Welcome to Character Banter, the second major podcast series from Opening Turn! For this series, I am joined by Adrian, Aria, and Karl as we discuss current topics in all forms of gaming as well as historical topics from all areas of our experience!
It can be said that the stories that we experience are one of the primary things that allow us to grow as humans, because they let us experience things that are outside of our direct base of knowledge. This is the reason I think that video games can be a very important narrative tool. When playing a narrative-driven video game, not only is the player reading about an experience, that player is directly involved in interacting with the experience. The best games, then, are the ones that can craft a narrative that is personally and directly relevant to a subject and can give a player insight into other experiences and points of view.
It is fitting, then, that one of the first articles that I write about this is on the subject of empathy. It is widely theorized that people achieve a greater sense of empathy with others when they have read stories told from other viewpoints. Empathy, as a trait, can be defined in this sense as the ability to care what is happening to another person to such an extent as to be able to emotionally connect to that person and relate to what they are going through oneself. Empathy for others is a large part of how humans have connected to each other throughout history; if one individual can know even a part of the pain of another, that individual becomes more invested in the removal or prevention of that pain, after all.
Pyre is the latest game by independent developer Supergiant Games and scored by composer Darren Korb. It’s a sentence that one shouldn’t really have to type, as Supergiant’s history as a studio and Korb’s history as a composer are more or less the same thing. Each game that Supergiant releases is a very personal endeavor, and so it made sense from the beginning that when co-founder Amir Rao needed music for Bastion, he turned to Korb, who was a longtime personal friend. Korb, in turn, brought in vocalist Ashley Barrett to sing and provide voice acting for one of the main characters in Bastion.
It’s a story of collaboration that is told the way most people talk about the forming of a beloved and iconic band. The analogy is appropriate, too, both because Korb and Barrett have collaborated on every soundtrack that Supergiant has released and because in doing so, everyone involved had developed and reinforced their own unique collective style. Pyre is no different of course. After the highly experimental takes on ‘trip-hop western’ and ‘lounge blues electronica’, Pyre represents a chance for Korb to solidify his iconic style as well as to branch out when the opportunity presents.
Few studios can modernize the ‘retro’ style quite like Zeboyd Games does. With releases like Cthulu Saves the World, Breath of Death VIII, and the last (and best) two entries in Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Zeboyd has shown that not only do they understand what should be in a retro-styled game, they also understand what should be modernized and streamlined for modern sensibilities. Their games have always had a sense of humor to them; homage and respect to what came before are delivered with tongue firmly placed in cheek. Their latest game, Kickstarter success story Cosmic Star Heroine, represents their first foray into ‘serious’ storytelling, and also their longest and most meticulously-designed project to date.
For the game’s score, Zeboyd turned once again to the Ireland-based Hyperduck Soundworks, who had previously composed the score to On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4. In addition, they also composed the absurdly good soundtrack for Dust: An Elysian Tale, as well as the soundtracks for Kingdom Rush: Frontiers, A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda, and others. They also have several remixes on their Bandcamp page from such games as Chrono Trigger, Zelda, and Duke Nukem 3D. It’s obvious that they are quite enthusiastic about the blending of old and new, making the choice to once again partner with them for the Cosmic Star Heroine soundtrack seem like an obvious one for Zeboyd to make. Continue reading “Cosmic Star Heroine – Original Soundtrack Review”
I know what you’re going to say: “Greg, you write about Final Fantasy a whole lot.” You would be right. I do write about it a whole lot. I think about it a whole lot, probably moreso than most other series. The fact is that I credit Final Fantasy as the reason I’ve always been into games. Sure, Legend of Zelda may have been my very first game, but it was Final Fantasy that hooked me, and Final Fantasy II (which, I would later find out, was the fourth game in the series) that solidified the hold that games have had on my life. It was just pretty amazing to me that a game could have a story to it, and I mean a real story with characters and interpersonal conflict.
Normally, I don’t review multiple versions of the same game. These days, if a game comes out on multiple platforms, a) those versions aren’t terribly different from each other, and I’ll note any differences I do know about in my original review, and b) I usually only have time to play a game all the way through once. It’s only in a very special kind of circumstance when I play the same game through more than once on more than one platform.
It does happen though, and this is one of those times. I happened to come across a copy of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls: Ultimate Evil Edition for Playstation 4 (which from here on I will just call Diablo III for ease of conversation). I knew that the game was different now than the original was when it launched, so I was looking forward to seeing just what those differences involved.
Child of Light is a twist on a very classic method of storytelling: the fairytale. With a storyline that seems familiar, and yet different enough to stay engaged, the narrative arc of this game is one that is as broad-sweeping as the tales from our childhood. This is a coming of age story, where our protagonist Aurora learns her life lessons through an epic journey. At first, she strives to go home to the familiar and safe. As the story progresses, she makes hard decisions and grows, mentally and physically. Aurora has her trials and finds friends in he most unlikely of places.
Child of Light is a game for one or two players. Player one takes on the role of Aurora, the princess far flung from her family and home. If there is a second player, they take on the role of Igniculus, a spirit of light (‘firefly’). This co-op mechanic allows one player to control the heroine, and the other to shine the way and help get to places that the heroine cannot travel alone. Without the second player, a singular player must control both Aurora and Igniculus.
Ubisoft Montreal developed this piece, and it was published by Ubisoft. Released in early 2014 , Child of Light can be played on Windows, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.
When it comes to the culinary arts, there are a few different approaches to creating and preparing a recipe. Some recipes take skill, finesse, and a deep knowledge of many different kinds of ingredients and the way their flavors will blend together. Years of knowledge and talent can go into creating something that is pleasing to both the eye and the palette. And then there are recipes that involve taking a whole bunch of things that taste good separately, stuffing them inside each other, and seeing what happens. The turducken and its dessert equivalent, the cookie-cake-pie, for example, probably fall into this category.
How is this relevant to video games? The answer to that is Danganronpa.
We all have our favorites when it comes to video games. Be it for the artwork, the soundtrack, the mechanics, plot, character development, or style–we have our reasons. To be sure, there is the occasional nerdgasm over a franchise as well. These are the games that stick with us, and usually with good reason. They have components that are done so well that it is something we then go looking for in other games.
When talking to my gamer friends, I am learning that quite a few of my favorites are lost gems; games that don’t have nearly the popularity or following, but are beautifully executed in their own rights.
Kartia: The World of Fate came out in 1998 for the PlayStation in North America, published by Atlas. It was originally released as “Rebus” in Japan. One could go so far as to consider it a “retro” game, by modern standards. Kartia is an isometric tactical roleplaying game, with a very high level of customization within battle. It is a beautiful game, with stunning character art by Yoshitaka Amano and haunting soundtrack by Kenichi Tsuchia and Masaki Kurokawa.
I will freely admit that I have been playing a whole lot of Final Fantasy (and Final Fantasy-like) lately. It’s a testament to my devotion to the series that no matter how many times certain games in it are remade, or how far new entries deviate from tradition, I will still play them. And, really, I will also admit that I still enjoy the series, no matter what direction Square-Enix has decided to take it. Final Fantasy was my first RPG, so I’m not exaggerating when I say that the series has been with me through pretty much the entire course of my life. That doesn’t mean that I can’t see the obvious flaws that it shows sometimes, but I wouldn’t call the series ‘dead’ like a lot of publications are doing at this point in time. Overall, I’d say that my experiences with it remain primarily enjoyable.