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Posts Tagged ‘miscellany’

PAX Pix 2011, Part Four: Cosplay and Miscellany

One of my biggest regrets of PAX East 2010 was not taking very many pictures, especially of the cosplayers. Fortunately, and with the help of a few people at deviantART, I managed to find photos of many of my favorites. This time around, I did not want to repeat this mistake.

To start things out, here’s my favorite cosplay of the show, which I had teased in earlier posts: Gordon Freeman from Half-Life. Despite its simplicity (not to mention the somewhat slapdash application of the Black Mesa patch), it succeeds in two important areas: the cosplayer’s resemblance to the original character, and their creative approach. This Gordon went around PAX all weekend carrying a large display that humorously promoted Black Mesa; titled “Black Mesa Community Outreach and Hiring”, it included a special message from Dr. Breen, a list of civilian projects that involved upstanding partners such as Umbrella Corporation and Abstergo, a partially redacted hiring notice, and a section about famed curtain manufacturer Aperture Science. Overall, an inspired and funny cosplay.


Other cosplayers I saw over the weekend included Princess Zelda and Link, whom I sat next to during the marketing panel; a four-person Mortal Kombat II team consisting of Smoke, Scorpion, Reptile, and Sub-Zero; a White Mage, a Black Mage, and Aeris; two of Quote from Cave Story (the second of which is pictured here); and a Draenei from World of WarCraft.


Aside from the expected video game cosplays, there were a few distintively non-game ones. For example, over the weekend I saw The Tick and Arthur, as well as the Bimbettes from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (pictured). Crossplay, or cross-dressing cosplay, was also present at the show. There was a female Quote (the first Quote I had seen), a male Chell, and most memorably, a male Misty, shown here.

Of course, there were a few people dressed in costume who were not cosplayers, but actually on the job. Aside from the Halo: Reach characters at Halo Fest (see Part Three), there was a female Shepard at the Mass Effect 3 booth and a Plants vs. Zombies group made up of Disco Zombie and his backup dancers.

Still, even though I had managed to take many more photos this time around, there were some cosplays that I missed out on. Aside from those I’ve already shown and/or mentioned, I also saw Cirno (Touhou series); Bayonetta; an Enforcer dressed as Chun-Li; a yellow and black Heartless and other Kingdom Hearts series characters; Vanille (FFXIII); Frank West (Dead Rising) in boxers and a Servbot head; Catherine and one or two Vincents (Catherine); Princess Peach; at least a couple of Marios, another Link, and a Dark Link; and what I believe may have been an Alchemist from Torchlight. There were others besides, but I can’t think of them all right now.


Cosplay aside, there are several other, smaller things to mention about the weekend. As at PAX East, the longer lines were made more interesting by the Cookie Brigade and what entertainment the Enforcers had on hand. Across the street from the Paramount Theater (aka the “Main Theater”), a tank was parked in a vacant lot as a part of the promotion for World of Tanks. The Paramount itself is gorgeous inside, with high ceilings, fancy gilded detailing, and an overall feeling of grandeur.

We didn’t spend any time in the Queue Room this go round—save for a brief trip in and out to get the official swag bags, we didn’t have to. At this PAX, they experimented with letting people queue up wherever they wanted before the doors opened; this approach, while not perfect, worked out okay.

While in line, we would sometimes chat with people; at the Friday concert, it was with a couple who we had been in line with earlier that day. I also managed to meet up with some fellow Cheap Ass Gamers during PAX, and we all went out to dinner at a nearby Gordon Biersch on the Sunday night after the final round of the Omegathon (and a brief Child of Eden session in the Console Freeplay room), where the topics of discussion included cars and corpses, import figures, multiplayer gaming, and CAG itself.

What else is left to mention? We hit up the Gameworks across the street the night before PAX started and checked out (but didn’t play) the wide variety of arcade machines there, including some recent Japanese imports, such as a motion-activated rhythm game by Konami (not sure if it’s a Bemani game, technically) and a ride-on version of Initial D Version 3. On the first day of the show, I noticed a shrinkwrapped Jim Darkmagic portrait prominently displayed at the official PAX/Penny Arcade store. One of the stores in the Expo Hall (which I wish I could remember the name of) had these cool Portal 2 rubber keychains that I have not seen since. Another store sold anime merchandise, many of which were bootlegs. In the Tabletop areas, one of the card games really stood out from the rest: the anime-styled, maid-heavy Tanto Cuore. And, as you may have heard elsewhere, PAX scalping was taken to a whole new level with the presence of counterfeit passes.

So, in conclusion, it was an incredibly fun weekend, and we’re looking forward to doing it again next year. To all the people who made this event so awesome: thank you. Finally, if your cosplay is posted here, please let me know! I’d love to give you credit.

ETA (09/10/11): Cosplay credits! Please help me add to the list if possible.
– “Community Outreach” Gordon Freeman: Peter Jung

PAX Pix 2011, Part Two: The Panels

Actually, there aren’t too many pix for this installment, since many of them came out blurry. Besides, although the panels we went to were great, there isn’t anything really exciting about a photo of group of people sitting along a draped table—”you had to be there” really applies in such cases. Anyway, here’s a rundown of the panels and other scheduled events we attended (unless otherwise noted, each event lasted for an hour).


What They’re Saying About You: How Marketing Segments and Targets Gamers (10:30 AM, Raven Theater) – The title pretty much says what it was about. Marketing ideas, trends in research gathering, the peculiarities of marketing to the PAX crowd, and so forth were discussed for an hour in front of a small but interested audience. The stories and insight from Pete Hines, the don’t-call-him-a-marketer from Bethesda, was the highlight of the panel.

Omegathon Round 1 (2:00 PM, Wolfman Theater) – The first round of PAX’s ultimate gamer competition consisted of some madcap rounds of Mario Kart: Double Dash! An extra bit of chaos was added when it was revealed that the players wouldn’t know which of the five screens they would be playing from, and even this was switched up on each new track. At the end, four Omeganauts were eliminated, but for two of them, their fate was only determined after a tie for last place and a sudden death round. The PAX crew stuck to random maps for this round, though the audience really wanted to see them duke it out on the game’s version of the infamous Rainbow Road.

Retrogame Roadshow: Are Your Old Games Buried Treasure? (5:00 PM, Unicorn Theater) – A panel tailor-made for collectors, with the audience bringing up various rarities to show off while the panelists debated their value. Among the highlights were an NES obscurity titled Panic Restaurant and an extraordinarily rare port of M.U.L.E. (I believe it was the IBM PCjr version).

Friday Night Concerts (8:30 PM ~ 1:00 AM, Main Theater) – This was our biggest must-see of PAX, mainly due to favorites the Video Game Orchestra (see PAX East 2010, Part Two) and the Minibosses (who we had never seen live before). Sandwiched in between were MC Frontalot and Metroid Metal. The entire concert was awesome, and a lot of fun. I especially liked the inflatable metroids that Metroid Metal tossed out to the crowd for them to bounce around in the air (though said metroids wound up on stage more than a few times). Most unexpected moment: the VGO playing tunes from Plants vs. Zombies and Angry Birds!


Infinite Respawn: How Gaming Can Keep & Save Your Relationship (10:30 AM, Serpent Theater) – Now here was a topic very near and dear to our hearts: love and gaming. Though many of the panelists’ experiences didn’t quite match up with ours—in part since neither of us are inclined toward multiplayer or co-op—there was a lot else that was the same, and it was comforting to know that our experiences aren’t unique.

Discover the Forgotten Masters (12:00 PM, Serpent Theater) – This panel, which opened with two very amusing Fist of the North Star clips, was presented by the two guys behind GeekNights. Although some of the info presented wasn’t as obscure as they had perhaps thought it was (such as who David Crane is, or what the NES game Spy vs. Spy is like), I still learned a few things and was introduced to some fascinating retrogames, ranging from a gunslinger game (Outlaw for the 2600) to a multiplayer airline management sim (Aerobiz Supersonic for the SNES). I also agree with the point of the panel: that there’s a lot of old ideas in gaming that are ripe for revisiting.

Game Development Secrets Exposed: Everything You Wanted To Know But PR Won (3:00 PM, Raven Theater) – I have no idea what this panel was like… or rather, what it would’ve been like, since it was cancelled at the last minute! Moving on…

You Call That Fun?! (6:30 PM, Wolfman Theater) – This was a lively panel where four friends and game industry colleagues came together to discuss that most intangible of game qualities, “fun”. One of the most interesting parts of this panel was the discussion of difficulty and how it needs to be optimized for the player’s needs; for instance, a bunch of developers who have become experts at the game they’re making are hardly the best judges of difficulty.

King of Chinatown (10:00 PM – 11:30 PM, Serpent Theater) – Thanks to some technical difficulties, this screening was delayed for over half an hour. Anyway, King of Chinatown follows Street Fighter IV player Justin Wong and his rise as a pro-gamer, but that’s only half the story. The other concerns the group Justin was a part of, Empire Arcadia, and its founder, Isaiah Triforce Johnson. Triforce was already known to me as a fixture in the NYC gaming scene—I first became aware of him at the Wii launch, where he was at the head of the line, several feet away from our group—but I had no idea of his role in the pro gaming scene. Without giving too much away, this film is fairly even-handed, but does not paint Triforce in a favorable light. Despite some muddy sound, it’s a good indie documentary, and worth checking out.


Making Art from Art (12:00 PM, Raven Theater) – A panel by a bunch of nerdcore rappers and one fanfic writer about all fan-made derivative works might seem somewhat imbalanced, but despite the lack of discussion about the (admittedly enormous) realm of ROM hacking, fan mods, and fan/doujin games, they handled the topic well enough. During the Q&A, an audience member brought up the topic of female fanworks makers twice. The first time, the all-male panel addressed it well enough, I thought; the second time was redundancy defined, though it was clear then where her tastes lay (mentioning Pixiv but not deviantART was a sure sign), and I could swear she referenced Vocaloid fandom without saying the word once. There’s one at every con, I guess.

Insider Insight: Awesome Video Game Data (2:30 PM, Kraken Theater) – This was probably my favorite panel of the show. Presented by EEDAR President Geoffrey Zatkin, it served as a brief glimpse into the world of video game research and data. Lots of statistics were presented, ranging from trends in the music game genre to the likelihood of games with ninjas showing up on the Wii, painting a fascinating picture of what the video game marketplace is really like. If this talk is repeated in some form for a future PAX, I highly recommend it.

Omegathon Final Round (5:30 PM, Main Theater) – And at last, as “The Final Countdown” came over the sound system, the remaining two Omeganauts took to the stage. Each finalist chose a “spirit animal” from the group of disqualified Omeganauts, and Tycho and Gabe teased the game as one having space marines, racecars, and gazelles. Of course, it was no such game. Instead, much to everyone’s surprise, it was The Legend of Zelda! The goal was to be the first to obtain the first Triforce piece, and their helpers’ role would be to guide them along with the help of an FAQ. It was a really exciting match to watch, and once a winner was declared, the show was wrapped up and officially ended, and we headed out to the Console Freeplay area for some last-minute Child of Eden and eventually dinner.

And now that I’m back at home, guess what I started recently. Yep, The Legend of Zelda. This is the first time I’ve ever played a Zelda game, by the way; as of this writing, I’m up to three Triforce pieces and am currently after the fourth.

Such is the hold that PAX has on me, I suppose.

In our next installment: WORF WORF WORF.

Where I’ve Been, and the Return of Braincrumbs

Yes, I’m back. My main excuse for dropping the ball on this blog for so long was my cross-country move back in early April. It was quite a production, as you can probably imagine, and even now we’re still unpacking, buying new furniture, and generally settling in. Even with a bunch left to do, I feel as though life has only recently started to get back to normal. I’ve even had time to play some games.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to do with this blog. My personal blog at LJ is pretty much dead, and I thought about moving it somewhere else, but at the same time, I’m not 100% happy with Brainscraps either. Right now, the plan is to experiment with some non-gaming posts here, making it a more general blog, just with a heavy emphasis on gaming. Thoughts and/or opinions, if anyone has ’em, are appreciated.

Now, as I said before, I’ve been playing games again recently. After pretty much stopping all my gaming in early March in order to pack and do other moving-related things (with a few, scattered sessions here and there), I picked up where I left off in Rune Factory 3 in late April. Since then, I’ve beaten it, and soon followed it up with Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes and the single-player campaign in Portal 2. I have been wanting to write about all three (well, mainly just Rune Factory 3 and Portal 2), but didn’t have the usual luxury of spacing my posts, so I’m doing the mini-review thing again. Here we go…

Girls, Girls, Girls – Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon

Daria's a bit nutty, but in an endearing way.

Rune Factory is one of my favorite game series of all time. A sublime blend of Harvest Moon‘s farm-based management (and dating) sim and a hack-and-slash dungeon crawler, it is heaven for those of us who like both types of gameplay. However, coming from Harvest Moon roots, it has not been without its hiccups along the way, including glitches, translation errors, and odd bits of game design. Thankfully, the series noticeably improves with each new entry, and Rune Factory 3 is certainly no exception, as it is the most enjoyable one yet.

The premise is very similar to what we have seen before: hero with amnesia, girl in a small town who gives him a farm to work on, etc. This time around, though, said hero is half-monster, with the ability to transform into a Wooly (the Rune Factory universe’s version of sheep), and said heroine is actually likable. All of the other bachelorettes in the game are interesting as well, with personalities that become fleshed out over the course of their sidequests. By the time I was ready to propose to the girl of my choice, I had maxed out the “love meter” for nearly all of the girls, mainly because I simply wanted to know more about them. On top of that, I liked the other townsfolk as well. Overall, the character development in Rune Factory 3 is outstanding, and a standard that all future games in the series should build upon.

The game’s mechanics have received some spit and polish as well. The farming system has been overhauled for both greater flexibility and greater challenge. Likewise, crafting is no longer the headache it once was, and rare items are now used in leveling up your existing equipment, and not much more than that. Meanwhile, the story progression is set up such that you don’t have to guess your way to the next event, but the player can still take things at their own pace.

Though we have yet to see how the localized Rune Factory Oceans—sorry, Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny—will turn out, for the time being, if you’re at all interested in the series but can only play just one of them, this is the one to play. Despite the occasional technical (or textual) hiccup, I wholeheartedly recommend this game to my fellow simulation and dungeon crawler fans.

Match Three Tactics – Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes

In between battles, things look a bit less puzzley.

And now for an entirely different sort of RPG, but no less unique; one set in the world of a Western series, and with turn-based tactical puzzle elements. Clash of Heroes is, as I understand it, something of a departure from your traditional Might & Magic, a series which I know nothing about. Despite my ignorance, it stood well enough on its own as a single entry, and one which I found rather enjoyable.

The campaign is fairly short for an RPG—roughly twenty hours—but that’s as much as this game needs, as there wouldn’t be any real added benefits to additional grinding, what with the low level caps and hard limits on how many units one can have on the field. Each of the game’s main characters is played in turn, and each of their “chapters” progresses similarly to each other, save for the final one, what with its love of multiple boss battles in a row without opportunities to save between each one. Back at the very beginning, the tutorial stuff is handled well enough, but stumbles when it comes to explaining the unlocking and acquisition of special “Elite” and “Champion” units. As for the story, it’s your standard save-the-world fare with conspiracies and a magical MacGuffin. So, the non-battle campaign stuff is, in a nutshell, average and a little rough around the edges.

The battle system in Clash of Heroes is similarly unpolished, but quite a bit of fun. Using the match-three puzzle genre as a point of inspiration, battles take place by lining up color-coded troops into horizontal (defensive) or vertical (offensive) formations. Only the units at the very end of rows can be picked up and moved around; others can just be deleted. As in your typical puzzle game, chains can be created by pulling off the right moves, with the reward being additional actions for that turn. It’s a system that takes some getting used to (especially when doing the optional “puzzle” boards), and there are obvious balance issues with some of the units, but in general it works.

Said balance issues are supposed to have been fixed in the XBLA version of this game (I played the original one on DS), but I don’t know how much else was tweaked. Certainly, it’s an okay time-killer if you can get it at a decent price, and for me, not a bad way to add some variety to an already RPG-heavy backlog. After beating it, though, I was ready to move on.

Aperture Don’t Stop – Portal 2

Aperture Science has seen better days.

Rounding out this post filled with strange genres is the sequel to gaming’s most beloved first-person environmental puzzler black comedy. This is—so far—the only big new “hardcore” game I have been interested in this year, and thankfully, it lived up to the hype. In this return trip to Aperture Laboratories, test subject Chell once again has to deal with the artificial intelligence GLaDOS and solve her way through chambers and corridors filled with endless amounts of Science. A chatty supporting player, the orb Wheatley, is along for the ride this time, and as in the first game, the environments are characters of their own.

Having gone through the original Portal twice (as well as the tough fan-made Flash Version Mappack after playthrough no. 2), I didn’t have as much trouble thinking my way through the environments in this sequel, even with a handful of new gimmicks thrown into the mix. The one time when I did take a hint to move forward, it was to a problem whose solution wasn’t very obvious; also, it was given to me in a natural manner in-game, reflective of the immersive approach Valve has (once again) employed in this world. There are some things in the environments that either feel gamey or don’t make much sense in the grand scheme of things, messing with the immersion, but they are few. Still, though, I feel that the original Portal did a slightly better job in this area. The wonder—and dread—that I felt playing through Portal were strong enough that I can still recall them; I had no such strong emotional reactions with Portal 2, save for a certain pair of moments, both of which were not driven by the overall environment, but mainly just the audio.

I don’t know if Portal 2‘s bigger, shinier, more mainstream approach is responsible for this less immersive experience, but I do feel that it has contributed to the lowered difficulty curve. There were certain puzzles in Portal that required damn good timing, and there’s quite a bit less of that this time around. Timing is still important in certain instances, but even then the game is more lenient, asking you to rely more on your own cleverness. Going through each individual area has become less about accomplishment and more about seeing what happens next.

Portal 2 is very good indeed (or at least the single-player campaign is. As of this writing, I haven’t done any of the cooperative stuff), but gaming magic is not something that can be easily replicated, especially in a sequel. If you loved the original and wouldn’t mind a longer sequel with more story and fewer mentions of cake, there is much to like in Portal 2. However, it’s a bit like StarCraft 2 in its polished approach, and it’s missing of that intangible something that made its predecessor go beyond the realm of “very good” and into “classic”.

Special Stage: Because of the move, I didn’t make it to PAX East this year. Instead, the plan is to go to PAX Prime, and indeed, we’re all booked for that trip and ready to go. There, we hope to witness the fourth “season” of Canon Fodder. The Season Three roundup is here, and sadly, not as entertaining a read as past summaries, mainly because there’s video attached this time.

P.S. to Kotaku (and various other gaming news outlets): There is no dash in “Square Enix”. None. I don’t care how silly or serious the article is, you’re embarrassing yourselves (not that that’s hard for you all). I’ve read way too many press releases, visited way too many of their sites, and bought way too many of their products to know for a fact that there is no dash in “Square Enix”.

(Sorry, little pet peeve of mine.)

And speaking of Square, I found myself greatly amused by The Dark Id’s Let’s Play of Chrono Cross. It really demonstrates just how much of a clusterfuck that game is, and makes it that much funnier and more entertaining. His earlier LP of Dirge of Cerberus is also not to be missed.

Oh, and finally, I’m now on the Twitters.

Devil May Sigh

My lazy ass has taken up fanart again, hardcore. I haven’t drawn much in awhile, and needed to get back into it, so I dove into some pieces that I’d left hanging months ago. The three that I’m currently working on are coming along well, so far, and I hope that I can shake off the last remnants of rust from my skills by the end of the month. What are they? Well, all I’ll say at the moment is that they involve Final Fantasy VII (of course) and two games I beat this year.

Having an account (and running a decently-sized group) at deviantART, I see a lot of others’ fanart on a regular basis. However, my favorite bit of recent fanart I saw on a forum; it’s the one to your right, which, via the “Reaction Guys” meme, is an accurate description of what many Devil May Cry fans felt when the Ninja Theory-developed reboot DmC was unveiled at the Tokyo Game Show last month. To whoever drew this very true reaction, I salute you.

Yeah, I don’t like Dante’s new look either. I’m also a bit wary about Ninja Theory taking the helm of this game, which will be the latest in a series which is traditionally action-packed, combo-heavy, and charmingly cheesy. From what I’ve heard about Heavenly Sword, it wasn’t all that, and early impressions of Enslaved have me suspecting that although DmC might have the Hollywood associations that Ninja Theory likes to include in their games, it probably won’t have the Devil May Cry series’ tricky controller gymnastics. So far, the funniest, weirdest, and scariest thing about DmC is how much the “new” Dante resembles the lead developer. Egad.

While DmC makes me sad, the blog Opposable Thumbs makes me happy. It’s one of a very few number of sites sites I’ve added to my daily games-related internet reading this year. I haven’t liked everything I’ve read there so far, but in general, it’s quality. Some recent pieces I would like to recommend are their history of the Civilization series, the much-discussed article on elaborate press goodies, the review of text adventure documentary Get Lamp, and, my favorite of these, a hands-on look at the latest Cabela’s hunting game.

To round things out, here’s some other recent articles, blog posts, etc. that I’ve found interesting. First off, it seems that Stephen Totilo and N’Gai Croal were at it again, asking developers to play their game “Canon Fodder”, the aim of which is to list the ten greatest games of all time. You might recall that I attended the first season panel at PAX East. It seems that PAX Prime 2010’s Season Two brought a lot of its own drama, especially since that stubborn Ocarina of Time was completely removed from the list. Good stuff, and I’m looking forward to Season Three come PAX East 2011 (hopefully). And speaking of PAX East 2011, registration is now open! Unfortunately, the hotel info isn’t up yet, but you can bet we’re booking as soon as it is.

Ian Bogost’s article Persuasive Games: Free Speech is Not a Marketing Plan looks at the recent controversy surrounding the Taliban’s role in the upcoming Medal of Honor game and laments on how easy it was for EA to deal with it. The most relevant bits were quoted in this GameLife post, if you just want a summary. On a lighter, and totally unrelated, note, Gabe’s promo art for Comic Jumper (second post down) is a hilarious—and well drawn!—homage to the horrible but distinctive comic book work of Rob Liefeld.

Finally, some JRPG-related stuff. RPGamer posted a “retroview” of Final Fantasy VII that is honest and fair, though I don’t agree with the reviewer’s take on the field navigation. Meanwhile, Andriasang has posted some interesting and wonderful pics from Japan, namely a comparison between old-style Disgaea sprites and the new Disgaea 4 ones, and a drop-dead-adorable plush of Final Fantasy XIV moogle Kuplu Kopo.

I’m probably never going to play FFXIV, but I must have that moogle.

Me and Samus Aran

Metroid Prime was really good, if a little frustrating at times. The levels, very much including the in-between hallway bits, are incredibly varied, and the puzzles are genuinely interesting. Story bits are told via computer terminals and ruins, which can be scanned with a special visor; as such, there were very few cutscenes, which I liked. A lot of backtracking is required to collect all the doodads you need (and don’t), which got a little tedious at times, and at one point, I had to run to GameFAQs in order to progress (always a Bad Thing to me, though in this case, the solution was merely a little oblique instead of ludicrously buried, *cough*). Both enemies and environments require more elaborate battle tactics as the game wears on, which not only added to the difficulty but the variety. Also, the Wii controls for this first-person game are a dream come true, though I personally would’ve put the default jump control on the Nunchuck instead of the Wii Remote, similar to the Elebits scheme. I’m looking forward to playing the other two games in the Metroid Prime Trilogy set, though probably not right away, as my backlog is nearly all JRPGs again and I need, more than ever, action games to break things up.

Captain N isn't that kind of guy.

Metroid Prime was also my first Metroid game, believe it or not. However, thanks mainly to Nintendo and fandom, the game’s protagonist was already known to me, though I was not aware of much of the minutiae of her canon. Really, there aren’t too many hardcore gamers who don’t know of the bounty hunter Samus Aran, since, along with Lara Croft, she’s the most famous and iconic video game heroine out there. An important aspect of her is that she has traditionally been a silent protagonist in the games she appears in, much like Mario, Crono, and just about every main-series Dragon Quest and Pokemon hero. In fact, the only time I’ve seen her talk is in the old Nintendo Comics System books, where she is a calm/cool/collected hunter who macks on Captain N.

Recently, Metroid: Other M came out, featuring Team Ninja’s take on the character and her universe. I hadn’t really kept up with this game, but what reviews I’ve seen have been generally favorable. The one from the Onion AV Club got me wondering, though:

It might not sound like a big deal, but Other M focuses on Samus almost to the point of being a character study. In her many internal monologues throughout beautifully rendered cutscenes, the previously strong-and-silent Samus owns up to being petulant in her time with the Galactic Federation, to having misguided, unshakeable loyalties, and to dealing with daddy issues.

That didn’t sound like the Samus I (barely) knew. Turns out it was worse for a more experienced Metroid player at G4. I first heard about Abbie Heppe’s Other M critique via GJAIF, which quoted a Boing Boing article about the piece and its accompanying backlash. In summary, Heppe did not like the characterization of Samus, and took issue with the story itself; she also wasn’t satisfied with the control scheme and overall game design.

From what it sounds like, Samus was handled badly in Other M, and not just in the sense of a silent protagonist becoming chatty: Heppe logically points out as uncharacteristic Samus’ moments of fear when facing a certain enemy that’s a mainstay of the Metroid series. However, I believe this bit is just another fault of the overall approach as well. If I’m reading this right, it seems that Samus is a character whose thoughts and personality we didn’t know at all, but only interpret through what limited information we are given (sparse storylines and cutscenes, her equipment and enemies, etc.), with the rest up to us, the player. The Samus I saw in Metroid Prime was an independent and diligent explorer who seems not to care for the company of others. There’s doubtless many more interpretations of her out there (like her being a greedy and flirtatious sort, a la the Captain N story). An immature and doubtful Samus was not one I ever thought possible, especially not at the point in the canon that Other M takes place in.

Silent protagonists, especially ones that have been that way for as long as Samus has, must be handled carefully when given a voice and thoughts. I can only think of one other instance off the top of my head where a silent protagonist was given a significant personality injection, and the results were also inadequate; the Jak of Jak II was, unlike the original in Jak and Daxter, not someone I particularly liked. Mario might qualify, as he has been given voice in the past through cartoons and comics, but his in-game persona is still largely open to interpretation; at most, his speech is limited to very basic reactions (“uh-huh”, “no”, exclamations of surprise, etc.) and Italian gibberish.

Perhaps Samus should never have been given a personality in the first place, as that, traditionally, has been left up to the players to fill in for over twenty years. That lengthy time, and all the Metroid games filling it, have created many Samus Arans in the minds of uncountable numbers of gamers. Whittling down these many Samuses to one (and an apparently strange one at that) is a very dicey proposition at best. I hope the next Metroid allows us as gamers to once again see our own personal Samuses again.

Some Last-Minute Dungeon Crawling

This afternoon, I’ll be boarding a plane to California for a personal trip. What this means is that, for the past week or so, I’ve been tying up some loose ends beforehand, so I wouldn’t have to deal with them when I got back. The usual errands notwithstanding, this has meant returning to the final, postgame stratum of Etrian Odyssey.

One of the monsters I didn't fight.

I had originally begun tackling it last year, immediately after beating the main quest. Unfortunately, the most advantageous stat boosts required me to restart with new characters at Level 1, and thus, a lot of grinding was required. I took up the grind again earlier this month, and eventually maxed out the five stat-enhanced characters I had created way back when at Level 70. When my party was strong enough to venture into that last stratum again, around Level 60 or so, I began mapping it out thoroughly, finding it an even more devious bastard than the snippets I had seen last year. In the end, I never got through the whole thing due to some insanely tough bosses that I would’ve had to have defeated. Still, I’m glad that I got as far as I did, even though I had to spam the items and abilities that cut down on random encounters after maxing out my party and building up my cash hoard, as fighting monsters was a waste of time by that point.

In general, the plan was to be “done” with Etrian Odyssey so I wouldn’t have to take it along with me, but I also wanted something new to play on this trip, since Pokemon Platinum by itself would get a little boring after awhile. Thus, I ordered Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes, which I’ve had an eye on ever since its release. (It’s also, I believe, the first Ubisoft-published title I’ve bought since Grandia II for the Dreamcast, which says more about my tastes than the company’s games.) Yeah, another RPG, but with more of a strategy and puzzle bent from what I understand. I’m looking forward to playing it.

I also picked up the issue of Edge that’s currently on the US newsstands, because that’s what I do nowadays before a long trip. It’s the June issue with Little Big Planet 2 on the cover. I wouldn’t be surprised if I have every Edge cover appearance of LBP by this point, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if I’m missing one or two. Something interesting I’ve heard about LBP2 is that the gravity is adjustable, which might mitigate my one major turn off from the first game: the floaty animation. You can bet I got sick of seeing all those Edge covers (and stories) real fast after seeing the original LBP in motion for the first time…

Anyway, that’s all for now. See you again in a little over a week!