Ask 411 Games 11.05.12: Defining Adventure, Leaving Wolfteam, PORN!, More!
Posted by Mathew Sforcina on 11.05.2012
Where does L.A. Noire rank among the best-selling adventure games of all time? Is there a proper video game series with pornography in it? Why did Tales of Phantasia cause three members of the development team to depart the company? All this and more covered this week in Ask 411 Games!
There is something to be said for coyness. While you should never withhold important information, letting major information slip out slowly has its place. You let people digest the info slowly, over time, and let them think they worked it out on their own.
But I won't be doing that. Instead, I'll be upfront about it.
Sadly, this will be the last edition of Ask 411 Games by yours truly for the foreseeable future. An increase of commitments on the weekends means that I just don't have the ability to commit to this weekly column for the next couple of months. Possibly when my free time becomes more organised, I may return (I certainly hope I do) but for now, this is the end of the line.
We've had some good times, some bad times, and that Damn Sega Column in the near 2 years that this has been going on. I just wanna thank you for reading and supporting it, and hopefully this isn't the last Ask 411 Games you see.
(And for the record: Ask 411 Wrestling as well as my usual appearances in 4 Player Co-Op and the like are safe. For now.)
Questions probably shouldn't come in, given the whole ‘last shot' situation.
Dylan gets to be the last emailed question so far. Huzzah…
Big fan of your Ask411 columns. Two questions for you.
With Telltale Games bringing out a few movie/TV-based licensed adventure games recently (Back to the Future, Jurassic, Law & Order, etc) I noticed that these are all based on movies/TV shows that are long past their initial release and that the movie tie-in games released at the time of a movie's release are typically generic action/shooter style games. Which leads me to my question.
Has any movie had an genuine adventure game as the official tie-in game at the time of release? I know of the Indiana Jones adventure games, but I'm not sure if they came out at the same time as the movies or not.
Well, depends on if you consider this an adventure game or not.
It came out the following year, but given it was the first video game based on a movie, it can be cut a little slack, I suppose.
The problem with the question is that ‘adventure' game is such a nebulous concept. I mean, technically an adventure game can be anything from Professor Layton to The Walking Dead to that weird Japanese Dating Sim where all the other characters are pigeons.
But adventure games that are tie ins tend to be for novels and, more recently, well established tv/movie properties. Although technically ET is an adventure game, and it came out in the months following the movie…
What you asked however, I don't believe I have any. Games that come out at the same time as the movie rarely have enough time to be adventure games, since an adventure game tends to take more programming, in terms of writing and setting up all the various possible actions, rather than a somewhat more streamlined "Stuff that blows up".
But I'll happily be proven wrong. Remember, it has to be official, and come out at the same time as the movie. Readers?
Second question, what are the top 10 selling adventure games of all-time. I would imagine that Myst and it's sequels are going to dominate the list, but I'm kinda hoping for a surprise.
Well, according to vgchartz.com…
1. Myst (8.03M)
2 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (7.60M)
3 The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (6.61M)
4 The Legend of Zelda (6.51M)
5 Tomb Raider II (5.24M)
6 Assassin's Creed (5.16M)
7 Professor Layton and the Curious Village (5.04M)
8 The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (4.94M)
9 The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (4.61M)
10 The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (4.60M)
However, I think under the defention I believe we are talking about (GTA2 is on the list for crying out loud!), it's more like…
1. Myst (8.03M)
2. Professor Layton and the Curious Village (5.04M)
3. Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (3.82M)
4. Professor Layton and the Unwound Future (2.96M)
5. L.A. Noire (2.60M)
6. Professor Layton and the Last Specter (2.32M)
7. Heavy Rain (2.22M)
8. The 7th Guest (1.95M)
9. Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir (1.23M)
10. Shenmue (1.18M)
So the last comedy movies. Better make the most of it.
Screw it. NEWLEGACYINC OVERLOAD!!!
Eternal Effect asks about the formation of a company.
Two question Mat:
1. Could you go into detail into about the history of the development of Tales of Phantasia that led to three members of the development team to form tri-Ace?
Well I'll certainly try, although my history at this sort of thing is a little hit and miss.
Telenet Japan was a video game development company formed in the early 80's, and like several larger video game development companies, they had subsidiaries, little mini-groups within their ranks. The most well known division they had in the early 90's was Wolf Team (a.k.a Wolfteam, because spaces are for wimps). The company focused on the various Sega consoles, as well as some work on the various PC platforms about, but their rep, such as it was, wasn't stellar. More on that later.
Regardless, Wolf Team, which while having many members revolved around their three main talents, Yoshiharu Gotanda (programmer), Masaki Norimoto (game designer) and Joe Asanuma (director), had something of a mixed rep, as the games they developed sold poorly due to their release under the Telenet brand, but they seemed, to those who risked it, to be good games. A good development team under a bad banner. And they knew it.
And then Gotanda wrote a novel, called ‘Tale Phantasia'. It was unpublished, but the rich back-story and interesting characters all appealed to Wolf Team, and they decided to make it into a game.
But why bother making a superb game if it wouldn't sell due to being released under the Telnet banner? So, with Telnet's consent, Wolf Team shipped the game around, and eventually Namco stepped up (after Enix made a solid bid) and became the publisher.
And that's where it all went to hell.
Well, not so much hell as heck.
See, Namco took a bit too much control over the product than the team would like, even finding a way to piss off each of the three main men behind it individually.
Asanuma's beef was the most straight forward, in that he was fired. Or at least, he was replaced as the director of the game by Eiji Kikuchi.
Norimoto's beef was, by contrast, the most abstract, in that the branding of the game, how it was marketed and released did not sit well with him.
But Gotanda… Oh boy. This was, after all, his universe, his story, his programming. Everything about this was his, in a big way. So when Namco began to change things, it was like someone changing around his home. Sure, changing the name of the game to Tales of Phantasia, or changing the names of all the characters, they could be overlooked, maybe.
Removing huge chunks of backstory? Abandoning the character designs to be replaced by some Manga Artist's work? That's a bit more serious.
Keeping all rights and trademarks? Now THAT'S a dealbreaker.
So all three of the main workers on the game had issues, and filed protests and requests and what have you. They were backed up by most of the staff, so the game ended up being delayed for a year as Namco and Wolf Team sorted this all out. They sorted it out by basuically watching as most of Wolf Team quit.
The game was eventually released for the Super Famicom in late 1995, and was moderately successful, given that, for a SNES game, it had voice work (!!) and its new battle system, the game found a niche.
Namco then used it as the start of the ‘Tales of' series, which even to this day is still going on. Whereas those team members who left Wolfteam formed Tri-Ace, which came out with Star Ocean in mid 1996, and is still financed by Square-Enix, putting out games for them.
As for Wolfteam, they continued with a new team to pump out Tales of games for Namco and Telenet until 2003 when Namco took majority sharehold, and then in 2007, Telenet filed for bankruptcy, and Namco took control, renaming it Namco Tales Studio Ltd, until in late last year when they began to absorb the company into Namco Bandai's main company.
But speaking of Telenet…
2. Follow up question. Could you talk about the history of Telenet Japan? Telenet Japan is known for having a bad reputation (not as bad as Acclaim, but still). I want to know just how bad it was.
Bad is… Acclaim tended to put out total crap most of the time. Telenet just put out… Eh games. They were either games that were somewhat boring (a Golf game! A truck driving simulator!) or they put out games into already crowded marketplaces (lots of space shooters, and then the Valis series).
It's not that Telenet games tended to be bad, they just weren't great, in terms of gameplay. Couple this with them being VERY busy in the early 90's, the game releases coming fast and furious, they ended up with a reputation of being a company that put out lots of just ok games.
The Valis series is a perfect microcosm for the company as a whole. Valis was a clunky game developed by Wolfteam in 1986 for the PC, where a school girl in skimpy clothing had to rescue her friend from a dimension of monsters. The gameplay was competent enough, but it was clearly marketed towards the anime crowd, with the character design and the vast number of animated cutscenes (for the time).
If the game came out today, no-one would care much, as the story is fairly generic and simple, and the gameplay is on par with original Castlevania. But in the 90's, it was actually a moderate hit, and so it got ported everywhere, and a sequel followed.
The games actually improved in time, but interest somewhat dwindled, leading to one last game that we'll get to in a little while.
Other games they released tended to follow the same pattern. Lots of cutscenes to hide the at best adequate and at worst tedious gameplay, filled with Anime tropes and brightly colored characters. Cosmic Fantasy was very bland, while the Exile series, Telnet's take on the Crusades, is probably the best work they did, as it get surprisingly dark at times, a unique atmosphere and gameplay that is simple but overall solid enough to be enjoyable, something Telnet rarely got right.
But for every game that was good to ok, there were several that were just there. A generic RPG here, a boring pinball game there, they weren't actively bad, they just were never actually good. And then they chose sides in the console race. Namely, they picked Sega.
And backed up to the hilt the Sega CD.
Telenet went crazy producing Sega CD games, the add-on console getting several ports and original games, none of which did that well, given that the console add on itself did horribly. Especially in Japan, which is where the company was focused. They did have a US branch, but they didn't make much noise apart from the few games they brought over and the even fewer they developed themselves.
By the time the company woke up and switched to the SNES, the Wolfteam split happened, and so they were left with one option, to ride the hell out of the Tales Of pony. And that they did, putting out as many Tales games as Namco wanted. Apart from that (and one or two bad original titles) the company focused on simple sports and puzzle games.
But the point the company really hit rock bottom is when they went into porn.
Seriously. In 2006, they licensed the Valis and Arcus series to a little known game company called Eants. Eants wasted no time in producing Valis X, which retold the first Valis games in Hentai form, with many scenes of any and all characters in the series who were female having unpleasant things done to them by tentacle beings.
And if you're expecting a video here, forget about it.
This, and the similar game for the Arcus series, was pretty much the end of the line for the company, as once you let your most beloved charactes do porn, even in Japan, there's little going back from that. It closed in 2007, with it's US branch bought out by Sony, and the game library owned by Sunsoft, which is planning on re-releases on VC and the like any day now.
So in the end, Telenet Japan is an example not of active horribleness, but just generic blandness. Like unflavored oatmeal, the stuff they put out wasn't actively bad, but was rarely any good. They were just there.
And with that, I too was just here, although I had less porn. I'd like to thank you again for your support and patronage of this little column, and hopefully I'll see you again some day. After all, I still have a few questions left unanswered.
What about that Every Console Ever list you-
That too! That too, shut up. Loud mouthed idiot.
Really, I'm ending this thing like that? Maybe porn isn't that bad an alternative…