Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Nintendo Guy

I'm a Nintendo guy. Nintendo is what I grew up on, and it's all I've ever owned. NES, SNES, N64, GameCube, Wii, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, and DS. Sure, we had an Atari, but it technically belonged to my parents and resided at my grandparents' house. So I guess I'm a Nintendo and Atari guy.

I have my reasons for such brand loyalty--specifically, nobody else ever made any games that appealed to me. Too many games were dark, gritty, and serious, with no identifiable characters. Nintendo had Samus, Mega Man, Kirby, and Luigi (sorry, Mario). Sega had Sonic and--as far as I knew--only Sonic. At least I knew the Sonic games were kinda fun; the PlayStation had nothing going for it but the next Final Fantasy game. Crash Bandiwho?

Graphics have rarely been the deciding factor in anything for me, but the the few non-Sonic games I saw on the Sega Genesis looked amateurish or visually cluttered, diminishing my interest. Good controllers, on the other hand (or in both hands, as it were), were the deciding factor in why I never got a PlayStation 2.

I'm probably the only person in the world to have this issue with the well-loved PS2, but something about the buttons and shape of the controller put my hands in pain after about 30 minutes, not unlike Metroid Prime Hunters. Beating the intense final boss of Mega Man X4 on a friend's PS2 was one of the most challenging things I've ever done in a video game, and part of the reason was because my hands were stiff and twitching by the end of the post-boss cutscene.

Not that the Wii is any better, mind you. Maybe there's something about modern controllers in general. One of the reasons I'll never get an Xbox is that I can't play any of the games. Well, I can't play any of the first-person shooters, anyhow.

I do quite well with FPS games on the PC. I specialize in carrying around the dinkiest gun in the game, administering headshots to the needy. On a console, deprived of my precision mouse, the time it takes me to line up one shot is approximately the amount of time I have to live. Controls that do what I tell them to are absolutely critical in my enjoyment of a game, and no amount of practice and controller sensitivity tweaking has ever made a significant difference in my ability to not get fragged.

More and more I'm finding that I enjoy watching other people play Xbox games. The only games I'm interested in watching on a PlayStation console are ones that I might actually play someday, should I ever find a more comfortable controller. Xbox, on the other hand, is entertaining when it's two of your friends playing split-screen cooperative in Borderlands, Left 4 Dead, or Halo: Reach.

That's when I can appreciate the graphics. That's when I can get into the action. The controls are no good for me, but it's neat to see people who actually know what they're doing. It's interesting to watch their playing styles and their reactions to things. These are games I normally wouldn't be that interested in, but when the game is an unconventional vehicle for me to hang out with friends, things are so much better.

I'm a Nintendo guy, but I'm an Xbox groupie. Go figure.


Xan said...

Interesting. You and I seem to be opposite gamers. I've been very much a playstation gamer for a while now, largely for a lot of the reasons you seem to not like it (one of which definitely being the controller, which I've found to be the closest to how a hand naturally rests. I'm with you on Xbox controllers, though.) I've found (in general, of course) that the stories and writing is much more sophisticated and engaging, as well as having a much higher percentage of rpgs, by far my favored genre. In my opinion Nintendo has stagnated in terms of game lineup and characters. They keep trotting out the same characters again and again and again, giving us an endless line of rehashes of Mario, Link, and Samus. I remember even as a kid getting to my second Mario game and thinking "wait, didn't I already give this spiny over-sized turtle a beat down last time? And the princess was stupid enough to be caught again?" I much prefer the Final Fantasy model of telling a story about engaging characters from beginning to end, and then being done with them. Start fresh for the next game with new characters and a new story, rather than trying to shoehorn a contrived story around pre-existing characters just for the sake of squeezing more cash out of an already liked character. I'm not against ever making a sequel, but it should only be done if you have a great story idea that uses that character, rather than writing a story around a character for the sake of including them.

Nintendo seems intent on beating every last cent from their popular characters rather than actually creating new and engaging characters. For a while now it has felt to me like Nintendo's stock characters have been on life support, and someone very much needs to pull the plug.

Flashman85 said...

Interesting back at'cha. ;)

I won't deny that the last few Metroid games and half of the Zelda series are largely rehashes of the past. Mario, on the other hand, has constantly reinvented itself while retaining the basic elements and characters that people like.

Not every game has been wildly innovative and unique, but the series has been successful in consistently introducing new worlds, new game mechanics, and new challenges while retaining the elements that got people interested in the first place.

You could easily turn this argument around and accuse the Final Fantasy series of stagnation. I've played through six games in the main series, two spinoffs, and a remake, and I can tell you that it's all swords, crystals, Chocobos, Tonberries, and grinding for XP. If the recurring elements of the series don't interest me, and if I care more about gameplay than story, I won't think very highly of the series.

Part of it's a matter of perspective, and part of it is a fault of the gaming industry. Sequels can't take too many risks, or sales may drop and the fans may get upset. Games (and media in general) have either become overly cautious, or maybe uninspired and misguidedly nostalgic during the past decade.

Super Smash Bros. has done a lot to (re)introduce "lost" Nintendo characters such as Roy, Marth, and that dude from Kid Icarus into the public consciousness. Donkey Kong just made a big comeback after playing second banana to Wario since the late 90s. We've finally got other characters to focus on again--if there's been stagnation, it's from trying to satisfy fan demand for a new Zelda game every year.

I'm hopeful that, with the advent of downloadable indie games, "old news" motion controls becoming an option more than a requirement, and powerhouse sequels that aren't rushed out the door (Portal 2), this decade's crop of games will be a little more inspired and willing to take risks.