We Want Our Tea Back 01.08.03

Oakily Doakily, then. It’s a New Year, and yet more UK-centric gaming content will be coming your way courtesy of me, Misha, and whatever sources I can find. This week’s going to be suffused with less manic energy than usual, but that shouldn’t detract from the content.

UK Gaming News

Well, looks like PALWorld got more stuff going on than the US. To think the Yanks thought it was going to be a quiet New Year… UK games news is up and running! So let’s see what’s out there.

We Want More Zelda!

A big, big story, and Mr Berg beats me to the punch. Oh well, never mind. Having realized that the original distribution plan for the Zelda bonus disc (very few copies, only available to those with colossal product libraries AND had them all registered at the Nintendo website) was stupid beyond belief, Nintendo have made the disc easier to get hold of. Two of a selection of games or one new release will get you all the Zelda goodness you could want.

The qualifying games are:

ANY ONE OF:
Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker,
F-Zero GX,
Mario Kart: Double Dash
1080 Avalanche
Mario Party 5
Eternal Darkness

ANY TWO OF:
Luigi’s Mansion,
Pikmin,
Super Smash Bros Melee,
Super Mario Sunshine,
Metroid Prime,
StarFox Adventures
Mario Party 4.

credit: Bryan Berg, gamesradar.co.uk

New Mario/Zelda this year?

According to reports, Nintendo will be releasing new Gamecube versions of Mario (the long-awaited Mario 128) and Zelda (a sequel to Wind Waker, with similar graphic style). This news is pretty high on the Speculato-meter, but it’s something to look forward to. Of course, the odds of these games getting PAL releases until 2005 are tragically slim, but we can always hope…

Credit: gamesradar.co.uk

PSP in the EU

Sony Europe president Chris Deering has said in an interview that “There’s no official date for its unveiling but it has been announced that the target date for its global launch is November 2004, so I’m pretty sure it’ll be widely announced plenty of time ahead of that.” A target release date for anything big like this is always good, but the big news here is two little words:Global Launch. Hold the phones, I think Sony may have actually gotten a clue. Release a product all over the world at the same time, make everybody happy (goodwill sells product) and cut down on imports (which is good news for the companies, for various reasons to be explored later). Maybe there’s hope for us after all!

Credit: gamesradar.co.uk

GTA not so sinful?

As you’ll have seen on the main page, the next GTA game will not be coming out with the “Sin City” title. According to Gamesradar, the crossing of wires was due to someone at Amazon UK coming across an old April Fool’s Joke, which suggested “The new game will mix Grand Theft Auto gameplay with Frank Miller’s [comic book] Sin City universe” and misreading it as fact. Amazon UK is still taking advance orders for the game, but has changed the name and expected release date (31 December 2004 at time of writing).

Credit: gamesradar.co.uk

I Pimp, Therefore I Am

Cory is back, and so’s his bathroom. And rejoicing was to be heard.

Bryan is doing a fill-in. Normal service will be resumed in due course.

Fred has some issues with poor playtesting. And I don’t blame him.

Chuck has seen Lord Of The Rings, and has been inspired to Love What He’s Doing.

Lots of reviews to read. Mostly by people called Alex. Find out which games are worth your money, and which ones should be avoided like an N-Gage.

Commentary

Ever have a feeling of deja vu? That strange feeling that you’ve already experienced a particular period of time? An overwhelming sense of familiarity? I have. Often, it comes when I’m sitting down to play a ‘new’ video game.

The emergence of genres is inevitable in any form of entertainment, be it film, literature, gaming, or whatever. It allows people who enjoy a particular type of game to easily identify another game they might like. It’s a system with ‘Rules, Borders and an End Zone’ (everybody play Spot-The-Quote), within which a game operates. This is not a bad thing; however, when a titles become formulaic within a genre, *that’s* a bad thing. Many’s the time when one can sit down to play a new fighting game, platformer, or RPG, and be overwhelmed by a sense of ‘seen it all before’. And I’m not talking about one game in a franchise retaining a particular control system, either: I’m talking about situations when a person plays a game and thinks “this is exactly like another game, but with different graphics”.

Why does this occur? Often, it is merely a case of “Here’s a big-selling game. Let’s ‘borrow’ large chunks of it to make our own game”. Anybody who remembers the early days of Streetfighter will no doubt remember the hordes of vastly-inferior clones popping up everywhere (so much so that UK games magazine Super Play coined the acronym ‘NAGASFII’, as shorthand for ‘Not As Good As Streetfighter II’, to save reviewers some effort). Other times, it might be a case of “We can’t think of how to do this well in our game. Let’s get some inspiration from another game”. It might even be a case of “We can’t be bothered. Let’s just rehash a previous game, tweak the graphics a bit, and put it out as a new version” (e.g. Tomb Raider)

So, we must ask ourselves: Where has the innovation gone? What has happened to the boundary-pushing nature of games, replete with fresh ideas? The answer is that it’s still there… It’s just not often noticed.

Sometimes the innovation is in breaking a genre. Doing something totally off-the-wall that nobody expected. The best current example of this would be Pokemon Channel. A game which involves watching TV on your console, while sitting alongside Pikachu? Doesn’t it sound utterly stupid? Yes, it does. But the fact is that (or so I’m told by the rest of the Kliq: sadly, no PAL release yet, if ever) it’s one of the best and most original games in a long while. Other examples? Dance Dance Revolution. A game about dancing? Oh yes. And it’s great. New Ideas In Gaming are few and far between; but when they come, and are implemented well, it’s truly a joy to behold. Other times, the innovation is adding something new to a normally-stale genre; examples of this might be Guardian Heroes, adding RPG elements and a proper VS mode to a side-scrolling fighting game, or Black And White giving players of God-Sims the option to be as good or as evil as they wanted to be. Not all gimmicks are good ones, of course, but credit goes to the coders that try; when it works, it enhances not only the game itself, but inspires the rest of the genre as well.

Innovation. It’s hard to do, and often risky, but majestic when it works. Respect is duly due to all those programmers pushing the envelope in whatever ways they do so; and of course (by definition) it’s the way forward.