Title: I hate handhelds
Posted: June 10, 2006 (03:43 PM)
Well, a new month has come and gone, and a new month of pathetic sales for DS and PSP. And to that I say good riddance. Nothing delights me more than seeing the American market stand up and resoundly reject the videogame overlords' high-tech handhelds. (Well, ok, so lots of things delight me more, but this is a blog. Hyperbole is to be expected.) My only hope is that they get the right message (probably not, especially when Japan is giving the exact opposite message).
You know what was my second favorite game last generation? That merely glancing at someone else playing it made me convinced I needed a PSX? That I would kill for a sequel for? Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. You know what I will never get a sequel for? Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Oh sure, the sequels exist. And people claim Dawn of Sorrow is actually as good as this classic. But it's a DS game. The next one's a DS game too. And the three before it are GBA games. Note to Konami, I want a console game.
Why, pray tell, are the 2D Castlevanias (and 2D Metroids, and 2D Zeldas, and 2D Marios, and 2D everything else) on handhelds? They're adventure games, meant to draw you into their worlds. They take hours to complete, require a significant amount of concentration and devotion, have tracking and backtracking, and tend to have quite lovely scenes and lovelier music. What's the handheld experience like? Playing for 10 minutes at a time on a crowded bus being jostled and unable to hear anything while trying to stare at a dinky screen?
The developers of these games claim that their games are ideally suited for handhelds. But why? What advantage does the DS give to these games?? Portability? We didn't need that when we played SotN. Touch screen? Yeah, right. 2nd screen used as a map? OK, it's nice, but hardly a necessity. And what do we lose in the process? A large screen. A comfortable controller. Enhanced sound. The ability to play for extended time without cramping up or hurting your eyes. In other words, an experience.
What these developers really mean is that they don't think there's a market for the 2D games on consoles. Of course, I have to wonder where they get that idea, since there hasn't been any test for that hypothesis in almost a decade. But it seems gamers are intent on reinforcing that stereotype. With the constant obsession with graphics and the latest and prettiest technology, people are content to let the tried and true concepts slide even if they still have some gameplay depths that have yet to be uncovered. Indeed, it seems most gamers welcome the concept of putting these 2D classics on handhelds. Again, why? Why is it a fit? Especially when many of these gamers play their DS or PSP at home on the couch. Wouldn't it make more sense to play them on the TV?
Furthermore, putting these games on handhelds means that the developers don't have to try. By placing their games on inferior systems that don't have their 3D counterparts, they're practically guaranteed to be the highest quality games and get the most hype. Which means they can cut corners. I reviewed Metroid ZZero Mission a few weeks ago. The game was adequate. Not astounding, not terribly flawed, but adequate. The Zelda Oracle games were adequate. Apparantly, so were the GBA Castlevania games. I have a disturbing feeling that the same is true for New Super Mario Bros. Is this really what we want? To just play half hearted rehashes of games we claimed we love? Wouldn't you rather play a 2D Metroid that can stand up to Super Metroid, rather than the "eh, ok" Metroid Fusion or Zero Mission? Don't you want a 2D Zelda that blows LttP out of the water? Don't you want to feel overwhelmed by a 2D Mario like the first time you played SMB3?
I would dearly love to see Nintendo (or Sony, or Microsoft, but Nintendo's the only one I think would give it half a thought) actually promote a low-tech budget series of games. Oh sure, games occasionally get released at reduced cost, but those tend to be niche games or collections of old games. I mean good, quality, meaty games that just don't require the same budget as the flashy modern games. 2D games. Sell them for $25 bucks. That way they won't have to compete with the big boys. Advertise it. Promote an alternative controller like the Hori GB Player controller. Bring your classic franchises back from the DS; it's not like they sell spectacularly there anyway. Maybe, just maybe, that could desegregate the gaming community. Maybe it would make people understand that you don't necessarily need the biggest budget to make the best game. Maybe some of the classic game design concepts like environmental challenge, replay, twitch, and shortness can merge with some of the modern day concepts. Maybe people who naturally reject the idea of paying money for a handheld gaming machine will try these games, and thus allow a market for them to grow. Maybe it would get people back into gaming to know that there's cheaper yet still high quality games available Maybe it would let more people enjy these games before they disappear off the shelf.
Yeah, maybe. Too bad we'll probably never know. For some reason, Nintendo is too much in love with the handheld concept, and thus feels the need to give it exclusive content. Too bad the content would be better on a console. Sigh...
Posted: June 10, 2006 (11:59 PM)
I don't play handhelds because I don't like looking at the small screen and I only play games at home or at a friend's house.