Playing L.A. Noire this week has reminded us of two things: 1) There is nothing more badass than a hard-boiled detective solving crimes while wearing a freshly pressed suit, and 2) The closest we'll ever get to being that cool is by playing videogames based on said characters. Besides, we look terrible in suits. But Rockstar was far from the first developers to put noir detective stories in an interactive context, so grab a fedora and pour yourself three fingers of rye as we take a look at our favorite noir videogames of all time.
We're initially skeptical of any adult whose preferred nickname involves numbers, but Suda51, the creator of No More Heroes and Killer7, has definitely won us over. His stylized, heavily Japanese take on the noir genre involves a man named Harman Smith whose unique (i.e. "made-up") form of split-personality disorder allows him to become one of seven different assassins, each with their own distinct talents and quirks. Without getting into detail about each assassin, I'll just leave you with the most important fact: in this game you can play as a Mexican Wrestler named MASK de Smith who just might have the ability to headbutt bullets. Despite its wild, cell-shaded visuals and the inclusion of a group of power-ranger ripoffs known simply as "The Handsome Men," Killer7 is an intense tale of conspiracy and betrayal that shows off videogames' unique ability to take a well-tread concept like film noir and expand it into new (and insane) areas of narrative.
The original Star Wars trilogy had a very distinctive beginning, middle, and end. How do you write about Luke Skywalker and keep it interesting when he's already saved Vader and crippled the Galactic Empire? Easy. You make up a sh*tload of characters and undo everything that made the series great. Here's our tribute to the Expanded Universe's biggest crimes against the franchise.
6. The Emperor Was Cloned
In The Movies: Vader's character arc crystallizes in a single moment. Inspired by his son's goodness and faith in him, Vader picks up the Emperor, the personification of corruption in both himself and the galaxy, and throws him into a conveniently-located bottomless shaft. That thing was just a lawsuit waiting to happen.
In The Expanded Universe: But wait what was that about clones? Ah, that's right. It turns out the Emperor has a whole ship full of younger hims, just waiting to spring into action if the old him ever died. (Why did he bother hanging out in that crippled old body in the first place? We don't know, but Space Viagra must be super effective.) Vader's final sacrifice, his ultimate act of defiance, now comes off as a minor annoyance. He might as well have stepped on the Emperor's robe while he was walking down the stairs.
Hi there, and thanks for choosing Dorkly Travel. We're your one-stop shop for all fictional fantasy wonderland getaways, tours and those family packages the kids have been begging you for. My name is Sophie Prell, and I'll be your helpful "I swear my enthusiasm is genuine" guide. From your information, I see that you've been looking at some of our city destinations. Well, sit back dear sir/madam, and allow me to fill you in on our top spots.
8) Raccoon City (Resident Evil 2 & 3)
Now I won't lie to you, I'm going to start by showing you some of our bargain packages first. They may not be as appealing as you'd like, but they certainly have character. Well, except this one. Because most everyone there is dead. Oh, and the town was decimated by a nuclear strike. Something about ungodly horrors man was not meant to see. But the radioactive fallout has cleared up a lot since then, prime real estate is very, very available, and the mountains are just lovely in the fall. Plus, the area is littered with miracle weeds that'll cure everything from bites and claw marks (their most common application prior to that whole nuke thing) to cottonmouth and herpes. So you know that's something.
Game design can be a long, difficult, drawn-out process, even for games that aren't named Duke Nukem Forever. Games can change a lot during that time, sometimes so much that the final product looks nothing like what developers started work on. Here are 6 awesome games that went through big changes to get that way.
6) Conker's Bad Fur Day-
By the late 90's, the Nintendo/Rare love connection had churned out Banjo Kazooie, Diddy Kong Racing, and Donkey Kong 64. And their next game, Twelve Tales: Conker 64, starring a diabetes-inducingly-sweet cartoon squirrel, wasn't going to stray far from the brightly-colored path.
But all wasn't well within Rare's candy-coated empire: Conker's producer, Chris Seavor, noticed some unpleasant rumblings that the market for cutesy platformers was over-saturated, that fans weren't excited about another one, that no one cared about a stupid squirrel who didn't even have an awesome bird living in his backpack.
So he did what any responsible game designer would do: he killed Twelve Tales on the spot and brought it back to shambling unlife as a foul-mouthed parody of the very same cutesy platformers that Rare had made famous. Conker was now a reluctant, selfish hero tasked with fighting hangovers, Teddy Bear Nazis and singing piles of sh!t all in order to makes some quick cash. It was such a balls-out insane shift in direction that most people thought it was a joke until the game actually saw release. Bad Fur Day was fun and funny but sold poorly, mostly thanks to Nintendo's reluctance to advertise the family-unfriendly title.
It takes a lot to make a good fighting game. You need a balanced roster, engaging graphics, and a style that is both fun to pick up and play, yet rewards dedication and practice. But, most importantly, you need one Native American stereotype. No more, no less. Here's our tribute to the characters that filled that mandatory diversity spot on their respective rosters.
7. Julia / Michelle Chang, Tekken
Reason for entering tournament: Everyone wants their tribe's magic amulet.
Special Moves: Twin Arrow, Snake Step
Michelle discovered Julia as a baby, though if you were just judging on strategy guides you'd swear they were related by blood. They have the same fighting style, combos, and special moves. Michelle starred in the first two Tekken games, but was replaced by her daughter because Tekken actually has a timeline that moves forward and it would be completely unrealistic if an older woman was competing in the Tekken tournament. How would she ever stand a chance against the android Jack or the boxing kangaroo Roger?
Any game worth playing takes many hours out of your life, and after investing all that time, you want to feel rewarded. The most satisfying reward is a happy ending for your character, but some brassy-balled developers have figured out ways to depress the player without disappointing them. Here are the ten most depressing endings to videogames.
10. Sonic Adventure 2
At the climax of the Dreamcast classic-via-nostalgia-but-not-when-you-actually-play-it-again Sonic Adventure 2, the dark hedgehog Shadow falls to earth from space, sacrificing himself to save the world. I feel obligated to include this on the list, as killing a main character does qualify as a sad ending, but I would never put it any higher than this if you're at all like me, the less Sonic characters there are from after 1994, the better. I just remembered Big the Cat exists, and it nearly ruined my day.
Boss fights are a staple of video games these days, but they're kind of a pain. You can't step ten feet into an ancient sunken city without some mechano-magick guardian spoiling your adventure. Buzzkill, right? Well, remember that bosses are people too (and monsters, and robots, and aliens, etc.) so they're just like us. And, just like us, sometimes they happen to be freaking weirdos who frankly stand waaaay too close while talking to you. These are their stories.
For brevity's sake, we're only discussing stateside releases here. The Internet's tubes aren't long enough to list every bishojo game where the only "boss" to speak of is decency and respect.
8) Ray vs. Rex Metal Gear Solid 4
Okay, let's all step back from our love of this game and the series in general, and try to see this fight for what it is: A giant robot dinosaur armed with missiles and lasers fighting another giant robot dino
with missiles and a Super Soaker in its mouth. Sure it's cool and refreshing to have some completely new gameplay that allowed us to take control of the franchise's iconic weapons of war, but in the end, the only thing I was personally inspired to do was dig up the old VHS tapes of "Godzilla vs. King Ghidora." Don't even act like he wasn't your favorite kaiju.
7) Sticks And Stones, And Now Words Too Psychonauts
Psychonauts was an under-loved creation from Tim Schafer, creator of cult classics like Grim Fandango _and franken-genre titles like _BrÃ¼tal Legend. It starred children that could've easily been cast members from a Tim Burton-reimagined "Muppet Show," with main character Raz delving into others' minds to solve puzzles and progress through the game. Here, traumatic memories and psychoses took on physical forms, such as that of the theatre critic, Jasper. This bubble-bodied thesbian hater (and really, who hates on thesbians?) literally hurled insults at you from his ink pen cannons. Constructive, Jasper! We always want our criticism to be constructive!
Pokemon is one of the most recognized, most-adored video game franchises in the world. Its addictive "catch 'em all" formula is so potent it's basically a mandatory $35 tax on having a child. But dozens of competitors have also tried to create their own collectible monster empires; some have done well, some haven't. But every game's subtext is clear: "I wish I was Pokemon. I want to be Pokemon so bad." Here are six of the jealous types:
6) Dragon Warrior Monsters:
If Japanese RPG's were a high school, Dragon Warrior/Quest would be a decade-reigning-super-senior with a legal drinking ID and the popularity of 12 condensed Fonzies. Let the other franchises come and go Dragon Quest will still be sitting here on his truckbed, pounding beers with his buddy Final Fantasy for as long as the genre exists. Until, (record scratch), that Pokemon kid from across town showed up and upset the pecking order. That's when DQ lowered his sunglasses and muttered "I gots to learn me those moves."
So we get Dragon Warrior Monsters and the "privilege" of catching monsters instead of just swording them to death. Charmed, thank you. But there is some awesome news: when filling out their bestiary, DWM dipped into six RPG's worth of old enemies, meaning we could command mummies, robots, and ghost dragons of our very own. But while post-capture Pokemon unconditionally love you as if you weren't the same wandering jackass who beat them into unconsciousness, these guys had to be watched, or they'd go wild again. Plus, getting a monster you wanted was a lot more complicated than tossing a Pokeball. You could lure the basic ones with meat, but if you wanted an Ultra-rare Godspawn of your very own, you had to hatch it. And that meant generation after generation of monster breeding. But hey, if watching two mummies pork was your goal, then maybe this is the game for you.
It's Easter time again, and you know what that means: it's time for gamers everywhere to give thanks for the random in-jokes, half-baked secrets, and weird nerdy references that developers hide inside our videogames. Here are nine of the most fun Easter Eggs in recent memory.
9) GTA: San Andreas- No Easter Eggs Up Here
You wouldn't know it from GTA IV's gritty, post-soviet realism, but there used to be a time when this franchise was wacky and light-hearted. A time when you wielded jetpacks, fighter planes and weaponized dildos against increasingly cartoonish odds. This egg is from that era, and it's so out there that it looks like James Franco and Joaquin Phoenix made it up at one of their metafictional postmodern orgies. If you fly your jetpack to the very top of the Gant Bridge, you'll find a large inscription reading: "There are no Easter eggs up here. Go away." Which is itself an Easter egg. But it's not. But it is. But it's man, I wish it were still cool to make Inception jokes.
Sure, M. Night Shyamalamadingdong's The Sixth Sense scared the crap out of us and shocked audiences nationwide with its at-the-time remarkable ending. But videogames have had some pretty substanstial "ZOMGWTFNOWAI" moments too, and they deserve no less love. Here are 8 of the most memorable plot twists in videogames:
8) No lives remaining (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare)
While debate still rages as to whether the CoD series or Halo is the more legitimate contender to the FPS throne, hardly anyone disputes the shock and awe why yes, that wordplay was intentional that floored us all when, after extracting a team of U.S. Marines in CoD4: Modern Warfare, a nuclear threat is rumored, established, and executed within moments. At the level's climax, the game violently snatches victory from your hand like an angry sugar-high toddler as it screams in your face, "NO! MINE!"
In video games we're always accustomed to having one more life, to having one more try. But here you were forced to watch a distinctly disempowering scene as a city was decimated, your mission was failed, and your protagonist died. Real life warfare kinda sucks, huh?