Musings of a Gamer XII


1. PS Vita & Jumping the Gun

As we have already established, I'm rather confused about the PlayStation Vita. It strikes me as a console destined for a niche market, with a customer base of core gamers who are excited by things like dual analogue sticks, three-axis gyroscopes and a new Uncharted (basically people like you and I). However, Sony seems to think that the Vita is a do-it-all device that will appeal to a far broader audience than the PSP. This misjudgement may prove costly, which is a crying shame as it is clearly an impressive piece of kit with an equally impressive line-up of software.

I'm still unsure of when exactly I'll buy one, though it is definitely a question of when and not if. I'm unlikely to adopt at launch, but I'd be surprised if I made it twelve months without taking the plunge. Despite this uncertainty, I have already managed to pre-order two games; you know you have a problem when you are ordering games for a system that you have no immediate plans to buy! In a glorious cock-up, one that has since been rectified, Amazon UK was last night listing half a dozen second-tier launch titles for around £5.90 ($9.11) each. I couldn't resist picking up Rayman Origins and Lumines: Electronic Symphony at that price, as even if I do wait twelve months to go Vita they will remain an absolute bargain. I don't yet know if my pre-order will stand or if Amazon will renege on a price that was clearly a mistake, though I’ll keep my fingers crossed. If only they would make a similar blunder on the price of the console.

While I'm on the topic of the Vita, word comes from Japan that Sony's portable may have a new Monster Hunter to call its own by years end. As far as I know, neither Capcom or Sony have denied nor confirmed this rumour, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it were true. A new Monster Hunter would greatly improve Vita's fortunes in Japan, and would be another big seller for Capcom. It would also be interesting to see which platform the MH hardcore would flock to, if the 3DS and Vita end up with competing MH spin-offs.

2. Skyrim: When is Enough Enough?

It was only a few days ago that I was convinced that my time with Skyrim was drawing to an end. I was tiring of the repetitious cycle of one hour of adventuring, thirty minutes of inventory management and found myself itching to play something new and more linear. However, a handful of fresh missions that encouraged me to explore unfamiliar parts of the map gave it new life, and provided an excuse to further my (one way) relationship with housecarl Lydia, as we prance around in matching armour, picking wild flowers.

A month removed from first embarking upon a quest to slay dragons and drink mead and I'm still going strong. However, I don’t want it it to outstay its welcome. I want to be able to look back at Skyrim as a game that I enjoyed to the very end, not an RPG that began to drag whilst claiming a dozen or so hours that, in retrospect, I’d have rather spent playing something else. Hopefully I can get the timing right and Skyrim can ride off into the sunset as a highlight of 2011/12.

Picture taken ten minutes before a thirty car pile-up that caused multiple casualties and destroyed at least one Hi-Navi

3. A Dashboard Confessional

The Hi-Navi is the holy grail of Saturn collecting. A Hitachi variant of Sega's doomed console, it was a Japan only release back in December 1995, where it retailed for ¥150,000 (£1260/$1950). Flatter and thinner than a vanilla Saturn, it featured a karaoke system, TV antenna socket, GPS (it was designed for car installation) and was compatible with a well-ahead-of-its-time LCD screen that cost an extra ¥45,000 (£380/$585). Hitachi churned out two thousand Hi-Navi's a month, though it is thought that production only ran for thirty days, after which I can only presume that Hitachi concluded that it was a huge and costly waste of time. On top of the batch of two thousand consoles, only one thousand LCD screens were ever produced, making it one of the most sought after and expensive systems out there.

I bring the Hi-Navi to your attention now as one turned up on EBAY over the weekend. The bidding bottomed out at $1035, which wasn't enough to meet the seller’s reserve price, despite the fact that it wasn’t in the best of conditions and was without the LCD screen. This was a rare sighting indeed. An exciting event for us Saturn die-hards, it was a chance for everyone else to shrug their shoulders and wonder why on earth anyone would want a Saturn resting on their dashboard. I don’t have the answer, but I’d be a very happy man if I ever got the chance to velcro one to my gear stick.

4. Odds & Ends

3DS: It looks the part and I love the limited edition design, but I am already finding myself losing interest in my 3DS. The 3D effects are nice, but not so enticing as to pull my attention away from a big screen. I enjoy Ocarina of Time each time I give it a go, but so far it hasn’t really drawn me in, though this may come with time. My discovery of the Nintendo Mail Box and the unlimited opportunities it offers to send my friends badly drawn pictures of phalluses and Nord warriors has assured that I probably won’t completely abandon it, and hopefully Resident Evil Revelations can keep me playing well into next month.

House of the Dead 3 & 4: Sega have announced that these two arcade staples will be coming to PSN with full Move support - part 3 has appeared on consoles before, but I believe this will be a first appearance for HotD 4. I have always enjoyed the series, but I would much rather see the Virtua Cop franchise land on PSN. I would almost certainly buy a Move controller if it gave me the chance to re-live my days of polygon super-justice, by way of a blue gun. HotD has given me hope that I may yet play VC in HD and return to the gun-slinging days of my youth.

SOPA: I have just about got my head around the ins-and-outs and possible ramifications of this controversial act. Chances are you already know all about it, and if you don’t then I’d urge you to give it a Google. I’m not going to spend time here going into all the gory details, but I feel I’d be amiss not to at least mention it. I must say I’m pretty confused by the position of the ESA – an industry body to which many major, video game publishers belong – who have put their weight behind SOPA on behalf of its membership, despite a number of high profile members going on record as being opposed to SOPA. The ESA either does or doesn’t represent the interests of publishers, so I struggle to comprehend how such different messages can be coming from different parties, all of whom are supposed to be sharing a common goal.

It doesn't exactly shout "buy me!", does it?

5. Binary Domain is Fucked

Words cannot do justice to the European cover art for Toshihiro Nagoshi's Binary Domain. SEGA have channelled the awfulness of the ICO US box art and produced the kind of thing I'd probably draw, if I had any artistic talent whatsoever. Let us hope that the game inside is better than the travesty that houses it.

Comments

  1. agree with you on the vita. since i'm part of that niche market i'm very excited for it.

    i feel you on skyrim. i had to fight my through it to get the platinum. it wasn't fun anymore. when you say 30 minutes of inventory management, what exactly are you talking about? are you talking about the chest in your house? the reason i'm asking is because on my game the more stuff i put in my chest the slower it got. it got to the point where putting stuff in or taking stuff out took up to 5 seconds per item. i'm dead serious. eventually i just dropped everything on the floor of my house. curious to know if you have the same problem.

    got a 3ds this weekend and i'm pretty disappointed. don't like either the analog nub or the start/home buttons. the stylus is in pretty crappy place too. also, where are the games? if i'm not mistaken it's been out for close to a year now. i can count on one hand the number of games that i had interest in and most of those are remakes. picked up ocarina of time, played it for 20 minutes, quit, and fired up the ps3.

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  2. Five seconds per item? That's terrible. Fortunately I haven't had too many problems with slow-down. By 30 minutes of inventory management I'm referring to the time I spend in a town after clearing a dungeon, sorting out the items I'll keep in my home, selling the ones I don't want and improving others (smithing, enchanting etc). With all the load times - plus the inevitable freeze & restart the first time I enter my home - it often takes 20-30mins before I'm ready to head back out again with some newly freed up inventory space.

    Your problems with the 3DS sound very similar to mine. I need some games that will really hold my attention, or else its unlikely to get much play. I am looking forward to Resi Revelations though.

    Cheers

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  3. I also agree with you about the Vita. Right now it's too hardcore for it's own good. Hopefully Sony takes a good look at how Apple does business to lure over some of the casual market.

    Every time Skyrim starts to get boring for me, something cool happens and I get sucked back in. I'm still going to try to wrap up my adventure by the end of next week. I want to keep working on my backlog.

    The Saturn was cool. I had a lot of fun with that system. I remember it was the only way I could play X-Men VS Street Fighter... That Hi-Navi system looks cool, and also looks ahead of it's time. While I'm enjoying all the great games Sega keeps releasing today, I still really miss the Sega of old. It blows my mind that Shining Force and Phantasy Star aren't still major franchises...

    I messed up on your last blog. I confused RE Revelations with RE Raccoon City. I don't own a 3DS and I'm still not sure when I will buy one. I'm still happy with my PSP.

    I still play Typing of the Dead from time to time. It's a great party game... At least where me and my weird friends are concerned...

    Unfortunately Binary Domain was fucked on day one for being a new IP. Back in the day (Here's an old guy rant coming on...) this kind of game would have been a hit. An elite team of Spec Op guys fighting an army of evil robots... Sign me up! Now a days, there are so many great games to choose from, Binary Domain doesn't stand out enough. Then when you add the fact that it's also an untested IP... I hope this game does well, but I have a feeling it wont. Also that game cover made me remember my youth...

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  4. No matter what they do, I think Sony will struggle to lure the casual market with a game-dedicated gadget priced so highly (when you take into account the cost of the memory cards on top of the console).

    X-men vs Street Fighter was a great game. I was playing it with a friend last year and was really impressed by how good it still looks, even running on a large HDTV. Really liked Typing of the Dead. SEGA at their quirky best.

    I'm really looking forward to Binary Domain, though I don't doubt that it will be a very quiet release.

    Cheers

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  5. You are in for a treat with Lumines. Have you ever played one before? They are my favorite puzzle games. I am going to grab the new one at launch, but the price you got it for is awesome! Rayman is another winner and one of my favorites of last year. I hope those games sitting in your house shame you into getting a Vita sooner rather than later. I get the idea it will need your sale :(

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  6. Never played a Lumines game, but I watched a clip about this one and it got me interested. Looks like simple, stylish fun and sounds like it has a great soundtrack too. Not holding my breath on Amazon honouring those prices though. Cheers

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  7. The Vita is just too expensive for what it is. The base unit it bad enough, but the memory cards... dang. The part where it will be less powerful than a new cell phone within 12-24 months of its release bugs me a lot too. A phone that will be free with the contract, no less. There's already a real controller you can plug into iPads, so we can't be far from iPods/iPhones/Droids getting that too. At which point the only incentive I can think of to buy a Vita becomes the wyvern hunting. In fact, I would not be surprised at all to see the Vita take a much faster road to the psp's fate - existing solely so Japanese people and I can play Monster Hunter.

    That said, here's a bold guess on Vita Monster Hunter - it COULD be a new version of Frontier. I believe MH Frontier still runs on the Unite engine, which is now almost four years old. The engine was greatly improved right after that, but Frontier remains, as far as I know, stuck in 2007. Since that's like an MMO, it would give Sony a MH game without conflicting heavily with the more traditional hunting audience on the 3DS. The way MH works in Japan, as such a highly social game, Capcom must know how much it would hurt the franchise to divide their main hunting base across two platforms. It would be like making half of all cell phones incompatible with other cell phones, from the hunter's perspective.

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  8. And the Vita 3G model is already dead in the water. You have to wonder what exactly Sony is hoping for. I did read somewhere that a new Call of Duty is headed for Vita, which i think could be a huge boon in the West and convince console owners to invest in it.

    Certainly makes sense from Capcom's perspective. Two different MHs for two very different platforms.

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