The bony shoulders of a young horse named Frank West

So I’ve finally joined the HD Era — my 360’s companion, a Samsung LCD HDTV, arrived yesterday. I feel sort of guilty giving into such crass consumerism, but I haven’t had a TV of my own in more than a year. And since I’ve been gloriously debt-free for the same amount of time, I figured the world wouldn’t end if I maybe splurged a little. (Please accept my apologies in advance if the world does, in fact, end.)

As with every revolution, the HD revolution is a bloody mess full of innocent casualties. Oh, 2D games… you used to look so nice. Now Alucard is kind of grainy-looking and Samus is overly contrasty. And let’s not even discuss the prickly issue of lag. Ah well — they can take my pride, but they can’t take my emulators.

Fortunately, standard-definition DVDs look much, much better than I had expected, and actual HD-DVD content looks really nice. Besides the fact that we’ve plunged straight into the nadir of the uncanny valley, of course, and it seems unlikely we’ll ever escape. It’s going to be a long time (if ever) before developers manage to create graphics that actually make use of HD’s full potential, and by then all the plucky little companies with budgets smaller than Bolivia’s annual GDP will be dead from trying to keep up with the Kojimas and EAs.

Oddly, now that I’ve experienced HD for myself I’m incredibly happy that Nintendo is bucking the trend, even if it means their games won’t make full use of my new rig; maybe Wii developers can afford to invest in creativity rather than hiring a team of pore-and-lip-gloss artists to make their lumpy polygon people even more preposterously “realistic.”

Meanwhile, at the very low-definition-est end of the spectrum, my full Deep Labyrinth review is up. And with the proper typo-free score, even. My spider-sense tells me that I’m the only reviewer on the planet who enjoyed it, much like I was the only reviewer who actually liked Nightmare of Druaga. Oh well! Kato and Mitsuda’s talents were rather squandered on the game, but it’s very much a genre affair and that is to be expected. There’s probably about a thousand fans of this particular genre out there, and knowing Atlus they’ll produce about 500 copies, so it’s sure to be a wash.

33 thoughts on “The bony shoulders of a young horse named Frank West

  1. I have a “SDTV” and I think that’s how it’s going to be for some time to come. My wife and I barely watch TV as it is and while it’d be nice to rock Dead Rising and other 360 games in HD…I don’t think we can justify spending that type of money, especially since we have some big expenses coming up..
    Interesting note about how the older games look like crap on HD. I noticed the same thing but about standard TV shows and even DVDs when I’ve watched them at my parents’ place (my dad is all into getting the “newest” video and audio gear). It sounds like if I ever did get HDTV, I’d have to keep my SDTV just to play all of the older games. Silly!
    Do they make TVs that can switch between SDTV and HDTV resolution?

  2. My 42″ Sony Grand Wega seems to swap on the fly for different resolutions, I have yet to notice any lag or graphical differences (unless I stretch them into widescreen mode). It even says what the res is when you push “display” (i.e. NTSC, 480i, 480p, etc).

  3. It is the upscaler that creates lag. Many HDTVs have a “Game” mode that disables the upscaler and allows the video to be displayed in a much more timely manner. Lag is even an issue with home theater buffs in that it creates lipsynch issues. So most high end audio processors have a delay feature to get the audio to wait for the video to catch up.

  4. Hey, isn’t that the dude from Nip/Tuck?
    Also, I believe I’ve heard most HDTVs have a setting that eliminates lag, possibly at the expense of image quality. This is just hearsay, but still.

  5. I think these issues are why I like handheld gaming the best. Not only can I play during my commute to work, but the games are created with the system’s screen in mind. Well, unless it’s a Nintendo system, where the screens change with each annual revision.

  6. When Metroid Prime came out, some friends and I ran some HDTV tests on his newly-purchased set. Our conclusions: Metroid prime looked great, Guilty Gear XX in progressive mode provided no noticeable difference, and SF3 3rd Strike looked like poop. I stuck with my normal set for 3rd Strike, but thankfully the Wii has helped convince my lady about the benefits of 480p widescreen.

  7. Really, the characters look pretty decent in motion. And Jeremy’s going to be running around with a Serve-bot head on the whole time anyway, so what’s the difference?

  8. Also, LCDs have lag too? I’m using my roommate’s Samsung DLP, which has enough lag on the old systems that I didn’t notice it in Devil May Cry 3, but Guitar Hero is unplayable. I was thinking of getting a small HD TV of my own, but I didn’t realize I’d have to watch out for lag on other types too. Thanks for the heads up.

  9. Videogame mo-cap really bugs me, and seeing it in HD makes it all the worse. Everyone moves unnaturally, making broad, awkward gestures and interacting clumsily with objects. And they always get Japanese women to do the mo-cap acting, which looks really weird with non-Japanese characters. American women just don’t act that meek… especially not tough-as-nails DHS agents.

  10. My old games will lag on an HDTV if it lacks the right setting capabilities? Lag? Pssht, some technology. Lag is barely acceptable when I play a game online. On a home console and tv, it’s downright barbaric.

    Thanks for the heads up though, anyone and everyone who commented on it. I’ll make sure to keep it in mind for the day I cave and buy a fancy tv. Heaven knows my taste in games are totally old school.

  11. LCDs are by far the most notorious format when it comes to lag. My TV’s lag is 8ms, which seems fine for 3D stuff but with 2D games creates a slight disconnect that gives me a headache. I’ve dealt with worse, but it is really annoying that the HDTV transition burns so many bridges.

  12. Videogame mo-cap in general doesn’t bug me, but thanks for the explanation about the Japanese women. I think I was unconsciously aware of that difference in movement, but never had it pointed out or the reason behind it explained till now; it makes such perfect sense. I come away from your blog today an enlightened gamer.

  13. Hey I liked Nightmare of Druaga. Well, kinda. My little brother Jeff LOVED Nightmare of Druaga. So much so, in fact, that the year that game came out, he wanted a Druaga cake for his birthday. Send me a message and I can send you a picture of his Druaga cake if you want. –Cary

  14. If you can plug DVI into your HDTV, then get a DVI cable and plug your computer into the TV. Emulators with good hardware scaling that work with any resolution (like MAME) will look great.

  15. That you’d have to go through your PC and an emulator to play a console game back on your TV sort of sours the whole experience, however technically “superior” it may be. I don’t mean that as a slight against you Dezro, it’s a valid suggestion, but it reflects poorly on the state of things where gaming and the HD era collide.

  16. I would love to agree, but I fear Nintendo was wise until that point in time when Sony will effectively force HDTV down our throats.

  17. I’ve got no beef with Nintendo not supporting HD, but are they at least supporting progressive scan? You can’t blame Nintendo for the state of HD televisions, but they should at least accomodate them (as I understand, progressive scan support eliminates the upconverting that causes lag). Not at least optionally supporting progressive scan is going to alienate customers just like requiring (or strongly urging) HD would. Not as many customers, but why alienate any at all?

  18. That screen capture is like maybe the perfect essence of the uncanny valley. So incredibly detailed, so utterly unengaging and devoid of any personality at all. I’m totally alarmed at where we are going – Nintendo is making games fun (yeah, right, like That’ll work :-P,)and the HD consoles are taking care of graphics whores, but what about people like me, who are art whores? Interesting stylistic choices and creative character designs, expressive faces, enchanting environments, imaginative costumes, I want it all! All this stuff was possible last gen and barely anyone did it, so the odds are lookin’ pretty bad that are gonna suddenly start doing it now when they could before. Dayammmn. At least I got twilight Princess to look forward to.

  19. Just to toss in a side comment to the person who was talking about lag on the Samsung DLP models, they knew about the problem, and fixed it with the HL-Sxx87 models and above (HL-Sxx88 would be a later model). That is what I have and even Beatmania IIDX (which demands even tighter timing than guitar hero) is perfect to my eyes/hands. Also, having component cables for the PS2 helps.

  20. Scalers inside current HD TVs are shit. If it bothers you a lot, get an after-market scaler like an iScan VP20/30 or a Lumagen video processor. Be prepared to spend >$1000.

    Also, Wii will support progressive scan (since it’s one of the added features in the Wii version of Zelda, as well as wide-screen support). Gamecube did too for some 100 or so titles too, incidentally.

  21. Yeah, lots of progressive scan support in major GC games. playing Metroid Prime Echoes at a Nintendo event was my first experience with progressive scan. I accidentally reset the GC and it didn’t reboot in prog scan mode, and the difference was dramatic.
    I just need to find cheap GC component cables while I’m at TGS. I just hope Wii uses the same interface (since it’s been the Nintendo standard since SNES) or it’ll be a wasted invested.

  22. Yes, GC component cables do require use of the secondary port on the back of the GC. Unfortunately, they omitted the port from all Gamecubes starting in 2003-ish. I think it was shortly after the price drop to $99, but my memory isn’t that good. I do know that it was pulled to reduce manufacturing costs, though.

  23. I guess my lag fears were even more well-founded than originally thought. (I’ve only been looking at it as a channel-changing irritance.) I’m definitely waiting another 5 years either way before making an upgrade, so hopefully they fix that. Not to mention that hopefully they’ll get their act together with the screen resolutions, which are all over the map and don’t fit the resolutions, a no-no for the scale-to-fit nature of many HD sets.

    In the meantime, I have a Sony 32HS20, which can do 1080i, but in a sort of compressed form due to the 4:3 aspect.

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