Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Grinding for Experience: Vol. 1: Emotional response or Admit it, you cried.

Grinding for Experience: Vol. 1: Emotional response or Admit it, you cried.
I've been playing video games for a long time. My first video game console was when I was five- It was the original Nintendo. I was raised on bits and pixels while other kids were raised on baseballs and play dates. My best friends were Mega Man and Donkey Kong. As I grew older my lover grew deeper. I leveled up from an NES to a Game Boy and Super Nintendo. I would hide my Game Boy under my textbooks during class and play Kirby's Dream Land then go home and Pop Final Fantasy III (read: Final Fantasy VI) into my home console and play the night away. Half a dozen systems and a couple hundred games later- I sit here at my desk wondering to myself why it is that I fell so hard for this interactive media.

Originally, this first installment of my deep look into my one true love was going to be about the magic of video game soundtracks. It was all really well thought out. Then I went and saw Pixar's newest masterpiece, "Up."
Seeing a movie is nothing new for me, but to say the least I had become numb to any sort of real emotion that I am meant to feel from films. They just weren't interesting to me, in an emotional sense. Anyways, ten minutes into Up, I was already tearing up. That movie touched me on a level so deeply that it broke through all my man layers I had built up. Not since Samba’s father died had I felt anything like that during a film.

Let's face it though- video games are not very well known for any garnishing any sort of emotional response out of a player. You don't see many people getting a tear in their eye when they remember Jump man (Mario) finally rescuing Paulina at the end of Donkey Kong. Q-Bert certainly didn't win any awards for best drama. Most modern First-Person Shooters are so bogged down with trash-talking, potty mouthed ten-year-old kids that it dilutes any real story that we are supposed to care for: that's why most of those main characters are faceless, beefy army men who we really can't grow attached too

---Be warned- Here there be spoilers---

The heart wrench is there, folks. Most of you just don't care to notice. I can remember way back to when I was young- The first time I ever shed a tear over a pixilated character. It was a game for the Super Nintendo called Chrono Trigger. You had played through the whole game as this young man thrown into a time-travelling adventure to save the future from an Alien parasite the buried into the planets crust hundreds of years previously. You finally reached the main boss... and he obliterates you. Quite literally. As he lays waste to you team mates and prepares one final attack to destroy everyone. Your main character, which you have controlled through the entire game, jumps in front of the blast and is completely destroyed leaving nothing more than ashes blowing in the wind. I was stunned. I sat there staring at my screen as your main love interest in the game bursts into tears and is dragged away from the battlefield leaving to fight another day.

The Super Nintendo was the place when it came to games throwing out great drama at the player. Take Final Fantasy 6 for example. I could choose any number of great moments: Having to play through being stranded on a deserted island with a man who you consider your father and watching him die a slow, painful death. Being forced to choose to leave one of your friends to die allowing you to escape death. Or possibly my favorite scene- The legendary opera scene. The opera scene is considered one of the most famous sequences in video game history. Experience it for yourself with a re-done audio track featuring actual opera singers. I'll talk more about the song "Aria de Mezzo Carattere" in a later entry, but lets just say there's a reason its considered number 3 on the list of 100 best video game themes. Now that you've seen the scene here's some context- The young lady singing the aria is a member of your team known as General Celes- a magic knight. She dressed as the opera singer in order to lure out a sky pirate in hopes of stealing his ship. You then have to actually perform the opera. You don't just sit there and watch the 20 minute scene- you need to read the script before hand and more or less memorize it and choose the correct lines during the song. While by today's standards this scene might not be as epic as it once was, being brought back into the light of greatness with rose-tinted glasses by the fans of yesteryear, back in the day, a scene like this had never been done before. It quite literally left us breathless.

Final Fantasy has never been one to hold back the emotional punches though. Final Fantasy 4 was filled with great moments of friends being killed in brutal fashions and being tricked into slaughtering an entire village of peaceful civilians. But let’s not forget the one scene that crippled most gamers’ hearts. The death of Aerith from Final Fantasy 7. You spent hours protecting her only to be helpless to stop a mad man from dropping from the sky and impaling her and then... the music. Gamers around the world burst into tears. I remember sitting in my room and having to turn off my television just to try and understand what I had just seen. Never before had a movie or TV show or even a book left me that dumbfounded. I wasn't angry though- that the developers had decided to murder such a sweet character that I had grown to care for seemed right. It worked for the story in a good way it made me want to continue on with the game. To this day I still play through Final Fantasy 7 and feel the same way I did back during my first play through. I'd like to see a movie that can elicit that sort of response.

I could easily go on with these classic masterpieces: I had a whole list of scenes that could easily out drama any prime time television show. I now realize though that all these games I would have talked about are from almost 15 years ago. So, we move on.

As I looked through my modern game collection I realized how much beauty I had missed in some of these current generation games. Lost Odyssey for the Xbox 360 is a more or less looked over game. A fairly old-school styled Role playing game based around an immortal man who has lost his memories and has more or less become emotional void- numb to basic emotions like happiness and love. Then as the game finished establishing his depressed warrior his memories begin to come back in the form of dreams- short stories telling moments of his life. The first of these dreams is a story called "Hannah's Departure" and if you aren't crying by the end of it, then consider yourself dead on the inside. The tale is so bittersweet, that it allows you to completely understand why the main character has become so numb. Most Hollywood producers would kill to get that kind of emotional response out of its viewers now-a-days.

These responses aren't labeled to just role playing games. The entire video game spectrum has moments like this.
Allow me to show my work. First-Person Shooters have Call of Duty 4 and the amazing "Nuke explosion" scene. Action-platformer has Prince of Persia- where you have to carry your partner's lifeless body after she sacrifices herself to seal way the ultimate evil. Survival Horror- Pick up a copy of Fatal Frame for the PS2 and play it with the lights off, at midnight with the volume turned up to max. I have never seen a movie as scary as that game. Even some more intuitive sports games leave you with actual feelings towards the players on your team when you win or lose a big game.

To attempt to make this already long story somewhat shorter, the point I'm trying to make is this: Video games are being given a bad name for no real reason other than the fact that their main audience happens to be the socially awkward. Movies and TV are OK when it comes to getting an emotional response out of its audience, but they just don't stick with you the way some of these classic scenes will go down in history as defining moments in gaming history. Most of you though, won't even give these games a second though before passing them up for a movie. Because you're John Q. Public and like Clark Gable in Gone with the wind you just don't give a damn. Tune in next time where I tell you why Noubu Umeatsu could kick Danny Elfman's ass.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Castle Guard Radio ep: 1

Well, I'm finally done with one of my projects.

Here for you to enjoy is the first of many episodes of Castle Guard Radio, my video game music podcast.

Once its available on the Itunes store, I'll let you all know.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Here I am.

To quote a greatly over used statement- the rumors of my demise are greatly overexaggerated.

I am around, I'm just taking a break to work on some of the behind the scenes stuff- designing a website, content playing through the ridiculous amount of new games that came out in February watching movies, working. It's just piling up. So, keep checking back. I'll post content when I remember.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar Thoughts

Well, the Oscars are over and once again my flawed logic proves to be flawed. I have to say though I wasn't too happy with the way this year's awards turned out.

First of all- Hugh Jackman? Color me confused but why Hugh Jackman. If they were really strapped for someone to host why not go back to Billy Crystal. At least his jokes wouldn't sound forced. I'm sure Steven Colbert could have cleared his schedule, same could be said for John Stewart.
Jackman felt like he was trying to force most of the jokes out and the ones that did work really weren't all that funny. His opening skits for the show pale in comparison to past years video montages and his tribute to musicals was honestly an unnecessary interlude that seems more in place for the sake of padding out the ceremony then for entertaining the masses.

Then there were the presenters. I'm not sure if I'm the only one who felt this way but did anyone else think that having five presenters for the best actor/actress/supportings categories was a bit... too much. It felt like an award ceremony at a little league game, "You're all winners, so just cause you don't take home the biggest trophy don't think you're not totally awesome."
I found some of the pairings of presenters to be forced and uncharismatic. Jen Aniston and Jack Black? Really? Nice Iron Giant reference though. Really, the only presenters that worked well together were Tina Fey and Steve Martin and James Franco and Seth Rogan. Ben Stiller was hysterical though when he was presenting.

The "yearbook" segments they created this year were probably the best part of the show, specifically the Animation and Comedy Montoges. Wall-E giving his reactions to the other films and the Pinapple Express guys throwing some clever stoner humor out at some of the more "presitgious" films was more than enough to make up for what I didn't like about the show this year.

As for who won the awards- I really had to agree with all the winners. With the exception of the Best Actor award, everyone really deserved it. I'm so happy that Slumdog Millionaire took home as many awards as it did. Perhaps now even more people will go see how fabulous this movie really is.

Anyways, I'd give this show a C, maybe a C+ with a little note that says "needs improvement"
It was pretty bad for one of the most anticipated award shows of the year. Though I guess it doesn't matter anyomre. These days more people tune in for the red carpet circus that takes place hours ahead of time. Really, what has this world come to. Well, it's time to start working on next years predictions. I'm rooting for Zac Efron as best actor for 17 again.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Movie Trash

Coraline 3D
Starring:
Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Ian McShane
Director: Henry Selick

First of all, lets set the record straight- Coraline was not created by Tim Burton. It was created by Neil Gaiman. Coraline was directed by Henry Selick- not by Tim Burton. The only connection Tim Burton has to this film is that he once worked with Henry Selick to create The Nightmare Before Christmas. Tim Burton had nothing to do with this movie- so stop giving him unnecessary praise!
Anyways, Coraline is a great... for Hot Topic (zing). It is a great movie for the 12 and up group. The younger kids might find this movie of a girl who finds her perfect world to be a bit frightening- when Coraline's perfect world turns into a nightmare. So take caution when bringing a younger kid to the theater.
The animation is amazing and as always it reminds me why Henry Selick is the best at what he does. After watching Coraline, I went home and busted out my copy of James and the Giant Peach (a much better movie than Nightmare before Chirstmas imo)
The 3D work for the movie is truely amazing and I honestly couldn't imagine watching this movie in any other format. It just wouldn't feel right.
Overall: If you really liked Coraline- I highly suggest going out and getting some of Neil Gaiman's other works. His Sandman comic is truely amazing and the book "Good Omens" co-written by Terry Pratchett is one of the best books I've ever read. Coraline is a great movie. Go see it.

He's Just Not That Into You

Starring:
Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connolly, Bradley Cooper, Ginnifer Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson, Justin Long, Kris Kristofferson
Director:
Ken Kwapis

This is one of those movies that I really wanted to love. It had a great cast and story. The film based on the trailer alone made it out to be the American version of Love Actually; a movie I consider to be one of the best romantic comedies of my generation. Unfortunatly, the movie was not nearly as good as I had hoped. Where as Love Actually managed to give each of its big stars a decent amount of screen time by interconnecting each story, too little time is spent with each character in HJNTIY (acyromn needs work). So little time is spent with each character that they seem to devolve into nothing more than stereotypes. It's really a shame seeing as this cast is so great and I know that they can do better than what was done here.
The film follows various groups of people as they all have to deal with different relationship problems: from men who never call, to the issues of getting married just for the sake of getting married or having trouble meeting straight-men and even the issues of meeting the woman of your dreams after you are already married. It sounds like it should be a great film but it just leaves you wanting more from all the characters. I blame director Ken Kwapis- whose directorial acheivements include Dunston Checks in. There isn't a single movie he has made that I've liked.

Overall: This movie should've been better but honestly it's not going to stop couples on Valentine's day from seeing it. I mean what else is there to see this Saturday- Confessions of a Shopaholic?

Pink Panther 2

Starring:
Steve Martin, Jean Reno, Alfred Molina, Emily Mortimer, Aishwarya Rai, Rai Bachchan, Andy Garcia, John Cleese, Lily Tomlin
Director:
Harald Zwart

Steve Martin and Jean Reno are far too good of actors to be in this movie- which is why it sucks so much. The jokes are stupid the acting is over done. The scenes are just one slapstick joke after another.
Overall: This movie is full of talent as well as being full of trash. It's awful. The story doesn't make sense and the director should be ashamed of himself for wasting such talent.

Push

Starring:
Dakota Fanning, Chris Evans, Camilla Belle, Djimon Hounsou, Neil Jackson, Ming-Na, Cliff Curtis, Nate Mooney, Lu Lu
Director:
Paul McGuigan

Did Paul McGuigan really think people wouldn't notice that his movie was completly ripped off from the first season of Heroes. The only difference between this film and Heroes is that the visuals are better and the story is more convaluted.
Overall: this movie is the worst kind of Trash. It's borderline plagerism. Well, maybe thats a bit extreme but this film doesn't deserve me to talk about it anymore.

Thursday, February 5, 2009