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Episode 335: Performance Review Paradox

by James Jones, Jon Lindemann, Jonathan Metts, and Guillaume Veillette - April 28, 2013, 8:49 am EDT
Total comments: 14

Satoru Iwata is now his own boss. We have something to say about that.

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We recorded a bit early this week and didn't get a chance to comment on the Nintendo E3 news, but we did spend plenty of time on other recent announcements. But before launching into grognard-level industry talk, we do like to start the show with pure video game talk. New Business begins with Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat, which James is trying for the first time (his poor hands!). The discussion is, frankly, hijacked by Jonny so he can espouse the immense virtues of this underplayed GameCube debut from the same people who made Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D Land. Lindy follows with an even older platformer -- the original Castlevania, which just launched on 3DS Virtual Console. It's rather controversial for such an old game, and we get into just why that is, and why someone might want to play it in the year Two Thousand Thirteen and beyond. Jonny's next, and having spent so much editorial capital on the first two topics, he keeps it brief on Liberation Maiden, the Guild 01 shmup(?) that's still discounted on the eShop for another month. Guillaume closes the segment with extended thoughts on Etrian Odyssey 4, the first major, original JRPG for 3DS. After spending 70+ hours with the game, he has mixed feelings but ultimately appreciates its addictive qualities (which may even bring him back for more, at some point).

We call the second segment Listener Mail, but the first letter this week is really just a launching point (at our request) for a lengthy and very detailed analysis of the recent news that Iwata will be CEO of Nintendo America as well as his current position as CEO of Nintendo Co. Ltd. in Japan. What any of this really means for the company, and American gamers, is difficult to handicap, but we explore it in greater depth than you'll hear anywhere else. If this kind of corporate shenanigans techno-babble doesn't appeal to you, try skipping to the next chapter with our enhanced AAC version. We only got to read one more email, but it is a stark pivot to consider the pros and cons of Nintendo's next platform being a hybrid console/handheld. We're still catching up on a lot of good emails, but you should amplify the backlog by sending in your own question!

Finally, we announce that Mega Man 3 triumphed (handily) over its more famous predecessor, so it will be the subject of a RetroActive discussion on the very next episode. If you're playing along (and it is quite short), try to add your comments to the official forum thread by this Thursday for a chance to be quoted on the show. And thanks to everyone who voted on this special edition of RetroActive!

This podcast was edited by Guillaume Veillette.

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.


FINE. I'll be the first to comment.

I just want to add to the Etrian Odyssey IV discussion and say that these long RPGs don't just prevent me from replaying them. As I played through the game, I went from "this is awesome, I think I could go back and revisit the previous games one of these days" to "well, I wouldn't go back to the older ones, but I'm definitely interested in the next game, to "ehhhhhhhhh...".

Great game, really, it is! But I do get fatigued when playing long RPGs.

FjurbanskiApril 29, 2013

Idk. To me game length isn't the issue as much as what I'm doing during those 70 hours. For instance, Xenoblade is really long, but always offered something new to see and had a crazy story. So I'm realy excited for the sequel, even if replaying the game might be tough.

How much variety does a game like EO have? Is there a lot of story? I can play a game for 70+ hours no problem, but not if I'm doing the same thing over and over.

Evan_BApril 29, 2013

Etrian Odyssey is a series relatively light on story, but heavy on gameplay. As they said, the battle system and its intricacies are the thing that keep you invested, and it would benefit anyone interested in the series to take a look at the advanced team combinations, which range from extremely complex turn combos to silly walling opportunities. It's a game that is immensely more amusing when you're trying to exploit the battle system rather than get a handle on it. However, Millennium Maiden, the next Etrian Odyssey installment, is a revamp of the first title with an added difficulty mode and a new story-based mode, in which you don't chose the main party's classes and you get a more narrative-based experience. A harmless installment that is sure to please fans in whichever way they wish to play.

That being said, as much as I love Atlus right now for blessing me with this gem, I'm more excited for the future. I will probably skip Soul Hackers, as the battle system seems a bit too strange for me, but I'm very excited about SMTIV and I'm ready to invest those 60 hours in another very unique RPG experience.

Which ultimately brings me to my main question- how long is too long of a portable experience for you guys at RFN? I find the inclusion of meaty RPGs to be a godsend for my 3DS, since there's rarely a time when I have too MANY games to play on the console, and something that takes a bit of time investment is always appreciated. Also, a game I can return to is always appreciated, since new games are starting to become a bit more frequent on the 3DS and I might have to move on to something else for reviewing purposes or just because a certain game can get a bit too tedious after a point in time.

azekeApril 30, 2013

Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat is an amazing game. I wish Wii version supported bongos. I also wish Taiko wii games supported it instead of using proprietary drums which are actually doing the same.

On Nintendo making VC into steam-like service. That's not gonna happen not because they're gonna lose exclusivity or anything, but simply because that kinda service would require creating brand new infrastructure (accounts for one) AND new emulators. On their own platforms Nintendo is having problems with these two things, i'm not holding my breath for VC support on PC/iOS/Ouya/NGage.

AnGerApril 30, 2013

Quote from: Fjurbanski

How much variety does a game like EO have? Is there a lot of story? I can play a game for 70+ hours no problem, but not if I'm doing the same thing over and over.

I'll be blunt: If you're more into the character-heavy, Squaresoft/Square Enix kind of Japanese RPG, this will most likely not be a game you'll enjoy. Despite being a little more various than its predecessors, EO IV is still a kind of dungeon crawler. Although this is just my impression from the first few hours into the game, I've only just reached the second major area (or "land", as the game calls it), but if it stays true to the series' roots, there'll only be minor story developments. Which I actually consider to be fine, because I've grown a bit apart from the story-heavy style of RPG because recent games of that kind that I played kind of neglected the character customization part that I loved in RPGs like Final Fantasy V or FF Tactics.

On behalf of Iwata becoming CEO of NoA: Maybe James is right and nothing will change. But I'd really prefer it if Nintendo's western studios would be a bit more independent from their mother company. Because if Retro ever made a Zelda game, it should be solely their creation and not something that Aonuma or Miyamoto have their influence on.

reginApril 30, 2013

If the argument for bringing the Virtual Console to other platforms is that it's not selling people on the hardware, then I guess they better port NSMBU and Nintendo Land to PS3/360 as well.

azeke makes some good points about my VC service idea.

regin, I disagree with your logic. Among other things, Nintendoland and NSMBU could not be directly ported to other contemporary systems due to their reliance on unique features of the Wii U platform. The very nature of Virtual Console emulation is that it can be done on different platforms than the original. The only good reason VC is exclusive to Nintendo systems is that it includes the Nintendo catalog of classic games.

SonofMrPeanutApril 30, 2013

To start, the "unified platform" idea does sound like a speculative post I'd been making at several forums, and if so I'm surprised someone decided to take that as potential fact.  Maybe it was well-written. :P: : :

My basic idea was that not during the Wii U/3DS lifespan or even during the group of systems after that but whenever it becomes practical financially and in form for the company and the consumer that the console controller would be the handheld.  I had considered the Wii U and the recent unification of the handheld and console software development resources as steps in this direction (which is why the person who wrote probably thought it might have been an actual plan).  I had seen this unification of content as an advantage, save some digital titles relying on the TV or on a portable experience.  The cost of producing and buying a combined platform was a concern, which is why I don't believe it would be too soon if ever.

Not having a second pillar to fall back on is an excellent point, and despite John L.'s concerns of "lost exclusivity" I do think Dr. Metts' idea of a multi-platform VC service could work if Nintendo offered exclusive incentives to players who played said games on the Nintendo console while other platforms would carry the basic version.  I can't say what these would be, but that basic principle could make the idea work.  Of course it does have to be noted, as they did here, that the VC probably wouldn't sustain enough revenue for Nintendo to act as an effective second pillar, given how rampant emulation on computers is.  Still, the idea of having a sort of "outside-of-Nintendo" pillar could be a good move for the company.  Their top-tier first-party games made for the system, along with 1st-party eShop titles, would still be exclusive and attractive, giving people reason still to buy the platform.

Pixelated PixiesApril 30, 2013

Just a few quick thoughts from myself on several of these topics.

There are games like Monster Hunter and Xenoblade which I can quite happily play for over 100 hours, but on balance I would say that shorter games tend to be more enjoyable for me. Games like FTL and Hotline Miami punch you in the stomach and walk away. For a video game to be more than 20 or 30 hours the gameplay invariably becomes repetitious, and unless there's a really good carrot on that stick (the sense of exploration in Xenoblade is an example of a good incentive) then I'm likely to become fatigued part way through.

I bought Junglebeat (including Bongos) a few months back based on the glowing discussions I heard on this very podcast. I have to be honest, it didn't grab me. I thought it looked pretty, and I found mild enjoyment in eking out every last Banana I could to maximise my score, but ultimately I just wasn't a huge fan of playing a platformer with the Bongos. I will say that playing Junglebeat was at least interesting and I'm glad that I did, but I don't hold it in as high regard as some appear to.

As for virtual console; it's easy to forget that our appetite for retro games in their raw form is not one which is shared by the majority of gamers. Speaking with my younger brother earlier today for instance, he was telling me about how much he was enjoying Bioshock Infinite, I realised that unlike the people who frequent forums like these, he would not play the TG-16 version of Y's Book I & II in a million years. Virtual Console is pretty niche, and probably appeals to Nintendo fans in a way that it doesn't to other gamers (not only because of Nintendo's own catalogue of retro games, but also because if you're a Nintendo fan you're likely to have at least a passing interest in the history of the medium). However, for other platforms (360, PS3, Steam) publishers have seemingly had more success repackaging and updating their retro games and releasing them as collections rather than on an individual game basis. For people who aren't steeped in the history of video games, HD collections and the like help give context in a way that Virtual Console doesn't. With these collections IP owners can also tie their gamers together with pretty menus, provide visual and audio enhancements and also offer tweaks to the games themselves, and all this they do to make playing old games as approachable as possible.

So basically, my thought is this. Do people think Virtual Console (in which minimal tweaks are made to the games) would hold the same appeal on other platforms that it holds for Nintendo fans?

TJ SpykeApril 30, 2013

Regarding Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, you can indeed use the GameCube controller to play the game (though it defeats the purpose, it's like playing Dance Dance Revolution using a regular controller).

happyastoriaApril 30, 2013

Did you guys record the podcast a day early? I was hoping for a disscusiion on Nintendo's announcement that they will not hold a big E3 conference this year.

OblivionMay 01, 2013

With JRPGs, I'm more of a fan of the story than the gameplay. When a JRPG is more gameplay focused, I tend not to like it.


EvanB covered this pretty well, but you don't play EO for its story. As for variety, as I said, charting the fun I had playing the game over time, the graph would look very serated. Yes, they do introduce cool new twists every now and then, but you're then dealing with that twist for the rest of the dungeon, i.e. a couple of hours.

They're cool twists, though. In a forest, you get warped around and need to keep track of which hall leads where (not unlike the lost woods in Ocarina of Time). In a heated dungeon, you find yourself getting rid of the source of the heat, freezing water (which you now travel on, completely changing the layout of the dungeon) and affecting the enemies. Cool stuff like that.


I don't have one answer for that, it really depends on how good the game is at renewing itself and keeping my attention. But honestly I don't think any RPG has ever been served well by being 70 hours long. They can still be good, but there are undoubtedly tedious parts that could have been cut out, making the game better. I'd rather have my RPGs be 30-35 hours max, but those are rare. Suikoden, Chrono Trigger come to mind. I'm sure I'll enjoy The Last Story as well.

I think being portable helped EOIV, though. You're right, long experiences on handhelds are somewhat rare. And playing EO in small chunks works well.


Yeah, we recorded earlier. We'll probably talk about that topic in 2 weeks, since the next episode is the Mega Man 3 Retroactive.

llafferMay 09, 2013

I've gotten behind on my podcast listening the last few weeks.  I finally got around to this one yesterday.

Your discussion about reviewing old games reminded me of when I reviewed "Intellivision Lives!" for DS over 2 years ago.  I chose to not review the games for what they are, since they've been longer than most of your listeners.  Instead I talked about how the emulation held up over what I remembered from playing the games on the original system all those years ago.

Some of the games were fine, others were literally broken as a result and unplayable.

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