You take games too seriously.

EXCLUSIVE: Gamestop Fixes Chrono Description

After a long day of  phone calls and faxes,  Hardcasual.net and Gamestop are proud to have reached an agreement on a revised sales description for Chrono Trigger DS.


Gamestop's Original Chrono Trigger Description

Gamestop's Original Chrono Trigger Description

The far more logical revision after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »


Filed under: Commentary, Story Analysis, , , , , , , , , , ,

GTA IV’s Brucie Kibbutz, the Man Behind the Curtain

If you haven’t had time to pop in your fresh copy of GTA IV and don’t want a single blood-spattered moment ruined for you, don’t read further. Though this article won’t go deep into the plot or contain any major spoilers, I will be talking almost exclusively about a character encountered a good two hours into the game. You’ve been warned.

At first, I had trouble connecting with GTA IV’s narrative. A few months ago, I saw Ken Levine speak about Bioshock, and he stated that designers must consider that the majority of buyers are meatheads who want to fire first and get story later. He may be right, because I couldn’t help it, but feel that the guns and guts weren’t coming soon enough. After a half-hour, I Googled “GTA IV cheats” to find the weapons, health, and spawn codes.

Then, for another half an hour or so, I went on a massacre across greater Liberty City—helicopter duels at the statue of liberty, grenade tosses on the highway, and, a new favorite, rocket-jumps off the Empire State Building.

With that out of my system, I returned to the campaign’s narrative, and have since been able to enjoy the game at a leisurely pace, even undertaking the wide variety of side-missions with my dealer, Little Jacob, my cousin, Roman, and my girlfriend, Michelle. Yeah, we’re so dating.

When I drunkenly drove Michelle to her house after drinks at Steinway Beer Garden, she announced we were an item. She then flew out the passenger window as the vehicle careened into the tale of an ice cream truck.

A similar event happened, again out of the blue, when I met a peculiar, wealthy man roaming the streets. I walked up to him, and the game entered a cinematic where he criticized my European heritage, then flattered himself by forking over a fresh one hundred dollar bill. Strapped on cash and in desperate need of health, I gladly took it. Then, as a symbol of true good fortune, I spotted a hotdog stand across the street—two steps forward and a garbage truck blindsided me.

What I’m getting at is GTA IV’s narratives, intentional or unintentional, are dark and brutal.

That’s why Brucie Kibbutz is both a breath of fresh air, and, for me, the cherry-on-top of a carefully crafted story sundae. Brucie’s a steroid-popping, car-thieving maniac. As a cliché, a stock version of the same character would play a lot like Biff. Instead, he’s highly likable and surprisingly wise, all because of one well chosen character trait: Brucie’s impenetrable confidence both in his existence and his role in Liberty City. He’s a dude. He’s a ‘roider. He’s a racer. And he’s definitely “alpha.”

But best of all, those labels are never a problem for Brucie, because he’s always the first to identify himself. He’s resolute and so is his image.

How Brucie Kibbutz pulls back the curtain of GTA IV’s mechanical world after the jump…

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Filed under: Commentary, Story Analysis, The Save Files, , , ,

Late to the Party: Call of Duty 4

chernobyl pool

A month ago, Sam gave his opinion on Call of Duty 4, while taking a jab at me for skipping it. Look, the holiday season busy was last year, and though CoD4 was on my to do list after playing the multiplayer beta, one excuse or another always got in my way.

Excuses no more! I just completed the solo campaign on Hard, and I agree, the game’s great. But what more can I say? Reviews, blogs (including our own), and forums have covered the great scenes.

SPOILERS: You shoot militants sleeping like lambs. Stumble for safety before radiation kills you. Cause carnage with warship guns while your pilot quips.

These are all awesome moments, and I don’t mean to understate them by carelessly listing them. That said, they were for me (as they now are for you, if you haven’t played–sorry) spoiled. But honestly, if I play a game a month or more after release I’m shocked to be surprised once in 8 hours of game play.

Call of Duty 4
shocked me.

How I fell for a swimming pool after the jump…
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Filed under: Commentary, Story Analysis, , , , , ,

Baby’s First Sword

ninja gaiden ds2

A few days ago, over coffee and Scrabble, my friend announced plans to buy his five-year old son a Nintendo DS and a couple games to jump-start his kid’s collection. He asked my opinion about children’s games, and I gave him my usual spiel: surely, there are great games exclusively for children, but rather than patronize the boy, give him something normal gamers play like Mario Kart DS, or Animal Planet, or Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword. And he splashed his coffee in my face, and bid me good day!

Actually, he let me explain, and, as usual, I mumbled, chased my tail, and recanted my recommendation. And, as usual, I thought up the perfect reply a few hours later–coincidentally while building the perfect scrambled egg sandwich.

First, I believe for videogames to best educate children they need a context, usually best provided via an additional component: a family member, a teacher, or, possibly, a book. Though I respect edutainment games, without proper support, they often confuse children. For example, a New York children’s game firm recently had children play a first-person game where their avatar was as an illegal immigrant.

One particular level went as follows. The player steps into the first-person perspective of the illegal immigrant. He immediately witnesses a terrible accident, but when he stays to help the injured people, the ambulance driver reports him for deportation. Game Over. Insert credit. A young girl retries the level, but, thinking she learned from her classmate’s mistake, chooses to run away from the accident. Game Over. She’s punished for abandoning the people in need.

Children are used to games where you win. In this situation, they were forced to lose. Many children hated the game for putting them in this uncomfortable situation, and refused to read or listen to additional information provided by the game. Teachers were necessary to explain the situation, calm the children’s anxieties, and answer any questions.

So how, in any way, is Ninja Gaiden: DS (Dragon Sword and Dual Screen, well-played Tecmo) educational? It’s a virtual workbook, best supported by a strong teacher.

Teachers help explains workbooks and offer assignments, so, let me just don these sharp glasses and this over-worn tie—ink stains, no biggie. Great! Welcome to Prof. Plante in the Case of the Shaky Recommendation. Students, please grab your Ninja Gaiden workbooks.

Notice how the game requires the player to hold the DS not in the usual horizontal fashion, but vertical, like a small book. Many of NG: DS’s best qualities come from this brilliant design choice. Now, turn on your games, open a new file, and make sure to play on Normal—Hardcore Gaieden-ites, you’ll have your day.

The player’s placed immediately into a duel against Ryu, and allowed to explore her move-set with no rules or guides. The sequence, featuring Ryu and Momiji, isn’t hostile, but a spar between friends. It’s an important, explorative moment, that allows for creativity and discovery. Since the basic moves aren’t locked, an advanced player may learn a trick or two from the confrontation, while a younger player may surprise herself by unintentionally performing a multi-hit combo.

Afterwards, the player’s carefully informed of the basic touch screen moves: poke there and Ryu throws a shuriken, pull across here and he slashes, whip up and he jumps. Combined with the DS’s book-like format, the game mechanic resembles a pop-up book. Each screen, or page, requires the player to follow basic physical actions—pull, push, and poke—to get the page’s available reactions. When they complete the page, they progress to the next, receive a little more of Gaiden’s story, then re-perform the physical actions for a new set of reactions.

Video games further ruin the youth of today after the jump….

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Filed under: Commentary, Portable Media, Story Analysis, , , , ,

Mass Effect: No Jews In Space

Mass Effect

(All apologies to Albert Brooks. And Jews. Who are more than welcome in space.) 

Is three hours into the single-player campaign too early to start talking about Mass Effect? No? Then let’s do this.

Mass Effect, BioWare’s yadayada-wah-wah-you’ve-heard-all-this-why-do-I-do-this-for-AAA-games, is about as far from the “hardcasual” moniker as you can get. It’s just straight up kick you in the head nasty-ass hardcore. It’s got an inventory system that doesn’t work, to begin with, and even reviewers weren’t able to puzzle out the experience system.

 So why am I so excited that I’ll spend my fleeting gaming moments climbing the dialogue trees instead of, say, the quick games of NCAA ’08 or Pac-Man: Championship Edition that are much more my usual style?

This is exactly what the good people at WordPress developed the jump for.

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Filed under: Commentary, Story Analysis, ,

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