Tag Archives: Capcom

The Year of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons

A while back, I set myself the goal of finishing all of the Zelda games I’ve yet to play before I start the latest game in the series, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Oracle of Seasons is the first one I can tick off that list.

Originally released for the Game Boy Color back in 2001, just as the ageing handheld was being superseded by the Game Boy Advance, Oracle of Seasons is an odd fish. For a start, it was the first Zelda game to be developed by an outside studio, Capcom, and confusingly, it was actually released as two games – Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. At the time, I assumed that this dual release was a way to jump on the Pokemon bandwagon, a tactic of releasing two basically identical games with a few minor differences. But that’s not the case – each game is a fully fledged, unique, standalone adventure, although there’s an overarching narrative that spans the two. Cleverly, you get a password when you complete one of them that lets you carry over your save game to the next instalment, although it doesn’t matter which order you play the games in.

Apparently, the whole thing was originally going to be THREE games, each representing an aspect of the Triforce. But the third game was cancelled, and the protracted development saw the concept undergo enormous changes – hence why the games were released so late into the GBC’s life cycle. In fact, they didn’t emerge until well after the release of the GBA, the GBC’s replacement. The Oracle games’ huge ambition and wonderful graphics are typical of late-stage software for an ageing console, as developers finally master the hardware and are able to push it to its absolute limits.

The Rod of Seasons lets you change, ahem, the season, which is key to solving puzzles.

But to start with, I wasn’t enormously enthusiastic about playing Oracle of Seasons. I recalled a few reviews from the time being a little lukewarm about the game, especially in the wake of the astonishing Ocarina of Time, so I never saw it as a ‘must-play’ title. How wrong I was.

I’ll just put this out there right now – I reckon Oracle of Seasons is better than Link’s Awakening. In fact, I’d easily class it in my top 5 Zelda games, it’s that good. It’s just packed with so many great ideas, such as a boxing kangaroo called Ricky that you can ride on to leap over holes and punch out enemies. (In fact, that bit was so fun, it’s a real shame that Link stuck to riding boring old horses in the later entries – bring back Ricky, I say.) The collectible items are also inspired, particularly the magnetic gloves, which allow you to attract or repel certain enemies and pull yourself across gaps by latching onto a metal pole.

Hey Ricky, you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Ricky!

But it’s the brilliant dungeons that really make the game. The below instalment of Boss Keys does a much better job than I could of explaining what makes these dungeons so good. They’re a joy to play through – challenging but never frustrating, with a real sense of achievement when you make it through alive. Wonderful stuff.

I’ve already started on the next game, Oracle of Ages, and judging by how much I enjoyed Oracle of Seasons, The Year of Zelda is going to be a very fun year indeed.


This article is part of The Year of Zelda, an attempt to play through all of the Zelda games I’ve yet to finish.

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Spiffing Reads: VR Arcades, Zero Wing and Capcom vs Square Enix

This week on Spiffing Reads, we start start off with how the games industry has finally woken up and listened to some of my amazing ideas.

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Why VR arcades could be virtual reality’s salvation (Polygon)

Back in 2012, I visited an arcade for the first time in years, and found it to be a thoroughly dispiriting experience. The endless driving and shooting games showed a desperate lack of imagination, and I put out a call for developers to make the arcade into an more of an ‘experience’: “What about a game where you go over Niagara Falls in a force-feedback barrel? A space shoot-em up where you fly on the back of an animatronic octopus? An augmented reality game where you shoot down invisible attacking monsters that only you can see?” Well, four years later, someone finally listened. The latest VR arcades in the Far East sound phenomenal – here’s hoping we see them in the UK soon.

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Zero Wing had 32 weird secret endings in Japan (Legends of Localization)

The line “All your base are belong to us” has long been held up as a legendarily terrible example of Japanese to English translation, and is emblematic of the often quite shoddy translation work (and poor game scripts) in the 1980s and 90s. The line came from the shoot ’em up Zero Wing, but only now has it been revealed that the Japanese version of the game had 35 different endings (the English version had 3) – and they were all utterly bonkers. Example: “After I beat you, I’m gonna clean-clean the world. And then I want to build even more bases!”

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Square Enix and Capcom march towards contrasting futures (GamesIndustry.biz)

Another great feature from Rob Fahey, who wrote a scathing report on Electronic Arts last week. This time, he’s looking at the business strategies of Square Enix and Capcom, and it makes for fascinating reading. I was surprised at just how much money Square Enix is making from mobile: “Last year, its mobile revenues overtook its revenue from console games. This year so far, it’s made more money from mobile games than from console games and MMOs (its third largest business segment) combined.”


Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.

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On Resident Evil: I don’t feel I need to explain my art to you, Warren

ResiEvil

I have an inkling that Resident Evil 2 may have been the first game I ever preordered. Sure I’d looked forward to games before – even pored over every detail in catalogues before release – but Resident Evil was my first foray into the sort of bona fide fandom where I cared about the characters on the screen so much I would lay down a few bucks in advance to see it continue. So where Capcom – and its shambling horde – went I would follow.

And despite various trajectory changes I was right up there along for the ride. While there is no doubt in my mind that Resident Evil 2 is where the series hit its peak, I’ve found something to love in every entry, and from the Nemesis of RE3 to Terragrigia of RE:Revelations I’d be there playing along with rabid fervour.

That was until Resident Evil 6 came along, which between releasing right around the time of my XCOM fixation and the horribly negative reception it received at release, couldn’t manage to compel me enough to commit to playing it. So there it sat neglected on my shelf for almost half a decade as the only Resident Evil game I’d not played since 1996. It seemed I’d fallen out of love with the series I’d loved so much for so long.

Capcom’s rediscovered love for Resident Evil with its remastering of the last three numbered games – on its 20th Anniversary no less – has presented the perfect opportunity to rekindle my not-dead-just-sleeping love for the series. And while starting with Resident Evil 6 seems a completely non-sensical place to start, for me it was picking up right where i left off in the hope that I’d spark something magical in my brain.

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And wow did it do just that. The impossible situations, the ridiculous over-the top mutations (I think the Tyrannosaurus Rex mutation is my favourite thing in the series, ever), the rambunctious dialogue; the memories quickly came flooding back of the many joyous hours I’d had with the series. It may have started as a quaint little survival horror game, but regardless of how over-the-top Resident Evil 6 is, it is still chock-bloody-full of those oh-so-sweet ingredients.

But – and I’m happy to have shit smeared in my face for this – its the characters that made me crack a fat for the series. And Resident Evil 6 is filled to the brim with not-so-minor cameos from the pantheon of the scarily incestuous and intertwined Resident Evil universe. Chris, Leon, Jill, Claire, Barry, Albert : they’re the fabric that holds the universe together. Don’t even get me started on how excited I was the moment a now-very-much-adult Sherry Birkin appeared.

In the years Between 1998 when the first Resident Evil is set and its fifth sequel’s 2012 setting there is a recurring theme of unlikely reunions.  How Chris and Leon manage to both be after Ada Wong  in Resident Evil 6 is beyond any sort of reasonable logic. And how Ada Wong continues to cross paths with Leon is ridiculous in its probability that they both should buy lottery tickets. And then there’s the brilliant way in which the most super of super villains, Albert Wesker, manages to somehow find his way into masterminding these ridiculous plots up until his timely death. Even his son Jake manages to get in on the action as a main playable character.

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Resident Evil may be a slave to its own characters and lore, but what it does with it all never feels like it’s just running on the fumes of what equates to official fan fiction. It’s silly, absolutely, but it feels like the writers of the games are absolutely self-aware about just how much it feels like a ridiculously violent soap opera at times. I’m sure the guys in charge of the series know the sort of reverence fans have for its characters, and viewed through that lens, each and every game feels like a vessel to deliver cool and pulpy stories for them to star in. Take the guns and ultra-violence away and it’s basically Neighbours and Albert Wesker is Paul Robinson.

So after years of playing Resident Evil it’s impossible to come to any conclusion on the series other than “it is what it is”.  I’ve never asked Capcom to explain its art to me and nor should they have to. But years later I find myself with a new found respect for the decisively action-heavy turn the series took after Resident Evil 4. For starters it makes sense that what starts as an isolated incident turns into a catastrophe over time when not contained. But when you look it as a character-driven serial it becomes clear that the package the action comes in matters diddly to the overall experience. Resident Evil was the first game I played where I cared about the plight of the characters; and that’s a legacy worth celebrating.

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32 years of brilliant video game box art – #17 (1998) Resident Evil 2

Another year, another countdown, another birthday.  And I’m boxing it all up, tying a nice little bow around it, and turning the ripe old age of 32 with a celebration of 32 BRILLIANT examples of FANTASTIC video game box art.  Join me, won’t you?


Resident Evil 2 (1998) –
 Honestly, the North American box art for Resident Evil 2 is complete rubbish on its own, but when you compare against what was sitting on store shelves in PAL territories, it’s a travesty.  You don’t tend to associate the Resident Evil series with class, but that’s exactly what the cover for the second (and best) game exudes, pure bloody class.  It does what all best horror films do, giving just enough of a glimpse of why you should be on edge, without telling you what should be putting you there.  It’s what makes Japanese horror films so effective while their (largely American) english-speaking counterparts fail.  The fear of the unknown is half the terror, and that’s something that Resident Evil 2’s stunning box art is a masterclass in.  Sadly no game in the series since has reached such dizzying heights.

And that colour scheme, well, that would send young modern-emo kids into a fit of orgasmic pleasure.  But seeing it it here, I can almost understand why.

Resident Evil 2

Miss previous entries in the countdown?

Space Ace (1983) – Transylvania (1984) – Impossible Mission (1985)Defender of the Crown (1986) – Faery Tale Adventure (1987) – F/A – 18 Interceptor (1988) – Blood Money (1989) – King of the Zoo (1990) – Lemmings (1991) – Pinball Fantasies (1992) – The Ren & Stimpy Show: Veediots! (1993) – Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land (1994)Primal Rage (1995) – Wipeout 2097 (1996)  – Theme Hospital (1997)

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Through being cool

Dante_DMCWhen i was a young university-aged adult i wanted desperately to be a cool dad when i grew up.  By age 18 I’d met ‘the one’, which in my slightly over-studied and hormone fuelled mind, meant that I was on an accelerated path to parenthood.   In the heady days that were the early 2000’s I was listening to Punk rock and Pantera, wearing studded belts and shorts down to my knees and socks up to just thereabouts.  And it was at this height of youth that I had grandiose visions of being a 20-something father in that image, the cool dad that listened to cool music and wore cool clothes, the kind of dad my theoretical kids would think was so cool they’d never be embarrassed to bring their friends home.  Of course none of that panned out, as I grew up and grew out of that phase, largely leaving all of it behind, much to the delight of my parents and now fiancee.  Time is a wonderful thing.

Around that same time, Capcom’s classic was on the minds of that same uni student, and the Devil May Cry series was the king of my own Playstation 2 mountain. The combination of stylish combat, amazing art design, and what was a technical marvel at the time, had me playing and replaying each entry in the series over and over again.  Every game was the same, I’d slog my way through to the end credits, and then turn around and started all over again.

But I think what sealed the deal for me was the character of Dante himself, who was by far the coolest video game character around, and full of the kind of attitude that would appeal to any red-blooded teenage bloke hell bent of venting that testosterone from their veins.

And people were bloody angry when Capcom went and redesigned Dante.

He was still the same bloke, the same gun-toting sword wielding Nephilim Son of Sparda demon hunter and all that, just looked a little bit different to the guy we used to know.  Gone were the silky smooth white locks, gone was the epitome of Japanese character design circa 2001, and gone was the overly-buckled leather chest-baring ensemble.  In was a younger more modern and dare I say more masculine version of demon hunter that ditched the ornate look and feel of old Dante, and replaced it with a more casual and functional design.

It wasn’t the biggest overhaul, it wasn’t the biggest reboot, and it wasn’t a far sight away from the original design.  But the internet wanted none of it.  They wanted the status quo.  They loved old Dante.  And hey, sure, like the rest of the internet I still have a soft spot for that sassy white-haired trench coat wearing Dante that wowed me so many years ago.  But you’d have to be blind as a platypus in water not to see that watching him run around slaying demons, what with his ‘look’ and all, was becoming a little bit like watching an old hair metal star prance about wearing mascara and a leather jacket.  And if Capcom didn’t change him, he’d be a relic of a bygone age, an embarrassing reminder of what was once cool.  Part of what made Devil May Cry so great back when it was first released was how edgy it was, but 15 years later in an age where most kids utter the “c-word” by age 10 and are sexting by age 16, Dante’s particular brand of sarcastic shenanigans was practically tame.  And tame isn’t what the game that changed so much, and inspired so many, was ever based on.

And that needed to start with Dante.  He needed to get with the times and Capcom needed to get him there – kicking and screaming if need be.  Time goes by, and with it, what’s cool inevitably goes with it.  Much like the odd stalwart Pantera fan you sometimes see on the street, still sporting ripped up jeans and flannelette shirt and toting a bottle of Jim Beam, it was time someone pulled him aside and told him to move on.  Because I bet if he has kids at home they don’t think he’s as cool as he thinks he is.

DanteDMC

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Placemaking: Dead Rising’s Willamette Parkview Mall

WilametteThe moment you step into the corridor that leads into the vast and open plaza that is the setting for Dead Rising, you are in Willamette Parkview Mall.  From the lazy Sunday afternoon muzak that plays across the loud speakers, the way the light pours in through the large pane glass windows onto the expensive but daggy patterned floor tiles, to even the more simple of things like the way the virtual mall is designed, it all perfectly depicts a place we’ve all been to at some point in our lives.  It isn’t a place designed around a game premise, it is a place that just happens to be a perfect place for a game premise. You see Dead Rising’s developers created, or perhaps recreated, the perfect real life environment.  Put the zombies aside for a moment, and if you can briefly put aside shoving a shower head in a zombies head and run blood straight from their brain, and the mall feels like a living a breathing public space.

From the outset the game’s artists have created even the smallest details in painstaking detail.  From the kitsch logo designs of the chain stores scattered around the outside of a cluttered food court that at capacity wouldn’t be inviting enough to spend any time in over and above how long it takes to scoff down your meal, to the lairy turquoise and electric blue carpet and mock film advertisements that adorn the walls in the Colby’s Movieland cinema, Willamette Parkview Mall is like any other you’d find scattered around the suburbs of most western countries. It’s so real you can almost hear the parents yelling after their annoying children and the loud teenagers engaging in their post-pubescent mall-based mating rituals. SeafoodDR But as someone that worked part time in a supermarket while I was at University, it was Seon’s Food and Stuff located in the still under construction North Plaza, that really grabbed me and tickled my nostalgic fancy.  From the kind of cool but still a bit ‘by committee’ decor and discombobulating layout of the store, to the ridiculously energy inefficient spread of the dairy produce areas, it had all the hallmarks of your modern day one-stop shop supermarket that made it feel almost real.  Need MEATS or SEAFOOD?  Well look no further, Seon’s got you covered.  If you can’t find what your after, our friendly manager Steven Chapman will be able to assist you, to make sure you go away a happy customer.  When he’s not trying to kill your with an armed trolley, that is.  I did say almost real.

Seldom does a game come along where I feel like I ‘know’ its world inside and out, where I’m not constantly looking over a mini map, or even worse entering a menu to find out where I need to go. Even Dead Rising’s sequels never quite gave me that same level of familiarity, and although I came to love both Fortune City and Los Perdidos, they never quite matched how well I came to know that bustling shopping mall in Colorado.  When Otis said there was a man in North Plaza, I knew exactly where he meant.  When he told me there was a bloke that needed rescuing in Al Fresca Plaza I didn’t even need to stop at the information desk and ask for directions.

It’s a rare thing when a game accurately represents the world around you and accurately captures those minor details you often take no notice of in the real world.  But it’s quite another when the game makes you feel like you’re somewhere you know like the back of your hand.  Dead Rising does both, and if it wasn’t for the zombie apocalypse taking place in the halls and plazas of Willamette Parkview Mall, I’d swear it was located somewhere close to my childhood home in suburban Adelaide.

Have a favourite place in a video game?  One that you spent so much time in it began to feel like home? Tell us in the comments. Seon'sFoodandStuff

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Resident Evil: Revelations – A Return To Form?

Resident Evil Revelations 3DS Box ArtWhen Capcom revamped Resident Evil: Revelations for console release recently, I was tempted to pick it up for the Wii U. After playing the demo though, it just didn’t quite feel right on the big screen – it was designed for the 3DS after all – so I ended up buying the original 3DS version instead. What became a slightly underwhelming console game is truly a graphical marvel on a handheld.

At a computer show back in the nineties, I remember playing a demo of an ill-fated attempt to convert Resident Evil to the original Game Boy. The game never saw the light of day, but the demo was impressive – somehow they’d managed to get the underpowered 8-bit handheld to display rudimentary pseudo-3D graphics, and I remember the excitement of playing through the first level. In the end though the game never saw the light of day, and we ended up with the perfectly serviceable but considerably less pretty Resident Evil Gaiden instead.

Resident Evil on the Game Boy Color - apparently the game was almost finished but never got released.

Resident Evil on the Game Boy Color – apparently the game was almost finished but never got released.

Cut to 2012 and we were finally, FINALLY treated to a fully fledged 3D Resident Evil game on a portable console* – but was it worth the wait? Interestingly, Capcom chose to set Revelations on a cruise ship, just like Gaiden, and it proves to be an inspired decision. The cramped setting harks back to the mansion of the original 1996 Resident Evil, and it’s all the better for it. It lends the game a claustrophobia that really suits the series, and it feels far more fitting than the open air roaming of Resident Evil 5. Unlike the original game though, ammo is in much more plentiful supply, so you never quite feel the desperation of trying to make every single bullet count, and the oppressive hordes of shuffling zombies consequently don’t feel like as much of a threat as they should do.

I used the Circle Pad Pro when playing, and I liked the way the game lets you switch to first person when aiming. Having said that though, the Pro itself is a cumbersome beast, and the extra pad is in exactly the wrong position – it should be underneath the buttons, not slung out on the far right. I actually started developing pains in my right thumb after playing for a while. The pad clearly needs a rethink, and hopefully the next generation of 3DS will have a second pad in that sweet spot under the B button.

Still, back in the actual game, I really like what they’ve done with the inventory system – gone is the tedious inventory shuffling of old, and instead the only dilemma you’re faced with is what gun to bring with you, up to a maximum of three. It keeps things moving nicely, but it still retains a tactical element, especially when it comes to choosing which weapons to upgrade.

The zombies are pleasingly shuffly, just like the original.

The zombies are pleasingly shuffly, just like the original.

Another aspect I like is the episode format – the game is divided into 12 or so episodes, each of which begins with a LOST-style “Previously on Resident Evil Revelations…” recap, and it suits the handheld format perfectly in terms of providing bite-sized chunks of gameplay. What I wasn’t particularly fond of, however, is the way you keep being dragged out of the main story – Jill’s exploration of the ship – to play as other characters in fairly inconsequential gameplay sections. It just ends up diluting the game, when all I really wanted to do was barrel around the ship as Jill.

rer-parker-lucianiSpeaking of the other characters though, I have to give a shout out to newcomer Parker Luciani, who has quickly eclipsed Barry Burton as one of my all time favourites. With his unplaceable accent, magnificent beard and physique verging towards what some might call “stocky”, Parker is someone you can’t fail to warm to. Shame his dialogue too frequently falls into Barry Burton-esque “master of unlocking” awfulness, although the voice actor does his darned best to rise above the naffness of the script.

That’s the trouble, see – in terms of story and dialogue, Resident Evil has barely moved beyond its schlocky origins, and Revelations acts like it’s still 1996. The plot is, for the most part, pretty damn terrible, and some of the dialogue is beyond belief. This kind of stuff was forgivable in 1996, but not in 2013.

Still, I have a soft spot for Resident Evil games, and this is certainly a lot better than Resident Evil 5 (and probably Resident Evil 6 too, although I’ve yet to play it). The trouble is, the designers just don’t seem to know where to go with the series, although the move back towards more cramped interiors feels right. Revelations isn’t quite the return to form it should have been, but it’s on the right track, and it’s certainly a fun way to spend a few hours.

 

*After writing this I discovered that a version of the original PlayStation game (Resident Evil: Deadly Silence) was ported to the Nintendo DS in 2006, so technically Revelations this isn’t the first 3D Resi game on a handheld – although it’s the first one in actual 3D. Although to be honest you don’t notice the 3D after a while – Nintendo still seem to be the only ones who can actually use the 3D effect properly in their games.

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