Monthly Archives: February 2012

Getting Tricky, Casual Sexism, and Grief Bacon

I tried out the SSX demo today, after learning that the game is on its way from Gamefly. I haven’t seriously played an SSX game before. I’m sure I’ve picked one up and toyed with it here and there, but I haven’t invested the time to get good at one. I’m not sure I’ll have the time to invest in this one that’s coming, but it’s awfully pretty and easy to at least look like you know what you’re doing. I think that’s more or less what I want from an extreme sports game.

Patrick Klepek, who has a way of finding really interesting stories to write about, generated a lot of discussion with this article about a misogynistic douchebag. My observations aren’t much different from anyone else’s, really. He’s a jerk, and he’s giving the fighting community a bad name, and there’s not much else to say about him. The piece itself is well-written, though, because it’s Klepek. I’d also point to Susan Arendt’s blog response to the whole kerfuffle, because she raises a good point.

And if you hate humanity after reading that and want a cheerier story on fighting games, check out this detailed analysis from the PA Report on one of the most famous minutes in fighting tournament history. I don’t follow the hardcore fighting scene closely, but it’s a fascinating read.

Grief Bacon may be the best term coined ever in the history of ever. I also like the term coined in entry #1, which I won’t mention here because this is a family show. Except for the spot above where I called that guy a douchebag, but… c’mon, guy’s a douchebag.

I played the FFXIII-2 DLC “Sazh: Heads or Tails” today for an impressions post I’ll be putting up tomorrow on Shack. Sneak preview: I am nonplussed. I’m also reviewing Journey, which I haven’t gotten a chance to play yet, but I’m looking forward to cracking into it tonight.

When I told Bryan I’m reviewing Journey, he told me to make sure I mentioned “Wheel in the Sky” because “Don’t Stop Believin” gets too much attention. Yuk yuk yuk.

  • This story on HBO Go led to a long conversation with the esteemed Mr. Carr on HBO’s obligation to provide user convenience. My position: by roping off access to HBO shows so stringently, they are losing customers who might otherwise buy shows piece-meal like me. I’m never going to subscribe to HBO simply hoping I like the shows on it, so let me at least purchase the first episodes to get a taste. The movie and TV production companies are trying to remain the gatekeepers in an age of on-demand, and that stubbornness bit the music industry in the ass not too long ago.
  • I’m not sure why they’re making a sequel to X-Blades, but even so, releasing it against Mass Effect 3 seems like such a profoundly bad idea.
  • I never interacted with James Mielke while he was at 1UP, but his thoughts on Lumines and John Cusack were too entertaining not to cover.
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Pokemon Black & White 2 wish list

This weekend saw the announcement of a new Pokemon game, or at least it seems new. Ish. Pokemon Black & White 2 is the first time they’ve made a numbered sequel in the main series. I have to assume this is because they’re running out of colors, Black & White was so radically popular that they wanted to bank on the name, or this won’t be a huge enough change to warrant a full “color-change” sequel even by Pokemon standards. And when you look at how little the franchise has changed, that’s saying something.

I enjoyed Pokemon White, but it felt like it was still too beholden to some of the classic Pokemon tropes. It was certainly the biggest leap the series had taken in years, but that leap felt too stunted. In the end, I grew bored and never finished it. So as a helpful reminder, here are a few things Nintendo should consider for B&W2. Some are holdovers from my prior observations.

  1. No seriously, drop the HMs. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. The HM system has long been the series’ way of roping off sections of the world until you earn new equipment. But RPGs have been doing that for years, more elegantly, with actual equipment. The abilities themselves are mostly useless in combat, so it just renders one of our party members a wasted slot. Imagine if Final Fantasy 6 kept you from sailing to another continent until you wasted a precious ability slot on “Boat.”
  2. Get rid of the text boxes. Everything, from the ability name to the “Super Effective” can be handled better visually with more flair and less boring.
  3. Make a story that’s worth a damn. I know it’s Pokemon, and it’s not exactly meant to be Shakespeare. But it’d be nice to care about what’s going on for once. Maybe that means giving the main character an actual personality. If that’s what it takes, go for it. And speaking of which…
  4. Mix up the formula. Travel from Town A to Town B. Story event. Fight gym leader. Travel from Town B to Town C. Story event. Fight gym leader. Travel from… you get the point. Give us some other things to do. The game just can’t sustain itself when the entire process involves doing the exact same thing eight times. This goes hand in hand with the next point.
  5. Streamline. There is no reason the main path needs to be 40 hours. Make the game super-long with lots of sidequests for those who want them, but if you’re going to insist on making the quest repetitive and lack character, you can’t expect our attention spans to hold out that long.
  6. Give shared experience. With a roster of 400 creatures, it is absolutely ludicrous to level them up one at a time.

Yeah. I know none of that is going to happen.

  • I’ve never seen The Boondock Saints, but I’m pretty sure the comments section of stories on the video game have told me everything I need to know.
  • The PSN Gamers’ Choice awards always seemed a little backwards. You’re having people vote and offering discounts as a prize, but that means people will vote for the thing they want discounts on. Which means they’ll vote for the ones they don’t own, and have no ability to measure quality for. It’s a nice promotion, and I enjoy the discounts, but the process itself is bizarre.
  • I cut a joke about how the new title for Project Draco sounds like a Dungeons & Dragons tribute band. Because it does.

Why Batman Shouldn’t Kill the Joker

Some sci-fi and comic nerds might have seen this column going around, titled Why Batman Should Kill The Joker. I have Big Think in my reader list, but I wasn’t surprised to see it making the geek rounds. The column itself is well-written and insightful, and it uses Batman as a metaphor to get the audience thinking about larger issues. That’s sort of Big Think’s thing. But being a burgeoning comic geek, and in the mood for some internet shenanigans, I thought it would be fun to write a counter-point.

In short, columnist Tauriq Moosa lays out very practical, pragmatic reasons why the world is better off without Joker. He argues that Batman is actually knowingly enabling his atrocities to continue by allowing him to live. Moosa claims this isn’t the same as arguing in favor of the death penalty, because the death penalty is a policy that has to be equally applied to all criminals. Joker, on the other hand, is one particular criminal; and he’s shown that he can’t be rehabilitated, or imprisoned, and we know that he hasn’t been falsely accused. He’s just a force that will never be stopped. As long as he lives, he will destroy.

It’s a compelling argument, I’ll give him that.

However, Moosa’s imagined scenario ends too soon. What happens after Batman kills the Joker? If we consider this a one-time solution to Gotham’s most violent sociopath, removing the Joker only shifts the positions. Suddenly, the second-most murderous criminal in Gotham becomes the first. Off-hand, I’d say that would probably be Two-Face, who is at least as chaotic as the Joker since his murders are based on a 50/50 chance. Does Batman have a moral obligation, then, to kill him too?

Killer Croc. Hush. Ra’s Al Ghul. Victor Zsasz. The Ventriloquist. Deadshot. Clayface. Calendar Man. Black Mask. Poison Ivy. Solomon Grundy.

Gotham is an environment that will always create another monster. The comics introduce new ones constantly, and in our modern era of dark and brooding Batman, most of them are vile humans with no qualms about killing. We even see the constant introduction of new monsters. The New 52 has introduced a new killer from Batman’s past (Nobody), an organization whose murders have gone unnoticed for years (the Court of Owls), and a sadistic surgeon who murders people for parts (Dollmaker). All of these people are beyond all hope. Each of them will never stop killing.

If we reason that Batman must eliminate an unreasonable, untreatable monster because he will never stop being a monster, we must conclude that Batman cannot stop killing. In Gotham City, he’ll always have another target. Another monster will always come along to fill the void. This is the problem with rationalizing your bent principles as a one-time occurrence. In some iterations of the character, principles are all Batman has left to keep him sane.

It’s easy to wish that some third party would dole out justice on the most violent offenders. We might not be able to bring ourselves to murder that rapist or killer we heard about on the evening news, but it can be comforting to imagine that someone would. Moosa is placing Batman in that role, letting him take the moral burden for an action that all of us would wish we could do, if we lived in Gotham. But the death penalty, for all its flaws, is at least a system that assures no one law-abiding citizen takes the blame for snuffing out a life. We all share a small amount of the moral burden. It would be easier if the responsibility fell entirely on the shoulders of the one who flicks the switch, but it’s a selfish desire. Lt. Joe of the Correctional System didn’t kill that prisoner. We did. Society did.

Which brings us back to the death penalty. If Moosa were to argue that the people of Gotham should hold trial to execute Joker, I would be more receptive to his logic. The idea that the offender is beyond all hope of rehabilitation is one major pillar of those who stand in favor of capitol punishment. I’m not one of them, but it’s easier to swallow than expecting one man to make himself a killer and shatter his life’s work just so the rest of us can sleep soundly.

With that heavy topic out of the way, I do encourage people to read the original column. It’s an interesting way of probing the subject.

  • Speaking of Batman, I’m looking forward to trying out the Gotham City Impostors update. I think I’ll outfit my Batmite with the sword to give it a try, I’ve been saving a weapon unlock anyway.
  • I have fond memories of Shining Force on Game Gear. That’s really all I want out of its presence on Virtual Console.
  • As far as I can tell, we’re the only ones reporting about the Syndicate freezes.

Canada is stealing our Simpsons

Apparently that Simpsons app I wrote about yesterday is available in Canada but not in the US. I can really only think of one reasonable explanation for this: Canada is finally making it’s move. That country has been playing it cool and polite for a few hundred years, and this is the first volley of aggression. We must not let this stand.

  • Frankly, given the direction of the PC market lately, I’d be more surprised if Blizzard weren’t working on a free-to-play game.
  • I’ll have to try out Shoot Many Robots, but the main reason I’m linking to this story is that the dev diary with the steps of the game’s development is pretty cool.
  • An almost year old XBLA game and a semi-obscure Taco fast food restaurant. Yeah. That’s a weird partnership.
  • I do enjoy sinking my teeth into political stories when they come up.

Unlikable characters and reality TV

Survivor has started up again, and they’ve stripped down a few of the gimmicks. No more Redemption Island, no more returning players. Just a fresh batch and a little twist with the camps being close to each other. I didn’t love or hate the Redemption Island thing, and I did hate bringing back players constantly, so in theory this is exactly what I’ve been asking for.

In theory! But the casting director, or whatever role that would be in a reality TV show, filled this season with unlikable people. Almost every single person fulfills some kind of terrible gender stereotype, which is only accented by the conceit that the camps are separated by sex. You have the meat-head dude-bros and a crazy old man on the male side, and you have women acting catty and weak-willed on the female side. Neither is doing a service to their gender.

Then you have Colton in the middle, a proudly out gay man who feels uncomfortable in the men’s camp. I can sympathize, but it’s still a game. His forays to the women’s camp are probably sincere, but he just comes off as whiny and prissy. So there’s another stereotype down.

I know part of the point of reality TV is that you never know how people will act, so I can’t really blame the Survivor crew for this group being such a bunch of duds. Still, you’d think that among this many contestants, at least one of them would be a nice foil for the audience. Monica and Leif are okay, I guess? I’m really reaching here. Maybe the most likable person was Kourtney Moon (yes seriously), who broke her hand and left after about five minutes. She might have been just as terrible as the rest of them, but at least with ignorance I can pretend that someone on the show had redeeming qualities.

Amazing Race started on Sunday too, and I’m not really clicking with any of the couples on that show. That’s really the greater shame, since Amazing Race tends to have nice dynamic personalities and we see them interacting with someone they already know and (presumably) care about. This is why Jeff Cannata needs to get on that show.

That said, comic books!

Superman #6 – Man, was this issue ever rough. So much talking, so much expository dialogue, so constantly on-the-nose. The art was still decent, I suppose, but it has no personality. It’s just serviceable, which is really the problem of the entire comic. They’re changing up creative teams for issue #7, and I have to think that seeing this story arc played a role in that. I might give #7 a chance — and that’s a big might that depends on how heavy the week is otherwise.

Flash #6 – I realized today that I’m of two minds about Flash. I love the art, the paneling, the characters, and the dialogue; but for whatever reason, I just don’t care about the story. The dialogue delivers that story well, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just not that interesting. I thought that was because I didn’t care about Mob Rule, but this week they brought in Captain Cold and I still didn’t care. Regardless, it’s staying on my list.

Ultimate Spider-Man #7 – This time I knew about the art change, so it was a little less jarring. It still looks wonky in spots, but the writing in this issue was as strong as ever. Miles had a few fun awkward moments with his family, a nice action scene, and we got further in the larger plot of Prowler very quickly catching onto him. Great all around, even if I still miss the old art.

Batman & Robin #6 – This is coming a bit late, since my comic shop had its copies damaged. Great all around, from the art to the writing to the overarching plot. The arc isn’t quite resolved yet, but the biggest driving question has been resolved in a really clever classic Batman reversal. That might let some of the wind out of the sails for the final resolution, which I presume comes next issue. But as an issue in itself, absolutely fantastic. Also, the front cover is a flat-out filthy lie. Comic covers usually exaggerate in some way, but this one has nothing to do whatsoever with the content. Sort of an odd choice.

  • I remain mostly uninterested in Kid Icarus: Uprising, but the weapon customization sounds pretty cool. If it gets good reviews, I might jump on it.
  • I have to wonder what pulling this app did to its advertising tie in with Act of Valor. The movie is coming out this week, and they pulled the app this week. That can’t be good.
  • I haven’t played the first Amnesia, but the concept for its semi-sequel sounds appropriately spooky.
  • I’m on board with a Simpsons F2P game. Some people have said it’s already out, at least in some areas, so I’m checking periodically. Speaking of which, where’s my Dominion app?

Vitapathy

The PlayStation Vita launched today, or last week, depending on which calendar you use. It was a bizarre kind of staggered launch, and Sony might have sacrificed some amount of buzz by separating the release dates. I think the concept was to generate some word-of-mouth with the early release, to bolster the “real” release date. It’s an interesting strategy at least, but I’m not sure how it will work.

Personally, I’m just not mustering up excitement for the Vita. It’s a very attractive device, but none of the launch games feel like must-haves. This was the case for the 3DS too, of course, but the 3DS had stock in potential. It was a Nintendo system, and the DS proved that at the very least it would get great Nintendo franchises. Less than a year after my purchase, it’s fulfilled that promise with Super Mario 3D Land, which was one of my favorite games of last year. I bought the system knowing that this would happen — if not with Mario, than with a Zelda or a Metroid or some other title.

Looking at the Vita line-up, I can’t say what I would get at launch, or what I’m looking forward to. It’s nice that the system can essentially handle console experiences like Street Fighter X Tekken and Uncharted, but what if I don’t want console experiences on my handheld? This was one critical error that developers made with the PSP, and I’m just seeing it repeated. Giving us an “almost console” experience has a great whiz-bang factor, but after that wears off you’re left with a sub-par experience compared to what you can just play on your TV. And things like the fidelity and importance of sound means you probably wouldn’t play it when you’re not at home anyway.

I’m sure I’ll get a Vita at some point. It’s in my nature to chase down as much hardware as I can, to keep abreast of developments. At least, that’s how I justify it to myself. When that day comes, I’ll probably publish a blog post with some late-to-the-party observations about how pretty it is. For now, I can pass.

Meanwhile Nintendo has a press conference scheduled for tomorrow morning. Some people are speculating this will be the 3DS hardware revision. I suspect those people are wrong. But Nintendo will pull out a software surprise or two, I’m sure. I half-wonder if the timing is just some light trolling.

  • Gabe’s interview with the PA Report is pretty in-depth, and I pulled what I thought was the most interesting narrative from it. In general, though, I should say that the PA Report idea is pretty cool. Long-form news and curated articles are a nice touch. It’d be nice to see it grow beyond just one writer.
  • What is this I don’t even.
  • A small, nagging voice thinks that this expanded roster for SFxT won’t be offered as DLC, but rather as a full separate disc release. Why oh why would I ever think that.

Massively Multiplayer Effect

The Mass Effect 3 demo cracked open its multiplayer goodies to let us feast on the sweet fruits within today. I tried out one match, and feel more-or-less the same as I did before. So-so. They have a nice suite of customization and class options. My easy first choice was to go with Vanguard and give her a red suit with yellow highlights and name her Samus. This is also what I did in Halo: Reach, or pretty much any game that renders females in visored space armor.

It’s smart to make the multiplayer wave-based co-op, because I don’t think anyone would want to play against other humans. The controls always felt a bit utilitarian to me in Mass Effect. They’re good for their purpose, but part of it is commanding your squad. Combat isn’t really why I play Mass Effect. I like bumping my stats and seeing all the cool new stuff I can do, but that’s about it.. Maybe that’s why I’m meeting the multi with some amount of ambivalence.

I know I’ll play at least a bit, especially if it has some impact on the single-player story. Plus, I have to at least play to the point that I can start my Salarian character. Too bad they can’t be Vanguards.

Speaking of multiplayer, I wrote some impressions of Gotham City Impostors. I’m still playing nightly, so it must be doing something right.

  • An HD screen for the Wii U would be nice, but I’d imagine they cut the 3D idea for the same reason they don’t have it on the bottom screen in the 3DS. Touch and 3D don’t really mingle well. They might seem nice, but if you invite them both to a party they’ll get in a fight and everyone will leave with a headache.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 has seemed incredibly likely for a while, and now even more so.
  • I believe this marks the second time that Microsoft has doubled back on its Indie games placement.
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Shank’ded

They say the hardest reviews to write are the ones in which you feel nothing. When you feel passionate about a game, love it or hate it — or even if you feel passionate about its mediocrity — it’s easy to put that all on the page. Or in my case, the computer screen. But when you don’t have any kind of passionate response, it becomes more of a struggle.

That’s more or less how I felt about Shank 2. It’s not a bad game by any means. It’s pretty good, actually. It just didn’t stir a strong reaction in me. “S’alright” would encapsulate my feelings concisely, but being that I’m a writer who gets paid to put words to my thoughts, I made a few more observations for my review.

Still, the underlying current in that should be that I felt ambivalent towards the whole thing. I played it, had some fun, and I don’t think I’ll ever touch it again or really think about it at the end of the year. Some games just come and go that way.

More featured writings to come in the somewhat near future!

  • So we’re looking at $5 episode packs for XIII-2, with at least one more planned, and no idea if that will actually wrap up the dangling plot threads. I might see if I can work some kind of impressions post about this DLC, because the whole situation seems odd in the first place and I’m wondering how much value will be in these packs. I’m betting at least some of our readers are wondering too.
  • I liked Minecraft, but not enough to buy Minecraft merch. That said, as a long-time Lego fan, those are some pretty cool sets. Custom minifigs are always a nice touch too.
  • Notch shouldn’t really have to say that he’s not going to dump millions of his personal money into a cult project for charity’s sake, but the internet being what it is, I see why he had to clarify a bit.
  • I find the notion of min-maxing in Mass Effect 3 a little ridiculous. It was awfully nice of BioWare to facilitate it, but it seems like anyone putting this kind of work into playing a Mass Effect game is missing the entire point.
  • I’m working on an impressions post for Gotham City Impostors, so I’ve been playing it quite a bit. This news of a stat-eating glitch scares the crap out of me, but I can’t just not play when I’m working on writing about it. So, knock on wood.
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Survivor returns, instantly makes me resent everyone

Survivor came back tonight, and I’m having a hard time enjoying any personalities. The men are a pretty tightly-knit group of frat-douches, and they haven’t featured most of the women enough to identify with them. A few standouts here or there, but for the most part this season seems packed full of obnoxious.

Moving on. Comic books!

Wonder Woman #6 – Art took a bit of a dive this issue, and I’m not sure why. It doesn’t look like a full-on stylistic change, more like it just didn’t have as much time or attention paid to the compositions. At any rate, the story remains a fun trek through Greek mythology, and they had a bit more time on Hades, which is always fun.

Avenging Spider-Man #4 – Standout of the week. I was a little nervous due to the artist change, and starting a new arc, but the art is fine (if a little jarring) and the story is a nice little self-contained buddy piece about Spidey and Hawkeye. It was actually really sweet, in that way that comics with a good light-hearted hero can be.

Batman #6 – This was not light-hearted at all, not even a little bit. The plot moved to where it had to and was devoid of surprises, but the last few issues the art has been pretty incredible. Last issue did some clever things with the medium, and this one doesn’t rely on those gimmicks. Instead, we just get some really interesting panels that make Batman look like a monster when he’s angry and fighting back. I think we’re left to interpret that this is how he’s seeing himself in his half-delusional state.

I’ve got a review coming tomorrow, and possibly an impressions post sometime soon too. I also have an Escapist piece running in the near future, so I’ll keep an eye out for that. It’s a busy time!

So Warp. The demo was fun. Worth a full pick-up?

  • My favorite part of this Mojang game jam story might be that the company is combining the most and least popular pieces of each poll result. That’s pretty clever.
  • I’m inclined to agree that this alleged hack probably wasn’t a hack at all, and was rather some idiot from the kid’s school. But that is why we seek official comment on these types of things.
  • I have a soft spot for the Sonic 2 bonus stages, so ba-zing!

Sonic Generations first impressions

I rented Sonic Generations, and got a little time in between some of the other games I’ve been playing for work. I’m a bit late to the party on this, but it’s got an awfully cute sense of humor. The 2D Sonic stages are pretty clearly the better of the two types.

I think it’s telling that the 3D stages go from being roller coaster rides to temporary 2D. They keep the actual 3D portions graciously short. I’m wondering how long it’s going to last, but with a bunch of other games vying for my attention I don’t mind a short one to fill some time.

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