Friday, 20 April 2007

The eternal joys of heaven

"Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.
Think'st thou that I, who saw the face of God,
And tasted the eternal joys of heaven,
Am not tormented with ten thousand hells
In being deprived of everlasting bliss?"

- Christopher Marlowe

In a classic display of damned foolishness I chose the run up period to my university exams to buy a Nintendo DS.

Before I explain what the system is like, a confession; I was a Nintendo turncoat. Throughout the development of home games consoles I have owned nothing but Nintendo consoles. Game and Watch, NES, SuperNES, N64 and every released form of Nintendo Gameboy (except pocket); all have been members of my household. (My little brother did also have a Sega Megadrive once, but that is nothing to be ashamed of.) I also owned a Gamecube, and this was my Mephistopheles. The whispers of the Gamecube led to my fall. That cursed brick was the first from a long line of inspiring consoles that did not feel like a great leap forward.

I still remember my first plays on the SNES. Gone was the tiny, metaphorical representation of the splodges on the NES (which I loved in their time), replaced with the big, colourful cartoon characters of Street Fighter two turbo. I was convinced they looked as good as any cartoon on television, and remember thinking at that young age that there was no where for computer technology to go from there. Through the SNES, I also fell in love with Shiguru Miyamoto’s Mario and Zelda afresh. It was like a girlfriend getting that boob job you secretly wanted her to….

SNES; Boob Job

When I finally scraped my pocket money together for an N64, it came with Pilotwings 64. It was mind blowing. I spent hours veering off from the game tasks to fly free around a beautiful, inexplicably three dimensional fantasy world. Even my grandad was intrigued enough to have a go. The game was poetry. And then I finally (once again) got the opportunity to rediscover Zelda and Mario. They had lost nothing in their move to 3D – it was a meticulous continuation of the worlds I already loved. Maybe like a girlfriend getting fellatio lessons from a prostitute…. I remember my first play of Mario 64 at a friend’s house. I managed to get past a point he was stuck at and dispatched Bowser on my first attempt, causing me to jump around screaming “Don’t be ashamed, I just have the Miyamoto touch!” Those were the days.

N64; fellatio

When the Gamecube finally came into my hands, there had, as yet, been no piece of Nintendo hardware that had failed to bring with it genuine joy and excitement. Naturally, I had complete faith in Nintendo. Now the Gamecube was by no measure a bad piece of kit. The fact is, its greatest failure was that it did not share that ability of its predecessors to inspire awe. We had reached that point in the history of games when people did not really know what to do next, and the presiding attitude was to ‘make the graphics a bit better’. That was all the Gamecube really offered. In what I can only assume was an attempt to avoid repetition, the flagship games of Mario and Zelda (No longer designed by Miyamato) where gimmicky to the point of being unplayable. I had no complaints with the cell-shaded Zelda, but the massive ocean that had to be traversed (and the lack of glorious open fields from the N64) was unforgivable. I hated with a passion Mario’s water cannon, which give him the ability to shoot and fly – both of which utterly undermine Mario’s platforming heart. These were a pair of games showing serious problems with their own identity and, I think, a good indication of Nintendo’s troubled mindset at the time. Much like a girlfriend going mad, and telling you she’s pregnant, just to see your reaction.

Now Nintendo has always been relatively exclusive with game developers. They invented the Nintendo ‘seal of quality’ – a reminder that games would not run on the Nintendo systems unless they had been licensed by Nintendo – a protection against the glut of awful, poorly-programmed third-party games that had drowned other consoles in the past. But from the N64 onwards there had been complaints about the necessary Nintendo development kits being too scarce, and too hard (therefore time consuming and therefore expensive) to use.

For whatever reasons, it seems like Nintendo’s relationship with third party developers deteriorated, and the game cube had very little to offer in the way of games, compared to the playstation two. Now for one of my favourite game stories. Nintendo developed the original playstation with Sony, intending it as an add-on for the Super Nintendo. Eventually Nintendo pulled out of the deal. Sony went on to release the playstation one. Yet it was awful, built in a cruel imitation of Nintendo’s ability to create, it could bring about only twisted pastiches of the real creation. (Now I’m not saying that Nintendo is like god and Sony is like Lucifer but…. )

However, late in the Gamecube’s life, the Gamecube sections in the shops had dwindled to the extent that they looked like Apple Mac games sections. Which is sad indeed. There was nothing to play except for games licensed from the Spiderman film. Wait, what I meant to write was ‘There was nothing to play.’

I was well aware of the facts about playstation. (I’m not saying that playstation IS Satan, I’m just saying I was aware of the facts. Like Faust.) But there was nothing to be done. GC had Sould Callibur, Playstation had Soul Callibur and Tekken. GC had Resident Evil four, Playstation had Resident Evil Four and Forbidden Siren (incidentally one of the best websites I have ever seen). ‘Nuff said. I sold my Gamecube. (I’m not saying that’s like selling my soul. I just sold my Gamecube, alright?!) And I bought a PS2. But now I repent….