Editorials and Features
Article by: MrCHUPON
Opinion: Chupon's Next-Gen Take: Nintendo Revolution [Written 2005-10-25]
Regardless, I'll attempt to take the plunge and infer from Sony and Nintendo's long histories what we might be able to expect to bring you my rambling, structure-less and almost stream-of-thought take on the all-too-rapidly approaching Next Generation of home videogame consoles. I'll be writing my thoughts on all three of them, and how I might expect them to satisfy my videogame urges. Get ready for some of the worst, most unorganized writing you've seen from me, ever. And enjoy it. Because I have fun writing all messy.
Last time: the Xbox 360.
This time: Nintendo's next console, code-named Revolution.
Next, and last: PS3 thoughts.
Nintendo Code-name Revolution Big Facts
This is just a smattering of the heavy hitting facts. For more facts, and detailed hardware specs, hit up IGN Cube, Gamespot, www.revolutionreport.com, N-Sider, or any other local web publication that specializes in Revolutionary Possibilities.
Storage and Multimedia
Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection
When Nintendo announced that the controller would be the biggest part of the revolutionary aspect, right off the bat I felt that this "revolution" would be something that allowed us to control aspects of the gameplay with natural movement. (I had no idea that Nintendo would believe that "revolutionary" and "one-handed" were synonymous, but I'll get to that much later.) Already the level of interaction I imagined I could have with my games made me salivate. The Nintendo DS has proven the excellent functionality of such interaction to me with titles like Nintendogs and Kirby Canvas Curse. With that handheld, tactile interaction was the big deal. With this new console, it's interaction via natural motion - it's being *in* the game.
I'm honestly, genuinely excited to get my hands on the controller. There have been motion-sensor attempts in the past and still today, as evidenced by Xavix's big presence at DigitalLife. But the fact that a veteran videogame manufacturer / developer is taking the reins of this technology makes me more comfortable, similar to how software giant Microsoft's backing gives me faith in Xbox Live for example. Reports from first-hand impressions at the Tokyo Game Show - and further from the UK's Edge Magazine as reported by Revolution Report - indicate that the controller has a great level of sensitivity. Fears of fatigue should be allayed, as Edge compares it to using a mouse - rest your hand on your thigh, or sofa armrest, and you're good to go. Just like a real remote. The versatility of this thing is also tantalizing, and I want to see games use the dual-remote setup.
An aside. My dream of a first-person shooter that allows you to aim as in a light-gun game can finally come to fruition. Allow me a brief explanation. In a light-gun game, you aim naturally, immediately wherever you point. However, your field of vision - where you're looking - and simultaneously where you "move" within the gamespace, are limited and almost always controlled by the game. In a traditional FPS, the opposite is true - you can look with pinpoint precision via a mouse, but exactly where you aim is linked directly to where you're looking. It's always in the center of your field of vision. To my knowledge there has not yet been a game where you could directly control your character to run directly forward, and aim with pinpoint precision to an enemy in the upper-right corner of your screen while continuing to run forward - *without* using lock-on game mechanics. With a peripheral that allows for a traditional dual-analog console setup, using the second analog stick would let you shift your viewpoint as usual but moving the controller itself would let you aim.
This is strictly personal, but Nintendo's software is always at the top of my list. Final Fantasy VI was at the top of my Greatest of All Time list, but it was easily followed closely by the Marios, the Zeldas, the Metroids, Eternal Darkness, Smash Brothers, etc. And recently it was eclipsed by the original Metroid Prime. Its DS offerings as of late have floored me (in a complete turnaround from the pathetic launch) and if that software has any bearing on what I can hope to see on the Revolution, I know my library will be set.
To me, Nintendos games have always either been extremely polished, extremely fun, or extremely different and/or unusual. I tire of the endless Mario Parties, but with every Mario Party comes a Mario Tennis, Mario Strikers, F-Zero GX, Metroid Prime, Zelda, Animal Crossing, et al. And after the disappointment that was Super Mario Sunshine, I really can't wait to see how they re-revolutionize gaming with a new Mario.
"Virtual" Console and NWC
Yeah, that's right, I play old-a$$ games. And yes, I am fully aware that you can get old sheite for free on this newfangled interweb thing. The convenience of having it on my television - and with Iwata's remarks that they might possibly work on sprucing the classic games up a it - make it worth paying for. At least, given that the pricepoints are reasonable. Plus, I've dabbled in N64 emulation and let's just say I really prefer the real thing. Yeah, I do own an N64 but the idea of being able to free up physical space by dumping all my cartridges of good-but-not-collector's-item games. Further, if the pricing is right, I'll be able to spend less than Gamestop's overpriced $35 for a used copy of Mario Kart 64, for example (hey, the last time I checked, that's what they were charging).
Also, the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection is... FREE. That's right. When I used to play Counterstrike, Quake or Unreal online, I loved just being able to hop on the web and click on a server with the in-game browser for free. Like Sony, Nintendo has gone the charge-free route for online access for all first party games - leaving it up to the third parties to determine whether or not they want to charge money. I'm also glad it's got wireless built-in - I really, really hate the existing ethernet cording all over my room.
Another personal thing - it's tiny! Yes, console size IS important to me. I dumped my regular PS2 for a slim PS2 when it released not because it was "cool" but because it was that much smaller. Say what you will, but I like, want, and need to save space. I don't like cluttering my room, and my job mostly requires me to travel out of town to dreary boondocks with no nightlife. I do bring my Gamecube along with me but even then the 3-DVD-cases-high proposed size of the Revolution is still more appealing.
Is there an echo here? Isn't this one of the "gangsta" elements of this new doohickey? Yes, but it can also be its downfall. Though the DS saw a horrible start get wiped away by the recent release of truly innovative products, one can't necessarily guarantee a similar success story for the Revolution. Nintendo's aim is to get a more casual crowd, and with a small portable game machine with minimal investment, this is sensible. But how many real casual "gamers" will buy something for (an assumed) $200 or $250 to play games on their TV when they could be watching actual TV? These types of people might rather play something on the train than read, but when the TV is there, they're set with all the movies and shows they've got at their fingertips.
Why do I care about the casual crowd? I don't care about the crowd itself, but rather the fact that Nintendo cares so much about it. If the games themselves are made to appeal to them in such a way that they become unappealing to me, I'll be upset. If the casual crowd doesn't bite because the "revolutionary" gameplay is even *more* confusing, and development support dries up as a result, I'll be upset. If so-called, self-proclaimed "hard-core" gamers aren't hard-core enough in their spirit to see gaming innovation, and dismiss this software, thus driving developers away, I'll be upset. Starting a "revolution" like this puts Nintendo on a tightrope. There are so many places where this could just fall flat if proper care isn't taken.
Please remember: I'm not a tech whore when it comes to consoles. In fact, I hate the primary emphasis on graphics with the next gen. Yes, I like pretty stuff, but if I'm going to buy a new console, give me new possibilities. I get my graphical highs from PC gaming anyway. At the same time however, the mainstream cares about technological prowess. And while I couldn't give two sh1ts about the mainstream itself, I have always hated the impact that it has. If it ain't prettier, they won't buy it, and if they won't buy it, developers won't develop for it, and if developers won't develop for it, I won't have new games. The "it" in question is obviously the Revolution.
First, the question of graphics. Nevermind Perrin Kaplan's boneheaded, offhand comment that the system would be 2 to 3 times more powerful than the Cube. That was proven bogus. But there're still the comments from Satoru Iwata and Shigeru Miyamoto that the numbers look lower than the other consoles, and how that's not what matters. There's still the insistence that High-Def "isn't where we're going" in this generation. Although the Cube was more capable graphically (at least if all of the best games are any indication) than the PS2 this past generation, Nintendo is definitely scaling back emphasis on visual prowess - just look at the DS versus the PSP for Chrissakes.
Second, multimedia capabilities built into the hardware. In a word: NONE. How hard would it be to integrate native DVD movie playing support? Why the need for an add-on dongle? Does it *really* cost that much more money to add in such functionality in this day and age? I could understand the hesitance five years ago, but come on. We're already talking about Blu-Ray and HD-DVDs, and Nintendo can't even commit to natively supporting a common, entrenched, now old format when it simply just does make sense from a convenience standpoint. Yes, I've got a DVD player at home, but wouldn't it be nice for me to tote my Nintendo system to my hotel room when I go to work and not have to confine myself to watching movies on my laptop? Yes. Yes it would. But mostly this is the mainstream again - this is the type of thing they want. And if not getting what they want results in the system selling poorly, and thus getting less support, this doesn't make me happy.
Third, that 512MB of storage space looks skimpy to me. I fully plan on downloading a plethora of classic Nintendo games to fill that sucker up pronto. Then I'll be suckered into the Sony method of buying all sizes of new memory cards just to satisfy my thirst.
The Great Unknown - Are you really an "AND" Company?
My biggest concerns with this thing are simply just what I don't know. I would normally have more faith, because of Nintendo's insistence that it's an "AND" company, but thus far I really do *not* see evidence to support that. Let me first b1tch about their "AND" versus "OR" claims.
Would an "AND" company force users to buy a separate add-on just to play commercial DVDs? Would an "AND" company totally eliminate the availability of a wired ethernet port for those people who don't have a wireless router and don't want to go hunting for one? Would an "AND" company be so comfortable with potentially leaving behind traditional games and traditional gamers by introducing an incredibly new-fangled interface? Would an "AND" company leave technophiles in the dust by not providing high-definition support?
Let's step back for a minute. I will concede, and even agree, to the notion that these sacrifices have been made in an effort to make the price-point of the system more appealing to everyone. That is the big "AND" that the company is striving for - every gamer AND every non-gamer who might not want to spend the cash money. That's where it gets tricky. But I'm still on the fence about this - I don't like the idea of alienating the core gaming base that Nintendo itself helped to create way back in the mid 1980's. And as long as I'm unsure about this, the way they have handled this whole "AND" versus "OR" business thus far has been wanksta.
Now I'll talk about the uncertainties. What the hell will make the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection so much more special than Sony Online, which is also free of charge? I haven't seen much information on it, but I've heard rumblings that a lot of it is based on community and friendship outside of online. I've heard things such as being able to add people to your friends list that you've met in real life, with no confirmation that you'll be able to link up with complete strangers. I've heard Reggie Fils-Aime talk about trying to get rid of the "machismo" aspect of online, but the confusing part here is that Xbox Live next-gen kinda does that with its four zones, tailored to different types of gamers. So, what will make NWC so special?
Also, can we get some kind of idea as to what Nintendo has in store for the traditionall "control pad shells" that the freehand controller will plug into? For traditional console games, the remote control setup might not work, so obviously gamers need a traditional gamepad. And while Nintendo has gone on record to say that they will manufacture such a shell, we have no idea what it looks like and how it'll accomodate us. We have no idea, even, if they'll bundle the damn thing in with the system. This is another rant altogether - if they do not package a classic "shell" in with the retail package, the uncertainty will be just like the Xbox 360 hard drive situation but *worse*. "How many people will buy the shell to play Street Figher 69: Toilet Paper Uranus," Capcom would ask, "and should we even bother porting it to the Rev?" If they DO package it in, which is what I still think they should do, would developers get lazy and just use old gameplay methods and totally make the "Revolution" a "Nonvolution"? (If the DS is any indication, the answer is "sorta but what we've got is still good", but again who can guarantee that...)
Finally, I need pricing. Now. My big things about supporting Nintendo have been quality software and friendly pricing. I will not pay $14.99 for NES or SNES downloads. I will not pay exorbitant amounts for controller peripherals to attach to my remote without complaining to high hell and back. And with all of the corners Nintendo is cutting with the hardware, it had better not release this thing for over $249.99. The Xbox360's $399.99 price for all the fixins is already way out there for me. For a system without high-def, native DVD support, a mass storage device, or media streaming capabilities, anything higher than two and a half C-notes will keep me playing my Gamecube, PS2 and Xbox for the next three years.
Time to Stop Ranting
Bottom line: I love Nintendo's products, I really do. I love the innovations the company has presented. But the company's popularity with third party game developers really needs to stay at a level where the games will keep coming. I have a healthy library of Gamecube games - more than the PS2 and Xbox combined - and I don't want to see a situation where this is the last time that a Nintendo console has a decent variety of games. I don't want to be left with ALL new-fangled games - I still need my old school satisfaction. And while I'm glad Nintendo has finally taken the plunge into the internet world, I still question what makes Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection so special and so desireable. If it's nothing special, then all NWC will be is proof that Nintendo's just simply late to the party. (If my dream of a light-gun-style fully controllable FPS comes to light, however, you can forget everything I just said, and instead count on me locking myself up in my room with the game until I beat it.)
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