Where a story needs to give its characters the abilities to accomplish their goals, a videogame needs to directly translate those skills into mechanics players use to overcome every obstacle in their way. Both mediums use tools that challenge characters, one of the most powerful of which is creating a rival that fiercely stands in opposition to their primary mission. In 2009, Rocksteady Studios fully translated one of pop culture’s greatest characters into a videogame and pitted him against his equally well-established foil. By locking Batman and The Joker inside Gotham’s mental-clinic-turned-prison, Batman: Arkham Asylum brilliantly explores one of culture’s greatest rivalries over one long night.Continue reading “Psychoanalyzing Batman: Arkham Asylum’s Multiple Personalities”
Human consciousness required tools that let it produce abundant resources so people could transition from simple survival to prosperity, which allowed humanity to further discover the world and find a place in it. Tools advanced into machines given more sophisticated logic, motor, and communication systems through developments in electronics, networking, and artificial intelligence. But a world is like a person- the more it becomes one thing, the less it’s like something else. Nier: Automata examines how machines are becoming the new owners of our world but will continue a tragic human legacy, by using videogames to give us a glimpse at how machine logic is coding its own soul.Continue reading “The Soul in Nier: Automata’s Machine”
A game can take many forms. The history of videogames is packed with examples of games that started as simple versions of real life activities only for their designs to evolve into lifelike simulations of the original, but just as important is how different genres can be combined in infinite ways to make new styles. This is especially true of Pong’s iconic gameplay, turning the bouncing ball structure into the wildly different Windjammers and Lethal League while still retaining its spirit. Continue reading “Sports Game Triple Play: Evolving Pong’s Design Into Windjammers and Lethal League”
The concert in Super Mario Odyssey’s New Donk City is a celebration of one of videogame’s most influential series, sung by Pauline, the damsel-in-distress-turned-mayor from Donkey Kong. With the city freed from Bowser’s clutches, the festivities showcase Mario as he enters a warp pipe, transforms from 3D polygonal model into 2D sprite, and runs through a steel-beamed obstacle course packed with coins and lava pits, and ends with a barrel filled course thrown by the cranky ape. This homage pays tribute to Mario’s amazing history, and shows how Odyssey combines decades of level design techniques to create unique courses in living worlds.Continue reading “A Platforming Odyssey: Running and Jumping Down the Path Super Mario Trail-Blazed”
Vanillaware’s 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim starts with massive machines destroying Japan while the young Iori Fuyusaka emerges from the fleeing mob and climbs aboard a giant robotic Sentinel to fight back as her classmate Juro Kurabe watches on. It’s a classic scene for the big robot and kaiju genres, until it loads a top down view of the city and gives you control of Iori’s mech until Juro arrives in his own. What follows is a mind-blowing game fusing multiple genres across hundreds of years, starting in the middle of its narrative and telling thirteen different mysteries that reveal how each character was led to this life-defining moment. 13 Sentinels blends two completely unrelated game styles to create an experience impossible for either by itself, ultimately showing how experiences shape myths that prepare people to keep society from repeating mistakes and lead it in new directions.Continue reading “Humanity On The Rim: How 13 Sentinels Combined Genres Into A Narrative Juggernaut”
Early first person shooters created virtual proving grounds filled with enemies for an emerging digital warrior class to test their combat skills, but as games became more intricate, new player archetypes branched out. By the end of the Nintendo 64’s life, Rare had learned to construct complex environments built with infrastructure stalked by reactive guards, while providing players with a large toolset to deal with them. The product turned them into versatile special agents rather than warriors, culminating in 2000’s brilliant Perfect Dark.
Perfect Dark’s intricacies are apparent as early as the first level. Your mission to smuggle the defecting Dr. Carroll from dataDyne is easy on the lowest difficulty, only asking you to reach the bottom of its tower, but adds more objectives that explain the whistleblower’s actions from there. The opening helipad leads down to the executive floors and this large office with two women. If you quickly knock out the tall blonde calling for security you’ll get Cassandra De Vries necklace, smartly introducing dataDyne’s CEO.Continue reading “Running Perfect Dark’s Training Program”
Devil May Cry may be revered for merging fighting game’s pugilist science with brawler’s crowd management, but it was driven by its arcade-inspired scoring system. Dedicated fans can easily spend dozens of hours honing their skills against the game’s difficult enemies and massive bosses, all to improve their final scores. With DMC3, Hideaki Itsuno expanded the single player fighting game’s combat and worked in replayable missions. When that amazing foundation jumped to the PS3 and Xbox360 for the fourth release, Itsuno could further distill the series down into an arcade experience and offer new characters for those chasing that high score high. Let’s look at how it succeeds.
For the third time, legendary agent Solid Snake destroyed the walking tank Metal Gear deep behind enemy lines and saved the world from Armageddon, this time from his old unit FOX-HOUND led by his newly-revealed twin brother Liquid Snake. Until then, Metal Gear Solid had been an action-packed bonanza told through expertly produced cinematics that rivaled Hollywood blockbusters. And then the story pivoted at its climax. What had been a politically charged narrative about terrorism and the threat of nuclear war changed into an examination on genetics, using the very technology and rendering techniques that brought the game to life to reinforce its deep and complex themes. With MGS, Hideo Kojima merged his narrative and gameplay abilities into a deep metaphor about biology, technology, and destiny.
On Characterizing Potential
Devil May Cry 3’s first fight between the twins Dante and Vergil is set at the highest point of a large tower jabbing from the Earth, lit by the full moon. The differences between the brothers’ fighting styles are as striking as their fashion senses, the hot-headed Dante in his red trench coat unleashing his Rebellion sword and dual pistols a contrast to the cool-as-ice Vergil in his blue jacket and air slicing katana, Yamato. The two rivals clash swords and exchange gunfire, taking advantage of any opening in the other’s defense to chop ‘em down. And then they flaunt their success with a cool taunt, unconcerned by the time it takes to mock their opponent. Every second of this brawl is intense and fast, and, by product of the game’s design, requires the player to fully realize the personalities of the sons of the legendary demon warrior Sparda.
Even after the snow had melted on the harsh planet E.D.N. III, Thermal Energy is such a scarce commodity that the scattered human factions are still locked in a brutal war for its reserves, a conflict that further leaves them vulnerable to attacks from the insectroid race of Akrids native to the land. Of course, when a load of T-Eng is being transported by train, a worm-like beast attacks that is so massive, it dwarfs the four people that are forced to fight it back, even with the racks of weapons littered about. As it takes out the rear cars and any player left behind, the only thing that can counter its immense size is the cumulative strength of those standing against it, all focusing their fire into its mouth and tender insides. And when the worm finally falls, the group makes off with the spoils. With its in-mission economy, Lost Planet 2 portrays an ecological system reminiscent of Frank Herbert’s Dune, showing that, on E.D.N., every second is a fight to survive. It’s a metaphor ripped from the history books of every life form that’s ever lived.