September 2nd, 2005

icon by quebelly

Damn you, Nintendo!

So far I have managed to stay out of this whole next generation handheld console thing... I figured if anything, I might eventually get a PSP, for the media aspect (once the standards opened up a little... and it can already be a fairly decent portable video player if sufficiently hacked). If I want to use a computer in a strange place, I already have a laptop, and Lappy 486 it may be, but it works.

(I did get a GBA so I could play the castlevania games, but GBA's are pretty cheap. And I haven't actually used it as a handheld in a long time... Since I don't actually do the portable gaming thing, I much preferred plugging it into the GBA/GC adapter and playing them on a big screen, with a real controller. (or using the GBA as a controller, thanks to that wacky GBA As GC controller adapter thing...)

And I have made fun of the DS... It seemed really gimmicky. Two screens? A touchpad stylus and a microphone? That may sound supiciously like the chorus from Where it's at, but it seemed laughably Inspector Gadgetish at the time it was announced... The same sort of Ed Wood style technological hubris that brought us the Virtual Boy.

And now I'm starting to fear that I may have to buy one of the damn things.

Ideological issues and brand loyalty aside, we ultimately buy game consoles for the games. There is sort of a blurring of the lines these days, now that some game systems also play DVDs, or act as mexican cuisine themed cell phones or oversized USB keychain drives, but gimmicks aside, these things are still primarily for games.

And Nintendo is still relevant in the market today because they really do understand the whole "games" thing, perhaps better than Sony in some ways. While most PSP games are essentially squeezed down versions of big budget PS2 games (or modified ports of PS1 games), the DS developers have been turning out crazy shit... Much as though Nintendo encouraged them all to take that Fisher Price Activity Center of weird input devices they've provided and just go buck wild with it. The games are old school... and strange. Many of them take advantage of things that are only possible while you're holding the game console and screen in your hands, rather than trying to pretend you are squinting at a PS2 through a tiny hole in space. Fun in an immediate, cartoony, "not playing for 4-6 hours to get to the good part" kind of way.

There are people who think 2D (or even partially 2D) games aren't worth playing anymore... But those of us who remember the old school stuff also remember that it was fun. And rather than be totally retro, these old school style titles do take advantage of the extra power and dangly bits of the new console. I didn't like the idea of a stylus, until they announced that they were making a Castlevania game where you could cast spells and tap around for secret doors with it. Or even the screens, until they released the Advance Wars sequel where you can watch two battles at once, or see air and ground combat at the same time. And they now have high quality music, sound, tons of space for extra unlockable items (what made Symphony of the Night one of the best games for the Playstation, despite being 2D and old school), and full motion video anime cutscenes...

We are shielded somewhat from the full intensity japanese wackiness here in the US. We're probably never going to get that heart surgery game, or the cooking sim where you chop up vegetables with the stylus, but there is some cool stuff out there... Including the sequels to all those cool old school games that you can actually enjoy within the short timespan I usually have to play console games... Dammit...
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