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Episode 176: Auld Lang Syne

by Greg Leahy - December 27, 2009, 3:15 pm PST
Total comments: 16

TYP joins us to say goodbye to 2009 with a look back at the life of the Wii so far.

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With Jonny and Lindy off actually celebrating the holidays, it's up to Greg and James to close out the podcasting year with the help of Radio Trivia MC Michael "TYP" Cole, who recently got his hands on the coveted Sin and Punishment 2. The show begins with an appropriately nostalgic New Business, courtesy of Greg and TYP's discussion of the Japan-only Game Center CX 2 and its localised prequel, Retro Game Challenge. James even gets in on the retro act thanks to his undying love for the soon-to-be-remade Lufia II, but he's also looking forward to playing Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World and the bloodiest Nintendo game ever, Zangeki no Reginleiv.

In the final RFN segment of the decade, the three man crew evaluates the Wii generation so far with a look back at the past three years of Nintendo console gaming. Has Nintendo delivered on its promises to innovate and expand the market? What's it been like having Nintendo back on top in the sales charts? Has the traditional fan base been well catered to, or is it being increasingly marginalised? We attempt to answer all these questions and more (listen closely for hints on the existence of Bigfoot and the Bermuda Triangle) before finally bidding adieu to 2009. We'll be back in the new decade!

We're always looking for great Listener Mail to read and discuss on the show, so please send your questions or comments! (We really love seeing your praise and feedback regarding the show itself; however, in the interest of time, we may edit your letter to be read on the podcast.)

Credits:

This podcast was edited by Greg Leahy.

Music for this episode of Radio Free Nintendo is used with permission from Jason Ricci & New Blood. You can purchase their newest album, Done with the Devil, directly from the record label, Amazon.com, or iTunes, or call your local record store and ask for it!

Additional music for this episode of Radio Free Nintendo is copyrighted to Nintendo, and is included under fair use protection.

Talkback

greybrickNathan Mustafa, Staff AlumnusDecember 27, 2009

Speaking to the necessity of HD in the Wii, I would be interested to know what kind of television sets Greg and TYP are playing on.

I for one could not stand the composite cables on my 32" lcd, and even component cables were far from a quality experience. When I got fed up with the whole thing I ordered the vdigi cables that James apparently has and I have found that they make a world of difference in my visual experience. I find playing games on the Wii to be quite pleasant now, and it even made my VC games look much sharper.

The current generation of consoles is actually fine with me, graphically speaking, and I think if Nintendo can catch up to at least 360 levels of graphical quality I will be fine for many many years to come. If I want bleeding edge graphics, I play my PC.

kraken613December 27, 2009

Great podcast! You guys did a great job!

I think if the Wii horsepower was about the same and it could do 720p it would make a big difference. I mean the original Xbox did 720p! Then you look at the emulators running games at 720p and they look much crisper.

I forget to thank you more often Greg for editing and what you have done getting the show out every Sunday. We all need to thank you more often than we do!

greybrickNathan Mustafa, Staff AlumnusDecember 27, 2009

Quote from: kraken613

Great podcast! You guys did a great job!

I think if the Wii horsepower was about the same and it could do 720p it would make a big difference. I mean the original Xbox did 720p! Then you look at the emulators running games at 720p and they look much crisper.

Yes, I think there was some confusion between HD output and HD "graphics". A game can be rendered in 720p without having to spend tons more time or money on the production of the game. So while if they wanted to make them look like 360 games it would cost more, but making them easier on the eyes as far as blurriness goes would mostly cost more from a hardware perspective.

YoshidiousGreg Leahy, Staff AlumnusDecember 28, 2009

Quote from: greybrick

Yes, I think there was some confusion between HD output and HD "graphics". A game can be rendered in 720p without having to spend tons more time or money on the production of the game. So while if they wanted to make them look like 360 games it would cost more, but making them easier on the eyes as far as blurriness goes would mostly cost more from a hardware perspective.

I can assure you there was absolutely no confusion between graphics being specifically developed for HD display and the ability of a console to output video at greater than 480p--TYP, James and myself are all fully aware of the distinction. The topic of whether the Wii could/should have included the ability to upscale to 720p, as Kraken mentioned with reference to the original Xbox, simply didn't come up in the discussion.

Looking at the widespread adoption of HDTVs today, including that functionality certainly seems more worthwhile now than it would have done at the time, and I imagine it would be beneficial for me given my AV setup. However, because there weren't going to be games to fully take advantage of the ability to output higher resolution video, I suspect Nintendo would have regarded it as a luxury not worth including given their economical approach to hardware design.

For the record, my HDTV is a 32in Sony Bravia LCD from 2007, and I use component cables to play Wii on it. Composite would naturally be a complete travesty on it, but I'm quite happy with the results I get out of component.

greybrickNathan Mustafa, Staff AlumnusDecember 28, 2009

@ Yoshidious

I suppose what I am getting at is that HD output does not put all that much strain on developers. During the podcast you made the point that developers would have to put much more of a budget into making HD games- which is not necessarily true. Games on the Xbox Arcade and Indie Games channels are in HD, but are obviously cheap to make. It is when you start wanting to make them look like a Halo or Uncharted where the extra cash comes in.

D_AverageDecember 28, 2009

Another fine show. The three year retrospect was very interesting, I'll post my thoughts once I'm at a computer.

YoshidiousGreg Leahy, Staff AlumnusDecember 28, 2009

Of course a game doesn't have to be big budget just because it can display in HD--the PixelJunk games are some of the few PS3 titles than run in 1080p, but they are of course relatively simple games that focus on gameplay rather than visuals.

However, the market environment of the HD consoles is such that if you want to make a retail product that can reach the entire user base and compete successfully in the market, there are certain expectations about what a retail game should look like. This means that developers wanting to reach that market have to take on the costs of developing HD graphics that conform with those expectations. Yes you can go to the digital download arena to make a game that's high res but relatively simple, but there are restricting expectations there too--how highly the game "should" be priced, for instance--and inevitably you will be cutting yourself off from part of the user base.

The point I was making is that, on Wii, developers would seem to have greater freedom to simply make whatever ideas they want to make and still be able to release it as a retail product that can compete fully in the plaform's marketplace. And to some extent I think we've seen that with the resurgence in 2D retail games--Muramasa, Wario Land and A Boy and His Blob would be an awkward fit for either a digital or a retail release on the HD consoles. But what we haven't seen is a great slew of original ideas coming from developers in the absence of some of these constraints that affect them more in the PS3 and 360 markets, and I do find that somewhat disappointing.

yoshi1001December 28, 2009

Part of the reason that HD makes development more expensive is that you really do have to put more effort in. When TV started going HD in the late 90's/early 2000's, production values had to go up because there was increased scrutiny with the higher resolution. Sets and makeup that looked good in standard def sometimes looked tacky or cheap in HD. Similar issues come up with Wii/DS crossover games.

Also, 480p makes a huge difference on LCD TVs because those TVs can only display progressive images. If a 480i (composite, S-video, and component in interlaced mode) image is used, the TV has to try to figure out whether it should do no deinterlacing (the signal is 480i but the images are really 480p30), pure deinterlacing (480i60), or attempt to inverse telecine the video (typically 24 fps film footage). This can also introduce input lag.

greybrickNathan Mustafa, Staff AlumnusDecember 28, 2009

Quote from: Yoshidious

The point I was making is that, on Wii, developers would seem to have greater freedom to simply make whatever ideas they want to make and still be able to release it as a retail product that can compete fully in the plaform's marketplace. And to some extent I think we've seen that with the resurgence in 2D retail games--Muramasa, Wario Land and A Boy and His Blob would be an awkward fit for either a digital or a retail release on the HD consoles. But what we haven't seen is a great slew of original ideas coming from developers in the absence of some of these constraints that affect them more in the PS3 and 360 markets, and I do find that somewhat disappointing.

I see your point, and what I am trying to say is that the Wii could have outputted at an HD resolution while still keeping its overall underwhelming hardware. Just like an old PC card that can push HD, but can't play the games with the best textures and effects. The difference between how the games look would be phenomenal, and as long as the bar was kept low it would still allow for that freedom in development. Prince of Persia Sands of Time was a 720p game on the last generation, it would cost much less to make than the current standard for a blockbuster game, but still looks great on my TV.

To be honest, I haven't seen that many games doing things that couldn't be done on other platforms anyways with the exception of things like Boom Blox or Wii Fit/Sports or Tiger Woods. It would also seem that the most creative developers do not want to waste their time sending a game out to be murdered by Nintendo games on the Wii.

noname2200December 28, 2009

I'm glad that you guys sacrificed your Thursday for our listening pleasure: thanks, and great job as always.

On the main topic of this podcast, I have to opine that much of the reason that the Wii hasn't lived up to its promise is that Nintendo doesn't seem to know what that promise really meant. Iwata admitted, even before the system's release, that they have no idea how the system would do, or if the market would embrace their product. NCL didn't think that Wii Sports would take off so immediately (Reggie had to push to make that game the tie-in, not Wii Play), and it also thought that Wii Music/Animal Crossing were a great way to keep the momentum going.

You guys touched on this, but I'm confident that the biggest reason that Nintendo's had a poorer output than everyone expected is that they're completely baffled as to why people are buying Wiis in the first place. In early 2007 they said that "bridge games" were the next step, but as you pointed out Super Sluggers certainly wasn't a successful bridge game: only Mario Kart Wii and NSMBWii seem to be the hits that Nintendo envisioned, which means that they've spent the past two years stumbling to fulfill Phase Two.

Iwata even publicly admitted that they fervently believed that their holiday games would keep things going, and that while he acknowledges that he was wrong, he hasn't offered any clear vision of where Nintendo needs to go next. I think they're completely paralyzed by this indecision: I have no doubt that they've put dozens of ideas on the drawing board, only to realize that none of them would really work as planned. I was excited about Motion+, because I thought it meant that they had finally picked a direction to go towards...but now they're focusing on making new Classic Controllers. Dynamic Slash is probably the best example of what I'm talking about: it simultaneously supports Wiimote+Nunchuk, Classic Controller, and Motion+, which tells me that Nintendo's attitude is "let's throw everything at the wall, and hope one of those sticks."

I know I sound bitter. Perhaps I am. I really like the Wii. I've bought more games for it than I have for any other system, and it's only been three years. It's one of my favorite systems of all time. And yet I can't help but feel that it could be so much more. And that's the part that frustrates me.



Too long, didn't read version: great system, but it could be better if Nintendo had a clearer idea of what it wants to do.

Good discussion, guys. A couple points of interest:

1) ZOMG Greg finally has somebody to talk about Sin & Punishment 2 with!!! Hilarity ensues.

2) My biggest technical problem with the Wii is actually pretty minor, but glaring: no anti-aliasing solutions. Many games look noticably worse because of this, whereas if you implemented anti-aliasing, it would look worlds better. Examples: Extraction, RE: Darkside Chronicles, RE4, HotD Overkill...

3) Wind Waker and Metroid Prime are the latest Nintendo games that made my jaw drop. Galaxy did not. It was imaginative, sure, but not mind-blowing. I have high hopes for the next Zelda, as I feel it could be another technical breakthrough for Nintendo games.

adadadDecember 29, 2009

I really enjoyed the discussions this week surrounding the mysterious casual gamer and the multilateral voice of the lapsed gamer. It got me thinking a lot about the idea of there being a collective cultural consciousness that to an extent defines what is popular; a vague mass awareness surrounding a title or brand such as Mario Kart that helps make it such a commercial success.

Something I heard one my elder relatives saying the other day was that the Wii is a success story due to its ability to appeal to all ages, and the more I think about it the more I believe this to be true - it's cliched to call Nintendo a brand aimed at kids, but Mario is of course heavily linked with kids. It was a clever move to leave Mario or any other established Nintendo franchise out of Wii Sports in my opinion, as it seems to me that in much the same way as I might be put off going to see a film due to its Disney branding (and Disney know it - that's why they have Miramax), there is something inherently connected to children's appeal in Mario's image and what he represents, which might be offputting to those who either had no experience of Mario as a child, or were too old or disengaged from gaming to be involved or engaged by any of his outings. By leaving out the typical Nintendo franchise elements from Wii Sports (overtly at least) and engaging with sports which have universally known rules and conventions, Wii Sports became an even more accessible product, particularly for those with no interest in Mario or videogames in a broader sense. Perhaps this can go some way to explaining the relatively lacklustre commercial reaping of Mario Super Sluggers compared with that of Tiger Woods 09 - the tropes of the Mario world placed in a baseball context cannot be a logical expansion on Wii Sports' Baseball to an audience such as the Wii's who evidently weren't willing to buy Gamecubes in droves based on the strength of Nintendo's marquee franchises.

As for what Greg was saying about Mario Kart Wii selling so incredibly well to the people who own the system, it seems to me that once the initial barrier of ownership has been broken down (by an incredible system seller like Wii Sports for example) then selling individual games for the console is far less of a challenge to overcome. When I was young (during the late SNES/N64 period) franchises including Mario Kart achieved a great deal of playtime, and notoriety with the more hardcore-ey youngsters I knew (let's face it - hardcore is a pure synonym for geek) and that spread through their siblings and friends to the extent where pretty much everyone I know, game player or not, has, when they were young, played MK64 with their cousins or something. Another example was several years ago, when I remember a guy at school bringing in his X-Box and getting a crowd of about 15 people to play splitscreen Halo during the school break and lunchtime. I'd never played Halo before or since, but the fond memory of that experience means that if I were ever to be persuaded to buy a Microsoft console - and current offerings haven't done that - I would almost certainly pick up whatever Halo game was readily available for it because the name has a positive reasonance with me.

So basically what I'm trying to argue is that the glut of sales for Mario Kart Wii, far exceeding that of previous Mario Kart entries, is due in part to more people having gotten past the huge hurdle that is the console purchase. This of course, severely limits the choice of game purchasing options for all but the slim percentage of people who will only buy more than one home console per generation. Hence with Nintendo's foot in the door, certain properties have been able, in various isolated examples (with NewSuper Mario Bros Wii looking to be the next prime candidate, in Japanat least), to leverage collective cultural memories and experiences inorder to push sales figures that branch out beyond the blood allegianceof Nintendo fans, to all the brothers and sisters, the cousins and theschoolmates. This is one of the key differences between the Wii and what we saw with the Gamecube, which couldn't succeed commercially with its stable of first party franchises alone.

It seems to me that the Wii's motion controls are sometimes falsely accorded praise as being the sole contributing factor that made and continues to make the Wii successful. Not to say that motion controls are not a part of the Wii's identity, however we are about to see Sony and Microsoft attempt entry into the motion control space, yet if they can't capitalise on the tastes of a particular audience in the same way Nintendo has, then I suspect things shan't go too comfortably.

D_AverageDecember 29, 2009

I'd have to say I share a sentiment similar to Noname above.  Overall, I'm glad I bought the Wii and the 12 or so games I have with it, but at the end of the day, I'm still disappointed in what I'm seeing with motion controls.  I left gaming in 1999 after buying every Nintendo console.  I wasn't bored of games, I just sold them all to buy a hot guitar.  Once I saw the Wii come out, I decided it'd be a good time to jump back in, b/c if worse came to worse I could buy some of my old games on the VC.  I thought Wii Sports was interesting, but I was anticipating much better sports games to come.  I never imaged we'd see the same old sports games with motion controls tacked on (PES excluded).  I just assumed, like Wii Tennis on Wii Sports, that studios would come up with brand new games, with new perspectives, to support the new input.  Its just a bummer that 3 years later, Tiger Woods 2010 is really all I've added to my collection for Wii sports titles (though there are a couple other good ones I'm not interested in).  As far as other genres, I've got some solid titles for the Wii, but all of them save Zack n Wiki and Boom Blocks could also work on a standard controller.  I still want traditional games, but I just want more great motion controlled games to choose from.  I want to find myself in the situation where there are too many great motion controlled games to get around to playing.  Maybe this'll be the year.

KDR_11kDecember 30, 2009

The EDF games compensate for the "already unlocked stuff" problem, in fact you have practically no chance without bringing your unlocked awesome munchkin gear to higher difficulties because HP values go up (as well as damage and, critically, speed values, Inferno difficulty ants are fast like fuck and even on Hardest one acid volley at point blank can kill you). Since the "better" gear usually has SOME tradeoffs (e.g. massive inaccuracy, low range, stuff like that) using that instead of the regular early gear is much harder when it doesn't totally dominate anymore but merely does the job somewhat competently. I'm not sure if Chou Soujuu Mecha MG did it well (seems like the higher level mechas just have better specs, no tradeoffs) so I can't say if Zangeki will be the same.

SouthForkDecember 31, 2009

About the Wii and Gamecube software quality comparisons:
I checked Metacritic and Gamecube had 192 games that rated 75 or above (i.e. favorable games) while the Wii at the three year mark is only up to 125. That's a 70 game difference as far as critically acclaimed games are concerned. I know those numbers are relative but it is a good side-by-side comparison of how many quality games the two consoles pushed.


I do agree with Greg however and find that I'm pleased with the Wii. However I believe that it is due to Virtual Console and Wii Ware filling in places where the physical software has fallen flat.



Quote from: SouthFork

However I believe that it is due to Virtual Console and Wii Ware filling in places where the physical software has fallen flat.

Yes, absolutely. If I only had disc games for Wii, I would not be very happy with it. Although, I could say the same about my 360. Too early to tell with PS3, as I'm still trying some of the disc games that I missed.

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