Friday, December 23, 2011

The Star Wars Holiday Special teaches us to hate Christmas, life

In accordance with ancient Pointless Side Quest Christmas tradition, I'm once again posting a revised and expanded version of my post on The Star Wars Holiday Special. Please to enjoy, for a certain value of "enjoy."

It's the Christmas season once again. To celebrate, this is the time of year when this blog make a foray beyond the world of video games into the larger world of holiday entertainment. Sadly, there is a dark side to Christmas. I'm not talking about the weather, or the parents rending each other apart like rabid beasts at Toys R Us, or the built-up resentment that can explode at family gatherings, or those horrific modernized versions of Christmas carols that every place of business in the state of Illinois is apparently required by law to defile my eardrums with for the entire month of December. No, I speak of something much worse...

The Star Wars Holiday Special has appeared on American television once, in 1978, and oozed into various foreign markets to make similarly brief appearances over the next few years. It has never been rebroadcast in the US and has never been released on home video in any format. George Lucas, who would probably release a boxed set of the prequel trilogy with an added bonus DVD containing 90 minutes of footage from the parking lot security cameras of Skywalker Ranch and call it the "Star Wars Ultimate Edition" if he thought anyone would buy it, disavows it and has refused to make it available.

Scorned by legitimate society, it exists only in the form of unauthorized copies made from VCR recordings of the original. Like so many other blasphemous tomes of daemonic horror bearing unspeakable eldritch knowledge never meant for the eyes of Man- Friedrich von Junzt's Unaussprechlichen Kulten, Abdul Alhazred's Necronomicon, Kevin J. Anderson's Jedi Academy Trilogy- it circulates covertly in the dark corners of the world (I think that's an entirely fair description of most file-sharing networks) where students of the grotesque and unnatural risk their very sanity to seek it out.

It was in 2006 that I acquired a copy of The Star Wars Holiday Special, complete with the original 1978 commercials. It should have been a fine year: Neal Asher, David Drake, and Stephen Baxter all had multiple new books rolling off the presses. Ace Combat Zero came out for the PlayStation 2, and the release of the PlayStation 3 paved the way for me to actually buy one three years later. Iron Maiden, Evergrey, In Flames, Norther, Strapping Young Lad, Tool, Motorhead, Blind Guardian, and Týr released new albums. Instead, there would be only the taste of ashes.

Now, one thing I share with several of my friends is the ability to enjoy crap. From 1950's skiffy schlock, to watching a near-comatose Richard Burton mumble his way through the uncut version of The Exorcist II, to Sylvester Stallone's arm wrestling epic Over the Top, to the climactic scene of The Satanic Rites of Dracula where Christopher Lee is killed by running into a small shrubbery, to Oscar-winning actor George Kennedy and a bunch of stupid teenagers trapped on a boat where they are picked off one by one by an evil hybrid cat/rat/godawful puppet in The Uninvited, to a seemingly endless horde of Godfrey Ho "ninja" "movies" created by buying the rights to various Asian films, redubbing them, splicing them together with new footage of white guys in brightly colored and sometimes rhinestone-studded pajamas running around and doing flips in what appears to a small municipal park, and feebly attempting to tie them together and pretend that the resulting Frankensteinian abomination was a coherent story, we've seen it all. We take that sort of thing in stride.

I want you to have that context in mind when I say that my first two attempts to watch this had to be aborted within the first half hour because the guys I was watching it with couldn't stand it any longer.

The plot, such as it is, is that Chewbacca is returning to his home and family on the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk to celebrate "Life Day," one of those vague holidays characters in kids' fantasy shows would celebrate when it was snowing and they wanted to do something festively nonsectarian. But the system is in the grip of an Imperial blockade fleet commanded by recycled movie footage of Darth Vader, and... Well, basically, there's a string of largely unrelated, godawful variety showesque events set in something that resembles the Star Wars universe featuring various C-list celebrities until things finally shudder to a halt what seems like several geological epochs later.

It's got all of the heroes from the movie making their return, plus James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader. The only major actors from Star Wars not present- unless one also counts David Prowse, who appears only in the form of reused movie footage, or Carrie Fisher, whose soul appears to have departed her body and wandered for much of her screen time- are Alec Guinness as Ben Kenobi and Peter Cushing as Tarkin, whose characters were saved from appearances here by the sweet, merciful embrace of death.(Which makes it suddenly seem very suspicious that Kenobi and Tarkin both met their ends because they conspicuously chose not to protect themselves from imminent danger, and either possessed supernatural powers that included the ability to sense horrible, cataclysmic events or hung out with people who did.) What could possibly have gone wrong?

There are some things the human mind cannot explain, only try to describe. Some of the thrilling spectacles we're treated to include:

Over ten minutes of Chewbacca's family screaming at each in Wookie, sans subtiitles! This is what the show leads off with. Little-known fact: Lucas actually wanted the first 20 minutes of the original Star Wars to focus on R2-D2 making random beep-bloop noises while doing routine maintenance on the Tantive IV's cafeteria vending machines, but was forced to start the movie with an exciting space battle instead when the studio said that his original cut of the film was too long.

Chewbacca's elderly father Itchy groaning in ecstasy while watching virtual reality porn! You have no idea how badly I wish I was making that up. NO idea.
Ever wondered what an elderly Wookie having an orgasm looks like? Of course not, but now you know anyway.

Reused footage from the movie!

Reused footage from the movie tinted bright green, so that a shot of the Millennium Falcon approaching Yavin can double as a shot of a bright green Millennium Falcon approaching Kashyyyk! Alternately, if you're a die-hard Star Wars fan desperately trying to escape from the implications of this monstrosity actually being a canonical part of the Star Wars universe, it could be interpreted to mean that the entire special is actually taking  place inside the Matrix. In which case it's arguably a better Matrix film than Matrix Revolutions.

Several minutes of Chewbacca's repulsive son Lumpy watching miniature holographic acrobats! That's right, Chewbacca's immediate kin consists of two guys named "Itchy" and "Lumpy." Presumably, the name "Chewbacca" is a human-pronounceable approximation of the Wookie word for "Scabby" or "Oozing."
Lumpy! I've already mentioned his role in the Special's events, but the very existence of this... this thing appalls me so much that it warrants its own entry. With the possible exception of that loathsome, soulless homunculus wrought in obscene parody of a human child from Son of the Mask (the CGI baby, not Jamie Kennedy), nothing has ever filled with such instinctive horror.


Harvey Korman in a dress! And in two other separate parts, as an amorous Tatooine cantina patron and a cyborg instructional video announcer (a cyborg who announces in an instructional video, that is, not an announcer in an instructional video about cyborgs) who appears to be suffering from some sort of degenerative motor neuron disorder. Not since Peter Sellers in Dr. Stranglove has there been such a multi-role tour de force!

The musical stylings of Bea Arthur! This is actually the closest we get to a high point.

Harvey Korman trying to get into Bea Arthur's pants! Though anyone hoping for some actual on-screen Hedley-on-Maude action will be disappointed, sadly.

An animated segment featuring the  most repellently butt-ugly animation in human history! It does have the first-ever appearance of Boba Fett, which some people may be interested in. Frankly, I've always considered Fett one of the most overrated characters in fiction. It's a damning indictment of how low our society's standards of masculinity have fallen when possessing some basic tracking abilities, dressing like the Rocketeer, flying around in a big metal shoe, and being killed by a blind man is enough of a résumé to be declared Biggest Badass Ever.

One odd thing is that the cartoon, like a number of other segments, is actually introduced as something being watched by Lumpy. Which implies that this segment depicts events that are fictional not only to us but to the characters, and that the cartoon itself actually exists within the Star Wars universe.

Which, I just realized, means that Jefferson Starship does, too.

A brief appearance by an incredibly bored-looking Harrison Ford, who doesn't even try to conceal his utter contempt for the proceedings!

Mark Hamill wearing more makeup than Queen Amidala, Bozo the Clown, and Dick Clark combined!
Usually I'd be reluctant to say something nasty about this, since it's probably to conceal the injuries Hamill had suffered in a car crash the previous year, but The Star Wars Holiday Special exists on a plane where human concepts of morality and decency are not merely absent, but meaningless. If you gaze into the bellowing unsubtitled Wookie abyss, the bellowing unsubtitled Wookie abyss gazes also into you.

Carrie Fisher singing a festive Life Day carol set to the tune of the classic Star Wars theme while clearly stoned out of her mind! But you don't have to take my word for it:

She's no Bea Arthur, I'll tell you that much.

Eventually, Chewbacca makes it home for the holidays with his repellent family. To the best of my recollection, no one learns a valuable lesson about The True Meaning of Life Day, if in fact it has one.

I really can't do justice to how teeth-gratingly bad it is. I have no strong personal stake in Star Wars. I liked the original movies and a few of the tie-in books, but I've never had the strong emotional attachment to Star Wars that some people do. I didn't like the prequel trilogy but never had the sort of "I have sworn a Sicilian blood oath of vengeance upon George Lucas' and his entire family line because he murdered my family, burned down my village, and deflowered my house pets" response that is often seen on the Internet. The idea of crap with the name Star Wars on it is not some sort of personal affront to me. Given that sitting through this made me want to gouge out my own eyes and just run through the streets of Chicago gibbering like a lunatic until my heart and/or lungs burst, I can only imagine how devoted Star Wars fans feel about it.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Definitive, Absolutely 100% Petty Complaining and Pointless Digression-Free Guide to Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3

With the recent release of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, the Marvel vs. Capcom roster is now bigger than ever before. (Provided one defines “ever” to exclude Marvel Vs Capcom 2.) With 48 characters to choose from and no ability to select multiple iterations of the same character so that you can just pick three Sentinels and crush everybody like in Marvel vs. Capcom 2, selecting your team of three can be a daunting task. Fortunately, my friend and guest co-author Kevin Folliard- screenwriter of the Press Start Adventures online animated series and the two Press Start live-action films from Illinois-based independent film company Dark Maze Studios and an innovator in the field of video game parodies that have actual jokes instead of nostalgic references standing in for jokes- and I are here to provide guidance with this piercingly insightful look at some of the characters, both new and old, who will be doing battle in Ultimate Marvel v. Capcom 3: The Fate of Two Worlds. So, without further delay, let us begin, starting with perhaps the only character renowned and fearsome enough to march in the vanguard of so mighty a host:

Tron Bonne

John: A returning character from Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Tron Bonne appeared in the Mega Man Legends games and her own spin-off, The Misadventures of Tron Bonne. Tron Bonne was one of four Mega Man characters to appear in MvC 2, along with Servbot, Roll, and Mega Man himself. In Marvel vs. Capcom 3, the developers had a great idea- make Mega Man's red-armored, sword-wielding, and still-reasonably-masculine-despite-that huge-blond-ponytail comrade-in-arms Zero playable. Alas, this time they could only dedicate two playable character slots to characters from the Mega Man universe.

So, they did the obvious thing: Ditched the central character of the franchise and one of the most iconic characters in the history of video games so that they'd have space to keep one of the secondary antagonists from a short-lived Mega Man spin-off series that last had a game released over a decade ago. Which makes sense, because... because... Kevin, help me out here.

Kevin: I think that.... Well it makes sense due to her…. Mega Man has always been loathed and….. I’m afraid I’m of no help to you. Not only is Tron’s inclusion over Mega Mann a bonafide headscratcher, it has also opened a Pandora’s Box of outrage from scores of pissy Mega Man fanboys throughout the internet. The level of self-importance and immaturity from the E-outcry has been growing exponentially since the Blue Bomber was snubbed yet again in Ultimate MvC 3, and a growing cesspool of childish pouting and image spam has begun to suck out what little shreds of dignity might have existed in the fan community. For God's sake, Capcom, please give us Mega Man. It’s not about his iconic status at this point. We need to quell this embittered mass of negative emotion before it becomes sentient.


Kevin: Albert Wesker, the main antagonist of the Resident Evil series, has finally made it into the Marvel vs. Capcom universe. But like some other characters, he has something of a complex. Wesker seems concerned with maintaining an image of intimidation. With every teleport and counter he implores: “Do I frighten you?! Do I frighten you?! Do I frighten you?! Do I frighten you?! Do I—Do I—Do I frighten you?”

Yes, Mr. Wesker,” I want to reply, “you frighten me very much. It’s going to be okay.” My current theory is that the machines of Wesker's Tricell Genetics Laboratory are somehow fueled by fear, like the society from the movie Monsters Inc.

John: Insert lazy political joke about the politician, political party, or socioeconomic system of your choice here.

Kevin: In any case, however, at this point the motivation behind his obsession with frightening his opponents remains unclear.

John:Well, I'm not ashamed to admit he frightens ME. The combined effect of Wesker's all-black clothing, coldly disdainful expression, and pale ultra-Nordic blondness always makes him look like he ought to be in some sort of creepy German electronic band that Dieter from Mike Myers' old “Sprockets” sketches would listen to. I half-expected his victory quote to be, “Ve believe in nothing, Redfield! NOTHING!”

Phoenix Wright

Kevin: The heroic Capcom Lawyer Phoenix Wright is perhaps the most controversial addition to Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. It seemed like half the fans were psyched to see what form his play style will take, while others feel slighted that a legal professional has been invited to go toe to toe with some of the most powerful fighters in fiction. I say, lighten up! Marvel characters have been getting beaten up by lawyers for decades. There’s She Hulk, there’s Daredevil. There’s that little-known story in which the Carnage Symbiote got on Johnnie Cochran. And who can forget when Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor got her hands on the Ultimate Nullifier?

John: I was never a big fan of that issue, to be honest. Sandra Day O'Connor was so overexposed in the early 90- she had her own series, she was a member of the Avengers, she was in what seemed like half of the X-books, she kept popping up in The Punisher for reasons that never really made sense, the whole Sandra Day O'Connor/2000 AD/Stormwatch crossover... Just got tired of it after a while.
Phoenix Wright makes his closing argument before the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals during the historic case of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms v. von Doom.

Kevin: Honestly, they can make Phoenix as goofy as they want for all I care. This is a game that asks questions like “Who would win in a fight: Tron Bonne or Dormammu?” At this point, adding a clumsy lawyer to the mix can only make it more serious.

John: I mostly just enjoy the fact that there's a character in the game with a “projectile “attack- for lack of a better term- that consists of some girl running in from offscreen while flailing her arms like a 5-year old. I also like the move where she rushes out in front of you to create a defensive energy barrier; “hero who uses a woman as a human shield” had always been an underutilized design niche until now.


Kevin: You can’t have a Capcom Fighting game without Akuma! Why… why can’t we please have ONE god- forsaken game without him?

Akuma was introduced in Super Street Fighter II Turbo as an overpowered hidden fighter who throws fireballs down from the air, growls at everyone, and performs the highly questionable “Raging Demon Attack” which is censored for some reason by those little exploding flicks that happen when Street Fighter characters punch one another. Since then, he has continued to be both “hidden” and overpowered in nearly every appearance he makes. For almost two decades, he has caused the expression “Here Comes a New Challenger” to grow and swell exponentially in its irony.
In MvC 3, they’ve tweaked him quite a bit to distinguish him from the already-included Ryu. Akuma now has a fireball, a hurricane kick, and a shoryuken uppercut. Which makes him a worthwhile inclusion because....

Son of a bitch!

John: Agreed, Akuma was a very poor choice for inclusion. The Tron Bonne of contemporary East Asia, if you will.

Strider Hiryu

John: My all-time favorite 1980s action game character named after a mode of ambulation makes his return in Ultimate Edition. My favorite thing about Strider has always been his weapon. It's basically a tonfa, an old Okinawan weapon with a short handle perpendicular to a long wooden shaft- already inherently cool because the hero in Suikoden II used them- except instead of a long wooden shaft there's a giant sword blade. Because, well, why not?

More weapons need to take a cue from Strider and incorporate swords. Flail? Sword on a chain. Handgun? Swordgun, even though I have no idea how the hell that would even work, or whether it would be a sword that can fire bullets or a gun that fires swords, or what. Nerve gas? Cloud of microscopic swords that enter the bloodstream and dismember the enzymes in people's neurons on the molecular level. Plasma cannon? Fires blasts of highly energized copper ions produced from vaporized bronze swords. And so forth.

Kevin: You're forgetting Strider's best weapons of all: his army of robotic birds and sabretoothed tigers! What is not to like about this guy?

John: Those robotic birds need to be replaced with motorized winged swords immediately. The sabretoothed tiger is fine as-is.

That's all for now. Join us next week- that's right, you're not getting off that easy- as we delve deeper into Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3: The Fate of Two Worlds. Will Mike Hagar's ability to hit people over the head with a pipe be enough to fell the all-powerful Galactus, devourer of worlds? Will I resist the temptation to go for the obvious joke about Dr. Doom's “hidden missile” attack? Will Kevin's loathing of Akuma fill him with so much rage that he succumbs to the dark power of the Satsui no Hado and becomes the very thing he hates most? Will either of us ever say anything with any sort of actual gameplay relevance? Join us next week to find out!

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Reggie’s shiny chin, Japanese monetary policy may fall victim to Nintendo’s desperate measures to cut costs

(Note: The original version of this article appeared at Kuribo's Shoes, so if you like it be sure to check them out. Like everything at Kuribo's Shoes, this article is completely fictional. Which is too bad, because if somebody actually made Kirby’s Feast of Souls I'd probably watch it.
Faced with devastating financial losses approaching $1 billion over the past six months, Nintendo is now reportedly planning drastic measures to cut costs. According to sources inside the company, the massive success of the Nintendo DS and Ninttendo Wii has bred what one source called a “culture of excess” among many of Nintendo’s high-level employees that, combined with other factors such as international exchange rates and costs associated with the Nintendo 3DS and forthcoming Wii U systems, was a major contributor to Nintendo’s recent losses.
“Building a 30 foot tall sapphire-encrusted platinum statue of yourself can seem like a perfectly reasonable executive perk when you’re moving tens of millions of Wiis and DSs every year,” said a Nintendo employee speaking on condition of anonymity. “But now, that sort of thing just isn’t sustainable.” Other sources at Nintendo have also indicated other areas where the company is exploring possible money-saving measures, such as the production costs of Nintendo hardware.
According to the most recent reports, new measures to cut costs currently being considered by Nintendo include: 

  • Significantly reducing the volume of Nintendo President Satoru Iwata’s office money-swimming pool, which has been described as currently being of “Scrooge McDuckian proportions,” to a more manageable Olympic-standard 2.5 million liters.
  • Simply ignoring the pleas of American gamers for an American release of RPGs like Xenoblade and Last Story, instead of Nintendo of America’s current policy of finding the addresses of disappointed RPG-loving Wii owners and sending mocking singing telegrams to their homes just to rub it in.
  • Phasing out production of the current version of the Nintendo 3DS and introducing a new version, tentatively called the “Nintendo Ultra 3DS,” which replaces the current version’s autostereoscopic 3D upper screen and PICA200 graphics processing unit with more cost-effective View-Master technology licensed from Mattel subsidiary Fisher-Price.
Just one of the many exciting titles that will be available at launch for the Nintendo Ultra 3DS.
  • A 50% reduction in NoA President Reggie Fils-Aime’s chin polish budget.
  • Addressing the current high strength of the yen against other currencies, which has severely cut into the profitability of foreign sales because revenue from those sales now yields fewer yen when converted from foreign currencies. The precise details of how Nintendo intends to affect the exchange rate are unclear, though a recently leaked set of internal documents containing floor plans and security schedules for the Bank of Japan’s headquarters in Tokyo, a report from Nintendo’s legal department about extradition treaties, and dossiers and contact information for several private military contractors operating out of the former Soviet Union has raised concerns among some industry analysts.
In addition to cost-cutting measures, Nintendo is a;lso exploring new sources of revenue, such as licensing Nintendo characters and other intellectual properties for use by other companies. Licensing deals currently being negotiated include the use of Mario’s dinosaur friend Yoshi as the official mascot of the Creation Museum in Peterburg, Kentucky and a crossover fighting game to be produced by NetherRealm Studios entitled Earthbound vs. Mortal Kombat. Nintendo has also sold the film rights for several Nintendo IPs to American low-budget direct-to-video horror/sci-fi film company The Asylum, which plans to release its first Nintendo-themed films, Donkey Kong vs. Mega Shark, Kirby’s Feast of Souls, and Donkey Kong vs. Crocosaurus, in late 2012.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

One day I would know what my special purpose was for: New releases for the week of 11-9-11

Power Rangers Samurai

(Nintendo Wii) I hadn't realized Power Rangers was still an ongoing thing, but I suppose that as long as there is special effects footage from Japanese action shows that can be grafted together with completely unrelated new American footage so that episodes of the resulting hybrid can be churned out like so many hot dogs there will always be Power Rangers. Mhis is the tie-in game for a new iteration of the Power Ranger series that started this year, Power Rangers Samurai.

I was exposed to far too much of the original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers show as a kid, despite thinking that it was silly even then, because 1. it was on right before Batman: The Animated Series, which I always made sure to catch after school because a cartoon that wasn't written by people who thought their audience consisted of utter cretins was such a novelty back then, and 2. I was in 5th or 6th grade at the time, and I found the girl who played the Pink Ranger oddly fascinating for reasons I couldn't quite put my finger on.

(And still can't. Hi-yo!)

In any case, I just hope for the sake of kids who like Power Rangers that this is better than the typical kids show tie-in games of the 80s and 90s. I've generally thought motion controls were an annoying gimmick, but in this case I can see it actually adding to the game; a lot of the kids I knew growing up probably would've given their right arm for a motion-controlled Power Ranger game. Which would have rendered the game itself useless to the very person who made such a bargain, sort of like the ending of O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi" if Henry had been a morbid child-hating psychopath, but it's not as if elementary schoolers are typically known for their foresight.

The Black-Eyed Peas Experience

(Xbox 360 Kinect, Nintendo Wii) Remember the time I said that I consciously try to avoid being the sort of person who complains about how he doesn't like something that he was obviously never part of the intended audience for anyway, because it's unreasonable to treat something as if it were objectively bad because it failed to fulfill a set of standards and expectations that aren't relevant to it?

That policy is hereby rescinded.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mega Man finally speaks out about his troubled career: “Tron Bonne? Seriously?”

(Note: The original version of this article appeared at Kuribo's Shoes, the wordl's greatest gaming-related fake news site, so if you like it be sure to check them out. ) 

In the aftermath of Capcom’s cancellation of  the long-awaited third game in the Mega Man Legends series, the reclusive star of the long-running franchise has finally emerged to give his side of the story.

“I knew they were getting ready to fuck me,” Mega Man said in an interview conducted at his home in Santa Clarita, California. “I knew after Marvel vs. Capcom 3. I mean, they decided to have two playable characters from my games in it. They included Zero for the first time. And hey, he deserves it. He’s a good kid. And then for the second slot, they decided to use Tron Bonne? Seriously?

“I’m the most iconic character in the company’s history. They’ve got Viewtiful Joe in the game. They’ve got three Resident Evil characters in there. They’ve got Akuma, because Lord knows Capcom won’t be satisfied unless they've shoehorned that glorified palette-swap into every fighting game they ever make. They’ve got some one-armed has-been, they’ve got a Japanese dog that doesn’t even talk, they’ve got Zero and  freakin’ Tron Bonne, and I hear that for the Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom expansion they apparently have some damn lawyer fighting in it. How the hell did that happen? Did he win a contest, or something? Was Capcom running some sort of  ‘Send in five hundred cereal box tops for a chance to appear in Marvel vs. Capcom 3′ promotional bullshit that I never heard about?”

Inside sources at Capcom say the decision was motivated by Mega Man’s increasingly erratic and unprofessional behavior, which had started making him a liability to the developer. Mega Man has been involved in several high-profile conflicts with other characters in the Mega Man series over the years. Well-known examples including his tumultuous marriage, divorce, remarriage, and second divorce with co-star Roll, an acrimonious offscreen relationship with Dr. Light that reportedly culminated in a drunken, cocaine-fueled fistfight in Light’s dressing room on the set of Mega Man 10, and a long-running media feud with Proto Man for allegations made against Mega Man in Proto Man’s controversial tell-all book Sex, Drugs, and Steel: A Shocking Look Behind the Scenes of Capcom’s Most Beloved Series.

In 2009, Capcom reached an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed sum after a sexual harassment lawsuit was filed by Splash Woman, the Mega Man series’ first- and to date, only- female Robot Master, due to what Splash Woman’s attorneys described as Mega Man’s “lewd, offensive, and unprofessional conduct” on the set of Mega Man 9.

The last straw was apparently during the production of Mega Man Legends 3: Prototype Version, a prologue for Mega Man Legends three proper. Planned for a release on the 3DS eShop as a teaser for the main game, MML3: Prototype Version suffered repeated production delays while Mega Man attended a series of court-ordered rehabilitation sessions after being arrested for driving while intoxicated and misdemeanor narcotics possession in April 2011, which violated the terms of his probation for several similar previous offenses during the previous year. This ultimately led to Capcom’s decision to pull the plug on the beleaguered project.

Mega Man says he is considering a number of offers from other companies, which are rumored to include roles such as ED-209 in the video game adaptation of a possible reboot of the Robocop franchise, one of the Reapers in Mass Effect 3, and the title role in future Bomberman games. He is also in negotiations to star in a planned remake of 1994 fighting game Rise of the Robots, tentatively entitled  Rise of the Robots: Not the Most Godawful Game Ever Crapped Out Edition.

Though he insists that he has already put his acrimonious split with Capcom behind him, it’s clear that some resentment still lingers. “The first time I even heard there was going to be a Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was when Zero called to give me the news that he was in it,” he said. “They never even asked me if I wanted to be involved! You’d think they’d want Marvel vs. Capcom 3 to include the man who made Capcom what it is, but apparently they couldn’t be bothered with me because they had to make sure that there was enough space for TRON FUCKING BONNE to be included.”

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ace Combat thoughts

I've been looking forward to Ace Combat: Assault Horizon for a while now. My anticipation has only been heightened by the fact that Ace Combat 6, cruelly, was an Xbox 360 exclusive that I've yet to play. (You broke my heart, Namco. You broke my heart.) This is one of those rare times in which I attempt actual commentary on a game, so you've been warned.

Some longtime fans of the series of lamented the fact that this game is set in the real world rather than the imaginary planet, Strangereal, that has been the setting of most other Ace Combat games. I sympathize with that. I've always liked the alternate world of the ace combat games, especially because it was a setting that allowed the developers to set stories in a world where military technology was mostly recognizable from our own modern day and then throw in the occasional  orbital coilgun or undersea aircraft carrier. It's harder to get away with that sort of thing in a game about modern combat aircraft that's actually set in our depressingly coilgun-impoverished real world.

Note that I haven't yet played the new game and have avoided spoilers, so for all I know the plot of Assault Horizon involves fusion-powered flying aircraft carriers that can cloak like a Klingon Bird of Prey or a lens in outer space that can set cities on fire with focused sunlight or aircraft being burned out of the sky by nuclear-pumped x-ray lasers. In which case the above is moot.

On the other hand, I think the change might be a good idea. One of the problems with having more and more games set in Strangereal is that having (mostly) recognizable modern military technology creates a fairly limited window in Strangereal's history for games to be set. With the exception of Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere, all of the Ace Combat games have been set between the years 1995 (Ace Combat: Zero) and 2020 (Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception). We already know the planet's geography, more or less, and so there are also a limited number of places in Strangereal for wars to be fought and a limited number of countries to be belligerents in them.

Every new Ace Combat game needs a war placed within those constraints, preferably- especially if it's in the mainline series and not some spin-off- in a conflict of respectable size that has not yet been the focus of a game so that the player isn't sitting in the shadows of previous heroes. There's a reason the destruction of the second Death Star and the death of Darth Vader and the Emperor in Return of the Jedi wasn't followed up by Star Wars Episode VII: Boring Post-War Outer Rim Peacekeeping Operation. (Unless you count the Jedi Academy Trilogy, anyway.)

The problem with this is that for each additional game you have to cram another large conflict into that same few decades. There are reasons, in the Ace Combat back story, for Strangereal to be suffering a much greater degree of large-scale warfare in its late 20th and early 21st centuries than our own has had, but the overall tone is generally hopeful. There's only so much unpleasantness you can cram into that quarter-century before the overall tone of the setting shifts from “a world much like our own wracked by conflict and upheaval as people fight for a better future” to “blood-soaked abattoir where the only escape from the unending violence and horror of existence is death,” and I'd rather see Strangereal stay on the brighter side of that line.

Oddly- because the appeal seems so obvious in retrospect- it was only just now, as I started thinking about the implications of the time frame of the Ace Combat series that it occurred to me how much I would like to play an Ace Combat game set in Strangereal's early-to-mid-twentieth century. If you're a fan of the series, just imagine it: Zeppelins. Biplanes. Triplanes. Quadruplanes. Massive bombers bristling with gun turrets as tiny fighters dart around them. Gigantic artillery. Sub-orbital bombers. Ornithopters. Autogyros. Ridiculously large tanks. Zeppelins, because they're cool enough to mention repeatedly. Rocket-powered fighters. All in the same alternate world where wars fought in the 1990s involved, among other things, batteries of railguns capable of shooting down objects in outer space and a gigantic laser that could hit targets over the horizon by reflecting off of giant orbiting mirrors.

This must happen.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Duke's in his development Hell, all's right with the world

In news that seems almost aggressive in how utterly unsurprising it is, plans for a fan-made but officially authorized remake of Duke Nukem 3-D are now on indefinite hold.

This comes as sort of a relief. Not, I hasten to add, because of any antipathy towards the guys behind the Duke Nukem 3-D: Reloaded, or towards fans of the game that were hoping to play the remake, or- I should hope it goes without saying- towards His Grace personally. It's just that the universe is back in balance now.

Gearbox's success (for a certain value of “success”) in actually making and releasing Duke Nukem Forever shattered one of the fundamental law of  nature, without which a comprehensible or even coherent universe would become impossible. Nothing can travel faster than light. The combined internal angles of a triangle on a two-dimensional plane always equal 180°. The Chicago Cubs will not win the World Series. And, last but by no means least, the next first-person Duke Nukem game is always trapped in an endless series of production delays from which it is doomed to never escape, forever bound in unbreakable adamantine chains of iron and copper and abandoned code made unusable by engine changes. And yet, somehow, back in June, Duke Nukem Forever actually came out.

But now the natural order reasserts itself, and the world makes sense again.

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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cliff Bleszinski responds to Gears of War 3 reviews: “Is worship as a living god somehow too much to ask for?”

(Note: The original version of this article- which is fictitious, just in case that somehow isn't obvious by the point where Cliffy B demands a formal apology from the Queen and the delivery of a severed human head to Epic headquarters- appeared at Kuribo's Shoes, so if you liked it be sure to check them out.) 

Epic Games designer Cliff Bleszinski has recently become the target of a storm of criticism over his complaint that reviewers at Eurogamer were “haters” for giving Gears of War 3 a rating of 8 out of 10 in its recent review. After an initial response insisting that the “haters” remark was a joke taken out of context,  Bleszinski has now issued further clarifications on his remarks. In a recent statement to the press, Bleszinski said:

I don’t expect everyone to like every single thing I do. But when a major publication like Eurogamer says that much of the game “shines,” that the game’s weak moments are “rare” and greatly outnumbered by “superbly judged action sequences,” how could I not be offended? When [Eurogamer reviewer] Johnny Minkley said that the single-player campaign is “a mostly rousing and memorable spectacle,” called the multiplayer “all you could have reasonably asked for,” and gave a score that the Eurogamer scoring policy defines as merely “Very Good,” I was aghast. The time is not long past when men fought duels to the death upon the field of honor over insults like that.

I firmly believe that Gears of War 3 is the best game in the series to date, and that the game and the people who made it should be given the recognition they deserve. I don’t believe I’m being unreasonable. I’m simply asking for a few simple acknowledgments of the work Epic Games has put into creating the most exciting Gears of War experience yet, such as:

An official written apology from Eurogamer editor Tom Bramwell, the owners of Eurogamer Network Ltd,  Her Britannic Majesty Elizabeth the Second, and Mr. Minkley himself.

The establishment of a new rating scale to replace the 1 to 10 format commonly used at present. Changes in this new scale are to include raising the minimum possible review score from 7 to 9 and expanding the scale through the addition of a new possible score representing games that surpass the current maximum score of 10, which will simply be called “Cliff.” Even higher scores, such as “Double Cliff,” “Treble Cliff,” and “Cliffgasm” will also be possible.

The delivery of the severed head of the calumniator Johnny Minkley, impaled on a pike or some similar sharpened implement, to Epic Games headquarters no later than October 1st.

The construction of a solid gold statue of myself,  at least 40 feet in height, depicting me as the almighty Zeus enthroned upon Olympus. The statue is to be unveiled at E3 2012 and prominently displayed at all significant gaming industry press events thereafter, where mortals shall be permitted to offer burnt sacrifices unto it that they might seek my favor.

All members of Eurogamer’s senior editorial staff shall don sackcloth and penitential ashes and embark on a pilgrimage in which they shall walk barefoot from Eurogamer headquarters in the United Kingdom to Epic Games’ office in Cary, North Carolina as a mark of their contrition. No, I don’t know how they’re going to walk from Europe to North Carolina. They should have thought of that before they let some loose cannon say that Gears of War 3 had “occasional moments that sag in addition to the many that soar.”

None of the persons named by Bleszinski in his demands could be reached for comment at the time this article went to press.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Kuribo's Shoes and Pointless Side Quest, crammed into uncomfortable proximity at last!

Just a quick announcement: In addition to stuff written specifically for this site, I'll soon start cross-posting some of my articles from Kuribo's Shoes here at Pointless Side Quest as well. They're somewhat different from what I write here, since at Pointless Side Quest I at least try to discuss actual video game news and mostly limit the parts where I I just make shit up outright to throwaway jokes, while at Kuribo's Shoes blatant lies* are the very clay from which everything is built, but if you enjoy what I've posted here in the past you'll probably like these too, and Kuribo's Shoes in general. (See my previous posts here and here.)

*(Except the one about Mega Man becoming an embittered twice-divorced cocaine fiend. That one's completely true, sadly.)

Speaking of Kuribo's Shoes, the site is currently running a small online fundraising drive to raise funds for better web hosting, which will make it possible to create a bigger, better site with the sort of exciting new features that you only get on a website that isn't hosted on a server in rural Belarus that goes offline every time fluctuations in the price of kerosine force them to shut down the generator that keeps it running. I I have been assured by sources in whom I have a reasonable degree of confidence that the bulk of money donated will not be going up Matt's nose.

But, in all seriousness, if you like the sort of stuff I do here and the sort of material at Kuribo's Shoes, please consider chipping in. Supporters also receive some snazzy benefits including the ability to plug whatever link you want in a special post we'll have on the site and getting to appear side-by-side with our own golden tones on an episode of the future Kuribo's Shoes podcast.
Or don't. Go ahead and break my heart. See if I care.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Decline and Fall of Fox McCloud: New releases for the week of 9-4-11

Disgaea 4

(PlayStation 3) It's a testament to how busy I've been lately that I'd actually forgotten that this was coming out this month. Disgaea is one of my favorite series and one of the reasons I bought a PlayStation 3 rather than an Xbox 360 in the first place, so for me this is like forgetting your anniversary, your wife's birthday, and your child's birth by planned cesarean section simultaneously. Possibly as the prelude to some horrible family film where I'm a workaholic husband and father who learns a valuable lesson about what's really important in life during some sort of madcap Christmas-themed adventure.

Resistance 3
(PlayStation 3) This series has always inspired a vehement “Meh” from me. I have the first one, and it's not terrible, but it's just sort of... there. It always felt like the video game equivalent of chewing on toothpicks: doesn't really taste like anything in particular, either good or bad, feels sort of dry and stale, useful if you need something to chew on to discharge tension or satisfy some sort of oral fixation but not something you'd put in your mouth for its gustatory merits. Presumably the series possesses qualities that aren't apparent to me if it's popular enough to warrant multiple sequels, but if so they're lost one me.

Star Fox 64 3D

(Nintendo 3DS) Nice to actually see some sort of confirmation that Nintendo remembers that the Starfox franchise is something that, you know, exists, even if it is a remake.

You have to remember that the original Starfox was a huge deal at the time it came out. The game charged into the American gaming market on the crest of an unstoppable tsunami of  marketing, propelled inexorably forward by the force of a world-shaking undersea earthquake of Nintendo promotional muscle while perched atop an indestructible surfboard of hype wrought from organic urethane poylmers of magazine coverage and breakfast cereal tie-ins.

It was ubiquitous. The gaming press couldn't stop talking about all the pretty 3D polygons. There was a monthly Star Fox comic strip in Nintendo of America's in-house monthly gaming magazine Nintendo Power that ran for ten issues, which was twice what poor Samus Aran got. Star Fox appeared on boxes of Corn Flakes. - though sadly, Star Fox never received its own crappy cereal the way Mario and Zelda did. If you owned a Super Nintendo in the early 90s, you could barely stop to breathe without filling your lungs with clouds of particulate Star Fox hype.

What the hell happened? Counting the original, there have only been four proper Star Fox games since 1993. (I'm defining “proper Star Fox game” somewhat strictly to mean “game that is about flying and is not a completely unrelated game in a completely different genre that had Star Fox characters shoehorned into it as an afterthought”.) It's not as if Star Fox games haven't sold. Did Slippy get drunk and make a pass at Shigeru Miyamoto's wife at the Nintendo office Christmas party, or something?

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

God is my co-op player: New releases for the week of 8-14-11

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
(XBox 360, PS3) Third-person action game from Konami based on the story of the biblical figure Enoch as  described in the Book of Enoch, a Jewish religious text dating to the 4th or 3rd century BC that influenced the development of Judaism and early Christianity but is no longer considered canonical by most sects of those religions.

You know, if I had to select the one sentence on this blog that I had least expected to ever write, that's probably it. It is sort of an intriguing premise, though; At the risk of jumping the gun, this may well turn out to be the best video game based on an obscure Biblical figure to come out this year. (Though we'll have to wait until the release of Apocalyptic Scorpion-Locusts vs. Capcom in November to know for sure, of course.)

Enoch got only a brief, cryptic mention as one of the ancestors of Noah in the book of Genesis, but became a much more developed figure in the later Book of Enoch- or Furious SkyGod Versus Hyper-Serpent: Gaiden, as it is known in the Japanese market- and the  rabbinical literature of subsequent centuries. He's sort of the religious version of Mork from Mork and Mindy, who was originally a one-off character in an episode of Happy Days but was so popular that he got his own spin-off series. (The Fonz is Jehovah in this analogy, obviously.)

It's a bizarre-sounding premise for a game, but it makes a sort of sense- actually, you could probably turn the Book of Enoch into an action game while remaining far truer to the original premise than a game like Dante's Inferno, and there was still someone nuts enough to actually make that. Admittedly, that's not a terribly high bar- you could probably make an action game out of Sense and Sensibility or a trigonometry textbook or Johnny Got His Gun and still remain far truer to the original than Dante's Inferno- but the Book of Enoch does have a lot of stuff that might translate well.

You've got fallen angels corrupting mankind with their forbidden arts, monstrous hybrid offspring of fallen angels and human women that grow to massive size and rampage across the earth devouring everything and everyone in their path, Enoch traveling through different planes of existence, a dark setting on the brink of unimaginable catastrophe... everything a game could ask for, really. Plus, it would probably be the first of the thousands of video games to reference the term “nephilim” that would actually have nephilim in it. Just throw in some badass quicktime events, a guy who smokes two packs of Marlboros a day to be the voice of Enoch, and some sort of spooky chick connected to Enoch's backstory to make cryptic remarks and you're ready to go.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A rueful look back at E3, Part 5: Far Cry 3: Cry, Cry Again

New first-person shooter. At first I was underwhelmed; it was gorgeous, to be sure, but I'd been playing quite a bit of Crysis 2 around the time I first saw this. After I'd  just finished several weeks worth of Crytek's game where you're a nanotech-augmented superhuman in the ruins of an alien-ravaged New York who can jog down the street while carrying a belt-fed machine gun, leap from ground level to the rooftops in one jump, and turn invisible like the Predator, it was hard at first to get excited about a sequel to a Crytek game with a guy skulking around the jungle with a rifle and a knife.

Then it got to the stealth kill where the player snuck up on a guy, grabbed him, snatched the knife out of his belt, gutted him with his own knife, and then hurled the knife at another guy and killed him too.

And then, like a cold, grim, unfeeling miser who'd been taught the true meaning of Christmas by a kind-hearted child's simply innocence, but with Christmas replaced by video games and the kind-hearted child's simple innocence replaced with two guys being brutally stabbed to death, I remembered something very important. In the end, my love of games like this isn't about frills like nanosuits or futuristic human-alien hybrid technology or even being able to turn invisible like the Predator. It's about killing motherfuckers. I'd become so caught up in fancy, high-tech gimmicks and methods for doing this that I'd nearly lost track of what truly brings me joy in the first place.

Bless us, every one!

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In which my forbearance is put to the test: New Releases for the Week of July 24th, 2011

The Smurfs Dance Party (Nintendo Wii)
I usually try not to be the guy who goes around grousing about the fact that things that were plainly never meant to appeal to him do not, in fact, appeal to him.

There are few things that seem more pointless to me then hearing someone who's appointed himself arbiter  of gaming purity bitch about how Wii Fit and Nintendogs aren't hardcore enough, or how Facebook games aren't very skill-based, or how the narrative of the Barbie Horse Adventures franchise isn't as thoughtful or gripping or complex as Bioshock's. I'm not terribly interested in listening to people carry on about how RPG's should ditch the menus and stats so that they're not so boring, or how Greg Egan should drop the unwriterly science and speculation from his books so that he can focus on the existential despair and/or psychosexual minutia of contemporary white-collar Americans, so I try to do as I would be done unto.

(With the obvious exception of the critically acclaimed 2004 PlayStation 2 cult classic Barbie Horse Adventures: The Battle of Verdun, of course, though I'm pretty sure the events of that game aren't considered canonical in the Barbie Horse Adventures universe as a whole.)

I don't want to be that guy. But you make it damned hard sometimes, Nintendo.
By a remarkable coincidence, this is almost identical to what I saw on my kitchen counter the night I downed an entire bottle of Wild Turkey 101 after an IMAX showing of Avatar.

Instead of being that guy, I'll raise a question: what is the target market for this? The game seems pretty clearly made for kids, which makes sense for a game based on a move based on a kid's show. But it's a kids show from the 1980s; when the Smurfs went off the air, anyone young enough to be in what I presume is this games target market now was at least a decade away from being born. I suppose I could ask the same question about the fact that they're actually theatrically releasing a new CGI Smurfs movie in 2011, but I can at least imagine a nostalgic adult who grew up with the show deciding to see the movie for old times' sake, or perhaps while really, really high; buying a video game seems a lot less likely.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Other things I've been up to

Here's some of the stuff I've written at other sites over the past few weeks that may be of interest.

Over at Robot Geek:

Where's Your God Now, Mario?: Religious Censorship in Games- A look back at the golden age of Nintendo of America's Standards and Practices, when naming a spell “Holy” or showing a cross on a coffin was forbidden due to fears that any religious imagery or references could cause offense or controversy. Did I mention that this was happening at the same time that one of the more prominent games on the Nintendo Gameboy was a a rather grim saga in which  the ultimate villain and true power behind all the evil, demonic beings the heroes fight during the story turns out to be God Himself? And that the game climaxes with the heroes kicking His top-hatted ass after discovering His heartless indifference to the suffering of His creations? Because it was.

Feeling like a hero, then and now- How games based on the premise that the protagonist is an elite badass among badasses fulfill that premise in their gameplay, or fail to. I express approval of Crysis and Vanquish but am somewhat less enthusiastic about Silver Surfer on the NES. Also includes a handy visual aid to help you, the player, distinguish between games that actually turn you into a nigh-unstoppable killing machine and those that merely claim to.

Meanwhile, over at Kuribo's Shoes, where I'm not hemmed in by Robot Geek's rigid “don't make up blatant lies” policy:

2K Games apologizes for statements by Duke Nukem Forever PR team, says reviewers will NOT be hunted for sport- Nor will 2K be unleashing the terrifying arsenal of orbital kinetic weaponry,
darksome sorceries, or international organ thieves at their command. Because they don't exist. Really. Just let it drop.

L.A. Noire’s development even more troubled than anyone realized- Long-time readers of this site know I enjoy welding as many utterly inappropriate and unrelated things into a single gruesome mass as possible, so I consider successfully working Motley Crue, the Holy Roman Empire, the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, Blade Runner, Chris Tucker, and the phrases “orbital bombardment” and “consuming the souls of his enemies” into the space of a 600-word article about L.A. Noire a success.

Nintendo announces new voice actor for Mario: Michael Ironside- “The classic Mario gameplay that has delighted gamers for three decades isn’t going anywhere, It’s just that now, instead of a jolly Italian plumber, Mario will sound like a grizzled stone-cold killer.”

Xenoblade: The horrifying truth- This is a long one, since it was one of our special Friday articles, and due to a last-minute technical hiccup the pictures that would have been there to break up the text weren't included. Nevertheless,  I think this article's rigorous accuracy and grounded common sense make it well-worth your time, as well as a decisive refutation of  those naysayers who claim that writing your article about Nintendo of America's treatment of RPGs when you haven't slept in the past 192 hours and have been munching down hallucinogenic mushrooms like trail mix so that the unearthly things in your sleep deprivation-induced hallucinations can be fought off by their slightly less horrifying psilocybin-induced counterparts is somehow incompatible with responsible gaming journalism.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

A rueful look back at E3, Part 4: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Initial reaction – Holy crap but that landscape is gorgeous. I'm accustomed to the graphics in Elder Scrolls games being sort of like having corn flakes for breakfast. It's there, it's adequate for its purpose, and it provides a substrate for more interesting breakfast foods things that can be placed on top of it, like sugar or strawberries or cheap bourbon so vile that even I won't drink it unmixed but am still too cheap to just get rid of, but it's not of much interest in itself. This is quite impressive.

(Question for other players of the previous Elder Scrolls games: Did anyone else, back when they had only seen the name “Skyrim” appear in written form, assume it was pronounced “Skeer-em”? It can't just be me.)

The footage I've seen seems promising. One of the disappointments of Oblivion was that it went from the fascinatingly weird setting of Vvardenfell in Morrowind- with its strange creatures, its native culture and that culture's tension with the encroaching influence of the Empire, its complex and mysterious past, its religion based on ancestor worship and living immortal god-kings and bizarre scriptures that were apparently written by someone on LSD- to the disappointingly generic quasi-medieval standard-issue fantasy setting of Cyrodil. Skyrim looks like it could be a bit more interesting- the woolly mammoths, snowy mountains, and rather brutish-looking warriors make things seem a lot less genteel than Oblivion. It has sort of a Robert E. Howard/Hyborian Age feel that I really like.

Hopefully Bethesda has learned from some of their mistakes in Oblivion, like burning through 90% of their voice acting budget in the first 10 minutes of the game and having all of the hundreds of talking characters you meet in the other 99.99%  of it voiced by approximately three people, or using a character face editor that was seemingly programmed by a deformed  Phantom of the Opera-esque recluse who hasn't actually seen another human being in decades and doesn't realize that non-hideous human faces are actually possible. I'll be keeping an eye on this one.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

A rueful look back at E3, Part 3: Tomb Raider: My heart and various other organs in and on my thoracic region will go on

Crystal Dynamics gave us their first trailer for their upcoming reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise, which sets up the story by showing us how a young Lara Croft leaves her home to travel the world in search of adventure. Sort of like college-age kids who go backpacking across Europe, I guess, but with a greater focus on killing people and plundering antiquities. That's the British aristocracy for you. 

But Croft's trip soon goes awry when her ship is caught in a storm that leaves her shipwrecked on an island. Stranded and alone, she must struggle to survive, find a way to escape the island, and return to civilization so that she can wreak bloody vengeance upon her travel agent.

It's got a fairly dark, bleak tone, which fits with previous comments by developers that- like every other rebooted franchise in the history of mankind- the new Tomb Raider will be a somewhat grittier, harder-edged ake on Lara Croft than the original series. They've also definitely toned down Lara's over-the-top spinal-kyphosis-inducing sexualization from the earlier games in the series. Unless you've got some sort of emergency orthopedics-based fetish involving filthy, stranded women in exotic locales painfully resetting their own fractured bones- and, the internet being the internet, the odds are probably pretty good that at least one person reading this does.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A rueful look back at E3, Part 2: Halo 4

The Halo 4 trailer is quite brief, showing a frantic-sounding Cortana awakening Master Chief from the hibernation  he went into at the end of Halo three while their ship appears to be blowing apart around them from causes unknown. The Chief makes his escape from the dying ship's interior, and finally we see some sort of ominous-looking structure out in space that they're heading straight for.

It's not often a video game trailer strikes so close to home for me, with its grim depiction of an emotionally unexpressive guy who rarely speaks just trying to get some rest while a nagging female voice says “Wake up, John!” It's my 13 years in the public school system all over again.

Unrelated side note: I assume that the mist that drifted out when Master Chief emerged from his hibernation pod was  water vapor condensing because of the cold from the cryonic whatzit used to put the pod's occupant in suspended animation, but the first few times I watched it really looked like steam to me. Which in turn made the whole scene look like Master Chief had been taking a hot shower, or perhaps sitting in the sauna having a schvitz, while still fully armored. That's a man who takes the need to be ready for action at a moment's notice seriously.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

A rueful look back at E3, Part 1: Fable: The Journey

Pointless Side Quest is back in action, and to commemorate this momentous occasion in the world of obscure video game humor blogs we'll be taking a look back at the second most momentous yearly occasion in the world of video games, the E3 show. So sit back, turn the date on your computer and any other nearby electronic devices back a month, and start gulping down the dissociative substance of your choice until you're confused enough to forget the actual date so that you can enjoy the excitement of hearing the hottest news from E3 for the first time. Today we kick things off with:

Fable: The Journey

Lionhead Studios revealed the next game in the Fable franchise, Fable: The Journey, and showed a short game play demo. The game is built around and will require the Xbox360 Kinnect. The demo was distinctly unimpressive, revealing game play that apparently revolves around moving along a predetermined path, being narrated at by an old woman,  and occasionally thrusting your arm outward to magically blast enemies like some cross between Gandalf and Phoenix Wright.

But, for once, this isn't just about my dislike of motion controls, or my lingering resentment at the disappointing bill of goods we were sold with the original Fable, or my numerous unpleasant memories that involve being stuck on a long vehicle trip sitting next to someone who keeps talking and talking and talking until I'm ready to stab him in the throat with a shiv carved from a tire pressure gauge and take my chances with whatever happens next as our now-driverless car continues to careen down the highway at 65 miles per hour. It was poorly received by many, and Lionhead's Peter Molyneux has since said that the demo did not include the game's navigation controls and that the actual game allows much more freedom than the demo suggests.  Which is a vague statement, since in a qualitative sense any increase from “none whatsoever” to “more than none whatsoever” can be a profound change, but one can hope.

And one should hope, because as it is now it looks like it's basically an HD version of Operation Wolf, if the 1987 arcade classic were transplanted to a generic fantasy setting and had its cool mounted force-feedback lightgun removed and replaced with a somewhat more dignified U-Force.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Announcing Kuribo's Shoes

New posts for this site are coming soon- gotta have the latest breaking E3 news before the competition, after all- but first an announcement. As part of my ongoing quest to write at as many sites that aren't this one as possible, I'm happy to announce that I'm one of the writers for the newly launched humor site Kuribo's Shoes. Updated every weekday with the most important, cutting-edge, not strictly-speaking-actually-true news in gaming! So, check it out. And Like their page on Facebook, while you're at it.
Here are my articles there to date:

Archaeologists uncover records of early Duke Nukem Forever development in 4,500-year-old Sumerian ruins: The sort of rigorous historical scholarship that has always been my hallmark.

New breakthroughs in computer science, quantum mechanics may make maximum-settings Crysis possible within our lifetimes: Arguably the best video game-related humor article referencing Bose–Einstein condensates, Neal Asher, and Colossus: The Forbin Project published in the past year!

Sony takes gaming into the fourth dimension: Because I don't get the chance to wax Lovecraftian or use the word "tesseract" often enough.

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