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Episode 326: A Big Bowl Full of Smart

by Billy Berghammer, James Jones, Jonathan Metts, and Guillaume Veillette - February 17, 2013, 9:37 pm EST
Total comments: 15

Billy drops in to pimp his new game, as we look back at the history of strategy games on Nintendo platforms. Also, a Pikmin controversy is born, or at least revived!

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It's always a good thing when Billy Berghammer stops in for RFN, and this occasion is special, since he just helped launch Skulls of the Shogun on various Microsoft platforms. That, and the recent hubbub over Fire Emblem Awakening, gave us the idea to do a special episode all about strategy games on Nintendo systems. Unfortunately, Jon was detained at work (he didn't even get to leave until we'd already finished recording), but the remaining quartet walk through over 25 years of this cerebral genre on Nintendo platforms. Along the way, we check out the unreleased 64 Wars, uncover a latent controversy over Pikmin, and learn about the single most Japanese item that James owns.

Got any thoughts on a strategy game we covered, or perhaps missed entirely? Send an email on this topic or any other for a strong chance to be read on an upcoming episode. We also opened the poll for RetroActive #26, returning to the listener's choice format after the Majora's Mask live edition. Head over to the NWR Forums to cast your vote, and be sure to read other posts below the poll if you need any help deciding. We'll announce the winning game in a couple of weeks, so vote now, while you're thinking about it!

This podcast was edited by Jonathan Metts and James Jones.

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 (CD) (MP3), 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.


I'm SUPER THRILLED with the chapter titles I devised.

Disco StuFebruary 18, 2013

Quote from: Crimm

I'm SUPER THRILLED with the chapter titles I devised.

It's too bad my iPod doesn't scroll chapter titles; I could only ever see the first few words.

I just started Fire Emblem: Awakening and I'm enjoying it a lot!  This is actually my first turn-based strategy game.  I played a lot of RTS's in the late 90s, early 00s (gotta love those live-action cutscenes in Command & Conquer!) but the turn-based subgenre just never seemed like it was for me.

azekeFebruary 18, 2013

I tried Skulls of Shogun on brand new Windows 8 notebook last week.

Maybe it was control issues (didn't had USB mouse around) so all i had was touchpad but it's kinda hassle to control with just touchpad and keyboard.

Removal of tiles while neat at first, is cumbersome with just these controls. I gather it controls much better on tablet or gamepad... But still, tile-based map helps immensely when controlling game with d-pad, and it's probably the most comfortable and fast way to play turn based strategies and when you remove square tiles you basically lose it.

Also i played tutorial for like 15 minutes or so and never found how to save it middle game.

KDR_11kFebruary 18, 2013

I think the modern era came a bit short, the DS has a lot of third party titles that were maybe overlooked but certainly added more variety than yet another standard SRPG. Glory Days, Ecolis, that FF12 game that was an RTS I believe, ...
Also Swords & Soldiers.

With Pikmin my main objection to considering it an RTS is the lack of independence on the part of the Pikmin. They only ever act separate from you when you tell them to carry something. Even Starcraft which isn't big on automation has much more autonomy for units than that. A Zergling will automatically pursue and attack nearby enemies and when told to go somewhere it'll just go, you don't have to manually guide it up ramps. Other RTSes go way further with e.g. Company of Heroes soldiers automatically seeking nearby cover. A Pikmin is practically useless unless you pick it up to be in your following and the combat is more about throwing and withdrawing them at the right times than about strategies.

Regular RTSes aren't really a rush for money, if your enemy is passive (which especially campaign enemies tend to be) you can put all your resources into econ booming but against a human or active AI opponent you need to split your resources between military and economic spending because if you go for a straight econ boom you die to any early harassment (attacks which merely seek to impair your buildup process, not outright win the game).

Generally the first step towards playing an RTS with production right is to play it tight: Spend all the resources you get, never let them pile up. Newbies can end up with 30k money in the bank in something like C&C: RA2, that 30k that aren't on the battlefield fighting for you. When you get past that first step you learn that many "rushes" are actually just normal attacks: A real rush attack is one that switches to military production very early, greatly sacrificing economy buildup for a quick kill. These are rare when people know they're fighting good opponents because they're easy to defend against if you are prepared and basically leave the attacker helpless if his initial attack is repelled. I just watched an SC2 pro match where one guy tried such a rush (3 barracks Terran), the rush got repelled and the resulting counterattack decided the game right there. Newbies often play very slowly, I remember being accused of rushing when my giant death ball of tanks and flak troopers flooded over an opponent in C&C:RA2 (actually I did an econ boom with a very early second base and only really ramped up military production after that because it was agreed "no rushes").

Starcraft supposedly got so popular by being so fast, that makes combat in it practically an action game with quick feints, retreats, kites, flanks, teleports, AOE attacks, etc. It's not a slow, clear slog like in e.g. SoaSE, when battles happen in Starcraft they're filled with tons of player actions and even what looks like a one sided fight may end up with surprising turns resulting from split-second maneuvers.

FjurbanskiFebruary 18, 2013

You may not consider Pikmin to be an RTS, but it certainly isn't anything else...

Adventure? Sure, but that's too generic and doesn't tell you anything about how the game plays. The game plays like an RTS on one level or another. You make units to gather supplies or defeat enemies, and those supplies can make more units. You separate those units into teams and have them complete different tasks. Sure, it's a simplified version of the RTS genre, but that doesn't make it something different. It's like Mario Kart compared to Gran Turismo. We acknowledge the differences between them and refer to Mario Kart, et al. as "kart" racers, but we don't call them by a completely different genre. Just a sub genre within the larger racing genre. GT is a racing simulator, trying to be realistic. Burnout is an arcade racer, trying to be over the top. Mario Kart is a kart racer, with items, etc. They're all still racing games.

The RTS genre doesn't have as many derivations (as far as I know) as the racing genre, so the term for what Pikmin is may not exist. However, you can't just say, "Nope. It's an adventure game. Not an RTS." It shares far too many similarities with RTS's to just throw it in another genre that it still doesn't fit in and call it a day.

Besides, how is it not strategic to split up your pikmin into different groups to get the ship parts in just the right order to save you just enough time so you can get a bunch of ship parts in one day? While at the same time having another group building a bridge, while at the same time having another group breaking a wall. Giving your other Pikmin a faster path back to the base. Getting every area done as fast as you can, while also losing the smallest amount of pikmin possible, while also making more pikmin, takes "real time strategy".

And the bullets in a clip comparison..... come on... ¬_¬

Honestly, Jonny said it best. You're viewing it differently because of its single player. If Pikmin had Starcraft style competitive multiplayer (which they could do without changing anything), there wouldn't even be an argument.

Nope. I'd call it an action game.

TJ SpykeFebruary 18, 2013

Yeah, Pikmin is pretty clearly a RTS game to me. I honestly don't see how it could be called anything else.

Look for a follow-up to this Pikmin debate in the upcoming NWR Powered Off, Issue #3!

pokepal148Spencer Johnson, Contributing WriterFebruary 19, 2013

Quote from: Jonnyboy117

Look for a follow-up to this Pikmin debate in the upcoming NWR Powered Off, Issue #3!

Shameless plug alert
An action/rts describes it nicely

FjurbanskiFebruary 19, 2013

Quote from: pokepal148

An action/rts describes it nicely

Pretty much. Seems kind of silly that these guys are denying the RTS elements right in front of their faces just because it also has action or adventure elements.

SorenFebruary 19, 2013

Quote from: pokepal148

Quote from: Jonnyboy117

Look for a follow-up to this Pikmin debate in the upcoming NWR Powered Off, Issue #3!

Shameless plug alert
An action/rts describes it nicely

Not shameless until it's in the Funky Barn community.

nhainesFebruary 19, 2013

Warlocked for GBC was *incredible*!  Not only did it have digitized sounds but the music was absolutely fantastic.

The levels were somewhat simplistic because of system limitations but the pathfinding was nice and the units were varied and it was a hell of a lot of fun.  I should probably dig out my GBC and play it.  :)

Pixelated PixiesFebruary 19, 2013

I'm still torn on the whole Pikmin genre question.

On the one hand I can see why some people might want to place it in the action/strategy box. For me though, when I'm playing Pikmin 1 or 2 I'm playing it as an action/adventure (I grant you, that term too has it's faults). My classification of Pikmin, however, probably has something to do with the way that I played Pikmin 2. I never really felt comfortable using Olimar and Louie to do two things at once. So I usually rounded up a crack team of Pikmin of various colours with Olimar to do most of the heavy lifting (figuratively and literally), and just had Louie hang back so that I could keep an eye on the stragglers. There was very little strategy to the way I played that game, apart from using the correct coloured Pikmin when required.

KDR_11kFebruary 23, 2013

Pikmin are more like the Force Pod in R-Type games. Pikmin revolves around you doing quick dodges, spotting patterns and throwing your pikmin at weak points. It's not even on the level of RTS micro combat because Pikmin do not act independently. You can only collect them and drop them elsewhere, you cannot tell them "you guys go over there" and have them walk there while you do something else. All their actions are directly tied to your character.

Which was all necessary given the input available. Pikmin was the idea of an RTS game adapted to a console controller, which involved giving the player an avatar in the game from which to command. You could multitask if you wanted to, and you needed to if you wanted to cut down on how many days you need.

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