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A Phoenix Factory Review – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

September 24, 2015 Leave a comment

There are some fictional works I consume where there is a striking moment early on where my attitude towards it goes from “this seems interesting and I should finish it” to “this is awesome and I must finish it”. If not for the fact that I have already been fond of the Metal Gear Solid franchise since the first game came out, that moment for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain probably occurred as the main character, Venom Snake, is riding a helicopter on a story mission to destroy the enemy regional communications base rather early in the game. I had previously spent hours freely roaming the enemy-occupied countryside, understanding the lay of the land, warming up to the game by raiding enemy bases and outposts, but I figured it was time to move the story along. As my helicopter flew inexorably towards my landing zone, Kazuhira “Kaz” Miller, my mission coordinator, is explaining my mission to me through the radio and telling me how I have to sabotage the base’s communications infrastructure. Suddenly, Revolver Ocelot, my intelligence officer, interrupts and informs Miller the enemy communications infrastructure has already been destroyed. As it turned out, while wandering around the map, I had already taken out the antennas and satellite dishes in the base without understanding its significance. But the game knew I did this already, so this was reflected in how the mission was already over before it started; I never even got the chance to jump off my helicopter before Miller, as perplexed as I am, utters, “Mission complete. I guess it all worked out in the end.”

And that was how I completed a mission in less than thirty seconds.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a stealth-based third-person shooter sandbox game, the last entry into the twenty-eight-year-old franchise developed by Hideo Kojima, arguably the pioneer in stealth-based video games, and functionally a farewell letter to the franchise as his contract with the intellectual property expires. In many ways, it is a game that’s very different from its predecessors, both in terms of gameplay and narrative style. It also comes burdened with twenty-eight years of backstory and lore, making it intimidating – if not outright confusing – for newcomers to get into as Kojima ties up the last loose ends that connects the Cold War lore to its 20th century storyline. But as a game, The Phantom Pain proves that Kojima still has his chops as the man who revolutionized the stealth genre in gaming, and who can keep up with the times as technologies and gaming changes with the times. Read more…

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Categories: Gaming

Shepard and the Geth VI in Mass Effect 3 (And Why Shpard Was Maybe Kind of a Jerk)

March 25, 2014 Leave a comment

Spoiler alert from chatlogs.

 ysionris
It just sort of occurred to me that – despite being an entirely different consciousness, with a different quantum bluebox, and a fundamentally different set of memory data since Eden Prime (when Legion was first deployed to seek out Shepard) – Shepard still utterly insists on attributing someone else’s name on the VI, despite the VI insisting repeatedly that “we are not Legion”.

 gaz
Yeah.

 ysionris
S/He is assigning a name to a potentially sapient entity using human-centric values, despite insistence from said entity that they are not Legion.
Which, in hindsight, is kind of “meh”-ish.

 gaz
It makes Shepard look kind of desperate due this entity to be their dead friend

 gaz
For this

 ysionris
I suppose. Or it makes him/her look kind of like a jerk. XD

 gaz
To the point that they kind of ignore Legion VIs wishes.

 ysionris
Especially given Legion’s spiel on anthropomorphization in ME2.
Well, it’s likely that the geth VI doesn’t even care. But. =P

 gaz
There is that one part, though. The last conversation that you have with Legion VI before the big decision

 ysionris
Heh.

 gaz
“[…] you were my friend.”
*nod* “And then we died.”

 gaz
But, put this into context with the anxiety Shepard expresses when you storm the Cerberus base at the end

 ysionris
Heh, fair enough.

 gaz
Where she is reflecting on whether or not she really is Shepard.
You could enterpret her as needing this person to be Legion on some level, because it’s my about them, it’s about her
Not about

 ysionris
/me nods.

 gazetteerwastaken _ 1:21 am
I wish Liara didn’t just offer up “don’t worry ur totes Shepard.”
Categories: Gaming

Why I’m Not Against Fanservice and Sexual Objectification in the Media (And Why the Focus Should Be Different)

March 21, 2014 4 comments

In retrospect, now that I haven’t posted here in about five months, I realize that I’ve really been talking a lot about social issues on this blog. In fact, I haven’t talked much about kitties, despite the subtitle of this blog. At some point, this needs to change.

I’ve sort of addressed this before, but let’s try this more comprehensively.

In anime and manga spheres, the term most are familiar with is probably “fanservice”; in Western spheres, “sexual objectification” is probably more often seen. In either case, however, it comes down to using sex appeal to cater to audiences. Almost universally, said “audience” are straight, cisgendered males (it would be interesting to add a racial component, but it’s important to remember that this is not a phenomenon that is strictly isolated to “white spheres”, so we’ll just use those two labels for now), meaning that “fanservice” often involves using scantily-clad, attractive girls in sexually-suggestive predicaments.

A large number of feminists argue that fanservice is wrong, as it sexually objectifies women as merely objects to be desired after, that it strips them down of their humanity and only down to characteristics of sexual appeal. Media traditionalists – most of them heterosexual, cisgendered men – insist that authors and media producers are free to do what they want, that freedom of speech and expression is paramount, and usually throw in a line or two about how “women are ruining movies/comics/video games/etc.”.

The feminist argument is entirely valid, and is certainly reasonable. However, I do take a differing stance for different reasons, and I postulate that these feminists are perhaps focusing on the wrong issue. Read more…

A Review of “Tomb Raider (2013 Reboot)”

March 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Most of us have never been shot with guns before. I think, especially given how modern shooters nowadays still give player characters the ability to soak up plenty of hits, then completely regenerate so long as we go for a few seconds without actually being shot, we do not fully comprehend just how painful it is to be shot with a gun, and so dying because a helicopter gunship has just gunned you down seems more like an inconvenience than a terrifying way to die. Accidentally slamming your toe into the wall really hard, though? Yes, all of us know how badly that can really hurt. And that is why, I think, the new Tomb Raider works so well as an origin story, a narrative detailing how an inexperienced civilian woman painfully grows into an iconic heroine. Because while most of us can’t imagine how painful it is to actually be shot at by guns, we can imagine how painful it is to constantly fall down cliffs, crash into rocks, be thrown into walls, and otherwise be the plaything to nature’s ragdoll physics presentation. Because that’s how Lara spends her time throughout the hours of a Tomb Raider playthrough.

It should be noted that I have never played a Tomb Raider game before, or really paid much attention to it. I knew, of course, that the main character was Lara Croft, a British archeologist-adventurer with two handguns who probably spends most games treasure hunting while racing against nefarious organizations out for the same things she is. In fact, a friend had to correct me when I told him that there was a Tomb Raider movie starring Angelina Jolie; there were two. The only real reason why I paid any real attention to the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider was because some of my friends were rather upset at the comments some developers made in the early trailers of Tomb Raider, particularly the scene where Lara is captured and her captor suggestively makes unwanted advances on her before Lara proceeds to kick his arse with her hands tied behind her back (literally). Almost amusingly, the ire of my friends towards Tomb Raider proved to be the major reason why I ultimately even knew about the game and decided to play it in the first place, but it does present an opportunity for me to review Tomb Raider without the nostalgic bias of previous games other gamers may have. Read more…

Categories: Gaming

3 Things I’d Like to See in Dragon Age III

March 5, 2013 Leave a comment

I’ve been reminded recently that Dragon Age III: Inquisition is being developed with a release date of Autumn 2013. While Thedas is not my favorite RPG universe, I’m invested in the DA franchise enough to look forward to the game. Having played most of BioWare’s recent RPGs, as well as both Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II (although I’ve missed out on some DLCs because I’m a poor, impoverished person), here are three things I’d like to see in the upcoming game.

3. Better character aesthetic designs.

Okay, so I admit I trend a bit towards the Japanese side of what I hope characters look like. And I think more than a few people who talk to me regularly have long since become sick and tired of hearing me say this. But could we have a character creation system that doesn’t make everyone look so ugly? Please?

2. Less darkspawn, more human(oid) conflicts and politics.

Dragon Age: Origins has done more to color more perception of the entire franchise than Dragon Age II, and it’s one of the major reasons why I don’t appreciate the series as much as I could’ve. There were a lot of good things to say about Origins, but its main plot was its weakness, a war against an impossibly generic army known as the darkspawn, which is pretty much every primal, unintelligent, generic orc, goblin, zombie army ever. Even the presence of a zombie-dragon archdemon (and the Awakening DLC) wasn’t enough to salvage how unbelievably boring the darkspawn were, and how much they felt like a ho-hum comical placeholder as opposed to a serious, formidable enemy. By contrast, Dragon Age II was interesting because it was mostly about humanoid (you know, humans, elves, dwarves, qunari, etc.) social issues and politics that gave it more of a dynamic, more of an interesting slant and a myriad of narrative issues beyond another army of ugly zombie-orc goons.

1. A party where not every member is bisexual.

If you haven’t been able to tell by my previous posts on this blog (or haven’t read those posts), or missed the “yuri” part of this blog’s subtitle (in which case I suggest you look up at the top of the page), I have nothing against non-heterosexual pairings. As a female Warden, I romanced Leliana, and as a female Hawke, I romanced Merill. (I also have no male playthroughs.) Just to be clear, I also have nothing against Zevran in particular or bisexuality in general. In writing about this, however, I am reminded of a chapter in the manga Gunslinger Girl (which, despite a name, is actually rather cynical manga about counterterrorism, and comes heartily recommended if that’s your thing), in which the deep-cover agent Rossana explains why people consider her to be boring: “I am all in all boring. A woman without preferences. I like people from the north as well as from the south, as well as the A.S. Roma and the Lazio (both are Italian football teams), if the person I play feels the need to. My favorite food? I like everything. I trained myself to eat everything with delectation. Someone able to do anything offers no interest. […] To like everything is the same as to like nothing in particular.”

Of course, the issue of sexuality carries its own set of circumstances, and it’s not entirely right to draw a direct equivalence, but given that even the most liberal estimates put non-heterosexual persons at 15% of the world population, it seems strange to put in a party that happens to be entirely bisexual in Dragon Age II (and Sebastian doesn’t count, being a DLC character BioWare tacked on later). I’m sure that BioWare meant well by trying to adhere to everyone’s preferences by giving all players any option they liked, but I find this boring at best and offensive at worst. The idea that every companion character’s preferences is automatically catered off-the-bat to suit the “needs of the player” troubles me, as it seems to me like BioWare is giving the player the power to change aspects of another character’s personality just by virtue of playing as male or female. In Mass Effect 2 and 3, Tali’Zorah becomes an available love interest, and while I wanted so badly for her to be a possible romantic love interest for a female Shepard, it was not to be. But I respected that because it was her character, because it was her preference, because I wouldn’t actually demand someone I like to suddenly change their sexual preference just on my account. And that’s the reason why I find it a bit offensive, because there is this uncomfortable insinuation that people can just happen to change their sexuality at the drop of the hat. (Of course, some people have said that there’s no reason why everyone in Thedas can’t be bisexual because it’s a fictional universe, but they didn’t seem to be fine with it when Star Wars basically said non-heterosexuality doesn’t exist in their fictional universe.)

So I’d rather we go back to the romance dynamics of Dragon Age: Origins. Yes, by all means, have homosexual and bisexual romantic interests. I support it heartily. But please don’t make everyone bisexual again.

Categories: Gaming

Benjamin Franklin: The True Hero of the American Revolution

December 22, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed III lately, and while I have fairly complicated feelings about choosing colonial/Revolutionary America as a setting, it’s been a fairly wonderful game so far, with my happy hours devoted to wandering an absolutely beautiful recreation of colonial Boston. Hunting on the American frontier is also a very delightful experience, save the part where you can be mauled by a bear eight times in a row and live, but a wolf jumping on your back takes away a third of your health.

But the entire thing has put a bit of my attention on the American Revolution again, something that I really kind of left behind me since studying about in middle school (save the points where I have to deal with this conservative American idol-worship of their Founding Fathers). And since this is still fresh on my mind, let’s talk about the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers for a bit. Now, the issue I kind of want to address specifically (although wary readers will wonder when I’ve even only specifically addressed a single issue) is in the form of a question: “If there was a true American hero amongst the Founding Fathers, who would it be?”

Popular picks are George Washington, the leader of the Continental Army and the first president of the United States; Thomas Jefferson, polymath and the author of the Declaration of Independence (incidentally, I do like Jefferson very much); and James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights and the American Constitution.

I, however, disagree (and it pains me to do so, as I honestly would’ve liked to say that Jefferson was the greatest of the Founding Fathers). I believe that this title goes to someone else entirely.

I believe Benjamin Franklin is the greatest American Founding Father.

And I believe he did it by sleeping with lots of women in France. Read more…

Why I Can’t Bring Myself to Love DLC

October 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Several weeks ago, a good friend got me a gift: Company of Heroes, a great World War II real-time strategy game. The copy was to be downloaded through Steam, and so for the first time since it was released nine years ago, I downloaded and installed the digital distribution software. This was not the first time I’ve used such a software, but it certainly was a close candidate, given my only other experience with downloading major games online in a such a way was for Mass Effect 3 via Electronic Art’s Origin software. Almost a decade too late, I was finally entrenched into the community of online gamers.

I admit I’m a bit of a old-school person when it comes to traditional gaming: I enjoy singleplayer campaigns more than multiplayer matches, and prefer to play someone in the same room (or at least someone I know) as opposed to mass matches on the internet. For years, I have bought retail versions of games instead of digital versions; Company of Heroes and Mass Effect 3 have been the only exception (although Company of Heroes – and later a few other indie games – were gifted to me as opposed to my actual purchases). I was aware of downloadable content – or DLC – but had largely stuck with the concept of retail expansion packs for a long time.

It didn’t hinder my acceptance of DLC or downloadable games by any means. In fact, I’m rather impressed at this convenient business model that facilitates ease of access, ease of licensing, and ease of implementing sales. Digital distribution of games is a stroke of marketing and distribution genius that I can personally support and get behind. On the other hand, my reception of DLC has been much more lukewarm, for quite a few reasons. Read more…

Categories: Gaming