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”
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 Cold War era 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.
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.
*This revised and expanded version of the essay originally titled ‘Peace Walker’s Military Industrial Complex (Or The Bosses Metamorphosis)’ is part two of a continuing series exploring how the last three Metal Gear Solid games analyze the shift in political strategy that arose in the modern era.
The modern day concept of the nation came about as a byproduct to the spread of enlightenment ideals across the globe. Based on philosophies that defined individuals as absolute agents of their own lives, it ended the subservience to monarchies and united people along territorial, economic, or ideological lines, pooling their resources to live in an economy of production in the knowledge that their collective abilities would greatly outmatch their separate talents. With the advancements in communication and transportation that made the world a smaller place, nations became actors in global politics.
The Individual And The Society
A textual read of the elements of the first three Metal Gear Solid games reveals an analysis of the creation of both the individual and the societies they form with others. So complete was the deconstruction that they exist thematically separate from the entries that followed, in essence comprising their own complete trilogy. But there was a problem: there was still much story to be told.
With the close of this first ‘identity’ trilogy, Hideo Kojima embarked on a second, expanding on the epistemological convergence between the individual and the society as he’d already explored them – politics. Starting with MGS4, the series worked towards completing its narrative loop while examining the rise of a new type of political strategy that came into vogue in the modern era with the development of a workable model of proxy warfare. Though there are recurring themes throughout these three works, most notably the ideas of transformation and rebirth, the concept of political proxies is the thread that ties them together, first portraying its characteristics and then showing its range of applications.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is celebrated for how it critiques social engineering, Hideo Kojima having crafted a theme that shows how controls built into the social fabric of a culture can shape an individual’s thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. The story and game progression do an outstanding job of subtly running players through a simulation of the events of MGS1’s Shadow Moses incident as the rookie Raiden, forcing them to question whether their actions were truly their own or if they had been molded into a clone of Shadow Moses’ legendary hero Solid Snake.