A little bit of cynicism is healthy. But like most things, too much can be equally unhealthy.
While we live in a day and age where our eyes are potentially open to the inner workings of almost anything, there's little wonder left in our increasingly small world to allow us to take things with the level of optimism afforded before the internet arrived. Not to say things have changed dramatically in our mindsets - people have always been sceptical and knee jerk – just the web does make us that little bit more… reactionary. As the saying goes: "a PERSON is smart. PEOPLE are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals"; throw the internet into the equation where you're potentially in front of an audience of millions and things tend to get a tad crazy.
Even with all that in mind, it's amazing how we can seemingly judge something in just a few seconds. Especially in videogames. Worse, that judgement can be utterly destructive to a large number of people's hard work, just because we think we can sum up their efforts from a brief video clip that we can't even play. Barely two years ago I wandered into a flame fest against the first examples of admittedly unflattering footage of Perfect Dark Zero on Xbox 360, where a couple of high placed trolls were attacking anyone who had the nerve to look forward to it. In my foolishness, I asked why it meant so much to these flame-baiters that they had to piss on other's excitement, to which the replies from said trolls were not reasoned arguments, but more along the lines that I shouldn't get involved. Which to this day is an attitude that astounds me. Whether or not you ultimately enjoy PDZ or not is beside the point – but the very fact these people repeatedly condemned others for their optimism and desire is pretty disgusting. It's videogames, not world politics. Without some form of enthusiasm, no matter how misplaced it may seem to anyone else, we have nothing.
This level of spite is probably more prominent now as Wii proceeds to twist and turn expectations, leaving the average gamer more uncertain than ever of how to take it all in. Which, in my opinion, is probably a good thing. People have to think and gauge their opinions more. With Wii, playing really is believing, because as churlish as it is to judge a videogame from an attract video or preview shots, it's even more misleading to do so for a game which relies on a unique control method as Wii titles do. Wii Sports was derided by so many when it was first unveiled, by those who judged it by its visuals and deemed the sports too simplistic to hold their attention, not taking into account the appeal and fun that comes from actually playing it. That feeling of control outweighs any misconceived slights of depth. For a title that relies on tactile feedback, increasing the visual sheen wouldn’t have made a difference in this case, but for all the positive previews and reports, the cries of "it looks like a crappy and basic N64 game" were the norm for a long while.
The same happened with another surprise hit; Elebits. The videos that appeared after last year's E3 had many ask what the point was. It just looked like someone throwing lots of stuff around with a gravity gun. Where's the fun in that? Of course, when it came out people 'found' the fun immediately that was 'missing' in the footage. After all, it was the full game they had in their hands and seemingly unimportant things like 'playability' and 'gameplay' instantly became apparent. You'd think we'd learn from all this. But we keep on making the same nursery school mistakes that a child is warned off from an early age. We keep judging that book from its cover.
It's not really fair. Not on the people who took years of their lives to make it only for us to shoot it down before we play. And it's not even fair on us because sometimes we have nothing else to go on. A company can only release what it deems worth releasing in terms of preview footage, and if it doesn’t impress then what else can we do? Yet there are far more constructive ways to make a statement and offer an opinion. The internet has turned us into badly aiming Quick Draw McGraws, trying to get as swift and clever response out as possible without truly thinking about it beforehand (the most amusing of which is the expression of apathy through rambling posts; if you're truly apathetic, then surely it would make more sense not to post at all).
A few games have recently taken my interest in the pursuit of giving more things a fair throw. Wii's game catalogue contains a number of mysteries, most from Nintendo itself. As usual, we can't expect too much more than what we've been given, but it's worth taking another look to see what's flying under many a radar at the moment.
Project H.A.M.M.E.R. (http://ms.nintendo-europe.com/wii/?s...er.html&l=enGB) has been targeted for cries of simplicity by some quarters because in essence it looks quite basic and there's not been too much time spent with the preview versions to date. The premise itself appears to have roots in the old school beat 'em up genre, as you control a half-man half-machine hammer wielding saviour, using the nunchuck for movement and the remote for hammering the numerous killer robots in the way. There's already been signs of destructible scenery and environments, but it wouldn’t be too much of stretch to assume the hammer will be capable of either different variations and/or power-ups, as typical for a game of this type. It should be interesting to see if Nintendo Software Technology will throw in an online multiplayer, which is more than viable for the genre. Given the release date is not until the latter half of 2007 there's plenty of time to add a lot more to what's been shown so far, especially if puzzles are likely to be introduced. Given how much fun can be had by the seemingly simplest of motions using the Wii remote (we're back to the Elebits and Wii Sports comparison again), I don’t think it's something anyone other than the developer should worry about quite yet.
Also still in the depths of obscurity is Disaster: Day of Crisis (http://ms.nintendo-europe.com/wii/?s...r.html&l=enGB). This Monolith Software title has some of the biggest potential of the initially announced Wii games, and given the lack of hard information, has a large chance to surprise the awaiting audience. Being thrown into the chaos and destruction of a natural disaster, the blurb tells us we'll be able to "race a car down a mountain… dodge toppling buildings, and swim… in a raging flood." As a third-person action game that deals with multiple scenarios and apparently varying gameplay facets, I'm personally seeing something a bit similar to the sort of game I made up in a previous feature (http://www.wiichat.com/nintendo-wii-...es-bright.html) – where you're playing a host of different sub genres inside a Resident Evil 4 type interactive environment. This isn’t beyond the developing skills of a company that created Baten Kaitos and the Xenosaga series, and could provide a glimpse of how future action adventure games on Wii will shape up, although that acclaim may be snatched by the forthcoming Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles. If these titles essentially end up as polished as RE4 but with Wii specific actions and sub genres then the results will be impossible to ignore.
Much closer to release is Sega's closely scrutinized Sonic and the Secret Rings (http://www.sega.com/games/game_temp....=nav_pldwnlst), which is due within the next few weeks, to bated breath. Here some scepticism is warranted, given the horrible end result that was Sonic the Hedgehog on Xbox 360 and, in fact, the generally poor translation of everyone's favourite blue speedster into 3D. Some would argue vehemently that Sonic hasn’t been good since Sonic Advance on Game Boy Advance (and even that is attacked by some) although Sonic Rush was a step in the right direction where quality is concerned. Sonic's first Wii outing has several things going for it over its 3D predecessors, though. The much maligned Sonic Team isn’t responsible this title, for one, while most if not all traces of Sonic's rather ill conceived human friends and armoury have been removed, allowing a focus on the classic speed and platforming combo to bring the game back to its roots. And if the 70 different missions aren't enough, there are also 40 multiplayer party games for up to four players to keep the pace. There's even WiiConnect24 access, although it's unclear as to what exactly it may be at this stage. It's not putting too much stock in expectation to say that Sonic and the Secret Rings could well end up being the one 3D game a lot of people have been waiting a long time for. If you've not already checked out the newest trailer (http://www.famitsu.com/fwtv/asx/070130/070130_sega.asx) it's worth a look. You may want to cross your fingers for luck while you're at it.
A potential mainstream killer app, Wii Music, could end up being a colossal hit if Nintendo can line everything up right. By that I mean offering a wide choice of tracks and game modes to stretch its already large prospective appeal. When it was shown at E3 last year, there were two main functions; Orchestra and Drums. The latter lets you simulate drumsticks using the remote and nunchuck. I would imagine a DrumMania rhythm action style of gameplay could be incorporated to couple the freeform play that was exhibited in 2006, with some sort of recording function to let you to keep your best (or worst) efforts. There was also a split screen multiplayer option on show. However, it's the former mode, Orchestra, which perhaps holds the most promise. With the remote you conduct the tempo and volume of your own virtual orchestra -likely consisting of your created Miis- as they play through a particular song. Slow movements drag out notes and tones, while sharper more manic actions make the performance edgier and jauntier. The E3 version gave you a rating at the end, although it's likely there will be a lot more to it than just making the song match as close to the original as possible.
The kicker for Wii Music, as with any rhythm action game, will be what sort of soundtrack it has. So far there's only been the overworld theme from The Legend of Zelda and Bizet's Carmen, which suggests (hopefully) a mixture of classical and Nintendo driven tracks. A wide selection would be critical; classical music gives it an appeal to those who may not have even registered gaming before, keeping well within Nintendo's desire to hook non-gamers. In fact, it would be touching on a genre of music that has rarely been used by mainstream videogames, opening a wide array of possibilities for audience and game style. And by throwing in a batch of recognised Nintendo title themes as well, the hardcore demographic is covered. If the big N convinces other developers to contribute (unlikely, but you never know) then Wii Music could gather that rather large cross section of gamers and musicians who piled in to see the outstanding Videogames Live (http://www.videogameslive.com/index.php?s=home) concert that's been touring since 2005.
Now while much of the above is critical to Wii Music's success, Nintendo could go one further and create an unstoppable phenomenon by packing in a microphone and karaoke/SingStar style mode with the game. While I don’t think there's a strong chance of this happening -more likely Nintendo will just make a separate title as it's more profitable, and the domain http://www.wiikaraoke.com/ has been previously registered- there's a slight chance the company may tease us with a scaled down variant. Such peripherals aren’t that expensive to create with a game and the rewards would be huge, but it's arguable Nintendo has a winner on its hands with Drums and Orchestra alone, both of which are likely to be joined by another couple music driven games for the pack. Either way, given Wii Music's relatively quick development cycle we'll be seeing what's in store sometime within the next couple months when it's released. But mark my words, if you're looking for the next major mainstream killer app on the system, this has a stronger chance than most.
Something a little more esoteric is No More Heroes (previously known as Heroes) by Grasshopper Manufacture. Headed by Goichi Suda (aka Suda 51), No More Heroes is a spiritual successor to quirky PlayStation2 and GameCube action title, Killer 7. Set in the fictional town of Santa Destroy, you control an up-and-coming assassin called Travis Touchdown who's given the task of whacking the top ten contract killers in the area. The game is in third-person and free-roaming, allowing you to travel on foot or by a number of vehicles and partaking in various side-quests while wiping out anyone who stands in your way with a lightsaber style Beam Katana. Other weapons, swords in particular, will be at hand as well, with the Wii remote having a set calibration of moves for blade control. While this may appear similar to Red Steel, there's a number of combinations that allow for sword locks, finishing moves and additional attacks to keep things diverse, as well as the factor of having to recharge your sword. It all sounds fairly enticing and original in terms of gameplay dynamics, even if you weren't a fan of the cult classic Killer 7; No More Heroes offers a broader mixture of conventional and unconventional styles that's likely to bring in a wider fanbase come its mid to late 2007 release. It should also increase anticipation for the ominous Project 'S', which is an adventure game collaboration between Suda and Metal Gear supremo, Hideo Kojima. Next to nothing is known about this title as both designers want to finish their other projects first, but it's been hinted as a sequel to Kojima's 1988 adventure game, Snatcher (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snatcher), popularised by the Sega Mega CD version. There's some hope Snatcher will be reborn on the virtual console as well.
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