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Dragon Quest X - Now for Wii AND Wii U. And maybe 3DS.

I'm not sure if anyone recalls, but I predicted the announcement trailer of Dragon Quest X for E3 2011. It never happened, and we were left with a fairly disappointing event for fans of the Wii, like myself. I realize I'm a dying breed, especially given the fact that there has been next to nothing released this year for the system. But last night, finally, Square showed us something. After four years of waiting. And it looks pretty great.

http://youtu.be/nkWo2DApLiY

It's coming to the Wii and the Wii U sometime next year, and it's going to be an online game. Everyone knows I'm not a supporter of online titles, but Square has me covered. Apparently the game can be played offline extensively, or can be played online without having to interact with other people.

Of course, that's what I understand having read RawMeatCowboy's interpretation of a Japanese press event. So I could be wrong. But if it is true, then hot damn! I'm too uncoordinated to play with Koreans, I'm too old to play with 12 year old racists, and I'm too socially inept to enjoy a game with another person.

(Granted, if my girlfriend or my brother, or even better, both, decided to join me on a quest, that would make my day. But in the same room, please.)

What's funny to me is that Square announced this game back in 2008 when the Wii was 2. Now the Wii is dead, we're about to get it's successor, and Square has finally got footage for us. I realize they like to take their time, but geez guys. It's getting ridiculous. They might as well just start telling us that all titles they announce from here on will be on unannounced consoles. "It's going to take us a good 7-8 years to start working on the title we just mentionned. So it'll come out for the PS5 in 2024." Oh Square.

Regardless. It's finally here. Joy.

An Open Letter to Nintendo of America

To Reggie Fils-Aime, President and COO of Nintendo of America

How are you? Did you get my letter?

I'd like to introduce myself. My name is Stephen, and I have been a consumer of Nintendo products for over 25 years. I recall the Christmas in which my brother hounded Santa Claus for a Nintendo Entertainment System. I was so young, I couldn't even pronounce the name of your company, Reggie. I called it Intendo, and was laughed at by my brothers. But that little grey box brought so much magic into our home. I mastered Super Mario 2 so well that downloading it on the Wii, many years later, I still remembered instinctively where all the secrets were hidden. We found an import cartridge of Super Mario 3 at a local Microplay and rented it. Our collective heads exploded at how incredible this game was, seemingly ages before it's introduction to western audiences. And even though my brothers were becoming bored with games, I remember saving up all of my money and getting Mega Man 4 when it was released. Nintendo was a major part of my childhood.

I've owned every Nintendo console since. The Super Nintendo being just as influential in my teen years as the NES was during my childhood. I was a late adopter of the N64, but I had one. I loved my Gamecube. It felt like I was the only person on earth who owned one, but I loved it dearly. And then came this generation, and the Wii. Reggie, I have spent this entire generation in defence of Nintendo, and the Wii. I have purchased more games for this system than I've ever had in any other generation. During the last 5 years, I was a bigger fan of Nintendo, and gaming in general, than ever before.

And then there's the future. Here's the part that probably matters the most to you. I have been in support of the Wii for many reasons, but Reggie, one of the biggest reasons of all is that before long, I will be a father. And I want my children to grow up with Mario, Link, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Mega Man, even Sonic the Hedgehog, just like I did. I don't want my kids to grow up thinking video games are all Halo and Call of Duty. I want a Nintendo console that provides variety.

You mentioned in your most recent E3 press conference that you've heard the fans. That you understand what they've been asking for. That you know they want that variety. And this led up to the announcement of your Wiiu. But for someone like me, who for five years has voted with my wallet for the types of games I want to see more of, your recent attitude regarding a certain few titles has dealt a fairly serious blow to my view of Nintendo of America. If you didn't read my letter, I'd like to repeat myself. It was Nintendo that taught me to love RPGs. As I alluded to above, the SNES was very influential in my teen years. As much as I loved Mario World and A Link to the Past, it was really Chrono Trigger that captured my heart and mind. An RPG.

Another thing I alluded to above was my late purchase of an N64. This was because I owned a Playstation. I want you to understand, I bought my Playstation for two reasons. One reason was the quirky and unusual games you could get, like Parappa the Rapper and Ape Escape. The other reason was for the RPGs.

Put simply, I am a loyal, devoted, Club Nintendo Platinum member, and I feel it necessary to buy Playstation products because Nintendo of America won't publish games like Xenoblade Chronicles or The Last Story. If someone like me needs to buy a PS3 to get my RPGs, it isn't hard to deduce that you're losing customers.

This isn't about one or two games. This is about an attitude within your company that is damaging your reputation. Nintendo is no longer the ultimate place for gaming within American homes. The Japanese branch of Nintendo releases all sorts of unique games, obviously including RPGs. And even Nintendo of Europe saw fit to localize Xenoblade, The Last Story, Another Code R, Last Window. You can't tell me Europe is a more profitable market than North America. Not when you see a fan outcry as loud and determined as the recent Operation Rainfall. We're out here, Reggie. We're asking for these games. Why are you saying no to our money?

I have to admit. Nintendo of America's comments regarding the status of these games has left me disenchanted. I want to believe what you said about the Wiiu. "Is it unique? Unifying? Maybe even utopian?" Is this unifying utopia of a console going to be managed by the same company that denies North Americans titles they rally together and beg for?

Thank you for your time, and please keep in mind a very old secret about customer service: A customer who never expects to return will not bother to complain. They will just leave. I'm here and I'm complaining Reggie. Nintendo fans across the continent are complaining. Won't you help us restore our faith in Nintendo?

Maximillion Loses a Dimension

You know what I love about this modern age of video games?

A game which was once developed to look like this..

finally gets a release date and looks like this. I love it.

Nintendo at E3

Finally, this is the one I was looking forward to.

I've gotta say, the conference left me a bit underwhelmed. Maybe because I'd followed all the reports of those rumors for the last month, which told us Project Cafe would feature a tablet-like controller with two analog sticks, four face buttons, two shoulder buttons and two triggers, a 6-inch touchscreen and a front facing camera. All correct. Weird. They said it would be an HD system, more powerful than a PS3, and that might actually be true. It's certainly no less powerful than one.

I was looking forward to seeing those rumors explained in a way that finally made sense, but when I saw the new controller, I realized it. There was no explanation coming. That really is what the new controller looks like. And while I left the conference feeling a bit unconvinced, especially considering the lack of first-party WiiU software announced, I've slowly been coming around to the idea. Watching videos, seeing it in motion, hearing about the possibilities and considering the uses for it that I would like to see myself, I've realized that this could be a very cool machine.

I'm not a big proponent of graphical horsepower, but the Wii has been showing it's age the last couple years and this update is definitely needed. It's also nice to see Nintendo settle back down on the couch this generation and give us an interface that lets us relax and have fun, while Microsoft flails around playing Sesame Street.

I was surprised at how much Nintendo didn't bring up at this year's conference though. I thought most certainly the WiiU's ability to mimic a DS would be shown off. It's great to have a touch screen in your hands, but they couldn't have missed the fact that it can serve as a bottom screen to your living room's top screen, letting you download or plug in your DS games. I would have liked to hear from Reggie or Iwata themselves that the system is full 1080p with 25gig Blu-Ray discs, instead of hunting that information down.

I was also a bit surprised at the name. I know Wii is a recognized brand that many non-gaming types can identify, but this is the first generation they haven't named their system something unique, and just like the 3DS, people emerged from the conference confused over whether it was a new system or a new controller for an old system. It can't be good for sales for so many people to wonder if this system is even a system at all.

Don't let my criticism fool you though, I'm actually pretty excited to get my hands on it. Imagining the simple potential of taking on-screen information like hearts and rupees and the map and which weapon you're wielding, and putting it all in your hands so that the game can just punch you in the face with beautiful HD visuals? That excites me. I hated the look of that giant Wiimote on the screen in the first Skyward Sword trailer last year. It took away from my excitement for the game. I'd love to play games that just let the visuals shine, without anything getting in the way. And really, since I lost all that weight, I'm far too energetic to stay in one place for hours playing a long campaign. I like the idea of going downstairs with it, going out on the deck.. I'm not sure how far it'll reach, but the potential for awesome is there. I also really like the idea that instead of appealing to casuals, the WiiU is creating a situation where someone like you or I could play a traditional game in a living room with other people around, unassumingly. Casuals could spot what you're playing and their interest could grow, without you having to force it on them.

WiiU aside, I found the presentation a bit dry. The Zelda concert thing was an interesting idea, and I hope it arrives here. Though more popular concerts than this often don't. I'll be picking up that Zelda Wiimote when it comes out, because I still don't have any MotionPlus options. Kid Icarus, Star Fox, Mario Kart, all great games but they weren't news. Luigi's Mansion was interesting, though I never played the first one. Mario 3DS looked really good, especially with the return of the Tanooki suit, but that was really it.

I suppose it's asking too much for every E3 to be like 2010, when they hit us in the face with a new Donkey Kong, a new Kirby, just one awesome game after another. But when the conference ends and I discover only later that we're indeed getting Rhythm Heaven Wii, "Kirby Wii", and Professor Layton 4. Or when you don't hear a word about Dragon Quest X, or the trio of Wii-RPGs that should be coming soon (The Last Story, Earth Seeker and Xenoblade Chronicles), I just start to feel like opportunities were missed. Why was so much time spent discussing a console that we won't be getting until after E3 2012? Is that the Nintendo way?

Oh well. I suppose it's enough to be happy that the WiiU is coming, and that it will eventually have very pretty Nintendo titles. In the end, that's all I really want.

Sony at E3

I figure if I did one for Microsoft, I should do one for Sony before the Nintendo conference happens and distracts me too much.

I have to say, after seeing Microsoft, EA and Ubisoft show off one game I'm interested in during their collective 6 hours, Sony's conference was a bit of a relief. That's not to say it was perfect. Kaz Hirai bothers me. But coupled with Assassin's Creed, Uncharted and Bioshock were games like Sly Cooper, Medieval Moves and a Vita version of ModNation Racers. You know, games for people under 17. Microsoft should have been taking notes.

Maybe it's the Trekkie in me, but that Star Trek game looks pretty good. I might pick that up, maybe.

It was sort of ridiculous how they were showing off the touchscreen on the Vita, and how it can be used, when Nintendo's been using touchscreens since 2005 and Apple since 2007. And I don't appreciate Sony trying to boost the profitability of their other divisions by trying to sell us 3D TVs and glasses during a gaming show.

Also, we heard about the Ico/Shadow of the Colossus collection, but where was The Last Guardian? And will we be getting that slick-ass packaging for the Ico collection the Japanese are getting?

In all, better than I expected, and much improved over Microsoft, but I'm looking forward to being actually impressed in an hour and a half when Nintendo takes the stage.

Microsoft at E3

Microsoft seems to have an identity crisis.

I watched their presentation this morning and it struck me as odd. Modern Warfare 3, Halo Remake, Gears of War 3, Tom Clancy's Future Soldier, even Fable. What do all of these games have in common? 17 and up. They showed a ton of these games, then immediately told us that the 360 should be the focal point of your existence. "You should watch TV on it, you should order pizza on it, you should betroth it to your firstborn daughter." Then what comes next? Games for your preschooler!

I don't get it. Where are the games for anyone over 6 and under 17? That's a pretty diverse age range. Does Microsoft expect kids to graduate from Sesame Street to Gears of War? "Oh, you're 7 now Timmy. Time to start killing Nazis."

Just, agh. I'm looking forward to Nintendo's presentation tomorrow. I can't imagine Sony doing much better.

Your Comprehensive All-in-One E3 2011 Nintendo Guide

With a week and a half to go until E3 2011, I'm going to throw my two cents in. We all know this is going to be a very big E3. Nintendo loves to surprise us, but I think I've got a pretty good handle on what to expect. At least within reason.

My Reasonable Predictions, Backed Up by Evidence:

  • Project Cafe is unveiled

It's been stated officially that Project Cafe is coming to E3 2011 and will be playable. (Source)

  • And it will be high def.

Iwata stated years ago that any console succeeding the Wii would be high definition. (Source) So all you kiddies can relax and stop comparing sub-standard Wii games to the N64. Now you can compare sub-standard Project Cafe games to the N64. Or you can go play an N64 game and remember how fugly they actually were.

  • The Wii will not be going out with a whimper. The following will receive a North American release date before the launch of Cafe.
  • For good or for bad, Cafe will have a stronger third party and/or western developer presence. (Source)

Iwata sort of scared me when I read that quote. I certainly hope Nintendo doesn't go chasing the hyper-realistic FPS and M-rated game crowd. If I wanted a whole collection of those, I wouldn't be such a staunch Nintendo supporter.

  • We will finally get some real information on Dragon Quest X.

Whether it's a trailer, a release date, a teaser, or just an image, we're going to hear about Dragon Quest X in a week and a half. And it's about effing time. (Source)

My Reasonable Predictions, Based on Conjecture:

  • Project Cafe will have some crazy hook to it.

Maybe those 6 inch screens on a standard controller, like all the rumors say. Maybe some sort of online cloud system of distribution. Maybe it'll be nothing more than a big fat whodad you plug into the back of your Wii, giving it the horsepower and HDMI-out necessary. But Nintendo never fails to surprise us. It'll have something to make us all talk.

  • Skyward Sword release date
  • Kirby 2011 gets localized
  • Rhythm Heaven Wii gets localized
  • Pikmin 3

Really. Those games are almost a given. This will be the E3 that will decide if Pikmin 3 will be a Wii game at all. If we don't get info on it this year, expect it for Cafe.

My Semi-Reasonable Predictions:

  • We will likely be seeing teases for a Project Cafe version of some of the following franchises:
    • Mario
    • Zelda
    • Kirby
    • Donkey Kong
    • Metroid
    • Mario Kart
    • Smash Bros
    • Some sort of Mii game
    • Maybe Pikmin 3?
  • We will hopefully be seeing Earth Seeker get a western release.
  • Bully 2 was accidentally leaked a long time ago, but where is it? It's coming to Cafe. That's where.
  • Project Cafe has a DS card slot somewhere. Either on it's controller or on the console. Similar to the Super Gameboy, you can play your DS games on your TV, using the screen in the controller as the bottom screen. Dude!
  • Rocket Slime 2 3DS is coming

My WTF Predictions, Based on Nothing but My Own Delusional Fantasy Land Where I Have a Throne Made of Candy.

  • Club Nintendo users get the option to spend their coins on custom optical discs containing WiiWare and VC games of their choice burned and mailed to them. I would choose World of Goo, LostWinds 1 and 2, Doc Louis's Punch-Out, Mega Man 9 and 10, Chrono Trigger, Super Mario World, Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Super Mario Kart. Yeah. :)
  • The following games. Totally gonna happen.
    • Newer Super Mario Bros Wii
    • Mario & Luigi RPG Cafe
    • Smash Bros 3DS
    • Pokemon Cafe (and I mean actual Pokemon. Not Snap or Stadium or Rumble, an actual, RPG-type Pokiemans adventure.)
  • Nintendo finally announces their acquisition of Capcom.
  • Reggie walks onstage, and rips off his face to reveal... that's right!

Mario in Leafy 6D

Mario platformers have an excellent track record, so I really wasn't paying much attention to the upcoming 3DS Mario title. I figured the news would come to me, and I wasn't getting excited. But then I stumbled across this in the GDC news dump.

That's a raccoon/tanooki tail! Is the leaf coming back? In a 3D game.. that's presented in 3D? Ag. I'm calling that 6D from now on.

Dragon Quest and the Wii

What is this?

During a recent interview with Games Radar, Yuji Horii, the creator of Dragon Quest, had this to say:

"GR: In the last few years DQ has become really focused on handheld releases. Do you worry you're leaving consoles behind?

YH: No, the series got its start on consoles, so we aren't thinking that way, especially since we're working on Wii versions of Dragon Quest right now."

Versions? With an S at the end? I'd heard that Dragon Quest X was coming to the Wii back in, what, 2007? With the launch of the 3DS, I'm expecting to start hearing about the Wii's successor very soon, and we still haven't seen a single screen or heard even what year we might expect the game. Now Horii is telling us there are MULTIPLE Dragon Quests coming to the Wii?

This is too weird. And what gets me is that the interviewer doesn't follow up on that perplexing statement. How hard is it to probe a little bit? "Versions? What games can we expect? Spin-offs? Remakes? How about Rocket Slime Wii?"

My Wonkysense is tingling.

A Fond Farewell to Hotel Dusk and Cape West

I came to a sad realization today. The story of Kyle Hyde, travelling door-to-door salesman and freelance detective, is over. I just finished Last Window: The Secret of Cape West, the sequel to the incredible Hotel Dusk: Room 215, and I'll never see these characters again.

For those of you unaware of the history here, Hotel Dusk came out for the DS in 2007 to quite positive reviews. The game sports a very unique rotoscope-enabled art, reminiscent of A-ha's Take On Me, brilliant characterization and an engrossing story, but I have to wonder if the sales were poor. It wasn't long before the game was re-released with this bright orange banner across the top, explaining that it was a mystery novel game. It's still very easy to find this version in local electronic store discount bins, and that's really discouraging. We exist in a world that's only beginning to accept video games as legitimate entertainment. A world that still wants to fight back, using broad strokes to categorize it's content or even limit it's availability. Games need to be respected for what they are: A very diverse form of interactive entertainment that has something for anyone. Here we have a game with some of the best writing in the medium, a game that had the potential to convince a lot of people that, yeah, video games can have good writing, they can have 3 dimensional characters, they can capture your imagination, just the same as any novel can. Better than many films these days. And it tanked.

That wasn't the end for Kyle Hyde though. In early 2010, Cing announced that they would be releasing the sequel to Hotel Dusk, Last Window: Midnight Promise (later to be renamed Last Window: The Secret of Cape West) in Japan in January. And in March, Cing filed for bankruptcy. I had real hope for Last Window. I told myself that at least the game was completed before Cing went under. We wouldn't be seeing a Little King's Story 2, but at least we got our Hotel Dusk 2. The game sat as a Japan-only title for 8 long months until finally, finally an English version was released. .. In Europe.

Nintendo of America is apparently scared to death of the poor economy. They won't give us Earth Seeker, The Last Story, Trace Memory R (another Cing title) or Fatal Frame IV, they might not even be giving us Monado. And even though Last Window has been translated and released in Europe, they refuse to take a risk on that either.

I appreciate the fact that Nintendo is a business, and businesses need to please shareholders, and shareholders want to make more money. But the draw of the Wii and DS is that it's home to the niche games. This is the generation that gave us Trauma Center, a surgery game (3 on the Wii and 2 on the DS). This is the generation that resurrected the 2D platformer (New SMB, Warioland Shake It, New SMB Wii, Muramasa, DKC Returns, Kirby's Epic Yarn, A Boy and his Blob, Mega Man 9 and 10, just off the top of my head). This generation, the big money-making games are shooters. And to a longtime gamer who has never enjoyed shooters, Nintendo's position has been a breath of relief. They can't just ignore a well-crafted game like Last Window.

And I'll tell you something. Last Window is very well crafted. I hate to say this, but I think the game was better than Hotel Dusk. There was never a moment where I was too stuck and ended up knocking on every door in the building until I could find some sort of lead. I always had a vague idea about what to investigate next, or who to grill. The ending didn't make me "Whaaa-??" like Hotel Dusk did either. Last Window made logical sense and simply served up a compelling mystery that revealed itself piece by piece, throwing in twists along the way. As the end credits closed, I saw Tony, or Sidney and Claire, or even Rex, and I saw them as people I had really gotten to know since the day I popped that import cartridge into my DS.

To me, that's good writing.

This isn't a shame like Fatal Frame IV, a case where the controls were sloppy. Or a shame like Captain Rainbow, where the story was so weird and full of cultural references that a North American audience would struggle to understand. No. The fact that Last Window has yet to arrive in North America, the fact that Nintendo is launching the 3DS and isn't focused on DS titles anymore, that's a huge shame. This game will go forgotten, or even completely unknown by most people. This game will fall into obscurity, even to many people who played and loved Hotel Dusk. And now that Cing is dead, this franchise will never receive a third instalment.

That is beyond wrong. Kyle Hyde, you deserve better.