The continuing fall of Star Wars

I’ve started this post few times during these pasts months, even before the Solo movies was out. However, that movie solidifed all the missteps Disney has managed to make with Star Wars. It’s not even funny in hindsight, as we did make educated guess how things would go down.

Star Wars has become mundane.

Way back when Disney announced they’d have Lucasfilm produce a Star Wars movie on a yearly basis, I mentioned that they’ll be risking making it all too mundane. Now, the movies are falling, the merch are warming the shelves and people are have become more or less apathetic towards the franchise.

Just like so many other before me now have said, the decline in the movies series’ quality has put people off. While movie snobs and wannabe intellectuals can muse themselves over Episode VIII turning Star Wars inside out, but the main audience, that is everyone else, deemed the movie a major step towards the wrong direction. For numerous good reasons, one of which is bullshit turning around how Hyperspace works. Good job at making any and all weapons completely and utterly worthless. How?    hear Jimmy asking. For example, strap a droid to a hyperdrive vessel and let ‘er rip. Doesn’t even need to be a full ship. Unlike what Wikipedia’s entry on hyperspace wants to you to believe, the franchise has always treated it as an alternative dimension to travel through, though objects with enough mass could interact with said ship and pull ship out of it. It wasn’t just go-fast gear.

An audience can’t keep up a yearly hype, it’s too taxing on the nerves and on the wallet. The absolute core fans of the franchise probably would give their left kidney and right lung to spend cash on anything related to Star Wars, but not the general audiences. The Marvel movies can do multiple movies per year, as that’s expected from them. They’re dime in the dozen action splashes, and different movies offer different things. They’re good for that. Star Wars, as much as it may be hard to believe, should be treated carefully as a phenomena. Each movie previously was a phenomena on themselves, and while Episode I may have a bad rap, that’s exactly what Disney more or less hopes from the franchise with each major entry.

If Lucasfilm was using Star Wars as a cashcow, Disney has been whoring it to everyone and everything. You can do this on an occasion, with bit event movies, but that’s not working anymore. Major event movie phenomena is dead as a concept. Mainly because of Marvel movies, incidentally. Each movie and cross over in the series is hyped and expected, and Infinity War broke box office records, largely signing that it works. We can discuss about the quality of the movies, but they make money for sure. Star Wars has lost its luster as that one series with high emphasize on both story and special effects. Ever since the first Star Wars, Hollywood has constantly upped its ante towards it, and we’ve ended up in a situation where Star Wars as a whole is rather dated as a concept.

Of course, you have the constant politics pushed in, with Kathleen Kennedy, the person spearheading Star Wars currently, has been rather vocal on her stances to the point of them getting injected into the movies themselves as well as in her staff. This is very much apparent in Episode VIII as well, with the Resistance leader, whose name I can’t bother looking up, forcing other’s hands to act against her, because she’s a terrible leader. She’s written like one of the worst Janeway episodes in Star Trek Voyager, where her actions have no true reason outside her role as the boss, and you don’t question the boss. She’s always right.

As you might’ve guesses, people don’t go to watch Star Wars for discussion about current politics. The original certainly was some commentary on Vietnam war, but in a way where it commented on how it is evil for a larger power to oppress the smaller ones. Star Wars is simple in this manner, with stark contrast between good and evil. I’m not going to play that it is some sort of complex storytelling at its finest, but I would argue that the first trilogy is, in overall terms, well crafted storytelling. The same can’t be said of the new trilogy, however. Whether or not it is because modern Hollywood writing simply produces homogeneous scripts that all end up having the exact same beats with the lines and timing, though that’s not exactly a new thing. However, if you look at Marvel movies and Star Wars, the similarities are more than skin deep.

Lucas sold Star Wars at a good time, when taxation was being renewed and now that what the franchise is has become just another in the mix. I’m rather sure that he misses Star Wars, it was something he’s build his whole life. He probably was doing the right thing for the franchise to try get that live-action series off the ground and explore the universe from other perspectives in Young Indiana Jones -fashion, something Disney clearly missed. Why probably? While the production would have been expensive, it would still have been on a smaller scale, but also something that could have been franchised better. Considering Netflix and other streaming services now have large amounts of shows that attract consumers to watch them, a Star Wars live-action show would’ve hit the market consensus pretty spot on. It’s a missed chance now, with the brand recognition losing its value with each new entry.

Then lastly, there’s the fact that Disney had no plans, no cohesive story to tell. Star Wars was always been under one man’s rule before Disney. Without a vision to drive a the movies through, they’ll end up being, well, as they are now; completely separate pieces that do whatever they want without any consideration for the next or what comes out at the end. Star Wars may not have been designed The Empire Strikes Back in mind, but as the series grew towards that, it changed and evolved into the storyline, which Lucas later would put on paper. New Star Wars has none of that, it has separate writers doing separate things with separate directors. Disney didn’t take care of the franchise, and now they’re in a bit of a crisis to fix things up.

The Force was woken up, but it asked for fifteen more minutes

I’ve commended Disney for pushing out new Star Wars movies each year. That’s what people seem to want and consume. I can’t fault that. However, there is a downside in all this, and that is that Star Wars will become mundane and yet another franchise that will be run to the ground by a big corporation if Disney intends to keep this pace up. This post, in the end, is more about personal view rather than the blogger view I aim to employ otherwise. Why? Because Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is a boring disappointment to yours truly.

I recommend reading my initial reactions to the movie here, as I that should give you a base on things. It’s essentially a post on its own right.

Star Wars as a franchise could be described to have four distinct eras. The Classic era, which lasts from Episode IV to Episode VI, the 1990’s Resurgence Era starting with The Trawn Trilogy, the 2000’s Prequel-era and all the side materials that brought with it, and the current Disney-era. I would argue, from a personal point of view, that the two first eras were the best of times for Star Wars. The franchise’s birth was a massive popular cultural shift that we still and see to this day in franchising and how Hollywood changed, and the Resurgence era expanded the lore immensely and took advantages of all the existing ideas and properties, which Timothy Zahn engineered, sort of.

The Prequel era on the other hand brought in people who couldn’t be critical of Star Wars, and it shows. Stories suffered from ideas that didn’t hold much water. Prequels themselves too suffer from this. Lore expansions saw further retcons in favour of these new ideas, like how The Force Unleashed games changed things as well as saw the use of some discarded concepts of the original Star Wars. You may be thinking that I’m harping on this using unused concepts too much, but it tells you how little anything truly new modern Star Wars has to it. Recycling the same story frames has become a common thing, not to mention the aforementioned concepts. Can Star Wars really exist just by doing this? If the money has to anything to say, yes.

This is why I have no interest in the new canon to any extent any more. Episode VII was recycled trash that made no sense and had numerous glaring faults. People who grew up adoring Star Wars are now running it, and it shows. To say that the new stories read out like expensive fanfiction that got an official status would be correct to an extent, as often in fanfiction the writer doesn’t realize what made the original piece tick. To use an example from Episode VII, no character has an arc of sorts. Kylo Ren barely has one, but we only see the end of it. Finn turns into a sidekick after the first few minutes, Poe has no arc to speak of and neither does Rey. Poe’s sold like a new Han Solo or Wedge Antilles, but lacks everything that made those characters interesting. Hell, Wedge had less screen time than Poe and still had more character to him.

Essentially, people who run Star Wars, but don’t exactly get why the original trilogy is so admired. They’re no better than George Lucas, and it shows. The fact is that Lucas experienced how Star Wars fans are absolutely impossible to please, but they also think how things should be. I don’t claim that, but as an observer I can see that people writing these new movies and shows does seem to think that. I doubt we will ever see a Star Wars product that will have a brand new story that is able to stand on its own two legs with its concepts and ideas before Star Wars becomes mundane with nothing but forgettable trite, like it did during the Prequel-era. Rogue One is yet another telling of how they stole the plans for the Death Star. We’ve seen, read and played it already, the story itself is not important for Episode IV. If fans want it, then by all means do it. It’ll make you some money, like always. Big Star Wars titles will always sell, no matter what the quality is.

Disney has all the chances to make Star Wars something better, but as it stands now, it’s simply cashing in. Then again, perhaps that’s what the franchise needs to do, as there are those who seem to enjoy the Disney-era products. Each to their own, I can afford to miss all movies’ theatrical runs and wager them on their own later down the line, just like how I did with Episode VII.

Children really don’t know Batman, but they know LEGO Batman.

There a thing I wanted to leave as its own entry from the kids. That is comic books. Without a doubt these children do read comics, but not super hero comics. It’s all about Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck, both which have the superior local and European content. They know these Disney characters very closely and understand that every story is its own thing and that the long stories are divided into multiple parts. I love this concept so much. By having multiple shorter stories before a longer story that can take few weeks to finish is an excellent way to have any occasional reader enjoying the content while offering subscribers to enjoy these longer stories whenever the magazine arrive. When I was a wee lad myself, we had Donal Duck coming for multiple years under a subscription, and you could very well see at what point the quality of the stories went down. They were still fun, but coming from people who read Carl Barks in their childhood, and then Don Rosa later on, some of the modern stories feel a bit hollow.

That’s of course a personal opinion, and as much I absolutely love Rosa’s detailing and keeping up with Carl Barks, there are those who dislike them for the exact same reason. Romano Scarpa should be a name any comic book enthusiast knows and I personally consider my childhood’s de facto Disney illustrator. Manuel Gonzales was chosen to be Floyd Gottfredson’s follower in Mickey Mouse comics, but I have to say I was never into the Mouse all that much. Honourable mention goes to Daan Jippes, who is an excellent stylistic imitator, who still has a strong stories. Daniel Branca is a name that I tend to forget a lot when it comes to Duck comics, but dammit if the man’s work isn’t great. There are numerous other names, and the local Donald Duck has listed all the names most recognised names from the 50 plus years the magazine has been published in Finland.

Oh yeah, super hero comics. Children don’t read them.

During the last fifteen years, and more actually, when I discuss Marvel or DC characters with children, they do not recognize their current comics to any extension. This may sound weird, but the majority of them are known by their TV and movie appearances. Whenever I ask about e.g. Batman, I end up discussing about the Tim Burton Batman movie. Later the discussion has seen some hues of Nolan’s Batman, but it is the Burton Batman that is still up there in the public mind. You also have Batman: The Animated Series there, which older teenagers and older remember fondly to the extent to regard it as their favourite Batman incarnation. Can’t fault them for that.

Marvel comics see much more publicity here, mainly because X-Men and Spider-Man magazines have been running here for somewhat long time. Nevertheless, most people have never bought or touched them and much like with DC, know these characters from the screen. 20 something know the movies somewhat well and I have noticed that the Marvel movies are the first contact with some of the characters.

But nowadays you barely have DC or Marvel cartoons on TV. You have Arrow and the Flash representing the higher calibre of live-action production from the DC side, but the few good animation series seem to get cancelled after a season or two. Batman the Animated series ran for 85 episodes. The Batman and Batman: The Brave and the Bold saw 65 episodes. Beware the Batman has 26. Often it felt that we were getting a new Batman show right after the next ended for no apparent reason. Green Lantern had a pretty damn good animation series with only 26 episodes.

Can you fault anyone knowing comic book characters from these, when the comics themselves go unread?

Josh Hadley once said that Warner Brothers treats their comic production as an idea company. They are letting DC to do whatever they want with them to a large extent, but keep the creators in a tight leash with contracts. The work these authors do, the characters and stories they write and illustrate, often than not belong to the company they work for. This is how it should be, but the editors and other people in charge just don’t seem to handle the characters properly. Sure, there has been occasional contracts that screw the original authors completely sideways, but in general you have to remember the core rule; you work for the company, they own your work. If you want to own them for yourself, you work for yourself.

Anyway, do you know where these children know Hulk, Iron Man, Batman and other characters? From LEGO sets and games. Same goes for Star Wars to a large extend, now that we’re talking about LEGO. It’s no wonder such sources are now the first touch with the children, seeing the how the comics are anything but child friendly. They’re filled with gross violence and death with characters that don’t even resemble their iconic versions anymore. Then you have the constant crossing storylines, going everywhere with everything with everybody. A friend of mine wanted to read some Marvel Ultimate comics, dropped after seeing how messed up the storylines began to go just after few issues.

It raises a question on brand recognition, when the comics themselves are the secondary products nowadays. DC’s New52 didn’t help to make any significant impact and Marvel’s upcoming reboot is already convoluted as all hell. Depending on what sort of type comic the reboot will be, Marvel has now a chance to reorganise themselves back to being a company that produces comics for the whole company and not just for the 40 years old comic readers. That is not, and has never been, very lucrative market, but somehow both DC and Marvel have been able to stay afloat with their limited target market. Then again, Disney has been raking in some seriously big money with the Marvel movies, so perhaps the comic companies are doomed to stay as idea factories. Companies producing these niche comics have to realise that the comics used to be something that as enjoyed at a very large scale, but nowadays that seems to apply only to the movies based on these comics.

I am genuinely worried where the super hero comics are going. If they are becoming more and more convoluted and pushing the general public away from- no, they already have been pushed away with comics mostly sold in comic book stores in US and UK. Both DC and Marvel need to reclaim their larger comic audience and begin to produce comics that parents could allow their children to read. There is room for comics of all kinds, for every sort of reader. However, it would take money to realize larger scale production and publication, money that the current comic trends don’t bring.

Consistency in design creates a wholesome forest

When you’re designing something fictional you’re bound to struggle to create a cohesive and consistent world. It’s even harder to keep it consistent if the factious body of work takes place during a  long span of time. It is very easy to lose track on what sort of things have been put on paper at what era of the work, and how it all builds into the logical evolution of said designs. Things get even harder when there should be present hundreds of designs per era or chapter of the work, as the designer might lose all cohesion between the designed sets. In some cases a designed object or being might resemble something from a completely different franchise altogether rather than naturally fitting to the given frame the pre-existing designs are set into.

Without consistency and the cohesion the designs bring with them in the visuals, the suspension of disbelief is easily shattered. It doesn’t matter how bullshit logic or science is behind the function and appearance of the design as long as the designs follow the organic pattern found elsewhere in the fictional world. By breaking the cohesion at a core level can be successful if it is done correctly and there’s a very good in-universe reason, like differences between cultures or differences between man-made objects and natural ones. Even then there has to exist consistency between all man-made objects and natural objects. That said, not everything needs to look the same, do not mix this cohesion with homogenous visuals.

Aiming for cohesion is not a limitation either, but a guideline for something better. Cohesion stems from understanding why something looks like it does and grows from there in an organic fashion, where everything before and after have the same core, but are their own being. It’s easy to mistakenly to abandon cohesion for something else, and it’s even easier to abandon it willingly. Willing abandonment of cohesion most often stem from the designer not understanding what has already designed, or simply abandons the pre-existing set examples and does his own thing, disregarding everything else and thus putting the balance and logic in the visuals under questioning.

Let’s take Star Wars as an example.

Since the late 70’s, we’ve seen new character, vehicle, weapon, world and species designs next to everything that is ever needed to have in a given Star Wars story, be it a new weapon of mass destruction or as simple thing as an oxygen tank. Star Wars has expanded immensely since its birth and it’ll most likely keep expanding even more as the time goes by. I’m sure we’re going to see some sort of hundred years of Star Wars thing in 2077, and I hope I’m there to see it and possibly laugh at it.

Expansion has been a mixed blessing really. For every Rogue Squadron and Heir to the Empire we have a The Crystal Star and Clone Wars movie, all of which carry new pieces of designs that more or less fit into the incredibly wide field of Star Wars’ universe. For whoever works with the upcoming Sequel trilogy, do make sure that the evolution of the designs fit what already is in the Original Trilogy, as whatever LucasFilm was smoking in during pre-productions of Prequel Saga caused them to horribly go wrong.

We’ll use few example from the movies themselves, andsome from the Expanded Universe.

Walkers are most well known machines in Star Wars overall
Walkers are most well known machines in Star Wars overall

When the AT-AT was first designed, the staff of LucasFilm and ILM used elephant to model the walk cycle. Next to this, the design called for a massive behemoth controlling the battlefield just by its presence. The AT-AT units are rugged machines of war, slowly but surely assaulting their target and decimating it. The lines of them are clean, simple and to the point; there’s very little unnecessary bits dangling anywhere.

In harsh contrast, the Prequel series got its own set of Walkers that are less inspiring. I haven’t seen Episode II in years, but there is two scenes that still strike very disappointing in my memories; the appearances of AT-TE and DSD1 dwarf spider droid. These two show that the designers didn’t even give a shit about how progression in the universe would go.

It's a damn kids toy
It’s a damn kids toy

From a design point, the Spider Droid looks like a damn baby’s toy. It looks silly with its huge red eyes and with its cannon nose. If it was supposed to be a machine of war, why the hell most of its insides are exposed and eyes are easier to hit than a CRT screen with your fist. This is something I could see designed for Star Wars version of GoBots. The same can be said of the OG-9 Homing Spider Droid just behind the Dwarf one in the shot, but it’s slightly less stupid.

There is an idea behind the designscape of a spiderwalker, but it’s realized here in a horrible fashion. You can have a spherical body with four legs without most of the innards showcasing itself. However, if you are designing a war machine rather than toy, you do not put bid red targets as eyes. What kind of progression in here anyway? The Trade Federation is all absent from the Original Trilogy, so we can assume the wardroid tech was more or less useless in the upcoming years, or that the designers and writer/s didn’t give a shit how things would look and come out in the future. The problem is, the future already existed in this case. We know how the future of these designs looks like, and it makes little sense.

But the Spider droids are a singlular thing that just doesn’t fit Star Wars as a whole. We have something that will always baffle me to no end.

Technological predecessors my ass
Technological predecessors my ass

The AT-TE is a mess. It looks something that would spin off from AT-AT rather than be its predecessor based on its design. In reality it was a crude attempt to bring in the feeling of AT-AT from the Empire Strikes Back to the Prequels and they failed in it pretty damn well.

The first problem with the AT-TE is its outer appearance. Pretty much all of it seems to be evolved from AT-AT rather the other way around with its sleeker armouring. AT-TE for some reason was designed to have better shielding against forward and rear shots with its angled armours. Of course, in the movies it gets one-shotted by a random big laser blast. Appearance  be damned, they wanted this thing to be weaker and they’ll force it through even if it killed the series. But hell, these things can scale mountains! That’s some serious bullshit right there. Why would the Imperials NOT want their future walkers use that kind of tech? Oh, that’s right. That idea didn’t exist prior to AT-TE in real life.

There’s also the issue with the legs. AT-TE’s six legs is much, much more stable than AT-AT’s four, meaning that either they downgraded the thing or that the designers didn’t think this through. Yes, we could say that they evolved the tech, but tech goes hand in hand with the outer appearance in most cases. Just take a look at the evolution of tanks and fighter jets. As a viewer, it makes no sense to have better shaped walkers in the past.

Of course, the shield technology can be said to be more advanced in the Original Trilogy, but seeing how every single shield works exactly the same across the movies, I call bullshit on this. LucasFilm dropped the ball with these harshly.

The expanded universe is a new whole set of troubles that I’m not going to go into, but there is one thing that needs to be addressed; Tales of the Jedi and Dawn of the Jedi.

At the time, Tales of the Jedi was historically the oldest thing in Star Wars timeline, telling old stories of the Great Hyperspace War and other significant events. Tales of the Jedi had a nice depiction how the universe was prior to the “modern” era and its state of unrefined science. Even Lightsabers were depicted of having a cord to a power source. Here’s a noteworthy thing; Tales of the Jedi shows everything pretty much made by hand, like it was an era of craftsmen. George Lucas explained the designs in Prequels that all the tech was made by artisans, which is bullshit. Tales of the other hand actually feels like that, that most of tech and object these people handle are made by craftsmen rather than giant mills and factories. Things were older and that’s the key point with Tales stories.

It’s hard to design old things in very limited fashion. It takes effort and research, two things people seem to hate to do unless someone’s there to explain things step-by-step basis.

When I first saw the covers for Dawn of the Jedi, I thought it was some story set sometime after Tales of the Jedi, because they clearly had Lightsabers. And I was wrong. What they have are basically Lightsaber predecessors called Forcesabers, which basically is a Lightsaber. It is extremely disappointing to see writers and designers using this sort of bullshit explanation to get things they want in a different setting. This also goes to the outfits and suits in the early Expanded Universe, and I can’t fathom why these people don’t see it themselves.

The question is; if in this era they do not have lighsabers, why do they have something that is exactly the same thing?

I could also dip into the clothing, how Expanded Universe has more advanced clothing in certain early era stories than later on in the movies, but that’s something would take far too long.  But here’s an example; Luke wears an armour in the Shadows of the Empire that looks pretty much the same Trill wears in the first issue of Dawn of the Jedi, with certain changes, of course.

From design point of view, the Star Wars universe is a harsh discord and unbalanced by decision that have no other basis other than the artists own desires rather than what the series would need. There’s little to no cohesion in the progress of designs in-universe, but when you look at them from real world point of view, you’re able to pinpoint the era where a Star Wars product has been designed and made. Why? They carry the elements of that one era far too much. Tales of the Jedi and few others are somewhat  standalone entities here, where they were made with care. Tales looks and feels as it was an old story of time long gone. Most others feel like yet another Star Wars story set in whatever time the reader really wants it to be in.

Star Wars, as it is now, is far too inconsistent with its ideas and designs. They clash with each other far too much. You might think that this is something only core fans would care for, but it’s really an underlying issue. General consumer pays attention to things that really does seem insignificant more than a core fan would. Something like warp core misnaming is what core fans notice, but everything else noticed by general public. Core fans are the ones that inspect the forest tree by tree; the general consumer cares for the whole forest, and sees where the bad trees are.

Why the hell would you want to spoil your own game?

Invisible walls you say? It’s not like anyone wanted to find that out while playing the game, thus having a fulfilling game experience, right? Good job at spoiling the stage you dumbasses. Why would you go and tell the players that hey this stage has secrets and this is how you access them? It’s like Citizen Kane having a trailer that explains what Rosebud means, or Planet of the Apes telling you that it was Earth all along.

All the money that went to make this game could’ve been used to make completely new game, Ducktales or not. Imagine if they would have made Ducktales 3 instead. New stages, new music, new stages, new bosses, new everything but still the same awesome core.  But no, we can’t have nice things.

Ducktales; old Vs new stone

The first minutes in each stage seems to be blah blah blah rather than playing games. The reason the video cuts so fast to the Remastered version is not to focus on it, rather it’s to show the plot! it has going for while pausing the NES game. The worst offender here is the new coin bits, where the game just halts until the dialogue has been delivered. There is no reason for these bits to be in there. These same coin descriptions should be at the end of each stage, or perhaps in the item description screen somewhere between the stages. Halting your action for things like this is not good game design. The inclusion of mode hidden treasure is neat, but I also wish that all the stages have been expanded accordingly at least 30%. If not, the only reason this game is longer than the original is because there’s more talking and less action.

Well, setting the completely unnecessary blabbering in the stages, this video gives a bit more insight on how the stages have been remastered, and the jungle looks a bit boring. First, the lush forest looks decent, good even, but the brown stones that come soon enough into the scene is just off. It doesn’t look good. It’s drab boring brown that doesn’t work for the lush forest. Why not go for the extra mile and make it looks like proper bedrock stone. Or even better, if it’s Incan treasure they’re looking for, the stone colour they could have there could look like your generic stone looks like in Peru. And you know what, even if the stone is very brownish in Peru, you could use a sort of patter for it, like what the Stonewalls of Cuzco looks like. You have those Incan stone tablets laying in the jungle, so why not go the extra mile rather than use huge, almost empty blocks of colours with slight cracks?  The NES version, while using (arguably) duller grey, the stones look far more interesting and natural due to the design of them. That, and the entrance to underground has that nice green hue to indicate that there’s something of interest in there. In both versions the entrance is clearly visible, but Remastered doesn’t invite you in, not even with the added pylons.

Speaking of the underground, it looks neat. The NES had it’s limitations, but I’m glad to see that the Remastered manages to pull of large cavern look well enough. However, the stone colours still bug me, as does the spiked plants design. In the NES version you see that it’s dangerous, that you do not want to touch it. Because how the visuals have been designed in Remastered, the ground doesn’t look any less dangerous than the rest of the plants that are not man-eating.

Good question is whether or not the stone is natural in the wine-climbing spot. In the NES version is can be accepted as natural mostly due to its colour and design, but in the Remastered it looks like it was cut and just put there. Did the Incans cut a whole mountain like that just for that one temple? Well, not entirely impossible I guess, but that’s would be stupid even for Ducktales. The colours change slightly in the later level, and the spike vines now look actually dangerous. However, the stone now looks sterile. It has been looking sterile the whole time.

The reason why I’m harping at the stone this much is mostly because I love to work with stone and I’ve visited handful of different stone quarries. Only cut stone looks so sterile. Very rarely natural stone is so blocky, unless it’s few specific varying types. However, here inside the temple this kind of cut stone works like a wonder amidst other stone crafts like statues. Now it looks like a natural thing when it’s clearly inside an unnatural construct overall. Before that the cut stone design doesn’t work because you’re clearly inside a natural environment as depicted by the caverns. So, what would’ve been better? you ask. Advancing from natural stone to cut stone temple, of course. Imagine the effect the game could’ve had if the starts from the jungle with natural stone and with each “area” of sorts it shows more and more cut stone elements, until finally the player reaches the temple where the rough, raw natural stone is morphed into sleek cut stone. This is sadly a visual design that would demand the designer to look at every area of the visuals from location to history and so on to actually bring in a proper design. Perhaps I’m harping on the whole stone design a bit too much, but it’s just a symptom for me. There’s something wrong with this game at the moment, and partially it’s in the visuals. While it looks decent and is highly defined, a lot of things just don’t mess with each other properly. The stone is just one thing I notice the most at the moment, and the weird mishmash of Disney’s influence within the last 30 years, eg. the spiders certainly look something Disney wouldn’t do nowadays while the Incas do look something what you could find in the Ducktales cartoon. Gorillas on the other hand look just weird, a bit too modern against the other two.

It also doesn’t help that the game overall is colourful and then the stones are brown. We’ve have enough of that colour for some time. Then again, it might be sandstone. Sandstone temple atop a mountain, sure…

Now the revamped boss looks first a bit silly. Why would they want to change a guardian statue that fits the overall design to a head? Oh, the they changed the whole room into a boss. If the stone would still be sandstone, Scrooge should be able to scratch it into tiny bits. Sandstones not the sturdiest substance to built your stone guardian. Some visual design choices still bug me here; why is there so much dust in the head’s trail, when the stone is clean? Why does the head jump high enough to hit the ceiling but doesn’t bump into it? I know the dust is an effect of tradition, but it looks silly and unnecessary. At least they could’ve thrown some very thin layer of dust or sand unto the ground from where the dust would rise. Then again, most likely the room as been undisturbed thousands of years. Or then not, as there’s people walking around it and the Incans are very much aware of its existence.

Perhaps I’m ripping this one level a new hole for no reason. Perhaps I just don’t want to wait and read through unnecessary dialogue to get into the game. Now that I think about this for a moment, WayForward’s Bloodrayne had very small amaount of these story scenes compared what it could’ve had.

Ducktales and Zelda

I’m sure at this point we’ve all seen the A Link to the Past 2 trailers and all. There seems to be excitement about it on the Internet that I don’t share. I can’t get myself excited on the fact that I would be able to play ALttP all over again with slight changes. This should’ve been a similar addition what Ocarina of Time’s Master Quest was.

I wonder what  were Nintendo’s thoughts when they devised this. Was it  something along the lines of Geez, people sure liked that SNES game, but how could we make it more annoying and gimmicky? or was it We want to rework one of the best games we had for our handheld in trouble! It’s shameless abuse of nostalgia, much like Ducktales Remastered is. It’s also apparent that both games suffer already from being made in the modern game era.

While the Legend of Zelda as a series is still in the minds of the core audience (to an extent,) Ducktales has been dormant and unused for long time now. Even the three companies involved in developing Ducktales Remastered agree that there has been very little buzz on Ducktales. Are they using this game to gauge the possible revival of the franchise for modern generation? If they are, Disney is stupider a company than I thought. You really don’t want to see if an animation series has potential based on a success of a video game.

While ALttP2 will be decently successful because of the raving fanbase, as shattered as it is, Ducktales has to fight against obscurity. Hipsters will buy it because of that, but that market is small. People with nostalgia for the original game are the target market here because of this. It’s weird to think that Ducktales is aimed at people from 25-years and up. Not that an adult couldn’t enjoy it, but it’s a cartoon best watched young, and were at their best when you just came from an episode and wanted some more before next episode.

So, why were kids on their focus test? In fact, why are they giving so much emphasize on the result of the focus test? While focus tests are something of worth, one focus test alone shouldn’t determine the direction you need to take. Human variable is far too big to handle, and one small group can’t really give proper results on a world wide scale. With this focus test, the kids were Disney fans and found the game hard to work with. It’s true that modern children have grown up in a completely different game environment. It makes me feel old to think that there are some fifteen year old people whose first game console was the PS2. A simple 2D platformer doesn’t sit their skill set… except that it does. 2D platformers never went away, and in recent years they’ve been coming back to the mainstream gaming. Saying that these kids found the game too hard isn’t something to be discouraged of, but something that you should be feeling proud of. Ducktales by no means wasn’t a hard game, but it wasn’t easy either. Much like with Mega Man, CAPCOM managed to balance between a good challenge and fun gameplay.

And then you go in and add a cutscene where Scrooge shows the kids that you can walk through some walls.

This is stupid. This shows that you have no trust on your focus group. Then again, wasn’t your target group people who actually recognize the characters and are able to purchase the game? There’s multiple ways you could show the kids that you can walk through certain walls outside damn video clip. Make the walls have slightly different texture, or even better; make an enemy walk through a wall in the opening stage and thus informing the player that fake walls exist. There’s absolutely no reason to bog down the gameplay any further than it already it. The whole thing just reeks. On one hand it looks likely the target audience is young children and teens, but overall the only people who really are interested in this game are old and jaded gamers. Sorry WayForward, this is one game I’m sitting out.

Why am I contrasting this to ALttP2 on any level? Well, we all know that Link can turn into painting in it, and the game has been built on the 2D/3D contrast. I want to quote the director Aonuma here;

“The world of Hyrule has been reborn in a highly realistic stereoscopic vision, which will feature a new story and new puzzles to be solved. The development for the successor of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is going smoothly, so, please look forward to it!”

I do not like Aonuma Zelda, nor the direction this game has gone. First, how does he think stereoscopic Zelda will be more realistic when everything’s in those crayon cartoon graphics and all enemies are still in super deformed style? If he tries to say that seeing it in 3D will make more realistic, I want to slap his glasses off. Then he mentions story, which I hope will not be any more prominent than in original ALttP, but then he mentions the puzzles. Aonuma likes to cut grass and solve puzzles, and Zelda games have become one of the most perfect Grass Cutting simulators with a dash of ouzzles because of this. I’ll be honest with you; in the last three Zelda releases that I’ve played through I’ve been using guides to breeze them through. At some point I realized that the games were so puzzle ridden, that I needed to have a guide at hand almost all the time. There’s so many puzzles in-between grass cutting, that it’s almost funny in a very sad way.

This is why the Painted Link exist; to create new puzzles. I’ve heard people call it a cave painting, but it’s more like the middle-aged mural painting. Nevertheless, it’s inclusion is needless. Why couldn’t they concentrate on making the dungeons more interesting to look at and use the power modern era offers to make this game stand out? At this point it’s not really a good thing to proclaim that this game will be the sequel to one of the best games ever. It’s like saying that a Volvo will be your next car after you’ve driven a Jaguar for multiple years.

Because the Painting Link exist only to appease the developers’ wish to create puzzles, do not expect interesting gameplay. I would joke that the next Zelda games will remove almost all of Zelda-like elements and concentrate on dungeon puzzle solving alone, but Skyward Sword already did that.

Aonuma will be the death of Zelda franchise. Thus far 2D Zeldas have been able to have their own identity form the their 3D brothers, but now Aonuma hinted that 2D Zelda will be changed into 3D for all time. Well, Zelda had a good run. It’ll be a painting on a canvas of video game history from now on.

Actually, why did they call it LucasArts when they did games?

Disney hasn’t done much with Lucasfilm and its assets after purchasing them from ol’ George. Sure, the announcement for new movies was more than expected, and perhaps Disney can be the driving force that manages to make Star Wars into the action space opera it was before the Prequels came in. Disney sure has the money and skill, and with ILM nothing’s impossible. It has been hard to say whether or not they have done any good decisions when there has been very few of them made. Thus far none of them have been negative, just clear and rational decisions.

The first unseen decision Disney has done was the closing of LucasArts, the section that did all those games from Star Wars to the Secret of Monkey Island. It has divided the hardcore in two; those who admit that it was good decision, and those who dislike this decision.

LucasArts hasn’t done anything good in a decade. When they became Star Wars The Game Company around the release of Phantom Menace, LucasArts was pretty much in a downwards spiral that just kept diving harder and harder. While I do see Rogue Squadron II as a good GameCube game, I’d argue that it still belongs to the era when LucasArts was a mere shadow of its former self. Even then Rogue Squadron was Factor 5 developed game. Quitting a company that has produced nothing of worth for a long time was nothing short of logical.

We all know that LucasArts was good with computer adventure games early on, and that they produced one of the best games in the genre. Then there’s the Star Wars flying simulator games that were nothing short of pretty damn awesome. I have good memories on X-Wing Alliance myself, even thou I usually got my ass handed to me. But those games are in the past and very few of them are available on modern machines. XWA doesn’t even properly play on modern computers. At the moment most of those games of no consequence, which is sad because LucasArts could’ve used the same drive to make their last games successful.

There is no games of value from LucasArts from Sixth Generation onwards. Only repetition and… pure schlock. While I do not play games for the story, who the hell thought it was a good idea to shoehorn the awfully written and stupid story that is Force Unleashed. Not that the games were good to begin with. Disney hasn’t really touched on how Marvel Comics does their business, and I most likely they had the same intention regarding LucasArts. Nevertheless, business is business and the part of the company that didn’t meet with the ends needed soon saw a quick and painless death. All projects LucasArts had going on have been cancelled, which is only a good thing.

In the future Lucasfilm games, ie. Star Wars will most likely be mitigated to third party companies. I’m sure Disney will do some games by themselves. Both of these are good things and should be welcomed with open arms. Change is always a good thing, especially when the air is still and reeks of failure.

The question remains; who will get the first third party Star Wars game from Disney? There still exists bunch of companies that should be able to produce a proper game not just for Star Wars, but for any Lucasfilm property. Big companies would not be the best of choices out there, but I would almost bet that company like EA would try to get their hands on the license. Then again, at least EA produces games, unlike Valve. Some have theorised that Disney intents to put up their own proxy for LucasArts, but this is highly unlikely.

Star Wars 1313 is one of the projects that got cancelled. The hardcore crowd seems to hate that this happened, but what we’ve seen thus far didn’t really convince anyone else. Nobody cared about all these side stories we never heard from in the movies. While expanding a series is good thing to do in general (if the series itself allows it), expanding a movie universe through games is inherently a questionable idea. How well will gameplay expand story? Going back to 1313, and in video game trailers in general, why aren’t we allowed to see the gameplay anymore? Is the industry so stuck up with the idea of story that they dismiss the game itself? No wonder they’re not making profit! Even from gameplay standpoint the game itself looked nothing special, just your normal duck-n-run gameplay that Gears of War made popular and ever so persistent. Lately homogenous has become one of my favoured words, but it really describes how current gaming, or during the past decade and then some. No wonder Disney wanted to get rid of LucasArts.

Then again, one has to ask why is Ducktales Remastered getting a release? The answer would be that it is everything that the current gaming isn’t and is a throwback to the era when games still were making some impact on the overall culture. LucasArts’ old games were part of this revolution that expanded the market. This is what they didn’t do, for whatever reason. Even now the companies are making their customerbase smaller by targeting people with less money rather than hitting everybody they can.
It’s interesting to see that companies are trying to stick with the Red Ocean even after seeing how the Wii managed to broaden the horizon. Even Nintendo abandoned their quest for more users simply because it was too much work. I need to make a separate post about that at some point.

I won’t mourn LucasArts, and the news was more a delight to hear than anything else. If LucasArts had been at the same level they used to be, it would have left some impact on the industry, but seeing how there has been no negative impact after the story broke, there won’t be any in the future. I’m sure all the people who got the boot will find a decent job…wait, what am I talking about? These are people who make video games, and video game companies have been steadily letting people go as it is. Well, we always need people at lower level jobs. The system won’t work without these people.

Monthly Music; そこに海があって

I forgot monthly music this time around. Funny how that goes.

I’ve got no real subject this time. I’ve been busy with things and thus I’m late with me schedules and plans regarding this blog, but things will come together… somehow. The LD player is in the works, kinda, and will see the day of light when I manage to nab proper screenshots and other stuff needed for it.

Otherwise, it’s winter here. The world outside is white again and getting colder. Winter was a reason I selected the above music this time from Soko ni Umi ga Atte, Mirage product. (Ha! I don’t need to label this post related to âge now.) I really like the song. I’ve got no idea what kind of genre it is or who made it or similar. I’m kinda inept and inexperienced with music that way. I know more about it’s production and what goes into it rather than who made what song at what time. I do know Dio and love me some Holy Diver, and Rhapsody’s Holy Thunder For–

Aww shit, now I need to tag this properly AND take that shot. Yes, I still keep my promise on drinking when referencing to Muv-Luv, or just talking about it. I wonder how in the world I manage to keep myself sober

Let’s point out the elephant in the room; Will I talk about Disney buying Lucasfilm? Yes, as soon as I’ve sorted my own personal feelings regarding the purchase. I need to read on the subject a bit, and at the moment we have very little info outside the upcoming Episode VII. That thing I’m hopeful for is the release of the Original Trilogy on Blu-Ray without those additions Lucas made. That would be a goldmine to Disney, especially if they include every single extra they can. Funny how the LaserDisc versions are still the best versions of the Original Trilogy next to the theatrical reels, as the DVD print that had episodes IV-VI had barely decent LD rips, where the screen actually paused for few seconds where the player turned the side of the disc. I can edit that out on my computer, so why couldn’t they? Most likely because they didn’t know about it.

I’m more concerned about Indiana Jones. But we’ll get back to the topic when the time comes.

There’s few articles sitting in the backburner at the moment. I’m not wholly satisfied how they are at the moment, and the other one needs rather slight revamp in context. The other one is pretty fine, it just has too much… Muv-Luv in it. It’s that time of the year, y’know.

It’s about a year since I started reading that. Technically, I started reading it the 30th, so the Anniversary day has come and gone…