Thursday, December 4, 2008

The New System Wars

So there's something that's been irking me for awhile now: is brand loyalty an essential part of being a gamer?

Way back when, it must have been my fifth birthday (1992 if you're counting), my grandmother bought me the love of my life, my SNES along with two games, Turtles in Time (which has aged well in that it's a great way to mindlessly relieve stress) and King of the Monsters (which I can't seem to convince any of my roommates to play with me). Over the years, my collection of games grew and grew, I got a subscription to Nintendo Power ("free poster in every issue!") and became a vehement zealot in the war against the Sega Genesis and its followers.

Anyone over the age of 18 or so remembers the fierce battles between Nintendo and Sega fanboys (and girls). I've always mainained that the SNES was the technically superior system, not to mention Nintendo is just a better first party developer and Sonic the Hedgehog sucks a fat dick. Seriously? You take a random woodland creature and add some "attitude" and you have a franchise? Lame, Sega, really lame. And yes, I am aware that link goes to a picture of Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic's evil clone or something like that, but I think it's indicative of the entire Sonic series. Sonic's no Mario, and Shadow's no Wario; hell, he's not even Waluigi.

But enough with my irrational hatred of Sega, this is a post about the issues.

The SNES vs. Genesis debate came out of necessity: you had two systems with similar operating power and games- if there wasn't a port of the game on the other system it was probably a first party game or there was something similar enough on the other system to hold you over and therefore the world was at peace. Then came the new age: Playstation.

Sony's system shook things up by using CDs instead of cartridges meaning you could have realistic music and video and not just beeps and pixels, not to mention 3-D. Also of note, Squaresoft jumped ship and headed over to Sony, giving us the masterpieces of Final Fantasies VII, VIII, and IX. Ninetendo would soon counter with the N64, still one of the coolest systems ever, but it was clear now that gaming systems were becoming more specialized. You had the Playstation for the "serious" gamer who valued sweet graphics and stuff and the N64 for people who liked Mario Kart and whatnot. While Sony certainly won the battle, I feel like Ninetendo has won the war. The Playtystation certainly was awesome with quite a few good games and awesome hardware but it all seems to have given way and become irrelevant since the PS2 came on the scene. I don't know anyone at school who has brought their original Playstation with them but I can think of nearly a half dozen people who still play their N64 daily.

The PS2 has become an extension of the PS1, essentially doing the same thing but with better graphics and less load time. I bought a PS2 years ago because I needed a DVD player and I wanted to finally play the newer Final Fantasy games. I ended up liking Sony's system a lot, maybe even more than Nintendo's Gamecube which I basically only used for playing the new Mario games and their myriad spin-offs. I would do my best to buy games that were available for multiple systems for Gamecube to support the Nintendo cause but it was rapidly becoming apparent that the 'Cube was relegated to 4-player party gaming on a near exclusive level, though exclusive updated ports of the early installments of the Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil franchises certainly helped keep it on the map.

Xbox was another thing entirely. Most of my high school days were speant with my friends in front of a tv playing Halo and Halo 2. I played online all the time and beat both games on legendary, I even have a sweet t-shirt to commemorate it. That being said, my love for Xbox hasn't really matured past Halo and KOTOR, nothing else that it has really strikes be as being all that urgent. Even Halo isn't that deep past being a sweet-ass FPS with the best deathmatch this side of Counterstike

Nowadays we have the Xbox 360 which is wonderful for playing online with, its simply got the most intuitive way of dealing with online play ever as well as boasting some incredible hardware
and an increasingly decent library of games. Then there's the PS3, which apparently will make you evolve if you stand too close to it. I only know of one person who owns one of these contraptions, and I am three handshakes and an ocean away from him.

The Wii on the other hand has done something incredible and really made video games something they've never been before, and that's fun for the whole family. You look at titles like WiiSports and Warioware and you can see that video games are beginning to reach an audience that they've never touched before. Nintendo is really being innovative, and I think we're going to be seeing college dorm rooms and the dens of Middle America full of Wiis for the next decade or so, while the 360 will give way to what, the Xbox 1080? Long term vs. short term, people.

I have a certain nostalgia for the days when the system wars were all about whose mascot you liked better, but now they're trying to make it what type of games you like better. You're forced to buy three really expensive consoles if you want to play all the big games, whereas back in the day you didn't even want to buy what the other guy was selling. I just wish that systems were more all-inclusive like back in the old days, but maybe that's just me being weepy and sentimental (and poor).