Monthly Three; Video Game

What separates a video game from both arcade and computer games is that they’re blend of both. They’re easy to pick up and drop like arcade games, but offer a more complex composition of things similar to computer games. There are no new genres or such with consoles, but there are new amalgamations and ways the consumer interacted with their home television. That was what the first generation was all about, and despite Pong originating from the arcades, it is the quintessential video game, brining people together in front of the television screen. Computer games were for those who owned a computer and usually were for people who played them alone. Arcades required you to go out there and was a social event of sorts. A home console brought both of that together in a cohesive whole.  Let’s start with a game that took the best of both worlds.

Continue reading “Monthly Three; Video Game”

Zelda E3

I’m not sure what to take from Nintendo’s E3. It was basically Pokémon and The Legend of  Zelda, and that’s about it. Everything else was useless filler with no worth to them. At least they stood away from bullshit gender politics. The more the Big Three remove themselves from politics in their products, the better.

I’ve talked Zelda a lot in the past. Not as much as about Mega Man, but still considerably. Much like previous Zelda E3 events, we had been teased with an awesome trailer, then few years of pause, and then something completely new. Remember this one?

Remember this one too?

From that Spaceworld demo, we got Wind Waker.

Twilight Princess‘ trailer stand apart from the lot in a way that it had an initial trailer that lot more oppressive, darker tone than what the game ended up being.

Funny thing is that Skyward Sword‘s teaser trailer was mediocre even at its finest, just like the game itself.

What Skyward Sword and Wind Waker lacked is the same thing this The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild lacks; fantasy.

While Twilight Princess‘ trailer showed relatively impressive take on Zelda’s fantasy world, all these other titles seem to lack all of it. Breath of the Wild the most. We aren’t seeing what makes a fantasy game tick here, we’re seeing a goddamn nature preserve. Nature, if you’ve traversed in it, is incredible and beats anything seen in BotW. But hardcore gamers don’t go outside, right? They’ll enjoy these vast landscapes and distances from their home with Link.

The original teaser from 2014 for BoTW looks incredible. The game looks like it had an attitude, that it had an edge to it. It looked like it would return to the Action RPG mould rather than puzzle adventure Aonuma made Zelda into. But now, it seems Zelda’s becoming a nature trek simulator. Breath of the Wild may sound impressive in Japanese, but it’s a terrible title in English. It reminds of a Mentos or mouthwash commercial.

I watched most of Nintendo’s stream last night when they were playing the game. The first thing I noticed how much it reminded me of David Attenborough’s nature shows, and realised it was because they had British accented voice actress. Voice acting can be done with fantasy, but then the game needs to be done right. Adventure games are good examples of this. For Zelda, it breaks the fantasy and reminds you that these people are speaking in English, not the fantastical language of Hylians. Subtitles used to be about fantasy in their own way.

But the thing Breath of the Wild does worst is that it looks boring. It tries to bolt on concepts from other games like Minecraft and Skyrim to do its own thing, but forgets its roots. At a first glance, it might look like the original The Legend of Zelda, but looks are deceiving. In original LoZ, you had to do something in every screen of the game, be it fight an enemy or avoid it. You had to risk and search, you had to battle your way through. You had the exact same kind of adventure you had as a kid in the forest. No kid dreams of just walking in the nature and chopping trees and grass. Children and those who are into fantasy dream of walking in a forest with a sword and shield in their hands, fighting hordes of enemies. After all, the more orcs you kill, the more loot you can find from their bodies.

The boredom of BotW comes from the fact that it lacks imagination, and imagination is what makes fantasy work. The large overworld is the exact right step they needed to take after Skyward Sword, but they also need to fill that world with imagination. Everything we saw from Nintendo during their stream screamed the lack of it. Add something to the this world, make use that magicpunk technology to fill it in, create vast ruins rather than one bit of sanctuary in the middle of fucking nowhere. Don’t drop the player into an empty world with scripted event here and there with the occasional fight. Create large cities with tunnels or buildings, take us to the Moon, give vast caverns to and deadly forests as part of the overworld we can explore and venture through.

Give us anything but a dull world filled with nothing, like in Twilight Princess and Ocarina of Time.

It doesn’t help that the fighting in BotW has not evolved since OoT. It’s as basic as ever. It has no bells or whistles to it, it’s completely by the numbers, uninteresting piece. They should’ve asked Platinum Games to give them a hint or two, at least. In LoZ, each enemy felt like a threat and you got damaged accordingly. The Moblins were bulky looking, but now they’re just lanky clowns. Nintendo and Aonuma needs to look back at Katsuya Terada’s illustrations.

terada Zelda_art07 zelda2_art02 zelda2_art03zelda2_art05

All these images here depict what Zelda is not currently; battles, mysteries, grand exploration, confrontations and NPCs in help. These do no depict scripted video sequences and puzzles. They are, with one word, badass. They depict everything Aonuma’s puzzle adventure Zelda games are not. The original teaser for BotW from 2014 more in the lines with these pictures, but I guess that’s something they’re not interested to make. Funny thing, the more closer to western fantasy Zelda is, the better it usually gets.

How the game will ultimately form up is an open question at this point, but they have an open world. That is a start, but only a start. Now that world needs to be filled and the player needs to be allowed to have his own adventure, not the one Aonuma scripted for him.

It looks promising, but potential is nothing to be proud about. Only time will tell if they manage to make good use of what they have made, or if it will fall into the Aonuma mould again.

Different take on customers; People love clowns

Every hundred posts we take a different stance on customers and industry. Except something different from the usual.

One thing that is absolutely stupid with customers is their inability to realize who owns rights nowadays. It is the person who pays for them. In the creative industries, more often than not the company owns what the people produce. This is largely a standard in the creative industries. Movie companies own the rights to the movies they produce as they pay for the writers and directors to make them these products. This applies especially to video game companies, where they employ people to create these games. It’s their damn job. It has always been about money and it will always be about the money. You own what you pay for. Except Steam users.

People are saying Konami is taking Kojima’s baby away. That is nothing short of horse shit. Kojima may have been the creator behind Metal Gear and yet you need to remember that it has been a job for him. He did it because he was employed by a company to make games for them to sell to the customer, not for himself. If you want to own what you do, you make it yourself. Now Kojima has all the possibilities to exercise his freedom to put  a new company and have free hands to do whatever he ever wishes. Of course, it may end up being absolute shit, as any and every creative person needs to be reined in to cut the excess far and rot off from the product and fry it to perfection.

The whole recent thing about Konami’s and Hideo Kojima’s downfall is an example where there is an idol worshipping cult following one man and his wish to make money on the expense of these cultists. These people have been sucking Kojima’s dick to the extent that Kojima has been waging a power struggle with Konami, that much is evident from the recent events. It’s easy to see how Metal Gear games have been eating most of the budget Konami has been able to sustain, and seeing how Konami almost became Kojima the Company, it’s no wonder either one would’ve fallen.

Do Kojima’s fans even know what he does? He has been mainly the idea guy behind the products that carry his name, the guy who directs and writes them. He has been in the role that is essentially a project leader and less the person who sits down and makes the game, i.e. programmer most of his life. Don’t be mistaken, his contribution is important and vital, but he would never had the products without the people who actually got their hands dirty with the games. Then of course you can question his writing, as it is cliché as hell and extremely derivative from Hollywood movies. Of course, you can even question if the Solid series is even all that good when you have hours upon hours of FMV, a prime example being Metal Gear Solid 4 with its laughably small gameplay time compared to the insanely long movies. It’s no wonder his ego has grown across the years with the fanboys backing him up every time, while other projects have been killed in order to save money for Kojima’s next brain art. Konami could release that ready Bomberman game and make good money, but it seems that at the time they didn’t care about that franchise.

What is even more stupid is that the fans seem to think nobody else could do a Metal Gear game, which is absolutely laughable idea. There are four examples of Metal Gear games that have little to none to do with Kojima and all have been taken in with great acceptance. Snake’s Revenge was first sequel to the MSX Metal Gear and was met with high praise. Fans have done pretty good job by rewriting history with the Internet, but they don’t stand a chance against people with memory, much like how Zelda fans want to rewrite Zelda II as some sort of awful game and a black sheep of the series, despite it being a huge success. It’s only the younger fans in both series who are pushing this kind propaganda, because that doesn’t fit their world view. The AC!D games had nothing to do with Kojima, and despite their different gameplay nature they sold relatively well considering they were on PSP. Portable OPS was the first Metal Gear game that was met with incredible hatred from the fans because Kojima’s name wasn’t attached to it, showing that they are easily swayed if one person isn’t associated with it. The game tried to shove home console Metal Gear on handheld and suffered from it, and its follow-up Peace Walker is actually less a Metal Gear game than its own thing. This brings is to Rising and how the series has changed with the time. Every game series, outside certain exceptions, have changed significantly throughout the years and will continue to change. There are times when new franchises are made under the same overall brand name, much like how Solid is different from base Metal Gear, so is Rising from Solid.

If you want to talk about game series that have sucked after the original creator has left them, consider the following; game industry sees constant staff changes. A creator may be programmer early on, but later kicked up to become a producer, thus having less to do with the actual production of the games than their overall visage. Miyamoto is a prime example of this. We know of his interviews that he made some coding in Super Mario Bros., but after the he most likely never has touched a line of cone, but has been directing them. Nevertheless, Mario games without Miyamoto’s involvement have been more or less big successes, especially the Game Boy Mario games.

Metroid is a series where you had the original creator killed by a car accident and was given to a whole different company to produce a 3D Metroid. We can argue whether or not the Metroid Prime series is better or worse, but we can’t dispute that at least the first game managed to deliver top notch 3D Metroid experience.

Then you have Mega Man, a series that had its original creator not even being involved after the initial design phase. Inafune has stated that Mega Man as a concept and design was ready before he was brought in to take it to the end. Inafune has been the person working longest with the series, and yet the most important changes to the series and its success should go to those who have worked under him. Then you of course have Minakuchi Engineering and Inti-Creates, completely different companies from CAPCOM, making excellent Mega Man games with Inafune in the producer’s seat. Minakuchi Engineering did better job with Mega Man IV and V on the GameBoy than CAPCOM’s own staff with Mega Man 5-8, or Inti-Creates with 9&10. Of course, people love Inafune and were willing to give thousands for his totally original piece of work that would have been produced anyway, and it ends up looking like crap.

Devil May Cry is an example, where the high staff changed after the first game, and then proceeded to make the best games in the franchise. DmC by Ninja Theory is the exact opposite, where people who didn’t give two cents about the customers or about the franchise got free hands to butcher it. You can mostly put that on Inafune and his wanting to have Western developers to make CAPCOM games. Thank God that Irregular Hunter X FPS game never came to be.

But of course, consumers want to idolise those people and think they are their friends. Of course they act like they’re the customers’ best buddies, because that’s good PR. They don’t care about you, they never had. They only care that they can keep their work and get your money. It’s business, it’s work. You have to make a living. It’s easier to become superstar developer with immense amount of fans looking up to you, as this give you leverage over the company you work for. A cleaver customer would be able to see through all this and look at the product itself rather than the clown marketing it to you. Fan boys are willing to dish their money into anything these clowns slab their name on, even if the product is laughably poor and that’s just sad. Of course, you are completely free to enjoy poorly made products, nobody is taking that away from you.

It’s a common kind of psychological phenomena, where the customer thinks a company or an individual is their friend because they make speeches or advertisement that promote a product in a way that hits the spot with them. It’s a well planned show, a rehearsed one. The words are chosen carefully as are the expressions and movements. It’s a show. All they care is to make a product good enough to make that living.

But of course, the customer rarely can even make a difference between a designer and a designer. Ask them what design is, and the chances are they’re either making shit up or call it art. Of course you can ask them to define something more specific, like what is product design, visual design, production design, service design and so on. Design is a mess, so it’s no wonder only those who work in the industries can get what design in itself encompasses. This of course has the trouble of customers and companies making shit up like responsible design, which is more or less a mindset that should be included in any design than its own field.

Outside graphic and visual designers, it’s more or less uncommon to see the designer to do the actual work himself. In production, like with games or movies, you have loads of people working on the product and you should never underestimate the amount of work these people do. It’s a collaborative effort through and through, and it is a travesty to see one person getting all the credit. But hey, why should the customer care? All they want their product and to have nice clown to love.

I’ll be honest; it feels a bit weird to “celebrate” 500th post like this, but it’s already a tradition. Next time; Nintendo NX and how Nintendo is doing on the rights tracks again.

Accurate portrayals, in my Smash Bros? Ha, barely.

Far too often you’re faced with a service people who are simply far too headstrong in their own view and opinion, preventing the maximised customer satisfaction. This is a problem with the creative fields that will always be there, mostly because of the human nature. This leads to situations where the ends and means of the provider are set first and the customer and his needs wants are left as a secondary thoughts. You’ll see this happening a lot with people who have a some sort of high status in their field, like James Cameron or Miyamoto.

Sometimes the customer does fight back and often the service provider will argue against them. This is inherently normal and endorsing discussion to open further possibilities the customer had no thought beforehand is something that doesn’t happen too often. However, when the service provider throws a hissy fit, a temper tantrum and proclaims his vision as the only solution and how it cannot be modified, adapted or changed to meet the ends better, the image of the provider will be tarnished and further co-operations may become uncertain. Attacking your customers with your own bias and views is almost suicidal, especially if you work for someone else and are representing your employer.

Incidentally, this is sort of thing gamers have been facing from the gaming press for the three last months. It’s almost universal.

In game design, there are multiple points where the customer wants can be met, like inclusion of certain characters or character archetypes. Forcing the developers’ own decisions over the wanted content is something that should always be carefully thought out, as this means the game has content the consumer may not want at all. For example, there are few RPGs out there that essentially force a level of romance on the player character, despite some of the players not giving a damn about this sort of dating simulator stuff. Sometimes content may be cut for many reasons, but seeing how many games see a complete shift in tone, structure and even in genre, we can blame incoherent origins of the project. Well made plan is half the victory, after all. It saves both money, time and resources. Still, in reality there are variables that may kick in and can bust even the most well thought plan.

Super Smash Bros. For Console X has been in the news with its release, and Sakurai has come out as a selfish man his interviews as of late, calling the customers as children and how they do not understand whatever they are criticising him about. As much as he creates negative promotion for the game and the company he represents, blind fandom has not stopped Smash Bros. selling like hotcakes. Then again, reading the more objective experiences with the software has convinced me enough that the series has become stale on its own rights. It’s also laughable that Sakurai in past criticised other Nintendo employees for reusing resources from past titles in their new productions, but Super Smash Bros. For Console X does just that.

It’s better to disregard what Sakurai says and concentrate what he does or doesn’t do.

Smash Bros. fandom has a set of people who have been wanting to see Ridley from Metroid as a playable character for some time now. Consumers been discussing how he could be implemented into the series to a large extent, even to the point of some making mock-ups. Actually, Ridley has been successfully modded into Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Sakurai’s reasoning for not including Ridley as a boss character are as follows; Ridley is too large in silhouette size and changing that would mean he would not be an accurate portrayal of the character, and Ridley could break the game balance. These are, of course, bullshit reasons to no end. Let’s see how accurately some of the Smash Bros. contestants have been portrayed.

What Sakurai could mean with accurate portrayal is how they are portrayed in their modern iconic look. Almost all the characters in Smash Bros. have seen changes in their looks throughout the years, and the handful of characters that still retain their original design have been amped up and pumped up. If the characters were portrayed accurately, Mario and Luigi would have no denim texture on their overalls. Both would also smile more in the game, like in the original Smash Bros., and the fire they use would look far more cartoony. Their Final Smashes are also completely out of the blue, having no consistency with past portrayals of the characters.

With the Zelda entries, the characters have more or less followed the latest iteration of the series and thus their redesigns have reflected that. That’s all good and dandy, but then you have to remember that Zelda has not been Shiek in any other main game but Ocarina of Time. If the portrayal would be accurate, the design this Zelda would have should reflect the Ocarina version of herself, which it doesn’t.

Then you have Ganondorf, who has been a clone of Captain Falcon since the beginning, thus having an incorrect portrayal how he fights. In the original Zelda, Ganon warps around and has magic shot at Link. In A Link to the Past, he warps around, shoots magical fire with the help of his trident, jumps to collapse parts of the battle field, uses magical firebirds and other tricks. None of these are seen in Smash Bros. In Ocarina of Time, Ganondorf initially just floats around and shoots magic, soon to be transformed into Ganon and wields two swords. Wind Waker’s edition of old man Ganondorf similarly uses two swords, but this time has sort emphasized dual wielding style with them. Twilight Princess Ganondorf has a roaming boar form, which later can be seen as his Final Smash, and yet the final battle is a sword fight. Hell, initial Ganondorf entry in Melee was more modelled after the Space World 2000 demo where we see Ganondorf with his then-iconic sword fighting Link. There is ample of stuff Sakurai and his team could do with Ganondorf to make him far more interesting, unique and accurate portrayal. Ganondorf is one of the most inaccurate portrayal in the whole series.

I’ve spoken before how Mega Man’s portrayal is absolutely inaccurate, so I won’t go into that any further. However, I will add that if Sakurai wanted to make an iconic Mega Man, he would most likely have used how CAPCOM has been portraying him since 1995 with high influence from Hayato Kaji’s Mega Man 8 designs a year later. However, Mega Man 9 and 10 were throwbacks to late NES Mega Man design style, so it would have been more applicable to portray him in that fashion. The best middle ground of these two design would have been Ryuji Higurashi depictions in Rockman Complete Works 1,3 and 6. Incidentally, he was also the illustrator in 9, but as mentioned, due to the throwback nature of the games his own visual flavour is far more toned down. Higurashi clearly has professional blood coursing through his veins. Thus, one can argue that Mega Man has no one iconic portrayal and is recognisable with any redesign as long as it follows the silhouette. However, this would not be accurate and Smash Mega Man is halluva far from being an accurate portrayal of any version of Classic Mega Man. I won’t go into attacks, as that would make this post unnaturally long.

With almost every entry we could rip their portrayals open, less so with characters that are from newer games. Saying Smash Bros. characters have been developed with the aim of character accuracy is on the same level as feverish babble. I have no wishes to start looking any more deeply into these characters, as its not worth spending my time on it.

As we’ve seen, Sakurai’s statement how they want to stay true to the character portrayal is all kinds of craps. It can’t be even sad that they want to portray the characters from the latest games, there are slew of characters that simply don’t do that. It is apparent that Sakurai wants to portray the characters as he sees them in his own mind. The size excuse is weak as we all know sizes in Smash Bros. mean nothing. Comparatively, none of the characters are correct sizes with each other outside few human characters, and even the you have the likes of Mario and Luigi screwing up things. It’s more applicable to say that all these characters have similar height function as Evangelions, where they change their size according to the needs of the scene.

Originally, Ridley was about a head higher than Samus in Metroid. From there on, his size has been varied wildly from game to game. Hell, Ridley and Mecha Ridley in Zero Mission are different sizes and that’s within one game. If the explanation for that size difference is because of his rebuilding, then what keeps Ridley from being smaller? One could even give a proper reasoning for this in-universe by saying how the Space Pirates have managed to miniaturise their power sources while adding more power. Or just follow the NES line; make him slightly larger than Samus and limited flight while keeping his modern design. Voilá, problem solved and Ridley keeps his portrayal intact. You can even stick with the NES and Zero Mission portrayal of his attacks to limit his flight, rather than use Other M or Prime series attacks.

Then again, Sakamoto would most likely pull the plug if they’d begin to handle Ridley in a proper manner.

Nintendo is like a rich brat

I’ve got no difficulties in admitting that I used to be a Nintendo fan. I liked their games and consoles and turned a blind eye to their worse decisions. At some point I began to wonder why Nintendo didn’t continue making as great products as they used to, but told myself that I had changed. The truth was that I still enjoyed the same old games they were producing, but the new ones just didn’t capture the same spirit. It was Nintendo that had made that change in themselves, and with these changes we’ve seen drop in quality and in their profits.

It all sort of came together as a whole this week, like seeing somebody into their soul and seeing how they really think.

With the DS and Wii Iwata told us that the only way for video games to survive as a business and as an industry is to expand the market, to include everyone in their user base. They succeeded in this, and Nintendo’s platforms flourished like during the NES days. Software and hardware sales were far higher than any of the competition. DS utterly devastated PSP. The Wii sold more than either of its competitors as one of Nintendo’s aim was to have a Wii in every household, at least in America. They pretty much succeeded.

The turning point in all this is hard to pinpoint. There’s two clear points to argue about; the release of Super Mario Galaxy 2 with its instructional disc, or the revelation and release of Wii Music.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 was marketed at the people who bought New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Nintendo clearly felt that Galaxy 2 was a superior product, but the consumers just needed to be taught how to play the game. That’s pandering, and an awful strategy. Everybody just laughed at this motion, and Galaxy 2 went to sell less and NSMB Wii. However, modern Nintendo always does whatever they want to, disregarding the customers. 2D Mario has always sold more than any 3D Mario. It’s what the consumers want, but that’s exactly what Miyamoto denies. He wants to do 3D Mario more than 2D Mario. Why? Because he wants and is allowed to whatever the wants to, and Wii Music is a prominent example of waste of resources.

Furthermore, Miyamoto has been pushing 3D Mario into 2D Mario with the 3DS to a large extent. Both Super Mario 3D Land and 3D World saw large amounts of 3D Mario elements pushed in while gaining long wanted properties, like the Tanooki Suit and multiple proper character that are not Toads, while the 2D Mario was essentially left into shadows and given very little attention, resources and effort. Latest 2D Mario games are like cheap flash games people do for practice. 2D Mario has always taken more effort to produce properly, but as mentioned, it also has produced more profits than 3D Mario. It would make more sense to give 2D Mario far more attention to maximise the potential profits, but that would mean Miyamoto would have to do something he doesn’t like and Nintendo can’t allow that.

It’s the exact same thing with Zelda. Aonuma doesn’t want to make an Action RPG, but a Puzzle Adventure games. It’s no wonder Zelda’s sales have dropped. Same thing with Metroid. Other M’s infamy is well known and everybody and their mothers knows what a Metroid game should be. Sakamoto clearly didn’t.

New Nintendo doesn’t just hate me, but it hates everybody. It’s common to see people blaming other mobile devices on the low sales of Nintendo products. Even Miyamoto does this in the Edge Magazine interview. It’s a common misconception. iPhone was released in 2007 and the whole pad boom began then, overlapping both DS and Wii. It didn’t impact the sales because the software was driving Nintendo’s profits just fine. The pad and mobile phone game market do no overlap with portable game console market. The only difference now is the quality of the products offered. It’s not the attitude of the customers of the expanded market they managed to create changed; the customer has always expected the service provider to entertain them. Nintendo was the one who changed from a healthy company to an incestuous self-back patters. The market pushed these games and consoles away because they ranged from mediocre to rubbish. This same market has no problems with games like Mario Kart, which saw high sales and for a while was a hardware seller as well.

But Miyamoto and Nintendo see their opinions worth more noting than what the market and numbers state.

That, of course, creates the question Who are the people Nintendo makes for? Sakurai has an excellent answer for this; the less vocal, not so visible group of players. Translation of that would say; our own imaginary customers. In the market there is two groups; the larger and the smaller. No matter how you hate the thought, the smaller group is the hardcore gamers, and out of these hardcores you have a smaller section of devoted Nintendo fans. This crowd is extremely loud and voices their opinion and the moment something goes online. They shout as strongly as possible in and out of the Internet. They are extremely passionate small group of users. The larger market, the ones Nintendo managed to expand to, remains largely silent and only voices their opinion on sales. With the Wii U and 3DS, Nintendo has lost most of its expanded market already because they began to cater hardcore group.

Aiming to sell only to a small, exclusive group of customers can be a valid strategy. This means that the products need to be more expensive in order to keep profits at a satisfactory level. Often these products are also have a high production value in every regard and come in limited numbers. This strategy often also sees support from products aimed at a larger market, but everything is of lower quality here. Nintendo’s strategy here is to just cater the one small customer group, the hardcore. This is not a sensible business decision as it’s not sustainable, especially in entertainment and video games. Nintendo’s aim to further diminish their market will equally diminish their profits, and seeing how mediocre products they’ve been cashing out toward the hardcore, like the few latest Zelda games and Other M, their products will see a drop in quality as well. Even more so, if Nintendo decides to cater just their core fans, it means they are able to do whatever they want. The small dedicated fanbase would probably buy anything and everything Nintendo puts out and defend it as the Second coming. I bet there’s Nintendo fans out there that defend even the Virtual Boy.

We’re seeing Nintendo’s disregard of their products even in Sakurai and Smash Bros for -console-. Sakurai has progressively put more characters from the games he has worked on for the sake of having them. Kirby is understandable and so is Pit. Then suddenly, we get King DeDeDeDe, Palutena and, for no good reason, Dark Pit. King DeDeDe is another understandable character, but Palutena and Dark Pit are slot wasters. There are more female Nintendo characters that would fit better in Palutena’s place, to promote another games series altogether too. I hope the leaks are incorrect and Dark Pit is merely just a colour change and nothing more. Sakurai pushes characters he regards as his own onwards, just as Nintendo pushes games that the expanded market doesn’t purchase. Fire Emblem, as much as fans tote the series as great, has never seen great sales in the West. It is inherently Japanese game for Japanese people to play, just like the Super Robot Wars series. Yet Nintendo pushes no less than four Fire Emblem characters to SSB for -console-. It’s surprising that Wii Fit Trainer got in, but I doubt it’s because of high software sales and more because of the infamy of Wii Fit with the hardcore crowd.

Sakurai calls other customers more interesting than others. What the hell does it matter if other customers are more interesting than others? Either group of people bring in money, and essentially are the ones funding his pay. Games won’t fade away if you don’t listen to a small group of people, it’s the complete opposite. By concentrating on a small group of people, like the hardcore crowd they’re now concentrating on, game will get monotonous, very similar and worsen in quality. There’s very little challenge in trying to make something that will appease small amount of people, but there’s incredibly challenge in producing something that will be a hit with everybody. And Nintendo has a history of doing the latter over and over during the NES era.

Then we have to talk about New Nintendo 3DS. I’m not sure if I should type it as *new*to emulate the logo. This, by all means, is further pushing the existing 3DS userbase away from the company alongside the expanded market. This is just a big middle finger from Nintendo. I almost typed CAPCOM there, I’m so used to using that sentence with them. The New 3DS, the N3DS, or as I call it; Stupid Flanders, is a dumbfounding product.

Pictured; The Customers' view at Nintendo giving a numerical value in how much they care about their customers
Pictured; The Customers’ view at Nintendo giving a numerical value in how much they care about their customers

Stupid Flanders is like the DSi, but worse. At least with the DSi, the games that supported it had no troubles running on the base DS models. While it’s typical for Nintendo to renew their handheld console design in its lifetime, never before we have seen this many; the 3DS has four different models now; the 3DS, 3DSXL, 2DS, Flanders and Flanders XL. The GameBoy had four iterations as well, if we count Colour, and that was during the span of nine years. The 3Ds has been out for three years, and now they’re making the decision to push a new hardware out that singles out previous version owners with their exclusive games. However, I honestly wish that the amount of exclusives will be small and consist only of home console ports.

The question is whether or not Stupid Flanders is worth buying? Sure, it has double the shoulder buttons and that C-Button, but those are worth crap if there’s no software behind it. It always depends on the software whether or not a console is worth purchase. Xenoblade Chronicles being announced for the Flanders is both dumbfounding and understandable. It’s stupid because it’s coming for Wii U and has been one of its hype driving forces among the hardcore, but bringing it on the Flanders seems would increase its sales. Stupid Flanders will most likely increase overall 3DS software sales as well, as they’re grown stagnant everywhere.

The stronger CPU means nothing if the developers are not up to the task. Even Nintendo’s own staff couldn’t port their own NES games properly into 3D. I’m still wondering what kind of black magic SEGA’s M2 section is using in order to make perfection 3DS ports of SEGA classics with the best possible 3D effects. Nintendo has been pushing GameCube games on the Wii U despite them never selling well on the original platform and the lousy success if Pikmin 3. I can see Stupid Flanders getting better CPU to accommodate GameCube ports of sorts. Even the included C-Button supports this.

And who the hell is heading the name department at Nintendo? NEW Nintendo 3DS? Super Smash Brother FOR WII U / 3DS?  Both of these are horrible names, just like the Wii U. But why should we care? Nintendo clearly doesn’t.

Why can’t Nintendo stop for moment and see what the market at large is wanting? Why do they keep pushing their own wants and desires over the customers? There’s only one real answer, and it is that they are selfish and in love with themselves. We’ve been seeing the slow death of Nintendo the Servant, and slow creation of Nintendo the Selfish Artist. Is this what the death of Hiroshi Yamauchi leaves? It seems like it. The sad thing is that Stupid Flanders will most likely sell decently, especially in Japan and among the hardcore Nintendo fans, but it won’t raise the quality of the products. Nintendo just isn’t in this business to make money anymore, but to make whatever they want to have fun with at the customers’ and profits’ expense.

Dilemma of lives vs no-lives

When we observe video games and part of what makes them challenging is the limitations put on the player while still allowing him to execute the best possible solution to the problem faced within said games. A failure to met the requirements to complete a task or a challenge in a game should lead into an undesired result of character death, which then would enforce the player to do better next time with the skills he has acquired from the said challenge.

The problem with above is that very few modern games have situations where there is no need  for evolved eye-hand coordination, and failure to overcome the situation usually results in the player being respawned early on. This is not to say that old games were diamond hard pieces that are insanely difficult to overcome, this is a rose coloured picture of the past. This is to say that these games hard harsher limitations on the player and required more intended approach than just forcing your way through. To further elaborate let’s use an example. The Flying Medusa Heads in Castlevania we’re highly irritating obstacle even thou they were relatively weak. Add a guard that compensates their weaknesses and you have a stage design that requires the player to step up their game in order to survive to the end of the level. A lost life means returning to an earlier check-point and going through it again. Same thing if you lose to the level boss in most cases. Compare this to eg. Bioshock’s stage design (for the lack of better term here) where the player is able to continue in each of those pods every time he isn’t up to the challenge. The player can do this as many times as he wants as there is no lives to force him tackle the challenge. There is a level of safety in there, if you will, where the player might lose something by losing, but not all of it. Often these pods are littered everywhere, so there’s no actual loss outside some resources.

Super Robot Pinball is a good and easy example of a game that has a harsh limitation on the player; his ability to play the game well enough. There’s three balls/ lives theå player has, and losing those means Game Over. In order to the keep playing and advancing at the same time the player needs to overcome new challenges whilst juggling between Missions and main tasks, ie. hitting bumpers and defeating Enemy units. Losing one balls means resetting a lot of things and cutting the score multiplier. There’s no midpoints either, and the save you make when you need to take a break vanishes as soon as you load it. There’s no holding back here; it’s do or die.

Against this we have eg. Metal Gear Rising. While a game that I do like, it holds itself back. There’s pretty high amount of checkpoints overall, but losing against an opponent mostly throws very near the losing point, and losing in a boss battle just takes you back to the closest checkpoint, which may be one phase in the boss fight. The comparison fails when we look at the game design of Rising, and that it’s far too loose in terms of stage design and enemy placement to warrant any lives. Checkpoints could be more sparse, and outside the final boss battle (including the Metal Gear), is pretty much a stage on its own, the boss battles could reset to the beginning every time the player loses.

Doom is another example of Do or Die. There’s no middle ground there. If you’re not good enough, back to the beginning and try again. This is the main reason I can’t get into modern FPS games at all. There’s Quick Saves, mid-saves and all this crap that keeps holding the game back and not coming at me at full force. I’m not surprised that younger people than me prefer online-multiplayers, because the players don’t hold themselves back at all; they’re coming at you with the intention of beating your ass down. Single player games used to be like this on the consoles and in arcades. There’s also something I frequently discussed with my friends was that while the a single-player game has one solution only, a multiplayer game’s solutions change from player to player. I can’t fault this logic, unless we argue that making a game’s AI opposition completely random would result in far more varying gameplay to the extent that human opponent can’t do. Of course, this would lead into people calling such a product either completely unfair or too easy depending how bullshit the AI randomiser could be. There is few examples of single player games that apply changes how it behaves according to the player, and the most prominent example of this by far is Zanac.

Zanac is a game designed to counter the player’s way of playing the game. Depending what weapon the player had, the game would pick up the enemy and sub-enemy types that would be able to counter the weapon. This wouldn’t happen instantly thou, as the game keeps account how many times the player ship shoots. With certain amounts the game lifts the difficulty a bit, and changes the enemy type to go with. The variety of weaponry thus forces balancing and managing shooting, changing weapons and pacifistic approach. Zanac and it’s sequel Zanac X Zanac are a rare species where the player can play extensive meta-game with the AI system if they are able get in-depth experience and information. Otherwise, the game will become quite challenging to those who mainly just stick with their favourite guns and go out in a blazing glory. While it would be possible to repeat every game in a similar fashion, the human variable here changes the game elements to a large extent. This kind of player-dependant challenge is not really seen in many genres outside shooting games, and even then only few of them use this sort of ranking system. In modern games only Cave seems to incorporate ranking systems in variety of successes in their products.

What I see as the largest difference between the game design is that perhaps the core itself is yet to mature. During the haydays of arcade every new machine had something new and tried to take away the thunder of their competition. There was a huge amount of evolution in two dimensional game design during the 80’s and early 90’s. With the advent of 3D game design, it too began to go through multiple evolutions… to a point. It could be argued that the three dimensional game design is yet to achieve certain point. To illustrate this with Zelda, compare the amount of active playing the player does in most 2D Zeldas, especially with Zelda 1 and 2, in comparison to 3D Zeldas. There is a lot of empty and non-active playing in Zelda, from riding Epona through an empty field of absolutely nothing to do outside one or two enemies or secrets to find in comparison to Zelda 1’s fields with loads of enemies and secrets in almost every screen. If two people spent an hour with Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda respectively, the amount of active playing would be higher with the one playing The Legend of Zelda.

Of course, this applies very much to console gaming, as PC gaming has been more lax in this regard. This is but one difference between PC, arcade and console gaming and we should embrace it more.

Single player games demand high skill in game design. Multiplayer games can be left for the player community sort it out, especially in modern online era, where balance and bug patches are easy to distribute. One player games demand from the very start meticulous approach in order to get it right, as the player skill against the computer will be taken into account. An enjoyable game offers a fair challenge, but also manages to make your blood boil and give you an adrenaline rush, be it single player or not. While there are those who see that lives are just an old relic from the arcade days, not using them in a smart way has been more damaging to the overall game design than not using them at all.

It would be sad to hear that with modern gaming no player tries to find multiple solutions to a challenge without outside influence. There are always multiple ways to tackle a challenge in games, if it’s properly designed.

To be more careful with Zelda’s style means to disregard what Nintendo itself wants to do

It’s enjoyable to see Nintendo, more specifically Aonuma, to come out from the closet and admit that he doesn’t give a shit what you like. Unless the investors and people higher than him tell him to do so. Being careful with the looks they go with isn’t the answer. The answer would be to use the style the audience wants the most, and the answer is to NOT use Wind Waker’s. Like the game as much as you want, but the truth is that Wind Waker bombed both on GameCube and on Wii U. Nintendo acts like a brat with Wind Waker, forcing their artistic vision on customers, who have now rejected it two times around. This isn’t healthy of Nintendo, from a company that is meant to make profit.

Aonuma has stated that he did not like the Spaceworld 2000 tech demo of Zelda, stating that it wasn’t what he imagined Zelda to be, it wasn’t Zelda he wanted to make. The quote continues Aonuma telling how the demo didn’t have any surprises and was continuation of the previous version. And you know what? People expected that. People were expecting the next Zelda to look like the tech demo did; the customers wanted to have that sword fight with Ganondorf. I’m preaching to the choir here, but it doesn’t matter what Aonuma thinks what Zelda should be and look like. All that matters is what the customer wants.

What Nintendo is really saying here is that they’ll use a style where they are able to incorporate their own twists and surprises and masking these elements into more wanted visuals. You can see this kind of approach in Twilight Princess to an extent, where there’s exaggerations all around, but Skyward sword’s visuals are Wind Waker lite. They won’t be careful in choosing the style, they’ll be more careful with in inserting their own wants into the style so that the customer wouldn’t notice them. Funnily enough, Twilight Princess has been more successful game than Wind Waker and Skyward Sword. One could also argue that it’s the best of the three games mentioned here, a sentiment I share.

Why is the style a huge issue? you may ask. It has everything to do with pre-established idea of classic sword & sorcery fantasy, a sort of Dungeons & Dragons visuals. The Legend of Zelda has always been portrayed in two ways; comically serious. If you take a look at any screenshot of Ocarina of Time, or even better, read the manual of the original Zelda, you’ll notice that all the enemies and characters are portrayed unrealistically, but still having a sort of relation to realism. Something you could find in a Heavy Metal magazine, actually. Japan’s own comic aesthetics have always been a major element in Zelda, and you can see that in pretty much every game. Until Ocarina of Time, these elements were very prominent and I’m a bit amazed we never saw a Japanese Zelda cartoon.

The Legend of Zelda cartoon in itself is a proof how Zelda was and still is visualised. Same with the Captain N version. Granted, their overall portrayal of characters isn’t what you’d call accurate, but the point stands. With Ocarina of Time, Nintendo had to show how it’s done. With that game alone, they killed competition, which has served them poorly in the long run. With the competition gone, Aonuma went all out with his personal vision of Zelda and it failed. I wonder how things would’ve gone if Yamauchi had been there. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Yamauchi was the one who wanted Shotaro Ishinomori to illustrate the A Link to the Past comic.

There are really three eras of visuals in Zelda; Pre-Ocarina, Ocarina and Post-Ocarina. This is an easy division, where all Pre-Ocarina games use more clean comic-like style, the Ocarina era takes the best of the previous era and works it into a mould in which everybody has seen Zelda in their minds’ eyes, and the Post-Ocarina era, where it doesn’t matter how Zelda should look, but how the director and artists at Nintendo want to look.

The visuals shouldn’t even be an issue. While there isn’t one set of aesthetics on how the Zelda series should look, there does exist an overall agreement on what is the best approach. While forums and discussion boards are filled with fanboys arguing over Link’s hair colour, the overall customers have already voted with their wallets. There’s a good damn reason why the original Legend of Zelda had a huge impact on the popular culture, why the sequel sold out before the release date and why Ocarina of Time appears in every Top 10 games list since its release. There’s also a very good reason why Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker and the DS Zeldas were bombastic in their success. It seems that whenever Nintendo decides to veer off their course from pleasing the customer, Zelda suffers from both visual and gameplay standpoint. Money speaks the loudest, and Nintendo just stuffs their ears full with bananas.

Mike is aping Nintendo

Speaking of bananas, that is exactly the reason why I’m glad Nintendo hasn’t show any interest in reviving the StarTropics franchise; they wouldn’t have any faintest idea what to do with it. They would be forced to do research on American culture and how American players like their games to look. They would have to give it to an American studio to produce under Nintendo of America. Then again, I could see Retro Studios doing some justice with the series, if they were ever given the chance. Nintendo, as they are now with the ideology of surprises, couldn’t do a proper StarTropics game.

This showcases a question; if Nintendo continues to push their own ideas what Zelda is and how it should look, how long are they able to keep this up? The answer has already been presented with Twilight Princess; not for a long time. Much like any other company, Nintendo needs money and the only way they can get money is to fulfil the customer wants and needs. They’re not there to realize their hopes and dreams in form of trophy projects, but to serve us the best dish according to the customers wishes as they are able to.

Nintendo, why can’t you make a Zelda game that would sell?

There are two kind of Zelda games; the likes that sell and those that don’t. Zelda is supposed to be system seller, a game that grabs your attention and draws you to a console and convinces you to buy 200€ system plus the game. The Legend of Zelda was one. Link’s Adventure was one, as was pretty much much everything else as well up to the SNES era. We can argue if Ocarina of Time truly sold N64, as the system’s sales were low to begin with. None of the Zelda games have been system sellers since.

And now Nintendo’s putting huge amounts of money, manpower and resources on the WiiU Zelda.

I have to ask this; What are they thinking? Why are they wasting this much resources on an Anouma Zelda title? Anouma Zelda does not sell, because at its core it’s not a Zelda game, but a PC Adventure game.
“The new Wii U Zelda will feature “about the same amount of dungeons as previous Zelda games, but these will be vastly bigger in scope and will be totally different from each other. Some dungeons are so big they’re broken up in 3 parts and will literally take hours to complete”.

Why? Because these Dungeons are nothing but puzzles. Why? Because Anouma can’t make a good action RPG even if his family’s life would depend on it. For Pete’s sake the guy wanted to cut grass rather than play the game properly! Anouma himself has admitted that he can’t even finish Super Mario Bros. Christ, how is this man still allowed to direct an action RPG if he can’t even use simple tactile controllers like the NES’?

Zelda has never been about the dungeons being humongous entities to wander through. Ever since Zelda I the Overworld has played an important role in everything. Game by game the action and the Overworld itself has been getting smaller and smaller, until it got removed completely.

I do not wish to wander in a dungeon for hours. I want to have an adventure, gallop through the fields that have something in them, unlike in every 3D Zelda. It’s laughable that Wind Waker has the best Overworld of all 3D titles because it offers so much to do and see, just like Zelda I had.

They speak of innovation (God I hate that word more every day) and they’re talking (excuse me the figure of speech)total bullshit. If game uses the console’s controller to its fullest extent, it’s not innovation; it’s using the controller to its fullest extent.

You know what was innovative? The idea the Japanese found for playing Armored Core V.

ACV uses pretty much every face button on the controller. High level players found that this way of holding the controller can make your play level even higher; they innovated how to hold the pre-existing controller.

I was disappointed at Nintendo because of Zelda for long time, but now I’m just angry and frustrated. They need to get back to basics, to their arcade roots. That’s where their forte is and has always been. Nine people made the first Zelda, people who had to make a good game. These nine people made the first real action RPG there is. Hundreds of people can’t make the same; the more you have cooks…

Nintendo, I beg of you. Come to your senses.

Simple reason why 3D Zelda feels empty

Eiji Anouma, the current head of the The Legend of Zelda, has never finished the original gold cart game. This man, by all means, should have nothing to do with the Zelda series. He can’t play Super Mario, he can’t play Pac-man, he can’t play anything that has anything that demands something that resembles reflexes.
I’ll be blunt; Anouma should’ve never touched Zelda series. His disinterest in action-RPG genre doomed all the Zelda games to become merely puzzle solving dungeons with something that you might think is a story. The whole game play skeleton, the most basic structure of the series, was buried when carrying chickens and cutting grass became more important part of the game that fighting enemies. The worst part is that Anouma doesn’t want to make a Zelda game.

“Certainly after playing the original Zelda for the first time, I didn’t ever think that I wanted to make a game like that.”

What Zelda series needs is to get rid of Anouma fast and give the series to somebody that doesn’t hate it, to somebody who would make it love its roots like Ys series has done. It’s no surprise that Nintendo’s games have been dropping in quality for some time now (since the SNES if we want to be exact) when the lead personal are unwilling to make games that they’re supposed to make.
It would also help if you’d make games that customers want. Nobody asked for Other M.