Musings of a Gamer XIV
1. Sonic & SEGA All-Star Racing 2
Sonic and Sega All Star Racing was one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises of 2010. It was easy to jump into and rewarded continued play with a bevy of unlockables. Many of the characters and levels harkened back to SEGA's glory days – the racers ranged from Sonic to Ryo Suzuki and tracks from House of the Dead to Jet Set Radio - providing extra impetus to keep playing and access everything on offer. The single player was deep and varied and it also boasted a robust multiplayer that rounded out an excellent package.
I’m happy to hear that Sega's karter will be getting a sequel, most likely later this year. Being a hopeless devotee to all things Sega, upon hearing this news I immediately started day dreaming about the characters I'd love to see on the roster. Kazuma Kiryu would be great, decked out in his best eighties suit and visiting super violence upon Alex Kidd's massive face and setting fire to Sonic's eyebrows. Sticking with modern day characters, how about Bayonetta making an appearance on her motorbike? The car from Out Run seems like an obvious choice, top down with a blonde in the passenger seat, but Eco the Dolphin might require a bit more thought (can dolphins drive?). Toejam and Earl and the cops from Virtua City would just need a suitable vehicle, and the avatar from Space Harrier or the rider from Panzer Dragoon could race minus a vehicle, similar to Opa-Opa in the original. And finally, just for the kids, let’s get Seaman in the mix. That man-faced, fishy nightmare belongs behind a wheel and is a ready-made cover star.
2. Final Word on the Vita (until the 22nd)
The PS Vita entered and then vacated my Amazon basket probably half a dozen times over the last week, but on Saturday it finally made it past checkout as "Me" eventually won the argument. £205 for the WiFi model and the 8GB card - as a smartphone owner I couldn’t see any reason to go the 3G route - was a price that I could live with. I’m now rather excited for next Wednesday, following the deluge of print and digital coverage the Vita has received over the last few days. I spent a further £45 on Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Lumines: Electronic Symphony and Rayman Origins, but being that they were all ordered separately I'm slightly concerned that I will end up with a Vita at launch but nothing to play on it. If that is the case, then I'll most likely download a copy of Super Stardust Delta to destroy my thumbs and scratch my Vita itch.
3. Stationary Gaming
With the PS Vita set to swallow much of my free time over the next month, I'll need to be a bit more efficient with the rest of my gaming. I’ve started Assassin's Creed Revelations and have already emerged from the always problematic opening hour, a stretch that has made every AC game to date a struggle early on. Playing as Ezio is as fun as ever and Constantinople looks to be another excellent recreation of one of history’s most important and vibrant cities, but I could definitely do without all that Desmond, techno-babble nonsense.
My desire to play FFXIII-2 has all but diminished for now, so I'll most likely put it off until the spring. I'm still greatly looking forward to Binary Domain; if you aren't excited by the prospect of a man peeling off his face to reveal a metallic skull, then there is something seriously wrong with you. With the arrival of Vita, BD may no longer be a day one purchase but I'll certainly be looking to play it sooner rather than later. Finally, March will bring Mass Effect 3. I'm not as excited as some about Shepard's third outing, but I know the closer it gets the more enthusiastic I'll become.
4. Fear the Norman
I finished Resident Evil: Revelations (3DS) last night and was rather impressed by the whole experience. It felt like a real Resi, with nothing sacrificed in the move to a portable device. There was a nice balance between action and slow-burn scares and just enough ammo to prevent despair, though it’s scarce enough to discourage a gung-ho approach. It looks great, runs smoothly and with the aid of the Circle Pad Pro is easy to control. I can't imagine having to deal with the antiquated controls without the second stick, and would’ve probably abandoned it early on without the benefit of the unsightly add-on.
Like most Resident Evils, the story is pretty forgettable. At times it’s a little confusing as it struggles to convey who exactly is supposed to be betraying who, even when it’s trying its hardest to keep you in the loop. The voice acting is surprisingly good, but the script is appalling. The last boss is hugely disappointing; he is a secretive character that mutates into a tyrant and soaks up more than five solid minutes of concentrated gun-fire. He also boasts the most despicable of moves, the one hit kill, and he's not afraid to use it if you get too close. His saving grace is his name. Norman is an interesting choice for a ten foot tall monstrosity, though it does provide plenty of unintentional comedy as Jill and Chris insist on referring to him by name at all times.
5. Trust the Graph
I came across the above graph whilst skim reading Sega’s Wikipedia entry, during one of my regular sojourns to everyone’s favourite time waster. Taken from Sega's annual financial reports, or so Wikipedia claims, it details the free-fall of a console manufacturer, quantifying the cost of Sega's mistakes and the realities of playing third fiddle in a highly competitive console market. It clearly shows how costly a mistake it was to discontinue the Mega Drive/Genesis when it was still raking in the money, replacing it with a new console (the Saturn) that was rushed out the gate and therefore lacked software, retail and consumer support. Things continued to get worse with the Dreamcast and the dramatic improvement of fortunes from 2001 to 2003 coincides with Sega's move to software only status.
Sega's fall from grace is a cautionary tale, one that today is as relevant as ever with two of the three console manufacturers posting huge financial losses in 2011. These figures serve to highlight the cost of being in the console market, and make it easier to envision a situation where we could find ourselves without one or more of the big three manufacturers in the near future. It’s also a rather sobering read for anyone who is still holding out hope for a future Sega console. Looking at these figures, they'd be mad to even consider it.