Well, that’s me and Ed Boon of Mortal Kombat fame at E3 2011 in that pic above. I had a great time at E3 this year, and was invited by the All Things All Things podcast to stop by and talk about the show.
We get into Bastion from Warner Bros, Nintendo’s Wii U but of course, Sony’s Vita & Microsoft’s Xbox. As well as the hunt for niche titles like That Game Studio’s Journey and Last Guardian.
For such a fast moving and competitive industry, video gaming sure is hung up on a lot of gameplay conventions from its past. Specifically, I’m talking about holdouts from its heritage in the arcades: Where gameplay was admitted as a limited use contract in exchange for your quarter.
The arcades differ greatly than the home console experience we are used to today. And yet the tricks and techniques which ensnared, ensured and “encouraged” repeated dips of your quarters into those arcade cabinets still remain in the modern home video game. And we’re going to take a look at a few that need to get the fuck out.
The Energy Bar
Why in the world is this still around? I think most developers nowadays know the energy bar’s full of shit. Most notably Bungie kicked off the new movement of replacing the energy bar with the “rechargeable shield” way back in 2001 in the original Halo for Xbox. As long as you can find cover, your energy bar will recharge. You are no longer troubled looking for limited med packs in some crappy ass dungeon. There is still the possibility of dying in the game, however, so we’re still not 100% out the clear just yet. But this is progress. And I’m happy to see it adapted by many games nowadays.
Why 3? Why are we usually afforded 3 lives unless we choose easy and then we get something like 5? Regardless, the number is arbitrary; lives are a benign concept in the modern day. May we remind you, developers: this is no longer the arcade. The idea is no longer to rope in our quarters. Snap out of it. We’ve already paid you our money, now allow us to play our game!
If there’s one hangup from the arcade days that has absolutely, undisputedly no right to exist on a home console it is the idea of the “Continue”. It usually goes like this: Die 3 times in a row, the game will ask you, “Do you want to continue?”…Do I want to continue? Didn’t I just spend $60 on you, you piece of shit game? You think I want to just give up and stop? The Continue deserves to be remanded to gaming’s past for eternity. It’s time to (gulp) continue onward…
Motherfucking bosses…As a grown man in my 30′s, I don’t have time for bosses. You play a game for a bit, you take the time to learn the (more than likely convoluted) controls, you invest a bit of time — maybe even a couple of hours — and then BOOM: You get up to a boss. And then you die. And then you start back up after watching some shitty load screen and fight the boss again. And die again. You didn’t learn the pattern yet, dummy! So you repeat the cycle. It’s bullshit. And more than likely you’ll have to do this a few times during the course of the game as you will surely fight different bosses throughout the levels. If you’re REALLY lucky, some dumbass developer (usually Capcom) will even include a BOSS GAUNTLET where you have to re-fight every boss you’ve already beaten in the game back-to-back for no explicable reason but to pad a misleading sense of “value” to your $60 purchase.
I’ll admit it: Bosses were cool back in the day when you and five of your homies were fighting Mag-Fuckin-Neato on Konami’s 6-player arcade X-Men cabinet. But know when bosses aren’t cool? When you’re tired from working 8+ hours a day at your day job and you have to pick the kids up afterwards from school and take them to soccer practice and then you have to make dinner and then you finally have time to sit down and play some games at the end of the night and, oh? What? You’re stuck at a boss! And you feel no sense of progress because you can’t beat the damn level!
Know who’s that old and has similar kinds of responsibilities? Everyone that grew up playing arcade games! Figure it out!
Kill The Noise
Now if you look at these examples, what do they all have in common? What is the single thread these gameplay conventions all lead to?….DEATH. They are designed to facilitate your virtual DEATH in the game. Which made complete sense back in the arcade: You wanted the game player to keep pumping in those quarters. That’s how everyone from the developer of the game, to the hardware manufacturer on down to the arcade operator made their money. But you see, in modern times? Like right now? Not olden times like the arcade? We game players have already paid our money. A lot, arguably, in fact. Roughly $60 worth. That’s 240 plays at $.25 a pop. Maybe that’s a deal. Who knows.
Sort that one out in the blog’s comments. But my point is why are you trying to kill me?? It’s like punishment. I’ve already paid you, now you want to punish me and kill me every chance you get? 3 lives, energy bar, limited continues…
I’m all for making a game challenging, but I posit if we can shake off these old, outdated gameplay conventions, video games can progress forward and evolve.
So there you have it. I am and always will be a fan of the arcade game. And in fact some genres know they’re forever destined to be “arcade games” such as the Shmup genre. And that’s fine. But everyone else, pay heed: That shit’s dead.
Hip-Hop beats were built on producers digging through crates of old, dusty vinyl records in the elusive search for the Perfect Sample. But some of these dudes apparently have been digging through yard sales and the used video game rack at GameStop too because there’s quite a bit of video game sampling going on in hiphop.
Below are some mad random hiphop songs with some random-ass video game samples in ‘em. I didn’t bother with obvious things like, “Oh shit! Smif n’ Wessun sampled Mario Brothers!”. And I’m going to ignore the fact that DJ Sega sampled (wait for it) a Sega game. Let’s break it down bit by bit…
BMS, “Mucho Stereo” Vs. Mortal Kombat (Genesis)
If you own this record, props. I personally love this track.
If the name “BMS” rings familiar, then you were probably buying records in the mid-to-late 90′s. “Mucho Stereo” is a sick 12″ that dropped in ’98 with the El-P produced Indelibles cut, “Weight” on the flip side. But the BMS tune, produced by the man himself, is the one. The crazy thing about this track though is it samples the Genesis version of Mortal Kombat (1993) which has an entirely different soundtrack than the arcade version — or even its Super Nintendo brother, for that matter. Still, I personally like the Genesis music. Check out the sample below:
Janet Jackson, “China Love” Vs. Legend of Mana
OK, OK, I’m cheating a bit. I know Janet Jackson isn’t hiphop. I, mean, don’t get me wrong: Janet’s HIPHOP. But her music ain’t hiphop. Alright, anyway…
This one blew my mind, I had to include it. Who the fuck is playing Legend of Mana — a Japanese role-playing game on Playstation from 1999 — up in Janet’s camp? Jimmy Jam? Or Terry Lewis? This shit bugged me out so bad, I had to figure out what was going on here. And sure enough, in the book (remember when music came with booklets?) it reads: “* Contains a sample from the Square game ‘Legend of Mana’”. *MIND BLOWN*
Tajai & SupremeEx, “Fluid Motion” Vs. Tobal 2
Now you may be asking yourself: “Yameen, how is it you know so much about video game samples in hiphop songs?” Well, it just so happens I have sampled a few video games in the past myself my attorney informs me that it’s something I can assure everyone I know from experience, as per “considerable time spent in the hiphop game” (pun partially intended).
In 1999, Tajai & *ahem* SupremeEx released their EP, Projecto: 2501. On it was the song, Fluid Motion which sampled an obscure part of an obscure import video game known as Tobal 2. When this game came out on the original PlayStation in 1997, it was a marvel to behold. Unfortunately, due to dismal sales of its predecessor, Tobal 2 was never released on American shores.
The sample takes place in the Quest Mode of the game which is entirely in Japanese. So if you don’t know Japanese, you probably won’t get very far. But that didn’t stop SupremeEx from flipping It.
Del the Funky Homosapien, “Proto Culture” Vs. Darkstalkers
Now, I’ll be the first to admit: even though it’s still “obscure” as far as mid-90′s hiphop is concerned, this is one of the more well known video game-sampling hiphop tracks. Not only does it sample Capcom’s influential 2D fighting game, Darkstalkers from 1994, but Del & rhyming accomplice Khaos Unique go one step further by rapping EXCLUSIVELY about video games on the entire track.
I was working with Del when this song came out in 2000, so I’m very fond of it. [bragging-writes](It’s also the song Del performed at the Sega Dreamcast American launch party in San Francisco in 1999 that YA BOY helped hook up, so, yahmeen…)[/bragging-writes] Peep the tracks!
Jay-Z, “Money, Cash, Hoes” Vs. Golden Axe
OK. I’m gonna throw a little bonus joint out there. I call it a bonus joint because I’m not 100% certain on this one. And Jay-Z is far from an obscure hiphop artist. But I’m almost positive this one’s a match: Swizz Beats sampled Golden Axe on the Sega Genesis for the 1999 Jay-Z/DMX track, “Money, Cash, Hoes”. Don’t believe me? Peep the evidence and let me know what you think:
Well, that’s it for this round of obscure rap records sampling obscure video games. Hope you enjoyed it. Tune in next time for more obscure bit beats.
UPDATE (07-27-2013): Shouts out to my mans Wayne Boothe at All Things All Things for hipping me to this video from SPIN magazine. All kinds of video game samples in it. Plus, I’m apparently getting confirmation on that Jay-Z / Golden Axe sample which is cool. Thanks, Boothe!