Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Talk to the Hand! 2 Games That Took Talking to the Next Level

Talking to video games has become extremely commonplace nowadays. It has become such a prominent part of gaming that thousands of games rely on voice recognition, whether you're talking to a pet in Nintendogs or trying to make a Pikachu do ANYTHING BECAUSE IT NEVER LISTENS TO YOU AND IT DRIVES ME INSANE... in Hey, You! Pikachu. Even outside of gaming, voice recognition is everything; why else do people buy so many phones, anyway?
Back to gaming, though, there have been plenty of odd ways talking into a microphone affects gameplay, and here are two semi-obscure ones that utilize it for some.... interesting results.
Takeshi's Challenge Makes You Sing Karaoke
One of the earliest games to utilize the microphone built into the Nintendo Famicom was Takeshi no Chosenjo, or Takeshi's Challenge as we lovingly call it in the West. For years, it was a completely obscure game, but rose to prominence through Youtube, and most of you have probably already heard it by now, especially with JonTron's video released earlier this year. Regardless, I'm gonna talk about it anyway.
The game was developed by Taito for release in 1986, with the "cooperation" of Japanese actor, Takeshi Kitano. Notice how the "cooperation" is in quotation marks; he hardly did anything for the game, and it was created entirely from what Takeshi said in a single meeting, during which he was drunk. Rather than wait for Takeshi to sober up, though, Japan did what they always have done: they made it anyway.

The game is perhaps most famous for its tedious gameplay. Certain events essential to game progression can be skipped by accident, and if you accidentally skip it, you're screwed. For example, at the beginning of the game, you must quit your job, take money stashed away in a plant, go to the bank for more money, and use it for shamisen lessons. Why is this important? Much later in the game, there's a cannibal who is about to devour you, and you can only escape by playing the shamisen for him.
Confusing, right? Many players tried to call Taito and ask about how to progress in the game, and they got over 400 calls everyday. Most of the time, Taito employees were unable to answer the question, even stating that the person in charge had died as an excuse.
If that doesn't set the tone of the game, I don't know what does.
Back to the point of the article, however. During one famously tedious segment, you go to a bar and have to sing some karaoke. Why? If you sing enough, an old man will give you a piece of paper that is essential to the plot. (You also have to kill the man after he gives you it, or else at the very end of the game, he'll pop up and murder you. Did you really expect anything more out of this game?) The karaoke is achieved by literally belching out your voice into the Famicom controller, to the beat of the music being played in the game. One mistake, and the yakuza shows up and attacks you, so you better sing just right, or else you'll be dead as a doorknob.
To be fair, though, you didn't have to sing. Kind of. The microphone could only pick up noises, so tone (and what you were saying) didn't actually matter, assuming that it was to the beat of the music. Heck, you could literally beat the segment by blowing into the mic at appropriate times.
While this was the only time that the microphone was required, Takeshi's Challenge took the liberty of insulting you everywhere you went. Even after the segment, if you spoke into the controller, it would hurl insults at you. Whoever thought it was a good idea to call its players male genitalia? Takeshi, apparently.
In Japan, the game is lovingly called kuso-ge, or "crap game", alongside such riveting titles as Zombie Nation and Hong Kong '97. It lives on forever in the hearts of many, and is now regarded as one of the worst video games of all time. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)
AAAAAGH: Gnilley
Leaping forward to 2010 is the experimental game, Gnilley. While not widely heard of today, it got notoriety when it was shown at Game Jam Sydney. According to the creator, it was initially supposed to be about pitch and color, but alas, that wasn't meant to be. Instead, you literally yelled at the game.
Unlike, Takeshi's Challenge, this was the entire point.  You didn't just talk to the game: you effing scolded it like it just threw up on a Picasso. According to its failed Kickstarter, "The core of Gnilley will be a top-down adventure à la Zelda. Exploring this overworld (yelling at enemies, tuning obstacles, and solving puzzles along the way) uncovers the story and reveals a variety of challenges that need to be solved to progress and unlock new abilities." For obvious reasons, it won the award for the most original game at the event in Sydney, but has since been largely forgotten, and not much has been heard about it since it failed to raise enough funds. I guess you could say that its development got... quieter. (canned laughter and applause)

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