Alright, Iíve been thinking about the current gen of gaming, and Iím trying to figure out what the hell it is that has made it so awesome for me. As background, Iíll add that I primarily game on the Wii, but I do enjoy HD gaming from time to time as well. As such, many would say that Iím not really experiencing everything that the current games have to offer, due to the fact that I donít see the HD systems as ďhigh tech.Ē I know that I just turned all the HD guys against me, but hear me out. I view this gen as the first to move past the limitations of graphics, and into the wholly new world of choice in control. Not just motion control, mind you, but CHOICE of control.
For most of ďteh hardcoreĒ gamers, this gen is all about HD graphics and internet gaming. Both of these qualities have their time and place, but we really did have access to them last gen. The fidelity in graphics saw a huge jump from the N64/PSX to the PS2/Cube/Xbox gen. So did the style of control, as analogue controls became the norm. If you take a look at the jump from last to current gen, the great forward strides are missing. For example, Xbox Live is basically the same as concerns gameplay, and HD graphics really arenít a huge jump forward, more of a half step. Neither advancement caused the industry to change.
Enter that oh so controversial white box to the mix. I donít think that anyone can deny that motion controls are the biggest advancement to the industry this gen. All three major hardware developers are now in the motion market, and itís obvious (to me at least) that motion control is here to stay. Now, I donít think that motion in and of itself is the key to advancing the industry. Weíve all played games where the movements feel tacked on, and sometimes it seems like they put in waggle for the sake of gimmick. As a fan of the Wii, Iím completely willing to admit that these wagglefests were the norm, at least to begin this gen. I, like any other gamer, have detested these so called ďgames,Ē and understand that for many, this is a driving reason to hate the Wii. Iíve come to tell you that those days are gone and that itís time to enjoy the fruits of the Big Nís labor. This gen will go down in history as the generation of choice.
The choice I mention above is one of playstyle. Many games are now coming out with multiple control options. Games now exist that can be played with classic button configurations, current high tech controllers, and even last gen control options. No other time in gaming (well maybe the NES gen) has given us these opportunities to enjoy games in such a freeform manner. It is now possible to have a fighting game like Tatsunoko vs Capcom, which is a hardcore fighting game in the Street Fighter style, in which a series vet and a complete newbie can compete on a more even playing field. Sure, the newb is going to have to pick up a real controller at some point to master the game, but with wiimote alone, that same newb can jump right in and enjoy the game against that vet right from the start. This is an occurrence in gaming that has NEVER happened before. Even though most of us arenít going to spend much time trying to play Tats with grandma, itís nice to have the option.
The other point I want to make about play control choice is what Iím more excited about. Itís the ability to change the experience of the game. For example, Resident Evil 4 on the Wii allows you to play the game just like you did on the Gamecube, same controller and all. In addition, you can switch to the more current control style of wiimote and nunchuk, changing the entire experience. Or, barring both of the aforementioned control styles, you could even play the game with the classic controller, if you prefer controlling the game with a style more akin to the PS2 version of the game. One game with three distinct gameplay options. To take my example one step further, look at Sin & Punishment. S&P also allows for the aforementioned control options, but this time the playstyle is both completely different and also genre defining. With the IR pointer on the wiimote, this game plays like nothing before it. With the dual stick controls, you could say the same thing. (I know that the first title could be considered an exception to that statement.) Effectively making S&P a ďmulti-experienceĒ title. This is the sort of gameplay that has NEVER been available in the past. This is the experience that Iím going to remember from this current generation of gaming.
I also want to take this idea of control choice one step further. Recently, I purchased a device which allows me to connect NES, SNES, Genesis, and N64 controllers to the Wii through the Gamecube ports. At first, this might seem like a nice way to experience the virtual console and not much else, but it also allows for more compelling control situations. I now get to experience the game Ikaruga with a fully functioning d pad (I know about the Hori digipad, but that would put me back $100 and would still mean using the cumbersome Ďcube face buttons). Along with the SNES pad, I also opt to turn the screen sideways through the in game menus, and now Iím playing the game in 480p as a side scroller. Pretty cool, right? This same control combo makes the game Chaos Field (a similar styled shmup for the Ďcube) actually playable. When I bought the game at launch last gen, I found out that it was a competent shooter with poor controls. It turns out that the game just needed a decent d pad and repositioning of the face buttons. Now Iíve got a dusty relic to pull out on occasion. A game that I never got to enjoy is getting a second chance, five years after itís release. Nice.
This is where things take a turn to the retro. It doesnít really rate as an accomplishment of current gen technology, but Iíve taken this idea a step further. Iíve taken the time to dig out all the Nintendo gear that I collected last gen and have now combined my parts like Voltron to form one of the ultimate gaming setups that Iíve yet experienced. Iíve got a Gamecube with Gameboy Player being controlled with an NES Advantage controller hooked up through my magic third party device. I use the thing to play original Gameboy games on my flatscreen. The only thing thatís missing is the Ďcube component cable, so I can play Battletoads in 480p. Too bad the damn things were only made for the first year of the purple boxís life, after that they discontinued support. I do have a launch Ďcube, however, so if I ever do find oneÖ Iíd also like to add that itís pretty damn cool to play Excitebike through the E-reader, through the GBA Player, with the Advantage. You know why? Because it takes out the flicker effect you get from connecting an NES to a flatscreen, and stretches the screen due to the GBA being so close to widescreen. In the future, I plan on coming up with a network of connections to bring GBA, GCN, Wii, and as many tvs and alternant controls as possible. Anyhow, enough of my nerd rant.
Iím sure that over the course of reading this, youíve come up with your own dream combination. Personally, Punch Out! with the Advantage is sounding pretty good right about now (Iím starting to sense a pattern here, hmmm). A six button Genesis controller would be great for those old VC fighting games. I could go on, but I wonít, thatís what comments are for. I think Iíve made my point here about play control options being part of the future of games. Goldeneye, for example, is going to be very interesting due to the ability to play with either the pointer controls or the dual stick controls. Thatís kind of a special first in gaming. For the first time weíre going to have an online title that allows for two completely separate control styles. Iíll just let that sink in.