Why a Video Game Industry Crash Could be A Good Thing

crash1

It seems like more and more often, I’m reading about the video game industry crashing again. My initial reaction to these reports was the shrug them off by pointing to the record profits, hardcore fanbase, and the apparently recession-proof nature of the medium. But lately, having thought about this more often, I’ve started to come around and realize that the current business model may no longer be viable and appears to be hanging on to remnants of the past while branching out in the wrong directions. But given these observations, would another industry apocalypse be a bad thing?

To those who may not be familiar with the history of the medium, the Crash of 1983 ended the first generation of video gaming in devastating fashion. The fledgling industry over saturated the market without regard for quality and brought about its own demise by overextending itself in a rush to maximize profits too fast and too soon. Nintendo single-handedly saved gaming with the NES a couple years later, but 1983 remains a warning that it could all come crashing down again if companies are not careful.

Over thirty years after the big crash, video games are taking over as a dominant entertainment medium. The biggest earners in any given year are typically gaming staples like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto and the culture that has risen up around gaming is a combination of massive and passionate that film, television, and literature fans can’t touch. We’ve reached a sweet spot where artistic interactive storytelling, astonishing visuals, excellent soundtracks, and genuine fun have all come together to make it a something for everyone catch-all entertainment behemoth.

games recession proof

The bigger they are…

So why is it going to crash? Well hardware prices are going up, more companies are trying to throw their hats into the ring, budgets are becoming more and more inflated, companies are becoming less and less consumer friendly, and set price points for games coupled with tough economic times for the middle and lower classes are leading to more people buying used and pirating. Even with massive sales, companies are often losing money due to the immense budgets of their products.

This leads me to believe that Nintendo may actually have the leg up on Sony and Microsoft, in spite of appearances. For all of the mockery the Wii-U has endured for not being high-tech enough and not having enough awe-inspiring games, this conservative approach could be in anticipation of some economic calamity that they foresee. Nintendo is not dumb. For all intents and purposes, they built this house out of the rubble of the Atari age. And they may well be poised to clean up again after the Xbox and PlayStation brands implode under their own weight.

Which brings me to my next point: where will we as gamers be with our hardcore gaming brands out of commission? Well, there is no possibility of video games not making an immediate comeback. We may lose some of the biggest companies, but we will not lose the medium. It’s part of who we are as a generation now. There will always be interactive digital adventures to be had, with or without the Microsofts and EAs of the world.

But how, you crazy bastard, you say. How will we survive without a new Call of Duty and Madden every single year or a stack of unplayed games that we reflexively bought because they looked awesome but never got a chance to play because were too busy playing new Call of Duty and Madden every year?  Well, you know what they say: less is more. Part of the reason the industry may be dooming itself is because there is just too much out there. I know this is as First World problems as it gets, but there are literally too many games on any one console for any of us to hope to play.

game sales chartRemember when we used to get a game and play it for years unraveling every secret and replaying the same levels over and over just to get better for its own sake? I don’t know what that feels like anymore. Every time I fire up a new game, I’m already thinking about the next game I’m going to play. There are so many games that I don’t have time for that I feel like I have to rush through every game I play so I can hurry up and get to the next one and the one after that, hoping to get to them all before the next console generation where I start the process all over again while still lamenting the games I never got to play on the last gen.

Maybe my problem in life is that I want to experience too much. Perhaps this is the form of my impending mid-life crisis: to have so many things I want to see, read, watch, play, and do with no time for them all. Again, it’s a good problem to have as far as dilemmas go, but with so much out there and so many people with only so much time and money to go around, it seems like the entertainment industry can’t take much more expansion. Something is going to give and gaming seems to be the industry pushing itself the hardest.

But even if we lose all of the big three and even Valve, gamers will not want for distraction. One of the big stories of the several years has been indie games. From low tech nostalgia-style titles to story-based adventures told in installments, smaller companies are proving that you don’t need big budgets to deliver a good time. If the corporations crumble, these guys will be more than ready to fill their void, and with the extra attention they could potentially become the next generation of mainstream gaming and remake the industry with a completely new paradigm.

Imagine a world without set $60 price points and day one DLC. No more paid corporate shill reviews flooding websites or overpriced special editions, no products rushed to market before their time, and no goddamn console wars either. Imagine all the people living for today. You may say I’m a dreamer, but…wait, what was I talking about?

burning xbox

We don’t need no water…

Oh, right. Let it all burn, then. Thanks for the good times, corporate gaming overlords, but progress marches on.  Not that we should start picking out a catchy tombstone epitaph for EA just yet or anything, but given the direction that things appear to be going with new consoles failing to live up to expectations and general consumer malcontent becoming the norm, I could see a return to smaller PC titles in the future.

Whether it happens or not we’ll see, but with gaming cemented in the public’s collective consciousness as primo entertainment we don’t really have much to fear if it does. There’s plenty of talent out there to make sure that the industry will bounce back and chances are a reboot could end up being beneficial to consumers and give a lot of new blood and fresh ideas a chance without being gobbled up by the sharks. And to that I say, why the hell not. The last one cleared out the crap and gave us some of the most definitive years in gaming history. I’m definitely interested in what could be in store for the next cycle.

Are Politics Ruining Gaming Culture?

politics

Gotta love the internet age. When I was younger, people had to take the time to at least listen to the radio or watch television before they pretended to indulge in half-baked politics. Sometimes I swear that the Internet is the greatest of mankind’s inventions. Everybody in the world can communicate anything now! Then I end up swearing that it’s the worst invention in human history. Everybody in the world can communicate ANYTHING now.

Like I said, back in the day you had to at least get the official line of bullshit regarding the goings-on in the world around you if you were too lazy to read a real book on the subject. That or you could listen to the ravings of homeless people and Christians with signs protesting devil worshiping outside of heavy metal concerts on the streets of major cities. If you wanted to publicly participate, you had to…you know…actually do stuff.

But now that we’ve got the internet, political education begins and ends with social networking posts that are derived entirely from other social networking posts that were made by people who don’t appear to ever leave their home and presumably have no practical interest in the outside world and politics anyways. At some point, this human centipede-like process of education based on tweets, message board posts, and status updates became the cornerstone of modern discourse in nerd culture.

What does this have to do with video games? Well, have you been on a video game message board in the last few years? One where everybody is an expert on human rights and hell-bent on bending the entire world to their will without leaving their keyboard? Every major game is now a political battleground between feminists with a massive checklist of demands that must be met lest they buy the game anyways but complain about it lots and misogynistic tools who may not even know themselves if they are trolling or not since online douchebaggery has become such a reflex at this point.

ninjas

I want to kick their asses SO HARD right now.

When I was little and my mother would throw me out of the house into the countryside to get me away from my Atari 2600 or NES for a few hours, I used to pass time in a little wooded area behind our house. I would pretend I was saving the world from something only I could defeat with my skills learned from watching Kung Fu Theater matinees: evil ninjas.

I’d spin kick and punch the air in all directions like a teenager hardcore dancing, convinced in my imagination that if I stopped, the world would be overrun by these ninjas that nobody else could see. It was good times, but thankfully (hopefully) nobody was around to see this immature maniac spastically lashing out in all directions at nothing. The thing is, as gamers we don’t play outside anymore and as citizens of the internet everybody can see us now. And too damn many of us are still fighting metaphorical invisible ninjas online.

It seems like every major game release comes standard with ridiculous manufactured controversy from the lunatic fringe these days. Grand Theft Auto has always had its share of controversy, but usually from people who are political idiots for a living. The last entry saw a series that has always been the very picture of over-the-top satirical misanthropy in hot water for making fun of female characters. Yeah, GTA. The satirical games known for juvenile humor where almost every character is an irredeemable piece of shit. I know. Try to contain your shock at this revelation.

When one reviewer pointed out this game-changing observation, it kicked off an epic torrent of hate from series supporters that blew up the internet. How do you make a single flame war between idiots in a community that is pretty much a lake of fire at this point actual gaming news? Well, if the article was written by a transgender individual it helps. Being an indefensible prick to a cisgender person is business as usual, but it sucks extra being transsexual and only widespread internet commenting can balance those scales.

Early images of Bioshock Infinite led to a public outcry over Elizabeth’s evil cleavage. A busty girl in a low cut top, you say? To arms!

  I can see your dirty pillows.

                  dirty pillows gif

When her bust size was decreased (which suited the character better, for the record), another outcry over feminism taking over the world resulted. When Bioshock Infinite actually came out, it was labeled “White Guilt: The Game”; presumably by people who either didn’t play it or were angry that the plot mussed their hair when it whooshed right over their heads like Rodan over Tokyo. How do you win?

It’s not all sexism, racism, and homophobia. That’s not First World problem enough to maintain middle class white rage over. Hating people based on that stuff is for edgy teens and FOX News viewers. Let’s talk BioWare. One of the most beloved video game companies in existence. At least they were. Then Electronic Arts bought them.

The torrent of Mass Effect 3 hate speaks for itself. BioWare has sold their soul! They’re the Machine, man! Day One DLC! Worst. Company. Evah. And that was all before they even got to the ending. The game itself: pretty much the same as the last one everybody loved to pieces. But why let things like whether or not it’s extremely fun and brilliant for dozens of hours up until the last few minutes influence you opinion on a video game? It’s EA!

ea evil

No, Shepherd. I am your father.

Here on Gamemoir, we have a smaller audience but a pretty high quality of clientele. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a comment or two on our articles, but zero threats of rape or questioning of sexual orientation or any of the other usual gamer talk. Maybe I’ll egg a few more comments out of somebody by arguing with them, but overall it’s pretty civil. Usually.

In one author’s legendary debut post, she reviewed Europa Universalis IV with part tongue-in-cheek humor and part delightful loopy and antagonistic political rantings over eurocentrism that translated roughly to “flamemeflamemeflameme”. To date, that one post has received nearly 130 comments, almost all different posters, almost universally negative. I’m not sure if the ones that got deleted once the discourse turned anti-Semitic (don’t ask) count on the total, but I think the word “shitstorm” is appropriate either way.

I kind of miss the days where controversy meant rich old people declaring that Mass Effect was hardcore pornography and Grand Theft Auto was a murder simulator. We had a good laugh together at these uneducated dimwits fighting battles against nonexistent problems, didn’t we?  It’s only been a few years, but in that time fighting the war against people who are wrong on the internet has somehow become more important than the entertainment culture we share and now we are the dimwits lashing out blindly at each other while accomplishing nothing aside from making ourselves look stupid.

Being pampered First World residents who can afford to spend all of our time playing video games and pretending to be all deep and stuff by typing about privilege on the internet until our fingers hurt while other people starve and freeze to death or dodge bullets and bombs in their neighborhoods doesn’t really show how socially aware we are so much as it highlights how unspeakably immune to irony we are to have nothing better to do with our time. And yes, I am doing it right now. You’re learning.

If making the world a better place was the goal, I suspect there are better ways to go about it than spreading politically-correct fascism or donating over $150,000 that could have been used to feed the hungry for the pleasure of watching a

sarkeesian gif

The Hiltons and Kardashians are currently in a bidding war to bottle her sweat for a new fragrance.

cartoonishly indulgent Youtuber who never played video games before list stuff that happened in video games where female characters aren’t the most awesomest.

Who knew that all that time I thought I was playing Super Mario Brothers and Donkey Kong in my youth because the games were fun, it was actually all part of a brainwashing conspiracy to make me hate women?  Well it didn’t work in the slightest, but Anita Sarkeesian appears to have made more inroads in that direction with a few videos than a thousand video games ever could for some people. Irony does not have to be our enemy, friends. A little self-awareness goes a long way.

In a world where somebody who rapes a 14-year old girl can get off with a misdemeanor child endangerment charge and the only way we find out is because a hacker collective spams the net with it, I’d say we have bigger fish to fry than video game characters’ fashion sense and internet trolls where misogynistic behavior is concerned.

dragons crown sorceress

Just to be clear: this is utterly ridiculous.

Fiction is almost by definition a place where we can get away from real life for a while. We can be someone and somewhere else and experience things we can’t normally experience and do things virtually that we have no real interest in doing in real life like pay hookers for car sex and then running them over and taking the money back to kick off a citywide mayhem spree that ends with being blown up by tanks. In other words, it’s not real life. Not even comparable.

Fantasy entertainment is a place where we can indulge our id to its utmost without any consequence in a society that has become so super-ego driven and unaware of itself that it’s practically a satire. By choosing to ignore the real world and transplanting its problems into fantasy fiction, we are doing both a disservice and shitting where we eat.

Will the invisible ninjas we call political differences ever go away? Nope. Idiots gotta idiot and jerks gotta jerk. There is no controlling this. As long as humans have been able to communicate, they’ve been able to miscommunicate and the internet has made worldwide distribution of brain vomit as effortless and simple as the thought processes that spew it. There is no changing our fellow humans.

Remember the last time your political arguments were so convincing that the opposition bowed down and told you how right and smart and superior you were and would you please teach them to be so knowledgeable?   Exactly. There is no mission to accomplish here; just a lot of delusions of the other side taking over the world if we don’t stop them using the letters on our keyboards and social media-driven education to right their grievous wrongs.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of this stuff is worth discussing. But there is a time, a place, and a balance. Spending all day looking for a gaming journalist who made a faux pas so you can gather the troops and bully them for using a word you have collectively decided you do not like or some other nonsense adds to the community about as much as an 11-year-old on Xbox Live screaming racial and sexual slurs.

If we can all just agree to be responsible for our own behavior, I think it’d make our little community a lot more livable. When we accept the fact that we can’t change other people and that many of those other people enjoy saying and doing things we may not like to say or do, we’ll understand the actual meaning of tolerance. Until then, feel free to try and beat Gamemoir’s flaming record telling me how dumb I am. 130 comments is your goal. Alternately, you could use this handy guide to gauge your own personal rage level.

internet comment guide

The Virtues of Accepting a Work on its Own Merits

merit

“Oh HELL no, you’re not trolling us with Sucker Punch, Verboon!” shout the indignant Unreality readers in unison. Would I do such a thing? I might. Hell, you know I would. With relish. But hear me out anyways. What’s all this nonsense about accepting something on its own merit? Well, this could take a minute to explain. Perhaps an entire article’s worth.

What I’m saying basically is that we are conditioned by various external factors in our life that we’ve internalized to be predisposed to like and not like certain things. Don’t panic, this is normal. For example, when I see Justin Beiber’s face, I am filled with a need to punch kittens. But let’s say the little bastard grows up to star in some of the greatest films ever made. How many of us would either refuse to watch it or actively talk shit about it without having given it a fair shake?

Political values, cultural differences, and other prejudices are often a defining factor in what we decide is the best thing ever and what we will fight to the death to defame. But it doesn’t have to be that way, friends. We can go to the movies or read books or play video games to have a good time and let go of all the hate. Well, most of it.

merit1

Beleib dat!

We need not diss Django Unchained because it’s about killing whitey and Tarantino’s face is stupid, nor despise James Bond as a cartoonish chauvinistic male fantasy. We need not dismiss Ender’s Game because the author is a hate-filled bigot, or claim Sucker Punch is the worst thing ever because anime is for losers, and we sure as hell don’t need to gauge the quality of a film by our ability to ferret out unimportant plot holes.

Speaking of hate-filled bigots, I’d hate to think that a world would exist where I never read the works of H.P. Lovecraft. His tales of supernatural horror were largely a function of one thing: intense xenophobia. Dude was terrified of immigrants and convinced that they were plotting against us with their strange, foreign ways. In fact, they may well be worshipping some tentacle-faced monstrosity and attempting to awaken it to hold dominion over the world!

Can a man with no fears write great horror? Probably not. Should you hold Lovecraft’s racism against his body of work? Only if you want to deprive yourself of some of the best and most imaginative horror fiction ever written. His own fear-filled imagination actually kind of serves as an interesting comparison to modern anti-fandoms in that he took that irrational hatred and twisted it into something unique and creative whereas most of us just act like pompous jerks when we don’t like stuff.

While it’s certainly a positive thing to be able to comprehend the themes and allegories that make up any quality work of art and it’s always good to be aware of the artist’s intentions, I’d argue that whether or not you agree with any of them should not be the deciding factor in how you rate the work. Art is meant to explore and express the thoughts and feelings of an artist. If a work does that effectively, who are you to apply your own personal preferences to assess objective quality?

merit2

            “Those reviews aren’t half bad.”             “Nope, they’re ALL bad!”

Take one of my favorite Asian films, Zhang Yimou’s Hero; a film full of brilliant action, poignant emotions, and intense beauty. It also promotes the value of fascism. Now, if you stacked up all of the things in the world into a pile with things I love at the top and things I hate on the bottom, fascism is at the Earth’s core. Nonetheless, I feel Yimou captured the theoretical idealism that shows the appeal of fascism and in particular the Chinese peoples’ acceptance of it as part of their culture. Rather than allow my personal preferences to dictate my feelings, I accepted the film on its own standards and found it to be one of the most memorable theatrical experiences of my life.

What seems to be the thing is that people project their personal preferences into a work and become blinded when the work isn’t about them in particular. I once read a review of Juno that was pretty much a tearful rant from a woman defending her personal choice to have an abortion and railing against a quirky, whimsical indie comedy for not mirroring her own life experiences. It was a pretty disturbing overshare, but when you think about it a lot of the hate any given work actually kind of resembles a less forthright version of that.

The game Bioshock Infinite ruffled a lot of feathers on both sides of the political aisle with its too close for comfort portrayal of the institutionalized racial oppression that constitutes a large chunk of American history and its subsequent depiction of a bloody uprising that saw the oppressed turn the tables and the revolutionary leader acting in self-interest. Because that has never, ever happened in human history, right? Most revolutions are won with stern words and the new government always turns out to be a flawless rainbow-filled altruistic utopia, right?

It upset conservatives for daring to portray aspects of our culture that they’d rather ignore, and it upset liberals for suggesting that the world is not the perfect place they imagine even after they overthrow the Man. I would say upsetting both extremes makes you the voice of reason- an exceptional feat for any work of art, much less a mere video game- but for many people it was just a reason to write it off.

merit3

So racist it could almost be an old Superman comic book cover.

And then there’s satire (pictured above), which is essentially an ironic mean-spirited joke that people with no sense of humor will not realize is a joke, thus making it even funnier. Can I explain why taking stupid ideas and following through on them to their illogical extreme to illustrate their stupidity brings me amusement? I suppose I can’t, but I do know that a significant portion of the population not comprehending the concept fills message boards and comment sections on the net daily.

So basically, whether or not something conforms to our own preconceived notions of how things ought to be is often how we intellectually assess its quality. Except that intellectuality is defined by objective analysis and therefore not subject to the pettiness of our own wishful thinking. So if you think elves are lame, homosexuality is an abomination, and we should abort ALL the babies perhaps you could sit out serious discussions about Lord of the Rings, Brokeback Mountain, and Juno maybe? Just spitballing here.

So this brings us back to Sucker Punch. The hate just keeps coming and coming for that one, but I’m not sure I’ve ever read a legitimate reason at so why it’s so unwatchable other than the fashion choices. After it was announced that Wonder Woman would be appearing in the Batman/Superman film, I read an article in which the writer began voicing their concerns about whether the macho-leaning Zack Snyder was the right director to bring the Amazon princess to the big screen.

merit4

In 300 nobody got shirts so I can actually see this working.

It didn’t take much for the article to devolve into a Sucker Punch-based rant that utilized the phrase “anime hookers” repeatedly. This is not how you critique a film. That is how you spray cringe-inducing personal prejudices and hang-ups onto a computer screen for other people to uncomfortably read. Anime style may be a mere subculture in the West, but in Japan it’s practically a way of life.

Sucker Punch utilized some visual imagery associated with anime as part of its tribute to hardcore geek culture and the power of the nerd cocktail of video games, sci-fi, and fantasy as an escape from the often depressing and terrifying realities of the real world. The ladies’ outfits were typical of Japanese characters and clearly meant to bring that culture to mind. Wouldn’t that suggest the biggest problem with the movie is the viewer’s own cultural intolerance? Maybe they should consider creating their own horror universe like Lovecraft to turn that tiresomeness into awesome sauce. I can see it now: The Weeaboo Mythos®.

Poor fashion sense or not, Snyder definitely didn’t do himself any favors by putting the word out that his nerdy wet dream was a female empowerment story and then making it so steeped in metaphor and symbolism that most people weren’t going to understand it beyond the prostitution and miniskirts. That was just inviting disaster. He made a geek-flavored acid trip, and that’s all Sucker Punch was; a unique and stylish action film with psychological themes in an ocean of same ol’ same ol’.

But regardless of Snyder’s lack of feministic awareness, is it really worthwhile to expend energy passing judgment on a film that you simply do not understand? A lot of commentary I’ve read on Sucker Punch strongly implies that the commentators either did not watch the film (as its earnings indicate) or didn’t comprehend anything about it beyond the way the characters were dressed.

Personally, if I don’t “get” something, I’m more likely to either put more thought into it, watch/read it again, and possibly research it in an attempt to understand where it is coming from or leave it alone altogether than I am to insist on foisting an uninformed opinion onto the masses in a rush to…I don’t really know. What is the point, exactly?

merit5

Everyone wants to be part of the magic, I guess.

At this point, it appears that prejudice is part of our genetic makeup. Now that it’s not socially acceptable to be abusive to one another based on the color of people’s skin, sexual preference, or gender we have turned to fiction as a scapegoat to work out our personal hang-ups.  We’re so uncomfortable with those hang-ups that we constantly search for them in pop culture to point them out and feel better about ourselves. And if we can’t find them, projection is always an option.

On the other hand, there is no blind eye we will not turn when it comes to something we enjoy. We’ll proudly cite a plot hole as a reason why one film is horrible and instantly dismiss one just as big in a personal favorite. Michael Bay’s Amos and Andy reboot bots from Transformers 2? Indubitably racist, but not the reason the film was garbage. Otherwise, Star Wars and numerous other classics would be right there with it. And don’t even mention Disney.

So yeah, it’s probably time to admit that everything is horrible and racist and sexist and riddled with errors, and once we get over that fact we can be free to enjoy and ignore what we please instead of chucking double standards all over the place in futile attempts to distract other people from the unwatchable crap we enjoy ourselves. Everybody has something ridiculous that they enjoy, be it mindlessly saccharine rom-coms, grindhouse boob and bloodbaths, cartoons about giant ninja robots piloted by Japanese schoolgirls, mind-numbingly existential  arthouse fare, or anything involving Justin Beiber. But seriously, f**k that guy.

merit6

Sign iiiiiiiiiiit…..

Obviously, all of that stuff is up for discussion but a little tolerance could go a long way when it comes to other peoples’ taste (or lack thereof). Just because the internet allows any jackass to post any thought that pops into their head the second it pops into their head doesn’t mean you have to be that jackass. Just like in real life, any kind of love is better than every kind of hate. If something is clearly not your thing, there’s nothing to be gained by harassing the people who enjoy it. Unless, of course, those people are Twi-hards. Their tears of emo rage are both delicious and nutritious.

(Editor’s note: Nick has been fired for liking Sucker Punch and claiming it has merit, in any form)

Five Horror Films that Shocked the Unshockable

shock

I’ve watched what most people would consider an excessive number of horror films in my life, beginning with Universal monsters as a child and kicking into overdrive by the time I was in college away from parental supervision renting Faces of Death videos and working my way through my roommate’s prodigious Stephen King VHS collection.

By the time DVD was a thing, I believed I’d exhausted most options in horror cinema. Then the internet came along and I saw how very wrong I was. There was a whole world of underground cinema past and present so hardcore it hardly saw the light of day until the advent of digital media. I had work to do. Even today, old cult classics come out of the woodwork and independent filmmakers are pushing the genre towards further extremes. It’s a good time to be a horror fan.

Having grown up with monsters and actively sought out every fright I could find since, I would have thought that there was nothing left that could shock me. Sure, I could get creeped out, startled, and even a little scared if a film was really effective; that’s why I love the genre. But after the credits rolled I was over it. To literally make me lose sleep or upset me on a level that it affects me even after the film is over and done with? That is almost impossible. Nonetheless, it’s been done. Here are five films that left me shocked and disturbed after viewing them.

 

The Children

shock1

Prior to watching this one, I always read the title in my head using the late Isaac Hayes’ voice. Doesn’t really inspire fear. But if you are looking for a new way to be psychologically terrified by watching a fairly tame horror film, won’t somebody please think of The Children?

Here’s a thing you maybe don’t hear very often: being a parent is TERRIFYING. Being responsible for something so helpless that absorbs every ounce of your love and adoration means you are biologically and psychologically compelled to worry around the clock about what terrible things could happen to your family’s bundles of joy. Nothing in the world is more upsetting in human nature than the thought of something truly horrible befalling your children.

That said, flip that fear around. What parents never think about is what if our child was the truly horrible thing befalling us. The Children captures the dynamic of an extended family vacationing together with the requisite tribe of young cousins playing together and being completely out of control. Just how out of control do they get? You don’t want to know.

This is somewhat of a reimagining of the 1976 Spanish film Who Can Kill a Child? But while that one took place in a very 70’s horror movie atmosphere with a childless couple in a remote village, this 2008 film goes straight for the jugular by making family the focus. Even seeing a child harm somebody else and advance on you, could you look into those little puppy dog eyes and do something about it? Even if it was your child? And even if you could, would anybody believe your story? Humans just aren’t wired that way, and I can even go so far as to say I’d rather be hacked to bits my son, nieces, and nephews then harm any of them in self-defense and that is why The Children upset me so much. What if?

 

Inside

shock2

France has an undeserved reputation in America as a country of stuck-up wimps. The people who believe that have probably never watched French horror films. They don’t dick around. One of the most unpleasant is 2007’s Inside.  It’s arguably the best home-invasion film ever made, and considering that is a well-worn classic horror subgenre, that’s a good title to have. It beats most in terms of sheer intensity and brutality, but that’s not why it disturbed me as much as it did.

The protagonist in this film is a pregnant woman whose husband is recently deceased. A mysterious woman appears on her doorstep one night and unlike most idiots in horror films, our heroine plays it pretty smart, being suspicious and even phoning the cops. But what can they do when the cops show up and nobody else is there?

Who is this strange woman so desperate to get into the protagaonist’s house? What does she even want? Inside is particularly effective due to the added stress of the woman being pregnant. The fragile life in a woman’s belly inspires both additional feelings of vulnerability in the expectant mother and frustratingly impotent protectiveness in the audience.

The intensity and stress of the situation and one of the most extreme climaxes I’ve ever witnessed left me shell-shocked by the end. There are multiple meanings to the film’s title, and one of them is that it definitely got inside my head.

 

Cannibal Holocaust

shock3

While I’ve heard that there are more extreme Italian cannibal films out there, I can honestly say I have no desire to see them. Ever. Cannibal Holocaust kept me up at night after watching it. It made me wonder what the f**k I was even doing with my life seeking something like that out. It disgusted me and impressed me at the same time.

If you thought that the genesis of the found footage film was The Blair Witch Project, you would be wrong. This film had the format down pat back in 1980. Normally a story this effective with such a fresh idea would kick off a frenzy of imitators.  But in this case, most people who saw it would rather forget Cannibal Holocaust ever happened.

The DVD release began with a disclaimer informing you that they only released it as a documentation of the kind of film that should never be made again. It was banned almost worldwide for years. Why? Well, let me put it this way: the films creators were actually brought to court and charged with making a snuff film. They had to produce the entire cast in public to clear the allegations. That’s how graphic it is.

I’m not going to get too much into the content because even describing would be unpleasant, but the story is composed of documentary footage filmed by a group of people who went into the jungle to study indigenous tribes and never came back. The things they did on camera were…unscrupulous. Pretty much everything you see happen on camera looks very much like what is was meant to look like: a documentary.

Italy is the all-time heavyweight king of convincing horror film gore and Cannibal Holocaust is exhibit A. But apparently the 100% convincing fake brutality against their fellow humans didn’t cut it so they turned to gleefully butchering live animals on-camera (legal there at the time) on several occasions during filming. Anything for the audience.

Cannibal Holocaust is simply the most vile thing I have ever sat through. You’ve been warned. Gore hounds refer to it as “The Caust”, rejoice at its mention, and scoff at those opposed so if you think you’re hardcore enough, feel free to give it a try, but do yourself a favor and watch it by yourself before you allow anybody you care about to view it.

 

The Girl Next Door

shock4

No, this is not the 2004 B-grade sex comedy about the kid who has a porn star move in next to him. This one is a 2007 adaptation of of Jack Ketchum’s novel based on actual events and represents one of the most difficult reviews I ever had to write (I was coerced into it).

I say it was difficult because I had no idea how to rate a move like this. Did I enjoy it? Not in the least. Do I give it points for portraying horrific realities of human nature or for one of the most skin-crawling onscreen villains ever? It was based on a true story so do I slam it for an ending that was utterly devoid of any narrative cathartic release and vindication or applaud it for sticking to its guns and being one of the most depressing things ever? Does achieving that aim successfully cancel out the sheer unpleasantness of that aim? I argue about these things with myself to this day.

The story follows an adolescent boy whose neighbors take in two young sisters after their parents are killed in a car crash. They probably should have been in the car as well. The Girl Next Door captures the helplessness of youth in contrast with the cruelty of adulthood and explores the fearful fact that children are at the mercy of their elders until the second they are able to strike out on their own.

That terrifying realization that some children have no place else to go and nobody to stand up for them coupled with the fact that children witnessing cruelty without being subject to it themselves can be taught to derive pleasure from suffering and even be eager to participate made this a really difficult one to forget after I shut it off. The premise is psychologically sound. If art is the lie that helps us realize the truth, The Girl Next Door undeniably succeeded on that front, but as entertainment…no, thank you.

 

I Spit on Your Grave

shock5

Now here’s a flick we’ve probably all at least heard of. It even got a remake a few years ago, which baffles me. In 1972 Wes Craven released Last House on the Left (also recently remade), which was a nasty story with graphic rape scenes followed by equally graphic vengeance. Six years later, somebody thought “I can do that better!” and the Day of the Woman came. The title was eventually changed to something a little more grindhousey and a cult classic was born.

The inspiration for this film actually came from real life when the director happened across a nearly-dead rape victim in New York crawling naked through some brush. After delivering her to the hospital, he noted that the police gave exactly zero shits about what the woman had been through and made I Spit On Your Grave to express his thoughts of street justice in a society that just didn’t care about violence against women.

This was one of the most harrowing experiences I’ve ever had watching a film. Craven’s disturbing debut had nothing on this. NOTHING. The film is 110 minutes and about 45 of those minutes is graphic rape. It never seemed to end. Just when you thought it was over and you couldn’t possibly be subjected to more, it starts all over again.

Even the impressively brutal revenge spree (including the most effective castration I’ve ever seen)  that closes the movie is robbed of some of its bloody satisfaction by the fact that one of the rapists is mentally retarded. Yeah, it goes there. Like a true work of art, I Spit on Your Grave doesn’t even make justice cut and dry.

shock6

Say what you want about The Simpsons, but they will awesomely mock ANYTHING.

The horror genre often fails to live up to its name. The word is defined as “an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust” but how often do we really feel that when Jason and Michael Myers are stalking their next victim? Do we not actively seek out and even applaud their rampages on some level? Shouldn’t true horror make us want to run out of the room screaming?

If you’re a casual horror movie fan up for some next level shit, you’ve got your assignments. The underground has been coming on strong for years and it has served up some sick and twisted stuff. When something pushes a hardcore horror fan to the edge of his own sanity, even if just for a minute, you know it’s good.

Five Forgotten SNES RPGs That Deserve Reboots

rpgs

A few weeks ago I was lamenting the lack of really excellent Japanese RPG’s in the past console generation. But really if you discount BioWare and Bethesda, the genre as a whole has been kind of stagnant.

Newer titles seem to lack that creative edge that led to some of the greatest games of past generations. Normally, reboots and remakes don’t exactly bring to mind creativity, but in order to bring back the genre’s groove, it could be a good idea to revisit and even rebuild the successes of the past in order to isolate and potentially build upon what made those games so outstanding.

I feel that remakes get a bad rap due to Hollywood’s half-assing resulting in films that are shadows of the originals, but video games are a different medium altogether.  Capturing the spirit of a gaming classic is a lot easier to do and constant advances in technology have made improving on perfection something very attainable.

So what I’m going to do here is suggest some underappreciated personal favorite titles from the Super Nintendo Entertainment system that represent everything I love about role-playing games.

Games that had fresh ideas that would translate well to the modern era could blow away the competition given a fresh coat of paint. While some lesser series have been perpetuated endlessly, these seem to have been abandoned, and that makes me sad. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

Secret of Evermore

secret of evermore

Remember when Fable 2 came out and everyone went nuts over their virtual canine companion?  Well, they’d already been one-upped over a decade prior by this underrated gem from Squaresoft.  Except in this one, you could actively switch between the boy and his dog, and the dog was way cooler.

Even better is that in addition to the sniffing out of items and taking bites out of evil was that the dog actually leveled and changed form as the game progressed. Ever wanted to chomp fantasy baddies as a big ass poodle? Well you could have!

The setting is a world made up of several kingdoms that vary in theme from science fiction to prehistoric times and more in-between. There is even a Final Fantasy IV crossover where you meet up with the protagonist of my favorite game of all time. Remember when role-playing games used to be full of secrets and surprises beyond boring collectables?

Evermore’s gameplay resembles Secret of Mana, which is a very high compliment, and as you can see in the above picture, it looked damn good for a 16-bit title. I’d love to see a remake of this one since the concept is so strong and imaginative and the canine companion concept was so far ahead of its time. It’s time this dog had its day again.

Ogre Battle

ogre battle

This is simply one of my absolute favorite games ever. When the original March of the Black Queen came out, I had to order it from a catalog because I never saw a copy of it on store shelves. It turned out to be one of the best chances I ever took.

What set this one apart from most other RPG’s was that you did not control the combat at all. You assembled and maneuvered your army on a massive world map capturing and defending towns while engaging the opposing army. But during actual fighting, your troops acted on their own which made your unit configurations very important.

On top of this already-complex system, day and night passed during battles and some units were more effective at night so you had to arrange and move your units appropriately. Vampires, ghosts, and werewolves were best grouped together and deployed at night, for example.  Furthermore, as the war progressed, your morality was an issue. If you stationed terrifying night units in towns, for instance, people would view you poorly and your morality would suffer. Your morality rating was a factor in determining which of several endings you received.

Your units leveled up and evolved as the game went on, and the maps were filled with secrets. This is the kind of strategy game you could play forever. It was a monster to try and finish because there was no way to save during each battle, and the later maps took several hours to complete at best.

A remake or even straight re-release would be an absolute godsend. The N64 had a sequel I never knew existed and the PlayStation had Tactics Ogre, but I think that the time has come to bring this criminally underrated strategy franchise into the modern gaming era.  The game’s developer, Quest, was folded into Square meaning that it’s up to Square-Enix to get their shit together and bring this one back to life.

 

Inindo: Way of the Ninja

inindo

Why aren’t there more ninja-based RPG’s? God only knows. I’ve discussed this one before in my Koei piece, but one good recommendation deserves another. Out of all of these games, I think this title might be the most impressive on a current-gen console due to the sheer depth and variety presented. It was way ahead of its time. Sadly, it’s also the most obscure title on this list.

Inindo puts you in the shoes of a surviving member of the Iga clan of shinobi whose village was destroyed by Oda Nobunaga in mythological feudal Japan. From there, you pretty much get to free-roam it, traveling from village to village and exploring dungeons. There are dozens of other travelers –samurai, monks, and fellow ninja among them- whom the player can build relationships with and eventually party up with if their friendship rating becomes high enough.

In addition to this build-your-own-party system, the player is able to work as a spy for hire for daimyos and build relationships with them as well. Once you’ve progressed in level, you can actually participate in large-scale battles and help the warring daimyos conquer territory, with your goal being to grind down Nobunaga’s power so you can invade his palace and get your revenge.

The coolest thing about all of this is that it’s not scripted. What happens is dependent on what you do as a player. The daimyos will war back and forth, but it’s up to you to choose sides and steer them towards success for your own ends. And you are working on a timetable too, which is unusual.

Now imagine a modern RPG with all of these elements. I know, right? Just thinking about expanding on the social party-building system, the tactical strategy elements, and spying minigames gets me all excited. It’s a shame it will probably never happen.

The 7th Saga

7th saga

Obscure enough for you yet? This is another one that is sitting in Square’s catalogue as it was originally developed by Enix. It was a great experience back in the day. The player chose one of seven heroes and set off alongside the other six on a mission to gather seven runes. How you went about it was your business.

You could make friends with the other heroes and team up with someone, or you could challenge them to duels and end up fighting all the time. When one of them has a rune, you will either have to attempt to take it from them in a duel, or they may attack you in order to get yours. These interpersonal dynamics based on player actions were something I’ve never really seen the like of and could be amazing with current gen upgrades.

Another innovation made in 7th Saga was the mini-map (now a standard genre feature) and a non-random battle system where enemies showed up on the mini-map, letting you know when a fight was coming. And rather than switching screens entirely when you went into battle, the game actually zoomed in and seamlessly changed perspective, which is something a lot of modern RPGs can’t seem to integrate to this day.

It was one of those games worth playing several times just because the cast was so diverse and who you chose changed the overall experience and tactics. It was also kind of an early attempt at what Peter Molyneux originally tried to do with Fable where you had to compete with other heroes.

[whispers] Psst…7th Saga kind of did it better.

Shadowrun

shadowrun snes

I love you, 1990’s. You had the coolest stuff. Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam were on the radio instead of Nickelback, kids cartoons on TV were still actually funny, and Shadowrun was a thing. Shadowrun was a multimedia franchise that stemmed from a tabletop role-playing game (the kind you play with pen, paper, dice, and imagination) and it was like a conglomeration of all of my favorite genres. It took place in a cyberpunk dystopia where magic has returned to the world, bringing things like orcs, elves, and dragons back into the fold with corporations running the world even more than they do now. It was amazing.

I suppose it’s no surprise that an RPG based on an RPG worked out alright, but this was just an above-and-beyond masterpiece. The player was Jake Armitage, a Shadowrunner (corporate mercenary) gunned down in the streets before waking up in the morgue. Time to figure out what the hell just happened and why, I guess.

This game is my only pick not from Japan, but Japan is the world’s only remaining superpower in the Shadowrun universe and Japanese developers could steal a lot of ideas from this obscure western RPG to improve their own modern games. It also has something else setting it apart, but I’ll get into that later.

The controls were really unique for a console RPG. You aimed your gun using a cursor and your hit percentage was heavily influenced by your stats. This might not fly in the age of the commercial shooter, but some rather successful BioWare games have operated on a similar principle.

Shadowrun also pioneered the ability to hire NPC’s as party members and command them to use their abilities, another BioWare staple. I still remember my go-to dream team of an assault rifle-toting orc, a pistol-toting combat mage, and a female werefox mage like old friends. Sound cool? It really was. Throw in a deep conversation system (which they did) and you are pretty much looking at a perfect game.

shadowrun returns

Are you sick of me whining and wishing for things that will never happen yet? Well, this time I’m ending on a happy note. Thanks to the magic of Kickstarter, Shadowrun will be returning in the aptly-titled Shadowrun Returns. No, not in a multiplayer-only shooter thing like they tried to do some years ago for I don’t know what reason, but as a proper PC sequel to one of the best console role playing games of all time.

But what about the rest? Hey, I’d love for the same thing to happen for the rest of these titles, but I’ll take what I can get. Shadowrun Returns is definitely a step in the right direction and if one small-time developer can raise enough money independently to bring back an obscure old-school RPG, one can hope that it can be done again and again. And if Square-Enix and Koei want to get off of their asses and get out of their respective monumental ruts and bring some real deal gaming back to the masses, all the better.

In spite of the degradation of innovation and overall quality in role-playing games over the last ten years or so, it still remains my favorite genre and still has the highest potential for both storytelling and thought-provoking mechanics. Here’s to hoping for a new RPG golden age combining the spirit of the glory days with modern horsepower.

10 PSN Classics To Play Before Going Next Gen

psn

Anybody who has been unfortunate enough to have followed my internet ramblings here on Gamemoir knows that my gaming history is a long and winding road that has taken me here and there, but not quite everywhere. Assuming you have not made a personal timeline of my history as a gamer, let me sum it up for you first to put this list in perspective.

The SNES remains my most-played system ever. I played it all through high school and college until the PlayStation was on its last legs before buying one of those. While I covered a lot of ground in the time between buying a PlayStation and jumping ship to the original Xbox, a lot of games I meant to play but never did fell through the cracks and I never had a PS2.

A few months ago, I finally came back to Sony to right some wrongs. I bought a PS3 with the goal of not only checking out some of their fine exclusives, but to go back in time and play some of the PS2 games I missed as well through HD rereleases and PlayStation Network downloads. But I never knew how deep that rabbit hole went.

I’ve been catching up on PS3 standards these past months and have some PS2 classics under my belt too. Lately, some Ebay sales have left me with some money in my PayPal account that I’ve hesitated to put in the bank. You see, if I put it in the bank, it will be spent. With PSN, I can use PayPal as a payment method so I decided to keep it where it was and use it as my personal PSN petty cash drawer.

My next move was to see what I had available to choose from. Damn. I mean, I knew there were a ton of games on there but I had never checked out the “classics” section before, and I was greeted there with a veritable wonderland of drool-inducing games priced from $3.99-$9.99. Here are the ten games I found that I won’t be able to move on to the next console gen happily until I’ve played them.

chrono cross

Chrono Trigger/Chrono Cross

I’m doubling up here right off the bat because technically I’ve already played the hell out of Chrono Trigger. It’s a stone classic from the SNES and one of the greatest role-playing games of all time, hands down. I meant to buy it on my DS, but the price never came down, which seemed wrong for a straight port of such an old game. I’d have plunked down for a proper remake in a second. The price for the PSN version is much lower.

Chrono Cross was the PS1 sequel that I never got the nerve up to play. I’d heard it sucked, and the thought of playing a shittier version of a game I prized as much as I prize Chrono Trigger led me to play other games instead. In the end, I never got around to it and the question of whether it was worth my time or not never got answered. I think the time has come for me settle this.

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver

Around Halloween, I wrote an article about the lack of great vampire games having never even given this series a try. It kind of came off as “Zelda with vampires” so I gave it a pass. Then I was thinking to myself “Zelda… WITH VAMPIRES!” and I’m not really sure what I was thinking not playing Legacy of Kain.

We are in the middle of quite a stupendous drought of vampire games right now and it looks like I’m going to have to go back in time to get my fix. So let’s see what this one’s all about.

Nobunagas’s Ambition: Iron Triangle

I swear, when I was looking through this list on PSN, I was thinking that Koei must been reading my mind. Another article I wrote a while back was decrying the lack of classical historical strategy games from the Japanese developer. In recent years they’ve been focusing on remaking the same action games over and over and their strategy titles were staying in the homeland.

Well, I found several Koei strategy titles from the PS2 era on PSN and I’m pleased as punch. It’s like the gaming gods answered my prayers. I’d love some of the more recent Romance of the Three Kingdoms titles, but I’ll sure take this feudal Japan equivalent without complaint. Arigato gozaimas, Koei-sama!

Legend of Mana

Remember that bit about Chrono Cross from a few minutes ago? Well, this is the exact same deal. Square’s Secret of Mana is one of the greatest RPG’s of all time (and the best with multiplayer by far) and I’d heard less than sterling things about the sequel, which led to me not taking the time to play it back in the rushed PlayStation era.

But over the years, I’ve heard better and better things about Legend and I feel like enough time has passed that I really need to take the opportunity to give this one a fair shot to stand on its own.

pto 4

P.T.O. IV

Another Koei series I specifically singled out in my previous post regarding that company; P.T.O. was a ridiculously accurate war simulator that focuses on the Pacific Theater of Operations in WWII. I have amazing memories of the original game on the SNES and the way it portrayed the Pacific War in such a realistic manner.

I’m really looking forward to this one. The format is one that ages really well, and I can’t wait to see how the title progressed between the SNES and PS2 eras. I’ve read that there are several of factions you can play as in addition to American and Japanese forces, so that should be pretty interesting.

Psychonauts

This is a last-gen cult classic from mastermind Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Productions that has maintained an aura of awesome well into the current gen. While the game sold poorly in spite of its glowing critical reception and vocal fan base calling for HD remakes and sequels, I was pleased to see it available for download.

I was one of those jerks who didn’t listen the first time around, and given my constant whining about the need for new and innovative games, I feel like a hypocrite for not having given this one a go when that’s exactly how people describe Psychonauts. Time to right that wrong.

Final Fantasy V

This is a big one for me. The one old school Final Fantasy Game I never managed to play. After the full remakes of FF III and IV, it seemed pretty natural that this one would be next in line. It was originally a 16-bit game unreleased in America for several years, finally surfacing on the PlayStation, where I missed it.

I meant to snag the Game Boy Advance version to play on my DS, but that never happened either. Square is still teasing a remake for the 3DS, but at this point I think I may as well grab it off of PSN for a quarter of the price so I can finally put the stamp on this one.

fatal frame 3

 

Fatal Frame III: The Tormented

Over the years I’ve drifted away from straight horror games and missed out on series like Fatal Frame as a result. This is the one where you have to take pictures of ghosts. Sounds silly at first, but when you listen to the testimony of gamers who have soiled themselves playing these games, you will be a believer.

The franchise has a sterling reputation and I’d like to find time to play them all, but the graphics on this third game look pretty great and it seems like a pretty promising way to help get me back into the genre with a bang.

Kessen III

Koei’s third entry, tying fellow all-time fave old-school developer Square for most games on this list. From what I can see, the gameplay is a strategic real time style similar to Bladestorm, but taking place in feudal Japan and utilizing heavy story elements combining historical fact with dramatic fiction. So far, so good.

The original game was a PS2 launch title so I never had the chance to play any of the games in the series since I never owned that console.  The third game supposedly has a very different and interesting view of Oda Nobunaga as a hero, so it might be fun to play this one right after Nobunaga’s Ambition.

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES

RPG confession time: I have never played a game in this series. I’m a fan of the genre and I’m a fan of Atlus, but somehow I’ve just never laid hands on a title from the the Megami Tensei franchise and this bugs me. Frankly, any game that has teenagers fight back against dark forces by shooting themselves in the head is something I really, really need to check out.

There are a lot of other features like the choice and morality systems that draw me to this one, of course, and the series’ longevity and dedicated fanbase speak for themselves. This is a franchise I want in on, and Persona  4 Arena (the only entry in this past gen so far) doesn’t look to be the entry point I’m looking for so the extended Persona 3 FES on PSN looks like my best available option.

persona 3

Okay, so I’m going to have to play like the wind at this point. I’ve still got plenty of current-gen greatness -both new and upcoming- to come and the next gen is upon us. My original plan was to wait a year and see, but now it’s looking like my PS3 may have a good two years of life left in it if I factor in older titles available for download. Not only is it a formidable list, but most of them are JRPGs or strategy titles that could potentially eat up a hundred hours apiece.

How am I going to fit these in between the numerous classic and upcoming PS3 titles on my wishlist?  I. Don’t. Know. But I need to find a way. I’ve got the release of the next Mass Effect game penciled in for the day I plan on finally getting a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One since that’s pretty much the only franchise I can’t put off until later, so hopefully BioWare will take their sweet time with that one because in the meantime, I’ve got a lot of past gen goodness to indulge in. But which one do I play first…

 

 

So When Are Spoilers Okay, Again?

spoilers1

This article contains spoilers. Lots of spoilers. Crazy spoilers. Eeeeeeevil spoilers.

Geek culture, man. You can spend your entire life immersed in it and still not understand it completely. Take spoilers, for instance. When are they okay? When are they not okay? Does anybody have a definitive list of when they want spoilers?  Personally, once I’m sold on something I tend to avoid the media hype about it as much as possible because I’d like to go in blind and experience everything as it happens, but being a citizen of the internet, they don’t make it easy.

There used to be a code of honor for some mediums that they’d label an article title with spoilers. For instance, it might say “Villain for Next Spider-Man Movie Announced!” At that point, you could choose to click on the article or not. The specific instance that got me thinking about writing this article came from Agents of SHIELD.

A couple weeks before the show’s return headlines on nerd-based websites declared “Deathlok is coming to Agents of SHIELD!” I don’t know if Disney paid these sites to do this (I tend to blame all worldy problems on Disney whenever possible), if Marvel is applying their stupid comic book marketing to television or what, but any hype generated (as if the average viewer would give a shit about such an obscure character) was offset by the fact that the show did a great job of setting it up and revealing it only to have it blown weeks before it was revealed. This pretty much destroyed the entire episode for me.

Instead of being in the moment and having my mind blown as intended, I spent the entire episode thinking “Oh, so that guy is going to be Deathlok. Look, He’s getting his Deathlok leg. Such Deathlok. So cyborg. Wow.” The name was never spoken or implied, but then at the end of the episode, the camera zooms in on his leg, where you see word is stamped in what would have been a “whoa” moment for loyal comic nerd viewers, but instead was just a “duh” moment because it had been all over the flippin’ web. This kind of crap is new to television, but there’s plenty of precedents elsewhere.

spoilers2

Spoiler alert, Lois: nobody stays dead in comics. Such a drama queen.

At this point I have to wonder if this won’t become standard operating procedure in popular media. Comic companies have been guilty of deliberately spoiling their most important stories for years in hopes of enticing collectors to flock to get their copy of the historic death or of a big name or some obscure character coming out of the closet. Anybody with a brain knows that collectors flocking will most likely mean there would be no point in collecting an issue since everybody having a copy does little to appreciate the value, but a sale a sale to the comic industry.

How mind-blowing would it have been to have been reading your monthly Superman comic expecting to see the big guy win yet again and to have been met with Doomsday beating the Man of Steel to death instead? Right?! Too bad. In case you missed the media firestorm preceding it, they made damn sure to plaster “THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN” on the cover alongside the (amazing) image of Lois Lane clutching his brutalized body. Sure, there were still feels to be felt, but imagining how much more truly jaw-dropping such a moment could have been if you’d never seen it coming makes me kind of pissed.

On the other hand, take a franchise like Harry Potter. Reports and videos of trolls pirating the books and showing up at midnight bookstore releases to rain spoilers upon unsuspecting fans reveal some pretty strong feelings regarding the practice.

Props to the guy with his hands on his ears going” la la la la”.

Which brings us back to the question, when and why are spoilers acceptable? A lot of us scour the net for any little tidbit of leaked information about upcoming films and television shows, but we will threaten you with bodily harm if you see something before us and try to tell us. We’ll pitch a fit if somebody tells us who dies in a message board post or comment section without proper warning, but we just accept it as part of comic book marketing.

And what is the statute of limitations? Some twists are so ingrained in popular culture that it’s almost unthinkable that somebody wouldn’t be aware of them. Some are so well-known that they transcend the medium altogether and are common knowledge even among people with no interest in the work it came from.

Speaking of transcending mediums, what’s the etiquette with that? Take Game of Thrones, for instance. The show is pretty universally loved and airs some ten eagerly anticipated episodes a year. But the books the show devoutly follows have been available for consumption for years. Wherever people discuss the TV show, the George R.R. Martin fans are likely to converge and begin discussing things that the show hasn’t caught up with. This leads to all sorts of drama.

Is it kosher to banish commenters who are big enough fans to have read the original work to cater to fans who aren’t? I mean, A Song of Ice and Fire may not be Star Wars, but most of the stories have been out there being discussed for years. At what point do you just say “get off the damn web if you don’t want to know”?  Or does a cross-medium franchise have its own set of rules? What if it’s a remake? Can I not discuss that Carrie kills everyone at her prom (oops) because you haven’t seen the latest revamp yet and lived your entire life without bothering to see the classic film (or other remake) or read the popular book? To what extent are those in the know beholden to those who aren’t?

spoilers3

I mean, if you love something enough to care about spoilers, odds are you are going to be on top of it. There’s a definite level of dickishness associated with deliberately spoiling something for somebody else, depriving them of that “holy shit” moment they can never get back, but there’s also a slightly lower level for people who choose not to keep up with popular culture and make a show out of making everybody else dance to their ever-so-slow tune.

Then there’s the tricky business of online reviewing. To fully explore what makes some stories great, it can be necessary to allude to if not state outright plot elements that might be better left a surprise. Do you risk semi-spoilers in order to better convey your appreciation, or do you hope that your vague positivity shines through and gets the point across? People might say to always avoid spoilers outright, but recalling the most famous and celebrated film critic of all time wrote a popular review of Night of the Living Dead that was little more than just a list of spoilers and observations regarding children in the audience with precious little backlash, one wonders what the standard is. Maybe it was just a different time.

As far as I can see at this time, spoilers for casual pre-release marketing purposes seem to be acceptable while post-release spoilers between fans are unacceptable. Trailers that give away practically the whole plot of a film or TV commercials and “on the next…” segments are pretty commonplace. The current review standard seems to indicate that spoilers are okay so long as you give fair warning first. With that in mind, at some point I wish we’d question the need for major entertainment companies to use them as advertising. That seems to be the one area nobody has a problem with and it’s often the most egregious.  Unless one is trolling. Like so:

spoilers

Spoiler alert, losers!

Personally, I kind of prefer the J.J. Abrams approach to marketing. Dude doesn’t want to tell us shit about shit he’s doing. Half the time, he’ll avoid even giving you the title of a film for as long as he can unless he’s working on an established franchise. Remember that first trailer for Cloverfield? THAT is how you get peoples’ attention. Giant monster movies are a small market, but his refusal to tell anyone what the hell they just saw made what would have been a cult release at best a majorly anticipated event among all sorts of moviegoers.

So round and round we go, when we can rock spoilers nobody knows. Perhaps Congress could spare some time from their lax schedule of destroying America to hash out some Constitutional amendments regarding lawful use of spoilage. In the meantime, surf the web at your own risk because here in the wildlands of cyberspace there be trolls and corporate leaks. Beware!

90’s Flashback: Shadowrun

shadowrun1

Hoi, chummers; it’s nostalgia time. I’d say don’t call it a comeback, but in this case that’s exactly what we may be looking at. But first let me take you back to a time when most good music came from Seattle and nobody said Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino were overrated just to sound smart. A time when if you wanted to connect to the internet, you had to listen to your computer make god awful noises and then wait for minutes on end for a single image to slowly load one line at a time. A time when the concept of a fake nerd was like pretending to be a leper. And the phones? They were connected to wall sockets like freakin’ lamps or something.

In the 90’s I was a high school virgin and I’d like to think Shadowrun played a part in that second part. What the hell is a Shadowrun, you ask? You mean that multiplayer-only shooter that Gamestop sells for like five bucks tops? Yeah, I don’t know why that was a thing either, but back in the day Shadowrun was the coolest thing ever.

Think about all of my favorite things, some of which are likely your favorite things if you’re here. All right, I like science fiction and fantasy. I like post-apocalyptic dystopias and cyberpunk and made up lingos and guns. I like anti-heroes and kickass mercenaries and novels and evil corporations and virtual reality and monsters. I like role-playing games (video or traditional), Japanese culture, and, damn it, I like gritty stories. If only there was some place I could get all of these things at once…

Right, Shadowrun has all of those things and then some. It’s like Ghost in the Shell, Dungeons and Dragons, and The Matrix had a threesome baby, but before two of those things ever existed. Whoa, I think I just blew my own mind. Seriously, though, the first thing I thought when I saw the trailer to The Matrix was “lame Shadowrun rip-off”. This thing about ruled my life for most of my high school years and I’m pretty sure I still have a stash of the novels with the pages falling out of them in a box in my garage somewhere waiting to be excavated.

shadowrun

Pictured: awesomeness.

The multimedia franchise started with FASA’s pen-and-paper RPG set in a future version of Earth where magic returned to the world, mutating many humans into orcs, elves, dwarves, and the like and giving the long-abused Native Americans (who retained their connection to the Earth) the power to enact a spiritual apocalypse of sorts via a large scale Ghost Dance ritual. This threw the planet into chaos and allowed them to seize political power, segmenting the United States in the process and crashing the global economy, leaving the remaining megacorporations to govern and Japan as the last global superpower.

Citizens are branded with serial identification numbers before they are allowed proper jobs and many of those without are what are known as shadowrunners. They are essentially illegal mercenaries who usually make a living being hired to do the megacorps’ dirty work. This includes various coolness like espionage, hacking, wetwork, magic rituals, and even full-on assaults for particularly hostile takeovers.

I mentioned The Matrix before. Shadowrun’s cyberspace is actually referred to by that exact name and is a virtual reality environment where a person connects their brain directly to a computer to traverse the internet as a VR environment. Deckers –as they are called- use illegal programs tied to their cyberdeck hardware that can manifest as objects in the Matrix and defense programs appear as physical threats designed to fry the brains of unauthorized users.

As you can see, it’s a really complex universe with limitless imaginative possibilities and I’d say that the various creators have utilized it to the utmost. Most of the many novels I read were excellent, the most prominent being the Secrets of Power trilogy written by Shadowrun co-creator Robert N. Charrette. There were forty novels in all during the ten years that they were originally produced. Forty. Novels.

shadowrun2

A little light reading.

They featured everything from ghouls and vampires to weretiger assassins, dragon CEO’s, animal shamans, and technologically enhanced “street samurai”.  One memorable story focused on the harrowing experience of a character whose human form changed into a monstrous troll and saw him shunned by society, forcing him to take to the streets and learn the shadowrunner trade the hard way. It’s actually pretty hard to go wrong with concepts like these to work with.

Cool stuff, yeah? Someone should have made a video game or something. Oh wait, they made several. The only one I’ve played was the cult classic Super Nintendo masterpiece from 1993 that introduced me to the franchise and remains one of my favorite RPGs of all time. It was borderline flawless and followed a year later by a cool looking Sega Genesis game that I regrettably never got to play. That one appeared to have a much superior Matrix and better character customization, which was something that was shockingly lacking in the SNES title.

At this point one may be thinking that Japan would be all over this franchise due to the insanity of it all. Yes, the game was released there, yes there is a manga for it, and yes there was a Shadowrun video game released in that style; everything but an actual anime series. Supposedly, the video game even incorporated rolling dice into the gameplay in homage to the original work, which sounds really cool. Sadly, it game was for the Sega Mega-CD and gamers know how that worked out.

shadowrun3

Let me just give a quick eff you to anybody who saw this on the shelves and thought “nah”.

So where the hell did this franchise go? It was never going to be a pop culture giant, but something this cool and varied with so much to recommend it shouldn’t just vanish. Shadowrun is still a thing on the tabletop gaming scene, but that is about as nichey as niche entertainment gets. Where are the films? Where is the television series? Not even comic? How did that never happen? They even stopped writing books. This is not justice.

Well the good news is that a comeback is being staged. I first took notice in 2007 when a new video game was released. My initial enthusiastic reaction of “ohmygawdrly!” was diminished when I realized that not only was the new game a shooter, but multiplayer only and without much to recommend it beyond the source material. What the hell? An RPG with dozens of great stories and a brilliantly-realized and fascinating world reduced to a second-rate Counterstrike wannabe? Whyyyyyyyy?

Thankfully, that is not all she wrote, so to speak. There are more books being published and thanks to the magic of Kickstarter and Steam, fans finally got a sequel to the 16-bit classics in the form of a little thing appropriately called Shadowrun Returns, released last year.

shadowrun4

Take that, pics or it didn’t happen guy!

Yeah, I didn’t believe it either until I ran across the game while researching an article I was writing about obscure SNES RPG’s a few weeks ago.  As soon as I get my gaming schedule cleared up a little, I’ll definitely be buying this, assuming my crappy laptop can handle it. I may buy it anyways because if it makes enough money, it could get ported to consoles and help revitalize a franchise that is tailor made to make geek dreams come true but faded away before that was considered a viable business model. There is also a MMO in development.

Assuming you like stuff that’s awesome you might consider looking into this franchise if you’re nerd enough. New copies of the original novels are hard to come by, but used copies are pretty cheap online. Or you could go the route I took twenty odd years ago and get into the Shadowrun universe by playing the video game if RPGs are your cup of tea. Either way, it’s a shame this concept never really took off, but I’m glad to see it’s still kicking around.

 

 

 

Piracy and Me: Is Paying for Stuff for Suckers?

piracy

It happens more and more often. Ask somebody what the last CD they bought is and their response is laughter followed with “you still buy CD’s?”  Go to a message board and see somebody complain about having wasted sixty dollars on a half-assed game and behold the mockery at somebody who actually purchased a copy of what could be downloaded from the internet for free.

Right now you are either saying “f*** yeah, loser!” or “Nick, why didn’t you call the police and turn these miscreants in to the proper authorities?!” Any way you look at it, piracy is part of our world now. Welcome to the digital age. The only question is what the hell can we do about it?

Well for starters, let us all collectively point and laugh at the tools who suggest that multi-billion dollar corporations track down and sue the families of every child who downloads a song or watches a Youtube clip that they don’t own the rights to for millions of dollars that they’ll never get just to ruin as many lives as possible. That’s not an option.

And let’s go ahead and mock those ridiculous anti-piracy ads that corporations have possibly been wasting more money making and distributing than they were ever losing from piracy while we’re at it.

piracy2

piracy3

piracy1

Ummmmmm….they may be going about this wrong.

That last ad does have a point seeing that corporate capitalism resembles pimping more than anything else. The people at the top have other people do all the work, take all of the profits, and then dole out as little scratch as they can get away with to the people whose labors earn them their fortunes.

With the internet making information so easily transferable and most media being easily reduced to information, it’s natural that people would begin file sharing. The concept is a natural progression from handing a CD or book to an acquaintance. But now, the entire world is digitally acquainted.

So we’re back to the question of what to do about it. I’ve struggled with this issue for a long time. There are so many ways to obtain media in the digital age, but the people selling it seem stuck in a business model that no longer works. Their reaction to theoretical lost profits from piracy seems to have been to raise prices, which in turn has led more and more people to turn to piracy for relief.

Income and employment are down, the cost of living is up, and corporate profits are still rising. It makes you wonder who is the real bad guy here. You know what? I NEED a downloadable car.

piracy4

Go, internet, go!

Do I care if the pimps at Disney or Microsoft or Warner Brothers lose money? Not even a little. But here’s where it becomes an issue for those of us whose interests extend beyond the mainstream. Capitalism is the closest thing we have to true democracy. We vote with our money. If a little video game or indie flick made by an innovative artist comes out and can’t get any financial traction, they go away, possibly never to resurface.

This is why I still buy DVD’s, video games, CD’s, and books. I think of it as donating to the cause. Whenever I can, I try to support the cause. But is particularly taxing for a comic book reader and anime fanatic like myself. Comics are a few bucks an issue and anime series are typically released in pricy box sets. And here I am turning my pockets inside out to find only lint.

Comics in particular have been an issue for me. There are a ton of them out there and it’s nigh impossible to keep up, much less acquaint oneself the classics without devoting yourself entirely to it. This is the medium where I lean on file sharing the most, and feel the worst for doing it. It’s an industry I support as much as I can, but to read an entire run of a comic series is a triple digit investment at least.

How do I live with myself having availed myself of a creator’s blood sweat and tears without paying? Well, if I love it, I will buy it when I can. In the meantime, I have often taken to the net to review and otherwise hype my favorite titles as a way to give back. It may not be legal tender, but I like to think in some way I do my part to pay the artists back by bringing in new fans. Hopefully ones with fatter wallets. Isn’t rationalization fun?

piracy5

Then there’s anime. It’s a niche industry in America that always manages to find a major distributor like the now-defunct ADV or Funimation, but it is always struggling. Companies go out of business and operate on small budgets with many of the voice actors also taking on production duties in the localizations. It’s a small circle. But more and more often fans are taking to streaming on the internet rather than waiting for DVD releases.  This doesn’t bode well.

Hits like Attack on Titan and Kill la Kill are viewed, raved over, disseminated, memed, and moved on from long before they even make it stateside now. I prefer to wait given the choice, but that brings me back to money. The prices went down for a while, but they seem to be back on the rise now.  Netflix has a massive anime selection, but they are far from reliable when it comes to getting the latest and greatest, either to stream or on disc.

Basically, if you want to have any hope of keeping up, your options are either stream for free, import on the cheap, or wait a year or two and pay a ton for it. I tend to trend towards the middle option, but that opens up the even worse issue of of bootlegging.

piracy6

Moving on to video games, PC gamers are legendary for their pirating prowess. In fact, they kind of invented modern piracy as we know it. As I said, it’s commonplace to go to a message board and see a poster declare that a game wasn’t worth the money they paid for it followed by a number of posts cackling at the very concept of paying money for a game.

Personally, I have almost never pirated games; they are too readily available and the prices on games go down pretty steadily after release. Console gaming is a primary hobby for me and I support it with gusto so my conscience is clean here, but the community on the whole is dirtier than bad hentai.

Game developers have probably the best reactions to piracy too. Sometimes they release augmented copies onto the web that are deliberately broken at key points so that after a gamer has spent ours investing themselves, they get reamed by being unable to progress further. I can’t say I disapprove of this method.

Others take a kinder gentler approach. Hotline Miami creator Jonatan Söderström went so far as to offer technical assistance for pirated copies of his 8-bit 80’s ultraviolence wonderland after it was torrented far and wide. When questioned about it, his statement was “I’m not going to criticize this, it’s a fact of life. It would be nice if guys could find it within themselves to pay for it, but that’s the world I’m in, so you know, you just have to take it for what it is.” My reaction to this dead-on assessment was to go buy the game.

piracy7

Last on the chopping block: music. This has been ground zero for the fight against piracy, and it will possibly be the industry that finds a solution. Apple’s one-dollar-a-song approach paid huge dividends for everyone, but that price point has since gone up substantially to the point where it’s still often a much better deal to just buy the physical disc.

While other companies are finding some success with a subscription model, the constant raising of prices for downloads and the decline of physical media has led to pirating becoming the standard way to own music. I’ve had many a head shaken in my direction while trying to extoll the virtues of buying stuff instead of torrenting it to music “fans”.

And maybe they’re right. After all, most artists make precious little from album sales with the record label taking the lion’s share. Whenever I buy a new album, they release a better version with bonus tracks or a live disc a few months later, which makes me feel like a sucker for being in such a hurry to tell them to shut up and take my money. After they take it, they demand I shut up and buy it again for the bonus tracks.

And with corporations taking things to insane extremes to go after consumers and extort money or ruin their lives while lobbying for draconian new laws that practically make the internet itself illegal, I’m not sure I see a downside to watching them crash and burn. There are plenty of ways for artists to get their work out to the general public in the digital age. Corporate sponsorship is not the only way to gain distribution anymore and without payola and massive advertising campaigns determining what we see and hear in the media, quality and word of mouth could actually determine what succeeds for a change.

piracy8

I’m still on the fence, personally. While I can acknowledge the ethical issues with torrenting when you should be buying, I’ve never been a proponent of eliminating file sharing or hunting and legally savaging those who engage in it. It’s just too valuable a tool and I’m not at all sold on the concept that it’s destroying our way of life; maybe the way of life of someone with a much higher standard of living than mine, but that sounds like somebody with comparatively little to bitch about if you ask me. And is it as bad as knocking an old lady down and stealing her purse or even shoplifting? Psh. Distributing a digital copy is not the same as taking somebody else’s property. Until you understand the difference, you not able to partake in this discussion seriously.

But this has all been discussed to death. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to keep with my happy medium in the meantime. My meager monthly comic bill nets me a few hours of reading, and a pricey anime box set I might not even enjoy that much will keep me busy for a few more, but to even imagine an attempt to give love everywhere it’s due in geek culture, torrents and streaming are a necessity. Otherwise I simply would never read or watch a lot of great titles and that would be a shame for artist and thief alike.

Is not paying and not reading/watching in any way better than not paying, reading/watching, and spreading the love? I don’t believe it is. And this is why piracy and I will maintain a casual acquaintance. I’ll never suggest that we should not pay into the things we enjoy, but at the same time I think we have to respect that the sellers have so much more than the buyers at this point and there is so much out there that cheating a little is kind of the way it’s going to be for a lot of us. Just don’t forget that some things are well worth supporting and I won’t tell if you won’t.

Five Awesome 90′s Arcade Brawlers That Deserve Rereleases

brawler

Ah, the early-to-mid 90s. The silver age of gaming it may be, but a golden era it was. Video games were evolving from quaint pastime and pop fad status into full blown big-budget entertainment presentations, e-sports, and personal obsessions. Out with Pac-Man and Donkey Kong; in with Ken Masters and Johnny Cage. It was time to kick some ass.

In the 16-bit console era arcades were still a viable form of entertainment because the games were 32-bit, meaning you could play PlayStation quality games there years before PlayStation was a thing. Also, the multiplayer; if you really wanted to test your skills or team up for four player co-op action, the arcade was where you did that. Home consoles couldn’t compare at the time.

While 2D fighters were definitely the defining genre of the 90’s arcade scene, there were a surprisingly large number of excellent beat ‘em ups on display right alongside them, although one could argue the Double Dragon/Final Fight heyday was over.

Still, some of them became classics in their own right like The Simpsons and X-Men, and have since received digital re-releases on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. But many of my favorites remain obscurities that were overshadowed by the fighting game craze and never got their time to shine in spite of how incredibly fun they were. Today, I’m sharing some of the funnest arcade games of all time with you.

Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder

golden axe revenge of death adder

Remember Golden Axe, fellow old-schooler? Of course you do. Everyone remembers Golden Axe as Sega’s 1989 fantasy multiplayer side-scrolling beat ‘em up that set the standard and gave Genesis owners something other than Sonic to crow about. The one where half the time you ended up batting your own ally in the arcade because people are dicks. While that one is a true classic, it kind of pales in comparison to its arcade-exclusive descendant, released just three years later.

The Revenge of Death Adder featured an all-new cast -including a giant carrying a dwarf on his back, a trident-wielding elf (my favorite), a female centaur, and your typical barbarian- and featured four player co-op. In addition the game actually had branching paths, allowing you got to choose different routes through the level, adding replay value.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that you could ride on giant goddamn scorpions and praying mantises? The older Golden Axe games had fire-breathing dragons and those weird four-legged bird things, but having a giant insect munch a dude’s head or drive its stinger into his chest was a new level of cool, and hearing the exclamations of bystanders when you brutally finished an enemy that way never got old.

Cadillacs and Dinosaurs

cadillacs and dinosaurs

This Capcom gem was based on a comic book and was made into a short-lived cartoon series, but I only know the franchise from the video game. Three players could choose from four characters and beat asses using their fists and a large variety of weapons.

But that’s standard procedure. What made this one stand out was the dinos. They weren’t just enemies to be defeated. In fact, they weren’t necessarily enemies at all. They typically wandered the screen for a while before leaving, but they’d often take a chunk out of the baddies before they went. As long as you kept your distance, you could use the wildlife to your advantage, which was really cool. I was partial to the sleeping T. Rex. When you woke him up, he freakin’ RAGED, typically taking out every enemy onscreen.

So there’re the dinosaurs, but what’s this about cadillacs? On occasion you could cruise through a level in style, mowing down all of the pedestrian losers as you went. All in all, it was one of the funnest games in the arcade.

The Punisher

the punisher kingpin

Another Capcom game, this one starring Frank Castle (with Nick Fury as the optional second player!) laying waste to the hordes of organized crime. It came and went like most beat ‘em ups, but this one left a lasting impression for the sheer mayhem of it.

What set the basic gameplay apart this time was the huge amount of weaponry involved. Most games of the genre have you kick, punch, jump, and maybe do a special move or two by pushing two buttons together. On occasion you’ll get a baseball bat or something to smash through the fodder even more efficiently, but in The Punisher you had all sorts of items to deal death with.

Katanas, submachine guns, flamethrowers, pistols, hammers, and all sorts of other nastiness was laying around to help you lay waste. It was over-the-top and so very 90’s, but holy crap was it fun. One of those games you play with a friend next to you with both of you shouting the whole time about how much ass was being kicked before thine eyes.

Alien vs Predator

alien vs predator arcade

Chalk up three in a row for Capcom. Between this and the Street Fighter and Marvel fighting titles, there’s really no argument about which company rocked arcades the most in the 1990’s. If I had to pick just one of these games to get re-released this would be the one, and Capcom has stated that it is the game they get the most requests for from fans, so it seems likely.

First of all, it’s Alien vs. Predator, which is a concept that sells itself as the decades of comics, novels, films, and video games featuring the title can attest to. The variety of characters (two different Predators, and two different cyborg marines) and enemies as well as the depth of combat puts it ahead of most (if not all) beat ‘em ups of the era.

This is the first side-scroller I can think of that utilized fighting game special moves. There only one button for melee attacks, but combined with the joystick, you could pull off special moves like a Predator-style dragon punch in addition to the usual mashing combos.

There was also a button used for ranged attacks such as the Predators’ burners or the marine’s guns (which would overheat or need to be reloaded), which added an interesting and unique balance to the combat.

Naturally, there were other items to be picked up in addition to each character’s individual weapon, including the above-pictured grenade launcher. As you can see , the graphics were exceptional for the time and combined with the strong concept and exceptional gameplay, this was the gold standard.

Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stones

double dragon 3

This could be my rose-tinted fanboy goggles talking, but I remember this game really blowing me away when I finally found it at a roller rink in a city thirty minutes away from my hometown. Roller skates? What are those even for? I can walk, damn it, and I hardly ever fall down doing that. When I went to Roller Town, I always ended up playing video games the entire time, and finding this one there was a memorable gaming highlight for me.

Maybe it’s because I was disappointed with Double Dragon 2’s odd control scheme after the perfection of the original classic, or maybe it’s because I played the hell out the 8-bit NES version of Double Dragon 3 and the arcade one was so much cooler, but I find it hard to believe that this game was not well received when it was released.

There were a lot of things about this one that I liked, but my favorite was the store system. During the level you could find a store where you would insert more coins and buy really cool new playable characters, power up your existing ones, or even buy a weapon for yourself.

It seems like bad DLC before bad DLC was bad DLC, but I found that it was extremely well-balanced. Pretty much anything you bought for your character for an additional quarter would double your lifespan, so it worked out great.

In addition to that interesting innovation that never caught on, there were double attacks two players could pull off together by standing back to back, and the variety of environments as the Lee brothers traveled the world was pretty killer. It was a definite return to form for a revolutionary series in my eyes. I figure players could accumulate points in-game to spend in a rerelease, but that seems unlikely since this game seems pretty forgotten.

One of the best things about the advent of the digital age is that smaller, older games like these can be released for mass consumption fairly easily and inexpensively where there is a demand. Right now a lot of these games can only be played in their original form at all via emulators on PC, and that’s not exactly legal or ideal. Games like Scott Pilgrim vs the World and Castle Crashers pay tribute to the genre and there are plenty of XBL/PSN ports and HD remixes going around so it only seems natural that these gems get their day in the sun as well. Keep your fingers crossed.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta