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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Code Name S.T.E.A.M.? Get Ace Attorney on sale instead!

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is getting some deservedly bad reviews.

It is clear that I got off on the wrong claw with Code Name S.T.E.A.M.. I mean, look at our live reactions when it was first "revealed"... behind closed doors. And that whole conference was just full of misinformation to the folks on the outside. To this day, it's unclear why Code Name S.T.E.A.M. was revealed in secrecy when Nintendo was revolutionising every other part of E3 (besides Pac-Man's reveal, which was behind closed doors to prevent a riot) with its wonderfully transparent Treehouse Live series.

After E3 ended, it was a running gag in the [Koopa Keep] AIM Blast (and thus in our live reaction logs) that I kept forgetting Code Name S.T.E.A.M. even existed. It was weird, sure, but it wasn't exactly memorable. It was this sort of drab, slow, not very colourful game that we didn't even have a grand showing for.

Then I suddenly remembered it existed and realised, hey, wow, this game is coming out this quarter. So here's an article trashing its amiibo usage as threatening to canon, and then another article expanding on that a month later in huge detail.

It's not that I want to trash the game, but, I just called it as I saw it. And then the demo came out at the end of January and that was not a pleasant experience. I mean, it just wasn't fun. It definitely did not improve my opinion of the game, and I realised then that not only do I dislike it for its visual style and its characters, but I'm also not a fan of non-top-down strategy games that hide information from you! In other words, I don't like its gameplay.

It turns out "professional" videogame critics are very mixed on the game. GameSpot literally rated it a 4/10. Now, I am pretty skeptical of these reviewers. Remember, I covered IGN's worst review in the history of journalism, also on an Intelligent Systems game. However, I read GameSpot's review, and it's consistent with my demo experience of the game and also consistent with the other reviews that think more highly of Code Name S.T.E.A.M..

John Henry, whose real-life backstory is that man can triumph over machine.
Now he's a cyborg. It's not just Ike this game is ignoring the canon for!

GameSpot's review was critical of the characterisation, or lack of it, in Code Name S.T.E.A.M.. The characters, pulled from all sorts of American historical contexts, are pretty much flat and do not develop. By comparison, the other reviews simply give the vapid analysis of "YOU'LL LOVE THE CRAZINESS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN [with his own MECHA HOW COOL] LEADING AMERICAN FOLK HEROES!" Absurdity in and of itself is not a substitute for well-written characters. Especially when this is Intelligent Systems, known for having excellent characterisation. (See: Fire Emblem games that aren't Shadow Dragon.) GameSpot's review goes to the heart of the issue rather than a surface-level "absurd concept = good enough for me!" It's not enough that the concept is delightful, it has to be executed well. And the enemies themselves, based on the demo, are boring generic alien blobs. Yawn.

Different reviewers had different opinions on the combat system. Some found the "wait minutes every enemy phase not knowing what the hell is going on while the camera is locked to a clueless dude" concept very irritating (like me), and some looked past it. Some people like the Advance Wars: Days of Ruin-style soundtrack (but pumped even more guitar-y) to be enjoyable, while I'm more doubtful of it, like the GameSpot reviewer. I also found the aiming/shooting to be problematic while in the demo. The GameSpot review also mentioned how there isn't urgency in the maps, which was basically true in the demo besides an arbitrary "complete the map in x turns to get full ranking". So get the treasure your first playthrough and go for time in the next, if you can stomach it.

There are literally people who are basically demanding that we all buy Code Name S.T.E.A.M. even if we think it's a flawed, failed experiment.

We don't like shitty Mario and Zelda games, but we also don't like shitty new IPs.

The logic is that Nintendo will hold the "new Nintendo IP" type of game hostage depending on the sales of Code Name S.T.E.A.M.. This is absurd on its face for a variety of reasons. The number one reason is that the logic presumes that shitty IPs are somehow better for the consumer than shitty rehashes of existing franchises. That's stupid.

The second reason is that Code Name S.T.E.A.M., according to people, is in the "new IP" bucket. Why is buying it counting towards new IPs? Why not frame it a different way? If you buy (or do not buy) Code Name S.T.E.A.M., you're signaling to Nintendo that you do (or don't) want more turn-based strategy games. Or maybe you're telling Nintendo you want less 3DS games and more Wii U games. (I, for one, actually do want Intelligent Systems to work on a blockbuster Wii U game. They seem oddly averse to it.) Perhaps you're saying you don't want steam-based games and you want solar-powered ones instead. How dare Nintendo promote inefficient, old forms of energy! Ride the wave of the future, man!

Of course, just like how buying Code Name S.T.E.A.M. sends some sort of message to Nintendo that you like something about that game (exactly what about it is more unclear, especially since there will no longer be Club Nintendo surveys about it), you can just as easily not buy Nintendo's established old IPs and send a similar message.

That said, I'm not a fan of Code Name S.T.E.A.M. and I don't feel bad about not buying it. Besides, I'm already in the tank for Splatoon, which is... also a new IP! Wow! And that's from an internal development team that I want to see bursting with creativity. With Intelligent Systems, I want them working on sequels. ...Most importantly, the type of game that Paper Mario: Sticker Star was supposed to be. (Except have it on the Wii U.)

Nintendo does not do this hostage-taking thing in general, like some people think Capcom does.

Which brings me to KoopaTV's endorsement of the day!

Why is "investigate" in quotes? Could it be...? Ace Attorney Investigations 2 will appear if we buy this?

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies will be 44% off this week on the eShop. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy will be 25% off. These games don't commonly go on sale, so now is the time to buy them if you have not already!

Which you should have, since they've won amazing endorsements from KoopaTV already! Trilogy is the first three games in the series compiled into one package, and Dual Destinies is the fifth game in the series. ...The fourth one isn't on the 3DS (yet?) so don't think too hard about it.

Buying more Ace Attorney at every opportunity is always a positive and clear message you can send. You even get amazing products in return. Buying Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is a muddy message and... you don't even get a great game as thank you.

Ludwig has not played Code Name S.T.E.A.M. besides fully-completing the demo, which should be enough to judge it since that's why the demo exists.


  1. I remember Capcom denying they were holding AAI2 hostage... while talking about how the sales of Dual Destinies could really improve its chances!

    That said, any reason to buy Ace Attorney is a good one.

    I don't think I'd have minded the unable-to-see-enemy-movements thing in the demo if I didn't have to wait through it anyway.

    1. I guess holding AAI2 hostage implies AAI2 is at least still alive.

      Is Capcom pulling an ISIS where they're negotiating while their hostage is really dead?!

  2. I did not buy S.T.E.A.M. because I was resentful that Intelligent Systems has been abandoning Advance Wars. Did not even download the demo. Looks like my petty spite served me well.

    1. So would you not buy any other Intelligent Systems game that isn't an Advance Wars title?

    2. It depends, I guess. S.T.E.A.M. probably never captivated me regardless of developer behind it. I did get Pushmo for instance which is also an Intelligent Systems title.

    3. So you didn't buy S.T.E.A.M. because it wasn't captivatin', not because of Intelligent Systems. :o

      IS is never gonna do anything with a budget on an HD console ever again at this rate, though.


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