22 December 2008

The Red Baron's Top 7 Videogame Soundtracks Of All Time.

Recently I have been discussing the importance of music in videogames, and I noticed I had quite a lot to say on the subject. This is because my enjoyment of a videogame is almost inseparable from my enjoyment of its soundtrack. It's something of a chicken-and-egg question trying to determine just what the relationship is between a great videogame and a great videogame soundtrack [is it possible for a great videogame to not have a great soundtrack, or does that disqualify it from greatness? Can a great soundtrack make a 'good' game great?] but it's enough to know that it is important, and it does enrich the gaming experience. Indeed, if you peruse the list below you'll see only three games that cannot also be found on my Top Eighteen Videogames of All Time - one of which was released this year, the other two are sequels to other placeholders. To give the list a bit of context, these are my criteria:

  1. I must have played the game. If you can't find your favourite videogame music on this list, it's entirely possible that I've never listened to it. Feel free to chime in with your own picks below if this is the case.

  2. The soundtrack must be consistently great. I must be able to listen to it during the entire experience without getting tired of it. With the length of videogames being what they are, this is no mean feat. A soundtrack is only as strong as its weakest link, and I won't be picking games on the strength of a handful of songs. For instance, I LOVE the Metroid Prime title music more than you will ever know, as well as the Magmoor Caverns AND Phendrana Drifts themes, but you won't find the game on this list. No, those songs will have to wait for another list, another day.

  3. One entry per franchise. I can almost guarantee you I will make an exception to this rule.

  4. This is a list of videogame music, written and recorded/engineered specifically for the videogames they feature in. This means games like Grand Theft Auto IV and Jet Set Radio Future do not qualify. I had to draw the line somewhere, otherwise we'd be seeing Guitar Heroes and Rock Bands all over the place.

  5. The music must stay with me long after the experience is over. This is perhaps my most heavily weighted criterion.

Remembering of course, that as in all matters of Aesthetics, everything about this is purely subjective. But we all love a good list, don't we, so occasionally someone has to have to balls to step up and make a few bold claims. If you disagree with me, or you think I've robbed a game of its due, feel free to acknowledge your favourite videogame music below.

Without any further adieu, here are my Top Seven Videogame Soundtracks Of All Time:

7. Magic Carpet

Magic Carpet was innovative in a number of ways, but what interested me most was its music, which changed on the fly according to your circumstances. A foreboding calm across the sea is only moments away from the angular sturm und drang of a wyvern's fiery attack. Undeniably Arabian in flavour, I could not shake the feeling that I was a wizard on my magic carpet.

6. Street Fighter II

It's no mistake that these tunes have been appropriated and remixed by every subsequent entry in the Street Fighter series. Each song is inextricably linked its character, flavoured of course by their respective nationalities, from Blanka's jungle theme to Vega's matadorian dance. They play well at all speeds, too, which is handy when you want to imbue that sense of urgency.

5. Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Before the cheesy 80s guitar riffs and bad lyrics, Sonic was a musical force to be reckoned with, and no game better embodies this than Sonic 2. Its melodies are as varied and vibrant as the levels that host them, from the country guitar twang of Hilltop Zone to the snake-charming Oil Ocean and back to the industrial chug of Metropolis Zone.

4. de Blob

The mind boggles at the sheer wealth of musical material present in de Blob. I can only conclude that the band must have hit 'record' from the moment the game began development. In many ways, de Blob represents the ultimate integration of music into the gameplay experience. You'll want to paint the town all over again when you're done, just to hear more of that funky, funky music. It runs the gamut of jazz, funk, blues, reggae, and hip-hop, and the game lets you paint solos all over it.

3. Super Mario World

Mario World bravely broke away from the famous Mario theme to weave its own thematic tapestry, and for that, I salute it. Think Mario in a milk bar. A really, really cute one with strange hobo sitting in the corner. I don't know what that means.

2. Dune II: The Battle for Arakkis

Westwood's tradition of great RTSs and great videogame music began with Dune II. Its soundtrack is best described as a lithe mechanical beast chugging through quicksand. How fitting.

1. Toejam & Earl/Toejam & Earl in Panic on Funkatron

Remember when I talked about breaking Rule #3? I was serious. I had to call a two-way tie between these two games, because they both deserve recognition as the greatest examples of videogame music ever created. In fact, no discussion about videogame music should be entered into without first recognising Toejam & Earl as its pinnacle. Here's what I wrote about it in my review:
"It's in the music department that Toejam & Earl really comes into its own. The soundtrack is memorable and downright funky, and features some of the most inventive uses of MIDI I've heard. You'll find yourself humming the Big Earl Bump or the Toejam Slowjam as you go about your day-to-day...When a game compels you to record all its songs onto CD for general listening, you know you're onto something special."

What's in your Top Seven?

04 December 2008

The Rising Sun's Reflection in the Mirror's Edge.

***Before I begin, please set your Irony Detectors to 'ON'.***

Apparently, the Japanese are none too fond of Mirror's Edge protagonist, Faith. So much so, in fact, that Japanese Kotaku reader Torokun reworked her (pictured right):

Don't forget the nipple show-through!

The mammary augmenter himself puts up a decent case for a character model re-design:

Torokun posted:

"There is always a huge complaint from Asian gamers whenever Western developers design Asian female characters. This is mainly because many Westerners' definition of what is considered as 'Asian' beauty is very different from what Asians consider beautiful."

Fair enough, though I would argue that everyone loves big eyes (see Mickey Mouse, Mario) and large breasts (see Pamela Anderson, Dead or Alive).

Anyway, so Kotaku post the image, Japanese game site Game*Spark go to the trouble of translating the comments and quoting them, and we now have what appears to be an Intercontinental Flame War [I've always wanted to say that!] on our hands. Check out the Japanese responses to the original Faith design:
"There's no way Japanese would accept a face like that."

"That woman is extremely homely."

"Not sure if moe-style is necessary, but that original face is awful."

"She's totally flat."

"I kinda like the character. I don't think Asian equals ugly."

"**** off Asian beauty!"

"Man, the Mirror's Edge protagonist is way creepy... It's like some Asian female stereotype."

"The eyes are way too Asian."

"Everyone knows Western female game characters are ugly."

"That face makes her look 40 years old."

"For Westerners, there's not much difference between the faces that eat kimchi and the faces that eat soy sauce."

"The original is better looking."

"Slant eyes for Asians is the same as big lips for black people."

"If you really sit and think about it, in America, Lucy Liu is an angel, right?"

"Who cares about this one game person's opinion."

"But foreigners think slant eyes are sexy."

"Americans like aggressive faces?"

"Well, Japanese people have the stereotype that Americans are fat, bald and clumsy. It's the same."

So apparently Westerners like Asians that look like...Asians, and Asians like Asians that look like Westerners...



***You may now return your Irony Detectors to the 'OFF' position.***

06 September 2008

8 Sega Sequels I Wanna See.

It's tough being a Sega fan. We're a lot like Star Wars fans. It's like we're in an abusive relationship and they tell us that they love us and to come home it'll all be better just like the way it used to be, but then they beat us and beat us and beat us, and all we can say is we fell down the stairs they only do it 'cause they love us. It sucks to be me particularly, because I'm both a Sega and a Star Wars fan. For some reason I still hold out hope that Sega could make that magic game, just as we all held out for a good prequel. It is in this spirit - with my black eyes open and fingers crossed - that I present to you this list of Sega sequels that I would like to see:

Daytona USA 3
I can't remember the last racer I enjoyed playing. Actually, I can - it was Daytona USA on my Sega Saturn. The only thing lacking in that game was the track selection.

Racing perfection has a name: DAYYYTONAAAAAAAA!!!

NiGHTS 2: This Time With Feeling!
I'd like to see Journey Into Dreams retconned somehow, and delivered back into the capable hands of Sonic Team. You know, the real Sonic Team based in Japan, headed by Yuji Naka. What made the original NiGHTS Into Dreams so great was the purity of the gameplay. NiGHTS 2 diluted it with unnecessary cutscenes, voicework, and 3D platforming. It's all about smooth, slick control, running the courses and chaining link combos. It's an arcade racer in fantasy land. Keep it real.

In the NiGHTS, dream delight...

Jet Set/Grind Radio 2
Style, cel-shading, graffiti art, and funky music again, please. The original suffered from wander-around-aimlessly-until-you-find-powerup/tag syndrome, though, so it'd be nice to have an integrated map system or at least a Metroid-style hint system.

Jet-Set, Jet-Set, Jet Set Radiooo!!!

Panzer Dragoon IV vs. Panzer Dragoon Saga II
I'm torn as to what I'd like to see more, Panzer Dragoon IV or Panzer Dragoon Saga II? One thing's for sure, it's Smilebit (formerly Team Andromeda) or bust. After Panzer Dragoon Orta, though, I'm not sure they understand the purity of Panzer Dragoon Zwei. Beautiful, though it was, and a good Xbox game nonetheless, it introduced a scissors-paper-rock mechanic whereby your dragon needed to change forms to destroy certain enemies. And in a game as beautiful as Orta, who wants to think about stuff like that? I just want to fly, shoot, and have my breath taken away every now and then. If my dragon's going to be changing forms, then it better be just as good as another form, and it better be for the whole level. The problem of Panzer Saga II is another thing entirely: what more is there to tell in this story?

Resonance to resonance, purity to purity, gaming of the spheres.

Shenmue 3
If there's a case against planned trilogies, it's Shenmue. If there's a case against unplanned trilogies, it's Pirates of the Caribbean and The Matrix. And if you have a case against Quick Time Events, then you may as well level it against AM2 legend Yu Suzuki. But by far his biggest crime was bankrupting Sega to leave tens of thousands [let's be realistic here] of fans hanging on the edge of the cliff that is Shenmue 2. Did it really bankrupt Sega? Well, I don't know, but the first game cost $500,000 to make and unfortunately wasn't $500,000 worth of awesome, let alone $500,000 worth of software sales. That $500,000 would probably have been better spent on an advertising campaign for the Dreamcast - you know, so that real [now] Wii-owning people actually knew it existed while it graced this Earth. Then, and maybe then, we may have been able to say that we have felt closure, and its name was Shenmue 3.

"Yes, Suzuki-san, you must do what is right. You must complete Shenmue 3!"

Space Channel 5 (II? 6?)
In this rhythm-based-music-game-crazy world we live in today, it's high time that the Mother-of-all rhythm-based music-games returned. It's hard to imagine the Seamless Narrative in a world ruled by Hideo Kojimas with blank checkbooks and cutscenes with soda-drinking monkeys, but Space Channel 5 had one, and it had it in style.

Dancing with aliens never made so much sense.

Toejam & Earl 3: Keepin' it Real, Dawg!
Again, it would be nice to have another game retconned, this time the Dishonourable Toejam & Earl 3. I remember being promised a 'return to form' in TJ&E3 on their website waaay back in the Saturn days. Well, TJ&E Productions, where is it? Where's the Greatest Videogame Music of All Time? Where's the Celebration of the Random? Where's the endless replayability? All I see is funk ditched for hip-hop, a flat 3D platformer [using that term very loosely, but if Mario 64 gets to be a platformer, then so does this] with terrible art design, and a third-wheel character thrown in for the hell of it. What's the point of a third character in a two-player game, anyway? I can't think of any franchise, videogame or otherwise, that has stood to benefit from the addition of a new character. Scrappy-Doo, anyone? And then there's the classic case of the Rat in the Hat's complete ruination of Bananas in Pyjamas. Lesson learnt? I hope so.

Bonnie & Clyde. Sonnie & Cher. Simon & Garfunkel. Toejam & Earl.

Virtua Cop 4
During my university years, my friends and I used to drive 15 minutes to Westfield Shoppingtown just to play Virtua Cop 3. After collectively sinking what must have been enough tokens to pay for someone's tertiary education, the arcade owners inexplicably and unceremoniously removed the machine from the arcade, never to be seen again. This pissed me off more than just a little bit, not necessarily the action itself, but rather the feeling of utter helplessness, that unlike Virtua Cop 1 & 2, I can't play this game at home. Hell Sega, just port VC3 if you like and give us a decent light-gun to go with it and I'll be happy.

Do it. Do it. DO IT!

Which Sega sequels do you wanna see?

03 August 2008

4 Ideas that ‘Wanted’ presents but never really runs with.

Thanks to IGN AU, I attended the [late] Australian premiere of Wanted with 13 friends, two tag-alongs, a work colleague plus wife, and a random couple we gave tickets to on the street. Yes, it turns out that I don’t have 19 friends, but I at least have enough to feel like a bigshot for one night.

The movie was akin to a dog digging holes in the backyard: it’s got a lot of ideas going on, but it never seemed to stick to one long enough to go anywhere deep. As an action film, it was very over-the-top and there were several thrilling set-pieces, so it’s certainly worth a look for action fans. It’s disappointing, though, how intelligently the film opens compared to its latter half. It’s almost as if it got distracted by all the explosions and gunfire, and dropped everything in the excitement. Rather than give it the standard review treatment, I thought I’d discuss the ideas that Wanted introduces, but never fully explores:

The World has a constant subtext.
Whether you realise it or not, the World is constantly bombarding you with subversive messages. It doesn’t matter how aloof or alert you are, there’s only so many messages one person can block. You think you’re so cool, because you don’t do what the billboards or the TV commercials say, but chances are you’re a slave to the billion other messages you’ve missed. When you check your balance on your ATM and you only have fifteen dollars to your name, it’s telling you “you’re an asshole”. When you withdraw that fifteen dollars, it then tells you that you’re a human doormat and your best friend is screwing your girlfriend. You hit the ‘accept’ button.
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Every man and woman has a Higher Calling.
Every normal person works a job that they hate, Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. If you are working a desk job, you are wasting your life. In fact, if you are working a desk job, you deserve to die. Follow your dreams [read: shoot the wings off a fly] or we’ll put a bullet through your brain.

It is noble and just to kill one for one thousand.
There are some very rich and powerful people out there, and most of them mean you harm. Therefore, it is okay to kill them for the Greater Good, even though most of them will be replaced by equally corruptible figures (like you and me).
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We are but pawns in God’s great game of chess.
The major players [read: the gods] in Wanted all pride themselves on their attunement to the higher plane: their knowledge of the Will of Fate and their bullet-bending instinct. This renders the lives and deaths of everyday people insignificant in the action scenes, as the Will of Fate is paramount to the Greater Good. As the old saying goes: you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

21 July 2008

Sonic the Hedgehog: The Christopher Nolan Treatment.

With recent iterations of the Big Blue swinging swords on Wii and howling at a blood red moon on PS360, it's a difficult time for the true believers. That's why I propose that Christopher Nolan direct the next, next Sonic title. Based on his recent efforts with the Dark Knight, here's what I think he would do:

1. Scrap everything an
d start over.
We all wish we could forget the Joel Schumacher films, and likewise we'd like to forget nearly every 3D Sonic game we've ever played. Chris Nolan couldn't do the former, so he gave us the next best thing: a reboot. Our spiny friend is in dire need of one. Up the arse.

Believe it or not, Sonic and the Black Knight is a step in the wrong direction.

2. Respect for the source material.
Nolan knew something that other director's didn't: a lot of comics are extremely well-written. So why not look to them for inspiration and story ideas? It's no coincidence that Begins and Dark Knight represent not only the brimming potential of the comic book film medium, but also the most faithful adaptations of their source material. It's also no coincidence that the greatest Sonic titles were the first three games. Why not look to them for inspiration? All that people want is a good 2D Sonic game again, and we *thought* we were getting that with Unleashed...

Think again.

Nolan mined the rich history of Batman comics for the strongest characters, storylines, and even dialogue to bring us his first two Bat-films. The same kind of consolidation needs to be done for the Big Blue Blur. His most successful efforts have been the 2D Megadrive titles - shouldn't that be sending some kind of message to Sega and Sonic Team? More of the same, please!

3. Strip back all the ridiculous elements and keep it grounded.
To its credit, The Dark Knight featured none of these characters: Bat-Mite, Great White Shark, Dr. Phosphorous, Batzarro, Cluemaster, Killer Moth, Tweedledee & Tweedledum, Magpie, the Calculator [he literally dressed up as a pocket calculator], The Fearsome Foot-Fighters, Film Freak, look - you get the idea. There were the infamous 'big prop' Batman stories in the 40s and 50s, which later inspired a story whereby Batman & Robin fought Deadshot atop a giant typewriter! Then there's all the Bat-gadgets, which Batman always seems to have at just the right moment (Bat-shark-repellent). Sonic of course has his ridiculous moments, most of which have surfaced within the last decade. The voice acting in particular is even worse than what I've heard in some Kung-Fu movie dubs, and has almost become its trademark. He also has a terrible cast of supporting players: Amy Rose, Big the Cat, Cream the Rabbit, Rouge the Bat, Shadow the Hedgehog, Silver the Hedgehog, Someone the Something, the list goes on. Do you see what I'm getting at here? The Bat mythos as a whole is full of camp and goofy Silver Age elements, yet Nolan had the good sense to either remove those elements or avoid them altogether. Of course, if you're comics savant Grant Morrison, you'll find some way to marry all of these elements with a brilliant modern twist, but Nolan's no Morrison, and neither is Sonic Team. So what was so good about the Golden Age of Sonic games? No Z-list characters for a start; no terrible voice acting; no J-Pop/Rock music - just fast 2D platforming with great level design, really. It's not a magic formula or anything, it just puts the focus back on Sonic.

Batman's return to form.

Nolan came at a time when DC and Batman desperately needed him. Similarly, Sega and Sonic are in a dire state, and in desperate need of the Chris Nolan Treatment. Sure, it's a pipe dream and it'll never happen, but if I can sit here and learn videogame lessons from a Batman movie, so can Sonic Team.

05 July 2008

Review on the Run: Hancock.

I went in with fairly low expectations, and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised with Hancock. Once you get past the five-minute slapstick opening (CG seagulls - you'll see what I mean), it's all smooth sailing. Probably the best performance was given by Jason Bateman, who plays a struggling PR man. He finds new purpose in improving the super-lout's public image, but he certainly gets more than he bargained for.

There's a few nods to other superheroes here and there, including Iron Man and The Hulk, mostly because Hancock's always getting drunk and breaking things. But even if you're not a comic-book nerd like myself you'll find plenty to enjoy. CG seagulls aside, my only real gripe with the film is the lack of a real imposing villain. Of course, my points of reference are Lex Luthor and the Joker, so that comparison may not be fair.

18 April 2008

Review on the Run: One Man Star Wars Trilogy.

A Star Wars movie marathon in an hour and a half?!
You better believe it, kid.

Charles Ross is Luke Skywalker in: One Man Star Wars Trilogy.

Last week I had the privilege of seeing Charles Ross' One Man Star Wars Trilogy at Brisbane's Cremorne Theatre, in the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. The curtains opened, and there was Charles dressed in black, zooming around the stage. He proudly trumpeted the 20th Century Fox Fanfare and then the Star Wars Theme. What first impressed me was Ross' attention to detail. He didn't indulge in needless geek-isms (though he probably could have) like rattling off the receding prologue, rather he only used those elements most pertinent to the plot and the comedy. In this instance he used the suggestion of an opening crawl to underscore the comedy. Indeed, a great deal of the laughs were sourced from his clever gestural comedy: any Star Wars fan could tell when he was an X-Wing, a TIE Fighter, or Jabba the Hutt. His impression of a fallen Imperial Walker is absolutely priceless.

Charles Ross' delivery was spot-on. It's almost as if George Lucas was backstage the entire time, egging him on: "faster, more intense!" His Luke Skywalker was an exceptionally fast-talking, whiny farmboy, and kept the plot moving at a brisk pace. Clocking in the entire Trilogy at one and a half hours is no mean feat for one actor, and frankly I'm surprised he still had breath in him by the end. That's probably the most impressive part of the show; that one man can supply enough energy on-stage (with no props, mind you) to conjure an entire universe in the collective mind of his audience.

His sound effects were brilliantly replicated, from the screaming TIE Fighters to R2D2's bleeps and croaks. While he rarely deviated from his regular vocal timbre, his meticulous phrasing and pacing perfectly encapsulated each character. His most notable characterisations included Jabba the Hutt, Yoda, and my personal favourite, the Emperor. Ross' sketches were almost satirical, poking fun at Hamill's [and McDiarmid's] over-acting, and inconsistencies between the movies, but always with love and respect for the source material. Think of it as a playful jab in the ribs to a close friend. Surprisingly, prequel ridicule was kept to a minimum, but as Lord Vader said, it'd be all too easy to traverse that well-worn road.

Charles Ross is Master Yoda in: One Man Star Wars Trilogy.

In many ways, Charles Ross' performance highlighted the failure of Jar-Jar Binks as comedic relief. While in the Original Trilogy, comedic duties were shared by the entire cast and weaved into the story, the Prequel Trilogy attempted to project all of its comedy onto one character, and as a result, poor Jar-Jar stood out like a sore thumb in an overly serious universe. Here Charles is simply fleshing out what is already there; a comedy goldmine of science fantasy. He seemed to have the most fun with Return of the Jedi, like a child playing with his Ewok figurines. In this act he threw in more asides than usual, and really enjoyed hamming it up as Emperor Palpatine.

The most interesting thing to me was what he chose to keep and what he chose to leave out. One thing's for certain, he always chose the scenes and dialogue that were a) most important to the plot's momentum, and b) rich with comedic potential. Ross often avoided more obvious gags to highlight dynamics of the films that I hadn't even thought of (and I've seen the films many, many times). His familiarity with the films and the script was apparent to everyone in the audience - he probably could have rattled off the entire thing - right down to the musical cues, transitions and scene cuts, which he also humorously enacted.

At the conclusion of Return of the Jedi, Charles took the time to have a chat with the audience about the show's history, and how he came to tour the world doing what he loves. He really is a very endearing character in and of himself. All in all, the One Man Star Wars Trilogy gave nothing of the impression of a geek's self-indulgent dream, and everything of a seasoned actor and comedian's finely crafted stage play. If you ever wanted to watch all three movies in a row, save yourself some time and see Charles Ross. He packs all of the magic of Star Wars into one and a half hours, and plenty of laughs as well. I highly recommend this show to any Star Wars fan, or anyone with an appreciation of the films. If on the off-chance you're unfamiliar with that galaxy far, far away, rent them out then go see this show!

Charles Ross closed with the announcement that his next show will be the 'One Man Lord of the Rings Trilogy'. I for one can't wait to see it.

10 April 2008

Wii Sports: As Good As It Gets?

I could spend an entire blog post arguing the merits of Wii Sports as the Wii's best game, but I won't.

Best. Game. Ever.

crazed_ninty_fanboi3000 posted:

"OMFG WTF?! Did teh_red_baron just say Wii Sports is teh best Wii gamez?! LAFF! 'Sif!"

In many ways, it is. From the point of view that its motion controls are unparalleled on the Wii thus far; it's accessible to almost anybody due to its intuitive control; it sells systems; and it is a compendium of pure, unadulterated fun.

With the release of Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 and its subsequent praise from IGN, it struck me that despite Wii Sports' clear demonstration of the Wii's control possibilities and its sporting chops, we are yet to see a sporting title, nay, a title proper that rivals its IR implementation and motion control. The Wii has tennis games, bowling games, and boxing games in their own right, and yet none of them come close to matching the precision control or feel of any one segment of Wii Sports.

That to me is a disgrace, but it all comes back to one central issue: developers don't know how to implement IR and motion controls.

Look at the finest examples of Wii controls: Wii Sports, WarioWare, and Metroid Prime 3. They're all first party Nintendo titles. I think the onus is on Nintendo to encourage the effective use of the Wii's control possibilities - it's supposed to be the defining aspect of the console, and they're allowing it to be passed over.

Disrespect for the elderly? More please!

Is Wii Sports as good as it gets? Are you excited about the future of sporting on Wii? Who's doing it right and who needs to get their act together?

19 January 2008

5 Trends That Are Bad For Gaming.

I was reading an article on the Ten Trends in videogames over the last decade and it got me thinking. More specifically, it got me thinking about which trends are or have been generally bad for gaming over the last decade. Here goes:

Square pegs jammed into round holes.
Castlevania. Sonic the Hedgehog. Some games were never meant to be played in three dimensions, and those are just a few examples. We've witnessed a lot of 2D-to-3D transitions over the years; some glamorous (Prince of Persia, Mario, Ninja Gaiden, Metroid Prime) and others not-so-glamorous (Street Fighter EX and the above), but these transitions should never have been forced. 'The Death of the Platformer' has been bandied about a lot recently, but is this really the case, or are there just a lot of square pegs being jammed into round holes? Bionic Commando: ReArmed is a promising step in the right direction, and I am keen to see many glorious returns to 2D or at least 2.5D in future (please, Sonic, PLEASE!).

Violent games vs. Games-with-violence.
Games like Manhunt 2 and Kane & Lynch should really never be made. Not only are they bad for the image of the industry, they're more style than substance. Games like this are developed purely for the controversy, with gameplay tacked on. If it furthers the plot, then fine (obviously you can't play GTA without stealing cars), but don't try to tell me that a game like Manhunt is 'mature'. They're just going to get all the good games with violence banned.

A class-based gaming society.
Don't worry, I'm not going to launch into a Marxist dialectic, but I find the sale of multiple models of the same console to be utterly ridiculous and short-sighted from both a consumer point of view and a marketing point of view. The market may decide this one already (is it any coincidence that the console with only one model is outselling all others?), as Sony seems to have scrapped all other PS3 SKUs in favour of the 40GB model. Microsoft seems to be constantly re-jigging their X360 SKUs, possibly at the risk of further consumer confusion. Is it now the Arcade, Pro, and Elite models? More than one model means more than one price point, and judging by the Wii's performance this last year, this is the most important consideration for consumers. Developers are also in the dark on this - should they account for a hard-drive or not when developing for the 360?

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
It seems these days that offline multiplayer has been completely neglected in favour of online. Anyone who's played system link Halo at a friend's place knows that this is a glaring oversight. Two-player split-screen in an FPS is not good enough. Online multiplayer is great, but we still need to play with our friends on the couch. System link and 4-player should be an industry standard for all multiplayer games by now. Make it happen.

Square peg in a round hole: MKII.
Tacking on multiplayer for a single player experience and vice versa is a waste of development time. Metroid Prime didn't need multiplayer - thankfully it is still a great game, but to think that that time could possibly have been used to put more into an already great game, is tragic. I'm sure a lot of FPSs could have also benefited from not having a single player mode as well, instead of having to deal with the pretense of having one. Ultimately, there are chiefly single player experiences and chiefly multiplayer experiences; they should be developed and marketed as such. The lies must end!

And that's all from me for now.