Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Third-Party Support on Wii U is Dwindling to Nothing? "So What?!" Here's What.

It's been a rough week for Wii U owners on the third-party front. The upcoming third-party releases on the system can be counted on one hand and at the very most a few spare fingers extra. Yes, indie developers are indeed picking up the slack for the lack of major third-party releases and that's great, but that isn't the magic solution that will fix Nintendo's struggling system's problems.

What seems like the most damning of third-party related news lately for the Wii U is that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare does not seem to be releasing on the system. This is a big deal in the sense that ever since the series started being published on a yearly cycle, Nintendo home consoles have not yet missed an entry. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare didn't release on the original Wii at the same time as the other home console versions, but it eventually did. With Advanced Warfare, this marks the first time that Call of Duty will be skipping a Nintendo home console. 

It doesn't sting so bad until you recall that Call of Duty always seemed like a sure thing for Nintendo platforms. No matter how poorly a home console of Nintendo's failed or was struggling, you could be quite certain that Call of Duty would be releasing on it. At the very least you'd get a delayed announcement near release, but Wii U owners like myself aren't even getting that. Instead, we've received what's pretty much a solid and firm "no" on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare hitting Wii U. When something that usually releases yearly on a Nintendo system suddenly doesn't, you know you've screwed up somewhere and somehow as a platform holder.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Unfortunately, the news of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare not reaching the Wii U wasn't met with sadness or regret on some places. No, the most fervent of Nintendo supporters instead went an embarrassing route instead, saying how Call of Duty isn't an important title for the Wii U to have, how Call of Duty is for 12 year-olds who shout racist and bigoted remarks online, and how Call of Duty won't be missed.

This is the same kind of overall sentiment that was being spouted on sites and areas where Nintendo enthusiasts generally congregate when Ubisoft president Yves Guillemot stated that the upcoming Watch Dogs would be the last "mature" title released for Wii U due to poor sales of titles like Assassin's Creed and ZombiU. Let's not be mistaken here-- Assassin's Creed III and IV were not totally awful ports, but they weren't optimized to run on the Wii U hardware. Still, even games finely tuned for the Wii U and made exclusively for the system didn't wow Ubisoft like its launch title ZombiU.

Regardless, the remarks by Ubisoft's president spurred a lot of anger within the more dedicated of Wii U owners, some of the same time of language was used. "We don't need Ubisoft", "Their ports were awful anyway", and "No real loss."

Wii U launch title ZombiU
Sadly, this is the same attitude that makes Nintendo home consoles such a volatile place for third-parties. These preconceived notions and "we didn't need that third-party anyway" attitudes make it so third-parties have a perfect excuse to not deal with Nintendo fans, especially the ones who can talk the talk yet can't walk the walk. Folks say they want third-party support, but the majority of titles from third-parties and heck, even from Nintendo itself, that do come out aren't purchased.

Is this entirely the fault of Wii U owners? I wouldn't say so. It's not even the total fault of the aforementioned "we didn't those games anyway" Wii U crowd. No, this is mostly on Nintendo's shoulders. Nintendo has botched the messaging and the release of the Wii U so badly that the repercussions of its failings will echo and last throughout this entire generation and most likely the next. When your install base is so small, it makes it quite challenging to have games sell well. Add in the fact that the Wii U is rather difficult to develop for compared to other platforms, and you have a recipe for third-party disaster. 

This is a well thought out comment, for sure,
that doesn't in any way come off as juvenile or
have any kind of sense of irony at all.
This isn't meant to be another article from yet another source stating the many reasons why Nintendo and the Wii U are not doing well and hammering that point home yet again. No, it's to say that the reasons specified make for a hard sell for third-parties. If you don't have a big install base to sell games to, especially on a Nintendo system, where historically third-party games are tough sells, then there's obvious reasons why you wouldn't want to spend money to develop on that platform. It's not because of bad blood with Nintendo, it's not that third-parties are conspiring against Nintendo-- it's just that it doesn't make financial sense. 

This isn't like the Wii where third-parties had an opportunity to do well on the system yet completely ignored the core audience that was once there (early in the Wii's life) and completely failed to do anything with it until it was much too late. This is a case where we have a platform that is selling at historically low levels, has a low attach ratio (despite all of the awesome Nintendo and even third-party games that are out there for present owners to enjoy), and one that isn't even making money for its manufacturer. Sure, it doesn't help that we have segments of the Nintendo fan base that view third-parties as the enemy, but the main issue is that developing for the Wii U just isn't lucrative of an idea at all. 

The thing that worries me and should worry Nintendo and its fans is the future. What possible reason should third-parties have to jump on Nintendo's hardware next generation? Let the record show that more third-parties do less than satisfactory on Nintendo home consoles than those that do well. How does Nintendo lure trepidation-ridden third-parties back? It feels like the West is a total lost cause unless Nintendo starts tailoring their user base to buy the games that the West tends to buy by the truckloads. Do we even want Nintendo to start making gory FPS games and sports titles? I don't necessarily, but Nintendo has to adapt to the times somehow (whether that's a new software strategy, new outlook on hardware, etc.) to stay as relevant as possible. 

All I know is that a home console landscape without Nintendo is not one that I want to be a part of. Here's hoping Nintendo makes the correct steps to strengthen its weak ties with third-parties and that certain Nintendo fans become more open to what is being released.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - A Sane Oasis in the Desert of Crazy Edition

I find it hard to care about writing about games when there's something much more infuriating happening about 15-20 miles away from my present location. I find it even harder to care about stupid little "outrages" like Ubisoft not pledging any more "mature-rated" content to Nintendo systems or how Samus Aran is wearing too skimpy of an outfit when there's far more important crap happening nearby. When you have an incident like the one in Ferguson occurring so close to you, it really puts the trivial garbage into perspective.

That said, I don't want to completely get consumed by what's happening near my location, 'else I'll lose what little is left of my mind. Therefore, here's SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs, bringing you and most importantly me, some video game tunes, something always sane in this always crazy world. This week's edition features music from Wild Arms, Nier, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

v686. Wild Arms (PS1) - Into the Wilderness

This plays during the pre-title cutscene in the original Wild Arms for the PlayStation. Of all the RPG franchises that have since laid dormant for a good while, one of the top series that I'd love to see make a return to a PlayStation home console is Wild Arms.

v687. Nier (PS3, 360) - Song of the Ancients Devola

To those who have played Nier, one of the most interesting and memorable parts of the game is the soundtrack, which is sensational. A lot of themes have a rustic feel to it or are supported by vocals. Coincidentally enough, both Nier themes represented on SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs have vocals of the female variety.

v688. Ragnarok Odyssey (PS3, Vita) - The Shining Plains

Ragnarok Odyssey's soundtrack was composed by Kumi Tanioka, who assisted in creating one of my favorite soundtracks, the original Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles soundtrack for the Nintendo GameCube. Ragnarok Odyssey is a more beginner-friendly Monster Hunter clone that received an expansion version in the form of Ragnarok Odyssey ACE. The latter will be the subject of a review later this week.

v689. Beyond Good and Evil (PS2, GCN, XBX) - Home Sweet Home

We're in an industry where old gameplay is masked as new IPs all the time. Big publishers release new franchises, yet these new franchises feel exactly like the old crap being released in the first place. Beyond Good and Evil was released at a time where budgets weren't as wild, creativity wasn't limited to mostly indies (whom hardly even existed back then), and new IPs were all about new gameplay and not just new characters and settings.

v690. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS) - Lorule Castle

I did not expect to be as blown away with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds as I was. The amount of freedom was rare for a modern-day Zelda game, the world was familiar yet fresh enough to feel great to explore, and the wall merge mechanic was absolutely awesome. And oh, my Hylia, the music! This theme, Lorule Castle, builds layer upon layer as each segment of the final dungeon is completed.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The PlayStation Vita's Hardware Functionality is Being Put to Better Use Than the Wii U's

Being neck deep in the dog days of summer, I've been playing a lot of both the Wii U and the PlayStation Vita lately, getting into titles I've not previously had the time to check out. While both platforms feature an immensely underrated and under-appreciated library of games respectively, I noticed something when I switched between playing the Wii U and then to the Vita. I found that the games I was playing on the Vita were using the system in much more interesting ways than the games I was playing on the Wii U with the GamePad controller, the main attraction of the system. How could this be? Had Sony finally beaten Nintendo at its own game of positive innovation?

With the Wii U, Nintendo struggles to deliver its message about what the Wii U actually is and what makes it worth purchasing. A large factor here is obviously the incredibly idiotic choice for a name (something that MANY people said would be confusing to consumers long before the system launched), but it's also the games as well. The top titles for the Wii U don't actually use the GamePad in any kind of meaningful way. 

Let's take the recent Mario Kart 8, for example. There isn't an option in multiplayer to have one player use the TV screen and one player use the GamePad. Instead, the screen is used for a map of each track, one that is a pain to look down at and try to stay on the track at the same time. Then there's something rather symbolic of Nintendo's complete bewilderment with taking a big franchise and making it better via the GamePad. Yes, I'm talking about the horn function. You, too, can use your Wii U GamePad screen to tap, tap, tap-a-roo to make your kart, bike, or ATV driver honk his or her horn. This is the best Nintendo could do for a major release on the Wii U. Essentially saying that the GamePad is completely worthless except if you like having to pay more for the Wii U hardware because of the controller's inclusion.

On the other hand, you have the PlayStation Vita. While it's true that a lot of games do feature the various hardware functionality of the system and do it poorly (looking at you, Assassin's Creed III: Liberation), the major titles on the system generally use the touch screen, rear touch pad, gyroscope, and accelerometer in great ways.
Screenshot of Gravity Rush (Vita)
LittleBigPlanet on the Vita and ModNation Racers: Road Trip both make creating levels and courses much easier for the player. The creator controls are intuitive and allow for a greater amount of finesse when crafting buildings, drawing shapes, tracing the path of a track in ModNation Racers, and various other helpful uses.

Perhaps the most fantastic use of the PlayStation Vita hardware's functionality is Media Molecule's Tearaway, recently announced for a remastered version on the PlayStation 4 at this year's Gamescom. You are constantly interacting with the world, using your fingers to poke through paper and push objects around, you create items out of construction paper, and you take photos with the Vita's inward and outward facing cameras to insert yourself and other things into the world. There's a no better proof of concept piece of software for the Vita than Tearaway.

The difference here between the Wii U and the Vita is that the PlayStation Vita is not Sony or the PlayStation brand's bread and butter, their major source of revenue. The Wii U is Nintendo's big home console, and when the developers and game designers cannot even think of good ways to make use of the Wii U GamePad itself, then what was the point of having it in the first place? It simply comes off this time around as Nintendo feeling like it needed to do something different for the sake of being different instead of what it usually does, design a controller based on the needs of the games it develops. 

For every experimental game that Nintendo releases that uses the GamePad to great lengths and in great ways like Nintendo Land, Wii Party U, Game and Wario, and LEGO City Undercover (the latter was published by Nintendo), there's a whole slew of major releases like Super Mario 3D World, New Super Mario Bros. U, Mario Kart 8, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Pikmin 3, among many others that use the GamePad in such pithy ways that it comes off as an afterthought.

And that's what the Wii U GamePad right now feels like for the majority of games, an afterthought. I won't lie and say I don't love using the controller for Miiverse, off TV play, and browsing the Internet, but the main selling point of Nintendo's home consoles has always been games. If the GamePad doesn't really make the biggest titles on the Wii U more exciting and interesting than just using a normal controller, then what is the point?

As it stands now, we have a rare moment in time where Sony is doing more innovative things with their hardware than Nintendo currently is, and that's with a platform that many are anxious to call dead. Remember the days when Sony would be chastised for "copying Nintendo"? Maybe it'd be good this time around for Nintendo to try to take a page or two out of Sony's playbook. Chapter one of that playbook would be not making a controller or input device that you have no idea what you want to do with it and bank the future of your company on it, losing millions, more like billions, in the process.

Nintendo Texas Hold 'Em reviewed

The following is a sponsored post.
This Nintendo poker game tries to recreate the true online poker experience and does this by choosing the most popular poker game of them all; Texas Hold‘Em.

Texas Hold'Em, in its true form, sees players begin with two hole cards which are dealt face down and hidden from other players, and eventually five community cards dealt face-up in the center of the table, with betting after each round of deals. The winner of each hand is the person who creates the best five-card poker hand by using any combination of their hole cards and the community cards.(check the rules here)

Nintendo uses a relatively simple format as used by most major providers, which is universally popular. The game allows you to play different games in either a tournament format or in a head-to-head competition, and players are able to practice before tournament play to make sure they are fully satisfied that they understand the intricacies of the game.

It largely succeeds in recreating a casino experience, sticking rigidly to the tried and tested Texas Hold’Em format which has become popular throughout the world. People who buy the game will surely have heard of Texas Hold ‘Em and there is nothing in this game to frighten them too much, as it sticks to the traditional format of the two hole cards and five community cards.

The game also has a good and clear menu, so you can access the section you want quickly and easily. The graphics, as you would expect from Nintendo, are excellent throughout. I also liked the way the player can work his or her way up, starting in relatively humble surroundings in Nevada, but by using their skills and reputation in the game, can eventually earn the chance to play in the glamorous tournaments of Las Vegas.

Another attractive feature from Nintendo (which is available when using an internet connection), is a table showing the worldwide rankings, where you will see your standings on the leaderboard go up or down according to your success at the tables. There is also, of course, a multiplayer format so up to five of you can play together. However, as a lone player you can also go online to challenge players of a similar skill level to yourself.

Also, as with most Wii games, you can use the character support to create a likeness of yourself. You can then either use one of the six characters on offer or import your own Mii to participate.

Though Texas Hold ‘Em is not the hardest game to grasp, this version gives you the opportunity to learn the game and its intricacies as fully as you want so you can master the rules and also the art of bluffing. After all, so much of poker is how you behave at the table. I like the way that this aspect of poker, which could be ignored in a gaming format, is embraced. As a game, it is well worth a try.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Metrico (Vita) Review

Metrico was released about a week ago on the PlayStation Store for Vita owners to enjoy and dive into. The game is also available this month only for PlayStation Plus subscribers for a low price of FREE. Can't beat free, but as you'll discover with this review, Metrico is worth its price tag regardless.

Warning: The following game features infographic content.
Viewer discretion advised. 

The indie initiative on the PlayStation Vita is going strong, and that can only be a good thing for all parties involved. Since retail releases in the West have all but dried up, digital releases have been taking over, offering a well rounded library that the Vita otherwise wouldn't possess. Indies have single-handily made it so the Vita is still relevant in the West, and the Vita has made it so many of these indies have found great success on the platform.

We've seen an abundant array of experimental titles that have broken new ground and games that offer fresh takes on old formulas and genres. Developer Digital Dreams's Metrico is a title that can be mentioned in both categories, and this game is definitely worthy of taking a look. (It's especially so if you have PlayStation Plus, as the game is free for subscribers this month.)

Metrico is a platformer focusing heavily on solving pzzules that has its actual platforming take place on various statistical information, such as pie charts, bar graphs, and much more. It's a very clever idea and an interesting premise for sure. Thankfully, it's not just interesting for a premise; it makes for a really fun game too.

The developers of Metrico went with a minimalist approach to not just the visuals, which are sleek, futuristic, and well designed, but also with the design of the game itself. You will not encounter copious amounts of tutorials that hold your hand from the beginning of the game to the end. In fact, tutorials are kept to a bare minimum, only coming into play a handful of times throughout this grand platforming adventure.

Metrico encourages experimenting, and thanks to the innovative and mostly intuitive uses of the PlayStation Vita hardware, this experimentation makes for a roaring good time. Metrico is all about player inputs affecting and influencing the world around them.

Some platforms only rise up when the player jumps, while some only lower when the player moves to the right. Yes, it's all about experimentation, and getting stuck is a part of that experience. However, it is immensely gratifying to finally overcome a particular sticking point after pondering over it and trying out different strategies for 10 or even 20 minutes.

The PlayStation Vita's various hardware functionality is heavily featured in Metrico. Buttons allow for jumping and returning to checkpoints; the latter of which returns the current puzzle room back to its original form. However, there's also alternative inputs like shaking the Vita itself and using the back touch pad to line up, aim, and fire shots.

While most of these inputs work well and feel intuitive, I did have more issues with aiming with the rear touch pad than I wanted to witness. The rear touch pad isn't the most precise means of aiming, and shooting with the right shoulder button simultaneously can feel like rubbing your head and patting your stomach at the same time. Go ahead and try it. It's a little challenging without having your patting hand make a circular motion like your rubbing hand.

The trouble here is that several puzzles require you to aim and precisely fire at enemies. When each time you fire a platform raises and if you miss enough shots (which is VERY easy to do unfortunately), the platform raises so high that it's impossible to jump over, things can become rather vexing.

Metrico can be beaten in an afternoon's time, but there are collectibles to acquire, three in each level. These are as simple as just coming across them and finding them. No, you have to organize the various platforms in a way that satisfies the condition for the said collectible to appear. In addition to collectibles, the trophies included with Metrico offer alternate ways to play the game, adding to the replay value presented.

While Metrico is a short game, it's one that will bend your mind with its simple yet complex puzzle platforming and keep you engaged from start to finish. It's by no means a perfect gaming experience, as the actual platforming isn't as great as I would like (the perspective in some levels makes knowing how wide some platforms are difficult to ascertain) and some frame-rate drops in between level sections. However, those looking for yet another innovative indie title for their PlayStation Vita will definitely find a lot to like with Metrico.

[SPC Says: 7.0/10]


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