The 'Shroom:Issue LXXIII/Critic Corner
Spent the last month or so listening to, like, seven music albums a day. Seriously, my ears are begging me to put the headphones down at this point before I develop tinnitus or something, but I just… can't… stop!
Anyway, there's no news this month, although we have a few section that could be filled up, if you're into that sort of thing.
Contact me if you want to fill these sections permanently or as a temporary deal, and remember that I don't mind you applying for an already filled position; I am perfectly happy to have different takes on a similar subject, and at the end of the day, it's more sections for me. Also, please pay attention to our new Manual of Style when writing sections from now on; it'd save me a lot of tedious work. So yeah, read up and enjoy while I go back to studying and listening to bizarre 1980s sludge music.
Critic Corner Section of the Month
Our writer count was far better last month than the first two months of the year, so the results of March's section of the month are far better this time around! Winning with a whopping 17 votes was our new writer Yoshi K (talk), writing a brand new opinion piece section titled What Could Have Happened If…, discussing a hypothetical scenario in which Bowser Jr. was never introduced into the series, and analysing if the Koopalings would've still maintained relevancy in Mario's newer adventures. Congrats to you, mate, you've already got yourself a distinction with your first section.
Meanwhile, runners-up were Cirdec (talk) with his once-off submission for Game Comparisons, observing the similarities between Mario Party 8 and Mario Party 9, earning seven votes in total; and myself and Pyro (talk) tying for third place with six votes each for Crocodile Style Reviews and Hottest Reviews Around, respectively. In my section, I reviewed both of EA's desperate sci-fi shooters Dead Space 3 and Crysis 3, while Pyro debuted with a review of Scribblenauts Unlimited.
That was a much more fun SotM process, if I may say so. Hope we can maintain this steady flow of 'Shroom sections. Anyway, enough of my ranting; let's get a move on.
YoshiMonsta's back to discuss Mario if he existed in real life.
Non-Mario Game Reviews
Dippy survives the storm and gender stereotypes in Tomb Raider.
Yoshi K wonders if SEGA really could do what Nintendon't.
Sorry for my absence from recent articles, but here is my review for today, so enjoy!
I am reviewing this video by AndrewMFilms, the link to his Youtube page below, and the video is titled: "Real Life Super Mario: Updated!", which is a change to the previous video called "Real Life Super Mario Bros."
To start of this review, lets go with the parts I enjoyed. I enjoyed nearly all of it, including the 3D quality of it being filtered into real life. I also enjoyed the great detail, shown by the item blocks, pipes, Goombas, Koopas, etc. I liked the feeling of seeing the pipe jump in the video. The Piranha Plants in the video had good fireball animation, and acted like a real Piranha Plant.
I really enjoyed the video, but I am sadly going to go straight to criticizing it. In the beginning, when he found the giant floating block thing, it said "play" and I had assumed it would be the actual Mario, in real life, which was implied by the title. Also, when it updated it only included the 3 following games. To be up to date it would have to go through several updates, such as the New Super Mario Bros 1-2 and possibly even the spinoffs (perhaps for adding characters). To continue, it seemed to skip the fact that you start without a mushroom, whereas this went straight to Fire Flower. Speaking of Fire Flowers, when he fired at the Piranha Plant he fired it up, therefore not making it bounce.
Whew! Two paragraphs of criticism! Well, if it was updated, the Koopas would stand on their hind legs, not to mention the fact that you would have to jump to crush a Koopa! One of the things that bugs me most is the lack of scene change. When he went through the pipe I expected an interesting version of the undergrounds, but sadly no scene change. And, (*drum roll*) the most annoying is (*louder drum roll*) the lack of a hat! Mario has a hat, and unless it was stolen by the bird in the desert, then Mario would have a hat. When he transformed into a Mario suit I was thinking, [i]where's the hat? Where's the hat?[/i] and the hat was, not there!
Overall I enjoyed this video, and thank you for using your valuable time to read my review! As I promised, here is the link to AndrewMFilms page! 
NSM's Review Corner
It's always nice to see a sequel to a good game, be just as good as the original, and I think Nintendo and Next Level Games pull that off in Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon (known as Luigi's Mansion 2 internationally). It's been twelve years since the original, Luigi's Mansion, so it was fun seeing Nintendo making a sequel to know they haven't forgotten about the lean, green machine.
The story begins in Evershade Valley, where Professor E. Gadd is doing some research with help from some friendly ghost. All seems well, right? That is not until King Boo decides to show up and destroy the Dark Moon. The Dark Moon seems to have a calming effect on the ghosts of the valley, so the ghosts return to a more aggressive state when it's destroyed. So later, E. Gadd calls Luigi through his TV and asks him to get back the pieces of the Dark Moon. Not that Luigi has much of a choice anyway. E. Gadd fires up a machine calls the Pixelator and transport him to the bunker in Evershade Valley. I'll stop revealing the story after there so I can prevent revealing any other spoilers, but I will say the game story isn't that bad (compared to most Mario games). Wherever the story lacks, there's always funny things that happen to Luigi and stuff, but I'll get more to that later.
The gameplay is rather similar to the original game, but there are a few minor differences. For one thing, Dark Moon is a LOT more puzzle based than the original. The puzzles are great fun, even though a few of them get repetitive. But, I'll be honest; I was stumped on a few of the puzzles in the game. A Mario game hasn't been this challenging in a while, in my opinion. Even though the game relies a lot more on puzzles, the ghost hunting is basically the same from the original, with just a few tweaks. In the original game, you caught ghosts by shining your flashlight on them to stun them and then suck them up. This time, instead of using the flashlight to stun them, you now use a strobe light in order to stun ghosts. Now, it's basically the same thing, but I do think the strobe light is more efficient for catching ghosts than the flashlight from the original game. Luigi is not only equipped with his Poltergust, flashlight, and strobe light, but also a new device called the Dark-Light Device. The Dark Light allows you to shine a rainbow colored light in order to see hidden objects, whether they'd be hidden doors, furniture, or even pawprints! The Dark Light adds a whole new level of gameplay not seen from the original and I thought it was a great addition.
Another great thing about the game is you'll now not only get to explore one mansion, but five different mansions, each with their own unique set of ghosts, missions and puzzles. The first mansion, Gloomy Manor, is most similar to that of the mansion in the original game. I really liked this mansion since it reminded me so much of the original, but I did wish you could explore it more. Since the game is divided into missions this time instead of just one big mansion to explore, you can really only explore whatever area is allowed in that set mission. Not that I don't like the missions, I thought they worked great. I still can't decide if I like the missions better or the original system better. After that, Luigi heads to Haunted Towers. I found this mansion to be kind of average, but the 6 floors made some pretty good puzzles. It also had a pretty cool Mini Boss. What annoyed me, personally, was that the boss for this mansion was too easy. I felt the first boss of the game was the easiest out of the first four bosses, and I fell that they should have made the later bosses a bit harder. Next is Old Clockworks, which I just LOVED. It has a desert theme and its clock-inspired puzzles I thought we just awesome. Plus, the first mummies are seen here, and I loved seeing enemies that weren't ghosts for once (well, sort of anyway). The fourth mansion, Secret Mine, was ok, but I was rather disappointed by it. It had fewer missions than the others and I fell like the developers were being a bit lazy not adding more. The snow theme had a lot of potential too, so I was a bit upset they didn't add more missions. Treacherous Mansion, the last mansion, is one of my favorite mansions as well. It features portals which allows for lots of different puzzles. Of course, nothing makes these the mansions they are without the ghosts in them.
Most of the ghosts in the game are just somewhat boring. The ghosts in the original game had lots of personality but these ones are just bland. Even so, I don't think it takes away from and of the gameplay. Each ghost has their own, unique attack style. Some even carry pots or something like that to attack you, or wear shades, making them unaffected by your strobe light. The awesome boss fights do make up for the unoriginal ghosts though. I found the boss fights, while some of them easier than they should have been, to be very fun and puzzling. Whether it's fighting a spider, a giant set of knights, or a possessed staircase, I found the boss fights to be original, despite the thing possessing them to be bland and unoriginal. So, you all know that King Boo is back as well. Of course, King Boo can't be back without the Boos either! Each mission has one boo hidden somewhere in which you have to find. Finding all the boos in a select mansion earns you a bonus mission. Despite all the fun I had finding some of the boos, the reward you get is just not fun. Well, let me change that. Fun for the first time and then never fun again. Heck, I think all the rewards and bonuses you get in this game were awful and it made me less determined to 100% the game. Never the less, I was thrilled to see boos back, and even their “punny” names have returned. There is one ghost I've been waiting to share since there is just so much I want to say about him. Polterpup.
Polterpup is a ghost dog in the game (an adorable ghost at that :P) that appears in some missions and even has his own mode in multiplayer. Polterpup is encountered often throughout the game and often steals items Luigi might need for a select mission. Once Polterpup steals and item, he barks and runs away. Here's where one of the major uses of the dark-light come in. By shining the dark-light, Luigi can reveal pawprints. By following these pawprints, you can find the location of the dog in order to get your item back. I loved chasing little Polterpup and it was one of my favorite parts of the game (not my favorite of course, that's coming up next). I think Polterpup really gives the game lots of depths and lots of new puzzle types.
One thing I was excited about when I heard this game was announced back at E3 2011 was the return of characters like E. Gadd. E. Gadd's gibberish and cute conversations with Luigi from the last game made it one of my favorite parts. And while the game doesn't feature many characters, there are some characters that were just my favorite part of the game. Those characters are the Toads.
Why are Toads your favorite thing in the game you ask? Well easy. Not only for their personalities, but for the awesome missions associated with them. Throughout the game you encounter many of E. Gadd's Toad assistants stuck in paintings. You can save them by shining your dark light on the painting. E. Gadd usually tells you to return the Toad (or in one case two Toads :)) to a Pixelator screen in order for them to return back to the bunker. What makes the Toads so fun is that they are afraid of everything! If ghosts appear they scream and run around like a chicken with their head cut off. Ghosts will even sometimes grab hold of the Toads and carry them around. Even if you feel bad for them, you can't laugh at how adorable they are. Toads also help in a lot of puzzles. You can attach them to your Poltergust and blow them away to higher ground of other places. Even with all that, the best part is their fears! Is your Toad afraid of water? I guess you'll have to carry them across the water. It's fun and puzzling to avoid these Toads' fears whether it's water, ghosts, or even gears and clock parts!
The game also features online multiplayer! The multiplayer, called Scarescraper, features three different modes and is overall great fun. However, I don't know if it's the best game to be online, since the game relies heavily on communication, but I had a blast when I played it locally.
Oh, and one more thing! Lots of people were skeptical about whether the controls would work or not, since the original game featured two analog sticks to guide your vacuum, but I (although I've seen a few people on the forums don't agree with me) think the controls work very well and weren't bad at all. Overall, I think this game is a must buy for any Mario fan, even with a few cons. I don't think there has been a Mario game this good since Bowser's Inside Story in 2009.
Pros: Good as the original, good gameplay, Fun puzzles, Five Mansions, Fun boss fights, Boos are back, Polterpup, Toads, Multiplayer, fine controls.
Cons: Some puzzles are repetitive, some bosses were too easy, few Secret Mine missions, boring/unoriginal ghosts, bonuses and rewards are awful.
Overall rating: 9/10.
Got an idea for a game I should review? PM me, NSM, on the forums!
Crocodile Style Reviews
I have to ponder exactly what sort of place Lara Croft has in gaming anymore. Her presence was a big deal in the 1990s when the extant of the average gamer's interaction with women was asking the clerk at the local Gloria Jean's café for a cappuccino, but then she just faded away when the interactive Indiana Jones niche got taken over by Uncharted, and the industry expanded to primarily incorporate people of a far more socially competent persuasion. For the most part, anyway, I'm still on the fence about Hideo Kojima.
It was probably a rather depressing staff meeting when Crystal Dynamics realised they'd been trying too hard to pick up the pieces of a broken franchise, especially one like Tomb Raider whose long association with gender politics has been in a bit of turmoil ever since she got drunk at its birthday party and threw up all over the cake. But instead of packing shit in and starting up a new business venture, they instead fired a large chunk of their staff and rebooted the series with the same name as the very first entry into the series just to completely mess with archivists.
But Tomb Raider differs from the rest of the series because instead of Lara already being an accomplished psychopath that no sane person could associate with, here we follow her as she first develops haemophilia and a taste for wolf testicles. Lara is on her very first expedition with a collection of graduates and retirees with funny accents to find the lost kingdom of Yamatai and uncover the secrets of Queen Himiko, before a vicious storm crashes their ship on an island that by pure stroke of luck happens to not only be the origin of Yamatai but is also home to a collection of psychotic castaways who deem themselves the Solarii. Seems the storms harbour a grudge against man-made modes of transport, so Lara has to solve the mystery of the islands all the while rescuing her pathetic ball and chain of a best friend who can't seem to keep herself out of trouble. Oh I see, even with a strong female protagonist you guys need to stick a fucking damsel-in-distress into the mix less you start getting too avant-garde?
Since this is the most obvious gripe for me to reliably chunder up, I'll just jump straight into it; by God, is there are a lot of cover shooting in this game, especially later on when the process of difficulty curve dictates that both Lara and all the crazy cultists will be stroking the longest, hardest guns available before the end boss. Mind, I'm using “difficulty curve” very loosely in this context since there were very few shoot-outs that had me gritting my teeth aside from the ones I buggered up because my index finger was infected that weekend, which is no small responsibility of the same couple enemies being wheeled out in every bloody fight. “What's that, you say? Getting tired of fighting dudes with bows? Well, have some dudes with guns, that'll spice things up, and then maybe if you're good we'll give you some armoured dudes with guns!”
This is always a sore spot for me, since I can't feel like I'm accomplishing anything special if all my victims look the same; I'm not fucking Patrick Bateman. It doesn't help that the story campaign is rather quite long, and I've already said numerous times before that cover shooting is the second most efficient way to put me into a coma aside from a business trip to Adelaide. Although I don't mind it so much if there's other mechanics around to mix things up, and Tomb Raider delivers in abundance. Platforming is still a core element of the franchise, but this time the scenery is crafted carefully enough that what is and isn't climbable can be distinguished at a glance whereas platforming in Uncharted was typically left as an exercise in faith. It's also fun to dick around on the ropes especially when Lara acquires the rope ascender which allows her to propel herself up wires at extreme speeds that should logically burn her hands off.
However, Tomb Raider has the Assassin's Creed problem of adding heaps of little mechanics that amount to nothing and typically get dropped immediately after they're introduced, which is a fitting comparison given how much the interface looks like Assassin's Creed. Animal hunting is pointless, most of the side-quests are nothing more than burning flags or kicking down sandcastles, and the overworld map is crammed with so many tiny collectibles you could turn it into a Monopoly board, all of which carries little reward beyond gaining experience. Oh yeah there's RPG elements in this; naturally, of course, since an action game without RPG elements these days is like a panda bear with sex addiction.
Lara goes for the skill point approach to level gaining, which can be pooled into a variety of survival, weapon, or close combat skills depending on what approach the player prefers – That is, that would be the case if the game didn't force Lara into combat every fucking enemy encounter. Given most of the survivalist skills are to aid in butchering animals and finding collectibles, I found it far more fruitful just upgrading all the combat skills until even the almighty wrath of Takemikazuchi wouldn't be able to topple me. She can also gather up salvage to craft better upgrades for her weapons, but as said in my Darksiders II review, my TV is not HD so reading the description text was a bigger strain on my eyes than using eye drops made of Worcestershire sauce.
Speaking of Worcestershire sauce, the blood ratio in this game is absolutely bonkers, especially concerning Lara. Few minutes go by without her being brutalised to hell and back within cutscenes, which some might say is character building but I say is just creepy. You can argue realism all you want, but I'm most certain a world where a large, dirty stick could be impaled through a person's side abdomen and yet they can still leap around like fucking Mario with no effort is somewhat liberal in its interpretation of reality. It's just unnecessary to me that we have to witness a character being tortured every other moment to make them sympathetic, especially given Lara is not half bad a character this time around. For the most part, anyway; any kind of realistic portrayal was going to be better than the glorified blow-up doll of previous incarnations, but they do sort of half-ass the character arc a bit, particularly notable early on when the extent of her breakdown after killing a man for the first time is freaking out for a few seconds then going right back to being a walking slaughterhouse in the gameplay.
Having said all these horrible things in my review, I can concede the point that Tomb Raider is actually quite absorbing when it's taking the time to be an actual Tomb Raider game, capturing my interest in its setting for more hours at a time than my usual triple-A review play throughs. I had fun jumping, climbing, and swinging around the environments like Tarzan with ants in his pants, and while the temples may be simple pleasures they were enough to keep the world feeling a bit more mysterious and open whilst giving the adventurer in me the cue to garrotte the cynical critic within me. Still, at the end of the day Tomb Raider really is a whole bunch of other games repeatedly mashed up until only an undefined sticky paste remains, and while it is still a tasty paste in its own right, you're probably better off just trying the individual ingredients instead, they'll probably have less wolf teeth in them anyway.
Hottest Reviews Around
Hello, everybody. This is Pyro here to rage at another game that mindless fans seem to love. But, shock, this past month I played an extra-special, extra-good game! In case you didn't see the blatantly shown boxart, this is Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?!.
"Oh no, it's another video game based off a show...it must be bad..." - NOPE. This is a fucking exception to the problem with licensed games. If my opinion isn't enough, then I'll say the creator of the show himself worked closely with the dev team to make sure this game didn't suck so much it was blasted to Iceland like all the others.
The gameplay is literally exactly like Zelda II - the overworld is 8 directions with enemies on the map and warps to areas, and the regular areas are 2-D fuckfests. So if you loved Zelda II and love Adventure Time, this is the game you want to buy...if you live in North America. Haha, Europeans don't get a great game. Ha HA.
The story is exactly what it says on the tin - Ice King, being the twisted shithead he usually is, steals Finn and Jake's garbage to build princesses out of them for Finn and Jake to save and for Ice King to get endless attention. Finn and Jake set out to rescue their garbage.
There are four worlds in Ooo - Grass Land, Candy Kingdom, Red Rock Pass, and Ice Kingdom. Grass Land is your normal grass plains that are always in games no matter what, with a town of house people and the first dungeon and someone's fucking parcel gets stolen like every other RPG ever in existence. Candy Kingdom's plot is basically Princess Bubblegum's pants getting stolen and Lemongrab arresting random people. You eventually get a sponge and a baby, and then you fight an army of cloned penguins.
Red Rock Pass has a bunch of bugs that play instruments to open doors for you and the most fucking awesome rock music in the world, and finally the Ice Kingdom has a butthurt golem because he wants a lady and you have to make her out of clouds. Then, we have the final boss, which is the most fucked up thing I've ever seen, but I'll get to that.
So you can already tell this game is really, really trippy, but I haven't even talked about the gameplay yet. You get little baby punches at the beginning, and then you get your sword. Then the game becomes much easier. There are unlockable moves, like a down slash and spin move, and eventually you get a flaming upgrade to your sword by Flame Princess to access the final dungeon. Jake also has his moves that help you break shit. On the overworld, he can stretch across bridges, grow huge and fart on walls, turn into a boat, and reach his legs up to get into high places, which quite frankly should have been the first ability rather than the last. In battle, he can stretch his arm out by default to hit those oh so annoying fucking SPEAR BEES. Later, he can use his ear as a wind shield, mold into a fist to break walls, do some rolling move to get over water, and turn into a parasol, which is a really broken as hell move.
And there's items that you use via the touch screen. They heal you. Also, some items are condiments (ketchup, Wildberry Jam) that can be merged with others to make them heal more. There's also attack items, some of which are useless, some that are helpful. Like, two.
Your enemies are really obscure references to the show, with the common rock enemy appearing in one episode (I haven't seen them all dammit). There's licking rocks, caterpillars, board monsters that drop trail mix, knife bunnies, SPEAR BEES, flying buggers that steal your shit (and it's always the GOOD shit), and oh dear you get the point.
The bosses, er. A grass ogre, a bear with a chainsaw tied to its back, 100 penguins that fall from the sky, a fat blue guy that reminds me of Wario (he has charging and ground pound moves that are literally exactly like Wario's), some...ball...thing, Marceline, the Ice King, Giant Ice King (so it isn't just Bowser that ALWAYS TURNS FUCKING GIANT when defeated), and...Lumpy Space Princess, who apparently is pissed that Finn didn't use her ashtray.
Favorite part of the game? The final dungeon. Cute penguins, easy puzzles, organ monsters, and awesome music. Plus, ice physics. Everyone loves ice physics, right?
Welp, I'm out of witty things to say. But what I said is all true. Nothing is a lie. I would recommend this game to Zelda fans, Adventure Time fans, and people who want games to mess with them. See you.
Should Have Been
Hello, and welcome to a very special edition of Should Have Been
No, seriously, what is that doing there? When did that happen? That completely throws my point out of the window. Thanks a lot. Well, eh, just take a look at this while we're here: "Personalised sections offering critical analysis on a variety of topics and issues relating to the entertainment industries." - notice how it doesn't mention anything about Mario games.
...okay, I can't find what I'm talking about either, but that's not the point. From now on (and Dippy's fine with this, I'm pretty sure), I'll be able to do Should Have Been about any game. That's right. Any game. I'll still be covering some Mario games, probably, but, otherwise, I am free from the chains that have previously . Honestly, I was planning on quitting the section a while ago, because I had barely any time to do the section, and barely any more games to talk about. And, let's face it, wasn't Mario getting a little boring (I wonder how many votes for Section of the Month I've lost already!).
So now's the perfect time to send me (Saul Slendamann) any suggestions you have for a game you want me to cover. In case you haven't noticed, I'm doing this bi-monthly from now on, due to my life being quite busy at the moment.VVVVVV.
What should have been in this game?
VVVVVV is a game developed by Terry Cavanagh. You play as a blue guy called Captain Viridian, who captains a spaceship with five other crew members: Victoria, Vermillion, Violet, Vitellary and Verdagris. Sensing a theme here? Either way, their spaceship is affected by dimensional interference, and they manage to escape via a teleporter on the ship...then end up getting lost in Dimension VVVVVV, an alternate dimension. You have to find the source of this interference (and your ship) and rescue your crew from the terrors that await. Oh yeah, and the graphical style is influenced by that of the Commodore 64. The main gameplay element behind the game is that you can control gravity, so you can flip between the floor and the ceiling.
If you haven't already gathered my opinion of this game, I love it. It's really fun, the soundtrack is amazing, and...well, it's just great. But, as I say just about every time I do this (if you can remember, that is, it was probably about five months ago), it doesn't mean there's nothing to be improved...
However, I did say "to an extent". This is where player levels come into play - not only can you create and edit your own levels, but you can also download levels created by other people. So, essentially, once you're done with the actual game, you can just download more levels to play. The game even comes with some pre-installed (there are more pre-installed on the 3DS version than the PC version (2.0), but the 3DS version doesn't include a level editor), so you don't even have to look around on the internet. Some are made by some quite notable people, such as Markus "Notch" Persson, the creator of Minecraft. One complaint I'd have about this, however, is that there isn't an easy in-game way to download extra levels. I think (don't quote me on this) you've got the find the file on the internet elsewhere and then paste it into a certain folder. I'm not sure if there even is a way to do this on the 3DS. I think there should have been some kind of easy way in-game to browse the internet for levels people have made public. They could upload them to some sort of cloud, where everyone could have access. It'd be much easier than the actual system, and a possibility for further downloadable levels to be placed onto the 3DS, if they can't already.
Into the level editor itself, I think it's quite thorough and not too hard to use if you don't want to go too advanced. But I do have a few problems: first, you're not really told any of the controls for the level editor, so you'll have to find out what does what through fiddling about with your keyboard. It gets even worse in the script editor and stuff like that. I can't tell what anything in there does. It may be my inability to cope with any kind of script editing that causes this, but I think a help feature for the level editor wouldn't have gone amiss. Unless they were trying to deter newbies with no technical knowledge from creating crappy levels and putting them on the internet. Which I, if this is the true reason behind it, commend them for.
I'd like to get off the subject of the level editor now and return to the main game. I think it'd be nice if there were some extra levels even after the Secret Lab. In VVVVVV, some levels introduce new mechanics: for example, the Warp Zone includes a wrap around feature, where, if you go off one side of the screen, you'll return on the opposite; the Tower is a large, autoscrolling room. If there were more levels, new mechanics could be introduced - for example, a room where you can flip between all four sides of the room, as opposed to the top and the bottom, or a sideways autoscrolling level (because the Tower scrolls upwards). Also, each level has a different look to it, with different background styles. More levels could introduce even more of these.
So yeah, that's pretty much what I feel should have been in VVVVVV. As far as I know, I don't think there are any Beta elements. There hasn't been too much this time, I'll admit, but it's a start on what could be the dawn of a new age for Critic Corner, a brighter age, an...
In conclusion, (despite what I've said, because, after all, my job here is to nitpick), this game is awesome and if you don't have it you should get it. You should get it on a PC instead of a 3DS, because on a PC it's cheaper and, in my opinion, you can do more with it.
What Could Have Happened If…
What Could Have Happened If... Sega won the console war against Nintendo?
Well, they would still be making consoles. (duh)
But would Sega have been the first to make a motion-based console like Nintendo? Would Sonic develop into the spin-off full series that the Mario series has been? What would Sega have made after the Dreamcast? This question just brings up more and more questions about the future of the company. But what I do know, is that Sega would get crushed by Sony and Microsoft even if it did get past Nintendo.
Why? Nintendo has survived this long because it has a lot of different successful series. Think about it, they have Mario, Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, and Kirby. What did Sega have other than Sonic? I honestly had never heard of half the Sega characters before I played All-Stars Racing. Heck, Nintendo's falling to Microsoft and Sony since the Kinect and Move came out. How would Sega have survived that? Sega still would have made a big contribution, like they did in real life, when they first made online gaming.
Basically, if Sega had won the 90s war, I would have a PS3. Not a Wii.
Answer: If Sega had beaten Nintendo, they would have collapsed to the modern competition
Obligatory greeting followed by arbitrary re-introduction to this section. As many of you may remember, last year I wrote a section about sexism in video games, illustrating several reasons for why games are still falling short of creating truly amazing female characters. This year is seeing quite a lot of attention being put towards shining the spotlight on fleshed out, believable female characters, which is great, but there are still a few rough patches going on in the industry here and there which is to be expected. Of course the issue wouldn't just go away magically after a recreational amateur writer like me wrote about it, but I am interested in the most recent complication concerning the portrayal of female characters in our medium; that being the publisher drive to remove them from existence full stop. Yes, that's… really happening.
Specifically, it seems it's become a powerful image amongst publishers that a game simply won't sell if it has a female protagonist, let alone one that isn't oversexualised. Recently we had Jean-Maxime Moris, the creative director behind the upcoming Remember Me, elaborate in an interview with Penny Arcade that finding a publisher for the game was difficult because they were told that their female protagonist Nilin just was not acceptable at all. “We had some [companies] that said, 'Well, we don't want to publish it because that's not going to succeed. You can't have a female character in games. It has to be a male character, simple as that,” Moris explained.
Naughty Dog suffered similar pressures concerning Ellie's prominence on the cover art for their upcoming release The Last of Us, being told to push Ellie to the back of the box art and leave only the male protagonist Joel on the cover. This is despite the fact that The Last of Us displays an extremely strong focus on the character dynamic between Joel and Ellie, and her role in the game extends beyond story relevancy and character development as she's shown to be absolutely vital to the core gameplay. Naughty Dog also revealed recently they had to specifically ask Sony to focus-test female players as well as male ones, otherwise Sony were perfectly content with just getting male opinion on the game's validity.
We also saw Irrational Games removing the lead support character of BioShock Infinite Elizabeth from the front cover, instead delegating her to the back of the box-art while protagonist Booker DeWitt in a generic tough guy pose stands front and centre. I call this one a true sin because, having played BioShock Infinite, I can say that Elizabeth is a truly outstanding character who deserves far more respect than that, especially when she's the complete core of that game through and through. And yet it was just decided that the game wouldn't sell if people knew that fact, as if embracing and showcasing any degree of outstanding character development or emotional impact from a female character would ruin the expectations of the audience.
Does this sound a bit trivial to you, like I'm making a big deal of nothing? If it does then that's exactly right, so then why are these publishers treating this like it's an issue as well? They're creating problems where there absolutely should be none, all because their bottom line seems to rely on the stereotype that the gaming community is still primarily populated by adolescent or juvenile-minded white heterosexual males who are too fixated on projecting a hypermasculine, empowered image to care about broad appeal or artistic integrity. But this is a very wrong image, a very wrong approach to business, ignoring that the success of the supposed “casual” markets relied strongly on appealing to a broad demographic rather than limiting the appeal to the stereotypical young male gamer that so many publishers are short-sightedly so comfortable catering to. It's a little distressing that such iconic and important figures in the industry – who we rely on to offer their financial support to some of our favourite triple-A experiences – still subscribe to such archaic, discriminatory sentiments, especially baffling since you'd think they would notice the increasing amount of women operating in the industry in very important positions.
But aside from sexism, these events have displayed a significant degree of homophobia as well. Jean-Maxime Moris stated that publishers were displeased with their decision to give Nilin a male romantic interest, claiming that having the player virtually kiss a male in the game would be “weird”. He said, “We had people tell us, 'You can't make a dude like the player kiss another dude in the game, that's going to feel awkward.'” In what world could that ever be construed as an awkward scenario, unless you're that insecure about your sexuality that the slightest “challenge” against it throws you into an existential crisis? Art, films, books, television, and music have all spent a long time exploring the nature of deep, meaningful emotional attachments starring women as the primary protagonists, to the acclaim and appreciation of millions across the world, so what makes video games any different? I know the gaming community doesn't have the best history with depicting believable, serious romances even with male protagonists, but it's an unbelievable assertion that women protagonists somehow don't deserve to have a straight partner because that's somehow “uncomfortable” for male gamers. They deserve better than that.
Now I should note that Irrational Games founder Ken Levine – who I have a tremendous degree of respect for on most topics – defended the box art change for BioShock Infinite, explaining that he wanted the game to sell to as broad an audience as possible and believed that the generic box art was the only way to do so. Supporting him on the point that BioShock Infinite is fantastic and definitely deserves to be played by as many people as is possible, is he right in his assumption that the so-called “average gamer” only cares for grizzled white heterosexual male protagonists to such a point that sales are legitimately harmed by the emphasis on less “masculine” aspects of the game? And if he is correct, is he contributing to the problem by adhering to the standards and stereotypes the gaming community has created in relation to the relevancy and validity of female characters in the industry?
Although a study recently pointed out that games with exclusively female lead characters receive less marketing support than those with exclusively male leads, which also displayed the unbelievably low amount of games with only female protagonists. I'll admit that the results are a bit vague and narrow, but the general idea it puts forth is a disturbing notion, and brings up questions of why this marketing strategy is the way it is. Is the reason for this because gamers really are terrified of games with heroines for whatever reason, and publishers are just responding in like, or is it because publishers are failing to acknowledge customer demand and are instead buying into stereotypes? It's hard to say, but what's clear is that something desperately needs to change for this industry to truly mature and establish itself as an inclusive medium capable of entertaining and engaging all demographics. It's just a matter of who's going to make the first move.
The fact that these small displays are a problem at all just illustrates the industry does still have issues with women, as much as some people would like to deny that, and that we really should be addressing it and letting publishers know this is not OK. Gender disparity and disenfranchisement are real concerns that continue to be enforced and perpetuated within gaming and its community, and it's our duty as lovers of this medium to stand up and ask for better from our publishers, developers, marketers, and other lovers of the medium just the same. As I said in my last section about women's rights in gaming, we can accomplish a lot if we invest effort into it, and I think decimating the poor ideals on which gender, ideology, orientation or ethnic background will sell best is an endeavour worth working towards. Hope you enjoyed this section; hopefully things improve enough that I won't have to write another section like this again. See you again next month!