Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

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Broken in Oakland

January 9, 2009

I rarely have occasion to walk around the streets of downtown Oakland, mostly because there isn’t a whole lot there. It’s a stretch of office buildings that all feel like they were ripped off the set of Mad Men, complete with elevators that actually have working Door Close buttons. Well, more accurately, it’s a stretch of vacant lots, punctuated with the occasional inhabited office building. It’s kind of depressing – were it more densely populated, I could see it being kind of cool to work in an area that looks like I imagine New York did in the ’60s, but whenever I’ve been there it has looked like a ghost town.

So it was rather unusual that the one time I’ve had to go to downtown Oakland happened to be the day after the BART-shooting-protest-turned-riot. Honestly, though, I had a hard time telling exactly what was due to last night’s events.

dsc00072

I wish I had been there, if only to see how the protest became violent. I can certainly understand how frustration and anger lead to the desire to smash and destroy, but it’s totally stupid to go about demolishing your own hood. That’ll teach them, all right. Next time the rioters ought to bus over to Piedmont and loot the A.G. Ferrari, at least.

Interestingly enough, SFGate notes that several of the “mob” were affiliated with Revolution Books over in Berkeley:

The core group of the mob appeared to be about 40 people, several of whom were with Revolution Books, a Berkeley bookstore. A man distributed the “Revolution” newspaper – whose tagline is “voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, U.S.A.” – as he shouted “This whole damn system is guilty!”

I’ve been there a couple times – there’s a lot of amazing reading material there – but I can’t imagine them to be the kind of guys who go around breaking stuff.

I’m sure there’s a game idea here. Something about replicating the influence of the mob mentality, perhaps. Maybe I’ll think more about it later.

pat m.

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It’s That Time Of Year…

December 19, 2008

How Akuma Stole Christmas

Screw Christmas music in all the stores. Every time this gets posted to Shoryuken.com I know it’s the holiday season again. (Click Next at the top to go from page to page.)

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, etc. etc. to all of you! And thank you for reading!

pat m.

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Chrono Trigger DS

December 2, 2008

I’ve been playing through the Chrono Trigger DS remake lately. Yeah, it’s still Chrono Trigger, with a few new gimmicks here and there to spice things up. Worth playing if you never played it on the SNES or PSX, but if you’ve already gone through it a few times you might want to save your time and money. If you haven’t played it, you might want to avoid reading this, as there are mild spoilers.

- The new monster raising mode seems pretty boring so far, and unless it changes dramatically later in the game (I’m almost at the Black Omen) I wouldn’t really bother with it. Sure, you could probably get some nice items from it all, but by the time you can fight the high-level battles your party is already probably pretty dominating.

- For better or for worse, the game was retranslated. The game reads much more smoothly now (“The finest in defensive equipment for my, daughter!” has been fixed, thankfully) but Frog’s accent has been removed to make him speak more like everyone else from the Middle Ages.

-I had never noticed this before, but the game was almost perfectly designed for handhelds from the start. Even though there is no quicksave option, the dungeons tend to be short enough that you can finish one in ten minutes or so. The game is meant to be broken up into small manageable chunks, and with the exception of the new dungeon, it doesn’t keep you in any one place long enough to really get bored. 

- The new dungeon was thoroughly disappointing for a few reasons. Disappointing Reason #1: It took me a few hours to get through, not because it was particularly difficult, but because you had to keep on walking back and forth between essentially what amounted to the same seven screens or so. I think I climbed that stupid mountain at least fifteen times. What’s more, each screen has an annoying unavoidable fight that does nothing but make the fetch quests you’re sent on even more of a pain in the ass. Do yourself a favor and use a FAQ to save yourself one or two redundant trips, at least. The reward items are nice, but half the stuff isn’t as good as your end-game equipment (which you can get very easily before you do the Lost Sanctum) and the stuff that is good doesn’t really mean much because the game pretty much peaks in difficulty at the Ocean Palace. I never understood why people bothered getting their characters all up to level 99/max statistics in this game because it’s not like there’s anything that really gets hard to kill after level 60 or so. I hear there’s a new ending, and a new last boss. Maybe I’ll need to be really buff for that one.

-Disappointing Reason #2: I found the end of the second fight with the Reptites to be one of the more poignant moments in the game; Team Crono has basically been fighting to ensure the survival of the human race, and the Reptites have all been total jackasses up until this point, but once you beat Azala he reminds you that he was basically doing the same thing for his people, and since he lost, the Reptites were doomed to extinction. Even Ayla, despite the fact that she was engaged in a life-or-death struggle with all Reptite-kind, seems to be surprisingly understanding and even sympathetic towards Azala. Considering that non-human, Other monsters are so easily written as straight evil characters without any particular nuance, I thought that Azala’s send-off was really well done. What’s more, the effects were permanent – the only Reptite you see in the game after that fight is running in the races at the Millenial Fair – which is something unusual for a game that’s all about traveling in time to fix things. You can bring Crono back, you can put Cyrus’s spirit to rest, but you can’t make the Reptites and humans co-exist…

…That is, until you go to the Lost Sanctum and discover there’s a whole town of Reptites left. Guess you just killed the Asshole Reptites.

pat m.

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White Nationalists Love Dungeons and Dragons

November 19, 2008

http://raceindnd.wordpress.com/

Good stuff, though – as usual – the comments thread isn’t quite up to snuff.

pat m.

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Join the Facebook Group!

November 14, 2008

…and verify that I’m the author, please.

http://apps.facebook.com/blognetworks/blogpage.php?blogid=72957

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On Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

November 14, 2008

I think that the “Metrovanias” that Konami has been releasing for the last decade or so are gaming’s equivalent of Dragonlance novellas, or something like that; they’re amusing and fun experiences, but generally not worth dwelling on. All told, I’ve played Symphony of the Night, Circle of the Moon, Aria of Sorrow, parts of Harmony of Dissonance, Dawn of Sorrow, parts of Portrait of Ruin, and now Order of Ecclesia, and I’ve got to say I’m damned if I can remember a whole lot of notable stuff about any of them save Symphony of the Night, which is the only one I’ve bothered to play multiple times. Oh wait: I do remember JONATHAN! CHARLOTTE! JONATHAN! CHARLOTTE! JONATHAN! CHARLOTTE!

…Just had to get that out of my system.

Order of Ecclesia took an interesting tack with the Castlevania standards; all your moves use MP, so you’ll have to manage the meter, the difficulty level has been cranked up significantly, the Glyph system feels pleasantly customizable without making me feel like I gotta catch ‘em all, and it’s nice to have a world map with multiple level setpieces and Dracula’s Castle. When it comes down to it, though, there’s not much I’m going to remember about it except that I got to play as a woman this time, and not just a rather womanish-looking dude.

Kind of makes me wish I could mod the game so I was playing as Wesley Snipes from Blade though.

pat m.

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My Take on the Street Fighter Stereotype Squad

October 28, 2008

When Capcom was taking flak for the Resident Evil 5 debacle, a few people would occasionally comment that Capcom actually has a history of racially offensive characterizations in their games – specifically, the characters from Street Fighter. This gave me pause – I have adored Street Fighter for a long, long time, and it never really occurred to me that the characters were seriously offensive. Furthermore, I’m hardly in the minority, here – virtually no one in the Street Fighter community ever really brings this kind of thing up, and it’s not because there’s a lack of people of color who play seriously, or reasonable people who can talk about race. So why would this be?

bankuei commented in the open thread about this a while back:

 

Here’s a thought: Street Fighter 2 was one of the first videogames that gave you a WIDE range of playable characters in terms of ethnicity. Stereotypical? Yeah. Still, better than playing either a Ninja or some random white guy all the time.

For that level of nostalgia factor alone, I think people are willing to give it a pass. (though, admittedly, videogames are rife with racist stuff. The fact that all the characters can be protagonists is good, though Blanka, Balrog/M.Bison and Dhalsim are the most problematic).

This is the first step. To use an example:

Media representation of Asian Americans has been a huge issue in the community for a while now. We’re sick of seeing ourselves portrayed as geeks, martial arts masters, delivery boys, sinister ganglords, and dragon ladies. Before we could organize around that, though, we had to make it in the media in the first place. Before Asians were portrayed in American films as those stereotypical images, we weren’t really in much of anything at all

Fighting games are quite possibly the easiest place to bring in a diversity of characters, particularly since it’s less about developing a character’s story and more about bringing in an exotic aesthetic. Certainly, this is problematic on some level, but it’s also given us our first Filipina character (Talim from Soul Calibur 2) where introducing a Filipina character in any other genre would have required a lot more pushing. Street Fighter 2 created stereotypes by drawing on each country’s fighting myths and legends. It wasn’t perfect – Balrog and Dee Jay, inspired by Mike Tyson and Billy Blanks (of Tae-Bo fame) aren’t exactly the inspiring figures I’d have wanted to model the first couple Black game characters after, Dhalsim is downright bizarre with the human skulls around the neck, and it seems painfully unfair to neglect Brazil’s vale tudo combat tradition by giving us Blanka instead of, say, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu player – but it was a welcome departure from white guys and ninjas.

To be fair, Capcom has rounded it out a bit since then. The Street Fighter III series gave us Sean, a Brazilian brawler with moves inspired by MMA and Ryu and Ken’s Ansatsuken karate, and Dudley, the dopest black boxer in a video game ever, to make up for Balrog and Blanka. Most recently, Street Fighter IV added a white American single-mom-secret-agent with lips like Angelina Jolie’s, a French MMA fighter inspired by real-life fighting legend Fedor Emelianenko, and a fat white American biker kung-fu guy with a ponytail and a happy trail. On the downside, we get a Mexican Lucha Libre fighter (and chef) named El Fuerte:

Sigh. One step forward, two steps back, I suppose.

pat m.

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Gender and Class in Mega Man 9

October 21, 2008

 

A few words on Mega Man 9:

That said, there are a few interesting things that stood out to me. (Spoiler alert!)

There’s a bit more storyline in Mega Man 9 than I remembered in the older MM games, all delivered through cutscenes. Basically, the premise in MM9 is that several utility robots who were soon nearing their expiration date (where they would be cast off into the dump, apparently) were incited to rebel against society by Dr. Wily, who had convinced them that they deserved to live past some arbitrary cut-off date. I don’t know about you guys, but this sounds like a critique of capitalism if I ever heard one. Cast off your chains, robots! Overthrow the oppressors! When I saw this, I thought, “Hey, why aren’t I helping them?”

Then I rememberedthat I was controlling a white guy who dresses in blue, carries a gun, and sees fit to destroy hundreds and hundreds of robots who look different from him without compunction.

 

Somehow, despite destroying each robot master twice, they’re still alive and ticking by the end of the game, and instead of consigning them unto the scrap heap, Mega Man happily returns them to household slavery (chores and such). Way to break a strike, Mega Man. The proletariat will rise yet! Maybe after I get By Any Means Necessary made, my next project will be a labor organizing simulator with a Mega Man motif.

Also: anyone who grew up alongside Mega Man during the NES days will immediately notice Splash Woman sitting alongside Mega Man’s usual assortment of robot dudes. Yes, women have broken through the glass ceiling in the year 20XX, so much so that little girl-robots can one day aspire to be one of Dr. Wily’s henchbots.

However: Capcom, why’d you have to make the woman robot weak to the Mega Buster? That’s some sexist shit. And you know what her “useful function” is in the ending? Sexy photos. Yep, the first woman pioneer in Mega Man does cheesy idol DVDs.

At least they didn’t make her weak to the Jewel Shield, I guess

pat m.

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Shameless Plug

October 20, 2008

I’ve got a piece on the latest web-fad to hit Japan, WebKare (“web-boyfriend”) over at GiantRealm.

Anyone want to help me find a job?

pat m.

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Open Thread: The Street Fighter Paradox

September 24, 2008

This is kind of an experimental post. Instead of laying down all my opinions at once, I’m going to let you guys comment on a question and then post my impressions later.

Do you find the Street Fighter characters offensive? Why?

Just so we’re on the same page, let’s inventory:

The World Warriors

Ryu: Japanese karate guy.

Ken: American karate guy.

Honda: Japanese sumo guy.

Blanka: Brazilian beast-guy.

Dhalsim: Indian stretchy yoga guy. With skulls around his neck.

Guile: All-American military guy with awesome hair.

Chun-Li: Chinese kung-fu girl.

Zangief: Spandex-clad Russian bear-wrestler guy.

The Bosses

Balrog: African American boxer guy inspired by Mike Tyson.

Vega: Spanish bullfighter ninja guy.

Sagat: Muay Thai guy.

Bison: Mysterious evil guy.

The New Challengers

Cammy: Underage British girl.

Fei Long: Bruce Lee.

Dee Jay: Jamaican kickboxer guy inspired by Billy Blanks of Tae-Bo fame.

Thunder Hawk: Native American wrestler guy.

Looking forward to your responses!

pat m.

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