Spoiled for Choice

Friday, October 31, 2008
Every time I sit down at my console I'm faced with a choice. African dystopia, prismatic fantasy realm or post-apocalyptic wasteland. Not an easy choice by any means. Rarely have I been presented with such a vast wealth of awesome games to occupy what little free time I have left these days. As difficult a choice it may be, I'm certainly glad for it.

Obviously, there are a lot of really worthwhile games out there right now. Between Fable, Fallout and Far Cry I hardly have time for any other letters of the alphabet. With Mirrors Edge, End War and Left 4 Dead coming soon, I don't think I'll need another game until maybe this time next year.

We've certainly had quite the year so far. It's been said that 2007 was the greatest year for gaming but 2008 seems a more likely choice for the top of any arbitrary list. But are having so many good games so soon really that great?

Sure, on the surface, it's great. Then you realize that you bought the three largest games released in recent years. Each one capable of delivering at least 12 hours of gameplay, at least two of them capable of more than twenty. This is the conundrum I found myself in.

Having bought Fable 2 and been given Far Cry 2, I decided that because of my long history with the series and my unbridled passion for apocalyptic chaos, Fallout 3 would be the natural choice. Now I have three games here at the office that demand my attention for far longer periods than most other games I've played recently. I am doomed to spend long hours switching from game to game, never getting really comfortable in one world before I'm running around like an idiot in the next.

Do yourself a favor. If you plan on getting more than one game at a time, get at least one that has a finite play time. Don't do what I did and go straight for the open worlds. As great as they are, it'd be nice to know about how long it will take me to complete at least one of them. As it stands, I'm lost in all three of the games I have right now. There is so much for me to do, I feel overwhelmed. I guess you really can have too much of a good thing.

Far Cry 2

Monday, October 27, 2008
On Wednesday, October 22 we received a package from Gamestop. Contained within was a copy of Far Cry 2, complete with the pre-order bonus missions and spiffy bubble wrap. Jigs were danced bubbles were popped and the sounds of an African dystopia were heard long into the night. Far Cry 2 is a game I will play for a long time, but for reasons I didn't expect.

When I first heard about Far Cry 2 I was, shall we say, a little underwhelmed by the idea of a Far Cry game set in Africa. The first game had been a solid enough shooter but left few lasting impressions. In the name of fairness, I did look into the game a little more as more material was made available. It was this trailer that first caught my eye. I wasn't sold on it yet, but I was interested.

When Ubidays hit a few months later, I watched the tech demo on Gametrailers more times than I know. I showed my wife, I showed my friends, I was hooked. Propogating fire, day and night cycles, an open world approach to missions, large array of weapons, and more than twenty hours of gameplay was more than enough to sell me on it.

Now the game is here and I have yet to feel shortchanged by any of the features. Everything I was promised, I have been given. So far, I've tried to play it quietly, sneaking into camps and past guard stations. I completed one assassination mission without alerting a single guard to my presence (not even the three I killed on the way). It wasn't easy, but it was worth it.

You'll remember I said I'll be playing Far Cry for a while for unexpected reasons. What I mean by that is that besides being enormous and nigh unrepeatable, the game makes me think about what I'm doing. It's dark stuff, and I'm finding more and more that there really is no moral high ground to speak of. I can't come out of this feeling like a hero, I can only hope to come out alive. If Joseph Conrad had made a video game, this would be it. Forget Brando and Apocalypse Now, the Jackal is a modern day Kurtz.

The game does borrow heavily from the themes and plot of Heart of Darkness, there's even a reference to it in one of the achievements. That said, the tone can be pretty weighty at times, so much so that you may -like me- stop to think things through before you complete a mission. I was tasked with killing a man said to be largely responsible for the condition of the country. Before I could bring myself to complete the mission, I researched what little I could about the man. I had to be certain I wasn't making things worse by eliminating him.

Succesion is something to worry about in Far Cry 2. Every faction has a chain of command. Kill the leader and the guy behind him steps in as the new warlord and so on down the totem pole. It's just one more thing to think about before you go shooting everything in sight.

I didn't expect to feel so lost and worried about the game's environment. That I do feel as such is a testament to how realistic and immersive the game really is. I feel the weight of each step, flinch at each hit and panic when a buddy goes down. I wish I was speaking metaphorically. I am truly grateful to in game characters that save my life from a slow painful death. I owe these people something. I begin to identify with them and even like some of them. (So you know, Josip is a very good friend to have)

If you're able to, give Far Cry 2 a shot. If you let it, the game will suck you into its volatile world and you too may feel as I do. The choices you make will stay with you, the faces of those you betray will haunt you. The scars are permanent. Trust me on this one, it's a game you won't soon forget. There's more to be said about this game, but it will have to wait.

So much to say, so little time.

Friday, October 24, 2008
Fable 2 had a lot of expectations to live up to for me and I can't say it met them all. Don't get me wrong, it's still a wonderful game but it falls short in a few crucial areas. Namely, when you join another person's game. The camera become locked in this brawler game thing that makes it nigh impossible to navigate some parts of the world. The animation is lacking here and there, and some of the basic play directions are barely there before they disappear for good.

While most of the music is very good, there are a few spots where the music is straight out of the original game, no re-recording, no remixing, just the exact same tune. Any game supposing to take place 500 years after it's predecessor loses a lot of that feel when I can remember buying plate armor to the same score.

What Fable has always had going for it was stunning art design and Fable 2 doesn't disappoint. The towns and countryside are lovingly crafted. The world may not look all that realistic, but Fable has never been about ultra realism. It's about choice and consequences.

Fable has always put a lot of thought into how your actions effect the world, unfortunately it seems being evil is the only way to really see any significant change in the world around you. If you're good, everything just becomes more idyllic than it already is. Be evil however and watch the world crumble and darken.

Fable 2 makes it much harder to be evil than I think it intended. The ever present dog is always faithful, but knowing that someone always sees the terrible things you do makes them much less fun to do. I don't know if I'll even be able to finish a game as an evil character, the guilt is so heavy.

I'm absolutely amazed with how well the game sucks you in, even with as limited a story as it has. Top notch voice acting and the before mentioned art design hold the game together very well. It's rare to see a gaslight era game, and the mix of old world tech and new is refreshing next to the glut of energy weapons and real world guns seen in most games these days.

I'm not here to write a review however, I want to talk briefly about something Fable does better than most games I know. Fable 2 is a game I can watch other people play. Most games don't allow me that kind of leeway. If I'm not playing, I'm keeping myself from telling the poor player what to do or ridiculing the poor design. Fable allows me to simply not care. What's best for that person's character is up to them and unless my advice is actively sought after, I need not interfere with their story.

What's more, watching someone play through Fable 2 can tell you a lot about someone. For instance, I learned that my wife is a far more patient person than I am when she went straight to five stars in blacksmithing before she even completed the first main quest.

If you get a chance to watch your friends, significant others, whatever play Fable 2, take it. Think of it as a social experiment. Hell, take notes and go over them after the game. I plan on quizzing my wife about her decisions when I get the chance.

What is Next-Gen? Part 2: Narrative

Tuesday, October 21, 2008
There is, I believe, a very specific element of gaming today that differentiates "next-gen" from, well...not. That element is narrative.

Now, that's sort of a beefy thing to say--narrative is an awfully big element and to talk about it without narrowing it down would be a huge waste of time. Thus, I'm going to touch on the two distinct types of narrative (although there are more) that I think have the greatest impact on whether of not a game is "Next-Gen" or not.

Just to recap: I think the term Next-Gen is a loaded marketing statement. However, there is a marked difference between this generation's games and the last, as has been true of every leap in technology since the inception of gaming. Up until now, the "next gen" has always been looked at comparatively in terms of graphics, for the most part.

That's no longer the case. Now, proliferation of advanced engines makes good graphics relatively easy to accomplish, compared to past generation. Thus, setting a game apart form its contemporaries requires all aspects of it to go above and beyond the call of graphical prowess. The most important of these is in-game narrative.

1. In-Game Narrative

Contrary to what you may initially think, this doesn't translate directly into "story", (although obviously it includes it--games like Metal Gear Solid 4 come immediately to mind). What I mean by in-game narrative is how well the game works as a self-contained world. Because of this, even otherwise tired ideas found in fighting games, shooters, or even sports--such as defending (insert planet, race or object) from an alien invasion, a la Space Invaders, Halo 3 or Resistance: Fall of Man--can have a compelling, self-contained narrative that drives the game and sets it above other, similar games.

This is accomplished by creating a tight mythology, using a unique visual STYLE (as well as narrative style, (meaning any in-game narration/dialogue 'fits' within the universe of the game. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, although canned, accomplishes this and sets it above many other adventure games) and connecting with the player on *some* level beyond the cause and effect of using the controller--whether through epic music, story, compelling character, or extremely satisfying gameplay, (e.g., remember the first time you did a fatality in Mortal Kombat? Crap story, okay mechanics, but HOLY FUCK DUDE I JUST PULLED YOUR SPINE OUT!!)

Thus, creating a compelling game narrative is what sets apart similar games with what has, today, become common graphical power. This is why similar games such as GTAIV, Virtua Fighter 5, and Halo (franchise) succeed where other, similar games such as Saint's Row, Dead or Alive or Haze fall short(er).

2. Player Narrative

The second narrative is even more important than the first, and it is one that gamers once knew, then lost, and are now finding again in the age of online play. That is, of course, player narrative. This means the anecdotes we tell and the memories we share from actually playing the games. For example, Malech and I spent a couple days last week exploring the Little Big Planet beta. While the game is fantastic, what I'll remember for even longer is the *time* we spent connecting through it, along with other players via the PSN. Player narrative encompasses the social aspect of gaming, the memory of playing a game--that is, making a game fun enough to play, talk about, remember, and share with others. Little Big Planet is a perfect game for this, but things like Far Cry 2's epic map creator, Warhawk's intense online battles in which rivals are eternally made and friendships forged, Halo 3's fantastic video capture / share system, and even single-player games best shared with a friend, like Silent Hill 5, fall into the realm of creating excellent player narrative.

Thus, player narrative is created when a game is forced to stand out by becoming memorable not for its visuals--if this were true, we'd all gush over Lair--but for the *experience* we had playing it. While this has always been true of gaming, it's never been as important as it is today when graphics are, largely, inconsequential in terms of overall game quality.

It is these two narratives that, today, set a "next gen" game apart from something of days past. While we experienced these narratives in fantastic classic games like Final Fantasy VII (can you believe it's been eleven years?), StarFox, and Super Mario Bros. 3, graphics were all much more important as memory anchors--that is, something that creates a lasting impression--than today. Today, gamers demand solid gold for their time, and the gold isn't found in the gloss on the screen, but in the reactions and memories of the players themselves.

Here's some sweet Street Fighter 2 HD Remix screens

Thanks to our new friends a Capcom, We've got some new screenshots of Street Fighter 2 ultra long name HD re-re-re-remix. Here we go.

What's so bad about Being a Gamer?

Monday, October 20, 2008
Come on, we've got better things to talk about than this right? Who wants to listen to some pathetic philosophic talk about the deeper meaning of "gamer" or to hear again that we aren't alone out there, we run shit, blah blah blah. Well little child ,the day of reckoning has come, this isn't about any of that. This is a philosophic talk of the more militant variety. Metaphorically speaking of course.

Let's be honest. Most of us still feel a little ashamed by our hobby. We were told or are told that video games are a waste of time. Frivolous things that, lest we anger the Gods, we ought to cast away. We still feel a little twinge of shame and or guilt when relaying tales of our gaming exploits, even to other gamers. Well, sons and daughters of the polygon, it's time we stopped feeling so damn ashamed of how we spend our time.

I play D&D every other weekend and when I come home my wife often wants to hear about the game. I know what you're thinking, and you're wrong. My wife is a gamer just like me. No hilarity has ever ensued due to a lack of understanding in our house. Anyway, I realized that I felt a little hesitant to tell her about the game even if it had gone well. I was in some kind of geek denial.

It struck me as very odd that I would feel this way. I know I feel a little strange relating stories of virtual high adventure to people that don't play games but to have this pit of guilt well up when I'm talking to my Halo playing, die rolling, DS slinging wife is the height of absurdity. I should feel no more guilty about that than getting my ass kicked by her. On a side note, if you see my wife in a ghost, run like hell, she's a nightmare.

So why did I feel ashamed? Despite what the numbers say, many people still look down on us gamers for what they perceive to be a waste of time, or even a dangerous addiction. In some cases they're absolutely right. There are plenty of people that play far too often, to the point that they bury themselves in debt, completely isolate themselves and so on. The thing is, those people don't represent gamers on a whole.

There are good and bad uses of time. It doesn't matter what the substance or medium of entertainment, someone will always take it to far. It's not a problem with the games, it's a fact of the human condition. We all take things a little too far sometimes. For some it's drug use, others it's sports, others it's video games. The reason video games get so much of the spotlight is that they're still relatively new on the scene and people are still trying to figure out how they fit into their daily lives.

Every new media is met with fear and anxiety. Rock music in the 50s, film in the early 1900s, video games today. It's a symptom of a society getting used to the idea of a new medium of entertainment. A crucial facet of the human race has always been that new ideas are met with fear, even outright rage. This is how we test the waters, how we begin to understand the issues surrounding us. The world will always fear change, but change will always come.

Those people that still believe video games ruin lives need to be shown that they cause no more harm than film, music or TV. One way to do that is to show them how passionate we are about games. Talk to them about games, especially those close to you. Find out their concerns, address them, maybe even get them to sit down and play a few. My mother-in-law is a perfect example.

Before I exposed her to games first hand, she didn't see them as works of art or beautifully constructed stories. They were, say it with me now, a waste of time. All I did was talk to her about what games meant to me, what they had done for me and what they can do for other people. Now, she sees things much differently, actively asks me about games I play, or things she's heard about the industry. It's a wonderful thing to see. In case she's reading this right now, Hi!

The biggest thing we can do as a community is probably the easiest thing to do. Stop feeling ashamed by your level 70 warrior, your kiltacular, your five star rating, your pen & paper wizard. It's time we showed the rest of the world that we have nothing to be ashamed of, that this isn't a waste of time. We are all gamers here, the only difference is what we play.

Somnambulant Gamer will have Far Cry 2!

Special thanks to Gamestop for supplying our copy. No, we didn't get it early, but it should be arriving in the mail Tuesday or Wednesday. I guess someone actually reads those e-mails after all. I never expected to be indebted to Gamestop after all the trouble I've had with them in the past. Does this make us even?

EndWar Makes me feel Silly/Awesome.

Friday, October 17, 2008
As I said earlier, I got a chance to play EndWar recently. The resulting experience was interesting to say the least. It was, unfortunately, just a demo but I think I can make a fair assessment of the game based on the small amount of time I was able to play it.

The obvious thing to talk about is the voice command tech in the game. I was y impressed with its ability to recognize words and phrases even when my stupid mouth couldn't speak them clearly. Background noise does seem to confuse it a bit though and a few times I'd end up with a couple units marching off to some forgotten corner of the battlefield or almost into an enemy tank patrol. Apparently, my voice saying "unit 1 move to alpha" plus baby cry equals "go and die, cold and alone." Strange equations indeed.

In my army's defense, I don't think R&D figured in running sinks and crying babies in the war room. After all, with the daycare available to the modern military career general, who needs to take their kids to the front lines these days? That and, to be honest, what general has time to wash dishes while commanding the forces on the ground?

The detail is sharp and clean, there seems to be a good amount of depth in the game even though the demo gives you limited options for skirmish and only one campaign mission. I was hoping to play as the Russians, an old favorite since the old Red Alert days but alas, I must await the arrival of the retail version. Hopefully Gamefly will stock more than ten copies and I'll actually get the damn thing close to it's release. But I digress.

I played one online game against a guy who didn't seem to understand which button you hold to issue a command and which is voice chat. The poor bastard was really curious about how I always knew what he had and where it was going. If you're reading this right now, random human, I am sorry. Think of it as a wiretap placed cunningly by one of my many spies. It'll make you feel a little better about your humiliating loss.

The game works like a strategy focused version of battlefield, with control points being the currency of the day. Control points net you currency to buy reinforcements and support. The three types of support available in the demo were: force recon, a special ops team capable of destroying most units or scouting far off command points, Airstrike which rains victory-scented death from the sky and Electronic Warfare which seems to drop a kind of EMP blast on enemies.

In the retail version, each one of these will be able to be upgraded to provide multiple strike options, my favorite of which is the kinetic strike, what seems to be an orbital blast of white-hot awesome. Units that survive your pathetic attempts to order them around the battlefield will earn experience and gain new abilities. The game promises deep customization of your armies on the field and cameo appearances from other Tom Clancy mainstays (Rainbow Six, anyone?).

Yes, I do feel a bit silly chattering away at polygons all day, but commanding my units personally has a really cool feel to it. I get a little more into it than I usually do. I caught myself ordering a crucial airstrike with actual tension in my voice. Neat, a strategy game that makes me feel like more than a geek with a copy of the Art of War at his side. Plus, the concept of people (artificial though they may be) actually listening to my strategy for a change makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

I'm intrigued by EndWar. The ability to issue commands without really having to use the controller alleviates a lot of the pain of playing an RTS on a console. Hopefully, the voice recognition will improve upon the demo a bit and the camera will shake free some of it's shackles before release day comes.

Ubisoft to merge Tom Clancy franchises into one.

Thursday, October 16, 2008
According to Gameplayer, Ubisoft is looking to merge all the Tom Clancy franchises into one "mega-game." The plan goes something like this. In the future, the Endwar series will act as the overreaching Tom Clancy universe, with missions from new GRAW, Rainbow Six, Splinter Cell and HAWX games taking place as parts of the grander storyline. As Ubisofts Vinh-Dieu Lam puts it:

There are minor tie-ins with this game [EndWar], but after this there will be a lot more tie-ins. Some of our airstrikes come from the HAWX list of fighter jets, some of the Ghost Recon units are in the game, like Scott Mitchell is the commanding officer of the American army, so there are a few tie-ins. It all acts as a basis for future tie-ins... in the next versions you’ll find, say, missions generated in the next Ghost Recon (presumably GRAW 3) affecting the world map in the next EndWar (presumably EndWar 2). So maybe in the next EndWar you will need to attack Paris but before you can it may generate some sort of Splinter Cell recon mission or a Ghost Recon mission or things like that. But that is the direction we are looking at.

There you have it. Ubisoft continues to impress me with their bold approach to their properties. Remember you heard it here first, Ubisoft is the developer to watch as the years roll on.

On a side note, I played EndWar earlier today and was very very impressed with it's implementation of the voice commands. I was able to oversee the battle without ever using any other button than the right trigger. Very impressive stuff. More on that later.

Music part. 2

Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Last week I left you with a bevy of memorable game music to ruminate on. This post might be better appreciated with some of those pieces playing in the background. Go ahead, pull up something from Shadow of the Colossus, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, whatever. It'll help if you've played the game whose music you're listening to but it's not necessary.

Listen closely to that piece. What images does it conjure up? What memories does it stir? How, for lack of a better phrase, does it make you feel? Right now I'm listening to the God of War theme. When it plays, I can remember carving a swath through Gorgons, Cyclops' and harpies. I see Kratos battling Zeus. I feel powerful and dangerous.

Good game music deepens our connection to the characters, the game world and the mechanics of the game. Through the raw evocative power of music we can allow ourselves into the environment created by the game, to linger in the moments most crucial to the character we play.

Music plays a different role in every game we play. A great deal of that role is surprisingly defined by the emphasis in the game. In games like Mass Effect with enormous amounts of dialogue and story to occupy the forefront, music takes a more ambient role, bringing a cohesive atmosphere to the environments and situations.

Compare that to games like Metal Gear Solid where the music takes a far more active role in motivating the player to action. Think of your favorite action game. It has a theme, I'm sure. Can you remember it? Are you humming it right now or searching through your library to find it? I thought so. That's what a good action games soundtrack should sound like. It should leave a lasting, almost iconic stamp in your mind, remind you of your time playing, make you feel like the hero again.

There is a soundtrack to almost every game we play. Whether they blast us with huge, bombastic scores, or unnerve us with haunting background music, the real test of a good game score is in its tone. A score can be as professional and well recorded as possible, but if it doesn't fit with the scene, it might as well be static. The best example of this the radio in Grand Theft Auto. Sure, there are some hilarious moments when people seem to bounce off your hood in time to the music, but more often than not, the music on the radio doesn't fit the tone of the game, or at least with the current scene. You find yourself endlessly switching stations until you find one that you can sort of get behind for those two songs. Honestly, I turn the thing off most times.

I've also had a lot of difficulty with the score for most online games. Yes, they are appropriately epic, but when I'm slaughtering bunnies for furs or XP I don't need to sound like Richard the Lionheart marching off to war. It's silly and it takes me out of the game. Again, I usually substitute my own music for whatever is actually playing through the game. Maybe that's one of the reasons I can't really get behind most MMO's.

I'm sure you've already figured out most of this on your own. You know your game music well enough to know what you like. I do have one challenge for you. Look at your game library for a bit. Find a game whose soundtrack you don't really remember. Play it with the music turned up and the rest of the sound off if possible. Get acquainted with the game's score, someone worked very hard on that. If it works like it should, you ought to be able to understand the game world just as well as with the sound on. I recommend Assassin's Creed.

Activision Hires Former Macy's Exec as Chief Creative Officer.

Friday, October 10, 2008
Earlier today, Activision Blizzard released a document detailing the appointment of Brad Jakeman as Chief Creative Officer. What does that position really handle? According to the press brief, "Mr. Jakeman will be responsible for leading global advertising, media, marketing and consumer research for all of Activision Publishing's franchises."

Jakeman was previously head of corporate marketing for Macy's. Certainly not a gaming company, but I think this illustrates a point often lost on the greater gaming public. The Video Games industry is not it's own entity, nor is it separate from the greater entertainment industry.

In it's infancy the video games industry struggled to be accepted into the entertainment industry. It was dismissed as a fad, a small blip in the growing role of home entertainment. After the slight decline of the industry in the eighties, the industry saw a great deal of change. The "for kids" image was slowly sloughed off and replaced with the more mature look of the industry today.

With this new image comes a more serious and mainstream approach to business and marketing. Games companies need marketing agents and advertising just as much as any other company. Video games may be an art form ,but they're also a product to be sold. Seeing companies hiring marketing execs from other companies is a sign of a growing acceptance of video games in the commercial world. At least, that's the way we see it.

New Castlevania teaser tells me nothing; Still excited

Thursday, October 9, 2008
Just put up on Gametrailers, a crappy cam shot of a new Castlevania game. When it's set, who the protagonist is, what the gameplay actually looks like are still a complete mystery. One thing I can tell you for sure is that the Wii won't have it, at least for now.

I'm honestly pretty surprised that the Wii won't be home to the next Castlevania game. Maybe some bridges have been burned. Whatever the case take a look at the trailer. If you can read Japanese, maybe you could kindly translate the text for us. We would be very grateful.

New Bungie Trailer released.

By now I'm sure most of you have heard the news, there's an official announcement trailer up for one of Bungie's latest projects. The official title is Halo 3: Recon and is a prequel set for release next fall. Rather than a stand alone title, Recon will drop as a campaign expansion, a first for the series. However, Recon is not being released as a downloadable pack, only a retail version. Curious.

I'm very excited about this development. I've said before that I really enjoy campaign play. Now to have an entirely new campaign experience coming next year, I have to strap myself down to type this.

Like Halo or not you have to admit that Bungie has committed a lot of time and effort to providing a lot of community support. I think a lot of developers could learn from them. You hear me Nintendo?

Far Cry 2 Developer Diaries are awesome.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008
The series is of the developers that went to Africa to observe the environment, record sounds, etc. It's great to see such dedication to authenticity but god damn these guys for having so much fun. Links are below.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3


Monday, October 6, 2008
In my opinion, music is one of the most important parts of any game. A good soundtrack can turn a decent game into a fantastic one. Everyone recognizes the music from their favorite games, we even buy the games soundtrack these days. There are well loved bands who do nothing but play music from games, others who are inspired by certain games.

Here before you I will catalog a few of my favorites. Music that I think really illustrates the role a good soundtrack can play in a game. If all goes well, by the end of this you should have a primer for what good game music really is.

Advent Rising

First up, Advent Rising. The best way to illustrate the power of this games music is to see it in action. Unfortunately, the best video I could find was this trailer. It isn't the opening sequence I wanted to show you but the music is from the game. That is, it's one of the less spectacular pieces from the soundtrack and it still blows me away. The game itself had a few technical issues but the art direction, story and certainly the sweeping music held the game together throughout it's entirety. To this day, I have yet to hear a game soundtrack to match the power and feel of Advent Rising.

Silent Hill

I was terrified by Silent Hill. We all were. That eerie little town shrouded in perpetual fog. What was it that stuck with you after the nurses were gone, the lights were back on and the game was finished. Chances are it was this. The makers of Silent Hill are to blame for more of my sleepless nights than creepy hobos outside my apartment. For some people it's the imagery that really gets them, but I can't hear this music without feeling like something is right behind me. The music was what sold me on the horror and I bet it was the same for you.

Medal of Honor

Now when it comes to shooters, few have ever made me feel emotional about what I was doing. As strange as it may sound, Medal of Honor was the first game that made me cry. No, it wasn't because I realized my calling as a sniper, no it wasn't (entirely) because I got to dish out some vengeance on some evil Nazis. It was the theme. This music made me feel brave, made me feel like I was part of something bigger than myself.

Shadow of The Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus comes up a lot on this site. Trust us, it's for good reason. The story was amazing, the art direction superb, the gameplay astounding and the level of fine detail unrivaled. However great those aspects were, the music has always stuck with me. I hear it every time I see a sunrise, look out over the lake or see something truly amazing. All the beauty of the world around us is encapsulated in the haunting melodies of this soundtrack. If you don't believe me, look at the sky while you listen to this.

There's more to come from this post. Check back later in the week for the next installment of this piece on game music.

Nintendo comes out swinging

Friday, October 3, 2008
Yes the pun is awful. A fall press conference was ground zero for Nintendo's big announcements this last week. The promise of a slew of new games, new peripherals and a new DS has swayed quite a few people, but I for one am not so impressed.

First off, let's look at the DSi. What's really new about it? It has a camera and an SD memory card slot. Great on the surface but it's also lost the GBA card slot. The reasoning is that it allows the system a more aesthetic look and more space for other things. That's fine. They tout that you'll be able to download various applications priced from 2 to 10 dollars. I imagine some older GBA games will be made available through the service as well.

Trouble is, I have trouble really caring about it. I've never looked at my DS and thought, gee, I'd sure like to have a camera here. The removal of the GBA slot aggravates me a touch. The backwards compatibility was a big selling point for me. Frankly, it seems they've opted to pack on the features rather than fix the systems existing problems. I've yet to here anything about a streamlined interface.

This seems to be Nintendo's answer to everything these days. They make enough money off of their product that they've decided to ignore many long time supporters. Instead of giving the Wii a Hard drive, they give it more peripherals. It will soon have voice chat, but you'd better hope you can hear your friends over the game you're both playing since you won't have a headset.

Wait, you may be saying, they are giving us Punch-out Wii, isn't that something? Well, no it isn't. Punch-out was a great game back in the day, but ask yourself; After all the outcry, all the bad press, all your begging, this is all you get? A revamped version of an original Nintendo Console game? Don't even try to tell me they won't find a way to work the balance board into it. Their core gamers got them to this point, and now that they have all the money they'll ever need, they throw you scraps every once in a while. Punch-out is too little too late.

As for the remakes, I don't think anyone is fooled by that move. Again, with record profits and growing sway over the casual market, the best they can come up with are a bunch of wiimote enabled Gamecube titles. I'm not buying it.

Nintendo is in a unique position. Their console has gotten a lot of people into games that wouldn't have played them before. The console has a great deal of potential to widen the scope of gaming on a global scale. They have the revenue to put serious work behind their projects, make amazing games and show the world what games can do and mean for people. Instead they've taken the businessman's route and abandoned substance for profit. And here I thought we all wanted the same thing.