2D-3D, Gaming’s Greatest Challenge

Gaming

We live in an age of gaming where we have near photo realistic graphics, gigantic open worlds modeled off of real, and fictional places, and for the most part we have conquered the third dimension. 3D gaming continues to improve, and we as gamers have evolved to the point where we can navigate a virtual 3D space relatively unhindered. The real challenge games developers face, and have always faced, is transitioning old 2D games, into new 3D ones.

This might seem like a cheap shot at an easy target, but look at Sonic. The moment Sonic stepped into the realms of 3D the quality of his games have dropped, heck some are unplayable. Needless to say, the transition has not been smooth for the hedgehog, but he is not the only one to have suffered. Megaman, Bomberman, Castlevania, they all tried to Tardis over, and they all failed. Megaman X7/8 were so bad, even the 2D sections suffered. Castlevania N64 titles were mind blowing in their shoddiness and continued to fester into the PS2 era. Bomberman failed so badly I am not even sure he exists anymore. The list of failed attempts to “innovate” is nearly endless.

Super Mario Galaxy (10)_0

But then you have to insert the exception to the rule, or something I like to call: The Nintendo Factor. Where others failed, Nintendo somehow managed to make hit, after hit. Some of these newly 3D games are still considered masterpieces to this day. Mario, Link and Donkey Kong all made it through the rift during the N64 days. The gamecube brought Metroid through and pretty much created its own subgenre of FPS. Pit got his makeover into 3D on the 3DS after his last title was on the NES! Simply put, Nintendo know what they are doing. I don’t want to fan the fan-fires, but would it really be so bad if Nintendo took over the reigns for someone like Sonic? A few generations ago having Sonic on a Nintendo console would have been blasphemy, we now have  dozen games where both Mario and Sonic star. Would it be such a stretch nowadays? Lets face it, Sonic games are not going to get any better without some intervention.

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Of course Nintendo are not the only company able to bridge the gap. I mentioned Castlevania earlier, with the Lords of Shadow series we finally got a good 3D Castlevania. We even got a sequel, and a 2.5D prequel to said sequel! Metal Gear is another biggy. I might be pushing the boat a little far on this one, but even Bioware managed the transition. Baldurs Gate into Dragon Age was a technological leap I did not think possible. 2D-3D is achievable, proof is literally everywhere. It has just taken a fair amount of casualties to get to this point.

Should Sonic Retire?

Sonic

Sonic, the ultra fast blue hedgehog, Sega’s answer to Mario. Everyone knows who Sonic is, and back in his hayday, Sonic was considered a contender to Nintendo’s platforming throne. He was marketed as this “hip” and “cool” character, lightning fast, wearing sneakers and a wicked set of spines protruding from his head. His games managed to deliver, and for the most part, garnered some critical acclaim. However, as Mario revolutionized gaming as we know it with Mario 64… well… didn’t.

Sonic’s early foray into the 3rd dimension was disastrous. But why? The reason Sonic has not transcended, is purely because Sega does not have faith in their concept. It may sound strange, but Sega do not believe Sonic can support a game based on his merits alone, so they bog their games down with, despite my love of Sonic, crap. Once again bringing Mario into the mix, his 3d games are open, expansive, relatively plotless, and focus entirely on the gameplay. You always fight Bowser, you always save the Princess. Lets take Sonic: Unleashed as an example of how things were done wrong. Super fast, albeit restrictive, Sonic sections that are done decently bogged down by slow, tedious brawling, abysmal platforming and an awful plot that literally does everything to get in your way. The pattern continues with Sonic Boom, Segas latest attempt. Despite it being a buggy cesspit of awful, the actual gameplay has fast, on rail sections smothered by monotonous combat, hilariously bad plot and a dire open world full of nothing. I wont even get started on Sonic 06, or Sonic’s medieval adventures…we don’t speak of them…

Simply put, Sonic games are full of gimmicks. You have the core, on-rail sections and a bunch of gimmicks and things to distract you. Let us not forget Sonic’s cast of cuddly friends. All of which are generic, pointless, bland, and not Sonic. We buy a game to play as Sonic, not to listen to the constant babble from his paper thin mates, and heaven  forbid we actually play as them. The only thing worse than his allies are his enemies. Once upon a time there was Eggman, a fat red man with a tash (remind you of anyone?) now we have quite possibly the longest list of antagonists to ever walk the earth. All of them are forgettable, accompanied by a terrible story, and none of them ever reach the heights of Eggman.

I will admit, I am laying into the blue hedgehog pretty hard here, but it is not all doom and gloom. There ARE some good games. Sonic: Lost World was a massive step in the right direction. Essentially a Mario Galaxy clone with paint slapped over it, the game was great. Fun to play, controlled well, and was pretty to look at. Whilst it was still burdened with a plot, Sega looked liked they were heading in the right direction. it Generations was a great mix of new and old, and even lightened up on the oppressive plot. The problem is, every game that game post Lost World, or post Generations was nothing like its predecessor. Sega reinvent Sonic with every new game he stars in, removing what we liked, keeping what we don’t and releasing more and more crap with only a few diamonds. It is a sad day when you realize the best games  has starred in recently are apart of the Smash series…

Should it go away peacefully? Honestly, yes. it’s time has passed. Sega has no faith in the Hedgehog, and any good that has come from him is vastly overshadowed by the tosh surrounding it. Sonic, we all love you, so please, just stop. No more chilliedogs, no more anthropomorphic allies, no more lame stories. Just go to your grave with your head held high. You tried my friend, but ultimately, going fast is not really going to save you.

The Supply and Demand of Amiibos

Amiibos

Nintendo’s line of near-field communication figures, amiibo, has consistently been making headlines since their debut late last year for their ability to sell out in the blink of an eye.  Even the upcoming Super Mario line of amiibos set to release next month sold out on preorders the same day they were made available.  That’s pretty impressive considering that they are essentially reissues of the most common amiibos from the Super Smash Bros line with less dynamic poses (with the exception of the Super Mario line exclusive Toad).  This has made them the new hot-ticket item in a speculator boom as people rush to pick up the rarest amiibos and then resell them to desperate collectors at absurdly inflated prices.  Many might think that amiibos will have their value increase over time like rare comic books and are a lucrative investment for the future.  However, the truth is quite the opposite and consumers should exert much more caution in the business of buying and selling these figures at the moment.

Let’s look over one of the most famous speculator booms in modern history, the comic book boom of the mid-eighties and early nineties, and consider what it tells us about the ongoing amiibo boom.  The comic book speculator boom started when copies of classic comics, such as Superman’s debut appearance in Action Comics #1, began going for absurdly high prices.  Stories of people getting thousands, sometimes millions, of dollars for comics that they bought for nickels as children became commonplace and hopeful investors flocked to comic shops expecting to one day see the same kind of return for popular titles.

What people were neglecting with this boom was the vast difference in the market between the time those old titles sold and the present.  No one ever expected Superman or his peers to evolve into landmark American icons and the comics they debuted in were only seen as simple children’s books in their time.  Copies of these books were left to grow tattered and destroyed over time as their stars slowly grew more and more in notoriety.  They became rare and valuable because no one expected them to become valuable.  The comics released during the speculator boom, on the other hand, were so widely produced and preserved that their value never went up.  This isn’t the only case of a sudden boom and bust, either.  Baseball cards, Beanie Babies, and all manner of mass-produced collectibles have ultimately collapsed in on themselves after having a large rush for them.

The amiibo boom is bound to burst just like the comic boom did before it.  It’s all just a matter of supplies catching up with demand.  Nintendo has been slow to release more copies of rare amiibos, but that’s only because it takes time to negotiate a new manufacturing deal even when the assembly lines for the figures are already set up.  It’s not like Nintendo just has a room full of 3D printers and can produce more figures whenever it strikes their fancy.  It will take time, but it will happen.  Before this year ends, the amiibo sections in stores will go from barren wastelands to overstocked shelves like their predecessors, Skylanders and Disney Infinity, did.

Conversely, if you are one of the lucky few to have gotten your hands on one of the bizarre defect amiibos that have popped up, that is something worth hanging on to.  Defect figures like the double-cannon Samus and the legless Peach have higher value because they were never meant to be made.  As such, they will never see additional production and will always be one-of-a-kind.  Just remember to keep them mint in their boxes as that is a vital to their value.  Not only does that increase their rarity, but it also eliminates suspicions that you just tampered with the figure yourself.  Limited edition items, like the Majora’s Mask 3D Collector’s Edition, also go by a different set of rules.  These are made with the intention of only having a limited run and are less likely to see further production.  It’s not impossible for more Skull Kid statues, but you shouldn’t hold your breath over it.

The amiibo figures are designed for mass production and the amount of demand that they have been seeing early on is going to result in more being put on the market.  Nintendo has already stated in an official financial briefing that they are planning to address the scarcity of certain amiibos.  If there is a rare amiibo that you’re interested in getting, just wait for the supplies to replenish and pick it up at a reasonable price.  If you already have a rare amiibo and are willing to part with it, now is the time to sell while the iron is still hot.  Just remember to see these toys for what really they are and don’t get too wrapped up in the current rush.

The VGamerZ Monster Files: The Koopas

Koopas

Let’s be frank: the underlings of the Mushroom Kingdom are fairly sucktacular. When your enemies consist of Goombas and Koopas, you’re not in any kind of darn trouble at all. You’re hardly in rapper in constant danger of being ‘popped’ in ‘da hood’ territory, right here.

Goombas don’t even have any arms, and they look to be about a foot tall. It’s safe to say you won’t need a bulletproof Popemobile.

Still, let’s curtail this snark, because the Koopas at least can get serious when they want to. The charming turtle dudes go by the rather funky name of Nokonoko in Japan, and are sometimes known as Koopa Troopas (probably because Nintendo’s pun department cannot and will not be stopped). They’re based on the legendary water spirit kappa, and have been lurking about the Mario franchise since 1983.

Sometimes, they even ride Y... wait, what?
Sometimes, they even ride Y… wait, what?

They first appeared in Mario Bros. Here, they weren’t the anthropomorphic boot-wearing funsters they would become, but they’re just about recognisable. You’d bump the platform beneath them to make them retreat into their shells, then proceed to throw them at other enemies/players. The very essence of Koopaness was right there from the start.

Which is just what makes them so terrifying. Hold on to your pants, because turtle terror is coming.

Yep, as we know, Koopas generally just cruise about with a shirt-drooling-simpleton grin on their faces. In more recent games, they even bop along to the tune of the background music. But then you jump on their heads (Mario’s murder methods 101), and the trouble begins. How many of us have inadvertently lost a life when our own thrown shell collides with our faces? All of us, that’s who.

And therein lies the true evil of the Koopas. They shuffle about harmlessly enough, but they know that you can’t resist jumping on their heads and throwing their shells about. An unfortunate ricochet will be your downfall. The sly buggers.

But they’ve also evolved a little beyond this. Look out for Paratroopas, Hammer Bros. and more.