[Interview] Five: Micah Seff

Five questions, five answers. Simple as that.
Author: Marc N. Kleinhenz
Published: July 1, 2010

TotalPlayStation's Five interview series takes the brightest minds from the journalistic and game development worlds and asks them to expound on their personal benchmarks of the videogame industry, exploring the crucial components of narrative, music, gameplay, graphics, and character.

Micah Seff left his position as IGNís news editor in 2007 and, after a brief stint consulting social media start-ups, started his own journalistic enterprise, GameXplain, two years later. Though covering the familiar gaming territory of news and previews, the site is uniquely review-focused, eschewing many of the trappings of other outlets in the process and instead unabashedly playing up the subjective nature of the reviews Ė and the reviewers themselves.

There is a bevy of ways to keep tabs on Seff: there is GameXplainís GameBusters tips and tricks video series and YouTube channel, as well as Facebook and Twitter.

[Plot Point/Character Beat/Story Twist]
I guess Iím just going to spoil the end of a five-year-old game here, but I canít help myself since this plot twist was the only time Iíve actually been impressed with a gameís storyline, and that game was Suda 51ís masterpiece Killer7. At the end of that game, you play through a glorious sequence featuring one of the eponymous killers as he makes his way through a flashback that throws into question everything you had assumed to be true over the course of the game.

This entire level, as I wound my way through the halls of a dark, deserted hotel, assassinating the same people that I spent the whole game playing as, was one of the most stunning revelations Iíve ever encountered in a game. I repeat this mantra often, it seems, but videogame stories are usually just so uninspired, I canít find myself getting too excited over them, ever. Killer7 was different. That game haunted my dreams. I couldnít stop thinking about its storyline and various plot twists, despite the obvious fact that there were several aspects of it that didnít add up. The ending just shattered my expectations so perfectly. I wish every game story were like that.

[Song and/or Soundtrack]
Good God, Iím going to come off as the biggest Grasshopper fanboy ever here, but my favorite game soundtrack is yet again Killer 7 by Masafumi Takada. The audio design in that game was so cohesive, and the songs blended effortlessly with the rest of the audio elements. It all added to this sparse feeling of loneliness and dread that pervaded that game. Not only that, but it has several eminently listenable songs spread over the entirety of the soundtrack (ďRave On,Ē ďMultiple Personality,Ē ďDissociative Identity,Ē etc.).

As far as a favorite song goes, thatís a different matter entirely. Iím quite partial to the Dragon Roost Island theme from [The Legend of Zelda] Wind Waker. That game has far too many haters out there for how awesome it was, and one of the best parts was the absolutely awe-inspiring soundtrack. If youíre a Nintendo fan and somehow missed this, check out the ďMario & Zelda Big Band LiveĒ performance that Nintendo put together for the Famicomís 20th anniversary. Not only do they perform stunning renditions of some of Nintendoís most famous jams, they do some killer versions of the Wind Waker songs. Back in college, I had a roommate who would play that performance on repeat all day long while trudging through the hellscape that was Ragnarok Online. I canít say that I ever complained once.

[Gameplay Mechanic]
For the sake of Five, Iím going to name something a little divisive here because Iíve been thinking about it a lot lately. Itís hardly the best mechanic or even my favorite, but I feel itís something that is often overlooked. That mechanic is: the inability to shoot while moving in Resident Evil games. I put together a comparison feature recently looking at Alan Wakeís design versus that of Resident Evil 4, and a lot of people responded to us about how much better Alan Wake was than RE4 simply due to the ability to move while shooting.

Iíd contend that part of the reason that Alan Wake feels so lacking in tension is that there wasnít such a well-thought-out limitation on the playerís movement. Resident Evil held players in place as a means of heightening tension and allowing the experience to feel more visceral and realistic. Sure, people arenít completely incapable of firing a gun while moving, but how often do people actually do that? Shinji Mikami knew exactly what he was doing when he designed that game. The player is supposed to be slightly constrained so that the tension is in every step you take. Iíd wager that most gamers do not appreciate this aspect of Resident Evil games, which is really too bad because Iíd love to see it applied to other titles that are supposed to evoke fear.

[Graphical Effect]
God, I feel like Iím gonna just be discussing the same few games over and over here, but why not? They donít get enough credit anyway. So graphical effect, you say? What better effect to discuss than last generationís most-often-applied technique, cel-shading. Maybe itís because I love animation so much, maybe itís because I hate the real world, but there is no effect Iíd rather see applied to a game than cel shading.

Iíve already mentioned them once here, but Wind Waker and Killer7 are not only two of my favorite-sounding games, they are two of my favorite-looking games, as well. Wind Wakerís clean, bright color palette and Killer7ís aura of dark, brooding, abstract horror really brought those respective titles to life. Ever since seeing Killer7 screens for the first time, I had hoped and dreamed for a day when cel-shaded games were indistinguishable from hand-drawn animation. We havenít quite gotten there yet, and the style has recently been going out of vogue, but Iíve got to imagine that it wonít be too much longer before this becomes a reality.

Wow. This is probably the hardest one, as there are so many gaming characters that I happen to love. I could spend this time gushing more over Killer 7 and its awesome cast of hitmen, but instead Iíll just focus on an older favorite of mine: Proto Man (Blues in Japan). Despite the fact that he always plays second fiddle to his more evolved brother Mega Man, Iíve been partial to the ďRed BomberĒ ever since I first laid eyes on him in Mega Man 3 (under the guise of Break Man).

Perhaps I read too many Mega Man sprite comics in college, perhaps Iíve listened to The Protomenís debut album one too many times, perhaps I just like blues music more than rock, but whatever the reason, Iíve always wished that I could play through the Mega Man games as his older, more tragic brother. Thank God Mega Man 9 and 10 came along and answered my prayers Ė otherwise, Iíd be stuck pining after Proto Man until the year 20XX.

[The Five Archive]

Sam Bishop

Crispin Boyer

Rus McLaughlin

Chris Dahlen