Ask the Kliq #17
Every once in a while, you will think about video games and then ask yourself a question that has no rhyme or reason, but that just happened to pop in your head at that exact moment. In some rare instances, not even Google or Wikipedia can provide the answer you need. Sometimes you wouldn’t even need an answer to that question.
This is where we come in.
Our panel of experts is here to take on all of your video games-related questions, no matter how serious or silly they may be. With each new edition, we will submit a question to this elite committee, which will in turn try to provide you, our beloved readers, with the most accurate answer they can come up with.
Do you have a question for us? Just click on “email the author” at the top of this article and add the subject line “Ask the Kliq”, or leave a comment below. The best questions will be featured in an upcoming column.
This Week’s Question
This week’s question talks about loyalty, particularly to developers and publishers. Yes, even in these days of questionable sequels and uneven quality from game to game, some game companies are still beacons of hope that yes, someone out there cares and does his best to put out the best product possible, instead of simply focusing on feeding the masses with cheap but attractive packages developed in a ridiculously short time. These are the companies we are talking about today.
On the other hand, some of our staffers thought that such beacons of hope were non-existent and had to dig in the past to find something worth mentioning.
In other words, and in italic font, here’s this week’s question:
“Who is your favourite developer or publisher, the kind who’s stuff you either buy, or give a hard look to specifically because their name is on it? This can be past or present.”
Here are your answers!
Michael O’Reilly: I’m long since past the point of buying games on faith, but there was a time when Lucasarts and Blizzard were instant day one purchases. Even if the games they were making weren’t my thing, such as the Adventure games of Lucasarts yore, I knew they would be quality games. Blizzard barely produced any games, it seems, but what they made hit like atom bombs anytime they did bother to produce.
And then the dark times came. George Lucas decided Episode 1 needed games to support it, and anything that could even remotely fit into the Star Wars Universe was green lit and shipped, no matter how remote the connection. This policy continued well into the post Episode 2 era, and only recently has Lucasarts made it a policy to not whore out the brand. But at this point that’s like the Beatles saying they will do a reunion tour. It’s a little too late now.
Blizzard never really stopped making great games, though I would argue that Warcraft 3 was a let down when compared to it’s predecessors. No, what Blizzard did was get purchased, and then purchased again, and in between they released some game that made it acceptable for developers to think it’s alright to demand money from me to play a game I already own. Since that goes against my religion, well, no more Blizzard. Their decision to make Starcraft 2 into Starcraft 2a, 2b and 2c did not help either. So it appears Blizzard will remain on my do not buy unless blatantly obvious list.
Aaron Sirois: I have several developers that I get excited about.
Insomniac has rewarded my faith with half a dozen Ratchet & Clank games over the years, and at some point I’m going to pick up the Resistance titles. Whatever they’re working on, I’m sure to keep my eye on it.
BigBig Studios isn’t exactly a famous group, but they’ve put out three games for the PSP and all of them have been awesome. Pursuit Force, its sequel, and Motorstorm: Arctic Edge are some of my favorite PSP games of all time, and I am psyched at the thought of these guys getting to make more games for the handheld.
And whenever Sony Santa Monica decides to do anything besides God of War, you can bet it’ll be bought by me.
Lastly, any time David Jaffe is involved with a new Twisted Metal game, I go nuts. Since chances are that such a game will be announced at E3 this year, I’m in for a heck of a treat.
Ashe Collins: One game company I have always had an eye out for title to pick up is Bioware.
Ever since my wife picked up Baldur’s Gate, and it’s sequel and expansions, I’ve been hooked. The only major release I don’t have from them is Jade Empire, and that was more of lacking any kind of Xbox and forgetting about it when it came out on PC finally. Mass Effect was the title that almost got me to purchase an Xbox 360, and then it thankfully was announced that it was coming out on PC as well so I dodged that bullet.
I love their story-telling style in their RPGs and the characters and detail they put into their games. Each new title opens up the player’s options even more in those worlds, and I imagine after Star Wars: The Old Republic comes out I’ll have a new favorite MMO to play as well.
Sean Madson: I guess I don’t really have a favorite per se. I used to follow Squaresoft fairly closely prior to their merger with Enix. That’s not to say that since they merged there hasn’t been any quality titles produced by them (there has), but I tend to do more research on them than I used to. For every The World Ends With You and Final Fantasy XII, there’s an Unlimited SaGa and Death by Cube that follows.
Nintendo has a very good track record with me, with only a few disappointments in the last few years. The one thing that really bothers me with them is their stubbornness to embrace some of the modern conveniences of the other consoles on the market, such as HD outputs and an online system that’s not the butt of everyone’s jokes.
The last few years I’ve shown an increased interest in games coming from Bioware, Atlus, & NIS. If Working Designs and Clover Studios still made games, I’d be keeping my eye on those as well.
Mohamed Al-Saadoon: I’m guessing my answer will be the same as Guy’s: Nintendo.
Now that may seem like a cop out to support one the largest companies out there but I’ve been playing Nintendo games ever since I was old enough to walk. Now Nintendo titles weren’t the first videogames I’ve ever played (It was some Atari clone I believe) but over the years they’ve delivered some unforgettable experiences for me and they dominate my favorite games list.
I know this makes me look like a complete tool but fuck it: I love Nintendo games, even the Wii ones (But even my love for Nintendo won’t get me to admit that Wii Fit and Wii Music are anything but horrible games).
Guy Desmarais: Mohamed was right! My favourite publisher/developer, and the company which I will trust until they stop making video games, is Nintendo. Let’s be careful though: When I say that I buy Nintendo games just because of the red logo on the cover, it’s only meant for what I consider the “core” games of Nintendo. These games can usually be identified if the franchise was born during the Gamecube era or sooner: Mario, Zelda, F-Zero, Excitewhatever, Punch-Out!!, Metroid, Pikmin, Donkey Kong, and so on. These do not include games like Wii Fit, which may have their own qualities (or not, according to Lucard), but which are definitely not aimed at me.
As for the other franchises, I must say that I have never really been disappointed. The Mario series has always been home to top quality platformers, the F-Zero series is still my favourite racing franchise of all time since it actually challenges me unlike many other games of the genre, and even the weakest Zelda games are worth playing at least once. Maybe The Adventure of Link is the worst Zelda game in my opinion, but I would still put it miles above other NES classics.
As for my latest Nintendo blind buy, it was New Play Control: Pikmin. Pikmin is a franchise I never could play before that, since I was a poor college student when it first came out nearly a decade ago. With the re-release, I thought it was a good time to reinforce my status as DHGF’s resident Nintendo fanboy and make things right. Let’s say I was once again pleasantly surprised at the quality of the gameplay, even though I still haven’t been able to beat the game properly after five tries. What can I say? I refuse to use a walkthrough.
Aileen Coe: While I don’t buy anything purely based on a name, I do definitely look twice when some companies are involved. In the past, I’d be watching Working Designs. They released the likes of Vanguard Bandits, Alundra, and both Lunar games, with a heaping helping of swag to go along with them. Man, those were the days.
Now? Mainly Atlus and NIS (I have a predilection for quirky Japanese games, you see). Atlus has the Shin Megami Tensei and the Trauma Center series going for it, along with a plethora of other titles. NIS has all their strategy games (Disgaea being just one example), the Super Robot Taisen games, and recently Sakura Taisen/Sakura Wars. Both have released more obscure titles that might not have seen the light of day over here, such as the Badman/My Lord games and the aforementioned Sakura Tasien/Sakura Wars. My ears definitely perk up whenever I hear they’re about to release another game.
Capcom has the Monster Hunter and Ace Attorney series, though I don’t watch them as closely as the above except for when one of those series comes up.
Mark B.: At this point, I don’t have any faith in any developers to make something I want to play. I can’t. Sega has completely ruined the Shining series and has destroyed any name value Sonic had at this point, Atlus Japan is so dead set against releasing anything for the PS3 or the 360 that I’m starting to suspect their company is filled with some sort of perverse Luddite off-shoot, Konami keeps handing good franchises to terrible developers while beating the Whatever Revolution concept to death, and so on and so forth. If I had to pick a company that hasn’t pissed me off yet, Platinum Games would be the closest, which comes down in equal parts to the fact that I haven’t played Infinite Space and the fact that I liked Clover Studios a bit… but then I remember they developed Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble and we’re back to square one.
Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure that I probably openly loathe and distrust every publisher and developer for one reason or another at this point. There were points where I trusted Blizzard and Working Designs would never release anything but high quality games I wanted to play, but the former decided to release World of Warcraft, while the latter just kind of released any damn thing they could get a hold of (hey, look, Vanguard Bandits, that’s… special) until they went out of business.
So I guess I’m saying I probably wasn’t the best person to answer this question. Sorry.
Chuck Platt: Truth is, I think the concept of a must buy publisher, or even developer, is antiquated. In the SNES days, I happily bought every Square and Enix game that made it over to the States, and a few that did not. I was never disappointed, though playing through Front Mission in English is preferable to muddling through it with my limited Japanese and a photocopied guide. During the heyday of the PS1, I stuck with Square, literally buying every game they released for a few years. You can thank the SaGa series for putting a stop to that. When I got a Dreamcast, I collected every Capcom title. Every last one. To this day, I have them all and do not regret the purchases. Project Justice alone justifies that shopping pattern. Now, the only company I am anywhere near that loyal to is Rockstar, and that is an abusive relationship, at best.
Christopher Bowen: When I was younger, the answer to this would have been easy: Konami. I picked up Konami games sight-unseen. I even picked up their Ultra games. They were quality games back then; Gradius, Blades of Steel, Jackal, the TMNT games, etc. Konami back then couldn’t do much wrong. Times changed, they spread out into more casual fare (Dance Dance Revolution), they had some poor sequels (hello, Suikoden IV) and their big releases became somewhat inferior to their past efforts (Vandal Hearts was unimpressive), so their name doesn’t go as far as it once. I think it was the logo change.
There’s only one company whose stuff I will still buy with their logo. Naturally, they kicked so much ass that they’re out of business, felled by Sony’s ambivalence. It’s a company so awesome in my mind that I still look to its founder as an icon.
That company is Working Designs.
I fell in love with Working Designs when I first saw videos for Lunar: The Silver Star. Full motion video! A full motion cartoon! A great RPG! And what’s this “an eh may” stuff? Lunar and NHL ’94 made me want a Sega CD, and though I couldn’t buy one (my mother wouldn’t let me spend my money on it at the time; not because she was that controlling, but she felt they would break down quicker. She was ultimately right), I would actually rent one at video stores on occasion. From that point on, WD games were must-owns for me on any system I owned, and if I didn’t own the system, I considered buying it. Albert Odyssey remains my favourite Saturn game of all time. The Exile games are among my favourite Turbo Duo games of all time. As for the PSX Lunar games, you might remember I mentioned Silver Star Story Complete last week. Even the WD games I didn’t care for were arguably quality games, like Silhouette Mirage and Growlanser. To me, Working Designs was the best company around at taking care of its customers, with their pack-ins, extras, high-quality packaging, high quality instruction manuals (which are so pricey to make that Ubisoft is ditching instruction manuals altogether. Think of that, then remember that WD’s manuals were often hardcover), and a high interest in the quality and care of the entire process. Purists didn’t care for the liberties taken in localization, but purists also like to add “sama” to the name of their English friends while speaking in English. I take no care of the opinion of elitist weeaboos who can’t speak or read Japanese.
Working Designs is dead now, and the attempts at quality publishing since by companies bringing over Japanese games are novel, but remind me of a little girl walking around her house in her mother’s clothes, trying in vain to look grown up. If anything, my personal desire to see another Working Designs has led me to the conclusion that there will never be another Working Designs, despite the best intentions of NIS and XSEED.
Also, since the death of Working Designs, no other house has that level of currency with me, where I see the name of the developer or publisher and decide that’s a game I want. The only one that’s close to that level is Level-5, of Dark Cloud, Professor Layton and Dragon Quest IX fame. They’re amazing, but even then, White Knight Chronicles was a “rent-first” game for me.
Let’s see: By my count, it’s a tie between Nintendo and Working Designs, even though the most overwhelming response was “no publisher or developer should be worth your blind trust these days”. While that is certainly a rational answer that is very well articulated by many of our staffers, I doubt this will be enough to stop me from foaming at the mouth each time I hear news of a new Nintendo core franchise game begin released.
What about you, dear readers? Do you have a favourite publisher? Do you show loyalty toward a certain developer? Just tell us in the comments section! If you would prefer to leave us a question to answer in a future edition, you’re more than welcome to do so. You can also click on “email the author” at the top of this article and add the subject line “Ask the Kliq”. We’ll put our team right on it.