Events over the past week have conspired to force me to come to terms with the Wii U and the concept of post-Wii Nintendo.
Bayonetta 2 was enough to force me to own an Wii U at some point in the future, but it’s more than just that. There is a combination of Platinum Games and Hideki Kamiya’s support. There is the fact that Nintendo’s spotlight game for this year’s E3 was Pikmin 3, the fact that the Wii U’s Pro Controller will perfect the notion of the modern 3d control pad, the fact that the Wii U’s tablet itself is a decent controller in it’s own right, the fact that no Wii U package sold worldwide will include Wiimote/Nunchuck support.
In short, Nintendo seems to have admitted that chasing soccer moms over the “Core gamer audience” (NIntendo’s words, not mine) has harmed Nintendo’s image. Which is fine; even if these moves are simply a screen to trick gamers into the first year or two of support as the Wii U builds toward mainstream appeal (and a more Soccer Mom-friendly pricetag), Nintendo has more than met us halfway on this. We’re getting at least two years worth of exclusive Platinum Games output, we’re going to get Capcom’s best efforts, we may even see a return of F-Zero, Zelda, and Metroid within those first two years. Over the next twenty four months we’re probably going to see five or six Wii U exclusive games that also happen to be possible GOTY contenders, games squarely targeted at us, the hardcore gamers that looked at Nintendo’s Wii 1 offerings and longed for the days of F-Zero GX and P.N. 03.
I mean, you can summon up some shadowy cabal between Sega and Nintendo and Hideki Kamiya in your head and feel betrayed by the fact we’re finally seeing the sequel to the finest action game ever crafted, or you can stop being a fucking idiot. Whichever. If you’re a Sega fan from back when Sega still made hardware, this whole thing ceased to have meaning the day Sonic Adventure 2 Battle was released.
The games industry is nasty, ugly, brutal, and very rarely has our own best interests in mind. The next two years of the Wii U will be one of those rare events where you see a console manufacturer go out of the way to satisfy hardcore gamers. Not the dudebros with their endless iterations on team deathmatch, but us. You and me, the people reading this. We haven’t seen this happen since the PlayStation 2, and with the Xbox Loop almost certainly targeting a noxious melange of party gamers and dance gamers and Call of Duty professionals, it may be the last time we ever see this happen.
Look. I understand. I hate Nintendo, too! But we sort of owe them this one. However, I do feel it my duty to address the elephant in the room, the one great flaw in the Wii U no one seems brave enough to address.
It’s these boxes.
They’re fucking hideous. I guess that’s teal? If it is, did they use the same mid 90’s time machine excursion to spec out the Wii U’s chipset? Imagine how badly a row of Wii U game is going to stand out in your wall unit. What’s worse, they’ve not adopted Sony’s Blu-Ray packaging conventions and the silly things are using wasteful full-length DVD boxes for no good reason.
Oh well. Not everything can be the classic Sega Genesis plastic clamshells. Anyway if you wait a year or two maybe you can buy this week’s games in the same colors as the Charlotte Hornets:
Publisher: 2K Games
Platforms: Steam, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
I was tempted to just re-use my Borderlands 2 joke from the podcast and walk away from this entry, but that would be poor form, so I’ll just re-use the same joke to explain my feelings toward Borderlands 2 to explain why I’m not buying this thing quite yet:
Borderlands 2 is only overpriced if you accept the fiction that it was released in September and not July 2013 during the Steam Summer sale.
Gonna be perfectly honest here, the first Borderlands never really caught my attention either. For some reason playing a stilted loot-based FPS with boring raid bosses never really spoke to me. I dunno, maybe I’m the crazy one. That said, I always wanted to want to like Borderlands, as at least has a unique art style and oozes that sort of unique Free Radical charm-- You know, when Free Radical still had charm and well before Haze.
By far the biggest argument Borderlands 2 makes over Borderlands 1 is its embrace of the PC market over consoles. Yes, it carries the same lavish HD tax that console gamers largely accepted in 2006, but gone are the XBox 360 controller-driven menus and gone is Randy Pritchford’s inexplicable contempt for Steam. Gearbox is in on the joke too, sending out actual love letters to the PC gaming public apologizing for the bafflingly console-centric nature of the first game. Borderlands 2 is the sort of game I badly want to pull for, just wake me up when Gearbox is willing to de-consolize the pricetag, too.
Jet Set Radio
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
I’ll be frank with you. I’m in love with Jet Set Radio, but it is very hard to make a case for actually playing Jet Set Radio. It’s not that you’re dealing with an acquired taste that eventually beats you into submission like Guinness beer or the combined Robert A Heinlein library-- Instead, either you know you’ll love JSR or find it the most grating experience of your life within the first five minutes of playing it.
That’s not Sega Stockholm Syndrome talking; the Dreamcast had plenty of fine games without dealing with JSR’s assorted frustrating bullshit. Sega’s best games were always it’s most charming games, and JSR with cell shading and inexplicable soundtrack and one of a kind art style was definitely a charmer. The problem was that it is also an immensely frustrating game, a sort of open sandbox skateboarding game that emphasized exploration and fluidity, but also featured a harsh, NES-style timer along with level an enemies designed to slow down and impede your progress whenever possible. JSR was like two halves of incompatible games, and if you removed either one you’d have a classic gaming experience.
And this is the main problem with the presence of Jet Set Radio on XBLA and PSN-- that hypothetical “whole” JSR experience exists, it is called Jet Set Radio Future, and anyone who’s ever played JSRF would far, far rather be playing that instead. Oh and also the XBLA version may be unplayable due to an inexplicable amount of slowdown for a 12 year old game that ran smooth as silk on it’s native hardware so... watch out for that. I’m probably buying this at some point anyway because I’m an enormous whore, but I just cannot justify suggesting anyone who’s not already in love with JSR to do the same.
Also I’m becoming mildly terrified as my Dreamcast library is becoming slowly obsolete due to better versions being released on PSN. Just...fucking stay away from Mars Matrix, it’s all I have left to hold over you peons.
Developer: Codemasters Birmingham
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Banks collapse, countries go bankrupt, dictatorships fall, economies are rent asunder-- yet somehow Formula 1 remains solvent. I dunno. If I’m going to watch a bunch of largely computerized cars turn left at high speed I’m going to watch NASCAR and at least hope for drivers to start throwing punches at each other in the pits.
Actually I’m not going to watch either. F1 is inscrutable and NASCAR is now homogenized to the point that the racing season never actually ends and the tracks are indistinguishable. Yet F1 and NASCAR receive yearly updates and no one in America cares about Rally Racing or LeMans.
One of the infuriating trends of this console generation is that while we’ve probably seen more racing games than ever before-- Even Forza is now a yearly project, for fucks sake-- we’ve only seen one or maybe two landmark racing titles this entire generation. Forza 3 was one of them, and I can’t even remember if Colin McRae’s DiRT was an early 360 title or a late PS2-era game. I can’t even in good consciousness put Gran Turismo 5 on that list despite being in love with the series.
The fact that F1 2012 exists is depressing, but at least you can’t say that it’s keeping CodeMasters away from the very important work of developing GRiD 2. Wake me when our long cultural nightmare is over and I get to care about racing games again.
Developer: Runic Games
Publisher: Runic Games
I would like to say that Torchlight II’s timing could be worse, but it would involve hypothetical, largely impossible situations such as say, releasing four months after Diablo 3, the week of Borderland II, and also the day Steam finally gained sentience and launched a Predator drone strike against Origin’s server farm. Or perhaps four months after Diablo 3’s release, the same week as Borderlands 2, but also the day before time travel technology was perfected at Sandia National Labs, collapsing the timeline and simultaneously releasing Torchlight 3, 4, 5, and 6. Or four months after the launch of Diablo 3, the same week as Borderlands 2, and the same month everyone in the world simultaneously grew sick and tired of WoW’s art style and started throwing flaming objects through the windows of Blizzard, Riot Games, and Runic. You get the idea.
Will you find a better value proposition for twenty bucks other than Torchlight II? Probably not. Have you already played enough Torchlight where you’re fucking sick of clicky-clicky loot games and would rather drive knitting needles through your eyeballs than decipher another random green pair of shoes? Almost certainly!