Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Warp to new DLC

This week in Rock Band (well, pretty much last week at this point - sorry), we get three new packs of tracks: One containing five artists from the Warped Tour; a three-pack from Maroon 5; and a few more songs from Pearl Jam. As you may have figured out from this rather late posting, I really don't care about any of these bands, and don't have a lot to say about them. The Warped Tour pack costs 660 MSP/$8.50 and the other two cost 440 MSP/$5.50 each, or 160 MSP/$2 for individual tracks.
Here's what's on offer:

By Maroon 5
Little of Your Time
Makes Me Wonder
Wake Up Call

By Pearl Jam
Brother
Alive (Live: Drop in the Park)
State of Love and Trust (Live: Drop in the Park)

A Day To Remember - The Downfall of Us All
Bad Religion - 21st Century Digital Boy
Chiodos - I Didn't Say I Was Powerful, I Said I Was a Wizard
Escape the Fate -The Flood
Underoath - Reinventing Your Exit
Note: Click on any song for expert drum videos.

Yeah, so none of this is really my type of music, and besides, I've spent most of my free time playing Prototype this week, so it was a good opportunity for my drum kit to rest. I'm sure it won't be long, though, before some more must-buys roll around.

In other news, Microsoft recently announced that it's Lips wireless mics will soon be for sale separate from the actual game. What does this have to do with Rock Band? Well, nothing. Yet. For you see, we've been promised support for these glitzy peripherals for quite some time now, and this is a good sign that it may finally be on the way. With a fall release, these could also tie in quite nicely with Beatles Rock Band, ensuring you and your buddies don't get all tangled up before you even get through one verse of Here Comes the Sun.

Oh, and just one more thing. This week also kicks off Rock Band Unplugged's DLC. However, since I don't imagine I'll ever buy any (I'd rather just spend the money on proper Rock Band songs), I don't think it's worth covering. So there.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

New functionality? Perhapps

Still not convinced that you want to spend $250 on a PSP Go? Well, what if I told you that there's more to it than you realized? For you see, Sony plan on turning the device into more than just a pocket gaming system. Possibly. In a special CNET video, Playstation's Al De Leon showcases the PSP Go, and states that the Playstation Store will be used "mostly be games, but there's an opportunity to look at non-gaming applications."

It's fairly obvious that, once again, Apple have provided some inspiration. The success of the iPhone App Store proves that customers are happy paying very little, if anything at all, for quick applications and software that add useful functionality to their system. I understand why Sony would want to position their latest handheld as a device for this sort of thing, but can they possibly hope to compete?

I mean, look at the iPhone. It has a multi-touch screen, camera, microphone, accelerometers, GPS, and built-in 3G support, all of which can be used in a wide variety of applications. The PSP Go has none of these things. In fact, it's only real input method is the standard controller buttons, which don't exactly lend themselves very well to anything other than gaming. Even the simplest of tools, such as an internet browser or email client, will be tough to use without a keyboard (as current PSP fans should know).

And what about the cost of said applications? The iPhone App Store has become so popular because of the large number of free programs, or at least super-cheap ones. I just can't imagine Sony opening their doors to any Joe Schmo and allowing him to create programs for the PSP Go. No, they can't allow a thing like that, or software developers won't want to pay licencing fees for their downloadable games anymore, and that's where Sony make a lot of money. Instead, I have a feeling that we'll be getting larger applications from semi-professional studios, all of which will cost some dough.

Finally, it's best not to forget that the PSP Go adds no real functionality over the current model, so there's no reason why every application wouldn't work on the PSP you already have! As I said before, it's a shame that Sony are asking for so much because I really do like the idea of a smaller, lighter console, but until they show me a good reason to upgrade, I'm sticking with the one I have.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A quick question about reviews

An interesting point was raised during episode 22 of Rebel FM, and while the guys may not have dwelt on the subject much, I felt that it was worth a brief discussion. The question was asked during talk about Tiger Woods 10, which host Tyler Barber just reviewed for Gamespy. When his five out of five score was mentioned, fellow rebel, Arthur Gies, asked him, "How do you feel rating that game as someone who hasn't played other Tiger Woods games?".

This is a very valid question, and one that applies to all video game franchises. Should the reviewer of a sequel be someone who's played all the others, or someone completely fresh to the series? After all, this could make a huge difference to the final score. This is especially true about sports games, as they tend to be released once a year, with sometimes only minor upgrades from previous versions. Someone fresh to the series may love parts that veterans have become bored with over time, where as someone who's played every other version may only be able to judge the new one against previous years, not on it's own merits.

I've already established that I prefer original games to sequels. I just find the biggest thrill comes from experiencing something new; gameplay aspects that I haven't already already mastered in previous titles. Therefore, if I were reviewing a game series, I would be most likely to score each one lower than the last, unless there were dramatic improvements that changed things significantly. I would also judge any game against similar titles that had come out recently, some of which may have raised the bar in certain areas. I feel that this is fair, and would give people an idea of how the game stacked up, in the grand scheme of things.

But for every hardcore gamer who's been following a franchise for years, there's a brand new console owner who's just discovering a series (or even genre) for the very first time. They don't know that the game they just bought is almost identical to nine that came before, or that a similar, some would say better, title was released last year. And why should they care? To them, every aspect is going to be fresh and original, and they would be best served by reviewers who are in the same boat.

So ideally, every sequel would have two reviewers: One who's familiar with the entire series, and one who's brand new to it. You could even go a step further and chose a reviewer who doesn't play that particular genre much, bringing an entirely fresh perspective. However, I realize that this is asking a lot from sites that are already struggling to get reviews up in time, so I leave the question up to you: Do you think sequels should be reviewed by veterans or noobs?

Second Steel

Red Steel was by far the most hostly anticipated 3rd party launch title on the Wii, one that received a lot of gushing previews and hands-on impressions from the press. Final review copies of the game told a very different story, however. A rather confused visual style combined with poorly implemented pointer-based first person shooter controls and clumsy sword combat caused a backlash from 'core gamers that immediately brought into question the Wii's credentials as a 'proper' games console, something that haunts it to this day.

Even though it sold well, Red Steel's name has become little more than a rather sad and painful reminder of the Wii's rocky start. You can imagine the gaming world's collective scepticism when the first solid info surfaced recently about a sequel to the franchise, info claiming that it would set right all that was wrong with the first game.

Well... The thing is, it does actually looks kinda awesome..


Rather than being a continuation of the first game, Red Steel 2 represents a complete reboot of the franchise, retaining only the most basic stylistic and gameplay elements. The modern day Yakuza setting has been dropped entirely, replaced with a fictional (and as yet unnamed) high-tech metropolis, a striking blend of American and Japanese architecture located on the edge of a vast desert. Likewise, Red Steel's protagonist has been replaced by 'The Swordsman', a mysterious peacekeeper who returns after years of wandering to find his clan exterminated and the city he swore to protect in total chaos.


This alone is enough to get me interested in Red Steel 2, but the E3 demo videos demonstrate a whole lot more. Obviously inspired by Metroid Prime 3, the game appears to have absolutely phenomenal aiming and shooting controls, while the previously insipid sword combat has been given a new lease of life by Wii Motion Plus. Judging by early hands-on impressions, the game matches player's movements with the sword with near 1:1 accuracy, allowing for a wide range of slashes, stabs and even parrys against sword-wielding opponents.

It also seems to do a much better job of blending these two disparate combat styles into one coherent whole, instead of going for the original game's rather contrived swordplay set-pieces. The developer describes the combat as feeling like a mixture between tradition FPS gun combat and a kind of first-person brawler, with a selection of quick dodges, special moves and even finishers at your disposal. They also mentioned that the game will contain elements of exploraiton, but didn't go into much detail.


I should also give a big nod to the visuals, which at this stage look very nice indeed. The graphic novel-inspired character and environment designs are not only very stylish, they also do a good job of hiding the Wii's relative lack of grunt when it comes to pushing big geometry and textures. It's interesting to note the lack of blood in the E3 build. Apparently the developers are aiming for a 'T' rating, a smart move considering the target platform, although it's bound to cause some complaint among 'mature' gamers.

I really, really hope Red Steel 2 lives up to it's fantastic E3 showing. It's probably foolhardy of me to get so excited given the franchise's chequered past, but what can I say? I'm a sucker for a (potentially) good Wii FPS and 1:1 sword combat has me drooling all over my wiimote.

Please don't let me down again, Ubisoft.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Eleven going on fourteen

Although many of Sony's E3 Press Conference announcements were spoiled in the weeks leading up to the event, there was one that still managed to shock the world. As RPG fans eagerly await the next installment of the Final Fantasy series, Square Enix revealed that 2010 will see not one, but two games from the classic franchise released. And no, the second one won't just be a re-release or remake of an old 8-bit title, but an entirely new adventure for PS3 and PC players alike.

The trailer for Final Fantasy XIV looks like it could be for just about any JRPG: Spiky-haired characters with large weapons battle mythical beasts while an orchestral score plays over the top. It's only at the end that the most important piece of info is revealed - The word "online" tells us that this won't be just another chapter in the Final Fantasy story, but rather Square Enix's second attempt at busting into the MMORPG market. While many of you may know of FFXI, I'll bet there aren't many who actually played it. Indeed, this title seems to be the one that people skip over when discussing their love of the series. I, however, did play it for a number of months, and managed to build some strong opinions that will most likely carry over to FFXIV. Therefore, I'm going to spend just a few minutes reminiscing about my adventures in Vana'diel.

March 2004 was when it all began. Although the game had seen previous release in Japan, and on PC in America, this was when the PS2 version hit stores, along with the 40 GB hard drive necessary to run it. Yes, FFXI was the title that finally put to use the PS2's expansion bay. I bought the game on the morning of release and ran straight home to play, little knowing that it would actually be another four days before my adventures would begin. Apparently, there was some kind of compatibility issue between the FF servers and AOL, and I simply couldn't connect, much to my disappointment. I spent hours on the phone with customer support, but no-one could help me out. Eventually, after screwing around with some of the settings and temporarily changing my dial-up location to another part of the State, it connected, after which I could set everything back to the way it was. Now my quest could begin.

I don't know if you've ever played an MMO before, but I wasn't sure quite what to expect. Sure, I'd spent a little time playing Everquest, so knew roughly how the genre worked, but still entered that world like a young child out on his own for the first time. I'm telling you now - once the size of the game hits you, and you begin to realize the number of different things you can do within it, it can be a little overwhelming, especially for MMO virgins. Thankfully, I quickly met another noob who seemed just as overwhelmed as I was, and we set about exploring together.

The idea of communicating with other people in games was brand new to me, and this was certainly before the days of voice-chat (on PS2, anyway), but even typing to others seemed novel and fun. It was also necessary, as FFXI is not designed for solo players. Once you leave the comfort of your starting city, you soon discover that the creatures around are pretty tough. While fighting alone may be okay for a little while, I quickly reached the point where it just wasn't worth it, and I had to find a party to join.

This is where the problems began, though. It seemed that half my time was spent just standing around, waiting for the rest of a group to arrive, only to have an important member (like the White Mage) leave five minutes into the battle. In fact, getting groups together was always a bit of a chore, and if you couldn't find a decent Tank or Healer, you were going to find yourself dead fairly often. Oh yeah, and when party members started dying, this only added more waiting time, as you couldn't continue until your resurrected teammates found their way back to the group again.

Of course, those who didn't want to spent a lot of time battling had other options. There were plenty of places to explore, characters to talk to, side quests to attempt, and skills to master. Crafting was one of these skills, and involved taking objects and combining them into new objects. At first, you'd only be able to make weak items this way, but the more you did it, the better the items became. Unfortunately, getting good at any of the crafting skills required a lot of time and money, and I simply couldn't be bothered. Since Gil wasn't nearly as easy to some by as other FF games, I wanted to spend the little I had on tangible objects - spells, armor, weapons, and so on. The idea of spending hours slowly building up one of my stats just didn't sound like fun to me.

In fact, it was the issue of money that finally made me give up on FFXI. I realize that I haven't spent much time discussing my adventures, but that could take hours. Lets just say that I spent a few months exploring the world, meeting friends, battling enemies, riding chocobos, sharing hints and tips, and generally having a good time. There's really far too much to discuss in a format such as this, so lets just skip straight to the end, shall we?

Okay, so I'm the type of player who wants the best of everything in a game. The most powerful spells, the sharpest weapons, and the coolest clothes. Unfortunately, this is a bad attitude to have in an MMO, as these things aren't always easy to come by. There was a certain staff that I wanted for my character (a bard) that was the very best I could use at my current level. It cost 300,000 Gil, a sum far higher than any I'd seen in the game, and I set about saving up for it. Since I'd spent little time building up my money-making skills, such as crafting, I had only one option - looting. This is where you kill the same type of enemy over and over again and save up the items they drop. You then take the items to the Auction House and put them up for sale, hoping that another player will need the items and buy them from you.

So this is what I did for about a month. Whenever I played, the majority of my time was spent running around the mountains, killing bees and collecting beehive chips. That's it - just running in circles killing the same enemies over and over again. If this sounds less like a video game and more like work, well, I suppose it was. While it may not have been fun, I loved the comments I got on my new staff, once I finally had enough to pay for it. I hoped that this would be the only time I would have to go to such ridiculous lengths to acquire an item.

It wasn't long, though, before I went to my local Auction House and spotted two more items that I really wanted for my character. Unfortunately, these items cost 400,000 Gil each! Having just spent an entire month saving up for a 300,000 Gil staff, the idea of having to acquire another 800,000 was just too much for me. This was coupled with the fact that once my character gained a few more levels, there would be even more items available to me, and I'd probably have to start saving all over again. No thank you! That was the last time I played Final Fantasy XI, six months and 700 hours in.

So that's a brief recap of my time in Vana'diel. I know that , if I wanted, I could spend far longer discussing every aspect of gameplay, and detailing my adventures, but I don't think that's necessary. Don't get me wrong - I really did enjoy FFXI, but it seemed that every aspect required serious amounts of work before it became fun. This is the reason why I didn't jump for joy at the announcement of FFXIV - I just can't imagine ever wanting to put that much time into a single game again (except Rock Band......).

But maybe this one will be different. In the time since FFXI was released, we've seen the huge success of a little game called World of Warcraft. From what I've heard, this title approaches the whole MMO genre from a much more casual direction. Leveling up is faster, and there are far more things you can enjoy without having to spend half your waking life playing. But I have a feeling that Square Enix will be going after the hardcore players of their previous MMO, leaving more casual gamers out of the equation. That's not to say that FFXIV will be bad, but I think only a select few will ever get the most out of this title. I'm interested to hear more details about the gameplay, so I can get an idea about which direction the franchise is going.

But before I go, there's just one more thing I want to mention; One more reason why I don't want to support a new MMO on a Sony console. For you see, the decision to stop playing FFXI was entirely mine. I can accept that. However, the decision to never go back was taken out of my hands. What do I mean? Let me explain: Shortly after I gave up on the game, my PS2 died on me. This wasn't the first PS2 that had crapped out, so I was familiar with the replacement procedure. Unfortunately, it was exactly around this time that Sony revealed their new, slim PS2, which was to replace the current model. For a few months there were no systems in stores at all, and when they were finally back in stock they were all the slim model. Oh, and did I mention that with a smaller form factor, there was no room for the hard drive?

So that was it. My hard drive, along with FFXI, went into a closet and have never been taken out since. I always felt a little resentment towards Sony for their decision to drop support of their new peripheral in the same year that it launched, effectively destroying any chance that I had to re-visit the world of Vana'diel. Of course, this was a long time ago, and I'm sure the company wouldn't repeat the same mistake twice, but before I would even consider buying Final Fantasy XIV for the PS3, there's just one thing I want from Sony: Give me back my hundred dollars, you bastards! Maybe then we'll talk.....

Sunday, June 21, 2009

DLC that goes to....

This week in Rock Band, Spinal Tap bring their special brand of music directly into our awaiting consoles. The news of this song pack made me quite excited, as fond memories brought a smile to my face. But what was this? Four songs, and not a single one from the movie, This is Spinal Tap! I guess they really did become a real band. Joining them are some group called Evanescence, who bring us a three-pack of tracks, but who cares about that? The Spinal Tap pack costs 560 MSP/$7, and the Evanescence pack will set you back 440 MSP/$5.50, but as always, each track can be acquired individually for 160 MSP/$2.
Here's what's on offer:

By Spinal Tap
Back from the Dead
Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare
Saucy Jack
Warmer Than Hell

By Evanescence
Bring Me to Life
Call Me When You're Sober
Weight of the World
Note: Click on any song for expert drum videos.

Okay, so even though Spinal Tap songs weren't the ones I wanted, I still felt the need to buy them and add a few more interesting tracks to my ever-growing collection. The song pack is certainly interesting, and I think discussing it as a whole would be the best thing to do.

The main point I can make is that certain beats become really familiar once you've played a few hundred songs in Rock Band. I seem to buy plenty of tracks that are fun, but super easy to master, as they contain techniques that I've had a lot of practice at. Even though the Spinal Tap songs aren't all that tough (Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare is in drum tier 2, the rest are in tier 3), they all have some tricky sections and, best of all, variety. This is another aspect that makes for a fun song; anything too repetitive gets old, fast (see Get Up).

Back from the Dead and Warmer Than Hell both have sections that lull you into a false sense of security, only to hit you with a quick fill or some fast double-kicks. Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare doesn't have anything that's going to challenge veterans much, but still has enough variety to keep it interesting. But Saucy Jack, well, I'm not even quite sure what to say about this track! I'm sure the similarity to You're a Mean One, Mister Grinch isn't coincidence, and the drum pattern is unlike any I've seen so far. Better seen than described, and good for those who feel like something weird.

So overall, I'd recommend the whole pack. Not overly difficult, but I have a feeling there will be sections I won't perfect for quite some time. And most importantly, they're actually not bad to listen to. Now come on Harmonix - How about some of those songs from the movie?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Shifting up a Gear

The Playstation Network: A great place to catch up on gaming history by purchasing classic PS1 titles for use on your current Sony console. At least, that was the idea. Unfortunately, it seemed as though Sony had completely forgotten about those of us in the western world, giving us a mere few dozen titles of the thousand or so available, and not a good few dozen at that. But all of a sudden, they've remembered us! The surprise E3 announcement of Final Fantasy VII was the start, and now they've followed it up with the release of another classic title - Metal Gear Solid.

Ah yes, Metal Gear. I'm sure there are many among you who have very fond memories of this game, or even the whole series, and I can understand why. Of course, regular readers may remember that I wasn't always such a fan of this particular title, but over time I came to appreciate how fantastic it was. But I won't go into that again right now.

What I am going to do, though, is head on down to the ol' Playstsation Store and pick myself up a copy. I know that I just started playing FFVII again, but that game could take me months; Metal Gear Solid can be finished in just a couple of days. In fact, this was one of the reasons I wasn't so fond of it when it first launched. But I won't go into that again right now.

There is one thing I'm curious about, though. I seem to remember a few puzzles in the game that might not work quite so well with a digital copy playing on the PSP. Fans are sure to know what I'm talking about. I realize that MGS is over ten years old at this point and I'm probably safe to just come out and say what those puzzles were, but I just don't like spoiling things, ever.

So anyway, if sneaking around in cardboard boxes is your thing, grab your PSP or PS3 and pick get a copy while they're still in stock. For just $9.99 you can enjoy one of Playstation's finest hours, if you have time with all the FFVII playing, that is. I really hope these games mark the beginning of a new era for the Classics section of the PS Store, and I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next. And if we happen to get Abe's Oddysee at any point soon, well, I might just have to dig up that old "I ♥ Sony" t-shirt!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Like reality, only better

I think it's safe to say that the future is here. No longer will people look out of their windows into the world around them, but will use technology to change reality; to augment it, if you will. No, I'm not talking about Virtual Reality, that early-90s vision of gaming in the future, but Augmented Reality (AR), the late-2000s vision of gaming in the future.

So what exactly is AR? Well, imagine you have a digital camera. As you move the camera around, the image on the screen displays what it can see. AR involves the insertion of video game elements directly into this video feed, essentially creating a game in the world around you. A good example of this would be the Singapore-based research group who, back in 2004, created a special backpack and pair of goggles that would project a Pacman-style game into the nearby area, complete with Power Pills and ghosts. A more recent example would be Ghostwire, a DSi title brought to us by Swedish developer, A Different Game. In this title, players use the DSi cameras to locate wandering spirits, and hopefully send them on their way.

Even more impressive that these, though, is a tech demo from Georgia Tech Augmented Environments Lab and the Savannah College of Art and Design. It shows off a game called ARhrrr, in which the player flies around a city in a helicopter, blasting zombies that are wandering the streets. The cool part is that the city appears on your tabletop, and changing your view is simply a case of moving the device in your hands. Although they're using a new Invidia prototype for the demonstration, this technology could potentially carry over to any number of handhelds, including the DS, PSP, and iPhone.



Isn't that cool? I realize that it's nothing more than a tech demo at this stage, but really shows off the potential for future applications. Imagine all the awesome titles AR could bring us in the future, from first person shooters set in your living room, to more unique games such as Beer Goggles, in which all girls around you look really hot, and, er.... I haven't quite figured out what comes after that yet. Either way, the possibilities are huge, and should bring us some never-before-seen experiences in the upcoming years.

Oh and by the way, if we're going to be using candy as bombs, then my house is a potential Hiroshima waiting to happen!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Intimate Moments with; Ghostbusters: the Videogame

Before I even discuss the game, I must point out that X-Box Live is down, and my little rebellious PSN ID is still standing to the right. Just a spiteful moment there.

Next... I must admit, if you had told me before that at any given time two of my favorite games would be put out by Atari and THQ, two companies that barely managed to meet even mediocre standards, I'd have slapped you and called you a failure at life. But LO, I have been disproven, and Ghostbusters is a success in almost every way.

The worst part is the lack of a jump button, and from time to time that is a real pain in the ass. Stupid clutter can from time to time get you stuck, but a proton blast is usually a quick remedy for that. Wrangling ghosts is insanely fun and fulfilling. It's not something you'll mind doing over and over again, which is crucial to a game like this, where it can err towards the repetitive from time to time. You need to "slam" the spirits, which means sharply pulling the analongs in the opposite direction the ghost is fleeing in, dazing them and wearing them down. It plays rather well.

Graphically, the game is crisp and defined down to the minute details. The Proton Packs are more tightly designed than they were in the films, and considering how much you're looking at it, that's a very good thing. Your life, heating levels, and proximity to ghosts is all displayed on a side of the pack, and set up in a way so at no time does it steal attention away from the game itself.

The shining point, goes without saying, is the dialogue. The game was penned by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis respectively, and all the originals (Sigourney Weaver aside, the frigid sow) reprise their vocal talents. You'd think that with the supposed bad blood involved with the cast of the films, you'd think that the vocal stylings would come off cold and fake, but the chemistry is more than alive in these guys. The comments and scripting is hilarious, and keeps the game flowing in moments where it should be stalling.

So, all in all, this game is fun not just for the fans, but for anyone who enjoys a cinematic script with great dialogue. A worthy purchase, and a shocking one, too be sure.

Don't cross the streams.
- CD

The Punch!! Bunch

In the US, the Punch-Out franchise requires little introduction. Even though until recently it boasted only two home-console entries in the series (Punch-Out!! for NES and Super Punch-Out!! for the Super Ninty), and went without issue for some 13 years, it seems to have somehow remained firmly lodged in Americas' collective gaming subconscious.


Not so over here in the UK. Aside from diehard Nintendo fans, few British gamers seem to have any recollection of Little Mac's 8 and 16-bit exploits, which may go some way to explaining why the spanking new sequel (also called Punch-Out!!) for Wii has apparently sold less than 40,000 units in the three weeks since launch. Keep in mind that these are just sales estimates based on incomplete data, but it still hints a general lack of enthusiasm in the EU for Nintendo's latest franchise reboot. Thankfully, it's done far healthier business in the states, shifting a very respectable 156,000 copies in just two weeks. This isn't a mind-blowing figure, but it's certainly not bad for a series that has been out of the spotlight for so long.

Unlike much of my european brethren, I'm a big fan of the series and picked up Punch-Out!! soon after launch, and I can happily report wholehearted agreement with the unanimous praise it has received from the global gaming press. The guys at Next Level Games have done an absolutely magnificent job of bringing Punch-Out into the twenty-first century, blending its infuriatingly addictive gameplay (a heady mix of pattern-memorization and lightning-fast reflexes, if you were wondering) with some of the best visuals yet to grace the Wii.


The larger-than-life characters you box against are mostly sourced from the NES original, but have been given a fantastic cel-shaded look that is brought to life with some of the most fluid and charismatic animation I have ever seen in a game.

Next Level has also done a great job of getting the difficulty curve just right, giving the player a gentle introduction to the game's mechanics with the likes of the cowardly Glass Joe and showboating Disco Kid before they slowly ramp it up. Indeed, some of the later fighter's tactics are utterly fiendish, with insane attacks you must first outsmart and then outpunch. Every fight brings something new to the ring, keeping what is essentially quite a simple idea constantly fresh and challenging.

It's a good length, too. I've had it for some two-odd weeks now, and I still haven't finished it. I'm close, but there are still a few agonizingly tough fights ahead of me before I can truly be crowned the undisputed Champion of the world's whackiest boxing leauge.

I can only hope we won't have to wait another 13 years for Punch-Out's next round.

If you can't beat 'em......

Do you ever get stuck in games? Do you find yourself frustrated at the prospect of having to play the same level over and over again until you get it right? Do you wish there was some kind of option where the game would simply play itself, while you relieved your tension in a nice hot bath? Of course not, that would be ridiculous. Who the hell would want a game that played itself? Well, according to Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of Mario, Nintendo fans would.

In an interview with USA Today, the legendary game designer revealed that upcoming Wii title, New Super Mario Bros. 2, will be the first to feature an option called "demo mode", in which the player can put down the controller and let the game auto-play itself. This is designed to help people get past tough spots, after which they can take over again. But hang on there, Shiggy, I have a question: Are you trying to destroy video games completely, or are you just stupid?

I mean, think about it for a minute: If you can't beat level 5, what the hell makes you think you'll be able to beat level 6? A well designed game teaches you skills and techniques throughout, so that by the time you reach the harder spots, you're better than you were before. If we could just skip over all these spots, we'd never learn the techniques necessary to get past the later levels. But that's okay, we can just skip those too!

Oh, but I suppose you don't have to use demo mode, do you? No, but having the option right there, available with the press of one button, is going to be mighty tempting when things get tough. I don't know about you, but I even find Gamefaqs to be a little too convenient sometimes, and have to stop myself from going there when I can't figure something out right away. But at least Gamefaqs doesn't play the game for you; it simply tells you what to do. Demo mode, on the other hand, completely takes over, and doesn't even require you to be in the same room!

And what about those valuable life lessons we can learn from our favorite form of entertainment? Skills like perseverance and problem solving? Nope, gone. The only lesson kids will learn from video games in the future will be, "If you can't figure something out right away, just cheat." Real nice, Nintendo, I'm sure the next generation are going to grow up with fantastic work ethics! That is, if they're even playing video games in the future. With all the challenge taken out, people may soon get bored of this particular pastime and move onto something else.

So in the end, only one group who truly benefits from this demo mode option, and that's Nintendo themselves. Think about it: The more games we can beat, the more games we can buy, and the bigger a pile of money Miyamoto can sleep on each night. But this is only in the short-term. The long-term effects of dumbing-down gaming probably won't be seen for another few years, but it could result in the end of Nintendo's "casual" user base, who one day realize they're spending a bunch of money of games they're hardly even playing!

Of course, we mustn't forget that Sony and Microsoft have been attempting to emulate Nintendo's success for a while now, copying things such as motion control and avatars. We may find that this feature is the next thing the giant companies "borrow", in which case, God help us. God help us all.

Intimate Moments with; Red Faction: Guerrilla

First off, allow me to say this game is a blast. Get it?

Rofl.

Carrying on, this game really is a great deal of fun, whether or not you're actually fulfilling your duties as a terrorist. That's right, a terrorist. You bomb shit that doesn't belong to you, and often hurt colonists in the way. It's not in any way religious, which is... likely a good PR decision. Red Faction: Jihad wouldn't have a same tone with all those game-buying infidels.

A side note here; I played this on both the 360 and PS3, and though the 360 version had more solid controls, the PS3 version looks leagues prettier, and the frame rate seems much smoother. Moving on.

The actual gunplay feels like Gears of War to me, sans a sound cover system. And that's a good thing. I've not actually managed to use cover yet, so... we'll skip that for now. Being able to run backwards while you shoot is a nice function, though hardly revolutionary. I could do with the ammo clips being a bit larger, but Hell, with so much cool stuff going on you won't notice your ammo running out.

Every building in this game is destructible. Every one. It's awesome. Problem is, when you're not paying attention during a battle and lobbing charges at enemies, you can and will drop buildings on yourself and others. While funny, it's also a forehead slap moment. Many times over.

I think the real shining moment in this game is the online play. The multiplayer is something else. You can pick up backpacks with different abilities (charging through walls, leaping high, jetpack, concussion and more), snag weapons that don't exist during the campaign (I believe), and generally tear yourself and the enviorment apart in glorious ways. You could kill months doing this, and thats just with one person.

So, all in all, this game is easily worth the purchase.
And tomorrow, I'll have a hands on review with Ghostbusters.
Don't cross the streams, friends.

- CD

Monday, June 15, 2009

Torture yourself with new DLC

This week in Rock Band, Iron Maiden pay a visit to bring us a twelve-pack of songs, including the original version of Run to the Hills. Ugh, I can practically feel my arm muscles start to burn just thinking about it. The tracks were announced a little earlier than usual this time, but arrived the same as ever, costing 1600 MSP/$20 for the lot, or 160 MSP/$2 individually.
Here's what's on offer:

Aces High (Live)
2 Minutes to Midnight
The Trooper
Wasted Years

The Number of the Beast
Run to the Hills
Can I Play with Madness
The Clairvoyant
Powerslave
Fear of the Dark (Live)
Hallowed be Thy Name (Live)
Iron Maiden (Live)
Note: Click on any song for expert drum videos.

Unfortunately, I just wasn't feeling masochistic enough to buy any of the tracks this week, but I've still had plenty of new Rock Band songs to play. How, you ask? With Rock Band Unplugged on PSP, which launched a few days ago! This has been occupying most of my rhythm game time, and I'll be sure to write a full review when I've played it a bit more.

In other news, we may have the final tracklist for the upcoming Beatles Rock Band, thanks to Ripten. I won't print the whole thing here, but lets just say it contains many fantastic songs by the band, spanning their entire career. This really comes a no surprise, though (after all, what else could it be?). On top of this, the list also includes the three songs I wished for when the game was first announced, so I can't complain about selection. Now all we need is an official announcement.....

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Go or no go?

Last month I spent a little time discussing the PSP Go. Of course, this was before it was officially announced, so everything was based on speculation. It turns out that most of the rumors were true: The PSP Go will have a sliding screen, built-in storage, and no UMD drive. This was all revealed during Sony's E3 press conference, along with one other detail - the price. There was certainly a collective dropping of jaws when the number 249 appeared on that giant screen.

So yeah, $249 for a PSP Go. This seems to be the main complaint people have had about the system, but is this a fair complaint? After all, we recently saw the DSi release for $40 more than the DS Lite, so it makes sense that we would have to pay extra for the new PSP as well, right?

Traditionally, consoles drop in price over time, as manufacturing costs are reduced. Then companies started to look at Apple's iPod business model, where the cost stays the same year after year, but the product itself is improved. This was clearly the inspiration for Sony and Nintendo, who both have consoles on the market that are selling for the same or more than their launch price, despite being half a decade old. I've already talked about the changes to the DSi, to determine if it's worth the extra $40 over a DS Lite, but what about the PSP Go? Have they added enough functionality to warrant an $80 price hike?

Well, first of all, lets look at all they added to the DSi. Granted, many of these features won't appeal to the majority of people (not for more than five minutes, anyway), but they certainly increased the cost of the system to make. Excluding the changes in form factor (because a new chassis should never cost you extra), the DSi added two cameras, a music player, an SD card slot (to store games from the brand new DSi Ware store), and a web browser, along with a more powerful CPU, 12 extra MB of RAM, and improved Wi-Fi support.

And as for the PSP Go, well, here's what Sony have to say about it on the official site: "Introducing the smallest and mightiest PSP system yet. Download rich, immersive digital gaming or the best movies and TV shows saved directly to the ample 16GB hard drive. Browse the incredibly deep lineup of PSP gaming and movie content on the PlayStation Network. Use built-in Bluetooth support to connect a wireless headset and utilize Skype to talk with friends. But best of all, show off your content via the ultra-crisp 3.8 inch LCD screen on the most portable PSP system yet."

Okay, so as far as downloading games and movies goes, we can already do that on our existing PSPs. They have added 16GB of built-in storage (which I highly doubt is a hard drive, as they describe it), but considering how cheap flash memory is these days, I doubt this cost them much. One thing I'm happy about is the Bluetooth, but when they say "Use built-in Bluetooth support to connect a wireless headset", I really hope they mean "to connect to a wireless headset and stereo headphones." Since the PSP is also a music and movie player, this is almost a necessity if they wish to stay cutting edge, and no, wireless headset and headphone support aren't the same thing.

And as for the rest, it's all stuff we can do on our existing PSPs: Skype, music, movies, web browser; all functions of the system for quite some time. They didn't add anything like a camera, touchscreen, GPS, or 3G support, any of which could be used to justify the increase in cost.

There's also something else we haven't factored in yet: The stuff they removed. The system no longer plays UMDs, so none of your existing games will work on it. There has been talk of some kind of UMD trade-in program, but Sony have said nothing official. Also gone is the removable battery, so we better hope the one it ships with lasts for a long time. Finally, they've switched the power and data transfer plugs with a single input, which is admittedly better, but it means that none of your existing accessories will work with the system either. Buy a PSP Go and you're pretty much starting from scratch.

It's a shame, you know. I really like the idea of having a smaller, lighter PSP, but can't imagine paying as much as I did for the same console back in 2005. If they had added a bunch of new features then maybe it would be worth it, but the Bluetooth support and built-in memory alone just aren't enough. In fact, it seems like they took out almost as much as they put in!

So is the PSP Go worth the extra $80 over the cost of an existing system? At this point, it certainly doesn't seem like it. I know I wasn't exactly sold on the DSi before it launched either, but my issue wasn't with the price; it was with the lack of information about what we could do with the new features. In this case, though, there really are no new features, just a smaller shell, so sorry, Sony - no sale. Either bring down that cost by $100 or add in a bunch of new stuff, and maybe we'll talk. Until then, I think I'll just stick with my perfectly acceptable launch PSP, which I can pull out once or twice a year when something good is actually released for it!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

On the path to ultimate destruction

It's been a while since I got a new Xbox 360 game. I suppose that's unsurprising, really. After all, this isn't the most release-heavy time of the year, and I've had too much other stuff going on to bother with games I only half want. That's why I was so excited as I left my local Best Buy yesterday, shiny box in hand; the promise of hours of entertainment ahead. I got home and turned on my faithful system, expecting to see others enjoying the same title I was about to play. But what was this? Looking down my friend list, I saw Fable 2, Quantum of Solace, a couple of people playing still playing Gears of War 2, but that was it. Did no one know about the awesome game that just hit stores that very day?

Prototype is the name of the game, and it comes to us from Radical Entertainment, the creators of The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. For those who don't remember, TIH:UD was a sandbox-style superhero game that put you in the shoes of the not-so-jolly green giant and allowed you to live out your destructive fantasies in the middle of a busy city. The Hulk was fast, strong, and agile, capable of sprinting up walls, leaping over buildings, and throwing cars as one might throw an empty soda can into the trash. In fact, TIH:UD was possibly the finest superhero game ever made, and a nice evolution from earlier titles such as Spiderman 2.

Prototype is clearly the next step in this genre. You play as Alex Mercer, a man with a bit of a problem: After waking up in a morgue with (you guessed it!) no memory, you discover that there are some serious military personnel waiting to gun you down. Which they do. The end.

Ha ha, only joking. Not about the gunning down part - that really happens - but about the ending part. For you see, what Alex Mercer lacks in memories, he makes up for in total kick-assery. You quickly find that you have abilities far beyond that of a normal human: Increased strength, higher speed and agility, the power to run up walls, and even the ability to shape shift. Yeah, that's right - shape shift. Sound cool yet? Well, let me explain a little more. Not only can you morph your arms into long spikes, T-1000-style, you can also take on the forms of those around you, er..... also T-1000-style. However, unlike the liquid metal man who almost sent John Connor to an early grave, Alex Mercer also gains the memories of those he imitates.

This is useful for two reasons. First of all, to advance the plot, giving you clues as to where to go next (remember, you have no memory of your own), but it also has another function: To gain abilities. Want to know how to pilot a helicopter? Simply absorb the pilot and bingo! - All the memories of helicopter school are yours. You can also use your shape-shifting as a way of avoiding combat: Just morph yourself into the shape of a soldier (you'll have to find one first) and wander straight into the middle of that heavily-guarded base; finding an army officer will get you even further in!

Of course, this stealthy approach might be a little slow for some, but Alex also comes equipped with a number of combat moves that make Neo look like the Star Wars Kid. Okay, most of these moves must be unlocked during the course of the game, but even at the start you're pretty bad-ass. Well, actually, at the very start you're super bad-ass, as this is another one of those titles that gives you a little taste of what's to come, before stripping you of many of your powers, in this case by going back to 18 days prior. But those first few minutes - Damn! You're leaping all over the place, running up walls, ripping apart tanks, throwing cars at helicopters, and generally using your abilities to wreck havoc on the city! It's a super-awesome opening, and one that got me instantly hooked.

In fact, It was this opening alone that inspired me to write this today. After all, I'm only a couple of hours into the game, and I don't usually bring reviews until I'm all the way through. But this isn't a review - it's more of a first-impressions, and my first impression is "This game is freakin' sweet! I have to play more!". So what comes next, I hear you ask? Well, I don't really know yet. So far, I've done a few missions, a few time-trials, and destroyed a lot of property, so I haven't had a chance to discover if the game has a lot of variety, or is fairly repetitive. After all, you could play Assassin's Creed for only an hour and think it was awesome, having only done each type of mission once, instead of the thousand-or-so times you must by the end if the game.

So will Prototype turn rather boring after a few hours, or is only going to get better as new powers are unlocked and more heavily-equipped military personnel employed? That's something I'll find out soon, and I'll no doubt have a full review before too long. At least I now know that you're all aware of the game, and I hope that you'll check it out in more detail. Which is exactly what I'm going to do right now......

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

You've got the whole world in your hands

Sony spent a while discussing the PSP at this year's E3 press conference. A lot of it was news about the PSP Go! - the upcoming UMD-less version of their portable Playstation - but there were some game announcements in there as well. The revelation of a new Metal Gear is pretty cool, and I'm sure I'll end up playing it, but more exciting (in my opinion) is the news that do-it-yourself platformer LittleBigPlanet will also be making it's way to the shiny, black handheld.

Okay, I know that technically this was already announced, back at Destination Playstation 09, but that was nothing more than a brief mention. E3, on the other hand, gave them a chance to fully show off their portable plans. From the looks of it, LittleBigPlanet PSP (hopefully just a working title), will capture all the thrills of the full console version, but in a form that can be enjoyed wherever you happen to be. Joystiq had a hands-on with the game, and seemed to be rather impressed with how it's turning out.

In case you're completely unaware, the original LittleBigPlanet released on PS3 last year, and was critically acclaimed for it's highly customizable level creation system. Using simple controls, players could design and edit their very own play areas, making them complex, familiar, or just plain rude! Although many people never spent enough time fully exploring the possibilities of this feature, those who did found it to be a fun and unique experience, and certainly different from anything else on the market.

But will the PSP be able to handle the game as well as it's bigger brother? We already know that the controls will have to be simplified, but what about online play? Getting together with friends to design levels sounded like the best feature of the PS3 version, so I hope this gets properly integrated into the handheld as well. Oh, and that's with voice chat, you hear? Playing online in silence is completely pointless; if I'm not chatting to my pals, I might as well just be playing on my own (you listening, Nintendo?). I also hope that the system for sharing levels is simple, as I can't wait to see what LBP veterans can do with the portable version.

That's about all we know at the moment, but I'll be sure to post any more interesting details as we get closer to LBP's fall release. For now, here's a trailer, giving us a taste of what's to come:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Give the finger to Nintendo

There were a few surprises at Nintendo's E3 press conference this year: A direct sequel to Mario Galaxy; an action heavy Metroid game, with help from Team Ninja; a second New Super Mario Brothers, this time on Wii. And in amongst these juicy pieces of news, they casually slipped in another announcement, one of a brand new peripheral. "Additional peripherals on Wii?," I hear you cry. "Surely it can't be!". Oh, but I'm afraid it is.

The Wii Vitality Sensor plugs into the bottom of your Wiimote, and your finger plugs, well, into it. This allows it to read various vital signs about your body, causing games to.... well, that hasn't exactly been revealed yet. One function that they clearly have in mind, though, is for relaxation exercises, a natural progression after the physical workout of Wii Fit. Yeah, I see where this is going: Now you can exercise you body and mind, only on Nintendo Wii. Very New Age.

But what else could it be used for? Well, believe it or not, Nintendo actually released a similar peripheral in Japan, back in 1998. It was designed to be used with Tetris 64 (on N64, duh!), specifically in a mode called Bio Tetris. Although it measured your heart rate in a similar manner to the Wii Vitality Sensor, it did so by attaching to your ear, freeing your hands for play. This is where it gets cool: The speed of the falling blocks was determined by your pulse. If you started to sweat it when thing began piling up, it only got harder for you. If, on the other hand, you could keep yourself calm under pressure, you stood a much better chance of surviving. Neat, huh?

I hope that Nintendo have something like this planned, but I'm worried that it may amount to nothing much more than a way of checking your vitals in the next edition of Wii Fit. It's also important to note that it's quite a large addition to your finger, limiting play to one-handed only. Well, I suppose you could try holding the controller with both hands, but it doesn't look as though it would be too comfortable. This is a shame, as it could be used to great effect in a title like Silent Hill: Shattered Memories; reading your fear level and providing shocks when you least expect it. Assuming it works like that, anyway.

So is the Wii Vitality Sensor just another way to appeal to Nintendo's new target audience - active-lifestyle-seeking non-gamers - or do they genuinely have something clever and unique up their sleeves? I admit it's probably the former, but you never know; Nintendo have surprised us before....

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Bonnawho?

This week in Rock Band, we take a trip to Tennessee, down to the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. There we'll hear music from a number of bands, including Coheed and Cambria, Shooter Jennings, and Phish. If that sounds like your cup of tea, you can get the entire six-pack of songs for only 800 MSP/$10, or each track individually for 160 MSP/$2. It's a festival experience you may actually remember the next day!
Here's what's on offer:

Ben Harper and Relentless7 - Shimmer & Shine
Coheed and Cambria - A Favor House Atlantic
Coheed and Cambria - The Running Free
Phish - Wilson (Live)
Shooter Jennings - Steady at the Wheel
TV on the Radio - Wolf Like Me
Note: Click on any song for expert drum videos.

Unfortunately, I'm highly antisocial and burn easily in the sun, so I stayed far away from this week's tracks. But there's a whole other kind of festival going on right now: The electronic entertainment extravaganza known as E3. This is far more suited to a type like me, and brings us much news about the upcoming Beatles Rock Band.

Many of the announcements were made at the start of Microsoft's press conference on Monday. After showing the opening sequence of the game, six people took the stage to play Day Tripper, giving us a taste of what was to come. Yeah, that's right, six people. It seems that earlier rumors were true: the game supports up to three singers at the same time. This will make for some nice harmonizing in many of the tracks, and at least back-up vocals in others.

Of course, it's also worth spending a minute talking about how it plays. The Rock Band formula looks pretty much unchanged, which isn't a bad thing, but might leave things feeling a little easy for all the drummers out there. As much as I love The Beatles, after stepping into the shoes of Keith Moon and Neil Peart, I'm not sure if Ringo Starr is going to offer too much of a challenge. No offence, Ringo. However, once you add a microphone into the mix (because who wouldn't want to sing back-up?), that difficulty should pick right back up.

The press conference also gave Harmonix a chance to reveal the first ten songs in the game, as well as the first piece of DLC we can expect. Oh yeah, I suppose that's confirmation of downloadable content as well. Fans of the Fab Four have the following songs to look forward to:

  • I Saw Her Standing There
  • I Wanna Hold Your Hand
  • I Feel Fine
  • Day Tripper
  • Tax Man
  • I am the Walrus
  • Back in the USSR
  • Octopus's Garden
  • Here Comes the Sun
  • Get Back
Pretty good so far. It will be nice to see the evolution of the band as they go from their early, poppy years into their later, more experimental stuff. It was also announced that Abbey Road will be the first downloadable album, which I hope is an indication that all of their music will be released in this fashion, rather than in smaller song packs. I don't expect a new album every week, but every month or so would be nice. That would allow them to keep the game fresh for a year or more, assuming that people haven't gotten totally sick of the whole concept by then.

Unfortunately, one more piece of news revealed that there will be no cross compatibility between Beatles Rock Band and other versions of Rock Band. This is a shame, as it means we can't stick all the songs into our ever-growing libraries of music once we tire of the whole Beatles aesthetic, but I understand if licencing agreements are starting to get a little tricky for the companies involved by this point. Also, since this particular entry in the series supports more instruments than the others, I guess we can't really expect them to include such a function. Still, shame.

Ah, but who really cares? It's The Beatles, for crying out loud! September 9th can't come fast enough! Here's that opening sequence, in case you didn't see it:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

E3 Kings

Okay, so I think it's time for a little discussion of the major E3 press conferences. Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have all promised us wonderful things, but can they truly deliver? Let's go over some of the announcements, shall we?

First of all, Microsoft had a pretty clear focus for their show: Third party games. This was apparent right form the start, with the first ten minutes of the presentation being footage from, and a demonstration of, Beatles Rock Band. However, as great as that title looks, the best part of E3 conferences are exclusive games and surprise announcements, so neither this, the video for Tony Hawk Ride, or the demo of Final Fantasy XIII, we all that impressive, as far as I'm concerned.

In fact, a lot of Microsoft's conference involved demonstrating games we already knew about, although there were a few unknowns in there, such as Epic's XBLA title, Shadow Complex. There were also some surprise sequels thrown in, thanks to Crackdown 2 (yay!) and Left 4 Dead 2 (double-yay!). While neither of these games were entirely unexpected, it's always nice to get a little confirmation.

Anyway, game announcements are game announcements; they can happen anytime. Let's focus a little on the other stuff revealed by Microsoft. First of all, Xbox Live is adding additional functionality to help people stay in touch. Facebook and Twitter are both being Incorporated into the dashboard, meaning that you could potentially have your computer, phone, and Xbox all buzzing you every time someone leaves you a quick comment. I guess that's true connectivity, right?

All this stuff is relatively boring when stacked up against Microsoft's final announcement, though. Yes, the 360, like the Wii and PS3, is getting a motion controller. The demonstration was, well, rather impressive, but since Sony and Nintendo also had motion control demos, lets discuss those all at the same time, okay?

Nintendo's main focus during their conference was on sequels. This comes as no surprise really; heaven forbid the company try to think up something new. We found about follow-ups to Wii Fit, New Super Mario Brothers (but not on DS - dammit!), and Mario Galaxy. While this is cool, and I'll probably end up playing all of them, it would have been nice to hear about a brand new IP as well.

Probably the closest think we got to new was the third-person Metroid game, a collaboration between Nintendo and Team Ninja. I must admit that it looked pretty sweet, but also seemed like something that could have been made anytime in the last ten years, i.e. unimpressive graphics and no obvious use of motion control. I suppose this could change as more is revealed, though.

There was very little on the DS either, save for a few more sequels. This is kind of worrying, as the recent release of the DSi should have given them plenty to talk about, from the DSiWare Shop to camera-controlled games, but sadly we heard about nothing like this. Well, we did find out about a few upcoming downloadable games, but I would hardly call this revelation overly exciting. Honestly, we should be getting announcements like that on a weekly basis, not once a year.

The Wii Motion Plus also got some time on stage, but we didn't really see anything much more impressive than last year's demonstration. However, with Microsoft and Sony both revealing their own, much more advanced motion controls, Nintendo had to remind us all that they weren't being left behind.

Sony's conference was rather like Microsoft's, with the focus mainly being on exclusive titles. We got more info on MAG, as well as a demonstration of Uncharted 2. We found out about a brand new Rockstar title, Agent, as well as the third project from Team Ico - The Last Guardian. This last one would have been a little more impressive if the video hadn't leaked a couple of weeks ago, but I suppose we at least found out the final name for the project.

Another announcement that was sort of ruined beforehand, was the PSP Go! It turned out to be pretty much as expected, except for the addition of Bluetooth - something I've been waiting for in a handheld for a while. One thing that did come as a bit of a surprise was the price - $249.99. Do you understand what I'm saying? Sony's five-year-old system costs the same as when it first launched in 2004, despite the loss of the UMD drive. I'm sure I'll have more to say about this later on.

In fact, the PSP had quite a lot of the focus, from the announcement of a new Metal Gear Solid game, to the promise of 50 PS1 classics coming to the Playstation Store this year (the first of which is already out!). I suppose this is a good thing, as Nintendo spent very little time talking about their portable system, so the PSP came actually came out on top (for once). Oh yeah, and we're getting LittleBigPlanet on the handheld as well - sweet!

Okay, so just like the other companies, Sony had a long demonstration of their new motion controller. All three technologies are rather impressive (in fact, Microsoft's was a little too impressive - one wonders if the final product can really perform that well), and it's fairly clear which direction the video game industry is going, at least for now. I think I'm going to save my full opinions for a separate write-up, though, so I won't go into detail now.

So which company had the best showing this year? Well, it wasn't Nintendo. Sorry, but I just don't consider a list of sequels to be very exciting. Add this to the Wii Motion Plus demo (didn't we have one of those last year?), and you end up with a fairly boring show. Then again, Nintendo already rule the world, so I guess they don't have to impress anyone. Of the other two companies, it's really hard to pick a winner. Both Microsoft and Sony showcased a bunch of exclusive games, and both had impressive motion control demos. If a number of Sony's announcements hadn't leaked ahead of time, then I think they would be the clear winner, but as it stands, fans of both systems could argue that their presentation was better.

So overall, I think it was quite a good start to E3 2009. We have a lot to look forward to in the future, and plenty of discussion topics for the next few weeks. I just hope I can find the time to get to them all!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

E3+PSP=OMG!

E3, Oh E3. So much news, so much to talk about. If you didn't know, the biggest electronic entertainment show of the year is on right now. We've had press conferences from Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony, and there's a whole lot more to come. Many exciting things were announced during these briefings, and I certainly plan on sharing my opinions with you on everything: brand new games, unexpected sequels, titles that require weird controllers, and even those that use no controller at all!

But of all the things we saw and heard in the last couple of days, there was only one announcement that made my mouth hang open and my eyes light up with glee. With all the futuristic gadgets and games that we have in store, I felt a little silly when I realized how excited I was, and if you'll just allow me to let go of self restraint for a moment.......

OMFG! Final Fantasy VII is coming to PSN for download today!!! I know it's twelve years old, and I know that it probably looks like Pong compared to some of the other titles being shown at E3, but it's coming today!! I'm sure I'm not the only person who ran right into their bedroom and started searching for their PSP charger when this was announced. Unfortunately, we all came to realize that today doesn't mean right now.

I must admit, I got a little tired of waiting, and that's why I'm writing to you. I hope that by the time I finish, I can pick up my Buster Sword and tell Shinra to kiss my ass! Don't Worry, I'm not going to spend a long time describing wonderful memories of FFVII right now; I'll save that until after I've played it again. In fact, that might make a nice article: Discovering if I still love it after all these years.

So anyway, I'll be back shortly to discuss everything else that's going on at E3, but right now, I've got a rebellion to lead and a planet to save. And to anyone with a PSP or PS3, I have just one thing to say: Go buy this game now! Well, as soon as it's available anyway.....

P.S. Dan - Wish you were here!