My memories of getting The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and why it means so much to me.

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Sometimes you just need something to cheer you up so that’s why I can’t wait to play The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD with my friend on Friday. I remember back in 2003 when I was 11 and in the final year of primary school. I’d been buying NGC magazine and following the development of the new Zelda religiously. I wasn’t a big internet user as this was the early 00’s and I was very young so I had to rely on magazines for all of my gaming news. Initially I was taken aback by the vast aesthetic changes Nintendo had brought to the series but eventually I was won over by the expressiveness and charm that these changes brought with them.

I began seeing adverts on TV and reading reviews and I wanted the game more than anything. The Zelda series had a major impact on me in my childhood and I wasn’t about to miss out on the next big instalment. In short, I was obsessed. The problem I realised was that the game launched in Europe in May. My birthday fell in December close to Christmas so I had no way of obtaining it and any pocket money I did receive came nowhere near to the games £40 price tag. I often saved but I’d recently blown my cash on something useless. Probably Beyblade, gaming magazines or whatever trading cards the kids were obsessing over at the time. I knew that The Wind Waker wouldn’t be mine for a very long time so like the spoiled consumer 90’s born child I was, I got really down about it. I just wanted to journey across the ocean and go on an adventure with Link again. It’d been a while since I’d played Majora’s Mask and set foot in the harrowing world of Termina and time seems to pass slower when you’re that young. It seemed like a lifetime since I’d been to Hyrule. In fact, I hadn’t been there since Ocarina of Time in the 90’s. These games were my Narnia. I needed to return as soon as possible.

One Saturday I set off to football practice, even stopping at Woolworths (yeah, we’re talking that long ago) and picked up the gold Gamecube game case adorned with a beautiful image of Link sailing The King of Red Lions, the sea breeze blowing back his hat. I read the back of the case and realised there was a bonus disc featuring Ocarina of Time and the much harder Master Quest version and then I knew I had to own the game even more. Ocarina was one of the games that got me into the series and playing a harder re-imagining on Gamecube that came free with The Wind Waker blew my mind. Two Zelda games for the price of one.

I got to football practise and mundanely dealt with the concept of exercise with one thing on my mind. Playing Wind Waker. I thought maybe my cousin would have it and I’d get to play it at his house. I came home later that day only to find that my Mum had bought the game for me as a surprise and I’l always remember how mental I went. As a kid back then, I didn’t expect games being bought for me apart from birthdays or Christmas so it was a huge deal for me. She pulled the same trick when the Gamecube first came out. I was being bought a copy of Sonic Advance for doing well in school and she told me on the way home she couldn’t get it so I was really moody about it. I went upstairs to play my N64 an in the drawer was a Gamecube with Luigi’s Mansion. My skeleton nearly evacuated my body. I never did get round to getting that copy of Sonic Advance. I had bigger fish to fry.

After I’d calmed down, I popped in the Wind Waker disc and let the melodic title screen music wash over me. I was back in Link’s world after all this time. For the next few weeks I played it with my Mum all the time since she was just as big a Zelda fan as I was. That’s one of the reasons the game holds such a huge nostalgic charm for me since it reminds me of really good times with my family. I used to play it with my cousin a lot too since he was the main friend I had that shared the same taste in games I did. I remember him bringing over a huge game guide that also had a Skies of Arcadia Legends walkthrough in it and we spent days trying to find all the game’s secrets.

Everything about the game is jaw dropping and the original Gamecube Version stands the test of time in terms of gameplay and visuals. The cel shaded art style gives the environment the illusion of being a cartoon you can play and the openness of the Great Sea leaves you with a sense of empty seclusion as if you really are Link taking the helm of the King of Red Lions alone in the vast watery expanses. The overworld theme counteracts this feeling of isolation by giving you the motivation and drive to explore and find treasures hidden away on remote landmasses. That sense of exploration, of danger and the fact that anything could happen out to sea mirrors the barren frontier of Hyrule that was the game world of the original Legend of Zelda on NES.

The music is enough reason to play the game alone. The Hispanic vibes of Dragon Roost Island are perhaps the most memorable but who could forget the moving “Legendary Hero” from the games opening cinematic? I’d go as far as saying that Koji Kondo produced the best OST in the entire series for this game.

I’m eager to return to the Great Sea this week and while The Wind Waker isn’t my all time favourite Zelda game (that accolade going to Link’s Awakening on Game Boy) it’s certainly the one that puts me in the best mood and even got me through some tough times in my first year of university. I hope playing it on Friday will help me through some even tougher times right now. How can a game that bright, colourful and welcoming not put you in a good mood? I urge everybody who didn’t play this game back in the day to pick up a copy or even buy the new HD remake. It’s a classic piece of art that needs to be enjoyed by all. It’s just so damn cheerful.


Undertale: A quirky RPG that doesn’t play by the rules.

When I first played the Undertale demo I was admittedly drunk. I had no idea what I was doing because I went into the experience blind and I was met with a game that was equal parts charming pixel based RPG, equal parts nightmarish 8-bit inspired acid trip complete with a horrifying furry goat mother. Bearing all of this in mind, Undertale is definitely a game I want to play as soon as it’s released.

The game itself harkens back to the charm of the classic Mother/Earthbound series in it’s quirky humour and bizarre enemy and character designs and the gameplay draws influence from the Shin Megami Tensei series with dialogue options in battle designed to help you win in ways other than fighting. If you think you’ve seen everything gaming has to offer then Undertale proves you wrong.  Have you ever flirted with a killer vegetable to stop it from mauling you? Probably not. Indie developer Toby Fox states that character interaction and choice play a major role in the combat as well as the storyline, hence the wealth of options available in battles aside from fighting.

Armed with a mind: Your voice is often a better weapon than your fists. Pacifism pays off.

Armed with a mind: Your voice is often a better weapon than your fists. Pacifism pays off.

Another interesting addition that mixes up the flow of the turn based combat is the way in which enemies attack you. You’re provided with a small heart cursor placed within a box. You’re then tasked with avoiding objects similarly to the gameplay of bullet hell shoot ‘em ups. This is a fresh and welcomed mechanic that really impressed and challenged me during my time with the demo and I’ll be interested to see how it’s implemented when the game is released. As for actually attacking, you’re presented with a bar and must time your attack just as a cursor reaches the centre. The closer you get, the more damage you do, a system that bears a striking resemblance to Resident Evil Gaiden on Game Boy Color, a game I think myself and maybe three other people on the planet have played.

Undertale’s charming art style bears a striking resemblance to the Mother series.

The story takes place years after a war between monsters and humans has been waged and the monsters have been sealed away underground. You play as a child in 201X (a date cliché ripped right out of Mega Man) who scales the mysterious Mt Ebott, a place that travellers are said never to return from. During a storm, you take refuge in a cave, and discover a world beneath the Earth’s surface inhabited by the monsters magically sealed away in the ancient conflict.

You come across an eerie goat woman named Toriel who becomes a guide and mother figure to the player character as you explore caves full of self aware goofy humour (that in some ways reminds me of Barkley: Shut up and Jam Gaiden) that somehow manages to provide a light hearted shroud around the game’s dark heart. As you’ll soon find out, killing monsters in battle comes at a price and the game explores a vast wealth of themes. At the end of the demo you’ll be left asking yourself whether or not  it’s humans that are the real monsters.

Undertale's humour is top notch.

Undertale’s humour is top notch.

Undertale has surpassed the developers wildest expectations, reaching a whopping $41,658 of its modest $5000 kickstarter goal and a demo is available on the game’s official website. If you’re expecting a run of the mill gaming experience, then Undertale will shatter your conception of how games are played. It’s expected for release on Steam in Summer 2014. Let me know in the comments below if you’re excited for Undertale.


Legend of Iya: One man’s 25 year old idea finally set to see the light of day.

When I was a child I often dreamt of my ideal game. I still do. It’d probably be somewhere in between Banjo-Kazooie, Castlevania and Metroid and have RPG elements and huge areas to explore. Sadly, I’m not a game developer and this idea will probably never come to fruition. Things are different however, for indie developer Andrew Bado. 25 years ago, he had a dream. The idea started off as a simple 8-bit platformer but has since evolved into a sprawling 2-D open world Metroidvania game, in and out of development for over a decade as he completed work for companies such as WayForward and Majesco. This long development cycle has seen the game go through countless transitions and changes, in part due to the fact that the game was essentially Bado’s hobby, sidelined to his free time. Now it seems like he’s finally ready to commit to finishing his magnum opus, saying with conviction that “now is the time”.

Legend of Iya features jaw-dropping pixel art.

The game’s premise is reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, with a girl finding herself lost in a forest that becomes increasingly fantastical and bizarre and desperately attempting to escape. Although the source material is often used, Bado insists upon the originality of his work. This is easy to believe because it’s hard to imagine badgers with chainsaw arms or elephants with mini-gun tusks in Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s tale. As for gameplay, if you’ve ever found yourself lost in the worlds of the 2D Metroid games, or many of the Castlevania games that came after the ground breaking Symphony of the Night, then you know what to expect with Legend of Iya. It’s safe to assume that there will be an extensive map to explore, secrets to uncover, skills and items to find that gain you entry to previously inaccessible areas and interesting and varied settings. Something that sets the game apart from other Metroidvania games is the combo based melee battle system.

The game features some truly bizarre and creative monsters.

Legend of Iya’s artwork is one thing that sets it apart from a lot of games currently on the market and gives it an extra appeal to gamers that grew up in the 1990’s. The pixel art Bado has created is incredibly detailed with some of the most impressive backgrounds and character designs I’ve ever seen created in this style. The protagonist alone has around 500 frames of animation making her movements appear incredibly fluid. The impressive fantasy worlds evoke a sense of wonderment and nostalgia in me that not many things can.

Back from the dead- Legend of Iya started life as a ZX Spectrum game and has since gone through many iterations.

 

With 25 days left of it’s Kickstarter campaignLegend of Iya has reached  $24,365 of it’s $75,000 goal. If you’re a fan of the genre or are just looking for a fresh experience, I highly recommend making a donation to make sure this nostalgic game makes it on to Steam in 2014. Pledging $10 will guarantee a DRM free copy of the game, with backer bonuses improving with money donated. You can also support the release of Legend of Iya by voting for it on Steam Greenlight. Let me know in the comments section below if you’ve ever played a Metroidvania, if this game looks exciting to you, or anything else you have to say about it.


Best Video Game Music: The Lost Entries

It seems I was having something of a mental block when compiling a list of my top 10 songs from video game soundtracks. I completely failed to comprehend the magnitude of some of the other classics out there and was lax when it came to deciding what made the cut. Here’s the 5 songs that I think surpass my top 10. Let’s just say that these are the true master-class when it comes to music composition in gaming. The absolute zero of cool. The industry standard.

Dire, Dire Docks- Super Mario 64

This song gives me chills. Koji Kondo is the man. He knows the score. Or rather, he knows how to score a great soundtrack. Think back to all the songs in Mario games of old. They were memorable. They were fun. But none of them did what the Dire Dire Docks theme does. It evokes a sense of wonderment and awe at the ocean depths laid out before you. It almost makes you forget Super Mario 64‘s shitty underwater controls. Almost… Referring back to what I kept mentioning like a broken record on the previous top ten, nothing creates atmosphere like ambience. Dire, Dire Docks has it by the bucket load. Now if only I could stop focusing on the beautiful music and just avoid those fucking eels.

Stage 2- Bad Dudes vs DragonNinja

Love it or hate it, Bad Dudes vs DragonNinja by Data East was certainly a memorable game, in part due to its killer soundtrack composed by Azusa Hara, Hiroaki Yoshida and James Sanderson. I have a lot of childhood nostalgia for the OST and in particular, stage 2. I remember being five years old playing the NES version fighting my way through hordes of ninjas on top of a moving train with every step taking me closer to death. Perhaps this is the end. Maybe I’m not a bad enough dude to rescue the president. Maybe this game will beat me. But no. The music rejuvenates your fighting spirit. It actually makes you feel like a truly BAD DUDE. You can almost imagine a 1980’s thrash metal band playing it if it weren’t so 8-bit. Incidentally, there’s a great NES cover band that does just that.

Beware of the Forest’s Mushrooms- Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

What can you really say about the soundtrack to Super Mario RPG? Take the talent of Squaresoft’s Nobuo Uematsu of Final Fantasy fame among other things. Throw it into a melting pot with Nintendo’s Koji Kondo, perhaps the most iconic video game composer ever to grace the industry. Then add a dash of Yoko Shimomura, responsible for many classic Capcom soundtracks including Street Fighter II. What you’re left with is an OST like no other RPG in the SNES library. It blends the whimsical and quirky nature of the Mario universe with the dark heart of Squaresoft SNES RPGs. Beware of the Forest’s Mushrooms is the perfect flagship song to illustrate the high points of an album that borders upon perfection. The sense of unease and mystery hidden beneath the seemingly upbeat hook leaves you with a looming dread that other forest themes in video games just haven’t been able to emulate. Something about this song just screams creepy. In my opinion it even trumps Lost Woods from The Legend of Zelda series.

Oh and by the way there’s a neat remix of it in Super Smash Bros Brawl with creepy vocals. I don’t want to know what’s lurking in the forest. Take me home.

The Sage Laruto- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Yeah, this list has basically degenerated into “how many times can I mention Koji Kondo in one article?” In truth, I don’t see how that’s a bad thing.

When it comes to Zelda soundtracks, Wind Waker has arguably the greatest in the series. The obvious choices would have been the Spanish influenced Dragon Roost Island theme or the chill inducing Legendary Hero from the games opening cinematic (a song that yet again proves my theory that pan flutes make everything better.) I chose to deviate from the fan favourites and go with something a bit different. A bit more personal. The Sage Laruto is an odd song. It combines a harp with those slightly uncanny digital choir sound effects from Ocarina of Time. The ones that used to creep me out as a child every time I went into the Temple of Time. The song itself is a down tempo rearrangement of The Legendary Hero mentioned above. Using it again albeit in a remixed form, adds a sense of cohesion to the game’s soundtrack. Final Fantasy X did that with the into song To Zanarkand when it showed up later in the game as Movement in Green. It’s a nice touch and I wish games would do it more.

Basically as a kid this song really hit home for me because of the story behind it. Basically Laruto is the former Earth Sage and the only Zora to appear in Wind Waker. She was born in Zora’s Domain in Ocarina of Time before Hyrule flooded and was killed by Ganon when he broke the seal of the goddesses and reached the surface of the ocean. The reason the song is so haunting to me is that she’s the last of her race. The song has a melancholy air of death about it. When I saw Laruto for the first time in the game I was super impressed to see a Zora. Five minutes later I was in bits because I learned that they were all dead and buried in the ocean depths and this song was a perfect accompaniment to the heartbreaking revelation.

Bloody Tears- Pretty much every Castlevania game since Simon’s Quest on NES.

Castlevania wouldn’t be the same without Bloody Tears. There are so many remixes and arrangements of it in so many games and all of them are of the finest quality but the NES version started it all. While Simon’s Quest is something of a black sheep in the series, it’s hard to argue with the fact that the music is stellar. Walking out of the town as Simon Belmont and ploughing through Dracula’s undead armies never felt so good with the hammering 8-bit gothic melody of Bloody Tears booming out from the mono speaker of a CRT TV. That is until you realise the game is a steaming pile of vampire bat turds. That said, it’s still possible to enjoy the song while actually playing a GOOD Castlevania game. Some other examples include the Bloodlines version, the Symphony of the Night version and my personal favourite, the Rondo of Blood version. Even Lords of Shadow, a game barely resembling Castlevania (but still fun all the same)  included it in a medley with the classic Vampire Killer theme.

Bloody Tears is the embodiment of everything that makes the Castlevania series great, refined down to its purest form. It makes you feel like a vampire hunter out for Dracula’s head and that’s something that remains timeless to me.

Listening to it just reminds you of one thing… What a horrible night to have a curse!

I resent this text box because every time it comes up, Bloody Tears stops playing.

Feel free to comment below and let me know your favourite video game music!

 


Top 10 Video Game Songs

If there’s one thing that’s overlooked behind the bullets flying and swords clashing in our games, it’s the music. Similarly to movies, the soundtrack of a game can really set the tone, be it high octane battle themes or the emptiness of games such as Metroid Prime or Shadow of the Colossus, music is one of the most important factors in crafting a solid gaming experience. Here I’ll give you the lowdown of my personal favourite themes from some of my favourite (and least favourite) games.

10. Phendrana Drifts- Metroid Prime

Nothing says ambient quite like the Phendrana Drifts theme in Metroid Prime. Not much more can be said that hasn’t already been stated about the quality of Retro Studios Gamecube masterpiece but one thing is for certain, Kenji Yamamoto’s haunting sci-fi score makes the experience all the more worthwhile. This ambient track drags you from the comfort of your sofa to the barren tundra of the Phendrana Drifts, almost chilling you to the bone as you explore the lonely snow covered landscape as Samus.

09. Hot Head Bop- Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest

The Donkey Kong Country series is renowned for it’s blend of dark ambience and upbeat melodies composed masterfully by David Wise. The OST takes a step away from the usual style of music in platformers and go for a more sophisticated approach. I could include almost every song in the series on this list or write an entirely new list dedicated to Donkey Kong but I’ll stick to my personal favourite. Stickerbrush Symphony and Aquatic Ambience get honourable mentions but my all time favourite song in the series is Hot Head Bop from DKC2, also my favourite game in the series. The catchy midi sitar riff gives the song an Indian flavour and the bubbling of lava in the background really adds to the upbeat but serious tone the song evokes. It’s almost like a chilled out down tempo version of Hot Top Volcano from Diddy Kong Racing. If the quality of the music in the 90’s SNES DKC games was anything to go by, David Wise Returning to score Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze can only be a positive.

08. Dr. Wiley’s Castle- Megaman 2

Again, I’m including a song from a series lauded for it’s terrific music and choosing one song was hard but I concluded that the music from Dr Wiley’s Castle in Megaman 2 (composed by Takashi Tateishi) embodies the series for me and provides the most nostalgia. Imagine it. You’re a child sitting in the glow of your old 90’s CRT TV screen and you’ve just taken down the 8 robot masters. Any Mega Man fan will know that that’s no easy task. You’re infiltrating Wiley’s castle and this song starts to play as you blast your way through hordes of robots. It makes you feel badass. It makes you feel empowered. It makes you feel like Mega Man. It’s so good that it was included in the Mega Man reveal trailer for the new Super Smash Bros game.

07. UNATCO- Deus Ex

You might get the correlation by now. I like ambience in my music and the UNATCO theme in Deus Ex certainly delivers on that front. If you want one piece of music that sounds completely and utterly cyberpunk, then this soundtrack is for you. Scored by Alexander Brandon, Dan Gardopée, Michiel van den Bos and Reeves Gabrels, the Deus Ex OST is one of the best gaming has to offer. This song in particular embodies the dark and mysterious nature of the games conspiracy heavy world. When the song came on in the intro segment of Deus Ex:Human Revolution when you walk into Sarif’s office, fanboy tears were shed.

06. Neverending Journey- Lost Odyssey

If your name is Nobuo Uematsu and you write music  for JRPG’s chances are I’ll like your content. If you put pan flute into said songs, chances are I’ll love you. Uematsu, of Final Fantasy series fame is a master of the craft, scoring many of the most popular RPG’s of all time. Even the games he scored that sucked had good soundtracks. Neverending Journey, with it’s guitars and pan flutes inspires images that it’s title puts plainly. It makes you feel as if you’re on a journey, and that’s perfect for a world map theme in a JRPG. This is Uematsu at his absolute best, and luckily for fans, that’s an occurrence that tends to happen 100% of the time. Can the man do any wrong?

05. Time’s Scar- Chrono Cross

I know that most people would regard Chrono Trigger to have the superior soundtrack but my allegiances lie elsewhere. Chrono Cross on PS1 had it’s soundtrack scored by Yasunori Mitsuda, the same man responsible for the music in its predecessor. I feel that the music in Chrono Cross goes above and beyond what was achieved in Trigger and that’s no small achievement considering the quality of songs in the first game. Time’s Scar accentuates the lavish sprawling nature of the gaeme, starting out with a slow ambient opening with acoustic guitar and flutes playing a soft melody dashed with the occasional chime of bells. The song reaches a climax and opens up into a fast paced violin score that coupled with the games gorgeous opening movie, makes for one of the best audio-visual experiences in any game on PS1, or any game ever for that matter. The video above contains a HD remaster of the intro and I highly recommend watching it if you like JRPG’s with great FMV’s, or better yet, play the game.

04. Shibuya- The World Ends With You

The World Ends With You is one of the most original RPG’s I’ve ever played and one of my favourite games of all time. I remember whiling away Maths lessons in school playing it under the desk with headphones in enjoying the amazing soundtrack. A mix of urban influenced music featuring hip-hop RnB and J-Rock tracks composed by Takeharu Ishimoto and played by several bands and artists, TWEWY stands out among other JRPG’s. This particular track played in the Shibuya area of Tokyo in the game utilises piano and record scratching to give life to the sense of gritty urban decay present in the game. I highly recommend this game and its soundtrack and there’s no excuse not to get it if you don’t own a DS since it was recently ported to iOS.

03. Nightmare- Bioshock 2

While not strictly composed for the game, Nightmare, the classic jazz track by Artie Shaw brings a gloomy sense of overarching doom to the game. Played in the loading screen before a level (although I forget which one because I only played Bioshock 2 once and it was forgettable and mediocre), Nightmare became an instant mainstay on my iPod and opened me up to a world of jazz that I never knew I loved. This is an example of how music in video games can really open up players to things they never knew about before. The Fallout series is also responsible for a renaissance in the popularity of music from the 1940’s and 50’s. It’s a nice feature and I hope it continues in many game series’ to come.

02. Sinking Old Sanctuary- Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

Those who know me personally may be aware of the fact that I never shut up about Castlevania, to the point where it’s probably an annoyance. It’s definitely my favourite game series ever and picking one definitive song has been extremely tough in a series where almost ever single song is of the highest quality. From ambient creepy background music, to high octane gothic baroque influenced cheesiness, Castlevania is a series renowned for it’s great OSTs. Sinking Old Sanctuary first appeared in Castlevania: Bloodlines on Sega Mega Drive. This version, while not my favourite, fit the stage well as you had to navigate Atlantis as water levels rose rapidly. The tension in this level was high, but the catchy gothic ambience of the song calmed the player and allowed the hard as nails challenge to be met with a clear mind. The version I’ve picked however, comes from the non-canon GBA title Castlevania: Circle of the Moon. For me, this is the definitive version of the track and it creeps its way into my head regularly.

01. Battle Theme- Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest

I’m sorry. I really am. Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is a terrible game. That can’t be ignored or forgiven. It was designed as an entry level RPG on SNES for new players. That sounds okay on paper but in practise it was a watered down mess of a game that assumed the player had the IQ of a garden gnome. In short, it was the easiest and most boring RPG I’ve ever played. The soundtrack however, is fucking great. Composed by Ryugi Sasai and Yasuhiro Kawakami, the OST features the battle theme posted above. I would go as far as saying that it’s the best battle theme I’ve heard in any game and it’s such a shame that it accompanied such dull and lifeless encounters in Mystic Quest. However, I plan on working around that problem. When I purchase Final Fantasy VII on Steam, I plan on employing various high res mods to make the game look better. I don’t plan on stopping there though, because I discovered a mod to swap out the soundtrack. This video shows how fitting Mystic Quest’s battle theme is in a genuinely good game. This is an odd choice for a number one all time favourite song from a game but something about it just hits the nail on the head for me. This is the standard that all RPG battle themes should try to compete with.

So there you have it, my top 10 songs in video games. Obviously I couldn’t include everything and it’s regrettable that tracks from classics such as Banjo-Kazooie couldn’t make that list but to highlight everything would require a top 100 or greater. Feel free to comment below and let me know which songs really stood out for you in your favourite games.


When you play the Game of Thrones video games, you either quit playing or you die, there is no middle ground.

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” Cersei Lannister couldn’t have put it any better. But where is the middle ground when it comes to video games based on George R. R. Martin’s much-loved fantasy book series A Song of Ice and Fire and its popular HBO television adaptation? More importantly, where’s the hallowed ground? Where are  the good games? In short, there aren’t any. The adaptations we gamers currently have to endure if we want to explore Westeros aren’t exactly the masterpieces we’d have hoped for.

An action RPG entitled simply, “Game of Thrones” was developed by Cyanide best known for classic, industry defining works such as Pro Cycling Manager. I’ll put it to you plainly. A holiday to the Dreadfort to be flayed by Roose Bolton is more fun than this game. I’d rather have Walder Frey organise my wedding than sit through this unplayable, unimaginative bore-fest. Alarm bells rang immediately as Cyanide studio director Yves Bordeleau announced that the studio had been working on the game long before the TV series aired and then as it became popular they forged a deal with HBO to secure some actors and assets on board. Like Jon Snow, this game is very much a bastard. One parent the world of the novels and the other the world of the show. It’s true to neither and nowhere near as compelling.

Remember the part in A Game of Thrones where the characters fight giant mole rats? No. Neither did I.

The game is extremely unpolished and the world feels dead beneath muddy textures, shoddy gameplay and ugly graphics.  You jump between two characters Mors Westford, a brother of the Night’s Watch, and Alester Sarwyck, a red priest. Credit is very much due to the developers for splitting the story up in the same vein as the source material and there are multiple endings based on the choices you make but the characters and story are so forgettable that there’s no player investment and no point in playing on to see how it all pans out.  Making a game based on A Song of Ice and Fire with poor characterisation is like making a game based on a Tarantino movie where you go around picking flowers and feeding bread to ducks at the local pond. It simply doesn’t work. There’s no cohesion. If you thought the story would be enough to warrant putting up with hours of shitty gameplay, think again.

Is it me, or did Neverwinter Nights (released in 2002) look better than this game?

The game’s battle system should be re-branded as a form of sleeping aid. It’s a mix of turn based and real time combat that lets you queue up attacks. In motion it looks like a dated MMO and it doesn’t play or feel half as good as one either. There’s no excitement. There’s no spectacle. It all boils down to some generic characters bashing each others skulls in (and yes they managed to make skull bashing boring) as their health bars deplete slowly.

I could go into more detail about why this game is so disappointing but I really can’t say what other reviewers have already said. The game that came a year before it was called A Game of Thrones: Genesis, a real time strategy that there’s even less to talk about than the RPG.  I think Gamespot’s Kevin VanOrd sums it up well:

“A Game of Thrones: Genesis is as mediocre as real-time strategy games come.”

With that in mind, lets move on and discuss what would make a game based on A Song of Ice and Fire a fun and rewarding experience rather than a bland and uninspired mess. For one licensing the game to another studio instead of Cyanide is a must. Several come to mind, the forerunners being Bethesda and Bioware. While Bethesda has experience with The Elder Scrolls and clearly knows how to create a believable high fantasy setting, Bioware are more adept in the story department, and that’s exactly what a good Game of Thrones adaptation needs. CD Projekt RED, the developers of The Witcher series have also proven their worth adapting games from the novel series of the same name so they’d be a top pick for an RPG based on Martin’s magnum opus.

The Witcher 2 looks more like a Game of Thrones game than the Game of Thrones game itself.

A heavy focus on one piece of source material, either the TV series or the books, is also a must to avoid ending up with the shoddy RPG we already have: A game stuck in a limbo that doesn’t know what it wants to be. A compelling combat system that doesn’t put the player to sleep is also required. I felt like I’d taken the milk of the poppy thanks to Cyanide’s offering.

Setting is also key. I’d like to see a game set during Robert’s Rebellion or Aegon’s landing. Just stay away from the events of the books and show. Give us something different. Imagine a game where you play as a brother of the Night’s Watch set in the past when it was first established. There’s a wealth of lore to pick from. It shouldn’t be that hard to come up with something stellar as long as the writers are of a good standard.

Message to all developers: See this? We want this. Now.

Also, dragon mounts are a must. I won’t buy this game unless it contains dragon mounts. Oh and the ability to equip Lightbringer, Azor Ahai’s flaming red sword of heroes.


Pipe Dreams: Your occasional guide to intoxicated gaming! 1# Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden

A new  feature on Super Effective that I’ve been thinking about for a while is Pipe Dreams, which seeks to be the doctrine of divine truth on what games are necessary for the gamer that seeks to expand his or her mind and open their third eye. In short, Pipe Dreams is a weekly low down of the best games to play while intoxicated so choose your poison wisely. These games that will make you laugh, think deeply or just trip you out.

Starting off this week, we have one hell of a game. A game that most people won’t even be able to comprehend. How does this game exist? Why does it exist? Why haven’t I gotten wasted and played it yet? That game is the legendary  Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden (Full title Tales of Game’s Presents Chef Boyardee’s Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa), a freeware game developed by Tales of Game’s Studios

Have you ever wanted to play a post apocalyptic RPG sequel to the movie Space Jam? No? Then start wanting that right now. This has to be one of the most quirky, altogether fucked up pieces of digital entertainment I’ve ever pumped several hours of my life into. The story is something else. When I first played this game I couldn’t even begin to stop laughing. Here’s a brief summary of what you’re in for:

“The Great B-Ball Purge of 2041, a day so painful to some that it is referred to only as the “B-Ballnacht”. Thousands upon thousands of the world’s greatest ballers were massacred in a swath of violence and sports bigotry as the game was outlawed worldwide. The reason: the Chaos Dunk, a jam so powerful its mere existence threatens the balance of chaos and order. Among the few ballers and fans that survived the basketball genocide was Charles Barkley, the man capable of performing the “Verboten Jam”…

Flash forward 12 years to the post-cyberpocalyptic ruins of Neo New York, 2053. A Chaos Dunk rocks the island of Manhattan, killing 15 million. When the finger is pointed towards the aging Charles Barkley, he must evade the capture of the B-Ball Removal Department, led by former friend and traitorous baller Michael Jordan, and disappear into the dangerous underground of the post-cyberpocalypse to clear his name and find out the mysterious truth behind the Chaos Dunk. Joined by allies along the way, including his son Hoopz, Barkley must face the dangers of a life he thought he gave up a long time ago and discover the secrets behind the terrorist organization B.L.O.O.D.M.O.S.E.S.”

If that doesn’t make you want to play the game, I don’t know what will.  Shut Up and Jam Gaiden is a turn based RPG inspired heavily by games such as Final Fantasy. It does a good job of mocking the genre clichés throughout and the humour is great. It seems that the gameplay style was chosen for no other reason but to act as a parody. If you want to have a good idea how ridiculous this game is, even the save points are dashed with wit. Before allowing the player to save, they present you with long-winded pieces of embarrassing dialogue supposedly taken from real forum posts made by anime and RPG fans. One personal highlight was the totally unexpected battle with the reanimated corpse of Kobe Bryant.

Though the game may not be taken seriously by some, the gameplay is surprisingly solid and you’ll find yourself quickly engrossed fighting various basketball themed monsters. The general flow of the game follows that of a typical JRPG but many modern gameplay elements are thrown into the mix such as quicktime events during cutscenes.

The image above doesn’t even require a witty caption.

The turn based battles are fun and sometimes challenging and the exploration formula (i.e go to town, buy items, go to dungeon, rinse and repeat) while tried and tested, is still fun, mostly due to the nature of the setting.

The main thing about this game that is great is the fact that despite the completely ridiculous plot points and setting, the game maintains a completely serious and sombre tone. This isn’t a game filled with jokes. The game itself is the joke and it benefits all the more from this fact.

A sequel, titled The Magical Realms of Tír na nÓg: Escape from Necron 7 – Revenge of Cuchulainn: The Official Game of the Movie – Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa (colloquially called Barkley 2: Curse of Cuchulainn) has been confirmed, with a Kickstarter that has successfully met its goal. Taking place in 666X, the game tells the story of the amnesiac cyborg X114JAM9 as he searches for the Cyberdwarf in his quest to learn who he is. I highly recommend the Barkley series for any intoxicated gaming session and the original can be downloaded for free here:

http://www.talesofgames.com/related_game/barkley-shut-up-jam-gaiden/

Remember kids, if you can’t slam with the best, then jam with the rest.


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