NextGen’s Top Ten Years In Gaming History

  • Reading time:30 min(s) read

by Eric-Jon Rössel Waugh

Originally published in some form by Next Generation. I was asked not to include 1999 or 2000, because the Dreamcast was perceived as a low mark in the industry rather than a high one. I was also asked to include the previous year, to suggest that we were in the middle of an upswing. So… that explains some of the selections.

In videogames, as in life, we tend to get things right about a third of the time. There’s one decent Sonic game for every two disasters; one out of every three consoles can be considered an unqualified success; the Game Boy remake of Mother 1 + 2 was released in one out of three major territories. With the same level of scientific accuracy, one can easily say that, out of the thirty years that videogames have acted as a consumer product, there are maybe ten really excellent milestones, spaced out by your 1984s and your 1994s – years maybe we were all better off doing something out-of-doors.

It kind of makes sense, intuitively: you’ve got the new-hardware years and the innovative-software years, spaced out by years of futzing around with the new hardware introduced a few months back, or copying that amazing new game that was released last summer. We grow enthusiastic, we get bored. Just as we’re about to write off videogames forever, we get slapped in the face with a Wii, or a Sega Genesis – and then the magic starts up all over again, allowing us to coast until the next checkpoint.

Tim Rogers and Goku Makai Mura

  • Reading time:6 min(s) read

WARNING: occasionally-foul language approaches! NO REFUGE

You know, the delay between the button press and the throwing of the lance is pretty damned evil. I asked the booth dude if it was intentional, and he gave me the canned “we’re very very very very sorry — it’ll be fixed” response. So I take it they really, seriously don’t intend for it to be like that. And he was damned apologetic.

So! Yeah! It’s most definitely a problem. And I found it quite frankly unplayable like that.

Yeah. Well. You should have picked up a better weapon. The lance kind of sucks anyway. Always has. I just took it that they made it suck even more, to drive the point home. All the other weapons work just fine. I think the first weapon I picked up was the scythe, and that was great.

I think I died twice in the demo, and both were because I just did something fucking stupid, like jump into a bottomless pit of my own volition then wonder why I just did that.

i picked up the fucking crossbow, and it was alright. it still didn’t feel “right.”

Yeah, that wasn’t the best weapon to exchange it for. The crossbow wasn’t “right” in Chou Makai Mura either. I always avoided it. Better than the torch, though. And yeah, minimally better than the lance.

the capcom dude there said that the producer — i guess that’s fujiwara — is, for the record, “still kind of tooling with the idea of making it feel like the old ones, or making it feel fresh and optimized.” or something to that effect. in that, you see. well, you know. it’s like comparing rondo of blood to symphony of the night, control-wise. when i go to meet igarashi and crew next thursday (!! — any questions you want to ask, put them here) i plan to ask him some things about this; i know that a lot of japanese castlevania fans dropped out of fandom for the series when symphony of the night hit, because they felt its smoother controls were “selling out.”

you know what i mean?

I do. For the most part, the classic controls can go fuck themselves. This still basically feels like the old games, while not making me want to kill something.

that you say the demo for goku makaimura was not difficult says that you have played a lot of makaimura, or at least more than a person who has played none.

Well! That doesn’t mean I’ve ever been any GOOD at the series, saving Yuji Naka’s version of the second one — which was really fucking playable. The third game in particular, now, is a game that’s made unreasonably hard just to be unreasonably hard. I’ve only twice ever even made it past the first level. And it’s done so just arbitrarily, in part by taking out things that should be there and forcing reliance on new things that have no reason to be there. The first game I can forgive better because, you know, it was the first game and it was made in 1985. I still don’t think I’ve made it further than the third or fourth level without cheating, and then only maybe once ever.

This is… better. It’s more like a sequel to Dai, where Chou was more like a sequel to the original. And I don’t just mean the vertical shooting, which sure as hell helps. I just mean more thought was put into how the game’s put together, and it’s made to for going forward rather than hitting your head against a wall over and over. That you are revived instantly when you die is a big difference. You’re not penalized up the asshole for a single mistake. You just lose your life and make note to next time not do again what you did.

now! i’m not saying that the game should be zelda-dumb, i’m just saying that . . . hell, i don’t know. lord knows what i’m arguing here. it doesn’t fucking matter. just that, well, the truth is, i don’t like the game. you can’t argue with me on that one — you can’t tell me that i do indeed like it!!

i really liked it on genesis, i just think that on PSP it doesn’t feel . . . right. or it doesn’t feel grown up. that and i don’t like the jumping. i don’t like over-shooting every jump. it makes me feel dumb. though i guess that’s something i could learn.

fuck, maybe i should just quit playing videogames, i don’t know.

I didn’t have any problem with the jumping. So!

Should the game feel grown-up? I mean. What can you really do with a side-scrolling Makai Mura? It is informed by just about everything the earlier games did “wrong”, and it does a good job of patching them up without essentially changing how the game feels. It’s not a total reinvention like, you know, Gradius V or something. I don’t know that it needs to be, though. Makai Mura doesn’t have this long history of clutter like Gradius, that needed to be focused away. It just needed the hate removed, and that’s happened. And beyond that, the atmosphere has been made more like what the earlier games clearly wanted it to be.

If it were polished too much or made too easy it’d lose the scariness that the atmosphere’s there to amplify. As it is, it’s basically balanced to keep the player constantly on-edge without overwhelming him or punishing him inordinately. Which is a balance the earlier games never quite found.

Is it just that the game’s a 2D platformer rendered in 3D that puts you off? A meticulous revisitation of a game last seen in 1991, with only the things fixed and added that might ideally have been fixed and added in 1996 on, say, the Saturn? Are you wondering why Capcom even bothered if that’s all they were going to do? Especially with a platform like the PSP, which should be able to do… more, somehow?

Because that’s the thing that I like the best about it. That it subverts what the PSP can hypothetically do, and simply treats it like what it is: a fucking handheld system. A handheld system with pretty 3D graphics; still just a souped-up Game Boy, with a small screen and basically 2D controls. The fanciest, most expensive, most over-the-top Game Boy on Earth, maybe. Still just a Game Boy, still just as prone to dropping on the pavement, still an intimate system for use by a single person at a time only, ever, that has no need to impress or entertain anyone else and needs to entertain that single person in a way that he can wrench himself free at any moment, to jump off the train when his stop arrives.

It doesn’t bother with the bullshit. It’s just another Makai Mura — educated by fourteen years, perhaps — made for the only platform it could reasonably be made for, made in the only way it could reasonably be made. And suddenly it’s made clear: who the fuck wants a PS2 in his pocket? Let’s make the best of an unfortunate situation.