Does Link’s Gender Matter?


For a long time, ever since people first started commonly yelling about sexism online about video games, people have been hoping for a genderswapped version of the Legend of Zelda franchise. It’s common knowledge among fans that the era and the characters change between most games in the series, we are always looking at a different Link and a different Zelda. Thus, it wouldn’t be a big hit for Nintendo to change the genders, races or even personalities of the main characters throughout the series, which is why this series in particular has been getting a hard time over the fact that the main characters have stayed the same throughout the last 25 years or so. This added to the fact that The Legend of Zelda is a true classic, one of the biggest and most reckognizable franchises in the history of the industry, them trying to include more people and playing with these ideas would admittedly be hugely popular and make a lot of people happy.  

This E3 was not any different, as excited fans were eagerly anticipating not only a new game in the series to be shown, but specifically the gender of the characters. Twitter was exploding over the hooded figure at the start of the trailer. Could it be Prince Zelda? Or perhaps the much hoped reveal of the female version of Link? Many fans even refused to believe that the revealed Link was male, analyzing the trailer frame by frame, trying to find breasts and other feminine features. Nintendo had to come and publicly confirm that Link was indeed, once again, a dude. But while Nintendo could swap the genders, the question still stands; Does it even matter?



I’m not belittling the value of female characters or the importance of gender equality in any artform, but I think the only thing the game would gain over having genderswapped characters is the satisfaction of those few people who would prefer a female Link over a male one. What I’m trying to say is that the gender of the characters never mattered in the entire franchise.  Gender, sexism or anything like that was never a theme touched in the whole series. The only aspect of the game that would be different if the characters were genderswapped would be the character-models. I would rather fight for playable female characters in games where the characters are… Well… Characters. Games where it matters. Sure, Link, Zelda and the others are always given a personality, but I don’t think anybody is arguing that the series is some kind of effective character-study.

This doesn’t mean I’m against this idea these fans are trying to make happen. Because I don’t think the gender of the characters fundamentally matter or change anything within the game I would have the most ‘meh’ reaction to the news that Nintendo was planning to appease these vocal fans. I anticipate the worlds, locales, gameplay, atmosphere and music in Zelda. I would love for Nintendo to actually start tackling serious issues, themes and character psychology in their games and if that happened I would be very much for a genderswapped version of the game. But considering how the Zelda games are built, a genderswap now would basically just mean putting boobs on a character who didn’t have ones previously and that’s that. It wouldn’t ruin the game, but it would hardly make it better either.



So why doesn’t Nintendo do it? It doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t matter, they might as well please these loud annoying tweeters, right? I have an idea. Look, everyone. I freaking love Nintendo. They are one of my favourite companies in the whole wide world and they just simply make me happy. This doesn’t mean I can’t critize them for things they’re doing wrong. And this is one. Nintendo is really weird about innovation. On the other hand, they are always the strange company, making weird consoles and strange games, but on the other, the series’ they have established already have to follow very specific guidelines about how stuff works. Nintendo might innovate enough to make people play with a tablet, or to make a game about squid-people, but ask them to swap the gender of their second best known character in history and they won’t lift a finger.

It’s sad really. I’m not on the boat where people say that Nintendo never innovates with their franchises, but it never hurt anybody to do a little more. I love the varied worlds and gameplay hooks Nintendo keeps putting in their well established franchises, but really. Genderswapping The Legend of Zelda wouldn’t hurt. It won’t help much either, but you might as well shut some fans up. Though knowing Zelda fans, they’ll always be 50% obnoxious complainers that hate whatever the newest game in the series is. Nintendo probably knows how useless the efforts would ultimately be.

E3 and The Flood of Open-World RPG’s


I was told to write something about E3, which proved to be more of a challenge than I first expected. I went through the reveals again and I feel like 70% of the news I don’t have much to say about and the rest I’m just so excited about that I cannot put words together to form a coherent sentence. I tried writing about some of the stuff Nintendo revealed but everything I wrote was basically just me screaming incoherently in excitement over everything. After a lot of thinking however, I did find something I found merely interesting.  

Open world games have always been pretty big sellers. Ever since they could be rendered in 3D, the biggest western developers have made amazing amounts of pure, sweet cash through open-world games. Now, interesting stuff has been happening lately in the open world RPG subgenre which I find quite reassuring, actually. While open world RPG’s have always been big, they’ve also been seen as a huge risk by developers. The ridiculous amount of work required to make a title like that opens the situation up for many kinds of possibilities and nobody wants to accidentally make Risen or Kingdoms of Amalur. This is why –for the longest time- some companies had the monopoly on the genre.

The Elder Scrolls, Ultima and Might & Magic were pretty much the only ones that had any relevance in the 3D open world RPG field for a long time. After that the latter two slowly disappeared, while Bethesda went on to STEAL AND PLUNDER acquire Fallout from Interplay and continued to basically dominate the entire subgenre from 2006-ish to this day. But this E3, something happened in the fantasy-RPG-genre.

Both Dragon Age and The Witcher, arguably Elder Scrolls’ and Fallout’s only real competitors are really hyping up their open worlds. Both series’ were previously these safe, strange hybrids of linear and open-world. The kind where the developers don’t need to spend all that much money making a huge ready-to-explore worlds, but where you can make the player feel like he’s not being dictated about where to go and when. Now the developers of both games cannot shut up about how their games finally have a real open world, almost like it automatically assures the quality of their games. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problems with these games going open-world; I know I’ve pre-ordered The Witcher 3 already. I just find the phenomena intriguing, and I think why it ended up happening.

Now here’s the dialog I imagine happening at Bioware and CD Projekt Red late 2011:

“Hey, Jim! Come check this out. People really seem to like this Skyrim-thing.”

“Well, obviously they do. People really liked Morrowind and Oblivion too. No point risking our livelihoods trying to do something like that. It costs like hell and if you fail, you fail hard.”

“Jim, I’m pretty sure there were other games in the series before Morro-“

“Shut up, Bob.”

“Uh, alright. Anyway… It’s different now! They’re making the games more and more accessible and its working! Not only are people liking the game, they are also buying it! It’s selling like crazy!”

“What are you talking about? Let me see those numb- WHAT THE FUCK BOB, ARE YOU SERIOUS?”

“I know! Jim, listen to me. We have accumulated a loyal fanbase already, so it doesn’t matter if we end up failing, because they’ll buy it anyway and…”

“And if we succeed, we have the chance to quadruple our profits due to people getting Skyrimed over it!”

“Skyrimed? Jim, you’re-“

“Bob. Shut. The. Fuck. Up.”

Seeing competition arrive against the franchises by Bethesda is one of the things that has been exciting me the most lately, considering how I haven’t been the biggest fan of the direction they’ve been taking their games lately. Not only is it great to have choice between your fantasy-open-world-adventures, but this will definitely pave the way to many other developers to try and tackle what might be the most difficult genre in the industry to make games for. Let’s hope they aren’t just more Risens.

Even Nintendo was very excited to tell everyone that the next game in their Zelda-series will have a much more open world than in the previous titles in the franchise. As long as these companies take this idea seriously and don’t just think of it as “Skyrim made a buttload, let’s make a buttload too”, I don’t see any negatives to this. Though many games can suffer from an open-world and its ways to screw up things like pacing, theming and avoiding ludonarrative dissonance, Zelda, The Witcher and Dragon Age are franchises I can totally see tackle the idea of open world.

Transitioning from Bastion to Transistor


I sit in a dark room with a cold beer in hand. I snap it open as the clock on my desktop hits 1:25am. I’m staring at an empty word document. It mocks me. The soundtrack of Bastion plays through my headphones. The jawdropping melodies of Darren Korb fills my head with memories; fighting my way through a post-apocalyptic world, exploring the history of this mysterious land with the relaxing narration of Logan Cunningham in the background. I close my eyes and tilt my head back, trying to find words to verbalize my experience in text for the people of the internet. But instead of words, I get a vision of the future. It’s a hopeful vision, based purely on trust and will. In this vision I sit on a computer much like the one I am looking at right now, also with a beer in hand. I’m listening to the soundtrack of Transistor, trying to verbalize how much it meant to me, playing it all those years ago.  

Recently, the release date of Supergiant Games’ new title, Transistor, was confirmed to be May 20th and I couldn’t seriously think of a game I’m looking forward to more right now than this cyberpunk-y adventure by the developers of Bastion, my game of 2011 and one of my favourite titles of the last generation. My love towards Bastion is tough to explain. The aspects of the game that I most enjoy are very subjective. I found the world and the characters to be very interesting and I think the aesthetical choices supported them perfectly, Cunningham’s narration being that last touch of spices on the meal to make it truly stand out. The gameplay challenged me, but also offered choices and space for my imagination, keeping me entertained throughout the journey. Sounds good, right? Well, I constantly meet people who hated the narration, the “shallow” gameplay and “boring” world. These people are hard to argue with; they simply see these things I love in a different way.


Bastion divided audiences, it wasn’t for everyone. I prefer art that’s not for everyone, though. It creates discussion and everyone has their own experiences with the piece, making it feel more personal and more important, no matter if you liked it or not. It’s one of the main reasons why The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is my favourite game of all time and why I have the utmost respect towards Metal Gear Solid and Dark Souls despite having a hard time enjoying them in extended periods. This brings me to Transistor, this “sci-fi themed action RPG that invites players to wield an extraordinary weapon of unknown origin as they fight through a stunning futuristic city”.

While I hope this for every game, I especially want Transistor to succeed in creating the best possible experience for the people who they want to appeal to. I also want Transistor to piss people off, to disappoint them, even if I am included in this category. Games that are slightly above mediocre for everyone are boring; they are games that are forgotten within a month. They don’t mean anything. While that kind of strategy might be better for a product, it’s always preferable for a creative piece of work to be exactly what the people behind it want it to be, not what they think the general audience wants. I guess the question is, will Transistor be a product, or a creative work by this group of artists?


I’d like to say that I trust Supergiant Games. Yes, they’ve only shipped one game before, but they have what I consider to be the right way to look at game development. Whenever I see people from the studio appear in an interview or on the internet, I see people who got into game development because they love games and want to make games they would like to play themselves. I see legitimate artists working on bringing their vision to life, not marketing executives or PR-firms trying to please everyone by dropping as many buzzwords as possible. This attitude makes me feel safe, because it creates personal projects, those kinds of games I mentioned before.

There’s a fair bit of gameplay-videos and story-trailers of Transistor circling around the interwebs and it’s all quite reassuring. While the game might look spookily similar to Bastion, a little digging reveals that the approach to gameplay is quite different, adding elements of strategy, playing around with perspective, puzzles and other things to make it interesting and varied, possibly as an answer for the complaints some people had with Bastion. While I never had a problem with the battle system of Bastion, seeing Supergiant offer us a larger amount of things to learn, experience and try is obviously great. As long as none of these aspects feel unfinished, they’ll make the game feel a lot fuller and meatier.


Very little has been revealed on the story or the world of Transistor, but that’s also what made Bastion so magical. I don’t want to be told anything about the world or the story, because I want to experience unveiling the mystery myself. The strange pursuers, the silent, unassuming main character and the mystical, talking sword-like weapon are all shrouded in wonderful veil of mystery and I cannot wait to jump in and experience this adventure myself. We have also not heard much upcoming music from the game, but I completely trust Darren Korb, for the music of Bastion is one of my favourite soundtracks of all time. Let’s just say there are not many soundtracks I track down the autographed CD’s for. The little music from Transistor that has been provided is amazing though, like expected. The music from the reveal trailer already gives me chills and I haven’t even heard it in the right context yet.

In conclusion of my disjointed rambling, Transistor has a damn tough act to follow with Bastion. Good sci-fi is difficult to make, but if Bastion managed to be one of the best fantasy/post-apocalyptia-stories in recent memory, Transistor should manage to create a sci-fi world worth exploring. I truly wish that Transistor will be what Supergiant Games wants it to be, because if it fails in feeling like a personal project to the studio, it will fail in feeling like a personal experience to the player. Gladly I trust few other developers like I do Supergiant Games. If someone can make this work, it’s these guys.

To leave you with a good taste in your mouth-holes, here’s a bit of smexy-smexy gameplay from Transistor.


The Last Tinker: City of Colors Preview


I had the privilege of playing the preview build of this charming little title The Last Tinker: City of Colors and it sure seems to tackle an interesting combination of gameplay elements thrown in with aesthetics I can appreciate. The preview-build basically consisted of what I imagine is the tutorial-area of the game itself, so the amount of story-, world- and character-building was understandably fairly low. You might not first catch it, looking at the colorful environments or goofy characters, but something strange is afoot in Tinkerworld, a world where anything can apparently be built from “basic materials as long as the idea behind it is strong enough”, in practice this means a world build with color, paper and glue.  
As a very hard to miss metaphor for racism, the City of Color has been divided because creatures of different colours have started hating each other. The story is bound to go deeper and my educated guess comfortably lies somewhere between an ancient evil turning good emotions into bad emotions or some greedy, evil character being behind everything. It is the job of the monkey-like kid Koru and his best small flying elephant-looking plush friend Tap to solve this mystery and return the colours to Tinkerworld.

the last tinker 2014-04-06 13-17-54-43

Tap works as a Navi-type character, bugging you about controls, objectives and generally appearing in front of your face when he feels like it’s appropriate

After you start the game however, it quickly becomes apparent that while the story is enough to keep you going, interest any child and generally to not annoy, the real driving force behind the game is in fact the aesthetics. The masterfully composed music builds on percussion and guitar, creating everything from warm and welcoming sounds to surprisingly intense tunes. The environment is something I have sorely missed during the last generation of video games. The Last Tinker uses the same catch as Paper Mario and Kirby’s Epic Yarn where instead of realism, the environments look like they have been made by hand with materials one could find in a arts n’ crafts shop, in this case cardboard, paper, paint and crayons. Everything is brightly coloured and the character design reminds me of Viva Pinata, which is most definitely a compliment. The environments are absolutely gorgeous and the amount of colors and smiley things makes me want to vomit rainbows in a good way. The clever choice of aesthetics successfully hides the feeling that this is an indie game made by a small team.
While the developers claim The Last Tinker to be a “platformer”, I would have to respectfully disagree. The gameplay is built on three main aspects; puzzles, brawling and platforming. The puzzle-system lends itself for plenty of challenging and entertaining puzzles, though it’s a tad uninspired. This is not the first time we’ve seen the system of leading followers and changing their shape or size to get them from point A to B in order to solve a puzzle. But it’s a system that has been proven to work well and in the hands of talented level designers it’s easily used to create fantastic puzzles.

This promotional screenshot implies that the game includes many kinds of followers for puzzle variety, like these exploding guys

This promotional screenshot implies that the game includes many kinds of followers with different traits for puzzle variety, like these exploding guys

The fighting system includes a dodge button and an attack button, so it’s fairly simple and easy. It’s similar to the Batman: Arkham-franchise, where you punch your enemies and dodge out of the way of their attacks in a free-flowing fashion. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the system and it feels good and easy, though in a game that’s 1/3 brawling, I was hoping for a bit more depth. I saw no special moves and the “countering-system” consists of basically just punching an enemy before they punch you. The preview-build seems to be the very beginning of the actual game, so there’s a chance of an upgrade-system, AOE-moves, running attacks or interesting boss battles appearing later in the game, though there was no sign of such things in the early stages of the game.
The reason why I’m having a hard time thinking of The Last Tinker as a platformer is that while it is one of the three gameplay elements this game seems to be pushing, the platforming is very barebones. You jump by sprinting towards a ledge; there is no dedicated jump button. This makes all platforming segments repetitious and easy. It’s an excuse to get you to cool locations and to create some secret places where collectibles are hidden. The only time when you need skill while platforming is when you need to time your jumps. When there are no threats out to get you, you can basically point where you want to go and Koru will freerun towards it. There are also rails you can grind or slide on a la Ratchet and Clank. They are a fun excuse to go fast through the beautiful landscapes and offer a bit of variety to the platforming. A dedicated jump button would’ve given the level designers a lot more freedom in creating challenging, fun areas blending the three gameplay elements together.

I'm not sure what they are trying to tell here, the developers should try to be more clear

I’m not sure what they are trying to say here, the developers should try to be a bit clearer

If the rest of the game successfully blends these three gameplay-elements together in continuously breathtaking and varied environments, as the preview-build suggest, this will end up being a fantastic little adventure game for children and adults alike. Run around a semi-freeroaming world collecting currency and collectibles, punch a dude, solve a puzzle, jump on things. It’s a system that can work very well in the hands of talented designers. While none of the three gameplay-elements can hold up a game on it’s own, together they make for a fun and reasonably varied experience that –if handled well- will definitely entertain through it’s reportedly 8-hour runtime.