How Marvel’s Marketing Works So Well

Marvel has been consistently dominating the box office since The Avenger’s hit theaters in 2012, but why has that been? How have the kept the franchise going so strong? There are two large factors for that: Building Narrative and Style.

Building a Powerful but Accessible Narrative

The Record setting Team-up that would change movie franchises forever. Image Source: http://collider.com/marvel-avengers-assembled-blu-ray-delayed/

We all know how The Dark Knight blew the world away with its take on a superhero movie, but Marvel was able to do something no one thought possible before. They created a Universe. Everyone knows how it was done. Establish individual heroes and then create a team-up. But how has the hype continued? How has the interest kept going?

While Thor The Dark World may not have been as amazing as people hoped, its still entertaining and will affect the future events. Image Source: http://www.joeydevilla.com/2013/08/03/too-close-for-comfort-the-iron-man-3-and-thor-the-dark-world-posters/

The reason is that Marvel focused on making each installment an important chapter, one that always builds. Each “Phase” has a number of movies for individual hero or hero teams that leads to another large-scale Avengers. But even the movies in-between show the after effects of each big event and the crucial steps to the next. This makes each film feel like its own event. But each film does well to nod at what happened before. Marvel makes it so you can enjoy Age of Ultron without seeing Winter Soldier, but the narrative will be far more rewarding if you do. And it feels less like a chore because of their consistent quality. Leading to the Second Point:

Marvel’s Style

A complaint I often hear is that Marvel movies are too similar. That’s fair, many have a similar structure, and it isn’t hard to find a hero who’s snarky. However, I believe that though they may be similar, it makes their world more authentic. While Doctor Strange and Ant Man may have ingredients as to what made Iron Man such a treat, they still have their own identity.

Ant Man is nearly a straight heist film, Doctor Strange is a surreal and and imaginative character journey, and Guardians is a Space Opera with a retro swing.

Marvel film’s style often reflects the light tone, but films like

Many studios are trying to make their own universe to…less than great results. Image Source: http://www.impawards.com/2017/mummy_ver3.html

Civil War and Winter Soldier show the harsh effects of debates without a clear right and wrong. They ask: security or freedom? Appeasement of the public or the saving of many?

Marvel knows how to walk the line with these questions, but doesn’t try to take itself too seriously. It knows the weight and doesn’t try to make it seem heavier. Now every other studio is trying to make a consistent universe, from Kong Skull Island to The Mummy. The Marvel movies are by no means perfect, but with Avengers 4 coming, I don’t see the Marvel train losing steam anytime soon.

Why Don’t People like Annual Games Anymore?

Many of us have to wait what seems like an eternity to finally get that long-awaited sequel or prequel we have always craved. But there are some games that don’t take such a long development cycle. I’m talking about annual entries of games. Some examples would include Call of Duty, Assassins Creed, Madden, Fifa, and Halo to name a few. However, it seems like people are looking at these series with more and more disdain.Why is this? My thought: it’s the problem of too much of a good thing.

The Madden series may not be perfect, but it has definitive reasons to come out every year. Image Source: Walmart.com
The Madden series may not be perfect, but it has definitive reasons to come out every year. Image Source: Walmart.com

Sometime people want a sequel but what they get isn’t what they had hoped for. You also run into the problem of people taking it for granted. “Why should I get excited for this? It comes every year.” For some games however, it’s expected. Mostly sports games have these annual installments. This makes sense as rosters change, new players are added to teams, members are drafted and stats changed. People want to use players in a different way, and introduce new ones on their team. There’s a reason for the sequel there. This it ties into another problem annual releases have: not enough reason.

Let’s take Assassin’s Creed. The series has done such great work trying to bring history to life and making a great saga. However, after the third game, the response to them went down. This was due to the third game finishing the framing narrative of the series. Assassins Creed 4 did well however, as people saw it as less restrictive and less likely to be bogged down by a narrative many thought had run it’s course. But then Unity and Rogue were released. People picked up on the purpose of these. The story and experience wasn’t as important to the developers. What was important to the developers was keeping the game popular.

Probably the lowest point of the series, Assassin's Creed Unity highlighted the lack of polish and the want to push out a product. Image Source: Moby Games.com
Probably the lowest point of the series, Assassin’s Creed Unity highlighted the lack of polish and the want to push out a product. Image Source: Moby Games.com

This is counter-productive however. If you want something to remain popular, keep it fresh. Keep what people loved about the old but give them something new. It can be alluring to have an annual upsurge of millions of copies sold for your development company. Even though Infinite Warfare isn’t what people wanted, it’s still selling copies. But it’s projected to sell much lower than hoped. The numbers have been consistent over the years, but they seem to be going slightly down. More than that, they are resonating worse with fans. Hopefully annual releases can become “I can’t wait for that this year” instead of the same thing, but a different year.

Moral Choices in Games, Why do we Love Them?

We’ve all had to make tough choices in games that will affect the story and the characters we care about. Weather it be to save something for ourselves or use it for the benefit of everyone. Moral choices are EVERYWHERE. Most often times they can affect the ending you get. This adds a layer of replayability, but it always gives players a sense of real control over the story. It allows them to react to it a little closer to how they would in actual life.

Oftentimes this can be done very well. Certain moral choices can be hard and not always lead to a good outcome However there are times where obvious black and white scenarios are presented. This you would see in games like Spiderman: Web of Shadows. Worst of all, the times where moral choices are done the worst are when they have very little impact on the story, such as the case in Telltale’s Game of Thrones. It doesn’t work to have a choice that doesn’t matter. Bioshock Infinite however takes that idea and spins it on its head.

No matter how you choose, Bioshock Infinite shows that the choice is yours, but no matter what you pick, another you chose differently. Image Source: videogamesuncovered.com
No matter how you choose, Bioshock Infinite shows that the choice is yours, but no matter what you pick, another you chose differently. Image Source: videogamesuncovered.com

Within that game, the game presents some choices where good and evil are obvious. However, it also presents choices that are meaningless. The brilliance of this is that the game is built around the fact that no choice matters. The one you did not make in this universe, you made in another. This isn’t cheating away the importance of a choice, but strengthening the theme of the game, so much so that you actually experience it and see that nothing changes as a result.

Adding the element of choice also helps make the playable character different depending on how you play the game. This can be seen most especially in games like Infamous. Cole Macgrawth of Delsin Rowe can either be saviors for the cities they are fighting in. Although, they can also choose to

Infamous Second Son has you choose weather you want to do something for yourself or for someone else. Image Source: gamerheadlines.com
Infamous Second Son has you choose weather you want to do something for yourself or for someone else. Image Source: gamerheadlines.com

be feared and become the most powerful. The moral choices you make also effect how you play in the game: using more neutralizing and acrobatic powers for good or more lethal and destructive powers for evil.

Weather they’re done well or not, it seems that moral choices aren’t going to be going away any time soon in the gaming community. And why should they? They invest players in the story. Add more control over the narrative. And make the protagonist feel more like the player themselves. Choose good or choose evil, but we can all agree, its a hell of a time making the choice.

Why Did Guitar Hero and Rock Band Fail?

We all at some point plugged in Guitar Hero or sat at the drums with our friends for Rock Band, but it seems like none of that is around anymore. Rock Band and Guitar Hero each tried a comeback last year, but they only received mixed to average results. The problem? It seems like the concept could have had a great progression, but with its over saturation a few years back, it just ended up becoming a fad.

And what happens to fads? They die. That’s by definition what will happen. They have their glory and then are quickly dropped for the next big gimmick. In order to find out how this came to be, you need to take a look into what caused this failure.

For both series, they each came out with a new entry every year. Not only that, but variations of those entries (Rock Band Beatles, Guitar Hero Van Halen, Rock Band Aerosmith, etc.). It came to the point that nearly three games a year were coming out for both series. As that goes on, it isn’t hard to see that people got sick of it. Why continue to buy the same thing over and over again with slight variations in graphics and different songs?

Everyone remembers the ease of difficulty but still being able to test you more and more. Image Source: Amazon.com
Guitar Hero had a good flow of difficulty but still being able to test you more and more. Image Source: Amazon.com

What could have worked is if they sold less entries but consistently released track packs. This was back in the days where DLC wasn’t as popular, so track packs eventually overlapping into DLC would have been the natural progression. You have people who can buy the entry for a year or so and still be able to get all the songs they want to use.

However, while the various developers could have thought more proactively with their success, they decided to cash in as much as they could as quickly as they could, fearing when it would die. But you can’t over-saturate fearing death of an entry or a genre, what you need to do is see how you can improve it and plan a natural life for it, being more rewarding as the years go on.

If you plan a system like it’s going to die, it WILL die. And that’s not to say that any of the games that came out were bad. They functioned well and had songs everyone loved. Of course they started running thin on music when more and more entries came out, but that could still have exposed people to great unknown rock music. However, the public’s mentality was that it was the same thing with a different coat of paint. Strikingly similar to how people view games such as Call of Duty or Assassins Creed today.

Trying to relive the magic, but not strong enough to make us want to. Image Source: Gamespot.com
Trying to relive the magic, but not strong enough to make us want to. Image Source: Gamespot.com

And when they tried to make a comeback last year, they had a few good ideas thrown into the games, but it wasn’t nearly enough to recapture the attention of the public. Live action bandmates only seemed to raise the cheese level for Guitar Hero Live. Rock Band 4 was hurt by a weak soundtrack and bad publicity.

Hopefully as time goes on these games can reclaim their place as a giant in the gaming world. But for now, plug in your Playstation 2 and relive the nostalgia while you wait.

 

DragonBall Z: The Perfect Game Cycle

Weather you loved it or not, no one can deny what an impact Dragon Ball Z had. For a lot of people, myself included, it was their first introduction to anime. Most remember coming home and trying to catch one of the nineteen (not exaggerating) episodes of Goku fighting Frieza or Gohan fighting Cell. And what better to do with a series that blew up than make a game out of it.

And not just that, but many video games off of it. Its still even to the point where

A game that by no means was bad, but didn’t stand out amongst the mountain of games with it. Image Source: Drangobnball.wikia.com

games are still coming out even now, with Xenoverse 2 scheduled for release later this year. I even contemplated doing a “Games Gone By” of one of the series of games, but there really is no one to choose. Do you consider Budokai  within the same series as Budokai Tenkaichi or Raging Blast as its own line with Ultimate Tenkaichi being a one-off? My point is, is that there is no definitive series for the game.

And why should there be? It can work in a traditional fighting game style (Budokai and Burst Limit) as well as an open range fighting game (Tenkaichi and Raging Blast) or as something entirely different (The Legacy of Goku series on Game Boy). The limits are endless, and no matter how many times you tell the story, it always seems to have people coming back for more.

An element of nostalgia is present for sure, but for a lot of people, they still are just as involved into it as they are Pokemon. But they always progress in what seems like a natural way. Now an online character creator game has been doing well with Xenoverse, and the sequel will no doubt do just as well.

A failed experiment for sure, but Dragon Ball Z Kinect showed the developers trying to listen to what fans wanted. And thankfully this lead to some great changes. Image Source: Game Shogun.com

But why? Why is Bandai Namco able to make game after game? The answer is simple:

THEY KNOW THEIR AUDIENCE

When the Kinect title didn’t work out, they scrapped it and built something familiar but still inventive with Battle of Z. When that did slightly better, they decided to build something that the fans have always wanted by taking the Dragon Ball Online from Japan and making it into Xenoverse for the Playstation 4. The developers listen to feedback, and while they may try and re-use a formula with a new coat of paint on it, they use the formula that worked and fans likes. It still showed that they pay attention to what people like and don’t. And for me, that is extremely important for any consumer company to do.

So now I say, enjoy Xenoverse, but if you can’t afford the newer games, put in one the old Budokai games r Super Dragon Ball Z, because no matter the time, Dragon Ball Z stands out as a beloved franchise that people can enjoy.

 

Games in Development Hell: Do We Love the Chase?

There’s something to be said about games that keep getting pushed back and back that keep us strangely interested. Oftentimes we’re amazed a game is taking so long to come out. Many times we become frustrated with it. But there’s no denying that when a new trailer or rumor about it surfaces, you can bet people flock to forums and get hyped all over again.

The game lives up to its name: it will be horrible forever. Image Source:Giantbomb.com

Take for instance Duke Nukem Forever. This is a game that cemented in people’s minds what it meant for a game to be in development hell. Having been announced in 1996, it took fifteen years for it to come out on the Playstation 3. It traded hands so much people were sure it was never going to come out. But when a release date was announced after so long in 2011, people became hyped as hell. However what they got was a very bland and boring shooter with a notably dated misogynist hero. But that’s not what the game is remembered for. It’s remembered for the constant hope and disappointment roller coaster which was the past 15 years.

Take a more recent example, Final Fantasy 15. Originally marketed as “Final Fantasy Versus 13” in 2006, the game has taken ten years to finally hit shelves, being released this year. What may have been a cool concept for some people in the beginning became an obsession for many. Itching and clawing at any shred of information or rumor they could find.

Coming in the next four years we swear. Image Source: Dual Shockers.com

I have no doubt that this game will sell well when it comes out, but I’m also skeptical to say it will be everything the die-hard optimists have been hoping for.

So why do we keep following these games? Why do we find it so interesting to hear something new that’s been on uncertain ground for so long. My theory: its the uncertainty that is pulling us towards it. It’s the mystery. Wondering if THIS might be the release date trailer or THIS rumor may be true only serves to fuel our obsession with it. Having certainty is great for a lot of people, but it lacks the inherit excitement of what we don’t know and if this hunt is going anywhere.

We as people naturally find some joy in the journey, and sometimes a lot more in it than the destination. So the next time you see people fawning over the next Kingdom Hearts trailer or Half Life 3 rumor and analyzing it to death, remember that for a lot of people, this is the journey, and it may be a bumpy ride, but its one they can’t help but stay on.

Games Gone By: The Force Unleashed

A smaller series this time around but by no means that does that make it bad. Well…not terrible, but it definitely deserved more than what it got. These two games I always see as two of the best Star Wars games that not only has a great original story, but also helps expand what we already know from the original trilogy.

The story is a definite highlight of the first game, exploring a lot of what led to events in the A New Hope. Image Source: entreegeeks.wordpress.com

Star Wars The Force Unleashed came out in 2008 on the Playstation 3, Playstation 2, Xbox 360, and the Wii. In it you play as Starkiller, Darth Vader’s secret apprentice who has been training to help him overthrow the emperor. You are tasked usually with hunting Jedi with your pilot Juno Eclipse and polite yet blood-hungry droid proxy. The game takes you amazing places such as the jungles of Kashyyyk to the junk world of Raxus Prime and many other locations I won’t spoil.  Along the way, you grow to love Starkiller as he questions what he is doing and if you really wants to become a Sith.

The gameplay is a classic hack and slash that lets you really use the force in new and exciting ways. You can force-push, grip, dash, and even use force lightning on your enemies. The combat system even rewards you for mixing multiple kinds of attacks together. Certain enemies are avoidant to certain force powers, so you can’t rely on one power.

However, at the same time a lot of the enemies can be considered cheap, often hitting you right as you get up or attacking long-range from off-screen. This especially true for the Purge troopers.

There’s something to be said about being able to take down a Rancor with relative ease. Image Source: videogamesnet.com

You can also have influence on where the story goes (either being canon are longer applicable after it was placed in the LEGENDS canon). You can even pick the final boss! The darker ending even has a dlc that shows a darker way A New Hope and Empire could have gone.

Also the soundtrack is phenomenal. Take a listen for yourself, it perfectly captures  John Williams’s style and feeling, heightening  the game exponentially.

 

All things considered, I think that this game offers a lot, especially for Star Wars fans. While the cutscenes have some creepy facial animations, the story is still one that pulls you in and makes you feel for what’s going on. It also gives an ironic twist as to the origins of the rebellion. Sadly, the charm and heart was not present in the second game.

More polish than substance unfortunately. Image Source:game-debate.com

The Force Unleashed 2 came out for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, and PC in 2010. The game generated immense hype by showing that Starkiller now using TWO lightsabers, as well as having Boba Fett and Yoda in the story. However, the excitement for the game quickly diminished for most players when they realized they were more than halfway through the game after roughly an hour.

If you like Boba Fett, then you’ll love all 30 seconds of his screentime. Image Source: engadget.com

The story is pitiful. Vader is trying to clone Starkiller, and you play as on of those clones who is still attached to Starkiller’s past. From there, you escape Kamino, try to find your friends, and get revenge on Vader. Unlike the last game, where you go to many exciting locations, in this game you really go to one. You fly to Cato Neimoidia and then you’re on your way back to Kamino. But don’t worry, there is a  good five minutes of Dagobah in-between, and playing on the ship to Kamino. The game also ends with many questions that are never answered, and after Lucasarts was shut down, I don’t think they ever will be.

While the story is abysmal, the gameplay at least seems improved, as well as the graphics. However it feels as though you’re far to powerful in the beginning of the game, and no enemeie seem like a threat. You barely have to strategize to beat them unlike the last game. Its either saber slash or force. That’s it. And large enemies are repeated so often they just feel like a chore to get through.

Oh and the Soundtrack is painfully generic compared to the last, doing reorchestrated (worse) versions of the previous games best tracks.

You stop these missls at least thirty times in the span of two hours of gameplay. And each time its more tiresome than the last. Image Source: gameratedgames.com

This series did have promise, and had the ability to fill in holes fans never expected to see filled. However, with a very mediocre sequel and the shutting down of Lucasarts, it seems like this section of a galaxy far far away will forever be just that. Far away.

Iron from Ice- Telltale Game of Thrones Season 1 Review

When you play the Game of Thrones you win…or you die. However this game doesn’t seem to follow those rules. While its a great prospect to have control in events of Game of Thrones, especially if you are a huge fan of the series like myself, you’ll see that this game quickly drops the ball as the episodes go by.

Gameplay

In typical Telltale fashion, the game places emphasis in how you respond in conversations and choices to advance the story. Often these are presented with multiple prompts for response with a time limit. You can always choose to stay silent as an option. Something handy in these games is that it allows for multiple saves and a “rewind” function, allowing you to amend a decision if you regret it.

The few times there is combat, they are always in the form of quick time events. A lot of them require a lot of trial and error, especially when they need you to hit a certain target, which can be a tad more difficult when not playing on a console.

in typical telltale fashion, you decide wheather you want to bow to another, or stand your ground. Image Source: Gamepressure.com
in typical telltale fashion, you decide whether you want to bow to another, or stand your ground. Image Source: Gamepressure.com

One frustrating element during these quick time events is sometimes the game won’t fault you for missing them and sometimes it will. There was a section where I missed a command prompt and was presented with the death screen (Saying “Valar Morghulis” as would be typical for Game of Thrones). I tried it again and succeeded, but happened to miss a command thirty seconds later, yet the character still dodged and continued just fine. And these combat sections get very monotonous, very fast.

Beyond combat, you are allowed to walk around and examine from time to time. While they help show more of the community you are in and the characters in it, too often it feels like it’s  breaking up the action, and all you want it for it to end.

Graphics

The Telltale art design blends very well with the world of Game of Thrones, helping to create nearly spot-on likenesses of characters (aside from Margaery looking a bit off in my opinion). The lip flaps may not perfect, not always moving in perfect rhythm with what’s said. In one scene,my game didn’t show the mouths didn’t move at ALL. But that same kind of quality doesn’t carry over to the scenery.

Although its pre-rendered, the look gorgeous, especially with the light and atmosphere of each set piece helped to convey the mood and paint the world as vividly as possible.

Ironwrath quickly shows itself to be one of the best designs in the game, making the Forrester castle’s segments the most beautiful. Image Source: Game of Thrones.wikia.com

 

The scenery also works well in tandem with some fantastic music to set up key moments of the story. And that transitions into my next point.

Sound

The voice acting in the game is all-around very well done. Although some characters like, Mira, have voices that are a little too monotone. Image Source: Geeklyinc.com

The music in the game seems like it was taken straight from the show, showing the quality of this original score. Music coming in and out of certain hard and tense decisions only helped to show the gravity of the situation and the risks shown.

For voice acting however, it can be hit or miss. They even bring in actors from the show such as Peter Dinklage(Tyrion Lannister), Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Kit Harrington (Jon Snow),Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen), Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell), and Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Snow). While Dinklage, Headey, Clarke and ESPECIALLY Rheon  bring their characters to life, Dormer and Harrington sound a bit too bored.

For non-show voice actors, they are for the most part very well done. I especially highlight Gared’s voice acting as some of the most moving in the whole game. However, I hope you’re a fan of Yuri Lowenthall, because he is everywhere in this game.

Story

The real highlight of a Telltale game. If you are familiar with the Game of Thrones universe, then you know the setting ideally. If not then the game won’t really hold your hand. You take on the role of several members of House Forrester, a noble house of the North who are loyal to the Stark Family. They are very much like the Starks, but don’t trust the wrong people as easily. Their rivals are the Whitehills, who both fight for control for resources and land.

In continuity of the show, the game begins at the end of Season 3 and the beginning of Season 4. If you haven’t gotten that far in the show then I recommend you stop reading.

Certain characters you can favor more than others, and that will affect their role in the story. Image Source: Gamestar.de

The first episode begins as House Forrester is betrayed by the Boltons and the Freys at the Red Wedding. From there on you play as Gared Tuttle (a servant to House Forrester) at the Wall, Mira Forrester at King’s Landing, Asher Forrester at Essos/Mereen, and Ethan Forrester at Ironwrath, the Forrester family castle. That isn’t the limit of playable characters, but telling you would spoil the game.

Several cast members of the show make an appearance. Some more worthless than others however.  Tyrion and Cercei are hard to outmaneuver and just as crafty as they would be in the show. Ramsay Snow is every bit as sadistic and disturbing as you would expect. However, while it’s great to have Kit Harrington come in as Jon Snow, aside from a minor moment with Gared, he has no impact on the plot. The same could be said for Emilia Clarke as Daenerys. If you aren’t as big a fan of her in the show, then you will despise her in this game, acting overly hostile and going back on deals.

As great as it is to have Gared learn from him as a mentor, Jon really offers nothing in terms of the story, and really acts as more of a glorified cameo. Image Source: IGN.com

One of the biggest criticisms I have for this game’s story is that while oftentimes it will say “Tyrion will remember this” or “Margaery appreciated that”, when really, it has no bearing on what happens later. Characters will completely forget any kindness or slight you’ve done to them in favor of furthering the already set path of the story. Because the story really is on a set path…no matter what you do.

Sure there may be slight variations, but things generally end the same for all characters, and no choices really affect the ending until the final two episodes. However, despite the lack of freedom the game is supposedly built on, the story is actually very good. In classic Game of Thrones fashion you can’t count on anyone to make it out in one piece, but you still grow to love the characters and want the Forresters to make it out on top.

Even the Whitehills are even placed in a human light. While they all seem to be insufferably annoying brutes, they do have some humanity that you can discover, and even exploit if you wanted.

Final Verdict

Season 1 of Telltale’s Game of Thrones starts off very strong but fails to deliver as time goes on. A lot of game changing decisions don’t take place until the final two episodes, but the story none the less is well done. The designs and music help to elevate the story that fits in perfectly within the universe of Game of Thrones. Despite some flaws in the story choices and the quick-time events becoming monotonous, the game is still a good experience, especially if you are a Game of Thrones fan. I recommend if it is ever on sale, then go for it.

A lost opportunity. Image Source: ausgamers.com

Games Gone By: Sly Cooper

Sly Cooper is without a doubt one of the best games series I have ever played. It constantly tried to do things new and expand the universe in many colorful ways. And while a new game may seem like a good idea with its movie supposedly scheduled for 2016, it’s still without definitive plans to continue, so why not take a look.

So simple yet so profound. Image Source: Amazon.com

The first game, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus was released for the Playstation 2 in 2002. The game had a very simple design and a simple concept, but what they ended up doing with it made it work in a way no one imagined.

The premise is a raccoon that’s a thief (because they look like they wear masks, get it?) named Sly who wants to recover the book his ancestors created detailing all of their secrets. This book being the titular Theivius Raccoonous. The book was taken by a gang known as “The Fiendish Five”. Along the way to help him are Bentley the turtle, the tech guy, and Murray the hippo, the driver. You were also on the run in each stage from Sly’s police pursuer/love interest, Inspector Carmalita Fox (whose accent changes in each game). The game’s sense of humor and dramatic storytelling keep it from being too serious but also too grim, finding the perfect sweet spot for a thrilling story of revenge and growth. Especially with an amazing final villain like Clockwerk, an immortal mechanized owl surviving solely on jealousy and hatred.

When your final villain is built up with silhouettes like THIS, you’re doing something right. Image Source: Villains’ Wikia.com

The gameplay was very simplistic. Sly could use his cane to hook onto objects as well as smash enemies and boxes holding loot. There was also a large focus on stealth as well, having Sly avoiding spotlights whenever possible as well as avoiding enemies that could only see you if you walked into their flashlight. However, what a lot of people found to be irritating was  the one-hit kills from all enemies. Sly could pick up a lucky-charm that could let him take one or two shots, but that was the limit, frustrating quite a few fans. Another source of frustration were the turret and driving mini-games that were often brutal and unforgiving.

However, the game managed to fix a lot of its problems with its sequel, which is often heralded as one of the best Playstation 2 games of all time.

One of the best sequels to come out that improved on nearly every aspect. Image Source: Amazon.com

Sly 2 was released on the Playstation 2 in 2004. The game centered around trying to collect pieces of Clockwerk that were stolen by a new gang known as “The Klaww Gang”. Each stage centered around getting a piece or two back, and seeing how each gang member was using them, often in inventive ways (this was seen in using the tail-feathers to print money or the lungs to help fuel a train indefinitely).

Although now, Sly wasn’t the only one out in the field. Now you could play as Bentley and Murray, who both grow as characters the more you play them. Bentley is not as strong as Sly but much more technical and gadget based. Murray on the other hand isn’t as quick or maneuverable but more than makes up for it in brute strength. The game also has a health bar, no longer being limited to one hit kills.

The bosses may overstay their welcome however, as many of them aren’t limited to just one stage. It works for darker characters like The Contessa, but for the forgettable Rajan it just feels like padding.

One character I wanted to get more from was Arpeggio, the leader of the Klaww Gang who was reduced to a joke. Image Source: Sly Cooper Wikia.com

While the story went much more in-depth in terms of character and villains, it still has too many holes in the armor to be truly amazing. Thankfully, the next game in the series manages to keep things concise with even MORE characters.

A game with a few rudimentary backdrops, but an even stronger story. Image Source: Amazon.com
A game with a few rudimentary backdrops, but an even stronger story. Image Source: Amazon.com

Sly 3 came out for the Playstation 2 a year after Sly2,  in 2005. The story picks up a little after the last one ended. Bentley is now in a wheelchair, Murray has gone off to seek redemption as he feels responsible for Bentley’s condition, and Sly is trying to bring his friends back together and claim his birthright: a vault of loot hidden by his ancestors on a remote island.

The game is even more character-driven than the last.  Instead of trying to take down each member of a gang, each level is about trying to persuade different expert thieves to join Sly and the gang take the vault back from Dr. M, the “tech guy” character from Sly’s father’s previous gang and the series’s most interesting villain yet, sans Clockwerk.

Though the inclusion of Don Octavio is fantastic as well. A lion-mobster whose obsessed with people hearing him sing? You couldn’t get more ludicrous and yet so amazing. Image Source: Sly Cooper Wikia.com

The game also includes a lot of new characters that are added to the gang such as an Australian koala guru, a mouse technician, and even a few old enemies have come onto the gang’s side. Those being Dimitri from Sly 2 and the  Panda King from Sly 1, who brings much more sympathy as all he wants is to redeem himself for what he has done and save his daughter. These additions help to foster new interactions and help the group feel more dynamic with its mix of colorful characters.

The gameplay this time around is very similar to Sly 2, however, now Carmelita is also playable, as well as many more mini-games involving the already seen hacking and helicopter/turret stages, but also new ones such as bi-planes and pirate ship battles. This game helped to trim the fat of the last game and make the experience even better. The same was attempted by its sequel many years later, although that unfortunately didn’t live up to expectations.

Too little too late unfortunately. Image Source: Amazon.com
Too little too late unfortunately. Image Source: Amazon.com

Sly Cooper Thieves in Time came out for the Playstation 3 in 2013. The game was green-lit after Sanzaru Games took the previous three games and remastered them for the Playstation 3. With Sucker Punch more focused on making the Infamous series, Sanzaru Games was given the reins on the long-awaited sequel.

The story has Sly and the others going throughout time to save his ancestors, as parts of the Thievius Racconous have been disappearing. Determined to find out what’s going on, Bentley makes a time machine out of the van and they set off to different time periods such as feudal japan, the medieval times, the old west, and even the ice-age.

It can’t be denied that the use of color and lighting in this game makes it look BEAUTIFUL. Image Source: Analogaddict.com

The game had gameplay slightly updated and easier to pick-up, but not enough to be totally foreign to fans of the old series. Also, playing as each of Sly’s ancestors feels welcome and very fun to play, especially Ser Galleth Cooper, the best ancestor in my opinion. However the story seems to fail on building any excitement for the conclusion, especially with a lackluster main villain whose less interesting than his lieutenants. Another strike against it is that it has established characters change personalities out of nowhere (cough Penelope cough cough)

The game also didn’t sell as well as once hoped. With that being a factor, the cliffhanger ending seems like it won’t be fulfilled anytime soon. However, with the movie coming out presumably sometime this year, the attention it could get may warrant a return of the master thief in the near future.

Here’s hoping we’ll see him back soon. Image Source: news.cheatcc.com

 

Why the Concept of Kingdom Hearts Works

Kingdom Hearts is one of those series that has caused such a strong divide in people online. People either herald it as a masterpiece, or as a an over-hyped fanbase pandering mess. I’m of the opinion that the series is very good… but suffers from a LOT of problems. But that being said, what I want to talk about today is why I think the series works as a great concept.

One of these things may not be like the others, but that’s not necessarily bad. Image Source: Moviepilot.com

One big complaint people have is they can’t take a game that mixes Final Fantasy and Disney seriously. However, I’d like to think that they’re a chemical combination that strangely works. When you think of typical cross-over ,the formula would the Final Fantasy characters would be in complete shock seeing characters as whimsical and cartoonish as Disney. And while it would be presented as comical, a lot of people would find it groan-inducing. But that’s not the case here.

Characters like Cloud Strife or Sid see it as perfectly natural. Final Fantasy is not without its silly elements, such a moogles, chocobos, or the hairstyles, so it isn’t too hard to believe that seeing such wacky characters would be too much of a shift for them.

While it may be jarring at first, its very interesting to see polar opposites like Cloud and Hades working together. Image Source: Moviepilot.com

The disney characters bring some levity to the often serious dilemmas, but they don’t do so in a way that lessens the struggle or the severity of the situation. Hell, Mickey Mouse is presented as a wise and powerful warrior. And while he may have his moments of playfulness, he still inspires hope and courage in Sora. And to me, thats why I think the series works.

The worlds are being brought together, from Final Fantasy to Disney, but in the end of the day, they pursue through the darkness and try to find hope together. They even make sacrifices for one another.

Sorry as it is to say, some combinations still don’t work. The Pirates of the Caribbean stage most especially. Image Source: USGamer.net

The games also manage to bring together two existing universes into a new one that is able to have its own lore. Granted the lore can get EXTREMELY convoluted, but it still tries to create personality and establish a history. The struggle against heartless and darkness itself is one that never seems to end, but that’s ok, and thats what it teaches to children. That the evil in the world may never truly go away, but we do what we can despite it.

No one can deny that the “Dive to the Heart” stages help set up a wonderfully gorgeous yet surreal atmosphere. Image Source: Kingdom Hearts Wikia.com