Thanks to the big promotional efforts of Nintendo there are now a ton of gameplay video about Mario Odyssey. For the most part fans of 3D platforming Mario titles are ecstatic about it. Nintendo is pushing the story that Mario Odyssey is a direct successor to the Mario 64 and Mario Sunshine titles, which translates into open world exploration, discovered challenges, and a sense of freedom. But there are troubling signs that this game will fail to capture what people have really wanted and end up in a designer’s no-man’s land.
REVIEW: JAMESTOWN / DUCK GAME / CREEPY CASTLE
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is not just one of my favorite game of 2016, but my favorite game of 2016, period. It’s already worthy of being called a classic in my mind, which is a very big statement. Because although I’m a fan of this gameplay style, all it would have only taken is a few little problems to turn all my enthusiasm sour and make me wax nostalgic about the games I loved instead. It takes a lot of perfectly tuned features for a real-time tactics game to even work, let alone shine, so my expectations weren’t high. Well, I’ll tell you why it won me over in spades.
This year’s E3 has me convinced that Xbox and PlayStation are in deep trouble, and that the de facto winners of this decline are the PC and Nintendo Switch. Xbox tried to advertise “exclusives” that were all going to be available on PC as well, while Sony kept talking about VR. The 4K revolution is dead in the water. Nobody cares about 4K, even though we recognize that it’s an improvement.
VR and 4K are things that would’ve been nice to have if they were fully-functional and properly showcased three years ago. But by now we’re so starved for quality games that we just want to have things to play on our existing machines. I’ve seen people argue that they’re totally satisfied with their PS4 and even their Xbox, and that they look forward to the release of the titles in development, but the overall excitement for this generation of machines is lower than I’ve ever seen with previous generations. The logic of a console cycle is that you’ll be given a front-row seat to the cutting edge of gaming for the duration of the console’s lifetime, building up a library that will some day stand as a distinct epoch of gaming innovations. Each console has its own gimmicks, branding, and eccentricities that you can incorporate into your identity, and the rituals you learn on that machine become part of the shared identity you have with your fellow gamers. But now there’s nothing special about consoles, since they all share the same controller layouts, hardware is always just a mid-tier PC, and the distribution models and features are homogenized. PC has never had the epoch-ritual-identity quality that consoles offered; they were generic machines that did a lot of stuff, and also gaming. Consoles are now in the same boat, and without that strange generational epoch psychology, they just become worse PCs with a smaller library and less features. This E3 proved that Sony and Microsoft have absolutely nothing interesting to offer.
Nintendo Switch stands apart from all of that, and is winning as a result. This E3 was a huge success for the Switch because they are creating an epoch-ritual-identity framework that people can become invested in. The games, tone, and features of the Switch are distinct and flavorful, and you can be guaranteed that you’ll be able to build a library that will some day stand as an epoch of gaming.
The “AAA” games shown at E3 were boring and mediocre. The indie games looked interesting, but we’ve learned by now that indie games usually fail to follow through on their enticing designs and premises, so we have to take them with a grain of salt. VR and 4K editions of exiting games are not even close to worth the cost, and only push us further into the outdated living room as the hub of entertainment. I suspect many gamers will look at this E3 and decide that traditional consoles are enjoying their final twilight days.
I’ll be discussing the games, hardware, and announcements themselves in future posts. This was more of a broad evaluation.
Square Enix shuffles its cards
What do we really want from fictional worlds when we’re promised freedom?
In my articles on MGS4 I have emphasized the reduction of Solid Snake to a hired killer, stripped of the noble idealism we see at the end of Sons of Liberty. The “rapid aging” plot gimmick and the change of his name to “Old Snake” were early hints that his heroic leader status was going to be stripped away, and then we saw within the game itself that he doesn’t live up to his own ideals anymore; he gives up on teaching, and just focuses on trudging through his mission with little more fueling him than nanomachines and drug injections. People have tried to retroactively interpret his actions as something greater, but this shows a basic misunderstanding of the “Old Snake” character in my opinion.
Now Kojima has written an essay on the film Logan, and repeats the logic behind Snake’s transformation:
Back in 2008, I did something similar when I put an old Solid Snake into Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. In the intro, Snake says “War has changed.” His codename was also changed to “Old Snake.” The letters “I” and “S” were removed from the word SOLID: “is” – or in other words “being” – had been taken away from him; he was now Old Snake. In much the same way, both Snake and Logan had their place in the world taken away from them. What place is there in the world for those whose very being has been wrested from them? All that remains is the end of their story – a story of their departure. I attempted to pull the same trick you see in Logan – of simultaneously writing an “end” for MGS4 while trying not to actually end the whole saga. [Emphasis mine]
This is confirmation. Solid Snake’s “being” is removed in MGS4, leaving only a shell of his former self. Once you remove who he “is”, he simply becomes “Old Snake”, the grumpy assassin trying to clean up the mess that is his legacy, devoid of ideals.