With this generation of consoles, playing games online became important for some reason. Microsoft had gotten it right with Xbox Live; shell out $50 a year, and play as many games as you want, anytime you want. Nintendo’s “online plan” is complete garbage, and Sony’s somewhere in the middle; they let the developers handle costs. My main problem with all of these, though, is the lack of variety in their online software. As expected, we’ve got obscene amounts of sports games and mindless first-person shooters. Do we really need another online WWII simulation? As much fun as it is to make Nazis suffer, that whole genre has gotten incredibly old as of late. So has the futuristic FPS junk, too. I long for originality, or at LEAST something different than the norm. There’s a few fringe games, like Amplitude and Chessmaster, but by and large, it’s the same old crap over and over again.
Even that Sims and Evercrack junk is old hat by now. Whatever happened to innovation online? Personally, I think the Dreamcast had the right idea. (Yes, I’m once again singing the DC’s praises. Fuck you.) Not only did it have the action-RPG heavyweight Phantasy Star Online, it also had a pile of quirky games that worked surprisingly well. The puzzle game ChuChu Rocket! is a perfect example of this. Whoever thought guiding mice into rockets could be so much fun? Then you’ve got Ooga Booga, one of best online games ever made, with all manner of weird minigames. With the DC’s built in dial-up modem, there was little to no lag whatsoever, even in complex games like PSO. Why developers these days can’t grasp some of those concepts is beyond me.
So what DO we need to expand the world of online console gaming? Just a few thoughts…
- Dungeon crawlers like PSO are always welcome, as they generally rise above the standard hack-and-slash by promoting teamwork; in many cases, this is absolutely necessary to proceed through the various levels. Plus, the locked-game functions are a must-have to discourage asshole cheaters, hackers, and the notorious “PK’ers” (player-killers).
- Chessmaster started it; I’d definitely like to see more board games. Sure, you can play all that crap on Yahoo and whatnot, but what’s more comfortable: sitting at your desk, or lounging on your comfy couch? Plus, you could cram a whole ton of games on a single disc, like many of the other compilations out there.
- What I’d really like to see is Mario Party Online. Every single installment of that series has been good, and nothing can make a group of four friends truly hate each other like a 50-turn game of Mario Party. Playing it online would be great, as you could steal Stars from people all over the planet. Nothing says “gaming excitement” like someone swearing at you in Japanese. Gaijin dog!
- Animal Crossing Online. Granted, the original game behaves much like an online game anyway, but a true online version would be interesting indeed: hundreds of players, getting together in a town and doing absolutely nothing. Except collecting old NES games. It’ll be like a 411 meeting, but without the mystery smell!
In the meantime, I’ll stick with the offline stuff. I can’t see Mega Man or Mario fighting off hordes of enemy goons, only to disappear suddenly because someone’s cable modem shit the bed.