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A big lover of all types of media, from Movies to Video Games, Books to Music, Television to Stage.

January 10, 2011

Newer, Not Necessarily Better

Afternoon, gamers.  Hope everyone's day is going well.  I wanted to chat about something that has affected each and every videogame console out there, and that is the need to be at the cutting edge technologically.  When a new console hits the markets, the reports and stories are always covering the processor speed, the graphics capability, how many polygons this, how many audio channels that, and so forth.  Will it look more realistic?  Will it sound true to life, as it were?  Does it have games on disc or cartridge?  Can it play movies as well?  Is it internet-capable out of the box?  How many outputs?  What type of controller does it use?  Is it backward compatible?

These are the questions that always get asked about the systems, but there is one even more important question that never gets asked, and funnily enough it is the only question that actually matters at all:  Are the games fun?

When the PS3 released, everyone was talking about how much more realistic the graphics could be with this system over the Wii and the 360.  How much bigger the processor was.  And Blu-Ray built right in.  The problem they had at release, and it took over a year to change, was that the games sucked.  Sorry, all you PS3 fanboys, but if you are honest with yourselves, the games just simply were crap.  The PS3 had exactly one day-and-date title of any worth, "Resistance; Fall Of Man," and it isn't a bad title.  However, I'm sorry, but it really wasn't revolutionary either.  I waited until the PS3 came as a slimmer model before I bought mine, and one of the first titles I owned for the system was in fact this one.  It looked good, on my 48" HDTV, but to be honest, "Kameo" - an X-Box 360 day-and-date title - filled me with more awe graphically.  And please take note that the 360 released a full year before the PS3 did.  That means an entire year of technology passed, and nothing game-wise improved for first generation titles on competing systems.  If anything, it got worse.

Both systems had a "Need For Speed" title among their early discs, so that is comparing apples to different-shaped apples.  Additionally, there was at least one title that had come out during the first month of the 360's release, "Fight Night Round Three," which came out a year later with only graphical enhancements - no huge upgrade taking advantage of the PS3's anything.  What this simply says to me is that if you wanted to wait a year to play titles that others were already playing, by all means, hold out for the PS3 and be prepared to pay more than $100 more for that particular privilege.  For all it's hype, the PS3 didn't have a title that made the system worth buying for a very long time, with either the newest "Metal Gear Solid" or "God Of War" titles being the first system sellers they had...and it took until June of 2008 for the first title to release, and March 2010 for the second.  One could argue that for nearly two years, the PS3 wasn't a gaming system, but more a Blu-Ray player that might play games if they ever release something worth playing on it.  And if I can be perfectly candid about this, I don't think that they did such a great job with "God Of War 3" when it released either.  I can't speak for "Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots," but I am a huge fan of the GoW series, and when playing the title, I think they made it look incredible graphically - so incredible that it totally ruins the game.  There are so many instances, during the earlier levels particularly, when I had absolutely no idea where to go next simply because the backgrounds were so intricate, so layered with stuff to look at, that the path was totally obscured.  I still have yet to finish the game, simply because I got tired of staring at the screen attempting to find my way, and couldn't determine if I had missed any secrets along the way.  Don't get me wrong, the cut-scenes are gorgeous.  The gameplay backgrounds give too much to be undesired for me.

Don't think that just because I started picking on the PS3 right off the top that I don't have stuff to say about the other two consoles in this seventh generation of gaming.  The X-Box 360, while my console of choice, has done more things wrong in the years since it released, but honestly none of it has been game-related as far as disc-based titles.  As far as their choice of early Live Arcade titles, there have been bad choices, and in another post I will outline them.  Of the four titles released day-and-date with this system, however, I have owned at one time or another every single one, and if I don't have it currently in my catalogue I am attempting to re-obtain it.  The titles were "Kameo," which I already mentioned, "Condemned," "Amped 3" and "Call Of Duty 2."  None of the titles grabbed me graphically as did "Kameo," but all had their selling points:  "Amped 3" is one of the strangest damn games I've played, not for the gameplay, but for the scenes unlocked between stages.  "Condemned" has a really dark, gritty, psychologically disturbing vibe to it, and while the sequel was wonderful, I'm still hoping for more.  Then there's "Call Of Duty 2."  Not much needs to be said, as it is a part of one of the two most well-known gaming franchises the world over (the other being "Halo").  All four of these titles are unique when placed together, all four are still fun to play...and that's the crux of the issue.  When I buy a system, I want to play fun games!  Right out of the box, not a year later!

Of the many Wii titles that released with the system, I'd have to say "Call Of Duty 3" would be the stand-out title, though everyone will say it is "The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess."  The reason I chose CoD over Zelda is simply the fact that unlike a Nintendo-made game, CoD is meant to be played more like the other systems, and can be compared more equally than a title which relies on the system's gimmick.  I'm of course talking about the Nunchuk controller, the big 'innovation' that the Wii introduced to the world of gaming.  Like the more recently released Playstation Move, the Nunchuk simply requires that games be less inert, causing the player to do more than just sit around when playing the games.  This is great when doing a sports-related title, but becomes downright annoying when having to do certain sweeps of a sword to kill a creature with any degree of haste.  That could just be my own foible, and I'm not arguing that.  However, be reminded that I love the Kinect for the 360, and it requires a lot more interaction than any of the Wii titles.

Finally, when all is said and done, I think that even though I love my 360, have good times with my PS3, and enjoy the new re-makes of classic titles on the Wii, my expectations and hopes lie mainly in what could arguably be called the fourth home console of this generation, and that is the Virtual Console for the Wii.  If Nintendo does it right, and you can see that they really are trying, every title that was worth an ounce of effort to play from every Nintendo console that came before it will at some point be available on the Virtual Console.  From the old "Dragon Warrior" titles up through the likes of "Shining Force" and "Final Fantasy III," all of them can be had here, and more besides - a lot from other systems than Nintendo!  I'm waiting for a few specific ones myself, "SoulBlazer" particularly.  No matter what anyone says, when the graphics sucked the games had more depth than only the best of current generation titles offer.  Play the opera sequence from "Final Fantasy III," or the ending of the original (and still best) version of "Lunar: Sliver Star Story" from the Sega CD, and you'll know what I mean.  The games were harder then, but also had more heart.

So, if any game studio execs ever read this blog, and I'd like to hope that eventually someone of note will indeed do so, take away just one thing:  Without caring about a character, a protagonist who really matters, and a mission that in turn matters to them, all the graphics in the world won't hide the fact that the reviews will be less than stellar, the sales will under-perform, and the audience has the final say.  By that, I mean the PAYING audience, not the playing audience.  The paying audience are those of us in their 30s who have the desire to continue gaming and who know what they like since they've grown up with the maturation of the industry.  The playing audience is the people who expect a new Madden each and every year.  Sega listened to the playing audience instead of the paying audience one year, and the playing audience said they didn't want RPGs, they only wanted sports titles.  Sega listened to them; the Dreamcast was dead less than a year later.  And isn't it funny how, all of a sudden, the best Dreamcast titles are now starting to appear - where?  X-Box Live Arcade.  And none of them are sports-related.

Gamerscore, ho!

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