Author Archive for nakadai healthstream

10
Nov
10

Video Gamers Have Power Over Their Nightmares

I found an interesting article worth mentioning…

A recent study suggests that video game players could have the power to alter their nightmares, turning the tide on the things that go bump in our subconscious minds. We are the Dream Warriors.

Jayne Gackenbach, a psychologist at Grant MacEwan University in Canada, thinks that gamers might have the power to alter their dreams.

Gackenbach’s main area of study used to be lucid dreams – dreams where the dreamer watches from outside of their own body. 3rd-person dreams, if you will.

Her studies veered towards video games in the 90’s, after she watched her son repeatedly kiss the box of a new Nintendo console on the way home from the store. Something that makes perfect sense to any gamer seemed strange to an outsider, and so she shifted her studies to incorporate gaming, perhaps as a way to cope with her son kissing cardboard boxes.

As she studied past research on video games, Gackenbach began to see parallels between lucid dreamers and gamers. Both groups have better spatial skills, for instance, and are better at coping with motion sickness. Both are able to achieve high levels of concentration and focus.

Both lucid dreams and video games are forms of alternate realities, though one is the result of a biological process and the other technological.

“If you’re spending hours a day in a virtual reality, if nothing else it’s practice,” said Gackenbach… “Gamers are used to controlling their game environments, so that can translate into dreams.”

Gackenbach further explored the relationship between lucid dreams and video games in a series of two studies published in 2006. The first surveyed a group of hardcore gamers and a group of non-gamers, with results suggesting that frequent gamers were more likely to have lucid dreams than non-gamers. Furthermore, the dreaming gamers evidenced dream control, the power to actively influence their dream worlds.

The power to control dreams!

The second study, conducted to narrow down information from the first, showed that while gamers did have control over their dream worlds, the control was limited to their dream selves, as if controlling a video game character.

They also tend to flip between first and third-person view.

If gamers could control dreams, what about nightmares?

Gackenbach explored that question with a new study in 2008. Using a group of 35 males and 63 females, she studied threat levels gleaned from after-dream reports. The results indicated that not only gamers experienced lower threat levels in their dreams, they also experienced reverse threat simulation, where the dreamer turns the tide of the nightmare, becoming an even bigger threat.

“What happens with gamers is that something inexplicable happens,” Gackenbach explained. “They don’t run away, they turn and fight back. They’re more aggressive than the norms.”

In our dreams we are fearless. In our dreams we are also particularly brutal, unafraid to bring a little bit of the old ultra-violence to bear against the nightmare nasties.

“If you look at the actual overall amount of aggression, gamers have less aggression in dreams,” Gackenbach said. “But when they’re aggressive, oh boy, they go off the top.”

See? We’re totally dream warriors.

Gackenbach hopes to use the information she’s gleaned from studying gamers’ reactions to nightmares to see if she can apply it to victims of post-traumatic stress disorder, a symptom of which is usually terrifying dreams. Could video games help control PTSD? That’s what she aims to find out.

She’s also studying the effect violent games have on dreams, based on ratings given by the ESRB.

Whatever her results show, I’m sure the video game dream warriors will be able to handle whatever their subconscious doles out.

See original article here

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29
Oct
10

Vanquish

Shinji Mikami is known for games such as Devil May Cry, Resident Evil 4 and Killer7. There’s a lot more on his resume, but that sums it up pretty well. He prefer simplicity before complicated UI’s and millions of menus. In other words – less is more. He proves this well with his latest game. The high-paced, third person shooter Vanquish is, unlike many other games today, developed for the PS3 system and not ported from the 360 version. Furthermore, there is no on-line multiplayer option. Thank you Mr Mikami. That last part sounds great in my ears, since I think that co-op gaming should first of all take place together with a friend. Couch co-op, if you may.
Unfortunately, this game doesn’t have couch co-op, which is one of the two biggest flaws in the game, no doubts. On the other hand, when playing this game  I guess a split screen might reduce the necessary field of vision that is required to survive.
However, this game is a masterpiece when it comes to TPS action and I let my third playthrough stand as a valid argument for that.

The gameplay is superb and, as I stated in my Castlevania: LoS review, the controls are easy to learn and you can’t blame the game for failing. If you mix classic, side scrolling shmups (like Gradius, R-Type, etc) with the TPS genre, you get Vanquish. Intensity deluxe. Gears of war is awesome, but you advance in a slower pace and do not move in the same versatile way. Where Fenix and Don are tanks, Sam is a stealth bomber. This is, as mentioned, my third playthrough and I got the game five days ago. That says a lot about the length of the game, which is the second of the two flaws.
It’s WAY too short and when you’ve beaten it on Normal, you can easily go through the game in an afternoon on Casual. The firefights and the tempo makes up for that, though. The different weapons all have their significant role to play and none of them feels like a filler. I usually don’t use shotguns in these kind of games, but when you upgraded it a few times, the satisfaction of shredding russian androids is huge.

When you beat the game, you unlock an even tougher difficulty which giver you a new challenge to face, although there’s no trophy for it. The story is pretty vague and I never actually cared about it, sadly (GoW win this round with flying colors!). However, this is too entertaining to let the fact that it has a thin story matter.

The enemies are almost completely of robotic origin, which fits well into these sterile environments of steel. The bosses gives me a slight flashback to Lost Planet 2. The sizes they come in are impressive and the feeling you get while blasting away at these mechanical giants, surrounded by hostile and friendly fire, orchestrated to hard, fast-paced techno is great.
The speculations were right – this game beats Gears of War when it comes to TPS-precision.

The graphics are crisp clean and reminds me of the Metal Gear Solid series and the Zone of Enders games. The game takes place in a colony between Earth and our moon, which reminds me even more of the latter. Big spaces and stunning environments, all wrapped in clean, perfect technology.

The music is great and fits really good into the gameplay. It’s pure techno which synchronizes with the pace of the game in a great way. The voice acting wasn’t so impressive. I think Burns is related to Cole (inFamous), Alex (Prototype) and Solid Snake, since they all seem to be suffocating on oat meal, judging by how they sound. The stereotypical marine attitude and bad one-liners doesn’t feel fresh and with a story that is too thin, the dialogue doesn’t feel convincing.

The trophies in games usually suck, but this time they actually used some imagination and gave us (a lot) more than just chapter- and difficulty-related trophies. My only wish is that there were more of them.

This game is an awesome thrill for the TPS mind, but alas, too short. The music synchronizes so well with the action and the controls are pin-point accurate. In spite of a weak story and a storyline that is completed in a few hours, I still like this game a lot and intend to replay it many times, much like I did with the games back in the days were the  NES and SNES were my main consoles. If you’re a fan of FPS/TPS, you should definitely try this one out.
Shinji Mikami did it again and proved to us that less can be a hell lot more.

Why the length (of the game) doesn’t count…

I want it all – Finally some interesting trophies you WANT to achieve 

Eenie, meenie, miny, moe – Every weapon is useful. None is redundant.

Pump up the volume – A soundtrack that couldn’t be more perfect 

Shmup + TPS – A great combination that gives the genre a rebirth

22
Oct
10

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

The change:

This game does not follow the kanon of the previous ones. This is a whole new legend.
We need to remember that this game is not developed by the ordinary Castlevania team. Mercurysteam from Spain is behind this one, under guidance by Hideo Kojima. If you played the old Castlevania games and expected to experience Symphony of the Night, or Super Castlevania in 3D, you’ll be disappointed. But make no mistake, this is a great game, but you will just not get that “Vampire Killer-feeling” as you used to.

The prints of Kojimas mind are many in LoS, although much more subtle than in the MGS-series. This time, the plot presented to us through previews and trailers are not to kill Dracula. This time we’re gonna save our fair lady, much as in Dantes Inferno and Shadow of the Colossus. This tells us that this game is different from the other ones. But don’t worry.
Dracula has an appearence in this game to.
Kojima is a genius and he seldom fails when involved in a game. The minutes that follows after the end credits will make you understand and when you’re done shitting bricks, let’s all wait for his next nocturnal project in childish anticipation.

Gameplay:

This game is addictively fun.
Not only is the gameplay wonderful (clever mapping of the controls, dynamic use of magics, sub-weapons and the whip) but the replay value is great as well. You’ll have a lot of techniques to learn and by revisiting levels and chapters, you’ll gain the XP required in no time – and have lots of fun doing so. There are three kinds of crystals representing life, light magic and shadow magic that you need to collect. While on the world map, you can easily check which levels you’ve missed crystals or weapon upgrades on and since you’ll need specific abilities to reach to the places where these items might be, the stat screen on the map comes in handy for these revisits.
Another thing that I find awesome in this game is the boss fights. They demand more than just button mashing and when you’re playing it on the second hardest difficulty, that is not a suggestion. It’s a must if you want to succeed. The diversity of actions gives you a splendid control of the situation in an user friendly way.
So if Gabriel dies, it is not the game who fails – it is you.

The story:

I did not find the story very compelling. Or entertaining.
It didn’t made you feel like “Holy shit! What will happen next?!” or anything like that. It’s an okay story, but WAY too thin and in lack of substance. A classic move in previous Castlevania games is to refer to other games in the franchise, but this time, I felt that was lacking. Sure, some characters and  locations was sharing names with previous equivalents from the predecessors, but it was not enough. The game was TOO new for an old fan of the franchise like me. Much like FF13, but this time I didn’t want to flay the characters and push them down a slope in a barrel full of salt.

The music:

The soundtrack is awful. Come back, Kinuyo Yamashita! We DO love you!
The Castlevania series has been known to have a really strong soundtrack. When we first heard ‘Vampire Killer’ on the first stage, smashing torches and collecting whip powerups in 1986, we knew that the music was awesome. We still know that it is. In the coming games, new songs appeared, but there were almost always a few old classic from an earlier game turning up somewhere. In Symphony of the Night, we fell in love with a whole bunch of new songs that today is considered Castlevania classics. With this in mind, there were still a couple of old songs reappearing – remixed or remastered.

There is only ONE song present in this game that is familiar to us. Listen carefully to it, because that will be the only time you hear anything from the past in this game.
This soundtrack is just your ordinary, mundane philharmonic score with no personality. It’s good music, but it’s NOT Castlevania material and if that was what they aimed for, they failed epically.

The voice acting:

As you probably already know, Robert Carlyle and Patrik Stewart are the voice actors of the two main characters and you can tell that there is a huge difference between acting in front of a camera and giving voices to animations. They succeeded in displaying emotions aurally, but they do it as you would in front of a camera. This is an epic adventure in a videogame and that demands some over-dramatic acting if it should be convincing. It was good, but not good enough.

The trophies:

“Collect them all” and “play the game”.  Oh yeah – there’s one for each difficulty too.
Surprised? Didn’t think so.

In short terms:

Just like Final Fantasy XIII, this is a game for new players. Sure, FFXIII was utter crap, convincing us of the enormous ego that Square Enix has gained after years of success and what shitstained damage that can leave us with.
This, however, is not that bad. There are new developers and a TOTALLY different mind supervising the whole thing.
But this is not a Castlevania game.
Yes, it has the same title and yes, the main character is named Belmont, but NO – this is not what some of us grew up with. With that put aside, the game is still great and I recommend you to play it, especially if you’re not familiar with the old series.

PS. By demand from my dear co-writer, I’ll recommend you to check out the Castlevania Wiki in case you’re not aware of the earlier games.

 

Why Dracula should fondle Big Boss…

The end is the beginning? – Beat the game and find out 

Solid Belmont – The spirit of Kojima is everywhere and I like it

Violence is fun! – Some bosses are just awesome to confront

Jooyyy….stick. – Tactical gameplay FTW

09
Oct
10

Space Invaders: Infinity Gene

God damn it.
It’s been a busy week. There’s a lot of planning going in for me right now, as you might have noticed, the weekly post got delayed again.

I’m still waiting for Vanquish to show up and our keyboardist to finish Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, so in the time being, I’ll give you a review of a classic upgraded to fit 2010.

Space Invaders was created by Tomohiro Nishikado in 1978 and was produced and distributed by Taito.

It is as simple as it is addictive and in a time were Star Wars, The War of the Worlds and similar sci-fi adventures were popular, defending bases against aliens in a videogame was pretty awesome.
Space Invaders: Infinity Gene is the newest installation of the game, first released for the iOS in 2009 and was recently released for XBLA and PSN this year.

This neo-retro version introduces an ‘evolution system’, which grants the player new moves and different fire power to choose from before starting their game, to name a few. When you play, you gain points and when these points reach up to a certain amount  (shown as a blue bar in the stat screen between the levels) your ship will evolve. After a while, the evolution will also add bonus levels, music that you can listen to from the bonus menu, et cetera.

…and since I mentioned it – the music:
It is not very surprising that the soundtrack is made up of minimalistic techno, bearing much resemblance to the soundtrack for Pixeljunk: Eden.
However, if you’re into this kind of music (which I am) you will enjoy it for more than just some aural ambience for the game.

The trophies are, as ecpected, pretty weak. It is a PSN game after all.
Some of them got that retro feeling to them, as the  one requiring you to get a high score of 10.000.000 points.
Apart from that, there are some other “gain-a- certain-amount-of”-trophies mixed in, not to mention the “beat-the-game” trophies. You got one trophy for each difficulty and there are five of them. FIIIVE! (Said in a dark, sinister voice, trying to sound like the narrative at the title screen of Resident Evil 5.)

To sum it up, this is a fun game, but I doubt it will live for long. You’ll probably spend a few hours playing it (I’ve done aprox 8 so far) but there are other shooters that I’d drastically prefer, as Gradius…FIIIVE! for the Playstation 2.
By the way, when will they release an equally good Gradius on the PS3…?

Why all the base are belong to us…

“Back in my days…” – Neo-retro is the new black.

Uhn-tiss, baby – Great music. I want the soundtrack.

What’s a checkpoint? – It’s challenging and not crap-easy.

Darwin were on to something – The evolution system is addictive.

02
Oct
10

Videogame Style Guide Book

No review this week!
We’ve too busy feeding our abuse known as Borderlands.
It’s been far too long since we played it together and we got splendidly stuck with it last night, thus the “duty” to resume this fine social endeavour.

In the meantime – please enjoy this awesome guide that I happened to find a while back. It’s informative and thoroughly written and I’ve been wanting to post it anyways, so here you go.

See you on friday!

Videogame Style Guide Book

26
Sep
10

heavy rain

First of all, I want to apologize for the delay of reviews.
There has been some technical issues that has put a stop to our productivity, but that will change.
Sorry about that.
We’ll be up and running with weekly posts on fridays from now on.

Videogames used to be an arcade thrill in pixels back in the days.
You needed to think fast and learn how the stages/laps proceeded. It was all about skills and wits and not as much variation. Today, gaming has reached a whole new level and with games such as Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, they became a lot more an experience than actual hardcore button-mashing.
Heavy Rain is at the peak of this progression and is in an easy (although not very justifying) way described as a movie which gives you, as the player, options to alter the story with quick time events (QTE’s).

The story takes place in 2011 and a serial killer, known as the Origami Killer, is on the loose.
The killer kidnaps young boys between 9-13 yrs of age. Since the cops have not yet managed to catch the killer or rescue any child, they all end up dead by drowning, with an orchid and an origami animal by his side, the signum of the killer.
Ethan Mars is an architect and a father of two sons. When one of his sons dies in a tragic accident, he loses himself and becomes depressed and isolated.
Madison Paige is a journalist that suffers from insomnia and involuntarily gets dragged in into the investigation of the mysterious killer.
Norman Jayden is an FBI agent that uses ARI technology (Added Reality Interface – a pair of glasses and a glove that can trace otherwise invisible leads on crime scenes) in his investigations, but to a high price.
Scott Shelby is a retired cop that has become a Private Investigator that now hunts the Origami Killer.
Lauren Winters is a former prostitute that has lost her son to the killer and decides to find the murderer.
These five persons fates will intertwine and the plot will take many turns before it unravels itself.

If you usually plays shoot’em up and action/adventure games, this one might seem a bit dull. To be honest, I found it a bit slow for my own taste, but it does not stop me from calling it a masterpiece. And by masterpiece, I refer to the atmosphere and the dramaturgy. This game truly is remarkable as it delivers a plot worthy of any well-produced crime/triller movie and the characters are not made up, in a physical way of speaking. The faces you see can easily be found if you search the internet for the actors behind the characters. Solid Snake (Metal Gear Solid) is made up. So is John Marston (Red Dead Redemption), Sam Fischer (Splinter Cell) and Cole McGrath (InFamous).
These characters are “real”. And they certainly feel real in the game. No Final Fantasy bullshit, where everyone has to be homogenically supersexy and beautiful. No, these are REAL people and that is what gives the game credibility and it’s own, more authentic sense of beauty.

The score is good, but WAY too overdramatic for my taste. At one time, you have to take Ethan through a crowd of people at a train station and since he suffers from agoraphobia (fear of being in open spaces, in a crowd, to sum it up) this is a crucial moment. And the music gets REALLY dramatic at this point. Not anything creeping, like there’s a tension. It’s more like “For fuck’s sake, destroy the ring, Frodo!”.

The trophies are excellent, as far as I know. I’ve beaten the game once (which gives me at least ten more times to do it) and of all the trophies, there are only four(?) of them that are not secret ones. When you’re having an option in the game (save him/her, do NOT save him/her) you might get a trophy, depending on your actions and decisions. This gives the game a replay value, not only for the sake of the trophies, but for you to find out what would happen in you’d done things differently. And trust me – the “what if…”-factor is big in this game.

The only thing I can complain about is the voice acting. I don’t find it as convincing as it could have been. It’s good, but not good enough. The lip-sync is great and the credability on that point is great, but I just wish the sorrow, anxiety and anger could have had a better portrayal. A big plus for the fact that the voice actors are the same people that gave faces to the characters. That, on the other hand, gives it a credability that stereotypical (Solid Snake, Mario, etc) can’t deliver.

This game is not to be played as a game, as much as it should be viewed as a criminal thriller where you participate through QTE’s.
It is a kind of experience no other game will give you and I strongly recommend that you play it.
Not only for the different take on videogame experiences, but as to get perspective on how home console videogames have evolved through the aproximately 40 years they have been around. From “The Brown Box” of the 70’s, to our modern PS3, 360 and Wii.

Why movies and videogames mesh splendidly…

Keeping it real – Real faces, real voices.

What if…? – The re-play value is really cleverly designed.

“Cutie” – This is what Quick Time Events were made for.

Light, camera, action! – A new strain of videogaming experience.

06
Sep
10

Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game

I was browsing through the Playstation Store, when I stumbled upon the demo of this game.
Sooo, let’s see… Big, fat pixels in HD, 8-bit music…yeah.
Yeah I’m hooked.

Written by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim is a comic in six volumes, that started in 2004 and the 6th book was finally completed this year.

The story takes place in Toronto, where the 22-year old boy Scott Pilgrim lives. He is the bass player of a band called Sex Bob-Ombs (SMB2, anyone?) and together will Stephen Stills (the talent, guitarist and singer) and Kim (female rough neck and drummer) they try to become famous. In the midst of this, Scott meets Ramona Flowers, to whom he falls in love. The only this standing between Scott and Ramona are her seven evil exes that he has to defeat in order to date her.

A movie has been released, based on the comic and the game was produced and co-released with the movie. As soon as the game was available for download, I got the demo and tried it out. My expectations were met and surpassed.

The music is written by the band Anamanaguchi and is a strange, but ingenious combination of chip tunes and punk rock. I’m not a huge fan of punk rock, quite the contrary, but this is actually really good. The soundtrack was released in the US just a few days ago and I’m looking forward to get my hands on that. Check out their MySpace page here.

One of the first things that come to mind when playing this game is the challenge. Not that the enemies are particularly hard to beat, but the levels are intriguingly long. When you level up (oh, yes, it’s one of those games) you gain new abilities which comes in handy when dealing with exes and other frantic brawlers. If you use these techniques right, you shouldn’t have much of a problem maiming your way through. The controls are really simple and easy-to-use, so the only one you can blame for messing up, is yourself. Well, except for the counter move. It more like a 50/50 chance to succeed with that one.

Another great add-on to the game play are the several shops that you pass by on your journey. You can eat sushi, fajitas, drink coffee, energy drinks, etc. Every item gives you a few points in either strength, defence, speed and/or willpower, topped with some extra experience points. When I played River City Ransom (beat’em up for NES) I enjoyed the small shops you could enter and buy food and beverages, so when that part returns in this game, 21 years later, I’m getting a fuzzy, nostalgic feeling inside.

Since I have a Ph.D in trophy prostitution, I checked out the trophy list pretty quick and I must say – this is the weakest link in this game.

No co-op trophies, no knock-out-50-enemies-with-thrown-bottles-trophies, etc. You have one trophy for clearing the game with Scott, but what about the other three characters? I’d like to have trophies for, let’s say, “beating the first level without losing a life”, “beating the second level…” and so on. The aforementioned “throwing bottles trophy” got my senses tingling as well. You only have two boss-related trophies, which leaves five bosses out. That’s a bummer, if you ask me.
That put aside, I think it’s a great game that manage to capture that cozy retro feeling and since I am such a huge sucker for pixels, this goes down as AWESOME in my book.

The game is packed with gamer easter eggs. As the picture above suggests, the NES gets its fair share of tributes throughout the game. It’s Super Mario, Kirby and Mega Man, to name a few. If you get this game and have a history (and hopefully a present) that involves NES games, you should recognize the details as they occur.

And last but not least – Read the comic!
For the love of all that’s funny and/or holy, read the comic
before you play the game! You’ll enjoy the game sooo much more if you do so, trust me. I believe it’s a good order to start with the comic, play the game and last but not least, see the movie.
Comic-game-movie!

Why Scott Pilgrim kicks ass…

Bookworm True to the comic.
Take fighting to a new level Experience points. Period.
Gucci who? Anamanaguchi’s music is awesome!
Hip to be Square Pixel perfection.