You know what the video game world needs?
Our regular blogger Heather is off this week (having vestigial limb surgery or the flu or something) and so in an act of miscalculated desperation the Uproar bosses asked me to throw together an article for the website. Being an entitled, opinionated geek who is ALWAYS right it’s probably a bad idea to share my thoughts on the internet, but I figured I could take a few minutes away from the drawing board to puff on my pipe, put a blanket over my knees and talk about some retro video-gaming goodness, and how things were better in the old days.
With the video games industry in its current state, there are really only 3 main camps that developers can fall into these days- Indies, who make delightful and experimental games on the cheap; huge companies like EA who trot out the big budget, spectacular but otherwise ‘safe’ sequels; and B@$tards. Yes thats right- B@$tards. You know the ones- those people who release freemium games that charge you an arm and a leg simply to unlock more ways to charge you for your other arm and leg! For the latest example of this, just look at literally any of the online feedback for the Dungeon Keeper remake by EA’s Mythic studio. I wont go into it an further here- I haven’t played the game so can offer no insight other than it looks vile and cynicial and everything bad about the world!
But what’s that got to do with Mystical Ninja?! Well, much like Dungeon Keeper, Mystical Ninja is a much loved series of games that originated in the 90s on the Super Nintendo and has since disappeared as the development landscape has become less and less willing to take a creative risk.
Gamers often talk about the ‘Double A’ and ‘Triple A’ tiers of games. Halo, COD, Gears of War, Final Fantasy- all ‘triple A’ games: big budget, great graphics, the works. These are the games still being knocked out today, although noticeably with higher and higher numbers denoting sequels, and fewer new franchises. The double A tier was your lower budget but still fairly prominent type of game- it wouldn’t dominate the charts, it might not appeal to everybody, but it was the meat and potatoes of a console’s library. Think of the original Saints Row as the cheaper cousin to Grand Theft Auto and you get the idea. You could find original ideas and novel titles suited to more niche markets, and of course plenty of ‘me to’ cash-ins riding the wave of bigger success stories – for every Halo the was a… well… every other shooter that came out that year!
The point being- I think that the games industry has lost some of its charm in the fast five to ten years, mainly because of the death of the ‘Double A’. The reason why the Playstation 2 was one of history’s most successful consoles was because of its huge library of games. Sure, many of them were probably complete sh1te, but they were sh1te that someone at one point picked up and played because they were fed up with Halo, and probably still remembers fondly. Tenchu? Tomba? What about Syphon Filter, Urban Chaos or the Timesplitters series. They were the games that tided you over until the next Final Fantasy was released. They were the games that you played because they looked cool in the magazines and not because they had a marketing budget higher than most small countries. Ultimately- these were the games that you remember most, because instead of being a homogenized committee-designed glop, they were absolutely bursting with personality.
That’s why I think the industry needs more Mystical Ninja. It tells the often bizarre stories of Goemon, the Japanese Folk hero and his quirky ninja allies as they saved Japan from all manner of threats. The developers took some artistic license with history in that inimitable Japanese style to create such bonker’s plots as saving feudal Japan from Aliens who fly around in Giant Peaches. With the aid of your giant mecha robot pal Impact of course! That’s the perfect antidote to all the brown and grey shooters clogging up our disc trays today.
In its heyday were a good handful of titles released for the Mystical Ninja franchise, though many never received an English Translation, and the last main entry was on Nintendo DS in 2005. My personal favourites in the series were ‘Legend of the mystical Ninja’ on Super Nintendo, and ‘Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon’ on the N64. The former combining 8 way exploration/combat levels akin to Final fight with platforming sections reminiscent of Shinobi. The latter was a fully 3d action adventure similar to the Zelda series. For you collectors out there, both can be found easily on Ebay, though expect to pay in the region of £50-£100 for a boxed version of the slightly rarer super Nintendo game.
Additional thoughts this week:
– With all those dormant IPs sitting in publishers vaults, and all those inventive indie studios clamouring for their next hit, why not pair the two up? Come on Konami- how about letting a small studio create a low budget, low risk game using your IPs, and you can both reap the rewards whilst maintaining some artistic integrity!
-PS Vita’s upcoming Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes can apparently be completed in around 2 Hours. Development team member Jordan Amaro defends this by saying that ‘short indie games like Journey and Dear Esther are critically lauded despite their short length’. However he seems to be failing to take into account that these aren’t retailing for £40, weren’t funded by a major publisher, weren’t made by huge teams, and perhaps most importantly, weren’t sequels to already fading Series.
– Flappy Bird. Whilst it kills me that this is the kind of game people want to play, it’s genuinely inspiring that something a guy can knock out in an afternoon can capture the hearts of the world. Especially since whilst creator Dong Nguyen has made a name for himself, he doesn’t seem to want to cynically cash in on it.
– After 7 years I completed Final Fantasy 12 last week. This made me happy.