[Interview] Five: Javi Rodriguez

Five questions, five answers. Simple as that.
Author: Marc N. Kleinhenz
Published: December 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.

Javi Rodriguez tells his own personal story so well, it’s best to break Five tradition and just let the man speak for himself:

“I have always had videogames around me – an NES had been in our living room since I could remember. But it wasn't until the PSX/N64 generation that I really started to see the potential in this medium. After years of following sites like IGN, it was clear that I wasn't alone in my love of it. Who would've thought I'd actually get a chance to work with them! *cough*Game Scoop! Toons*cough*

“Eventually, podcasts started to pop up all over the place, and the people whose work I had been reading for years now had a voice. After running a relatively popular blog, I still felt like I had more to say about the industry, so I got a group of my friends together and started a podcast: the Game Over podcast was born. It has been almost two years since then and a lot has happened. Attending industry events, rubbing elbows with developers, partying with our listeners – it's a dream come true. With a nation of listeners and readers behind me, I can confidently say that G-ovah.com is just the beginning.”

[Plot Point/Character Beat/Story Twist]
Ah, Metal Gear Solid. My favorite game of all time. The graphics are as bad as any PSX game and the gameplay is very limited, especially when compared to its sequels. Yet Metal Gear Solid remains my favorite game because I think it is still one of the best stories ever told through gaming. The story in MGS is actually pretty simple by today's standards, but maybe that's why it's so easy to get into. You are one man sent to infiltrate a facility that's been taken over by a group of the world's best soldiers who all decided to defect. The only backup you have is your crew's advice via radio. While Metal Gear's dialogue can be a little heavy-handed at times, with talk of “love on the battlefield,” I still think it tackled a lot of issues that had never been explored in a videogame before – from nuclear waste and deterrence to the effects of war on the human psyche. Not to mention, it has one of the best plot twists I've ever seen: at the end, you find out you've been unintentionally helping the terrorists all along and accidentally activated their "Nuclear-equipped Walking Deathmobile!"

A moment I will never forget.

[Song and/or Soundtrack]
I'm not the biggest fan of the Final Fantasy franchise by a long shot, but I have a lot of respect for Nobuo Uematsu's work. Take a person who has played through any of the Final Fantasy games (pre-XI) and put on any song from that game's soundtrack. Nine times out of ten, the person will be hit with nostalgic memories of exactly what was happening in that game. There's something really magical about his music; each track ingrains itself into your subconscious. More games need that.

[Gameplay Mechanic]
As a former speed-runner of Super Mario 64, I like to think I know the game in and out. And after 23 years of controlling the little red plumber, I think he hasn't played as well since. Long-jumping through levels – landing exactly where you wanted to – performing lightning-fast wall-kicks, and using the environment in ways it was never meant to be is what makes this game untouchable when it comes to control. Plus, since the question at hand is “what are the five most important games?” I think one of the first real benchmarks in 3D gaming is an appropriate choice.

[Graphical Effect]
Shadow of the Colossus had no dialogue and plenty of downtime between the epic colossus fights. It's safe to say that a lot of what would make or break SotC is the visual presentation. The world was massive; you could see destinations far out in the distance and know that, at some point, you would have to go there. The first time I walked up to one of the Colossi and saw the detail in its fur and armor, I was blown away. The ground would shake and dust would fly into the air with every step they took. Even to this day, it's hard to find a game with such realistic animation.

A beautiful game all around, and not just visually.

It's odd to choose such a new character as one of the most important, but I think that, with Uncharted 2, Naughty Dog has taken characterization in gaming to a new level. Using beautiful, pre-rendered cutscenes to tell a story is nothing new – but in Uncharted, Nathan Drake would talk to himself, react to his enemies, and banter with his comrades about what was going on during gameplay. Jump in a pool, he makes a joke about Marco Polo. Climb a wall, your partner tells you they're getting exhausted by just watching you. It's the little ways that they brought the characters to life that really makes their relationships and history feel very real. Whether it's thanks to the writers, animators, or Nolan North's knack for playing the loveable everyman, Nathan Drake is a character that will always stick with me.

[The Five Archive]

Paul Semel

Andre Segers

Chris Roper

Dave Zdyrko

Micah Seff

Sam Bishop

Crispin Boyer

Rus McLaughlin

Chris Dahlen