mistersandman: (watchmen)
If this is the last week before Armageddon, I've totally squandered it. But everyone knows the party doesn't start until after the Rapture, so I don't feel too bad about it. Work at the Inspector General has been amazing, but of course I can't tell anyone much about life at OIG. At home, things have been pretty dull. One of my friends returned from college and we've spent a lot of time at his house, hanging out with the new dog and his family (to say nothing of his sister's friends still in high school who are nearly omnipresent).

There hasn't been much room for satisfying interaction.

In um, other news, I beat POKEMON.

JUPITER (ZAPDOS) was the first to fall. I didn't really give a fuck because I caught him about an hour before I went to INDIGO PLATEAU. ERIDAN (Nidoking) met his end against LANCE's dragons. Who knew that weird serpent dragons knew AURORA BEAM? Not me. Certainly not poor ERIDAN. He was a good soldier.

It was nice getting back in touch with my childhood with this challenge. I used to be into Pokemon in a big way when I was a kid. If Nintendo announced a Pokemon game for the Wii I'd get in line for it the very next day. Nostalgia is a powerful thing.
mistersandman: (Default)
If I ever get a chance to return to the past circa 2007 and give my past-self on the cusp of adulthood some advice, aside from the obvious financial and romantic counsel, I would emphatically convince him to get an Xbox 360 and not a Wii.  I'm not saying there are no good games for the Wii, I'm just saying I would have preferred to waste time with a wider variety of better games on a different system.  The one saving grace of Nintendo's fading console is its backwards-compatibility.  I've been able to revisit a lot of my old favorite Gamecube titles and pick up some classics that I missed the first time around, such as METROID PRIME.

If you know me at all, you'll know that I am quite a fan of Nintendo's Legend of Zelda series.  I'm still reeling from the disappointment I experienced from the last entry in the series, Twilight Princess, and only now can I properly explain why:  It was not enough like Metroid Prime.

In Metroid Prime, you play a battle-hardened space warrior who has been executing a galaxy-wide vendetta against an organization known as the Space Pirates.  They killed your parents or something.  Your hunt brings you to the largely-unexplored planet Tallon IV.  Using your meager arsenal, you have to explore the planet for clues as to the whereabouts of the space pirates, the location of objects that will repair your space suit, and information regarding the now-extinct race that used to inhabit Tallon IV.

The set-up should be familiar to anyone who's played some kind of exploration game: as you acquire new abilities, you gain access to new locations or new parts of places you only thought you'd properly scoured.  Nobody does this better than Metroid Prime.  I've been playing on and off for two weeks now and I still can't get over how well-designed this game is.  Unlike The Legend of Zelda, Nintendo's other flagship exploration series, you never acquire an ability that is totally useless or destined for obsolescence and forces you to read often-oblique clues or do some heavy-duty exploration in order to find the next step in your goal.  The game never holds your hand and the way save points are implemented few and far between makes for a challenging, yet rewarding experience.  With the help of a first-person perspective, you really feel like you are alone on an unfamiliar and hostile (mostly hostile) planet.

If I could change anything about the design, it would be the way it handles different locations on the planet.  The way the game presents it, you land in a lush forest and immediately transition to a barren desert ruin.  From there, you enter some lava-filled caves which open up to an icy mountain landscape.  I don't expect an entire planet to have one ecosystem, but it would be nice to see some logic or some originality.  After all these years, you start to get pretty sick of going through areas with clear-cut Forest, Desert, Fire, and Ice themes.  However, I can't complain too loudly, since I haven't seen all the areas that the game has to offer.

Another thing I like about the game is how they handle the main character's gender, which is to say, they don't reference it at all, except in the final cutscene, where Samus removes her helmet .  This is a direct subversion of the cheesecake treatment most video game females receive, a subversion that was unfortunately too good to last.

Later entries into the Metroid series would end with Samus taking off more and more clothing, resulting in montages like this.  Sigh.  I'm not saying that Samus should always be a totally sexless robot killer all the time, but I find the idea that you get increasingly "sexier" ending photos based on faster or more complete runthroughs of the game highly problematic.

On Oblivion

Jan. 4th, 2011 10:34 pm
mistersandman: (watchmen)
I loved The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind as a kid. Probably for the first two years that I owned it, I was without a doubt awful at it--assuming one can be terrible at a game that presents you with a sprawling, open-ended world and asks you to explore it in whatever way you see fit. I had never played an action game that was so unrestricted and was quite beside myself. I did what any thirteen year old would do: I attacked a townsperson with a rusty knife and was promptly slain by the guards. Later adventures would prove to be as moribund as they were stimulating to my fertile young imagination: After rooting through the belongings of a corpse that fell from the sky, I too discovered the consequences of experimenting with "Scrolls of Icarian Flight," lovely artifacts which launch the curious and the illiterate hundreds of feet into the air... and sent them back to the earth accelerating at 9.8 meters per second.

I remember wandering aimlessly for hours through the countryside, marveling at the level of detail that flourished across every inch of the continent. I remember the first time I wandered into the enormous city of Vivec, named after the self-made god who lived at the top of the tallest canton of the floating metropolis.

This talk of the spectacle of Morrowind does a disservice to the complex political machinations at work within the world of the game. Briefly:

There are three Houses of nobles (the immortal, insane wizards, the desert warriors struggling for relevance, and the corrupt traders run by the mob) each of whom has their own relationship to the local faith, which is at odds with the religion of the occupying Imperial army from across the sea. Theological differences aside, the Imperials (think Romans) are having a great deal of difficulty winning the hearts and minds of the indigenous Dunmer (red eyed, blue skinned elf) population.

There aren't any good guys or bad guys. Even the Imperial/Dunmer conflict has a lot of grey areas. The Imperials are exploitative conquerors hoping to extract as many natural resources as possible, simultaneously foisting their culture upon the conquered. At the same time, they are introducing law and order to areas that have never known rule of law. The culture they are hoping to supplant is one of xenophobia and slavery.

The player can explore and exploit the multitudes of conflicts between these factions for hours without getting so much as a whiff of the "main plot," which is excellent, as you might imagine by now.

That wasn't brief at all. Sorry.

Some four years later, Bethesda Softworks gives us The Elder Scroll IV: Oblivion. I didn't play in when it originally came out because I was in high school and I had comic books to read, AP classes to study for, and successive broken hearts to mend! With that many irons in the fire, I didn't play the much-lauded sequel until I got it for my 21st birthday.

I wasn't exactly thrilled.

Read more... )


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Three Little Birds

August 2011

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