Overachieving and Underachieving consoles

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Overachieving and Underachieving consoles

Postby VideoGameCritic » January 2nd, 2021, 10:55 am

I was thinking how certain consoles really lived up to their promise, with developers squeezing every last bit of power out of them. Others it seems never quite got there for various reasons.

I'd like to hear your thoughts but here are two of mine (off the top of my head):

Overachiever: Atari 2600. Considering how its early games were little more than blocky Pong variations, this console came a lot way. Who would have guessed it would eventually run something like Pitfall II (or just about any Activision cartridge for that matter).

Underachiever: Atari Jaguar. It seems like most of the games that came out for this were very undercooked. I'm not sure it would have lived up to its 64-bit billing, but games like Alien Vs Predator and Tempest 2K indicate it was capable of much more.

Your turn.

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Re: Overachieving and Underachieving consoles

Postby jon » January 2nd, 2021, 2:54 pm

Overachieving: The Sega Genesis for me is the biggest overachiever. It's hard to imagine that it was neck and neck with the SNES until Street Fighter 2 came out. They had support up until the late 90's and sold a lot more consoles than it would've seemed before the 4th generation started.

Underachiever. I'm going with the Neo Geo and the Jaguar. For the Neo Geo I felt the system was capable of doing a great variety of games. There could've been a bunch more run n gun action type games besides the Metal Slug series especially as the Neo Geo's power was being fully harnessed in the late '90s. They could've tried to make a better platformer than Blue's Journey. They also could've tried to make a better football game.

For the Jaguar, the teams were small and they were on serious deadlines. They were getting really close to making some cool 3d games. I don't care if the framerates would've been lower than the PS1 or the worlds much smaller. I like primitive 3d better than huge 3d games and if big teams with resources had been supporting the Jaguar through the late '90's it was capable of some great things within its 3d limitations.

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Re: Overachieving and Underachieving consoles

Postby DrLitch » January 2nd, 2021, 3:47 pm

PS1 - given Sony were new to videogaming and the previous start up 3D0 crashed and burned. If you were in late 1993/94 you would not have felt too confident Sony would be kicking Nintendo's and Sega's butt in the market by a factor of 3 or more. Also I feel we definitely saw the best of the Playstation, everything it could possibly do. The N64 still has a question mark around it whether it was every really pushed to the max and the Saturn may have been more capable than what we saw. I also have to include the SNES, it had a port of Street Fighter Alpha 2, I cannot believe it ran on the console and looked pretty good.

Atari Jaguar. Had everything needed under the hood. Atari were the problem, the Jaguar was fine. Hoverstrike has amazingly crisp textures for the time, just up the frame rate and double the poly counts and it is a PS1 game with clean textures. Fight for Life is utter garbage but with a different developer it could have been pretty competent - textured polys on the Jag! Unfortunately that 68000 was wonderful for porting games like Flashback and other 16 bit titles across. While Flashback is an amazing game, it was not next gen...

Agreed also on the Neo Geo. Lots of fighting and sports titles, looking a little thinner on the shooters and run n gun gaming front. Imagine Konami tackling a Castlevania for this hardware or how about Contra Hard Corps? I do think the Neo Geo library, while pretty good, is missing some extra ingredients. Then again... it is an arcade machine. Not a great platform for RPG's... or could have been a cash cow - a quarter insert for every point of XP.

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Re: Overachieving and Underachieving consoles

Postby Retro STrife » January 2nd, 2021, 6:47 pm

Overachieving: Nintendo Wii. It was woefully underpowered compared to the PS3 and Xbox 360- embarassingly underpowered even. Its online platform was practically nonexistent. And other than a few solid games from Nintendo, its library was far inferior to what Sony and Microsoft’s consoles offered your average serious gamer. Yet, on the backs of Wii Sports and gimmicky motion controls, it became a phenomenon among everyone from hardcore gamers to hardcore grandmas, and become the best-selling console of that generation and the 4th best selling home console ever (after PS1, PS2, & PS4).

Underachieving: Sega Dreamcast. Maybe too easy of a choice, but this seems like the consensus best “failed” system ever made. A quality console, a nice line-up of games.. and yet a culmination of factors doomed the system and put Sega out of the hardware business.

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Re: Overachieving and Underachieving consoles

Postby ThePixelatedGenocide » January 2nd, 2021, 8:27 pm

Overachieving: Nintendo DS.

No really.

It outsold the PS1, N64, and Sega Saturn, combined.

Not bad for an experimental handheld that wasn't as powerful as any of them. And never supported analog controls. Instead, it tempted developers to add touch screen gimmicks where button presses would have worked better.

But despite all of these handicaps, it quietly features one of the deepest and most varied libraries you could ask for. Many of these games - especially the 2d and 2.5d games - still hold up surprisingly well today.

And collectors have mostly overlooked them.

Underachieving: Atari 5200.

Imagine if the PS5 launched with non-centering analog controls that assumed you wanted to quietly commit suicide off camera?

Before they broke entirely?

And the built-in game was a single player Pong variant?

Do you think Sony would survive?

Atari's follow-up to the 2600 doesn't get nearly enough credit for its part in the American videogame crash.

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Re: Overachieving and Underachieving consoles

Postby Shapur » January 3rd, 2021, 7:59 pm

In terms of squeezing every last bit of power

Overachiever: Atari 2600. The Critic is spot on with his assessment.

Sega Génesis. Not because of its sales but it’s visuals. We have sprite distortion, rotation, scaling, polygons. So many later games really pushed it beyond what you’d think a 1988 console could do and kept up quite well with the SNES(and almost all the best looking SNES games use an additional chip in the cart. Even Pilotwings at launch.

Underachiever: Jaguar is obvious. 32X another obvious pick. It almost certainly could have shown some big improvements had it stayed on the market. Maybe Saturn. The power was there for developers who had the time and skill.

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Re: Overachieving and Underachieving consoles

Postby djc » January 4th, 2021, 12:09 am

Critic is spot on with his assessments. I've always wondered what the Jaguar could do if really properly programmed (e.g. could there be a port of something like Mario 64 on it).

For an underachiever I'll say the Nintendo Virtual Boy. 15 games, promise of true "virtual reality", red and black colors, portable system that was nowhere near portable, etc...

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Re: Overachieving and Underachieving consoles

Postby strat » January 4th, 2021, 1:23 am

Overachiever: GB(C). Look at what came out in 1989/90, then look at how Link's Awakening nearly recreated the aesthetic of the SNES Zelda. The DKC adaption DKL was amazing for the platform, too. Even better, GBC had many effects unheard of from 8-bit systems. Like fmv in Cannon Fodder or Alone in the Dark's prerendered backdrops. Parallax scrolling and transparency in Toki Tori.

Underachiever: Super Gameboy. What a great device. The ability to customize color palettes and draw borders was a good play on the power disparity between GB and SNES. However, apart from Donkey Kong '94, Space Invaders and the DKL trilogy (just because it was de-facto required to play them) few of the SGB-enhanced games really took advantage of the extra features beyond a lazy splash of color. Mario's Picross even managed to use the ability to overlay SNES sprites on top of the GB graphics to... prevent the user from changing the color of the title screen logo.
(search "f the super gameboy" - didn't link here because of f-word)

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Re: Overachieving and Underachieving consoles

Postby BanjoPickles » January 4th, 2021, 12:09 pm

Overachiever: Dreamcast, without question. Considering the console had a shelf life of less than two years in the states, the library was absolutely stellar! It had amazing RPG’s, the 2K sports games were better than anything EA was releasing at the time, the experimental titles were interesting, the arcade ports were awesome (Soul Caliber, Marvel Vs. Capcom, Street Fighter 3), and Shenmue was one of my all-time favorite gaming experiences. The Dreamcast shouldn’t have failed the way that it did. As it stands, it is the most successful failure in all of gaming, at least in my eyes.

Underachieving: Wii U. I’ll catch some flack for this, but I’ve always seen this console as the result of three generations of Nintendo fans claiming that third party games are non-essential. Save for the occasional release, this console seemed to be in a never-ending drought, saved by a couple of good-to-great games a year. Third parties left the console to rot shortly after launch.

Luckily, Switch turned things around and, in contrast, there are always several new games that are worthy of my time. I can’t keep up with all of the great releases, which is something I haven’t been able to say about a Nintendo console since the DS.

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Re: Overachieving and Underachieving consoles

Postby Voor » January 4th, 2021, 2:26 pm

So was the Wii U a sales failure because of such a heavy focus on first party games or the terrible name? (Can’t say both, hehe)

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