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Samus Aran: What A Female Hero Should Be

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There’s a surge in female confidence, and girl power is on the rise across much of the world. Female protagonists have popped up to defend against the Mog Chothra, or been found creeping around Sevastopol trying to avoid a particularly terrifying alien species. But one female hero has been consistently unnoticed on her journey across the galaxy. Whether she’s defending against the depredation of the Space Pirates on Tallon IV, or stopping the rampage of the monstrous Gorea, she’s persistently overcome every obstacle thrown at her. That female hero (as the title already told you) is Samus Aran.

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Samus Aran has been around since 1986, when on the planet Zebes, she overcame the Space Pirates who intended to exploit the parasitic organisms known as Metroids (where the name of the game comes from for those trivia-inclined) for galactic domination. The great empowerment to women with Samus Aran is that her gender is rarely mentioned, or barely played upon. Her victory in Zebes had nothing to do with gender politics, and everything to do with Samus Aran being an incredible bounty hunter. The human operating the power suit was merely the greatest hero in the Galaxy, and that’s all that mattered.

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This is in contrast with much more recent portrayals of female protagonists in all forms of media. The most notable example is the new Ghostbusters movie which has played too heavily on replacing the original casting with a female line-up. Not only was the storyline badly written, but the acting was cringe-worthy at best and it’s done no justice to their decision to change Ghostbusters. The reality is that women don’t need to replace male heroes, as they can be heroic in their own right. Samus Aran didn’t replace a male Samus Aran. She was the original and that should be the inspiration for all female protagonists in games, movies and across all platforms of media.

It’s a bad reflection on directors and game designers if they cannot come up with original material for a female protagonist that people can be inspired by. But that wouldn’t be a true reflection, for we’ve seen original female protagonists time and time again, and therefore this new wave of laziness shouldn’t be shaping opinions in the way it has. Everybody is a critic, and not everybody is going to be happy with how a new female character is portrayed. This over-focus on what a female should be is partly why Samus Aran has gone unnoticed. She doesn’t portray much of the expectations for a female protagonist; she’s in a power-suit.

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There’s always the accusations of sexism directed at much of the gaming world, with the Gamergate situation of 2014 always a little mystifying for those who have engaged in gaming for a long time. Whilst a lot of female characters can be seen as overly sexualized, Samus Aran has shown it isn’t necessarily the norm. Her femininity has never really shaped the games, nor has it been a concerning feature in any of the gameplay. Sometimes, there’s a habit of looking far too much at a small negative, rather than embracing something legitimately positive. No one could argue against Princess Zelda being a strong, defiant, resourceful girl whom was vital in defeating Ganon; and there are serious concerns for those who can sexualize Kazooie. Female heroes exist in gaming, and they’ve existed since the beginning.

And with Metroid Prime: Federation Force set to be released on August 19th in North America and September 2nd in Europe, there’s a reason to reflect on how empowering Samus Aran should be. She has been one of (if not the) first female protagonist in a game, and she continues strong to this day. Vitally, her gender or sexuality has never been a part of the games. Samus Aran should be the future of female protagonists, not Ghostbusters. Samus Aran should be the face for girls in gaming, not Anita Sarkeesian. Samus Aran should be the example of female empowerment in gaming, and hopefully upon the release of Metroid Prime: Federation Force, there will be a realization that gaming remains as inclusive and accepting as it has always been.

Lost his ticket on the 'Number 9' Luxury Express Train to the Ninth Underworld. Has been left to write articles and reviews about games to write off his debt until the 'powers that be' feel it is sufficiently paid.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Hugsie Muffinball

    August 8, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    Nintendo is cracking down on AM2Rv1.0, but not before it was mirrored and seeded everywhere.

    magnet:?xt=urn:btih:31059585e68123d095871d3169899cd900b77213&dn=AM2R%20v1.0

    Not cool, guys. (Unless, like Streets of Rage Remake, you waited with a
    wink and nod until it was completed and widely distributed before
    requesting takedowns).

  2. Noble Alfred

    August 9, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    There is a simple reason Samus apparently didn’t offend those SJW’s, she for the most part wears a suit.
    And are you going to completely ignore her other M portrayal?

    And Lara Croft, in Legends and Underworld was a pretty badass action heroe too. But somehow wearing clothing of a normal human being and having parts of a normal human being offends everyone now.

    You are right though, for a strong character you don’t need to force it. But I think we had a lot of strong characters before. I myself find the old Lara Croft to be a strong character, infact its the new one that I find lacking. The new Lara Croft, the new Bioware Casts etc.. are all either too gender aware or too gender passive. There were/are plently of Badass female characters, just because some go on to whine on the internet saying there are not forcing most to please them particularly, afraid they might come off as being sexist if they don’t.

    And being gender aware or even exploiting the gender is not a crime. The female from Tenchu games, Bloodrayne etc are great characters who are strong. Your argument of a character needing to be gender passive to be strong is only half-right. At the end even my argument doesn’t matter.

    We need less articles and more competent writers who aren’t afraid to take criticism.
    And we need less of people forcing them to write characters a certain way, he/she is the writer you are just the privileged.

    • James Baker

      August 9, 2016 at 6:20 pm

      Thanks for your passionate response.

      I’ve always been a huge fan of Samus (she’s actually tattooed on my arm) and as a child it had nothing to do with her gender, as I was unaware, nor would I have cared. My article was more of a ridicule at today’s climate of pushing for strong female characters in all media, when in my opinion strong female characters have always existed.

      With Metroid Prime: Federation Force set to be released, I thought we should celebrate one of the strongest female characters in gaming, who in my mind also deserves a film. It’s a tough subject to talk about with a lot of people afraid to engage in it. As a writer, it’s important not to shy away from any subject, as freedom of expression is a birthright we shouldn’t allow to be taken away.

      Politics aside, Samus Aran deserves to be showcased as a hero, regardless of her gender. There’s even an argument she’s the first transgender hero in gaming, but it really doesn’t matter. She’s original, she’s dangerous, and she’s been inspiring. The Gaming Industry doesn’t get given the credit it deserves for knocking down boundaries.

      • Noble Alfred

        August 9, 2016 at 8:11 pm

        I see. I misunderstood your intention with this article. I came to the conclusion I came based on the title you gave. I appreciate you making it clear.

        And you are right, the gaming industry doesn’t get the credit it deserves for its great characters. Most media refuses to acknowledge the characters being fleshed out without needing for dialogues and monologues. We also define game characters through the actions we take and journey we go through, I think this is one thing that everyone seem to overlook.

        At the end of Metroid, we defined Samus as a badass not because of dialogue sequences. We defined her badass because we went along the journey with her and therefore know she is badass.

        Finally, Yes. It is not necessary for the games to force females into the narrative. But at the same time I don’t think the current push is all that bad, more gender neutral games could use female playable characters/protagonists. I think the push atleast shows to AAA publishers that female protagonists aren’t unacceptable. I don’t think Ubisoft would’ve ever accepted a female in any of their main current games if there wasn’t such a strong backclash and push during the time of Unity. The ability to play as both genders in For Honor etc… so I don’t think its all that bad. Its a grey area, you want to push just the right amount to show them its a feasible *option*. But forcing them to be written a particular way is where I draw the line, that’s the writer’s choice and not yours.

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Game Reviews

‘Life is Strange 2’ Episode 5 Review – “Wolves”: A Worthy Send-off

The final episode of Life is Strange 2 may take a while to get going but it does offer a solid conclusion to the Diaz brothers’ journey.

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Life is Strange 2

Life is Strange 2 hasn’t made any bones about being a political game over the course of the last year. The 5th, and final episode, “Wolves”, doesn’t just continue with this message, it doubles down, and in a big way.

Set near the Arizona-Mexico border, “Wolves” follows the Diaz brothers on the final leg of their journey. Having escaped from the cult that held Daniel up as a messianic figure in the previous episode, Sean and Daniel are camping out in a sort of pop-up town filled with outsiders like themselves.

Life is Strange 2

The location provides Life is Strange 2 with its final breath of relaxation before the story enters its high tension endgame, and it’s a much needed reprieve. Unfortunately, it does seem to go on a bit longer than the player might like, and that makes things drag a smidge.

To give you some idea of how long you’ll be spending in the village, 4 of the 6 collectibles are found here. So, yes, this starting area is the main place you’ll be spending “Wolves” in. To be clear, the area isn’t bad per se. There’s a lot to see, a scavenger hunt to go on, and a few interesting characters to speak with, including a surprise cameo from the original game. The bummer of it all is that players will be feeling the time here more laboriously simply because there isn’t much of anything happening.

Life is Strange 2

In the 2nd or 3rd episode of this story it’s perfectly fine for an extended bit of down time. Episode 3, in particular, benefited greatly from allowing you to settle into the setting and get to know a diverse and likable new group of characters. However, by the 5th episode, players will be so eager to see how things are gonna settle up, they won’t be able to get out of this area fast enough.

On the upswing, once Sean and Daniel leave the village, the story moves at a pretty solid clip to the credits. As the key art and trailer for “Wolves” might suggest, the Diaz brothers do indeed challenge the border wall in the final leg of Life is Strange 2. Where things go from there, I won’t spoil, but rest assured that Daniel will absolutely go through the crisis as you’ve trained him to do.

By this I mean, you will see the final results of your choices throughout the game, and they’re pretty impressive. With 4 possible endings, and 3 possible variations on those endings, Life is Strange 2 can ultimately play out in a variety of ways. How yours plays out will, of course, depend on the choices you’ve made and how you’ve influenced your brother throughout your journey.

Either way, though, Life is Strange 2 closes off “Wolves” with an emotionally satisfying and generally fulfilling conclusion to your journey. It might be a necessary evil that the events can’t be intense the whole way through, being that this is not an action or combat-focused game, but the fact that things take so long to get going in the final episode is a bit of a problem.

Still, fans worried that Life is Strange 2 might fail to stick the landing can rest easy. “Wolves” might not be the best, or most satisfying, episode of the series but it does what it needs to do and it does it well, particularly in the back half.

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Game Reviews

‘Yaga’ Review: A Bittersweet Fairy Tale

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Yaga Game Review

Some games feel perfectly suited to their genres, as if they fulfill every ambition that their genre could promise. On paper, Yaga from the developer Breadcrumbs Interactive, should be one of those games. This roguelike RPG is meant to bring traditional Slavic folktales to life, and its procedurally generated structure allows the game to change in every playthrough, just like how the ancient fairy tales it’s based on can change in every telling. Yaga immediately shines on a conceptual level, but as a game, the most important question remains: will this fairy tale be enjoyable to play?

From start to finish, Yaga uses the rich source material of Eastern European history and folklore to create a vibrant, fantastical world. The entire game is framed as three elderly women telling the story of Ivan, a heroic blacksmith who has been stricken with the curse of bad luck. These women spin a fanciful yarn, one in which Ivan is constantly plagued by horrors from traditional fairy tales such as the hideous One-Eyed Likho, along with more realistic foes, such as a corrupt, overbearing Tsar. The game thrives on this balance between history and fantasy. Its world is filled with peasants who face daily, universal struggles with war and agriculture, while massive ogres and goblin-like Vodyanoys haunt the surrounding wilderness. This mixture creates a strong setting that finally gives Slavic history and mythology its long-overdue representation in games.

Yaga Game Review

“Take the presentation and story together, and Yaga becomes a playable portrait of the lives and superstitions of Eastern European peasants.”

The frame story always remains the same: Ivan will always have to serve his Tsar while avoiding bad luck in every playthrough. However, beyond these core details, the old women are extremely flexible storytellers, often switching events around or changing story beats entirely. In some playthroughs, you may discover a woman raising an enormous chicken; in others, you may instead encounter a band of thieves waiting to rob you. You will frequently face important decisions to make that will dramatically impact the outcome of your quest. yes, you can always break into monster hideouts with hammers blazing to slay every creature before you; but more often than not, you are also given the opportunity to peacefully talk your way out of these toxic situations. Even more dramatically, oftentimes the game will zoom out to the old women storytellers and allow you to choose how they tell the rest of Ivan’s story. Yaga is at its best when it doubles down on this player freedom. It makes every moment engaging and allows its stories to truly come alive.

Yaga

Yaga’s writing and presentation only serve to make this world even more striking. It features a distinctly dark sense of humor – for instance, a man may ask you to push a boulder into a well behind his house, but he will neglect to tell you that he has also thrown his wife into the bottom of that well ahead of time. Much of this dialogue is even written in rhyme, enhancing the otherworldly, fairy tale atmosphere. On top of that, nearly all dialogue is fully voice acted, with most voice actors delivering some eccentrically charming performances that make the game feel as if it’s a playable Disney film. The visuals look like they’re taken straight out of a Russian children’s book of fairy tales, while the music incorporates traditional instruments and language into an electronic, hip-hop fusion soundtrack that captures the cultural heritage that Yaga focuses on while connecting it to modern culture. Take the presentation and story together, and Yaga becomes a playable portrait of the lives and superstitions of Eastern European peasants.

However, this leads to the gameplay. Quests may be randomized each time you play, but nearly every one of them takes the same general format. One character will request help, and then Ivan will have to venture out into the world to fight some demons or recover an item. Worse yet, the levels are just as randomized in their procedurally generated design, and not in a particularly clever way, either: most of them likewise follow the same formula, being little more than arenas full of enemies connected by copy-and-paste environments. Many paths in each environment lead to nothing more than pointless dead ends. The combat has a satisfyingly simple basis, with basic moves like long- and close-range attacks, roll dodging, items to use, and a variety of different weapons to equip, although his trusty old hammer is generally the best choice. However, while this simplicity makes the combat enjoyable on its own, there is very little depth to it, and the inherently repetitive design of the mission only serves to highlight how paper-thin combat can be. Most battles involve little more than hacking away at enemies until they die, which becomes increasingly repetitive by the end of the roughly ten-hour campaign.

Yaga

At the very least, the robust customization system helps add a little intrigue to the combat. As a blacksmith, Ivan is naturally gifted with the ability to craft weapons for himself to use. By scavenging parts and items from fallen enemies and treasure chests around the world, Ivan is able to create the most powerful weapons. Crafting is simple to use yet extremely ripe for experimentation, requiring only one base item and a handful of accessories to create unique new items. With dozens of components to discover and use in your forging, there are plentiful opportunities to create the best possible weapons.

“All told, Yaga achieves a bittersweet ending: it’s bitter as a game but sweet as a fairy tale.”

The crafting system would be the standout aspect of the moment-to-moment gameplay if it weren’t foiled by another one of the game’s systems: Bad Luck. Ivan has been cursed with perpetual Bad Luck, which grows constantly throughout the game – whenever something good happens, Bad Luck is sure to increase. Whenever the Bad Luck meter fills all the way, Likho will appear and strike Ivan, generally breaking one of his weapons or stealing his money.

Yaga Game Review

On paper, this mechanic makes sense, since it prohibits the player from becoming too overpowered and also fits into the folklore style off the story. In practice, however, it is an infuriating limitation on player progression and invention. It effectively punishes players for putting thought and care into their weapon crafting and character-building – at any moment it can all be washed away in bad luck, so what’s the point? Considering how enjoyable the crafting and combat systems are, it’s a shame that Bad Luck seems to exist solely to diminish the very best parts of the gameplay, leaving the game feeling like it cripples itself.

Your enjoyment of Yaga depends heavily on what experience you want out of it. If you’re looking for a deep and satisfying RPG, then it likely won’t deliver. Although it features satisfying combat and customization systems, the frustrating randomization of its level design and Bad Luck system only serve to foil these good qualities. If you are instead looking for a faithful, fleshed-out image of Slavic cultural heritage, portraying both the harsh realities of peasant life along with its fanciful folklore, then Yaga is a clear triumph thanks to its emphasis on player choice, its excellent writing, and its beautiful hand-drawn visuals and inventive soundtrack. All told, Yaga achieves a bittersweet ending: it’s bitter as a game but sweet as a fairy tale.

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Games

‘Resident Evil 3: Nemesis’ — A New Height to Survival-Horror

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Resident Evil 3 Nemesis

If we can forget that Nemesis was a poorly designed rubber goof in the Resident Evil: Apocalypse movie, we can easily state that he is the apex predator of the series. The follow-up to Resident Evil 2 had quite a few expectations to fill and, for the most part, Resident Evil 3 delivered. While not so much a fan-favorite as RE2, there was a lot to like about RE3. The return of RE‘s Jill Valentine, some new intuitive controls, and, of course, theNemesis.

RE3 marks the first time in the series where you are limited to one character – Jill. Through this, the story is slightly more focused and straightforward – despite the plot being all about Jill trying to leave Raccoon City. RE3 director Kazuhiro Aoyama cleverly sets in pieces of RE2 to make this work as both a prequel and a sequel. If you’ve never played RE2 – shame on you – you would not be able to scout notable tie-ins such as the police station. With a large majority of the building still locked up, Marvin Branagh, the wounded police officer who helps you in the second game, is still unconscious and has yet to give anyone the keycard which unlocks the emergency security system.

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Where RE3 really shines is in its latest entry of Umbrella Corps. bio-engineered tyrants called Nemesis. The hulking tank brought a new dimension to the series, invoking more cringe-inducing terror and stress than ever. As if zombies and critters jumping through windows weren’t bad enough, now you have to worry about an RPG-wielding maniac busting through a wall and chasing you around the entirety of the immediate environment – and chase is certainly brought to a whole new level indeed. It became a running joke when you would encounter a handful of zombies, but could escape unscathed by simply running into another room. Nemesis, on the other hand, will continue his pursuit no matter what room you run into. At the time, this brought a whole new level of detail in the genre. Knowing that at any given moment he will just appear and will certainly derail whatever key or plot item you’re quested to look for made Nemesis a very intense experience.

Resident Evil 3 is the pinnacle of the series and the last of old-school survival-horror.

The gameplay also takes a few different approaches in this game. There will be moments when you encounter Nemesis, or certain plot occasions where you will be prompted to make a decision. It was a great alteration to the series, as it added new layers and weight for the player. Another addition to the gameplay came in the form of control although as minute as it sounds, is having the ability to turn a full 180 degrees – yes you read that correctly. Resident Evil quintessentially coined the term survival-horror, and survival certainly predicates the genre. There will be times – if not numerous times, you will run out of ammo. When those moments used to occur, you would have to make your character turn in the slowest fashion imaginable to make a run for the door and to safety. It was those moments back then that would pull the player away from the action. With the addition of the quick-turn ability- which was actually first introduced in Capcom’ Dino Crisis game – it gave the player the chance to just cap a few zombies and dash creating more seamless and dynamic gameplay.

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The level design of Resident Evil 3 is grand, if not grander than RE2. A lot of the setting and scenery take place in the open air of the city and a few other places around the vicinity. RE and RE2 mostly took place indoors, and those settings helped create unique moods especially when it is all about tight corridors adding a more claustrophobic feel. Aoyama definitely went with a bigger setting and atmosphere in the follow-up. The game takes you through a police station, a hospital, a local newspaper office, a clock tower and a factory. More often than not, though, people tend to forget the scope and grandeur of RE3. Not to mention you can only… spoiler… kill Nemesis with a Rail-Gun at the end.

Resident Evil 3 is the pinnacle of the series and the last of old-school survival-horror. It took everything that it did so well in the previous titles and made it bigger and better. Nemesis encapsulated fear and dread in ways rarely experienced at the time. The scene where he popped through a window and chased players through the police station has always remained a nostalgic moment, much like anything that comes through a window in the RE series. In fact, a bit of advice for anyone playing the first-gen of RE titles: beware of windows.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on May 16, 2016.

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