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Category: Games
Wednesday, May 18th, 2005 @ 12:58 am
Posted By xerxes7

So it seems there is a bit of rancor in the gallery regarding Nintendo's announcements today. Sometimes I see stuff like that and I kind of hang my head and acknowledge that the company I have pledged myself to in this round HAS gotten stuff kind of backwards (but their hearts are in the right place... man). Not today, though. No, not today.

Today, I went to work a full two hours later than I would like to have because the information started dumping out and I was unable to leave this chair. Sometimes one is bored and kind of scans a site like Slashdot, hitting F5 every once in awhile. Today, I was going back and forth between a few sites, wearing that F5 down until the silkscreen is hardly there. I was experiencing something like Christmas morning, circa five years old. There was nothing to show for it in my hands, but my brain was positively glowing. See, MY team is doing something cool.

I don't know if it was Brian at Kotaku or Joel at Gizmodo, but one of them pointed out that Nintendo was finally settling into being a proud 3rd place runner. That's great. I am tired of the race. Microsoft got first because they bought the fastest shoes they could find and then went on some crazy-assed steroid and coke binge, only to come out at the end and say they weren't really interested in the race, they just wanted everyone in theworld to buy shirts with their licensed image on them. Sony trained by running 10 miles a day when the race was only 2 blocks long. And Nintendo?As I see it, they were just out to stretch their legs and appreciate the nice weather. But they'll gladly stick around for another race because it's fun.

And that's where it's at, folks. The fun. Simple, reasonably affordable fun.

I was out of consoles for awhile. The Nintendo 64's controller was too damned strange for me to wrap my brain around. The Playstation wasn't calling to me much. Sega couldn't stick with one console for longer than a year. PCs had games I was interested in. Ta da.

Then my computer started needing more upgrades to stay afloat in game land than I could justify. And then I saw a commercial for Jet Grind Radio. And then Sega folded the Dreamcast. And then I jumped in.

The price helped. $40 for a console and games between $5 and $20 certainly says, "Give it a shot." But if it hadn't been for the ability to tag and skate in an absorbing, stylish, and FUN environment, it would have stopped there. Then I talked to a fish. And it talked back. And then I drove a taxi while listening to Offspring more than I would ever want to. And then I looked around and found that some of my childhood's fondest memories fit well within the bounds of a 3-inch disc. I remembered where I came from and I knew where I had to get back to.

My brother had an X-Box. It had the devil's name right on the front of it for all the world to see. It had a controller that to this day I find a little unwieldy. It had what seemed to be about ten variations of three or four games. Not interested in racing or sports sims, or over-the-shoulder view "adventures" in gritty, realistic, mature environments, I wasn't about to buy into it.

The PS2 I had seen quite a bit of. Kind of cheap feeling. Kind of "me too". Kind of full of racing and sports and half-assed over-the-shoulder stuff. And RPGs. Ugh.

Then a friend got a Gamecube. The controller was insanely weird-looking. But it seemed kind of right. The games seemed to not care about teen angst. They didn't seem to pander to grade-schoolers. They just seemed to say, "Come play."

The Gamecube came into my home. Right away, I learned what was right about that controller. How many buttons do you actually need? The people at Nintendo know. And they laid them out accordingly. Because you do not manipulate the controller with your eyeballs, they ditched any semblance of symetry. But you hold it, and there they are. The Button. The Other Button. Pause. Shoulders. And a couple more, in case you need them. It came to my home in black. As electronics should.

It didn't take long for the one controller that came in the box to become four. Four people shouting and racing and throwing shells and dodging chomps is just too much fun for words. When you eventually get past racing each other and decide to team up against the bots so that real business can be gotten down to, that's when you find something special. When you sit down with a room full of people who have all grown up with the unspoken vocabulary of videogame control and you're all puzzled as to how exactly to stay balanced atop a stack of turtles, that creates an experience.

Then a Gameboy Advance SP came. My history of loving the Gameboy is a long one. Not overly involved, but long. The Advance certainly called to me. But the SP... that inspired something else. Such elegance of design. Such perfection. And it was mine. (Though not in the color I would have chosen. But we'll get to that. After all, colors are important.)

At first, SP to GC connectivity was a little contrived. Bonus textures or maps or whatever unlocked. Neat. So what. Then the chance to do something very real and special hit. One day, I was a little flush with cash. I was entertaining friends and was willing to buy a new game to do it. But they would need to buy Gameboys. Surprisingly they did. And wow.

I learned something about my soon-to-be wife that I would never have guessed before. Given the opportunity, she is a money-scrounging beast. She would actually hit people just to pick up the money they dropped. And she who you all know as Girly? An explorer! Sometimes an ill-timed explorer who needs to be grabbed forcibly from some distant horizon andbrought to where everyone else is so that they can all proceed to the next screen. But an explorer nonetheless. Your webmaster is a steady taskmaster, always ready to remind people of the need to keep continuing to the next goal.

Was it pretty much a 16-bit presentation? Yes. Did that detract from the level of fun? Not one iota. Did it require gobs of equipment? Yes. But you ask Brent if he has regretted the purchase of those SPs for even one second. You watch as heads explode because Girly spent the morning playing something on her SP and now the battery needs to charge for an hour or so. Those things do not serve some rarified purpose as expensive controllers for just two games. They do not collect dust. They are portable FUN that happen to make other kinds of FUN possible.

We have launced into the chronicles of crystal. If Iwas amazed at the experiences we had before, I don't have words now. I never would have picked Girly as the tank of the group. But she rushes headlong into each and every fight. While in her professional life my chica is a gifted leader, this is a world where she seems happy to simply driftalong, casting a heal here, smiting a foe there. The length of time that I have been friends with Brent is more than reflected in the wordless ease with which we cast combos. Could all of this happen with regular controllers instead of our SPs? Maybe. With much anger and impatience every time somebody wanted to go into their menus. (This may be watered down Final Fantasy, but it's still Final Fantasy.) My point is, all of this equipment may have a price, but what it leads to is much greater than the sum at the bottom of the receipt.

This is much longer than I thought it would be, and I haven't even gotten to the reason I started it. How 'bout I finish this up tomorrow or Thursday? In the mean time, let the comments flow.

(follow up)


NAME: shit
Thursday, May 19th, 2005 @ 01:01 am
ian's right . I never play Xbox games a second time. Mario and metroid were another story however. I'd play THAT shit all fucking day.

But remember, nintendo was the only game in town. If I had halo when i was ten i'd just be waiting for new colors and a gun that shot green goo instead of red. we're old!

NAME: dr01d
Wednesday, May 18th, 2005 @ 08:49 am
Really good post.

You're right, it's all about fun, and Nintendo definately has the concept locked down. I've had a great time playing Zelda, Pikmin, Mario, Super Monkey Ball, etc. and they do bring back the memories...

And that's where the problem lies. Nintendo knows the power they have, and in my opinion they are abusing it.

NAME: brent
Wednesday, May 18th, 2005 @ 08:23 am
*Slow Clap*