The upcoming title Saints Row IV has been refused classification in Australia, thus banning it.
It seems as if even with new R18+ game legislation, this title has still been deemed too offensive for Australian gamers.
According to a statement made by the Australian Classification Board, "Saints Row IV, includes interactive, visual depictions of implied sexual violence which are not justified by context. In addition, the game includes elements of illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards. Such depictions are prohibited by the computer games guidelines."
This makes it the very first game to be banned with the R18+ video game rating in place.
By the looks of things, this R18+ rating may just cover titles that would otherwise have just been rated MA15+, with game banning still very much intact. Or at least this is what I'm now wondering. I really and truly wouldn't put it past Australia to do such things.
In a statement made to Joystiq, the publisher Deep Silver made the following comment:
"Deep Silver can confirm that Saints Row IV was denied an age classification in Australia. Volition, the developer, are reworking some of the code to create a version of the game for this territory by removing the content which could cause offence without reducing the outlandish gameplay that Saints Row fans know and love." - Essentially, they're censoring it.
Nintendo: they're a company that can create some amazing games. Their IPs have gone from being humble video games to full blown cultural phenomenons. Most people are more than aware of franchises like Mario, Zelda or Pokemon.
So despite my love of Nintendo games, I feel that they've also done a lot to really piss me off. This is something that doesn't come lightly to me, as Nintendo was the very first company I played a game by. I really do love Nintendo, I love their games, their consoles are usually pretty decent, despite not being the greatest in terms of graphical prowess.
And while this issue isn't limited to just Nintendo, they aren't doing anything to really help. Not to mention the 3DS and the Wii U are the only region-locked consoles now in this generation, now that Microsoft has backed down on a lot of their bullshit. This means that as a gamer in Australia, I'm kind of at a loss here. There isn't much I can do to work around this problem.
I'm curious; why do games have to cost so absurdly much here? Why do my 3DS games cost $70 (almost) whereas a person in the United States only has to pay $40? If this is an issue with shipping to this nation (which I severely doubt), why is it that fucking digital copies of the games cost exactly the same as the overpriced retail copies?
I'm not even joking about the price of 3DS games. They do, indeed, cost that price in Australia:
Now as I've stated, these prices also translate to the Nintendo eShop. This means that even through the wonders of digital distribution, these games cost the exact same price as it would for me to buy a physical copy.
And with the wonders of region locks, there isn't much I can do. This isn't like the original DS where I could just order a game in online and it'd arrive in a week's time. I could skimp on costs on postage and get the game at an affordable price.
And why are these games at a markup of almost $30 when the difference between the US and Australian dollars are almost negligible? Currency conversion courtesy of Google.
It's very difficult to be a Nintendo fan when on a budget when the price of a damned handheld game is almost as much as that of a fully-fledged AAA PC game. Hell, considering how often I use Steam, I actually find it cheaper to buy games for my PC than it is my 3DS. I got Tomb Raider at launch for a grand total of $62.
As I've said before, Nintendo isn't the only company to pull this bullshit, but they are one of the worst (from what I've seen). Games on the PS Vita are actually not too bad, all things considering. I picked up Soul Sacrifice for $47 in Australia when it's only $40 in the US. A markup of $7 for a physical title isn't too much.
Steam gives me a good price for my games, for the most part. I've definitely found some great deals using that service. And the Xbox One and PS4 are both going without region locking, meaning that if I object too heavily to a price of a game in Australia, I may be able to just import it from overseas. Not to mention PS+, while more expensive in Australia ($70 in Australia), still gives me pretty decent value for my money.
I also get that Australia has a 10% tax on all non-essential goods. For a $40 game, that should still only equate to $4. Yeah. That's really not much. This still leaves for a bit that can only be interpreted as pure markup.
So my question is this: why? Is it just because of greed? Why do you make it hard for me to really enjoy my video game console? I'm still to get quite a lot of good titles for the 3DS just because it's so fucking expensive. It really is just cheaper to buy a game on my other systems; PC and Vita. Even with the shitty Vita memory card dilemma.
To charge full AAA game costs for a title on a handheld console, it's pretty frustrating.
To this, I say that I really hope Nintendo cleans up their act. I've rarely been disappointed with their games, but I have to say I'm disappointed with them as a company.
It seems we can't really go anywhere on a gaming site without seeing news about the Xbox One. I know for sure that I'm not helping. And, while I'm not bringing more bad news (really, Microsoft does a good enough job at that), I do want to be able to write down why I'm not excited in the least bit for it.
I look back on the PlayStation 2 as one of my favourite video gaming consoles. It was simple, it took what made the previous generations of gaming good then expanded on it. The games I remembered were bright and colourful, and we saw a nice array of new IPs to keep us entertained. God of War, Jak and Daxter and Ratchet and Clank, just to name a few. Yes, we saw what would be the start of the horrific downfall of Spyro the Dragon with a horrendously lackluster title and one that was somewhat decent, but overall there were a lot of positives.
To this day, I have a PS2 (not my original one, sadly, but one none the less) sitting in my living room. A nice stack of games by its side. My 10 year old copy of Ratchet and Clank still in the disk tray. When I boot up the console, it goes straight to my game, provided there is one inserted in the console. If I boot it up without the game in the tray, it'll give me an easy way to manage my console settings and memory card.
It's simplistic. For sure it's incredibly simplistic. But it works. And after 10 years, my copy of Ratchet and Clank still works as well as it did when I picked it up. There's no effort, no keys, no installing of games to my paltry 500GB hard drive that'll very likely require expansion. It just works.
If I so wanted, I could take my 10 year old game disk to some random stranger and tell them "hey, this is yours." No fuss, I've just given my game away. It doesn't feel like the transference of a license. I gave them a physical media containing a game. It used to be mine, now it's theirs. They can give that game away or they can play it. Again, no fuss.
And this goes to the previous generations, too. Owners of older games consoles and older games? They can still just place in a disk or cartridge and their game will run. Provided the hardware is still operational.
Their consoles won't phone home. There's no worrying about whether or not some malicious bastard in the future will shut down the authentication servers.
It's how we can still have people like the Angry Video Game Nerd review games from the old NES or Atari 2600. His games have no expiry date. Only the life of the hardware. And it'll be possible to pick up another (obviously second-hand) console, in the event of his failing.
Alongside this, I've lived with some poor net connection at times. There have been entire seasons where, in my old house, my ADSL connection dropped out at least 3 times an hour. That's the average. I literally had to pick up the phone, hit 'call' then hang up to get it to reconnect. It was a pain in the ass. What happens when my game can't authenticate due to having poor connection? I don't know, I've never dealt with this issue in a video game console before. Maybe on some PC games, where I wanted to angrily punch my monitor, but not on a console.
I don't know what Microsoft is intending to do with it. There are still many variables.
And if I'm playing the single-player campaign of a game, let's say an Elder Scrolls game - for one is bound to pop up on the Xbox One - immersed in the captivating landscapes the game will offer me. Then my net drops out around time for the game to authenticate? That'll just break my immersion. It'll effectively tarnish my gaming experience, all because Microsoft wants to stop the pirates or whatever bullshit they're using to explain it away this time.
And on the subject of piracy, I doubt it'll do anything at all to stop it. Pirates are known to be able to bypass DRM measures. It's within their ability to do so. Someone somewhere will make a program to automate the process for the more end-level pirates. Essentially, the pirates get a better product than actual paying consumers. And if I'm to pay the price of the game as well as the ever-so-hated "fuck you Australia" addition to game prices, I'd like to be able to get the best damn experience possible.
I want a better product than what the pirates get. I want better service. Making me jump through hoops because the pirates do is just stupid. I may as well pirate it and get the superior experience.
Instead of focusing on what consoles do right - simplicity and a pretty decent lifespan (judging by some older consoles), Microsoft is taking the worst aspects of PC gaming (overzealous DRM policies and general commercial bullshit) and incorporating it into their consoles. And it's safe to assume they won't take the best parts of PC gaming and focus on that, too. I doubt we'll see games on the cheap with 75% off sales, an open market where people can set up their own online game stores and game mods.
Quite frankly, at this point, if Microsoft announced they'd bought off the Pokemon franchise, made a huge open-world 3D Pokemon RPG with every single region, every single Pokemon and maybe a whole new generation of really goddamn kickass creatures then said it was Xbox One exclusive, I'd probably still avoid it. Then cry.
I fucking hope Sony isn't planning on following their lead.
EDIT: Just to add something, as soon as I initially posted this blog, my father called me. He told me that he's been having trouble with his Internet connection and that his ISP will send a repairman in 11 days time. If he was an Xbox One user, that'd be 11 days of his console being almost completely useless. I just thought it reinforces my argument and felt the need to add this.
As I've probably stated a few times over, the Ratchet and Clank franchise by Insomniac Games is one I hold very dear. The original Ratchet and Clank is one of the few games to really "wow" me with regards to visuals thanks to its gorgeous Metropolis stage. It is also the first 3D platforming game I ever played.
After re-playing through it again, I've found that although the visual quality is not as good as a modern game, it still looks good and it still plays well. The level design is still great, and Metropolis is still pretty damn gorgeous.
This is not the original Ratchet and Clank.
Now, the first question on the minds of some readers (although I still need to get some readers god dammit) is probably this: "Why the hell are you doing a First Impressions on the Vita game and not the PS3 version that was released many months ago?"
My answer is simple: I lack a PS3. I have never owned a PS3 console, I have only played one in passing. I simply don't own the appropriate console. So I'm playing through the PlayStation Vita edition instead. After all, it's still technically the same game. The levels, the story, the weapons. They're all the same.
What isn't the same as the PS3 version, however, is the visuals. Again, I've only seen videos and screenshots of the PS3 version, but it's very evident that many corners were cut in order to get the game to run on the handheld console.
Textures appear dated (and can pop in and out of nowhere), visual effects are cut down. To an extent, some cutting of corners and reduced quality are acceptable. I mean, I'm not running a PS3, it's absurd to expect PS3 style visuals.
Although the visual quality? Probably more on par with the PSP game Size Matters. Except that at least in Size Matters, our beloved furry Lombax has a shadow. Granted, there are times when the game looks gorgeous - much more so than the PSP game. There is a slight lack of consistency in that department, I guess.
That's right. Ratchet is devoid of a shadow. This makes the platforming sections pretty damn cumbersome and awkward, as it means I don't have much in the way of precision. There isn't anything to go by. I may end up falling off a platform to my horrible demise.
I wouldn't mind if Ratchet at least had a black circle underneath him. Just as a very makeshift PS1-era shadow. Just some indication as to where the hell I was.
Along with that, it's very evident that the visuals are dated. Very much so. They don't take advantage of what the Vita can really do. Compared to the likes of Soul Sacrifice or Assassin's Creed: Liberation, there really is no competition.
Again, some of the dated visuals would be more excusable if the framerate was stable. The game's never been unplayable, but there is a very noticeable drop in framerate more often than I'd like.
On a more positive note: the level design still retains that classic Ratchet and Clank charm, despite being repackaged as a tower defense-styled game.
The voice acting is what I expected from a Ratchet and Clank title, too.
Not to mention the characters. They're still entertaining and likable. Captain Quark in particular.
So do I like this game? So far, I'm actually having fun with it. It's incredibly flawed, and by the looks of things it's significantly better on the PS3, but it's still got some of that Ratchet and Clank charm. The weapons are still pretty damn fun, the combat still amuses me and the enemies have a charming appearance to them. It's by no means the best Ratchet and Clank title, but it's not bad in the gameplay department.
Some of those flaws though? I'd rather do without. The game simply doesn't run as well as I'd like. I can look past some of the flawed visuals of the game, but the lack of a shadow underneath the characters becomes a real pain in the ass in platforming sections. And even with all those cuts, the game still runs fairly sluggishly at times.
I'll likely continue playing through this game, and I am genuinely enjoying the title, but there are problems that I'd really love to see patched.
Life in a low income household sucks. When you're an adult, it means you worry about every single thing, your expenses, your budgets. It just sucks.
As a child in the year 1998, it meant I saw how stressed my parents were. I also - more selfishly - saw how much of a horrible thing it was that I couldn't even get the Nintendo 64 console. Now, I know it's a little sad, but I was 4 at the time.
After seeing adverts and hearing what my friends had to say about it, I really desperately wanted the Nintendo 64. I'd never owned a video game console in my life. Hell, I'd never even played a video game. It was a pretty tragic existence, I suppose.
Sadly, I never got the Nintendo 64 console I so desperately wanted. That doesn't mean this story has an unhappy ending, however.
See, at the age of 4 and with Asperger's Syndrome, I really couldn't say too many words. I could never pronounce the number "64" so I always just said "Nintendo." I really wanted that "Nintendo."
About half a year later, a family friend comes by. This was a man who ever-so-frequently went to garage sales to pick up whatever stuff he could. He was almost like a hoarder, except he did go on to resell a lot of the stuff he picked up. Anyway, he found an old NES console. And hearing about how much I really wanted a "Nintendo," he decided to give it to us. That and a nice collection of games to play.
And I know some children would be disappointed, getting an older and less powerful device than what they wanted, but I was absolutely thrilled. It was still a Nintendo console, therefore it was still a "Nintendo" I so very much wanted. I couldn't wait to pick up the controls and play some games.
The first game on the pile was Super Mario Bros. I'd heard good things about Super Mario 64, so I was very excited to be able to play a Mario game.
Everything about the game made me fall in love with the console. It was gorgeous, so simplistic yet so fun. The music was ridiculously catchy, the controls were nice and responsive. The level design was just brilliant. I loved gaming from that point on.
But my story doesn't end there. One of the next games I played was Castlevania. I was interested in it because it just sounded cool. Not much reasoning there, but I was 4. You can't trust 4 year old children to make very rational decisions.
Needless to say, I was quickly hooked. To this day, I still think Castlevania has some of the best video game music I've heard in my life. Not to mention the gameplay was fun and the art style was pretty decent. It also helped out that I had an interest in monsters, for which Castlevania delivers in excess.
Sadly, about a year later the NES died. I don't really know what happened, but it was a tragedy. A horrific event.
My family, like wonderful people, went out to look for a new NES console. Just as a replacement. They were pretty old consoles, so the price wouldn't have been too extreme.
Unfortunately, we never found another NES. But at least we found a Sega Genesis (or as it was called here: the Mega Drive). I picked up the controls, which I quickly noticed had much more buttons on it than my old NES, and started playing some Sonic the Hedgehog. Unlike Super Mario Bros, this game was a lot more fast-paced and chaotic. It was enough to keep me interested, and I did have a hell of a lot of fun playing on the Genesis. It was definitely a fun console and I still have nothing but good memories of it.
I think though, the first time I was ever truly blown away by the visuals of a game would be when we managed to pool enough money together and pick up a brand new (this is when the console was fairly modern, too) PlayStation 2 console as a Christmas present for the whole family. One of the first games I got for it was Ratchet and Clank. It was a pretty big jump, to go from a Genesis to a PS2, and I didn't know what to expect. I had never played a PlayStation console in my life, and I had very little experience playing a Nintendo 64. There was just nothing for me to go by.
Suffice to say, my jaw literally dropped the moment I saw Metropolis in Ratchet and Clank. After playing very two-dimensional games where it was so easy to discern the game from reality, where it was so painfully obvious that you were in a game, this was the first time I actually felt like there was a whole other world within my television.
Everything looked so lifelike. It was so hard to believe. This was the moment when I came to appreciate how far technology had advanced. The moment when I saw games as a gateway to another place. Instead of sitting in front of a TV with a controller in hand, I felt like I was exploring a whole new world.