Wednesday, August 15, 2012

SPC Soapbox - 8/15/12 Sony's Gamescom, Zelda's relevancy, & Wii U's supposed gimmickry

I am now retiring the SPC Mailbox. From its ashes and taking over is the SPC Soapbox. I find that I have a lot of topics I want to talk about, but I don't have enough to say about them to fill a full article. That's where the SPC Soapbox comes in. I get to talk about not only subjects I want to discuss, but I also get to touch upon topics that are of interest to the SPC community (so in essence the SPC Mailbox lives on).

For the inaugural edition of the Soapbox segment, I will ramble in my generally incoherent fashion about Sony's presentation at Gamescom, the question regarding if The Legend of Zelda series is still relevant, and whether or not the Wii U is merely a gimmick. Let's begin.

Sony's Gamescom

I was absolutely excited by what was shown by Sony at Gamescom. Their presentation was wonderful with such trailers like LittleBigPlanet for Vita, PlayStation One games on Vita, The Last of Us on PS3, new characters for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, and much more. It was much more appealing to me than any of the E3 pressers. 

The question actually being posed by some now is whether Sony's PlayStation Vita is saved. Well, I think that is severely jumping the gun, but it was quite encouraging in some regards, not so much in others. A criticism I had with the Sony's handling of the Vita was that they were putting their B-teams on the system, having some perceive that not even Sony considered the Vita worth the time and effort. With Media Molecule's delightful-looking Tearaway and Guerilla Games' gritty Killzone: Mercenary and following Clap Hanz's Hot Shots Golf 6, some of Sony's big teams are pushing new Vita products.

But then my problem comes from the idea that PlayStation 3 owners are going to buy a Vita just to play their PS3 games (via Cross Play/Buy functionality) on a portable to take around wherever they so desire. The Vita is still $250 without a memory card. Game and system bundles will build to the value of the Vita, but they are still missing a memory card, a vital asset to have to play and save games. I think only the most fervent PlayStation fans are going to bother buying a Vita just to play games on the go that they can get and enjoy on the PS3 and play at home.

But what about non-hardcore PlayStation gamers? What will entice them to pick up the handheld? Ports from the PS3 most likely won't. That's why I was encouraged by seeing all-new games made exclusively for the Vita (i.e. no way to play them on a PS3). However, I believe a price cut (if even possible) would make Vita a more alluring piece of gaming glory to the wider gaming populace.

Furthermore, the Vita's third-party situation isn't very promising as many publishers still seem to not want to dip their toes into the system's proverbial waters. Sony even admitted they have had more trouble than originally anticipated courting third-parties to develop for their system, and Gamescom did nothing to relieve any doubt. Of course, we will see what happens at next month's Tokyo Game Show, but it seems we're constantly playing the "wait for [insert event]" game for Vita.

Anyway, tt was revealed that Nihilistic Software is actually creating the Vita's installment of Call of Duty: Black Ops on the system, and not one of Activision's major developers. After seeing how well Resistance: Burning Skies turned out and seeing Declassified in action, I have some reservations in getting interested for the game. The only other major third-party title is Assassin's Creed's Vita debut in Liberation, a game that is a spinoff, but don't be fooled-- it looks mighty sharp and worthwhile. The thing of it is, however, is that this game will be releasing alongside the console installments on the same day. Will it do well in that circumstance?

We can only debate about how well the Vita will do, but whether or not you think the Vita's fortunes sales-wise will turn around, it's hard to argue that the Vita is looking all the more appealing. It's a good time to be a fan of PlayStation and gaming in general.

Is The Legend of Zelda series still relevant?

This question popped up across gaming sites after The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword did not light up the charts in sales. However, many seem to forget that: 1) The game required a peripheral. I highly doubt that the same audience that would play Wii Sports Resort (the software that originally came with the MotionPlus attachment) are the same ones who would pick up and enjoy Skyward Sword, and 2) The latest Zelda game came out when the Wii was pretty much dead. Nintendo hadn't been supporting the system well for more than half of 2011. Skyward Sword was their swansong, and for many Wii owners who would play that type of game, their Wiis were packed in their closets for a long while. Approximately 3.5 million sales worldwide is nothing to sneeze at for a game that released on a system on life support and with a needed peripheral. I think Wii owners dusting off their consoles just to play a new Zelda and continued admiration for the series's past and present games makes for a franchise that is still very much relevant.

Is the Wii U a gimmick?

I believe Nintendo has more often than not been thriving to not rest on their laurels with their hardware, and the teams there constantly push to expand how gamers play. Sometimes Nintendo gives us gamers something that we didn't even know we wanted until we got it. With the NES we got the d-pad. With the SNES we got shoulder and four face buttons. With the N64 we were introduced to a weird little knob known as the analog stick -- making 3D gaming easier to control. The Nintendo DS brought a dual screens including a touch screen to a dedicated handheld. The Wii brought with it motion controlled gaming for everyone. In fact, the GameCube was the only console that didn't stray the path of normalcy and didn't innovate, and Nintendo's system received last place in the highly hyped console wars. One can argue till the cows come home whether or not that's a coincidence.

Now the Wii U has a GamePad that acts like a second screen or a primary screen for gameplay. Can't play off the TV screen? Some titles offer the ability to switch the gameplay to the GamePad. If being a gimmick means bringing new and fun ideas to gaming that are original and pushing or influencing other companies to move our hobby forward instead of being content with stagnation, then gimmick away. The word "gimmick" has just turned into "something I don't like" by critics of Kinect, Wii U, and anything that dares to be different anyway. But we have to remember that even the stuff we can't live without now like analog sticks and online play were once considered gimmicks in the past.

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