With Resident Evil 6 completely polarizing fans of the series, it's gotten me thinking about what exactly it means to be a fan of a game franchise. Ostensibly one would be drawn in by things like the mechanics, story and characters, but these are all the result of the staff working on the game, not the franchise itself. Resident Evil didn't spontaneously conceive itself and then print itself onto PS1 discs, it was the product of Shinji Mikami and his staff at Capcom who crafted the game mechanics, characters, story, atmosphere, visuals, sound and every other aspect of that game that so many people fell in love with.
With any franchise people are added or removed from the team that works on it for various reasons until eventually you don't have any of the people who helped create the franchise in the first place, and at that point what exactly is it that you're a fan of? How many of the people that worked on the original Resident Evil for the PS1 are actually still around at Capcom working on Resident Evil games? Is there anyone who links the staffs of Resident Evils 1 and 6, or even just 4 and 6 together? If not, then what is anyone's stake in that game? At that point what is the difference between Resident Evil 6 and any other shooter on the market? Sure, it has the name, and it has the characters that I know, and it has some mechanical similarities to the previous installments, but what do I care about the continuing adventures of Leon S. Kennedy or Chris Redfield when the people behind the scenes that made those previous adventures so great, be it because of the gameplay or because of the story, are no longer there?
I'm not saying that you should immediately stop caring about a game or a franchise the second it changes hands creatively, but why should someone eagerly anticipate a game with no creative links to the original games they loved so much based on name alone? Why should they be so let down when it fails to deliver when there's no actual reason to expect it to, or vehemently defend it from the detractors before they've even played it themselves? Why should someone say they're a fan of a franchise, when there's nothing linking it all together except a name? I was hoping putting this blog together would help me sort everything out, but I still can't answer that question.
Why was there never an F-Zero on the Wii or DS? Both systems were the first Nintendo systems to offer online, (not counting the GameCube which supported a whopping four games, only three of which were released in America) which would be a great addition to F-Zero! Imagine 30 players all competing in the same race, knocking each-other off the course as they all race for the finish! Imagine creating your own tracks and being able to share them and race on them with friends! I remember Miyamoto giving F-Zero as an example of a game that would utilize the Wii's Classic Controller, and I find it ridiculous that their one example of a game that would work better with the Classic Controller never happened.
With the 3DS out and the Wii U on the horizon, I'm worried that Nintendo is going to continue ignoring their fantastic racing series. Nintendo and their games have continually referenced the franchise during this generation, and I really hope Nintendo will one day remember F-Zero and release a new game that kicks as much ass as GX did. Nintendo could follow the trend of remaking N64 games by remaking F-Zero X for the 3DS and including the Expansion Kit content that was previously only released in Japan, (which let players create their own tracks and added two new cups) as well as adding online and track sharing capabilities, and an HD F-Zero with online for the Wii U would honestly get me to buy the console on day one. Come on Nintendo, don't let me down.
Like many, I was incredibly excited for Metroid Other M after the game was introduced at Nintendo's 2009 E3 press conference. Unfortunately, this excitement slowly turned to doubt, and eventually horror, as the game came closer to release, and more and more details were revealed. By the time the game came out I had decided I had no interest in ever playing Other M, but after reading about that scene (SPOILERS) and watching the video in which the X-Play writer who wrote their Other M review defended their review, claiming the game was sexist and ruined Samus' character, I decided I had to see what all the fuss was about and rented the game from Blockbuster a couple of weekends after it had come out. After learning my Wii needed to be cleaned before I could get the game to work and going to Best Buy to buy the Wii Cleaning Kit (effectively doubling how much I spent on renting Other M), I started the game and immediately hated it.
How could Nintendo let a game this bad be released under the Metroid name? The combat required absolutely no skill, allowing you to literally mash on the D-Pad and dodge any attack, and the game aimed shots for you, requiring the player to only be pointed in the general direction of an enemy for their shot to make contact. The controls were terrible, suffering from trying to shove more functions than were found in Super Metroid onto an NES controller, forcing you to move in 3D with a D-Pad (the reason Nintendo gave the Nintendo 64 an analog stick), and not offering an option to use a Classic Controller because according to Metroid series director Yoshio Sakamoto offering alternate control options means "you really are admitting defeat as a game designer". It took Samus, often seen as gaming's first female role model, and made her into an emotional co-dependent basket-case who couldn't do anything of her own free will when her former commander was around. (For more on this, read MenTaLguY's wonderful essay on the implications of Other M as it was presented) Gone was the isolated and moody atmosphere of past titles, instead replaced with constantly being given orders by a man who had no actual authority over Samus. Rather than being focused on exploration, the game just told you where to go, and you headed down countless linear hallways with the occasional big open room that still only had two doors in it. The script sounded like it had been poorly translated, but I'm pretty sure this is just because the script is terrible, and this terribleness is amplified by the uninspired voice acting found in the American release. As a result the numerous, lengthy cutscenes are unbearable, and players aren't even allowed to skip them. This ensures that Other M shares none of the atmosphere that made its predecessors so great. Even the music is lacking, or to be more specific, is flat out missing, with the catchy tunes of past Metroids replaced with ambiance in most sections of the game, a shallow attempt to mask the game's lack of atmosphere by creating an artificial one, quite fitting considering the Bottle Ship's purpose. There wasn't a single salvageable aspect of this game outside of looking good for a Wii game, which doesn't even come close to saving this game from being terrible.
I feel like I should explain now that I don't hate Other M solely because it's different, I hate it because it's poorly executed. The idea of a 3D Metroid that tries to take 2D Metroid's gameplay and move it into a 3D environment is great, but it didn't work out. Prime was actually originally going to be third person like Other M, but Miyamoto suggested to Retro Studios that they make it first person, and it was only after that change that the game really started to work. I love when games do something original, but I'd prefer a game that's more of the same and is good to one that tries something different and fails on every level.
The big thing I hate about Other M on a gameplay level is that it's about combat rather than exploration. Although Metroid Prime eventually told you where to go, it was still very much focused on exploration. Even when it showed you the location of the room you needed to get to it still took exploration to get there. There were plenty of branching paths and big open rooms with multiple routes and you had to figure out how to get through them on your own. It was an incredibly atmospheric game, and just walking through the environments was a thrill. Other M on the other hand never really has anything where you have to figure out your way through a room, and usually boils down to killing all the enemies to unlock a door. I give Metroid Prime a pass on having a lock-on even though I criticize Other M for auto-aim because Prime wasn't focused on combat. Prime was very much about exploring the huge world Retro created and figuring out how to get to your next objective. Even with lock-on Prime took more skill than Other M though because you had to manually dodge enemy attacks rather than just be pressing the D-Pad during an enemy's attack, and counter attack at certain points when facing certain enemies. It didn't take tons of skill, but it wasn't the reason I was playing that game. (Though the boss fights are all very fun and took more skill than picking off random enemies or space pirates) Other M on the other hand boils down to running down straight corridors or through small rooms, defeating all of the enemies, and then walking through a door to go and repeat that process. Combat is a part of Metroid, but it isn't its defining aspect.
Despite all of these flaws, most people saw no problems with the game, and it received good scores from most outlets, the only notable exception being the aforementioned X-Play review. However, sales weren't what Nintendo expected, and the company doesn't know why, implying that they see no problem with the game. This is what worries me. The original Metroid Prime was a fantastic game, and both of its sequels were great games, though I felt 3 started to get away from what I feel Metroid is. I'm not alone in my love of the Prime series, as the games were hugely successful in America and Europe, and Metroid Prime's success made what was previously thought of as a dead series into one of Nintendo's biggest franchises. Unfortunately Japan doesn't feel the same way, as none of the Prime games sold very well in Nintendo's home territory. Other M seemed to be Nintendo's attempt to make Metroid appeal more to Japanese gamers, ditching the Prime series' first person action and minimal cutscenes for a laughably simple character action game and a failed attempt at an emotional story. With Sakamoto in charge (a man who went so far as to say the Metroid Prime games were in a parallel world, or in other words non-canon, simply because he didn't have direct control over them.) and Nintendo seeing no problem with Other M both on a gameplay and story level I could easily see the series continue to head down this overly simplified and story focused path. I, and I'm willing to bet many others, would much rather see the series continue down the path that Metroid Prime started, or a true return to form with a new 2D Metroid in the same vain as Super Metroid. Until that happens, all I can do is pray for a true peace in space...