A Platforming Odyssey: Running and Jumping Down the Path Super Mario Trail-Blazed

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”

Running Perfect Dark’s Training Program

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”

Scoring Devil May Cry 4’s Smokin’ Sick Style

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.

Continue reading “Scoring Devil May Cry 4’s Smokin’ Sick Style”

The Snake’s Blueprint: An Analysis Of Metal Gear Solid’s DNA

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.

Continue reading “The Snake’s Blueprint: An Analysis Of Metal Gear Solid’s DNA”

Devil May Cry 3: Bearing Witness To Dante’s Awakening

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.

Continue reading “Devil May Cry 3: Bearing Witness To Dante’s Awakening”

Halo 3 And Completing The Modern Shooter Combat Model

Guarding the outskirts of the anti-air gun early in Halo 3’s campaign is a quadrupedal Covenant tank called a Scarab. Stepping its spidery legs around a circular complex lined with missile pods, a large crane, and enough foot space to let half a dozen vehicles unload their artillery, the scarab is the largest working unit in the series. A far cry from Master Chief’s scripted encounter with it in Halo 2, this AI controlled enemy has a giant laser cannon and its own hit points, and is transporting a squad of Covenant sentries laying heavy fire. As you stare at it in awe, a question forms: how am I supposed to take that thing down? A couple ways. Focus all your fire on the hull and blow it away, or shoot its legs until they lower, fight your way to the power core, and set off a chain reaction. Both answers are possible in the arena littered with tools of mass destruction.

Continue reading “Halo 3 And Completing The Modern Shooter Combat Model”

Treasure and Virtue in Sin & Punishment

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.

Continue reading “Treasure and Virtue in Sin & Punishment”

Going Maverick: How X4 Upgraded Mega Man’s Hardware

Depending on whether you chose to play as X or Zero, the fight against Web Spider requires a different set of tactics. With his X-Buster, X can dash around the small jungle room until Spider descends from the canopy, wall jumping over the webs he shoots and firing from afar. With his Z-Sabre, Zero is forced to stay close to the bug on his line, dashing away from the web only to careen up and around over it in a circle and strike before your foe scrambles back to safety. The fight gets harder when the Repliforce member lays an electric grid and starts scurrying about the scene. Because of their different playstyles, the remaining seven robot masters will present X and Zero with a similarly different dynamic. Continue reading “Going Maverick: How X4 Upgraded Mega Man’s Hardware”

Resurrecting A Demon on the Altar of Doom

The first portal back to Mars is guarded by an army of hellspawn trying to rip you limb from limb. Agile fireball throwing imps and dual wielding Mancubus, burly Hell Knights and rocket-launching Revenants all converge on your location, employing a wide assortment of tactics while you unleash the concussive blast of your shotgun and unload mag after mag from the assault rifle and unleash its’ micro missile alternate fire. You weave between shots and sidestep claws barely missing your face, jump to the stunned body of a Cacodemon and tear out its eye only to be knocked down and witness the centaur-like Baron of Hell’s fatal finishing blow. The fight is an exhilarating and tense struggle for your survival.

Continue reading “Resurrecting A Demon on the Altar of Doom”

With the Awesome Might of God Hand, I Smite Thee

God Hand’s penultimate fight pits Gene against his rival Azel in a knuckle-breaking slug-fest that demands that the player understands every pillar of the games mechanics. To stop him from resurrecting the ancient devil Angra, you need to pick and choose your moves to beat his, to reposition to gain a tactical advantage, and to bob and weave around counter attacks that can lead into a button mashing power struggle you’ll feel all the way down your arm. And just like main character Gene, Azel can activate the supreme powers in his arm and execute a fast-action barrage thanks to his God Hand. To beat him, you need the full cooperation of a focused mind and tuned body.

Continue reading “With the Awesome Might of God Hand, I Smite Thee”