I’ll eat my hat if someone, especially some teenage kid, has not suggested “who would win in a fight between Link and Lloyd Irving”. I’ll eat it, right here, man. It’s only natural.
There’s a wide list of games we’re looking forward to as “next-gen”. Some don’t seem to be coming anytime soon, like FFXIII Versus and others are so far flung into the future that we only have a tentative name. Tonight, the brand-spanking new Smash Bros. is on our plate of future-ware so let’s sink our teeth in.
WARNING! Challenger Approaching!
Thanks to the great folks at NeoGAF for a translation of the Nintendo Direct live announcement.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, Namco-Bandai will be teaming up with Sora to make Smash Bros. for the 3DS and Wii U. In the very announcement, Namco-Bandai’s Masaya Kobayashi says how the company will be contributing their best men to the dual development of the two Smash Bros. games. In that staff list includes members from the Tales team, developers from Tekken, and folks from Soul Calibur. From the Nintendo side of course are the same great men and women from Sora with Sakurai doing his thing as always.
Of course, from here, possibilities abound. I am no doubt sure that Sora is well aware of the mixed-bag reception of Brawl and of course nobody has any idea how this dual system will work, especially since development has just started. Sakurai and his crew will step up their game, but what could BamCo add to the mix?
Well, for starters, since we have plenty of fighting game folks added this could mean tighter balance or, gadzooks! An actual combo counter! Or perhaps the high level of customization common in the company’s fighters. I’m sure some of the fallout wave of Street Fighter X Tekken has to have hit Namco-Bandai, so a crossover with Nintendo can help put out any “guilty by association” embers. More than just damage control, Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U could on some basis see more tournament play, which is always great for the odd-duck amongst fighting game players.
Outside of fighting mechanics, we do have art and design to add. Though I am more than doubtful Sora will let so much as a sliver of Soul Calibur style fanservice hit the game, the artists could add a new shade to the game, and of course Motoi Sakuraba will be contacted for some arrangement of “Fighting of the Spirit”.
Story-wise, the Smash Bros. universe has been expanding. Where before was just a hand playing with a bunch of figurines, we now have a multi-dimennsional subspace war. And since most Nintendo cast tend to be silent protagonists bar anyone from Fire Emblem and a few other series, how will the addition of a couple Namco-Bandai characters that aren’t named Pac-Man (because he definitely will be in) work with that silent narrative? Since Tales staff are on the team, will story mode have some heroes be a bit more talkative? We all know Samus and Pikachu are buddies and Snake and Ike are pals… We’ll just let the fangirls have that one. An advanced direction for story, with all that campy, self-aware Nintendo charm can be in our midst. But that means squat when we unlock everyone anyway.
Ultimately, if hype is what the devs wanted, they got it in droves. This has been buzzworthy for the whole weekend and with development underway, it won’t be long before the CONFIRMED FOR meme starts all over again. Well, with Nintendo, Sega, Konami, and Namco-Bandai all in the ring together, let the battle begin! But wait a second. Before we use our Wii U gamepads and whack each other with the motion controls, let’s step back in time to the early 2000s or even the late 1990ss.
Exclusivity and the Console War
It’s the year 2001, we’ve entered the sixth generation of gaming. Sony has their PS2 running about, an eternal essence of the age. Sega has the Dreamcast, going out with one last bang. Nintendo’s Gamecube is making a stupendous entry with Melee as a launch title, and the mysterious Microsoft is unveiling their Xbox. Raging across the battlefields of Web 1.o are hundreds upon thousands of high school kiddies and nerds battling it out for who is on top. From the ancient clashes of Mario and Sonic to which system has the better games, the forums are filled with these zealous crusaders attacking other consoles for their console of choice, ensuring that she is the only one on top. Basically, the era of gaming the Hyperdimension Neptunia games parody. (Oh why do I even remember that game?)
But nowadays the console war isn’t as strong as it was in the previous two decades. The “debates” on GameFAQs and in school lunchrooms still exist (they always will) but they are more subdued. Representatives of companies aren’t as big on putting down other companies as they were in the past, let alone hilarious publicity videos like this exist anymore. What changed?
Firstly, company focuses have all shifted. Sega decided to go just into software and ported most of their games to other systems where they quickly became top sellers there as well. Nintendo pried open new markets by getting gaming to become more socially acceptable with the Wii and the DS. Sony tackled the big beast of the mobile phone market. Microsoft sought more to further integrate more mediums of entertainment, especially if the recent E3 was anything to go by. Instead of everyone fighting for the exact same slice of the consumer pie, the major players of the game industry have decided to take on different aspects of it.
While the company focuses are new, development has become very similar. When something hits the PS3, chances are it’s also on the 360 and vice-versa. You could even get the game off Steam for your PC in some cases. I can think of very little of my PS3 library that bears the “only on Playstation” moniker. Only Nintendo seems to be the company with mostly exclusives anymore, but that’s because of its radically different console. When porting games becomes more and more simple to do, why wouldn’t you from a business perspective? So as libraries converged, there was less reason to argue unless it was strictly among first-party franchises, but even those rivalries died down the day the Beijing Olympics happened.
Then of course comes the arrival of new foes. With the mobile market of the iTunes App Store and the Android Market/Play Store, people began crying out about the console apocalypse, which I touched on quite some time ago here. Developers have been taking it in different ways, usually in the form of ports and spin-offs, like with Square-Enix putting Final Fantasy I and II on the iPhone and spin-offs of Mushihimesama running about. For some companies this isn’t an option. Because you and I know there is something very wrong about playing Mario on an Xbox, let alone an iPhone. So what can console developers do? Get people excited about gaming consoles again is one such way, and to do that you need killer technology and great games. So if there is a clear shared “enemy” why not team up?
Teaming up and cooperating among rivals can produce just as much commotion as ever. It gets people talking and the more people talking about your product, the better. With all the crossovers lately, it’s one clear and obvious way of working together. With the above Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games to the recently released Pokemon Conquest the message is loud and clear. Of course, just because it plays on brands we know is no assurance of a good game or cheap gimmick, and there are other ways studios, especially third party ones can work together with each other and the first party. Unified by the faith of the common developers, the goddess consoles of days of yore have joined forces against “the evil iLegion that has been leeching off gaming until it is little more than some paltry matches of CoD and fond but dead memories of the 90s”.
The newest Smash Bros. is a product of the direction games have taken, and while it’s too early to say if it will be Brawl all over again, it has us reexamine what it means to compete against or with each other. I for one, will have my hopelessly eager anticipation to beg for the nil chances Pascal from Tales of Graces has of getting confirmed for the game.
Join me next time when I debate about the virtues of whether it’s preferable to eat ten banana pies or twelve.