Detective Pikachu vs. Sonic the Hedgehog

This year, two video game franchises that defined my childhood will be hitting the big screen as live action movies. My reaction to the two trailers is about the same as much of the Internet: Detective Pikachu looks surprisingly, strangely good, Sonic the Hedgehog… not so much. Just so we’re all on the same page, here are the most recent trailers for each:

Hollywood loves to milk us for nostalgia. A lot of people roll their eyes at that, but I’m really not bothered by that in and of itself. I’m happy to get more Star Wars and comic book movies… as long as they’re done well. That really is the key, isn’t it? It has to be done well or it just feels like a cheap cash-in.

A large part of the difference between these movies is that Detective Pikachu takes place in a different part of a much larger world than the games. It gives the writers the creative license to build a world that makes sense within the rest of the universe, but also works for a movie. It doesn’t have to connect itself too much to the rest of the franchise, but also doesn’t feel like it needs a big “this isn’t canon” disclaimer on it. It’s also adapting a game of the same name that was a lot more story driven to begin with, so there’s more material to adapt. Honestly, I haven’t played the game, so I’m not entirely sure how far the movie departs from it, but that doesn’t really matter much to me, as long as it’s a good movie with at least the same premise.

Classic Sonic the Hedgehog, on the other hand, is a game that barely had a story, because it didn’t really need one: Evil scientist shows up with bad robots. Jump on them. Then jump on the evil scientist. It’s an action platformer and that’s about all the setup you need. We’ve had a wide variety of Sonic media adaptations over the years — no less than three American cartoons in the 90s, an anime movie, an anime TV series, and recently a CGI TV series, not to mention the longest running video game-based comic book series ever, as well as its recent reboot — and they’ve all had to make up an awful lot in terms of Sonic’s world and backstory. As such, we’ve had a lot of different takes on the character, and, quite frankly, it’s starting to get old. It’s exhausting keeping up with which version of the same characters we’re dealing with here. The cognitive dissonance that it creates is exactly why you see so much in fighting among Sonic fans; everyone has a different idea of what Sonic “should be” because there has never really been a single, unified depiction of him. It’s like all the times they’ve rebooted Spider-Man, except that everyone knows Spider-Man’s backstory, so much so that they finally decided to just fast forward over it in the last couple of incarnations. With Sonic, they have to reinvent the wheel every time.

Detective Pikachu also takes place in a world where the weird looking CGI characters are just as prevalent as humans, if not more so. This makes the integration of the CGI protagonist with the live action protagonist feel a lot more natural than the human and hedgehog duo. It’s not even about CGI quality or budget, it’s about whether or not your CGI character feels out of place in the world. And Sonic feels out of place because he is literally out of place; Pokemon are just a part of life in City, but Sonic is an oddity that startles everyone. Those Sega Genesis sound effects are jarringly out of place as well. I really hope those are used sparingly… or just not at all.

Obviously I haven’t seen either of these movies, given that neither one is out yet, so I can’t really say how good or bad either one is. But if trailers are any indication (and they aren’t always), Detective Pikachu does a lot better job adapting its nostalgic IP to live action than Sonic the Hedgehog. The two will inevitably be compared a lot to each other, and to the recent rash of live action Disney remakes. I’ve already seen it all over social media. I’m not sure either will be a cult classic or anything, or rake in Marvel-sized piles of cash, but Detective Pikachu looks like a movie that I will genuinely enjoy, whereas Sonic just looks like another movie to throw on the trash heap of terrible video game movies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally going to go see Sonic in the theater at least once because I’m a Sega fan and I have to, but I don’t expect to enjoy it as a movie.

Hey, at least it gives us new ammunition for the age old Mario vs. Sonic debate: Whose live action movie was worse?


Catching Up

Here’s a little of this and that from around my gaming life that hasn’t made its way to a post of its own.

First of all, you may have noticed the lack of MMO Tourism posts lately. That’s because I’ve hit a couple of discouraging games. First was EverQuest II. Moving around felt somewhat clunky, outmatched only by the painfully slow combat. I’m guessing that, aside from the fact that it came out in 2004 and most RPGs were generally a little slower-paced back then, this is partly a holdover from the first EverQuest which, coming out in 1999, was played primarily by dial-up users, which meant they had to account for a lot of latency. Even in 2004 a significant number of Internet users were on dial-up (I think my family didn’t get broadband until around that time, despite being online since 1995). Combine that with the fact that they were more or less inventing the modern MMORPG as they went along, and I can’t really blame SOE. But to a modern player, coming off of titles like WildStar and Guild Wars 2, it’s really hard to get in to, and I couldn’t really get past that. I hope to give it another go, but my first impressions were not good ones.

I also gave Dungeons and Dragons Online a shot, but for some reason it crashed a lot. I used to have similar problems with Turbine’s other game, Lord of the Rings Online, every now and then, but not nearly this bad. I tried three times to make a character and gave up after it crashed each time before I even got in the world. I’ll have to do some googling to see if there’s some settings that will make it more stable on my setup. Maybe it has to do with my recent Windows 8/SSD upgrade? Or just ATI’s latest crappy drivers?

I’m a little late to the party on this one, but I finally got to read Worlds Collide, the epic Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man crossover comic book miniseries from Archie comics. Sonic and Mega Man have always been my favorite characters since before I can remember, so to have them together in one semi-official story is a dream come true. I love the art style and the overall cleverness of the writing. So many witty references to both games; the writers are clearly big fans of both series. It’s probably the most amazing game-related thing I’ve ever read. I’ve been buying them as compiled graphic novels, so I’m still eagerly waiting for the last arc later this month (no spoilers please!). I highly recommend them for fans of either series. Since I got my hands on the first one I’ve been on kind of a Mega Man kick (I’ve been trying to finally beat the last few levels of Mega Man 10 that I never got through, and my ringtone may or may not be the Proto Man whistle right now…), and this has renewed my sense of frustration that Capcom seems completely uninterested in further developing the series since creator Keiji Inafune left the company in 2010. I have high hopes for his new games, Mighty No. 9 and Azure Striker Gunvolt, apparent spiritual successors to the Mega Man and Mega Man Zero series, respectively, but I’m afraid it’s just not going to be the same. At least we have the comic book for the foreseeable future.

My necromancer in Guild Wars 2 continues to progress nicely. I have a good rotation down for cranking out lots of damage and DOTs using my wand/dagger and staff, and can take down most Veteran mobs without taking much damage, even without popping into death shroud (aka high damage, resource-is-health mode). Unfortunately I’m nearing that critical 25-35 range where most of my alts die, but I don’t see that happening with this one (of course, I’ve said that before). I also can’t decide which zone to do next, as I’ve done all of them at this level range. I wish I could skip over them and do some of the higher level content I haven’t seen yet. I guess that’s what I get for being an altaholic. I’m leaning toward the Charr zone next, since I’ve never played a Charr and I’ve only mapped that zone once.

In other Guild Wars 2 news, the new season of the Living World started last week. I missed out on most of season one (due mostly to the fact that I took my time getting to 80, and by the time I got there I was so behind that I had no idea what was going on or why I should care), so I can’t really judge whether season 2 has improved, but I like what they’re doing with it so far. The dialog and cutscenes are done more the way I would expect from an MMO, using in-game graphics and occasionally textboxes, and not like the personal story cutscenes that yank you out of the game and show the characters awkwardly talking past each other (which you’ve heard me rant about many times if you’ve been reading my ramblings on Guild Wars 2 for long). I really like the living story cast of characters a lot better than the personal story/Destiny’s Edge characters. They’re a lot more colorful and less generic racial stereotypes. I also like that they’re all obvious player classes. I never felt like I knew exactly what class Zojja or Caithe were supposed to be (I guess Eir was a ranger since she had a pet? And they refer to Traherne as a Necromancer, but he uses a greatsword), but the new group (do they get a cool name like Destiny’s Edge? If so I haven’t heard it yet) are comprised of obvious classes with identifiable skills that can be used by players (with the exception of Taimi, who uses her golem to fight). Also, without spoiling too much for those who may not have done it yet, that last boss fight is incredibly annoying. I can’t tell you how many times I got knocked off of that blasted rock, and the Zephyrite lightning jump kept glitching out for me and not landing anywhere near where I put down the target. It was worth it, though, and I’m looking forward to how the plot developers in the next episode.

Playing Catch-Up On Console Games

Sadly, I kind of did this in 2010
I’m mostly a PC gamer, but when I do play consoles, I’ve always been a Nintendo loyalist. But recently my fiancée moved her three generations of Playstation to my house, and I’ve been picking my way through her game collection, as well as adding a few console exclusives I’ve been wishing to try. I feel a little lame every time I realize that the game I’m playing came out five, ten, even fifteen years ago, but fun has no expiration date, right?

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On Mobile Ports

Let me just say this up front: I’m not a huge fan of mobile games (“mobile games,” for the purposes of this article, meaning “smart phone/tablet games”). Touchscreens are horrible for playing anything more advanced than Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja. Give me a keyboard and mouse or a controller any day. It’s not about the graphics; I hated Infinity Blade and that had nice enough graphics. It is about game companies (and Apple fanboys) trying to convince me that in 10 years every core gamer like me is going to be playing the new Half Life by swiping their fingers across a screen. That is, quite frankly, ridiculous. Yes, there are controllers for iOS and Android (the MOGA seems to be the current favorite), but if I’m going to carry a controller around with me everywhere, why wouldn’t I just carry my 3DS with me? If I’m not supposed to carry a controller with me everywhere, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of it being portable? Wouldn’t a microconsole (like, my favorite, the Ouya) be a better option?

Now that that rant is over, let’s talk about the issue at hand: mobile ports. Inevitably, companies are going to see the ridiculous popularity and profits of games like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope and want a piece of the action. It’s easier and cheaper to adapt an existing or in-development game to a new platform than to try to develop a whole new game for a different platform. I can’t blame companies for this, but some games make the transition better than others.

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