Gamers are a precious bunch. Precious about platforms, precious about genres and precious about licenses. It’s a good thing – it puts pressure on developers to look after their intellectual property and remain thoughtful about what it means to the people that consume it.
It’s when gamers become too invested in a license when things can get ugly. Porting big licenses across to small, portable platforms can inspire ire among devotees (usually in the form of forum diatribes), but it’s important to remember that miniaturization does not necessarily mean dilution.
This week, EA hinted at portable versions of Dead Space 2, Medal of Honor, and Dragon Age: Origins. All three are hardcore titles and each has its own established fanbase. It’s all too easy to decry EA’s actions as license pimping, but even with rabidly passionate fans to consider there’s a weight of logic behind porting hardcore games with hardcore followings to today’s crop of handheld consoles.
For starters, there is an astonishingly good track record for excellent handheld versions of hardcore home console games. There’s Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword, God of War: Chains of Olympus, GTA: Chinatown Wars, Assassin’s Creed II: Discovery, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, LittleBigPlanet, Command & Conquer: Red Alert, Resistance: Retribution, not to mention the string of Dragon Quest releases on DS. The list goes on and on.
The gems far outweigh the stinkers, and in many cases developers use the handheld version of a popular hardcore title to help flesh out the game’s mythology and backstory. Resistance: Retribution and God of War: Chains of Olympus are both particularly good examples of exactly that.
Portable consoles, and by extension all consoles, should not be regarded as a threat to the integrity of a celebrated hardcore license. Nor should multi-platform releases that span portable consoles be written off as cynical money spinning (for proof of that look no further than both of the DS’s critically acclaimed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare titles).
There’s plenty of proof that so called casual game mechanics can add to the experience of a hardcore title, provided they’re handled with care. Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword‘s blade heavy combat wouldn’t be the same without those nimble wristed stylus swipes. Similarly, GTA: Chinatown Wars is arguably made more immersive by the lock breaking and hot-wiring mini-games that often accompany a standard car jack.
It all bodes well, not just for EA’s recent flurry of license migration, but for other hardcore licenses too. Surely it’s high time Naughty Dog had a punt at the PSP with a certain wise-cracking ladies’ man? Or what about Capcom finally giving DS owners the Resident Evil game they deserve?
Developers aren’t daft. If they try to squeeze a PS3 game into a PSP, it’s probably not going to bear up too well. Over the course of the current handheld generation, developers have consistently and skillfully tailored their finest creations to handheld platforms with all of their interface and processing quirks deftly considered.
So let’s hear it for hardcore games on handheld consoles and cross our fingers that making necromorph soup on the way to work will be as much fun as it deserves to be.
Pocket Gamer is Europe’s leading source of news, opinion and reviews on mobile and handheld gaming.