October 21, 2016

Top 12 Creepy Nintendo Locations

Alright, so, quite some time ago, I discussed the 12 moments in Nintendo series that scared me the most, I’ll be honest, most of those moments actually touched on primal fears, ones that I have, but ones that anybody can relate to; and that was the strength of many of these scenes. It's agreat thing about many Nintendo titles that. either in the story in the ambiance they try to convey, they attempt to scare, or feature scenarios that call to one’s fears.

Although, most examples I gave back then were actually about the story in the games discussed. Some of those points were about ambiance, but not many. And yet, ambiance is one of the most important elements in the production of any work of fiction. The looks of a place and the music that can be heard in it. The events that happen in it are amplified by these elements. That’s why it’s so important to not only feature a good story, but to also have the accompanying ambiance. You can’t just slap a scary place somewhere and expect it to do the job! It’s an exercise in subtlety where a game’s developers have to build up the suspense, the dread, sometimes with implications that the player may not pick on. And that’s before anything plot-relevant happens!

As an homage to the art of ambiance, today I am listing 12 of the creepiest Nintendo locations – and why they deserve this spot on the list.

12. Ripple Star (Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards)
RememberÉ: You're pretty much inside the swarm of
Dark Matters.
Starting with a Kirby location! While researching for this list, I noticed Kirby had a lot of scary final bosses, but very few locations that were outright scary. Ripple Star is another story. Imagine the easy first level of the game, except instead of taking place in a grassland with a nice sand walkway, it’s… well, basically Hell. The floor is red, made of these weird unnatural hexagons. The sky is completely black. In fact, is that even a sky, we can’t really tell; if anything, all this blackness is actually Dark Matter blocking the entire sky. The music in Ripple Star 6-2 is horrible, closer to noise than an actual melody, and you will rush through just to make the maddening composition end. The place is so barren, too; say what you want about World 8 in Super Mario Bros 3, but it was full of enemies and interesting traps. The lack of danger between Kirby and the final boss is probably the scariest; it’s like the boss wants Kirby to easily get to him…

October 19, 2016

America, we need to talk

Are you American? Are you of voting age? Good! Pease read through this.

For well over a year now, the media has been all about the American elections. And, to be fair, it's not difficult to see why: The next person to be elected President of the United States will have a major impact not only on the lives of most, if not all Americans, but also on the rest of the world. It's a very powerful position. The third and final debate between the two major presidential nominees, Republican Donald J. Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, is tonight, and the vote will be held on November 8, 2016.

Now, I'm rarely one to bring up actual politics on this blog. I'll be talking every once in a while about the video game industry and everything around it, but actual elections, in particular ones that are not held in my country? That's rare. Anyway, this election has been, so far, just a laughable matter. Between the extremes on both sides, Trump's incresingly jackass tendencies (and fucking PRIDE in being an all-around horrible human being), and Hillary trying her best despite the past (gers and her husband's) coming back to haunt her... It's a shitshow. There's no other word.

And I completely understand the diillusion millions of American feel towards the system, what with so many feeling like they would rather vote for neither of them. Let's just admit it, democracy is ill these days. And not just in the United States, mind you. The situation's pretty rotten everywhere. And we all hold a part of the blame for this. We've allowed corruption to run rampant for way too long, we accepted that the craziest candidates would have a chance. Democracy is just NOT doing well.

However, I strongly suggest that you watch tonight's debate, or at least stay informed about it. This is the last chance for these two to answer to important questions on their programs and how they'll change some elements of your life in the next four years. I can understand that you're fed up with the crazy-long American elections - in Canada, last year we had our longest elections, two months, and by the end we were all freaking fed up of it. I can't imagine a whole year of that stuff. But this debate is still important.

Far more important, I know neither of these options are very appealing... but seriously, please, go vote on November 8th. First off, never underestimate the power of a few more voices for the candidate you wish to see enter the White House. Second, even if you're less voting "for" someone and more voting "against" someone (as in, vote Trump to stop Hillary, or vote Hillary to stop Trump). It's not a very enjoyable thing, but if you absolutely loathe one of the presidential nominees, vote for the other that you don't hate nearly as much. Or, you know, vote for an independent party. Either way, go vote. I personally believe that if you don't go vote, you lose the right to complain if your least favorite candidate gets the keys to the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

However, here is the main thing to keep in mind: Stop treating this election like it's entertainment. "Hoy doy, I was asleep the last eight hours, now let's see what else Donald Trump said that pissed everyone off except his most devoted fans!" "Now is the continuation of my favorite reality show! Will they finally discover what was in Hillary's e-mails?" No. Just no. All of the No. You should not think of this shitshow as something to watch like a year-long comedy series. Donald Trump is not the latest South Park addition. Hillary is not a cartoon villain trying to hide secrets and "steal America" or whatever else. You should get rightfully annoyed at those who believe there's nothing serious in this election, and you should call out every single new controversy that pops up. Let me say it again: The person that is elected as the next President of the United States will have an immense amount of power and control over the lives of almost 300 million people, and will be a non-negligeable influence on international politics as well, and this for the next four years.

That includes you. If you're an American, this will have an impact on you. Therefore, you NEED to read up on what each party suggests, what either political leaning wants to bring forward once they've won. Vote with your brains, not with your heart. But most of all, you need to get your voice heard. I know the current political climate doesn't encourage you to go out and vote, but please, go vote. The results of this election WILL have an impact on your life. You need to figure out, if you haven't yet, which candidate has plans, projects and views that fit closest to what you believe in, and check the box next to that candidate's representant in your State.

(Even if the inauguration isn't until January next year, the fact of the matter is that the party that wins this election will still have an awful lot of power once the inauguration is over.)

(And yes, I realize that I'm a French Canadian and that I shouldn't have any lessons to give to any American. Problem is: We're right next door. I live two hours away from Maine. This election will also affect us. So please, vote for which one you believe to be the best candidate for the role of POTUS.)

(And before you ask, if I were American, I would vote Hillary, not because I agree with everything she says, in fact there are many things in her program that I wholly disagree on... but it's either her or a racist, xenophobic asshole who freely admits he sexually harasses women, doesn't pay his taxes despite being rich, and brags about the size of his dick on TV. Also because I wouldn't ever trust Trump ruling over the U.S. for four years, and I certainly wouldn't trust him in situations that require diplomacy. But hey, my poitt still stands: vote for whoever you want. You live in a free country. Vote Clinton, vote Trump, but please, vote.)

October 17, 2016

Super Metroid (Part 2)

Alright, so Samus found a bunch of stuff in the previous part. Like, a lot of stuff, and each one of these things allowed her to move forward. And so her exploration continued, and she headed deeper into Planet Zebes, finding more stuff and becoming able to access more zones.

To be fair, the Grapple Beam turns out to be leagues better
than the Hookshot.
That's a Metroidvania in a nutshell, and that’s how we like these games. Anyway, Samus backtracks all the way to the start, can save at her ship, and then heads east into the wrecked ship. To get there, she must cross an area covered in water. No! Her greatest weakness! Not that it hurts her to be underwater, apparently her suit is equipped with everything to let her run down there without a hitch, but she can’t swim, and no way to jump out of the water onto a high ledge. Well, despite these problems, Samus uses her Hookshot – I mean, grapple beam – to reach the other side, entering a creepy abandoned ship.

Now, we could explore around more if we wanted, but the ship is abandoned, and its power has run low. A lot of doors don’t work just yet. In a way, a Metroidvania is a giant world to explore, but you can only access the later areas and advance the plot by getting some particular abilities first. That’s the genius of the genre; it’s a gentle form of platformer railroading, but it doesn’t feel like it. Hell, I am following a walkthrough to play this game (don’t have time to search) and even here, I found some things before the walkthrough directed me to them, because I was searching my way around (it's so easy to get lost) and discovered stuff that could be accessed even without the ice beam or the Hookshot –I mean, grapple beam. Dammit, I gotta remember.

October 14, 2016

Super Metroid (Part 1)

Hype is an odd thing. When it gets out of hand, people get disappointed. Some creators, some studios cultivate hype in the hopes that their work becomes widely discussed and sells a lot. In fact, hype seems to lead the entire industry of entertainment nowadays. Unfortunately, it happens frequently that a piece of entertainment dosn't measure up to the hype, leading to deception for many hopeful fans. *cough*NoMansSky*cough* There’s hype for a single solitary piece of work, but there’s also the powerful fandoms around a franchise or another, which makes it a tad intimidating for someone to get into a new franchise. The fans love it so much, will I enjoy it too? What if I don’t? That’s always the question.

Impressive physical prowess, arm cannon, screw attack...
Yep: Don't fuck with Samus Aran.
Among the Nintendo franchises, there are quite a few series I never got into: Mother, Animal Crossing, Xenoblade… and the most famous one of the bunch, Metroid. Half the trope namer for Metroidvania, a type of game where the player has one giant world to explore, with save points scattered around, and must find and collect abilities and upgrades to be able to progress. The later zones are out of reach until a certain upgrade has been found, and on the way there are bosses and other opponents to battle.

So, if I wanted to get into a new franchise, of course I had to choose one of its best titles. Super Metroid has become famous for its opening lines, spoken to the player. “The last Metroid is in captivity. The galaxy is at peace.” Of course, since it’s not the first Metroid game, there’s a bit of backstory to this one, making it a bit difficult for me to discuss this, but it’s not the first time I review the Nth title in a series without seeing the previous ones!

October 7, 2016

The Beginner's Guide

Steam is a gigantic digital boutique of video games. Titles that begin through Steam Greenlight range from fantastic to shovelware, with more survival titles than you can count, and all kinds of copiers. The service includes also dozens upon dozens of RPG Maker titles, and stuff that ranges from innovations to rehashs. But we can all agree that in this ocean of softwares, some were so ground-breaking and incredible that their developers’ names will make it into the Hall of fame of video games. Toby Fox, Scott Cawthon… and Davey Wreden.

Move around. That's all you need to do.
Flick a switch or two, maybe.
The creator of The Stanley Parable and The Beginner’s Guide, Davey Wreden, is a genius and I will hear no word to the contrary. Whereas Undertale revolutionized RPGs and Five Nights at Freddy’s reinstated a form of honor to horror games, Davey Wreden’s titles are some of the greatest examples of a genre known as “Environmental narrative”. This relatively new genre focuses on having as little gameplay as possible – frequently reducing it to a “walking simulator” (a term frequently used in a derogatory manner, but I don't) with few interactions here and there with the surrounding world – and instead attempts to tell an immersive story, seen as we walk around and often solve minimal puzzles. Don’t go in there expecting fights or complex controls. The genre is one of the most basic out there, doing away with most gameplay conventions, which also means a creator of environmental narrative games must excel in every other department (mostly story and design) to make up for the otherwise lacking number of actions the player can do.

A must-play.
One of the major problems with Davey Wreden’s games is that you can hardly discuss them without spoiling anything. I purchased both on Steam, and I have yet to play The Stanley Parable, but I’ve had some parts of it spoiled to me. And it's brilliant. A major selling point of The Stanley Parable was that its narrator would often have humorous reactions to the, ahem, stranger decisions made by the player. And that’s already saying too much. There is a problem with all these innovative games; they are so special, that almost every single aspect of them is a spoiler. Once again going back to Undertale, it’s supposed to be a surprise to the players that they can choose different paths of “morality”, but the game has been so widely discussed, memed, and referenced, that it’s not a spoiler anymore. It's a similar problem for The Beginner’s Guide: It’s extremely difficult to discuss any aspect of this game without spoiling any of it. Any player with enough deductive skills will figure out a lot of things out of even the simplest synopsis.

By the way, the game came out on October 1st, 2015 - so it's been almost one year and one week since its release. Talk about a coincidental date to review it.