NBC hates the Olympics, and hates you for watching them.

Or at least it seems that way, speaking as someone who watched both the American and British broadcasts of the opening ceremonies. The ceremonies themselves were lovely, and the British announcers largely stayed out of the way. The Americans? Not only did they talk over action, they did not seem to know the difference between “informative” and “time-wasting”. Introducing the Arctic Monkeys is informative; speaking over their rendition of “Come Together” to note they’re from Sheffield is just a waste. And noting “this is the soundtrack to our lives!” is especially wasteful when your praise is covering up the music.

The Americans also had a need to overexplain every detail, and this outright ruined several segments. The “modern” segment ended with internet inventor Tim Berners-Lee, a twist the British concealed. The Americans? They opened by saying he would appear, and said they didn’t know who he was either. Of course, it’s a journalist’s job to know who someone they’re reporting on is. Does NBC figure it’s charming to be ignorant?  They also broke into that same segment multiple times to explain the love story as if it were something complex, or hard to follow for any reason other than them talking over it constantly.

Fans of ignorance and jingoism need look no further than the embarrassment that is the American commentary on the Parade of Nations. First after Greece was Afghanistan – a nation discussed exclusively in terms of how many American troops were there. If a nation could be reduced to its link to America, it was. Witness the speech justifying China as our Olympic rival – the new Soviet Union – even though Costas says we don’t compete strongly in many of the same categories with the Chinese. What a rivalry!

Throughout, Matt Lauer and Bob Costas were a font of insight. “If there were a gold medal for countries whose name make me smile, it would go to Djibouti!” Yes, let’s reduce countries to lame puns; what promotes national unity more? Finland, meanwhile, was reduced to its progressive parking ticket policy. My favorite piece of Parade of Nations commentary: “When you’re President for life, your term ends when you die.” And now the country of No Shit is entering the arena, lead by flag bearer Sherlock.

NBC cut one whole segment – the tribute to terrorism victims. Yes, who wants moving remembrances of the lost when you can have Ryan Seacrest interview the notoriously media-shy Michael Phelps? I wondered how NBC would handle the tribute to the National Health Service and children’s literature, which sounded silly but turned out to be the best part of the opening ceremonies. Naturally, the NHS was explained in terms of American controversies over socialized healthcare; well they (and many other developed nations) have free health care, but it’s inexplicably controversial here, so let’s move on. Look at that huge Voldemort! Really, what else would you expect from NBC?

Crash Bandicoot in 2012

And here’s a fan’s tech demo of a modern Crash Bandicoot. It looks great, but that’s to be expected when all they needed to do was focus on graphics; after all, any real attempt at a Crash Bandicoot remake would be hit with a quick cease-and-desist order.

Crash Bandicoot is looked back at nostalgically as part of the first generation of 3D platformers – the Playstation’s Super Mario 64, if you will – but what’s interesting is how, besides graphics, the series was distinctly 2D. Movement alternated between side-scrolling areas where you could occasionally move further or closer to the camera and top-down platforming sections that still didn’t have much free movement; often, levels would switch between the two styles. Only the third game – also the best in the series – had open levels, in the form of jet ski and biplane minigames:

This hybrid between 2D gameplay and 3D graphics was pioneered by Bug! and Clockwork Knight on the Saturn, and was furthered on the Playstation with games like Crash, Tomba! and Klonoa. These types of games came along during a time where 2D games were on their way out; Sony discouraged their release, and in the United States they were eventually banned from being released at all on the Saturn.

These “2.5D games” fell out of favor on the Playstation 2, and now it exists mainly in the form of franchise throwbacks. Truly 2D games have made a minor comeback – in the form of an endless stream of “retro” indie games and occasional big releases like the brilliant Rayman Origins. Crash Bandicoot was innovative technically (it was among the best looking games on the Playstation and doesn’t look bad today), but in many ways it was just as old-fashioned as the 2D platformers it helped push to the fringes of gaming.

Here’s your chance to buy Final Fantasy VII again!

So the rumors are true: Final Fantasy VII is coming to the PC, again. Not to Steam, however; Final Fantasy VII will instead be exclusive to Square Enix’s store. Final Fantasy VII, of course, was released for the computer before; that version can’t easily run on modern machines and came with a host of flaws, including poorly translated music and not really fitting in amongst a market of more open games like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment. This is not a remake, but a re-release, optimized to run on modern systems but seemingly not changed beyond a few inconsequential new features. Continue reading