Sony's Incredible "Risks" - Le Hannibal Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Sony's Incredible "Risks"

I'll be quick to admit that I'm a die hard fan of the Zelda series. I'll be even quicker to admit that I'm a die harder fan of the Halo series, and that my console of choice this generation is the Xbox 360. One thing I haven't been able to do is find a series in the PlayStation line up that has overtaken me as well as the aforementioned titles. That's not to say that Sony doesn't have any good games, but that there aren't really any series' in their catalog that makes me salivate that's already been established. Yeah you could say that Kingdom Hearts is a Sony series...but is it really? There have been more Kingdom Hearts games released for the Nintendo systems than there have been Sony, and Square Enix has expressed interest in branching the series out to different consoles.

While all of this remains true I do have something that I absolutely love about Sony, that the other big two don't really have. It'd be the fact that Sony takes some serious risks with their titles, and time and again they come up big. Whether it be because of marketing, or because the games are just that damn good, Sony knows how to sell an underground title, or new franchise with a scary amount of ease. It's to the point that it's hard to consider their big "risks", risks anymore. I'm not speaking of Hardware, just the soft stuff. Here's a few examples of what I'm talking about.

 

The Games That Established A New Genre: Heavy Rain/Beyond: Two Souls

In one hand you have Heavy Rain. A critical darling, and commercially successful product that has sold over two million copies world wide. The entire game plays out like a movie would, as it eliminates most - if not all - of the common HUD. Heavy Rain told the story of a serial killer and the people who became ensnared in his destruction. To this day there hasn't been another game like it. While you've had games that played more on reality, like L.A. Noire, no game has made something as simple as drinking a glass of milk an event. How the game turns out is completely up to the player and the decisions - AND mistakes - that they made. 

In the other you have Beyond: Two Souls. An upcoming title from the makers of Heavy Rain (Quantic Dream) and a spiritual successor to Heavy Rain. It tells the story of a somewhat supernatural girl (who's played by A-Lister, Ellen Page) and her struggles within our world. From what has been shown it looks as if Quantic Dream is taking a similar approach to gameplay as they did in Heavy Rain, and opting for a more cinematic layout. Actual gameplay is sparse, and is sure to involve other worldly powers, but the core idea remains intact. 

Both games are wild cards in my opinion. Everyone that I've spoken to about Heavy Rain has said that while they were really interested in the game, they were also nervous to buy it day one due to the concept. While Quantic Dream really proved that their formula works with Heavy Rain, they still have a few uncertainty's in the crowds. The concept still seems a little dangerous. If any element is done wrong the entire experience - which is based on atmosphere, and story than it is on the actual gameplay - will fall apart. But when you kind of drift back to Heavy Rain's review scores, and the two million dollars it made, it becomes easy to reassure yourself that if Quantic Dream did it once then they can do it again.

 

The Games That Took Us By Surprise: Infamous/Journey

The Infamous series has to be one of the most unexpected titles to be added to Sony's expansive list of exclusives. It's a series about super heroism that isn't based on a pre-existing super hero or super hero franchise. There was no golden name to help Infamous reach success, and there was definitely no fan base. Despite it's vast ocean of things to prove, Infamous released to critical praise, and to the adoration of a new found fan base. To this day you find people all over the internet clamoring for another installment in this young franchise.

What's most surprising though is the road that Infamous took to get to this point. First you have the fact that the protagonist isn't really a hero. I mean he can be if that's the path that you choose - he can also become a villain - but he's a complicated guy. The universe surrounding this protagonist is also dark to say the least. It's one thing to create an all new super hero that can be unlikable, but it's incredibly risky to stick him inside of a gritty world. You have to have something that comes off as likable about the series that'll keep the fans coming back...and somehow Sony did it. In my opinion it's the powers that make us ask for more Infamous. It's the wide open world, and ability to do what you please with it that adds even more. Suckerpunch (the creator's of Infamous) discovered a rare formula and cooked it to perfection. Where the Infamous series goes from here is a mystery as we have had little to no information released. One thing is for sure though, and it's that it'll be back. They wouldn't release a HD Collection containing both titles and all DLC for nothing.

Then you have what many say is one of the greatest downloadable titles of all time in what is Journey. A game with a minimalistic approach to gameplay, and a short campaign length, that captivated our minds and emotions with it's beautiful music and scenery, as well as it's compelling but mysterious story. I cast the game aside when I first discovered it through one of GameInformer's article's, as it seemed like another title destined to fail in my eyes. Although, over time a curiousness began to develop. I found myself purchasing it day one, and then being utterly blown away by the results of my buy. 

You never hear a word, nor do you ever receive a solid answer to what exactly happened in this worlds back story. It's largely left up to interpretation, which makes this game all the more awe-inspiring. The ocean-like sands that encase the world, beckon the player to come and get lost in it's beauty. It's a world that speaks to you in a way a game with words couldn't. Now, that's something no game has accomplished before. Once again it's a risky decision that payed off, and payed off big, as it's one of the best selling downloadable titles of all time, as well as one of the best reviewed.

 

The Art-House Titles That Are On Their Way - Unfinished Swan/Puppeteer/Rain

Quick, name your most anticipated downloadable title. If you said Unfinished Swan then you're not alone. The game is creating a massive amount of buzz in the forums, and news sites everywhere. The title is another game that is taking an approach not seen before in this medium (and quite possibly not in any other) and everyone is excited to get a piece. You're thrust into a blank page. Almost literally. The world around you is empty and colorless, and quite eerie to say the least. You're tasked with uncovering, no REVEALING this world with paint. You run around throwing paint globs at the environment to bring the setting to life, and progress through the puzzle-like world.

I'd call you crazy if you described this game to me without showing me gameplay. It just doesn't come to me as a game that would find success, or even an audience. But I digress...the game looks freaking awesome. Gameplay trailers displayed something so wildly refreshing that I'm almost pained to have to sit and wait for it. If we are to learn from anything in the past, it's that "weird" and "success" are inseparable, and this game seems to want to prove that to us all.

Speaking of weird, now we have Puppeteer. A game with a story almost laughable at first glance, and a setting that would be usually cast off. I mean, it takes place on ONE stage for the entirety of the game. And of course like Unfinished Swan, it looks mind shatteringly awesome. It's an action/adventure platformer, and what I'm sure will be a downloadable title (I might be incorrect, but I can't seem to find the release format for the game) and you play as a puppet who must set out on a journey to become...real again? I don't know. I just know that he get's a pair of scissors, and cuts his way through an incredibly appealing, and all out weird world. 

We haven't heard much more information on the game yet, as it was just announced yesterday (at the time of this writing) but it's sure to be as interesting as the next title I'd like to mention. That title would be Rain of course.

Rain was announced alongside Puppeteer at Gamescom 2012, and is also otherworldly as far as gameplay and premise go. You play as an invisible boy whose outline only becomes partially visible in the rain. While this is sure to present some incredible puzzles, the gal of Sony to produce such a game is worth a round of applause. Like Unfinished Swan, and Journey before it, Rain seems to want to evoke an emotion from the player, rather than focus on traditional gameplay or some other gimmick. For some reason it reminded me a lot of Limbo, and that my friends is an excellent thing. Limbo was a title released a couple years back that played on shadows, and cruelty to get a rise out of the player. Rain seems to want to evoke something similar. Instead of using shadows, they're incorporating invisibility into their story, as well as a sort of...lost feeling. A compelling mixture to say the least.

 

Now while some of these games have been released, and some are waiting on the horizon, one thing is for sure: Sony is not afraid to take a risk. These aren't even the only titles that have chosen to neglect the familiar. Games like The Last of Us offer new takes on existing genre's, while also focusing on elements usually cast aside in a story. Games like Uncharted (made by Naughty Dog, just as The Last of Us is) which dismantled a pre-existing genre and cobbled it back together in the form of something unfamiliar to our eyes. 

While I am not a particular fanboy of any of the games released up to this point (exception would probably have to be Journey, but that game is more than likely one and done despite it's success) I'm not afraid to say that Sony has outdone itself. If one of the big three that are competing in the console wars were to be awarded for creativity, and sheer gal, it'd be the one that this blog is all about. Congratulations on being ballsy Sony. Now let's see what else you've got.

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