Editorial · Film

Is Ghost In The Shell too Real? 

There is a fear of humanity. Of losing it, of not understanding it. We want to be classified as human but we believe perfection demands more than what we are.

Ghost In The Shell (Sanders, 2017) is a film about this phenomenon, and that’s why you should see it.

Ghost In The Shell creates a world of technologically enabled fluidity, in terms of gender and identity, in order to explore what makes us a human. The world of Ghost In The Shell may seem radically different to what we know as reality, but how different is it really?

People paying large sums of money to have their bodies excessively enhanced in the pursuit of happiness. Advertisements dominating the cityscape. Corrupt politicians sacrificing lives in the name of corporate greed.

Ghost In The Shell doesn’t show us a life beyond our imagination; it holds a mirror up to us but uses our ignorance to get away with its critical agenda.

Major Surgery
Major gets some surgery

As Major looks at a copy of her synthetic body, studying the image she conveys to the rest of the world, she is acting no differently to any of us looking in a mirror to understand ourselves. The only difference is Major didn’t have a say in how she looks, but is that really different to most people?

Major doesn’t feel comfortable in her Shell, because she knows it is a body that was created for her by the world she was born into. Her Shell is a cultural construct, making Major an allegory for any person who doesn’t feel the apparent sex of their body truly conveys the gender they feel they belong to.

Major does not want to be defined by her shell, and she continually demonstrates her need to be more than an object, a struggle many people know too well. In this area Ghost In The Shell is more open about its feminist message, firmly hammering home the message that identity is about what is inside, not out.

Major Mira Killian’s shell also represents the way Hollywood corrupts identity, as Major possesses the appearance of a Caucasian woman despite the fact that her mind is actually that of a young Japanese woman by the name of Motoko Kusanagi.

GHOST IN THE SHELL
Major strolls through Tokyo

Ultimately, Ghost In The Shell is a film about being human. Major has a soul and, to some, that makes her human. Others throughout the story view has a commodity, and that type of dehumanisation is something many of us can identify with.

It is for this reason most of all that Ghost In The Shell is a film for you. You’re human. You may love your body and that’s ok. You may hate it and that’s ok too. What matters most is who you are on the inside, not what you’re wrapped in.

You are not defined by what you look like.

You are not defined by what you are told to be.

You are you, the only you. You have a soul.

You are human.

Nintendo · Video Games

Why You Should Switch to Nintendo for FIFA 18

By James Daly

With the announcement of EA’s latest footballing title came the news many gamers have been waiting; FIFA 18 will be on Nintendo Switch.

There are many reasons to love this, starting with the fact that this will be a portable FIFA game that will look and play as well as the home console editions. This feature means the addictive gameplay of the FIFA series is finally available for gaming ‘on the fly’, a perfect scenario for a game based on short, traditionally 12-minute long matches. Add in the multiplayer modes and Nintendo have a very promising product on the way.

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FUT finally debuts on a Nintendo console

FIFA 18 will mark the first time that the FIFA Ultimate Team game mode appears on Nintendo console, meaning players will be able to buy packs of players and various items, and then build their own teams.

FIFA18 on Switch will not use the same new Frostbite technology as the other console versions, but the Nintendo title will still look and feel excellent, and run at 60FPS.

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FIFA 18 on Switch will not include the latest Frostbite engine

Also, there will be no The Journey, FIFA’s original story mode first released in FIFA 17. However, The Journey divided opinion meaning many fans will not feel disappointed by the lack of its inclusion.

Overall, FIFA 18 looks set to be the first FIFA game actually worth buying on a Nintendo console, and perhaps may even go so far as to make the Nintendo Switch the superior platform for playing FIFA 18 in general. So, FIFA players, this is why you should switch to Nintendo.

 

Top 5 · Video Games

Top 5 Music from Video Games

By James Daly

MGS Portable Ops

  1. Calling To The Night from Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

Atmospheric, operatic and poignant, Calling To The Night is quintessential MGS. The elevated, resounding saxophone is second only to the sweet, sincere, well-rounded vocal performance, which in itself is coupled with astute lyrics equipped with poetic notions of mortality and the duality of man. Truly, this is best record from the ‘Metal Gear Solid’ series.

Portal

  1. Still Alive from Portal

Jonathan Coulton’s skilled composition and Ellen McLain’s vocal talents delivered one of the most memorable, delightful and catchiest endings to a video game there has ever been with the wonderfully sinister ‘Still Alive’. A simple tune with a lot to love about it, this song is further proof, were it ever needed, that Valve’s ability to happily surprise fans with their outside-the-box rhetoric will no doubt continue to appeal to gamers for years to come.

zelda_tp_hd

  1. Hyrule Field from ‘The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess

It would have been very easy for me to just list five tracks from the LOZ franchise but “variety is the spice of life”, as they say so I’ve limited myself to just one. This track is a masterful mix of grandiose orchestral harmonies, classically tense pacing and soaring high-end melodies that hold true to a beautiful major tone. Combine these exquisite elements with the sunrise over Hyrule and the other-worldly Twilight barriers standing in strong contrast, Hyrule Field just manages to surpass ‘Zelda’s Lullaby’ in this humble writer’s opinion.

Pallet Town

  1. Pallet Town from ‘Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow

A simple melody that rings crystal clear over minimal accompaniment, Pallet Town sets the standard perfectly for all three of the original Pokemon Game Boy games. Nothing so elegantly captures the wondrous sensation of first stepping out of your character’s house and discovering a new world as you start one of the most memorable adventures of a lifetime.

Bioshock Infinite Elizabeth

  1. God Only Knows from Bioshock Infinite

Performed by a cappella group A Mighty Wind, this beautiful version of God Only Knows is so arresting that I watched in awe as the in-game performers serenaded the airborne streets of Columbia and truly made me feel like I could fly. This piece, being just four layered vocal tracks, is proof that simple is always best. I’m not one for barbershop by any stretch, but the smooth baritone and crooning tenor are irresistible, and when the piece is played again over the end credits it’s simply impossible not to feel as though you’ve just been a part of something truly special. In fact, that last reason alone is enough to make God Only Knows my all-time favourite piece of music from a video game.

Nintendo · Review · Video Games

Super Bomberman R is a Fun Game

By James Daly

After years of humble instalments that felt more like mini-games than full-fledged titles, the Bomberman series has finally attempted to deliver blockbuster again with the brand new Super Bomberman R for Nintendo Switch.

Bomberman has traditionally offered an arcade game experience where the player takes control of an adorable character and makes use of a variety of handheld explosives to win matches or progress the story of a game. In this regard, Super Bomberman R offers nothing new except for some cute, slightly-animated cutscenes that take place between levels and are more reminiscent of comic books or manga than cartoons or anime.

Characters range in colour and gender, but ultimately all serve the same purpose of marauding through different levels trying to blow enemies into tiny little pieces in order to save a world in turmoil, all the while revealing a plot that involves some sinister Bombermen-types trying to cause a generic brand of chaos. Super Bomberman R offers a completely new plot so no prior knowledge of the series is required to appreciate it. 

In short, the story is fine, but it is hardly the main selling point of this game.

Super Bomberman R Enemy
The main villain of the game
Bomberman games have almost always been about multiplayer battles, pitting friends against each other in arenas designed to house an endless amount of explosives and offer little in terms of shelter from the carnage. In this way, Super Bomberman R delivers exactly what it should, with customisable battle settings and plenty of items to add to the mayhem. 

The battles can feature up to eight players at once, either through local/wireless play or via online. This feature is what makes Super Bomberman R a brilliant party game, offering a simple concept that pleases audiences from novice players to hardcore gamers. It takes essentially no time to learn how to succeed, but mastering Super Bomberman R is almost impossible, meaning that everyone has a chance of winning.

The battle mode also offers the option of swapping out human-controlled characters for AI ones, allowing players to experience arguably the best mode of Super Bomberman R even when playing solo. The AI characters are by no means pushovers, making for challenging as well as exciting matches.

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Super Bomberman R has a great battle mode
Unfortunately, Super Bomberman R doesn’t really deliver on the blockbuster front, feeling more like a glorified mini-game at times. The story is short and generally disinteresting, despite the efforts to make it a tongue-in-cheek, cheesy but charming affair. Some may even wonder why Konami bothered to make a story for it at all, though the cynical point of view would say this was vital to Konami charging as much as they do for the game. The £44.99 price tag (about $59 in the USA) makes Super Bomberman R quite expensive for what really does feel like a small game, though free DLC has been announced so that will hopefully make the game more deserving of the price tag.

Overall, Super Bomberman R is a fun game for newcomers and a decent instalment in a long series recently plagued by inadequate instalments. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel like the series is back to its former glory but that shouldn’t stop anyone from enjoying this game. 

Nintendo · Video Games · Video Games Industry

Satoru Iwata: Video Game Icon

By James Daly

In the wake of Satoru Iwata’s passing, people all over the world publicly expressed their sadness at such a loss, along with their appreciation for Iwata’s contributions to the video games industry. In fact, approximately 4,000 people attended Iwata’s funeral to pay their respects but, regrettably, I was not one of them. Instead, I offer this brief account of Satoru Iwata’s career and, dare I say, legacy.

Satoru Iwata began his career at HAL Laboratory as their Coordinator of Software Production. During this time, he helped develop a healthy relationship with Nintendo in order to produce games for the Famicom gaming console. During this time he worked on several games including Kirby and EarthBound, but his first game as a developer was Balloon Fight back in 1985, a game that is still revered for its simple but fun, arcade-styled action. Iwata rose to the position of President of HAL Laboratory just in time to save the company from bankruptcy, and further strengthen their relationship with Nintendo.

 

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Iwata showing the Nintendo 3DS

Iwata’s first official Nintendo project was Pokémon Gold and Silver for the Game Boy Color and, although he was not a Nintendo employee at this time, it was Iwata’s tinkering that allowed the games to be more expansive by including the Kanto region along with the new Johto region, thus increasing the game’s playtime exponentially. Iwata also worked on Pokémon Stadium for the Nintendo 64 around this period, and it was his contribution to this title that helped establish his talent. Iwata dissected Game Freak’s battle system from Pokémon Red and Blue and reverse engineered it before porting it over to Pokémon Stadium, amazing Shigeki Morimoto, the president of Game Freak and the man who originally developed the battle system, almost to the point of disbelief.

Inevitably, Iwata took a position at Nintendo in 2000 as the Head of Corporate Planning, although this position did not keep Iwata from personally working on games. Within two years, Iwata succeeded the esteemed Hiroshi Yamauchi as the new President of Nintendo in 2002.

As President of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata oversaw some of the best and worst periods in Nintendo’s history. With regard to the latter, Iwata essentially was the force that kept Nintendo going during difficult financial periods, even going so far as to reduce his own salary by 50% to reduce business spend. Actions like this demonstrated the selfless manner in which Iwata conducted himself, and made his success seem even more impressive as moral integrity doesn’t traditionally accompany accomplishment in the business world.

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Iwata and the WiiU

In terms of success, Satoru Iwata oversaw the production of the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Wii, two consoles which changed the way video games were seen forever. The revolutionary move of bringing touchscreens and motion controls to home video gaming not only allowed new mechanics for game developers to explore and utilize, but also made video games accessible to new audiences outside of the typical 18-35 demographic. The practice of inputting complex sequences of key commands became irrelevant as games could be played using the more simple methods available on these pioneering consoles.

As a result, Iwata’s dream of changing the gaming industry for the better was now achievable, and many would argue that he did just that during his lifetime. Satoru Iwata was a visionary and a revolutionary within the video gaming industry, an industry that will be eternally grateful to him for his innovation and devotion. He didn’t shy away from a challenge, and was always ready to do what was right, including the odd line of code whenever necessary. His legacy is such that it seems impossible to imagine a successor now, but if any company could find one, it would be the Nintendo that Iwata so bravely redefined.

Video Games · Xbox One

Ori and the Blind Forest is a Lovable Platform Game

By James Daly

While there are some obvious examples to prove otherwise, it’s safe to say that the bulk of contemporary platform games don’t always win players over immediately. Ori and the Blind Forest is one of the exceptions, and it really is exceptional. The game utilizes a familiar platform adventure format where the player – as the eponymous Ori, a cute, pretty, marsupial-like creature – moves through a picturesque, enemy-laden labyrinth, searching for keystones to unlock gates and progress through the world. As Ori inherits new skills and maneuvers, the enemies up their hostility with tricky new attacks and traps.

In terms of story, the video introduction shows a baby Ori leaving a glowing forest haven on a breeze before meeting a large, orangutan-type creature who takes Ori in. The two develop a heartwarming bond as they live together, build up their home, and forage for food. That sounds nice, right? Well there’s more. The game gets all Ernest Hemingway on you by shattering this image of paradise when the adopted parent tragically starves to death while keeping Ori alive, and before long Ori is left all alone. The homestead is now cold and dark, the forest is no longer full of lush greenery. Now the player takes full control of Ori and the game begins.

Blind Forest 1
Beautifully illustrated environments

In terms of game play, Ori must explore three unique areas to restore the three Elements of Light and save the world of Nibel. Ori traverses the environment to search for key items, all the while fighting enemies and acquiring power-ups that increase attack power, improve health, and generally make the game easier. It is worth noting that the elegant environment of the game is so lovingly illustrated that it is easy to forget just how much danger lurks within every passageway, especially as so many hazards blend seamlessly into the landscape. Also, the save mechanic becomes increasingly relevant, developing as part of the overall strategy to progress through each zone.

If you’re the kind of gamer that likes to move through levels quickly without thinking about each area then this game isn’t really for you. Ori and the Blind Forest rewards gamers who like to learn and adapt to each new environment and patiently overcome challenges instead of becoming easily frustrated. Being honest, I lost my cool a couple of times, but at no point did I really want a break from this game, mainly because its steady pace and hypnotic imagery creates an ‘at least one more go’ mentality. Also, every mistake feels avoidable because the game is so expertly balanced to provide clever, rhythmic solutions to all perils, and this is partly why so much time disappears when playing, especially for the stubborn gamers among us. In fact, no death ever felt cheap or unnecessary, and so I didn’t mind making Ori suffer for my incompetence from time-to-time because I didn’t feel defeated.

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Ori has a swim

Ori and the Blind Forest does a good job of motivating you to play it, and that’s largely down to the subject matter. After all, we all hate death so when a video game implements the concept with a deceased parent figure so early on we find ourselves trying to do anything we can to resist it, or even reverse it (it is a fantasy world after all). That’s why no matter how much adversity is thrown at our little protagonist, Ori continues to fight because we don’t want to lose what’s important. We want to save our friend, and we want the good times that Ori once had to return. This is what makes this game so addictive: this determination to save Ori’s parent and restore harmony to Nibel. In fact, this emotional response is the main reason I played on instead of passing the game to somebody else after the initial trauma I experienced from the interactive opening scene. Whether I saved Ori’s friend or not… You will have to play it yourself to find out.

Ori and the Blind Forest is a standout title that plays very well and offers beautiful imagery, but the true triumph for the developer Moon Studios is the emotional attachment it provokes immediately. Or and the Blind Forest has a heavy focus on emotional connection, but if feelings don’t work for you then don’t worry because there is plenty of enjoyment to be had from clever gameplay.

Editorial · Nintendo · Video Games · Video Games Industry

Nintendo Game Boy 25th Anniversary

By James Daly

The Nintendo Game Boy is the most iconic handheld gaming console. Famously strong enough to survive a bombing, the only thing more fortified is the legacy it left behind after it was discontinued in 2003. To my generation, the Game Boy represented where all video games began with its compact screen, minimalist command keys, and wealth of iconic titles.

Nintendo made their first big contribution to Video Gaming in 1983 when they released the Famicom in Japan, before releasing it to the rest of the world as the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1984. The NES brought the joy of arcade gaming into the home thanks to its user-friendly nature, and a string of memorable video gaming franchises that cemented the console’s iconic status.

Game Boy Games
Countless games graced the Game Boy

Though Nintendo had released handheld games in the past with Gunpei Yokoi’s Game & Watch series, the Game Boy was part of a generation of consoles that changed video games for the better. The Game Boy defined Nintendo’s business model when it outclassed its technologically superior rivals to become the most successful handheld console of its time through iconic mascots, and games that focused on replayability. This success continued, and now the Game Boy along with the Game Boy Color has sold over 118.69 million units worldwide.

As for the games, The Game Boy catered for a variety of tastes, ranging from Super Mario Land to Alleyway. The latter was essentially a copy of Breakout, but Super Mario Land was a stunning game that cleverly differed enough from the Mario games on the NES that it proved to be a console seller. The core strength of Game Boy games was that they offered the optimum level of immersion with the convenience of portability. Gamers could play state-of-the-art sports simulation games on public transport, in waiting rooms, or any other place that separated them from their home console. Bear in mind that this was a world before smartphones and laptops were ubiquitous.

Game Boy
The Nintendo Game Boy is a gaming icon

As the Game Boy was joined by the Game Boy Color, gaming changed forever again with the release of the first Pokemon games. The potential for unique gaming experiences had never been so big before, and yet ironically this series debuted on a handheld device! Pokemon took immersion to a magical level, and combined that with a new kind of replayability. Most importantly, Pokemon was the first video game titan to be exclusively handheld, which meant that Nintendo had yet another console seller on their hands. Though Pokemon games would feature on other consoles later, none of them were made in the same vain, thus assuring the importance of the Game Boy.

In short, the Nintendo Game Boy redefined video gaming by being the perfect digital companion. Having a durable console with battery life long enough to play anywhere at anytime opened up possibilities for game developers, and this resulted in a superb back catalogue of handheld video games. The Nintendo Game Boy is what really started the tradition of big games on a tiny screen, and this is why we have the Nintendo 3DS/2DS, and arguably the PlayStation Vita today.

Happy 25th Anniversary, Game Boy! We wouldn’t be here without you.