Shadow of the Colossus, Big Gamer's Don't Cry, Vrenna Update, Nintendo DS

by Mike Shea on 7 November 2005

Based on very high reviews, I picked up Shadow of the Colossus for PS2. It's interesting how the best games for a console seem to come out just as we start thinking about the next generation consoles which are sure to disappoint with lousy gameplay, bad stories, and bugs.

Shadow of the Colossus's dark environment, minimalist story, and unique gameplay really mark it higher than the cliche games we typically see. Shadow of the Colossus cuts the gameplay down to sixteen boss fights, skipping all of the filler most games use as padding. However, it isn't without problems.

While extremely challenging, I got past the first four bosses but I am currently stuck on the fifth and my frustration runs high. Instead of simply killing me, this giant flying bird dumps me into the water for any single tiny mistake I make, including remaining passive to learn the pattern. When I fall into the water, it takes about three to four minutes of leisurely swimming, something that completely ruins the excitement of the battle. After swimming, taunting the beast, and grabbing on, I am back to figuring out how to defeat it only to have my efforts lead me back into the water.

No game should punish a player with tedious work to get back to the excitement. It is one thing to have to fall down and work your way back up again, it is bad design to throw the player out of the excitement for any single mistake - especially on the fifth of sixteen bosses. I don't know if I'll ever pick the game back up again. Too many other things compete with my time.

I read an interesting article on Wired called Can Games Make You Cry? I remember the scene they talk about, the death of Aerith (if my friend Ben was playing, he no doubt changed her name to Ms. Poopy Pants), but the scene I remember most vividly in any game was the death of Nei in Phantasy Star 2 on the Sega Master System. I spent most of the rest of my game hoping there was some way to resurrect her. Alas, there was not. The ending scenes of Final Fantasy 7 with Red XIII and his young children running over the overgrown city also got my tears running.

Good games can impact players more than a book or a movie, but rarely do because of poor writing. Writers don't generally want to write for video games and every game that advertised itself as a well written interactive story ended up being Night Shift with Dania Plato. The interactive nature of games - BEING that character instead of just following him or her - can attach much greater emotion to a player. That is also the dirty secret of the whole video game censorship topic. Video games DO affect people but that doesn't mean they should be banned or controlled any more than books, movies, music, artwork, or speech.

There have been a few video games so well written that they had as strong an emotional impact as a good book or movie, but they are rare and random. This will probably continue. There are more bad storytellers out there than good ones.

Speaking of bad storytelling, my Vrenna book is coming along. I will finish typing up Vrenna and the Bandit Lords tonight. The current progress of Bandit Lords can be seen in the editor's copy of Vrenna and Other Tales. The story has a few holes I need to plug up, holes big enough to make me consider tossing it completely, but part of me just can't stomach murdering my darlings.

I will type up Vrenna and the White next along with a very short science fiction story. These will probably be the last stories for this book, pushing it to over 80,000 words and over 200 pages. I'll still have to do some pretty severe editing to make sure it is all clean but I expect that to be done in January or February. While I won't get it out this year, it will still be this winter. I'm going to push back the release until "Early 2006". I imagine I won't get too many complaints.

I'm falling in love with my Nintendo DS again. The DS game Meteos is the best puzzle game I have played since Tetris and it's worth the cost of the system. The DS has a lot of interesting potential. Nintendo seems to be shifting towards a whole new way of thinking for video gaming. They want to get away from boxes with controllers and go into whole new areas. Games like Nintendogs, Trauma Center, and Wario Ware Touched, show Nintendo's direction towards radical gaming.

The Nintendo DS also appears to be the first portable system that can support a MMO without any added hardware. It has built in 802.11 networking for wireless connections to the internet and a built in microphone for communication. The two screens could easily show a detailed world on one screen and group statistics on the other. I'd love to see a stripped down Final Fantasy Online on DS. A traditional group-based fantasy MMO probably isn't Nintendo's bag right now, though. They will probably come up with an MMO that goes far outside of anything we'd consider a good idea. Time will tell.