Friday, January 22, 2010

Star Gear & Metal Wars #1 – Fallen Messiahs & Sons of Conflict

Yup, yet another little series I made for myself (which I probably won’t finish either) that I thought would be worth at least a few shits and giggles for fans of either series. This is actually one that’s been locked in the back of my head for years, but I've always crammed it back due to its facetious nature as fanboy fodder. I haven’t posted anything in quite a few weeks though, so I thought this could fill the void until I can get myself to finish the Assassin’s Creed 2 SP.

I’ve always been a bit of a Star Wars fan, but I’ve consistently made it a point not to delve too far into the EU (extended universe) content, as it would be an insult to whatever reverence I have for the series at large. I had extremely obsessive phases growing up and Star Wars sucked at least a year or two out of my prepubescent life easily. Given my rather obnoxious and longtime adoration for the Metal Gear series, it doesn’t take much for someone such as me to start linking up countless corollaries between the two. That’s what this basically is, me drawing lines from the Metal Gear universe to the Star Wars one.

Code #1 The Sith and The Soldier

In that galaxy far far away, the Sith basically encompass an aspect of life that is obsessed with emotion, passion, and conflict. They vehemently adhere to the drive which furthers life through a lust for fighting. This is diametrically opposed to the rather pacifist Jedi, whose drive for peace was viewed by the Sith as a offensive way to simply make room for the weak. Depending on how one views or accepts the Potentium Theory (which argues that there truly is no Dark Side, and only malicious desire in the Force-user), it’s easily logical to press forth that the ‘Dark Side’ exists out of sheer necessity (a sort of spiritual balance is a narrative muscle both Metal Gear and Star Wars operate on). In Star Wars canon, I believe Jedi masters reject such views outright. Either way though, it’s anything BUT disproven that ‘darkness’ is an inherent side of whatever humanity exists, fictional or not. The Sith do not embrace things like morality, as it typically obscures ‘truth’ at any given point.

"Fighting? What are you really after?"

"A world where warriors like us are honored as we once were... as we should be."

"That was Big Boss's fantasy."

"It was his dying wish! When he was young, during the Cold War, the world needed men like us. We were valued then. We were desired. But things... are different now. With all the liars and hypocrites running the world, war isn't what it used to be... We're losing our place in a world that no longer needs us. A world that now spurns our very existence. You should know that as well as I do. After I launch this weapon and get our billion dollars, we'll be able to bring chaos and honor...back to this world gone soft. Conflict will breed conflict, new hatreds will arise. Then! ...we'll steadily expand our sphere of influence."

"But as long as there are people, there will always be war."

"But the problem... is balance. Father knew what type of a balance was best..."

"Is that the only reason?"

"Isn't it reason enough? For warriors such as us."

"I don't want that kind of world!"

"Ha! You lie! So why are you here then? Why do you continue to follow your orders while your superiors betray you? Why did you come here?"


"Well... I'll tell you then. You enjoy all the killing, that's why."

"What! ---"

"Are you denying it? Haven't you already killed most of my comrades?"

"That was ---”

"I watched your face when you did it. It was filled with the joy…of battle."

"You're wrong!"

"There's a killer inside you... You don't have to deny it. We were created to be that way."

- Solid & Liquid Snake, atop Metal Gear Rex

In essence, The Metal Gear series lets the Sith mindset bleed into (and from) the player him/herself. Although the backstories diverge in correlation, Solid Snake easily becomes a sole surviving Dark Jedi, an exile tainted with the realization that ‘man just needs to kill’. Across the course of Metal Gear Solid, Solid Snake channels the player’s raw desire for ludic enjoyment and the entire game becomes a fourth wall mess, with Liquid Snake directly speaking to the player in the passage shown above (who was Liquid REALLY talking to when he stated “You enjoy all the killing that’s why.” ?). There’s even the added aesthetic irony of ‘The Terrible Children’ all aging rapidly or physically deteriorating, as it relates to all the Dark Side users’ tendency to physically fall apart as they grow more immersed in their lifestyle. Over the course of Metal Gear Solid, Solid Snake (and the player) is beaten over the head with the notion of being a monster far worse than any of the actual antagonists. The player essentially IS the Dark Side, and Solid Snake is left to narratively combat their interactive will. Obviously however, every single one of the antagonists in the Metal Gear series desired a sort of harmony with the world by participating in or perpetuating a large scale conflict. Metal Gear won out on wooing me when I was young as it was laced with a plethora of interactive irony and ‘profound stupidity’.

Code #2 The Fallen Messiah Complex

As with every narrative tale constantly bathing in its own mythos, both Metal Gear and Star Wars are known widely for their messiah figures. For Star Wars, it’s the impressionable Anakin Skywalker, who ‘fell’ after being confronted with the death of his mother (which also acted as a catalyst for an overwhelming amount of fear towards a vision showing the death of his wife and children). He embraces a lust for power out of fear and in effect shoots himself in the foot by killing his wife and getting his torso chopped to shit. I personally didn’t like how Revenge of the Sith turned out, but respected the general coloring that Anakin was to be a whiny brat whose ‘turn’ was ultimately meant to ascend to the height of the iconic Darth Vader --- out of pure cowardice. In contrast, Big Boss rose to similar heights out of a choice to embrace his feelings over duty; in effect he let the former BECOME the latter.

Metal Gear sees its messiah in the form of John, aka Jack, aka Naked Snake, aka Big Boss. Video games prove their worth here once again, by placing the player in the shoes of a rather humanistic hero, whose experience with the truth of his government having a life-changing effect on him. Not only does Big Boss witness the death of ‘his mother’, he’s forced to kill her himself. In Guns of the Patriots, Big Boss is referenced multiple times as being manipulated as a ‘Christ figure’. Also, throughout the series, he’s constantly perceived as being a savior for hundreds of war orphans and professionals. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake even features children (a rarity in such games) walking around speaking rather highly of him. Anakin was a prophesized figure who was created by a means of ‘virgin birth’ (manipulated by Darth Plaugeuis). Big Boss ironically shares this relation with him, but in an entirely different respect; his cells were used to intentionally generate the virgin births of at least three children (who all left their own scars on the planet). Even with such things in common though, Star Wars for the most part, remains a strictly ‘good vs evil’ story, while Metal Gear won me over by eliminating the strict moral code of right and wrong (any story I find interest in does that by default by the way). It inundates, corrupts, and humbles the player with ‘the Dark Side’, instead of simply beating them over the head with ‘evil, evil evil’. It should also be added that both messiah men ultimately die under the solitary gaze of their sons, within a short timeframe not consumed by antagonism and strife.

Though to be fair, the EU of Star Wars could play up similar strengths, but like I stated, I’m only drawing matchups between the two series' primary entries.

Yeah, real surprise right? A fanboy declares such things with great force mind you. Big Boss’s rise was far more profound than Darth Vader’s, and although a robed Sith with a red lightsaber is more aesthetically gripping, the bare-chested Brit screaming aboard a mechanical monster holds way more meaning for me.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I’d Just Rather Look at Dante’s Ass is All

I seem to keep flying off on different tangents in regards to Bayonetta. On one hand, it’s Kamiya & crew’s next title. He has a knack for upping the potency in the titles he works on, that or he establishes some formula for himself that remains to be matched. On the other hand, it’s a game that’s visually designed for me to like, yet somehow --- I just don’t. The epic (i.e. really really big) boss encounters have too much in common with God of War for me (and the only title I’ve liked in that series is Chains of Olympus). Bayonetta’s distinctly disproportionate and hypersexualized figure is something I thought I would like as well (especially the function/visage of her legs), yet once again --- nothing clicks for me. Luckily, the mechanics themselves showcase that these are the same people that made Devil May Cry, but at the same time, that’s part of the problem as well.

The hype train for the game is something I still find rather confusing, as I’m worried how the game will sell. This isn’t because I necessarily care about the game itself, but what people will react to in terms of what’s actually meant to drive the appeal in the first place. I could easily turn out to be wrong of course, but there are distinctly colored flavors in this game that have been proven to turn many a gamer away. Not necessarily myself --- but well, let's just consider for a few seconds:

1 - The game has a musical collaboration between some awesome artists, yet still folds a J-Pop wrapper around it in the end.

2 - Though this game is more accessible than its brother (Devil May Cry), it’s also got that same aura of ‘kickass-fuck-you-player’ tone to it.

3 - The main character is a woman…enough said.

Point 1 is probably the game’s most exercised muscle in terms of giving the title its own atmosphere. The music in these games always serve as a barrier for Kamiya-slash titles though (e.g. think about the ‘screamo’ in the DMC series). It’s always something most players will have to grit their teeth through or intertwine into the image of the game; this time the flavor will be a very upbeat and pseudo-jazzy J-Pop. If you think the majority of gaming’s unmatured males haven’t jumped ship already at this point, then I don’t really know what to tell you. If it does however, gather itself a large and distinct female audience then good, but I’m more prone to think that an insular audience picking up the majority of a minority gender is a bit of wishful thinking in the end (this coming from someone who knows quite a few girls who love grit-your-teeth hack n’ slashers).

Point 2 is mainly this game having to stand amongst its peers. To be fair, it does already stand far above the majority of b-grade ‘hackies’ that don’t have the Kamiya pedigree behind them, but it still falls into sucking on the buxom teat provided by God of War and Devil May Cry (there’s no way to avoid it either). I personally never liked the God of War series, so the way the demo had me taking down a very large statue instantly caused me to loop the Umbran witch into a relationship with a certain bald Greek guy covered in ashes. Having a more cinematic flair and a distinct tendency to exercise QTE muscles helps this correlation even more. For my tastes, Bayonetta is a God of War game that I actually like, but it’s also a DMC game I’d rather pick up out of a bargain bin two years from now.

“Bayonetta redefines over the top”
[Only in the sense of adding a ‘b. clause’ to the already efficient definition]

Yes, point 3 is a factor, I don't care what you say. Whether it’s making a run at ‘hot chick with gun’ or trying to separate exemplary mechanics from everything else (because it's silly), the game is given to everyone on the pretext that this is the female successor to Dante. Cool, hypersexualized, and extremely deadly are the ‘image fortes’ here, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Bayonetta ironically censors her own potential. Plenty of her attacks are conveyed as making her partially nude so that ‘everything worthwhile’ is still covered. This is what makes the game exploitive to me. I don’t mean that in the sense that Bayonetta is a icon damaging to the appearance of women in games, but rather the self-aware and intentional turn she makes in terms of screaming:

“Hey fourteen-year old boys! Point your penises over here!”

Perhaps it's problematic for some people, but every time I did a combo that required her hair-clothes to come off, I always ended up feeling that I would love this game 100% more if they just went ahead and showed the character model totally nude when such sequences were triggered. Having them zip across her private areas is just so abashedly titillating, it cancels itself out for me.

In Bayonetta, the model (while walking) sashays while distinctly popping her rear back and forth. In Devil May Cry 4, Dante’s swagger comes off as a overdone strut meant to convey the character’s arrogance and devil-may-care attitude (you can even hear the zippers on his pants bumping against his leg). Coming from guy as straight as an ironing board, I like looking at Dante’s ass more.