The Super Nintendo – or the SNES for short – celebrated its 25th birthday this week. Granted this may not mean much to the Sega faithful from the 80’s and 90’s, but as I’ve mentioned in previous posts I was a Nintendo kid growing up. My formative game time came courtesy of the original Nintendo Entertainment System. The Super Mario Brothers / Duck Hunt double cartridge for NES sank so many of my hours that it would be tough to tabulate how many fire flowers I digitally ingested or how many rounds I popped off on my Zapper light gun. When I discovered RPG’s and action/adventure games, that would put my hours logged shooting ducks to shame. I liked the obscure stuff – the stuff that none of my friends had, so I had some stock in trading cartridges with them like Yo! Noid and Seicross. And of course, my personal favorites Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior, The Legend of Zelda, Ninja Gaiden and The Goonies II.
My friends and I all thought we were in the golden age of video games, but little did we know that the next-gen console introduced at the turn of the decade would change how the game is played forever. And you know, we were kids. That’s not an exaggeration even given my penchant for hyperbole – in 1990 the Super Nintendo, affectionately known as the SNES, changed everything.
Back then terms like “16 bit” didn’t really mean much to me – all that I was able to see then was how I could do more things, and how games were deeper, and how the technology now existed to make better music and more memorable stories. We had a unit at home now that brought the flash of the arcade to our living room, and gaming went from single player to social time with friends. But still, what was so special about the SNES that brought about this change? It even overtook the Genesis, its 16-bit rival from Sega, which was already on the market with a number of games available.
First off on the list of excellence was the SNES controller. This was the first console controller to feature six buttons with triggers on the corners to make gameplay more complex and fun. This stomped on the Genesis, which only gave us 3 buttons to play with. Sega was forced to make a 6 button version in 1993 to keep up. Anyone who’s played Street Fighter II Turbo and tried to pull off Vega’s jump dive on the Genesis will more than surely attest to what kind of pain was removed just from having more buttons. And that was one of the things that made it great – a six button controller made arcade fighters playable without a cabinet, and more importantly, without the aforementioned pain. It played right into the control scheme of the Street Fighter series with 3 punch and kick buttons each. Even Mortal Kombat titles needed 4 to be played cleanly – 2 each for punch and kick buttons. So instead of standing around in an arcade bleeding quarters into a game for play credits, round robin “winner keeps playing” sessions were how we did things. And good lord was it fun – the multiplayer of our time.
The controller setup was copied and used as a standard for generations to come. Look at your current PS4 and XBOX One controllers. They may have a couple of extra triggers and thumb sticks but what is the core control? 4 buttons, arranged in a diamond, with triggers on the side. Even though it was a big jump from the A and B buttons on the 8-bit NES, it let players have a control method that became second nature.
The controller was only as good as games that were made for it, and the titles pumped out in addition to arcade fighters for the SNES were legendary. Upgraded games with familiar characters came to life on the screen, starting with the Super Mario World title that shipped with the console. That game on its own took existing IP and brought it into a new generation with scrolling levels, a vast world map to travel and multiple power ups.
Even the pure graphical power, clearly able to be seen when dozens of cannons with moving projectiles came at you on side scrolling levels in World 8 left a player wondering what else this machine could do. The Legend of Zelda was upgraded and we had a new adventure with A Link to the Past, arguably one of the greatest video games of all time. And with each game release, developers showed what was possible by pushing the SNES engine – Pilotwings. StarFox. Donkey Kong Country. F-Zero. Each great in their own way, each memorable for different reasons, and each being a genre flagship on which future titles for future systems would stand on the shoulders of. It was quite literally a Super Nintendo. Better tech meant more colors, music with enough tones to provide mood, and it even dabbled in 3D gaming with the help of the SuperFX chip (self contained without the add-ons Sega was investing in, I might add).
And I must make special mention of one of my favorite games of all time, Uniracers. Thanks for wrecking that one for us, Pixar Legal.
Final Fantasy fans in particular were given installments II and III in the series, re-branded from the Japanese IV and VI. Again, these games opened the door to what was possible when technology allows for good storytelling, and elements and themes of these games are even visible in the upcoming Final Fantasy XV.
The SNES became more than just a game console. It was a solid proof of concept that games as a medium could tell a story and draw players into a virtual world where they could connect with their characters, require them to even take notes on some of the more complex puzzles, and give greater choice to the player on how he or she wanted the game to go. It launched an era that made games evolve from mindless entertainment to a real digital experience. And from indie developers to triple A studios, it’s a legacy that still influences what a game should be.
What do you kids know about archetypes? They are a set of what psychiatrist Carl Jung called “elements of the collective unconscious” a long time ago- basically roles people play, or a persona if you will, underlying their behaviors. I’ll skip the rest of the the psych lesson for today but whether you know it or not, in our sphere of geekery, archetypes are the basis of what forms characters and situations in movies. And that includes video games. In my opinion, it’s why we’re drawn to certain characters that we play. For games that allow character customization it’s even more true – it’s why we design them the way we do.
Since I started my gaming life with the first Final Fantasy on the NES, I’ve I’ve encountered two types of gamers over the years. The first is the watcher, experiencing the game in the third person – connecting with with the game world from the third person, acting like the game’s God. The second is more me – and that’s the player that not so much sees him or herself outside of the game looking down, but draws parallels to the characters and identifies with them. And it’s interesting to see what kind of characters one identifies with since I do think it says a lot about that person. It’s a combination of what we see in ourselves and maybe a little bit of something we’d love to see in ourselves too. What’s coming next doesn’t really apply to that first type of gamer, since what i’m talking about is player identification with characters. But like I said the second type is all me. And there’s a lot of different archetypes that players like me could identify with.
To break it down a little better, let’s work with some material we should all be familiar with – the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Let’s look at a few of of the characters and how they’re portrayed through archetypes in book and film. Not a complete list, but here we go:
- The Hero: Aragorn (ok arguably Frodo but I’m sticking with the son of Arathorn here) – the central character around whose journey we see things, struggling to find himself and realize his true potential.
- The Sidekick: Legolas (or Sam if Frodo’s your hero) – The hero’s trusty and faithful companion. Not the main character in the story but without their help the hero would fall.
- The Sage: Gandalf – the wise old man there to offer guidance to our young hero and unlock their hidden potential.
- The Villain: Sauron – for whatever their reason, just wants to watch the world burn.
- The Trickster: Pippin – through their actions they mess with everyone else’s plans, but inherently their antics magically help save the day.
- The Maiden: Arwen – the intuitive female and usually the hero’s counterpart.
- The Mother: Galadriel – Nurturing and love.
- The Shapeshifter: Smeagol/Gollum – Brings uncertainty to the hero’s journey, possibly a turncoat bastard.
So there are more than that depending on who you’re talking to, and yes in modern times a lot of these are subject to modification, but I think you’re picking up what I’m putting down. We can see them as character classes.
(short break for game rage – if you roll a rogue in World of Warcraft, I’m going to give you hell for your overt trickery and cowardice on principle).
When I was young I always identified with the classic hero. Strolling through killing monsters with sword and board, pushing the attack, and fulfilling prophecies sounded pretty good. Going back to that Final Fantasy on the NES, my lead character was a fighter named Tush (we only had the 4 letters in the 8-bit days). I’d set up my support and away I’d go. I wouldn’t lead with a black belt character for example, because in my head “the guy leading the charge doesn’t wear wooden armor, what’s with that?” And in every RPG since then for a long time, that continued. Little did I know until later that this mildly squishy character evolves to become the game’s best pure physical damage dealer by a mile – unarmed to boot. The same holds with Gandalf in our Lord of the Rings comparison – how much did you cringe when he didn’t know which way to go in Moria? or when he was chilling with his pipe weed from the shire? Little did we know that wasn’t even his final form. Gandalf the White tore it up in Minas Tirith and worked with the story’s trickster to (surprise) trick everyone into lighting the beacons for the greater good.
Ironically now I’m a Jiu Jitsu blue belt with a penchant for collar chokes so you know, things change. My retro-apologies to the black belt class back in ’89.
As we get older (or at least as I got older), we change into different people that place higher value on different parts of life, and have a more balanced and nuanced view of ourselves, including which traits we foster and which we ignore. It’s like our stat sheet changes, we level up like mad, and we start multiclassing for the sake of party balance.
I stopped identifying with the brash and unexperienced hero. There’s a fading amount of that material I connect with anymore. It’s different seeing what’s around us instead of understanding only what we can see. Shooting from the hip was replaced with forethought and battle plans long ago. So who I do see more of myself in is the Sage. I’ve done a lot, I’ve gone through a number of trials and tribulations, and now I have wisdom to pass down and help people as a seasoned sage. I help coach kids in martial arts. I mentor younger geeks trying to make a name in the field. Struggles are different, and one sees thing with a wider lens. I’ve gone from Tidus to Auron. Wrynn to Khadgar. Pharah to Ana. Neo to Morpheus.
Wolverine to… well, Wolverine.
And that seriously affects how I play games these days. As much as the internet has turned Overwatch‘s Soldier:76 into a old man dad for all the other characters for example, there’s pieces of him I can get on board with. Sometimes one feels grizzled or grumpy, or hell I’ll say it, Clint Eastwood-y. And Soldier:76 kind of speaks to that. He can still do damage but can take care of others with heals. And he’s not ashamed to use tech to help him get the job done. Tactical visor activated all up in this point, bastards.
I heal more too. While when I started World of Warcraft I wasn’t about to heal any dungeons, but now in Overwatch I break it down with Lúcio keeping everyone up with those heals. Healer and Mage classes that stack intelligence over strength speak louder to me now, because that’s my primary stat in life. I live because of my brain, and manipulate tech to do my bidding with a digital staff which doubles as a whoopin’ stick for young whippersnappers that get insolent.
It’s not just games this holds true for – there are other spheres of geek media that this spill over into. I have more appreciation for a well written complex character who’s a little bit older but has far more depth. Because I’d like to believe that about myself. Dumbledore was my homeboy in the Harry Potter series, and I know this may come as a shock and some of you may get a bit angry for what I’m about to say, but Peter Capaldi’s my Doctor in Doctor Who, more so than Matt Smith and David Tennant.
I’m not saying that there’s no room for young and hotheaded in the games I play. I’m just saying people change, and their tastes in things like this, while mundane to most, weirdly have a lot to say on who we are. And I’m in a place now where I can appreciate that.
Because make no mistake – I still have my means for taking down the metaphorical Ganons out there like a champ but…
Possibly the biggest Final Fantasy event of all time just concluded, so let’s go over the insanity.
Brotherhood Final Fantasy XV
Brotherhood Final Fantasy XV is an anime prequel for Final Fantasy XV. The series is set to have 5 episodes and to be released on YouTube for free. The first episode comes out later tonight with the remaining 4 following on the coming months, and a final, exclusive sixth episode available in the Ultimate Edition. Here’s a trailer:
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is a movie companion to Final Fantasy XV. Whereas the game takes place following Noctis on the road, the movie follows the king, Noctis’s betrothed Lunafreya and Nyx, a member of an elite task force. The movie is fully CG and is of feature film length. There’s not much details on the plot, but the voice cast features the likes of Sean Bean, Leena Headey, and Aaron Paul. Give the trailer a watch here:
There’s a new FFXV demo out tonight too! Instead of being a piece of the game cut out to be standalone, it’s a whole new experience following Noctis as a child palling around with the cutest Carbuncle you ever did see. It’s designed to not be intimidating for people new to the FF franchise, but to give you a sense of how the combat and mechanics work. It’s also got a child Noctis using a squeaky hammer. Can’t get much better than that. Lookit this gameplay:
Justice Monsters 5
It wouldn’t be a Final Fantasy game without a minigame people sink hours of their time in to. This time it’s Justice Monsters 5, which looks to be a combination of pachinko, pinball, arkanoid, and an RPG. It’ll also be coming out for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone later this year! It’s a bit hard to explain this game, just let this trailer do the work for me:
Final Fantasy XV
We got 2 new trailers tonight as well as a firm release date — September 30, 2016! That’s only six months from now! And in that time, we get an anime series, a full length movie, a mobile game, and a demo made entirely of new content. Square is really quadrupling down on Final Fantasy XV, making it more like the Marvel Cinematic Universe in scale and it looks like it’s paying off. Check out the latest trailer here:
Just Cause 3
Everyone’s favorite ridiculous action adventure stunt game is back and better than ever. The series whose staple is over the top stunts set in a giant open world with an iconic grappling hook has taken it to the next level. By having a triggered grappling hook, you can hook multiple things together, then pull the trigger to have them all pulled close, opening up tons of awesome enemy death possibilities. The wing suit also makes escaping situations and dive-bombing enemies look so gorgeous with the updated graphics and better lighting. If you liked Just Cause 2, you’re going to be excited about Just Cause 3
Nier *insert static words*
No, that’s really the title, as far as we could see it. Fans have been asking unhopefully for a new Nier game, and being expectedly disappointed. But now Square Enix has partnered with Platinum Games to continue the saga in an as yet unsubtitled name Nier game. It’s coming out for PS4 and there isn’t any word on Xbox One yet. There aren’t many more details other than the heads of Nier are back and that this is definitely a Nier game. Color us excited, though, as the E3 of unexpected dreams coming true continues.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Lara Croft just can’t catch a break. Not unlike Nathan Drake, she’s in all sorts of trouble lookin’ for dem tombs to raid. The trailer starts out with her ice climbing with a companion. Predictably, things go awry after some death-defying leaps and an avalanche begins to fall. The avalanche looks great and the sense of impending doom and trouble are very present. Rise of the Tomb Raider appears to be running on the same engine as its predecessor, meaning the lighting and graphics are especially good for dark moments with little lighting. Overall the game looks beautiful and seems even more anxiety-inducing than the previous game. Fans of the series, or just fans of action games in general, should keep an eye on this.
Final Fantasy VII
Yes, we already wrote about this announcement. Yes, this is a repeat. Yes, it’s that important. Final Fantasy VII may be one of the most over-hyped games in the series. The protagonists may be a little bland, the story kind of convoluted, and the fanbase an absolute nightmare, but the announcement of this remake is important for reasons beyond just one of the best Final Fantasy game being remade. It’s even more important than the implication that other Final Fantasies could get remade. It’s a symbol of Square Enix finally using its ears to listen to the fans in addition to their money. This started with Bravely Default when fans demanded a traditional, huge JRPG and Bravely Default was barely made. Barely any expectations, but then it started to sell and sell and Square may have realized “maybe the fans should be listened to?” And despite all the previous denials, all the times they’ve said “it would require a massive amount of resources and people,” or “we would love to, but remaking an old classic is daunting,” they’ve sucked it up and committed. That’s a powerful symbol. And now we’re here, in a year where Nier 2 and a Final Fantasy VII remake are actually being worked on. Maybe, just maybe, the Square we grew up with is starting to phoenix down.
Kingdom Hearts Unchained X (pronounced like key)
As usual with Square Enix Kingdom Hearts games, before we get any more info on the next console version, a mobile game has to be released to lead in to the story. Kingdom Hearts III is no exception and its prequel is Kingdom Hearts Unchained X. The graphic style go a completely different direction than Chain of Memories, Coded, or Birth By sleep. Instead, the new game is done in a 2D almost half Paper Mario half Theatryhythm style. The gameplay is ambiguous, but seems similar to Final Fantasy All the Bravest. No word on how this fits in to the Kingdom Hearts lore or where it is on the chronology, but current plans are to release it worldwide.
Kingdom Hearts III
Now this is more like it! Every time we see this game, it seems it gets twice as exciting. They started off the KH3 portion of the show by talking about how it will feature the world of Tangled, something surprising as Kingdom Hearts isn’t really known for doing newer Disney IPs. Then the gameplay start and everything looks absolutely gorgeous. The colors in Kingdom Hearts III are more vibrant and exciting than any of the previous titles, making a really visually interesting landscape to enjoy. And there’s a lot of landscape to enjoy, with the scale of worlds seeming to go way way up. Olympus in particular seems far bigger than it ever has. The next upgraded aspect of the game seems to be in the combat, with something that looks akin to forms in KH2, but with a lot more variety. Guns, chain keyblades, and something like War Machine’s Repulsor Cannon all make this game look fresh. Add in the theme park inspired summons/specials of the electric parade, tea cups, and boat swing and Disney fans are sure to find something new to enjoy with this game. On the story side, two new unknown characters were introduced playing a version of chess with one another. They appear to be younger versions of Eraqus and Xehanort, but that’s nowhere near confirmed. The game continues to wow us with its previews, and we can’t get it fast enough. No word on a release date, but you can bet as soon as there is one, our calendars will be marked, days taken off, supplies bought, and tissues prepared for what looks to be the best Kingdom Hearts game to date.
World of Final Fantasy
The entry barrier to a series like Final Fantasy seems kind of high to someone who’s never played the games before. In order to try and alleviate this, World of Final Fantasy was created. There’s not many details on the game other than it seems to be a turn based combat game in which you control monsters who fight one another, not unlike Pokemon. The graphics seem to alternate between 3D Theatrhythm-style graphics and less cartoony models. Not many details on this yet, but this seems like Square Enix’s answer to not have many casual-friendly games, so at the very least, it should be an interesting experiment.
Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness
Star Ocean has been needing some love for sometime and fans of the series are finally getting sweet relief. Integrity and Faithlessness is definitely built for the current generation, featuring wide landscapes, HD textures, and what looks to be no load screens for fights. Couple that with the wide variety of landscapes featured in the trailer and Star Ocean fans have a reason to be squirming in their seats. The six person party system and open combat look like a lot of fun too. The game is coming out in Japan later this year with a worldwide release planned for 2016.
A completely new IP was announced that doesn’t even have a title yet. The development company handling this title was just created by Square Enix with the name Tokyo RPG Factory. Though no real details are known about the game, its storyline or even the goals of Tokyo RPG Factory, the trailer for their game, codenamed Project Setsuna, looks visually stunning already. We can’t wait to hear more about this title.
The Last Guardian
Could you start a press conference any bigger than by showing off a demo of a game people assumed was dead? The Last Guardian has been one of the most highly anticipated, hotly debated, oft mourned games of the past five years. Now, we finally get to see what they’ve been working on, and it looks beautiful. The mechanics are of a symbiotic relationship between a boy and his creature friend that resembles something like a mix of a cat and a bird. The two friends have to progress through ruins together, helping each other through areas, and often out of danger. In this short video, you can really feel the growing bond between these two and it strikes a chord due in no small part to the very familiar mannerisms of the creature. At times acting like a dog, at times acting like a cat, but always acting like an animal and never acting out of place. It’s beautifully executed and this game is at the top of my list for anticipated titles in 2016.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
A new action adventure IP made its debut in a really impressive way. Horizon takes place after the apocalypse when the remnants of mankind are living in a world controlled by nature and animal-like robots. We take control of Aloy, one of the few huntresses of the robots to gain resources. Using a boy with different types of arrows and cunning, Aloy sneaks through tall plants, surprises robots, and kills them to take their resources. Clearly a bigger robot has a problem with that and is keen to fight. Aloy’s more than willing to oblige. The combat system is smooth, arrow switching is quick, and the ability to slow down time seems well placed. You can shoot parts off the robots to use against them. In this case, a blade shooter is procured to slice off protective parts of the robot’s armor to expose it’s core, then get taken down by explosive arrows. This looks to be a really interesting, beautiful game and something new to the post-apocalyptic game setting. Keep an eye on Horizon: Zero Dawn, it’s one of the most promising new IPs this year.
No Man’s Sky
This demo was probably my favorite, if only because the dev was so candid. He was upfront about how much time he had and what he wanted to show, so he briefly touched on space combat, then dove right in to exploration. He showed the scope of the universe and it’s definitely hard to grasp. Almost infinite, like our own universe. A countable, but difficult to imagine number of planets all with their own unique stuff. The dev even went to a random planet live on stage. That shows a lot of confidence. He showed off categorizing flora and fauna as well as the destructible environments that exist on all planets. No solid release date, but he says there will be one soon. Color us excited!
Media Molecule, the studio behind Little Big Planet and Tearaway, are back with a new concept, and an ambitious one at that. Dreams has you interacting with and creating dreams with players. From adding elements and characters to the environment to animating your creations, they give you the tools create and bring dreams to life. It’s an incredibly ambitious project and there aren’t many details, but we trust you, Media Molecule. Can’t wait to see the tools and what the community does with them!
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Even writing the title to this section made me well up inside. And the sly devils revealed it so slyly. A quick showing of some machinery. Some soldiers. A girl sliding down a slide. Wait, don’t I know that slide?… Some more machinery. Cut to yellow flowers on the ground. Wait, that’s not… Cut to the slums, pan down to a group walking. Large man with a gun for his right arm. OH NO. ARE YOU SERIOUS. Blonde man with buster sword. THEY’RE DOING IT? Final Fantasy VII meteor logo. THEY’RE DOING IT!!!
That’s what happened. There’s no more information on it, but there doesn’t have to be. Square Enix is making dreams come true today. Suddenly, everything is possible, even the most far fetched things…like.
Exactly like Shenmue 3. Fans have been begging for this game for over ten years now and hope had all but died out. However, Sony already showed this is not a press conference to take lightly. It’s one to make dreams happen.
The creator has been wanting to make Shenmue 3 for years, but didn’t want to without the proper budget. Now, thanks to crowd funding, Shenmue 3 is in the hands of its fans. Shenmue 2 left fans wanting more, and 14 years later, they’re now given the opportunity to grab victory. As of writing this, Shenmue 3 has nearly $2.9 million on Kickstarter. that’s almost a million dollars over the asking budget and only in 24 hours. Simply incredible. Fans have wanted this game, the creator has wanted this game, and now thanks to Kickstarter, it’s happening. It’s all happening.
The growing energy demands of the world and our dependence on non-renewable sources is quickly becoming our planet’s greatest problem. With dwindling reserves of oil and coal, science has been doing all it can to harness renewable energy sources to keep up our growing power appetite. We’ve all heard about wind and solar power, but there’s a new contender in town.
Just like solar and wind, we’re harnessing energy that’s already there – the magma sitting below our feet – to turn water to steam and steam to turn turbines that then generate electricity. It’s so simple and yet so effective that to date 70% of Iceland’s power consumption is sourced from geothermal sources. So with all this renewable energy, our planet is looking like it’s in great shape, right?
You’re telling me that a power company is pulling energy out of the earth all so we can watch TV? And nobody sees a problem with this?
So you people just WANT a Sephiroth to rise, don’t you? Well I have news for you. We don’t have time for a spooky motherfucker waving a too-long sword and preaching about his mommy issues wrecking our good time. Taking energy from space or the air or by burning dinosaur bones and plastic bags or whatever coal is made out of was too safe? Just have to go tempting fate by dicking about with the planet, huh?
Now I’m not saying geothermal energy causes Sephiroths, but I damn well AM saying that it causes an environment in which Sephiroths can flourish! You don’t store your chicken at room temperature on the counter, and you don’t go fucking around with mother earth when we have so many unstable people with access to extrabigassswords.com.
“That would never happen! And even if it did, it’s not like Sephiroth won!”
Yeah, a ragtag band of god damn heroes stopped Sephiroth. Real warriors with names like Cloud, Barrett, and Tifa. But it’s 2015 and if I may say so myself, we’re all looking a bit doughy. Do you know anyone with names that slick sounding? No. We can’t depend on Caleb, Bradley, and Taylor to save the day.
Oh and by the way, did anyone even bother to see Advent Children? Did you see what happened when we hurt the planet too much? IT CREATED AN ENTIRE FUCKING DISEASE FOR THE HUMAN RACE BECAUSE FUCK YOU, I’M THE PLANET AND THIS IS MY LIFESTREAM NOT YOURS.
Basically, we’re all super-fucked and it’s Iceland’s fault.