Musings of a Gamer VI


Unfortunately there is no Monday Spotlight today. I had a topic ready to go - Sonic Team - but I just couldn't find the time to research and write the post. Having the mother of all hangovers yesterday didn't help matters either. The Spotlight should return next week, time and alcohol tolerance permitting.

1. Parkour and Motion Sickness

Last week I picked up a copy of Mirror's Edge for the wallet friendly sum of £5. I love its unique style and the first person clambering is wonderfully executed. Its really satisfying once you build up speed and are able to tackle consecutive obstacles in one smooth movement. EA did a great job of recreating the balletic and free-form moves of parkour and it allows the game to shine. Unfortunately, due to the unsteady, first person person perspective I can't play Mirror's Edge for more than twenty minutes without feeling dizzy and nauseous - a problem which I know is shared by other gamers.

Motion sickness aside, my main problem with Mirror's Edge is its insistence on making combat a significant feature. It feels entirely superfluous to the experience and is the main source of frustration. Being unarmed, you are constantly trying to dodge Swat team bullets, who will often put you down within seconds of entering a new area - making it near impossible to slow down and locate your optimal route. Your hand-to-hand moves are clunky and unreliable; sometimes you will easily disarm an enemy, other times you will get pistol whipped for your trouble.

If I could do away with the nuisance bullets, I would be enjoying Mirror's Edge far more. Thanks to the combat and motion sickness, I have abandoned it two thirds of the way through and am unsure if I will ever return.

2. Tackling the Autumn & Winter Line-up

The release schedule for the rest of the year has gamers all over the world in a budgeting frenzy. With so many great games lined-up for September - November, you can't escape blog and forum posts breaking down the best approach to the biggest, and potentially most expensive, three month span in recent gaming history. It would seem we are quite an organised bunch after all!

After studying both the schedule and my bank account, I think I have settled on the best approach - one that will allow me to play the very best games, whilst avoiding having to sell my body to medical research. I have already pre-ordered Resistance 3 (09/09) and Child of Eden (23/09) for September. I will be out of the country for half of the month, so they should be more than enough to keep me occupied until October. Once I'm done with those, I'll go for the ICO Collection (27/09) and then it will be time for Batman Arkham City (21/10). Hopefully I'll be able to finish Batman in time for my most anticipated game of the year, Uncharted 3 (02/11) which kicks off a deep November that I intend to cap off with the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (25/11). If I have any time or money left come December, I'll try to catch up on some of the titles I will have missed in November: Modern Warfare 3 (08/11), Assassin's Creed: Revelations (15/11) and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (11/11). Hopefully family and friends will be feeling generous come Christmas, so I can add some of these to my Xmas wish-list!

It's time to start counting the pennies.

3. Deus Ex Human Revolution

One prominent omission from the above list is Deus Ex Human Revolution. I am yet to play a single game in this celebrated series and, despite the excitement surrounding the prequel, I haven't been able to muster much interest in it. Its unusual for such a highly anticipated game to leave me so disinterested, but there is something about Human Revolution which just doesn't click.

Admittedly, I have only seen so much of Human Revolution - mostly magazine previews and the odd trailer - and I haven't really made much of an effort to find out more. What I most recall from my limited exposure to HR is a very brown, muted palette and unappealing character design. I'm also very wary of games built around stealth, despite being a huge MGS fan.

I'm sure Human Revolution will have no shortage of "Game of the Year" quotes to plaster all over it's cover, and if I actually played it I'd probably come to appreciate it's charms. However, pitted against some very stiff competition in the coming months, I just cant see myself giving it the chance it deserves.


4. The Beginning of the End for the San Roku Maru

Reports came in last week that the Xbox 360 is being phased out by some of the largest electronic retailers in Japan. Stores such as Geo and Yamada Denki can no longer justify dedicating precious shelf space to a console that, for a number of reasons, has struggled to gain a foothold in a market dominated by Sony and Nintendo. Microsoft have been quite candid regarding their struggles in Japan, but have strongly denied pulling-out of the lucrative market and have pointed to a continuation of 360 exclusives made with the Japanese market in mind, as well as the universal appeal of Kinect.

The 360's meagre market share stands in stark contrast to its success elsewhere. It has sold only 1.5 million units in six years in Japan - a figure already eclipsed by the 3DS in the space of six months. Japan has stood defiant in its reluctance to embrace Microsoft’s console and it looks like recent events may be the final nail in coffin. Exclusive games such as Idolmaster failed to attract significant numbers of new customers, with many such exclusives having since been ported, or are due to be ported, to the PS3. Microsoft's much ballyhooed Kinect also failed to make a dent.

Despite high-profile and expensive ad campaigns, the 360 has struggled to secure any kind of grass roots support. It has come under prolonged fire from the otaku it looked to court; widely referred to as the “Kuso Hako” (shit box) online, it has also failed to garner the support of celebrities, which is crucial in a marketplace where the cult of fame is so strong. Shoko Nakagawa, a well known TV idol and rabid gamer, famously bought a 360 a few years back. Her purchase received a fair amount of press, and it was rather embarrassing when she started giving away the majority of her games via her popular blog, explaining that she couldn't see herself ever playing them.

The popularity of portable gaming certainly limited the 360's chances in Japan, as did the position of strength from which Sony and Nintendo have long operated. The red ring of death and other hardware issues were also problematic and made many think twice about jumping to a new and foreign product. It may be argued, rightly or wrongly, that Japanese people tend to support their own industry/companies wherever feasible. Sony has long had a reputation in Japan for making goods which break very easily after a set period of time - an urban myth widely known as the Sony Timer - yet that hasn’t stopped them remaining the brand of choice for home electronics in Japan. A less familiar company like Microsoft could not survive such a reputation, having a much smaller margin for error. That being said, Microsoft seem to do pretty well in Japan with Windows etc. and Apple products fly off the shelf. In the gaming industry, SEGA never enjoyed home support as a console manufacturer, enjoying far more success abroad, so perhaps this popular line of reasoning is flawed.

Whatever the case, the 360's days in Japan are clearly numbered. It will be interesting to see how long Microsoft will drag it out before biting the bullet, and how they will approach future console launches, presuming they choose to launch in Japan at all. 

Comments

  1. Thrice I have tried to love Mirror's Edge, and thrice I have found myself strangely unable to enjoy the basic gameplay. It's weird because on paper that game causes me to check the "Yes, that sounds awesome!" box over and over again.

    This year's holiday schedule is exhausting. Between Skyrim and Saint's Row I'm not sure what else I'll have time for. They both look like 300+ hour time sinks.

    Deus Ex is probably best described as the pc's Perfect Dark. Sadly, none of the them ever seem to sync up with a period of my gaming where I actually have time to deal with them. I think I'm going to pirate the new one, since I'm 99% sure it will end up getting played for 30 minutes or less. Just like the other two!

    I'm glad the 360 is coming to such an inglorious end in Japan. 1) There should be some price to pay for the first two years of insanely faulty 360 hardware. That was the shadiest (non-Apple related) scenario I've ever seen play out in consumer electronics. 2) I need for Japanese 360s to become stupid cheap so I can finally begin "Operation IdolMaster".

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  2. Skyrim and Saint's Row? Thats quite the undertaking. I will try to make time for Skyrim, but not too bothered about SR.

    I read somewhere that stores are selling Halo Reach bundled 360's for 9000yen ($117) in an attempt to offload unwanted stock. Its a shame the yen is so expensive at the moment, but I'll be keeping my eyes open for dirt cheap software when Im over there next month.

    Cheers for stopping by.

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