A perfect 10? Only in a funhouse mirror
Just some quick impressions about 70 stars in:
*It still runs at a glorious 60fps, something I wish every developer would insist upon, regardless of console. (Insomniac’s recent decision to no longer hoe this row, frankly, sucks balls.)
*It’s nice to actually be able to use Luigi (who does control a lot more loosely than Mario) and Yoshi can be a blast.
*The new gimmicks (Cloud, Spring, Rock, etc.) are pretty cool but, at this point, I still prefer the FLUD elements in Super Mario Sunshine and, in a few levels, their execution feels a bit tedious.
*The levels feel a lot less epic in scope than the first and much more single-serving size, which is probably a desperate attempt to appeal to the same audience that loved NSMB Wii.
*Part of this lack of scope manifests itself in level designs that just don’t feel as fun as the first one, because there’s a lot less to them and they are a lot more straightforward.
*There is, quite literally, no way this is going to appeal to a broader audience than the first one simply because some sequences are going to be hellishly frustrating for the expanded audience–super guide or no super guide; training DVD or no training DVD. (So part of what appears to be dumbing down was probably completely for naught and will only aggravate people like me.)
*In spots, despite what you may have read in reviews, the camera can be a real bear.
*The boss battles, on the whole, are pretty awesome and the comic fan in me screams during them “this is how you could do a good Superman game!”
*This game is *not* a 11/10; 5 out 5 dentists do not approve; and Mikey likes it, but w/ some misgivings: it’s still fun but, as of right now, I actually prefer the first one, mainly because of the sheer scope of both the game and the level design which are lacking in comparison, at least as of world 6.
*More thoughts after I complete the first run (to get the basic ending, not 100% on stars, etc.).
The hour is nigh!
Not exactly what the non-gamer would picture as the minds behind Mario1
From andriasang, we have a translation of another Iwata Asks adventure, this time with the primary figures on the Super Mario Galaxy 2 dev team, and this particular comment really jumped out at me:
Because anyone on the team was able to try out their own stage designs, Hayashida ended up getting daily requests from people wanting him to see their stage creations. This continued for two and a half years. Iwata believes that this is a reason the game became so rich and densely packed with gameplay elements.
Basically they had a level design tool that was so robust2 that nearly anyone on-staff could construct levels and, apparently, did.
This, ultimately, led to a surfeit3 of content that was actually incorporated into the game in many cases, which is the special sauce that, apparently, is going to make SMG2 something pretty spectacular by all, early, indications.
However, what makes this interesting to anyone that has ever managed, well, anything (let alone a team of one hundred or more) is that it actually turned out lots of usable content and since managing any group project is just shy of herding homicidal cats with a raging meth problem4 this strikes me as a pretty surprising development. (Of course there is the strong possibility that Koizumi intentionally omits that they had nightmarish problems w/ workflow in this regard, but even if that’s true, the fact that, in the end, they got an immensely-playable product out of such a process is pretty remarkable, period.)
1 Speaking of which, I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen an American/Euro game dev in a suit…ever.
2 Oh god, release it to the public domain! (This will never happen.)
3 French for: sh*t-load.
4 Trust me: you’ll understand this one day, too, if you ever have to get even a dozen or so people moving in one direction.
I don’t suppose anyone recognizes this level from Super Mario Galaxy 2? Perhaps from a previous life?:
Right now I’m fantasizing that Nintendo recreated all of Mario 64 in SMG2 and, well, just be glad you’re not sitting here because the results are definitely not an ESRB-approved E for Everyone.1
UPDATE: Compare and contrast:
1 More like N for Nobody or B for Blindness
This is probably going to be just slightly better than LBP2
This is certainly something that will send the Internet all a-twitter (and a-Twitter) today:
The original plan was to make the game in one year, similar to their development time target for Majora’s Mask. However, they ended up taking two-and-a-half years. Iwata noted here that because they didn’t have to take that one year to refine the player movement, the full development time was spent exclusively on stage creation and tuning.
There’s also this, which is great news for some of us:
Miyamoto also noted here that the game starts off “at full acceleration” and feels like it’s more difficult than the original — so difficult that he shouts out and slams his table when playing by himself late at night (Iwata responded that he’d like to see this).
I’d also love to have an audio recording of this, if only as my ‘you’ve got mail’ chime. Or to scare off hungry bears. Or koopas.
The nice thing about Nintendo games is, 99% of the time, they do not rush them on the creative end which, while also potentially-inviting auteur disease (WiiMusic, sadly, was one of those victims), they also seem to mostly avoid that by really prototyping the hell out of everything for playability purposes, subsuming their ‘art’ to the desires of the bulk of the audience. (Thank God.)
And here’s something else to whet the appetite–the first SMG2, NA, commercial:
It prints (slightly less) money
Should be any minute now since Nintendo’s profits are down a half-billion bucks:
BY THE NUMBERS: Nintendo is forecasting its first drop in profit in six years for the fiscal year through March 2010, at 230 billion yen ($2.4 billion) profit. Sales were weak earlier in the fiscal year while a strong yen and the price cuts also reduced profitability. Nintendo reaped a record 279.1 billion yen profit for the fiscal year ended March 2009. Nintendo does not break down quarterly numbers. The Kyoto-based manufacturer expected to sell 20 million Wii machines and 30 million DS machines in the 12 months through March 2010. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters, on average, expect fiscal year profit of 229 billion yen ($2.4 billion).
Does it matter that they still profited (not revenues, profits) to the tune of 2.4 billion bucks? Not if it gets in the way of bi-annual ‘Nintendo is doomed’ articles from those experts on finance and market cap in the gaming press, it doesn’t. (On the plus side, the frequency of such articles is way down, so far, this year…finally…but not for long.)
Now in English!
In case you missed this the first couple of times around, it’s now been officially (ooh, aah!) translated for you heathen in the West:
Nintendo has published an official translation of its “Iwata Asks” feature about Sin & Punishment 2, in which president Satoru Iwata and men from Treasure discuss how bats*** difficult it was to make anything work on the N64.
“That was because Nintendo 64 drastically changed how things were made up through the Super NES system,” Iwata explained in the piece, reminiscing about his time at HAL Laboratory. “We ran up against how to make the best use of 3D graphics, and the team had quite a hard time.”
This is Treasure *and* Iwata talking so you young ‘uns, unschooled in the geekly arts that drove the N64, should sit up and take notice–the rest of you jaded sods should just kick back and wait for the next story on this very, veeeeeery, slow day.
Suffice it to say, you may as well keep coming back throughout the day since new information (dubious and otherwise) on the “Nintendo 3DS” appears to be piling up by the hour.
Nintendo Handheld Timeline Pilfered from Asahi
Asahi in Japan offers the first word on how the 3DS achieves its 3D-ness by suggesting that the new portable game machine with feature a parallax barrier LCD from Sharp. The tech has apparently already been deployed in a few cellphones over there and is described as “unsuitable” for large-screen TVs. This is corroborated by Nikkei, which suggests that the screens on the new device will be smaller than 4 inches diagonally, placing it closer to the DSi than the 4.2-inch DSi XL / LL.
Unsubstantiated, of course, but certainly plausible and the link about parallax barrier LCDs makes for an interesting read.
How analysts typically treat Nintendo
UPDATE 5:When Analysts attack (well, not so much attack as actually praise Nintendo…now might be a good time to stock up on warm coats as Hell should be freezing over just about…now):
“Any new hardware, especially ones designed by Nintendo, will instantly get the third-party community excited about development,” EEDAR’s Jesse Divnich told our sister site GamesIndustry.biz.
“There is some inherent risk with going 3D, because the technology is still new and not yet an accepted standard in any entertainment industry; however, Nintendo is known for being well ahead of the curve.” He added: “Even without the 3D, just being more powerful is still a refreshing announcement.”
“I think Nintendo is right to keep innovating to protect its market share,” offered Piers Harding-Rolls of Screen Digest. “There has been increasing pressure from the smartphone market, but generally Nintendo targets consumers that are commonly younger or older than both smartphone or PSP users.
“I believe it will keep on targeting these types of consumers and looking to differentiate itself in the market.”
Divnich was very upbeat about Nintendo embracing 3D in games, echoing Andrew Oliver’s comments that it will help the industry explore 3D gaming much more quickly.
“Nintendo jumping into 3D gaming is monumental to the 3D gaming movement,” he said. “I think 3D gaming, with Nintendo’s approval, will become an extended fad, but the word ‘fad’ carries way too many negative connotations when it shouldn’t.
“Fads can last up to five years, and if some type of 3D gaming ‘fad’ can do the same, that would be huge for Nintendo. Some regard the Wii as a ‘fad’, and I don’t in any way consider that a negative. Nintendo banked nearly $3 billion in profits because of the ‘Wii fad’.”
Of course the flipside of “the PS3 will take over gaming any minute now…just you wait…just a few more months…I promise” crowd praising Nintendo is that it could amount to the kiss of death.
Nikkei reports that Nintendo plans on including a stick for controlling characters in 3D and will also include rumble in order to communicate attacks and strikes to the player. Nintendo acquired patents related to these control methods last year, the site reports.
Nikkei also mentions a more specific time frame for the system. Nintendo announced a release for some time in the coming fiscal year, which starts on April 1 and ends in March 2011. The Nikkei report states that the expected release time frame is the second half of 2010. This appears to be calendar 2010.
And Yomiuri Shimbun:
Yomiuri Shimbun reports “it is believed that the system will use a Sharp 3D LCD panel.” This display technology, according to the site, covers the screen with a small film, separated from the screen by a small space. The 3D effect is achieved by the slight differences in the image seen by the right and left eyes.
And in the grain of salt category:
Typical for mainstream publications, none of the sites listed sources for their information. It’s unclear how much was heard directly from Nintendo and how much is educated speculation.
The plot thickens…
UPDATE 3: This is old, but it illustrates one of the ways Nintendo could be adding 3D (but as was noted below, it’s probably not just a camera and/or accelerometer-based solution):
Looks neat-o, but we’ll have to wait for E3 to see what Nintendo’s spin on it looks like. (Also,if anyone could tell me how to left justify YouTube vids on WordPress, that’d be very helpful!)
UPDATE 2: The Wall Street Journal weighs in officially turning this into ‘serious business’:
Nintendo President Satoru Iwata told analysts in January that 3-D is “suitable” for gaming and that the company had interest in it, but expressed some doubts about whether everyone would want to wear glasses to play games in 3-D. The requirement of glasses to view 3-D images is often cited as a hurdle to the technology’s widespread adoption.
“Nintendo has a track record of incorporating new technologies to make its products pretty interesting,” said Jay Defibaugh, director of equity research at broker MF Global FXA Securities.
At the same analyst meeting, Mr. Iwata said Nintendo has been working on 3-D technology for years, secretly adding a feature into the GameCube, the predecessor to the Nintendo Wii, to display graphics separately for the right and left eye for the possibility of 3-D gaming. It was never introduced as a feature in the GameCube
Among all the potential applications of 3-D technology, videogames are placed at the top of the list because the graphics are already created in 3-D. What’s more, videogame fans are considered more likely to spend for a new technology like 3-D.
Almost all 3-D technology available now requires either battery-operated or color-filtered glasses. Most glasses-free 3-D technology are prototypes that require the viewer to stand in one location and keep their head perfectly still.
Yeah, if this works sufficiently well, it’s going to really put a crimp in Sony’s plans going forward.
UPDATE: Malstrom seems to think (or at least very strongly implies) this is a move to “checkmate” Sony over, I assume, an unveiling of PSP2:
Do you know what triggers new hardware from Nintendo? It is Sony. Nintendo will move to checkmate whatever Sony is doing.
Remember when Sony announced the PSP at E3 2005? Immediately, Nintendo churned up the DS and had it ready to show at E3 2006. And it looked pretty bad. The DS phat didn’t get much better aesthetically. But it shows the DS was pretty rushed. Remember, the DS was originally billed as ‘third pillar’ because it was designed as a response to the PSP. It wasn’t originally seen as the successor to the Gameboy Advance. Some guys at NOA tried not to abandon the GBA. They don’t work there anymore.
Remember when Nintendo announced the Wii price cut? They did so right in the middle of Sony’s press conference at the Tokyo Gaming Show (or whatever you call it).
The Wii launching immediately beside the PlayStation 3 was not a coincidence. If Sony comes out with new hardware or is about to come out with new hardware, Nintendo will put out new hardware.
When will the Wii successor come out? Well, when the PlayStation 4 does or when Sony puts out new console hardware.
Personally, I think it’s more likely that it’s a move by Nintendo to cement themselves as the perceived pioneer of 3D gaming, a role that Sony probably assumed was theirs for the taking…until their AM heart attack. (In other words: it’s a bone-cracking bit of marketing jujitsu.)
Iwata: not loved by Sony/Apple/Microsoft but much loved by children, moms, puppies, etc.
Nintendo has teased a teeny, tiny bit of info about their upcoming DS et al replacement:
“Nintendo Co., Ltd. (Minami-ward of Kyoto-city, President Saturo Iwata) will launch ‘Nintendo 3DS’ (temp) during the fiscal year ending March 2011, on which games can be enjoyed with 3D effects without the need for any special glasses.
While we would never expect this effect to top (or even rival) the likes of Avatar, neither does the current, glasses-required, 3D tech that Sony has been feverishly working on.
And how do they pull off this seemingly magical feat? According to Digital Foundry1, it’s probably one of two things:
The concept is fairly straightforward. The DSi camera is used to track movement, which is then translated into a real-time perspective-shift in gameplay. It’s quite an uncanny effect. It could be argued that there is no 3D effect per se because nothing is popping out of the screen and there’s no actual stereoscopy going on here. It works with one eye, obviously. So why new hardware if it can be done on DSi?
“I’m fairly sure it would be based on the parallax barrier method, which is better than lenticular screens and has seen some great advancements recently,” Oliver said. “It can also be turned off to give a perfect 2D screen as well. This screen already exists in the Fuju 3D camera and I have a 3D laptop from Sharp with this technology and it works very well for one viewer within a reasonable viewing area for a handheld.”
For some idea of how the Fuji screen works, its website offers up some interesting information, while The Register offers up some interesting information on Sharp’s 3D laptop. As you might expect from the developers of the stereo 3D Invincible Tiger, Andrew Oliver reckons it may hasten the take-up of 3D on other console systems.
And…well…that’s all anyone knows since more won’t be revealed until E3. However it isn’t hard to imagine that Sony and Apple execs are going to be driving up the price of Pepto-Bismol stock in the weeks leading up the full reveal, so buy low, sell high after stress-case Steve Jobs cleans out Northern Cali.
1 Tech-talk for gaming gearheads.