The Goggles Do…Something
For one of his E3 correspondences, Ryan Smith gave us a sampling of wearable virtual reality gear that could be found on the showfloor. As Ryan said in his article, virtual reality had a big presence at E3 this year, extending beyond the exhibition’s fringes, where it’s usually relegated. There was quite a bit of VR skepticism in the comments, though, with many thinking it’s just too embarrassing of a technology to catch on. DL argued against that thinking:
I don’t think there’s as much of a challenge to accepting VR, at least in “our” market, as has been made out to be.
One popular and fairly common aspect of video game playing is the image of the solitary player in front of a screen. Whether the player is a happily married adult taking an hour after the family has gone to bed to enjoy Call Of Duty or the teenager on summer break in their room competing in a racing series in Gran Turismo, there is certainly little aesthetic difference in adding a head-mounted display. The player is not being observed by others and is effectively escaping into the game. VR can only intensify that immersion/escape, while admittedly even providing less intrusion into the lives of others.
The Wii U GamePad is tantamount to an aesthetically pleasing VR set, with a small private screen and integrated controls that can keep the TV from being occupied. Its isolation is only limited to the ability of the player to block external stimuli. It doesn’t happen often, but I’ve been able to mentally shut out the rest of the room (I just have the wife and dog) while playing on the GamePad with headphones on, so I might as well have been in a VR headset.
Looking like a poor man’s RoboCop only matters if someone else sees you. If others are not watching, then it is effectively invisible. Being able to divorce video games from the television set is definitely both the present and the future, and there’s no reason these technologies are not viable alternatives for many use cases, but only if it adds value to the interactive experience. There can be a future for VR technology as long as we continue to live in closed, private spaces.
But as Dikachu notes, that kind of isolation can be hard to come by:
Unless you live alone, you’d have to worry about people walking up to you and smacking you in the goggles as a prank. At least, I would.
One other concern a few commenters had about the encroaching virtual future was how the weak-stomached among us might fare. long_dong_donkey_kong summed up these concerns:
I sometimes get motion sickness from playing some first-person games. It turns out this is fairly common, and for those of us who get it, it’s because your body sees movement but doesn’t feel the movement, so your brain assumes you’ve been poisoned and gets to work trying to counteract it. Since there’s no poison to counter, you just feel sick. I can play in a well-lit room. I can sit further from the TV. This helps—sometimes. Other times, my body says, “Fuck it, you’re gonna feel sick.” (Four-D rides at theme parks can be a nightmare without Dramamine). I can’t see any way that Oculus Rift or Sony Morpheus aren’t going to make me puke.
Blast Processing Or Bust
This week, we ran a fun little Inventory about pop culture ripoffs in ’80s Japanese video games. The final entry on the list was Nintendo’s Donkey Kong, a character that so closely resemble King Kong that the company was taken to court by Universal. Sillstaw pointed out one funny fact about the Universal v. Nintendo case:
You forgot to include the best part of the story, which was that Universal had to have known about King Kong being in the public domain, because they were the ones who sued RKO to put it there (to clear the way for the de Laurentiis remake).
Kingink brought up Street Fighter II’s M. Bison, which in the original Japanese version was the name of the African-American boxer we know as Balrog. The name was changed for to obscure the obvious Mike Tyson inspiration. Mike Bison didn’t make out list because SF2 didn’t come out until 1991, and he was not a character in the original Street Fighter (although there was a similar boxer character without the deal-sealing name). As multiple commenters pointed out, Bison’s name swap really screwed things up in the American version. The boxer became Balrog, which was the original name of the Spanish guy with the claws. Claw dude became Vega, which was a name he took away from the game’s dictator-like final boss. That character became M. Bison and went on to be played by the late great Raul Julia in Street Fighter: The Movie. See? It’s complicated. El Pollo Diablo has the scoop on some other Street Fighter name changes, although something tells me these ones might be made up:
There were more name swaps than that. Originally, Guile was called Blanka, as he was the token all-American white guy. This was changed to James Dean Kennedy, then Elvis Kerouac, then Jimi Thoreau, before they settled on a random noun.
Blanka was just Ken at first, because he’s actually just a normal guy where he comes from, and he only entered the World Warrior tournament to see what all the noise was about.
Ken, the “other Ryu,” was called Honda. As the previous company mascot for Honda Motor Co., who was stripped of his title after a bad review, he fights to regain his honour and position as morale officer at corporate events and picnics. He fights in an inspirational manner, showing teamwork and respect at all times.
It’s funny because they’re pretty plausible.
Elsewhere in the comments, the appearance of The Revenge Of Shinobi on our list jogged some Sega Genesis memories for needlehacksaw, who wondered why the characters in Genesis games often looked so much bigger than on its competitor, the Super NES:
I wanted to stress how amazing those Revenge Of Shinobi screenshots still look. It’s really impressive. In a way, that was my impression of the Genesis back in the day: The games were “not so good” (compared to the ubiquitous Super NES games I was more familiar with), but the sprites always looked—especially in screenshots—taller, more majestic, more detailed. More beautiful, you could say, to an eye that could easily mistake size for beauty. (I always preferred Masters of The Universe over Lego. I was a terrible child.)
I vaguely remember coming up with a half-baked theory in my tiny mind: I thought that it was actually the size of the sprites that made characters feel less agile in the game, because I somehow understood that they can’t jump as high when they are already half the height of the screen.
This kicked off a discussion about the differences between the computer guts of the Genesis and the Super NES, which offered possible reasons for these bigger Genesis sprites. It’s well worth checking out. Here’s Mr. Glitch breaking it down:
The Super NES has the Genesis beat hands-down in terms of both maximum sprite size and number of sprites on-screen, so honestly I don’t know why Genesis sprites tended to be bigger. The Genesis’ inferior color production, as pointed out by stepped_pyramids, sounds like one plausible explanation. A lot of early Genesis games were remakes of arcade games, so maybe that has something to with it, too. Games like Strider, Golden Axe, and Altered Beast sported lots of big, burly, attention-grabbing sprites.
No discussion about the differences between the SNES and Genesis would be complete without talking about the vastly different sound production capabilities of each. (Genesis FM synthesis for life!) Quarrelin’ Hardy summed up the gamble that went along with the Genesis’ unique soundscape pretty well:
Composers that played to the strengths of the Genesis sound chip pulled off some amazing stuff (like anything by Yuzo Koshiro, especially his Streets Of Rage work)! The only downside is that composers who didn’t pull it off turned out some of the most grating stuff imaginable, including using the dreaded ugly, messy deep note my brother and I dubbed the “Genesis Fart.” For a prime example of Genesis Fart, listen to this song from Doom 32X, which is entirely composed out of them.
On a similar tack, GaryX pointed us to an awesome Genesis soundtrack that I hadn’t heard before. This moody monstrosity was way ahead of its time:
My main memory of my Genesis is just how badass the soundtrack was to The Adventures Of Batman & Robin. That game kicked my ass all the time, but I played it so much just to hear the music.
The tunes it gets out of the Genesis’ sound chip still boggles my mind. The “Main Titles” alone is like 9 minutes long.
Seriously, this soundtrack is amazing. I’m partial to the “Big Boss” song myself.
That does it, folks! Sorry about missing last week. I was flying—errr, that is, Comment Cat was flying back from E3 at the time. Thanks for reading and commenting. We’ll see you next week!