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Saturday, May 6, 2006

Systematic Flaws

I am sick and tired.

Not literally, of course, though I have been fighting a nagging cough. (Please send all sympathy money directly to my charity. It’s called the GLM Fund. GLM stands for “Give Lee Money.”) I am extremely sick and tired of people trumpeting their system of choice as the One True System, or their chosen company as the One True Company.

Now, lest certain people in my audience think I am referring strictly to them, let it be known that I am not. I am referring to that other guy. You know, the one guy. The one with the socks. Yeah, him. I hate that guy.

Look, every system has clear flaws. If there was one true system, then they would have stopped selling them. As it is, every system has some major boo-boos. A brief retrospective will help us put things in perspective. For time purposes, I have only included systems that were successful. That means no Intellivision, Atari Jaguar, 3DO, Sega Saturn, or Neo-Geo. Your definition of “success” may vary, but if you are angry at an omission, get your own blog.

Atari 2600/7800/3.1415
Positives: A ground-breaking system. Had Pitfall and Combat, both of which are still highly playable. Also had wood-grain on the console itself, which increases coolness by a factor of 10.
Negatives: Really, really comically bad graphics. Also had E.T. Also Custer’s Revenge. Single-handedly destroyed the industry due to negative practices.

Nintendo Entertainment System
Positives: Also ground-breaking. Released so many classic games that a retrospective would take days. Cheap, too, so it influenced a lot of people to purchase video games when they normally wouldn’t have.
Negatives: Blowing on the cartridges. The huge amount of horrific games that were released. Bad 72-pin connectors. The Power Pad, R.O.B., and the Power Glove. Also the movie “The Wizard.”

Sega Genesis/Master System
Positives: Really fast processor (relatively speaking), allowing fantastic speeds in games like the Sonic series. Gunstar Heroes and the Phantasy Star series. Had the absolute best NBA Jam games, and frankly, Sega did what Nintendidn’t.
Negatives: Honestly, how many sports games does one system need? Do you like clangy music that sounds forced through your grandma’s accordion by way of AM radio? They also tried to squeeze way too much out of this system, with the Sega CD, 32X, and Nomad.

Super Nintendo
Positives: Mind-blowing games. Incredible colors and graphics. Did things that weren’t thought possible for a 16-bit system. They even made StarFox, a low-polygon shooter that turned out to be brilliant in spite of really low frame rates. And, despite what Shigeru Miyamoto thinks, Donkey Kong Country is a classic game.
Negatives: Slooooowdown. Tried to do too much toward the end of the system’s life span (Exhibit A: Stunt Race FX). Also, the Super Scope 6 was stupid.

Sony Playstation
Positives: Expansive games. Made video games mainstream, which is a very good thing. Also gave Squaresoft an expansive palette to make wondrous voyages of discovery. And Chocobo’s Dungeon.
Negatives: Battle Arena Toshinden and everything it stands for. Made too many cheap 3-D cash-in games. Sony systems are prone to breakdowns.

Nintendo 64
Positives: Nintendo again made some really good games, including the Zelda games and Mario 64.
Negatives: Released a Pokemon version of their system, which symbolized everything wrong with Nintendo. Not enough third-party games.

Playstation 2
Positives: Huge library, downward compatible. Attracted many top developers, once again, and also allowed quirkier games to find a home (Ico, Rez, Katamari Damacy).
Negatives: Not as powerful as current gen hardware. Poor LAN capability. Sony products prone to breakdowns.

Nintendo Gamecube
Positives: Top-notch library, including one of the best games ever, Super Smash Bros. Melee. Very portable.
Negatives: Once again, never reached it’s potential. Not enough third-party games. Kept pushing unnecessary features (connectivity) instead of important ones.

X-Box
Positives: Really, really good graphics. Had a built-in hard drive. Best on-line capabilities yet.
Negatives: Beyond the A-list games, there really isn’t a whole lot to dig in to. Never quite reached it’s potential.

See? Every system has flaws. Pretending they don’t is just ignorant.

Now, realistically speaking, none of these flaws are heart-breaking affairs. But they are flaws nonetheless. Every generation has them, and the following generation will have them too. What keeps these systems flowing despite the flaws? Personal preference. Which games do you like? Which controller do you like?

So, what's the point? The point is, the newest generation (Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii) will have flaws as well. Granted, some flaws are more pronounced than others, but don't knock the systems before you try them. As much as I hate the Wii, with its two-fisted controller and incredibly stupid name, it might turn out to be fantastic. (Not bloody likely, but it might.) Likewise, despite the potential of the X360 and PS3, they may turn out to be horrible.

In other words, let's not call the hand until all the cards are on the table.