Musings


1. The Nintendo Switch

The NX is now the Switch, a home console/portable hybrid that may or may not run Skyrim.

It looks smart and the trailer suggests a more mature target audience than we might usually expect from a Nintendo product. That being said, I'm sure that Nintendo will also be courting their usual, youthful demographic. I like the idea of a take-away tablet that will play everything that runs on my TV, though I do wonder if I'd dare take something that large and fragile looking outside the house. In this instance, I think portable might mean play-in-bed and on the toilet.

It's certainly not something that I can imagine kids playing outside the home. The 2DS is a typical child's machine, sturdy and compact, and I expect Nintendo will continue to push that as their platform for younger gamers. If Nintendo are positioning the Switch as a gadget for adults, then it will be compared to other tablets, a comparison that may be unfair and unflattering. And I'm not convinced that adults really want to play traditional, home console experiences on the go. The early failures of the Vita would certainly suggest not. Short-burst, made-for-mobile games succeed on phones and tablets, not titles with AAA production values and gameplay. Do we really want to take new Zelda on the train?

As for local co-op on a tiny screen, with equally tiny controllers, I just can't see it. No matter what the trailer may suggest, people just aren't going to crowd around a display that small to play games that are better off on a TV. As for kids, aren't they already well catered for with their phones, tablets and 2DSesses? While I like the concept, I struggle to understand who it's for.

My concerns aside, I do like the design and I'm happy to see Nintendo making good on the general concept of the Wii U. I'm excited for a potential on-screen off-screen Monster Hunter, am confident that the Switch will offer a seamless transition from TV to tablet and I think the joy-con transformation is interesting. I'm also intrigued by Nintendo's patience with their new hardware. March is only a few months away, but they have put forward a strong and confident message; there's certainly no mistaking the Switch as an add-on to previous hardware.

Will I buy one at launch? Probably not, but I'm excited to learn more.

2. Rez Infinite

I can't get enough of this game. I enjoyed Rez in its previous incarnations – I partook on PS2 and 360 – but it wasn't until Infinite that I came to truly appreciate it. This new found love can be partially explained by my ever changing tastes - I enjoy stylish, arcade-like experiences more than ever - but it's the brand new, Area X stage that has had the biggest affect. Off-rails, and a mix of original Rez and Child of Eden, it strikes me as the natural evolution of Mizuguchi's vision.

I've been playing it since launch and must have finished Area X at least a dozen times. It is a superlative experience and the lone factor in my continued interest in buying PS VR. I played Area X with the headset a couple of weeks ago at a launch event and I know how much it adds to the experience. I cringe a little whenever people cite games as an emotional experience, but Rez' Area X is deserving. It is sublime, and has to rank as my favourite moment of this generation.



3. Six Months of Retro Junk

As you may have already gathered, I quite like video games. And not just shiny new ones. I also enjoy retro games, or at least hunting for them in junk-bins.

Most used game shops have junk sections, full of untested but otherwise well-kept copies at a fraction of their usual cost. You're not going to find anything rare, but what you will find are stacks of lower to mid-tier games for a pittance. Shops won't accept returns if they don't work, but in years of retro shopping I can only think of one occasion where I got caught out - damn you Saturn Bomberman! It's cheap, I love rummaging though old games and it has gotten to the point where I almost exclusively buy from the junk bin.

This is how I've accumulated the vast majority of the games in the picture above. I've added twenty one Saturn titles to my collection since moving back to Japan in April, including a few that I have been meaning to pick up for some time (Lunar 1+2, Magic Knight Rayearth and Culdcept). A couple of them were unopened, dead stock and one of them, Kaze no Regret, contained a packet of seeds. And why not? The two Saturn peripherals weren't junk, but were a steal anyway at ¥1000 each. Thanks to my new joystick, I now look a little cooler while struggling with fighters, and I have finally replaced my Densha de Go train controller that I threw out the last time we left Japan. Thank fuck for that.

Also not junk, but a bargain at less than ¥3000, is my new Dreamcast. I've finally started my mini collection of DC games and paid just over ¥500 in total for my first five selections. Lastly, I picked up Boku no Natsu Yasumi, which I'll play as soon as I can figure out which shipping box my PSP is in.

4. Miscast as a Dreamcast

Reports suggest that production of the Wii U is drawing to a close. As we near the end, I'm noticing more and more people comparing it favourably to another console that failed to shift: the Sega Dreamcast. This is a comparison that I really don't like.

Much of the DC's enduring charm stems from its uniqueness. It spawned memorable new series like Jet Set Radio, Shenmue, Space Channel 5, Rez ad Crazy Taxi, and as a concept the hardware was ahead of its time. The Wii U half-arsed it, commandeering the DS two-screen approach and doing very little with it. The Wii U had some excellent games, but with the possible exception of Splatoon, what fresh ideas did it come with? Most of its best-reviewed titles were either direct sequels or spiritual successors to well-established series. For me, this is where the comparison fails.

Remove the slight graphical improvements and I'd argue that there is little difference between the best games on the Wii and Wii U. This is why the DC comparison is ill conceived. I can appreciate that people are keen to defend Nintendo, and the Wii U does have some excellent games, but the only comparison worth making is that they were both commercial failures.

5. Farewell Geralt

I'm really going to miss The Witcher 3. Last month I finished up the final slice of DLC, Blood and Wine, and it was outstanding. It opens up a brand new kingdom that feels very different to the main game. A land of colour, rustic estates and vineyards, it is a fairytale come to life – at times quite literally, as you meet characters lifted straight from the pages of your favourite childhood stories. I enjoyed Geralt's transformation into a a sword wielding detective, was impressed with the new and memorable cast of supporting characters, and I also feel that it did a great job weaving humour into what can be a rather dark game.

Blood and Wine is a wonderful conclusion to one of my favourite games of the current generation. I'll miss you, Geralt.

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