Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Today's Game Developers Conference keynote: My thoughts

I forgot that the Game Developers Conference (GDC) was today. I woke up and just did my normal routine, logged onto my computer and saw the Go Nintendo banner and remembered it. Okay, I thought, maybe we'll get some Punch-Out! Wii info or something. After past disappointments, I've taught myself to not get too excited about Nintendo conferences or keynotes. I expected a little bit of info on some announced projects, a whole lot of sales talk, and that would be it. I was glad to be mistaken.

First off, before the conference even began, someone in the Go Nintendo comments screamed about a new Wii update. I ran down and downloaded it, expecting maybe a new little widget on the menu like the clock they added a while back. Oh, there was something new on the Wii Menu, but it was far more than a clock: It was an SD card icon. Luckily I had my SD card in there already from a recent play session of Excite Truck, so I clicked away. And what did I find but the fabled storage solution! No, really! Remember last year when they announced that we would soon be able to download WiiWare and Virtual Console games directly onto the SD card, but we'd be unable to play it unless it was on the internal memory? Seemed like a whole load of nothing, didn't it? Mercifully, it was all a big misunderstanding on the part of us gamers, and the storage solution is indeed here. And man, it's awesome.

Here's how it works: Say you've got an SD card with a WiiWare game on it, but you don't want to put it in your already near-full Wii fridge. Well, have no fear, because your fridge just got an upgrade! Following is a play-by-play, picture-accompanied walk-through of the process.

There's the little button right there... Click it and you're presented with this:

A darker colour scheme than the normal Wii Menu, the SD Card Menu lists all the Virtual Console and WiiWare games you have sitting on your SD card. Let's have a look at good ol' Pokémon Snap.

"Start"? You mean... That's it? The war is over, we can go home now, mama?

Ah, here's the catch. A loading bar. What a rip-off, I-wait, whoa whoa whoa! I can actually see the loading bar progress! It... It's done! IT'S DONE ALREADY! It takes less than 15 seconds to copy over a 155 block game! The solution, IT IS HERE!

*Cue the angel's chorus*

Now that, my dear readers, is what I call service! And when you're done playing, it goes right back to the Wii Menu in an instant, with the temporary data already wiped. This is undoubtedly the best Wii update ever. I have more space in that internal memory than I can ever remember having before. 700+ blocks just sitting there, waiting to serve the demands of any SD card-launched game I wish to play. It's... It's beautiful. And what's more, take a look at this:

Yes! Now downloaded games don't even have to touch the internal memory at all until we play them! Nintendo, I- I forgive you.

And now, for my best infomercial voice-over impression: But wait, there's more! Heck, I haven't even gotten to the actual keynote yet! Now, we all know Nintendo just loves talking about how successful they are, especially with the economy in the state it is. Things like this were said again, of course, but with a few neat little tidbits tossed in. First off, we got the official announcement that the Nintendo DS, DS Lite and DSi have, combined, shipped over 100 million units worldwide, and with the way it's selling nowadays, that basically means 100 million sold, too. On the console side of things, 50 million Wii consoles have been shipped worldwide, with the sales situation probably mirroring that of the Nintendo DS line of handhelds. The other nice little note they tossed in was actually thanking us for buying their product. Thanking. Us. That's amazing, really. I've never heard of a game developer saying such a thing before.

After a bit more dev talk and word of Miyamoto randomly kidnapping employees to do his bidding (Best left unexplained), we finally get some clarification on Rock N' Roll Climber, a Nintendo game first "unveiled" to us through an ESRB leak. A new, Balance Board-utilizing WiiWare property entirely unrelated to Ice Climbers (Sorry, folks), Rock N' Roll Climber is a wall climbing simulator that takes the whole body into the climbing equation. Hand and foot movements are reflected by the on-screen character, climbing across blurry, low-resolution cliffs to reach the top. Once there, the player is treated to a somewhat badly animated guitar riff played by the player who picked up a guitar on the mountain top. Because, you know, electric guitars are often left on the summit of a climbing wall. You can't make this stuff up.

Yeah, uh... Climb that wall, man. Rock on.

As you can probably tell, I'm not all that thrilled about Rock N' Roll climber, and that's for many reasons. First, it's a rock climbing simulation. Once you understand the controls, you've mastered the game. The whole point of actually rock climbing is the thrill, danger, and sense of accomplishment obtained from the activity. Unless they throw in loose rocks or some crap like that in the harder levels, I'm not interested. Second, it's uuuuuuuuugly. I understand this is a WiiWare title, but so was LostWinds, and that was beautiful. Really, I think that's all I need to say to validate my disinterest.

Next up comes the announcement of the above-described storage solution, which is still pure freaking awesome. Moving on.

A whole bunch of Square-Enix support was announced for WiiWare and Virtual Console. First off, we'll be getting a (Hopefully enhanced) port of the Japanese cellphone game Final Fantasy IV: The After, which, judging by the title, it an epilogue to Final Fantasy IV. Following that announcement was the revelation of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a Darklord. While not the disc-based sequel I asked for back in my review of FFCC: My Life as a King, My Life as a Darklord still sounds interesting. So far, the following press release snippet is the best info we have:

FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES: My Life as a Darklord puts players in the highly fashionable shoes of the Darklord’s daughter, a malevolent little Miss, charged with dispatching intruding do-gooders by strategically placing traps and monsters around the tower she calls home.

Players will need to get their hands on ever more diabolical traps and abominable monsters to stop those pesky adventurers from making it to the Dark Crystal at the top of the tower. Be warned, though - with heroes of all the races and job classes from the FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES series storming the Darklord’s lair in real time, traps and minions will count for nothing unless deployed like a true evil genius. Anything less and the Darklord’s beloved home will be reduced to rubble!

Ooh, I like playing as the bad guy! My Life as a Darklord takes things in a much more traditional direction, turning the focus back on combat and away from reconstruction. Hmm, the same classes and races seen in My Life as a King, you say? Maybe I can finally beat some sense into those AWOL morons from the first game... And hey, Square-Enix, while you're being all loose-lipped... What happened to The Crystal Bearers? If you've canceled it, just say so already. If not, show us something! COME ON!

Here's another announcement with a more immediate result: As of today, classic arcade games are now going to be available on the Virtual Console! That's right, just about every non-Sony or Microsoft console in history is now available to be played on the Wii. What next, Atari 2600 and the always fun ET? Let's not think about the future just yet, though. Just pull some strings and get The Simpsons: The Arcade Game on the VC, and I'll be happy.

What else is there... Oh yeah, a new Zelda! Titled The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, the first (And so far only) trailer shows our man Link, and he's... Driving a train? Yep, that seems to be the new "thing" with this latest Zelda. While at first I could only laugh, I started thinking about it and began to really like it. I mean, a train may seem out of place in a Zelda game, but think about it: The Wind Waker trilogy, as it now is, is chronologically the latest point in the series. It only makes sense that more modern technology would begin to surface. In fact, it's been hinted at in the last two games, with man mastering the seas in Wind Waker, and then harnessing steam power with Linebeck's ship in Phantom Hourglass. It's happening, people: Hyrule is modernizing. The industrial revolution is close at hand!

*Sniff* Our little Hyrule's all grown up now...

So, what did we get out of this seemingly ho-hum day? The long-awaited storage solution, a bunch of new WiiWare and Virtual Console games, and, last but certainly not least, our new Zelda. I must say, I'm impressed. The only problem is that Spirit Tracks is so far away!

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1 comment:

Tré Felidae said...

Whoa, you wrote a lot about this keynote! Why don't more people comment? Hmmm....

Anyways, I like the SD card implementation. I still don't see why we couldn't just hook up external Hard Drives, though.

Well, looks like I'll be buying more WiiWare and VC games now that I have space. :]