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Archiv der Kategorie ‘Wii’

Die beliebtesten Spiele auf der Wii in Japan

Sonntag, 10. Juli, 2011

Ich hab mir heute den Spaß gemacht, die Liste der beliebtesten Spiele, gewählt von den Nutzern des japanischen Nintendo-Kanals, abzuschreiben. Alle Spiele, die man auf der Wii gespielt hat, einschließlich der Virtual Console Downloads, können dort von ihren Besitzern auf einer fließenden Skala von überhaupt nicht empfehlenswert bis sehr empfehlenswert bewertet werden. Kriegt ein Spiel genügend solcher Bewertungen und fallen sie hoch genug aus, werden Auszeichnungen von Bronze bis Platin vergeben.

Diese können sich im Lauf der Zeit auch wieder ändern, der frühere Platingewinner 428 hat heute „nur“ noch eine Goldauszeichnung. Derzeit hat auch nur ein Spiel diese oberste Auszeichnung verdient, nämlich das RPG Xenoblade von Monolithsoft.

Alle Gold-, Silber- und Bronzegewinner in der jeweiligen umgekehrten Reihenfolge ihres Erscheinens:

Gold Silber Bronze
Golden Eye 007 LA-MULANA Rockman 5 Blues no Wana!?
Pandora no Tō: Kimi no Moto e kaeru made Super Mario Collection Special Pack THE LAST STORY
Chrono Trigger Keito no Kirby Hikari to Yami no Himegimi to Sekai Seifuku no Tō FFCC
Donkey Kong Returns Metroid Other M Downtown Special Kunio-kun no Jidaigeki da yo Zen’inshūgō!
Mario Sports Mix Dragon Quest Monster Battle Road Victory Chindōchuu!! Pole no Daibōken
Sengoku Basara 3 Biohazard / Darkside Chronicles Karaoke JOYSOUND Wii
Wii Party PokéPark Wii ~Pikachu no Daibōken~ Minna no Pokémon Bokujō Platina Taiōban
Super Mario Galaxy 2 Sengoku Musō 3 Wii Music
Zangeki no Reginleiv Momotarou Dentetsu 2010 ~Sengoku, Ishin no Hero Daishūgō! No Maki Wi-Fi 8-nin Battle Bomberman
Tales of Graces Taiko no Tatsujin Wii Dodōn to 2-daime! DISASTER DAY OF CRISIS
New Super Mario Brothers Wii Wii Fit Plus GRADIUS ReBirth
Tsumi to Batsu: Sora no Kōkeisha Ransen! Pokémon Scramble Rei ~Tsukihame no Kamen~
Ōkami Arc Rise Fantasia Tales of Symphonia -Ratatosk no Kishi-
Monster Hunter 3 Monster Hunter G Totsugeki!! Famicon Wars VS
Wii Sports Resort Zelda no Densetsu Mujura no Kamen Hoshi no Kirby 64
Oboro Murasamasa Jikkyō Powerful Pro Yakyū NEXT Kotoba no Puzzle Mojipittan Wii
Onepiece Unlimited Cruise Episode 2 Mezameru Yūsha Wii de asobu Pikmin 2 Chiisana Ō-sama to Yakusoku no Kuni FFCC
428 ~Fūsa sareta Shibuya de Nintendo Allstar! Dairantō Smash Brothers (Super Smash Bros. auf N64) Dr. Mario & Saikin Bokumetsu
Dairantō Smash Brothers X Taiko no Tatsujin Wii Minna no Jōshiki Katerepi
Rune Factory Fronteer Metroid Prime 3 Corruption
Machi e ikō yo Dōbutsu no Mori (Animal Crossing: Let’s Go to the City) Super Mario Brothers 3
Family Ski World Ski & Snowboard NO MORE HEROES
Rockman 9 Yabō no Fukkatsu!! Pokémon Snap
Onepiece Unlimited Cruise Episode 2 Nami ni yureru Hihō NARUTO Shippūden Gekitō Ninja Daisen! EX2
Jikkyō Powerful Pro Yakyū 15 Minna no Nintendo Channel1 Der Nintendo-Kanal selbst ist also auch eine Bronze-Auszeichnung wert…
Super Mario RPG Mario & Sonic AT Beijing Olympic
Super Mario Stadium Family Baseball Biohazard Umbrella Chronicles
Mario Kart Wii Takarajima Z Barbaros no Hihō (Zack and Wiki)
Winning Eleven Playmaker 2008 Tsumi to Batsu Chikyū no Keishōsha (Sin and Punishment auf N64)
Family Ski Jikkyō Powerful Pro Yakyū Wii
Wii Fit Momotarou Dentetsu 16 Hokkaidō Daiidō no Maki!
Sengoku Basara 2: Eiyū Gaiden (HEROES) Double Pack Mario Story (Paper Mario auf N64)
Super Mario Galaxy Onepiece Unlimited Adventure
Dragon Ball Z Sparking! Meteo Star Fox 64
Super Metroid Fire Emblem Toki no Megami
Fushigi no Dungeon 2 Fūrai no Shiren Wii Sports
Biohazard 4 Wii edition Super Mario Brothers
Zelda no Densetsu Toki no Ocarina Super Mario 64
Zelda no Densetsu Twilight Princess Super Mario World
Zelda no Densetsu Kamigami no Triforce
  1. Der Nintendo-Kanal selbst ist also auch eine Bronze-Auszeichnung wert… []

Hironobu Sakaguchi’s The Last Story

Dienstag, 22. März, 2011
The Last Story begins...

The Last Story begins…

Hironobu Sakaguchi has an eye for talent, he understands what kind of game-play works and who can make things work. It didn’t seem that way when he produced one commercial failure after the other during the early Square days. But when he made Final Fantasy, one of the first original Japanese role-playing games, he finally found his genre: As he himself commented he’s much better at telling a story then at making an action game.

Inside this story heavy genre he still tried different things, leaning both towards the action side of the spectrum with the Final Fantasy spin-off Mana series and the Nintendo co-produced Super Mario RPG, and towards the strategy side with Front Mission and Final Fantasy Tactics. Some of the risks he took payed off big, like betting on the CD medium and polygonal 3D graphics, which gained his already successful Final Fantasy series worldwide recognition. His attempts at an expensive Final Fantasy CGI movie and a Final Fantasy version of the fresh MMORPG genre were perceived as flops though and Sakaguchi took responsibility for these commercial failures and left the company he made what it is today, right around the time it merged with its biggest rival, Enix.

His newly founded company Mistwalker is made up of only a few people and most of the colleagues he had worked with before stayed at Square, Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu being the biggest exception. Most of the development side of Mistwalker games is left to other companies who work under Sakaguchi’s guidance. The first two of which were high profile titles funded by Microsoft who probably hoped Sakaguchi could recreate the success of Final Fantasy on their new Xbox360 console. That didn’t quite work out and so the following titles ended up being more low budget games for Nintendo DS, which also allowed Mistwalker to be more experimental with these titles and explore the more niche RPG sub-genres. They were mostly strategy RPGs and a few action ones as well.

The experiences gained with these smaller bridge titles show in Mistwalker’s latest (and maybe last) traditional RPG The Last Story, which fuses these two genres masterfully while retaining the typical RPG framework. While Sakaguchi didn’t feel confident to make a good action game he always knew how to spice up turned based RPGs with some action elements, like the timing based bonus damage he introduced in Mario RPG and reused in Final Fantasy VIII and Lost Odyssey. Another example being the seamless battles inside the same exploration maps typical of action game which made the turn based grinding in Chrono Trigger much less distracting. The Last Story takes quite a few steps more into this direction though, more on which below.

Elza and Quark talking in old school strategy RPG presentation style

Elza and Quark talking in old school strategy RPG presentation style, used in select dialogues

With Mistwalker Sakaguchi seemed to mostly draw upon his previous work. Blue Dragon owes a lot to Chrono Trigger, his collaboration with his JRPG rival Yūji Horii. The immortal hero storyline in Lost Odyssey owes a lot to the critically acclaimed Glory of Heracles games, which started off the career of Playstation era Final Fantasy scenario writer Kazushige Nojima. Nojima was just one of many game creators washing up at Square during the SNES days, who then contributed to some of the biggest hits of the following Playstation era. Another one was Yasumi Matsuno and many of his colleagues from Quest. The Last Story owes a lot to Final Fantasy Tactics, which was a Final Fantasy version of Quest’s strategy RPG masterpiece Tactics Ogre, re-imagined by most of its original team, but produced by Sakaguchi at Square.

This is (not) a Matsuno game

Physical weapons can be endowed with the element of a spell casted

Physical weapons can be endowed with the element of a spell casted

When The Last Story was announced for Wii the developer Sakaguchi collaborated with this time wasn’t revealed right away and only referred to by his initial Mr. M on the Mistwalker blog. There had been rumors that Matsuno had been working on a Wii title ever since he quit work on Final Fantasy XII before it was finished and made a promotion interview for Nintendo’s Wii where he stressed the possibilities Wii offered for creating new intuitive ways to control a player character. Obviously many fans (including myself) were hoping Mr. M from the Mistwalker blog might be Matsuno. But it was later revealed that Mr. M was in fact Takuya Matsumoto (who had worked with Mistwalker before as director of Blue Dragon) and The Last Story, for all its innovative game-play, completely ignores the Wii specific control methods.

But nevertheless this game is so very reminiscent of Final Fantasy XII and the whole Matsuno style it begs the question if Mistwalker didn’t try to make a Matsuno game, even without his personal involvement maybe. The cryptic M-san abbreviation only lends to stir likewise rumors. As in Final Fantasy XII the environments are rich renderings of medieval places with too many characters walking around to all have their own dialogue. Instead there are some that can be talked to indicated by an A above their head, and some who can be overheard when walking by or addressing the player character when they spot him. As in FFXII the battles are seamless and occur in the same environments which the characters walk, talk and live in. As in FFXII lines indicate character targeting their enemy for attack. It’s pretty clear where Mistwalker got their inspiration from with The Last Story.

Taking aim, and checking the enemy's weak spot as well

Taking aim, and checking the enemy’s weak spot as well

But they manage to best Matsuno at his own style and to bring a lot of the kind of strategic game-play his previous games offered to a more traditional RPG with fully rendered game world. It’s of course to be expected that they would expand on what FFXII did right and remedy the problems. One problem being that the battles were mostly automatic and boring exercises at watching rather than playing. The programmable Gambits only demonstrated how formulaic most of Final Fantasy battle strategy was without living up to the potential of what it added to them, positioning the characters in a 3D play-field. In The Last Story on the other hand, attacks are still activated automatically but the terrain and obstacles in it are much more important. Hiding behind corners, making use of difference in height, projectile attacks, surrounding enemies, all these concepts from Matsuno’s Tactics games are incorporated by real time actions borrowed from stealth games like Metal Gear Solid and other action oriented titles.

When Matsuno himself took the step to real time controls with Vagrant Story he reduced the amount of party members to one and the number of foes battled simultaneously to three. These limitations were also due to the switch from sprites to polygon models and the Playstation hardware not being powerful enough to render more characters in real time. In Final Fantasy XII the party had three simultaneous player characters (mostly because that was the number now typical for the series) and hordes of enemies to battle at any one time. Still a far cry from the five or more characters per team in Matsuno’s strategy games and in the game Matsuno was actually working on recently, a remake of his Tactics Ogre for PSP, one of the main innovations is increasing the party size even more to allow for more dynamic battles. The Last Story takes the same route and has around five simultaneous party members on average, sometimes more, sometimes less, and often thrice as many enemies, with back ups joining the fight mid battle.

Use Wind to pause the game and dash to the left magic circle to heal all your allies or to the right one to break the enemies' defense with fire

Use Wind to pause the game and dash to the left magic circle to heal all your allies or to the right one to break the enemies‘ defense with fire

The big hurdle is of course how to strategically control this many characters in real time. As in FFXII the characters act independently based on AI with optional menu controls. But the game also gives the main character many ways to work with his fellow party members and the effects of the spells they cast. He gains the ability to draw enemies towards himself when he triggers his Gathering stance. This way he can keep them away from magic casting allies or lead them to magic circles, i.e. the areas where spells are at work. He can also revive fallen allies by touching them in Gathering mode, use his Wind ability to quickly move along the battle field, and interrupt enemy spells or widen the effect of ally spells, by moving onto their magic circles with this dash ability. Usage of this special skills is limited by meters building during battle and each character has five lives per battle which limits the times they can be revived. Another cue from the action genre, so instead of stocking up on heal items and keeping one’s magic points up the player has to keep track of what his allies are doing, to help them and make best use of their spells as well.

Gathering can also be used in combination with hiding behind parts of the surroundings to disorient foes and ambush them for extra damage. There’s a wealth of possible actions most of which map to one single button respectively that does the same thing regardless of context. For example C will activate Gathering, no matter if you’re attacking or defending by holding B. So it’s easy to remember these techniques without the controls getting convoluted. Few of them require precise timing and for all the action game-play it boils down to choosing the right action for the right moment and occupying places which work to one’s advantage. If the battle gets hectic there’s abilities like Wind which pause the real time action and allow to look around the field to get an overview. Before a battle starts there’s often a top-down view on the surroundings complete with enemy formations and strategy discussion with the other party members. Since the party is a team of fellow mercenaries interesting and atmospheric dialogue abounds before and during the battles, with members providing hints or asking for help.

Bumping into people

But the surroundings aren’t just important during battles. In previous RPGs there were frequent awkward situations where you couldn’t advance your character on screen because someone or something was in the way. Maybe the obstacle was just overlapping your way by a few pixels but still movement was obstructed. Or a clueless non player character wandering around randomly just didn’t try the one direction where they could go out of the way. In The Last Story you can bump into people, even knocking them over. Normally you won’t want to do that of course so for the first time you will find yourself avoiding NPCs when walking around the streets. If you still bump into one, on purpose or accidentally, many will react to that, scold you, get angry or sometimes even cheer for you one once they realize who you are. The latter type are mostly kids who admire the hero for being so cool or girls having a crush on him.

Look where you're going! Or where you're running from...

Look where you’re going! Or where you’re running from…

This collision detection feature becomes crucial during run and chase sequences. Bumping into people will slow you down and you may even knock your head against a hanging sign. You can also look behind you by holding B which changes the camera perspective, which of course also increases the possibility to bump into people which only come into view when you’re right next to them.

Taking a look around

When you press and hold Z the game changes to a first person perspective which is used to aim a projectile weapon or simply look around the vicinity. Sometimes a Z icon will appear to alarm you of things to spot. It’s like an instinct that makes you aware of things your were going to pass by. If you find spots with a box around them you notice things in a distance or items/bonuses lying around. These can then be interacted with, triggering scenes or strategic choices in battle, where you can give commands to the other party members. This way NPCs, treasures, passages and even whole story chapters can be discovered. The chapters are mostly predetermined events but the order in which they can be found isn’t wholly linear. Much of the narrative is a result of traditional RPG exploration and listening to NPCs. There’s side quests revolving around procuring materials and trading resources, buying for cheap and selling when prices have risen.

The town is cozy and small but quite detailed

The town is cozy and small but quite detailed

The scope of the world in The Last Story is limited to only a few places, the story taking place mostly on Ruri Island and the sea surrounding it. But this means that the town below the castle, even though it’s not that big, is rendered in realistic detail and many little episodes and events can be discovered. The game as a whole is a bit on the short side, looking high budget but keeping the cost down by concentrating on fewer locales which do offer at least the same amount of richness as in FFXII, but being fewer in number. Instead of a journey over the whole globe it’s a more personal story, revolving around two island nations.

You’re (not) free

Many RPGs today allow a wealth of customization, letting the player choose what to learn and how to combine abilities. The Last Story on the other hand goes for the story governed style Sakaguchi already used in his defining Final Fantasy entry, FFIV. As in that classic, who is in your party and its size, what abilities each character learns, all this is defined by the story and the role of the characters in it. There’s some customization involved in what equipment you use but this is simply pre-battle strategy, for which there’s some room to express your personal style. More important are the strategic decisions during battle, which you’ll have to do in real time. Freedom in performance is used as a tool to put pressure on you, allowing you to shape the details rather than the greater narrative.

But like mentioned above, The Last Story isn’t quite as linear as Final Fantasy IV was. There are always optional events in any RPG and The Last Story has those as well, but whole chapters being skippable or in need of discovering, the game lets you choose your own pace as well as what aspects of your player character your interested in and want to see developed and illuminated. You play Elza, member of a band of mercenaries, who come to Ruri Island on one of their journeys. They get hired to work as body guards for the royal family, backing up the knights of the court. The Gathering ability Elza acquired on his way to Ruri Island draws the attention of Count Arganan to him, who is interested in utilizing this force from a foreign land for his political agenda.

The castle's throne room

The castle’s throne room

When war breaks out Elza is asked to become the savior of Ruri Island and he even gets a chance to become a true knight instead of a lowly mercenary,1 Fußnotenauszug: In this way The Last Story is a shusse-mono (career story), the most popular genre of mass literature during the late middle ages, end of Muromachi to Tokugawa period. In the fantasy themed otogi-zōshi for commoners, which compare to Western fairytales, usually a person of low descent acquires great riches by making a career, gaining almost aristocratic or samurai status. This was a very appealin... a dream he has shared with his other fellow mercenaries and their leader Quark. A dream that is at odds with the one he soon starts to share with Princess Kanan: She knows that knights are used for unjust wars and would rather not see her lover Elza become a knight.

The story includes many more motives from JRPG lore and especially Sakaguchi’s works: the locked up princess seeking freedom, having to follow orders the hero doesn’t agree with, taking to the seas to travel to foreign countries, being trialed in court, escaping from prison, acquiring legendary power, magic disappearing from the world, nature on the brink of destruction… If you played RPGs before there aren’t many new concepts that haven’t been done already. But The Last Story manages to combine these motives in new ways, staying unpredictable without giving up on the mature approach to the setting it also borrows from Matsuno’s style.

We hate predictable

Party members take guard near wherever you need to go next, although here it's kind of obvious...

Party members take guard near wherever you need to go next, although here it’s kind of obvious…

It manages to do this by keeping everything fast paced and throwing out the filler. You can relax in the city at times and do little side-quests, but the main story is very tight and dramatic. Also since the story is played rather than just watched, the stage of the story, i. e. the play-fields are essential to keeping everything unpredictable. Locales, as well as the layouts of the rooms and places you traverse, change all the time to keep both the narrative and the action fresh. This is especially, but not only, apparent during battles. Every single battle is unique and meaningful, both in dialogue and in strategy. And since the strategy depends largely on the terrain, it’s easy to visualize what is kept abstract in many other RPGs.

Battlefields might be tight passages or wide open areas, elevated platforms to hurl foes down from or wet ponds. Obstacles abound, to hide behind, roll over or even smash. The terrain has to be considered to plan your movement as well as to find opportunities to use the environment against the opponent. Party members also change all the time, people join and leave from fight to fight, the party splitting up in dungeons with branching paths or getting support from the court knights stationed at different parts of Ruri Island when it’s under attack. The player has to keep adapting to ever changing situations and won’t be finding themselves doing the same things over and over again. Sometimes you’ll have to remember an ability you didn’t use in a while, but the other party members will remind you in helpful real time dialogue. There are no unnecessary battles unless you choose to grind at enemy summoning spots or by going back to already cleared dungeons. The frequency of battle isn’t constantly high either, often you will expect to have to fight in certain situations but they end up being events without enemy confrontation.

Battles are a part of the story, too

Magician's have to give up their hiding to cast their spells, which makes them float into the air

Magician’s have to give up their hiding to cast their spells, which makes them float into the air

Even with FFXII some ideas of Matsuno’s strategy RPGs were already applied to traditional RPGs, but the high battle rate and experience building style remained untouched. The Last Story is more thorough in bringing Final Fantasy Tactics type of game-play to the traditional RPG framework, giving up on repetitive simple battles and making every battle count by meaningfully incorporating them into the story. The battles being seamless, the player always in control over the movement of his avatar, this gives battle and exploration a common style. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a city or in a cave, if you’re listening to NPCs or fighting lizards, most of the basic controls are the same in all situations. You can even shoot banana peels to make NPCs trip and fall, same as enemies by freezing the ground beneath them.

The only thing interrupting this common interactive story telling mode are of course the cut scenes, but even these can be fiddled with. You can adjust the camera slightly or fast forward a scene, no matter if you’ve seen it before or not. Instead of just skipping whole scenes you still have to watch them at high speed, so game and story cannot be divorced from each other. Every bit of game-play is enacted story, every automatic event retains a minimum of interaction.2 Except for the few pre-rendered cut scenes which really can only skipped entirely.

Onlinemultiplayer

Choosing your character, battlefield and team preference in the Versus Lobby

Choosing your character, battlefield and team preference in the Versus Lobby

When you have cleared the game or just want to take a break from the story you can also use the multi-player mode to battle with people all over the world. Up to six players can duke it out in versus, battle royal style or in teams of two, or join to fight some of the in-game bosses again. You can freely choose your character in these, from all of the party members and in versus even guest allies and human(oid) bosses are selectable. Playing as a magician or boss is really fun as you play as Elza for most of the main game. Everything’s in real time and lag was not an issue, playing from Germany over the Japanese servers. Finding people to play with is quick too, as is lobby navigation.

Choosing what to say

Choosing what to say

To communicate with other players four pages of preselectable voice messages are available. Some of these are also mapped to direction keys and events to quickly access even during battle. All the messages can be selected from large lists of expressions by all the in-game characters, grouped by situation to use it in. If you don’t want to bother finding the best ones for you, two pages are preselected with all purpose lines automatically expressing things like saying „hallo“, „thanks“ or „heal me“.

The battle system translates really well to multiplayer, with some adjustments: resurrecting fallen allies is available to all characters in boss battle mode, not just Elza. Gathering is disabled, but everyone has their own Wind-like technique and projectile attacks. Aiming Wind doesn’t interrupt the game flow (and movement of the other players)  but needs to be done in real time. The surroundings can still be used strategically and the selectable fields offer variety even though they’re few in number.

The Last Story?

The Last Story...

The Last Story…

If this game indeed turns out to be the last game Sakaguchi ever makes, there couldn’t be a better one to remain as his legacy. This game, for all purposes, succeeds brilliantly at what it does and there’s no real criticism to address. It’s quite perfect and finally brings all three schools of RPG together, retaining their best parts. Even the graphics, though technically limited by the Wii platform, are impressive both in style and in detail rendered on screen. You couldn’t claim that the game-play is limited in any way by horsepower either, considering the way all the design choices fall into place to create an experience that is never annoying and always rewarding. The difficulty starts out pretty low to ease the player into the many complex yet accessible game-play systems, but towards the end the challenge rises considerably, making the clever battles all the more rewarding.

As with previous Mistwalker titles, since it lacks the brand recognition of Final Fantasy and isn’t published by major RPG publisher Square Enix, sales didn’t live up to Sakaguchi’s earlier success titles but the game-play is as good, and in many places even better, than Square Enix‘ recent efforts, like Final Fantasy XIII or Dissidia. To put it simply, The Last Story turned out to be the game I expected Final Fantasy XII to be. If Matsuno’s team gets another shot at doing a mainline Final Fantasy game I hope they will closely look at what The Last Story achieved and try to outdo their prodigal imitators. And maybe the higher ups at Square Enix will have more trust in the possibility of making a strategic game that is accessible to casual gamers even without being dumbed down.

  1. In this way The Last Story is a shusse-mono (career story), the most popular genre of mass literature during the late middle ages, end of Muromachi to Tokugawa period. In the fantasy themed otogi-zōshi for commoners, which compare to Western fairytales, usually a person of low descent acquires great riches by making a career, gaining almost aristocratic or samurai status. This was a very appealing dream in times of rigid class systems and it’s interesting how The Last Story goes back to this genre which in a way started popular fantasy in Japan. The motives in these stories draw upon the older aristocratic literature tradition constituting high culture, in fact most of the otogi-zōshi stories originate from the court environment but were retold for the common people later. So court nobles and samurai in a way set the standard for the common people, which is (critically) reflected in The Last Story by Elza and his friends wanting to become knights. []
  2. Except for the few pre-rendered cut scenes which really can only skipped entirely. []

Last Story Famitsū-Reviews

Mittwoch, 19. Januar, 2011

Das neue Mistwalker-Spiel für Nintendo Wii hat mit zweimal 10 und zweimal 9 sehr gute Wertungen von der Famitsū erhalten. Ich habe mal schnell die Meinungen der vier Reviewer übersetzt:

10: Das Kampfsystem sieht auf den ersten Blick kompliziert aus, ist aber tatsächlich selbst für Gelegenheitsspieler leicht zugänglich. Und es bietet dennoch viel strategischen Tiefgang. Alle Figuren sind ziemlich geschwätzig und so kommt die rechte Stimmung auf, mit Gefährten gemeinsam ein Abenteuer zu bestreiten. Da man die Farben der Ausrüstung ändern und viele Accessoires tragen kann, kommt auch die modische Seite nicht zu kurz, was ebenfalls für Laune sorgt.

10: Den Machern ist ein RPG gelungen, das Spieltiefe und komplexe Strategien bietet und dennoch einfach zu spielen ist. Dank vorteilhaften Einflussmöglichkeiten wie „Gathering“ und „Wind“ suchen die Kämpfe ihresgleichen. Daumen hoch für die anschaulich illustrierten Tutorials. Die Figuren sind ständig am Reden und man baut so zu seinen Gefährten eine enge Beziehung auf, was mir gut gefallen hat.

9: Die Kampfaktionen wie Gathering und der Magiekreis sind abwechslungreich und unterhaltsam. Dank erklärender Filme ist alles sehr zugänglich. Mit entsprechendem Geschick gibt es findige Stratgien zu entdecken, mit der die Endgegner leicht zu besiegen sind. Die Story ist orthodox, aber dank der dramatischen Ereignisse will man stets wissen, wie es weitergeht. Auch der Soundtrack weiß an entscheidenden Stellen zu beeindrucken.

9: Ein orthodoxes RPG, das dennoch spaßige Action und strategischen Tiefgang eines Taktikspiels vereint, das macht die Kämpfe erfrischend neuartig. Nach und nach eröffnen sich dem Spieler immer mehr kreative Möglichkeiten wie das Anlocken von Gegnern mit Gathering oder das Ausweiten der Wirksamkeit von magischen Effekten. Was mir auch gefallen hat, war die frei wählbare Perspektive an vielen Orten in Städten und Dungeons, die man so sehr schön erforschen konnte.

Quelle: http://jpgames-forum.de/final-fantasy-future-de-foren/news-rund-um-japanische-videospiele/10757-the-last-story-famitsu-artikel-und-wertung/

The Legend of Zelda: How the Passive Princess grew into a Participating Partner

Freitag, 7. Januar, 2011

Fantasy describes all things not real so in actuality there really isn’t a video game that couldn’t aptly be called fantasy but most often we associate medieval settings mixed with magical abilities and creatures with this term, the Dungeon & Dragons kind of fantasy. Even before the first video games were invented these new story telling party rules (called role playing games or RPGs for short) established both a new kind of game as well as a new motivation for playing: story telling. Adaptations of these pen and paper RPGs to the video game medium constitute the most popular kind of fantasy games but they’ve been known to have entries to almost every genre.

Zelda 1 (1986)

Zelda 1 (1986)

Around the time fantasy RPGs became popular on Nintendo’s console Famicom (or NES as it is called outside Japan) Nintendo developed their own take on the medieval sword wielding hero called The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Fantasy. The story was a straight port of the Mario myth into the new setting, a male placeholder fighting a villain to free a damsel in distress. The Zelda from the title was another princess to be only seen after the hero conquers a number of levels (or dungeons as they are called in fantasy games). Yet the Mario games always had their hero’s name in their title whereas in The Legend of Zelda it’s the kidnapped woman who represents the series in name, even in those sequels in which she isn’t even part of the game’s narrative.

Zelda 2 (1987)

Zelda 2 (1987)

The only Zelda game that has the hero Link’s name in it was the first sequel, The Adventure of Link, which is also the black sheep in the series, an excellent game in its own right but not sharing most of the typical Zelda play mechanics to which the series returned for all further sequels. In this second Zelda game the player gets to see the princess from the very beginning but like Sleeping Beauty she fell into an eternal slumber remaining passive until Link seals away the evil left behind by his archenemy Ganon. In the previous game Link defeated Ganon but Ganon’s followers threaten to revive their lord by means of a blood sacrifice of his slayer Link. Link has to fight a phantom version of himself to make the seal complete, a metaphor hinting at the threat of Ganon’s revival referring to the possibility of Link becoming the next villain.

It must be noted that even at his oldest each Link of each Zelda game is a youth at most, Zelda always around the same age as the hero and Ganondorf, Ganon’s human form, always a grown up. His monstrous form Ganon, a horned boar, which in some installments is the only one to make a showing is always considerably larger than Link, keeping with the small versus big, child versus grown up antagonism.

Zelda 3 (1991)

Zelda 3 (1991)

The next The Legend of Zelda didn’t arrive until Nintendo moved on to their second generation of game hardware, the Super Famicom. It was called the Triforce of the Gods1 For the localized version Nintendo of America came up with a pun to sneak Link’s name into the title, calling it A Link to the Past (A Link to the Past outside Japan) and remakes the original Zelda vision on a grander scale, also introducing more complex interaction with both non-player characters (NPCs) in towns as you commonly find them in RPGs and the inanimate surroundings which stressed its action play mechanics. The player controlled hero gets to meet an awake and talking Zelda right at the beginning of the game, before her eventual final kidnapping, but she keeps on informing him telepathically about the state of the game world and his play objectives. She still is a woman who needs to be rescued but she already provides the hero with the wisdom he needs to take the actions necessary to beat the game. For the first time she is a partner instead of just a prize to look forward to.

Zelda 4 (1993)

Zelda 4 (1993)

The Legend for Zelda on Gameboy, Nintendo’s low tech but cheap and children friendly handheld, marked the first entry into the series to paradoxically not actually have Zelda in the game but there were more to follow. It’s more experimental both in gameplay and narrative than the usual Zelda games but still remains true to the core mechanics introduced in Zelda 1 and 3. In the Dream Island2 Yume wo miru shima can both mean The Dreaming Island or The Dreamt About Island, NoA avoided this ambiguity by coining the rather clever title Link’s Awakening. (Link’s Awakening outside Japan) the usual hero-villain roles are put upside down, since the island Link is trapped on is just a dream, to escape he must end the dream and effectively destroy the island. The demons on the other hand, who usually seek to destroy (or at least conquer) the world, try to stop Link from doing what would usually be their job.3 AYASHIGE Shōtarō discusses this role reversal aspect of the game’s story in detail on his site GAMIAN (Japanese). Like Zelda, Ganon is absent from the game world and Link is the only original Zelda character to make a showing.

But even Link isn’t really called Link, unless the player chooses this name. As opposed to the Mario games, where even in their RPG variety his name is always fixed, in Zelda the player could freely choose the hero’s name from the very first game. And whereas the usual Zelda cast is missing from the “story as coma” island, many of the characters of the Mario universe including Mario himself are parodied in some of Zelda 4’s NPCs. Instead of a kidnapped princess Zelda the female lead Marin, who is the the daughter of the Mario look-a-like Tarin, helps Link both with her knowledge of the island and her singing voice which awakens a walrus obstructing Link’s path. This forecloses the song Link plays at the end of the game to wake the wind fish and in effect himself from the dream he’s trapped in.

Music has played a crucial role in all Zelda games from the very beginning, Link uses instruments (most of the time a kind of flute) to magically warp from one place to another or cast other kinds of spell-like effects. But in this game it also becomes pivotal in the game’s plot which surely takes its inspiration from Nintendo’s modern day SF-RPG Mother (1989) for the earlier Famicom, in which music even becomes a weapon to defeat the final boss. Another notable innovation in Zelda 4 is helping out the NPCs by trading items with them, to advance in the story and to get a powerful bonus weapon if you complete this partially optional side quest. The Zelda games try to provide a kind of moral guidance and 4 even gives the player the choice to make Link steal from the shop owner, only to harshly penalize him if they return to the shop later.

Zelda 5 (1998)

Zelda 5 (1998)

The next Zelda game for the N64 is another title reinventing the original game, this time in 3D. For Mario, which first made the switch to this new way of creating game environments, the change was very drastic and the difference in gameplay quite radical. But with Zelda the new technology enabled Nintendo’s game designers headed by MIYAMOTO Shigeru to finally make the Zelda game they always envisioned. AONUMA Eiji joins the Zelda team around this time and will become the developer representing 3D-generation Zelda together with MIYAMOTO. Apart from the more realistic environments and the new ways to interact with them, The Ocarina of Time also allows the player to play the notes on the flute themselves. Instead of just triggering preprogrammed melodies they have to learn them note by note and input them in sequence to create magical effects.4 Fußnotenauszug: Music games have become one of the major genres in video game culture, utilizing all kinds of new interaction interfaces like instrument shaped controllers, dance mats and karaoke style microphones. This trend started in Japanese arcades with Konami’s music games like Guitar Freaks (1999) or Dance Dance Revolution (1998), before it was taken up by Western developers like Activision who late...

The more detailed graphics also raise the issue of Link’s age and appearance: in earlier pixel art representation he could be rather young or close to adulthood, it wasn’t very clear from the presentation and thus not much of a consideration to the player. But in 3D the age is quite evident and the developers had a very interesting idea to make him both a child and an almost adult youth. In Zelda 3 Link could travel in between a light and dark version of Hyrule by means of portals and a mirror. In Zelda 5 he can travel between past and future, the past being his carefree childhood and the future his early adulthood under Ganondorf’s reign.

Zelda also sets a new record of time spent in freedom, escaping Ganon until the very end and actively helping Link, disguised as a kind of male ninja knight called Sheik. Even the player doesn’t learn this before Ganondorf does and promptly captures her. To acquire complete domination of the fantasy world Hyrule, Ganondorf needs all three Triforces, each representing a virtue of the three main protagonists. Link has the Triforce of courage, Zelda the one of wisdom and Ganondorf himself the one of power. He kidnaps Zelda as a bait for Link to get all three. When Link finally confronts him and defeats his human form, he and Zelda have to flee from the castle which Ganondorf occupied. Zelda is much more active in this game, staying independent even during Ganondorf’s reign in Link’s adult world, helping Link with much more than her wisdom, but in the end she doesn’t participate in the last battle, even when Ganondorf comes back as the hellish beast Ganon.

Zelda 6 (2000)

Zelda 6 (2000)

The N64 sequel Majora’s Mask again takes Link to a world outside Hyrule, without Zelda and Ganondorf. He becomes a mask merchant, transforming into different characters and even making spiritual clones of his different guises to occupy spots that serve as step switches to open passages. In previous games Link could only activate those switches himself or put inanimate objects on them as weights to keep the switches triggered. Now the line separating inanimate and animate objects becomes blurred, although in actuality all things appearing in video games, including the characters, are really just objects given life by computer generated animation. Zelda 6 reflects this fact in aspects of the play mechanics like this one.

With Zelda missing, Link’s fairy cursor and tool tip provider introduced in Zelda 5 becomes the female lead so to speak, providing him with the wisdom and knowledge to perform the actions necessary to advance in the game. In Zelda 5 she was called Navi, like a navigator, in 6 her successor is called Tatl, who is more cheeky and less reliable than Navi. One could even go as far to call her a bit ill-spirited but she also has more character for that reason.

Ico (2001)

Ico (2001)

The next Zelda game isn’t really a Nintendo game. On Playstation 2 UEDA Fumito created his own interpretation of the Zelda myth, which really is the European medieval setting as Japanese fantasy that constitutes so many fantasy game narratives. His Zelda is called Yorda, a clever allusion to Zelda’s name. When written in Japanese syllable writing both names are made up of three characters; Zelda reads ゼルダ (ze ru da) and Yorda reads ヨルダ(yo ru da). Except for the first character the names are identical. The one character differing starts with a Z in the original name. The last letter of the alphabet and a rather rarely used one at that. UEDA’s Yorda has the initial Y which is the second to last letter and even rarer than Z. Yorda takes the Zelda myth back to its base, to the European medieval influences which is the origin of all fantasy literature.

The hero is called Ico, marking him as an iconic character rather than a real person. Like Link he is everybody, an avatar for the player in the truest sense of the word. Ico is born with horns and banished from his village at a young age. The village’s clerics lead him to the witch’s castle where he’ll be locked up. They open their way with a huge sword, a phallic key to a large room full of stone coffins and imprison Ico in one of them. Like in Zelda 5, where pulling the master sword makes Link an adult man, the phallic sword is a symbol of male adulthood, used to inseminate the castle’s womb with Ico.

When he pushes against his tomb, making it fall out of the wall where it is shelved with many more coffins, he is reborn as the child trapped in the witch’s castle. To get out of the castle he has to rescue Yorda from a cage in which she is kept like a bird. They can only progress through the castle together; Yorda needs to be protected from the shadows, who like Ico were imprisoned in the castle’s womb but mean Yorda ill, unable to escape from the witch’s castle themselves. Ico needs Yorda to pass the inanimate stone statue authorities, who will only make way if a female authority is holding the boy hero’s hand. She is his phallus5 Her authority as princess being her phallus or symbol of power. in the grown up world and he her phallus knight in the hero fantasy.6 I had read Anti-Oedipus by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari shortly before I played Ico in 2003, also reading up on Freud in the process, making the phallic imagery all the more obvious even during my playthrough.

But Ico also has to leave Yorda alone many times to go to places she can’t, calling her to follow him or running back to her when she’s in danger. Yorda is as passive as princesses get, yet she is along for the ride for almost the whole playtime. The player gets his prize early, but since Yorda can’t do anything herself she is reduced to being a burden. Fighting is not a big part of the game but Yorda’s presence will always lure the shadows to her and Ico frequently has to drive them away with a stick before the shadows drag her inside the black hole appearing in the castle’s floors, taking her with them back to where they came from. The shadows‘ birth remains incomplete and they don’t want Yorda to escape either.

The annoying and repetitive fights interrupt the exploring and puzzle solving which are also an important part of Zelda play mechanics but Ico puts the focus almost completely on these. In Zelda battle and exploration are pretty evenly balanced, whereas in Ico there’s only one boss battle. When the witch prevents his and Yorda’s escape and takes Yorda away from him he has to find a new phallus. With the huge sword the men from his village used to open the tomb he can make the obstacle statues move himself and can take on the witch to claim Yorda and his right to leave the castle. He loses both of his horns, the first one when he fails to escape with Yorda and falls down a bridge, the second during the battle with the witch. Ico’s developers traveled Europe and visited authentic local castles to research their setting and maybe they found out about losing one’s horns being a metaphor for coming of age, based on the German idiom, which goes back to the middle ages.

Zelda 7 (2002)

Zelda 7 (2002)

As The Legend of Zelda influenced UEDA his game also made an impression on the following Zelda sequels. The development of involving Zelda more in both narrative and action is continued in Baton of the Wind (Wind Waker outside Japan) on Gamecube, which starts Zelda’s celshading subseries. Instead of the hyperrealistic aesthetics of Ico, which tries to hide its nature as a game as best as possible, striving for maturity in style, Zelda 7 aims to look like an interactive cartoon. The boy becoming the hero of the newest legend of Zelda is first shown as a normal kid, wearing normal clothes and doing normal, non-heroic things. As an initiation into adulthood he, like all boys his age, is given the green tunic the legendary hero is said to have worn, before Hyrule was swallowed by the sea, leaving only a few islands.

He will soon have to live up to this legacy as his little sister is kidnapped by a large bird who was looking for Tetra, who is princess Zelda turned pirate. Since it’s partially Tetra’s fault she helps Link to rescue his sister, making her a valuable ally from the beginning. In her pirate role she’s emancipated completely from the etiquette of a princess and with her ship she also first enables Link to leave his island and travel the world. She still gets kidnapped eventually, she does regain her memory of being a princess, but she also joins Link in the final fight versus Ganondorf. To defeat Ganondorf, traditionally a combination of master sword and light arrows has to be utilized, usually both by the hero. In Zelda 7 Tetra equips the bow to hit Ganondorf when Link creates the necessary opening by distracting him with sword attacks.

Defeating Ganondorf doesn’t restore Hyrule though. The king of Hyrule, turned boat with a lion head, has accompanied Link on his journey from island to island, guiding him like the fairies in previous 3D-Zeldas. He explains to his princess and her boy protector that it wasn’t just Ganondorf’s fault that Hyrule was lost. It cannot and should not be restored, instead they should find their own Hyrule somewhere in the world. The game thus ends with Tetra and Link starting on a new journey to find their future.

Shadow of the Colossus (2005)

Shadow of the Colossus (2005)

The next Zelda on Gamecube and Wii, Twilight Princess returned to the more realistic designs of the N64-installments and was inevitably compared to Ico’s sequel Wander and the Colossi (Shadow of the Colossus outside Japan). Wander tries to revive the corpse of an adult woman fighting huge stone statues, reinterpreting the setting of Ico, where the male hero was accompanied by an alive, but psychologically empty7 Fußnotenauszug: This emptyness is reflected in a comment by the witch who says Yorda is a mere empty vessel now. It also expresses itself in her passiveness and in the fact that she isn’t characterized in dialogue. Ico and Yorda each have their own language and can’t understand what the other says. There are subtitles for the made up foreign language voice overs but only the lines spoken by Ico (and ... woman who allowed him to peacefully pass the authority statues. In the sequel Wander’s anger of a woman’s death makes him take on much fiercer versions of these authorities and he defeats all of them, reviving the woman and becoming a baby again himself, taken care of by the woman. Wander’s actions are reactionary, reverting him to a new born. The woman either dead, or alive and a mother figure.

Zelda 8 (2006)

Zelda 8 (2006)

Link riding his steed Epona in Twilight Princess reminded a lot of people of Wander riding on his horse Agro, as did some of the architecture, but in actuality UEDA was inspired by Nintendo in the first place, Epona making her first appearance in Zelda 5 for N64. The Twilight Princess is also an original character, serving as a second female lead even eclipsing Zelda, very active and powerful, she is the newest walking in-game tutorial accompanying Link, following the fairies Navi and Tatl and the lion head king boat of previous 3D-Zeldas. And she is even deeper as a character than her predecessors. Gameplaywise she doesn’t act as a supporting partner as Tetra did in Zelda 7 but this concept of cooperative single player is further developed in the celshading sequels of Zelda 7 on Nintendo DS.

Zelda 9 (2007)

Zelda 9 (2007)

The Phantom Hourglass continues where Wind Waker left off, Tetra and Link are on their journey to find their new home. The game isn’t about them finding it though, Tetra gets turned to stone right at the beginning taking her completely out of the action for most of the game. Instead Link again has to save the princess. But this time with completely new controls. The pen is mightier than the sword, as they say and in Phantom Hourglass the touchpen is your sword. In story heavy games the player spends a lot of time reading but writing was hard to incorporate into gameplay before the DS. You still only scribble a few notes on the map, mark spots and draw symbols, but this Zelda takes the first step into new gameplay fields that more actively involve the player in the game world, having them interact in new ways and broadening the definition of what games can be.

Zelda 10 (2009)

Zelda 10 (2009)

The stone statues as authorities are reinterpreted in Phantom Hourglass as phantom guardians who Link has to sneak around in stealth gameplay, another Zelda play mechanic developed since Zelda 3.8 Fußnotenauszug: The knight enemies in Zelda 3 didn’t just move around randomly (like most previous enemies) or outright hunt Link but walked along certain paths. If Link entered their field of vision they would start hunting and attacking him. The general idea must have been inspired by Konami’s Metal Gear (1987) for MSX which put more emphasis on avoiding enemies instead of just fighting every one o... He cannot defeat the phantoms until the very end when he acquires a sword strong enough, if they spot him it will usually end in him getting caught and having to start the floor over. In the sequel and third toon Zelda, Whistle of the Earth (Spirit Tracks outside Japan), Zelda is turned non-corporal spirit and can take over the body9 This is reminiscent of Glory of Heracles IV (1994) which also had protagonists robbed of their bodies who only could physically participate in the game world by taking over other people’s bodies. of a weakened phantom to become a mighty ally for Link. The player then controls both their avatar Link and his partner Zelda turned phantom knight, who they can direct along paths they draw, making her interact with the objects and enemies on her way. This makes for some of the most intuitive and deep multiple player character gameplay available today.10 Drawing paths for objects like Link’s boomerang which they followed was utilized in Phantom Hourglass already but Winning Eleven Play Maker 2008 by Konami on Wii first applied this method on multiple player characters, in this case a soccer team. Spirit Tracks was released after this soccer game but the general idea was already introduced in its prequel.

The Hyrule Tetra and Link must have discovered after Phantom Hourglass is the most modern yet, with magical steam trains substituting the boats from the two predecessors. Traveling the sea was much cause for criticism in Wind Waker, since it took too much time and there wasn’t enough to do to keep the player occupied. In Phantom Hourglass traveling is sped up by the touch controlled path drawing, and the game gives the player more things to interact with and take care off until they reach their destination. In Spirit Tracks the paths the player can draw for the train can of course only follow the tracks that are already there but since the enemy trains also run on the same tracks the player constantly has to plan ahead when to change their course. This is made easier by the fact that the player can change track switches at any time and go other ways than what they drew, the drawn path being simply a preselection of switches that can still spontaneously be altered.

One cannot deny the almost religious character of the Zelda series‘ mythology. The spirit tracks provided by divine creation, they’re predetermined paths chosen by very high authorities, putting the player on rails and allowing them only little choice of their own. But this choice still makes all the difference in performance, how much Link travels, where he travels, what he does on his way, it’s completely up to the player. They can rush through the narrative or look for side quests, take the short cuts or go for lazy strolls, follow the rules or only obey them as not to anger their passengers, when they transport one.

Having a fantasy setting with modern elements like these must have seemed ridiculous to many purists but Spirit Tracks tries to give kids an alternative fantasy to the sword wielding ones. It’s a bit of a running gag in the game that instead of a kenshi (swordsman) Link becomes a kikanshi (locomotive driver). Although the words sound similar in Japanese, one must seem decidedly cooler than the other to most players. By turning trains into a divine institution it’s as if the shin in the Japanese bullet train shinkansen, which actually just means new (train line), is associated with the word god11 For another example of this homophone based wordplay see my article on Megami Tensei., which is also pronounced shin. Suddenly modern technology is elevated to the same mythical level as the idea of the swordsman, which almost only exists in fantasy anymore. This fantasy isn’t losing sight of reality though; at the end Zelda asks Link what he wants to become after their adventure is over and the player is free to choose either kenshi or kikanshi.

Spirit Tracks is also the story of Princess Zelda losing her body to a demonic chancellor who utilizes her divine powers to summon a fiend that would consume all of Hyrule. When she gets her body back at the end she again equips herself with the bow and light arrows and joins Link in his battle with the last boss, as she did in the first toon Zelda. But this time the player can freely position her and make her shoot at the unprotected backside of the fiend Link has to distract with his sword blows. Wind Waker used scripted action choreographies triggered by good timed sword blows, which was very visually appealing but less interactive than previous Zelda battles. Spirit Tracks manages to make this already great battle even more interesting by allowing the player to control both Zelda and Link at the same time and making the battle fully interactive.

  1. For the localized version Nintendo of America came up with a pun to sneak Link’s name into the title, calling it A Link to the Past []
  2. Yume wo miru shima can both mean The Dreaming Island or The Dreamt About Island, NoA avoided this ambiguity by coining the rather clever title Link’s Awakening. []
  3. AYASHIGE Shōtarō discusses this role reversal aspect of the game’s story in detail on his site GAMIAN (Japanese). []
  4. Music games have become one of the major genres in video game culture, utilizing all kinds of new interaction interfaces like instrument shaped controllers, dance mats and karaoke style microphones. This trend started in Japanese arcades with Konami’s music games like Guitar Freaks (1999) or Dance Dance Revolution (1998), before it was taken up by Western developers like Activision who later created Guitar Hero (2005) or SCEE (Sony Europe) who popularized home karaoke with SingStar (2004).

    But even before these elaborate musical controllers games like Ocarina of Time tried to create a similar experience with tradtional controllers. It might have been influenced by NanaOn-sha’s dedicated music game Parappa the Rapper (1996) for Playstation. But a more obvious influence would be the Glory of Heracles series for Famicom and Super Famicom by Data East, which featured harp playing courses and concerts as part of its role-paying gameplay. As with Zelda 5’s ocarina the harp was played by pressing certain buttons on the controller. []

  5. Her authority as princess being her phallus or symbol of power. []
  6. I had read Anti-Oedipus by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari shortly before I played Ico in 2003, also reading up on Freud in the process, making the phallic imagery all the more obvious even during my playthrough. []
  7. This emptyness is reflected in a comment by the witch who says Yorda is a mere empty vessel now. It also expresses itself in her passiveness and in the fact that she isn’t characterized in dialogue.

    Ico and Yorda each have their own language and can’t understand what the other says. There are subtitles for the made up foreign language voice overs but only the lines spoken by Ico (and the witch) are decipherable to the player, Yorda’s lines use also made up foreign symbols.

    Upon beating the game the player is given the choice to start it from the beginning, with altered puzzles. This is reminiscent of the original Legend of Zelda’s second playthrough which also had a new overworld and dungeon-levels. In Ico’s case this second playthrough had decipherable subtitles for Yorda as well so the language gap between Ico and Yorda, which the first playthrough conveyed to the player by keeping the meaning of Yorda’s words secret, is closed.

    Female author MIYABE Miyuki was inspired to write a novel adaptation of the game in which she told the story in great detail from Yorda’s perspective, including the events that lead up to the castle becoming empty and her getting encaged. In this way MIYABE creates psychological depth for the female lead character that the male developed game lacked. []

  8. The knight enemies in Zelda 3 didn’t just move around randomly (like most previous enemies) or outright hunt Link but walked along certain paths. If Link entered their field of vision they would start hunting and attacking him. The general idea must have been inspired by Konami’s Metal Gear (1987) for MSX which put more emphasis on avoiding enemies instead of just fighting every one of them.

    The stealth gameplay became more defined in Zelda 5 where failing to avoid guards in certain areas would result in Link getting thrown out of the area and be forced to start over. In these areas Link cannot advance by fighting. The same kind of gameplay is also found in Glory of Heracles III (1992) for Super Famicom, which seems to have inspired both the ocarina playing (see the above footnote about music games) and stealth elements in Zelda 5. []

  9. This is reminiscent of Glory of Heracles IV (1994) which also had protagonists robbed of their bodies who only could physically participate in the game world by taking over other people’s bodies. []
  10. Drawing paths for objects like Link’s boomerang which they followed was utilized in Phantom Hourglass already but Winning Eleven Play Maker 2008 by Konami on Wii first applied this method on multiple player characters, in this case a soccer team. Spirit Tracks was released after this soccer game but the general idea was already introduced in its prequel. []
  11. For another example of this homophone based wordplay see my article on Megami Tensei. []

Zeichentrickgott Walt Disney und sein größter Held, Micky Maus

Dienstag, 30. November, 2010

Micky und Oswald

Mit Micky Epic erscheint die Tage eine Spieleperle, die mit Animationsfilm und Videospiel zwei Medien vereint und beide an ihre frühen Anfänge zurückführt. Micky wird mit dem Schicksal einiger seiner Toonkollegen konfrontiert, die es anders als er nicht in die Geschichtsbücher geschafft haben und in Vergessenheit geraten sind. Motive und Figuren stammen aus den ganz frühen Werken Disneys, von Oswald the Lucky Rabbit über die ersten Schwarzweißfilme seines heute immer noch bekannten Nachfolgers Micky Maus bis hin zu dessen späteren farbigen Kurzfilmen. Thematisch oft düsterer als man das heute von Micky Maus gewohnt ist, aber gerade deswegen interessant.

Walt Disney gehört mit seinem Auftreten während der 20er Jahre nicht nur zu den Pionieren des Zeichentrickfilms, sondern des Mediums Film allgemein, prägte es in seinen frühen Jahren. Er war dabei, als die ersten Ton- und Farbfilme produziert wurden, und machte diese neuen Technologien einem großen Publikum schmackhaft. Zwar setzt er mit gezeichneten Bildern auf eine aufwendigere Methode als der die Wirklichkeit abbildende fotografierte Film, doch eignet sich diese besonders für die fantastischen Stoffe, mit denen Disney sein Publikum faszinierte. Disneys Einfluss ist bis heute weltweit spürbar, zwar werden in seinem Namen kaum noch Zeichentrickfilme produziert, dafür aber Unterhaltung in allen Medien und Genres. Am bekanntesten ist er jedoch nach wie vor für seine Trickfilmklassiker und seinen Star, Micky Maus.

Professor: Die wissenschaftliche Bezeichnung für dieses Tier ist Mickeymouse Waltdisniney! Generalinspektor: Aha. Sagt mir gar nichts. (Aus TEZUKA Osamus Metropolis, 1949.)

Natürlich hat Disney auch in den Werken der ihm folgenden Trickfilmschaffenden Spuren hinterlassen, so finden sich schon Einflüsse in den frühen Comics des japanischen Nachkriegscomic- und -trickfilmpioniers TEZUKA Osamu. Dieser bediente sich für seine längeren Storycomics der Techniken nicht nur des Zeichentrickfilms sondern des Kinos allgemein, mit dynamischen Perspektiven, die den eigentlich statischen Bildern bereits Leben einhauchten. In Metropolis, einem seiner Frühwerke, das dem Fritz-Lang-Klassiker das Motiv des menschenähnlichen Roboters entlehnte und Grundlage für seinen späteren Held Astro Boy (Tetsuwan atomu) war, taucht auch eine riesengroße Mäusegattung (siehe rechts) auf, die dort für einige Seiten Unruhe stiftet. Später machte er seinen Traum war und folgte auch im Trickfilm in die Fußstapfen seines großen Vorbilds, heute wird er zu Recht als japanischer Disney und Gott des Comics (manga no kami-sama) bezeichnet.

Mittlerweile wird der Zeichentrickfilm zunehmend vom computergenerierten Animationsfilm verdrängt, eine Entwicklung, die eng verbunden ist mit dem des Mediums Videospiel, in dem viele Techniken dieser Neuerfindung einer alten Kunst ihren Ursprung haben. Noch mehr als beim Zeichentrickfilm, der noch heute durch zahlreiche japanische Vertreter auch im Kino am Leben erhalten wird, hat Japan bei den Videospielen eine entscheidende Rolle gespielt. Und die Comictradition TEZUKAs schlägt sich auch dort nieder, Capcoms Roboterheld Megaman (in Japan Rockman) erinnert nicht von ungefähr an TEZUKAs Astro Boy.

Die Spieleschaffenden in Japan sind sich aber auch durchaus der Ursprünge ihrer Zeichentrickhelden bewusst und Capcom schuf mit Magical Quest eine der gelungeneren Umsetzungen eines Disneystoffes im Medium Spiel. Der Disney-Konzern setzte mit gutem Grund auf japanisches Know-How beim Erobern des neuen Mediums, hatte doch der große Star des Videospielwelt, Nintendos Mario, in den 90er Jahren in Punkto Erkennungswert seinem Vorgänger Micky Maus auch in dessen Heimat den Rang abgelaufen.1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario#cite_ref-75 Neue Technologien schaffen neue Helden und die alten Hasen müssen schon versuchen, mit dem Lauf der Dinge mitzuhalten, wenn sie nicht von ihnen verdrängt werden wollen, wie das bereits Oswald durch Micky widerfahren war. Also hüpfte Micky in Capcoms „Jump ’n‘ Run“-Spiel wie Mario durch horizontal scrollende Level.

Auch Nintendo musste sich dem technologischen Fortschritt beugen und von teuren Modulen auf das günstigere Massenmedium der optischen Disks wechseln, leider etwas spät und mittlerweile vom ehemaligen Verbündeten Sony ausgebotet. Dieser entwickelte sein geplantes CD-Addon für das Super Nintendo stattdessen zu einer eigenen Spielekonsole weiter, die optisch und namenstechnisch stärker an die Nintendo-Tradition anknüpfte als Nintendos eigene neue Konsole, das N64. Konservativ und progressiv zugleich, was für das N64 in der Kombination Module und wegweisende 3D-Grafik nicht klappte, gelang der Playstation mit günstigem Speichermedium. Dieses ermöglichte auch das Abspielen von vorab gespeichterten Filmsequenzen, die zwar weniger interaktiv waren, aber auch die computeranimierten Trickfilme aus dem Disneystudio Pixar vorwegnahmen, das Disneys eigener Trickfilmschmiede starke Konkurrenz machte.

So ist es nicht verwunderlich, dass Disneys nächstes Videospiel-Großprojekt bei Squaresoft entstand, die mit computeranimierten Filmen in Spieleform entscheidend zum Erfolg der Playstation beitrugen. Mit der auf CDs gespeicherten Grafikpracht von Final Fantasy VII konnte trotz besserer Technik kein Spiel auf dem N64 mithalten. Nintendos ehemaliger Topspielelieferant machte so Sony zum Thronfolger und durfte auf dessen zweiter Playstation mit Kingdom Hearts japanische RPG-Stories und abendfüllende Disneyfilmwelten vereinen. Man spielt Sora, eine originale Squarefigur, die optisch auch aus Final Fantasy stammen könnte. Begleitet wird er von Donald und Goofy und bereist die Welten aus bekannten Disney-Kinofilmen, auf der Suche nach dem verschwundenen König Micky.

Immer bessere Grafik, das schien das Erfolgsrezept der Zukunft zu sein, doch Nintendo überraschte alle mit einem unwahrscheinlichen Comeback, indem sie mit intuitiver Bewegungssteuerung auf Innovationen abseits der simplen grafischen Aufwertung der ewig selben Spiele setzten. Dementsprechend kommt der neueste Disney-Toptitel Micky Epic wieder für eine Nintendo-Konsole und im Gegensatz zu den beiden oben erwähnten Adaptionen diesmal von einem westlichen Entwickler. Diese haben ebenfalls ein Comeback erlebt, durch verstärkten Einsatz auf den kommerziell aussichtsreicheren TV-Konsolen haben sich PC-typische Genres auch dort etabliert und laufen den japanischen Topspielen mehr und mehr den Rang ab. Lediglich Nintendo scheint einen völlig anderen Geschmack zu bedienen und feiert größere Erfolge als je zuvor. Dementsprechend setzt Disney auf die beiden Gewinner dieser Generation, Hardwareentwickler Nintendo und westliche Spielestudios.

Warren Spector, der sich unter anderem mit Deus Ex auf dem PC einen Namen machen konnte, legt hier seinen ersten Konsolenexklusivtitel vor. Seine Neuinterpretation des Micky-Maus-Mythos ist eine Geschichtsstunde des Trickfilms, zitiert alte Klassiker und thematisiert den ewigen Konflikt zwischen Alt und Neu. Mickys Charakter  ist dabei bei weitem nicht so flach wie sein Toondesign, wie in vielen neueren Spielen üblich kann der Spieler als Micky moralische Entscheidungen treffen, statt simplem Gut oder Böse ist man aber etwas subtiler entweder schöpferisch mit Farbe tätig oder eben zerstörend mit ätzendem Verdünner. Beides sind für das Vorankommen notwendige Werkzeuge, doch ab und zu hat man die freie Wahl, eine Situation eher mit Farbe oder mit Verdünner zu bewältigen und so seinen eigenen Präferenze Ausdruck zu verleihen.

Schon im Vorspann tritt Micky eher als Störenfried auf, von einem Spiegel2 Micky ist wie zu sehen beim Lesen von Lewis Carolls Buch Alice Through the Looking Glass eingeschlafen. Dieses Buch diente auch einem Micky-Maus-Cartoon namens Thru the Mirror als Inspiration, der hier zitiert wird. Vor kurzem verfilmte Tim Burton diese Fortsetzung des vielfach bearbeiteten Kinderbuchklassikers. in das Labor eines Zauberers gelockt, spielt er mit dessen Kreation herum, malt sich selbst in seine Welt. Und als sich sein Abbild als schrecklicher Schatten gegen ihn richtet, versucht er es schnell wieder auszulöschen, verwüstet dabei aber nur die Welt, die der Magier für vergessene Trickfilmhelden3 Dieses Setting hat auch einiges gemein mit Captain Rainbow für Wii. geschaffen hat. Das Phantom lernt stattdessen selbst Verdünner einzusetzen und setzt die von Micky begonnene Verwüstung fort. Dementsprechend muss Micky sich und seinen Opfern erst wieder beweisen, dass er tatsächlich ein Held ist und kein bösartiges Phantom.

Das Spiel verbindet gekonnt Trickfilm- und Videospielelemente. Im Kern ist es so wie Capcoms SNES-Vertreter ein Jump ’n‘ Run, ausladende Sprachausgabe und langatmige Filmsequenzen wie im Action-RPG Kingdom Hearts sucht man hier vergebens, stattdessen darf man fast ständig selbst mit den Filmwelten auf vielfältige Arten interagieren. Die Missionsstruktur lässt dem Spieler über die zwingend zu treffenden Entscheidungen hinaus viele Freiheiten. Das Spiel deckt so fast alle modernen Standards des Spieldesigns ab und es ließen sich viele Vergleiche zu anderen Spielen anstellen, doch hat es vielleicht am meisten gemein mit Super Mario Sunshine. Auch dort musste man den Ruf des Helden retten, der wie die als Bühne dienende tropische Ferieninsel von einem Mario-Imitator beschmutzt wurde. Allerdings kann man dort nur die Graffitis des bösen Marios wegwaschen und nicht wie in Epic Micky ganze Objekte erschaffen oder zerstören. Micky Epic ist eben auch eine Göttersimulation, ein typisch westliches Genre aus dem Computersektor, also Spectors Metier.

Trotzdem, so ähnlich wie Micky Epic würde sich auch die Wasserpumpe aus Super Mario Sunshine auf der Wii steuern. Einfach mit der Fernbedienung zielen und mit dem Knopf Wasser bzw. Farbe und Verdünner verspritzen. Und so wie Sunshine die Waage zwischen frei erkundbaren 3D-Umgebungen und 2D-Retroabschnitten mit klarer Zielführung hielt, sind in Micky Epic die 3D-Areale durch Filmleinwände verbunden, die als 2D-Level gespielt werden können. Wie in Sunshine verzichtet man in diesen auf die innovativen Werkzeuge, zielbare Pinselfarbe und Verdünner sind für die 3D-Abschnitte reserviert. Der Wechsel von 2D zu 3D ist in beiden Medien, Film und Spiel, ein ganz entscheidender.

Das ganze Spiel macht unheimlich viel Spaß und zeugt von einem tiefen Verständnis der beiden Traditionen, die es verbindet. Kindgerecht aber nicht kindisch, düster aber nicht hoffnungslos, man kann es wirklich uneingeschränkt jedem empfehlen.

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario#cite_ref-75 []
  2. Micky ist wie zu sehen beim Lesen von Lewis Carolls Buch Alice Through the Looking Glass eingeschlafen. Dieses Buch diente auch einem Micky-Maus-Cartoon namens Thru the Mirror als Inspiration, der hier zitiert wird. Vor kurzem verfilmte Tim Burton diese Fortsetzung des vielfach bearbeiteten Kinderbuchklassikers. []
  3. Dieses Setting hat auch einiges gemein mit Captain Rainbow für Wii. []

Brawl Revisited

Montag, 4. Oktober, 2010

One of the first articles to generate traffic to my old site was the one I wrote about Smash Bros. Brawl’s adventure mode, The Subspace Emissary. Not right away, but a few months later in June, when the game came out in Europe. I’m not a big fan of the Smash Bros. interpretation of the fighting genre and the only reason I got the game was this adventure mode with a story written by Playstation era Final Fantasy’s writer NOJIMA Kazushige. Nintendo’s president IWATA Satoru always wanted a Nintendo RPG franchise to rival the success of Final Fantasy and giving NOJIMA, who like IWATA comes from the northern Japanese Island Hokkaidō, a shot at writing a Nintendo game storyline might have hinted at the company’s later challenges towards the RPG genre like Monolithsoft’s Xenoblade (first announced as Monado in the US) and Final Fantasy inventor Sakaguchi’s The Last Story. I ended up being disappointed with Brawl, mainly because of a stylistic decision to refrain from using any dialogue at all in the game. Dialogue seemed like crucial element in telling a complex narrative and I dismissed The Subspace Emissary for the lack of speech.

But actually the concept of a story completely without spoken dialogue is quite ingenious. Of course practically all the Nintendo heroes follow the school of the mute hero to allow the player to project their own thoughts into the story. And NOJIMA also started as a writer of Dragon Quest type RPGs and interpreted the mute hero in very interesting ways in his early works. So trying out this concept was probably the most interesting thing he could have done to adapt the Nintendo universe and its characters and he also had the necessary experience to pull it off. I just didn’t see it during my play through. Rewatching the story sequences again later opened my eyes to many things I had missed before, making me want to write another article on the game.

By waiving dialogue the game doesn’t just become the equivalent of a silent movie; in fact all the games before the advent of voice overs were silent. Like silent movies they used text to relay the spoken dialogue. But a lot more of it because the game medium had better ways of putting text onto the screen than the silent movies, which usually interrupted the moving picture with a black screen to show the dialogue. Games completely without any text aren’t that uncommon either, they just usually don’t try to tell a story then.

The Subspace Emissary doesn’t just omit voice overs, like most Nintendo games still do for the most part, but also text boxes. Actually certain in game moves are accompanied by short bits of speech in recent Nintendo games, compromising the mute hero concept, but in text box dialogues Mario still skips his part of the dialogue as to not impose his (absent) personality on the player. Since all the characters in Brawl are like Mario in this regard, since they are all mute heroes, even including the playable villains, the narrative has to do without text altogether. This is in fact very rare not just in games but also in the silent movie genre.

Actions speak louder than words, as they say, and actions are also the thing that is easier to convey into interactive form since actions can be linked to button presses or other input from the player much easier than words. Generating speech interactively would be almost as much of a pain as having it interpreted by the game software. Simply speaking we’re still a long way off from that kind of interaction. So by only showing action in the non-interactive movie sequences they become more like the interactive parts. They’re still automatic but not that different from some scripted game parts which come very close to movie like action where the player does everything themselves apart from talking. But being narrative scenes what the player can actually do is still predetermined by the game. This fact becomes even more apparent when the on screen presentation is restricted to action only. Playing a story means giving up almost all freedom. You become a pawn on the board which constitutes the game, an action figure so to speak.

The Ancient Minister delivers the subspace bomb

That was also the original setting of Smash Bros., action figures coming alive to battle each other. And this is also where the story of The Subspace Emissary starts, with Mario and Kirby having a sporting competition in a huge stadium. Until the Ancient Minister and his minions show up and wreck havok with their subspace bombs. The whole world is threatened by these bombs and all its inhabitants have to face some sort of crisis. The narrative switches between different places in the Nintendo universe to show its heroes and villains battle in midst of the huge detonations of the bombs of the Ancient Minister’s army.

Donkey and Diddy Kong vs. Bowser

Donkey and Diddy Kong protect the jungle yet untainted by civilization from the devilish Koopa King Bowser, who has come to this foreign place to exploit its natural resources. They get help from the futuristic pilots of the Star Fox games and later team up with another coupling of future and past: The main driver of the racing game F-Zero, Captain Falcon, and the alien captain Olimar and his army of plant soldiers called Pikmin. Olimar actually is a bit similar to Bowser as he also harvests a foreign natural resource but unlike Bowser he treats the Pikmins with respect and feels compassion for their frequent deaths. They are very fragile and even during Captain Falcon’s “cool” entrance a few dozen of them die in the process. In a way it is a black humored commentary on the rise of technology at the cost of nature.

Lucas

The frightened boy Lucas is encouraged by his strong friends Ness and Pokémon Trainer. Lucas has an actual name, whereas Ness is a reference to the family of consoles his games were released for and Pokémon Trainer is just the generic hero of Nintendo’s most successful franchise on Game Boy and later handhelds. It’s as if an actual boy got help from a legendary game console and game series to do the things he didn’t have the courage to do by himself.

Marth faces the bomb

Marth, who is just one of many medieval knights in the Nintendo universe to make an appearance in the game, tries to protect his fortress from the blast of one of the subspace bombs. Mario and Link protect their respective encaged princesses. Donkey Kong protects the jungle. Getting a glimpse of the world wide destruction Pit, the angel living in an ancient Greek inspired fantasy heaven, receives a bow from the goddess Palutena to join the heroes protecting all of the world.

Samus and Pikachu find the Power Suit

The modern woman Samus Aran is empowered by technology and rivals every other Nintendo hero in strength. The princesses, told to stay put by macho hero Snake after being rescued from their cages, seem to comply with this order at first, but dressing up in her male guise as Sheik, Zelda and the dressed as usual Peach go out to fight alongside their male companions. The Ice Climbers, a team of a man and woman of equal abilities join the larger growing band of heroes.

The evil Wario

Meanwhile the villains of the Nintendo universe go around the world shooting the iconic heroes with a beam cannon that instantly turns them back into action figures and collect them like trophies. They also corrupt the icons turned statue to make them battle for evil. But even the villains take their orders from Master Hand, the boss of the bosses since the first Smash Bros. crossover game. Who turns out to be nothing but a puppet of the real boss Taboo who is pulling his strings. Taboo’s name implies that he symbolizes something which is not to be openly talked about and his weapons are the subspace bombs, marked with an X, equally omitting their real name.

So far we have identified the following themes:

  • battle as a fair sporting event,
  • video games as encouragement for timid boys,
  • conservative tendencies to protect something (usually a place or a woman),
  • clash of primal nature and high technology,
  • modern women fighting alongside men,
  • battle as destructive war associated with a final boss that is a taboo,
  • technology providing a weapon that can annihilate the whole world.

Detonation

The last one is especially important to the narrative as a whole. The huge detonation of the subspace bomb provided by the army of the Ancient Minister starts off the story and gives the heroes a reason to fight. The horror of these bombs is linked to their enormous devastative power but also to the self sacrificing robots who bring them to their destinations. They don’t mind blowing up together with the bombs, effectively treating themselves as weapons, as things rather than sentient beings. You could argue that they as robots are indeed just things but you would be wrong.

The Ancient Minister has doubts

Even the heroes and the Ancient Minister feel compassion for the poor robots and try to stop them from blindly acting out their destructive order. The Ancient Minister’s name implies a long heritage, whereas Mario and the other heroes have a much more modest tradition. But in the end they both oppose the destruction and the act of self sacrifice. After working with the Nintendo villains for most of the story the Ancient Minister resists the war campaign spurred by his allies and for the first time attempts to stop the robot soldiers. This turns out to be futile but the Ancient Minister after being set ablaze is revealed to not be a mythical entity but a robot like the members of the army he commands.

Taboo

In the end all the heroes and villains have to unite to battle the real enemy, Taboo, who controlled even the supposed controller, Master Hand. A taboo is something to be kept silent, like the heroes who can only act. To overcome this taboo they have to confront the truth of war to bring back the places trapped1 The world robbed from most of its locations and the heroes restoring the world to its complete existence was also the concept of earlier games, most prominently Dragon Quest VII in 2000. In that game you had to travel the past to find the lost locations and learn their story before they disappeared. in the subspace2 The subspace is called akū (亜空) in Japanese. The second character of this made up term means sky, heaven or space. The first character can also mean Asia but here it refers to the concept of subsequence, of resulting from something else that is its base/origin. of the virtual reality of the game.

  1. The world robbed from most of its locations and the heroes restoring the world to its complete existence was also the concept of earlier games, most prominently Dragon Quest VII in 2000. In that game you had to travel the past to find the lost locations and learn their story before they disappeared. []
  2. The subspace is called akū (亜空) in Japanese. The second character of this made up term means sky, heaven or space. The first character can also mean Asia but here it refers to the concept of subsequence, of resulting from something else that is its base/origin. []

Ausgewählte Erscheinungstermine für das 2. Quartal 2010

Freitag, 9. April, 2010

Gamefront meldet, dass Nintendo Erscheinungstermine für neue Titel auf DS und Wii bekanntgegeben hat. Hier eine kleine Auswahl:

30.04.10 – WarioWare: Do It Yourself (Nintendo)

Tolles neue WarioWare-Spiel für DS, in dem man die sekundenlangen Mikrospiele nicht nur selbst spielen, sondern sogar selbst designen und programmieren kann.

21.05.10 – Jam with the Band (Nintendo)

Fantastisches Musikspiel für DS für bis zu 8 Spieler.

22.05.10 – No More Heroes 2 (Rising Star Games)

Würdiger Nachfolger des Originals. Kimmy Howell <3

11.06.10 – Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Nintendo)

Bedarf wohl keines Kommentars, oder?

Komplette Liste bei Eurogamer.

Crystal Bearers

Dienstag, 22. Dezember, 2009

Heute morgen um kurz nach 3 habe ich Crystal Bearers durchgespielt, gerade noch rechtzeitig bevor es am 26.12. in Amerika erscheint und noch wichtiger, bevor mir die Post diese Tage FFXIII vorbeibringt. Ich warte ja meistens bis zum Durchspielen, bevor ich mich zu einem Spiel hier im Blog ausführlich äußere, doch bei diesem musste ich mich doch sehr beherrschen. Square erbringt hier den Beweis, dass fantastische Grafik auf der machbar ist und ab sofort gibt es in dieser Hinsicht keine Entschuldigungen mehr. CB sieht nicht aus wie ein guter PS2- oder GC-Titel, sondern eher wie ein HD-Titel, bloß eben nicht in HD. Die Auflösung mag kleiner sein, die Größe der Umgebungen, die Details, die Anzahl animierter und interaktiver Objekte, die frei schwenkbare Kamera, Square bestätigt mir, dass ein Spiel vom grafischen Kaliber eines Mirror Edge’s auf der Wii machbar ist, bis auf die technisch bedingt niedrigere Auflösung.

Klar, im Vergleich zu dem vor einigen Tagen erschienen großen Bruder FFXIII mag es nicht ganz so hübsch aussehen, aber alle FF-typischen narrativen und cinematographischen Techniken, die man seit der Playstation von gewohnt ist, sind da und das einzige, was dem typischen FF-Fan den Spielspaß verleiden könnte (und in Japan angesichts der verherrend niedrigen Verkäufe wohl auch bei vielen der Fall war), ist die Tatsache, dass es kein RPG mehr ist. Nicht mal ein Action-RPG, sondern ein Action-Adventure, ohne Erfahrungspunkte oder Level und ohne ständige Monsterbegegnungen.

Stattdessen spielt man einen der Crystal Bearers, Menschen, die mit besonderen Fähigkeiten ausgestattet sind und daher vom Rest der Welt gefürchtet und geächtet werden. (Anti-/Super-)Held Layle hat telekinetische Fähigkeiten und kann auf alle möglichen Dinge durch Anvisieren mit dem Zeiger und Drücken von B selbst aus der Entfernung Einfluss nehmen, und sie dann durch Schwingen der Fernbedienung in eine von vier Richtungen ziehen. Diese Spezialfähigkeit passt perfekt, um die Wii-Steuerung für traditionelles Gameplay nutzbar zu machen, und ich würde sagen, Square hat das Kunststück geschafft und ein besseres „nur möglich auf Wii“-Spiel zu machen als selbst Nintendo. In dieser Hinsicht kann es The World Ends With You für DS in jeder Hinsicht das Wasser reichen.

Kämpfe mit Monstern nehmen einen recht kleinen Teil des Spiels ein und sind fast alle auch komplett zu vermeiden, außer den wenigen Storykämpfen, einer davon recht früh mit einem prominenten Beschwörungsmonster. In dünn bis unbesiedelten Arealen tauchen in bestimmten zeitlichen Abständen Monster auf, die dann im selben Bildschirm nahtlos wie in FFXII bekämpft werden können. Dieser Vergleich nur, um das ähnlichste FF anzuführen, eigentlich haben die Kämpfe genrebedingt mehr mit Spielen wie gemein. In Kämpfen kann man nützliche Items und Geld erhalten, aber nur wenn man alle Monster im Zeitlimit erledigt, winkt einmalig pro Areal eine zusätzliche Lebensenergieeinheit. Das heißt, man kann also doch auch hier RPG-typisch grinden, was aber nicht wirklich notwendig ist. Durch das Zeitlimit muss man effektiv kämpfen und nicht nur den eigenen Tod vermeiden (dank häufiger manueller und automatischer Speicherpunkte auch kein Beinbruch). Das erhöht die Befriedigung, ein Areal einmal komplett von Monstern gesäubert zu haben, aber auch den Frust, falls es wiederholt nicht klappt, auch weil man dann immer warten muss, bis sie erneut auftauchen. Abhilfe schafft, dann einfach weiterzugehen und irgendetwas anderes zu machen.

Ähnlich wie in Zelda gibt es nämlich unzählige Dinge neben der Hauptstory zu erledigen. Überhaupt nimmt der Titel geschickt Anleihen bei allen möglichen Spielen, besonders auch -Spielen wie GTA. Spielt man nur die Hauptstory, kann man in 15 Stunden oder weniger fertig sein, aber versucht man alle Awards (vergleichbar mit Erfolgen oder Trophäen) für die Nebenmissionen zu bekommen, hat man deutlich länger zu tun. Für die Awards haben die Entwickler sich etwas nettes ausgedacht, sowohl bereits erhaltene wie noch zu findende Awards haben eine kurze Beschreibung, die auf einer schachbrettartigen Liste angeordnet sind. Sichtbar sind aber nur die erhaltenen Awards und ihre direkten Nachbarn, d. h. für jeden neuen Award bekommt man bis zu vier Hinweise auf weitere Awards.

In diesem Screenshot von IGN aus der englischen Version sieht man sehr schön die Awards (bzw. englisch Medals).

Mit Ausrüstungsgegenstände lassen sich Attribute wie Angriffskraft, Verteidigung, Konzentration, Reichweite und Glück in einstelliger Größenordung verbessern. Konzentration senkt dabei die Dauer, die Layle etwas im Visier behalten muss, bevor er es telekinetisch packen kann. Es gibt drei Arten von Ausrüstungsgegenständen, die fertig gekauft werden können (sehr teuer) oder aus Materialien angefertigt werden können (billiger, aber die Materialien sind teilweise schwer aufzuspüren).

Die Welt von CB ist riesig, abwechslungsreich und wunderschön. Alle Areale sind nahtlos miteinander verbunden, es gibt Chocobos, um durch sie zu reiten, Züge, um schnell von einer Gegend zur anderen zu kommen und überall alle möglichen Dinge zu entdecken, mit denen man interagieren kann. Kisten und NPCs sind da noch die offensichtlichsten, aber eben längst nicht die einzigen. NPCs mit denen man reden kann sind selten, dafür kann man ihnen bei ihrer Arbeit oder sonstigen Beschäftigungen helfen, oder auch stören und sogar ausrauben. NPCs wie Monster haben verschiedene Stimmungen, die man an einem Symbol über ihrem Kopf erkennen kann, und die sich auch ändern, je nachdem, wie man sich selbst verhält. Die Welt fühlt sich komplett an und lebendig und entfaltet ihre volle Faszination erst, wenn man die kurze Hauptstory hin und wieder eine Weile links liegen lässt. Aber selbst wenn man nur der Story folgt, kriegt man genug vom Spiel mit, um einen Eindruck zu bekommen, was für ein Aufwand für diesen Titel betrieben wurde.

Großes Lob auch an Produzent und Co-Szenario-Autor KAWAZU Akitoshi. Die Schauspieler und die großartig inszenierten FF-typischen Zwischensequenzen schaffen eine tolle Atmosphäre und bringen seine Geschichte hervorragend rüber.

Crystal Bearers ist am 12.11.2009 in Japan erschienen und für den 26.02.2010 für Europa angekündigt.

Nintendo-Kanal Update

Mittwoch, 12. August, 2009

Vor einigen Wochen gab es ein wirklich nützliches Update des Minna no Nintendō-Channel (Nintendo-Kanal in Deutschland). Vielleicht gibt es das Update mittlerweile auch im Westen, Google konnte mir diese Frage auf die Schnelle nicht beantworten. Jedenfalls möchte ich euch ein paar Bilder der japanischen Version zeigen.
(mehr …)

FRAGILE ~Sayonara tsuki no haikyo~

Samstag, 14. März, 2009

Das neueste von (Baten Kaitos, Eternal Sonata) für lässt sich am besten als postapokalyptisches Kinderbuch beschreiben. Das fängt schon bei der Aufmachung an: Texte werden, wie in japanischen Romanen üblich, von oben nach unten und rechts nach links geschrieben und sind nicht, wie in Spielen meist der Fall, in Fenstern eingesperrt, sondern werden direkt über den Hintergrund geschrieben. Das gilt für gesprochene Dialoge genauso wie für narrative Beschreibungen, die ähnlich wie die Träume aus Lost Odysssey in Form von eingesträuten Kurzgeschichten daherkommen. Die literarische Komponente ist hier also nicht von der Hand zu weisen.

In FRAGILE ~Sayonara tsuki no haikyo~ (Fragil: Auf Wiedersehen, Ruinen des Mondes) verlässt der 15-jährige Seto nach dem Tod seines Großvaters sein Heim, um in der von einer Katastrophe entvölkerten Welt Überlebende zu finden. Davon gibt es nur noch sehr wenige, allerdings findet er auch viele sogenannter rätselhafter Gegenstände, von denen einige bei genauer Betrachtung an Lagerfeuern, die auch als Erholungs- und Speicherpunkten dienen, die Erinnerungen der Verstorbenen wachrufen. Wie oben beschrieben nehmen diese die Form von Kurzgeschichten an, die von den früheren Besitzern der Gegenstände in Ich-Perspektive erzählt werden. Teilweise sind die Geschichten extrem kurz, aber auch die längeren Beispiele sind nur etwa halb so lang wie die Träume in LO. Der geringere Umfang wird durch die höhere Frequenz ihres Auftretens ausgeglichen. Da es in FRAGILE kaum Überlebende gibt, mit denen man sprechen kann, ersetzen diese Ich-Erzählungen die in RPGs üblichen Gespräche mit Dorf- oder Stadtbewohnern, die normalerweise als Informationsquelle dienen.

In einer verlassenen Welt werden die zu erforschenden Umgebungen selbst zu wichtigen Akteuren. Ihre individuelle Gestaltung schafft nicht nur die Atmosphäre, sie werden zu regelrechten Charakteren. Die Entwickler haben alles aus der Wii-Konsole herausgeholt, um die Umgebungen so weitläufig und detailliert wie möglich zu gestalten. Die Kameraperspektive lässt sich jederzeit (außer in Zwischensequenzen) frei wählen und die Umgebungen sehen auch in Egoperspektiv-Nahaufnahmen noch fantastisch aus. Aber FRAGILE überzeugt nicht nur grafisch, sondern auch soundtechnisch. Neben einer flächendeckenden Sprachausgabe (außer den kurzen Tutorials und Graffitis an den Wänden gibt es keinen Text, der nicht von Sprachausgabe begleitet ist) gibt es stimmungsvolle Hintergrundmusik von Komponistin SAITŌ Rie.

Zwar liegt das Hauptaugenmerk bei FRAGILE stärker als bei anderen RPGs eher auf dem Erforschen als auf dem Kämpfen, trotzdem kommt auch dieser Teil des Spiels nicht zu kurz. Trifft man auf Gegner kann man sie im selben Bildschirm ohne Ladezeiten mit einer der zahlreichen Waffen angreifen. Grob lässt sich in leichte Waffen wie Stöcke, schwere Wafen wie Hämmer, lange Distanzwaffen wie Lanzen und Schusswaffen wie Bögen unterscheiden. Mit Stöcken kann man schnelle Angriffsserien mit bis zu drei Treffern ausführen. Diese belohnen gutes Timing: Hämmert man nur auf den A-Knopf, resultiert das in drei schwachen Angriffen. Wartet man mit dem nächsten Angriff, bis der vorhergehende gerade beendet ist, steigert sich die Kraft mit jedem Angriff. Mit Hämmern lassen sich nur einzelne, langsame Angriffe ausführen, die aber viele Gegnertypen sofort zu Boden werfen und deren Kraft sich durch Gedrückthalten des A-Knopfes aufladen kässt. Lanzen und Bögen erlauben Angriffe aus der Ferne.

Die Gegner unterscheiden sich nach Größe, Geschwindigkeit, Anzahl ihres Auftretens, Angriffsmuster, Schwachpunkten, etc. Unter ihnen finden sich Geister, monströse Hunde, Vögel, Roboter, usw. Je nach Gegnertyp empfiehlt sich der Einsatz unterschiedlicher Waffen: Fliegende Gegner z. B. sind oft nur mit Bögen gut zu erwischen, und schnelle Gegner greifen an, bevor man mit dem Hammer zuschlagen kann. Die Kämpfe mit den Gegnern (besonders den vergleichsweise wenigen Endgegnern) erfordern eine gesunde Mischung aus Geschick und Strategie, sind aber für erfahrene Spieler etwas zu leicht ausgefallen. Ein interessantes Element ist die Zerbrechlichkeit der Waffen. Diese können zufällig zum Ende eines Kampfes den Geist aufgeben. Anders als in SaGa oder Fire Emblem wird dies nicht durch einen sicht- oder unsichtbaren Zähler bestimmt, sondern ist wirklich völlig zufällig. Jedoch gilt meist: Je stärker eine Waffe, desto leichter geht sie kaputt.

Auch ist das jederzeit verfügbare Inventar durch die Größe von Setos Tasche begrenzt und man muss sich genau überlegen, ob man lieber viele Waffen oder Heilgegenstände mit sich führen will. Auch etwas Platz für hinterlassene Beute (lässt sich an Lagerfeuern in Geld umtauschen) und andere herumliegende Gegenstände sollte man lassen. Nicht das Gewicht, sondern die Form und Größe der Gegenstände entscheiden, wie viel in die Tasche passt. Wie Tetrisblöcke ordnet man die Gegenstände an, um den Platz optimal auszunutzen. An Lagerfeuern hat man allerdings Zugriff auf ein unbegrenztes Inventar, in dem man Reserven anlegen kann. Auch taucht dort ab und zu ein Händler auf, bei dem man sich mit Waffen und Medizin eindecken kann.

Die Steuerung macht guten Gebrauch von der Zeigerfunktion der Wii-Fernbedienung. Richtet man sie auf den Bildschirm, zielt man mit der Taschenlampe oder, falls ausgerüstet, dem Bogen auf die entsprechende Stelle und fixiert das Blickfeld darauf. So kann man sich von Gegnern wegbewegen oder um sie herumlaufen und sie trotzdem im Auge behalten bzw. die Waffe auf sie ausrichten. Nimmt man den Zeiger vom Bildschirm, steuert es sich wie ein normales -Spiel, und Seto wendet Blick und Waffe automatisch in die Richtung, in die er läuft. Mit dem Z-Knopf lässt sich auch wie in beispielsweise die Kamera an Setos Blickfeld anpassen. Das ist praktisch in Situationen, wenn das Ausrichten der Kamera mit dem Zeiger zu langsam wäre. Auch das Mikrofon der Fernbedienung wird unterstützt. Mit ihr lassen sich Geräuschquellen aufspüren, die lauter werden, je näher man ihnen kommt. Und hebt man die Fernbedienung ans Ohr, fordert man so Setos Begleitung, die sich ihm schließlich anschließt, zu einem Kommentar auf.

Je nachdem, wie stark man den Control Stick neigt, läuft Seto unterschiedlich schnell, von Schleichen bis Rennen. Das ist nützlich beim Passieren von brüchigen Böden, die äußerste Vorsicht erfordern. Mit dem C-Knopf man sich ducken, um durch enge Öffnungen zu kriechen. Das Steuerkreuz ist eine Kurzwahl für die verschiedenen Menüs: Oben ruft den Statusbildschirm auf, links die Karte, rechts eine Option zum Einsatz von mitgeführten Gegenständen und unten die Innenansicht des Inventars, in der man Gegenstände umsortiert und zerbrochene Waffen entsorgt. Ergänzt werden diese Menüs noch durch das komplette Inventar, in und aus dem man an Lagerfeuern Gegenstände einlagern oder entnehmen kann. Mit dem B-Knopf wechselt man in eine Ego-Perspektive, in der man sich aber nicht mehr bewegen kann. In dieser kann man mit dem A-Knopf noch einmal näher heranzoomen und so Gegenstände mit dem Zeiger untersuchen/aufheben. Außer man hat einen Bogen ausgerüstet, dann dient auch in der Ego-Perspektive der A-Knopf wie sonst auch zum angreifen.

Ich habe FRAGILE zu Beginn als Kinderbuch bezeichnet. Das soll aber nicht heißen, dass es sich ausschließlich oder auch nur in erster Linie an Kinder richtet. Vielmehr ist es die Sorte von Kinderbuch, die trotz kindlicher Perspektive und entsprechender Narrative auch für Erwachsene interessant ist. Zwar reicht es anders als die ähnlich gearteten Mother-Spiele nicht an die großen Klassiker wie Alice im Wunderland oder Tom Sawyer heran, doch ist es durchaus gelungen. Die zentralen Themen Kommunikation und Einsamkeit werden durch das Zusammenspiel von Seto und den wenigen, aber individuellen Überlebenden gut erforscht. Einige der Motive sind zwar aus anderen Vertretern japanischer Populärkultur wohlbekannt (um nicht zu sagen: überstrapaziert), doch wartet es sowohl spielerisch wie erzählerisch mit genügend frischen Ideen auf. Die oberflächlich betrachtet zusammenhanglosen Kurzgeschichten beleuchten die Welt vor ihrem Untergang aus verschiedenen Perspektiven und fügen sich mit den szenisch inszenierten Dialogen aus der postapokalypstischen Welt zu einem Gesamtbild zusammen.

FRAGILE (spricht man übrigens französisch aus, nicht englisch) erschien am 22.01.2009 in Japan. Die Spielzeit ist mit 15-20 Stunden sehr angenehm ausgefallen. Der Wiederspielwert ist gering, es gibt weder einen zweiten Durchgang noch einen höheren Schwierigkeitsgrad. Lediglich das Finden aller Kurzgeschichten regt zum erneuten Spielen an. Eine Veröffentlichung im Westen ist noch nicht angekündigt, aber sehr wahrscheinlich, da die Spiele von tri-Crescendo bisher im Westen stets erfolgreicher als in Japan und erst durch den Weltmarkt überhaupt rentabel waren.

Link: Offizielle Homepage des Spiels (japanisch).