In response to “Year of the Dragons Lair” from The Escapist forums:
One of my greatest arcade accomplishments was getting through Dragon’s Lair 2: Time Warp without dying once, in front of a crowd. It wasn’t easy – there’s a section about halfway through the sixth level where you have to practically jackhammer the joystick in order for the game to consider it a “successful move.” I ended up picking up the collection (both DL games and Space Ace) on CD-ROM a while back, and now and then I like watching through some of the scenes again, relishing the nostalgia trip with the sweet 80’s corniness.
While laserdisc games were pretty much doomed to fail (incredible hardware failure rates and gameplay inflexibility just being two of the problems they faced), I like to believe that they gave the gaming industry a little kick in the pants. (Of course, it’s possible that the blame for the industry’s current fixation on QTEs and long stretches of minimally-interactive narration might be indirectly laid at its feet as well, but you can’t really say they knew it’d happen.) And while worrying about what input you had to put in next made it hard to enjoy the games while you were playing them, they certainly were a blast to watch.
Plus they got a humorous shout-out in, of all places, an episode of Samurai Jack:
“The right fork in the road will take you to the dragon’s lair!”
“Where will the other fork take me?”
You wonder whether the hyperbolic claims about the industry changing nature of Dragon’s Lair were directed more at the hardware or the idea of melding game and film. If it were the hardware it’s obvious that their claims were dead wrong, though the laserdisc’s spiritual successor, cd-rom, was they linchpin of change form the 16 to 32 bit eras.
But was the idea of melding game and film so off base? Sure that sinister euphemism for mindless button pressing we call quicktime events is considered the most vulgar form of “cinematic gaming,” but the idea itself is played out in nearly every game released. Whether it’s cut scenes, dynamic camera angles, voice acting, or the tension created by atmospheric music, Bluth’s vision is re-iterated in everything from Heavy Rain to Super Mario Galaxy. We may disagree on what uses of “cinematic” techniques are successful in games and what aren’t, or whether Dragon’s Lair itself should even be honored as a trend-setter. But there’s no arguing the fact that Bluth and company were one of the first – if not the first – to attempt to make that vision a reality.
I absolutely agree that Bluth’s vision of gaming seems prescient today, especially when compared to Dyer’s endless hawking of the laserdisc. Between the two, Bluth comes across as canny and intuitive, with a real love of craft. Dyer comes across as a space alien here to harvest our skin cells.
They also seem to be extolling the virtues of two very different games. In Dyer’s case, it’s formalistic and rote – how best to train machines to spit out engaging and engrossing experiences. Bluth, on the other hand, seems honestly interested in the process of creation, including how best to juggle the elements involved. They had an art team! An orchestra! Princess Daphne’s gazungas! That’s showbiz, baby!
That said, I think it’s important to remember that Bluth’s argument towards the melding of film and game wasn’t generic, but rather fixed to a specific process. As a classical animator, he was ultimately interested in the ways in which animation would move forward and reach new audiences. From this perspective, the Dragon’s Lair offered a film-through-game, rather than a game accentuated by the cinematic techniques you mentioned – cut scenes, voice acting, framing choices, the works. The “art” of the game is top down, rather than bottom up.
But to hear Dyer and Bluth square off on their very different visions of Dragon’s Lair, I’m reminded of that classic causality dilemma: “Which game first, the artist or the egghead?”
In response to “The Worst and Best Videogame Cartoons” from The Escapist forums: A very good article, and I enjoyed the memories it brought back. Sadly it was ruined by this line:
Maybe it’s time for game cartoons to mature along with the audience that it enraptured through the ’80s.
My question is why? No matter what the adult consumers of various forms of media may think (Film, games, TV Shows, Comics etc) getting children interested is still important because they have both the brand loyalty and pester power that adults lack. Sadly, the only company that seems to realize this is Nintendo with the Wii and Marvel Comics with their Ultimate Universe series. If they ever make another cartoon series, I want it to be aimed at children as they are the ones that will keep gaming going.
Also, cartoons aimed at adults have been a flop recently with EA’s efforts for both Dante’s Inferno and Dead Space being a bit crap.
Moreover, what does it say about Luigi that he seemingly fathered an illegitimate child and dumped her on Mario’s doorstep?
Haha! The concept never even occurred to me. Cartoon protagonists in need of a spouse-free kid have siblings composed of little more than vapor, seemingly existing only long enough to start a family and foist it onto someone else. Think of it: Mickey Mouse has two nephews, Morty and Ferdie. Despite their repeated appearances, it’s never even been made clear whether Mickey has a brother or a sister. (At least we know Huey, Dewey, and Louie are the kids of Donald Duck’s sister.)
I’ve seen a few more recent series at least make the relationship single parent and child, with the other parent being made of vapor. Dead? Divorced? Living a nomadic life with the Tuareg in the western Sahara? Never mentioned. Unless perhaps the show is a long runner that needs some more plot fuel, the second parent just doesn’t exist; the kid might as well have sprung fully-formed from the head of the onscreen parent.
In response to “The Sunny Side of the Zombiepocalypse” from The Escapist forums: Absolutely adored this game… bought the moment it was available on steam. 🙂
Very good review there, but I found one thing troubling. The mention of the Walnut’s “crying” being removed before the final release? They do that when they get eaten enough. Was a major selling point for most people that watched me play it. ;P
I have played the demo of Plants vs Zombies and heart-warmingly want it since. Its quite something, its original in nearly every way possible, and is definitely worth more than the $9.99 they offer it for you.
In response to “How Walt Disney Created Manga” from The Escapist forums: Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck by Carl Barks were successful in Germany for a different reason then the reason for the success in Japan.
The German localization by Erika Fuchs was indeed better than the original scripts. She included references to famous works of literature and included brilliant puns which became part of common parlor. Many linguists believe that she turned very good adventurous escapism into a deeper work of fiction. Not to insult Barks in any way.
P.S.: Do not forget that Disney took from Osamu Tezuka as well. Lion King and Kimba are practically the same movie.
Yes, Tezuka was greatly inspired by ol’ Walt, but so too did the respect go the other way. To say that manga (but you mean anime) was “created” by Disney is a bit hyperbolistic (is that word? It is so fun to say!). There is so much in Japanese anime which comes from manga that isn’t marketed much beyond Japanese shores due to its lack of ‘cultural compatibility’. There are many examples within that which owe far more to traditional artforms such as Ukiyo-e and woodblock prints. The angular lines and characteristically sparse detail that still manages to “say so much,” and even the way that illustrations can enter almost entirely iconographic realms of expression and then back out again in the blink of a frames frame: it draws as much more from traditional art in Japan as it does, at least technically, from Walt. The first Japanese “comic” is apparently at probably two hundred years old. I have seen it in a museum.
Oh and, I don’t recall hearing animation ever referred to as “manga,” which is, as far as my experience in Japan, a word reserved for comics. Anime, a now imported Japanese contraction, is however, exclusively for pictures of the movie kind. The confusion is probably due to the Western anime distributor named Manga Entertainment.
And also, the Disney film, Atlantis is practically a theft … er … remake of a single series Japanese anime, of a name that now escapes me.