Monthly Archives: December 2008

Warming Up to the PS3

Ever since I splurged and bought Sony’s overpriced black monolith of a console, I’ve been desperately searching for ways to justify the purchase to myself.

My musings landed me in an odd place recently (not the first time this has happened, mind you).

I realized that it already had justified itself.  The frantic search for justification was unnecessary.

What I suppose I was trying to do was find ways to use my PS3 and much as my Xbox 360.  After all, if I don’t use it as much, then it must not be worth as much, right?  So I was thinking of all the multiplatform games I could buy on PS3 instead of 360 and looking around for every Sony exclusive I could whilst trying to increase my PS3 game library at any cost.

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Well, I can now admit that was the wrong path to travel down.

I already have a number of great PS3 exclusive games.  They have given me experiences that, naturally, I could not have gotten anywhere else.  Just because they don’t match the quantity of my 360 doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy playing them just as much as any title on the shoddily built white box.

I also have an HDTV now, which means I can now experience the geeky joy that is watching a great movie (or even a really bad one, honestly) in true high definition.  This alone makes my PS3 dear to me.  The fact that it is a better DVD player than the 360 by miles doesn’t hurt either.

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I was chasing after a bunch of silly reasons, just trying to use my PS3 whenever I could, at whatever cost.

The PS3 is a lot quieter!  Wouldn’t it be better to play games on it instead of the jet engine competition so I would be less distracted?

Possibly, but it’s hardly an issue worth getting that worked up about.

The 360 could break on me at any second!  Shouldn’t I buy as many games as I can for the PS3 in case it goes down?

It’s hard to fault this logic to an extent, but the bottom line is, as poorly built as Microsoft’s console is, I’m invested in it far to deeply to go back now.  So, for better or worse, I’m going to have to continue to do whatever it takes to keep a working 360 at my disposal.  So the games I buy for a particular console don’t matter too terribly, save for the couple of weeks I would theoretically be without my 360 again, and choosing a system for a game based on that criteria is frankly a little paranoid.

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Ultimately, the bottom line is, I’m never going to use my PS3 as much as I do my 360.  It’s just that simple.  I’m too far invested in the white console; I’ve bought too many games for it; I generally prefer its exclusive games, its user experience, and even its controller; and, may the geek gods help me, I adore the achievement system, which is a huge reason why I still choose it over the PS3.

But none of that is the point.  Microsoft did a lot of things right this generation.  Just because I generally prefer my 360 doesn’t mean I hate my PS3 or that I should artificially spend more time with it for no good reason.

I just need to better appreciate the strengths it does have and the things it has already given me.  And by the looks of things, I’m well on my way to doing that.

Welcome to the land of the loved, PS3.  Sorry it took so long to get you here.

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Sad Wii

So I recently got a new HDTV which I am rather proud of.  I will refrain from blathering on about how awesome I think it is unless I can think of a legitimately good reason to do so beyond how awesome I think it is.  In other words, an actual topic revolving around HDTVs.

Why do I bring it up, then?

Whilst playing around with my shiny new toy, I eventually found my way back to my Wii and turned it on again (after a huff and a puff to blow off all of the dust).  I made sure the video and the audio were working, played a little bit of LostWinds to see what the picture would be like (fuzzy and decidedly low-res through the lame composite cables, but still much more colorful and vibrant than on my SDTV, for the record), and did a little memory management while I was at it.

Then I decided to check the calendar.  It had been three-and-a-half months since I had last turned on my Wii.

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Three-and-a-half months.  Since I had even so much as bothered to turn it on.  And that was for a quickie hour of Mario Kart.

I’ve been a Nintendo fan since as long as I can remember.  I’ve stuck up for the Wii many times when others do not and will continue to do so.  Part of me wants to blame some of this on myself to deflect the problem away from my beloved Big N.

I was busy.  I didn’t have time to play as much with this busy semester of college.  I could have played a couple of games, like de Blob or Wario Land: Shake it!, but I was low on money and never got around to renting them like I wanted to.  I was busy playing other games.

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Wait, hold it.  Now I done gone and discovered the truth.

I was busy playing games.  Here’s the sad truth: Yeah, I might have missed out on a couple of relatively smalltime games because of the extenuating circumstances listed above.  But the bigger problem is that Nintendo didn’t give me jack shit to play, because my beleaguered wallet will tell you that if they had, I sure as hell would have bought it.

Instead, Nintendo busied itself releasing a couple of half-assed efforts that by all rights don’t even deserve to do well among their coveted casual market.  Rock Band and Guitar Hero are casual enough as it is and Wii Music’s childish remote waggling should be embarrassed to be anywhere near the same genre as those two classics.

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And as for Animal Crossing?  Don’t get me started on how angry I am at Nintendo for taking this long to release the same game for a third time.  It’s inexcusably lazy and a crushing blow to fans like me who were waiting anxiously for fun new changes to the addictive fuzzy animal life simulator thing.

I’ve forgiven Nintendo for some pretty egregious violations of lazy sequel syndrome before.  After all, if the fortieth iteration of the same formula ain’t broke, well… don’t fix it, right?

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I’m beginning to wonder.

The bottom line is, I still cherish my memories of Nintendo and continue to hold them in high regard, which makes it all the more painful that they have seen fit to totally ignore just about everyone this holiday season.

New buyers still can’t find Wiis in stores.  Hardcore gamers have nothing to play.   Casual gamers have only a couple of crap titles to play.

Who could possibly be happy with the Wii this season?

It’s not like this kind of thing is unprecedented.  It’s about this time in all Nintendo’s console life spans where things start to dramatically fall apart, releases slow, and the console dies a slow, painful death into obsolescence until Nintendo releases a successor in a couple of years.

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I was really hoping it wouldn’t come to all of that this time around.  And it still might not.  Nintendo still has time to save my beloved Wii.  They have made comments indicating that they are at least trying to make us think they’ve seen the error of their ways.  I’ll believe it when I see it, but I can hope.

The Wii is a console that, despite what just about everyone seems to be saying these days, I still think has great potential.  I would like to see it stick around for a long time to come and avoid Nintendo’s usual pathetically short console lifespan.  Some imitation of the DS or, even better, the PS2 would be a welcome change.

But boy oh boy does Nintendo have a lot of work to do.  Every passing day with nothing new to play leaves the poor little Wii further and further back in the minds of gamers everywhere.

Come on, Nintendo.  Over three months of abandonment from a Nintendo nut?

That’s just sad.

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Street Fighter Failure

It doesn’t bother me when I hear people talking about Street Fighter II in reverential tones, calling it a shining beacon of quality from its era.

It doesn’t baffle me when I hear people say it’s one of their favorite games of all time.

I’m not fazed when I hear people saying they still play it regularly to this very day.

What I will wholeheartedly disagree with, however, is anyone who makes the claim that Street Fighter II has stood the test of time and holds its own against modern fighting games.

Quite simply, that is not true.

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Anyone who says that has obviously spent too much time playing Street Fighter II and neglected to play any fighter made within the last decade or so.

I think it’s a case of the happy, gaseous clouds of nostalgia muddying people’s judgment and making them forget what it’s like to be a newcomer to the game.  It’s easy to say that a game is simple or that it isn’t difficult to learn when you’ve been playing it for well over a decade.  Such experience does not make for a particularly objective position from which to judge the game.

As a relative newcomer to the series, I can say with some certainty that this is not a casual game.  It is not an easy game to get into or an easy game to learn.

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Sure you can press buttons and do stuff within minutes.  Sure you can look up the special moves and throw fireballs without too much hassle.  But doing these basic mechanical functions is deceptively simple compared to the skill it takes to be even close to acceptable in an actual fighting situation.

When it comes to this, Street Fighter II’s learning curve is a brick wall.  The easiest of settings will laugh at the pathetic attempts of people who have never played the game before and there is absolutely no way within the game itself to learn better technique or improve, short of dying over and over and over again.

Frankly, it’s infuriating.

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Despite the many hours I have now put into it in my attempt to learn the revered ways of the Street Fighter, it remains one of the hardest, most frustrating fighting games I have yet played.  That’s quite a statement coming from someone who has tested the waters of Virtua Fighter and thrown controllers with remarkable speed after playing too much Dead or Alive.

I’m not knocking the basic mechanics of the game, really.  Though they are certainly dated and lack some of the depth and variety expected of a modern fighter, there is definitely still some fun to be had with them.

Even as the computer ceaselessly whalloped me into the ground on the easiest available difficulty setting, I still enjoyed kicking people in the face with Chun-Li, bouncing around the stage with Cammy, and setting people on fire with Dhalsim.  Classic stuff.

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For a game of its age it really has held up amazingly well.  That doesn’t mean it stands up perfectly against more modern games, however.  I guess my main complaint is that, for a game that is lauded for being simple and easy to pick up in comparison with other fighting games, I didn’t really find that to be the case at all in my own experience.  At least not with regard to anything deeper than surface level play.

Truthfully, I suppose my primary complaint is difficulty.  I was really hoping that my purchase of the shiny, new, stupidly-titled Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix would allow me a pretty, slightly modernized way to finally get into the vastly influential game that I missed out on playing as a child.

While most of the elements are there for this to occur, the difficulty is the one glaring issue that keeps me from actually having fun with it.  The game desperately needs a difficulty designed for newcomers like me that would allow players to feel better about themselves while stomping on low-level computer players and learning the ropes of the game at the same time so as to later step up to a harder difficulty or, gasp, other human players.

As the easiest available difficulty setting is clearly only meant for people who already know what they’re doing, sadly it seems I will once again miss out on the Street Fighter phenomenon as it just doesn’t seem worth it to me to continue to slog through such an overly intimidating experience.

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Street Figher IV looks to be aiming to create an experience that is more or less Street Fighter II with 3D graphics, which I consider a promising sign.  I’m hoping that, since the stated purpose of the game is to draw players back in that may have strayed from the franchise or even attract new people to the series, the designers will actually take these less experienced players into account and give them an experience they can enjoy as well, and not just series veterans.

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