Monday, March 03, 2008

So That's It. To Play Any Nintendo Game, Going Forward, I'm Going to Have to Wave a Stick at the TV.

I mean, every game? EVERY LAST GAME?

Is it just me, do I have to be the first one to say this - but isn't this completely stupid? How is it that an interface best suited for Mario Party 8 somehow became mandatory for every game on the system? Games like Metroid and Mario - games that require the finest precision - now have to somehow be reduced to magic wand waving, motion sensing control?


Look, I had as much fun as anybody slipping on the armband and trying out Wii Bowling for the first time. That was a great 20 minutes. Putting custom eyebrows on my Wii character and picking his hair? Great stuff. Kudos to Nintendo for delivering a quality half hour of entertainment.

But thanks to that one enjoyable diversion I have to see the greatest franchises in video game history forfeit their intricate and elaborate control schemes and submit to the magic wand fad? Again, I ask: every game? Every last game?

We've seen these games before. They're called Light Gun games. Light Gun games have their niche and they have their fans. If you're the kind of gamer who likes playing the same 10 minutes of game hundreds or thousands of times, then yes, light gun games are probably for you. But if the president of Nintendo announced that henceforth, every game for Nintendo would have to be a light gun game, wouldn't we all just be a little ticked? How is this Wii remote any different, in terms of the challenge it offers and the way it dumbs down a game, than a light gun?

Sure, kids, grannies, knock yourselves out. Casual gamers, pick up and play gamers, sure. There's a class of gamer out there who wants to experience everything the game has to offer in the first 10 minutes. The Cooking Mama gamer. The magic wand is perfect for this person. There's another class of gamer who wants a skill-equalizer. A game where a novice can be competitive against a pro. Like Mario Party, where whoever is ahead will be gradually handicapped until the others catch up. The magic wand is perfect for these gamers, because the skill-ceiling it offers is really quite low.

Nintendo man. I tell ya. For the last 5 years, this gimmick shit has taken over their corporate philosophy, and the available real estate for gamers like me has been shrinking and shrinking. First it was "connectivity". They wanted to turn the gameboy into a controller that you would attach to your Gamecube for innovative multiplayer. The Gameboy screen itself would become a secondary screen for use by the game.

Not a bad idea in theory, except for the inconvenient fact that in order to make proper use of this scheme, a game would have to be seriously dumbed down. The Zelda and Final Fantasy franchises produced 4-player offerings for this "connectivity" design, and, well, they were really bad. And a pain in the ass too. If you wanted to play Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles to its 40 hour conclusion, you had to find 3 other people, all with gameboys and connection cables, to meet somewhere for regular sessions of Final Fantasy multiplayer. Did that ever happen, anywhere?

Then the Sony PSP came out. I've never played a PSP, but I blame it for killing my Gameboy Advance. Nintendo was forced to counter the PSP by rushing out a successor to the GBA. And so we got the DS, with its stylus gameplay.

Fuck you, stylus.

So, with the DS, Nintendo basically said "If you want to continue to play your favorite Nintendo games on gameboy, then you're going to have to use this stylus." And with that edict, every gamemaker had to go back to the drawing board and put stylus functionality into their games. Useless, pain-in-the-ass, un-fun stylus gameplay.

"Well, that's okay." I said at the time. "I can still play my favorite games on the big screen." Then the Wii was announced and its wand-waving control scheme unveiled. And now it's all over. The lion's share of the greatest game franchises of all time - exclusive to Nintendo - are now only accessible to those willing to twirl this stick gaily about, swishing it this way and that, jerking, wiggling and pantomiming.

Look, video games have a certain cerebral component. They're not ALL just twitch button, arcade-y affairs. I like the strategy elements in an RPG, or an RTS game, or a puzzle game, or a an adventure game. These are games where there's not necessarily anything special about the controls. Tetris, one the greatest games of all time, really only requires two buttons: a directional pad and a rotation button. Games aren't always about the interface. In fact, the best games usually make you forget there even is an interface. Nintendo's decision to make every game a light gun game demonstrates that they don't give much of a rat's ass about that. They're going to differentiate their product in the only way they can - by creating a unique interface that's truly unusual and un-copyable. "No more ports," Nintendo is saying. Every Nintendo game will now be fully unique.

Well, fantastic. I'm glad it's worked. But in doing this they've changed the DNA of the games the system will support. Now every game has to somehow include all the excitement and challenge of that machine at Dennys where you try to grab the stuffed animal with the robotic claw.

I don't want that shit. I don't want my Wii to be party central. I want to zone out to a cool metroid game with the shades drawn and doritos on my shirt. The last game I was able to enjoy in the old fashioned style was the new Zelda, since a Gamecube version was released too.

And it wasn't even that good.

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