Archive for the ‘Editorial/Feature’ Category

On March 7th GameFly shipped me a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. In the nearly two months the game has been at my house I’ve played for a grand total of four hours. Every weekend I promise myself I’m going to make some headway, and every weekend I find other ways to distract my attention in ways that don’t involve a boy in a green tunic with a Messianic complex. It’s not that Skyward Sword is a bad game; it isn’t. In fact, it’s one of the most impressive examples of translating the Wii’s technology into an experience core gamers can enjoy. No, it all comes down to the fact that I have an irrational hatred of The Legend of Zelda.

No, wait, I had forgotten about this. All my hatred is totally justified.

I hadn’t really been able to understand my misplaced anger toward Link, Zelda and all of Hyrule until a recent episode of the Power Button podcast. Joey Davidson and I were chastising fellow co-host Matt Green about the fact that he didn’t enjoy Journey, the most recent downloadable title from acclaimed developer That Game Company. Joey and I both raved about how much we loved the game, talking in-depth about the story, its meaning and the emotional resonance we felt during the title’s final segments. Matt was having none of it though, claiming the story was convoluted and the whole experience was boring and non-impactful.

We argued in circles until it came out that Matt simply doesn’t like anything That Game Company makes. It’s not that the genres aren’t to his liking or the games are broken or unfinished, he just finds the whole company to be a bit pretentious and that has colored his experience going into every game they make. He wanted to hate Journey on a subconscious level  before he even started it, so as he played his mind found ways to denigrate the entire experience.

This led to a eureka moment for me, as I finally understood why I haven’t been able to finish a Zelda game since Ocarina of Time. Every time I boot up one of these titles my mind starts screaming “YOU DON’T LIKE THIS GAME AND YOU’RE NOT GOING TO HAVE ANY FUN PLAYING IT!” Without fail the experience starts to feel like a chore within an hour or so, and I invariably put the game down at some point and never get around to finishing. I got really close to the end of Spirit Tracks, but even with the end in sight I simply decided that the experience had gone on long enough and I didn’t want to play anymore. This coming from someone who almost always finishes a game, even if I hate it, simply because I’m the type of person who needs to see things through to the absolute end.

Unfortunately, no sooner did I make this Zelda revelation than I discovered it applied to pretty much any game made by Nintendo. While I loved Super Mario Galaxy and it’s sequel, I can’t abide any of the plumber’s other recent games that don’t involve a golf club. I haven’t powered through a Metroid title since the days of the SNES, and even though I loved playing Donkey Kong Country when it got its Wii reboot it sits on a shelf collecting dust with roughly 3 worlds left to go. As it turns out I don’t just hate Zelda, I’m done with Nintendo.

Yep, you too buddy, hate to break it to you.

It’s strange to admit that, seeing as the Nintendo 64 was one of my favorite consoles of all time and how I spent hours upon hours playing Mario 64, Mario Kart 64 and numerous other first-party games. But for some reason things changed with the Gamecube, as I never bought the system and only found myself sparingly playing my friends’ consoles. Then along came the Wii, and early on I was among the frothing masses shouting “sellout!” and accusing Nintendo of forgetting who had brought them here. Even after I came to see the value of what Nintendo was doing by broadening the audience my love for the company never returned, and now I’m left with a strange disdain for the games made by a company I’ve always quite admired.

It’s a strange thing, to not be able to enjoy a developer or publisher’s games for no good reason, but I believe it’s a lot more common than we let on. I think that if we each take a hard look at ourselves then most, if not all, of us will admit that there’s a whole suite of games out there we’re missing out on for reasons we’ve never fully understood. For my part, I’ll say that I have an irrational hatred of Nintendo, and I don’t see anything wrong with that.

It’s only Wednesday, but there has been enough big news in the past three days to fill a year’s worth of offseason headlines. Let’s quickly run through everything that’s happened and get up to speed.

Peyton Manning Signs with the NFL’s Other Horse-Themed Team

The free agent frenzy for Peyton Manning was suitably intense, but thankfully it was also brief. Even though it was reported that the Dolphins, Titans, 49ers and Cardinals were all interested in him, the future Hall of Famer ultimately chose to sign on the dotted line with the Denver Broncos. It was a shrewd move by Peyton, eschewing the idea of a warm homecoming in Tennessee to join a team that has a real chance to contend for a title right away. Last year Denver had the league’s most effective rushing attack, which will be worth its weight in gold when Manning runs his famed play action plays. Also, the Broncos’ defense kept them in a lot of games last year, and now that the team has a QB who can put points on the board in a hurry they should be feasting on opposing teams in a fairly weak AFC West. And hey, the air is thin in Denver, so maybe it doesn’t matter if Peyton has lost some arm strength. Obviously, now the question becomes what happens to Tim Tebow? Well it seems we know the answer to that as well…

The Tim Tebow Circus Sets Up Shop in the Media Capital of the World

News just broke this afternoon that the Broncos have traded Tebow to the NY Jets in exchange for a 4th round draft pick. From a football standpoint Tebow doesn’t offer a lot; aside from coming in for the occasional Wildcat play (remember when that was a thing?), he’s likely going to serve as a backup for made of glass Mark Sanchez. Of all the teams considering Tebow the Jets are the best fit, not because he can add to the team but because they’re about the only franchise that can deal with the ensuing media maelstrom and not really bat an eye. The Jets wanted the Tim Tebow brand, not necessarily the player, and now they can milk his Madison Avenue looks and intensely devoted fanbase for every penny they can.

Sean Payton Gets a Year to Work on His Golf Game 

The last bit of NFL craziness regards the “Bountygate” incident (god I hate it that we add “gate” to everything remotely scandalous), and the penalties are incredibly harsh. In addition to a loss of draft picks and fines Commissioner Roger Goodell has decreed that New Orleans head coach Sean Payton will be suspended for the entire 2012 season. Defensive coordinator Greg Williams, who served as the head of the bounty program, is out indefinitely and should probably start looking for another line of work. Payton previously admitted to knowing about the Williams-led bounty program and openly stated he didn’t do enough to stop it. His decision to take “full responsibility” for what happened meant Goodell had a pretty simple task in front of him, but banning Payton from the league for a full year is still a bit shocking. We’ll see what happens to the Saints when they lose their head coach and offensive play caller for a season.

Whew, crazy week. Isn’t there some sort of draft coming up soon too?

My wife and I hate Valentine’s Day, mostly due to the fact that because of Christmas, birthdays, the Super Bowl and the like we’re really tired of going out and would rather just have a quiet evening at home. What made staying in truly worthwhile this year was the promise of the Mass Effect 3 demo, which we have both been eagerly awaiting. While she opted for a more traditional approach to the game I decided to take full advantage of the the Kinect offerings, because Microsoft promises the game is better that way and why on Earth would they be inclined to lie? So here are my unfiltered and unapproved views of voice commands for everything from dramatic dialogue reads, to combat, to opening doors.

The first several minutes of the Mass Effect 3 demo feature a lot of chatterboxes blabbering about how they’re probably all going to die instead of, you know, actual doing something useful about it. Thus, the very first time players are presented with the opportunity to use Kinect it’s to respond to a dialogue choice. Fully immersing myself in the experience, I read the line with as much dramatic flair as I could muster… and nothing happened. I tried again with the very weight of the universe in my three word response, but again there was no response. Finally, I gave in and read the line with no inflection whatsoever, as if I were back in 4th grade reading from the textbook when it was my turn, and the sensor finally registered. I proceeded through the rest of the conversations alternating between dramatic readings and straight reads with mixed results, but the whole time I could never shake the feeling that it just felt awkward. Randomly yelling a single non-curse word at my television seems strange, and the fact that my own voice is so different from that of Commander Shepard completely broke the sense of immersion. I think for dialogue I’ll go back to pressing buttons.

Things heat up in the second half of the demo as you finally get control of a full team in a combat situation, and it’s here where the Kinect controls shine. In one room a surge of enemies came through the door, and before they had time to fan out a yell of “Liara, Singularity!” sent a couple of them helplessly floating through the air as we ripped them to shreds with assault rifle rounds. Later on we came up against some hard-charging, heavily armored foes, but calling out Garrus to use his Concussive Shot stopped their forward charge and gave us the moment we needed to coordinate fire and bring the baddie down. Also, being able to run up to an enemy and scream “shotgun!” and then watch my character pull out a short-range death dealer was particularly satisfying, and now I foresee myself playing the game as some sort of crazed death-dealer, calling out the names of the weapons I’m going to use to obliterate foes. I wish I could see the look on their face when some unknown voice far in the distance lets out a cry of “sniper rifle!” and they spend the next few moments cowering in fear before the bullet rips their skull apart.

Oh, and you can also use the voice commands to open doors or activate terminals but really, why bother?

Though Kinect integration still felt bolted on for parts of the Mass Effect 3 demo, as a core piece of combat I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. If implementation into the full game is as smooth and enjoyable as the demo then I expect many entertaining (and loud) evenings ahead.