When Star Road Gets Real

Hey Gamers,

I’m sure for a portion of you, today’s article name may be equal parts exhausting as it is terrifying.

Pictured: Elton John Being Super Annoying When He Nails The Jump Short Cut Star Road

Seen Here: Elton John Being Super Annoying When He Nails The Jump Short Cut On Star Road

Mario Kart is a delightful series, one of my favorites in fact. Not to say it doesn’t have it’s off moments…and god damn if I can’t ignore the sheer brutality Star Road represents on any given day. As if blue shells weren’t irritating enough, now you’ve got to deal with their cheap shit for 30 minutes straight (average amount of time it takes to finish a single race on Star Road).

At least, that’s how long I remember it taking to finish a single race. Then again, my memories are obscured in pain.

No, The Star Isn't "Just Smiling": It's Laughing At Your Misery

And If You Gaze Long Enough Into An Abyss, The Abyss Will Gaze Back Into You

I suppose this is a rather grim way to reference a game I am always excited to play, but Mario Kart has this odd masochism about it. I enjoy the pain, truly and sincerely, despite the amount of blood I’ve lost in the process of playing it. So when news surfaces about the impending release of a new Mario Kart, it’s as if the anticipation is a painful one, in the best way imaginable. This statement becomes all the more real, when we come to discover that the latest trailer for Mario Kart 8 boasts suffering anew, and showcasing front and center none other than Star Road.

Yes, The Star Road.

And This Time, It's Fucking Alive.

And This Time, It’s Fucking Alive.

The new video I watched posted by IGN, which is a devil’s delight in several ways, had both the 64 version and MK8”s Star Roads side by side. This comes as a reminder of past pains and forthcoming failures, all in one amazingly demonic demo. Don’t get me wrong, this looks gorgeous, but so do succubus before they suck your soul directly out of your asshole at the last moment…or what I normally refer to as lap 3. I know my constant reference to Star Road’s length seems like hyperbole, but I feel as if I’ve successfully dealt with all five stages of grief the course causes faster than I’ve actually finished it.

Lap 2

Lap 2

Which was one of the first things that caught me off guard about the comparison, other than the amazing visuals of course: the entirety of Star Road featured in MK8 seems to be the length of a single lap from the 64 version. This leads me to believe that Nintendo may have actually listened to gamers for a change, but more likely they just blanked out the memories like I did and just straight forgot the 64 version was so miserably long. Anyways, not only did this pacing seem like it could really tighten up the tension of the race itself, but I was not kidding when I said Star Road is fucking alive.

First off, parts of the road are actually moving, as if possessed by some other worldly demon. Trying to wrestle with this bestial turbulence will most certainly breed a special kind of insufferable comedy. Combine this with the shelled or be shelled mentality of a regular Mario Kart sprint, and schadenfreude will be reborn in the image of Mario himself.

I AM THE PRINCE OF ALL KARTERS ONCE AGAIN

I AM THE PRINCE OF ALL KARTERS ONCE AGAIN!

Even aside from the lively atmosphere and even more lively road ways, the transformative vehicles from MK7 are making a re-appearence, and looking to add proper volume to the already engaging courses. The brand new anti-gravity tracks are equally proud mantle pieces, Star Road a perfect example of this, and contribute a pop and circumstance to the level design I haven’t seen in ages. When you consider all of the above blended together into one delicious treat, it doesn’t take me long to remember why it hurts so good.

And How Fucking Metal Mario Really Can Be

And How Fucking Metal Mario Really Can Be

I know I hyperlinked to the video above, but I believe it’s worth saving you the two seconds of work, just in case you think this is worth missing.

Cause it really isn’t, and brings about an irony perhaps even more devastating than Mario Kart and Star Road could ever really wrought. This is one of the only games I’ve witnessed getting people in a legitimate fever to own a Wii U, with almost no peers in this category during the consoles entire existence. Not only that, but despite the Wii U’s under-powered hardware, the game may be one of the most gorgeous racers I’ve seen this gen. The fact that Nintendo can put out games they may turn out this good, in all of their entrancing splendor, is almost aggravating. Much like myself, I feel as if this show of quality almost angers the devoted and would be devoted more than pleases them, because it reaffirms that Nintendo can still do amazing shit.

They just don’t make a habit of it any more.

~Pashford

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Quickie: Either Very Smart Or Very Dumb

Hey Gamers,

I hadn’t officially done a “quickie” in awhile, for a number of reasons. I generally go on at great lengths about video games, which is something I’ve been trying to moderate in recent days. Speed isn’t relative to quality, but something easily digestible can sure be a treat.

You Know, A Real Pick Me Up

You Know, A Real Pick Me Up

I can’t guarantee you’ll feel as ready to “seize the day” as much as Max would after downing some meds, but….

You probably don't have to deal with anything as horrifying as this on a nightly basis, either.

You probably don’t have to deal with anything as horrifying as this on a nightly basis, either.

Today’s quickie was just some thoughts I had on an article related to enemy A.I in video games. This is a topic I’m familiar with, and one I’ve read about and engaged with before. Much like I’ve encountered before, the article in question details how players may not really “want” smart A.I, but A.I just smart enough to make them feel like they’ve beaten the system. The article makes mention that in play testing, players actually became frustrated when the enemies were able to flank them, and then used boring tactics (like funneling them into a hallway) in order to beat the level.

At it’s worst moments, made the game too hard. At it’s best moments, made the game too boring, based on the reliance of cheap strategies to win.

Cheap Strategies: Or What Dr.Wily Refers To Mega Man As

Cheap Strategies: Or What Dr.Wily Refers To Mega Man As

At the end of the day, the developer had to make the A.I more stupid to make the game more fun. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who plays video games on a regular basis: forgoing realism almost always makes a better game. It’s why you can drive off a cliff in GTA in excitement, and why you can move Sonic at 700 miles per hour and not be worried the mother fuckers face is going to rip off.

Dr.Robotnik: "I Don't Get It. Why doesn't that little fuckers face rip off if he's moving so god damn fast. It's bullshit.

Dr.Robotnik: “I Don’t Get It. Why doesn’t that little fuckers face rip off if he’s moving so god damn fast? It’s bullshit.”

While I could probably go on at lengths about this subject (but will moderate myself from doing so), at it’s core it’s about ease of play. A lot of people don’t like difficult games, and design is at it’s best when it effectively teaches the player how to improve themselves, without excessive force. Over time, the enemies will get smarter (based on the game of course), but you don’t want to make any player feel like they can’t win a game they just started.

Also, as far as “smart” goes, you have to understand and respect the spectrum of intelligence that exists, in all its beautiful forms. Since there are so many different kind of smart, and so many different types of learners out there, you really have to try to start in middle of the road of rudimentary, to try to give everyone a chance at having fun.

Or You Run The Risk Of Having People Feel Like They Are Really Playing This Game

Or You Run The Risk Of Having People Feel Like They Are Really Playing This Game

And yes, that picture does show an arcade game (Boong-Ga Boong-Ga) where the goal is to ram a finger up someone’s ass.

Talk about a

So, take note. While many of us have a desire of something, it is perhaps the infinite pursuit of the desire we are attracted to, and not the object itself. While smart A.I may seem like “the next step” or a “welcome challenge”, we perhaps haven’t considered what we really want from every day obstacle and challenge.

We want the chance to be challenged, but not necessarily to be faced with it.

Happy Gaming.
~Pashford

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Encyclopedia Muranica: Decisions, Decisions

Hey Gamers,

Initially, I had trouble deciding on what to write about.

That Changed Quickly

That Painful Decision Making Came To An Abrupt End

No, I didn’t get stuck in a literal bear trap, though playing RE4 on an incapable computer certainly felt like it. Though, I guess if there was just a single performance issue, it would have been more manageable and akin to just one trap. Unfortunately, due to the abysmal differences in specs needed and the specs required, it was as if stuck in a field of traps.

This Is Probably A More Accurate Portrayal Of Me Playing RE4 On The PC

This Is Probably A More Accurate Portrayal Of Me Playing RE4 On The PC

I was super excited to play the title too, despite having  already quadruple dipped on the game. At $20 bucks with enhanced performance (and Steam related goodies), it was hard to say no. Needless to say, unless you want me to bullshit my way through how exciting Spain was at 5 frames per second, we’re skipping the RE4 sh-peel for now.

But just for fun, I will give you a small taste of what Spain would actually be like at 5 frames per second.

Ready?

Let’s Go!

Spain 3 Frames Again

Spain 3 Frames Again

Spain 3 Frames Again

Spain 3 Frames Again

Spain 3 Frames Again

Chainsaw Man

RE4 Game Over

Great!

Moving On.

The other game I was going to write about isn’t very topical in any real sense. It’s not apart of an anniversary celebration, nor is it a reexamination of an upgraded experience. No, the other game I wanted to write about was simply an old favorite, the PS2 version of Vice City, in all of it’s classic freedom. I know the mention of the game seems kind of random, but a PS2 was given to me as a gift not too long ago. The gesture was pure charity, and in response to a series of events I would rather not discuss here.

Regardless of the circumstance, I felt obligated to acknowledge the gift by immediately enjoying it. All too often, I take what I have for granted, almost self-destructively  so. My own procrastination can give way to severe degradation, acting out as the most painful kind of slow death I can imagine.

Yes, Even Slower Than Spain At 5 Fames Per Second

Yes, An Even Slower Death Than Spain At 5 Frames Per Second

The first step to not being chainsawed to death in a field is the acknowledgement of both the field and the chainsaw, and how to avoid either. With Vice City, my acknowledgement of both the generosity and the fun to be had was enough to avoid my usual trappings, so a victory for everyone involved.

Except For Jack Here, But Seriously, Fuck Him

Except For Ol’ Jack Here. But Seriously, Fuck Him

I always thought Vice City was one of the poster childs of the safe sequels done right in video games, following in the vein of Doom II, Sonic 3 and Majora’s Mask. I know those seem like random games, but they all kind of played the role of sound remixer with many of the previous game’s resources and assets, but provided fresh experiences regardless. Best of all, because all of them used a lot of the same virtual equipment of their highly successful predecessors, they all had a quick turn around. This is awesome to fans and non fans alike, as anyone who wanted more got it fast, and everyone who didn’t know what they missed got a second chance to understand why.

Kind of a double your pleasure, double your fun scenario.

I Prefer My Sequels To Be Deadly, And Not Dead On Arrival

Also, Lots Of Dying

In some insanity, I do believe GTA isn’t entirely a game that’s solely about mass destruction, it goes way deeper I think. Sure, who doesn’t like to “drop a tank”, pop on god mode and go on a never ending rampage? Everyone, that’s who…but you can only kill the entire population of a city so many times before you really can’t do it again. GTA is way more than just immersing yourself in a mass grave of your own creation, it’s about being unashamed of just being you, and letting you be the most you you could imagine you being.

You, Possibly

You, Possibly

I do like the idea of believing in the you that believes in yourself, and it often acts out as an unspoken aspect of great game design. I feel most video games kind of facilitate that on a subtle level, GTA just seems more successful in doing so, reaching a far broader audience than most others. As mentioned, while the game does allow you to go ape shit in your own little virtual playground of destruction, I never really have those types of conversations with others. More so, those dialogues always seem to take a back seat, secondary to the much larger picture you help to paint when creating your own GTA experience.

Much like with GTA III, a lot of people will talk about feeling comfortable with themselves just driving around, as if the city helps them find relaxation though curiosity. People talking about how they like their favorite vehicle to be a certain color, or how funny they find the pedestrian dialogue to be.

Self-awareness, color coordination, and people watching, not stuff you’ll find the back of the box bragging about.

Doesn't Mention All These People Either, And It Really Should

Speaking Of Subtle Boasts

The soundtrack was phenomenal, I won’t be the first nor last person who says so. Whether it be Lazlow bringing the metal or K-Chat delivering the funny, there isn’t a radio station that you can’t get addicted to in this game. Even without Lazlow making us chuckle as Vice City’s talk radio host, his very absence in that role during VC somehow makes his performance in III all the more legendary; fun culture connection and world building at it’s most engaging.

The acknowledgement of the soundtrack is just one more tick in the category of non-blood shed GTA supplements; music, but to a further extent personal celebration. That feeling of being virtually alive, and often times without needing to do so through taking virtual life. I know this seems like an odd point to drive home, but I think there’s a large truth in these games people really take for granted.

There’s a facade present, one that can be quite brutal, but the visuals really cover up this entire other level of meaningful connection. I referred to it once as “virtual theater”, enjoying the act of playing a role or being on stage, without ever really being that character or in that location. You relate through a villain or a place you’ve never been to while acting, but never really fully transform or travel to the fictional locale in question. Unlike a play, in Vice City you can petty much choose which ever role you’d like to play, and control when the scene changes take place.

Some hyper realized sense of creating your own screenplay, one action at a time. Virtual theater, truly, and Vice City is one of the best shows in town.

Like many video games, and the virtual realities they portray, it really is the easy way out saying the game is a form of escapism, but not the entire truth. Escapism gives you an idea of it’s meaning to someone else, but doesn’t further imbue the idea with the richness of it’s meaning.  To some, GTA may always be a murder simulator, and that’s their choice in how they enjoy it. To others and myself, it is life on a stage. It can be an honest form of self discovery, a delightful act of virtual burlesque, and a true indulgence in the form of interactive experience…one that holds a world of opportunities to both the wicked and the sublime.

However You Choose To Enjoy It, It's Yours For The Taking

However You Choose To Enjoy It, It’s Your Choice To Make

And that’s the real beauty of Vice City, in all of it’s persuasive glory.

~Pashford

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My Kingdom For A Heart

Hey Gamers,

I hadn’t really planned on writing anything today…not to say Valentines Day is a call to arms in any serious manner.

I Mean Seriously

I Mean Seriously

That’s not to say it can’t be seriously cute, either.

Seriously

Seriously

The urge to write kicked in regardless of what I wanted, which is healthy in a sense. I think I’ve successfully worked in this guilty reflex, where if I game for several hours in a row, it’s my duty to share and entertain, lest I be forgotten entirely. Gaming can be a rather insular experience, which in and of itself has it’s merits and virtues. Though I do believe not enough people are comfortable with the idea of some quality alone time, I also believe, and V-Day may be magnifying this within me: sharing is caring.

Well, Normally

Well, Normally

As you may have discerned from the posts name, ramblings about Kingdom Hearts are close at hand. I spent a chunk of time today playing some Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix/63 Coded Sleep Drops [chi] or whatever the fuck they’re calling this one. Leave it to Square Enix to fuck up the name of something as simple as an HD Collection, but I’m sure they’re not the only ones with naming issues.

Holy

Holy

Fucking

Fucking

Shit

Shit

Never

Never

Mind

Mind

Jesus Christ.

Continued idiocy with naming aside,  I was super psyched to finally sit down and play some KH1 after such a long time away from the experience. The choice of game, and what it’s about seemed fitting, considering what today is. I’m referring to of course, the games emotionally dark undertones of struggling to accept reality, and the harsh truth existentialism represents.

Er…I meant hearts and stuff…emotions etc.

It’s actually all in there, if you can believe it, and it’s a pretty god damn manic experience to tell you the truth.

Same

Same

Games

Series

It all just really adds to Kingdom Hearts charm, really. While the games have taken a nose dive into a cluster fuck of convoluted bullshit since day one, the first title still stands out as ambiguous enough to be appropriately come hither with it’s darkness.

Not that the story is what really drives the experience, Kingdom Hearts knows this on some level.  With a stable of characters from the likes of Disney and Final Fantasy at the ready, it doesn’t matter what is happening to the characters, but which characters it’s happening to. Getting Mickey Mouse and Sephiroth into the same room will never make any fucking sense, and that’s perfectly god damned reasonable.

Crossovers, no matter what they may be, are always going to be unapologetic fan service, it’s just finding the right creators who know how to say more than sorry when they merge our favorite universes. I speak to the quality content connoisseurs, who know how to imbue value and content into these fictional mash ups. The ones that end up creating meaning beyond the heavy exposition that makes up the light entertainment that it all truly represents.

You're Seriously Telling me Jack Skellington Forgot His Lesson About Meddling?

You’re Seriously Telling Me Jack Skellington Forgot His Lesson About Meddling, Which Almost Resulted In The Murder Of Santa Clause?

You know what, asses to the logic of it.

You had me at Jack Skellington.

Again, KH isn’t really trying to boast engaging narrative, more so just fun storytelling, which is fine enough for a game involving Existentialism and Winnie The Pooh. The first game, as mentioned, had just that right contrast of dark undertones covered up by light subject matter, something Square(soft) was a master of in another life time.

Besides, the gameplay always reigns king, and KH has that in spades. Being an action RPG, the game is never short on energy. Between the crazy worlds you pop in and out of, child hood memories crashing in at a moments notice, or being swarmed by a legion of heartless, KH has an excellent pacing about it. Considering this is a game you can easily get 40+ hours out of, it’s an impressive feat…to say the least.

Then again, Square(soft) could most certainly brag about an electrifying streak by the time Kingdom Hearts released.

Then Again, It's Rare Lightning Strikes The Same Place 13 Times In A Row.

Then Again, It’s Rare Lightning Strikes That Many Times In A Row

That Doesn't Stop It From Trying, However.

That Doesn’t Stop It From Trying

I know Kingdom Hearts is not officially within the Final Fantasy pedigree, but considering the modern day alternatives, it’s preferable, story nonsense fully intact. I was avoiding (and will continue to avoid) making this post into a “Shit On Square Circus“, as they really need no help in producing any more crap. More my point, Kingdom Hearts quality deserves my attention, it’s just hard to remember the title without the historical context, as it was the only game in the KH series released by Squaresoft, the beauty to Square Enix’s beast. Not to mention one of the last from the RPG Noble, before under going one hell of a transformation (merger).

But I digress.

So yeah, Kingdom Hearts 1 definitely had that cool crispness about it, fun concept, great design. The HD overhaul helps, as the in game aesthetic still totally holds up: the game just has the added benefit of cleaner visuals. The better art direction of any great video game tends to hold up long after the historic fact. A personal example would be why Wind Waker retained more visual charm than Ocarina after their respective times. Not to say both didn’t look good, but Wind Waker’s refined visual antics made it stand out, and that art style most certainly had legs.

The sights in KH are just as enveloping as the sounds, as each track coaxes you right into the mood of the scene. Whether it’s lost in a sea of seething darkness, or bouncing around on a tropical island, the game knows how to make you feel like you belong.

Home is where the heart is.

IT'S HOMELESS IN HERE, VERY HOMELESS!

FUCK I’VE BEEN EVICTED

From a simple combat system to a charming little facade, there isn’t much Kingdom Hearts 1 doesn’t do with fabulous style. Mind you, this isn’t a segway into another 2000 words of analysis contrasting the duality of the experience (which wouldn’t be out of my norm), it’s simply a celebration of hearts and kingdoms lost.

To put it another way, On V-Day, I normally go one of two ways.

First Way: Darkness

Darkness Is Spreading

Darkness Is Spreading

Second Way: Fuzzy

You Know, Spending Time With My Favorite Lady

You Know, Being Fuzzy Spending Time With My Favorite Lady

As far as my reference to being fuzzy, I would have happily discussed Zelda this very day, but I feel like that has been fucking covered. In any case, if you consider I kicked my day off by murdering hookers in GTA: Vice City, in conjunction with beating A Link Between Worlds, I was simply all over the place in deciding how best to deal with beating hearts.

Needless to say, this odd dynamic gave way to a healthy gambit of emotions, and combined to give me some well needed light, with a healthy dose of darkness. This emotional contrast was rich, and fulfilling, and is likely what drove me to explore my various moods, through the sincere inclination that is Kingdom Hearts.

Thanks For The Memories, Guys

Thanks For The Memories, Guys

~Pashford

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Whore Swords Adventures

Hey Gamers,

After finishing up my last post, regarding how best to whore your swords, I realized it was time for an adventure.

Way Greater Than This

Way Greater Than This

I really thought I had wrung dry my ponderous juices from the sweet fruit of Zelda (ew?), but it’s that special sweet sauce that keeps on sustaining me.

Let me rephrase.

I thought I had reached conclusion in discussing A Link Between Worlds, which was the initial reason I was roused from my dormant state of writing slumber. While I’m largely finished talking about ALBW, it did make me realize there were immediately interesting topics to be had about Zelda. More so, when I spoke of Nintendo’s failure, in reference to selling Zelda, it made me think of why the company has so much trouble selling their concepts (see: whoring their swords). I related the idea of overlooked marketing, and Zelda itself, to the Halo series.

This odd comparison was an attempt to show you that despite having four different games…and ultimately four swords, all feeling slightly differently, they all held onto that “sword feel”. Zelda, like any good game, does this in spades, though I thought it was a worthwhile intellectual effort to analyze how.

Okay, it’s probably not going to be such a grand mental endeavor, but it will involve video games…and those are always fun, right?

(Citation Needed)

Never mind

I will begin with acknowledgement of what A Link Between Worlds does exceedingly right, and that’s the equipment rental system. Above all else, this is the biggest element of ALBW that really helps define it from other Zelda games, even A Link to the Past, it’s glorious predecessor. One of the reasons ALBW maintained it’s simplicity and kept “That Zelda Feel” I discussed in my last post, was due in part to it’s reinforcement of what makes Zelda games great. Exploration is Hyrule’s bread and butter, and the more you have in a single title, the tastier the experiences is.

In letting players rent almost any piece of equipment from the start, the designers practically tossed you the keys to the car and said “enjoy the ride”. This is a massive deviation from past Zelda titles, where progression was tied to gear acquisition. ALBW tries something different however, and it pays off immediately.

Zelda is exploration, and the rental system reignites the fires of curiosity from the start.

Which Is More Ideal Than Just Being Lit On Fire.

Which Is More Ideal Than Just Being Lit On Fire.

This is one of the elements  I feel Nintendo simply overlooked in their marketing of the game. This notion of immediate accessibility really opens Hyrule up tremendously, due to it’s simplicity in honing a better Zelda game, by focusing about what is the Zelda experience. The game is about exploring, so don’t keep the players waiting to explore. While (perhaps) it may be a difficult facet of the game to vocalize, I’m not sure Nintendo has really adhered to keeping “non-linearity” synonymous to the Zelda brand.

While I’m aware non-linearity is not initially a “sellable concept” in terms of the snap, crackle and pop of marketing, the effort to try and put it in the minds of respective gamers is key to the experience. Having non-linearity be synonymous with the name Zelda, is a good way to use unspoken truths, and ultimately more fun language to elaborate on a dry semantic of principle gameplay. The rental system I feel is invaluable to the future of Zelda,  and opening exploration up with such negotiable terms in getting items so immediately is perhaps one of the best innovations in Zelda since 3D.

ALBW offers up the rental system, which gives way to instant gratification in the exploration process. This should not be a one off, and should carry as a staple element of what helps to make the Zelda tradition, and gives us at least the first element to our all inclusive Zelda experience.

Next up, I take a look at what I feel is an overlooked element of what made Twilight Princess so much fun.

While not an immediate follow up to Ocarina of Time, as many Zelda games were sandwiched between both titles, it was more or less the spiritual successor to the title. Many Zelda fans believed OoT was the pinnacle of the series (aside from retro purists in regards to LttP), and were completely ruined when they saw the graphics for Wind Waker. I’ll leave that discussion be for now, but the acknowledgement of what fans wanted was abundantly clear. The darker tones, the more adult atmosphere…Twilight Princess was what many Zelda fans had been clambering for. TP did a lot of what OoT did, in creating a living breathing world. One of the ways TP helped to capitalize on he formula, however, was with it’s cunning use of in game dungeons.

Or seemingly, the lack there of.

I'm Sorry, Do You Live Here? I Was Looking For The Next Dungeon...

I’m Sorry, Do You Live Here? I Was Looking For The Next Dungeon…

Twilight Princess really reinforced the art of dungeon design, mostly due in part to us (the players) not even knowing we were in one. While I readily admit the earlier dungeons were a bit more obvious in execution, Zelda does trip up a little bit on the hand holding aspects of the “tutorial” phases of the game. Even so, and considering that we were treated to the standard forest, fire, water levels of Zelda’s past, they had just enough clever elements as to feel more engaging. To run through just the first few levels, The Goron Mines felt more relevant to the geography of the world, with purpose and relevancy. Further, the quirks found within felt fresh and well done. Using the iron boots to be able to walk on magnetic surfaces, including the ceiling? Magnifico!

Lakebed Temple just felt danker, like you really were speulinking in an underwater cavern. Hell, it was a Water Temple that didn’t drive us to self-mutilation based on difficulty, and more importantly, didn’t suck. Full stop, that’s a great improvement on Ocarina’s dungeon, and pretty much across the board for water levels in video games. Even the forest temple, with all of it’s simplistic splendor, had fun elements other games just never pulled off. The entire thing was filled with Monkey’s for shitting sake, making the whole thing jump to life with an absurd tone most Zelda levels don’t ever exhibit…

…and all because of a load of monkey’s.

It Was Some Proper Monkey News Going On In The Forest Temple.

It Was Some Proper Monkey News Going On In The Forest Temple.

Which brings about a random but relevant question: Twilight Princess…Karl Pilkington’s favorite would be Zelda game?

So There Was Like This, Monkey, Right? And It Was Knocking About In Some Temple With A Boomerang And All That.

So There Was Like This, Monkey, Right? And It Was Knocking About In Some Temple With A Boomerang And All That….

Ah…love that man. Head like a fucking Goron.

Anyways, my point is, even the introductory dungeons, in there more obvious implementation, still offered a lot of vitality and exuberance in what they offered. Interestingly enough, I feel as if I couldn’t do the later dungeons enough justice with just words, as they feel so pitch perfect, and organically nestled right into the bosom of Hyrule. The Arbiters Grounds, Snow Peak Ruins, The City In The Sky…they were all crafted so well, I forgot I was even in the process of beating a dungeon, and in a stroke of genius, didn’t even know I was actually in one to begin with.

An anecdote I don’t mind sharing here, involves my continual reference to Snow Peak Ruins as the Yeti’s House for years to come, finding out only much later the dungeon had a different  name.

This is fitting, because it wasn’t until I was about to fight the boss I realized it was even a dungeon to begin with. That is what I’m talking about. That is world building, that is nuance, and that is immersion at it’s finest.

Bitch Please, My Dungeons Be Bumbin.

Bitch Please, I Know My Dungeons Be Bumbin.

While I readily admit, TP was not the first Zelda game to do this, but the Zelda game that did it the best. While Ocarina gets some heavy credit for some inventive invites (Deku Tree, Lord Jabu Jabu), Twilight Princess still stands as Queen of the Quest Areas, something even the best Zelda’s out there (Wind Waker, ALBW) can’t brag about.

Leaving behind some fascinating earthbound geography, I look to the skies for my next topic of interest.

Out Of Fear, Mind You.

Out Of Fear, Mind You.

Majora’s Mask is another good example of a Zelda game that had special flair, but wasn’t quite embraced within the Zelda pedigree from the start. Then again, and much like any (and many) sequels following highly successful games, MM was initially at arms length of fan approval as a follow up to Ocarina. This is understandable in one way, OoT is still the best rated game of all time, and is a regular on “best ever” lists right next to Super Mario Bros, Street Fighter II and GTA III.

That level of greatness.

Talk About Lighting The Flames Of Curiosity.

Talk About Igniting The Fires Of Curiosity

Regressing back to the initial release of Majora’s Mask, we see a bit of a slow reception of the title, with only die hards really singing it’s praise. As time moved on, and the Ocarina hype train rode into the sun set, we had a second of introspection, in re-examining what MM did great. General Zeldiness…”That Zelda Feel” if you will, but what did Majora’s Mask do that Ocarina just couldn’t quite boast about?

More Hats

More Hats

I’m only slightly kidding. The selection was fantastic though…I mean that bunny hood…

Those ears!

*Clears Throat*

Focusing on what helped to truly innovate Majora’s Mask, was the culture found within the game. While the span of Hyrule Field, the inhabitants of Hyrule Market, and the change of day and night really did make Ocarina feel more alive than most other games at the time, MM really took this concept and ran with it. Keeping in mind the game deals with time travel,the apocalypse and having only three short days to get shit done, the developers put a conscious effort in portraying every day life adequately. However, they did this quiantly, almost in a fourth wall breaking way. All of the NPC’s doing the same thing over and over again, was completely acceptable on the grounds that you keep repeating the same three days over and over again. Since Link’s passage through time technically doesn’t effect anything, as he’s only moving back to a singular point, this cyclical sense of familiarity made the entire game feel very alive.

Which Is A Refreshing Notion, Because Everyone Really Dies

Which Is A Refreshing Notion, Because Everyone Really Dies

Surprisingly, an in game element that usually stresses people out, and is the bane of virtual existence to many (time limits), would end up becoming the brilliant foundation Majora’s Mask is built on. Getting to know the townspeople, their issues, how you can help, and trying to make their lives a better place for the short time left they have to live has a subtle beauty about it, one that makes you feel kinda touched. A rare form of emotional heroism that no amount of slain dragons could ever match. Even if we just look at the heart wrenching Kafei side quest, you realize one of the most touching love stories ever told by Nintendo is in a Zelda game…and it doesn’t even involve the main character.

Just two lovers, finally finding each other at the ends of the earth, meeting under an apocalyptic sky, one last time.

True Love

The World Can End Now

Majora’s Mask’s culture is simply astounding, especially considering the limitations of the N64. That sense of inter-connectivity, intimacy, and involvement has to this day, not been topped by another Zelda game. That’s fourteen years of undisputed dominancy, by Termina, a couple dozen masks, and that gigantic bastard moon. The game effortlessly reminds us all, of how much you can really do, in three short days.

And the true joy that can follow suit.

Or Death

Or Death

In summation, while I do enjoy the individuality that each of these stellar elements brings to their respective games, I don’t think we would be robbing their own quality, if we continued to capitalize on their proven formula. Zelda was for a very long time, considered the best of the best, and for good reason. All of these elements and more (top-notch exploration, clever design, and culture) are all key reasons the games continued to keep topping themselves, again and again. I am a firm believer that this series will continue on long after their makers pass away, and very likely long after I’ve made a final trip into my own personal Lost Woods. We shouldn’t let inevitability ever stop us, and we should always do well to remind ourselves where we came from, and what we’ve done right to even have that thought in the first place.

It can mean a world of difference.

~Pashford

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Whore Swords

Hey Gamers,

Despite my best efforts, I have not yet tired of speaking about Zelda.

I Think I'd Have To Change My Name If I Did

I Think I’d Have To Change My Name If I Did, Honestly

I made mention of a possible part four to conclude my thoughts on Zelda, though I feel as if I’ve already done justice in giving A Link Between Worlds ample spotlight. This whole line of articles, for those who may remember, was the first effort in flexing my mental fibers after a long hiatus. ALBW gave me plenty to think about, and Zelda does easy work of making me a happy gamer. While my last post  may have come off rather irritated instead of happy, it was more of a “dude, really?” in regards to Nintendo’s sometimes backward approach in game design. The company may be responsible for building the house of Mario, but that doesn’t mean they’re master carpenters all of the time.

And the metaphorical outhouses they sometimes build

Too Soon?

*ShitFests

Nintendo did learn a valuable lesson from narrowly focus testing the 3DS XL in house: do not build accessories to scale with Reggie Fils-Aime size in mind.

Reggie, Seen Here, Standing In His Office At Nintendo HQ

Reggie, Overseeing Operations At A Nintendo HQ

I will save myself (and you) from the endless stream of jokes, resulting in the mention of the massive girth Reggie boasts.

Those are laughs for another time.

I speak in reference to Nintendo’s meaty American President (and more directly to the Circle Pad Pro), as a correlative reference to my last post, which dealt with Nintendo’s missteps with Skyward Swords motion controls. I’ve made peace with what I think in regards to SS, and the mention of the game’s usage of the Wii-mote helps to center a singular point Nintendo often seems to get wrong: simplicity. The debate I observed, had some claiming the motion controls indeed complicated an already simplistic control scheme, which has a truth about it. More leg (arm) work was involved in controlling Link in SS, thusly making the game a little more involved, and a little less simple. Skyward Sword failed in adhering to a simplicity found in previous games, and lacked “That Zelda Feel” for some, ensuring the game was not fully embrace across the board.

In contrast, ALBW works rather simply, and that’s very good for players of all sorts. The game’s simplicity may have been overlooked in pre-hype phases, from the way Nintendo tried to sell the game. Very simply, while the wall hugging is cool, the 3D elements offer some visual oomph, and the game boasts a “retro flair”, these are all just elements Nintendo ended up abusing for marketing purposes, because they all are easily identifiable ways to sell Zelda. What surprises me here, in fact, is that in some strange way, selling Zelda by Zelda standards seems beyond Nintendo at this point, as if they’ve forgotten that the basic formula is what makes or breaks a game.

You can have all of the cool abilities and weapons in a game, but if it doesn’t feel right, it’s no game at all.

Balthier, Reminding Vaan He's Got No Game At All

Balthier, Reminding Vaan He’s Got No Game At All

Moving from reality to fantasy, let’s take shooters for example.

Articulation can be difficult, especially in sub cultures. In gaming for example, a lot of people might like a game, but may not have the vocabulary to explain why. Some people just lack awareness, others just simply don’t put as much thought into how they enjoy their spare time as I do. Any popular game or title that is worth it’s weight in virtual gold, possesses this comfortable value of feel through effective design. Why a Halo player may not enjoy Counter Strike and vice versa, is only lost to those who haven’t really spent time with either. Halo and Counter Strike both have different feels, and even within their own machinations, different iterations of Counter Strikes and Halos can indeed differ.

All

All

Different

Different

Feels

Feels

Bro

Bro

Four Swords, all of the same caliber, all used by the Chief. Ignoring a lot of the fourth wall breaking stuff (like the god awful weapon continuity of the Halo universe due to alterations in game balancing), the man and the sword do not change, though the feel does. The overall feel, to the uninitiated, is one of empowerment. Power Weapon Mongering may be one way to describe it, noob swooping another, and sword whoring yet one more title this specific empowerment takes on. They all refer to the same thing, and yet from game to game, the feel changes ever so slightly, but tries to not get too far away from that classic “sword feel”. A hard concept to relate to, if you have an estrangement from the virtual realities of Halo, but one that helps frame why or how a game “feels right”. Even within a single fan base, this can be a violent, divisive sense of elitism and debate, which shows you just how complex and delicate game design really can be.

Though Delicacy and Complexity Are Not Always What's Produced

Though Delicacy and Complexity Are Not Always What’s Produced

I know my focus on first person shooters may seem like an odd interjection in terms of Zelda discussion, but it relates in a broader sense, how Nintendo seems to “miss the point” in marketing Zelda by Zelda standards, and overlooking “the feel” of a game entirely. I suppose in some ways, people may criticism Nintendo for playing it too safe with their own formulas, so an appeal to the familiar in marketing may have been dangerous territory. Considering how quick Nintendo was to try and sell the DS Zelda’s and Skyward Sword on “gimmicks” instead of “Zelda”, selling ALBW more honestly as a straight up Zelda game, without the 3D wall hugging bells and whistles attached, might have been a good thing.

Not that I’m implying Zelda needs to follow Halo’s lead in marketing or execution, but the two can benefit from similar approaches

Link Warthog

Seen Here: Link Only Briefly Questioning What Song He Just Played On His Ocarina

ALBW did just fine in both a retail and critical sense, so I believe what’s synonymous with Zelda is still well intact, even if Nintendo’s understanding of it is not. Again, I’m not saying Zelda needs to HTFU, gets some guns, blow shit up etc, I just think Nintendo forgets how Zelda simply is better in the first place, without all of the superfluous nonsense. “That Zelda Feel” is all important, and really why the series, even when the games seem too safe or too quirky, are still tons of fun. My concern with the quality of ALBW, is that it’s polish may have been in an incidental bi-product of being a sequel to a game with a fantastic feel, A Link to the Past, and how playing it completely safe here was completely acceptable. I know this goes back to what Zelda you like, and there’s plenty of you out there (which is good), but I think it’s about time Nintendo acknowledges some of the strengths of certain Zelda games, and brings them to the front in one title.

You Know, Reaching A Common Ground Between Fans?

You Know, Like Reaching A Common Ground Between Fans?

I’m ending this post (in one sense) prematurely, only because I’ve broken up the writing process of finishing this post into three parts, which has made the effort unfocused. I’ve also gone and had too many ideas concerning “That Zelda Feel”, and realize further discussion is required in all regards. ALBW, as I’ve observed, is appealing, provoking, and refined, largely due in part to staying faithful to familiar fun. The game has been inspiring enough, in these more personally dark times, and has helped me to ponder a great many things about design and Zelda as a result. I believe my next post will continue to Link  Zelda’s, in understanding how the series has done it best.

As I’ve investigated here today, a Link Between Worlds can really draw you in, and will remind you that inspiration can sometimes be found in odd places.

They say green is the color of genius.

They Say Green Is The Color Of Genuis

I’d Argue It Can At Least Be The Color Of Success

~Pash

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A Link Between Posts

Hey Gamers,

A Link Between Worlds continues to thrill me with it’s sense of artistry, and how Mr.Aonuma’s team really went all out in creating a gorgeous looking world you can really jump into.

ALBW Jumps

I Know, I Know

You Saw What I Did There

You Saw What I Did There

I wasn’t even sure if I was going to Link these articles into a trio, but I stand corrected. Who knows? We may get a quadrilogy out of my thoughts, with my fourth post talking more about the in’s and outs of the armaments and multiplayer elements ALBW has to offer.

Hmm…I’ll have to think of a good name.

While I have no definitive focus in writing about ALBW today, I never really have a definitive focus, and it hasn’t turned out poorly yet. Besides, some of the aspects of the game I want to discuss don’t really involve playing the game, as much as they center around ideas the game has inspired. As I made mention of in yesterdays post, the “wall hugging” aspects of ALBW really ties the game together. It’s obvious the experience was built from the ground up with merging in mind, and the ability feels just such, and not more so a gimmick to distract from the gameplay.

Yet Another Fate Link Doesn't Always Avoid

Yet Another Fate Link Doesn’t Always Avoid

My mention of Skyward Swords motion controls are in acknowledgement, and not agreement of their accused gimmicky nature. I’m taking a breath as we speak, so as not to completely derail from my ALBW focus. I could write entire an series of articles detailing the dialogue surrounding Skyward Sword, and the Wii era in general, so bare with me as I struggle against the urge. In any case, while I’m not congruent with the angry detractors Skyward  Sword definitely had, it was hard not to hear the outcries of it’s stubborn use of motion controls. Ignoring all other premise involved with the argument, it didn’t matter whether the motion controls were good or not, it’s that motion controls just aren’t good for some people. Even more alarming, is that some people who don’t enjoy motion controls, also happen to like Zelda.

True madness.

This realization alone should have forced Nintendo into a compromise, and allowed for a pro controller or wave bird alternative to make everyone happy. If the goal of your game is to reach a wider audience, (See: Nintendo Blue Ocean Strategy), then customized controls are the first logical step towards including the largest number of gamers (buyers) as possible. Think of it as kind of a …”Between Worlds” option, one that would benefit all kinds of players.

Let Me Think Of A Good Comparison

Let Me Think Of A Good Comparison

I imagine some of you laughing, while others are thinking to themselves “bitch don’t know comparative analysis worth dick”.

Fuck you, and give me a second.

The comparison isn’t exact, in paralleling ALBW on the 2DS and proposing SS be played with regular controllers, only because I referred to the wall hugging as the gimmick, and not the 3D of the device itself. However, when one considers the motion controls for SS were a bi-product of the Wii’s functionality, then Nintendo offering up the 2DS (and subsequently being able to play ALBW without the 3D as a result), shows us a clear case where Nintendo was quick to correct innovative assumption. Once again, I don’t dislike the 3D on the 3DS, and I can play with the effect full blast for hours. I can however, hear noticeable cries against the implementation of the 3D, whether it be through it’s inclusion as a gimmick, or just the fact that the 3D physically bothers their eyes (and hurts the wallets).

Kind of re-framing my point for a second, the 2DS kind of represents a (thankful) awareness on Nintendo’s part, that for once, a gimmick gamble didn’t pay off. This is in stark comparisons to when it certainly did with the Wii, by stupid fucking amounts, but the continued trouble the 3DS has had, from early attempts with the apologetic ambassador program, to the inclusion of the far cheaper 2DS, proves that Nintendo has only been able to make right in recent times, by admitting how terribly wrong they were.

Sadly, Nintendo just doesn’t have that old school nostalgic infallibility they were once known for. In some ways, Nintendo lost it’s Power a long time ago.

Nintendo Power Doesn't Exist Anymore.

In More Ways Than One

So, after some deliberation, and an extremely round about point, I think just analyzing why Nintendo came out with the 2DS is a serious indicaton, in a weird way, there really is no reason to have refused Skyward Sword players an alternate control method at all. It’s been made perfectly clear Nintendo can’t be on a high horse of success when they’re dodging low hanging tree branches of logic, and I think SS would have been more warmly received and just more played ($$$), had they just released an alternative control scheme to begin with.

It’s way easier than coming out with a whole new console.

Way Easier

I’m Guessing

Wait, what was I suppose to be talking about? A Link Between Worlds? Well, that didn’t really work. I’ll just rename the piece “A Link Between Posts” and act like I was tying two separate points in time together through some clever editing.

They’ll never know.

Entirely focused or not, I think we covered some good ground today. We learned wall hugging is easier than sword fighting, and that ignoring those who matter most will cost you dearly in the long run. Oh, and Zelda rocks…but I’m not sure my post was entirely needed to impart that truth. While I am of the firm belief gaming benefits creative solutions and fun effort, that’s not to say there isn’t more than one way to approach a problem, and sometimes the best solution is often the simplest. I said yesterday that in order to enjoy ALBW, all you had to is think fourth dimensionally.

Simply speaking, thinking fourth dimensionally isn’t always required.

Sometimes it’s best to just avoid tripping over yourself.

Something I've Had A Lot of Pointers On

Something I’ve Had A Lot of Pointers On

~Pash

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