I’ve talked to a few fans on the Caster side recently about the overwhelming love that Sonic’s Lost Mind as well as Nintendo have been getting for a while. Most of the time, I wouldn’t give a damn if people loved or hated a game. I know everyone hates Shadow the Hedgehog for the gun, but I say w/e. Sonic Rush is overrated to the point of absurdity, but hey. At least someone likes a Sonic game these days.

But there’s something abnormal about the praise of Lost Mind. See, prior to the release of a Sonic game, there would be some actual skepticism prior to the release of the game. With Lost Mind, there is almost zero skepticism, and that is completely unnatural for Sonic games these days. As Sonic games have very little appeal, the excitement doesn’t really fit.

But that can easily be explained by the infatuation with “Gameplay”.

Hardcore gamers encompass at least a good 75-80% of the entire gaming populace on the internet. All fanbases have a hardcore gamer. Even the dreaded “Nintards” act hardcore. And all hardcore gamers have this strange love of the concept of “game play“. The game rules. The concepts used to make the game work. You’re always going to hear the mantra that gameplay takes priority over everything else in a video game. Content, story, audio and video, and even fun factor. Gameplay is the only real measure of quality when it comes to public opinion online.

When did games start becoming about gameplay? The only time gameplay becomes a factor is when the game must be evaluated for competitive play. Fighting games are evaluated heavily for this purpose. Multiplayer RTS games  are evaluated (Starcraft for one)

People do not think about gameplay when the game is fun. Their minds are at ease. All they can think about is the bliss of kicking enemy ass or just walking through a lush world.

Sonic games are not about “gameplay”. Not about “game rules”. They are spectacle first and for most. So it is very dangerous for Sonic Team to be taking this approach as this series depends on spectacle. Look at Unleashed, Colors, and Generations. The appeal of these 3 games is the blistering high speeds you can obtain. Well, maybe not Colors, but you get the idea.

This is the spectacle of Sonic Generations. The gameplay may not be that great, but it is the effort to convey that sense of hyper speed that gives many players that adrenaline rush. The players are not expected to pay straight attention to the gameplay, but the roller coaster speeds.

But if you focus on nothing but the gameplay, this comes off as “Boost, some platforming, boost again”. So it will be a shallow game to you.

Lost Mind focuses strictly on the gameplay factor. The trailers that are shown are nothing but the gameplay. There’s very little focus on the content. What is this hexagonal world?! Who and what are the Zeti? We only get vague hints dropped every now and then. There’s no sense of mystery or ambition within the game. There’s no reason given for why we should be excited to run out and buy a Pii U for this shit.

And yet, everyone is in love with it. Of course, the only means of reminding them the game exists is by criticizing it.

The obsession with the gameplay of Lost Mind blinds the gamers from the content, almost ignoring it completely in favor of the “intricacies” of the gameplay. Where did this intense focus come from?

1. Hardcore gamers aspire to be game designers themselves. And many young gamers are casually told that they must focus on innovative and intricate gameplay concepts to sell a game. Most indie developers come from this train of thought. Many go against the “mainstream” in defiance of game content that is appealing and jump right into the “unique gameplay concepts”.

Many would be quick to point out that Mario Galaxy has perfect gameplay due to the specific usage of motion controls as well as pointer controls to solve simple yet “creative” puzzles. Many would be quick to suggest that Skyward Sword has great gameplay because it’s probably the only game that uses Wii Motion Plus to it’s fullest extent to have accurate swinging motions for combat. Many will rush to DKCR and suggest it’s gameplay is perfect because you will die plenty of times as the hardcore notion of quality is “challenging” (IE frustrating).

None of these actually explain how they make the game “fun”, but rather how the games work in tandem with the challenges present. Skyward Sword “works” because the motion controls are accurate with precision sword swings. You swing up, Link slashes upward. And vice versa. But is it actually fun to fight enemies in this way? Unlike previous Zelda games where you could mash the attack button to destroy enemies, you are instead forced to slow down and watch the enemies closely because now, the enemies have specific blocking patterns or their weak spots are coded in a specific pattern that you must accurately swing in. For example, there is a totem enemy where you must slash it’s body down in multiple sections. In order to bring it down, you must sever it’s connected parts with 3 horizontal swings. Once it’s head is down to the ground, you must use a thrust motion to stab it’s eye.

But where’s the fun in that? You’ll be fighting this kind of enemy multiple times in specific dungeons, but the process is easily memorable, and equally as tedious.

This isn’t bad gameplay because it works the way it was designed to. It is boring gameplay because there is no stimulation during combat.

Metroid Other M, on the other hand, has better combat. It’s simpler, and doesn’t require more complex controls, but thanks to that, combat is much faster and in some ways more exciting. Many enemies need only the same strategies. Shoot, dodge, shoot. This may be shallow gameplay, but in many ways, it is more fun than Skyward Sword.

Devil May Cry 3 is another example. A majority of the games enemies can be taken down by either shooting them or whacking them with your sword. You don’t need any of the advanced techniques in the game to kill most enemies, but it’s there to make you feel more badass.

Isn’t that supposed to be the goal? To turn you into a bad mother fucker!? Instead, the gameplay of DMC3 would be scoffed at by the most hardcore of gamers due to it’s accessibility had it not been for the fact that DMC3 can be quite difficult at times.

What am I supposed to think when I look at the latest Zelda games if I came off from DMC3? It’s a massive disappointment.

Skyward Sword has “good gameplay” while Other M has “shallow gameplay”. Out of these 2, which looks more fun?

Dammit, charge up while running and dodging before going into FPS mode, you fucking n00b!

The Koloktos battle has an intricate strategy where you must wait for the opportunity where his joints are exposed. Then yank away and stab his exposed heart while you have the chance.

Other M? Use your goddamn Plasma Beam. And feel awesome doing so.

Make no mistake, this is the game that has scarred Metroid’s reputation, but it is levels beyond Skyward Sword in fun factor.

Or to use a non-Nintendo example because I’m sure you’re all sick of that happening.

Now, obviously, Tekken’s gameplay is revered for the “button on each limb”  and “dial a combo” system making it one of those “easy to learn, hard to master” type fighters, and one needs to have a really good grasp of their character to be able to play them effectively. On the other hand, DOA is much simplier, using a control scheme similar to Virtua Fighter and focusing more on style than actual skill. It has often been criticized of being a button masher with a usually easy counter system (as has Bloody Roar, no matter how tight those games were). But on any hand, due to Tekken’s system, the games focus more on launchers and juggles, devolving the match into a turtle fest where the players shuffle back and forth, whiffing attacks and launchers in hopes of getting at least one hit it. DOA’s simplicity allows for more variation in matches, keeping things more interesting as you don’t know what to expect half the time. Plus it challenges your concentration. Can you still focus on the match while shuffling about to hide your magic stick?

Fighting games are trapped in this conundrum, however, as “making it to EVO” is proof of the quality of the fighting game in general. And Tekken’s marketing is a helluva lot better than DOA’s.

When one brings up the situation between 50 Cent Bulletproof and Okami, it sends the hardcore into a mouth-foaming fit of rage. Shattering the umbrella of their own lunacy, for the salvation of their ego, they must insult those who allowed that “rapper’s travesty” to even become a decent success over the “masterpiece” that was Okami. The difference in this case is the appeal. 50 Cent was a moderately popular rapper. What the fuck is Okami and should anyone care?

Because it’s gameplay and art style blends together so perfectly. What is Okami’s gameplay? An extension of Modern Aonuma brand Zelda.

2. Another factor of the hardcore obsession with gameplay is Nintendo’s mouth.

Nintendo is a school of PR wizardry. This company has the capacity to captivate an entire armada of internet nerds with mere words of “wisdom”. Miyamoto has been quoted millions of times about his undeniable logic on game design. Even his detractors agree with his insight, if not his method.

And you know why? Because Nintendo is forever associated with an event from the early-mid 80s in which they “saved” the American video game industry from being crashed by greedy and corrupt game publishers. Because gaming was going to die in America. Europe and Japan got Space Invaders to save their asses. America is kinda…. slow. In Mind and Time. It’s unfortunate because Nintendo’s reputation for being the gaming “saviors” if you will gives them immunity from criticism (at least from gamers beyond software).

It gives them immunity and authority. If Nintendo’s games saved America from an industry crash, then they MUST know something about quality. So for many hardcore, most of whom are aspiring game designers themselves, obsessively listen to Nintendo’s words closely. And Nintendo’s words are always centered on “gameplay” rather than anything else.

So when the hardcore take everything Nintendo says at face value, and focus strictly on the gameplay, then everything else about a game is oblivious to them. Skyward Sword has terrible content, but the gameplay of utilizing motion plus for many of the elements of the game is “innovative, intricate, and exciting” to the hardcore gamers. Damn if it plays well or is actually fun. New Super Mario Bros. isn’t new or intricate, and as such, is despised by the hardcore gamers despite breaking holiday sales records.

This is likely the reason many Nintendo games get a free pass despite being terrible. When reading or watching reviews, many of them come from hardcore gamers obsessed with gameplay concepts. They wrongfully assume that this is a good idea due to the massive success of the Wii. PS3 and 360 are spectacle monsters, but failed greatly to captivate a wide audience. Wii, on the other hand, gobbled up market-share like a hungry, hungry hippo due to catering to a market that wasn’t being served. The “dreaded casuals” as they call them.

The difference here, however, is assuming innovative and intricate gameplay sold the Wii. Some of the most abhored games (Wii Sports) are more popular than Skyward Sword.

3. Probably the most important aspect of the obsession is the same reason Nintards were excited for Nintendo implementing online and HD gaming. Because gameplay had been shoved into Sonic fans faces, we now have a fanbase that believes that “intricate gameplay” will “save” Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic Colors wasn’t considered good because it was fun. It’s considered good because the gameplay is equated with being intricate, innovative, and working. The wisp powers allow the player to have a new level of exploration within Sonic games. Personally speaking, wisps suck. I’d rather have the elemental shields from Sonic 3. At least they had unlimited use until you got hit, and you had more control over it (thank you Generations for bringing some of them back). But this is considered “unique” for Sonic games. The wisps are time limited, and opens new areas and secret paths. This isn’t at all fun, but it’s that “intricacy” that gives them some form of excitement.

Looking at the demos of Lost Mind, the game heavily revolves around intricacy. There are hidden areas up the ass. It looks almost like a complete copy of Rayman Origins in some instances. Rayman Origins was a hidden area whore house. Infact, a lot of 2D platformers this past generation were hidden area whore houses. Oh look behind the bush! This small ass room with a coin/puzzle piece/star! Oh jump on this vaguely visible edge! Another small ass room with a coin/puzzle- oh look! Another cleverly hidden bonus room!

I’m looking at you:

Rayman Origins

DKCR

NSMB

Sonic Colors

Return to Dreamland.

It’s like an epidemic of hidden areas and fetch quests! Did game developers believe this shit was fun!? Well obviously, the hardcore twats seem to be sending the wrong message.

Lost Mind is heavily soaked with secrets and fetch quests which I attribute to the increased influence of Nintendo’s “surprises” mantra. But the most important aspect is lost. There is no spectacle to draw or entice people to the product at hand. The content is shit. And worst of all, the version being developed by dimps looks waaay better! How fucked is your life!?

It is the hardcore love of “game play” that gives the wrong impression that Lost Mind will somehow end being a good game. And because of their dreams to fill the shoes of Miyamoto, an idol to all game designers, this is a habit that truly dies hard.

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