I really need to figure out how to make these long pages not break the layout. I simply refuse to have good ideas denied me because of space though. I’m done with that part of my history. This is the Internet, damnit. If I want my page to be stupidly long I should be able to Scott McCloud my shit all up in this mother.
There was a time when I would have laughed at someone if they had suggested that Apple might soon take a significant bite out of the handheld gaming market. That time has passed. I’m beginning to think that if Nintendo doesn’t tighten its shit up they could be staring down the barrel of serious competition soon. Right now they’re getting by on appealing to kids and being relatively cheap. As ipods and iphones drop in price however the idea of getting one for a kid won’t seem so crazy anymore. Plus, once you buy the device, the games are largely $1. Even the mass of free games aren’t any worse than the $35 shovelware third parties shit all over the DS market.
Companies like Squeenix still want top dollar for their stuff on itunes, but on the average their games pale in comparison to ones offered for a fraction of the price. I got one of theirs for, like, $8 and it’s no better than something two dudes in a basement could throw together for a buck. At least they offer lite (meaning free demos) of most of their games. If you’re going to ask so much for a game that you play on a tiny, tiny, screen you better at least show people what they are getting first. Unless you know your game is balls and want to hide that fact.
All the big name companies are guilty of getting a pass based on old glories though. Capcom is actually pretty cool about their pricing. The shitty Megaman 2 port is $1 at the moment, and that’s pushing the limits of its value. The controls are total crap. In fact, the lack of precise control is probably what will safeguard Nintendo’s little haven for quite some time. Platformers just do not work as well on the touch screen. You have to give up a bit of that prime real estate to some sort of virtual crosspad and buttons, which just doesn’t work very elegantly.
The opposite side of that is how perfectly touch controls work on something like Plants VS Zombies, Bejeweled 2, or even random pinball games. No crosspad required, and all that space is beautiful game screen. Well, relatively beautiful at any rate. There’s also games like Tilt To Live that just use the gyroscope, or whatever the ipod uses to tell what end is up, as a control scheme. That game is amazingly tight. I didn’t realize just how precise the ipod could be about how it’s being tilted. With a little practice you can pull off maneuvers that would impress Chewbacca. (and Lando to a lesser degree.) If you have a device that Tilt To Live is available for I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s kind of like playing Asteroids, except it doesn’t suck.
At the moment the bulk of games availabel in the itunes store are what people would call arcade games. The goal of the games tend to be the acquisition of points, and you continue playing to pass time, or acquire more points than you had previously. Plants Vs Zombies is what they call a tower defense game and uses a point system (though it’s characterized as money.) to allow the player to get plants better suited to ridding your yard of the zombie menace. It also has a basic story, and there’s an ending animation once you complete the story mode.
For the most part I don’t like arcade games. Or maybe I should say I didn’t. I’ve begun to see the value of these time wasters now. There are a lot of times when you get stuck someplace boring, but only for a few minutes. Games like these are perfect for those moments because who cares if you have to quit really fast?
Of course another thing that the ipod/iphone/ipad has over the DS is that it’s is actually a multimedia device. The DS plays at being one, but it isn’t. It’s a game machine. Its primary function and first, best, destiny is to play games. The DSi has some online stuff it can do (poorly by comparison) and the ability to download games from a store with a clunky interface, plus the offhanded inclusion of music playback support (If you can get it into the right filetype…) but for the most part all it can do is play a greater range of games. At the moment those games are, in some cases, far superior to the ones available in the apple store, but how long will that last? How long will it be before someone makes an Advance Wars clone for the ipod that is as good as the original, costs a dollar, but also has online leaderboards and additional downloadable content?
Now I’m not saying that I prefer ipod games to DS ones, but there hasn’t been a DS game I’ve given a crap about since Pokemon Gold & Silver. I want a new Advance Wars, Castslevania, or something spectacular to get my DS back in my pocket. I want something with a level of quality I can obsess over for months at a time. At the moment Apple is giving me a cost effective alternative though.
Nintendo may not be afraid of Apple now, but they should be.