So I’m typing this up a week late, and I wish I could say it was due to Thanksgiving or the simply ridiculous amount of podcast content we’ve been pumping out here at Nitrobeard.com or even doing something productive with my life such as enriching myself through museums and the wealth of cultural activities here in the city, but no.
Before I could even get this far in this (absurdly late) Wallet Abuse writeup I first had to make a sort of mental agreement with myself that I would play so much Skyrim at one time that I would be sick of it, sort of like how a sugar junkie may attempt to turn himself off of his coca-cola addiction by cutting the hoses at the soda machines at the 7-11 and drink raw syrup. Even then I had to unplug my 360 so that if I were to attempt to play more Skyrim I would be forced to stop and reflect upon my own shame. You know, before plugging it back in and completing the entire Mage College questline.
What I’m trying to say here is that I have a problem.
Right now it’s my GOTY, although I’ve yet to pick up Arkham City and late-season darkhorse candidate Saints Row 3, and the dwindling time left before the end of the year means I’ll likely have to chose only one of the two before we begin our deliberations.
Skyrim was probably always going to be my GOTY, but that’s not being fair to the rest of 2011’s absurdly good slate of games. It’s like making a ham sandwich out of the finest rye bread and most expensive cuts of meat and most mouth watering mustard and slathering it with psychotropic drugs and calling it the tastiest meal ever created. Sure the food itself is okay enough if not earthshaking (in this case, Skyrim’s actual gameplay) but it’s really the pure fucking Columbian cocaine laced between the Boar’s Head coldcuts that makes it worth even talking about.
Skyrim-- like most of Bethesda’s catalog-- is designed to call upon very specific brain bugs that exist in most geek’s minds. Once we see anything new or interesting on the edge of the horizon we’re compelled to wander over there-- and in the process of reaching that new abandoned fortress or ominous looking statue a half dozen other overrun temples and bandit camps popped up on the horizon and we’re compelled to wander over there, too.
You know how the mainstream media likes to portray gaming addicts as burnout college kids staring psychotically at endless streams of first player shooter carnage? That’s bullshit; gaming addiction is rooted in the fact that geeks exhaustively explore everything about a specific subject once it catches our attention. Skyrim’s sinister gameplay model also explains why we’re loathe to venture outside lest we start wandering off randomly to die from exposure many days later.
Anyway, here’s last weeks’s slate of games; I’ll be using the same format as last week until someone tells me to do otherwise.
IF YOU DON’T BUY THIS GAME YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO COMPLAIN ABOUT BLOPS 2
Developer: The Few Remaining Bits of Ubisoft With Soul and a Love of it’s Craft (Michel Ancel)
Publisher: Regular Ol’ Lazy Ubisoft
Platforms PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (no, really!) Nintendo Wii
If I may be allowed to make a histrionic and overly reactionary statement regarding the scummy and self-loathing entertainment industry of which I love dearly, it seems we are at a crossroads.
At one end of the crossroads lie a neverending string of profitable, utterly safe dudebro shooters and waggle-infused dancing games; soulless and artless mass-market palp that would forever define our hobby as a useless endeavour that can never aspire to the great cultural works of rival mediums.
On the other side of that crossroads we admit that Catherine and Kirby and Rayman Origins are worth full MSRP and stop bitching about developers being paid fairly for delivering a quality product.
Yes, in a more perfect world Rayman Origins would cost forty bucks and be a downloadable title. But we’re not there quite yet; and right now downloadable exclusive console titles exist in a ghetto where major developers simply will not provide the funds necessary for someone like Michel Ancel to perform his work. Either we agree that sixty dollars is a fair price for Rayman Origins or it’d be stuck as an episodic title with nowhere near the production values and polish. There is no middle ground here, not yet.
It doesn’t hurt that at the same time your taking a stand against the astounding popularity of Dance Central you’re also buying a rather outstanding 2d platformer. If Rayman Origins were released back when such things were still relevant (and I would be making these same complaints on rec.games.sega bemoaning yet another 2d mascot platformer) console makers would base their entire holiday marketing strategy around having the best version. If Rayman Origins was exclusive to the Jaguar in 199whatever then we’d all be breathlessly anticipating the newest Iron Soldier sequel and bemoaning the lack of a good followup to Cyber-Morph 2.
Not that Rayman Origins is without it’s caveats-- being a post Super Mario Brothers Wii 2d platformer it’s co-op based and you you lose a lot of it’s appeal playing by yourself. The co-op itself is only local, and nearly all of it’s replay value is locked away in collectibles. But these are minor quibbles for what is a seminal 2d experience and possibly the best non-Nintendo platformer to be released on home console hardware since Symphony of the Night.
GAME OF THE YEAR/WORST ZELDA EVER/10.0 FROM EDGE/GAVE MY CAT AIDS/THE REASON YOU BOUGHT A WI
The Legend of Zelda: The Skyward Sword
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Platform: Nintendo Fitness Game-o-tron
It’s hard for me to get a handle on Zelda games, so I’m not really sure if Skyward Sword is worth defending or worth reviling, so I went with both. Zelda fans seem similarly split on the issue, which is probably a good thing, Nintendo could only keep attempting to remake Ocarina of Time so often before people started firebombing Reggie’s car.
Review scores range from “okay” (Giant Bpmb, 1Up, Joystiq) to “Single-handedly saved my Wii from being donated to Goodwill” (Wired, Edge, The Escapist). All this seems to indicate that Nintendo took this opportunity late in the Wii’s life to take the Zelda formula to new places, and that’s the right time to pull something like this off. The people who will still stick around for a legitimate Zelda Wii are also the people you’re going to get the most honest feedback from.
Nintendo probably took to long to give the Wii it’s own Zelda game, but that an allegory for the Wii itself as Nintendo ignored mostly Zelda’s own audience for years before they realized they were letting a ton of money sit on the table by not providing an outlet to hardcore gamers. In that aspect Skyward Sword can be seem as somewhat cynical, but I’m not sure if post-N64 Nintendo is capable of being cynical, just aimless and sorta dumb.
INCONGRUOUS ONE WEEK FIGHTING GAME RENAISSANCE THAT CAUSED EVERYONE TO QUESTION IF WE REALLY OUGHT TO LIKE FIGHTING GAMES IN THE FIRST PLACE
Publisher: Toy HeadQuarters
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii (somehow)
Don’t let the name change and the touted “Predator Technology” fool you, WWE12 is the same rehashed crap Yukes has produced since Raw vs Smackdown 2006, only this time they’ve stripped out the HUD and made the countout mechanic an unintuitive mess. Nothing is going to change in this series until THQ either buys out Syn Sophia or EA buys the license.
Sadly the WWE probably doesn’t care as long as they’re still getting hefty residual checks from each revision, and if there’s anything Vince McMahon loves it’s treading water and making money. The Yuke’s WWE series is the John Cena of videogames-- Dumb, unchanging, and makes far too much money for anyone to dare tinker with the formula.
Sure, all sports games have this essential problem, you can’t do much to the game because the rules are set. It’s not like EA can go in and make fundamental changes to Madden’s core gameplay, and similarly wrestling is based around a wealth of different fighting styles and movesets so it’s always going to be clumsy and slow and never flow quite “right”. That said, we have a fundamental grasp on 3d physics now that it makes no sense for wrestlers to clip through the environment for the sake of completing a move, and canned animation that doesn’t change regardless of your opponent’s positioning or posture should have went away the moment Yukes stopped developing for the PlayStation 2. WWE All-Stars showed that wrestling can approach the flow and precise control of the best 3d fighters-- I’m not saying it makes sense for The Big Show to start doing effortless elbow drops from off the top turnbuckle, but surely there’s a middle ground between the same grappling mechanic Yukes has produced for the past 11 years and what THQ San Diego showed us back in April.
Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PlayStation 3
So HD collections are A Thing right now, and it makes sense for Namco get in on that with it’s classic Tekken series. After all, Tekken Tag Tourmanent 2 and Street Fighter x Tekken are due out soon-ish and people need to be reminded that Tekken was at one point a pretty big deal and a selling point Sony’s entire Playstation brand. An HD collection could bring us through the history of Tekken and remind everyone why it matters, and also serve to remind everyone that there was a time when Namco ruled the arcades.
This is a project I could certainly be excited about-- cutting college classes to plow through Tekken 2 and 3 to see the trippy mindfuck CGI endings defined a large swath of my early 20’s, and although Namco were wizards with the original Playstation hardware we never really got arcade perfect conversions of the early Tekken games.
If you’re going to make an HD collection for Tekken then all you’d really need to do os put all of the arcade versions on the disc and then uprez the crap out of them eSPXe, style. The original 3 Tekken games were basically running on Playstation 1 boards anyway and it’s not like the early Tekken stuff has made anyone money for the past decade.
And besides, everyone on the planet should be allowed to play Tekken Force again. A Tekken HD collection could be insanely cool, and that’s before you get into the weird sidestory fluff that could be thrown in such as Death By Degrees and Urban Reign. There’s a ton of great places for Namco to go with this and show the Street Fighter 4 crowd why Tekken is important enough for Street Fighter x Tekken and Tekken x Sreet Fighter to exist. So what’s on this disc?
Well, there’s an uprezed version of Tekken Tag.
And a CGI movie, Bloodline Rebellion.
...and that’s it.
I cannot wait for Namco’s next HD collections:
*Soul Calibur III and the Soul Calibur II Making Of Documentary
*Tales of Destiny II HD and The Spirits Within
*Ace Combat 3 and a grapefruit
*Ridge Racer Type 4 HD and R: Racing Revolution.
I’d say this is a wasted opportunity but I brought this upon myself for expecting competence out of Namco. There’s a reason why Capcom is constantly able to reinvent itself and create new IP and stay interersting when the last thing fond memory anyone has from Namco is that time Link was in Soul Calibur II.
Well that and Ivy Velentine’s impossible boobs. Whatever. If you buy this game and don’t already own Rayman, I hate you.
The King of Fighters XIII
Developer: SNK Playmore
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Did you know SNK still exists and apparently kept making KoF games for the past thirty years? I know, it surprised me too, especially after I looked through the back catalog and saw that despite a combined thirty seven games between KoF and Metal Slug they somehow never did anything else with Sengoku.
A lot has been made about Atlus releasing KOF 13 this close after the release of Ultimate Marvel 3, but let’s be honest-- the group of people who were going to have to chose between the two is tiny; if you’re far enough down the fighting game rabbit hole to care about KOF 13 you were going to buy this game regardless.
I’ve tried my best hold a torch for SNK and it’s noble; insane commitment to handdrawn 2d sprites, but at some point I came to terms with the fact that they simply weren’t going to make a game I enjoyed more than Samurai Shodown II, and between that and SNK’s inability to move past KOF and Metal Slug it’s hard care about the company’s future at all. Seeing as they somehow possess the ability to maintain solvency while re-using 2d sprites maybe the best possible outcome for SNK is for Konami to outsource them to produce Castlevania artwork.
THIS THING GETS A BLINGEE AND LIKES IT
Power Rangers Samurai
Publisher: Fuck You
Platforms: Horse Genitals
MARIO KART SEVEN proves that Nintendo is above your petty concept of holiday release schedules
FORTUNE STREET proves that Nintendo is above your petty concepts of logic that say you can’t sell boardgame videogames in America
ADVENTURES OF TINTIN proves that NIntendo is not above handing out software development kits in return for filthly filthy movie videogame luchre.