Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Play this before you die - A 1UP classic from August 10, 2006

That's right true believers. This is the game that you can enjoy best after beating Shadow of the Colossus. You see, I got my friends to play SotC recently, I was pushing the game quite hard. Why shouldn't I? It was an exceptional game, an award winner, art on the plasma screen... but my friends recently beat it. The ending was melancholy, it didn't settle with some of them.

The ending was the reason I didn't touch the game again for months after beating it. I wasn't sure my heart take that type of punishment again. I don't mean the stress of fighting wave after wave of enemies in Ninja Gaiden. Or the pressure of entering a FPS match for big money. The punishment I mention was the emotional kind.

I'm a big guy as you may know. But I'm also a kid at heart, a big softy, I fall for the stories. The game I could beat without breaking a sweat. Anyone that knows their videogames and has played adventure titles could beat it too. The story got to me. It was the ending that beat me.

It wasn't a bad ending, but very melancholy. I wouldn't say bittersweet because you've just been had. A trick by Fumito Ueda to get you into his world. Subtle with his use of everything that goes into a great design, so subtle you don't even realize he's playing you, not the other way around. You fall for the game hook, line and sinker. At least I did.

Jane Pinckard asked a long time ago when games would be able to disturb us. I never posted a comment on her blog. Shadow of the Colossus disturbed me, in the way she mentions. How could we keep playing a game if it was no longer "fun?" (ask GH about his Resident Evil 4 experiences). Take a step back and look at the themes that SotC conveys.

Wander is hurt for every colossus he defeats. The scars are quite visible by the end of the game. Is the life of Mono, the girl worth it? What about his self-sacrificing horse Agro? Was it his love or something else that kept us pushing forward? Maybe we just wanted to see what happens at the end. It is our own morbid curiosity that takes us there. It was then that I was unsettled by the outcome, when I was disturbed just a little.

Fumito Ueda is no fool. I've already said that he's carrying the Prince of Persia torch for Michael Ancel. There was a reason for his design, his plot and the outcome of the game. Shadow of the Colossus is not the end but rather the beginning of the legacy. It is supposed to be the prequel to Ico.

Although Ico doesn't immediately follow SotC in continuity it could be interpreted as such. Is there a relationship between the protagonists in Ico and SotC? There is one! In fact Ueda has said that both games are open to many possible interpretations. The themes of both games are universal. They cross ethnic, political and religious borders. They are games based on good versus evil, right and wrong. Ico frames that better than any puzzle game to date.

Ico is a child sent to a prison because he was born with horns. In the opening moments of the game you really feel sorry for the kid. He is a sympathetic character with wide eyes and a simple way about him. If and when the opportunity to escape arrives you are ready to lead him out of danger. That is until you realize that the mysterious castle in which you are trapped also has another prisoner, a princess named Yorda. In order to escape you have to take Yorda with you. Not that many a gamer would choose to be selfish and escape by themselves. In pursuit of Yorda are some shadowy monsters, sent to recapture her by Yorda's own mother, the Queen.

Talk about an epic adventure!

Ico is a puzzle game, practically a three dimensional retelling of Prince of Persia. You can see exactly where the SotC team learned their chops. You can see where other games like PoP the Sands of Time and God of War took some inspiration. The control in Ico is simple and intuitive, the puzzles are very clever, the graphics amazing and a straightforward plot that beats all. Ico is nothing short of a perfect game, it becomes epic when played right after SotC and not the other way around. Go on and play it again if you have it, pick it up if you don't.

The environments will absorb you. This is part of the world that was on the other side of the forbidden valley in SotC. A castle built on an island, apart from an unseen kingdom in the woods. A giant stone monolith that was built ages ago, with some of the castle lying in ruin. You can tell that Ueda and his team were thinking of a fully-realized world when they began work on Ico.

As far as the eye can see there are details. Birds in the distance, the sound of crickets and frogs. Flowing water, an ocean, clouds and fog to change the mood of the level. All the while you lead Yorda, taking her hand and helping her through the labyrinth of a castle. Ueda says that holding hands is a very powerful symbol of affection in Japan, more so than in any other culture. Most couples just do not do that in Japan. So when Ico first takes Yorda's hand we see the beginnings of a romance. As gamers we have to do our best to get both characters away from the castle and the Queen. To see if they are given the chance to live their lives together, a fate complicated to Wander and Mono in SotC.

Ico teaches us to be brave in the face of adversity. To take a risk and yet always be mindful of using your brain. Every puzzle has a solution and we have to look and listen for the clues. Sometimes we have to leave Yorda behind to figure out how to escape a room, those few moments apart feel like an eternity. Will she be okay? Will the shadow monsters come for her in Ico's absence? Why should we care? After all she is just a polygon model, a device to get us from point-a to point-b.

If that's the case then we are playing games for all the wrong reasons.

Nintendo fanboys have nothing to get worked up over because Link will always save Zelda, whether they play the game or not. Gears of War is not really a battle to save humanity. The zombies aren't really killing people in Dead Rising. This is not really the Final Fantasy and Grand Theft Auto is not about the GT or the A.

Ueda is no fool. He plays with our emotions in Ico just as easily as he did in SotC and does so masterfully. Ico has an ending, something unique. While open to interpretation it is less melancholy than SotC.

For the scope of both games Ueda delivers a story that is the videogame equivalent to the Star Wars trilogies. What unsettled me in SotC was what could have been in the turn of Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader. What worked in Ico was the redemption of Luke and his father. Had Lucas done it right the Anakin to Vader story should have disturbed audiences. Fortunately Ueda doesn't fall for the same traps, there are no Jar-Jar's, CGI does not replace plot and Han always shoots first.

The US version of Ico doesn't have the secrets found in the European and Japanese versions. It still delivers one hell of an experience. Ico is a game that everyone should play before they die, especially if they have just finished Shadow of the Colossus.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a lawn to mow and work to catch up on. Peace. As always if you would like to sponsor me please visit my Patreon page and consider donating each month, even as little as $1 would help make better blogs and even podcasts!
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Monday, February 26, 2024

Red Dead Revolver, the arcade game? - A 1UP classic from May 2, 2012

Friends, today we are going to take a look at a game that was and almost was. The title in question was one of my favorites, Red Dead Revolver. It was one of the games highlighted in one of my most popular blogs ever, the Great Western Shootout. It was also one of the titles featured on my Abridged History of the Brawler. I was following this game when Capcom had announced it back in 2002 and had kept tabs on it even when Rockstar San Diego took over duties and published it a few years later. Rockstar’s version was slightly different than the original design but it was great nonetheless. When a sequel was finally announced I held out hope that many of the characters and elements featured in the original might be preserved.

Red Dead Revolver was a rarity among high profile titles. That was because a large volume of material was documented during the development process and shared with media outlets. These included screenshots and video of pre-beta footage. Some of the ideas were interesting and others were laughable. The Japanese certainly had a unique take on the western mythos. Take a look at the oldest trailer from Capcom of Japan, circa 2002.


There were distinct visual elements that they were pursuing in the game. It was set to be an over-the-top western adventure. There was tremendous change to the layout, interface and heads-up display (HUD) from year to year. Capcom's next trailer from 2003 showed tremendous progress from year-to-year.

Not long after their E3 showing in 2003 Rockstar took over development of the game and would publish it in the USA while Capcom retained the rights to publish it in Japan. Here was Rockstar's first trailer from around 2004. It was obvious that the tone and feel of the game had changed considerably.

The second trailer that Rockstar released introduced the rest of the cast featured in the game. This was the first time that players got a chance to see characters other than Red Harlow running the main portions of the game.

In 2010 Rockstar would release a spiritual successor to the game. Red Dead Redemption had nothing in common with the original title, including locations or characters. That was until the expansion pack “Legends and Killers” was released. Fans of the original RDR could now play as some of the most iconic characters in multiplayer mode.

There was something that had always been a pet peeve of mine. Capcom had created a large number of assets that were not used in the final game. Perhaps it was for budgetary reasons or deadline issues but many assets were complete during the development of the title just never incorporated. Some of the changes made to the locations were necessary but the missing items could have shaped a better experience.

Before it was Brimstone that Red visited in between levels the town was named Tombstone. Perhaps Rockstar changed the name so that players would not think that this was set in any historical town. Other things, like the interior of the barber shop were complete in the Capcom build of the game. In the final release the barber shop was there but when players tried to access it a sign said it was closed. The items that players could buy to unlock levels or weapon upgrades from the barber shop were instead placed in different shops. Perhaps Rockstar did not want to hire another voice actor to play the role of the barber so they just closed a small part of Brimstone down.

In another early build of the game the interior of the Harlow homestead was a playable level. It was fully decorated and the environment was entirely destructible. Players could shoot down pots and pans, break the glass on windows and even shoot holes through the walls. Moreover since the inside of the house was a confined space the camera might be blocked if the player backed into a wall. Capcom had solved this by outlining Red in a sort of see-through chalk form. This house and several other assets featured in the prototype builds did make it into the game but a shadow of their former selves. In RDR’s multiplayer mode the house sits empty and the figure is never outlined when backed into a wall.

Based on the Capcom version of the game it would have been possible to visit the homestead at least two other times in the game. One of the more cinematic sequences featured a level, not far from Bear Mountain, at night and during a snowstorm. The house in the level was on fire, presumably a family was being attacked by outlaws and Red had to save them. This stage appeared amazing in concept. A version of this asset did make it into the final release as a multiplayer level. However this stage lacked any connection to the game or any dramatic tension. The ground was covered in snow but it never snowed in the actual game. There was a burned out remains of a cabin that players could use for cover but no hint as to what had happened on the mountain. It was a wasted opportunity for Rockstar to add more dramatic staging into the final build.

Many characters in the Capcom build of the game were revised or removed. The wild-haired girl in the Capcom prototype was turned into a saloon girl in the Rockstar version. There was a Native American character that had a winged suit and presumably his special ability was that of flight. Every character in the story mode and in multiplayer had a special attack. Some had special weapons they could activate or extended “Dead Eye” (bullet time) mode but the ability of flight would have been extraordinary. As amazing as the move was it would have fit into canon as there were characters that could teleport, spit fire and poison as well as do other supernatural things.

The final build of Red Dead Revolver earned a cult following because it preserved a large number of over-the-top elements, scenes and characters. The villain Colonel Darren had his arm shot off by the powerful Scorpion Revolver, the arm was replaced by a shoulder mounted cannon. General Diego travelled between Mexico and the US on a private armored train loaded with soldiers and artillery. These characters and scenes were far more fantastic than those in recent western films. Games like Red Dead Redemption and Gun tried to present the west with a realistic, dark and gritty atmosphere while the original RDR was more like the classic “Spaghetti Westerns” of Sergio Leone. In fact the soundtrack for the original RDR was based on music from multiple spaghetti westerns including Django, One Silver Dollar and A sky full of stars for a roof.

Fans of the series were left wondering how the game would have turned out if Capcom had finished the developing it, not to mention how they would have approached a sequel. The main characters, levels and assets used by Rockstar were designed and created by Capcom after all. The early success of the game was owed to Capcom as much as it was to Rockstar. In the early 2000’s Capcom wasn’t afraid to develop new IP. Devil May Cry, Crimson Tears, Shadow of Rome, Maximo and Viewtiful Joe were highly original titles that would have been considered a contemporary to RDR. After almost a decade after the original RDR was released people were still talking about it. Wikipedia and a few random gaming forums had perpetuated some myths about the franchise that should be addressed. In all my time searching for data and assets on the beta build I had never seen where Capcom was allegedly going to put zombies in the game. I was at the E3 back in 2002 and 2003 and saw nothing of the sort in the Capcom footage. Until somebody could show proof of zombies in a western game other than Red Dead Redemption or Darkwatch then this would remain nothing more than an urban legend.

Now something did turn up online recently that would add a whole new chapter to the game that might have been. A few weeks back I was searching eBay for rare gaming items and I came across an arcade marquee. I don’t have many original arcade items, save for an occasional poster or flyer. I never imagined that I would be adding anything new to my collection. That was until somebody put a Red Dead Revolver marquee up for bid.

The characters and logo featured on the marquee were pre-Rockstar. I could tell right away because I had collected assets from the Capcom of Japan site and designer Akiman’s blog before Rockstar took over production. The figure of Red on the left side was from Akiman’s painting of the character while the CGI models pictured on the right were some of his very first 3D renderings also by Capcom. I put in a bid and won the marquee for a song.

The marquee gave me more questions than answers unfortunately. The printing on the marquee was top-notch, it made me believe that the assets came from Capcom themselves. The resolution used for the Akiman painting and original RDR logo was much higher than any asset I’d ever seen from a media outlet. I could see details in the marquee that weren’t as sharp as they were from Capcom’s own site. However nowhere on the marquee was Capcom’s logo listed. The RDR logo did sport a trademark sign but it would be curious that the developer was not credited. I was left wondering who created the marquee and what it was for. To the best of my knowledge Capcom did not intend RDR to be an arcade title. They haven't said anything on the Capcom-Unity site about this find. Perhaps in the earliest planning stages RDR might have been a multiplayer arcade title or a successor to their classic Gunsmoke game? Romstar published Gunsmoke for the US back in 1985, perhaps Rockstar was going to be a spiritual successor? Or perhaps Capcom was considering mocking up an arcade cabinet to show at the E3 in 2002 and then changed their minds and told the manufacturer to destroy it.

The thick acrylic sign was flawless. It was too well made to be a fan project and if it was a fan project from a US person then it should have used the US lettering and character art. If this was from a Japanese person then how did it end up in the US? I asked the seller on eBay what he could tell me about the sign. He said he had picked it up along with a bunch of other marquees from an arcade estate sale. Every other marquee he had was from a published arcade game. This was the only RDR marquee in the bunch. That’s all he knew about it. He could not offer a manufacturer or point of origin which was bad news for me but good news for my collection. The gem of my RDR set was previously a huge standee that I got from eBay as well.

There were other things that I’d like to add to my collection. Like the cool swag that Capcom of Japan gave to pre-orders. A leather keychain with the scorpion logo and a red bandana with a scorpion logo were some of the things they gave out. If any readers have a lead on the items then I’m listening. FYI in canon Red Harlow tied a red bandana around his hand to cover the scorpion logo burned into his palm. He got the scar as a young man after pulling his father’s revolver from a fire and shooting off the arm of Colonel Darren. This was yet another thing that made Red cooler than just about every other western videogame protagonist ever created. One of these days I’d like to unlock all of the assets on the disk and put together a comprehensive version of RDR just for my own amusement. Until that day take care and let me know if there were any videogame mysteries you wish had an answer to or share a special piece from your gaming collection and tell us about it.

As always if you would like to sponsor me please visit my Patreon page and consider donating each month, even as little as $1 would help make better blogs and even podcasts!
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Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Street Fighter 6 Original Soundtrack Release Event

Hello friends, I have an extra special weekend posting for you. Earlier this week there was a special event announced by Capcom. Here is the official statement. 

Join us at Amoeba Hollywood as Capcom celebrates the release of the Street Fighter™ 6 Original Soundtrack Collector’s Edition Vinyl on Tuesday, February 20th at 5pm! Featuring a special performance by artists behind the video game’s songs “Not On The Sidelines” and “Legends” – GRP, Randy Marx, Rocco 808, and Jayy Starr – and an intimate conversation with Takayuki Nakayama (Game Director), Yoshiya Terayama (Lead Composer), Shuhei Matsumoto (Game Producer), and Koyo Sonae (Soundtrack Executive Producer).

The album, and the extras are perfect for collectors. I love the attention to detail that the studio put into the releases. I didn’t pick up the day of the signing, as I had just paid my car insurance. Thus I didn’t have extra funds, but I will hopefully be getting the set soon. I still wanted to support the Street Fighter crew, and the musicians as well. I decided to dress up for the event. If you have been following my blog then you would know that I was always eager to go to any Street Fighter event in the LA area.

Whether it was the original Street Fight Club, or the Super Street Fighter IV Launch Party, or the Street Fighter X Tekken event, then I would dress up in my El Fuerte mask, and show out. The original mask was made out of a white tee shirt, and foam sheets. The second mask from around 2009 was made by an actual luchador mask maker in Mexico. I had long since retired that mask, as it started showing wear, and tear from age. I don't think I've worn it in almost 10 years, but it will always be an important part of my memories. 

Given my size (6' 7", 300+ lbs) I wanted to put together a Zangief outfit, and possibly a Mike Haggar costume. I was always a Zangief main, with Hugo, Sodom, Alex, and Birdie also being secondary characters. But that cosplay was supposed to be for some point in the far future. Then six days before the Amoeba event I decided to get serious about putting something together. I got a haircut the night before the signing. My brothers had been trying to get me to sport a Mohawk for 30 years. I finally obliged. I guess the look does work on me.

The primary challenge was putting together the suit. I actually had a gray striped suit, black tie, and vest from a wedding that happened a few years ago. The thing that I didn’t realize was that I had lost a lot of weight from when I first got the suit, so it ended up being really baggy on me. I’ll have to get it tailored next time there is a Capcom event. I didn’t have a red shirt, but thankfully I found one at the local JcPenney.

I got an inexpensive watch chain, wrist watch, and pocket watch from eBay. I think I only paid $30 for all of those combined. To add an extra layer of authenticity the pocket watch was an old Soviet timepiece. I also bought arm garters, but I forgot to wear them when I got dressed the night of the signing. The only thing I’m missing is Zangief’s gold pin on the vest. If anybody has a 3D printer, or could help me source one then please let me know!

It was a rainy night in LA during the signing. The winter weather had been very strange in the southland for the past two years. It’s been much wetter than normal. Los Angeles County can go months, if not years without steady rain during winter. My wife, and I made it out to Hollywood, and found parking just in the nick of time. The crowd had already started growing inside the Amoeba Records.

The Street Fighter 6 team, and record producers did a Q&A session, while the record store played selections of the soundtrack in the background. I know somebody was filming but I don’t know when, where, or if the video will be shared.

The questions were thorough. We found out about the challenges of approaching a popular franchise with a new musical approach. The team talked about incorporating Hip Hop into the soundtrack, and searching for authentic voices that could capture the spirit of the brand. As for the special edition album, Koyo Sonae explained how he grew up with the Street Fighter II book, and CD. He said that it was very influential to him while growing up. He would listen to the CD while pouring over the illustrations.

I think Mr. Sonae was referring to the Street Fighter II Complete File book. It had a lot of concept art, and character art that was extremely rare. He wanted the SF6 albums to have the same reception with the current generation of fans. That’s why it came with an album sized book featuring detailed illustrations, and original art. It would be the kind of thing that fans would be pouring over again, and again while listening to the game music.

The translator did a great job memorizing the lengthy questions, translating them for the team, and then memorizing the lengthy responses, and letting the audience know. There’s no way I’d be able to do anything remotely close to that in English, and Spanish. I’d have to translate one sentence at a time just to keep up.

After the Q&A session the team took a short break. Amoeba then lined up the guests, and set up a table for the signing. For those of us that didn’t purchase the album, we were allowed to get a limited print for an autograph. That was a very generous surprise. I was prepared to go home early, as the web site said the signing was for purchases only. My wife, and I literally turned up just to show our support.

Takayuki Nakayama got a laugh out of my outfit, and commented that even my belt was spot on. On the other posters he was just signing, but for mine he drew a Zangief. That was the first blessing of the night.

Mr. Nakayama asked for a picture, and posted it on Twitter / X that night. I thanked him, and the team on his post. He then followed me! A second blessing! My night had absolutely been made!!! Thank you to Amoeba Music for hosting the event. Thank you to Takayuki Nakayama, Yoshiya Terayama, Shuhei Matsumoto, and Koyo Sonae. Thank you to GRP, Randy Marx, Rocco 808, and Jayy Starr! I wish you all continued success.

I encourage visitors of my blog to support the fighting game community, and the larger gaming world any way you can. If you can host a tournament that’s great. But if you can help mentor young players, share their interests, and encourage their hobbies that would be even better. I’m getting old, and gray, but my passion for Street Fighter has never been hotter. If you ever get a chance to attend an event I encourage you to do so. It’s a chance to make some friends, and learn what goes into making your favorite titles. As always if you would like to sponsor me please visit my Patreon page and consider donating each month, even as little as $1 would help make better blogs and even podcasts!
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Friday, February 23, 2024

A glimpse at the psychic fighting games

I had originally posted a blog on this topic on my old 1UP page, but sadly couldn’t save the HTML before the site was disabled. I did however have the images, and will try to put together the topic as best as I can remember. If you’re a regular on this blog you know that I like to talk about different types of fighting games, and bring back some little known titles. One of my favorites was based on the manga, and anime BASTARD!! Ankoku no Hakaishin (The Dark God of Destruction). My brothers, and I enjoyed playing import games in the early ‘90s. One of the benefits of living in the southland was being able to visit Little Tokyo where they had import games for a reasonable markup. We were literally watching Dragon Ball Z on VHS a month after they aired in Japan. Plus we were playing DBZ fighting game on the Super Nintendo while kids were waiting for Super Street Fighter II to come to come out on the same console.

The manga was high fantasy, with lots of violence, and nudity thrown in for good measure. It predated Berserk by years, and is owed its flowers. What separated it from other violent fantasy titles was that the characters had magic, and psychic attacks, in addition to their traditional swordplay. Adapting the series to a game format was Cobra Team, and SETA Corporation. They actually did a fantastic job recreating the flying/fighting mechanics on the 16-bit console. Most games based on a property were platform titles, you would follow the main character from stage to stage fighting the various bosses, in a Castlevania-tyope quest. Sometimes a licensed game would be a fighter, but those were sloppily done. But this was different. It was actually a brilliant game with a lot of originality.

You had a sort of behind the back mechanic where you could see your opponents in the distance, flying over the various kingdoms. You could circle each other, fly at each other, and change elevation slightly. As fresh as the gameplay was, it also made a clever use of the special attacks. In order to perform a special move you would use button combinations, and these were inspired by the magical seal attacks from the manga. You know, where the main character draws a sort of spell over a pentagram? These were things that had been seen several times in manga, and anime. Most notably in Fullmetal Alchemist. I was lucky to have picked up an issue of V-Jump magazine which let me know all the magical seal combinations of the main characters. It became intuitive after a few rounds of battles with my brothers.

This mechanic of drawing special attacks would pop up in RPGs, and other titles some years later, when touchscreens had entered the mainstream. But the idea for creating spell patterns with button combinations? That was all thanks to Bastard!!. Speaking of which, the manga, and game ended up setting a sort of standard that would predate the evolution of the Dragon Ball Z fighting games. The downside was that 3D flying, and fighting mechanics were difficult to present accurately using 2D sprites.

While Dragon Ball was known for its impressive fight scenes, there were other manga, and anime shows that showed combat that was equally unique. One of those was X / 1999, a series by CLAMP. The main characters looked like typical high school teenagers, however they fought using awesome psychic powers. Think about how Tatsumaki from One Punch Man, or Mob from Mob Psycho 100 fight in their respective shows. They’re able to fold buildings, and turn cities into rubble with just a glance. Mind you these archetypes were made popular in the early 1990’s. It was about that time when 3D models were replacing sprites in arcade games.

Taito took a chance on free floating 3D psychic combat in their cult hit Psychic Force. The arcade game from 1995 was a breath of fresh air. In a sea of 2D fighting games this one truly stood out. The characters had a heavy anime design to them, and players battled within psychic cubes, this contained the force of their attacks, and prevented innocent civilians from getting hurt. You could float in three dimensions, and direct close, and ranged attacks at your opponent. It was an even more polished version of the Bastard!!, and Dragon Ball flying mechanics. Its sequel Psychic Force 2012 came out in 1998, and was published on multiple consoles including the Sega Dreamcast. I urge you to track down a copy if you have a DC, or play on an emulator. It’s still a fresh game.

With the exception of the more recent Dragon Ball games the free-floating fighting game genre seemed to hit a dead-end at the end of the 20th century. That was until Psy-Phi was announced by Sega, and actually demoed in 2005. It was the first new fighting game designed by Yu Suzuki, the legendary mind behind many of Sega’s biggest hits, including Virtua Fighter. His goal was to completely rewrite the fighting genre, while at the same time making it more accessible to audiences. He saw the limitations of gamers using frame data, and other gameplay nuances to take the creativity out of fighting. So he designed a touch screen interface. And rather than rely on quick reactions like a martial arts game would demand, his characters had psychic powers, so there was more strategy involved in each battle.

It was a good idea in theory, but for more than a decade I worked in a computer lab. I knew how reliable touch screen technology could be. Not only that, I knew how filthy monitors would get after a few hours of playing. There was no way you would have convinced me, or my brothers to put our fingerprints all over a display, and pick up some nasty germs. I had no idea how Sega was going to handle that question, or how much it would cost arcade operators to buy touch screen games. What would the maintenance have been on these screens, or whether the technology was even viable in the arcade.

The character designs in Psy-Phi were nice, but not memorable. They didn’t seem to break any new ground as far as influences went. I’m glad that Mr. Suzuki, and Sega were willing to try out new ideas, but it seemed so far out of left field I couldn’t help but wonder if the studio was simply trying to see if their technology was even viable. Shortly after this demo Sega, and a number of other studios started releasing card-based games in the arcade. Where you could play your physical cards on screen, these included sports games, as well as RPGs. In futbol / soccer games you could actually field your players, and choose what formation you wanted to use based on the card placement on the screen. This allowed you to change formations in the middle of the game, as a good manager would be able to do in real life. These mid 2000’s games seemed to last a while, but never took off outside of Japan. I think it had something to do with relying on the technology.

Psy-Phi would be hard to bring to consoles without touch displays as well, or some sort of new controller. For anybody that has a stack of unused guitars, conga drums, and dance pads in their collection could tell you that games with peripherals did not usually last very long. What do you think? Would you have liked a chance to play a touch screen fighting game? Were you a fan of psychic characters in games, or pop culture? Did you ever play any rare import games at home, or in the arcade? Tell me about it in the comments section. As always if you would like to sponsor me please visit my Patreon page and consider donating each month, even as little as $1 would help make better blogs and even podcasts!
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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Returning to Shadow of the Colossus - A 1UP classic from September 23, 2008

Apologies for the tardiness of this blog my friends. There are multiple workshops going on. I'm even lending my chair out to a student and typing this blog on my knees in front of the screen. I'll keep it short before the circulation to my legs gets any worse. I just got Shadow of the Colossus back from my cousin. I lent it to her a year ago after I let her borrow God of War and GoW II. Her and her boyfriend were feeling pretty confident in their game playing skills so I told her I had something equally epic yet more artistically presented. I lent them SotC yet after a year they couldn't pass the second colossi. So I just told her to give it back so I could play some more.

It says a lot about the state of game design. We take games and the ability to play games for granted. The button combinations and boss strategies are second nature to most of my friends. But for those that aren't die-hard gamers then a title like SotC is simply confounding. My cousin is no slouch, she plays games all the time including Guitar Hero but I am wondering if both GoW titles are really that much "easier" or that they are simply more forgiving in their challenges. With GH it is easy to see that repetition and button memorization gets non-gamers through the levels. But what of SotC? What is the challenge there? Perhaps it is a right brain versus left brain struggle. Minimalist cues are used to help gamers locate and defeat each of the colossi. Those that explore the game and learn the nuances of control are rewarded for their efforts. A gamer that isn't used to experimenting in such a way, while at the same time being able to control Wander and target moving colossi would be stumped. Those more casual are used to being "spoon fed" the next location or strategy for defeating bosses. Somehow they get the same sense of accomplishment for beating the title as a core gamer would. OR do they? I'm not sure.

Shadow of the Colossus is a game layered in detail. A tremendous visual and emotional treat for those that are willing to go completely into Fumito Ueda's world. The more you look the more you will see, even year's after the game's release. These things may be coincidence, glitches or programming oversights but many fans have convinced themselves that Ueda and team left a lot of clues about the game's relationship to Ico hidden throughout the level. For example there is a beach in SotC named Ico Beach by fans. It was named after the ending location of Ico. There is even a "Secret Garden" with gems that tie the universe of SotC and Ico together.

One thing debated amongst fans is the existance of the Queen's castle from Ico in SoTC. There is a large blurry texture, tucked away in a far corner of the map and not visible from the rest of the world. Are fans seeing something that is not there? A texture that was supposed to represent a mountain range perhaps?

I think it's a stretch to say that it's the same castle featured throughout Ico but if we were to run it through a Photoshop motion blur and stretch it a little then it becomes more apparent. Perhaps the Queen's castle won't materialize from magic to reality for another few centuries so it is distorted? What do you think?

Or perhaps the charm of SotC is seeing how the world is set to evolve and how the icons and magical totems would change between games. It's all reasonable if you stop and think about it.

When I first got the game I used to imagine what each of the colossi would look like. As great as they were I was kind of let down with the final one. I thought that Ueda had set us up from the get-go and the final colossi was actually in plain site the entire time. From a distance the castle and temple that Mono is lying in looks to me like a throne with a colossi sitting atop.

This stone man would have been even larger than the final colossi and had he stood from his throne and walked about the forbidden land for the final showdown then my head would have exploded from the awesomeness. Although that never happened I can always wonder can't I?

A game that is filled with tremendous wonder and a feeling that the universe is infinitely larger than the story we are presented. It allows our imaginations to run wild and fill up the spaces in between. That is the legacy that Ueda has left us with. Now, if only he could be so kind as to drop a hint for his next project. As always if you would like to sponsor me please visit my Patreon page and consider donating each month, even as little as $1 would help make better blogs and even podcasts!

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