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Ask Joystiq Nintendo: On rails edition


We thought we would be inundated with questions following E3, but it appears that you guys are still too shell-shocked from the Metroid: Other M trailer to speak. Or from the Wii Vitality Sensor reveal. We don't mind telling you, by the way, that we can't help but be delighted that Nintendo is making something that weird. And if you don't think it's a good idea, don't worry too much about it. It's Nintendo, after all, and the thing will end up being used in one game at most.

Anyway, our question this week is about rail shooters. If you have a question for us, send an email to asknintendo AT joystiq DOT com!

Steve Mann asks:

I was just wondering why all the rails based shooters instead of FPS on the Wii. With the Nunchuk/analog stick combo you get what I felt was a very enjoyable and natural FPS experience with Metroid Prime 3, so why are the new RE and Dead Space going on rails? Is it that hard to make things move freely on the Wii? Or is it a "casual gamer" cash grab because it's easier to point and click, then point, click and steer? Have we come so far with controller technology only to play prettier versions of Duck Hunt? If that's the case I shudder at the thought of Microsoft's new control tech, where we just smile or frown at the TV to make characters do good or bad.

Follow up question: Why are there no split screen deathmatch modes in Wii FPS shooters? Wii processing issue? Does it remind Nintendo too much of Goldeneye and therefore their old buddies at Rare, and the wounds are just too fresh to be reminded of still?

You nailed it, sort of: the move to on-rails gameplay is generally intended to make the games more accessible to people outside of the usual FPS audience. Dead Space: Extraction's producer Steve Papoutsis also said that the more "casual" approach helps them satisfy the goal of simple, drop-in co-op -- which makes sense, given the arcade origins of this style of play. That part is somewhat hard to argue with, unless you absolutely hate this kind of game -- it's pretty appealing to be able to have a friend sit right down and play.

That said, there is definitely a technical element. By putting the game on rails, the developer can tightly control the composition of every shot, requiring fewer elements of the game world to be highly detailed.

Resident Evil games are somewhat of a special case. There have been on-rails spinoffs since the PlayStation. Umbrella Chronicles, then, isn't as much a "watered down" main Resident Evil game as it is the first actually good Gun Survivor game. It was a beneficial move.

As for the split-screen issue, here's a theory: pointer-based aiming would be miserable if you were restricted to a quarter of the screen.

Every week, we'll answer reader questions about the Wii, the DS, or any other Nintendo-related topic in Ask Joystiq Nintendo. If you have a question, e-mail it to asknintendo AT joystiq DOT com! You need your questions answered, and we need content for this column. It's a symbiotic relationship!

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