Let’s Chat: Are Games Too Long Now?

– This article was originally posted on 19th March 2018 and is being updated and archived here. Whilst situations have changed, I reckon a lot of the subject matter is still very relevant! –


A mix of work and a lack of a major theme in the gaming news recently has led Ashley Harrison and I to wonder: how are we ever going to play all the good games from last year, let alone the ones coming in 2018? It’s a topic that is coming up more and more as publishers release massive games boasting of their huge scope; is it really a good thing just to be a long game? The latest Let’s Chat delves into the subject!


William Robinson: So, Ash, in a week with no particularly standout theme, I think it’s a good chance to talk about just how long games are now. Is it just me, or are these impressive 100-hour experiences no longer the great sales pitch they used to be? Last year, with ZeldaHorizonPersona, and more, it was unrealistic for anyone to play everything.

Ashley Harrison: Length definitely isn’t a great selling point any longer. With the examples you just mentioned and more, it seems like the majority of “AAA” games recently are striving to build as big an open world as possible to expand playtime, but at the expense of the game’s overall quality and uniqueness.

There is a lot of content in Persona 5

WR: It also depends greatly on the situation, too – after finishing University, I had a window where playing 80 hours of Horizon was possible, but now I’m attempting to be an adult with a full-time job I struggle to see how I can keep up with EVERYTHING. What’s your situation? Do you think that it’s always been like this, and people just have their lives change?

AH: I’m not even in full time employment and I still find it hard to keep up with everything. It’s getting to a point now where if I see a game has open-world as a “selling point” it puts me off it completely. I just look at some of the games you mentioned – Zelda (I’ve beat one Divine Beast), Horizon (I’ve barely even gotten into the game), Persona I haven’t even bought. I don’t think it’s always been like this at all, I think it’s people who played a few open world games, and developers think people just want bigger and bigger open worlds nowadays, even though they’re 90% empty every single time.

WR: You’re right there, the rise in popularity of the open-world game has definitely changed things. This is why I’ve never really been an Assassin’s Creed guy; I feel there is little reason behind the things you’re collecting, and its just a waste of time. On the other hand, I find myself really enjoying shorter titles like Firewatch or Oxenfree, as I get a satisfying sense of completing something. I know I’ll probably never beat Persona 5, though.

A landscape view in Firewatch

AH: I’m with you entirely on that. Give me a linear, closed world any day of the week over an open world, at least that way everything I do relates to the storyline, and as such, means I’m closer to finishing the game every time. Whereas with open worlds, I just find they’re too big and too slow to get across, so I always end up getting sidetracked by something. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing all the time, but I do like to feel as though I’ve made progress towards the end of the game, rather than just do a load of stuff that is likely useless by the end of the game (should I ever see it).

WR: Is that a problem with the genre though, or the design? Horizon, for example, felt less of a chore for me; while massive, the game was achievable to complete or even 100%. Some games just go way too far – being impossible to complete isn’t appealing to me. Funnily enough, Spyro did it quite well scale-wise.

AH: I think for sure it’s a problem with the genre rather than design; there’s only so much you can fit into an open world without repeating anything, so the rest is mostly just barren space that looks exactly the same no matter where you are.

The world of Horizon Zero Dawn is varied and fascinating

WR: Or maybe one further, is it expectations? I think publishers are scared of being viewed as inferior in terms of scale, while more focused worlds – such as Yakuza, which Jim Sterling recently praised for a smaller but focused world – can actually be more interesting.

AH: Yeah, I guess it could be that developers are scared of being inferior. For me, Mario Odyssey hit the sweet spot for an open-world game, interestingly. The levels are big, but not bloated, and there’s always something happening somewhere in every world.

WR: A few games have done that – having a bunch of mini-open-worlds that stand separate from each other. Skyward Sword did it, and so did Dragon Age: Inquisition, and I think it makes those games more palatable. What are your favourite open-world games?

For me, Mario Odyssey hit the sweet spot for an open-world game, interestingly.

Ashley Harrison

AH: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is definitely up there for sure. I can’t really think of anything other than it that shouts “truly open world game I enjoyed enough to remember off the top of my head”.

WR: Would you say your taste in games has changed over time, and you look for different things now? I mean – what are you most anticipated games this year, too? There may be a theme.

AH: Yeah, I’d be lying if I said my tastes hadn’t changed, but I think that’s as a result of the games industry changing as well. As for what I’m most looking forward to, gimme a sec. [Pause as Ashley gathers his reply] Detective PikachuNi No Kuni 2Far Cry 5Hyrule Warriors Definitive EditionVampyrCaptain ToadOctopath TravellerLuigi’s Mansion, and The World Ends With You Final Remix.

WR: I mean, Ni No KuniOctopath and The World Ends With You are pretty extensive right?

AH: Ni No Kuni 2 and Far Cry 5 are for sure. However, not so much for Octopath (assuming it’s anything like the Bravely Default games) or The World Ends With You.

The World Ends With You -Final Redux- is an updated version of the original game

WR: Maybe we just have to accept that the way we play games will change. I find myself holding these big games back now for lengthy periods off; I’m not a big fan of playing a couple hours each night during a week. Maybe I’m getting old?

AH: Yeah, us getting old could definitely be a factor, haha. We’re losing the energy to dedicate hours upon hours into games.

WR: I joke, I joke. I still have a lot of excitement for games, especially with Captain ToadSpyro (hopefully) and Shadow of the Tomb Raider on the way. You know, actually, I think the issue is there is just so much good stuff nowadays, from TV to films to games. There is so much quality content to consume, and the sadness comes from the possibility of missing some of it.

AH: Too much to play/do/watch, too little time to do it in. I guess for me personally, too, the fact I work Thursday to Sunday, means that if I start a game on a Monday, and haven’t finished it by Wednesday, I’m less likely to return to it after my “work break”, unlike if I had say, the weekend off, where I guess it’s more acceptable to just sit back and relax doing whatever.

There is so much quality content to consume, and the sadness comes from the possibility of missing some of it.

William Robinson

WR: It does make portable gaming more appealing. The Switch has had such a positive effect on many gamers with less time to, well, game, and that’s another audience Nintendo has done a great job at tapping into. Alternatively, we’re just complaining too much and I should be spending this time playing Mario Odyssey.

AH: Yeah, you definitely should be playing Mario Odyssey rather than moaning about games with me.

WR: Hey, I feel attacked here. Why aren’t you playing, erm, one of a million great games?

AH: Because I already played a ton of I Am Setsuna on my Switch earlier. What’s your excuse for not playing Mario Odyssey yet?

WR: See, I like I Am Setsuna because it is achievable. That’s a solid 20-hour JRPG that I can finish and feel good about. Oh, and I have none. Captain Toad is in that game and I haven’t played it. What am I doing? What is the point of having a real job compared to that?

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is really enjoyable to pick up and play

AH: Anyway, we’ve digressed a lot, let’s forget about Mario for now. Yeah, from what I’ve played so far of I Am Setsuna, I can feel it’s going to be a fairly long game given it’s an RPG, but so far it’s had a linear world, so I do feel as though I’m actually progressing through the game at an acceptable rate.

WR: Look, you know digression is just the ways of things here! In all seriousness though, we should stop before we start getting too philosophical. Should we settle on celebrating how many great games there are, rather than them being too long? Or are you firmly sticking to open world games being flawed? I’m holding out for positivity here!

AH: You should know me, Will, I don’t do positivity, so I’m sticking firmly to the latter. The power of positivity isn’t flowing through my veins right now.

WR: Look, I tried. All in all, we came to the conclusion that… it’s different for everyone, based on their lives, I suppose. We have games to fill every need now – perhaps even too many. Maybe we can even play some before next week, eh?

AH: Definitely. And who knows, we might even finish one before then?


Ashley then proceeded to talk about pancakes, which led to my sadness at not having any. Ahem, back to the topic – we have such a plethora of media in the modern day that is can feel overpowering. Do you think it is too much sometimes? You can let us know in the comments!

Let’s Chat: So, That Nintendo Direct Was Pretty Great, Huh?

– This article was originally posted on 12th March 2018 and is being updated and archived here. I am bringing over the back catalogue of Let’s Chat gradually, and finding that going back to these moments in time has a nostalgic appeal! –


Fellow gamer Ashley Harrison and I experimented with a discussion format a while back, when we talked for way too long about The Last of Us Part II. Now, this format is coming back as a regular feature; starting here, the newly-named Let’s Chat will discuss a specific topic in each article. There was not much competition for the topic this time, as Nintendo blew us all away with a whole load of announcements in a Nintendo Direct last Thursday. Right, then – let’s get into it!


William Robinson: Hey Ash, how you doing? Recovering from the bombshells dropped by Nintendo? That Nintendo Direct last Thursday showed off the confident Nintendo we have at the moment, with a load of third-party support backing up massive announcements like Super Smash Bros., and, of course, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker! What was your initial reaction to the Direct?

Ashley Harrison: I think my initial reaction to the Direct was “I think Nintendo is finally going to be recognised as an actual console again!” because let’s face it, during both the Wii and Wii U days, the majority of “major” AAA developers skipped out on the console since it did not stand up to the rivals. However, with the ports of South Park: The Fractured But Whole and whatnot, I think it is finally going to change.

WR: I have gotta be honest, I think that realisation happened a while back. Nintendo has been riding the Switch wave for a while now, breaking sales records and releasing incredible games. We did see a bit more of the third-parties this time, but more on that in a bit; how about that Smash trailer, huh?

AH: Now, you are gonna hate me for this, but I honestly could not have cared less about it. I dislike Smash as a game, and I dislike its fanbase even more, so it did nothing for me personally. Although, I guess having the Smash logo show up in the Inkling’s eye was a pretty cool way to start.

WR: Hey, there is no problem with that opinion. Some games are not for everyone – though what if they put Spyro in? Also, that is how good the trailer was; even someone who is not a fan, like you, can see that it was awesome! What was your favourite reveal of the Direct, then?

AH: Nah, not even Spyro could save it for me, sans the ability to set everyone else on fire and win the game instantly. My favourite reveal was definitely Luigi’s Mansion on Nintendo 3DS! It is one of my favourite time killers, and knowing that the game was originally built with 3D functionality even back on the GameCube makes it cool that it is finally being realised on the 3DS.

That is one way to welcome a new participant

WR: Luigi’s Mansion? Wow, that is not what I expected. Do you not think it is an odd announcement though – not only that it is not on Switch, but that it is a game less feature-packed than the successor Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon? What are your general feelings on Nintendo continuing to make 3DS-only games like that and WarioWare Gold?

AH: Nope, I do not think it is an odd announcement at all. Let’s face it – Nintendo pretty much has 100% of the handheld market share; why not continue to produce games for the 3DS?

Let’s face it – Nintendo pretty much has 100% of the handheld market share

Ashley Harrison

WR: Because, well, people want their Switch games. The 3DS has to be near the end of its lifespan, right? You are seriously telling me you would not prefer Luigi’s Mansion on Switch?

AH: It is not that I would not prefer it on Switch, it is just I do not mind it is only coming to 3DS either. Not everything has to be put on Switch.

Luigi and the Mansion return! Say it with me: Maaaarrrrrrrio?!

WR: Right, we have gotta keep going, as there is a lot to cover here. Let’s talk ports – there are a lot of quality titles coming to Switch, but are you worried about how many are releases of old games?

AH: Nope, not at all. I have never understood people who are upset about re-releases, why not just enjoy the games you are getting? Just because you have already played something on another system, does not mean everyone has. It makes no sense to me.

WR: I agree with that, but the ratio of ports to new games was very lopsided in that Direct – I am not worried at the moment, but I hope we see some new games released alongside other consoles, which I think will happen with series like Call of Duty later this year.

AH: I am thinking the majority of new games are going to be saved for E3, this Direct just seemed like “here’s some old games that are coming to fill spots in our release schedule this year.

One of the series on the way to Switch is Dark Souls, adding to the library of games

WR: Yeah, and, “oh here is Smash Bros. too” However, the main focus of the Direct, at least according to Nintendo (they are trying) was Mario Tennis Aces. That do anything for you?

AH: Not really, I would be more interested in a new Mario Strikers game more than any other kind of sports spin-off. So yeah, Nintendo. Give us a new one of those.

WR: YES ASH. Those games were so good (and brutally tough) – I would love another one. Right, what else was there… Well, speaking of the ports, let’s run through a few. Crash BandicootSouth ParkUndertale… you think third-parties are committed to the Switch now?

AH: For sure I do, and I think the amount of third-party games shows that. Hopefully the releases keep up and don’t drop off!

It is great to see more and more games make their way to Switch – for example, Undertale

WR: Other than Luigi’s Mansion, what else stood out?

AH: Detective Pikachu! I have not got the slightest clue as to WHY I want it, all I know is that I NEED it!

WR: I like how you are that one guy excited about all the 3DS stuff. You are the one keeping it going, haha! Do not tell other fans, they will be after you…

Unlike in the Wii U days, there is really something for everyone

William Robinson

AH: This Direct just was not for me particularly, haha! Looking at the Switch announcements, I am not interested in Smash Bros. or Splatoon, and I already own the third-party games on my PlayStation 4, so I do not particularly want to double dip. Whereas on the 3DS side of things, it is stuff that either is not on a current generation console (Luigi’s Mansion) or just looks bats**t crazy (Detective Pikachu) and that is the kind of stuff that stands out and grabs my interest.

WR: It is nice to see that sort of different view though, and justifies Nintendo keeping their approach so scattershot at the moment. Unlike the Wii U days, there is really something for everyone – even just in that Direct. Would you agree with that view?

How did Detective Pikachu happen? All we know is that somehow it did

AH: That I would. And just to prove I am not trying to be some kind of weird hipster, I’m also super looking forward to Octopath Traveler. The Bravely Default games were among my favourites on the 3DS, so I am excited to see where this spiritual successor is going to go.

WR: The biggest shock was that name reveal. Who knew that Project Octopath Traveler would be called, wait for it, Octopath Traveler? In all seriousness, those hoping it would be called Final Fantasy XVI – there is a speculation line, and you crossed it. On a different topic, though: Nintendo has shown their hand with Smash, so do you think that is the focus for E3 (in the same style that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey have been for the previous two years)?

AH: I saw a thread on Twitter the other day, and each of the 4 playable character we have seen so far fit when you use OCTOPATH as an acrostic (?) O – Olberic C – ? T – Tressa O – ? P – Primrose A – Alfyn T – ? H – ? But yeah, I am fairly sure that Smash will be the focus of Nintendo’s E3 conference, especially with the game scheduled to release later on this year.

The art style of Octopath Traveler is stunning

WR: That is a cool theory that I actually can see being real. Yeah, and if they deck out their booth as a Nintendo Smash museum, that is gonna be awesome; in your mind, is E3 the next time Nintendo makes major announcements?

AH: It has to be if you ask me, but knowing Nintendo, I am sure we will hear of a new game before then with the usual “you’ll see more at E3” spiel.

WR: Makes sense. Before we go, I just want you to realise how much I have been restraining myself from making the whole conversation about Captain Toad. HE IS BACK, so who needs Smash Bros. (unless they put him in… )?

AH: I was wondering how long it would take for you to mention him, haha. I never played Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker on Wii U (it came out after I had lost all interest in the Wii U, to be honest) so it is definitely on my list of games to pick up on Switch – it just looks so much fun.

New Super Mario Odyssey-themed levels are being brought to Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker as well!

WR: Do it. That guy needs more recognition, doing all the hard work collecting power-ups for Mario. Such an ungrateful plumber.

AH: Let’s face it – he was the real star of Mario Odyssey and he deserves respect.

WR: I somehow still haven’t played Odyssey, so I am going to end this discussion and run away. See ya next time!

AH: You haven’t? God dammit, Will.

WR: Byeeeeee -disappears into the horizon-


Hopefully this format is working for you; if you have any suggestions on how we can improve this new series, you can let us know in the comments! Until then, you can also go here for the new archive page of Let’s Chat!

6 Wii U Games We Need on Switch

Recently, we looked at how the 3DS still has plenty of great games to play in 2018. The same can’t be said of the Wii U, a console Nintendo cut their losses on some time ago. Yet, the Wii U is still giving Nintendo Switch players plenty of joy, as Nintendo brings over the software highlights that would otherwise be trapped on the quirky system. We’ve seen it done with much success already – look at Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which has sold over 7 million copies – and more is on the way, as Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is scheduled for a Switch release in May. Despite these fantastic choices, there are plenty more Wii U games that would be easy wins and buy Nintendo development time on new entries in their beloved series. Let’s take a look at 6 of them, or rather, Captain Toad and 5 other games to bring over afterwards. Let’s just get Captain Toad on Switch, OK?


Captain Toad

Captain Toad 2

I regularly get urges to play Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, but I just know that the moment I play through it, a Switch edition will be confirmed. Sod’s law, y’know? This isn’t just my personal fanaticism talking, as Captain Toad would be a brilliant fit for the Switch. It was unexpectedly revealed at E3 2014 as a title that expanded upon the Captain Toad side puzzles in Super Mario 3D World, giving us a complete adventure starring the loveable Captain. He has no specific weapons and can’t even jump, but will find a way through hostile environments because he is just that great a guy. The bite-size nature of the levels makes them ideal for the handheld play Nintendo’s new hybrid allows; you could just imagine yourself loading up your Switch, playing a level, and then jumping out again. Come on Nintendo, get this game on Switch – and give Captain Toad a slot on the Smash Bros. roster, yeah?


Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

Tokyo

An obscure game on an obscure console, but if what my Tanuki Bridge co-writer Demelza Ward had to say is to be believed, also a very good game. I am one of the large crowd that hasn’t played this game, but I believe a new audience would be interested in picking it up on Switch – an audience that has bought into a massive JRPG in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (which has sold over 1 million copies since launching in December). Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is a crossover between two much-loved franchises, Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem, creating a JRPG with many Persona-like elements. You can summon unique magical elements through each character, and the focus on relationships is very Persona-like, even if it comes from the Fire Emblem side of this crossover. We see a lot of talk of Persona 5 being a great fit for the Switch, but that is so heavily tied to PlayStation – Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE could be the game to fill that slot. I know I’d jump in.


Super Mario 3D World

Mario

I try to be understanding, I really do, but when 3D World is glossed over in the discussion  of greatest 3D Mario games it is hard to keep quiet. The 3D Mario of the Wii U is an utterly phenomenal continuation of the series, full of creativity and inspiration around every corner. It deserves a 2nd chance for appreciation – the huge fanbase of Super Mario Odyssey could snap this up and revel in how exceptional it is; while Odyssey exploited Cappy for numerous clever puzzles, 3D World just constantly throws amazing ideas at you. Take the Double Cherry power-up, which creates copies of Mario for eccentric results, or the signature Cat Mario, which gives the plumber a level of traversal ability unlike we’ve seen before (it’s almost like how Breath of the Wild gave Link climbing, but to a slightly lesser degree). A Switch version needs to happen, to educate gamers to this masterpiece.


Pikmin 3

Pikmin.png

What a joyfully-realised game Pikmin 3 is. Growing on everything the first two titles did, and subtly using the Wii U GamePad to enhance the real-time strategy gameplay, Pikmin 3 was a dependably excellent game all the way through. The problem it had was how much rode on it at the time; Wii U struggled with a massive draught of major software releases in the first year, so when Pikmin 3 came along in July (more than half a year after the launch of the console) Nintendo fans were looking to it to be something special. It was certainly a fantastic game, but wasn’t ever going to save the Wii U; Pikmin 3 is the kind of game that would excel as a pleasant surprise hit between behemoth releases – which is exactly what it can be on Switch. Bundle all of the well-executed DLC in, and you’ve got a really worthwhile package for newcomers. Also, this has the best-looking fruit you’ll ever see in a video game. That is reason enough to play.


Super Smash Bros.

Smash.png

Of all of the games on this list, surely this is the easiest win for Nintendo? Take Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, merge the exclusive modes and stages of each into one package, include all of the DLC characters and stages, add Captain Toad too, and sell a gazillion units. There isn’t much else to say here! Nintendo is also launching their paid online service in September, so a major online-focused game such as Smash Bros. would be ideal to persuade audiences to sign up. Perhaps the only thing that could stop this happening is if Nintendo would prefer to commit to a fully new Smash Bros. game, but going by previous entries that would take years of development. Switch owners are already getting restless, you know…


Super Mario Maker

Maker

Super Mario Maker, like Super Smash Bros., seems a straightforward sell on Switch. However, the Wii U has a rare trump card over Switch for a game like this in the form of the GamePad. The ease of constructing levels using the stylus and touch functionality of the second screen is part of what rose Super Mario Maker to the top of the level-construction genre; the game was released on 3DS as well, which is again a dual-screen system. Nintendo would likely find a way to make it work on Switch, whether it is just flipping between menus on one screen or some other UI wizardry – either way, after the success of the Wii U and 3DS versions, we’re inevitably going to see Super Mario Maker appear again in some form. With more consoles sold than the Wii U already, an even bigger community could be created on Switch, and with it another feather in the online cap of Nintendo. They need reasons for people to pay for online, and this could be another one.


The Wii U didn’t light the world on fire, but it did get plenty of top-tier software releases, and it would be a great shame if the effort that went into them couldn’t reach the enormous audience that the Switch is tapping into. For the sake of gamers everywhere, let’s show them that the Wii U had a lot of highs amongst the lows, and give us even more great games to play on the Switch. We all win out of this scenario.

(Look, just work on getting Captain Toad over first Nintendo. The other 5 choices here are supplementary, and to make it look like I think of games other than Captain Toad.)