Kotowari Competition: Black Materia Winner!

Today I received a package from Kotowari, featuring a signed Black Materia record and a couple of extra goodies. It was a pleasant surprise to win the competition – especially as it was shipped over from the US!

This is what I got inside, a lovely little note and a couple of tasty treats. All very appreciated! (Jetsetnick has a bad sweet tooth.)

Below is a signed copy of the album courtesy of Mega Ran and Lost Perception. For those that don’t know, Black Materia: Final Fantasy VII is a hip hop album that remixes the original soundtrack with a contemporary set of beats, effects and lyrics. It’s a whole new take on the epic story and is certainly worth checking out if you’ve played the JRPG.

The competition was used to celebrate the three year anniversary of Kotowari. He’s a great blogger and I would recommend his site to anyone with an interest in JRPGs or Western RPGs. Here’s to your future success – thanks for the prize!

(Aside: Also a big thank you to Mega Ran and Lost Perception for making the album! You can listen to it online here.)


Top 5: Changes I would make to Sonic

Whoever is in charge of Sega’s character creation needs to retire, because the number of Sonic sidekicks is ridiculously large. Nearly every woodland creature, from rabbits to chameleons has been used effectively to drag the blue blur down. Now in the Genesis classics, Tails and Knuckles didn’t bother me in the slightest. They retained the exact same game play as Sonic, but with a few extra moves and a nice new sprite animation.

Instead, in Sonic Adventure 2 Tails now drives a giant mech robot. Knuckles is left scavenging for treasure in some incredibly annoying mini-game fest. Not only that, but Sonic Team hasn’t even bothered to make these sections fast. Slow and full of glitches, it’s just a pain as you pray for the moment when you’ll take control of Sonic again. No-one wants to play as a giant fishing cat named Big. If I have to hear “Find the computer room!” one more time from Vector the Crocodile I might lose my last scraps of sanity. Even the handheld titles, known for its safeguarding of 2D game play has fallen with the addition of an Australian racoon.

12 playable characters in Sonic Heroes?!

12 playable characters in Sonic Heroes?!

Gamers play Sonic titles to hurtle through corkscrews as the hedgehog himself. One or two of his friends is fine, but leave the rest of the Emerald Hill population behind.

Sega’s mascot has never been renowned for its engaging plotlines. For example, I can bet my entire life savings that Sonic’s next title will include the Chaos Emeralds. They will no doubt be scattered. I will no doubt have to go through seven different stages in order to retrieve them. Sonic will then use them to go into some variation of Super Sonic and save the day. Cue the credit roll.

Yet this isn’t what I have a problem with. We all know that Bowser will capture Princess Peach in the next Mario game, yet every gamer wouldn’t change that setup for the world. No, the reason I hate Sonic storylines is because they are always pointless, illogical and full of plot holes. Jumping backwards and forwards through time in Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 wasn’t fun for anyone. Not only did it throw out the physics I learnt in middle school, but Sonic ended up kissing a human girl at the end. Amy Rose is bad enough, but inter-species romance is hardly going to win over new fans.

Shadow the Hedgehog was the only character to actually receive a fitting end. In fact, I actually enjoyed the plot in Sonic Adventure 2 and so did many of the fans. Worried that they may have done something positive, Sonic Team then decided to bring him back as a potential cyborg in Sonic Heroes. This made entirely no sense, so to put the final nail in the coffin they gave him his own ‘dark’ game with 12 different endings. Even the most die-hard of fanfic writers has no idea what Shadow is meant to be anymore.

If you’re going to add a storyline, make sure it’s simple and enjoyable. This is meant to be a game enjoyed by all, remember?

Control Gimmicks:
I love the Advance and Rush series because they stick to the platforming formula. The gimmicks, if any, are minimal and add to my ability to reach the goal as quickly as possible. Shadow the Hedgehog, wielding two machine guns doesn’t quite come into it. A ‘were-hog’, complete with extendable elastic arms and God of War style combat definitely isn’t.

Every time these games hit the media, critics have the same gripes. We want a classic Sonic game, taken into a 3D environment without any of the unnecessary ‘Brand new!’ features and presentation. Yet even with every fan sending them hate mail, what did Sega decide to add to Sonic and the Black Knight? One ridiculously large medieval sword. Implemented of course with unresponsive, Wii remote waggling.

Why would Sonic ever need a sword?!

Why would Sonic ever need a sword?!

Please take out the hover boards, three man squads and weaponry. Sonic Unleashed was half right; we just needed less of those monotonous night time levels.

Production Time:
Ever since Sega dropped out of the hardware market, they’ve been afraid of losing the blue hedgehog as their primary source of revenue. So every year at least two Sonic titles are released, each with obviously very little time in production and quality control. The result is a game that sells incredibly well for the first few weeks, before people realise that the old problems still remain. The sales predictably nosedive and Sega becomes worried. They quickly start on the next game, using the limited revenue to again make a short term profit.

This cycle has progressed over the past decade and caused Sonic’s reputation to spiral downward. With each game giving a smaller return, the outlook for Sonic Team is bleak. However, I believe it could all be very different. Think of Nintendo, who only ever release one Legend of Zelda game for every console generation. These games are considered absolute classics. Twilight Princess continues to sell on the Nintendo Wii because it is still a top title and Sonic could easily be the same. With a good few years in development, thorough feedback and classic controls I truly believe the blue blur can return to form.

It was obvious how rushed Sonic 06 was for release

It was obvious how rushed Sonic 06 was for release

The camera, glitches and loading times:
Nothing hurts a game more than technical problems. The first on my checklist is the awful camera, which I’m not sure has ever stayed still in a 3D sonic game. Instead, it always rotates to the front so that I can’t see Sonic running straight into a set of spikes. Or a convenient bottomless pit. Or simply a glitch that leaves the hedgehog twitching rather horrifically.

Whoever play tests these games must be doing it with their eyes shut. In Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, I had to restart one of Shadow’s levels six times because Rouge the Bat didn’t want to drop off a wall. The number of times I was caught in pieces of scenery or town mini-games was simply ridiculous.

For a next generation game, the loading times are something from the Speccy days. Upon the starting the game, the hub world loads for about thirty seconds. You walk up to a civilian and press talk. The game then loads for about thirty seconds. A piece of text explains your mission. The game then loads for about thirty seconds. Once you’ve completed the task, the game then… you get the picture.

If Sonic games ran smoothly, it would at least give them a fighting chance. I want to enjoy Sega’s mascot and believe with a few fundamental improvements, it could so easily return to form. Good platformers are hard to come by and those done at speed are even rarer. Live and Learn.