Mass Effect Andromeda, the Uncanny Valley, and the Looming Threat of Memes

Mass Effect Drak

Bioware’s latest entry into the acclaimed Mass Effect franchise has become a punchline on the internet. Countless gifs, video compilations, and complaint threads were created in response to its… odd looking character models and animations. Going further, I would argue that the response to the animations and models have overshadowed the game itself, with people unable to get over how “off” they look. It’s understandable, we’re suppose to be in the next generation of gaming, but this game looks noticeably worse than any of its predecessors. How could this happen? I’d imagine many Bioware fans like myself (who has loved them since Knights of the Old Republic) feel baffled as to how they could fail so many who had faith in them. A gaming company whose work was once synonymous with great RPGs has fallen into the pit of being a cautionary tale for the perils of entering the AAA gaming market. The contrarian hipster in me wants to pin the blame for this mess entirely on just that, a big corporation like EA forcing a once pure company to churn out mediocre content for a quick buck, and eventually corrupting them in the process. The problem of course, is that issues like this tend to be far more nuanced.

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Street Fighter V Story Review – A Flawed, but Admirable First Effort

Street Fighter V‘s much anticipated story mode (“A Shadow Falls”) released over a week ago, and my impressions can be summed up as “Too much story, not enough time”. There were so many interesting story threads and themes explored in the prologues that very little of them really had any time to breathe in the main story. What I loved about the prologue system is that it introduced what every character “wants” as a way of setting the stage for a larger intersecting story. This is a huge deal to me because “wants” are the bare minimum one must have for characters in a story for it to be even remotely good, and you would be absolutely shocked to find out how often stories have lead characters who don’t really “want” anything in particular. For the most part, this game’s story avoids those pitfalls but falls into a few of its own due to its very nature. Street Fighter has a pretty large cast of characters, and the question of who to focus on becomes the chief determinant towards whether or not a story is a good one. This game tackles that issue to mixed results.

*SPOILERS BELOW*

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Could Street Fighter V’s Four Kings be the Key to a Strong Story Mode?

With Balrog finally shown off and announced for release this Friday in Street Fighter V, the game’s antagonists who are part of an evil organization known as Shadaloo, have all been assembled. This is important because the story mode is also set for release on Friday, and according to previous interviews, the story will be about the fall of Shadaloo, bridging the gap between Street Fighter 4 and Street Fighter 3 (the series has an odd chronology). The story will place a huge emphasis on Shadaloo and its operatives and their varying goals, and I bet that its quality will live or die on what it does with them alone. Essentially, M. Bison, F.A.N.G, Vega, and Balrog are who the fate of this game’s story hinge on. Based on the prologues and the story previews we have seen so far, all these characters have arcs with personal stakes, but most importantly, they’re fun and interesting to watch. Before the story mode is actually released, I thought it’d be fun if I gave a bit of a run down on who these men are and what sort of role they can play in the story.

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Street Fighter V’s F.A.N.G is the Best New Fighting Game Character in Years

It’s no secret that I love Street Fighter V‘s new character F.A.N.G. As the main villain’s second in command, he’s flashy, he’s flamboyant, and he’s very committed to giving enemies and allies alike a hard time. But when I wrote about how great of a character he was before, it was after a superficial assessment. Back then, he looked like a character I would love, and his apparent personality suited me fine. He also had an amusing obsession with the number “2” (an aspect of his personality that inks its way into his gameplay). But after experiencing the prologue stories that Street Fighter V had at launch (with a more involved story mode coming in June via DLC), I was shocked to discover that F.A.N.G is one of the greatest new characters created for a fighting game sequel in existence. Obviously, he’s different from the rest of the Street Fighter cast (he was explicitly created with that goal in mind) and that freshens up the roster, but F.A.N.G also happens to be the fighting game lore equivalent of an L-Block. Besides having a unique play-style revolving around the usage of poison (a series first), he also completes the puzzle that is Street Fighter‘s story. He himself has perhaps the most developed and nuanced character arc in the series (all told within a prologue story that spans 5 minutes!), his existence answers so many questions about the Street Fighter‘s primary antagonistic force Shadaloo, and his interactions with other members of the cast help develop them further. In many ways, he’s the most important edition to the series to come in this installment of the Street Fighter.

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Mind Spill: Smash Bros. Edition

Falco Blaster Trained

As I promised looong ago in another update, I will deliver to you my Smash Bros. mind spill, which as you would expect, is just my assorted thoughts on this game exiting my mind onto this blog page. With the final update recently coming out, there’s no better time than now to talk about what is now the complete version of this project, a game that came out in 2014 that feels like it was released just yesterday.

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Mind Spill December 20th 2015: Street Fighter Edition

With this edition of Mind Spill (and the next one to come) I’m going to be focusing on fighting games primarily because a lot of news happened for both Street Fighter V and Super Smash Bros. Some of the news was good, some of it bad, a lot of it I still don’t know what to make of, but today though, I’ll be focusing mainly on Street Fighter.

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Life is unfair isn’t it? You have to deal with all these painful realities, and it often feels like you really can’t control anything. Not only that, but you’re faced with constant reminders about how unfair things are from just living in real life, and from the stories that movies, TV shows, and video games tell us. Over a decade ago, we had Buffy the Vampire Slayer telling us that being an adult meant making difficult choices and realizing things are beyond your control, now we have Life is Strange to teach that lesson to a new generation while fully utilizing its medium of story telling (vidya gamez) to impart it. I loved Life is Strange, it’s the rare video game that completely immersed itself in its story-telling, and I appreciate the hell out of the fact that it was ruthlessly uncompromising in its message. I’m going to get into massive spoilers from here, so be warned.

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Life is Strange Review and Ending Analysis – Personal Growth Through Trial and Error

We Don’t Need Tight Execution for Our Fighting Games

Street Fighter V is on its way, and in its wake came a large discussion about the nature of execution requirements. To sum up, should combos be made easier or remain as they were in Street Fighter IV (not so easy)? This question has caused quite a bit of division, and here I will share my thoughts on how things should be done. First, we should go over the basis of both these viewpoints.

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Fighting Game Narratives – Mortal Kombat X’s Story And Why They Matter

The phrase “Fighting games with story” can inspire a number of reactions from people. To the general public, it just sounds like another aspect to a genre of video games they may or may not have an interest in, but to fans of fighting games its a phrase that generates revulsion, aggressive apathy, support, ridicule, or outright anger. It seems like everyone in the fighting game community has some kind of opinion on story modes in their games, and all of them revolve around how relevant they are.

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So How About That Persona 5 Trailer?

When you see a trailer to the next installment of a beloved franchise, you always have to go in with the expectation that whoever is making that trailer has no idea what they’re doing. That right there is a really depressing sentiment, but I feel that it has become justified. These days, trailers really, really don’t get it. They either show way too much and ruin the plot, or they show next to nothing at all and end up failing to do the only thing a trailer should be doing in the first place. It’s about the excitement, it’s about building hype and keeping just enough mystery to leave you wanting more. A trailer should bring up just as many questions as answers, but not so many questions that you feel like you just stared at a big question mark for the past two minutes by the end. If you need an example of a good trailer, check out this Persona 5 one.

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