Observations of Def Jam Vendetta:

Firs there was Rap Jam: Volume 1, then came Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style, now there is finally a decent game about rappers beating each other senseless.

It's another one of those games where I start out cursing the learning curve and promising myself to quit after one more round, then end up still awake at 2am throwing signs at the TV and yelling, "You think you're somethin', bitch?! You ain't shit!!! You're lucky I let you leave able to walk, you lowdown punk!!!"

The last wrestling game I played was the NES Pro Wrestling. I don't follow professional wrestling, and it seems like all wrestling games assume a familiarity with the source material that I just don't have. Also, I am not a patient man when it comes to beating the living shit out of people. Though I do appreciate the complexity and style of the grabs, holds and throws in a wrestling game, a match can drag on for a good fifteen minutes. All these ropebreaks and drawn-out submission moves leave me yawning. Give me a good old 2d fighter anyday.

For all its masculine posturing, it fails to really display any proverbial balls. I don't think it's too much to expect from a game licensing hyper-gangster rap artists that they not censor the f***ing songs. It's bad enough that on the radio I have to hear, "What the (doink) you think you're (boing) with (whump) I got a (hee-haw) for your (tweet) you (fwee) suck my (ahoogah!)" but to hear it in my own home? Fuck that. I want my potty-mouth hip-hop real and uncensored. It really detracts from the whole hardcore underground environment they're trying to portray when the most foul words out of the character's mouths are "bitch" and "ass".

Furthermore, peaking of bitches (no offense to ladies, who are a different species entirely) I don't particularly care for the silly ho-fight bonus levels. See, you have a current chick who's all over your nuts, and then after you win a few fights, a new chick comes along and sets up camp on your jock. They get all up in each other's grills about who gets to ride you johnson and then you pick one to control as they duke it out. If your pick wins, you get the new girl, and your old girl limps away, ashamed, as you and the new girl sneer at her. If your pick loses, the other girl limps away, and the winner gives you the cold shoulder. Stick with the same girl long enough, and you unlock some PG picture galleries of her.

Come one, how much more asinine can we get here, people? Why can't my character have a firm, committed relationship without his current girl fighting new girls all the time, especailly since the whole time, your character has his eye on the Big Boss D-Mob's chick, your ex-girlfriend Angel. How fucked up is that? At least, if they're going to go this route, they could have the gallery pics be nudie shots. I mean, really, if you're going to appeal to my baser tastes, at least have the nerve to appeal to them.


The fighting system is pretty solid, however. Co-Developer AKI apparently has a few wrestling titles under their belt so far and added in the EA Sports Big brand of making everything ridiculously Xtreem. It works.

Judging from the videos on the official site, the rap artists got to have a lot of input into their character's moves, which is cool. However, it seems from the signature moves that most of the Def Jam recording artists are obsessed with genitorture (note: Microsoft Word does not recognize "gentitorture"), and prove it by bashing in opponent's teabags with fists, elbows, knees, feet, foreheads etc. Uh-huh.

Even after these criticisms, I have to say that the game provided a difficult, yet satisfying experience. Though the matches take longer, the moves are very diverse and dynamic. The ring environment and momentum system make this more strategic than the fighting games I am used to, and reward aggression well. If only they had the testicular fortitude to make the game really adult, it would have had a lot more street cred. I'm going to take the initiative and lay down a rule of game deisgn here: If your licensed source material is M-rated, make a fucking M-rated game, you pussy,

I do really enjoy beating up DMX, though. I'm tired of hearing that Party Up song on the radio.

And I've now got some great ideas for more hip-hop label themed wrestling games. Like Death Row Vendetta, where the Big Boss is Suge Knight, and his special move is putting a hit on your ass and having you shot.

I've been trying to think of something really funny to say about Orrin Hatch's bizarre ideas for dealing with people who download pirated music, and just how out of touch with technology said remarks are, but I think they stand pretty well on their own.


Death of the Arcade Part 2: Family Fun

I'm all for family fun as much as the next person, but the Arcade as I fondly recall it was no place for children. They were dark, noisy places full of sullen teenagers, and I liked it that way, being a sullen teenager and all myself at the time. Places like Chuck E. Cheese's and amusement park arcades were avoided by "real" arcade gamers, who much preferred the hole-in the wall spots. In the smaller arcade, you were more likely to find real Street Fighter 2 competition, games which catered more to one's taste, no huge space-wasting skee-ball machines, and, best of all, no parents and no children.

Children scream for no reason. Children run around underfoot, unsupervised by their harried parents who drop them off at an arcade while they go shopping. Children sit in front of the fucking Ghouls and Ghosts machine and pound on the buttons even though "Game Over. Please insert coin." is CLEARLY flashing in bright red letters on the screen. What could you do? You couldn't just push the kid out of the way, it's a kid for crying out loud. Simple, you went to an arcade, which is clearly no place for children, but it was a place for us. Teenagers do not typically enjoy the company of small children, and arcades were a place where they could hang and be among their own kind. Not so much any more.

It is not only for my own benefit that I want arcades and family fun centers to be distinct entities. I am also thinking of the children. I think it's important for a little kid to get electronic entertainment as part of their media diet, and there are plenty of games which are appropriate for younger kids, but too often, arcades fail to make distinctions between the different appropriate age levels of their games, choosing instead to sort them by genre, or worse yet, not at all. This means that a child can be exposed to violent imagery in an arcade. Attract loops (and coin-slots for that matter) do not ask for ID's, and neither do arcade owners.

All of these arcade I've visited employ what appears to be a standard voluntary ratings system (The ESRB, oddly enough, only rates commercial software, not arcade machines) which applies Mild or Strong ratings to a variety of categories including Animated Violence, Life-Like Violence, Language and Sexuality. The Violence ones are the most prevalent, naturally, but there is no legal regulation surrounding this practice, and parents tend to ignore them. Just a few weekends ago I was with Ami at the Boardwalk arcade to play some Hydro Thunder, and I witnessed a kid who couldn't have been more than 6 playing House of the Dead 3, which, if you're not familiar, is a game which involved usign a shotgun to shred the body parts off of hordes of bloodthirsty zombies. Standing right behind this kid were both his parents (at least, I think they were), who were monitoring the child holding a model of a firearm which was way too big for him and firing haphazardly at the screen. Not only is this a frustratingly blatant example of irresponsible parenting, but I wanted to play, and they had apparently pre-loaded the damn machine with $20 in tokens, because their kindergarten warrior couldn't handle a shotgun to save his life.

Not only the content of the games is dangerous for children, but the content of the atmosphere. Though Billiards is a completely non-violent game, you wouldn't think to take a 6-year-old to a pool hall, because it's for grown-ups. Grown ups who like to drink, bet money, and call each other monkey-fucking chair-sniffing cock-mongers when they lose. Teenagers, believe it or not, have also been known to do this. Teenagers like to compete at video games, and sometimes bet money, and certainly swear at each other. I'm not defending placing stakes on video gaming, but it happens, and even I, believe it or not, wll sometimes find myself reduced to profanity even playing a single-player game.

The only place that someone my age can go to enjoy arcade gaming free from little ones running around underfoot or having their little minds filled with inappropriate imagery is Dave and Busters, which has an over-21 only policy late at night on weekends. However, in addition to being typically more expensive, it's simply not an arcade. It's another family fun center, only the kids have been replaced by drunk people.

Even the few small arcades that survive today seem to almost want to alienate their adolescent clientele. Arcades in the day were a place where you could hang out after school, grab a Slurpee and go a few rounds of Mortal Kombat, then sit around and argue about whether the Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis sucks. Now they play classical music outside so that the teens don't hang around. "Thanks for spending your money, now get the fuck out of here!" is the message I get from this move. An attempt a few years ago to put an arcade in downtown Santa Cruz was rejected because it would have "attracted the wrong kind of people". Ouch! So gamers are the "wrong kind" of people, but all the beggars, lunatics and reckless skateboarders were okay. Even corner stores and 7-11's no longer have stand-up machines, which has got to be costing them business. In one afternoon my friends and I could go through Slurpees, Hostess CupCakes, candy bars and dozens of games of Samurai Showdown. Now I only go in to 7-11 for, well... Slurpees (The sad state of today's Slurpees will be duly addressed in the future, rest assured).

Family Fun Centers are fine as a concept. Their execution, however, leaves much to be desired. It is nearly impossible to appeal to a wide range of age groups with a single arcade. If a center is really dedicated to family entertainment, their choice of games should reflect it. Better yet, what arcades can do to improve this situation and bring back some of the arcade culture from the 80's and early 90's is to separate their games according to content. Perhaps a back room which checks IDs where teenagers and older kids can go to get real competition from fighting games, play violent games, swear freely, and generally be themselves in an age-appropriate environment. Modern-day arcades are losing their clientele to home gaming through their disrespectful behavior towards teenagers. If they wish to remain relevant as a fun place to hang out, they need to make high-school kids feel comfortable and welcome there, or else the teens will all just head home after school and play online games and hang out in chat rooms.

Won't somebody think of the teenagers?

Celebrities Morphing into Video-Game Stars!
Isn't that crazy!? Celebrities are appearing in video-games all of a sudden! Alex Trebeck is in the Jeopardy video game! How weird!

It's really kind of sad when the mainstream press tries to cover video game phenomena. Not only is the author under the mistaken impression that Onimusha is a fighting game, and that Britney and the Olsen twins were the first to have video games made around them "several years ago". Actually, it was 2002, and 1999, respectively. Not to mention that games have been using licensed celebrities for oh, about 20 years now.

Come on, I don't care how much of an established journalist you are, try doing a little thing called "research". It adds to a little thing called "credibility".


Some observations on the Animatrix:

The front-end interface, while cool-looking, is terrible. I realize that they're trying to be cool and avante-garde, but there are certain standards to which one should stick. For instance, while selecting the "Vison" (episodes) one wants to watch, the name of the selected "vision" is not displayed, instead, the text just cycles through all the "vision" name and numbers, so if you have say, #7 selected, you have to wait until the text cycles through the first six until you can learn the title. Also, if you choose to not Play All, you cannot skip through the epides with the back or next chapter buttons. So, say you've watched the first 4 episodes, stop, and later wish to watch the remaining 5. You cannot just open up number five and continue from there, you must selct "Play All", and then skip through the first four episodes. Assy.

My DVD always defaulted to Japanese audio for some reason.

4 of the shorts featured women hanging around in their underwear. Two of these instances were for no particular reason. Not a complaint, mind you, just an observation.

The Second Renaissance series confirmed my stance that the humans are actually the bad guys in the Matrix universe.

Nowhere during Final Flight of the Osiris did Thadeus record, or have time to record, the message ("This is Thadeus, Captain of the Osiris." etc.) that the rebels watch in Enter the Matrix.

World Record shows that nerds are not the only ones who can get out of the Matrix. Jocks have a chance, too.

Kid's Story would have been 10x better if the kid had simply died. Then we wouldn't have had his pointless character in Reloaded, and it would have given a good message to all the disaffected, alienated teenagers watching it that being disaffected and alienated is par for adolescence, it doesn't mean that the world isn't real or that one should kill oneself. I really don't want to be the kind of person who says such things, but this short gives a really dangerous message. Of course, anyone who kills themselves thinking that they're going to escape to the Real World is an idiot anyhow. The animation on this one was really brillant, though.

Beyond was one of my favorites and explored an aspect of the matrix that I find very interesting, the presence of glitches. (man, the matrix must have been a bitch to test ("Consistently, in the house at 1500 Trelawk Drive, in the living room, if the user throws a glass bottle at the floor, the bottle will break, freeze, and then reform.") However, apparently the Wachowski's strict standards of there being absolutely no blue in the matrix, save for police officers and cars, did not apply in this case. Fine with me, I really dug the cheery animation. It was a nice break from the noir-stylings of most Matrix stuff.

Matriculated was totally drugs.

Now that most of the negatives are out of the way, I must say that this was really a fascinating and unprecedented collaberative work. The Matrix films always struck me as being live-action anime, which of course, they are pretty much supposed to be. I'd always thought the series would be better in animated form, and it works really really well in that medium. Seeing other aspects of the Matrix universe besides Neo's invincible adventures was a refreshing treat. I don't appreciate the Matrix franchise's tendency to pluck out important pieces of the plot and release them in different media, but there was enough non-canonical "extra" stories to justify this series. The animation is brilliant and all the short films are very professionally realized so that the DVD stands on its own.

An addendum to the first Death of the Arcade article:

When I was younger, about 12 or so, I was talking a summer class in cartooning at a grammar school on the East Side of Santa Cruz. Both my partents were working, so I was given bus money to ride home to the West Side. This was $2.00, for the two buses, one to take me to the terminal downtown, and another to take me back to my house. However, instead of actually riding the bus, I would walk the 2 miles or so to downtown just to spend the money on a couple games of Ninja Gaiden or Tetris at the small arcade near the bus station. Sometimes I would even spend both dollars and walk the entire way home.

Now, if the games at this arcade had cost a dollar or even fifty cents apiece, it wouldn't have been worth it for me to make the effort to walk all the way downtown in the summer heat, but as it was, I felt it was not that big a price to pay (plus, if you've ever ridden a bus in Santa Cruz, you know it's not always a pleasant experience). So kids these days are probably just taking the bus home, and not getting the exercise that I got when I was younger. All thanks to overpriced arcade games!