When you release any kind of product, there is almost always uncertainty about how it will be received. Unless you can hop into your time machine and check out the day of your release, you really are never guaranteed that things will go smoothly.
This is why, for me, as the release date loom-eth, the Terror simply cannot be abated. It can be controlled, redirected, endured… but I’ve… I’ve seen… too much… The eyes, they–they haunt me…
Anyway, if you’ve been following along, you’ve heard about all this crap before from me, and now Red Steel 2 is out, man! So? Now? How is it going??
Well, I still haven’t seen any actual sales numbers. Any conclusion at this point remains a speculative guess at best. Honestly, who knows?
Actually, we have a LOT of feedback. The press embargo is good-and-over, and the fans in all territories (save Japan) have been playing it with unfettered abandon for a few days. The message boards have lit up, there are fan reviews appearing all over the place. Exciting! And, on the whole, people seem…
…well, they seem pretty damn enthusiastic.
In fact, there’s something that I think I am seeing bubbling up in the reviews & the fan responses that is an honest-to-golly “new thing”, at least to me as a developer. It’s something I want to try and point out to you – right here, in this little blog post.
It’s a little slippery, though, this thing – elusive. You might even call it “ephemeral”.
As in, it might not exist. My ego is a gigantic, looming thing, and it clouds my perspective in a horribly world-warping way – I might just be making it up to seem more important to myself. Or, what I’m noticing might just be too subtle to have any real relevance. You might well get through this post without actually seeing the thing I hope to point you at – either because I do a bad job of laying it out… or, uh, because it’s not there.
If that turns out to be the case, then my bad. But what the hell: let’s make a go at it anyway.
Let’s start here: if you clicked that Metacritic link back there, you know that (as of this writing) our average rating is hanging out at a solid 81%.[*]
I’ve released a few games in the past, and spent a good chunk of my life reading game reviews. My experience tells me that normally, in this types of case, you can expect a kind of “good job, buuuuuuuuut coulda been better” kind of response from the media.
Here’s the thing, though. Maybe it’s just me, and maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much of my life making mediocre movie games and reading pissed-off reviews about them… but…
Screw it. How about I just try to show you what I mean?
I’m gonna pull some quotes from a bunch of the major reviews we’ve seen so far for the game. And, I’m going to quote full sentences, so that I can fool you into thinking that I’m not manipulating you by being overly-selective. Ain’t I clever?
As you read these, keep in your head the idea that what I am used to hearing with an 81% is stuff like “an excellent example of this kind of game”, “good stuff”, and “a lot of fun”.
Nintendo World Report (90%):
“Plain and simple, this is one of the finest games to grace the Wii console.”
“Are you a gamer? Do you own a Wii? Then you need Red Steel 2. In fact, this game is a reason to own a Wii all by itself.”
“There are still some issues, both in game balance as well as wishy-washy motion sensing control, but the awesome style and energetic gameplay are enough to make this one of the top titles on Wii.”
“While there are some lingering control issues and a linear feel, this is one of the best shooters you can find on the Wii.”
“The sword fighting works well at first but it isn’t until you start unlocking the various special moves where the system really opens up into one of the most thrilling and visceral combat experiences on any console.”
“Ubisoft have created an amazing adventure.”
“But that’s exactly why you should forget the first, as this completely overhauled sequel is easily the best FPS on Wii and a wonderfully shocking example of how damn good a Wii-exclusive shooter can be.”
“Red Steel 2 has it where it counts, with a deep combat system that continuously improves as the game progresses. It could do with more interesting tasks outside of battle, but it nails the swordplay like no game before it.”
“It single handedly proves the Wii MotionPlus’s value for adventure games, while providing one of the best action experiences on the system.”
“Despite its flaws, Red Steel 2 is one of the best action games on the Wii.”
“Red Steel 2 is complex without being incoherent, innovative without being off-putting, and one of the finest brawlers we’ve played full stop.”
Game Informer (80%):
“Red Steel 2: Stellar Swordplay Overcomes A Few Dull Edges”
Even Eurogamer (who gave us a 70%) had lots of nice things to say, like:
“In the end, you’ll likely forgive Ubisoft’s game its shortcomings on the strength of its energy, obvious good will, and deep sense of craft.”
Do you hear it? I hope you do. I’m taking up your precious time with what amounts to intellectualized bragging, and I appreciate you hanging out with it for this long, but I really do have a point I want to make, personal, tiny, simple though it is.
When we sat down to design this game, the core concept we began with was “hitting things is fun”. Now, that statement is true, in this weird, visceral way that not everyone understands… but that a lot of people do.
It was scary, hanging our hat on this bizarre idea: could you construct a video game that is basically a whack-’em-up? I’m going to put you in a room and let you beat the shit out of a bunch of virtual dummies. That’s it! That’s the whole concept!
We wanted to do a lot more, of course, but given the time frame and what we knew at the time…
We committed – committed ourselves to the belief that even just that, just whacking and stabbing and bashing your enemies, but for real this time – just that might be enough. And, on a more personal level, that the power of that experience might just make the whole damn endeavor worth our while.
There would need to be more, of course, a lot more, but if we could bring something really cool and new…
That “something” might justify the years of effort from over a hundred people, all the blood, sweat, tears, effort, tragedy, difficulty, pain, frustration… and all of that hope would hang on this bizarre idea represented in an image we found of two young boys whacking each other with branches in their backyard – an image that, for me , summed up the idea of the fantasy we were building.
My core belief, and, I think, the belief of many of the other folks in the company that got behind the project, was that yes, this would be enough. Yes, this could be satisfying. Yes, people wanted this, and yes, people had never experienced this kind of thing before.
But, it was a gamble. It always is.
Now, looking at the response, I see the enthusiasm, I see the heart-felt excitement, I see the fans writing long, passionate reviews in the comments sections of other sites, I see people talking about how much their arms hurt from playing for all this time… and, notably (for me anyway) absent are the detractors: absent are the criticisms of combat, absent are the folks who couldn’t figure it out, absent are the cries of general displeasure that comes from an accumulation of negatives with no redeeming value.
Hmmm. I seem to have no idea how to phrase my conclusion.
Honestly, though, I think it’s not even really for me to make a conclusion about this state of affairs. I wanted to show you guys something I thought was cool, something that is, for me, exciting, confusing, satisfying, and a little scary. From the inside, it’s beginning to look like the game is working, that the message has been received…
…and that some people really like it. Quite a lot, in some cases.
That is an amazing feeling.
[*] EDIT: Removed a paragraph about my perception of how good or bad the overall score is – seems that lots of folks got the impression I was actually complaining about the score, when in fact that was not my intention at all – I’m quite happy with the score, in fact. 🙂