Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Making a Case for 3DS

This might come off as less of an impressions piece and more of a rant about modern gaming press, so let me just get that out of the way.

It seems most of the major sites I go to, 1UP, Gamespot and IGN, and the blogs like Kotaku, Destuctoid, and Joystiq, all suffer from the same problem. Complete and utter failure to adapt to new things.

Even the above mentioned Kotaku and Joystiq who have not been shy about dolling out the love for 3DS will almost always remark how they turn off the 3D on 3DS games and it is only used to show it off to friends. I'm here to tell you this mindset is of that of a hard cynical gamer who can't deal with anything new in the gamespace.

I've been playing Super Street Fighter IV in the 3D mode now since I got the system and that is probably the only way I will play it. Yet if you follow any review for the game they all say you will want to turn this mode off after 10 minutes. Why? It works beautifully and the 3D actually helps you judge distance of your characters. I think I am a decent Street Fighter player, and I can tell you I actually play better in this 3D mode than ever before. So why is it that every review says to turn this mode off. They can't adapt to change.

The same thing happened when the Wii came out and everyone bitched and moaned that a regular control option wasn't included. I never understood this either as I have never had any trouble controlling any Wii game. But if you watch some of the early video reviews on Gamespot of Wii games you would have think you just handed a Hadron Collider to a two year old. Complete lack of understanding of the device.

As a life long gamer myself, I have always found this failure to adapt in the gaming press mind boggling. I went from an Atari joystick, to a NES gamepad, to Super NES and Genesis, to the radically different N64, and complicated PS1 and so on and so forth. Adapting to new control styles should be in the very life blood of the gaming populace. But for some reason these last two generations of controllers with 16+ buttons is seen as the end all of controller design. But I digress as the real issue here is with the 3D.

So now for some reason the new visuals spark reason for cynicism among reviewers. And to a degree I understand completely. I am not a fan of the new 3D revolution in entertainment. The 3D TV market is already proving a huge failure as are the movies from directors who don't "get it". Say what you will about Avatar but what James Cameron was trying to prove I respect. He wanted 3D to go into the film and not pop out at you so that shots can be composed in three dimensions, where the viewers can see into the film to make the world more visceral and real. It's not about shit flying at your face. So far few films have done this successfully. Even Avatar which looked beautiful was still a sci fi action film which is usually given the 3D treatment anyway. What I want to see is a movie like Roshomon, where the 3d is used to capture the atmosphere of a certain place to make you feel like you are there hearing the story.

What I am getting at is 3D can be great when used effectively. And the 3DS is a fantastic example of this. Now you can see into the game world, and it makes the experience much more engaging. I have a real problem with judging distance in 3D games. The 3DS has really help to alleviate that. Though there are few games out yet that really can demonstrate this, still, you will no longer need to use the "shadow" of a character to tell you where he will land. To me, this is groundbreaking.

With all that said, I understand that some people just can't see 3D or have problems with it. My wife for example has a hard time and can't see the 3D on still images. I suffer from astigmatism in both eyes and have migraines fairly regularly, so you can imagine my apprehension. The first time I played it in Best Buy I did feel some discomfort. However, I no longer have any problem. Maybe my eyes just needed to get used to it. I also have no issue when looking away and looking back to the 3D screen. However I realize with everyone mileage may vary. I just want to go on record that it might not be as bad for you as some reviewers have said. For example, Jeremy Parish of 1UP has gone on record many times saying he has a vision problem that won't let him see 3D. Yet they seem to use him as their main 3DS reviewer. It's their choice of course, but that seems like a grievous mistake. Sure you can turn off the 3D, but in all the games I've played so far, the 3D helps the play experience and the review should be able to reflect this. Most sites seem to be of the mindset to ignore the 3D in 3DS games when giving a review.

I won't go into all the little devices features as they have been covered robustly everywhere else. I will say I hope Nintendo develops lots more AR games and releases a lot of AR cards of characters. Having a virtual figurine of Samus Aran might be worth price of admission alone for me.

The picture below has nothing to do with anything, other than I found it looking for Samus and thought it cute.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Introducing Touhou Tuesdays! Marisa to Alice

First of all a little side not about the severe drop in posts lately. I've been consistently traveling for work for the last two months and haven't had much downtime to sit and focus on my blog. And while I can't speak for my cohort, Critic, I know he is up to his eyeballs with his own ball of wax.

So I figured I need to start another feature to keep me somewhat on a schedule. As I've been immersed in Touhou Project for the last three months (which have been a Godsend with all the aforementioned travel), I figured a good jumping off point would be Touhou Tuesdays, where I will focus on one random Touhou Project work weather it be fanmade or official.

The game I want to focus on this time is a fanmade game called Marisa and Alice, or Marisa to Alice or MariAri. Personally I like MariAri, so it will be refereed to as such henceforth.

Like a lot of fanmade Touhou games, MariAri takes a similar game and puts a Touhou coat of paint on it and tweaks it to make it something unique. So far that is what I have loved about a lot of Touhou fanwork games. I like old school platformers like Mario, Castlevania, and Megaman, but I'd like to play different version of those games that don't always star the same cast of characters. And as I love all the girls in Touhou Project, they make great substitutes for classic gaming mascots.

MariAri is a take on a Super Famicom game that never made it to the states called Mario and Wario. In that version of the game, Mario must make his way to Luigi through a maze set up by Wario. The catch is Mario can't see because he has a bucket stuck on his head.

The premise for MariAri is similar, except you play as Alice, with Marisa's hat stuck on her head. Alice must enlist the help of her faithful doll to navigate through the maze to get to Marisa.

The puzzles are all very challenging, but with trial and error are very fun and solvable. The game is played using only your mouse, where you click on Alice to point her in the right direction. She can't jump. All she can do is walk and fall off ledges. I highly recomend using a clean and responsive mouse, otherwise the later levels will leave you very frustrated.

As I mentioned in my previous Touhou post, I'm an Alice x Marisa shipper, so of course I took a liking to this game's plot. There is actually a fairly robust story here, and thanks to the ever active Touhou community an English patch is available (here) so that us westerners can enjoy the story. A good understanding of Touhou injokes might be required, but I think it is still a cute and humorous story if you don't know that much about the characters.

Ultimately the game is great to just pick up and play a few levels when you are bored. This would be a fantastic iPhone game, but alas ZUN saw to making sure that would never happen.

Also, Max Factory, please release an Alice Figma!