Archive for May, 2014

Hell Frozen Over

So last week, this happened:

Wii U outsells PS4 in Infamous’ first week in Japan

No, mass chaos did not ensue, there is no zombie apocalypse, and I saw no signs of Hell freezing over…despite the header I added to this blog.

First of all, we need to figure out what this DOESN’T mean for the WiiU. It doesn’t mean that the WiiU is suddenly going to start outpacing the PS4. Keep in mind that it only took a few months for the PS4 to completely pass the WiiU’s worldwide sales. In addition to that, the PS4 continues to outsell the WiiU in the worldwide market. This doesn’t foretell a future trend for the WiiU in other markets. Japan, like other markets, is very unique and have their own quirks, just like North America or Europe. Most certainly, this doesn’t mean that Nintendo can declare some sort of victory and rest on their laurels.

Oh, don't be so smug.

Oh, don’t be so smug.

Frankly, I’m most surprised that people are surprised by this. An article I looked at cited an interesting trend in regards to the first few weeks of WiiU sales versus the first few weeks of PS4 sales:

Week 1: WiiU – 308,142 Units / PS4 – 309,104 Units
Week 2: WiiU – 126,916 Units / PS4 – 65,685 Units
Week 3: WiiU – 122,843 Units / PS4 – 35,294 UnitsYeah, that’s a might big drop-off for the PS4 after it’s first week of sales. What was evident right away was that in Japan, the sales would be closer than in other areas at time passed and the new wore off the PS4. It may have taken a while, but the WiiU did finally catch up, and that’s kind of what the sales curves were predicting. Still, what else can we take away from this.

Yes, exactly. See, this isn’t so much that the WiiU is just amazing, it’s just that the PS4 lowered itself to the WiiU’s level, then decided to go lower. So, if these two are selling so poorly, then what is selling in Japan.

1. Nintendo 3DS LL – 20,304
2. PS Vita –13,334

What could those two have in common…? Maybe it’s that they’re both handhelds. Just a thought. Truthfully though, I think the main takeaway here is that Japan may have, over the past few years, morphed into a handheld dominant territory. Even with questionable software lineups, one of the two new consoles should be rivaling the two older handhelds, yet they are far behind. I don’t think you can blame software here. Yes, I think both the WiiU and PS4 are soft on software (sorry for the redundancy there), but Infamous is a big release, and it did very little here. Also, the past few generations have had questionable software right out of the gate, lacking those “must have” titles that sell consoles, yet this low level of sales is new to this generation. No, I don’t think you can point at the negatives of the consoles, but instead have to point at the positives of the handhelds. They are more affordable, have stronger libraries already in place, and are convenient.

This isn’t new for Japan, where the DS was a beast and the PSP was a tough luck loser, but still highly successful. I think that, again, this all points to a change in the market in Japan. What’s important to remember about that though, is that we’re only speaking of Japan. In other regions, the newer consoles are still doing well…or at least those not called “WiiU” are doing well. So, for Nintendo, this is kind of cool. They’re beating a rival in their home country. They could use some good news after what has happened with the WiiU so far. Still, this is not a trend in the larger marketplace. It is a quirk. A cool quirk if you’re Nintendo, but a quirk none the less.

Advertisements

Battletoads

Rarely do you find the game that doesn’t have some section that just doesn’t feel designed well. No matter how much you enjoy the game, you just can’t enjoy that one part. This list goes a bit further than that though. This list is about those sections that make you shake your head and wonder exactly how they were allowed to exist in the first place. The order here isn’t really based on the games themselves, but by the sections and their general offensiveness when compared to the rest of the game.

Ninja Gaiden8. Ninja Gaiden (NES) – Birds
Do I have to explain this one? The programmers of this game were just sadistic. You’ve fought through a level, navigated absurdly difficult obstacles and annoying enemies. You have one last jump to make so you leap…and a perfectly timed bird appears on screen and knocks you backwards, down the hole you were attempting to leap over. Life gone, restart the level. What made this even worse is the fact that lives and continues were limited on the NES Ninja Gaiden games. Losing a life actually meant something in this game, and I often found myself losing more than a few by plummeting down a hole thanks to these carefully placed irritants.

Dead Space7. Dead Space (Xbox 360) – Zero G Basketball
I adore Dead Space. I’ve never played a more atmospheric and creepy game. I dreaded every corner and every new room, yet couldn’t stop myself from moving ever forward. That said, why in the world does a basketball game show up? I’m enjoying the game wonderfully, honing my skills, and then, out of nowhere, I find that I need to learn some odd mechanics to sink a few baskets and proceed. It isn’t even that the game is all that challenging. Yes, it is annoying, but still passable. It’s more that it breaks up the flow of the game. It would be like RE4 requiring you to kick a few soccer goals on an empty field. It’s just filler. Also, to make it worse, there’s actually an achievement for this game, which forces you to actually get good at it. I have to also point out that this is an optional portion of the game, but it’s inclusion still mystifies me.

Mario Galaxy6. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii) – Trash Cleanup Star
The Galaxy games still remain my favorite 3-D Mario platforming games, and for good reason. Both are brilliantly crafted and feature some of the best platforming and most entertaining levels I’ve ever encountered. That said, the original contains a couple of stars that you can only get by clearing up some trash for a little robot guy…with bombs…working under a very short timer. The timer is such that one mistake will ruin your attempt, and when you fail, you have to listen to the the speech again. And it only gets more infuriating each time you fail. It also doesn’t help that the bombs have to be almost perfectly placed, so it becomes a timed puzzle game. I’ve played through this game a few times, and this mini-game (ha!) always raises my blood pressure.

Bioshock5. Bioshock (Xbox 360) – Being a Big Daddy
Yet another of my personal favorites. Bioshock does so much right that it seems almost wrong to nitpick about anything, but there is a sequence late in the game that commits one of the gaming sins. After hours of fighting through Rapture, being betrayed and lied too, and encountering numerous tank like Big Daddies that put up a major fight, you are tasked with becoming one yourself. Initially, this sounds like fun. You get the power of the most powerful enemy you encounter…except you don’t. You may be dressed like a Big Daddy, but you’re lacking their power and weapons. That alone, wouldn’t be too bad except for that gaming sin I mentioned above. Like other Big Daddies, you have to summon a Little Sister, and protect her from splicers as she gathers Adam. In the history of video games, I can recall no enjoyable escort mission, and as amazingly crafted as this game is, it is still no exception. It may just be a slight ugly spot on an otherwise stellar experience, but it is still there.

Mario Kart4. Mario Kart 7 (3DS) – Blue Shell
I chose Mario Kart 7 here, but it could have been almost any entry. I love racing games, and I love the Mario Kart series. Even the items are fun because everyone is on the same footing. That is, until, someone near the back grabs the blue shell and turns it loose on the leader. No matter what you do, there is almost no way to dodge this weapon. It is all powerful and allows you no way to evade as the other items do. This item also seems far too common and it’s not unusual to have two or three hit you in one lap. It’s terribly frustrating to be doing extremely well, only to be hampered by something that you can’t defend against. Nintendo, at least give us a fighting chance here (as a side note here, it appears that there is an item in Mario Kart 8 that will do just that).

Skyward Sword3. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) – Motion Controls
Oh, this one will raise some eyebrows. Skyward Sword was heralded for its motion controls. It was the entire basis of the game and the primary selling point for both the game, and for what the Wii (and by extension, the WiiU) was fully capable of. Let me explain though. I’m not speaking of aiming mechanics here, nor rolling bombs or strumming the harp. No, specifically, I’m speaking of the sword controls. Perhaps it was just me, but all too often, I would move the sword to the proper area to strike an enemy, only to have the game read it as an actual attack. This wasn’t too bad with normal enemies, but when bosses required precision in this area, it became a major frustration. I would try to move more slowly, but the enemy(s) would then shift before I was in position. In later battles, it simply became a guessing game. I appreciate what Nintendo wanted to do with this game, but from my experience, it just didn’t work. Maybe I’m alone here, but I’ll take a button press for sword attacks over the frustration of motion any day.

Tropical Freeze2. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (WiiU) – Underwater Boss
Few times have I felt frustration at a game like I did during one portion of this game. This game re-introduced swimming to the DKC games after it was absent in DKCR. The controls were…okay, but as with most swimming levels in games, lacked the tightness required in a platforming game. Still, they were manageable and completing the primarily underwater world wasn’t a terrible task until you reached the boss level. First of all, you are surrounded by the equivalent of spikes, meaning your playing field is immediately limited. Secondly, the boss likes to enlarge itself, giving you even less room to maneuver. Finally, to top all of that, you have to watch your air supply. All too often, my Kongs seemed to refuse my input, all too often wandering in the wrong direction, or deciding that I was trying to get them to boost for a moment, resulting in the loss of a heart. As much as I enjoyed this game, I actually set it aside for four days after first trying to beat this boss. Once I did best him, it was completely by accident, and I was left to ponder how such a terrible battle could have found its way into such a well designed game.

Goldeneye1. Goldeney (N64) – Protect Natalya
Goldeneye redefined what FPS games could do on a console, and is still enjoyed for both it’s incredible design and absurdly fun multiplayer matches. Still, in spite of all of the joy and fun that can be had with this game, like all games on this list, it has one major black eye. One particular mission requires you to protect Natalya while she hacks/downloads info from a computer. As expected, you soon have a couple of enemies appear, but nothing major. Then, a few more appear. You off them, wondering how much longer you have to do this. Too long. By the time she is finished, you’ll have enemies coming from all directions, not to fire at you, but to take out Natalya. As I mentioned before, no game has yet been able to make an escort or protection mission fun, and this mission drives that home. There is zero fun to be had protecting Natalya and, once you are finally finished, you’ll most likely never look back at this level, except to shudder for a moment and recall the frustration of having to repeat it again and again until you finally tasted victory.

NES Remix 2

For starters, you almost have to read my Post Game Wrap-up for the original NES Remix (Found here: https://justanothervideogameblogblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/post-game-wrap-up-nes-remix/) to follow this entry. I’m going to be referring to that game quite a bit, but that’s because while this game is a sequel, it could be viewed as more of an expansion of the original game. Therefore, I’m going to be referencing how this game fares in relation to the first quite often. Plus, I just like referencing my previous work. 😀

The Set-up:
Exactly like the original. And I mean exactly. The only change in this game is the lineup of games that are offered, as well as the inclusion of Super Luigi Brothers (a mirror of the original Super Mario Brothers) and a Championship mode if you’ve also purchased the first NES Remix.

Meh.

Meh.

The Gameplay:
First of all, here is the lineup of games included in NES Remix 2:

Dr. Mario   /   Ice Hockey   /   Kid Icarus   /   Kirby’s Adventure
Metroid   /   NES Open Tournament Golf   / Punch-Out!!   /   Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels
Super Mario Bros. 2   /   Super Mario Bros. 3   /   Wario’s Woods   /   Zelda II: Adventure of Link

It’s worth noting that Ice Hockey and Golf are both limited inclusions, showing up in the Bonus Round.

I’m going to skip over the full explanation of how this game works. Briefly, each game has a number of short challenges which you are ranked on. Rankings are from 1 Star to 3 Rainbow Stars. There are also Remix Challenges which change-up the games in some way.

Off the wall, but very fun.

Off the wall, but very fun.

What’s most noticeable here is how much better these games control than those found on the first NES Remix. I realize that those games were the precursors to many of the games included here, but the controls can be astoundingly frustrating as a result. I played those games as a kid too, so this isn’t a case of not having played many of them before. These games, though, were made after the developers at Nintendo truly began to hone their craft. This was my main complaint with the first game, and what made me happiest about this sequel. Actually, when this game was announced, I was amazed to see that every single game I said should have been in the first game was included in the second, and all were done justice.

What I truly love about these entries is that in each game, the challenges slowly progress you through the game in bits and pieces. With some of these, I never actually saw the end levels (looking at you Kid Icarus), so getting to see that and fight some of the bosses was a great joy. I cited this as a major positive in the first entry, and it is still true here. I also like the ranking system, which is a great motivator to keep trying the challenges in order to improve your time. The fact that any given challenge rarely takes more than a minute means that you can attempt them over and over without suffering from fatigue. I was also much less frustrated in this entry, almost solely because the games included are just better games.

Much better games.

Much better games.

A gripe I had in the first game was that Nintendo was too safe in their “Remix” stages. I think they worked to be more interesting in this game. Yes, there are still some of the same ideas (your character is constantly moving forward, or the screen is zooming out), but there are more instances of characters from one game being moved into another game. That’s when this game is at it’s best. It takes a game you may know inside and out, and twists it into something new. That’s a pure joy.

Conclusions:
To me, this game is what the first entry should have been, but at the same time, I understand why Nintendo made some of the decisions they did. I consider the first entry as a test run, and this game the fruit of that run. I’ve already said this, but with this kind of game, it all comes down to the games that are included. NES Remix was very hit and miss there, but in NES Remix 2, I think it’s almost all hit. Even a game like Wario’s Woods, which I’ve never been able to master, I realize that the game is sound, it’s just that I’m not great at it. That’s far different from a game like Ice Climbers in the first entry, where I felt like the controls were handicapping me all too often.

The bottom line here is that this is a great game. It appeals to those of us that played these games back when the NES was king, as well as those that may have never played these games, but have been told how great they are and how they shaped video games as we know them. This is one of those rare occasions where I’m hard-pressed to find a negative. Yes, it is identical to the first NES Remix, but the content is totally different, so even that’s not something that can take away from it. I can only hope that we soon see more incarnations of this idea, from Super NES Remix and GameBoy Remix to, perhaps, a NES Remis: Third Party Edition. I’d just love to take on Dracula with Mega Man, or try a Ninja Gaiden stage with Sophia from Blaster Master. Make it happen Nintendo.

Just pure fun.

Just pure fun.

Target Audience

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve come to realize that I’m no longer the target market for video game developers. For a long time now, I’ve complained about the influx of FPS titles that are only differentiated by the selection of guns and the setting. I don’t like FPS titles, as a general rule. I’m just not that good at them, which ultimately leads to frustration on my part. I try to avoid games that frustrate me since that tends to take away from the fun, so yeah, I avoid FPS titles (Bioshock, Metroid Prime, and Goldeneye being exceptions to the rule).

See, my hope has been that people will tire of this genre and we can get back to titles that I like, such as great platforming games like Super Mario Galaxy and Ratchet and Clank, or something in line with Dead Space and Resident Evil 4, but I’ve been seeing this all wrong. Those are all titles that had their day, and inspired a fair number of imitators, some of those even being good games, but developers have to make money, and right now money is in FPS titles.

Sigh...

Sigh…

It’s all about the target market. The buying public. Back in my teens, the Super Nintendo was the be all end all of gaming. It was peppered with amazing platformers and RPG’s. Those games are the ones that defined me as a gamer, so I always want more of those. What I’ve mistakenly assumed is that other gamers felt the same way. That’s not the case. Oh, some gamers do. Many that read this blog probably do because I’ve become friends with people that generally share my tastes in gaming.  Still, the buying public has moved into a new genre, and that genre is, by and large, FPS titles.

I’m not trying to “hate” on FPS games here. I’m sure they are fine game, but, like I wrote above, they just aren’t for me. It’s easy to feel like your opinions are the popular opinion, and I fell into that trap. I expected everyone to clamor for the revival of sidescrollers and platform games from both Nintendo and the Indie market, and while there was a resurgence, it was no where close to the level I would have expected.

Having been a gamer for a long time. And I mean a long, long time, it’s tough to admit, but I’m now in the minority. What I like isn’t the “cool” thing anymore, and what is “cool” is something that doesn’t appeal to me very much. Even Bioshock Infinite let me down. So, I just have to watch out for those games that do appeal to me. They aren’t as plentiful as they once where, but they are there, and they are still great. Soon enough, like with all things, the gaming public will move on to another genre and those FPS fanatics will be where I am now. I ust have to hope the next genre is something I can at least get into.

With It