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So About Them “Videogames” June 2013

June 12, 2013

Hey folks. It’s E3 week, so there’s a good amount to talk about regarding games. More info on the new Microsoft/Sony consoles was released during their respective press conferences, as well as many-a-demo showing off new games, a good number of which are brand new IPs.
This is all great news of course, as new gaming consoles aren’t all that useful without new games to play on them, but to me, the most important news coming out of those conferences was of internet requirements and pricing.
Microsoft went in first and slammed down a mind-boggling $500 price-point for the Xbox One, and I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that this would mean the next Playstation would run for at least that, considering the guts of the Playstation 4 are slightly more powerful than that of the Xbox One’s. Think about that for a moment. Half a grand for a video game console.
But then Sony struts in and dismisses those worries, announcing a $100 cheaper price-point, and stating that there would be no need to regularly connect to the internet in order to play disc-based games.
That last bit alone had me eating out of their palms. Coming from someone who primarily played games on the 360 during this past generation, I was bummed to no end to hear about all of the restrictions that will be involved with the Xbox One. The idea of having to connect to the internet at least once every 24 hours in order to play disc-based games offline is absolute nonsense to me.
Microsoft has also (previously) talked about having even disc-based games tied to user accounts, meaning there would be no way for me to loan a game to a buddy and have him/her be able to play it without having to pay for any sort of pass or what-have-you. This would also mean that game rentals (which were a big deal for me there for awhile), would be effectively killed as well. Sony shot down those worries as well, stating that there would be no restrictions put in place to attempt to combat used game sales or game sharing.
The games that were shown were (for the most part) very visually impressive, but nothing was shown at any of the four conferences that had me thinking “Wow, this would never be possible on current hardware” from a strictly gameplay-oriented perspective. I suppose you could argue that we reached the threshold during the previous generation in which anything you can imagine can be technically done on the 360/PS3, even if you had to do some game-dev black magic to faux it into looking like something it isn’t. There were still some very interesting games being shown though, with my personal highlight being the multiplayer demo they showed of Titanfall.
It’s the services though anymore, more-so than the games, that have me either appreciative or annoyed with gaming consoles. Coming from someone who isn’t in an ultra-highspeed internet (or “stable internet”, for that matter) enabled city, having games require you to always be connected in order to function (even in single player, as is the case with Blizzard’s Diablo 3), the idea of requiring a stable internet connection in order to play disc-based games on my system is absurd to me, and I want nothing to do with it; so even if Sony is going to start charging for the ability to play mulitplayer, having no internet restrictions, no region-locking, and an easier to contend with $400 price-point has me far, far more interested in their new console than that of Microsoft’s; and again, this is coming from someone who was a 360 guy in this past generation.

It’s mostly due to this rising trend of reliance on services to play video games, that I’ve recently been finding myself more and more interested in series I had passed up in previous generations. The PS2 was the only of that trio of consoles that I didn’t own until much later; well after the 360 launch, and thus my library of games (and knowledge of those beyond it) is pretty small. Due to this, I’ve been going back and trying to hunt down copies of games that had seemed interesting to me at the time but that had been nudged aside to play current gen stuff instead. It isn’t an enormous list (considering most of the third party stuff that I was interested in was released on all three of those consoles), but there are still plenty of arguably “important” games on there.

Fatal-Frame-2-Box-Art One of those games is Fatal Frame 2. I had been aware of the series pre and post Crimson Butterfly, but it seems to me the series more or less lived and died with this game. It seems as though when someone mentions “Fatal Frame”, this is the one that immediately comes to mind.
It’s hard for me to say it’s better than the others without playing through them all of course (they’re on the list), but I can say that having played Fatal Frame 2, I can understand completely why some people consider this one of the best horror games ever made; and why its popularity allows it to retain its asking price after all of these years. As of the moment I’m typing this sentence, a new copy of Fatal Frame 2 on Amazon is $98.99. The price fluctuates wildly of course, so if you simply check back from time to time I’m sure you’ll find a better deal; and if you aren’t adamant on buying older disc-based games new like I am (mine was 70 bucks…), used prices are much more reasonable.
What is it though? In a nutshell (and if you’re unfamiliar with the series), the Fatal Frame games consist of roaming around (mostly) abandoned environments, snapping pictures of ghosts to combat them while trying to unearth what messed up business took place in the chosen game’s particular setting.
In Fatal Frame 2, that setting is an abandoned village tucked into a forest. You play as a young woman named Mio as she investigates the village after her twin sister Mayu wanders into it at the start of the game. It isn’t too long until you begin stumbling across angry spirits, and to fend them off you’re tasked with staring through a camera viewfinder at them and snapping their picture at just the right moment to deal damage to them.
On paper, the idea of taking pictures of ghosts to defeat them sounds kind of ludicrous, but placed into an actual game, it’s a mechanic that makes for both engaging and disturbing combat situations. There’s also a timing mechanic to the combat. You can take a picture of a ghost at any old time to do a small amount of damage, but if you time your shot at just the right moment when the ghost is coming at you with an attack, you’ll do a greater amount of damage and stumble the enemy backward. This is called Shutter Chance, and within this Shutter Chance window is the “Fatal Frame”, which is much harder to time correctly, but does a tremendous amount of damage when you pull it off.
A lot of what makes Fatal Frame 2 great isn’t entirely rested upon the combat however. The visuals and sound design provide a truly tense atmosphere, (if you play this game in the dark with headphones on you’re sure to have trouble walking to the restroom that night) and the story is pretty interesting in a macabre way as well. Combat is just frequent enough to keep you on your toes but allow you time to roam around the village investigating at the same time, and the ghostly denizens you’ll snap pictures of are varied (and sometimes truly disturbing to look at).
It’s a great game, for sure, and despite the asking price, I feel like I got my money’s worth.
If I’m not mistaken, Nintendo has some of the rights to the franchise, and if there’s one game that absolutely lends itself to the Wii U’s second screen in an interesting way, it would be Fatal Frame. I’m not sure Fatal Frame on the Wii U alone would give me reason to buy one; but it would make an awfully good argument for it.

Speaking of the Wii U, Nintendo announced a good number of upcoming games during E3, and with a new Smash Bros. and the HD redo of Wind Waker (which happens to be my favorite Zelda game) on the horizon, I’m beginning to feel compelled to purchase one of those things.
Much of what they showed (if not all of their first party stuff) were just sequels or continuations of existing IPs, which I suppose is expected from Nintendo at this point, but there’s something to be said for how excited a new entry in those series can make you, despite how many of them you’ve already played before.
While Microsoft and Sony are going at each other’s throats, Nintendo continues to do their own thing. Their console may not be as powerful as the other next gen consoles, and their services might be lacking in some places, but the properties they own are some of the most endearing out there, and as long as their games retain the same high quality as they always have, I don’t see how they could fail to succeed in making their fans happy.

Without sounding too obnoxious about it, there’s a certain feeling of “pure-ness” I get when playing something on the previous generation of consoles. I can purchase a game (usually new, but used when necessary) and boot it up without having to download patches, and without the game pestering me about paying for/inputting codes to unlock “new game” features like online passes. Without Achievements or Trophies, I feel less pressured into playing a game a specific way, and can simply enjoy a game as I intend to enjoy it.
There’s even a convenience to memory cards that isn’t found nowadays. If I were to take my card over someone’s house, I could load my data onto their console in an instant; where as with the PS3, outside of lugging the whole console around, I have no idea how one would go about getting save data from one console to another. The same can be said for the 360 as well, since they made their HDD’s less conveniently detachable with the new smaller models, and straight-up removed the memory card slots.
If my buddy wants to borrow a game, I can simply loan him/her the disc and they can play that full game to their hearts content until they return it (or in several of my past experiences, fail to return it..)
It’s simple. That’s what I’m getting at. The GC/PS2/Xbox generation was a simple one, and with games having to be tied to one system at a time to combat reselling and that sort of thing with the Xbox One, and with its requirement to be connected to the internet regularly in order to be able to play games offline, etc, etc, I can’t imagine we’ll be returning to that “simple” time again anytime soon. As technology trudges forward, it seems instead of things being more convenient, there are instead more and more hoops to jump through to access things that used to be ready at your fingertips. With all of these services requiring passwords and in a lot of cases credit card information, if security breaches happen, the personal risks are also much higher than they should be for wanting to do something as innocent as play a video game.

But despite any service-related headaches, a new console generation is always a tremendously exciting time, as in many ways, it hits the reset button on what you assume is possible for video games to do.
There were fears coming out of Microsoft’s prior reveal that this next generation would be mired with obscene restrictions, but after Sony’s showing at E3 I’m happy to be actively looking forward to the next generation of consoles again.
Now to start saving up…

From → Games, Rambles

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  1. Spitz’s Year-end Wrap Up 2013 | Spitz's Soapbox

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