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.

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Iwata: Bringing people online on Wii/NDS was a bitter learning experience

October 9, 2010

In a news-article on Siliconera, head of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, talked about the stronger focus on online-features regarding the upcoming Nintendo 3DS-handheld. He called it a bitter learning experience to get people online with Wii and Nintendo DS. It is still in the dark if 3DS will feature any (strongly) improved online-capabilities, since Iwata focuses talk on 3DS´s wlan-features, called SpotPass and Tag-Mode, that exist to use set up hotspots to connect to the internet. Something that might work for Japan, hardly for the USA, and definitely not for Europe.

However, people are criticizing Nintendo´s online approach as whole for a long time now. It has to be said that Nintendo most likely doesn´t have “crappy online” just for fun. Biggest evidence of that is the warning-screen that pops up every time you start your Wii or NDS. Not using any different technology in terms of “being dangerous”, it is only Nintendo that “has to” use these warnings. That, in combination with the emphasis on friends code, should make clear that Nintendo actually fully addresses to any kind of danger that could come from using their systems. It might be a hassle for adult gamers to be have no choice of being protected by these decisions, but it can´t be argued that it works. Anyone who has ever used Xbox Live and voice-chat knows what a more open system brings alongside.

The other reason is that Nintendo is Nintendo. Instead of giving gamers the obvious, they´re looking for something unique. There was an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto many years ago where he was asked about online-gaming (I think it was before the GameCube´s launch), and his answer was basically: If we cannot create new kinds of games by using the internet, we have no interest in that. We don´t want to simply put our existing games online without any innovations.” So, while online-multiplayer is vital to a lot of enthusiast gamers, it surely isn´t anything special or unique. I´ve wondered myself what new game-genres could be made, besides online-multiplayer and mmorpgs. Seems that Nintendo hasn´t come up with an answer, either, yet.


Splitting the Zelda-series in two

August 25, 2010

Now that sounds crazy, but after watching a slideshow featuring the first screenshots of Ocarina of Time 3DS again, I thought about how special Ocarina of Time still is. Both to us, the gamers, and to Nintendo, who obviously acknowledge the importance of this one Zelda-game. And to be honest, OoT will never cease to amaze gamers. It´s that once-in-a-lifetime occurrence that no other game will ever beat per se. So no matter what Nintendo does, gamers will remember OoT. At the same time, there´s a growing group of Zelda-fans that are growing tired of the traditional formula, which even Skyward Sword, the upcoming Wii-entry, doesn´t seem to shake up that much. So why not simply split the Zelda-series in two?

By splitting in two, I imagine two Zelda-series that are developed at the same time, as in, not consuming each other´s development resources, but two completely separate installments. One of these Zelda-series would be “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time”. Yes, read that right, OoT would be its own “series”. There appear to be quite a lot people that criticize the Zelda-games for being too similar to each other. While I´m personally not in that camp, it still exists. So instead of doing “similar” Zeldas one after another, time after time again, let´s take OoT and turn it into the “classic Zelda”-series. Each entry of this branch of the Zelda-franchise would intentionally be similar to the previous one – with appropriate differences, of course, such as new dungeons, new story, a few new items and so on, you get it. It´d be the Zelda for all those fans that still like and love each and every newly released Zelda-game.

And then there´d be the other Zelda-series, we could call it “The Legend of Zelda: Beyond Time”. This would be the branch of the Zelda-franchise for all those fans that love the Zelda-series, but want it to do more fresh, creative, different stuff. Think of all the stuff your heard someone say and thought “eww, then it wouldn´t be a Zelda-game anymore”. Perfect, that´s what this series would be for! Some examples of what kind of features this branch could have: Direct jumping control, no gamey puzzles, more/less linearity, selectable difficulty, multiplayer-modes, and so on. It´d be the playground for Nintendo´s creative minds, and it´d be the fresh adventure many of us want to have, set within the Zelda-universe.

And, I mean, this would give us a second big action-adventure franchise, so to speak. Will probably never happen, but I´d really like it to. After all, even though I want BIG changes to the Zelda-series, I also still like the traditional formula, and experiments could go wrong, too. However, maybe this will kind of happen with the split between home console and handheld Zelda-titles. If we take a look at the two Nintendo DS-entries, they surely are very different from Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword. With the added power of the 3DS-hardware and Nintendo showing that they´re going for a real 3D-Zelda on a handheld this time, we really could get more of this great action-adventure franchise in a shorter time frame. Of course, that still doesn´t mean that on of the two systems´ Zelda-titles will be more creative than the other one.


New Pokémon in motion – Battle animations

May 16, 2010

Pokemon Sunday revealed the first footage of how the Pokemon are appearing in the new game´s battle-mode. Instead of still sprites, there seem to be several ways for each Pokemon to move, as well as an idle-animation. Besides the new monster Zoruark, you can see Raikou as well as the three starter Pokemon, Tsutaja, Pokabu and Mijumaru.

Pokemon Black & White-battle – video

Personally, I´m very disappointed at how sterile and non-dynamic the combat still looks. Then again, it IS an improvement over previous installments of the series. At least the upcoming Pokemon-movie looks good.


The Calm before E³ 2010 – Crazy Prediction Time

April 23, 2010

Another year passed by, and the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2010 is approaching quickly. From June 15th to 17th, we´ll get this year´s biggest, cumulative media blowout, with conferences supposedly taking place starting with June 13th. While sporting a bunch of interesting titles nonetheless, the past couple of E³s have been lacking. These expos never fail to gather a lot of hype, but rarely is that hype justified. E³ 2010 ramps up to be different – or to be its old self, for that matter. Remember E³ 2004, when Nintendo revealed Twilight Princess? Yeah, it´s going to be that kind of E³! Like last year, I´m focusing on predictions and expectations regarding Nintendo, as the two competitors simply don´t interest me that much. That´s more fair than making up stuff. So, let´s start with the FlyingFisch´s predictions of E³ 2010!

Fanboy´s favorite: Nintendo


Nintendo hat a pretty damn good start in 2010, with games like Silent Hill: Shattered Memories or the now released Monster Hunter Tri. Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M are underway, too, so a good first half of the year is well covered with games. So what´s being released in the latter half of 2010? Despite the higher amount of great games compared to 2009, it kind of feels as if third-parties stopped trying. There´s only one third-party title I´m going to mention…maybe another one, though that one´s more likely to be revealed at Tokyo Game Show.

We´ll definitely see Warren Spector´s Epic Mickey. The dark, adventurous platformer, starring the new Mickey-design, will get a lot of focus at its publishers booth. I´d say it´s safe to assume that not only will there be videos, but it´ll be playable. As far as as I know, it´s supposed to be released at the end of the year, so now´s the time to start the Mickey-hype machine. First screenshots were pretty disappointing, but everything you read about the game sounds just so promising. We´ll see how that one turns out. The other high-quality third-party game that might be shown, but, most likely won´t, is Dragon Quest 10. I don´t have to explain how this is the biggest traditional JRPG-franchise in Japan. Which is exactly why it´s more likely to be shown at this year´s Tokyo Game Show (if at all). Considering that Dragon Quest 9 for Nintendo DS will be released in the US and Europe this July, it also wouldn´t make too much sense to announce the next instance of the series now. There´s a really slim off-chance, but I´d rather bet money on some of the upcoming crazy predictions than DQ10 being shown at E³ 2010.

Which leads us to Nintendo´s first-party offerings. Honestly, I don´t know what other awesome stuff I should predict, when we already know of the two most important things of this year´s E³: Zelda Wii and the Nintendo 3DS. Really, just rename “E³ 2010” into “Zelda 2010”. It´s going to be all about Zelda Wii. Sure, I´m personally hyped, but you´d be a fool to deny how much weight, how much importance rests on this game´s shoulders. It´s kind of staggering and hard to believe just how little we know about the new Zelda. Which is…nothing. There´s an artwork we got at last year´s E³, but that´s it. We know that it´ll use MotionPlus, and Eiji Aonuma talked about introducing a new overall structure of the game, which could mean a lot of things. There´s basically three options for Zelda Wii: 1.) Devolving into some kind of Phantom Hourglass/Spirit Tracks-like game, featuring top-down camera-angle and wiimote pointer-based controls, 2.) yet another Ocarina of Time-like Zelda, like Twilight Princess, or 3.) a truly new, fresh adventure-experience, that finally manages to jump out of Ocarina of Time´s shadow and become its own classic, impacting the future gaming industry again. I fear for 1, hope for 3, but believe we´ll get 2. Which will be disappointing, too, but at least nothing too bad. Then again, I think Zelda Wii is going to be the definitive experience of the next 10 years to come. That´s what it should become. But there´s so much stuff that Zelda Wii “should” do, it´s hard to believe that Nintendo´s going to be able to get it all right. But no matter if they fail or not, Zelda Wii is THE game of E³ 2010.

And when there´s a game of E³, there also has to be a hardware of E³ 2010. There are only two contenders, but if we go by historic importance, then Nintendo wins this one, too. This will be the first time when Nintendo´s going to show the Nintendo 3DS in public, and probably lets E³-visitors get their hands on the true DS-successor. We know that it has some kind of 3D-capabilities and that the screen size will be smaller than 4″. Rumors have it that the 3DS will feature GameCube-like graphics, but that was never confirmed. Even though that much should be possible in 2010, it´s silly to take it for granted. But I can understand that the thought of a portable version of The Wind Waker in 3D sounds daring. Yeah, if Nintendo continues their tradition of remaking an older game for a new hardware´s launch, I´d want that one to be TWW. But let´s see what the 3DS really will be like. It´s supposed to be backwards-compatible to the DS, so some kind of 2-screen-design is obvious. But there´s a lot of possibilities within that frame. Another hardware that´s likely to be shown is the Vitality sensor. But I have no idea how that one´s coming into play.

And then there´s the two Nintendo-funded JRPGs, Xenoblade and The Last Story. While the former looks promising, even though graphically not too special, it is The Last Story that might surprise a lot of gamers. Seemingly, Hironobu Sakaguchi is behind that game, and it´s him as well as the known artworks that make it appear as if this is meant to be a Final Fantasy-competitor. But, again, we have no idea about the game, except for some vague combat-system details. In the end, a high-profile JRPG should also look high-profile, so what many gamers ask themselves, is: What is The Last Story going to look like? Personally, I´d love to see a gorgeous cel-shading style featured, similar to TWW´s. Just have it more detailed. But I won´t complain about a good-looking realistic game. Just make sure it looks “round”. Xenoblade suffers from that.

So, prediction time, eh? With Zelda Wii dominating the Wii´s lineup, there´s not much that could impress equally. But if we assume that Nintendo finally figured out how to use motion controls in a singleplayer-adventure to its fullest, it has to be another MotionPlus-game. Three games would greatly fit that new control-style. First one is Kid Icarus. Yeah, a popular, recurring speculation, but with his bow and arrow, Pit is a perfect match for MotionPlus. Imagine a platformer that closer to Zelda than Mario, and you have it. Another franchise I really want to see anew is the StarFox-series. I´d go against the serie´s arcade-feeling, but I finally want a flight-game that uses the wiimote (and motionplus) as if you´re holding a flight stick. It would control like the flight-game from Wii Sports Resort, but you´d be holding the wiimote vertically instead of horizontally.  The last fitting game is a crazy wish that I had last year, too. Give me a Berserk-game (great anime/manga). Have it use MotionPlus for Gut´s sword strikes. Have it be a mixture of Zelda and Monster Hunter. Have it sport gorgeous cel-shading. And thus, attempt at making me forget Zelda Wii. Ha!

A new hardware obviously needs some new games. Surely, the 3DS will get its own version of Wario Ware. And there´ll be a remake/port of an older title, which I want to be The Wind Waker. But what for new games? We haven´t heard of RetroStudios in quite a while. We should hear from them at this year´s E³. With Zelda getting all the spotlight on the Wii, I cannot imagine that they´d like to start a fight there. Instead, I believe they´re working an the 3DS first killer-app. If the GameCube-level graphics rumors are correct, it would grant RetroStudios a well-known developing environment. There, I expect to see Metroid Prime 4 exclusively for the 3DS. I´d prefer a Metroid-game that continues the story after Fusion, though. There´s also going to be Pokemon Black and White. I´m pretty disappointed by how small the visual upgrade from the last games came out to be, but maybe we´ll get 3DS-support at the least. If not canceled, Golden Sun DS will be fully covered, as well.  Depending on how the 3D works, I also believe that Nintendo will introduce a movie-watching ability for the 3DS, starting with James Cameron´s Avatar. It´d be just too perfect of a marketing move.

As I told you initially, predicting is hard when we know of the best stuff already. Maybe there´ll be Pikmin 3, a new F-Zero-game, some WiiFit-like title. Capcom might finally port Resident Evil 5 to the Wii. Perhaps, Konami makes Zone of the Enders 3 for Wii. And how about a real home console-Pokemon? The heck, I could even imagine that Nintendo´s showing or at least talking about the Wii´s successor, even though there´s the 3DS. If Zelda remains a 2010-release, as well as all the other games, Nintendo won´t have any games for Wii except for Dragon Quest 10 somewhere down the road. We have had two Mario-games by then, another Zelda-game won´t be finished that quickly. And there´s nothing else that can fill the hunger for big, epic, adventurous games like these two. Or, even more crazy, maybe the 3DS is much more important than everyone thought until now. Maybe the 3DS marks Nintendo´s future business, being a hybrid handheld-home console. We know that 3D needs more power, so how about GameCube/Wii-level graphics when you´re not at home, and when plugging the 3DS into the TV, you´ll be able to play HD-quality games, a Wiimote connecting via bluetooth. Who knows. E³ 2010 is looking like it´s going to a Nintendo-show. But when there´s a lot of promise, there´s also a lot potential for disappointment.

Microsoft´s effort-machine


There are two things that highly interest me on the Xbox 360. One is Natal. And no, I´m not interested in that one because of controls. I believe that completely hand-free controls don´t feel good. After all, I had EyeToy, and you just need something in your hands. But I´m totally interested in A.I.-focused games, so that´s Milo for me. Of course, it´s Peter Molyneux. That means: Lots of awesome sounding announcements, lots of terrible shortcomings. But what the showed with Milo last year was…revolutionary. I´d like to see two “games” for Natal. One being a pure A.I.-based simulation-game. Maybe replace Milo with a girl, too, so a nerd can learn how to socialize. As for the second game, create a RPG that makes use of Milo-like interaction. That´s where I see the possibility for a revolution regarding Natal. You´re still using the 360-controller, but all the communication-part of the game is done by yourself. If Microsoft and Molyneux manage to do that, they´ll have their own killer-ap. A game I´d also love to see some first bits and pieces of is BioWare´s Mass Effect 3. I haven´t followed the developer´s recent news-announcements, so if they already said there would be no ME3, too bad. But this third and final part of the Mass Effect-saga is hyped-worthy, no matter when they decide to show it. On the note of surprises, maybe Microsoft finally got their hands on a Metal Gear Solid 4-port.

The Third Place: Sony

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

Conclusion:

Phew…E³, eh? The true christmas of every gamer. No better time in the year. I think every gamer, no matter what you´re a fan of, will see a lot of great stuff. Aside from all the stuff I already talked about, it´ll be most interesting to see gamers´ and developers´ reaction on the 3DS. Will Sony announce a new handheld to counter Nintendo? Will the 3DS be too freaky for a lot of developers? Or is it going to be a much more important hardware than “just” the next handheld of Nintendo? Time will tell. But predictions are big part of each year´s E³, so let´s see how much of the above turns out true. Just one advice for next year: Please, Nintendo, don´t spoil all the fun by announcing the two biggest things beforehand. Where´s the fun in predicting a new Kirby-game when you already know of ZELDA being shown. Not that I blame you.


Pokemon Black & White and new The Last Story-artwork

April 9, 2010

It finally happened, the new Pokemon-game got its name: Pokemon Black and White Edition! Seemingly, the game is supposed to come out at the end of the year, being fully revealed this sunday. From what is known, it´s a NDS-game, which is kinda disappointing, now that we know of the 3DS. For now, that´s all that is known.

And we also got a nice new artwork for The Last Story for Wii. The producer also spoke a bit about the game´s story, basically: There are two main characters, guy and girl, they have problems and so on. And there´ll be side-stories featuring other characters, too. Nothing that you wouldn´t expect of such a JRPG. Anyway, if the art style translates well into actual game graphics, this will be one nice looking game.


Rumors and rumored details about NDS- and Wii-successor

March 14, 2010

The stream of rumors regarding new Nintendo-hardware just doesn´t stop. And I´m the last person to complain about it. Whether of not it really happens any time soon, we hear more and more, unconfirmed, details about upcoming hardware. And then there´s some interesting stuff about hardware that´s definitely far from being launched, but nonetheless hype-inducing. So let´s talk about Nintendo DS Next and Wii Too.

First of all, some guy published details about the NDS-successor. At this point I´m not bothering to give a source, as nobody knows if that guy can be taken seriously, AND we heard most of the stuff several weeks ago from another insider source. It´s very likely to be true, but just don´t take it as facts at this point. So, according to that source, the DS Next will feature GameCube-level graphics. If will have two screens, though of higher resolution than the DS´s. Most interestingly though, the gap between the two screens is supposed to be almost gone, making it easier for games that use both screens as a single one. Also, the hardware features an accelerometer, like the iPhone, but better. So we can expect some sort of motion-controls. Lastly, according to that insider source from before, “the DS2 is the best handheld I´ve ever worked on“, so it appears to be developer-friendly. That´s it for the next Nintendo-handheld. Some people say that it makes no sense for Nintendo to release a new handheld, but I think about that like this: A DS2 could be introduced at a higher price, like 200$, while the DS1 is still being sold. That way, “hardcore” gamers get a new toy, while the broad masses don´t feel alienated. Like many other gamers, I expect that one to be unveiled at this year´s E³. And with “expect”, I actually mean “hope”.

Now, on to the more speculative part, and thus more fun to write about. The Wii Too, the Wii´s successor. According to Matt Cassamassina from IGN, he heard from some source that the Wii Too would be released in 2012. Seems awfully late, but who knows. Reginald “Reggie” Fils-Aime was asked about that in an interview and called it a complete rumor and speculation. Personally, I said that the Wii Too would be released in 2011, and I still believe that, looking at Nintendo´s software-situation. But there´s one comment coming from Reggie that puts everything into a new perspective. Being asked about if the Wii-successor would feature HD-resolution, after explaining how that´s missing the point, that Nintendo starts looking into new hardware when a software-developer has an idea that´s not possible on existing hardware, he said the following (I´ll paraphrase it): “Maybe we skip HD all together and go straight to the next thing, whatever that may be“.

Alright, for one, that´s Reggie. He certainly knows more than what a lot of gamers gave him credit for in the last months, but still, he´s “just” president of NoA. If there´s no hidden agenda behind those words, there´s not much reason to believe that he actually knows something. And secondly, it doesn´t even sound like anything serious, just personal speculation about Nintendo´s next home-system. Still, lusting after every tiny bit of detail, it remains a highly interesting comment. “Skipping HD and going straight to the next thing”. One wonders, what IS that “next thing”? You guys know how much I like that idea, ever since it was hyped beforehand the “Revolution´s” unveiling at Tokyo Game Show 2005, and I still firmly believe that it´d take videogaming to the next level: A 3D-visor. Putting you completely into a game´s world, even more immersing than first-person-games. Of course, that´s just one wishful interpretation. But we also have to remember Shigeru Miyamoto´s comment, where he said that he´d love to free games from the TV-screen, bringing them into the room. Again, that leaves room for a lot of wild speculation. Whatever it is, it both these comments show that there IS a wish for something greatly different than just a power-upgrade.  And if it really is something more crazy that the Wii Too is going to feature, then a 2012-launch might not be too far off, since it might be a very costly feature at this point.

It is an exciting time in the life of a Nintendo-fan, since there seems to be quite some turmoil in the hardware business. We´ll have to wait for E³, Reggie made that clear in his interview with IGN, but at least, Reggie found back to his former strength, when he told Kotaku: “I´d be embarrassed if we did what our competitors are doing at the moment“, regarding Sony´s Playstation Move-controller. Truer words have never been spoken.