Yahtzee reviews the fifth generation of consoles.
(jingle) Let's all laugh at an industry that never learns anything, tee hee hee.
Zero Punctuation's Occasional Guide to
Retarded Special Moments in Gaming History
My first idea for this episode of the Zero Punctuation occasional guide to gaming's most voluminous trouser-shitting incidents was that we could all laugh at the Virtual Boy, tee hee hee. But that didn't feel too revelatory, you know? Nintendo's headache-inducing masque of the red death didn't do so well. Then I thought perhaps we could all laugh at everything else Nintendo was doing at the time as well, tee hee hee, because they stepped into more than a few potholes and the potholes were big and black. But then again, Sega was about to fall into some potholes that were bigger and blacker and also full of cum. So I did a bit more reading up and eventually threw up my hands and said, "Fuck it, let's all laugh at the entire fifth generation of consoles, tee hee hee."
Console Wars: The Vexed Generation
Funny how the world of gaming was turned completely on its head by the incrementing of a single digit by one, that digit being the "2" at the start of "2D". If only they'd known that one day 90% of the indie games on Steam would be aping the 16-bit era, they could have just gritted their teeth, held on for twenty years and been perched pretty as the perfect patrician of Port Pixel Art. But noooo, everything had to be 32-bit now, sprites out, first generation polygons in. There's no stopping progress, even if progress looks like double-bagged tiger whoopsies being jizzed out of a dead spider.
It was a painful transitionary period when the old kings collapsed syphilitically from their thrones and the crowns were up for grabs. What really sums it up is that amid veteran companies that had been doing the console war thing for years, the eventual winner of the generation was the newcomer, Sony - a company best known for a thing for men to use while walking, called a Walkman, and their station for playing things on, the PlayStation. Apparently Sony was the one doing all the smart thinking, even if their naming division wasn't.
Nintendo went into the fifth generation with everything to lose. The SNES and the Game Boy had created a world in which confused elderly relatives referred to every gaming platform as "Nintendos" to the undisguised contempt of their children. Perhaps Nintendo had gotten cocky, that might explain why they tried to push a VR console fifteen years before commercial VR tech was even remotely viable, that could only do red-on-black sprites and had no head tracking, so it was essentially just the experience of sitting really really close to a broken TV. But let's not dwell on the Virtual Boy, that was just an experiment that got rather misguidedly over-promoted and hey, experimentation is good. That's how we learn. How else would you know that you get sexually aroused from packing peanut butter into a dolphin's blowhole?
Partly, it was pushed to distract from the Nintendo 64 being delayed half a year, missing the Christmas sales, but that was small potatoes in the long run. The N64 boasted the most powerful graphics tech of its time and first party titles that still to this day appear in best-game-ever lists written by nostalgia-blinded twats who probably still eat children's breakfast cereals. The N64 had the power, the IP and the good reputation, there was just one tiny little massive cargo container full of bat smegma sitting on the N64 railroad tracks, and it had the word "cartridges" along the side. Cartridges did have merits. They load fast and are sturdy enough to still work after you smack your brother with it for asking for their turn, but the same is true of an articulated truck and you wouldn't pick up your dinner date in one.
The age of the CD-ROM had come, which may well have been slower to load and stopped working if you used them as improvised weaponry. But in comparison, developing for cartridge was like chiselling the ones and zeros onto stone tablets, and third-party developers were turned off. Ultimately the third-party developers would be the kingmakers of this generation. Capcom gave their old pals Nintendo the cold shoulder and showed up to the PlayStation's birthday party with Resident Evil. SquareSoft batted away Nintendo's attempt to hold hands so it could go behind a bike shed with Sony and show them their knickers, aka Final Fantasy VII.
But it wasn't just the Nintendo 64 strapped to the railroad tracks. Sega also saw the incoming PlayStation juggernaut, its driver blinded by all the moist third-party developer panties covering the windscreen, and had a little wee-wee squirt which led to them launching the Sega Saturn in the US four months early to selected retailers. But that squirt went right in their face because some of the not-selected retailers got pissy, so to speak, and dropped Sega from their line-up. This included Walmart, and so Sega lost the important shithead market. In the end, the Saturn's head start only let the Playstation piss on the back of its head. But there were many factors leading to the Saturn's failure. Some blame the cancellation of its one and only Sonic game, Sonic X-treme, which would have been the 3D Sonic to counter Mario 64. And yes, I think it's a shame we didn't discover early on that Sonic and 3D meet the way the German invading infantry met the Siberian winter. Perhaps a lot of later unpleasantness could have been avoided. But if you ask me, banking on a console mascot is playing the game by old rules that the fifth generation was in the process of rewriting. Mascots were part of the world left behind, the one that would be compressed down into a little comfortable nostalgic ball that Nintendo would wear on its head for the rest of fucking eternity, like a space helmet full of gummy bears.
In a pivotal moment of technological upgrade, all the old, established ways proved to be nothing but unnecessary baggage that weighed the veterans down as the lithe, new hotness ran up and took the gold. So congratulations Sony, you won the fifth generation. Here's your fabulous prize: several million snotty, unpleasable fanboys that must now be kept in a state of constant satisfaction. Don't overdo the champagne now!
The lessons nobody learned
Today the console conflict is a three-party system. Well, two parties and one bloke chewing gummy bears in a space helmet. And of course, PC gaming watching it all through high-powered binoculars from the roof of their giant money factory. But in the turmoil of the rise of 32-bit, it was anybody's race. And there was quite a field of the healthy competition we could do with more of nowadays.
I didn't even mention the console I had: the Amiga CD32 - the console so good it had to be discontinued and declare bankruptcy after six months to give everyone else a chance. Then there was the 3DO with its wonderful FMV games that made flesh look like biscuit dough smeared in water-based lubricant. Or the Atari Jaguar, technically the world's first 64-bit console, in that at least 64 people looked at it and said, "Well, it's a bit like a console, I guess. But what's with the controller that looks like a Genesis controller got knocked up by a pocket calculator?"
Hmm...you know, on second thought, healthy competition wasn't the right choice of words. "Slightly run down competition", maybe. Or how about, "Competition that could probably get out of bed, given a drip, a wheelchair and the second coming of Jesus"?
- Loss leader: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Also I didn't mention that Sony offered to partner with Nintendo on a CD console but Nintendo turned them down 'cos the company brain cell was on loan
- Mascots in internet video reviews, on the other hand, still going strong