I am a Brazilian student in Norway. I also happen to really, really like games! I'm a huge RPG fan, especially JRPGs and party-based WRPGs, but I also enjoy nearly every genre, from Mario Kart to Limbo to Bulletstorm.
Fatal Frame Series
Far Cry 3
Ninja Gaiden 2, 3
Castle of Illusion
Dungeons And Dragons Chronicles of Mystara
Legacy of Kain Pack
Natural Selection 2
Resident Evil Revelations
Silent Hill Downpour
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
Legend of Dragoon
X-com Bureau Declassified
Final Fantasy V, VI, Tactics
Persona 2 Eternal Punishment
Dust Elysian Tail
DARK SOULS 2!!!!!
Currently playing (as of 1503/2014): Dark Souls 2, Dishonored, Dark Souls 2 and Dark Souls 2.
My 3DS code: 3995-6846-8256. For some reason it doesn't appear in the player profile.
"It's really not that hard". I'm sure you've heard that uttered by "Dark Souls elitists", and if you've never played a Souls game but hear all the time about how terribly difficult it is, there's a good chance you sneer when you hear that. "Not that hard". ARROGANT JERK!!! Maybe you think something like "I'm sure physics wasn't 'that hard' to Einstein, but he didn't go around looking down on everybody else" (I actually heard a similar comparison).
I confess to be guilty of the phrase "it's not that hard" myself, but here's the thing: when Souls fans say that, what they really mean is... well, I have no idea what other people mean, they might all just be arrogant jerks for all I know, but what I mean is that Dark Souls is not "that hard" in the way you typically think of difficulty. In fact, Dark Souls is surprisingly accessible, and the only thing you need to play it is some basic videogame familiarity like being familiar with third-person adventure or action games.
Some games are insanely difficult in that, truly only the very best, the most dedicated, the ones who have lightning fast reflexes or whatever skill the game requires, will make it to the end, or sometimes even past the beginning. I remember plenty of old school games being like that, though I was just hit by the realization that I'm too old to remember any of them :(
Dark Souls is not like that. You don't need super-human skill, reflex, brain or precision. Literally any gamer can learn and have fun with Dark Souls. The only two things Dark Souls truly require are available to every single human being, though admittedly in varying degrees: patience and method. The reason for the "hardest game of the generation" hype is that it's just so different from what we're used from modern games, you have to train yourself to think in a different manner, learn the language of the game. You need to... *cue solemn Star Wars music* unlearn what you have learned. Lucky for you, that's exactly what I'm here for!
Years and years of gaming trained us to run to the first enemy we come across and mash the attack button with abandon, maybe while checking twitter. In Dark Souls, this mindset will get you killed. All the time. No exception. Seriously. And if you insist on doing that, you'll surely end up storming out in a rage.
You need to take it slow. Treat each enemy in Dark Souls like you treat a boss fight in other games. Don't worry, the enemies die quickly and it's not actually like fighting bosses all the time, you just need a similar mindset. Put up your shield and carefully approach the enemy. Watch how it behaves, learn it's movements. See what kind of weapon it uses, the range, if he has a shield, if its typical attack is a 3-strike combo or a 4-strike combo, and attack when you see an opening.
Modern games teach us that there are no ledges, only invisible walls, so you can run at full speed all the time without a care in the world. In Dark Souls, there really are ledges. A lot of them, and nary an invisible wall to be seen. So if you're not familiar with an area, don't run if it doesn't look safe, walk. Keep your eyes peeled. Find a source of light if possible. And be aware that, when fighting enemies near ledges, the risk of falling is very real. Don't rush, take it slow. Act like you yourself would if you were a real life explorer and came across an uncharted land, and not like you're just controlling an avatar in a game that will go out of its way to protect you.
Modern games teach us that death equals failure. Death means we see the continue screen (do they still have those?)or respawn with a mild penalty of some kind, but either way, we failed at what we were trying to accomplish. Some games are so terrified of making us feel like we're not rewarded or special enough that they scrap the notion of death altogether.
In Dark Souls, you will die. A lot. And if you're conditioned to treat every death as a failure, you'll feel like you're failing all the time, and quickly grow frustrated.
Here's the little secret, though: In Dark Souls, death is not failure, it's just a normal part of the game, so much so that it's treated almost like a gameplay mechanic. When you diie, the souls (the game's currency, used for literally everything) you had on you stay in the same place you died, and you get them all back if you get back there alive, but if you don't, then they are lost for good. This adds another another decision for the player to make: do I go back to spend my souls now, or can I risk going just a little bit further?How much of a loss would it be if I risk going further and die twice? In Demon's Souls and the first Dark Souls, for instance, you even actually need to be dead to be able to do certain actions, like invading the worlds of other players.
So don't sweat that you're dying. Dying in Dark Souls is just another part of the game, and every time you die a different death, you'll learn something of value. So don't be afraid. In Dark Souls, death is not failure.
It's really not that hard with friends
Finishing Dark Souls alone is perfectly doable, but it really is THAT hard. However, you don't have to survive everything on your own. You can summon up to two players to help you. With the help of just one extra fighter, some of the more challenging areas may still be challenging, but if you have two adventurers to back you up? Sometimes it almost feels too easy! I know, right? That almost impossible boss that can't possibly be killed, even with a friend? With two friends, he's almost a pushover.
Which isn't to say the game won't require your full attention. Even if once tough enemies crumble easily under your combined might, the biggest enemy in Dark Souls can and will still kill you if you relax too much: carelessness. Allowing yourself to be trapped between two enemies in a narrow bridge, forgetting that spike trap, falling AGAIN for the same ambush, lingering near exploding barrows, etc, all that and more can still kill you just as quickly.
This may be a shocking revelations, but we don't play Dark Souls because we like suffering, we play it because it's fun! Seriously. Sure, you'll be frustrated some(many)times, but will also have a blast. Rolling out of the way of a giant sword at just the right time, defeating an invading phantom, killing a giant boss with your friend, invading another player's world, coming across not one but three enemy players, luring them to a very narrow bridge and landing a horizontal slash with your big-ass greatsword that hits them simultaneously and pushes them all off the bridge,... beautiful!
Yes, you'll die. Yes, you'll be annoyed and frustrated sometimes. And yes, you'll have a lot of fun. Not just because of the feeling of reward after overcoming a challenge, not because you like pain, but because you'll be having a genuinely good time. So don't be afraid, don't be put put off by by the "too hardcore" or "too difficult" reputation and come join us. Maybe you'll try and hate it anyways, but you just might have the videogame time of your life!
In this age of "everybody is gamer" or "nobody is a gamer, the word is stupid", depending on who you ask, one of the things that often comes up is the complexity of modern controllers, which would would be "intimidating" to newcomers. In response many gamers typically sneer at the assertion. I mean, WTF, right? What's so terribly complicated about a few buttons and a couple of analog sticks? Surely nothing that any moron can't learn with some effort, right?
How a standard controller probably looks to a non-gamer.
I wasn't too fond of the notion myself, and it is true that, really, anybody CAN get used to it with some effort. But then I realized that, looking back, not only did I have the privilege to learn games since their infancy, when inputs were super simple, and then organically follow the evolution in control methods, I too was confused by changes to controls I was familiar with. If I had never played a game before, I'd most likely be one of the "morons" who are "afraid" of controllers.
This is how I used to play FPSes.
The above image, a keyboard (duh!) is all I used to play Doom 2, my very first FPS. If memory serves, I moved with the arrow keys, strafed by holding alt, and shot with left ctrl. Are you missing anything? Yep, no mouse. This was the standard for me and I didn't question it for a while. When I started to play online and went looking for tips to improve my game, one of the first and most common advices was to play with a Keyboard AND a mouse, AKA standard FPS controls today. A mouse, WTF? Sounded weird, but sure, if the pros suggest it, I might as well try it. How hard could it be?
Pretty damn hard, as it turns out! It was confusing and disorienting, and to put it mildly, I sucked at it. So I was faced with a choice: I could persevere with those horrible new controls and put up with not having fun with the game in the hope that I'd be awesome at it if/when I mastered this new monstrosity, or I could retreat to the sweet, warm embrace of familiarity. Guess what I did? Yes, I probably don't have what it takes to win a Nobel Prize, but oh well.
And for as long as the games allowed me (Duke Nukem 3D, Quake!), I played FPSes exactly the way I played Doom. Only when such controls were so outdated that games not only didn't include them anymore but were designed with mouse controls in mind (for instance, the height of your shot was no longer automatically adjusted) did I force myself to learn the "new" (by then pretty old, I'm sure) controls. I sucked at it, and hated it at first, but eventually I mastered it, and in time it became second nature.
My very first console gamepad
Most of my earlier game life, however, was't on PC, it was on consoles, and a SEGA Master System was my first, thanks to my Strabism and an eye doctor that recommended my parents give me a "Atari" (meaning any videogame) to train my bad eye. That doctor either gave me an amazing gift or ruined my life, lol, but anyways... see how simple it was? Two buttons and a D-pad. That's it. Instantly accessible to literally anybody, pretty much zero learning curve.
The SNES controller was the next step, and it adds plenty of new inputs to master. This time we have 4 face buttons AND two triggers! I remember marveling at the time how amazing it was that a videogame controller had "so many buttons". However, I already had years of practice with my trusty Master System, so I had little trouble adjusting to the SNES.
WTF IS THIS STICK IN THE MIDDLE?!?
After the SNES, my gaming life was dominated by the Playstation, but I also had a N64 (for which I owned less games in its entire lifetime than I already do for the Wii U. Kids these days have no idea what a real "drought" is lol!!). The Playstation controller was, at first, exactly like a SNES controler with 2 extra triggers, so I didn't need to learn anything. However, the N64 came with that awful monstrosity in the middle that is known as an "analog stick".
When my wife first tried a videogame with me many years ago, she was frustrated that she couldn't even keep "little Zelda" (aka Link. I think I told her, but I'm not sure she really registered that "Zelda" isn't the kid in green!) on a straight path. Funny as it was to watch, I remember having the exact same problem, to the point where I avoided the analog stick whenever possible. I distinctly remember having trouble playing International Superstar Soccer 64 with the analog stick and sticking to the good old D-Pad instead, no pun intended. Again, in time the analog stick became the default move control and I got used to it, but it wasn't love at first sight by any means.
Holy shit, now there are two of them!
Not long after, that one analog stick had an offspring, and some maniac somewhere thought it would be a good idea to make me use two of them! Worse, they expected me to use them AT THE SAME TIME, like, walking with one and moving the camera with another. What the heck do they take me for, a bloody computer?!?!?
In the beginning, the few console shooters tried to make it work with no analog sticks. Even those who did use both, like Medal of Honor on the Playstation, had a simplified control scheme that worked similar to how Doom did without a mouse, and that's how I got used to them. None of that move with the left, aim with the right nonsense!
Guess what happened? Eventually, a game came along that forced the now standard controls on me, and I had to really learn them. I hated it at first, but eventually they became second nature. Again.
Someone who fits the description I gave in the first paragraph might read this and say "aha! see? You (and most of us) had to make the effort to learn, but you did, why can't those filthy casuals"? Well, of course they can and do learn if they really try, but the crucial difference is that, when a new controller or control scheme came along and gave me a hard time at first, I was already in love with videogames.
When I tried my first videogame, it was instantly accessible. There was no friction, no steep learning curve, no effort required, it was literally pick-up-and-play. And as videogames grew more complex, not only did I have the benefit of having years of practice with what came before, I was doing something I loved. It is a very different scenario from someone trying out a modern videogame for the first time. They don't have fun because they suck at it, and we never like sucking. And they don't "love videogames", so don't have much of an incentive to put up with it. Maybe they'd really get into it once they learn it, maybe not, but that's often not enough motivation. And looking back at my own history, if the very first game I played used all the resources of a Dual Shock 3 instead of a D-pad plus 2 buttons, I might have been easily put off as well.
None of this is to say modern controllers are "wrong" or should be redesigned to look like a NES controller for the sake of the new audience, not at all. Some people do seem to make the case that dualshocks are "a problem to be solved", which is frankly stupid. Game controllers aren't complex as they are to make sure no infidel outsider stains our exclusive community, they are as they are because the games themselves require them. Plenty of games use every single input available in a dualshock, including L3 and R3, and would never work without serious compromises with anything less.
What it does mean is that it is perfectly okay to accept that modern controllers are off-putting to newcomers, and it's perfectly okay that some games have simple control methods hoping to attract that new audience by lessening the barrier of entry. We don't need to be hostile to people who don't see a videogame controller as an extension of their limbs, and we don't need to attack games that cater to those people. They don't threaten our Dark Souls, they don't threaten our Lollipop Chainsaw. We can all happily coexist.
In other words: next time you're having a good time saying that only stupid people would struggle with something as "simple" as a videogame controller, remember that you were once new at this whole videogame thing too, and no different than any of them.
Yay, it's that time again! Another big day of big Nintendo news, another Nintendo blog by yours truly! The topic of today's class is... well, it's right there in the title.
As you may have heard, Nintendo committed the capital sin of slashing their projections, and all hell broke loose. Though this time the outcry was particularly loud given the magnitude of the revision (it's not every day a projected $1 billion dollar turns into a loss), it followed the same typical trend. Images are conjured of a trembling Iwata about to lose his job facing a mob of blood-thirsty investors. "Drastic changes" are expected, management reshuffles and, sometimes, layoffs (Nintendo hired one thousand employees since their 2008 peak) are either predicted or called for. None of which ever happens, and here's why.
Everything mentioned in the above Paragraph would make sense if we were talking about a typical Western company. But Nintendo is neither Western nor typical. I know this may come as a shock, but Western culture and values are not universal, not even when it comes to the sacred god of Money. Simply applying standard western logic to Nintendo doesn't work, and most commentators talking about Nintendo wildly miss the mark so often because they fail to understand both Japan and Nintendo.
Investors don't matter
Yes, the image is completely unrelated. Actually, maybe it isn't.
According to the Western media narrative, Nintendo investors are forever calling for people to be fired in response to the losses, either the firing of Iwata, management, workforce reduction, or all of the above. There's just one problem: investors aren't really pushing for any of that, and even if they were, they don't matter.
Alright, that's not entirely accurate. They do matter, of course. The end goal is still to maximize shareholder returns, and that's no different at Nintendo. Indeed, partially as a result of the disappointing financial results, Nintendo announced a large share buyback as a way to reward shareholders. But they don't matter in the sense that they don't guide or influence company decisions.
The belief that Iwata and company's jobs are forever on the line stems from the typically American phenomenon of the Activist shareholder. The problem is that not only is activist investing virtually unheard of (and frowned upon) in Japan, even in the United States it's far more bark than bite.
In the United Stares, activist investors such as Carl Icahn and Daniel Loeb make a lot of noise and grab lots of headlines, but when it comes down to it, their actual power to exert influence is simply far more limited than the size of their stakes would suggest. "Feared" Activist Investor poster boy Icahn himself often complains about that very issue.
If even in the United States is difficult for investors to get their way, things in Japan are on a whole other level. Activist investing is not only irrelevant, it's frowned upon. In Nintendo's case, besides the legal and cultural limits to investor pressure, outside investors simply don't have enough power (nor interest, for that matter) to impose their will unless there's a broad investor coalition that's about as likely as a China-Taiwan military alliance. As Gamesindustry explains:They don't understand that activist shareholders don't mean a tuppenny damn to a company whose shares are largely held by a combination of the founding family, the senior staff and (more significantly still) the complex web of interrelated share- and debt-holdings that connects Nintendo with Japanese banks and other corporations, none of whom have the slightest concern in being "activist" except in the most extreme of circumstances. An earnings miss? Pah! Japanese corporations routinely missed annual earnings every year for decades after the Asian Financial Crisis of the early 1990s, but shareholder pressure to change top management never materialised then, and it won't materialise now. Iwata is secure until he does something sufficiently wrong to have a taint of scandal around it, and that's deeply unlikely to happen.
On top of that, corporate Japan is fiercely defensive of outsider interference, and they tend to band together to fend off meddling outsiders, even when they'd stand to profit in the short term. In one of the most famous cases, in 1989, American magnate T. Boone Pickens bought a 26% stake in key Toyota supplier Koito Manufacturing, thus becoming the largest shareholder, and waltzed in to call the shots with all the subtlety of a rampaging elephant. In the end, he wasn't even able to secure a board seat, got rid of his entire stake and angrily complained about Japan's "cartel". Maybe you're thinking "that was a long time ago, surely things are different now"? Indeed they are, one of the differences being that many companies have taken steps to fortify their defenses against outside interference. So next you time you read about Nintendo or Iwata doing this or that to placate furious shareholders, remember that not a single investor, not even the Yamaushi family, owns anywhere close to a 26% stake.
Mass Layoffs are a big no-no in Japan
Another measure that's being floated around with increasing frequency is mass layoffs. After all, American companies do that at the first sign of trouble. I'm pretty sure god wrote somewhere that firing as many people as possible and paying management as much as possible is the only path to prosperity, and believing otherwise is proof that you are an un-American communist loser looking for handouts. I'm pretty sure Bobby Kottick is laughing maniacally at Iwata right now. Seriously, cutting his own salary instead of cutting other people's jobs, what kind of loser does that?
Unfortunately, to the never ending chagrin of Japanese workers toiling under the gaze of communist oppression, layoffs aren't nearly as fashionable in Japan. Naturally, that's not to say people don't get fired in Japan. Corporate Japan is reputedly brutal and not shy about bleeding workers dry, and then some. Fail toe the line and your job is gone, just like anywhere else. And obviously, if a company simply can't pay the bills anymore, layoffs are inevitable. However, mass layoffs as a cost cutting measure are extremely frowned upon and, despite efforts to liberalize (read: make it easier and cheaper to fire people) the labor market, it is still taboo. Remember when Sony announced it would fire 10000 people in 2012? Over 7 thousand of those job cuts were outside Japan, and the remaining 2800 jobs that were cut in the homeland were in the form of an early retirement program, which is not quite the same as a simple layoff. That was no coincidence, and you can be sure the decision of who to fire, how many and where was not simply a product of pure business considerations.
I can hear you thinking, okay, sure, so people don't like layoffs in Japan, but who cares what "the people" think, right? Money is money, profit is profit, in what planet do cultural mores carry almost as much weight as business imperatives? In planet Japan, apparently. But how bad can it be? Maybe I'm just making this all up. Can a cultural taboo really have so much influence on the bottom line of a multi-billion dollar corporation? Why, yes it can.
The TL;DR version of the link above is that Sony cut several job positions but can't get rid of the actual employees, so they send them to a place affectionately known as the "boredom room" and keep paying them for as long as it takes them to find another job... which may never happen. Think New York's rubber rooms, except done willfully by private corporations instead of imposed by politically powerful special interests (Totally off-topic: I can't get over the irony that New York, the self-professed business capital of the world, has things like unfirable teachers, rent-controlled apartment and strictly regulations on cabs to protect cabbies from competition!).
And that's why Iwata isn't going anywhere unless he voluntarily steps down, gets caught with an underage prostitute or really fucks up the company (despite the hype that hasn't happened yet, very far from it), and also why Nintendo isn't firing people anytime soon unless it really has no choice. So next time you hear professional analysts repeating these same "predictions", remember the wise words of CaimDark, smile, and know that they are totally clueless! The analysts, I mean. Not the wise words of CaimDark. Obviously!
After backing 4 of the earlier Kickstarters (Wasteland 2, Project Eternity, Dreamfall, Torment), I said "enough is enough" and passed over many interesting games. However, it's now 2014, some of those games are close to completion, and I'm ready to back a couple more. Today I backed Unsung Story: Tale of the Guardians, a spiritual successor to Final Fantasy Tactics from the director of the likes of actics Ogre, Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Final Fantasy XII, and Kingdom Come: Deliverance, a wonderfully promising historical RPG. Since Destructoid hasn't covered the latter's Kickstarter yet, that's the one I'd like to direct your attention to.
Notice I said historical RPG, not Fantasy RPG. That's because it will be set in real world Eastern Europe. No dragon, no dungeons, no magic. And it looks great! It's developed by Warhorse Studios, with Mafia (the games, not the criminal syndicate!) veteran Dan Vavra at the helm leading a team of talent that worked on Arma, Operation Flashpoint, Forza Horizon, Crysis 3 and others.
Dan Vavra is also the one who wrote the depressingly hilarious How to make Call of Duty Killer for less. Kingdom Come is a very ambitious game, attempting to successfully marry elements from Skyrim, The Witcher, Dark Souls and Mount and Blade. If it looks like the £300,000 (roughly $450,000) they are asking for can't possibly fund such a game, that's because it can't!
They've been working on it for 18 months and spent $3 million so far, and they will need many more months and millions to finish it. "Shockingly", they were turned down by every publisher (too niche), but they found a private investor who's willing to finance the rest of the game IF they can prove there's interest in it by successfully funding their Kickstarter.
I want this to succeed. I want more developers to prove that you don't need $100 million to make a great-looking, epic game. I want a deep, medieval RPG that's entirely based on history, which to my knowledge there isn't any. And dear god, I so want to play something that, as Dan Vavra puts it, mixes "the freedom and mechanics of Skyrim, the setting of Mount & Blade, the storytelling of The Witcher and the tough combat mechanics of Dark Souls all into a single, hopefully gorgeous, package".
It's a grand undertaking, to be sure. Will the final game live up to all their ambitions? I don't know. Do they ever? I'll be more than happy if they nail most of it. But that's not my main concern. My criteria for backing kickstarter is the same for lending money: I only do it if I'm okay never seeing that money again. In this case, I'm more than willing to take that chance. Would you like to join me?
For more details, check out this great Eurogamer Article/Interview. Oh, and I do hope Dtoid will pick this up give this this game a chance to shine in the front page!
Haters, rejoice! Nintendo has updated their financial forecast for this fiscal year, and things are much worse than expected. Wii U and 3DS sales forecasts were respectively revised to 2.8m and 13.5m, down from the previously expected 9m and 18m. The previous $1 billion operating income forecast suddenly became a $350 million operating loss, and even the weak Yen won't put them in the black this time. Exchange rate gains would have allowed Nintendo to squeeze a tiny profit, but due to some tax stuff they expect to end up with a $240 million net less. And there's still time for the results to get even worse. To be clear, missing the original forecasts, never credible and ludicrously optimistic in the first place, isn't the the big deal. The big deal is that, even though no one took that target seriously, no one expected a loss either
Yes, we're not investors, we don't hold a stake a Nintendo or any other game company (maybe some of us do, but that's certainly not what drives the sales yelling , er, conversation), so as long as we're having fun, sales shouldn't matter, right? That's true to a certain extent, and the whole sales brouhaha among gamers can get seriously ridiculous sometimes, or most of the time. It most definitely shouldn't matter who's selling MORE, or who's "winning". I've seen a game site present PS4 and Xbone launch figures with a "no matter which console you picked, you made the right choice". It reminds me of an amusing satirical article going around about Wii U sales supposedly skyrocketing (which was, even more amusingly, taken seriously by way too many people) that pokes fun of this all too prevalent and utterly bizarre attitude among gamers. Here's a highlight: “Boy, was I wrong,” said Medulla Oblongata, a previously unsatisfied Wii U owner. “I also own a PS4, and for weeks I was thinking, ‘Man, PS4 sales are going to overtake the Wii U soon.’ I used to hate the Wii U for that. But now that I know the Wii U is almost at 10 mil, I’ve been enjoying my Wii U so much more. The games just look and play better on it now.”
However, sales do matter in the sense that a company won't make the products we like unless it's a good business (goodbye golden age of classic RPGs and JRPGs, I hardly knew ya). I like Nintendo products and I want them to keep making more of them, and so it's in my best interests that they do good business, and right now they aren't.
First let's get all the (mostly justified) caveats that some Nintendo enthusiasts will certainly bring up out of the way. Yes, Nintendo is not going anywhere. Yes, they have huge cash reserves and financial assets and could lose money consecutively for decades before going under. Yes, the media will have a field day with this, and we should expect another fierce round of Nintendoom, with the same tired mantras ("path to irrelevance", "follow in Sega's footsteps", "make smartphone games", etc) spewed over and over again. Yes, media and analysts can't stop talking about Nintendo because it's an easy way to get clicks and attention, and yes, Nintendo "analyses" are chock full with double standards. There are way too many examples to give, but for the sake of brevity I'll stick to just one: Analysts expect Sony and Microsoft to sell 10 and 8 million money-losing consoles a year, respectively, and they call that "thriving". Nintendo sells "only" 13 million profitable handhelds a year? Holy crap, take your ipads and run for the hills!
Yes, I wrote yes way too many times.
Pictured: not Nintendo's finest hour
To be clear, none of the above is out of malice or some big conspiracies, Nintendo is just too entrenched in our brains and thus gets an inordinate amount of attention and scrutiny. Almost everyone connected to the industry somehow, no matter how tangentially, was heavily influenced by Nintendo one way or another, and those memories stick. Whether it's a developer, publisher executive or retail manager being bullied by almighty Nintendo in the 80s-90s or a critic/analyst who fell in love with Nintendo games growing up, Nintendo is always there in a big way, and those memories stick with us. Which means that today, Nintendo's influence on our puny little brains far exceeds its actual market importance. Nintendo used to be 90% of the market back in the day. These days, even though its revenues are twice as big, the industry grew so much they account for "only" 10% of it, but shouting NINTENDO is still the easiest way to turn lots of heads towards you, because we're still shaped by that 90% Nintendo.
All that is true, but what concerns me here is that this will be the third straight operational loss and the second net loss in three years. That suggests structural problems rather than just a bump in the road, and if they don't fix it they might panic and resort to short-term fixes, chiefly mobile/F2P games. If that happens the games (and to a lesser extent the hardware) I like so much eventually might cease to be, and I most certainly wouldn't want that.
Not all is bad news. The Wii U limped the entire year, but did respond to Mario 3D World and the price cut in the holidays. December sales were 26x September levels in Japan (where there was no price cut, and the "normal holiday boost" isn't anywhere close 26x), while December 2013 was its best months ever in the U.S according to the NPD, which means it sold more than the respectable 460k it did in December 2012. The crucial challenge now is making sure the momentum holds in make-or-break 2014. It won't be easy, but with Mario Kart and Smash finally launching, as well as the likes of X and Bayoneta to sweeten the deal for core fans, plus several others, including some sure to come surprise announcements, there's a chance.
But wait, I hear you say, "isn't that what you pathetic Nintendrones have been saying this entire year?" Not really. Well, I can't speak for other drones, but it's definitely not what I have been saying. Games like Monster Hunter, Pikmin and Wonderful 101 are important and definitely help sell systems in the aggregate, but were never going to be THE system savers, and nobody with any common sense expected that. What about Mario 3D World? That is definitely a system seller, and despite the screams that it "flopped", December numbers show it did sell systems. Even so, it is still not the Wii U's biggest hope. 3D Marios tend to be favored by core gamers, but overall they are the least popular Marios (meaning they sell "only" in the vicinity of 10 million copies). Mario Kart is far bigger, and the Wii U's biggest hope.
I was actually more startled by the 3DS situation. The dismal Wii U numbers were expected, but I expected much better from the 3DS. It's not that it's not doing well, obviously, far from it. It is indeed the best selling system in the world, but from the non-stop good press and big numbers and superlatives being thrown around all year long, I thought it was well on its way to meeting the reasonable 18m target. However, it's going to fall short by 4.5m. It's still doing really well, but not as well as we thought. In Japan, Nintendo all but met its 3DS goal (missing it by just 100k), and it was widely reported (and confirmed by Nintendo) that the string of 2013 games buoyed the 3DS in the west and grew its market share, but apparently not quite enough. Also of concern is that, even though 2013 saw 3DS heavy hitter after 3DS heavy hitter and was widely hailed as "the biggest year ever" for the system, hardware sales are actually expected to dip below 2012 numbers. To be sure, the handheld market is in no immediate danger. Nintendo, once again, ignored the conventional wisdom and proved there's still a solid handheld market, 3DS games are selling as well as ever, and Puzzle and Dragons smashing 3DS success shows mobiles and handheld games can happily coexist. Even many previously "stop making hardware" analysts now praise Nintendo's handheld division. Even so, the inability to push past 14 million annual sales and the mild year-over-year dip despite all the stars aligned in its favor suggest that the ceiling may be lower than thought, and raises questions about its long term future (by which I mean 10-20 years).
Wii U sales may have shown encouraging holiday moment, and Nintendo still has a clear winner with the 3DS despite the troubles described above, but this will be a very challenging year. Already, weekly Wii U sales in Japan are back to 2013 levels even though Mario 3D World continues to sell well, and 3DS weekly sales are way down from last year's level. Wii Sports Club is nowhere to be seen in the Eshop charts (and finding a 2-player game is sometimes impossible, showing how few players it has. And of course, Nintendo had to region lock the goddamn online), Wii Fit U also doesn't seem to have made much of an impact. I don't know exactly what Nintendo will do, but either further price cuts and/or hardware redesign are safe bets. I do, however, offer two prediction I'm quite confident in (feel free to call me out on it later!): firstly, I think it's inevitable at this point that Nintendo will introduce a Gamepad-less Wii U. They've had a year to gauge consumer response, they know they need to lower the price, and they know the Gamepad mostly had nothing to do with however many Wii Us they sold (I say mostly because it was definitely a factor in my purchase. I think it's neat, and I love the idea and it makes some games play much smoother, so I'll be sad to see it marginalized and eventually dead) Nintendo is stubborn, but not stupid. I don't think the Gamepad will vanish, rather I think they will sell a "basic" Wii U without it, and a "premium" Wii U with it. Naturally, it means the Gamepad will also be sold separately for basic purchases who decide to upgrade later. However, odds are the $100 cheaper will be the best seller by far. Hopefully Nintendo won't ignore the Gamepad completely (I don't think they will because they are Nintendo, but you never know), if they at least keep implementing off-tv play and the second screen for map and inventory (really helpful in Zelda!) management, which is basically what they are already doing, I'll be happy.
Secondly, the current 2DS will be axed and replaced by one that's just like a regular 3DS sans 3D, and then introduced in Japan. We might even see a 2DS XL. What finally sold the 3DS wasn't 3D, it was the games, and Nintendo knows it. Offering a $130 3D-less 3DS was a great idea, but I believe the form factor, ostensibly aimed at children, was a huge turn off, and a big factor in its failure to move more 3DSes. A redesign just might do the trick.
If only the same could be said of Nintendo
Nintendo is undeniably going through a different period, partly due to market forces outside its control (chiefly casual-siphoning mobiles) and perhaps even more so due to spectacularly boneheaded moves and even worse execution. On the bright side, if changing market conditions were the entire problem then things might really be hopeless, but at least Nintendo can work on its own end, and history shows us Nintendo with its back against the wall is Nintendo at its finest, and if anyone can succeed when everyone is saying (hoping?) it's impossible, it's Nintendo. Go Ninty, we're rooting for you!
Finally, before capping off this monstrous text wall, I have a hearty request to my fellow Nintendo fans: please, please, please, pretty please, resist the urge to run to every single one of the hundreds of clickbait/hyperbolic/outright ignorant/intellectually dishonest Nintendoomed articles that will pop up the entire year to furiously comment on the error of the writer's ways. Those articles exist solely to get as many people to do just that, and you will be playing right into it. Resist the urge to "correct" the worst of the bunch, because those people don't care about being accurate, they just want the revenue and promotion. Don't help them. It's like hating Sarkeesian or Pachter and letting the world know how much you hate them at every turn, that's exactly what they want and it only feeds the monster.
Edit: holy shit that was fast. In the time it took me to write this, a serious and informative Forbes article went up with the not-at-all-troll bait title "Dismal Wii U Sales Move Nintendo Closer To 'Game Over". I won't link to it, but highlights include "The once unassailable 3DS handheld is also in free fall. Instead of selling the 18 million the company expected, it will deliver a third less." (apparently dropping from 13.9m to 13.5 million constitutes a "free fall". Oh, and 13.5 is exactly one quarter less than 18, but who cares, one third sounds scarier!) and "Basically, at this point Nintendo would be lucky to even match that sales total in the upcoming fiscal year, suggesting the console could be headed for orphan status. Nintendo has been down this path before, having failed to gain traction behind the Game Cube in the early 2000s" (it's a historical fact that the Gamecube was such a disaster that Nintendo quickly killed it off... right? Yes? No? Maybe?). Fun stuff!
Hello again! My recent case of Nintendonitis continues unabated, so it's only fitting I end, er, start the year with another Nintendocentric blog. However, this time, there's a twist. Can you guess what it is? I'll give you some time to think (hint: title)... no? nothing? That's what I figured. It's such a big paradigm shift, it's hard to wrap one's head around it.
This time, we won't talk about sales, industry, business strategy, projections, console wars, etc, etc, etc. We'll just talk about... GAMES! Shocking, I know. When was the last time you did just that? My guess would be "before the internet was invented".
Of course, the Wii U haz no gaemz, so I can forgive you if that makes you even more skeptic. However, I used my awesome magical powers to perform the miracle of games multiplication, and the results were not too shabby, especially for a system with NO GAEMZ! So here's how this blog is going to play out: I'll simply list the games I played and talk a little about my experience. Revolutionary, I know. I'll also throw in some official-looking data from the Wii U log, such as total time played and the number of "retries" (which is how Nintendo calls the number of times we played the game) to give off that "totally scientific and objective" vibe those 8.456 review scores try to present (even if the reviewer cries OPINION to hide from every criticism!).
NEW SUPER MARIO U
Time played: 41:20 Number of retries: 59
Some people are starting to (understandably) claim Mario fatigue (or more specifically, 2D Mario fatigue), but curiously, I can say I'm just now really discovering the joys of the classic plataformer. Back in the day, I liked Mario, but I wasn't such a big fan. I never had a NES, and my first and for a long time only Mario was the SNES' Super Mario World. When I had a N64 and getting a new game as 14-year old Brazilian teenager was a momentous occasion, I chose Banjo Kazooie and Diddy Kong Racing over Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64. The situation with the Gamecube was even worse due to changing economic factors that caused the price of games to skyrocket, and Super Mario Sunshine didn't make the cut.
These days, on the other hand, I'm all over the red plumber, and NSMU is my favorite of the 2D bunch, and downright gorgeous at times. Unfortunately, it was a victim of circumstances. It's was a terrible choice for a launch title when so many potential Wii U owners were still playing other 2D Marios elsewhere (NSMB 2 and NSMB Wii are still hanging around in several Amazon charts), and then the Wii U had all the problems already discussed ad nauseam. Now that it's a pack in title, it's at last getting into many more hands (that hopefully won't be blinded by "pack-in stigma") who will be able to enjoy this colorful, joyous, pretty, imaginative and just plain fun game.
CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS 2
Time played: 76:32 Number of retries:186
I don't play shooter very often, but when I do I always go with with PC master race! Nothing beats mouse and keyboard in FPS, but I was curious to see how the Wii U handled a fast-paced multiplayer shooter, so I decided to check out Black Ops 2, and I'm glad to report I liked what I saw.
Aside from the controls, obviously, I didn't notice any marked differences from the last CoD I played on PC (Modern Warfare 3, if memory serves), besides from the expected graphical differences (which are rather mild, which says a lot about the effort put in the PC port), and I can't imagine things are much better elsewhere. I hear benchmark testing pegs the Wii U as having the most inconsistent frame rate, but I didn't notice anything that got in the way of the action (or anything at all, in fact), and if you need to be told there's something wrong with a game then look for it to find it, dude, you need to get your gamer priorities straight! The larger map and quick access to killstreaks on the Gamepad comes in handy sometimes, but it's not a big deal. Most of the time you will be looking straight at the big screen.
I also didn't have a problem with the low player base, though it's definitely an issue for those who like the more exotic modes. I mostly played Team Deathmatch and occasionally domination, so I was covered and the online structure was as good as what I'd expect from elsewhere. The Wii U tells me I played 76 hours in total, so something tells me I had fun!
Would I choose Wii U over PC for my next shooter (assuming the Wii U does get another shooter)? I'm actually not sure. I'd expected the answer to be a clear no, but the Wii U version has something that the PC lacks that's a big deal for me, or to be more accurate, the Wii U lacks something the PC has in abundance: cheaters. I heard somewhere that the Wii U was the only unhacked version of CoD. I have no idea if that's true (and even if it is, I assume it only refers to current gen consoles. Surely the PS4 and Xbone haven't been hacked already?), but it's definitely true that cheaters sometimes, or often, ruin the fun on PC. On the Wii U, you know that every match is going to be fair, and that makes a big difference. Will that be enough to sway me despite the advantages of the PC, namely mouse/keyboard and price? We'll see.
Time played: 34:02 Number of retries: 14
I've talked at length about my love for ZombiU here, so I'll just direct you there, but not before screaming in your face that you should GO PLAY THIS GAME RIGHT NOW!!!!
Time played: 19:25 Number of retries: 11
This game is amazing, I can't believe I waited so long to play a classic Metroid. I'm so glad Nintendo included it in that 30 cents sale, otherwise I would have flown right under my radar. Up until now, the only Metroid games I've played are the Prime trilogy (as good as everyone says) and Other M (as far as I'm concerned, much better than most say. I wonder if playing it without the expectations of what a 2D (ish) Metroid was supposed to look like made me enjoy it a lot more).
I made it to the end, but boy let me tell you, if you beat this game back in the nineties, aka "before the internet", you're a freaking superhero! I tried to figure things out on my own as much as possible, but I'll freely admit I never would have made it to the end credits without a guide to show me the way from time to time.
As for the gameplay, well, there's not much I can say that everyone hasn't heard over and over again, even those who've never played it. What I can say is that if you, like me, never bothered with this game, you should go fix that right now!
After I was done, I tried the original Metroid, but quickly gave up. Visuals so primitive it's sometimes hard to even tell what's going on, a standard beam of limited length and only 4-way shooting quickly overstayed their welcome, so I'd recommend you stick with the Super version.
In any case, I'm now more pumped than ever for a new Metroid, and I'll definitely try to take a look at the portable Metroids I missed. Hopefully Nintendo will some day remember to put DS and GBA Advance games on the Eshop and make it easier.
When I started this blog, I somewhat naively planned to write everything in a single blog, but Microsoft Word tells me I'm at 1312 words, and I still have several non-existent gaemz to go, so I'll instead make it a series, and talk about the remaining games in digestible, roughly 1000 words installments. BTW, I just realized I just published my first series! I'm going places!
I hope you enjoyed reading, and I'd love to see some of your own thoughts on the aforementioned games. Or other games. Or cows.