Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Link roundup

1. Nintendo has sold more than 47 million Nintendo DS handhelds sold in the United States. Yet can you name two excellent games that came out for it in the last two years? Can you name one?

2. From the multi-part analysis of Kubrick's The Shining I mentioned the other day:

Now then: in order for a protagonist/antagonist dyad to work dramatically, the protagonist must be aware that the antagonist exists, and is acting upon things, and vice versa. This is why Danny has psychic powers, and why the hotel can do pretty much any damn thing it wants, and why fantasy stories always have magical characters who can see the future and know what's going on in distant lands -- because otherwise, the protagonist and antagonist would never know that the other exists. If Gandalf is just some guy who tells Frodo to throw the ring into a volcano and Frodo says "okay" and sets out, there is no drama to Lord of the Rings. It must be that Gandalf is a wizard and that Frodo can have visions when he puts on the ring and that Sarumon has a magic ball that sees things, or else everybody is just kind of doing things. I'm sorry, but that's how it works -- the requirements of the drama dictate the magical powers, not the other way around. When the device of magic powers is done well, it's well-integrated and encompassing and lends the drama a sense of wonder and completeness. When it's not, the audience knows it's a plot contrivance.
3. Build a postapocalyptic model car contest.

*Buy model cars at Amazon.


  1. I'm sure anyone that is a fan of Mario, Pokemon, or Professor Layton will have an easy time refuting your anti-DS claim.

  2. No, I don't count Nintendo creating endless remakes of Mario and Pokemon.

  3. By comparison, there's a constant stream of new, intriguing games for the iPhone/iPod.

  4. @Blair: The Mario, Pokemon, and Layton games all are franchise games that each started on one or another of the Nintendo systems over two years ago. Pokemon is over 10 years old--has the gameplay changed? No.
    Yes, some of them are great games (I'm very fond of the Layton games myself), but none of them are exactly new.
    That being said, I also don't agree with John. Scribblenauts came out within the last two years (and a sequel) and is a great game, unique to the device and very impressive.
    And Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (999) is also quite good and rather unusual in its own way as well. Both made me glad I owned a DS. You should try them.
    Now if you really want to conceive the pointlessness of a handheld system, allow me to show you the PSP. I would guess 4 or 5 times as many games are released for the DS than the PSP. Many PSP games are ports of existing console games. Many of the rest are sports games. And mainstream stores carry almost no stock of new games on the rare occasions when they do come out. PSP gets such poor support at this point, it's as though Sony has given up on the system.

  5. My Top Five list would have to be:
    1. GTA Chinatown
    2. Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story
    3. Professor Layton
    4. Pokemon: Gold/Silver
    5. Zelda Spirit Tracks

  6. @John: I'm not sure I can get with your comparison to iPad/Iphone games and the DS. Ok, both are portable and use a touchscreen. And maybe the point you're trying to make is that the Apple model of opening up their device for anyone to develop games on makes for more games. True enough.
    But your original comment called for examples of "excellent" games. Are there -any- excellent games on the iPhone or iPad? I own an iPad and I have a lot of games on it, but none rival the best DS games or even the best PSP games. The iPad/Phone has a ton of casual games, and they're great time wasters, but I haven't found anything immersive yet. Puzzle Agent is a nice Layton clone. Highborn is clever and fun, but it's no Fire Emblem and certainly no Jeanne D'Arc. Zen Bound, while groundbreaking and unique, gets repetitive fast.
    I guess I'm giving you the quantity vs. quality argument. Which is trite, but I think it applies.
    I wonder if we'll ever see a really excellent game on the i-systems. Major developers just don't seem to regards the systems as anything more than casual devices.

  7. GTA was incredible. Ninja Gaiden was very good, too.

  8. You can't discount franchises, they aren't always rehashes. I second the Layton nomination, but you also forgot about Dragon Quest IX, which was the first in the Dragon Quest series to be developed exclusively for the DS. That's saying something. Great game, too.

    Also, there's Picross 3D which was basically my game of the year in 2010. I have pretty much kept it in my DS all year long, save to play Layton and Kirby's Superstar Saga.

    That said, the iPhone is my favorite mobile console now.

  9. @Chris: Agreed on Picross 3D--that has also been a constant for me in 2010. I did not expect to like it, so I think I've mentally pretended I don't.
    What do you like on iPhone so much?

    @John: One last thought on this i-Device vs. DS meme, and then I'll stop hijacking your thread, I promise.
    --Advantage for iDevices: Like 50 apps or more are released for it in any given week (compared to say 3 for the DS).
    --Disadvantage for iDevices: Pro development houses see that stat and immediately fear their expensive-to-produce game would get lost in the flood (until one steps up and actually decides to spend marketing money to promote their game...).
    Ok, I'm done. Really.

  10. Man, I haven't tried Dragon Quest yet despite the high praise. I liked Sonic Colors though.

    As for the iPhone, I love it, but it isn't a serious gaming system. Until people get comfortable with paying 30-40 bucks for a game I doubt it ever will be, not to mention horrible controls for traditional games (Rage and Sonic 4 nearly erased my thumbprint). All this could change though when Epic gets into full gear.

    Right now the iPhone is my gaming system by convenience only, offering spurts of Angry Birds and words with friends whenever I'm on the pot. Although jail breaking it with a ton of emulators and Wiimote support does help when I want to recapture the fun of playing Secret of Mana on the go. I would argue that the iPad is by far a more worthy successor to the title, Monkey Island and other touch based games illuminate the ease of playing a game on a system where your fingers don't obscure half of the screen.

  11. Layton. That is all. To be fair - I got the DS before I got my iPhone.

  12. I bought my DS specifically for the homebrew app Colors! To this day that is all I run on it.

  13. I don't think that protagonist / antagonist argument about. The Shinning is particularly strong.

    They must ulitmately be aware of each other, yes, but when and how that happens is entirely open to play. Take, for instance, any story where the antagonist is the forces of nature - the protagonist is aware of antagonist, but it is fundamental to the story that the antagonist is dumb and mute to the individual existence of the protagonist.

    Second, the assertion that "magic powers" arise out of a dramatic need for the author to make his protagonist & antagonist aware of each other reflects a gross misunderstanding of the many other roles that "magical powers" can fulfill in a narrative. In "The Lord of the Rings" in particular, magic is a way for Tolkien to represent man's influence in the world and only serves as a dramatic device very secondarily.

  14. 1. Professor Layton may be a franchise, but I didn't like the second much and I love the third, which is a pretty recent release here.
    2. The World Ends with You is something like two and a half years old, but no one seems to have played it. It's my all-time favorite DS game, and I've replayed it a full 2 times including game plus mode. I'd say it's worth getting the system for.
    3. Yes, Nintendo is making tons of money off of DS versions of old RPGs - Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasies, even a couple ports of Shin Megami Tensei games. For some people, although these games aren't new, it's worth it to have that entertainment when traveling, waiting line, at the Doctor's office, etc.

    What it boils down to, I think, is "if you feel the need for a portable gaming system, what is the best one available and affordable?" - that's where the DS makes it's money.