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Tycho / on Wed, May 26 2004 at 4:30 am

The Double-U Bee

We saw an article posted on Blue’s News yesterday regarding a new sort of royalty calculation for games that use Warner Brothers licenses - you can read comments from the CEO of Atari and others responding to the concept.  Essentially, and the basic idea is not offensive to me, developers start to lose money if their games review less than an average of 70%.  People might understandably be worried about attempts to “game” that system, or that it might introduce a sort of mercenary review structure where cash money is dispensed in exchange for higher scores.  The thing is, top tier review sites are almost allergic to scores below seven - except in cases where they rate from one to five, of course - so I don’t know how much money really needs to change hands to get the results they crave.  What’s more, I don’t know why the addition of “money” is fundamentally worse than the current staples of the reviewing industry, “sloth” and “ineptitude.”

Okay, okay, last Nintendo day, I promise.   

One of the games I was excited about just came out, I picked it up yesterday - Mario Vs. Donkey Kong.  This is what I mean when I say that Nintendo makes “pure” games, though I never take the next step and define that term.  I’m saying that they make a kind of “toy,” something to amuse yourself with.  As technology has improved, and has gamers have gotten older, the games have gotten a lot more complex.  This is not something I have a problem with, really.  Stories have become of greater importance, again, this isn’t something I’m going to complain about.  But to play a game for the game’s sake, because it’s fun to actually play it, because it is made up of tiny, valid choices in a context which rewards the classic gaming virtues of timing and focus - that’s where Nintendo excels.  It is for this reason that I understand why there is antipathy toward Nintendo for the anachronistic way they behave sometimes.  Gaming has moved on, yes, but they cradle some primal moment in perfect, perpetual genesis.  I had some experience with the NES and SNES as a child, but I grew up playing a very different sort of game on the Commodore 64 - on a sort of personal computer, where games of fractal, folded in on itself complexity had already taken root.  Playing Nintendo games, then and now, is like a colonic by comparison.   

Obviously, I don’t give a fuck about Hamtaro, I have no desire to unite Ham-Hams.  He is like every Anime munchkin boiled down and refined, the real McCoy, so pure in its dose that he must be cuddled at all costs.  We will not be discussing him today. 

If I tried to describe Mario vs. Donkey Kong, I don’t think it would sound all that hot.  The gameplay itself is really just series of “abilities,” a sort of All Star Team of Mario techniques from games spanning decades, like the ability to jump on top of things and pick them up, big back flips, hammers, and a few new tricks.  He can even climb these vine things, similar to Donkey Kong Junior.  Essentially, each level takes place in a factory type setting, with the requisite ladders, girders, and conveyors - buttons placed around the level will radically alter its structure.  It is, at its core, a platform game of such honed execution that it will have a hold of you before you realize EB has closed around you, it is dark, and the employees are waiting to go home.     

You might have heard about the Classic NES series, especially if you watch sites that cover import gaming - Nintendo is selling the old NES games for the GBA now.  You’d think after I talked about perfect genesi and what not that I might be slavering for them, but I find myself quite resistant to it.  Selling new versions of old games, yes - selling old versions of old games for new systems breaks the compact I have with them.  Gabriel is more of a collector than I am, it’s possible that this kind of thing appeals to him.  Paying 20 dollars for each individual game is right out.  It was one thing to release these games on cards that you could then feed into your E-Reader or whatever, then it was kind of a novelty thing, a trick.  As a cool unlockable after you beat a game, hey, alright.  When they put it right there on a cartridge, everybody knows what they’re doing.

I am not, myself, a Pokemon master - I do not “catch them all.”  So I don’t know if this year’s new Freakzor is more potent in some fundamental way than Whoremon.  However, just as in Japan, there is a wireless adapter that comes bundled with it, allowing you to get down all wireless and shit.  Now, it does not function as I had hoped - i.e., that it would be clever enough to simply convert the communication of regular games into some short range signal - games must be coded explicitly to take advantage of it.  Mario Golf: Advance Tour supports the device as well, but it’s not bundled with the wireless adapter.  On the other hand, it does play out like a Golf RPG in miniature, and allows you to transfer your character back and forth from the Cube.  All is not lost.

Majesco has a device coming out that will convert the ordinary link cable port into a wireless signal, but I don’t know much about it besides that.

There were some other games there that intrigued me, the Mario Party Advance, the Mario Pinball, which even on the GBA screen has no scrolling.  Capcom’s Legend Of Zelda: The Minish Cap is beautiful to look at, and feels like an SNES game that was locked in a time capsule for a time when the world needed it.  But for GBA games this year, it didn’t get any better for me than DK: King of Swing.

You only play the game with the shoulder buttons, let’s start there.  It’s a kind of arcade puzzle game, where each button controls a hand, pressing and releasing both buttons causes Donkey Kong to leap.  The thing is, as you are climbing up different surfaces, Donkey Kong naturally swings in one direction, so if you want him to stop doing that, you grab something else with your other hand and climb up that way, swinging between points.  Obviously, there’s assholes also climbing around there, you have to get bananas and so forth, he can’t get enough of those things.  But the basic conceit is so enjoyable for me in practice that I want to go door to door, asking people if they know who the Goddamn king of swing is.

The girl that was running demos of the game actually wouldn’t let me play at first.  “Hold on,” she said.  “I’m trying to beat this level.”  I got the impression that she had been trying for a while.  She eventually let me try my hand at it, promising me her entire saddlebag full of Nintendo tchotchkes, which she said contained quite a lot of whatever was in there.  I didn’t have shit, though - she was on a level that far exceeded my abilities, one that combined the quick decision making you already had to do with some puzzle shit, as climbing from point to point made other climbing points appear.  I gave it back to her, and she beat it right away.  Maybe she just needed a break.  I don’t know if she just kept the whole bag for herself then, or what.   

Next up, the Microsoft booth.  Live enthusiasts will have much to celebrate, and might even want to begin now. 

(CW)TB out.

making enemies where there were none


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