Browse By

Category Archives: Editorial

Review Score

Eurogamer Is Correct That Game Reviews Are Broken, but Removing the Score Is Not the Solution

In February of 2015, popular gaming site Eurogamer.net announced that they are no longer going to put scores on their game reviews. My opinion on this is nuanced and complex, but, simply put, I don’t see this as a pro-consumer solution. See, my understanding is that Eurogamer believes that the current review system is broken. (Their words: “In the present environment, scores are struggling to encompass the issues that are most important to you.”) As someone who’s been writing game reviews for more than five years now, I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. Yes, game criticism is failing consumers, and it needs to be overhauled in order to better serve the gaming audience. Review scores are feeding a much larger problem, which we’ll call “The Great Metacritic Debacle.”…
Link Controller

The Controller Conundrum: Gaming with a Third Hand

Can you imagine if every time you opened a book, you had to skip through a section on how you were supposed to read it? “Begin at the word in the left-hand top corner. Proceed from left to right until you get to the end of the line, then start at the left-hand side of the next line. When reaching the bottom of a page, grip the right-hand side of a single page between your thumb and index finger and pull it from the right to the left and you will reveal the page beneath.” And so on. Or how about being confronted with a similar message every time you want to watch TV? “Press the ‘CH Up’ button to increase the channel number.…

Salt is Porn For People Who Loved Sailing in Wind Waker

After years of seeing awesome indie title after awesome indie title pass me by, I finally decided to purchase a somewhat gaming worthy computer after a nearly two decade hiatus. I spent about three hours on the Steam store looking for my first game to purchase; the result was Salt, an “early access” title from Lavaboots Studios. To me, the best part of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was sailing around aimlessly, discovering new places and enjoying the beautiful oceanic scenery. Thanks to the game’s seemingly infinite amount of seafaring and distinctly familiar color palette, Salt allowed me to relive those joys a hundred-fold. Throw in a Minecraft-esque crafting system and you’ve got one of the most addictive and endlessly enjoyable titles in recent memory.…
Alan Wake Typewriter

Why Do Games Journalists Feel the Need to Say How Long They’ve Been Gaming in Their Author Bios?

“I’ve been gaming ever since the 1980s, when a neighbor moved off to college and left me with an Atari 2600. Since then I’ve been playing GTA, and find myself using PS4 GTA Cheats to cheat myself through the game” – said most journalists. All of the things I said in the above statement are absolutely true, but that doesn’t make the sentence a good blurb for an author bio. Yet time and time again, I come across this exact formula in author bios for gaming websites. “I’m so and so, and I’ve been playing video games since such and such year.” Sometimes, they’ll tag on a tiny little mention of the one thing that initially sparked this love for gaming, like I did in my example bio above.…
Portal 2

How Your Video Games Are Manipulating You

Video games are a psychologically manipulative medium. I’m fine with that for the most part, but I’m aware of the fact that I spend a huge chunk of my game time being manipulated. There are all these short-term and long-term goals that are constantly being accomplished and feeding your brain positive signals. Oh sweet, I leveled up! Awesome, I just beat a really hard boss and got a new shiny! Ding, I just scored a new PSN Trophy! All the while, the game is reassuring your brain that you’re accomplishing something and that you should feel good about this. If you want to be overly reductive, you could argue that just about every video game is merely a series of carrots dangled in front of you with some obstacle or series of obstacles in your way.…
Zelda Wii U Field

IGN Has Called Every Mainline, 3D Zelda Title the Best Zelda Game Ever Made

I’m not always comfortable trying to predict whether an upcoming video game will be any good, especially if it’s something we know very little about. I learned my embarrassing little lesson with a game called Brink, which I paid very close attention to, watching and re-watching every trailer and gameplay video as they came out. This was being published by Bethesda, and all the videos looked awesome. How could it not be fantastic? I was salivating over Brink right up until launch, when I picked it up and put it back down just a couple hours later with a disappointed frown upon my face. And I don’t think I need to remind you about how disappointing Aliens: Colonial Marines was after all the hype it received in the months leading up to its completely disastrous release.…
Minecraft

Why Minecraft Is an Undeniably Important Video Game

Infinity is a little bit like death, in that it’s a concept that’s difficult to wrap one’s mind around. I’d like to think that a person is transformed, at least on some level, when he or she is faced with a close proximity to either of those things. With death, I can almost certainly qualify the above statement. After all, if you’ve ever had to sit with loved ones during their final moments, or even if you’ve had a genuine near-death experience, you’ve probably been forced to ponder deeply what it means to be alive on this planet. But infinity is a bit more difficult, because I can’t think of a time when a human being is ever confronted with it.…
Spot Goes to Hollywood

Spot Goes to Hollywood Was a Dark, Bizarre Piece of Advertainment

Virgin Games was inexplicably successful with Cool Spot, a blatant advertisement for 7up in Genesis/Mega Drive cartridge form. The game was more than just competent, it was enjoyable and memorable, with great art and a phenomenal soundtrack. As happens with a vast majority of successful games, Cool Spot spawned a sequel. You’d think Virgin would stick to the formula that worked so well with the first games, but they really, really didn’t. They outsourced the project to Eurocom, who decided upon a very strange direction for the series. The result was Spot Goes to Hollywood, a game that — more than it does anything else — simply confuses me. The original Cool Spot was a 2D, side-scrolling platformer. Spot Goes to Hollywood abandoned that completely, opting for an isometric viewpoint.…
Metal Gear Solid

Visually, Metal Gear Solid Has Aged Really Well

During the PlayStation/N64 era, technology was evolving rapidly, constantly pushing video games into exciting new territory. This was the rise of polygons, of three-dimensional, explorable landscapes. This was when Resident Evil was born and when Link first rode Epona across the wide open fields of Hyrule. This, however, was not an era known for its beautiful visual quality. Time has been absolutely brutal to the graphics of games of PSOne games. In fact, of all the generations of gaming, it’s the PSOne/N64’s that has aged the absolute worst aesthetically. The 8-bit and 16-bit eras circumvented this problem by crafting highly stylized, colorful, cartoony visuals built from pixels, whereas far too many PSOne games aimed for a “hyper-realistic” look — a look that simply couldn’t be pulled off with limited technology.…
Mighty No. 9

Mighty No. 9 Seems Like the Exact Game Keiji Inafune Wanted to Make

I’ve been a fan of Mega Man for as long as I can remember. I grew up on the old 8-bit games, battling bosses and taking their robotic powers into the wee hours of the night. (Oddly enough, Mega Man 6 was perhaps my favorite of the NES era, though I’ll admit that 2 and 3 are objectively better games.) But you know who’s (almost) certainly a bigger Mega Man fan than I am? Keiji Inafune. Inafune has had his hand in the Mega Man series since its inception, enough that people have taken to calling him “The Father of Mega Man” (though this is a title he denies himself). He loves the IP enough that he told Capcom he’d stick around to see Mega Man Legends 3 through to the end, even after he resigned from the company.…
Dark Souls and Team Fortress Cosplay

Gamers Have Never Been an Oppressed Minority

Let me get something out of the way: I have never been genuinely oppressed. That’s probably not a statement I would have agreed with when I was a teenager. See, it was the 1990s and I was into punk rock and skateboarding in a small Minnesota town. I skated around with my hot pink hair and Jnco jeans and fuck-the-world attitude, and I got picked on like crazy for it. And I’m not saying I just got called names, though I certainly did. I was actually harassed by people who would go out of their way to hate on me because of what I was wearing and what I chose to do with my free time. People would pull their obnoxiously loud pick-up trucks off to the side of the road so they could shout “faggot!”…
Resident Evil

What Weezer and Resident Evil Have in Common

Back in the 1990s, I was convinced that Weezer was the greatest band on the planet. They were such an unassuming group of guys, a collection of misfits you might bring home to take care of your pets or cook dinner for Mom, not some panty-dropping, hotel-room-trashing rock band. Just look at the cover of their breakout self-titled record and you’ll see a Rivers Cuomo who looks maybe 15, a Matt Sharp who looks like he’d gladly help you with your homework, a Brian Bell who looks like he’d silently play with TI calculators all day long, and a Patrick Wilson who looks strangely like a teenage version of Damon Lindelof. Weezer was not the self-confident sort of band you’d expect to climb the charts; they were a bunch of nerds who wrote music about hiding in their garage with their Kiss posters and their D&D paraphernalia.…
lethal weapon super nintendo

I’d Rather Swim in Mashed Potatoes than Win This Ocean Software Contest

There were game developers that left an indelible mark on my childhood. Their games spoke to me in ways nothing else could, and helped shape who I am as a person. Ocean Software was not one of them. Remember going to Blockbuster to rent a game and seeing nothing but crappy licensed titles? You have Ocean Software to thank for that. They licensed every property they could get their hands on, from Street Hawk to Waterworld to freaking Highlander. If you’ve ever played a bad game based on a movie or TV show from the 80s or 90s, there’s a good chance Ocean was behind it. While a few of Ocean’s titles were decent, most of their games were bargain bin junk.…
Mario Punches

Mario Hits Bricks with His Fist, Not His Head

To the misinformed Internet lurkers and crawlers out there, I have something I need to get off my chest. Contrary to popular belief, Mario does not break bricks with his head; he uses his fist. The “breaking bricks with his head” misconception almost certainly comes from the visual infidelity of 8-bit graphics of the NES era, and it still survives to this day. In early 2014, there was a survey on GiantBomb in which forum readers were asked, “In your heart of hearts, when you see Mario hit a ‘?’ block from below, you think he’s hitting the block with his…” Possible answers were Head, Fist, and Other. Here’s the breakdown: Head – 62% Fist – 34% Other (please specify) – 4% (One of the users who chose “Other” specified “heart.”)…
Women in Video Games

PlayStation Magazine Discussed Women in Gaming Way Back in 1997

There’s this pervasive idea that issues like sexism weren’t something people talked about — or cared about — until fairly recently; that the discussion surrounding women in gaming is a fairly modern conversation. In the old days, video game magazines talked about video games, and that was that. However, the December 1997 issue of PlayStation Magazine proves that people have been debating the role of women in video games for quite some time. In an article aptly titled “Girls & Games,” the magazine looks at everything from what keeps women away from video games to problems with female character design. The article occasionally feels dated — it cites the Tamagotchi craze as one of the things drawing girls into the world of video games — but for the most part, it’s surprisingly current.…
Eidos Depression advertisement

Eidos Mocked Depression in This 1998 Ad

Most of the time, 1998 doesn’t feel like it was that long ago. Sure, it was a world that had never seen The Sims or Call of Duty, but my hobbies and interests back then were pretty close to what they are today. I obsessed over cartoons, spent way too much time on the Internet, and played all the video games I could get my hands on. But when I look back at old advertisements, like this old ad from Eidos, 1998 feels as though it was an entirely different world. At first glance, the ad seems slightly offensive, but not completely shocking. The butt of the joke is clearly depression advertisements, not depression sufferers, and while it’s fairly tasteless, it doesn’t cross the line completely.…

GameFan’s College Football USA ’96 Review Might Be the Worst Thing Ever Written

In an age when anyone can get online and write whatever nonsense about games they desire, I thought I’d already seen the worst video game analysis so-called “journalists” could produce. As it turns out, the worst video game review might have been written well before the Internet killed gaming magazines forever. It almost seemed like there were more of these magazines than actual games in the 1990s. Right before web-based gaming news giants changed the landscape of the industry, nearly every periodical publisher in America had some sort of game-related piece of literature on newsstands. Some of them were extremely memorable, and have become just as cherished as the games they covered. Others? Not as much. GameFan was one of the least remarkable of the bunch, and if this review of the equally forgettable College Football USA ’96 is any indication, it’s easy to see why. Let’s ignore the numerous misspellings and run-on sentences for now and focus on the fact this review clearly has nothing to do with College Football ’96.…
gold n64

The N64 Era Was a Great Time to Buy Video Games

Recently, our Editor-in-chief pointed out that the prices for N64 games were completely ridiculous. Junk puzzlers like Tetrisphere retailed for nearly $70; major releases like Turok and Killer Instinct Gold cost even more. Cartridge manufacturing and the increased cost of development were a deadly combination, and amassing a sizable collection of N64 games was a costly proposition. But while the prices bordered on astronomical, the cost isn’t really what I remember about that era. For me, it was a glorious time to buy video games, high prices and all. The Nintendo 64 launched in 1996, smack in the middle of my baby-sitting prime. Within a year of its release, I had an actual job and actual paychecks, all of which I could use to spend on video games.…

The Scuba Virtual Immersion Visor May Be the Worst Gaming Peripheral of All Time

Years ago, long before Retrovolve’s Josh used the Oculus Rift while hungover, the world was fascinated by the concept of virtual reality. Developers released poorly conceived virtual reality consoles, films featured ridiculous virtual reality headsets, and Philips attempted to capitalize on the trend by releasing the Scuba Virtual Immersion Visor in 1996. Despite its futuristic appearance, the Scuba Virtual Immersion Visor didn’t actually involve virtual reality of any sort. It was quite literally a low-resolution television set you had to wear on your head, and it may have been the least useful video game peripheral ever made. Advertisements boldly claimed that you hadn’t played a game until you’d played it wearing an Immersion Visor. The Scuba did offer gamers a fairly unique experience, but for all the wrong reasons.…
Heat.net

This Heat.net Ad Is Terrifyingly Violent

In GamePro #102, the above two-page ad appeared for online game service Heat.net. There’s a particularly terrifying piece of text on the right hand side of the ad, which I’ve enlarged for clarity: This quote stuns me every single time I re-read it. I mean, I can’t be the only one who thinks it’s completely absurd that this made it to print, right? Heat.net was an online multiplayer gaming platform developed by SegaSoft, Sega’s PC division. It allowed players to connect to one another and play multiplayer games like Quake II over the Internet, which was pretty amazing at the time, even if we take that sort of functionality completely for granted nowadays. In fact, the service was innovative and polished enough that it received the 1997 Market Engineering Product Award from consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.…
Star Wars

Hey, the Sega Master System Looked like a Star Wars Computer Panel

When I was growing up, no one I knew had the Sega Master System. In fact, I didn’t know about it until I was a full-grown adult, because let’s face it, no one cared about the Master System when it was originally released. However, I absolutely cared — and still care — about Star Wars. And if I’d known about the Master System as a child, its appearance probably would have made me want the thing. To this day, I couldn’t confidently name more than one game that was released on the Master System. Though, I seem to recall that it had a more robust version of Ultima IV, and I mostly enjoyed that game on the NES. Other than that, I have no idea what the thing could play.…

From the Court to the Console: A Basketball Retrospective

With the 2014-’15 NBA campaign tipping off this week, I thought it appropriate to reminisce about the sport and its timely crossover with the world of video games. They are both essential elements of 1990s pop culture that were symbiotic in their popularity and relevance among the youth of the decade. Basketball and video gaming were equally important parts of my own upbringing in suburban Minnesota. It was driveway hoops with my best friend every day from the moment we got out of school until the sun went down – and often even later. The collared dress shirts our mothers bought us stayed in the closet as we preferred to show up to school sporting our favorite NBA stars’ duds. My friend’s favorite was the iconic black pinstriped number 45 Michael Jordan jersey; I preferred my number 55 navy blue Dikembe Mutombo road uni.…
junji ito pokemon

Junji Ito Cast a Dark Shadow over the Pokémon Universe

Pokémon is primarily associated with children, but it’s always been fairly creepy. If you look beyond the brightly colored rodents and the catch-em-all gimmick, you’ll find spooky cemeteries and Pokédex entries that are downright disturbing. Nintendo has been known to conceal their dark side, but in the case of Pokémon, they opted to embrace it. In October of 2014, they asked horror mastermind Junji Ito to create a few terrifying Pokémon drawings. Ito’s Pokémon images were standalone pictures, not comics, but they still told an intriguing story. In one image, a menacing Banette who stalked behind a seemingly innocent girl. The text below explained that the Banette was once belonged to the girl, but was thrown away. Full of resentment, he tracked down its former owner and silently followed her.…
bad game

Bad Games Are Good

I have a massive collection of old games. My computer speakers are sitting atop copies of Barney’s Hide and Seek and Columns. I’m nearly swimming in various CDs and cartridges. I think it’s fair to say that a majority of the games I surround myself with are shit. When I say shit, I don’t mean they don’t play well or have bad graphics (though many of them do). I mean a lot of these games were ill-conceived from the gates, full of ideas so poorly implemented that they’re nearly a parody of themselves. But in spite of their problems, these games are a black hole of fun. There’s something charming and comfortable about beating a level in The Count’s Countdown and seeing his smiling face say “Let’s Go” before I bounce around and collect more numbers in his colorful PBS world.…
Final Fantasy VIII concert

Seven Retro Game Tunes You’ve Probably Never Heard

As a kid, I played my favorite games incessantly, which meant I listened to certain tracks over and over again. Just the thought of the Bubble Bobble theme makes me cringe. But while I’ve heard some video game music far too much, there are also some amazing songs I’ve barely heard at all. Sometimes, tracks are buried so far within games that it’s impossible to find them unless you know where to look. Some of them are catchy and others are just weird, but all of them are worth listening to. 1. Akumajou Dracula X68000: “Load BGM” In 1993, Konami created a Castlevania game for the The Sharp X68000, a Japan-only home computer system that required you to load games from floppy discs.…
pathologic

Video Games Don’t Have to Be Fun

In the Big Book of Video Game Truths — right next to “Everything was better when you were twelve” — lies a proclamation in big, bold letters: “Video games are supposed to be fun.” And indeed, most games I play are fun. Diablo III distills ridiculousness into pure, unadulterated joy. Mother 3 occasionally breaks my heart, but it also makes me smile like nothing else can. And if I was capable of whistling, Deadly Premonition would have me blowing air all day. But every once in a while, I’ll fall in love with a game that doesn’t make fun a part of its equation. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it; it’s just that it evokes feelings that are neither happy or mirthful. …
Metroid Mother Brain

Hip Tanaka Made Some of the Greatest Game Tunes in Existence

Hip Tanaka grew up idolizing The Monkees, but went on to become member of a reggae dub band. He worked on a number of arcade cabinets, helped design the NES Zapper, and was responsible for the Game Boy Camera. Oh, and he probably had a hand in some of your favorite Nintendo tunes. For years, Tanaka was one of Nintendo’s most interesting and prolific composers. He wrote music for everything from Duck Hunt to Metroid to EarthBound. He’s the man behind the oh-so-catchy Dr. Mario theme, and is responsible for some of the strangest boss music in existence. While Tanaka composed plenty of upbeat tunes, he was more interested in writing music that was atmospheric. He believed that music shouldn’t just be fun to listen to, but an integral part of the game itself.…
dragon quest image

What Dragon Quest VI Taught Me About Mortality

I will never be able to play all the games I want to play. It’s not a question of money or backlog management, but a matter of time. Life is short, even under the best of circumstances, and sooner or later, my number will be up. But these morbid thoughts never entered my mind back in 1996, when I was more worried about the Nintendo Power Awards than my own mortality. It wasn’t that I felt invincible, but that death seemed impossibly far away. The funerals I’d attended were for people who seemed ancient; methuselan beings with lifetimes of accomplishments behind them. I thought I had more than enough time to do all the things I wanted to do, and to play all the games that I wanted to play.…
Nester

The Nintendo Power Awards Will Always Have a Special Place in My Heart

As a kid, I was unreasonably invested in the Nintendo Power Awards. I wasn’t content to simply mail in my voting card; I wrote lengthy diatribes justifying each and every one of my choices. I’m sure the mail room cringed when my overstuffed envelopes arrived. In those days, I didn’t have a steady stream of year-end best lists; I didn’t even have subscriptions to other magazines. That issue was the only form of gaming validation I could get. They gave me undeniable, physical proof that my favorite titles were the masterpieces I touted them as. When the awards (originally called The Nesters) began in 1988, Nintendo Power was entering uncharted territory, and they were obviously figuring things out as they went along.…

Remembering the Lode Runner Series

I have to be completely honest, I hadn’t thought about the Lode Runner series for years until hearing about the unfortunate death of its creator, Douglas E. Smith, this past Friday. I began to reminisce about the time I spent as a kid collecting gold and blowing up those creepy red monks on Sierra’s Lode Runner: The Legend Returns on my family’s Compaq Presario in the mid-90s. As a kid who wasn’t allowed to have video game consoles at the time, this puzzle-platformer is what I spent my Saturday mornings playing. Fast forward a few years, and my parents have finally acquiesced and allowed my sister the privilege of a normal childhood by buying us a Nintendo 64. My love for the Lode Runner franchise had yet to fade, and I still remember calling my dad at work and asking him to check the various electronics stores on his way home to see if they had the newly released Lode Runner 3-D for our new console.…
The Super Mario Bros. Fragrance Collection Made Us Wonder What Bowser Smells Like
The Minds Behind the Games
Retrovolve Reviews Books: The Minds Behind the Games by Patrick Hickey, Jr.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
The 3D Platformer: How 1996 Witnessed the Birth of a Genre
Pokemon Nintendo Power
Nintendo Power Predicted a “Pokémon Trade War” in 1998