Bigredcoat

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

Archive for March, 2010

Wallet Abuse Wednesday 3-31-10: The State of Texas vs Sakura Wars

Posted by nfinit on March 30, 2010

I’m not going to lie to you, this is a bad week for console gaming.  There’s a bare handful of game releases this week, and almost all of them have three things in common– they all target a very specific niche, they’re all Japanese as fuck, and they’re all of dubious quality at best.  The next couple weeks are slow, with no games really qualifying as a must buy, which is a kindness to your wallet considering the savage beating it’s taken in the past three weeks.

It’s been an equally slow stretch for gaming news, with sadly little to report coming out of Pax East, save for the usual stories of highly regrettable cosplay and staggeringly awful personal hygiene.  However, it’s been 48 hours since the end of the event and it would appear that no new virulent diseases have spread forth from the Northeastern Corridor, so at least Pax East can be said to be more successful than Pax ’09.  You can credit this to Gabe and Tycho’s shrewd choice of event hubs for the inaugural Pax East– five hundred Bostonians die of the Bubonic Plague every week; something as trivial as an outbreak of Swine Flu would be seen as a welcome respite for the beleaguered populace.

But as bad a week this was for gaming, last week was a far worse week for the subject of History, as the Texas School Board has decided to wipe Thomas Jefferson, McCarthyism and Hip Hop from the annals of American history and replace them with the wit and wisdom of CSA President Jefferson Davis, open advocacy for the National Rifle Association and the validity of the Verona Papers.

Which leads us to this week’s hastily cobbled together theme: Let’s take two awful things and combine them by asking this question:  What is the likelihood of each of this week’s game being redacted by the Texas School Board?  To denote this we will use the hilariously appropriate symbol of Ingsoc, which by the time your reading has possibly also been redacted.

Ingsoc.jpg picture by bigredcoat

The more Ingsoc Rating the game has, the higher the chance of redaction!  Let’s begin!

Again

Publisher:  Tecmo

Developer:  Cing

Platforms:  DS

Don’t let Again’s godawful presentation and straight-from-1994 digitized art assets fool you– this game comes from Cing, the fine folks who brought you Hotel Dusk and Trace Memory, and Again looks to carry on the company’s tradition of adventure/detective storytelling on the DS.  It’s just a shame that Cing dropped Hotel Dusk’s distinctive art style for a rather blatant ploy to attract western audiences and/or fool people into thinking they were playing Heavy Rain DS

ScreenShot Image
HOW LIKELY IS IT THAT THIS GAME WILL  BE REDACTED BY THE TEXAS SCHOOL BOARD AND WIPED FROM HISTORY ITSELF?

Ingsoc.jpg picture by bigredcoat Ingsoc.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Despite hailing from a combination of Cing and Tecmo, Again is somehow the most American game of the bunch, and thus may escape being expunged from the pages of history.  However, Again’s puzzles are presented via a “past vision” mechanic, which allows the player to see the crime scene as it existed in the past– this may too closely resemble the abomination of magic for the Texas School Board’s liking.



Dead or Alive Paradise

Publisher:  Tecmo

Developer:  Team Ninja

Platform:  Playstation Portable

Team Ninja would like to reassure anyone who feared that Tomonobu Itagaki’s departure meant that the series may have become respectable and/or credible.

Dead or Alive Pardise takes the DoA/DoA Xtreme formula of Girls, Fighting and Volleyball, strips away the “Fighting” and “Volleyball” and leaves us with the DoA girls in a softcore hentai casino game.

If that’s not quite skeevy enough for you– and keep in mind here, we’re dealing with what’s quite literally a scaled up cell-phone game— DoA Paradise ups the creep factor with a camera minigame with which you assemble a sad, depressing photo album proving testament to your inability to form intimate relationships with analog women. But that’s okay, because DoA Paradise includes a dating minigame who’s payoff is a striptease by the chick you’re currently courting giving random gifts to so she’ll let you take pictures of her in her underwear.  That you then put in your album.

https://i0.wp.com/cache.g4tv.com/rimg_606x0/ImageDb3/187883_l/Dead-or-Alive-Paradise.jpg

I feel like at this point that I should point out that nothing I’ve said in this entry is satire or parody.  What I’ve described is quite literally the entire game.  You play casino games, buy swimsuits for the girls, and then take pictures of them in these swimsuits.  Then at some point random point they decide you’ve spent enough money and let you take openly sexualized pictures instead. That’s it!  That’s the game!  Even the ESRB tried to classify this game as “Creepy Voyeurism”.  I’m not kidding!  That was the quote!

Which hey, if that floats your boat, great.  Whatever.  All I’m saying is that there are easier ways to get real, actual hentai onto your PSP, and none of these methods involve driving out-of-town to a Best Buy using cash to buy this game so there’s no record of the transaction and no one you know will see you doing so. Not that there was a chance of anyone ever spending money on this because it’s a PSP game and PSP games are effectively free provided you didn’t screw up and buy a PSP Go, but still.

HOW LIKELY IS IT THAT THIS GAME WILL  BE REDACTED BY THE TEXAS SCHOOL BOARD AND WIPED FROM HISTORY ITSELF?

Ingsoc.jpg picture by bigredcoat Ingsoc.jpg picture by bigredcoat Ingsoc.jpg picture by bigredcoat Ingsoc.jpg picture by bigredcoat Ingsoc.jpg picture by bigredcoat

In case I didn’t make myself clear, this game is basically porn, to the point where it’s difficult enough to justify the game’s existence to socially Laissez-faire

liberal types, much less try to explain Itagaki’s relationship with  Hitomi with the Texas School Board without being forcibly removed from the Lone Star State and barred from coming within 100 yards of the American border.

Mimana:  Ilyar Chronicle

Publisher:  Aksys

Developer:  GungHo Works

Platforms:  Playstation Portable

One of the sure signs of a PlayStation console in its death throes is when all the major titles released for it are outstandingly well-drawn Japanese role-playing games.  This is largely due to the fact that these games take forever to get translated and brought over to America, but in the final days of the PS1 this also lead to astoundingly short print runs, resulting in more people owning Valkyrie Profile as a collector’s item than as a videogame.

Sadly this won’t happen to the PSP– mainly because there’s essentially an infinite number of any PSP in existence, because, as I mentioned before, no one actually pays money for PSP games– But it does make for some damned pretty screenshots.

God, I love sprites.

As far as this game goes, it looks to be a combination of modern real-time combat with SNES/PS1-era dungeon crawling and art and pure old school experience point grinding,  befitting a game from the people who gave us Lunar and the first Tales Of games.

HOW LIKELY IS IT THAT THIS GAME WILL  BE REDACTED BY THE TEXAS SCHOOL BOARD AND WIPED FROM HISTORY ITSELF?

Ingsoc.jpg picture by bigredcoat Ingsoc.jpg picture by bigredcoat

It is unclear if the members of the Texas School Board are aware of the existence of Japanese Role Playing Games, but it’s likely that they’d be suspicious, especially after hearing that most JRPG plots revolve around killing one or more gods.  However they may be willing to accept this based on the fact that most JRPGs involve killing pagan gods.   As long as no one tells the Board about the plot behind Xenogears we should be in good shape.

Sakura Wars:  So Long My Love

Publisher: NIS America

Developer:  Sega

Platforms:  Playstation 2, Nintendo Wii

Our country has somehow managed to withstand three separate presidential administrations, numerous congressional handovers, the entire arc of Duke Nuken 3D to Duke Nukem Forever, the combined life cycles of the Game Boy Pocket/Color/Advance and the entire corporate history of Google without once being subject to a Sakura Wars game.  Keep in mind that Sega did this while at the same time missing at least three separate Strat-based JRPG revivals (Final Fantasy Tactics for the PS1, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance for the GBA, Disgaea for the PS2) and any relevance that the Persona series may have lent to the JRPG/Dating Sim subgenre.  Meanwhile we’re dealing with the same game company that somehow thought there was money to be had in translating Panzer Dragoon Saga.

That said, if you’re going to bring one Sakura Wars game to America, you may as well bring over the one that combines 1920’s NYC, giant robots and a massively time-displaced Annie Oakley.

Reviews would seem to indicate that this Sakura Wars installment is heavy on the date-sim aspects and anime cutscenes but light on strategy RPG elements — I don’t know if that’s unique to Goodbye My Love itself or holds true to the series as a whole, but this also seems like the sort of game that if you were going to buy it then you weren’t really going to go out of the way to find review scores anyway.

HOW LIKELY IS IT THAT THIS GAME WILL  BE REDACTED BY THE TEXAS SCHOOL BOARD AND WIPED FROM HISTORY ITSELF?

Ingsoc.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Sure, Sakura Wars might be the most blatantly Japanese thing on this list, but it features two things the Texas School Board ought to absolutely love.  One:  Motherfucking Annie Oakley!  and 2: Going back in time to an era of more regressive social standards.  After all, if you set the clock back to 1920 it’s much easier to get rid of the Age of Enlightenment, the theory of evolution, women’s suffrage and Brown vs the Board of Education.

Samurai Shodown Sen

Publisher:  XSeed

Developer:  K2 LLC

Platforms:  Xbox 360

I have a pretty simple rule for Samurai Showdown games, and it’s this:

1: Does this game have Charlotte?

2: If not, this game can go to hell

Unfortunately Samurai Shodown Sen passes this first test while failing a second, arguably more important metric:  it kinda sucks as a videogame.  There are not a lot of impressions about SEN out on the interwebs at the moment, but none I have seen have been favorable and it was apparently savaged by Famitsu when it was released as Samurai Shodown: Edge of Destiny nearly two years ago.

It doesn’t help that the fighting game genre is enjoying a Street Fighter IV-fueled revival at the moment and the thing looks like it’s running on WiiWare:

8321L.jpg picture by bigredcoat

HOW LIKELY IS IT THAT THIS GAME WILL  BE REDACTED BY THE TEXAS SCHOOL BOARD AND WIPED FROM HISTORY ITSELF?

Ingsoc.jpg picture by bigredcoat Ingsoc.jpg picture by bigredcoat Ingsoc.jpg picture by bigredcoat Ingsoc.jpg picture by bigredcoat Ingsoc.jpg picture by bigredcoat

With most of the other titles on this list being largely fantasy affairs it’s fairly easy to disguise the country of origin.  However with Samurai Shodown Sen being set in Feudal Japan, it’s be nearly impossible to hide the fact that this game hails from the land of the slanty-eyed bastards who ambushed Pearl Harbor.


Wario Ware DIY

Publisher:  Nintendo

Developer:  Intelligent Systems

Platform:  Nintendo DS

The series that did minigames  before minigames were cool ruined our hobby forever returns with something of a do-it-yourself Wario Ware toolkit.

https://i0.wp.com/dsmedia.ign.com/ds/image/article/107/1079712/wario2_1269473185.jpg

People looking for a new fully-featured Wario Ware game will probably come away disappointed, but everything else about DIY looks insanely cool, particularly if you’re in any way interested in game design.  Basically you can take apart all the individual assets of any Wario Ware game present in this package– including a whole slew of assets available via the separate Wario Ware Showcase download via WiiWare– and use them to build new touchpad-based Wario Ware minigames.  You can even create your own art assets if you so wish and share with your friends online– sadly, in typical Nintendo fashion they’re not nearly hip enough to simply let you upload these creations for all DS users to view via, but you will be able to get your stuff up for download on WiiWare via weekly contests.

The interface seems easy enough to work with, and the IGN reviewer mentioned that the game’s tutorial had him making his own games in under an hour.  Also with DIY  you’re spending  a mere forty bucks for a game development tool at least as advanced as whatever Destineer is using to create their own crimes against the gaming public.

But what has me most intrigued is Nintendo’s challenge-a-week contest, where every week a new gameplay challenge is issued and the top 30 or so are released for download via WiiWare, and I have a couple of ideas:

The Is it Real or is it Hudsonsoft Challenge:  Wherin Nintendo would take to random snippits of Hudsonsoft’s vast, horrific DS library and mixes them randomly with user creations from DIY.  Winners are determined by how many people you can fool into thinking you’ve made a game developed and published by a respected developer.  First prize wins a coupon for a free Thanksgiving turkey, second prize wins a coupon for a free Thanksgiving turkey and a copy of Deca Sports DS.

The Avoid Signing a Terrible Contract with Tyrone Rodriguez of Nicalis Games Challenge: This challenge sees the prospective Nintendo indie developer post a link to their finished DIY game at the tigsource forums– If you can avoid foolishly signing soul crushing and property-destroying contract from Tyrone Rodriguez under the guise that his company is competent and professional, you win! Extra points will be awarded if you can somehow get your finished product on WiiWare within four years.

The Nintendo’s New DS Revision Makes My WiiWare Games Incompatible For No Well Defined Reason Challenge:  Nintendo’s just released the DSi XL and now you have to explain to your fans that they have to buy your DSiWare games all over again because Nintendo didn’t think to make game ownership portable across all DSi systems!  Fortunately this is by far the easiest challenge to complete as no one bothers downloading DSiWare games.
HOW LIKELY IS IT THAT THIS GAME WILL  BE REDACTED BY THE TEXAS SCHOOL BOARD AND WIPED FROM HISTORY ITSELF?

Ingsoc.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Texas School Board ought to love DIY–It expounds a by-your-bootstraps ideology that eschews big government meddling and emphasizes a rugged individualistic mentality and all sorts of other authentic frontier gibberish.  Also Wario’s love of cash money simply cannot be understated:

wario5.jpg picture by bigredcoat

What I’m saying here is that DIY is a Republican videogame.

NEXT WEEK~!

I’m not sure if anything is actually released next week aside from an expansion disc for Borderlands that I’m not sure qualifies as it’s not an actual stand-alone game.  We’ll figure something out.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Wallet Abuse Wednesday 3-24-10: Buy iJumpman!

Posted by nfinit on March 23, 2010

It’s Retro Week here at Wallet Abuse, as there’s two retro-themed items you need to know about– One of which you really need to buy like, right fucking now and another which only I’m probably the only person in the room who’s really interested in it despite being a major push by Microsoft itself.  Anyway, onto the thing every last one of you jerks need to buy:

It’s iJumpman, by mcc!

I normally don’t talk about digital downloads here as getting anything resembling a coherent release schedule is damned near impossible and the best I could do is to report about the games a week late– and certainly I don’t talk about iPhone games here, the silly thing isn’t a console and roughly fifty thousand are released each week, most of which I have been lead to believe are some variation of Desktop Tower Defense, only with fart noises and motion control.

iJumpman though, is none of those things.  Instead it’s a retro-inspired (I believe the kids use the phrase low-fi) puzzle platformer where the player manipulates the level as much as they manipulate their own character.  It works better if you see the official vid:

There’s also a free Windows/Mac version up at runhello.com

iJumpan reminds me a lot of what the original Atari 2600 devs would have done had you put a Mode 7 chip into the VCS as well as a massive amount of RAM and an actual working CPU and maybe a GPU of some sort and a useable controller.

iJumpman is from friend of the blog mcc, who is both more handsome and smarter than you are.  Give him your money!  Also ask him about lasers!  Dude can go all day about lasers!

Okay so for the second retro download this week and the part that likely only interests me due to the markedly high chance of one day playing Moon Patrol on my 360:

Microsoft Game Room is here!

Presumably.

Sometime this week.  I hope.  Truth be told it might be on Xbox Live Marketplace as we speak, but the 360 navigation menu is only slightly more comprehensible than Linear A.  Supposedly upon release.. which may or may not have happened earlier this afternoon.. Microsoft Game Room will feature 30+ classic arcade/pre-Crash titles, with seven added each week until such point as Microsoft runs out of things to emulate or they accidentally release the 2600 A-Team prototype and the entire Entertainment and Devices Division winds up the property of Stephen J. Cannell.

Anyway, with all this retro wankery going about, I felt it best to judge this week’s games vs their appropriate pre-Crash title.

Imagine:  Gymnast

Publisher:  Ubisoft

Developer:  At This Point, Probably an Algorithm Specifically Designed To Crush The Dreams of Little Girls

Platforms:  Nintendo DS

Never let it be said that I lie to my readers.
https://i1.wp.com/www.collegian.psu.edu/photos/2009/04/03/7_640x360.jpg
It’s cool, she’s in college!
Okay so here’s the deal.  No more shovelware games unless I find them personally amusing and/or an excuse to post salacious pictures.
No more Imagine, no more Petz, no more Detineer or Zoo Games, no more painfully obvious Nicktoons cash-ins clogging up this page.  No one wants to buy this shit, and I ran out anything interesting to say about Imagine games the first time I mentioned that buying your little girl a game specifically designed to re-enforce gender stereotypes just seemed a little off.  Companies like Dreamcatcher Interactive are destroying my will to like good games, draining me of the time and enthusiasm to talk about stuff that really matters, like say:

Just Cause 2
Publisher:  Square Enix by way of Eidos Interactive
Developer:  Avalanche Studios
Platforms:  Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC, the insides of my dream

Kids, you remember Mercenaries 2?

untitled-30.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Yeah, we can all admit now that Mercs 2 was kinda terrible.
Kids, you remember how you wanted to remember Mercenaries 2?  Open world mayhem and utter destruction without the janky, unpolished feel that made Mercs 2 the sort of game that you had to convince yourself you were enjoying?  Okay, maybe Mercs 2 is a bad selling point. Let’s start over
Kids, you remember Red Faction: Guerrilla, right?  Alright, how imagine RF:G, but with grappling hooks.
Just Cause 2.  It’s sorta like that.  If this is your sort of game then I don’t need to tell you to buy this, you’ll already own a copy as soon as it comes off the trucks at Best Buy.  If this isn’t your sort of game– and by “your sort of game” I mean “you like being able to ram trucks loaded with explosive barrels into buildings just to watch that entire building explode” then be aware that open world games like Just Cause 2 carry baggage– namely that it’s never going to feel as complete nor as polished as a Modern Warfare 2.  But such is the price of videogame freedom.

WHICH CLASSIC PRE-CRASH TITLE DOES THIS GAME MOST RESEMBLE?

riddle_of_the_sphinx.png picture by bigredcoat
Riddle of the Sphinx!  (Atari 2600)
Sometimes the word “classic” doesn’t really mean “classic” as much as it means “this thing is old and awkward”, sort of like if an Andre the Giant match were to appear on WWE Classics.  Anyway, Riddle of the Sphinx represents something of an early sandbox game in that there was no real goal to what you were basically left to wander around to your own devices and just make things happen.  It also proved to be staggeringly complex, with a control scheme that used both 2600 controllers and the difficulty switches and TV Black/White switch on the 2600 console itself, something I didn’t realize until twenty some odd years after I stole procured Riddle of the Sphinx from a friend in elementary school.  Easily the worst possible thing I’ve ever broken up with a friend for.  But I mean, just look at the cart, for fuck’s sake:

https://i2.wp.com/www.atariguide.com/c2/Riddle_of_the_Sphinx_287.jpg
How could I help myself?

Moto GP ’09/’10
Publisher:  Capcom
Developer:  Monumental Studios
Platforms:  Playstation 3, Xbox 360

By all rights, I should love the Moto GP series.  After all, I love games with bikes:

the-ninja-warriors-again.png picture by bigredcoat

and I love games with racing

chase-hq-4.png picture by bigredcoat

So why am I utterly unimpressed by every motorcycle racing game I’ve ever played not specifically named “Road Rash”?
I blame the series on it’s rather exacting handling and twin-stick control scheme… well that and a lack of ninja robots.  Apparently this revision includes a more forgiving physics model and a more traditional racing-game control scheme, so maybe I’ll pick this up if and when Capcom includes brutal physical assault along with the free 2010 track downloads.
Unfortunately, the bike racing bike racing fans really want to get to– the beastly 800cc bikes– are locked away until you complete the 125 and 250cc campaigns.  This is a highly regressive practice, especially in the face of Forza Racing 3. It’s encouraging to see racing game embrace driving lines and rewind functions, however, even if this particular game lacks a restart feature for whatever insane reason.

WHICH CLASSIC PRE-CRASH TITLE DOES THIS GAME MOST RESEMBLE?

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/d1/Fonz_1976_sega_arcade.PNG
THE FONZ! (Arcade)
It was hard to find a pre-Crash motorcycle-themed title, and even harder not to just throw my hands up in the air and post a picture of Stunt Cycle, but luckily Sega somehow managed to trick Paramount Television into allowing this to happen, resulting in what may well result in the underpinnings for Super-Hang On.  But probably not.

But you’d have thought a Fonz game would work, right?  So it’s sort of like MotoGP 09/10 in that regard– Motorcycle arcade games seem like a rock-solid idea, yet they rarely wind up being worthwhile.

Red Steel 2
Publisher:  Ubisoft
Developer:  Ubisoft Paris
Platforms:  Wii
So here we have a game that utilizes the Wii Motion Plus attachment in a unique combination of first person shooter gameplay and swordsmanship with compelling cell-shaded art style that plays well with the Wii’s hardware.  What we’re not sure of yet is if these elements combine to form a good game, but you have to like everything that surrounds it and it’s the sort of thing Wii-owning hardcore gamers have been begging for from third parties.

It’s also the sort of game that hardcore gamers should very much want to see succeed.  And while I say that I’m not encouraging the flawed practice of buying specific games with the goal of being rewarded by seeing more games like it released… it’s not like there have been a lot of hardcore Wii games released lately.  What do you think you’re doing, saving money?

WHICH CLASSIC PRE-CRASH TITLE DOES THIS GAME MOST RESEMBLE?

182_2.png picture by bigredcoat
Bank Panic!  (Arcade)

Just barely making the cut as a pre-Crash title, Sega’s little-known arcade shooter featured… the old west.. and.  Guns.  Sort of.  There were surprisingly few pre-Crash old west-themed games ever released, and absolutely nothing that included both shooting things with guns and cutting them up with swords.  I guess selectable weapon technology was beyond the grasp of game developers before the NES invented a Select button.

Rooms:  The Main Building
Publisher:  Konami
Developer:  Hudson Soft
Platform:  Wii, Cracker Barrel Gift Shop, Dollar Store, McDonald’s Happy Meal
So this is a sliding puzzle game.
On disc.
For thirty dollars.
In 2010.
ScreenShot Image
Okay correction, an absolutely hideous sliding puzzle game on disc for thirty dollars in 2010.  This is some Destineer-quality shit, and makes it hard to remember that this is the same company that occasionally puts out incredible stuff like Lost in Shadow and… um…
https://i2.wp.com/media.giantbomb.com/uploads/0/5911/919573-14026_large.jpg
No, wait
Oh, that’s unfortunate
No, not that either…

Okay that’s good enough.
Seriously though, has there been a more inconsistent used-to-be-relevant game developer in recent memory?  These guys had their own fucking console for a while and now they can’t even get Bomberman right.  If it wasn’t for the fact that the Mario Party games somehow sold seven hundred billion copies it’s hard to imagine they’d still exist.

WHICH CLASSIC PRE-CRASH TITLE DOES THIS GAME MOST RESEMBLE?

3d_tic-tac-toe.png picture by bigredcoat
3D Tic Tac Toe! (Atari 2600)

A barely justifiable digital version of a game that works perfectly well without any transistors whatsoever.  I hate to admit that I actually owned this thing, but for the life of me I don’t understand what my reasoning was behind begging my mom to buy it.  What’s even weirder was that I didn’t own my 2600 until well after the Crash and while my friends were all happily playing NES games– for whatever twisted reason I chose to spend time and my parent’s money with this instead of Castlevania.  The 80’s were a deeply confusing time for everyone involved.

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey
Publisher:  Atlus
Developer:  Atlus/Lancarse
Platforms:  Nintendo DS
All the previews for Strange Journey seem incredibly positive, and well they should– it reads a lot like a combination of Etrain Odyssey and the dungeon-exploring bits of Shen Megami/Persona games minus the all the annoying RPG bits.
Of course this also means you’re playing a SMT game sans improbably leggy Japanese schoolgirls, but the ESRB had to give in an “M” for some good reason, so I’m holding out hope something fucked up happens later on.
WHICH CLASSIC PRE-CRASH TITLE DOES THIS GAME MOST RESEMBLE?
AD&D:  TREASURE OF TARMIN!  (Intellivision)
File:ADDTarmin.png
Finding a pre-Crash console 3d dungeon romp proved difficult, as pre-Crash consoles had no business playing RPGs or 3d games.  I badly wanted to  put Xanadu here both for its fantastic early 80’s anime box art and the fact that it was actually Japanese, but it came in a year after the Crash itself… Oh, what the hell.
https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/84/Xanadu_MSX_Cover.jpg
NEXT WEEK~!
SAKURA WARS:  SO LONG MY LOVE somehow combines Annie Oakley, Anime, 1920’s Manhattan and Giant Robots.  GAME OF THE FOREVER.

DEAD OR ALIVE PARADISE is easily the skeeviest, most embarrassing game released… in at least three weeks.  Seriously, it’s softcore porn.
GRAND THEFT AUTO IV:  EPISODES FROM LIBERTY CITY will challenge you with full frontal male nudity; Microsoft’s fundamental understanding of the term “exclusive content”

Posted in Retro Wankery, Wallet Abuse | 1 Comment »

Bad Controllers– The Xbox 360 D-Pad

Posted by nfinit on March 22, 2010

In a lot of ways this is the absolute best time to be a console gamer.

I don’t mean that simply in the the games constantly improve upon themselves.  I mean that in this era of console gaming we have access to a wealth of classic console gaming experiences from the past.  Whether it be via compilation disc or services like Virtual Console and Xbox Live Arcade, every system on the market today is a retro gaming jukebox, with over three decades worth of content accessible beneath a gamer’s thumb.

Microsoft is set to take this retro jukebox concept even further with the introduction of Xbox Live Game Room, where the Xbox 360 can expect to receive over a thousand classic titles, seven games per week until Microsoft runs out of games the 360 is capable of legally emulating. This idea looks to best even Nintendo’s Virtual Console experiment, provided you’re comfortable with the fact that Xbox Live Game Room will see a disproportionate amount of American-developed arcade and pre-Crash console titles.

Of course none of this is a comprehensive as a MAME client, but that’s not the point.  The point is that at some point the Xbox 360 is going to become the retro gaming console of choice, if it is isn’t there already– and every retro game on the system, from Bionic Commando ReArmed to Mega Man 10 to Combat and quasi-retro stuff like Metal Slug XX will be expected to control using this goddamed thing
XBOX360_Gamepad__49afb8761276f-1.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Now, I’m going to start with a rather obvious caveat:  For the purpose of playing modern 3d action games, such as Gears of War clones, first person shooters and racing games, the Xbox 360 gamepad is quite good, if not the finest pad ever created.  It takes the best elements of the Dual Shock, Dreamcast gamepad and Xbox  Controller-S and puts them together in one usable, ergonomic package.  But for the specific purpose of playing 2d games– stuff that depends on pixel-perfect spit-second digital control– the 360 pad is not just the hands-down worst gamepad of this console generation, it is perhaps one of the worst gamepads ever conceived, and its entirely because of this:
xbox-360-controller-2-2.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Saying something like “worst d-pad ever” is a subjective argument.  Some people don’t like the Playstation segmented d-pad, some don’t like the Torquemada-esque torture device that is the Nintendo standard d-pad, some sick bastards even claim to dislike the Genesis floating d-pad, (but these are unstable individuals and not to be trusted.)  So its hard to say that the Xbox 360 d-pad is the worst ever to grace a console, especially when somewhere in the world there exists an engineer who thought this was a good idea:

Triax-TurboTouch--MD-360.jpg picture by bigredcoat

But still.  The 360 d-pad does two things that should never have happened.  One, it us a featureless disc plastic with the faintest hint of a compass rose embossed upon it.  This makes it difficult to tell by feel where your thumb is resting.  This by itself wouldn’t be too bad.  Not ideal for a system with a selling point of a large back catalog of 2d goodness, but not a deal breaker.  But there’s something else that carries the Xbox 360 d-pad to the upper crust of awfulness, and its this:
This raised white ring of plastic that surrounds the disc of the d-pad keeps the d-pad from completing a natural arc of motion.  While its enough travel to allow the d-pad to make contact, it prevents solid  movement, resulting in a mushy, incomplete feel.  As a result the player is never quite sure where their thumb is travelling.  More often than not you wind up hitting a diagonal rather than left or right.  As 2d games largely rely on a combination of pixel-perfect timing and twitch reflexes this is not a trivial concern.

It’s obvious that the 360 d-pad was created as an afterthought, that its main purpose was to switch between weapons in first person shooters.  But it’s not like the 360 2d catalog is inconsequential, either.  Any 2d games appearing on the 360 are negatively affected by the standard gamepad, to the point where they’re all but ruined by the experience.  God help the poor bastard expected to perform a dragon punch using this thing, and I remain convinced that the lack of usable digital control on the 360 was responsible for Pac Man CE’s failure despite being utterly brilliant.

The Xbox 360 2d experience is so awful that retro-savvy gamers have been forced to rather ridiculous lengths just to ensure that Mega Man goes to the right when you press “right” instead of staring blankly ahead while falling into a pit of metal spikes.  My solution was to simply buy a new gamepad
b0bde482c9782463e05155791fd95ad2126.jpg picture by bigredcoat
Which, extra expense aside (the gamepad above cost an extra $40 I’d have much rather spent on a new DS game or quite possibly pants), 3rd party gamepads for the 360 carry their own drawbacks in that they’re not wireless.  Microsoft’s wireless gamepad signal is proprietary and they’re unwilling to license it out.  But the Fighterpad has its own problems in that it’s obviously not a total solution– its only suited for 2d games, you can’t begin to use it as your main pad.  It also feels entirely too cheap and light for a $40 product.
Hori has taken a couple stabs at the 360 gamepad, with typically excellent results.
pa1651762.jpg picture by bigredcoat
But they’re pretty much impossible to find in stores.  Truth be told, had I known the Hori Turbo 2 was going to be released I’d have never bothered with the Mad Catz Fightpad, never mind the coquettish and slightly embarrassing Chun Li artwork adorning the gamepad’s face like some demented 4chan advertisement.

Razer– famous for creating PC gaming mice that can be best described as “excessive”– will soon release a 360 gamepad of their own, but I’m unconvinced it’ll be much of a solution for retro enthusiasts.

https://i0.wp.com/media.giantbomb.com/uploads/0/7422/1241249-rzr_xboxcontrollerview8_whtbrg_super.jpg

Like all Razer products the ergonomics and build quality will undoubtedly prove outstanding, and it’ll probably be the best 360 gamepad available when it’s released, but I do not relish the thought of performing a dragon punch on that thing’s D-pad, much less traversing the bullet hell pathways of Ikaruga.
There are other, more exotic solutions.  Take for instance this thing:

xbox-360-mods-dpad.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Which is in actuality the control pod for the Rock Band Hero portable drum kit.  It turns out that if you don’t mind playing with a gamepad  that’s hideous and riddled with extraneous headphone jacks, you wind up with what may well be the best dedicated 2d pad released for the system.  You’re hosed if you want to play anything released after the SNES, but for the majority Game Room stuff it looks like a fine solution, provided you’re okay hooking something into your 360 that looks like it escaped a Soviet nuclear power plant control room circa 1974.
But let’s say you’re one of those weird Dual Shock fetishists.  There’s a way around that, too.
https://i0.wp.com/images.quickblogcast.com/101455-94893/360_acc_xconverter_c01l.jpg
Which allows for a PlayStation gamepad to attach to the 360, provided you’re willing to also attach a 360 to -that-, like some sort of maniacal gamepad remora.

But let’s say you don’t want to spend any money and/or you just want to keep using a wireless 360 pad. In that case you can keep your old pad and TAKE  A FUCKING DREMEL TO IT!

https://i0.wp.com/i39.photobucket.com/albums/e164/sonofugly/0619091950a.jpg

Well okay you can get the same effect by working at the ring around the d-pad for a couple hours with sandpaper but it lacks the same punch of “TAKE A FUCKING DREMEL TO IT!” in big block print and I am if anything an artist with words.  Also do not take the above picture as an endorsement of the awful PlayStation d-pad, this was simply the only photographic evidence I could find of someone performing grievous physical modifications to their 360 pad without resorting to crazed console hacker Benheck.com
But doesn’t  all this seem like a stupid way to go about doing things?  I mean, why do we have to start physically cutting away on our gamepads just to get a decent retro experience?  The 360 pad has been around for four years now and Microsoft knows full well no one is happy with this thing.  Why not just release an official wireless gamepad?  Or failing that, just remove the damned ring already.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Wallet Abuse Wednesday 3-17-10: God of War 3, Dragon Age Awakening, I hate Hakan!

Posted by nfinit on March 16, 2010

Screw GDC and OnLive and the PS3Mote and all that boring industry insider crap.  The real news last week?  The full cast for Super Street Fighter 4 was finally revealed!  That’s right, the tenth and final character was released and… well.

Yeah.  A massive oiled grappler hailing from a sport where its a legal and standard tactic to stick your hand down your opponent’s trousers and fondle their genitals.  You know, to distract them.
And let’s look past the point where Hakan, despite being happily married and literally crawling with infant daughters is quite literally the most homoerotic thing humanly imaginable and also ignore the part where Street Fighter IV now has four joke characters.  Capcom decided to introduce yet another new merchandising vector original character rather than make fans happy and include one of the many dozen beloved yet long-ignored characters already crowding Capcom’s intellectual property portfolio.
Capcom’s roster is rife with fantastic yet long-lamented characters, any one of which any other developer in the world would immediately latch onto and create an entire game around, if not a full-fledged franchise.
You know what’s also fantastic?  This week’s list of games!  Well, most of them, anyway.  Any gaming system without the words “PlayStation Portable” has something worth buying this week.  In fact, I believe this week’s selection of games is so good that you can correlate each one with a Capcom character that easily should have been included over the Turkish oil wrestler.
Dragon Age Origins: Awakening
Publisher:  Electronic Arts
Developer:  Bioware
Platforms:  Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC

Initially I was conflicted about putting an expansion pack on this list, especially for something that’s unplayable on its own– after all, I don’t do writeups for downloadable content packs on Wallet Abuse.  But I’m interested in Awakening, and I’m going to buy it anyway, so screw you.
Forty bucks for twenty five hours of More Stuff for the most playable western role-playing game that’s not named “Fallout 3” isn’t a bad deal at all, especially when you consider that Mass Effect 2 could be completed in less than that if you were just interested in burning through the story.  Plus it fixes the one big complaint I have with Dragon Age: Origins now that I’m in my third play through of it– namely that by the time you complete your party your game is almost done and there’s nothing really left to do aside from side quests and initiate the endgame.  Which sucked, as the makeup of DA:O pretty much meant that Oghren the Dwarf would aways be your last character and he was easily more interesting to have around than half your crew.  Twenty five extra hours of surly drunk bezerker sounds like Good Times to me.

The advent of Dragon Age Awakenings is encouraging, as it may signal a return of more substantial post-release content for western RPGs.  One of the big complaints I have regarding the way developers handle downloadable content at the moment is that the mission packs released so far this generation don’t really add a whole lot to the game in question.  Fallout 3 was especially bad for this– yeah, Bethesda kept the game relevant for a long time by constantly releasing missions via DLC, but the packs added at most a couple hours to the game proper, and for the most part they felt tacked on.  While (most) of these packs were enjoyable and worth the five bucks each Bethesda was asking, I found myself wondering if everyone involved would have been better served with a single full-fledged old school expansion pack instead, even if it would have taken a lot longer to produce and as a result dropped into the used game rack at Gamestop a lot quicker.

Bioware seems to be taking the best of all worlds approach with Dragon Age Origins, releasing sporadic DLC packs that keeps the game fresh at retail and still providing big hefty expansion packs larger than most full single-player action games.  This approach would also seem to reveal a glimpse into how developers are gaming the current economy.

IF THIS GAME WERE A CAPCOM CHARACTER NOT INCLUDED IN SSIV, WHICH WOULD IT BE?


Arthur! (original appearance Ghosts n’ Goblins)


My first instinct was one of the main characters from Knights of the Round, but I felt the ensuing debate over which character to represent the game would tear my blog apart.  Just pretend its canon that this Arthur is the same Arthur from Knights of the Round and that Percival and Lancelot have deferred to his superior demon fighting prowess.

And yes, a lance and a suit of armor may be unfair when facing someone like, say, Sakura, but you have to remember that Street Fighter 4 takes place in a universe where Akuma’s presence is an accepted occurrence.  Clearly the power levels in Street Fighter were thrown out the door a long time ago and that’s before you share the universe with Magneto.

Fragile Dreams:  Farewell Ruins of the Moon
Publisher:  X-Seed
Developer: tri-Crescendo
Platforms:  Wii

You know its a good week for games when even the Wii gets something genuinely intriguing that’s not published by Nintendo themselves.

It is a hard game to get a handle on, though.  I’ve seen it described as “action adventure” and “action RPG” and even “survival horror”, although designer Kentarou Kawashima is quick to point out that its not survival horror at all, but instead a “human drama” game.  That in combination with its focus on narrative and atmosphere almost makes you wonder if this is something of a Wii version of Heavy Rain, although with the quick time event stuff stripped away and replaced with an actual video game.  I wonder though if the Wii isn’t developing an entire genre based on flashlights.

In all seriousness though, Fragile Dreams looks to be an incredible gaming experience, even if the gameplay itself is somewhat archaic in the Japanese tradition of save points and limited inventory space and respawning enemies.  The art style plays well on the Wii and the core of the game itself probably isn’t possible on anything but the Wii right now– even if it were to appear on Sony’s suggestively-shaped PS3mote, they’d probably miss the point entirely and try to run the game through Unreal Engine 3.

IF THIS GAME WERE A CAPCOM CHARACTER NOT INCLUDED IN SSIV, WHICH WOULD IT BE?



Poison!  (original appearance Final Fight)

Fragile Dreams:  Farewell Ruins of the Moon is a difficult game to define, so I’m using the most difficult to define character in the Capcom universe to represent it.  Also as its never been fully described exactly where Poison lies within the GLBT spectrum, its a fun character to use to fuck your fanbase over with.

Imagine this scenario:  Capcom spends the next several months following Super Street Fighter 4’s release refusing to address Poison’s gender and/or sexual orientation, but at the same time releases a series of revealing–yet not too revealing– pvc statues, hug pillows and those horrible boobie-shaped mouse wrist rest featuring her image.  Then, just as the fanbase starts to admit that maybe they’ve been been wrong about Poison all these years–BOOM!  Silently release hundreds of gigs worth of high-resolution official Udon artwork on 4chan revealing a fully transgendered Poison taking advantage of every character on the Super Street Fighter 4 roster.

I’m not exactly sure what you’d accomplish by doing this, but the results would be hilarious.

God of War 3
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer:  Santa Monica Studio
Platforms:  PlayStation 3

I could pretend to be Mister Snooty Games Review Guy and claim that the blood and angst and boobs that the God of War series brings to the table is below me, but gameplay-wise there’s nothing that God of War does that I’m not in love with, and to be honest, vivisection and boobs appeal to me.

Gameplay-wise, aside from new abilities and environments God of War 3 isn’t doing anything new, which is good and bad– Good in that the base God of War formula makes for a damned fine video game, but bad in that its been three years since SCE Santa Monica put out a GoW game and in that time this genre has seen a lot of games that improve upon God of War’s 3d brawler formula.  SCE Santa Monica is sort of stuck though, in that God of War 3’s entire selling point is that God of War fans have been waiting forever to see this series appear on the PS3– So they can’t really do much to make the sort of improvements seen in, say, Bayonetta or Ninja Gaiden 2.  God of War 3 is still going to be button mashy, its still going to feature obtuse, if not downright unfair platformer puzzle sections, and its still going to to feature those annoying quick time event finishers.

All of which presents a problem for SCE Santa Monica and the series in general, as the space GoW occupies is a lot more crowded than it was back when the series reigned supreme in the waning days of the Playstation 2 era.  Even in the angst-and-blood filled western-developed 3d brawler market its no longer unique.  Dante’s Inferno might suck, but its already captured over six hundred thousand sales in only a month, and whereas Darksiders has its flaws, it does everything God of War does and more, and its sold at least a million copies at the time of this writing.

That said, God of War 3 us a big enough title and will be advertised enough that there’s no doubt it’ll top the PlayStation 3 charts next month and possibly for some time to come, but you also wonder if there’s really anything for Kratos left to do after this game aside from rake in money and drink honeyed mead from Aphrodite’s cleavage.

IF THIS GAME WERE A CAPCOM CHARACTER NOT INCLUDED IN SSIV, WHICH WOULD IT BE?



Whesker! (original appearance: Resident Evil)


Hilariously violent, over-the-top, guilty of taking himself entirely too seriously, far too powerful to exist within his own universe– Kratos and Whesker fit all these criteria.  Although I think there may be a way to convincingly argue that Kratos himself could appear in a Street Fighter game, provided you’re willing to say his appearance in Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny places him within the Namco universe and the Namco x Capcom games would then somehow allow Kratos a back door into Street Fighter itself– but I think at that point Dante from Devil May Cry would stop any of this from ever happening.
But back to Whesker.  Yes, he may be more powerful than God at this point in the Resident Evil universe, but I’m pretty sure Sagat has killed God by this point in Street Fighter canon.
Basketball Hall of Fame Ultimate Hoops Challenge (Zoo Games; Wii)
Publisher:  Zoo Games
Developer:  The Shambling Damned Begging For Release
Platforms: The Wii (of fucking course)
Can’t all be winners, I guess.  There was actually a lot more shovelware this week than this lone title, but I felt like being encouraged about the games market for once and not have to depress myself by spending any more time on Build-A-Bear: Friendship Valley than absolutely necessary.
Hall of Fame Ultimate Hoops Challenge is just… weird.  First, somehow or another either the Basketball Hall of Fame conned Zoo Games into thinking its license was worth anything at all, or Zoo Games conned The Basketball Hall of Fame into thinking they were a real developer capable of producing a video game that wasn’t actually a collection of Wii minigames, but also I want you to take a closer look at this box art:
This might be the whitest basketball video game ever made.  Sure, EA’s One On One:  Dr J vs Larry Bird might have only featured one black guy, but at least he represented half the game’s characters!
Hall of Fame Ultimate Hoops Challenge touts a roster of sixteen players, which means the game is barely capable of producing three full teams and by “sixteen players” we can assume Zoo Games actually means “these are the only guys senile enough to be talked out of signing with Electronic Arts instead”
IF THIS GAME WERE A CAPCOM CHARACTER NOT INCLUDED IN SSIV, WHICH WOULD IT BE?



Captain Commando! (original appearance: Captain Commando)


White, ancient, hopelessly hokey, improbably good at the free-throw line– Okay so maybe the last bit is entirely speculation, but everything else fits, including the way Cap. Commando was originally envisioned as the spokesman for Capcom itself.  Plus the original Captain Commando design could make for a passable Bill Walton:
Okay sure he has flamethrowers and extendable arms, but that basically puts him at the same level as Dhalsim, plus Dhalsim can teleport.

Infinite Space (Sega; DS)
Publisher:  Sega
Developer: Platinum Games
Platforms:  DS
So a scifi RPG/space exploration sim with fully customizable ships produced by Platinum games and basically reads like a Japanese, hahdheld version of Elite?

YEAS PLEZ MOAR

I wish I had ovaries so I could have this game’s babies.

IF THIS GAME WERE A CAPCOM CHARACTER NOT INCLUDED IN SSIV, WHICH WOULD IT BE?

Rolento! (original appearance: Final Fight)


The most amazing possible combination of game descriptors can only be fairly described by the most amazing possible, long-forgotten Capcom character design, Rolento, who follows the sound video game design philosophy that states that anything is instantly better with quarterstaffs involved.
Seriously though, I had my heart set on Rolento being the final character reveal.  If Capcom isn’t going to do anything useful with the character then they should at least license him out  along with the agreement of whatever corporate husk currently owns the rights to SNK’s Billy Kane and finally make the comprehensive Badasses With Sticks videogame experience.  This game would make ten billion dollars and I’m giving this idea away for free!

Metro 2033
Publisher:  THQ
Developer:  4A Games
Platforms:  Xbox 360, PC


We’ve already had an old-school meaty expansion pack for the best fantasy WRPG since Torment; a Japanese mashup of Elite and Mass Effect that’s somehow even more awesome than simply describing it as “a Japanese mashup of Elite and Mass Effect” and the fourth game in a series that’s renowned for non-consensual freestyle spine displacement and we’ve still not reached the best idea of the week, as here we have a post-apocalyptic survival horror FPS THAT TAKES PLACE ENTIRELY WITHIN THE IRRADIATED REMAINS OF THE MOSCOW SUBWAY SYSTEM AND THE GAME WAS DEVELOPED BY UKRAINIANS.

Oh and the game is based around a bullet economy that has the player shooting your enemies with currency.  But after hearing this is basically playing RE4 underneath Moscow that’s sort of like telling me I get to make out with Christina Hendricks in the back of a production replica of Airwolf as it constantly orbits the Tokyo Tower.  There’s just too much awesome to comprehend.
That said– there’s the distinct chance that Metro 2033 might not actually be very good.  For one thing, the PC specs– the lead platform for Metro 2033– are kinda insane, the game wants 8 gigs of ram, a Core i7 CPU and a videocard that Nvidia hasn’t actually released yet.  And somehow this is supposed to fit inside the seemingly retro Xbox 360 spec sheet.  Also previews for the game have complained that its overly scripted and the game tends to come to a screeching halt in order to tell its story.
However, the story itself may prove to be exceptionally good– its based on a novel of the same name by Dmitry Glukhovsky and is a bestseller in Russia.
IF THIS GAME WERE A CAPCOM CHARACTER NOT INCLUDED IN SSIV, WHICH WOULD IT BE?



STRIDER!  (original appearance:  motherfucking Strider!)


So how do you improve on what I’ve already proclaimed to be the best idea possible with Infinite Space?  By making it Russian and giving it a sword!
Which leads me to my second embittered rant in as many entries, and it stems from Grin so wholly fucking up with the Bionic Commando revival that we’re never ever going to see a modern Strider game as long as any of us are alive.  Sure, maybe there will be a Bionic Command ReArmed-like re-imagining of the classic arcade game, but it just won’t be the same, and the 3d space just begs for the sort of fast-paced free-flowing gameplay that the original arcade Strider was so damned good at.  So thanks Grin.  You assholes.  You managed to fuck up a game completely based around grappling hooks and ruined everything.  I pray Vikings kill you in your sleep.

Pokemon SoulSilver
Pokemon HeartGold

Publisher:  Nintendo
Developer:  Game Freak
Platform:  DS


I’ll be honest.  I’m simply not qualified to talk about these games as I hold nothing but contempt in my heart for Nintendo and have never actually played a Pokemon game.  So you know, if you like this sort of thing and most of you do, you already know which one of these you’re going to buy (if not both of them) and a great many of you have probably given your own old Pokemon games for your own children to play around with.  That’s great.  Really.  I hate all of you
IF THIS GAME WERE A CAPCOM CHARACTER NOT INCLUDED IN SSIV, WHICH WOULD IT BE?

Mega Man!  (original appearance:  Mega Man!)
Older than dirt, primarily known as a Nintendo guy, has made an enormous sum of money for the parent company and is yet faintly baffling to everyone involved as to why he’s still popular.  Yeah, that’s Pokemon.
I’m not quite sure if Mega Man’s presence  breaks Street Fighter or not– nevermind the fact that he’s a robot that has a laser cannon as an arm– in Street Fighter this makes him roughly as powerful as Sakura– the problem is that he probably can only be hit by low attacks and I’m pretty sure the Vs games he’s been in have had this same problem.  This is okay, because much like Mega Man, Pokemon simply cannot be killed.
Resonance of Fate
Publisher:  Sega
Developer:  tri-Ace
Platforms:  Playstation 3, Xbox 360

All of the good jokes about this game being sent out to die a week after the release of Final Fantasy 13 have been told to death on messageboards already.  This is a shame, as it seems this game has largely been dismissed already despite the base combat system having a lot of promise and the story itself sounds interesting, resembling somewhat of a JRPG take on the traditionally western staple of wandering about a post-apocalyptic wasteland, although in this case representing a cautionary tale about humanity ruined by its own excesses rather than outright nuclear war.  Also firmly in Resonance of Fate’s favor, at some point this happens:

All that said, we don’t really know how well the game has fared in translation as only one review yet exists and its in Dutch.  This close to the game’s release, that’s sort of troubling, and maybe gives credence to the whole “sent to die” thing.  However I’m willing to give this game the benefit of the doubt based entirely on the game’s box art alone.  If anything can get me interested in JRPGs again its people in nice coats looking cool with guns.

IF THIS GAME WERE A CAPCOM CHARACTER NOT INCLUDED IN SSIV, WHICH WOULD IT BE?

Dante!  (original appearance:  Devil May Cry)

Cool coat?  Check.  Awesome gun?  Check.  Stylish as hell?  Check.  Infantile obsession with boobs?  Check!
NEXT WEEK~!

You have every right to be irrationally exuberant about JUST CAUSE 2

Meanwhile its hard to tell if RED STEEL 2 is going to be horrible or not but its the sort of thing I badly want to be excited for

IMAGINE: GYMNAST is here entirely for me to post lewd pictures of Brandi Personette HA HA JUST KIDDING WE’RE TOTALLY TALKING ABOUT SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI:  STRANGE JOURNEY FOR LIKE SIX HUNDRED WORDS INSTEAD. Also probably still tasteful photographs of Brandi Personette.

Posted in Wallet Abuse | 8 Comments »

The Questions OnLive Refuses to Answer

Posted by nfinit on March 16, 2010

Last week at Games Developer Conference a few more details about OnLive’s business model took shape, including pricing for the service, a preliminary list of developers and what’s purported to be a release date of July the 11th.  But while the pricing model is starting to gel, there are some questions that OnLive and its founder, Steve Pearlman, have thus far refused to address.  These remaining questions are troubling, as large swathes of the gaming community remain unconvinced the entire OnLive project isn’t some sort of massive con job the likes of the Phantom game console or the Indrema L600.  Here’s a short list of what’s currently bugging me about the service:

*Will Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo allow OnLive to use their systems? The prospect of console gaming on OnLive keeps being bandied about, and OnLive’s own personnel have been unwilling to gainsay any speculation.  But the question remains if OnLive intends to allow console gaming, how exactly do they propose to do so?  Emulation of any console is, strictly speaking, illegal, and it’s unreasonable to expect OnLive to keep separate consoles on hand for every client who may wish to play Mario Galaxy or Halo 3 ODST or Uncharted 2.  Yet none of these consoles allow for the sort of virtualization tech that OnLive attests they will rely on to keep PC hardware costs reasonable.

*How much will the actual games cost? Sure, the $15/month covers the service subscription fee, but surely Activision, Ubisoft, EA and THQ will balk at not receiving their customary sixty dollars per title.  If game delivery systems such as Steam are any indication, it’s not likely that any of these publishers will be willing to cut OnLive a break on game pricing– combined with the cost of the initial hardware purchase the supposed savings for OnLive vs just buying a cheap gaming rig become less apparent, especially seeing as how OnLive will only provide for high-def streams if the client is in possession of a costly 5Mbps stream.

*Where are the games, exactly? According to OnLive sixteen titles have been announced, but as of now OnLive will only commit to Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age: Origins, Borderlands, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, Metro 2033 and Assassin’s Creed 2.  And even then there’s weird restrictions in play, such as Mass Effect 2 only allowable using a Windows PC.  Also you may notice a trait particular to all the games listed– a remarkable tolerance for lag.  Sure Borderlands may bill itself as a twitch-based FPS, but it’s always been more of a massively multiplayer online game than a straight first person shooter and  at any rate it’s not really built around competitive play.  Everything else is a decidedly single-player experience and there’s not a single game on that list that’s on the competitive level of Modern Warfare 2 or Battlefield: Bad Company 2 or even Team Fortress 2.

And really, by the time the service is released in June it will have been pushed back at least six months past its initial start date– isn’t sixteen games at launch a tad low for that sort of lead time, particularly if OnLive will only commit to a half dozen titles, any one of which by the time this service is released will have long since been a mainstay in the bargain rack?  But back to this focus on single player games–

*How much lag can we expect? Sure, gameplay impressions from trade conferences have been positive, but it has to be noted that these conferences are all held in California, and usually less than 300 miles from OnLive’s only known server farm.  OnLive claims they’ve arranged for data optimization across all major ISPs provided you’re within a thousand miles of one of their servers, but if getting lag free gaming with streaming video was as simple as that, why hasn’t Valve already implemented a similar service?

We are a couple months away from OnLive’s supposed launch and we still don’t know how much lag we will be looking at.  This is by far the number one concern in every gamer’s mind in regard to the service. The fact that OnLive has yet to provide firm numbers is troubling.

*Furthermore the whole “optimization” thing is kinda weird. Why would ISPs willingly work with OnLive in order to let their own data stream through?  The absolute last thing ISPs want to deal with right now is a whole new market of gamers that will be guaranteed to tie up entire 5Mbps data streams for eight hours a day.  Aren’t these the exact same people who are screaming for download caps and an end to net neutrality?   How did this plan ever get past Comcast, for that matter?

*And the one that’s bothering me the most about the entire OnLive business model– why games? Or rather, why just games?  If this thing works, then why aren’t you selling it to every small-to-medium office in the nation as a legit alternative to stocking your entire office with Dells and the associated service fees?  Sure your office would be screwed if the net connection went down, but the modern office is screwed anyway without access.  Why not put Netflix and Blockbuster out of business overnight?  If this system works, why not just sell every home in America a micro-console and tell them to throw out their home PC?  Why not sell OnLive to colleges as an alternative to expensive CAD stations?  With OnLive’s service you could give every student on your campus a cheap fifteen-inch laptop in lieu of MacBooks– how does it work out that the natural application for this technology is allowing people to play Borderlands on an iPhone?

It may look like I’m not willing to give OnLive a shot, but it’s something I honestly want to work.  The retail games model as it stands is simply not viable.  We need a legitimate online option and as of yet no one appears to be willing to drop the brick-and-mortar business model despite constant protests that Gamestop is putting developers out of business.  But if OnLive doesn’t work– or worse, turns out to be a massive con job– that’s just going to set the online distribution movement back years, if not cripple it for the foreseeable future.

Posted in Boring Industry Crap | Leave a Comment »

Wallet Abuse Wednesday 3-10-10

Posted by nfinit on March 10, 2010

Lost last week amid Activision and Ubisoft taking a giant squat over the remains of their collective  good will and leaving behind an enormous steaming coil was the very shortly lived, utterly genius introduction for Portal 2 Valve retroactively crafted in the middle of Portal 1.
But just as gamers were starting to piece together the clues to the Portal 2 universe– complete with hidden BBS URLs, image data hidden within audio data, openly taunting the gaming community via Morse code– the official Portal 2 reveal came out something like three days later, via Game Informer as apparently it’s 1998 all over again and major game announcements still happen via game magazine.
portalwrap1.jpg picture by bigredcoat
If this trend were extrapolated to it’s natural conclusion it would also  indicate that game demos are being distributed via polybagged DVDs and that somewhere Dave Halverson still has a jo– OH CHRIST HE’S RE-RELEASING GAMEFAN WILL SOMEONE PLEASE STOP THIS MAN BEFORE HE KILLS AGAIN.

But I digress.  In honor of Portal 2 single handedly saving the print industry, I present to you this week’s games, along with the appropriate magazine which conceivably could have heralded their release.

The Calling (Wii)

Around October of 2008 early video of a Wii survival horror game somehow found its way off of Hudson’s corporate servers and onto YouTube, and thus The Calling was revealed to the public.  Rather than rolling with this and enjoying some Halloween-themed faux-ARG hype, Hudson quickly demanded all the video for The Calling to be wiped from YouTube’s servers– and while the official explanation was that this video was stolen and never meant to be seen by the public in the first place, most suspected it was because the game highly resembled Fatal Frame on rails.
Eighteen months later and we’re still unclear as to what we can expect out of The Calling, if it’s on rails or not, or how much it wound up borrowing from Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, but what’s there looks interesting and is obviously inspired by Japanese horror movies whose goal isn’t so much to shock and disgust you as it is to make you feel creepy and regret walking near the woods for at least three months.

The Calling and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories  illustrate that one of the greatest strengths of  the Wii has turned out to be survival horror, and I’m not sure anyone would have predicted this, short of observing that waving around a flashlight in the dark is an inherently creepy activity and easily translated into the Wiimote control scheme.  It’s just a shame this game is using Resident Evil-quality art assets as it would be a great way to screw around with loved ones who were expecting a nice safe night of Randomly Clicking B While Spazzing Out.

BEST POSSIBLE MAGAZINE TO ANNOUNCE THIS GAME:

NP253_Cover-1.png picture by bigredcoat


Nintendo Power!
The magazine for apps native to Nintendo devices.  And since it’s no longer owned by Nintendo, revealing The Calling in Nintendo Power gets around the strict corporate policy keeping Nintendo from ever promoting 3rd party titles not named “Monster Hunter”.

The Daring Game For Girls (DS, Wii)

Here you have a game that’s clearly targeted at girls without obviously  lowering itself to the level of Imagine: Petz Magical Horse Nanny and while that that’s good, it’s also a typical Majesco shovelware minigame collection, meaning in the end it’s cheap and terrible and only loosely definable as a “game”.   This is  insulting for everyone involved as the entire premise of this game insinuates that it’s impossible to get young girls interested in a games that are not  bog-standard collections of tepid low-skill minigames.
The Daring Game For Girls tries to disguise these casual gamer roots by insisting that it’s teaching girls about famous women in history, and while that’s a fine and noble goal, wouldn’t girls be better served with a copy of The Daring Book For Girls itself and an actual working videogame instead of the worst of all possible scenario as manifested in “The Daring Game for Girls”?
I dunno.  Just be aware that if you let your little girl play this that you’re exponentially increasing her odds of becoming a Hooter’s Waitress, and not the sort who’s only paying bills while going to college.

BEST POSSIBLE MAGAZINE TO ANNOUNCE THIS GAME:

B0001A99IS01LZZZZZZZ.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Cosmo for Girls! Because if you’re going to pander to young women by re-enforcing gender stereotypes while making vague allusions to “feminism” you may as well teach them about proper sweater layering.   (also after researching this topic I spent 3 days clearing out my laptop’s hard drive with DARPA-approved formatting software.  True story.
Final Fantasy 13 (PS360)


I could go on contrasting how FF13 and Mass Effect 2 are taking completely different tracks in removing the extraneous, non-fun bullshit that surrounds their respective flavor of Role-Playing Game and focus instead on the parts people actually enjoy– the combat–, but there’s one thing that takes the “Maybe this game isn’t actually an RPG at all” argument to a whole new level–

–The goddamed thing doesn’t have any towns. Even Mass Effect 2 has towns, and that game has devolved to the point where you can fairly describe it as Gears of War With Towns. FF13 was clearly built around combat mechanics first with a flimsy shell of a Japanese Role Playing Game around that– and while this may produce a compelling video game, I’m not sure how you spend five years developing a Final Fantasy game and forget to include the parts of the game where any actual role-playing may take place.

But  I’m hardly an expert on the subject of Final Fantasy games anymore, so maybe I’m wrong in this and FF13 could wind up being an excellent game, even if Wired.com’s Chris Kohler described Final Fantasy 13 as “a failed experiment” and Edge Magazine described the entire first half thusly:

one long corridor of palette-swapped enemies, fights that never quite find the right level of challenge, and cutscene after cutscene (after cutscene) leaving your joypad entirely idle.

Not to sound like a sour old man who hates anything new, but I was a serious Final Fantasy junkie and a subsequent weeaboo horror right up until around the third disc of Final Fantasy 7 where I wandered off to play Planescape: Torment and never came back.
The reason for my disenchantment with the modern Final Fantasy series this lay almost entirely in Square’s inability to craft a compelling cast of characters since the company moved to the Playstation 1.  Take this  image from Final Fantasy 13’s cast:

Just by looking at this I can tell four things.
1:  I will never be able to make a connection with the main character (In this case, Lighting, the chrome-pink haired chick in the foreground)
2:  The black guy with the amazing afro will almost certainly be the only interesting character of the whole bunch
3:  The game will never focus on him quite as much as you would wish
4:  If Lighting’s clammy, stick-like thighs are any indication she is badly malnourished and possibly suffers from rickets.

As I mentioned before, I think Square’s issues with bad casting stems from Final Fantasy 7:

The main character being the bland, boring bishi Cloud, whereas everyone involved would have much rather played on halberd-wielding hard ass Cid Highwind or tragic gunman Vincent Valentine.   Or take Final Fantasy 12’s cast:

Where you’re stuck playing hairless manchild Vaan through most of the game when you’d easily prefer to play the gentleman sky pirate Balthier  and his bunnygirl cohort Fran, because they’re SKY PIRATES and SKY PIRATES ARE AWESOME.  Nope, get used to sixty hours of sexless pedobait.  Thanks, Japan!All of which illustrates just how insanely great Final Fantasy 6 was.  It didn’t really matter if there were Final Fantasy 6 characters you couldn’t make a connection with– since it was an ensemble cast, your story could revolve around whoever you wanted.  Want to pimp around Narche with a team composed of Locke, King Edgar, Setzer and Stago while Terra does whatever with magic crystals?  You could do that.  Want to enlighten the populace to the finer points of violent women’s lib with Celeste, Terra and Relm?  Not a problem.  Want to utterly ruin your game and play through using Gau, Gogo, Umago and Sabin?  Whatever gets you through the night, babe.

BEST POSSIBLE MAGAZINE TO ANNOUNCE THIS GAME:

newtype_mar_09.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Newtype! While the relevance of JRPGs has deminished since the heyday of Final Fantasy 7, Squeenix is fortunate in that the people who are left are insane and will spend money on anything.
Foto Showdown (DSi)

I don’t know how Konami reached the point where they thought the term “Foto Showdown” was better than the game’s original title, “Monster Finder”, but here we are and now everyone’s going to confuse this with game that much more interesting  import-your-friends-photo-into-a-fighter game revealed at Nintendo’s press event last week.

Foto Showdown looks nifty in its own right though, combining the whole Pokemon/Digimon/Monster Rancher…thing with pictures snapped using the DSi’s camera to import your own monsters.  This sounds like the sort of thing that’d be great for both parents and adult perverted gamers.  Parents can let their kids wander around with this thing and not be bothered for the rest of the day while  sexual deviants try to figure out if the bestiary includes sandworms and bearded clams.

BEST POSSIBLE MAGAZINE TO ANNOUNCE THIS GAME:

BoyslifeMagazine.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Boy’s Life Magazine! Let’s face facts, there’s one prime market for a game where the audience converges around children and photography, and that market usually somehow involves hundreds of hours in the therapist’s office dealing with repressed memories.

Racquet Sports (Wii)
Wii.
Proto-Natal camera controls.
Minigame collection.
Ubisoft.
Avoid at all costs.
BEST POSSIBLE MAGAZINE TO ANNOUNCE THIS GAME:



Shuttle Express!
The premiere online magazine for Badminton enthusiasts in New Zealand!

Resident Evil 5 Gold Edition (PS360)

So if you’re wondering if you should pay fifty bucks for Resident Evil 5 a year after it’s release, here’s all the evidence you need.
If you buy Gold Edition then you need to be beaten about the head and your money stolen from you and put to better use, such as gin and/or crack cocaine.  Yes, you get the DLC packs “Desperate Escape” and “Lost in Nightmares” with this particular edition of RE5, but both those packs are only five bucks each off Xbox Live and Playstation Network.  So the very best scenario for Resident Evil 5 Gold Edition would still have you lose ten dollars, and this is presuming you’re the sort of gamer who has moral prohibitions against buying used games.
I mean, on one hand it’s good that Capcom is still supporting Resident Evil 5, but fifty bucks for a year old game isn’t just silly on Capcom’s part, it’s borderline insulting.  At least when Bethesda kept pumping out expansion discs for Fallout 3 they made each package at least a fair value vs its online offering– Capcom’s RE5 solution hinges upon the concept that the gaming public is unable to get online and yet still somehow desperate for more RE5 content– nevermind that RE5 is fundamentally broken without online co-op in the first place.
BEST POSSIBLE MAGAZINE TO ANNOUNCE THIS GAME:
Wet__Play_Magazine_July_cover_by_Be.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Polybagged issue of Play Magazine. For gamers suffering from poor taste and are willing to spend money to prove it.

Sam and Max 2 Beyond Time and Space (Wii)

Speaking of weird examples of disc-based content distribution– yeah, I know not everyone has access to broadband internet, and yeah, I know the Sam and Max episodes are probably too unwieldy to easily fit on the Wii’s tiny amount internal storage– but isn’t selling something like Sam and Max episodes on disc sort of like selling Plastic Beach on 8-Track?
BEST POSSIBLE MAGAZINE TO ANNOUNCE THIS GAME:
modelrailroader.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Model Railroader Magazine. The Go-to publication to sell something quirky, inherently antiquated and baffling that it yet exists.

Yakuza 3 (PS3)

So the big…. well, only… story about Yakuza 3 is that Sega has deemed it necessary to cut large swaths out of the the US port of the game, citing financial reasons but probably because everyone at the translation department had the horriblem dark knowledge in the back of their mindss that the all-weeaboo audience wouldn’t be able to stop themselves from  masturbating furiously during the hostess club segments.

Let’s pull back for a moment and say that the hostess club was indeed too expensive to make worth the effort.  Yakuza 3’s defenders will say that the mere fact that this game is getting a translation to English should be enough; that if the choice between getting Yakuza 3 sans edited content or no Yakuza 3 at all, that the choice for fans is clear.
But if Yakuza 3 was so financially infeasible to translate that entire chunks of the game had to be left on the cutting room floor, maybe it’d have made more sense to do as bare-bones a translation as possible with no English voice work at all  and deliver it over Playstation Network.  Then the game could live or die on its own merits and if the market materalized a full, professional translation could be justified, perhaps even as a port for a system more traditionally poised to sell Japanese games to an American audience.
BEST POSSIBLE MAGAZINE TO ANNOUNCE THIS GAME:
shonen_jump-january_2008.jpg picture by bigredcoat


Shonen Jump.
Japanophile, inherently damaged by translation, faintly embarrassing to everyone involved

NEXT WEEK~!

Somehow FRAGILE DREAMS made it over to America

GOD OF WAR III  is basically just more GOD OF WAR and I don’t really see that as a bad thing

Meanwhile DRAGON AGE AWAKENING is more DRAGON AGE and that’s a very very good thing!

Posted in Wallet Abuse | 3 Comments »

The industry sucks (and we can’t do anything about it (maybe))

Posted by nfinit on March 7, 2010

miners-1911.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Activision development: Basically the same thing as being an underage coal miner in the early 1900's

One of the interesting developments of the past week that suddenly large swaths of the gaming community have come to the sudden  realization that the gaming industry is sort of a scummy business.

Take this whole fiasco with Infinity Ward, for instance.  As little as three weeks ago, Activision’s Bobby Kotick offered a mea culpa of sorts to the virulently anti-developer stance his company had adopted since its rise to power atop the gaming industry.  He expressed concern that he was seen as a heartless jerk; that Activision had made a mistake in stripping Guitar Hero from its creators, that the company as a whole was seeking a more enlightened stance in publisher/developer relations.  Then this week he promptly announced his intentions to piss all over this small smoldering  coal of good will by sending hired goons to Infinity Ward to strip its creators free of Call of Duty.

Then you have Ubisoft, who decided that, “for our own good”, Assassin’s Creed 2 will not allow gamers to save games to the  thier own hard drives, instead forcing a constant, monitored connection to Ubisoft’s home servers in order to save progress.  It should be noted that, at the time of this writing these authentication servers are in fact, offline, making it impossible for paying Assassin’s Creed II customers to make any progress in their games, whereas users of pirated versions of Assassin’s Creed 2– whom, of course, this whole Digital Rights Management scheme was supposed to shut out– have been happily playing hacked versions of this same game since release without any interruption of service.

Or the myriad of other  regressive business practices the gaming industry is guilty of, such as the revelations of RockStar Spouse, where we learned that Rockstar was guilty of Nike sweatshop-levels of white slavery in lieu of responsible production schedules.  Or the advent of activation keys hidden as downloadable content that would lock out consumers of used games of if they don’t pay Electronic Arts a ten dollar online extortion fee.

What choice do gamers have when faced with a company like Ubisoft, who’ve shown outright contempt for the PC gamer market, or Activision, who’s internal corporate politics you may not agree with, or a company like Rockstar that treat their employees as little more than sweat shop workers?
miners-1911.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Let's be honest. Halliburton could pay Blackwater in truckloads of dead puppies to fund this game and I'd still buy it.

The easy answer to boycott these companies, but it’s also the easiest option to dismiss.  The problem with gaming is that you’re being sold on an experience you can’t get anywhere else.  If you don’t agree with Proctor and Gamble’s corporate policies you can always sign a petition and turn to store brand toothpaste and peanut butter until the corporate giant finally  offers some sort of concession to your concerns.  Ubisoft, meanwhile, completely owns the Splinter Cell experience.  Gamers have been bereft of the particular type of gaming experience that Splinter Cell provides for nearly four years.  If you want to boycott Ubisoft and still want to play more Splinter Cell, where do you go?  Replay Splinter Cell:  Chaos Theory for the thirteenth time?  Convince yourself that Metal Gear Solid 4 is enjoyable?  Play Arkham Asylum and pretend that the Joker is some sort of deranged Russian mobster and that Sam Fisher has developed an inexplicable latex fetish?

Worse, the number of gamers clued into corporate malfeasance is dwarfed by the volume of gamers that simply don’t pay attention to this sort of thing, and even that small informed market is fractured into camps of virulently pro-publisher corporate fanboys who are willing to play the game regardless if corporate irresponsibility.  There is only a small number of dedicated pro-consumer advocates willing to shut themselves out of an entire publisher’s worth of gaming just to prove a moral point– and even then you can’t really entirely trust your fellow gamers not to buy the game on sale or used.
And no, buying used isn’t really an answer, either.  One of the defining trends of this console generation has been the ability of publishers to monetize a  game regardless of how much you actually paid for it, or even if the publisher was shut out of the initial sale altogether.  Buy Assassin’s Creed 2 used from GameStop?  Fine.  Good luck buying the online-only expansion pack Battle of Flori used.  (All this is of course ignoring that GameStop is itself pretty fucking reprehensible in that they’ve managed to convert a huge chunk of the gaming retail landscape into the world’s most successful pawn shop chain.)
Is piracy a valid answer?  I’m unconvinced.  For one, publishers have long shown an inability to tie in download rates with actual numbers of sales lost; for another it’s just as likely to result in even more punitive corporate policy toward paying consumers.
But all of this ignores the larger point– Publishers are unable or unwilling to connect sales to retail reality.  If you ask EA why their games don’t sell on the Wii, they won’t tell you it’s because Wii owners view EA games as broken ports of fully functional HD console counterparts, but instead because Nintendo’s own offerings on the Wii are too strong to overcome. It is equally unlikely that Ubisoft will be able to point to their prohibitive and punishing anti-consumer tactics as the reason the PC version of Assassin’s Creed 2 will falter at retail; they’ll instead blame the fact that the DRM scheme was not strong enough and release a new plan that will incorporate the mandatory presence of an armed Imperial interrogation droid to upload your saves onto.
So if pro-advocacy gamers can’t hope to have a visible impact on a publisher’s bottom line, what avenues do we have to voice our displeasure at  irresponsible  corporate practices?
There’s the Entertainment Consumer’s Association, but they seem more focused on saving games from government regulation than corporate malfeasance.  The ECA has remained silent on issues such as Rockstar Spouse, punitive DRM and Day-One DLC–  Indeed, their boilerplate sounds more like a pro-publisher advocacy group than anything remotely concerning gamer advocacy– Their entire “fair use” guideline in the ECA mission statement is… well, quite simply a guide “line”:

The Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) understands and respects the careful balance that must exist between the rights of copyright owners and the right of copyrighted material consumers.

That’s it.  That’s the ESC’s lone statement regarding consumer rights and concerns vs publishers, despite the name “Electronic Consumer’s Association.  I suppose this is only to be expected coming from an organization founded by a guy who used to be president of a retail trade organization that went on to become The Entertainment Merchants Association.

miners-1911.jpg picture by bigredcoat

If at some point Jack becomes more relevant and/or dangerous than envelopes of mysterious powder showing up in the mail maybe it'd make sense to pay attention to him.

(It would be unfair of me not to mention that the ECA’s sister publication, Gamepolitics.com, reports on matters such as the Infinity Ward fiasco and Ubisoft’s adventures in DRM, but while the site remains useful as an information portal, it’s very mission statement requires that it concern itself primarily with anti-regulatory screed and not actual consumer advocacy.  Oh, and Jack Thompson because apparently it’s 2002 and Jack Thompson is relevant.)

So are publisher-wary gamers to be left without a voice?  Is gamer advocacy doomed to remain deciding to deny yourself content based on personal ethics with no unifying message behind that decision?  Perhaps.  However– and this is probably an insane, completely impractical idea– we need to remember that entities like Ubisoft, Activision, 2k and EA are publicly held companies.  Can an organization exist who’s sole purpose is to collect dues with which to buy company stock when the gaming public becomes concerned with that publisher’s direction?  I don’t even know if that sort of thing is legal or not, but it’s a fun idea to throw about, provided you can trust the people running this organization not to blow this money on a shopping spree in  Akihabara.  I mean, we are gamers, after all.

Since I have no real point to this update, I’d like to close with mention of a project that had no real point in and of itself.  While researching the Entertainment Consumer Association on Wikipedia, I came across something called The Scratchware Manifesto.  It’s dated now, having been written in 2000 and mentioning things like John Romero’s Diakatana without it somehow incorporating it into the punchline of a joke, but the concerns it brings up are still relevant to gamer and developer concerns with the industry today, including subjects such as the prohibitive business practices of Software Ect (now Gamestop) and the same development Death March concerns that would be echoed by Rockstar Spouse nearly a decade later.  And while the document itself is charmingly rabble rousing (evocative of an era before the aughts crushed our collective hopes and dreams and left us walking husks) it does bring up the idea of using our money to instead support what it calls “scratchware” or what we now refer to as indie gaming, small teams of developers working free of the publishing corporate infrastructure and distributing games directly to customers via download.  So the seeds for this sort of movement have been dormant for a while now, and with the advent of widespread digital distribution and the maturation of the indie gaming scene perhaps something more can be made of this.  However even the Scratchware Manifesto has its risks, as the big publishers themselves are starting to invest in independent gaming.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

An average of 75%

Posted by nfinit on March 6, 2010

(Originally posted on 6-4-07 at bigredcoat.blogspot.com)

Friend of mine (mcc over on the Platformers board) whipped this up with about five minutes work over at Gamerankings.com and one of those fancy Apple Mac machines that makes graphs.

What you’re looking at are game review scores for every console made since the Dreamcast back in 1999.  And while it’s hard to tell what line from which console, that’s not the important bit, it’s the numbers themselves that are interesting.

The vast majority of game review sites and magazines use a 10 point scale to hand out reviews. As logic would have it, the higher on the scale the better the game.  You see (or should see, rather) very few tens handed out (perhaps one or two a year per source), 8-9 would represent exceptional games that should not be missed if circumstances allow, 5 is (if logic follows) average, anything below that generally not worth your time unless you’re desperate or an aficionado.

Now, here’s the important bit.  On this sort of scale, five should represent the average.  As the industry average, most games– if not the vast majority– should fall somewhere close to five.  But they don’t.  In fact, very few fives are being handed out, at least in comparison to scores further up the chain.

So what’s happening here?  The cynic in me would suggest that this is a clear indication that game scores are being bought, or that game magazines are reluctant to hand out scores that may hamper the advertising budget.  But there are other explanations– game reviewers being game fans themselves, they’re more liable to like all games and thus more prone to handing out above average scores.

You can’t have a system where the vast majority of anything is “above average”  Average should be just that – the average. But the implication here is that most games are exceptional gaming experiences, and that simply can’t work.  Not only does that fly in the logic of the word average, it’s also a befuddling thing to say to anyone who actually spends money on video games- we know full well that compared to the massive amounts of dross released each week that are very few games out there actually worth spending money on, maybe two or three per month on average.

What we have here is clear evidence that the review system, as it stands, simply cannot be trusted.  This may not be an issue to most hardcore gamers, being the sort that can easily find sources of trusted opinions via message boards and blogs, but for the layperson, the mainstream buyer that represents where most game buys are coming from, the review system is all they have, and it’s failing them.

Edit:  mcc Mac’ed up a couple more graphs that are even more telling.  First:

Note how very few games exist around the 50% mark.  Compare that to the mid 80’s onward to about 93 or so, when the graph trais off at 97-  There are at least as many games receiving 85-95  as there are 50-55%, if not more!

This last he created is quite damning.

Text his, not mine.  There is no way the current review system can be said to be functional!  It works on the premise that the vast majority of games are actually above average!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Wallet Abuse Wednesday 3-3-10: Bad Company 2, Lunar, LAZ0R EYES

Posted by nfinit on March 3, 2010

So remember last week when it appeared that Bobby Kotick was contrite and apologetic towards coming off as the Darth Vader for the entire gaming industry and said he wished he could foster a closer working relationship with the teams under his command?


Activision announced that Sledgehammer Games, an internal studio founded by former Visceral Games (Dead Space) leadership, will develop the next Call of Duty game, and the publisher confirmed the departure of Infinity Ward founders Vince Zampella and Jason West.Sledgehammer was formed last year by Glen A. Schofield and Michael Condrey, the executive producer and senior development director of Dead Space. The pair remains at the studio’s helm under Activision’s new plan.Sledgehammer’s appointment as a steward of the multi-billion-dollar military shooter franchise allows Activision to maintain the series’ yearly release schedule. Longtime series co-developer Treyarch will release its own Call of Duty game this year, with Sledgehammer’s version following in 2011.


Evil Dickhead Bobby Kotick is back, baby!  And as a srz gamez bloggar I could not be happier, as more Bobby Kotick shenanigans means more easy content for me, starting with this week’s review gimmick!  I mean, provided we all accept that I’m actually using last week’s gimmick, but this time with evil lazor eyes.

kotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoat

As you may have noticed, the more popular and successful your studio may be, the greater the chance a drunken, enraged Bobby Kotick will show up at your offices with a baseball bat and an army of lawyers.  So let’s imagine the hypothetical situation– Each of the companies below have been bought out by Activision and the respective games recently released.  How likely will this game lead to the horrible, bloody, violent end of your studio?

50 Classic Games (DS)

I contend that every word in the title “50 Classic Games” is a lie.  Just take a look at the supplied list of games
Now while you have to give Destineer games credit in not listing Minesweeper 3 times, there’s about half a dozen entries for Mahjongg and I’m pretty sure “Match Five” can be played in the same fashion as “Match Four” if you simply stop at four matches instead of going all the way to five.
Also, they’re playing fast and loose with the definition of the word “games”.  I mean, hunting for differences between two pictures isn’t really a “game” as much as it is “employing basic observation skills”.
Destineer spins a web of lies and deceit wherever it spreads its foul taint upon gaming– But the most damaging, most insulting, most dangerous lie comes from the word “classics”.  “Same”?  “Trace?”  “Memo Pair”?  I’m pretty sure if “memo pair” were a classic it would have at some point appeared on the Genesis and/or Dreamcast.
The thing that astounds me about the existence of stuff lie 50 Classic Games– or most of Destineer’s DS catalog, for that matter– is that in any sane world, the worthwhile stuff on this list would be resident on your DS’ internal memory at all times anyway.  Shouldn’t the DS ship with a Sodoku client?  Or Mahjongg?  Isn’t it sort of insane that I’d have to carry around a separate cart for this sort of crap?
WILL EVIL BOBBY KILL YOU FOR MAKING THIS GAME?
kotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoatkotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoatkotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoatkotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoat

You’re fucked, Destineer! One good thing about 50 Classic Games:  The title may be a three-way lie, the games within may be terrible, and the developers themselves probably resort to heavy drinking to absolve themselves of the shame of producing this game, but it’s cheap and it sells to middle America, and those are things Bobby Kotick loves to hear.  Well, that and the cries of your children as they’re told there won’t be a Christmas.
Alice in Wonderland (Wii)

It’s hard to get a handle on Alice in Wonderland, as all the gaming sites are treating this game as exactly how it presents itself– a budget priced movie tie-in, so no one is willing to spend any manpower getting information out of the developers, and the developers themselves– hailing from an unnamed company within the megacorp known simply as “Disney” has had no interest in providing media outside of a handful of official screenshots with no context whatsoever. However, it is interesting that Disney has deemed it necessary that  each of these screenshots be emblazoned with a “DISNEY ALICE IN WONDERLAND: THE VIDEOGAME” watermark lest these Wii screenshots be confused for the generally insane shit going down within the actual movie.

Note: Not a blur filter. The Wii is notorious for it's inability to properly render creatures with naturally occurring glamours such as elves.

Since this is one of the rare pieces of PR Disney has provided, I’m going to use it to suss out the plot for Alice in Wonderland Wii– which has the player trying to break The White Rabbit from his newfound absinthe addiction.  Note that there’s a nontrivial chance that this may actually be the plot of the movie itself.

WILL EVIL BOBBY KILL YOU FOR MAKING THIS GAME?

kotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoat

Unnamed Disney Studio is fine.  Sure, Alice in Wonderland was cheap to make, but it’s only selling for $40 and it’s a good bet the license takes up a good chunk of that.  Then there’s the problem where only 300 3rd party Wii games sell every year, and most of those will go toward games like Country Fitness Party or Geezers Point At Screen.  Bobby doesn’t want part of that scene.Battle of Giants:  Mutant Insects (DS)

This thing is almost certainly godawful, but I also know full well that if I saw this game on the shelves in 1988 I would have sold all my Atari crap that very day to buy a DS and then spent the rest of my childhood convincing myself this was a good game despite all evidence to the contrary.  Also maybe lay some money down on the Dodgers.
WILL EVIL BOBBY KILL YOU FOR MAKING THIS GAME?
kotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoatkotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoatkotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoat

Ubisoft Quebec City employees might want to brush up on how to say “Thank You For Shopping  Wal-Mart” in French.  Battle of Giants is already a franchise, what with Mutant Insects and Dinosaurs already under one banner, and there’s just no limit to how many legendary giant things you can get to fight one another for our amusement.  Plus, this will sell even better to the multiplayer HD crowd as a 3rd person over the shoulder Rampage.

Battlefield Bad Company 2 (PS360)
For those into this sort of thing (and note that this quite a sizable percentage of you), this installment of Battlefield isn’t just game of the week, it’s the game you’ve been looking forward to all year and quite possibly the only other game you bought since Call of Duty Six, with the possible exception of Army of Two, Two.

Come to think of it, this has been a rather exceptional run for the brodude gamer–  Between those three titles and Halo 3 Part 2, you’ve had something like a four-month stretch where you’ve had new stuff to buy every single month.  That’s great.  Now will you people please fuck off and give Bioware back?
For those of you not into Co-op friendly tactical shooters be aware that not only are you paying sixty bucks for a six-hour long game, if you’ve not already pre-ordered Bad Company 2 from GameStop then you’ll have the entire Squad Rush mode cut off from you for an entire month, by which time everyone will have moved on to Call of Duty 6 again.  So hopefully no one will actually bother with Squad Rush.
WILL EVIL BOBBY KILL YOU FOR MAKING THIS GAME?
kotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoatkotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoatkotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoatkotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoatkotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoat
When Bobby Kotick travels to Thailand to sodomize 9-year-old boys, he makes them wear a mask with the word “DICE” written on the back.

Dante’s Inferno (PSP)

No one actually spends money on PSP games, so the determining factor of if you should play Dante’s Inferno or not actually depends on if it’s worth dedicating 1.3 gigs of memory stick space until you inevitably wipe it out to make room for tentacle hentai.  To that end, you need to know three things about Dante’s Inferno PSP:1: The Joystiq gameplay impressions of the build playable at Tokyo Game Show came away as glitchy, uninspired mess

2: Visceral Games didn’t come up with an original game for the PSP version— Instead, they’ve tried to cram the PS360 game into the PSP, creating a sub-PS2 approximation of a game that’s entire selling point is that it’s God of War for 360 owners.

3:  Even the grown-up version of the game had you dealing with utter bullshit that should never have escaped QA, resulting in a 2/5 review score from Giant Bomb

So why aren’t you just playing Chains of Olympus instead?

WILL EVIL BOBBY KILL YOU FOR MAKING THIS GAME?

kotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoatkotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoat

When Evil Bobby is on a mean drunk and looking for lives to ruin, he has no interest in developers that have already shown themselves to be a flash in the pan.  Visceral already knows they’re fucked if they can’t make good on Jack the Ripper, there’s no thrill in crushing a soul with no hope left in it.

Lips Party Classics (360)

Man, what the fuck happened to iNiS?  These were the geniuses who brought us Guitaroo Man, Oendan and Elite Beat Agents and now they’re reduced to releasing Singstar ripoffs while the entire rhythm game genre peaked and promptly fell off the map.  As far as Lips Party Classics goes, aside from only being the second worse misapplication of the word “classics” to appear on this update so far, it includes “I Touch Myself” by The Divinyls, which means this may well be the best game possible to expose to drunk girlfriends.

WILL EVIL BOBBY KILL YOU FOR MAKING THIS GAME?
kotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoatkotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoatkotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoatkotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoatkotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoat
Rhythm game easily disseminated into DLC?  Check.  Soulless development studio already resigned to a fate of churning out interminable sequels to a franchise no one cares about?  Check.  Plastic add-on that can easily cause the game in question to be sold for five times its actual cost?  Check check check check check!  Okay sure, so iNiS won’t provide the thrill of the chase that an Infinity Ward or Red Octane can provide, but he knows full well that all he needs is one success out of this team to get them to foolishly believe in riches and happiness and possibly making something that’s not in any way related to listening to REM sixteen hours a day before BAM!  You show up at the offices in a leather gimp suit with a whip, a box full of pink slips and tweaking your own nipples.

Lunar Silver Star Harmony (PSP)


So we’re finally going to have a quality version of Lunar 1 sans references to Paula Abdul and Bill Clinton– this is no thanks to Vic Ireland and his now-defunct Working Designs, mind you.  If he had his way the game not only would feature Simon Cowell and Sarah Palin reference, but he’d strip the experience point  savegame function from the game and make you complete a game of J-Pop Lumnies in order to collect exp to either level up or save.  Thing I’m trying to get across here is that Vic Ireland ruins games and I still blame him for tricking me into buying a Saturn back in 1995.

XSeed’s version of Lunar, meanwhile, promises to be the most pure version of Lunar ever brought over to America, and the one closest to Game Art’s original vision, sans pop culture references from the early 90’s.  Whether this is desirable or not depends entirely on exactly how much nostalgia for the Sega CD you’re able to muster and if you’re still able to convince yourself after all this time that the Lunar series is the equal to the RPGs released by Square in the same time period.  Me, I’ve not been able to do that in a long while, and I greatly fear that XSeed has overstated the amount of nostalgia left out there for an RPG series that was probably dated when it was released and who’s only real hook may well have been well-voiced anime cutscenes, back in a day and age when putting FMV in a videogame seemed novel and less like a chore.

All of which is a shame, as the world and characters of Lunar is totally worth going back to, it’s just that the game that world is built around has been aging and creaking for the better part of twenty years now.  What Lunar and Lunar 2 are in desperate need of are remakes, not a never-ending cycle of ports for an increasingly marginalized market.  Unfortunately that’s probably not the thing Game Arts is capable of doing in this day and age, unless what you actually want to play is a 2.5 mashup brawler featuring Yoshi and Casey Jones. Maybe it’s time to just sell the right to someone like Atlus and see if they can do anything new with the concept while still treating the source material as something better than a foundation for which to build a job application for Mad Magazine.

WILL EVIL BOBBY KILL YOU FOR MAKING THIS GAME?

kotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoat

It is unclear If Bobby Kotick is aware Japan exists, but at any rate “XSeed” and “Success” go together about as well as “peanut butter” and “Olive oil”.

MLB 10:  The Show

MLB 2k10

Look.  I’m a Cincy Reds fan.  My dad was a Cincy Reds fan from back before the Big Red Machine.  I idolized Pete Rose and it turned out he was the biggest scumbag in baseball history.  My team hasn’t been relevant since Clinton was in office and they haven’t had a winning season since before the Twin Towers were primarily remembered as just a really bad WWF tag team.  For an unreasonable chunk of the past decade the only interesting thing to come out of any season was waiting for Griff Jr’s hamstring to finally whip free from his leg and slap Austin Kearns in the eye.
What I’m trying to say is that it’s very difficult for me to summon any interest in baseball.  I know it’d make more sense for me to pick up the Mets as my home team, but I feel that’d be disrespecting the memory of my father.  So there’s that.
As far as these games go?  With any luck MLB 2k10 will still be hilarious
Also as per usual if you own a PS3, buy The Show.  If you don’t, I hope you enjoy knowing you are playing a sub-par baseball game and can’t do anything about it!
WILL EVIL BOBBY KILL YOU FOR MAKING THIS GAME?

kotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoatkotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoat

The good news for people working for these studios is that you produce a game every year.  Bobby likes that.  The bad news is, by necessity, you can only produce one game a year and DLC is kinda pointless.  Plus it’s unclear if anyone actually makes money off sports licenses anymore.

Pet Pals:  New Leash on Life (DS)

In Pet Pals: New Leash on Life, players can take part in each animal’s story and control their fate. You step into the role of a veterinarian as you care for pet friends of all shapes and sizes. Take part in over 30 animal cases created by practicing veterinarians from around the world.

SPOILER ALERT:  THEY ALL END IN EUTHANASIA
(Also, I keep waiting for one of these games to screw up and advocate bringing something exotic and impractical into your home just to be forced to release it into the wild and destroy the ecosystem, which would then dovetail nicely into the young boy’s-targeted title, Pet Pals:  Exotic Pet Bounty Hunter.)
WILL EVIL BOBBY KILL YOU FOR MAKING THIS GAME?

kotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoatkotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoatkotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoatkotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoat

Did I mention that the Pet Pals games were also produced by Destineer?  Of all the divisions Destineer houses, pray the most for the Pet Pals people to stay away from the horrible influence of the terrible, terrible Evil Bobby.  Their childlike enthusiasm and innocence will be all the sweeter for Bobby to behold as he laces the snacks in the break room vending machine with razor blades.

Spongebob’s Boating Bash (DS, Wii)

Oh god how is Spongebob still around
WILL EVIL BOBBY KILL YOU FOR MAKING THIS GAME?

kotick2tiny.gif picture by bigredcoat

It is unknown which division of THQ is developing this particular Spongebob game, and likely for good reason– they’re probably suicidally depressed that they’re making Spongebob games, and THQ would like to keep their identities a secret for that inevitable day that they’re all found crammed into the lead developer’s garage with his car running.  There is no joy or hope to be plucked from the hearts of these poor doomed souls, and it’s not even like iNis where you could sell a ten-dollar microphone in every game and sell it back for $90.

Sonic Classic Collection (DS)

If you can stomach the idea of paying thirty bucks for four sonic games on the DS instead of paying twenty bucks for these four games and roughly three dozen other titles on the Sonic Genesis Classics collection– well, you’re sick and I hate you and stay way from my (hypothetical) children.
Really though, it’s 2010 and we still can’t compress Sega CD down to the point where it’ll fit on a DS cart?
WILL EVIL BOBBY KILL YOU FOR MAKING THIS GAME?
Bobby Kotick may be a lot of things– Greedy, a dick, abusive, a liar, a drunken sexual deviant who can only achieve erection while wiping someone’s 401k clean from the company database– but he’s not stupid.  Sega’s never going to have another success out of a Sonic game.  There’s nothing here for him to destroy, the fruit of Sonic was left to rot on the limb.
NEXT WEEK~!

I will explain to you why it’s stupid to spend fifty American dollars RESIDENT EVIL 5 GOLD EDITION when the regular edition is sitting a shelf away for $25 OH WAIT I JUST DID

You should be happy that YAKUZA 3 exits, goddammit, and also you should be happy that Sega is repeatedly kicking you in the groin
I’m sure there’s somewhere left where FINAL FANTASY THIRTEEN is a cultural event, but damned if I could tell you where.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »