Happy Anniversary Mash Those Buttons
While going through our archives I noticed an article about how Miyamoto wanted to see a remake of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the 3DS. It came from a couple of years ago back in 2011, and it made me laugh to see it, seeing as how we’ve just seen the announcement that they’re working on a sequel to the game. Three years may not seem like that long a time to have been covering video games, but there is a whole lot of history that Mash Those Buttons has seen in the years since we first started this insane experiment.
I’m pretty sure that everyone remembers the time back when Duke Nukem Forever was in development. Seeing as there are kids who grew old enough to drive during its development cycle, saying you’ve been around since before Duke Nukem Forever was finished doesn’t mean much, does it? Still, we were just as cautiously optimistic as everyone else when Gearbox announced that it was going to turn Duke from the joke of the industry into an actual, real thing. The product that followed was, well… It was definitely a video game. I’m really not sure what everyone thought would happen when you try to update a crass, sexist game character for a video game that is fifteen years too late, but whatever people were hoping for did not occur. Still, I did get to throw poo, so five stars.
It was hardly the only game that went through a long development. I’d completely forgotten about how long it had taken the developers to produce Gran Turismo 5 right up until I saw an article from Robert Hill-Williams from back in October 2011. Since the game was first announced way back in 2005 before the PS3 was even out, that’s yet another absurdly long development time. It was being worked on for so long that Sony released Gran Turismo: Prologue, a game that played like a gigantic demo, in order to appease the fans who’d been waiting for so long. Hopefully, the recently announced Gran Turismo 6 takes a lot fewer years to wrap itself up and this doesn’t become a pattern.
Remember the time back when Ninja Gaiden used to be good? I do, and I still remember how hopeful it had made me for the release of Ninja Gaiden III (Not the one from 1991, which was good and also made the other ones look easy). Looking back on the GDC teaser posted back in March of 2011, I can see that Nick Santangelo was wondering how the series would fare without Itagaki. For those who are curious: Not well. Saying the game lost its way was like saying that being attacked by polar bears is inconvenient.
There were other hopes and dreams getting crushed all those years ago. There was a big push for a fighting game called Arcana Heart 3, if you can recall. The original was a decent fighting game for the PS2, with the second one being so comically bad that it was never released in North America. I have a copy of it in my home, and it’s so unplayable and terrible that I hang it over my front door to ward off evil spirits in the night. Folks still had hope that the third one would come out over on these shores, bringing its own brand of all-girl street-fighting to the world stage. As some Japanese games that are destined to release here tend to do, though, Arcana Heart 3 just disappeared off the face of the Earth, never to be heard from again.
Not getting good Japanese games has left a lot of gamers bitter and jaded, so it wasn’t much of a surprise to see how many people didn’t think Project Rainfall would go anywhere. Looking back at it only weeks after the release of Pandora’s Tower, the third and final game the project had been petitioning to have brought over to North America, I have some hope that we might just see some more weird games coming to our shores again. Still, there was a period not too long ago when Nintendo swore that the games weren’t coming out. Then they were. Then out of nowhere we recently get an announcement that Earthbound is coming to virtual consoles. Nintendo knows how to play with my feelings; that much is for sure.
As for other Japanese games we still haven’t seen, the first word we wrote about The Last Guardian was that it was being delayed way back in April of 2011. Given the popular response the game has received since it was first shown, it’s strange that the game hasn’t shown almost any progress since that article first went up. Given the departure of Fumito Ueda (the man behind the game and such others as Ico and Shadow of the Colossus) from Sony, I have a feeling there won’t be any more developments with this interesting game. Every once in a while someone from Sony swears the project isn’t dead (although the last person we reported saying it was Ueda himself), but I have a hard time believing them. It’s a shame that something that showed so much promise is now just a bizarre footnote in gaming’s history.
While on the subject of bad developments over at Sony, 2011 was also the year of the month of downtime for Sony’s online service. Hacked to death and with personal information stolen, Sony kept pretty quiet on the extent of the damage for a couple of weeks before coming clean about how bad things were. It took them a while to get things running again, only to have to take the network down yet again only a little while after they’d brought it back online. I still have a free copy of Infamous on my PS3 from that mess, although it’s hardly on par with the ridiculous Canadian lawsuit that was leveled against Sony. Nothing ever came of it and I never got my piece of that sweet billion dollars, but at least I got my free Infamous.
That was just the start of a hacking storm that hit just about everyone during this period. A group known an Lulzsec just up and decided that they wanted to ruin everyone’s day all the time, and systemically went after Nintendo, Bethesda, Epic Games, EVE Online, The Escapist, Minecraft, and lots of other places. They seemed to be doing it just for giggles, judging from the statements made at the time. With no real agenda besides driving anyone crazy, I still can’t even type the name of their group without feeling a boiling rage coming on. It is my sincere hope that everyone involved with the group died in some horrible chemical accident since the events of that time, although some arrests did put a smile on my face.
This was also around the time that Brown V. EMA was going to the courts. Leland Yee and Schwarzenegger were teaming up to fight the greatest threat America had ever faced: the dreaded video game, with the youth of tomorrow on the line. Unfortunately for them, the Supreme Court seemed to know what that dang ol’ First Amendment thing was and squashed the bill, although it would hardly be the last time that such absurd bills would be decided by the courts. SOPA and PIPA were not far behind trying to regulate the internet as well. It’s some scary stuff, but we’ve all been lucky so far.
For some good news, we were there as the music game fad started its absurd downward spiral. Looking back on an announcement that the Guitar Hero franchise wasn’t tanked but merely on hiatus, I think most gamers knew that the writing was on the wall. After a good couple of years of music games getting pumped out the doors by Activision, the fad was just losing steam. It was another hit built on the back of the fickle casual gamer, and like the Wii, the user base was starting to lose interest. It’s fun to pick up a plastic guitar now and again these days, but it’s weird to think of the times when game stores were choked, floor to ceiling, with these instruments.
For those of you who bought the 3DS when it first came out, you might recall a seething anger around the time when a price cut was announced for the system. Now, I’ve bought a lot of systems around launch day and have always felt a little depressed when I see a price drop coming before I’ve really put in any time with the system (hello, dusty old Wii). The 3DS was far worse, with the price drop coming so soon that Iwata himself had to issue an apology. Given that this apology lead to reams of free games for the people who bought the system early it wasn’t too bad, but I imagine it was even sweeter for those super-smart jerks who bought the system for cheaper and still got the free games. I sold more than a few of those systems back when I worked at Gamestop, and I was surprised that the look I gave some of these people didn’t kill them on the spot.
On the development scene, it seems like the folks behind Dead Island never learned their lessons after the whole FeministWhorePurna skill fiasco. They apologized for it after some clever gamers found the item in the game’s code, and somehow completely forgot all of the trouble it got them in when they released the images of the woman’s torso edition for Dead Island: Riptide. Apparently, they don’t have very good memories, or they were at least hoping that the gaming community didn’t.
Hideo Kojima also said that he didn’t want to direct Metal Gear Solid V, but he says that all the time about every Metal Gear and no one believed him. He’s like a guy who keeps eying your ice cream but swearing he doesn’t want some when you ask. Even wilder was when Miyamoto was supposed to have stepped down, which was something else that thankfully wasn’t true. While I’d be interested to see what would happen to Metal Gear without Kojima, I don’t know how Nintendo would be without Miyamoto kicking around to keep things flying straight.
Another funny footnote that slipped my mind was the whole Ocean Marketing thing. I think we can be forgiven for forgetting it, but that was when a guy ordered a controller from Ocean Marketing, sparking off what was probably the worst example of customer service I’d ever seen. Christoforo might have thought he could have treated his customer like crap, but he didn’t realize what would happen when his words were put out before the entire internet, drawing the attention of Mike Krahulik and just about anyone on the internet with some spare time. The results are insane, hilarious, and captured perfectly in an article by Robert Hill-Williams. I forgot just how bizarre this whole thing got.
Far less funny was the Cross Assault debacle. One particular member of a web show about fighting games, Bakhtanians, decided that not only could he be a mouthy, sexist jerk, but that he needed to claim it was part of the fighting scene to do so. It’s not his fault he’s an awful human being, as he was only doing his job to support his community. Seeing some of the seedy side of the fighting game scene brought it to light for the rest of us, so we can at least be thankful that Bakhtanians brought his tasteless behavior before the world so we could all start stamping it out.
In other sad news, we got to witness the final moments of Nintendo Power magazine in December of 2012. It was a particularly depressing time for many of us given how many years we’d spent poring over the pages looking for secrets that would let us have a chance to beat our favorite games. It had become clear over the years just how irrelevant a lot of magazines had become, though. As sad as I was to see it go, I still felt I had a lot of hope for the future. After all, the current gaming news world was what allowed me a chance to take on my current position.
More positively, we started seeing some real drops in Facebook games over the time since we started up. There was a time when pundits were claiming that Facebook games would be the death of all other games, and everyone seemed to be jumping aboard the fad just as they had for the Wii and music games. Seeing it fall into decline was deliciously sweet, and it’s something I expect to see happen in the Android and IOS game space within the next few years as well. These markets aren’t sustainable, kiddies! They’re built on people who don’t really like games! Get in, get the money you can, and then get out. We’ve seen enough fads over the years to know what’s coming.
There was some interesting stuff going on from within the game journalism industry this year, too. With the Game Media Awards came a lot of questions about the people who review games. Were they all being honest? Were things like free review copies, getaways, and other kickbacks from companies making it possible for game journalists to be completely honest? It’s an excellent question, and one I think any good reviewer should keep asking every day. Corruption can come very easily in this industry, and it’s unfortunately up to the readers to find it.
A lot of people have gotten really sick of DLC and all of the shenanigans attached to it this year, too. Items that used to be given away with games to enhance them were being held back to sell as DLC, and with microtransactions on the way it looks like things are only going to get worse. Many gaming sites have weighed in on the crooked ways that game publishers are trying to pry our wallets open, and while not a lot may be being done with it, at least a dialogue has begun. From what I’ve seen in my time here, gamers are becoming more savvy and educated questioning policies and pushing back against things they don’t like or appreciate. With the fall of the Online Pass at EA I’m a little hopeful, though.
We’ve seen a whole lot of bizarre news over our three year span, and this doesn’t even begin to touch on all of the strange events that you see when covering the industry. It’s an exciting place, though, and there’s nowhere that any of us would rather be than keeping you informed. As the indies have grown more prevalent and big studios have scrambled for cash and relevance, we’ve been there and will continue to be there to keep you informed. Thanks for staying with us during this time and for watching this strange industry alongside us. We’ll try to keep you posted on every bizarre, sad, funny, and interesting thing in the future.