August 21st, 2009
I should really leave the country more often. The summer is ending with a fresh load of new games that I’m excited to try out, from Shadow Complex and Arkham Asylum to Overlord II and Civilization Revolution on my iPod Touch. I’m also intrigued by Voxel Kingdom, which seems reminiscent of Super Mario RPG on the Super NES.
I’ve often written about what I consider to be a glut of solid games around the summer and Christmas periods, which I think crowds out smaller, newer, and often more innovative titles in favor of high-profile sequels. However, you’ll note that only one of the above games is a sequel, which is a refreshing change of pace. I don’t have the aversion that many people do to sequels, since they wouldn’t be made if people hadn’t liked the originals. But it’s still nice to see so many smaller games getting such a warm reception.
Posted in Etc, Geoff, Nintendo, PS3, Xbox 360 | No Comments »
January 30th, 2009
It’s quite possible the Wii momentum is starting to slow, but it seems a little weird to blame Nintendo for this. The console’s been out for a while, and it’s been selling ridiculous amounts ever since launch - obviously, at some point, people are going to stop buying them. But that’s because everyone owns one.
Strangely, analysts seem to be in the position of criticizing Nintendo for being way too successful. I’ve previously hammered the point that Nintendo can’t possibly sustain these expectations forever, and this seems to be bearing that notion out. But the criticism is misdirected - had the firm been only half as successful, it would still have beaten previous expectations. A better concern would be how the Wii’s success can be kept up, if indeed it can; yet let’s not lose track of the fact that we’ve moved the goalposts in the middle of the game.
Posted in Geoff, Nintendo, Wii | 1 Comment »
December 31st, 2008
Kotaku points out a post at thegamereviews.com that notes that this is the first year in a decade that didn’t see a new Zelda game released. This is actually something that perhaps most people don’t really think about, instead only thinking about the “main” games in the series, but as it turns out, I’ve played to completion nearly every game on that list (I never played Link’s Awakening and Majora’s Mask, and have not completed Phantom Hourglass).
I knew there was something missing this year.
Posted in Etc, Jeff, Nintendo | 2 Comments »
December 9th, 2008
I’m going to be in Steamboat Springs and Australia starting at the end of the week, so I’m getting all of the game of the year nonsense out of the way before I go. I’ve always found the idea of anointing one game “the best” of its peers to be subjectively absurd at best and downright flamebait at worst. So why am I doing it? It’s entertaining and I think it’s worthy of debate, if not resolution.
So herewith, my games of the year, for each console which I own.
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Posted in DS, Geoff, Impressions, Industry, Microsoft, Nintendo, PS3, PSP, Sony, Wii, Xbox 360 | 7 Comments »
October 3rd, 2008
So far, I’m very much enjoying Mega Man 9, but whether or not you will is dependent very much on two related but ultimately different things: how much you liked the original NES Mega Man games, how you feel about the NES aesthetic itself.
Let me elaborate. With respect to the original MM series, it probably goes without saying that if you really hated the originals, you’re not going to like #9… it imitates the originals almost to a fault. You have essentially the same basic puzzle themes - disappearing or moving blocks, instant-kill spikes, hard-hat enemies, middle-stage mini-bosses, and so on. The game does manage to come up with some unique uses for these building blocks but since the point is to reflect the earlier titles it doesn’t make the differences too obvious. And you can’t really fault it for that.
It’s on the second point that I think you need to draw some careful distinctions. In an earlier comment, Rob remarks that “we started doing much better once we started assuming that, at any given moment, the worst possible thing that could happen was going to happen.” This is a very on-target comment. A lot of people have discussed the game’s difficulty - in many respects, I don’t think that it’s actually as hard as they imply if you’re familiar with older NES games. But the game doesn’t simply attempt to replicate that aesthetic - it tries to pay tribute to it. The practical implication is that what was tough in Mega Man 1 or 2 is fetishized in Mega Man 9.
For example, if you recall the original Ice Man stage in #1, you may recall how irritating the disappearing ice blocks could be; it was simply tough to get your character to make the leaps as carefully as you desired to avoid a bottomless pit of death. The Gravity Man stage has similar pits, but puts an enemy in front of them that launches you inexorably into the pits - or in some places, spiked walls. There’s no way to know the enemies are there unless you inch forward, bit by bit (or die repeatedly), any time you come close to a pit or spike series, as Rob implies. This is a perfect example of what I think ultimately will divide the Mega Man 9 haters from the fans. If you liked Mega Man because it was hard… you will love this game. If you like it because you really love the aesthetic (art, level design, conventions) of the original NES titles, you will still like the game quite a bit. (I fall into the last category.) That’s because it takes what was difficult about the original Mega Man, puts it on a billboard, and strings it with neon so you don’t miss it; it’s retro for retro’s sake, an ironic take on all that was good and bad about NES games.
That’s why liking Mega Man itself is only partially relevant. The critical second hurdle is your feelings about that kind of take on gaming. If you like the sense of irony being displayed, that’s a good sign. If you don’t, you probably won’t play too long.
Posted in Geoff, Nintendo, PSN, Wii, Xbox Live | No Comments »
October 2nd, 2008
Let’s catalogue the changes in the new DSi:
- 12% smaller (good)
- Larger screen (good)
- 3 MP camera (good, I suppose)
- GBA slot is gone (bad)
- Downloadable games (mixed
- Increased price ($180 - bad)
Some of these changes are better, some are for the worse, and some depend on your perspective. But I have to say that I’m very disappointed at the fact that Nintendo has effectively blocked current DS owners from accessing some of the most interesting features here, and the reverse (current owners have the GBA slots, new ones will get the downloadable titles).
I understand that there are likely some engineering hurdles to be overcome that may have prevented Nintendo from offering these services on current DS Lites. At the same time, however, the company seems to have engineered the device to prevent the DSi from being notably superior to the DS Lite on all fronts, by removing some of its features in the new iteration. As a result, if you want to have access to everything, you need to buy a new device and still retain your old one. Given that it’s only been two years or so since the first release of the DS Lite in Japan, this smacks of cynicism.
The company mentioned during its press conference that it thinks there’s still an opportunity to expand the market for the little handheld, but - judging from blogger reactions - it seems like the main target is actually current owners, rather than some prospective new ones. This is hardly a problem that exists only with Nintendo (all the manufacturers seem compelled to offer minimalist redesigns every few years), but it’s starting to get a little old. Change the colors, change any cosmetic features you want, but stop hurting people who supported you when you needed them - at launch.
Posted in Business, Geoff, Nintendo | 13 Comments »
August 12th, 2008
With Bionic Commando: Rearmed’s release imminent this week, there was bound to be some interest in the original game. You would think that the Nintendo Wii’s virtual console would be the perfect place for it, and considering that Rearmed isn’t making it to the Wii, the original Bionic Commando would be the perfect release this week to go along with the 360/PS3/PC release of Rearmed. Apparently, you’d be wrong. For some strange reason that Capcom doesn’t go into, Nintendo blocked the release of Bionic Commando on the Virtual Console. Kotaku speculates that it could be the “Nazi thing” or the “exploding head”, but honestly… those couldn’t really be the reasons, could they? Nintendo has had far worse on their systems in a far more realistic fashion than what the old 8-bit system could offer (the Resident Evil’s and Call of Duty games spring immediately to mind). So what in the world is Nintendo’s problem here?
Posted in Idiocy, Jeff, Nintendo, Virtual Console, WTF, Wii | 1 Comment »
July 23rd, 2008
Before E3, undoubtedly hearing complaints that they didn’t care about the core gamer any more, Nintendo said that core gamers would be happy with their E3 showing. Well, most of the gaming press was pretty disappointed with their press conference, so Nintendo then claimed that Animal Crossing was a “hardcore” title, and then also reversed positions and claimed that actually, they weren’t targeting the core with E3. Still not satisfied, enterprising journalists followed-up with them again where they reiterated that the hardcore market is “critically important” to them and pointed to Super Mario Sluggers and the as of yet unseen GTA DS as proof. Realizing that the community was still clearly unsatisfied, in a somewhat amazing development, Nintendo’s President Iwata finally issued an apology for the weak press conference. But in his apology, he also reveals that he may not really understand core gamers any more:
”If there is any perception that Nintendo is ignoring the core gamers, it’s a misunderstanding and we really want to get rid of that misunderstanding by any means. We are sorry about [the E3] media briefings, specifically for those who were expecting to see Nintendo show something about ‘Super Mario’ or ‘Legend of Zelda.’”
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Posted in Commentary, E3, Nintendo | 17 Comments »
July 15th, 2008
Note to Nintendo: when you show a new peripheral, in this case the WiiMotionPlus, make sure we understand what it’s good for and why we need it. It looks like they demoed just Wii Sports Resort with it, but no other announcements with it or what it really allows developers to do with it.
Incidentally, Wii Sports Resort would be even better if they put the original Wii Sports on the disc as well, sort of creating a “platform” as Rock Band is doing. They could even add in support for the “WiiMotionPlus” to make the original games even better (if it actually does anything, since they didn’t really make the advantages very clear).
As for Nintendo’s conference overall… it was a bit of a bore. I didn’t expect it to compete with Microsoft’s because Nintendo and Microsoft are quite honestly playing different games at this point. But I was hoping to at least see an interesting new franchise (for the “core” gamers they supposedly still care about) or at least an update to one of their popular franchises (and Wii Music and Animal Crossing don’t really count). I really thought we’d at least see a teaser for a new Zelda, or didn’t they announce or strongly hint at a new Kid Icarus game at some point? Instead it seemed to be mostly numbers with a few games that I didn’t really care for, and then telling me that I should “disrupt my thinking” and escape the Matrix so that I care. As with seemingly everything they produce, though, I’m sure they’ll sell a trillion copies.
Posted in Commentary, E3, Jeff, Nintendo, Wii | 12 Comments »
July 7th, 2008
Kotaku was nice enough to point out that E3 was coming up next week and while I’m sure we’ll hear more about games like Gears of War 2, Resistance 2, Far Cry 2, Rock Band 2, and Killzone 2 (that’s a lot of 2’s), I’m actually more interested in seeing if we’ll get more information about games that we DON’T already have some decent information about. So, here’s my list of things, divided by platform, that I’d like to see next week (and that I have no clue if they’ll be shown or even exist):
- God of War 3 (PS3)
- New Ico/Shadow of the Collosus team game (PS3)
- Heavy Rain (PS3)
- New Zelda (Wii)
- New Nintendo IP (Wii)
- Peter Jackson Halo collaboration (360)
- Amplitude 2 (Non-Rock Band Harmonix game, perhaps the name “Wavelength” would be more appropriate) (Multi)
Admittedly, there are other games I’d still like to see more about (including the ones listed before, and others such as Resident Evil 5), but these are ones that we basically have hardly any information on, or don’t even know if they exist, and would make great surprises for E3. What does everyone else think?
Posted in E3, Industry, Jeff, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony | No Comments »
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