Friday, December 10, 2010

Memory Card #1: Prince of Persia

Yeah, I thought I'd make a simple flashback post to one of the very first games I ever encountered. Me and The Prince are old pals. We had this copy of the game on my family's ancient Macintosh SE/30 computer when I was about 4 or 5? I was really young I know that much. My parents and I would take turns playing it. If I wasn't playing though, I'd always watch and backseat game the whole way.

Ahh, Prince of Persia. Of course, I don't believe this one was the first. I think it's the second actually. It doesn't really matter to me though because this was the first time I felt hooked enough on something like this to repeatedly play it. I loved the challenge of the platform style game play. I loved that I was helping The Prince save his Princess from the evil Vizier, Jafar (hmm Jafar, where had I heard that name before?).

Looking back on it, I wonder if the Aladdin parallels were put in there for an extra pull in marketing, if Jordan Mechner was just showing his interest in the original Aladdin of One Thousand and One Nights' stories, or if it was a little of both?

That aside, I loved that The Prince was having sword fights with Jafar's lackeys. Okay, I sorta lied about that last part. I loved the sword fights but I hated that I sucked so much at them, ha ha! In fact, I wasn't even too good at the platforming. But, it gave me something to aspire to. Something to achieve. All in all I was just really wanting to know what happened next and the fact that there was a time limit to rescue the Princess meant I had to do all this crap fast!

Prince of Persia was the first game (to my knowledge) that made me daydream just a little differently. Of course, I'd seen a few of the Super Mario and Zelda cartoons (I couldn't watch Sonic the Hedgehog when I was little because it was a bit more "violent" than most of the former two I just mentioned) but funny enough they didn't really stick with me the same way that Prince of Persia did. I think it was the sense of daring adventure and the subtly implied importance of the Prince's quest that did it. Or maybe it was the colours (I'm a sucker for colours). It could have also been the simplicity of it too. I was a very hyper kid back then, and to get me to sit down and devote any of time to one thing in particular was a feat in itself!

I never even got to finish Prince of Persia, funny enough. School and friends made sure of that (not that that was a bad thing). However, for the short time that I had played it, Prince of Persia had definitely made an impression on me that I wouldn't soon forget. I will always have a special place in my geeky heart for it.

Related Link: Jordan Mechner's Blog

Let's meet at the next Save Point!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Saved Data #1: Folklore

Alright, so I had this plan (don't we all?) that I was going to kick off my game posting with a round up of the most influential games of my life (from childhood up until today). It was going to likely be a top 5-10 list of games that deeply touched me, made me feel amazing nostalgia and shaped the kind of gamer I became today. That plan has been completely trashed (or at least delayed) by Folklore, developed by the lovely people at Game Republic, the same company that brought you the Genji games. Their new release, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, is also pretty stylized as well, but that will be a later entry I'm sure.

The story for Folklore is deceptively simple: two different individuals, Ellen (a young girl looking forher mother) and Keats (a pragmatic yet curious reporter who receives a phone call from a woman supposedly under death-threat) are lured to the small European town of Doolin, where the living can meet the dead. What ensues is a classic murder mystery that involves more than half of the denizens of the town and the faeries, or half-lives as they call themselves in the Netherworld, who have their own agendas for the Ellen and Keats as their Messengers. Along the way, as the two collect clues about the murder in Doolin, the player is presented with choices that effect the flow of the story. Although you play separately as Ellen or Keats, their paths are closely intertwined and each of their actions effects the other.

"A murder in the village of the dead? Someone please tell me this is joke."

The game play is relatively simple and straightforward, with a motion-sensor related element to catching the 'ids' or souls of various Faeries. Ellen's fighting style is more magic based, as opposed to Keats who is more aggressive and warrior-like. I found it rather addictive turning, shaking and nodding the controller back and forth to catch the faeries. It's also always nice to have a game like this relax with at the end of long day.

Another visual key point of Folklore, that is a brilliant idea, is the notion of fashioning the cut-scenes as if one were reading it as a graphic novel. It adds to the mysterious and secluded atmosphere of the storyline. It also makes the whole game feel very complete in all it's aspects. The story and art (it's strongest points) are showcased in a classy and effective manner and further bolstered by the excellent soundtrack (which features some fantastic work by Kenji Kawai by the way, among many other strong composers). While the lack of numerous cut scenes may be a drag for some players, I like the pacing of the cinematics in the game. Almost in the fashion of a retro rpg, it makes the movies a nice treat after the quietness of the in-game sequences, which are stylish enough that they don't bore the player.

So in conclusion, if you haven't already checked out Folklore, I highly recommend it to those who don't mind a beautiful action role-playing experience. I know I'll be replaying this for sure in the future.

Similar games to check out if you're into Folklore: Prince of Persia, or any of the Shin Megami Tensei Series.

Let's meet at the next Save Point!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Diving in head first.

Hey everyone!

Beginnings, are much more difficult than endings I find, so like many firsts in our lives I'm going to dive in headfirst and worry about the consequences later.

Nice to meet you all, whoever has happened to stumble upon this blog! :) My name is Phoenix and I'm here to talk about one of my biggest passions in life: gaming! This blog will contain reviews, thoughts, random insights/speculations, (and hopefully) fun discussions on some of my all-time favorite games, as well as new releases I'm very interested in.

There is a catch though. While I'm sure there will be mentions and talk of the technicality of the games I explore, this blog won't be primarily about that aspect of gaming. Of course, I agree that a game has to have great (or at least engaging) game play in order for any gamer to have some sort of interest in picking it up. However, this will not be the main focus of my blog. Instead, I will be taking a look at games from the angle of interactive storytelling and the artwork that helps make that wonderful storytelling process possible. Since art in all of its forms is also a big part of my life, as a third year  art student at college/university, I find it hard not to notice all the amazing concept work that goes into the games that I play/have played/continue to play. My aim in this is simply to stoke the creative fires and keep them burning for me (soon to be applying to a game art and design program for next fall) and for you, dear readers, who love to play (and appreciate) video games.

One last thing. In regards to the "should video games be considered as art" argument. I'm not really partial to either extreme of the debate. I do believe some games strive to be more artistic than others (such as, for example, Okami), but I do not believe that all games are looking to be labelled as "Art." The video game industry has a parallel to the movie industry in that it's about there being "something- for-everybody." So just to be clear, this blog won't be about proving which side of that debate is right. I'm simply here to proclaim my love of the various games I have played growing up and the games that keep me interested in this industry as well as discussing why I feel that video games and art, can sometimes make a wonderful match.

Let's meet at the next Save Point!

P.S. Just an FYI, but this is my first year participating in NaNoWriMo and so if posts are scarce, that's my story (if you'll pardon the pun) and I'm sticking to it (or so I keep telling myself).