On a rare train journey up to London a couple of weeks ago I decided to spend my time travelling playing a couple of Mario games on my 3DS. Here’s a bit of a gamer confession: I suck at Mario games. Yeah, Mario is one of my least played franchises despite numerous attempts to get into it. Actually, let me be a bit clearer there: traditional Mario games (aka platformers) are the least played games I own but I love Super Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart, and I really want to play Super Mario Odyssey. Why do I suck at Mario games? Well, to tell you the truth I don’t know, I just do, I’m simply terrible at platformer games. TERRIBLE.
You know when you get someone that has never touched a video game before in their life to play something and you start out thinking “this will be awesome, it’s not that hard, they’ll get to grips with it and we can play stuff together”. Then you see them wandering in the wrong direction even though there’s a huge arrow pointing the other way, dying over and over at the easiest points, having to peer at the buttons whenever they want to do something even though they’ve been playing now for an hour… Your smile begins to fade and you experience a horrible sense of dread as it slowly dawns on you that they’re not going to get better and you are now stuck here until they get bored – which might not be for a long time – because you’re too polite to tell them that watching them play is like watching someone punch themselves in the face over and over again and then ask you why their nose is hurting. This monster has now destroyed a game you love with their inexplicably clumsy, inexperienced noob hands and you regret everything… That is how I feel about myself when I play platformers, especially Mario ones because everyone loves them so bloody much. I have an out of body experience where I feel like I am the non-gamer being taught how to play something by a friend and constantly messing up, then I get embarrassed by myself, even though no one is watching me, so I rage quit and sulk.
Do you know how far I got playing Super Mario Bros on my DS before I ran out of lives and had to start everything over? I got to the third level of the first world. Oh, and I actually died in the first level trying to get more lives, the first level where you can just become huge and just plough through everything. I didn’t know it was possible to die on that level. Do you even know how hard it is for me to admit that? I had to sit in silence for a little while, with my head in my hands wondering why the gaming gods had forsaken me. I was sat on the train at the time and that is not the best place for me to rage over a game as I usually just spew swear words at the screen like there’s no tomorrow, so instead I had to settle for taking some deep breaths and very loud, angry exhales which prompted a few worried looks from fellow passengers.
To add insult to injury my other half got his old PS1 out (which I have never played on before) and tried to get me into some games on that. He then watched in dismay and horror, his face morphing into a twisted representation of repulsion and fascination, as his so-called “gamer-girlfriend” just walked into enemies and fell down the smallest jumps. I tried out Resident Evil 2 (which I know isn’t a platformer but it has that very linear running around thing) and died almost instantly by just walking into several zombies. I put this down to the camera angles constantly changing throwing me off and thought I’d gotten away with it but then I tried a Mickey Mouse game (this one was a platformer) and it was almost like I was trying to play badly. An enemy would appear and I’d just run straight at them, propelled forward by misjudgement and stupidity, and die.
I don’t know why I have been cursed with this affliction. Could it be my modest childhood where I was owner to just a Gameboy Color, Gamecube and PC, limiting my exposure to Playstation and Xbox? Woe is me. Maybe I suffer from Platformeritis, a well-known disease that affects 1 in 10 gamers. It causes bad 2D coordination and makes you constantly overestimate how far away things are making sufferers particularly terrible at platformers. Perhaps our Gaming Lord Mario is displeased with the lack of time I spend playing his games and has decided to curse me, I should sacrifice a Sonic game to him just to make sure.
I guess it doesn’t matter at the end of the day, we all know Princess Peach and Bowser truly belong together, she’s just too nice to break up with Mario. I’m doing Mario a favour really.
Are there any game genres you struggle with? Let me know in the comments and we’ll commiserate together.
I would put a spoiler warning here but this game has spoiled itself already.
I don’t even know where to start with this… I had heard it was bad but literally nothing could have prepared me for the sheer monstrosity that is this game. I know I slagged off Final Fantasy X a lot (see here, here and here for my little trio of posts about it) but I did like it really, it just had a few things that I found hugely annoying and while I’m not taking what I said about it back by any means I would rather go on a date with Tidus and listen to him talk about his daddy issues all night than play through FFX-2 in its’ entirety. If you know how much I hate Tidus, then you know that that is really saying something.
“But Dragon! Why did you play it if you know it’s meant to be so bad?” Well tiny human readers, this poor life choice came about because the version of FFX that I have also came with FFX-2 so I had it anyway and I quite enjoy playing good-bad games (so bad they’re good, like Deadly Premonition, Duke Nukem Forever, Final Fantasy X…) so I thought “you know what, why not? It might be fun”. I have never been so simultaneously bored, confused and embarrassed playing a game before. That opening scene is one of the cringiest things ever made in gaming history… I’ll get to that in a sec. So I’ll take you through my reactions to this game as they came, I actually wrote notes as I was playing because there was no way I was going to remember the amount of stuff wrong with this game.
First of all, when you start the game you’re greeted with this…
That actually made me hide behind a cushion a little bit because it was so cringy. So Yuna is a pop star, Rikku has AMAZING hair (seriously, Rikku’s hair is literally the only thing I like about this game, it is so cool) and she is trying to break into Yuna’s show with Lulu 2.0… Ok… Now Yuna is here in her original outfit aaaaaand it’s gone replaced with some weird purple salsa thing and this song. Who made this? Why? I hate everything about this. Once the show is over you chase Yuna and get attacked by easy-to-kill ninjas. What is with this battle system???? I don’t like turn based fighting and this is almost not turn based any more but it was so fast that all I could do was panic and mash X to attack. If you’re going to make the fighting fast paced you can’t have a turn-based style menu to peruse and tactfully choose your next attack from because you don’t have the time! It should be one or the other! I ended up changing this in the configurations. Oh and Lulu 2.0 (her real name is Paine by the way… Yeah, that is actually her name, Lulu 2.0 suddenly seems like an upgrade doesn’t it) is so emo that she doesn’t even face the enemy, she is apparently part owl and rotates her head round to look at them while her body faces the opposite direction. At first I thought the game had glitched and that her head was on the wrong way round to her body, but nope, it’s just a phase mom!
Just when I thought I couldn’t get more confused a second Yuna backflips over herself, a second one? Right. Basically, turns out that a sphere hunter has taken a dress sphere or something that allows her to turn into a singing Yuna (and apparently attract a sell out crowd of thousands, pretty impressive really). We then battle and I equipped Yuna with the ‘songstress’ dress sphere and she… she… well… so she danced at them. She literally stood in front of the sphere hunter and attacked her with dance (the opposing sphere hunter did the same to be fair, it was a dance off). Just… I don’t know, see for yourself.
So that just happened. Now let’s board this giant lobster spaceship, oh sweet it’s Brother from the previous game, he was ni- … oh no they’ve made him super creepy and he shouts everything. For some reason his creepiness is portrayed as endearing, he is now the equivalent of that guy from your class that you think might have something a little bit wrong with him so you accept his Facebook request out of pity but then he messages you CONSTANTLY and you end up blocking him but then he gets really upset about it so you pretend it’s a glitch and then you try to avoid him for the rest of your life so that you don’t have to confront him about why the glitch hasn’t been sorted out yet. At one point, for some reason I can’t remember, he is lying on the floor and when I went up to speak to him this happened. Are you OK Final Fantasy?
Before I go back to the “story” (I use that term very loosely) let’s just look at the most ridiculous idea for a game since Sonic and The Black Knight appeared on our screens: dress up fighting. Instead of having lots of skills that you acquire through focusing on different class paths and having that all under one character (e.g. when I played FFX Yuna was my white/black mage using healing and attack magic) you swap your outfit to correspond to which class you want to be and you can do this in mid-battle, the outfit you want has to be next to the outfit you’re currently wearing though on the dress pyramid thingy, god forbid they make it too easy for us and just allow you to swap to whatever you want, you have to work to get from sexy samurai to festival pyjama party. The classes are a mixture of normal to ridiculous as well, so far I have got :
Gunner (yep, cool)
Songstress (kind of like a bard I guess but why the dancing???)
Festival (what the fuck?)
Black mage (OK, back to normal again)
Just to clarify a little more about the “festival” outfits, they are all in what looks like pyjamas and Rikku is attacking with candyfloss. This is SO stupid.
I’m not going to lie, stupid outfits aside I quite like the idea of an outfit change to go with your class because I’m a bit girly like that, but they don’t keep the outfits on when you’re out of battle, what do they do? “oh crap we’re being attacked, hang on two secs while I just put my mage outfit on…” this means that you can’t really see the outfits because they’re always zipping about in battle mode. From what I can see I like Yuna’s black mage costume but it’s hard to tell. On top of all that I have no idea what the stats are doing when I swap these outfits round, they all change drastically and I can’t tell who is better in which class/outfit.
While we’re on appearance, hey Yuna, what is that thing down your back? It looks like a pink lion tail. Is this meant to be her hair?! I am genuinely asking, is it really? How did that one part of it get so long in the space of two years? And why has she done that to it? It looks like she escaped from the Matrix and forgot to pull the wire out of her head. How does it not constantly get in the way? Rikku looks like she’s going for a Jecht/Captain Jack Sparrow inspired thing, she’s also a huge fan of assless chaps and thongs in this game, but you know, each to their own I guess, maybe she likes the breeze… Still love her hair though. Finally, Lulu 2.0 it’s-not-a-phase-mom Emochick. She’s the strong and silent type, her name is Paine, just like what she feels in her heart every day as she resents her parents for their lack of understanding of her soul. There’s not a lot to say about her as she is so strong and silent so far that it’s removed any need to attempt crafting a personality for her. I’m not even going to talk about the revealing clothes they’re wearing… I’ve mentioned it before and I can only come to the conclusion that they thought “hey you know who we didn’t objectify in the last game? Yuna and Rikku, if we make it 2 years later they are both legal right? Sweeeeet $$$”.
Back to the “story”! Lobster airship drops us off in a super inconvenient spot on a mountain where we race other sphere hunters to the top of a mountain (where the ship could totally have dropped us rather than below it, just saying) to be the first to get to the sphere. Luckily the game also decides to teach you how to jump at this point and it’s so stupid and counter intuitive that they leave you a huge amount of time to get to the top as you also learn to jump, I don’t think it would be possible to lose, I stood at a ledge for about 2 full minutes watching Yuna wobble over and over as she refused to jump up a small ledge. You also fight a few gun snakes (I wish I was joking) and ninjas on your way up but nothing is really a problem because mashing X still works at this point. What is this guarding the sphere though?! My first boss?? IT’S A GIANT CRAB! Hold on to your hats though because if that didn’t freak you out enough then the name of this crab will terrify you. His name is BORIS. ALL FEAR BORIS THE MIGHTY IRON CRAB. I genuinely believe that Square Enix put some animal names in one hat, and then some items/elements (like gun, metal, fire, sword) in another, pulled out the papers and put them together, voila! Snake Gun and Iron Crab! Once we have the sphere we go back to the airship and put up with Brother a little bit, then we go to Besaid, the starting point of FFX and where Wakka and Lulu now live together. Lulu is going to have a baby! How lovely! How far along is she? Due in 2 weeks! Oh goodness, she must be huge! Let’s go say hi. Oh Lulu, my goodness, you literally have not changed one bit. You’re still wearing your corset at 9 months pregnant? Are you giving birth to a noodle?
Whatever. I wasn’t even surprised any more at this point.
We then set out trying to find a cave, to open this cave we needed to find numbers hidden around the island but I may have talked over Lulu recommending that I speak to people on the village and ask about the cave so I ended up wandering around Besaid getting angry about the island’s lack of caves for a really long time.
Finally, we found the sphere and left the island and went to Zanarkand, I remember this place having some nice music… It sounds a little different though this time… Are those bagpipes?! Why would you use bagpipes in any piece of music, let alone this one??? That, my friends, is where I quit. I just couldn’t do it. For the rest of the night I played through the first episode of Life is Strange to remind myself that video games are good (it worked by the way, Life is Strange is brilliant, can’t wait to play the second chapter tonight). I couldn’t totally escape from Final Fantasy in that though, Life is Strange is made by Square Enix too and that prompted this little bit of self-indulgence on their part when I looked at a TV in the game:
It’s been a while since I did a big ranty post like this, so I suppose it’s a good thing that FFX-2 gave me a ton of stuff to write about, I’ve been in a writing slump recently so a long post like this hasn’t happened in a while. Mainly because of this I’m wondering – even though the idea of it is making my stomach churn – if I should try and keep playing FFX-2 a little bit longer… What do you think? Would you like to read about this a bit more or do you think it’s better as a one off? What are your thoughts on FFX-2 in general? Is there anyone out there that actually likes it? I won’t judge you too harshly if so!
I’m just going to leave you with a couple of final random screenshots of the game, just let them speak for themselves (I did play a little bit further than Zanarkand in the end in the name of blog pictures).
As you may or may not know I have been playing, slowly but surely, through Final Fantasy X with some reservations about it due to my aversion to turn-based gaming (if you don’t you can read my previous posts about it here and here to fully understand my journey). Well I am pleased to say that I have finally finished it! It’s been a bit of a struggle occasionally but I suppose when all is said and done it has won me over. That doesn’t mean I haven’t found plenty of faults with it though. When I first started writing this post it was meant to be a straight up appreciation post but then I kept remembering things that really annoyed me about the game and I got carried away. Now this is a half rant, half appreciation post. I’ll get the ranting out the way first as it’s never good to end on a negative! Plus my ranting isn’t to be taken to heart or anything like that, FFX is definitely a good game, I just need to vent my feelings about some of the things that were bothering me, particularly at the end. Spoilers ahead!
So first off, I did not complete the game “fully” in that I didn’t complete any of the side quests. I really did try with the monster arena but WOW, how boring is that? Yeah, let’s just wack stuff with a sword over and over again mashing the X button until I die of either boredom or old age. No thank you. I know that it gets harder when you capture more difficult monsters and the monsters in the arena are insanely difficult of course but I think my aversion to turn based gaming came through way too much here, if it was a case of running round an area hitting stuff as I go and picking up XP automatically instead of SMASH! YOU’RE IN A BATTLE! Animation of monsters coming in, oh look it’s my turn, attack animation, animation of me winning, point allocation… Then that would be fine. Basically I don’t have the patience to catch all the monsters and then grind enough to get my team to a level where they can beat the monsters in the arena. Dan is currently trying to complete 100% of the game in his own playthrough and while I can appreciate how some may enjoy it, it’s not for me.
Now let’s talk about the final boss battles starting with Seymour “my-hair-looks-like-chopper-handlebars”. He is persistent I’ll give him that but his last boss battle was bullshit. Maybe I just got lucky with this or something but it seemed like the wheel things he was attached to (furthering the chopper theory) were supposed to move and change the elements he was attacking with every round but he just stuck with Firaga the whole time until I killed him. It was a bit disappointing. Then we have the battle with Jecht and I must say at this point, damn the boss battle music for that bit was so cool, plus he looked incredible. It was a shame that it was quite an easy battle. Same goes for the fight with the aeons and Yu Yevon. Plus they had made it so that you can’t die which took away any sort of risk. I did kind of appreciate it though because I had no intention of running through the time filler room between the last save point and Jecht where you have to collect ice balls and avoid running into ice shards again. That was a weird room. It also seemed like the boss battles were easier than a lot of previous battles. I had spent a lot of the game (under Dan’s almost manic strategic gaming style) getting to know all these different tactics, what to look out for, what should be equipped, etc but at the end it seems like they say “nah, don’t worry about all that, just go for it”.
Finally, you know I’m going to end my rant with Tidus. We finally get to Jecht after learning throughout the game, and through the Jecht spheres, about the sacrifice he makes and how he really does love his son, even though he’s a dick to him, Tidus has shown some character development around Jecht after finding his sphere message things… But being the arrogant douche canoe that he is Tidus McTwatwaffle ruins what could have been a nice moment at their reunion by telling his dad he hates him. I thought it had been established that he actually doesn’t and it’s obvious he doesn’t really, he just has a huge flair for the dramatic which Yuna, for some reason, seems to find attractive. You can do so much better than him Yuna, get it together girl. Oh, and also “this is my story” get to fuck Tidus, you self-absorbed prick, it is not your story. It is Yuna’s story. She is the one that had to summon all her aeon friends to be killed at the end, she is the one that lost both you and Auron on the same day, she is the one that was plot central, she did literally everything in that game and even when she got kidnapped she was like “I think not”, leaped off a building and flew to safety. She even outlasted Tidus so many times in battle, he was constantly dying. I honestly do not know why Tidus was dreamt up, was it just so that he could shout at Jecht during the boss battle to stop him from going into overdrive mode? Seems like it. I would much rather have played as Yuna throughout the game I think it would have made more sense.
On to brighter things now; this game is absolutely beautiful, has some amazing voice acting, music, characters, monsters… It’s great, it really is. The story was also very good, what I could understand of it anyway, I had to keep double checking with Dan that what I thought was happening was actually happening but I often get lost when there’s a complicated plot so I think that’s more my fault than the game’s. I know that my ranting above has made it sound kind of bad but I enjoyed playing it. I will also admit that when Auron was sent a sneaky tear fell down my cheek and I had to take some deep breaths. So yes, I would highly recommend this game, I liked it and I will now consider Final Fantasy games more than I used to. I guess you could say that Final Fantasy X won’t be my final Final Fantasy game.
Once Dan and I have moved in together we’re going to play through FFX-2 which I know is meant to be bad but we’re going to approach it in a light hearted manner and not take it too seriously.
To finish off this post I would like to ask my FF fan readers some questions about the FFX plot which I am still unsure about:
Is Yu Yevon the god that they have been worshipping all this time? Who or what is it? If it is the god they’ve been worshipping then why do they keep worshipping it afterwards in the epilogue?
Why doesn’t Yu Yevon just possess the dark aeons? Those things are crazy hard to kill. Can he not possess something unless it’s inside Sin?
Why was Seymour so set on marrying Yuna? Why did it have to be her? He could have chosen any summoner once she refused him, couldn’t he?
I got myself hyped up for the new God of War game the other day by watching the 10-minute gameplay trailer, and it looks amazing. God of War is one of my favourite game series. Thing is though, I had actually watched this same trailer almost a year ago when it was first released and had completely forgotten I’d already seen it. After realising this I Googled when the release date for the game was and my heart sank as ‘Could be December 2017’ appeared on my screen, almost mocking me. First of all –couldbe??? Secondly, why do I have to wait so long? I’m not saying that in an ‘I’m so excited I can’t wait’ kind of way (well I can’t wait really but that’s not the point) I’m saying it in a ‘just release the bloody game and stop creating this unnecessary build up’ way.
I swear that (sounding a little old here) back in the day games weren’t announced years before they were released. Studios might announce they were making a new game a few years in advance, eventually a trailer would be released, and the game would follow a few short months later. That trailer for God of War 4 came out in June 2016, and still there is nothing other than “Ooh the voice actor mistakenly said ‘2017’ in his IMDB profile, are we getting a 2017 release?” A 2017 release? How about a NOW release? Why hold back? The last God of War game came out in 2010!
This happens with a lot of games, I am still waiting for Dead Island 2, the creators seem to be pretending they never released a trailer for it waaaaaaay back in 2014 (the trailer is SO COOL by the way which makes the delay even more antagonising, watch it below). By the time that comes out the PlayStation 5 will be released and they’ll have to remaster it immediately. Same with South Park: The Fractured but Whole which was announced in 2015 with trailers and images sporadically appearing throughout the years but the release constantly being pushed back. Then of course there’s the infamous Final Fantasy VII remake, getting repeatedly delayed every six months or so, I’ve almost given up caring about it.
I am no video game design expert by any means, I know that games take a long time to make and that some of the aforementioned games might have hit some technical flaws which have taken a while to be ironed out. But if that’s the case, then why release these impressive trailers only to release it years later when the hype has died down and people have forgotten about it? If the game isn’t finished yet (or very nearly finished), and there is potential that issues will be coming up with it, don’t release a big trailer! If you have to release anything maybe just share some of the new character art (“Check out Kratos’s new Norse-inspired look!”) or set up a Dev Blog to keep fans in the loop (“Hey, here’re some of the weapons we’re thinking of making available in Dead Island 2!”).
This might just be me but I like having a teaser and then a couple of months later a big trailer with a release date that I can put in my calendar and get more and more hyped up about the game as it gets closer to the date, then a few months from then the game actually comes out on the expected date and I can play it. Right now my process is more like: “ooh this game looks good” *a year later* “ooh this game looks good, can’t believe I haven’t heard about it before” *another year later* “wow where did this game everyone’s playing suddenly appear from? I can’t believe I’m only just hearing about this now”. This probably means that I have the memory of a goldfish more than anything else but you get my point.
There are of course some games that the long-term announcement approach works very well on. Look at Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. That was announced in 2013 and throughout the years they consistently released images, trailers, and other information about the game that kept it top of mind. What they did at the same time though was release new Zelda games (A Link Between Worlds, Triforce Heroes) and remaster old ones (Majora’s Mask, some were still enjoying the remastered Ocarina of Time too at this point). Obviously most companies don’t have such a long legacy of games to do this with but the point is that they managed to keep Zelda fans satisfied by releasing more content as they worked on ‘the big one’ and it didn’t matter so much if it was delayed (if it was at all) because we were busy playing Majora’s Mask on our 3DS. Another good example is Overwatch, announced in 2014 and releasing images, storylines, the works along with it. Blizzard released World of Warcraft expansion pack Warlords of Draenor a few months after Overwatch was announced and then they released Legion a few months after Overwatch was released (probably knowing that it wasn’t going to be as popular as previous expansions, hence the close release dates) so they had lots of content and something going on consistently, keeping Blizzard fans hyped about something either way.
So there’s my latest rant, I feel a bit lighter now. I hope you lovely readers enjoy my ranting posts as they seem to be recurring.
Is there a game that you’re looking forward to being released but has a long wait time? Any fellow God of War fans out there waiting for 4?
First and foremost if you don’t like feminist rants then this post is not for you.
As you may have seen in one of my previous posts I have been playing through Arkham Asylum. I like this game, nowhere near as much as I liked Arkham Knight (it’s obvious why this is the least popular of the Arkham series) but it’s ok. There is something that keeps recurring in these games though, that (just when I’m ready to start praising them) holds me back and makes me angry. The portrayal of Harley Quinn.
Before I get started, there are a couple of points I want to clarify before I begin: firstly, I am not a massive die-hard Harley Quinn fan. I think she is a cool character and I like her story line, and thanks to a friend of mine (who is a super fan) I know a lot about her. This post is not a fan-girl screaming for more Harley Quinn it’s a comment on her existing presence in the games. Secondly, I do not read comic books so the majority of my post is based on what I have seen in movies and games but, again thanks to my friend, I know a lot about Harley’s story in the comic books. As a result, if I were to start reading them, I would probably choose one where she was a main character.
The main thing I like about Harley is that she is a funny, complex, strong female character who can kick ass, take names, and sass anyone and everyone. This is a welcome break from other female characters (who seem to be few and far between in the male-dominated world of comic books as it is) who tend to be more reserved and just not as engaging. Compared to her female counterparts in DC (Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Wonder Woman, etc) she is more interesting to watch and is – in a kind of weird way – more relatable.
I was never a big fan of any female superheroes growing up, other than some of the women in X-Men, and even then I use the word ‘fan’ very loosely. It’s pretty common knowledge now that there’s a lot of pressure on comic books and movies to start including more interesting, relatable, female characters. So enter Harley Quinn who fills a huge gap in the market simply by being an interesting female character. I know I said I’m not a die-hard fan but if I had to pick a female superhero/villain as my favourite it would be her.
DC have obviously acknowledged that Harley is a popular character, how could you not? She’s one of, if not THE, most popular female cosplays at conventions, she has featured in numerous comic books, not to mention her own series (New 52) and with her as one of the main characters of Suicide Squad (arguably THE main character) she’s making a lot of headway. Unfortunately this just does not come through in the games. Yes, they are quite old now – Arkham Asylum was released back in 2009, and Arkham City in 2011, so the hype that built up around Harley was nowhere near as pronounced as it is now. But Arkham Knight was released in 2015, just a year before Suicide Squad – so they knew what sort of role she would be playing in the movie, and despite that, she played the same part in Knight as in the previous games: annoying and disappointing.
To be honest her being annoying wouldn’t be a problem if there had been a suitable resolution to her story arc – she’s meant to be annoying. For comparison, there is a part in God of War 3 where you encounter Hermes who is super annoying, not unlike Harley actually. That game did it right, there is a long, irritating chase while Hermes calls you names and takes the piss out of you. It just makes you want to kill him, and that is exactly what you get to do, very slowly and very painfully. That is the Kratos way of course. I don’t want to torture Harley, not at all. What I’m saying is that there should be a satisfying resolution when you can finally get your hands on her after she spends almost half the game tormenting you. Instead what you get is a battle with a few extra henchman than you’re used to and then you hit her on the head, knock her out, sling her over your shoulder like a child and carry her to the Batmobile. (here are some videos that demonstrate my point, skip to 6.45 for the first one, also sort of spoiler warning for the second!)
How demeaning and patronising is that?! She finally comes to confront you and you just knock her down like she’s an annoying child!!! It’s not just these cutscenes either – right at the beginning of the game Arkham Asylum, in the tutorial area, Batman gets trapped in a room by Harley. He says “Harley thinks she has me trapped. She never was very bright.” The fact that Batman dismisses her as ‘not very bright’ almost as soon as her character is introduced immediately detracts from her threat, reducing her to a mere annoyance from the get go. Harley Quinn is a psychologist who was so good at her job that they put her in charge of THE JOKER, GOTHAM’S MOST NOTORIOUSLY TWISTED, AND PSYCHOTIC CRIMINAL. So we have to assume she was pretty good at her job and therefore the opposite of stupid. Yes, Joker broke her, but he didn’t kill her and she’s one of the only characters for who the Joker has genuine affection (albeit it horrible, psychotic, abusive affection, but that makes her a threat to him hence his numerous attempts to kill her when they get too close). She might have her head in the clouds but she is also extremely smart. The head in the clouds thing is really put forward in games, but the Brainiac thing… not so much.
This brings me to my demand for the next Batman game: I want a Harley Quinn boss battle. I’m not talking some “ooh Harley’s going to shoot stuff at me from a distance while her henchmen attack me then I knock her out”. WHAT IS THAT? THAT IS NOT A BOSS BATTLE. I want a REAL boss battle. I want Harley to be somersaulting across the screen as I try to hit her, she’s supposed to have inhuman acrobatic abilities but all I’ve seen her do are cartwheels so far, if she was so agile she’d be a pain in the arse to manage to hit and have you seen that hammer she lugs around? Don’t tell me she hasn’t built up some muscle from that.
When I threw this idea at a couple of friends they all brought up the same issue: Batman doesn’t hit women. Obviously that’s a good thing but you know what? If someone IS TRYING TO KILL YOU, you are allowed to defend yourself. If it’s really scaring off the developers then they could just have you play as Catwoman while you fight her, I would be happy with that. It should be a challenging fight that establishes her as a character who is not going to take any shit and will require a couple of attempts to finish off. Let’s see a game where she plays the bimbo card and Batman keeps up his dismissive “she’s just a dim-witted lackey” attitude and tries and knock her out as per usual but she backflips out of his way, kicking him in the face as she goes, grabs her massive hammer, or cricket bat, or gun, whatever. There are no henchmen, just her, and she lays into Batman somersaulting away, being annoyingly fast on her feet and giving Batman a really difficult time of it. That is what I want.
As a quick warning before you start this post, if you played or heard criticism about Arkham Asylum back when it came out a lot of this might sound a bit old hat but if you want to see my growing rage that makes me want to throw the disc out the window like a frisbee then please read on!
Just over a year ago I discovered the wonderful game Batman: Arkham Knight. I had never played a Batman game before and while I had heard of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City I didn’t realise until I was hooked that Knight was the final game in the trilogy. I want to write about how amazing Arkham Knight was, I would happily play it all over again but unfortunately I had borrowed the game from a friend and had to give it back. The story was so engaging, there were plot twists, interesting villains, the batmobile, eye candy (Nightwing, I’m looking at you, you sort of emo looking, baton twirling vigilante), captivating puzzles from Riddler, the fighting was fun, and the end!!! (Joker end that is) How awesome was that?????… I could go on for hours.
Imagine my delight when I heard Batman: Return to Arkham was in the Playstation 10 year anniversary sale. Return to Arkham includes Asylum and City, neither of which I had played but having adored Knight I was hopeful. Oh dear, was I in for a shock.
I haven’t played City yet, I’m about halfway through Asylum and it has got to the point now where it feels like a chore to play. I’m determined to finish it because I spent money on it and I want a bit of story leading into City which I have heard isn’t as bad but… Eurgh. There are so many things that annoy me about this game, I’ve written them down it in angry list format rather than in paragraphs, otherwise we would be here all day:
Mark Hamill, you are great as Joker but damn, Joker will not SHUT UP and he seems to only have about 3 lines of dialogue per area which gets boring very quickly
Why does the asylum have loads of TV screens everywhere? Literally everywhere, places that would never usually need a screen. “Frank, why are you installing these screens everywhere?” “Well you never know, the asylum might get taken over by the Joker one day and what would he broadcast his repetitive banter on?” “You got me there mate, as you were.”
I am pretty sure that I have actually solved a lot of the Riddler puzzles but the camera just won’t recognise the subject a lot of the time, it has to be PERFECTLY placed
I DROWN THE BATMOBILE???? ARE YOU REALLY TELLING ME THE BATMOBILE CAN’T TURN INTO A BOAT???
I DON’T GET TO DRIVE THE BATMOBILE?????
Harley fucking Quinn (“Oh my gawd Bats, I bring nothing to this game whatsoever other than my sick costume which I bet you wish you were rocking instead”) – side note here: I like Harley Quinn I’m not hating on her, just her in this game. I am gearing myself up for a separate Harley rant
“Why yes Oracle, I built a batcave on this heavily guarded island without anyone noticing” “didn’t anyone hear any building going on? You had to install all these platforms and-” “Don’t question my Batlogic, I’m Batman”
*Gas comes out of the vents* Me: “well there must be another way” Batman: “We’re going this way” Me: “But the gas… Just find one of the conveniently placed vents and get through that way” Batman: “This way is the Batway… oh no! Scarecrow’s fear toxin!”
Why are there vents and grates that have no purpose other than providing a way in somewhere? “You again Frank? Why are you placing a large grate in the side of that guard’s office?” “When Joker takes over the asylum Batman will come to stop him and will need to get into these places to collect trophies and collectibles.” “Don’t know what you’re talking about but yeah, you keep doing what you’re doing.” (I’m starting to build a profile of Frank the harmless ex-builder turned Arkham Asylum patient when he became obsessed with useless architecture. The guards quite like him and let him indulge in his mostly harmless renovating of the Asylum. Hopefully I can high five him at the end of the game and he’ll be declared not crazy)
I am really struggling to do the fighting combos I unlock. I don’t know if this is just me being a bit useless at the fighting system, or if it’s the game, but I don’t remember having this issue in Knight
There is more but let’s stop there and focus on the positives of this game. The few positives.
The best thing so far is that the Scarecrow scenes, despite being a bit repetitive, are very cool. They are so creepy and surreal. When I am lured into a dull sense of familiarity with the game suddenly I’ll be snapped out of it by being thrown into a dark Alice in Wonderland style scenario. Scarecrow himself creeps me out as well.
Batman: Return to Arkham – Arkham Asylum_20170402230041
Batman: Return to Arkham – Arkham Asylum_20170402225750
The game is very cool and pretty looking. There’s a lot of detail and if it was easier to get around the place (you know, like with my Batmobile… oh wait, IT’S DEAD) I would like to explore it a lot more.
This isn’t really a strong positive, more a nice quirk, and it’s also not unique to Asylum. I like that Batman sprays the explosive spray in a bat symbol. I like to imagine he’s thinking “Well, my current situation sucks but enjoy the little things right? Lol temporary Batgraffiti, I am so awesome.”
I will continue through this game slowly until I either give up or finish it, judging by the completion percentage on the main menu, and that I am not searching for the Riddler trophies any more unless they are super obvious or I literally walk into them, it shouldn’t take too long.