The Greatest Game and/or Movie Never Made

Ah, dreams. The brain’s equivalent of terrible late night television, where you sit back and watch retarded shit that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but you can’t get up to change the channel because it’s 3 a.m. and you’re too tired to move an inch.

Yes, everybody has dreams. Usually they mean nothing, and more often than not, you forget absolutely everything about them the minute you wake up, no matter how cool you insist they were (even if you can’t recall any of the details). Last night, however, the dream I had was just so insane, so memorable, and so fantastically awesome, I had to put it into words.

First off, it started with me pitching a video game to somebody. Not sure who, or for what reason, but I was involved in some sort of brainstorming session for a new video game. My big idea? A crossover between Megaman X and Metal Gear Solid. I have no idea why it was those two games, as I haven’t played either in quite some time.

Anyway, as I was pitching the game, I could envision the introductory screen. It started out in 16-bit SNES style, very similar to the intro to just about any Megaman game out there — a series of static images with a bunch of text underneath. In this case, the intro talked about the fact that Megaman and Zero had set out on yet another adventure, but they mysteriously vanished and all attempts to contact them failed. The calls from headquarters were never returned …

Hold on a blank black screen for a few seconds, and then …

*BLEEP* *BLEEP*

The familiar sound of Solid Snake’s Codec!

Snake? Snake! SNAAAAAAAKE!

Snake? Snake! SNAAAAAAAKE!

The two-panel Codec screen pops up, with Solid Snake on one side and Col. Roy Campbell on the other. I guess it would be up to Solid Snake to rescue Megaman and Zero and save the day!

Hey, if he can appear in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, why not?

At this point, the person I was pitching the game to decided to interject — what if the Umbrella Corporation was behind the disappearance of Megaman and Zero? That way, we could have a triple-crossover with the Resident Evil franchise! Solid Snake could explore the mansion! Yeah! Well, for whatever reason, I wasn’t a big fan of this suggestion, pointing out that doing so would make absolutely no sense.

You know, because Megaman meets Solid Snake does.

Now, here’s where things get a little messed up. I’m not sure if I woke up briefly or what, but the dream takes a radical new direction from here on it. For starters, it’s no longer from my point of view or about me pitching a stupid game to another person. Second, it’s more like a movie than it is a video game — or at the very least, it’s gameplay from the video game I had described, but shot and framed in such a way that it quite closely resembled a standard Hollywood action flick.

What "Mondo Metal" is, according to Google.

What "Mondo Metal" is, according to Google Image Search.

Anyway, the game’s hero, Solid Snake, has confronted some generic thug in a warehouse. It should be noted that for whatever reason, Solid Snake is wielding a katana. The thug grabs a couple of swords from a rack (big futuristic-looking scimitar type things), but Solid Snake easily cuts them in half with one swipe of the katana. The useless halves of the thug’s swords clang noisily against the ground. Solid Snake points his katana at the thug’s neck, forcing the thug to shuffle backwards against a wall. While he never takes his eyes off of the katana, the thug smirks, telling Snake that Mondo Metal has much more powerful and advanced weapons that could never be broken by mere steel.

Yes, the big bad guy’s name is apparently Mondo Metal. Your guess is as good as mine.

The thug then informs Snake that he is too late and that Mondo Metal’s plan is already underway, to which Snake gruffly replies (as if he could reply in any other fashion other than gruff): “What, putting everybody on the planet in hives? It’ll never happen.”

CUT TO:

A bunch of giant wasp nest structures, suspended in air by a single helicopter propeller on top. Each “hive” has a cave-like entrance near the top, which is guarded by a guy behind a giant rifle. Dozens of people, all wearing shabby clothes, mill about near the entrace to the hive. They look like prisoners.

And one of the prisoners is Shaq. As in, THE Shaq. And he tells the guard that he has to go into the hive and get his cell phone because he needs to Twitter. Shaq promises he’ll be back in just a second, and the guard agrees (because everybody knows that not allowing Shaq to Twitter would be a crime against humanity). So, Shaq enters the hive.

Moments later he emerges, but not as Shaq, but as his superhero alter-ego, Steel! At the same time, dozens of other costumed superheroes zoom out of the hives in some sort of coordinated effort to escape and overwhelm their captors!

Shaq is awesome.

Shaq is awesome.

The question is, which other superheroes would appear in this dream / movie / game? Well, that decision was all mine, as the viewpoint shifted from Hollywood cinematics to that of some sort all-seeing god — which was apparently me. As the action paused, I could see, in a first-person perspective ripped straight out of a video game, my hand rummaging through a box of old action figures. This box happened to include all of the X-Men action figures I had played with when I was younger, even the duplicates. I eventually grabbed brown Wolverine (as opposed to blue/yellow), blue/white hooded Cyclops (instead of blue/yellow), Sabretooth, Juggernaut, and a couple others. I distinctly remember passing over Banshee, even muttering “You suck, Banshee” while flinging the figure into some sort of abyss.

You suck, Banshee.

You suck, Banshee.

Then, all of my chosen X-Men characters emerge from the hive and start fighting with the guards. However, the action is interrupted by a female voice (not entirely sure who or why), which tells me that it makes no sense for only mutants and superheroes to be held captive in the hives — there should be some regular people imprisoned as well, and these people should get caught up in the moment and try to fight against their captors, too.

Yeah, about that cheese ...

Yeah, about that cheese ...

So, we switch back to the “God’s Toybox” point of view, where I rummage through the remaining action figures and settle on some generic black dude in a red shirt. I then decide that it sort of looks like Steve Urkel from Family Matters, to which it instantly does become an action figure of Steve Urkel, complete with the following ability — when you squeeze both his legs together, a little voicebox in his chest says “Got any cheeeeeese?”

Anyway, Urkel, wearing a bedsheet cape, also emerges from the hive and starts flying around.

And then I woke up. At least, that’s the last I can remember of it, anyway.

So, did I just imagine the plot to the greatest video game and/or movie that will never get made? Or am I just crazy?

Probably a little of both.

Game Review: Fallout 3

Although most of the traffic to this blog seems to be coming from Google Image Searches for items such as “Vigo”, “Magus”, and “Ovechkin”, there might be a handful of you out there that actually take the time to read the nonsense that I type into this thing. And if you’re one of those select few heroes of the blogosphere, you’ve probably noticed that Steve McCutchen’s Cavalcade of Awesomeness has been a bit of a ghost town as of late. No, my friends, I haven’t been critically wounded. Instead, I’ve just been spending far too much time roaming the Capital Wasteland of Fallout 3 for the Xbox 360.

Yes, I know, I’m a bit late to the party when it comes to reviewing this game, seeing as how it came out last fall and has already seen three expansion packs come its way. However, it was never really a high priority. For starters, I wasn’t a crazed Fallout fanboy clamouring to get my grubby paws on the newest iteration of the franchise. Sure, I had tried the original, but could never really get into it. Something about the slow and clunky battle system, isometric viewpoint, and annoying random encounters on the world map that didn’t really click with me, I guess.

A very excellent game ... but you already knew that.

A very excellent game ... but you already knew that.

Second, I had never played Oblivion, so I was completely unfamiliar with the game engine that Fallout 3 would be built upon, and more important, rather apathetic about the whole third-person / first-person Western RPG genre as a whole.

However, I had heard (and seen) good things about Fallout 3, and with no game lined up to play after defeating Twilight Princess, I finally decided to give it a shot.

In short, the game is really, really good. Quite excellent, in fact. Great atmosphere, pretty graphics, an extensive levelling system that lets you create a variety of character types, some nice dashes of humour thrown in now and again … but that’s not what this review is about.

Everybody already knows that the game is super awesome. Instead, here’s my take on some of the minor, nitpicking issues I had with Fallout 3:

The World’s Greatest Scavenger Hunt!

So I spent upwards of 45 hours completing the main quest and quite a few of the sidequests scattered throughout the Capital Wasteland. But enquiring minds need to know — just how many of those hours were spent slooooooowly scanning every desk, shelf, cabinet, and locker in DC for loot? Far too many, by my estimation. And what is the reward for pillaging an entire city? Sure, you might find a useful item or two, but it’s mostly a bunch of tin cans, mugs, scrap metal, and financial clipboards. I can’t feed my family with financial clipboards, dammit!

On that note, why are the clipboards and plates and drinking glasses even in the game? Mere cannon fodder for the incredibly shitty Rock-It Launcher? No … I refuse to believe that’s the case. There must be more. Bethesda Softworks must be working on an expansion that will introduce the ultimate in protective clothing: Clipboard Armor. Schematics for this item will call for seven Clipboards, Wonderglue, two Fission Batteries, and a Toaster. Yeah … that would rock.

The World’s Greatest Inventory Management Simulator!

So what happens after you’ve unleashed your inner kleptomaniac and shoved everything that isn’t nailed down into your pockets? Well, you get very heavy and unable to move, of course! It’s completely natural to be able to carry a dozen different weapons on your person at any time, but if you try to add one more bottle of whiskey to the pile, your boots suddenly turn to lead. And when that happens, you get to experience the ultimate thrill ride of sorting through your inventory and deciding which crap you really need and which crap you can nonchalantly toss on the floor until you’re light enough to walk at a non-herniated pace.

Get used to this screen. You'll be seeing it a lot.

Get used to this screen. You'll be seeing it a lot.

And don’t think the fun stops just because you’ve levelled up a bit and boosted your strength so that you can carry a few more pounds of junk. By the time that happens, you’re packing super heavy T-51b Power Armor and Gatling Lasers, which means you can actually carry less stuff before having to go through your inventory again and again every time you want to pick up a new item.

Architectural Diversity — The First Casualty of War!

There’s a lot of area to explore in the Capital Wasteland. Regrettably, you won’t really want to, because it all looks the same. Whether you go north or south, it’s the same dreary landscape, over and over and over again. When you finally make it to a settlement, it’s the same type of house over and over and over again. And whether it’s a Vault, the Nuka-Cola factory, an aircraft carrier, a robot factory, or a food processing plant, every single major set piece in the game must have used the same interior decorator, because it all looks freakin’ identical. It takes some of the thrill out exploration when the new place you just discovered looks exactly the same as the last dozen places you discovered.

Get used to this screen. You'll be seeing it a lot.

Get used to this screen. You'll be seeing it a lot.

Biodiversity — The Second Casualty of War!

Okay, so a nuclear war wiped out American civilization as we know out. Towns annihilated, infrastructure completely wiped out … and damn near every single species of animal totally vapourized? It would seem so, because the only living things inhabiting the Wastes are mutants, ghouls, dogs, ants, molerats, scorpions, bears, crabs, and deathclaws. For a game as in-depth as Fallout 3, that’s a rather piss-poor variety of things to shoot at over the course of your lengthy adventure. You can only headshot so many Super Mutants before it grows tiresome, you know? Where are my mutated eagles, giant sandworms, feral warthogs, sharks with laser beams, and other assorted horrors of the apocalypse? Not in this game, that’s for damn sure. Just lots and lots of Super Mutants.

Get used to this screen. You'll be seeing it a lot.

Get used to this screen. You'll be seeing it a lot.

Think of it this way — Kirby had to face a greater variety of enemies than the Lone Wanderer. And that ain’t right.

Weapons, Weapons Everywhere!

So there are only a few different enemies you can encounter in the Wastes. Not to worry, Bethesda understood that this would cause some concern among players, so they created hundreds of different weapons with which to slay these fiendish beasts!

Of course, if you’re anything like me, you’ll go through the entire game without using any of your awesome Mini-Nukes or Bottle Cap Mines or Plasma Rifles, simply because you’ll want to save your ammo for when you face something really big and nasty beyond your run of the mill Raiders and Super Mutants, right? I mean, when you finally have to take out the Enclave, you’ll need all the firepower you have to get through the final showdown, right? Well …

The Ending Sucked (SPOILER ALERT)!

Too bad, because there is no epic final battle! Psyche! Destroy the Enclave by whispering sweet nothings into its master computer! Watch the base explode, content with the knowledge that you didn’t get to blow up a single thing! To top it all off, if your speech skill is high enough, you can simply tell the last boss (if he can even be called that) to beat it! Scram! Take a hike! Hit the road! Can you say climactic showdown for the ages? No? Me neither.

That, and the fact that Fawkes refuses to activate the Purifier on your behalf, despite the fact that it’s already been established that he’s immune to radiation, is just plain stupid. Destiny my ass, you stupid mutie. Now get in the box and take one for the team.

So there you have it — my take on Fallout 3. A great game that has its flaws, to be sure, but still a great game nonetheless. If you haven’t played it, do so. You won’t regret it. Just make sure you don’t have any pressing commitments, because this game will swallow your soul. Seriously.

The Lone Wanderer strolls through another generic settlement.

The Lone Wanderer strolls through another generic settlement.

Movie Review: Hunger

Hunger. Great art, terrible movie.

Hunger. Great art, terrible movie.

I saw the movie Hunger the other day. A darling of the film festival circuit and recipient of rave reviews, I went in with high expectations.

Unfortunately, what I witnessed was nothing but pretentious art-house bullshit.

Now, I’m not saying it was entirely bad with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Far from it. For all intents and purposes, it was very well crafted. The cinematography / framing / mise-en-scene was outstanding, the acting was excellent, and delivered powerful, raw, gut-wrenching imagery and messages about the treatment of the IRA prisoners and the effect the hunger strike had not only on them, but the prison officials as well.

But it simply wasn’t my cup of tea.

While I’m not saying that every film should be a formulaic summer blockbuster piece of tripe, I do appreciate it when movies have certain essential elements — you know, things such as plot, characters I want to care about, dramatic conflict? Yeah, Hunger really could have used some of that stuff.

Regarding the issues of plot and character, I know it’s based off the real life of Bobby Sands, but in my opinion, the goals of Sands and the rest of the prisoners were rather ill-defined. Sure, they wanted to be recognized as political prisoners / prisoners of war, and in the bigger picture, for the IRA to win and the British to leave Ireland, but that’s a big pie-in-the-sky type of goal that the characters in the film can never actually physically achieve. I would have liked to have known about their hopes and dreams on a more personal level, the day-to-day goals of the prisoners, how they interacted with the “criminal” prisoners, whether all of the IRA prisoners were on board with the hunger strike … in other words, the type of stuff that can make us actually care about these characters and, as an added bonus, form some semblance of a flowing, cohesive storyline.

On a related note, it doesn’t help that the main character isn’t introduced until halfway through the movie. We first see Sands get beat down by the guards, and then the next time we see him it’s for a 15-minute conversation with the priest about his decision to start the hunger strike. It’s a wonderful scene which is amazing done in one continuous take, but why should I give a damn about him or his cause when we’ve never really been introduced to the character?

If the movie is supposed to be about Bobby Sands and his death then make the movie about friggin’ Bobby Sands — don’t waste half the picture on some prison warden and a couple of random prisoners. Even when the movie switches to the Bobby Sands story, we never really know all that much about him. From a quick Google search, it appears he wrote a diary during the first few weeks of his hunger strike. The filmmaker could have used this material, but why flesh out his character when we can see some more bed sores?

Sorry, but I don't know anything about you guys, so I don't really care what happens to you.

Sorry, but I don't know anything about you guys or what makes you tick, so I don't really care what happens to you.

At times it felt like I was watching a live-action art gallery exhibit, in that it was nothing more than a series of images about a common theme or topic. Case in point — the scene where the prison official is mopping up the piss in the hallway. Normally, a scene in a film is designed to advance the plot or alter the level of dramatic conflict between characters. Not this scene, however, which is simply a guy mopping up piss in a hallway. For five whole minutes.

While watching that scene, I couldn’t help but think of Family Guy — in specific, the scene where Peter scrapes his knee and spends a minute wheezing in pain, or the scene where Peter randomly cuts to a Conway Twitty song and the show proceeds to play the entire song from start to finish. I thought to myself, they’re not really gonna show him mopping the entire goddamn hallway, are they? Really? Seriously? Come on, get to the point already!

In conclusion, Hunger is a gritty, yet appallingly beautiful, piece of art that showcases what life was like for the IRA prisoners and how the human body can be used as a form of protest. In addition, by not really taking sides, it allows the viewer to form his own impressions and draw his own conclusions as to who’s right and who’s wrong. However, as a function of cinema, it fails terribly, as it was structurally weak and overall quite aimless and meandering, not really sure where it was going or why it was going there.

In the end, this movie can only be recommended for pretentious art-house types. You know who you are.

Replay: Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Look out Link, that wolf's gonna eat you!

Look out Link, that wolf's gonna eat you!

I recently replayed Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the Nintendo GameCube. It’s my first time playing through the game since I beat it when it first came out in late 2006, and I must say, it still holds up rather nicely.

Back when it was released, a lot of people (well, fanboys) complained that Twilight Princess tried too hard to be an Ocarina of Time rip-off and could never live up to the lofty standards of the N64 classic. But those same fanboys were complaining that Wind Waker wasn’t enough of an Ocarina of Time rip-off, so really, there’s no pleasing anybody.

I don’t really see Twilight Princess as a “rip-off” of Ocarina of Time. If anything, I see it as the evolution of Ocarina of Time — it takes all of the elements of the original, and for the most part, refines them and makes them even better. However, a decade from now, will Twilight Princess be regarded in the same way Ocarina of Time is today? No, probably not, but that’s only because the initial “Holy Crap, it’s Zelda in 3D!” moment that can never be duplicated.

That being said, here are a few of my observations from my replay of Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess:

  • When I first played the game in 2006, I thought the wolf segments were long, tedious, and somewhat difficult. However, playing through the game again made me realize that the wolf segments aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be and are overall a very brief portion of the game as a whole.
  • Link’s advanced swordplay techniques are simply great. Building off of what Wind Waker started, each battle in Twilight Princess can be fought in a variety of different ways. For a series that is famous for a main character wielding a sword (often of the Master variety), it’s about time Link learned a few new moves. Plus, nudging enemies over a cliff and to their doom using the Shield Bash is just too much fun.
  • The Spinner. It was fun while it lasted.

    The Spinner. It was fun while it lasted.

    There are far too many neglected items. In particular, there are far too many items that are only used in the respective dungeon, and then perhaps once or twice on the overworld to get a treasure chest. Spinner, Ball and Chain, Double Clawshot … I’m looking in your direction. The worst offender, however, is undoubtedly the Slingshot, which I used maybe twice during the entire game — first when you have to do some target practice with the kids, and then at the very start of the Forest Temple to kill some spiders hanging from the wall. After that, it was never used again. What a waste.

  • Speaking of items, I was struck by how infrequently I used the classic Zelda items, such as the Boomerang and Bombs. Obviously, the Twilight Princess Gale Boomerang had a more dungeon-oriented  purposed, but in other Zelda titles, the Boomerang was a very useful tool for collecting loose rupees, stunning enemies, etc. In this game? Not so much, thanks to the emphasis on using swordplay to stun and counter enemy attacks.
  • Bombs are even more useless. In most other Zelda games (especially the 2D incarnations), it is common practice to bomb random walls in hopes of opening up new passages. Twilight Princess will have none of that, limiting the use of bombs to a couple of caves on the overworld and blowing up rocks for rupees. Would it have killed the designers to replace some doors and force the player to blow up some walls in a few of the dungeons? That’s part of the very essence of Zelda, and it was sorely lacking in this game. However, I will give credit where credit is due — Bomb Arrows rule.
  • The overworld is awesome and a sheer joy to traverse. It’s huge, it’s varied, and it’s full of life — unlike the bland and dreadfully boring Hyrule Field found in Ocarina of Time. Yes, you eventually cease to explore the map and simply warp everywhere you want to go, but that’s the case in every Zelda game.
This version of Hyrule Field is simply amazing.

This version of Hyrule Field is simply amazing.

  • Dungeons are incredibly linear. With the exception of perhaps the Lakebed Temple, there are very few puzzles to be found and the dungeons are far too easy. Compared to classics such as the Water Temple or Forest Temple in Ocarina of Time, or the Stone Temple in Majora’s Mask, the dungeons in Twilight Princess are rather unremarkable.
  • The game is still a lot of fun on a second playthrough — something that can’t really be said for its predecessor, Wind Waker. While I absolutely love Wind Waker‘s visual style, the dungeons and overall gameplay are severely lacking (mostly due to the sailing), and it gets to be a bit of a chore when you get to the last couple of dungeons where you have to escort some stupid jerk around the place. Twilight Princess, on the other hand, was fun right to the very end. While the game starts off rather slowly, it does build steam all the way to the end and the climactic battle with Ganondorf.
  • Ganondorf is a total badass (albeit with rather limited screentime). Dying standing up? Yeah, that’s awesome.

All in all, if you haven’t touched Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess since you impaled Ganondorf with the Master Sword back in 2006, you owe it to yourself to play through the GameCube’s crown jewel one more time. It’s a classic that doesn’t get the respect it deserves simply because it didn’t come first.