Consoles need to be stupid

Few days ago, news about the PlayStation 4 being a gimped console broke through. No, not in the fashion of it having ballgag. Down the pipe, when Sony decides to kill off their online services for the PS4, your console will end up as a brick. Lance McD explained further that the Trophies require the internal clock to be correct, and seeing people can’t change their internal clocks, when the servers and battery die out, so does your ability to play games. Your only way to sync the PS4’s internal clock is through connecting to PSN.

This is stupidly lousy engineering on Sony’s department, but I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’m not putting blame on Trophies as well. Gaming consoles have become smarter and smarter without any true benefits to the customer. All they need to do is to play the game. Trophies, movie playback, sharing to Social Media and all that is gibble. It’s the same ol’ thing again; consoles are just dumbed down PCs. This one of the many negative results of it. PC like machine brings PC like problems. Concentrating on essential necessities for playing a game and excising the excess should be an industry standard. We don’t need access to Twitter or the like via linked accounts. A generic browser should be all you need for that, but everything needs to be its own program nowadays.

PS4 clock battery problem is for the long-term. At this moment in time, you are able to drop in a new battery and reconnect with the servers. In the future, this won’t be applicable. Gee, who the hell would be playing PS4 games ten years from now? Dunno, who the hell would be playing SNES games twenty five years after the console?

This’ll pose some interesting challenges down the line when it comes to archiving and keeping records on PS4’s games. Future historians that want to see the games running on their native hardware will have to find a way to get around the limitations Sony put on the system clock. Oh but of course, the Trophies must be protected that people don’t have bragging rights. What a shit decision to put any protection on the whole thing.  

The most permanent solution will end up being modding the console to access all levels of functions. This game reading error will not be a major issue for Sony, and it getting fixed will be a very low priority. Especially now that the Japanese aren’t running the show. Few individual commentators have mentioned how this will ultimately be a positive thing, as this’ll force people to move to new machines and recycle their old games and consoles, or how this is beneficial for the competition between players, or how this somehow is a great anti-piracy measure if people can’t play games on a timed-out system. Fellating corporations always goes against the needs of the consumer. None of the points have any legs to stand on; the longer a machine functions and is playable is most economic and green option; Trophies amount to jack shit in eSports or other forms of digital competition outside dick measuring contests; this will have the opposite effect.

PS5 and X… I don’t even have a real shorthand for Xbox Series S and X. I’ll have to go with XboXSX just for the gringe factor. Anyway, both PS5 and XboXSX were launched at a terrible time. We’re going into an economic slump. We’re already short of chips and whatnot to build these machines. Both of these consoles were designed for a much better economic time they ultimately ended up in, much like how X360 and PS3 were. Part of the Wii’s success was in how concentrated it was in its function; it plays games. It doesn’t need to do anything else. By cutting away all the excess fat from the system Nintendo managed to find a low price point people could justify during an economic slump. After that, we experienced a nice rise in economics. We wouldn’t have seen the rise of Kickstarter and similar services in the same manner. People could pledge hundreds of dollars for people through Patreon and such. There was money to go around. That’s not going to be as the economy keeps balling down the road. Sure, big companies will make a big buck. It’s the smaller and local businesses that’ll go under. No better time to put more control on the media and devices you should have ownership over.

Sure, nobody in the Big Three saw the slump coming, though even without the Shangai Shivers some economists had been foretelling we’d go to an economic downward slope around 2019 or so. Having a to-the-core machine, and just one version of it, would’ve served the customer better. I agree that it’s nice to have all these bells and whistles most people barely use, some none at all, yet this whole PS4 battery bullshit is a symptom of putting the emphasize in the wrong court.

No, the battery isn’t the thing people should get concerned over, or the engineering, but the priorities that go into deciding to even put these things into the console; it’s all needless extra. A console’s basic core function is to play games. Everything else should be cut off from that. If all else fails in a console, be it network connection, internal battery, user account or whatever, the user should be able to put the game in and have it played, physical or not. Reality isn’t all that nice or consumer friendly, sadly. Just imagine; Turn the console on, see boot screen, put game in, and you’re playing. Nothing else going in the background or connecting to anywhere else. Just you, the game and the ability to play without seeing a dashboard, needing to connect to the servers, seeing news or being asked to install new updates that take half an hour.

If you’re reading that as me advocating of removal of capabilities modern consoles have when it comes to services and such, you’d be correct. All a console truly needs in addition of playing games is to be able to connect to the Internet for patches and multi-player. Everything else can be trashed. All the other resources can be put on making the controller better, or perhaps not used at all, minimizing the limit when a console goes to black. That’s not going to happen with Sony as long as they want to pretend still to be a prestige brand with the best home media center to offer. Sony’s quality assurance hasn’t been up to that level for good thirty years now, and things like this PS4 internal battery situation is one of those signs. 

The best fix would be Sony to remove this whole shebang and let consumers to set the clock by themselves without a need to connect to the servers at any point. Fat chance, but I can always dream of having more freedom.

Sony has (almost) no classics

Is that a hyperbole enough? Should be, as by now it’s more or less clear that Sony has no idea why Nintendo’s Classic consoles have sold out like hot cakes and occasionally still vanish off the shelves. Well, mostly because they’re not Nintendo and the Sony has no classics. PlayStation as a console as definitive classics, but Sony as a company really has jack shit.

Let’s put aside the fact that the PlayStation Classic’s hardware is rather terrible and emulation is spotty at best, but people can put those things aside for a long time. Just look at the people who are still using ZSNES. Sony has no Mario or Sonic. You’d think the whole thing with mascots is so 1990’s, but outside the era slowly coming into fashion (can’t wait to see shit in colour again) the whole mascot wars did at least one or two things right. First, companies had a face other than a human. You couldn’t separate a game console from its mascot. Now, you have such cute mascots as Sakurai attached to Nintendo instead. Nobody cared who or what made our games back then to the same extent, video game developers were not rock stars, which was only a good thing. Secondly, in order to beat the other furry mascots and whatnot you had back then, you had to have quality. Tells you how much quality you ended up having when the only ones that are still relevant today are effectively Mario and Sonic. Sony never had a mascot, not an official one. No, Polygon Man doesn’t count as they dropped its ass faster than your ice cream melts in the sun and it never had any games around it. Sony had all these unofficial mascots that the company liked to tote around like and Sony wanted to keep close to their heart. That was a problem, because that changed from time to time. Both Spyro and Crash were the faces for the kiddies, while Solid Snake and stuff from Twisted Metal served for the adulties. Hell, Kojima even favoured PlayStation for Metal Gear titles and probably would’ve loved to see it stay Sony exclusive to the end of time, which we all agree would’ve been bad because Ghost Babel really is the best Metal Gear game. At times you saw Cloud’s potato LEGO face when talking about RPGs, though Phantasy Star did the whole killing-a-waifu thing first. No, Sony and PlayStation never had anything of their own, and they were largely dependent on whatever shit the platform saw.

The hell are you getting at? I hear Charlie asking in the third row. Well, if we’re completely honest, PlayStation games that were most requested and wanted on the Classic couldn’t be included. Spyro and Crash had their remakes just on the side, so including those would’ve fought against sales. Metal Gear Solid has been re-released digitally to death at this point and anyone who wanted the game already probably had it. Original GTA is pretty shit. But it’s not about the game library, not really. It’s about the sales. It’s always about the sales. And the game library.

Nintendo’s Classics didn’t only sell to people who wanted to play the games and scalpers, they sold to people who wanted their kids to play these older games that had no modern equivalents. There is a certain code standard to NES and SNES titles, a sort-of must play coda that was shared between the Western nations. Not so much in Japan, they had their own groove. Better to think the Famicom library as a whole another thing altogether. PlayStation is a modern console with most of its games having some sort of modern equivalent. It’s not that people wouldn’t love to play PlayStation games now, because they are. It’s not just via PSN, but with through remakes, sequels and remasters. Tekken 3 might be the last good Tekken or the first bad Tekken, depending who you ask, but do you really expect people to jump unto a game that is eclipsed by its own sequel everybody plays, especially when its running on a terrible hardware and Toshinden next to it? I too have a strange nostalgia boner for Toshinden thanks to the PC version I used to play like no other, but holy shit it’s not a classic title in any regard that deserves this spot. Then again, what should take its spot? Street Fighter II is a tied to the 16-bit consoles more, Sega had Virtua Fighter. Legitimately does the PlayStation have another game series outside Tekken that can be argued to be a stone engraved classic to end of times? No, it doesn’t. Guilty Gear got its status only with GGXStreet Fighter Alpha 3 had superior ports on the Saturn and Dreamcast, Dead or Alive was all over the place and didn’t get the attention until tits hit Dreamcast and PlayStation 2.

Wouldn’t that mean it was about bad game choices and thus about the library? What are the core PlayStation games people most remember, and how many of those still exist? The PlayStation nostalgia is not the like nostalgia for the NES and SNES. The PlayStation was, for all intentions, the first console that was cool to own. Mega Drive aimed for the adult audience and the NES had lots of adult players for the sports games, but the PlayStation had incredible success with the whole cool factor. Hell, WipeOut alone was like a drug gold mine with the European trance club culture of the time. Would you buy a Classic console to play WipeOut when there are so many sequels out there on other Sony consoles and a remake that make this version obsolete?

Nostalgia for the PlayStation is a large part of the console’s successors in various forms that do not exist on the Nintendo platforms from the get-go when it comes to the Classic Era of consoles. If Nintendo is to make N64 Classic, it’ll have the same problem and will face the fact that N64 classics are counted with one hand. It’ll be consisting of titles that either have been ground to halt or are just terrible choices. At least Nintendo doesn’t need to rely on third-party support and have licensing problems, which without a doubt was a major problem with some of the developers and publishers. The consumer population doesn’t have the same affection for the PlayStation as it does for the NES and the SNES. That is not to say there isn’t one or that’s some kind of negative. It’s just different by a different generation.

Sony has often followed what Nintendo does without really realising why Nintendo does things or why they’ve been successful with some of their things. The PlayStation Classic was going to war with trumpets lambasting, but with no weapons carried. Hardware and software are an issue where Sony failed like a dead fish in bed, and the game version choices were weak at best, but those honestly are rather small compared to the problem that Sony completely mistook what made the original PlayStation a hit and didn’t understand the system’s nostalgia. PlayStation nostalgia is hard to capture, because it’s like Xbox nostalgia in that it never really went away, just like 3D Mario. 

Review of the Month; Sayonara Umihara Kawase Chirari

Seems like Agatsuma wants to take the best out of Sayonara Umihara Kawase in the likely case it will be the last game in the series. However, I’ve been wrong about the handling of this game all this time, arguing against its Western release on the 3DS, then later for Vita, but luckily I was proven completely wrong and both versions saw a release in English. Digital only, but a release nonetheless. I’ve said previously that purchasing video games has become a somewhat political issue in certain circles, where people have began to emphasize support of the companies over the quality of the product itself. My initial purchase on the physical release of Sayonara Umihara Kawase was this. I am admit for being a fan of the series and that I do certain things that your normal fan would. However, that doesn’t take away the fact that the game itself is a top notch puzzle platformer. Some would say that it’s the best, but tastes vary and I’m more inclined to say that Sayonara Umihara Kawase is the most exciting and rewarding platformer we currently have, but the nature of the game will put some people off.

They even revised the logo a little bit
They even revised the logo a little bit

With the Vita release, Sayonara Umihara Kawase Chirari, or just Chirari if you got to know her well enough, boasts the same levels and characters from the 3DS original release, but with no 3D support, stabilised 60 frames per second, some new levels, comes with the original Super Famicom Umihara Kawase and the limited edition came with a character you can out on your cup of noodles. As mentioned, the Western release is digital only and this is reflected in the price. For whatever reason they didn’t think up any good translation to Chirari, just replacing with a… plus. Doesn’t really sound as good.

Umihara Kawase is a nice game series in that while every game is very similar to each other, the series has changed slightly with each instalment. The Super Famicom game is very straightforward and there’s nothing else but you and your line. It starts rather simple and easy overall speaking, but just few stages in you can do acrobatics that are required later on accomplish the stages. The skill ceiling is very high, and getting good with the game won’t happen in one night, unless you have magical understanding of pendulum physics and high controller execution skills. The game has an interesting dynamic, where the fish enemies play about 50/50 of the stages’ difficulty with their movements and positions.

Speedruns and such make the game look far more easier than it really is

The second game on the PlayStation saw few release versions, and some of the demo discs have stages not seen elsewhere. Umihara Kawase Shun changes things tiny bit and emphasizes on stage navigation while taking the emphasize on enemies away a bit. That alone changes how the game is played slightly, but what makes this game stand from the SFC game that the line is now a bit shorter, but much more springier in nature. You can also see that the game had better budget overall, as the game is far more colourful than its predecessor with better sound quality to boot. Shun saw a port to the PSP, which is absolutely abysmal due to porting developer, Rocket, managed to mangle the code to the extent of breaking the game’s physics and mechanics. It’s an unplayable mess. However, there is Umihara Kawase Shun Second Edition Kanzenban on the DS, which brought in the original developer duo in to oversee the process, and was considered the best portable version of Shun. It comes with the SFC game in it, thus making it an excellent piece overall.

The music in Umihara Kawase games has always been this sort of relaxed take on them, not hurrying you in any ways. Some could call the pastel coloured elevator music, but that’s part of the charm of the series

Sayonara Umihara Kawase may be the swansong of the series, but if this will be the case, the series will go with a nice bang. Umihara Kawase has come to a point, where it abandons the slight arcade roots it had and dumps the live system from previous games. No longer you traverse from the first stage to the next through doors and choose different routes this way. Sayonara Umihara Kawase introduces a map screen, where you can see your progression. Stages can now be replayed at will, and every successful playthrough is recorded as is your failures. Backpacks served as lives in previous games, but here they serve as collectibles that unlock illustrations, music and stuff in the Gallery mode. There are still different routes on the map screen and thus multiple ending stages. When at least one is finished, you unlock Survival Challenge, which is essentially the classic Umihara Kawase mode; you start from first stage with limited lives and need to play through your selected route in one go.

Umihara herself has grown up in few ways since her first game, and Sayonara introduces two extra characters to play with. Childhood Umihara is a separate playable character from her current self, and to go with that we have her friend Emiko. The two share a checkpoint ability, where at certain points in the stages a checkpoint flag pops up. In case of failure, either character will return to that point, but it only works once per checkpoint. The second character is Noko, a time travelling police and Umihara’s descendant. Sure, why not. Her power is to engage bullet time for more accurate action or something.

Sayonara builds on top of Shun’s idea of having the stages as your primary challenge. There are some enemies placed in challenging locations, but they’re not the main thing to look for. Pits, spikes and other stage hazard are the thing that most likely will do you in. There is a good amount of care put into developing and building the stages, and as usual there are few different ways to finish the stages themselves, unless the stage us built around a mechanic or gimmick. The whole game is now in 3D, and some of the elements was made to take advantage of the 3DS’ 3D output. However, this is damn useless and drops the framerate down to 30. For a game that requires high level of execution with point accuracy, you want to have a good framerate that allows you to react and act at the right time.

The physics and mechanics are very similar to Shun too. While the difference between SFC and Shun is very clear, how the line functions in Sayonara Umihara Kawase is very similar to Shun to the extent I can’t make any proper difference. The only thing I can say is that Shun’s rope physics are a little bit more bouncier, and that lends itself to high speed acrobatics a bit better in contrast to Sayonara’s ever bit more controllable line. It’s like in the middleground between SFC and Shun of sorts.

With Vita lacking any 3D effect, Chirari doesn’t suffer from this. You may like the 3D on the 3DS, but it brings nothing to the table here. Playing both 3DS and Vita versions brings out the best and the worst in the two devices, but Umihara Kawase just plays better on Vita. This is partly because of the 3DS’ design, but also because the Slide-Pad and D-Pad on the system are subpar with mushy buttons. Chirari simply plays better due to more responsive buttons. As everything that was found in the 3DS was directly ported to Chirari, some of the sprites look slightly pixelated on the Vita’s screen. While most of these are just passing things, it hits your eyes a bit. The same applies to the 3D models to some extent, and as such things like this should’ve been addressed properly. However, this also shows that the porting most likely didn’t have the highest budget out there, and the extra stages and all either were something that didn’t manage to be finished by the end of the deadline, or were planned but never realised in the 3DS version. The map screen also was turned from horizontal plane to vertical for whatever reason, but it works just fine.

In the end, Sayonara Umihara Kawase Chirari is an excellent game because of the 3DS original was an excellent one already. The few saw edges it has can be forgiven for stable 60fps and better screen. The visuals may too sweet and cute to some. Out from the two, Chirari does better on the scale due to Vita simply having better controller hardware. This is highly important as the series has always been all about the gameplay, and that’s what really matters with games. In addition, Chirari comes with those few new stages and packs with the original SFC Umihara Kawase much like Shun Second Edition Kanzenban did. With Shun on the PSN (or at least in Japanese PSN), the Vita currently is the console to play the whole series on one device.

Walking fish. Sometimes I wish fever dreams would stay away from the waking world
Walking fish. Sometimes I wish fever dreams would stay away from the waking world

I miss when they had proper manuals
I miss the time when they had proper manuals, not these slips

Retro never got resurrected

According to an interview of sorts, Nintendo won’t be releasing a new Mario game this year. It’s not like the recent Mario titles have sold all too well, so this is nothing new.

However, the main thing here is the retro revival thing. The Ultimate NES Remix is essentially a minigame collection based on existing franchises. The game itself isn’t anything notable, but it has a popularity for a reason. It does indeed carry loads of games that we’ve seen having an impact.

Retro gaming never went anywhere. These simple games with enough depth may have become overshadowed by the large scale computer games with the mixed pollution of the platforms, but even then you always had the exact kinds of games people usually consider retro on our machines. The non-linear adventure games you saw in Metroid and Space Hunter still exist from major developers and publishers, one of the latest being TMNT: Danger of the Ooze, which according to a friend is a worthwhile game. Then you had the 2D Mario games, though we can agree that the term ‘new’ is not more or less expired at this point. The New Mario Bros. series was pretty successful with its first two iterations on the DS and Wii, but even then we all can agree that the Wii game sold mostly because they brought back the Koolapings. That revelation alone sold a thousand copies or so.

This is tooting the same horn again, with the exact same song to boot, but looking at the success of the Mario franchise we see a division between the Modern Mario, ie. 3D games and the retro style Mario titles or he 2D games. It’s no secret that the developers at Nintendo prefer the 3D Mario. This is even reflected in the interview, where it is said that the devs have fun experimenting with them. While I have nothing against experimentation and fun, but it tells a lot how projects they themselves found fun are getting greenlit. Work is not always fun, and games like New Super Mario Bros. for the DS, or Super Mario Bros. in itself, were results of a need to create a successful product. Miyamoto himself stated few years back how 2D Mario takes more work to develop, and that reflects well on the mindset at Nintendo; these projects needs to be fun to work with, to hell with the end quality.

The comparison between release gaps of different franchises is nothing new. While Smash Bros. could use more frequent releases, the fact that Sakurai himself doesn’t want to work with the franchise keeps them being made. That, and comparing release gaps between Mario and Pikmin 3 is easy to notice; Pikmin games have never been all that popular. It’s worrisome that the teams focus on recreating gameplay experience rather than concentrating on how to beat the previous ones, or how to trump the existing ideas rather than inject new ones. Adding content and making previous instalments obsolete are two different things, and the latter of the two is what would serve the industry, and the customer, far better. Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2, or the Lost Levels, is a prime example of rehash in that everything was recycled from last game with some new ideas introduced. It’s far from a good sequel, and Super Mario Bros. 2 the West got is far superior game. It didn’t just recreate the gameplay, it made it something more and new ideas were not just introduced, but made better and built so that the whole thing would house a game that would made the previous game look like a chump. And it did!

Retro and old-school gaming never died, despite the powers that may be want you to believe otherwise. Indie developers had very little hand in any sort of revival, because there was no revival. Retro gaming, as the overall population usually understand it, is about playing the old consoles and the old games. Their revival would mean these would be resurrected, but it’s hard to resurrect anything alive. Mega Man franchise had those 2D games going on well into the 2000s, albeit with low quality titles.

If we call a game like Donkey Kong Country Returns a retro game, then where is the imaginary line between modern and retro? Is it the 3D revolution? If so, then Donkey Kong Country was released after the eve of Virtua Fighter. Some could argue that the PlayStation is the signal line, but the release dates between DKC and PSOne is less than a month.

If we tie retro to describe the overall most common type of game during the NES and SNES era, then what does it make the older eras? Or the next ones? Currently the cinematic gameplay is taking over, or has taken over depending from who you ask. Before that we had the overabundance of 3D environments, and before that FMV games. Or do we simply put all pre-1995 games into one category without even understanding their significance? You don’t see people commenting on Atari era, or how it was claimed that Nintendo has been doomed since around 1988. There is much to learn from the past, and I’m afraid simply recreation of gameplay with new ideas will not cut it.

Why would you want to release games that are sometimes on lesser level than their predecessors?

No developer will put their effort in giving past successes proper treatments. For Nintendo it is because they simply refuse to do so. You will not see a new 2D Metroid on Wii U or its successor. They never gave it to Mario either, you only got budget looking titles with that wah wah sounds instead of proper music. If a new 2D Metroid would come, it’ll be an title on a handheld with tight budget going against a 3D iteration on a home console, much like how Fusion and Prime tackled each other, and in the end Prime won. After that we got Other M, which showed how Nintendo doesn’t even get their own franchises. Kirby games have been doomed to be easy pieces of yarn and mediocrity, but then again that’s what Kirby games have been most of the time. F-Zero wasn’t successful either in 3D or in 2D, and even Miyamoto asks why people would want a new game that doesn’t sell. Same with Mario Kart. It seems we’ve all forgotten about 2D Mario Kart.

Some would argue that for Zelda too. Aonuma’s 3D puzzle Zelda took over, despite the classical Action RPG having more audience.

Steam developers follow in same suit, where their games are stuck to faux-pixel graphics and repeating certain gameplay cycles over and over. These game may have passion, but what does passion do for the game if the developer lacks ambition? It’s nothing but pretension to see a game being released that chooses to replicate gameplay that the developer is fan of, rather than to see the developer pushing forwards. Looking back to learn from mistakes and successes is the right thing to do, but after that your gaze should be turned to the future. Then, realize whatever visions you see in there.

Family friendly does not mean low quality

With Christmas knocking on our doorsteps next week, let’s take a small break and remember that not all games out there are for children.

Last year I wrote a post how to pick a proper game for younger people as a present. To sum it up, it’s the parents duty in the end to keep up what their children are playing and whether or not they allow such content to be consumed. The recent Grand Theft Auto V withdrawals are pretty much the stupidest thing I’ve seen in few weeks, as they were not products with content for children to be consumed. The +18 marking is there for a reason.

I have seen too many times a mother buying her kid +18 rated game. Few times I have been asked whether or not a game X would be a great gift for their child, I’ve glanced at the cover and simply asked whether or not the child was already at the age of 18. With experience I can say that parents barely can distinguish a game from another, but goddamn if they’re not like hawks when it comes to movies, television shows or similar. And with toys. God forbid a four year older child to have a toy that has a recommendation label for 5+.

This is why any I have hard time understanding anyone who wishes to pull a properly labelled game from the store under the pretence of this game hurting our children or affecting their growth negatively. I was once part of a conversation few years back where parents were complaining how games were too violent and bloody, full of sexual imaginary and so on. One of the mothers said I wish my boy wouldn’t play those games. Even better if they didn’t make such games at all, to which I simply snapped back with a question why the hell was she letting her son play the game? Her reply was something like I can’t dictate what my son does, which surprised me to no end. A parent needs to know where to set limits to their children, especially with material that they deem harmful.

We have movies, books and music that we almost instinctively can say if it is something a child or an adolescent should have access to. No parent would let their ten year old watch the first two Alien movies without first knowing whether or not their child could handle it. I was four when I saw Aliens, and I did see nightmares and there were certain scenes that still strike extremely powerful with me. I’m sure no parent would read one of those Harlequin novels filled with sex to their children either, less so giving them access to straight pornography. I admit, I saw porn way too early at the age of four and there are things that certainly have spun off from that little experience, but some have said that’s not necessarily a negative point. I’ve never been into music, but that’s mostly because both of my brothers were very keen into music during my youth, and one of the still play in a band. There were few times I remember my old man grabbing a C-cassette out from the player because the language in the song was very foul and the message in the song wasn’t the nicest one.

However, in my youth most of the adult games, so to speak, existed on the PCs. Certainly Atari had its handful of porn and adult oriented games, but the vast majority of the products on the system were family friendly games anyone could pick up and play. The same continued with the NES to a large extent, and even the SNES was very family friendly while having the few odd games here and there that aimed for more adult and gruesome images, like Mortal Kombat. SEGA marketed towards the more adult market, and while I can’t draw direct comparison in between the success of the console and its games to how family oriented they have been, it should be noted that the most successful consoles in the gaming history have always been about god quality games, which then have been for all in the family. Super Mario Bros. is a prime example of a game that anyone in the family could pick up and play. Consoles that aimed for a smaller market than the family tend to do worse. Then again, with PlayStation entering the fray family orientation was pushed in the back until Nintendo began to expand the market again with the NDS and the Wii.

With a wild guess, let’s assume that the image of consoles as a family friendly box is because the most culturally iconic of consoles and characters were just that. In modern era this doesn’t really apply anymore, but the general consensus has not caught up that yet. At least not with the older generations. I have no doubts that the generation that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s is far better equipped to tackle the challenges of then-modern forms of media and reject all the new ones that may be spawned within the next few decades.

Then again, people could just read the damn labels and we’d get rid of all these bullshit events about games corrupting the youth they were never meant for.

Let’s put this in mecha terms; you would allow your kid to watch and read Mazinger Z for sure, but the Mazinkaiser OVA would require this kid to grow up a little. You wouldn’t let this kid read (USA) Mazinger until a bit later on due to its contents. Similarly, GaoGaiGar is clearly something a five year old and up can enjoy pretty damn well, but Betterman requires a teen or older to fully even comprehend the story. GaoGaiGar Final on the other falls somewhere between, but the upped fanservice gives out the main target audience. Then again, Shinkon Gattai Godannar is not for kids for any reason.

To pull Mega Man back into the fray, let’s revise the origins on Mega Man. The game series was inspired by the childhood TV and comics the developers watched and read in their younger days. These titles included the shows like Casshern, which had a main character who hunted down evil robots with his robotic dog Friender. Mega Man itself can be mirrored to Testuwan Atom as a boy robot with a golden heart. X series continues with this sort of thing, but with the 90’s it has more mature storyline consisting of racial war, genocide, brainwash and other similar matters. Mega Man Legends on the other hand is very much a saturday morning cartoon through and through, and I would love to play the game with a clock on the upper corner, which is how Battle Mania Daiginjou actually starts. Same with Mega Man Battle Network, which is probably one of the reasons the series was so divisive but nevertheless successful. The Zero series on the hand is the first proper series aimed at the older, more core audience without a doubt with its post-apocalyptic storyline, former hero as the villain and blood spatters everywhere. The ZX series toned this down, but with the Ryusei no Rockman, it didn’t stand up against the its older brethren. I would almost argue that the moment Mega Man series decided to go full blown dark with Zero series, it had lost touch what made it great in the first place. Mega Man 9 and 10 were nostalgia catering stuff, and as with Super Mario that never works twice.

I would argue that we are in need of games that anyone could enjoy without forced agendas looming in the background, the likes of games that people enjoyed on the Atari and on the NES. It’s not about nostalgia, but about further success and expanding the market, two things that have always been successful in the electronic gaming industry.

When you’re purposefully taking losses, it’s time to step it up

I’m looking at the list of PlayStation 3 and 4 titles. I’m seeing why Shuhei Yoshida came forward with the information that only 3 or 4 titles out of ten make actual profit.

Yoshida is right. The game industry is a hit-driven, but not because its naturally one, but because it was made into this Tripple A driven monstrosity. This mirror the modern Hollywood quite well, as they’ve been revelling in big blockbusters for God knows how long.

However, the more pressing matter is that Yoshida further opens the issue with saying how only one or two games make their money back. This means that only a fraction of titles SONY themselves fund and produced makes any money for them. How the hell is this a good business model?

There is a local store chain called the K-Mart. Yes, just like in one of your Japanese animes. We also M-Mart. Anyway, the K-Mart is taking loss.

The chairman of the company proclaimed in one of the past meetings with various sales people how the K-Mart chain has the ability of taking certain margin of loss. Incidentally, because they’re taking loss, the quality of the products they produce in-house (or in extension of in-house producing) has dropped and the overall customer service has taken a hit for the worse. Prices have gone up too. I can’t support a company that intentionally works on loss. The market doesn’t work like that, and the customer is the one feeling the negative effects first and foremost.

SONY is working in a similar model, it seems. I’m sure they’d love to see more of their games making more money, but for whatever reason they simply don’t. Well, we actually do know. The games they produce is B-Tier games at best, like Invizimals. Who the hell bought that? Who the hell even wanted to get that game? Actually, who the hell even wanted a PSP? And now, who the hell wants a PSVita? Vita seemed to be rather interesting before it was released, but alas it dropped into abyss after nobody kept releasing games for it. Almost all of the valid games for Vita are ports or sequels. Those don’t really attract much attention. Sequels do sell, as people are used to them, but how the hell are you going to attract eg. fighting game fans unto PSVita with Tekken X Street Fighter when they have superior controls on the home console? Never mind the quality of TxSF for a moment. SONY themselves has said that they won’t push big games too much on the system, which is effectively killing it off. I’d rather wait for a port of that Ys game on it rather than paying money for the system, unless I can get a sweet damn deal on it.

I am troubled by SONY’s games because of this. They seem to push far too similar games to Microsoft and try to tap the exact same consumer group for whatever reason. That’s not healthy. Red Ocean market is already abused almost completely dry, and as Nintendo proclaimed with the DS and Wii, the industry can survive only if they keep expanding the customerbase. Well, Nintendo decided to abandon that with the 3DS and the Wii U. Shows me right to actually get excited of companies (or in Nintendo’s case, certain individuals) doing something new and much more competent.

Did you know that SONY owns the license to Q*Bert? Whenever they have funded a new Q*bert game, it has been more or less a travesty. In a way or another SONY’s Q*Berts have been screwed over by awful controls or broken game mechanics. It is like the developers SONY hires for their games don’t realize the core idea of how Q*Bert works. SONY is, or rather was, an entertainment electronics company turned into game company, after all. I’m actually just now getting over the fact that their AV equipment is not the best anymore. I am the last generation that knew how good SONY televisions and music players were. They were the main thing to go for audiovisual equipment. Not anymore, and this is reflected in their game business as well.

I can’t deny that SONY has some diversity in their games. However, their quality is another issue. I asked around how many people in my friend circle had interest in SONY’s titles, and they had some hard time to come up more than one or two. That alone tells a lot. These people, who are deep into the subculture and may even be called on favouring a SONY console, had practically nil interest in their games.

Perhaps it would do some good for SONY to do some extensive, expensive and expansive customer research, the type that will show all the negative points in their games as well as all the good ones and absolutely simply observe the customers and see their needs. When we look at SONY’s library, they don’t have anything on their own that could push their console onwards and move the sales. That should make them worry. Microsoft has Halo and even thou it doesn’t move the Xbox consoles like it used to, it’s still a strong contender. I would rather see Halo games on PC, but PlayStation as a brand doesn’t have anything on its own that would be the shining gem or the sleek black onyx that would catch people’s attention. A shooting game is a shooting game, a platformer is a platformer. The best and most famous ones will always attract more attention than whatever another company has made to compete with. Killzone has been plagued with the Stigma of being a direct contender to Halo, and I can’t help by agree with that. That SONY All-Stars or whatever it was called was nothing but a direct Super Smash Bros. clone. Yes, I know the system was different and it was pretty much a different game, but you never hear people arguing against the DreamMix TV World Fighters, which also included Optimus Prime and Simon Belmont as playable characters.

Now that I think about it, PlayStations have always had the same problem of not really having identity on themselves outside third party games. At one point Solid Snake was thought as the face of PlayStation, at another time Crash Bandicoot took the spot. SONY has cats Kuro and Shiro in Japan, but nobody gives two flying shits about them. Was Sackboy supposed to be the face at some point? If so, that’s another failure. It’s not that SONY has managed to push games on their systems, the problem really is that all these games have been pretty damn… mediocre, or even bad.

It may sound stupid, but whatever SONY is doing with their games needs to stop. Their current model clearly isn’t working.