Friday, February 24, 2012

A Journey into Darkness: 4: Captain N

This is N.

I've been kind of holding off on talking about this guy because, Frank Quitely, he is weird. It's kind of hard to explain why a video game character is just so unsettling to me. But here's an excerpt of dialogue:

As they are now, my Pokémon cannot save all Pokémon...
The formula that can change the world is yet to be solved...
I require power... Power that will let everyone understand...
(He starts walking away.)
...I know what power it is I need.
...That of the legendary Pokémon that, together with a great hero, made this land of Unova... Zekrom!
I shall be your hero, Zekrom... and I shall befriend you!

I can't really make heads or tails of this guy because, on one hand, his intentions seem pure but he's also the leader Unova's Malevolent Agency of Destruction, Team Plasma. It's kind of nice to have a member of Team Plasma whose IQ ranges in the triple digits. However, whatever relief gained is immediately lost when N shows up soliloquizing like Orson Wells on the most epic of heroin binges.

There is one conversation in particular that just blew my mind...

In what I assume constitutes an AMBER alert, N made me ride a Ferris Wheel with him. After I asked him if he ever coached at Penn State, two Team Plasma grunts showed up ready to battle. N (with utmost contempt for clarity, using as many pronouns as humanly possible) explained that "they" were recruited to help "us" protect Pokemon and that "he" will battle "them" to facilitate "their" escape.

Then as though he sensed the extremity of my furrowed brow, N had the audacity to ask, "Do you follow my logic? [yes/no]"

No, I do not! And yes, I will be spending the next week getting my fourth Prestige in Modern Warfare 3!


Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Journey into Darkness: 3: Thus far...

Pokemon Black has taken a bit of a turn for the uninteresting...

So, I feel it may be worth actually chronicling my journey THUS FAR (hence the title). You know, actually letting you know what I've done up to this point. Hopefully, this will help to put a lot of what I'm doing into context.

I left my home town which consisted of about four houses (more of a hovel if you ask me). I traveled to the next town hoping to defeat the Gym Leader of that town. (Clarification) Each town has a Gym Leader who serves as a sort of symbolic leader of the town. Think of a Gym Leader as a sort of Cyrus from Warriors type - more spiritual than functional. When you defeat a Gym Leader you receive a badge that gives you different perks e.g. stronger Pokemon being more obedient, various abilities, and a SHINY PONYTA*.

I may have made that last one up... this is also where my Warriors analogy breaks down.

After beating the Striaton City Gym Leader I traveled to Nacrene city. This town was the self-proclaimed hipster nexus in the Unova region. There were coffee shops, seamstresses and guys playing music (specifically an accordion and a guitar). Nacrene City kind of read like an episode of Portlandia.

Beyond that I traveled across a long suspension bridge that lead into Castelia City, a bustling metropolis filled with highrises and business folk. It was then that I realized that I hadn't been in Portland but I'd simply walked from Williamsburg to Manhattan (later confirmed when I read that Castelia City was designed like Manhattan).

While in Castelia City I came across Team Plasma who had disguised their HQ as a Gym. This would be similar to drug dealers using a building that looked and was named after the town hall as a front. Not really playing with a full deck...

Team Plasma, once again, displayed their poor understanding of logic by telling me that they only fought me because I was using Pokemon (kind of preachy). But they fought against me with Pokemon (kind of contradictory). Then they told me that I can believe what I want (kind of existentialist). Then they just went away (kind of nihilist).

It's like a psychological rope-a-dope that they may win.

*Seriously if you have time sit and watch this kid nerd out like nobodies business. To this day one of my favorite Pokemon related videos... There is also this one.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Journey into Darkness: 2: Of Electric Mice and Men

In ethics there are two major schools of thought: the Consequentialists and the Deontologists. To the horror of every philosopher I went to school with, not only would I consider myself a Deontologist but I also like Kant. His works may have read like the Handbook for the Recently Deceased however the whole "never treat someone as a means to an end" thing just resonated with me.

Enter Team Plasma.

In previous games budding Pokemon trainers would find themselves pitted against the organized Pokemon crime ring, Team Rocket. If Team Rocket was Ziggy Stardust then Team Plasma would be Aladdin Sane. Technically the same people but with very different approaches.

I first encountered Team Plasma as they gathered in a town square (all Occupy Wall Street style) denouncing the use of Pokemon citing that trainers were suppressing the free-will of Pokemon. Half expecting quotes from Critique of Pure Reason, I found myself sympathizing with Team Plasma. Especially when the counterargument was that Pokemon love being trained! Who wouldn't want to be the best?

This logic lies somewhere between the justification for Gladiatorial competition and something Hitler would have said. However, I later come across a couple of members of Team Plasma and they attack me with Pokemon which made me wonder if anyone over at Game Freak had really thought this through. It's a shame really. I think if they had attacked me with robots or magic or hell just their fists I'd be okay with it. But alas Team Rocket is a flawed institution and I must align myself with the Pokemon supremacists.

Today's lesson: Game Freak probably didn't pass Contemporary Moral Issues...

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Journey into Darkness: 1: Snivy, I choose YOU!

Let's be Realistic here; Game Freak has released the same Pokémon Game for years now. I'm pretty damn familiar with it all but perhaps you are not. So, let me recap. You begin as a young Pokémon trainer. Eyes on the prize, you pick one of 3 Pokémon types (fire, water or grass) and set out to become the greatest Pokémon trainer of all time! It's like dog fighting if Caesar Milan redesigned it in a slightly less horrifying way.

Pokémon Black assumes you are pretty familiar with the universe they've spent a decade creating. Gender assignment and selection of a starter Pokémon is knocked out of the way pretty quickly. Pokémon Black also assumes you've seen the beginning of Apocalypse Now and understand that fire type Pokémon beats grass type Pokémon and slightly less intuitively grass is strong against water. I chose Snivy (a grass type Pokémon) because he looked kind of like my dog.

I commenced a Pokémon battle immediately with one of my so-called "childhood friends" (I didn't know these guys). After getting over the initial shock of sending out an animal that I've know for about 2 seconds to go kick another animal's ass, I remember that Pokémon is a standard turn-based RPG.

I end the bout victorious but am slapped in the face with the reality that this is a kids game with the intent to teach lessons. The Pokémon tussle had taken place indoors thusly trashing my room. Strangely, my "mom" suggested that I take my new Pokémon and go on an "adventure". Maybe not the best parenting advice but the world of Pokémon concentrates on kinesthetic learning.

Today's lesson: Do that shit outside!

A Journey into Darkness: Introduction

If you know me you may know that I kind of like Pokémon.

I'm pretty familiar with most things Pokemon from the first generation games which include (but are not limited to) Pokémon Red/Blue (and to a lesser extent Yellow), Pokémon Pinball and the Pokémon Trading Card Game. But now that I'm much older and wiser (and actually have friends) I've learned to extol loneliness in more age-appropriate ways.

However, I've moved to San Antonio recently and quite frankly I've been bored. I wanted something to keep my brain occupied while I wait for something new and interesting to happen. I can't tell you what exactly made me want to play Pokémon Black/White but one day I left work, went to the mall downtown and purchased Pokémon Black.

I assumed Black would make me seem slightly tougher...

I started playing and I came to a realization that (like my original fascination) Pokémon is actually pretty interesting. Well, at least as interesting as a game for children could be. So, I've decided to log my journey through Pokémon Black in an attempt to basically keep myself from going completely insane.

Even though the fact that I'm even considering doing this may be proof of said insanity...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ryan, play Infinity Blade... seriously!

One of my best friends and I bonded over a rare book. Ryan (see figure 1) came over to my ferret-scented, wood panel, shoebox of an apartment and browsed my books. In a cautiously sarcastic tone he said, “Ha, you ever read this?” I turned around to see him pointing at Myst: The Book of Atrus.

“Are you kidding me? I fucking love those books!”

Not the response he expected. From then a nerd pact like no other was solidified. I have yet to this day to meet anyone else that shared my love of the Myst series, which I find a little strange. The games are the high point in point and click adventure games and the books are surprisingly well written.

I never played any games beyond Riven (the second game in the series) because the project was handed off to another team of developers and the original creators, Rand and Robyn Miller didn’t have much of hand in the following games. The original two games and the Myst trilogy of books is to this day one of my favorite multimedia stories ever told, falling into a shortlist of series including: Discworld, Halo, and to a lesser extent: any Tom Clancy game/book.

But I write this as an appeal to that same friend to buckle down, buy and iPad and play Infinity Blade.

I recently was given an iPad and I was on a search to find the best iOS games that I hadn’t already played on the iPod Touch. Many sites had stated that Infinity Blade and its sequel were among the pantheon of greatness on the iTunes Store. However, I was skeptical. The screenshots were so very unassuming. Yeah, it was created on the Unreal engine and looked amazing for an iOS game but that hardly seemed like a strong argument for why the game was great (for references see all Final Fantasy games after 10…(actually, include 10).

Now, I’m on the other side of the two games and the novella Infinity Blade: Awakening written by Mistborn author, Brandon Sanderson and all I can say is CONSUME! The game is exceedingly creative in its simplicity. Every game mechanic has a purpose and fits into the paradigm of the game (well, except for the item shop but I guess we can’t have it all (for references see Metal Gear Solid 4’s item shop).

You begin the game as a nameless fighter out to avenge his father. However, as you start these journeys over and over again in attempts to fell the God King a feeling of something larger starts to reveal itself, like a beautiful videogame version of the pool hallucination scene from National Lampoon Christmas Vacation. Finally when you are strong enough to defeat the God King there is a simple but dramatic twist. But, like Lost, it only will tell you what you need to know to make the most basic inference.

I do recommend reading the book, which takes place between the two games before playing the Infinity Blade 2. The second game is more story driven that the first and is good in its own right. However, like most sequels, it goes for the WOW factor and starts to stray a little from what made the first game so good. You know, because higher fidelity equates to more douchebags playing.

Ryan, play this game. Find someone with an iPhone. I’ll mail you my iPod touch that doesn’t work properly (stupid sleep button). If you loved the way the story of Dn’i was told through the Myst games and books, you’ll really enjoy this. I loved it and I hope they make more.