Hey, I'm sonic429, just call me sonic. I've been gaming since the 8 bit days, my first system was the Atari 7800. I try to play as many different types of games as possible, but my favorite genres are platformers, adventure, and fighters. I grew up with Nintendo and Sega so they will always be special to me, but I also have love for Sony and Microsoft.
Being fair and balanced is always my goal when forming my opinions, and I'm a very opinionated gamer. So if you don't agree with me I have no problems hearing the other side of the argument provided you can back it up. That's the way we all grow in knowledge and gain maturity. But most of all I'm here to have fun and interact with the community.
There's a subject that's been in the back of my mind for some time. I've been rolling it around in my head, and have been unable to adequately dismiss the notion that notion that I as a gamer am "out of touch."
Now when I say out of touch I need to explain. Part of that is the community, as someone who is a regular at Destructoid and other gaming sites, I find more and more the community differs strongly in opinions. Now I do realize we are an opinionated bunch, and there will always be perspective differences, but at times I'm somewhat amazed that there are games that we can agree on.
I suppose some examples are in order. It amazes me how perception of a system changes in time. That's quite evident in this generation, and that shift was very evident because of the length of time the generation. The Wii for example, in the first few years could do no wrong, when it first came out I was skeptical. Almost no power improvement (comparatively speaking), no legitimate storage option and the main interface, while unique, was gimmicky and felt limiting rather than liberating. I thought in my head back then, good luck Nintendo. Much to my surprise it took off like wildfire, but I knew the bubble would inevitably burst. It was like the 1920's, good times had by all, but I knew it was on shakey ground. Now I like the Wii and I apparently play it more today than the vast majority of other gamers, but I'd be lying if I said that the Wii's success was much to my chagrin in light of the Gamecube's and Wii U's struggles, systems that in my mind were far more deserving of the Wii's success.
I feel out of touch when I say I feel the PS3 is overrated, and IMHO the worst of the three consoles. Let me explain that. My problem is everyone seems to forget the first few years of the systems life, multiplatform games often ran worse on the PS3 (yes you Bethesda games), the problems with the controller (vibration, sixaxis, triggers) the size and reliability of the earlier consoles and how terrible PSN was for the majority of the generation. Granted Sony did a phenomenal job of clearing the vast majority of those issues up, and I commend them for that. It gives me hope that Nintendo can do the same with the Wii U. But it took them years. It's easy to recommend the PS3 now to anyone looking to buy a last gen system, but for the majority of the generation, it was the last system that people wanted. I feel like it's the worst system because 360 did nearly everything that the PS3 did and did it better. When I had LAN parties for Halo and Gears with a superior network back in 2008, when I was getting exclusive games like Limbo, Mass Effect, Alan Wake and Shadow Complex, and when I was not having problems like PSN outages and mandatory installs on games I was quite confident I made the right choice. Just to be clear that I can see now, how Sony has made a more compelling console, and how Microsoft has dropped the ball the last few years, nor am I excusing the RROD. I'm simply stating for the duration of the generation, I feel the 360 was the best system. But that apparently makes me out of touch.
I also feel out of touch wen it comes to current gen. Apparently I'm the only one who feels the Wii U is the most compelling system, that systems don't need all these features that are shoved down our throats, and that people need to stop complaining about not every game being at 1080p and 60 fps. Yes, I went there, but how could I not? As someone who has been gaming for the past 20+ years I can't help but feel the things that are important to me, are not important to the industry and vice versa.
I for one could care less about if a system has twitch integration, I don't need achievements or trophies, I don't need a kinect, or even all these apps. It kills me that the 360 has more video on demand apps than platformers in their marketplace. Why is that? I would say, that all I need as far as apps are simply for basic functionality: Web Browser, the main 4 VoD apps Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant vidoeand Youtube, and a media player. I really can't see why people are more interested in uploading gameplay videos and watching baseball than having actual games on their console. If I bought a PS4 at launch I would be livid at this problem.
And finally, I don't feel like I'm in touch with the games that are released anymore. With all the hype surrounding Titanfall, you would have though that it was a game that I could have gotten behind, I loved the FPS genre. But after 7 years of military first person shooters (that's a surprisingly specific type of game when you think about it) being so prominent, I couldn't care less. I complain that it needed a real single player experience online, and the majority of the community thought I needed to let it go, that the game doesn't need single player experience.
When I think about my golden era of gaming 1995-2000, I think about how many games that I still play today and how these games had what I feel like is so lacking from modern gaming. Examples: Super Mario 64, Goldeneye 007, Killer Instinct Gold, Ocarina of Time, Star Fox 64, Banjo Kazooie, Pokemon Red/Blue, Diddy Kong Racing, Metal Gear Solid, Tekken 3, Crash Bandicoot 3, Final Fantasy VII/VIII, Castlevania Symphony of the Night, Marvel Super Heroes/vs. Street Fighter, Rival Schools, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Diablo/II Virtua Fighter 3, Soul Calibur, Sonic Adventure, Hydro Thunder, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Jet Set Radio, Skies of Arcadia, and Power Stone. To think this many timeless games were released in a 6 year window now blows my mind. And these weren't under the radar games by any means, these were the games of the day, games that every kid knew about. And I'm betting the majority of you guys have played the majority of these games.
When I think of today and the games that I enjoyed the most over the past few years, the list is a bit different when it comes to mainstream. Mario Galaxy 1+2, Mario Kart Wii, Smash Bros Brawl, New Super Mario Bros, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, Kirby Return to Dreamland, Goldeneye Wii, Wii Sports Resort, Wii Fit, Umbrella Chronicles/Darkside Chronicles, Metroid Other M/Prime 3, Zack and Wiki Skyward Sword, Ninja Gaiden DS, Sonic Colors, Pokemon Black/White, Spirit Tracks, Solatorobo, Castlevania (DS trillogy), Alan Wake, Hydro Thunder Hurricane, Gears Trilogy, Banjo Kazooie Nuts & Bolts, Street Fighter x Tekken, Halo (360 trillogy) Sonic Generations/All Star Racing, Resident Evil 6, Virtua Fighter 5 /Final Showdown, Burnout Revenge, Uncharted 2-3, Last of Us, MGS4, and Ninja Gaiden Sigma. Now obviously, you can see that there are some prominent games from this past generation, but a some of them were panned or forgotten about. There are games that most people would have included like GTA V, or Skyrim, neither one interested me.
I could go on about how games feel made for the masses instead of for the gamers. I could complain about how fighting games don't have single player experiences, or how RPG's have lost their charm, or the lack of colors in graphics. But I think number one, that's starting to change (for the better) and number two, you already get my point. So to end this already too long blog, I'd like to entreat the community to give their thoughts.
Even though I've been into gaming since I was around 10, I've always been primarily a console gamer. Don't get me wrong, I had my time with handhelds but they always felt so compromised. Maybe it was just a bad taste left in my mouth from the pathetic offerings of the Tiger Electronics LCD games, but even the (now legendary) Game Boy with it's pea green monochrome display left me with a mediocre impression on me with handhelds. I had games like Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, Tetris and Super Mario Land, and while they offered me a brief reprieve from my boredom, I was never sucked into these worlds as a kid.
I was 14 when the Game Boy Color came out. I had some money from cutting grass and other side jobs so for me to come up with $100 or so dollars wasn't completely out of the question. In fact, for some reason I had that kind of money on me when I walked into a Meijer a year later and picked out a banana colored GBC. While I had a decent enough time with Pokemon Silver, but that's about the only experience that I have any kind of fond memories of with the system. I remember trading the system and games in years later for a paltry $20 buying Gamecube ports of SSX Tricky and Turok Evolution. Something about staring at a tiny screen with middling pixels (and paying for batteries while doing it) felt like a waste of time. How could I go back to the kinds games I had been playing the previous 10 years in lieu of experiencing the 3D revolution? (which later became my favorite era of gaming)
And that's how I left handheld gaming. For about 8 years I ignored the handheld gaming market only giving it the occasional demo or look at how far the technology had come. That was until one fateful Saturday in the summer of 2007. I was in the neighboring town and happened upon an original model Game Boy Advance for $2. I wasn't terribly fond of the color (Fuchsia, read: hot pink, even I have my limits on gayness) and it lacked a back plate, but it came with a game (Rugrats) and the price was right, so I bought it. Being OCD, I ordered a matching back plate immediately from Nintendo's website, perish the thought of duct tape on my hot pink gaming system!
Even though my purchase was on a whim, it ended up making a huge impact on me. What impressed me most was the production values. I knew that at heart, the GBA was a portable SNES, but it was the quality of the sprite-work, the smoothness of the presentation, the audio samples and the refinement to the game itself that left the first positive impression on me. Imagine my shock when I played a Rugrats game and came away impressed! In hindsight, I don't think it was the game itself that impressed me, it was what could be done on a handheld platform. I mean, I know that I was out of touch with the industry during the previous few years (college), but where had I been? I think my collective mind would have been blown had I sampled the DS or PSP library.
I started developing a taste for this tiny handheld. I went and picked up Metroid Fusion and Mario Advance. It was almost as if someone had gone back in time and fixed all the complaints I had with the 16 bit era. Gone were the slew of bland beat 'em ups, sports releases were mercifully toned back, and the clones of better games were almost non existent. Instead, I found brilliant puzzle games, quirky platformers, and those rare classic styled RPG's became common place, talk about a fantastic trade off. To this day, when people debate the Genesis vs. SNES, I chime in and say I think GBA is the best 16 bit system. I realize it's not a fair statement, but it goes to show how much my perception of 16 bit changed with the GBA.
Examples abound; I was never a fan of the 2D Metroid games, it was Prime that even got me to love the world in the first place. But playing Metroid Zero mission was the best handheld experience I've ever had, I simply couldn't put the game down. I was never a fan of Mario Bros 2, the fist and third were the games of my choosing. But sitting down with the GBA version was enough to change my opinion. Even games like Avatar: The Last Airbender I found to have clever puzzles and addictive gameplay. And of course, Pokemon, which is probably THE reason to own a Nintendo handheld.
I think what won me over was that these games felt refined and made specifically for a handheld. I could take the system with me wherever I went and the games were made so that I could play for 10 minutes or 2 hours. So many game require a sizable investment on time in order to reap the benefits, but I've always enjoyed smaller chunks of gaming, and it was a breath of fresh air to see a platform that offered that. Don't get me wrong, I continued to game on consoles, but now I can't help but to always have a handheld option available to me.
Of course this eventually led to me getting to a DS, PSP and 3DS and will in all likelihood buy a Vita when it gets some more games. I still buck the trend and avoid the mobile market for the same reason I avoided dedicated handhelds years ago. They currently lack the refinement I seek.
But I thought it would make for a nice blog to share my story how I came to appreciate the handheld and why they now matter to me.
If you're like me you like to play a lot of different types of games. And as much as I enjoy modern gaming, it's hard to deny that old school games still have an appeal to me. You can say I'm living in the past, but I've always felt that each generation has something special to offer. So while I don't live in the 8 and 16 bit eras of my youth, I sure do like to visit there from time to time.
Here's the thing though, gaming is very technology driven. When gamers start talking about the next generation of hardware, a large part of that excitement is new technologies. And this is not isolated to just the consoles themselves but the technology that encompasses it. What am I talking about? I'm talking about the displays or TV's that we connect our systems to.
It's no secret that HDTV's are common place today, in fact, it's the exception to the rule to walk into a house and see someone still rocking the curved screen analog CRT's of yesteryear. And while these new TV's are superior in almost every way, they are ultimately built to accommodate modern technology. This means that you'll be hard pressed to find a TV made in the last few years with multiple analog hookups leaving old school gamers to seek alternatives to hook up their consoles.
Now there are some options available to gamers and I want to discuss them. Your standard connection is going to be composite cables. You may remember using years ago and not given them a second thought when hooking up your N64. But try doing that today and you might be shocked how poorly the signal translates to you 50 inch LCD. The problem is these cables looked fine on a 27 inch CRT because it was not only half the size (masking the lower resolution) but didn't have to be deinterlaced (converted to digital) and potentially stretched to match the aspect ratio. Hence all that conversion over a poor connector results in a poor image quality. Then you realize you only have one of these inputs on your set, and that creates two problems: 1 How do I get the signal to look better 2 How do I get more inputs?
First, the easy solution. If you can deal with the analog connection and don't want to spend a lot of money, you can easily get an A/V switchbox. It works on the same principal as a surge protector, use one connection to adapt to multiple.
For the rest of use who demand the highest quality images there are multiple ways around this. And to those I would recommend emulation. Instead of keeping around old hardware and dusty cartridges from 20+ years ago, you can simply use modern hardware to emulate the old. A quick search on the internet can get you emulators and roms from pretty much every system all the way up to 7th generation. Granted the newer the hardware the more difficult it is to emulate properly, but for anything up until 5th generation, it takes almost no processing power to run these games flawlessly. PC is easily the best place to get these games, and since they are connected through an HD signal there's no loss whatsoever.
Assuming you want to run these games on a console to your TV you'll need to either pay for the individual downloads, or hack them to allow them to play roms. The Wii is notoriously easy to hack and with the built SD card slot (allowing up to 32GB of storage) it's dirt cheap price (around $50 used) and how common these systems are, it's become the most used method. Personally I recommend going this route. It's a very portable and reliable system that also has a ton of software that it can run nativley anyway. To me this make it a utility system of sorts and even in 480p over component games look fantastic. You can even get an HDMI adapter if you want to take it even further.
Now if you have a problem with the morality issue of emulating software I can respect that. These are dead consoles with out of print games, but it is technically piracy to download a rom of a game you don't own copy of. But if you still want the advantages of a modern system there are systems like the Retron. Basically, they emulate the hardware of the old school systems but still use the actual cartridges. While I've never used these myself I know people who have and I've heard good things. Obviously, they aren't going to perform flawlessly like the original hardware but neither will any type of emulation. For a lot of people this is a compelling compromise but I personally don't much care for this type of emulation, to me it's the worst of both worlds. It has the negatives of cheaper third party hardware and potential incompatibilities and you still have to keep all the old software around.
Now for the purists, there is another option: scart. Anyone who tells you that old school games are supposed to look terrible are ignorant or lying to you. Fact is those systems were simply limited by the technologies of their day. Simply put, we didn't have TV with connectors capable of displaying the native RGB signal back in the 90's. At least we didn't here in the states, they did over in Europe. You'd be forgiven for not being familiar with a scart connector as they were never introduced here in the states. Frankly, I've never even seen one with my own eyes and the only reason I know about it is because I'm an A/V junkie.
How it works: scart for all intents and purposes is the equivalent to our VGA cable. It's an analog connector that can produce RGB signals of a quality similar to component cable. No it's not some magic that creates HD out of SD resolutions, it simply isn't compressed like the traditional composite connector. These old school systems have the support built into them, you are simply giving it a means of displaying the signal that the system is nativley producing. Think of it like the VGA adapter for Dreamcast.
Problem is, because scart was never introduced here you need an adapter to be able to display it on your HDTV. Thankfully, you can get said adapters online that will adapt it over to an HDMI. They are around $50 for the converter box, and about $25 with some options for all in one connectors. This will not be an HD signal but 480i should be night and day better than a composite signal.
Yes, I realize that some may bulk at spending that much to get a clean signal from an old school system, and I can't say I blame them, it's the reason I haven't done it myself. If you have multiple old school systems like myself, it only exacerbates the problem.
There also comes with the issue that not all systems can be connected this way. The US Gamecube's cannot connect this way, the N64 lacks RGB support and has to be modded to fix this problem.
Now you may be thinking, then there really isn't a great fix for hooking up old school games to modern TV's, and frankly I'd have to agree with you. No doubt about it, it's not the easiest problem to fix. But at least there are solutions out there to be had, not always the most affordable on convenient, but solutions nonetheless.
I know a lot of people already know about this stuff but some of you may not. I hope you at least learned a thing or two and I would be more than happy to answer any questions if you want to leave a comment.
If you've been on Destructoid for any length of time you know that I'm one of the regulars that comment on articles. And if you follow me you know that I'm a pretty big supporter or Nintendo in general but specifically the Wii U. And I'd really like to lay out my opinion on why I feel like it's the most compelling next gen console. Bear in mind that these are only my thoughts and observations and I do tend to side with Nintendo more so than I do Microsoft and Sony, I'm not trying to bash the Playstation 4 or Xbox One, just my personal feelings. With that said lets jump right in.
First and foremost let's get the obvious out of the way: graphics. Now I'm very well aware that a lot of core gamers tend to side with the PS4 and XB1 because they view them to be more of a true "next gen" system, and that of course is based on power. Now I do entertain that notion, and there's certainly something to be said about power being a large contributing factor in appeal. After all, a console is a pallet of tools to work with, with better tools you get better results, at least in theory. Which can mean larger worlds, more interaction and less load times. So I understand that. I also get that games suffered last generation from the lack of processing power of the Wii.
But I feel like the Wii U is in a very different place architecturally speaking. The difference in power from the Wii to the PS3 and 360 is much smaller, and the leap in fidelity from the 6th generation to 7th generation is much greater than the leap from 7th generation to 8th generation. Case in point, compare two exclusive games of the same genre at the same time, Knack (PS4) and Super Mario 3D World (Wii U) I would venture to say that they offer at very least, comparable levels of visual fidelity. Now that's pretty impressive if you consider the specifications of both systems. But really, I boil that down to both the law of diminishing return, and the fact that much of the processing power of the PS4 and XB1 are relegated to multitasking. Obviously, over time the PS4 and XB1 graphics will get better as developers get a better grasp of the hardware, but so will Wii U, and considering that even the most powerful system has trouble consistently producing 1080p and 60fps and is running on familiar x86 (PC) architecture, I come to the conclusion that the Wii U will be much more capable of running the games that its competitors are than the Wii ever was.
But, beyond all that, I've been gaming for over 20 years. I've seen the graphics evolve from sprites that you have to squint to see what was intended, to full on visual feasts like that of Crysis 3, where it's hard to imagine a more beautiful presentation. Not only do I believe we are hitting a wall to what more can be accomplished with visuals but also, I believe if we continue on this path of constantly trying to push the visual envelope that we will be headed for another crash like the one in 1983-1984. Gameplay has already suffered in many instances in the 7th generation due to this mentality. I believe gaming needs to evolve along other lines if it wishes to continue to be viable.
I believe the light at the end of the tunnel is the indie developer. One could make a case that the most innovative and original games to come out over the last few years have come from those developers. To be blunt, I am fed to the teeth with redundant gameplay with only slight variations in order to keep the almighty dollar rolling in. It's called "don't rock the boat". And what the indie games lack in production values they more than make up for in gameplay. At this point in my gaming career, I'm not hard pressed to seek better visuals, I want better art directions, more ideas, less annualization.
This is why I believe in Wii U. I feel it embodies everything that core gamers know and love about gaming and strikes a beautiful balance of performance, utility, innovation, affordability and gameplay. And it does this through its feature set. The most notable of which is the Wii U tablet.
Now I'm very much a believer in a traditional controller. It's something that really started with the NES controller and over time has evolved into the dual analog, d-pad, 4 face buttons, dual shoulder, dual trigger with start select and home layout that we've all come to expect from a traditional controller. While the placement my vary slightly, its this layout that has been tried and true and needs little innovation at this point. All 3 companies offer this. But Nintendo has suggested something new, something unique, that answers a question that no one really thought to ask but everyone wants to know. That question is: how to I get the accuracy of mouse on a console? I believe the Wii remote in many respectsm attempted to offer that solution, after all, the Wii remote is fundamentally a 3D mouse. And while it was a very accessible interface, offering many new ways to play and interact with games, its performance was somewhat limited and inconsistent. It also suffered from lack of buttons. The addition of Wii remote plus which supplemented the accelerometer, certainly added a level of fidelity, it still lacked the accuracy and stability that a mouse could offer.
What Nintendo proposed was to take the concept of the DS and apply it to a new console, hence the Wii U tablet was born. What the Wii U tablet may lack in accessibility, it more than makes up for in functionality. The addition of a 6 inch touch screen with the accuracy of a stylus without sacrificing a traditional controller layout opens up worlds of possibilities not possible on previous generations. To me, this is what makes the Wii U more of a next generation console than either the PS4 or XB1. Next generation has always been about a new set of tools, eliminating the hurdles that held back current gen technology and I feel that the tablet integration does that in a way that a faster processor or more RAM never could. Obviously, a generation is a time period and technology really has no reak bearing on what generation a console is in, but from a practical standpoint a new generation means new possibilities.
Now the other elephant in the room is the general reception of the Wii U. It's no secret that the Wii U hasn't exactly been setting the world on fire in sales, quite the opposite actually. In many respects the Wii U has been the butt of many jokes, people dismiss it, say that the masses are confused and still thinking it's an accessory for the Wii. The common reaction is to place the blame entirely on Nintendo's shoulders. It's their system after all, they should be the ones to promote it and get people to want it. And I certainly feel Nintendo should bear the majority of the blame. Their advertising is weak, they do a poor job of keeping in touch with their audience and gaming community as a whole, and they have been resting far too much on their established franchises. This is especially problematic in light of a company like Sony who is known for consistently pushing new IP's into the market by publishing the games themselves.
With all that said, I do feel Nintendo came into the market very humbly and did many things right, it's simply their reputation with the Wii that kept gamers from wanting to trust them. I draw similarities from Sega's reputation at the launch of the Dreamcast as opposed to Sony's reputation at the launch of the PS2. It didn't matter that Sega had fixed the errors of the Saturn, and the Dreamcast was producing some of the best games the market had ever seen at the time. Nor did it matter that the PS2 had a very weak lineup with hardly any games on the horizon until the following year. What had mattered is that Sony had built up a reputation of offering a wide range of quality titles over the past 5 years with the PS1, and Sega had disappointed fans by abandoning the last 3 consoles they had made. Hence, Dreamcast despite offering a better value with a better lineup of games was doomed to fail from the beginning.
Nintendo made the right calls. If you look at the launch you can see the obvious work Nintendo had put into acquiring third party development for Wii U. Games that would have never seen the light of day on the Wii, suddenly started showing up for Wii U. Third party games like Mass Effect, Ninja Gaiden, Madden, NBA2K, Darksiders, and Tekken. It was supposed to be the revival of Nintendo's third party support. Yet, there was a problem: nobody bought them. They did what they always did, they bought the first party games, leaving the third party on the shelves. Within months, games were being canceled, delayed, and ported elsewhere.
There's no doubt that 2013 was a tough year for Wii U owners. And in many respects Nintendo failed to make a case for why someone should buy their console. Now while I blame Nintendo, I also blame other factors beyond their control. I blame Nintendo fans. The same ones who clamored for third party games didn't purchase them. I blame developers, the ones who made lazy ports, removed features found in other versions, and expected the same price. I blame publishers who pulled games from development at the first sign of trouble. And I blame journalists, who failed to explain the message that the Wii U was true successor to Wii despite Nintendo announcing their next system would be revealed 6 months before it even happened.
Even though things haven't been wonderful for Nintendo's console, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. There's quite a few things that make the system more compelling for me. The third and fourth quarters of 2013 picked up the pace significantly. With anticipated titles like Wonderful 101, Pikmin 3, Legend of Zelda Wind Waker HD, Rayman Legends, Sonic Lost World, and Wii Fit U there's certainly quite a bit more to offer as of late. Improvements to the Nintendo Network, Miiverse, with more indie games, and Nintendo's own digital offerings such as NES Remix and Dr. Luigi boots the appeal of the console significantly.
Finally, we come the price. Now its been suggested that the initial price was too high to be competitive with PS4 and XB1. And considering the difference in specs, with only a $50 price difference I can certainly see that point. With the stagnating sales, Nintendo opted to slash the price down to $300 and include copy of New Super Mario Bros U and and Luigi U. If you consider that the Wii U has not only $100 cheaper price, comes with 2 games, has free online play, full backwards compatibility, and of course the tablet, it's actually a pretty amazing value. For $50 more than the PS3 and 360, you are getting a new system with 5+ years of support. Add that to the fact that games exclusive like Super Smash Bros, X, Bayonetta 2, Donkey Kong Tropic Freeze, Mario Kart, Hyrule Warriors, Sonic Boom, Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem (and hopefully a new Zelda game) are on their way in 2014 in addition to the third party games, it's hard to deny that there's a little something for everyone.
I'm not saying the PS4 or XB1 are bad investments. I'm sure they will give you a great library of games over the course of time. But for now I can't help but feel that the Wii U is destined for greatness.