Yoshi’s Story, Real Lives

Yoshi’s Story gets dismissed as a weak, childish game because of its apparent simplicity and forgiving difficulty. Really though, it is one of the most intelligently designed games ever made. It is one of the only games, if not the only game, to successfully and adequately deal with the concept of losing ‘lives.’

I have an old family friend a few years younger than me. His first console was an N64 and Yoshi’s Story one of his first games alongside Super Mario 64. When I first played Yoshi’s Story at his house I enjoyed it, but invited him to try my copy of Yoshi’s Island on Super Nintendo. He played and enjoyed that but something bothered him and he confronted me about it. He had two extremely interesting questions that to this day I remember because I could not adequately answer them;
“When Baby Mario got taken, how come I had him again at the start of the level?”
“Blue Yoshi died but when I tried the level again I was Blue Yoshi, why?”
Imagine a seven year old asking you that.

Games have always dealt with the concept of death or failure. Yet for some reason, everyone seemed happy to just go along with the idea of ‘lives’ or chances. You might typically start with 3, like baseball “third strike – you’re out.” Unlike baseball, you might actually achieve something before you lose a life and then get to start over. And unlike baseball, you might collect new chances, typically by running over an icon that resembles the avatar’s head. If a video game is an interactive narrative you play out and then you fail, it is as if the events that just played out had never happened and we were starting fresh. Like a blooper, left on the cutting room floor of a movie editing studio. A long time ago it was simply decided that games would adopt this format and no game ever challenged that, until Yoshi’s Story.

As gamers, we have probably forgotten how long ago or how quickly we mentally tore down these logical problems with games. Who knows, maybe it was 30 seconds in that we decided that was just how things were in games. It didn’t matter if you died because you could just start again from where you left off, unless you got ‘game over’. Gamers raised on today’s titles might not even be aware of the ‘game over’ concept, since it was a convention of arcade machines that had to stop you playing all day. But for those people who played Yoshi’s Story, like my buddy Angus, they didn’t encounter this flaw in game mechanics until they branched out. In Yoshi’s Story you start the game not with six lives, but six Yoshi’s, each an individual. If they die, they don’t come back ever. There is no ‘Game Over’ screen in the old sense: if you lose your last yoshi, you have actually failed to protect them, the last of their species, and caused evil to reign forever.

This ties into the game’s name: Yoshi’s Story. It is a story, a pop-up book as the game presents it, and stories do not have mid-sentence revisions. There is no flicking back and reading from the beginning of the page again if you stuffed up in Yoshi’s Story. The events that unfolded always matter and form part of the story. “The red yoshi failed and was taken, crying, to Baby Bowser’s castle” is part of the story and then the green yoshi or whoever has to pick up the pieces. You can even gain new chances in Yoshi’s Story in the form of locating and saving the two stranded yoshis hidden in the game. It is a game that, without removing the convention of extra chances, creates a logical reason for events.

Yoshi’s Story is incredible in that it never ever breaks real life logical boundaries and sustains a narrative. And for that it must be applauded.

As the page turned, the Yoshis all grew happier.

A Night with Dunaway

Last night I had Cammie Dunaway over. I found it unusual that she’d be in Perth this close to E3 so I said “You’re not leaving yourself much time.”
“Hehe, for what sweety?” Cammie replied.
“E3 of course, it took me over 24 hours to fly to L.A.”
“Oh we’ve already done it silly.”
“Done E3? The press conference and everything?”
“Yeah we recorded it last week, everyone who attended is under an NDA. Only the internet hasn’t found out yet, hehehe.”

This was a lot for me to take in so I motioned for her to get back to sucking my cock. Over the next hour, when she came up for a breather, she filled me in on what happened.

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All I ever hear these days is “casual this” “casual that” and they’re always talking about the same thing; Nintendo. There is NO SUCH THING as casual and hardcore, there is no distinction, you guys should shut up because no one is listening to your nonsense. What like Mario Kart is casual now? Didn’t anyone inform the guys slaving away for the continental time trial charts? Halo is hardcore? Why do I find people who know nothing about games know about Halo? Your distinctions are fucked. RPGs are hardcore? My Grandmother, who is arthritic and 84 years old LOVES RPGS because they don’t require any dexterity from her and she can just enjoy a fantasy epic. She plays them on her PS2.

‘Casual’ is just the new word losers use to malign Nintendo. They used to use the word ‘kiddy’, remember that? “Oh Nintendo is just kiddy crap, get a PS2 for real mature games where you shoot guys.” Of course they can’t use kiddy anymore now that their aunt owns a DS the television is saturated with advertisements marketing Wii at adults. Not the so called ‘mature,’ 15 year old boys, but directly to gen X and baby boomers. ‘Casual’ is the new ‘kiddy’, just like ‘mature’ was superseded by ‘hardcore.’ But there is an actual word that all these clowns mean when they say hardcore or casual or mature; ‘Cool’ and ‘Uncool’. That’s what you mean. Wii Play is ‘uncool’.

The real question is; why dont the idiot legions of the internet, the soldiers in the trenches of the console wars use the words cool and uncool? Because deep down, they know they’re losers and there is nothing cool whatsoever about video games. The guy talking at a party about Fallout 3 isn’t the life of it. Guitar Hero champions aren’t going to be doing ads for Pepsi. And now they’re threatened because actual cool people are getting into games, casual games.

Sands of Time is Still Arsekicking

Can you believe this game came out in 2003? I played it in January of 04, buying a US copy and Freeloader for GameCube; I was just that excited about it. I remember the announcement way back in 2002 and the details were basically: Jordan Mechner returns to video games, new Prince of Persia, Splinter Cell team. I already had a boner but a little while after, when the first render of the Maharajah’s palace was released, I ejaculated everywhere. So yeah, I was that excited about it and I was still completely blown away by every aspect of the game.

So yesterday as I dwelled on the fact that I didn’t have anything capable of running the new Prince of Persia and with my new A/V cables arriving for my PS2 (I had since sold all my non-PAL GameCube games and re-acquired the game on PS2) I threw it in again, intending only to test out the A/V cables. Anyway, so half an hour ago I beat it. Holy shit. I’m dehydrated or something, everyime the Prince drank from water I wanted to drink, but the kitchen was too far away so I stayed put. Anyway, let me go through my thoughts on this game 5 years after the event.

Visually I remembered the game looking better than this. Now, a lot of this could be due to the fact that I’m replaying it on PS2 which we all know was a DVD-capable Dreamcast. I definitely recall there being a lot more bloom lighting on the GameCube. Now despite what I’ve just said, the game still looks incredible. I totally forget that they included a button mapped to L2 that is there just to show off the graphics. You hit it and the camera zooms out and puts itself at an angle that just lets you appreciate the fantastic art that went into this game. Every single area looks absolutely first class and is polished to perfection. Nothing looks bland; nothing looks out of place; the game is spectacular throughout. I’m just certain it used to be even more of a spectacle.

Level design is amazing. I would enter an area and it would all be familiar because I’ve played it before, but it was still a challenge because I didn’t remember how. I’d be all “oh cool this is the giant aviary bit” or “oh the mess hall” but it was fun going through it all again because the specifics were all hazy. What really makes the level design though is how organic it all feels. Every single area feels like it could be a legitimate part of the palace. It really struck me how you could look at the room and it would look real, yet hidden in it was the video game’s platforming path. The rubble that might help or hinder your path through any given room never seemed out of place although the occasional crate did. Crates are always big problems in games and to their credit, Ubisoft – sorry, I mean Jordan Mechner – only included about, oh, 4 in the entire game.

Game combat was as dull as I remembered, although the order of enemies felt different for whatever reason. I dunno, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t vault over this many enemies last time and had to resort to wall jumps. Also, I swore the final guys you fought all blocked wall jumps but they were blocking vaults for me this time. I was all confused. Perhaps the game adapts to your playstyle! Somewhat related to combat is the whole mess regarding collecting extra sand. Throughout the game you can stab your dagger into these glowing things to increase the size of your sand vial. This gives you more opportunities to rewind time whenever you die, insult Farah and so forth. However, it also makes it much much harder for you to execute the Mega-Freeze, by far the most useful combat ability. Instead of using a set amount of power, the mega freeze uses ALL your power. So early on in the game you can pull it off, collect sand from 8 fallen enemies to refill it and do it again. By the end of the game, you might do it at the start of a fight and then not have enough baddies left to fight to use it, or any ability for that matter, again. I guess that can help with the difficulty but it almost serves as a reason to avoid collecting more sand vials.

Actually, just an aside here. The parallels between Sands of Time and 2002’s ICO are incredibly strong. Both have huge, realistic feeling environments, both have monotonous, simple combat against pretty much the same enemies throughout, both have large scale puzzle solving. Both won Penny Arcade’s prestigious We’re Right awards. The big difference in terms of game design is that Sands of Time had some. Like, if you’ve played ICO, you’ll know that you can explore free range, with very little inaccessible and what not. The problem is while you can explore, there is nothing to find and all these extra areas are boring. Sands of Time cuts all that bullshit out, keeping you focused and in the right direction while piling on it’s carefully scripted, carefully paced awesome. Fuck ICO – I can’t believe I just gave it the compliment of being compared to Sands of Time.

The relationship between the Prince and Farah is still fascinating. It’s the best love story of any video game I’ve ever played, if only because of how subtle it is. Early on in the game, if you glare at her with the first person view, she’ll get all uppity and tell you to stop staring. By the end, she’ll comment on the colour of the Prince’s eyes. And of course the Prince’s thoughts on her that he expressed while they’re apart as just as funny and brilliantly written second time round. He tries to hide (from himself) his feelings for her through – shit, my vocabulary has failed me. I’m not good with feelings. He acts full of himself through chauvinism and because his country just kicked her country’s arse in war. He acts like he’s doing her a massive favour just by existing but deep down you can tell he feels guilty for what he’s done and feels intimidated by her. Classic writing and well acted.

Oh and the game’s ending. I remember the first time, when it pulled it’s twist on me I was blown away. If you haven’t played the game by now you probably never will so I’m going to ruin it for you: At the very start of the game, like you don’t even think about it, it acts as if it’s part of the menu, you walk through some curtains and a cutscene plays as the Prince narrates a tale, talking in the past tense. Throughout the game you’ll hear the narration over the gameplay and humourosly whenever the Prince (or Farah) dies he says something to the effect of “wait… that didn’t happen, I didn’t fall off.” When you pause he’ll ask “shall I continue?” Now it’s natural to assume that you, the player, is the Prince’s audience. Maybe you might also see it as a nod towards 1001 Tales of the Arabian Nights, as if this story was just one of those 1001 tales. In the game’s gripping climax, the Prince plunges the Dagger of Time into the Sands of Time, resulting in the rewinding of time all the way back to the night before the attack on India that serves as the game’s tutorial. The opening cinematic plays again but this time is elaborated on. As the Prince utters the same words he used to begin the game you see that he is in fact telling the story to Farah, in order to warn her of the attack and the traitorous Vizier. It is so, so clever. The Vizier then comes in to ruin everything and you have a terrible final boss battle against him. It’s neither difficult or fun, but that doesn’t matter because there is still time for one last, piss funny, use of the dagger of time to end the game. The credits roll and you get to hear a great song, it’s like Portal, a full fisted, tightly directed game with a song at the end.

Anyway fuck yeah this game is unbelievable. Time to play through Warrior Within and Two Thrones and see if they’re as bad as I heard. I don’t have much faith since neither involved Jordan Mechner but we’ll see.

Disaster: Day of Crisis

Title screen

A convoluted development and Reggie hating it was enough to turn most people away from Disaster: Day of Crisis. Hopefully in Valhalla, Moses will forgive these people and allow them the opportunity to enjoy this game in the afterlife.

You play as some guy. I can’t remember his name because he’s your generic all-American hero. You know the drill: high school football star, ex-Marine, closet homosexual. There’s one word that really describes him properly: dominator. This guy just dominates wherever he goes. Volcano exploding? He’ll just dominate that and run through fire. Special Forces holding hostages and a SWAT team getting shot to pieces? He’ll dominate that by running in in his tank top and hand gun. He gets involved in the story because his dead boyfriend’s sister was captured, she works as the secretary to a real man’s job – a seismologist – and as her only tenuous connection to the past the cops thought to bring him aboard in a giant scheme involving nuclear weapons and man-induced disasters.

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Wii Want Our Money Back

As Wii tops sales charts worldwide, experts fear the current domination of Nintendo’s Wii system is a major threat to the stability of the gaming industry. A new study proves that if Wii continues to dominate, people will spend less money on gaming, which could force an alarming percentage of gaming developers out of business.

“I have Wii Sports, I don’t need any other games,” insisted a local resident we contacted, in a worrying statement. The general consensus from the gaming community is that Wii has downgraded videogaming from a serious hobby to merely a “fun” distraction.

Nintendo admits their main priority with Wii is making people have fun, but remain arrogant on its success. When questioned about the survival of other videogame makers, President of Nintendo of America Reggie Fils-Aime replied with “not my problem”.

Analysts previously felt that Wii was just having its moment and believed the fad would pass before doing too much serious damage, but uncertainty is starting to develop in even the most positive, and most industry analysts are now admitting things haven’t gone as planned and are closely monitoring the situation.

Observers are starting to discover loopholes in Nintendo’s strategy, as Wii owners currently endure a serious lack of new content. Experts warn that supply of Wii could be restricted for some time, and with consumers losing patience and PS3 getting more games released each year, things could very well get back to normal.

A former Nintendo employee agrees it’s only a matter of time before their “moment” is over. Keen industry observer MikeUS backed that up with his insight, “haha wii sounds like wee”.

Wii Breathes Life Into Gaming Industry

After suffering a steady decline over the last few years, sales of videogames are up over 55% over last year and there’s one key factor: the introduction of Nintendo’s new Wii system. Nearly six months after launch, keen consumers are still lining up for hours outside stores whenever a new shipment of Wii arrives. Such demand is unprecedented in the entire history of the gaming industry.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” commented local store owner John Fredward. “People are so excited when they can finally secure themselves a system, even when they have to trek here at 6am in the snow to get it.”

The key factor to its success is the introduction of a new way to play, which has given people who previously felt alienated from videogames a second chance. Nintendo’s Wii allows people to play games with unrestricted 3D movement simply by moving around the remote shaped controller. Son of a father of at least one, George Beating, proudly remarked, “my friends and family are actually excited about games again; Wii has a real friendly attractive vibe that just lets everyone let loose and have fun.”

Not only are consumers benefiting from Wii, but game developers are in heaven. “This system has given us a lot more to work with and given life to many ideas we’ve always wanted to realise.” Wii is much more developer-friendly than other systems and doesn’t require a huge money investment by the publisher, which is resulting in a huge barrage of games being released. The success of Wii is a win-win situation for the gaming industry and gamers, and it looks set to continue as Nintendo stocks rise to record highs.

OUTTA THE WAY DICKHEADS! Gran Turismo is here to save the next gen!

Oh man can you believe there are skeptics out there who doubt the revolutionary power of PS3’s Cell™ chip to change the way we think about games? I mean no game is a better showcase for Sony systems than Gran fucking Turismo, right? They haven’t even put gameplay into the previous four releases ensuring they totally focus on the graphics and hasn’t it shown?

Personally, I’m glad Polyphony Digital took the brave step of removing cars from the latest version of the game, which is also the first version of the game but now in HD! Genius. And don’t the latest screenshots just affirm this as the correct course of action? I’ve annotated all the new features of the game in case you’re an idiot who can’t see them from the crystal clear high definition screen capture. It’s fidelity is so high, in fact, that we can’t even contain it in our tiny column-based blog!

Gaming will be fun again!

I can’t wait.

Sonic Heroes

Sonic Team sat down and listened to the fans for this game. “Actually make Sonic the main focus, ditch the crap-rock, fix the camera!” they cried in absolute pain as Mr. Naka ran them over in his race car while listening to Crush 40.


About an hour later, Sonic Heroes was finished and on retail shelves. What’s this? Sonic’s got team based sex antics going on now? Oh okay. This obviously requires several teams of freaks. Remember those idiots from Knuckles Chaotix? Of course you don’t, because the world was trying to forget them. BUT NO, Sega will jog your memory. “HERE’S ANGSTY PURPLE THING, HAPPY BEE AND BIG SLOW CROC” they yell as crumbs stick to your face.

In total, there’s four teams of three characters. Each fart around the very same levels, but with silly different bits of storyline that all eventually cross over. It’s a game about talking to dead people. Every team has a fast character, a flying character and a ANGRY BREAK DOWN WALLS character. ‘Cept Big the Cat’s angry in a ‘where’s my brain’ kind of way. You need to switch between these characters all the time. This manages to totally destroy the whole Sonic feel. You might be running really fast for a few seconds then UH OH it’s time to switch over to slow breaking down walls character to.. you know.. break down some walls that are there for no reason. I’m sure Robotnik (or Eggman as Sega like to call him now, another delightful decision) has nothing better to do than stroll down to the beach and put up some walls. “I enjoy long walks on the beach. So I can put some walls all over it”. The flying characters are typically there just so you can fly for a few seconds only to somehow glitch up and end up falling into an endless background JPEG. How can Cream even manage to lift Amy and Big? His name is Big for a reason (THIS IS NOT SEX RELATED). Cream’s arms should totally break off and blood would cover the entire level. Knuckles would be all “hooo-waaaah”.

Sonic Team attempted to give some of the levels a retro look. The checkerboard textures that were very present in Sonic 1 are back on the Seaside Something or Other level, there’s a new Casino level. And um. There’s a level that’s.. er.. has the word Metropolis in it. Sadly, the levels are very VERY poorly designed. Very. They drag on for far too long, typically have very little checkpoints and require more rail grinding or breaking stuff than running. In fact, you won’t be running much in this game at all. Doing so could result in death, thanks to the return of terrible camera man (Lakitu’s confused cousin) and some shocking clipping. There’s an entire level called Rail Canyon. Can you guess what this level requires you to do? Sell ice cream. The fun part is where bomb trains crash into you and you witness the Game Over screen for the 7th time in the last three minutes. Jumping from rail to rail should of been easy, it’s not. There are times when you press left or right + jump and UH OH YOU’RE NOW SPAZING IN THE AIR? Death. To top this all off, Tails feels the need to yell “I’m falling!” when you’re falling. They’ve changed his voice actor for this game, too. I think they’re going for that three year old feel now.

When you get to a switch, one of the characters will insist on blurting out “I wonder what this switch will do?” WELL JESUS, I DUNNO. MAYBE IT’LL MAKE ENEMIES APPEAR LIKE THE OTHER SEVEN HUNDRED HAVE? Music is another sore point. Once again, we have the pleasure of dreadful rock music and other depressing lack of melody lack of meaning music to fall down holes to. Though I did rather enjoy Casino Park’s music, it was catchy as hell. Too bad the level involved confusing pinball machines of doom.

The game will last you a long time, I spose. If you can be bothered to play the same levels as the other characters (which you’ll need to do in order to actually complete it). There’s a sad 2 player mode where you fall down holes together, also. I think the game also has an options menu. Some stuff just doesn’t work in 3D. Sonic’s that stuff. I can’t wait for the Shadow the Hedgehog game. WATCH OUT PRINCE OF PERSIA.

This game gets two breadrolls out of a bakers dozen.