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Tag: ds

It’s True! I Started “Chrono Trigger”

Alert the presses! Headline of the year, right here: “Toriyama Fanboy Plays Acclaimed Game 15 Years Late“.

Despite running a DragonBall fansite since 1998 (and being a fan of the series for a few years before that), I have many embarrassing stories to tell. While I have read a good chunk of Dr. Slump and own things like Kajika, I have never played a Dragon Quest game, and even worse… I have never played Chrono Trigger.

Despite being a huge fan of its character designer, and despite knowing that it had a “dream-team” of producers working on it, I never played the game back during the SNES days. I had only begun to dabble into RPGs at the time, and would not make any real commitment to one until Final Fantasy VII in 1997. Despite its re-release on the PS1 years later, no matter how many times I told myself to check it out, I never got around to it. Despite receiving it as a Christmas gift from the wife a year ago, it has not had an opportunity to jump into my DS. (Hey, the system saw plenty of action over the last twelve months — Retro Game Challenge was one of my favorite games of the last year.)

Well, that all changed last night. Mike, a.k.a. “VegettoEX”, a.k.a. “Supposed Toriyama Fanboy”, has played half an hour into Chrono Trigger.

Last night the wife and I got home from work, then the gym, and then dinner… and decided we were just too exhausted to do anything. I was planning on playing some more Uncharted 2, but that seemed like it would require more of an attention span than I was willing to give. After putzing around for a while, I decided that an RPG would fill the gaming itch perfectly. I could lounge around and play a game without needing to aim at someone’s head with a tranquilizer gun in an action game, or pull off a frame-perfect counter attack in a fighting game.

I am already enjoying it immensely. Things happen almost immediately from the get-go, giving you a sense of both scale, as well as cause and effect. I dig the music a whole lot, some of which I already know from listening to the included bonus CD a few times over the last year. I have only just reached the point where Lucca meets up with Crono back where Marle had disappeared to (is that vague enough to not spoil any of the first damn thirty minutes?), but that was more than enough to solidify my interest. I am sure you will hear my thoughts on the battle system, character motifs, art style direction, and more as I make my way further into the game.

More than anything else, I am happy to say that I have discovered why I kept accidentally referring to the RPG in Retro Game Challenge as “Guardia Quest” instead of “Guadia Quest” — the kingdom that Chrono Crono (hehe!) comes from is called “Guardia”, which I must have inadvertently run into and unconsciously absorbed over the years.

How about you all? So many of you have playfully criticized me for never playing the game. Without spoiling anything for me, what is it about the game that makes you hold it in such high regard? If you are in the same boat as me, what are your excuses (valid or otherwise!) for never playing it? This is your one chance to give me Hell!

Apple’s Smug, Egotistical, and Misleading Self-Proclaimed Jump to Gaming Market Leader

It feels like we could go on endlessly about 9/9/09. It was the tenth anniversary of the Dreamcast, the tenth anniversary of Final Fantasy VIII, Harmonix’s The Beatles: Rock Band came out, and… Apple randomly decided that it’s the market leader in handheld gaming.

Apple held a press event on that date announcing new developments in their iPhone and iPod line of products. Many were expecting an announcement of The Beatles finally coming to digital distribution (and exclusively through the iTunes Store), but a huge focus of the presentation ended up being on video games. Apple has dabbled in this before (particularly with their “funnest iPod ever” claims), but this time around they went for blood.

This would be entirely fine, except for the fact that they were misleading, occasionally flat-out wrong, and they deserve to be put in their place. Sure, I’m just some tool on the internet with a part-time video game blog. I even own every single system in question (DS, PSP, iPhone), so it doesn’t particularly affect me in any significant way. Still, I have a huge problem with intentionally misleading and misinforming people.

The entirety of the presentation is up for download from Apple as a video podcast in the iTunes Store. Any quotes and images used below are taken from this freely-available video.

When you think about it, the companies that have come before us… Nintendo and Sony with devices like the PSP and the DS… when these things came out, they seemed so cool. But once you play a game on the iPod Touch, you know… they don’t really stack up anymore!

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Came before you? They’re a part of the same generation. I suppose they came “first”, sure, but they are continuing with hardware revisions (DSi, PSPgo) and software upgrades at the same time Apple is continuing with the same thing. Hell, you could twist it around and say that the PSPgo is a newer system than the first-generation iPhone. What is that actually saying, though…? Not much.

And really? They don’t stack up anymore? It will be interesting to see how the iPhone version of Madden 10 does, especially when the PSP version is still getting pretty good reviews. While I hate to use it as a reference, the MetaCritic list of “best” DS games sure has a few that still “stack up”. Most notably is the power of Mario Kart DS, which sold another bazillion copies in July 2009… nearly four years after its original release.

One thing Apple conveniently forgot to mention is how games typically seen as “iPhone Games” are suddenly jumping ship to other platforms. Fieldrunners, one of the first, great tower-defense iPhone games, is hopping over to the PSP Mini catalog. In fact, the process of porting it over was “easy” according to the developer! Expect to see more from-the-iPhone ports in the future as developers build a base product and then turn their eyes elsewhere. You can easily argue that they build a significant and loyal audience on the iPhone with the original versions of the games, but there is an equally-important audience elsewhere they can cash in on, too.

They don’t have this amazing multitouch user interface.

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Certainly not false. Apple is absolutely right; neither the Nintendo DS or the PSP (or any hardware variation thereof) have a multitouch user interface. At the same time, let’s not forget who spearheaded most of the input schemes for controlling games, as well as feedback from those controls, into home console and portable gaming. Sure, they didn’t develop these technologies, but things like force-feedback (rumble packs), touch control (DS), motion control (Wii), system interoperability and connection (Gamecube+GBA, Wii+DS)… all pioneered and usually perfected by Nintendo.

I’m with ya’ on the PSP, though. The analog nub is pretty terrible.

Their games are kind of expensive.

Now when I say they’re expensive, we’re talking about 25, 30, 40 dollars for a title. A lot of kids can’t afford a lot of titles. I mean, you give one of those, you’re giving a need to spend a lot of money on those titles.

Yes, an at-launch retail game for the DS or PSP is going to be more expensive than the bottomed-out $0.99 price range for most “game and entertainment titles” (a phrase we’ll revisit) in Apple’s App Store. I don’t think too many people will dispute this. Of course, things like development costs, hardware manufacturing, licensing, etc. all contribute to the price. A physical product will typically cost more than a digital-distribution product. Again, not really lying, but certainly misleading.

By the way… how is giving someone an iPod Touch and telling them they can’t have any more games or apps any different from giving someone a DS and telling them they can’t have (or can’t afford) any more games? You’re somehow enabling and forcing someone to spend more money…? I… guess…? I don’t buy this argument for a second. It’s fluff, it’s ridiculous, and if anything, it shows that it takes far more products (more and more apps and games) to satiate their own iPod Touch gamer than it would a DS or PSP gamer.

They don’t even have anything like the App Store for finding great games and titles.

Here’s where things are changing, though, and where Apple is outright lying. Digital distribution helps to bring costs down. We’re not there yet, but many of the DSiware games and upcoming PSP Minis are not and will not be the same as a Tiger Woods game, either in content or cost.

Furthermore, the PSP has had a store since launch. It may not always have been as tightly integrated as it is now (requiring either a PS3 or a computer to purchase and manage software), but the PlayStation Store has certainly been there. The DSi launched with its own version of the Shop Channel, itself also included at launch with the Wii. DSiware games were available immediately, with a growing catalog of at least one game per week.

But worse isn’t the price, it’s the BUYING experience! Having to go a store and try to find the hot new game for one of those devices is not a lot of fun.

The buying experience on an iPod Touch is incredible; it’s truly breakthrough. Built into every iPod Touch is the App Store… can find access to all these 75,000 titles. It’s just incredible. If you look JUST at the gaming and entertainment category ALONE, you’re going to see a big difference.

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Let’s play a little game called, “How confusing is it to find something in the iTunes Store?

First thing I did was go to the iTunes Store main page. I’m thinking, “OK, self… we want to buy a game. I own an iPod Touch. Surely, I will click ‘iPod Games’, right…?

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Of course not. That brings you to the iPod Click Wheel Games section, intended for the Nano and Classic series of iPods. Those of us who follow this kind of material know what it all means, sure… but picture someone who doesn’t.

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All right, fine; let’s go to App Store, instead.

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I’m struggling to understand how this looks like anything other than a digital version of the same GameStop store shelf Apple shows in their presentation. It’s overwhelming, it’s clunky, and it needs a lot of improvement. Sure, the iTunes Store has undergone some upgrades and clean-up since this particular version (shown through iTunes 8), but it’s hardly a convincing argument.

And they certainly don’t deliver a media experience like the iPod that’s built into the iPod Touch.

While it’s true that if you want to listen to music on the DS, it has always involved hacking the system and loading homebrew software. The PSP, on the other hand, has had integrated music and video support from the very start. RSS feeds can be added, allowing for podcast streaming right from the device. On top of all that, a web browser is included. The cross-media bar (XMB) isn’t always the most intuitive and streamlined interface, but for a while Sony actually marketed the device as a portable media device and a gaming console.

So I’m going to bring up a chart of the gaming and entertainment titles available on the Sony PSP, Nintendo DS, and iPhone OS. And here’s what it looks like:

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Sony PSP: 607 titles. Nintendo DS: 3,680. iPhone OS: 21,178. It’s absolutely incredible, the amount of work developers are doing to bring AMAZING content to the iPod Touch and the iPhone.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Really? Did they seriously just try and spin this number in a positive light?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see Sturgeon’s Law come into full effect here. If I stop to think about it, I will probably come up with a better ratio of “good” to “crap” games on the PSP than I would on the DS, and similarly from the DS to the iPhone OS. Of those 21K+ titles, how many are actually worth anything…? By “worth”, I don’t even necessarily mean “money”… I mean “time”. How many of them are worth even the time it takes to download them?

Here is where the “Game & Entertainment” moniker comes under fire. Apple is clearly piling anything and everything from fart soundboards to Madden under this sub-heading. The DS may have a ton of horrible shovelware, but I don’t see “iFart” on anything other than the iPhone OS. If you look at this statistic in any way other than a heat-of-the-moment, Apple-fanboy (or stockholder), mid-event set of beer goggles, you see just how ridiculous it is.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love my iPhone 3G, and I can’t get enough of Harbor Master (I just did 152 cargo deliveries on Cannon Beach, and am quite proud of myself). The games continue to get better and better, and I have been happy to even spend my money on a few of them.

Apple’s ego is getting a little too big, but that might be a good thing. Nintendo’s own ego has gone essentially unmatched in the handheld market since 1989, and it has only recently been under the force of genuine competition that all of the hardware manufacturers (Nintendo, Sony, and now Apple) have had to step up their game and innovate. Hopefully that means that everyone wins; games get better, hardware gets better, everything gets cheaper, and the variety of highly-engaging content on the “casual” and “hardcore” sides continue to grow.

But seriously, Apple…? You’re not there yet. You can wipe that shit-eating grin off your face.

Nintendo’s 2008-2009 Updates

Well, we’ve got a new Nintendo DS on the way (along with a few other things).

There has already been a bunch of discussion about the whole thingie-ma-bob, despite the press event only happening within the last 24 hours (as of this writing, Nintendo has yet to hold their US press event). However, there are a couple very specific things that I wanted to bring to everyone’s attention.

The first item of interest is the removal of Slot 2 (the GameBoy Advance slot) on the DSi. As you no doubt heard from episode two of our podcast, the issue of backwards compatibility is of both major interest and apathy among us (depending on the system, games, etc.). A huge point we brought up was that Activision’s Guitar Hero: On Tour, as well as the upcoming On Tour Decades on November 18th, rely(ies) on Slot 2 to house and interact with the guitar frets attachment. Needless to say, these games will (theoretically) be completely unusable with the DSi.  I suppose it’s a good thing for Activision that they already got their Guitar Hero: On Tour & DS bundle out the door earlier this year, because that thing is looking more and more irrelevant as information comes out of Nintendo today.

This is yet another example supporting my personal belief that Nintendo has been one step behind where they should be with regards to… well, everything… since the Gamecube. I know, blasphemy, especially considering all the profit they are raking in. Hold on.

Microsoft realized and made it clear back with the original Xbox that digital distribution was going to be huge for conoles (even if you missed all of the other signs out there), but Nintendo really had no foresight for this. The Wii’s internal space was limited to microscopic levels (more on this in a bit), and the DS had Slot 2 to play actual GBA games.

Of course, you have to consider Nintendo’s approach during the DS’s launch. To them, it was their “third pillar” (main console / GameBoy line / the new DS). For the time, it was a brilliant move; if the DS failed, well, that wasn’t meant to be a replacement for the GameBoy line (right… with it having the GBA slot, and all), so no big loss! Luckily for them, the DS has become a global phenomenon. That Slot 2 is where it gets tricky, though. Would the (original) DS have taken off without it? Keep in mind that nearly every late GBA game was coming with little pamphlets showing you how you would be able to play them on a DS in a whole new light, so to speak.

My point is that if Nintendo really wanted to crank up the digital distribution and sell us GB/GBC/GBA games directly for our new DS, they should have cut Slot 2 out of the DS Lite. The DS was already popular, but the DS Lite is what really… how do I put this… oh, just insert an “it prints money” joke here. Now we have that device in what appears to be every-other-person’s hands no matter where you look, and the GBA slot is right there with them. I’m pulling some Wikipedia-research on you right now, but the numbers look like ~80 million GBAs, and ~77 DSes (so far). That means that there’s already a huge crossover with DS owners that probably have a nice little GBA game library kicking around somewhere. I’ve mentioned this on the show plenty of times: why would I re-pay for a game on a new format when I have the original cartridge sitting right over there?

Of course, there are plenty of reasons (as seen by my constant purchases of Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda games) with convenience and portability being the main ones. Nintendo is really going to have to prove to these millions upon millions of potential customers exactly why they need to re-pay for Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2 (on top of already paying for the original SNES version on Virtual Console, on top of still having the cartridge sitting in their Super Nintendo). Price is going to be a key factor, and one that I do not feel they have been particularly persuasive with. We know the DSi digital distribution pricing scheme will be between about $2 and $10, but there is no further clarification on what will be sold and for what price level.

How does Pokémon play into this, by the way? A huge deal with Diamond & Pearl was the fact that you could put all of your Generation III games (FireRed / LeafGreen / Ruby / Sapphire / Emerald) into Slot 2 and do all sorts of neat things (transfer the critters via Pal Park, mostly). How about future games? How are we going to be expected to transfer from Generation IV to Generation V? Will we need two DS systems?

That also brings to mind what I call Nintendo’s “tethering” to the DS. If you play certain games (and especially if you go online with those games), you will notice that the games tell you that your system and game are being considered a single entity now, and will need to be used together exclusively. For the most part, this presents no problems other than ending up with a new friend code if you decide to upgrade from a DS to a DS Lite, for example. For games like Pokémon, though, it gets a little more difficult. I actually do not know the full extent of it, so perhaps you all can help me. What are the ramifications for taking a Generation IV game to a new system? If I start playing it on a DS Lite instead of my old DS, will My Pokémon Ranch recognize that it is still the same game? Will I be locked out of transferring back my little guys? It may not be the same system + game combo, but gosh darn it, it is still the same cartridge!

Finishing off my backwards compatibility ranting and raving is the whole idea of the “Wii de Asobu” (Play On/For Wii) series. Just like Capcom did with Resident Evil 4, but actually applying a brand to it, Nintendo is going to re-releasing a bunch of Gamecube games with enhanced Wii-specific controls. You don’t get to play a new Pikmin game, but you sure get to play the old one… with Wii controls! In all honesty, this actually sounds like it could be pretty interesting. Metroid Prime fans are probably salivating at the thought of re-playing the first two games with the Prime controls. Imagine going back and playing Wind Waker with the Wii’s Twilight Princess controls; while they may not have been as necessary or appropriate as the Metroid Prime control evolution, going back to non-Wiimote+Nunchuck for Zelda can be a little off-putting. This is pretty ingenious on Nintendo’s part, in that they (once again) get to charge you (once again) for playing the exact same game (once again) only slightly differently.

You will notice I am ignoring all the things like the internal cameras, further embellishing on the SD card slot, downloadable web browser, music playing, etc. These are all the expected next-steps for Nintendo, and I honestly just do not have a lot to say about any of them.

The last thing I did want to address is Nintendo’s admission that there is insignificant storage space available on the Wii, and that they will be utilizing the SD card slot to solve this problem in Spring 2009. I have spoken before about my experiences with having to clear out the fridge, so I will not bother going into it in-depth again. It would not surprise me if it was Nintendo’s arrogance that got them into this situation, though. They honestly believed that there would not be any storage problem, and they honestly believed that moving things to and from (rather than executing directly off of) an SD card was sufficient. That would be perfectly fine… if they weren’t also selling us Nintendo 64 games, Turbo-CD games, and WiiWare games. Especially with the latter, it was probably quite shocking for them to realize that the less-than-512 MB really isn’t enough to actively use the system for what they’re now intending it to be used for. The SD card slot is really the most simple solution, and I am thoroughly glad (and relieved) to see them utilize what is actually right there inside the system, rather than pushing more useless white plastic our way.

So what about you all? What are your thoughts on everything? It was certainly a lot to wake up to this morning, that’s for sure.

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