Top 3 Most Wanted-Spin Offs

September 20, 2010

Some days ago I talked to a friend on IRC and he started talking about cool ideas for spin offs. He later even started a whole topic on a popular gaming-board about it, which got lots of replies from people with more or less great ideas. Of course, you cannot start such a theme without getting my left side of the brain running wild, so here are the Flying Fisch´ Top 3 Most Wanted-Spin Offs.

3.) Mass Effect: Quarian Mission

The Quarians, an alien race in the world of Mass Effect, are the most interesting inhabitants of that universe to me. Wearing neat-looking suits, never showing their face, and being masterful technicians as well as capable tacticians in battle. What I´d imagine for this spin off would be a game that focuses on action-missions, leaving out all the non-linear exploration of the main series, but still keeping several crucial decisions that result in different following missions and different game endings. Even though the game-controls wouldn´t be too different from what we know, there´d be more focus on stealth and long-range combat, since typical Quarians aren´t strong close combat fighters. A sniper rifle would be your main weapon. Missions would vary from big groups, to smaller groups, to missions that you´d have to do all on your own. The story for this spin off could be anything from dealing a blow to enemy Geths to even doing a stealth-attack against Cerberus and finding out what they´re doing with the acquired human reaper (assuming that´s the canon ending of ME2). The game would give a lot of insight into Quarian behavior and be more straight forward, while still keeping an element of choice that is integral to the Mass Effect-franchise.

2.) Metroid: Galactic Federation vs Space Pirates

This is a dream of mine ever since that cutscene in the beginning of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. The game would let you play as either a Federation Trooper or Space Pirate, meaning the game would feature two campaigns. On the Federation-side, you´d experience a more typical shooter-experience than when playing as Samus Aran. Your armor would be weaker, no charge beam shot and no space boots. But you´d have machine rifles shooting rapid energy blasts and be fighting alongside comrades. You could give commands to your team members, which could consist of different kinds of troopers, such as PED troopers or demolition troopers. You yourself would be carrying a PED, a Phazon Enhancement Device that would grant more power for a limited amount of time. Without all of Samus´ super powers, it´d be a much more down-to-earth experience, featuring more of the horror that are the space pirates and unknown planets. Missions would vary from exploration, to rescuing someone to blow up pirate bases, or defend a colony against a pirate attack. All that while environmental dangers would pose a threat, too. And then there´d be the Space Pirate-campaign that´d be completely different. Here, you´d be controlling a single Space Pirate, equipped with some energy blaster, missiles and, most importantly, a jet pak and invisibility device. Gameplay would be totally different in that you could now reach whole new places and do missions stealthy or not so stealthy. Mission goals could range from stealing important items/information to killing higher up persons and readying the approach of a larger pirate-attack. To make this a really fun, long-lasting game, there´d be coop- and multiplayer-modes, off- and online. I can´t imagine a more fun multiplayer-shooter than Federation troopers against Space pirates, each with their own tactics and combat options. And meanwhile, you´d learn more about the world of Metroid without everything relating to Samus Aran.

1.) The Legend of Zelda: Shad´s Journey

My favorite NPC in Twilight Princess by far. Shad is one of the guys of the resistance group that you meet in Telma´s pub. He´s that guy that later helps Link to get to the sky temple by deciphering ancient texts and even using a spell to active Link´s Dominion Rod. When playing Twilight Princess, I always felt that the resistance group could have been given more show time, better fleshing out – especially Shad. His design is too awesome for such a hardly seen side-character. When I wish for a spin off featuring him, I imagine an action-adventure that is less about killing enemies and more about exploration. That´s not to say that Shad shouldn´t be able to fight monsters when needed, but the game should never force the player to go into battle without other options. After all, Shad is more of a bookworm than a heroic fighter. Controlling Shad would feature in-depth climbing options, necessary for the emphasis on exploring environments, be it steep stone walls to get to an ancient temple or the inner walls of a temple itself. Or just a high bookshelf. The story would be about Shad trying to find a way to reach the Ooccas´ sky temple himself, since he couldn´t follow Link at the time of Twilight Princess. Afterall, he continued his deceased father´s studies and still has to fulfill them, at any costs. It´s what he dedicated his life to. Shad´s adventure would give more insight into the world of The Legend of Zelda and offer a different gameplay experience that is based more on exploration and magic than combat and saving the world. And maybe Shad could become a more fleshed-out character himself – his great design cannot go to waste, after all.


Let’s talk about Team ICO

April 18, 2010

I´m eating grilled chicken and a small piece of bread at the moment, the sun is shining and tomorrow, a new semester at university will be beginning. I´m in good mood, so I thought: Let´s write about why I hate Shadow of the Colossus. So be prepared for one extremely subjective article (not that there´s any objective video game article anywhere in the world) that some might easily shrug off as a piece of mighty troll-art…well, it´s hard not to touch into the realms of trolling here, as it´s a highly emotionally loaded topic to me. Oh, I mentioned “emotions”, how fitting for this developer´s games, eh?

Being Zelda-fan and Team ICO-fan - It´s possible!

The Playstation 2 entered my room very late into the system´s life. I´ve never been a Sony-guy, just as I´ve never been a Sega-guy before (though I bought a Dreamcast for the zombie-time of Nintendo 64, leading up to the GameCube´s launch), and the one big reason I wanted a PS2 was Kingdom Hearts 1. Yeah, that sounds really silly now that I look back. But there was another game that I was once interested in, only read a bit about it in some magazine, a two-page article. Some game called “ICO”. Sounded really interesting. But I didn´t have a PS2, so, whatever. Then a friend, who wrote for a video game website back at that time, published his ICO-review. And there I was, almost being instant-hyped about this game that I never looked into that deeply. For what is worth, ICO became the one PS2-game that really stood out to me (again, not a Sony-guy, never interested in all these MGSs, DMCs, GTs or FFs) and turned me into a believer. A believer of Team ICO, who really managed to create a game that didn´t feel “gamey”. Except for the really annoying monsters, especially during times when you had to leave npc Yorda alone, the game was one unique, impressive 7-hour-game. Then, NICO was announced.

NICO, which we later found out would be called Shadow of the Colossus, got me hyped from its very first mentioning. I guess I really liked Team ICO´s choice of colors, polygonal design and animations. And it also helped that ICO was really interactive. You can imagine how thrilled I was when the first trailers about SotC were published. Gorgeous! That has to have happened sometime in 2004 or so, because both SotC and some other game hadn´t been released. It´s that other game and Sony-fans´ reactions that managed to make me a hater. Before I go on, let me tell you: I think that SotC is a nice video game, but it failed to be as special and unique as ICO. I don´t think it´s a “piece of sh**“, that´s what “they” got me to say thanks to “their” behavior.

So, what game could that Sony-fans chose to pick on, while making comparisons to SotC? Yeah, right, it was The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Apparently, having a sword and horse and big boss-enemies convinced these “fans” that SotC would be, and it´s not me that created the following phrase, a “Zelda-killer“. Now, at that time we already knew quite a bit about SotC, most prominently that it would consist of only fighting boss-enemies, without any kind of dungeons or other overworld content. Nonetheless, fans all over the world, be it the “Other consoles”-section at some Nintendo-board, another, bigger German multi-console board, or the infamous NeoGAF-board. A “Zelda-killer” had been chosen. Looking back at it with today´s knowledge, I´d say that this was the birth of the modern Sony-fan, i.e. look at what happened prior to Killzone 2´s, MGS4´s, Heavy Rain´s or God of War 3´s release. Terrible.  So I got into arguments with some people I used to talk with a lot about SotC. Mainly about the fact that they claimed, SotC would trump Twilight Princess as an action-adventure. I then explained to these people how Zelda-games are all about the complete package, aka dungeons, overworld, sidequests, smaller enemies, big boss-enemies, npcs, combat, story, and so on. Whereas SotC limited its concept to a very compact offering, focusing on finding and beating 16 boss-enemies, within an empty world, nothing else to do than what you´re supposed to do. In the following quarrels, I lost two friends that I knew from discussion boards, as they couldn´t get it into their mind that someone rejected the idea of SotC being a “Zelda-killer“, because it didn´t have anything a Zelda-game has, except for boss-fights. And there´s another, specially funny detail that these people conveniently “forgot“: The whole “feeling bad for killing monsters” had been done before. In a Zelda-game! Remember Majora´s Mask? All fours boss-battles were not against evil monsters, but ancient guardians. I still remember the second boss, the taurus-like enemy, that was rather easy to defeat. But it took some time, and you really felt much more powerful during the fight than this ancient being, making you feel bad. All that while the taurus would make such horrible, agonizing sounds of suffering. And when you had done what had to be done, you´d see a very moody scene, once again strengthening the feeling of doing something very wrong. That was in 2000, Majora´s Mask. Which leads into the next phase of people making me hate SotC. Let´s call it the era of

SotC is art“. How sick I am of this statement. I wrote an article on video game art for FlyingFisch a long, long time ago, where I finely crafted a definition of what video game art actually is. I didn´t make up some definition that went to my advantage, but looked into what other media do, so people call them “art”. Basically, some piece of a certain medium becomes art when it achieves a really high quality of its medium´s strengths. Meaning, a painting becomes art when it looks really awesome, music becomes art when it sounds awesome, and movies become art when they show you something awesome. And what is it that makes video games its own medium? Interactivity. The possibility to directly interact with something by your own will. So, even though I´m sick of the whole “games as art”-discussion and think we should just enjoy them, seeing how art is not something irrevocably positive, IF we choose certain games as examples of art, whe should pick the right ones. And even though there are many self-proclaimed “hardcore gamers” that hate the company, Nintendo achieved to create lots of games that fit the video games´ definition of being art. Be it Zelda or Super Mario Galaxy, you´ll have a hard time finding more interactive games than those. But to mention a non-Nintendo-game, how about this: Just Cause 2 is closer to being video game-art than SotC.

And now we´re in the pre-release phase of The Last Guardian, Team ICO´s next game for Playstation 3. And to tell you the truth, I just don´t care about it anymore. Though, I sometimes have to shake my head in disbelief, but that´s something I cannot change. Let´s just say: For most Sony-fans, The Last Guardian is already Game of the Year of whatever year it´s released in. We know nothing about the game. We saw a trailer that could as well have been a movie-trailer. There´s a griffon, there´s a boy, and apparently you´ll make the griffon help you to proceed in the game. That´s it.  But oh the feelings! I´d say, at this point it´d be more refreshing of Team ICO to NOT include a tear-jerker scene, seeing how everyone expects that already. The griffon dying, the boy dying, or finding the dead parents of the boy and/or the griffon. Whatever, people expect that to happen.

To conclude this text, I´d like to tell you that I really loved ICO. And that SotC was really lacking as a game. In this modern time, people seem to prioritize certain side-aspects of games higher than the actual game-part (and even then I don´t see where SotC had a great story…there was none). Emotions in games are great, which is the reason why I became a Zelda-fan after playing Link´s Awakening on the original GameBoy. But emotions alone are not enough for a video game to be great. It is the combination of many aspects, and I´d hope that people manage to understand that thought-process of mine. I guess I would´ve enjoyed SotC, had it not been for its “fans”, but that cannot be changed. Right now, I hope not to see fanboy-sh** like “The Last Guardian will obliterate Zelda Wii!” or, regarding potential PlaystationMOVE-inclusion,  “Well somebody has to teach the Zelda team how to use it“. Team ICO is capable of very fine, niche experiences that some people love, some people hate, and lots of people like but don´t think of them as something holy. Zelda Wii is my most anticipated game, and I´d love to look at The Last Guardian without always being reminded of its “fans“. Because I really don´t hate the game. I hate the player.


Short report: What does that mean to Zelda Wii?

March 31, 2010

Time to talk about Zelda Wii…again. But with all the recent showings of other games, one wonders what exactly Zelda Wii will be able to bring to the table.

A new Super Mario Galaxy 2-trailer was released today and showed how great music in an action-heavy game can be. The trailer-composition is a pure joy to listen to and instantly gets you in the mood of wanting to play its predecessor again. Then there´s the two Nintendo-published JRPGs, Xenoblade and The Last Story. The former already gave us an impression of its gigantic, yet non-generic looking world-design. Big, open fields, monsters walking around and doing something. In The Last Story, Sakaguchi seems to be busy creating the most immersing ingame-town of all times. The way he talks about that game just makes you look forward to it. And then there´s Metroid: Other M. Now, what could a Metroid-game demonstrate that a Zelda-game needs? Well, except for the extreme fluidness of movements, as shown in the latest trailer, Metroid: Other M actually manages to feature a real forest. And a great one. No walls with plant-textures, but real, single trees that you can run around. Last but not least, there is Red Steel 2, the only third-party-game here, which introduced great sword-fighting controls to a singleplayer-experience.

That´s reality, that´s what we´re at. Great music, a great world, a great town, a great forest, and great sword-controls. All stuff that many, if not most, fans expect from the next Zelda-game for Wii. Usually, one could say “no problem, of course Zelda Wii is going to bring it all together“. But with this many games already featuring the most important parts of a Zelda-game, it´s questionable if that Zelda Wii is going to be all that fresh of an experience. Surely, it´ll be great to experience all those features at once, but still, the fear of “ah, nice….that´s like playing X” remains. And isn´t it a totally fresh experience that we look forward to? How will Zelda Wii comparte to these above mentioned games?

Basically, it comes down to this: Can Zelda Wii manage to be that fantastic, unrivaled experience that the fans´ expectations made it grow into? On the one hand, I totally hope so and I see a nice chance of it coming true. On the other hand, I look at Twilight Princess: No great forest, no great town, no great world, (imo) no great music (but good), and better controls than its GameCube-counterpart, but obviously far from great due to its waggle-aspect. But it´s not like these contents are impossible and unprecedent to the Zelda-series. We have TWW´s great world, Majora´s Mask´s great town, Ocarina of Time´s great music and we have great 2D-forests. It´ll be Zelda Wii´s task to get it all together. Then, and only then, will it be able to succeed to everyone´s expectations.


Zelda Wii Artwork-theories: To be Continued

June 6, 2009

Hey folks,

my mind just won´t stop thinking about that first bit of stuff we got about the upcoming Zelda for Wii. So instead of annoying random people in chatrooms i hereby start a blog-post about all that. As a matter of fact, i KNOW that i will think about it in the future again, so i declare this a dynamic blog-posting, where i keep it updated with each new theory that i come up with. Anyway, let´s start with my most recent theory:

  • Visiting Ganon´s Hell Prison

In my first article about the artwork i already speculated that there seems to be some hot place in front of Link, a hole in some wall of rocks. Now, another person mentioned how it looks like Link protects the sword-girl from the direction of the hole´s inside. My theory is that Link´s mission in this Zelda is to visit a place we never saw before: Ganon´s Hell Prison. At the end of most Zelda-games, Ganon is defeated and banned back to hell. But what is that hell like? Furthermore, there is no real info on how the Master Sword was created, except for the mention that some ancient sages made…well, how about that: The Master Sword was created in the hot lava-rivers of hell. The same hell that is Ganon´s “home” for most of the time. It is that reason that the Master Sword is the one item that can seal Ganon: Because it´s part of Ganon´s world.

I can´t even start of how cool that would be. Then again, the Master Sword has turned into a girl. Or has it? How about that: This girl is indeed a fairy. It looks exactly like the fairy from The Wind Waker. Fairys are highly magical creatures, and if Ganon is a demon from hell, then why can´t the great fairy be an angel-like being? Basically some kind of counterpart. Obviously, there is no one single being on the good side that can defeat Ganon, but as the result of team effort, Link can, with the help of the Master Sword. So i´m saying: The girl in the picture is not the Master Sword, but it is the Great Fairy that created the Master Sword, originally. Or at least helped with its creation.

Now i´m getting really hyped, because what´s to come would be really exciting and interesting: Link´s task in the new Zelda is to escort the Great Fairy to hell, where she 1.) creates the Master Swords, 2.) re-creates the Master Sword. Each depending on when the game is set. If it´s supposed to take place before Ocarina of time, it could be about the original creation of the Master Sword. If it´s set after, it could be that the Master Sword broke and a new one has to be forged. If it´s the first, this could also explain the whole process of choosing a brave boy. This Link was the first to help and afterwards, the Great Fairy decided to choose brave younglings that would fight the evil of the  world. That would, to some extent, explain how that whole cycle of Link, Zelda, Ganon always happens again.

I´ll go even further: This new Zelda could start off with your battle against Ganon. Right after you finish him off, the sword breaks. But instead of enjoying peace until Ganon´s return…you forcefully go after him to find material for a new Master Sword. After all, it´d be kinda too late if they waited with that until Ganon is back. What further strengthens my belief in this theory is that there are statements of Miyamoto that hint towards a stronger focus on story. And what story could deserve such focus more than the origin of one of the most important elements of all Zelda-games?

This is my first Edit already, lol, but that just shows how excited i am. Anyway, if Link´s task is indeed to go down to hell, i could imagine a very nice game structure, of how the player proceeds in this game. Entering hell is a, well, hellish mission. To kind of compensate the horror that is the way downwards, the overworld could be filled of “light” adventures. Think of it like that: The game starts and you have to go down to hell. You start doing so, but at one point you cannot go further because of your limited abilities. Instead of doing the usual Zelda-hickhack and search for the treasure of a dungeon, you go back up where a fantasy-world, full of gorgoes sidequests, awaits. Complex sidequests. Or to be more clear: The overworld of this Zelda would be like Majora´s mask without dungeons, while the way to hell would be ONE BIG DUNGEON that you have to revisit all the time. Though, unlike the horrible Phantom Hourglass, you wouldn´t have to resolve already completed puzzles. Though i hate using the term “puzzle”, as i´d hope that this one-dungeon was more natural, really feeling like a way downwards a cave that becomes darker and darker, without your typical trigger-puzzles and stuff, but more natural adventures, maybe even horror-elements (it´s hell, after all). And once you´re back up in the overworld, you´ll see all the light, nice adventures, stuff like what we know from Majora´s Mask or Link´s Awakening. Nintendo could go completely crazy about all that, because of the seemingly non-mission that is Link´s adventure in this game.