Monthly Round-up: May 2015
In Case You Missed It: Bloodborne - Good & Bad Nights / Blue Skies & False Nostalgia / Squid & Demos
1. Yakuza 0: I'm about twenty hours into the latest Yakuza, a prequel set in the 1980s, but I'm not sure if I'm going to finish it. It pains me to say this, but I haven't entirely enjoyed my time with bubble-era Kazuma and Majima. Don't get me wrong, Zero definitely has its moments, but overall it is falling a little short.
The narrative and supporting characters just aren't as interesting as I had expected. The cut scenes feel longer, though they probably aren't, and I'm skipping through dialogue that I'd usually at least make an attempt to understand. I've also found the combat to be frustratingly unbalanced - I struggle my way through Kazuma's encounters but hardly break a sweat as Majima.
Every now and again, something wonderfully Yakuza happens and I'm reminded why I love this series. It’s good, but it's not quite Yakuza good, and that's extremely disappointing.
2. Splatoon: Nintendo's Squid-Kid shooter reminds me, and the rest of the internet, of Dreamcast-era SEGA: it is colourful, stylish, simple fun. It's perfect for short-burst sessions, which is exactly what I was hoping for, and although it’s light on content, I've yet to grow tired of it. Also, Splatoon's Miiverse community is exemplary, if not a little weird.
Words: A Saturn Anniversary
The 11th of last month was the twentieth anniversary of one of the biggest and costly mistakes in SEGA’s impressive history of big and costly mistakes. On May 11th 1995, then Sega President Tom Kalinske got up on stage at the inaugural E3 to announce that the Saturn would be hitting store shelves in the US that very same day, four months ahead of schedule. Hoping to score an early victory against the Sony upstarts, Kalinske proudly revealed that the Virtua Fighter bundle would retail at $399, lower than many pundits were expecting.
This hurried release came as a surprise to pretty much everyone, including some of the biggest retailers in the US, who were preparing to welcome the Saturn in September. In the days leading up to E3, Sega had covertly shipped the vast majority of its limited stock of day-one Saturns to a select few stores, such as Toys R Us and Electronics Boutique. This alienated countless other retailers who knew nothing of the stealth release, and were left embarrassed when they were unable to fulfil pre-orders. Retail was royally pissed off, as months of careful financial planning and shelf space allocation went out the window. Some went as far as to blacklist Sega, refusing to carry their products.
In the space of a single day, Sega had fucked off some of its biggest and most important partners, but at least it had stolen the momentum from Sony and its new PlayStation. However, this "victory" would last only a few hours, as Sony's Steve Race took to the stage at the PlayStation presser and said just one thing: "$299". Sony had claimed the first of many victories, and the Saturn was already screwed. Two years later, at E3 1997, the new Executive Vice President of Sega America, Bernie Stolar, told the press that "the Saturn is not our future", and it was discontinued the following year.
I adore the Saturn and I miss Sega dearly, but it was almost as if they wanted to fail in the mid-90s. Happy Anniversary!
June brings a handful of new releases of note, such as The Elder Scrolls Online (PS4 & Xbox One) and Batman Arkham Knight. I love Skyrim but I'll likely pass on Bethesda's MMO; I think Batman will keep for a few months.
With that out of the way, EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE333333333333333333333333333333333! There's less than two weeks until video game Christmas and I for one cannot wait. I'll be posting impressions here at toomanywires during E3 week, and will be on Twitter for the press conferences (@toomanywires_).