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Worth Reading: 08/24/12

After a few weeks off, Worth Reading returns with a barrage of games, stories, and links to keep you busy this weekend.

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Welcome back, everyone!

I’ve been dumping Worth Reading material into a digital notebook for the last few weeks, and we’re filled to the brim with stuff today. I still have a dozen or so links that I didn’t even get to, and maybe some of those games and pieces will sneak back in next Friday.

I mentioned this on the podcast, but I just wanted to take another moment and thank the Giant Bomb community for their support over the past month and change. Few people go through an experience like mine and feel as though they have the backing of thousands. Your comments made me stronger, and this thread was bookmarked on my phone for a solid week, a source of comfort.

It’s been a bittersweet ride, and one I’m hoping to encapsulate in words soon. As a writer, catharsis tends to come from expressing yourself in the medium you spend the most time in. I’ll get there.

Thanks.

Hey, You Should Play This

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  • Zenith (PC, Mac / Free) by Jacob Knipfing, Tom Astle, Sylvia Forrest, Tom Lanciani, Evan Gonzalez, Dan Spaulding -- www.arcanekids.com

With the high-definition tweaking of Jet Set Radio on the horizon, I’ve got buzzin’ around on skates on the brain, and the student-made Zenith is an interesting distraction. I’m not sure how I feel about the dude with the big, wacky arms, but after playing Vanquish and Gravity Daze rather close to one another, I’m reminded how much fun a game based solely around movement can be. You can play Zenith with a keyboard and mouse but it’s not recommended--plug in an Xbox 360 controller. Coming to grips with wall jumping is a little tricky, but whereas Jet Set Radio keeps players relatively grounded, Zenith releases the constraints of gravity, and you’ll be flying high. Freedom feels good.

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It’s satisfying to know my horror kick doesn’t have to end soon, since October is only a few weeks away. Senscape’s Scratches has been recommended in the past, and I’m more inclined to try it, given how impressive the interactive teaser for its next project is. Rather than just give players another trailer for the long-delayed Asylum, Senscape actually released a playable demo that doesn’t feature gameplay from the finished product, but gives a strong sense of atmosphere. It’s a little jarring to be playing a first-person adventure that, at times, feels like a first-person shooter, but once you become adjusted to swapping screens, you’re quickly drawn into the world. An insane asylum is the perfect setting for a point-and-click adventure, a place of dread and madness that clicking will only make worse.

And You Should Read These

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With Nintendo likely revealing the final launch details regarding Wii U in New York next month and everyone’s focus squarely on whether Wii U has a chance in hell at replicating the success of Wii, it’s easy to forget how much trouble the 3DS was in not so long ago. Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo recently sat down with Nintendo president Satoru Iwata to extensively discuss the hurdles facing the 3DS going forward, and I’m surprisingly inclined to agree with Iwata’s optimistic assessment about the future of dedicated handhelds, especially ones produced by Nintendo. The big caveat? Nintendo has not produced the same level of innovative software that made DS catch mainstream eyeballs for 3DS, and that, more than anything, is what’s to blame for 3DS being able to catch fire, decent sales or not.

Iwata didn't let the presence of an Apple laptop and the iPhone do all of his talking. He never said the words "Apple" or "iPhone" or "Android," but when I pointed to my iPhone that was recording our interview and began asking him about why some people think that device is the future of portable gaming, he knew exactly what I was talking about. He knows people wonder about the long-term viability of dedicated gaming handhelds. He cited the arguments himself and proposed that there are people who argue that the period of gaming handhelds "has passed us by" due to the popularity of gaming on "a device that you're always going to be carrying with you at all times"—a phone. He knows that logic is what produces the doubts. "I don't think that opinion is completely nonsensical," he said.
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One of the reasons I’ve gone out of my way to play a game like Dragon’s Dogma (which I wound up enjoying) or spent an afternoon with a three-hour 8-4 Play podcast about Monster Hunter (which I still don’t care for) is a desire to better understand the games outside of my usual comfort zone. You may not care for the Japanese aesthetic or approach to design (see: Team Ninja's recent confusing and questionable comments about portraying women in Dead or Alive 5), but there are plenty of people who do enjoy them, so there must be something there. Uncomfortable experiences are a healthy deviation from the norm, whether it’s surviving a nightmare like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, or violating a personal one-hour rule for having fun to give an unorthodox game a longer, closer look.

This cultural chauvinism has reached the point where western game designers feel the need to pontificate about the apparently objective failure of Japanese game developers to design games and tell stories. Nonsense: Japanese game design is valid in entirely the same way as Japanese storytelling and visual art tradition is valid, founded on a very separate range of aesthetic ideals that share few parallels with the Western cultural traditions.

If You Click This, It Will Play

I Don’t Know About This Kickstarter Thing, But These Projects Seem Pretty Cool

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+