Call of Duty: Ghosts


Despite major the personnel change following the release of Modern Warfare 2, few franchises could claim to have moved the sheer number of units as Call of Duty by the end of the seventh console generation. Modern Warfare 3 and the two Black Ops installments in particular stand as some of the greatest selling games of all time, with sales figures exceeding thirty-million each. As each entry in the Modern Warfare trilogy eclipsed the last in terms of sales, Activision requested the creation of a new game on an annual basis. By 2013, the seventh console generation was nearing its end. This year in particular proved to be a something of a tumultuous time for the industry. Though titles such as BioShock: Infinite and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, were excellent swansongs, companies – publishers in particular – seemed to become less scrupulous with their marketing tactics. One of the worst cases of this occurred in February of 2013 when, in a move that wouldn’t seem out of place in the eighties or nineties, a review embargo was effected in order to sell one-million units of the terrible Aliens: Colonial Marines.

In November of 2013, the annual release of the latest Call of Duty installment, Call of Duty: Ghosts, installment came to pass. As per usual, the marketing campaign was extensive, ensuring that even those who don’t play games knew of its existence. Taking the reviews at face value, one could get the impression that what Infinity Ward, Neversoft, and Raven Software created was a decent game.

The fan response was a different story. Immediately after the game’s release, a faction of enthusiasts took to the aggregate review site Metacritic to write immensely negative pieces in protest. By 2013, the gaming sphere as a whole had a notorious reputation for being reactionary with their backlash to the positive reception of Gone Home earlier in the year being a particularly egregious example. However, there was one piece of evidence to suggest that these weren’t the actions of an unduly negative, yet vocal minority. While the installments leading up to Call of Duty: Ghosts broke sales records, this one didn’t fare quite as well. Activision blamed the slump of demand on the uncertainty caused by the impending start of the eighth console generation. The mid-2010s was a time when the opinions of critics and those of fans often clashed with each other. Was Call of Duty: Ghosts a decent game unfairly lambasted or the disaster those fans made it out to be?

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The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker


The year 2001 marked the launch of the Nintendo 64’s successor, the Nintendo GameCube. Fans began waiting with bated breath for their big-name franchises to make an appearance on this new platform. In particular, they couldn’t wait to see a new installment in their venerable The Legend of Zelda series. Expectations were at an all-time high; after all, with Ocarina of Time, the series broke into 3D, allowing it to grasp something it needed to evolve that was always just out of reach in its early days. Ocarina of Time could claim to have been the most acclaimed game in history when it was released. Majora’s Mask did the impossible by surpassing it a mere two years later. With its surrealistically morose setting, Eiji Aonuma and his team achieved a level of greatness a majority of creators go their entire careers without reaching.

Before Majora’s Mask was completed in 2000, Nintendo formed plans for a new installment for their upcoming console. Much of the team returned for this game as well; Eiji Aonuma helmed this project while Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka served as producers. Early concept art followed the aesthetics established by Ocarina of Time. To demonstrate the new system’s capabilities, the team created a brief clip of series protagonist Link facing off against Ganondorf, which was then shown at the 2000 Space World exposition. It resonated with fans, who hoped it was a preview of the new game.

Behind the scenes, however, the team had difficulties incorporating this art style into their project. Mr. Aonuma in particular hated the clip, feeling it was too derivative of the past installments. Production stalled until designer Yoshiki Haruhana created a cartoonish drawing of Link’s younger self from Ocarina of Time. The instant design manager Satoru Takizawa saw it, he saw limitless potential.

“With a character like that, we can give him actions that will look and feel good no matter how he moves!”

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Haruhana drew a Moblin, one of the series’ famous reoccurring monsters, in a similar style. From there, the rest of the team also began to also see the possibilities afforded by the art style. To render it properly, they used a technique known as cel shading, lending the presentation the feel of an interactive cartoon. It proved to be exactly what the team needed, and development began to proceed swiftly.

In the 2001 Space World exposition, Nintendo presented a new clip. Though the franchise had gained many fans thanks to the success of their previous two 3D games, the reception of this clip was deeply mixed. Some enjoyed the new look while others derisively dubbed it “Celda”. More than a few posts on gaming forums mocked the character design, believing it made Link look like a girl. Mr. Miyamoto was surprised at this response, and decided the best course of action would be to not reveal any further information about the game until the team finished a playable demonstration.

Next year at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) conference, the game was shown alongside another upcoming GameCube Zelda title. In a case of poor timing, Mr. Miyamoto’s presentation was plagued by numerous glitches as he tried to showcase one of Link’s new abilities. Despite this, the tentative game received more of a positive reception than it did at Space World. Nonetheless, the divided response to the art style hounded the game for the rest of its development cycle. In October of 2002, the game’s full name was finally revealed to the public: The Legend of Zelda: Baton of Wind. Later in December, the game saw its domestic release. In 2003, the game would be released in North America, Europe, and Australia under the name The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.

Any negative sentiments lodged toward The Wind Waker during its development did not reflect in its critical reception, as much like Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, it proceeded to win countless “Game of the Year” awards. Even with the evidence right in front of them, many fans refused to play it simply based on its art style, and this adverse reaction affected sales. Years later, many of those same people who thoughtlessly dismissed it began to look upon it more favorably. By the end of the decade, many declared it one of the best games of the decade with some declaring it a superior effort to Ocarina of Time. Just what did those fans choose to mock in the early 2000s?

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A Question for the Readers #1: Living up to the Hype

Over the years, I’ve answered open questions on the blogs of others, and they’ve led to many interesting discussions. As I’ve tried out several new kinds of posts in 2018, I thought I might give this a spin myself. I will propose a question, and you can either answer it in the comments section or write your own post on the subject – it’s all up to you. Naturally, I’ll participate too by providing my own answer.

Whether a work receives universal retroactive praise or manages to achieve perfect scores across the board upon release, hype is something we’ve all had to deal with at one point or another when consuming media. More often than not, it also tends to factor into our feelings walking away from a work shortly after having experienced it.  For the very first question here on Extra Life, we will be focusing on the times in which the hype was only barely an exaggeration. Continue reading

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations


Shortly after the success of Turnabout Trial in 2001, Shu Takumi’s boss, Shinji Mikami suggested that they make a trilogy with a grand finale in the third game. Atsushi Inaba, the game’s producer then called Mr. Takumi into a meeting once the latter returned from a vacation. Mr. Inaba asked requested the script for five episodes in the span of three and a half months. Despite these outrageous terms, Mr. Takumi managed to get his work done on time, though one episode had to be cut due to memory constraints. Regardless, Turnabout Trial 2 was released roughly one year after the original’s debut. It too became a success, and there was only one game left to work on. Unlike the case with Turnabout Trial 2, production of the trilogy’s concluding installment went smoothly, though the development cycle lasted slightly longer, being released in January of 2004. Named Turnabout Trial 3, it continued the series’ success, helping to retain the following it gathered with the previous two entries.

A few years later in the West, the success of Turnabout Trial 2, retitled Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice for All, demonstrated the series’ staying power. It was only logical to localize the final game as well. However, the localization process was less than ideal. With the localized title Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations, it saw a release in North America in October of 2007, yet it was conspicuously absent in other regions. Despite getting prerelease reviews in gaming publications, the DS version was not released in Australia, though they did eventually receive the port on the Wii in 2010. Furthermore, it was delayed in Europe to the extent that the next game in the series, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, saw its release first. It’s speculated that ratings complications is what caused this to happen. Some fans had to wait an unreasonably long time for Trials and Tribulations to come out in their region. Did their patience pay off? Was Mr. Takumi able to defy the perceived curse involving trilogies and end this one on a triumphant note?

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Responding to My Mystery Blogger Award Nomination

Despite running my review site for some time, I must admit I’ve never actually set aside the time to respond to the occasional Mystery Blogger Award Nominations that have come my way. That changes today. I am honored to have been nominated by The3rdPlayer at 3PStart, whose blog is certainly worth looking into, and this seemed like a lot of fun so I’ll get right to it.

Evidently, this award was created by one Okoto Enigma as a means to help spread the word of great bloggers out there and create a strong community, which is a cause I can get behind.

The rules are as follows:

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog.
  • List the rules.
  • Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  • You have to nominate 10 – 20 people.
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.
  • Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny
  • Share a link to your best post(s).

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The early internet age gave rise to the popularity of a piece of software called RPG Maker. Though builds of this program had existed as early as 1992 on various Japanese platforms such as the Super Famicom, it would gain international popularity when the first Windows version was released. Its greatest appeal was that it allowed anyone to craft their own experiences in the medium. Before, one would need a degree of expertise to even entertain the idea of making a game. In spring of 2014, a gaming community centered on the software, RPG Maker Web, held a contest for aspiring indie developers. Dubbed the Indie Game Making Contest, the rules were simple: the entrants needed to create a game using RPG Maker, and they had from May 29 to June 30 to complete this task.

Among the entrants was a duo of programmers: Eliza Velasquez and Casey “Nightmargin” Gu. The former focused on writing the scenario and coding while the latter served as the main artist, contributing character designs and music, though there was a lot of overlap. Created in RPG Maker 2003, they named their work OneShot. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, the two of them did not win the contest. The contest was won by Red Nova for his RPG, Remnants of Isolation. Not letting the defeat damper their spirits, Ms. Velasquez and Nightmargin decided to remake and expand their creation. To this end, they upgraded to the more advanced RPG Maker XP, and recruited a third person by the name of Michael Shirt. He proved immensely helpful when it came to debugging, resolving many game-breaking issues during development. When their work was finished, they made the improved version of OneShot available for the popular digital distribution platform Steam on December 8, 2016. Upon its official release, it quickly became a hit with the reviews on Steam being described as “Overwhelmingly Positive” – a rare achievement in the community. How did this game resonate so deeply with those people?

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