I think the big news from the past week was the realisation of just how weak the Wii U has been performing at retail. Nintendo slashed the sales forecast of the machine drastically from 9 million to 2.8 million for this financial year. It is a sad turn of events, but not one that should be all that surprising. Not many people outside of the core gaming base fully understood what the Wii U offered, and the release of superlative titles like Super Mario 3D World seem to have done little to convince people to invest in the machine. In truth, I only purchased mine because I was able to get it for pennies after trading in my massive back catalogue of console games. At full price I was never going to realistically buy it.
Enough doom and gloom from Nintendo, what have we been up to this past week?
What you forget when someone sells you a Studio Ghibli RPG is that the output of Japan’s foremost animation studio isn’t quite as easy to package up as, say, Disney or even Pixar. There may largely be a unifying aesthetic, but what I thought of when I heard the name linked to Ni No Kuni, Level 5’s PS3 RPG, was the ecological samurai epics of Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke, rather than the studio’s line in whimsy-powered coming of age tales.
Not to say that this is a bad thing. It’s not like we especially need another tale of apocalypse aversion, and the person who makes the interactive equivalent of My Neighbour Totoro has their immortality assured. But Ni No Kuni isn’t quite in that ballpark. Honestly, it feels more like a Cat Returns or an Arrietty. A mostly diverting piece of entertainment with some fantastic artwork produced by a big name studio – but there’s no spark, and even the fun quasi-Pokemon-style battle system, contributes to the feeling of a lack of genuinely new ideas.
It wasn’t just the fact that Studio Ghibli was involved that was cause for excitement – after all, they were collaborating with Level-5, whose Professor Layton series is often said to have many of the same ingredients. Ni No Kuni‘s strengths remain similar – “charm” and standout scenes and characters (yes, Mr Drippy) – but Layton is generally better at avoiding the kinds of cliche that you must endure for many hours in a JRPG (themed temples, lava levels, endless animal-based place name puns).
At any rate, it’s yet another question mark in the “is Akihiro Hino actually a capable writer?” file. Hell, the guy has now somehow negotiated his way into writing both Ghibli and Gundam, becoming the only person in the world to fulfill the officially mandated life-goal of every Japanese male below the age of 50. I’m just asking the important questions.
As for Ni No Kuni, it’s a fun console RPG, but it’s not the Studio Ghibli RPG I’d hoped for at all. It’s Pixar making Listerine adverts or Disney telling me to go and buy war bonds. And if it means that we get a Toy Story or Cinderella out of it, you can’t really complain.
This week i’ve not had as much time to play as i’d normally like. A particularly gruelling week at my ‘normal’ job, followed by having a 3-year old have made significant demands on my free time.
That said a week without games is like a week without, erm, games, so I did manage to squeeze some game time in.
I of course played some X-Com; though I have to say I think after nearly 100 hours playing it, I may finally, be ready to wean myself of this particular gem. I think though, that this week ‘goes to’ Bulletstorm.
I picked it up in the Steam Sale and sank a few hours into it. I have to say I was decidedly underwhelmed; I’d expected more from it. Maybe I’m just becoming a bit more refined in my shooter-ness requirements, or maybe games really are becoming too far dumbed down.
Here’s hoping another Doom, Quake or Unreal Tournament is released soon – I need some twitch shooting people, Stat.
After my words on Football Manager earlier this week, I feel like I need to put it down for a while and explore some other games that are coming out. Really I need to be checking out some of the IGF Grand Finalists, that certainly is in my mind. The trouble I find is that I can so readily play Football Manager while watching something on Netflix or whatever sport is currently showing. Case in point, the past few Sundays have been dedicated to me managing TNS and watching the NFL Playoffs at the same time. It is a combination which means little other gaming takes place.
This past week though I was able to squeeze some more time back into Gran Turismo 6 and make use of my PlayStation 3, which is certainly my most used console for games at the moment. I’ve made fairly rapid progress through the ranks on GT6 since I started playing it, I just need to complete one last championship before I can get into the Super licence category. Though to be competitive in that championship I am going to need to buy a Le Mans Prototype. So at the moment I have racing around in my GT3 class BMW Z4 racking up the credits. Soon, the Super licence will be mine…