Archive for August, 2016

NES Mini

Even with the massive success of the Wii, it’s impossible not to realize that Nintendo has struggled in the home console market over the past few generations. Starting with the Nintendo 64, it seems like Nintendo has consistently missed what consumers are wanting. You could even argue that the Wii found most of its success with non-traditional gamers (both my parents and my in-laws had one; their last console prior was an Atari). This is, admittedly, exactly what Nintendo wanted to do, but it seems that it gave them a false impression of their own audience when it came time to unveil the WiiU.

The WiiU is the culmination of Nintendo missing their mark. It is a mishmash of bad decisions: launching mid-generation, producing another under-powered console, failing to secure third party support, mis-communicating the use of the gamepad, believing that the Wii brand would be enough to bring consumers on board. I’ve written before that Nintendo fell into the trap of believing their own hype. It seems to run in the industry and both Sony and Microsoft have been guilty of it as well, but this post isn’t about them.

All bets are still off on Nintendo’s next console, still known only as the NX, but regardless of how it performs, there is still one area that Nintendo handles well, and knows how to market.

SMB 3

This is meant to be a hint, but the blog title kind of gives it away

About a month ago, Nintendo unveiled the NES Mini (officially the NES Classic Edition). A small NES replica containing 30 classic Nintendo games, including a replica NES controller that can be used for Virtual Console/eShop NES games on the Wii/WiiU. Now, Nintendo has enough first party titles that they could have crammed the NES Mini half and half with great titles alongside mediocre ones, but they didn’t do that. Instead, they included their own classic titles (Super Mario Brothers, Legend of Zelda, Kirby, Metroid, Kid Icarus), but also included some of the best third party titles to appear on the NES (Castlevania, Mega Man, Ninja Gaiden, Double Dragon, Bubble Bobble, Final Fantasy, Startropics). Honestly, I know I’m a bit of a Nintendo fanboy, but you’d be hardpressed to find more than two or three titles that the average person doesn’t like (personally, I’m looking at Ice Climbers with skepticism).

This is where Nintendo still excels. They know how to market their classic catalog. And keep in mind that this isn’t a one off. When it was first revealed that the Wii would have a Virtual Console that would allow you to purchase digital copies of games from the NES, Super NES, N64, Sega Genesis, Master System, Commodore 64, and Turbo-Grafx16 systems, it was unlike anything else on the market. No other company had explored such an avenue with their catalogs. It’s easy to point out that neither Sony nor Microsoft can compare to Nintendo’s catalog, but neither explored securing games from Sega or Hudson Soft. Nintendo, somehow, knew that a market still existed for those games, and it was a major selling point for the Wii. It allowed Nintendo to introduce “new” games weekly. It was also a way to obtain those extremely rare games without paying the $75+ Ebay was demanding. I don’t think calling the Virtual Console a revelation is an overreaction. It was, in my personal opinion, truly a game changer.

MMX3

I love Mega Man X3, but it’s not an over $100 kind of love

 

Nintendo continued to leverage their catalog with the WiiU and 3DS, adding Gamecube and Wii games to the eShop on the WiiU, while keeping the original Wii virtual console fully intact and accessible on the WiiU via the Wii Menu. I downloaded Castlevania III just last week. It’s still there and functioning perfectly. I’ve no doubt that the NX will continue this trend. It’s all positive. No negative.

For all their missteps, and all the things they’ve done to aggravate their loyal fans, Nintendo still finds a way to shine through from time to time. The NES Mini wasn’t hinted about, it wasn’t asked for, it wasn’t expected, but Nintendo, in some ways, does still know who their most loyal fans are, and sometimes they come through in ways we never expected or saw coming. As I pointed out above, they could have packed the NES Mini with their own titles, and most of us would have bought it, but they went above and beyond, adding games that show up on virtually all NES Top 10 or Top 20 lists. Nintendo deserves kudos for that. It’s all fan service, and fan service done well. They may have faults when it comes to handling their last few home consoles, but when it comes retro, Nintendo still does it well.

 

From the grave

Almost Made It: de Blob, Okami, F-Zero, Ecco the Dolphin, Bubble Bobble, Contra, Mana, Startropics, R-Type, Adventure Island
Not Franchises, but Need a Sequel: Ghosthunter, Sphinx & the Cursed Mummy, Dante’s Inferno, The Wonderful 101, Enslaved

Legacy of Kain8. Legacy of Kain
Last Entry – Legacy of Kain: Defiance (2003)
Legacy of Kain began life as an overhead styled game called Blood Omen for the Playstation, where you played as newly minted vampire, Kain. While popular, its sequel, Soul Reaver, is where the series truly pulled me in. It was the Ocarina of Time to Blood Omen’s A Link to the Past (strictly in regards to game style). It also began the story that would permeate the remaining entries in the series, which ended with Defiance in 2003. The problem is, Defiance didn’t exactly wrap the story up. Oh, there’s an ending, but there are threads for future stories that have yet to come. The only news available for Legacy since 2003 is an MMO Game called Nosgoth that was ultimately shut down. It was only mildly related to the overall series, and was not developed by Crystal Dynamics. Considering the popularity of the Legacy of Kain series, it is surprising that it has remained dormant this long, but those of us that are still fans of the games still hope to see a more definitive ending to Kain (and Raziel’s) journey in Nosgoth.

Blaster Master7. Blaster Master
Last Entry – Blaster Master: Overdrive (2010)
If you don’t know Blaster Master, stop reading this blog, go find a copy (check the Virtual Console/eShop), and play it. Then come back. Everyone else knows Blaster Master. You play through an open world via a side-scrolling/overhead shooter hybrid style. You’re goal? To get your frog back and stop some radioactive mutants from taking over the Earth. Blaster Master is a classic that saw entries on the Sega, GBC, Playstation, and a remake via WiiWare (which is pretty darn good, FYI) and has been praised for level design as well as seamlessly merging separate game styles into one game. Aside from the remake, the last actual sequel was the PS entry Blaster Master: Blasting Again, released in 2001, which received average reviews (but which I thoroughly enjoyed). Blaster Master is a franchise that is so well know that I’m rather amazed that nothing new has been developed since 2010. The gameplay style(s) scream 3DS. Still, sadly, it seems that there is currently nothing on the horizon for this beloved series. *Note: Blaster Master received a wonderfully corny Worlds of Power adaptation. If you can find a copy, I strongly suggest reading it.

Baldur's Gate6. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance
Last Entry – Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 (2004)
I realize that Baldur’s Gate is hardly a forgotten series, but I’m speaking specifically of the Dark Alliance series developed for consoles. As I’m not much of a PC gamer, Dark Alliance was my only foray into the world of Baldur’s Gate, and I loved it. Dark Alliance is an overhead hack and slash RPG with character selection. The original was extremely well received, even winning a Role-Playing Game of the Year Award. The sequel was also acclaimed, though it was noted that it added very little to the gameplay of the original. The primary reason I feel this series needs a new entry is that the second title ended on a cliff hanger. You’re shown that someone has been working against you behind the scenes, yet you’re not shown who it was. It also stings that a third title was in development but cancelled solely due to legal issues. Every now and again, news crops up on a Dark Alliance 3, but it’s generally just wishful thinking or unsubstantiated rumors. I still hold out hope though, that I’ll one day get to play through the conclusion of the story from Dark Alliance and Dark Alliance 2.

Darksiders5. Darksiders
Last Entry – Darksiders II (2012)
Really? 2012? It seems so much longer. Regardless, Darksiders burst onto the scene in 2010, bringing us an apocalyptic Zelda-esque title. You play as War, the horsemen, who has been summoned by someone, and is accused of beginning the Apocalypse early. You’re then given a chance to prove your innocence and find the true culprits. While the story does give you answers, it never feels finished, and the ending scene hints at the arrival of the remaining three horsemen. Darksiders II takes place concurrently, placing you in the role of Death, and opens up more of the story of the franchise. Since then, we’ve been left to wonder exactly what became of the four horsemen at the end of the original game. Development of a sequel has most likely been held up by the selling of the license due to a bankruptcy. This franchise came to mind for two main reasons: the plot is surprisingly deep, and the gameplay is both varied and familiar between the two titles. There is also the fact that the other two horsemen, Strife and Fury, have not (yet) been playable characters. I’m excited to see their interpretation in the franchise, and how the gameplay will be adapted to their “powers.” Recent news regarding Nordic Games (the owners of multiple THQ licenses), seems to indicate that the wait for Darksiders III may not be that long.

Lufia4. Lufia
Last Entry – Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals (2010)
Lufia was one of the premier RPG’s on the Super NES, before finding a home on the Gameboy/DS systems, but has been quiet since Curse of the Sinistrals (DS) in 2010, itself being a remake of Lufia 2 (Super NES). The fact that Lufia remains knows is even more surprising when you consider that it has received no eShop/digital distribution of the original titles. The franchise is running solely on the fact that it was so good on the Super NES (the DS remake was just average). This is a series that could benefit greatly by returning to its roots via a 3DS title. Speaking strictly of feasibility, I can’t imagine a full-fledged console Lufia title simple because the budget would be insane, hence a smaller title on a handheld. I’m sad to say that I missed out on Lufia for the most part, and would jump at a chance to play the originals or even a proper sequel. With any luck, Neverland hasn’t forgotten this gem of a series.

Mega Man X23. Mega Man X
Last Entry – Mega Man X8 (2005)
If you don’t know what Mega Man X is, see my note on Blaster Master above. Mega Man X is Mega Man’s cooler, older brother. Keeping the conventions of the original series, robot masters, excellent platforming, multiple weapons, Mega Man X added enough new aspects to seem familiar, but not identical. Like many side-scrollers, Mega Man X fell out of favor as 3-D gameplay became the new norm. The one foray in 3-D for Mega Man X was…disappointing at best. Mega Man X8 was somewhat of a return to form, but something still felt a bit off from the initial titles. While the original Mega Man series saw two “old school” sequels released digitally (both being very good), Mega Man X has continued to be MIA in terms of a new title since the release of X8. Capcom could please many people by taking the Mega Man 9/10 route with X and designing an X9 that looked and played much like X – X3 on the Super NES. After the success of Mega Man 9/10, I’m actually still shocked that X9 hasn’t come down the pipeline. It’s simply hard to believe it wouldn’t be a success. Mega Man is a beloved icon. A new game in the X series should be a given at this point.

Metroid2. Metroid
Last Entry – Metroid: Other M (2010)
First of all, Federation Force is not a Metroid game. Yes, it has the title, but it has no Samus Aran. It is not a Metroid game. We will not discuss this further. Anyways, Metroid is one of Nintendo’s golden franchises, and has been universally acclaimed with virtually every release (Other M being the exception to the rule). At this point, the future of Metroid is very cloudy. I’m certain there will be a proper sequel, but I have no clue if it will go the route of Fusion/Zero Mission, or take the FPS style of the Prime series. Either would be welcome by fans of the Metroid series. Other M left a bad taste in the mouths of most Metroid fans, and one has to wonder if it’s negative reception isn’t what has caused Nintendo to step away from Metroid for a six years. If that’s truly the case, Nintendo need only to look at Fusion or Prime 3 to see that the series has had only one hiccup in its entire history. One misstep is not enough reason to shelve a premier series that features a game that many consider to be one of the two or three best games ever made (the fact that you’re not sure if I’m speaking of Super Metroid or Metroid Prime speaks to the high quality of Metroid titles). Metroid turns 30 years old this year. Nintendo has remained silent on this fact. I’m hopeful that they’re saving something for the NX reveal but, despite my normal optimism, I’m not holding out much hope in this case.

Castlevania1. Castlevania
Last Entry – Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 (2014) / Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (2008)
I must clarify here. I’m speaking not of the reboot Lords of Shadow series, but of the original series, which last saw an entry in 2008 with Order of Ecclesia. Until Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the Castlevania series was know for level based platforming. Symphony of the Night adopted a style similar to Metroid, featuring an open world that became more accessible via the collection of abilities or items, coining the Metroidvania term for this type of game style. Symphony of the Night was so extremely popular that virtually all Castlevania titles from that point on adopted the same style, excepting some 3-D titles that received mixed reviews, but which I enjoyed. Yet, despite each successive title being similar in style, the design of each game managed to feel fresh and new each time. In 2013, the series was re-imagined for the Lords of Shadow series, going from open world platformer to a 3-D level based game. The Lords of Shadow games are fine games, but titles such as Dawn of Sorrow and Order of Ecclesia scratched an itch that few other games relieve. Castlevania made #1 on this list because I’m skeptical that we’ll ever see another title that matches the quality the series was once know for, if another title at all. Konami has publicly stated that they are shifting focus to mobile games, meaning that Castlevania may be put on the shelf for quite some time. There is a glimmer of hope though. Long time Castlevania producer, IGA, has developed Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night for all current consoles. Due out in March of 2017, Bloodstained is described by IGA himself as a spiritual successor to Castlevania and is using the Metroidvania style. I’m certain I’ll download this title, but it still makes me sad to think that we may have realistically seen our last Belmont. Our last Castlevania.

Pokemon Go

I had intended to write a simple post relating my thoughts on Pokemon Go. Something touching upon how it works, how fun it could be, etc… That was the plan. But, as with all of the best laid plans, something happened that I didn’t see coming. Shortly after the launch of Pokemon Go, there was a sudden backlash towards it. A wave of ridicule and derision that I never saw coming, and still don’t fully understand. Therefore, my simple post reviewing the game morphed into this. An answer to the backlash.

Before I start, there are things to say about Pokemon Go. Yes, there are people being morons with it. If you trespass, play while driving, or commit some other detrimental action while playing, you need to be ridiculed because you’re being stupid and making the rest of us look bad. All of the bad though, doesn’t mean that there aren’t positives.

My wife and I were at the park not took long ago walking and encountered a group of teens walking together, having a good time, and playing Pokemon Go. I’ve encountered people playing all over the place, simply having fun. This is not a negative. It’s actually rather incredible. It’s a game that gets you moving, exploring, and socializing. I can’t see the bad aspect of this. I’ve read of hospitals using it to get kids up and about that are recovering from an ailment. This is a wonderful thing.

Still, there can’t be something popular without people having to react to it. Based on what I’ve seen, the criticism of Pokemon Go can be broken down into three groups, along with a fourth group that I admire and am addressing first:

The Indifferent

There are very few memes for this that I can find because these people note that Pokemon Go is a thing, then move on with their lives. Many only remember Pokemon from the late 90’s. This is the attitude that I hope I have with fads that I’m not interested in. I admire these people. Something is happening, it doesn’t affect their life, they look at, then carry on. Kudos to these people. You guys rock.

The Religious

Even as a practicing Christian (anyone know why we call this kind of thing practice???), I don’t get this one. The primary problem with it, aside from the use of Kermit, is that it presents two things as being mutually exclusive. Based on these memes, you can’t possible be spiritual and play a game. This is simply an impossibility. But, if you put in two other actions, it shows just how absurd this is. For instance, “Some of you folk should be going to Church with the same vigor with which you mow your lawn.” That’s a crazy statement, but represents the same idea. This group doesn’t anger me at all, they just mystify me.

The Funny

All of my life, I’ve told people, if you want to criticize me or make fun of me, just make it funny. That’s all I ask. That is what these people are doing with Pokemon Go. I’ve no issue with this. If you can’t take humor, then you need to examine yourself. So, my hat’s off to these people. So long as your humorous, I say keep it coming.

The Angry

These people man…wow. These people are the opposite of the indifferent I wrote about above. These people are incapable of letting something that isn’t changing their lives in any way from passing by without a snarky comment. These people actually make me angry with their needless anger and criticism. I guess I react more strongly to this than some may because I play Pokemon Go with my son. Going by these memes, I’m a bad father, I don’t know how to work hard, and am apparently not a productive member of society.

Seriously, look at the memes above. Apparently, if you have any pastime that isn’t productive in some way, you will never understand the value of hard work. What if that meme said this: “Teach your kids the value of a hard day’s work, so they don’t grow up and sit on the couch all weekend watching football.” It’s exactly the same meaning for the most part, except…except no one in their right mind would post such a thing because it’s an asinine statement. Everyone has something they do in their down time, something they enjoy. Be it watching sports, reading, hiking, or playing games, including Pokemon Go.

As I point out at the start of this post, at least Pokemon Go is getting people outside. They’re meeting people, having fun, etc… There is very little negative, but some people just have a mindset that prevents them from keeping their thoughts to themselves. A mindset that says, I don’t do this, I don’t understand it, but I must insult those that do because I simply can’t help myself.

Actually, I think my wife put this far better on Facebook than I ever could have here:

So, I continue to see these clever little memes being posted about how we should be spending more time chasing Jesus than Pokemon, and how we don’t have time for Pokemon because we are adults and have so much to do. Maybe so. But are you on Facebook, scrolling thru your news feed to find these clever little sayings to post? Someone also sat at their computer and took the time to make these cute little pictures for your amusement. Couldn’t this time be spent doing all these things that keep you so busy, or digging deeper into God’s word instead of posting about it on Facebook? The point? Everybody has a pastime. Everybody has different interests and hobbies they enjoy. I don’t understand the negativity. I really don’t. Is it hurting you personally for someone to play a game they enjoy? Water your own lawn and I’ll worry about mine. ‪#‎pokemongo‬

Oh, she’s a keeper.

I don’t get it guys. I don’t get why there are people that simply feel that they must pee on the parade. And, you know what? I’m happy that I don’t get it. I don’t want that mindset. As I said earlier, if something’s going on that I don’t get or participate in, I hope that I’m the person that shrugs my shoulders and moves on. That’s the best attitude to have about it. And really, you have to wonder, looking at the time and effort people have spent ridiculing Pokemon Go, are the ones playing Pokemon Go really the ones that need to get life?

Pokemon Go Rebuttal