Day 10: Most Shocking Video Game Scene

Day 10: Most Shocking Video Game Scene

I would like to mix it up a bit with this post.  Plenty of things make me stop and question them.  When Grand Theft Auto III came out, was I shocked that you could beat a prostitute to death?  Not really.  I didn’t really find it necessary, but I didn’t find it disturbing in and of itself.  It is easy for me to separate fiction from reality.  What I found more shocking was the parents who would be dumbfounded when shown the gameplay, act shocked, and still buy the game for their child.  I could obviously get a number of paragraphs out of the topic, but let’s keep this fun!

In the spirit of the upcoming holiday season I wanted to look back at a couple of family gatherings from my childhood.  Evenings in which my merry drunk uncles gathered round the nephew’s video game system and found themselves shocked (and tickled pink) over some games they were playing.  We are talking the 80’s people, so get the picture in your head.  Think colorful holiday sweaters and killer mustaches.  No, not hipsters!  Drunk 80’s uncles.

First up we have Castle Wolfenstein for the Commodore 64.  If you are only familiar with modern day Wolfenstein and its first-person shooter gameplay, the early 80’s version of the game was quite a bit different.  It was a top-down perspective stealth game, much like the original Metal Gear games.  What it shared was swastikas on everything and all of the Nazi killing we have come to love.

wolfensteinTitle

One Thanksgiving I was hiding in my bedroom, playing away at the game.  I had recently moved out from the large room I shared with my brother into a much smaller sewing room.  This was a large family Thanksgiving so both my Mom and Dad’s brothers/sisters and their husbands/wives were at the house.  Eventually one of my uncles found his way into my room and started watching me play.  Soon another walked by and got curious.  The next thing I know five or six more men are all crammed into my small room watching me play the game.  I’m disguised as a Nazi guard and I tell them to pay attention.  Another guard approaches me and says, “Halt! Show me your pass”.  I show the guard the pass and tell the room to wait for it.  The guard turns around and starts to walk away.  I shoot him dead.  The room erupts with laughter!

WolfensteinC64

Next we will visit my cousin’s house, Christmas Eve 1988.  He had recently received a copy of Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode for the NES.  The game was based on a Japanese manga featuring the assassin Duke Togo.  This was one of my favorite Nintendo games.  I would later get more into the anime, but at the time we were only eight.  While the US version of the game did receive some censorship it was still a fantastic game filled with violence and even a bit of sex.  The two things I want to talk about today.

cover

My cousin and I were sitting in front of the television and I was watching him play the game.  He informed me that at the current point he was going to have to take out a sniper.  I believe this was what got the attention of our uncles this time around.  We quickly had an audience, cocktails in their hands, watching in anticipation.  Duke Togo takes aim at the sniper’s head, pulls the trigger, and blows him away.  Our uncles laugh and cheer.

sniper

He continues to play the game and our uncles are making various jokes about what is going on.  They are especially drawn to Cherry Grace, the female character assisting you in your mission.  This is when my cousin said, “You get to have sex with her”.  Now he has their attention, 100%.  There is no turning off the game until they see what he is talking about.  The story progresses and everyone is having fun.  By today’s standards the sex scene is very innocent, but none of these guys had even played a video game.  To them video games were for children.  The most they had seen was us playing Super Mario Bros.  Golgo 13 was a gritty spy story with a much more adult feel.  This was the first time we were playing a game like this as well.  So my cousin gets to the hotel with Cherry.  They flirt back and forth a bit.  The camera view pulls back to a shot of the hotel where you see the sexy silhouette of Duke and Cherry.  My uncles begin to cheer again with a few high-fives.

golgo13_1

These two holiday memories were a much more fun type of shocking.  To me it was a chance to share something with the adults and have some laughs.  No one overreacted and our parents were confident that their kids were still on the right path.  Although I’m sure a few of my extremely religious aunts were not as thrilled with the festivities.  That said video games have advanced in their content and visuals.  While I don’t think any type of art form will screw a kid up, I do think parents should establish some approximate times for their kids to have access to things.  Be an active part of your child’s life, pay attention, and most importantly love them.  They’ll turn out mostly fine!

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Day 9: Saddest Video Game Scene

Day 9: Saddest Video Game Scene

We have our first back to back in my journey through 30 posts about video games.  Yesterday I looked at Final Fantasy VII for its incredible soundtrack.  Today I revisit the game for the saddest video game scene.  The death of Aerith Gainsborough.  Aerith is a 22-year-old woman who becomes part of the eco-terrorist team AVALANCHE.  She is the last of the Cetra (or Ancients), a race of people with magical powers.  Because of her powers, the power company that you are at odds with (Shinra) is constantly hunting her.

aerith

You meet Aerith shortly after the bombing of a Mako Reactor, a rather intense moment in the beginning of the game.  She appears in her long pink dress, red coat, and brown boots.  Cloud (the main character) can offer to buy a flower from the young woman.  You part ways.  Later in the game Cloud falls through the roof of a church landing on the bed of flowers, a small bit of beauty in the dark world of Final Fantasy VII.  At this point Reno of the Turks (an enemy) comes to capture Aerith.  Cloud agrees to become her bodyguard in exchange for a date and helps her escape.  She soon becomes a part of your team.

church_2

You eventually come to the Temple of the Ancients.  Sephiroth (the end boss) reveals his plan to use the Black Materia to call Meteor, “The Ultimate Destructive Magic”.  During this scene Sephiroth takes control of Cloud and forces him to hand over the Black Materia.  Aerith tries to stop Cloud and he attacks her.  Cloud is then knocked out.  When he awakens Aerith is gone.

Aerith

The next scene takes place in a temple underneath the City of the Ancients.  Aerith is praying at an alter.  When Cloud approaches, Sephiroth again takes control and tries to force him to kill Aerith.  Cloud is able to fight him off.  Aerith looks up from her praying at Cloud.  Sephiroth drops from the ceiling, running his long blade, Masamune, into her back and out her chest.  Aerith falls into Cloud’s arms, the ribbon in her hair comes undone, the White Materia (gift from her mother) falls and rolls into the water.  She is dead.  After a battle the party pays their respects and Cloud lays Aerith’s body to rest in the water.

cloud_aerith

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Day 8: Best Video Game Soundtrack

Day 8: Best Video Game Soundtrack

Nobuo Uematsu has composed the music for almost every game in the Final Fantasy series beginning with the NES game.  The soundtrack for Final Fantasy VI for the SNES was probably the first game soundtrack that really blew me away.  From the opening notes to the climatic end-battle music it enhanced the game and story in so many ways.  Three years later the game series would make its debut on the Sony PlayStation with Final Fantasy VII.  The soundtrack for that game is my choice for best video game soundtrack.

FFVIIOST

Sony successfully stole me away from Nintendo for a few years with the release of the PlayStation.  Final Fantasy VII was probably the number one reason why I made the change.  Originally the game was meant for the SNES, then later the Nintendo 64.  The limited cartridge space was a big reason Square decided to go with the PlayStation instead.  Final Fantasy IV and VI on the SNES had been very important games in my circle of friends growing up.  The waiting for the release of VII was insane.  We would read and talk about it nonstop.  How could it possibly live up to the high standard set by Final Fantasy VI?

The game was finally released in September of 1997.  We all dug in for the next few months and for the most part fell in love with the beautiful game.  As with the soundtrack for VI, Nobuo Uematsu once again created magic.  Without his sounds Final Fantasy VII would not have been as impactful as it was.  The music added another layer to the dark story of the game.  It magnified the moments of love as well as the periods of danger.  Every unique location in the game had its own music and sounds that made them feel like their own part of the world.  It remained true to the Final Fantasy series while taking it to a new level.

I wanted to close with a selection from the soundtrack.  Here is the final boss music, “One-Winged Angel”.  It is one of the strongest songs in the entire series.

An added bonus – the rapper Random (who often goes by Mega Ran) created the album Black Materia: Final Fantasy VII.  I was already a fan of his when I found out this existed.  A rap album based on Final Fantasy VII, best idea ever.  Here is my favorite track from that album, “AVALANCHE”.  You can purchase a digital copy here for the awesome price of $7.77!

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Day 7: Favorite Video Game Couple

Day 7: Favorite Video Game Couple

Most of my experience with romantic connections in video games were in Japanese Role-playing Games (JRPGs).  I decided to go with Alex & Luna from the Sega CD title Lunar: The Silver Star.  I had a friend who loved this game.  We would talk about the Final Fantasy series and he would always chime in about this wonderful game series called Lunar.  My friends and I were all anime fans and the use of animated cut scenes interested me the most.  I eventually borrowed the game from him.  It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the game, story, and characters as well.

lunar_1

Eventually the game would be remade for the Sony PlayStation as Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete.  This was the version that I spent the most time with.  Each character was fleshed out a little more.  This was especially true for Luna.  I don’t want to spoil the story, but she was given more history and spent more time with the party than she did in the original version.  Alex is your typical JRPG character, a young boy setting out to become a hero.  Luna is Alex’s childhood friend and sweetheart.  The love they have for each other is a very important part of the story.  Lunar was one of the first games that I played with the added benefit of voice acting, animated scenes, and songs that were not chiptune.  All of that brought a depth to the characters and story that I had not really experienced before in Super Nintendo JRPGs.  It also enhanced the romantic elements of the game.

lunar_4

As I mentioned I was already a fan of anime when I first played the game.  Lunar had that anime style and I really loved the character design of both Alex and Luna.  The clothing style gave them a small town feel.  The use of bright colors provides a warm and welcoming feeling when you see them together.

If you are a fan of old-school JRPGs I highly recommend both Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete and its sequel Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete.  Lunar 2 has a new cast of characters, a new story, and many of the same wonderful elements as the original.  The gameplay in both is very traditional JRPG gameplay and probably won’t blow you away.  What makes them special is the story and characters.

lunar_3

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Day 6: Most Annoying Character

Day 6: Most Annoying Character

When I began thinking about this post I had a few obvious characters jump to mind.  Natalya from Goldeneye tops many lists for her inability to stay out of the path of gunfire.  It was such a disappointment as she was actually one of my favorite women from the Bond series.  I love you Natalya, but I’m filled with gamer rage and you’re going to make me bust my controller!  Then you have Navi from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  It’s like the developers knew how beautifully awesome the game experience was going to be.  Now we don’t want it to be too awesome, so here is essentially the equivalent of a mosquito buzzing in your ear.  “Hey, listen!”.  I tossed a few more around and finally settled on one that could have been used in the boss fight category.  Liquid Snake from Metal Gear Solid, the original PlayStation version.

liquid

Liquid is basically the anti-Snake.  A terrorist, the villain, an asshole.  You aren’t supposed to like the guy.  What makes Liquid a really annoying character is his drive to kill you and the basic fact that he just won’t die!  Over the course of the game you will fight this guy multiple times.  On the first run through of the game each boss battle is a matter of figuring out the strategy to take them out.  These all consisted of many deaths that were each highlighted with Snake’s grunts, a flashy screen with sound effects, the Metal Gear “You’re Dead” music, and some NPC saying, “Snake.  Snake?  Snaaaaaaaake!”.  I honestly could have just said that repeating death screen was the most annoying character.  I settled on Liquid because you fight him multiple times.

The first battle: Liquid and his Hind D Russian attack helicopter.  You need to dodge his shots until you can pull out the Stinger Launcher and fire on the helicopter.  If you jump out at the wrong time expect to get a face full of ammunition, “Uh, uh, uh!”.  The other annoying part is missing your shot or window to get the shot off.  He then flies out of range and you have to wait and line it up again.  Eventually you will take the bastard down and progress to the next part of the game.

hindD

The next time you face Liquid is right after taking down Metal Gear Rex.  You will go hand to hand on top of the broken down mecha.  It’s really just a matter of timing punches until you knock him out and over.  Before you get that down it was a frustrating fight of me getting knocked off the side.  A fight that is taking place after you have destroyed the machine that gives the game its name.  Your adrenalin is surging and you feel you’ve accomplished something, then it’s stripped away when you realize you have to keep fighting.  So you manage to take down Liquid in a fist fight…

“Not yet Snake! It’s not over yet!”.  You jump in a jeep, put it in gear, and drive towards the credits?  No.  You take out a few bad guys with the jeep’s gun and then Liquid shows up in his own jeep.  He is now set on smashing into you and not shutting his mouth.  You essentially just need to shoot the hell out of him, but at this point I’m done with this bastard.

over

I have played through Metal Gear Solid many times.  It really isn’t that difficult of a game.  Most of the frustration was really only present that first time through.  You don’t really know what to expect.  It’s a game filled with being spotted by soldiers and shot at until you hide or die.  The boss fights are excellent, but may include a number of deaths before you figure out the strategy.  Even though it and its main boss caused me much gamer rage I loved every minute of it.

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Day 5: Game Character You Feel You’re Most Like

Day 5: Game Character You Feel You’re Most Like

Is there an Office Space video game?  The answer would be Peter Gibbons.  Did they make a video game version of Sideways (the film adaptation)?  I would be like Paul Giamatti’s character Miles.  The problem that I am having is remembering characters from video games that I felt I could relate with.  When I was young the characters in video games were not really defined.  They were just games.  As story became important and more time went into the development of characters I was already becoming an adult.  Video games were an escape.  I will probably think of a specific answer right after I finish this post.  Instead of racking my brain for another hour I am going to push forward and write about some loosely related things.

sideways

First I want to talk about moral choice systems in video games.  They are often found in role-playing video games.  A good example of this would be BioWare’s Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series.  Then you have games like Oblivion or Skyrim from the Elder Scrolls series.  In these games you are free to become thieves, assassins, or even vampires who feed on the world’s population.  I mentioned that I play video games because they are an escape.  They allow me to slip into another character’s shoes and walk within their world.  This is very true, but I still have a difficult time role-playing as the evil side of anything.  I like to believe that I have a big heart.  While I am not perfect I aim to be the best person I can.  I want to be nice to people.  I want them to smile.  Being the hero allows me to use those traits on a grand scale.  As the villain I have to play the characters with traits that I loathe in not only books and film, but in the real world as well.  It generally is not fun.  Now running through and stealing things from people in Skyrim usually results in a shopkeep hiring goons to beat you up.  That comes off silly and like a game.  If I was to rob a house only to later have a young child crying over her father’s body I probably wouldn’t want to do it.  Conversation is when it becomes the biggest issue.  If they give me the choice to be a bully or just a straight up asshole I will most likely not take that dialogue option.  It may sound silly, but I almost always take the choices that most resemble what I would want to say in real life.  I have even been known to load a game simply because I chose a negative reply.

Kotor

A little bonus while we are on the subject of characters.  There are characters you can relate to and then there are characters that you want to be like.  I am a science fiction guy so my short list has many of the obvious choices.  Fox Mulder, Angel, Malcolm Reynolds, Han Solo.  If you asked me to pick between Captain Kirk and Captain Picard I would tell you that I like them both, but quickly answer that Picard was best.  But Picard is not Number One.  If I had to pick a fictional character (who was technically in some video games) that I most wanted to be like, that character would be Star Trek: The Next Generation’s William T Riker.  Red Alert!

riker

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Day 4: A Game That Was Underrated

Day 4: A Game That Was Underrated

I always have a difficult time deciding if something is truly underrated.  The game I am about to talk about was in fact favorably reviewed upon its release.  It was given two sequels.  A few months ago it even received the remake treatment and was released on the PlayStation Network.  I have decided to pick Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee based on the fact that once upon a time I thought Abe would one day be as well known as characters like Sonic or Mario.  That may have been a naive attitude, but that is how I look at things that I love.  We first hear from Abe in the intro cutscene, “This is RuptureFarms, they say it’s the biggest meat processing plant on Oddworld, I used to work here, well…I was really a slave like all the others.”  When I first heard that line, the hair stood on the back of my neck.

ruptureFarms

I first learned of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee on one of those PlayStation demo discs.  In fact the exact demo was issue #1 of PlayStation Underground which was basically a digital video game magazine.  We passed these among friends and would often play the demos over and over again.  I immediately fell in love with the beautiful art of Oddworld, the quirky sense of humour, and the classic side-scrolling action.  I pre-ordered the game at Electronics Boutique, then continued to play the demo constantly until the game was finally released.

PSunderground

Oddworld is essentially a 2D platforming game.  You are an escaped Mudokon slave who must save as many fellow workers as possible before you reach the end of the game.  If you save less than 50 workers you would see the bad ending.  Save 50+ workers, you are rewarded with the good ending.  Find all 99 workers (which I did) in the original PlayStation version and you get the perfect completion ending.

abe_screen

You would save your fellow slaves by issuing them commands, leading them to portal locations, chanting open the portal, and watching them jump through to safety.  RuptureFarms was not a pretty place.  It was a world of dangerous cliffs, fast moving meat grinders, deadly lasers, bombs, and guards with guns.  Get hit once, you die.  A fellow Mudokon gets hit once, they die.  If you’re looking to save all 99 then do the noble thing and follow him into that meat grinder.  Then try again!  Often it was a game of running, jumping, puzzle solving, and trial & error.  It was this old school challenge that drew me to the game.  This was accompanied by a fair amount of gamer rage as well.  For the tenth time – run into room while guard isn’t looking, pull lever to stop meat grinder, issue follow command to 4 slaves, run, jump, tell them to stop, run, chant, 3 make it through portal, 4th shot in the back by a guard.  And then, he laughs at you!  Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee was actually on my list of possible favorite games of all time.  If you have the chance I highly recommend checking out the original or the remake, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty!

oddworld_new

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