5 Things On Every Gamers' Wish List (That Shouldn't Be)
Recently, Nintendo discontinued the production of the NES Classic Edition, a "mini" console that prompted a nationwide orgy of nostalgia when it was first released. Why were they so passionately fondling their memories? Well, it was a smaller version of the original NES, like the one they had as kids! And what did they complain about as soon as it was sent to the Big Closet Shelf in the Sky? "It needed to be able to connect to the internet and you needed to be able to download games!" Ya know, functions like the original Nintendo had.
And now that there's rumors of a Super Nintendo Classic Edition, I see the hype for it barrel through people's minds, obliterating any chance for anyone to say, "Wait a second. A lot of times, the things that we want aren't really the things that we want." I get it. I play my fair share of video games, and I fall prey to it all the time too. And I'm a huge fan of thoughtlessly making declarative statements like ...
"I Want More Portable Editions Of Classic Consoles!"
Because my YouTube homepage is half Japanese wrestlers throwing rapid-fire knees at each other and half people talking over video games, every once in a while I'll see something like "MAN CREATES PORTABLE NINTENDO 64," with dozens and dozens of "Where can I get one?" comments. And it's always remarkably cool for a little bit. I always consider ordering one, because who wouldn't want a portable version of something that they love? It's the whole reason that dogs under 15 pounds were invented. Someone looked at their Labrador and thought Damn, buddy. I wish I could take you to the liquor store.
"Damn, buddy. I wish I could take you to the liquor store."
But then reality sets in for me. And it's never a problem of battery life that dissuades me from sending the inventor every ounce of my PayPal account. Something that some dude just constructed on the internet is bound to have a few issues like a short battery life. That's the nature of the beast, as far as I'm concerned. No, what dissuades me is always the question that I ask myself: "Am I going to enjoy playing this on a four-inch screen as much as I enjoyed playing it on a 30-inch screen?" The Nintendo 3DS has done a decent job of porting old games like Ocarina Of Time and converting series like Super Smash Bros. into dual-screen nirvana, but I bet that Nintendo would do it way more if they could figure out a way to make it, well, work at all.
It seems really cool to revisit all of that former joy until you realize that most Nintendo 64 games, and other games that were made for bigger consoles, were never meant to be seen on something as long as your ring finger. They were meant to be seen in an enrapturing television experience as your father sobbed behind you, begging you to play catch. Nintendo does a lot of weird stuff, like creating consoles that our earthly human bodies aren't meant to fully cope with. But they're not holding back on turning all of your favorite games from 1997 into portable 2017 games because they hate your smiles. Outside of licensing issues, they probably hold back because they haven't yet figured out a way to both turn it into something you can play on the subway AND not burn your eyes out of your face in the process.
"It's nice that they gave us GoldenEye, but I'd love it if my pupils weren't bleeding right now."
The same thing goes for when someone shows me a dodgy emulator that they've downloaded on their phones. It might work great (it rarely does), but there's something lost in translating the controls of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to a touchscreen. Sure, it's technically playable. It's a thing that, if you own thumbs, you can fuck with. But every time it functions in a way that's more underwhelming than you like, it's not because "THIS PIECE OF SHIT PHONE CAN'T EVEN PLAY 2004'S BEST-SELLING PS2 TITLE." It's because, when Rockstar Games was crafting it, they never took the time to sit their employees down and say, "Congratulations on finishing this game. Now, we're going to make it so that in 13 years, people can enjoy it on a device that's mostly meant to receive text messages." And speaking of haphazard attempts to relive nostalgia ...
"I Want Games More Like The Earlier Games In The Series!"
As of Pokemon Sun and Moon, there are now 802 Pokemon. Yeah, I've heard that's a lot, mostly from people who don't play Pokemon games anymore. Mostly from people who tell you "Man, wouldn't it be great if we could just go back to Red and Blue, with the original 151? Those were the days." Well, here's the good news: You can! And here's the better news: You don't want to.
Thanks to the Nintendo store, I downloaded Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow, because I figured that, man, what once was fun will always be, right? As 18th-century poet Alexander Pope said, "Pokemon Red springs eternal." I'd just finished Pokemon Sun, which I liked a ton, and now the goblin of sentimentality was tugging at my pant's leg. "Play Pokemon Reeeeeeed," it hissed. "The old games are always betttteeeerrrrrr." And for a second, I considered its words. Yeah, on second thought, I did enjoy the old games that I played as an eight-year-old more than I ever enjoyed Pokemon Sun. And that's because they were better. I'll play them now and prove stupid me right.
"Ahh, the nostalgia of an old professor trying desperately to remember who you even are. I missed you."
It was then that I discovered that Pokemon Red is a great game if you've never played any other Pokemon game before. The balancing of the types, compared to the polished system that they have now, is frustratingly broken. If you have a psychic Pokemon in Red, the world is your Cloyster, and you can rampage through it unbothered by little things like game mechanics and difficulty curves.
"Now I am become death."
Some game series don't have any steady progression of quality. I can't tell you overall if the Resident Evil series is any good, but I can tell you that I enjoyed 4 and 7, and that 5 and 6 are puckered buttholes. But in the case of a series like Pokemon, the new ones are absolutely more effortlessly playable than the old ones. So until Nintendo creates Pokemon Red: Redder Edition, or whatever, I will stick with my 802 monsters for now. And no amount of "Man, remember when we ALL knew what a Pikachu was? Am I right?" is going to change that.
"No More Zombie Games!"
The zombie genre is in a weird place where there's both too much and not enough of it out there. If you ask someone about the state of zombie TV shows / movies / video games, they'll tell you that they're sick of zombies, but also that it would be neat to finally get a zombie game that has more plot / zombie murder / emotional moments. When George Romero popularized the genre with Night Of The Living Dead, I wonder if he knew how many people would eventually criticize it with "Not enough crying."
"Solid effort, George, but maybe a bit more utterly hopeless next time?"
Blaming the zombie aspect on the downfall of a bad game is easy. Zombies are like Jar Jar Binks. People didn't want to write an essay about a boring narrative or a lack of interesting character dynamics, so they said "Jar Jar Binks ruined the prequels" and called it a day. That's why we get so excited whenever we see something like Dead Island or The Last Of Us or the Walking Dead Telltale series or Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare or anything Dead Rising. We're not sick of zombies; we're sick of bad games that happen to be full of fucking zombies.
Zombies are popular because they fit everywhere. Vampires are zombies that you want to make out with. Frankenstein's monster is a zombie that just took a little elbow grease to get going. We can apply any metaphor that we want to them, and we can use them as quick cannon fodder or as the plodding thing that we have to painstakingly evade once we find ourselves trapped in a room with one. They're the Swiss army knives of entertainment. Need something that's full of decapitation? Zombies. Need something thoughtful about the darkness of the human condition? Zombies. They're the guy who's always willing to help you out at work, but the minute he tries to grab drinks with us after, we're like "Oh fuck off, Zombie. No one wants you around."
"Oh my god, Zombie's here. We didn't invite him out, so be cool."
Zombies are an underappreciated part of pop culture. And when we get tired of them, it's usually not because we're tired of the undead; it's because we're tired of the fact that game companies will clumsily add zombies to things because it beats having to actually come up with a story.
"More Post-End Content!"
Post-end content is a double-edged sword. If you're playing an especially good game, it's always fun to get through the credits and realize that there's more to do. This happens with a lot of open-world games. I beat it, and then I'm hit with the rush of knowing that there are places yet undiscovered. Neil Armstrong looked to the moon and wished to conquer it. I looked toward the sunset of Witcher III and wondered if there were any materials in that little hut that would help me make new gloves.
I spent a month playing this game, and two months seeing how this guy would look in different shirts.
However, most post-end content is like running back to the grocery store to pick up stuff you forgot. The climax and the build-up to the climax have happened. You've beaten the ultimate boss of fiery everything, and now some settlers in the middle of nowhere want you to gather herbs for medicine. It ignores the logical path of the universe. You're equipped with the best stuff in the game, and you're facing raiders it would've made more sense to tackle 40 hours ago.
So a demand for post-end content usually translates to "If your mediocre open-world game could give us some semblance of goals and progression, we wouldn't be pissed off when we beat the game and still feel like nothing has happened." It would probably take more attention being paid to tying in smaller quests to the main story, or giving players a clearer route to get to side missions that didn't require so much aimless forest wandering. But gamers would much rather have a fulfilling experience than one that ends too soon and is followed by a bunch of levels where you do the townspeople's chores.
Another village, another chance to do someone's laundry.
Compared to a lot of my friends, I still have a very, for lack of a better phrase, "finger guns" approach to video games. They'll tell me about how Bethesda has gone downhill, and how they've ruined the adventure or RPG genres, and all I can say is "You know what's pretty cool, cats? Fallout 4. Pew pew." However, I'm still skeptical when they tell me about what they'd do to improve the game industry or a certain series. And that's not just because I find myself constantly questioning my own happiness, slowly choking the life out of my passions and my relationships.
"I'm dying inside! Pew pew."
Sometimes, when people discuss improving a game series, it involves dropping the franchise into another genre entirely. "How great would Legend Of Zelda be ... as a turn-based RPG?" "Wouldn't it be cool if we had a Mario survival horror game?" "Overwatch Puzzles. OVERWATCH PUZZLES." And while these all sound ... interesting, a bigger question than "How do we improve this franchise?" is "Is our method of improving this franchise going to give us anything different from what we already get from other franchises?"
A Legend Of Zelda turn-based RPG would be super cool ... for a little bit. But after the initial wave of "I'm playing an RPG with Zelda characters!" wears off, unless the game is presenting us with something extraordinary that I'm not receiving from the countless other titles that feature questionably clothed teenagers, it's just another RPG about killing monsters with swords. And if you haven't noticed, that corner of the market is pretty well-covered. If I ever die at GameStop, it will probably be under a collapsed shelf of games that all feature virile, valiant men in little elf boots. Just a pile of them, covering me, suffocating me, feeling me.
I don't know if "Zelda, but with a more complicated inventory system" is that much of a franchise fixer.
Game franchises don't stick with one tried and true formula because their developers are lazy. (Well, some do.) They do it because they've usually got that shit locked down. While a Pokemon MMO sounds really great, is it giving us anything that's remarkable in comparison to the glut of MMOs already out there? Outside of recognizable monster names, will it be better than at least half of the other titles? Trust me, the Dead Space Dating Simulator is in the hearts and minds of all of us, but if it's coming after Silent Hill: Kisses In Fog Love Me Super, is it really worth it?
Daniel has a blog and a Twitter.
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