Wednesday, November 30, 2011

#48 -- "Saints Row: The Third" Reviewed | * * * ½

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". . .a super-deformed, weaponized-speedball that knows the difference between good and evil."

There has been serendipitous fun in videogames for more than 25 years. Beating The Legend of Zelda in one sitting is serendipitous fun. Running through a grand prix cup in Super Mario Kart with the always-tiny cheat is serendipitous fun. Juggling a velociraptor with a quad rocket-launcher in Turok: Dinosaur Hunter is serendipitous fun. Doing backflips off the highway median in a stolen Yakuza sportscar in Grand Theft Auto III is madness and all-consuming and fun. These things are special because we discover them within a defined, but easily violated, set of rules that the videogame has laid out before us (. . .rules like gravity). This madness becomes ours and becomes true, golden escapism. Even if we are told somebody else discovered that exact same bar of gold, it's never theirs, it's ours. As far as we're concerned, dad invented speedruns when he accidentally beat Super Mario Bros. in 1989 in eight minutes.

Saints Row: The Third was probably made by a covenant of college students that spent a lot of time avoiding responsibility for their actions in Liberty City, probably the GTA3 version, and they learned where serendipitous fun came from, challenging us now with the question: "Why brew our game from anything that isn't instinct, projected?" That's freedom -- not being given the ability to do anything and told to find your fun, but rather anticipating what people will want to do with the dark materials given to them.

For example, Skyrim (Oblivion texture-mod out of 4) is a game that tells you to go anywhere and do anything but is honestly too nervous to admit it's 95% inventory-management, physics-breaking, menu-surfing, and loading screens draped in neat concept art. If you spend that much time scrolling through a fucking menu, Skyrim, maybe your game is missing direction and focus! The game is Zork and a Google image-search of Norway + "Game of Thrones." Skyrim is fantasy for somebody that's never stood on top of a mountain or actually ever drunk mead. It's made from honey.

Alternatively, SR3 is a hyper-real, super-deformed, weaponized-speedball that knows the difference between good and evil. It knows the barricades commonly set up inside videogames to keep us away from fun and it blows them up with gigantic gunpowder casks. SR3's interface ought to win a Nobel Prize for chemistry (between a human and a machine). Its menu-work extends as far as Summon VTOL or Mission Go. It is game-science and that science is too tight! It packs all the stickiest, ickiest, dankest fun into a bowl without a stick or stem in sight.

This game is kind of inside our brains, circa 2002. It's GameGenie: The Game. What was random is now a game. What was formerly secret to all but the inquisitive is now a game. What were formerly videogame war-stories usually reserved for hushed whispers at an arcade and shouted declarations in college dining halls are now part of a game, this game, Saints Row: The Third. Did you find rampaging around in a tank in Grand Theft Auto more fun than the missions? That is part of this game. Did you have fun playing with your corpse's ragdoll physics in Unreal Tournament? That is part of this game. Did you hate the elongated travel sections in Red Dead Redemption that seemed to bookend every mission and you were forced to repeat them if you fell off your horse? Those are not part of the game.

Saints Row: The Third has trimmed the fat. This is the leanest steak you've ever eaten. It's not the most tender and it doesn't have a fine hollandaise-sauce drizzle but it's served with mash potatoes and a red wine that's so good that it'll make you believe in God, so fuck you, here's your 14 oz. Porterhouse, if you wanted something else, you must be kidding yourself.

The gunplay is: SHMUP-perfect. The run-and-gun third-person shooter has resurfaced, reminding us of how much we loved Jet Force Gemini and Max Payne.

The driving is: Burnout on ice with studded caterpillar-treads. There's a strange clickity-clack friction when driving the really fast cars around the city and the acceleration is controller-grippening, so the moment you start to feel out of control, it's likely you'll crash. It won't really matter. You'll be back up to full-speed and crashing into a guardrail in the next 30 seconds.

The graphics are: A brand-new box of crayons, points still sharp, paper unpeeled. An entire village of tiny people worship the crayons and color inside the lines flawlessly, creating a milky, high-definintion utilitarian presentation with no loose threads.

The story is: Grand Theft Auto: The Animated Series. It airs at 11:30pm on Sundays on Cartoon Network. It starts with skydiving and ends with an assault on a helicarrier and never once does it wink at the camera.

Perhaps the most notable point for SR3 is the way the game changes if you play as a male or female character, or rather, no matter which you chose to play as, you don't really play as either. The character was written as a gender-neutral badass -- sassy and uncaring and invincible, a power-fantasy that talks and walks like a twenty-one year old with a bottomless bank account and every cheat code activated. Within all of this though, the character is genuine and downright friendly, like God on vacation. When you play as a guy, he's a goofball, and when you play as a girl, she's the same goofball. This is kind of jarring at first glance. It's so strange to watch because being a woman has no bearing whatsoever on the character's actions, which almost never occurs in a videogame. It's so far removed from how characters in any medium -- videogames or otherwise -- are created that we have to give it praise. Obviously, there was one script written for the main character that you play as, and there are seven different voice actors giving seven different readings of the script, which you can chose from when you customize that main character after the tutorial. There are three male, three female, and one zombie-voice. The readings differ only slightly but the lines have to always fit with the other characters' recorded dialog that they're speaking to and acting against, so by default, the character is defined by traits that have nothing to do with gender. When you're playing as a male, it's not as noticeable, because brash male leads that eat guitars, shoot off guns, and ignore all the ladies' fawning, like all us man-dudes do, are more common in games, and nobody comes up to him and say, "Shit, son, you are the human-male! I acknowledge your masculinity, for it is vibrant. Too much so, sometimes, brother. I miss your scent."

When you swap over to one of the female voices, it's a dramatic change. Your character becomes a woman that does not give any fucks about what she's doing and nobody ever acknowledges she's a she. She isn't entirely manly, but as we played and remembered back, we realized gradually that the male-version wasn't entirely manly either. They were both confident, well-adjusted, comfortable, and staggeringly balanced in how they carry themselves, credit to the writers and voice actors for delivering a character compatible with many faces. In the case of the women, it's a leap forward from the princesses, and the battle-hardened bad-girls, and the sopping piles of top-heavy softcore that the entertainment industry is blighted with.

For the female avatar in SR3, it isn't Girl Power, it's Person Power. She never goes into grandiose pontification about female-empowerment or male inadequacy, and that is empowerment in and of itself. There will be the occasional one-liner about chipping a nail during a gunfight, but that's not enough to derail the argument. This is a videogame character in what has eternally been a man's world -- in attitude, in practice, and almost exclusively in audience (but less-so recently, thank God) -- that does not mention the glass-ceiling she busted through to run a multi-national street gang. That's progress, folks! She isn't The Greatest Female Character In Games, but she is the best feminist icon in videogames since Alyx Vance in Half-Life 2. Outside of FemShep in the Mass Effect games, female characters in videogames are inherently FEMALE, meaning throughout the game, their symmetrical chromosomes will be commented on because they are not white Caucasian males. It's like whenever a Native American character shows up in games. He always sits cross-legged, and has a spirit guide, and a tomahawk, and a fringe-vest (T. Hawk, Turok, the guy from Prey, and Nightwolf, among others), and he is defined only by that building-block, Wikipedian-constriction.

The lady-lead in SR3 isn't defined by her femininity. She's defined by her leadership personality and her loyalty to her friends.

Certain publications have called out SR3 as the exact opposite to this. Edge-Online, in particular, a magazine that we respect a whole heckuva lot, particularly because they use the entire 1-10 scale (giving SR3 a 6 out of 10 in this case, which they defended with aplomb), reiterating in their review that the word "whore" is used ad-nauseum throughout the game, and thus, females are denigrated. In spite of this damnable, silly word, how does the protagonist -- for the sake of argument, female, in this case -- respond to these missions? Usually by blowing up helicopters, punching tigers, controlling the crisis, laughing at her enemies' disgusting insanity, and by being a leader that people know and respect because of her actions. She will defend her friends and conquer the city. She will run shit!

She feels no compulsion to prove anything, no compulsion to justify why she's a capable female-lead in an action game -- man's work. Nope, she doesn't verbalize, she just goes. Some might argue that calling a game female-empowerment because it's somewhat gender-blind is actually a bad thing. Wrong. Do people need any identity beyond anything but mere humanity to define themselves? Sometimes, kinda, yes, because we always need help from The Other to fill in the blanks about who we are as individuals -- we haven't quite gotten there in our videogame characters. Yet. SR3 is at least a step in the right direction though.

Do you remember in every action movie ever where a love-interest was shoehorned in because heavy-makeout is a base emotional reaction that people can identify with? Remember in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, that sort-of-boring British navy movie that you expected to be Gladiator On A Boat, but was actually closer to Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany reenacting My Dinner With Andre in the Galapagos Islands, and you didn't realize there was only one woman (with no dialog) in the entire movie until your friend sat up straight and said just that? 

"Dude! This boat's got more sausage than an Italian trireme! Where are all the wimmens at?!"

Suddenly, you realized that a wilting love-interest is an absolute waste in a lot of stories because all they do is reinforce gender stereotypes that "men are doctors" and "women are nurses," and that's just how shit is? A more advanced society would march on ahead of those draconian distinctions, indifferent to what superficially makes us different, gender, race, creed, and instead lets all people co-exist. The protagonist in SR3 can be a man or a woman, but s/he will always be a headstrong leader that doesn't wallow inside a macho-male compartment, or an overtly-feminine compartment, or a racial compartment, or nationality compartment -- all of which are options you can chose to create your avatar.

What began life as a cash-grab Grand Theft Auto clone has become one of the best feminist statements in videogames and in storytelling this year.

By ignoring restrictive tropes that normally weaken a person or a character, your mission is to kick ass in a city full of madmen. This game lets you summon a jet-bike to your side and fly around a city looking for boxes of inflatable sex-dolls. Whereas Grand Theft Auto has only hinted at these kinds of silly jokes in the past, SR3 is the cheat-sheet to videogames' evil that Rockstar (creators of GTA) coded into its games so your parents would see something that suspiciously looked like a bong, but was labeled as a "Hidden Package."

That piece of property you just bought in the Vice City slums looks an awful lot like a meth lab. No, man, it's a safehouse. No, in SR3, it's just a meth lab. It is. Don't fight it. We're passed apology and posturing and what a refreshing state it is. It's the revelation that the Wizard of Oz isn't a wizard, but he does have a vast network of shady contacts.

Why must we get out of the car to stand in the glowing circle to activate a mission? Because in GTA, we like to maintain some realism. There's a glowing fucking circle on the sidewalk, we abandoned realism about when we went on that 1000-person killing spree and didn't get the lethal injection. Ergo, in SR3, you don't have to stop your car, get out of your car, walk over to the glowing circle, and let the mission load. 

This is A Game That Goes. That's the highest praise that we can give a game. A Game That Goes never leaves you lost or leaves you belaboring why it was "designed" in a particular way. The moment you step out of your own brain and into a developer's brain is the moment the game stops going. A game can go while having a plot that's standing still, as long as you, the player, are propelling things forward -- Uncharted 2's (* * * ½ out of 4) Tibetan village is a great example of A Game Going slowly. Batman: Arkham Asylum (* * * out of 4) is A Game That Goes. There's never a time where you sit there, staring at your map, wondering: "This seems silly. Do they really want me to burn 20 minutes walking all the way back across the world?" Games That Go usually have no loading screens. Metroid Prime (* * * * out of 4) and God of War (* * * * out of 4) are Games That Go, making you promise yourself that you'll stop playing at the next save point, we just want to see what's over this hill. For all the wrong reasons, Final Fantasy XIII (* * out of 4) is A Game That Goes, only because it's stupid-easy, impossible to die, and leaves you desperate for a good chapter to finally show up. 

Saints Row: The Third is A Game That Goes. There's no load-time longer than 10 seconds. There's little to no slog or recovery time if you die. Getting around the city isn't a twenty-minute chore and it often earns you money and discovery. Upgrades are drip-fed to you like morphine and Red Bull, and the story is episodic and silly, holding you with sturdy talons as it approaches its mad-cap zenith, so if you giggled at the first skydiving sequence, you'll lose your shit when the soundtrack for the final mission kicks in.

Maybe the shock-value that the SR3 ad-campaign has been promoting has worn off on us -- we've been running around acting like maniacs in open-world games for a decade. Adding zany shit like floppy purple dildos, gimp-suits, furries, farts in a jar, Japanese game-show parodies, and a 3:1 ratio for citizens to attack-helicopters isn't validations, it's just the game catching up to gaming impulse. Those are such minor parts to the game that we feel icky about how the package is being misrepresented. The game is A Fool, shouting the truth, not for the rest of the players on stage, but for the audience's benefit. It knows everything, it has all the answers, it carries all the keys, and it exists in all worlds, digital or otherwise, doing The Dougie back and forth across The Line, and teaching it to anybody brave enough to ask.

We're back to even. Now get back to work and try to create a game that can make us cry. It's been almost twelve years since Final Fantasy IX.

* * * ½
(out of 4)
[#5 of The 9 Best Games of 2011]

Recommended related reading:
[The Hunger Games | * * *] by Ghost Little and Doberman
[ExciteTruck | * * * *] by Ghost Little
[Jane Eyre (2011) | * * *] by Ghost Little

-- Ghost Little
on Twitter | @GhostLittle_WTF

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

#47.5 -- Gobbling Sound Emanates From Wooden Turkey, Scientists Baffled

"The executor of the Dillinger estate has made threats against us."

I woke this morning, made tea and scones, and dressed myself, as I do, and at 11 o'clock, I approached the masters' study to inquire of them the topic for this week's entry. Instead of the productivity and politeness I am accustomed to, I was greeted with this note, which was affixed to the door with an ornate Mayan knife made from Quetzalcoatl feathers and obsidian. I will print the note in full here and now, as I was instructed by the contents of the note itself.
Dearest Poots,

It's Thanksgiving, man! It's all about football and slow-cooking food! Don't you like mixing types of alcohol while having awkward, and yet strangely intimate, conversations with people you've only met two or three times in your life? Well, we do!

Plus, balloon floats!

If you don't mind, you can have the remainder of the week off. We had a few prospective pieces that we could have used but we ran out of time because of a few unanticipated roadblocks, namely:
  • The executor of the Dillinger estate has made threats against us
  • Iambic pentameter takes forever to write in
With these things in mind, we thought it best to delay things until the heat dies down. Post this note so people know what's up. Also, we wanted to share some video footage of a recent scientific discovery. Apparently, gobbling sounds are emanating from a wooden turkey and the academic community is just completely baffled. That is all. Enjoy your time off, Poots!

I have embedded the video as was requested.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Good day.

Recommended related reading:
[The Organ] by Ghost Little
[The Diffused States (Part 1)] by Ghost Little and Doberman
[Watch Out For That Dinosaur!] by Caretaker Poots

-- Caretaker Poots
on Twitter  |  @GhostLittle_WTF

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

#47 -- 10 Ways The NFL Laughs In Your Face (But Football Is Still Great)

"The American man is neither chiseled from stone nor from crispy-chicken batter. The American man isn't helpless. . . He doesn't shirk on his responsibilities. He does work hard and he does not pick on his friends. He loves rock and roll and he hates Nickelback. He loves football, but he's smart enough to hate the NFL's greed."

You are an idiot. You are an obsessed idiot. You are a zealous, obsessed idiot. You are part of a nation of zealous, obsessed idiots. You shall find camaraderie amongst others in that nation of zealous, obsessed idiots. You, and your comrades in arms, know of a deeper love than those who are not part of your nation of zealous, obsessed idiots -- noses turned up at you as if their farts smell like Cinnabon and Carebears. You know that even amongst the other citizens in your nation of zealous, obsessed idiots, in your heart of hearts, there is no doubt that you are unique in your understanding. You know how far, and how strong, this empire, your empire, of zealous, obsessed idiots truly reaches. You, idiot, are part of something so grand that you understand your place in the world, despite that those unlike you will see your idiocy as idiocy, and not as a badge of honor.

That is what the NFL considers you to be. You're an idiot, a charity-case without an identity, and you're a football fan -- specifically, an NFL fan. The league is making bank on that. You adore watching football games -- rightfully so -- but in all probability, the NFL actually laughs in your face, rubbing its crooked fingers through hair greased with Axe Bodyspray. You are the lowest common denominator, and yet according to many a marketing department, that's a good thing. Cuz, c'mon, don't you see, man? We're all football fans and don't let anybody tell you that's not a good thing! In America, we can agree on so few things, yet it's clear that we love football. We're lunatic, all-consuming, stat-grubbing, TV-hugging, truck-driving, cellphone-using, food-devouring, family-loving, beer-chugging, house-painting, work-neglecting, unfocused, inattentive, indifferent, clueless, hopeless, gutless, star-struck, passionate football fans.

We usually watch football on Sundays on the a 72-inch OLED TV that's set up in the What's That From? Recording Studios screening-theater. It's nice, don't get us wrong, the double-wide fridge in there dispenses micro brews, which we can select from on the iPad installed into the front of it. You don't actually open the fridge itself, it just sorta works on its own. We also like to eat those Trader Joe's Organic Blue Corn Chips with spicy-jalapeno salsa dip and our guy Geno comes by around halftime to hand-roll sweet bratwursts back in the kitchenette and we got a PS1 emulator to run on the Android tablet so we can play Final Fantasy IX during the football game's slower possessions. We've gotten pretty far into disc 2!

As far as we can tell though, we're doing it wrong. We aren't tailgating the game under azure skies with sober folks over in the clean world. The ads during the games paint this unfamiliar picture for us because we aren't surrounded by a dozen friends wearing Seattle Seahawks shirts. Children aren't toddling around the floor in our two story, 4-bedroom colonial, large box of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes: Reduced Sugar® clutched underarm, and a disproportionately-attractive woman isn't dangling off the end of the eight-person leather sofa, wholly accepting her options of: "Become a fan myself," or "Mentally warp his fanaticism and neglect into comfortable adoration, at least my mother has stopped haranguing me."

This is the advertised image of what it means to be an NFL fan. Again, are we doing it wrong -- or are we being lied to? Re-watching Mad Men has taught us that dramatized advertising is a message that alleviates fears and reminds you that "You're doing fine; you can do better with this though," and we must say, Don Draper makes a fairly persuasive argument. He probably smells good too and let us state now that there is a stink on the NFL broadcasts that gives us such a headache that getting through the peripheral quagmire to the actual game part of the fucking game becomes a chore. We don't care about what the NFL considers us to be. We want to consume their sport, the rest, well, we could take or leave.

We at What's That From? love football. We do. We love most everything about it. It's strategic and psychological and physical and it can go from zero to ludicrous-speed like *that* and we don't want the game to change. It's changing. It is. It's being repainted and branded. Too many eyeballs are laid upon the product to let the sport part get in the way of the league part. That's why the lock-out ended with such flawless timing before the season's start. Too many parties had billions of dollars about to be lost. Watching an afternoon of NFL games though raises a few questions and concerns with us about what the league thinks of us, the ads on display -- which have undoubtedly been vetted by the league, there's no way they'd let their identity be undermined -- make us think:

1) How many people in America drive pickup trucks into shale quarries on a daily basis? How about haul horse trailers? Judging by the ads during NFL games, dozens of thousands of men do. We initially marked this down as a "con," but upon further examination, shit to that. We need trucks. Many of them. They're so damn awesome. Getting behind a stick-shift truck's wheel adds a friction to driving that has sort of been lost in automobiles. Thanks, Germany! Way to ruin things with your flawless suspensions and perfect transition-timing! No, trucks, man, that's where it's at. Only in a truck can you pull up to work with the paneling splattered with mud and cornstalks sticking out of the grill and have it be socially-acceptable. It's odd seeing them all buffed-up in the Chevy ads. Or was it a Ford ad that we just saw? Damn, we can't even remember.

Doesn't matter! Trucks!

2) Are electronics really that complicated? This is such a terrible stereotype that it's basically a hate-crime. You can't figure out how to use your cellphone, middle-aged cubicle drone? No, not possible. You've played more games of Minesweeper on your BlackBerry than you've had hot meals. There's no way an iPhone or an Android fascinates you that much ("I'm listening to downloaded music!" Are ya sure? It could be a tumor). It isn't magic and it isn't Jesus -- it's just rote handheld device usage. You need some gelled-up spike-head at Best Buy to explain what 1080p is and why you need an HDMI cables encrusted with a million fucking diamonds? You'll be victimized if you let buying consumer electronics be complicated. Go to the Google machine and take 5 minutes before assuming you can't learn the difference between an Xbox 360 and a PS3. Or, ya know, ask your son. He's smarter than you. Already. At basically everything.

3) Most twenty-somethings aren't this good looking and they don't have season tickets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There's a recession on right now. Who are these trust-fund babies spending a year's pay on NFL tickets and dye-jobs for their girlfriends? Yes, we all go nuts for the bottle-blonds, don't we? Nobody in Florida is that well-groomed and speaks without an accent. Have you been to Tampa? It's like Manchester, New Hampshire, except in Florida, which means it's a concrete-encrusted misery-mire. Also, bros the world over, please, stop wearing open, unbuttoned plaid shirts. That's classless, even for trust-fund baby. You aren't sixteen. Or have you already accepted that you'll always be a disappointment to your grandfather? And shave your neck beard. Don't you watch football? Don't you know that there have been huge advances in shaving technology, thanks to Gillette? They can give you a razor so fine that all the ladies will swear you have alopecia.

4) Twenty-somethings also don't ridicule each other for drinking one light beer versus another. They just don't. They've been to college. They know it all tastes like charcoal and compressed CO2, and there's little difference between Bud Light and Miller Lite, except maybe more bubbles or increased misspellings. Some of these guys in the ads are damn cruel to their friends -- they're kind of borderline-sociopaths. This is how suicides happen. See, football fans. . . love. . . drinking. Football fans that love drinking have been drinking recreationally for a long time. They have a favorite way to get drunk. That guy that's drinking a random piss-water beer that you're making fun of is starting a trend. He's not a lemming. He's the individual in this situation. Somebody's going to see him drinking Buck Range Premium Light Lager, and think, "I bet that beer's terrible. I want to see how terrible it really is." So you have one and it tastes terrible and familiar and, whatever, at least the can's design is sorta different. And then you realize half the beer in the western world is brewed by InBev anyway.

5) Would you actually be impressed if Reggie Bush watched football and ate Pizza Hut with you, or would you be kinda pissed at him for being an overrated fuck-stick? Think about it. You start watching the game, get a few beers in, and then you realize that you took him in your fantasy league with your first pick after he went super-high in the draft right out of college, and that he underperformed. People don't grovel in front of celebrities, even minor ones -- they get obnoxious and envious and violent, especially if there's alcohol involved. In-person, people hate famous people if they're in their company for an extended period. And honestly, in terms of career success in a professional environment, you, reader, have probably had a more successful and proportionately productive career at your job than Reggie Bush has. He's a middle-low tier running back on a shit AFC East team -- that's the equivalent of being an account manager at a Motorola or an intern at Paramount.

6) How desperate are these women that they accept these negligent, cowardly men and their unerring, childish devotion to an moronic product? Fine, pairing a disproportionately unattractive man with a woman of extreme beauty, that's recognizable commonplace, because it's that same lulling-reassurance to the schlub inside men that there is a woman out there that will love you for no good reason, even if they don't do a fucking thing to deserve or earn it -- that's an accepted fact, and it has been since The Flintstones and The Jetsons (and The Honeymooners). But when ads during NFL games frame every household as a miniature kingdom where the queen is one quizzically-raised eyebrow from a shaky, tearful belt-beating from a Kansas City Chief's fan, we're gonna have a problem. No, it's not that she doesn't get football, mister, it's that if you got near an open flame, it's possible a spark might travel up your gaping asshole and ignite the compounded methane that circulates your formless black guts -- if you have any at all.

He knows he's pathetic. He might not know his haircut is half-Lloyd Christmas and half-mullet, but he knows his obsession with the McRib is sickening. He will do whatever it takes (even kill a man!) to hold onto this shaky lie. There is football though -- glorious, simple football. But if she interferes with football, he'll have to talk to her, and if he talks to her, she'll begin to see the cracks, and if she sees the cracks, his always-was-there lameness will crystallize, and if that comes out, she'll take the kids during a bolt in the night, and he'll be alone, so very, very alone. Then he'll have to hang himself on a doorknob with a belt.

7) Will lucrative prescription drugs save you from death? As was foretold by Arthur Miller, American men don't know how to die happily. Maybe it's the crushing misrepresentation and glory that was promised and never delivered. Advertising frames the Baby Boomers on retirement's fringe as short-changed pity-cases. Aging? Nobody told you? Yeah, you're gonna get old, you LSD-soaked pinko-hippie. This is payback for not listening to your 'ole pal Nixon! The Reds are gonna get The Bomb and all your inside-parts are going to stop working correctly. You can swallow chemicals that can hold off those effects for a limited time. You will never age gracefully. 

Hey you, don't you know there's no hope at all? The worms will eat into your brains.

Know what sucks? If the gullible and desperate hadn't bought bad mortgages for houses that that they couldn't afford, Wall Street would have never seen value in bundling those toxic debt packages and imploded the arbitrarily-valued housing market, they wouldn't have needed a government bailout -- draining billions of dollars from other industries -- the country's public and private sectors would have had that money to spend on some form of extended healthcare and livable pensions, and that entire generation would've been able to retire safely years ago before their organs went bust. Then the Millenials would have an actual fighting chance to enter the workforce and stop sponging off of their parents. 

God, if only they would move out of the house! 

Then the Boomers could have all that free time to drive trucks, learn how cellphones work, and watch more football!

8) The American man is neither chiseled from stone nor from crispy-chicken batter. In TV ads, American men are visualized too often as indecisive, mentally-stunted bio-masses. The American man isn't helpless. He isn't frothing in anticipation for his next trip to Taco Bell. He doesn't wear a hoodie everywhere he goes. He can swing a hammer and he can change a tire. He doesn't shirk on his responsibilities. He does work hard and he does not pick on his friends. He loves rock and roll and he hates Nickelback. He loves football, but he's smart enough to hate the NFL's greed. He doesn't shriek for a solid fifteen seconds around live fish. He doesn't shit his pants at the prospect of Christmas shopping. His role model should be Clint Eastwood, not Adam Sandler. He should respectfully disagree with football commentators, not because he needs validation, but because the commentators are pompous and overly-entitled that might know a lot about a narrow profession like football, but don't know a thing about reserved confidence.

9) Now that you mention it, the commentators during the games, especially during the ones broadcasted on Fox, need to go to the hospital and sign up for some surgery to remove the spiraled rebar that's up their collective asses. It's foul. If you ever find yourself reiterating Joe Buck and Troy Aikman's commentary to those around you, do not panic -- simply realize your error and request that somebody club you over the head with a bit of firewood. An honest man, knowing his infraction's severity, will know how large the bit of wood ought to be and whether the wood should be lit aflame prior to striking upside the head.

10) If anything, football players are like obsessed stalkers, so stop referring to them as "warriors." (Come out to plaaaayayyy!) They are well-padded millionaires playing a game that has dominated their lives since age 5. They've been coddled their entire lives to become money-making man-children. They are not warriors. They are not soldiers. They are game-players. George Carlin has a great bit on this subject but it bears reiterating. The players are smart ("A strong Football IQ!") in that they understand how to play a game that most people stopped playing decades ago. StarCraft II is more mentally-taxing than football. The machismo within playing professional games is weird as hell. So adrenalized and so focused on a singular thing, they tackle their day-job with stalker-like obsession, learning everything they can about their prey and exacting swift dominance over them!

It's the players that don't strut with the delirious glee usually reserved for concussion-victims that we can root for. The ones that are, you know, human. Not the cartoon characters that work eighteen weeks a year. But ya can't sell silence, which is why everybody outside of New England hates Bill Belichick. That, and his stalker-like obsession and devotion to exacting swift dom-- oh. Yeah, that's not a very fashionable allegory.

**GET BONUS!!** 11) Want a fun drinking game? While watching a game, drink every time the commentator says the word "football." You will end up poisoned. If you really want to get crazy, drink double whenever they say a made up word like "audible-ize" or "downhill running."

The disturbing thing is that professional football, one of our most expansive societal-touchstones and most universal pop-culture generator, is owned by a calculating, wealthy entity. So much has been done to protect the NFL product as an honorable and spirited competition that brings generations, and our entire nation, together. In doing so, they've limited the descriptive vocabulary that's allowed to be used in respect to this shared popular culture memory is, and will be. Those feelings, real as they are, we know because we've felt it, are bent to the point of exploitation -- they're the property of a thing so incomprehensibly large that it feels better to not worry ourselves than to feel violated.

But you know what? Tune it out. That's what America does best. As a country, to an extent, we can make something die simply by not looking at it -- yes, advertising pointed at the NFL audience will appeal to the lowest-common denominator, and that will never go away, only change (with the times), but this country was founded on the concept that if enough people find something harmful, we can stop its black-magic curse by looking away, just like we did with that shitty Green Lantern movie. We'll talk about the lowest-common denominator as entertainment's double-edged sword another time, but if you want to really fight back, do some research. Circumvent the ways the NFL makes money. Become incalculable and invisible. That's what they fear the most. It's the football games that are our national love-affair, not the ads for Sprint's Unlimited Data Plan.

Recommended related reading:

-- Ghost Little
on Twitter  |  @GhostLittle_WTF

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

#46 -- "ExciteTruck" Reviewed | * * * *

". . . ExciteTruck is the best game created for the Nintendo Wii."

With the grace and civility displayed by a boxcar dweller performing "King Lear" while on acid, the Nintendo Wii, despite its side-show freakery, did not need to exist. It was an inelegant success for a year and a half. You could control it with a bathroom scale and pretend to ski-jump with Bowser and Sonic the Hedgehog. The best thing about the Wii was that it reminded lapsed videogame players that they had once been children that were capable of grinning. The system's design had the word "nostalgia" written on top of every brainstorm document and it was always written in pen. Lines shot out of that one big word, leading out to smaller bubbles that held words like "Mario," "Mario Kart," and "Your Older Sister." The system was based around the same idea that Brad Pitt's character, Tyler Durden, thought up in Fight Club -- level the playing field and take everybody back to zero.

The Nintendo Wii was an electromagnetic pulse into videogames, rendering years of honed human-to-machine interface progress useless. After the bomb hit, all the programming we'd conditioned ourselves with for twenty-some-odd years, all that binary, all the reflexes, all the 1's and 0's became just a wall that contained us and an all-consuming void that devoured us. It ate everybody and then spat everybody back out innocent.

But there were some that remembered the time before the bomb and before the fall. Videogames happen on a display that isn't a human eyeball, you see. 

Have you ever seen somebody that's really good at typing on a QWERTY keyboard? Somebody in your office must be like that. Just maddeningly-fast. The QWERTY keyboard was conceived back when typewriters were big and bulky with the actual intent to slow typing speed down so that the hammers within the typewriter wouldn't get jammed up. It's an inefficient layout for a keyboard. People are used to it though, so we keep using them. Conversely, a videogame controller is an amorphous thing that is being modified every few years or so, usually with a new console release. The interface speed and the controller's capability had reached near perfection with the PS3 and the Xbox 360 (it's a matter of preference, honestly, and they both have advantages and disadvantages). 9 million people bought Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 this week, voting with their wallets that, "Yes, this method for interfacing with digital media is acceptable." For manipulating an onscreen presence, fingers' microscopic movements are so unconscious that the human mind forgets it's even holding the controller and at moments, total immersion is achieved. 

The Nintendo Wii was built on outdated graphical and sound hardware and a controller that was as exciting as a virtual kite-flying simulator where the first 10 levels didn't have any actual wind because we don't want to startle anybody with uncertain weather patterns, now do we? Every genre imaginable was fastened to that virtual kite-flying simulator, challenging people to see if they could fly a kite while virtually bowling, or while having a simulated swordfight, or while pretending to shoot a gun, or imagining they're driving a car. Yes, you could do all of those things, technically, we suppose, but we had been training our brains to be able to do all that stuff without having to fly a kite and adding this extra kite-flying accessory doesn't make the other activity fun because we're still distracted by the fact that we're constantly having to fly this stupid goddamn kite!

The Wii never helped the Wii and yet there were still many good games made on the system.

In no particular order:
  • Super Mario Galaxy
  • Super Mario Galaxy 2
  • Okami
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl
  • Metroid Prime Trilogy
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns
  • New Super Mario Bros. Wii
  • Mario Kart Wii
  • Super Paper Mario
  • Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  • Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition
Most notably though, two games come to mind. The first is Sin & Punishment: Star Successor (* * * out of 4) and the second is ExciteTruck (* * * * out of 4). We've brought up S&P2 on a few other occasions, and it was our 2010 Game of the Year because it is not only the best on-rails shooter in an era when rail shooter-sections are coming back into vogue -- especially in FPSes, the world's genre of choice nowadays -- but also because it has the best pointing and shooting in any game ever. See something on the screen? Point at it with the Wii-pointer and make it gone. It made you feel like a professional elephant-groomer with an industrial-strength pressure-washer on the day after your girlfriend dumped you.

That said, Sin & Punishment: Star Successor was itself a sequel to an N64 game that also made you feel like a professional elephant-groomer with an industrial-strength pressure-washer on the day after your girlfriend dumped you, and when it gave you that feeling, it did it with an N64 controller. S&P2 benefited from the Wii controller but it didn't need the thing to validate its existence. All the games in that bullet-point list up above us here neither required, nor needed, the kite-flying Wii controller to function as videogames. You could play every single one of them with a GameCube controller and they wouldn't lose a step, in fact, most of them would probably improve. That is not an exaggeration. 

That is why we need to talk about ExciteTruck. ExciteTruck is the best game on the Nintendo Wii. No, actually, the better way to phrase that is: ExciteTruck is the best game created for the Nintendo Wii. ExciteTruck is a radical alien life-form from another solar system with which it takes months for us to communicate that, "We are human, and we are alive." The game is foreign, purified water. It is an uncut drug.

ExciteTruck is billed as a racing-simulation. It sort of isn't though. It's more of an excitement-simulation that involves trucks. It involves trucks and stars. Everything that you do in ExciteTruck gets you stars. Powerslide around a corner? Stars. Get some air? Stars. Dodge some trees? Stars. Win the race? Oh, you better believe that's some stars (50 if you win, actually). Every course has a star-quota you need to hit. Hit the quota and you get to the next track. There's desert, forest, ice, Scotland, Asia, and tropical, each region with a few variants to its name, and if you conquer them all, you get to race on the Crystal Nebula. Drink a ton of coffee and play progressive rock in the background if you want the full Crystal Nebula-experience. 

The first time you race a track in ExciteTruck, the thing is a sublimely-cooked turkey. You pick at it, find the easy pieces, yank off a drumstick and chomp down on some white-meat. It's not enough though. The second time, you're picking at the corners, eating some crispy skin that you hadn't noticed the first time, searching for more, bigger jumps, and digging through the stuffing for stars, stars, stars anywhere, anything to add to your pouch fulla' stars! Eventually, you're obsessed, tearing apart the carcass and asking your family for advice.

"There's still some dark meat underneath the wishbone!"

Ours! It's ours! It's an animalistic voracity that fuels your desire to smash ExciteTruck's bones and mine it for entertainment. The game makes you lose control. It thrives on you losing control. Why do you lose control (joy that it is)? Because you use the Wii remote to steer your truck.

Controlling ExciteTruck is a bit like piloting a hovercraft, which is an amphibious vehicle that we've never driven before. Power-sliding in ExciteTruck resembles driving a gingerbread vannigan with marshmallow tires across an unplowed road of the purest driven snow. The jumps in ExciteTruck give you so much air that you'll feel like Santa Claus with the sun to his right on December 25th. It's a job well-done. All you want is danger in ExciteTruck because driving fast with no wheels on the ground and brushing up against fir trees is how you win. 

The control's wriggling slipperyness cannot be understated -- it is vital to ExciteTruck's fishy existence. Wrangling the airy control is unique to this game and it could only happen on the Wii. In fact, it's the only good game for the Wii that could only happen on the Wii. If you had more precise and consistent control, the Magic of Christmas would die and you'd be back to playing Gran Turismo 4: TRUCKS!

The entire game is sparse. The menus are bland. The graphics are without texture. The terraforming animations that come from powerups that you can run over are pretty fantastic, and reminds us of watching a baking bundt-cake time-lapse, and the game runs at an indistinguishable, pleasant framerate. There are many trucks to choose from but they're all made obsolete when the Wasp and the Monster Truck are unlocked, and you can change your truck's color, but you won't, because Nighthawk Black is the coolest color since Slightly-Darker Black.

The music is terrible. That's okay though, you can load in custom soundtracks -- yay! Now you can leave an SD card in your Wii with a gigabyte of popular music from the late 2000's and that will be the game's soundtrack forever. Recommended. In fact, don't bother playing the game if you don't have custom soundtracks, a feature that was removed from the game's pseudo-sequel, ExciteBots: Trick Racing, which was the equivalent of a robot fighting-viper biting itself until it became the universe.

ExciteTruck is the game that makes the Wii exist. It was released at the Wii's launch and while everything else released on the platform in the next six years was trying to figure out how to combine kite-flying with, ya know, whatever-the-hell, ExciteTruck was crafted around the feeling of whatever-the-hell. It was there because the Wii was there and it was the only game that could ever manage to bring those two parties to an agreement. 

* * * *
(out of 4)

Recommended related reading:
[Sly Cooper and the Thevieus Raccoonus  |  * * *] by Doberman
[Vanquish  |  * * *] by Doberman and Ghost Little (in that order)
[F-Zero GX  |  * * *] by Doberman

-- Doberman
on Twitter  |  @GhostLittle_WTF

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

#45 -- "Dark Souls" Reviewed | * * *

ALSO,ONE MORE THING: An updated version of this review, and all of our other reviews, can be found on our new official site: No ads, no Google bullshit, just content. [Dark Souls Review]

". . .a digital-fantasy hero-simulation for humans."

You gamble at all times in Dark Souls. Every second is a calculation. Sometimes slow, sometimes instantaneous. There can't be a thoughtless moment. You dip into your life experience, tapping every knowledge font for details that will keep you sharp and alive, always learning, always ready to gamble again. It's not the punch, or even hitting the canvas that hurts, it's getting back up. Every time, you're gambling. You might try to convince yourself otherwise to force yourself to take that next step through an unexplored, and nonthreatening, doorway. In time, you might become arrogant, a giant id-ball, lashing out at enemies that you've seen a hundred times, your intimacy with your Drake Sword's speed and reach climbing to instinctive levels, and you might persuade yourself right then that you're safe. You might think that you've accounted for every detail. 

You take things for granted and when that happens one too many times, you're sucker punched. You always have something to lose. The odds were slim, but they were always there, right?

Step 1: Become comfortable with that idea that there is never a sure thing. You'll need to face that not very far in. Real, tangible loss is always one misstep away. Dark Souls takes from you, "the player" -- as an extension of taking from you, "the character," the very avatar you've created and seen through two-story demons, jailbreaks, giant crows, and infinite deaths. You have a lot of dying to do in Dark Souls. And a lot of coming back to life. And a lot of dying again. It's going to hurt. You, the player, are quite literally gambling with your own human time. You could lose hours of progress. Highly-digital, and highly-tangible -- progress. If you don't like that, you can give up. If the rules seem unfair, you don't have to play. If you think this is going to make you too miserable and the despair is too much you, you can walk away. If you think the reward isn't worth the risk, leave.

If you think you can find a similar reward being given out for less effort, go. Before you leave though, ask: What are you really here for?

It's like World of Warcraft if Blizzard wanted to lose money. It isn't cheerful, it's bleak. Nice things to look at are common prizes in Dark Souls. You can't cash them in for armor or regenerating health, but you, human, can enjoy the view. A long time ago, games would occasionally have very good graphics in the first level, then you would move into the middle levels where the artistic drudge live, and then, as a reward, if you can get very far into the game, you'll get to see some pretty insane graphics in the last few levels, especially for the sprites and pixels. This sensation, simply feeling safe for a moment and gawking at some new scenery, returns in Dark Souls after a 20 year hiatus, and you can sigh for a second or two and admire a sunset view over the Anor Londo cathedral. Funny, time doesn't move here. As pretty as it is to you, something is extremely fucking wrong and that's effective audio-visual emotional manipulation. This isn't a fantasy at all. What the fuck were we thinking?

Ah, but there is triumph to be won in this not-a-fantasy world. The spare music reminds you that the apocalypse has most likely already come and gone. The blighting forces that caused the kingdom's fall might have come and gone too. The demonic empires built on the conquered land's corpse have come and gone. Only the most wicked survivors remain. Only the strongest creatures, tested by natural selection, and the meanest scavengers, surviving off of the dead, and the immortal ghosts, haunting every field and castle, remain. You're going into this land and you're going to fight them. You are an undead and you are cursed to keep coming back to life. When you come back to life, you get one chance to get back to where you died to collect the souls you dropped during your previous death. You will have to cut through the revived monsters again to reclaim your body, and if you die on your way back, you will lose it all. 

Souls are the only currency in the game and allow you to buy statistical upgrades, spells, keys, and equipment. Be thankful that that's all the game takes from you upon death. Be thankful that the game has woven logical context into your avatar's infinite un-life. It is assumed that you will die and that revival is an even meaner punishment. 

You are being encouraged to learn how to die. But what is death in videogames, or in Dark Souls, specifically? And who is really dying? And is that a bad thing? You are getting all of death's benefits and so few of its negatives -- you're basically a dhampir.

In an odd twist, you are bound quite intrinsically to your avatar's emotions because you suffer consequences. When you overcome, ya'll overcome. When you suffer, ya'll suffer. By comparison, in other games, consequences to your actions as a player are only loosely linked to your avatar. In Zelda, if you fall in lava, you lose 1/2 of a heart and are teleported twenty second back in time to the last solid ground you'd been standing on.

That is what lava does.

That is not what lava does!

Zelda lava has ceased to be lava. It has become negative-1/2 heart.

What you see in Dark Souls is what you see. You see monsters. You see you. You are you in Dark Souls, and you are learning to be a videogame hero. It is a digital-fantasy hero-simulation for humans. It's like Assassin's Creed: The Movie: The Game. If you, person, wandered up a hill and saw a zombie with a sword and a shield, you would be fucking terrified. You, human, would die hundreds of times before gathering the bravery and skill to subdue even the simplest monster. You, human, would not be able to pick up a plasma rifle and start shooting aliens, and therefore, by comparison, nearly every other videogame is a fucking liar. There are things in Dark Souls that are confusing because an Eternal Dragon at the base of an ashen lake would not spin a yarn for an insect like you -- he would accept your unquestioning servitude though. There is mystery surrounding the purpose of the Sunbro covenant for a reason.

Nintendo frequently states that Link is a silent protagonist through which you can enter the kingdom of Hyrule and you ostensibly become Link, boy adventurer on a quest to save the princess. Again, that is a fucking lie. If you were really Link, you would be eaten by child-eating plants two seconds into the Great Deku Tree. You also wouldn't tolerate Ingo abusing Epona. You would wait for night and slit that motherfucker's throat in his sleep. You would also have half of Kakariko Village out to kill you because they too are semi-dead fantasy characters in a medieval setting and people die of starvation and tapeworms every fifteen seconds in medieval settings.

It is the videogame equivalent of the Bubonic Plague, except you keep getting sick and keep coming back to life and everybody hates you for that. Dark Souls is closer to a truly non-fantastic fantasy, if you're interested. Here, fairies don't stop to tell you: "Hey! Listen!" Fairies fuck your soul out!

That is what Dark Souls is. It's the real Legend of Zelda, a Grimm fairy-tale, as read by Stephen King during his cocaine-withdrawal years. Everything has vile definition. Everything that was once just one word, and not scary, is now two words, and out to give you venereal diseases. Dogs are 'Poison Dogs.' Gargoyles are 'Bell Gargoyles.' Dragons are 'Gasping Dragons.' Giants are 'Dung Giants.' Demons are 'Centipede Demons.' Fire-spider Centaur-lady is (fucking) 'Chaos Witch Queelag.' She secretes magma constantly.

Every animal in Dark Souls looks like it was raised on a diet of raw meat and poisonous razorblades. Look, if God took some time off and backpacked around Europe and smoked a bunch of salvia while studying discarded concept art from an unfilmable, pre-Frighteners Peter Jackson movie, and then decided in a drug-laced miasma that He wanted to make a new planet populated by those irradiated slaughter-animals, you still wouldn't even be close to the stinking, rotting, pestilent evil found in Dark Souls' creatures. No, those animals would first have to go through a thousand years of thermonuclear war and inbred fucking amongst the species, develop complex religion, and then pray to their new, gnarled deity to open a portal to another dark plane, where every living thing's evil counterpart dwells in jealous and hatred. Those mega-malevolent animals, birthed from eggs made of raw dark matter, are the things you'll be fighting in Dark Souls, goatees and all.

There is no map in Dark Souls, no easy teleporting, no pause button, and no excuses for getting in over your head. You'll die because you're stupid. You'll win because you're shrewd. You won't need a map because you'll know every nook in every level -- you'll have run to each one for safety to set up your ambushes. You won't want to teleport because it will deprive you of souls you could be collecting. The game is fair because the rules apply to the monsters the same way they apply to you -- both sides can parry and riposte, get pushed off cliffs, activate traps, and nobody can pause the game. 

Desperation is the greatest aphrodisiac -- at any given time, you will be either dead or horny when playing Dark Souls. Slaying a monster after he has killed you a dozen times is the grim satisfaction that accompanies stealth-stabbing an adult grizzly bear that's been guarding an elephant gun on an island ruled by the oppressive Emperor Elephant -- once you have the elephant gun, you want the grizzly bear to be alive again and you also want to find an elephant to shoot. Every challenge in Dark Souls is a new door that you want to kick in. Have you ever kicked in a door? It's almost impossible in this day and age.

Dark Souls does not give a fuck about the years between 2000-2010. That whole decade never happened. Some people talk about how, "Oh, I always wanted to make my movie about 'Subject: X,' but the technology wasn't there," or, "I wasn't mature enough at that point in my life to do the subject matter justice." With this in mind, somebody quite obviously walked up to the Dark Souls developers at FromSoftware in 1996 and said, "The N64 is going to make 3D games a reality. Also, the Internet's a thing." They'd comply, struck by a golden light emanating from The One True God, and retreat for four years to develop a game on those two tenants and their mid-90's understanding of fantasy role-playing games. Then they descended in a bathysphere into their Swiss bank-insured, crush-depth ocean vault, and they threw the Dark Souls design document inside. There, it waited, and FromSoftware went on to make the maddeningly underachieving Armored Core series, wherein cardboard boxes shaped like mecha throw colorful electric-streamers at one another.

In 2011, they retrieved the design document and made the game exactly how they had always wanted, now that the technology had caught up. They do not care about your post-9/11 Obama administration videogame sensibilities and anxieties. They're as Japanese as fuck-all.

The odder design choices in Dark Souls can be answered by the statement: "Because otherwise you won't learn anything."

Why does it feel like I die in three hits? Why do you take all my money and experience points from me when I die? Why don't you explain what the fuck I'm supposed to do? How do I get around this? Why didn't you tell me that pit was bottomless? Why does my guy move so slow? Why does my guy suddenly move fast? Why does that guy's shortsword swing faster than my claymore? Why are the guys down that way really strong and the guys up that other path are weaker? Would fire be effective against that slime-demon? It's likely that rat will poison me, won't it? I need to get across this lava, who mentioned fire-immunity a while back? Okay, these guys are metallic, they'll be weak to lightning. I'll lure these fire-spitters out, find a bonfire, revert to human, kindle, equip magic-resistant armor, and summon a fellow adventurer from the spirit world (read: Internet) for some help with this boss.

You've arrived. This is your brain. You might have forgotten about it. It'll help you overcome challenges.

Dark Souls is the best survival horror game since Resident Evil 4. It is the best dungeon-crawl since Diablo II. It is the best RPG since Mass Effect 2. It is not a game about hover-skating over swamplands and fly-swatting werelizards, and therefore it is superior to all of The Elder Scrolls games. It has the bleakest world since The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (the adult-Link part). If it were an ice cream flavor, it'd be Jalapenos n' Clams n' Vodka. It has the best creature design since Final Fantasy IX. It has the most intense boss fights since Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. It's basically the closest we'll ever get to a 3D Castlevania game (pre-Symphony of the Night design-style). It has the most, "Oh, wow, the exit drops me right out here, I know where I am," --moments since Devil May Cry. It has the casual, slow-motion gore of God of War and the blow-for-blow combat of Soulcalibur II. You'll want to run from certain enemies on-sight, just like you did in God Hand. You'll want to take risks and master your fears, just like you did in Twisted Metal II. Dark Souls has the sit-and-stare / beauty-is-its-own-reward feel of Okami and the, "Yeah, well, I didn't give up, and I found a way," sensation that we thought had gone out of us a long time ago.

Only when you're made entirely fucking miserable can you see just what you've got in you. It's a will to win. It's a hatred of losing. Suddenly, you're braver. You're confident. It's not a gamble. You can't lose because you'll always get back up. There's no doubt. The fight won't ever be over, not until you win, and not until you've taken Dark Souls for all he's worth. You don't know how to die.

* * *
(out of 4)

Recommended related reading:
[The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask  |  * * * ½] by Ghost Little
[Final Fantasy IX  |  * * * *] by Ghost Little
[LittleBigPlanet  |  Z E R O] by Ghost Little

-- Ghost Little and Doberman
on Twitter  |  @GhostLittle_WTF