I admit, the title is misleading, but it works for the post. For a long time now I’ve been told that the mobile gaming is the killer of consoles and that all the handheld consoles will die out because mobile (phone) gaming makes so much money. Well, as I’ve previously discussed, the data isn’t there and this time I’m going to talk about personal experiences with mobile games now that I had to upgrade from an old Nokia to an Android smartie.
The thing is, this post may again be an old record playing the same song. The mobile game market is not in the same category as handheld console gaming. I would argue that this stems from three points; controls, physicality and devices themselves.
The controls of a mobile device, be a pad or a smart phone, are dependant on the screen. This is something that can be gotten around with external controllers, but native games can’t be designed this in mind to a large extent. Games have to use the screen as the main input device anyway, and that creates its own difficulties. Your hand and finger will always be in the way when you use the device to some extent, accuracy is always a question and there’s only so many variations you can do with them. Most games are about tapping or swiping, or are menu driven. Sometimes even combining all of them to some extent. These are limited by the amount of inputs a screen can recognize, which mostly is two in modern devices. Some devices can recognize more, but you if you want maximum user count, you’d optimally design the game to use the lowest mainstream setting to some extent. Let’s not forget that they need to be intuitive, fast to learn and simple.
The whole physical thing is really an extension of lack of separate controllers. Physical button that gives you a feedback when pressed always trumps over an image of a button that reacts visually to your finger. Eye-hand coordination works here just fine, especially if there’s a sound effect to go with. Some applications will also make the phone rumble, but even with that something always feels off. You’re not all that sure if the button was pressed or if the application registered the press until you see some of results on the screen. Everything happens on the screen and outside rumble there is no other option to physically interact with the software to any degree, outside hard resetting when a game locks your whole phone down. Don’t underestimate the power of touching something real. That’s why people buy statues of their waifus.
The third bit is the device themselves. Mobile phones are not dedicated gaming devices and function more like the classic palm computers would. By that extension, the games on smart phones follows the same natural pattern as Flash games do. The only difference is that some Flash games can be controlled with your keyboard, not just with your mouse. The devices themselves lend themselves for gaming, but they are not even the secondary function. Despite modern phones being shit for calling because of their boring slate design and wide as fuck screens, calling is their main idea.
Apps being compared to Flash games isn’t anything negative. It’s just natural. Seeing people still spend numerous hours playing browser games on Facebook and elsewhere, they’re no laughing matter. Sure, the golden age of Flash games and videos are long gone and that certain kind of nearly majestic freedom to do whatever you wanted can’t be realized any more thanks to certain sites pandering to the loud minorities rather than to their userbase and brand.
All that taken into account, a game like Monster Hunter would simply not work on a mobile device. It does not have the input options to work within the game’s design, and changing the game to fit the hardware of a phone would completely revise its gameplay. The same goes the other way as well, despite modern handheld consoles could house the touch controls and all. The content in mobile games rarely manages to stand up to similar level game on a handheld device. Granblue Fantasy, probably the most popular RPG on mobile devices, is ultimately very lacklustre in how much the player plays it. The game’s completely menu driven and story bits are delivered in Visual Novel style. The only actual gameplay is turn-based fighting, which compared to something like Bravely Default falls short in direct comparison between the titles.
However, that sort of comparison would be like comparing to apples to sausages. Sure, both are edibles, but compete in a different fields. The same difference exists between handheld and mobile gaming. I can see myself keep playing mobile games here and there, they’re a good time sink to kill a minute or two. However, when I need to kill more time on the go, like on a train or on the way to the hospital, I’d rather bust out a Vita or something to play something that can deliver a bit more than just few minutes of gameplay. However, the nature of these games are not in the same field as arcade games, despite them sounding like that. Arcade games were their own thing again, something you had to dedicate a coin or two for with some time. For a mobile game, all you really need to dedicate is some finger tapping and you’re golden. In essence, mobile gaming is computer gaming on the go with the closest thing being Flash games.
None of these are a blemish or a negative comment on mobile gaming. It’s just the nature of the beast. It’s no wonder not many apps can stand out from the app stores to any degree. The same applies to games and software on desktop computers. There are more software lost to time than what you can find archived or on sale.
The tales of mobile gaming killing handheld consoles are largely exaggerated.
Much like last few years, here’s personal Top 5 games of 2015. Like last time, all these games were first played in their actual physical form this year. As the release year doesn’t matter to any reviewer out there either, I’m simply picking from the games I played this year. This post is going out about week before intended, but seeing how I’ll be a bit busy for the rest of the year, I don’t see myself picking up any new games that could affect this post.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (3DS)
MonHun4U is a peculiarity on this list. The sole reason I bought a Flanders (N3DS) was to play with my friends who live elsewhere. After the initial whomp of daily playing, things died down a bit, but I kept going mostly by myself with some random players well into the final G-Rank quests.
I have about five hundred hours sunk into the game. I can’t argue against the time I’ve spent on it, MonHun4U is definitely the game I’ve played the most this year and deserves the top spot, even if there is no order with these.
The reason why the game gets the spot, and got all the hours from me, is that it’s challenging and fun. There really isn’t anything like Monster Hunter, and even if the series is not all that popular in the West, it does have a healthy player base. That’s part of the reason I enjoyed this game to the extent I have, most players I’ve met online have been very supportive. Not only that, but it’s a very rewarding game with grinding taking a small eternity, but when you get the equipment set you’ve planned, you’re able to put it into use right away and start messing with harder and stronger monsters.
I started with MonHun Portable on PSP, and the series has come a long way from having stupidly difficult start and controls to a game that’s nicely balanced. Fixed hitboxes help a lot in actually knowing where the monster is going to hit and where you need to hit it back. While I still dislike the fact MonHun is all about animation management than anything else when it comes to the controls, it’s still relatively tight. I would prefer to have more options via cancelling or comboing differently, but that would change the gameplay rather drastically. Monster Hunter X sort of did this, where all the Styles have different kind of gameplay. Aerial Style is damn fun, and I can see myself using it whenever I decide to get it. Most likely I’ll wait and see if CAPCOM decides to bring it to the West, it’s gotten pretty good respond from the fans overall.
Gravity Rush (PSVita)
Gravity Rush was the game you got the Vita for. Now you don’t need to, it’s being remade for the PS4. It’s a very short and very sweet game, which kinda makes me wonder why the hell didn’t they bundle it and its sequel together, because it also feels very incomplete towards the end.
The thing Gravity Rush does the best is flying. You can spend hours end just flying around and collecting things. Sometimes after finishing with a session I could feel my eyes and physical feeling still pulling me towards the skies. It’s absolutely fantastic. Sadly, the rest of the game isn’t really as stellar. The battle system is very basic, more a chore than an enjoyment. Side quests, like with most games, are a chore a well. At least they give you more reasons just to fly around. Nevertheless, once you get inside the game and begin to fly around like its your second nature, using Gravity Kicks to beat your enemies becomes fast and easy. It’s still a chore sure, but at least you know what you’re doing and are good at it.
Gravity Rush could’ve been SONY’s first proper great in-house game franchise, but they fucked that up by waiting far too long with the sequel, and now killing Vita by porting what can be described as its only truly unique game. It’s one of those games that are flawed, but those flaws don’t really stand out too much, mostly because the exact same flaws have become more or less a standard in the industry. It does few things well, and one of them really damn good. Flying and freefalling haven’t been this fun since last night’s dream.
Gravity Rush 2 most likely will be one of the reasons I will end up getting a PS4
Nier is a game that I got more or less because I have respect towards Drakengard as a franchise, and because I am having stupidly high expectations for Nier Automata for no good reason. It’s also one of those games where I didn’t go skipping story sequences. Nier and Drakengard games have stupidly expansive story that are both as entertaining and interesting to read about as they are heart crushing.
I never finished the original Drakengard, it is effectively a shit game. Kusoge, if you want to use the Japanese term. I’ve heard the second game improves the gameplay a lot, which is why I’ll be giving it a look at some point next year. Nier is a far better game than Drakengard in ever respect, yet it carries the same generic flaws as Gravity Rush; side questing to the extreme and dumb as hell combat. What makes Nier stand out from the crowd isn’t just because of the story, but how much it shows it was made with love. Effectively, the gameplay is what you’d expect from a 3D action game, in lieu of 3D Zelda. It has a very similar overworld-dungeon structure to boot. The music absolutely gorgeous, definitely one of the best soundtracks from previous generation.
The boss fights require a special mentioning, as they change the rules of the gameplay pretty drastically. I don’t know what good stuff the developing team was smoking at the time, but I want me some. The bosses, and some the minor enemies, have ability to turn the game into a large scaled version of bullet hells, which really makes the game’s bosses to stand out from the generic fodder you kill on the fields and dungeons, for better or worse.
Nier is also one of the few games that actually use video game’s own methods to tell a story. This is slightly spoilerific, so just skip to next bit if you don’t want to know. The main enemies in the game are Shades, and in the tutorial you are taught how to kill these by the dozens. Nevertheless, the fist Shades you meet in the game proper do not attack you, ever. They are not aggressive, and items these smaller Shades drop are things like used colouring books or other stuff children tend to carry. It’s a very minor, but also very telling way to show to the player a foreshadowing element, where the Shades are not monsters, but human souls separated from their bodies, and you were just slaughtered bunch of innocent children without any provocation. It’s great stuff, and Nier ups the ante to the very end, even having an ending where you can choose to erase your existence, or in real world terms, all the saved and system data from your HDD. The DLC still stays, you don’t need to redownload that.
The reason why Nier also got on the list is that this year there were very little games that did actually tell me I’m on the list dammit! Nier’s not a kind of game I would otherwise put it on the list, as a game it’s pretty generic and even dumb, but as an overall piece of entertainment, including all the sidematerials and the insane shit they have in them, it got a spot. This kind of tells me very few games caught my eye this year, even less had the balls to be extremely good.
There’s something in this opening that I just like
Tetris is the ultimate puzzle game, Umihara Kawase games are the best puzzle-platformers and Pitman falls just under that. It’s Western name is Catrap.
The main goal in the Pitman is to beat all the monsters in a room. You got falling rocks to place, grass to cut and monsters to bump. Rather than trying to explain the gameplay mechanics incoherently in my whisky fumes, just give this video a look.
It’s a very fun game, but also very frustrating at times. It’s a great time sink and something I would recommend everybody to get their hands on, if possible. I think it’s available on the 3DS’ eShop, at least in Japan. There’s nothing much to say about it, all great puzzle games shine in their simplicity like that.
Captain Tsubasa II: Super Striker (Famicom)
When I was a wee lad, I ended up playing slew of soccer games as my older brother was part of a team. One of them was Tecmo Cup: Football Game, which I always had fond memories of. It’s pretty much the only soccer game I remember liking next to Nintendo World Cup, both because they weren’t dull or aimed at realistic simulation, unlike Kick-Off!, which I should revisit after twenty years now that I understand how it work better. Of course, it took some time to find out that Tecmo Cup: Football Game was actually the Western release of Captain Tsubasa. The Cutting Room Floor has a list of differences that happened during localisation.
What makes Captain Tsubasa II an interesting piece that it’s something we could call a cinematic soccer game, derived from the fact that it makes extensive use of Tecmo Theatre, which is essentially a widescreen window on the screen showing actions and story progression. Other Tecmo games used it as well but not to the same extent. Ninja Gaiden may be the most famous example. The biggest difference with how Tecmo Theatre handles cinematics here is that they are completely dependant on the player input during gameplay. Modern games are very much on a lower calibre, where the cinematics play despite the player and only occasionally requiring an input or two. Outside when a cinematic of your action plays out, like Passing to another character or shooting, you’re in control the whole time.
Of course, prior to each match you’re given option to change the layout your team will be in, tactics and so on. If we really want to get into it all, you better be prepared to look closely into how the opposing team is playing and what their weaknesses are. All this becomes important later in the game after you’ve gained new team members and your current ones have levelled up enough. You read that right, Captain Tsubasa II has a level up system which gives a solid feel of progression and encourages you to play evenly rather than just relying on Tsubasa’s Super kicks.
As Captain Tsubasa II is a license game, it is an original sequel to the Captain Tsubasa comic, which had ended at the time. Funny thing is that certain elements appear in late World Youth sequel series. As such, it also carries a lot of elements that appeared in both the TV-series and comics when it comes to how it handles soccer. While it’s not necessarily unrealistic, it is cartoonish and supercharges the most dramatic moments, rivalries and of course, the kicks.
Supercharged would be a good word to describe the game. It feels fast, it doesn’t feel cheap and it simply feels so damn fun. Everything has been laid down so damn well with just the right design. The energetic music adds so much to the game, keeping the tension up and gets you pumped up. There is no one bad track in the whole game as even the damn Password screen theme get you hyped.
This is the key why Captain Tsubasa II is still popular among Japanese; it’s fast and wastes no time to throw you in. The game has got a lot of romhacks that modify teams, events and so on. Even Touhou has a soccer version that is essentially Captain Tsubasa II with a new coat of paint and new scenarios. It captures the gameplay pretty accurately, even if the running animation with the characters is rather awful. However, it adds far too long super moves with main characters, which in the end botches down some of the game’s pace.
Captain Tsubasa II: Super Striker is essentially a sport game for those who don’t like sport games. It’s also superior to its predecessor in every regard, which bums me out that this never got localised. It’s an excellent example how to manage cinematics with a solid and simple core gameplay.
Last games on my list have always gotten special spots. Captain Tsubasa II deserves it this time simply by being a damn good and entertaining game.
I really should read the comic one of these days, it’s basically responsible in making soccer a popular sports in Japan, much like how Slam Dunk did with basketball later on.
Those that didn’t make the cut
Unlike previous years, I’ll include a set of games that didn’t make the cut for whatever reasons. If you’re wondering why Schwarzesmarken didn’t get on either of the lists, it’s because I don’t consider Visual Novels as video games.
Metal Gear Solid V (PS3, 360, PS4, Xbone, PC)
The reason MGSV didn’t get the spot is that it was sort of boring on the long run. It forced a TV-series sort of structure, where every mission had opening and ending credits, which was an utter waste of time. I don’t give two damn who made the game, just let me get on with it already. The game had a large areas to play with, but there’s very little do in those empty spaces.
I know the game was released essentially unfinished, and this is also the reason why it feels very unrefined at times. Yet when looking at the time and money that was spent on MGSV, I understand very well why KONAMI wanted it out. Kojima spent too much time to make this a grand scale game, when one of the best part of the series has been that they all have been very tightly designed. I hope that whatever next Metal Gear game KONAMI puts out next will go back to the basics.
Langrisser RE:INCARNATION (3DS)
This game is also coming to West, and it’s not really worth your money. Well, it kinda is. I also hope they will drop TENSEI from the title.
I really love the Langrisser series, and RE:Langrisser was a disappointment I enjoyed. The most damning thing with it is the battle sequences; they are absolutely retarded. Turning them off actually makes the game very enjoyable, but at the cost of making it very in visuals. The music is tight as hell, and my favourite track Neo Holy War got in. Sure, it’s a Stage Results theme, but it got in dammit!
Speaking outside the fan perspective, unless the game gets a gameplay overhaul and content additions with completely revamping the battle animations, there’s very little reason to buy RE:Langrisser. It feels like a budget game without being one, and I wouldn’t recommend it to many people. Fire Emblem fans may get a kick out of it, as FE belongs to the same genre that Langrisser’s predecessor Elthlead started.
Ninja Gaiden Black (Xbox)
I wanted to like the game, but after hearing so many glorious things, my hopes for a great game were crushed. There are games that are difficult and fun, but Ninja Gaiden Black is just a chore. The difficulty it has isn’t really anything that can’t be overcome, but it’s just a damn tedious game with little to no fun factor in it. There are more fun games in my library, and beating the game about halfway through I just gave up and decided to spend more time on games that gave something back as well.
Transformers Devastation (PS3, 360, PS4, Xbone)
I like most of Platinum’s games. They are often fast paced, very well designed and exceptionally well realised. However, lately their games have become stale in what they do, namely with The Legend of Korra and Transformers Devastation. TFD is a very fun game to play, but ultimately it is also very much of the mould as previous games from Platinum. They have a thing they do, and they do it very well, possibly the best in the whole industry.
Nevertheless TFD feels like they are strongly stagnating and close to repeating themselves in an endless cycle. TFD’s lack of revitalisation in what they do is the reason it didn’t get the spot, it’s too much of the same. This is why my hopes for Nier Automata are stupid, because I know it’ll be the best game in the Nier/Drakengard metaseries, but it will also be your run-of-the-mill Platinum game that doesn’t evolve or refine their core gameplay one bit.
Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus (PSVita)
The first Senran Kagura was an awful game to play. It’s clunky, on the slow side and overall boring. Shinovi Versus was its first sequal, and is a lot better in every respect. The reason it didn’t get into Top 5 is that Senran Kagura 2 Shinku is a better game. It has better gameplay, better stage design, better tracks, and most importantly, faster load times. Shinovi Versus’ stages average around 45s, ranging from 5s to 1min 20s, all depending how well you know how to abuse the system. More often than not you’ll clear stages in about half a minute. This doesn’t even require you to grind for levels. This means the game should be a very fast paced game, but you’d be wrong thinking that. Loading the stage from the menu and loading the “overworld” after the stage takes 1min 50s, longer if there are more than one story sequence. When playing the game, ~51+% of your time is sitting and waiting for the game to load something. That’s infuriating, especially if you’re in the zone and just want to blaze through. The game takes twice as long to beat because of the load times. Without the long load times, this game would’ve been in Top 5. For a system that uses game cartridges, this is unforgivably awful optimisation.
Few of my friends have been asking me to get back into Monster Hunter with MonHun 4G. I did enjoy MonHun on the PSP despite the controls being rather atrociously laid out. Claw Grip is one of the unhealthiest and hand hateful position you can have your hand in. Despite my stance against CAPCOM products due to their awful customer and business practices, my interest to play with my friends took the better of me.
Or it would have if Japan would still allow worldwide multiplayer as a standard.
It’s not surprising that CAPCOM divided servers. The division between East and West has been a standard, but there’s no real good reason to create the split. They can give reasons ranging from server problems to connection speeds to language barriers. Any and all customers who are even a bit tech savvy can call out on their bullshit. Language barrier wouldn’t even be a problem, if it was treated in a proper manner. 3DS’ own regional locking is not a problem either, as there’s more than enough games that don’t give two shits about regional lock in Online multiplayer, but for some reason you can’t play local multiplayer with different region consoles/games for some God forsaken reason. Granted, regional promotions, events and addons could pose a problem, but even in that the following example shows how it’s done. Much like with Pokémon, it would be possible to have every language mingle with each other with no problem, and regional things would only apply for that region. For example, if a Japanese and English version players would play together, Japanese would see チャージアックス (Charge Axe) while English would see Charge Blade. This is a matter of coding, and it would seem that CAPCOM doesn’t want to put that extra effort in making the series a worldwide experience.
That’s actually a point that should be emphasized. Monster Hunter has always been a game where you gather your party and go hunt some monsters, despite certain issues earlier in the series or the limit of access to other players. In Japan, AdHoc play is extremely easy as you could find Hunters in almost every corner of any of the larger cities. You could find a hunting party during your train trip and have a short session with the before the train trip ends. Not so much elsewhere in the world, locally practically impossible. I don’t expect Japanese developer to understand different cultures, as it is apparent not even Nintendo wants to deal with West. It’s sad to say, but Japan doesn’t give two shits about Western markets. That is the reason you see Monster Hunter most on handheld consoles rather than on home consoles nowadays. The average Japanese person has no time to sit down and play their consoles anymore. Then there’s the sad fact how the number of children in Japan has been in a steady decrease, which translates to whole lot of other problems to those who wish to create successful kids’ franchises from the past decades. As such, tapping to the Western market would be their absolutely best deed they could do. I can even offer an example in form of Nintendo; during the 80’s and mid to late 90’s, Nintendo had a strong Western presence. They worked with Western developers and have Howard Lincoln as their contact person, who communicated between the two sides. However, after Lincoln moved on, Nintendo’s attitude towards their Western developers, which at that point was essentially Rare, went cold. It’s all cultural of course, and Japan’ long history of being only with themselves and excluding everyone else is well known. It’s sad to see this sort of paradigm has not vanished with time, but has taken numerous different kind of forms.
If we could create the most idealised MonHun game, I guess that one would be Monster Hunter World, where CAPCOM would put every and any content from past games into one massively comprehensive game. Like the given title, the game would be worldwide, calling any and all players to join one massive community of hunters. All the differences the players would have from any point, they all would be connected by their wish to slay dinosaurs and dragons. Basic MMO solutions with servers and whatnot of course would apply, but the point is to bring people together without limitations. Knowing CAPCOM, this is impossible due to their ineptitude to properly satisfy their customers to a large extent. Otherwise it would be completely possible for them to do something like that, it’s not like CAPCOM has seen this sort of products, just in a more limited form.
In the modern era of online multiplayer gaming, exclusion is far from good form. There is no reason not to create an all inclusive multiplayer experience, where everybody could play with anyone from anywhere from the world. Connections can (and often will) vary from bad to worse, but that’s all part of the experience in the end. There’s a lot of people across the world with various attitudes and ways to communicate, and we can’t really understand these people unless we can mingle, even if it is through a hunt of Rathalos. The standard messages most online multiplayers have are often enough to convey the feelings and meanings of the players, but more than not the gameplay and how they act during it allows us to see the similarities we share. There are those who are there just to hunt and help others, there are those who are there to compete for the best pieces and some are there to show the ropes to all newcomers. It’s all about the experience, and limiting who we can play with is directly taking a piece out of that experience.
Of course, one problem is that Monster Hunter is far more popular in Japan than in Western regions but perhaps the more free multiplayer could help in this.
In the end, I could always buy an European 3DS or N3DS Flanders, but to quote a wiseman; Fuck that shit. While I understand why Nintendo chooses to go with region locking, I agree with all the people criticising it. It’s an old method to control a market, and both SONY and Microsoft have opted for better solution to some extent. I have to say that I am rather fond how PSN overall works with its regional differences, as it allows the gray area market to work full force via PSN codes, for SONY’s benefit no less. Screwing with customer can end up the customer screwing with you, and then it becomes a never ending cycle. For companies developing consoles, keeping an eye on the hack scene and what is most popular function among the users would be a good place see what the truly core customer may want to see from you.