Saints & Sinners (Apr. 20)
In the video game industry, the fans are bombarded by two separate yet equally important groups: Saints, who bring with them only the purest form of joy, and Sinners, beings dedicated solely to evoking misery. These are their stories.
Two weeks ago, I experienced one of the best weekends of my life. This week, I am experiencing something that is nowhere near that high level of quality. Yes, my friends, it’s hangover week here at Saints & Sinners. Perhaps the worst, most frustrating fact about this week is that, in my perpetual apathy, I couldn’t muster up nearly the requisite amount of hate to declare more than one Sinner this week. I know that all of you reading this column on a weekly basis are mostly here just to see a scrawny, pasty nerd whine about major video game publishers; having only one Sinner nearly obliterates that facet of the editorial, but I assure you that the Saints this week are truly enamoring! You will be enamored, dammit.
Nintendo: Growing up in the era that I did, E3 has long been the event that I anticipate with bated breath on an annual basis. I must ashamedly admit that the main reason for this is that, at one point in my life, I was a tremendous Nintendo fan boy; I worshiped at the altar of Mario, regularly maintained a presence on the Nintendo community message boards, and even subscribed to Nintendo Power, the company voice to end all company voices. Each and every year, I put aside an hour of the very week that E3 takes place on to watch the live Nintendo press conference, and, each and every year, I expect to be blown away with some sort of massive revelation. There have been good events, namely at E3 2004 when the company revealed early footage of what would become The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and there have been dreadful events, chief among those being at E3 2008 when the iconic publisher floundered about the stage in a series of soul-draining exercises meant to promote the Wii. Despite playing host to the debut of the Wii U, last year’s show ranks somewhere in between those two. This year’s conference, being able to capitalize on the lack of information presented last year on Nintendo’s future, promises to be a classic.
Already, more than a month away from the convention, the reveals have begun to roll out. In an interview with Spanish publication El Mundo, Shigeru Miyamoto hinted at the reveal of both a Super Mario Bros. game and Pikmin 3, a charming sequel that has long been stuck in developmental hell, for the Wii U. Obviously, the former of these two games is going to attract the most attention, but it’s Pikmin 3’s presence that really revs my engine; this is a game that has been promised to us for years but has, year after year, no-showed the Nintendo Press Conference. Miyamoto’s insistence that it’s well on its way and that we might even see the game at E3 scratches an itch that has been around since completing Pikmin 2 in 2004.
Now, let’s discuss the more newsworthy title. Super Mario Bros. for the Wii U is an uncertain moniker that presents with it the question of exactly what kind of Mario game we’ll be treated to as the debut effort on new hardware. Miyamoto and Nintendo have since clarified that the experience will be one similar to what was shown at last year’s show: a New Super Mario Bros. game that implemented Mii characters into the standard platforming action. Rumors and speculation elsewhere have centered around the fact that Nintendo has apparently registered a domain for Super Mario Bros. 4. Both of these would seem to indicate that Mario’s first outing on the Wii U will take place in a side-scrolling environment, and I think that this would be a safe bet. Super Mario 3D Land, having been developed by the Mario Galaxy team, only wrapped production towards the end of last year so I can’t imagine that they’re too far along on their next project. I have a feeling that, whatever it is that Nintendo may be showing off, this new Mario game will be something that’s ready to go this fall when the Wii U launches in North America.
Valve: Something is going down in Washington. I can’t say what it is at this point, but I can say for sure that something is going down. Valve has spent the past few weeks releasing job listings hinting at dedicated hardware development, and, just this past week, Apple CEO Tim Cook was spotted among their ranks at company headquarters. Gabe Newell, the face and co-founder of Valve, has many times expressed his displeasure with Apple products and their streamlined direction; why would Newell fraternize with Apple if they weren’t working on something big?
I suppose that, at some level, I’m a low-rent conspiracy theorist that loves to look way too far into matters that don’t call for it, but I can’t help but be curious with this development. Valve has begun spinning their damage control to emphasize that nothing crazy like, say, a Steambox is in the works. Then again, this is the same company that runs around wielding Half-Life 3 shirts for kicks and giggles; can everything they say be taken as confirmed fact? If it isn’t a Steambox, then what on earth could it be? I highly doubt that Valve is going to begin producing the wearable computers that so proliferate through Gabe Newell’s fantasies. The new hardware almost has to be of the dedicated gaming variety.
Then again, this could very well be a case of me coming to believe something because I want it so badly to be true. Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have about spun their wheels as competitors to the point that I’d take almost anyone in as a fourth contender to the throne. Valve seems most poised to do so, and these rumors only further point to that fact. Please, Valve, I’m begging you at this point, make a dedicated gaming console! Make yourself (more) famous!
Players Like You: I must take this moment out of my busy column to congratulate you, the players, for victory this past week. As you might have noticed, a story ran this week citing Capcom’s struggles with its ranking as determined by the Better Business Bureau of America. Where once they sat atop the world with a perfect A+ letter grade, they now sit at a lowly ranking of B. This downgrade comes in response to the beleaguered publisher releasing products with downloadable content already on the disc that would require payment to unlock at some point down the road. This is a practice that they’ve engaged in regularly since coming into power this generation, but it wasn’t until now that they received the necessary slap on the wrist that only the BBB can provide.
In all seriousness, this is a consequence with little impact on the landscape; I highly doubt that Capcom will suddenly see the wrongs of their ways and begin trying to make amends. This is, however, a slight step in the direction of keeping major publishers in check for their nefarious practices. I’ve tried to use Saints & Sinners as a pedestal to highlight these various wrongdoings, and, though I know I personally have had little impact, it does my heart good to see the community as a whole rising up against the corporate powers that be.
A winner is you.
Sony Santa Monica: I feel slightly icky calling out Sony Santa Monica after the many years of them putting out top-level titles, but it’s something that I feel I must do.
God of War IV is a thing now. It’s operating under a different moniker, God of War: Ascension, but it’s fairly plain to see that this is the next major iteration upon a franchise that has remained a powerhouse over the past two generations. The new title was made official in a video reveal last night that left much to the imagination other than the fact that, indeed, Kratos is back and he’s at just the right level of anger that is required to beat the entire Parthenon to death. I have no doubts that the game will be good; my problem is that, well, I’ve been down this road before. To be exact, I’ve been down this road five times. Fatigue is beginning to set in.
As I said, there exists little possibility that Ascension isn’t a fantastic game, but I have this feeling that Santa Monica could be doing so much more; their developmental prowess and handle on the technology was shown of so well in God of War III that it’s hard to imagine they would approach any limits in producing a completely new intellectual property. I just hate to see these talented developers stuck in a creative rut because of public demand.
Besides, does Kratos really have anything left to do? When last we left our hero, he punched Zeus, the God of all Greek gods, to death. I know that Ascension is supposed to be a prequel, but it is still following in the footsteps of the games that it’s technically preceding; it will be tough for the God of War to fulfill his violence quota without feeling underwhelming compared to his last effort.
Judgement has been passed