The last Mailbag of the year! Get the scoops on 3rd party accessories, football games, LucasArts, Eternal Darkness, and the "kiddie" image... again.
MontyBurns asks, With brands such as Interact and
Mad Catz toiling away to making game equipment, what in your opinion would be worth buying
and what should we stay away from? I'd like to hear your opinions, since I'm tired of
buying the so called best things, only to have a piece of junk an hour later.
TYP Says: I don't know about the other staffers,
but I'm reluctant to say anything. We have hardware reviews for these sort of things, but
as you can see from the lack of reviews, we prefer to stick with 1st party stuff. From my
limited experience, you don't usually have to worry about 3rd party A/V cables or
extension cables, but controllers are way too risky. Overall, peripherals for both
handhelds and systems are quite hit-and-miss (though there are a lot more for handhelds).
The same company can make a great product and then another that's a piece of trash.
Rick Says: I have yet to find a third-party piece
of equipment that was better than the original.
Third-party is fine whe there is no first-party alternative, but there's a very good
reason why most of us never BUY any third-party controllers or memory cards.
Mike S. Says: I would NEVER trust a third party
memory card. Those things have a torrid history of just losing data for no reason. As for
controllers, I usually stick first party. Nintendo's gear in general is much better than
the competition's. For things that Nintendo doesn't make, like LCD screens and the like, I
guess it'd be ok to go 3rd party.
Rize Says: I have a friend who put some cash down
on a 3rd party controller. I should try to borrow it for a while and do a review. To be
honest though, although the workmanship of Nintendo's controller is very high quality, it
does have its flaws. For one, the d-pad really is too small. If you try to play Tony Hawk
3 with it for too long, you might need bandages for your thumb. Then there's the whole
button collapsing thing. My B button is now completely deflated (although it does work
just as well, it is now sensitive to the slightest touch rather than a firm press). Maybe
it wouldn't be a bad idea to try out a 3rd party Cube controller. Just keep an eye out for
shoddy designs. I've seen 3rd party N64 controllers with broken analog sticks (that is,
they top is broken off). As for memory cards, stick with Nintendo or you may regret it.
Ty Says: I'd have to disagree about Nintendo's own
control pad, I've played hours upon hours of Tony Hawk with it and my thumb feels fine...
As for the 3rd party ones, I've bought the Mad Catz, InterAct, and Pelican ones - while
none of them are as good as Nintendo's, they ARE worth the $20. If I were pressed to pick
a favorite, I'd have to say, ah, the Pelican one.
Jonathan Says: I circumvent the D-pad issue
altogether by playing THPS3 with the joystick. Suck on that, Trebek.
As for third-party stuff...my universal advice is to stay away from it. Occasionally
something comes along of excellent quality, but that happens so rarely that it's not worth
worrying about. I'll agree with Rize that Nintendo's first-party GameCube controller isn't
quite as durable as its products usually are... I can already feel my primary black
controller's buttons and triggers softening, but then I've played the hell out it.
Regardless, the difference in quality and compatibility is worth the five dollars more you
have to spend on first-party gear. The only exception to this rule is officially licensed
hardware, but Nintendo doesn't really license hardware these days. I think probably their
standards for the licensing process were so high that the third-party companies just said
Mike H. Says: I did a
Interact's SuperPad, and I was generally satisfied with it. I wouldn't recommend it for
control-precision games like Super Monkey Ball. No controllers out there are better than
Nintendo's, but I don't think that makes them crap all around. Nintendo just makes really
great stuff in general, and everything else is (sometimes unjustly) considered secondary.
I would recommend 3rd party controllers only for those on a tight budget.
As for memory cards, I'll get my hands on Interact's Mega
Memory 16x pretty soon. We'll see how that goes, as Interact claims that it has,
"undergone rigorous testing to virtually eliminate file corruption and lost
saves." We'll see about that.
Mike asks, I’m a big football fan, and especially one of NCAA football. I was
wondering if EA or Sega intended to release there college football games?
Jonathan Says: Starting in fall 2002, all Visual
Concepts Sega Sports games will appear on all three platforms, and simultaneously at that.
So next year, GameCube will be getting NFL2k3, NBA2k3, etc. at exactly the same time as
PS2 and Xbox. I don't think a new college football game has been announced from Sega
Sports, but if it ever is, it'll come to GameCube too. With EA, I'm not so sure, but their
GameCube support is already looking better than their N64 support. We'll just have to see.
Chewie asks, Have you heard of anything about any Lucas Arts adventure games? Maybe a port
of Escape from Monkey Island or a GameCube version of Sam and Max?
Also I'd like to say that you guys kick major ass. This isn't one of those, "if I
suck up I'll get my letter posted" letters. You really do kick ass. PGC Rules.
Mike H. Says: Yes it is. And it worked.
TYP Says: What I say is probably so outdated that it's funny. Back in January I had
with Hal Barwood (Sorry about all of those vocal fillers I decided to leave in... It
was my first day on the job!) Anyway, Hal himself didn't seem all too excited about the
GCN at the time, but he wasn't pessimistic--just unsure. Before GCN launch, I would have
said "One LA-designed multi-platform game to test the waters," but after RL2's
success, I guarantee you the company is taking the system more seriously. What will we get
from LucasArts itself? I honestly don't know, but I'd still put my money on some sort of
Mike S. Says: Personally, I really have no faith
in LucasArts anymore. To me, everything they have developed after Dark Forces II: Jedi
Knight has been just plain bad. I'm really glad people like Factor 5 exist to make good
Star Wars games for LucasArts to publish. I'm hopeful that the new Sam & Max game will
make it to the cube, because the first was funny as hell and also fantastic. But no, I
myself haven't heard anything about it.
Jonathan Says: Actually, I hated Dark Forces too.
But I'll tell you one LucasArts game that still brings a twinkle to my eye... TIE Fighter.
I'd give my left nut to have a new TIE Fighter on GameCube.
Someone asks, Eternal Darkness is supposedly 60-70 hours of gameplay, but it's a
one-player game. So, are there are an unbelievable amount of levels? I mean, no Zelda game
ever took me that long to beat. Also, what's up with Too Human? It looks awesome, but has
it been thrown under the rug till ED is out?
Mike S. Says: 60 hours is a long
time, but it's not like a game hasn't hit that before. Skies of Arcadia, one of the best
RPGs (if not THE BEST RPG) ever, took me about 60 hours to complete.
As for ED, there will probably be a ton of secret stuff in the game. That 60 hour estimate
is probably the time it takes to beat the game and get everything you possibly can.
Rize Says: Well, ED is supposed to contain quite a
bit of story telling. That could attribute some length to the game. However, even Metal
Gear Solid 2, which had a huge story, only took me about 14 hours to complete. We've heard
that there are also three different ways to complete the game (each "path" is
selected in the first area of the game). We honestly don't have any clue what will be
different according to the path you choose, but it's supposedly going to be enough to
warrant replaying through the game two extra times. Even if the game is only 40 hours for
a good player, it should still have quite a bit of replay value.
Jonathan Says: First, let me reiterate that we
know absolutely nothing about ED's story or really even its overall design (as in, how
everything is tied together and played out). I can tell you that we'll definitely have a
lot more info on the game next month, but the story will probably remain mostly secret
until the game is actually on the shelves in early February.
Now then, I can give you a bit of speculation and intuition. If you look at Eternal
Darkness as a Resident Evil clone, yeah, it's hard to imagine how it's gonna be such a
long game. That's why you should realize that the two games are actually MUCH different,
and it looks like ED will be more of a traditional adventure game... a really scary Zelda,
if you will. At least that's how I'm envisioning it for now. Rize made an excellent point
about the story being a major factor. Another thing to understand is that Eternal Darkness
has been in development for around four years now... that's a LOT of time to flesh the
game out and give the player lots to do.
Not that I trust most developers' time estimations (heh), but I think Silicon Knights has
projected about 40 to 60 hours for the average player to beat Eternal Darkness. That's
taking one of the three paths. Hardcore fans can play through all of that two more times
via the other paths, and although we don't know just how different the paths are, Denis
Dyack has assured us that they're unique enough to make the effort worthwhile to devoted
fans. Plus, there are reportedly TONS of possible endings, with probably at least one only
possible if you beat the game on all three paths. It wouldn't surprise me to see something
like Chrono Trigger's New Game + as an option.
Seriously, although I don't have any details right now, I can promise you that Eternal
Darkness will be a huge game. A dozen playable characters practically assure that, and
don't be fooled by the ten-minute mini-quests they each had in the E3 and Cube Club demos.
Chris rants, About the only reason this video game industry revolutionizes is
because of Nintendo. They innovate controllers and gameplay mechanics with each new system
they bring out, and every other game designer (except a few) take the control schemes and
ideas and run with them. Mario 64 and Zelda single-handedly made almost every game great
because of the control innovations THEY introduced, and everyone one else copied. Yet
everyone calls Nintendo "kiddy".
Well if Nintendo is so "kiddy," then why do these "mature" game
creators rape the controls from Mario and Zelda, which are suppose to be for
"kids," throw in some dark story, and then get praised for it? All I have to say
is this... if everyone thinks that Nintendo sucks, or Nintendo is just for kids, I want
you to find a great 3D adventure game that doesn't have key features such as z-targeting
with a combination of Mario 64 controls. The only ones that come to mind are Metal Gear
and Resident Evil. The industry needs Nintendo, and Sony proved it, that's why they still
have the same controller right now.
This is not to say no developer is creative anymore. Shinji Mikami, Hideo Kojima, and the
whole Sega squad can speak for themselves. It's just that Nintendo is, for the most part,
THE revolutionary of this industry, and they have the proof to back it up.
Mike H. Says: Nintendo is absolutely the crown
innovator, but that's not to dismiss the great efforts by the many others.
Great ideas can come from games designed for a younger
audience too. "Kiddy" doesn't equate to "inferior."
Frankly, in my opinion, as an old friend of mine so elegantly put it (shout out to Vito),
people that insist Nintendo doesn't cater to kids needs to come out of denial. The Mario
cast? Pokemon? Kirby? Trading cards? Saturday morning cartoons? Kid cereals? Figures?
Come on. I don't see many Mario shot glasses or Kirby hunting gear.
That said, I don't mind one bit that Nintendo caters to kids. I play games for fun, and
that sometimes includes feeling like a kid again! Ok... a lot of times. I don't see
anything wrong with it. It doesn't mean there's something wrong with those that like
Nintendo's games that aren't precisely in Nintendo's target audiences either.
Nintendo being "uncool" because it's "kiddy" is a marketing strategy
that has existed since Genesis vs. SNES. Sega knew, and now Sony and MS know that Nintendo
absolutely owns the younger audience, so of course they deliberately target and market
their consoles elsewhere to be an effective alternative... filling the void. They're
simply focusing on different markets. As little respect Nintendo gets from some hardcore
MS and Sony fans, they can never take away the innovations that anybody has accomplished,
deny it if they choose. Many developers will admit that Nintendo's innovations influence
their work, directly or indirectly. Your frustration shouldn't be with any developers. The
fans tooting the "mature" horn are making the noise.
Of course, I'm preaching to the choir. Those that dislike Nintendo for whatever reasons
aren't going to change their minds by anything you tell them. And likewise, they won't
change our opinions either. As the saying goes, for those that understand, no explanation
is needed. For those that don't, no explanation will do.
Just as an FYI: None of the Top 20 games
sold in 1999 were rated M. And in 2000, only one of the Top 20 games was
rated M. This is from IDSA data. It sort of deflates the suggestion that Mature is the way
Rick Says: Mike said a lot of accurate things. But
Nintendo doesn't just market to kids. It also markets to FAMILIES. Nintendo is a company
that parents can feel good about not only buying for their kids, but enjoying WITH them.
Sony and Microsoft want to be the cool, hip console companies. Nintendo is satisfied with
getting the business of everyone MATURE enough to not care about that kind of stuff.
Mike S. Says: Yeah Nintendo innovates but you
really can't forget about Sega. That company is innovative to the max. The problem is,
they were so innovative that it kinda hurt them. Their products, at times, were just too
wacky and out there to be accepted by the general public. So, the critics called these
games great and then a bunch of other companies took the ideas and "dumbed them
down" to be more acceptable in the mainstream market.
Rize Says: To be honest, the only Sega game I've
ever really enjoyed is Super Monkey Ball. I love that game to death! As for the whole
"Nintendo is kiddy" thing, it's unfortunate, but there isn't much to be done
about it. This started far before the SNES and Genesis battles. The "in" thing
has been around for decades in many other markets, and it isn't always the best thing.
The only thing Nintendo can do is fight back at the risk
of losing their reputation with parents/kids and never gaining one with the
"in" crowd. Where would that leave them? To be honest, I think Microsoft has a
good chance of taking Sony's place in the United States sometime in the future. If
Nintendo continues to provide a solid platform for the younger generations in this market
as well as Japan's, perhaps we'll see more popular Japanese games made for or ported to
Nintendo's systems (considering that it would be easy to port it to the US as well, where
as a PS3 game would have to be ported to XBox2 to hit the same market over here). This is
all very hypothetical to be sure, but who knows where we'll be five years from now!
Jonathan Says: Nintendo is the Disney of the
gaming industry, except without all the gay sex references. The games are essentially for
kids, but with enough sophistication and style that older siblings and parents can enjoy
them too. I don't have a problem with that, as long as Nintendo gives a bit of freedom to
its (highly talented) second-parties to make what they want, even if that means something
only for the older crowd. I don't expect Shiggy to bust out his own gory first-person
shooter, but I don't want him censoring second-parties who do. Nintendo's second-party
strategy is just starting to really get into high gear, and I think the whole industry
will see the brilliance of it within a couple of years. Nintendo themselves can keep
making kids games for their core audience, while their subsidiaries make games for teen
and mature audiences...we gamers have our cake and eat it too. To say that GameCube itself
is a kiddie system is ludicrous; a console's image can only (or rather, should only)
be defined by its game library, and I expect GameCube's overall library to be about half
"kiddie" and half non-kiddie when it's all said and done. That's a pretty good
ratio IMO, and I'm sure Nintendo's market analysts feel the same way.