A rather remarkable thing happened during the writing of this week’s Wallet Abuse and it’s this.
I’m trying to talk myself out of buying a Sonic game.
As long as I’ve been doing this feature on my own blog and on Nitrobeard I’m not sure if I’ve ever encountered what may be a legitimately good Sonic the Hedgehog videogame and it’s kinda fucking with me. It’s the Sonic Cycle in reverse-- the first I heard of Sonic Generations I knew it was going to be bullshit because it’s Sonic and it’s Sega and Sonic’s never been good since leaving 2d and bullshit is the only thing Sega’s produced this entire console cycle, Platinum games notwithstanding. I mean these guys managed to fuck up one of the last remaining silver bullets in it’s nostalgia revolver by horribly flubbing the PR for their Treasure-produced Saturn XBLA revivals.
I mean c’mon. Sonic. Sega. 3d. Let’s dag this stupid thing out again.
Alright? I’m not doing this again. Hell, I didn’t do it for Sonic Adventure 1. I can’t be fooled Sega, you burned me with 3d Blast and I”m not going back!
But-- Sonic Generations is out. And Sonic’s Shitty Friends are there, but they’re not playable. And Old Sonic is there, and you’re playing a seamless mix of 3d and 2d content and....and....
...and the game might be good. Very, very good. I don’t know how to deal with this. It’s the psycho crazy pseudo girlfriend that wont’ leave your life but this time she’s rolled up in a leased Honda Accord and she’s enrolled in night school and there’s no needle tracks on her arms.
And it’s 2 am. And she’s on your stoop. What do you do?
I don’t know how to deal with this. Here’s this week’s games; don’t buy any of this crap.
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Wii
Remember when kids games (and Disney games in particular) prided themselves on providing a quality gaming experience and a worthy challenge, mainly because the market for console games was still 8 year old kids? I feel we’re doing today’s children a disservice by boiling down the modern gaming experience to mashing A as rapidly as possible while moving blindly through overhead 3d environments. Castle of Illusion, Rescue Rangers, and DuckTales didn’t result in any emotional scarring simply because we weren’t expected to ever see the game’s credits (although it should be noted that this same generation went on to produce Kurt Cobain), and more importantly these kids games gave us a good sense for game design. In fifteen years the tykes we set before Skylanders and Disney Universe is going to be responsible for making videogames, and that era is going to fucking suck.
It’s not even like you can take a kid from today and put her in front of a TV and a NES and a copy of DuckTales, that shit is intolerable in 2011 and the only reason you, the reader, will put up with that crap is because you grew up with an appreciation for low res sprites. Even Nintendo, once the go-to company for kid-friendly games that still presented an adult-worthy challenge isn’t much help anymore, they’ve been moving toward a models with their traditional games that either drown the player in extra lives or filling the screen with three additional players or present such little challenge that they can hardly be considered “game” at all anymore. In the case of games with Super Guide support the game will just give up and show you how to complete the stupid level. And it’s not like you can sit a kid before a Platinum Studios developed game without being visited by many and varied state and federal agencies.
So where is a parent to go for age-appropriate games that still provide a non-insulting challenge for their kids? Does this sort of market still even exist? I suppose there’s Sony’s Jax/Rachet/Sly mascot trio, but do we really want all games to look like Rachet and Clank in the next twenty years?
Anyway, this fucking thing-- Reviews are mixed, some are saying this game is of surprisingly high quality considering the context, while others (and by “others” I mean “reviewers who clearly don’t understand how modern kid’s games operate”) slam it for being dull and unchallenging and repetitive. If you buy this game instead of Skylanders your child will hate but at least you won’t go bankrupt.
Still. Maybe you ought to buy your kid that Sly Cooper collection just in case.
Platforms: Nintendo 64, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Pity the poor GoldenEye fanboy. What had started so well as perhaps the first ever example of a movie licensed game done right (and a decent game to boot), to see his beloved fame disappear forever under a three way licensing litigation nightmare between Microsoft, Nintendo and United Artists, the original developers scattered to the winds, and the original design house itself relegated to awful waggle minigame collections. Meanwhile in the middle of all this the franchise somehow found it’s way into Activision’s diseased clutches and handed over to Eurocom, otherwise known as That Company That Made All The Awful Bond Games Immediately Following GoldenEye.
Now, the caveat being that there is no good evidence for the existence of this “GoldenEye Fandom” having existed past 2001 when everyone who still cared about 4 player split screen console FPS games bought Halo: Combat Evolved. We know the market for N64 specific fans doesn’t exist because Nintendo never went after it (for the sake of my argument, pretend the post-SNES Metroids don’t exist. This is easy because Nintendo shares the exact same viewpoint)
So who the hell is Eurocom chasing? More to the point who the hell is Eurocom chasing that they felt they needed to remake their own bullshit remake? The only rationale for GoldenEye Wii to exist was to chase some twisted N64 nostalgia and give Wii owners something sort of resembling a respectable FPS game. Who on the HD consoles is going to buy this game when they’re already presented with any number of better marketed dudebro shooters?
So the weird thing here (well the second weirdest thing; the wierd thing is the bit where we’re talking about a remake of a remake of a remake of a game loosely based on a movie named after Ian Flemming’s Jamaican estate where he created James Bond) is that GoldenEye might be a good videogame. Perhaps even an outstanding videogame provided you ignore the disappointing single-player campaign and only pay attention to the menu screen entry marked “multiplayer”. (we may need a name for this phenomenon-- The Battlefield 3 Rule is correct but unwieldy.) But even that is sort of a letdown for GoldenEye fans in that the multiplayer maps-- the entire reason anyone remembers GoldenEye to begin with-- have little to do with the original game aside from map names and weapon loadouts.
You can sort of see the bind Eurocom was put in here-- just because MGM has halted Bond production doesn’t mean Activision can stop producing Bond videogames, and there is value in the name “GoldenEye”. But to revisit one of the few fond memories people have of Bond games for something that shares little with the original game save for map names and skins feels cheap and cynical, no matter how good the end result may be, especially considering the vast wealth of untouched Bond lore to revisit.
The Lord of the Rings: War in the North
Developer: Snowblind Studios
Publishers: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360.
Speaking of blatant attempts to justify fulfilling an intellectual property contract--
Okay maybe it’s not all that bad. I was originally wary of War in the North as the actual War in the North as described by Tolkien wasn’t actually, y’know-- described by him at all. Rather it was a single throwaway line apparently uttered by someone during the three books anyone actually read. Although the story told in War in the North wasn’t anything Tolkien had any actual part in, it’s a story that could have been told; it’s not like Snowblind is just making up some sort of bullshit set of circumstances to justify making another LOTR game.
...okay so Snowblind is totally making up some bullshit set of circumstances to justify making antother LOTR game, but who cares? The three movies and The Hobbit are the only things anyone cares about anyway, if Snowblind can get away with shoving a fourth LOTR movie into an unspecified part of Middle-Earth with keeping the rest of the fiction intact, god bless ‘em. Remember, in the realm of bullshit videogame plot devices shoved within existing fictional frameworks this could go way way worse
At least Snowblind is working with reverence and love for the source material and have strayed well enough away from official Tolkien lore that it doesn’t look like they’re trying to step on the old master’s shoes. Hopefully they remembered to create a good videogame in the face of Skyrim and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.
Developer: Ubisoft Milan
Platforms: Awful, Awful but w/Buttons
I have made peace with the concept of Kinect game development under the very specific circumstance that being tossed into the waggle ghetto is a karmic punishment for past game design sins. And endless purgatory of Kinectamal spinoffs is the price paid for releasing three Donkey Kong Country games in three years. For the crime of exposing new Xbox owners to Fusion Frenzy, Blitz Games is sentenced to hard labor producing Kinect games based on The Biggest Loser. In the case of Ubisoft: Milan:
It’s not like they were doing anything useful with all that artistic ambition anyway.
Publisher: More Ubisoft
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, 3DS
The very best bullshit licensed videogames are the sort where it’s impossible to garner any information as to who’s actually developing said game. From this we may safely assume that NCIS was produced by Chinese prison labor who were immediately shuffled over to the Foxcon slave pins to produce ipad docking cables until they eventually died of starvation. That said, it’s a better fate than trying to figur out how to hold your arms in a vague representation of paragliding and turning that into a “functional” videogame.
I actually watched the trailer for this thing-- these are the extreme lengths I go through for my readers-- and you know what, fine. If LA Noire could sell off the basis of rolling dead bodies about for clues and extremely tenuous 3d platforming then why not this pile of crap. 50 year old dudes and bored housewives need videogames too, and at least here you get middling 3d representations of highly unlikely goth chicks.
The Sims 3 Pets
Developer: The Sims Studio
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, 3DS
Developer: Sonic Team (PS360) Dimps (3DS)
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, 3DS
So let’s be optimistic about Sonic Generations and say it’s probably a good game. Let’s move beyond “optimism” and move into full-on enthusiasm and say Sonic Generations is the best Sonic game since Sonic CD.
Now it’s important to keep in mind that while “optimism” and “enthusiasm” are perfectly acceptable forms of expectation for Sonic Generations, is significantly more difficult to allow oneself fall into the realm of “hyperbole”. Sega has so fucked up sonic for the better part of a decade and half that “enthusiasm” is considered a major milestone. Fuck, we’d be enthusiastic if Sega managed to produce a competent videogame that doesn’t fill it’s fans with self-loathing.
This is our standard now: Just Please Don’t Fuck Up.
It may be possible that Sega has moved above “don’t fuck up” and have actually produced a good videogame. I dunno. I wont’ be able to tell. Much as I refused to pay attention to the Cincinnati Red’s 2010 campaign I want refuse to acknowledge Sonic Generations as anything more than an aberration, albeit a remarkably affordable aberration. I just don’t want to get my hopes up.
But got demn the Classic Sonic Giant Bomb Quicklook looked outstanding. Basically I will plow hundreds of hours into any Sonic game that allows me to collect S-Ranks at the end of a level. But I very badly do not want to talk myself into buying this game and as such I am forced to remind myself that Modern Sonic is a large, unavoidable part of this game. As per usual wit post Sonic-Adventure 2 Sonic Team games Sonic Generations would likely have been a far better game had Sonic Team just been allowed to decouple Modern Sonic from whatever insane new gameplay mechanic they were obviously interested in working on in the first place.
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Developer: Naughty Dog
Platform: PlayStation 3
By far the best development of Wallet Abuse Holiday Edition 2011 is that Uncharted 3 may just be a very good videogame and not an outstanding videogame and thus completely capable of being ignored until sometime in March.
Here’s my theory on UC3-- I already went over this in this week’s Beardcast so if you’ve listened to that already feel free to skip the remainder of Wallet Abuse and resume drooling over Skyrim footage-- Naughty Dog only ever made the one good Uncharted game, that being 2009’s Uncharted 2. Uncharted 1 was decent although largely forgettable and probably wouldn’t have had any traction at all if it were not the first playable Playstation 3 exclusive after that excruciating first wave consisting of Heavenly Sword and Lair and Haze.
Now the problem is, Naughty Dog somehow made a classic videogame in Uncharted 2. If UC2 were a mere improvement over UC1 then improving UC3 would be a simple task. But the difference between 1 and 2 is so stark it’s like the games were developed by different companies and Naughty Dog had no fucking clue how they managed to pull that off, and what’s worse if they tried too hard to improve UC2 there was every chance they’d screw up and produce another Uncharted 1, which would kill the franchise. So they did the only thing they knew how to do well-- they made another Uncharted 2 game.
And that in itself isn’t so awful. Uncharted 2 is amazing, it’s the single best argument for owning a PlayStation 3. But there’s a mechanic in place already for adding more stuff to a game that already exists, and that’s DLC. It’s the reason people stopped buying guitar games and fighting games. You can’t just add more stuff to an outstanding game and expect people to be happy with that. I mean, it works sometimes-- Everyone agrees that New Vegas is clearly superior to Fallout 3 even if New Vegas is little more than a sixty dollar expansion pack. People keep buying Madden games every year even if EA strips features out for the purpose of selling that same feature 2-3 years down the line. Somehow the dudebro shooter market hasn’t imploded yet. But for a 7 hour long higly linear single-player adventure game with a tacked on mutiplayer mode and little replaybility? That’s a hard sell. Arkham City works because it’s a radical departure in setting from Asylum, even if the game itself is largely unchanged. Gears 1/2/3 works because it’s built around it’s various co-op modes. Zelda works because Nintendo is smart enough to wait four years between updates.
Despite the laminations and gnashing of teeth at NeoGAF, no one is saying UC3 is a bad game. We’re talking about a 93 Metacritic score vs a 96 for UC2. It’s still a game you absolutely need to play. But it’s also merely more of a good thing, and sometimes that’s just not good enough.
METAL GEAR SOLID HD COLLECTION exists entirely for us elitist gaming snobs to have something to loudly demand the Gamestop clerk to retrieve once asked if we’ve arrived at midnight Tueday to purchase MW3
How many direct disses to Respawn and/or DICE will CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 3 contain? A dozen? Two dozen? Will Shaquille O’Neal invite Vince Zampella to taste his ass during the end credits?
DEEPAK CHOPRA’S LEELA sounds a lot like part of a huffpo headline containing the words “hidden BDSM lair” “abducted teen” and ‘necessary for focusing his chakra”