The Calm before E³ 2012 – Crazy Prediction Time

April 11, 2012

Just got done re-watching last year´s Nintendo press conference, then decided to take a look at when I posted the previous prediction-blog entry and found out that I´m right on time. Anyway, yes, it´s “that time of the year” again! Gamers´ christmas is almost upon us, with less than two months away.  From June 5th to 7th, publisher from all around the world will once again show off what they´re going to deliver in the near and far away future of gaming. Strangely enough, this E3 2012 is an odd one for me, personally. I was hyped beyond belief last year, which lead to a little bit of a let down. Wii U and its tablet-controller were unveiled, but we didn´t get to see any real, exclusive games, just smallish mini-game prototypes. Meanwhile, this year´s E3 is bound to feature a total Wii U blow-out. Yet, for the first time in a long time I´m unsure if I´ll get the new console at launch. But more about that in the next paragraph. No matter my personal hype-levels, predicting stuff, mixing the likely and crazy, is always fun. So let´s begin the Flyingfisch´ predictions for E3 2012!

 Fanboy´s favorite: Nintendo

 As I just mentioned in the introduction above, I´m strangely unhyped about the Wii U-system. It´s been clear for a long time now  that Nintendo´s nextgen-console wouldn´t be up to par with the supposed specs of Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4. But when rumors went from 4-5 times a 360, to 2-3 times a 360, to “on par”, and, as of lately, not even being as powerful as a 360 in certain areas of its hardware – that´s a bitter pill to swallow. By no means would I consider myself a graphics whore. I never understood how any enthusiastic gamer could let his fun be dictated by hardware, instead of software. When console gamers were still happy with the PS2´s SD-visuals, I was enjoying higher resolutions and smoother, more detailed graphics on my PC. At the same time now, I have no problem having fun with Radiant Historia, a 2D-ish Nintendo DS-game that I´m playing via my 3DS´s backwards compatibility, when I was playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Assassin´s Creed: Brotherhood, as well as Gears of War 3 not too long ago. The heck, I even tried playing Zelda II: Link´s Adventure, though I stopped that. Not due to bad graphics, but because it´s too frustratingly hard for me – shut up, you! What it all comes down to: I have no problems with enjoying games from any technological point in time, as long as they´re simply that: great games.

However, there´s a limit to it all. For me that limit is launching a brand new nextgen-console in 2012 that´s not even clearly more powerful than a 2006 console in every area of its hardware. It´s got nothing to do with actual game graphics. For me, it becomes a matter of principles. As much as I love Nintendo, I *do not want* to day 1-support a video game system that´s that disappointing in terms of raw power. And it truly is a matter of principles. I wouldn´t complain if the Wii U was only insignificantly stronger than a 360 in some areas. But it is absolutely unacceptable for it to be weaker in parts. Absolutely unacceptable. I do realize that this might sound like an unreasonable, irrational rant, but that´s just my very personal stance on these matters. I´m truly annoyed by gamers that´d rather play hardware than software – but there´s a difference between going for the blue ocean or simply taking a yellow stream of piss. Of course, all of those hardware rumors are, well, rumors. So I guess the above is something preemptive in its entirety. Let´s hope it wasn´t justified.

 Now, on to happier topics: Games! The one Wii U-game I cannot imagine *not* to be at E3 2012 is Pikmin 3. In my mind, this has long been confirmed as one of the new system´s launch-titles. While being loved by the fan-crowd, the Pikmin-franchise isn´t Nintendo´s most powerful one, so putting it at launch would give it a nice boost. Also, I couldn´t imagine any more suited titles to show off the improved graphical capabilities, if only for HD. And aside from the visuals, there´s just a ton of ideas that the tablet-controller could be used for. Another title I´m looking forward to is RetroStudios´ nextgen-game. I really hope they´re working on a “hardcore” title with impressive graphics, and not being wasted on another 2D-platformer that could have been done by any of Nintendo´s many studios. In a perfect world, RetroStudios would be working on a western RPG (*cough* Raven Blade *cough*), giving birth to Nintendo´s answer to The Elder Scrolls and Dark Souls. More likely, though, they´re developing some kind of first-person shooter. Even so, I´m looking forward to seeing that shooter, because there´s really only two developers in the world that create shooters that go beyond the Call of Duty-archetype: Valve and RetroStudios. As for this year´s surprise franchise-revival, I´d like to see a new Startropics-game. I hardly know anything about the franchise, but I´ve been told that it´s something like Nintendo´s answer to Sony´s Uncharted-IP, so just like a RetroStudio-developed WRPG, stepping into the blockbuster action-market would make for another interesting move. Since I´m actually having trouble to come up with more first-party related predictions, here´s the one thing I want above all else: A first-party announcement that has the gaming world in awe, both from stunning visuals AND daring, revolutionary gameplay. For a faint, spontaneous idea, I´d like to see some kind of open world game set in a sky world. Yeah, something along the lines of Skyward Sword being done right …

There´s not much of interest to predict about third-party support for the Wii U. Basically, ports, ports, ports. Accompanied by some ridiculous excuses for why game XYZ won´t be released on the Wii U (“if we were to make game for Wii U, we feel like we´d have to make good use of the tablet-controller. Since game XYZ doesn´t do that, we´ll not release it on Wii U.” sigh). There´ll be Assassin´s Creed 3 and Darksiders 2. Maybe Resident Evil 6 and the new Call of Duty. But what will third-parties be offering beyond their multiplatform stuff? Well, there´s Ubisoft´s Killerfreaks, which looked surprisingly nice at last year´s E3. But you cannot shake of the feelings of this being another Red Steel-repeat, turning out to be some half-assed token-effort. Prove my doubts wrong, Ubisoft! Other than that … nothing. I totally expect Square Enix to announce Final Fantasy 13 Versus for other systems than just the PS3 (they´d deserve to go bankrupt if they keep it PS3-exclusive), but not at E3. That´s something for Tokyo Game Show. Same reason why I don´t expect a new Monolith Soft-title at E3. Generally speaking, though, I expect more Wii U-announcements from Japanese developers as the year proceeds, while the West keeps putting lazy ports on the new console.

The Nintendo 3DS is in a completely different situation. We already got announcements for Kingdom Hearts 3D and Theathrhythm, both being released in summer, with Mario Tennis Open coming next month already. Here´s hoping Monster Hunter 3G will be announced, featuring an added online-mode for European and American gamers. The latter half of the year will see Paper Mario and Fire Emblem: Awakening, and a new 2D-Mario platformer is heavily rumored to be shown. Beyond that, I´m hoping to get a first trailer for Super Smash Bros. 3D, with a release date for early 2013. Since it´d be dumb to release both the 3DS- and Wii U-version of the next Smash Bros. at the same time (at least, it´d be horrible for my personal sanity), spreading them out over at least a year makes sense. Sakurai hinted at the handheld-version being a more personal experience, while the console-version would set up the grand stage. So, I´m expecting Smash Bros. 3D to be announced at this year´s E3, missing an elaborate story-mode, but introducing new, exciting gameplay-mechanics and enough content to be happy anyways, while a Wii U-version will be released some time in 2014 for the Wii U – letting 3DS-gamers transfer their individually equipped handheld-characters to the console-version (yeah, Sakurai´s totally putting some Kid Icarus into Smash Bros!). The one franchise only I and like three other people in the world care about, is Endless Ocean/Forever Blue. This should look fantastic in 3D, with the diver hovering in front of the screen, fish popping out even farther and using the depth to present the … uhm, depths. And, of course, there will be Zelda. Between a brand new 3DS-Zelda, a Majora´s Mask-remake or a New The Legend of Zelda-game, anything is possible. We´ll get at least one of them.

On the third-party side of new announcements, I´ll keep firm and demand Final Fantasy 15 to be a 3DS-title. That´s not just a fanboy´s wish, though. I truly believe that the only way to get the Final Fantasy-franchise back on track is by shrinking down its *glamour*. Get rid of Dragon Ball-esque attacks, forget about those fancy cutscenes that suck away so much of the game´s budget. Concentrate on what made the Final Fantasy-franchise popular: Creating a great, fun game. Maybe that´s just me, but Bravely Default (which is hopefully announced for a western release at E3) looks so much more charming and interesting than Final Fantasy 13 could ever wish to be. You don´t need to spend 5 years+ on high end-graphics to make a fun Final Fantasy-title. And maybe it takes putting the franchise on a Nintendo-handheld to realize that. Aside from a MH3G localization, I´d like to see Resident Evil: Revelations 2, or whatever it´d be named. Sales in Japan were good, though only solid at best in the rest of the world. Still, the first Revelations-game received lots of praise and 3DS-gamers from all over the world would love to get another entry of the RE-series. And while PSVita-fans are heralding it as the savior for their system, I´d actually be interested in a proper 3DS-version of the next Call of Duty, supporting the Circle Pad Pro as well as a Touchscreen-aiming option. Not expecting much from western developers generally, though, they don´t like money, so supporting the 3DS would make no sense, amirite. More Japanese games to be seen at, again, Tokyo Game Show or Nintendo´s fall conference.

Now, the one big surprise besides the Wii U blow-out would be a 3DS-revision that so many gamers are clamoring for. Honestly, I have no idea what Nintendo could change about the current Nintendo 3DS-model to make a revision appear as hot as the DS lite did when compared to the DS phat back then. There a some people that think the 3DS is ugly, but I don´t see what you could drastically change about its looks. Personally, all I want is better battery life and maybe a slide pad with better grip. Just for “the lulz”, I´d love for a revision to still lack a second slide pad, just to spite the silly, annoying “I´m waiting for a revision with two slide pads“-crowd. Anyway, the reason why I´m speculating about a 3DS-revision in such a casual way is that I honestly couldn´t care less about it. In times where idiots (yes, I think an ad hominem is justified here) spend 600 Euro/Dollars on a new tablet *every* year, a new 500 Euro/Dollar smartphone *every* year and a 300 Euro/Dollar handheld that´s got nothing announced for the near and far away future, in times like these, I can very well justify spending a measly 150 Euro/Dollar on a 3DS-revision. I would have never thought that I´d ever think like that -I bought a DS phat at launch and kept using it until I got my 3DS-, but all the insanity and neglect of crazy expensive prices for luxury devices changed my mind on that. So, uhm, … thank you?

Microsoft´s effort machine

I gave away my Xbox 360 during last christmas, so I have no Microsoft-console at the moment. I also don´t have any plans to get a Xbox 720. Being multiplatform doesn´t make sense for my software-likings, so having a 3DS, a gaming-PC and maybe a Wii U will do the trick. However, it´s going to be interesting what Microsoft is gonna do with their nextgen-system, and more importantly, when they´re gonna do it. Are they rushing it out to avoid giving Nintendo too much of a headstart? Are they going all out in terms of power to go for the kill move against Sony? And what´s going to be their lineup? Exclusives haven´t been Microsofts stronghold, but can they really beat the competition without these incentives? The new Halo-game will be a nice good buy-gift for 360-gamers. Maybe it´s time for Kinect to go *hardcore*?

The Third Place: Sony

I´m (not) sorry, but i just don´t care.

Conclusion: 

Phew, I guess that´s that then. Dunno if you got the same feeling during reading the above text, but it seems kinda … boring, doesn´t it? Even assuming we´ll get all the stuff I predicted, it´s all great, promising stuff, but nothing too revolutionary (well, except for where I predicted a “daring, revolutionary” game), but consisting of sequels and known franchises. Especially for the Wii U, it remains to be seen if Nintendo can successfully manage to make their first HD-system feel fresh beyond upped resolution. E3 2012 would be a good place for revealing new incentives and directions for this stale growing industry. With that in mind, I´d like to conclude this year´s crazy prediction with the following words: Have a nice E3 and fuck you, Apple!


The Calm before E³ 2011 – Crazy Prediction Time

April 18, 2011

At some point of the year, E3 feels awfully far away. When it is in the coming then, it feels like it´s been just a day since the previous one. Unneeded to say that pre-E3 time has hit hard four days ago, when – we´ll get to that. E3 2011 takes place from June 7th – 9th, with conferences starting on Monday 6th. When I wrote last year that E3 2010 was shaping up to become a great one, I meant it. What I planned to write in this entrance passage of this year´s prediction article was the c0mplete opposite. By no means did I think that E3 2011 would be a bad one, but a … rather boring show. An E3 of games, rather than shocking announcements and revelations. Again, this changed about four days ago. As in the previous years, I´ll mostly focus on Nintendo stuff, since that´s what I´m most interested in, and I´m no phoney to pretend excitement for things that I´m not excited for. So let´s start with the FlyingFisch´ predictions of E3 2011!

Fanboy´s Favorite: Nintendo 


Shit – that is what would be a good single-word description of the Wii´s software lineup for 2011. There´s been nothing, and there will be more of that. Ah, well, we got Kirby and Mario Sports Mix, and we´re going to see Wii Play Motion. I guess that´s better than nothing? Not really.  Reality is, the Wii is in a comatose state, both in software- and hardware-sales, though the software-side is off dramatically worse. There´s literally not a single promising third-party title to look forward to (except for DQ10, sigh), and the only Nintendo-titles to wait for are long-overdue localizations of year-old JRPGs and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. I guess that releasing those three titles could somewhat excuse the shit first half of the year, but after these three games, it´s over, nada, finito, the end. And with all due respect: I don´t see Nintendo announcing enough totally unknown high-profile games for the Wii to keep it running in 2012. That is where the happenings from the past four days come into play.

Project Café, N6 or simply: Wii 2. Ever since Game Informer published information on a Wii 2-reveal at this year´s E3, together with a bunch of other informations, a non-fact-megaton took place. More and more reputable (lol) websites started to report on anonymous sources, claiming that indeed the Wii 2 is coming. That by itself isn´t news-worthy, but nobody would have expected Nintendo to show off their new home console at E3 2011 already, much less in-depth details. However, all these reports say that Wii 2 will be “a notch” more powerful than Xbox 360, feature a 6 inch screen and better motion controls than PlayStation Move. Also, big publishers are supposed to have development kits for months and and anonymous comment made it sound as if this would be a system that´ll please all self-proclaimed hardcore-gamers. That is it. What´s notable is that none of this is reported as rumors, but a actual facts.  As for a launch-date of the Wii-successor, one source mentioned that Nintendo planned to launch these holidays, but delayed it back to Q1/Q2 2012 due to 3DS.

What can you expect of Nintendo´s E3-conference, then? You can see my mock-up of the N6 just below this blog entry. That is what I expect. Nintendo´s answer to take over all of our homes, introducing a 6 inch-tablet in addition to improved Wii-remotes. The actual system, that doubles as a docking station, streams content to the tablet. Even when you´re not fully engaged in some hardcore-game experience, where you´d use the wiimote and nunchuck, you can just grab the tablet and access all the other functions of the Wii 2, like social networking, entertainment stuff like movies, and playing smaller games that you purchased online, as well as accessing bonus-content from retail-games. Now, why a tablet, you might ask? Because that would solve one of the biggest staples of gaming: Destroying the boundary to a single place at home. Whenever someone wants to play a game, he or she has to sit down in the living room and devote time exclusively to that environment. That makes playing games a very luxurious experience for a lot of casual gamers. You´re probably familiar with “it´s just a game, leave it and come”, answered by you with an annoyed “let me just save!”. A tablet would make away with such limited occasions for gaming. Actually, there´s a great example of a single game where this matter applies to: Animal Crossing. When I bought the GameCube-version way back then, no matter how neat the game might have been, it was too boring to motivate myself to sit down in front of the TV. When the NDS-version was released, I kept playing it for hours. Because I could play next to the PC, while watching something on TV, or quickly close my DS if I had enough. The barrier of exclusive environment was shattered.

If it was a Nintendo-commercial, it´d go like that: You wake up in the morning, walk into the living room. You see the tablet, that´s sitting in the docking station,  and a light keeps blinking. You pick up the tablet and the screen turns on: You have a new message from one of your friends. You smile and walk into the kitchen, make yourself a cup of hot chocolate, sit down at the table and touch an icon on the tablet to read the message. You decide to reply, so you type something on an up-popping virtual keyboard and click “send”. You look at the time display and realize that it´s a bit early, so you start playing Cut The Rope. After a while, you remember that you could use the time you have a bit better and after a few clicks through the tablet´s menu, you start Monster Hunter 4. You cannot play the full game – you´d need wiimote and nunchuck and the TV for that – but you can access your MH4-account through the tablet and organize your items, change your current equipment, make sure that the damn cats produce more honey, and so on. Then you see that a friend has come online, and, oh, it´s one of your fellow MH4-players, so start a text-chat with him or her, and so you plan for your next game-session. It´s finally time to leave the house, so you put the tablet back into the docking station. And just before leaving the house, you grab your 3DS. Fín.

That´s it for Wii 2. Maybe Nintendo won´t show anything about their next home c0nsole and all of these reports are revealed to be fake. But let´s hope that it´s all true, because nobody can want to live through the year of 2012 with the Wii. That´s not going to happen. What´s definitely going to happen is the announcement of dozens of games for Nintendo 3DS. We already know that Super Mario Galaxy 3 will be shown off at E3. Additionally, Mario Kart and Paper Mario are sure bets. Since they won´t be out by then, Ocarina of Time 3D, Kid Icarus and Starfox 64 3D will make an appearance, too. Add Resident Evil: Revelations, and you have all the known stuff for 3DS. But what about more?

The Wii 2-hype kind of ruins this prediction, because I believe it´d be overkill, but a Smash Bros. for 3DS would make for a great announcement.  Honestly, it doesn´t matter for which system, a Smash Bros.-game would always be celebrated. Just make sure to add Ridley and Krystal as playable characters this time, Nintendo! Other than that, I want to see a new Fire Emblem-series for 3DS. I´m currently playing Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars and it is a perfect fit for a handheld. Your typical FE-story would blow that Tom Clancy-stuff out of cold water, though. I´m not doing any game-predictions for the Wii 2, since that´s a risky prediction in itself, but if it wasn´t for that rumor, a new F-Zero-game would be nice. But that´d probably be a better showcase for a new HD-system.

What I want to see from Third-Parties is the biggest support one could imagine. What this means: Give me Final Fantasy 15 exclusively for 3DS, Square Enix! Give me Monster Hunter 4 Portable exclusively for 3DS, Capcom (splitting the fanbase would be the best way to ruin the franchise, which is why I think MH-games should stick to one platform. Obviously, I´d prefer 3DS over PSP2) ! Give me Zone of the Enders 3, Konami, as well as full-fledged Pro Evolution Soccer (with online-multiplayer, sigh). Give me a high-quality Mass Effect-spin off, Electronic Arts! Give me GTA, Take Two! Give me Assassin´s Creed, Ubisoft, but not a shitty, dumbed-down version. That´s it for the big names. I hope to see a lot of new stuff, too, good new stuff.

It´s not dead, yet, but close to it. I expect to see localization announcments of Xenoblade and The Last Story for Wii. Zelda: Skyward Sword will be an early fall release or another dual-release like Twilight Princess, releasing in the holidays, both as a Wii- and a Wii 2-version. Add in the recently announced Kirby-game and you have the last breath of the Wii.

As for complete out-of-the-blue predictions, I won´t let go of a big, epic Berserk-game, that lets you control Guts and swing the sword by yourself, using a wiimote with motionplus. Other than that, I have little to predict here. Wii 2 consumes most of my imagination.

Microsoft´s effort machine


That is really just me, so don´t take it as me claiming that it is a fact for all of us, but the Xbox 360 is even more dead to me than the Wii is. There´s two games I´m looking forward to, and I might buy one of them for PC instead of my 360. The biggest title is Mass Effect 3, of course. The final part of the trilogy, showing us if (male) Shepard can defend the galaxy against the Reapers´ menace. The last DLC “Arrival” was disappointing, but latest informations about the third ME-game have been quite positive. My one and only expectation for ME3 is that it is fun to play (and re-play) and that the solution to defeating the Reapers is NOT bringing all alien races together and kill the enemy with a combined fleet. That´d be utterly unbelievable (in the negative sense). And boring. And show me Tali´s face. That´s it. That other game is Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I never played the first to Deus Ex-games, but from what I saw of this one, it looks like a game filled with options to interact with the world around you. I love non-linear challenges, so this should please me greatly. But it might be even more pleasing on my PC. We´ll see about that.

The Third Place: Sony


I´m (not) sorry, but i just don´t care.

Conclusion:

Aaand that is it. Another E3 already, eh? I know it´s crazy with all these Wii 2-rumors, even moreso since the 3DS launched early this year. But it´s too exciting, too tantalizing to buy into all of that. The 3DS is a fantastic handheld and it´s destined to see a vast amount of great games. But a new Nintendo-home console, with another crazy feature? That´s the real deal, at least during these few days of conferences and hands-ons. It´s a hard wait, but in less then 1,5 months, we will know the truth about Wii 2. Is this another Nintendo ON-situation, or is it really happening? No matter how tiny the number of games worth playing, E3 is always the most exciting time for any gamers, and I´m happy that this year´s expo is shaping up to be more interesting than I had previously thunk.


The Man of the Industry – and Skyward Sword

March 2, 2011

In this video game industry, honesty and fairness is something not often displayed. It´s been a rough competition ever since the days of Nintendo versus Sega. It seems hard to imagine that one of these competing companies could talk in a manner that transcends typical boundaries between each competitor. Today, Satoru Iwata, head of Nintendo, managed to do exactly that. His GDC keynote speech about the event´s 25th anniversary made the Nintendo-boss look not so much like a Nintendo-guy, but someone who can speak out for the whole industry that he´s part of, too.

It was great to see Iwata take such a clear stance regarding Apple´s business model of cheap games. High-value games need to be sold at a certain price point, otherwise the gaming industry can´t keep creating these great experiences. Iwata talked about how all of them, be it Nintendo, MS, Sony or all the attending developers, have to make sure to innovate and to value their own work. And not to give in to a new business model of a company that has no own view about video games.

Now, obviously, GDC is not E3, but Nintendo indeed DID deliver E3-like announcements. The completely new Mario 3D is going to be a 3D-Mario platformer for the Nintendo 3DS-handheld and seems to follow the footsteps of both Super Mario Galaxy-titles, yet offering new features, like the hinted tanooki-suit and the revival of the traditional health-system, where Mario shrinks when hit by an enemy. Iwata said that the game would be fully revealed at E3.

Most interesting, though, is Zelda. And indeed was a new trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword shown. Admittedly, on my first time watching it, I felt underwhelmed. After several times now, I feel like there is a great game in the coming. But I´m still trying to figure out as to why it felt underwhelming. For one, they color saturation looks extremely washed out. Maybe that´s due to the video quality, but it really doesn´t help. Then there´s the occasionally bad enemy-design, like that fat guy with the wooden shield that pushes Link to the left. Then again, the Stalfos knight seems to be incredibly improved compared to the goofy model in the E3-demo. Personally, it´s these static, un-dynamic gameplay instances that get my hype down. For example, take a look at the tightrope scene. This looks as if it was very slow, very time-consuming and thus annoying. I remember smoothly running over tightropes in Assassin´s Creed 2 and … yeah. Then there´s those very blocky environments. The big room where Link fights the small spider is made of wide, bland walls and objects. There´s no detail to be seen and I almost get the feeling of it being the parody of a Zelda-dungeon. For last, the HUD looks awful. Some people claim that it´d be optional and can be deactivated, but I´ll believe that once I see it. The wiimote-overlay, the constant notice at the bottom middle that tells you how to use an item … that has to go away.

Now, on the positive side, the new main villain is gorgeous. I love crazy, arrogant menaces, and this guy looks like a mixture of Skullkid and Zant. Also, sword combat seems to be really complex. Notice how all the more aggressive enemies are blocking every sword-attack in that short trailer. Doesn´t make the impression as if hitting foes was as mindlessly easy as in Twilight Princess. I absolutely love the look of the desert-area, though I hope it isn´t too enclosed, too small in sheer size. But it´s hard to make out if the white wall is supposed to be an area limiter or just an object inmidst a bigger desert. The rolling enemy looks like a small Barroth btw., fellow Monster Hunter 3-fans. In general, as underwhelming as parts of Skyward Sword look, the overall feeling I get from both its E3-showing and now this trailer is that something new is on its way … something unknown.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword GDC-Trailer

We literally don´t know much about this Zelda-title, but with all previous series-entries, each game gave gamers a pretty distinctive impression early on. The Wind Waker was announced as a light-hearted adventure, Twilight Princess was always presented as the big, epic Lord of the Rings-entry. Skyward Sword is … Skyward Sword – whatever that´s supposed to mean. One might call it a lack of identity, but I feel like that could mean just the opposite: That this is going to be a different kind of Zelda-game, exactly the kind of big change that fans have wanted for a long time. Because let´s be honest: The clear focus of past 3D-Zeldas gave each series-entry its very own flavor, but it also limited them as a whole. Up until Ocarina of Time, Zelda-games didn´t have a perfectly defined flavor. Zelda-games were just mysterious adventures, sending the player on a big, unknown journey full of exploration. So far, Skyward Sword feels like it´s turning out be exactly that.


Time for Pokémon – The Next Generation

February 5, 2011

In the advent of the soon-to-be-launching Nintendo 3DS and the fact that I plan to wait for its first revision (thx for infecting me with that idea, sigh), I turned around a gave the existing Nintendo DS-library a closer look. And I figured that there´s enough stuff to keep me well entertained for another 1-2 years. Right now, I´m playing Pheonix Wright: Justice for All and it´s fantastic. Then I´ll start the Professor Layton-series, to prepare myself for the 3DS-crossover. And aside from these older titles, Pokemon Black Edition should bear a near infinite amount of entertainment. Having said that, I thought how great it´d be if the Pokemon-series would see a rather drastic make-over with it´s inevitable 3DS-sequel.

Yeah, new clothing doesn´t equal growing up!

I´ve been one of the biggest complainers about GameFreak´s lazy efforts with past installments of the Pokemon-series, and yet I bought every new generation on day 1. And it seems this weird behavior will continue. But that´s the last Pokemon-game for the NDS, the next one´s going to be a 3DS-game, and Satoru Iwata, boss of Nintendo, himself recently mentioned that a Pokemon-title for the new handheld is underway. Whether that´s a main entry or some spinoff doesn´t really matter. What matters is that 2D-sprites won´t get all the little monsters very far in terms of a 3D-effect, so some kind of more drastic change in terms of visual is to be expected.

However, this could also make for the starting point of new generation of Pokemon-trainers in the franchise´s timeline. Specifically speaking: Have Ash Ketchum grow up! It always felt like a missed opportunity, seeing how the original Pokemon Blue/Red-players have grown up long time ago, yet Ash Ketchum is still the young star of the anime-series. How much more enjoyable would it have been, if that brat actually grew up in a similar time frame as the series´ fans? Anyway, that obviously didn´t happen. But it´d be fine to make it happen at any point in the future just as well. Have Ash Ketchum become a legendary master-trainer that´s told to be traveling the most dangerous, unknown parts of the world. And have there be a new main character, a new boy around the age of 14, who´s the new center of the anime, and will then meet the adult Ash in some of the episodes. “Epic” would be the correct word here.

Why I care? Because whenever I decide to sink into a franchise, I´d like that franchise to evolve, to keep on grasping my fascination. Besides the fact that I´d love the RPG-games feature more of the anime-show´s characters and plots, a “Next Generation” for both games and anime seems like a highly enjoyable event, that´s all. When the RPGs have to change into 3D-games finally, use that to introduce other changes, too. And when that happens, change up the anime, as well. It´s a matter of keeping it fresh, and let´s be real: Both games and anime have lost most of their freshness for a long time now.


Event Releases – A business model for Nintendo

January 28, 2011

It´s really hard to decide what to write about these days. Just today, Sony announced its PSP2-handheld, which looks as hot and shiny as its predecessor did back in 2004. Then, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Swords keeps on feeling farther and farther away from its release-date. And lastly, the way Nintendo handles the Wii becomes odder with every day. And I guess that´s something I´ll write about, though I´ll focus on a specific part of the recurring dilemma: Nintendo´s third-party relations.

No matter what happens, Nintendo seemingly can´t win when it comes to third-party games. The GameCube was a powerful system, only bested by Xbox, and only got what was left over on the multiplatform table. The Wii is tracking on par with PlayStation 2 at the same time in its life, and release lists are empty. They´re simply empty, third parties refuse to deliver anything that goes beyond a cheap party-game. Even on the Nintendo DS, the de facto most successful videogame system of all times, western developers completely ignore the portable. Now, the 3DS is about to launch, but somehow I´ve got a bad feeling about the support of Capcom and Square Enix, especially when it comes to Sony´s PSP2, which will see their support, too, and likely an even better one. So, with all those examples of how Nintendo failed at gaining third-party support, what´s left to do? Is there no solution?

Well, there is. At least, that´s what I´d like to claim. And there´s even a bit of an early proof of what I´m going to detail when you take a look at the Nintendo 3DS´ launch-lineup. The big first-party titles for launch are some bizarre submarine-game and the cutey-cute Nintendogs-sequel. That´s it. Pilotwings Resort´s going to be released rather sooner than later, but the two biggest inhouse-developments, Kid Icarus: Uprising and Ocarina of Time 3D are delayed till after E3, as Reginald “Reggie” Fils-Aime announced just days ago. In other words: Nintendo is granting third-party developers/publishers at least half a year to fight software-sales out by themselves. And even afterwards, what is it that Nintendo has to offer? Remakes and an arcadey flight-shooter? We saw how well Sin and Punishment 2 sold …

But that is exactly the way Nintendo has to pan out its first party-releases! If they want to acquire third-party support, that is. The one old, big (,and stupid) argument that these developers always made is that Nintendo-fans only buy Nintendo-games. Be it because Nintendo-fans are such fanboys or because Nintendo-games are so much better in quality, you choose, he! Anyway, if there weren´t that many Nintendo-games to begin with, even the most rabbid fanboys will be forced to take a look at third party-offerings, if they want something to play. And if that were the case, no third party-developer would have the right to complain about some kind of unfair competition – there wouldn´t be anymore direct competition with Nintendo!

But wait! That leaves us with a question: How is Nintendo supposed to make money with software? You know, since they´re a gaming company first and foremost! That´s the tricky part, and it is a concept that could only ever work with Nintendo. Both complaint and necessity, Nintendo heavily relies on its famous IPs. Some are sick of them, others can´t get enough of them. And surely, the latter mark the majority.  But that is not a problem. Instead of handling its first party-titles like normal video game releases, just putting them out like any other developer does, Nintendo has to change their games´ public image away from the status of “just another game“, and towards something more similar to an event altogether. The best example to give you a better image of that concept would be to take a look at Dragon Quest. The mainline Dragon Quest-series is not just some game, it´s an event. We all know the photos of waiting lines in Japan. I don´t know if that´s still the case, but I believe to remember something about Japanese children getting one day off school whenever a DQ-game is released. That´s how much of an event that “game” is. Of course, it´s not necessary to take it that far, but it´s the same principle: Make your franchises into something special. Something gamers will look forward to, no matter the specifics.

Putting a bit more detail into that plan, think of it like that: Nintendo has several popular franchises. Those would be Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Smash Bros., Donkey Kong, Kirby, Mario Kart, Animal Crossing, Starfox, F-Zero, Pikmin, Pokemon. And many others. Now, if we remember the past few Nintendo-systems, there has almost never been more than one installment of each series, two at maximum. What to do is the following: Screw all possible spilled details about these games until shortly prior to their release dates. But do announce them a long time before the actual release happens. Also, pan their releases out evenly and scarce over the year. I would have to count all franchises to create a precise time table, but how about three games a year for each platform? That would mean that every four months, a new Nintendo-title is released, giving third parties a lot of time for their games. Meanwhile, Nintendo-fans have a release-list that looks like the following:

  • January #1: Kirby
  • July #1: Animal Crossing
  • November #1: Zelda
  • January #2: F-Zero
  • July #2: Pokemon
  • November #2: Mario

That would be Nintendo´s release-list for two years. And we would know of this list at least a year before the first game´s release. All we´d know would be “Kirby” releases next year´s January. We wouldn´t know what it looks like, what its subtitle is, or gameplay-ideas it incorporates. It´d simply be the “Kirby-day”. And all the details wouldn´t matter, because damn, it´s freaking Kirby! But maybe you´d have an easier time seeing the idea behind that concept if I used Zelda or Mario, but I think you get it. Let´s be honest: We weren´t interested or hyped for Twilight Princess because of “yay, transforming into a wolf!” or “hm, I´m really excited who this princess is going to be!“. We were hyped because, you already know it, IT´S ZELDA! The same goes for Mario, Metroid and most of Nintendo´s franchises. We´re interested because we know how great these franchises have always been, how they rarely disappointed. Details are unnecessary, and to get these games to the general public, a short marketing campaign shortly prior to release should be well enough. So, not only would it spare fans from spoiling themselves (thanks, Gametrailers, for spoiling me the Zoras in TP! Yeah, still bitter about that …), it´d also change how not only we, the gamers, view those Nintendo-games, it also would create an opportunity for both Nintendo AND third party-developers.

Seeing how Nintendo runs into problems sooner or later with every new console generation, how they cannot continuously support a system by themselves (not while satisfying enthusiasts) and how such planned out release dates would only help each IP´s installment to get all the polish it really need, that would be a concept to solve these problems. Just in case you think that would be too little releases, please take into account how Nintendo-games tend to be evergreens. A status that would only be strengthened by treating these titles as events. And if after all that Capcom, Square Enix, Electronic Arts, Activision or Konami are then still arguing about Nintendo´s software being too dominant, they can go **** themselves. Feel free to agree.


A Nintendo without a plan – question mark

January 16, 2011

In only three days, the highly awaited Amsterdam-event will take place, accompanied by a simultaneous event in the USA. It´s expected to give gamers outside of Japan all the details they want to know about exact launch date and price of the Nintendo 3DS handheld, as well as some deeper insight into the features of said device. Meanwhile, negative news about the nextgen handheld have come up and then there´s that highly successful home console, called Wii, that´s seemingly left out in the dark. Nintendo, what are you up to?

Remembering the first half of 2010 makes any Wii-owner feel warm inside. The year started in a fantastic way, giving us the unexpected sequel to Endless Ocean (Forever Blue), followed by the exceptional Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and Monster Hunter Tri, and culminated in the arrival of Super Mario Galaxy 2. Unique, high quality games all around. This year´s beginning makes Wii-owners feel confused and sad inside. The only announced Nintendo-games for Europe are Mario Sports Mix and Kirby´s Epic Yarn, both released in first two months of the year. Interesting third-party offerings are non-existent. Excuse me, dear Nintendo, but is that it? A multiplayer-game and gorgeous-looking, but short in content platformer?

Xenoblade and The Last Story still haven´t even been hinted at a western release, on the contrary, there have been hints that Nintendo has no plans to bring The Last Story to non-Japanese gamers, which makes any wishes for the less popular Xenoblade even less hopeful. Two quality Wii-titles remain. One is Dragon Quest 10, which maybe, and it´s a big, doubtful maybe, will be released this year in Japan, but definitely not anywhere else. The other one is The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Originally expected to be released last year, then delayed to a spring 2011 date, and following the latest comments and rumors now a holiday 2011-title. There is a dim chance that Zelda might see a release around May, but there´s really no factual evidence for that, just the history of The Wind Waker being released in May back then.

Some gamers on message boards claim that Nintendo simply makes use of its “no announcement until close to release“, but that doesn´t make much sense when it´s already January 2011 and we don´t even know any releases for time beyond February! And it´s not like there´s a big conference happening where Nintendo could make such announcements. The Amsterdam-event is unlikely to feature anything other than Nintendo 3DS, and GDC also doesn´t seem like the time and place to throw out a release-liste of yet unknown games. And so I don´t forget that one: 3DS was confirmed to be region-locked, might have shockingly bad battery life and might even use the same damn friendscode-system for online-gaming. The software-lineup so far looks fantastic, but the hardware kept looking worse and worse these last few days.

If worse comes to worst, we´re looking at a 2011-lineup that consists of Mario Sports Mix in January, Kirby´s Epic Yarn in February, then nothing until maybe November, when Zelda is released. Or Zelda might come out in May, leaving the latter half empty. All that with not a single high quality-third party title to fill the gaps. One may give it to Nintendo that E3 2011 could see several completely unknown new Wii-games (Cosmic Walker, come on!), but that still leaves all the months up until said event. If there is a plan, Nintendo does an exceptional job at hiding it from the public´s eyes.


New year – New hopes

January 7, 2011

The new year of 2011 has begun and left us with an interesting time shortly to come. The last year wasn´t necessarily spectacular, but it had its high times. The game that made me start this blog, Fragile: Farewell Ruins of the Moon, turned out to be a topnotch atmospheric experience, unfortunately suffering from out-dated gameplay mechanics. Monster Hunter Tri marked the first online-gaming experience that I totally loved. And Dragon Age Origins showed me that not all BioWare-games are that great. In the end, 2010 was a run-of-the-mill year for gaming as far as my gaming flavor is concerned. But what can you expect in a time where all available systems start to feel old in one way or another? The Wii´s graphics were old from launch onwards, but due to the lack of MotionPlus-based games, there really isn´t that huge difference in gameplay compared to other systems. Meanwhile, the HD-systems are spammed with known and already-seen experiences. Shooting someone just doesn´t get any fresher the tenth time, ya know. On the handheld front, Nintendo DS could never fully grasp my enthusiasm since I´m not much of a 2D-fan, and 3D-games on NDS aren´t exactly the most fun. Not to mention that I was severely disappointed by Dragon Quest 9, my first DQ-game. Maybe it really were the ugly visuals, because if I look at DQ8, I want to give it a try again. As every year, I´d like to take the time to express how I hope to see this industry heading more towards a gameplay-experience over the currently popular hollywood-experience.

Now, for the year 2011. Let´s not hesitate to start with the big one here: Nintendo 3DS is going to launch somewhere between March and April in both Europe and the USA. I might have mentioned it before, but I´m actively looking forward to become a handheld-exclusive gamer once this attractive piece of hardware finds its way into my hands. As said above, graphics on the NDS were always a problem for me, but that´s exactly where the 3DS comes in, offering pleasant 3D-graphics on par with GameCube/Xbox/Wii, even featuring certain effects that put it above those systems. Not only do 3D-games look nice, also Paper Mario looks just like its console-predecessors. Unlike any former Nintendo-system, the 3DS seems to get software-support from about every important Japanese publisher, and I´m looking forward to Resident Evil Revelations, Pro Evolution 3DSoccer (or Fifa, depending on what leaves the better impression on me), Dead or Alive Dimension and Street Fighter 3D (which, again, I´ll have to choose between the two). There´s also some fantastic stuff coming from Level 5, but I´ll stay away from getting too hyped about their announcements for now – you never know if their games will see a release in the west.

And then there´s Nintendo´s first-party offerings, of course. Surprisingly, Nintendo still has not announced a big 3DS-title. Sure, we have Kid Icarus, but that looks rather like a small title with its arcade gameplay. And we have the Ocarina of Time-remake, which I´ll be all over, especially if it features new content, but it´s a remake nonetheless. Same goes for the Lylat Wars-remake. There´s Mario Kart and Paper Mario, too, but I believe both will take some more time.  Nintendo wanted to have third-parties support the 3DS at launch, and that´s a pretty understandable course, then. But I can´t wait for Nintendo to get serious with their new handheld. I´m thinking along the lines of Super Smash Bros. 3DS, Metroid Prime 4, or a new Mario-platformer. Personally, I´d love to see the first 3D-Yoshi platformer instead, though. And don´t forget about new IPs! I´d always love to see RetroStudios get back to Raven Blade.

But it´s not all about 3DS – not yet. The Wii seems like a forsaken system in terms of software, even when its hardware-sales are through the roof again. I don´t know about Japan, but dear Nintendo, just release Xenoblade, The Last Story and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword in 2011, and I´ll have nothing but praise about the Wii´s 2011. So far, all we have is a delayed Zelda-game an Mario Sports Mix, hooyay! :/ Can´t remember the last time a system´s lineup could go that easily from yay to nay to yay to nay …

My Xbox 360 is waiting for exactly one game: Mass Effect 3. Let´s see if Bioware can really release it at the end of the year. I´m not a fan of the much discussed plot of gathering all the different races´ loyalty only to attack the Reapers in one big attack – feels too unbelievable for me that none of the previous galaxy´s  inhabitants would have tried that. But whatever BioWare decideds to go with, I´ll be there. Let me end it all with a bang – and show us Tali´s face FFS! The last game I´d like to mention is Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Much like the Mass Effect-trilogy, Deus Ex promises to be an incredibly immersive, interactive experience, both in terms of story and environmental interactivity. Will be bought for PC.

That´s it so far! The Nintendo World 2011-expo will start tonight, featuring playable 3DS-stations and presentations, and then on January 19th, Nintendo´s going to have a simultanous conference for both Europe and the USA, which is expected to tell us non-Japanese people all the final details we need to know about the nextgen-handheld. I also hope to see something from Zelda Wii soon, but I think that the less hype now, the better the game turns out in the end. Just remember the situation before The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess.

Happy new year, everyone!