Being a king has many advantages, you get to tell people what to do while sitting on a throne all day among other things. Little King’s Story for the Wii let’s us see how well a monarchy can work with a boy on the throne.
In LKS your mission is to take over the world and make your kingdom #1, starting out with a rundown barn for a castle you’ll need to branch out and start clearing out territories to build your kingdom. Gameplay is similar to Pikmin meets Harvest Moon in how the world works. In your “castle” you can spend money earned from fighting enemies to upgrade the various districts of your land or improve the stats of your villagers. Each new building bought will change the landscape outside which is great for that “one more turn” feeling seen in strategy titles. When it’s time to go out into the world and conquer you’ll assemble your guard from outside. Certain buildings will allow your citizens to become a different job such as farmer or cook, some for free others with a cost; each job has a unique benefit which will help you out in the field.
As you explore the world your followers will be right behind you ready to jump into action. Characters are ordered through the charge command which will send out the lucky servant forward, if he/she comes to anything that they can interact with then they will start working/fighting/digging/ etc. To make the various lands habitable you’ll need to take out the guardian which is a boss fight with a unique monster; once a land has been cleared you can then start putting up buildings from the menu at your throne. You can tell that the character designer had some fun with some of the unusual creatures you’ll face. Even more unusual then the creatures in the world are the story.
While I’m not going to spoil the story for you the game features some of the weirdest cutscenes I’ve seen in some time. On your quest you’ll have to deal with 7 unique kings who each have a kingdom in the world. Let’s just say that you haven’t fought anything like these guys in awhile. The animation style of the cutscenes has a storybook like effect to it that I enjoyed. As evident of my last post I enjoyed LKS but it is not without its problems.
First off the game does not feature any IR functions for the Wii Mote, meaning that you will not be using the pointer for anything in the game. At first it sounds manageable until you face multiple enemies at the same time. The game’s auto target feature is horrible for picking out specific enemies when they are within a certain distance of each other, an issue easily fixed if I could just point at who I want beaten up. There are also weird arbitrary times when the camera stays in a specific position which I have no idea why that position is so important that can make getting around a pain. All this adds up to a sub par interface for the game which also comes back to bite you when you are trying to manage all those villagers. Other then the “royal guard” group there is no way to set up custom groups of villagers to be used at any time. The badge system of assigning troops to your service only makes them go to the royal guard, which then requires you to go back and find the guy who was kicked out and add him back in when you are ready to go out.
Making life even harder is that your followers will frequently get stuck on objects when you are trying to get around carefully and as an even bigger slap, if a follower falls off a small height on their own they will lose health and could even die. An issue that becomes all the more annoying when you are playing on hard mode. Speaking about health, the king has the lowest health out of everyone and one lucky hit can send you to the “life over” screen making me wish that there was a way to save out in the field.
Overall with these complaints I still enjoyed LKS, unique titles like LKS come around very rarely and is another game that I would love to see a sequel to. LKS can be added to that very short list of challenging great Wii titles and is worth a look at.
In my den I have over $1,000 worth of this and last generation console titles and their respective systems. In this room I have a pc that I spent over $2,000 getting the parts together, so why this past year have I spent more time playing a Nintendo DS and recently the PSP? Growing up I can say that I’m one of the people who followed the rebirth of the Games industry from 1988 and on. I remember a time where the handhelds were really the hand me down platform of the industry. For this entry I’m going to break apart the handheld platform with a look at its growth, the future, design challenges for it and lastly use all that to analyze the Nintendo DS vs the PSP so once again get comfy as this is going to be a long one.
I can track the development of this platform through several generations of growth. The first generation is of course the original Game Boy, which was created by no small part by Gunpei Yokoi. Like the Nes with Super Mario Bros before it, the Game Boy needed a killer app and found it with Tetris, another franchise that would sky rocket to success. Funny enough I was forbidden to play the Game Boy when it first came out due to the quality of the screen and the lack of color giving me headaches from staring at it too long, an issue that has long since dissipated. Games at this time for the handheld were in the most part downsized versions of the NES. Many classic franchises had Game Boy titles released such as Super Mario Land, Castlevania, and Mega Man and so on. As the Game Boy matured we did see some titles that could take on its big brother the console such as the Legend of Zelda titles for it. As with the TV industry, the next big growth came with the addition of color.
The 2nd generation of handhelds came with the inclusion of color. Personally I think the color handhelds solidified the platform position as a part of the industry much in the same way the SNES did for the consoles. With color now replacing the hard to see background I was finally allowed to play game boy and it was around this time that handheld games started to become more complicated. Sega stepped into the handheld market with the game gear but it never achieved mass success like the game boy which I’ll talk about later when I look at designing a handheld game. Many handheld titles still felt like hand me downs from the consoles yet as consoles improved so did the handhelds.
The third generation and where I believe we are still at is where the handhelds broke away from the consoles to establish themselves as a separate platform. Personally I think the Game Boy Advance ushered in this generation as this was the first time I remember a handheld being described on terms with a console. I read a preview of it in Nintendo Power in which they said that the GBA was technology wise more powerful then the SNES and as someone who grew up playing everything I couldn’t believe that. Yet I was proven wrong as the variety of titles that came out started at the same level as the SNES and soon went past it. Handhelds have finally reached the point that they could pump out quality along the same lines as the consoles. The GBA and later GBA SP had a great source of RPGS and strategy titles, a trend that would continue on with the DS.
With the DS and PSP in full swing now I can definitely say that the handheld platform can now stand equal with that of the PC and console. The amount of quality and unique DS titles I’ve played these past 2 years is astonishing with many titles easily as developed or more so then console titles. I’ve found myself more amazed with each new handheld then I am with the console iterations as I can’t wait to see what they can put into them. The secret to the success of the platform is that designers finally see it as its own market and not to look down at it. However I think there is one thing missing still that will open up a fourth generation of handhelds.
While both the PSP and DS are great, they are still in my opinion 3rd generation handhelds. The next big leap in my opinion and what will bring us to the next generation is full online capability. No longer will we need hotspots or routers to go online but just turning on our handheld and we will be connected to the internet. Not only will this grow the DLC market but we could see MMOs having a new home on the handheld. The Monster Hunter series on the PSP has been an amazing success in Japan but unfortunately is limited here due to its ad hoc design. Now if handhelds could be online without the need of routers and such then games like Monster Hunter could become huge over here. With the release of the DSI and the upcoming release of the PSP Go I think we’re maybe one or two more design iterations from my vision. Moving on it’s time to talk about what goes into making a handheld title.
It’s all in the hands:
Creating a title for the handheld market is noticeably different then the console from several angles, first and foremost is the issue of the battery, you can’t leave a handheld on for extended periods without either running out of juice or being tied to the power cord. An issue that led to many problems with Sega’s Game Gear so many years ago What this means from a design point of view is that either levels need to be small enough to allow the player a chance to save, or the player should have the option to save just about anywhere. Now recently with the DS and PSP the sleep functions on both have been excellent although an in game quick save is always good. It should come to no surprise that you don’t have access to the same resources when designing a handheld game compared to a console and a designer needs to work around that whether from a control perspective or from a graphical one. Even with these constraints there are a few advantages the handhelds provide over the console.
While a developer will have to put up with some constraints when dealing with handhelds, it can be worth it when you look at the benefits. First is simply cost of development, being less powerful then the consoles also means you don’t need to spend as much money creating a game for it. This leads me to my next point originality, being cheaper to produce means that you can try different forms of game design without breaking the bank or your studio in the process. The DS is home to many unique titles and has become a haven for RPGS and strategy titles. I can think of several hits on the handhelds that wouldn’t have been developed for the consoles mainly due to how original they were. Now with all that said let’s take a look at the current grudge match, the DS vs the PSP.
This is a very interesting platform war due to how different the two platforms are from one another; first let’s take a look at the DS. Let me start by saying that I’m slightly biased towards the DS, having bought more games for it in the past 2 years then any current gen console or PC. The DS wins in the originality category hands down with too many games to list that could literally not be done on any other platform. There are of course shovelware titles for the DS but the quality easily out numbers them. As I mentioned earlier the DS is home to some of the best RPGS I’ve played in some time and has lead Atlus to release numerous titles for it. Graphically the DS is the weaker of the 2 but it once again proves in my opinion that you don’t have to have amazing graphics to have an amazing game.
The PSP is a different beast compared to the DS and was aimed at a different market. While the DS’s unique control scheme give designers a different set of tool for coming up with game design, the PSP boasts a lot more power then the DS. Unfortunately the level of creativity on the DS cannot be said about the PSP, let’s face it there is not one game on the PSP design wise that couldn’t be done on the consoles. The PSP does have its share of great games such as Patapon which I got hooked on last month. The real strength of the PSP is that it has power similar to last generation’s consoles and should be used to deliver titles of that quality with the cheaper cost that is affordable to the handhelds. The system can do 2d extremely well and I’m surprised that the 2d genre hasn’t become as prevalent on the PSP much in the same way the RPG and Strategy genre has become on the DS.
Overall I feel the DS as a game platform is better the PSP, mainly because of how much use designers have gotten out of its unique interface. I do wonder much like with the Wii where does Nintendo go from here? The DSI was a tiny upgrade compared to the DS and I still feel that until handhelds have the same online capability as cell phones that they will be stuck in this generation.
While with the PSP, I think Sony has the same problem with it as they do with the PS3. They’re trying to create a platform not aimed solely at gamers, with the multimedia functions of the PSP and the blu ray player on the PS3. The PSP could be a solid contender if it was built from the ground up as game platform, and if it did it would have probably had a 2nd analog stick but this kind of discussion isn’t meant for this post so I’ll leave it at that.
Wrapping it up:
Developing titles for the handheld market has grown considerably, no longer a platform for simple ports of console titles. With downloadable content as the next big thing for the platform it will be interesting to see the full effects of it in action. With the popularity of the market growing it will be interesting to see who else will step into the ring with Nintendo and Sony and if we’ll have a true 3+ handheld war.
P.S I know that this article left out cell phone and mobile games and I did this for 2 reasons. One I am oblivious to cell phone games using just a basic cell phone (no I phone here). 2nd I wanted to focus on the handhelds themselves and the history and development of them.
P.P.S and yes I know about the Wonderswan but I never owned one.
So this week I rented Ghostbusters the video game and in less then a day I managed to finish it. Going into it I was afraid that my fanboy views of the franchise would conflict with my game review side. I’ve been fan of the Ghostbusters since the early 90s and yes I did watch Ghostbusters Extreme. Having played the game I can say that there is no need to worry, as apparently I’m fanboy immune.
Let’s face it if you are playing this game and are not a Ghostbusters fan, then there is something wrong with you. Like any game based on a property the fans are the prime audience and Ghostbusters fortunately does not disappoint. Hearing the various quips from the original cast is excellent although Ernie Hudson barely spoke. It really is a treat getting to explore the firehouse as well as the hotel and library from Ghostbusters 1. The real driving force of Ghostbusters is really getting to each cinema scene or dialogue with the gang. Sadly things aren’t so good when it comes to the actual busting.
With all the time spent developing the story and dialogue, it’s unfortunate that the gameplay is where Ghostbusters suffers. There are two types of ghosts in the game, those that have to be trapped and those that have to be destroyed and you’ll be spending most of the time dealing with the latter. While each area for the most part has its own collection of specters you’ll be facing clones of each type over and over again. To aid you, you’ll have access to 4 variations of the pak each equipped with 2 weapons for a grand total of 8 weapons by the game’s end. Different ghosts are weak against different weapons but you’ll still be running around blasting them the same way. Moving on my biggest problems are concern with you, yes that’s right you.
I don’t envy the designers who had to come up with a way of having the player take part in the action. Having a mute rookie join the team and be with the gang was good but does have its cost. Basically you are a fifth wheel for the action and I never felt that I was affecting the story at all and was more a bystander. Even at the big ending you are shown doing one thing and then the credits roll. Still while the player is ancillary to the story, he is the driving force of the gameplay. All the Ghostbusters will follow the player and will basically stand aside while you must find the next step to go forward. This does unfortunately cause two problems with the design of the game.
First is the health system, since it wouldn’t make sense for any of the busters to die, instead when their health hits zero the character will fall down to the ground and will have to be picked up to revive them. The same goes for the player as well and if you are knocked out one of the Ghostbusters will come help you up but this whole mechanic have some bugs to it. First is that the other Ghostbusters don’t seem to care all that much when someone is knocked down other then you and will continue to do what they’re doing instead of stopping and helping them up. I had to run across a huge arena to help someone up because the guy standing 3 feet away was too busy to help him up. This becomes a major issue during the tough sections of the game where the other busters will fall down constantly and you can be overwhelmed fast without back up. Boss fights are the worst as the AI doesn’t understand the concept of avoiding hits and it felt that with every big attack from a boss at least 2 Ghostbusters would be knocked down from it.
The other part of this problem comes in the form of some very irritating sections in which the player must perform a task while being attacked by ghosts, the other Ghostbusters don’t seem to be smart enough to perform the task themselves and it’s up to you to perform the necessary action. This becomes frustrating as you’ll need to stop what you are doing to help up any incapacitated busters as alone you will be a sitting duck from the ghosts. The worst part of failing a mission in Ghostbusters is the mind boggling long reload time of the mission and not even the Ghostbusters song can make up for it.
Still with the problems I had with this game I will admit that I had a lot of fun running around blasting stuff with the photon pak and it’s been awhile since a writing of a game made me laugh a few times. For the Ghostbusters fans out there, this is the game for you but unfortunately the gameplay isn’t developed enough to stand on its own. I’m torn about how I want the series to continue, the credits hinted at an open world title without the original cast in the same world which would be awesome. However a part of me wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel with the cast again no matter how big the legal nightmare it must have been.
I give Ghostbusters the video game this little tip, always pick your own destructor form or it may come back to bite you.