Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Discussing more than just the news from today's Nintendo Direct, but the ramifications it will have on the company for the foreseeable future.

  There was a metric shit-ton of information coming out of the Nintendo Direct transmission today. Over the past year, Nintendo has been bringing information straight to it's fans through it's social media outlets more and more, and this previous one may just be the biggest one of them all. In fact, there was so much news, and so many big news items, it kind of felt like I was watching a mini-E3 presentation. But rather than just rattle off the announcements verbatim, which you can get from literally every other news site, I wanted to talk more about some of the far-reaching effects many of these announcements can have. I want to spit some meta-game about Nintendo's communication styles, and what it means for us as gaming folk, as well as take a look at what crazy things have started and where they'll be going.

  The Nintendo Direct communications are interesting, in that they are a direct contact to their own fanbase. They are preaching to the choir, so to speak, so rather than just telling you how awesome they are, they tend to spend more time saying things like "we hope you will be excited," and "we hope you understand it will take just a little more time." Both Iwata and Reggie come off more humble and friendly, and while any coherent person is aware that this is all being heavily PR filtered, I think this approach is much easier to receive than Sony and Microsoft's general "you're going to love us because we said so" approach. Ultimately, the fact that Iwata, the president of Nintendo, takes as much time out of his schedule as he does to talk to "me" directly really helps ground the company. I think this wins them a lot of favor with people, which is a great way to make them more receptive to anything you have to say.

    The discussion of MiiVerse may have been a bit dragging, but what's most interesting about it is that Nintendo didn't just throw it out there and leave it to die; it's going to continue to evolve and grow as a service. It's going to allow developers to directly interface with their fans through Nintendo's channel, which has this weird cross-promotional synergy that, if I were a developer, especially a more indie developer like WayForward, I'd be way more excited about.

  I'm not sure how I feel about this "new" Virtual Console set-up. Sure, adding all the features for MiiVerse and save slots to it is amazing, but the fact that it's a limited run, and that I continue to have to pay for it is weird. Yes, if I own it on the Wii and transferred my stuff over, I can get the enhanced version for only a dollar to a dollar fifty, but... I don't know. Shouldn't I kind of just get the upgrade? It seems like a bit of a good faith venture to me, but I suppose it's not like the efforts are free. I'm more concerned that there's still no way to just have my Virtual Console games already purchased available on all platforms, including the 3DS. But hey, we're getting GameBoy Advance games, finally, so that's pretty slick. Now if only we'd get that Castlevania: Bloodlines for the Genesis....

  There's also this weird Famicon deal where you can essentially rent a game for 30 cents, for 30 days. I'm not really sure how I feel about paid, limited time demos, and I foresee a lot of people being confused about not being able to keep the game, so let's see how this all goes.

  Smartphone integration for MiiVerse is a huge thing. Not only is Nintendo letting other companies have at an aspect of their little empire, but it opens the door for other opportunities as well. If you remember back in the days of Mario Kart Wii, there was a special Mario Kart Channel that you could upload to your Wii interface. This would allow you to check in on leaderboards and the like without actually loading up the game. If they could start integrating apps like that into smartphones, it could really take individual games to a whole new level of connectivity.

  I'm just going to say The Mighty 101 is possibly the game I'm most excited about right now. Platinum Games making games for the WiiU makes me all kinds of excited. Between this unique IP that looks like a wonderful puzzle/brawler, and Bayonetta 2, there's a lot to love between this business partnership. Seeing the Platinum Games office showcase during the Direct was incredibly interesting to a gaming nut like me, and I hope to see more of these in future shows. As a side note, remember how Bayonetta had a ton of Sega references when it was funded by Sega? I wonder if Bayonetta 2 will have a ton of random Nintendo references... Finger's crossed!

  If we're following along in chronological order, this is the part where Nintendo did something unthinkable. They basically tipped their hand without really having a whole lot to show for it. Things that you would imagine to be saved for E3 were just mentioned here, including the acknowledgement that Smash Bros. is coming along and will be shown at E3, there's a new Mario game by their EAD development staff (think Mario Galaxy and Mario 3D Land), AND they are working on a new Zelda. Now sure, it's all common sense that this is happening. Nintendo has always been one for secrets, sometimes announcing games mere months before releasing them. But now they're telling us about projects before they have so much as a screenshot? Madness! I'm curious to see how this new cycle works for Nintendo. Will they be guiding us along the development process more closely now, to allow us to see how our favorite games are being made? It's an interesting concept that I hope pans out.

  An HD remake of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker was announced. Easily the best Zelda that doesn't have "Majora's Mask" in the title, I'm nothing but ecstatic to see this game getting released 10 years later! (I'm so old...) What's more, is this kicks open the door I was waiting for: classic Nintendo games in HD. How much longer do we have to wait before we see Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword in HD? How about a high-def remake of the Metroid Prime trilogy? Or Mario Galaxy, which I consider to be one of the best looking games of the past decade, low resolution not withstanding. It's not uncommon for studios to put out HD remakes of their best works, and Nintendo is no stranger to making excellent remakes of their games. And it's not just about putting them in HD: the combination of New Play Control with Wii-motes, and the GamePad functionality opens up a variety of gameplay enhancements that Nintendo could add! It's a very exciting road to travel down, but in the same breath, I really hope it doesn't detract from all the new ideas I want to see coming out.

  New ideas like the new Wii Play title, for example. I know, I know, mini-game collections are the devil, right? To hell with all that, I love getting people together to play dumb mini-game games, and Wii Play was actually one of the best ones on Wii. Seeing all the crazy things they can do with this is going to be very exciting. That Wii-Mote/GamePad game of twister was interesting looking. If you haven't seen the footage yet, I highly recommend seeking it out. This is the kind of meta-game gaming that I love. Also? Two-players using the same GamePad to do a little game of Foosball is fucking brilliant.

  I had to surgically remove my heart to be able to talk about Yoshi's Epic Yarn long enough to not devolve into a mass of girlish screams of joy. Kirby's Epic Yarn was one of my favorite games of the past few years for a number of reasons, not least of which was that it just grabbed the pleasure center of my brain and massaged it ever so gently. Now, Yoshi's going to be involved in a similar game with a similar artstyle, and I couldn't be happier. What they currently showed looks maybe a little -too- much like Kirby's Epic Yarn, so I"m hoping it continues to evolve the look further. Considering Yoshi himself gets a power up that turns him into more of a yarn-skinned plushie instead of just a 2-D outline shows me that they've definitely got something up their sleeves.

  And just when I thought my heart couldn't take any more! Mr. Iwata mentions that they're working on a new partnership with a renowned developer. So that's exciting... Oh, Atlus? That's interesting... Hey I recognize those guys, those are Shin Megami Tensei dudes! AND THOSE ARE FIRE EMBLEM DUDES! AND THEY'S GONNA BE IN THE SAME GAME?! Yeah, needless to say I'm pumped to hear more about this title. And my curiosity is peaked at the mention of working on additional collaborations with more developers. This is a good thing, and I can't wait to see where it goes.

  Well actually we can see one place it's going right now:

  I have no idea what this is that Monolith Software is cooking up. It looks incredibly similar to Xenoblade, so that's already a really good thing. It looks mad JRPG, but it looks rather stunning, so I hope to hear more about this before too long.

  So, what are the ramifications of this new Nintendo Direct? New directions for content, including developer behind-the-scenes stuff. Not taking any shit and jumping right into new game announcements. Illustrating a continuing growth and push on Nintendo's side for new content and amazing software. In short; the WiiU is going to have a nice, strong catalog moving forward. If they can maintain this kind of momentum, there's no doubt they're going to be doing very well for themselves for this console life cycle.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pokemon X and Y - What Will This Game Need?

Hopes and Fears pepper my excitement for the new generation of Pokemon

  In case you haven't seen it yet, Pokemon X and Y were recently announced, setting up a new generation of Pokemon, finally moving to the 3DS. Here's a look at the trailer to catch you up:

  This trailer shows that there are a lot of things Game Freak is doing with their series, and the bold direction they're taking it in. I would hesitate to say it's a bold "new" direction at this point. From what I can tell, and from previous track records, I'm expecting a big safety net under this game. I remain hopeful, but cautiously so, that this game is going to be more than a graphical update with a few dozen new critters. Honestly I'm a little bit -too- reserved, I think. There are aspects to the game shown in this trailer that have me nervous. They tug at raw chords in my heart left over from games like Pokemon Colosseum and Pokemon XD, a game so aware of how bad it is that it is literally laughing at you in it's title for buying it.

  The best way to approach this is to do kind of a step by step analysis of the trailer and go from there.Let's start with that hideous yellow rodent who has become the face of Pokemon. I hate him. I always kind of have. He isn't that cute, he's supremely annoying, and there's a lot of residual spite coming from Smash Bros. Melee. More importantly than my animosity  though: if you watch the video, he appears to be standing on the Eiffel Tower. This is backed up by the epicenter of his doomsday thunder bolts being shot across the globe, and then later when you see the tower in the background. It appears that we're going to Europe this time, and that's pretty interesting. I love Europe. It has a lot of flavor and style, and I think GameFreak is good at capturing those types of elements and bringing them to the forefront.

  I'm not a fan of these new forward facing camera angles. The scene in particular of the male character running at the camera looks painful. I'm really hoping that's just showing off the engine and not indicative of the actual game, because running towards the camera with only inches between it and your character makes for some terribly frustrating gameplay. You can't see anything in the direction you're going and end up bumping into all sorts of crap.

  I'm not sure how to feel about that weird space building in the middle of a displaced canyon, either. Is it a new city, or some villain HQ? The taste that won't wash out of the back of my mouth is how much the structure reminds me of Pokemon Colosseum and XD designs. It reeks of the Orre region, and I have spent years trying to erase that from my memory. But I can never erase the save files those games have imprinted on my soul. I really wanted that Lugia, damn it.

  New starters, let's talk about them. At first glance I have to say this may actually be the best set of starters I've ever seen. I don't dislike a single one of them, and they all show some promise. First, we've got Chespin, the Grass type.

I shall call him Chesapeak. 

  Look at that adorable mother fucker. He's so happy to see you! Him and his weird leafy coat and flipper paws. He looks like some kind of otter covered in seaweed. It might be a bit of a unique twist if he actually becomes a grass/water type, but the two-toes leads me to believe he's actually supposed to be more like a mole or prairie dog. So I'd put my money on another grass/ground starter for this li'l guy.

You will be Miss Terious.

  Then we have Fennekin, whose name I'm not terribly fond of. Was Fennix too "low fruit?" Fennec fox + pheonix? Hm. Anyway. I don't really know where this thing's going to go. It might pull a Typhlosion and stay pure fire, or even go fire/normal, which would be kind of weird. How about fire/psychic? How cool would that be? This is clearly the "for the ladies' starter, but that's fine. I think it's still pretty precious, but then Fennec Foxes are fucking adorbs. Seriously. Look at this shit:

  Hulk Hogan himself would be reduced to a quivering pile of girly shrieks in the face of this thing.

Benjamin Froaklin, at your service.

  Now I will gladly admit that I have favoritism towards water types. I like water and I like sea animals. Blaziken was the first time I ever started with a fire type, and I still default to Mudkip every time since. But this guy. Holy crap do I love him. I was a bit "meh" at first, but once I realized he looked like Benjamin God Damned Franklin, I was on board. Don't quote me on this but I wouldn't be surprised to see him go water/ poison if he does anything than stay water. Which I hope he does. As a water lover, nothing is more boring than the fact that the first two generations were strict water. Then again, I would never have guessed water/steel for a penguin, so anything is on the table at this point.

What's cooler than being cool? Steel Cold.

  Initially, I was a bothered by the new attack animation stuff. I kind of hated it in the Pokemon Stadium series. It always looked... off. With sprites, it's easy to just kind of let it go. Seeing things like Froakie actually jump in there and mess a Pokemon up kind of makes me a little happier. However, between this and what appears to be a needless "wild such-and-such has appeared" animation, I'm just the slightest bit worried that combat is going to slow down in favor of wasting my time with constant zooms and drawn-out animations. 2D sprites in a 3D plane is indeed a favorite look of mine in games, so I'm kind of bummed to see it go fully polygonal, but we'll see how the final thing shapes up.

  It looks like the new gyms are continuing the tradition of one-upsmanship that the series has been taking with it's gyms lately. The gyms of Pokemon Black and White 2 were indeed the best gyms in the series to date. Each one felt unique, had it's own rendition of the standard gym theme, and were each a set piece all their own. Hopefully that kind of pomp continues onward.

  How about those new mascots, eh? The sort-of-titular Xerneas and Yvvetal are already pointing me to the belief that this generation will continue the ever-worsening Pokemon names. I loved a lot of the 5th generation, but the names were just getting worst with each one. Also, sword-leg rainbow stag? I'll try anything out, but that's kind of weirding me out.

  So a lot of that laid out my fears of the series, which basically amounts to it being more the mocking visage of Pokemon XD than a Pokemon proper. Considering it's the actual Game Freak company behind it, I remain positive that I'm being paranoid. Although, how quickly this is being turned around is unusual. Barely a year after the last release, and only two and a half years after the last generation? I'm sure they've been working on it for a long while, since they've had their hands on the 3DS tech, if I had to guess. So it's probably not as "rushed" as it feels like it might be. In fact, given the general distance between localization stints, I'd say the game is closer to done than not, and that Japan is going to have to wait for the localization to finish around the rest of the world.

  I wanted to also just throw out this little article I read, discussing the likely etymology of the names X and Y. I love crap like that. Overall, though, I don't know. At the risk of sounding greedy, I need more to get excited about this. I need to know that there are going to be cool Spot Pace and Street Pass features. I need to know that there is going to be something new about this besides a Dragon Quest camera angle. I need to see that I won't have another dozen rock/ground and grass/poison Pokemon. I'm not asking for a revolution here, but it's Pokemon. Some evolution is in order, I think. Also I want to see what the new ghost Pokemon are. I love those guys.

  So how about you? What are your hopes and/or fears for a new Pokemon game on the 3DS? How many new little guys do you think we're getting? How do you feel about what you've seen thus far? I'd love to get a discussion going in the comments!