She’s a wobot!

Last night I walked out of a local GameStop with a copy of The Bouncer, Squaresoft’s overhyped 2001 beat ’em up for the PlayStation 2 — released only a handful of months after the console came out in the U.S.

For less than $3, I ended up with a paper sleeve containing a scratched-up copy of this game I’d never really played before — one caught in my memories, all the same, of that console’s early days. About two hours after I slotted it into the drive of my PlayStation 3, I was done with it.

I don’t regret my investment.

One of the weird things about The Bouncer — besides everything about it, including its massive hype — is how it sort of feels like a contemporary game. At the time, the game’s cutscene/fighting/cutscene/fighting pacing seemed really strange. Some of the fighting sequences in the game last less than a minute. But you implemented a modern checkpoint system and streaming instead of clunky manual game saves and constant loading screens, it’d feel oddly contemporary, I think.

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Tales of Tales

One day, I mentioned to Brandon that I had done an interview about the Tales series and that I hoped to run it on Insert Credit.

He told me to go ahead — but conversation quickly turned to why I like the Tales series so much, when he’d never been able to get into it. We started to talk about it, but we both quickly realized I should write about it instead.

The in-your-face anime aesthetic of the series is what turned him off. This is comprehensible. It advertises what the series is about; it’s a stake firmly planted, and depending on where you’re at, it just as much says “not for me!” as it says “come on in!” to the people who like it.

I’ll start where I started: I like the series because of what it’s not. This all began for me in 1998, when I’d got fed up with the tedious, self-important Xenogears and, on a lark, followed it up with Tales of Destiny. I found it to be everything Xenogears wasn’t: cheerful, dopey, energetic, unassuming, entertaining, fun.

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Grasshopper’s Evangelion / 山岡晃の新たな終わる世界

Grasshopper Manufacture once did a lot of work for hire — the Shining Soul games on GBA, Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked for PS2 — but in its post-No More Heroes rebirth as an iconoclastic and very independent studio, it seemed likely those days were behind it. Huge publishers like EA (Shadows of the Damned) and Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment (Lollipop Chainsaw) have engaged the studio to create big-budget original IP. Why go back to making anime games?

Anime games like Evangelion 3nd Impact, released this week for the PSP in Japan by Bandai Namco Games. (“3nd“, by the way, is a play on the word “sound” — “san” being Japanese for “three” and, of course, the Third Impact being a big event in the Evangelion universe.)

Is it the stewardship of Akira Yamaoka, who has recently taken the title of chief creative officer? Is it just the way the Japanese market works, where studios rarely turn down paying work that in the west would seem undignified? It’s not clear, and unfortunately, I didn’t think to pose these questions to Yamaoka when I spoke to him at the Tokyo Game Show.

I was very curious about Evangelion 3nd Impact itself, however. It’s a music game based on the popular series’ recent Rebuild of Evangelion film series, which includes Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone, and Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance, and it came out this week in Japan. The Q&A, conducted at TGS, follows.

Can you tell me how the idea for Evangelion: 3nd Impact came up? Like, how you started making it?

Akira Yamaoka: So how it all started is that Namco Bandai, they just threw out: “Evangelion — is there anything that we think we can work on together?” And so Grasshopper actually came up with a few other concepts, including the one that now is 3nd Impact. “So an action RPG, and what about this music-based, rhythm-based game?” And from there on, everything just kind of moved forward.

Are you a fan of the original show, or the new movies, or anything?

AY: I don’t think I’d say that I’m a huge, huge fan. Not crazy about it. I just like it normally.

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Reconstruction of the Fables

How to do Fable

Fable fumbles toward excellence. There has rarely been such an obvious and concrete example of a genre’s awkward adolescence. It takes concepts other games have explored, serves them up in a new light, and hopes to be noticed and loved despite its spots and cracking voice. Fable is not a bold evolution of the genre so much as a necessary growth spurt.

I was the first person in the world who was permitted to review Fable. This is the final paragraph of the Fable review I wrote in 2004.

Some things never change: Fable is still very, very awkward.

In fact, right now, we’re in the most awkward part of the the Fable cycle — where the prior entry in the series has left us with disappointing memories (“The real dream… The feeling that you’re going through the game at your own pace, but having to make these tough choices, was never actually realized”) and the newest entry is represented only by fulsome promises (“[The addition of a horse to Fable 4] is going to have so much feeling for you. Just taking care of him, grooming him, and healing him, he’s going to be like nothing you’ve seen in games before.”)

With that in mind, it’s easy to forget that at one point, Fable seemed like it quite possibly might be the future of RPGs. This is something I believed in 2004.

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