Sunday, November 26, 2006

Where are the Wiis?

Well I’m not going to go rant for 3 paragraphs about how I didn’t or couldn’t get a Wii last Sunday and haven’t been able to obtain on since despite a restock on Friday, but I don’t have a Wii, but I have a classic controller sitting next to me (for the Virtual console stuff) and the controller gives me a strange sense of what a Super Nintendo controller might have looked like had it existed in an alternate dimension where it was a 3-D late generation console. It's really comfortable to hold and I have a feeling I am going to really enjoy using this controller for playing all the Virtual Console games, over the Wii remote and GameCube controller.

Speaking of which the Wii is not only selling like mad (ie: sold out) its accessories are as well. I went to Futureshop yesterday and saw a bunch of Wii nunchuck, Wii remote and Wii classic controllers. When I went back today, they were all gone.

From the beating heart of the gaming forums on the interweb, NeoGAF (aka GAF or Gaming-Age Forums), reactions have been positive with threads like this one. What Wii has achieved it seems is to turn console launches into social events and a shared cultural experience.

The real question of course is how many units did Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony push in the past week and leading up the end of the month. Sales predictions is a bloodless sport and is most popular on NeoGAF, the aforementioned metropolis of cool ‘insider’ gaming forums.

Filter through the various defense forces, trolls, kids and viral marketers and you’ll find real gold in the sales threads with very insightful analysis of where each of the big 3 companies are going in terms of their product sales, positioning and future prospects. With the dual launch of the Wii and the PlayStation 3, this November’s NPD (NPD is a sales tracking service) is expected to be a big hit among the NeoGaffers, such is the anticipation for the numbers that someone even made a pretty cool trailer. And as a forum regular and lurker, I must agree with the sentiment. This Novemeber’s NPD may be the biggest event of the season (aside from the actual hardware launches) for those games who care about sales.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Twilight Fantasy

The full trailer to Twilight Princess which I alluded to in my previous post is now posted The only reason I did not include the trailer in my previous post was I could not find a decent enough feed from YouTube to link to. So I’ve decided to upload my own copy of the trailer (courtesy of GameTrailers) and put it up on YouTube. The Zelda franchise has certainly come a long way since Ocarina of Time, and Twilight Princess appears to be the most expressive and cinematic of all the games.*

*Disclaimer. Wind Waker featured a version of Link that for its time was the most expressive ever put into a Zelda game and still holds the record today. However, the cartoon like art style put many people off. This Link not only retains the same level of expressiveness (facial expressions, eye movements, and fluidity of motion) the graphical style is what people wanted for a 3-D next-gen follow up to Ocarina..

Moving off the gaming track, I went to see Borat today. It’s a great movie as a pure situational comedy. But on a more cerebral level, the movie also plays on and pokes fun of cultural norms in the United States and the western/modern world in general. (Borat having trouble going to restroom is one such situation.). I think more importantly, it also sheds light that ‘the other’ (as in the rest of the world) can be as racist and ignorant the rest of the mainstream in the rich industrialized world who are constantly hammered by the notions of their guilt as members of an elite ruling class (the winners). The economic and social ‘losers’ are always painted in the same brush strokes as good people in needed help, which is, as Borat portrays, a bit simplistic. It’s a very black and white way to look at the world and to tackle the complexities of ethnic hatreds and racial politics. But it persists as the de-facto standard in while race relations is dealt with in many rich countries

It is therefore instructive to say that liberalism in the west is mostly pre-occupied with self blame and correcting historical wrongs. But as the movie shows us, the quest to be politically correctness maybe an unwinnable war. That is, the sworn enemy is among us, is amorphous, and it is us. The movie’s sympathetic hero, Borat, is a racist, sexist anti-Semite, but we’re made to feel sympathy for him because he's genuinely human. Most bigots are human too and are not one dimensional. Which begs the question of which side Borat is on. These kinds of prejudices run rampant in the old world and in almost all countries. In one of the movie’s deeper scenes, he talks to a group of college frat boys who (probably not acting) remarks that the ‘minorities in this country [the USA] have more power than the mainstream.’

It’s arguable of course whether this is true. After all, the young man was saying this as he is being driven in a RV as a University student, a privilege not many enjoy. But the perception is there among the general public, and it is powering or has powered a tide of conservative backlash that has placed ideologues in the White House, ruined the good name of America and at one point until last week, controlled the United States Congress.

A Canadian who wrote a book about the United States once argued that the US as a country prides its individuality and freedom above all other virtues, and as such it is a land of extremes. Much of what goes on there is the formation and reaction of extremes. There are the avant-garde social movements like gay pride, environmental activism, civil rights, and affirmative action in the cities. In reaction to these movements, those people outside to the city grow closer to their church and become more conservative. I think Borat as a movie shows us that extreme. He travels from Liberal ‘godless’ New York City where people run away from his warmth to the deep south where he is welcomed with open arms. These two scenes represent the extremes of a country. In many ways, the country Borat travels is the real star of the movie, not the comedian.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Legend of Zelda

Over the past week, I have re-watched two amazing pieces of PR video Nintendo released to promote its game. The first video is the game’s introduction, set to a brilliant choral re-imagination of The Legend of Zelda (NES) opening theme with visual allusions to the Ocarina of Time, including a reversed but similar camera movement where the camera speeds along the field of Hyrule as it slowly pans up to reveal the horizon.

Comparisons are already being made between Twilight Princess and Ocarina of Time. Suffice to say that I note the differences between the two games.
Materially the differences are obvious to me, even if most people on-line are still assuming the game itself will surpass Ocarina by default (which is a bit premature). I think that Twilight Princess, in its original incarnation as a GameCube exclusive was doomed to disappoint a lot of people by simply being too similar to Ocarina of Time. The cynics and the jaded gamers among us who are waiting at the slightest thing to bring down the sacred cow would probably have latched on to this lack of originality as their key complaint.
And this isn’t Nintendo or Miyamoto’s fault per se. Ocarina of Time transferred Zelda from 2-D to 3-D flawlessly. Another 3-D Zelda in the same general aesthetic direction as Ocarina cannot be but a refinement of the original formula. That is of course until Nintendo decide to make Twilight Princess into the premiere launch title of it Wii console with a new control scheme.
I’m genuinely excited about the Twilight Princess both as a new entry to the Zelda adventure, a refinement of the visuals and gameplay I enjoyed since Ocarina of Time. and as a completely new way to experience the Zelda games. I’m a left handed player so I am somewhat concerned that the mirrored world of Twilight Princess might be a problem. I’ll find out soon enough.