Welcome back readers.
We’re firmly and decisively on-time this week, Zelda or no Zelda. Just don’t ask me about my email turnaround.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Tear-ing Into It
Writing about the Tears of the Kingdom is coming out fast and furious, and the game has been out just long enough that there are a number of finely-seasoned selections available. Here are some highlights.
- The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is low-key a horror game | Polygon
Ana Diaz notes the ways in which the vibes are decidedly off on this return trip to Hyrule.
- ‘Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’ Doubles Down on ‘Breath of the Wild’s Best Inspiration | Inverse
Willa Rowe identifies thematic parallels between TotK‘s nature vs. industry conflict and the Ghibli films Nausicaa, Castle in the Sky, and Princess Mononoke.
- Tears of the Kingdom Replaces Breath of the Wild’s Best Mechanic | Paste Magazine
Grace Benfell dwells on memory, failure, and a mechanic Breath of the Wild did a little bit better.
- The Fun of “No-Fun” in ‘The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’ | PopMatters
Luis Aguasvivas digs into some of the theory behind TotK‘s disruptive sandbox.
- The Glitch Art of ‘Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’ | ArtReview
Lewis Gordon chronicles the breaking of a game that encourages its own breaking.
“In most games, it’s relatively easy to make a distinction between the outcomes high-level players are able to effect with game systems, and the glitches that are achieved outside of this (which, it should be stressed, require no less skill). Yet Tears of the Kingdom and its predecessor, 2017’s Breath of the Wild (two games lauded for their interactive malleability), offer an interesting counterargument. Take, for example, what glitch hunters are calling ‘Recall Launch’, which involves the complicated process of fusing a plank of wood to a weapon, reversing time (stay with me) and then using the momentum to launch Link high into the game’s pristine clouds. Is this a glitch or simply a quirk that emerges when the game’s design is pushed to its outer limits? If it is a genuine ‘mistake’, will Nintendo seek to ‘correct’ it with a patch? It begs a larger question: are the apparent tears in the fabric of this digital reality authored or accidental?”
Breath of the Wild depicted what many described as a “cozy” post-apocalypse–fantasy can be an effective buffer between audiences and material catastrophes. These next three authors and their respective object games examine more grounded choices and consequences in a variety of difficult futures.
- Waste Eater | Gamers with Glasses
Don Everhart takes a peek into an unglamorous technocapitalist future.
- Year of Games #11: Citizen Sleeper DLC | No Escape
Kaile Hultner catches up with Citizen Sleeper‘s decisive coda.
- The joys of the anti-farm sim: “Before the Green Moon” by turnfollow | Radiator Blog
Robert Yang plays a GameCube-style farming sim with a few extra knife twists from the polycrisis era.
“In the end you were basically just another tourist. You didn’t really have to live there, after all.”
Let’s dip backwards now into games of a fondly remembered–or sometimes misremembered or even unremembered–time and place.
- The Firemen: Hot stuff | Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi plays a categorically unique SNES game about guys being dudes. . . dudes who fight fires.
- R-Type  | Arcade Idea
Art Maybury finds something utterly alien in R-Type–the aesthetics and theming, sure, but also the original context and asking proposition of a game demanding so many hours and quarters to see it through.
“You basically have to make R-Type your hobby, a regular fixture in your life. Maybe starting from the start more often gives you an edge over me especially because you get to keep your power-ups, maybe you’re better at video games than I am, but for as perfectly likely as those propositions sound to me, I kinda doubt they make an exponential difference to the first-time player coming in cold.”
Now let’s turn to moments of emotional climax–both cathartic and traumatic–in games big and small.
- a new life. | The Almighty Backlog
Ellie plays a pandemic-era visual novel that goes a bit harder than expected.
- Vicarious Drunkenness: “Feud of the Ages” and the Role of Alcohol in ‘Like a Dragon: Ishin!’ | Epilogue Gaming
Flora Merigold lingers on a moment of emotional catharsis in the historical Yakuza spin-off.
““Feud of the Ages” thus captures in microcosm one of the Yakuza series’ greatest strengths: the ability to rock wildly back and forth between disparate tones and emotions without ever feeling dissonant, out of place, or inappropriate to the scene’s context. This small chapter could have easily been cut from the overall narrative, as it feels like a short story or side quest from a DLC addition, but I am so incredibly glad that it exists here because it greatly humanizes characters with some of the toughest, hard-as-nails facades in the entire game.”
Something a little different for our wheelhouse, but a thought-provoking and timely read on the whole “AI” thing.
- How To Find Things Online | v21
v buckenham goes deep on a chicken-and-egg problem in AI and LLMs, using games, FAQs, and GameFAQs as a container and example.
“I guess this is my overwhelming message here – that the crucial thing with AI is the data it’s trained on, and the crucial thing for that is the reasons people create it, and the way that it exists in a wider ecosystem. I’m pretty down on AI in this talk, and fundamentally that’s because I don’t see how these new AI interfaces loop back round and motivate the publication of more training data. By which I mean, people sharing what they know for other people.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!