Preferable Choice

Recently, SNESMasterKI wrote up an article detailing why he felt that despite all of the doom and gloom surrounding the previous generation of consoles basically being outdated, gimped PCs, consoles still had a place in the video game market. What a difference a month makes. The PS4 managed to sell a million units on its first day and the future of console gaming is assured for at least another generation. Much to my utter disappointment.

You see, last generation, I came to a realization: the consoles I knew growing up, the things that made them unique and necessary, were either completely gone or quickly fading. The HD twins from last generation were proof positive that the very qualities that made me love consoles in prior generations were gone. Plug and play? Sure, that’s still there …after you download the latest system update and any and all patches for whatever game you’re trying to play. Console exclusives? More and more games that aren’t paid exclusives or first-party titles are getting PC ports, even older games that the PC missed out on during their initial releases are getting re-releases on PC. It’s gotten to the point where Japanese developers, who generally consider PC ports a waste of money due to the lack of popularity of the platform in their own domestic markets, are starting to see the power of PC, mainly via Valve’s Steam platform. Add that to the fact that the heavy-hitters of the upcoming generation run on standard x86 architecture, rather than the custom-built processors of the past few generations, and PC ports are guaranteed to become more ubiquitous in the coming years.

But what advantages do PCs still hold over the next generation of consoles? Clearly, all PC gamers can brag about are their higher-quality graphics and high resolutions. It’s not like there are any other real advantages that PCs hold over their console counterparts, considering they’ve finally bridged the hardware gap…well, for the next six months anyway. I submit for your approval, five major (yet unsung) advantages that PCs will have over consoles for the foreseeable future.

5. It’s an Open Platform

One key advantage that PC gaming has always had over its console brethren is the fact that it is an open platform, which means that anyone can program and distribute games on PC, without the need of any special development kits or licenses from the various console manufacturers. Some will argue that the licenses are in place to prevent the system from getting flooded with inferior games, but given the sheer amount of shovelware we’ve seen since the NES days, that’s clearly not the case. Compare that to all of those promising Kickstarters, Indiegogos and other crowdfunding projects that have come into existence in the last couple of years. Most (if not all) of them have PC confirmed in the basic funding, while console releases are stretch goals. Sure, no one pays for special consideration for PC releases, but the fact that you don’t have to pay to play is a definite plus.

How Long Will It Last?

There’s a reason this one is number five. Sure, consoles will never surpass the openness of PC by their very nature. But lately, console manufacturers have made significant leaps and bounds courting indie developers. Sony and Nintendo are actively courting indie games as console exclusives. Even Microsoft is getting in on the act, claiming that every Xbox One sold can double as a devkit.

4. It Does All Genres

There’s a common misconception regarding PCs: they’re only capable of handling specific genres that are tailored to their unique advantages. This just simply isn’t the case. Even back in the 90s, PC had games in a wide variety of genres, even those that no one would’ve expected. Sure, nowadays when fighting games and platformers are released on PCs, people act like it’s a big deal. To anyone familiar with PC games of old, you’ll understand why this isn’t such a big deal. The PC had classic platformers like the Commander Keen games, the first two Duke Nukem games (which were totally different from the FPSes most gamers associate with the franchise) and Jazz Jackrabbit, to name a few. Fighting games weren’t represented quite as well, but there were PC ports of arcade classics such as the first 3 Mortal Kombat games, Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Virtua Fighter 2 and X-Men: Children of the Atom, all of which varied in quality. There were also original fighting games, such as the One Must Fall series, the Body Blows series, Pray for Death, Sango Fighter and Fight ‘N’ Jokes, but these were more proofs of concept that fighters could work on PCs than anything else. Quite frankly, PCs can do any genre consoles can handle. The opposite isn’t true.

How Long Will It Last?

The only systems that have really made any headway with this disadvantage would be the Wii U, 3DS and PlayStation Vita, due to their implementations of touch-screen and other unorthodox non-controller input methods.  Controllers, motion controls and camera recognition peripherals just don’t provide the tactile input methods that genres like strategy games and first-person shooters need, which is why games of those specific genres tend to be watered-down when they’re designed with a console (and by extension, a controller) in mind.

3. Quick Patches

As loathe as I am to admit it, the ability to patch video games has become incredibly important. Sure, the ability leads developers to be far less willing to make sure a game works at launch, but being able to fix games on the fly is fairly important. Consider how many old games from previous generations could’ve been fixed if they were able to be patched. Think about games that had to be re-released (at full cost) with minor difficulty fixes. Games that got fixed when they were released in other territories, while leaving the initial releases in a more flawed state. Patches have done far more good than bad for the industry as a whole, but PC has them best of all. Not only is there less bureaucracy between a fix and gamers compared to consoles, but due to the PC’s status as an open platform, skilled fans can create their own patches and bug fixes for games when they discover these issues in the first place. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than the alternative.

How Long Will It Last?

I don’t see this advantage dropping any time soon. Consoles, by their very nature as closed platforms, frown upon independent tinkering. Also, the red tape that consoles put in place has a purpose: to quash any new bugs that may have emerged in the process of fixing the current ones. In other words, don’t expect consoles to catch up on this one any time soon.

2. Competitive Pricing

Some of you out there who game exclusively on consoles may have heard rumblings about Steam sales. Magical times of year where games can go for as low as 85% of their typical value. Yes, Steam sales are awesome, but they’re really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the savings PC gaming offers you. A lot of that has to do with the fact that PC game retailers are allowed to compete. Sure, Steam’s presence is king, but did you know that there are sites out there that sell you Steam keys (or rather, codes that can be redeemed for games on Steam) at a significant discount? Most brick-and-mortar retailers can’t do that with console games, but with Steam, getting a whole lot for a little is entirely possible.

How Long Will It Last?

I really doubt that consoles are ever going to be able to catch up in this area, considering that prices stay high on new copies of games in most physical storefronts due to the manipulation of Gamestop. There’s also the fact that Nintendo never really considers price drops on their games to be necessary (as they believe it would devalue them) and none of the big 3 really make any major efforts to give discounts on their digital offerings. Aside from Amazon’s incredible discounts (which also apply to PC games), there’s just no push on any end to make pricing even remotely competitive.

1. Backwards Compatibility

Here’s the big one. Something I got used to in previous generations was the fact that newer consoles were able to play games from their predecessors. Sure, this practice wasn’t really implemented all that often on consoles, but the PS2 could play PS1 games, early incarnations of the PS3 could play both PS1 and PS2 games, the Xbox 360 was capable of playing certain games from the original Xbox and both the Wii and Wii U were compatible with their predecessors. However, both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have ditched this practice. On the other hand, even Windows 8 is remarkably backwards compatible with games built for earlier OSes. Even in cases where native backwards compatibility isn’t possible, there are emulators (such as DOSbox) and stores (Good Old Games.com) who are willing to provide a quick fix. Even Steam has begun re-releasing classic PC games on their storefront.

How Long Will It Last?

Even though Sony and Microsoft’s latest consoles boast an x86 architecture which would make emulation easier on future consoles, both Sony and Microsoft have gone on record to say that they don’t consider backwards compatibility important. Considering Sony’s implementation of Gaikai to stream old games and Microsoft’s suggestion to “just leave your Xbox 360 set up”, it’s safe to say that backwards compatibility is dead and buried on non-Nintendo consoles. After all, no one ever profited from letting you play old games on new platforms…unless of course, they can charge you for it all over again.

Of course, in the end, there’s clearly still a place for console-style gaming. Unfortunately, aside from Nintendo, the current console manufacturers don’t really justify their continued existence. At least Nintendo vindicates their existence simply due to their quality first-party titles. Sony and Microsoft pretty much just deliver a weaker strain of the PC gaming experience these days. So much so, that Valve’s upcoming Steam Machines are probably a better choice in the long run. In fact, back before Microsoft announced the XBO, I was really hoping that Microsoft would’ve decided to compete with a gaming-centric living room PC that would’ve been able to play PC games, rather than their own exclusive titles. Alas, they decided to just go with another combination console/entertainment center, just like what the 360 evolved into by the end of its lifespan. What a waste. Oh well, Phil Spencer did mention that Microsoft Studios would be focusing more on PC gaming in the future. So hopefully that means PC ports of XBO games down the line. Regardless, I’m still hoping that Steam Machines end up with a significant market share. It would be for the good of gaming.

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The Reboots are Revolting

This one’s been a long time coming. I’ve been alluding to this article since before this blog was even started. Back when Retronaissance was just starting up, I mentioned having ideas for a reboot treatment for the MegaMan series. I’ve made references to being receptive to a reboot in one of my earlier other MegaRants. Well, wait no longer, because it’s finally here: the reboot article. As if the title didn’t already give that away.

You’re probably asking, “Hey Icepick, why reboot MegaMan at all?” After all, we’ve already got several MegaMan series as it is, adding another one to the mix would be a redundant disaster. The answer’s simple: the fact that we have too many MegaMan franchises is why we NEED a reboot. The fanbase is inconceivably splintered, so starting from scratch may just be the best thing to do with the franchise. Furthermore, the big guns in the franchise are already far too overspent at this point: the Classic series is at a whopping 10 numbered games, while the beloved X series has a whopping 8. If you want a real disc-based title in the franchise, 11 and 9 are not the best numbers to start from. Besides, one could probably make the argument that Mario, Sonic and even Pac-Man have gone through reboots recently, the only underlying issue holding our beloved Blue Bomber back is the fact that he’s got an inkling of a storyline in all of his games.

The funny thing about that is that I’ve got a pretty good way around that: this new MegaMan incarnation would utilize mythology from the existing series in order to create something both familiar and new. Think of the Doctor Who reboot that started back in 2005. Better yet, think of some of the more recent Transformers cartoons: Animated and Prime. For my treatment, we’d be using the Classic universe as a base, picking and choosing various elements from other franchises in order to further expand on that world and then adding original elements to give it an entirely unique spin. Of course, for the purposes of this article, I won’t be adding any specific characters – after all, this article is more of a call to arms for Capcom to put some effort into reinvigorating the brand, not a ham-fisted excuse to post a whole bunch of “ORIGINAL CHARACTERS, DO NOT STEAL”. Still, I guess I could throw in some examples from other media to give examples of characters that would be welcome additions to this new universe.

So, of course, since we’re using Classic as a base, this new franchise would take place in the recognizable year of 20XX. After all, that’s still technically futuristic. Blend the optimistic Astro Boy-esque future aesthetic from the Classic games with the futuristic take on modern society from Battle Network’s 20XX to make something a bit more unique. Avoid the darker tones of MMX’s 21XX, the bleak setting of MMZ and the post-apocalyptic Waterworld shown in Legends. However, do feel free to utilize elements from MMZX’s futuristic utopia and Star Force’s 22XX, if you want to make things look even more futuristic. Ditching “Monsteropolis” would be a good idea regardless of the potential for nostalgia, but fake city names wouldn’t be a bad idea.

This brings us to the characters. Let’s start with the three major characters in the series. Regarding MegaMan (Rock) and Roll, I’d keep them fairly similar to their typical incarnations, except I would probably age them up a bit, from 8-10 years of age to about 13-15. I never really got the point of making them so young in later incarnations, but the Ruby-Spears series may have had something to do with that. Personality-wise, Rock should stay similar to both his Powered Up and Archie Comics incarnations, he should be fairly innocent and maintain his strong sense of justice. All-in-all, just a normal kid who just happens to be a super-fighting robot. As for Roll, I’ve always been a fan of the persona Western media has given her: snarky and upset over not being upgraded, but still loves her family. She’d be a little more “street smart” than her older brother and working as Dr. Light’s assistant. Dr. Light, of course, would also be present in his standard form: kindly old scientist with dreams of peace through technology. All in all, no major deviations from the norm for these characters.

But what’s a good story without villains? First up is an obvious choice, Dr. Albert W. Wily. As with Rock, Roll and Light, Wily wouldn’t be far off from his typical Classic appearance: a hammy cartoonish villain. Of course, one of the Classic series’ shortcomings was the lack of diversity when it comes to villains: even when Wily’s not behind it, well…Wily’s behind it. Meanwhile, the other games have some pretty good villains, so let’s just transplant a few, shall we? Take, Sigma, for example. He’s supposed to be the personification of a computer virus, so why not just make him a sort of sentient virus with aspirations for human genocide? Way better than just being some bald schmo dressed in rags saying “ZELOOOOOO”, right? The Bonne Siblings could be another good transplant, maybe not as major villains, but as comedic relief minor villains. Maybe make them thieves, despite being pirates, burglary was their main crime in the Legends series anyway. Vile might be another good contender, but considering his nature he’d require some modifications. Instead of a Reploid, make him a cyborg mercenary (explaining his absolute free will, while other robots would be bound by the laws of robotics), with a vendetta against robots. Perhaps he originally had an aversion to robots made worse when an accident involving one led him to become the cyborg he is presently. Just a thought.

One must also consider the secondary characters. An obvious choice would be Rock’s big bro, the enigmatic ProtoMan. Use the classic origin story, Dr. Light’s first creation gone missing, repaired by Wily with a brand-new energy supply, etc. The only real question would be what to do for his weaponry. His arm cannon is fairly unique and its fluctuating strength gives evidence of his unstable power core, but on the other hand, other incarnations of the character (MMBN, the cover art for MM10) have given him a sword to go with his shield, which could justify using Zero’s gameplay style without actually putting Zero in. Personally, I think either choice is acceptable. I’d bring back the Cossack family as well, and give them a much more expanded role. I always thought it was kind of lame that they just sort of disappeared after MM5, I thought they had some potential as characters, even if Classic MegaMan’s storyline has always been sparse. Something I’d like to see transplanted from other media would be the revival of the Robot Masters after being defeated. A few games and both the Archie comic and Hitoshi Ariga’s mangas have made use of that plot element. Either way, it’d definitely be cool to see Rock and Roll hang out with their younger siblings or see Wily’s earlier creations putter around Skull Castle. Also, definitely bring back the support units: Rush, Eddie, Beat and Tango.

I’d also want to see Auto brought back. While I never really cared for him that much in the games, his characterization in the aforementioned mangas and comic has changed my opinion of him. I’d definitely want to introduce him earlier in the series though, maybe as a precursor assistant to Dr. Light before Rock and Roll were finished. Bass would be another character to bring back, but I’d probably approach him differently. When he was first introduced in MM7, he fooled MegaMan by pretending to also be after Wily. Unfortunately, that plot point lasted for half a game, at the most. In this reboot, I’d introduce Bass earlier on and exploit that plot point to a much greater extent. Changing his origin could work as well, perhaps make him the creation of Dr. Cossack or another scientist who starts off on the side of good but eventually becomes obsessed with defeating MegaMan. Speaking of which, the Archie comic has led me to the conclusion that we need more scientists in the franchise. Transplanting scientists from other series might work, but this would probably be a good place to start implementing original characters. Robotics shouldn’t be a field limited to just Light, Wily and to a far lesser extent, Cossack. Some kind of a police force or a para-military group might be a good addition as well. Again, populate whichever you decide to use with OCs and transplants from other games.

The game’s tone would be light and episodic, not unlike a Saturday morning cartoon of old. Of course, there could also be some overarching plotlines between “episodes”, but keeping continuity minimal would be in the series’ best interest. As for content per game, at the very least, a full-on disc-based title would probably require the equivalent of at least 3 Classic games, not unlike the Wily Wars. So the first game would more or less retell the first three games in the series, while adding their own twists to the story. That way, iconic characters could be reintroduced more quickly than before and the games themselves could be larger without having to worry about balancing more than 8 weapons per scenario. Better yet, even if Capcom doesn’t decide to go for a full budget release, each scenario could just be released in an episodic format, perhaps including some bonus content if you buy all of the episodes in a given season.

Gameplay itself, on the other hand, is a more difficult issue. Ideally, Capcom would go the route of other 2D platformer revivals, like the New Super Mario Bros. games or the last two Rayman games, but let’s face it, that may not be enough to attract  a large enough audience to make this new MegaMan a success. MegaMan games traditionally underperform. But would reimagining the series in 3D work? After all, we remember the trainwreck that was X7. Still, many 3D reimaginings of 2D franchises from the fifth and sixth generations of video games were far different animals than they are today. Maybe Capcom could recreate the twitchy yet precise MegaMan gameplay of yore in 3D. Then again, I really doubt it. I’d err for sticking to the basics personally, but a new franchise would be the best opportunity to experiment. That’s how we got Legends and Battle Network/Star Force, after all.

A well-made reboot for the MegaMan series would clearly take the best aspects from the games of old, while incorporating entirely new elements and avoiding any missteps from earlier games. Considering Capcom’s track record with reboots, it may seem in their best interest to avoid one. However, catering to the old school crowds alone do our beloved Blue Bomber a disservice. If Capcom can put in as much effort as Nintendo did with the Super Mario Galaxy games or Sega with Sonic Colors and Generations, I’m sure the results would please old fans and spark an interest in a new generation of gamers, leading MegaMan to at least another 25 years of memories. Of course, this is just my take on what an ideal reboot for the series would look like. Stay tuned for SNESMasterKI’s opinion.

Of Mice and Multitaps

Thinking back to my childhood, back when the only gaming devices I owned were my Game Gear and the family PC, I always remembered having a specific issue with my PC games. No matter how many joysticks or gamepads I bought, I could never get any of them to work. Plug them into the proper printer port, trying to program the controls in the settings menu, nothing really helped. So I had to suck it up and use old reliable: the keyboard for those games. This was especially rough on the fighting games I owned for PC when I was a kid: the only special moves I could ever pull off on that thing were Shoryukens and Spinning Lariats back in those days, it literally took me years to learn the proper motions for simple stuff like Hadoukens reliably on keyboards. Thankfully the tyranny of printer ports is over and USB ports have made using all kinds of controllers on PC so much easier. That’s not to say that keyboards made everything impossible, but there are just some genres where controllers are superior and others where mouse and keyboard set-ups are necessary. But which are which?

When I began planning out this article, I had some difficulty determining the format. I was originally going to split it into two articles, with each paragraph delving into a control scheme’s advantages and disadvantages in each genre. However, fellow writer SNES Master KI pointed out that there would be certain cases where advantages and disadvantages wouldn’t exist for specific genre/control combinations. So I decided to trim it down to a single article. I’m going to looking at 10 different genres, naming the superior control method for each genre and delving into the advantages, disadvantages and in some cases, maybe even some subversions if they exist. Also, for the sake of this article, I’m sticking to first-party pack-in controllers only. In most cases, I will be making my decisions based on the characteristics of modern traditional controllers, seen with the Dual Shock 3, the Xbox 360 controller and even the Wii U’s Pro Controller: two analog sticks, one d-pad, four face buttons, two shoulder buttons, two triggers and the good ol’ Start and Select/Back buttons.

Platformer: Controller

Well, let’s start with an obvious choice. As much as I may have been completely happy playing games like Commander Keen and Duke Nukem (the original!) on a keyboard, let’s face it: controller is king when it comes to platformers, regardless of what my childhood tried to teach me. Controlling your character with the D-Pad, having all the buttons you need within thumb’s reach, it’s something we take for granted nowadays. Platformers rely more on reflexes than anything else and it’s easier to control two thumbs over the five or six fingers you’d need to properly control a platformer on your keyboard. So that’s 1-0, controller.

First-Person Shooter: Keyboard/Mouse

Another obvious choice. Don’t let Call of Duty or Halo fanboys fool you: nothing tops the precision a mouse gives you in an FPS, least of all an analog stick. In its purest form, the FPS is the anti-thesis of the platformer in terms of control: having the fastest reflexes in an FPS doesn’t mean anything if you’re not able to aim well. Many connoisseurs of the genre scoff at how entering the console market has really dumbed down the once-mighty FPS and one of their major concerns is dumbing down controls for use on consoles. Put a keyboard/mouse user up against a controller user in a deathmatch, and 9 times out of 10, the guy who’s going to be dominating is the one with the mouse.  So that’s a tie, 1-1.

Fighting: Controller*

No, that asterisk is not a typo. When it comes right down to it, I consider keyboards and the DS3 et al. to be terrible when it comes to most fighting games. Being forced to choose between using analog sticks and a crappy D-Pad (yes, the Dual Shock’s D-Pad sucks and it’s always sucked. Deal with it.) is equally as bad as using a keyboard’s arrow keys or WASD. So, in most cases, they would tie by default. Except there’s one little loophole that allows the controller to take this: I said that ANY first-party pack-in controller for a video game system counts and as it just so happens, there’s one that fits the bill: that of the Sega Saturn, a model so perfect for the genre, it serves as the basis for so-called “fightpads” to this day. So if you really want to enjoy a fighting game, take my advice: save up for a fightpad or an arcade stick. You’ll thank me later.

Real-Time Strategy: Keyboard/Mouse

Another obvious answer, it’s considered almost blasphemous to imply that an RTS could even be produced with a controller in mind without severely dumbing down the control scheme. While turn-based strategy games can easily be handled by controllers, their real-time counterparts rely on the ability to sift through menus with the speed only a mouse and keyboard can offer (at this point in time, anyway). You’d be lucky to make it to the actual game using an analog stick. And don’t get me started on multiplayer: you’d get eaten alive.

“Action”: Controller

Again, not a typo. I’ve always hated using “Action” as the genre for a video game, almost as much as I hate “Adventure”, but the only other suggestion I got was “Character Action”. So yeah, for the purposes of this article, I’m talking about games like Devil May Cry, God of War, Bayonetta, God Hand, you know, those games that are effectively the modern-day equivalents of the classic beat-‘em-ups from the arcade era. Same basic idea as fighting games when it comes to controls here, with the added benefit of not needing a competently designed D-Pad to perform special moves and not having nearly as many attack buttons. While keyboard’s not really a slouch here, controllers just have the advantage overall.

Racing: Controller

For the most part, this is a wash. I always had a preference towards using the arcade-style steering wheel/pedals, which is kind of funny, considering I’ve never felt comfortable driving. I did like go-karting when I was a kid. Anyway, I’ve kind of gone off-topic. The point is, this decision boils down to personal preference: I’m sure that many people like using their mouse or keyboard to play racing games, but me? I like the feel of the analog stick and triggers. Just feels right to me, especially when the triggers are pressure-sensitive.

Puzzle: Tie

In this case, I’m talking about tile-matching puzzle games. You know, Tetris, Puyo Puyo, Magical Drop, that kind of thing. In this case, there really isn’t an advantage in either case. You just need something to move the blocks (D-Pad/arrow keys) and a button or two to manipulate the blocks. A controller, a keyboard, even a damn mouse can handle that on its own.

Turn-Based RPGs: Keyboard/Mouse

This one might be a little controversial, but I stand by it. 99% of the gameplay in turn-based RPGs are menu-based. There’s no reason why any PC versions of turn-based RPGs shouldn’t take advantage of this and code in mouse support. Even in cases where there’s some kind of reflex motion (like Paper Mario, Costume Quest or the upcoming South Park: The Stick of Truth) in battles, it’s rarely more complex than timing a button press, mashing a button or manipulating the analog stick. Sure, in some cases the controller gestures feel a bit more natural, but it’s a fair trade for mouse support in a genre where the majority of gameplay is handled via menus.

Rhythm: Tie

This is one of those cases where it really depends on the games. I mean, in some cases, rhythm games require their own unique controllers. Dance Dance Revolution has the dance pad, Guitar Hero and Rock Band have those various instrument controllers. Then again, there have been quite a few DDR clones for PC that people play exclusively on keyboards, so who knows. Excluding those, it’s usually just hitting the correct button in sync to music, so it doesn’t really require that much. There typically aren’t many buttons to push, so a controller can handle it.  Honestly, anything can handle it. Elite Beat Agents was played entirely on a touchscreen and there’s a PC clone of that as well, which I believe is played using the mouse. You can pretty much literally use any input device imaginable to make a proper rhythm game, so there’s no single winner here. Everybody’s a winner.

Shoot-‘em-ups: Tie

Another one of those cases where personal preference is the only thing that matters. I mean, I think using a mouse to play shmups is disaster-prone, just due to the movement controls being far too responsive. But with regards to keyboards, yeah, it’s workable. I’ve played many a shmup on my PC with my keyboard and for the most part, it’s been alright. The controller’s the same way. Even touchscreens are workable, albeit I find those to have the same degree of success as mouse-controlled shmups.

Of course, this list is by no means comprehensive. I didn’t even touch on sports (mainly because I can’t stand sports games if they’re not arcade-style), but there are some patterns when it comes to which control methods are better for specific genres. Reflex-based games do far better with controllers, while more precision-based pursuits do better with the keyboard and mouse. More importantly, today we have even more viable control options than ever before. Every major platform has their own form of motion controls (even PC!), touchscreens are becoming far more ubiquitous via tablets and smartphones and Valve is working on a new style of controller, which boasts the functionality of the keyboard/mouse combination in genres never thought possible. If the Steam Controller can deliver on these promises, who knows what other amazing peripherals we may see in the future.

The Case for Consoles

If you’ve frequented anywhere with general video game discussion, you’ve probably seen vicious arguments on the merits of consoles and gaming PCs.  Due to personal preferences and childhood trauma involving Hi-Tech’s PC lineup, I am strongly on the console side.  I don’t hold a grudge against anyone if PC better suits their gaming preferences, but I do get very aggravated by claims that consoles no longer have any advantages remaining.  So, because I’m clearly obsessed with lists, I’m going to count down the five biggest remaining advantages that consoles have over PCs in modern gaming.  I will also give my prediction on how long these advantages will remain.  Also, I’ll be honest, I do not know enough about the price of a gaming PC to do a proper write-up on it, so I’m just skipping the price issue.

Number 5:  System Stability

While consoles aren’t the indestructible Nintendium-infused juggernauts that don’t know what a virus is that they were in the 90’s (which is a major reason this is only Number 5), consoles still have a significant advantage over PCs in this category.   While a console breaking due to physical problems is far from impossible, and the online component means online features being limited due to screw ups or hacks on the company’s end can happen, that’s still much less than PCs have to deal with.  Unless you go out of your way to hack a console yourself, you don’t have to worry about keeping your system virus free.  You don’t have to worry about overshooting the system’s capabilities and slowing it down.  If you do have a technical problem it’s easier to solve since there are far less variables in your model and it’s much less likely to be the result of something you did.  While consoles may not be as invincible as they were in the past, I still feel much more secure about my consoles running successfully and smoothly than I do with my computer.

How Long Will It Last?

As I said, console stability has declined over the generations.  Will it ever decline so much that the edge over PCs is gone?  I don’t think so, because the main reason PCs have a disadvantage in this area is because they have more functions outside of gaming.  More functions mean more opportunities for something to go wrong, for consoles to have as much risk as PC they’d have to be able to do as many things.  At that point, I don’t see what the distinction between the two would be.  So while consoles may slip on this advantage in the future, as long as they can still accurately be called consoles I don’t think it will disappear.

Number 4:  Physical Convenience

Imagine two ways of playing a game.  One is a foot from a small monitor sitting in a chair you use for work and looking things up.  Another is on a comfortable chair or couch or any other furniture/position combination you choose, a comfortable distance from a large TV.  Yes, I’m aware that you can hook PCs up to a TV, but that means you have to either move the computer back and forth between your TV and work/internet monitor, or you have to break the bank buying a laptop that can adequately play modern games.  And both of those kind of ruin the convenience aspect.  In addition to your own personal comfort, social gaming with people in the same room as you is a lot easier in the console natural habitat.  And even if you have the resources to set up a gaming PC on a TV in a comfortable room, consoles games are quite a bit more likely to have offline multiplayer modes.

How Long Will It Last?

Unlike the last entry, consoles have actually gotten better at physical convenience as the gens go by.  You can now hook them up to computer monitors if you for some reason want to, controllers are wireless, and things like Wii U’s controller mean you may not even have to be tied to an external monitor.  The bigger threat to this advantage is PCs catching up, as technology improves getting reasonably priced PCs on TVs is going to get easier, but I don’t think the gap will be closed for at least a generation.

Number 3:  Standardized Controllers and Specs

Okay, now we’re getting to the big stuff.  When you buy a console, there are a couple things you can take for granted.  You will be able to play every game released for it at full technical performance regardless of when you buy the console, and the controller included with it will work for 99% of games, with a preset control configuration.  Yes, I know you can find a few exceptions if you dig through gaming history, but they’re minor and rare.  This security and simplicity is something I greatly appreciate, even though I don’t care about graphics themselves for some reason visual distortions that aren’t supposed to be there drive me crazy.  Being able to buy a console and feel secure that you can play everything released on it is something I never want to give up.

How Long Will It Last?

As with Number 5, the very nature of consoles compared to PCs gives them an advantage in this area.  More customization means more chances for incompatibility, so as long as consoles remain something that can accurately be called consoles I think this advantage will stick around.

Number 2:  Used Games

The most serious article I’ve written for Retronaissance was about how much we need used games, so it should be no surprise that I consider consoles having them a huge advantage.  PC may have its Steam sales, but consoles have used games to reward your patience with huge savings.  It’s not just about the money though, used games are a vital factor in preserving games.  I have over 150 games for Super Nintendo, but had less than 20 when the system stopped production in North America.  Used games have been absolutely vital in my enjoyment of gaming’s history, and I think that goes for everyone who didn’t have the funds and birth date to play every console game right as it came out.  The ability to freely exchange games gives players a degree of control that not even the best digital backwards compatibility can provide.

How Long Will It Last?

As I mentioned, I wrote an impassioned plea for people not to accept the Xbox One’s original DRM system.  In what some people considered foolish optimism, I maintained that it was possible for gamers to force Microsoft to change their DRM scheme.  And it was!  Massive gamer outcry managed to protect used games, and get people to declare Sony the winner of E3 for not trying to kill them.  My point is, as long as we have physical console games, I think gamers will force publishers to let us have used games, no matter how many of them complain about it.

Number 1:  Nintendo

Before I get started, yes, this is meant to represent console exclusive games in general.  I chose Nintendo to represent this because it’s just simpler, there’s no dismissing the point by saying PCs have exclusives to (I’m not saying they don’t, but it doesn’t change that the exclusives consoles do have are a reason to play on consoles) and I don’t have to double check to make sure games I mention weren’t ported to PC at some point.  Nintendo is the ultimate line in the sand for console exclusives, a highest tier publisher with a huge amount of games and genres that they obsessively keep off competing systems (Samus and Link had a cameo removed from a third party game because they made the mistake of showing a tech demo of the characters using Playstation controller button prompts).  Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Kirby, Pokemon, Pikmin, Fire Emblem, Donkey Kong Country, Smash Bros, Punch-Out, F-Zero, Starfox, Wii ___, those are just some of the series that are console exclusive until the end of time.  As long as Nintendo makes consoles, they will justify their existence.

How Long Will It Last?

As long as Nintendo does.  No matter how many trolls and ill-informed stock holders tell Nintendo to port their games to other systems, it would clearly be suicide for Nintendo’s consoles to do so, and they know it.  Even if everything else goes to PC, even if every other console dies, I think Nintendo will hang in there as long as they possibly can.  By the time Nintendo games don’t have their own dedicated hardware, I doubt whatever we play games on will fit the modern definition of a console or PC.

As I said at the start, console vs PC really comes down to a preference.  But I feel it is necessary to articulate my thoughts in case anyone needs to defend their right to preference against anyone who would claim that PCs are objectively better.  In the future, this “war” will most likely lead to a hybrid of both platforms, and fighting will be over absurd technicalities used for the purpose of claiming one side “won” and killed the other.  You don’t have to get sucked into that, or into the current fighting, just play on whatever you prefer.

Best of the Rest

If you’ll remember, back in February I did a top and bottom 5 list, ranking my favorite and least favorite games of the Classic MegaMan series. I also mentioned that I intended to do a similar list, with regards to the other sub-series of the MegaMan franchise. However, considering that most of the other series have only a few games, I’ve decided that I’m just going to rattle off my favorites from each series, as there are only a couple of cases where there are games I legitimately hate in each respective series. So, without further ado, I present…the best of the rest.

MegaMan X4

Admittedly, this is going to be a somewhat controversial decision as many gamers (including my fellow Retronaissance writer, SNES Master KI) consider the original MegaMan X to be the best game in the series, as well as the entire franchise. I, on the other hand, prefer the series’ first 32-bit entry, MegaMan X4. Perhaps it’s because it was the first game where we were able to play through the entire thing as a non-MegaMan character, let alone the awesome Zero. Zero gave us access to an entirely new style of gameplay, utilizing his Z-Saber for close-range melee attacks and learning techniques by defeating enemies, rather than just stealing their weapons. Maybe it was because it had the most fleshed-out story of the X series, without becoming an incoherent piece of garbage. Or maybe it was because it managed to have a good amount of difficulty, while not being a poorly-programmed abomination. (Looking at you, X6.)

MegaMan Legends 2

It’s simple, really. Of the two main games of the Legends series, Legends 2 was the only one capable of using the PlayStation’s dual analog sticks, allowing for superior controls and gameplay. As good as it was, the original MML was completely held back by its reliance on the D-Pad and the shoulder triggers for movement. The Misadventures of Tron Bonne is an interesting spin-off, but not really a good representation of the series at large. So MML2 wins by default.

MegaMan Battle Network 3

This was a hard one, as I really love the second and third Battle Network games almost equally. The first game almost felt like an incomplete prototype, not unlike the original MegaMan from 1987. The fourth game had a significant drop in quality from the previous games and the series never recovered. However, I’ve got to give it to the third game, for having the best story and being the first game in the franchise to incorporate the truly awesome “Navi Customizer” system, allowing players to customize MegaMan.EXE with unique power-ups and added another layer of strategy to the game.

MegaMan Zero 3

Another hard choice, as I really loved MMZ2. Zero 3 had the perfect level of difficulty: not as difficult as the first two games, but still significantly harder than the fourth. It also had an awesome storyline involving Dr. Weil, a cyborg mad scientist returning from exile to take over Neo Arcadia, as well as the return of Copy-X and an earth-shattering revelation regarding the identity of Zero . Better still, it reimplemented Zero’s ability to learn special techniques by defeating bosses, albeit only if you complete levels with a high rank, allowing Zero to take on more characteristics from his X series incarnation. The only thing keeping MMZ3 from being the perfect Zero game was a decided lack of Chain Rod. But I guess I can forgive that.

MegaMan ZX Advent

This was probably the hardest decision I had to make, as there was really no clear answer here. There were only two games in the ZX series, both roughly equal in quality and feeling like a direct extension of their predecessor (the Zero series) in a way no other MegaMan series ever did. In the end, I decided to go with Advent, just because of the whole DNA copy system. While I did prefer the base gameplay of Model ZX over Model A, the ability to transform into a complete copy of the bosses you’ve defeated was incredibly cool. It’s just a shame we didn’t get that third and final entry of this series, leaving this particular timeline on a cliffhanger.

MegaMan Star Force

Another controversial pick, but one I stand by. It seems like it’s universally accepted that the third and final Star Force game was the best by far, but it was also the most derivative, resembling the Battle Network games far more than the previous two. A real shame, considering the franchise got off to a pretty strong start in the first game, incorporating unique variations on the various gameplay elements of the MMBN series. Modifying the battle system, dropping the stale Soul Unison system, all of these were signiicant improvements over the later Battle Network games. Doing a complete 180 and reincorporating many of the discarded elements from the Battle Network games just felt a betrayal of the earlier games’ attempts at carving their own identity. One more thing: while the second game did take a significant dive in quality, I just feel like it gets far more hate than it deserves.

So, there you have it: the best of the rest. While I stated earlier that there weren’t enough games in the other franchises to fairly represent the worst of each individual series in the MegaMan franchise, there are two games I’d like to mention: MegaMan X6 and X7. Two truly foul games, almost on par with some of the worse licensed Classic MegaMan games. Oh well, they can’t all be gems. When a series has as many games as MegaMan does, some of them are bound to be bad. Either way, there have still been many good games in this series and hopefully there will be more in the future, Capcom willing.

When Does Fanservice Hurt?

Before I begin, I’d like to apologize for the misleading title: no, this isn’t an editorial on the extremely controversial topic of sexualized females in video games. It just seems like all of the good points on that subject have already been made, and frankly, I don’t have anything unique to say on the subject. This article is about something far less consequential with regards to real-world events, but I’d argue far more interesting and objectively more important with regards to video games in general: when pandering to a fanbase leads to terrible games. Let’s face it, ladies and germs, the sexiness and/or gender of your protagonist doesn’t really have a distinct impact on the quality of gameplay, while catering to hamfisted, moronic fan demands typically does.

We live in an age where fan interaction with the various creators of video games — the publishers AND developers — is at an all-time high. Numerous companies like XSEED, Atlus USA and even some heavy-hitters like the Western branches of Capcom and Namco Bandai games have official channels of communication with the general public. They use them to better understand the desires of their long-time customers, “the fans” if you will (though looking at some communities, fans might be the wrong term). We’ve seen real-life examples of this kind of thing: Project X Zone getting released in the West, PC versions of Dark Souls and Ys I &II, a full HD remake of the NES Classic Ducktales, for Inafune’s sake!

But at the same time, there’s a clear downside to this as well. Not only are we affecting what’s being made, we’re affecting things that were already being made. And quite frankly, sometimes, gamers at large (or more likely, the extremely vocal minority) don’t wield this power with any sort of wisdom. When Eiji Aonuma is aware of the “Zelda Cycle”, clearly there’s some kind of problem. Clearly, there are cases where too much pandering to fans can lead to incredibly shitty games.

What’s that? You’re demanding proof, specific examples of terrible games that were clearly caused by taking fan advice to strange new places? Sure, why not? First on the agenda: the utterly despised Sonic the Hedgehog reboot from 2006 (better known as “Sonic ’06”). Why do I blame the fans on this monstrosity? Well, simply put, many of the non-glitch flaws the game had (mandatory side character missions and the over-the-top serious plot) were the direct result of fans wanting the games to be more like the Sonic Adventure games. And don’t get me started on the Genesis Sonic fanboys who were blatantly pandered to in the first episode of Sonic the Hedgehog 4, a game that Sega said was a letter to hardcore old-school Sonic fans, while the objectively superior Sonic Colors was “just a game for kids”.

Of course, it’s not always that blatant. I’ll never forget how much my fellow writer SNES Master KI complained when ascended fan-game Street Fighter X MegaMan got a save functionality in its second version in the form of…passwords. To be fair, he wasn’t the only one annoyed by that choice, but I personally didn’t mind that myself. Then there was that entire era where portable Castlevanias were trying to find their own identity after the overwhelming success of Symphony of the Night, one in particular was a blatant knockoff and by extension, the blandest of the bunch: Harmony of Dissonance, the second Game Boy Advance entry. Then there was Mortal Kombat Trilogy, a game that attempted to combine the rosters of every 2D Mortal Kombat into such an incoherent mess, it makes Marvel vs Capcom 2 look well-crafted and would make 9 out of 10 MUGEN players blush. Worst still was Mortal Kombat Armageddon, which attempted to recreate Trilogy’s “magic”, but as a result, nixed unique fatalities due to a lack of storage in lieu of the “Kreate a Fatality”, which is far less interesting than it sounds. Worse still, putting every character from the 6 previous games not only made the game daunting to even look at, but also blatantly made it clear how little anyone cared for anything outside of the first 3 games, which lead to future iterations gleaning from those particular rosters, with few exceptions.

Of course, in most of these cases, it seems like the major flaws stem from older, more popular games in each franchise. In fact, all of my examples tend to be based on games that were fairly popular amongst fans, and as such, the companies (and single developer, in SFxMM’s case) in question simply took a myopic view on what made these particular games great, focusing on bringing back specific minor elements from earlier without planning out how to implement it into a new engine which may not support such things. For example, Super Castlevania IV still had sub-weapons, despite the aimable whip making them pretty much worthless. Games like the two aforementioned Sonic games, MK Armageddon and some post-SotN Metroidvanias, on the other hand, just suffer from being pale imitations of earlier games.

But why blame the fans? The answer should be obvious: these companies are trying to pander to an audience that is clearly bi-polar and generally doesn’t even know what it wants. Trying to appeal to your audience isn’t really a bad thing, but letting them dictate your entire vision is a recipe for disaster. One of the opinions all of my favorite creators of any kind of media have all shared is that the primary audience of any work of media should be the creator him/herself. That’s the only way you’re going to be able to get the best work out of anyone.

Besides, if there’s two universal truths in the universe, it’s that only death and taxes are constant and fanbases ruin everything. No exceptions, fanbases are probably the worst possible place to get any kind of constructive criticism. The worst part being that if any singular aspect of your next game even resembles any individual fan’s ideal vision for a sequel, chances are this will enrage them, as you didn’t make the exact game they themselves conceived. And the more elements that match up, the more rage-filled they become. Keeping up with the fans’ ever-changing opinions is a fool’s errand at best. For example, take The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. When it first came out, the reactions were strictly negative. “Stupid kiddy art style!” “Nothing like Ocarina of Time!” Nowadays, it’s one of the more popular 3D entries in the series, but given the huge fan backlash, the higher-ups at Nintendo literally had to be coerced to greenlight the recent HD re-release. An even better example would be Super Mario Sunshine. Even to this day, Sunshine is utterly despised by the majority of the fanbase, but each time a new Mario platformer (2D or 3D) gets announced, more and more people hold up Sunshine as an example of the kind of unique gameplay they expect out of future Mario games, despite still hating Sunshine to an insane degree!

Worse still is that you’re pretty much always going to have to deal with broken bases on literally anything. No matter what, you’re probably going to be dealing with at least two equal but opposite sects of your fanbase on literally any issue. A really common example would be how to deal with the gameplay for the sequel to a game, especially next-gen sequels. Half of the fanbase will want the new game to resemble the last one (or in some cases, an even older game) exactly, while the other half will want the game to be an entirely different experience. Of course, going forward with either of those options will likely get you destroyed by the fanbase in the end. But this kind of thing applies to literally anything about your game.

Of course, doing the exact opposite and never listening to any fan feedback at all isn’t exactly a good idea either. After all, listening to the fans got us things like Ultra Street Fighter IV as opposed to another boring rebalance, Super Mario Galaxy 2 giving us more of a formula we wanted and the massive improvement on the second episode of Sonic 4. I guess the lesson that all developers should take to heart is that to take all fan requests with a grain of salt. If they’re conducive to the game you’re trying to build, then by all means, implement it. But if it compromises your vision in any way, then just don’t do it. We’ve already seen too many good games get destroyed by pandering to a fickle and feckless fanbase.

8-Bit is Enough

In the last of my MegaMan-oriented rants (or “MegaRants”, as I’ve oh-so-uncleverly dubbed them), you’ll remember that one of the points I made about a future MegaMan game would be the fact that the game needs to ditch the 8-bit, NES-inspired style of its forebearers seen in the two most recent games in the franchise (and the ascended fan-game Street Fighter x MegaMan). Let me go on the record to say that, while I honestly don’t care what graphical style future MegaMan games take, I am kind of shocked and appalled at the sheer hatred I’ve seen for any possible future entries in the Classic series taking on a more 8-bit appearance.

I mean, none of that hate was there 5 years ago, when MegaMan 9 was announced to the world. In fact, most people heralded it as a sign that MM9 would be an amazing game, it’s like MM2 all over again! (That statement irked me personally, but whatever.) Two years later, when MM10 was announced, reactions to the retro-inspired artstyle did a total 180. Things managed to get even more ridiculous when Street Fighter x MegaMan (which, again, started life as a fangame) was revealed with similar NES graphics. Let me reiterate: the MM fanbase lost their shit due to 8-bit graphics in a project that was developed by two guys (one of whom, really only worked on the music) and just got a little financial backing from Capcom. Talk about entitled, right?

Most of the arguments I’ve heard for abolishing the use of 8-bit sprites in MegaMan games forever have been pretty weak themselves. They’re overused? Considering the fact that a whopping grand total of 8 official MM games out of a series with games in the hundreds have NES-style graphics (and 6 of those were ON the NES), that seems like a really weak point to make. Other people have argued that this artistic choice is pandering to old-school gamers at the expense of alienating other audiences. Yeah, because modern-day MegaMan games don’t sell to a niche market, right? Yes, I know 2D platformers are finally starting to make a return outside of the Nintendo bubble. Doesn’t make my point irrelevant for the past 2.5 generations when they were dead as a doornail. I think the most ridiculous argument I heard anyone give was that the graphical style was “ugly”. Boy, did I tear that looney a new one.

Full disclosure: I actually always liked the 8-bit style. Honestly, I can’t even remotely comprehend the hatred old-school graphics evokes when it comes to MegaMan. It just seems like a bunch of sound and fury over something that, frankly, shouldn’t even matter. Frankly, I still think it’s ridiculous just how much, if you’ll excuse the term, “butthurt” the use of retro graphics in the next MegaMan game would create. It’s only one aspect of a game, one that isn’t even the most important in the genre it resides in and frankly, the in-game art design has never really been the foundation of the series’ long-lasting appeal. That honor belongs to solid gameplay and rocking soundtracks.

For me, seeing NES-style graphics is a mental shorthand for telling me that the game’s engine is likely pitch-perfect. Play any of the old-school NES MegaMans and then play their direct sequel, MegaMan 7 for the Super Nintendo. You’ll notice a key difference right from the get-go. The improved graphical fidelity (brought to us in part by larger sprites) has also brought with it some wonky mechanics: MegaMan’s jump height has gone from a healthy 5 times his height to an anemic 3. Anyone who claims they can’t feel the difference is a liar. Few Classic series games that have deviated from that retro flair have managed to retain the solid controls, physics and even visual cues necessary to make a truly fair and fun game, without having to pull back on the challenge, making the game as mediocre as its difficulty level.

Yes, other modern art-style choices can retain the fidelity of gameplay as well as 8-bit. But let’s face it, one of the artstyle’s biggest perceived weaknesses is also its greatest strength. See, the 8-bit artstyle may pander to the nostalgia crowd, that’s a pretty good market to tap into for the continued existence of “old-school platformers”. Similarly, the 8-bit style is iconic. Hell, take a look at the revamped design for the upcoming Smash Bros. Sure, the Blue Bomber resembles Keiji Inafune’s promotional art on the surface, but his mannerisms, his poses, his movements all resemble that of the old-school NES sprites. Sakurai even went on record saying that he wanted to make sure he captured the essence of the classic games and said that anything less wouldn’t have been worth putting into the game. Hell, the 8-bit artstyle even manages to infest various forms of fanart: who hasn’t seen characters from other video games, anime, movies, comic books or whatever media done up like the Blue Bomber, circa 1987?

But that’s not to say that I’d be against a revamp. Much like pretty much the entirety of the internet, I’d be perfectly happy if the next MegaMan game had a graphical style akin to that of the next SSB. 2.5D or HD 2D graphics (ala Rayman Origins or Shantae: Half-Genie Hero) would both be perfectly fine with me in this case. What bugs me, on the other hand, is that I’ve seen a disproportionate amount of people demanding that the Blue Bomber ditch one outdated artstyle for another. That’s right, I’ve literally seen people who want them to reuse the styles from MM7 or 8 in future MegaMan games., which just seems ass-backwards to me. I mean, if you do that, then not only would the graphics be outdated, but they’d also lack the sheer recognition of the 8-bit graphics.

This kinda goes for the X series as well. Don’t get me wrong, a 16-bit MMX9 would definitely make as much sense as the 8-bit throwbacks MM9 & 10: it’s the iconic graphical style of the franchise, despite only 3 of the 8 games in the series using it. After all, the original is still considered the most important game in that particular branch of the franchise. But, as with Classic, I’ve seen people advocate for a return to the 32-bit style (3 games used this as well, but only one was really all that good) and odder still, I’ve seen people demand a return to the 3D style from the PS2 era. Not just 2.5D graphics in general, I’m talking a literal return to the exact caliber and style used in the PS2 X games. Either way, I still think it’s weird, the sheer amount of hypocrisy of demanding a 16-bit MMX, while bemoaning another 8-bit Classic game is just bizarre. Seems like a case of “my nostalgia can beat up your nostalgia” to me, but whatever.

In the end, I guess I should reiterate a point I made earlier in the article. When it comes right down to it, graphics are probably one of the least important aspects of any good MegaMan game .We’ve seen the 8-bit games run circles around their later counterparts with improved graphics, all because of their superb gameplay, excellent controls, tight physics and melodious soundtracks. If the biggest concern any MegaMan fan can bring up about any future titles that get announced is whether or not they’ll be sufficiently pretty, then maybe we don’t even deserve any more games.

Wii Retrospective: All About the Games

As Wii’s life draws to a full close, there is a lot to say about the system.  While you could fill several articles talking about the disbelief when it was revealed, unorthodox system design, massive mainstream success, and bitter hatred from several sectors of the gaming community, that’s not what is really going to matter when we look back on the system in the future.  The only thing that is going to matter from this point on is the game library, and that is what I am going to be looking back on.  While I could wait for the Nintendo cycle to make the entire world love Wii once Wii U’s successor is released, I’m just not that patient.  Wii’s lineup has been severely under appreciated, and I’m going to overview several categories to show just how much there is to the system if you look.  Instead of going genre by genre, I’m going to try something a little different and divide games by first and third party, with three sub-categories for each.  Let’s dive in to the best Wii has to offer.

First Party:

Nintendo Staples:

These are the franchises you expect on every Nintendo system (and God help them if they miss even one) by default.  Two of the big ones, Zelda and Metroid, both had a pair of Wii releases.  I don’t care enough about Metroid: Other M to defend it very much (although the fact that I view it as forgettable instead of an abomination probably counts at this point), but the other three entries in those series all deserve much more love than they’re given.  Zelda: Twilight Princess is what it promised to be, a direct follow-up to Ocarina of Time.  Yes, it’s pretty easy in combat, but everything else is done pretty much perfectly.  Shooting with the IR pointer feels great, screw Wii Sports, that was what impressed me at launch.  Skyward Sword, on the other hand, changed the formula quite a bit more.  While I wish aiming was done with the IR pointer, the sword combat worked perfectly.  One thing it annoys me that no one acknowledges is that SS fixed the combat difficulty problems and is one of the hardest Zeldas in that area, even without the unlockable hard mode.  Both games have incredible level design, focusing on intricate dungeons and dungeon like fields instead of wandering around.  As for Metroid, Metroid Prime 3 is another game that greatly benefits from the Wii controller.  The emphasis on aiming and shooting means that the IR pointer adds a huge amount to the series, and there were some very appreciated changes (FINALLY there are teleport points).  If you can overlook the fact that it doesn’t copy the Super Metroid formula as exactly as the original Metroid Prime did, I think you’ll see just how good MP3 is.

As for other Nintendo staples, one of Wii’s biggest strengths was its platformers.  Wario Land Shake-It, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and Kirby’s Return to Dreamland are all great entries in their series and a major part of what made Wii so great for those who missed the console 2D platformer.  Smash Bros. reached a new level of hype with Super Smash Bros. Brawl, although the most vicious fighting involving it is probably from fan wars between it and Melee.  There were also entries in Fire Emblem, Nintendo Wars, Pokemon spin-offs, and Warioware for your Nintendo staples.  I know, I know, there wasn’t any Starfox, Pikmin or F-Zero and that’s the worst atrocity in human history, but as we’ll see in the next section there were things to make up for those.  I’m also aware that I skipped over one really, really obvious series, but again, just keep reading.

New and Revived IPs:

Not every Nintendo IP gets to show up on every system, and Wii had its share of revivals.  The Excite series kept its tradition of skipping every other Nintendo console, but Wii somehow managed to get an astounding three games in it, with Excite Truck, Excite Bots, and Excite Bike World Rally for Wiiware.  Punch-Out came back after a very long absence with a fantastic update.  After the original Sin and Punishment finally got a worldwide release on the Wii’s Virtual Console, it got an even better sequel that will easily fill the gap Starfox left in you.  Rhythm Tengoku got its first console release in Rhythm Heaven Fever.

But of course, everyone wants to know about the new IPs (until Nintendo skips over a major franchise in favor of one, at which point public opinion will immediately reverse).  The most prolific one, obviously, was the Wii (Insert word) series.  Wii Sports was the system seller for the mainstream, while Wii Play, Wii Fit, and Wii Sports Resort all sold very well along with their respective pack-in peripherals.  Wii Music did not have one and was a relative failure (and really hated by the gaming community).  Coincidence?  Probably.  Near the end of the system’s lifespan Nintendo brought in some new IPs in more traditional genres.  The rain fell and the world got to play Xenoblade, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower, all of which filled a much needed genre gap for Wii.

Mario:

Yes, Mario gets his own section.  Mario’s presence on Wii was one of the biggest for any Nintendo system, and that presence was well earned.  The first Mario game on Wii was actually Super Paper Mario, an RPG-platformer hybrid that suffered from an identity crisis but had some very creative ideas and great writing.  Mario Kart Wii is not one of the best games in the series for level design, but had probably the best implemented online play of any first party game on the system.  After a disliked Mario Party 8, Nintendo toned the series down quite a bit and released the much better received Mario Party 9 five years later.  Although it taught me I simply can’t get into a soccer game no matter who stars in it, Mario Striker’s Charged was a good effort from Next Level on their rise to prominence with Nintendo franchises.

Mario’s Wii games may not sound all that great so far, but that’s because I’m saving the best and most obvious ones for last.  After the traumatic Mario platformer drought on the Nintendo 64 and GameCube, which only got one Mario platformer each, Wii had three Mario platformers on it, and all were absolute masterpieces.  New Super Mario Bros. Wii may have an army of internet posters who hate it because it has repeated world themes and a cappella, but if you give the game a chance you’ll find a platforming classic up there with Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World.  It also heralded the revival of the home console 2D platformer.  As for the Super Mario Galaxy games, do I need to say anything?  Even people who hate Wii acknowledge them as classics, they will be remembered as some of the best games of all time.

Well, that’s the first party section of Wii, but that’s all the system had to offer, right?  Considering I already said there would be a third party section, you can probably guess that’s wrong.  Let’s look at what third parties had to offer on Wii.

Third Party:

Prominent Exclusives:

This section covers third party games for Wii that had at least some sort of hype around them.  I am including timed exclusives as long as they were not announced for other platforms until the Wii version had already been released.  There were actually more games in this category than many people would expect.  Red Steel was the most hyped third party launch game, and while it didn’t turn out well it did manage to get a much better (and different in every way) sequel.  No More Heroes 1 and 2, Goldeneye 007, and Madworld were some other games that went against the tone often associated with Wii.  Wii also gave the rail shooter genre new life with House of the Dead Overkill, Dead Space Extraction, and the Resident Evil Chronicles games.

Not every prominent Wii third party game was about shooting or slashing.  The brilliant puzzle game Boom Blox, paint based platformer de Blob, and platformer/Katamari hybrid Rabbids Go Home were all unique games that the whole family could play.  Epic Mickey was somewhere in the middle, a dark but not violent take on Mickey Mouse with a surprisingly strong Nintendo 64 feel to the gameplay.  While somewhat stretching the definition of prominent, Muramasa was at least taken notice of in gaming communities and provided a great 2D combat engine to go with its beautiful painted world, while Capcom’s Zack and Wiki got attention for its great use of the Wii controller.  Speaking of Capcom, who can forget the anger caused by Monster Hunter Tri and Tatsunoko vs Capcom were announced as Wii exclusives?  But my favorite moment in this category was when, after a couple of mediocre storybook games, Sonic made his long, LONG overdue comeback in the Wii exclusive Sonic Colors.

There are also some Wiiware exclusives that deserve mention.  World of Goo is a brilliant physics based puzzle game that got a surprising amount of recognition.  Konami’s Rebirth series brought back Contra, Gradius, and classic style Castlevania.  Final Fantasy IV: The After Years may actually be the best received direct sequel to a Final Fantasy game.

Multi-platform Games:

Definitely not Wii’s strong point, and probably where much of the hatred of the system comes from.  Yes, Wii missed out on a huge amount of games that were released on both PS3 and 360, and apparently a system having its own library is a bad thing now.  Despite this, Wii had some multi-plats worth mentioning.  The Wii version of Rayman Raving Rabbids actually completely overshadowed the other versions, being one of the early showcases for the system’s controller.  Rayman didn’t forget this, and Wii got the incredible Rayman Origins at the same time and with the same content as the other systems.  De Blob 2 went multi-platform, but the Wii version didn’t miss out on anything from the others.  Despite being widely considered a disappointment, the Wii version of Epic Mickey 2 is actually the best one with the original developer and best control scheme.  The Call of Duty games didn’t have everything on Wii they did on other systems, but almost all of them did in fact make it to Wii, and Wii’s IR pointer controls could quite possibly make up for the shortcomings.  While sharing games with PS2 or PSP felt demeaning, there were some solid games where the Wii version was the definitive one thanks to the controls, such as Medal of Honor Heroes 2, Silent Hill Shattered Memories, and Ghostbusters (which was a completely different game than the PS360 version).  Wiiware had a better shot at sharing games with other platforms than retail releases, and Wii had some good games in that area like Mega Man 9 and 10, the Bit.Trip series, Cave Story, and Retro City Rampage.  Not a great lineup of multi-platform games, but it’s something.

Overlooked Gems:

Back in the height of the “Wii has hundreds of crappy games, the system therefore sucks!” days, I said that in the future they wouldn’t matter at all, and we’d only remember the gems in that gigantic pile of unnoticed third party games.  That time has come, let’s start with the cream of the crop.

Did you know Boom Blox had a sequel?  Boom Blox Bash Party may sound like a spin-off, but it’s actually a direct sequel that is even better than the first game.  Put assumptions aside, this series is not a party game or a simple arcade puzzler.  Boom Blox Bash Party had hundreds of brilliant and just inherently fun physics based puzzles, and is a must for every Wii U owner.  A Boy and his Blob is a fantastic sequel to the NES game that feels like a puzzle platformer merged with Zelda.  Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is actually a completely different game on Wii and uses the IR pointer for the best gameplay in any of the Sands games.  Lost in Shadow is another puzzle platformer, a deceptively huge game that doesn’t let the puzzle aspect completely overshadow the platforming.  Trauma Team combines Trauma Center gameplay and a few Phoenix Wright style play modes for a gigantic game that everyone should look into whether they’ve played the previous Trauma Centers or not.

While I don’t recommend them quite as strongly, there are some more obscure games worth checking out if their description catches your attention.  Blastworks is a shmup with a Little Big Planet style level editor.  Deadly Creatures is an aesthetically realistic platformer where you play as a spider and scorpion.  Elebits suffers from some early “is this a good way to use the controller?” issues, but is a creative and fun game almost impossible to describe.  The RPG Opoona, aerial combat game Sky Crawlers, and extreme sports game SSX Blur are some games I haven’t personally played, but their reputation suggests they deserve a mention.

As I hope you can see, Wii actually has a much greater quantity and variety of good games than its reputation would lead you to believe.  As I said, I have complete confidence that people will acknowledge this in time since it will at some point be a Nintendo system benefiting from the nostalgia filter, but you don’t have to wait.  With Wii games still easy to find and cheap, now is the perfect time to dig into the system’s under appreciated library.  Like every system, games will be Wii’s true legacy, and they leave a much better one than many people give them credit for.

Doomed Since 1889 (Part 2)

Oh they’re doomed, every year Nintendo is doomed!  Yep, it’s time to go over even more occasions where Nintendo was 100% really doomed for sure and we mean it this time.  Continuing chronologically, let’s jump in at the start of the sixth generation

Cause of Doom:  Playstation 2 market dominance
Time Period:  First half of the 2000s

The Problem:

After Nintendo 64 lost its console battle by a considerable margin, Nintendo’s GameCube had a lot less momentum going for it when it was released in 2001.  The momentum had shifted to Sony, and Playstation 2 was enjoying a tremendous amount of success.  In the most one sided console war since NES’ domination, the PS2 sold well over three times as much as the GameCube and Xbox combined.  GameCube was fighting with Xbox for a very distant second, Nintendo’s home console line seemed to have stopped being relevant.

Chances of Actual Doom:

While GameCube’s market performance was certainly a big disappointment, the chance of Nintendo actually being doomed wasn’t very high.  Nintendo is very self-reliant thanks to their first party franchises and focus on making games and systems profitable, even with GameCube’s meager sales they could release successful first party games.  There’s also the portable factor, Game Boy Advance continued portable dominance that would make NES and PS2 jealous, giving Nintendo plenty of money and keeping their name well known.

What Really Happened:

Things never really picked up for GameCube, despite some good years for game releases it ultimately ended up in third place by a tiny margin.  While the system would be considered a failure until nostalgia inevitably deified it in the eyes of the internet, it certainly did not kill Nintendo.  It can be argued it killed their status quo, but that’s for another entry…

Cause of Doom:  Sony’s making a portable
Time Period:  2004-2006

The Problem:

As mentioned in the previous entry, Sony dominated the sixth generation console war by a huge margin.  More than ever, Nintendo needed their unbroken streak of portable dominance to support themselves and stay relevant.  So naturally, when the so far undefeated Sony announced they were making a portable system nearly as strong as their PS2 console, it looked like the end for Nintendo.  Nearly a generation more powerful than Nintendo’s new gimmicky DS, Sony’s Playstation Portable was poised to finally end Nintendo’s 15 years of portable dominance and finish off the company once and for all.

Chances of Actual Doom:

Probably the highest since NES established Nintendo as an industry titan.  If PSP had beaten DS to the degree PS2 had stomped GameCube, Nintendo would have been in genuine trouble.  While Nintendo’s ultra-valuable IPs made it unlikely they could literally be forced out of business, being forced to become a third party if PSP and the upcoming PS3 won by a PS2 like margin was a real possibility.  And at the time, it didn’t seem like an incredibly unlikely scenario.

What Really Happened:

I think everyone knows.  While the seventh generation console wars are for the next entry, DS vs PSP turned out very much in Nintendo’s favor.  Despite a slow start for DS and a strong start for PSP, by late 2005 people were starting to notice that DS was heating up with game releases while PSP seemed confused about what to do now that it had launched.  PSP’s attempt to imitate PS2 with scaled down games in the most popular console series didn’t work, even the mighty Grand Theft Auto didn’t give PSP much of a boost.  Meanwhile, DS’ combination of extremely popular portable centric new IPs (Nintendogs, Brain Age) and revival of classic Nintendo series that many hadn’t liked the GCN incarnations of very much (New Super Mario Bros, Mario Kart DS) soared it to new heights.  No longer just the strongest portable, DS was the best selling game system period for several years, and come within striking distance of PS2 as the highest selling console of all time.  Not exactly doom for Nintendo.

Cause of Doom:  Everything associated with Wii
Time Period:  2005-2007

The Problem:

After GameCube’s market failure, Nintendo clearly felt they needed to take their consoles in a new direction.  And that direction was utter insanity.  A ridiculous motion based controller, graphics barely better than GameCube, and called Wii?  Nintendo had lost their minds and killed themselves in the console wars.  This was a colossal joke, it couldn’t be real.  There was no way Wii could possibly succeed, Nintendo would be third party within a year.

Chances of Actual Doom:

Wii was certainly a big gamble, if it had failed Nintendo’s home console line would have been in serious trouble.  However, by the time Wii’s controller was unveiled the tide had shifted in DS’ favor.  Even if Wii had failed, Nintendo still would have had their supremely successful portables, with the added security of knowing Sony wasn’t invincible.  Wii’s future was certainly uncertain, but the doom chance was much less than when DS’ had been.

What Really Happened:

Seriously, this is one of the most hilarious things that ever happened in gaming history.  After a hilarious yet devastating E3 conference where Sony took over a decade of market dominance and broke it into 599 pieces, Nintendo had Wii’s grand public unveiling and… the market loved it.  In two days the power dynamics of the past decade of gaming history had been completely reversed, and Wii launched to huge success.  With a year of release Nintendo was leading the console market wars, and built up a gigantic lead that even phasing out the system years before its competitors couldn’t overcome.  Nintendo was less doomed than they had been in decades, which is saying something.

The Problem:  3DS and Wii U not as successful as their predecessors

Time Period:  2011-Present

The Problem:

After a generation of incredible financial success for both their portable and home system, and lots of very bitter gamers and journalists who were so sure Nintendo was finally going to go third party, it was time to start again.  DS and Wii had lost some of their momentum late in their lives, so the doomsayers were primed to declare that the fad was over and Nintendo was doomed yet again.  Both systems had strong launches but sales quickly faded afterwards.  This, of course, led to a flood of “Nintendo is REALLY doomed this time!” articles.

Chances of Actual Doom:

Since this scenario is still happening as I write this, obviously this section will have a different perspective.  With 3DS already having recovered from its supposed doom with an early life cycle almost eerily similar to the DS, Nintendo is not in terrible danger.  Even in a worst case scenario for Wii U, it Nintendo’s first party games could likely support it until a new console generation, while 3DS comfortably supports Nintendo.  Regardless of how certain people are that Nintendo is doomed this time FOR REAL, I don’t think there’s much cause for alarm.

What I Think Will Happen:

3DS’ future looks pretty clear and bright, while it may not pass DS as one of the top two best selling consoles of all time, the hardware and games have reached a very good place in sales.  What is often overlooked with Wii U is that it actually had very strong sales at launch.  Claims that the public is tired of Mario simply aren’t true, New Super Mario Bros. U DID sell systems, it just didn’t keep selling month after month while delays caused a nasty drought.  With the drought finally over and a price cut, I think Wii U will recover and even if it doesn’t win the eight generation it should at least pass GameCube by a significant amount.

If there’s one thing Nintendo’s endless supposed deaths have shown us, it’s that you should never count out the company.  Not everything Nintendo does succeeds, but their perseverance, self-reliance, and impressive number of amazing comebacks should make you very skeptical of anyone trying to convince you that the 50th time is a charm for doomsday.  Nothing lasts forever, but there is nothing to indicate that Nintendo’s end is anywhere in sight.

Independent Streak

Indie games are a rising trend in modern gaming, once again invoking the days when games were handled entirely by tiny teams of a few developers, just like in “the good old days”. A stark contrast with most of today’s mainstream AAA offerings, with bloated teams of hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of staff members, leaving the games more homogenized and lacking any sort of single vision as a result. Of course, the big console manufacturers have decided to put more effort than ever before into courting the indie market: Sony, Nintendo and even Microsoft are in the process of creating a far more hospitable market for small indie teams to bring their titles to entirely new audiences. Still, there is a great deal of hostility towards indie games, when Sony recently announced a deluge of upcoming titles for the Vita, leaving slack-jawed troglodytes across multiple gaming forums decrying the majority of them as lackluster due to their indie status. Then again, I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on these individuals. It wasn’t all that long ago when I myself hated indie games.

Why did I hate indie games, you ask? How could I possibly write off entire swathes of games simply because they had smaller budgets? How could anyone maintain such a blind hatred of something as innocuous as a small labor of love, cooked up by random people with a passion for gaming? Well, while anyone who knows me personally can attest to my ability to cast my hatred for entirely irrational reasons (to this day, I still demand Sony apologize for murdering my beloved Dreamcast and relegating Sega to the shameful stance of third-party developer), perhaps “blind” is the most suitable word for the hatred I had for indie games. After all, years later I can attest that it was entirely unjustifiable. You see, I made the all-too common mistake of conflating “indie games” with “art games”. Whoops.

Of course, to this day, I still find myself moaning and groaning at art games, despite proponents of them arguing that my definition of art games is far too narrow and that, in fact, some of the games I hold in high regard should be rightfully considered art games. Alas, the term has been irredeemably poisoned in my eyes. I will always consider an “art game” to be a pretentious “game” (scare quotes intended) seeking to put forth some kind of a message that should only be considered deep by anyone under the age of 16. Games like “Dear Esther” and all those stupid side-scrolling games I used to see on Newgrounds where you would just hold right (or D, depending on the controls) and read through “poetic” text until your character committed suicide and the game was over. One could probably argue that a “true” art game would likely use the gameplay mechanics to achieve its artistic message, but so far, I’ve yet to see anything considered an “art game” even try to achieve anything like that. They’re more like student films than anything else, except they rely on a hollow form of interactivity for reasons I will never be able to fully understand.

So, where did this flawed conflation between indie and art games stem from? It’s actually quite simple, really. See, the first game I had ever heard referred to as an “indie” was Braid. Braid was, of course, a take on platformers that borrows gameplay from earlier games in the genre, but was considered hip and edgy because of the twist ending where (spoiler alert!) it turns out you were playing as the bad guy all along. The game’s creator, one Johnathan Blow, did not help matters, as he was just as pretentious as his game, perhaps moreso. Needless to say, in my eyes, this painted indie developers less as people working on games without the resources of a publisher at their disposal and more as a bunch of pretentious hipster douchebags. My bad.

From that point on, I had sworn never to support any kind of indie games, as they were the cancer that was killing “the one true gaming”. Around that time, I was starting to consider getting into PC gaming and so I had jumped on the Steam bandwagon, due in large part to the promise of Steam sales offering loads of games for a small cost. One such game that had caught my eye was a little title by the name of “The Wonderful End of the World”, which I would ham-fistedly summarize as “Katamari Damacy if it were made by Westerners”. Sure, I had never heard of the developer before, but the gameplay looked solid in the trailer and it was just a couple of bucks, no big deal, right? Imagine my surprise when I found out that this was an indie game. Or when I found out the same about VVVVVV (or V6, as I like to call it)?

I was devastated: had I become an obnoxious hipster douchenozzle who would praise video games for some hackneyed story twist or having music from some obscure techno-folk-reggaeton band no one had ever heard of rather than for their solid gameplay? Turns out the answer to that was no. Because around that time, I began to realize that all indie meant was that the game didn’t have big publisher money backing its creation. They didn’t revel in being counterculture for its own sake, many indie devs would probably jump at the chance to make their games under a big publisher’s banner. Once I understood that, I had another revelation: I had technically been playing indie games for a long time already. All those flash games I had played on Newgrounds and other sites of the like? Indie. At that point, I realized that while many art games were indie, not all indie games were art games. By extension, I also stopped seeing indie games as a tumorous growth on the fringes of the video game market and more as just an alternative to big-budget titles that had been losing my interest at that point anyway.

That’s probably the biggest thing I had taken from learning what an indie game really is. In many ways, it allowed for a much more varied marketplace than what AAA games had been offering me at some point. Don’t get me wrong, I still fall for the appeal of 8/16-bit-style games hook, line and sucker most of the time, but due to most indie developers’ inability to keep up with the graphical prowess of games with bigger budgets, they’ve been forced to rely on more abstact artstyles, rather than the “photorealistic” brown-and-grey sludge most companies push on their releases even to this day. They experiment with genres that had otherwise been abandoned while big publishers try to ape whatever sold like gangbusters 3 to 5 years earlier.

Now would probably be a good time to list off a few examples of some indie games I thought were awesome. This list is definitely not going to be complete by any means, and perhaps you’ve heard of some of the games I’m going to mention, but maybe you haven’t and I’ll be introducing you to something new. First off, there’s Oniken (which was recently greenlit on Steam), an 8-bit romp that I think would be best described as a cross between the old NES Ninja Gaidens and Strider. Undertaie (which I mentioned in an earlier article) is a unique take on JRPG-style gameplay and while it’s incomplete at the moment, the demo’s definitely worth a try. Yatagarasu, which currently exists as a Japanese language only beta, but has a more significant build in the works (and the current build is coming to the PS Vita in the future). And then there’s McPixel, a unique cross between point-and-click adventure games and WarioWare-style minigames.

Another thing about falling in love with indie games is that it’s lead me into a sort of love-hate relationship with Kickstarter and other similar platforms (Indiegogo is the only other one that really comes to mind). On one hand, being able to have a tangible effect on turning a game concept into an actual functional game is pretty invigorating. But on the other hand, sometimes there are just too many interesting ideas up for fund-raising for me to handle. That and it becomes hard to tell what is legitimate and what’s a scam at times. I’ve been pretty lucky in that regard thus far, but who knows if my luck with crowdfunding will run out at some point?

The way I framed my story about how my feelings about indie games have changed over the years may sound a bit unique, but really, it isn’t. I felt the same kind of blind hatred toward all games with a first-person perspective (decrying them all as “braindead CoD knockoffs”), sandbox games (“braindead GTA knockoffs”) and even the Zelda series (“boring and confusing”) until I decided to try them again later down the line. I guess if there’s any lesson to be learned there, it’s that you shouldn’t judge an entire body of work based on a single bad experience. Maybe one day, I’ll find something that qualifies as an art game that simultaneously succeeds as both art AND a game and I’ll learn to re-evaluate that specific type of game. But I don’t see that happening for years.