Friday, June 30, 2006


What a disappointment. I’ve waited months to see the sneak preview to the upcoming Transformers Movie and we get something that looks like it is the teaser to another passable sci-fi action flick from Michael Bay.
Ok well, this may end up being just that, but still, this is THE TRANSFORMERS live action movie! What do we get? Half the trailer is spent setting up the premise that UK based Beagle 2 Mars Rover (totally made up) was destroyed by robots on Mars. The real Beagle 2 was not a rover but an immobile probe that was sent to Mars in 2003 by the British and was lost, supposedly when it crashed on to the surface.
What’s worse, they cut in re-enacted visuals of NASA’s famously successful Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) as it drives off its mothership before it is smacked to pieces by what appears to be Optimus Prime himself, although I could be mistaken. We get it, the MER Rovers were indeed transformable robots that were sent to Mars folded up and transformed into their working configuration on the Mars surface. Great allusion there, but Bay beats us over the head with it. After destroying the history of the Pearl Harbor attack, he has now managed to bastardize another facet of history, and a fairly recent one at that.
You know, I could have forgiven the factual inaccuracies had the trailer not spent the whole time setting up a War of the Worlds scenario of yet another imminent threat from Mars as its first big tease to the viewing public. The CG visuals were certainly stunning and the recreation of the Mars rovers on Mars was nothing short of spectacular. I would pay to watch a realistic Kubric-esque movie about Mars with those visuals. But this isn’t a Kubric film, it’s a Bay joint and he can’t even give us any action. Furthermore, I was waiting and waiting for the vintage Transformers chorus from the television series to cap off the trailer. That would be a real tease to the fans. Maybe even a close-up of Optimus Prime himself in silhouette with his eyes glowing steel blue in true Japanese anime style. Nope, we get a bad teaser that is factually inaccurate, with absolutely nothing to excite the legions of fans that grew up with this venerable animated series.
Michael Bay and Paramount... you suck!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Miyamoto's Dark Side

Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto
photo courtesy of Impress Group Company

Next-Generation has a very interesting editorial discussing this very issue. The topic at hand is Shigeru Miyamoto’s influence on gaming. On the balance, most of us can agree his influence is certainly positive, but a question often not asked is has his presence in the industry brought negatives to the table. More bluntly, it asks: ‘is Miyamoto's influence universally good?’

The answer, according to the author, is No.

“Miyamoto is, at heart, a children's book author…” and he “was virtually put in charge of the most powerful videogame company on Earth,” writes Next-Generation’s Eric-Jon Rossel Waugh.

His vision “was the only significant voice within Nintendo. In the wake of Miyamoto's success, everyone else was put on standby,” adds Jon Rossel Waugh. And here in lies the problem. The Miyamoto’s way became the only way. “This aesthetic, this mentality, this rulebook became – through Nintendo's mantra, in absence of any mainstream alternative (except maybe Sega)… Nintendo's system was seen as nice, and certainly impressive on the technical end, yet sort of stodgy. Sega had games no one had played before – or not exactly, anyway. Nintendo getting Street Fighter II before Sega did a little to knock that impression.”

The author is right in pointing this out. The industry certainly doesn’t work that way, and alternatives are arrived at and explored by other developers everyday. Will Wright may share Miyamoto’s sensibilities and philosophies but Miyamoto could not have made Sim City, only Wright could have. The implication made is that Nintendo had in many ways experienced a decade of decline since the end of the 16-bit generation largely because of Miyamoto. This is a shocking twist, but there is certainly a point to be made.

I would however made a big distinction between the above argument with what the author proceeded to do in the rest of his editorial, which was to make mostly questionable and arguable claims about how adherence to the Miyamoto formula kept innovation in gameplay form happening. Here is a short list of his claims: Super Mario World is a retread of Supwer Mario 3 [Well ok, I sort of agree since I loved Mario 3 much more than I did Mario world]; Zelda – A Link to the Past is a remake of Zelda 1; Zelda Ocarina of Time could have been made on the a 2-D platform, even a GameBoy.

The author’s point here is an attempt to connect his premise that Miyamoto’s overwhelming success and entrenchment within Nintendo caused a kind of ‘freezing’ which brought about repeated retreads and remakes of the same game. According to Rossel Waugh, Zelda essentially hasn’t changed since the first game.

I can’t say I agree in this regard, and this may have been a case of over-reach on the author’s part to grasp at connections that doesn’t exist. The Zelda franchise is great because in part, it has maintained firmly rooted in the concepts and conventions created in the original, but it is certainly by no means frozen in time because of a desire to stick with the Miyamoto system.

Ultimately Rossel Waugh lost the point he was trying to make in the first part of his editorial and opened the door for the discredit of his entire position. Miyamoto can’t be all things to all people. He has a special ability to make universally appealing games of a certain type. The mythical ‘virtual gardens’ that he spoke of in past interviews, is what he strives to recreate in almost all his games. Each game has its internal logic, based not on reality but on game rules. But within that game, the logic makes sense and is wholly consistent. This however doesn’t define what ALL games are about. Nintendo’s problem, and Miyamoto’s contribution to that problem, at least in the last 10 years, was precisely because management at Nintendo had deemed Miyamoto so powerful that they built the company’s strategy around the type of games Miyamoto either designs and oversees personally or games that follow his method of game design.

There are alternatives out there. In an era of increasing stagnation and sequel-itis, Nintendo is attempting to find its way back into the center of the limelight by reinventing the way it makes games. Case and point, Miyamoto was either only marginally involved or had no involvement at all in the creation of some of the platform's killer-apps: Animal Crossing, Brain Training, Nintendogs, to name a few. More convincingly, many more 3rd party games that give the DS such a strong identity and differentiates it from the PSP are not Nintendo games. They are games from third parties. Games like Capcom's Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney, Atlus' Trauma Center, Konamis' Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow and Winning Eleven; Bandai Namco's Kaitou Rusoo, SquareSoft's Children of Mana and the upcoming Final Fantasy III are all outside of the Miyamoto school. Quite simply, Nintendo has proven, after a decade of self-doubt, that its good to have Miyamoto on the team, but one man can't make a game console.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Fantasies are Never Final

... and blogs are never truly abandoned. A lot has happened since my last post but rather than bore people with accounts of the past, here are a few things on my mind at this point in time in no particular order and no particular significance. These are just things that I thought worthy enough to mention.

DSLite - I liked the original DS, but many people complained about the screen vis-à-vis what the PSP had and the bulk of the unit. The lite is less bulky compared to either the PSP or DS and has an even better screen than the PSP, with 4 brightness settings. Well, there’s still one thing people can moan about. The lack of texture filtering, not that its going to stop the next item in my list from looking like a million dollars.

Final Fantasy III – Awesome graphics, and old school RPG back in play. This is based on the original Final Fantasy III (not the III released in North America). The trailer released during E3 had a good mix of cinematics, in-game shots and an awesome musical score.

The trailer is awesome. Sale +1.

Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center - The trailer for World Trade Center had me chocked up. The cynic would say its propaganda or whatever. But you know, people actually died that day and a lot of them were regular ‘working folk’ who was doing their job and put themselves in danger to save other people, some of them were actually Canadians!

The trailer seems to follow the Hollywood formula for this kind of movies, sentimental, with a sappy theme that suits the long camera pans and slow motion shots of the main characters looking serious. Thanks to the power of computer graphics, the trailer already show in stunning detail, the New York skyline on September 11 2001, complete with a Zoolander billboard (LOL). What hit home for me is that unlike JFK or Nixon both of which chronicled events which occurred before I was born, this movie is about an event which occurred only a few years ago, in my young adulthood and it’s not quite the same movie as the other two. It’s more real and immediate to me.

Final Fantasy XI - I started this blog by quitting the game, but I returned to it soon after my final post last October. I’m still enjoying it, although I stick mostly to a few good friends as we work towards our desired items. I could elaborate but it would sound about as foreign to the uninitiated as Japanese did to Bill Murray’s character in Lost in Translation, so I won’t. Suffice to say, I recently came into an item I never thought I would own. It’s something that was too expensive and difficult for me to get in my two years playing as a White Mage. I finally got an Errant Cape: 9 Defence 30 mp -5 enmity 73 Lvl. Boo-yah!