Turn Based #7: Dari’s Advocate – A New Venture

SNES Master KI: Hello, and welcome to another installment of Turn Based! We’re going to be doing something a little different this time. Dari will be joining us again, but instead of a focus group we will be doing a debate in the style I have with Professor Icepick. But since there are three people and only two sides, I will be acting as support for Dari, since he’s new to the cut throat world of Retronaissance debates. Today’s topic will be Sonic Adventure 3. Should it be made? Icepick says yes, Dari says no, and I don’t really care but will be arguing for Dari’s side. Icepick will begin the discussion, followed by Dari’s counter and my support, before repeating that order. Let’s begin!

Professor Icepick: It’s been argued lately that there are three major sub-series within the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. The most obvious is “Classic” Sonic, the 2D games that were made during the heyday of the Genesis or later titles that attempted to recapture the magic of the age when Sonic was considered at his peak. There’s also the more modern style of gameplay, which I’ll refer to as “Boost”-style games. These games have a tendency of shifting between 2D and 3D perspectives, focusing on speed above all else, especially in the 3D segments.

However, the third — and as of right now, most obscure — sub-franchise are the “Adventure” games. It’s difficult to even categorize which games exist within that branch of Sonic history (aside from the ones with the name in their titles), but they still have a fairly dedicated fanbase, an ever-increasingly loud faction that continues to cry out for a new game in this particular style. The Adventure games probably did the most heavy lifting when it came to defining Sonic’s setting and any and all characters outside of the Blue Blur himself; his best friend, Miles “Tails” Prower; Knuckles the Echidna, Sonic’s friendly rival and the devious Dr. Ivo Robotnik, better known by his nickname “Dr. Eggman”. While I was first introduced to Sonic during the 16-bit era, I’ve always had a soft spot for the original Sonic Adventure and, to a far lesser extent, Sonic Adventure 2. So I believe that, considering Sega’s current strategy of trying to appease fans of both Classic and Boost Sonic, that they may as well make a legitimate attempt at revisiting the Adventure formula.

Dariwan: Aside from world building, there isn’t really much else there is to an Adventure game. I personally feel like it’s the red-headed stepchild of the Sonic series and it’s a side series that should be noted for what it did but it shouldn’t continue. The Boost Sonic era has soured itself, and the Classic Sonic, as Sonic Mania has obviously shown us, that Classic Sonic will never die. I still remember playing Sonic 2 on my cousin’s Genesis and being amazed and having SO much fun going fast. Adventure didn’t do that for me at all. As the saying goes, (that I’ve edited a bit) “Sonic Adventure games should be seen not heard.”

KI: The issue with trying to bring Sonic Adventure back is that it never works. Sega made a quite significant attempt to revive it at one point with a little game known as Sonic 2006. Then, almost a decade later, we got something initially promoted as another attempt: Sonic Boom on Wii U. The fact is that the Adventure game style really doesn’t seem to work without built in nostalgia.

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This is Sonic Adventure 3. Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

To expand on Dari’s point, the things people like most about the Adventure style games (story, music, character development) don’t actually require something that plays like them. There’s no reason they couldn’t be added to a game that played like Sonic Generations or even Sonic Mania, imagine a game that played like Sonic Mania but had a story told in the style of the animated shorts that Sega is making based on SM.

Icepick: The problem with attempting to inject story into Classic style gameplay is that it would likely be met with resistance from the die-hard fans. In-game cutscenes using the game’s own art assets are one thing, but outright breaking away from the in-game engine itself seems like too risky of a strategy.

As for your point about the previous two attempts of revitalizing the Adventure being disastrous, I have to acknowledge your point. However, considering the two games in question were a game that was rushed out the door in order to meet some arbitrary anniversary deadline — something Sega’s been avoiding these days — and a game being developed by an unknown developer that clearly didn’t live up to its supposed pedigree, I don’t think the Adventure style has been given a fair shake since the death of the Dreamcast.

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Yes, dear readers, believe it or not, this was a Sonic game.

I don’t disagree that Classic Sonic should remain a thing: as a matter of fact, I love that Sega has apparently decided to break off Classic Sonic into his own timeline. But Dari betrays his own argument: I’ve never been particularly fond of the Boost formula. In fact, my favorite 3D Sonic game was the unfairly maligned Lost World, which was as far from the Boost gameplay as humanly possible. The Boost gameplay may appeal to speed freaks like Dari, who simply… if you’ll excuse my terminology… “gotta go fast”. But Classic Sonic was about more than just holding right to win and the Boost formula only serves to represent a shallow parody of the Sonic formula in general.

Dari: Well now you see, I’d put Lost World in its own little section by itself with Colors as they were their own games with new things that have their own fanbases, as the Sonic Advance and the Rush games. So I wouldn’t say that they have suffered from the “Boost Curse” but I digress. I think that it would be best to inject story into another Sonic Generations game. and I don’t count Sonic Forces as anything related to the Generations thing even if they had the different sonics in it…that game is as trash as the Adventure series is to me but again I’m digressing.

There’s more to classic Sonic than just going fast. there’s puzzles and boss fights to conquer, even if the game is simplistic in nature, there’s a layer of complexity that isn’t appreciated by enough people…which makes me think that’s why Adventure exists and why it’s just so…bad.

KI: The only non-DIMPS boost game that focused on speed to the point of not having platforming was Sonic Unleashed. Colors, Generations, and yes, Forces all managed to do platforming as well as the Adventure games. And it’s not like the Adventure games didn’t have parts focused on speed and nothing else, compare the truck chase in Sonic Adventure 2 to the one in Sonic Generations, Generations’ is much more interactive. I’d also say Lost World is much closer to Sonic Colors than to the Sonic Adventure games, it had the same story style and level layout, wisps, and only one playable character.

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Not exactly “hold boost to win.”

Icepick: I’d have to agree with you on Lost World being its own beast, Dari. That’s why I brought it up in the first place. Colors, on the other hand, was clearly built from the Boost mold that was originated by Unleashed, for better or worse. It’s probably the best example of that particular format, but only just so.

However, you missed the point of my argument regarding the Classic games. I know that they had puzzle solving, platforming and boss fights. The problem is that many Sonic fans only focus on the “gotta go fast” meme, to the extent where — as KI has harped on in the past — Boost fans had to invent a new slur in “block platforming” to bash the game because they couldn’t simply hold right to win and had to…you know, navigate platforms. In a platformer, no less. What a public relations nightmare!

Circling back to the argument that the failures of Sonic ’06 and Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric should nail Adventure’s coffin shut once and for all, that argument seems a bit reductive. By that logic, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 should have made it impossible for Sonic Mania to exist. Likewise, the mixed reactions toward Sonic Force should likely spell doom for the Boost formula under the same.

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Behold: the pinnacle of interactivity.

But I’ve spent far too long on the defensive, time to make my strike. If anything, the existence of Sonic Mania has seemed to emboldened the Adventure fanbase’s demand for a new game in that style. Sonic Mania took what worked from the Classic games and fixed various elements that didn’t. For example, even Sonic 2 — generally heralded as the series’ apex — was filled with death traps that had to be memorized to be avoided. Sonic Mania opted for smarter level design, avoiding the unfair difficulty of the Genesis glory days. In the process, they ended up with a game that relied on more than muscle memorization and it paid off for them, with many proclaiming Mania as the best game in the series.

By that logic, isn’t it possible that a developer with a similar affinity for the Adventure games could rehabilitate the engine into something that could be enjoyed by modern audiences? Take what worked from the Adventure games — the multiple play-styles, the overarching storyline woven into gameplay and the exploration — and simply drop what didn’t? Or better yet, even fix the clunkier elements with modern gameplay concepts? Why is that so impossible?

Dari: Yes, the things Sonic Mania did really help the series and made Classic stand out for what it was when it got the problems fixed that plagued it for decades. But what exactly does that mean for the Adventure series? Aside from some cheaply made minigames almost reminiscent of the Pokémon Stadium games or something that’d be easily thrown together as a mobile game or some really shoddy episodic play reminiscent of the multiple play styles — that they tried and failed with Sonic 4 no less — I really don’t see why this needs to be done. The only way I can see this working now is through a mobile game that cheapens sonic to nothing more than a Mario clone with different Sonic characters doing mediocre platforming throwing the story to the wayside as something even simpler than even the Sonic Mania story to try and pass off as something canon. And I refuse to have something like that just for you to have your Adventure trip.

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This is what I expect Sonic Adventure Mobile to be.

KI: While it’s certainly possible for someone to come in and make a good Adventure style game, there’s a difference between that hypothetical game and Mania that you’re missing. I think you’re underselling the Genesis Sonic games, Sonic 2 really didn’t have many cheap traps as long as you didn’t gotta go fast at every opportunity, approach it like a platformer and it’s very manageable. Sonic Mania worked so well because a solid base was established, the Genesis Sonic games. Sonic Adventure 3 would have to make far more alterations if it was to reach the quality of Mania, and have a much higher budget. A few dedicated fans aren’t going to be able to make a AAA (which is what Sonic Adventure would translate into when you adjust for inflation) game the way they made Sonic Mania. A Sonic Adventure revival comes with higher risks and greater obstacles than classic Sonic ever did.

Icepick: Perhaps, but your citations for why an Adventure game is misguided clearly had much more pressing issues working against them that simply being an attempt to revitalizing that style of gameplay. On top of that, Forces’ mediocre reception seems to be implying that the Boost formula is beginning to wear out its welcome. Also, I feel like you’re being extremely disingenuous when you think I’m expecting a full-on 1:1 remake of the previous Adventure titles. Taking what worked from them and applying them to modern gaming sensibilities seems much more likely.

Plus, I think we’re all ignoring the elephant in the room. The sheer antipathy the Sonic fanbase has felt toward “Sonic’s dumb friends” has all but evaporated in recent years. Sonic Mania proves that the floodgates can be relaxed, as the return of everyone’s favorite two-tailed fox and knuckle-head were met with nothing but applause. Likewise, the recent reveals of both Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel as playable characters in Sonic Mania Plus have been well-met. In fact, I think the only criticism I saw in relation to those two returning was from people who wanted other characters instead, particularly Sonic’s abhorrent admirer, Amy Rose.

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Adventure 1 had whack-a-mole, for crying out loud! How can you not love this?

If there’s one thing the Adventure series excelled at, it was using playable characters besides Sonic, particularly ones that played nothing like him. Considering how big Sonic’s cast of characters was even before Adventure hit the scene, making an Adventure 3 would be a great excuse to revisit more forgotten characters, especially the ones that were left behind for no reason.

Dari: Yes, but a lot of Sonic’s friends were left in the dust, Looking at you Blaze the Cat, and a few others that most people don’t even know exist. (Wave the Swallow? and seriously who thought of that name…) I think if you’re gonna talk about a new Adventure game and all of Sonic’s friends, EVERYONE should be included. And I personally don’t think Sega’s gonna even try to do that so let’s go to a different topic that may even be feasible. Trying to make a Sonic Adventure game fun for modern gamers. In the age of PUBG and Fortnite, do you really think that anyone’s gonna even care about a bunch of animals running across platforms to get rid of some scientist with some overarching story that no one’s gonna care about except people who remember the Adventure series…it’s almost as bad as the new cartoon remakes that are coming out these days.

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Wave the Swallow….WTF is this? This hurts me!

This current generation of gamers don’t care about story, they just wanna as you’ve claimed “go fast” and not have anything in their way. Unless they can see the story all at once and not have to do anything gameplay wise to see it. So we’ve hit a crossroads, either have a great sonic game with great gameplay, or a sonic that’s pretty much a story with little else aside from some small gameplay that really doesn’t amount to anything fun. You choose.

KI: Sonic’s friends are like the Koopalings. Remember when everyone wanted them back, then after a couple appearances people were shouting for their deaths? If we ever play as Big the Cat again, I promise you everyone will hate him twice as much as they originally did. While people obviously do want story in games, the massive layering of nostalgia the Sonic Adventure games had slathered on means that a new game in that style is likely to enrage most of the fanbase. I’m not saying you couldn’t make a good game in that style, but presenting it as Sonic Adventure just seems like a needless handicap. And like I said, it’s a bigger risk than sticking with either of the currently active Sonic formulas.

Icepick: I suppose it’s time to make our final arguments. The Sonic Adventure games, while flawed, aren’t even remotely anywhere near the worst games that have been associated with the series in general — even if you discount the various spin-offs. Likewise, these games have such a fan following that even after what’s steadily approaching two decades without any true successor — again, Sonic ’06 and the Sonic Boom game clearly don’t count.

I could go on about my personal affinity towards the original Sonic Adventure, and how I didn’t even hate using the characters that seem to make every other fan’s skin crawl: really looking forward to Big’s Big Fishing Adventure 3, by the way. I could go over how much I detest the Boost formula and how shallow it seems overall.

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Seriously, I think I’m the only person on Earth who didn’t outright hate this.

But I think I’ll go with something that would probably hit closer to home to my opponents in this debate. If Sega were to make a Sonic Adventure 3, a game that has that title and recreates the various elements of the previous games to at least some degree, then the Adventure fanbase would finally shut up about it.

Let’s be honest here, Sega’s doing pretty well in terms of their finances lately and they’re not exactly hurting for money at this point. Likewise, the Sonic series has already endured several terrible games and yet its fanbase has yet to give up on that blue dude with the ‘tude. I just don’t see what Sega could lose from making a third Adventure game. I’m sure these days, the fans would expect a game with a budget on par with Sonic Generations at best, so it clearly wouldn’t be that big of a financial risk, there are clearly enough Sonic fans that would buy it based on its name alone to prevent it from doing any actual damage to the company, both in terms of their finances and reputation. At worst, the Adventure fanbase would no longer be able to clamor for an “Adventure 3”. That alone’s got to be considered a win for you two, right?

Dari: Even though Sega’s not hurting for money and it wouldn’t really hurt then to do it, I really am disparate to the “popular” opinion on this. I personally think if they did do a third Adventure game if it did more than break even we’d have another drought of terrible games and we’d not see anything else like Sonic mania for ANOTHER 5-10 years like we did when t the first atrocity came out. This is my fear of the Adventure series returning, we’ll get a bunch of really bad crappy side games that don’t even hold a candle to the original Sonic formula and we’ll have to see another crash of Sonic to see another game like Sonic Advance, Sonic Generations, or Sonic Mania again. Seeing something appear just to shut a fanbase up usually doesn’t work. All it truly does it open the floodgates for more inane things that people say they want but don’t realize the ramifications of what would be if it actually did happen. To close, I’ll use another famous saying. “Be careful what you wish for……you just might get it.”

KI: Like I said at the start, I’m really not that invested over whether this does or doesn’t happen. All I really care about is that Sonic can remain relatively stable, and whether that means Sonic Adventure 3/5 or not isn’t too important to me. As long as a Sonic game is playable and a platformer, I’ll usually manage.

Icepick: And thus concludes the first installment of Dari’s Advocate. I’m not sure just how well it went, but it was certainly an interesting experience. One I’d like to repeat in the not-too-distant future. But what say you, dear readers? Do you think I managed to upset the odds and argue that Sonic Adventure 3 deserves to exist or were the combined forces of KI and Dari just too much for me? And are there any other topics you’d like to see us discuss in this format? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.

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Is Arc System Works Becoming the New Capcom? Should We Worry?

Arc System Works has been on a roll for the last decade or so. Blazblue and Guilty Gear have been selling gangbusters. They have a new crossover game with Blazblue Cross Tag Battle. They bought back their first fighting game hit with Guilty Gear with great acclaim. But are they copying Capcom’s fate?

Capcom started in 1979 and mainly made arcade games in the beginning. Arc System Works came around about 9 years later as a contract developer at first, until 1998 when the first Guilty Gear was made. This became a cult classic fighting game that spawned sequels and what I would call a “light” version of the game, Blazblue, which again exploded and turned the “anime fighter” into what it is now. Capcom revolutionized the fighting game genre itself about 10 years before Guilty Gear with the Street Fighter series, albeit more of the traditional sense. Street Fighter II and its many forms still are thriving today.

In the 1990s, both Arc System Works and Capcom were the big dogs in the fighting game department, even with Capcom having more games, Guilty Gear was still one of the top fighting games of its time. Capcom had a few other fighters in the 90s in their belts, like Rival Schools, and Darkstalkers, and Power Stone, but their main fighter back then was Street Fighter. Both Capcom and Arc System Works saw success in this genre well into the 2000s, when Arc System Works would bring more competition with Blazblue in 2009. Around that time, Capcom had hit a bit of a bump in the road with fighting games, and hit a resurgence with Street Fighter 4. These games don’t compare well, except it started Arc System Works’ rise to fame and Capcom’s resurgence into popularity.

It was about this time that Arc System Works decided to do more creative things with the fighting game genre. They started with a game called Battle Fantasia in Japanese arcades in 2007 with eventual console releases two years later. This was an interesting foray into fighting games that Arc System Works wasn’t known for before. This game fits most with Capcom’s Red Earth game. Both of these games are outliers of their genres and has their own fans but they have their detractors as well.

Battle Fantasia definitely showed Arc System Works changeover to different tastes in the fighting game market. This led to the creation of the Blazblue series. This was a new creation by Arc System Works that definitely fit the “anime fighter” genre and propelled it to the levels of mainstream success it has today. Blazblue Continuum Shift came out in 2009 on consoles (2008 in arcades), and it sold well. Capcom however went back to the old drawing board with their fighting games and hoped for a miracle with Street Fighter 4. This also succeeded for them and put them back on the map.

Arc System Works had a few sequels and expansions to the Blazblue series called “Extends” that gave extra content such as characters and stories. This is similar to Capcom’s consistent re-releases of past Street Fighter games. At this time, Capcom continued this trend by releasing Super and Ultra Street Fighter IV. People saw the “Extends” as something positive but the Street Fighter 4 expansions to be negative and a retread to the past that should not have been repeated.

In 2012, Arc System Works decided to go into the licensing sphere of fighting games and create Persona 4 Arena, a fighting game based on a Japanese role playing game by Atlus. This was a very different game, even though they used a lot of basis from Guilty Gear for the fighting game system. Arc System Works actually used things from the game it was licensing that hadn’t really been seen before. This game got a sequel called Persona 4 Arena Ultimax or P4AU which added more story and a couple new characters for the game.
During this time, Capcom had decided to go back to the Vs. Series and decided to bring up something big that some fighting game fans had been waiting for for a long time. Street Fighter X Tekken was a fighting game that people had speculated about since Tekken’s arrival on the fighting game scene in 1994. This was also one of the first times Capcom had crossed over with another fighting game company since Capcom vs SNK 2 or SNK vs Capcom SVC Chaos almost a decade before. Street Fighter x Tekken was also ambitious in its execution, with a story mode all its own and also the implementation of a new Gem system that had caused a bit of a lukewarm reaction for the game as this was called a cash grab as most of the good gems were paid downloadable content. Coupled with on-disc downloadable content and the game really had some negative feedback.
Capcom also decided to revisit some of the old Vs. series in 2012 by releasing Marvel vs Capcom Origins, which had Marvel vs Capcom and Marvel Super Heroes with online for the current generation of consoles (Playstation 3 and Xbox 360). This fared better than Street Fighter x Tekken with very little negative feedback for this game.

In 2014, Arc System Works finally was able to bring back one of its original cash cows, and what got their rise to fame, Guilty Gear Xrd Sign was announced and it brought back many memories for people who had played the Guilty Gear games on arcade and console so many years before. The game was a visual marvel as it had beautiful 3D models made to look like 2D sprites. This is a trend that would continue with its future games. The game had two sequels, Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR- and Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2, which added fan favorite characters and added to the story, much like the Extend expansions of the Blazblue series.

As Arc System Works brought a smash hit back, Capcom was ending one era and starting a new one. Ultra Street Fighter 4, the Ultimate edition of Street Fighter 4, was released in the same year. Over the next 2 years, the next numbered Street Fighter would come out.

Around the time that Blazblue’s latest (and possibly final) mainline sequel, Centralfiction came out in 2015, Capcom decided to unveil its new fighting game, Street Fighter V. This started with a beta for the game that anyone who pre-ordered the game (and eventually anyone) could participate in. This got people very excited as they felt like their input was being heard, and they got to play an early version of the game.

Street Fighter V would eventually release in 2016, around the time the first sequel to Guilty Gear, Xrd -REVELATOR- would also release. Some people would have problems with both of these games. SFV had the problems of a small roster and more new characters than old characters that people knew and loved. Revelator only had a few characters as its main selling point, even though they were fan favorites, some really had no justifications for buying the game.

2017 would prove really interesting for both of these companies. Arc System Works would have its second sequel for Guilty Gear, Xrd Rev 2 release to lukewarm audiences. People were hyped for it, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears. Capcom, on the other hand, decided to hit back on the Vs. Series door again. This time adding a new game to the Marvel vs Capcom series, releasing Marvel vs Capcom Infinite. This game really had a roller coaster of a time before and after release. The public relations were very sporadic and the information we got were either lackluster or previously known before the information was given, making some people distraught. Then at E3 2017, Arc System Works pulled a bomb out of their repertoire that no one was expecting. Dragon Ball FighterZ was announced there. It was another licensed game that featured characters from a popular anime that would almost tear the fighting game community apart by its seams. This game would come out in 2018, but the hype for it lasted throughout the life (or lack thereof) of Marvel vs Capcom Infinite, even though Marvel came out in September 2017, and Dragon Ball FighterZ would not release until February 2018. Capcom would try to save face by releasing Ultra Street Fighter 2 for Nintendo Switch, announce Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection and save Street Fighter V by releasing Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition to most people’s happiness.

Arc System Works delivered one more interesting entry into this by announcing Blazblue Cross Tag Battle,which is a crossover with two of Arc System Works’ past successful games, Blazblue and Persona 4 Arena, and one other fighting game and an (American) anime, Under Night In Birth, and RWBY. Some of the old mistakes Capcom had made with older games are seen in this one. Lots of downloadable content issues exist with this game, as half the roster is paid content. Also a lot of the roster was copy pasted from their original games, which a lot of Marvel games were berated for by Capcom games in games such as Marvel vs Capcom 2 and Infinite. This game is currently the only Arc System Works fighting game to not be released yet as of the writing of this article, so we’ll have to see if this game has any more issues or problems upon release.

Now, with so many successful fighting games under Arc System Works umbrella (there are a few more games I neglected to mention), will we see them make some of the mistakes that Capcom has in the past or present? Only time will tell.

Turn Based #6: X’ed Out

Professor Icepick: Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of Turn Based. While our last article tackled the epic struggle between gaming on PCs and consoles, this time we’ll be discussing a much simpler topic. Since late 2001, Microsoft decided to expand its scope from mere PCs to taking over the living rooms of homes all over the world with their first Xbox home console.

Since then, they’ve met with mixed success, ranging from the dizzying heights of the Xbox 360 to the current nadir that is the confusingly-named “Xbox One”. The question we are posing today is should the Xbox line continue? Does it offer anything to console games as a whole and if so, is it enough to justify its continued existence? I’ll let KI start with his argument.

SNES Master KI: To be honest, I never thought we really needed Xbox that badly. I’ve been happy with my Nintendo and Sony systems for the past few generations, the only Xbox incarnation I own is a 360 that I purchased in 2014, and even that triggered our running joke curse where the games I wanted the system for quickly went to Nintendo and/or Sony once I actually got a 360. In the past, however, there was at least an argument to be made that there was no reason for Sony’s primarily third party supported systems to be in control. This was especially true in the early seventh generation, when Sony made their biggest console blunder and got PlayStation 3 off to a very rough start, giving the Xbox 360 a huge amount of popularity and momentum.

However, things have changed since then. Microsoft went off the rails in 2013, introducing their third system, the Xbox One, as an online mandatory, anti-used games entertainment hub. The backlash was massive, and Microsoft backpedaled (but not before letting Sony win E3 2013 by announcing that PlayStation 4 could automatically play used games), removing the worst features of the XB1. But not only had the bad publicity left its mark, this left us with a system that seemed to have no purpose. I think the original incarnation of the Xbox One was Microsoft’s master plan all along, an entertainment hub that relied on online services. When the backlash destroyed that vision, Xbox One was left as a weaker, more expensive PlayStation 4 that Microsoft barely supported with either first-party games or paid for third-party exclusives.

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This should not be an E3 winning announcement.

Icepick: Before I was the PC die-hard you see before you, I was an adherent to what was called “Wii60”. I believed that you only really needed a Nintendo console and one of the two “HD Twins”, and I chose Microsoft. During the fifth and sixth console generations — especially the sixth, stay tuned — Sony forced more than its fair share of paradigm shifts that poisoned the well of console gaming for me and sent me into a self-imposed exile, relying on a steady diet of retro games and whatever handhelds existed at the time.

However, even when the PS2’s dominance was all but assured, Microsoft’s little behemoth that could managed to make strides in the industry. It brought online gaming to the mainstream. The Xbox 360 found a home for the smaller and 2D experiences that made me fall in love with video games in the first place with its Xbox Live Arcade. Even today, the Xbox One is trying to keep the concept of backwards compatibility alive in a world where even Nintendo has all but abandoned it. Microsoft is the least powerful entity in the console space, but some of their decisions have ultimately sent shockwaves through the industry. Some for the worse, but some for the better.

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A perfect metaphor for my feelings toward console gaming, circa 2002. Guess who PS2 is.

KI: The issue is, almost all of those things are in the past. You can also make just as many arguments for Xbox hurting gaming with microtransactions, the first paid online, a non-functioning D-pad, and trying to make games a subscription service with Game Pass. And that’s just what they actually got to do, the original version of Xbox One could have done irreparable damage to console gaming if it was successful. Microsoft was also the worst at backwards compatibility in the seventh generation and is only ahead now because it is physically impossible to do on Switch. PlayStation 5 and Super Switch could very well bring it back in full.

I also have to say that it sounds more like you’re angry at Sony than have any real reason to support Xbox, which segues nicely into another point. You hate Sony, I hate Steam… but we both are always aware of their existence. We care about them, even if it’s in a negative way. Xbox… we pretty much forget it exists a lot of the time. At this point no one in our group of friends cares enough about it to even consider it a threat and therefore an object of hostility. That is not a good position for a system to be in.

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Dislike at least requires acknowledgement.

Icepick: While I clearly have a bias against Sony, Microsoft is important to their continued development. While the PS2 was king, Sony got complacent and lazy. The one-two punch of the Xbox 360’s head start and the PS3’s underwhelming package managed to sucker punch them into working hard to create a much better follow-up in the PS4.

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If you looked up the definition of the word “hubris” in the dictionary, you’d find a bunch of words. But this works too.

Like it or not, Sony needs direct competition to bring out their A-game. Nintendo’s given up on fighting them directly, trotting out more and more unorthodox experiences for each new console. Sony relies a lot on more conservative experiences and without a Microsoft (or some other rival) propping them up, we could witness a significant brain drain in terms of traditional console experiences.

KI: Well, as ironic as this is, I feel like Sony does at this point have a direct rival besides Microsoft. As you may remember from the last Turn Based, I feel that PC has given up its own identity and has barely any exclusive left, especially among AAA budget games. However, as I also said in that discussion, it has made significant strides in getting the majority of multi-platform console games. Even some that wouldn’t be multi-platform if it weren’t for PC.

So yes, despite how I feel about PC, I think it has become an effective rival for the traditional consoles. I don’t think we need two nearly identical systems to keep things in balance. While Sony would have to go to extreme measures to make me go for Steam over PlayStation, I don’t think the mass market feels quite as strongly about that as I do. If PS4 and PC share 90% of their library, and Nintendo regains some third party support even if it’s unlikely to completely match Sony, I think Sony has enough motivation to try and not cause massive damage to consoles.

Icepick: Maybe PC could act as a proper rival to the PlayStation brand, but I don’t think Sony views them that way. The sheer amount of collaboration Sony has done with PC the past two generations has been absolutely staggering. Even Street Fighter V — a game Sony personally funded — appeared on PC. And with crossplay. Considering the fact that Sony had to blatantly lie about being worried about the welfare of children to avoid crossplay with Microsoft and even Nintendo, it’s clear that Sony isn’t remotely worried about PC, Steam or otherwise.

KI: They don’t view them as a rival right now, but situations can change. They may not ever get as petty as they did with Microsoft, but Sony is very reactive to other game platforms. Remember the Six Axis? The touch pad? Move? I’ve also heard some convincing arguments that some of PS3’s early problems may have been caused by competing with Microsoft. If Microsoft hadn’t released a nearly identical system, it’s possible Sony would have been willing to wait a bit longer and avoid the $599 fiasco.

I’ll concede that Sony doesn’t seem to view PC as a rival, but that raises another question: how much longer will they view Xbox One as a rival? Playstation 4 is pounding Xbox One pretty badly, Switch’s success is the main reason we aren’t seeing a repeat of the sixth generation’s Sony dominance. Even if Sony needs a rival, is there any reason that has to be Xbox, and is Xbox even going to act as a functional rival much longer? Microsoft really doesn’t seem to care much about it, would Xbox 2001 (or whatever confusing name the fourth one gets) get the effort necessary to challenge PlayStation 5? I’d say a functional Steambox or Nintendo system that could run AAA third party games without issue would be more effective rivals going forward.

Icepick: Steam Machines is pretty much a dead end: even Valve seems to have given up on the concept, having recently taken listings for them off the Steam store. Nintendo seems to have doubled-down on their old “lateral thinking with withered technology”, so the idea that they’ll ever be able to run contemporary AAA games at full power feels like a pipe dream.

While Microsoft does come across as a lame rival these days, there’s absolutely no other company that comes to mind that could afford to risk entering the console market in this day and age. We’ve seen the utter failure that was the Ouya and a variety of other attempts at creating new consoles using the Android OS as a base.

Meanwhile, there’s also been rumblings about Microsoft selling off the Xbox brand to another company or spinning it off into its own separate entity. I think that’s a much more viable solution to everyone’s problems: if the Xbox brand were put under the same pressure as Sony (who basically relies on PlayStation for survival), we might see them step up their game.

KI: Well, it’s not like I hate the name Xbox itself with a burning passion. If someone else can do it better, that’s fine, but I’m not sure how much benefit buying the name would have at this point. After losing so much momentum and fan support, I feel like changing companies could just be a nail in the coffin for the Xbox brand. Especially since even if we agreed that the Xbox brand was necessary to keep Sony on guard, that’s going to be a very tough sell from the company perspective. Would you want to release a system that was probably going to lose just to make your rival give their consumers a better experience?

But aside from that, I think our main point of contention is whether Sony needs to have a rival that is nearly identical to them to keep the industry healthy. If we had Nintendo, Sony, and Steam then each platform would offer something unique. As it is now, Xbox really isn’t providing a reason that we need it. If they can’t make good exclusives or compete with Sony as a third party console, what’s the point? If Microsoft really wants to turn this around, and doesn’t do anything that threatens console gaming as a whole like the 2013 incident, then more power to them (Ironically, I think I still have more intention of eventually buying an Xbox One than you do. I want to play Cuphead someday…). However, as it is now, I feel like Microsoft is just going through the motions and they might as well just wrap it up and let me play Cuphead and Killer Instinct on my consoles of choice. I really think the fact that the main argument for keeping it around is “Sony needs a rival, it doesn’t matter who” says it all.

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Someday…

Icepick: I guess part of the reason I’m so protective of Microsoft is that, technically, they are the last remaining vestige of Sega’s console legacy. The Dreamcast ran a modified version of Windows CE and the original Xbox aped a lot of design traits from the last Sega console. Not to mention all of the exclusive Sega games early in the Xbox’s lifespan. As such, from my point of view, Sega’s consoles will die with the Xbox line’s end — even if both companies aren’t on the best of terms these days. It’s not the most logical reason, but that’s just how I feel.

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Can’t you see the family resemblance?

In the end, even if they’re outnumbered by PlayStation fanboys, there are still people out there who remain faithful to Microsoft’s big black box. While the Xbox brand has seen better days, I think there’s still some untapped potential just waiting to be explored. But what about you? Do you think Microsoft should just trash the Xbox or can it be redeemed into a Sony killer? Sound off in the comments below.

The Top Ten Most Overrated Games of All Time and What You Should Play Instead (Part 2)

Here we are, Part 2, hopefully in a more reasonable timeframe. I’m continuing counting down my top ten most overrated games of all time and listing antidote games that do what the overrated games are doing, but better. Let’s get right into it!

Number 5: Metroid

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Told you more Nintendo games were coming. Now there’s no way to deny how important the original Metroid is, it expanded what a platformer could be with its non-linear, interconnected world and myriad of upgrades that were needed to progress in the game. But damn it, that doesn’t mean we have to pretend it aged well. Metroid laid a great foundation, but the house is absolutely not up to code. The endless stretches of identical looking rooms with no map make navigating the game a nightmare, the control is too clunky for the game’s high difficulty level and starting at the first room of the game with 30 health (out of a possible 800 by the end of the game) are crippling flaws. I’ll give it a pass on the password issue, since the original disk-based version had saving. There are plenty of NES games that are much more playable today, to say nothing of later games using the Metroid formula. This hasn’t stopped people from acting like the original Metroid is the timeless classic that later games in the series are, and that’s why I’m putting it on this list. It deserves appreciation and respect, but you don’t have to pretend none of its flaws exist just because it came first.

Instead You Should Play: Super Metroid

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Here it is, the game you remembered the original Metroid as. Super Metroid takes the formula from the original game and fixes everything wrong with it. A fun to explore world with a map, excellent controls, a balanced difficulty level, worldwide saving. Plus great new abilities that the game uses to their fullest, great boss fights, and one of the most iconic emotional moments in gaming. Super Metroid is everything the first game wanted to be, the seeds of potential that the first one planted sprouted and produced one of the best series in all of gaming. There’s even a remake of the original Metroid using the elements from Super Metroid, which I considered for this position, but using a remake didn’t feel right. But whatever your preference is in that area, there are Metroids out there that will give you exactly what you remember from the original game and require much less nostalgia filtering.

Number 4: Secret of Mana

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Yeah, this is what I was talking about when I mentioned those supposed action-RPGs that may as well be turn-based. In the 90s, any RPG that wasn’t literally turn-based would be labeled a Zelda-style game, and that’s what I went into Secret of Mana expecting. Yeah, that’s not what I got. My sword needing to recharge after every swing and magic attacks freezing everything on the screen while they connect (and this includes bosses freezing you to get in their unavoidable attacks) was not my idea of Zelda. But genre preference isn’t my only reason for putting Secret of Mana on here. You have a three-person party in the game, with the option of co-op play. But if you don’t have two friends you can summon to your side whenever you want to play, you’re going to have to deal with the AI, and dear God. Now, I understand that a hyper-competent companion AI in a SNES game wasn’t a realistic request, but my issue is that the game puts the responsibility on you for the AI characters dying. And this is one of those RPGs where bringing a party member back from the dead is a huge pain in the ass early in the game. You can swap which character you control, but there will always be two vulnerable, AI-controlled characters during fights if you’re in single-player. Oh, and you not only have to individually level up several different types of elemental spells, the game sucker punches you by basically requiring you to have maxed out several elements to beat one of the last bosses. The grinding I endured when I got there… never again. Secret of Mana simply does not deserve the praise it gets, there are so many better RPGs on SNES. But for the antidote, I decided to go with the three-person party theme…

Instead You Should Play: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana

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There are a lot of great things about this game, but for the purpose of being an antidote to Secret of Mana, I’m going to focus on the combat. Like Secret of Mana, Ys VIII is an action-RPG where you have three party members fighting at once, which you can freely switch between at any time with the other two being AI-controlled (there’s no co-op option, but that allows for the single player mode to be better balanced). However, the CPU-controlled characters have greatly increased defense and can’t be knocked out while the computer is controlling them, because the game isn’t a complete asshole. And the combat, it’s night and day. Fast action game-style combat where every attack is avoidable, you can combo enemies, link in special moves, dodge and parry, even activate something like Bayonetta’s “Witch Time” mechanic. This is what an action-RPG should be, and modern action-JRPGs thankfully seem to be adopting this style as a whole. The fourth generation was a golden age for many genres, but action-RPGs are doing much better in the present.

Number 3: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

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I’m still in a dream, and I want to wake up and get the Metal Gear I loved back. I’m not talking about the universally acknowledged monstrosity that modern Konami has turned Metal Gear into, I’ve felt this way ever since Metal Gear Solid 3 was first released. After loving the first two console Metal Gear Solid games and the Game Boy Color one for their fast-paced stealth gameplay and insane stories, Metal Gear Solid 3 messed everything up and the series never recovered, although MGS3 remained the low point until Konami really went demonic. The story was much simpler than the previous games with a one-dimensional main villain, zero dimensional bosses, and far fewer plot twists with the one the game presented as its biggest being insultingly obvious. But the gameplay was worse. Fast-paced stealth? Yeah, screw that, now we have to tip toe up behind enemies to avoid alerting them and worry about our supplies so that we can micromanage camouflage and recovering health, with long load times for the menu we constantly need, of course. And we lose the radar from the earlier games while at the same time getting much more open environments that the overhead camera is absolutely not suited for. I just want the old Metal Gear back.

Instead You Should Play: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

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Well, this should have been pretty easy to guess after what I wrote above. Metal Gear Solid 2 is one of my favorite games of all time, and one of the most unfairly bashed in its heyday. Raiden not being Snake doesn’t change that the gameplay of the Metal Gear series, which is at its peak in MGS2, with fast paced stealth that still gives you real options (as opposed to “do you want to use the camouflage that the game demands on this specific texture or be handicapped?” in a certain later game). The story doesn’t give a shit about realism, and that’s exactly how it should be, and it doesn’t hinder it at all when it wants to be philosophical. The fact that this game never got a faithful sequel saddens me to this day, and I can only hope that by some miracle Death’s Stranding turns out to play like this (not like we have any gameplay information to prove it won’t). Easily the best game of 2001, and the fact that people nitpicked it to death while giving a pass to… never mind, we’ll get to that in a bit.

Number 2: The Legend of Zelda

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I’ve had this issue in articles before, the Zelda and Metroid series parallel each other so well in their early days that it’s hard to think of unique things to say about one after covering the other. The original Zelda is an incredibly important game that laid the foundation for an incredible series, but the house is nowhere near up to code and if you go into that basement known as the second quest, you’re as good as dead. The original Zelda has barely any puzzles, control that is too stiff for the level of difficulty, obnoxiously scarce resources, and cheap “do something in a random place with no indication” roadblocks that try to pass themselves off as puzzles. It not holding your hand does not make up for all of this, it does not even come close. When I first played this game (with the very much needed help of a guide) I assumed that I was just bad at it since I was still fairly inexperienced with adventure games. When I came back to it years later, I realized that it was actually just not well designed. This led to some pretty strong feelings towards it, and it was actually my pick for the most overrated game of all time for a good number of years, before a certain game (I feel like I’m trying to hide Wily or Sigma being the final boss of a game by refusing to name it) took that spot.

Instead You Should Play: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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I was originally going to put A Link to the Past in this spot, but I decided to try something different (if you want the ALttP writeup, go to the Super Metroid one and replace every mention of Metroid with Zelda). For all my issues with Breath of the Wild, there’s no way to deny that it completely annihilates the original Zelda at everything the latter game is praised for. More freedom, more non-linearity, way more open world to explore. This game was clearly made to please the people who loved the original Legend of Zelda, and while there are some parts that weren’t done as well (the original Zelda had way more dungeons and I don’t remember your sword breaking) it unquestionably obliterates the original game in pretty much category that gets it so much praise. Now just please fix the weapon durability and lack of dungeons so I can feel confident in the future of my second favorite series.

Number 1: Mega Man X

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Well, what can I say? People change. After a while you have to come to terms with what the games you played as a kid were really like, even if it means having an unpopular opinion. Yes, there was a time when I thought the control, level design, boss fights, secrets, and aesthetics in this game were enough to earn it all the praise it absorbs, but after REALLY taking a long look at it, you realize… you’re not buying this, are you?

The Real Number 1: Grand Theft Auto III

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Yeah, I know, this was a really, really obvious pick. I’ve actually called this my pick for the most overrated game of all time in previous articles. But I am not going to pretend I have a different pick just to surprise people… not for longer than it takes to set up a joke, anyway. Well, I think this is where I should lay it all on the line and tear into Grand Theft Auto III as much as I can and try to thoroughly explain why I hate this game so much.

Basically, the game has a similar decent structure but completely unsafe building issue to the original Metroid and Zelda. But this game isn’t from the 80s, it’s from 2001 and it’s not the first game in its series. Yes, it was the first 3D one, but many of its issues are unrelated to that (although some certainly are). The game not only has an appalling lack of checkpoints, it is actually designed so that even the meager checkpoint you do get is worthless. Die during a mission? You wake up at the hospital and have to drive back to the mission. Except you lost pretty much everything (all your weapons and money), so what you really have to do is load your save, which may be even farther away, since there are only three save points in the entire game. And you’ll have to drive to one after every mission, so even more pointless trekking back and forth. A Retry option would have made this game so much better, but nope, you’re going to spend exponentially more time driving to missions than actually playing them. Also, there’s no full map. Yes, you get a mini-map to guide you to missions, but I hope you never have to visit a gun store or Pay ‘n’ Spray after the one time the game points out the location of a single one to you. You’re also treated to the worst lock-on system I have ever seen in a game. Winning a firefight is nearly impossible, you’ll be quickly shot to death while the camera has a seizure and all of your bullets miss. The driving controls aren’t as bad, but they’re still lacking considering how easy it is to get caught on objects or get flipped over. And let’s talk about the hidden packages. They are the codifier for the worst type of collectable in all of gaming, tiny objects that could be hidden ANYWHERE in an open game world. And they aren’t even confined to masochistic 100% runs in GTAIII, if you want simple quality of life features like being able to restore health at save points, you’re going to need several of them.

Now, some people dismiss these issues by saying you’re really supposed to ignore the missions and enjoy causing chaos with no other objective. I have two responses to that. One, if a game puts in the amount of content and effort into its story mode that Grand Theft Auto III did, and it turns out the game is at its most fun when you ignore it, that is an abject failure on the developer’s part. Two, even this is held back by the awful controls and ultra-strict penalties for dying. And you’re going to need to find a lot of those hidden packages if you want good chaos tools without playing the story. I get it, being able to kill any character in a 3D game was mind-blowing at the time, but that doesn’t change that GTAIII is a genuinely bad game. Innovation can’t replace quality, at least not in the long term, and while the sequels to GTAIII fixed some of my many issues with it, several others remained for no reason. I genuinely think the lack of demand for Grand Theft Auto to fix its issues held the series and genre back for years. It took until Grand Theft Auto IV in 2008 for the gaming community (not reviewers, they still worshipped it) to finally say that the sandbox emperor had no clothes. Not that anyone admitted that about the prior GTA games. Thankfully, the sun was about finally rise and eliminate the shadow GTAIII cast on its genre…

Instead You Should Play: Saints Row 2

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Yep, this was also pretty predictable if you’ve read my past articles. But like my pick for most overrated game of all time, just because it’s predictable doesn’t mean Saints Row 2 hasn’t earned its spot. Saints Row 2 is incredibly similar to the PlayStation 2 Grand Theft Auto games, in most circumstances a game so similar would be a shameless rip-off. But Saints Row 2 had the radical, groundbreaking idea of making the gameplay style good. Almost every single issue I mentioned about GTAIII is fixed. Solid control in every area, checkpoints, a fully functional map, the hidden package equivalents are still there but at least the gameplay doesn’t depend on them in any way. This means you can enjoy the over-the-top story, massive gameplay variety, content packed quest, and all the senseless chaos you want without crippling flaws holding you back at every turn. Saints Row 2 is what Grand Theft Auto always should have been, and between it and the backlash against Grand Theft Auto IV, the genre finally evolved into what it had the potential to be. Saints Row 2 is not only an antidote to Grand Theft Auto III, it cleansed its entire genre of GTAIII’s illness. It earns the number one spot on its list as much as GTAIII earned its number one spot.

So, there you finally have it, my ranked picks for the top ten most overrated games of all time and the antidotes to their flaws. I’m very relieved to finally be finished, see you next time for an article that hasn’t been hanging over me for almost two years.

Turn Based #5: Losing Steam with Console Woes

Professor Icepick: Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of Turn Based. Considering that this is our fifth article in this series, it seems only fitting that we tackle a topic of the utmost importance. For years, a war has been brewing within the medium of video games as a whole. One that goes well above and beyond the petty console wars of our childhood. One which both KI and I actually have personal stakes in. I speak, of course, about the schism between PC and console gaming.

Can one of our classic arguments finally settle which platform is superior once and for all? …I wouldn’t count on it, we’ll probably just end with another stalemate. Regardless, it’s a topic that is still worth exploring. With that being said, KI will start arguing his preference for console gaming.

SNES Master KI: Consoles simply work better for gaming, their dedication to gaming (yes, I know they can do other things now, but those are afterthoughts and things that take less effort than running games) results in many direct and indirect benefits. These range from the simplicity and guaranteed function of standardized hardware to the motivation for companies like Nintendo to make so many great games to support their consoles. The game library and quality of life advantages of consoles are completely overwhelming from my perspective.

Icepick: The problem with that is that the advantages that consoles once held over PCs have begun to fade with time. During the seventh generation of video game consoles — the days of the Wii, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 — consoles have become less and less “plug-and-play” devices, relying on internet connections to patch firmware and software regularly. Unfortunately, the process is hampered by the traditional “walled garden” approach that consoles have adopted since their inception.

With the current generation of consoles doubling-down on constant updates and upgrades that no longer work right out of the box, you’re probably expecting me to argue that the PC is a much more stable platform. You would be wrong. In fact, this has been how the PC gaming landscape has looked for nearly 2 decades now. The major difference lies in the more open source nature of PC gaming. Updates to games that would take weeks or even months for companies like Sony and Nintendo to approve and implement can literally be in gamers’ hands within minutes. Steam upgrades games automatically — both games that are already installed and those that have yet to be downloaded — and most other services (even GOG via their Galaxy client) offer similar user-friendly services. The PlayStation 3 and 4, at least in my experience, relied on gamers to open games before it would even consider updating them.

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Plus we don’t have to pay for cloud saves.

KI: The pick up and play potential may have been diminished, but that doesn’t change that the standardization of consoles means that playing the games once everything is set comes with far fewer issues. It’s also not all bad, although games shipping in a perfect state would be ideal, patches can often be very useful for removing glitches or fixing stupid, simple design issues in otherwise great games. If I start a new console game, there may be a wait for something to download, but once it does I know it will run and my controller will work for it as intended. And for the record, PlayStation 4 and Switch will download patches for games you have installed/in your play history even if you don’t start the game or have the physical disc/cart inserted. Xbox One may do the same, but I can’t confirm that from experience.

Icepick: The point is that consoles have moved onto providing non-gaming experiences as well as traditional gaming, and in that regard, consoles are definitely outgunned, due to their reliance on the walled garden.

Having said that, I guess it’s time to discuss some of the more objective advantages that PC gaming has over home consoles: library size. For the sake of discussion, I’ll stick to “legitimate” games — so no talk of emulators and whatnot — but even in that case, the sheer amount of content available on PC is staggering. Best of all is the sheer amount of old content available. While many consoles have essentially given up on the concept of backwards compatibility, services like Good Old Games and DOSbox allow gamers to play their favorite games of yesteryear with very little hassle. This makes the PC the ideal platform for retro gaming in general.

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Eat your heart out, Virtual Console.

We’ve also seen the rising popularity of indie games on consoles, but PC is where that revolution started and there are still many hidden gems exclusive to the platform. The sheer amount of content available on PC absolutely dwarfs all current consoles (even handhelds) combined. Gamers of all stripes can find something to enjoy on PC, which isn’t always the case on each console.

KI: Well, lots to address. Consoles are certainly outgunned in non-gaming purposes, but that’s completely expected, the non-gaming functions of consoles are a bonus. Although I’ll point out that if I actually did intend to use PC as a gaming platform, that multi-functionality would create complications since I need a PC for work/communication/general internet functions. I can’t just leave it hooked up to a TV in an area where I would want to game.

For backwards compatibility, it comes down to what you prioritize in convenience. Consoles don’t disappear when their generation is over, as my name attests you can keep and continue playing old consoles for decades, and there’s no need to mess with DOSbox to make the game run correctly. Backwards compatibility may also very well be about to make steps forward/recover for consoles, Sony and Microsoft’s more standardized system architecture could make PlayStation 5 and Xbox 2001 or whatever confusing name they give it easily backwards compatible. Nintendo was great with backwards compatibility until Switch’s hardware made it physically impossible (no dual screen set up or disc drive), I think it will come back when Switch gets a successor.

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25+ years and still working.

For sheer amount of games, PC of course wins, but when both sides number in the thousands total quantity isn’t that important, no one could possibly play everything and the vast majority of games on both sides aren’t worth playing. Consoles have made great strides in picking up the prominent indie games that were once PC’s exclusive domain, and while PC has certainly made a lot of progress in getting the big budget third-party games that used to stick to consoles, it seems to have come at the expense of PC exclusive big budget releases. And of course, there’s the old quantity versus quality argument. I think Nintendo alone more than makes up for the quality indie games that fall through the cracks and don’t make it to consoles.

Icepick: Fair point. Nintendo consoles are worth buying for their first-party games alone.

Another advantage I’d claim that PC has is a much more balanced relationship between consumers and content providers. On consoles, players have to essentially accept whatever terms first-party publishers set without question. On PC, everything’s a lot more open to discussion. While Steam controls a majority of the modern PC market, there are alternatives that offer exclusive titles (Origin, Windows Store) or other features (GOG, Humble).

This also applies to online gaming. While even Nintendo is preparing to succumb to charging for online play this year, the entire prospect of charging PC gamers for online play is genuinely considered a fool’s errand. When Microsoft launched Games for Windows Live — a sister service to Xbox Live — they intended to charge players the same price for online play. PC gamers protested that and Microsoft dropped the paid component, while keeping every other feature, including crossplay with Xbox 360.

Then you’ve got the modding community. While many of them are associated with various cosmetic mods, they also have a tendency of fixing games that are either broken at launch or incompatible with newer systems. It’s gotten to the point where fan-programmed patches have even been implemented into official releases of games. Content is much more community driven on PC and that works to the advantage of everyone. While Xbox One and PS4 has begun to experiment with the ability to download mods, it just pales in comparison: they’re strictly limited to cosmetic stuff, meaning that console gamers are generally reliant on official patches, which as I said earlier, tend to be released slower than molasses in January.

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One of my favorite mods of all time.

KI: I interpret the relationship between the platform and gamers differently. You can view consoles manufacturers as having more control over gamers, but they also have more obligation to us. One of the core reasons I don’t game on PC is because I can’t stand paying for something and then basically being told I’m on my own to make it work. If I buy a console game and it for some reason doesn’t work, that’s on the company and they have to fix it, and it very rarely comes to that. Aside from making sure I’m not putting an Xbox One disc into my PS4, I don’t have to think about whether I will be able to play the game that I buy, there’s no fear that I’ll come up short in a spec related area and not be able to play the game with no solution besides spending more money and putting in the effort to upgrade my computer. I view the “control” console manufactuers have over me as more of a contract, and it’s one I’d much rather sign than be on my own and have more control.

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The most complicated system requirements I have to deal with.

As for paying for online, I acknowledge that probably isn’t necessary and it would be better if it wasn’t required, but I will say that the perks that come with PSN+ do a good job of mitigating it for me. The amount of (conditionally) free games I get for $60 a year usually satisfies me, and with Nintendo’s much cheaper price I don’t think they’ll have any issues making me feel okay paying $20 a year.

Icepick: Yeah, but the PS+ games on offer generally lean more on the lame side most of the time. This month had some good stuff, but I think they only did that to cushion the blow of retiring PS3 and Vita games next year.

KI: Well, if they were all great, it would be way too fantastic a value for any company to agree to, I’d be saving around $1,000 a year if I actually intended to buy every game they offered. But I think it’s time for me to go on the offensive. One of my first points was that consoles cultivated an ecosystem where exclusives from the first parties are highly valued. For some reason, PC did the exact opposite. When Valve rose to become basically the first party leader of PC gaming, they all but gave up on making their own games. Jokes about Gabe being afraid of the number 3 aside, it’s more that they just make barely any new games. Steam seems to have drained Valve as a developer, while companies like Nintendo and formerly Sega put way more effort into making games when they have their own console, and Sony and Microsoft at least fund a large amount of games (well, you can argue about Microsoft, but that’s literally a topic for another time).

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Even the less supported ones made it to three games.

So my main point in this is that the state of PC exclusives is not good. In the fourth and fifth generations, PCs weren’t making the types of games I personally wanted, but there were genres PC dominated and PC exclusives that were beloved classics. This seems to have all but died off, the best PC exclusive games seem almost accidental at this point, an indie developer makes a hidden gem that never quite gets the attention and funding needed to bring it to console. In the 90s Doom 1 and 2 were out on PC first and the console versions were vastly inferior, while Doom 2016 came out on consoles the same day as PC. For all the strides PC has made in getting console games, I feel like it traded its exclusives to do so, and ultimately it’s all about the games.

Icepick: I’ll admit, Valve has definitely fallen down as an actual game developer. While they’ve recently claimed that they’re still making new games, no one believes them. At this point, they’ve transitioned into more of a PC gaming advocate, cultivating an environment that will allow for more games to reach the platform. While there are still those clamoring for new Valve games — I personally want a third Left 4 Dead or Portal much more than Half-Life 3 — most PC gamers have accepted that Valve’s days as a developer are… numbered?

I understand your concern about PC exclusives and while content in that field is clearly limited compared to the 90s and even the early 2000s, there are still PC exclusive games in the pipeline. For example, I remember you being quite distraught that Quake Champions, a class-based FPS, was going to be a PC exclusive. The Total War series offers solid real-time strategy combat. Divinity: Original Sin II is a turn-based RPG that is both critically acclaimed and massively popular, which is currently only available on PC.

Original Sin II relied on crowdfunding, which is a pretty big source of modern PC games, both exclusive and otherwise. I remember your general apprehension towards the concept, but many crowdfunded games list PC as their sole initial platform and many more list it among multiple launch platforms. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that the platform still holds weight with developers of all sizes. A Hat in Time was originally intended to be a PC-exclusive — launching on the platform first — before PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions were added due to the game’s popularity. It wasn’t the first crowdfunder that got released on other platforms after being pitched as a PC exclusive and it certainly won’t be the last. You’ve made the claim that PC relies on consoles for new games, but I’d argue that it goes both ways.

KI: For Quake Champions, I was mainly upset by their hypocritical reasoning for it not being on consoles (claiming it needed to be 120 FPS to be playable, but then assuring PC gamers with less powerful rigs that it would play fine on their systems). Honestly, id making a multiplayer focused game after Doom 2016 made such strides for single-player focused FPSes probably would have annoyed me even if it was on consoles. I know there are still some quality PC exclusives (although still in genres I don’t personally play), but I think consoles are still demonstrating a pretty massive advantage in that area.

 

As for which system relies on which for games, I don’t really care that much. Indie games need PC’s lower entry fee, big budget games need sales from console gamers to survive, what ultimately matters is what games your platform of choice gets. The issue is that consoles have games made specifically to be exclusives, and I think those give it a very clear edge in library.

Icepick: I guess that’s all there is to it. We’ve got different priorities. You tend to prefer the simplicity of a console — an advantage which I’d argue is slowly but surely eroding with each generation — while I prefer the freedom offered by PC. Still, with many more companies beginning to embrace PC, the future seems bright.

KI: Well, I’d generally say that my arguments for consoles have two main points, the functionality guarantee and the much larger number of exclusive games on them that appeal to me. After several years of pessimism applied to console gaming, I think Nintendo’s resurgence, the other consoles exiting the growing pains of the early eighth generation, and the ever-growing indie presence on consoles (“Perfect for Switch” may be a meme, but indie games really do sell amazingly on it) that the sun has risen for console gaming.

And as expected, the discussion has once again ended in a stalemate. But the arguments were elaborated on, and no one was called an elitist, peasant, Nazi, or iOS supporter. What about you, are you changing chairs to play something after this, or just switching windows? Tell us in the comments, and remember that no matter how much you disagree on a topic, you can always fake civility in text form.

The Top Ten Most Overrated Games of All Time and What You Should Play Instead (Part 1)

I’ve been wanting to do this article for a long time. Over a year and a half ago, I made a ranked list of what I consider the ten most overrated video games of all time. Due to having limited freedom in what my articles could be about at the time and then constantly feeling like I was doing too many lists after returning to Retronaissance, it has taken until now to finally give this list the articles I always wanted to. But the waiting hasn’t been for nothing, I recently (well, it was recently when I started this article, then I got sidetracked yet again) came up with a gimmick for this list: in addition to listing overrated games, I will also be including an antidote, a game that is similar to the game on the list but fixes my issues with it. So, with 20 games to cover, let’s get right to it!

Number 10: Super Mario 64

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As controversial as this choice is, I can’t help but feel that it also acts as a personal safeguard. Starting with an entry from my favorite publisher in my favorite series (on my least favorite console they made, but let’s save that for another time) seems like a pretty good shield against accusations of bias when we get to non-Nintendo choices on my list (although I promise this isn’t a token Nintendo entry, more are coming…). But while this is easily my favorite game on the list, hence it being number 10, it’s still a genuine pick. Super Mario 64 may have been a gigantic leap forward for 3D games, but damn it, it is not retroactively the sole arbiter of a “true” Mario game. It does not get to make linear Mario games a bad thing or deviation. It also isn’t an avant-garde work of horror that later Mario games ruined with their “kiddiness.” The eel isn’t trying to scare you, it just doesn’t have a lot of polygons to work with. And this isn’t even getting into the control and camera improvements that later 3D Marios made. It may sound like I hate this game, but I really don’t, it has just been given a sacred status that went way too far, even if a lot of it is earned. It’s overrated mainly in comparison to other Mario games, which is why it’s only number 10.

Instead You Should Play: Super Mario Odyssey

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While I may prefer linear style Mario games, I’m not going to use this category as a bludgeon against non-linear ones. After a decade of complaining, Nintendo made another sandbox style Mario game (sandbox Mario games coming from the timeline initiated in the Autumn World ending from Super Mario World, while the linear ones came from its normal overworld palette) and while it wasn’t my first choice, they did such a good job with Super Mario Odyssey that it was the first game I felt my old level of hype and excitement for in years. Super Mario Odyssey improves on Super Mario 64 in every conceivable way, with more jumping tricks to exploit, more actual platforming, and way, way more to do and find in its levels. 120 stars? Odyssey has 880 moons. No, not every moon matches the main stars, but SMO is still going to take much, much longer to fully complete. Super Mario Odyssey also makes exploring more pleasant by not forcing you back to the start of the level after almost every star/moon, and it is filled with the brilliant platforming that Super Mario 64 often came up short in. Odyssey may not quite be my favorite Mario, but it gives me hope that an even better direct sequel could make a style of Mario game that fully satisfies fans of both linear and sandbox style, which is not a hope that Super Mario 64 ever gave me.

Number 9: Final Fight

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I don’t really have as much to say about this as the previous entry, although I’m just now realizing it could be considered something of an inverse. While Super Mario 64’s status as the supposed unquestioned best 3D platformer of all time leads to an absurd level of worship for it, Final Fight’s status as the most iconic beat-‘em-up of all time leads to the genre as a whole being thrown under the bus. Brave journalists who want a controversial opinion that no one will get mad at them for often announce that they consider the entire beat-‘em-up genre an outdated relic that was never that good in the first place. The claims that go with this, that they are repetitive button mashers, do apply fairly well to Final Fight in my opinion. Overly large, not very mobile characters fighting a few main enemy types over and over again in levels that are mostly window dressing without much technique in combat. Final Fight isn’t a terrible game, but it just doesn’t hold my interest very well and doesn’t deserve to be considered the main representative of its genre. Sure, some people would say the Genesis’s Streets of Rage series deserves that title, but I have a different choice for the SNES’s champion in that contest…

Instead You Should Play: TMNT IV: Turtles in Time

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Now take every complaint I had about Final Fight and reverse it. Reasonably sized, fast characters with jumps that could handle most Mario levels and lots of moves which almost all have their own purpose. Tons of enemy types and level obstacles. And instead of having a watered down SNES version, the home version obliterates the arcade game with more levels, bosses, and greatly improved controls. Turtles in Time is what a classic style beat-‘em-up has the potential to be, and the greatest argument for their value. I’ve loved this game for almost all of my life, but it was relatively recently that I realized just how much it excelled compared to other beat-‘em-ups even if you completely ignore TMNT nostalgia. Turtles in Time will be just as fun as it ever was in 2020: Neon Night-Riders and beyond.

Number 8: Bioshock

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This is the game on the list that I made the least progress in. While I beat most of the overrated category games on this list and made a lot of progress in the couple others I didn’t, I just couldn’t make myself keep playing Bioshock. Yes, the story and atmosphere are good, but it had been generations since I played an FPS with such clunky control and poor hit detection. I felt like I was playing one of those action-RPGs I can’t stand where you essentially have to trade hits (yeah, stay tuned, we’ll get to one of those later). Regardless, I’m sure I could have beaten it if I really wanted to, thanks to its checkpoint system. Really, if it wasn’t for that checkpoint system, I’d almost file this game under “just not my thing” and leave it off the list. But that checkpoint system, not only do I hate it with a burning passion, it spread into and poisoned other FPSes. In its default mode (turning off this feature will result in unfairly huge gaps between checkpoints) dying in Bioshock will make you spawn at a checkpoint equivalent. However, everything except your health meter will be exactly as it was when you died. Enemies stay dead/injured, ammo and consumables you used are still gone, you just have to walk back to where you were. So, the penalty for dying is now tedium, solely tedium. Sorry, no amount of men, oceans, and lighthouses can make up for that.

Instead You Should Play: Metroid Prime

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This is probably the antidote game that’s the most different from its counterpart, but I think there are still enough similarities to justify my choice. Metroid Prime is an atmospheric, lore heavy, varied mix of weapons and abilities sort of-FPS, like Bioshock. While it trades an emphasis on direct story for puzzles and platforming, Metroid Prime shows that gameplay doesn’t have to be sacrificed for atmosphere, and that’s why I picked it as the antidote. Metroid Prime is a faithful recreation of Super Metroid’s formula in 3D, and it pulls off everything it tries expertly. I don’t want to go into too much detail about it since, again, this is more different than its counterpart than would be ideal, but if I get an itch for the type of experience everyone describes Bioshock as, Metroid Prime is my first choice for scratching it.

Number 7: Strider

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Now what could I dislike about this legendary action game with great, buttery smooth control and a high but always fair difficulty level? I guess the biggest issue would be the fact that I have no idea what game everyone praising it is playing. I’ve played both the arcade and very faithful Genesis versions of Strider, and neither one matches the game everyone else apparently played. Strider’s controls are as stiff as the original Castlevania, and the level design is definitely not built around them to the extent that it is in that game. Strider is also among the most prominent examples of one of my biggest gaming pet peeves, your character is way too big and it makes dodging even more difficult. I can’t make any progress in the game without tedious memorization to compensate for how big, slow, and clunky the title character is. That is not my idea of a well-designed action platformer, and unlike with Bioshock, this is a genre I definitely have enough familiarity with to judge. I genuinely don’t understand the disconnect I have with everyone else when it comes to this game, but it’s huge and I have to put Strider on this list.

Instead You Should Play: Hagane: The Final Conflict

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This is the most obscure antidote game on the list, but it’s also one of the most perfectly fitting. Hagane was released late in the Super Nintendo’s life, and sadly it is currently only available in that form and at an absurdly high price. Regardless, it is the game everyone seems to be describing when they talk about Strider. A very hard but always fair melee-focused action platformer, Hagane is everything you could want from this type of game. I feel like the agile ninja that everyone says Strider is when I’m slashing through enemies and dodging projectiles in Hagane. This is one of the best hidden gems of the 4th generation, and it deserves the praise and great 2014 revival game that Strider got.

Number 6: Sonic Adventure 2

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There’s a third of a good game in here. The Sonic and Shadow levels are some of the best examples of 3D Sonic platforming even to this day, but they are only a third of the game. For the other two-thirds, you get two play styles from the original Sonic Adventure, but for some mind-baffling reason they’ve been made worse. The shooter levels have become mindless and tedious thanks to your reasonably agile robot from Sonic Adventure being replaced by clunky, slow walkers. And the treasure hunting levels… someday I’m going to play Sonic 2006 just so I can justify saying they are the worst thing ever in a 3D Sonic game. Wandering around levels with a horrific camera that was not designed for any kind of backtracking, possibly walking right by a buried master emerald shard because the radar will only track one shard at a time for absolutely no reason. I don’t care how much you love the music or how you think this is the only game ever made where Shadow is cool instead of an edgelord, two-thirds of this game ranging from boring to atrocious means it doesn’t deserve to have praise heaped on it. Also, I hate the Chao Garden with a burning passion.

Instead You Should Play: Sonic Adventure

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As I mentioned, the worst crime Sonic Adventure 2 committed was making two of the gameplay styles from the original Sonic Adventure worse in every way. So it’s pretty easy to see why I’d recommend just playing the original. Sonic Adventure has the same amount of Sonic style levels, much more enjoyable versions of the other level types from Sonic Adventure 2, two other styles that are pretty fun, and one level type that is poorly executed but represents a much smaller portion of the game and can be breezed through instead of the drawn-out torture of the SA2 hunting levels. The open adventure fields aren’t great, but they’re mostly simple and painless, much better than what Sonic Adventure 2 makes you go through for the majority of its duration. The music is at least as good as SA2 and the story is similar in quality, just make sure to pick up the DX version so that you don’t have to deal with unskippable cinemas showing the same scenes in different characters’ stories. I still hate the Chao Garden, however.

Well, I finally did it, halfway there and ready to post the first part of this article. Writing about games higher up on my lists is usually easier for me, so hopefully it won’t be that long until we get to Part 2, stay tuned!

An Odyssey That Will Take Your Breath Away

Ever since those six seconds of footage in the Switch reveal trailer, I was incredibly hyped for Super Mario Odyssey (and endlessly gloated about how “Super Mario Switch” was a real game and not a tech demo as Nintendo tried to claim). I’ve wanted to write an article entirely dedicated to it for a while now, but ended up waiting until my second playthrough so that I could have maximum clarity on my feelings for it. It’s not like I could have had a review of it ready for launch day. Of course, after waiting this long and having already said that it lived up to my hype in the most anticipated games of 2018 article, I can’t just spend a few thousand words raving about it. I need a hook for this article. And during my second playthrough, it came to me. Last year there were two extraordinarily well-received games released in my two favorite game series, both of which weren’t my first choice for the series’ direction. And while I loved one of these games, the other left me very conflicted. These games are, of course, Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Why did two games that seemed so similar in basic concept, both in series I adore, turn out so differently for me? Well, that’s what this article will attempt to answer.

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Spoilers: Mario wins this time.

Let’s start with Breath of the Wild, since as always, I like getting the negative out of the way first. Now despite me labeling this “the negative,” I’d like to clarify that I absolutely do not think BotW is a bad game. Putting all fears and associations aside, I’d have to say the Breath of the Wild is my pick for the second-best game of 2017, and that was a very, very good year. If it had actually made either its 2015 or 2016 release targets, it would have deserved to be my game of the year. There are things BotW does better than any other game I’ve played, the absolutely massive open world is better and more intricately designed than I would have thought something that big could ever be. Being able to climb almost any surface and safely jump/glide from any height in a game of this scale feels incredible and earns the game the “open air” label Nintendo gave it. Tricks with game mechanics that you should logically be able to do almost always worked, even when they wouldn’t in most games. The rune powers are used to great effect in the many, many, many micro-dungeons, and the game is gigantic. It took me over 100 hours to do everything in the game I felt was worth doing.

So why am I conflicted? There are two major issues. One is that for everything the game did better than I thought possible, there was a design choice I hated and felt almost betrayed by the inclusion of. Breakable weapons are the biggest factor, I really, really hate excessive resource management. How the game can give you infinite quickly regenerating bombs, but no truly permanent melee weapon boggles my mind, and it added a constant, unnecessary level of stress. This made the somewhat clunky menu worse, since you are forced to constantly switch weapons. Climbing was much slower than it needed to be and rain disabling it was ridiculous. It felt like there was a civil war going on during the game’s development over whether to make quality of life the goal or the mortal enemy, and neither side decisively won.

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Why why why why why WHY!?

My other issue is a more subjective one, or at least it counting as a negative is. Even with all the problems I mentioned above, Breath of the Wild is probably the best open world game I have ever played. But that isn’t what it should be, or at least not the only thing. It is a Zelda game, and as a Zelda game it fell short in many areas. I don’t want 50 different equippable weapons that have nearly identical functions, I want 10 unique items used in countless ways for puzzles and combat. Breath of the Wild only had five or so things that felt like genuine Zelda items. I want full dungeons, 120 tiny ones is a nice bonus, but it isn’t worth the five “real” ones being so short and de-emphasized. I don’t want to worry about collectables and stats and weapon durability, Zelda should be about level design. I should never dread having to explore a new town or area because I’m already overwhelmed. Breath of the Wild is clearly an exceptional game, but I feel it is noticeably lacking as a Zelda game, and games of that type are much rarer than the open world games BotW takes inspiration from. Until the next Zelda is announced and fixes my major issues, there is a cloud of fear hanging over this exceptional game.

I realize that my opinion is not a divine proclamation, and clearly many people really, really liked having such a non-linear and exploration-focused Zelda. I know that pleasing every fan every time is an impossible request, but I feel Breath of the Wild went too far in one direction. I’m not asking for every Zelda to be 90% dungeon style gameplay like Skyward Sword, but there has to be a compromise, right? Could a game find a balance where even if it wasn’t my very first choice, it left me feeling fully satisfied and secure about the franchise’s future, while still giving people with different priorities than me what they wanted? Is that even possible?

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Mario can do anything.

Yep, it absolutely is. Super Mario Odyssey is the first sandbox-style Mario game since 2002, as opposed to the linear platformers that are my preference. At its official reveal during the Switch’s formal debut, the trailer made it clear that the game would be far more focused on exploration than the recent 3D Mario platformers. While this somewhat disappointed me, it wasn’t like I didn’t enjoy the previous sandbox Mario games, and there was no indication that Mario’s ability to jump could break. I decided to have faith in the game, even with my conflicted response to Breath of the Wild when it was finally released. I eagerly awaited seeing more of Super Mario Odyssey, and counted the days until E3 when we were certain to get one of Mario’s signature greatly improved second trailers.

Would posting the entirety of Jump Up, Super Star!’s lyrics be excessive padding? Yeah, probably. But suffice to say, Super Mario Odyssey’s E3 2017 trailer was one of the best video game trailers I have ever seen. The game’s main new feature was revealed, Mario’s ability to possess enemies and objects ranging from goombas to a hyper-realistic T-rex that I’ve dubbed “Yoshi Senior”. And seeing extended gameplay demonstrations revealed that the non-linear levels were full of small sections containing classic style linear Mario platforming. My hype skyrocketed, I felt a sense of wonderful anticipation for a game that I hadn’t felt in years.

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And this isn’t even Yoshi’s final form!

I won’t go into too much detail about how fantastic Super Mario Odyssey is, there are plenty of reviews that will do that for me and you’ve had months to experience it for yourself. A colossal amount of content, constant variety with new things to possess in each level, 50+ mini-stages that play in my preferred Mario format, creative and beautiful settings with a huge amount of aesthetic variety, a staggering amount of things you can do with Mario’s partner Cappy even without possessing anything, and of course Mario’s signature perfect control and exceptional level design. But what I want to really praise Super Mario Odyssey for in this article is how it managed to balance two styles of Mario game and please everyone (well, every sane person).

Super Mario Odyssey has fully explorable levels, with secrets literally everywhere (they actually put in invisible coins to let you know when you had reached an area that didn’t have a moon hidden somewhere in it). Mastering the jumping system gives you an incredible amount of freedom and makes exploring every corner of every level enjoyable. A fast travel system and levels that put more of an emphasis on being deep than being sprawling means you never feel like you’re wasting time walking to a different area. The many forms Mario must take to find every Power Moon means your generous jumping abilities don’t make platforming challenges trivial. Levels have story missions that make them play out like the linear 3D Mario games, before opening up the entire level for exploration. And your reward for exploration may be a linear platforming mini-level. Super Mario Odyssey doesn’t feel lacking regardless of whether your prefer linear or sandbox style platformers.

Now despite this, Super Mario Odyssey isn’t my favorite Mario game and wouldn’t have been my very first choice. But that leads to another thing it does much better than Breath of the Wild. While Breath of the Wild’s decisions have me holding my breath for the next Zelda to address my issues and assure me that the series hasn’t been harmed in the long term, Super Mario Odyssey does the opposite and fills me with hope. Mario games often come in pairs, and with how successful SMO was, I’m expecting the next 3D Mario to essentially be Odyssey 2. Now Super Mario Galaxy 3 would probably be my preference if I was given the choice, but… there’s a possibility. The second Mario game in a pair is usually better, and if Super Mario Odyssey 2 is a better game and improves in the right ways, it just may manage to make a Mario formula I like better than the SMG games. Maybe if we cut down the number of worlds but made the linear platforming areas you found longer, long enough to pass for Super Mario 3D Land stages, we could actually have a hybrid that I like better than the linear Mario formula. It’s not guaranteed, but I never would have even contemplated it before Super Mario Odyssey. A game giving me that kind of hope, having that kind of potential, is something truly special, and a sign of just how masterfully designed Super Mario Odyssey is.

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Mario has the whole world open to him.

So, despite how similar Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild seem in many ways, they also gave me an almost opposite reaction. Again, I’m not saying BotW is a bad game, in fact with a few changes (full dungeons in exchange for the map being Skyrim sized instead of double Skyrim sized, no more breakable weapons) a direct sequel could be one of my favorite Zeldas. The game was great and could provide a great foundation, but there is also a risk of there being long term damage. Super Mario Odyssey, however, is both an exceptional game and something that made me optimistic and excited about the influence it could have on my favorite gaming series of all time, and that’s something that truly deserves to be described as taking my breath away.

Turn Based #4: Focus Group Fantasy

SNES Master KI: Hello, and welcome to another Turn Based!  We’ll be trying something new this time, this will be a three-player round.  Increasingly prominent contributor Dari will be joining us for a discussion on how to design the ideal JRPG.  All three of us have our own ideas on how to do this, so hopefully we’ll end up with lots of bloody conflict and furious verbal combat.  Or hopefully we won’t, I forget which one we want.  Icepick is the least enthusiastic about the genre, so we’re making him go first.

Professor Icepick: I guess it could be argued that one of the most important aspects on a Japanese turn-based RPG is its setting. Due to the genre’s increased emphasis on storyline, a proper setting can create an engrossing world to explore for the 40-400 hours players can look forward to spending in the game itself. Yet roughly half of all JRPGs in existence will go for a cliched fantasy setting, taking place in a fictionalized version of medieval Europe. More recently, we’ve seen post-apocalyptic steampunk future go from a breath of fresh air to yet another one of those standard set pieces. Yet, very rarely, we’ll actually get something unique. I think the best example of this would have to be the Mother trilogy, released in the West as “Earthbound”.

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Long ago, in the far off ancient land of New York City circa 1993…

Taking place in what is essentially a contemporary setting driven more by off-the-wall humor than trying to ape the entire of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Earthbound managed to garner a cult following in the West due to its irreverent sense of humor and a setting that was, quite frankly, a breath of fresh air within the genre. As such, my ideal JRPG setting would be anything besides those two clichés that feel omnipresent within the genre. That’s not to say that it’s not possible to escape the bland nature associated with traditional fantasy or sci-fi tropes. It just takes some kind of a gimmick, like a fantasy game basing itself more on the folklore of a non-European region, perhaps a more mundane future with less obvious flaws or being developed by Nihon Falcom.

Dari, your thoughts?

Dariwan: I’d have to agree. Most of the time it takes something drastically changing in the middle of the story to make the setting be anything more than just the same old thing. Earthbound was definitely a different beast, kind of feeling like it’s in “America” which makes you feel like the game could be in your hometown or somewhere close by.

I feel like my ideal JRPG would be something like a mix of Japan or something like Earthbound mixed in with the tropes. I think that Tokyo Mirage Sessions mixed in eccentric Japanese settings and the cliché stuff pretty well, but I think we can go a bit farther than that. Not that we’re going in that far, but MMOs have the same problem as JRPGs with their settings being a bit blasé. but I feel as I said before my ideal setting is one that “lives” and changes as the game goes on, instead of being the same thing throughout.

KI, do you agree?

KI: My main criteria for a setting is that it’s different enough from reality to accommodate the variety needed for a 40+ hour game.  This seems easier to do in fantasy settings, which may be a reason why they’re such a common choice, but it isn’t necessary.  As mentioned, the Mother series was able to take neighboring towns in contemporary America and make one feel completely different from the next.  The key is that the setting can’t get caught up on feeling realistic.  You shouldn’t be confined by real life settings, or an obsessively “believable” medieval Europe expy, or rock-hard science fiction.  I want imagination and variety, and you can do that in any setting as long as you have the creativity and don’t chain it to realism, even realism attached to a fantasy setting.

I do like it when games change tone midway through as well, games like Xenoblade Chronicles 1 and 2 and Final Fantasy IX introduce settings late in the story that you see no indication of at the start of the game.  And Chrono Trigger of course has every world setting you can think of thanks to time travel.  With how huge the scale of JRPGs should be, one setting often isn’t enough for an entire game.

Icepick: Of course, JRPGs aren’t the only genre that relies heavily on story. Visual Novels are quite similar to JRPGs in terms of storyline, but the main that differentiates the two is the emphasis on gameplay. In my honest opinion, the main gameplay aspect related to JRPGs is the battle system present in each game. Unfortunately, in most cases, I’m left underwhelmed. I’ll break it down as simply as I possibly can: if the game’s concept for a battle system starts with “Attack”, ends with “Run” and can only manage to shove “Magic” and “Items” in between them, then chances are I consider you a cancer to the video game medium as a whole.

There have been a lot of games that have had interesting takes on the JRPG battle system that manage to set themselves apart from that mediocre stereotype. Games like Lunar and some of the Legend of Heroes games have turned their battles into almost miniature “turn-based strategy” segments, relying significantly on character placement to allow for more thoughtful combat. The aforementioned Earthbound sticks to a Dragon Quest-inspired battle system with one very unique (and game-making) alteration: when party members take damage, their health gradually decreases, allowing a knowledgeable player the chance to heal them before they get knocked out. I’d also be in remiss if I didn’t mention Undertale, an American indie game that was clearly inspired by Earthbound, but took its battle system in a different direction. Players can choose to attack enemy monsters, using an accuracy bar or simply interact with them to settle their conflict peacefully. But when the enemy attacks, the game turns into a sort of shoot-’em-up style game, representing the player with a heart icon, forcing them to escape injury in various ways.

Of course, my personal favorite battle system would have to be the ones found in the early Paper Marios, and to a lesser extent, the Mario & Luigi games. Relying on button presses to increase damage, extend attacks and even defend and counter enemy attacks with proper timing. There’s just something so captivating about this simple gimmick: it’s the closest I’ve ever felt to really being in control of my character in a turn-based RPG. It’s a shame that few other games have attempted to lift this system, going instead for the more traditional Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest-style of combat. The only game that really comes to mind for me is South Park: The Stick of Truth. The fact that the game is only referred to as being “inspired” by Paper Mario, rather than a “Paper Mario clone” or even its own sub-genre is perhaps one of the greatest crimes that JRPGs have yet to answer for.

Dari: I personally like turn-based RPGs simply because they allow you to strategize instead of getting hit every 2 seconds with no real chance to defend. Also, the turn-based system allows you to exploit weaknesses and keep going. I do agree that “Attack Run Magic Item” gets boring at times. That’s why games like Persona (Especially 5) and games like the Tales series definitely are different beasts of turn based games. The Tales series in particular feels like an action RPG as most of the games are open field actions in battle. You can jump and do combos almost like a fighting game and even do certain mystic arts by chaining certain moves together. I like those different atmospheres that can generate difference in the game itself. But as I said I like the standard JRPG experience except when they do it wrong.

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This is very different than the “Attack Magic Item Run” system. and that’s why I like it.

 

The game I’m currently playing is Blue Reflection it’s kind of like Persona but backwards. The battle system is…interesting to say the least. they have systems that don’t really matter until boss battles happen, and the basic gameplay is kind of easy. You also auto heal after every battle, which takes away any urgency in any battle, since you know you won’t die. It bothers me, but the story is decent enough to keep me playing. That’s another argument for another time though.

KI: I’ve recently had trouble getting into turn based games, so my ideal JRPG battle system has become the Nier/Ys style where basic combat feels like a character action game, but you still have stats and items and an MP equivalent.  As long as I’m not being harshly punished for CPU controlled characters getting themselves killed or spammed with unavoidable spells, I generally prefer action-JRPGs at this point, and my ideal one would definitely have a real-time combat system.

If the battle system is turn based, it’s important there be something to prevent it from being tedious or feel like you don’t have to really be engaged.  Semi-turn based battle systems like the Mario and Luigi games or Xenoblade games can work very well for alleviating this, with timing being a constant part of every battle.  Even something as simple as the rhythm-based damage bonuses in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 adds a lot to the battle system for me.

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This is way more like a rhythm game than it looks.

Icepick: The role-playing game designation in video games generally feels like a catch-all term: there is little in common between games like Final Fantasy, Fallout and Ys, yet no one would argue that they are not all “RPGs”. One common element all of these games share is the concept of “character progression” — simply put, as battles and other quest elements are completed, the player character becomes stronger and gains access to new abilities, much like how studying or exercising increases people’s mental and physical prowess in real-life.

I’m honestly kind of torn about this one. Generally, I like mostly random stat boosts with experience, with a handful of points for the player to assign themselves, in order to further customize their character to suit their playstyle. That’s generally what I would consider the standard, but it’s just how much control one has over these stats that I feel conflicted. I’ve played games where stat changes are considered permanent, which forces players to make their choices wisely, which I like. On the other hand, I’ve also played games that have allowed for a constant “experience pool”, which can allow stats and abilities to be changed at will, depending on the situation. For example, if one focuses on the “strength” stat in a game, to deal big damage, but eventually finds themselves in a position where an ability only accessible to characters with a high “wisdom” stat becomes necessary, the ability to shift those points around saves the player from pointless grinding — but also sort of destroys any stakes in making those decisions in the first place.

Dari: It’s a mixed bag for me– I like the usual “Level up assign stats and go” which is kind of like Dungeons & Dragons, but I like JRPGs that buck that trend. Games like Fire Emblem that just give random stats that you don’t have control over, but offer different classes at max level give you more customization than other RPGs regardless of how it looks in the start. I’m a fan of flashy attacks and big damage so character progression is really big for me. The thing that irks me more than anything is when your characters are starting, and they really don’t have much to do, so you’re sitting there attacking and praying you don’t die every battle. This goes into ‘grindin6g’ which is another thing that i actually hate about JRPGs. JRPGs that “hide the grind” are the games that I enjoy a lot more than ones where you literally have to find in a area, sit there and fight for your life until you level enough to easily beat them then move on. (FFVII, I’m lookin’ at you…damn Worm area.)

KI: I generally don’t like being overwhelmed by choosing stat placement, especially early in a game when I may not know what exactly stats do or how important they are to the battle system.  I like getting a boost in every stat when I level up, I’d rather have customization be separated from that base stat increase.  Systems like the Abilities in Final Fantasy IX or the badges in the first two Paper Mario games are my preferred way to customize characters, you have more understanding of exactly what you’re choosing and how it will affect the game.  I’d prefer that the customization system not be overly buerocratic, a skill tree where I have to essentially grind level ups to get an ability I want is very annoying.  I also like a balance between whether stats/abilities can be reassigned or not.  Permanent choices made before you understand the game should never ruin a save file, but if everything can be changed at any time I don’t want constant micromanagement required because the game didn’t bother to balance areas so multiple play styles would work.  So having experience and ability point equivalents separated is my preference.

Icepick: Another common trait among RPGs in general is that they have a tendency of adding side content in an effort to flesh out the game world and make it feel more like an organic, real place, as opposed to, well, a video game. Secret bosses or dungeons, sidequests, card games, collectables, it must be required by Japanese law for every single RPG in existence to have at least one of these tacked on.

I honestly can’t think of an example of side content that actually managed to elevate an otherwise mediocre game. I guess there’s really only one bit of non-story related content that I actually found memorable and those were the bromides in Lunar 2 on the original PlayStation. Maybe it was due to the inclusion of characters from the previous game — or perhaps it was the lewdness of a few choice images chosen — but that’s probably the only piece of optional content in an RPG that’s actually stuck with me.

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Expecting me to use one of the sexy ones? Shame on you.

Dari: I don’t think they’re exactly NEEDED but in grindy games, I think side content is good as a “rest” from the game and doing something different, keeping the game fun and not tedious and making the player hate them. One of these “side content” things I like, again from the Tales series, they have “skits” which is side stories and sometimes just random conversations that add to character development and sometimes elaborate on story. It’s really helpful to have small cute offside stuff like that to help an RPG shine and show out as a better game in general.

Stuff like sidequests can help or hinder a JRPG. They can be good for a refreshing side story or they could just open a new time hole that you want to get out of because you want to access the story. this happened to me in Final Fantasy Crisis Core. I didn’t get past chapter 2 of the story because the side quests never ended. But things like the card games in the Final Fantasy Games are nice diversions that are optional that you don’t have to put time into unless you want to. I think that’s the ideal “Side content” in a JRPG. optional stuff that has enjoyment in putting in effort, but it’s not pertinent to the story or plot of the game, just something to break the monotony of the grind or the game in general.

KI: For side content, my general feeling is that RPGs should heavily lean towards quality over quantity.  Tons of trivial (or would be trivial if they didn’t involve luck based grinding/trying to figure out what the hell you’re supposed to do) sidequests are a very bad thing, they are tedious and overwhelming.  Sidequests should never end up being the majority of a JRPG.  It gets even worse when those sidequests are practically mandatory, meaning that you will be severely underleveled if you skip sidequests and don’t do an absurd amount of grinding.  Xenoblade Chronicles X was really bad about that, if you somehow had high enough levels doing just main story missions would take around five hours.  As it is, I spent 60 hours and gave up on the final boss because I STILL wasn’t strong enough to win.  There’s a reason I usually specific Xenoblade 1 and 2 when I praise the series.  Chrono Trigger is probably the best handling of sidequests I’ve seen in a JRPG, the sidequests at the end of the game felt as polished as the main story, they weren’t overwhelmingly difficult to track down, and they added to the characters, basically being the end of their individual story arcs.  We need more RPGs with 5 great sidequests instead of 500 mindless/frustrating ones.

Icepick: Of course, what good is world-building when the world itself is lackluster? Map design is an important aspect of any RPG, regardless of sub-genre. In the 8-bit and 16-bit era, games relied on an overhead view to create truly labyrinthine dungeons and vast overworlds, but these days they can exist at any angle. It’s tough to really quantify my ideal world in general — I think my favorite maps of all time have been in the Ys series — but rather, it’s better to define a key component: variety. Each area on a world map should feel different from other areas, both in terms of aesthetic and in terms of design. If the layout of a volcano area matches the tundra, which matches the desert, which matches your character’s hometown where your adventure begins, which matches the villain’s fortress where the game comes to its conclusion, then what’s the point of changing the setting in the first place?

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Ice slopes in a desert area, Falcom is truly brilliant.

Likewise, the setting of each area should inform the designs of the dungeons themselves. You wouldn’t expect to sink in quicksand in a volcano area, deal with water puzzles in a forest and frankly, I think Ys Origin is the only game that could reasonably work slippery terrains into a desert setting. Granted, it’s interesting to experiment with that sort of thing, but recasting existing hazards to match their new biomes is a must.

Dari: I don’t have much to add to that. except in the realm of randomized worlds. The world has to be unique each time. it can’t be the same thing with a color or tint change and pretend it’s different. There needs to be some kind of radical change for it to make sense. The Persona games do this well – at least 1 and 2 and on for sure – 3 and partially 4 kind of slipped up by having pretty much the same layout for each dungeon but just had different randomized maps each time you enter.

Stage hazards are also an interesting thing i don’t see many games pick up on. You may be in a volcano area, but the lava rarely affects you. The Desert doesn’t really do much but make you hot (Golden Sun actually made you drink water in the desert and your temperature went up the more you stayed in it which I liked) We need a sense of danger otherwise we’re just walking around through a nice-looking setting with really nothing to fear or worry about. Except the monsters/enemies which get kinda stale when they’re the only threat.

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Speaks for itself more ways than one.

KI: When it comes to world design in JRPGs, there is a gold standard that isn’t even technically a JRPG.  If asked about level design in my ideal JRPG, there’s pretty much one word I would use to communicate what I want: Zelda.  Dungeons should be intricate and filled with puzzles and obstacles.  The overworld should never have generic empty space in it, for all my issues with it, even Breath of the Wild knocked it out of the park when it came to avoiding that.  The dungeons don’t have to be exactly like Zelda, but I want something in them besides combat.  Puzzle solving, platforming, shmup sections, just anything but flat halls or mazes.

Being able to interact with the world beyond a generic talk/inspect button and fighting enemies is important to me in a JRPG.  Again, the gold standard is Zelda’s palette of unique items that can be used for both combat and puzzle solving, but anything that makes the levels more than a hall/maze/field with a graphical theme (as Icepick alluded to) will satisfy me.  If I’m going to be playing a role in a world, let me truly interact with that world.

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Just because it isn’t an RPG doesn’t mean it can’t be the gold standard for them.

Icepick: Well, I’ve got to say, we’ve had a pretty fruitful discussion about what each of our ideal JRPGs would look like. I guess, the best way to finish would be to do a quick summary of everything we like to see in the genre. I love unique settings that avoid cliches that are synonymous with the genre. Engaging battle systems that go beyond simple menu-based random number generation are a must. I’m open to either permanent stat boosts or a pool of experience that can be readjusted on the fly, but not that big on sidequests in general and love it when an area’s themes are taken into account when designing dungeons.

Dari: I love JRPGs that don’t rely on side-quests but make wholesome side content that help the monotony. Games that “hide the grind” or even change up the battle system entirely to make a change. I like “Living” worlds that change and evolve as I go through them and I like when the character progression isn’t exactly the same as D&D and can do its own thing and still be interesting and fun. Also having the world fight you too is good as well. Have something besides the big bad and his/her cronies to want me dead.

KI: So, my ideal JRPG would basically be Zelda, Nier Automata, and Xenoblade being mixed together.  Varied settings with lots of surprises as you go through the game, action game style combat, intricate, puzzle heavy dungeons.  Simple upgrade system with a separate ability customization system, a few major sidequests that aren’t forced on you under threat of grinding.  A world that’s big enough to make exploration feel significant, but not so big it all blurs together.  Put gameplay and variety over realism.

Icepick: Well, that was a successful experiment. Hopefully Dari decides to join us in more Turn Baseds in the future. (We’ve actually already got a topic picked out, just in case he does.) So, who do you think has the best concepts for the perfect RPG? Dari, who is a die-hard fan of the genre; KI who is neutral, or the radical rebel that is Professor Icepick? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.

Bad Portsmanship?

Recently there has been quite a bit of derision directed towards the practice of “portbegging.” The idea that people asking for a game to be made available on their system of choice are at best pathetic and at worst a species of parasite that video game websites must actively suppress has become a strongly-held belief by some influential members of the gaming community, and as you can probably guess from my word choice thus far, I disagree. There’s a fair amount of nuance involved in this issue, but as a whole I think the title of this article more often applies to those against so-called “portbegging”.

Portbegging can be simply defined as asking for or demanding that a game which is coming to at least one other platform be released on your system or one of your systems of choice. Now that right there sums up the crux of why I think many condemnations of portbegging are unfair: they lump together asking for a game and demanding a game. There are very few circumstances where I would consider asking for a game to come to your system worthy of derision, as long as you are willing to take no for an answer given a reasonable explanation. Someone genuinely doesn’t know Nintendo owns Mario? Then I’m not going to throw a tantrum if they ask for Super Mario Odyssey on PS4, as long as they accept it not happening upon having the situation explained to them.

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No, this isn’t precedent.

This segues nicely into something I want to discuss. As you may be aware, Bayonetta 2 and 3 being Nintendo exclusive is the greatest injustice of the modern era, and Nintendo funding (or very likely funding in Bayonetta 3’s case) them is no excuse for the games not being released on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Vita, and 3DO. This is a rallying point for people who take the acceptance of portbegging to its illogical extreme, and needs to be addressed so that my argument does not appear contradictory. It really isn’t that complicated: there’s a difference between wanting a completely third-party game (especially if it’s already on systems from multiple companies) to be released on your platform of choice, and demanding a game owned or funded by a first-party publisher be released on competing systems.

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Coming to PS4 any day now for the last five years.

This is so obvious that I’m skeptical that many people truly don’t understand it, I think this false equivalency is more likely to be a bad faith argument used by people who are bitter that a game isn’t coming to a system they own. The idea that Nintendo is holding a game that only exists because of them “hostage” by making it exclusive to their systems, or that Nintendo fans have no right to complain if a third-party game is on every platform except Nintendo’s because they won’t “share” Bayonetta, is blatantly ridiculous. For the record, I completely understand that games like Cuphead will not come to Switch or PS4 unless Microsoft decides to allow it, and am not angry at Microsoft or those games for the situation. And again, if someone doesn’t understand the Bayonetta situation and asks for it on their system of choice, they’ve done nothing wrong as long as they accept the explanation for why that won’t happen.

So, moving on from the clear-cut exception of games that are made or owned by first-party publishers, what else determines when it becomes reasonable to be upset at an answer of no when you ask for a game on your system? One thing I consider a major factor is exclusive versus excluded. Of the four major gaming platform brands (Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, Steam), I find it much harder to justify a game being on only three of those than just one of them. If a company can only afford (at least for now) to release a game on one of those, or even if one of the companies made a deal for exclusivity, I think that is often understandable. Now there are exceptions to that, mainly when it comes to sequels. If an indie game was successful on consoles but only the PC version gets a sequel, I’m much less likely to accept “well we could only afford to make a PC version” as a justification. (I’m still furious at ScrewAttack for what happened with the AVGN Adventures sequel) Likewise, paying to make a sequel to a multi-platform game exclusive to your system (not funding that game existing in the first place like Bayonetta 2) is a dick move. But for the most part, if a game is only available on one platform (or two in the case of Microsoft’s decision to release all of their Xbox One games on PC as well, which I think is a strategically bad move but one they have every ethical right to make) I consider demanding that it come to other systems to be bad portsmanship.

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I’m not angrily demanding this on Switch or PS4. That means I’m better than PC gamers and they should put it on my systems, right?

With all those exceptions, when do I actually think portbegging is unfairly maligned? When the game isn’t exclusive, but excluded. If a company refuses to release games on PC for no apparent reason or excludes Switch from a collection of classic games that it could unquestionably run perfectly (Capcom was guilty of this, but got better), while the other three platforms get it, I think asking for the game to come to the one platform that is missing out is a completely reasonable request. Does seeing “Can we have this game on Switch?” or “Is there any reason you can’t put this on Steam?” on a forum really ruin a game for you? Why is wanting your system to get every multi-platform game a sign of greed, isn’t that the entire point of games being multi-platform? The fact that at least one major message board would ban people on sight for asking for a game on a system it wasn’t announced for shows just how bad this anti-portbegging hysteria has gotten. It seems like it’s just a repackaged version of spending recess bragging that your system got a game and that loser’s system didn’t, only even more obnoxious since you’re acting like you’re the victim of having to see… *clutches pearls* portbegging!

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Never forget. Never.

So not too much more to say about this topic. There are times when demanding a game on your system is clearly unreasonable, but this does not apply to simply asking and, in some circumstances, even demanding it isn’t that unreasonable. If seeing someone ask for a game that isn’t even exclusive to your favorite system get one more version is really that upsetting to you, maybe you’re the one with the problem.

Arr Matey! The Case for Piracy in Gaming

*Note: This is only an opinion piece. Piracy is wrong and you shouldn’t do it unless you know that the thing you are pirating cannot support the creators or in protest of the creators.

A long time ago, I used to buy video games. I still do, but that’s really not my point. I realized that gaming was expensive. Games were more expensive back then and my wallet was hitting flies real fast. So then I found the PC. I had a Packard Bell. I know I’m showing my age by saying this but hey, age is better in some cases. I quickly found that there were many services that were available on the internet…especially under the wide world of DIAL-UP! But I digress (while still showing my age…) I found the wonderful world of emulation. I found ZSNES and I found out there were many games on the SNES and the NES that I never even knew about. I was a poor boy growing up, so being a gamer was hard. I didn’t have many real games or the consoles I have today. If the younger me could see me now, he’d be honestly surprised and maybe even shocked I spent so much money. Anyway, it’s time for me to start my reasoning.

It’s a Hard Knock Life for Games…

My gaming life started with the SNES. It was the first console I ever owned. The games I remember playing the most were Super Mario World, Tom and Jerry, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, Wheel of Fortune Deluxe Edition (the only game I still have) Legend of the Mystical Ninja and a Caesar’s Palace game my brother had. As you can see, my list was really small for carts in console. As I said earlier, when I found out about ZSNES, my gaming world was opened. It was there that I found out about many games that I could not have access to because I didn’t have the money to buy games. Games such as Final Fantasy, Lufia, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Dragon Quest, Dragon Ball Z series, and lots more series were in my grasp. All it took was downloading a ROM of the game. There were many warnings about how downloading ROMS were illegal and such, but me and my wallet said that the risk was worth it. I played many games this way (and only this way) in a lot of cases. Most of my teenage years were spent downloading many different ROMS and playing games alone and sometimes with other people, depending on how much patience we had with internet and other things.

Instead of Winning….I Got Whipped!

As I continued my pirate gaming life, I found mIRC. This is a chatting program that allows you to connect to servers and chat with people around the world. See how great the internet is? Little did I know this would further my quest on finding more games for free! I found many mIRC servers that had many games on them I’d never heard of again! They were also on a new console. The Game Boy Advance. I think I was hooked around then. Because I had gotten a Game Boy Advance for Christmas one year during this time and I only had 2 games in real life for it. Those games were Metroid Fusion and Sonic Advance 1. All the other Game Boy Advance games I played (and still play to this day, really sadly) were emulated. I actually talked myself out of buying Kingdom Hearts:Chain of Memories on Game Boy Advance because I thought I wouldn’t be able to beat the game in real life, and I’m more used to the controls on the emulator on my computer anyway. The problem with emulation is when you have to reset your computer. You lose all your saves and all your games, so you have to remember what games you had and you have to reset them. This is part of the reason why I haven’t beaten many games at all. It’s also part of the reason why I stopped emulating so many games. But during the time that I did emulate, I saved a lot of money and had a lot of fun with the games I did have.

Instead of Cheating, I Forgot to Get Tricked!

I eventually got into consoles again and that really stopped my emulation days since. I tried to emulate some older PS2 games and such, but I guess the problem is the consoles of 6th gen and later are too powerful to run consistently and properly on a computer. I started this whirlwind with the original Xbox. I enjoyed my few games I had for that. I never did try to emulate those games because I thought the console would be too strong for anything my computer could do. My Xbox got stolen from me, so I decided to switch to a PS2. This was the first console I actually bought a decent amount of games for. This is because I impulse bought at lot more for this console, and I was getting a decent amount of money I could do whatever I wanted to with as well. When I got my PS3, I somewhat tried to go back to PS2 emulation, but it didn’t work out well, so I stopped trying. I also tried to emulate the 3DS and the Nintendo 64 but both of these were busts as well, so I bought a 3DS and played games the right way.

Over the years, I have bought more consoles and games, and emulated less. But when I had less money, I emulated more because it saved me money and still gave me fun times and memories I’ll never forget.

The moral of the story is, if you don’t have money, pirate for free, until you can, then don’t!