My thoughts on… Difficulty Levels.

What has spurred me to write this article is the new “Fiend’s Cauldron” feature in Kid Icarus Uprising. This basically allows you to set the game to about 9 different levels and then ‘bet’ the game that you’ll beat it. 9.0 is apparently nigh on impossible, while 0.0 makes you practically invincible. So, onto difficulty level in general.
In order to establish an opinion on difficulty, one must first question, “why do we play videogames?” Is it for enjoyment? For a challenge? A stress reliever? A form of escapism?
Depending on your answers to that question, that should change your viewpoint on difficulty level. For example, if you play games as a stress reliever, you’re not going to play the Mega-Man platformers as you’ll be worse off than when you started. So, it’s obvious that your opinion on difficulty would be “not too difficult, but enough to provide a sense of satisfaction”. Well, that’s how I would think.
But what do I really think? (You may ask.) I play games as a challenge, but I also do it for enjoyment. My opinion on difficulty level is that it should be difficult, but not unbeatably (I know it’s not a word) difficult. Basically, Skyward Sword Hero Mode would be my idea of a good difficulty level.
But back to Kid Icarus as there are only 11 days to it’s release (for us anyway). The Fiends Cauldron seems like a brilliant idea which should be implemented into more games. When you fail a stage, it automatically reduces the ‘intensity’ so you don’t have to quit, change the level, then reload the stage again. In my opinion, nigh on a perfect system. Those who like tough games can have a tough game, those who want to fly (pardon the pun) through it may do so too.
Which brings me on to the idea of a difficulty curve. Basically, for those who do not know, a difficulty curve is the rate of increase in difficulty versus time played. A smooth curve is common in adventure games, where you follow a strict storyline and the dungeons (in the case of Skyward Sword) get sequentially harder. But, some games ignore this concept and give us difficulty ‘squiggles’. We’ve all played them. Y’know, when you spend ages trying to crack one level, but then breeze through the next one? Yup, you probably do. Of course, this is unavoidable in some games, especially in games which are more free-form and don’t play sequentially) but sometimes you get it in well established series too.
Now I know this may cause some uproar, but my example of this is Ocarina of Time. Only towards the end, however. How many here found Bongo-Bongo and the Shadow Temple much more difficult than Ganondorf’s Castle and Ganon? I certainly did. Not that it affected my enjoyment of the game, but just a small example of such a ‘squiggle’…
So, where do you stand on difficulty?

Mario won’t become a yearly franchise like Call of Duty says Nintendo

Along with various other interesting bits of information confirmed by an interview of Koichi Hayashida by the website Modojo.  Indeed, there’s a lot of interesting things said here which should interest people who want more Super Mario 3D Land, as well as about the Mario series in general, so read on!

They first ask:

Do you see this as a possible series? Could there be a Super Mario 3D Land 2?

To which Koichi replies:

Well I guess I have to turn around and ask, is that something you’d like to see?

Immediately this is getting interesting.  They’re not counting out direct sequels to Mario games!  Then again, is that really a surprise? First we had Super Mario Galaxy 2, then recently we had Pokémon Black and White version 2, I think a Super Mario 3D Land 2 seems like a fairly plausible choice of sequel for Nintendo to make.  I also love how naive the guy is when he asks ‘is that something you’d like to see?’  Because apparently, there are some people on the planet who would say they don’t want a sequel and would be disappointed if one was made.

Would you consider adding downloadable content to the game? How easy is it to create new levels?

This question seems pretty interesting too.  Good thing they asked how difficult it is to make new levels, my experience in the past indicates that making a new level in any video game is much a more difficult challenge than it looks.  But hey, Super Mario 3D Land has a fairly simple graphics style which relies almost on 3D tiles for making up the levels, so it can’t be that difficult, right?

It’s not something we had initially thought about. Thinking about it now, there would be some challenges, but if there was a really good opportunity to use the stereoscopic effect to create some interesting new elements to introduce to the game, I suppose it’s a possibility.

However, the response worries me.  I think Nintendo are putting far too much stock in ‘gimmicks’ with their recent titles.  Why not just make it so you make fun levels?  No one cares if you come up with ‘interesting’ new elements using the stereoscopic effect other than elitist ‘critics’ who think that games should be all art like.  The rest of us just want fun levels regardless of how technically fancy they are.

I guess if you look at the staff credits for the game, including the localization teams at NOA and NOE, it would come out to about 100 total?

When asked how many people worked on the game.  I won’t quote the full interview for legal reasons, but it comes out as about 100 people and two years of development.

What do you think of Mario becoming a yearly franchise like Call of Duty?

Yikes, talk about a difficult question to ask someone on the internet!  Have you seen how much hate Activision gets for releasing games every year with minor changes?

Well, the way we approach the Mario series is through evolving hardware. Every time we have a new piece of hardware, we look at it and say, what can we do with this? What sort of gameplay experiences can we create? Then we take that and try and match it to the world of Mario, the kind of expressions you would find in Mario games.

Unfortunately, the answer given worries me even more.  In fact, some will say that its Nintendo’s biggest problem with their recent titles, they seem to be designing them based on the hardware rather than just letting the games dictate the console.  Putting the cart before the horse or something.

Really, as much as his ideas are rather disliked, Sean Malstrom said it best with this quote:

A video games console is just a box people buy to play video games.

Paraphrased of course, but you know what he means there.  People don’t enjoy buying games consoles for their own sake, they’re just there as a means to play the games  It’s best if Nintendo realised this and just made their games just as good games first and foremost and the console ‘gimmicks’ thrown in where appropriate to the series and game design.

If we were going to come out with a Mario game every single year, the only way we could really do this is if we also came out with new hardware every single year, which starts to get a little difficult to imagine.

Well no, you could also just make some new Mario games that aren’t designed around the hardware, or just make more use of the existing hardware.  Like Super Mario Galaxy 2 was.  Or Super Mario Land 2 on Game Boy was.  Or heck, like Super Mario Bros 2 and the Lost Levels were back on NES.  The whole one Mario game a system stuff was a fairly recent invention if you look back at Mario history, it only held true of the SNES (assuming you don’t count Yoshi’s Island), Nintendo 64 and Gamecube.  Hell, if you were bored enough and wanted a change, you could even have a successful Nintendo system with no mainstream/new Mario games at all like the Game Boy Advance.

What about the possibility of a Super Mario Bros. level editor? Would it do more harm than good to the franchise to give users that sort of power?

I’d love to see some sort of level editor.  Because it’s not that hard to make one given how every Mario game to date has had an unofficial one built by fans.  Is it really that difficult a concept to release an official equivalent to Lunar Magic or Toad’s Tool?

so we’re certainly not opposed to the concept of introducing a level editor

So it’s not entirely hopeless.

but in my mind, it’s not really about the users having power or hurting the way the franchise is viewed, but rather, whether we can see the possibility to create a really unique and fun experience with that level editor. It’s not something we’ve explored in any detail yet with the Mario universe, but as with everything, if we sense a good idea and a good possibility, it’s certainly something we’d pursue.

Yet while hope for an official level editor exists, it seems Nintendo’s staff seem to have missed one key point.  See the bolded.

No one finds a level editor fun in itself.  What is fun is playing the levels others have made and sharing your work with other people.  That’s not something that can support a whole game (hence why fairly few people bought WarioWare DIY), but it should still be an optional feature or tool you can either get for free or buy seperately.  No one who would use a level editor would give a toss whether it was fun to use in a conventional sense.

You can look at this as comparable to an art set or a writing/office program.  No one thinks paint in itself is ‘fun’ in the same way a video game is fun, but they enjoy the activity in a different way.  No one thinks using Microsoft Word in itself is an entertaining activity but they might like writing a novel  Any level editor for the Mario series would be enjoyed in the same way.

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New Pokemon Black and White 2 Magazine Scans

So, these new scans of Coro Coro magazine (a Japanese video games magazine) have been recently uploaded to the internet, and they show us what the box art for the game will be in Japan.  They’re not of the best quality (presumably the person who uploaded them just photographed the magazine pages rather than actually scanning them), but they’re interesting enough regardless.

The Japanese box art is clear at the top left and bottom right of the picture, with the former being that for Pokemon Black version 2 and the latter Pokemon White version 2.  They seem to just be the same as the first game except with the new Kyurem forms on the box where Zekrom and Reshiram once were.

The second one has a bit more (currently unreadable) information about Pokemon Black and White 2, as well as information on the Keldeo event in gen 5 in general.  Seems interesting enough, although I have to admit Keldeo has never been an event Pokemon I’ve ever wanted to use in the games, and I’d probably have preferred them to reveal Genesect.

None the less, that’s the box art for the games in Japan (and knowing how similar the versions in other regions will be, we’ll just get the same design in English), as well as some other information about the games and a legendary Pokemon event.  What do you think of this news?

Get fat with Kid Icarus!

If you live in Japan, and you have a copy of Kid Icarus Uprising, Nintendo just made collecting AR cards a lot more fun. Nintendo released chocolates based off of Kid Icarus Uprising. With every bag contains an AR card, so Japanese gamers can eat chocolate while they scan their cards.

In the US, however, extra AR cards will only be given out at special events. Though you can always just scan the Japanese chocolate ones online, which is what I can see a lot of people doing. They sure are going all out for this game, aren’t they?

Is Kirby 3D on the way for 3DS as well?

Different site this time, and no evidence of the game being for pre order in shops, but it sounds interesting regardless.

Apparently now an Italian retailer has listed some other ‘unannounced’ games for the 3DS as well, such as Kirby 3D, Final Fantasy 3D and Dragonball 3D.

It’s not exactly evidence these games exist in any form, although I do find it interesting that they’re letting people pre order the titles and that the Kirby ‘game’ even has a five star rating on the same page.

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