Monday, May 18, 2009

Perspective on Nintendo From a Former Fan

Nintendo's best selling point is the fact that it's built such a huge fan base since its days with the Famicom/NES. People fell in love with characters and franchises like Mario, Zelda, and Metroid. But if the present is any indication, it's that Nintendo doesn't need its longtime, hardcore fans anymore. When it comes right down to it, Nintendo's a business and business is good. As far as I know as a gamer though, business is slow and about to close down. In all objectivity, there are two terms video game journalists are batting around: Casual gamers and hardcore gamers.

Casual is a term we like to use to describe the new demographic Nintendo has successfully targeted: the 30-somethings and up, the elderly, the female population, the non-gamer. Hardcore loosely defines a person who plays games on a usual basis. They're usually long time fans, but can also be new. And if there's a game they like, they'll recognize future sequels and other games similar to it.

As a kid, the SNES was my golden era of games. Nintendo's own games have a rigorous standard of quality, but other games that came in shown just as brilliantly. Street Fighter II and all of its iterations, Earthworm Jim, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in Time, and Gradius III were all great games of varied developers. The Wii however has been buried in an avalanche of shovelware (games that are usually universally panned by critics and make it difficult to find new, good games) aimed for the casual, even uninformed consumer. There's been a stark lack of high quality games for the Wii. Most of them are pretty much quick cash-ins, that put as little effort and money into them as possible and get as much profit as you can from people uninformed about the nature of being a consumer on the video game market. The Wii suffers from less performance compared to the 360 and PS3 and gimmicky controls that developers shoe horn in to make it feel like a Wii game. Not that these problems are crippling; Super Mario Galaxy was a great game despite these problems on the Wii.

Is it so hard to ask?

As a loyal consumer of Nintendo for nearly 15 years of my life, things just feel different for me now. There aren't any promises because all the AAA games have already been released. This holiday season is the equivalent of running out of ammo, with just Animal Crossing to rehash for Christmas with their touted microphone. In the meantime, I've moved onto the Xbox 360 and it's had waves of hyped games. Granted, not all are incredible, but most of them at least had exciting premises or good advertising to get the word out. Meanwhile, Nintendo remains silent but for the commercials that are still talking about Wii Fit or even Nintendogs and Mario Kart DS.

When most of your advertising is stuck in a time warp, it's a sign that there isn't anything worth mentioning in your calendar of releases. I lost my confidence in Nintendo after realizing that I stopped playing Smash Brothers Brawl and there was nothing left on my Wii to play. The games I look forward to have stopped and all I have now are games acting as collections of mini games or rereleases of previous games. Nintendo's next year isn't promising at all. The only game to receiving some favorably hype is Sega's Madworld, and that's March.

But the worst part is that Nintendo grown cold towards gamers like me. The faithful since the 80s and 90s. Nobody can say Nintendo is doing something wrong, because Nintendo is still making money. Money they can brag about in front of Microsoft and Sony. And yet the average score of Wii games puts it in 3rd place in the console competition. It's become a sad year for me to realize where the priorities over at Nintendo HQ have become.

Tatsunoko vs. Capcom Confirmed for the Wii: I Haven't Sold it Yet!

Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom, the game everyone thought would never come to the U.S. is indeed coming and a playable version will be at E3 this year.

The amazing thing is that the rights to the characters in Tatsunoko belongs to somewhere around 12 or 13 companies. This is the reason Jump Ultimate Stars never came to the U.S. officially. But somewhere it's coming, so I'll be pitting Casshern against Ryu or even cooler, the mech from Lost Planet vs. Gatchaman (if I remember my animes correctly).

This is actually a much bigger deal then it sounds. My Wii has been devoid of activity for months. Not since Brawl will I enjoy something on my Wii. Madworld came and went, and Okami was just a port (still a good game, but still).

Is this a sign that Nintendo listens? We still don't know what prompted this sudden announcement, but maybe if the sales are good, it's a good indicator to what kind of games we want on the Wii.

Friday, May 15, 2009

TF2 Jukes Us All With the Spy Update

After some lunch at In n Out, I head back to my computer to check on day 4 of the Sniper Update. I punch in the words in Firefox's handy Awesome Bar and expect one of two things: the sniper update on page 4 or Google giving me the sniper update as the first hit.

Neither. The first hit is a perplexing Spy Update link. Did I hit a virus? Is someone hack me? Shenanigans?

Lo and behold, the Spy from yesterday who discovered the joy of the Sniper's new Razorback shield had in turned backstabbed the Sniper thanks to the new Dead Ringer watch.

It's certainly has me excited even more then before. The Huntsman's bow sounded cool giving the Sniper more medium-range ability because sitting back in my Sniper perch and headshotting fools just isn't my thing. All in all, the Sniper is near the bottom of my game time ratio (mainly medic/soldier) but the Spy? He's near the bottom too but at least for good reason (I suck).

This hybrid class update will be the first of it's kind. Typically, there's a huge rush of one class rushes trying to get the achievements and unlock the new goodies. I see Valve didn't want half it's servers with people playing seriously get stuck with 6 snipers when you're on offense. With two classes with an update, there might just as many spies backstabbing just as many snipers. Like, cycle of life anyone?

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Rush of Nostalgia For You Good Sir

In case you didn't know, Banjo-Tooie and Virtual-On just released alongside the new Broken Steel DLC for Fallout 3, so I've been busy trying to keep up. So far, Broken Steel is an awesome addition to extending Fallout 3's notorious ending, but BT has completely engrossed me. The legendary Stop & Swop feature that was never fully implemented in the original games has come to fruition, even if the actual payout feels a little less then expected.

Banjo-Tooie was released back in November 2000 as the sequel to the then hit success, Banjo-Kazooie. A game from Rare about a bear with some snappy shorts (Banjo) and the bird that lives in his backpack (Kazooie) and there adventures. It's quite a feeling seeing as the first game got you to relate to Banjo and Kazooie as one, cohesive character. Now in Tooie, the big draw is how they can separate and play differently. Incredible! I'm having more fun playing as a bear or a bird separately as opposed to what's effectively a flying bear-bird!

I'm having more fun now on this platformer, nearly 10-years-old, then any other platformer as of late. Hell, I'm enjoying coming back to this game now more then Mario Galaxy from two years ago. Every level has a new move to learn to expand my movement and revisit older levels with and each level has a distinct flavor that makes it unique, a hook if you will. My favorite, Jolly Rodger Lagoon, has 90% of the level take place underwater, and in order to even attempt the level, you need the help of now playable Mumbo Jumbo to use his magic and oxygenate the water. A level that takes place underwater without the hassle of your character's breath capacity! I also think it's funny they revitalized the cliched ice or lava by making a level that is two islands; one ice themed and the other lava themed.

And the last thing is the humor. Banjo-Tooie is rife with clever humor, especially new text pertaining to the Stop & Swop. If you've downloaded Banjo-Kazooie, you can go back and collect items which will carry over to Tooie. When you hatch an egg for example, Banjo comments how he's been carrying it for 10 year, waiting to get rid of it. Banjo gets transformed into a variety of things throughout the game, and a washing machine is one of them. An one of the bosses is a near-sighted welding torch. I mean, sure, a living welding torch, but near-sighted?

The game is just loaded to the brim with things long lost on modern day platformers, from humor, to creativity, to development. Nuts 'n' Bolts may be their new gig, but I refuse to see it as Banjo-Threeie (as Gruntilda prophecized).

Friday, May 1, 2009

Gamestop Shenigans

When Aksys announced the premium package to Blazblue, I was excited to preorder the game myself in order to guarantee myself something that was only on a limited run. Simple right? It's been announced for a around 3 days and this is a consumer product with potential, so surely its order forms the world over have changed to add it.

I drive down to the Gamestop I regularly go to preorder it with the help of my copy of L4D for store credit. When I arrive though, I'm informed they didn't have it available to preorder. I could preorder the regular edition, but as far as they know, there's no premium pack.

Sure enough, I double check their own website. It's right there and in fact, it's being advertised on the main page. They even have exclusive art books for online orderers.

I decide to try my luck at another location after business I had that day. Ok, not only did they not have it available to reserve, it was on their upcoming games list, right in front of the cashier.

Either there is a massive cover up conspiracy on the existence of this game, or there is just a bigger then usual amount of incompetency going on at Gamestop now.