The way Splatoon 2 handles abilities is driving me insane

I like Splatoon 2. I think it's a fun concept and something no other game on the market is doing (well, aside from Splatoon 1). I mostly play ranked mode because I find those objectives more interesting than Turf Wars, but the main mode is pretty decent as well and the new Salmon Run mode is a lot of fun. Unfortunately every other aspect of this game drives me up the wall.

I like the way my squid kid looks, but I don't like the abilities her stuff has.
I like the way my squid kid looks, but I don't like the abilities her stuff has.

People have already talked plenty about the myriad of issues this game has. You arbitrarily can't change loadouts between matches without backing out of matchmaking entirely. Voice chat is tied to an awful phone app and can only be used with people on your friend list. Salmon Run is only available at specific arbitrary times Nintendo creates each week. All real issues, and all things I don't like. The thing I hate the most about Splatoon 2 though, and the thing I haven't seen many people talk about, is the way abilities work. Like the first game you can dress up your squid kid in a variety of outfits, decking them out to look as fresh as possible. Fashion is a huge part of this game's identity, and almost everyone who plays it enjoys playing dress up with their squid kid to give them a unique look that reflects their own tastes. Entirely counter to this though the game ties abilities to clothing, making some pieces of clothing objectively worse than other. Though any clothing can have three sub-abilities that can eventually be changed, the primary ability for each piece of clothing is pre-set and cannot be changed. What's more, certain abilities can only show up as primary abilities on specific equipment, meaning you're forced into wearing certain clothes if you want specific abilities. Fancy the Ninja Squid ability that lets you swim through ink without making splashes the enemy can see? Better buy one of the few specific tops that have it, and good luck finding headgear and shoes that match and also have good primaries. I really like the shirt my squid is rocking right now, but the primary ability is something I could have as a secondary too, so I'm better off ditching it for something I like the look of less but has a unique ability that can't pop up as a secondary. What fun.

Unlike primary abilities, secondary abilities are not tied to equipment and instead will randomly be rolled for your equipment as it levels up. Given that this is random, it's unlikely that you'll get all of the abilities you want on the first try. This is where things turn into a nightmare.

Splatoon 2 offers three methods of changing your abilities. You can spend a shell, which is only obtainable during splatfests, to reroll your slots and immediately replace them with new abilities. You can scrub the abilities from an item for 20,000 coins, which gives you ability shards but forces you to re-level your gear to gain new abilities. And finally you can use ability shards, which allow you to add specific abilities to specific secondary slots.

Well that doesn't sound too bad right? Just scrub or reroll the ones you don't want and with a bit of time you can eventually have all of the abilities you want. Except you have to reroll or scrub all three abilities. Got two abilities you want but one you don't? Too bad, gotta start all over again. Well what about those ability chunk things? Those must make things easier, right?

What is the point of this???
What is the point of this???

It takes ten ability chunks to add a single ability. What's more, ability chunks aren't a generic currency that can be used for any ability. Each ability you scrub creates an ability chunk specific to that ability. Also certain gear will arbitrarily require twenty ability chunks instead of ten to add specific abilities, so looking fresh might even cost you extra. Oh yeah, also the abilities your gear can learn is actually determined by the brand of clothing, so you'll most likely have to buy different clothing just to grind out ability chunks for the stuff you actually want to wear. Wish I'd known this before I wasted four shells rerolling the same gear over and over again. So go find headgear, a shirt and shoes that drop the abilities you want, and then go grind to level them up like thirty times. And keep in mind that the number of stars your clothing has determines how much XP it takes for each ability to unlock. Isn't this game theoretically aimed at children?

I cannot fathom why this system is in the game. There aren't micro-transactions in the game to make this grind any faster, so it's not like Nintendo put time sinks in the game to try and generate extra revenue. There are drinks you can get that temporarily increase xp gain as well as making specific abilities more likely on level up, but the tickets from them can only be obtained through the salmon run hoard mode that's only available at certain scheduled times, and the description for them says they only "slightly" increase the chance to receive that ability anyway. It is the most asinine leveling scheme I've ever seen in a multiplayer game, even loot boxes that drop ability shards would be preferable to this convoluted mess. Part of me wants to fall for whatever trick Nintendo is trying to pull on me and grind out the abilities I want, but the more likely outcome is I stop playing Splatoon 2, and that's a damn shame.


Managing the fanbase when your franchise is on hiatus

Recently the publishers of two of my favorite franchises have caused a lot of anger among their fanbases, those two franchises being Metroid and Metal Gear. Whether the anger is righteous or not, both companies have made some decisions that almost anyone who cares about either property could have told you wouldn't go over well, and there's one common factor between the two.

I wish I could forget this game happened
I wish I could forget this game happened

Let's start with Metroid, as I think it's both an easier one to defend and more likely to make a return to limelight at some point in the future. In 2015 Metroid's future seemed uncertain. The 2010 release of Metroid: Other M had failed both commercially and critically among the fanbase, and Nintendo quietly moved the franchise to the back-burner after eight years of fairly steady releases. Nintendo would occasionally pay the franchise lipservice in interviews, but many fans were starting to give up hope as year after year passed without the announcement of a new game. This finally changed with the announcement of not only a new Metroid game, but one returning to the Metroid Prime branding. Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a... co-op shooter staring generic Galactic Federation troops set in the Metroid Prime universe.

Needless to say people weren't happy. Nintendo was slapping the Metroid brand on some generic shooter that didn't even star Samus? Did they not hear us all asking for a traditional Metroidvania styled sidescroller or Prime game? I can't believe they kept us waiting for half a decade for this!

To clarify, I don't think Nintendo is ignorant to the fact that fans want the Metroid series to return to form after the linear story driven disaster that was Other M, hell Nintendo employees have stated as much in multiple interviews, but if Reggie came up to me before E3 that year and told me that Nintendo was going to release a spin-off for the 3DS in order to reintroduce the Metroid brand before announcing a more traditional Metroid a few years later for their next in-development console I could have immediately told him it wasn't going to go over well. From the outside fan perspective it merely looks like Nintendo is cashing in on a recognizable brand to make a quick buck, and that the traditional form of Metroid as we know it might as well be dead. The rage against Federation Force never really died down even as we approached its eventual release, and it was not at all helped by the release and then takedown of AM2R: Another Metroid 2 Remake.

AM2R is a fan remake of the Game Boy game Metroid II: Return of Samus that's been in the works since 2008. Done in the style of Metroid: Zero Mission, the project is like a what-if dream game where Nintendo had followed up their 16-bit remake of the original Metroid with a remake of its Game Boy sequel, bringing the mechanics, graphics and level design more in-line with Super Metroid. When development first started it was hard to take it very seriously. Many other fans had attempted similar projects, hence the name Another Metroid 2 Remake. But as time went on and an eventual demo was released it became clear that this version might actually see life beyond some screenshots and a trailer or two, leading up to the game's eventual release on the thirtieth anniversary of the original Metroid's release in Japan.

You should check out AM2R if you care about Metroid, it's really good
You should check out AM2R if you care about Metroid, it's really good

As far as fan projects go AM2R is pretty close to the top of the list, a fantastic re-imagining of a forgotten entry with a surprising amount of polish. Sure it's not perfect, but it's still a great Metroid game and closer to the beloved side-scrolling entries than that 3DS game Nintendo's trying to push on us. The fan game quickly got spread around to various gaming communities and websites as something any Metroid fan should check out, and then was almost as quickly DMCAed off of every site hosting it by Nintendo.

Nintendo is perfectly within their right to protect their IPs, but this move angered a lot of fans. If Nintendo doesn't want to give us a new 2D Metroid why not leave this guy alone? What I think a lot of fans haven't done however is look at the actual way Nintendo went about taking the game down.

First off, rather than send the usual Cease and Desist letter that legally prevents the creator from continuing his work, they sent a DMCA takedown to any website hosting the file. This does not affect the torrent that has been up since the day the game released, allowing fans to continue to download the game. The second, and more important part, is the fact that they waited until after the game came out to take action. Often companies with send a C&D to a fan project when it starts to gain traction among fans and the media. Chrono Resurrection is a great example, a 3D remake of ten memorable scenes from Chrono Trigger. Set to release in December 2004, Square Enix sent the team a Cease and Desist that September, preventing the project's release and wasting all of the effort that went into the fan endeavor.

When you put something on the internet that people care about it's going to exist forever, anyone who's internet savvy enough can tell you that. If Nintendo wanted to ensure that no one could play AM2R, they could have easily sent a C&D days or weeks before the game's release. But they didn't. Instead they made the choice that allows them to save face legally while still allowing the fan project to get out, because as much as fans might think that Nintendo loathes their fans they do understand that maintaining that fanbase is important. Yes, at the end of the day Nintendo is a business and not a person, but I do believe they care about keeping that core Nintendo fanbase around whether it's because they're their most reliable source of income or because higher ups within the company genuinely do care about the fans. Either way Nintendo handled this in a way where the reality is everyone wins. It's not going to make me go out and buy Federation Force, but I'm certainly not going to have a chip on my shoulder when the next mainline entry in the Metroid franchise is announced.

And now on the complete opposite side of the spectrum we have Metal Gear. Unlike Metroid the Metal Gear series hasn't been on hiatus, the last three years having seen the releases of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. While a fantastic game The Phantom Pain was obviously unfinished, and with word of Hideo Kojima being ousted from Konami even before the game's release it's clear that the finished project isn't entirely what he had envisioned. Taking Kojima's side, the fanbase was furious with Konami and to this day flood their social medias with angry pleas to "finish" the game and give us "Chapter 3." With the anger at Konami for ruining what was supposed to be the grand finale to the lengthy Metal Gear Saga, the company would have to make a hell of a first impression with their next project if they wanted to quench the flames of enraged fans. Instead they remade a bunch of Metal Gear Solid 3 cutscenes for use exclusively in a pachinko machine.

How on Earth does a goddamn pachinko machine warrant this much effort
How on Earth does a goddamn pachinko machine warrant this much effort

If you're a huge fan of MGS3 like myself it's hard not to feel heartbroken watching these incredibly detailed recreations of famous moments from the game, envisioning a full Fox Engine remake of the game that took the original's level design but transplanted MGSV's fantastic controls and guard AI in, and not weep about what could have been. Konami has solid gold in their hands and they're wasting it in a stupid gambling machine where you just watch balls drop down a bunch of pegs. Why waste so much effort when they could have easily just reused the PS2 version's cutscenes, do the people at pachinko parlors really care that much about graphical quality? Though the machine and its trailers were only meant for Japan, the YouTube videos are full of salty messages from English speaking fans, screaming at Konami over their flagrant disregard for their most beloved franchise. People were already mad before the pachinko machine, but now things were even worse. Short of announcing the redone cutscenes would also be features in a full MGS3 remake for modern consoles, it was hard to imagine what Konami could do to win back the fans. Enter Metal Gear Survive.

Metal Gear Survive is a co-op zombie survival game set in an alternate dimension within the Metal Gear timeline. If you like Metal Gear for reasons other than the fact that it has the words Metal Gear in the title, that probably sounds about as far as you can get from the things you like about the series. Though Big Boss and Kaz make a brief appearance in the trailer, the game seems to be set in a zombie wasteland where you and three other Mother Base soldiers will fight countless faceless creatures to survive.

Now let's go over why this hasn't captivated fans, starting off by asking the question what is Metal Gear. Metal Gear is actually different things to different people, but there are a few core tenants that are consistent throughout every title. First off is stealth. Every single main Metal Gear game has been a stealth action game, and though later entries began to let you run and gun your way through things, stealth has always been the main tenant of Metal Gear gameplay. Even the spin-off Metal Gear Acid games were still stealth games, just in card form.

The other factor are the story and characters. Like it or hate it it's hard to ignore the huge impact Metal Gear's story and characters have had on numerous fans. For over two decades fans have followed the tales of Solid Snake and Big Boss, analyzing the stories for themes and coming up with theories between releases to explain things like Liquid Snake's arm in MGS2. The spin-offs of Metal Gear all retained these elements, Ghost Babel telling a story similar to the original Metal Gear Solid, the Acid games telling insane tales akin to MGS2's off the wall plot, and Metal Gear Rising expanding upon Raiden's character and showing us the world left after the events of MGS4.

If you didn't already know would you honestly guess that this was a screenshot of the upcoming Metal Gear game?
If you didn't already know would you honestly guess that this was a screenshot of the upcoming Metal Gear game?

Survive doesn't appear to have any of these. The trailer shows a bunch of soldiers fighting zombies at close range with melee weapons, bows and shotguns, and after a cameo appearance of Big Boss and Kaz peacing the fuck out you're left with four generic soldiers fighting a bunch of zombies in a barren wasteland. Maybe I'm assuming too much, but I can't imagine a game where four create a character player characters fight a bunch of zombies that don't even have heads is gonna have a ton of exposition or plot in it. So if you take Metal Gear but take out the stealth gameplay, all of the characters people care about, and the focus on an intricate plot... what exactly about this makes it Metal Gear still? Survive just looks like a low effort cash-grab, especially given the amount of recycled assets from MGSV. Hell the goddamn pachinko machine I was talking about earlier had more original assets created for it.

Fans are not adverse to spin-offs. Though it initially had a rough reception when it was unveiled at the VGAs, Metal Gear Rising ultimately won over a lot of fans with its deep character action gameplay, fun plot and expansion of Raiden's character. It doesn't play like a Metal Gear game, but a game where you get to play as one of the series' many cybernetic ninjas is one of the most obvious places for a spin-off to go and it still retains many of Metal Gear's trappings in its storytelling.

Though they might have problems, the biggest thing that both Federation Force and Survive got wrong is simply timing. When a franchise is in a place of turmoil, whether it's because there hasn't been a big release in years, the last entry was botched or key members behind the older titles have left the company, your next move has to give fans confidence that you're still going to do right by them and by the series. A spin-off is something you create for a healthy franchise, a snack between meals to satiate your appetite while the main course is being prepared. When you transplant the next main entry with a spin-off, fans begin to think this is the new direction the franchise is taking, or that there is no new game coming and the publisher is just trying to make a quick cheap buck while their brand is still recognizable. Though a company can recover from a few missteps, if they want the next big entry to be a success they can't simply take the fans for granted in the interim. They don't have the whole picture.


Why Are We Still Here? Just to Suffer? Coming to Terms with a Post-Metal Gear World

No Caption Provided

Even though I finally stopped playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain over a week ago, I still haven't really been able to stop thinking about both the game itself and the franchise as a whole. I've been a Metal Gear fan for about ten years, hopping on the series with Twin Snakes, the GameCube remake of the first Metal Gear Solid. I instantly fell in love with the story, characters and gameplay, and immediately sought out a copy of MGS2 once I finished it, and then MGS3 after that. Over the years I've had my ups and downs with the series, but even at its most dire I've never considered myself a lapsed Metal Gear fan. It's always been a small part of my identity. Due to both personal disappointment and the resolution of the series' plot with MGS4 you would expect to feel a sense of finality with the series, but Peace Walker following shortly afterward never gave me the chance to feel like I could move on from this fandom. With each promise from Kojima that he was working on his final Metal Gear I scoffed, it was obvious that either Konami or himself were forcing him to continue to endlessly direct new Metal gear games. Ironically it was likely a combination of both that caused the series to finally end.

Though I don't look back on it as fondly anymore, Twin Snakes will always hold a special place in my heart for being my introduction to this amazing series.
Though I don't look back on it as fondly anymore, Twin Snakes will always hold a special place in my heart for being my introduction to this amazing series.

I didn't play Peace Walker at its initial release, (I didn't own a PSP, having bought one for Portable Ops and then selling it after fighting with the controls for several hours) but got around to it when it made its way to consoles via the HD Collection. After playing through and enjoying the hell out of it I was back to being positive about the franchise's future, and quickly became excited about "Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes" which was teased not too long after. I still remember being in LA visiting family when the gameplay demo of Ground Zeroes hit, and ignoring everyone to watch it on my phone the second I found out about it. I followed the "Phantom Pain" excitement, enjoyed the hell out of Metal Gear Rising, revisited the older games countless times and even played through the MSX games and most of the spin-offs for the first time. I bought Ground Zeroes on three different platforms and 100%ed the game on all of them, squeezing a combined 100+ hours out of a game most people chastised for its short length. I was ready and excited for what looked to be the ultimate culmination of both the evolving story and gameplay of the franchise I loved.

The SNATCHERS did a lot of shit, but I wish there was still more left for them to do.
The SNATCHERS did a lot of shit, but I wish there was still more left for them to do.

And then one day it was finally in my hands. I played through every mission and every side-op, found every optional cutscene I read about, listened to every second of every tape. The story might not have been what was sold to me in the trailers, and it was definitely limp in some spots, but I still loved most of what was there. In spite of a sloppy execution I instantly fell in love with the ending twist, and couldn't stop thinking about its ramifications on the franchise and characters for the rest of the day. I went on to complete all of the side-tasks, S Rank every mission, capture every stupid animal in the game. My completion rating eventually hit 100%, but I continued to unlock things that weren't counted like research items, emblem parts and sound effect tapes. About a week ago I'd exhausted everything to do in the game save for completing my FOB and developing/dismantling a nuke. There was nothing left for me to do but leave the game running at my base as resources accumulated automatically, so I could eventually hit a button and then leave the game running at my base while timers ran down. I still want to do new things, find new content, anything to let me play more Metal Gear Solid V... but there's no more Metal Gear Solid V left to play.

It all began with a bunch of old fools. Now they've all passed away, their era of folly is over.
It all began with a bunch of old fools. Now they've all passed away, their era of folly is over.

It was only recently that it finally hit me one of my favorite franchises of all time is now over. Over the years I've claimed I would love for Kojima to move on and do something that isn't Metal Gear again, but that was in a world where I felt like Metal Gear would never leave. "The story culminated with MGS4, we don't need more games to fill in the gaps." It's easy to say you don't need something when you're guaranteed it, but entirely different once that thing is actually gone. Since finishing the last mission I've been reading about fan speculation and cut content, trying to link implications from Phantom Pain to other Metal Gear games, and desperately wishing that Konami would announce DLC to add the content that was cut back into the game and give me more gameplay and story to consume. But the reality is none of this matters anymore. Nothing people speculate about will ever be confirmed, there won't be new games that expand upon these connections and create new ones, and the cut content will never be restored, the unfinished plot threads never completed. What caused the split between Konami and Kojima? Was it Konami having unrealistic expectations of game development? Or was it Kojima going overboard and spending far too much money on a single game? Whatever the reason, there's no doubt in my mind that this conflict was a huge factor in Konami's decision to get out of the video game industry, and leaving both Kojima and Metal Gear behind. Konami has gone on record saying there are no plans for story DLC for Phantom Pain, and though they claim Metal Gear games will continue with a new team we all know that's a load of bullshit. Solid, Acid, Rising, none of it will continue, not in any form we want them to at least. The story of Metal Gear is over, the gameplay will never be refined or iterated upon again, and the world will go on without Snakes.

For me, this truth is a much harder one to accept than the one at the end of The Phantom Pain. It's the reason I decided to write this blog post, to hopefully give myself a sense of finality to this fandom I've been a part of for so long. There's no way I can organize my complicated, disjointed feelings about this series into a coherent blog post with a clear purpose and structure, but I had to write something about all of this. Metal Gear has meant too much to me to let it simply pass by without saying anything. For the first time since I entered the world of Metal Gear over a decade ago, the Metal Gear series now lies entirely in the past. There's nothing complicated or hard to understand about this simple fact, and yet even as I write this I still feel this slight lingering sensation. Part of my brain feels like the series is still there, just like it always has been. But at the same time I feel the reality, that I'll never see any of these characters again. And it won't stop hurting.

You feel it too, don't you?

No Caption Provided


Metal Gear Scanlon: The Twin Playthroughs - Part 03 - Arm Like a Cannon

No Caption Provided

PREVIOUS PART - Part 02 - Flip Kickin' Concrete

Welcome back to Metal Gear Scanlon: The Twin Playthroughs! In these blogs I chronicle my journey through Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, noting the differences between the remake and the PS1 original, as well as posting videos of some of the cutscenes with amusing differences. Think of it as an unofficial companion piece to Metal Gear Scanlon. If this is your first time joining us, you can start back at part one by clicking here.

Right off the bat Twin Snakes gives us a little time saver by making the door in the room Baker was in Level 2, allowing me to exit through it with my Level 2 card rather than backtracking through the little hallway. It's a nice gesture, though I thought the door being a higher level than we had in the PS1 version was a nice world building touch, not having every door we come across be accessible right away.

Like the PS1 version guards have now been dispatched to the armory, though they're pretty easy to deal with. I hold one up for his dog tags and then tranq the other from across the room.

The dog tags are probably the best example of a mechanic incorporated into Twin Snakes just because it was in 2. While in MGS2 collecting enemy dog tags unlocked special cheat items, in Twin Snakes collecting dog tags... gets you nothing. Even if you were to hold up every guard on every difficulty level to collect their dog tags you get absolutely nothing for it. Not only is it pointless, the dog tag mechanic actually detracts from the game in a few spots which I'll show later on.

The FAMAS room inexplicably has the first Cardboard Box in Twin Snakes
The FAMAS room inexplicably has the first Cardboard Box in Twin Snakes

I head into the room with the FAMAS, which curiously now also houses the first cardboard box as well. The room is a bit differently designed, on the PS1 there were both vertical and horizontal lasers while in Twin Snakes there are just horizontal. The room itself also has some more static objects scattered around it.

After clearing out the armory I head back to the first floor and contact Meryl. Most of the Codec scenes play out the same way they did on the PS1, just with the redone acting and new translation.

While waiting for Meryl to open the door I go to collect the items I can now grab with my Level 2 card. The first thing I do is knock out the guard on the bottom floor. While running to the room with the SOCOM suppressor in it I hear a guard over the radio asking why someone is late with their status report. Like in MGS2, certain guards have to radio in to command at set intervals to let them know nothing is wrong, and if they miss a report guards are sent to the area to check up on them. It doesn't trigger an alert or even a caution, but they'll come in the room and wake up any sleeping guards they find. (Or trigger a caution if they find a corpse instead).

While the commander is calling guards in I head for the suppressor room. Drew noted in the video that he was the easiest guard to deal with since he never turns to face the door, so I went in feeling confident he wouldn't be any trouble. I jump up onto a box with an item on top of it, and as I jump down the guard turns around and spots me. Turns out his patrol pattern is different in Twin Snakes. This is the kind of change I actually like in a remake, mixing things up so a player who goes in expecting to be able to breeze through with their knowledge of the original screws up because of that confidence and knowledge from the original.

In the PS1 version a guard seeing you would instantly trigger an alert, but in MGS2 (and thus by extension Twin Snakes) guards have to pull out their radio and tell the commander they found an intruder. If you can knock out or kill the guard before he can pull out his radio you're saved from consequences entirely, and if you incapacitate them after they pull out the radio but before they finish their sentence guards will be sent to check up on him. Even if you don't get him until the last syllable of his message, the commander will have no idea what he was talking about and send a search team. Since the room was isolated from the rest of the hangar I have a pretty easy time dealing with him, but as I leave the room I find the guard I'd knocked out earlier have woken up. On top of that the search team is coming down the stairs, leaving me with not a lot of options.

I avoid the search team but end up getting spotted by the guard, but knock him out. The search team doesn't notice but a guard on the walkway above hears our scuffle, and comes down to see what's going on. I really screw things up and let him wake up the other guard, and then get spotted by both of them. I can't get them both before one calls in an alert, and end up running up stairs to hide in the room on the left. There's a pile of crates with a little gap for Snake to squeeze into, so I hide in there as the alert drops down into an evasion.

Guards have a set routine for clearing each room during an Evasion. The gap behind the crates in the corner is a safe spot.
Guards have a set routine for clearing each room during an Evasion. The gap behind the crates in the corner is a safe spot.

Evasions are a mechanic added to MGS2, set between alert and caution. Rather than the enemy going from knowing exactly where you are to just looking around a bit more than normal, in evasion enemies will breach and search a room for Snake. The guards are programmed to enter and search the room in a specific way, so there are usually some specific hiding spots in each room that are "safe" to use. This is one of the additions I really like in Twin Snakes. In the original if you got spotted you just had to find a spot far enough out of the way that the alert timer would run out before guards caught up with you, and they would suddenly forget they were chasing you. Unfortunately because the normal stealth is such a cake walk in Twin Snakes you rarely see Evasion Mode in action.

VIDEO - Evasion Mode - Clearing a Room

The lasers Drew struggled with are much easier to deal with now.
The lasers Drew struggled with are much easier to deal with now.

Once the guards leave the room the evasion drops down to a caution and I wait out the timer, taking a chance at one point to peak my head out the door and shoot out the camera near the stairs with my newly suppressed SOCOM. I play a lot more cautiously at this point and don't run into any more trouble. Once I've grabbed the Mine Detector, I drop down from the railing and enter the cargo door, which was opened at some point during my earlier shenanigans. In addition to the lasers moving much slower than on the PS1, the developers added a couple of features to make this area easier. First off there's a fire extinguisher on the far wall, and shooting it will cause its expellant to spray all over the room and reveal the infrared lasers. The second addition are control boxes placed next to each laser gate, which you can shoot to deactivate that laser gate.

I run out into the Canyon and talk with Deepthroat, and then use the Mine Detector to collect the mines. A couple extra mines have been placed along the path on the right of the right boulder, another addition to trick players who have the PS1 version memorized. After collecting the mines and healing up with a Ration so I can collect the one to the left, I walk forward and trigger the introduction to Raven and his tank, which oddly enough is one of the few cutscenes that tries to make Snake less cool. Rather than jumping out of the way of the tank blast, it knocks Snake straight backwards into the cargo door. I have to imagine this was an intentional joke about how every other cutscene makes Snake into a bullet dodging badass, so the one ridiculous instance in the original they use to knock him flat on his ass.

VIDEO - Vulcan Raven's Introduction

This crevice added to the center of the canyon can be used to take cover.
This crevice added to the center of the canyon can be used to take cover.

The Tank fight doesn't change as much as some of the other boss fights, though you can shoot the gunner in first person. The tank constantly moving around makes this a bit hard, so grenades are still your best bet. This is also a good spot to mention the addition of the stamina bar to bosses in addition to their health. In MGS2 bosses could be "knocked out" by using non-lethal weapons to take out their stamina, so the boss fight wouldn't count as a kill in you final rankings. This is present in Twin Snakes as well, so if you want to take out the gunners non-lethally your best bet is with stun grenades. A crevice has been added to the center of the canyon, which you can drop down into to hide as well as to find a couple of items. I ended up using a chaff grenade so I could get up to the tank, and then used claymores to take out its treads and slow it down significantly. After that I just lobbed stun grenades into the gunner seat and fell back on my M9 when I ran out of those.

Originally I was only going to post the Ocelot fight, but I figured since I'm recording them all there's no reason not to include every boss fight. If you want to watch me fight the tank for about four minutes, you can click the video below. If not, I'd still recommend you click on the video beneath that one, in which Snake shows off his pitching arm and punches a dude who's on fire right in the face.

VIDEO - Tank Boss Fight

VIDEO - Snake Finishes off the Tank

What a badass. Missed the chance for a rad one-liner like "chill out" though. Well, that's it for Part 3! It's looking like I'll be caught up with the videos by the end of the week, at which point I'll try to get a new blog out a day or two after each new episode of Metal Gear Scanlon gets posted. Thanks for reading again!


Metal Gear Scanlon: The Twin Playthroughs - Part 02 - Flip Kickin' Concrete

No Caption Provided

PREVIOUS PART - Part 01 - Metal Gear Scanlon: The Twin Playthroughs

Welcome back to Metal Gear Scanlon: The Twin Playthroughs! In these blogs I chronicle my journey through Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, noting the differences between the remake and the PS1 original, as well as posting videos of some of the cutscenes with amusing differences. Think of it as an unofficial companion piece to Metal Gear Scanlon. If you haven't already, you can read part one by clicking here.

Following the DARPA Chief's directions, I head down to the second floor basement. Walking through the armory is a great way to appreciate one of the upgrades carried over from MGS2: the card key works without being equipped. Given the description of the card using the salts in your body in order to open doors, it never made sense that you have to have it equipped as if you were going to slide it through a card reader or something.

A couple minor differences here, the first being that once you activate a trap door it stays open. There's also a few lockers in the C4 room with additional C4 in them. This might be a trade-off for items not respawning when you leave rooms anymore, as they give you just enough to blast open all five explodable walls in the area.

In the original game the challenge here was avoiding gun cameras without your radar. In Twin Snakes, the challenge is... uhh.....
In the original game the challenge here was avoiding gun cameras without your radar. In Twin Snakes, the challenge is... uhh.....

Speaking of explodable walls, the gun cameras in the optional hallway are a lot easier to deal with when you can just shoot them out in first person with your SOCOM. There was a Ration in there, but I was already full up at this point.

VIDEO - Ocelot's Introduction

Ah, the Ocelot fight. As Dan says in the episode, the updated mechanics in Twin Snakes ruin this boss battle. Not being able to walk through the center of the room doesn't matter when you can shoot straight through it via first person. Along with the ability to shift left and right while in first person using the shoulder buttons, and the pipes along the walls you can shoot to temporarily stun Ocelot, this goes from a challenging fight to a complete joke. If you want, you can click the link below to watch me beat Ocelot on my first attempt in roughly thirty seconds.

VIDEO - Ocelot Boss Fight

After the Ocelot fight the Cyborg Ninja shows up, but this time instead of just chopping off Ocelot's hand and peacing out he decides to fight Snake, in a ridiculous wire-fu fight involving flip kicking a slab of concrete, Matrix bullet dodging, and the sound of a car slamming on the breaks. Seriously, you should watch this video.

VIDEO - The Cyborg Ninja Appears

Like the rest of the game, the Ninja's color pallet got a lot duller with the jump from PS1 to GameCube.
Like the rest of the game, the Ninja's color pallet got a lot duller with the jump from PS1 to GameCube.

As you can hear in the video, the Cyborg Ninja got recast for the remake. Originally sharing an actor with the DARPA Chief, he is now voiced by Rob Paulsen, who you might know as classic cartoon characters like Raphael from the original Ninja Turtles cartoon, Yakko from the Animaniacs, and Pinky from Pinky and the Brain. I've got mixed feelings on the recasting, as I think he does the job better in some spots and the original actor in others.

After the Ninja is done flipping out both figuratively and literally, Snake talks with Baker about a few things. A minor detail, but in Twin Snakes Baker ends up at the bottom of the room rather than the top, which makes more sense than falling over when the C4 exploded and then crawling around to the other side of the pillar. Eventually the conversation changes to Meryl's Codec frequency. In the PS1 version Snake just swears when Baker tells him he forgot the password. His reaction in Twin Snakes though is a little bit more... dramatic.

VIDEO - Baker Forgets Meryl's Frequency

Snake you're supposed to rescue this guy, calm down! Eventually remembering the frequency is on the back of "the package", which is an odd choice of words that confused the hell out of me when I first played Twin Snakes, the rest of their conversation plays out similarly to the PS1 version. A couple differences I noticed are different FMV footage while Baker is talking about nuclear waste and MUF, and that he never mentions "Rivermore National Labs", instead just referring to "competitors".

After a boss fight in the PS1 version Snake will smoke a cigarette and the player's health bar extends, and their capacity for ammo and rations increases as well. In Twin Snakes the player starts out with a full life bar and item capacity, the latter varying depending on the difficulty selected and equivalent to Metal Gear Solid 2's.

And that's it for Part 2! Like I said last time, now that the brunt of the mechanics are out of the way these comparisons are gonna get a lot shorter. Thanks for reading!

NEXT PART - Part 03 - Arm Like a Cannon


Metal Gear Scanlon: The Twin Playthroughs - Part 01

No Caption Provided

Watching Drew play through the original Metal Gear Solid has given me the itch to play through one of the Metal Gear games again, but having just played through the entire series (from the MSX games all the through Peace Walker) back when The Legacy Collection came out, I decided I'd instead go through a game I haven't played in years: Metal Gear Solid - The Twin Snakes. As an unofficial companion piece to Metal Gear Scanlon, I decided I'd chronicle my own adventure through the 2004 GameCube remake of the original, recording my thoughts and pointing out differences between the two versions, as well as including a few of the cutscenes with notable changes in each update.

Because some people are likely experiencing Metal Gear Solid for the first time alongside Drew, these blogs will be completely free of spoilers for Metal Gear Solid or any later titles in the series. I will however be talking about the mechanics of Metal Gear Solid 2 and how they relate to Twin Snakes, as well as more nebulous concepts like atmosphere and style, just without any of the story context. Also, try not to look at the related videos for any YouTube clips I post, as they might contain spoilers. Now, with formalities out of the way let's delve into Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes.

Solid Snake (David Hayter)
Solid Snake (David Hayter)

Twin Snakes starts out with the same cold opening as the PS1 version, but with different choreography, music, and redone voice work. Twin Snakes is somewhat controversial within the fandom for its rerecorded voice acting. Many fans say the acting in Twin Snakes is terrible and doesn't hold a candle to the original. I will talk about any major differences between the voices in the original and Twin Snakes, and you'll get to hear parts of it yourself in the cutscenes I include in each blog post, but I won't be talking too much about the acting because it's subjective and also pretty hard to describe through just text. I will say I prefer the PS1 acting for the most part though.

Twin Snakes mixed things up a bit by showing Snake having to manually steer the SDV through an underwater laser field, after which he crashes into the wall, ejects, and starts to swim up to the surface. With that the scene fades out, and we are greeted by the title screen along with a remix of the PS1 title screen music. This is one of the few songs from the original you'll hear in this remake.

VIDEO - Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes - Title Screen

Most of the options from the PS1 version are here, though the VR Missions are absent. The briefing cutscenes have all been redone in-engine, and are a lot less static as a result. Characters move around and gesture, which makes the 30+ minutes of briefing videos a bit easier to sit through.

When starting a new game you're given the same difficulty selection as in MGS2: Very Easy, Easy, Normal, Hard and Extreme, as well as a few options for the radar depending on your difficulty. Though the North American PS1 release had four difficulties: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Extreme, the original Japanese release only had one difficulty, equivalent to the American version's Easy. The later Japan only re-release Metal Gear Solid: Integral added the Very Easy difficulty later found in Metal Gear Solid 2.

After a brief cutscene as Snake swings into the docks we gain control of him, and this is a good place to talk about the differences in gameplay. Twin Snakes doesn't just take the original Metal Gear Solid and make it look like Metal Gear Solid 2, it also incorporates the mechanics of Metal Gear Solid 2. First person aiming, enhanced guard AI, persistent bodies, holding up guards, evasion mode; every mechanical update from the sequel is in Twin Snakes. Despite this the level design is largely unchanged in Twin Snakes, with only a few minor tweaks here and there in order to better incorporate the new mechanics. You can also skip codec calls by pressing Y, and zoom the camera in during cutscenes with the shoulder button and move the camera around with the right stick, just like in MGS2.

The new controls are hampered a bit by the GameCube controller though. With one less shoulder button, no select button, and no pressure sensitive face buttons, a few compromises had to be made in order to fit every function. Additionally the face button layout isn't the same as the PS2 games, which can be confusing if you've spent a lot of time with them. A is the shoot/grab button, B is punch, Y is the action button, and X is the crouch button. The Codec is accessed by pressing Start and A at the same time, which isn't too bad, but pressing start by itself doesn't pause. Instead, you have to press Start and the B Button. Yeah, I don't get it either. Running with your gun out is done by holding B while holding A, as is locking on in first person. Lowering your weapon without shooting is done by holding Y while your gun is drawn, and then releasing the A button before letting go of the Y button. Once you get used to the control scheme it works pretty well, but it can be awkward at first.

I COULD sneak around, or I could just hide in this locker until the elevator shows up.
I COULD sneak around, or I could just hide in this locker until the elevator shows up.

In the Cargo Dock the only real difference is a few lockers placed in the upper left corner. Inside of one of them is the M9 tranquilizer pistol, a gun that completely breaks this game. Non-lethal and completely silent, you no longer have to learn patterns and slip by enemies without disturbing them. Instead you simply pop into first person and shoot a dart into a guards head, and they'll pass out. Even if another guard notices his unconscious buddy, he'll simply assume he fell asleep on the job and kick him back awake, and the guard waking up will have no idea what happened.

In addition to holding the most important weapon in the game, you can also use the locker to either stuff enemy bodies into or hide in them yourself. I decided to hide in the locker until the elevator came down, at which point I waited for the guard to move out of the way and hopped on board. At this point Snake takes off his gear like in the PS1 version, but it's shot a bit differently...

VIDEO - Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes - Title Card Sequence

The late title card sequence is a good example of the difference in tone between Metal Gear Solid and The Twin Snakes. The PS1 version simply has Snake rip off his scuba gear off camera, stand up, and then turn around to face the player as the game's title card comes up, all underscored by synth music that sounds like it was ripped straight out of an 80's action movie. It's understated and moody, and that's what makes it cool. Twin Snakes on the other hand has Snake dramatically ripping off his gear as bumping techno music comes in. We get white flashes with sound effects as the game cuts to different angles and close ups, and then cuts to Liquid walking to the Hind D, who dramatically starts to turn towards the camera. The editing gets more frantic as the game cuts between the two Snakes, panning across the characters, zooms accompanied by the sound effects of jet planes, until the camera zooms in on Liquid's face, followed by Snake's, and then zooms out as the music reaches its crescendo and the title card appears above Snake.

Snake surveys the area in a cutscene
Snake surveys the area in a cutscene

While the original felt like it was trying to be subtle, The Twin Snakes is trying to be in your face as possible, and in going so over the top often ends up being ridiculous. Though the two games tell the same tale, the redone cutscenes directed by Japanese filmmaker Ryuhei Kitamura give the remake a completely different tone. These cutscenes are the highlight of Twin Snakes, and I would definitely recommend you click on any video links in these blogs as I'll be including all of the ones I find the most stupid. Though this difference in tone makes it hard to recommend The Twin Snakes as a replacement to Metal Gear Solid, as a companion piece it is the most interesting part of the experience. Things are going to get really dumb as the action starts matching the editing. After that completely ludicrous late title card Snake contacts the Colonel over Codec, and is introduced to Naomi and Mei Ling, along with their new accents.

VIDEO - Introduction to Naomi and Mei Ling

When recording Twin Snakes, Naomi's British accent and Mei Ling's Chinese accent were both changed to generic American accents, though both are still voiced by the same actresses from the original. Naomi's new accent is generally hated among the fan-base, while Mei Ling's is more mixed, as a Chinese girl who was born and raised in America having a Chinese accent didn't make much sense. Love them or hate them, they are what they are.

The game moves on to Snake surveying the base for openings with his binoculars. This part stuck out to me because I remembered Drew saying the way the PS1 version had a short gameplay demonstration where Snake equipped the binoculars, looked around, and zoomed them in and out was a natural way of conveying information to the player. In Twin Snakes this is instead a normal cutscene, and thus players might not derive the same information they did in the PS1 version.

The Helipad, in glorious GameCube definition
The Helipad, in glorious GameCube definition

The front of the base isn't much different from the original. I ended up being caught almost immediately as I ran between the searchlights to grab the chaff grenades and was promptly spotted by a guard on the other side. Because the MGS2 style AI can see farther than their vision cones on the radar it was impossible to avoid being spotted as I reached the end of the helipad, so after being shot to death and reloading from the start of the area I promptly shot the guard from across the map. Twin Snakes had a lot of wide open areas, which paired with the tranq gun makes it trivial to take out guards from almost any point of view.

I tried going in the same entrance as Drew, but walking across a noisy grate alerted the guard sleeping in front of it to my presence, so I hid underneath the truck until he went back to his post and then, once again, shot him in the face with a tranq. This is going to be a running theme in this playthrough.

Not much to say about the Tank Hangar, other than the remix of the Tank Hangar song is nice. For the most part Twin Snakes has an original soundtrack done more in the style of MGS2's music, both in cutscenes and gameplay. Each area also has its own unique music for caution, evasion, and alert phases, unlike the original which had a single track for alerts and a single track for cautions regardless of the area you were in. Most of the original music in Twin Snakes is forgettable, with only a few exceptions, but it's by no means bad. Like the cutscenes, the new music gives Twin Snakes quite a different atmosphere from the PS1 version.

I tranqed the two guys on the ground floor pretty easily and headed straight for the elevator. The path to the DARPA Chief is pretty straight forward. Snake drops in on Anderson, and the two talk for a bit as the woman in the next cell eavesdrops in from the other room, at first putting her ear against the wall and then later starts pacing about the room while listening. At one point the guard overhears the DARPA Chief talking and comes by to tell him to shut up. In the original game Snake pressed up against the wall next to the door to avoid being seen. In Twin Snakes...

VIDEO - The guard checks in on the DARPA Chief

...Yeah. This is another running theme in Twin Snakes, and another thing that's controversial among fans of the original. While in the PS1 version Snake is just a really skilled solider/spy, in the remake Snake is some kind of Neo-esque superhuman who will show off increasingly ridiculous physical feats as the game progresses. Some people get angry when talking about Snake's portrayal in Twin Snakes, but I just find it hilarious.

The DARPA Chief eventually dies, prompting the woman in the adjacent cell to call for the guard. After beating him up off camera she opens up Snake's cell door and tries to hold him at gunpoint.

VIDEO - Snake and the female soldier face off

I got shot maybe once in this entire encounter
I got shot maybe once in this entire encounter

The ambush is made incredibly easy by, say it with me, first person aiming. After the initial group you can pick off each individual soldier as he runs into the room before he even has the chance to draw his gun. You can even shoot the guy who throws a grenade into the room before he pulls the pin. There's also a fire extinguisher on the wall you can shoot to temporarily daze enemies, but it's unnecessary.

Looking around the room at the scattered corpses and blood strewn everywhere, the woman runs off and Snake attempts to follow her. As he does, a man in a cloak and gas mask appears above her, and Snake has some kind of hallucination. After he snaps out of it, the woman begins to shoot at him.

VIDEO - Psycho Mantis Appears

At that's it! This blog had to cover a lot of the mechanical differences between the two versions, so future entries should be a lot more condensed. From here on out it'll mostly be boss fight differences and ridiculous cutscenes, with the occasional note about level design differences. I'm gonna try to catch up with the videos as fast as I can, at which point I'll try to get a new blog out a day or two after each Metal Gear Scanlon episode is posted. Enjoy!

NEXT PART - Part 02 - Flip Kickin' Concrete


Project M 3.0, and why you should care. (Super Smash Bros. Brawl mod)



Project M 3.0 released the other day, an extensive mod for Super Smash Bros. Brawl that makes the game faster, changes certain attacks, and adds new characters, costumes, and stages. While many people say Project M simply turns Brawl into Melee, a better description is that it turns Brawl into a sequel to Melee. Though the game brings Brawl back up to Melee's speed, the game incorporates many of the new mechanics found in Brawl as well as coming up with entirely new mechanics. For those that have played or heard of previous versions of Project M, it should be noted that 3.0 finally includes every character from Brawl, in addition to two newcomers.

Edit: Project M 3.01 was released on 1/10, adding a new custom launcher that supports SD and SDHC cards of all sizes. This version also adds several bug fixes, as well as a new rematch option by holding L + R + Y while either paused or at the results screen after a match, and the option to reset to the character select screen from the stage select screen by holding L + R + A.

What's new in Project M?

Mewtwo and Roy return from Melee along with some new tricks
Mewtwo and Roy return from Melee along with some new tricks

The biggest addition to Project M is the addition of Melee veterans Mewtwo and Roy. Both characters bring updated versions of their Melee movesets, as well as some new techniques. Roy's Double-Edge Dance has been greatly expanded upon, and Mewtwo can now hover in any direction after a single jump by holding the jump button, and can attack out of Teleport. Both characters are even given Final Smashes, Mewtwo's being a clone of Lucario's while Roy's is completely new. Mewtwo and Roy do not replace any characters from Brawl.

Another big addition is the inclusion of alternate costumes, a long-time desire of fans that has never made it into a Smash Bros game (Wario notwithstanding). Mario has a Doctor Mario costume (complete with pills and electrical attacks), Luigi has Mr. L, Link gets his Ocarina of Time design, Wolf has a costume inspired by his designs in Star Fox 2 and Star Fox 64, and several other characters have alternate costumes as well.

Doctor Mario, Outset Island Toon Link, and Melee Fox are just a few of the alternate costumes found in Project M 3.0
Doctor Mario, Outset Island Toon Link, and Melee Fox are just a few of the alternate costumes found in Project M 3.0

Of course, the biggest change to Project M is the gameplay. The game is in general faster, and every attack in the game has been modified to better balance the game and make every character a viable option. Some characters have entirely new moves, while others simply have the properties tweaked to buff or nerf certain moves. Entirely new mechanics have also been added, such as Samus being able to swap between her original beam and a new ice beam by doing her side taunt, giving ice properties to several of her moves. Snake has a new tranquilizer pistol that replaces the Nikita missile launcher, which puts enemies to sleep for a few seconds but requires reloading every three shots. Users can reload early by tapping L or R during the beginning of the pistol animation, a nod to "tactical reloading" from the Metal Gear Solid series. Lucario has a new aura mechanic where his hands start to glow once he's done a certain amount of damage, which allows him to do several new super attacks such as Aura Bomb (B+A), Force Blast (Forward B+A), and enhanced versions of his normal Up and Down B attacks.

In general the game has tons of nice touches that are fan servicey in the same way the official Smash Bros games are. Donkey Kong has a new dashing roll attack that you can use to roll off an edge and then jump just like the Donkey Kong Country games. After a successful homing attack Sonic now does the pose from the Dreamcast Sonic Adventure boxart. One of Mewtwo's taunts uses his cry from the original Game Boy Pokemon games. Snake is given two new taunts, a codec taunt and a taunt where he smokes a cigarette, which even does 1% damage to him and makes the same sound effect that losing health from cigarettes makes in MGS1 and 2. A lot of the other characters have references to specific games worked into new taunts and moves as well. Project M is just as much a love letter to Nintendo and video games as it is a love letter to Smash.

One of the coolest additions is Turbo Mode, a new modifier in Special Brawl that lets users cancel any move into any other move and create insane combos. Turbo replaces Curry in the Special Brawl menu, and likewise a new Turbo item replaces the Curry item in normal modes, giving players Turbo power for a limited time. You can do some crazy stuff in Turbo Mode, but even if you're just playing casually with friends Turbo Mode is still fun to mess around in or simply mash buttons to make ridiculous combos.

Masked Man Lucas on Fourside
Masked Man Lucas on Fourside

Project M also changes a lot of the stages in the game, though there's still plenty of "fun" stages that aren't just one big platform in the middle of the screen and the mod even adds some. A few brand new stages like Dracula's Castle and Skyloft have been added (Nintendo coincidentally had the same idea for a Skyloft stage in Smash 4, but the Project M version of Skyloft has been playable in older versions of Project M released before Smash 4's debut trailer) have been added. Some stages like Norfair and Green Hill Zone have been redesigned by the team, while others like Port Town Aero Dive and Rainbow Cruise remain more or less the same as they were in Brawl. Several old stages like Fourside and Peach's Castle (both from Melee), & Metal Cavern and Hyrule Castle (from Smash 64) have also been added, complete with their original music. With a couple exceptions these new stages unfortunately replace stages from Brawl, but for the most part the Project M team got rid of the lesser stages from Brawl like Mario Bros. and 75M.

While I've given a few examples, there's way too much new content for me to efficiently go over in this blog post. You can either discover it for yourself by playing the mod, or go over to the official site for the mod for a rundown of all of the changes and additions to each character and stage.

Why don't you just play Melee?

No Caption Provided

The same reason people don't just play the original version of Street Fighter II: eventually you want to play something new. Project M isn't just a recreation of Melee, it's an evolution of mechanics from both Melee and Brawl, a new take on Smash Bros that while using most of the same assets as Brawl still feels completely different. It's mechanically rich, and it's still fun to play casually with a group of friends and items turned on. Yes, the air dodge mechanic from Melee and thus wavedashing return, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy it without a competitive mentality.

Does this hack work online?

It does, but with some stipulations. For one you have to download the WiFi version of the hack. There are two versions of Project M 3.01, the "Full" version and the WiFi version. The WiFi version removes analog sensitivity from shielding, C-stick buffering, and some stage and stock options used for tournaments, as these features do not work online and will cause desync. Project M still uses Brawl's netcode because all of the matchmaking and online is done through Nintendo's servers, and thus can't be changed by the Project M team. As such matchmaking does not work, as you will more than likely end up matched against players playing vanilla Brawl and instantly desync. You can play friend matches with other Project M users, but they have to be running the same version of Project M (3.01, not specifically the hackless or homebrew version) or else you will desync. The WiFi version is also required if you want to save replays.

How do I get this to work? Do I need a hacked Wii?

Project M will work on any Wii or Wii U. The hacked version can be loaded from an SD or SDHC Card of any size, while the hackless version will only work on a 2GB SD Card.

Project M now uses a custom launcher designed by the Project M team. This launcher can be accessed through either the Homebrew Channel or the Stage Builder method. This launcher is also able to update Project M on its own, so users who have already installed 3.0 to their SD Card can download only the launcher and access it on their Wii or Wii U to update to the latest version.

If your Wii or Wii U is not hacked, download the hackless version and copy everything within the nohomebrew or nohomebrew_wifi folder to the root of your 2GB SD card. Make sure any custom stages are deleted, then open stage builder with the SD card inserted. If done right the game will boot to the Project M Launcher, and select Start Game to launch Project M. You will use this process to boot Project M every time, and this method does not modify your Wii or Wii U in any way.

This sounds awesome, I think I'll try it out!

No Caption Provided

Please do! While some might not find Project M to be their cup of tea, there's absolutely no reason not to try it for yourself. The mod is completely free and a lot of hard work was put into it. It's a great way to make the wait for Smash 4 more bearable. I've had a ton of fun with it over the last couple days, and I feel confident other people who give it a try will too.


What does it mean to be a fan of a series?

With Resident Evil 6 completely polarizing fans of the series, it's gotten me thinking about what exactly it means to be a fan of a game franchise. Ostensibly one would be drawn in by things like the mechanics, story and characters, but these are all the result of the staff working on the game, not the franchise itself. Resident Evil didn't spontaneously conceive itself and then print itself onto PS1 discs, it was the product of Shinji Mikami and his staff at Capcom who crafted the game mechanics, characters, story, atmosphere, visuals, sound and every other aspect of that game that so many people fell in love with.

With any franchise people are added or removed from the team that works on it for various reasons until eventually you don't have any of the people who helped create the franchise in the first place, and at that point what exactly is it that you're a fan of? How many of the people that worked on the original Resident Evil for the PS1 are actually still around at Capcom working on Resident Evil games? Is there anyone who links the staffs of Resident Evils 1 and 6, or even just 4 and 6 together? If not, then what is anyone's stake in that game? At that point what is the difference between Resident Evil 6 and any other shooter on the market? Sure, it has the name, and it has the characters that I know, and it has some mechanical similarities to the previous installments, but what do I care about the continuing adventures of Leon S. Kennedy or Chris Redfield when the people behind the scenes that made those previous adventures so great, be it because of the gameplay or because of the story, are no longer there?

I'm not saying that you should immediately stop caring about a game or a franchise the second it changes hands creatively, but why should someone eagerly anticipate a game with no creative links to the original games they loved so much based on name alone? Why should they be so let down when it fails to deliver when there's no actual reason to expect it to, or vehemently defend it from the detractors before they've even played it themselves? Why should someone say they're a fan of a franchise, when there's nothing linking it all together except a name? I was hoping putting this blog together would help me sort everything out, but I still can't answer that question.


What the hell happened to F-Zero?

SHOW ME A new... game... please......
SHOW ME A new... game... please......
Why hasn't there been an F-Zero game on a current Nintendo platform? The last console F-Zero game was released in America on August 25, 2003, and the last handheld F-Zero to come out in America was released on September 20, 2004. F-Zero Climax, the last F-Zero game ever released, was released exclusively in Japan on October 21, 2004. This means there hasn't been a handheld F-Zero game in seven years, and there hasn't been a main F-Zero game in eight.

Why was there never an F-Zero on the Wii or DS? Both systems were the first Nintendo systems to offer online, (not counting the GameCube which supported a whopping four games, only three of which were released in America) which would be a great addition to F-Zero! Imagine 30 players all competing in the same race, knocking each-other off the course as they all race for the finish! Imagine creating your own tracks and being able to share them and race on them with friends! I remember Miyamoto giving F-Zero as an example of a game that would utilize the Wii's Classic Controller, and I find it ridiculous that their one example of a game that would work better with the Classic Controller never happened.

With the 3DS out and the Wii U on the horizon, I'm worried that Nintendo is going to continue ignoring their fantastic racing series. Nintendo and their games have continually referenced the franchise during this generation, and I really hope Nintendo will one day remember F-Zero and release a new game that kicks as much ass as GX did. Nintendo could follow the trend of remaking N64 games by remaking F-Zero X for the 3DS and including the Expansion Kit content that was previously only released in Japan, (which let players create their own tracks and added two new cups) as well as adding online and track sharing capabilities, and an HD F-Zero with online for the Wii U would honestly get me to buy the console on day one. Come on Nintendo, don't let me down.

Other M was awful, and it worries me about the future of Metroid

Like many, I was incredibly excited for Metroid Other M after the game was introduced at Nintendo's 2009 E3 press conference. Unfortunately, this excitement slowly turned to doubt, and eventually horror, as the game came closer to release, and more and more details were revealed. By the time the game came out I had decided I had no interest in ever playing Other M, but after reading about that scene (SPOILERS) and watching the video in which the X-Play writer who wrote their Other M review defended their review, claiming the game was sexist and ruined Samus' character, I decided I had to see what all the fuss was about and rented the game from Blockbuster a couple of weekends after it had come out. After learning my Wii needed to be cleaned before I could get the game to work and going to Best Buy to buy the Wii Cleaning Kit (effectively doubling how much I spent on renting Other M), I started the game and immediately hated it.

Customizable controls?           What hack was in charge of designing         this game?!
Customizable controls? What hack was in charge of designing this game?!
How could Nintendo let a game this bad be released under the Metroid name? The combat required absolutely no skill, allowing you to literally mash on the D-Pad and dodge any attack, and the game aimed shots for you, requiring the player to only be pointed in the general direction of an enemy for their shot to make contact. The controls were terrible, suffering from trying to shove more functions than were found in Super Metroid onto an NES controller, forcing you to move in 3D with a D-Pad (the reason Nintendo gave the Nintendo 64 an analog stick), and not offering an option to use a Classic Controller because according to Metroid series director Yoshio Sakamoto offering alternate control options means "you really are admitting defeat as a game designer". It took Samus, often seen as gaming's first female role model, and made her into an emotional co-dependent basket-case who couldn't do anything of her own free will when her former commander was around. (For more on this, read MenTaLguY's wonderful essay on the implications of Other M as it was presented) Gone was the isolated and moody atmosphere of past titles, instead replaced with constantly being given orders by a man who had no actual authority over Samus. Rather than being focused on exploration, the game just told you where to go, and you headed down countless linear hallways with the occasional big open room that still only had two doors in it. The script sounded like it had been poorly translated, but I'm pretty sure this is just because the script is terrible, and this terribleness is amplified by the uninspired voice acting found in the American release. As a result the numerous, lengthy cutscenes are unbearable, and players aren't even allowed to skip them. This ensures that Other M shares none of the atmosphere that made its predecessors so great. Even the music is lacking, or to be more specific, is flat out missing, with the catchy tunes of past Metroids replaced with ambiance in most sections of the game, a shallow attempt to mask the game's lack of atmosphere by creating an artificial one, quite fitting considering the Bottle Ship's purpose. There wasn't a single salvageable aspect of this game outside of looking good for a Wii game, which doesn't even come close to saving this game from being terrible.

I feel like I should explain now that I don't hate Other M solely because it's different, I hate it because it's poorly executed. The idea of a 3D Metroid that tries to take 2D Metroid's gameplay and move it into a 3D environment is great, but it didn't work out. Prime was actually originally going to be third person like Other M, but Miyamoto suggested to Retro Studios that they make it first person, and it was only after that change that the game really started to work. I love when games do something original, but I'd prefer a game that's more of the same and is good to one that tries something different and fails on every level.

The big thing I hate about Other M on a gameplay level is that it's about combat rather than exploration. Although Metroid Prime eventually told you where to go, it was still very much focused on exploration. Even when it showed you the location of the room you needed to get to it still took exploration to get there. There were plenty of branching paths and big open rooms with multiple routes and you had to figure out how to get through them on your own. It was an incredibly atmospheric game, and just walking through the environments was a thrill. Other M on the other hand never really has anything where you have to figure out your way through a room, and usually boils down to killing all the enemies to unlock a door. I give Metroid Prime a pass on having a lock-on even though I criticize Other M for auto-aim because Prime wasn't focused on combat. Prime was very much about exploring the huge world Retro created and figuring out how to get to your next objective. Even with lock-on Prime took more skill than Other M though because you had to manually dodge enemy attacks rather than just be pressing the D-Pad during an enemy's attack, and counter attack at certain points when facing certain enemies. It didn't take tons of skill, but it wasn't the reason I was playing that game. (Though the boss fights are all very fun and took more skill than picking off random enemies or space pirates) Other M on the other hand boils down to running down straight corridors or through small rooms, defeating all of the enemies, and then walking through a door to go and repeat that process. Combat is a part of Metroid, but it isn't its defining aspect.

Despite all of these flaws, most people saw no problems with the game, and it received good scores from most outlets, the only notable exception being the aforementioned X-Play review. However, sales weren't what Nintendo expected, and the company doesn't know why, implying that they see no problem with the game. This is what worries me. The original Metroid Prime was a fantastic game, and both of its sequels were great games, though I felt 3 started to get away from what I feel Metroid is. I'm not alone in my love of the Prime series, as the games were hugely successful in America and Europe, and Metroid Prime's success made what was previously thought of as a dead series into one of Nintendo's biggest franchises. Unfortunately Japan doesn't feel the same way, as none of the Prime games sold very well in Nintendo's home territory. Other M seemed to be Nintendo's attempt to make Metroid appeal more to Japanese gamers, ditching the Prime series' first person action and minimal cutscenes for a laughably simple character action game and a failed attempt at an emotional story. With Sakamoto in charge (a man who went so far as to say the Metroid Prime games were in a parallel world, or in other words non-canon, simply because he didn't have direct control over them.) and Nintendo seeing no problem with Other M both on a gameplay and story level I could easily see the series continue to head down this overly simplified and story focused path. I, and I'm willing to bet many others, would much rather see the series continue down the path that Metroid Prime started, or a true return to form with a new 2D Metroid in the same vain as Super Metroid. Until that happens, all I can do is pray for a true peace in space...