Archive for April, 2010

The hollywood machinery eating itself.

April 30, 2010

Commando getting a reboot

That’s right, the 80s actioner Commando, a vehicle for Arnold, featuring some of the most memorable one liners of the genre, might get a reboot. Yes, a “reboot”, hollywood’s new fancy word for “we are still rehashing stuff and we don’t care” method of movie making.

I can see some people claiming this is nothing new, that hollywood has always been like that. Yes, rehashing stuff is not new, but answer me this, which movies were been “rebooted” or remade in the 70s? 60s? 50s? The argument just ends up being a poor excuse to cover the recycling machine that is hollywood today. Hollywood, one of the biggest entertainment industries in the world, exporting their product to almost every corner of the earth. This same machinery thinks it’s ok to make a “reboot” of Commando, and the sad thing will be that a lot of people think is ok to go and pay to see it. The karaoke analogy in that article sums it up quite well i think. It’s like as time passes by each generation just comes and devours the previous one, and so on.

Two cliches, one game.

April 29, 2010

Cavia, the makers of the very underrated Drakengard games are getting their newest game released for the PS3 and 360 in the west. Going by the name of “NIER” this rpg-actioner has a very peculiar detail regarding it’s localization. You see, we are getting the exact same game as the japanese, but with one exception: the lead character. While japan is getting this guy:

While we are getting this dude:

The reason for this? According to Square Enix, the publishers, each character was made to appeal to each market. The androginous young boy for the japanese, the “angry roid-rage guy” for us gaikokujins. You know, because there’s barely any of those character featured in games in both the east and west. Well, the guy we are getting is surprisingly not bald.

Hey, two different characters, a different take in each story right? Not here, the story is exactly the same for both versions, with just some minor alterations. So the question here is, why not just having a single guy for both markets? A single, well written character, that can help make the story as engaging and appealing as it can. Sure, the game might play well, but seeing this much attention focused on the “looks” i have to wonder how the story flows. The premise is that the hero is trying to find a cure for a plague, in the japanese version affecting the sister, and in the american version the daughter. Here we arrive at one big problem: changing the age of the character right there means a lot more than just doing an asthetic change. A younger man is not going to approach a situation in the same way a more experienced man could do. That the producers are minimizing this aspect speaks greatly about how game companies still approach storytelling in video games, and yes, western companies are in a similar condition before you say it. Seriously, when was the last time you heard about a movie releasing two versions with different leads in the same date? Same story, same situations, just a different guy to “appeal” to different audiences?

Here’s the thing: you can’t please everyone all the time, sometimes the end result can end up being quite ugly that way. Japanese developers seem to be obsessed these days with pleasing way too much the audience, even forgetting about themselves in the process. Sure sure, a game is a product made for mass consumption, and people always want more of the same. The thing is, if you are never going to try something different might as well not bother doing a new franchise at all, just release another port or a redundant sequel to a well known franchise, and call it a day.

Now, if the story is actually good, well damn, sign me up. I still find the reasoning behind this “different lead for different demographic” quite silly, at the core japanese and western players are really not that different. They stick to what they know, but sometimes it’s good to rock their boat a bit.

The beat em up chronicles.

April 26, 2010

Arcades in the early 90s, ah yes, the world was full of possibilites. For a kid with enough quarters in his pocket it mean a good afternoon of videogame recreation. There was plenty to choose from in those days, but there was this genre, this type of games, that pretty much anyone could get into it: beat em ups. Just put a coin in the machine, grab the character you like the most and go out and punch and kick people. No rocket science involved here, no ellaborated combos (not in the early ones at least) or anything too complicated, just go a beat up everything you see. It was a simple yet fun concept that was milked for all it was worth, and after the mid 90s it pretty much vanished from the arcades, never to be seen again.

Sure, you could say the genre morphed into the modern hack n slash/action games of today: God of War, Devil May Cry, Dynasty Warriors, among others. But this traditional template of beat em ups was, for the most part, completely abandoned save for some exceptions here and there. The genre is considered “obsolete” by many, and while it’s true that a lot of the early games haven’t aged well at all there are plenty of titles who have resisted the test of time, games that are still a lot of fun to play and deserve plenty of praise for doing great things in the genre.

So, this is the first in a series of articles where i’ll talk about this genre that has given me so much fun, and sometimes rage moments. A genre i grew up with, a genre that deserves more that just some vague nostalgic-based articles. Damas y caballeros, this is the beat em up chronicles, let’s get starting:

Kung Fu Master (1984)

Starting as chronologically correct as possible, Kung Fu Master is considered by many to this day as the very first beat em up ever made, or at least the first game that set the bases for what would become the shape and form of the genre. Created by none other than Irem, Kung Fu master got a bunch of ports, but i will be talking mostly about the arcade and nes versions.

The gameplay is as basic as it gets, you have a punch, a kick. You can jump and attack at the same time, you can attack while crouching, and you jump by pressing up. That’s it, nothing more, nothing less. The story is the template of almost every beat em up that would come in the next 10 years: kidnapped girlfriend, beat the crap out of a lot of people to rescue her, the end.

Taking a huge influence from Bruce Lee’s game of death you ascend floors on a tower, defeating a different boss at the end of each level. The enemy selection goes from kung fu goons that will simply run towards you, knife-throwing enemies, dwarfs, little dragons and snakes. Once you defeat the final boss of the game, Mr X, the game starts again, this time a bit more challenging, but basically remaining more or less the same in terms of enemy patterns. After that is just finishing the game over and over, trying to improve your score, doing it faster, maybe with just punches, then with only kicks, and so on.
As for the presentation, Kung Fu Master on the arcade looks as good as it gets for it’s time, nothing fancy in terms of visuals, the gameplay while remaininc quite accesible to this date feels a bit too clunky. The nes version looks and plays very well, and i would even say that it plays a bit less stiff than the arcade counter part, of course, this might be just me talking about out of fuzzy nostalgic memories. I grew up with the nes version after all, and played that one till the cartridge almost melted, so take it as a grain of salt.

Kung Fu’s sucess will create a wave of games in a similar style, slowly improving the gameplay mechanics. The genre will still not form it’s identity completely until a couple of years later. Kung Fu itself would get some spin-offs in the future, but more of that in future entries.

Games you should be playing right now: Deadly Premonition.

April 24, 2010

Looks about as average as it gets, right? A survival horror, a genre pretty much dying this generation. The game is clearly inspired by Twin Peaks, it has Resident Evil 4/5 type of gameplay and other elements from other games out there. Nothing special so far, but then we get something like this:

Got your attention? Is this a satire of the many gimmicks of the current console generation? A honest attempt at milking them? The game has got very extreme reviews, everything from a 10 to a 2 from ign (geez, ign giving bad ratings to offbeat games? NO WAY!) The game is out for the 360, only 20 bucks, and it’s suppose to come for the PS3 later this year. Intrigued? I am for sure, and yes, just by watching that video i know i must play this ASAP. I mean, just listen that song, i can’t get it out of my head.

After Burner Climax out today.

April 23, 2010

In case you forgot, After Burner Climax is now out in the psn and live. If there is a game that validates the need to get a HD tv is certainly this one:

Also, i would like to make a call for ECM’s very oportune post in his blog regarding Final Fight Double Impact forcing players to be online in order to play it. Way to go Crapcom, thanks to ECM for the warning.

Splatterhouse new trailer.

April 20, 2010

Leaving aside that the character design still bothers me (why they had to make him look like Hulk?) this new trailer just looks…well, not particulary interesting. From the God of War type of gameplay to the “shinny” graphics, that pretty much kill the horror atmosphere for me, i have to wonder if this remake/revival really has a reason to exist at all. Will the new generations care at all about this franchise? I would rather have a translated release of the “chibi” famicom game that was released only in Japan.

Here we go again…

April 18, 2010

It’s just innevitable that this debate will keep poping out from time to time. At the core of this debate both sides, the pro-game is art crowd and the games-are-not-art side are both aiming at a very noble and worthwile goal, i just think they’re doing it with the wrong approach.

Several people on the gaming crowd just want videogames to be a respected form of entertainment, and that is already becoming a reality. Considering the sucess of the wii console with non-gaming crowds (to different degrees of course) and the ammount of space videogame related stuff takes in the media it’s safe to say that videogames are at their peak of popularity as a form of entertainment. They can just go higher right now. Is just that asking right now for videogames to be put in the same area as other forms of expression is just, i would say, rather pointless. You can’t just demand for something to become relevant right there at the moment, it should be a natural process, in case it actually happens, not something forced upon.

It’s a semantics issue, and maybe both groups are missing the point there. In the same way, as much as many forms of expression might share several elements, that doesn’t mean a movie is the same thing as a book, a book the same thing as a movie and so on. Each format has a unique way of doing things, and trying to make one mimic the others seems rather silly. That’s why i find quite dissapointing seeing many games these days being so desperate to be movies, to be considered “interactive movies” as some would say. Videogames operate on a different level, and should be approached with that in mind, by both the makers and the audience. There’s also the fact that some audiences will never be into videogames, and that’s perfectly fine, that’s another thing i wish more videogame companies would get in their skulls: you can’t please everybody, no matter how hard you try.

That’s the other thing about this whole debate, these two sides already made their mind about what they believe, there’s really no point in trying to convince one or the other about anything at all. Each thing has a time and place to exist, and a context to work with. Videogames are still shaping their identity, and trying to force them a certain label might actually do more harm than good to the cause. There’s absolutely no need for this kind of cultural war at all, to each of it’s own, let’s move on to other things.

Extreme loneliness.

April 2, 2010

Loneliness, your silent whisper…

I seriously don’t know what to say, like, for real? People would pay for this? In what times do we live? So many questions.