HCK PLAYS – Pretty Fighter on the Super Famicom

9 08 2013

Ah, Super Famicom how we love your classic games, and your… not so classic ones, too.   After all, hate is a twisted form of love, right?

Pretty Fighter is a middling beat-um-up made by Imagineer that actually did well enough to receive an enhanced port on the Saturn titled Pretty Fighter X, which received an 18+ rating and yellow label.  Now you’d think that was because of some sexy situations involving the all-female cast, and you’d be dead wrong.  It’s because there’s a cut scene that involves a male flasher.  In one awesome swoop Imagineer punked every Saturn owning pervert back in 1995.

This video was done as a rudimentary test for Studio Happy Chicken’s upcoming Game Girls Go! only I’m sorry to say the only game girls are the ones actually in the game.  I needed to see how long it took to finish of a 10 minute segment.  Keep in mind NOTHING here is going to be like it is on the show, this is simply a very basic and hilarious test.

Also, keep in mind it gets very NSFW, so keep it away from children and small animals.





NINTENDO: a History of Strange Business Decisions

9 08 2013

Nintendo is a company that’s been around the block a few times.  In fact, I would challenge you to find any other company as associated with pure gaming outside of Atari.  They’re also the only company who have remained a juggernaut in the industry over the past 30 years; but being the Big N doesn’t mean there haven’t been stumbles along the way.  For everything the House of Plumber does right, it seems they leave behind them a wake of decisions that often leave both fans and detractors scratching their heads.  Here is, in my estimation, some of their most huh-worthy contributions to gaming.

 

 

GETTING INTO GAMING IN THE FIRST PLACE

 

database-hardware-famicomdisksystem01

Back in 1983 when Nintendo entered the market in Japan, they were known mostly as a company that made playing cards and the occasional arcade game.  Sure, they had been dabbling in games since the 1970’s, but when the Famicom first surfaced, gaming in Japan was dominated by computers.  It’s closest rival was Microsoft’s MSX series of computer consoles, licensed to the likes of Panasonic, Sony, Sanyo, and National.  That’s a pretty ballsy move, going up against some pretty heavy hitters with very, very deep pockets; but Nintendo had done their homework, and they came loaded for bear.  First off, the Famicom (short for Family Computer) was set to directly compete on the PC front, even though it wasn’t a personal computer at all, really.  You could outfit the Famicom with a keyboard, disk drive, and it even ran BASIC.  This would be the only time in gaming history that Nintendo would enter the market not having a monopoly on what makes Nintendo, well… Nintendo: it’s signature games.  Donkey Kong, Mario Brothers, heck, even Super Mario Brothers were all available in one form or another on competitor’s machines; but it’s the superior Famicom versions of those games that would become classics.

 

 

SUPER FAMICOM DISK DRIVE

 

snes-cd

Probably the most well known head-scratcher in the history of the company, Nintendo was famously working with Sony on a CD drive for their Super Famicom game console when it put the kibosh on the project well within view of the finish line, literally throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  The end result of this gigantic corporate punking was the creation of the PlayStation, specifically designed to pee in Nintendo’s coffee.  You need to understand that Nintendo’s main competitor at this time wasn’t Sega, but NEC, whose PC Engine system was the #2 console in Japan… a console that was built around CDs.  The number 3 company, Sega also has a CD option for their system, and although the technology was new, it provided an obvious path as to where games were going.  Interestingly, the excuse Nintendo would provide as to exactly why they made the decision they made regarding a CD add-on for the SuperFami makes no sense whatsoever.  N pointed to piracy concerns over the easily copyable CD format, when there had already been devises specifically engineered to copy both Famicom and Super Famicom cartridges on the market for ages.  The reality is Nintendo did this simply because they felt they could, because… they were Nintendo.

 

 

STICKING WITH CARTRIDGES

 

SONY DSC

By the time Nintendo’s Ultra 64 rolled out as the Nintendo 64, the gaming industry had already embraced the compact disk as the chosen format for game delivery; but Nintendo made the decision to stick with cartridge based games.  Their explained reason: sure, CD games were cheaper to manufacture and held more data; but cartridges loaded faster.  That’s right, the Big N was so concerned about how you spend your time, they didn’t even want you wasting that extra 20 seconds it might take a game to load had it been available on CD instead of cart.  That’s just how thoughtful they are.  This would prove the beginning of a disastrous trend for the company to forgo industry standards… just because.  The end result of this decision would lead to the departure of one of the companies biggest 3rd party assets, Square Soft, and set the stage for the position in the console market Nintendo finds themselves today.

 

 

64DD / VIRTUAL BOY ONE TWO PUNCH

 

64DD copy

Although the Nintendo 64 proved far from a failure, two devices Nintendo would release alongside it would come to define the word.  Nintendo assured it’s critics that it would address the space limitations of it’s chosen cartridge based format with an-add on that harkened back to its Famicom roots: a disk drive that could read and write data, giving game companies not only more storage options; but also the ability to expand games.   Seemed like a sound and interesting idea at the time, and no one was exactly opposed to it; only it took them forever to actually release the thing.   Announced in 1995 and finally hitting shelves in 1999, by the time Nintendo made good on their promise almost all of the anticipated disk games had already been released in cartridge format, and no one was supporting it… including Nintendo.  That’s right, Nintendo released a device that it had no intention of supporting because they didn’t want to feel like they wasted their money.  But they had no problem with consumers wasting theirs.

The Virtual Boy parallels the disk drive in almost every way but one: while the 64DD was held back by Nintendo’s need “to get it right”, the Virtual Boy was rushed out the door even in the face of protests from it’s designer, Gunpei Yokoi.  Yokoi made the machine his pet project, and Nintendo was onboard having been fiddling around with 3D since it’s Famicom days (the Famicom supported 3D gaming through a pair of active shutter 3D glasses and some early Super Famicom games had 3D support built in, although it was never utilized.  In fact, the N64 was once conceived as a 3D system).  So while Nintendo had been doing it’s thing, the inventor of the D-pad, gameboy, and creator of such classics as Kid Icarus and Metroid was tinkering away in the background on his little 3D device.  He had it up and running just fine, but due to the cost LED diodes at the time it only was able to display one color: red.  Yokoi was pleased about his progress so far, but felt that it still wasn’t quite ready for prime time, and that in order for it to be viable in the marketplace it needed a full color screen, not just red.  Behind closed doors Nintendo agreed with him, but then they went out and publicly announced the Virtual Boy’s release, much to Yokoi’s horror.  This move was beyond bizarre: not only was there no reason to release the system at that time (Nintendo dominated the mobile gaming marketplace, they had no real competition), but the folks who designed the system has specifically told the bigwigs not to release it. The system flopped, just as Yokoi has predicted it would in it’s current state, and Nintendo not only publicly blamed Gunpei but also went out of their way to shame him, fire him, and then later murder him.  Yes, Nintendo killed Gunpei Yokoi.  They also never really made any games for the system, marking the second time Nintendo sold a product to consumers it never had the intention of supporting.

 

 

MINI-DVDS

 

Nintendo_GameCube_Game_Disc_and_Wii_Optical_Disc

Finally capitulating to the demands of developers, Nintendo announced that the followup to the Nintendo 64, called Project Dolphin, and later given the Christian name Game Cube, would in fact utilize DVDs for game delivery (thus bringing the system in line with the standard game format of the day); but not just any DVDs… MINI-DVDs!  It was like getting all the audio and load times of a DVD, but with half the storage space, once again making it nearly impossible to port a great many games to their system.  It’s important to understand just why the distinction between DVD and mini-DVD is so important.  The biggest reason beyond the amount of data it can hold is the cost to manufacturer.  Because DVDs were the standard format of the day for games, movies and computer software, it cost less to manufacture them and thus cost developers less to produce games on that format.  Because mini-DVDs were pretty much a specialty item, the cost to mass-produce them was significantly higher than your vanilla DVD.  Once again, Nintendo said the reasoning behind this was to protect from piracy, but let me tell you: if you can copy a DVD, you can copy a mini-DVD.

 

 

CONTROLLERS ARE TOO COMPLICATED

 

PSX

As Nintendo was gearing up for it’s successor to the Game Cube, the company decided to go on an interesting tirade:  controllers had become too complicated, there were too many buttons and, where once gamers could just pick up a controller and go, they now had to learn the controls to the game before playing it and that impeded the joy-joy process.  Nintendo would fix this problem by offering consumers a simple controller that needed no explanation, said Nintendo’s talking heads.  The actualization:  the Wii remote and nunchuk.  Now maybe it’s just me, but having a two-part wireless controller that has to be in the very specific range of a sensor bar and whose function varies depending on what game you play at any given time, that can also be used horizontally as well as vertically is a lot more complicated than, say, a controller where you use one thumb to press a d-pad or analog stick and the other thumb to press a button.  This would be the beginning of a trend where Nintendo would identify perceived problems that didn’t exist within the industry and claim to fix them.

 

 

THE TWO SCREEN HANDHELD

 

nintendo-ds-1

Nintendo’s announcement that the followup to the wildly popular Game Boy series of handhelds would feature two screens working together had gamers in a heightened sense of speculation.  What would it look like?  How would it work?  Would the screens be side by side?  The end result, the Nintendo DS (DS for Dual Screen) was an unmitigated success; but the Big N’s explanation of just why two screens were needed was a little bit… odd.  You see, in Nintendo’s mind the idea of pushing a button to access a menu or map or secondary screen within a game was just unacceptable.  They argued that, using the Legend of Zelda as an example, it took away from the gaming experience to have to hit the select button to call up the items screen and then have to push left or right on the d-pad to see the map.  It was much more logical and handy to have a second screen that displayed items or location information.  An interesting concept, yes.  A thorn in the side of gamers?  Hardly.  This was another instance where Nintendo would claim to fix a problem that just didn’t exist.

 

 

IT’S NOT ABOUT POWER, IT’S ABOUT GAMES

 

mario-is-missing-snes-box

During it’s Wii years, Nintendo would take a lot of heat for releasing an underpowered game machine, a system that just couldn’t keep up with its competitors.  N’s answer to this criticism would be that gaming was less about the power of the system and more about the quality of the games.  They then proceeded to release the Wii U, another underpowered system, repeating the games over horsepower mantra… while at the same times not releasing games for it.

 

 

TOUCH SCREEN CONTROLLER

 

203173-wii-u-tablet_header

The main selling point for Nintendo’s Wii U system was less the actual system and more about the system’s unique tablet based controller.  While controllers in the past had toyed with the idea of having some sort of interactive display (most notably the usage of VMUs on Sega’s Dreamcast), Nintendo went all in giving the Wii U a controller that could display the entire actual game on it, without the use of a TV.  An interesting and exciting idea to be sure; but once again the reasons given behind the decision making is suspect.  What if, Nintendo has said, someone wants to watch something on TV while you want to play a game?  You can play it on the actual controller without the need of a TV!  Additionally, Nintendo again brought up the problem of pesky menu screens.  It’s much more handy to have a second screen handling menus instead of having to press a button.  It keeps you in the game!  Well, I don’t know about you; but it takes me out of the game a lot more to have to divert my attention away from the game to a secondary screen I’m holding, then to find an icon, press it, and then return my attention to the main screen.  And what about when your playing your game on the controller screen without using your TV?  Doesn’t that mean there should be a secondary controller screen to your secondary screen?  If not, how important does that make the necessity of having tablet controller in the first place?  Once again, a fix for a problem that never existed in the first place.

 

 

ALL OUR CUSTOMERS ARE IDIOTS

 

aC01wKA

The most recent example of Nintendo Brand Business Wackiness comes straight from the top, Mr. Satoru Iwata.  He announced publicly that according to an internal study, modern gamers weren’t smart enough to finish level 1-1 of Super Mario Brothers.  This distain for customer intelligence had been one of those things hidden in plain sight at Nintendo for years.  Look at their early games: they’re all pick-up-and-go.  Then on the Super Famicom they started giving more in-depth tutorials when a new gameplay mechanic was introduced.  The Nintendo 64 and Game Cube would give players a chance to see where things were before levels started.  The Wii featured an actual ghost player to show you what you were suppose to do.  The 3DS offers you up an indestructible mode of play on Super Mario if you die enough, and many games offer endless tutorials because as Nintendo now openly believes, you can’t figure out things for yourself.





You, Good Sir, Are Screwed

12 04 2012

Hey, you!  Gamer person!  Do you own a Wii or and a 3DS?  How about a PlayStation 3 and a Vita?  If you do, you’re being screwed.  Yep, I said it- screwed.  You’re taking it up the ol’ wazoo by Nintendo and Sony.  How, you ask?  Allow me to explain.

 

To play this, you had to have this.

 

Back when I was growing up, if you wanted to play an old game you had to hunt down the old system and the game you wanted to play.  If you wanted to play Bonk 3, you had to find a TurboGraphx and a copy of Bonk 3.  If you wanted to play Vectorman, you had to have a Genesis and a copy of the game.  Then, as game companies became more open (or fell apart in the case of Sega) and portable devices became more powerful, you could get an older game as part of a compilation or as a re-release on a handheld system.  Super Mario Brothers was originally released on the NES, then became available on the Game Boy Advance.  Sega Master System games could be re-purchased as Game Gear cartridges.  This was acceptable because it was the only way to get them and take them with you on the go.

Then came a watershed moment in gaming: Nintendo announced the Virtual Console for their Wii system.  Suddenly tons of old games for various systems could be played in one place without having to track them down and pay out the nose.  Sony followed suit offering downloadable PSOne Classic titles, as well as PC Engine (TurboGraphx) and Neo Geo Titles.  While the retro Wii downloads were locked to your system, Sony took it a step further allowing classic games to be transferred to the PSP handheld gaming system, so they could be taken with you.  Everything seemed well and good up to this point; but here’s where things get a little strange…

 

 

Nintendo then released the 3DS system with its own Virtual Console separate from the Virtual Console available on the Wii, and Sony released the Vita with no backwards support whatsoever, except if you live in Japan and are willing to pay them (but it doesn’t extend to their retro games line, only to select PSP titles).  Eventually, they did make Neo Geo and PC Engine downloadable titles available to play; but only after saying that they wouldn’t.

 

Here’s what I’m getting at: in the last year, it’s conceivable that if you own a Wii and a 3DS, and want to play the original Legend of Zelda, you could have purchased it once for the Nintendo Wii through its Virtual Console, and then again through the 3DS and it’s virtual console, even though both systems use the same storage media and access the same network.  Actually, if you want to take it a step further, you could have purchased Zelda on the NES, Super Famicom (if you were in Japan), Game Boy Advance, Game Cube, Wii, and 3DS.  That’s 7 times you had the opportunity to buy the same game.

 

You'd have to pay upwards of $130 to play the same Zelda game on various Nintendo consoles.

 

Sony seems to get it a little more than Nintendo; but even they are slow in implementing a feature that seems like a no-brainer from the start.  Now, I’m not the kind of guy that feels entitled to play whatever game I like on whatever system I like… these machines are their developer’s babies, so what they say goes; but gamers aren’t the ones that opened the retro gaming on modern devices door, Sony and Nintendo are.  People like to joke and say that Nintendo makes portable machines that print money, but in actuality it’s nostalgia for past games that’s really raking in the dough.

It’s 2012.  Games, by and large, are digital now, and for all intents and purposes they could be conceivably transferred from modern consoles to modern handheld gaming devices, albeit with graphical limitations.  Retro games have none of these limitations, and provide an instant library and cash flow system to new devices.  That’s where the problem lies: companies are worried that if you can easily transfer you copy of Super Mario on the Wii to your 3DS or your Spyro PSOne Classic to your Vita, they’ll lose out on your money; that is, they’ll lose out on double charging you.  Although a system of cross transfer compatibility makes sense from a consumer standpoint, from a business standpoint, companies are scared to death of this.  Maybe it speaks to how little money companies make per release.  Keep in mind that over the last 10 years, game budgets have soared.  20 years ago, it took four people to design, program, and complete a game.  Now it takes international teams.  The cost of making games is out of control, and companies have had to shift income to the cross platform sale of older titles to make ends meet.  I know it may seem inconceivable that a big company could have trouble making money when they’re releasing hundreds of titles; but it can happen…. Just look at Sega.

 

As a consumer, you should just about be fed up with this.  I know I am.  There’s no reason why we should be forced again and again to buy the same games.  I understand why we had to on purely cartridge based systems, but in this digital day and age there’s no excuse.  Its just greed.





HardOffing Episode 4: Akihabara part 1

6 04 2012




IMPRESSIONS: Kid Icarus Uprising 新・光神話 パルテナの鏡

2 04 2012

I’ve had one heck of a rough week.  My car gave up the ghost 60 miles outside of Tokyo, my washing machine died the same day, and I’ve been up to my neck in business stuff… yet I still find time on the weekend for you.  Aren’t I nice?

 

 

Kid Icarus was originally released for the Famicom Disk System in 1986.  It was developed along side another classic Nintendo game, Metroid by the late famed game designer Gunpei Yokoi as two sides of the same coin.  While Metroid went on to fame and fortune (and 10 sequels), Kid Icarus, while being fondly remembered, only got one little follow-up for the Game Boy.  It seemed like the protagonist of the series, Pit, was doomed to languish in the land of forgotten game heroes until he was resurrected as a playable character in the popular Nintendo fighting mash-up Super Smash Brothers Brawl.  Now that modern gamers knew who this Pit fellow was again, the producer of the Smash Brothers games, Msahiro Sakurai, decided to make a new Kid Icarus game, bringing us to where were are today with me struggling to put my feelings into words, and that doesn’t happen that often.

 

 

While the original Kid Icarus was a 2D platforming adventure, Kid Icarus Uprising blends elements of pseudo 3D shooters like Space Harrier with those of on-rail shooters like Panzer Dragoon, and throws in a little bit of exploration shooting like… um… Resident Evil: Survivor?  There’s a lot of good, old, gameplay mechanics that Icarus Uprising borrows and does better than anything that’s come before it.  There’s also a smattering of new ideas that are really good as well.  I mean, the game really shines; but a game is only as good as how it plays, and that’s where Kid Icarus Uprising falls almost completely apart.

For those of you unaware, the Nintendo 3DS has many options for input.  It has four face buttons, a “slider pad” (that’s Nintendo talk for an analog controller) and two shoulder buttons on the top of the system.  Look here:

 

Now, normally in a game, your character will be controlled by the “slider pad” (because it moves in all directions), or the traditional directional pad, and the face buttons A, B, X, Y will be used for things such as jumping, shooting, grabbing, and what-have-you actions.  Occasionally developers work the shoulder buttons in there; but not that often.  Because of the squarish design of the 3DS, using the shoulder buttons for any prolonged amount of time can cause cramping.  The 3DS does have one more method of input, and that’s the lower screen.  It’s touch sensitive, and Nintendo has been pushing it as a control device ever since they launched the original DS system back in 2004.  I tend to try and avoid games that use the touch screen for primary input because, in my mind, it amounts to nothing more than a gimmick.  For 99.9% of all games, having a control pad, or “slider pad”, plus an additional 6 buttons is more than enough options to get the job done.  In fact, at no time have I ever thought that if I could just slide a little stick around a screen would my gameplay experience become more enjoyable.  Kid Icarus Uprising takes all those possible control configurations and throws them out the window, baby, bathwater, crib, and carriage.

You see, in order to control the game, your left thumb must be on the “slider pad”.  That’s cool, that’s normal.  The “slider pad” controls Pit while he’s in flight, moves him around the screen.  At this point, the normal, seasoned gamer would assume that the A or B button would be used for firing your weapon, and that’s where you’d be wrong.  Your forefinger has to reach around to the upper-left shoulder button to fire.  So what are the other buttons used for?  They’re not.  Everything else is controlled via the touch screen.  The touch screen controls where pit is aiming.  So you have to move your left thumb, press your left forefinger, and separately move your right hand to get anything done.  It may seem like a small thing; but it’s a bit like trying to write a letter with your left hand while your right hand draws a picture… it doesn’t work out so well.  For the majority of people out there, their brain is naturally wired as such, that your hands work together, not separately; but that is exactly what this game expects them to do.  It takes a bit of getting use to; but it’s doable.  It’s a horrible inconvenience, but not a total deal breaker.  No, the deal breaker comes when the second part of the game kicks in: ground based fighting and exploration.

Once Pit is on the ground, the touch screen is used to not only aim, but also move the camera and dodge attacks.  It’s like they forgot the other buttons even existed, not that you could even use them while holding a stylus in your hands.  This makes what should have been a brilliantly fun adventure become a painful, frustrating mess.  Not only are the touch controls imprecise, they hurt your hands.  What blows me away is that instead of fixing this obvious elephant in the room, Nintendo’s solution was to offer a stand to set your portable game system on to help alive cramping.  That means that in the 3 years that this game was in development, not one time did they think to fix the controls.  Their solutions amounts to a piece of plastic that holds the game system so it won’t fall while you shake your hands trying to get the stiffness out.  Truly a “what where they thinking?” moment.

What’s so very sad is that Nintendo had the time to implement Slider Pad Pro support in the game.  The Slider Pad Pro is an attachment that ads a second “slider pad” and beefs up the shoulder buttons for a move comfortable gameplay experience.  It’s very ergonomic.  If Nintendo had made it an option that the second “slider pad” could control the aiming aspect of the game, Kid Icarus Uprising very well might have been the greatest portable game of all time.  But in their wisdom, all the Slider Pad Pro does is make is so left handed players can used that slider instead of the right hand slider to control the main character.  That’s it.  It’s mind-boggling.

In order for me to semi-comfortably play Icarus Uprising, I have to attach the Slider Pad Pro so my right hand doesn’t cramp so much, and then balance the system on my knee, usually resulting in my leg falling asleep.  The game isn’t really portable by any means… I tried playing it in the train, and that just didn’t work.  What’s the point of releasing a game for a portable system that can’t be played on the go?  That’s the point of a hand held gaming device!

But despite my five paragraphs of griping, I do really like the game… I just don’t enjoy playing it that much.  In my mind, a game could come ready to play.  You shouldn’t have to adjust the controls to play it.  You shouldn’t have to buy add-ons or a thicker stylus so that your hands can take the punishment of simple movement.  What Kid Icarus Uprising amounts to is a total joy in game design and a total failure in control mechanics.  That, to me, means the game fails.  It doesn’t matter how pretty something is, if you can’t easily play it; if the controls aren’t intuitive and precise, then the game maker has failed.

I’d be amiss if I didn’t share my thoughts on the Kid Icarus AR cards, since I’ve written about them twice in the past.  Now that I’ve actually gotten to use the cards, my balloon is greatly deflated.  They really don’t do much of anything, which is a huge disappointment.  In fact, I’ll go all out and say that the AR card aspect of Kid Icarus Uprising is a total waste.  Just another gimmick Nintendo is using to get you to spend your money.

In closing, I’ll share with you what came in the latest issue of Famitsu: 9 AR cards, and a humorous page on how to remove them from the magazine.  BY ALL MEANS DON’T RIP THEM OUT!  Use scissors, it says.  Just more hand cramping courtesy of Nintendo.

Click for Full Size





The New Old Game Mystery

27 03 2012

Going through various old game stores in Japan, I find a shocking number of unopened titles for the PC Engine (TurboGrafx) and Sega Saturn.  It was pretty cool at first, a little like panning for gold and finding your first little glint that hints toward the big one.  But as I’ve found more and more new copies of games that are 10, 15, and 20 years old… it got me thinking.  Where are these games coming from?

Recently, I stumbled on this listing on Yahoo! Auctions in Japan:

■新品■PCエンジン ロードス島戦記II 10ピース

That translates to “NEW: PC Engine Record of Lodoss War II – 10 pieces”.  The listing was accompanied by this picture:

 

That is a unopened case of of games shipped on December 16, 1994… 18 years ago, and it got me thinking.  I’m no stranger to the Super Potato line of stores, a variable must shop stop for retro gaming in Tokyo.  When you check out a Super Potato, if you look behind the counter, you can see boxes and boxes of games just like this.  Super Potato only carries old games at their retail locations.  That means that there must be hundreds, if not thousands of unopened games sitting in boxes, still waiting to hit store shelves.

I like to say that buying retro in Japan is like watching the ocean: there’s a high tide, and a low tide, and it’s cyclical.  During certain times of the year you can find an abundance of specific old games and old systems at decent prices, and other times they just seem to disappear and the prices for those that you can find being notably higher than before.   Then, a few months later, those systems and games return in abundance and prices return to “normal”.  My theory, and this is only a theory, is that stores collude with one another to control the market.  Working in the video industry in Japan, I know this to be a fact.  I’ve seen it.  So I don’t see why it wouldn’t spill over into video games as well.

 

Some of the new older games I've gotten for the PC Engine and PC-FX. I have more in boxes somewhere.

 

There’s actually quite a bit of old new floating around Japan.  New Famicom Disk Systems, new Famicom Disk games, I even picked up a brand new original copy of Final Fantasy VII once.  It all seems a bit strange to me.  Think about when the last time you saw a new NES or Sega Genesis (Mega Drive) game sitting on a shelf, waiting to be bought.  Did they really over produce that many games in the 1980s and 90s?  It’s hard to imagine they did.  So be careful the next time you’re on eBay or run into a chance to buy a new old import game that seems like a dream purchase.  Odds are, it’s there’s one… there’s bound to be a few hundred more.





Kid Icarus AR Card Nightmare

26 03 2012

Now that the Nintendo 3DS game Kid Icarus Uprising has hit the streets, we finally can get a glimpse behind the curtain at Nintendo’s end game regarding this title.  The answer is, marketing.  What was the question, you ask?  The question was, why did this game get delayed so much?  It was one of the first announced titles for the 3DS and it’s taken a long time to get it into consumer’s hands.  I haven’t had a chance to play the game proper yet, but I have been noticing some very telling trends on Nintendo’s part.

The big lure for me when it comes to Ikarus Uprising is the augmented reality aspect of the game.  I’m a sucker for “new tech” like this (although it really isn’t that new) and I collected baseball cards as a kid, so being able to play a little collectable card game in 3D seems cool to me.  Sort of like a mix of Battle Chess and that game C3PO and Chewbacca played on the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars.  There’s only one catch, though: getting the cards.  As I wrote about previously, Kid Icarus Uprising AR cards are being offered up for ¥100 ($1.20) a pop with chocolate snacks in Japan, but that totals only 20 cards and Nintendo has promised “hundreds”, a figure I initially poopooed; but now seems rather likely after seeing this:

 

 

That is the official Kid Icarus Uprising strategy guide.  It comes with 24 AR cards for a price of ¥980 ($12.00).  Granted, that beats the price of having to buy single random cards with snack (the chocolate puffs are delicious, though) because you run a high risk of getting doubles; but then I saw this as well:

 

DS + Wii and Nintendo Dream magazines

 

Two different Nintendo magazines offering even more cards.  But the cards being offered in DS + Wii and Nintendo Dream magazines overlap with the cards that come with the guide and the cards offered up with the snacks.  For example, the card for Black Pit (Dark Pit in the US… you could never get away with calling him Black Pit in the States) comes with the guide and with DS + Wii magazine.  Alternately, the card of Death, which I got by buying the Ikarus chocolate snacks, is also comes with Nintendo Dream.  This makes collecting a full set of the cards very confusing and costly.  In the instance that you were to get lucky and get every card from the snack series without any doubles (a statistical improbability) the cost to get all the cards I’ve seen would be ¥4,750 ($57.50), just ¥630 ($8.00) shy of the cost of the actual game.

In the past, Nintendo did something similar with the e-Card reader for the Game Cube and the Game Boy Advance.  For the game Dobutsu no Mori (Animal Crossing) you could buy packs of cards that added various items to the game.  You could also play various Nintendo branded collectable card games using the device.  What we’re seeing with Icarus is a revisiting of that same strategy.  There is no way anyone can underestimate the amount of money Nintendo has made selling Pokémon cards.  If Icarus captures even a fraction of the interest that Pokémon has, the Big N is in for another cash haul, and that speaks loads for the future of Nintendo released 3DS games.  Imagine being able to buy packs of cards that upgrade your carts in the next Mario Kart.  How many would those sell?  I guarantee that the next Pokémon card game will be 3DS AR enabled.  That’s going to move cards and systems.  The technological implications are cool, but think about the cost to you, the consumer.  If I didn’t own a 3DS and wanted to get into this card thingy, my cost to buy the system, game, and cards would be ¥25,130 ($304), a sizable investment.  And that’s not even including the cards I don’t know about yet.  Kids can’t afford that.  Just when did playing video games become less about having fun and more about making an investment?