Tag Archives: Virtual Console

Wii U In 2016: Catching Up To A Console On Its Deathbed

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After Nintendo’s most recent financial announcements basically confirmed 2016 to be a lame duck final year for the lame duck of a console the Wii U has become, I went over how the 3DS is Nintendo’s only chance to salvage the year. I’m also however mulling over my decision to buy a Wii U back around February (?) and how I’m going to spend probably my only significant year with the console. Continue reading

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The Understated Value Of Virtual Console

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Almost every time I hear Virtual Console being talked about these days it’s with heavy criticism. While pretty much all that criticism is warranted, I think I still want to take a minute to just talk about how valuable the service has been. It really is one of the main reasons I even power on my Nintendo hardware these days.

I made a pretty big post almost two years ago about what VC does right and what it does wrong, and not much seems to have changed since then. It remains a point of much squandered potential for Nintendo, but what we have now has still managed to give me a lot of gaming value in multiple ways. Continue reading

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The Game Gear’s Lessons After 25 Years

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There sure are some anniversaries going down in October 2015, so it might look like I’m putting these kinds of posts out in rapid fire. Maybe it’s gonna be like this every fall since that’s usually the biggest season for game releases. Today’s post is about a platform though, and a Japanese release from the early 90’s at that. Continue reading

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Late to the Party: Super Mario Bros. 3

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My quest to stop sucking at Mario sidescrollers continues as I complete Super Mario Bros. 3 for the first time, which was also only my second serious attempt at the game (my first only being last year). As some may have predicted, it has blown me away. Not only does SMB3 live up to its reputation as one of the top Mario games, I’m shocked at what it accomplished on the NES.

To me, SMB3 doesn’t look like an NES game, but rather a low-end Super NES game (and this is the Virtual Console NES version, not the SNES port). Its sprites are basically the sprites I remember from Super Mario World but with less color. Of course after that came the realization of the significant gameplay changes SMB3 brought coming off of the original.

Being able to damage things from the side (without a turtle shell) is a huge one. It changed how Nintendo designed the levels in an ever-present way, nearly adding another dimension to the game. Carrying things is another big addition, particularly in how the levels expect you to use turtle shells compared to the original SMB. Mainly of course however is Mario’s raccoon tail power-up granting temporary flight, a horizontal attack, and with that a host of advantages.

In SBM3 I also feel like Nintendo wants you to explore the levels a bit more than before. This is where you first see some Mario levels designed for you to traverse back and forth, finding secrets and solving what are basically mazes. The biggest and most obvious addition SMB3 brings is the world map, but it defied my expectations.

I thought SMB3’s world map would feel like, well, an overworld. What it really feels like is a tabletop game, with levels as basically spaces on the board. The way you can game different items and paths through the board deliver that tabletop feeling. SMB3 is a tough game in my opinion but I like how you can skillfully minimize how much you have to repeat upon game over. Making the airship level move every time you fail it is a nice touch. Things like that discouraged me from save-scumming the game. And the fact that you couldn’t save at all on the NES version probably made each session of SMB3 really feel like a one-time board game session.

I’m really intrigued by the multiplayer potential though. Two-player mode is basically two different characters moving separately across the board, trying to complete it first. Did a lot of people do this at parties? Is there an SMB3 tournament scene (outside The Wizard) I don’t know about? It’s a great idea I’ve almost never seen done since this game. I could imagine an asynchronous online remake or something where players mail moves to each other (and maybe play in real time when the two characters meet up on the board).

What also surprises me about this is that no later Mario game besides World really pushed the tabletop idea. All the recent Mario games that use a world map simply have levels plotted on the screen with an alternate path in Super Mario Galaxy 2 or a little backtracking in Paper Mario Sticker Star. None of them actually go to the extent of making you play the map like a board game with items and secrets. I guess that’s partly why SMB3 is still argued by some to be the best Mario game. I guess I’ll soon start up the other main contender.

BULLETS:

  • Interesting stories about the old console war. http://t.co/4hbaPw00Rp
  • Got a chance to play just a bit of H2 Overdrive — the spiritual successor to Hydro Thunder. It brings back the same accessible water racing arcade gameplay, but with some modern Call of Duty-isms like leveling up with experience points. The Cabinet even has a keypad to encourage you to create an account.
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What Should Nintendo Do With Virtual Console?

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The last thing I’ve heard a lot of discussion about in regards to Nintendo’s recent troubles is Virtual Console. At least on forums (I haven’t read articles about it) people seem to look at it as a lost opportunity. I’ll say that at the very least it wouldn’t hurt for Nintendo to be a bit more aggressive with the service.

I think Virtual Console holds a potentially great value for Nintendo because not only does it include Nintendo’s own classics, but also Nintendo’s ability to legally emulate consoles like the NES and Super NES for third party classics on those systems. I think VC has convinced many third parties to re-release games they otherwise wouldn’t have ported themselves. No other console manufacturer is sitting on a back catalog that big that can be emulated so easily. Sony’s set an example for what Nintendo should do with PSOne classics but it has to resort to streaming for PS2 and PS3 games. VC is probably the main reason I keep my Wii around and has added a lot of value to my 3DS. There are many classics I’ve only gotten the chance to play after they came out on VC. If you look back on my blog you’ll find several “late to the party” posts for games I got on VC.

I think Nintendo has three main problems with VC right now: 1) It releases games too infrequently, 2) most of those games are slightly too expensive and 3) they are locked to hardware. The fact that Nintendo is basically starting over with VC’s library coming off of the Wii — having to re-release every significant game, shows poor planning in itself.

A lot of this is due to Nintendo’s technical approach which it should probably change. The biggest issue is how Nintendo goes to the trouble of developing an emulator jacket for each individual VC game instead of just throwing them all into a general emulator for each old console. This probably increases the amount of work Nintendo has to put into each release and forces them to make each jacket individually for the Wii U and 3DS. Sony takes the general emulator approach which is likely easier, less costly, the emulation quality is still good enough, and it allows them to make PSOne classics playable on the PS3, PSP, and Vita, since only the general emulator needs to be ported to each system. That approach for Nintendo would likely alleviate the amount of work and the cost of releasing games on VC, not to mention make cross-platform support more viable.

The one huge factor that’s probably not under Nintendo’s control is third party licensing — how willing publishers and other rights holders are to let their games be released on digital services. Sometimes something as simple as an audio file or name in a game can hang it up in legal hell. Sony has encountered the same problem with many PSOne classics. For some reason though it seems to be easier to handle in Japan, as both Sony’s and Nintendo’s services feature Japanese libraries that dwarf their western cousins.

Other variables though include the features Nintendo likes adding to VC games: the ability to play them on the GamePad, new digital instruction manuals for each game (retro games really need them), save states, and other features. In fact that’s the reason you don’t see Game Boy Advance and DS games on 3DS Virtual Console — the 3DS’s native compatibility with those systems’ games prevents Nintendo from implementing those features. That brings me to how Nintendo should really be thinking about VC — as an alternative to piracy.

Everything Nintendo does with VC needs to be an attempt to make it a convenient alternative to piracy. VC needs to add perceived value to each individual game the way Steam has added perceived value to PC games. Right now I see only a handful of advantages VC has over just downloading ROMs: 1) Nintendo’s modern controllers resemble what you used to play the older games, 2) the digital manuals, 3) MiiVerse integration and 4) VC offers some of the best N64 emulation available. Customers compare this to a system where they can click on a website, download ROMs for free, and play them on any device with an emulator, often with more additional features. Nintendo needs to figure out how to make VC appealing enough for mainstream consumers in the face of that.

The biggest thing they could do is cross-platform purchases. Nintendo really does need to approach VC as a hardware-agnostic library of legacy software. I think that by itself would add a huge amount of value and convenience to each VC game. If Nintendo is planning on making its next console and handheld conform to similar architecture as its recent reports indicate, that would make cross-platform play much easier.

Why not, I dunno, render the emulators at higher resolutions like 1080p? It would hugely benefit N64 and Gamecube games and make even 2D retro games look crisper on modern displays. Add a scan line filter too like so many retro re-releases do these days.

And then there’s pricing. Never mind the fact that Sony is selling PSOne games for $5 — the same price at which Nintendo sells NES games. I’m fine paying $10 for Earthbound (as opposed to $100 for an Earthbound cartridge on eBay), $8 for Super Metroid, or $5 for the original Legend of Zelda, but I’m not paying that same price for Ice Climbers and Urban Champion. Most NES games probably need to be between 99 cents and $3.

A popular suggestion has been to simply turn VC into a Netflix-like service where you play a flat rate for access to all the games. This certainly wouldn’t involve streaming, as modern internet connections can download NES and SNES games in seconds. I’m sure a lot of people would pay for that service, but I personally would still like to just buy the handful of games I really want to play. Maybe a service like PlayStation Plus might be a good idea, where a flat rate get’s you access to certain games while certain others might have lower prices.

Most important though might be how Nintendo advertises Virtual Console. I don’t know how prominently it shows up on the Wii U eShop but it’s probably not enough. A big problem with the Wii was that most people who bought it probably didn’t know you could download classic games with it. Nintendo at least needs to be more aggressive in that area, and maybe even do some promotions with VC games. Steam puts retro games on sale and packages them with new games all the time.

If you ask me a real unsung hero is Club Nintendo. Some of the best stuff I’ve downloaded from Virtual Console has been free content from Club Nintendo. When you know about it and take advantage of it, Club Nintendo has the potential to be a really good loyalty program. It’s odd that you can’t even access Club Nintendo’s features on Nintendo’s actual hardware.

So, overall, the most important thing for Nintendo is probably to get cross-platform purchases working for Virtual Console, closely followed by releasing games more frequently. At the current release rate it takes more than a whole console generation to put up every NES and SNES game that’s worth playing. But generally Nintendo just needs to make VC feel like a good value proposition against piracy and make sure people know it exists.

In an ideal world, someone would have already set up the console gaming equivalent of GoodOldGames.com where you can just buy ROMs for a few dollars each and play those ROMs on whatever emulator you want. That site would offer higher quality assurance for the ROMs (and possibly emulators too) and make them more valuable by packaging them with digital manuals, digital guides, BGM soundtracks, and artwork. But alas, licensing troubles will probably prevent that from ever happening as long as Nintendo makes its own hardware.

BULLETS:

  • Dark Souls is finally done for me. If the sequel wasn’t just two months away I’d be all over a new game plus. Dark Souls is just one of those games you wanna restart as soon as you finish it. It’s that good.
  • Man, after installing Windows 7 on an SSD, I am never installing an OS on an HDD again.
  • Man, looking at the new THIEF game really makes me want to believe it can carry some of the spirit of Dark Project and Metal Age. Everything I’ve heard tells me Eidos Montreal is gonna make it unnecessarily linear to service a storyline they choose to tell as a linear, scripted experience.
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How Can Console Digital Distribution Do Better?

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Despite Microsoft backpedaling on policies that would’ve essentially emphasized the Xbox One’s digital market over the retail one, all of the next-gen consoles will focus on digital distribution more than ever before. I don’t think they’re going to do a very good job of it if console manufacturers keep their online stores the way they currently are.

I think Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo will try to push digital more and more if they’re smart and want to keep a greater share of profits from their games. Former Ubisoft designer Patrice Desilets (Assassin’s Creed) has even suggested that digital could save blockbuster AAA games.

“But I don’t believe the AAA blockbuster will die. Maybe the way it is distributed will change, but it won’t die,” he said at a Gamelab conference in Barcelona. “But, deep down, nobody cares about not having CDs any more. The future is digital, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Even if he’s right, I don’t think the preservation of discs was the only reason people rebelled against Microsoft’s Xbox One DRM. The other reason is because right now, people don’t trust Microsoft’s handling of digital distribution. Some suggested that Xbox One would end up being like Steam, but what proof have we seen of that? Right now, console digital distribution sucks, at least compared to how its’ done on PC.

I feel no incentive at all to buy Xbox 360 games on Games on Demand instead of at retail. The games don’t show up on the digital service until weeks after launch, they always seem to stay at prices above retail (even excluding used prices), rarely go on sale, and have no extra incentives. It’s like Microsoft just throws the games up there but doesn’t actually care about convincing people to buy them. As of this writing, Spec Ops: The Line costs $30 on Games on Demand and at retail. I bought a Steam CD key for the game on Amazon for $2.50.

Sony at least started releasing games digitally alongside retail on current generation hardware, and it aggressively encourages pre-orders on PSN with small bonuses. Nintendo also does a lot to promote full new releases as soon as you log into eShop.

They still have a ways to go if they want to catch up with Steam and other PC services though. As soon as you log into Steam you see several rows and categories of games: a hot new release, featured games, release lists, what your friends are playing, current sales, and demos, all on one screen. If you activate Big Picture mode you can reach the store with a single button press. Another digital distribution platform — iOS, let’s you access the store with one tap, and right there you already have several categories of software to look at, even on a tiny smartphone screen.

On Xbox 360 by comparison, you gotta flip past pages full of ads, music, and social stuff to get to the games, then enter “Browse Games,” then enter each section individually. From what I’ve seen of the Wii U eShop (I haven’t used it myself), Nintendo seems to be learning these lessons a bit, though on the 3DS it takes way too much scrolling just to see what the latest releases are. It’s bad enough I have to use 3rd party websites to get consistent notification of what Nintendo’s latest digital releases even are. On PS3, once you actually get into the PlayStation store it tries hard to promote featured content, but it’s all a bit disorganized.

Once again though, the biggest and hardest thing for digital consumers to swallow right now is price, and that’s also the area where manufacturers are probably most hamstrung by retailers. People put up with Steam’s DRM because of its sales (I’ve bought probably less than 10 percent of my Steam games at the full $50 or $60), and one reason Valve can do that is because retailers in the US have largely given up on PC gaming. iOS is all-digital and its prices are extremely low. Console manufacturers are probably afraid that offering such sales or chopping $20 off the digital versions of games will piss off the likes of GameStop and Wal-Mart.

That doesn’t mean though that those guys can’t make their digital stores more inviting, or find other ways to increase the value proposition of buying digitally.

PlayStation Plus and now Microsoft’s Games With Gold are very good, unique ways to keep people engaged with PlayStation Network and Xbox Live respectively. Nintendo has a pretty good loyalty program with Club Nintendo, which I’ve already used to acquire several excellent games. All three companies need to go further though.

Steam’s sales aren’t even the only reason so many PC gamers prefer it to other storefronts. Whenever another store has a better deal than Steam, many customers will still request the sale include a Steam key. They want their games on Steam because of the easy installation, automatic patching, and other features that make the service feel more valuable. Many customers also prefer to pre-order their games on Steam even though the prices are the same as retailers. Why?

One reason that console digital distribution can definitely follow is pre-order deals. Like I noted before, Sony already offers some pre-order deals like 10 percent off the price (like Steam does). Why not digital-only pre-order DLC? Usually Steam will have the same pre-order DLC as Wal-Mart. I don’t see why the consoles can’t do the same thing.

Sometimes Steam will bundle a pre-order with a free copy of an older game: A Red-Faction Guerrilla pre-order guaranteed an immediate free copy of the original Red Faction, Modern Warfare 3 pre-orders guaranteed immediate free copies of Call of Duty 4, and so-on. Of course this heavily relies on how much classic content is available on these stores, and the PS4 and especially Xbox One are starting from zero with their software libraries.

Microsoft could’ve done this had they allowed digital pre-orders of Games on Demand games — perhaps bundled older 360 games or original Xbox games with pre-orders. Why not bundle a digital pre-order of Max Payne 3 with a copy of the original Max Payne (which is on Xbox Live)? If retailers were smart they’d be doing this with download codes or used copies of the older games.

Sony might have a bit more leeway with this kind of strategy since they’ll probably be able to get PS1 and PS2 Classics working on the PS4 through software emulation. They could give you a free copy of an older PS1 Final Fantasy when you pre-order Final Fantasy XV on PSN, or a copy of the original Metal Gear Solid when you pre-order Metal Gear Solid V. Nintendo has at least as much ability to do this with their Virtual Console library — give anyone who digitally pre-orders Super Mario 3D World a copy of Super Mario World.

An obvious digital pre-order bonus is pre-loading — allowing customers to start downloading the game a week before the actual street date so the game is ready to play immediately upon that date. It also reduces stress on the store’s own servers by spreading out pre-order downloads over the course of a week instead of forcing everyone who pre-ordered to download on the same day. European PSN already does this but I don’t know why Sony doesn’t do it in any other region. I would be shocked if Sony and Microsoft didn’t do this on PS4 and Xbox One. Games are already requiring downloads in the dozens of gigabytes, which takes days on some internet connections. Since the initial PS4 unveiling Sony’s been all about reducing download times as much as possible, and pre-loading would be an ideal method.

Why not start doing digital special editions? Steam offers many special editions with soundtracks, special feature videos, and even digital art books. Every game you buy on Good Old Games comes with similar content along with things like guide eBooks and wallpapers. That kind of content could be made available and viewable on a console. When Sony started releasing all PSP games digitally, people quickly called out games like the original Persona that were the same price at retail and on PSN, but came with extras at retail. That kind of lopsided value proposition needs to stop.

Another cool thing Steam does is four-packs — buying a bundle of four digital copies of a game for the price of three, then gifting them to three of your friends so you can play co-op together. This is of course ideal for games with four-player co-op. Dungeons & Dragons Chronicles of Mystara has this on Steam, why not PSN, XBL, and eShop too? Dragon’s Crown should have a four-pack on PSN. Super Smash Bros. should definitely have a four-pack when it comes out on Wii U and 3DS eShop.

Something I’m kind of frustrated I don’t see on console is unique digital bundles. If I look up “Total War” on Steam I can get a bundle of every Total War game available on the store at a moderate discount. There are entire series of games available on XBL, PSN, and Virtual Console that should be bundled similarly.

What I don’t like about the old Mega Man games being re-released on Virtual Console is that I already own a collection of the original eight games on PS2 which is more valuable. There should be a VC bundle for those games. There should be PSN and XBL bundles for all three BioShock games for instance. There should be a $60 Gears of War trilogy pack on Games on Demand. Why isn’t there a digital Resident Evil anthology on PSN? This wouldn’t require the expenses of setting up a similar collection for retail. The only bundles I see on PSN are exact copies of the ones available at retail, showing just how much the manufacturers are still under retail control.

Every digital console storefront needs to let retailers sell codes for digital versions of games, and let those retailers sell their own prices. Sure retail still get’s a cut, but it cut’s out used sales and it exposes customers to the digital stores. When Amazon has one of its digital PC game sales, why can’t they also sell digital copies of PlayStation, Xbox, 3DS, and Wii U games?

One last, general thing that needs to be done is for manufacturers to give third party publishers more power in terms of how they sell their digital games. Nintendo is already letting indies set their own prices and sales, and Sony is planning to follow suit. They need to do the same with big third parties so they can do digital sales and promotions whenever they want.

Whatever manufacturers and publishers do, they’re probably still going to be under the thumb of retail for a while. The standoff will probably last at least until digital console game sales start to catch up with retail. I think when one of the manufacturers finally decides to release a machine without a disc drive, you’ll really see things start to change. At that point, the manufacturer will be under the upmost pressure to drive digital sales.

BULLETS:

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The Real Reason Nintendo Made MiiVerse

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I probably should’ve talked about this before the Xbox One’s unveiling, but recent developments in MiiVerse have actually made me optimistic about the service (and Nintendo’s whole platform) despite how much people like to laugh at those developments.

Of course I’m talking about the people posting questions about how to get past certain parts of Super Metroid, which came out on the Wii U Virtual Console not too long ago. You can laugh at people all you want for not knowing how to plant a morph ball bomb, or for being too coddled by modern games, but isn’t this pretty much exactly why Nintendo designed MiiVerse?

What Nintendo has done is basically take the GameFAQs forums and built them into an entire console. Valve has pretty much done the same thing and even let users upload guides. I actually see it as a nice alternative to the way games are designed to help players now.

MiiVerse really plays into how Nintendo used to develop games in the past. Miyamoto often recounts how he designed the original Legend of Zelda on the NES to be a bit mysterious so that players would figure the game out by sharing information. I can tell you right now a lot of people probably got through NES and Super NES games by discussing them with their friends at school. We always used outside help to get through games, we just didn’t always have the internet for it. MiiVerse is basically that old philosophy taken online and designed as part of the console’s OS.

Even Sony’s doing something towards a similar purpose with the PS4. Being able to livestream games while your friends watch and engage in party chat is pretty much the same as playing an old game with your friends watching at your house, just online. Sony’s even throwing in the ability for your friend to take the controls over PSN. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sony and Microsoft evoked the idea of having discussion forums for each game built into the console as well. I think it could end up being a better way to help people finish games.

For a while now Nintendo has been trying to find ways to help out gamers who might have trouble with the latest Mario games (like me), going through methods like super guides or items that appear after the 15th time you’ve died. Other developers have pretty much just made every game treat you like an idiot. Why not just let the community help each player out?

What if every developer made games knowing that such a socially-driven, communal help system existed at the platform level? It’s not unlike how Demon’s Souls was designed, but now potentially every game would have access to such a system. Might that encourage more developers to make games more challenging, or at least not needlessly hold players’ hands so much?

That’s probably a fantasy but I think it would be preferable to how games currently treat everybody like the lowest common denominator. Reliance on community help would let game difficulty be more flexible — let the people who can figure out the game for themselves figure it out, and let everyone else just ask around on the discussion boards.

Oh, and if nothing else these MiiVerse posts show that Virtual Console is indeed exposing classic games to new audiences, not just cashing in on nostalgia.

BULLETS:

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LTTP: Super Punch-Out!!

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So what’s the general consensus on the Punch-Out!! franchise? Is there some hardcore community of players? Is there some kind of agreed-upon or heavily-debated ranking of the games from best to worst?

I ask because I only got into them in recent years, just recently finally trying out a copy of Super Punch-Out!! on Virtual Console. When it originally came out I remember my brother begging me to rent it, but I never got around to it.

The first time I played the NES Punch-Out!! on Virtual Console I was astonished at how well it held up, perhaps because there are very few other games like it. The character sprites remain gigantic and expressive to this day, and the gameplay still feels sufficiently deep. It’s the definitely of a very efficiently-made game.

To me, the SNES Super Punch-Out!! (as opposed to the arcade game) honestly feels like a next generation sequel that sacrificed some of that depth for visual flair. It’s too common a problem with today’s successors to PS2-era games but I didn’t expect to see it in an SNES game. I haven’t gotten past the beginning of the middle league, but I looked up some information on the game to confirm my suspicious.

Mainly, the NES game’s round system is gone. Instead of having knock-outs based on a combination of knock-downs, counts, and round statistics, it’s just whoever can knock his opponent down three times. That’s it. Every match is one round, and if that round runs out, Mac automatically loses. I mean, it’s still the same great simple-but-deep pattern-based combat of the game that made the franchise famous, but features are obviously missing.

Furthermore, Doc Louis seems to be gone. In the NES game I enjoyed how ringside conversations between him and Mac actually provided hints as to how to beat each opponent. Mechanically he provided the function of an actual coach more or less. In Super Punch-Out!! you just get text on the side of the screen. Mario ain’t even there to call the matches.

That said, Super Punch-Out!! did still amaze me with how detailed an SNES game’s graphics could be. It’s basically the same scheme as the NES game but with larger and more detailed sprites. The game’s opening even kind of reminds me of that of Super Street Fighter II.

Maybe the Wii Punch-Out!! is reminiscent more of the NES game simply for nostalgia, but perhaps they made the better choice in emulating that game’s mechanics.

Usually with games like this though, there’s some kind of deeper nuance to the system that takes hours and hours of continuous play to notice. I’ll probably get some Punch-Out!! experts telling me about the subtleties of what makes the SNES game better than the NES one, or why the Wii one doesn’t live up to the past games or whatever. That’s why I asked the questions I did in the top paragraph.

BULLETS:

  • I just beat the barrel minigame in Street Fighter for the first time.
  • Looks like Castle Vidcons has started up again. http://shar.es/j2GZK 
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Late to the Party: The Last Blade 2

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Around six months ago I did an LTTP on the first Last Blade game hoping the sequel would show up on Virtual Console, as it did a few weeks ago. Part of the reason I’m doing this despite the sequel’s similarities with the first game is because I’m running up on the time limit for this game’s post-play survey on Club Nintendo.

From what I understand, The Last Blade 2 mechanically is pretty much just some balance changes from the first game along with three new characters. Still, LB2 is the game that I’m more nostalgic for. LB2 is the game that got me interested in the franchise altogether when I saw the cabinet at that barbershop a decade ago. It’s also the game I never got around to buying on the Dreamcast along with Garou: Mark of the Wolves.

I didn’t talk about this last time, but it’s an issue with both games, and possibly any fighting game that you buy on Virtual Console — referring to the instruction manual to learn the moves is kind of annoying. It’s great that Nintendo goes into such detail when replicating the manuals for each VC game, but having to go back and forth between menus to refer to move lists just sucks, and all the fighters on VC are probably of the era before in-game training modes listed a character’s moves.

After enduring that though I started out by going with the only character I used in the first game — Lee, the token Chinese guy and only character who doesn’t use a sword. I couldn’t even make it past stage 3 in arcade mode before running out of credits (yeah, you get credits in the home version of an arcade game for once).

So, I decided to go a little bit out of my element and try a slower but more powerful character. I went with Hibiki — one of the new characters, because I remembered her from Capcom vs SNK 2. Waiting for the opponent to come into range of her powerful slashes is certainly a departure from how I usually just rush in there with combos. It actually got me to the final boss though.

Another thing to bring up with LB2 is its backgrounds, which have recently gotten some praise from places like Kotaku. Generally speaking, Capcom had nothing on SNK when it came to backgrounds back in those days. The first time I saw LB2 one of the things that really struck me was the burning building interior stage pictured above.

The thing is, all of SNK’s backgrounds look great when posted on a computer screen in their native resolution, but blown up on a brand new HDTV, LB2 looks like crap. Yeah that’s not really the game’s fault, I’m just saying that Neo Geo games haven’t aged that well visually (except maybe Garou). I guess that’s why we have King of Fighters XIII.

BULLETS:

  • What is with SNK putting all these games up on Virtual Console recently? Just a little while ago they released World Heroes 2.
  • Dishonored is $30 at GameStop online: http://t.co/wClAI1QG Digital PC version.
  • The Raid 2: http://t.co/8JhiF1zw
  • Nice article on the creator of Ecco the Dolphinhttp://flip.it/G44Ej 
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Nintendo and Next Gen Digital Backwards Compatibility

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The latest Nintendo Direct teased a lot of stuff for late 2013 and beyond, but the announcements of the most immediate concern affect the Wii U’s OS, including Virtual Console’s debut on the hardware. Nintendo’s handling of it brings up a lot of business issues, but also technical ones that aren’t immediately perceptible.

So they’re gonna try to bring the Wii’s Virtual Console library to the Wii U’s eShop over the next few months, but they can’t bring over every game at once, and there’s also an upgrade fee for each game you already own but want to play with all the Wii U’s basic features. This contrasts with other services that just let you bring legacy software over to new hardware without any additional charges or hassles.

The biggest problem for Nintendo is the fact that they’re bringing the old software over to new hardware. This is a problem that all game console upgrades face but one that Apple or Android don’t really have to. People are used to those operating systems now, but each one is a single OS running across a range of devices. Each game console on the other hand is its own OS and architecture that isn’t really supposed to run legacy software.

That’s the challenge of backwards compatibility, which neither Sony nor Microsoft has yet had to face when it comes to digital media. Nintendo has at least been able to ensure that all of your digital media from the Wii will play on the Wii U, if only with limited functionality. The same thing happens when you run digital software from the Nintendo DS on your 3DS — the system boots into DS mode, locking out any 3DS-specific features, yet no one has called Nintendo out on this.

The only area in digital distribution of legacy console software that you can really say offers better service is Sony’s handling of digital PS1 games. Nevermind them being the same price as NES games on Virtual Console, but Sony has ensured that you can play any digital PS1 game you buy on your PS3, PSP, or Vita with all the basic functionality of each piece of hardware. It’d be amazing if you could play all those Virtual Console games across your Wii, Wii U, and 3DS as easily. The reason you can’t though is almost definitely more of a technical problem than a business problem.

Sony has probably just about perfected one large emulator it uses for all its PS1 games, so all it has to do is port that one emulator to any new hardware they make. When Nintendo brings a game onto Virtual Console however, it creates a new emulator for that individual game. The result is more accurate emulation of each game, but brining Virtual Console to new hardware means porting all the games one by one. All those Virtual Console games were emulated one-by-one to work on the Wii alone, that’s why they created Wii mode in the Wii U’s main menu, which basically switches the Wii U into a Wii while you’re playing any Wii software.

Really, the same thing happens when you play a PS2 game on the PS3. It logs you out of PlayStation Network and momentarily disconnects your controller. I think digital PS2 games work the same way, but you also have to re-buy those anyway.

Porting each individual Virtual Console game to run natively on the Wii U probably brings in new costs for Nintendo, and Nintendo has chosen to lay those costs onto the consumer in the form of $1 fees for upgrading each NES game or $1.50 for each SNES game. It may very well be a valid argument that Nintendo should’ve just shouldered that cost themselves. That’s probably the real core of the whole argument you could make against their move. I think it’ll be interesting to see how this looks after we see what kind of backwards compatibility Sony’s and Microsoft’s next consoles offer.

Chances are looking good that Xbox 360 content might be compatible with the next generation Xbox — the only challenge being the move from a PowerPC to an x86 processor. Things may be tougher for Sony though, having probably elected to ditch the Cell processor from the PS4. I imagine PS1 games will still transfer right over since they’ve gotten that emulator down pat. Who knows, it might even reintroduce native PS2 backwards compatibility. The part that’s cloudy is games made specifically for the PS3.

Anyway, since the upcoming consoles won’t be available until at least the end of this year, and Virtual Console on the Wii U may not really get started up until the latter half of 2013, we can only really speculate right now. Digital backwards compatibility is probably gonna be one of the hot-button issues in gaming come later this year.

BULLETS:

  • Nice pay-what-you-want PDF of Zac Gorman’s comics, art, and other works: http://t.co/KryYKF7d
  • Honestly, I like Wired’s headline for their response to Nintendo Direct: http://flip.it/oTV17 
  • I feel like Ni No Kuni is the console JRPG that we should’ve had back in 2007, not at the end of the generation.
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