Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Newsflash: I hate consoles, too.

I think I’m kind of a strange ‘gamer’. I own pretty much every gaming console; I buy them when they come out, I crawl behind my TV unplugging and realigning everything in to make a slot for it, turn it on and play with the ‘configuration’ options. I connect it to my network, set the date, maybe download a demo or two, and then proceed to absolutely ignore its existence. I don’t really ‘play the games’ as much as ‘need to own the console so I can be secure in knowing I have one’. I recently convinced myself that I needed a Playstation 3, but managed to take a somewhat realistic approach to it. Since my Xbox 360 was pretty much a glorified DVD player, and since the PS3 would soon be filling that role, I decided that having both was a bit silly.

I decided I would sell my 360, and then use that money to buy a PS3, effectively discounting the purchase. I got to the videogame shop and tried to sell my 360, but they didn’t buy it since I didn’t have the manual for it. I figured it was at home somewhere, so I went ahead and shelled out the 79 billion yen to get a PS3 anyway, figuring I’d just go home and get the manual later, and then sell the 360.

Not only did I never find the manual, I never even got around to taking the 360 out of my car. I’ve been driving around with it in the backseat for about 3 months now. When I go to the convenience store to buy beer, I leave the windows rolled down with the car running while I go inside. I noticed a friend doing this to my utter disbelief when I first arrived, fresh out of “Hood Rat Oakland”, and began doing it myself as a sort of game. When my car is finally stolen, I will nod knowingly and tell myself that I knew it all along. I’ve been in Japan coming up on three years now, and my car is always still sitting outside waiting for me. It’s getting to be kind of a waste of gas at this point. Regardless, the fact that the console is still back there can speak either of Japan’s low crime rate, or of Japan’s complete and utter indifference towards the Microsoft console. I realized the other day that I forgot to put the Xbox’s DVD controller in the box, too; that’s sitting by the front door, where I put my keys. There it lies; patiently awaiting the day it will make the journey all the way out to the driveway to be reunited with its brethren.

I searched Google Images for "ps3". This came up. No comment.
Downloading demos on the PS3, up until just recently, was an exercise in patience. It was like standing in front of the microwave waiting for your HotPocket, but the HotPocket took an hour to cook. You couldn’t even do anything else with the machine while it chugged away. They finally fixed this, but the sour taste lingers. Once every two weeks or so, I log onto the Playstation Store, and see what new demos are available. I queue them all up, and go to sleep. I own one actual game for the system itself (“Motor Crash” or something). Demos are seriously all I need to fulfill my console gaming quota for the month. I download them, play them, delete them, and thank god I didn’t blow 6000 yen on that crap. Renting games out is apparently illegal in Japan (but you can rent music CDs..? wtf?), so you’re kinda fucked if the game sucks.

Last night I realized I had downloaded the Ninja Gaiden Demo a few days back and forgot to play it, so I fired up the ol’ PS3 and went to check it out. I also found that I had a formula F1 racing game that I had totally forgotten about downloading, too. Bonus.

Here’s how I ‘test’ racing game demos: I find a straightaway, floor it, and slam into the wall at the end. If my car doesn’t explode, I turn the game off, and delete it. Formula Racing F1 Fever or whatever the fuck it was called didn’t last very long on my hard drive. Neither did the new Gran Turismo HD demo. In both cases, but for separate reasons, it was a disappointment.

Seriously... what redeeming quality does F1 racing offer, unless the cars can explode in a million pieces when you barely nub another driver at 800,000 MPH? The whole ‘Nascar’ thing has got to be the most boring excuse for entertainment on the planet. Fifty cars driving fast around an OVAL for fuck’s sake. If the cars didn’t blow up there would be no point at all. Nascar even uses somewhat normally shaped cars. F1 cars are made of toothpicks and balsa wood, and feature the driver straddling an F-14 jet engine! Where do you think the F and 1 come from? (they also have 4 wheels, stop asking) To hurtle into a wall at the speed of sound and just… stop…? It’s as disappointing as joining a Counterstrike server only to find my teammates BULLETS don’t hurt each other, only ‘the bad guys’. I can run around a corner with my AK-47 shooting hot lead into someone’s face, but oh, hey! Sorry, Fred! I thought you were a cop! Nvm, ‘solgood LoL ; ) ! It kind of defeats the purpose of pretending like there are guns at all. Why not just have a game mode called “Sticks and Stones”, and everyone can just log in and type mean things in chat to each other?

Not an actual screenshot. In fact, nothing like this will happen in the game, okay?

With Turismo, it’s a whole new level of disappointment, but it’s hardly new. They’ve been doing this since the first version of it. Apparently it’s some licensing crap where Toyota doesn’t want to see its precious Vitz sedan all banged up. They see Turismo as an extravagant commercial, and want to always show the cars in their best light. But still, Turismo has “THE RACING SIMULATOR” written all over it in like twenty different typefaces. Every loading screen screams at you about how ‘real’ it all is, and yet, slamming into a wall at 120 mph in my Mazda just results in ‘coming to a stop’. At that point, I can calmly reverse, and drive away. This is a game that takes the temperature of your tires into effect when it calculates how much grip you have when cornering, and allows you to adjust the camber of your axels in tenths of degrees. However! Flipping a bitch, building up speed, and slamming head-on into the other racers just results in the two of you ‘rubbing’ into each other. Even the sound byte you get is pathetic.

So, yeah.

Racing games, whatever.

Anyway… Oh boy, Ninja Gaiden! The story of a Ninja Guy whose name is Dan. I played the original Ninja Gaiden games on the NES, and had my ‘grip the wall, do a flip and re-grip the wall a little bit higher’ technique honed to perfection. I was a bad ass, and totally beat.. the… uh.. boss guy at the end… whoever he was. I forget.

But anyway! Ninja Gaiden! Woo! Let’s get this rolling! I had played the first Xbox version back when it came out, and the game was pretty satisfyingly Ninjariffic. Dan would chop people and zoom around on the walls while screaming and grunting, and basically doing the whole ninja thing. You know: flipping out and killing people. You could say the camera was frustrating, or you could just say I only made it to about the second boss and then stopped playing because I would scream at my TV while trying to twist (choke?) the controller in my hands to death, secretly hoping to break it so I could have an actual excuse to not try again. This was a boss that jumped through a flaming building on a horse, stabbed me in the face with a long spear (HYAA!), and proceeded to drag my flaccid body around on the ground behind his horse.

At least, I think that’s what was happening… 90% of the time I wasn’t even on the screen.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I boot this game up, a full ‘console generation’ later, to find the EXACT same fucking game patiently awaiting my disapproval. Oh, Dan’s pants are shinier, and the boxes that you kick open are red instead of brown, but that’s about where the distinction ends.

Everything came flooding back as I sat in my underwear at 11 pm. I was afraid to play this demo, because the PS3 controllers are pretty lightweight. I think I probably could tear one in half if given the chance.

I began to remember the ‘trapdoors’ that you fall though; not because you’ve discovered a secret room, but because the camera just doesn’t show that whole half of the room. You wander around, the camera shifts wildly, and suddenly there are little bats squawking around in a cave, while ten seconds ago you were doing backspins-in-the-mix against white ninjas. Add the fact that you can effectively wait until you have one pixel of lifebar left before you ‘pause’ the game, dig thru your bags for five minutes, drink not one potion-- but two or three, maybe compose a haiku about sucky camera angles, and then leisurely resume the face-dragging-long-spear-routine as if nothing had happened. The friendly ‘bad guy ninjas that wait their turn to get sliced while you decapitate Larry over there’ aren’t going anywhere, take your time!

I exited game, and deleted that demo, too.

It’s sad enough that the industry feels compelled to flood the market with ‘genres’ instead of ‘titles’ these days. You have the shooter, the 3rd person shooter (as if camera placement revolutionizes gameplay), the dungeon crawl, the puzzler, whatever. Now developers are being told by their superiors to not even bother making a sequel, just remake the exact same game again. Twice. Ninja Gaiden had a “Black” edition, too, that tried to pawn itself off as a ‘director’s cut’ or some crap. This version on the PS3 (titled “Ninja Gaiden: Sigma” ooooh!) will now be the third time this exact game has been released. I don’t know how to react.

I think the funniest part of the demo was at the very beginning, where this un-skippable wall of text scrolls by at a glacial speed. It’s a warning that copying or reproducing the game in any way, shape, or form violates Tecmo’s Constitutional Rights, and that the wrath of the entire branch of the judicial system will be unleashed upon anyone foolish enough to attempt such a blasphemy.

I wonder… is it possible to sue one’s self?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

very good article ... so much truth...