Posted by: seanmalstrom | December 3, 2016

TG 16 Review: Soldier Blade

Note: This review was done without any emulation on true, beautiful, pure Turbografx 16 hardware. Mmmm mmm actual hardware!

Soldier blade boxart.jpg

Now here is a flagship title for the Turbografx 16: Soldier Blade. Does this game carry its weight of reputation? Is this game consistently fun? Does this game stand the test of time? And the most important question, the one everyone wants to know, is ‘Does it earn the Malstrom Award?’, the most esteemed award ever created in gaming.

Above: Soldier Blade gameplay

Blazing Lazers (Gunhed in Japan) was co-developed by Compile and Hudson. The game was a smash hit and popularized shmups on the PC-Engine. Hudson followed up Blazing Lazer’s success with the Soldier trilogy. Super Star Soldier (solid, extremely generic, very challenging), Final Soldier (accessible, many weapon choices for replayability), and now Soldier Blade.

How does the final game in the Soldier trilogy differ? How does it differ from all shmups?

Soldier Blade is a top down shmup. When you get hit, your weapons are downgraded. The weapons come in different colors (red, green, blue). When you get one, a little friend (option like) stays by your ship. Red is vulcan. Green is wave. Blue is laser. You can hold up to three of these weapons. The more similar color they are, the more powerful your weapon becomes. If you use the other action button, you can ‘dispose of one’ which makes your ship have gigantic weapon that creates havoc on the screen. You will strategically ‘dispose of these options’ later on in the game.

Select changes the speed of the ship. It is cool how the ship transforms when you do this!

Above: The soundtrack in Soldier Blade is top notch!

One of the challenges with writing a review about a shmup (and the PC-Engine has many of these) is really what to say. Shmups revolve around shooting stuff and dodging. But Soldier Blade is extremely interesting.

Remember Life Force? Remember how interesting it was to fly into that bodily organism and blow it up from the inside out?  Or remember R-type with its iconic bosses and really alien enemies? Or remember Dragon Spirit with its Jurassic themes? While most shmups do generic stuff (and Super Star Soldier copies the generic), Soldier Blade does something interesting.

The enemies of Soldier Blade are most fascinating to me. They are almost all robots or heavily mechanized race you are fighting. What is Soldier Blade’s pleasure is tearing apart these mechanized systems piece by piece and literally tearing the boss a new one. For example, the first boss has several attacks and several areas on his body that receive damage. The first boss shoots lasers from the side, missiles, and fires little shots. If you destroy a side of the ship, it will no longer shoot lasers from there. When all the parts on it are destroyed, the core runs wild firing shots at you. Aside from the pleasure of literally ripping the boss apart and seeing its attack change, it gives boss fights a cool sense of progression and even replayability. What if you destroy this part before that other part?

Above: Classic Game Room gushes over Soldier Blade.

There are infinite continues so you can really grind the game if you want.

The graphics work really well. There is a good mix of large sprites and small sprites. I love the cloudy background in this game. The super weapons look amazing and makes you feel powerful.

Above: This guy literally orgasms over Soldier Blade. He cannot stop gushing about it!

One thing I really appreciate about Soldier Blade is how the levels are not random. They show an overarching procession.

Operation 1: You start driven back at your orbital station. You push back.

Operation 2:  As you push back, you enter the surface of the planet.

Operation 3: Now on the surface, you take on the captured human capital city.

Operation 4: The aliens are retreating! Destroy their last resistance on the surface as they flee.

Operation 5: With the aliens gone from the planet, you follow their battleship to their homeworld.

Operation 6: You battle the aliens on their home turf.

Operation 7: The final fight.

The game hasn’t aged at all. I keep coming back to it again, and again, and again. Each time I play it, I consistently get high quality fun.

It should be important to note that many people incorrectly expect games like this to ‘wow’ them. This is not how it works. Great games decades old are like great wine. The more you play them, the more in awe you become.

Dos Equis Gifs to the World laughing sarcastic dos equis the most interesting man

Soldier Blade gets the Malstrom Award. The game is timeless. It is a genuine classic… that few know about. It may be one of the greatest shmups ever made.

——————-

Disclaimer: The ‘quality’ is gauged only by how often I return to the game. TG16 games are not isolated; they are compared to every other game out there. A game can be ‘bad’ and keep me coming back. A game can be ‘good’ that I never want to touch again. Irrational addictive-ness, which defies quantification, is the only element examined here.

Intro

-TG 16 Games Reviewed So Far-


Malstrom Awards: 
(Addictive and Awesome even today, they refuse to age. Score of 10)

Devil's Crush Coverart.png
Devil’s Crush [$68] Imaginative sound and gothic theme. You’ll keep coming back to this one.)


Galaga ’90 [$34] (Purest shmup I have ever seen. This will still be played 50 years from now.)

game Cover
Final Soldier [$30] (Good music and polish, easier difficulty, multiple powerup options. laser bubbles! Consistently fun.)


Parasol Stars [$85] (Better than Bubble Bobble. No one realizes how legendary this game is… yet.)

Image result for r-type pc-engine box
R-type [$40] (Never gets old because it can never be beaten. Fun to try here and there.)

game Cover

Salamander [$40] (Challenging and addictive. If you like NES Life Force, you will love this.)

Soldier blade boxart.jpg

Soldier Blade [$100] (Consistently fun, great difficulty balance, perhaps best shmup on system and of all time)

Honorable Mentions: (Good games that are flawed or gameplay has suffered aging. Score of 6-9)

(9) Blazing Lazers [$37] (Inconsistent quality, long stretches of boredom, yet fun to return to again and again)

(9) Gomola Speed [$15] (Snake meets Gauntlet. Genre defying. Gameplay hurts hand.)

(7) Alien Crush [$22] (Interesting, addictive, but flawed. Good to play as a break to Devil’s Crush)

(6) Bonk’s Adventure [$33] (Meh platformer oozes incredible charm)

(6) Dragon Spirit [$30] (Jurassic atmosphere is charming. Sluggish controls, hard-to-come-back after dying)

(6) Super Star Soldier [$73] (Extremely generic, obtuse challenge. Solid gameplay. Extremely over-rated. No personality.)

(6) World Court Tennis [$16] (Most interesting RPG on the TG 16. Seriously.)

Don’t bother: (Not fun to play today. Score of 5 and below.)

(5) Gradius [$30] (Four options can cause slowdown, but this arcade port remains difficult and very nostalgic.)

(5) Military Madness [$44] (Overrated, dated gameplay, repetitious, dull colorless setting of the moon)

(5) Neutopia [$76] (boring, bad game design, can’t hold a candle to Zelda, fire wand is only thing going for this game)

(5) Raiden [$72] (Overrated, more frustrating than challenging, no 2 player mode that was in arcade)

(4) Bomberman [$40] (dull and boring, totally surpassed by its sequels on this system)

(4) Boxy Boy [$27] (Solid puzzle game, but it gets stale fast. Contains level editor.)

(4) Ninja Gaiden [$80] (Compared to NES: worse sound and controls, terrible parallax scrolling. Nothing to see here.)

(4) Space Invaders [$12] (Arcade and Plus mode. Plus mode is cool but the game is still dull, dull, dull.)

(4) Shockman [$110] (Cool graphics and vibe, no polish, and frustrating gameplay. Play Mega Man instead.)

(3) Moto Roader [$17] (5 player party game, great upgrade system, terrible core gameplay. USE HANDLE B!)

(3) Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition [$20] (2 button controller is terrible for 6 button game. Good luck getting a 6 button controller.)

(1) Keith Courage in Alpha Zones [$10] (The 16 bit version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.)

 

 

 

Posted by: seanmalstrom | December 2, 2016

Email: Thoughts about the Switch

Just watched the Switch trailer again and came to think about what does
not feel right at the moment. These things may or may not be fixed
before Switch launches, but we’ll see.

Problems with Switch software seen so far:

Mario Kart – if Nintendo really is porting Mario Kart 8 on Switch, I
have a hunch Nintendo does not get what their problem is at the moment.
Mario Kart 8 is the worst Mario Kart ever made, because the gameplay is
nothing but gimmicks, up to an extent the game doesn’t feel like Mario
Kart anymore. Nintendo should port (if they’re not making Mario Kart Wii
HD) Mario Kart 7 instead, the game is so much better.

Splatoon – as much as I like the idea, the game is suffering the same
problems as Mario Kart 8, with it’s controller-as-a-map screen -gimmick
(and gyroscope to an extent). This doesn’t make the game unplayable, it
just makes it not fun. It adds nothing to the gameplay, while taking
away your option to play the game how you’d want to.
This is going to be a problem when porting Splatoon for Switch, because
Nintendo needs to find a way to port the gimmick. If they’d realise they
have fucked up, there would be a fix already for everyone just to
download.

Zelda BoW – we haven’t seen much so far, but judging by the controls
(what we know so far), it’s likely designed to be played also using only
the mini-controller (or whatever it is called), which is good by itself,
but if you’re forced to use the gyroscopic controls “to take away the
fun”, we’re really back where we started.

Problems with the hardware:

It does not look friendly at all. It’s designed the same
(neutral/non-friendly) way as Wii and Wii U, which is the opposite to
Famicom, NES and SNES, even Gamecube was made to look friendly and
appealing. The tablet itself looks like any Lumia or Jolla phone/tablet,
and the table unit like, black matte Wii?

The hardware is easy to fix with “another form factor” Iwata talked
about, but if the games aren’t good, that one’s bad. If Nintendo ports
bad Mario Kart, it means we’re not going to get a better Mario Kart game
in the near future, and the people who said “meh” about Wii U because of
bad Mario Kart, are going to “meh” about Switch because of bad Mario
Kart. People did not say “meh” about Splatoon because the game would be
bad per se, but because of the ackward controls (that made the game
bad). If there’s any momentum, it could easilly be killed by games
people did not wan’t Wii U for.

I am happy to see in this email and on gaming forums people saying, “If people didn’t buy the Wii U for its games, why would they buy the Switch for Wii U ports?” It is a very, very solid question.

One of the great Nintendo truths revealed when Nintendo used to talk prior to Generation 7 (they have since clammed up which has significantly reduced the business content of this blog) was Reggie saying, “Games that were designed for one system do not sell as well when ported to another system.”

Has there ever been a game where the ported version sells significantly more than the original? Sure, there are examples like Resident Evil 4 selling more on PlayStation 2 than on Gamecube. However, that is more of an install base issue well after the install bases were established on two current generation consoles.

I am having problems thinking of a game ported that dramatically sells more than on the system it was originally designed.

I like the Wii U ports because I do not have a Wii U. Nintendo likes the Wii U ports because they are already made games.

But can you imagine if NES games were ported to the SNES when it launched? Man! It would never have worked out!

Imagine if Genesis games were ported to the Saturn when it launched? Knowing Sega who did everything wrong in the business book, they may have already done that.

Did you know that before the Wii came out, people would argue that people bought hardware and not the games? Such lunacy! “PS3 will sell because of Blu-Ray.” So the games don’t matter? “Yeah, Malstrom. The best selling game console will have nothing to do with the games released.” It sounds so laughable today because we are wiser.

People talk about Nintendo’s gimmicks, but what about Sony’s hardware gimmicks? Do we want the game console hardware to do all these non-gaming things? You talk about the cow people had with the Wii’s ‘casual games’ getting non-gamers. At least they were games. Sony and Microsoft were trying to sell their consoles on the basis of their ‘non-gaming’ functions. “HD-DVD!” “Blu-Ray!” That’s non-gaming right there. But the magnificent hardcore do not seem to notice that.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | December 1, 2016

Email: About “Nintendo makes the best hardware hands-down”

I’m glad my email about the Genesis sound inspired you for other posts!

In fact, few days ago I was thinking the same thoughts you expressed in your “Nintendo makes the best hardware hands-down” post.

I start to think about it THIS YEAR, only after get Nintendo consoles (as I was a Sega-maniac on that time).

We know that games sells the hardware, but let’s keep focus only in hardware for a moment.

You’re absolutely right about how solid the Nintendo hardware is. Additionally, the specs were always good enough to their time, with a good price!

NES: no console competitor. Additionally, it has a cool design (futurist), gamepad was totally a new concept, hardware spec was good enough to play ports from everywhere, Disrupted because everyone was saying consoles were dead, only powerful PCs with keyboards will survive! Only YEARS later some competitor arrived, but their hardware was not that different, just NES clones entering the red market (some additional colors here, few additional CPU cicles there). You feel happy paying the purchasing price.

SNES: the gamepad was awesome (the best gamepad in history with 6 buttons), hardware specs was really good (nice sound chip, enough CPU, some cool arcade effects). For sure, Genesis had a better CPU, but the SNES one was good enough. But Genesis had a cool console design. And it was black (cool in the 90’s). On that time, SNES and Famicon designs was not that futurist like NES. In fact, a bit of toyish (the SNES design). You feel ok paying the purchasing price.

N64: well, solid construction, good spec, but the console design was a bit weird, including the control. Yeap, the gamepad innovated to the point competitors cloned the analog stick, but it was not a cool design at all. While CDs were fragile, on that time they sounded like the future. You don’t feel happy paying for a N64. It’s like buy a new replacement for a broken hardware at home. A “meh” feeling. Like “I’ll just buy this for my kids, I don’t have interest”.

Gamecube: better spec then competitors, but it appears like a toy. Westerners don’t like this kind of stuff. It’s a blocker for most of us.

Wii: don’t need to mention, but you know, almost the same NES points: competitors focusing on horsepower (3D, complicated controllers, etc), while Wii was good enough in specs. Wiimote was new and cool concept, console design is cool, minimalist and futurist. You feel happy paying the purchasing price.

Wii U: same feeling as the N64. It’s not totally ugly, it’s black piano (still modern these days)… but it’s weird design for the console (like a spiked and ugly bizarre version of Wii), including the control, which requires a power cord and base. While specs are good enough, due the tablet, price got higher then it should be. So, the feeling is not “good enough” for the pricing you’re paying compared with the hardware you’re getting. The tablet innovated a bit, but again, like N64, the console + controller is not a cool design at all. Additionally, you need so many different controllers to play (I have a wiimote, had to bought a new classic controller, and the tablet itself). I just felt “meh” purchasing it for my kids (probably the same N64 feeling fathers faced on that time).

Switch: of course, we don’t know everything yet, and we know the games will define the future. But, I’m not sure about the feeling. While in a first moment the design appears to be cool, I’m afraid it’ll be a Frankenstein to use like WiiU. Wii was so cool, because you only need a wiimote (fortunately, only few games used nunchuck). I just hope the price will sound legit.

I remember when the NES came out and just how extraordinary the D-pad was. It allowed so much more precision in games than the clunky joysticks. Imagine playing a platformer with a joystick. Imagine playing Ninja Gaiden with the Atari joystick. The game is too precise.

And I absolutely love, love, love the SNES controllers. The design is just… immortal.

While I despise everything about the PC-Engine hardware (its small size doesn’t matter if you have to keep on adding things to it!), but I do adore the controllers. The PC-Engine controllers are NES controllers but with turbo buttons! I love the turbo buttons! Why did we get rid of them? I wouldn’t mind turbo switches coming back. But games are no longer twitch based so it is sad.

Now that I think about it, the ‘amazing’ Hucard design of the PC-Engine games was nothing but the CD based design before CDs. It was pre-CD CDs! The Hucard was basically a credit card with some chips on it. There was no real electronics in it.

Anyway, the great thing I am looking forward to about Switch is that it is a Cartridge Fortress. Cartridges coming back to the home console gaming! Yeah, baby! I think I will buy games even if I do not like them. That is how excited I am for the cartridges. (not joking!) Switch will be amazingly fun console to collect for.

Zelda on a cartridge! Skyrim on a cartridge! Splatoon on a cartridge! Mario Kart 8 on a cartridge! I want these cartridges, reader. I want them bad.

If I was Nintendo marketing, I would use cartridges as a point of differentiation from the competitors because every gamer understands it. Old school gamers REALLY understand it. Too bad Nintendo’s marketing is coast based la la land where they think playing Switch on an apartment located on the roof is ‘exciting’.

I want the Nintendo console to rocket my house away again.

Above: Fuck yeah!

Hello Master Malstrom,

I’ll give you my opinion on the matter. It will be anecdotal, but hopefully that can help to steer you towards a more objective view on the sales.

Pokemon Sun & Moon is like getting a true, off the walls Super Mario Bros 5 right after the last two Mario games were Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros.

The core game is the same, but lore has massively expanded. From a seasoned players perspective, we’re learning more about how the general world works and are being treated to the fruit of play history. The protagonists from previous games return as true opponents in the post game/near post game (not just some fantasy match). Everything stale has been tossed out and entirely new constructs have been brought in. They don’t destroy the DNA of the experience like Samus’s maternal instincts or wawa low production values in Mario games.

Gamefreak does what Nintendon’t for their games.

To a new player, the games are still the same course Pokemon game that they heard about but the structure and progression are not similar to anything that they may have heard of before. There is plenty of depth and the game continues to evolve as a mmorpg where that ‘o’ means offline and online. You don’t get a huge, shared world online like in WoW, but you do get plenty of player competition and interaction online. The social factor is mostly in person, but again we do have online message boards. Most mmos tackle player coordination and interaction via their in-game systems. They decide heavy handedly what sanctioned and normal content and interactions will be via in-game mechanisms and designs. Pokemon is contradictory in that you can only battle and trade, but that your interactions are highly free form because your communication is meant to take place almost completely outside of the game. Everyone has their own private game world, but you’re connected easily in person. I have never played a game that’s more social engaging than Pokemon. It makes for a great icebreaker. There are so many people of both genders and all races, sizes and walks of life. You never know who will be a Pokemon player, it’s pretty exciting and fun.

 

As readers know, I do not play Pokemon so I have no idea what is going on in that Pokemon world. I accept the emailer’s word as good.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | December 1, 2016

Email: Stop lying to your readers

Aonuma has never once said he despises classic Zelda. He said that he was terrible at the original game. If you want to somehow extrapolate from that that he despises all the classic games, fine, but by printing it on your blog you’re only lying to people who don’t know better.

Let us put out what Aonuma says so the beautiful reader can judge for himself/herself:

Aonuma says from GDC 2004 on EVOLVING the Zelda Franchise (evolving means change, means to go AWAY from what it once was, and Aonuma and Nintendo were proud of that, and were so proud of their ‘OMG 3d’ versions.):

 

My first encounter with Zelda occurred in 1988 shortly after I joined Nintendo. After studying design in college, I began work designing pixel characters. At the time, I didn’t have much experience playing games, and I was particularly bad at playing games that required quick reflexes. So, immediately after I started playing the original Zelda, I failed to read the movements of the Octorock in the field and my game suddenly game to an end. Even after getting used to the controls, each time the screen rolled to a new area new Octorock appeared and I thought ‘am I going to have to fight these things forever?’ Eventually, I gave up getting any further in the game.

He got used to the controls. It wasn’t that he was terrible, AONUMA HATED THE LEGEND OF ZELDA GAME DESIGN.

Aonuma then says:

the result was that I was under the impression that the Legend of Zelda was not a game that suited me. So what kind of games did suit me? Those would be text-based adventures. For someone like me who enjoyed reading stories, these were games that allowed you to participate in the story and letting you experience the joy of seeing your own thoughts and actions affect the progression of the story. Plus, these games don’t require fast reflexes and don’t require traditional gaming skills. So, I thought that if I were going to make games, I would like to make this type of game.

How can it not be as plain as day? “Legend of Zelda was not a game that suited me.” It wasn’t that he was BAD at it, he HATED the original Legend of Zelda. He did not like Zelda’s gameplay at all. He says he loves text-based adventures instead.

That’s fine and dandy, but why the hell did Nintendo put a guy in charge of Zelda franchise who HATES Zelda gameplay? It would be like putting someone in charge of Mario games who hated Super Mario Brothers.

If you do not understand the magic of the original Legend of Zelda, you will not understand anything about Zelda. Aonuma doesn’t even mention Zelda 2. It is like Nintendo wants to pretend that game never even existed!!!

After that, I spent my days drawing pixel art of Mario & Peach and honing my design talents on a variety of projects. Then in 1991 I came in contact with a new Zelda game called A Link to the Past. Although I’d been frustrated with the original Legend of Zelda, since I knew the graphical improvements of the SNES, I knew that A Link to the Past was a game I had to play even if I quit half way through.

He admits he STILL doesn’t want to play Zelda’s sequel of Link to the Past. He only does so for professional reasons.

In planning A Link to the Past, I kept playing basic actions that were completely unrelated to battling the enemies — things like cutting the grass, lifting stones to search beneath them, and using keys to open doors. In these, I discovered that I was proceeding through the game, and I got the same feeling I did when using command inputs to actively participate in the story of a text-based adventure. I realized that those same feelings, coupled with a sense of play control response, far exceeded what I could experience through command input alone.

Here, Aonuma doesn’t even play the game correctly. He wants the game to be about cutting grass and lifting stones. Aonuma does not like ‘battling the enemies’. Why not? Link has a sword for a reason. What is Aonuma going to do? Remove Link’s sword?

He tried to do it! He tried! Skyward Sword’s original logo was missing the sword (it wasn’t called skyward sword then).

Aonuma’s Zelda games have been disasters for the Zelda IP with the exceptions of when the Zelda game mimics an older Zelda. Twilight Princess did well because it mimicked Ocarina of Time. Link Between Worlds mimics Link to the Past. Hopefully, Breath of the Wild mimics the original game.

But it won’t.

You know what I see when I look at Breath of the Wild. I see Aonuma trying to make a Zelda game where there is a multiple choice option other than battling with your sword. And then there is all the other Aonuma crap in the game as filler. But BoW seems like a game where the ‘open world’ is actually ‘a zelda where you can choose not to battle’.

I want battle!

I want Zelda to be the arcade twitch battle game that it is!

I do not want to ‘cut grass’ and ‘turn over rocks’. That is boring!

And most important of all, I want someone in charge of the Zelda franchise who actually likes The Legend of Zelda!!!! We shouldn’t have to spend time trying to ‘get back to what the original Zelda was all about’ if the director of the franchise actually liked the game in the first place!

Zelda used to be a phenomenon. Now it is just a turd game Nintendo fans buy because Nintendo consoles have no big RPG/adventure games. Other game companies copied Zelda because Zelda used to sell. Neutopia I and II for the PC-Engine were Zelda rip-offs, for example. After Capcom copied Wind Waker with Okami which experienced complete and utter disaster and destroyed Clover Studios, no game company dares to copy Zelda because it is financial suicide.

The less Aonuma that is in Zelda, the better for everyone. There is a place for text based adventure games. That place is not in the Zelda franchise.

Zelda is a combination of arcade combat and open world RPG that was on the PC. Zelda is not about ‘story’. Zelda is not about ‘puzzles’. Aonuma has been trying to retcon the entire Zelda existence. What do you think that GDC speech was all about? Aonuma is telling you how he saw Zelda which, since he is the director of the franchise, it IS the way how he wants. Since Zelda is ‘evolving franchise’, it is ‘changing’. Changing AWAY from what Zelda originally was.

Some idiot at Nintendo thought Aonuma was a genius or something (probably Miyamoto, that Virtual Boy/ ‘omg 3d’ dumbass whose moves has probably now cost Nintendo more money than it has ever earned through him) and gave him the keys to the golden Zelda franchise.

I want Zelda to be awesome. It will never be awesome with Aonuma. Aonuma doesn’t understand Zelda. All he understands is that Zelda should play the gameplay he wants. It’s as if Malstrom was put in charge of the Fire Emblem franchise and I declared the games need to go to motion based controls because I like Wii Sports. The insanity of that is equal to what Aonuma is doing. Text based adventures?

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 30, 2016

What is Nintendo’s purpose with the NES Mini?

Are you telling me the game company, called Nintendo, who refused to make a home console 2d Mario for 16 years, despises classic Zelda (Aonuma has said this), really, really, really hates Metroid, and keep telling us that any love of old games is ‘nostalgia’ that we should ‘put aside to play modern 3d incarnations of the same franchise’ is suddenly going on a NES love-fest?

No.

Nintendo has altered its strategy. Nintendo sees itself as a maker and maintainer of intellectual properties.

Nintendo will no longer just make video games. Instead, it will make software-that-reinforces-the-market-appeal-of-the-intellectual-properties. “What you say!” the reader demands raising fists. Look at the smartphone games. What is the purpose of the Nintendo smartphone games? It is to strengthen and advertise the IP and do so profitably.

Nintendo didn’t make much money off of Pokemon Go. But Nintendo’s Pokemon IP received a HUGE BOOST.

The Universal Rides for Nintendo revolves around Nintendo intellectual properties. The purpose of the ride is to strengthen the IP awareness.

The Amiibos revolve around the IPs and strengthening them.

There is no debate over what is said above. So why not take the next step and apply this thinking to the NES Mini?

The NES Mini’s mission may not be to ‘sell a ton of units’. After all, Nintendo is unlikely making much of a profit from the NES Mini. But what Nintendo is doing is strengthening the IPs of its games and of its most iconic console.

If NES Mini is needed to strengthen the IP stable, it shows just how terrible modern Mario and Zelda are (we already know modern Metroid is terrible. Thanks Sakamoto!).

I think the NES Mini should be seen more as an IP boosting device. The NES Era is Nintendo’s Golden Age (I guess SNES is Silver Age, N64 is Bronze Age). You could rename it as ‘Nintendo Golden Era Re-Released’ instead of NES Mini. The name makes more sense in terms of its mission.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 30, 2016

Email: Pokemon Pre sold more than any Pokemon in last half decade

Why is this game so huge?

http://nintendoeverything.com/pokemon-sun-and-pokemon-moon-are-gamestops-best-performing-games-of-2016-highest-pre-orders-in-five-years/

IP awareness through Pokemon Go?

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 30, 2016

Email: Audio terminology and MSU1

First, a quick thing about the MSU1 enhancement chip on the SNES, there is in fact a flash cart that implements support for the – the SD2SNES (video is not in English, but it does well to gets the point across – skip to just after the 11 minute mark):
https://youtu.be/R0Q6YK9BjAA?t=11m

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’d like to point out that there’s actually 4 variations of audio used in games rather than just “compressed” and “uncompressed”.

Tracked – MIDI, MOD, “chiptunes” like those used in NES & SNES (there are even modern Wii games that use tracked music)…closest image equivalent would be SVG

Lossy compressed – AAC, AC3, MP3, Opus, Vorbis, WMA…image equivalent is JPEG

Lossless compressed – ALAC, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, FLAC, WavPack, WMA Lossless…image equivalent is PNG

Uncompressed – AIFF, WAV…image equivalent is BMP

One thing that is worth noting about lossless is that decoding FLAC is light enough on the CPU that even the Nintendo DS’s secondary CPU (ARM7 @ 33MHz) can decode it in real-time, so it can make sense to at least use that for background music, but using uncompressed for sound effects can still make sense because decoding 10x FLAC streams at once can make a non-negligible dent in your CPU utilization.

However, at least on Nintendo systems (save for the N64 and DS), they actually have a dedicated sound processor (DSP) that have their own hardware-decodable format, so using such formats will have no impact on your CPU utilization.

 

The point was to show that gaming was going towards awesome audio. Then, it became ‘virtual reality’ and ‘omg 3d!’ for no apparent reason. We know there was no demand for virtual reality. There was demand for 3d when it worked well (especially for racing), but 2d kept selling too.

I think the obsession for virtual reality and ‘omg 3d’ is a distortion in the console evolution.

“What about the FMV fad?”

Yeah, that was definitely a distortion too. But you have to give FMV credit, it aged better than the early ‘omg 3d’ and ALL virtual reality crap. A movie can still be fun to look at after all these years. Low tech virtual reality? No. Early 3d? No.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 30, 2016

Email: Wii U and Switch

Hey Malstrom,

I’m a new Wii U owner, finally biting the bullet now that we know the console is on the way out, and thought I’d shoot you an e-mail about it, because my experience with the Wii U makes me think the Switch is going to be a big winner.

I’ve primarily become a handheld gamer over the last half-decade. Console gaming on the TV feels restrictive, you’re tethered to the television and the couch and every thing that comes up interrupts the flow of gaming. Handheld gaming allows you to multi-task, you can carry it around the house with you, pause and put it down for a little bit, do something else, then jump right back into it, gaming at your own convenience. Off-TV play on the Wii U Gamepad almost combines the best of both worlds. Firing up a downscaled HD Mario Kart 8 still looks stunning on the Gamepad screen, but it also doesn’t feel like a downgrade to be playing an old virtual console game on it either. Upgrading to a new console generation used to feel like an upgrade in power and ideas, and it would feel a little cheap to play older-style or older-looking games on it, but this just feels like a “machine for games”, where low, high(ish), and medium end can all exist comfortably simultaneously. The range on the console at least allows me to play away from the TV, in the next room with the door closed, at my desk, in my bed. It feels good to have the option to play on TV or (mostly) away from the TV (some games don’t support off-TV play). It feels like how gaming should be done. Almost.

I would liken the Wii U as a console to how phones have advanced over the years. I’m old enough to remember corded phones, and how awful it was talking on a tethered phone because you really couldn’t do anything else. Then the cordless phones came out and you could at least wander your house while talking on the phone. Then cell and mobile phones finally developed to the point where you could talk on the phone anywhere, or just use text. Each upgrade in technology offered more and more options. The Wii U is the cordless phone of consoles, it’s cool to experience it but it’s not all that significant of an upgrade from the corded phone because you’re still restricted. If the Wii was meant to teach new gamers how to play video games so they can move up to the advanced games, I think the Wii U was supposed to teach gamers that they didn’t need the TV to play console games anymore, except we’re already technologically advanced enough as a society to understand that kind of thing when we see it. Or maybe the technology wasn’t there yet and this was just a stop-gap, I’m not totally certain.

I think Switch is going to change the game. It’s going to feel like a “Games Machine” that gives you the option to play however and whenever you want, and you’re going to be able to take it anywhere and people are going to look at that and just understand it instantly, and that’s how console video games are going to be in the future.

I also think Nintendo needs to slightly refine their marketing. There were the jokes from the initial reveal about the hipster roof parties and people flying on planes and single men living in giant houses what kind of people live like these people, when I think they should be hitting a little more close to home: show someone playing it in bed, show someone walking into their friends place with one, a dorm room, a cafe, there’s even probably a good lame joke showing someone in a cubicle or a meeting pretending to pay attention and playing one under their desk (even better, have someone sitting beside them sneering like they don’t approve, only to show them also playing one and losing to the other person at Mario Kart or something). The message shouldn’t be that it’s a quirky game box for single urban 30 somethings, the message should be that the future of playing any type of game you want is to play it anywhere, anytime, at your convenience, no matter your lifestyle.

 

I do not mean this to hit too close to home, but gaming has always centered around the Working Class. Especially the arcades. The arcades grew up in bars. Who hangs out in bars? The working class. PC gaming, on the other came, came from nerds. It had a different style to it.

I’ve long suspected Nintendo of America is becoming more and more out of touch by staying in Seattle, Washington or hanging out near Silicon Valley. The purpose of NOA is to interpret America for Nintendo HQ in Japan. How can they do this in their current location? Imagine if NOA was in West Virginia. Could it even do its job properly there? (The Switch marketing is clearly out of sync with normal people. Good thing the marketing was only purpose driven for the product, not identity driven of the people who played it.)

One thing that hasn’t been shown is what happens when multiple Switches interact with each other. Who wants to crowd around a Switch with those crappy controllers? No. Multiple switches playing locally will be an awesome multiplayer experience. Wait and see.

And if THIS is true, will there be Switch Download Play or Spawning? Can you play multiplayer of many Switches off of one Switch cartridge? Remember, the DS did it quite fantastically. (Mmmm 8 player bomberman from one cartridge. I still play it today!)

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 30, 2016

Email: Sega Genesis music

Hey Master Malstrom,

Glad to hear you picked up a Genesis, hope you get some good use out of it. I think it’s interesting how you mentioned a lot of people are focusing on the wrong thing trying to get better sound out of their old games, and I think I might have some insight as to why SEGA people tend to focus on hardware more. The SNES and other sample-based game console sound chips were all moving towards eventually having streamed audio and real recorded sound, but the Genesis is interesting in that it’s sound chip is actually an FM synthesizer on a chip. Because of that, a lot of people see the Genesis music “as is” as being the truest and the realest it can be and just want that to sound as clear as possible, often going to absurd lengths to gets there like cracking it open and installing the “Mega Amp. “It’s also why when the Genesis fangame Sonic Megamix moved from being a regular Genesis game to a CD Drive Genesis-add-on game, they stuck with playing the FM soundtrack on the hardware instead of adding redbook audio that would stream from the game disc. For as many times as these songs get rerecorded, it’s very rare for a recorded and arranged version of a SEGA song to sound better than the original, while usually Nintendo songs only get better and better as the hardware gets better until you’ve reached your peak with things like the Zelda Symphony Orchestra. There are, of course, notable contrary examples to both. It’s also why knockoff aftermarket clone versions of Nintendo consoles are usually “good enough,” whereas the Genesis clone consoles are never a pretty sight. They all use the same console-on-a-chip that doesn’t get the music right!

P.S. For anyone reading and considering getting a Genesis/Mega Drive, getting a Model 2 isn’t the end of the world. Mine’s a Model 2 and I absolutely love it. Snatch up those games while you can!

 

Yeah, Genesis games are rocketing off like the SNES games were. Can you imagine that soon we will live in a world where the original NES, SNES, and Genesis will be seen as ‘hard to obtain’ like the Turbografx 16 is today? It is inevitable. Get them while you can.

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