The fifth instalment of Grand Theft Auto’s main game series took some notable steps towards further establishing the franchise’s relationship with the hip hop community. Reputable producers The Alchemist and Oh No were signed on as composers for the game, tastemakers such as Big Boy and Flying Lotus were given roles as in-game radio hosts and its commercial soundtrack featured original contributions from the likes of A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown and BJ The Chicago Kid. But perhaps one of the most intriguing connections to the genre comes not from anyone with a direct hand in producing rap music, but rather the game’s player base as a result of their reaction to one of its newer, more recreational features.
Sometimes we get bored of shooting robots, saving the world from evil time sorceresses and rolling around at the speed of sound. We could (and probably should) take a 15 minute break to breathe and look at something that isn’t pixels, but those pesky game developers managed to sneak smaller games inside the much larger games, and those now constitute the “break” from the main game.
We might be developing severe eyesight problems, but these mini games are so much fun that it’s probably worth a bit of blindness sometime in our 40s.
Here are the best mini games we could think of with a loose attitude to content deadlines. Enjoy!
Triple Triad in Final Fantasy VIII
Mini games are usually a nice little distraction every now and then, with small rewards so you don’t feel like you’ve completely wasted your time. Usually.
Square unwittingly made the rewards for the Final Fantasy VIII mini game Triple Triad SO GOOD that working out its nuances and rewards can break the game, using the Card Mod ability. It’s a vestige of those old video games where you felt like you were doing something you weren’t supposed to, but through legitimate means.
Aside from its impact on the main game, it’s an incredibly enjoyable card game in its own right, and has a bouncy, unforgettable theme song to go along with it. Shuffle or Boogie? It’s hard not to do both tbh.
Chao Garden in Sonic Adventure 2 Battle
Sonic Adventure 2 is inarguably the best Sonic game ever, and it’s not cause Eggman fuckin’ blows up the moon or cause Knuckles gets his own dadrap soundtrack. It’s instead because of the adorable, tamagotchi-esque Chao garden.
Despite the simplistic racing, the Chao garden’s depth is found in the raising system, giving a Sonic game unique replayability, as you revisit levels a shameful amount of times searching for an elusive dragon or some goddamn fly drives, while the simple act of playing with your Chao (or abusing it if you’re a worst video game dad) can decide whether it goes to heaven or creepy as hell.
This all ultimately leads to a Chao growing and developing in a variety of unique ways, hours on the clock and money on your parent’s electric bill can happen attempting to get that perfect Chaos 0 Chao, we all knew Sonic Chaos are for chumps.
NES Games in Animal Crossing
Video games weren’t as commonplace in the late 80s/early 90s as they are now, and most parents probably weren’t willing to pay £40 on a new game. That meant a lot of excited kids missing out on a lot of fun games.
In 2001, Nintendo made the biggest retro power move and made former poor kids jizz their pants by including 10+ NES games on Animal Crossing. It allowed players to replicate real life by avoiding gardening and household responsibilities and instead playing Excitebike and Donkey Kong.
The best kind of mini games are full games within games. Two (or 10) games for the price of one is the best kind of bargain. Free nostalgia!
Hacking in Nier: Automata
When (SPOILERS!!!) Nier: Automata hands the story over to 9S, you’re greeted with a less combat ready droid then his partner 2B. Fortunately, Platinum gives him a fresh playstyle with a fun but tough mini game that reveals new ways to navigate the desolate open world.
Hacking an enemy bot reveals an Asteroids-style game that gives you a tight deadline to wipe out triangles unrelenting in their gunfire, naturally dropping you into more unforgiving areas when hacking stronger enemies. In the spirit of this arcadey mini game, even the music switches from dramatic choirs and lingering emotion for almost comical 8-bit delight.
The game rewards you kindly for a successful hack, allowing you the chance to play as a wildly different array of robots (protip: hack a link sphere to sneak into hard to reach areas).
Gwent in The Witcher 3
Bluffing and deception are two very important skills in any game, and amidst the Machiavellian ultraviolence of the Witcher series, it’s not surprising that these are the central attributes of the third game’s engrossing mini game Gwent.
The game, centered around deck building a la Magic The Gathering, is very much a TCG in its own right – centered around playing card’s abilities off of each other masterfully and moving in for the kill at just the right time. In fact, the game’s popularity has resulted in its release as a free standalone app, so it’s now also one of the best virtual TCG’s on the market too.
Gwent is everything that a mini game should be – whilst it’s fast paced and fun, it’s also an excellent vehicle for raking in cash, and deep enough to sink a lot of time into. Just make sure you don’t bait yourself out by winning the first round.
Trophy Rush in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U’s Trophy Rush – a game where you basically hit falling boxes on a platform until a timer runs out and receive a random selection of trophies based on your performance – isn’t on this list because it’s the pinnacle of engaging game design. It was merely the first example from a AAA title that dishes out cosmetic collectibles at random which sprung to mind. Because whilst nabbing a sweet weapon via a somewhat skill-based aside might bring some relief to your future questing, it’s an inferior feeling to the adrenaline rush generated by an RNG system that dispenses loveable trinkets with absolutely no bearing on your play-through whatsoever.
Don’t think for a second that game companies aren’t well aware that a lot of players’ insatiable urge to collect things far eclipses their desire to experience some form of intriguing or satisfying gameplay either. It’s that reason alone why every franchise with highly marketable characters has a mobile gacha game that coerces you into investing your time and money just to nab the super-ultra-limited-edition-alternative-colour-swimsuit-with-kawaii-pose variant of your favourite character. Don’t start swindling your food budget, though – your ‘waifus’ are not an acceptable source of nourishment and they never will be.
With that taken into consideration, Trophy Rush does have one noteworthy asset tucked away within its trifling antics – it just requires in-game currency to play, meaning there’s no risk of you starving yourself to death in your plight to nab the polygonal goodness that is that Mecha-Fiora trophy from Xenoblade Chronicles. Best of luck and glory be to RNGesus.
Caberet Club Czar in Yakuza 0
One of the most enjoyable aspects of Yakuza 0 was running your own little side business, where you would run a cabaret club and assume position of manager. As manager, it is your duty to assist your staff members (hostesses) in welcoming and being hospitable to customers. You must make the right selection of hostess to suit the needs of your customer and action the correct request from the hostesses in a timely manner. Failure to do so can result in unsatisfied customers, affecting your reputation within the district.
Once your reputation within the area grows, you can be challenged to 1 v 1 fights against rival owners; as well as battles to see which club can make the most money on a given night.
There are side stories to be unlocked as you carry out and complete training for each of the recruited hostesses. Furthermore, each girl has their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses, and it is up to you to select the right attire for them in order to enhance their best qualities. This certain feature is what you’d probably find in a Kim Kardashian or Barbie type game, and it’s most definitely going to be problematic for an over 20 something year old man to be taking part in this, so be prepared to disappoint your parents.
To provide the setting, my brother had just left for work and I sensed a window of opportunity to Solid Snake into his room to play the Dreamcast. Mild curiosity struck as I stared at this plain looking copied disc, resembling something like “ya boy’s” dead ass mixtape. I saw the word ‘Shenmue’ scribbled in green marker ink. “What the fuck is a Shenmue?” I wondered. My modest expectations were short lived, having been immediately captivated by its gripping narrative, action-filled gameplay and highly detailed aesthetics. The Shenmue series left its mark for many years on an impressionable pre-teen version of the UK based 6 God – me. Whilst waiting for Shenmue 3, I can do little now other than write this lame account of my cherished memories.
The story is centred around the 18 year old Ryo Hazuki as he sets out on a personal quest for revenge, uncovering family secrets along the way. From an unsuspecting cutscene you could suddenly be thrust into a reaction sequence, I found myself on the edge of my seat for many QTE scenes, frantically trying to remember button combinations, being slightly off rhythm. Failing to carry out the correct sequence could end with an undesirable outcome for Ryo, or at worst a dreaded ‘Game Over’. There’s lots of Virtua fighter-esque combat, with one particular instance where Ryo has to fight a whole bunch of 80’s street punks before rushing to rescue his childhood friend and/or sweetheart.
The game was largely exploratory, providing an ambitious, early take on the open world concept. The possibilities were seemingly endless, allowing players: to purchase and collect toy capsules; visit local convenience stores; play Sega games in the local arcade; and interact with locals. Throughout both instalments I was able to visit: Yokosuka – a seemingly homely Japanese Town; a vibrant and busy Hong Kong; and a rural Chinese setting of Guilin, all three environments were immensely detailed, providing me with lasting experiences of places I had longed to visit. Shenmue was very immersive with lots of scripted voice dialogue, although some of the lines were kind of suspect, providing awkwardly funny moments in the game (i.e. “I’m trying to locate some sailors”).
Looking back, Ryo was difficult to relate to with his stoic personality and today I have less tolerance for similar characters – preferring Goro Majima to the often two dimensional Kazuma Kiriyu of the Yakuza series. That being said, this mattered little back then, as I held huge admiration for Ryo’s courage, strength and selflessness. On numerous occasions, Ryo helps the vulnerable and rescues loved ones from dangerous types – an all-round great guy. Most importantly, he was the hero figure I needed, rescuing me from an era that glorified Captain bro-dude and DangerMan of DC/Marvel’s infinitely painful universe. Thanks Ryo.
UTM Podcast #6 is here – and this time we’ve got EXCLUSIVE(!) first takes on some trending topics in the world of music and video games.
Whilst June offered some fleeting moments of respite for those whose faith in humanity had been all but shredded to pieces, it still resulted in everybody who isn’t an austerity-loving prick sinking into despair as our beloved prime minister assumedly discovered the ‘infinite bells’ glitch from Animal Crossing and bought her way back into power. But hey, there were still bangers, so let’s end it on a high with some of those.
The fifth episode of the UTM Podcast is here – and quite frankly, we never saw it coming.
May is a shit month cuz our Prime Minister is called May and she’s an idiot, but there’s been some bangers this month so here they are. Continue reading “Monthly Bangers: May 2017”