Video games and other things.

Posts Tagged ‘gaming culture’

Let’s Play! And After That, Let’s Really Play!

Xenogears is one of those games that I had long been curious about, but didn’t want to play, both because and in spite of its reputation. I didn’t like Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht, mainly due to its sedate dungeons and overlong, poorly-paced cutscenes, and didn’t relish the thought of slogging through its predecessor. However, at the same time I wanted to know why Xenogears has commanded such attention. Therefore, when a new Let’s Play of the game by The Dark Id appeared at the Let’s Play Archive, I dove right in.

"All shall be mocked accordingly..."

It turns out that I had made the right decision. Seemingly every new dungeon, rare as they are, is described as the worst in the game; the story has some interesting ideas but is needlessly complicated, poorly plotted (a good example: that old JRPG trope, the battle tournament, is used as a major plot device twice), and did far more telling that showing; and from the looks of it, the staff had just about run out of money when it came time to work on Disk 2. The Dark Id’s humorous asides, especially the ones involving sandwiches and/or Citan Uzuki’s dickery, plus his astoundingly thorough analysis of the game’s quirks, made all this the more digestible; I’m sure I would’ve experienced Chrono Cross levels of rage if I had played this myself.

This Xenogears Let’s Play is easily the longest one I’ve ever read, and took me some time to get through. Not long after wrapping it up, I decided to play a new game. I’d already finished with Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny and given up on the original Tropico after finding it a bit too difficult, and not the fun kind of difficult, either. Also, I wasn’t in the mood to pick up Sonic Colors or Pokemon White again. There was that damned-cute-moogle-fest Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, which I was (and still am) playing co-op, but I needed a new single-player game. So, the new game I played? Bayonetta.

For the next three days, I found myself immersed in the closest thing to a masterpiece I have played in the action game genre. Bayonetta is marvelous, with slickness, humor, and outrageousness in abundance. The title character is a strong, sexy, and ridiculous gunslinger and a great follow-up to a certain other beautiful mixed-race hero from an earlier game by the same director. Speaking of which, there are several homages in Bayonetta—some more subtle than others—to director Hideki Kamiya’s previous works, to certain classic Sega franchises, and to games that have nothing to do with either. My favorites of these made me absolutely giddy as this already awesome game got even better. In general, there is so much love put into Bayonetta—love of the heroine, her world, the action, and of video games themselves. I don’t know if I’ll ever experience another game like this again.

The next game I played only took me two days to get through, but has a much longer title: Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode One. This was one of several games I picked up during this past December’s Steam Holiday Sale, and more or less on a whim at that. The game itself plays a bit like a weirdly balanced JRPG with notes of graphical text adventure and that unmistakeable Penny Arcade feel. It was all right, and I’m looking forward to playing Episode Two sometime soon, in part because one of my favorite PA characters, Charles, makes an appearance.

After Rain-Slick Precipice, Episode One, I decided to delve back into the world of Caribbean island management—but via Tropico 4 this time. The campaign this time around is a long one at twenty missions, but once I got to a certain point, the previous starting islands began to make repeat appearances. This was a little disappointing, as were the moments when the sound would stop during a cutscene, or the one time during the final mission where the game crashed, or the few other tiny annoyances presented themselves, but I was still engrossed for a good two weeks. In many little ways, it’s much improved from Tropico 3, and I ended up spending more time playing it than I do with a lot of JRPGs. I wrapped up the campaign this afternoon, so now I’m going to step back from it for awhile and catch up on just about everything I’d been neglecting in the meantime, such as, well, this blog…

At Kotaku, the Fireworks Come a Day Late

So I came home the night before last, exhausted. The next day, I caught up on internetty-type things. One of the sites I sifted through was Game Journalists Are Incompetent Fuckwits, a recent find and the best angry video game blog I’ve read since the deceased (and missed) Pre-Order Pushers. As usual, there’s a ton of stuff about Kotaku, including a link to a funny Something Awful parody, but little did I realize that a raging, gusty shitstorm was on the horizon. I’m still piecing together the entire story from GJAIF posts, Kotaku comments, and other places, but here’s what I’ve gathered:

• On the morning of July 5th, Kotaku EIC Brian Crecente posted an entry titled “This is Kotaku”. It’s an introductory article for newbies to the site, with links to articles, broken down by category, that serve as “a taste of what we do”. iambeaker on CAG later noted, in a thread titled “What is up with Kotaku?”, “I know many of the Gawker blogs place an article similar to this when a blog is featured on a major network (i.e. The Today Show) or when the blog is being sold (i.e. Consumerist).” FriskyTanuki replied: “That post is their response to the Game Journalists Are Incompetent Fuckwits blog that criticizes sites that post stupid articles or gets information completely wrong and Kotaku accounts for probably 60% of the blog’s content.” If that’s true, seems the post didn’t work.

According to GJAIF, “After Crecente posted the ‘This Is Kotaku’ article, there was a bit of a meltdown in the comments.” To say the least. Evidenced by the handful of comments still left on the post, many more were “disemvoweled” (the vowels were stripped from them) and later deleted (or at least, hidden from non-Kotakuites). One critical comment by lineypi—which I am unable to link to directly—stood out to me as I began putting this post together. I’m not sure if it is representative of its deleted brethren, but here it is in its entirety, in case it should disappear later on:

Just out of curiosity, but are the other Gawker sites doing something similar to this? I feel like there’d be a lot of overlap between things on here and things on Gizmodo (and a few of the other gawker sites) just based on this overview.

It would also be interesting to see these different things sorted into what you plan to post most about compared to what you see the least of.

At the moment the impression is that top of the list is what Kotaku has chosen to rank as the highest importance.

So for instance, you’ve got Sex really high on that list, but personally I don’t see sex & games as something intrinsically linked. Gawker has ..alternative.. sites for sex.

So the implication here is that Kotaku will have a sex article posted each day or something, but if that’s the case then I can see that driving away (the mature) gamers rather than attracting them.

I dunno, I just feel like with this summary list Kotaku isn’t really representing itself the way that I, as a visitor, experience it. And if this list is indicative of changes that are going around or about to occur, then I’m concerned that the experience will change.

PS – I’d also really like to see some sort of internal news that is purely a response to the mass banning/censorship that has recently occurred.

If there’s a way you can tag something so that it is only visible to registered members, or if you just use the internal messaging system, then I could see that being a solution that would answer a lot of the community’s questions without having something so off topic & purely internally focussed end up in your blog feed.

In the #speakup section of Kotaku, I found much more. In particular, the banning of a user named dean seems to have been a major flashpoint for the implosion. kanji08 goes into further detail about yesterday’s events in this comment.

• The conversation and arguments continued beyond Kotaku, spilling into a fan forum and Steam group. Again, GJAIF has more details regarding that, including a lengthy bit of chatlog from the Steam group, for which Kotaku writer Owen Good is present. GJAIF is later kicked out of the chat.

That’s about all for now. There’s still some fuzzy bits here and there, such as the precise role of certain individuals, and the nature of the deleted comments. It’s disconcerting how much has been covered up. I understand editors wanting to have a certain degree of control over their site, and I’m pretty neutral in my feelings toward Kotaku, but this is kind of nuts. It doesn’t seem like much is being written about this implosion right now, which is a shame; I’d like to see more. Something tells me that the meaning of “community” on Kotaku has just been considerably altered for its users, and it’ll be up to the Kotaku staff (and parent company Gawker) to decide what this means for everyone.

My Fan Translation Wishlist

Yuna Kagurazaka, Guardian of the Light. Forgot where I originally got this image from.Remember that huge stack of game soundtracks I bought awhile ago? I’m still working my way through them. Have managed to listen to most of them, but one I haven’t touched at all is Front Mission 5 ~Scars of the War~ Original Soundtrack. A big part of this is because, as I said before, I haven’t played the actual game. Although this sort of thing hasn’t stopped me before, this is Front Mission, and therefore, special in my eyes.

Front Mission 5 was, apparently, briefly considered for an official stateside release. However, this never panned out, and thus, fans took it upon themselves to do what very few (if any) had done before: an amateur translation of a PlayStation 2 game. Thus was born the Front Mission 5 Translation Project, which has since become the Front Mission Series Translation Project, as they are now working on patches for Front Mission 2 and Front Mission Alternative.

The group completed the beta translation patch of Front Mission 5 in December of last year, so all I would need to do is to hunt down a copy of the game and the necessary PS2 modding tools to get it to run. However, this brings me to the one criticism I have of the project. If the group’s goal is to draw Square Enix’s attention to English-speaking Front Mission 5 fans, then why make it so the patch works only on the non-Ultimate Hits verion of the game, which has long been out of print? I think a spike in sales of new copies of FM5, rather than secondhand ones, would push Square to consider an official release even more. For historical evidence, I point to Capcom, who localized the DS port of Gyakuten Saiban in North America (as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney) after noticing all the sales of the bilingual game that were coming from outside of Japan. Anyway, I know the fan translation team is well aware of this issue, and I hope they make an Ultimate Hits version of the FM5 patch a priority for future releases.

With FM5 on my mind lately, I got to thinking about what other Japanese games never made it over here that I would like to see complete translations of. There are some games that are “import friendly” in that you don’t have to know a lot of Japanese—if any—to be able to enjoy them, so those aren’t a problem. There are also those like Tales of Graces, Front Mission 2089: Border of Madness, and Game Center CX: Arino’s Challenge 2 that are still recent enough to have a chance of localization, slim though they may be. What’s left are the text-heavy titles which are on dead systems and have small cult followings, if they’re lucky. What’s left, in other words, are games like those on my wishlist.

Ys V: Lost Kefin, Kingdom of Sand, Super Famicom – I’m cheating a little bit here with a couple of them, including this first one. You see, a fan translation of Ys V was started several years ago, but the patch is currently incomplete. This leaves Ys V as the only main-series Ys storyline whose translation has never been made available. Rather frustrating if you’re interested in the Ys canon and don’t read Japanese, but even after all these years, the patching project is not dead, so there’s still hope.

Galaxy Fraulein Yuna and Galaxy Fraulein Yuna 2, PC Engine – And now for something completely different: visual novels! My initial exposure to Galaxy Fraulein Yuna came in the form of the first OVA series; later, I saw the much more coherent second series, Galaxy Fraulein Yuna Returns. Each storyline follows the adventures of teenage Yuna Kagurazaka, who is the savior of the universe, a popular celebrity, and a regular girl all at the same time. It’s a pretty wacky series, with some amazingly good character designs, all courtesy of mecha designer and Gundam Girl artist Mika Akitaka.

Some years ago, I learned that these anime were based on a “digital comic” game series, which gave me a better perspective on the character-stuffed OVAs. However, aside from the Sega Saturn’s Galaxy Fraulein Yuna 3 these games have never been translated into English, by anyone. The Yuna games have shown up on several systems, but the first two in the series are on the PC Engine, thus, my wishlist request. A PSP collection of the first two Yuna games as well as a related title, Galaxy Policewoman Sapphire, was published only a couple of years ago, so it seems there’s still interest in these oldies, at least in Japan.

Chocobo Stallion, PlayStation – Unlike the others on this list, I actually own this game. If I recall, I first learned about Chocobo Stallion while reading some information about a different Squaresoft-related thing. The idea of a chocobo sim racer intrigued me, and I later picked up a cheap copy on eBay, only to find that this was not an import-friendly game in the least. There are no English-language guides of any sort on GameFAQs or anywhere, and, naturally, no translation patches. I’ve long had the idea to make a rudimentary guide of my own, but have yet to get around to putting something together.

Segagaga, Dreamcast – A translation of this navel-gazing RPG/sim is the dream of every English-speaking Sega fan ever, and as with Ys V, is an actual project that has been ongoing, with occasional updates. Started in 2006, the project lead is still pushing forward with it as of September 2009. Will it ever see the light of day? Let’s hope it does!

Special Stage Extra: The Hobbits, The Hobbits…

There were a lot of little things I had forgotten to mention in my PAX posts, like the donut people roaming the queue the second morning, Ubisoft’s redefinition of the term “Flash Mob” in their promotion of Just Dance that same day, the fact that the show directories were called the “World Map”, and the Hitler meme covered in Alex Leavitt’s talk which I hadn’t been aware of until then. Most memorably, there was a certain video which was voted on while in the queue, which we hadn’t seen in ages before PAX East, but whose tune has gotten stuck in our heads many times since then. All together: “They’re taking the hobbits to Isengard!”

A certain <i>DMC</i> arachnid gets a little lost.

A certain DMC arachnid gets a little lost.

Speaking of Penny Arcade, a few weeks ago, I started reading the entire archive from the beginning, something I’d never done before. I can’t remember exactly when it was that I started reading PA, but I believe it was sometime after the current style and format had been established, so it was interesting to go back and see the oldest of the old strips. So far, I’ve happened upon Gabe’s marriage proposal, the introduction of names, the first appearance of DivX, the first mention of the Fruit Fucker, Chuck’s transformation into Charles, and much more. There is technobabble, Dreamcast love, and some where the strip is funny, but the lack of historical context is a little infuriating (Cyrus believes this is from around the time of the World of WarCraft announcement). However, for games that I have played and remember well (like, say, Devil May Cry), seeing them made fun of in old Penny Arcade strips is an enjoyable way to indulge in nostalgia.

Elsewhere on the interwebs, thanks to fadedjae on LJ for reccing the Escapist article Phoenix Wright‘s Objection!”, which shows just how closely the Gyakuten/Ace Attorney series mirrors (and pokes fun at) the Japanese legal system. Some of the information wasn’t new to me—mainly Japan’s high confession and conviction rates—but much of it was, and it was certainly an eye-opener.

Finally, in case you’re looking for good deals on video game soundtracks—or have one to share—I’ve started a thread on the Cheap Ass Gamer forums with comprehensive information on anything related to buying OSTs: store listings, tips, deals, sales, you name it. Please note that you must be a registered member of the CAG community in order to view this or any of the other threads in the Video Game Deals forum.

PAX East 2010, Part One: Of Panels and Pokewalkers

One quick note before I begin: I’m looking for PAX East cosplay pics on deviantART. If you see (or have added) any over there, please post a reply with a link or links; thanks.

Now, on with the post, which is rather long, even though it’s just the first part. Co-starring my partner in crime; some of you may know him by his old FFVII Citadel handle, Cyrus Dogstar.

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