There was a huge new player announced on the gaming scene this week, something that looks to revolutionize not only the way we play games, but the way we think about games, and also possibly the way we think about playing games, as well as the way we game about thinking plays.
I speak of course of the discovery of ununseptium, the 117th atom to be discovered in the Periodic Table of Elements. Ununseptium hasn’t officially been named yet, and won’t be for some years to come, but it’s discovery and subsequent production will serve as a bridge between the most exotic currently known heavy elements with half-lives measured in milliseconds and the hypothesized “Island of Stability” wherein superheavy elements may be found with half-lives extending for millions of years.
In honor of this monumental achievement, I will rank this week’s list of games by their nearest appropriate Transuranium Element.
Developer: Probably Also Natsume
Platform: Nintendo DS
When I first saw that this was bases on a Japanese tank mascot game I had high hopes that it was in some way ripping off Squeenix’s criminally underloved Rocket Slime Adventure. For a fleeting moment I believed that perhaps Squishy Tank was but the tip of an iceberg of cutesy tank combat sims just boiling beneath the Japanese import scene. After all, with Squishy Tank we’d have Rocket Slime and Tachikomas and that awesome little tank from Metal Slug– Surely Squishy tank would be the herald of a bold new future filled with mascot tanks cheerfully spraying the napalm of love into our hearts and other various flammable organs.
Nope, it’s just Bubble Breaker with powerups. Laaaaaaaaame.
WHAT TRANSURANIUM ELEMENT DOES THIS GAME MOST CLOSELY RESEMBLE?
Much like Squishy Tank, Ununquadium has proven to be a bust. Although researchers have pinned hope on the 114th element’s high, wide fission barriers as a hedge against an impractically short half-life typical of the transuranium element family and thus a possible waypoint along the line to the Island of Stability, Ununquadium has thus far proven reluctant to manifest itself. This is doubly frustrating, as our nation’s top scientific minds have long theorized that the mass production of ununquadium is all that’s holding humanity back from hoverboards, arc reactors and self-defogging car windshields.
SPLINTER CELL CONVICTION checks necks, immediately break… wait a sec?
That’s the list?
Yup, that’s the list. And I didn’t even get to Darmstadtium!
So while I have this time I’d like to bitch and moan about Microsoft Game Room, or rather how badly Microsoft botched Game Room and why it’s probably already fucked and should be thrown into a lake and our points refunded so we can buy more Idolmaster avatar rewards Castle Crashers.
I want to love Game Room. I honestly do. Cheap, faithful arcade classics built inside a customizable arcade/trophy room that other Live members can come visit and issue challenges through? That’s hitting a lot of very good things, things I hold dear to my heart in the same place as the Chaterham Super Seven and Cheers-Era Kirstie Alley. The system would launch with thirty games– Thirty games!– with a promised seven games released each week thereafter. Even if only a third of all games released for it were decent there would still be something worth picking up every single week.
Then Microsoft went and fucked all that up the very next week. The seven games per week? That’s not actually starting until sometime in late April. For an entire month, no new games will appear in Game Room. The reason for Game Room to exist– a constant stream of new, obscure, classic games– is broken out of the gate.
Add to this is that the first batch of thirty games had far too many 2600 and Intellivision games that were of questionable quality even when they were released. Seriously, Outlaw?
No one wanted to play Outlaw back in 197whatever, and that was back when you had a choice between Outlaw, Pong, or sitting in a running car in a closed garage.
On the arcade side you wound up with far too much cruft like Batlantis (amazingly Konami took the idea of “bats” and “Atlantis” and managed to turn them into a mid 80’s Space Invaders ripoff) and Red Baron, which is neat as a historical oddity, but including it in the initial set of 30 games and asking us to pay as much money for it as Tempest isn’t just short-sighted, it’s downright insulting.
Not that there weren’t worthwhile games in this batch, but seeing as these games come from the early 80’s and late 70’s, few of them were ever designed to use a joystick. Crystal Castles, for instance, is an undeniable classic, but it’s broken and unplayable on anything other than a trackball. In fact, I’d say there are only two unquestioned classics in the first batch of games that aren’t completely broken via use by the 360 control pad– Tempest and Centipede– and Tempest feels clumsy with a pad instead of a paddle.
This is a problem that will plague Game Room through it’s entire existence, provided Microsoft intends to produce anything past this first batch of thirty games. Yes, the emulation is spot on– you even get the ghostly afterglow from Red Baron’s early vector graphics– But due to that precise emulation anything that’s not directly controlled via joystick is going to feel awkward, if not rendered unplayable. And then there’s the issue where there’s no game in the bloated and diseased 2600/Intellivision library that anyone in their right mind wants to pay three dollars to play in 2010.
Anyway, the most damning thing for Game Room is that on April 14th, this thing will exist:
This is Final Fight: Double Impact. It’s Final Fight, it’s arcade perfect, it features a remixed soundtrack and this neat arcade cabinet overlay to keep the screen resolution from looking weird in HD, and it’s not going to be in any way shape or form associated with Game Room. Oh and it’s also going to feature Magic Sword because I mean, why not include motherfucking Magic Sword
Same deal as above. Arcade perfect, some graphical filters to make things look better in HD if you want to turn them on, and a remixed soundtrack. All in one package, all with no Game Room integration whatsoever.
Beyond Game Room’s questionable games selection, beyond the uneven pricing that places Atari 2600 Millipede at the same value as arcade-perfct Centipede, beyond the infuriating lack of optimized 360 gamepad control, this is going to be Game Room’s biggest problem– convincing publishers that stuff like Final Fight Double Impact belongs on Game Room and not part of Capcom’s own piecemeal service. I mean, what appeal does putzing around in my own virtual arcade with Football for the Intellivision have when Capcom wants to just sell me Final Fight on its own service?
All this is ignoring that Microsoft is going to have to convince publishers like Capcom that vast swaths of their retro library is no more valuable than Lunar Lander. I’m not sure that’s ever going to work, and if Game Room is doomed to be limited to obscure western pre-Crash “classics”, I’m not sure what the point of the whole exercise is supposed to be. And not to bring up the E-Word, but Mame is sitting right there. Any computer capable of rendering this webpage is capable of emulating every game currently sold on Game Room. If Microsoft can’t get Tempest and Magic Sword under the same roof, why aren’t I just loading ROMs off my hard drive instead?
NEXT WEEK~! (for realsies this time)
SPLINTER CELL CONVICTION is number one in my heart; in busting dude’s heads through urinals
I predict heavy flow with BLOOD BOWL oh god that was terrible
GTA 4: EPISODES FROM LIBERTY CITY exposes that Microsoft has only a vague, sketchy understanding of the term “exclusive content”