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March 14, 2014

I Hraet You, Donkey Kong

How much stock do you put into the phrase “history repeats itself”?

I’ve never exactly held it up as mankind’s one and only truth, but there have been times where it’s come to mind…whether I like it or not.  Case in point: last year I had the misfortune of playing DmC, a completely-unnecessary and gutless reboot to a beloved, stylized franchise -- with said reboot missing the point of the original in exchange for layer after layer of stupidity and bad decisions.  Cut to the present day, and I find myself forced to watch RoboCop… a completely-unnecessary and gutless reboot to a beloved, stylized franchise -- with said reboot missing the point of the original in exchange for layer after layer of stupidity and bad decisions.

If history really does repeat itself (and that’s suspect, considering that one of my nightmares was a game, and the other was a movie), then that means that I’m due for an analogue to Metal Gear Rising.  I have no problems naming it as my 2013 Game of the Year -- even if The Wonderful 101 could have taken that spot if not for Rising’s presence -- and I feel like I can count on Raiden’s game to offer up plenty of good examples to create by.  But that was then, and this is now.  So is there a game that can rival last year’s winner?  There just might be; in terms of the timeframe and quality, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze makes a VERY strong argument for itself.

There are just two problems.  First?  I’ll gladly acknowledge that DK’s latest is amazing -- but I have no idea how to approach it yet.

Second?  If this post is supposed to invoke the spirit of posts past, then I should talk a bit about I Hraet You -- and a certain issue I may have dive-bombed into.

Okay, let’s talk about Tropical Freeze first (since I imagine that’s why you’re here in the first place).  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m biased toward Nintendo in terms of the Big Three’s latest clash, in the sense that right now they’re the only ones actually trying to put out games worth a damn right now -- even if that’s a thankless job.  Yes, I know that the PS4 and Xbox One will have some great game libraries eventually -- the former more than the latter, because Sony’s got MS beat with exclusives -- but setting console issues aside I can’t summon anything remotely resembling hype, even for games so very close to release.  I like Infamous as a concept, but as it stands it strikes me as just a third-person shooter with lightning instead of guns…and now that Second Son looks primed to deal with REEL WORLD ISSUES, GAIZ, I have a sinking feeling in my stomach.  Either that, or an ulcer the size of a basketball.

That’s not to say that the Big N is faultless here.  There are still plenty of people -- parents and grandparents, i.e. buyers at large -- who STILL don’t know what makes the Wii U different from the Wii.  I’ve met them myself.  If Nintendo would just put out some damn commercials (like it did with the original Wii), then at least people would know there was a new product on the shelves.  And beyond that, with this new Donkey Kong game in our midst, a part of me wonders if the company is willing to treat platformers the same way others treat shooters -- banking on them in the absence of courage.  I still believe in Nintendo, because I don’t want to imagine a world where their role is diminished; it’s gotten to points where I’ve actually considered giving up games entirely if they bow out.

But I digress.  Back to Tropical Freeze.

I should start by saying that I don’t have any intimate bond with the DK games; the first one I ever actually owned was Donkey Kong Country Returns.  What I know about games past comes almost entirely from YouTube videos and hearsay.  So in a sense, it’s the same way as I am with the Mario games.  The nuances and traditions are pretty much lost on me, so I can only comment on the game based on its own merits.  Not in comparison to what came before it.  Then again, that didn’t stop me from enjoying the hell out of Super Mario 3D World -- and it certainly didn’t stop me from enjoying Tropical Freeze.

So, cards on the table: is TF a better platformer than 3D World?  Well, yes and no.  I’d like to think that 3D World has many more levels, but TF compensates by having significantly longer levels.  Even so, if you’re hoping to pick up TF and play with a roomful of friends, DON’T.  This is strictly a two-player game (despite there being four playable Kongs), and even then the way the game works -- DK can put a partner Kong on his back to take on their special ability -- seems to suggest that this is a stronger single-player game than multiplayer.  And that’s probably for the best; without a doubt, TF’s visual design beats 3D World’s by a mile.

I’m not about to suggest that 3D World is any worse of a game just because there’s a new Kong on the block; it’s just worth noting that while both games are platformers, they do things VERY differently from one another.  (It helps that outside of a few instances, TF stays on a 2D plane.)  While TF does have some great gameplay -- with plenty of challenge, of course -- it’s also an audiovisual treat from start to finish.  It’s actually a little reminiscent of BioShock Infinite; you’re in a world full of dangers and horrors, but you can’t help but want to explore its nuances. 

Comparisons aside, the AV intensity wasn’t an accident.  Every choice here, I feel, was made with some heavy consideration.  There’s no timer in the game demanding that you rush trough every stage, meaning that, unless there are hazards forcing you to run like hell, you can A) move at your own pace, and B) enjoy the sights and sounds that surround you.  It’s a prime display of how a game can do more than just have DA BEST GRAFFECS; it can -- and should -- do something with them.

And if my theory is right, TF decides to tell a story with them.  Even if it uses something as gauche as ninja baboons.

The more I think about the game, the more I can’t help but ask, “WHAT ARE YOU EVEN?”  It strikes me as…well, let’s call it dense for now, because I don’t want to set myself up for a fall.  I think that the issue here is that there’s a level of complexity to the game that’s completely ignorable because it’s a platformer -- because you wouldn’t expect even a basic level of thought and consideration in a game where you play as a race of pants-averse apes.  There was a Siliconera post that suggested as much, but I think it goes even further than that.  It’s a deep rabbit hole, basically, and I’m having trouble deciding how to approach it.  A part of me has actually considered replaying the game, just to make sure I can pick up on things I missed.

If nothing else, though, you can probably expect a couple of posts on the game, just like Metal Gear Rising.  One of them will focus on the gameplay, and the other will focus on the story.  Yeah, story.  Imagine that.

Speaking of story, let’s switch gears.  Hraet-y gears.

…Don’t close the window.  I’ll make this quick.

This should go without saying, but I’m not even close to done with I Hraet You.  It’s special to me, and I want to make it special to others someday -- sooner rather than later, obviously, but I’ll get there eventually.  But it’s incredibly obvious that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done; here we are in March, and it’s been months since I’ve put up a new chapter.  I know I’ve still got it on hiatus -- not the first time, and certainly not the last -- but given that the most recent chapter ended with a cliffhanger (with leading man Lloyd having just witnessed a house exploding, and then accosted by the main baddie and his goons), I would very much like to get back to the story.  But I can’t do that until I implement the much-appreciated edits (by one of the most brilliant/handsome bloggers ever to exist) that should have been implemented months ago.  And I can’t do that until I reach the stopping point on a certain magical project. 

I’ve actually made some progress on that front -- and they’re part of the reason why there are D.O.X. is Dead posts every other Wednesday -- but as you’d expect, it’s taking up a pretty big mindshare.  And as you’d expect, the tradeoff is that until I bring it to a conclusion (or a good stopping point, but knowing me, who knows when that’ll be), I’d prefer not to even think about touching I Hraet You.  Well, as best I can; depending on what pops up in my mp3’s shuffle, certain songs make me think of certain hraet-y scenarios.  But semantics aside, the big issue is that IHY is ostensibly a comedy, while this new thingamajig is ostensibly a…drama?  No, not really drama, per se.  But it is significantly darker, even if it has its fair share of comedy.  I’d like to think that IHY has helped me improve, but it’s going to take some real effort to get back into the groove when it’s all wrapped up.  It’s at the point where a part of me thinks I FORGOT how to write IHY.

But there might be a way around that.  What if I made a special crossover miniseries?

It has its advantages (besides the obvious “crossovers are awesome” reason).  I’d get to work with a unique suite of characters, and get a better understanding of them as they meet characters from different tales.  It’d be a way to enjoy the best of both worlds -- a way to shake the cobwebs with Lloyd, while keeping fresh with the new story and using it as a means to investigate the particulars.  For IHY, it could be an easy way for people who aren’t willing to archive-binge almost a hundred chapters to get introduced to the story (non-canon as the crossover may be).  For…whatever I’m going to call the new story, it could be a way for me to gauge interest in the characters -- see how people react, and how I can improve them in their main adventure.  Granted I wouldn’t be putting EVERY character in -- two reps each, give or take a cameo -- but just a core cast of four should offer plenty.

I don’t want to commit to anything just yet (even though I made some just-passable art because reasons), since there’s no guarantee anything will come from it.  But I’d be lying if I said the possibility didn’t excite me, and already I can see a story forming.  So maybe it’ll happen.  Maybe it won’t.  It could be a way to bridge the gap between the two -- the herald of a transitional phase.  Who’s to say, really?  Anything could happen.  I mean, come on.  You have to admit, you wouldn’t mind seeing what happens when the idiot prince goes head-to-head with a kid detective, would you?  Can they pull together and save the day?  Or will they kill each other first?  Good question!

Man, crossovers are so cool.

So that’s about all I’ve got.  As always, let me know what you think in the comments.  Interested in the marvels of Donkey Kong?  Hungry for a crossover?  Let’s hear it.  Share your opinions with the world.

Or me.  Yep.  Definitely just me.

DK, play me out!


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