Where The Games Have Gone

Over the past 18 or so months there has been a general consensus that creativity in the industry is drying up.  From letters pages in magazines to forum posts on websites, the onslaught of complaints is near inescapable.  And, fair dos, these grumblings aren’t totally unjust.  I mean, you only have to look at the Christmas release schedule to see what they’re talking about.  But while us savvy gamers (that’s you and I) have already got our pre-orders in for the likes of Dishonored, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Hitman: Absolution, Epic Mickey 2 (yes, that’s right) and Far Cry 3, it appears that Joe Gamer and his fellow kind can’t see beyond the CODs, Creeds and Need for Speeds.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to all three of those franchises this year; a new COD is always exciting, Assassin’s Creed III looks to be exactly the game it needs to be, and Criterion are set to deliver a sequel to Burnout Paradise under the NFS banner.  However, a lot of people are growing tired of these annual updates, yet seem trapped in an endless cycle of buying the same games year after year, the very same games they’re moaning about.  Well fear not for I have a solution.  Buy a new console.

Yes, a new console should kick-start gamers’ minds into buying exciting and original software that they claim they so desperately desire in order to demonstrate to themselves what their shiny new piece of kit can do.  Surprisingly, I’m not talking about the Wii U.  Not that I have anything against Nintendo’s new console, but I can’t see myself splashing out when I’ve already played most of the launch line-up I’m interested in on my 360 and PS3.  No, the consoles I have in mind are much more affordable.  And smaller.  And judging by the sales figures it’s probable that you don’t own one of either.

You’ve probably sussed it out that I am of course talking about the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita.  I’m fortunate enough to own them both (the former in its XL guise) and I absolutely adore them.  Admittedly, I haven’t given them as much attention as I’d like to, but I’m finding myself wanting to play their games more than the ones on their home console counterparts.  The list of killer games may be limited in comparison, but nevertheless it is here that the industry’s creativity and imagination has relocated.  The 3DS’s and Vita’s games are dashing, daring and inventive, and that’s in part due to their handheld nature.  What home console game can you say the same about this year?

For instance, the Nintendo 3DS is the only place you can play the latest and greatest Mario Kart, a 3D remake of arguably the most fondly remembered Zelda to date, and the best Resident Evil this side of Resi 4.  And let’s not forget Super Mario 3D Land and Kid Icarus: Uprising either.  Sure, these games aren’t new IPs, but their diversity means that accusations of spilling over into one overall genre are avoided.  Kart racer, survival/horror, platformer, and not a single military shooter in sight.  People may lament the absence of a built-in second circle pad (Nintendo certainly missed a trick with the XL there), but if I’m honest it hasn’t really fazed me.  And the naysayers who claim the 3DS’s specs can’t do diddlysquat need only look at Resident Evil: Revelations to see that there’s some seriously impressive tech working behind that magical 3D screen, the 3D in question also being bloody brilliant.

The Vita, on the other hand(held), is certainly lacking in terms of essential games, I can’t deny, but while their numbers are few, their quality is in no doubt.  With the exception of Mass Effect 3 and Telltale’s superb The Walking Dead, Gravity Rush is the only game this year that has effortlessly kept me coming back for more.  It looks jaw-droppingly stunning in motion on Vita’s OLED screen, and is bursting at the seams with charm and imagination.  It’s a game that simply wouldn’t work as well anywhere else other than on Sony’s handheld, and for me it totally justifies the asking price of a Vita in the first place.  More recently we have LittleBigPlanet PS Vita which gives the impression that the console was built entirely with LBP squarely in mind.  Better still, the near infinite amount of free user-generated games provide the perfect answer as to how Sony can compete in the age of 69p smartphone games.

I understand it’s hard to hand over your hard earned cash for either Nintendo’s or Sony’s new handhelds when their catalogues of essential games aren’t exactly brimming at the moment.  But what I’m trying to say is that when those few games are some of the most original and inventive on the market, a remedy to the barrage of samey sequels, then it must be worth considering a purchase?  Let’s not forget that it’s still pretty early days for both consoles, and looking to the future there are some tasty looking games on the way.  Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, Castlevania Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate and Epic Mickey: The Power of Illusion are exclusively headed to the 3DS, and Sony are finally putting some of their A teams on Vita, with original LittleBigPlanet devs Media Molecule giving us the cute looking Tearaway and Sony Cambridge (now part of Guerrilla Games) grinding the console’s innards to project near PS3-like visuals from Killzone: Mercenary.

Third party support is also ramping up for Vita, which at the end of the day is what it’ll live or die on.  Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation is looking hugely impressive and Black Ops: Declassified… less so.  But don’t let that put you off.  All Vita needs is its own GTA, Metal Gear, Monster Hunter (primarily for Japan), or that long promised BioShock as well as brand spanking new IPs like Gravity Rush and you’ll wonder why you waited so long to get one.  Throw in PS1 Classics and inclusion in PlayStation Plus and Vita’s one tempting proposition.  Don’t bother waiting for the redesign – it may never happen – because Vita’s near perfect as it is.  But either way, not matter what handheld you prefer, if you are beginning to grow jaded by the current crop of home console games then you owe it to yourself to give one of them a whirl.  Christmas is nearly here, after all.




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One Comment

  1. Ian says:

    Good points well made. Going back a few years, the PSP was a bastion of trialling ideas and creativity, so it’s unsurprising to see the torch carried in to the next generation of handhelds. Although, I’d say that the examples you pick out on the 3DS so mostly read as just further iterations of already established games/franchises, rather than being new and creative in their own right.

    Another place to look would be the PC – and I’m not talking the £1000 ultimate gaming pc experience either. There are literally thousands of indie games out there, often retailing for much less than a tenner, that would run on nothing more complicated than a calculator. Some of the ideas and experiences coming out of the indie scene at the moment are amazing, and while there are a lot of duds – not everything can be a success, after all – there are many experiences hidden out there that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.

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