You take games too seriously.

Has the Wii-mote lost control?

I believe my Nintendo Wii came with an invisible contract. Up front, I agreed to spend an exorbitant amount of money on two controllers (three, if you include the classic), and, in return, Nintendo would never require I buy another peripheral. The Wii-mote provides plenty of innovation, making silly things like light-guns, racing wheels, and the Sega Activator obsolete. Sadly, two major upcoming Wii releases, WiiFit and Mario Kart Wii, took this contract, rubbed it in dirt, and thrre it to the dogs

This spring, Nintendo will package two new controller SKUs with popular games. Mario Kart Wii will arrive with an aesthetically pleasing, but ultimately useless plastic driver’s wheel. If you’re into $150 balance boards, WiiFit’s your perfect game, but you better run to your Gamestop and pre-order—don’t underestimate Nintendo’s inability to keep products on the shelf.

Last year, Nintendo tested the stagnant peripheral waters with the Wii Zapper, a plastic attachment that latches onto a Wii-mote and transforms it into a gun, and you into a moron. Nintendo sells it as a novelty item. Fine by me, as long as the Zapper isn’t necessary to enjoy any games. Mario Kart Wii‘s Wii Wheel peripheral a different beast. Recently, Kotaku confirmed the classic and GameCube control schemes for Mario Kart Wii are crippled, a move that handicaps traditional and hardcore players, while subtly benefiting those with the Wii Wheel accessory. While one Wii Wheel comes with the game, more are $20 a pop. Across the Pacific, the WiiFit has taken mandatory peripherals a step further, winning over a handful of Japanese publisher–one of their releases, WiiSki, is the first game to require the WiiFit balance board.

Unlike Sony and Microsoft who have other motivations (i.e. digital media delivery), Nintendo has pursued a profit from the get-go, and these peripherals show no signs of Nintendo letting up. But, with that in mind, is it possible for the Wii peripheral market to super-saturate? Just as the Sega Genesis’ 32X and Sega CD created a detrimental hierarchy of players, could the same happen with pricey peripherals like the WiiFit?

It’s silly to rant about Nintendo’s innovation, and no one’s forcing my hand to pick up every piece of Nintendo gear, but it disappoints me that the device than can do it all, the Wii-mote, needs a lot of help from friends.



Filed under: Industry, Reviews, , , , , ,

What I Learned from SEGA – SCUD: Disposable Assassin


The life of a former SEGA fanboy is hard. My childhood memories are sown with the brand’s hills and valleys: a very merry Genesis Christmas, a birthday slump with 32X. Often, I will irrationally return to the old systems with fond thoughts, like remembering a childhood crush, but when I boot Sewer Shark I forget the good times and only remember the heartbreaks. The nightmares.

I refuse to remember my childhood as a time of delusion, so to save myself, I have chosen to make gold from lead. Welcome to another experiment blog series: What I’ve learned from SEGA.

I present the Sega Saturn’s SCUD: The Disposable Assassin.

SCUD is based on a 1990’s comic book of the same name. We play as Scud, a disposable assassin (natch) sold in vending machines, and forced into a rather precarious life. Once purchased, SCUD must accomplish a given assignment—in this case, assassinate a monster named Jeff. But upon completion SCUD will receive no reward, rather, our robot hero’s programmed to self-destruct. So SCUD, strangely smart and self-interested for a robot, finds Jeff, beats him around, and ships him to the nearest hospital. All’s well, until Jeff’s medical bill arrives. It’s then our story truly begins, when our penny-less bot must become a freelance assassin to pay medical bills that keep Jeff, and concurrently, himself, alive.

Like all comics, there’s plenty of lesser characters: a sidekick named Drywall, who’s zipper laced body offers infinite storage; a rival and (possible love-interest?) Sussuido, who craves blood shed; and many other bizarre, early 90’s characters. Think Tank Girl meets Short Circuit.

You still need more SCUD? Catch yourself up with this steaming marketing mess.

What I’ve Learned from SCUD

Gimmicks Sell: It’s a simple side-scroller with a twist—the ability to play with a light-gun, both alone and co-op. As a kid, this play mechanic absolutely convinced me to save a couple months’ allowance, add some summer chores, and make a purchase. Was it worth it? No.

Good Ideas Rise to the Top: In co-op, the light-gun froze enemies to help SCUD. This mechanic received enormous praise, not for SCUD, but ten years later in Super Mario Galaxy.

More SCUD-ness and lessons learned after the jump…

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Commentary, Industry, , , , , ,

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