Read-a-long with Nintendo Power #257 (August 2010)
It’s a story oft told: third party games just don’t seem to fare as well on Nintendo platforms as the homegrown crops. In this issue, NP tries, again, to get people to pay attention to some underselling third party titles. Plus, Nintendo’s intense Dragon Quest IX push enters overdrive. Time to read-a-long!
Issue #257, August 2010
featuring Dragon Quest IX (DS), Driver San Francisco (Wii), Okamiden (DS)
I really like this issue’s article of mass desperation, “Why Aren’t You Playing This?” Subtitled “Ten awesome Wii games you’re probably not playing – but should be,” it’s an eight page love letter to the third parties who tried and failed. I know I personally own five of the ten, and most of them did indeed get great reviews and great word-of-mouth. Not that that helped much. These are also all games that Nintendo Power gifted with serious coverage back when they first appeared, often in major articles and cover stories… so you really do have to ask what in the hell needs to happen for good third party games to puncture that Nintendo owner bubble. Let’s look at the ten and why NP suspects they have slipped on by.
Muramasa: The Demon Blade: NP blames the game’s Japanese asthetic, but that doesn’t sound like enough of a reason to me. I’d chalk it up more to a brand name problem, since known “Japanese” quantities like Final Fantasy and your various anime tie-ins have never needed to worry about scaring off buyers. Plus, did anybody really set up the case that Muramasa was a must-have title? Sure, reviewers said it was great, but it seemed to come with a lot of caveats that you need to like side-scrolling action RPGs with 2D graphics. It may be a great game, but it is probably not “breakout” enough to land an untested IP on the shores of sales success.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers: The entire Crystal Chronicles sub-brand has been flailing for years, and it’s always felt like “Final Fantasy” was stapled on just to achieve some stab at name recognition. NP acknowledges that people no doubt pegged it as “not a ‘real’ Final Fantasy game,” and also points out that the game received crazy-mixed reviews.
Klonoa: NP points to a pretty stupid reason, that Klonoa himself is not a major star, and he’s not “cool.” Yeah, he’s not a star, but I imagine that once the word “remake” was attached to this game, that scared off most gamers who fondly remembered the guy from the PS1/PS2 days. And you can’t count on the casualies to find something like this, because they only buy movie tie-ins and games with “Party” in the title.
A Boy and His Blob: NP blames cuteness, plus alludes to a less-than-healthy reputation for the NES original. OK, you can pin cuteness for a lot of “core gamer” avoidance, but speaking inside the closed universe of Wii owners? We buy cute all the time. I think this is the same situation that Muramasa faced, where the case just wasn’t made. For a lot of the games on this list, they’re running right up against a catalog of major first party games that are just similar enough in tone or content that the lesser-known game is destined to lose. What did you buy last fall, A Boy and His Blob or New Super Mario Bros Wii?
Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles: NP has a great rationale for this… that the first Wii Resident Evil Chronicles game kind of stank, and the Capcom should be punished for not continuing to make RE games for Wii in the same vein as Resident Evil 4. I think they hit this spot-on: make a crappy game to start, and you have to work five times as hard to get people to buy in to the sequel. And yeah, why hasn’t the Wii received some kind of legitimate heir to RE4, one of the best (if not the best) GameCube games ever produced?
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories: Simple, NP opines… you’ve never heard of Silent Hill as it has been primarily a PlayStation name. Yeah, yeah, but, again, you’d think NP cover stories and a pretty wide swath of “geez, they made a Silent Hill game for Wii?” amongst gamer websites would have pushed this one around more. I think you’re looking at the general uphill battle for M-rated games on Wii, plus a lack of support from the Silent Hill fanatics themselves.
Madworld: NP nails it… Madworld provides some of the least distinctive sample screens in recent memory. Not since Superman 64 covered everything in green Kryptonite fog have I had less idea of what was going on in a screenshot. I’d also add a bad word-of-mouth to Madworld, because it really does get completely repetitious and stupid about halfway through. And see also: the M-rated thing.
Dead Space Extraction: NP chalks this game’s loss up to a general light gun malaise. The mag also blames Wii owners being unfamiliar with the franchise, plus the lame-o box art that became a running joke over at Joystiq. NP does not specifically mention the HD vs SD debate, but I’d say that for sure compounded the problem. If the game seems to play worse and look worse than the game it is based on, how do you expect existing Dead Space fans to make the leap?
Tatsunoko vs Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars: Too obscure, says NP, nobody in America knows who the characters are. I think we were all surprised this one received a North American release in the first place. But really, the only possible off-putting element is the word “Tatsunoko,” because since when does the entire roster of a fighting game have to make sense? Did anybody not buy SoulCalibur IV because they didn’t know who Sophitia was? Capcom could have called it “Street Fighter All-Stars: Wii Edition,” without changing a single bit of content. NP points out that Capcom is actually pretty happy with how this one sold, so the title couldn’t have been that bad.
Little King’s Story: Bad title, too-cute box art. Again, I have to wonder why we’re using cuteness as a negative when talking about Wii games. They’re right about the title, though. I’d also add that it’s kind of a pain-in-the-ass to play. Although I enjoyed it, it’s really easy to waste time not accomplishing anything because you ventured out with the wrong mix of villagers and they all died.
So how many of these unloved Wii games did you play?
Dragon Quest IX is kind of a big deal
In Japan. Although Nintendo Power acknowledges that the franchise has little chance to have as much impact in the West, that does not stop them from pitching nine items that make Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies special. (And, NOA’s own “Nintendo Week” show has now spent two straight weeks doing episodes that are solely about DQIX… I get the feeling everybody wants this one to do well in America.)
Naturally, I’m more interested in the connectivity stuff. DQIX rather intriguingly treats “each Game Card as its own parallel world,” and it sounds like multiplayer works like it did in Animal Crossing: Wild World. Except that DQIX actually has a point to its online multiplayer. The host player is in charge of starting quests and moving NPCs, but other players can wander wherever they like in the host world.
The Tag mode feature (again, just like Animal Crossing and several other DS games) is probably a lot cooler in Japan where you’ve got a million people playing the game, but it still sounds neat. While your DS is closed, the game will sense other nearby DS systems, populating an in-game hotel with copied characters. And since player avatar customization is a huge sub-system in DQIX, you won’t get a hundred clones of the same main character.
These guests can hand out treasure maps that spawn randomly generated dungeons. And when they say randomly generated, they mean it. Each map is unique, and even carries the name of the gamer who first “found” it. NP says one especially good random map – where players can find experience-heavy Metal King Slimes – has made its way around the entire Japanese DQIX community.
Important: DQIX has NO random encounter battles. Yay!
La-Mulana is about to ref that slap-fighting game.
In La-Mulana – a Braid and Cave Story kind of game that first appeared on PC in 2005 – you have a portable computer that helps you through the adventure. The comp is upgraded by finding program pickups, containing maps and hints and stuff. And this:
Rose and Camellia is, of course, this meme-worthy game:
Odd. Makes me wonder what other obscure games could be featured in La-Mulana. Sammy Lightfoot? Realm of Impossibility? Tass Times in Tonetown?
Download Staff Picks: And Yet It Moves (WiiWare), Kirby Super Star (SNES)
Top scoring Wii review: Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, 9.0 (all scores out of 10)
Top scoring DS review: Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, 9.0
Lowest rated Wii review: The Last Airbender, 6.0
Lowest rated DS review: tie… Puzzle Quest 2 and The Last Airbender, 7.5
Additionally, both LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 and Toy Story 3: The Video Game for Wii received a 7.5 score. Tournament of Legends, also on Wii and reviewed here on Aeropause, landed a 7.0.
I’m not sure if Driver is supposed to be taken seriously or not. – Driver San Francisco includes characters from the previous games in the series, with such memorably cheesy names as John Tanner, Tobias Jones and Solomon Caine.
Please provide references to support this conclusion. – NP’s monthly online poll results show that the majority of players prefer “a great story” in their gaming. And yet the best-selling Wii games are almost entirely story-free.
Suck! – This year’s Raving Rabbids game is a return to the annoying minigame fests, rather than 2009′s wonderful platformer Rabbids Go Home. Raving Rabbids Travel in Time is, as usual, scheduled for the holidays.
Wow, somebody still thinks there’s sales leverage here. – Galactic Taz Ball is a DS game featuring the Tazmanian Devil, a Looney Tunes c-teamer that inexplicably outreached Bugs Bunny in popularity back in the ’90s. The game will feature a touch-screen-operated virtual trackball.
Life could be like a hurricane. – Warren Spector, currently prepping Epic Mickey for launch, has another Disney character he’d love to tackle: Uncle Scrooge McDuck. I would invest in that immediately.
Next month in Nintendo Power… it’s the Fall Game Guide! Should prominently feature at least two games with “Epic” in the title.
Tags: dragon quest, ds, la-mulana, Nintendo, nintendo power, Read-a-Long, wii