Sunday Thoughts: 10/05/09

Those of you without any sense of self control will be all over Twitter.  If you check our Staff page you’ll see that we’ve all got accounts and habitually use the service to inform anyone that’s listening what we’re eating, watching and playing at any given time, besides, naturally, updating our followers (yes, it’s like a religion) on any new posts on TSA – that is, if you hadn’t already checked the site, got an email or pinged our various RSS feeds, of course.  Yesterday then, as you’ll know, I bought Street Fighter IV, and regret the decision already.

As our reviews editor David will know, I hate the very concept of Street Fighter.  It’s not just Capcom’s taken on the genre, mind, I detest everything from Dead or Alive to Tekken, especially Tekken, although I did have a short-lived but otherwise unremarkable attraction for Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast – probably down to being a massive SEGA fanboy, perhaps, but more likely because Soul Calibur was an amazingly beautiful game and encapsulated everything great about the machine: 60fps, arcade perfect, rapid loading conversions of my favourite coin-operated titles.

But anyway, back to Street Fighter.  I’ll admit to not knowing a damned thing about the long running series.  I’d briefly played the SNES games but always thought of the concept as being utterly unrewarding – two men (or women) fighting like staccato puppets ad infinitum wasn’t my idea of fun, and whilst I know lots of people spend hours a day practicing and perfecting their skills I have absolutely no inclination to ‘get good’ at the game.  I don’t see the point: you’re not going to unlock anything of any particular value and from what I’ve seen on the Store Capcom are charging for every little bonus anyway.

So why buy it?  I was bored.  I go through stages of being utterly fed up with modern videogames, and this last week was practically rock bottom in terms of self motivation – not normally a problem for most people but try running a website focused on that very subject.  Thankfully it’s often just a passing phase, and a quick blast on Outrun Arcade is usually enough to get me in the mood, but I’ve been working hard on some great new features for TSA (and of course, nailing down a project plan for TSA2) and once the PS3’s sat happily spewing out whatever bile is clogging up my PlayTV I’m happy to just leave it on in the background and switch on the laptop.

Recently, though, these feelings I have towards modern gaming are getting stronger.  Why should I have to explain to a room full of friends that “it’s just updating” for 10 minutes before we play?  Why does half my friends list need to know everything about inFamous when I’m just trying to see what it’s like for myself?  Why is half of everything I have on my Twitter feed filled with the same stories from five different angles when there’s not even a real story there anyway?  The truth is I miss the days before the internet – when you bought a game, took it home, played it all night and then talked about it all day in school.  You’d wait, expectantly, for your monthly fix of Crash and Your Sinclair, not the minute-by-minute pulsing of whatever news aggregator has hacked its way into your psyche.

It doesn’t matter that some publisher has revealed their list of E3 titles because there’s nothing on there that we didn’t already know about from leaked trademark registrations.  It doesn’t matter that a developer is shouting about it being easier to develop on one console than another because we know that there’ll always be a shitty port anyway.  It doesn’t matter that I don’t like Street Fighter IV because you’ll be able to find, in an instant, one hundred people that do.

It’s true: when I need a burst of dumb, simple gaming I have several more relevant choices than the PS3.  Don’t get me wrong, in terms of providing cutting edge, blockbusting videogaming it’s at the top of its game, but, for whatever reason, the PSN seems like a wasted opportunity for people like me that are struggling to find the time to learn every single one of  Ryu’s ex, turbo, hyper and focus moves just to get him through his troublesome day; I’m sure he’s a lovely man, but I’d rather be elsewhere.

So where?  Well, there’s the DS.  It’s 256 x 192 pixel resolution means Spectrum games fit perfectly on either of the portable’s screens, and the tiny size of most 48k titles means that I can carry around a small white box that’ll essentially give me thousands of games, and play them perfectly. And then there’s the 360, which for all it’s faults and flaws has somehow become home to a massive collection of retro classics, and unlike Sony isn’t shy in offering top quality previous generation games for download, alongside killer updates of some of my all time favourite games: I’d much rather play Rez than Resident Evil, Speedball than Street Fighter, Banjo Kazooie than Bad Company.

But you know, Capcom’s latest brawler does have some amazing visuals.  We’ve known this since the very first images were leaked and despite only clocking in at 720p there’s plenty there to impress.  And I’ll admit, the kick/punch mechanics do kind of make sense, and although there hasn’t ever been a real fight on the planet that’s played out like any Street Fighter fight it’s infinitely more realistic than Tekken and less indulgent than Dead or Alive.  It’s still cheap, though, the last boss smacks me of an inside joke (hey, let’s put the battery indicator right over the clock) and the fact that you’re locked into a 2D plain is a little restrictive.

I’m not here to be needlessly objective, though, the full TSA review of Street Fighter IV is coming, and naturally not from me.  There’s an unspoken rule with reviewing that for the most part you should at least understand the source material and its target audience before putting pen to paper, and I wouldn’t have a clue where to begin.  I just know that on a very basic and fundamental level I don’t like the game, and thus despite the thing only costing me twenty quid I know I’ll probably never play it again.

For more on this subject, check out this thread.

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