Musings of a Gamer XXII
1. Nintendo Direct - E3 in January
Last week, Nintendo confirmed what we have long suspected: E3 is rubbish and mid-January Wednesdays are where it’s at. In the latest Nintendo Direct, Iwata-san gave us an unseasonal helping of announcements, though little news of the immediate kind. The first half of 2013 is short on Wii U releases, lacking the first party games that have traditionally been so vital to the success of Nintendo consoles. Iwata must have apologised half a dozen times for the “launch window” slim pickings, and the overall message was clear: we have plenty to offer, but almost none of it is ready yet, sorry.
The Wonderful 101 offered some near-immediate gratification for Wii U owners, so long as you don’t mind that grating style of voice acting. Platinum had very little to show of Bayonetta 2, other than leather trouser textures, which makes you wonder when exactly it’s going to be ready. There was very noncommittal talk about a new Zelda, which will arrive at some point this gen, and the reveal for Wind Waker HD caused the Nintendo part of the internet to get very excited indeed. Virtual Console is coming to your tablet, and to the surprise of absolutely no one, there will eventually be a new Super of the Marios and also go-karting on the U. Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei are to join forces for a new project, and Monolith Soft (Xenoblade Chronicles, Xenosaga) is working on another game beginning with the letter X, which looked rather impressive.
There was definitely a hint of panic to this most recent Nintendo Direct, as if it had only just dawned on Iwata and co. that they had no games in the present, and needed to sell the Wii U on future promise by making the kind of announcements that would normally be reserved for E3. Still, I'd rather see proactive panic than a damaging nonchalance - I'm looking at you Sony.
2. The End of THQ
Having filed for bankruptcy and forced to shed the vast majority of its assets, THQ is no more, and now serves as another unfortunate example of the widespread demise of the mid-sized developer. THQ made some quality games over the years - my favourites include the PS1/PS2 era WWE titles and the Red Faction series - but they went too long without a smash hit, somewhat of a disaster when you are trying to compete with the EAs and Activisions of the world. The majority of THQ's big franchises and studios were snapped up at auction a few days ago, and the remainder will most likely be absorbed into other studios in the coming weeks. However, I was sad to see that Red Faction went unclaimed and will most likely expire with the THQ brand. While the Martian Revolution may have come to an end, I’ll be interested to see how THQ’s other former franchises evolve in their new homes.
3. Rising Space
I don't tend to play demos anymore. I prefer to spend my time on full games and don't like the idea of having to play through a twenty minute section of gameplay twice, should I purchase the full version. I know what I like, and will have decided well in advance of the demo whether or not I'll consider buying into the full experience. Despite my aversion to demos and the annoyance of PSN's painfully slow download speeds, I was eager to try last week's Metal Gear Rising and Dead Space 3 samples.
I have mixed feeling towards Platinum Games. I didn’t like Bayonetta, though I can appreciate why other people enjoyed it, and Vanquish was silly fun, but I cannot understand why the press have latched onto Platinum as the saviours of Japanese development. However, Metal Gear is Metal Gear, and Rising was pre-ordered long before I touched the demo. The teaser was short and stylish, and Platinum has succeeded in putting its stamp on the MG universe, while preserving some familiar elements from Kojima's franchise. That being said, the demo bored me senseless and brought back unpleasant memories of Bayonetta button spamming. Blade Mode was gimmicky, unsatisfying and destroyed the flow of battle, yet my pre-order remains. Metal Gear is Metal Gear, and I know it's what Big Boss would've wanted.
The other half of my three hour demo download was Dead Space 3. I really enjoyed the first game in the series, but thought the sequel was too much of the same and ran at least two hours too long. Dead Space 3 is not a game that I'm anticipating, and the demo did little to change that. It still does the same things really well - great atmosphere, perfect sense of weight, interesting weaponry - but I'm in no rush for more Dead Space, even with Phil Collins.
4. Japan's Best Sellers 2012
The numbers are in! There are few surprises in Famitsu’s list of 2012's 100 best-selling games in Japan (as translated over at NeoGAF). Eight of the top ten titles are for Nintendo systems - six for the 3DS, one for the DS and another for the Wii. The lone DS title, Pokémon Black/White 2, took the top spot, shifting 2.79 million copies and proving that the Japanese love of pocket monsters and portable devices is unaffected by aging hardware. Animal Crossing New Leaf (2.28m) and New Super Mario Bros. 2 (1.78m), both on the 3DS, are the only other million sellers. Dragon Quest Monsters: Terry's Wonderland 3D (3DS) took fourth place, followed by One Piece: Pirate Warriors (PS3), Mario Kart 7(3DS) and then, most depressing of all, Resident Evil 6 (PS3). Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (3DS), Super Mario 3D Land (3DS) and Dragon Quest X (Wii) round out a top ten which further highlights the preference for portables in Japan, specifically of the Nintendo variety.
Outside of the top ten, Dragon's Dogma did well for Capcom, being the highest charting new IP at number 13, moving just under half a million units. In at number 25, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is the highest ranked title developed by a Western studio (Slant Six Games), closely followed by Black Ops 2 at number 31. Persona 4 Golden was one of only two Vita titles in the top 100, Hatsune Miku: project Diva F being the other, selling just over 229,000, good for number 42 on the list. Halo 4 is the best-selling 360 game of 2012, but at only 39,000 copies it wasn't even close to breaking into the top 100 - the hundredth best-selling game of 2012 moved 102,000 units.
5. The Persona 4 Golden Halftime Report
Three weeks into Persona 4 Golden, and I think I might just be in love. I'm twenty hours in and progressing at a snail’s pace, but this is by far the best game I've played on my Vita and could end up being one of my all-time favourite portable experiences. I usually struggle to put long hours into handheld titles, as I find it too convenient to drop in and out and float between different games, and it doesn’t help that I often get pins and needles in my hands if I play for more than 30-45 minutes at a time. Still, Persona 4 is so good that I have all but abandoned my PS3 over the last fortnight, which is the highest of compliments in a house where home consoles rule supreme.
I love the colourful visuals and have really warmed to the characters, even bloody Chie. Although at times the humour can be a little too Japanese-Variety-TV (poking fun at fat people, homosexuality etc.) I have been laughing out loud in places. I'm finally starting to figure out the ins and outs of Persona fusion and I think Social Links are a great growth mechanic, especially when it is so easy to invest in the blossoming relationships between very likable characters. My only complaint is that levelling-up through combat is a bit of a drag, thanks to uninteresting dungeons and the simple fact that managing your social life is so much more interesting and rewarding. Otherwise, I've fallen head over heels for P4G and am glad that I finally gave this series the time of day.