Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Doppelganger Games

With the recent announcement of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 for the PlayStation 3, I was reminded again that life as a poly-gamist can get a bit tricky at times. When a great game is available on just one console at a particular time, of course I would buy it for that console that it is available for at that moment. I bought Ninja Gaiden 2 soon after its release last year and now, the PlayStation 3 version that was never even hinted at before - the cover even has that fake "Only on X-Box 360" stamp on it - will contain new weapons, additional bosses, more playable characters, and an online co-op! The only reprieve I can get from this is that I was distracted from finishing the game in the first place so now I can wait for Sigma 2 before I play the game again but then, what was the reason for me to own the game on the X-Box 360 in the first place?

Of course, doppelganger games such as this one don't limit themselves to cross-platform boundaries and can take many mutated forms. Here are 10 of the more prominent ones that have victimized me (mostly my wallet) with their existence. For each of these listed items, I asked myself this question - was it really worth it?

1) The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Purchase History
Personal Computer Version - 03/22/2006
X-Box 360 Version - 05/05/2006

Even with a game as great as Oblivion, one copy of it is better than two. I bought the PC version for obvious reasons: the graphics are much superior than what the 360 can ever hope to conjure up but I was a bit too rash with the decision because the game just couldn't run smoothly with all the graphical settings set to max and I am just one of those people who want to play it with the maximum settings if those settings are available in the option menu. I settled with playing the game at 720p and half of the bells and whistles enabled until the hard drive on my computer crashed - not because of the game of course. At that time, I was completely addicted to Oblivion so because I just couldn't wait for my PC to be rebuilt - I decided it was a good time to upgrade - so I picked up the 360 version. I played the 360 version for a while before my PC was ready and of course playing the game on the PC again made me forget the 360 version. Perhaps the funniest thing about this particular case is when the PlayStation 3 version came out in 2007, there was strange compulsion that almost made me buy the game again on that platform!

Worth it? No. I should have been more patient and just stick with the PC version. I mean, buying the 360 is more of a downgrade and really brought nothing substantial to the whole experience.

2) Dead or Alive 2 and Beyond

Purchase History
Dead of Alive 2 (Dreamcast) - 10/02/2000
Dead or Alive 3 (X-Box) - 11/15/2001
Dead or Alive Ultimate (X-Box) - 2004
Dead or Alive 4 (X-Box 360) - 12/30/2005

Ever since the original Dead or Alive on the SegaSaturn and the PlayStation, the series has really gone downhill. This is the main reason why: It's pretty much the same game over and over again despite the addition of new characters. Still, the main offender here involves laziness on Tecmo's part: The characters pretty much look the same as they did on the previous entries. Yeah, yeah so the polygon count is higher - like anyone can really tell - and the details on the outfit are more defined but how come they all have the same, exact blow-up doll look to them throughout all these years? And new outfits don't necessarily mean new patterns on the same costumes that the characters wear - we want to see actual new outfits! Remember the huge amount of unlockable costumes in the first game? Tecmo even has the audacity to make the number of available looks smaller with each entry in the series. The character design changes per installment for both the Virtual Fighter and the Soul Calibur series - that is why I don't consider those as doppelgangers.

Worth it? No. These games are fun but the fun doesn't last very long and they get old very quickly because I feel like I have played the games many times before. This reminds me of Street Fighter IV and its over-dependence on classic (as in old and decrepit) characters to carry the bulk of the action but I will save that for my full review of the game.

3) Dragon Ball Z Budokai Whatevers

Purchase History
*****Deep Breath*****
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai (PlayStation 2) - 12/30/2002
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2 (PlayStation 2) - 12/09/2003
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 Limited Edition (PlayStation 2) - 2004
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi (PlayStation 2) - 10/21/2005
Dragon Ball Z: Shin Budokai (PSP) - 2006
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 (PlayStation 2) - 11/17/2006
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 (PlayStation 2) - 12/19/2007
Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit (X-Box 360) - 11/26/2008

Let it be said again that I am not a Dragon Ball Z nerd - never dream of wanting to have the very phallic, crazily erected hair because I always thought that the characters have them to compensate for something else - but I do like the idea of a Dragon Ball Z game ever since the split-screen extravaganza on the Super NES. If you look at the purchase history above, you can see that the series was updated every year but I must say that the series does get better with each entry, thus making me want to get them when they were individually released. Still, looking at that long list, anyone can see that the developer and publisher of the series are pretty much just milking their customers dry. Their greed becomes more apparent when the series suddenly jump to the PSP and the 360 and for these platforms, all the innovations that come from each entry of the series were thrown out the window and you are left with the basic game from the first Budokai so that they can start the whole entire milking process all over again. Yes, it's very sickening.

Worth it? No. I love the ultimate product - Tenkaichi 3 - but the road to get there was a bit too long and then after all that love and support, I got slapped in the face by the release of the much inferior Burst Limit.

4) Dynasty/Samurai Warriors Series

Purchase History
*****Another Really Long List*****
Dynasty Warriors 4 (PlayStation 2) - 08/03/2003
Dynasty Warriors 4: Xtreme Legends (PlayStation 2 ) - 2004
Dynasty Warriors 4: Empires (PlayStation 2) - 04/13/2005
Dynasty Warriors 5 (PlayStation 2) - 04/06/2005
Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires (X-Box 360) - 03/31/2006
Dynasty Warriors 6 (X-Box 360) - 05/05/2008
Samurai Warriors (PlayStation 2) - 2004
Samurai Warriors: Xtreme Legends (PlayStation 2) - 2004
Samurai Warriors 2 (X-Box 360) - 09/22/2006

This particular series has a special place in my heart because I do enjoy them all but I have to face the ultimate truth: they all are pretty much the same freaking game. With each new entry, you get slight improvements to the experience - in the case of the Empires rehashes, almost a different kind of genre. Still, you are basically clobbering one opponent after another until your kill counter reaches the high heavens... in every single one of these games! Also, the series was stuck with a terrible graphics engine until Dynasty Warrior 6 hit the market. I included the Samurai Warriors series into the mix because though the cast of characters may be different, the gameplay remains exactly the same!

Worth it? Yes. I love this series too much. I really did enjoy every single of of these games but if I ask myself now which one would I prefer to play? My answer would be the three on the 360 because they are the most polished compared to the rest. But would I play the others in the series again? Absolutely. Just not that frequently.

5) Naruto: Gekito Ninja Taisen! Series

Purchase History
Naruto: Gekito Ninja Taisen! - 05/12/2003
Naruto: Gekito Ninja Taisen! 2 - 03/17/2004
Naruto: Gekito Ninja Taisen! 3 - 12/21/2004
Naruto: Gekito Ninja Taisen! 4 - 05/12/2006

These imported beauties for the Nintendo GameCube did eventually make it as a domestic release that successfully mimic the doppelganger nature of the original Japanese release! This fighting game series rationalize the releases of the sequels by adding additional characters a little bit at a time. Granted, the developer was doing this to match the games with the progression the anime show - when new characters were finally revealed in the anime, they were then added into the game. Though new modes are added in the later releases, the character and background graphics are seriously recycled. There are little changes to the presentation as well. The game would have benefited from the ability to purchase and download additional characters from an online service such as X-Box Live or PlayStation Network but then again, I think the games would still have been released the way that they did because money talks.

Worth it? No. Owning number 4 pretty much makes owning the earlier releases meaningless because there is no way I would play the other three - except for the Random Game of the Day feature - because the fourth one has everything that those games have plus more.

6) Persona 3

Purchase History
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 - 08/17/2007
Shine Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES - 04/24/2008

I have made mention of my frustration in regards to this particular PlayStation 2 duo in the 2008 Yearly Gaming Analysis. The FES disc pretty much has the entire Persona 3 game that is nicely tweaked compared to the original plus an additional mode with an additional storyline. What hurts so much here is that the domestic release of Persona 3 was actually after FES was already released in Japan, so Atlus actually planned to force the game's fans to eventually have two of the same game in their homes. This may be the biggest case of doppelganger games of them all because of how popular the Persona series is to a lot of serious, hardcore gamers.

Worth it? Yes. Unfortunately that is. Not getting the FES disc means that you haven't played the entire Persona 3 experience while avoiding the purchase of Persona 3 in the first place could have been a silly move if FES was never released. I still cannot forgive Atlus for misleading their legions of loyal customers and if they make one more of such a dirty move in the future, rest assured that company is going to close down faster than the typical lifespan of a X-Box 360 before getting the red ring of death.

7) Resident Evil 4

Purchase History
Nintendo GameCube Version - 04/14/2005
PlayStation 2 Version - 10/28/2005
Nintendo Wii Version - 06/20/2007

Usually, when you see that "Only For" exclusivity print on cover of a game released for a Nintendo console, it usually signifies the truth. Unless you are money-hungry Capcom because not even a year after they released the game on the GameCube, they already have the PlayStation 2 version out with 16:9 progressive scan support and additional contents, kicking all the owners of the first release straight in the shin. Though graphically inferior, the game still looks pretty darn good and after the disappointment of playing the GC version using the zoom option on my TV because it was in letterbox mode, it was strangely a much better experience overall and the visual clarity definitely helps. I did notice the little things that are missing from the PS2 version though when it comes to graphics complexity so when the Wii version came out, I thought it would be a great idea to own it because it has an optional point and shoot control scheme, the original release's superior graphics, plus the true widescreen/progressive scan and the additional contents from the PS2 port.

Worth it? No. Who would have known that the ultimate version would eventually be released on the Wii but the good thing about it is that it was really cheap. Still, I really don't like Capcom's strategy when it comes to the PS2 release because with the very small time frame of exclusivity between the first two versions, it was apparent that Capcom was playing a dangerous game with multi-console owners. They really didn't have to lie and say that that the game was exclusive for the GC. I doubt that it would hurt the sale of the game on either platform if they release them both simultaneously. We all know that there are a lot of people out there who only stick to one console or another so there are a lot of money to be had even if Capcom chose integrity instead of treachery.

8) Sega Genesis Collection Variants

Purchase History
Sega Smash Pack Volume 1 (Dreamcast) - 04/27/2001
Sega Genesis Collection (PlayStation 2 ) - 11/19/2006
Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection (PlayStation 3 ) - 03/20/2009

I am not sure whether I should call these releases brilliant or sadistic because as a person who used to own the Genesis system, I wouldn't be able to fight the temptation of owning compilations of the classic games for that console... Even if that means that each release would feature almost the same collection of games plus one or more games that were not featured before and are not available to be purchased anywhere else. Besides the three "Genesis" themed collections listed here, I also own a couple of those "Sonic" themed collection, making the Sonic games featured in these collections ultimately redundant. Instead of releasing fresh games that have never seen the light of day after the Genesis era, we get to see these games showing their faces repeatedly across the three collections: Shinobi III, the Golden Axe series, Kid Chameleon, the Phantasy Star series, the Vectorman series, Columns, Comix Zone, the Street of Rage series, Altered Beast, and the Ecco series. It's like they can't find other games that we are dying to play again... like Herzog Zwei, Zero Wing, Valis, Contra: Hard Corps, Rocket Knight Adventures, and the list goes on and on. They really don't have to stick with Sega games because some of the true innovations during those beautiful 16-bit years come from third party developers!

Worth it? No. If this article was written before the Wii's arrival, then my answer would have been a yes because it's hard to find these games again without going through the eBay hassle. With the Wii's Virtual Console, I can just pick and choose whichever classic game I want to add into my collection without the risk of redundancy even if that means I have to wait forever for the great games to actually be released in that format. Nintendo really needs to get those great Genesis titles available on the Wii Shop Channel constantly.

9) Post-NES Ninja Gaiden

Purchase History
Ninja Gaiden (X-Box) - 03/04/2004
Ninja Gaiden Black (X-Box) - 09/24/2005
Ninja Gaiden Sigma (PlayStation 3) - 07/06/2007

Ninja Gaiden is still one of the most brutally satisfying action game of all time but how many times can we see the same game over and over again? History is repeating itself too, for me at least, with the sequel as I have explained in this article's opening paragraph. The additional contents found in Black made it a must buy for fans of the game but it could have easily been presented as an optional paid download on X-Box Live. When Sigma came out, I couldn't help but get the game because I do adore the series a lot and I appreciate the efforts done in improving the overall look of the game, bumping the resolution to 1080p while reworking some of the textures and polygons. The thing is though, the original on the X-Box looks glorious enough that Sigma only looks a little better compared to it. The addition of an additional character wasn't a huge attraction for me though because Rachel is just not that interesting. Now Ayane and Momiji in Sigma 2, well that's a completely different story.

Worth it? Yes. Sigma is the ultimate version compared to the other two and looking back at Black, at least it was sold at a lower price even though the distribution method was questionable. For a game as legendary as the 3D Ninja Gaiden, it's an honor to own each copy of its iterations. Sigma's release is forgivable because of its timing... I wish I could say the same thing about the upcoming Sigma 2.

10) Winning Eleven Series

Purchase History
World Soccer Winning Eleven 6 International (PlayStation 2) - 03/18/2003
World Soccer Winning Eleven 7 (PlayStation 2) - 02/29/2004
World Soccer Winning Eleven 8 International (X-Box) - 02/06/2005
World Soccer Winning Eleven 9 (PlayStation 2) - 02/08/2006

Soccer is the only other form of sports that I can tolerate alongside tennis and golf and the Winning Eleven series is the best soccer games ever made. The FIFA series has always been really stiff compared to the level of polish found here. Now for the honest truth: I never really noticed any real improvement with the release of each sequel other than the differences in overall presentation and minor graphical improvements. I think I must have fallen under a spell or something when I bought these games because as much as I like soccer, I am not a big fan of it. I mean, I don't even think Beckham is that great - he just happens to be a good soccer player who also happens to be very good looking thus the marketable popularity. I mean, after saying stuff like that, people should know that I don't take soccer all that seriously. I must have had some extra cash to burn and there were no other good games out at the time when I purchased number 7, 8, and 9.

Worth it? No. I only really need one of them and any one of them would do. I did realize this after that last one, though it took me four years but better late than never. Several newer games from the series did emerge on the 360/PS3 over the last two years but they didn't even make it onto my Purchase List because I know I already have enough Winning Elevens to last me a lifetime. [Edit: 04/04/2009 - What do you know? I actually own Winning Eleven Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 for the X-Box 360 that was purchased on 02/09/2007! The Winning Eleven print was so small that I missed it while writing this piece.]

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