Now, We May Speak
We attended the same Nintendo Media Summit you have seen reported elsewhere, in the hopes of seeing Super Mario Galaxy or Metroid Prime 3: Corruption - titles which are not minigame compilations, portable puzzle games, or games for my mom. I don’t want to say that the complimentary breakfast and lunch were a factor. Let me say that we were hungry when we made the decision to go.
There was an embargo on the event, which can sometimes mean that something startling is being revealed - this was not the case. I would be happy to go into more detail.
I really enjoy watching Reggie speak. I’ve described this before, but his presence fills a room. Content-wise, his presentations aren’t dense with meat for most gamers - but they aren’t directed toward the casual consumer, either. They’re very much about the business of games, and high level corporate strategy, and year-over-year growth. So while I enjoy getting a taste of that echelon, my newspost is not a shareholders’ meeting, and I’m not here to discuss their surprising numbers for Q1. The success of their business is important insofar as it maintains my own investment in their brand and secures a gush of titles that pique my interest.
We’re not really set up to discuss titles like Brain Age, Big Brain Academy, or Carnival. That is not meant to impugn these titles in any way, because they’re uniformly well made. I must admit to being taken aback by Carnival, whose manifestation of pure, country fair fun was a billion times more authentic than it needed to be. And Big Brain on the Wii utilizes some forward thinking online capability - the way you could race a friend’s ghost in a multiplayer racing game, you can race a simulation of their brain in a series of puzzles. But in the same way we do not review most games for children, and most enthusiast sites don’t, these "training" games represent a shard of the growing, fabulously lucrative "adult" space that has no resonance with me and probably most of the people they showed these games to.
We came away from the event almost dumbstruck by Super Mario Strikers Charged, though. The last panel of the strip is from our first time playing it, where shells and fire rebuffed our attempts to simply intuit its mysteries. Our second time, after Gabriel had been coached in its intricacies and we added GameLife‘s Chris Kohler to our squad, we couldn’t stop playing the fucking thing. We could have added another person, even - you can play four against the machine - but we weren’t leaving the couch to find somebody. The basic mechanic involved passing the ball around to build up the eponymous charge on it, which increases its chance of scoring a goal. It’s a very basic sort of "hot potato" mechanic that is extremely exciting in its execution. Waggling in this one is fairly light - as a game that wants its sports elements taken seriously, Wii-centric controls happen only when a) you want to physically strike a player, which is done by moving toward the "enemy" and swinging the remote, or b) when you are defending your goal against a special shot, an airborne barrage of goal attempts. I worried about this last one, as the rest of the game is so precise, but it’s great - and here’s how it works: like a light-gun shooter, you use the goalie’s hands to block incoming shots as they approach. The excellent twist is that the goalkeeper is selected from the players on your team - seemingly at random, so you never know who has the responsibility. And since these super shots can score multiple goals, it’s a huge Goddamn deal. I’m dying to own it, primarily for co-op play in the game’s tournament cups - I don’t know if I’ll ever even get to the online portion, easily the most elaborate on the platform.
A soccer game that features lava prominently was the most hardcore experience available at the event, from a company that is increasingly getting its financial kicks from a new kind of consumer - one far easier to please than the traditional gamer. Reggie was quick to point out that the "core" gamer wasn’t being forgotten, that Zelda and Samus (et. al.) were still on the payroll, but the lineup available described a company and their casual paramours locked in a passionate embrace.