Monsters in Cyberspace: Soul Hackers May Be After Your Soul, But it Won’t Drain Your Spirit

My review of the at-long-last port of the unreleased-in-America 1997 Sega Saturn game Shin Megami Tensei: Soul Hackers is up at Slant. At first, my thought was that the only reason this game hadn’t been imported earlier was because there simply wasn’t a market for smart, intelligent, adult games back then, and that we’ve simply (and literally) grown up since then. But after getting into the meat of the story, which focuses on the soul-draining impact of an addictive online video game that is powered by demonic energy (and which feeds on human souls), I wonder if Atlus wasn’t just trying to do us mere mortals . . . like a drug dealer who has a change of heart upon realizing just how potent their latest dose is. In any case, despite being fifteen years old, I actually prefer a lot of the gameplay mechanics in this iteration of the SMT series–there’s no weakness-exploiting press turns, and the GO mechanic for your demons sometimes leads them to choose terrible actions, but you can hack the game on the fly to reduce the difficulty or automap an unexplored area, and that makes it easier to focus on simply enjoying the modern, technological atmosphere. After all, who doesn’t like to pause in the middle of a three-hour dungeon to chat with some demons?

What's a demon like you doing in a place like this?

Salvage: Can You Be Haunted Twenty Minutes At a Time in Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon?

Dark Moon 1I consider myself to be a huge fan of the platforming genre, from the hammer-dodging, piranha-plant-jumping, side-scrolling days of the original Mario Bros., the hidden secrets of Donkey Kong Country, surrealism of Rayman, and the transition to 3D that for me began with the uncompromisingly difficult Crash Bandicoot before extending into the annoying collect-a-thon hubs of, say, Banjo-Kazooie. But in all my gaming, I keep returning to the sheer perfection of Super Mario World, which dared to not only challenge one’s reflexes but one’s brain: this wasn’t merely about going from the left side of the screen to the right; it was about figuring out how to use enemies and tools to reach otherwise inaccessible secret pipes and alternative exits. It was about finding a key and successfully bringing it to the door that it unlocked. It was about the ghost houses, the glorious puzzle zones that not only expected you to outmaneuver spectral hordes of Boo ghosts, but to outwit them, too. Which is why, perhaps, I have such fond memories of the original 2001 Luigi’s Mansion, which, unlike other Luigi outings like the dismal Mario Is Missing, found a way to mix puzzles and action, as it required players to use the suction (and later elemental) powers of a vacuum cleaner in order to lure out the hiding ghosts, and then to battle them in one-on-one games of tug-of-war. More importantly, it’s why I was so excited to get my hands on Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, a 3DS successor to the original: it’s bigger, better, cleverer, and yet also the victim of some odd design choices.

For one, length isn’t always a blessing. In Luigi’s Mansion, you were limited to exploring one rather large and haunted estate, through which you were given limited direction (a radar) and a minimum of hints. You explored at your leisure, slowly increasing your access through the game’s various locked doors. Continue reading

“Castelvania: Lords of Shadow–Mirror of Fate”: When the Title of Your Game Is More Epic than Your Game

So my latest video game review is now up at Slant Magazinethe key takeaway is that it’s weird for the people who rebooted the franchise to create a direct sequel in someone else’s style–it’d be like Sam Raimi choosing to direct the next Oz film in the style of The Wiz. It’s difficult to translate 3D combat mechanics into a 2D frame, and MercurySteam borrows way more for their series than it actually innovates, to say nothing of the horrible, horrible story that so clearly serves merely as a stepping stone between full-fledged console releases. In the grand scheme of things, at least we can say they got the Clock Tower right, even if the floating Medusa heads are nowhere to be seen.

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: