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1001 Spikes: Of Death and Love ⊟
[Guest writer/TinyCaster Francesco Dagostino shares why he loves a game that hates its players so much, judging by the lengths it goes to kill them.]
This might sound like a very bizarre statement, but 1001 Spikes has some of the best sliding ice block puzzles I’ve ever had the honor of attempting to solve. They don’t appear until the second half of the game, but when they do you just get this sudden feeling that the people who made it (these people being 8bit Fanatics with the help of Nicalis) have a grasp on the puzzle-platformer genre that is waaaaaaaaay above average.
Every action that the main character Aban Hawkins can perform, from shooting knives to pushing boulders (or, in this case, ice blocks) has a lot of depth, and variables to take into account. Basically, to solve these stages, you don’t have to just push or break ice blocks, but also run behind them, jump ahead of them, use them to reach higher ground or run back and forth on top of them to avoid some of the game’s titular, deadly, and omnipresent spikes.
Of course, it’s not just the ice block puzzles that drove me to sit in this chair and start writing an article about this fantastic game instead of playing it some more: pretty much every single level is built to amaze and surprise the player. The focus being on the word “surprise” here. “Surprise” meaning “kill.”
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At first glance 1001 Spikes is just another retro-style platformer (a very pretty one!), but try jumping around, shooting, falling and dying, and you will realize this is actually a very modern game! The controls are ultra-responsive, and the action flows just beautifully. The collision detection in particular is pixel-perfect, which helps a lot with an action title like this, in which a single pixel can make the difference between life and death. Nicalis and 8bit Fanatics know exactly what players want from video games like this, and it shows clearly in 1001 Spikes' execution.
The main mode of the game, simply called “1001 Spikes”, offers a collection of elegantly designed death traps. Spikes, darts, pits, explosions, scorpions, lava balls, deadly penguins — there’s a huge amount of things that can kill you, and they are all well-hidden in seemingly safe corridors and on apparently stable bridges. You won’t know they’re even there until it’s too late.

If I gave you the impression that Aban’s adventure is a hard one… well, it means I’m doing my job right. One quick Google search will show you how many people use the title of this game together with Dark Souls’. And that’s saying something — about both its difficulty and its quality.
Playing 1001 Spikes really feels like exploring some incredibly dangerous ruin, especially when you’re doing so with friends, (1001 Spikes supports 4 players locally, but only on the home console and PC versions!) when you can feel the tension in the air. If someone makes a mistake and dies, the shock immediately hits other players, snapping them out of their concentration and leading to another premature Game Over.It’s hard not to laugh all together when something like that happens.
Despite the difficulty, 1001 Spikes is not annoying or frustrating at all. In fact it’s so well balanced and paced, it’s greedily consuming of your attention. Assimilating and conquering the masterful design of every locale is, in my opinion, the real purpose of this game — the right way to play it, if you will. Every time you die, the screen turns black, and in chunky white type tells you that “YOU ARE DEAD!”, but it’s so easy to read it as “ONE MORE DANCE?”
Completing the levels will, of course, give your self esteem a huge boost, but what makes 1001 Spikes something you absolutely MUST play is the feeling you get by dying right next to the exit of a stage, of seeing yourself robbed of another victory just one second away from the goal by a perversely placed trap. The best part? You were expecting something like this to happen, but you were too scared to acknowledge it. And then you feel motivated to try again, to go back to that specific point that took your life to claim it back and move on. Or, more realistically, die again just one step further.
Sometimes you’ll die because the levels are tough and the people who made this game sadistic, evil creatures, but most of the time, you’ll die because you’re hasty, because you don’t have patience, or because you’re not fully focused. When you make those kind of human mistakes, it’s easy to just press a button and continue, sacrificing one of the 1001 lives you start with. … I wonder what happens if you lose them all!
1001 Spikes is a pudgy lil’ game. It offers a crazy amount of content for the price it asks. Over 100 levels, four different and equally amazing and addictive modes (including a Smash Bros.-style battle arena) and over a dozen unlockable characters! Most of these are cameos from other titles, such as Curly Brace from Cave Story, Nyx from NyxQuest, Commander Video from the Bit.Trip series or Jonathan Blow from… the real world?!?

Anyway, all these gals and boys come with different abilities and their own music theme, obviously inspired by the game they come from! Neat, huh? There’s a lot of of respect for great games of the past and present in this project, and a lot of effort to create an experience that feels new, fresh, innovative, despite all the nods from the past.
I don’t joke when I say 1001 Spikes is a game that deserves to be treated as a masterpiece alongside gems like Spelunky or Cave Story. It will awaken you, it will make you love video games like you forgot you could.
A few lines above I said that the people who made this game are sadistic and evil, but you know what 1001 Spikes has a lot of? Spikes! … Just kidding. I meant to say heart. A game like this can only come to be when people really love what they’re doing and want to share their ideas with the rest of the world, so that as many people as possible can see their love, and love what they did with it.
It’s easy to forget, with console wars, AAA stuff and cinematic experiences in the way, but that’s pretty much the best thing you can hope to get.
1001 Spikes is out on pretty much every existing system. PS Vita, PS4 (they’re cross buy!), Steam, Wii U, and 3DS. On some systems, you can also get it at a discounted price (10.01$, ahah) if you have previously bought other Nicalis titles! The home console versions are the best ones in my opinion. I’m playing it on WiiU — mostly because I love posting silly screenshots and doodles and I can share the experience with my husbando and friends!
[You can follow Francesco Dagostino on Twitter at @franpaccio. The GIFs featured in this article were pulled from videos uploaded by Playstate and EliteAssass1n.]
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1001 Spikes: Of Death and Love ⊟

[Guest writer/TinyCaster Francesco Dagostino shares why he loves a game that hates its players so much, judging by the lengths it goes to kill them.]

This might sound like a very bizarre statement, but 1001 Spikes has some of the best sliding ice block puzzles I’ve ever had the honor of attempting to solve. They don’t appear until the second half of the game, but when they do you just get this sudden feeling that the people who made it (these people being 8bit Fanatics with the help of Nicalis) have a grasp on the puzzle-platformer genre that is waaaaaaaaay above average.

Every action that the main character Aban Hawkins can perform, from shooting knives to pushing boulders (or, in this case, ice blocks) has a lot of depth, and variables to take into account. Basically, to solve these stages, you don’t have to just push or break ice blocks, but also run behind them, jump ahead of them, use them to reach higher ground or run back and forth on top of them to avoid some of the game’s titular, deadly, and omnipresent spikes.

Of course, it’s not just the ice block puzzles that drove me to sit in this chair and start writing an article about this fantastic game instead of playing it some more: pretty much every single level is built to amaze and surprise the player. The focus being on the word “surprise” here. “Surprise” meaning “kill.”

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Review: Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge

[Guest writer Mohammed Taher, president of Brave Wave Productions, super Mega Man fan, and Club Tiny contributor, offered us this review of the first Game Boy Mega Man game, now available on 3DS Virtual Console. Naturally, his review gives special attention to the music!]

Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge came out in 1991 and is the first entry in the portable series, out roughly four years after the original Mega Man on the NES. I favor the Japanese title Rockman World, as it draws a clear line between the console and handheld entries, so I’ll be using it throughout this compact review.

For the uninitiated, the gimmick in Rockman World games is to mix up two classic games’ bosses, a theme that reoccurs up until Rockman World 5, which introduces totally new bosses and stage themes (but that’s a story for another time). So, Rockman World 1 brings four bosses from Mega Man 1 (Cut Man, Elec Man, Fire Man, Ice Man) and four others from Mega Man 2 (Quick, Flash, Bubble, Heat). It’s an interesting formula, which Capcom revisited with the Mega Drive game in a different form.

I count myself as a die-hard Classic Mega Man fan, but always focused on the NES entries and somehow forgot that the series has a number of good games on Game Boy. I played Rockman World 1 for the first time when it came out on 3DS eShop a few years ago, and it almost put me off from playing the rest of the portable games.

It’s really not good.

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Killzone without Killing ⊟
[Guest writer Steven Strom examines how Killzone: Mercenary’s gameplay allowed him to shirk the role given to him by the game’s title, earning rewards for doing as little fighting as possible – and how he interpreted this play style.]
I’m not supposed to know how the silent protagonist of Killzone: Mercenary feels about his life. At least, that’s what traditional game narrative says.
The original Bioshock – which features one of the most critically lauded narratives in modern gaming – hinges on the idea that the choices of a silent hero are no choice at all. The Gordon Freemans of this generation have been defined by enemies to overcome, allies to be obeyed, and the rules put in place by genre and narrative.
If I accept that way of thinking, Killzone: Mercenary’s protagonist Arran Danner is a terrible person. He’s a war profiteer in a genetic struggle between spacefaring colonists. The Helghast, freedom-seeking colonists turned fascists, and the ISA, Earth’s intergalactic blacklegs, vie for dominance through violence. It’s the crux of every Killzone game. Rather than choose one side, Danner profits from both as one of the game’s titular mercenaries, making this the first entry to examine the conflict and characters from both factions.


As this is a shooter, my primary method of interacting with the world while in Danner’s shoes is through violence. Whether it’s mowing down guards, “interrogating” high-ranking officers (they’re the ones with the best hats) for intel, or stabbing my way through the game’s “brutal melee” function, nearly every action ends with a death and a healthy deposit of space bucks to the total marked on my HUD. Even with more weapons, armor, and gadgets to buy in Mercenary’s black market, I had definitely made more in-game cash than I had put in. Hence, war profiteer.
However, much of that money and success wasn’t a result of living up to the mercenary name – the role that had been thrust on me by the game’s narrative, and the characters within.
Unlike its predecessors, Mercenary actually allows for a stealth option in most encounters. On a mechanical level, it morphs otherwise rote conflict with brain-dead A.I. into something more akin to the “combat puzzles” of Halo and The Last of Us. On a narrative level, it’s a contradiction.
As I stalked through Mercenary’s intended battle scenes, I was rewarded. Stealth kills earn greater funds, while making it through an arena completely unnoticed donates an even greater stipend at the end of a checkpoint. Not only that, but it’s the only surefire way to engage in interrogation, and feed the completionist bug bred into me by decades of game playing.

Consequentially, I also fought fewer enemies, as there were no alarms raised to call in reinforcements. Over time, I found this to be a relief. Yes, fewer enemies meant easier objectives and greater rewards, but also meant a clearer conscience. As the first Killzone to humanize both the ISA and the Helghast, the impetus to think of my targets as more than fodder made me uncomfortable in the role I filled as Danner. A mercenary is meant to kill for profit, but even as I profited, minimizing casualties became my priority. I was forced less often forced to think about what each enemy NPC – characters that weren’t simply in it for the money – might be doing had they not been thrust into war; what they might have done if I hadn’t intervened.
Even as Danner mutely refuses to justify his actions, the gameplay espouses actions which run contrary to the story, the genre, and even the title of the game itself. His enemies, allies, and the constrictions of plot can’t define him. Instead, they defined me, and I, in turn, gave a him a new voice through action.
My Arran Danner is a guilt-ridden tool of war not good for much else. His world is terrible, and one where he only knows how to do one thing well. But that doesn’t mean he enjoys it.
Whether Arran agrees with me or not, he’s not saying.
[Steven Strom is a freelance writer in Fargo, ND. Find him @stevenstrom.]
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Killzone without Killing ⊟

[Guest writer Steven Strom examines how Killzone: Mercenary’s gameplay allowed him to shirk the role given to him by the game’s title, earning rewards for doing as little fighting as possible – and how he interpreted this play style.]

I’m not supposed to know how the silent protagonist of Killzone: Mercenary feels about his life. At least, that’s what traditional game narrative says.

The original Bioshock – which features one of the most critically lauded narratives in modern gaming – hinges on the idea that the choices of a silent hero are no choice at all. The Gordon Freemans of this generation have been defined by enemies to overcome, allies to be obeyed, and the rules put in place by genre and narrative.

If I accept that way of thinking, Killzone: Mercenary’s protagonist Arran Danner is a terrible person. He’s a war profiteer in a genetic struggle between spacefaring colonists. The Helghast, freedom-seeking colonists turned fascists, and the ISA, Earth’s intergalactic blacklegs, vie for dominance through violence. It’s the crux of every Killzone game. Rather than choose one side, Danner profits from both as one of the game’s titular mercenaries, making this the first entry to examine the conflict and characters from both factions.

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Hopes, expectations for Inafune’s Mighty No. 9

[Capcom veteran Keiji Inafune astonished everyone last night by unveiling a new action platformer meant to carry on the spirit of the Mega Man series he once helmed. Tiny Cartridge contibutor and Gamasutra blog director Christian Nutt shares his thoughts on the project and its promise in this piece reprinted from his blog.]

I woke up today to a very interesting surprise. Keiji Inafune and Comcept announced Mighty No. 9, a new game in the vein of Mega Man, and a Kickstarter campaign to fund that game — which is the even bigger surprise.

Let’s face it. One way or another, when Inafune left Capcom, Mega Man died. And I think a great number of people wanted to see Inafune bring Mega Man back to life, somehow. This is obviously the closest he can get. And it’s exciting. Along with my Mega Man-loving fiance, I’ve already backed it. And it’s trending super well so far — as I write this, the campaign has raised well over $500k, and the U.S. — which probably has the most Mega Man fans, hasn’t even been awake for most of its first day. At this point, it’s a sure bet to exceed its goal and head into the stretch goals.

Japanese developers, for a lot of reasons, have not yet flocked to Kickstarter. I think those of us who truly love classic Japanese games have been enviously eyeing the Wastelands and Torments (nothing wrong with those — I just never played the originals so have no nostalgia) and have been hoping for the same sort of thing, and here we go. Finally.

I want to write, though, about my expectations and hopes for this project a little bit.

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  • Source ferricide
M&L: Dream Team, and beating the Gold Beanie
[With Mario & Luigi: Dream Team releasing today today, contributor Francesco Dagostino looks at the care AlphaDream put into the 3DS RPG by examining one of its surprisingly complex encounters that players will want to master.]
I’ve spent the last couple of hours obsessively playing Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, repeating the same battle over and over. It’s not a particularly fierce fight, and it’s not even compulsory; it’s just a chance encounter with the Marioi-esque equivalent of a Metal Slime. I’m sure Dragon Quest fans will understand why I’m so stubborn about killing this little guy: it’s not a matter of experience points or drops — though those help. It’s a matter of pride!
The monster is called a Gold Beanie, and as the name suggests, it’s a particularly precious, yet mischievous-looking, plant seed. One of the reasons I’m fighting this battle repeatedly is because Dream Team is a very interesting game at heart, challenging in the most fun way possible. It’s an RPG that incorporates numerous platformer elements to enrich the battle system and make it constantly unpredictable.

The game starts off very simple, with a limited variety of enemy types, and through repetition teaches the players all the actions enemies can perform — and how to counter them by jumping at the very last second or bouncing and juggling projectiles with the hammer.
The Gold Beanie, just like a Metal Slime, takes a lot of hits to kill and has a tendency to run away when the tables start turning in the player’s favor. These would normally be the perfect ingredients for a disastrous recipe leading to my frustration, and yet I just can’t stop trying over and over. Thankfully, I saved right before the fight: monsters are visible on the map and you can save anywhere — yes, call me a cheater if you want.
But it’s not the first time I found myself facing the same monster multiple times. This episode of the RPG spin-off series has a new feature that makes battles even more fun: a screen containing a huge checklist of so called “Expert Challenges” that you can check at any point both on the field map and during battles, that shows special tasks you can try to complete during each skirmish, ranging from never taking any damage from a specific mob to unleashing ten consecutive “Excellent” attacks.

Dream Team can be very addictive, and completing these little tasks make each battle more fun, forcing the player to explore and learn all the attack patterns at each and every enemy’s disposal, then choose whether to dodge or riposte depending on the situation.
To spice things up, the Gold Beanie has a very interesting behavior and diverse attack pattern, and if you don’t learn to counter all his moves and actually hit him every chance you get (this will make him topple), the chances of his escape dramatically rise.
The Beanie has three main attacks, which are worth describing in detail. Each attack has at least one very important variable, making his moves very hard to read for an inexperienced player.
1) The first attack is very simple, at least in theory. The Beanie will charge at Mario around two to five times. After each charge, which you’ll needs to repeal with a well-timed hammer bop, the Beanie will gain speed. At a certain point, though, he will briefly flash red. It’s just a millisecond, so you need to pay close attention to his color. When he does, he will launch himself against you for the last time, filled with rage. This is his last attack, but be careful: after flashing red, he will actually trip, falling on the floor and bouncing above Mario for an accidental surprise attack, messing up the player’s timing.
2) The second move the Beanie can execute during his turn is a “chase attack.” It’s a new kind of action in the series that is either activated by some specific enemies (generally bosses) or by Mario and Luigi’s Bros. Attacks. Basically, the Gold Beanie whistles and calls a flock of Green Beanies, and together they all start to chase Mario, who runs toward the bottom of the screen. One at a time, the Green Beanies will accelerate and try to trample the pudgy plumber, but he can move freely left and right, hop to avoid the enemies, or kill them with one of his trademark jumps. Meanwhile, the Gold Beanie will move about the screen, feinting his charge and hiding behind the other Beanies, so you will want to keep your eyes on him like a predator — because when he actually does charge, carefully hidden behind one of his lackeys, you need to jump on him and make him trip. If you just dodge him, he will come back for a critical attack… and then run away.

3) The last of the Gold Beanie’s attacks is probably the cutest. He will start circling around Mario to try and flank him for repeated damage. You either dodge or stomp him with a timely jump, though you really want to hit him if you don’t want him to run away in his next turn. Every time you hit the Beanie, he will change the direction his attack comes from, and become faster. This characteristic of his move alone and the fact that, once again, the number of times he comes at you is randomized between three and five, is enough to give you a headache. But there’s one last detail that will definitely make your head spin even if you’re the best player in the world: randomly, little pebbles will appear in the bean’s trajectory. He will trip on them, completely messing up the timing of the attack, and tricking the player into jumping at the wrong moment to hit him.
As you can probably imagine by my description of this enemy’s pattern, AlphaDream really did a great job at making every single enemy encounter different from the previous one, to the point that the game almost feels too gimmicky. Luckily, the battles are quite fast and well distributed in the dungeons.
In the end, I couldn’t beat the Gold Beanie. My personal rule was I would have to never get hit to really win. To check how much experience the enemy would have rewarded me and avoid bothering my boyfriend (who was on the phone with me during the majority of this stupid challenge) any further, I decided to take advantage of a neat feature the game has: when you lose a battle, you can lower the difficulty of the game for that battle alone and try again. Basically, this makes the characters twice as strong, which guarantees a victory after you’ve spent so much time learning all the variables of the attack patterns of a single enemy. So what have I learned from this experience, you might well ask.
I have learned that Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is a game you can approach from a variety of angles. It is balanced to welcome both players who want to come up with crazy challenges to test their reflexes (there’s a ton of extra modes and tournaments to test your mettle) and people who find the battle system too complex or bizarre. Dream Team also incorporates several key gameplay features that actually try to make creative use of the 3DS — and often succeed. The gyroscope, for instance, is used in a number of special attacks, while the 3D’s depth is a key factor in countering a lot of advanced enemy moves, such as the Gold Beanie’s lackey charge. For this reason alone, the game deserves to be checked out.
Oh, and I also learned that I have far too much free time, especially in the weekends.
[You can read more fine articles from Francesco Dagostino at his very awesome Infinity Counter blog, and on his Twitter account @franpaccio. The GIF at the top of the article is via Supper Mario Broth.]
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M&L: Dream Team, and beating the Gold Beanie

[With Mario & Luigi: Dream Team releasing today today, contributor Francesco Dagostino looks at the care AlphaDream put into the 3DS RPG by examining one of its surprisingly complex encounters that players will want to master.]

I’ve spent the last couple of hours obsessively playing Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, repeating the same battle over and over. It’s not a particularly fierce fight, and it’s not even compulsory; it’s just a chance encounter with the Marioi-esque equivalent of a Metal Slime. I’m sure Dragon Quest fans will understand why I’m so stubborn about killing this little guy: it’s not a matter of experience points or drops — though those help. It’s a matter of pride!

The monster is called a Gold Beanie, and as the name suggests, it’s a particularly precious, yet mischievous-looking, plant seed. One of the reasons I’m fighting this battle repeatedly is because Dream Team is a very interesting game at heart, challenging in the most fun way possible. It’s an RPG that incorporates numerous platformer elements to enrich the battle system and make it constantly unpredictable.

Read more

  • Source suppermariobroth.com

“You had a 50/50 chance. You weren’t even close.”*

[Including the Animal Crossing series’ “Villager” in the next Smash Bros. seems perfect, but Daniel Feit argues that Nintendo bungled a key aspect with the character in this reprinted opinion piece.]

I spoke out about this on Twitter, but I want to elaborate on how much it bothers me that Nintendo elected to include a generic male villager from its mega-hit Animal Crossing franchise in the next Smash Bros game.

The first objection is the most obvious: this is a game chock full of male characters. Obviously a fighting game based on a video game company’s legacy is going to skew male; Nintendo doesn’t have a time machine to undo decades of sexist choices. But just look at this list of Smash Bros. characters; you can count the number of women on one hand. This was an easy way to offset that M/F ratio, and Nintendo blew it.

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Crossing a Line: Gender Identity in Animal Crossing
[Writer and game creator Anna Anthropy (Dys4ia) examines how Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the series’ most queer/transgender-friendly game yet, but also explains why she’s weary to applaud Nintendo for this seemingly progressive stance. Image above is via Derek Rose.]
animal crossing has always been ripe for queering. i founded my last animal crossing town — in city folk for the wii — with my partner and our mutual then-girlfriend (my partner took great satisfaction in demolishing her house after we broke up). there’s really no getting around the fact that animal crossing is a very capital-affirming, binary-enforcing game by a publisher that recently edited gay marriage out of one of its games.
player characters in city folk are born with gendered clothing attached to their bodies: BOYS get t-shirts and pants, GIRLS get dresses with poofy sleeves. the same piece of clothing magically transforms according to the body it comes into contact with: a flowery dress will become a flowery t-shirt, worn over shorts, the second a “boy” tries to put it on.
player characters are also born white: there are over fifty kinds of animals represented in the game, but all humans are pale and pink. for animal crossing, enforced whiteness is nintendo’s path of least resistance to the question of player race. you do get a choice of gender, but it’s between two identity-erasing extremes: do you want to wear a dress for the rest of your life, or never?

there are a lot of compromises for queer players. i remember playing a woman character in my family’s animal crossing game long before i ever came out as trans, because the thought of a world with no options to externalize my femininity was too crushingly familiar.
i remember my partner and i racing to collect all the girls’ hairstyles in city folk: we’d heard that once you’ve gotten all of the hairstyles of your chosen gender, the game allowed you to choose from the hairstyles of the other gender. i’ve spent a long time exploring possibilities for femme expression and externalized queerness in the game. i became a punk, a femmebot, a barbarian queen, a girl scout. i created identities for myself that the game didn’t account for.

now new leaf is out for the 3ds. in this new animal crossing, shirts and dresses aren’t part of your body, you can change them. a “girl” character can wear pants or shorts, or dresses and skirts. a “boy” character can wear dresses, skirts, long socks, or a t-shirt and pants. a character’s body no longer dictates what clothes the player is allowed to put on them. it reminds me of saints row 2, the game whose character creation i think gets gender best: it doesn’t remove gender signifiers, but allows the player to mix and match diferent gender signifiers however she wants to. that’s closer to the ways we externalize our identities.
it’s easy to see the design of the new animal crossing as an endorsement of queerness, of transness and gender play. but it’s important to realize that animal crossing is the product of a corporation — and one that’s under no obligation to care about us. as long as we’re playing animal crossing, we can’t change or contradict the rules nintendo has decreed. no matter how many bells you pay to tom nook and his nephews, you’ll never be allowed to choose your character’s race. our identities are glitches in nintendo’s system. will nintendo “fix” the “bug” that allows boys to wear dresses?

queerness is all about context, and that’s what we do control: not what the game allows us to do, but the meaning that we give it. to animal crossing, one shirt is the same as any other, just another bitmap, but it’s intensely powerful for me as a kinky queermo to be able to put a leather jacket on my avatar. as a fat trans woman who has a hard time finding feminine clothes that fit, the ability to design my own clothes for my digital body is super meaningful. but that meaning comes from me, not from nintendo. we’d do well to remember that.
TO FOLLOW THE CONTINUING ADVENTURES OF MY PARTNER AND I IN ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW LEAF, FOLLOW THE HASHTAG #NEWQUEEF ON TWITTER.

Crossing a Line: Gender Identity in Animal Crossing

[Writer and game creator Anna Anthropy (Dys4ia) examines how Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the series’ most queer/transgender-friendly game yet, but also explains why she’s weary to applaud Nintendo for this seemingly progressive stance. Image above is via Derek Rose.]

animal crossing has always been ripe for queering. i founded my last animal crossing town — in city folk for the wii — with my partner and our mutual then-girlfriend (my partner took great satisfaction in demolishing her house after we broke up). there’s really no getting around the fact that animal crossing is a very capital-affirming, binary-enforcing game by a publisher that recently edited gay marriage out of one of its games.

player characters in city folk are born with gendered clothing attached to their bodies: BOYS get t-shirts and pants, GIRLS get dresses with poofy sleeves. the same piece of clothing magically transforms according to the body it comes into contact with: a flowery dress will become a flowery t-shirt, worn over shorts, the second a “boy” tries to put it on.

player characters are also born white: there are over fifty kinds of animals represented in the game, but all humans are pale and pink. for animal crossing, enforced whiteness is nintendo’s path of least resistance to the question of player race. you do get a choice of gender, but it’s between two identity-erasing extremes: do you want to wear a dress for the rest of your life, or never?

Read more

  • Source twitter.com

Animal Crossing vs Tomodachi Collection: Which is the better hang-out?

[Looking at Tomodachi Collection: New Life’s release in Japan last week, Daniel Feit compares the playful life sim with Animal Crossing: New Leaf in this guest article reprinted from his blog.]

Spurred by questions regarding Tomodachi Collection, I thought I would whip up a quick list of comparisons between it and Animal Crossing, the other 3DS game where you hang out in a town with no real purpose.

Please note the most important difference right from the start: Animal Crossing will release in English on 3DS this summer, while Tomodachi Collection may never leave Japan.

SIMILARITIES: Both games put your character in charge of a community. There is no story or “goal” other than to enjoy yourself. Both games have an economy (Bells in AC, Yen in TC) and you will need money to buy things and unlock more game options. Items for sale include clothing, hats, food, and materials for decorating your home.

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  • Source feitclub

On Retro Game Master and getting mad for the right reasons

[In the following article, guest writer Ray Barnholt, the Western world’s foremost authority on Game Center CX, explains why many of your complaints about the new Retro Game Master DVD set may be misdirected.]

Earlier this year, I stopped work on my Game Center CX Episode Guide, with a post there explaining why. Part of it touched on the fact that GCCX was getting plenty of new fans in the Western world over the past year, with tons of people discovering the show and talking about it all over the place without ever seeing my site.

What I didn’t mention was the other side of that fandom; a darker side that took shape last June, when GCCX arrived in America as Retro Game Master, exclusively on Kotaku. It was supposed to be good news, but when it started, people didn’t really like it. Hated it. Really, they wanted everyone involved to die — the regular reasonable Internet reaction. I hoped that people would continue to appreciate the show for what it was, but instead I observed a cacophony of upset fans condemning Kotaku in all sorts of ways, mostly through kneejerk sentiments and just plain made-up assertions to justify their anger over what they saw as a bastardization.

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Solatorobo - a fond farewell to the DS, and a testament to an era that’s slowly fading

[Some doubted it would ever happen, but Solatorobo releases in the States tomorrow for the DS — Infinity Counter’s Francesco Dagostino provides us with this thoughtful guest review of the action RPG.]

Furry. Kemono. Call them what you will; associate them with the worst kinks on the internet. But anthropomorphic animals are also the symbol of a long-decayed video game era, lost to the encroaching desert of the medium’s Westernization.

They dwelt in an era made of happy-go-lucky worlds, now eroded by the obsessive pursuit of pseudo-Hollywood photorealism; creativity sacrificed as hypertrophic muscles contract, in response to the button-mashing of foolproof controls.

Obviously enough, there are still developers refusing to follow this sea change: software houses swimming against the current to preserve values that everyone else gave up on for the sake of easy revenues.

CyberConnect2 is one of these.

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JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure figures and collectibles from AOU2010

The faces of Iggy (click for a larger version), the small but fierce coffee-flavored chewing gum addict dog who has become one of the most cherished characters from the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure series - you may know it from the several video game adaptations presented by Capcom and Namco Bandai [Editor: And the Japan-only Jump Super/Ultimate Stars fighting series on DS!].

During the latest edition of the AOU Amusement Expo, Banpresto has unveiled a series of top quality figures based on the protagonists from Hirohiko Araki’s twisted manga, whose outlandish plot is filled with references to North American and European rock music from the last four decades. In addition, the company is also taking the chance to release different items especially designed for collectors, from key chains to t-shirts and toys.

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[Surprise! Bonus guest post! -jc]

Pix’n Love is a French publisher entirely devoted to videogame publications. Together with their regular volumes, blending the book and magazine formats, they’ve also specialized in the creation of works concerning specific subjects: such is the case of this “L’Integrale des Jeux: Nintendo DS”, a 2009 release covering the entire European DS games catalogue in alphabetic order, each title with its own release data and capsule review. According to the publisher, this book will be reprinted regularly so as to keep the games list updated. They also stated that the Nintendo DS platform is only the beginning as many other systems, including the beloved Sega Dreamcast, are planned to follow sometime in the near future.

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