E.11 – Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

With a series as iconic and influential as Metal Gear Solid, where does one even begin? In today’s episode, we look to our friends for the answer: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. For a game released in 2004, it offered an extreme level of detail in both its presentation and mechanics. But it also afforded players an unprecedented amount of choice. As such, it is widely considered the pinnacle of the franchise.

To better understand Metal Gear Solid 3‘s many poignant – at times hilarious – contradictions, Alex and I welcome two people who’ve never met to the show. Returning from E.5 is Ryan Ward, and we’re happy to introduce Al Pocci, one of Alex’s closest friends, to the Screen Looking podcast. What Ryan and Al share is a deep appreciation for all things Metal Gear, and they bring with them some fascinating perspectives to our conversation.

In Al’s words, “Metal Gear Solid 3 was the end of an era,” both for the series and video games at large. But what held the prequel together is also what generated some of its most entertaining points of friction. As we revisit what made Metal Gear Solid 3 work, we don’t shy away from Kojima’s more provocative messages, either. It might surprise you to discover how relevant it all remains, fifteen years later.

Additional Notes & Credits

  • Alex Koval, my co-host, is a full-stack developer, aspiring radio theater producer, and lifelong fan of the horror genre. He currently resides in Pittsburgh, PA. Some of his favorite games include Resident EvilFinal Fantasy TacticsBaldur’s Gate II: Shadows of AmnBloodborne, and Banjo-Kazooie.
  • Al Pocci is an expat, author, and paramedic based out of Galway, Ireland. His favorite games include Final Fantasy 9Gunstar HeroesFallout 3 and, of course, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
  • Ryan Ward has been a friend of mine since growing up together in Northeast Ohio, and now lives on the West Coast. Some of his favorite games include the Metal Gear Solid series and Final Fantasy Tactics.
  • Music and SFX in today’s episode are from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and its OST.
  • Articles & quotes referenced in today’s episode are courtesy of Gamepro, IGN, and Gamasutra.

E.10 – Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice & From Software

“Hesitation is defeat.”

Is From Software’s latest, notoriously difficult video game worth enduring? One does not simply play Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, but the payoff is unlike what most of its peers have to offer. In today’s episode, Alex and I take as much of a look at Sekiro as we do the mystique, philosophies, and history of its creators.

Here to refill our Healing Gourds is none other than Mono Memory – From Software devotee, resident synthwavist, and our first international guest. Mono Memory is responsible for much of the music book-ending our episodes this year, and we’re thrilled to have him join us.

By revisiting the studio’s other critical darlings, Dark Souls and Bloodbourne, we discover how they’ve grown as artists, what distinguishes each franchise, and how a game over screen can be a narrative vehicle.

Additional Notes & Credits

E.9 – Gaming Tastes & Looking Ahead (Bonus Episode)

It’s time for a bonus round.

If you’re new to the show, this is an excellent place to start tuning in to the Screen Looking podcast. In our first bonus episode, Alex Koval and I take a respite from the deep dives for a chill, candid conversation about our tastes in video games – and how our personalities inform them.

In addition, we have a special announcement at the top of the episode, followed by some fun ideas for future installments.

We’ll be returning soon with more deep and varied explorations of why video games are such an interesting medium, discovering new stories and rediscovering old favorites. For now, we simply couldn’t wait to keep the conversation rolling.

Additional Notes & Credits

E.8 – Resident Evil 2 (Pt. 2: Story & Campaigns)

Sometimes, you look forward to something for so long. And then it’s suddenly over. It’s a little bittersweet, but our late nights with Resident Evil 2 had to end somewhere.

Having thoroughly discussed its stylistic departures in Pt. 1, Alex, Nick and I push forward through the remake’s more familiar narrative beats. From the survivors inhabiting its world to Leon and Claire’s alternate paths, to the means of survival and a handful of our own ideas, we lay it all on the table with our final words on the RE2 remake.

Tune in as we take our victory lap through the streets of Raccoon City — and live to tell the tale.

Additional Notes & Credits:

  • Spoiler Warning! This applies to the entire episode
  • Alex Koval is a full-stack web developer, an independent short-filmmaker, and a fan of the horror genre. We’ve been best friends since 2nd grade, and some of his favorite games include Resident Evil, Final Fantasy Tactics, Eternal Darkness, and Banjo-Kazooie.
  • Nicholas Kuhar is my brother, bandmate, and frequent donor of graphic novels. He is also the Director of Innovation at St. Edward High School in Cleveland, OH, helping young students unlock their creativity through new-media. Some of his favorite video games include The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Final Fantasy VII.
  • Music at the top of today’s episode is from Resident Evil 2‘s remade OST, produced by the Capcom Sound Team. Our closing theme is a fantastic cover of the game’s “Save Room Theme,” courtesy of Mono Memory – an 80’s inspired synthwave producer based in Edinburgh.
  • References include Chris Saglimbene’s interview w/ writer Brent Friedman, an archived interview with the original RE2 team (from the June 1998 issue of Japanese gaming magazine, “The Playstation“), and an old commercial for the game’s original release.
  • Special cocktail REcipes coming soon…

E.7 – Resident Evil 2 (Pt. 1: Look & Feel)

If it wasn’t for Capcom’s remake of Resident Evil 2, this podcast probably wouldn’t even exist. Soon after RE2 was unveiled at E3 2018, Alex Koval and I jumped on a call to discuss why the 1998 version was still so present in our minds. Joining us to see how well it’s come back to haunt us is my brother and returning guest, Nicholas Kuhar, for a special two-part edition of Screen Looking.

In Pt. 1, our attention is focused on the look, feel and mood of Capcom’s re-imagined RE2, in addition to some of its earliest and most unforgettable moments. By the end, we make our way around to one of the game’s most divisive topics: Mr. X.

For a 21-year-old game, RE2 is still full of surprises and eager to subvert our expectations. Indulge us as we once again enter the world of survival horror.

Additional Notes & Credits:

  • Alex Koval is a full-stack web developer, an independent short-filmmaker, and a fan of the horror genre. We’ve been best friends since 2nd grade, and some of his favorite games include Resident Evil, Final Fantasy Tactics, Eternal Darkness, and Banjo Kazooie.
  • Nicholas Kuhar is my brother, bandmate, and frequent donor of graphic novels. He is also the Director of Innovation at St. Edward High School in Cleveland, OH, helping young students unlock their creativity through new-media. Some of his favorite video games include The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Final Fantasy VII.
  • Music & SFX in today’s episode are from Resident Evil 2 and its OST, produced by the Capcom Sound Team.
  • Featured excerpts are courtesy of YouTubers Chris Gamesalot and their interview w/ writer Brent Friedman, as well as Captain Eggcellent and their Resident Evil 2 Remake Mythbusters series.
  • Archived interview with the original RE2 team (RE1.5 development stories & more) from the June 1998 issue of Japanese gaming magazine, “The Playstation.
  • Tune in next week for Pt. 2, as we venture forth into RE2’s revised story and campaign details.

E.6 – Iconic Snow Worlds: Winter Special Edition

Love ’em or hate ’em, the most unforgettable video game worlds are usually buried in snow. In this special winter episode, friends & listeners of the show write in with the ones they remember most.

Regardless of whether they’re frustrating, fun or simply a change of scenery, a “good” snow-themed level will push any game’s design to the absolute brink. They surprise us with bold visuals and subvert our expectations of a game’s environments. At the very least, they know how to stand out. Challenging yet wondrous to explore, these virtual worlds left an indelible impression on those who survived them. Today, I get to share their stories with you.

Grab a warm beverage, abandon your chores, and commiserate with me on that extended commute as I open up the mailbag for this special edition of the Screen Looking podcast.

Additional Credits & Notes:

  • Recipe: Yeto’s Superb Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Soup (thanks, Cory!)
  • The opening theme for today’s episode is a remastered version of Final Fantasy VII‘s “Buried in Snow,” recreated by Pontus Hultgren — a freelance composer/orchestrator based in Sweden. Visit his YouTube channel to hear more.
  • Additional music in today’s episode comes from each entry and their respective OSTs, including: Banjo-Kazooie, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes BackDonkey Kong Country, Goldeneye 007, Journey, The Last of Us, The Legend of Zelda series, Mario 64, Max Payne, Metal Gear Solid, Puzzle Agent, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game, and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.
  • Thank you to everybody who wrote in! Video games have the unique power to connect us across far distances, and I can’t think of a better way for the show to celebrate that this season.

Engadget Feature: The World of ‘Guacamelee! 2’

There are few games that I have replayed – and then again, and again, and again – as much as I did with Guacamelee!.

Each playthrough emboldened me to become an even stronger, faster, more magical luchadore, but they also revealed new layers to the game’s world. Guacamelee! was brimming with secrets, hidden between the difficulty spikes and its signature atmosphere. That attention to detail only went further in its recent sequel, and luckily I got to hear & write all about it.

For my second longform piece on Engadget, I had the pleasure of talking with the series’ creators, DrinkBox Studios. Guacamelee! 2 became an opportunity for them to revisit a world they loved building in the first place, only to discover how rewarding the creative process could still be. I spoke with the team’s co-founder and producer, Graham Smith, art director, Steph Goulet, and concept lead & animator, Augusto Quijano, to better understand the sequel’s new landscapes, narrative beats, color palette and more.

As delightful as Guacamelee! 2‘s slapstick self-aware tone is, what stuck with me were its quieter moments – and how personal Augusto was in drawing inspiration from his Mexican upbringing. It’s clear that DrinkBox made even more thoughtful design decisions this time around, managing to distinguish the sequel from its already hyper-stylized predecessor along the way.

With a Guacamelee! themed episode of Screen Looking in the works, I now have a great excuse to replay the sequel, too. Until then, I hope you enjoy reading about it.

E.5 – Spider-Man

If a video game is going to let you experience life as Peter Parker in 2018, it ought to feel amazing. Thankfully, it does.

Strength, grace, and a taxi-driver’s understanding of Manhattan are just a few of the advantages that Marvel’s Spider-Man affords players. Surprisingly, it’s also filled with heart, laughs, and a gravity-defying means of traversal that never grows old. After a tumultuous history in video games, the iconic character is finally done justice in the hands of Insomniac Games.

My brother, Nicholas Kuhar, and our longtime friend, Ryan Ward, join me for an extended chat about the wall-crawling adventure we’ve been waiting for. We break down what makes Spider-Man a thoughtful adaptation through its relationship with its source material, web-slinging physics, commitment to the character, and clever yet jaw-dropping presentation.

Additional Credits & Notes:

  • Spoiler Warning! Around the 30 minute mark, we start discussing major narrative and plot details.
  • Nicholas Kuhar is my brother, bandmate, and frequent donor of graphic novels. He is also the Director of Innovation at St. Edward High School in Cleveland, OH, helping young students unlock their creativity through new-media and technology. Some of his favorite video games include The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Final Fantasy VII.
  • Ryan Ward is your go-gettin’ friendly neighborhood Spider-Fan with a heart of gold. His knowledge of Marvel Comics is extensive, and the Metal Gear Solid series has produced some of his favorite video games. Since growing up together in Northeast Ohio, these truths have remained the same.
  • Special thanks to Megan Kuhar for lending her audio engineering expertise & support — without it, we would have not been able to record this month’s episode.
  • Music in this episode is from Spider-Man: The Animated Series, and the OST to Marvel’s Spider-Man (composed by John Paesano).

E.4 – Hearthstone: The Boomsday Project

It’s been nearly half-a-decade since Blizzard Entertainment disrupted the card game scene with Hearthstone. Its community is still going strong, and is now enjoying one of its most fun & balanced seasons thanks to The Boomsday Project: an otherworldly expansion pack filled with mad scientists and happy accidents.

In our fourth episode, we discuss not only the state & direction of Hearthstone, but also revisit the foundation it was built upon. Returning from our debut episode to talk through it all is my dear friend, Alex Koval.

We also welcome an additional and very special guest: concept artist & illustrator, David Kegg. David has had the unique pleasure of creating some of the excellent artwork found in Hearthstone’s latest set and trailers. Today he joins us to talk shop about the look & feel of the game, his artistic contributions and the process to bringing aspects of Hearthstone’s world to life.

Additional Credits & Notes:

  • Alex Koval is a full-stack web developer, an independent short-filmmaker, and a fan of the horror genre. We’ve been best friends since 2nd grade, and some of his favorite games include Resident Evil, Final Fantasy Tactics, Eternal Darkness, and Banjo Kazooie.
  • David Kegg and I went to art school together at the Cleveland Institute of Art, and he has been a professional concept artist & illustrator ever since. His work can be viewed online through ArtStation, as well as on Instagram and Twitter (@DKeggArt).
  • Music in this episode is from the OSTs to both Hearthstone and its latest expansion, The Boomsday Project.

E.3 – Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End left Naughty Dog’s critically-acclaimed action adventure series feeling far more complete than most games are known for. Apparently, its creators felt otherwise.

Somewhere between an epilogue and a standalone chapter, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy managed to distill the best parts of the series without overstaying its welcome. And by handing the reins over to someone other than Nathan Drake, it discovers at least one more adventure worth taking.

Hilary Bovay returns to the guest seat to uncover what secrets Uncharted still has to offer, as series favorites Chloe & Nadine take the lead. Tune in for our conversation exploring the game’s mythological and cultural background, cinematic qualities, production methods, acting, writing, and more.

Additional Credits & Notes:

  • Hilary Bovay is an incredibly talented photographer from Aquidneck Island, RI, now based out of Cleveland, OH. She has a keen eye for aesthetics & visual storytelling, and her love for the original Crash Bandicoot is all you’ll ever need to know about her taste in video games.
  • Music in this episode is from the OST to Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, composed by Henry Jackman.
  • Outro bumper clips courtesy of YouTube user SuperNormalMode.