As an admitted Nintendo fan, I’m squirming in my seat as I read reviews of The Wonderful 101. There seem to be only two possible reviews coming out for the new IP from Platinum Games. The reviewer either completely embraced the controls and dove deep into the game’s unorthodox gameplay style to find something really rewarding and thus positive, or the reviewer was utterly disgusted with the controls and felt the effort was wasted entirely on the Wii U. I can’t honestly say that one is more correct than the other, but I am terrified that this genre-defying new IP with bright visuals will meet with the same fate as so many other games from the past where it’s something new, solid, and utterly forgotten. But I have to keep reminding myself that just because someone doesn’t play one of these quirky fresh takes in an otherwise dull sea of games, that they are not, in fact, bad gamers.
A lot of these feelings stem from personal experience, as you may have guessed. We as gamers see ourselves in a very elite position where we alone can see the truly great games and everyone else only exists to keep us from what we actually want to play. As a gaming populace, we have this agitating duality where we constantly lambaste games that feel tired and samey, such as any new Call of Duty, Super Mario, or Gears of War game, but we also don’t go purchase something new and essentially what we claim to want, such as Okami, Earthbound, and soon to be The Wonderful 101.
We get stuck in this endless cycle of unhappiness and disappointment that the games being made aren’t for us, then we promptly respond by not purchasing any of the games that dive off the beaten path and try being something different for a change. For months at a time, we’ll begin rallying the charge for one particular title, let’s take a Project Rainfall title as an example, so Xenoblade Chronicles gets talked about and talked about and talked about, all with a general craving and fervor that something like Call of Duty could only wish it really had, but when it comes time to pay up, we suddenly vanish.
Then out comes the blame. We have a pissy backlash to the perceived state of video games where first-person shooters dominate the market and nothing outside of that dark, gritty genre can ever see the light of day. We shoot comments in the direction of gamers playing Halo 4, saying that they’re not real gamers for some reason just because they truly enjoy a game that you don’t for one reason or another. And none of this changes the fact that the game you put your heart and soul into didn’t sell.
Except…I’m really tired of the expectation that we’re all required to support every quirky title that appears, no matter what time of year or what sort of game it actually is. Another example is No More Heroes from just a few years back on the Wii. When that title was coming out, people were getting really excited and proclaiming it as the ultimate video game to end all video games. When it came out it sold as well as a Suda 51 game inevitably sells, but of course that was because people didn’t “get it” or some such excuse we deliver. I didn’t buy it right away, and I felt strangely like I was doing something very wrong. I mean, I had a Wii and I knew very well that the Wii was constantly hurting for exclusive 3rd party titles, so why wasn’t I supporting the system correctly?
Well, it’s because No More Heroes just didn’t appeal to me, that’s why. I didn’t negatively view the title or feel that it was boring or bad or for kids or otakus or whatever. I was just busy playing games I really liked, which happened to be more mainstream Wii titles for the time. And when I did finally play No More Heroes maybe a year or two after the fact, I learn that I…absolutely would have hated it had I bought it at full retail price rather than received it as a gift from a kind friend.
The prime example for this weird, quasi-shamed feeling is Earthbound seeing as how fans are still feeling the effects of its initial poor sales. In the mid-90s when Earthbound first came stateside, people understood that Nintendo was gambling a lot on the notion that Western audiences were ready to embrace the RPG, and specifically the weirdest an RPG could offer. Lots of advertisements came out, a really lovely player’s guide was packed into every box, and the game was pushed out to…extremely disappointing sales. So disappointing that the US never got the two other games in the Japanese franchise (known as Mother, but you already knew that). Every time someone brought the Mother series up to Nintendo, all they had to do was explain that the market already voted with their wallets and decided that the US didn’t want the franchise.
We’ve explained away a lot of this by pointing out that the strategy guide increased the SNES cart’s price by a $10 and the box size by a ton, making this look like a very daunting game to just slap down all your year’s allowance to purchase. And even those of us with the money to burn were left with a general confused take on what the product actually was, thanks in part to advertisements like, “This game stinks!” Without an Internet to help us know what to love and what to hate, we were on our own, and we choose to stick with Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI over Earthbound. As a result, many of us feel the scorn from Mother fans who loudly and proudly professed their love and support for the series from the very beginning.
There’s just no way anyone can know what a game will be like until it’s released and we see what sort of sales numbers it can muster. We’d all assume that something like Dark Souls would be a huge financial bomb and a cult hit at best, but it was an unmitigated success despite conventional wisdom. Inversely, we see Resident Evil 6 come out and vastly under perform despite selling in the millions. We’re at a point where there’s no such thing as “a sure thing” anymore.
I won’t lie and say I’m saddened when something like A Boy and His Blob or Elite Beat Agents fades away without so much as a whisper, but I also don’t see why someone needs to be blamed. Sometimes video games are just toys, and not all toys get to be Buzz Lightyear. I’ve already bought The Wonderful 101, but hey, if you haven’t, that’s cool. It may not be your game, and that’s great. Just don’t make me play GTA V, OK?
So what do you think? I’m talking to everyone by the way, not just you, though I do want your opinion. Do we still blame other gamers for ignoring the smaller titles, or are we pretty accepting and understanding overall? Leave a comment and let me know. I want to see a lot of comments by the way, otherwise I’ll start to think all you want are articles that rant and rave about something popular and then you’ll have no one to blame but yourselves. Yes, that seems like a rational reaction, doesn’t it?