Technology is improving and developers are innovating faster than people could have dreamed a decade ago, and I’m right up there with my fellow gamers giving a standing ovation. But there’s something else I’ve noticed that is possibly changing as fast or faster and that is audience expectation.
We’ve all heard complaints in reviews or played games where a lack of change from one installment to the next killed the experience, or too drastic a change did just the same. It’s a fine line when making a sequel (or prequel, reboot, side story, parallel universe, etc.) The ideas behind the shifts are usually exciting but the execution so far has been mixed at best. If every idea had the pizzazz and success of a Mario title (Galaxy, Paper, Sunshine) we could all rest easy. But for every Starfox 64 there’s a Sonic Unleashed (cheap shot, I know. But tell me I’m wrong.)
And yet every year developers feel more pressured and we get more restless (I do anyway.) More often than not I’d say they do quite well for themselves (Metroid Prime series, every Zelda title.) It’s even more [pleasantly] surprising when they just bring a game back to what made it great so many years before (DK, Kirby, Sonic 4, Rayman.)
And yet from fans to paid reviewers I’ve never heard such a massive outcry for innovation from one game to the next as I have lately. I was recently privy to an argument where I could barely believe how heated people got debating whether or not Skyward Sword would be worth playing or whether it was too stale to waste one’s time on. There was borderline vehemence from some toward the topic (and each other.) It was all pretty ridiculous considering that Nintendo has never dropped the ball in 25 years of Zelda games, but there it was.
Equally surprising were two mentions I saw in Game Pro magazine. It was actually asked if Halo (5 main games, one RTS mind you) would jump the shark (their words) with Halo 4. The other I almost think was a joke. They said that the next God Of War should exclude 4 things: needless puzzles (fine, but they didn’t explain any further,) Kratos’ blind rage at Zeus (the impetus for 2 & 3, irrelevant since Zeus is dead, but still a large part of our unfriendly Ghost,) larger and larger bosses and gameplay segments (some of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen done in any medium; yeah, let’s just throw those out,) and Greek gods (……………)
Needless to say I take little or no stock in Game Pro anymore.
By the time you read this most of you will have had some time with Skyward Sword. Whether you think a new world, characters and gameplay would be a more welcome sight or you get dizzy every time you think you see a Triforce in a news update, chances are you’ve enjoyed it. And that’s what’s important: enjoying games. Unless you’re easily bored or impossibly hard to please you know a good game when you see one and will play it without hesitation, even if you know those characters better than your family. So stop whining and play!