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by Ethos

Alan Wake Review – Fear The Dark

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

LIKED:

-Solid combat mechanics

-Some intriguing storytelling

-Some impressive atmospheric moments

DISLIKED:

-Major lack of atmospheric focus

-Some awkward storytelling

-Repetitive gameplay

Alan Wake is a strange beast. Billed on its own boxart as a “psychological action thriller,” Alan Wake is a solid action/horror experience built on some solid gameplay mechanics. It tells a clever, twisting story that managed to hold my interest until the end. And, at its finest, it does garner some atmospheric merit. But while Alan Wake does many things well, it never manages to jump off the page in any meaningful way. The result is a game that is fun to play, but ultimately, rather unfulfilling. Read on, and I’ll explain.

STORY

Alan Wake often draws comparison to Quantic Dream’s interactive thriller, Heavy Rain. The only real reason for this is that both games share an emphasis on storytelling. Alan Wake is (or attempts to be) a psychological thriller, filled with all the mystery, intrigue, and plot twists that you’d expect. The premise is quite basic, and quite familiar: Alan Wake is a struggling writer, hoping to enjoy a quiet vacation with his wife, Alice Wake, in Bright Falls – a quaint (read: absurdly fucking creepy) little mountain town. Unfortunately for Mr. Wake, things go wrong mere moments after he checks into his cabin. Alice is assaulted and thrown into an icy lake to drown. Alan dives after her, but quickly blacks out. He wakes up a week later, with no memory of what’s occurred in the last seven days – the last thing he remembers is the drowning figure of his wife. From there, shit just gets crazy, for lack of a better phrase. Alan soon discovers that the events unfolding around him are the living manifestation of a novel he wrote – with himself as the main character.

I won’t discuss specifics any further. Credit must be given where it’s due: Alan Wake’s storytelling has some real merit. The concept is quite clever indeed, and it’s a mystery that’ll keep you guessing until the end. Unfortunately, though, as clever as the plot may be, the execution often falters. While playing Alan Wake, it’s difficult not to draw comparisons to several other comparable stories – Silent Hill, Shutter Island, The X-Files, Secret Window… the list could go on, frankly. It’s actually somewhat vexing, as is the game’s liberal use of tired, clichéd horror conventions. Sure, the horror genre is built on certain conventions, but Alan Wake seems to go out if its way to include each and every one of them. Creepy little resort town with a dark secret? Check. Old woman with cryptic, forboding words that come true later? Check. Missing wife? Check. Dudes with chainsaws? Check. Check, check, check, it’s all there. I promise.

Now, as we all know, a story doesn’t have to be particularly original in order to succeed. What matters most is how well it’s told. Are the characters robust? Is the pacing efficient? Is the scripting strong? Does it build a cohesive atmosphere? These are the questions to be asked, and when it comes to Alan Wake, the answer is “not quite.”

Alan Wake is an entertaining protagonist, and he’s characterized well during the game. However, he’s also the only character in the game that’s developed to any extent. Nobody else is given any meaningful attention, and that includes Alice, Alan’s missing wife. It’s kinda difficult to give a damn about her, or her grim fate, because the game devotes absolutely no screen time to her.

Something that really annoyed me throughout Alan Wake was the absurd amount of pseudo-foreshadowing that never paid off, and never made sense. I’m referring mainly to the radio and TV transmissions that you can listen to/view during the course of the game. On the radio, you’ll usually hear an excerpt from some talk show, and the subject matter is so vague and pointless that you can’t even tell if it’s even supposed to be foreshadowing. On TV, you’re generally treated to scattered episodes of a horror show called Night Springs. Obviously an homage to The Twilight Zone, the show always tells the tale of something weird and supernatural. But again, while it’s clearly supposed to provide some sort of insight or foreshadowing, it’s never clear what that is. I spent an substantial amount of time during Alan Wake standing still, watching TV or listening to the radio. And, after beating the game, I’m still not sure why.

The most damning flaw, though, is this: Alan Wake gravely suffers from a lack of focus when it comes to setting and atmosphere. The game can never quite decide if it wants to be a Silent Hill-esque psychological thriller or an X-Filesy supernatural action flick. One moment, you’re walking through the woods, shrouded in darkness, flinching at every sound. The next, you’re cruising around in one of the game’s several bizarre vehicular sequences, mowing down zombies in a way that’d make Woody Harrelson proud. The next, you’re having epileptic visions of futuristic space-men in makeshift Big Daddy costumes. (I’m being dead serious.) What this grab-bag of plot elements does is ensure that Alan Wake never manages to reach the level of atmospheric genius that it occasionally teases. Also, as you can probably gather, a lot of it is simply ridiculous in its own right. I rolled my eyes more than a few times.

Don’t get me wrong: Alan Wake is an entertaining yarn. But for every clever twist or shocking revelation, there’s an equally stupid tangent or senseless revelation to make sure the story never reaches the level of narrative mastery it strives for.

GAMEPLAY

The storytelling may be all over the map, but Alan Wake’s gameplay is based on some very simple, very solid mechanics that make it an oddly fun game to play.

Gameplay is straightforward enough. You make your way through dark, creepy environments with a both a flashlight and a weapon in hand. Creepy shadows known as Taken attack you often, and in order to defeat them, you must first focus your light on them, and then shoot them.

Alan Wake is oddly combat-intensive. At times, you’re up against close to a dozen enemies at once – and your arsenal of weaponry can become quite robust. Pistols, flare guns, shotguns, and flashbangs make for some explosive combat sequences. It’s an odd thing; these bombastic combat sequences seem rather out-of-place in a survival-horror game, and yet, they’re some of the strongest moments Alan Wake has to offer. Taking down a hoard of Taken with an assortment of flashbangs and bullets can be extremely satisfying indeed.

But, while blowing away zombies is well and good, Alan Wake is missing that crucial element of helplessness. Simply put, the game far overpowers you, and because of this, it’s just not that scary. In a good survival-horror experience, the emphasis should be on conservation and survival. Bullets should be scarce, enemies should be overpowering, and there should be a constant, gnawing sense that death is close at hand. In Alan Wake, you don’t get that feeling, because you spend 90 percent of the game decked out like a nerdy Rambo. Ammo is absurdly plentiful; I can recall one, and only one instance, in which I actually ran out. And, while you’d think the addition of a flashlight would only make resource management more of a challenge, I never ran out of batteries. Ever. Probably because the damn things recharge, for whatever reason. (Not even the Energizer Bunny can do that, Remedy.) I found many creative ways to slay zombies in Alan Wake; but I never once feared for my life.

Alan Wake’s gameplay also suffers in that it tends to be quite repetitive. Mission variety is sorely lacking; rarely is there an objective aside from “travel from point A to point B.” And it’s the same every time – walking down dark path, pausing to slaughter the occasional hoard of Taken, and then resuming dark path-walking. Occasionally you might have to power a generator or open a gate, but that’s about it. There are a few notable exceptions – Alan’s escape from a mental institution comes to mind, as does a very tense gameplay segment involving bear traps. But, overall, Alan Wake tends to be a very repetitive – and thus, predictable – experience.

Alan Wake is a fun game to play. Combat is satisfying, and the night-shrouded environments are fun to explore. But, as a survival-horror experience, it just doesn’t work. Unless you have a serious aversion to the dark, Alan Wake probably won’t scare you in the least.

GRAPHICS

Alan Wake looks really good in motion. In-game environments are gorgeous. Sure, they’re all dark and shadowy, but Alan Wake makes the night look both beautiful and unsettling. Most of the time, your path is illuminated only by the flashlight you carry, and the effect is really quite mesmerizing. By necessity, the lighting effects of the game are flawless. The beam from your flashlight behaves with remarkable realism. Dramatic lighting effects such as the glow from flares lights up the screen in a spectacular fashion.

Alan Wake has a lot of technical wizardry behind its in-game graphics; unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the cinematics. Alan Wake has a lot of cinematics, and by modern standards, they’re pretty damn ugly. Character models are washed-out, low-poly, and poorly detailed. Animations – particularly facial animations – are absolutely laughable, and really detract from some of the dialog scenes. Also, for whatever reason, many of the cinematics suffer from dramatic artifacting.

In short, Alan Wake looks good during gameplay. Once the cinematics start rolling, things get ugly.

SOUND

Alan Wake really could have benefited from a more intricate sound design. It’s hard not to recall 2008’s Dead Space, and its masterful use of sound to build its atmosphere. Alan Wake has no such mastery in its sound design; in fact, none of it really stands out. On top of that, the voice acting isn’t particularly strong, and the music is mostly forgettable. None of it is bad – it’s just regrettably mediocre.

CONCLUSION

Alan Wake is frustratingly middle-of-the-road. It’s a solid, but unamazing interactive experience that always feels like it’s on the edge of brilliance. But, strive as it may to reach that goal, it’s hindered by a lack of focus, and an inability to break the mold in all but the smallest of ways. The game is a classic example of a missed opportunity for greatness, as well as an example of undeserved over-hype. The ending to the game implies that sequels could follow, and I’d really like to see Remedy take another crack at things – but, sadly, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Alan Wake - 7.5/10

Lazy Saturdays #05 – Not So Lazy

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Well, for a change, this particular Saturday has been anything but lazy. Why? Because I worked from 7 a.m. till noon. It was all overtime, too, which is very nice. Waking up at 6 a.m.? Not so nice. But, I’ve been doing it for the last two weeks. Last night I passed out at seven fucking p.m. No, I’m not kidding. I was exhausted. Why was I exhausted? Because I can’t adjust to this early morning bullshit, that’s why. I’m a NIGHT person, goddammit.

But, while I might prefer the hours of my previous job, my current job doesn’t make me hate my life on a regular basis. So. I suppose it’s a good tradeoff.

Anyway, um, yeah. It’s still Alan Wake week. I actually haven’t managed to play much more of the game. (Working 47 hours in a week tends to limit one’s playtime.) But, I’m hoping to get some more time in today, and I have tomorrow completely off, so you’ll hear some more about it for sure. And who knows, maybe Ethan will find the time to write more about it than an obligatory paragraph at the end of Scatter Storming.

Well, while I have your attention, can I interest you in some links?

Freakin’ Sweet: original BioShock pitch posted online for the reading pleasure of allnow this is just really fucking cool. If you have any interest in BioShock, and even if you don’t, you should hit the link above. Eight years after Irrational Games pitched the idea of BioShock, the nine-page document has been made available to the public. Instead of explaining to you how cool that is, I suggest you hit the link and see for yourself.

Well, actually, I will explain how cool it is. I’ve never actually seen or read a videogame pitch before, so it was definitely an interesting look into what it takes to get a publisher to back your project. Also, given the ambitious nature of BioShock both as a game and a concept, it’s obviously quite interesting to see how all the many ideas behind the game originated. Some of them remained intact, many of them changed, and some of them actually ended up in BioShock 2, as it were.

Anyway. Seriously. Click the link. It’s the most interesting thing you’ll read this weekend.

Rockstar: If you buy our games for your kids, you’re a “terrible parent”I’m not sure why this strikes me as odd, but… it just does. While speaking to the BBC about the recently-released Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar’s Lazlow Jones had this to say about the violent and/or questionable content that’s become a trademark of Rockstar’s software:

Our games are not designed for young people. If you’re a parent and buy one of our games for your child you’re a terrible parent. We design games for adults because we’re adults. There’s a lot of kids games out there that we’re not interested in playing. Just like you enjoy watching movies and TV shows with adult themes and language and violence that’s the kind of thing we seek to produce.

Well, the dude hits the nail on the head, I can’t deny that. But to me, there’s just something distinctly suck-up-ish about a Rockstar rep blasting parents who purchase violent games for their children; especially given the rather colorful, controversial past the company has had. (Hot Coffee, anyone?) Still, though, he’s totally right. Parents who buy that stuff for their 6-year-olds are the reason we have the controversy in the first place.

I stole this from Gizmodo because I thought it was funny.

AT&T jacks up early termination fees, offers stupid explanation – I’m positive that there’s more to this than meets the eye. Don’t know what I’m implying? Well, give me a moment.

AT&T, the sole provider (currently) of the iPhone in North America, is raising the early service termination fee for smartphones from $175 to a whopping $325. Nope, that’s not a typo; they really are giving their customers 150 more reasons to stay with them. (At least for the initial two years.)

So, if you were hoping to get out of that expensive iPhone contract sometime soon, you might wanna think again. However, if you’re the owner of an AT&T feature phone or messaging phone, your ETF just got lowered by $25. What could the reason be for all this? Here’s AT&T’s explanation:

The idea is, and we think that it’s fair approach, that if you spend less on a device, your early termination fee should be less. If you spend more, your early termination fee should be more.

Okay, while I agree that entirely arbitrary termination fees should be done away with, this does not explain why AT&T decided that it should cost an extra hundred-and-fifty-fucking dollars.

So. Since they won’t explain it, I will.

It’s quite simple. For some time now, it’s been rumored that Verizon, AT&T’s biggest competitor, is working on an iPhone deal with Apple. It’s a rumor that hasn’t been squashed (which is a de facto confirmation in my eyes) and if it’s true, it means that AT&T’s about to lose the lucrative exclusivity they’ve enjoyed for three years now.

On top of that, it’s common knowledge that Verizon’s 3G coverage is a hell of a lot more reliable than AT&T’s. Also, people just like Verizon more, generally speaking. (I’m too lazy to go dig up info on actual market shares.) So, if and when Verizon lands this deal, I guarantee you that there will be a) a lot of new iPhone users, and b) a lot of people jumping ship.

Starting to see where I’m going with this?

If not, here it is: I think AT&T is raising the ETF on their smartphones because Verizon is very close to landing the aforementioned deal with Apple, and they’re afraid of people terminating contracts and jumping ship. So, they’re very aggressively discouraging it.

Good things do come to those who wait, I suppose. And ridiculous termination fees come to those who don’t. Remember that.

Killzone 3 is coming… in 3D, no lesswe knew Killzone 3 was coming, just not when. And…well, I guess we still don’t know when. But, we know for sure that it’s coming, because the latest issue of GamePro says so. Subscribers already have the issue in their grubby little hands, and it’s packed with details on the game. Now, I don’t know or care much about Killzone, but the juiciest details seem to be:

-The game will be playable in 3D

-The game will have jetpacks. Awesome jetpacks, too, not the lame jetpacks you see in “other games.”

-The game will… be like Inglourious Basterds? What?

Anyway. Hit the link above for a long, easy-to-read list concerning the game’s new features, courtesy of VG247. And while you’re at it, maybe check out this other VG247 for an additional fun fact: apparently Guerilla Games has been working with Naughty Dog, the creators of Uncharted, to build Killzone 3’s graphics engine. Given the fact that Uncharted 2 is far and away the best-looking console game ever made, that can only be a good thing.

Well, I’m dangerously close to my 1000 word limit, so I guess we’d better wrap this up.

Actually, I don’t have a 1000 word limit. I just wanna wrap this up.

-Riddles

I have something of Riddles’…

Friday, May 21st, 2010

I was doing a little cleaning yesterday, and look what I found! I wonder if I’ll find any embarrassing gems inside…

Scatter Storming. Issue #030

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Oh MAN, you wouldn’t believe the shitty shit shit I just had to sit through. I went to see a variety show of comedy that my friends were opening. They were great, knocked it out of the park, and I decided to stay for another act, and oh JEEZ. I’m going to have to start my Scatter Storming this story is so insane.

In which Ethos needs to let a traumatizing experience out of his system -
There are some terrible things that are so bad they’re good. Some awkward moments that actually relieve tension. This evening, ladies and gentlemen, I witnessed an amateur performance so bad that it out terrible’d terrible.

It all started with the worst MC in the history of history. He was awkward and quiet and mumbling. I was so excited for his drawn-out introduction to be over because it would mean the dawn of a new act and I could stop wishing I was elsewhere. If only I knew how badly I’d be begging for the return of that MC, because out stepped that kid. Y’know, that kid in high school that thought he was your best friend after you were the first person not to tell him to fuck off. He’d follow you around the school and invite you over to his house to let his mom make you grilled cheese while you watched Star Trek reruns squished into a couch so small that it felt like it was designed for an eighth of a dwarf. That guy came out to start a stand-up act. But if only it was a stand-up act. It took him 4 minutes to even start talking. He thought it was hilarious to take his fucking time with everything. Setting up meticulously slowly as if an Andy Kaufman impression. A REALLY REALLY BAD impression. It was painful to watch. But then he spoke. He was doing character stand-up. Not always a bad thing, and I thought it kinda half-worked half the time, although he had no charisma or comedic timing. But then he went from stand-up routine into a half-lecture about the circular nature of time. It was as if he had just heard a first-year philosophy lecture and thought he was top-shit with his “brand new” ideas. But we’re not done yet…

Oh no, after Awkward McPretentious (let’s just call him Larry here on out) confused and bored his audience with dime-store philosophy, he proceeded to ask his viewers to raise their hands if they were scared of the future. The ones who did (I absolutely refused to participate regardless of my feelings) were asked to come to the front of the stage. Then he slapped each one on the head and called them stupid. HILARIOUS, RIGHT?! Jesus fuck, then he went back to the cyclical nature of time, warning everybody that we would be living with cavemen in the near future. Which of course led to talk of an experiment he had been working on for years.

Now, let me pause for a minute to let you all know that even if I’m making no sense to any of you, I can promise that Larry was taking 17 times as long and being 39 times less coherent than I am in my recounting.

I'd rather watch Master of Disguise again

Anyway, Larry proceeded to baffle and anger us all with nonsensical talk of some caveman specimen he had been growing inside an artichoke. “Okay,” I thought “he’s going to pull out an artichoke”. Fine, anything to distract from the abortion I was sitting through. But no, somehow Larry had wrangled somebody to dress up like a fucking artichoke and enter the room while making barbaric growling noises. Larry then asked any willing audience members to line up and start plucking from the artichoke to begin the birthing process.

Seriously, what the fuck?! Are you reading what I’m typing?! THIS ACTUALLY JUST HAPPENED TO ME!!

At this point, it was too late to leave. There was (somehow) a line forming, and escape was no longer rude but increasingly impossible. But then would have been a better time than when the caveman was finally undressed from the artichoke. And I don’t use the word “undressed” lightly as there was now a mostly-naked man acting like a beagle and crawling around the audience sniffing crotches and licking feet while Larry somehow still droned on about ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Nobody had chuckled in nearly 10 minutes, and the thing had gone from embarrassing stand-up to spectacularly awful performance art.

Then, as if the Gods of Awkward were concentrating all their hate on this small theatre, Larry revealed that the artichoke leaves had messages on them and that the audience members who peeled them off the caveman should read the messages out loud. Not only do I hate audience participation (I’m there for a fucking SHOW, don’t make ME entertain YOU), but these messages weren’t even close to comedic. They were the most indulgent existentialist-fapping clusterfucks of NOTHING I’ve ever heard in my life. And I took film in high school.

Anyway, then after some more really awkward acting, the caveman ended up on stage with Larry, and then the honey came out. Yup, the mother fucking cuntwipe took honey out of his bag and started pouring it all over his artichoke cavebaby. Then he stuck bread to the honey. Then he took a FULL-FLEDGED CHICKEN (cooked, thankfully) out and fed it to the half-naked dog-cavemen.

I am seriously not making an ounce of this up. Then the terrible performance art turned into a sort of one-act play in which the caveman gained the ability to speak and had a conversation with Larry that resembled the worst of any final boss dialogue scenes of a JRPG.

I wish it didn’t get any worse, but it did. Larry took off his suit and started fighting the caveman for the chicken and then they broke out into song. I was expecting 15 minutes of awkward stand-up and I got 40 minutes of utter and complete bullshit.

I tore RIGHT out of there not daring to give another act a chance. I’m still shaking from the trauma. Anyway, about Alan Wake.

Right, games -
Riddles got it right below. Alan Wake is really cool and a lot of fun to play. I also appreciate that Alan is not an instant badass. He feels like an actual human being and that adds to the atmosphere and feeling of vulnerability. I’m also more easily scared than Riddles, and great sound design coupled with a spooky eye in an in-game TV was enough to make me on edge for the entirety of my play session.

But unlike old Ethos, I actually enjoyed the fright. The foreshadowing was really cool, and it was nice to have an X-Files-esque style of the paranormal co-existing with the normal without any additional explanation needed. Bright Falls is a fucked up town, and it’s barely a reprieve from the creepy and dangerous night sections.

Like Riddles, I am completely unimpressed with the animations and lip-syncing during cutscenes. I actually like Alan’s voice work, but his wife is pretty bad, and the scenes are a little tough to watch at spots because of the awkward movement of the characters. Still, the mood is great, and during the action nighttime spots, the game looks great. Really cool lighting and shadow effects make the enemies look extra spooky, and light feel extra powerful. Anyway, I’m not far in, but I am impressed. I like that there’s no easy comparison to any other game.

Star Ocean got more interesting -
The battle system is really deep. But it also involves skill and I just want a RPG to sleepily grind while I fall asleep, so we’ll see how much I play of it.

Happy Birthday, Kaypoe! -
It’s Kaypoe’s birthday today, so I featured him on the cover. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.

Well that’s it. That Larry story really took it out of me. Goodnight all!

Scatter Storming coming tomorrow

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

With Alan Wake impressions and all. Tuesday/Wednesday work days take it out of me.
Here’s a preview:
Alan Wake is really fucking cool, plays well, is scary (for me), and has terrible animations and lip-syncing. Truly awful.

Alan Wake: The First Night

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

So yeah, I started Alan Wake! After penning that massive HLL you see below, I promptly drove across the street to my local GameStop, snagged my copy, and returned home to play. (Man, I love living across the street from a GameStop.)

Actually, my first play session was reduced to 45 minutes. Why? Because Lost came on. And Charlie watches it religiously. (But hey, what Lost fan doesn’t?)

Since then, though, I’ve put in a sizable chunk of gametime. Enough to say that yes, I like Alan Wake. I haven’t been blown away quite yet, but I’m imagining that things only get better from here.

One of the first things you’ll notice when starting Alan Wake is how awkwardly Alan himself controls. He doesn’t move with ease like a typical videogame protagonist; he stumbles, gets tired, and moves with a general awkwardness that adds a distinct realism to the gameplay. Every action, from jumping a fence to firing a gun, feels as if it’s being performed by an actual human, rather than an action hero. This makes combat scenarios tense, and very challenging – if you’re not careful, you’ll be quickly killed.

But, while I’ve had some tense moments, I haven’t really been scared yet. This might be because the game’s initial hours spend so much time setting up the story. Alan Wake is a very plot-intensive game, which isn’t a bad thing – so far, it’s all fairly interesting. The dialog strays toward the melodramatic often, but given the nature of the game – it’s essentially meant to read like a novel – it’s forgivable. The voice acting is solid,though perhaps not as solid as it should be for a game with so much dialog.

Graphically, the game is a bit of a mixed bag. The real-time game environments actually look quite good; there’s some real artistry behind the visuals of Alan Wake. Environments are generally shrouded with darkness, with only your tiny flashlight to illuminate the path. It’s all suitably eerie, atmospheric, and oddly beautiful.

However, aside from the in-game visuals, Alan Wake tends to be pretty ugly. Character models during cutscenes don’t look particularly detailed, and facial animations are generally awful. The only exception from this rule is Alan Wake himself, and even he doesn’t look impressive. Heavy Rain, this is not.

I really don’t feel that I’ve played enough of Alan Wake to form a real opinion on it. It’s clear that there’s complex mystery to be unfolded over the course of the game, and in the opening hours I’ve barely scratched the surface. But as I said, I’m enjoying it quite a bit so far.

Later tonight, a certain Ethos should be posting his thoughts on the game in the form of a Scatter Storming. Look for it! And look for more of my thoughts on the game later this week.

-Riddles

Hey! Look! Listen! #54

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Oh, hey! It’s this column!

I know I only missed a week, but it feels… longer. But, then again, last week felt like it lasted for 327 years, so that might be why. In any case, I’m back, and sincerely happy to be here. I have seen the world outside, and it’s a far less pleasant place than Riddlethos.

Generally speaking.

I actually *don’t* have Alan Wake at this exact moment, but that’s only because I rushed home to begin work on this very article. Still grabbing it tonight, and I’ll have impressions up by tomorrow evening at the latest. Or, if I’m feeling crazy enough, tonight. (Don’t count on that one, though. Just throwing it out there. To torture you.)

Final Fantasy XIII Sells 5.5 Million, Square Enix Has Record Year

I didn’t realize until now, but during its 2009-2010 fiscal year, Square Enix released a numbered Dragon Quest, a numbered Final Fantasy, and two Kingdom Hearts games. The result? Money, and lots of it.

In an earnings report today, Square Enix announced that their games division had seen a 128.4 % increase in sales over the previous year, to 109,949 million yen. Operating income went up 254% over the previous year to 23,814 million yen. All considered, it’s the best fiscal year they’ve had since the Square and Enix merger in 2003.

Impressive, eh? You can thank Final Fantasy XIII, sad as that is to say. It’s sold a combined 5.55 million units since its release in Japan last year. Perhaps even more absurd, though, is the four million strong that Dragon Quest IX pushed – seeing that it was only released in Japan.

So, despite the apparent loss of their ability to make good RPGs, Square Enix isn’t going anywhere. And that’s all I’m really taking away from this. (IGN)

Square Enix “Looking Into” Releasing Vs. XIII on 360

Totally called this. Not that it’s much of a “call” these days. Publishers tend to release games on multiple platforms. It makes sense, and it’s not as difficult to do as it (apparently) once was.

During an investor meeting, in which financial matters (such as those in the story above) were being discussed, Square Enix’s president Yoichi Wada had this to say concerning Final Fantasy Vs. XIII’s multiplatform-ness:

“We’ll be looking into it internally until right before the formal announcement.”

Looking into it. Alrighty then. You know what I’d like to see, now that I think about it? A breakdown of how many copies that Final Fantasy XIII sold on the 360. I have a feeling that, if I could see one, I might be able to predict their decision. (VG247)

Aggregate Ranking Roundup: Alan Wake, Prince of Persia, Red Dead Redemption

As you’ve likely gathered, it’s Alan Wake Week here at Riddlethos. But, Alan wasn’t the only contender for the “honor” – a certain Prince and an assortment of outlaws from the Old West made fine arguments in their favor. Now that the week is here, how exactly are the three games faring in the critical realm?

Sitting comfortably on the first place position is Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption. It’s currently holding down a 95.79% aggregate score on GameRankings. (It’s worth noting, I suppose, that the PS3 version only has a 93.36%). Impressive. Most impressive. Only based on twelve reviews at this point, but still. Maybe we should have made this Red Dead Week. Oh well.

Coming in at number two is our very own Alan Wake, with an aggregate score of 84.40% And that’s based on 40 reviews. Solid. Quite solid. I’m excited to judge for myself.

And, at number three, everyone’s favorite Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands with a 76.00%. That’s only based on five reviews, yes, but… disappointing? The reviews are actually largely positive. But, frankly, when I play Prince of Persia, I’m expecting a masterpiece. Then again, after 2008’s rather underwhelming reboot, maybe I… shouldn’t. Ah well. I’ll buy it and play for myself eventually; frankly, I’m hoping it drops in price as quickly as the last game did.

Aw, C’mon: Mass Effect 2’s Mining Streamlined

I didn’t do a whole lot of mining in Mass Effect 2, which I know did me no favors. (You gotta do it if you want to get higher-level weapon upgrades.) However, the reason I didn’t do much mining in Mass Effect 2 is because it was slow. Very. Very. Slow. It was actually kinda fun in an odd way, but god damn… was it ever slow.

Anyway. I think you catch my drift. The reason I’m writing this story is because BioWare released a patch for the 360 version of Mass Effect 2 (PC patch coming soon, supposedly) that addresses this exact issue. And according to Gaming Today’s Phil Owen, “The scanner now moves very quickly, and the scanner itself is much larger… talk about streamlining.”

Well fuck. That would have been nice four months ago, BioWare. Then, maybe then, I could have acquired that awesome [insert high level something or other here] that I always fucking wanted. (Gaming Today)

Oh, For Fuck’s Sake: Nintendo Attempting to Make New Zelda “Easier to Play”

I haven’t been reminded of this fact terribly often lately, but it remains: I hate, hate, hate, hate Nintendo. So much. So much. So. Much. It started with childish gimmicks like motion controls. Then it was instructional DVDs teaching us how to play games. And now? Well, now they’re taking my once-favorite franchise of all time and… doing god-knows-what. Whatever it is, it can’t be good.

Shigeru Miyamoto, the man who created Zelda, was recently speaking with a German gaming site Gaming Media about the illustrious, unreleased Zelda title for the Wii. (1UP transcribes). During said interview, he claimed that Nintendo was “creating a new way to play the game.” Excitement? No. Definitely not excitement. Why? Here’s why:

“We are trying to make Zelda, which has become very complicated, easier to play.”

Complicated? Complicated?! Complicated?!

Pardon me while my mind explodes.

Ahh, that’s better.

Okay, maybe I’m thinking of the wrong Zelda here. You know, the fucking bread-and-butter of action-adventure games? Crawl dungeons, fight baddies solve puzzles? Again: bread-and-butter. BREAD AND FUCKING BUTTER.

BREAD AND BUTTER IS NOT COMPLICATED.

Oh man. I just… have no words. Link… what are they doing to you over there?

It’s just… I have these awful mental images of everyone’s favorite Hero of Time being chronically sodomized by grinning, aging Japanese businessmen. For a while, I imagined Miyamoto merely sitting on the sidelines and watching; perhaps with a sort of subdued distaste. But now? Well, now’s he’s part of the action. And I just can’t handle that.

…and now that I have concluded the most disgusting tangent ever written on Riddlethos.com, I will take my leave. Goodnight, everyone. Enjoy the mental imagery.

Alan Wake Get!

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Woo-hoo! It feels great purchasing a game solely for Riddlethos purposes. I didn’t have to pay for God of War III or Spirit Tracks, and Mass Effect 2, Pokémon SoulSilver, and Final Fantasy XIII would be for-sure purchases anyway. In fact, I don’t think a Riddlethos theme week has influenced a gaming purchase since Dragon Age. That, my friends, is far too long. I hope Mr. Wake is worth peeing my pants in fear over!

Don't mind the rundown in the background. I'm at work.

Welcome to Alan Wake Week

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Well, um. It’s been a while, eh?

Allow me to sincerely apologize for last week. There were, ah, extenuating circumstances that kept me away from any and all Riddlethos duties. If you were disappointed, all I can tell you is that I was disappointed as well.

Anyway, the plan is to get back on track this week with the long-anticipated release of Alan Wake! I’m actually pretty excited for Wake, which is odd, because I haven’t actually been following the game all that closely. But, perhaps my relative lack of knowledge on the game is part of the reason why I’m excited – I have absolutely no idea what to expect. And, I haven’t had a good videogame scare since Dead Space.

My new sleep schedule, unfortunately, will prevent me from picking up the game at midnight. But, I’ll be grabbing it as soon as I’m off work tomorrow, and going straight home to give it a spin. Hopefully the fact that I didn’t pre-order it won’t be a hindrance.

That’s all I got for now, I suppose. I’m excited to be back, and to be playing a new game. I am not, on the other hand, excited about waking up at 6 a.m.

Goodnight, all!

-Riddles