Bigredcoat

Videogames, politics, science, all the important things in life.

Archive for July, 2007

Upcoming July 31st

Posted by nfinit on July 30, 2007

World Championship Cards (PSP/PS2) N/A

Now, I’m not going to deride this sort of thing as pointless, as there is a market for casino games, and that market provides the money that supports the justification for Atlus’ entire library. I do, however, wonder about the wisdom of putting this sort of game on anything other than a handheld system. The DS or PSP is practically made for this kind of casual pick up n’ play fluff, but I have a hard time imagining that there are people who have access to God of War, Burnout and Soul Calibur at home and decide “hey, I’ll play a game of virtual cribbage”. And if those people do exist, why couldn’t we get them to play Phantom Dust?

Crazy Taxi Fare Wars (PSP) N/A

Speaking of casual pick up n’ play fluff, this fits the very definition, and handily doubles as vindication for those who think Nokia was too quick in killing the N-Gage.

You can see in the distance where the game gives up trying to render Crazy Taxi and wants to draw Moon Patrol instead. In all fairness, a portable disc containing Crazy Taxi 1 and 2 sounds tempting, but I dunno how tempting a game can be right now to justify losing your bios hack.

Harvest Moon: Boy and Girl (PSP) N/A

By this point Harvest Moon has become one of those games where fans of it know exactly what their getting into, while non-fans sorta look on from the outside and wonder why in the world people would want to role play as a farmer. This one looks to be the same as the other eighty seven hundred Harvest Moon games to be released, only this time more squished…

… and featuring lolis who want to make a suit out of your skin.

Brave Story: New Traveler (PSP) N/A

The latest in a long line of generic PSP JRPGs, perfect for the gamer who refuses to let go of the era where PS1 was king and JRPGs were relevant. This time though, you get catgirls!

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Which will no doubt appeal to a certain segment of the population. To that segment I say 1) you’re sick and 2) where does a person go to get decent Felicia x Fran hentai?

Mario Strikers Charged (Wii) (77%)

Look, I need to come clean with you guys. I hate Nintendo. I can’t explain it anymore than a Carolina fan can explain why he hates Duke, or a Warner Brothers guy why he has a seething hatred for Disney. Just that there are some choices people make in life, and mine was Sega over Nintendo, and I’m standing firm on that issue despite Sega being run by collective of lobotomy victims from back in the 1950’s when they used to jam an icepick into your eye socket and call it a day. Just rest assured that I hate Nintendo, I hate their legions of smug fans, I hate that they’re creaming Microsoft and Sony and I hate it when some jerk like Capcom or Konami goes and releases a game on a Nintendo platform and forces me to buy the stupid thing.

Fortunately for me, Mario Striker’s Charged is not from either of the above. Indeed, it is a Mario Soccer game, and thus manages to combine three things I hate, sports games, Mario and Nintendo. It is nearly a perfect representation of everything I irrationally hate, all it’s missing is Mike Krzyzewski as a playable character. So in lieu of an objective report, I’ll instead supply a stream of snide comments:

  • So is this the first Wii game that wasn’t supposed to be on the Gamecube first, or what?
  • I have it on good authority that Super Princess Peach was developed entirely to help fill out databases for America’s sex offender registry lists.
  • This is the first Wii exclusive since Super Paper Mario not to be an abomination against all that’s good in the world (Escape from Bug Island) or an attempt to single-handedly destroy the game industry by filling it with old men and non-gamer girlfriends (Brain Training Wii; Mario Party 8). Super Paper Mario, you’ll remember, was released shortly after Ronald Reagan’s first term of office.
  • It is my understanding that a large portion of Mario Striker’s Charged gameplay consists of holding the Wii remote thrust directly before your groin and gyrating your hips to and fro, while at the same time shouting “This is exactly how I would like to fuck Ed Norton”.
  • Mario Kart Double Dash? Double bullshit.
  • Nice work on the friends codes. Get back to me when Nintendo’s figured out a more sophisticated matchmaking system than what was found on Duke Nukem forever.

Pool Party (Wii) (N/A)

Best case scenario: a game of virtual marco polo featuring your chesty, jiggling video game babes.

Worst case scenario: Generic billiards game featuring token Wii remote support.


Never mind.

That said, although the Wii’s showcase for the week features a wholly mediocre soccer game and something that crawled out of the Wal-Mart shovelware bin, it’s miles better than the PS3 and 360 offerings this week, consisting of jack and shit respectively.

Glory Days 2 (DS) (61%)

One of the more unique titles to come along as of late, this would appear to be choplifter meets Grim Grimore. I say “seems to” as that’s all I could gather from the Eurogamer review and the screenshots, which, much like a Stephen Hawking powerpoint, have a habit of looking both awesome and horribly confusing.

I have no idea what’s going on here, but it’s awesome and there’s no way the low ratings can be trusted.

Pile o’ Shovelware Shit: Chameleon: To Dye For; Bratz Ponyz; Professional Fisherman’s Tour: Northern Hemisphere; Spelling Challenges (DS)

No week would be complete without a collection of irredeemable shit that will still outsell everything else on the list combined. I find myself horrified by the implications of Bratz Ponyz. If it follows the aesthetic (I use this word loosely, much like a movie critic would the “aesthetic” of a Bang Brothers movie) then these will be the biggest sluts known in the equine universe, featuring thong bridles, mains woven with extensions, and a rear end that no doubt caused the toy sculptor responsible for producing the prototypes to start drinking Sterno.

Also, I question the logic of one fishing title for the entirety of the Northern Hemisphere.

Picross (DS) (82%)

What does it say about the state of gaming when the best original game released for the entire month of July is a friggin’ Picross title? Man, fuck July.

NEXT WEEK! The PS2 gets Daisenryaku 7 Exceed! I have no idea what that is, but there’s a TANK on the cover and thus it is GAME OF THE WEEK! The WII gets INCREDIBLY GAY with Boogie! The DS gets THIRTEEN MEGAMAN GAMES! PSP owners shall know the joy of LARA CROFT’S SLIGHTLY POLYGONAL ASS in Tomb Raider Anniversary!

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Summer Gaming Blowout Special Update: Oh Lordy Does Bullet Witch Suck Edition

Posted by nfinit on July 26, 2007

Rented this last week, lacking anything better to do as well as basic common sense. The sheer awfulness of the Bullet Witch experience cannot be properly translated if I incorporated other games into this update, so I’m giving the title its own review.

Before I begin, I’d like to give Cavia Inc, the developers for Bullet Witch their due and point out exactly what Bullet Witch does right:

  1. When the schoolgirl outfit is selected and you’re running up stairs, you can see directly up your dress.

  2. In order to avoid claims that the point of offering a strong, independent female lead is negated when users can easily select blatantly sexualized outfits such as “catholic schoolgirl” and “naughty secretary”, or (and so help me god I’m not kidding) “sexy mummy outfit”, the game neglects to transfer these new outfits to cut scenes, allowing Alicia to call upon her supernatural powers to leap from outfits that barely cover her buttocks to an elegant black silk ensemble in the blink of an eye when confronted by NPCs.

Things Bullet Witch does not get right:

  1. The concept of “clipping”. Alicia can step right through random vegetation, park benches, wooden pallets, dead bodies, file cabinets, and a great many other obstinately solid objects. While this may be explained away by some unforeseen aspect of her supernatural powers, it doesn’t explain why a 3-inch rise from porch to patio deck wholly negates any forward movement.

  2. Pacing. One may easily find themselves wading through zombies through completely blind dead ends, as vast swaths of any given level are dedicated toward nothing resembling any actual goal or point, with open fields leading miles away from any actual action. Your goal may be a half mile behind you and receding in the distance, or it may be around the next random alleyway. There’s absolutely no way to tell, and by the time you’ve figured out what the game designers were expecting you to do, you’ve already wasted precious hours of your life, hours that you will bitterly regret eighty years from now as you lay dying in a hospital bed, the prime of your youth foolishly spent playing bad videogames because it was Friday night and Blockbuster was out of copies of Lost Planet.

  3. Geography. The large cosmopolitan city laying across a vast bridge in the middle of what would appear to be San Francisco Bay is policed by University of Nevada police officers. Also, leading up to this bridge is an offramp for Salt Lake City.

  4. Compelling characters or plot. Alicia has Goth Powers, and a voice inside her head that offers the occasional snide remark regarding humanity. Also, a gun that is also a broom. Or something. You fight incredibly stupid zombie soldiers. This is your motivation.

  5. Anything resembling good gameplay.

I’m not kidding about the last bit. The AI, such as it is, is laughably stupid. When given the choice to fire at innocent civilians or at the poorly armored emaciated-looking woman firing a machine gun at them, they’d far rather try to kill the citizenry, all the while offering dialog such as “Which limb shall I tear off first, your arm or your leg?” or “you’ll have to do better than that if you don’t want to die!”, provided instead the zombies aren’t expending vast quantities of ammunition into Nevada’s oceans. Often the game will rappel in squads of zombie soldiers to do battle with Alicia, only to drop these soldiers off so far away that they aren’t able to recognize Alicia as a threat, allowing the soldiers to stand around staring at each other making zombie soldier chitchat while Alicia calmly uses her supernatural abilities to goth-throw a taxicab into their midst. Then there’s the bit where Alicia can circle-strafe about her zombie oppressors, safely plugging hundreds of rounds of ammunition into the shambling horde while the undead marvel helplessly at Alicia’s invincible sideways-walking strategy. “Walnut Heads”, floating humans with enormous, pulsating heads, sorta just sit there and float while you unload into them, unconcerned that their engorged brainsacs are about to explode in a gush of viscera. Gigas, titanic zombie soldiers with enormous, pulsating hearts, thrash and stomp around unconcerned as you unleash a hail of lead into their throbbing chests. Citizens run back and forth into zombie/Alicia firefights. Enemy tanks are rendered harmless when you come within five feet of their hulls, their turrets fruitlessy tracking you as they sit, still as stones. Bullet Witch’s AI isn’t just bad, it single handedly nullifies nearly a century of Hollywood scaremongering regarding both zombies and evil robots. If this is the horror we have to look forward to when the zombie apocalypse finally shambles upon us, it’ll be a simple matter of standing five feet away from any given undead as they wander off to fire round after round of machine gun ammunition into Nevada’s vast shoreline.

If Bullet Witch’s sins were simply a matter of bad AI, inconsistent clipping and poor level design then Bullet Witch would be guilty of being merely awful. But no, this game takes suck to new heights, creating what may well be the earliest recorded case of a gaming atrocity to appear on the 360.

  • Despite a deep and varied selection of destructive Goth Magics there’s only one you really need to use, that being the supremely powerful lighting bolt attack, and the only reason you’d want to even go that far is because it’s the only thing that can kill tanks.

  • Despite featuring four gun/broom combinations to unlock, there’s no good reason to use anything other than the bog-standard machine gun.

  • When reloading your gun/broom’s clip (you never run out of ammunition in Bullet Witch, you merely need to remember to reload your magazine regularly) you can skip the canned reload animation by jumping.

  • When jumping, you are more or less invincible

  • Your health bar constantly regenerates. Therefore, in the rare occasion when Alicia faces death, you merely need to flip about like a Matrix reject until the danger is past. Then resume circle-strafing.

  • Objects that can explode– cars, fuel tankers, randomly scattered barrels– may or may not actually explode. Also, object that can be pushed around by Alicia’s “Willpower” ability may instead chose to stay put.

  • Whereas many games are trying to get away from the whole “obtrusive cut-scene” thing, Bullet Witch bucks this trend by constantly stopping play to present the player with a barrage of gameplay hints, most of which you will have figured out well before the hint imposes itself.

  • The game often tries dramatic, Crackdown-esque cinematic explosions, resulting in gouts of flame erupting from the ground as all and sundry are thrown into the stratosphere. Unfortunately, whereas Crackdown was created as a labor of love by professionals who obviously cared about their craft, and Bullet Witch was created by drooling fucktards, the game slows down to a nearly unplayable crawl.

  • In the aftermath of said explosions, it’s not at all unusual to find zombie soldiers standing around, unharmed by and uninterested in the conflagration that had so recently engulfed them.
  • AND MANY MORE! Special abilities that grant health bonuses in a game where you are never in danger of being at anything less than full health! Zombies that rematerialze if the game realized you needed to fill up your magic bar! 1-hit-kill zombie snipers that cannot be avoided once they spot you! Voice actors hired from the back alley of sperm donor clinics! Civilian NPCs that are wholly unharmed by any explosion you cause, car you throw, or bullet you fire! And an impossible boss fight set atop a flying 747 jumbo jet!

Now, I have a point to this insane rambling, and it’s this– Dave Halverson of Play Magazine gave Bullet Witch an 8.5 out of 10. I’m not sure if Dave simply masturbated to the intro and then slept through the part where he was supposed to play the game prior to reviewing it, but here’s a short list of games that have received 8.5s or less from Play– Super Paper Mario (8.5); Mercenaries (8.5); Project Gotham Racing 2 (8.5); Crackdown (8.5); Burnout 3 (8.0); Alien Hominid (8.0); Dead or Alive 3 and 4 (8.0 each) Suikoden V (8.0)(Which, I have on good authority been informed was the best in the series to appear on the PS2) and only five points worse than Soul Calibur III (9.0) which had a habit of destroying your memory card.

According to Play Magazine, one of the more respected and successful publications in the industry, Bullet Witch, a game which cannot be bothered to have enemy soldiers fire in your general direction, is on par with Mercenaries, Crackdown and Super Paper Mario, and is unquestionably better than motherfucking Alien Hominid. Not only that!   But the magazine the game was featured in not only had a Bullet Witch cover, but six pages of coverage, including two (two!) developer interviews!

Editors of Play Magazine; you owe me five dollars for the rental, as well as an Alicia wall scroll. Thank you.


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The Gaijin Box

Posted by nfinit on July 25, 2007

(Submitted to The Platformers 7-25-07)

Gaijin Box
Gaming otaku don’t know how good they’ve had it.

Back in the sixteen bit days, fans of Japanese games had to go through outrageous contortions to satisfy their cravings. With more than a half-dozen console companies and a myriad hardware configurations, we had to either accept the paltry few examples of Japanese gaming genius that washed up on our shores or happily march into bankruptcy.

Sony’s Playstation made everything exponentially easier. Gaming otaku enjoyed an embarrassment of riches as Japanese developers hopped aboard Sony’s bandwagon. The result was a hobby that was not only less expensive, but meant that devotees of Japanese gaming no longer needed to dedicate an entertainment center lined with exotic consoles simply to enjoy Capcom’s entire library.

For over a dozen years, the story was much the same. Sure, Sega lingered around for a while and there was always the odd Konami or Treasure novelty popping up on Nintendo’s hardware, but Japanese game fans never needed to want as long as they owned a Playstation, and the situation only improved once Sega gave up its hardware ambitions with the arrival of the Playstation 2.

But something strange has happened. Independent Japanese developers that have long stood as Sony stalwarts are either treating the company with sudden trepidation or have jumped ship entirely. The next Katamari Damacy, a niche otaku series if there’s ever been one, has been announced as a Microsoft 360 exclusive, as has the latest Ace Combat sequel. Game series that would never have made sense on American hardware before-Resident Evil, Virtua Fighter, Sega Rally and Devil May Cry, among others- are scheduled to share appearances on both the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360. And through liberal use of good ol’ filthy lucre, otaku-targeted games such as Culdecept Saga, Trusty Bell, Ninety Nine Nights and Blue Dragon will appear exclusively on Microsoft’s 360. All the while Japanese developers grow increasingly vocal in their frustration with Sony’s vision for the gaming industry.

So fans of hardcore Japanese gaming have to ask themselves– Did Microsoft steal the gaming otaku market while no one was looking? Or did they simply pick up a ball that Sony dropped and has thus far shown no interest in recovering?

Profiles in Corporate Belligerence

For Sony, the reversal is as sudden as it is bitter. Namco has throughly embraced the 360 as a development platform. Capcom, conservative as ever, has decided to split development focus on both systems. Square/Enix is sitting the next-gen fight out until 2008 at the earliest. Even Konami, seemingly Sony’s last remaining friend, has threatened to shop Metal Gear Solid 4 to “other systems”. In the meantime, most every independent Japanese developer will produce exclusives for Nintendo’s Wii and DS systems.

Observers may be tempted to cite PS3 development costs as the primary factor. But it’s not a very satisfying answer in light of the far cheaper development costs for Nintendo’s wildly successful Wii. Developers cite PS3 and 360 development costs to be roughly equal, averaging some twelve million dollars per game, while a Wii game can be developed for as little as s five million dollars.

While true there have been rumblings as to the difficulties in producing PS3 games verses their 360 counterparts, make no mistake, this is about the numbers of Playstation 3 consoles Sony has sold. Or rather, haven’t sold. It’s easy to imagine that Japanese developer, seeing the overwhelming advantage the 360 holds outside Japan, would realize hedging their bets is the safest course, and develop the same games for both systems, if not outright snub the PS3 until Sony’s house is in order.

As with all problems the Playstation 3 has experienced since release, it boils down to Sony lost touch with the console market. Sony has yet to show any indication that they are aware of the consumer rebellion against the Playstation 3, and as a result independent developers are reluctant to trust Sony and whatever misguided vision Howard Stringer holds for the gaming industry. Even if the 360 is doomed in Japan, the worldwide numbers and hardcore backlash are impossible to ignore. The market will not absorb a console at the PS3’s current asking price, and with debacles such as the three-week-long price “drop”, Sony has done nothing to regain the community’s good will.

Enter the Bridesmaid

So whither Nintendo? The Wii has dominated Japanese sales charts whereas the 360 could charitably be called a disappointment. Considering the Wii will almost assuredly overtake the 360 in North America by the end of the year, why have Japanese third parties yet to embrace the Wii, especially when, as previously mentioned, Wii development costs represent a fraction of the 360’s?

Perhaps the Japanese third parties remember the sing of Nintendo’s lash, and the consequences of being beholden to a single console maker. Back in the NES era Nintendo was so strong they could force third-party developers to limit the number of titles released each year, while Nintendo released a steady stream of their own in-house brands. While it is easily argued that Microsoft is a more predatory and monopolistic company than Nintendo has ever dreamed of being, memories die hard, and the legacy of Hiroshi Yamauchi churlish rule remains fresh.

As it stands, games on the 360 tend toward the hardcore crowd, while the Wii plays host to experimental, family friendly titles such as Treasure Island Z. In that light, perhaps the third-party embrace of the 360 over the Wii is simply a recognition of where the respective markets lay– the Xbox brand was built on hardcore college-age gamers, the sort who expect to be wowed by high technology and expect an epic gaming experience. Companies know the market on the 360. Meanwhile developers are trying to determine if Wii owners will even accept non-Nintendo titles, much less non-traditional games without the gloss of advance graphics. Perhaps this explains why the Wii’s Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles consists of a retelling of previous games optimized for the Wii’s controller while the 360 and PS3 receive the series’ true sequel in Resident Evil 5.

A Market Sundered

So what’s a gaming otaku to do? Embrace the Gaijin Box and accept that the Japanese gaming market has been hopelessly split by Sony’s gross incompetence and Microsoft’s ambition? It would not be unprecedented. Twelve years ago Japanese developers left for Sony, abandoning Nintendo’s misguided and arrogantly-conceived N64. At the same time these developers snubbed the expensive to buy and difficult to develop for Sega Saturn– Sega, crippled by this shift, never fully recovered.

If there’s anything we’ve learned from the first Playstation, it’s that game developer’s affections can be fickle– and violent.

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Upcoming 7-24-07

Posted by nfinit on July 23, 2007

The thing that’s struck me the most about this series is that, for the most part, games are terrible.

I’m not talking about merely mediocre, or games that are enjoyable if you’re a fan of the genre. No, the vast majority of videogames should not be purchased, rented, played or are to be considered worth spending any amount of the precious time you have left on this mortal coil. Most videogames are, in fact, detriments to human civilization, proof to the likes of Roger Ebert that gaming can never be art, and that gaming is a vapid waste of time probably not even suited to a child’s intellect.

Which is why my job is important. I’m here to tell you that, despite being the biggest week of releases in over a month, there’s not a single worthwhile gaming experience to be had there that’s not Persona 3, and the only reason I can’t bring myself to deride even that game is because I enjoy the art direction and I haven’t been able to understand what’s going on in a JRPG in 12 years. If you buy one single game this week other than Persona 3 and Guitar Hero 80’s edition, you’re not just wasting money, you are a bad person and I don’t want to be your friend!

PS2

NASCAR ’08 (N/A)

For gamers who find the milieu of track selection in normal racing confounding, here’s one where every turn not marked “left” has been removed.

NHRA Countdown to the Championship (N/A)

And if that’s too complicated, we also have racing games where corners themselves are removed.

Honda Motor Ignition Simulator 2k8 (N/A)

Start a variety of Honda motors, from the legendary CVCC ED1 to the Formula 1-spec RA807E. New for this year are bright purple grounding wires.

The Word of Recaro Professional Sitting in a Chair Tournament Starring Johnathan Wendell (N/A)

Sit in a chair and vegetate in over a dozen meticulously rendered locales. Defeat Johnathan Wendell and earn the sponsorship of Team Fata1ity!

Shen Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (84%)

The only thing I know about the Persona games is that they feature a girl who wears leather catsuits that have hearts where the nipples should be. So I’m already a fan of this series, even though I’ve never played a single one of them.

Guitar Hero Rocks the 80’s (n/a)

The last Guitar Hero produced by Harmonix, and thus probably the last Guitar Hero anyone’s going to worry with before switching over to Rock Band. As much as a cynical money grab as this is sure to be, I can’t hold any ill toward anything featuring Limozeen. I just wish I could play a single one of these things– Sadly my malformed, sausage-like fingers pretty much assure I’ll be ponying up for a Rock Band drum set come Christmas.

Wii

Alien Syndrome (N/A)

I think it’s neat that Sega can’t remember it’s been sitting on the Streets of Rage franchise for the past twenty years, but some marketing done remembered they put out a produced a mildy well-received Ikari Warriors clone back in 1987. Also, this is going to suck.

Escape from Bug Island (37%)

Supposedly, this game is supposed to come out this week. IGN says it’s coming out this week, it’s Wikipedia entry says it’s coming out this week, and I’m sure that if it’s own website were not an attempt to punish man for the crime of original sin, it too would say it’s coming out this week. Gamestop, though? They’ve disavowed any knowledge of any game called “Escape From Bug Island” even existing, much less being available in their stores. Searching for the title reveals instead results for Escape from Monkey Island, and it’s no longer showing up on Gamestop’s Coming Soon page, despite being there as recently as last Tuesday. I mean, what do they have to be afraid o–

But Island-- Part of the 3D0 Texture Archipeligo

Holy shit.

360

NASCAR ’08 (N/A)

Turning Left For Five Freaking Hours, $60 Edition.

Xbox Live Marketplace

Wing Commander Arena (SUCK).

EA continues its grand tradition of squatting a big ol’ fetid turd on Microsoft’s Live service, this time dishing out hope-crushing fecal matter to Live Marketplace in the form of a 3rd-person-view Wing Commander that’s not even really in 3d. Instead you sorta wander around in a 2-d plane between a couple of warring battleships while given the ability to performed a canned animation loop-de-loop to evade fire. Having managed to ruin space combat, EA’s next project will be to wring the fun and enjoyment out of music itself with Boogie.

PS3

NASCAR ’08 (N/A)

Turn left with the power of BLOOOO RAAAAAAAY. Also, apparently Lair was pushed back a week. Ride that wave, boys!

DS

Dynasty Warriors (62%)

Things that Koie could have produced that are awesome: A Legends of the Five Rings strategy game making use of the unique touchscreen feature of the DS. Thing that Koie produced instead: A hybrid Dynasty Warriors/card game that apparently isn’t aware the touch screen exists. Also, if you’re one of the 12 remaining Koie fans in the world, do you look at Fatal Inertia and wonder if you’re looking at two straight console generations worth of F-Zero knockoffs?

PSP

Alien Syndrome (N/A)

This will be the superior version of Alien Syndrome, as it will only be playable for 2 hours before the battery dies and you begin to question the course your life took to get you to the point where you’ve spent money on Alien Syndrome. A Wii owner will be stuck for a good thirty hours before the Wii remote craps out.

Final Fantasy 2 (73%)

All the good jokes about a game that appeared on a multi pack with Final Fantasy 1 on the GBA have been done already, and I’ll avoid mentioning that if you still own a PSP at this point and you wanted to play FF2, you could find a version for free and have it on your system with less than five minutes of work. However, I would point out that Squeenix keeps pumping out these reissued moldy “classics” and have completely forgotten stuff that would actually make sense on the PSP– say, for instance, Parasite Eve. Meanwhile Squeenix is putting out stuff like DQ9 on the DS,and you realize the term “PSP” and “Squeenix” and “Going through the motions” go together like “Peanut butter” “Jelly” and “Cold milk”.

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Bigredcoat Summer Gaming Blowout Volume 1: The Gameining.

Posted by nfinit on July 19, 2007

I’ve noticed that while I’ll often bitch about the gaming industry and make fun of upcoming games and generally piss and moan about any number of things that don’t really matter when taken into the larger overall picture of the eventual entropic heat-death of the universe, I rarely if ever talk about the games I play. And while its not unusual in the blogosphere for hacks to snipe about subjects they do not themselves take part in, I really do play videogames, and have a passion for them. To rectify this situation I have before me a list of the games I have played this year and will over the next few weeks select three at random to expound over in a not-really-a-review sort of way. (And when I say random, I mean random. I’m sitting here with a pair of d10s and everything. This is the sort of hard-hitting authentic journalism you’ll never find at Joystiq!) Up this week, Crackdown, Valkyrie Profile II, and Pac-Man CE.

Crackdown: I rented this, as there was no way in hell I was paying sixty dollars for a five-hour game (nevermind the whole Halo 3 beta thing), and I found myself pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t totally awful. It’s really nothing like sandbox games that have come before it (what with a lack of side missions or anything resembling an over-arching storyline), and the nearest thing I can think to compare it to would be what would happen were a person to try to create a single-player City of Heroes. The game is free-form in how you choose to go about taking out its compliment of gang bosses, each takedown offering a multitude of workable strategies for “apprehending” each gang leader (which usually works out as “send gang leader to a fiery death piled underneath a pile of cars”), and there are fewer feelings of videogame badassery than breaking up a firefight between the police and Triad thugs by kicking an armored personnel carrier at the lot of them.

However, doing such also reveals Crackdown’s biggest weakness (aside from being beaten in all of five hours, but more on that later). There are civilians and cops everywhere, and it’s nearly impossible to let loose and wreak havoc without accidentally offing a dozen or two innocent women and children in a hail of rocket fire or a hurled Russian gangster. Which wouldn’t be so bad, but you’re reprimanded for doing this by slowed skill gain and the local cops turning their puny firearms your way. In effect, the game goes out of its way to punish you for taking part in the activity that serves as its trademark, reckless carnage. A lesser complaint would be the driving portions of the game, which are not worth taking part in save for the associated Achievements. This is largely due to the fact that hopping about Hulk-like from skyscraper to skyscraper is among the most enjoyable activities ever experienced in a videogame, and is about fifty thousand times faster than driving through the maze of city streets dodging civilians and Latino gangs firing rockets at you.

Then there’s the other problem, which I mentioned before. Look, I’m bad at games. I rarely finish them, and when I do, I consider it a major accomplishment. I’ve never seen past the third level of Viewtiful Joe, it took me a week to get through the Alma fight in Ninja Gaiden, and to this day I have no idea what happens after you go into Zen in Half Life 1. Despite these and countless other emasculating gaming failures, I was able to finish the story mode of Crackdown in a single rental weekend. This for a game that is charging sixty dollars brand new. Admittedly, a large part of Crackdown’s appeal lay in both 100% completion of all its achievements (which I only scratched the surface of) and online play over Live Gold (which I do not subscribe to) but still, a five hour long main game is unacceptable, at least at the MSRP Microsoft is asking for. $40 I could stomach, but I’d still wonder if I wouldn’t be happier spending $40 on a good meaty DS game instead.

Recommendation to avoid, at least until it reaches Greatest Hits status.

Valkyrie Profile II: I picked this up last year at TRU’s annual Buy 2 Get 1 free sale, and to be honest most of its purchase was an attempt to justify the insane amount of money I spent adding Valk Profile I to my collection. Also, every once in a while I get the insane idea in my head that I may be able to enjoy JRPGs again and decide to give another title a chance. Last time was Final Fantasy 12, which lasted all of a week before I wandered off to another racing game. This didn’t fare much better, serving to fill time for a couple weeks until Odin Sphere was released.

For a game that looks like a simple action RPG platformer on the outside, this game has too goddamned many commands. I mean, the platforming itself, the way you get around levels is fine, maybe even great. It’s when you enter combat that things suddenly turn into the gaming equivalent of trying to land a wounded F-15 Strike Eagle on a flaming aircraft carrier during a hurricane while performing long division with your free hand. Upon encountering an enemy your are presented with a real-time 3d battlefield scattered with enemies, only one of which you really need to kill. Reaching that enemy in the shortest amount of time results in better rewards for your party, with enemy combat itself being a traditional turn-based affair. Now if it were a simple matter of wading through the enemies to get to the target mob, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal– but after a few hours of play the game expects you to be able to use an arcane method of splitting your party in half to get anything done on time, one party (presumably) defending from monsters while the rest goes about the task of targeting the central enemy. Usually you’ll fumble about and split your party up entirely by accident, leaving your cloth-clad magic users to die painfully against flaming armored buzzard things while your tanks charge into battle against bipedal frog with an axe as large as a Buick.

In over 20 hours of messing around I had yet to figure out exactly how VP2 expects you to split your party up correctly in the heat of battle or even exactly what the game intends for you to do once you’ve split up. Usually I just had my entire party wade in as one angry sword-toting mob, fighting one enemy at a time as the opponents politely lined up for slaughter. Adding to this milieu of confusion is a tempo-based attack system that’s supposed to up your offensive firepower if you hit the right party member attacks in sequence, but I found far more success just wildly wailing on the face buttons while coins and crystals and dark crystals and any manner of other inscrutable objects shake out of them. Then there’s the super-buster attack thing which involves a long, very impressive cutscene, an attack that I’ve yet to suss out exactly what the hell you’re supposed to accomplish to achieve its full effect. 99 times out of 100 it results in my main character pulling off a very spiffy looking special move then wailing helplessly as I fail to input the proper follow-up command.

On top of all that you have an alchemy/create-a-weapon system (something that’s become commonplace in JRPGs) that’s as least as obscure as the battle commands, something I was never able to take advantage of as it requires you to build up faction with merchants and sell them the proper items– move onto a new area and you’ve lost all that time you spent selling and buying crap from a particular vendor only to restart again in a new area of the map, wherein you must then decide which of a handful of vendors you wish to frequent. I suppose it’s there for when you feel the need to spend ten hours clearing out dungeons in one town, but even I find that superfluous, and I’ve spent much of the past two years playing WoW.

Still, a beautiful game, it’s art bested only by Odin Sphere’s intricate animations. The simple act of walking through a rain-slicked street is often breathtaking. I just wish Squeenix had let people other than diehard JRPG fans enjoy it.

Recommendation to avoid, but then I’m not the target audience anyway.

Pac-Man CE: Now this is the sort of shit that they should have been putting on Live Marketplace instead of that abomination against god that was voided upon us and called “Double Dragon”. It is easily the single greatest validation for the service since Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, and singlehandedly brings the calcified arcade franchise into relevance for today’s audience. It was also criminally under-advertised and sold less than 70,000 copies, but hey. Namco. It’s probable that they spent more money providing PR for Ivy’s new ham-sized breasts than they did in the entire production for this game.

Take your basic Pac-Man, get rid of the board, huff a can of Krylon paint to get the visuals right and then put on some trance music. Okay, now split the board in half, with a traditional Pac-Man bonus fruit appearing on the opposite side of the ghost house whenever you clear all the dots on one side. When you eat that bonus item, reset the other side to a different maze pattern then repeat for the next ten minutes or you run out of lives. Then instead of conserving power pellets until you absolutely need them, create a system where you can chain as long a power pellet sequence as you have power pellets to keep them alive, accruing an enormous bonus multiplier for each ghost consumed during the sequence.

The only problem with any of this is the 360’s controller. It’s horrible, and even when you switch to the thumb stick from the d-pad. It’s not exactly game-breaking, but there’s all too many times where you go the wrong way simply because the controller was never meant for the task of precise 2-d inputs. Microsoft badly needs to release an all-digital pad if they’re going to keep releasing these things.

Strongest possible recommendation to buy. Why are you reading this? This is valuable time you could spent playing Pac-Man CE, or at worst traveling to Wal-Mart to buy a 360.

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Bastardized American fratboy gaming from Japan by way of France.

Posted by nfinit on July 17, 2007

Today I’m going to talk to you about Senko No Ronde, because dammit, someone needs to.

First, a logic puzzle. If you saw this on the shelf at the local StopGaming, what gaming wonders would you think lay within?

I’ll tell you what you’d think, you’d think you were going to play some whacked-out Japanese game featuring anime girls with enormous hooters. In other words, unadulterated fun.

In contrast, what would you think when presented with… this?

You’d think the disc within contained some sort of vaguely sci-fi third person shooter, the sort of thing the Xbox 360 has done plenty of times before, only this time apparently based on Lego’s Bionicle franchise.

The games above are both Senko No Ronde, and it is indeed some whacked-out Japanese awesomeness featuring a cast of anime chicks with enormous boobs, but you wouldn’t know this thanks to Ubisoft’s utter (and typical) cluelessness. It is a 2d fighter/Shump hybrid set within a lush 3d engine, the very definition of a niche Japanese okatu-targeted game, and Ubisoft has decided to ruin any chance at traction within the US. If you’re the sort of gamer who would pick up a game called “WarTech” based on the above cover art, then a 2d Fighter/Shump isn’t for you, and if you’re the type of gamer who knew about Senko No Ronde beforehand, you find this cover confusing and the cost– $60– insulting. How very Ubisoft.

Thing is, had Ubisoft recognized what they had here– a Japanese title on a system starved for reasons for gaming okatu to pick something up for it– they’d have a nice little sleeper hit on their hands. As has been shown, there’s money to be had in openly pandering to the okatu set. And at least the guys who ported over Earth Defense Force— the title’s only real competition until Trusty Bell and Blue Dragon are released– had the common sense to realize that there’s no way you should be charging the full sixty dollar MSRP for something that’s obviously a niche title.

I’m not proud to say that I found a used copy at StopGaming for $40 used. Hypocritical of me, I admit but I’m sure that sting of pride will be much alleviated thanks to the vintage ’97 Miata I’ll be buying with it twenty years from now.


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Upcoming 7-17-07

Posted by nfinit on July 16, 2007

Upcoming 7-17-07

Another steaming pile o’ mediocrity this week, as next-gen owners get to chose between two football franchises that aren’t Madden (and thus doubly irrelevant) while Nintendo owners, who so totally are not in the middle of a summer drought, get to keep playing Super Paper Mario. There is something resembling a high spot for the PSP this week, if you squint at it hard enough and don’t already have the PS1 original on your Memory Stick.

PS2:

NCAA Football ’08 (n/a)

It’s sorta like Madden, only without the pesky problem of paying the players for use of their likenesses.

Hot Shots Tennis (78%)

To put things in perspective, for console gamers who aren’t of football games and don’t subscribe to Live, this is the highlight of the week.

Wii:

Nada. Also, reports that the Bush administration has hired Reggie Fils-Aime to re-write the official dictionary definition for the word “drought” are wholly unconfirmed.

360:

All Pro Football 2k8 (n/a)

Now before you roll your eyes at the prospects of yet another goddamned Madden clone, I’d like to play devil’s advocate and point out that this one actually has something resembling a unique hook– instead of Madden’s current NFL rosters (and licensed stadiums and licensed teams and licensed likenesses of current players and all a chance in hell of making a profit), APF 2k8 is based on the prospects of playing with the likes of Jerry Rice, Dick Butkus, Johnny Unitas and a slew of other dead/crippled/retired guys playing on fictional teams. If you can ignore the stuff about “football the way it was meant to be played” (you know, before the advent of modern body armor, rules against taunting or regular drug checks), it’s a compelling concept. Of course, I say that as a football fan and not a fan of football games, and while I’d never play this myself, it’s something I hope works out for 2k Sports, if for no other reason than to screw over the NFL proper for selling the exclusive rights to NFL games to EA. However, it begs the question… if you’re basing your franchise on retired legends, what have you left on the table for ’09, aside from the off chance Ladainian Tomlinson dies in a motorcycle wreck?

NCAA Football ’08 (n/a)

This would be the Extra Evil Version, which features popup Old Spice advertisements in addition to it’s $60 price tag. I only sound like I’m kidding.

Xbox Live Marketplace

Bomberman Live! (n/a)

Normally I don’t do Live Marketplace or Nintendo’s Virtual Console games as they’re usually not announced more than a few hours ahead of their respective releases, but this is a rare instance of a Live Marketplace game being important enough to warrant Microsoft hyping it the week it comes out. As far as it being worth 800 Microsoft fun bucks– It’s Bomberman, over Live, and you can make your Bomberguy to be a bear or a pirate or put him in a little bee dress. If you’re a Live subscriber and you’re thinking of skipping this, you aren’t just a bad gamer; you have no soul.

PS3:

All Pro Football 2k8 (n/a)

Wait, I know! In APF 2k9, they can have Pac-Man Jones featured in his own Grand Theft Auto 3-style game. Deliver mysterious packages to Brandon Merriweather from Balco! Hide Brian Urlacher from the cops as he ducks a domestic abuse warrant! Find a clean urine sample to sell to Ricky Williams!

NCAA Football ’08 (n/a)

Look, I’m going to be honest here. I’ve not played a football game since the Madden the year after Caorlina went to the playoffs for the first time. I honestly don’t see how the casual, mainstream Madden fans know what the hell they’re doing with these games– Not only do you have bare moments to pull off a simple passing play before some 350 pound humanoid truck snaps your femur like so much dry spaghetti, the menu system for selecting plays is as least as deep and obtuse as any strategy RPG I’ve ever played. If we can get your average mainstream neanderthal to understand Madden, why do Nippon Ichi games sell so poorly? I mean, Madden has sweaty guys performing violent acts of inhumanity upon each other– Disgaea has lolis and horse wieners! How did things go so terribly wrong?

DS:

Zilch. In the meantime, place those pre-orders for Spelling Challenges!

PSP:

Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology (68%)

The only thing harder for me to do than feign interest in generic Madden clones is feigning interest in Generic PSP JRPG #347b. Something something magical tree something something– Look, if you like JRPGs and have a PSP, just cut a picture out of this game along with the seventeen hundred X-Seed JPRGs coming out and throw a dart. In the meanwhile I’m going to look at some Ninja Gaiden DS screens and try to figure out what the hell is going on.

Parappa the Rapper (78%)

Now this is actually interesting. One of the few truly original and creative games to appear… well, just about anywhere, an argument could be made for the PS1 original of this game to have been the birth of the rhythm game genre, or at least a breakthrough moment in the nascent genre. The PS1 game was great , this is a more-or-less faithful conversion, and if you can ignore for a minute that if you have a PSP you probably already have full access to the original, it’s a worthwhile purchase, even if the review scores (which are weighted against how well it’s aged compared to the likes of Elite Beat Agents and Guitar Hero) are less than impressive. If I believed in the whole “buying a game to send a message” thing, I’d be saying that here, but I don’t so– yeah.

Next week:

Persona 3! Guitar Hero: Milking the 80’s! The PS3 gets an exclusive!

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All together now: LOL SONY

Posted by nfinit on July 13, 2007

At this point you have to figure the gaming journalism industry owes Sony some money.

After the most boring E3 in the history of E3, where the biggest news to come out of the biggest industry convention of the year was G4’s almost absurdly bad Microsoft conference coverage, here comes Sony with a double dose of the crazy, just like your meth-addled paint-huffing brother stumbling out of the garage in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

At the start of E3, we had a hundred dollar price cut on the Playstation 3 in America. Well, not really a price cut, more like going through the motions of a price cut, but you get the idea. By the end of it not only did it turn out the price cut was a sham, it was a sham and a lie. There is no price cut, there never was a price cut. They’re dropping the price on the old, Emotion Engine enabled models and once those run out– which will be about a month– the price goes back up as the new, more profitable 80gb PS3 goes online.

For Sony, the honeymoon is over. No one’s going to trust Sony anymore, not the developers who had already expressed disinterest at the prospects of Sony’s trifling $100 price cut, not the hardcore community who feel used and made fools of, certainly not retailers who have been fed a line from Sony since the PS3 was released and promptly stalled. Any momentum, any good will, any trust Sony had built in the three days of mildly good news coming out of E3 has been sundered, never to be put in place again.

If Microsoft had a pair of balls in it’s entire corporate structure now would be the time to drop their own prices and put Sony away for good.

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The PSP Vapid Blonde Chick Edition!

Posted by nfinit on July 12, 2007

You guys remember the PSP, right? Annoyingly long, black, big screen, lousy battery, good for emulating PS1 games, got stomped by the Nintendo DS because no one ever made games for it?

Well, Sony’s got all that shit figured out. Behold the PSP…P?

They couldn't even get the DS Lite White color white.  It's birth control pill case white!

See, they’re going to counter the DS Lite because it’s… it’s…

White?

And that would appear to be it. It’s white, and the D-Pad is supposedly improved, and it’s now thinner (which is akin to Lindsey Lohan combating her image problem by losing more weight), but you can’t pocket the stupid thing, nothing’s been done to speed up game load times, and instead of including a rumored 4-8 gigs of internal flash ram in the thing to make it a proper iPod contender, they’re including a 1 gig memory stick.

The only way for Sony to be any more out of touch is for them to jack the price back up to $250 and include a UMD of Norbert.

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Profiles in Market Cannibalism

Posted by nfinit on July 11, 2007

So Microsoft had their E3 press conference tonight, and while it wasn’t anything exciting (mainly a re-hash of PR material for games slated to come out later this year), I’m not going into NeoGAF-worthy histrionics and say it was on par with Sony’s disastrous showing last year. It’s only sin lay in being boring, a powerpoint presentation by stiff guys in stiff jokes telling stiff jokes to an audience that just wanted to see some game footage. It appeared that Microsoft was in fact afraid of replicating Sony’s 2006 effort and held back on what they could have announced.

However.

There was this bit where they brought Cliffy B out to demo Gears of War… for the PC. Now, we 360 owners were sold on GoW as a console exclusive, the sort of killer app that you buy a system for. So seeing GoW on the Windows platform is disheartening enough for 360 owners– But Cliffy B then proceeded to demostrate that the PC version of GoW would not only look better than it could ever on your 360, not only would it run -smoother-, but that it would also contain MORE CONTENT.

So basically Microsoft spent a good chunk of their E3 exclusive press conference actively eroding confidence in the 360 platform.

But hey, buy Mass Effect in November!

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