Thursday, May 29, 2008

Finding the Sands

With a new chapter on the way.. I thought it would be interesting to look back on the "Sands of Time" trilogy. And how it possible may still have some connections. Consider this a note to my longtime friends from "The Swordsmen" -which was the community built within Ubi to promote the PoP series..

- Origins
When the sands were made many generations ago, their foundations were built upon "light & dark". Once the darkness was disturbed, it opened a rift within "the past & present", the powers that be gave artificial energy to the sands. As we've learned, this "new" prince encounters these beings that fought centuries ago (adorned within the palace walls in "Sands").

- Past, Present, or Future?
There was a long debate many PoP fans disagreed with.
1) Did the Prince really go home?
2) Was it his fate to save?
3) Or did he die once he put on the mask?
4) Where did the sands come from?
5) What was the Prince's name?

1) A - yes he did, but since his decision had been made, its true reality had been made.
2) A - yes & no, in the prelude trailers we saw early on for Warrior Within, he was said to die.
But since fate changed, everything was different in the long run.
3) A - that is to be answered, but I feel strongly that he may have died. Seeing as how it was also cursed, sapping away at his energy until he made his way. In a sense he became a sand creature, alot like the Dahaka.. but still mortal.
4) A - Settled within the temples of the Maharajah, the Prince encounters a manuscript that tells the tale of someone that found it long ago. Once using the dagger, was able to find the Sands and bring it elsewhere. (could it possibly be the Prince we become in the newer entry?)
5) A - As we've found out recently in reports of the film coming soon, Dastan is his given name. But we never knew of his name in the trilogy. A lot of fans did some digging to find out what his rich history could have been. But its nestled on the fact it could be more than one person that carries the name or title.

defintion -

- Sands influence (Silent Hill)
In Konami's series "Silent Hill", it is a place long forgotten that carried a dark past. Once someone stepped into its grounds, they were enveloped in darkness. Its powers originated in the earth, and found itself nestled within that persons psyche testing their heart. But when it found who they truly were, it found bind them to their fate.

In the "Sands" trilogy, we've always noticed a trail of "sands" flowing within the dagger, to surrounding the Prince in Warrior Within, and Two Thrones. But what is most unsettling is that maybe its consuming him more, and more like a drug. (SH also had a dark narrative of a drug known as "White Claudia" meant to drive the person's manifestations as if they are under someone's control)

Now was the Empress truly there, and did she die? That is another head scratcher, she was known to be an observer, but was mortal in a sense. Since it was her being the creator, and protector of the sands. Kaileena's true age is not known, and may possibly be centuries old.
But once the Prince took her away from the "Island of Time", she was mortal. Until the Vizer took her life force, freeing her as an entity (her true form).

Another thing to note, of all the enemies that the Prince faced within the Castle, they were from his own conscience. (likewise in Silent Hill, most of the creatures you encounter were things created from your nightmares.. or something more that was left behind)

- Sand Creature Prince
Once the wearer puts on the mask, they become one of the Sands. With speed, stamina, and grace.. but only one thing... you can die. The more the pursuer wears the said mask, their life force will be drained. As for how he encounters himself later on.. its opened two possibilities.
1) the earlier prince will go his onward on his quest.. but with help
2) *since there are two endings.. an earlier prince (without all the life pieces) will take down the Empress
3) the true prince (with all life pieces obtained) will take down the Dahaka
*as we find out with the latter... taking Kaileena and heading home, the real fate that lies ahead

- Responsibility
"what is done, cannot be undone"
In the long run, from the Dagger, to the Empress it was a lesson in humanity. Once the Prince opened the sacred treasure, he tied his soul to the sands themselves. For many years after, he went on a conquest to find anyone who knew of the "Sands" creator to take away the curse. Thus his quest nearly met an end with Dahaka getting closer to taking his essence. Which throughout some of the cutscenes in WW explains a bit of foreshadowing his return back home. (if he didn't take Kaileena with him) With her being beside him, it added a bit of safe passage as it were.. and explains a bit more on how they both returned safely... until he finds his homeland taken away from him.

Close to his "future past", were the lands he fought within.. from his memories aboard the boat. To seeking out this "Island", its not known just how many that could have been taken down. But there was a DS game said to be the "inside" piece together his battles.

"The voice inside my head"
In Two Thrones, with Kaileena's spirit released, and the Vizer taking ahold of Babylon. The prince is taken aback.. his darker self comes out (the unhumbled extent of his conscience, lusting for power) while the other is seeking redemption. *also an extra note Yuri Lowenthal reprised his role as the normal Prince, where Robin Atkins Downes portrays the power hungry "Dark Prince".

Yet with things set right, does the Prince & Farah live happily ever after? I believe that is up to the players imagination.

There are many open possibilities within this next chapter.. we are all looking forward to it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Are You Ready!? Bustah wooolf!

Recently went through some of my arcade fighting games on the XBOX. And I find it humbling, that they are still challenging. From KOF to DOA, the rebound always surprises me. But I also find a lot of newer stuff lacking in the "design" department. I have to be honest, I was never much of a 3D fighting game fan to begin with. I actually felt some were too hard to enjoy. Either it was the design of some titles, or just the controls; it felt bizarre.

Whenever I take the dive to play a 2D game, you get that thought in the back of your mind. "Hey this is what I remember, but why can't I do this as well in the other one?" Its something that's bugged me with KOF MI, just something about it feels "hit & miss".

Not too long ago, I heard some mean critique towards DOA. "this game is a joke @ tourneys" why? I try to look up reasons why, but it seems like a solid enough game (1 - easy controls , 2 - pick up n' play, 3 characters you get attached to, 4 its challenging vs another player) Er what's more to ask from a fighting game than that? For myself, I'm not much of a pro player, but I do enjoy playing against others. *Although Live feels a bit limited, being so used to playing against another person beside me.

Ever since games have become more of a push to obtain Online connectivity. I find something missing in SNK's titles, no one's online. Or its just difficult to match up against others, which is kinda disorienting. If SNK or MS could get the kinks out, playing others shouldn't be this much of a hassle. (sigh) we haven't seen a new SNK game in awhile on a MS system.. hell we don't even know about XII's release.. (we didn't even see XI on the Xbox)

I look through my gaming library in a humble manner, because its something I am truly proud of. Even though I haven't purchased a new title in months, it doesn't bug me. Its just the way things are lately, that make it challenging to decide on buying a game period. Although SFIIHDRMX is somewhere.. I dunno I'm still skeptical with retouching a game like that. Just going to have to wait, and see, right.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sexy sexy, sexy man

This weeks "Gaming Treasures" focuses on the arcade game "Jojo's Bizarre Adventure".
(Note: For those of you who haven't heard of the manga its based on; here is a quick summary)
- series created by Hirohiko Araki (the man that does not age)

*Taking place in the 3rd book of the series, vol 12 / ch. 14.
Jotaro Kujo is the great grandson of Jonathan Joestar. After getting entangled with some guys at school, which leads to him being put in jail. Jotaro questions if he's losing his mind, after seeing an arm appear aways from his own body; protecting his being. Wanting to test himself, taking a gun, finding out its been deflected, (before his prison visit, to which his mother Holly makes the call).
Later, his grandfather, and guardian / card reader Avdol pay a visit. Which leads to them bringing him out, and opens his mind to the realization; that he no longer fought alone but could use an astral form to protect his spirit.

Which in-game is actually the opening sequence, right after you select Jotaro. And thus begins with the worldwide quest to find an evil villain long forgotten, now arisen once more.

*The stories within the Jojo series take place in the form of generations. This being the 3rd, its not angst ridden, but more of a "stepping stone".

Within JBA, you can take part as hero or villain, depending on either side; the story envelopes your character against any opposition in their tale. Some live, some die, making it a diverse way of storytelling. *in a Metal Gear sort of fashion, you begin to understand just how big the story actually is; once you grow close to an ally.

What makes Jojo stand apart from other fighting games out there, is that its finessed directly from the manga. Although in-game its engrossed with colors abound, a finishing move contains a transparency of black & white.

JBA is actually a set of two games, as follows:
ジョジョの奇妙な冒険 (JoJo no Kimyouna Bouken) - Jojo's Venture
ジョジョの奇妙な冒険 未来への遺産 (JoJo no Kimyouna Bouken) - Jojo's Bizarre Adventure - Heritage for the Future

- Design
For anyone who grew up with fighters, this game broadened its design with some neat ideas. Although it played like a traditional fighter, it also brought in a new aesthetic. Within the JBA 3rd gen chapter, the idea of "spirits" emulating as "stands" became a core part of the storyline. Thus they carried influence in this game tenfold. Adding a mix of designs closely resembling SNK's Samurai Shodown (instead of swords, spirits entangled with fists or energy) protecting their wielders chi until it ran out.

- PSX ver
Contained a variety of modes, story, and some exclusive characters (and Super Story Mode)
- Dreamcast ver
Remix port of the PSX, with extra characters.

What made both versions of the game stand out, was that its design came from the CPS3. Anyone who played Darkstalkers, Street Fighter 3, and Marvel vs Capcom played games based off the game arcade setup. Which at the time, with the PSX had some remakes due to limitations in hardware, until they found a way to tweak; with impressive results. Plus the Dreamcast ports contained some extra incentive, slightly better resolution, and could push more memory.

Overall, JBA is a fun experience and a game that anyone that enjoys fun manga should check out. And if you haven't read the manga, you definitely should.