Katana Zero: Playing with Time to Fix a Fractured Memory

There is something about how Askiisoft’s Katana Zero uses the “unreliable narrator” device that works with me—rather than misdirecting the player with ludicrous and unearned twists in a linear plot, this game makes the player feel active in the story. The protagonist of this game, a katana-wielding assassin named Agent Zero, is trying to piece the echoes of his memory back together, and the player has an unusual amount of agency in how he goes about achieving this.
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How Night in the Woods Guided Me in Mourning a Friend

Content Warning: suicide, depression, anxiety There was something so uniquely terrifying, yet profound about my playthrough of Night in the Woods. It felt uniquely suited to my mindstate by the time I played through it, at a level where booting up the game sometimes felt like a stressful and daunting task, as it inadvertently had me confront some of my inner thoughts and life experiences.
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How Red Dead Redemption 2 Attempts (and Struggles) to Emulate the Modern Western

Every time the black bars letterboxed the screen during Red Dead Redemption 2, I knew that the “video game” portion of this experience was on hold. I couldn’t help but feel frustrated that Rockstar (and the game’s writers) were plopping a movie in front of me instead. It is relatively obvious that Rockstar’s recent games are meant to invoke the feelings of familiar films, but reading and hearing the thoughts from my peers had me realize that many of us—the Housers included—simply have it wrong when analyzing this game’s relationship with the Western film genre.
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Super Mario Odyssey Proves Nintendo Knows How to Soothe Anxiety

Our world is a mess. People are losing their homes from natural disasters, lives are lost at the hands of violent madmen on a daily basis, the risk of international war hovers over us all and the political climate is more toxic now than ever. In our current society and culture, anxiety reigns supreme.
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Deep Analysis: Jackie Brown

There are two distinct opening scenes in Quentin Tarantino's overlooked film Jackie Brown. The first is the opening credits sequence, a pseudo-homage to The Graduate, albeit more upbeat and colorful to introduce the tone and protagonist (played by Pam Grier) of this very different film. It's a gorgeous, energetic, and precisely-edited sequence that reminds you that yes, Tarantino knows how to direct a movie.
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How Daredevil Season 3 Depicts the Fight Against Real and Present Fears

Daredevil season 3 will obviously not solve any of our real-life problems—but it demonstrates that something as fantastical as the MCU can be very powerful by recalling realistic imagery and sentiments. In a society where people are fearful to live their regular lives under the threat of violence, however real or false that threat may be, and with bad actors exploiting that very fear, we need a fantasy like Daredevil. Season 3 is all about how he earned the famous moniker “the Man Without Fear.”
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The Legend of Korra molded a theme out of metalbending

The sequel, The Legend of Korra, did far more than just continue The Last Airbender’s story — the series showed how society, with the tools that Aang and his Team Avatar had left behind, transformed after that shift. In the world of Avatar, the invention of metalbending, introduced as a level-up by Airbender character Toph Beifong, but in full effect after the 70-year time jump in the sequel series The Legend of Korra, is the best example of how political ideologies and the spiritual nature of bending were naturally intertwined. And for creators Michael Dante Dimartino and Bryan Konietzko, the ability led to some of the most compelling world-building and character development in the franchise.

Shrinking an Expanded Universe

When applied to popular media, the concept of the shared, expanded universe is exemplified by the likes of Middle-earth, Westeros, the Star Wars galaxy, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and so on. There are moving parts so large in scale, yet they may never affect each other simply due to the vastness of the world. The creators of each world would explain its elaborate histories, cultures and languages as if they were real. And the field is open enough that other creators can freely craft their own narratives and spaces within a larger world, even if just in their own imagination.

Lovingly Evil emulates the anxiety and ticking clock of conventions

Back in the day when in-person conventions were allowed, I would enter the floor with a sense of purpose. I was there to work, of course, gathering connections, networking with likeminded people, and attending panels. With limited time and so many moving parts on a given day, conventions would become draining, and with all of the personal interactions in between, it becomes clear that these events are a juggling act. Yes, we were all there for some form of career advancement, but we wanted to see people. These events were a mix of business and pleasure. People are seeking connections, but sometimes they may seek connections.

Arcade Spirits Imagines a World Where Gaming Is Mainstream and Doesn’t Need Validation

Despite video games being a highly profitable industry at this point, there is still persistent and prevalent insecurity amongst gaming communities. To the mainstream, gaming still has many connotations and stereotypes that create a defensive and uptight attitude amongst the most fervorous so-called “gamers.” Whether the gaming community at large deserves or even needs acceptance and approval from the rest of the society is a subject of opinion and debate—but in the world of Arcade Spirits, validation towards gaming is no longer an issue.

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine Turns Organic Storytelling into Something Artificial

Back in my college days, I would always treasure my small reunions with high school friends during break. In these get-togethers, rowdy college stories were the commodity amongst my friend group and approving laughter was the currency to be exchanged. But storytime was always anxiety-inducing for me; even with my own wacky and gonzo adventures and experiences from being thrown in a new setting with colorful characters, I always felt that I could never do these stories justice with my own lack of oratory skills. When I played the Where the Water Tastes Like Wine port for Nintendo Switch, I kept thinking back to my trepidation about storytelling during that time in my life.

Imagining "The Batman" with Robert Pattinson as Terry McGinnis

Comic book characters are eternal, living forever on the page while constantly changing faces on the silver screen. To Hollywood actors, parts like Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, and Bruce Wayne are like Hamlet, roles that a number of performers will have a chance to interpret and make their own. But after decades of Batman films, television, and video games, I believe that Bruce Wayne is no longer a difficult role to play.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and the Reverse-Engineering Nature of Parodies

When observing with a long-running and venerable series such as The Legend of Zelda, it isn’t difficult to see how it becomes slavish to a formula that has slowly developed over time. For that reason, entries like Majora’s Mask and Breath of the Wild instantly stand out for their incongruent and formula-breaking nature. Yet one of the more unusual and off-kilter entries in the Zelda canon is The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, a game that was developed with that very formula in mind.

The Golden Cages 2019: Best Supporting Actress

Whenever I call my paternal grandparents in the Philippines there are several barriers to overcome. First is the technological barrier: interfacing across the Pacific Ocean leads to some delay and some confusion. Then there is the age barrier: we take in information at different speeds, and my grandparents aren't too tech-savvy. Finally, there is the language barrier: I can understand Tagalog, but couldn't speak a word of it, and English is definitely not my grandparents' first language. This is the Asian-American experience that The Farewell recalled to me, and something that was embodied with Zhao Shuzhen's performance as Nai Nai.

The Comfort Food of Knowledge

The lore of the prolonged Saw films is a tangled fascination, with each movie built on a foundation of inane plot twists. This fictional universe is convoluted in an artful and comprehensive manner that few media franchises dare to even dream of. Films call back to obscure details three films ago, films take place within the timeframes of other films, and so on. And while I find myself scouring Wikipedia for hours and absorbing every Saw-related detail there is, I have never seen a full minute from any of these films. The knowledge is enough.

Death Stranding: Building Bridges and Paying it Forward

I honed in on a specific point in my train of thought, and I think where the game clicked with me is when I first viewed the Tokyo Game Show 2019 footage of Death Stranding. At its core, this game is all about getting from one place to another in the most optimal way. Already I harkened back to my time with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild—through that game’s open world, I spent countless hours combing every square inch of Hyrule, finding both joy and tension in figuring out how to get somewhere. Navigating the environment is in itself the puzzle.

Katana Zero: Playing with Time to Fix a Fractured Memory

There is something about how Askiisoft’s Katana Zero uses the “unreliable narrator” device that works with me—rather than misdirecting the player with ludicrous and unearned twists in a linear plot, this game makes the player feel active in the story. The protagonist of this game, a katana-wielding assassin named Agent Zero, is trying to piece the echoes of his memory back together, and the player has an unusual amount of agency in how he goes about achieving this.

How High Voltage Software Tried to Make the Wii Cool With 'The Conduit'

In the late 2000s, the Nintendo Wii was not the console for cool kids. In retrospect it was a daring concept with plenty of hits, but none of this mattered to the schoolboys that surrounded me in the late aughts. Back then, it was all about graphics and guns. Nintendo never felt the need to compete in the “hardcore” FPS-dominated field of the last decade, choosing to instead forge their own path with their “Blue Ocean” strategy. And financially, it worked. To my peers, though, the Wii was for babies. So when I heard about The Conduit, it had my full attention.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Turns Trauma and Fear into Cheap Tricks

Firing a gun is a terrifying experience, and video games have often struggled or straight up neglected in capturing that power for players. Developers may consider the quality of sound design, the intensity of a muzzle flash, or perhaps depended on feedback such as controller rumble. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare takes all of that into account, but to truly give players a sense of control and power that an armed soldier carries, developer Infinity Ward attempted to throw them into scenarios that carried real weight and consequences.

Overwatch on Nintendo Switch Arrived at the Least Ideal Time

Hit hero shooter Overwatch from Blizzard Entertainment is now available to play on the Nintendo Switch. Perhaps a year or even two years ago, that sentence would have been much more exciting. In 2019, that sentence comes with a number of different connotations now. Not only does this Switch port feel late and behind the competition, but recent news makes this feel like the worst possible time to have anything associated with Blizzard.

Jeph Loeb seemed done at NYCC 2019, and now Kevin Feige is his boss

While walking around the Marvel area of New York Comic-Con 2019, I didn't see anything that particularly surprised me. Everything was telling of the times, from cosplays of Iron Man plus Gauntlet to what seemed like a legion of "Bro Thors," showcasing the pop culture impact of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Avengers: Endgame. But on the television side, all I spotted was one scene that may elicit despondency from fans.

CROSSNIQ+ is a Retro Futuristic Rubik’s Cube That Takes You Back to the 2000s

Solving puzzles can be a quiet and comforting exercise, whether you’re working a morning paper crossword at the breakfast table or sitting in bed and wrapping your head around a Sudoku grid. Puzzle video games act as a way to emulate that feeling of relaxation and mental stimulation, all while adding audio and visual filters to add to that mood. In searching for more of these comfort games, CROSSNIQ+ from Max Krieger has emerged as one of the more curious discoveries in this genre.
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