What's Old is New Again

On June 26, 2007, in Games, by psu

Today a discussion of two games that have been around for a long time, and are still more interesting to play than most of the new games. I suppose it’s possible that my current state of mind makes me more inclined to stick with the familiar. I think it’s more likely that these games are just better.

First, Resident Evil 4 again. For some reason I just can’t stop playing this game. This time it’s on the Wii, and this version of the game combines what was best about the previous two releases into a single package of enjoyable zombie slaughter. Now that I’m in the habit of buying this game once a year, I wonder what they’ll do next year to make me buy it again? Maybe an Xbox 360 port with multiplayer?

So, here is what to like about the Wii version:

1. 16×9 progressive scan graphics without the mushy jaggy PS2 “looks-like-ass” filter. This is a slight upgrade from what was on the ‘Cube and what was on the PS2.

2. Same great zombie head exploding gameplay.

3. Same great pacing.

The Wii controls are hit and miss. I find the nunchuck to be a poor substitute for the left analog stick on a regular controller. It is tiring to hold it in place and push the stick around to move. Also, the gun aiming mechanic in this game is wierd. You use the pointer to aim the gun, but the pointer cannot actually move the camera. So really you have to use the Wiimote *and* the stick on the nunchuck to aim. This works OK when the zombies are on the other side of the map and you are sniping them. It doesn’t work so well if they get too close. In fact, the best way to use the new control scheme is to just hold the gun target near the middle of the screen and aim with the nunchuck stick. But if you are doing that, you might as well just be using a Gamecube controller.

Happily, if you want you can do just that. I plugged in my Wavebird and unplugged the nunchuck from the Wiimote and the game instantly switched the controls back into the classic GameCube configuration. I might spend one more session trying to acclimate to the new way, but I’m pretty sure I like the old way better.

No matter which control scheme you pick, RE4 on the Wii is still better than every single shooter that has been released for the Xbox or the 360 in the last three years. This will continue to be true until Halo 3 comes out.

The second game takes us from the world of bloody zombies to the world of adorable and cuddly pets that also engage in fierce turn-based combat. Four or five years ago, I had a fellow parent tell me that the Pokémon games were really some of the best RPGs out there. At the time my eyes glazed over and I sort of stepped away slowly. I was only dimly aware of Pokémon as some kind of card collecting game.

So I was surprised to get an IM from Pete a couple of weeks ago that went something like:

Pete: You know, this Pokémon game is just like a JPRG, only not annoying.
psu: Huh. Maybe I’ll try it.

In the end, I got Pearl and he got Diamond and he and my other buddy were right. Pokémon has distilled the three basic activities that appear in any RPG into a single streamlined game and stripped it of all the pretentious extras that RPGs usually try to layer on top of the gameplay. There are no heroes with amnesia, no worlds to save, no intricate yet juvenile narrative, no cut scenes, and no whiny NPCs who you would rather just kill. Instead, you do three things:

1. Go there and fight that.

2. Collect those.

3. Increase R.

I’m about 10 hours into the game and I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface. I can see myself playing this game in 20 minute snippets and one or two hour extended sittings for the rest of the year. Plus, there is the online battle angle and the integration with the upcoming Wii title. If they made a World of Pokémon MMO, I could probably not buy another RPG for the rest of my life. Hmm, perhaps that’s over the top.

Anyway, if all the sucky new games are getting you down, here are two alternatives. One is actually old, the other is only old by association with a long-standing franchise. But that’s close enough for me. Older games are always better.


4 Responses to “What's Old is New Again”

  1. Greg says:

    I never played the previous versions of RE4, though I own a shrink wrapped copy of the Player’s Choice RE4 for GameCube (I have collection issues). I’m absolutely enthralled with the Wii version. I haven’t had this strong a reaction to game since I first played Guitar Hero.

    I love the Wii based controls. My nunchuck hand sits limply in my lap most of the time and my remote arm rests on the arm of my couch. Perhaps its just my style of play untainted by another control scheme, but I can’t imagine a better way to play this game. I think I feel more physically connected to the game. It is as if it heightens the tension.

    The game is such a rush! Within the first few minutes of play my head was cut-off by a chainsaw wielding dude wearing a burlap sack over his head. I made some incredulous exclamation. My wife laughed in shock. I’d argue that this version of RE4 is the first game to justify the Wii since Zelda and Wii Sports.

  2. arixey says:

    The girl talked me into playing the new pokemon, since it’s something we can play together. At the 15 hour point I was enjoying it a lot, but by 25 hours I was sick to death of it.

    The biggest pain is that it rekindled my intense hatred of random battles, but there are several other tiny little things that really just grow in aggravation. The menu and inventory interface is beyond terrible, especially when all the large lists only display on the top screen and force you to use the cursor pad. The repetitive, unskippable dialog grows more irritating each time. (Just healing at town requires hitting “A” about seven times with a long pause in the middle.) It all just seemed about padding and level grinding, and my fascination wore off. I got bored and realized there were a whole bunch of other games out there just waiting to be played.

    So now I’m in the doghouse because I don’t have any new pokemen to trade with her and I’m busy trying to make sure that Abe Lincoln must die instead of capturing a glameow or evolving a pengo.

  3. Ben says:

    I much prefer the Nunchuk to a standard controller, I played most of Zelda:TP with my hands resting on the sofa on either side of my legs. Going back to a Wavebird, it felt really unnatural to have my hands so close together. The stick itself is superior to the GC’s as well.

  4. psu says:

    I’ve probably just played the game with the classic controls too much. I still can’t get used to the nunchuck.