In what is the coolest jobs I've ever had, I write about toys for a living. All day, nothing but toys. It's amazing. When I'm not writing at work I'm writing at home, either working on my screenplay or my children's novel. When I'm not doing any of that I try to get in some video game time. I'm currently rocking Nintendo only consoles because dammit, I love Nintendo. More than Nintendo, I love platform games. Even though my favorite game isn't a platformer (The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker), it is my favorite genre of games.
Follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/thekillerbees and add me to your 3DS Friends List (1633-4277-3240 and let me know so I can add you to mine.) I'd love to meet some people who want play some Kid Icarus, Resident Evil: Revelations and Mario Kart 7.
Attack of the Friday Monsters, one of Guild-02 games released this week on the Nintendo eShop, is one of those rare games that Iím hating the more I play it. If I were a reviewer, itís score would be dropping by the second as I try to find my way through its post game content. The actual game itself is a quirky little adventure game that tries to combine the charms of Earthbound, Professor Layton, visual novels and kaiju into a game based off 70ís Japanese shows for children. For the most part it works. The story is wacky, like an episode of The Twilight Zone for children. The dialog could use work (unless they intended everyone in the game to sound like a massive dick) but itís easily one of the most unique games Iíve played all year. When you take the childish charms of the story and combine them with the collectible card game, part of me becomes nostalgic for my childhood (although I was a Pogs kid, not a card collector).
The gameís main story has you going through more than 25 chapters, but the chapters donít happen consecutively. The word ďchapterĒ can be misleading as these are more akin to the mysteries in the Professor Layton series. You start a chapter and before youíve finished it you have probably already started and completed several other chapters. If that sounds confusing, itís not. The game is pretty straightforward and will take about three hours to complete the main story. Thatís when the post game, and all of the issues I have with Attack of the Friday Monsters, begins.
When youíve completed the story mode, youíll have several chapters that are incomplete. Youíll also have several battle cards you havenít collected. The goal here is to try and figure out which residents you need to talk to to complete those remaining stories. Easier said than done. Let me try to explain what makes this whole process so frustrating:
Letís say you start by talking to ďResident A.Ē You defeat Resident A in a game of Monster Cards and he gives you ďTalking Point A.Ē You then go and talk to all the other residents to find someone who Talking Point A is meant for. When you find that person, theyíll give you ďTalking Point BĒ and you start the process over again. Itís similar to the trading sequences in the Legend of Zelda series. †The trouble happens when you talk to some youíre not supposed to. Youíll be talking to residents with ďTalking Point AĒ when you come across someone who gives you ďTalking Point C.Ē This begins a long process of you going in a circle, having talking points changed without ever completing the process. Itís exhausting, itís annoying, itís doing everything in its power to eliminate all good will towards this game.
Because of this frustrating process, I have given up trying to fully complete this game. What was a delightful three hour story of a town where monsters come out and fight on Fridays has fallen apart at the seams with a collection of bad game design choices. I have one chapter left to finish, which will get me the final two cards I need to complete my collection, and I have no fucking idea how to do it. Had the developers decided against post game content and instead finished all the chapters in the main story mode I would have been satisfied with this game. But the decision to artificially stretch the game out with an hour-plus of rinse-lather-repeat gameplay ruins it. Games can be short, there is nothing wrong with that. However there is something wrong about adding content to a game that is a chore to get if only to extend the final playtime.
Zelda II is a fascinating game. Clearly different from every other game in the series, Zelda II has the distinction (for me at least) as being one of the few Zelda games I have not beaten. In fact Iím not even halfway done with it. The last time I played it, I reached the third palace and was unable to defeat the boss.
But the great thing about Zelda II is that you donít have to defeat the boss in order to move on. You can skip the boss, skip all bosses in fact, to grab the tools and upgrades from the palaces that can make the game a hell of a lot easier. So thatís what I did. I went to the next few palaces and leveled up Link as I grabbed all the tools and moves I thought I would need to defeat Rebonack, the third palace boss. After collecting everything I thought I needed, I went back to the third palace and was once again defeated. Because I havenít beaten this game yet it eats away at me; I feel like a failure.
The reason Iím bringing this up and writing a blog about it is because Iím dealing with a Rebonack of my own. I have my own unbeatable boss that is eating away at me and making me feel like a failure. Scratch that. My Rebonack isnít eating away at me, Iím eating away at it. Because my Rebonack is obesity.
My Rebonack is one I thought I had defeated. A few years ago I managed to lose 40lbs. with the help of EA Sports Active NFL Trainer and a treadmill. For the first time since middle school I was hovering around the 200lbs mark. It did wonders for my self esteem; so much so that I quit my job and moved to LA to pursue my dream of working in Hollywood. Thatís when Rebonack fought back.
After moving to my shitty apartment in West Hollywood with my shitty roommates, I realized that being around 200lbs in West Hollywood is the equivalent to being 250lbs where I used to live. Just like that, Rebonack was winning. So I did what I did in Zelda II: I went and got the tools I would need to defeat my Rebonack. I got a gym membership. The first time I went I found I was once again the fattest person at the gym. My self esteem plummeted and Rebonack laughed. Because I didnít have a good paying job, I couldnít afford a personal trainer who would help me defeat my Rebonack. Where I lacked the skill in Zelda II to defeat this boss, in the real world I lacked the money.†
After spending a nearly a year in West Hollywood, Rebonack was making a comeback. By the time I left that apartment I had re-gained 20lbs. I moved away from that toxic environment to my new apartment where Rebonack would unleash its greatest weapon yet: AM/PM Nachos. Those things are fucking delicious. Those things fucked me over. You see part of what made me so successful with NFL Trainer and the treadmill was that I did all my exercising at home, in a house where I wouldnít bother anyone with my jumping and running in place. In West Hollywood there wasnít enough room in my apartment to exercise and my unpredictable work schedule kept me from hitting the gym with consistency. When I moved out here, and purchased NFL Trainer for the second time, I found I couldnít do many of the most effective workouts because I lived on the top floor and the people below me would be annoyed. So instead of working out I ate AM/PM nachos.
My Rebonack fought back and fought back hard. With low self esteem and no self control, I gained back the rest of the weight I had lost. It is not healthy to lose a bunch of weight and then gain it all back. So instead I start from square one. Rebonack beat me but he hasnít defeated me yet. I still have an extra life left. With Wii Fit Plus, a couple of resistance bands and some running shoes I just may be able to defeat it yet. I have the tools. Letís see if this time I have to skill to kill this boss once and for all.
For me e3 2013 will always be remembered not for its games nor its surprising reveals, but for the terrible lag on Nintendoís presentation. Nintendo made headlines when it announced it would eschew the normal massive e3 presentation for a deluxe version of its Nintendo Directs. In the past, these Directs have been highly successful. Theyíve introduced gamers to new games and provided reasons to talk about the company in a positive light all year round. At e3, with the streaming problems, they blew it. Which is a shame because a positive light is something that Nintendo has been missing in the past several months. While the Wii U got off to a strong start, January on has seen the company stumble again and again. Sometimes the stumbling has been its fault (no January games) and sometimes 3rd parties are to blame (Rayman Legendsí sudden move), but no matter who is to blame the end result is the same: for half of a year the Wii U has had no buzz. Being the internet and the generally negative society we are, that negative press has pretty much eclipsed all the positive strides the 3DS has made in the same time period. Positive press from Nintendo Directís are quickly forgotten as each sales report comes out and every developer under the sun speaks out about how itís time for Nintendo to hang it up as a console manufacturer. Nintendo fans like myself have painted this negative press as some sort of anti-Japan, anti-Nintendo smear campaign by western journalists who just donít understand Nintendo like I do. Quite frankly Iíve been fooling myself thinking like that and with e3 2013, I realize now that itís not an anti-Nintendo sentiment (though I know that exists) that is dragging Nintendo down but a battle Nintendo is waging against itself that it just canít seem to win.
I came to this realization after the 10th viewing of the Super Smash Bros. trailer. The original Super Smash Bros. was a celebration of the greatest games Nintendo put out. Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl were love letters to Nintendo as a whole. But with this next game there is something missing that wasnít really missing before. The reason Nintendo fans loved to have the opportunity to watch Mario, Luigi, Fox, Captain Falcon, Jigglypuff, Samus, Kirby, Ness, Link and Donkey Kong fight was because we loved playing as those characters in their own games. We wouldnít give a shit about Fox had we not played Star Fox. Captain Falcon would mean nothing without F-Zero. Samus would just be random space marine if not for Metroid. We beat the snot out of those characters because they came from games we treasured.
Remember when these were the joke Smash Bros. characters?
Itís been seven years since the last new Star Fox game was released. Itís been nine years since the last new F-Zero. American gamers havenít seen an Earthbound game since 1995. 28 years since the last Ice Climbers, Pikmin was teased for eight years before 3 was announced and Kid Icarus was out for 21 years before we finally got a new game from that series. Instead of making those games Nintendo has supplied a steady stream of Mario titles and long periods of nothing. Make no mistake, I love Mario platform games. I really, really do. I am completely looking forward Super Mario 3D World. But the series is nearing a saturation point with six platform games released in the last five years. I criticize Call of Duty for being a yearly franchise but Nintendo is doing just the same with Mario platformers. Itís an easier pill to swallow when you realize those games are across three different systems, but itís a lot of Mario nonetheless.
I canít blame Nintendo for going back to Mario. Afterall, on threads Iíve come across people are always asking when the next Mario title is releasing. So there is demand even among itís most dedicated fans. Now those six titles are just the platformers. If you include every game Mario appeared in during the Wii/DS/pre-2013 3DS era, across all genres, the number of Mario featured titles would be 30. 30 games with Mario as a main character or heavily featured character in just eight years.
Clearly there is a reason they do this: Mario sells. But so does Star Fox and so does F-Zero. They may not sell the same numbers as Mario, but they sell. And sales of those games might drive more people to Nintendo consoles and handhelds because it shows Nintendo is ready to use the full gamut of itís characters to entice gamers; and not just in a brawler setting.
If you were primarily a fan of Star Fox there is no reason for you to buy a Wii U. If youíre an F-Zero fan youíre out of luck as well. Metroid fans will have to probably wait another year before we get any news and the same goes for Kirby fans. Nintendo has put itself in a bubble where itís constantly pleasing fans of three franchises on a regular basis: Mario, Legend of Zelda and Pokemon. Those are the only games with a regular release schedule, even if many of the Zelda games are re-releases. Nintendo is in the unfortunate position where all of their franchises are seemingly ďin development.Ē Anytime any journalist asks about game weíre always reassured that Nintendo has not forgotten about said franchise and is yadda-yadda-yadda. They canít surprise us anymore because weíre always expecting and theyíre always producing the same predictable franchises that we expect. Donít get me wrong the reveal of Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze was a nice surprise. As a platform gamer I am excited about the thought of Super Mario 3D World, DKC Tropical Freeze, Sonic Lost World, Rayman Legends and Ducktales Remastered all coming out on the same system. Those games (as well as Watch Dogs) are the reason Iím going to buy a Wii U this holiday season. But if Nintendo had launched the system with Star Fox, I would have bought it. If they released a new Ice Climbers in the past six months I would have bought it. If they sent out a new F-Zero... well Iím not a fan of that franchise but Iím sure that would have been a system seller for some. Nintendo has many different franchises that represent many different reasons to buy their consoles and handhelds, yet they are content to only gives us a few.
Of course, this argument is based only on the franchises we grew up with. While e3 2013 for Nintendo might have been missing newly announced IPís, Nintendo has given U.S. gamers more than 25 new IPís over the Wii/DS/pre-2013 3DS era. Some of these, like Pushmo and the Fluidity, are download exclusive; while others, like Nintendogs, Brain Age and Big Brain Academy seem to be part of just a passing fad. In the Wii/DS era I commended Nintendo for its ability to be the tastemaker in gaming. It led the pack, Nintendo didnít follow anyone and its risk and confidence in an idea paid off in the form of billions and billions of dollars. So why the hell canít it do that now?
Pictured: Not the type of innovation we were expecting.
Nintendo is no longer bringing the innovative ideas it once did, or at least itís also failing to adequately support its own innovative hardware. The Gamecube processing power gave birth to Pikmin. Motion controls on the Wii brought us Wii Sports. The Balance Board was built for Wii Fit. The Wii U Gamepad made Nintendoland a possibility. And thatís where most of those innovative achievements end. Nintendo didnít release any other significant software to truly utilize the Balance Board. Motion controls sputtered along through the various Wii Series games and went out with a bang with Skyward Sword; but it was other companies that made fully realized motion controlled golf and tennis games. The IR pointer was nicely used in Metroid Prime 3 and not much else from the developer. Most Nintendo games had slight motion control aspects added to them, like Mario Galaxyís spin attack. The Nintendo to GBA cord on the Gamecube was also vastly underused by Nintendo while the DSí ability to sync up with the Wii was basically ignored. Nintendo makes some great, innovative hardware but they sure as hell are stubborn to support it. Beyond any franchise revivals or new IPs, Nintendoís lack of Gamepad necessary games at e3 seemed to once again show everyone that Nintendo is unable or unwilling to capitalize on its own unique hardware design choices. And if they wonít go through the trouble, why should third parties?
Maybe itís that lack of certain franchises from Nintendo and the failure to capture the genius of the Gamepad that has made so many Nintendo fans, at least the ones that hang out online, into such negative nancies. Case in point, after the completely hilarious Wii Fit Trainer was announced for Super Smash Bros., I kept reading post after post about how she better not be taking the spot of a more ďdeservingĒ character.
Is that what weíve become? Super Smash Bros. is a celebration of all things Nintendo. Wii Fit was a huge part of the Wiiís success and will hopefully be a huge part of the Wii Uís success. Why shouldnít they include a character from that game? Beyond the Trainer there is a general lack of excitement for Nintendoís e3 presser from its hardcore fans; fans who expect certain games to be made certain ways otherwise theyíre disappointed. From people who wanted the new 3D Mario to be more like Galaxy to those who didnít want Retroís next game to be another Donkey Kong, Nintendo is in the awkward position of having to rally its own fans while gaining new ones. But as I said above this is the first e3 in the post-Nintendo Direct environment. Had Nintendo never put on a direct and did the usual e3 madness there is no doubt people would be saying they had a hell of a show. If they didnít have the Nintendo Directs, games like: X, LoZ: A Link Between Worlds, Bayonetta 2, Mario & Luigi Dream Team, Yoshiís New Story, New Super Luigi U and Wind Waker HD would have been all new, in addition to the new titles they announced this year. Had that line up been new it would be entirely in the realm of possibilities that you could say Nintendo ďwonĒ this e3. But if they continue with the Nintendo Directs, theyíll never win e3 again because weíll always be well informed of the games in development. What would you rather have: huge surprises once a year at e3 or the current Nintendo Direct format?
Nintendo has backed itself into a corner. By giving us new game news year round it no longer pack the punch they used to at e3. By overly-focusing on franchises and characters that gamers demand the company passes over the other series that made them the powerhouse they are today. And by failing to show asymmetrical gameplay at its finest Nintendo is not leading the innovative movement on the Wii U. Nintendo isnít out of the game yet, though even iíll admit it will be a tough road ahead. With Sonyís stellar price and slew of awesome games combined with missing out on such system sellers as Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy, the Wii U will be more of a ďNintendo BoxĒ than any system before it. I hope that Nintendo is able to find its footing with this system because itís the only company making the games that keep me gaming.
If it canít, at least I have the 3DS.
BTW: I'd rather have images like this than another goddamn gritty shooter any day.
I think itís pretty clear that Sony really did E3 right this year, with its focus on games, indie developers and keeping consumer gaming rights the same as theyíve been for the past two decades. Microsoft needed a lot of good mojo coming out of this presser and it just couldnít overcome the negative stigma surrounding the console, especially in light of the Sony presser.
But thatís not what this blog is about. Itís about why should I or anyone else bother buying either of these systems this holiday season. This isnít going to be a pro Wii U write up, though that is the console I will be getting this December. This is about how most of the best games announced Monday will be on current gen consoles. If you are someone who actively trades in games, what point is there to getting a PS4 or XBox One this holiday season? Are the exclusive launch titles enough to make you want to take that plunge right away? Letís take a look at them:
Exclusive PS4 Launch Titles so far-
Killzone: Shadow Fall
Exclusive XBox One Launch Titles so far-
Kinect Sports Rivals
Dead Rising 3
Now this could change quite quickly, but so far no more than four titles. Now look at the games that will be on the next gen systems and the PS3 and/or 360 this holiday season:
Assassinís Creed IV Black Flag
Call of Duty: Ghosts
Need for Speed Rivals
Zumba Fitness World Party
Skylanders Swap Force
The biggest franchises in the world are represented there. And those are just this holiday season. Even games further down the road, like Titanfall, Destiny and Final Fantasy XV; will be coming to current gen consoles. Then there are the titles that the PS4 and XBox One will NOT be getting. Neither company has so far announced next-gen version of the following games:
Grand Theft Auto 5
Batman Arkham Origins
Beyond: Two Souls
Splinter Cell: Blacklist
South Park: The Stick of Truth
At least two of those are bound to be huge selling games.
Iíve already read about people reserving their PS4 or XBox One, but I have to ask is there really any reason to do it this holiday season? Letís look at it from a price point. Say you donít want GTA 5 or Rayman Legends, but you do want to get five games this holiday. Based on California taxes, five games will roughly cost you $330. If youíre getting five current/next gen games, that will cost you $770 on the PS4 and $880 on the XBox One (and $710 on the Wii U pending a price drop). That doesnít include the price of playing online.
So once again I ask, if games are what you care most about, are Killzone, Forza, Ryse and Driveclub important enough titles to get you to take the plunge early? If you play games online, wouldnít you want to play with a bigger pool of people on the current gen systems over the smaller pool with the next gen? Do any of those specific next gen titles have anything major over their competition (Killzone Vs. Call of Duty, Forza Vs. Need for Speed)?
There is injustice afoot and I am here to speak out against it. Here it goes:
Bane is a terrible character in Injustice: Gods Among Us.
There! I said it. With no other injustices to fight, I must go back to my writing room until next... hold on whatís this? Nintendo got rid of a bug in a game that allowed for male same sex relationships? To the moral high ground! How dare Nintendo fix an error in a game that allows for same sex marriage! Why fix it? Capcom didnít fix that part in Dragonís Dogma where you can get a little girl to give you a blowjob. They should stand by the error as a clear message to gamers that they refuse to fix bugs in their games if the bug does something cool like let a guy get pregnant. Clearly the bug is nothing but an homage to the underrated Junior starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. I canít believe Nintendo would do something like this, I canít... I canít... I canít, as a fa**ot myself, find a way to give two shits otherwise about this controversy.
As itís been pointed out before, the same sex male marriages in New Life presented a wide array of technical hiccups and issues that can make the game run poorly. But you wouldnít have known that reading about the story online because the only issue people seemed to cover with this bug is that it allowed for gay marriage, not the fact it can ruin your game. Just like with any other game ruining bug, it needed to be fixed. Would I have liked for Nintendo to include gay and lesbian relationships in this game? Sure, why not. In the same way I would have liked it in Fire Emblem Awakening. It would also be cool to have a gay option in games like Harvest Moon and Rune Factory. The truth is, Nintendoís failure to implement GLBTQ characters into their games is more an issue of what country they are from than with Nintendo itself.
Actually, scratch transgendered from that list. Nintendo has a long history of transgendered characters in its games, starting with the most well known in Birdo. We all know the story, Birdo is a man that wishes to be known as Birdette. This was changed when the game was released in North America so that Birdo was only known as a girl. Ignoring the fact that most of the transgendered people I know wish to be referred to as the gender they identify with and not the one they have the parts for, this practice of de-tranifying characters in Nintendo games has pretty much continued ever since. While many may see this as NoA straight-washing its games, I feel people should realize that these transgendered characters are comedic relief in the Japanese games. Itís supposed to be funny that these girls are dressed like boys or these boys are dressed like girls. Many transgendered characters in video games from Japan are the equivalent of gay men in early Hollywood films: they are there for you to laugh at, not laugh with.
We here in America like to think (at least those of us who support it) the tide is turning when it comes to the issue of gay marriage. 58% of the population supports it and that number is growing. 11 states currently allow same sex marriage, Minnesota is set to be number 12 and it may be legal across the country depending on how the Supreme Court rules. A number of other states recognize civil unions.
Guess how many Prefectures in Japan recognize same-sex marriage? None. Thatís right, the home of tentacle porn and used panties vending machines doesnít recognize two ladies getting hitched.
Here are some other fun facts:
Japan doesnít provide any family rights for same-sex couples.
Gays can serve in the military, but they can also be fired from their job for being gay in many parts of the country.
Same-sex couples receive no protection from the law in domestic abuse cases.
Japan didnít recognize sex changes until 2008.
Tokyo didnít host its first major gay celebration until a few weeks ago.
I was unable to find any information about the status of adoption rights for same-sex couples or GLBTQ individuals, though that country is running out of kids as it is.
Japan has made some concessions to gays and lesbians when it comes to gay marriage. If a Japanese National marries a man or woman from a country that does allow gay marriage, the country will recognize the marriage. Itís similar to what New York had in place not too long ago. Tokyo Disney allows symbolic same-sex marriage ceremonies, something Disneyland here in California doesnít allow and thatís the gayest fucking place on Earth.
So I get back to my original point: Would it be nice if gay relationships in New Life were a feature instead of a bug? Sure, in the same way I wish gay relationships in western RPGís amounted to more than just fuck-anything-that-moves. For as old fashioned as Nintendo is, itís in a country that is even more old fashioned. Letís hope that as gay rights expand in the real world they also expand in the fake ones that exist in my 3DS.
One last thing. To all the people who say Nintendo is doing this because this game could be played by children:
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is easily one of my favorite video games of all time. I've already done multiple play throughs and if I have my way it will be the last game I play before I check out of this big blue planet. It's not my favorite Legend of Zelda game. That honor rightfully belongs to The Wind Waker, but A Link to the Past is a close second.
For years we've been teased about a possible remake of the game using 3D graphics in a top down setting. Today we got what is the closest yet to a remake of that game with an official sequel. It's been 20 years since A Link to the Past first graced my SNES, and I have to say after watching the trailer of the game... I'm not as amped as I should be. It has nothing to do with the graphic style. In fact I love that they are trying something new. While it may be way too early to make a judgement like this, my biggest worry for this game is that I've been there before. I've been to this version of Hyrule before. I've mastered it. I've made it my bitch. This map is forever stitched into my mind. I love going there when I play A Link to the Past, but I can't say I'm super stoaked to go there again in the sequel.
Every other Zelda sequel has introduced gamers to a new version of Hyrule or some other land. Exploring it and finding its nooks and crannies is part of what makes each new Zelda game feel so fresh. There is no feeling better than discovering an island in Wind Waker, a cave in Twilight Princess or the cow cave in Ocarina of Time. I know all the secrets of A Link to the Past, and the very little Hyrule game play we saw showed us parts of the countryside we've seen before. I'm sure there will be new additions, but I don't want a sense of deja vu throughout my entire experience.
There is also the problem with the fact the map in A Link to the Past is small compared to newer games in the series. It's also limited. Say what you will about Spirit Tracks, that game had some variety when you explored New Hyrule. We've scaled snowy mountains, walked into the heart of a volcano, dived off of waterfalls and traveled across oceans big and small. I would hate for my trip back to this version of Hyrule to feel underwhelming compared to the great Zelda games Nintendo has produced in the past 20 years.
Obviously, it's still early. The game doesn't even have a subtitle yet and there is bound to be a hook to the game that we just don't know about. All I am saying is that I don't want this sequel to just be a retread of the first game, ala Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. The addition of a Dark Realm-like place would be nice, but I don't want it to just be a pallet swap of the regular map.