Contributed by CJ
There are those folks who fight for their console of choice as if such a machine is family member, 360 vs PS3 becomes some kind of wobbly gaming Montague’s Vs Capulets, with Bill Shakey’s sparkling prose replaced with the likes of ‘ZOMFG [thing] am teh sux’.
I’m not arsed about any of that, and frankly couldn’t give a monkeys as to which box under the telly is kicking out the prettifuls, it’s all about the games. All very noble, right?
WHEREFORE WAS I TO THIS KEEN MOCKERY BORN?
Yet, it hasn’t always been that way. I don’t mean within the devious mischief of Company X Vs Company Y – it’s about my favourite console ever – The Nintendo Gamecube.
The only console I’ve bought on launch day – and I believe me I saved like a nutter to get one – it somehow wormed its way into my heart. Mock its Fisher Price Cassette Player stylings if you will, but the Gamecube is a console with character. It looks fun, and isn’t bothered if you swing it around like a kid with a P.E. kit wandering home from school – it even had a handle for crying out loud.
Factor in a comfy as heck controller, oh and that ace Gameboy player that allowed all manner of handheld classics to be played on the big telly and, well, I adored it.
Certainly the software library of the Xbox and particularly the PS2 wasn’t comparable in popularity, but the Cube had more than its fair share of classics, many only truly recognized in the last few years. Wind Waker initially received no end of ire when it was announced, with hurled snark-o-snarls of ‘kiddy graphics’ syncing up to the catcalls of the folks who would tear a strip off the console itself for the way it dressed. The ‘Cube also received arguably the best ever Resident Evil games, with the belting fourth installment being a exclusive for some time, plus the remake of the first title was absolutely exceptional and still looks gorgeous even now.
My initial launch games were Sonic Adventure 2 and the original Burnout. I’m not a Sonic fan, but had tons of fun with ‘Adventure 2, particularly raising those cute Chaos, utterly meltworthy mutating ickle blighters that brought forth more than a few “Awwww”’s from my stoney soul.
Burnout… Burnout I played endlessly, particularly tons of 2 player battles racing against a Policeman friend. For him, such combative and addictive racing affected real life to such a degree that when driving the police car at work, particularly in chases, he had to fight the instinct to swerve into oncoming traffic and lean into the rush of oncoming motors to steal himself extra boost! Damn, I loved couch co-op.
Oh and I had Super Monkeyball as well. Beautiful memories of a certain someone who remains very special to me, yet the way we fought on Monkey Fight – not just on the screen but giggliciously on the sofa as well – brings forth a smile equal to the ache in my chest. Fun times, and a Miss very much missed.
SO MUCH DOWNHILL, IT MIGHT AS WELL BE TOBOGGANING.
Since then, Nintendo and I had a bit of a falling out. This isn’t going to be a ‘filthy casuals’ diatribe aimed at the Wii, far from it. The Wii was the first time my Dad understood my love of games. He’d become addicted to Wii Sports, in particular the golf, and despite getting up for work staggeringly early anyway, he’d give himself an hour extra so he could pack in 18 holes before heading out.
What irked was Nintendo Of America’s reaction to the titles which became known as Operation Rainfall – Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story & Pandora’s Tower – and specifically the company’s apathetic reaction to fan desires to see those games reach US shores. Add in a dousing of Nintendo EU’s attempts to bring Xenoblade to E3, shunning a letter writing campaign – and even when folks voted the Xenoblade Amazon placeholder to the top of the pre-order charts, Reggie & The Wiggle Stick Krew remained unmoved.
In contrast, Nintendo Europe seemed the polar opposite, not only releasing all three games in Europe, but also handling English vocal dubs, as well as celebrating each with a special edition release. Xenoblade received posters and its own red classic controller, Pandora’s Tower received a separate steelbook and hardcover artbook, as did The Last Story, which added in a soundtrack CD as well.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be as fussed about Nintendo Of America’s actions as I am. After all, I’m in Europe, where Nintendo’s desires to make these three titles the best they can be for their audience was an absolute joy. Yet to see so many US fans looking over their shoulders with envy, having supported the Wii, perhaps even, like me, celebrated the new folks discovering gaming, but at the same time having history, lineage with the Nintendo and not wanting to be forgotten. Xenoblade, The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower were games that loyal audience were desperate to play, yet found themselves confronted with one of the largest chunks of the parent company utterly disinterested in any part of letting those fans play them.
Thereafter other companies asked to release the games, and finally those raveneous Rainfall-ers would get their chance to play the titles. What frankly made me sick was Reggie Fills-Aim’s Nintendo Update Direct diatribe from February 2012. Here he lavished glowing praise on Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story, lobbing out shimmering prose about the ‘Numerous Game Of The Year Awards’ for Monolith Software’s game, stroking the reputation of The Last Story’s Sakoguchi-san. No, just, NO. Given Nintendo U.S.’s previous stance and absolute stubbornness, it smacked of insincerity, not to mention piggybacking on the enthusiasm and determination of ‘our publishing partners’ – IE the people who actually wanted to release the games.
Then came the WiiU Press event. A terrible press event. One where Reggie stood tall like a Skesksis from Dark Crystal, doing that strange thing with his hands – pulling apart a little while as if sticky with bubblegum, then bringing them back together as if caging tiny, tiny owls. Nintendo at E3 2012 promised lots of the new, yet trotted out vaguely tweaked versions of established franchises in the videos to follow.
Then came the WiiU itself, particularly the games shown. On the one hand it looked as though Nintendo had listened, revealing a group of franchises that would appear to what’s become known as ‘core gamers’. As to whether those people would buy a WiiU, or even play the versions of Arkham City, Mass Effect 3 [Why not 1?] or Black Ops – the latter being quite the coup for the new machine – was uncertain.
The skeptic in me wondered as to whether Nintendo had seen diminishing returns on the audience that arrived with the Wii, and were looking to steal a slice of the gaming pie they didn’t have, and perhaps have never had given the Call Of Duty demographic may not hold the same affection for the company that older gamers do. Perhaps there lay a nervousness that the 360, with these ‘mainstream’ titles may be walking a more succinct line with those gamers, plus pulling in the more casual audience with Kinect, and Nintendo thought a similarly balanced strategy was something they should adhere towards.
Whilst the majority of titles seemed underwhelming, Lego City raised a few smiles and ZombiU drooled with undead atmosphere – curdled somewhat by Reggie’s already muppety features being forced into a bit of face pulling, leading to many an awkward face in the audience. We all waited for a jaw dropping punchline, an exclamation mark to instill a degree of ‘COR!’ at the end. Would they sneak a Zelda? A new Retro Studios Metroid? A much beloved franchise from the past, polished up and looking all shiny-shiny on the new system? Nope. Nothing. It didn’t come.
The nearest thing to it arrived a little while after, where Platinum Games showed off the tremendously fun looking Wonderful 101. I can only imagine there was a technical hitch prior to Nintendo’s show as to why it didn’t make an appearance there, rather than in the Gametrailers studio. Regardless, it looked ace and Platinum very, very rarely let the side down.
Thereafter came the system launch, and it was fun to see so many folks getting excited. Midnight launches, the initial swatch of reviews hitting, which version of the console people were picking up and what games to get – I love that stuff. It’s just that, beyond perhaps ZombiU, there was nothing there screaming out me to lay down three hundred and odd notes, particularly given what Nintendo had seemingly become. It would take a serious company rethink to claw back all that open-jawed-popping-candy-tummy-butterflies ace of once upon a time, and they were clearly too far gone to do such a thing. Surely?
What turned my head back towards Nintendo, and indeed made me smile their way for the first time in the longest time, was January’s Nintendo Direct. I was working when it hit, but Twitter lit up with heartfelt adorations as to how great it was, instilling a curiousity to get home and see for myself.
Nintendo were rather self-deprecating in the first instance, apologising for the lack of games in the opening quarter of the year, going on to say that they like to populate a new console with great games, but those they are working on are taking a little longer to perfect. Lovely, I’m fine with that, a fabulous gesture and an eyebrow raised to see if they could follow such a great start and such a wonderful declaration of honesty. They did.
The next titles promised were Lego City, which still piqued my curiousity, and Monster Hunter, both arriving towards Easter time. I adored Monster Hunter on Wii, played it to bits, attended an amazing event by Capcom which is still the greatest piece of publicity I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of. Moreover, Monster Hunter was a game I could lose myself in.
Spoon full of sugar and then stir, stir. No Zelda game yet, but how about a polished, tweaked and altogether gorgeous looking version of Wind Waker? I have warm recollections of the title back on Gamecube, but I know a few folks who absolutely loved it to bits, and seeing them veritably cartwheel at the sight of a new version was a fabulous to behold.
Then, a truly scintillating last few minutes arrived. The point where they showed us the new Xenoblade, ‘X’ – ironically a sequel to a game one third of the company weren’t fussed about releasing a little while back. ‘X’ looks jaw dropping, gobsmacking to a degree I’ve not experienced for a fair while. That amazing shiver of ‘Can’t wait’ brushed over each pore, along with a whispered wondering as to whether I might have to pick up the system after all.
Such shimmers of smile and curiousity continued to pique. Was I .. was I beginning to fall in love with Ninty again? Such emotions echoed onwards, I watched a few videos and, almost subconsciously, those feelings grew exponentially. ZombiU still looked absolutely my cup of tea, mixing the dark chills of Condemned with a little Dark Souls. A friend raved about how much fun it was, of how scary, mentioned even non-gaming friends of hers loved to watch it being played. Opinion digested, more videos watched.
I listened to the Midnight Resistance podcast, telling tales of the times they’d had with the console, the games, their hope for the future – the enthusiasm was infectious. Robert Florence shared musings of how much fun he was having with Nintendo’s new machine, of fabulous battles on Monster Hunter with friends, just how much fun could be wrung from Sonic & All Stars Racing: Transformed. Hmmm. *^-^*
Criterion showed off the WiiU Need For Speed: Underground, triumphantly beaming about how hard they’d worked on the WiiU version. Rather than a lazy port from the 360 or PS3, the PC graphics had been moved to the machine, with gameplay appropriately fine tuned to suit. Reviews later backed up the wonderful work the British company had done on the title. Not only hope for future endeavours on the console, but the old school Burnout fan in me had a new racing fire to put alongside times of yore.
And Monster Hunter. Still Monster Hunter. A game released and sold out instantly at retail. Another apology from Nintendo, before going on to say that new stock would hit retailers in a few weeks time. Now that stock is scarce, and the stores which do have the game are charging pretty hefty prices for the remaining copies.
As for me, I’m trying to zero in on a decent deal, eyeing various stores, bundles, trying to figure out how rash I should be and which – if any – I could afford.
All I know is I want one. That and Nintendo and I are beautifully on good terms again. Anything could happen on the road back but .. I’d rather like it to work out, y’know