rynling: (Ganondorf)
The Small Press Expo was amazing this year. One of the highlights of the convention was that I got to say hello to Sara Goetter and Natalie Riess, and they both signed my copy of The Legend of Gay Zelda Zine.

Back in the day, I had Sara draw an illustration for Ganondorf&!, a ridiculous fic I wrote about Ganondorf and Bowser being shitty gay dads together. She remembered this drawing because how do you even forget something like that, but what surprised me was that Natalie remembered it too.

Anyway, they drew me a thing, and it is transcendent.

Read more... )
rynling: (Celes Chere)
Earlier this year I managed to secure a commission from Grace Allison, a professional artist who does a lot of work related to games, including a fantastic Mario-themed illustration for the cover of the program for the Seattle Retro Gaming Expo (link). I told her that I wanted her to draw Princess Peach in contemporary clothing. When she asked me specify what sort of fashion I was inspired by, I gave her two words: Michelle Obama.

These are two of the design sketches she's sent me! )

Although I am obviously in love with Peach myself, this is also something I want to share with two of my female friends from college who are gearing up to run for public office in different parts of the country. Girls be ambitious!
rynling: (Terra Branford)
"Everyone's smiles shine so brightly. Those smiles led us to so many other people. And those meetings will lead us to a bright future. I'm so glad I got to meet everyone. I'm so glad I got to meet you."

- Lillie

Pokémon Sun is such a sweet and gentle game. It only took me about 45 hours to finish it, but I spread it out over ten months because the world of the game was a surefire source of happiness and joy. Breath of the Wild was a lot of fun, but Pokémon Sun healed me.

As I wrote when I started the game (link), Pokémon Sun is an unapologetically positive model of what a postcapitalist utopia might look like. Money isn't much more than a game token, everyone's needs are met, and there is no scarcity; jobs pay well, leisure is abundant, and volunteerism is common. There is a state, but it only exists to provide basic services. The villains in the game are aberrations that have to be tolerated as a byproduct of the functioning of the local market system, which is driven by individual interests. Basically, even in a postcapitalist system with no scarcity, some people will still insist on behaving according to capitalist ideology, and those people will create problems for everyone else if someone doesn't talk sense into them.

What I especially appreciate about Pokémon Sun is that it repeatedly emphasizes the message that everyone's talents are valuable. Success is achieved through cooperation and mutual support, and the goal is not to "get stronger" but to develop one's unique strengths. The character Lillie is a good example of this value system. She wants to get stronger at the beginning of the story, but gradually she finds the courage to resist the expectation (enforced by one of the game's villains, who happens to be her gorgeous and fascinating mother) that there is an absolute standard to which she should aspire. That being said, Lillie isn't content to "be herself," as she acknowledges that change isn't something to be afraid of, and she makes a firm decision to direct her own character evolution by setting her own challenges.

If you choose to play as the female protagonist, the relationship between this protagonist and Lillie is the most pure and perfect thing I have ever seen in a mainstream game. I'm actually really surprised that Nintendo allowed this, considering how gay it is.

The people who wrote the entries in the pokédex are complete savages, though. That shit is dark, and whoever is responsible for it needs to reflect on their life choices and think about what they've done.
rynling: (Default)
Every illustration I commission is my favorite commission, and I say this with absolute sincerity. The love I feel for the artists who work with me is so pure that it would be creepy if it weren't a platonic manifestation of overwhelming goodwill. I appreciate and treasure all of my commissioned illustrations equally and infinitely. Still, this drawing from lovelylandfill may just be the brightest light in a sky full of stars.

Read more... )
rynling: (Ganondorf)
I was in New York for work this week, so of course I made time to go to the Nintendo store, where I saw this great and terrible thing...

Read more... )

I had known that this existed, and it's even more impressive than I thought it would be, but it raises some questions. Specifically, how did they decide on a price point? And who buys something like this? There's a small sign on the display case that says you need to place a special order from the cash register, and how awkward would that be? I mean, I can just imagine someone going up to the person manning the till and kind of mumbling, Yes, I wish to purchase that two foot tall statue of Ganondorf, let me spell my name out for you. And then, once it's actually delivered, what do you do with it? Do you create a special display, like put it on a pedestal or something? Or do you put it in one of those open wooden cabinets that people use as Buddhist altars? If you're financially comfortable enough to buy this, do you live in a place that's large enough for your Ganondorf statue to have its own room? Or do you hide it in a closet so that no one witnesses your shame?

On a similar note, I'm perplexed by the fact that Nintendo thought it was a reasonable idea to make a Wind Waker Ganondorf playset, which is a real thing that really exists in the world. I wish I were joking about this, but...

Read more... )
rynling: (Ganondorf)
It took me four months, but I beat Breath of the Wild. I... feel so empty inside.

I accidentally skipped through the end credits, so I don't know how many hours I put into Breath of the Wild, but the post-clear map screen tells me that I've only completed 39.48% of the game. And this is after me finding and upgrading all of the gear, finding and finishing all of the shrines, and thoroughly filling out the "Hyrule Compendium" (which is basically an annotated photo album). I think that the rest of the percentage points probably have something to do with collecting all of the Korok Seeds, of which there are 900 (I've found a little more than 200, which is all you need to max out your gear slots), as well as finding and defeating every instance of every monster. Maybe I'll pick these projects back up when there is DLC available... or maybe not.

To be honest, there isn't a lot of story or lore or worldbuilding in Breath of the Wild, and running around and poking Link's face into the various nooks and crannies of the overworld map doesn't really teach you anything. After a while, everything starts to feel a little generic, and actually playing the game isn't helping me get inspired to write fic about it.

I'm not sure what to do with myself now. I'll just wait patiently for FFXII to come out, I guess.
rynling: (Ganondorf)
It's funny, but I think I'm more disciplined about playing Breath of Wild than I've ever been about anything in my life.

Don't get me wrong, playing the game doesn't feel like work, but it does require mental energy. It's not difficult, per se, but it requires that you be fully engaged with the diegetic environment. Sometimes when I get home in the evening I just want to take a bath and read for a bit and go to sleep, but I've been forcing myself to sit down on the couch and turn on the Wii U so that I can get just a little farther in Breath of the Wild.

Every night I try to play through at least one shrine. Shrines are puzzle-based mini-dungeons, and since they're hidden all over the world (often in dangerous areas) locating and then being able to access a shrine is often a major task. There are 120 shrines in the game, and some of them are significantly more difficult than others. If I can, I've also been trying to complete or at least trigger one side quest a day.

Meanwhile, I haven't gotten very far in the main quest at all. The story (such as it is) is told through a series of flashback sequences, and I watched them all on Youtube a day or two after the game came out. I mean, this game really isn't about story. There's a princess who wants to be a hero, but because she's a girl and doesn't have The Phallus Of Destiny her job is to sit in the castle and wait for the hero to save her. Some story, right? Nothing in the game really changes if the player completes one of the dungeons, so I'm saving them for when I get around to it.

For the time being, my goals in the game are to make Link (1) rich, (2) swol, (3) fashionably dressed, and (4) a certified master chef, and I am making good progress.
rynling: (Needs More Zelda)
I've really been enjoying Breath of the Wild.

To be honest, I wasn't crazy about the game when I first started playing, as the "go anywhere and do anything" mode of gameplay can be a bit overwhelming. Now that I've put more than fifteen hours into it, though, I can say that I'm having a crazy amount of fun with Breath of the Wild. It's everything that I've ever enjoyed about the Zelda series in terms of adventure and exploration and the thrill of discovery. The player is free to go off on her own in any direction, but there's just enough guidance to ensure that you're never going to be completely lost or unsure of what to do next; I think the game developers were able to create a perfect balance between creative direction and player agency.

Breath of the Wild is deep and rich and full of cool things to interact with, and it's super saturated with color and charm and humor that ranges from stupid dad puns to surprisingly clever sex jokes. Also, it's been breaking my heart with its sheer beauty. The music and lighting effects are phenomenal, and the characters are gorgeously written. Link has depth, Zelda has depth, a ton of the NPCs have depth, and their stories build slowly and gradually gather momentum.

My favorite thing about the game is that it's filled with plants and animals in a vibrant and interconnected set of ecosystems. Basically Link can ride around on a horse all day hunting and fishing and collecting mushrooms and herbs, and it never gets boring. Whatever you chose to do (or not do), the game will reward you by being an absolute joy to play.

Breath of the Wild feels infinite, and its plot and background information is offered to the player in such small fragments that people will probably still be trying to put everything together years from now. I have some major concerns about the story, but it's easy to put them aside and just have fun in the wide open world.

TL; DR: Breath of the Wild gives me life.
rynling: (Ganondorf)
I had to work on Friday, and I didn't want to get myself too psyched up by the Nintendo Switch presentation broadcast to fall asleep, so I skipped it and went to bed.

When I woke up at six the next morning, the Nintendo Switch was sold out. Everywhere.

The Master Edition of Breath of the Wild was also sold out. Everywhere. Even in Canada.

On one hand, I don't care. I will get the Switch eventually, and despite being a huge nerd I have no use for video game memorabilia cluttering my home and office. I've had the Wii U version of Breath of the Wild preordered for months, so it's not like I'm not going to be able to play the actual game when it comes out.

On the other hand, I've had the Nintendo Switch listing pages of several online retailers bookmarked since June, and I checked them almost every single day, just in case. To have made diligent efforts in tracking this console for eight months only to miss my opportunity in an eight-hour window is beyond frustrating.

This is an important life lesson, I think. In order to succeed, you really have to be at the right place at the right time. If you're not lucky, or if you don't possess sufficient foresight, or if you don't have insider information, no amount of persistence or hard work will help you achieve your goals. Malcolm Gladwell wrote an entire book about this.

I think it's high time I accepted that, at this point in my life, I am not an outlier. I am never going to be in the right place at the right time. And that's okay! It has nothing to do with me. So why am I working so hard? I should really spend more time chilling out and enjoying myself.

And honestly? I'm not actually that excited about the new Zelda game anyway. Let me tell you about the sexism.
rynling: (Default)
I really love Pokémon Sun. It's full of happiness and healing. Everyone is kind to the player-character, and everyone helps her and wants her to succeed. There is no racism or sexism or homophobia, there is no war or poverty, and there is no animal cruelty. There is an overt critique of capitalism, but it's very gentle, and the real-world history of human migration to Hawai'i is treated respectfully as well.

There's a famous quote from Slavoj Zizek that goes, "It's much easier to imagine the end of all life on earth than a much more modest radical change in capitalism," but the dude obviously never played any of the Pokémon games, which all function as beautiful interactive models of what a peaceful postcapitalist society might actually look like.
rynling: (Needs More Zelda)
I take back everything I said about Spirit Tracks. As an actual game, it has a number of weaknesses, but it's a fantastic relaxation tool. It's linear, filled with cut scenes, and super low-stress. The controls are more intuitive than they are in Phantom Hourglass, the graphics are less pixelated, the text scrolls faster, and the music is almost as catchy as the music in Wind Waker.

The Zelda character who appears in this game is a selfish and obnoxious little creature, and I had forgotten how much I like that about her. She travels alongside Link as a ghost and can possess suits of armor to help him overcome obstacles, but she's not happy about it. Her constant interruptions of the gameplay are comedy gold, and her facial expressions are crafted from pure stardust.

I think the important thing to keep in mind as I play Spirit Tracks is that my boredom threshold for the game is relatively low. What this means is that, if I play Spirit Tracks for more than half an hour at a time, I tend to become frustrated with its relaxed pace. Spirit Tracks is soothing and enjoyable, but only in small doses. It's therefore important to approach the game casually, not play it too frequently, and not get burned out.

Once Pokémon Sun and Moon are released on November 18, I don't think this will be a problem.
rynling: (Ganondorf)
I finally returned to my current playthrough of The Wind Waker.

According to my save file, the last time I played the game was back in April. It feels weird that it's been so long, especially since I've been listening to game's soundtrack and the audio of the Game Grumps playthrough more or less on loop for the past few months.

When I left off, I had apparently just finished the Withered Tree sidequest, so there was nothing else I could do at this point except to go to the Forsaken Fortress to save Link's sister and confront Ganondorf. Although navigating the Forsaken Fortress is a pain in the ass if you don't know exactly where you're supposed to go, I actually really enjoy this part of the game. It's like, Get in the boat kids it's time to go see shitty grandpa!!

The Forsaken Fortress segment consists of a fun boss fight with Phantom Ganon (in which Ganondorf laughs a lot and does zero damage to Link), a cute cut scene with Tetra and Aryll, another fun boss fight with the Helmaroc King (which also does hardly any damage), and then a cool cut scene with Tetra and Ganondorf. It's strange to say this about video game characters from 2002, but there's so much chemistry between Link and Tetra and Ganondorf. The character models are surprisingly expressive given the level of technology, and the cinematography of the cut scenes is incredibly creative.

I'd like to write a Wind Waker meta post analyzing the Forsaken Fortress cut scene with Ganondorf using the formal vocabulary of cinematography. Basically I'd argue that it's really well done from a technical standpoint. I also think it's interesting that the scene is shot from Ganondorf's perspective, with the camera situated at his eye level. It might also be interesting to compare the way Ganondorf addresses Link as opposed to the way he addresses Tetra. I'm really enjoying not getting death threats on Tumblr right now, though, so maybe I could publish this essay elsewhere?
rynling: (Teh Bowz)
On one hand, I don't particularly like the Paper Mario series, I despise card-based battle mechanics, a digital copy of the game costs a full $60, I won't have enough free space on my WiiU unless I delete something else, and I'm going to be really busy with work over the next three weeks.

On the other hand, Bowser.
rynling: (Terra Branford)
I finally beat Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, but I found very little joy in the accomplishment.

There is a gauntlet of boss fights at the end of the game. After a long string of battles with regular enemies, Mario, Luigi, and Paper Mario fight the seven Koopalings across three successive battles. They then fight Bowser and Paper Bowser, a battle that has two stages. In the first stage, Bowser and Paper Bowser compete over who can do the most damage, but their attacks are relatively easy to dodge and counter. In the second stage, Paper Bowser transforms into a shiny set of papercraft armor that Bowser wears like a skin suit uses to defend himself and launch a set of special attacks. This is a harder fight, but by this point most players will have a stash of highly effective healing items, as well as a special "battle card" (don't ask) that can be used repeatedly to lower Bower's level by five. I remember Dreamy Bowser (from Mario & Luigi Dream Team) (yes, the final boss is called "Dreamy Bowser") (he literally sparkles) being much more difficult, but it could just be that I've gotten better at these games during the past two years.

Even with two Bowsers and all of the Koopalings in the same place at the same time, there are no jokes and no witty banter, which was a disappointment. There are also no major revelations or betrayals, and the only emotional aspect of the dialog involves just how much the Koopalings trust and respect Bowser. My own delusions regarding Bowser aside, the adoration that his minions express toward him has always been striking to me. Even in Super Mario 64, which has relatively little text, the boss monsters of each level still talk about how much they love Bowser.

The ending montage of Paper Jam is a parade of giant papercraft through the various regions of the game, which looks stunning in 3D but feels fairly routine. Right at the tail end of the game, after the credits have rolled and all the paper characters are ready to return to their paper universe, Peach hugs Paper Peach with a surprisingly long and detailed animation. It was touching, and you could tell that the game designers put a lot of thought and effort into the scene. Paper Peach eventually excuses herself, saying that she had better go check up on Paper Bowser.

Haha, of course she does. But seriously, is this ship canon now? Did I miss something?

In any case, it took me a bit more than 38 hours to complete Paper Jam. The level cap for this game is apparently 100, but I was able to breeze through the final boss fights at level 44.

Now that the Paper Jam cartridge is no longer permanently lodged in my 3DS, I've resumed my Master Quest playthrough of Ocarina of Time. Someone on Tumblr sent me an interesting Zelda/Link prompt specific to the game, but I'm having a bit of trouble remembering the interactions between Link and Sheik. I'm therefore writing the fic at the same rate as I progress through the game. Although I feel bad for making the lovely person who sent me the prompt wait, this is actually a good pace for me, and it's nice to be so close to the source text.
rynling: (Needs More Zelda)
I downloaded A Link to the Past on my New Nintendo 3DS, and I've been playing one dungeon every night. I've gotten all the way to the end, but I don't feel particularly compelled to fight Ganon. I'm just going to let him be; he's not hurting anyone. It's surprisingly difficult to play A Link to the Past on such a small screen. It's always been my experience that gameplay is much easier on larger screens. I wonder why that is?

Speaking of large screens, I downloaded Super Metroid onto my Wii U. The game isn't as difficult as I remember it being, but I also haven't gotten very far. The Wii U allows the player to create save states on Virtual Console titles, so hopefully I'll be able to cheat in order to compensate for the difficulty level if it ever becomes a problem.

What I really wanted from my extended SNES nostalgia trip was to play is Secret of Mana, so I pirated a ROM. I've been playing the game about fifteen minutes every morning, and it is still a beautiful shining treasure.

I still haven't beaten Mario & Luigi Paper Jam. I feel like I should grind to raise my levels before I face off against the Bowsers, but every battle that gives decent experience takes five minutes to work through, so I haven't been making much progress. I should probably just challenge the Bowsers, enjoy their ridiculous dialog, and move on.

According to my PS4 trophy achievements, I think I'm probably halfway through I Am Setsuna, and not much has changed. It's still all snow all the time. Sometimes there is ice.

Meanwhile, I don't know why I'm still playing Pokémon Go, but I'm currently at Level 24. There have been a lot of public demonstrations in my neighborhood this weekend, and two separate reporters have stuck cameras in my face and asked to talk to me. Because I was standing alongside the sidewalk and futzing with my phone, they apparently thought I was blogging, and I had to tell them that no, I was just playing Pokémon Go. They were not impressed. I keep telling myself that I'll quit the game after I get to the next level, but that hasn't really worked out.

It seems as though I've been playing a lot of games recently, but what can I say? Sometimes I go through periods when I'm absolutely not interested in engaging with the real world.
rynling: (Teh Bowz)
I've been playing a handful of Mario RPG games over the past week, and I've made a number of observations that are probably of interest to no one save myself.

Paper Mario Bowser...

(a) pretends to be loud and obnoxious,
(b) is actually sensitive and perceptive,
(c) is usually the smartest person in the room, and
(d) has the best lines in the game.

Mario & Luigi Bowser...

(a) is genuinely loud and obnoxious,
(b) never has any idea what's going on,
(c) always enjoys himself 110%, and
(d) has the best lines in the game.

I adore both of them equally.
rynling: (Needs More Zelda)
Phantom Hourglass was recently made available on the Virtual Console for Wii U, and I bought it on the very hour of its release. This was a mistake.

Phantom Hourglass is a Nintendo DS title that can only be played with the stylus. Although the stylus controls are... fine, I guess... I've always wanted to play the game with a more traditional control scheme. Barring that, I assumed the bottom DS screen would be displayed on the Wii U remote, while the top DS screen would be projected onto the television. Or something?

Instead, both DS screens are made to fit on the screen of the Wii U controller, which is unfeasible for two reasons. First, it's way too small; and second, it means that the player can't look at the television screen, which defeats the purpose of playing a Wii U port. After two hours of disappointment, I returned the game to Nintendo for a refund. I still wanted to play Phantom Hourglass, however, so I ended up buying a New Nintendo 3DS XL.

Unfortunately, Phantom Hourglass has problems on the New Nintendo 3DS as well. The major gameplay issue is that in-game postal mail is not delivered (perhaps because the system uses slightly different internal software to register the passage of time), which means that I had to return the cartridge to a regular Nintendo DS in order to advance the game. The major hardware issue is that the New Nintendo 3DS wasn't designed for the sort of heavy and rapid stylus movement necessitated by Phantom Hourglass, and I ended up scratching the shit out of the console's touchscreen (and I'm actually really pissed off about this).

I remember being annoyed with the game when it first came out because of its lottery mechanics, and my feelings haven't changed. I'm generally not a completionist, but one of the things I love about the Zelda games is that it is in fact possible to complete them. However, by my estimates, "completing" Phantom Hourglass would probably take at least three months. Specifically, the game randomly offers items that change from day to day in much the same way that Animal Crossing does. I want to think the developers included this feature in order to simulate a sense of a larger world, because I can't think of what purpose it could fill other than to hook players into returning to the game every day.

Because of the limitations of the Nintendo DS hardware, Phantom Hourglass is a small game, and it takes place in a small world. I wish that, instead of attempting to expand the scale of the game through artificial means like a lottery mechanic, the developers had allowed the game to be relatively short and self-contained, which is what many Zelda fans love about Link's Awakening. From what I remember, Spirit Tracks takes these clumsy attempts at expansion and exacerbates them with a literal lottery system of mail-in postcards. The game also exaggerates its scale by restricting the player's movement to a path laid out on literal rails. As much as I love the Zelda series, I didn't enjoy Phantom Hourglass as much as I wanted to, and I think I'm going to take a hard pass on replaying Spirit Tracks.
rynling: (Teh Bowz)
The premise of Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is that Luigi accidentally knocks open the book that contains the Paper Mario universe, releasing all of the paper characters into the 3D world. This means there are two of (almost) everyone in the game – two Marios, two Peaches, and two Bowsers. This sounds like crack, and it absolutely is, but it's also a lot of fun.

I love the easy friendship between the two Peaches. They immediately get along together, and there are several scenes of them indulging in girl talk, which is beyond adorable. They're also resourceful, remaining imprisoned and ignoring everyone outside their room when they want to chill out and escaping by surprisingly devious means whenever it suits their fancy.

This could just be my delusion talking, but I'm almost certain the Peaches allow themselves to be kidnapped at the beginning of the game. When they realize that the Bowsers are on their way over, they come up with a scheme that will allow them to escape; but, when it seems like their plan to evade capture has worked, one of them sabotages it, and the other immediately gets onboard with what's happened. Even if the Peaches aren't in love with the Bowsers (although how could you not? be in love with Bowser??), I get the sense that being kidnapped is like a vacation for them, and that they not-so-secretly enjoy it.

I also love the bittersweet friendship between the two Bowser Juniors. They enjoy each other's company, but they're also more self-aware about their situation than anyone else in the game. Namely, they know that their time together is limited, and so everything they do has a subtle air of manic desperation, like they want to have as much fun as they possibly can before the party is over. Although they're younger than the Koopalings, they know that they occupy a higher position, and the relationship between the Juniors and the Koopalings is snarky and antagonistic. Probably as a result, both of the Juniors seem very lonely, and they refuse to leave one another's side.

In a crazy knife twist to the heart, the Juniors make fun of the Bowsers, but it's also clear that they both really, really want their fathers to be proud of them. Neither of them wants to fight Mario, but they go ahead and do it because they think it will make their dads happy... and then they spend the entire fight challenging your party to silly nonviolent games and healing each other if you accidentally hurt one of them. They are two tiny cinnamon rolls too good for this world, too precious and too pure.

Speaking of which, the fierce dad Bowsers are amazing. They obviously dislike each other, but they both adore the everloving shit out of their sons, and so they grudgingly work together to impress the boys. After the Marios trounce the Juniors, the Bowsers ignore them, hugging the Juniors and telling them how much they love them and asking them if they want to see something cool (they've rigged their castle to fly). It's only when they realize that their kids have been hurt that the Bowsers notice that anyone else is in the room. Both Bowsers have always been violent and temperamental, but when the Juniors start sniffling their dads really start to fuck shit up in a major way.

The Bowsers are too narcissistic and self-involved to be "good" parents, but watching them cradle and comfort their sons before going on a rampage to avenge them is a sight to behold. The complicated yet genuine flow of affection between the two pairs of fathers and sons in this game kind of makes me want to become a parent myself. I love kids, but I know I'll be a crap parent. Still, the Bowsers are crap parents, but that doesn't mean they don't love their kids, who have managed to turn out fairly normal, all things considered.

There are other cute touches of trope-defying characterization in Paper Jam, and probably the only thing I disliked was how mean the game is to Luigi. Seriously, it's like how Family Guy treats Meg - the meanness is supposed to be a meta-joke, but the humor is too bitter and caustic to actually be funny. Meanwhile, Paper Luigi (who is the secret star of the Mario franchise) spends the entire game relaxing on the beach and listening to music, which makes me happy. I like to envision Luigi as living in some skanky walk-up in Brooklyn and working a shit job while dealing with his sociopath brother, and then suddenly he's transported to a beautiful fantasy kingdom where he doesn't have to worry about any of that nonsense ever again. I mean, honestly, who hasn't wanted that at some point? You stay cool, Paper Luigi.


rynling: (Default)
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