Gaming round-up: What does Shenmue's success spell for the industry?

If you'd have told me six months ago that Shenmue 3 would be announced and that I'd have actually put money down on a copy, I'd have laughed and laughed. Then I'd have curled up into a ball and cried.

The franchise that everybody loves but nobody played has been funded on Kickstarter, and creator Yu Suzuki is already talking about how this won't be the game that finishes Ryo's story off.

You have to love his optimism, but perhaps not his business practises. Two games, two massive cliff hangers, 15 years - there comes a point where you have to admit defeat and just finish off that plot.

I have visions of myself as an 80 year old man, hooked up to life support machines (anything for a good time), hearing that Shenmue 4 is finally being made. It might be the thing that finishes me off, which will be mildly annoying to say the least.

But what does it say about the state of gaming that it takes Shenmue 3 - or the Final Fantasy VII remake - to get us really excited about the industry again?

There's not much to look forward to, except things that we've spent the last decade looking back on.

That's not taking away from new IPs or more recent sequels. The Witcher 3 is one of the best games ever made, and it came out within the last month or two.

But the internet breaking, megaton announcements that leave us squealing in public places are few and far between, because there's so little that actually matters to us.

It's not stagnation when it's exactly what your customer base wants, but maybe what we want isn't what is good for the industry.

 

Bethesda's Pete Hines has gone on record saying that they're not trying to blow people away visually with Fallout 4.

Instead, he says, he wants to make a massive open world where you can interact with everything and everybody.

I'm not one of the people that found the Fallout 4 reveal to be unattractive, but his excuse just doesn't fly.

We're living in the age of open world. A game isn't a game unless you have to travel hundreds of virtual miles to get to the next bit of plot point. If you can't pick up old bits of candle, used underwear and mouldy food, the immersion just doesn't feel right.

But with absolutely everybody adding these features to their games, Bethesda needs to step it up if they want their games to remain relevant in three or four years time.

There's a reason people are still talking about Skyrim. It pushed the envelope and did what few other companies even tried. It also created an environment where developers feel they need to match it.

Fallout 4 won't have that long a legacy if it struggles to stand out from the crowd, and Hines' attitude towards visuals inadvertently tells a story of its own.

They want to be the best at what they do, and that's admirable. But in certain areas, it seems they are content to rest on their laurels where others will now look to innovate.

 

It's not bad enough that marketing departments throughout the industry tease teasers and announce announcements, but now we have to put up with "super-teases" as well.

That's how Naughty Dog's Scott Rohde described his non-hint at further announcements for the Nathan Drake Collection. 

A "super-tease," we have to assume, is like a regular tease, but for something so awesome that you can't even imagine it.

So people started considering additional games being added, or minor remakes with major features from the third game appearing in the first.

What it'll likely be is a single player demo for the fourth main game in the franchise, or a nice background for your home screen. Interesting, yes, but by no means would a "super-tease" be at all necessary.

No doubt, once we find out the less-than-interesting thing that is to be announced, Rohde and colleagues will privately grumble about just how entitled gamers can be.

 

Released last week

 

Rory Mcllroy PGA Tour

Metacritic: 62 (PS4), 63 (Xbox One)

Take a state-of-the-art game engine used to simulate massive space battles and epic warzones and apply it to the world of brightly coloured trousers and polite clapping. 

It's the first time in 16 years that a game in this franchise has been released without Tiger Woods on the cover. I'm sure he's crying into a wad of cash at the thought of not being linked to a game that has not at all impressed the critics, despite it bragging three (three!) unique swinging styles.

The Guardian complained about the cutting back on locations and characters, while Metro said it felt too much like a launch title, with no advanced features for long term players to enjoy.

It wasn't all doom and gloom though. PlayStation Lifestyle praised the visuals and fantasy courses, so it'll be worth a buy if you've ever dreamed of golfing across a Battlefield 4 influenced aircraft carrier. No? Us neither.

 

Godzilla

Metacritic: 38 (PS4)

For the last two decades, there has been a lot of discussion about the Citizen Kane of video games. The Last of Us is the current title holder, but Godzilla was always bound to take its place, right?

This long-awaited PlayStation exclusive lets you smash Japanese cities in an attempt to raise your G-level, whatever that is. The more you smash, the more things will try to kill you. It's a classic catch-22 situation, solved only by smashing more stuff.

Despite that exciting premise, critics were not at all impressed. GamesRadar said the fighting system was terrible, with frame rate issues, bad writing and endless grinding rounding out the experience.

The nostalgia was praised by multiple publications though, with 60 years of Godzilla history brought to life on screen. Even Mothra wasn't enough to drag the Metacritic score above the average though.

 

Tembo the Badass Elephant

Metacritic: 72 (PS4), 70 (PC), 70 (Xbox One)

It's not very often that the developers behind the Pokemon franchise step away from Nintendo, but this is their latest attempt to break their RPG tedium. It's a 2D platformer about a badass elephant. You collect nuts while fighting bad guys. There's not much else that needs to be said.

Polygon compared it favourably to the original Sonic the Hedgehog, saying it was more about speed and momentum than the bad title would have you believe.

Push Square was less impressed, saying the moments where you sped through levels were excellent, but that the gameplay slowed down far too often.

 

Released this week

 

King's Quest: A Knight to Remember 

It's been 17 years since the last King's Quest game and after multiple attempts Activision and Sierra have finally managed to get out another one. You'd have thought they'd have taken the hint.

Still, with the involvement of Christopher Lloyd (Great Scott!) and Wallace Shawn (Inconceivable!), they're not at all approaching it half-heartedly. Ignore all the marketing talk about how it's a "re-imagining" of the franchise and it might even be worth checking out.

Like any modern adventure game worth its salt, A Knight to Remember will be released episodically. That's great news for all the dozens of people who love starting a game in July and finishing it at Christmas.

It'll be available to download on PS3, PS4, PC Xbox 360 and Xbox One next week. 

 

Legend of Kay Anniversary

A decade ago, Legend of Kay was released on PlayStation 2 and the world was changed - for the three people that bought it, anyway.

Flash forward and it's getting a re-release on the PlayStation 4, Wii U, PC and Xbox One. You play as a ninja cat on his quest to take on a deadly gorilla army. Even with a plot like that, reviews at the time of release were mixed. 

Maybe this re-release will be a blessing in disguise for the franchise and this time next year we'll all be travelling around on Legend of Kay branded trains, eating Legend of Kay branded ham and watching Legend of Kay branded breakfast television. Or, more likely, even those original three purchasers will give this one a miss.

By Mathew Growcott

Add your comment