Ah, what a great vacation!
That’s what I’d be saying if I had a legitimate reason for allowing this blog to languish in a sad, non-updated state for so long.
But I don’t.
I’ve been busy, yes, but no more than usual. Truth be told, Kombo’s new format has sapped me of any reason to create new content for this little slice of the Internet. I mean, why bang out a 2,000 word piece and slap it onto WordPress, where it’ll march slowly to receiving 100 or so views (maybe) when Kombo can provide it with that much and more? Plus, since I work for Kombo, anything I produce can and should be used to advance Kombo’s breaker cause — in the process netting my work thousands of views. That said, I plan to toss this blog some scraps from my burgeoning career on regular basis, essentially turning it into a link-dump for my work at Kombo. And, every once in a while, I’ll create an exclusive personal anecdote — a tale of daring and bravado — for my loyal (read: sporadic) blog readers.
As proof of my bold new direction, here’s a bunch of news. Enjoy.
Electronic Arts: Not as Evil as We Once Thought? (Original content. A Kombo exclusive. A one-two punch of wit and insight!)
Yep, you’re drowning in news — penned by me, so as to reach the zenith of its potential entertainment value.
And now, I leave you. My brain is currently swimming in a sea of Benadryl, and my eye-lids are drooping, physically dragging my head down — in a sort of bobbing motion — with them. Goodnight, all.
I haven’t played a single game all week. I bet my mother’s proud; “You’ll never get anywhere playing video games all the time!” she’d exclaim, after telling some kids to get off her lawn and making me take out the trash. Well, except that she never actually said that, and my line of work (if it could so be called at this point) is acutely focused on video games. But she is old, and she did make me dispense of our collective garbage when I was a wee little ‘un. Anyway, since I need to play something before I succumb to gaming withdrawal — and, more pressingly, the need to sleep — here’s the news.
Why Do We Play Games? (Protip: Read, Digg, and N4G this unless you don’t want to, in which case there are no actual consequences. Well, other than my eternal ire, which will drive your guilt-ridden conscience to envision a mopey, saddened version of me, and that’ll make you happy. I am, after all, incredibly handsome — no matter what mood I’m in.)
Brand New NBA Ballers: Chosen One Screenshots and Trailer (In this story, I used a term you’ll never, ever, ever, ever hear me use in real life. Click the link to find out what it was!)
So, I’m getting tired. I’m not sure if I can make it through Metal Gear Solid’s opening scene in my current state. Maybe I’ll pick up Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Screen again after all.
Whew, I’ve been busy.
I’m a keyboard typin’, psychology project completin’ flying purple people eater exhausted shell of my former self. Thanks to my time spent carving a nice little hole into a colossal mountain of stress, I was unable to fulfill my duty to you, my dear, dear hypothetical reader. But my absentee style of blog crafting ends now. First, here’s the news — plucked straight from the past through the gremlin-magic of the Internet. Of course, this begs the question, is it really even news anymore? Well, read and Digg anyway, for the news may be fleeting, but my appreciation is eternal.
May I recommend the Wii Fit and Metal Gear Online stories? I do believe they’re some of my best work at Kombo, but I’m a tinge biased. And before I part, let me assure you that …”And Protect Your SOLDIER Honor” part two will be up soon — most likely tomorrow. For real this time.
Kombo’s style is changing and it’s gonna be awesome. What does this mean? Not much for this blog. My posts on Kombo are going to be far more varied from now on, but over here, I’ll still try to bang out a long form piece or two every week, and I’ll keep posting my newly-personal Kombo stories. Needless to say, I’m excited.
Since their inception, video games have been vying to become a legitimate storytelling medium. From Pac-Man‘s simple tale of ghost-busting bravado to Dragon Quest‘s Japanese spin on D&D swords ‘n’ sorcery, even early games attempted to provide players with compelling plots to back up their sometimes nonsensical gameplay. But if one were to plot out the pivotal points in gaming’s evolution as a storytelling medium, while Pac-Man and Dragon Quest would certainly snag invitations to the show, Final Fantasy VII would likely receive top honors. Regardless of its inferiority to Final Fantasy VI, FFVII introduced to players a fantastically beautiful, movie-esque world that (at the time) existed in a class of its own. Most importantly, FFVII is the game that set many developers on their quest to make gamers cry. Aerith’s death at the hands of the manically insane Sephiroth sent legions of gamers searching for a way to revive their favorite pink-clad flower peddler, but none succeeded. It seems fitting, then, that FFVII’s prequel, Crisis Core, is one of the best examples of character death in video games yet.
When Aerith blocked Sephiroth’s 12-foot long katana using only her midsection, gamers were shocked. This character who, in all likelihood, they had recently taken on a “date,” couldn’t die. It was madness. Crisis Core turns this idea on its head; anyone who’s played Final Fantasy VII (released in 1997) already knows Zack Faire is going to die. It’s been in the books so long, it has three or four special editions. So, if shock isn’t the catalyst for sadness here, then what is? Simple: Square Enix puts you, the player, in the shoes of this cheerful, exuberant, idealistic character — infusing you with his dreams and goals — for 20 hours. Then, after you’ve become comfortable in Zack’s shoes, they brutally snuff out his light; bullet-ridden and soaked in blood, Zack — a hero in the truest sense — dies. You steered him down this road, knowing it was a march to his untimely death, and secretly, you probably hoped he’d find a convenient trap door exit and escape at the last minute, or get carried away by the Turks, or something. But he didn’t, and you can’t help but regret it.
This concept of regret gives rise to Square Enix’s most brilliant decision in regard to Zack’s death: you play his final battle. After controlling his every step for so long, it’s only fitting. Faced with thousands of uncaring Shinra troops, guns gleaming in the desert sunlight, Zack chooses to make his stand. “There’s a high price for freedom,” he quips, and then, Buster Sword raised, he charges into battle. As you dodge missiles, avoid machine gun fire, and cleave hundreds of soldiers into thousands of half-soldiers, the DMW, Crisis Core‘s central gameplay concept, is going crazy. See, throughout the game, the DMW acted as a back-end while creating the illusion of slot-machine randomness. Every time it landed on multiple matching numbers, Zack would gain a special stat buff, use an earth-shatteringly powerful attack, or even level up. These events, however, were packed with Zack’s personality; each number on the DMW’s wheel is attached to the portrait of a character in the game, and Zack’s emotions play into that. So, for instance, when the DMW grants you triple-Sephiroths, Zack might flash back to a comical scene wherein he tells Sephiroth to go on ahead while he engages a gang of bloodthirsty beasts, only to turn around and find that Sephiroth has already mangled them in the blink of an eye. And while Zack is hacking and slashing desperately to hold off the Reaper, the DMW is “malfunctioning” — Zack’s life is flashing before the player’s eyes. Sights, sounds, voices, events, joy, anger, love — everything is spewing out of Zack’s mind as a mournful reminder of all he’s left undone. At the same time, however, these DMW scenes aren’t overt tear-jerkers; they’re all over the place.
Come back tomorrow for part two of “…And Protect Your SOLDIER Honor,” where I’ll be discussing Square’s subtlety, Zack’s regrets, and why Tidus and Zack probably play on the same Blitzball team in Final Fantasy heaven.
As you’ve likely noticed, the eponymous 4/11/08 occurred two days ago, on the eleventh of April. Two days late and two dollars short, I suppose — but it’s not like you’re paying me to do this, so you can understand why my motivation might falter occasionally. So then, lest we squander even more time, here’s the news:
My final Crisis Core piece will hit the tubes later today, with all the relative force of a kitten cannon-balling into a large Jell-O mold. But hey, with your help, maybe that kitten might actually sink a little, you know? So I’m counting on you to read my write-up, because if not you, hypothetical reader, then who else?
And don’t say God. That’s a cop-out answer.
On occasion, I find myself privy to an event so utterly horrendous that it actually lowers my opinion of humanity. Today (or yesterday, in regular person time) was one such day.
Austin College, as part of a week celebrating, well, I’m not really sure, but anyway, Austin College put on an auction — one that had deep-pocketed students bidding on people instead of things. Now, before you get ahead of yourself, Austin College strongly discourages slavery and human trafficking; the merchandise in question was set to experience more of an “a day in the life of” type of thing. These ephemeral servants, then, were auctioned off to other students for cash, which the charitable staff at Austin College will presumably use to feed future Resident Evil 5 enemies*.
I was set to aid a friend in properly marketing himself (“Back in my day, the prospect of slavery practically sold itself!”) — which amounted to getting kicked while holding a pad in front of an slavering mob of fellow Austonians.
There was a catch, however; before I could receive my bruising and go home, I was forced to watch others’ performances — eight others, to be precise. But you know what? They weren’t so bad. Ok, well, they were kind of bad, but only the two girls whose talent was hula-hooping to rap music, and the one girl who jumped and pointed in what was initially described as a “dance,” and the guy who caught, like, one or two gummy bears in his mouth and, well, most everyone was really bad, actually. But they don’t matter.
No, the “bickering” hosts absolutely eclipsed all other performances, throwing them into such indistinct blackness as to redefine the term “abysmal.” Oh yes, “bickering” deserves every quotation mark it receives, because the hosts were, I kid you not, reading each and every randomly-placed “shot” they took at one another from plainly visible cue cards. Eventually, their performance devolved into one host accusing the other of going to high school prom with his mother, and the accused host, apparently blessed with the improv skills of a pack of migrating salmon, owned up to it. No witty retort, or even a comically-bereaved, “My mother died in childbirth!” Actually, the funniest part of that whole fiasco came from a random, possibly disembodied voice floating amongst the audience; “Oh, I took your mom to prom,” he blurted, and the crowd burst out into laughter. Congrats, anonymous guy, you saved the hosts from an increasingly dissatisfied crowd, or at least delayed the lynching a little.
Really though, these hosts were downright offensive. At an auction that allegedly turned the neon-orange spotlights on the soon-to-be auctioned, the hosts tried to steal the show. What they did, however, was akin to a the episode of Pokemon wherein Team Rocket, instead of merely falling into their own pit trap, pulls everyone else in with them. The show’s single redeeming factor (aside from my brief stint in the spotlight) consisted of me watching the male host stand precariously close to a small fire which decorated the side of the stage. If only. If only.
*This joke was in bad taste, wasn’t it? Why don’t you comment on it? Confirm or deny my beliefs; affect me in ways most profound.
Sorry about the lack of an update yesterday, but I was completely exhausted. Laptop firmly shut (and newly updated — Vista is a demanding mistress), it was only once I slid into bed that I realized my mistake. Well, consider this post a heartfelt apology, each and every “i” dotted with a bleary-eyed sad face.
And don’t worry, I can still feel your vehement disappointment boring into my conscience, and I know why. My final Crisis Core write-up is, thus far, a day late, with nary a word to its credit. But before you haul-off and submit all my stories to Digg — oh wait do that. Anyway, my blog-negligence is not without reason; for the past couple of days I’ve been tired, depressed, and in a bit of a slump. Previous evidence has shown, however, that I should win my bout with gloom in the next day or two, so expect my Crisis Core conclusion by then.
Two very important, er, psuedo-beings passed away today, so you can understand why I’m a little shaken up. First, early this morning, the Internet Express delivered a message from 1up detailing the peaceful death of Games For Windows Magazine. I’ve known GFW since it was a wee Computer Gaming World, and I took great joy in watching it grow and prosper, but GFW lived a good, long life. With any luck, its reincarnation at 1up.com will make us all proud.
But, while GFW had no regrets, Zack Faire of Crisis Core is another story — another story that will be told tomorrow, as I’ve decided to write a piece about Crisis Core’s conclusion. So yeah, look forward to a long, detailed write-up, and bring some tissues.
Anyway, here’s today’s news, as delivered in my soothing voice:
So read about the present, mourn the past, and protect your SOLDIER honor!
*Gulps for air and wheezes like a bad vacuum cleaner*
Tired…from writing…Digg if you want to…Preemptive thanks
*Slumps into his chair in an unconscious heap*
Crisis Core’s compelling yet mostly-known tale is nearly at an end, and I’m still just as enamored with the game as when I started. In my eyes, this is the mark of a truly great game — it crosses the dividing road between “good” and “amazing,” a road paved with the soulless game cases of many an “almost, but not quite.” In order to cross such an insurmountable divide, a game must pay attention to every little detail — an area in which Crisis Core excels. Whether it’s the initially simplistic materia fusion system or the way Zack plucks an umbrella from a sandy beach to use as a makeshift buster sword, Crisis Core never stops surprising you with imaginative ideas, both large and small. This veritable onslaught of creativity, then, keeps the player chomping at the bit to see what’s next. Truth be told, Crisis Core has brought me closer to understanding the equine mentality than any scientific study — the game revels in carrot-on-a-stick incentives, and I gleefully gallop in its wake.
It’s not perfect, however; nits run rampant, and I aim to pick them. Nit number one requires tweezers, as it’s smaller than its brethren — an outcast of sorts, with nary a glowing red nose to be found. At one point in the later stages of the game, Zack is essentially asked whether he prefers the Turks’ petite brunette, Cissnei, or everyone’s favorite soon-to-be martyr, Aerith*. Now, regardless of who you choose, Zack’s only going to have eyes for Aerith, but what if that minute choice impacted the game’s storyline? What if, in a game like Crisis Core — a prequel with a plot that’s already been elaborated upon numerous times — you could completely alter the story? Really, it’s perfect for Crisis Core; Zack (SPOILER) dies at the end of the game, and thus, peoples’ perceptions of him are all that remain in the Final Fantasy VII universe. Maybe he wasn’t as close to Aerith as people think. Crisis Core and prequels of its ilk tend to serve as fanservice with a side of plot development. Why not elevate such prequels to a new level — one that really makes players reconsider things they once understood to be fact in their favorite video game worlds?
The second nit is definitely larger, featuring the nit’s characteristic — well, what do nits look like? Anyway, after Zack, Tseng, and Cloud’s helicopter is hit by an off-screen missile, they crash in a permafrost, snow lightly falling around them. After shrugging off what should’ve been lethal wounds, Zack and co. happen upon a fortuitously-placed enemy fort. Bearing in mind that he is, at this point, a demi-god of sorts, and can fell normal soldiers with a glance from his mako-enfused eyes (that sadly, don’t fire lasers), Zack does the sensible thing and engages in Solid Snake style enemy-avoidance tactics. Wait, what? Yep, Square Enix decided to add Crisis Core to the ranks of clandestine greats like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and, actually, Final Fantasy VII. Their excuse: enemy soldiers are collecting items from chests scattered around their own base, but only if they catch you. So, every time a soldier — one who’s significantly weaker than Zack — catches up with our hero, Zack is unceremoniously hurled out of the fort and pursued by three enemies. After blinking, Zack is then able to re-enter the fort and try again, but with the disheartening realization that a chest is gone! Why can’t Zack just beat up the guys who stole their own stuff? Who knows? But here’s the best part: after getting caught for the umpteenbajillionth time, Zack is able to continue because all of the soldiers are rotting in the ground. So, what happened to the sticky-fingered soldiers who partook of the chests? Dead, I’m guessing. Why can’t Zack steal the stuff from them now? Too GTA for his tastes? Developers: random stealth is bad stealth. It doesn’t divy up gameplay sections; it just pisses me, and legions of like-minded individuals, off.
The final nit resembles a small mammal more than it does a nit; it’s not a problem Crisis Core possesses so much as it is an idea. Crisis Core has an engaging battle system that incorporates action elements while retaining the core of an RPG. More so than other such action-RPGs, however, Crisis Core creates an illusion of true action — far removed from the watered-down, overtly turn-based battles that are so prominent in the sub-genre. Meanwhile, in lands mysterious and unknown to Crisis Core, MMORPGs are struggling to move beyond turn-based battle systems while maintaining some semblance of fun. A few have succeeded, but they sold their swords and sorcery to the devil in exchange for decent battle systems; games like Auto Assault don’t even utilize humanoid characters at all. At this point, I imagine you can see where I’m going; let’s relentlessly petition Square Enix to create an MMORPG based around Crisis Core’s battle system. Can you imagine it? You’re running through an open field, dodging and rolling while hacking away at a large monster with a sword the size of a larger monster. Don’t get ahead of yourself, though; this isn’t Monster Hunter. With a roll of the DMW (Crisis Core’s back-end that, well, it’s a slot machine), you have temporary infinite MP — Hell Thundaga, go! And PVP would still work because everyone would have access to the DMV. And if Square were to slap the Final Fantasy VII name on this little slice of brilliance, it’d be sure to succeed — even amongst Japan’s MMO-less heathens.
Vahn16 was about to craft an excellent conclusion to this rambling post, but he was accosted by a number of ants and dragged under the nearest refrigerator. He didn’t fight back because he was positive they were nits, and, therefore, harmless.
*At another point, Kunsel asks Zack why he looks so down. Zack can respond in one of two ways: “I’m gonna be away from Aerith for a long time” or “…I love you, man!” I like the Aerith vs. Cissnei example better, though, for obvious reasons. Plus, I’m sure fan fiction writers have already taken care of Zack and Kunsel’s budding romance.