In this year of our lord 2016, technology is progressing rapidly, and as such, we are now well into the eighth video game console generation. Indeed, it is time to explore the games of generation 8…or, as I like to think of it, generation 7A. Not because I’m a Discworld immigrant, but because this generation not only seems to have brought absolutely nothing new or unique compared to the previous one but even seems nearly identical to it in a lot of ways, such as game selection and design. About the only genuine improvement that seems to have come up is that Nintendo’s console now doesn’t shoehorn motion controls into 99% of its games. Whatever you call it, though, it has brought many pressing questions up, such as: Is the Wii you? What’s a PlayStation for? Has the Xbox won? And most importantly, what would it take for me to actually care about this console generation?
Well, for starters, it’s pretty obvious that certain game genres are much better represented on certain consoles than others. Nintendo has a decent selection of 2D platformers but isn’t too heavy on the first-person shooters, Microsoft has the exact opposite problem, the Vita’s game library is mostly Japanese…no console has everything a person could want (no, not even if you count the PC as a game console). Here are some genres that I think could definitely have more of a presence on each of the current consoles, including the handhelds. The consoles aren’t in any particular order, but in any case, here they are.
Sony PlayStation 4:
It’s the PlayStation 4, the next generation, a console sure to bring all-new types of gameplay into the world. The hype is real. The evidence to justify it certainly isn’t, but the hype is. Honestly, I haven’t been even slightly impressed by anything I’ve seen from the PS4 so far. Sure, the graphics are more advanced than ever, with even higher polygon counts and all (ooh! ah!), but I have a PC for that. And I’m not sure Sony knows that any series that were on their first two consoles that I ever liked even exist. (Crash Bandicoot comes to mind…and subsequently gives me a deep feeling of loss. Why did I even bring that up?) Eventually, the thing might get some games that I actually like…there is Ys 8, and if the next Trails subseries ends up on the PS4 but not the PC (or the Vita, in which case I’d just get that), that would be something, if maybe not $300 worth of something. But it could definitely use…
A 2D platformer, based mainly around precision and environmental interaction
Platformers are so freaking underappreciated nowadays, it isn’t even funny. Sure, indie developers still make them, and Nintendo’s made a few, but every other game developer seems to think about the genre as a whole about as much as the average American thinks about what people in Keshbridge are eating for lunch today. (Never heard of the place or don’t know where that even is? My point exactly.) Indie developers also have a marked tendency to design games based on the graphics and music of either the 8-bit or 16-bit era, which is all well and good, but even a gameplay style as simple as a side-scrolling platformer can be modernized without losing the core aspects of the genre. A good example of this is Donkey Kong Country Returns, as well as its sequel (Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze). The PS4 really does not have anything like it, and one would think that if Tropical Freeze can do so well, one could make something even more impressive with even more powerful hardware. Sure, LittleBigPlanet 3 exists, but not only is that also on the PS3, it also apparently requires the left analog stick for movement. Remember what I said about precision? Well, “2D”, “controlled with an analog stick”, and “precise control” do not belong in the same sentence unless there is also a “not” somewhere in there. That’s what the freaking D-pad is for, developers.
In any case, there are a lot of things the PS4 could do for a 2D platformer. It could have a new series, or it could bring in an old series and produce a brand-new sequel to it. Klonoa, perhaps? Or Mega Man, of course, but that series is more of a cross-platform thing, not to mention it’s almost as dead as Crash Bandicoot. *shakes fist at Capcom* There’s Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams for inspiration as well. There all kinds of directions one could go with a 2D platformer on the PS4…as opposed to none of them, which is what they’re currently doing.
Microsoft Xbox One:
Okay, I’ll be up front with you: I have NEVER liked Microsoft’s consoles. I could go on a detailed rant about why I think the entire Xbox line sucks a truckload of donkey butts, but for now, let’s just say that I could name literally any genre that I even slightly like (and several that I don’t) and it would qualify. (The department head apparently mentioned that he thinks the console could use more genre diversity. My reaction to that news was: “You don’t say?! Literally every non-indie game I’ve seen on your console has the exact same art style and most of them are some sort of M-rated violent action game, and you think your console could use more genre diversity? Whatever could have given you that idea?” Though apparently he actually meant that there were too many third-person games and not enough first-person games. Sure, dude, whatever blows your dress up…apparently 2D games, platformers, and RPGs that are lighthearted and/or turn-based don’t exist.) I could especially make a case for anything family-friendly; it’s pretty safe to say that Microsoft’s games are primarily aimed at adult men…and if you play them, you’ll be doing a lot of aiming at adult men yourself, at least when you’re not aiming at zombies or aliens. But perhaps the console could use…
A 3D collectathon
You probably know the kind. Everyone and their significant other was making them during the late 1990s and early 2000s, with games like Spyro, Banjo-Kazooie, Jak and Daxter, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, and arguably even some of the Mario games. Fast-forward to modern day, and again, you’re basically looking at indie games and that’s it. You have A Hat in Time, FreezeME, and Yooka-Laylee, the last of which would be a shameless Banjo-Kazooie ripoff if it weren’t being developed by pretty much the same people. (Is it possible to plagiarize one’s own work? That is a mystery for the ages, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone actually has attempted to hit someone else with a frivolous lawsuit for it.) Well, Rare was known for the genre, and Microsoft does own them now, even if most of the people who were there during the ’90s have left and joined the aforementioned Yooka-Laylee developers (Playtonic Games, they’re called). It seems like they could work something out, and it would help to mitigate some of their admittedly well-justified reputation for having consoles that cater exclusively to adults. (I must, however, add a disclaimer that I don’t actually like that particular style of 3D platformer myself…it’s always just seemed to me like “Fake Longevity: The Subgenre”, where the game would take a fraction as long to finish if you didn’t have to traverse the same levels repeatedly to find a million plot coupons. But there seem to be enough people around who do like that kind of game for there to be, if not a thriving market for one, at least a decent audience.) Of course, again, the oh-so-advanced hardware of modern consoles would do a lot for such a game. Loading times? Where we’re going, we don’t need loading times.
Nintendo Wii U:
Ah, Nintendo…there is no one quite like them. Maybe they could have handled the Wii U a bit better than they did, but they were the basis for my childhood (at least where video games were concerned) and a multitude of other childhoods all over, they still like to keep most of their games cute and colorful instead of dark and gray, and they are the one company of the big three that is more or less irreplaceable. They’ve been around by far the longest of any of them as well, even if most of that time wasn’t actually spent making games. Nintendo does have quite a history, from hanafuda to Mario, straight from Kyoto, with a guy named Miyamoto. Incidentally, they are also the only game company that still makes games that interest me (aside from indie developers and the occasional one-off third party such as Falcom), so as you might imagine, they do by far the best job of covering my favorite genres. In fact, two of my top three favorite games are on the Wii U, and the third can be played on it. So what does the console really need?
A turn-based RPG
Guess what? It’s another subgenre that almost nobody makes anymore. I guess this one at least has slightly more support, though, with some Japanese companies such as Atlus and Falcom still doing them. (The latter, in fact, is responsible for some of my favorite RPGs of all time, let alone modern ones. I don’t care what anyone says to the contrary; no 8- or 16-bit RPG except maybe Super Mario RPG has anything on Trails in the Sky or Cold Steel.) And naturally, you get the occasional indie effort here as well; Soul Saga is scheduled for a release later this year, and Earthlock: Festival of Magic was another one that looked interesting.
The problem is, there is darn near nothing of that sort, or really any kind of RPG, on the Wii U, aside from the indie games that are cross-platform. There’s Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (formerly known as Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem), which seems to be a tactical RPG, and Xenoblade X, which is an action RPG. There is no answer to Trails or Radiant Historia on the Wii U, not even close. There is Paper Mario: Color Splash, but even if you like Paper Mario (me? it’s not terrible, certainly better than a lot of RPGs I’ve played, but I don’t care for it)…is anyone actually expecting it to be good? And even if it were, it’s hardly an adequate representation of the genre. On a related note, I still don’t know why the action command system from the Mario RPGs has (to my knowledge) never been implemented in a “serious” RPG. Another reason why the Wii U should get more RPGs is that much-maligned primary feature of it: the GamePad. The DS and 3DS taught us that having a second screen, especially if it’s a touchscreen, can actually be really useful for things like a map, an inventory, and the like. While it wouldn’t work as well on the Wii U because of the distance and size difference, it would still be very nice to have. So…come on, developers, and make some good RPGs for the Wii U already.
While we’re on the subject of Nintendo and RPGs, you ever notice how many RPG series have their fourth title on the 3DS? There’s Mario & Luigi 4, Paper Mario 4, Etrian Odyssey 4, Rune Factory 4, Shin Megami Tensei 4…and there is a rather infamous superstition in Japanese about the number 4 being unlucky because it’s a homophone for the word for “death”. A Japanese person would pronounce “death” as “des”, which could be spelled in leetspeak as “d3s”. Rearrange those characters and you get “3DS”. It’s a prophecy, I tell you…it means the 3DS will be the last console to have any good JRPGs! THE END IS NIGH!!
…Actually, why are we talking about RPGs anyway? The 3DS could still use some more of those, but it’s not desperately in need of them or anything…it has enough of them that almost everyone could probably find at least one that they like. (Even I have found three RPGs on the 3DS that I enjoyed quite a bit, one with a sequel shortly on the way that ought to be good as well, and if you know anything about my taste in RPGs, you’ll know that finding four of them on the same system that I genuinely like is quite an achievement.) What it doesn’t have in such quantity or quality that it could use at least one good example of is…
A Metroidvania-style game
You know, the kind of 2D sidescrolling game with one big interconnected world that you explore to find powerups that open up new paths. This really comes back to the second screen thing; it would be the perfect place for a map, especially in a game as confusing as these usually are. (On that note, I don’t like this subgenre a whole lot more than I like collectathons, but I’ve at least played some that were all right, at least if Mega Man ZX counts.) And indeed, the 3DS really doesn’t have much going for it on that front right now…especially since the actual Metroid and Castlevania series are more or less dead. (Whatever your opinion on Metroid Prime: Federation Force is, it’s at the very least not a Metroidvania-style game.) The only one I know of is Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse (aka Shantae 3), which I suppose is all right if you like that sort of thing (personally, I couldn’t decide whether to complain about the skimpy outfits on the female characters, the fact that I hadn’t even made it to the main part of the world map before the game started finding ways to get on my nerves, or both), but again, it’s an indie game with no physical media to speak of. I still want a Mega Man ZX 3, but I’d take a new series, especially since developers really should have good tools for ironing out the more irritating bits of the genre in the modern day. (Then again, they’re still making auto-scrolling levels, obnoxious special levels with no checkpoints, and levels with time limits, so maybe they really haven’t learned much.)
If I had to make a second choice, I’d go with a puzzle game. I’m picturing something like Dynomite or Cubis (side note: I’m still disappointed that the former never got a sequel), or even Plants vs. Zombies, though that’s more tower defense. (Speaking of PvZ, EA, how about porting the sequel to the 3DS or some other platform that actually matters instead of BLEEPING cell phones?!) Or for the younger crowd, maybe Bejeweled. One of those match-three kind of games, you know, or perhaps more of a Tetris kind of thing. It would be good to play on the go, and again, the touchscreen could be useful. You could even use it vertically and turn the 3DS sideways if need be.
The Vita, possibly known by Sony as “Crap, we just realized we depend almost entirely on third-party developers and don’t have the experience with or support for handhelds that Nintendo does. What now?!…um…let’s put a bunch of PlayStation 1 and 2 games on there for download or as remakes. That will work, right? And no hard feelings about the specialized memory card thing, right?”. Also known by me as “a machine that might possibly be useful for playing Ys: Memories of Celceta, and maybe Persona 4 Golden if I don’t want to play the original PS2 version in front of my roommates”. Seriously, if you don’t live in Japan, already have Sony’s first three consoles around, don’t believe in getting any game digitally if you can get it physically, and can’t stand female fanservice, and you’re looking for a decent bit of stuff to play on the Vita…good luck is all I can say. From what I’ve heard, the system itself isn’t bad aside from the memory card issue (hey, it does have some power behind it for a handheld), but its game library is pretty sparse: like the Xbox up there, this is a console where I could pick just about any genre and it could be listed under “games that it needs more of”. So for the sake of not being redundant, I’ll just pick one that I haven’t mentioned yet:
An action-adventure game
Ironically, the genre I named is also very close to the one game on the system that I actually would have some interest in (Memories of Celceta is an action RPG, and there is a very fine line between that and an action-adventure game), though what I have in mind wouldn’t be 3D but rather a top-down 2D game, like the 2D Zeldas or Goof Troop. Or, I suppose, most 8- and 16-bit action adventure games. The Vita has no immediately obvious answer to A Link to the Past, that’s what I’m saying. And the touchscreen could be used for map navigation and puzzle solving if done carefully (one of the quickest ways to ruin a game is to make it depend on an unconventional control scheme). I guess there aren’t many top-down action-adventure games these days, except maybe a couple indie ones (again with the indies…man, are indie developers left to cover all the genres that aren’t shooters, sports, racing games, or MMOs, or is it just me?).
With that, we’ve covered every 8th-generation console and handheld, or at least the ones most people know about. I considered including the Ouya, but that suffers from the same problem as the Vita (i.e., it would be easier to list the genres it doesn’t need quality games in), and the Nvidia Shield seems to be even less relevant. In summary: There are certain genres that could really stand to have more of a presence on certain consoles, and also, I am a cantankerous old man. Well, I kind of knew that already.