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Showing posts from October, 2017

Game Fright

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Japan has gone Halloween mad over the last few years. Shelves are stacked with gruesome tat and cute pumpkins, and thousands of fancy-dressed youths pack into Shibuya on Halloween weekend. We’re not yet at trick-or-treat levels of stupidity, but we may only be a few years away. It’s a fucking nightmare.

To celebrate my favourite seasonal event, I thought I’d share some video game related scares. Because I like video games and have played lots of them.

The First Dead Space

Video games aren’t scary. If someone tells you otherwise, then they are either a big baby or a liar. Interactive media should excel at making you jump, yet the best horror games don’t come close to matching movies for shocks and scares.

I can only think of one exception, and that’s Dead Space. I felt genuine dread each time I rounded a blind corner, opened a door to an unexplored room or found myself stranded in an unlit space. I felt uncomfortable throughout, thanks to the eerie sound design, the derelict setting, I…

Jumping Back into the Animus

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I was fascinated by history long before I was into video games. As a child, I’d daydream about knights and castles, and spend hours flicking through my Weetabix Illustrated Book of British History. For years, I thought Henry VIII was a crispy, breakfast biscuit.

As a teenager, I read wacky theories about precursor races and dense tomes on the ancient world. I pored over epics like Gilgamesh and the Iliad, and read widely on the campaigns of Alexander the Great. I studied Modern History at university, in part because it was the cover-all-your-bases subject for students undecided on their future profession, but also because I was still fascinated by the past.

History and games don’t mix as well or as often as I’d like. Historical periods are well covered in the RTS genre, but outside of that it’s slim pickings. Alternate histories are popular, though the actual setting is rarely of any great consequence, and the FPS has an on/off relationship with WW2 and other semi-modern periods wit…

Color me Interested

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One hundred and eight yen.

One hundred and eight yen for Final Fantasy IV. A cart and a plastic sleeve, but no box, found in a junk crate at my local Book Off. One hundred and eight yen for Final Fantasy IV on the WonderSwan Color. 
Bandai’s WonderSwan was a Japan-only, handheld console. Released in 1999, it was designed by Gunpei Yokoi, the man behind Nintendo’s Game Boy. Tragically, it would be his final, major contribution to the industry, as he was killed in a traffic accident in 1997.

The original, monochromatic model was replaced by the WonderSwan Color within two years of release, and finally the SwanCrystal in 2002. 
Bandai’s 16-bit handheld hung with the competition at first, thanks to its low price point, long battery life – up to 40 hours on a single AA battery – and initial support from some of the biggest third-party publishers, including Squaresoft. Ultimately, however, the competition was too strong. The Game Boy Advance claimed an overwhelming share of the market and …