May 31, 2013

GameCube Virtual Console Thoughts

Still a long way away.

Since the launch of the Wii U, there's been a lot of hype and speculation about the future of the Virtual Console service. Even eight months into the release, the prospects are still very much uncertain. Nintendo tides over most people with news about moving Wii to Wii U, MiiVerse compatibility, GamePad play, and the like. Titles move over at a snail's pace. Why is this? To keep interest flowing consistently? For better long-term profits? Both, most likely. But a huge issue always comes to my mind whenever someone brings up the Virtual Console: the inclusion of GameCube titles.

Without a doubt, the GameCube can be placed into the category of a "legacy console". It's twelve years old and three console generations past. Even the later model Wii took out GameCube readability. So no issue in terms of it being "not old enough." Even when the Wii U was announced, there was excited whisperings of GameCube games being available for download.

But (and I know Nintendo is already moving towards a proposed solution), the internal memory is meager at best when compared to even last-generation consoles. Retail games take up a large amount of space, and even with the Deluxe Set, your internal memory is full before you can blink. eShop titles take up less space, but with consistent updates and patches, they quickly grow in size as well. The Basic Set (8 GB) is sitting on shelves gathering dust while the Deluxe Set (32 GB) is constantly in demand, but it's still not enough. Nintendo introduced the ability to connect an external hard drive to your console for additional storage space. This "solution" was, I feel, a short-term fix to a long-term problem. Even after it was hastily introduced, updates came quite often to improve and expand upon it. The whole thing reeked of afterthought.

With E3 upon us and the holiday season coming up shortly afterwards, Nintendo has to have some kind of hardware solution in their bag of tricks. Releasing consoles in a variety of colors only goes so far, and can only distract the consumer for so long. Even now, it was just announced that a 32 GB version will be released in White as well as Black. So what? That doesn't fix the underlying problem.

There is a possibility that Nintendo will release their own external hard drive. This will allow them to fix their initial faux pas while at the same time making money off of it. To sway people to their side further (other than just having an official "Nintendo brand Wii U External Hard Drive"), they could offer some included software/game/DLC/etc.

Another option (and this is the one people want the most) could be releasing another batch of consoles with a bigger stockpile of internal memory right off the shelf. If I can buy a used Xbox 360 with 320 GB storage space or a PS3 with a 500 GB storage space, why shouldn't I have the option to buy a Wii U with more than 32 GB? Would it cost too much?

Thus, we hit another roadblock. The GamePad replacement price has been valued by Nintendo at approximately $150 (It is not being sold as a solo item yet, it is only available as a replacement by Nintendo directly). Yet, the whole Basic Set is priced at $300. Could this mean that the base console itself is only valued at $150 by Nintendo? That's cheap. So what if Nintendo says, "Hey, let's release a Wii U with lots of memory." The only problem is, everyone who already bought their console is stuck with 32 GB max, and they sure as hell don't want to buy a new one that is going to cost even more than they paid the first time. And Nintendo can't sell a base console by itself for cheaper than a full set, because many games need the GamePad to function. You can't return only part of your purchase.

Or can you?

Since Nintendo has recently started selling refurbished hardware firsthand, why don't they make some sort of offer where you can send in your unit, have it upgraded with all your data transferred over, and then send it back to you? Since you won't need a new GamePad or anything, it can be done for a way smaller fee than buying some bundle brand new. All you would have to pay for is the price to upgrade your internal memory. Then it gets sent back with all your data intact, since Nintendo is doing it themselves and can easily navigate their own security measures (which is a big deal to them, for obvious reasons). This way, people that jumped on the purchase right away can have just as much storage space as people buying the upgraded console off the shelves brand new. And since Nintendo would then have consoles with less storage space that had been sent in, they could offer them, refurbished, at a way lower price. There would definitely be consumers that would not need that large amount of space, and the lower price would most likely sway them even further.

The increased storage space would mean that there would be no problem in people downloading lots of Virtual Console stuff directly to their Wii U, which also means there's way less of a chance of people passing around software through illegal means, which scares Nintendo to death. It's way easier to stick something on a tiny, portable hard drive and take it somewhere else to fiddle around than to pick up your whole Wii U setup and drag it around behind you. So Nintendo kills a lot of birds with one stone.

Bringing us back to the main focus of this post: GameCube games on the Virtual Console. NES, SNES, and N64 titles do not take up that much space. N64 would be the most, and that has a max of 64 MB. With only those options (aside from Genesis, Turbo-Grafx, etc.), you're not filling up even the Wii's internal memory any time soon. And since the Wii U is such a big step up in terms of storage, no way you're filling it up with those. However, Nintendo realized they had hit a huge snag after offering full, new retail titles to be downloaded on the Wii U without fully considering the space requirements. GameCube games are the same way. With a maximum disc capacity of 1.5 GB, you're looking at a lot of space used up just for GameCube titles.

Bottom line is, Nintendo needs to open up that space, and I think the "send in, upgrade, send out" model is their best bet. They aren't going to move ahead with something that takes up a lot of space, but requires a non-Nintendo supplier. They want to, logically, have control of their own products and services. So until that happens, GameCube games on the Virtual Console are not going to be a high priority. If they are announced before some sort of storage increase, I will be slightly surprised.

May 17, 2013

Super Metroid "Woes"

Play the game the right way.

Super Metroid (1994, Super Nintendo) was just released as part of the Wii U Virtual Console library a few days ago. Fans of the series everywhere rejoiced, and many picked it up and got to work. I haven't played it in years, so it was a great, fresh experience. What a masterpiece. It is definitely one of the best games of its console generation, and I would rate it in my top fifteen of all time. Everything about it is genius. And for 30 cents, how could anyone pass that up?

Almost immediately, Miiverse was bombarded with posts like these:

It's great that Super Metroid is available and so cheap. It's great that so many people want to experience it for the first time. But it's nauseating how incredibly helpless and disabled people become as soon as a single obstacle pops up that they can't pass immediately. Let me give you a word that might help:


Let me show you a picture of the map of this game:

Does that look like a linear path to you, where you can only go one way all the time? For most of these posts, this is how far they had come before giving up and expecting someone else to help them:

So they got out of their ship, walked down a hallway, and then most likely accidentally fell down that pit.

Ridiculous. It is sad to see how quickly some people playing video games have learned to become helpless. Is it really their fault though, or is it developers/publishers/etc.? Who can say? Regardless, Metroid games are exploratory in nature! That's how they work! You have to look around, hard as it may seem. Why do you think the term "Metroidvania" is used to describe many games today? Because games like Super Metroid set those standards, that's why. Here's a simple example:
  1. There's a red door in front of me
  2. Shooting it with my regular shot doesn't open it like the other doors I've encountered thus far
  3. I just got a missile upgrade with a big music fanfare, instructions on how to use them, and everything
  4. Why don't I try shooting a missile or two at the door?
  5. Wow! It worked! Now I know how to open red doors!
Yet for some reason, there are people posting on Miiverse that they can't open red doors. Looking at their screen-cap, they have indeed acquired the missile upgrade. They get to step 3 above, but then they say to themselves, "Man, this is hard. I should look on the internet for how to do this." I have even read posts on people asking if the game has glitched, or if their copy is broken. Unbelievable.

Super Metroid is enormous, and requires backtracking at many points. Just because you went through an area doesn't mean you got everything there. Not even close. There are even things in plain sight that with your current abilities, you can't reach. You might walk into a room and not be able to do anything yet, so you have to just turn around and keep exploring. You have to come back later. Imagine that. The game is designed that way intentionally, because it fits the story, gameplay, and everything else! But people just complain complain complain that they need someone to tell them what to do.

You answer your own question, but still ask it anyway.

If nothing you currently have works, then try another of the five doors you passed instead.

If you can't do it yet, then you're not supposed to do it yet. Move on.

Try stuff. Go to a different room. Explore. Look at the manual. You've been playing for five minutes.

Going slightly off-topic, there's this mentality among some people that play video games, I've discovered, that think that all older games are very easy and simplistic. These people only play current-gen games, and casually at that. Yet they claim to be huge fans of longstanding IPs, such as Mario, Mega Man, Kirby, Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, etc. They haven't played any of them from before 2012, but "Yeah man, they're so good." Dropping one of these older games in their laps results in them having a crisis, because they're afraid to admit they don't know what to do after they've proclaimed to everyone and their mother how big of a fan they are. So they hit buttons aimlessly until they die four or five times, then state something like, "Yeah, it's been so long. I'm not as good as I used to be. I think your controller might be busted. Let's play something else."

Firstly, why are these people afraid to admit they haven't played these games? Are they ashamed? Do they feel it makes them less of a person? Because the games are known to be "good", and they haven't played them personally, does that mean they think people will laugh at them? That certain people won't be impressed? I honestly don't understand. Are they scared someone will find out? And who cares anyway? I would think that the people that hold them in less esteem because they haven't played "good" games are even more idiotic. Did I miss some competition titled, "WHO HAS PLAYED THE MOST GAMES AND IS THE BIGGEST FAN"?

I do love hearing someone of any age talk about wanting to get into an older franchise or earlier game in a series. Look at this guy:

You'll notice there aren't any hate comments responding to this post. There's no ban from Miiverse or death threats.
There isn't any of that. I shouldn't have to thank this guy for saying something so simple, but I will anyway. Thanks for just being a regular person, Miiverse guy.

Secondly, just because games are older does not mean in any way that they are easier or more simplistic than current-gen ones. The only concession I will give is in terms of visuals, because of the hardware used at the time. But even so, some SNES games look incredible (e.g. Super Mario RPG, Final Fantasy VI) for their time. Super Metroid is a prime example of this fact. Just because it's on the SNES does not mean you can sit down and beat the game in a casual twenty minutes, and that it will mostly do it for you. Why do you think characters like Samus, Mario, Mega Man, etc. are still around and so highly regarded? Because their games throughout history have for the most part been well thought-out, had a lot of effort put into them by good people, and are generally excellent. You don't reach 25+ years by having a bunch of crap. There are RPGs from almost twenty years ago that have more complexities than ones today, and platformers that developers today try valiantly to emulate as much as possible.

Thirdly, if you truly do want to experience a game for yourself, then do it. But make sure that you actually experience the game yourself. It has been my rule to never look up help from anywhere or anyone until I have beaten the game at least once by myself, and I still hold to that today. Don't run to GameFAQs or YouTube the instant you can't figure something out, especially in a game like Super Metroid. You have to use your brain. If you really want to play it, then you have to have some sort of resolve. The game will not play itself, and will not help you just because you've been stuck for thirty seconds. I can't even imagine how un-fun the game would be if you've never done it before, but during your first time you watch/read a walkthrough while playing. You're not even playing the game, you're just mimicking someone else like a damn monkey. The part to enjoy is the game itself, not being able to make the statement, "I beat that game." If saying that statement is all that's important to you, then you didn't really play the game at all. I will also point out that most of the Miiverse posts on needing help are from within the first ten minutes of gameplay. If they are whining at that point, there's no way they're going to even make it halfway through.

There are so many things I could say to this person.

Let's look at some of Super Metroid's awards:

9th highest ranking game on Game Rankings
Game of the Month (May 1994) - Electronic Gaming Magazine
Editor's Choice Award - Electronic Gaming Magazine
Best Action Game of 1994 - Electronic Gaming Magazine
Best Game of All Time - Electronic Gaming Magazine (in 2003)
7th Best Game of All Time - IGN
Player's Choice Label - Nintendo

Ratings are consistently at 90/100 and above. The awards are there for a reason, but they shouldn't be the only reason someone should decide to play the game. It's the same for movies and books. If everyone says they're super-awesome, you can let that influence your decision, but doing it just because of that (and not enjoying it), and then stating that you read/watched/played it just to be able to say that is laughable and pointless.

Back in the day, there wasn't time (or the ability) to release patches or updates, or for the internet to solve your problem for you. The game was exactly the way it was intended to be when you bought it. It was also much harder and more expensive to make a game overall, which meant certain standards were much, much higher. If it was a AAA title such as a Metroid game, then you could be sure it was going to have a lot of effort put behind it.

So let's say you're in 1994, a young kid, and stuck. What do you do? Your options are limited:

a) Use your brain
b) Ask a friend/sibling/parent who had done it already
c) Play the game with somebody, and try to figure it out together
d) Find a Player's Guide
e) Call a hotline phone number
f) Walk away (and maybe come back)

Many of those options weren't even available to a lot of people. Many games today do not involve thinking/trying very hard to succeed. I'm not talking simple apps, either. I mean real, bonafide, tons-of-money-put-into-them-AAA-console-titles. Even Nintendo isn't in the clear. New Super Mario Bros. has a "Super Guide" option, where the game will ask if you want it to literally play a level for you if you die too many times. It's embarrassing that such a thing even exists. Since Super Metroid was released in the mid-90s, one has to think in that mentality while playing it. This game is nearly twenty years old. It will not be the same as a game you bought that just came out last month. It's a mistake to expect it to be. JUST STOP AND THINK ABOUT IT! I won't claim for a second that I've never been stuck in a game, but figuring the problem out on my own was the only way worth doing it at all. If you don't have the patience to do something so simple, then play something that requires less thought. No one will think less of you, but don't make up some other reason why you decided to quit. Deciding to quit a game is not a sign of weakness. Making up lies about why you quit is.

Lastly, let's talk about starting a game. As stated above, this game is almost twenty years old. You cannot expect it to play like a current-gen game. Looking at the manual might be helpful. It frustrates me to no end that people don't even bother looking for a manual anymore. They just dive right in and say, "I'll just figure it out." Some of these people actually finish games without even knowing certain key plot points, basic/advanced controls, or main characters' names, because they're too lazy to read a couple of paragraphs. Then they'll watch someone else play and exclaim, "Hey! How did you do that basic move that would have helped me play the whole game instead of me complaining how dumb the mechanics are?!" It's to the point where publishers feel it's a waste of time and money to even print a manual. This is part of the reason why far too many games are not as complex as they could and should be. Publishers are afraid that people won't play the game because it's "too hard to figure out." They'll put in controls and such that are slightly more complicated than pushing one button (God forbid), but won't make it a requirement to actually know or complete the game, because then it might overload the player's brain. Give me a break. Even today, I don't even start the damn game on until I read the manual front to back, sometimes twice. This prevents me from not knowing what the heck is going on at every turn.

With the limited space of cartridges at the time Super Metroid was released, there was no room for a bunch of tutorials in-game (plus it would have completely ruined the atmosphere of the game). That's what the manual was for! And when the game then builds on previously established content that an uninformed player didn't even comprehend in the first place, it's painful and confusing. It would be like asking kids to do algebra when they kind of just glanced over addition and subtraction without really getting it. The "dilemmas" presented by people playing Super Metroid are pretty much equivalent to asking things like this:

Laughable, but accurate. So let's say you want to check out the manual. If you want to be a purist about it, you can easily use the internet as a tool, not a cheating device, by typing in "Super Metroid Manual" into any search engine. You'll get a scanned PDF within the first three results. But what if you don't want to go through all that grueling work? Well, hey, check it out. You know that HOME button on your controller? Press that, then look at that box on the right with a question mark in it labeled "Manual":

You don't even have to get up. It's right there, made all modern and sleek by Nintendo itself. They did the work for you. How hard is it to at least glance over it so you know the freaking basic controls?

Apparently still way too hard for some.

I am totally for introducing and helping people play older games, but I'm not going to do the work for them. Statement A:
"Hey, I haven't really played any of the games from this series, and it looked interesting, so I wanted to try it out. I've been playing it for a couple of days, and I like it, but it's harder than I expected it to be. I'm working it out, but there's still some stuff I'm having trouble with. I'm not sure I understand it all. Maybe you could give me some tips without ruining anything so I can experience it for myself? The game is fun, but challenging. And I like a game that has a good balance of both, because then I feel like I'm accomplishing something, and can feel some pride once I do figure something out. I wouldn't want to just mash buttons mindlessly and not enjoy or understand a game, you know? What a waste of time that would be. And if I end up not wanting to finish it all the way through, then I just won't. It was cheap enough for me to give it a try."
Of course I would be totally willing to help that person out. Hell, next time I picked up a new co-op game, I'd ask if they wanted to try it out with me. In contrast to Statement B:
"Hey, everyone knows I'm a huge fan of Metroid. I've played almost all of them, and they're all so good, man. This one is so old though, it's just not the same, you know? The newer ones are so much better, because the graphics are incredible. Anyway, I'm stuck in this room right now, I'm pretty sure it's a glitch, but what else can you expect from these old games, right? Can you do this whole section for me? I've done it before, probably five or more times, but it's just been so long, and my thumb has been acting up lately. I'll just watch you do it and tell you all the stuff I read on YouTube while you're doing it. Then later we can talk about how we're both veterans of the whole series. I'll agree with you and say things like, "Oh, yeah, totally." Then I can tell you all the awards this game has won, and some cheat codes I always use, because the whole control scheme is so screwed up, it's practically unplayable with the default settings. I guess they're just lucky that true fans like us can still stand old broken games like these, right buddy? Metroid is one of my favorite game characters of all time. I know he's won a bunch of awards by fans like me."
I would be walking away in disgust before they even finished talking.

Super Metroid's story, gameplay, visual style, music, cinematic nature, and overall design were incredibly well thought-out. The game is truly beautiful. I have loved every second, and it impresses me at every turn even though I've done it before. I'm not just speaking as a Nintendo fan right now. As someone who tries to play all kinds of games from all kinds of developers, genres, publishers, teams, and times, Super Metroid is a fantastic game that really showed how the series could blossom. I hope tons of people decide to at least try it out, and hopefully a lot of them will discover why people that have played it love it so much. If you don't prefer it, that's totally fine, no one will think anything less of you. There are certain games I don't care for either (even though they might be heavily acclaimed). But please do not claim to have played it and loved it as much as people who actually have and do. It's insulting to real fans.

If you do decide to play it, then have some resolve, be ready to contemplate situations, and do it the way it was intended to be done: without millions of people you can annoy by demanding they tell you what to do at every single turn. It will do nothing but detract from your enjoyment as well as theirs.