The Angry Gamer – No Home for Homeland

I realize that I’ve been gone for a few weeks. I was sick for while, plus I’m writing a lot more reviews here now. Not to mention that the gaming industry really hasn’t been up to snuff lately with pissing me off. So I’ve been avoiding rehashing my old standards (like proving how bad FFVII is or shitting on EA), desperately trying to come up with something at least partially new. Here goes…

I’ve complained about Nintendo’s lack of vision in the online gaming department before, but today, I’m going to cite a very specific example. I’m referring to a Gamecube game known as Homeland, created by developer Chunsoft. (Screenshots can be found here at The Magic Box.) The game is an online RPG that supports up to 35 players simultaneously. What sets it apart from other most online RPGs, though, is that you can choose to either connect to a server, or run a server yourself! And when you have your own Gamecube act as the server, you get to play as a god, using divine intervention to help or hinder the various players that have connected to you. The graphics are colorful and childlike, but that never stopped fans of Animal Crossing, did it?

Homeland was delayed month after month, and at one point, it even looked like the game was completely cancelled. Luckily, Nintendo came around, and the game will see a spring 2005 release in Japan, satisfying the online gaming population overseas.

Is there any hope of a US release? Absolutely not. Aside from the fact that US gamers almost never get the quirky Japanese titles (especially ones with “kiddie graphics”), the fact that Homeland is an online game only drives the final nail into the coffin. We all know how anti-online Nintendo is; they’ve repeatedly claimed that online gaming is “just a fad,” with the facts contradicting those claims on a routine basis. (1.4 million users on Xbox Live is hardly a “fad.”) Rumors are rampant that Nintendo’s going to make some “big” announcement regarding online functionality on their DS console sometime within the next few months, but who’s holding their breath? Even if Animal Crossing DS ends up being online-enabled, that’s still too little, too late.

But back to the ‘Cube for just a moment. Homeland is one of those unique titles that could’ve really helped Nintendo in the US. Nintendo doesn’t even have to run servers, unlike the Phantasy Star Online series. They could just release the game, and let gamers go nuts. Think of the possibilities…and then slap yourself to come back to cold, hopeless reality. No fantastic online gaming for US Nintendo fans, sadly…