If you're a regular, you'll almost certainly have noticed that we're big fans of Platinum Games. Whether we're waxing lyrical about them in a podcast, pleading with them to reinvigorate our favourite franchises or citing their games as archetypal examples, our affection for the Japanese studio can barely have escaped your notice. So, frankly, it's about time we came out and said it for all the world to see.
We love Platinum Games.
It's not a naive schoolboy crush. Neither is it the blind, slavish devotion of a fanboy. Rather, ours is a deep and considered respect of mature and experienced gamers for a developer who has always been there for us, loyal enough to provide us with the unique experiences we crave from our passion. Brave enough to experiment, tinker with and fuse new ideas with the best of the old, from their roots as Clover Studio to the latest hits on DS, PS3 and Xbox 360. Courageous enough to help other developers, even platform holders, in need.
It all boils down to one simple fact: Platinum makes great games. And the occasions when they don't decide to invent a genre, they deliver the best that a genre has to offer.
Much of our love is naturally directed towards the legendary designer Hideki Kamiya, third-person action master Shinji Mikami (who recently defected to Bethesda) and the cadre of Platinum veterans who originally formed Clover Studio. As an independent developer funded by Capcom, they were free to accomplish great things without constraint - and great was an understatement. In an age when gaming was already starting to homogenise, they brought us Viewtiful Joe, caressing our retinas and eardrums with the most unique, colourful yet techinically demanding brawler imaginable. Okami came next, delivering an experience that's still regarded as one of the most imaginative and life-affirming pieces of code that has ever graced a disc. And for those who played it, God Hand redefined brawling into a customisable, mechanically-perfect experience that blurred the lines between insane fun and zen meditaton. We'd never experienced games like this before, and Clover never sat on their laurels for long enough to stagnate.
Kamiya doubtlessly commands a great deal of our respect, partly due to how forthright and outspoken he proved to be throughout the years. Whether challenging Nintendo to give him control over the dormant Star Fox franchise (at gunpoint!) or calling out games that offend his sensibilities as a designer, he's always strived to push gaming forward through innovation and butted heads with those who seem willing to compromise.
This came to a head when he and Mikami spearheaded a mass resignation from Clover Studios after Capcom dictated that 70-80% of their lineup must be continuations of existing IPs, bringing the age of the 'Capcom Five' to an end. After leaving, they formed what is now known as Platinum Games, and announced a collection of their very own: the Platinum Three.
Infinite Space came first. A far cry from the action-heavy offerings of the past, this DS JRPG fused mature, heartbreaking storytelling with infinitely-customisable starship combat, challenging players to create their own fleet of crusiers and explore the wild black yonder. It's easily one of the best RPGs on the system, and still monopolises our 3DS cartridge slots. MadWorld followed: a monochromatic slaughterfest featuring tight combat and some of the most over-the-top action to grace the Wii. Though not quite as strong as its forebears and descendants, it was still a revelation for Wii owners, and one of the most visually striking games out there. Plus. it indirectly lead to the development of Anarchy Reigns... which we'll get to in a minute.
The Platinum Three came to a close with Bayonetta. Oh, Bayonetta. How we love you. Though it was bonkers and thoroughly (sometimes obnoxiously) inexplicable, this exceptional brawler is now widely considered to be the type example of how to develop a flowing, combo-centric combat system, providing a bar and benchmark for all future action games to overcome. Few have, and none have matched the style, grace and fluidity of its character designs and mechanics. When Platinum approach a genre, they go in to define it - and succeed.
Speaking of defining genres, Platinum then got Mikami back on base for Vanquish, which is the best cover-based third person shooter of this generation. No, really, it is. Platinum took the concept of cover shooting to its most polished and imaginative limits, providing blistering speed, dynamic engagements and gameplay that actively encouraged you to be as unpredictable and aggressive as the robotic opponents. Why hunker down as a slow-moving musclebound meathead when you could boost a hundred metres across the floor, kick a colossal war machine square in the grill and flip back into cover all in the space of five seconds? Other shooter feel slow, limp and sluggish compared to this magnificent feat of development, which proved that reflexes and brains are just as important as space marine cliches. And hey, Sam Gideon is probably the most badass protagonist of all time, capable of utterly ruining entire armies while still finding time to light up and make a wisecrack. No arguments. He's the boss.
Critically, every single one of their games looks unique, feels fantastic and is utterly, totally unpredictable to the point of utter insanity. They're packed with such outrageous set pieces, such ludicrous shenanigans and such unique art direction that you can't help but smile while playing them, safe in the knowledge that the medium allows developers to offer entirely new experiences rather than attempting to emulate boring old real life. Wailing guitars? Check. World-painting wolf goddesses? Done. Cel shading? Climaxing demon angels? Turning into a human corkscrew to bore through a robot the size of a house? Why not? Why the hell not. Everything they do is so effortlessly radical that, frankly, we've dubbed it the 'Platinum Treatment.'
It's that 'why not?' spirit that defines Platinum, and even leads them to help out those in need. Metal Gear Rising was looking incredibly shaky until Platinum took the reigns, transforming the worrying spin-off into the best action game of E3, proving to be so unbelievably intense (jumping up missiles to chop up a helicopter? Robot chainsaw wolves?!!! WHAT?!) that I needed to lie down in a dark room after the preview session. Hell, even its subtitle is awesome. The Wii U lineup was also looking rather worrisome until Platinum got involved, redefining multiplayer roaming brawlers with bizarre mash-up Project P-100. "System seller" doesn't even begin to cover it.
Gallingly, their latest release won't see a Western release until March 2013 since SEGA inexplicably delayed the launch of Anarchy Reigns. Now that my import copy has finally cleared customs, however, I can report that it's an absolute blinder, taking their love of multiplayer brawling in a completely different direction. Massive city blocks are your playground, an unstable and unpredictable battlefield for sixteen players to duke it out even as bladed trucks smash through walls, storms fling cars around like children's toys and entire tectonic plates smash into each other. It's quite unlike everything I've ever experienced in a multiplayer environment - and the import review is incoming.
The main reason we love Platinum, at the end of the day, isn't because they're so ridiculously rad and unpredictable. Rather, it's because they're so dependable. They've provided us with nearly a decade of sensational games, always delivering, always ensuring that we have something fresh and brilliant to play. They respect the audience, and our love for the new - not for the recycled or the mundane.
Platinum are always there when you need them. Which, in our opinion, is the best reason to fall in love with anyone.