Friday, August 1, 2008

Sonic as I see it.

Sonic and the Black Knight has been announced for the Wii. To truly understand the horror that this game will unleash upon the world, I recommend listening to the first half of 2P Start’s fortieth podcast.

Are you done listening yet?

As I see it, this is the beginning of a brighter future for the Sonic franchise. Eventually Sonic Team will create a game so terrible that even the Sonic hardcore won’t want it. Once the Sonic hardcore are disenchanted, there will be no one left to keep selling terrible Sonic games to.

Sega will then sell the rights to Sonic for $5 and a half eaten bagel. For 8 years or so the rights to Sonic will jump from company to company. Despite constant rumors or even official announcements, no one will make a Sonic game until the year 2018 when Sonic 4 will be announced for the Nintendo Dolphin (They will pretend that Sonic games stopped at 3.) It will be classic 2D Sonic style and thoroughly awesome.

Ray is a fine example of how this process is already in motion. The only question remaining is how low must the Sonic team go? Will Sonic and the Black Knight be the game that bursts the bubble, or will Sonic Team have to invent new, creative ways to suck? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mega Man 9 - No School Like the Old School

Capcom has announced that they will be releasing a new Mega Man game done in the classic 8-bit style of Mega Man 1-6, meaning cripplingly hard difficulty, no dash, etc. In celebration of this announcement, I went home and played Mega Man 2, 3, 5, and 7 (all the prime number Mega Mans.) It was fun, but I now have some serious reservations for Mega Man 9. It has been reported that Capcom will be imitating the 8-bit NES style completely, possibly down to each and every flaw and limitation (Flickering graphics, sound errors, sprite count limits, etc.)

It seems to me that we have, as a gaming community, moved on to bigger and better things. We hold games to a higher standard, and Mega Man 9 won’t meet that standard unless it is the best in the series. Can an 8-bit game really stand up to games like Metal Gear Solid 4 or Smash Bros. Brawl? Can it even stand up to games with a similar price point such as Ikaruga or Geometry wars? The old mega man games were great for their time and are still very fun, but why throw away all the advancements we have made since then?

The older Mega Man games have a certain quality of twitch game play difficult to find elsewhere. Most gamers agree that this unique feeling was lost in the later entries and spin offs. What caused this? Improved hardware specifications? Did Mega Man fall because programmers could make games that looked and controlled better? I find that idea ridiculous. Attempting to recreate the classic Mega Man feel by using the old 8-bit “style” seems cheap. Let us remember that 8-bit was not a style, it was a hardware limitation that was abandoned at the first opportunity.

I have said a good deal about my reservations for the retro style, but if it is a great game I will be the first to admit it. I can think of several advantages to using an 8-bit style. First, the cost of development will drop dramatically, which will translate to the consumer with a $10 price point. Not bad. It’s practically pocket change. Second, Development time will be comparatively short, meaning we will see the game sooner. Most current gen games have development times measured in years. How long have we been waiting for Spore? Fallout 3? It is a little ridiculous how long we have to wait for the game once we know it is coming. It will be nice that this game will be out soon. It will be released in September in Japan and I am going to hazard a guess at November for us. Most importantly, because so little time and money will be spent on graphics they should be able to give proper attention to level design, the core of any good Mega Man game. If this is their plan, then I can’t praise them enough for this decision.

Mega Man 9 has created a sort of ultimatum. There are many long time fans of the mega man series, such as myself, that have lost interest for one reason or another. Capcom has essentially told us that this will be that game that makes us want Mega Man again. If Mega Man 9 delivers, all these sleeper fans will buy it and Mega Man could become a huge franchise again. If it fails, most of these long time fans will lose all interest in the franchise.

Alright, Capcom. I’ll take your word for it. I will buy the game. I’ll give Mega Man one last chance. All I ask for is a game worth my time and money. Think you can handle that?

"I am not concerned that you have fallen; I am concerned that you arise."

- Abraham Lincoln