In just a few short weeks, every game I bought a Nintendo WiiU for will have been made available for the Nintendo Switch, and in each and every case the experience has proven to be a dramatic improvement. This occasion has given me a lot to reflect on and think about and there’s a lot I could say about it, but there’s a particular set of emotions I want to focus on today. I’ve always believed that different sensations can remind us of memories and feelings connected to where and when we were when we first experienced them, and that this can be just as true for our media as it is for anything else. This is why we have to be cautious listening to a certain song when we are feeling a particular way (especially if we’re feeling sad) lest the two end up associated together in our minds forever. On the other hand, it’s also been my experience that, with care, those feelings can grow and evolve with us as we revisit them over the course of our lives.
I got my WiiU at the end of 2014, two years after it had launched. Even though it was usually not my style to buy a video game console as soon as it came out (the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo GameCube were my big exceptions), my delay this time was notable because I wasn’t even originally planning to get it in the first place. When it was first revealed in 2011 I initially thought the WiiU would make a good first step towards a future where mobile devices interacted with home video games, except within months Microsoft and smartphone manufacturers unveiled ways to literally do just that. This left the WiiU feeling a bit conceptually aimless and uncertain: The console’s concept was effectively that of a Nintendo DS tethered to a TV screen, which in hindsight seems inherently self-defeating (and this was far from the only thing wrong with the way that console was handled, but this is all water under the bridge), but more damningly for me there wasn’t a single game on the platform that seemed inspired, and this went on for *years*.
Meanwhile, I’d been alienated by the XBOX One (in a console launch that was arguably even more bungled than the WiiU) and my longstanding enmity with the PlayStation brand and its fans continued to drive me away from the PlayStation 4. I’d been into Steam gaming for a couple of years already and was perfectly happy throughout 2012 and 2013 with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim as my only video game (although I decently enjoyed my time with Pokémon X at the end of 2013 too). In fact, I was starting to wonder if I ever needed another video game again, and got to thinking that maybe it was time for me to retire and leave this medium behind. I even deliberately skipped E3 in 2014, the first year I’d ever done that, because I was so dispirited I didn’t think any of the news would be worth the trouble of sitting through the press conferences.…
With the re-release of her first two games on the Nintendo Switch, a third on the way and her creator already musing ideas for a fourth, Bayonetta is in the news again. And, as is typically the case with Bayonetta, she’s drawn quite a crowd and her fair share of controversy and anger. But of course, you can’t be a powerful, confident and self-assured woman and not.
Bayonetta is the modern day evolution of the archetype pioneered by Lara Croft and Rayne, and is the most honed, polished and refined version of that concept. She is an overwhelming, overclocked, unstoppable, inescapable feminine force of nature, and that confuses and frightens lesser people. The protagonist of an eponymous series of action games created by Hideki Kamiya and his studio Platinum Games (formerly Capcom Clover Studios), known for Resident Evil, Viewtiful Joe, Devil May Cry and Okami, Bayonetta is a witch who carves out her own niche in the war between Heaven and Hell by laying waste to legions of angels and demons as a one-woman mercenary army. She is pure magick, and, like all witches, she is liminal figure who stands outside of social norms and conventions. She makes the existing order profoundly uncomfortable because her very existence is an affront to their worldview and long-held assumptions.
From a video game history perspective, the best point in Platinum’s oeuvre with which to compare Bayonetta is the Devil May Cry series. A hallmark of the sixth generation, those games featured platforming and puzzle solving elements as a loose framework to show off their combat: An action system involving a complex mixture of light and heavy attacks triggering breathtaking combo moves. There was exploration, but the game generally progressed through a linear series of arenas where protagonist Dante would have to square off against wave after wave of enemies. The Bayonetta games are a spiritual successor to Devil May Cry and play the same way, but that’s not the only way they’re comparable: Devil May Cry’s story, and especially Dante, were known for being deliberately excessive camp parodies of melodramatic narrative.
Calling Bayonetta “over the top” is a horrible cliché that does not in any way convey the extent to which she absolutely revels in exaggerated camp. She is a magickally-infused exotic dance battler dominatrix who wears pistols for stiletto high-heels and summons Eldritch Abominations and medieval torture devices made out of her own hair. Hair that she also wears as a backless jumpsuit, and without which she is entirely naked. Bayonetta is the woman who codifies the phrase “orgasmic combat” par exemplar, she knows it, and she loves it: She spends every battle moaning and grunting in very specifically suggestive ways, her finishing moves all involve punishing her enemies in exactly the way you’re thinking and one of her in-game taunts involves her lying on her back, spreading her legs wide and shouting “Come On!”. And that’s not even just the beginning.
Obviously sexuality is a primary theme in the Bayonetta series.…
A combination of technical setbacks and my own incompetence ruined another recording session, so I don’t have a video for you this week. Instead, here’s something I’ve been sitting on that I’d planned to post here next year, so consider it another rough draft of sorts. I’ll update it with new info on Skyrim for the Switch and Skyrim VR for the HTC Vive as it becomes available to me.
While you’re at it, why not check out some of the other things I’ve done on Skyrim and The Elder Scrolls with Ben Knaak?
This past week Nintendo finally put over a year of rabid speculation to rest by revealing its next console, previously known only by its codename NX, as the Nintendo Switch: A high-end handheld game console that can be plugged into a dock for home play. Nintendo forwent the expected routes for hardware reveals, even the famously unorthodox Nintendo hardware reveals-In lieu of a press conference or media event of some kind, Nintendo revealed the Switch to the world by way of a 3-minute teaser trailer on their YouTube channel. Although the video re-confirms the system’s previously announced March 2017 release date, Nintendo later stated that this is all the information on the system we’re going to get until then, so let’s jump on the hype bandwagon and play armchair speculative analyst with the Nintendo Switch.
First of all, the trailer confirmed most of what the many rumour mills were saying about what we then knew as NX in the months leading up to the reveal, and I for one couldn’t be happier about what we saw. The Nintendo Switch is a handheld console that rather resembles a tablet computer, except with controllers on the side. Those controllers, called JoyCons, are detachable, and use an advanced form of motion control and force feedback similar to what was used on the Wii Remotes, except they can also double as traditional gamepad inputs by being snapped onto a kind of controller shell (and can I rave about how thrilled I am they finally got the controller layout right this time?). The system uses high-capacity cartridges instead of optical disks, which is going to be a godsend for storage and loading, and Nintendo has also kindly left us the headphone jack. Although Nintendo seems to be trying to sell this as a home console first and foremost, it really isn’t: While it does have a dock so you can play games on your TV, it doesn’t offer the system any additional processing power, so the Switch is fundamentally a handheld that can be played at home instead of a home console you can take with you. This is a great idea in my opinion, and for a whole lot of reasons.
I’ll get the uncomfortable truth out of the way right now. The home console industry is dying. From the start of this generation, publishers were extremely reluctant to support even the XBOX One and the PlayStation 4 with new releases, primarily wishing to focus on smartphones, tablets and, weirdly enough for anyone who’s followed the industry for as long as I have, the PC. A lot of this was initially due to the plateaued sales of the XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3 at the end of the last hardware cycle, but that hardware cycle was abnormally long and need not have been a barometer for how this generation was going to fare. Publishers started to take notice once the PlayStation 4 began selling like gangbusters and there’s been an uptick in support as a result, and yet even so…Home consoles on the whole have failed to get a real foot in the door in the three years since then.…