90s-slang-named conclusion. Realizing the utility of video games at this age provided me with amply fodder for the times my parents heckled me for spending so much time playing. I had been able to all but ignore a disease that all but crippled my sister when she subsequently caught it from me (at the insistence of my parents for her to “play with me” so she’d get it too, the ill-dispersers that they are). If there’s one thing I know from experience that video games can do – for better or worse – it’s that they keep idle hands and minds expertly distracted.
It’s no secret that I was a huge Ninja Turtles aficionado as a kid. We’re talking shampoo, action figures, puzzles, a portable pinball machine (did ANYONE else have this? There's nothing on the internet about it existing), those sorta gross vanilla pies all just because they had the four green brothers attached. So it was no question to my parents that if there was a TMNT game out, the least they could do was make sure I had it. And sure enough, it showed up. As you can imagine, I was elated. I’ll be able to beat up foot soldiers, mousers, Shredder, Krang! Well as we all know, the first Ninja Turtles game to grace the NES had, let’s say a loose interpretation of their world.
Going into one of the sewers, you may get the purple mousers and flies with shirtless chainsaw guys. Fine, I can accept that, and hey, there’s even a foot soldier! But down the second or third sewer, you see one of two groups when you come down: blue/red moths and an immolated mummy or a skin-eye-UFO thing, ceiling legs with spikes, and a chi-channeling guy. Huh? It was years later that I found out that Konami simply didn’t have any material on the universe aside from the important stuff, so they pulled a Super Mario Land and just did whatever. Sure they had Bebop and Rocksteady, but the damage was done; this was a weird approximation to what should’ve been a supremely simple sell.
In addition to the weird bad guys and slightly unusual environments, the game proved incredibly difficult for what I would imagine to be its target audience. I mean, just try to go back to the dam level and defuse all the bombs, it’s still excruciatingly difficult. And the few times I did pass that, why couldn’t I go any farther you ask? I couldn’t figure out how to shoot those ropes across the buildings to progress!
Thankfully, this tarnished product didn’t make my love for the last vestiges of the word Cowabunga waver. And just a couple years later, that loyalty paid off with TMNT II: the Arcade Game. I’m pretty sure I never actually played this in arcades, but praise the people who decided to have it grace the NES. The simplicity of a left-to-right, jump and attack system made this game everything my seven year old self could get behind. Tons of foot soldiers, almost everything taken straight out of the cartoon (what the hell was that samurai ghost though?), it even had proper Pizza Hut advertisements! It was this game that washed all the horrid memories of the original game away, practically never to be touched again. And much like its successor (IV, not III), this is a game I've come back to every few years for the mindless enjoyment of returning to my childhood memories of yore via jump kicks and shell shock.
What did this all mean for me though? I soon realized that the shows and toys that I loved could all find themselves into the video game world. Granted, that didn’t guarantee it would be good (i.e. 1), but if done right (i.e. 2) became a necessary component of its fandom. Later on I would discover Chip n Dale, Batman, Mickey Mouse, even Where’s Waldo. Yes, this was nothing new to the video gaming world at large. But for me, to have my childhood favorites enjoyably playable made sure that I wouldn’t be able to simply pass the world by without giving it to Shredhead myself.