A few weeks back I was thinking of how much I miss Hack ‘n Slash games. Some of the best were on PS2 with both the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and Champions of Norrath series of games. For whatever reason those “Diablo-clones” were better than Diablo itself was for me. I really wanted to sink my teeth into a portable game again like Untold Legends PSP again. To my surprise on 3/15/16 Sony released a new game for me to go dungeon crawling with called Murasaki Mist: Akara’s Journey. Ecstatic at the chance to go on a grindy lootfest for only $8 on my Vita I jumped at it. All I could find was a trailer from E3 2014 that looked promising enough. Tack on the extra dev time between now and then and I’m sure it’s even better. It was too new and too low-key to have any reviews… but what the hell, YOLO or something, right?
I’ve had a long history of spending hours with handheld gaming. Thinking on it I’d have to say it goes all the way back to the original GameBoy. I’m sure for most that’s where it starts in one form or another. Nintendo really put some legs on that machine, stretching it out until 2001 when they finally released a successor in the form of GameBoy Advance. For some perspective on just how incredibly long of a shelf life it had, before transitioning to complete support of the GBA Nintendo had sold the original NES, SNES, N64, and GameCube while selling original GameBoy games. Sure there was a flurry of redesigns with the GameBoy Color, GameBoy Light, and GameBoy Pocket – All of which were spruced up form factors that shared the same gaming library. Nintendo established a firm lock on the handheld market and created a rich legacy of portable experiences. Several other companies tried to jump in with their own offerings, all of which were met with weak sales before eventual abandonment. Atari Lynx, Sega GameGear, Tiger’s Game.Com, Bandai WonderSwan, and the side talking Nokia N-Gage to name a few.
There’s a good reason why Nintendo has held the market as tightly as they did. Personally I have a ton of fond memories with the original GameBoy. Even before Pokemon took the world by storm, I dumped tons of hours into both of the Super Mario Lands, Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and Tetris. That torch carried into the GBA’s remodel (the GBA SP) as it was the only system I owned for awhile. I remember spending countless nights playing Final Fantasy Tactics Advance or one of several SNES era ports/spiritual sequels like Metroid Zero Mission or Mario Kart Super Circuit. Nintendo always stacked a potent and varied catalog of games that pulled you into that tiny sub-3″ screen. Speaking of which having a backlit screen and rechargeable lithium-ion battery made it the perfect solution to play in bed. Eventually they had to lose some steam though and the DS released to an eager audience with no new content. Thankfully Nintendo had the foresight to include the ability to play GameBoy and GameBoy Advance cartridges to help carry new owners through that drought. It wasn’t until the DS Lite launched that it really caught fire by it’s own right and eventually grew to become the best selling handheld system of all time at 154m units sold. Between the DS and the Wii, Nintendo was banking enough money to buy an island made of pure gold. Times were good and Nintendo remained untouchable in the handheld space. There’s always another side to every tale though…
Earlier in the year PSN ran a sale focusing on Japanese developed games. At the time I was looking for a break from Destiny and the seriousness of western style games in general so I figured this was the perfect gateway out. I ended up blind purchasing Hatsune Miku: Project Diva 2nd f, Sword Art Online Re: Hollow Fragment, and Tales of Hearts R. Surprisingly the most cohesive title of the bunch ended up being Tales. Previously I never thought of myself as much of a Tales fan. I played Tales of Symphonia on GameCube back when it released over a decade ago, but hadn’t touched another (of the many) Tales games until 2012 with Vesperia. It made me realize that Symphonia wasn’t a fluke in their catalog and the series might be worth a closer look. Eventually that’d lead me to the rerelease of Tales of the Abyss on 3DS, and most recently to Hearts R. All well built JRPGs that stay the path instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. Honestly, I’m completely comfortable with that. Either way, let’s focus on the title at hand.
This is something we’ve all heard before. Usually at the start of a system’s life it’s the initial barrier of entry. The Vita has “no games”. The Wii U has “no games”. Now the PS4/Xbox One have “no unique games”. There’s always some weird qualifier to discredit what IS available on a system. Grand Theft Auto 5 is a perfect example, it “doesn’t count” because it’s available on other platforms. Or because it’s a remaster. Or because the wind is blowing east. It really comes down to whoever is making their case skewing the details to reinforce the image of X platform isn’t worth owning. What it (should) all boil down to is the game available on the system, and have you (personally) played it before? Because I’m not sure about you, but there are about a billion games that I should have played per critics and friends that I just never found time to get to. GTA5 is in that category. So why shouldn’t I add that to the pile of reasons for me to own my PS4?
I realize this isn’t any great epiphany that fanboys gonna fanboy. It’s still fresh on my mind though as this week saw a blowout of content on PS4. I mean, just look at all this:
- Tell Tales’ Game of Thrones Episode 3
- Life is Strange Episode 2
- Borderlands: Handsome Collection
- Slender: The Arrival
- Metal Slug 3
There is probably over 100 hours of quality gaming in there. A lot of people will run down that list and without ever trying the game just write it off though as “nope, not into that kind of game”, running with a bias they formed years ago off a remotely similar game. Which whatever, that’s fine if you want to ignore a new experience. What that means this is really coming down to isn’t “There aren’t any games on X!“, but really “there aren’t any games that I want to give a try on X“. If that’s the case, maybe it’s time you start to try something new?
Gaming is an odd duck sometimes. You see a game being played and think that it’d be a boring ride. Why bother spending hours playing some derivative throwback when there are tons of new games you haven’t experienced anything like them before? In this case, why play Mutant Mudds over Towerfall: Ascension or Final Fantasy 14? Somehow that “12-bit” platformer built to utilize the 3D effect of the 3DS just went from zero interest to all trophies earned inside of five sittings for me, and I’m not even sure if I enjoyed it?