The best Xbox? (pic: Microsoft)
The Tuesday Inbox continues the argument over difficultly levels in Soulsborne games, as one reader recommends Touhou Luna Nights.
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So it’s the 20th anniversary of the Xbox this year, except I doubt many people look back at the OG Xbox with any real sense of nostalgia. I never had one. I don’t know anyone else that ever had one and other than Halo I don’t know of any good games that were supposed to be on it. So my question is, what is the best Xbox console?
It’s obviously not the Xbox One, which makes the only real choice the Xbox 360. That’s not a backhanded compliment either as I truly regard it as one of the best consoles ever made, with one of the best game line-ups, and a vitally important game-changer in terms of online gaming. People forget but the PlayStation 2 barely acknowledge online existed at all and had to be dragged into it by the success of the Xbox.
The PlayStation 3 was behind the times too, but the Xbox 360 cemented online as the most important thing about the console. It even had a great controller and apart from the Red Ring of Death no real downsides.
I do think the Xbox Series X has a chance of beating it though. Between Game Pass and xCloud we are looking at another sea change generation and Xbox could well come out on top. And even if they don’t (the Xbox 360 didn’t, it came last in its generation) they’ll still end up changing everything anyway.
Scale of the problem
Interesting article by Plato2 at the weekend, he put across some good points but missed out the fact that the Steam Deck isn’t upgradable and will be outdated in several years, or less, just like any other console. But it does have one major disadvantage: scalability.
The Nintendo Switch isn’t a very powerful piece of hardware but when developers make games specifically for it (or adapt games to it) they squeeze everything they can out of the hardware, same with any other console. Games are made specifically to get the most out of a console’s architecture. But this doesn’t happen with PCs. Developers aren’t forced to develop games for weaker hardware because they know PC owners can just upgrade.
So unless developers aim games specifically at the Steam Deck, as opposed to PC users in general, it’s not gonna be able to keep up the way the Switch has been able to. It looks tempting but I’d rather spend my money on an Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5 or even an Xbox Series S, all of which are more powerful. And to be fair, I don’t like the Switch for its portability I like it for Nintendo games. Which, like Plato says, is one thing the Steam Deck simply can’t do.
The most common argument I see about difficulty in FromSoftware games is that a lower difficulty setting has no effect on those who don’t use it. I think this misses the point.
It might be an identical experience for those who use the higher setting, but it wouldn’t be identical at all for the person using the lower one. I get that people want to enjoy a game on their terms and don’t want to be dictated to on what would work better for them personally, but that’s not how creative experiences always work, especially ones which are so steadfast in setting their own terms.
There are clearly loads of people who are convinced they know better in terms of what makes games what they are and what they will and won’t get out of a specific experience, and there seems to be absolute certainty that they definitely won’t miss anything fundamental to the From experience as long as they can dabble in the atmosphere and experience with some less critical role-playing features, etc. This completely overlooks a core element of From games, where if a problematic obstacle won’t change then it’s the player that has to.
So many seem quick to dismiss the claim that uncompromising challenge really is a fundamental feature of a From game while they’re no less keen to also disregard what an extremely talented creator’s goals and intentions are.
With that in mind, the best support for From games not having multiple difficulty modes is that From haven’t put multiple difficulty modes in their games.
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Worth a pass
I just thought I would write in to let everybody know what a great little game Touhou Luna Nights is. It plays like something halfway between Metroid and Mega Man, with slightly easier bosses than the latter. The music is also a very upbeat Mega Man-esque score too.
Kudos to Game Pass as I probably wouldn’t have given this a try otherwise. I highly recommend to anyone who is looking forward to Metroid Dread to keep them ticking over till then.
Would like to respond to Liam’s letter about the Streets Of Rage 4 DLC. The Mr X Nightmare DLC also has Roo from Streets Of Rage 3 playable. To unlock him just hold down the punch up and Start button at the title screen for a few seconds. Also, in Survival mode you will be able to defeat enemies and unlock them for the training mode, which will allow you to pick any combination of enemies that you can practice fighting against. You can even fight bosses from Streets Of Rage 1, 2, 3, and 4 all together as well. There is also new music and move-sets which makes this an amazing DLC for the game.
A lot more retro stages have been added in Survival mode and you will even be able to go up against Streets Of Rage 1, 2, and 3 bosses in Survival mode, so this will keep people busy for a while. Here’s a screenshot of the options available in training mode.
If you haven’t got the DLC it’s well worth owning as you will not be disappointed with it. Dot Emu, Lizardcube, and Guard Crush have out done themselves with this DLC and I hope there is a lot more coming in the future, with a Streets Of Rage Remake type mode that would expand the game even more.
gaz be rotten (gamertag)
I’m a little confused by the reaction to the Steam Deck. For one, I think it looks incredibly ugly, as did the Steam controller, which also promised so much and barely delivered. I have one and I don’t find it to be comfortable at all, plus it usually works worse than an Xbox controller for the majority of PC games.
I just don’t see who the audience is? PC gamers already have their high spec PC to play the latest AAA games at max settings. If you want to play on your TV there’s plenty of streaming solutions available to you. That leaves those who want to play their PC games handheld, which I guess I massively underestimated.
I know they’re packing a lot of tech into the machine, but it just looks uncomfortable to use. Let’s not forget Valve’s infamous record of supporting their devices. I’m not sold at all.
For me, Microsoft’s experiments with streaming to mobile phones is where the future is.
Agree to disagree
I emailed in last week with some queries regarding a few indie games. I read in your letters page you had now started a review of one of these, Wildermyth. I just wanted to say thank you and this is precisely why, after all these years, you are still my number one go to for all things gaming related. Do I agree with everything you say? Absolutely not, but I would hope this would be the case on something as opinion based as computer gaming.
However, do I trust and value your opinions? Absolutely. I know you will always be honest in your views, even as is often the case, these are likely to upset a few people. This is becoming increasingly rare in the modern world, which makes it doubly important to me to have somewhere I can trust and rely on to tell me how it is!
Just to add to this you do always try to take into account the views of your fans and respond to queries and requests, something few large websites would do. So overall thank you and keep up the excellent work.
GC: Thank you.
I’ve persevered a little long with xCloud but I think I need double or even triple my broadband speed to enjoy all it has to offer.
That said, the image quality is excellent and I’ve had no problems with frame rate. It’s just the input lag.
Lastly, a belated apology for misrepresenting the ‘middle of the road’ comment about Crowded House. I may be a bit of a Neil Finn zealot!
As for the consensus on Crowded House. Clearly the band is excellent.
PS: Henshin Agogo… you make me pine for Viewtiful Joe. What superb games they were.
The Legend of Groose
So, I’m about 30 hours into Zelda: Skyward Sword HD and I have to say what a sterling job Nintendo have done with this game.
The quality of life improvements have smoothed over all the minor irritations from the original game. In particular, being able to use buttons instead of motion controls is a boon to someone like me who plays mainly docked and with the Switch Pro controller.
The watercolour style graphics always looked good in the original, and with the HD polish they’ve been given they look even better and will always have that timeless quality, like Ōkami and The Wind Waker.
The fact that Fi has been reigned in makes her a much more likeable character. Talking of characters, I’d forgotten about Groose; initially he seems a jerk but then his endearing silliness wins you over.
Don’t let anyone tell you that Skyward Sword is anything but a very good game – you gave it an 8/10 GC and I would give it a 9 all day long.
Anyone who says differently doesn’t play many games from other developers. If you do think that Skyward Sword is a mediocre game, then just remember that a mediocre Zelda game is better than 95% of all other games.
I’ll be honest, I had no idea Microsoft had bought Double Fine. I agree, that does make a far better match than janky old Bethesda and the awful Todd Howard. And kudos for still publishing the PlayStation 4 version.
There’s a lot of reasons an easy mode in From games is a bad idea but one that hasn’t been mentioned is that they don’t grow on trees. Dumbing down a From game so that anyone can beat it is going to take a lot of time and money, that then isn’t going to get spent on the main game.
This week’s Hot Topic
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Iceman, who asks what game do you most regret buying, or receiving as a present, during your childhood?
Kids are even more prone to hype than adults, and we all have games we’re embarrassed to remember looking forward to, but which one upset you the most? Did it ruin a birthday or Christmas or was it something you spent your own money on and bitterly regretted?
What sort of success rate did you have as a kid, in terms of the quality of the games you picked, and how did you make your choices? What advert or review do you remember as being the most misleading and did you fall for it yourself?
E-mail your comments to: [email protected]
The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.
You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.
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