Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Yo dawg, I heard you like criticism in your criticism...

So, if criticism of criticism is metacriticism, then if I complain about Metacritic it's metaMetacriticism?

Maybe I should back up  a few steps. I finally got to a point where I picked up a PlayStation 3. I had really been missing Street Fighter, and the few times that I had played Street Fighter IV and Super Street Fighter IV over the last couple of years were just fantastic. To be fair, I was playing against people that were my equal or better - both of the people in question were people that had helped teach me the game back when all of the versions of Street Fighter had a 2 in them, and they had both started playing before there was a 2 in the title. I can't even say that Street Fighter is a game that I play because I'm good at it - it's a game that I play because I like it, and to some degree I have some nostalgia for it because of the people that I learned it from and the time that it was all happening. Unlike my two teachers, I played a lot of the Alpha games that followed, and I even played a little bit of Street Fighter 3 when a home version finally came out for the PS2.

This is the part of the discussion where the guy with a beard and glasses with his arms folded in the back of the room loudly states that clearly I was not serious about fighting games or I would have purchased a Dreamcast. 

I was not usually playing against people, which is not what people who play fighting games typically do, but as most of my other friends had no interest in tackling a game that I had already invested a lot of time into, my matches against people were few and far between once everybody had regular jobs. I was grateful that at least one of my friends took the time to learn at least one character from me, and I am happy that my older son is now learning a little bit of the game with more than a little help from Tatsunoko vs Capcom.

The day before we went to go pick up a PS3, we checked Metacritic for review scores on a few games, including Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 (which I found a copy of at ToysRUs for $9.98!), Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 and SSFIV:AE just for the heck of it even though I was sure that I was going to pick up SSFIV:AE. It drove me nuts every time I saw a user review of 0 for those games. I think that I understand why people are mad, but I don't think that I understand why people are surprised. I also thought that giving a game a review score of '0' was more than a bit insincere. While I understand that there is no way that we can give a completely impartial review because our perception is largely based on experience, giving any of those games a '0' is not being intellectually honest about what a bad game really is.  Maybe some people need to go back and play the Super Nintendo version of Rise of the Robots or perhaps the side-scrolling 'Tick' game.

I could understand not liking Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 as much as Ninja Gaiden Sigma, but neither of the two games are so bad as to warrant a zero. The Ninja Gaiden Sigma games are slightly different PS3 ports of the XBox versions. Ever since the very first Ninja Gaiden, people had complained about the camera and the difficulty. Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden Black for XBox got some low user reviews because of the camera and the fact that it was too hard, so it was all the more head-scratching for Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 to get low user review scores because it was too easy. (I'll take a wild guess and say that those aren't the same people giving out zeros in those two cases, but if they are they should have their medications adjusted. Those games have quite a wide range of difficulty available.) As an extra question for those of you reading this, what third person action game has the best camera (or at least a good, recommendable one)?

As for Capcom and their proclivity for sequels, it should come as no surprise to anyone. In the early 90's, when SNES cartridges often went for $60 or more new, Capcom put out new versions of Street Fighter II every year for four years in a row. Believe me, I know. Home versions of the Alpha series for the Playstation followed quickly after that, followed by the EX games, Street Fighter 3 on Dreamcast, Rival Schools, and the Marvel Vs. games. If you check carefully, there have been releases or re-releases of Street Fighter games for either arcades or home platforms almost every year from 1987 to the present.

Getting mad at Capcom for releasing a lot of sequels and reissues is like getting mad at the sky for being blue. Still, people had to bomb Metacritic's website with low user review scores for Super and Arcade Edition because they felt burned by paying $60 or more on day one of Street Fighter IV back in 2009 instead of being glad that they got to play it at all, and not viewing their extra years of playing the game as having value.

So is the problem with Metacritic, or is the problem with human nature? If I look at ten review scores, and it's all 6's, 7's and 8's, then I could feel pretty good about  the information.  If a game gets 3 0's and 7 10's, then I don't believe anybody.  The two groups could average out the same, but the group with the 0's in it has a much larger standard deviation. In a judging situation with a small, fixed number of judges you just throw out the highest and the lowest score . You a real sense of what the real consensus is, and quickly lessen the possible effects of favoritism. It's a quick way to reduce the standard deviation of a data set.  There are ususally too many user scores on these games for a solution like that to work, though.  Maybe I could get Metacritic to sort their reviews in order of increasing standard deviation, so I could read the reviews that were statistically consistent first.

As a side note, I should mention that due to his time with TvC my older son was a lot more interested in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 than Street Fighter IV, but I chose SFIV:AE ($17) and a gamepad ($20) instead of getting UMvC3 ($40) so that we could both play.  After a little more paying attention to the toggle switch on the back, I was pretty happy about the MadCatz Street Fighter x Tekken gamepad.  The only problem I had was not being able to negotiate the menu screen as player 2, but that may be the game. It's a little smaller than the SFIV MadCatz gamepads in overall size, but the buttons are the same size so I found it pretty easy to get around. There's a nice feel to the buttons, and I have had no problem with the D-pad. I'm a little shaky on double 360's, but I'm pretty sure that's me and not the controller. Now all I have to do is start playing as characters that are better than Dan next time I play online.

As a second side note, this would appear to be my 100th blog post here on blogger, so here's to hoping it doesn't take me as long to get to 200.

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