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”
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”
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.
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.
Rookie attorney Phoenix Wright’s first case was a lively battle of wits. With the freedom of his client on the line, the lawyer pressed the witness about the crime and threw down evidence that contradicted his claims until his testimony crumbled, all while his mentor Mia Fey stood beside him. But at the start of his second case, the rookie’s fortune is flipped upside down when Mia is killed by a mystery man with curly hair and a loud purple suit, and her spirit-medium sister Maya is wrongfully fingered for the murder. With no other attorney willing to help, Wright vows to defend her against the notorious prosecutor Miles Edgeworth. With Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Shu Takumi and his team built a different kind of visual novel that turns deductive reasoning into a weapon to bring justice to the corrupt, while creating confident stories filled with energy, humor, and drama. A close inspection uncovers how.
Sin & Punishment’s single best setpiece captures the essence and versatility of its design. With your character Airan on a platform zipping around a naval carrier fleet, you evade the barrage of artillery fire from massive aircraft carriers, dogfight squadrons of enemy aircraft, and bat missiles back at their launchers, while unleashing a constant stream of shots to send them to the bottom of the ocean, all as the world soars and reorients in full cinematic splendor. It’s one of the most exhilarating action spectacles of the generation and combines the best elements of the classic shooter and brawler genres into one unique game. The scene ends with the freedom fighter chasing down a comet-sized missile shot from low-orbit as it hurtles at your ally-turned-monster Saki.
Adam Freeland’s ‘Fear’ is an inspired anthem for the push into Rez’s fifth area. The true expression of its ideas, Rez uses its slow opening tempo to kick start a metaphor for the beats of early life, the sample ‘Fear is the mind killer’ scratched over the vacant landscape of a vast digital world as you blast a squadron of enemy planes out of the sky. The techno-trance composition builds as the environment does, the basic geometry evolving terrain and developing an ecosystem of flora and fauna. But it’s also a lyrical representation of its central theme. Rez is a sensory saga of sound and light, a metaphor for the pursuit of knowledge and the quest for enlightenment.
Over the course of the Cold War, the man known as Snake developed from a lone soldier caught in the struggle between Capitalism and Communism to the living symbol of a nation free of ideology called Big Boss. By the close of Peace Walker, he had become a man with two bodies – one physical, the other conceptual. Ground Zeroes, the first part of Metal Gear Solid V, continues soon after, as word arrives that Paz, the Cipher Agent who infiltrated Mother Base under the guise of a pacifist student to frame the MSF as terrorists, survived and is being held at an American prison in Cuba. Fearing that she’ll reveal their secrets and in time for a United Nations inspection of Mother Base, Snake infiltrates Camp Omega. Safely aboard their chopper, they discover a bomb implanted inside Paz. Though disposed of, one Trojan horse begets another – the UN inspection was a cover to sneak Skull Face’s XOF forces, who proceed to blow the supporting columns and collapse Mother Base from inside. Another explosion rocks the chopper, sending it down in fire and metal. Both of Big Boss’s bodies were destroyed.