As you can see, I’m still working my way through the 30 days’ worth of video game topics, and I’ve just managed to get a couple days past the halfway point. Yay for me! Day 17’s topic is my favorite antagonist. For me, talking about my favorite of anything can be difficult because my favorites change all the time. Which is something that kind of bugs me about myself. Duck, you are a fickle, unpredictable creature. Stop it! Ahem, well, the arbitrary list of topics says I must discuss my favorite antagonist, so I’m going to pick the villain I’ve probably liked for the longest span of time, Dr. Nefarious. Continue reading Day 17: Favorite Antagonist
The newest of the 30-day video game topics is my current or most recent video game-themed wallpaper. As much as I would like to have actual video game wallpaper, I’m assuming they must mean my computer’s desktop. And due to my obvious level of obsession with all things gaming, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I do indeed have a video game desktop.
I actually went through many different images for my desktop in the semi-distant past. I…don’t remember most of them, but I do recall having a screenshot of the secret ending of Donkey Kong Country 2, where the Kongs are gazing at the sunset, along with a Jak 2 screensaver. That’s right, there was a Jak 2 screensaver, which I earned by completing this odd, little game on the game’s official web site. It had Jak sitting in jail, looking bored, while bugs crawled around and the sky outside would change depending on the time of day. Kind of…weird, to say the last. Continue reading Day 14: Current (or Most Recent) Gaming Wallpaper
After a long wait, the Ratchet and Clank movie has finally come out. Video game movies have a long history of being pretty terrible, but after watching the trailer (um…several dozen times), this one looked like it would be the first video game movie to be of quality. Nevertheless, after its release in theatres, I watched as the ratings went down and down, from a high of 21% on Rotten Tomatoes down to a dismal 17%. I expect it to drop lower in the coming weeks. While I found this aggravating, it did not surprise me. People will never accept such a movie until they accept the medium that inspired it. Why mobile games like Angry Birds gain such widespread acceptance, while console and PC games continue to thrive only outside the mainstream population, I know not, but alas, that is not the topic of this post. Suffice it to say, us gamers are a very special group indeed, and it appears we will remain that way.
I knew the reviews would only annoy me, but I skimmed over a few anyway. Critics complained of an unoriginal storyline and flat characters, among other things. They even claimed many elements were stolen from more recent movies. I was baffled because these statements were unfounded. How can a movie based on a game from 2002 steal elements from movies that came out far after the game’s original release date? This is not just my opinion; it is logically impossible. Likewise, the Ratchet and Clank series has a history of fun, but well-developed characters and interesting stories. I find the characters from this series to be among the best in video games, and how characters I have formed a deep bond with, from the naïve, but intelligent Clank to the arrogant, but well-meaning (after his redemption, anyway) Qwark…how they could be described as flat, well, I’m astounded. They might as well state Mario is not an icon of gaming or Sonic is not Sega’s most famous character. Continue reading The First Good Video Game Movie is Here
Around the night of 11/11, and some other nights that I lost track of, I’ve been getting a lot of weird dreams. I remember one where one of my cats was back, and it looked like Alex, my chubby kitty, but acted like Arwen, my friendly Manx. I have a lot of dreams, in fact, where my pets return to me, including a rat I lost about a decade ago (I’ve looked everywhere, but I just can’t find him…), and I either realize we had the pet all along and forgot, or the pet just appeared back in our house one day. In this particular dream, I woke up early in the morning in my current house to find this cat, and I went to put out food and water for it (even though I no longer own any cat food; it really doesn’t taste that good), but my mom had already done so. She actually put out two bowls of water and two of food even though it was just one cat, in the very same manner as the days when we used to have two. Continue reading Impractical Races, Cats, and Robots: This Post Has It All
Today’s topic for the 100 theme blog challenge is number 12, insanity. This sounds pretty easy. Insanity. I know just what that is. It’s when someone is…well, insane. Crazy. Bonkers. A nutter. But, the more I think about this topic, the more I think about how not-easy writing about it really is. It’s a single word, but there is so much that can be written on it, can’t it? And I’m certainly no expert on mental disorders, so I had to think of a different way to write about such a topic. And then I got it, in the form of a question. Why is insanity so appealing?
Don’t look at me like that. It is, in a way. I mean, they have an entire archetype commonly seen in stories that is related to insanity. The mad scientist. No, not angry scientists, though many of them do seem to have some bone to pick with society. Crazy scientists. Why was this stereotype even invented if insanity wasn’t in some way appealing or intriguing? And insanity, as you’d expect, whether they be mad scientist or not, is most often portrayed in villains. Because you really don’t see that many crazy good guys, do you? No, it’s the villains that think up all kinds of bizarre plots for such goals as world domination or other methods of obtaining unstoppable power (the terrible movie “The Blood Waters of Doctor Z” featured a mad scientist that turned himself into a fish in his plot for world domination; I have no idea how he thought that would work, however), while the poor good guy always has no choice but to go and stop it. Our hero very rarely is crazy. Maybe brave or foolhardy, but it is most often the villain who is deeply disturbed, which is all the more explanation for their wild plots.
And so, to kind of expand on that, when it comes to villains, what kinds does this Duck usually like the most? That’s right, you guessed it. The insane ones. In many stories, I typically like the villain the most. Or, at the very least, I often find them to be the most interesting, and I wonder why they do what they do. But, the villains that always interest me the most are the crazy ones. The weird, eccentric ones. Because, frankly, villains that got it together (bad grammar on purpose) are boring. It’s the crazy ones that are obviously in need of some therapy that always capture my attention most of all, and that is what I’m here to discuss, with as few tirades as I can manage.
Let’s take Bowser, for example. A lot of people know about him, no? He’s the main villain of the “Mario” series and an experienced princess-napper. And I don’t think anyone would consider him insane. Nope, he’s a huge jerk, but he’s not crazy. He doesn’t like his rival, Mario, which is understandable, as the ‘stached plumber constantly puts a stop to Bowser’s plans. He also seems to have a thing for Peach, especially in “Paper Mario”, but hey, you can’t really blame him. And you don’t need to be a villain to understand his desire to rule the Mushroom Kingdom. I mean, who doesn’t want to rule the world or a kingdom of ‘shrooms? Antagonist or protagonist, world domination is pretty appealing. And so, while Bowser is quite the creep, I don’t find him to be that interesting. His plans are uninspired, but I don’t get the crazy vibe from him. And that just won’t do. You’re too sane for my tastes, Bowser.
And then I come to the villains that are nuttier than those bags of peanuts that you get on airplanes. These disturbed villains can be many things. They are usually interesting. They are most often rather…unique individuals. And they typically range between comical or downright disturbing. I may like a villain in a more lighthearted series because I think they are hilarious in a way that only someone nuts can be. On the other end of the spectrum, some crazy villains are scary because of their insanity, and that’s why I find them to be particularly…villainous. Because they manage to truly frighten me, while at the same time making me curious about them all the more.
Let’s take two examples of some of my favorite villains. These two are insane by every definition of the word, and they are Dr. Nefarious of the “Ratchet and Clank” series and Lord Ghirahim of “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword”. Now, this post is in no way intended to just talk about how great I think these villains are, even though I certainly do. It’s intended to explain my point on insanity. And explain it, I shall.
Dr. Nefarious is insane in a way that is on the lighter end of the insanity spectrum. This robotic villain is not someone to take lightly, as his plots have involved trying to turn all organic life into robots and trying to turn back time in order to undo all the times in the past that the good guys have prevailed over evil, which he is more than capable of doing because he’s also a genius (we got a mad scientist here, folks). And no one can disagree with me that this guy is crazy, from his bizarre plans to his maniacal ranting and screaming. And I will never fully understand why he hates organic life when he used to be one himself (and don’t ask me how that happened because I’m still not sure). All I do know is that Nefarious is a nut and seriously needs to be put into an insane asylum. But, his bizarre behavior is what makes me like him so much, as he is quite an entertaining character in an already rather hilarious group of games. Few can deny that his cut scenes are some of the best scenes in the series. And if Nefarious wasn’t insane, he wouldn’t be nearly as great.
And then I come to Lord Ghirahim, another character that is positively crazy. This guy is just weird. I don’t know. Nefarious, I kind of get. A little. But, this guy is, well, a lunatic. Ghirahim is rather flamboyant and, like pretty much all villains, quite enamored with himself. He can be pretty darn feminine and is known by all to make some pretty strange comments that can make you laugh (probably one of his most memorable lines is, “This news has just filled my heart with rainbows.”), but that doesn’t make him any less scary. That’s right, this guy is frightening. Rainbow-filled heart or not, Ghirahim is a terrifying dude in the way he can start off all calm and composed one moment and then threaten to do all kinds of unspeakable things to Link the next. And seeing as he starts off so much more powerful than our hero at the beginning of the game, this makes his threats all the more frightening because he is more than capable of carrying them out.
Ghirahim is evil and sadistic, and even though he can say some pretty corny things, he is not as laughable as you may think. He will stop at nothing to achieve his goals, and you know what, he actually does. Oftentimes heroes stop the villains, but unfortunately, Ghirahim manages to be a bit more competent than Link even is. You may be able to laugh at Ghirahim’s strange dialogue and his goofy victory dance, but it’s his insanity, the same thing that makes him behave this way, that makes him so much scarier than he would have been without it. I have to give Nintendo credit for managing to create a villain that can say goofy things, and yet we still can take him seriously. Not everyone can do that, and that’s why Ghirahim is another one of my favorite villains, as he is by far one of the most complex characters I have ever known.
So I was right, after all, wasn’t I? Insanity is indeed appealing. At least, it can make certain characters more interesting or entertaining, because it often makes them either funny, frightening, or a combination of the two. When I try to look for any correlation between the characters I like and those that I don’t, often times it is the weirdos I find the most intriguing. And most of the time, it’s the villains that are the nutty ones, and that may be one reason why the villains are usually my favorite characters in a story. Insanity is interesting. Insanity can make certain characters stand out from all the rest. The mad scientist archetype is proof enough of that, with such examples as Dr. Eggman, Dr. Nefarious, and Professor Hojo, not to mention the most famous of all, Dr. Frankenstein. If insanity wasn’t intriguing, then who knows if these characters would even exist.
Not an Insane Duck
“When I’m finished killing you, I think I’ll rewind time. So I can do it again. And again! AND AGAIN!!”-Dr. Nefarious
It’s time for a post on another one of my favorite characters, this time a villain from the “Ratchet and Clank” series. This character is actually the reason I fell in love with the series (and played a big part in me buying a PS3). And that character is the highly amusing, but also highly diabolical, Dr. Nefarious. (Spoilers for “Up Your Arsenal”, “A Crack in Time”, and “All 4 One” ahead; proceed with caution.) Why not watch this little informative video on “How to Spot a Supervillain” for a quick intro on my favorite evil robot doctor?
Now that you’ve seen the doctor for yourself, why don’t I tell you who he is? Good idea, I’ll do just that. Ahem, Dr. Nefarious is an evil robot mad scientist that makes his first appearance in the “Ratchet and Clank” series as the main villain of “Up Your Arsenal”. He hates all organic life, which he calls “squishies”, and even tried to kill all living things or turn them into robots with the Biobliterator in “Up Your Arsenal”, but his plans were thwarted by Ratchet, Clank, and a late-arriving Captain Qwark. Since, unlike other villains, he shows up in several games, he is considered to be the main villain of the series, and there is, at the very least, some reference to him in every game since he showed up.
Before I get into Nefarious’ personality, why don’t I recount a bit about his past and his roles in the games, hmm? Hmm?! Most of the information I know of the doctor’s past comes from a series of vid comics in “Up Your Arsenal”, that tells of Captain Qwark’s past fights with Nefarious. Apparently, years ago, Dr. Nefarious used to be an organic life form quite similar in appearance to humans, but bald and with the same large head he has as a robot. (If you’re wondering, yes, he was indeed ugly.)
He and Qwark actually first met in high school, having the same biology class in ninth grade (even though Qwark was 26 at the time), where poor Nefarious was bullied by Qwark and called names like “that freak with the headgear”. It is also mentioned in “A Crack in Time” that his mother suggested at one time that he was a disappointment, and later in his life, people called him insane. It is likely these things that contributed to his hatred of organic life and him becoming a villain. (A sincere and heartfelt “thank you” to all those who helped push Nefarious to the evil side. It certainly makes the games better.)
Later on in the vid comics, Dr. Nefarious unleashed a race of creatures he created called Ameoboids on BlackwaterCity, I believe to get back at the inhabitants for calling him crazy, though Qwark put an end to his plans. After that, Qwark followed the doctor to planet Magmos (somehow he held onto Nefarious’ ship, holding his breath the whole way…for six days). It is here that Qwark confronts Nefarious and recognizes him as one of the kids he picked on in high school. By accident, Qwark pushes Nefarious off the catwalk they were standing on, and the doctor lands in the machinery below (which I think may’ve been used for manufacturing robots…?). While Qwark believes Nefarious to have died, this is what resulted in Nefarious becoming a robot.
And here we get back to the actual games. Well, like I said, Nefarious’ first appearance in “Up Your Arsenal” involved him trying to wipe out all organic life. After he was defeated, he and his butler Lawrence made their escape by teleporting somewhere, but since Nefarious didn’t specify a location, they ended up on an asteroid, where they were stuck for I’m not sure how long, with Nefarious spending his time contemplating how he could’ve possibly been defeated. Here, we get to the events of “Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time”. Before this game begins, the asteroid eventually crashed on planet Zanifar, home to the peaceful Fongoids, and Nefarious himself can explain best what happened during his time there….
So as you saw, Dr. Nefarious devised a plan to use the clock, not fully aware of the fact that the clock is only meant to keep time, not change it, and if it is messed with, the entire universe could be in danger. Of course, in the end, he is defeated and very badly damaged by Ratchet and Clank. During the credits, however, we hear that his body was never found in the wreckage of his space station….
As of writing this, Dr. Nefarious shows up as an important character in one other game, “Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One” as a playable character. Unfortunately, this game is a bit different from the rest of the series and can even be a bit childish at times. Anyway, what happens is Nefarious tries to kill Qwark with a monster called a Z’Grute. When it gets out of his control, he tries to stop it, alongside Ratchet, Clank, and Qwark. After defeating the beast, a huge structure shows up and the four characters are taken to planet Magnus, where they work together to find a way to, not only escape, but stop a plan that could threaten the galaxy. Like I said, this game is quite different, and Nefarious often seems to me rather out of character. In the end, though, he does end up stealing the rescue ship and leaving the other characters stranded. There, that’s the Nefarious I love.
Now that I’ve finally finished summarizing his past, I must tell you about his personality, which, of course, is the main reason I like him so. (And the main reason hardly anyone in the games does.) Simply put, Dr. Nefarious is one of the funniest characters I’ve ever seen. Even among the hilarious characters of the “Ratchet and Clank” series, he is one of the best (I’d say he is the best, but perhaps I’m somewhat biased). But, why is he so funny?
For one thing, he’s very possibly crazy (because mental illness is funny in the world of fiction, I suppose). Also, while Dr. Nefarious is supposed to be a genius and is capable of doing things others would believe to be impossible, he seems to be lacking in common sense. For example, he has pointed loaded guns at people without the safety on, resulting in the deaths of some of his troops, as you can see in the next cut scene.
He also thought that the “Secret Agent Clank” TV show was real. He also can be a bit childish, as he once acted like a chicken to mock Lawrence and made Lord Vorselon (an assassin he hired in “A Crack in Time”) play vid comics with him, even when Vorselon currently had no hands with which to do anything with. He is also terrible at making jokes and never seems to catch on when Lawrence insults him. (When Lawrence said, “You put the ‘wit’ in twit, sir,” Nefarious actually agreed.)
He also likes to call things ridiculous names in “A Crack in Time”, such as the “Orb of Gratuitous Immobilization” and “Unnecessarily Evil Initiative Omega-91”. He also talks and yells a lot and has provided us gamers with some very fun monologues. He also has a habit of freezing up in the middle of things when he is screaming or laughing extra hard, during which he picks up signals of the overly corny soap opera, “Lance and Janice”. (“I don’t have the capacity for love, Janice. I was cursed by a tribe of gypsy ninjas when I was a kid.” “I know, Lance, I was in that tribe of gypsy ninjas.”) This continues until someone gives him a smack. He has no idea he does this, and so he then continues doing whatever he was doing as if nothing ever happened.
Another reason why I like the doctor is because, although in some ways he can be a stereotypical villain, he’s not as flat a character as many villains are. Yes, he’s terribly conceited and likes killing things and has a bad temper (all great qualities, for a villain, at least). But, at least I can somewhat see how he became evil, unlike many villains who seem to have no reason for what they do. And at least his evil plots are more creative than simple galactic domination. I also like that there is so much more extra information about him than most villains in other games, so it makes him much more interesting and makes him seem more like a real person. Seriously, what the heck do I know about Ganondorf from “The Legend of Zelda” series? Nearly nothing. Uh, he can play the organ? And…um… He likes…dark colors…
And I think Lawrence deserves a quick mention, as well. I think Dr. Nefarious and Lawrence make a very fun pair of characters, probably because they are so different from each other. Both are bad, but Nefarious is much more obviously evil. (It’s almost hard to tell at first that Lawrence is actually bad.) Actually, Nefarious is much more obvious in everything, while Lawrence is a lot more subtle. Nefarious yells quite often, while Lawrence never does. Nefarious outright calls people names like moron, idiot, and twit, while Lawrence is sarcastic and never really insults anyone directly. And while Nefarious is the genius of the two, Lawrence appears to be more intelligent, and Lawrence is certainly more mature. You can’t like Dr. Nefarious without also liking Lawrence. Try it. I dare you.
So I suppose I made this post way longer than I should have, but I find Dr. Nefarious to be a very fun character, with his ridiculous behavior and complete lack of common sense. Not only is he a very funny character, but he is one of the only favorite characters of mine that, not only showed up in several games so far, but is likely to be in more in the future. (Most characters I love die and are never, ever seen again.) I look forward to seeing what he’s up to next.
(A ridiculously long side note: In case you’re wondering about the title, and I’m sure you are, it’s a reference to an area of “A Crack in Time” I found particularly funny. When Ratchet goes back in time on planet Zanifar, he ends up in the Fongoid village where Nefarious crashed on the asteroid. Here, the Fongoids are brainwashed, and this computer voice would repeat statements about the doctor over and over again, such as “Dr. Nefarious is brilliant.” or “A day without Dr. Nefarious is a day without sunshine.” There were also statements about how they loved Dr. Nefarious and enjoyed working for him, and there was even one stating that “Dr. Nefarious is NOT a disappointment, as his mother once suggested”. One that really cracked me up is a statement I heard some of the Fongoids say, that was something like, “If I was down to my last stick of gum and Dr. Nefarious asked for it, I would give him the gum.” How random.)
And one more thing, according to a “Ratchet and Clank” calendar, today is Dr. Nefarious’ birthday. Happy birthday, doctor!
A Nefarious Duck
One day, I was thinking to myself. I was thinking how neat it would be if there was a “Super Smash Bros.”-like game for the PlayStation. Then, I could have Ratchet beat up Jak. I could have Jak beat up Ratchet. And that’s really the only combinations I could think of, as I’m actually pretty limited on my knowledge of PlayStation characters. But, it would still be pretty cool. And then, a completely different day, I found out there was indeed such a game. “PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale” for the PS3.
So I ended up having to buy this game. It’s not often something I’ve pondered about has turned out to be real. When I got it, I found that this game is a lot like “SSB”. As you’d expect, there are a good number of characters (20, I believe) from a variety of PlayStation games, such as “Ratchet and Clank”, “Jak and Daxter”, “Little Big Planet”, and “Infamous”. And there are stages that take place in locations from those games, though some games get rather ignored, though I don’t care because the “Ratchet and Clank” and “Jak and Daxter” series got stages. So I’m good with that. The gameplay is pretty similar, as well. Just like in “SSB”, attacks are done by pressing a combination of a button and tilting the control stick. One thing I like is that this game has more attacks than “SSB”, as you can use Square, Triangle, and Circle to attack rather than just A and B. You can also throw people and dodge attacks and such. And double jump, despite being against all laws of physics. I wish I could double jump.
There is one main feature of the game that makes it a little different from “SSB”, which is how you defeat your opponent. You don’t simply get their damage counter really high and then knock them off the stage. You can actually attack the other character for an hour if you want and never defeat them. Don’t know why you’d want to, but it’s your life. Anyway, in this game, you attack your opponent until your meter gets high enough, and then you unleash a super move on them that, if it hits them, always kills them. (It’s a lot like those Final Smash attacks in “Super Smash Bros. Brawl”.) You can even wait for the meter to get extra high for a level 2 or level 3 super move. Some of these are pretty cool, as you sometimes get multiple attempts to attack people when you use them.
Another thing I find fun is that characters also go up in rank the more you use them. This doesn’t affect the character at all, but it does unlock different icons (these little pictures that show up under your character on the loading screen that shows who’s fighting, which is kind of pointless, but okay), costumes for the character, “minions’ (these are little stubby versions of characters from the various games that sometimes cheer you on), and other such things. I am disappointed that there are no characters or stages to unlock, though. They’re all there from the start. It was fun unlocking them in “SSB”. But, I hear you can download two characters and a stage. I probably won’t. But, you can.
Some of the stages can be pretty interesting, as well. One thing I like about this game is that all stages have two parts to them. They start off with a location from one game, and then they change and incorporate things from another game. This makes them a bit more interesting. For example, in Hades, there is this creepy monster in the background that sometimes tries to attack the players. Then, halfway through the stage, these cute, little dudes with spears show up in the background behind the monster, while adorable music plays, which is very out of place.
I ended up having fun with this game. I just really enjoy getting the opportunity to play as a wide variety of characters and maul (or get mauled by) said characters. That’s why I love the “SSB” series. Though, while this game is a lot like “SSB”, it is lacking in one area, a variety of things to do. There just isn’t a lot to do in this game. Not really. Like, this game has a story mode for every character, but it’s all really the same. And calling it story mode may be pushing things a bit. I think to call something story mode, an actual story should show up in there somewhere.
These little “no-story” modes really just involve a little cut scene (well, more like a picture of the character(s), with dialogue) with the character(s) on some small, little quest. (“Hey, Dax, let’s find a new kind of Eco.” “Okay.” Or “Hey, Clank, let’s find some gold bolts.” “Okay.”) Then, they fight a lot of battles that seem unrelated to anything. There is then a real cut scene thrown in later, where they get into a fight with some other character, usually for some absurd reason (are video game characters really that sensitive that they’ll attack someone for the slightest perceived insult?). Then, at the end, you fight this floating head guy called Polygon Man (which I think of as kind of this game’s version of Master Hand from “SSB”).
In addition to “no-story” mode, there are also combat trials where you are supposed to do certain things, like defeat people a certain number of times with your level 1 super move or only attack with the square button and such. There are some general ones, and there are a bunch for each specific character, too. These started out fun, but then they get a bit boring, and I gave up. Like I said, I found parts of this game disappointing. While it will take a long time to do everything in it, a lot of it is really the same, so it will get boring if you try to do it all. I think “SSB” games have a lot to do, but there is enough variety that it stays interesting.
Despite a few things that disappointed me in the game, I did have fun playing it, and I’d like to talk just a little more on my favorite parts of this kind of game, the characters and stages. My favorite characters were Jak and Ratchet from “Jak and Daxter” and “Ratchet and Clank” respectively. Not only were they some of the only characters I actually knew, but they both came from games I loved and were a lot of fun to play as. Playing as Jak feels a lot like controlling him in the actual “Jak and Daxter” games, plus his level 3 super move allows you to control Light Jak for a limited time. Ratchet was fun, too. You could have Mr. Zurkon (my all time favorite weapon from the “R&C” series) help you fight for short periods of time, complete with his usual insults and taunts (“Yoohoo! Mr. Zurkon’s looking to kill you!”) I also like that with his level 2 super move, you can use Clank to attack people. I like watching people run in terror from cute, little Clank.
Other characters I liked were Big Daddy and Sir Daniel. I have never played their games, but I thought they were fun characters to play as. Big Daddy is just awesome. He wears a diving suit and has a big drill. What is not great about that? And Sir Daniel is a goofy, mumbling skeleton that is almost impossible to understand. I have gotten attached to him. Least favorite characters include Sweet Tooth the clown and that rapper dude.
When it comes to stages I liked, my absolute favorite was San Francisco, for the simple fact that Dr. Nefarious (my favorite character from the “R&C” series) shows up in the second half, along with his silly space station from “A Crack in Time” that resembles a giant version of his head. There’s also an “Uncharted 3” stage I think is pretty cool. It’s the part of the game where Drake’s on the plane (hey, that sounds like a movie title, “Drake’s on a Plane”…), and the back opens up and the cargo starts to fly out. It was awesome in “Uncharted 3”, and it’s awesome now.
I also both like and get overly upset by Sandover Village from “Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy”. This stage brings back lots of “Jak and Daxter” nostalgia and makes me wish all the more they’d make another game, that’s actually good. It made me happy and depressed all at the same time. Then, halfway through the battle, this stage’s transformation saw Sandover Village get turned into a golf course, which peeved me quite a bit. Don’t desecrate a location from one of the greatest games ever made, you sons of…! Swear words to you all! Swear words!
So this game, like the Sandover Village stage, managed to make me glad and sad at the same time. The game could be fun. I loved playing as my favorite PlayStation characters, along with new ones. It has more variety in terms of the number of moves characters have. I also liked how the stages change. But, I thought that, after the initial excitement wears off and I’m done checking out all the new characters and stages, the game gets a bit boring. All the extra things you can do are too similar. I don’t feel there was as much variety as the “SSB” series. I enjoyed it, but in no way can it compete with “SSB”. At least, not for me. And seriously, I just like sending people flying off the screen.
PlayStation All-Ducks Battle Royale, the Fighting Game Where You Only Play as Ducks
I recently finished playing my second PS3 game, another “Ratchet and Clank” game, this one called “All 4 One”. I heard some bad things about it before buying it, but I did it anyway because I have an unhealthy need to play games with Dr. Nefarious in it. While I did actually like the game in the end, there are some problems with it. It’s going to sound like I hate the game, but I don’t. I do dislike certain things about it, though.
And so I feel an obligation to society to discuss this game in much greater depth than necessary. First of all, I must mention the most important change to the game. This game is meant to be played with multiple people, which I think is the reason for many of the other changes. It also includes a team of characters that shouldn’t really be together, which feels forced in simply because Insomniac wanted those characters to be playable.
Anyway, when the game starts, Dr. Nefarious shows up and unleashes some big beastie called a Z’Grute on the city of Luminopolis, but it gets out of his control and turns on him (and his butler Lawrence quits and runs off, which is really just for the sake of what comes next), and this is where our forced multiplayer comes in. Not only do the good characters of Ratchet, Clank, and Qwark have to stop it (which makes sense), but Nefarious, too, and there we have our mandatory four playable characters (Why is four always the magic multiplayer number?). After our unlikely team stops the Z’Grute, some big machine comes, and then they all wake up and find they were kidnapped and brought to some strange planet far away. Here, they must uncover the evil force behind the giant structure called Ephemeris (I want to name a pet that) and save the planet (and perhaps the universe…).
As I said, parts of the game seemed forced. Maybe I’m just picky, but that’s how it seemed to me. They wanted people to be able to play as the three good characters and as Nefarious, and while I like being able to play as my favorite evil robot (which is the character I played as the entire game, of course), having him working alongside the good characters doesn’t quite work sometimes. Under normal circumstances, he would never do that. Why didn’t he just leave and let the Z’Grute destroy the city? Why bother to stop it? And even if somehow he did end up on that planet with everyone else, Lawrence would’ve come and rescued Nefarious as he had done in the past. Insomniac knew that, and so they had Lawrence quit, though I think they gave him insufficient reason to do so. If Lawrence put up with Dr. Nefarious (who, to put it lightly, isn’t easy to work with) all these years, I don’t see why he’d just quit because of some monster. Perhaps he’d run, even though I’ve never seen Lawrence flee from danger before (though maybe it’s because he has short legs), but I don’t see why he’d quit. Especially since I’ve always found Lawrence to be surprisingly loyal to Dr. Nefarious until now. It seems out of character, and it bothers me to no end. Like I said, though, perhaps I’m nitpicking. I am a duck, after all.
But anyway, on to the gameplay. As I said, you can play as one of the four characters. If you play alone, then you have another character with you controlled by a computer. Usually this character is Clank, but if you’re Clank, it’s Qwark. They like to emphasize teamwork in this game, which is sometimes done well and sometimes isn’t. If multiple characters shoot at the same target with the same weapon, more damage is done. Sometimes they must work together to hit several switches. Sometimes they toss things to each other. No complaints there, really. Sometimes you all must simply press the triangle button at a platform to make it move. This part is lacking in imagination, I think. But, overall, I guess this aspect of the game is usually fine.
Except when the computer character doesn’t behave himself. Usually my little Clank sidekick knows what to do (which I find adorable), and sometimes he’s an idiot. Which I would’ve expected from Qwark. He gets stuck places. I throw him across a gap in order to use my Swingshot on him to get where he is, but he jumps back to me, and we both fall to our dooms. He refuses to toss things to me, as I stand there waiting for the item like an idiot. He disappeared for a bit during the final boss battle. Don’t know where he went. Maybe I can only expect so much from an AI, but it can be frustrating.
Anyway, there is a decent variety of weapons you can use, like usual (but getting more ammo is much easier now, as you just stand on this thing and get it all back for free, which works out for cheap people like myself). Mr. Zurkon makes a comeback, and there’s a rocket launcher and a weapon that turns enemies into piggies, to name a few. There are also gadgets, like the Swingshot, as I mentioned somewhat before. There is also this silly vacuum for doing a variety of things, like throwing objects (or Clank) somewhere, activating weird switches, moving things, and, well, sucking up little animals (which seems mean, but I guess they’re okay). I guess the vacuum is pretty useful and everything, but I find it out of place. Just as I find the cutesy little animals everywhere rather odd. And the fact that I’m sucking them into a vacuum. I’m not quite sure what they were thinking here.
Something a bit disappointing in this game is that it is all very linear, with a fixed camera position that can get a little annoying. This camera is quite controlling, and sometimes it just won’t let me go where I want, even if I want to backtrack just a little. Come on, let me go back and get the ammo I passed! Come on! The game also takes place on one single planet (with the exception of the very first level), unlike a bunch of planets like in the other games. There is a nice variety of landscapes to make up for it, though. Places way high in the air, with views for miles. Locations by the water and places underground. Dark forests and icy areas. The graphics look quite nice, too, so these levels can be quite lovely.
Something I hate about the game are the health, the ammo, and the enemies. One, the health disappears after a short time if the box it’s in is broken, instead of staying there until you need it, like in other games. Enemies keep breaking these boxes before I need it, and then when I do need it, the health is gone. Two, I keep running out of ammo. During long battles, they just won’t give me ammo, and I run out, and then I’m helpless. Three, some battles last too long. Especially in the last couple of hours of the game, they make you fight seemingly endless groups of enemies. And these enemies take so long to kill. How can you shoot the thing with 20 grenades and 10 rockets and 150 bullets, and it just won’t stop? How? You just keep shooting them and shooting them and they just won’t die and then I run out of ammo and my health disappears before I can reach more and I hate it! It makes me a mad duck! So mad a duck I am! And why do I sometimes come back to life when I die, and sometimes I don’t? There’s no rhyme or reason to it! And if I have no ammo left whatsoever, please don’t revive me! What’s the point! Do not resuscitate me, Clank, just don’t!
I also feel it worth mentioning that this game is more childish than the other games. And a bit, well, corny. You see, throughout the game, the characters say different things, and I don’t mind much of it (such as Qwark’s, “Ammo. Stuff to kill stuff with.”), but sometimes it’s just annoying. Especially Clank’s dialogue. He is one corny, little robot. And ducks don’t like corny. We like corn, but not corny. You don’t need to apologize for shooting at your fellow robots when they’re trying to murder you. And stop telling the dumb little animals you won’t harm them, just before sucking them up into a vacuum like living pieces of dust. And please, Clank, please never comment on our teamwork ever again. Or I’ll be tempted to use the vacuum and toss you off the side of a cliff. How’s that for teamwork?
All in all, though, I do have to admit that I usually had fun playing the game, despite my whining about it and me getting homicidal thoughts about Clank. Who I do love. He knows I love him. He does. But, I don’t know why they changed things so much. And I don’t know why it’s more childish than the other games. Or why I’m vacuuming up animals. And I still will never get over Nefarious or Lawrence behaving out of character. But, I still enjoyed it. It was fun and sometimes funny (with some disturbing dialogue from Qwark…). The graphics were quite lovely, as I said before. And there was some challenge to it, if fighting nearly invincible enemies with no ammo and no health can be considered challenging. I guess it is. So game, after all I said about you, know that I still care for you. Hey, don’t look at me that way, with the sting of betrayal in your eyes. If you start crying, I’ll start crying.
All 4 Ducks
After finishing “Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal”, I became such a fan of the series that, not long later, I went out and bought a PlayStation 3 to get the new games. After an interlude of sheer idiocy, I figured out how to get the thing working (I knew something was suspicious about that cable…), and the first game I played was “Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time”. This game is not the first of the PS3 “Ratchet and Clank” games. I believe it’s actually the third in the “Future” trilogy. So why did I start at the end? Two words. Dr. Nefarious. He was the character from “Up Your Arsenal” that made me fall in love with the series, and seeing as he’s the main villain of “A Crack in Time”, I needed to play the game.
Unfortunately, I spoiled a lot of the game before playing it. At first, I didn’t think I’d get the PS3 anytime soon, but I just couldn’t wait to see what happened in this game. So I read bits and pieces of the plot on both Wikipedia and the “Ratchet and Clank” wiki. I also watched many of the cut scenes with Dr. Nefarious in it on Youtube, because he’s downright funny. Turned out to be quite unnecessary. I finally realized there was no point in waiting. I had the money. Why not get the PS3? And so I did.
Anyway, this game’s story starts out with Ratchet and Captain Qwark looking for Clank, who actually was taken by these creatures called Zoni two games prior. Somewhere farther away, at the exact center of the universe (“give or take fifty feet”) is a huge structure called the Great Clock, where Clank currently is residing. Unfortunately, Clank is damaged, and the Zoni (who are apparently rather naïve) have asked the evil Dr. Nefarious to repair Clank for them. Nefarious obliges, as he has his own purpose for Clank, as the little robot holds the key to opening the Orvus Chamber, the most important room of the Great Clock. Gasp. Over the course of the game, we find out more about Ratchet’s past, what Nefarious is plotting, and what Clank has to do with the Great Clock.
Fortunately, despite the major spoilers I put myself through, the game still turned out to be a blast. The first thing I noticed was how amazing the graphics are. Absolutely spectacular (and I’m not even using HD, which I still believe wholeheartedly looks no different anyway). It’s just wow. The usual humor is still there, too. This game is as funny as the earlier ones. Maybe more so. And the voice acting is some of the best I’ve ever heard, like usual.
And like the other “Ratchet and Clank” games, this game consists of exploring planets and using awesome weapons (well, the weapons aren’t that great until you get farther into the game). There are new guns and some new gadgets, including the very awesome hoverboots, one of the best items ever. These can be used to move very fast, jump farther, and use these ramps to get across large gaps. And I want them. I want them for real. (And you can throw Ratchet’s wrench while walking now. It sounds like such a simple change, but it is so convenient. Ratchet has lost the ability to crouch, though. Got bad knees, Ratchet? Me, too.)
Different to previous games, this one is split up between Ratchet’s story and Clank’s. Ratchet’s part of the game involves the usual stuff I just mentioned, and Clank’s involves exploring the Great Clock and solving these difficult time puzzles. They really get me thinking. I’ve never seen puzzles like this before. You can record yourself doing an action, and then you can do things while your past self does the recorded action. Like it can go stand on a switch for you while you go through the door. Some get more complex, too. You have your past self stand on a switch, which gives you access to a second switch. So you stand on the second switch as Clank #1 stands on the first switch. And then you record over Clank #1, and you stand on the first switch for Clank #2, so Clank #2 steps on the second switch, and you go through the door. Woo, huff, out of breath. And it gets a lot more complicated than that. Whoever said video games rot your brain never tried puzzles like this. All this brain exercise has given my brain rock-hard abs.
Anyway, since the weapons are an important part of the games, I wanted to quickly mention a few I found particularly great. The Rift Inducer 5000 (which actually shows up in some form in “Up Your Arsenal”, but I never used it back then) was awesome. It opens a rift to another dimension, and these tentacles come out (belonging to a creature named Fred), and Fred will attack enemies and pull them through the rift. Watching a big, hunky Agorian get picked up as if he weighed nothing and pulled through a rift never gets old. I also liked Mr. Zurkon. He is this robot that fights alongside you, while insulting and threatening those around him. Some of his quotes I liked were:
“Mr. Zurkon does not come in peace.”
“Mr. Zurkon requires no Nanotech to survive. Mr. Zurkon lives on fear.”
And at one point he said something to the tune of Camptown Races (you know it, the song that goes “Doo da. Doo da.”), part of which goes “Zurkon kills stuff all day long”. You can’t not love Mr. Zurkon. If you don’t, he’ll probably just kill you. Because he’s great.
Something else that is new to this game is the fact that you also can fly around in space now. On the PS2, you would choose a location from this menu, and Ratchet would fly there himself. Now you do the flying, and it frightened me a bit at first, being out there in all that, well, space. It’s not as enormous as it looks, though. Good, considering that one of my big fears is being lost out in space. It’s actually broken down into different sectors you can warp right to, so it makes it into manageable chunks. Glad I’m not about to face one of my worst nightmares, after all.
And there’s a lot out here in space. People to help. Moons to explore. There are also a few radio stations you can listen to, which are entertaining, though I didn’t listen to them much (I’m not a big radio-listener in the real world, either). But, I especially had to laugh when Nefarious called in to one talk show to complain about the “Lance and Janice” soap opera. For a supervillain, he seems to have too much free time.
I really ended up liking this game, but I found a few things to be pretty disappointing. It seemed too short, for one thing. There is a ton of extras, which is great, but the main story, as interesting as it was, seemed short. But, maybe that’s just me. The game was also too darn easy. There are three difficulties you can choose from when you start out, and I went with normal. I can’t imagine how easy it must be on easy, then. The final boss battles were especially pathetic. Dr. Nefarious destroyed me in “Up Your Arsenal”. Beating him took hours of trying, and I didn’t win until I practiced tons and used some shield to keep me from taking damage temporarily. This time, I beat him probably within 15 minutes.
Equally troubling is the fact that if you die (I only died once for real; the other times I kept being dumb and falling off the platform), you don’t have to start the battle over from the very, very beginning, like you did in the original three games on the PS2. You just start over that particular section, with full health and full ammo. I suspect this most upsetting change in the game has something to do with the people of Insomniac really being insomniacs, and they were very sleepy when they made this game. That must be it. Wake up and make the other games challenging, or I’ll send Mr. Zurkon after you!
But, to make up for the shortness of the game, there are a lot of extras. Besides helping people and checking out a bunch of moons, as I mentioned a tiny bit earlier, there is an arena where you can battle enemies for bolts and other prizes. There are 40 Gold Bolts you can collect for skins, too. I managed to get them all, and then I used the Dr. Nefarious skin the whole time afterward. (But, since Ratchet is short, it was a very short, stubby Nefarious.) There are also 40 Zoni to collect. They can upgrade your ship and collecting all of them makes something special happen. I know what it is, but I’m not telling. There are also these weapon thingies to collect. I think some are for modifying weapons, and some get you the Ryno V, the strongest weapon in the game, when you collect all of them. I didn’t do as much with that stuff, though, so I’m not as sure what most of them did. I did get the Ryno V, though. ‘Twas awesome. Oh, and this game also has skill points like the others, where you get points for completing certain tasks. These points unlock cheats and concept art. Unlike previous games, I managed to get everything but some of the skill points. (And I only cheated once, to find a Zoni in Krell Canyon. I was only a little naughty.)
Anyway, my first PS3 game was quite delightful. I wish the story was longer, and I wish it was harder, but other than that, it was great. I wish I hadn’t spoiled stuff, though. Probably would’ve been an even better game. Bad duck! Bad!
A Duck in Time
I recently played a game with a very naughty name, “Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal”. (I know. Tee hee.) I originally bought this game used, but I didn’t trust the disk, and the store’s remaining copy was in even worse shape, so I didn’t use it. (I was afraid it would crack, killing my PS2, myself, and half the globe in the process.) And I didn’t bother returning it because, due to an awesome sale they had, it was free anyway. So I held on to it, despite my utter refusal to use it, and over a year later (I kept getting distracted), I finally got around to ordering a brand new copy from Amazon. (I am aware that my logic in this paragraph makes no sense at all.) Anyway, long story short, I finally got to see how awesome this game was.
Let’s just start off by explaining the story really quickly, shall we? In this game, an evil robot, I mean, a nefarious robot, called Dr. Nefarious has raised an army and is bent on killing all living things (which he calls “squishies”), leaving the galaxy to be populated by nothing but robots. (Hopefully, he’ll spare ducks, at least. We’re cute.) And the one in charge of the fight against Nefarious is Captain Qwark because he’s defeated Nefarious in the past. I’m not sure how he managed it, though, because Qwark is a complete and utter idiot that’s actually sided with the villains in the past. (And to illustrate just a portion of his stupidity, he draws out all his battle plans in crayon.) He’s also assembled a team of some characters from the previous games he calls the Q-Force (including Al, Skidd, and Helga, the last of which still scares the quack out of me). And a monkey. (I believe poor Ratchet’s counted among the Q-Force himself, though he doesn’t wear the uniform. Because it’s stupid.)
Now that that’s out of the way, I have something to confess. While I have always liked the series, I never was super into it. I was a fan, but not a fan fan, you know? Sure, I loved all the awesome guns you could use to obliterate your enemies. I liked exploring a variety of different planets. I liked the different gadgets, like the swingshot and those magnetic shoes. I also loved how the series was so darn funny. Oh, the hearty laughter it’s induced. The stories were usually fairly interesting, too. All that was great. But, what made other series stand out for me were the characters. I just couldn’t get into this series as much because I didn’t care tons for the characters. Sure, Qwark was fun, but that wasn’t enough.
Until this game came along. This game is just awesome, and I think it is much better than the previous two (and they were great, as well). It’s still tons of fun. I think the humor is even better than ever. And then there were the characters. I just felt they did much better with the characters this time, too. In the previous two games, often times it seemed they did hardly anything with many of the characters. The character would appear once and then often times never be heard from again. This time, as I said, not only does Captain Qwark seem to play a bigger role, but they did more with some of the characters from the first game, too. (Skidd is just hilarious “and stuff”. Dude.) I also like Ratchet more than I did before. And I always liked Clank. Everyone likes Clank.
And another thing I specifically like in terms of characters is a good villain. I feel the most important characters in a story are the main good character(s) and the villain, but usually, they don’t put as much effort into the poor villain. (Don’t hate them because they’re evil!) This game even succeeded in that area with Dr. Nefarious. He is seriously the best thing that’s happened to this series. Dr. Nefarious may be evil, but he’s also pretty funny, from his monologues to the times when he freezes up and picks up signals from overly corny soap operas until someone (such as his butler, Lawrence) gives him a good whack. I even like Lawrence, as well, who is sarcastic and manages to insult the doctor quite often without Nefarious ever catching on.
But, I’ve ranted about the characters long enough. I still have a bit more to say about the game itself. This game is more war-related than the previous two (but luckily, not in a boring way), and besides the usual gameplay of exploring different planets and stuff, sometimes you go on missions where you help out the Galactic Rangers. There’s also this sort of hub type area (something the other games didn’t have), the spaceship called the Phoenix. (Which I find to be a very bad name for a spaceship. You’re just asking for people to destroy it and see if it really does come back to life like a phoenix, or whatever the spaceship equivalent is. “Let’s just see if you live up to your name, Phoenix! Pow pow! Guess not!”) Here, you can buy weapons and armor, train, play vid comics, all before heading out on your next mission.
And I also love the vid comics. This is a series of little side-scrolling platformer games starring Captain Qwark that tells of Qwark’s past fights against Nefarious. (I think it’s a very creative way to go about it without having to have flashbacks.) These little games are quite fun. Qwark can jump around and shoot his gun and punch things and collect tokens (if you get all the tokens, I believe you get a Titanium Bolt). And the humor’s included here, too. I love how Qwark looks like he’s skipping whenever he walks, and there’s a “boing” sound effect when he jumps. There are also funny narratives at the beginning and end, with the occasional dialogue during the game, mainly from Nefarious and Lawrence. It’s delightful. It filled me with delight.
Also in this game, you can collect trophies (I don’t know if they get you anything, though), and you can collect Titanium Bolts to buy new skins. There’s still the usual Skill Points, too, which you get for completing certain tasks. I usually can’t do most of them because you don’t know what the task is until you do it. I also got to check out this game’s Insomniac Museum. I was naughty and used a Youtube video to find it. (Really should’ve seen if I could’ve found it myself, though.) It’s early on in Metropolis. Very early on, to the left, jump up and break a window, jump to the next building, and the teleport thingy is to the left. Just make sure the PS2 is tricked into thinking it’s between 3 and 4 AM (because what would you be doing up at that hour, huh?). Once again, it had things that weren’t in the final version of the game, including an early level in the Qwark vid comics. And a thing that threw boxes at me. Which I promptly killed. Strangely, many of the things they took out were because it was too complex. (Too complex for the game, but not too complex for the museum, huh? Suspicious. I believe the squirrels with hacksaws must in some way be involved again….).
Anyway, on to my random comments. First of all…guess what? Guess. Guess, darn it! The last game had a gun that turned enemies into cute sheeps. This game has a gun that turns things into very adorable ducks. At least, I’m sure they’re adorable. I never saw them because I never had the gun. I spent 1,000,000 bolts buying the best armor for the final boss (which was brutal and definitely gave me PTSD), and I was quite impoverished afterward. Darn duck gun was over 100,000 bolts, I think! I know ducks are God’s gift to mankind, but come on! Do I appear to be made of bolts! Robots might be, but not us squishies! I think it’s quite clear I’m made of marshmallow. Try as I may, I couldn’t save up enough bolts. Shouldn’t have wasted money on that dumb Shield Charger. Piece of junk. Oh, look at me, I’m a portable shield that only works on some stuff. Forget you!
But, anyway, enough of my rambling. This game was just fantastic, and it really made me a fan of the “Ratchet and Clank” series. It’s tons of fun. It’s hilarious. The guns are awesome. The characters are even awesomer (especially Nefarious). Anyone wanting to try this series out must start with this one. To be honest, I’m unsure if anywhere in this post did I ever actually talk about the game part of this game. Oh, well.
A Squishy Duck