Review of Samus Returns for the 3DS

Samus Returns is a game that wants to be something, but can’t. After all, it is a remake of an existing game, Metroid 2: Return of Samus. On top of that, not only is the original game a beloved classic, but it’s also very old, and runs on a piece of hardware that was outdated even when it was brand new.

All of these factors work to dictate what a game like Samus Returns can and cannot do. By the rules of Modern Videogame Design, the following elements of 1991’s Return of Samus are unacceptable:

  • Its stark, mostly-black backgrounds.
  • It’s creepy chiptune music, despite the fact that it helps to create a certain mood that is absolutely perfect for the game’s setting.
  • The fact that the planet is mysteriously drained of deadly acid as you kill Metroids.
 →  Games are the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.

Counting the Game Industry’s Gold

Like most industries, the gaming industry is bound by the conventional economic wisdom that you must spend money to make money. Historically, that’s meant taking a loss on every game system sold (with the notable exception being most Nintendo consoles) in order to tap into selling game after game to console owners. This measure of success is known as the “attachment rate” or “tie ratio.” A somewhat (November 2008) dated Gamasutra chart shows that the Xbox was in the lead, with 6.6 games/system sold, followed by the Wii at 5.5 and the PS3 at 5.3.

This statistic has historically been a powerful metric for measuring market penetration and overall success for a console. After all, what’s the point of selling a console if you can’t sell game after game? But as with many things in today’s integrated media world, the lines have blurred and traditional metrics don’t necessarily tell the whole story. →  Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the article?

News We Care About Update 12.29.08

Nintendo to offer streaming videos, just not here
Nintendo is bizarrely slow to adopt some aspects of technology. Their latest console, the Wii (pronounced “Why”), has only cursory online abilities, and lacks both a practical storage device and the ability to function as a time machine.

As a curmudgeon who spouts things like, “Game systems should do nothing but play games” I was once on board with Nintendo’s seemingly similar stance. Their real position, which they have revealed at glacial speed, is game consoles should do a lot of things poorly and much, much later than other game consoles.

Whether this half-assed approach to new technology will be their ultimate undoing as Sony and Microsoft take over your living room in 2010, your wine cellar in 2015 and your apiary in 2020 is yet to be seen. →  Double your reading, double your fun.

The Small, White Elephant in the Room

Every month I get game magazines with beautiful characters from HD games splashed across their covers. The latest EGM features the Watchmen, the newest Edge details Little Big Planet and Game Developer dives into downloadable XBLA game The Age of Booty. Roundtable discussions in these magazines with developers and producers invariably focus on HD games and the challenge of creating and bringing them to market.

If you don’t follow the monthly NPD report you probably would have no idea that Nintendo has a significant lead in the American market. While the old guard of gaming press has been slow to downright resistant in accepting the Wii, the blame for the lack of Wii game coverage rests almost entirely on publishers. EGM has a tough time doing a cover story on non-existent games, and, while Babiez Party may be better than Mass Effect, diapers don’t look good on front pages. →  A delayed article is eventually good, a rushed article is all we post.

Sony follows the lonely path

The new PS3 commercial shows a handful of games set to what sounds like a clip from a Gladiator or Braveheart type movie. A warrior with a middle ages accent (ye olde accent) rallies his comrades before a glorious battle. To Sony this console business is a battle, and a bloody $3 billion one so far.

Only declaring war openly and drawing lines in the sand is not what Sony needs to do now. The call for brotherhood in the commercial clearly creates an us-versus-them image but it is this exclusive mentality (remember, the PS3 is like a fine dining experience) that put Sony in third place this generation. Launching at $600 and offering the bleeding edge of movie playing capabilities did not make the PS3 a very accessible machine and these advertisements only reinforce the idea that if I am not hardcore, if I am not willing to join Sony is a vicious battle against its enemies, then the PS3 is not for me. →  Hot Shots Post 3

Review – Ninja Gaiden II

Ninja Gaiden 2 is not an earth-shattering masterpiece. As much as the fan in me wants to spout absurd levels of hyperbole that put recent GTA4 and MGS4 reviews to shame, and devote five paragraphs to how this game’s Oscar-worthy story made me regret having even existed before its release date, I feel it’s more relevant to discuss why games like this are so important in the current landscape of the video game industry.

The game represents what I consider to be the “Nintendo Legacy.” Back in the Sega & Nintendo days, games were short. A combination of small development groups, limited resources, and hardware abilities of the time meant that games of the era were around 2-5 hours long. So how do you give a player lasting value to justify the price tag for such a short experience? →  Do a barrel read!

Playing catch up – River City Ransom

In my attempt to rectify my mostly Nintendo-less childhood I have been purchasing Virtual Console games at an unhealthy rate. Chrono Trigger and Super Mario World both lived up to their legendary reputations so I was excited to finally try River City Ransom (ignore that it’s slightly less popular and on a different console from the other two).

River City Ransom’s similarities to Double Dragon are obvious and I am proud to say it took about a second for me to figure out how to jump kick. (A and B at the same time for all you losers who haven’t played the exact same games as I have). The move set does seem somewhat pared down, though – is it actually possible to headbutt or elbow in River City Ransom? The action is ultimately very similar to earlier Technos games (such as Renegade) if a little less exciting. →  I’d buy that for a dollar.

Apple and Agents (of the Elite Beat variety)

The Apple/Nintendo rumor mill has existed for a few years now, usually popping up quarterly or biannually with either a rumor about the two companies, or simple posturing about them. This leads to armies of geeks believing a merger is imminent, even though there is no proof or even any grumblings from either company about it. People simply look at how similar the two companies are, and somehow put two and two together (even if there is nothing to put together).

But maybe we are getting smarter about this inane trend. This time around, Forbes looks at how the iPhone might kill the Nintendo DS. The article cites the iPhone’s touch screen and accelerometer abilities as combining the features of the Wii and the DS. It also claims that the ability to quickly and easily download software wirelessly will make gaming simple and painless. →  I'll get a job later, for now I'm going to read this

The promise of motion control

Who wrote this unspoken hardcore gamer law that we can’t enjoy a game that engages more than just our brains and fingertips? Just because our hobby has been sedentary in the past, a lot of people seem to want to treat this as some kind of necessary condition to enjoyment of a game. I’ve wondered why so many people scoffed at the notion of actually having to move their arms to play a videogame or, heaven forbid, stand up from the couch. I’ll be the first to admit this may not be conducive to hours long grinds or extended raid sessions, but Nintendo wasn’t looking to give you those kinds of experiences. Thankfully, it seems the emotionally mature members of the gamer demographic have realized this and accepted the Wii for what it is – something that’s striving to give us a very different kind of experience. →  Lamers so loved the world that they gave their only article, so that everyone who believes in reading won’t perish but will have eternal lives.

The next gen consoles then and now

Folks, it has been some time since the “next gen” was actually the next. I think it is about time to call it the current gen, and on that note, I think it is time to re-evaluate the three major players in the race. Much has changed, and my opinion of each console has changed wildly. Note that this is not an attempt to analyze who is going to “win” the console war. I think that it is quite clear that so long as there are games like Wii Fit and Wii Sports released at the right times, Nintendo is going to be unchallenged in total sales numbers. Meanwhile Sony and Microsoft will claim the Wii is not a true competitor, and then spin the numbers to make it look like they were the true winners. →  All your posts are belong to us.

News We Care About Wrapup – 5.30.08

Beyond good and sequels
Beyond Good and Evil 2 was recently released much to the joy of gaming forums everywhere. Sequels are exciting because it means more of something good. That we long for sequels seems to stem from a few things but most of them point to problems in the industry. It means we expect crap and usually get crap and when a game that’s worth playing actually comes out we want more because the other option is crap. We want sequels because we do not trust developers to make good games. If Ancel is given full reign over his next project and allowed to do what he wants, then let the man create something new. Shadow of the Colossus is the perfect example – a great game by the same designer as a game you love is even better than a sequel. →  The Last Readment

News We Care About Wrap Up – 5.23.08

Too early to declare a console victor
Ignore that Microsoft recently declared that history has shown us that the first system to 10 million historically wins the race, thus heavily implying their console is the winner as it’s sold a little over 10 million in the states. Their new PR line is that declaring a winner between the PS3, Wii and 360 will be impossible until one of them reaches 100 million in sales. By this logic the only systems to have ever “won” a generation are the PS1 (barely) and the PS2, and they did it after many years on the market, long after it became apparent to everyone who doesn’t work for Microsoft that Sony had won those generations.

The long term angle behind this absurd criteria for victory may be to prevent Microsoft acknowledging any victor this generation. →  Zone of the Readers: The 2nd Reader

Review – LostWinds

As I searched for the final area of LostWinds my entire family died in a flaming plane crash. I mean the game crashed as I was going from one area to another. The controller stopped responding and I was once again forced into physical activity by the Wii. I made my way to the system and shut it off, annoyed that I had stumbled upon one of the LostWinds glitches I’d read about but still psyched because I knew I’d finish the game in the next half hour. So I rebooted the console and loaded up the game again. All the save files were gone. Crashing and being turned off during the hang up removed all the progress I had made. It’s safe to assume I am reviewing a game I did not finish. →  The post still burns.

Ubisoft publishes crap on Wii, crap doesn’t sell, Ubisoft confused

North American Ubisoft president Laurent Detoc recently showed concern over his company’s Wii titles. According to a recent Gamasutra article –

“He acknowledged the Wii in particular has been difficult for Ubisoft to find success with. Pointing to the console’s generous sales, he noted that games published for the Wii made up only 10 percent of Ubisoft’s sales last year, and added that the company will need to work harder to create games that will ‘sell as well as Nintendo’s own Wii titles.'”

Let us run through the list of games Ubisoft has published for the Wii as it may elucidate the company’s problems.

No More Heroes – A great game, by far Ubisoft’s best reviewed Wii title, also made by a talented developer (so obviously not Ubisoft). Given zero marketing, guaranteeing this quirky ultraviolent title’s demise. →  Sonic the Readhog

Discussion Review – Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Smash Bros Brawl is no doubt the biggest game to hit the Wii yet, and if history indicates anything, it very well could be the best selling Wii game by the time the console retires. Such epic expectations seem daunting, though we know that many fans are already more than pleased with the results. With experience in all three games, videolamer’s Chrises explore the world of Brawl.

Christian: Alright Chris, we’ll get right down to it. As a “love letter to the fans”, how does Brawl stack up? Personally, I am impressed with the sheer amount of content, but am shaky on the execution. The music is abundant, but too many of the tracks are straight out of the game they came from, and the newly arranged tracks are often a little too conservative for my liking. →  Let’s get read-y.

Tales From Behind The Counter – Mutant Powers of Femdom

One thing that sets my store apart from other video games retailers is our game testing stations. Each of the two stores I flutter between during the week is equipped with just about every major gaming console made in the last twenty years and we encourage people to try out the games before they take them home. This also means that when it is slow, I pretty much play any game I want. Life is good. The other night the battle of the sexes erupted at my Xbox 360 test station.

These two high school kids were playing one of the Soul Caliber games and the girl was absolutely rocking this poor guy’s newly pubescent world. You see, this naive young man confidently entered into a contest of furious button mashing with a girl that had no clue how to play the game. →  You’re tearing me apart lamers!

Tales From Behind The Counter – I Am A Snobby Bastard

It is inevitable that this topic is going to come up so I will tackle it now. Today’s secret word is a fun one: elitist. When I hear that word, my initial response is a simple, “Yes. I. Am.”

Every genre of media has its upper echelon of assholes who insist that their opinion on the topic is really, truly the only one that matters. I consider myself to be above that upper echelon. I have titled myself a “post-gamer”. I have basically played so many video games for so long that I really don’t like them anymore. In fact, talking about video games usually bores the living daylights out of me and watching people play video games is akin to making small cuts with a dull knife on the fleshy, inner part of my thigh. →  Just read it.

Something old, new, recycled and blue

I’ve decided to condense two potential blog posts into one topic, as they are both somewhat similar in nature. I should do this more often, as it seems to force me to take my almost article length ramblings and cut them down into something readable. A win for all.

Some time ago Jay wrote a discussion on Mario and how he is anything but a throwaway character. Interesting then that a “games editor” at Softpedia (a site which I have only known before as a place where I failed to get working drivers) has claimed that mascots like Mario and Sonic should be locked up in a museum and never put into another game, starting right this minute. His reasoning is that they are old and stale, and offer nothing new to the gaming table, hurting the industry more than helping. →  Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this post!

Review – Spider-Man: Friend or Mere Acquaintance

In another installment in my untimely series on finding something to hate while surrounded by the best games in years, here’s another look at games that ate shit in 2007.

Until recently, the Spider-Man franchise had been the only comic book license that somewhat translated into an enjoyable gaming experience. Next Level Games, a company that specializes in cramming a licensed properties into games that have nothing to do with the license they are based on, must have won some sort of raffle to be awarded the development of Friend or Foe. Any company that works solely in licensed games is going to suck worse than a circus put on by disabled veterans. Anyone who tells you different is Next Level Games.

Now That's Amore!

With hands full of cash and laps full of stripper, Next Level Games didn’t waste time on relating this game to the movie or even comic when they had already developed what I can only assume would have been called Mario Strikers Love Corndogs if Nintendo had called them first. →  Go ahead, read my day.

Review – Advance Wars: Days of Ruin

Sequels are usually a bad thing. For every one that changes game mechanics enough to make the new series entry fresh, there are five that tweak the graphics slightly, add a new combo counter and a new character or two. A sequel should not replace the original game; simple expansions of themes and mechanics should not cost full retail price. Instead, gamers deserve sequels that coexist with the originals. Super Mario 2 did not replace Super Mario 1, nor did 3 replace 2 – all of them were different enough to warrant keeping the older titles around. This is how sequels should be handled (someone inform EA, please).

By “somewhat powerful” it means “very weak”.

Luckily for me, my ludicrous idealism is not applied uniformly. Certain series are built on such solid foundations that to demand they entirely reinvent themselves with each entry is unreasonable. →  It might come in handy if you, the master of reading, take it with you.