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‘Metal Gear Solid’: How Kojima Made The Third Game In A Series Feel Like The First

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MetalGearSolid-Playstation-Review

1998 was undoubtedly an important year for gaming; Ocarina of Time changed the landscape for 3D action-adventure titles, Pokémon Red and Blue took the West by storm, and Metal Gear Solid forever influenced the future of video games as a storytelling medium. With its high production value, stellar voice direction, and tightly written script, series director Hideo Kojima had struck critical and commercial gold. By treating his audience with respect and expecting them to pay attention to the finer details, Kojima set a precedent for complex narratives within the medium. Cut scenes took their sweet time, characters had complicated histories and motivations, and the script did not go out of its way to spew exposition in favor of allowing players to piece together character details through context. As far as series introductions go, Metal Gear Solid took an uncharacteristically graceful approach to establishing its universe; though that’s largely on account of it being the third game in what was already an eleven year old franchise by 1998.

Despite Metal Gear Solid very much feeling like the start of something new, and despite Kojima’s renumbering of the series beginning with Metal Gear Solid 2’s 2001 release, MGS was preceded by Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, both for the MSX2. Perhaps that might tarnish the game’s success in presenting a world based mainly on context, since it’s actually building upon pre-established material, but doesn’t that actually make it all the more impressive? Even though Metal Gear Solid is the third game in a franchise, Hideo Kojima managed to present it as the first while also ensuring it never alienated anybody familiar with the first two installments. It’s Important to recognize that Kojima did not reboot the series; he continued it. Newcomers could jump in and pre-existing fans could comfortably play the continuation of the franchise.

via http://grcade.co.uk

In setting Metal Gear Solid six years after the events of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, the narrative was able to build some much needed distance, in and out of universe, to move the series forward naturally. Metal Gear 2 ends with Snake having killed his best friend, Frank Jaeger; and his father, Big Boss; before going back into retirement, this time presumably for good. By the time MGS rolls around, Snake is a broken man who is forced out of retirement in order to take out his former unit, FOXHOUND, now turned terrorist. Conceptually, both games are far enough apart in regards to Snake’s character where both games can offer a proper arc for him that makes sense, but that hardly explains why MGS works as an introduction to the series.

To understand how exactly Metal Gear Solid tricked players into believing nothing came before it requires an understanding of Solid Snake’s character arc. Snake is a man carrying around a considerable amount of baggage. He maintains a friendly rapport with his support team, but he becomes evasive when confronted with personal questions. When Meryl asks Snake what his real name is, he simply replies “a name means nothing on the battlefield.” His emotional distance all builds up to the halfway point where he finally delves into his past relationship with Big Boss, giving the audience a fully realized sense of the introspective, damaged man Snake truly is. This reveal works on a global and individual level.

via scriptroutine.com

In the global context of Metal Gear, the reveal of Snake’s relationship with Big Boss recontextualizes the past two games. Snake goes from killing his former commander to killing his father. With this newly realized familial connection, Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2 take on classic tragic elements. The series becomes no longer about the rivalry between a soldier and his CO gone rogue, but a saga inherently about legacy where a father and son are pitted against one another. Individually, only in the context of Metal Gear Solid, the reveal establishes themes of legacy and family that’ll be explored in-depth in the last act, while also portraying Snake’s gradual defrosting through his stint on Shadow Moses. Where he was once cutting himself off, he is now opening up to the people around him. He shows a genuine vulnerability, something that had been hinted at in his interactions with Meryl but was left untouched. Regardless of whether someone is familiar with the series or not, Snake’s character arc works perfectly within either context, in large part thanks to Kojima’s writing style. He references past events, but he does so by establishing a proper setting where information, new or old, makes sense in any situation without sounding like exposition.

It certainly helps Metal Gear Solid’s case as an introduction to the series that the entire supporting cast, save for Colonel Campbell, are fresh faces to Snake. Even with Campbell and Snake’s past relationship, they still need to contextualize their history for Snake’s support, allowing the audience to get a sense for how they relate to one another without feeling alienated for not playing the previous two games, or bogged down with exposition they’re already familiar with. More than anything else, however, it’s Kojima’s realistic dialogue that sells these interactions. A stiff script would have immediately broken the illusion. With a single misstep, players would find themselves confused, questioning what exactly was going on in an already complex game. Kojima (and, to their credit the localization team) crafted a story so tight, it could be equally enjoyed from two polar opposite perspectives.

via http://getwallpapers.com

Even though Hideo Kojima’s script is deserving of praise, the core of Metal Gear Solid’s success is honestly just the presentation. Had Kojima decided to present the game as the latest installment in a series, with overt references that alienate newcomers (something the series would go on to do as soon as Metal Gear Solid 2,) the script’s quality would have no bearing on any discussions regarding Metal Gear Solid as a third installment. The script is just a bonus; the real star is the presentation. It’s careful and deliberate with a well paced output of information. The story makes sure never to overload too much on the player at once, instead allowing them to breathe as if every single detail is brand new for all parties involved. At the same time, characters acknowledge information they do know, grounding the story in reality. By all accounts, this approach should not have worked, but that’s just the brilliance of Hideo Kojima.

An avid-lover of all things Metal Gear Solid, Devil May Cry, and pretentious French lit, Renan spends most of his time passionately raving about Dragon Ball on the internet and thinking about how to apply Marxist theory to whatever video game he's currently playing.

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‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

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It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…

I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.

Coffee Talk
Some of the subject matter can be pretty serious in nature…

Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.

Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.

The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.

Coffee Talk
Appearances can often be deceiving in this game.

Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.


Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.

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The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child

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Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

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Games

‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.

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Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.

It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.

In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.

Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.

Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.

Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.

I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.

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