Drakengard 3’s DLC – Should you buy it?

The new "pop-up" style for cutscenes--likely cheaper and easier to render than the other ones.

The new “pop-up” style for cutscenes–likely cheaper and easier to render than the other ones.

I’m here yet again to talk about Drakengard 3–is anyone tired of it yet?  All humor aside, it’s a game I think has been tragically overlooked by many, even with its rough edges, and I can’t stop thinking about it for a variety of reasons.  The most recent reason?  Its DLC, which I bought a few months ago and just recently got around to finishing.  Since this DLC is quite expensive ($30 for 6 new chapters), and since Drakengard 3 is already a game not too many people have “got around” to playing yet, I thought it would be useful to some if I did a little overview/review of what the DLC entails, to help all of you decide whether or not to purchase them.

First off, let’s talk about what you get in the DLC chapters.  There is one for each of the sisters, One through Five, and a new prologue chapter for Zero.  Each of these chapters is four stages (with one of those being a dragon level) that take about an hour or so to complete in total.  You play as Zero’s sisters for the first time, but this isn’t much more than a model swap with many of the same animations.  Each of them also have their own weapon, one of the four types from the original game, with its own stats and attack patterns–these weapons also unlock for the main game after finishing each chapter.  You can level up each sister but on a much smaller scale that caps at 10.  There are a few cutscenes for each chapter, most of them in a new pop-up storybook style that works quite well if not appearing a bit cheaply made.  Every chapter also has TONS of in-game VO fleshing out the sister in question and her relationship with her Disciple (including One’s “new” Disciple).

The DLC handily contrives a reason for dragon levels by having One's dragon, Gabriella, aid each sister.

The DLC handily contrives a reason for dragon levels by having One’s dragon, Gabriella, aid each sister.

The story of each of these chapters is obviously tailored to the sister it stars, exploring part of their life before the events of Drakengard 3 occurred.  Because of this, the DLC does a much better job relating each of the sisters to the player than the main game ever did.  Also, many of the questions you would probably want to know after playing the main game are answered in these chapters, either indirectly or during the actual events of the gameplay. The most interesting of these in my opinion are easily Two’s chapter, where you learn how she became catatonic in the events of the main game, and Zero’s prologue chapter, which details how she met her original dragon Mikhail.  The rest vary in relevance, some focusing on humor instead of serious backstory, but they are all at least entertaining enough to experience once.

Furthering this backstory information are the Memoirs for each sister.  These Memoirs are a series of relatively short journal entries from that chapter’s sister that unlock as you level up the sister in question.  Many of these mimic the tone found in each sister’s chapter: for example, Five’s Memoirs are a series of orders she made to a speciality store for things like high-end cuisine, art she cares little about, and even a variety of sex toys.  These journal entries pack some of the funniest bits of the entire DLC.  Four’s journal, easily my favorite, contradicts her usual “holier-than-thou” tone of perfection with what essentially consists of a burn book towards everyone in her life, including herself.  It’s unfortunate that this entertaining writing is stuck behind an arbitrary leveling process, one that forces you to replay the smallish amount of content multiple times, but the Memoirs are easy enough to find online (link) if you’re curious.

Two's chapter is a tragic, yet well-told story of how she lost her mind.

Two’s chapter is a tragic, yet well-told story of how she lost her mind.

The strength of each of these DLC chapters varies greatly from one to the next, for various reasons.  You are locked into a certain weapon type for each sister, meaning that you may have to use spears or chakrams exclusively–even if you don’t much care for those types of weapons.  Some of the chapters throw a lot of rather difficult enemies at you, demanding excellent execution or a lot of health items (which gratefully carry over from the main game).  Most notably, however, is that some of the content just features poor design decisions.  Three’s chapter is easily the worst in this regard: it packs in wave-based encounters in each level, has the most horribly tedious dragon level of the bunch, and features an end “boss” encounter that is poorly explained and frustrating.  Sadly, her story is also one of the most terrifyingly fascinating, which made me gladly plow through to see how it ended.

There’s a few other problems I had with the DLC as a whole.  First, it only reuses levels from the main game in each chapter.  I wasn’t really expecting brand-new content, but it still makes the DLC a bit more tedious, especially considering how much the main game already recycled those same levels.  Second, there isn’t much replay value to any of the chapters.  Odds are, you won’t want to play through the levels more than once: unless you want those Memoirs, which force you to replay several levels to hit max rank and see them all, or a perfect set of Trophies.  Finally, the DLC reuses a lot of the humor tricks used in the original–bleeping out lines, breaking the fourth wall, making jokes about platforming sections–and saps them of all their remaining humor.  I know the dialog was written by the same people as the main game, but a bit more creativity and variety would have been nice–especially considering the price tag.

While I greatly enjoyed this content as a big fan of Drakengard 3, I do think it’s a bit overpriced for what you get–$30 for a bundle containing all the chapters or $6 a chapter (meaning don’t buy them all individually).  In the end, I can only really recommend the DLC to those who loved the original game and want to see more of the humor, characters, or storytelling.  The amount of content you get isn’t worth it otherwise, especially considering that the combat absolutely doesn’t hold up well for that much time.  I also recommend that you only buy all of the DLC or none of it whatsoever, unless you just really want to know more about a particular sister.  The DLC works better as a whole than as six individual pieces.

Hopefully, this closer look at the DLC of Drakengard 3 is enough to tell you whether or not it’s up your alley.  For those of you reading this who haven’t even played the original game, give it a try!  It’s still one of the funniest and most entertaining games I’ve played all year (link), even considering the often monotonous feel of the gameplay.

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Why don’t all dubbed Japanese games credit the English voice actors?

Lightning Returns is a recent game that credits its English voice cast.

Lightning Returns is a recent game that credits its English voice cast.

Japanese games are some of my favorites, time and time again.  Many of them feature kooky characters, creative storylines, and clunky yet interesting gameplay mechanics.  This year alone has brought Lightning Returns and Drakengard 3, two games I enjoyed immensely for their unique worlds and bold experimentation within their respective genres.  As such a big fan, I spend a lot of time with these games and come to understand some of the commonalities they share.  One such commonality that constantly confuses me is a simple question: why is the English voice cast so often left out of the credits in these games?

From what I’ve noticed, there are three potential outcomes for Japanese games translated into English.  First are the games like Persona 4, games that are entirely in English, yet still don’t bother to credit the English voice actors.  Second, there are games such as Drakengard 3 that do have both vocal tracks (in Drakengard 3’s case, the Japanese track is DLC) but only include the Japanese voice cast in the credits.  For both these types of games, the developer only credits the voice actors who aren’t even present in that version of the game, a mind-boggling fact that still shocks the hell out of me.

There are some games which actually do give proper credit to the English voice cast, such as the aforementioned Lightning Returns–all the credited VAs are replaced with their English counterparts.  From my experience, it does seem like this third case is the most common with Japanese games, just not by much.  I really don’t understand why so many translated games neglect to include the English voice cast.  What possible value is there in noting actors from other versions of the game when you could instead credit the actual voice actor for that version?  This is something that really irks me.

Sometimes, I really enjoy a particular voice performance and would love to look up more of that voice actor’s work.  If the credits don’t actually say who did that performance, it can be quite difficult to figure it out, depending on how skilled the voice actor is at changing his/her voice and how prolific the actor is in the industry.  Visit a forum for a newly-released game with no English voice credits and I guarantee you’ll find a topic or two where a bunch of people try to guess who the actors are.  It’s distressing to think that such guesswork has to be employed instead of just being able to read the damn credits.

Naoto: a fantastic voice performance that is still uncredited (or at least credit has been unconfirmed) to this day.

Naoto: a fantastic voice performance that is still uncredited (or at least credit has been unconfirmed) to this day.

A rather prominent example of this is the voice actor/actress for Naoto in both Persona 4 games (a different voice actress is used for the anime series and Arena).  To my knowledge, we still don’t actually know who voices this character, due to no credit for her voice actor.  Similarly, a large chunk of the voice cast in Drakengard 3 is unknown, aside from a few well-known actors who are easy to recognize (Tara Platt as Zero, Yuri Lowenthal as Dito, etc.).  Even characters who sound like prominent voice actors may not actually be those voice actors, due to a bit of vocal homogenization in this type of game.  How could we know for sure, after all, since these games don’t give proper credit to those actors?  It’s absolutely absurd.

In any other medium, this would be grounds for complete outrage.  Why isn’t this the case for these games!?  We just wave off the lack of a properly-credited English voice cast, not worrying that we may never know who voiced some of our favorite characters.  Is it because these games are so niche?  They really aren’t anymore, to be honest.  Dozens, if not hundreds, of games get brought over from Japan by companies like XSeed and NiS every year, many of which feature new voiceover and many of which fail to credit the new cast.  This is something we NEED to get angry about–but who is to blame?

The localization team is the group who changes the credits and works with the new voice cast.  It can’t be that they don’t have the resources or time to change the names to the correct ones.  They are already translating the entirety of the credits from kanji to Roman characters AND usually inserting the names of the localization team; how much more work could it be to just edit a few extra lines of text?  I can only think of one reason why these companies may leave out the English voice actors: the new voice actors just don’t have the authority to get their names into the credits.  This is really only educated guesswork on my part, but I can’t think of any other reason why so many of these games would disregard the actual voice actors.

You may not know this (I didn’t until just recently) but video game voice actors are commonly represented by the Screen Actors Guild.  SAG rules state that a member cannot work on any project that is not in agreement with the guild first and that members must be given standard working conditions and proper credit on the project.  Furthermore, looking at the SAG website reveals that quite a few hoops must be jumped through in order to work with SAG voice actors, including loads of paperwork and verification needed to move forward with the project.  Also, any non-SAG members also working on the project are required to be noted in separate paperwork.

This all sounds like a major pain in the neck.  If this is the reason why many smaller localization teams instead choose to work with non-SAG voice actors, I can understand why they do so.  In addition, I’m willing to bet that these SAG actors cost a good deal more money to hire, due to their standardized expectations of pay.  It’s likely that most games which neglect to credit their voice cast are using these non-SAG actors (or SAG actors using a pseudonym).  Since credit isn’t necessarily required to be given, many of these localization teams just don’t do so when it comes time to make the credits for a particular game.

Danganronpa: another game with no credited English cast. In fact, the Wikipedia entry is filled with footnotes of people having to ask the voice actors personally on Twitter if a role was theirs.

Danganronpa: another game with no credited English cast. In fact, the Wikipedia entry is filled with footnotes of people having to ask the voice actors personally on Twitter if a role was theirs.

I don’t agree with this.  Even if the voice actors are perfectly happy not being credited for their work, they should appear in the game’s credits.  What harm does it do to the final project?  It’s not like actors earn residuals for simply appearing in the game’s credits–it is merely an acknowledgment of their time and effort spent on the game, just like any other member of the team.  It takes a measly few seconds to change the name from the Japanese VA to the English VA.  There is no logical reason I can see that explains why these hardworking individuals don’t deserve to get credit–SAG status or not.

No matter the reasons, all games that record new English voiceover for an American/Europe release should credit the new voice actors.  This is a trend in gaming that needs to change NOW.  It feels very slimy on the part of the companies who omit the English voice actors and completely ignores the point of what credits are supposed to do: credit the damn people who worked on the game.  While it’s true that these companies aren’t legally doing anything wrong by not crediting those who aren’t a part of SAG projects, it is still a despicable and shady practice.  As fans of a game, we shouldn’t have to be left wondering who actually voiced a particular character.

A girl named Luka…

NOTE: I apologize for the terrible quality of the images, but I wanted to have pictures of Luka.  I had to take these with my tablet off my TV, and this was the best I could do.

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I ended up being pleasantly surprised by Lightning Returns.  The previews for it looked strange, almost indecipherable.  Everything from the combat to the tone of the story seemed radically changed from the past games in the series.  It looked like an entirely different kind of game, one that might not contain what I had liked about the last two games.  I bought it with no small amount of trepidation, wondering if I had just wasted my $60.

After I started playing, however, I couldn’t put it down.  Few games manage to enthrall me as completely as Lightning Returns did; I couldn’t stop playing until I had consumed all the content it contained.  While I greatly enjoyed just about everything about the game, what really impressed me about Lightning Returns was its world.  It seemed standard and somewhat boring at first, but a certain side quest made me think about the world in a different way–hell, in a way I have never thought about any game world before.

To help you realize the meaningfulness of this side quest, I first need to give you a bit of information about the world of Lightning Returns.  After the events of Final Fantasy XIII-2, an entity named Chaos has began to overtake the world.  Anything it touches vanishes into nothingness, never to return for the rest of eternity.  Every day, this darkness creeps ever inwards, claiming another town or village in its inexorable march towards annihilation.  Eventually–inevitably–Chaos will devour the entire world.

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For those who manage to (temporarily, at least) escape Chaos’ dark clutches, there are a few side effects to this new world.  No one ages, meaning death only comes to those who receive bodily harm or fall ill.  Everyone has also become infertile, unable to produce any new life to replace the slowly-dying population.  Because of these side effects, the only humans who remain after 500 years of Chaos are those who managed to be careful and lucky enough to survive.  This remaining population waits uneasily for the end of the world, when all humankind will simply cease to exist.

Now that you understand the world a bit, let’s talk about a girl named Luka.  While she looks like a child, it’s important to remember that she has lived just as long as anyone else at this point–500 years and change.  Luka stands outside the South Station in Luxerion (one of the last cities in the world) and sells her tears to passersby.  Through her quest, you learn about her past: an acting career, an unrequited love and his unfortunate death, and a new profession–selling tears to those who can no longer feel after such a long life

It’s a very simple quest, one that plays out automatically.  You simply visit Luka four times, paying her increasing fees each time, and the quest progresses naturally.  Luka realizes she cannot cry for herself anymore, her heart just as hard and uncaring as those she cries for.  Lightning’s cruel but honest words draw Luka’s tears out, and the girl realizes that crying for money hurts her ability to cry for herself.  She vows to never sell her tears again.

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It’s a touching quest, with some excellent voice acting by Luka, but its meaning is not really why this quest became so consuming for me.  It’s not why I went back to see her at any cost, even when the game’s explicit time limit made doing so difficult.  I went back to see this girl again and again because of the questions her story made me ask about the world of Nova Chrysalia.

How do children who never age and never grow up adapt and fit into adult society?  Do they live with their parents for centuries, or do they eventually leave the nest and learn to live on their own?  Are they given typical adult jobs when they are deemed “grown-up” enough to work?  Should they still be called “children” or “little girl/boy” if they are hundreds of years old?  These were all questions that went through my mind as I spoke with Luka and heard her story.

However, there was one question in particular that I couldn’t stop thinking about: could (or should?) it ever be acceptable and normal for an adult and a child to enter a romantic relationship?  Luka mentions her acting teacher, an older man that she admits to being in love with.  According to her, he never returned her feelings.  As Luka says, “Even though we spent decades together, he never stopped treating me like a child.”  Did this man actually feel the same way and was just afraid to act due to the taboo nature of such a relationship?  Or was it impossible for him to see her as anything but a child due to her bodily appearance?

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Thoughts about this topic plagued my brain for days on end after finishing this quest.  I wanted–needed–to know if there were any other examples of this type of relationship in the world of Lightning Returns.  I went back and forth on whether or not a society like this one (or myself, for that matter) could eventually adapt to the idea of a taboo relationship such as this. Would a “child” be able to attain emotional maturity without going through puberty first?  Is it really pedophilia, just because one person is in a child’s body, if both parties are over 500 years old?

These are strange questions, I know, but I couldn’t stop myself from asking them.  I had known that no one aged in this world before talking to Luka, but it was her story that made me stop and consider what that really meant.  I started to ponder questions like the ones I mentioned above and think about the world of Lightning Returns on a grander scale.  Instead of thinking of the world as a game, I began to imagine it as a real place with real concerns and moral considerations.  Trying to understand this fictional world and its people was an intense fascination I couldn’t easily let go of.

I’m not the kind of person who usually gets invested in a world like this.  Most of the time, I blow through games so quickly that I don’t even stop to consider what it is I just did.  Lightning Returns didn’t let me do that.  It offered up a side quest so engaging and fascinating that I stopped dead in my tracks.  I was no longer concerned with finishing the game; I wanted to understand it and the world it had hinted at but not fully explained.  After Luka’s quest, I can never look at a game world the same way again.

Shouldn’t There Be Less Secrecy in Game Development?

The process of making games is an absurdly secretive one.  Strict publishers and well-trained public relations (PR) guard even the smallest bit of information with their lives, trickling it out to the public at a glacial pace.  The majority of people who work on games, rarely being trained to deal with media, are hidden behind closed doors while the groomed PR lackey is trotted out with cryptically bland responses.  Footage of a game doesn’t appear until a polished E3 demo or until the release of the game.  The gaming industry is one that seems to fear the general public and reacts to that fear by hiding everything away behind the curtain out of sight.  Transparency is something the gaming industry is sorely lacking.

Let’s take a minute to compare the gaming industry to the movie industry, an industry that is very transparent.  It’s rare for the public to not hear about a movie years before its actual release.  When a studio commits to a project and hires cast members, they don’t try to hide this information.  Instead, they use it as free publicity to get some early excitement building for their movie.  Games, on the other hand, aren’t announced until a decent amount of work has been made on the project.  It seems that publishers are afraid to announce games that may end up being canceled and do everything in their power to ensure a game will hit release before revealing it to the public.  Sequels to games, even successful ones, aren’t usually announced for years, unlike movie companies that will announce them as soon as a movie is deemed successful.  I can sympathize with game developers, as I know that game development is a process where a lot more can go wrong due to the variety of skills needed to put together a game.  Still, I think publishers need to be willing to admit when a mistake is made and a project is cancelled or put on hiatus.  If movie production companies aren’t afraid to do this, why are game developers and publishers so skittish?

On the topic of movies, I would also like to mention trailers.  While movie trailers have a tendency to either show too much of a film’s premise or show things that aren’t even in the actual movie, they often demonstrate what the movie will be about.  You will have the occasional trailer that shows the best parts of the movie just to entice theatergoers, but the majority of them are useful to your average consumer.  Game trailers, in comparison, are often a mess.  The vast majority of them are CG-based and show no actual gameplay.  Even the ones that do end up showing gameplay cut around so much that it isn’t even useful.  Nowadays, I rely on gameplay videos done after a game’s release, usually on Giant Bomb or Youtube, to make my purchasing decisions as those videos often show a large portion of the game actively being played.  I like a pretty trailer as much as the next guy, but I would really prefer my trailers showed me a bit of the game in action and how it plays.

It’s not hard to understand why publishers are so afraid to show a game when it isn’t absolutely perfect–or as perfect as games get nowadays.  Go to any online forum for a game after a bit of video leaks, like the recent Kingdom Hearts 3 footage, and you’ll see nothing but complaints on how poorly it’s running or how it doesn’t look as good as it should.  The gaming public is quick to judge, taking early footage to be representative of final products.  Herein lies the biggest hindrance to transparency in game development.  The blame can’t be entirely laid at the feet of game publishers; we hold some of it as well.  We need to be more understanding about the chaotic nature of game development.  Learning more about how games are made will benefit everyone in the long run.

To do this, both gamers and publishers need to work together.  The gaming public needs to be let in on the developmental process.  We need to learn how games come together over the course of years of production and how the final months are when all the pieces are put together to assemble the final product.  We have to realize that features being cut from a game is a common part of the process, often making a better final product.  An understanding needs to be reached about how early footage with unfinished graphics, poor frame rates, and crashes isn’t uncommon early in development and that those problems aren’t necessarily indicative of the final product.  Early gameplay videos shouldn’t be damning to a game; instead the gaming public should be made to realize that it’s an interesting chance to see how games change and evolve over the course of development.  Developers and publishers need to be more open and we gamers need to be more understanding of how games are formed to finally break down this wall between us.

It’s hard to imagine that this will ever become a reality.  Game companies are in the business of making money over everything else.  As nice as it would be for them to lift the veil on game development,  it does little to benefit them in the long run.  The potential pros don’t quite outweigh the cons, at least not in a financial projections manner.  Maybe this is a direction those publishers should start thinking about, though.  Through Twitter, gamers have recently been connecting with the creators of their favorite games, especially indie developers.  It’s clear that we enjoy speaking directly to the people who create our entertainment and learning about the process of how game creation works.  Why shouldn’t we finally get a peek behind the curtain?

What are we willing to accept?

Grand Theft Auto V was released on the 17th, easily the biggest game left in this generation before the new consoles are finally out.  As is usual for a new Rockstar release, everyone is talking about it.  The general opinion seems to be that Grand Theft Auto V is another well-crafted game in the series, with the expected array of improvements ranging from minor tweaks to smart new mechanics and systems.  Reviews have been, for the most part, unsurprisingly positive.

However, there has been one common complaint that I’ve seen brought up several times, from game sites like Kotaku and Gamespot: an issue with Rockstar’s continuing focus on misogynistic or racist themes in the Grand Theft Auto series.  These games writers are uncomfortable with the severity of the themes in Grand Theft Auto V (ironically, they aren’t as concerned with the ever-present gratuitous violence, but that’s a topic for another day).  Having not played the game myself, I can’t speak directly to how bad it is.  The few moments I have heard about are hard to relate to without direct context, but they do sound potentially troublesome.

While I do have issues with the sexist/racist caricatures that often plague this series, that’s not what worries me the most.  My main concern lies with the fact that we are so quick to dismiss the offensive nature of these themes just because they have always been a part of Grand Theft Auto in the past.  It’s shocking to see the number of commenters on both Kotaku and Gamespot’s reviews who don’t think there’s a problem, who believe that this tone is part of what makes the Grand Theft Auto series compelling.  While it may only speak to the current distaste of sexism discussion in gaming culture, I feel like there is a bigger problem here: how unwilling we are to talk about these issues.

Maybe the cultural backlash is partly to blame.  Those of us that have been with the series since Grand Theft Auto III are no strangers to the various controversies that have arisen over the games’ content: Jack Thompson vendetta against Rockstar, the whole Hot Coffee fiasco, and a dozen other things that we roll our eyes at and wave off when they pop up on Fox News.  It’s possible that we’ve gotten complacent in our criticism of these games due to our desire to placate those uninformed masses that think gaming creates serial killers by the minute.  Any mention of offensive material is quickly silenced to avoid enticing the general media into yet another anti-game frenzy.

It’s also a little disconcerting how Rockstar keeps focusing on these worlds that are often sexist, racist, and offensive in a multitude of other ways.  Sure, these themes are always portrayed in a playful, nudging way.  But satire only goes so far; at a point, offensive material, no matter if it was meant for humor, is just offensive.  I’m not saying Rockstar shouldn’t make Grand Theft Auto games the way they want to.  Rockstar, like any other game developer, is free to create the stories and worlds they wish to. Few other developers are so willing to do things the way they want without any concerns for how the rest of the world sees them.  Rockstar presents their ideas and crafts their worlds with such unflinching determination and impeccable detail that we have to experience them; it’s just disappointing that we have to deal with such off-putting characters and events to do so.

Of course, the gaming masses have spoken with their wallets in such an overwhelming manner that Rockstar knows it doesn’t have to change a thing.  We’ve come to know Grand Theft Auto games as abrasive and satirical, something that Rockstar pushes even farther with each new release.  There may be an expectation now where we can’t imagine one of these games being any other way, even though we tend to be repulsed and taken aback at times.  Rockstar, a developer that does what it wants with very little regard towards others’ opinions, will continue to do what it wants, and the Grand Theft Auto games will continue to sell very well.

Gaming culture expects everything to be more when it comes to game sequels: more levels, more modes, more everything.  This is also the case with the Grand Theft Auto series.  We’ve fallen into this horrific cycle where we expect each new Grand Theft Auto to surpass the last in offensiveness without thinking about what exactly it is we’re asking for.  As the level of repugnance increases, so does our tolerance and delight for this distasteful style of storytelling.  Is there an eventual inflection point, where the cycle breaks and we’re all just offended?  Or are we too willing to accept whatever is necessary for the next great game from Rockstar?

The emotional impact of Papers, Please

An example of the game’s full-body scanner

Recently, I’ve been playing a decent amount of Papers, Please (3-ish hours, according to Steam).  If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a game where you sit at a border checkpoint and must check entrants’ documents for a variety of things to decide whether or not they are allowed into your country.  As the game progresses, the rules change to match recent events and new protocols get added on a regular basis.  It eventually becomes a crazy mental checklist of a variety of different variables including appearance, expiration dates, and tons of other things in order to verify whether or not someone is allowed through.  It’s a great deal of fun for emulating such a menial task and I highly recommend it.

There are several points where the game is obviously trying to have some sort of message or moral quandary.  Do you refuse a woman’s entry because her papers are wrong even though her husband just went through ahead of her?  Is a direly-needed bribe, one that could buy food for your own family, enough to get you to break the rules just once?  Possibly the most depressing moment, however, is when you get access to an X-ray scanner.  This scanner takes full-body pictures of the entrant and shows you their completely nude form in shockingly clear detail.  The usual intended purpose is to check for contraband or weapons, usually taped somewhere to the body, but there is one other reason for it as well.

Sometimes, the gender on the entrant’s passport and the gender of their character model don’t seem to match up.  You are supposed to prod the person on this and scan him or her to check their gender for correctness.  At first, I just saw this procedure as an attempt to catch those entrants who were using some sort of fake passport and posing as another gender  Their unwillingness to answer the question “Are you a man or a woman?” was due to fear of being caught and possibly detained.  It was just another bullet point to check on my list of things-to-do.

However, I soon started wondering if this was the case.  What if the creator, Lucas Pope, instead wanted these particular entrants to be seen as trans people trying to outwardly project the gender they want to be?  What if the the wrong gender on the person’s passport was just the rigid rules of society forcing his or her true gender to be displayed on the passport, even though he or she ached to be seen as otherwise?  When this thought occurred to me, I started to feel very disgusted with myself every time I was forced to scan a person to confirm their gender; it was as if I was outing his or her’s closest-guarded secret, something one should never do to a person EVER.  That question “Are you a man or a woman?” took on another meaning.  I was asking that person something he or she most likely heard on a regular basis, a depressing question that reminded him or her that gender is seen as binary by society.  It was almost enough to get me to stop playing entirely, for fear of outing yet another person.

I wasn’t expecting these feelings when I started playing Papers, Please.  The X-ray scanner and stark, nude photos were something I had seen before in earlier coverage of the game, and they had elicited different feelings of disgust; I  knew that I was seeing someone naked without their permission, something that the other person didn’t even seem to realize I could see (that’s the way the game makes it seem, at least).  The idea of outing trans people is even worse than that to me, having the knowledge that I’m seeing such a conflicted, personal part of their lives.  My interpretation of these particular entrants may be incorrect, as it’s possible that Pope never intended them to be seen as trans, but I stand by it.  I also feel it gives the game even more impact emotionally.  It may be horrible to allow a person through whom a woman begs you to deny, saying that he will kill her if he gets through, but I still think that outing a trans person’s biggest secret will weigh most heavily on my mind from my time with the game.

Lightning Returns – Now With Jiggly Boobs!

EDIT:  In the days since I wrote this, I’ve seen several other opinions online and participated in a few discussions.  Let me point out a few things my original article did not.  My outrage at this character change was maybe a little too great, as I’ve several such changes have been happening in games for years (as a few people have brought to my attention).  I stand by my annoyance at the developers for mentioning something so superfluous in an interview, and the tone they take on Lightning’s new breast jiggle is still a little creepy.  However, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.  It may be just as ridiculous as Dead or Alive’s tech, but it also may not.  She may also act exactly the same, just with bigger breasts.  We won’t know for sure until the game is released.  I do think I wrote this article with a bit too much of a hothead, and it maybe isn’t as bad as I originally thought.  However, I still do not appreciate the strange PR tact that the developers took in their interview and would much rather learn more about the character’s journey through the game instead of all the creepy ways gamers can look at her voyeuristically

Final Fantasy XIII was a rather divisive game.  Many fans of the series hated the streamlined combat, extremely linear areas, and ten-hour tutorial that frontloaded the game.  I personally thought it wasn’t terrible, mashing an interesting (if not a little boring on anything but boss fights) combat system with some neat story ideas.  Probably my favorite part of the whole game was the female “lead” of Lightning.  Here was a female character who was strong, independent, and not shown as being lesser in any way because of her gender.  She was simply a woman living her life.  I won’t say that parts of her character, and the other characters for that matter, weren’t terrible, but her basic design was very sound.

The newest game in the series, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, is set to feature her as a playable character again, as you can probably tell from the title.  I was very excited about this–until I saw an article posted on Destructoid today.  They linked to a Famitsu interview with the director of development on the title, translated by another site.  In this interview, it is mentioned that Lightning has been redesigned with larger breasts, because it was intentionally requested by the director of the project.  She has not only been altered, but the interviewees made sure to note that her breasts will now jiggle suggestively, even giving tips on the best ways to get the perfect angles and amount of jiggle.

What the fuck.

Is there any meaningful purpose of such a redesign, other than the perverted whims of the lead on the project?  It doesn’t make a single iota of sense in the context of the game, essentially meaning that her appearance was solely changed to broaden her sex appeal (or to appeal to the perversion of the developers, at least).  This is such a poor reflection of gaming culture at large.  I have no problem with a character expressing his or her sexuality, but only if it makes sense for it to be exaggerated.  Changing the appearance of a character who has already appeared in two games–on the same hardware, mind you–just to make her more attractive and to even make her breasts jiggle ridiculously is not a good use of sexuality.  It is just ridiculous and juvenile.

As a huge fan of the original character design, I’m more than a little offended by this change.  How can I be proud to be a part of gaming culture when actions like these are often rewarded by more sales and a wider general approval of a product?  What does this tell those outside the hobby about those who partake in it?  I’m not saying that this change ruins Lightning for me as a character, but I do think it hurts what she stood for.  The original character was such a good design, a perfect blend of femininity, normality, and strength.  I could have lived with a larger bust size because it doesn’t really matter (even though it is still crazy that it was even brought up in the first place), but the immature jiggly breast tech just about makes me want to give up on games altogether.

Source:  Dualshockers