Friday, October 13, 2017
Chances are that if you're reading this article, you play a lot of video games and you could very well play all different types. But there is a sect of gamer that sticks to the one or two titles that release annually and they're satisfied with that. Nothing wrong with it, it's just the way it is. If the new Madden, the new NBA2K, the new FIFA, or the new Call of Duty are the only games you play every year, who am I do judge?
Some of the customers that I encounter say they used to be big on the Madden games every year, but they fell off because it felt like the same game every year. They also say that they would like to see EA go to a biennial release schedule with roster updates in the off years. Essentially, they would like to see sports games become their own platforms. Back in the early-to-mid 2000s, I was that kind of gamer, but my preferred annual release was WWE.
While EA may not see the point in changing Madden's annual release schedule, it may behoove 2K to do so with WWE. The main difference between WWE and other sports (and if you have a problem with me calling professional wrestling a sport, see me after class) is that every other sport has a constant flow of new stars each year. A kid that graduated from my high school just got drafted by the Detroit Pistons, and people are already trying to scalp his jerseys and rookie cards. He's already a superstar despite the fact that he hasn't played a single NBA game.
WWE doesn't have that. While some wrestlers come to WWE or their developmental NXT promotion and immediately capture the fans, it's rare for that to happen with anyone that wasn't already well-established in other promotions like New Japan Pro Wrestling or Global Force Wrestling (formerly TNA/Impact Wrestling). A.J. Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, these are all guys that fans knew before making their debuts because wrestling is so much easier to follow in this day and age. Everyone already knew how talented those guys are and fans were excited to finally see them on WWE's grand stage.
Those men are the exceptions to the rule. Most wrestlers that get signed to NXT either spend years there only to be released or spend years there and finally get a shot on the main roster. Even then, a lot of characters that were super popular with NXT fans don't mesh with WWE's fans. Despite being under the same umbrella, the fan bases for the two are very different. The Ascension is a great example of a tag team who did great in NXT but floundered when WWE fans didn't take to them (mainly due to poor booking, but I digress). Other sports don't have that problem. While an athlete may eventually lose some of his stardom as he or she ages or injuries make them no longer able to compete with the younger players at a high level, he or she is never going to change their character.
Another issue that I feel hinders WWE is how frequently it changes. By this time next year, someone is WWE 2K18 is going to have a completely different character when next year's game is set to release. Or perhaps an NXT wrestler gets called up shortly after the upcoming game releases. What if a popular star gets released for violating the company's wellness policy?
Case in point: Jeff Hardy. He's one of the most charismatic superstars that professional wrestling has ever seen. Unfortunately, he's also had to battle problems with addiction in his past, and while we certainly hope and pray that he never succumbs to that again, he was, at one, time, released from the company because of it. It's a very real possibility not only for him, but for any wrestler on the WWE roster.
At this point, the WWE games have every type of match you can imagine and can be customized beyond belief. Even though I'm not a fan of this particular model, I really think WWE would benefit from foregoing annual disc releases and providing fans with updates at a reduced rate or perhaps offering new wrestlers for the game at $1.99 a piece or bundling several wrestler together at a lower rate. This may be a problem for customers without access to the internet, but that could easily be rectified by providing an annual update card that could be purchased at any major retailer.
The WWE already has experience in this area with the WWE Network. Fans can forego paying $60 for the next WrestleMania simply by signing up for the WWE Network at $10 a month. They also have the WWE Supercard mobile game, which is doing very well for them.
Maybe the WWE video games could do something similar to the MMO model: get your free one month trial of WWE Online on our website, then it's only $4.99 a month and you receive all updates for free!
Vince McMahon may not know a lot about video games, but if you ask me, he's one of the smartest businessmen the world has ever known and I have no doubt that he could make something like this work. In the long run, I think WWE fans would prefer this model. You wouldn't have to wait until the following October to play as your favorite new star or get new move sets or pay-per-view arenas to wrestle in. If there's one company in one sport that I think could pull it off, it's the WWE.
There are a lot of possibilities for the company by making this switch. A new star that makes an impact could be in the game within days or weeks. The company releases a talent and they could be removed immediately. They could constantly update the game with new legend characters. Maybe once a year they do a major overhaul and include a new story line for the player. It would be like a new World of Warcraft expansion: a new story, new wrestlers, new customization options for the create-a-wrestler, and so on.
The ratings for WWE games (as well as the overall sales numbers) have been in steady decline ever since 2K obtained the rights from THQ. According to VGCharz, WWE 2K17 has sold a total of 2.26 million units, which is respectable, but is a far cry from the 7.28 million that Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 did.
I think a lot of that could be attributed to annual release fatigue. If WWE took a year off, did a major overhaul, and began work on what would become its platform, it could be a major moneymaker for the company in the long run. The WWE Network looked like it was going to be a failure, but now makes them major bank, and if there's one thing we know about Vince McMahon, it's that he loves money...and wrestling incestuous story lines for his employees, for some reason.
Sunday, October 8, 2017
I do not subscribe to the notion that playing violent video games leads to a violent teenager or violent adult. In fact, I did several essays and presentations in college opposing that idea. I believe that there was a lot more going on with Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris than the fact that they were listening to Rammstein and playing Doom when they walked into Columbine High School that tragic morning. My purpose of writing this piece is not to recount all the terrible actions that children have carried out and men like Jack Thompson and Joseph Lieberman have blamed on violent video games, but as someone who has worked in video game retail for several years, I have come across lots of parents that seemingly don’t care what type of video games their children are playing, and it has always irked me.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
With so many developers resorting to various collections, remasters, and ports of their previous games, I think it's safe to say that we all feel a little burnt out. "We want new IPs," we cry from our keyboards. We want something original. Is that too much to ask?
However, just recently Capcom announced the Disney Afternoon Collection, featuring six of their classic NES titles. For those of you too young to remember, Capcom's licensed games are standouts among the glut of garbage games we had to wade through in the late 80s/early 90s. The collection features DuckTales, DuckTales 2, Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, Rescue Rangers 2, TaleSpin, and Darkwing Duck.
I was lucky to get in on the NES collecting scene before the prices of those games skyrocketed. If you were to try to procure those six games on their original cartridges today, you'd be spending more than what it costs for a PlayStation Pro system. So, needless to say, $20 for six of Capcom's best games on the NES is a steal.
This announcement got me to thinking, and even though I too am guilty of sometimes complaining about the constant ports, remasters, and collections, there are a few series and games I wouldn't mind seeing getting a second chance on current systems.
The Dead Space Collection
Dead Space 2 is my personal favorite in the series. It was more action packed but still kept you checking around every corner to prevent any unwanted scares. Dead Space 2 is to Dead Space what Aliens is to Alien. Similar idea, same threat, but more things blowing up. Dead Space 2 was the exact opposite to me in terms of stress level, I actually beat this one in three sittings, I couldn't put it down. It also has one of the best opening sequences I've ever played, and that very well may be the scariest part of the entire game.
Dead Space 3 is the black sheep of the franchise, but I liked it quite a bit. People seemed to be down on the optional cooperative scenarios, which I didn't mind. The one criticism I do agree with is the crafting system. The previous two games had ways to upgrade weapons, and that was great, but I couldn't get a hang of the crafting aspects and after a while just stopped caring. Just make the plasma cutter more powerful, that's all we need. The game was also somewhat non-linear, and had several crafting or upgrade items that could be found if you chose to take on side missions. We can ignore how silly the final boss was...actually, EA, if you just want to retcon that part out with some extra content (like you did with Mass Effect 3), I would be alright with that.
Since this is a collection, it should go without saying that I would expect all DLC to be included in the package.
As an added incentive for PS4 owners, how great would it be if the Wii game, Dead Space Extraction, could be optimized for play on PlayStation VR?
The Contra Collection
Listen up, Konami. I'm going to say this real slow so you'll understand:
I. Will. Give. You. Money. To. Play. Your. Classic. Franchises.
It's as simple as that. I don't care if it's just a cash grab and you give nothing more than the bare bones on all of these games. I don't care if you put in any fancy-pants museum features or concept art or any of that. Just let me play the Contra games in one collection. It doesn't even have to include every Contra game, just the good ones is all I ask.
This collection should be comprised of Contra and Super C (the NES versions, not the arcade), Contra III: The Alien Wars, Contra Hard Corps, Contra: Shattered Soldier, and if they can make it work, Contra 4.
I know I already said they don't have to throw in any extras, but it would be nice if they threw in the original Probotector versions of the games as well.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Remastered
The Grand Theft Auto series has always been hit or miss for me. My introduction to the series was Grand Theft Auto III, which I loved. I enjoyed the follow up, Vice City, even more. San Andreas did nothing for me, I think GTA IV is the most overrated game of the last generation, but GTA V is outstanding.
Then there's this plucky little standout title they originally made for the Nintendo DS and then ported to the PSP. I remember there being a number of people both shocked and/or confused at the idea of a mature rated title appearing on Nintendo's kid-friendly handheld. It is a bit strange, I suppose, but I'm glad Nintendo allowed it, because Chinatown Wars is my favorite game donning the Grand Theft Auto name.
Not only does the game return to its PSone roots with the top-down perspective, but the game within the game (i.e. the drug dealing) is really well done. As terrible as it sounds, I became downright enamored with becoming a drug dealer in this game. I was constantly on the lookout for someone selling drugs low and then finding someone to sell them to for profit. But it wasn't always that easy, sometimes the person selling or buying the drugs would be an undercover police officer, and you'd have to shoot your way out of the situation.
The game's setting was a nice change of pace from the typical giant metropolis you see in the console GTA titles, and the driving and shooting was serviceable enough to never be frustrating. I would gladly pay $20 for a downloadable version of this game on current consoles.
Mega Man X Legacy Collection
This one is a bit of a cheat because it already exists as a collection on the PS2 and GameCube, but so did the original Mega Man collection, and I bought those again when they were released on current systems, so why not do the same with the Mega Man X games?
When the Mega Man Legacy Collection was released back in 2015, I was a bit disappointed that they stopped with the NES hexalogy and didn't give us all ten games that fall under the Mega Man banner, especially when you consider just how amazing Mega Man 9 is.
But the Mega Man X series is the real deal. I had fallen off of Mega Man after the NES, but having gone back and played a first few entries in the X series, their superiority is evident. Everything got better: the music, the boss weapons, the bosses themselves, the level design, and an added incentive to explore each level for upgrades.
Some might say the series eventually took a wrong turn and just kept going, but when you look at Metacritic scores, only one game in the series (Mega Man X7) received below average scores, while most hover in the 70s or higher.
I have no knowledge of how the original Mega Man Legacy Collection performed for Capcom, but I would imagine the cost to produce the game was fairly low, and I can't imagine the amount needed for this collection would be much greater, so perhaps it's worth the risk.
The good news is that there are several ways to play these games outside of their original means, which is a good thing, as Mega Man X2 and X3 are two more games that will put a decent hole in your bank account, but it would be great to have them all in one place with some bonus material.
The Castlevania Saga
Few series hold as special of a place in my heart as Castlevania. The original game was one of the first video games I ever played, and even though I didn't beat for the first time until last year, it's a game that I revere as highly as games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and the aforementioned Contra. The only problem here is that Konami hates us. With a fiery passion, they hate us.
There are two problems this collection faces. First, there are nearly 20 games in the series chronology, and a lot of them play exactly the same. As much as I enjoy the 'Metroidvania' genre, I try to abstain from playing too many of them in short periods of time. They eventually become cumbersome. Secondly, if we're trying to get every main entry in one collection, we're looking at 3D games that wouldn't work too well on a handheld, or a console release with three titles designed for the Nintendo DS hardware. Of course, the latter of those two seems like an easier fix, especially when only Dawn of Sorrow made any real use of the DS touch screen.
We'll forego the Lords of Shadow series, as it's a different timeline and two of the three games therein are mediocre if I'm being generous.
It's a shame that Konami doesn't look upon their franchises with the same lens as their fans, and I hate to think of this once mighty series of games going out with zero fanfare. The last canonical Castlevania game in the original timeline was Order of Ecclesia, which, despite being one of my personal favorites, isn't the unintended sendoff the series deserved.
I can only hope Igarashi doesn't do with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night what Inafune did with Mighty No. 9, and that it'll be a proper spiritual successor to the Castlevania name.
What other collections, ports, or remasters would you like to see?
Don't forget to check out everything else I'm doing.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
On a recent episode of the Error Machine Podcast, we delved deep into the world of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The nearly two hour episode covered everything from the hype surrounding the game to our littlest of nitpicks to the build up for the final battle. On the podcast, Erik Snedegar brought up an excellent point when he said that the entire game is just hype for the final battle with Ganon, and that couldn't be a more apt way to sum up the game.
Don't misunderstand me, there is a whole lot more to the game than just "go here, do this," and I wouldn't dare trivialize everything it does right by saying so. The ultimate goal of the game is to, of course, kill Ganon and free Princess Zelda, which is the same basic plot we've seen in many Zelda titles. But every previous game in the series required specific boxes to be checked and certain obligations to be fulfilled before facing the ultimate evil.
Here, however, your goal is singular, and that is, as it says on your Adventure Log during the entire game: "Destroy Ganon."
I did every optional piece of the main quest, and with each successive Divine Beast I tamed and every subsequent boss I bested, the anticipation and anxiety of my eventual confrontation with this supreme evil only grew that much greater. The cutscenes that would follow each "dungeon" featuring the fallen Champions were nothing more than exposition in which the Champion explained how they were too weak to defeat Ganon and that they'd been waiting 100 years for another opportunity.
Even something as small as learning recipes that could be used to make more powerful elixirs and meals that would replenish more life felt like skills that would help in the final approach. Every time I learned something new, every time I would cash in Korok seeds for a new inventory slot, every time I would use Spirit Orbs to increase my health or stamina, when I found the Master Sword, when I would upgrade my armor, every single thing that I did in the game, no matter how great or small, felt like reaching the summit of a new mountain.
The Rocky film that Breath of the Wild seems most comparable to is Rocky IV. At this point, Rocky is the champion and is considered the best boxer in the world. He's rich and famous and is living the American dream. He even has a robot, which is the easiest way to point out human success.
An amateur boxer from the Soviet Union by the name of Ivan Drago shoots up the ranks, challenges former champion and Rocky's best friend, Apollo Creed, to an exhibition fight, which results in the Russian fighter killing Apollo in the ring. Rocky has no choice but to challenge Drago and avenge his fallen comrade. The montage that takes place before the fight is pure cinematic gold.
Even though Rocky is the champion, he's the underdog. He chooses to fight Drago on his home turf in front of a crowd of hostile Russians, and even his own wife doesn't believe he has what it takes to defeat Drago. This is not unlike the story of Breath of the Wild. Link is the Hylian "Champion," he enters Hyrule castle--which has been overtaken by hostile enemies--to fight Ganon, the one who killed his friends, and even some of the other Champions and townsfolk doubt Link's ability to win the battle.
In the end, good triumphs over evil, Rocky knocks out Drago (spoilers for that, too, I guess), Link bests Ganon and seals him away, and all is well. I must say that if you take the time to tame the Divine Beasts, the beginning of the final battle is well worth that effort. It has a great build up, a satisfying payoff, and tasks you with putting all of your previous learned skills to the test. It's the culmination of an 80-hour montage
If there were anything that I could count as disappointing in the game, it's the lack of a human form for Ganon. All game long it's pounded into your head that you have to beat Calamity Ganon and that's he's the purest form of evil in the world, but you're never told exactly why or how he got to be this way. We don't get any face to face confrontation, no stare down, no villainous monologue, just a boss fight.
This does not, however, make victory any less sweet.
Thanks for reading, and don't forget to check me out everywhere else.
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