Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

This last year has seen a lot in the way of end of life consoles and features. The Wii U is dead (finally), though frankly it was stillborn to begin with. PS3 will no longer support PS Now.

But this year also saw the release of the NES Classic console and a bevy of retro games (specifically on the E-Shop). And in the last couple of years, the “retro” 8 and 16 bit games have become increasingly popular.

But, how does this all stand up?

Don’t get me wrong – I grew up on the NES/SNES. Games like Contra, Zelda and of course, the titular Mario Bros games. And I do still love them. In fact, I recently got myself an SNES. But with the sophistication of current games – is simple nostalgia enough to keep us engaged?

I think of games like Mega Man. An absolute classic. I don’t think anyone could dispute that Mega Man 2 is easily one of the best games of the generations. That being said – how does it stack up next to say, Fallout 4 or The Witcher 3?

Obviously the older stuff isn’t as technically proficient. And, things like the controls are considerably more simplistic. But are those the deciding factors? Is there a way to say “X is better than Y”? Is that the question we should even be asking?

All I can say, from personal experience, is a lot of those games just don’t hold up like I (and I’ll say we and speak for some of you) would like them to.

I think of picking up the NES Classic, but then I look at those games and think: Do I really want to spend 80$ to play Bubble Bobble? Or, is the real fun of Bubble Bobble, in my mind – I mean, the memory of playing it side by side with my friends (and in my case, my grand mother) as a kid?

bub-2

And I know, for whatever reason, nostalgia is a huge part of this generation (age group). So I, by default, should be in love with all of the retro stuff coming out. And part of me is. But it’s just nostalgia for nostalgia’s purpose.

I think I’m more interested in where we are, and where we will be potentially over the course of the next few years. The potential in the gaming industry right now seems virtually limitless. VR, despite it being an early incarnation, has some very interesting possibilities. Games, in general, have gotten more complex in terms of actual gameplay, graphics, stories, etc. Even games that I thought there was no hope for the series – like Resident Evil – have surprised me and put out some super high quality games. Which is especially amazing, given the proclivity towards the retro, since Resident Evil 1 was easily one of my favourite PS1 games. In that sense, this nostalgic indulgence is definitely a positive for the future of the industry.

Ok, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that indie developers are reaching back to our roots and showing us where we came from – and are doing some things to make them new and innovative. I also think it’s great that consoles like NES Classic exist for those who never had the opportunity to play through Zelda when it came out.

But this focus (read: cashing in) on the nostalgia of our generation isn’t something I can really get on board with. As far as my consumer dollar goes – I will be laying it down for the new and truly innovative. That is to say, there is nothing wrong with working on something new with a nostalgic twist to it. Every new Zelda has been as good or better than the last – with a few exceptions.

What do you think? Are we better off looking to the past for inspiration and fun, or keep our eyes on the horizon and wait to see what breakthroughs are sure to develop – some in the near future. Let me know in the comments.

– The Ego

Last ditch Switch

I know the title implies a pretty negative connotation to what I’m about to lay down – but trust me – it isn’t.

I haven’t been this excited for anything Nintendo since the N64 released Pokemon Stadium! I mean, I’ve bought every Nintendo console since the dawn of time…Or, you know, had it bought for me. Not a lot of disposable income in 1987 being that I was 4.Though, admittedly, both iterations of the Wii were giant flops. Not just for me either and I don’t need to go through the list either. If you read through my previous posts, you know how I feel about the Wii (U).

But the Switch holds a hell of a lot of promise for Nintendo. If they handle this right – they could completely turn their company around. And just in time too. Because if this doesn’t take, well, see the title. Time to hang up the ole’ spurs.

Here’s what’s on my mind:

Nintendo, for a long time, has been a much better software developer than hardware. And, frankly, that’s been true since the N64. Things have been going downhill since then. I’m sorry Gamecube die-hards, but you know I’m right. But one thing Nintendo does extremely well is make hand-held consoles. Vita who? Sony, you really shouldn’t have bothered. But the 3DS is doing, and historically has done, really well. Now just think of it – a home/hand-held console. The lack of divergence in R&D, both teams working towards one end – that’s a winning idea. And the promise that holds – oh boy. We may get what we’ve (read me) been asking for for a long time – a fully 3D rendered Pokemon game! Of course, all of this is operating on the premise that there won’t be a heir to the 3DS throne. Since 3D is a fad of the past, one can only hope that the successor will be the Switch. I mean, it only makes sense to focus all of the effort on one machine.

Now, I’m sure a lot of you are skeptical, and I understand. So am I. I’ve been burnt twice too. I bought both of the last consoles at full retail and regretted it. But, like many of you, I will be in there in March picking up my switch.

I also know a lot of you are reading this, saying: “But Ego, how is it going to compete against the PS4 and Xbone?”

clpp8zc

To you I say: It doesn’t have to. Nintendo has always exited in a curious niche of the industry. The gimmick niche. And I think that the Switch will continue to exist there as well. But if they can put out an offering that at least matches the visuals of the generation (I’m not talking PS4 Pro and Scorpio) – I think that the Switch will have a lot to offer. The hardware difference has never been a real deterrent for people buying Nintendo consoles anyway.

Now, this is the part where I talk about the meaning behind the title. In my ever so humble opinion – this is it for Nintendo. This is their absolute, dying on the vine, last ditch effort at being a hardware developer (outside of maybe sticking to just handheld games, but I really don’t see the point of that). If the Switch doesn’t succeed – take my advice -hang it up. Do yourself (and your investors) a favour and become a software developer. That is something Nintendo does very well. License your titles to Sony and Microsoft. Let them shoulder the burden on losing money on consoles. You’ve proved you can win on platforms other than the home console – look at Pokemon Go. Hell, strike an exclusivity deal with Sony or Microsoft and let them take Mario, Luigi, Link, Zelda, Donkey and Pikachu under their umbrellas and just watch the truckloads of cash pile up. With the winning franchises you’ve created, you don’t need to make the system to play them on too. It worked for Sega.

– The Ego

Fadtastic

So, Skylanders, Disney Infinity and now Lego Dimensions.

The horizon seems more like an infestation than a boon. I won’t lie or pretend like I haven’t played it, don’t own it, etc – because I do.

The appeal of Skylanders, at first, was two-fold:

  1. My wife agreed to play it with me if I bought it (and better yet, she ended up splitting it and the supplementary characters I bought).
  2. I am a collector. The thought of having physical DLC that I could handle, display and appreciate – was pretty appealing.

The unfortunate truth, though, is both of those reasons were fleeting.

So, with 1, my wife had enough. Understandably. I put out a lot of time and effort in hunting these things, well after she lost interest. The truth is, when the figures were about 8$, it seemed okay. Grab the ones you want, pay a bit at a time, not a big deal. But then Skylanders: Giants came out. The Giants, of course, were huge and thus more expensive. 14.99$ was a hefty price tag for a small toy, but hell, there were only 8. Grabbing one at a time over a period seemed reasonable. But then Skylanders: Swap-Force came out. I kept it up. The prices, they also kept up. In other words, they got more and more expensive. Which seemed okay, again (you know, we can justify just about anything to ourselves), because the figures had new tech and were built a little better. But then the figures were 16.99$ and two per element…I kept it up, and I basically ended up buying almost all of them – mostly on the secondary market because the scalpers scalp well.

Then Skylanders: Trap Masters came out. So now it’s mini figures, regular figures, Trap Masters and traps. I knew the whole time that all of these things were a cash grab – and I didn’t care. But a man has his limits. You can imagine my opinion of the new annual release – Skylanders: Superchargers. I can only imagine what accessories you’ll have to buy beyond the vehicles.

The problem is, a game like this is tantamount to a virus. Once it settles, it spreads and multiplies. Which is way people convince themselves it’s okay to buy in droves, and in turn, sets a dangerous precedent for the publishers and developers.

So while I was busy buying and collecting a legion of Skylanders figures, Disney was hatching their own bundle of cash-grabbing monsters. Their concept, slightly different, but “compelling” enough to find a place for it in the market. With Disney buying both Lucas Arts and Marvel in a short period of time – it was obvious that they’d be making their Infinity debut eventually.

And then, like a classic 80’s wrestling match, a third contender is running down the isle to vie for the title.

Lego Dimensions. I get the appeal. The Lego games are way more fun that I’d have likely given them credit for before I’d engaged in a few of them. I was fortunate to be able to grab one of the Lego: Harry Potter games, I think I got Years 5-7 before 1-4, but I knew the series well enough to justify it. They’re easy, but compelling.

So, on that basis, I get why people would be interested. But the market is so saturated now with these toy/games. Something has to give. Given how little I see come into the store, and how little I see go out – I feel like the rug is about to be pulled out from under their collective feet.

It looks like the early fall is going to be a rumble in the jungle. All three games will be out within the same thirty day period. That being said, I feel it in my gut. I think this is going to be the year where the camel’s back is finally broken. Shelves are stocked and interest is waning. Hopefully we can all get back to business. Oh, and don’t get me started on Amiibos.

– The Ego

This is basically it

I had something else planned to be published when this article was set to go live, but then I saw this video linked through Facebook (ugh, I hate giving credit to that awful site):


Nintendo, Gamefreak – I hope you’re paying attention. This is pretty much what we’re all waiting for. You can check out the article here. Realistically, if this is something that someone can put together, on their own, without the billions of dollars and marketing engine that is Nintendo, then you’ve run out of excuses Reggie/Iwata’s replacement.

Don’t get me wrong: Stadium, your Tekken version of Pokemon (currently named Poken) – those are some cool ideas. Hell, I even really liked Pokemon Snap. And, I have enjoyed playing through every iteration of the handheld releases and re-releases that you’ve put out. But this, this is what people are clamouring for. If I’ve said it once (and I have), then I’ve said it ad nauseam: Make us a damned home console, 3D Pokemon game already.

The basic work, or idea, is already there. How it would work is easy. The only real question at hand is: How? Do you do single player, with the same system for battling online as you’d get in the 3DS iterations or on Super Smash Bros Wii U? Either way. MMO, single-player adventure with some online battling – no one cares. I mean, everyone cares and people are going to pull the rope both ways, but one thing I can assure you: No matter how you do it, people are going to be happy and excited. I think I can speak for the masses when I say, people don’t necessarily want to be running around as the pokemon. I know I don’t want to be Charmander, but I do want to train my own in crystal clear, 4K quality up on my big-screen. I want to run side by side with my Squirtle, and take on Brock’s gym and show him how weak his Onix really is. Graveller? More like Groveller.

Awful puns aside, that’s it. That’s what people want, and that’s what I want. Seeing someone import the characters they love into a world that looks that amazing. I can’t help but question why there is so much resistance on the opposite side of the fence?

If we’re to believe Reggie, then Nintendo wants to make fans happy and deliver those AAA titles. But I don’t see a lot of movement across the desk. If anything, Nintendo has been taking one step forward, and about a kilometer back. They’re going backwards so fast, they actually believe they’re winning.

I think one of the most frustrating part of not giving us something like this:

Is that it wouldn’t be that hard. I think most people would be happy to settle for just being able to catch the current pokemon in existence. You’ll definitely find some greedy people who won’t be happy no matter how hard you try and please them. Though, what I can safely say, from my experience working in the industry, the majority will be content knowing that 1) Their pleas were heard and 2) That once the first one succeeds (and it will) it means promising things for the future.

Granted, that’s a lot of 3D sprites to design and code, plus a lot of moves.

But Nintendo – think of the customization! You could have people choosing what types of trainers they are and match their play styles with some sort of attitude parameters so that you can actually see a difference in between how your pokemon’s relationship with you vs someones.

I’ll let it rest there – barring my stumbling across more amazing videos like that in the near future.

Nintendo – take this opportunity to re-asses your industry role(s). If we can come to terms on that, I can spare the harsh words for a while. I really don’t think what people, myself included, is unreasonable. The market, for TVs as well, is all going to an in-home systems.\

– The Ego

I couldn’t just let well enough alone…

Well, I was going to lay off of Nintendo for a while. I’ve been bashing the big N pretty hard lately. But then I saw this. Make sure you watch it to the end:

I think that about sums it up.

Nintendo has officially become the snake-oil salesmen of the videogame era. They’re out there peddling their wares without a care in the world for the end-user. I think, probably from the beginning, Nintendo had good intentions at heart. But let’s face it. Now, they’re just out there, manufacturing gimmick after gimmick to the point that the whole thing has become a seven-layer salad of stupid. If Dante were resurrected in the 21st century, I think he could write a new epic parable for negotiating the levels of Nintendo. Yes, I just intimated that Nintendo is the equivalent of Hell for those of you not well versed in 13th century Italian poets. And at it’s cold, desolate heart is the three-headed beast: Reggie, Iwata and Miyamoto. Each seemingly more disconnected from reality than the last. And in their mouths (sorry, I really like Dante and very rarely get to reference it): All of your favourite franchises screaming for sweet release, either death or literal release (dates).

Their head-space is so cluttered with thoughts of new hardware that they can’t even see the big picture any more. I’ve seen Reggie making statements about how VR isn’t any fun. Not that I disagree (though only time will tell if I’m wrong), but from a company who’s entire reason for being currently is coming up with wacky tech concepts to sell hardware, while completely forgetting that they need titles to push sales of said hardware.

Pumping out various Zelda re-masters will only fend off the hordes for so long guys. I loved Wind Waker, Ocarina and Majora’s Mask, but guess what? I spent 400$+taxes to get a new Zelda at some point. Just a heads up – I expected that some point to be before you release another new console.

I was reading an article on Polygon not long ago, and I came across this gem:

“The key to Nintendo’s success, Fils-Aime said, isn’t just to make good games, but to help people understand why they’re good.”

Really? That’s what you think Nintendo’s job is? Out of curiosity, do you see Sony or Microsoft or any software developing studio having to go out of their way to explain the merit of their games? And, before the trolls get-a-bitin’, I’m not referencing the E word, store tech demos or CES. I can’t remember the last time that Bethesda or (formerly) Irrational Games had to sit down and hold the gamer’s hand and say “Don’t you see what makes our games so great? It’s X”. Hasn’t happened yet. Because, and hold your gasps if you can Nintendo – most games are sold on their own merit. Well, the good ones anyway.

I wish I could have ten minute to talk to these guys, with the bullshit filters off. Not because I want to have an interview – I have seen the kind of propaganda they pump out in interviews. They would have made Goebbels proud. I just would love to be able to ask them what they think the average gamer is looking for, and how their current business strategy is making that happen for them.

Because so far, all I see is kitschy toys produced “for children” to create a secondary market to the benefit only of those sad enough to be scalping them, hardware that is outdated and, once again, gimmicky and games that reflect that attitude *cough* Star Fox/Metroid *cough*.

I swear to you Nintendo – if you actually produce what your fans are asking for, they will buy it. I’d buy three copies of a 3D Wii U Pokemon just to make sure they continue to make them. I really would. Pokemon U for everyone that Christmas!

That being said, I’ll leave N alone for now…

– The Ego