Tagged: videogames

Stereotypes of Arabs in Zelda: Ocarina of Time: A journey, via Disney’s Aladdin and The Arabian Nights.

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In a previous post I briefly (ha) discussed Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s Fire Temple music and the so-called controversy surrounding its original music, which resembles Muslim prayer. I wanted to return to the subject, sort of, but this time to talk about the issue of race in the game. Part of the reason for coming back to it now is because I read a thoroughly stupid and ridiculous article posted at Salon.com about a month ago on this topic. I refuse to link to it here as a matter of principle because it is unadulterated click-baiting dirge. Seek it out if you dare – the article is titled ‘”The Legend of Zelda” is Classist, Sexist and Racist’. I warn you now that as well as “uncovering” the “hidden” classism, sexism and racism it also “reveals” the “truth” about Ocarina of Time’s “anti-animal” agenda. Pure bollocks. You have been warned. Still, it’s made me want to come back to the matter of race in Ocarina of Time, only partly because the Salon article handles the issue about as deftly as a small parakeet might handle the job of a school bus driver, which is to say not altogether well.

Let me just say quickly as a disclaimer that all of these points that follow are all based on subtext. Certainly they don’t in any sense (for me at least) ruin or spoil the game. And I refuse to do what the Salon article does, which is throw out these controversial words – racist, sexist, classist – seemingly at random. It’s not helpful as far as discussion goes, since it unfairly implies that if you enjoy Ocarina of Time it makes you, the player racist, sexist and so on, which is just stupid. Also, as much as I am being critical of Ocarina of Time here, clearly I recognise that there is a need for the story to have a good guy and a bad guy. Ultimately my feeling is that the makers probably drew on stereotypes that are in some sense unavoidable when trying to create this kind of story, a quest narrative of good versus evil. I’m just interested in the ways certain tropes of evil tend to be circulated and reused over others, and in this case I’m talking about how evil is associated with race.


During my most recent playthrough of Ocarina of Time I registered much more clearly the racialised features of the game’s own fantasy “races”. Many of these stereotypical features are on the surface, and are easily identifiable, even to myself as a child playing the game for the first time. The connections between Gorons and Africa are clear for example: besides the obvious dark skin, the Goron chief, Darunia – unique as a tribal chief among the kings of Hyrule – is fixated on music and dancing, with emphasis on the drum beat, and he also initiates Link by becoming his “brother”. The Gorons are really interesting to think about, but for length reasons here I’m going to discuss just the Gerudos.

Another reason for leaving the Gorons out of the discussion is that the Gerudos are the most villainous race in the game. Evil as many of them are, there are good Gerudos like Nabooru, who turns out to be the Spirit Sage. In Ocarina of Time, where Link’s task is to assist and ultimately unite all of Hyrule’s many races and clans, how and why are the Gerudos singled out as the most resistant and therefore most complex group of all? Continue reading

Gunbird Special Edition (PS2) review

There’s an unusual theme in the latest Very Very Gaming arrivals – two budget Playstation 2 titles, exclusive to the PAL territories and Japan. It’s not common, but neither Gunbird Special Edition nor Gregory Horror Show saw the light of day in the US while they did see release in Europe. Seems to be more commonplace these days but we’re still talking about a handful of titles, let alone the smaller still subset of desirable titles. Let’s review Gunbird Special Edition on PS2 then, and perhaps we shall see whether the cocky Europeans have reason to gloat, or are they just sanctimonious pricks?


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Guardian Heroes (Saturn) mini-review

It seems one of the MegaDrive’s defining games and Treasure’s first title, Gunstar Heroes, was almost never released. You have to wonder whether Sega producer Mac Senour isn’t tooting his own horn a bit, since he is basically taking sole credit for the game’s arrival on shelves. Regardless, it was released, and a few hidden gems later (Dynamite Headdy and Alien Soldier – both good and quirky) Treasure revealed Guardian Heroes, their first game on a 32-bit console, in a generation that would see them rotate between Sega’s, Nintendo’s and Sony’s consoles.

guardian heroes saturn japanese boxart

I’ve been holding off on writing these impressions because I found that Guardian Heroes took some time to get used to. I was expecting a traditional style beat ’em up, likely in Treasure fashion one with tons of enemies, and I knew from videos to expect some basic RPG elements such as levelling up. All of these elements were ready and present, but what surprised me was the depth and character of the fighting system. This is a fast paced fighter alright, with blocking, double jumping, combos and magic. This isn’t your slow and clunky Streets of Rage or Final Fight (both of which I hold huge amounts of clunky and slow affection for), instead Guardian Heroes is much closer in feel to Street Fighter, by which I definitely don’t mean the original. Continue reading

Combo Review: Shadow of Memories aka Shadow of Destiny and Fahrenheit aka Indigo Prophecy (PS2)

“Stuff your Combo Burger. I need a Combo Review” – these exact words are being said right now as you read this at a fast food outlet near you (I almost want to call the fast food places “vending machines” they’re so heavily mechanised). The Combo Review will not quench your physical hunger though, only your whetted gaming appetite. Yes, I’m using a nerdy metaphor for what is in simple terms a double review. That is to say I will attempt right here and now to review two games at the same time. I might choose to do so for sequels, or mayhaps because both games are in the same or related genre.

In this case the comparison stems from each of these game’s reliance on story over gameplay, as opposed to the more conventional Other Way Round. First up, I’ll talk a bit about Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy, a 2005 PS2 game by Quantic Dream, who went on to make Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. Second on the menu, we’ve got Shadow of Memories/Shadow of Destiny, a 2001 PS2 release by Konami. The game was directed and written by Junko Kawano, who has been heavily involved in the acclaimed Suikoden series from its inception. Let the battle begin. Ding ding! Continue reading

Exhumed/Powerslave (PS1) first impressions


Exhumed/Powerslave is an interesting game, developed by Lobotomy Software, the company that produced Saturn ports of Duke Nukem 3D and Quake. I’m playing the Playstation version of Exhumed, and as I’m only a few levels in, bear in mind that these impressions may not hold up and I might have more to say about it a later stage. For all I know the game could dive off a metaphorical cliff at this point, into a metaphorical sea of poo. Continue reading