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Archive for June, 2010

Wallet Abuse Wednesday 6-30-10: Gothic Lolis and Treasure sequels.

Posted by nfinit on June 30, 2010

Publisher:  Aksys Games
Developer:  Crave
Platforms:  Xbox 360

Let’s get the obvious points of contention out of the way.

Yes, Deathsmiles is a 2d shmup, sold on-disc, for fifty dollars, in Two Thousand Ten, Anno Domini.

And yes, it’s a 2d shump on-disc, for fifty bucks, in 2010, of an arcade game released three years ago.

That said.  Deathsmiles is a three-year old 2d shmup that probably deserves Fifty US Obama dollars if for no other reason than you’ll never see as many sprites in your lifetime than Deathsmiles pumps out on average every thirty seconds.

But even among hardcore shmup fans, Deathsmiles is hard to justify, and  publisher Aksys seems to understand this, which is why the retail package (which continues Aksys’ strange habit of labeling the only available retail package as “limited edition)  is crammed full of extraneous crap, including a 360 faceplate which was far more interesting two weeks ago before the 360S  made the entire idea of a full-sized firebreathing Xbox 360 gauche.

That, and y’know.  If anyone in the history of western civilization ever gave a shit about Xbox 360 faceplates.

Deathsmiles is an anachronism, stuck in a weird era where the publisher seems unwilling for whatever reason to sell the game through Xbox Live Arcade, whereas it’s also clearly not something really intended for retail shelves in the year 2010.  However Aksys has built its entire business model around catering to insane otaku, and god bless them for it.  There’s also always the chance that Aksys simply won’t bother printing very many of these boxes; it’s going to be hard to convince Gamestop to devote shelf space for something that takes up as much space as Deathsmile’s “Limited Edition” box.  What I’m trying to say here is that if you do see this thing on shelves, it might be worth your while to pick up as shmup fans are clearly insane and possess deep lines of credit.

As for the game itself, it’s a gothic lolita take on the old Capcom classic arcade shooter Forgotten Worlds, in that you have to pay attention to both sides of the screen and you have an R-Type-like drone.  If you’re the sort of person who is into Deathsmiles then you saw the words “Gothic Lolita Forgotten Worlds” and immediately hit  If you’re not, then there’s nothing I can say that’d change your mind regarding this game’s worth, save that this is from Crave, the guys who developed the DoDonPachi.  If the words “DoDonPachi” meant anything to you, then probably you’re aware of Deathsmiles.

So is there any argument for buying Deathsmiles for people who are not already aware of Deathsmiles and likely already own it?  None whatsoever!  Save your fifty bucks and buy Red Dead Redemption already.

The Last Airbender
Publisher:  THQ
Developer:  THQ Studios Australia
Platforms:  Nintendo DS; Nintendo Wii

There are already three existing mediocre-to-terrible Airbender games available for the Wii, and pulling out information for this particular incarnation is proving difficult, if not impossible.  I’m not even entirely sure that box art is correct and this whole thing isn’t some sort of weird software hiccup on’s end where the stocker software just assumed that there should be a Wii game release associated with the movie in some way.

Should this game prove to actually exist, I posit that it turns out that what’s in the box is a random drawing from one of the three previous Wii Airbender games, and the Airbender target audience is either unable to tell the difference or unable to do anything about it once they get home and realize they’ve been tricked.

Lego Harry Potter:  Years 1-4
Publisher:  Warner Brothers
Developer:  Traveller’s Tales
Platforms:  Every Fucking Thing.

This game represents a remarkable confluence of amazingly popular things that I either actively loathe or have no clear opinion about.  As such I’m utterly incapable of saying anything interesting about Lego Harry Potter other that subtitling this game “Years 1-4” somehow manages to be both awkward and overtly cynical.

Also I’m not writing about Lego games until I finally see Lego Dirty Harry Collection.  YOu own everything necessary to make this happen, Warner Brothers.  Stop letting America down.

Naughty Bear
Publisher:  505 Games
Developer:  Artificial Mind and Movement
Platforms:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

I want to like the idea of a manacle teddy bear driven to the edge of his tolerance and sanity by his uppity friends and exacting horrible, stuffing-wrenching vengeance upon them all for transgressions no greater than not being invited to a birthday party, but two things give me pause.

One:  505 Games.

Two:  These guys couldn’t get Wet right, and that was based entirely around the premise of a woman in tight pants shimmying around in slow motion while shooting things.

So yeah, this thing is going to be wretched, as indicated by its Metacritic average of 4.5.


981294_20100625_790screen002.jpg picture by bigredcoat
This could have been amazing.

Ninety Nine Nights 2
Publisher:  Konami
Developer:  Q Entertainment
Platform:  Xbox 360

I’m not going to say that the first Ninety Nine Nights was my most regrettable game bought purely to pad out my library right after buying a game console– that honor goes to the truly wretched experience that can only be conveyed via Dark Castle for the early 90’s era Sega Genesis– But man, its way up there.

That said, finding anything of value during the 360’s launch window proved to be an enormous stretch, and N3 wasn’t even the worst of that lot.  For no particular reason, here’s my top five regrettable events of the 360’s first year:

1:  Rare: Savior of the 360 launch.

Kameo: Elements of Power and Perfect Dark Zero are sort of like the Debbie Gibson/Tiffany of console gaming.  No one admits buying the goddamned things, but surely a lot of them were sold as for the first two years of the 360’s existence the used racks at Gamestop was absolutely flooded with twelve dollar copies of Rare’s one last great stab at relevancy.  Keep in mind, these are the same guys who are being entrusted with making the Natal/Kinect launch work.  I love Microsoft.

2:  Project Gotham Racer 3 receives a 90% from Edge.

Really, Edge?  We’re going to take PGR2, redesign the GUI so it needs its own FAQ, do nothing about the psychotic CPU AI, and then rate it twenty points higher?

We’re supposed to be taking you guys seriously?

3:  Dead or Alive 3.

This was still back when we all figured that a console needed a good fighting game at launch.  You’ll all notice that neither the PS3 nor the Wii launched with a fighting game and no one cared.  Thanks for that, Team Ninja.

4:  The 360 HD-DVD Drive.

Remember all those conversations where we nervously tried to convince ourselves that Microsoft execs weren’t really going to try to release games on HD-DVD and fracture the market like a bunch of Sega execs on a three-day coke bender?  Fun times!

Then Sony backed a semi-truck full of cash into the lobby of Warner Studios and made the whole point moot.  Thanks, Sony!

5:  Ninety Nine Nights

Dynasty Warrior, with huge Korean-drawn tits.  That’s not a bad combination, and at least the hordes of on-screen enemies was probably the best thing around to show off the early graphical prowress of the 360, provided you ignored the bit where 96.75% of the on-screen enemies were using the exact same model and were constantly stuck in the same animation frame when not attacking or being hit.

I’d never played a Dynasty Warrior-type game before or since, so I’m not a good judge as to N3’s particular merits.  But it seemed shallow and dumb, and wandering aimlessly about the map with little clue on where to go while constantly being told your forces were being slaughtered without your help crossed the threshold that separates “tense” from “nerve-wracking and unfun”

As far as NNN2? (wait, what do we do with this?  Is it now N3^2?) The developers have promised more of the same, only prettier, harder, and with co-op.  And if you’re a fan of the first game these are all fantastic things to hear, but I can’t imagine those people actually exist.

Sin and Punishment Star Successor
Publisher:  Nintendo
Developer:  Treasure
Platforms:  Nintendo Wii

If you’re a Wii owner and at least somewhat interested in hardcore gaming experiences and have fond memories of Panzer Dragoon please prove bitter old men like me wrong and buy this fucking game.

Okay yes, it’s a rail shooter.  In that way it’s not unlike any number of pseudo-hardcore games on the Wii that got chopped down from their “full-sized” HD console counterparts, lie Dead Space Extraction or Umbrella Chronicles.  But this is a rail shooter by Treasure, the guys who gave you Ikaruga and Mischief Makers and the first Sin and Punishment that you’ve only recently been allowed to play over Virtual Console.

Moreover, it’s a rail shooter that’s based around the concepts inherent to the Wiimote, and not a castrated light gun game.  The only detraction that can really be gathered from reviews is the rather short length– which is forgivable when you consider you can’t really keep up with 6-12 hours of what Star Successor has to offer without tearing a rotator cuff.  Also it’s basically an arcade game, and while we would all like to exist in a world where something like Star Successor can last for an entire holiday weekend, we instead would up in a universe where Assassin’s Creed II is inexplicably 40 hours long and Mad World lasts 45 minutes.

Publisher:  Activision (boo, hiss)
Developer:  Raven Entertianment
Platform:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Yes, it’s Another Damned HD FPS game, but it’s Another Damned HD FPS game where you get to fuck around with the flow of time to a localized extent and a large chunk of the game takes place in 1950’s Stalinist Russia.  So right away there’s at least three things that greatly interest me in Singularity, and while the reviews tend to deride the game’s constant and obvious references to Bioshock 1, to me that’s even more of a selling point.
That said, allusions to it being “flawed” abound, but I can deal with that– it’s better to have a flawed masterpiece than a game that started off without any pretensions to being great in the first place.  I’m not sure it’s a sixty dollar game, though.

Sniper:  Ghost Warrior
Publisher:  Naverre
Developer:  City Interactive
Platform:  Xbox 360

Developer’s best known game (and only other console title):  Chicken Riot.
MSRP:  Forty Dollars:

Trinity Universe
Publisher:  NIS America
Developer:  Gust, Idea Factory
Platforms:  PlayStation 3

To fans of both series a crossover JRPG between Disgaea and Atelier sounds like a good idea, but people unfamiliar with the vagaries of NIS publishing should consider two things:
1:  It was largely developed by Gust and Idea Factory, the people who somehow managed to fuck up a Namco/Capcom crossover JRPG

2:  The publisher has recently admitted that it’s close association with Sony has forced it into releasing bad games in America.
If you’re a fan of either of these series then there’s nothing I can say that will dissuade you from buying what’s almost certainly going to be a bad videogame, and at least you’ll finally see the Disgaea crew in 3d (albeit a half-hearted attempt that looks more suited to a PS2 game), but surely if you’re just looking for a new JRPG to play there are better options on the horizon.

TNA Cross The Line
Publisher:  SouthPeak Games
Developer:  Midway Studios Los Angeles
Platform:  PlayStation Portable.

One could probably come up with a convergence of events that’s more inherently disappointing than playing a TNA Playstation 2 game on your PSP, but it’d require you get on a bus and travel through the ruins of Detroit while doing so.  Also lots of cheap booze.
Also I”m pretty sure most of the TNA roster as it existed when Cross the Line was first released no longer exits anymore and/or have suffered storyline changes that make the characters unrecognizable, such as Abyss:  The John Cena of TNA or Sting not being a mopey dick.
Oh yeah, also the ring configuration as presented in this game no longer exists as it is now four sides instead of six.  Thanks, Uncle Eric!
CRACKDOWN 2  is here to save your city via judicious and creative use of shipping crates and semi trucks
I’ve recently destroyed my PSP and now I regret it because PERSONAL THREE PORTABLE is here, bitches!
TOURNAMENT OF LEGENDS is something that exists and will be soundly mocked.


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Wallet Abuse Wednesday 6-23-10: A Transformers Game That Doesn’t Suck!

Posted by nfinit on June 22, 2010

10 Minute Solutions
Publisher:  Activision
Developer:  Unnamed Game Developers Begging For The Sweet Release of Death
Platform:  Wii
There was a point in time– and this may still hold true– where the Wii Balance Board install base was larger than than the total number of PlayStation 3s sold.  Despite this, third parties (and even Nintendo itself) has refused to use the Balance Board for any interesting applications.  Whether is is due to Nintendo’s inborn recalcitrance to support it’s own peripherals or the fact that third parties see the Balance Board as little more than a way to sell people on the idea of losing weight while playing a “videogame”, it’s something to keep in mind six months down the line when the Kinect library consists of Kameo: Elements of Power Spastic Edition and seventeen hundred downloadable updates for Jillian Micheal’s Fitness Ultimatum (now with graphics!).
10 Minute Solutions will only set you back twenty bucks (keep in mind I’m using the hypothetical “you” that may one day eat an entire box of Oreos in one sitting and may be overcome with shame enough to buy a Wii fitness program) but one has to ask exactly what 10 Minute Solutions brings to the table that Wii Fit or EA Sports Active weren’t already capable of.  Does there exist an audience that churns through Wii fitness management programs the way Dudebros cycle between Modern Warfare clones?
All I know is that as long as Activision is using the Balance Board for crap like this, they’re not using the Balance Board to remake an interactive version of Freeway.

Redneck Racing Box Art
Calvin Tucker’s Redneck: Farm Animal Racing Tournament
Publisher:  Zoo Games
Developer:  Zoo Games Too
Platform:  Wii
Shitware developer Zoo Games has apparently turned Calvin Tucker into some sort of redneck “brand”, which must come as a shock to the real Calvin Tucker, freelance journalist for hyper-English business website
This is beyond the point that reworking Mario Kart into a “redneck” game is as weird and regressive as a Tyrone Biggums Pac-Land conversion.  If a publisher had released something along the same lines for any other ethnic/socioeconomic group they’d be fired out of a cannon into the Pacific Ocean.  Rednecks?  Sure, fine, it’s not like they have any self respect anyway, these are the same people responsible for Larry the Cable Guy’s movie career, the self-destruction of John McCain, Sarah Palin:  International Oil Expert, the inability for Ford Motors to just stay dead, and every Atlanta Braves jersey sold since 2005.
What I’m curious about is the strange convergence of Redneck culture and the Nintendo Wii.  Sure, the Wii is the biggest selling game system of the current console generation and by that alone it stands to reason it’d have a larger Redneck install base, but I’ve always been under the impression that Rednecks play Modern Warfare, Smackdown vs Raw and little else outside of that.  The Redneck audience is basically the Dudebro audience, only with less of an emphasis on personal hygiene.  Furthermore, if EA couldn’t get these people to buy a kart racer based on NASCAR, how could a farm animal Mario Kart possibly work?
Dragon Ball:  Origins 2
Publisher:  Namco Bandai
Developer:  Namcom Bandai
Platform:  Nintendo DS

If you’re at the point where you’re making a sequel to a game subtitled “origins”, maybe it’d make sense not to call it “origins” anymore as it’s obviously no longer “origins” but rather “The next part of the story”?  After all,  Dragon Ball Z:  The Next Part of the Story still sounds good.

Also at some point the Dragon Ball franchise started enjoying Dragon Ball games that weren’t mediocre 3d fighters but instead rather decent 3d adventure games, which is a nice way of saying “Zelda, but with co-op levels”

Reviews for the first game were surprisingly decent, and in the grand Namco tradition, this looks to be more of the same.

Field and Stream: Total Outdoorsman Challenge
Publisher:  505 Games
Developer:  505 Games
Platforms:  Xbox 360

Normally I’m quick to make fun of stuff like hunting simulation videogames but last week I spent something like five hours in Red Dead Redemption stalking around the tundra of not-Colorado trying to find grizzly bears to stab to death– and I wasn’t shamed by that.  In fact, I found the process of calmly laying in wait for one of nature’s most feared and respected natural killers to come within range of my Bowie knife oddly relaxing.  For those few hours I became one with a digital version of nature, peacefully taking in the beauty of the frozen wonderland before me for hours on end before engaging in a five second long knife fight that usually resulted in me loading a quicksave.  Basically what I’m saying is that  there may be a market for Cabella’s/Field and Stream/Bass Pro Shop game featuring crazed, grizzled mountain men hunting wild animals using only the most primitive tools available, up to and including dropping boulders on top of elk.

As far as this game goes?
Will some kind soul please donate an actual 360 dev kit to 505 Games so they can get rid of the Pentium III they’ve been using since late 2001?

Puzzle Quest 2
Publisher:  D3 Publisher
Developer:  Infinity Interactive
Platforms:  Nintendo DS/Xbox Live Arcade

When Puzzle Quest: Galactrix was released last year– and subsequently bombed– many gamers became worried that Infinite Interactive may have simply run into an outstanding bit of luck in the first Puzzle Quest game and would be unable to duplicate their success.  Fortunately it turns out Infinite Interactive wasn’t a one-hit-wonder, they just have the one game they’re very good at making, and that happens to be Bejeweled wrapped up in a candy shell of an RPG.

Puzzle Quest 2 mixes up the formula from the first game a bit in that you’re no longer traversing a JRPG-like overworld, instead you’re inside something that highly resembles a western-developed dungeon delving RPG where you search room by room for treasure, and whenever beset by an angry elf or orc or flame demon you engage in a game of 2 player competitive Bejewled.  For anyone who’s not played a Puzzle Quest game before this works better than it sounds, and combining the twin addictions of puzzle gaming with loot whoring is a devious, nearly cynical plan on Infinite Interactive’s part.  Remember when Google released an version of Pac-Man on the Google front page and those assholes at Rescue Time calculated that Google had deprived the global economy of 120 million dollars of lost productivity? Puzzle Quest 2 is going to be the Deepwater Horizon to Google Pac’s Exxon Valdez.
What’s weird about this revision of Puzzle Quest is that the DS version– which is missing content over the XBLA version, mind you– costs twice as much as it’s console counterpart.  I suppose this is part of the price to be paid (quite literally) for pressing a game to DS silicon, but wouldn’t it have been fair and/or lucrative to D3 Publisher to allow a DSiWare version at the same price as the XBLA game?
Transformers:  War for Cybertron
Publisher:  Activision
Developer:  High Moon Studios  (Hey!  It’s the Darkwatch guys!)
Platforms:  Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii
I’ve wondered at length about the games industry’s inability to produce a truly great Transformers videogame– after all, the idea sounds dead simple.  You’re a robot, you’re nearly invulnerable save against laser attack from other robots, you can also be a car or a jet or possibly a tape deck.  Take these concepts and wrap them up in a bunch of levels with lots of lasers and explosions and robots trying to kill you with lasers and it should work, right?
I think the problem is that there’s simply too much stuff going on in a Transformers game– it’s hard to fit in thins to do for a robot that can also be a jet that can also be a car that can also somehow be a city for other robots.  There’s a few game types that work for this (The Ultimate Alliance games come to mind), but for your standard 3rd person action game, the Transformer’s franchise can’t get out of it’s own way.
What I’m trying to convince Activision to do is to stop focusing on cramming as many Transformers into one game and focus on single robots, and release Starscream:  Intergalactic Super-Dick.
Interestingly, War For Cybertron might be our mythical Good Transformers Game, or at the very least a Decent Transformers Game.  The console version is sitting on an 85 at Metacritic, which is on the good side of average.  It appears the secret to producing a good Transformers game is to make Gears of War: Giant Robot Edition.  I’m not entirely convinced that this formula doesn’t help Gears more than it does Transformers, to be honest.
Wipe Out The Game
Publisher:  Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developer:  SCE Studio Liverpool (nee Pysgnosis)
Platform:  Nintendo Wii
A series reboot on the DS seems like an odd direction for Psygnosis to take for the WipeOut franchise, especially considering Psygnosis no longer exists and the company that legally owns the WipeOut name is now wholly owned by Sony, but weirder things have happened (such as the Sega Saturn port of WipeOut XL) and it’s not like Nintendo has any plans to do anything else with F-Zero, so why not?
wait a goddamned minute…
Oh fuck you, ABC.


Aksys Games is sitting there with a straight face and is asking you to pay fifty bucks for DEATHSMILES.  In 2010.  On disc.  I’m not making this up.

NINETY NINE NIGHTS 2 is released and I must come face to face with one of my greatest shames– ownership of Ninety Nine Nights 1.

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Wallet Abuse Wednesday 6-16-10: Phoning it in edition

Posted by nfinit on June 15, 2010

I’ve never understood the game’s industry insistence that Summer– and E3 week in particular– should be a slow time for games.

After all, people — well okay, fat gaming nerds, but still people— tend to stay inside in the Summer, where’s there’s air conditioning and iced lemonade and endless cans of sour cream and onion Pringles.  Sure, people used to go to the movies during this period, but at some point over the past year theatre owners thought it wholly reasonable to charge eighteen bucks for two hours of entertainment.

In other news I’ve not seen a movie since District 9 and I remain firmly convinced that Avatar is some form of cult.

As our earth warms and our seas boil away this problem is only going to become more pronounced, to the point where otherwise healthy people will be forced to stay inside lest their lungs catch fire upon contact with the open air.  So why is it the games industry has mandated that 90% of it’s most important titles be released in a three-month stretch leading up to Christmas?  Who thought that was a good idea?

Sure, Singularity comes out in a couple of weeks, and that probably won’t suck.  And Crackdown 2 is important, but that’s not until a week into July.  And from there there’s basically nothing on the horizon but weird Arc Systems Works shooters and some Atlus PSP stuff until Madden 11 sometime in September.

The week of E3 is all the more confusing to me.  Apparently somewhere along the line game marketing execs got hold of the idea that gamers don’t want to play games during the one time of the year that we’re most hyped about games.  This is crazy– When I watch real-time demo footage of Raiden chopping dudes into easily stackable bits in Metal Gear Solid Rising, it makes me desperately want to play -that- game, but I’m willing to settle!  I just want to chop dudes up.  The games industry could throw out some absolute crap right now and as long as it’s halfway geared toward the hardcore set I’m willing to bet it’d do decent numbers.  After all, it’s not like we have a lot of time to read game reviews in between keynote speeches.

(speaking of E3 demos– it’s 2010, all three consoles have enough storage options and built-in connectivity– why isn’t every demo on the show floor available for download over their respective console service the same day the crowds at E3 is allowed to do so?  Okay so maybe this stuff is in barely playable alpha states, but just make sure people understand this and pull down the demo once E3 is over.  Wouldn’t this generate an enormous amount of hype among the people most likely to buy hardcore games anyway?  This would also alleviate the phenomenon where the people most often chosen to play games are also woefully bad at the act of playing videogames.)

Anyway, I bring up all the above so I can introduce this week’s list of games, and specifically why I won’t be talking about them.  Here.  You fucking bastards.

100 Classic Books
Dance on Broadway
Family Game Show
I Spy Universe
Kid Adventures:  Sky Capitan
Legend of Kay
Let’s Play Garden
Let’s Play Ballerina
Naval Assault:  Killing Tide
Super Bike World Championships SBK
Toy Story 3
Western Riding Academy
XG Blast
Yard Sale Hidden Treasures:  Sunnyville

I mean, that’s a lot of games!  Usually we don’t get half that many in one week, and they’re all awful!  And I don’t mean in terms of “ha ha Deadly Premonition is pretty bad, right guys?” I mean there’s literally nothing in that list worth spending money on even in an ironic fashion!

(meanwhile, it’s entirely possible that Toy Story 3 is decent, but oh hey it’s E3 week and no one is available to review games because the entire games journalist community is too busy drinking free booze and playing Twisted Metal PS3.  Come to think of it, that’s another excellent reason to release hardcore-oriented games of marginal quality at E3– no one is around to review anything.  Just imagine the sales Dante’s Inferno would have enjoyed had no one been around to warn people how godawful it was.  Also if  Fairytale Fights had released six earlier  it wouldn’t cost fifteen bucks brand new right now and Playlogic might have made enough money to buy the game its own domain name.)

Although I can’t be bothered to scour through press releases to pry whatever nugget of useful information can be found about this week’s games, there is some weird crap going on in a few of these titles that I wanted to elaborate on further.

Kid Adventures:  Sky Captain. Okay, wasn’t Sky Captain its own media property a couple of years back?  Did the movie do so badly that the IP holders no longer care if some fly-by-night videogame dev comes along and steals half their trademark?  Do these games take place in the same universe?

Western Riding Academy– Based on the title alone there are some really interesting directions this game could have taken, but sadly nothing indicates that this game involves any creative uses of the riding crop whatsoever.

Naval Assault:  Killing Tide: I think this game sets a new record for disparity between a game’s title and the quality of the game itself.   Amazingly this record would only be held for roughly thirty seconds until:

Super Bike World Championships SBK Was released.  And this is one of the most telling differences between the sixteen bit era and today.  If you were growing up on the Genesis or SNES and you saw a game with the title:  NAVAL ASSAULT: KILLING TIDE or SUPER BIKE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP on the box, you’d buy that game immediately.

Yard Sale Hidden Treasures:  Sunnyville: I first misread the game’s location as Sunnyvale instead of Sunnyville, and was immediately irrationally excited by the idea of rummaging around Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s hometown searching yardsales and flea markets for ancient magical artifacts before rival sorcerers and demons could get hold of them.  But y’know, if any game developers want to make that game please do so!  Just give me a copy, because I badly want to play that game!

So that’s all of the insight I could wring out of today’s list of “games”.  Next week looks to be even worse than today’s dregs, as the only thing worth noting is War of Cybertron, which might not suck, but considering the industry’s remarkable knack for fucking up Transformers games, I don’t have much hope for that.

Also next week is Wipe Out.  For the DS.  But not -that- Wipe Out.

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Four Reasons Why Post-Kinect Gaming Doesn’t Suck (yet)

Posted by nfinit on June 14, 2010

It’s 11 pm eastern standard time and as I write this the professional internet games journalism community is in a convention center in Los Angeles being indoctrinated by Microsoft and it’s newest attempt to counter Nintendo’s Wii, Kinect, formerly known as Project Natal.

And all I can tell you is that this process involves Cirque Du Soleil, illuminated ponchos embedded with electronic devices of unknown origin or purpose, a girl/boy hybrid coated in gold lamé, pan pipes, Billy Crystal and a life sized elephant puppet but the end result of this insanity will be that the only thing the professional internet games journalism community will be able to talk about for the entirety of E3, and in that, Microsoft will have won.

Sony merely embarrassed itself with RIIIIIIDGE RACER and GIANT ENEMY CRABS back in 2006 when they tried to sell the world on a six hundred dollar videogames console.  A couple years later Nintendo would simply disappoint it’s hardcore base by using E3 to sell Wii Music to soccer moms and greyhairs.  Microsoft in 2010 though, they’ve crammed the entire gaming community inside a flaming van and shoved that fan off a fucking cliff.  Maybe you’ll hate it, maybe you’ll love it, but you’ll remember it, and because of that Kinect-nee-Natal doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea in comparison.

And what I’m trying to get across here is that it’s a dark time to be a hardcore console gamer.  The narrative of E3 2010– and perhaps the remainder of this console generation– will be about Nintendo tricking Microsoft and Sony into chasing their own tails in an effort to grab whatever is left of the casual gaming marketplace that hasn’t already relegated their Wiis to the closets next to the dedicated Pong consoles inherited from their parents.  The few hardcore gamers the games industry seems interested in going after is the Modern Warfare-infatuated dudebro set.

This sudden lunge toward the middle has taken it’s toll on hardcore-friendly stalwarts.  Rare, once revered for keeping the concept of the 16 bit sidescroller relevant with the Donkey Kong Country series, has been tasked by Microsoft with manufacturing a line of spasm-controlled family favorites with Kinect.  Capcom, long a standard-bearer for quality hardcore gaming goodness chased the Dudebro crowd so far down the rabbit hole that Lost Planet 2 is now unrecognizable– and that’s before we get to the part where Capcom entrusted their single player legacy to unknown quantities and allowed mainstream-friendly western developers to ruin Dark Void and Bionic Commando.

But there are bright spots upon this dark horizon, brave souls who cannot be quenched by the rising tide of mainstream popularity, companies who refuse to bow before the concepts of co-op friendly gameplay and frenetic gesturing in the general direction of your on-screen avatar.  Developers who are not afraid to produce some hardcore-ass hardcore games, games that are obscure and hard to love, games that are not afraid to be labeled as videogames.  And here are a few of them:

1: Vanquish

This may seem hypocritical of me– after all, I’ve spent most of this post deriding the same dudebro mindset that brought us Gears of War and Modern Warfare and Battlefield: Bad Company, so why am I praising this particular 3rd person cover-based shooter?  Because, my dear friends, this 3rd person cover based shooter is being brought to us by Platinum Games.

You remember.  Platinum Games.

That’s right, the Bayonetta guys.

Platinum has proven to be the go-to people for hardcore excellence this console generation and they’ve yet to disappoint.  They even managed to make waggle tolerable by allowing gamers to throw their enemies onto meathooks in real time with Mad World, and Bayonetta is possibly the finest third person action game ever crafted.  Added to this, Vanquish is being directed by Shinji Mikami, the man responsible for inventing Resident Evil and then making Resident Evil enjoyable again with Resident Evil 4, in addition to having a hand in certified hardcore classics like Viewtiful Joe, P.N. 03 and God Hand.

So if nothing else, Vanquish will be a third person shooter produced to the exact specifications demanded by the hardcore console gamer– and while that basically means it’s doomed not to make a dime, at least it’s production is presumably keeping Sega from spending money on ruining Shinobi.

2: Devils’ Third

Until I see evidence swaying me otherwise, I’ve decided to be irrationally hyped for Devil’s Third.  We don’t really know much about Devil’s Third yet beyond what’s going on in this trailer, but it’s the first game produced by Itagaki since leaving Team Ninja, and despite what you may think about the man’s obsession with well-endowed teenage girls and.. well, himself, the man doesn’t suck at creating videogames.  We’re talking about the guy who directed Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2, as well as the Dead or Alive games, although that’s probably not as much of a selling point these days.

We don’t even really have a release date for Devil’s Third as of yet, but it should be a glorious triumph of violence and at least the three seconds we’ve seen of the female lead isn’t and embarrassing hormone-fueled fever dream.  So if nothing else it should have the same frenetic quality of Ninja Gaiden without the layer of sleaze that permeates the whole affair and makes you wish Itagaki would just get a girlfriend already.

3: The Last Guardian

There’s a reason that trailer looks a lot like Shadow of the Colossus– it’s produced by the same company responsible for the game I personally consider the best console game of the decade, and more importantly directed by the exact same guy as SOTC and IcoFumio Ueda.  It’s something I’m badly hoping we see some more information and footage from at this year’s E3 and hopefully a playable demo on the show floor– the game is slated to be released this year.

In something of a break of the previous two games, The Last Guardian looks to explore the relationship between a young boy and the titular guardian, and from all appearances will be more influenced by Ico rather than the air of  desperate futility that defined Shadow of the Colossus.  That said Ueda has said that the game was inspired by the interaction of the hero of SOTC and his horse, Aggro so while the Last Guardian looks to be absolutely charming we can only assume it’ll be absolutely heartbreaking as well.  Which is fine– if art can be defined as exploiting a medium to evoke an emotional reaction the SOTC was absolutely art, and I hope for no less from Last Guardian.

Team Ico is proof that we can demand better from our games and our games industry, and they’re a large reason why I own a PlayStation 3 today.

4: Shank

If there’s anything that’s guaranteed to scare away both the soccer moms and the dudebros it’s ultraviolence and 2d, and brother does Shank bring all that!  Gorgeously animated, ludicrously violent and smooth as a vanilla latte, Shank is everything we loved about 16 bit brawlers brought up to date to 2010, and with distribution via Xbox Live Arcade and a release date sometime this Summer, it looks to continue the fine tradition set forth by Bionic Commando ReArmed and Shadow Complex.

If you’re familiar with N+, then you already know what these developers are capable of– outstandingly smooth animation and outstanding platforming.  Jamie Cheng and Jeffery Agala basically took those principals and shoved them inside a Robert Rodriguez movie.  Bringing the writer responsible for God of War onboard seems a bit of a stretch, but if anyone knows about blood and revenge, it’s the writer behind Kratos, and at any rate it won’t interfere with the quality of the game outside of cutscenes so it’s probably not a horrible idea.


These are the sorts of games that caused me to become a gamer in the first place, the sorts of games that will always be produced no matter how thick marketing may try to lay on a saccharine-sweet coating of mainstream-friendly gloss.

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Wallet Abuse Wednesday 6-9-10: I don’t really care about Green Day all that much

Posted by nfinit on June 9, 2010

Disgaea Infinite
Publisher:  NIS America
Developer:  Nippon Ichi Software
Platforms:  PSP

The Disgaea universe confuses me.  On one hand most of the game world is populated with demons and angels that are obviously supposed to hold some sort of childlike charm to them, but are still weirdly developed and anyone over the age of 28 or so feels vaguely creepy playing a Disgaea game in public.  On  the other hand, Disgaea is also randomly populated with people who are obviously supposed to be adults:

In various states of undress.  So I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I know Disgaea is supposed to be porn, but I dunno what kind of porn it’s supposed to represent, and that bothers me.  Pick a side between lolis and adults, Disgaea!

So this isn’t a new SRPG at all, but rather one of those visual novels in the vein of Phoenix Wright that the Japanese are so keen on nowadays.  This might strike you as odd, but then you realize the last Disgaea game was Contra.  Contra with undead penguins.  so this makes perfect sense.

(For the sake of this entry please pretend this is in English. NIS America's website is charmingly useless and only provides no English screenshots of DI.)

If there’s one constant to Nippon Ichi, it’s its amazing artwork, and the static nature of an adventure game is the absolute best way to put those assets to best use

She puts the brass back in "brassiere"

Y’know.  Assets.  Anyway, I can’t really fairly judge Disgaea Infinite as adventure games/visual novels/what have you aren’t really my thing, but during my short time with Phoenix Wright  I grew to understand why people like them.

I think we can all agree that at some point NIS is going to run out of new directions to take Disgaea before the inevitable happens and we get Disgaea Kart.  Who do we have to petition to get a 2d fighting game before that happens and/or they totally poison the franchise by making Dead or Alive Prinny Paradise?

There are currently no review scores available for Infinite, although considering the nature of this game that probably doesn’t mean terribly much– you’re in this for the setting and the writing, not so much the gameplay.  So the merits of this game will rest entirely on the translation.  As NIS America makes their living porting this sort of stuff to American shores, that’s probably fine.

Green Day Rock Band
Publisher:  MTV Games
Developer:  Harmonix
Platform:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii

Harmonix never made it clear why Green Day was the natural successor to The freaking Beatles, nor why this disc wasn’t just sold as DLC like any other reasonable Rock Band song pack.  Anyway, there’s a few hints that even Harmonix isn’t really taking Green Day seriously.

1: It’s freaking Green Day

2: A week before GD:RB hit Harmonix started dropping info about Rock Band 3, including the new keytar

3: Seriously, it’s a disc of Green Day songs

4: No instruments were released with the disc.  This is of course a good thing as no one wants more plastic crap littering the den (and good luck getting Best Buy on board with giving up retail space to a non-numbered Rock Band in 2010), but even the Aerosmith pack for Guitar Hero got a crappy guitar.

However, you do get some of the great Beatles Rock Band-style interstitial movies based on Green Day’s history, and there’s no less than three full album’s worth of music included.  So if you’re a big Green Day fan then that’s all fantastic, it just seems an odd direction for the series to take when Harmonix tries to avoid the excesses that ruined the Guitar Hero name.

There’s a dearth of reviews for Green Day Rock Band, which considering we’re two days from release is either utterly meaningless or raises questions about its quality.  The 90% Game Pro review reads like a fan of Green Day itself wrote it whereas the Official Xbox Magazine balked at paying $60 for a glorified track pack and gave it 75%

Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker
Publisher:  Konami
Developer:  Kojima Productions
Platforms:  PlayStation Portable

So while no one was paying attention Kojima went and possibly produced the best Metal Gear Solid ever for the one system no one buys games for.

Peace Walker eschews traditional life bars for a mullet-based life meter.

Peace Walker looks like it’s combining all the best control elements of previous MGS games (which isn’t terribly difficult to do;  just make it so you don’t need four different button combinations to perform the rather basic videogame operation of shooting a dude) along with a weird mashup of Pokemon and Monster Hunter.  The gameplay is, like Portable Ops, multiplayer co-op based but you’re also expected to build Outer Heaven by collection soldiers and build your own personal Metal Gear out of spare parts.  I’m sure Snake will in no way regret this decision in years to come and/or this horrific unthinking killing machine absolutely will not awaken to try and eat everyone in late 70’s Costa Rica.

While these sound like intriguing concepts, I question the motives of a Metal Gear Solid game based around the idea of sound gameplay concepts.  I dunno about anyone else reading this, but I play MGS for batshit insane moments like the 30 minute late title card in MGS3.  Is one of the stalwarts of  single-player jank falling before the brutal co-op blade of Monster Hunter?

I agree with Giant Bomb’s Brad Shoemaker in that Peace Walker is probably best served on XBLA and PSN where it’s onboard co-op component can truely shine, but I’m mostly saying that because I took my PSP apart a couple weeks ago and I need to find some conductive copper tape before the screen will work right again.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11
Publisher:  EA Sports
Developer: EA Tiburon
Platforms:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii

I can understand the value that still lies within the Tiger Woods name, and had Tiger bounced back from his philandering scandal and started immediately winning tours again, keeping the Tiger Woods name on EA’s PGA game would have been a brilliant move.  But he’s not started winning.  In fact he’s tanking; sitting at #138 among all pros in the world in Fed Ex Cup Points and managed to hit three bystanders at The Memorial tournament at Dublin, Ohio. For whatever reason this makes Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11and its associate ad campaign seem all the more desperate and, well, skeevy.

Gotta hand it to EA though for sticking it out with Tiger in the face of scandal and overall shitheel behavior, joining the same brave, esteemed ranks as Goldline and IBM.
As far as the actual game?  As with the 2010 version, the Wii and PS360 version are two distinctly different games, with the Wii version touting to near 1:1 motion when used with Wii Motion Plus. and a new first-person view putting mode.  Also, minigolf!

You may think the live show ticket sales for the Mini Golf Pro Tour are abyssmal, but this is still a bigger gate than the average TNA show.

Instead of good controls and minigolf courses, the PS360 version gets graphics.

Sadly the Callaway's new Tassel Driver was banned from the Tour after repeated legal challenges from Macho Man Randy Savage and The Ultimate Warrior.

New for all systems is the Ryder Cup.  Apparently Team Golf Changes Everything, I dunno, I don’t play golf games that don’t involve FUCKING NINJAS.

Every bit of deserving of your love as Golden Tee; Ninja Gaiden; your grandmother

The following games will receive a sentence each and like it:

America’s Next Top Model (DS, from Crave) Finally, a glimpse into the cutthroat world of Beyblade convention Booth Babes.

Vacation Isle Beach Party (Wii; Warner Home Video Games) Sort of like DOA Paradise, but for Mormons.

Mega Man Zero Collection (DS; Capcom) I was going to write about this until I realized it was a collection of GBA Mega Man Zero games and not SNES Mega Man X games; now I just feel cheated.

Posted in Wallet Abuse | 1 Comment »

Microsoft Game Room Sucks; Let’s Fix It.

Posted by nfinit on June 8, 2010

I admit holding unreasonable hopes for Game Room when it was announced.  Microsoft and developer Krome promised the ultimate retro jukebox, a one-stop shop for the entire history of videogames.

The first sign that the hype of Game Room was far removed from reality came with the very first game pack.  No Pitfall!, no Adventure, no River Raid– No compelling 2600 titles at all, truth be told.  There was an odd emphasis placed on Intellivision titles, while the three genuinely good games present among those initial twenty-some-odd games– Tempest, Crystal Castles and Centipede– were broken in degrees ranging from mildly annoying (Tempest) to downright unplayable (Crystal Castles).  What was there was mostly awful and wasn’t was mostly broken.

The Promise of Outlaw 2600...

In the following months Microsoft has done little to sell the concept.  The initial slate of games was followed by a month-long wait for additional titles, with perhaps one or two titles in every additional pack proving enjoyable or even particularly playable.

...meets the horrible, deeply confusing reality

The most recent update to Game Room may in fact prove to be its most troubling, and in the words of, “looking back, may be the point where Game Room went off the rails

With every weekly update to Game Room, we were promised seven titles.  This week, the week of the 3rd, we instead received five.  If those five games only one title proved to be compelling, that being Missile Command, it itself being mostly broken thanks to the inefficiencies of the 360 thumbstick as compared to the arcade trackball.

The problems with Game Room may indeed prove to be too great to be fixed without a complete overhaul of the service, but here’s where I’d start:

1:  Expand beyond 2600 and Intellivision.

I’m not saying to stop producing 2600 and Intellivision games for the service entirely.  There are still important games for both systems that we’ve yet to see on Game Room, and they represent an insight to the sort of problems developers had to deal with when working with hardware that was underpowered even for its time period.  But what’s being released right now feels a lot like filler.  The Intellivision is a historical curiosity at best, whereas the 2600 catalog was so bad it nearly destroyed the videogame industry entirely.  Yet every update includes 4 or 5 of these titles.

Maybe Microsoft will never get the rights to emulate the NES on Game Room, but the 5200 existed.  Why have we yet to see any of those games?  The Colecovision was arguably as important and beloved as the Intellivision, if not more, and the MSX code is sitting around not making anyone any money whatsoever.   There’s a lot of room to explore before you get to the Crash, and a lot of this stuff we never heard about– the stuff that Game Room excels at– is nowhere to be found.

2:  Don’t double dip titles.

2b:  If you must double dip, put the good version out first.

The fact that the 2600 port of Millipede was released before the arcade version of Millipede is blatantly cynical cash-grab on Microsoft’s part, a borderline scummy action that will cause fans to hesitate before buying further console ports.  Instead,  include 2600/Intellivision ports when releasing the full arcade original.  Having the 2600 port of Millipede available with full version is a good way to illustrate the compromises made by game developers back before console hardware surpassed arcade hardware, but few people will be interested in buying the 2600 port when the arcade original is available for the same price, and if you release the arcade version later, buyers of the console port just feel ripped off.

(Note that there are some titles where this wouldn’t apply.  During the NES era developers gave up on the idea of trying to convert arcade titles whole cloth, instead rewriting games from the ground up to take advantage of the console market.  So releasing  Bionic Commano arcade separate from Bionic Commando NES makes perfect sense.  Somewhere around the PS1 era the situation actually reversed and the console port became the preferred version.  No one is interested in Tekken 2 arcade when the PS1 game does everything Tekken 2 does and adds more stuff.  But the same idea holds true– release the good version first, and in the case of 2600 ports where the console game is more an approximation of the original, release both at once.)

3:  Optimize controls for the 360 gamepad.

Non-standard arcade controllers– stuff that used paddles or trackballs instead of a joystick– are rendered all but unplayable using the 360 controller.  Crystal Castles is utterly broken on Game Room, whereas getting into high level  Missile Command play may prove literally impossible.

But it also extends to stuff that would be easy to fix if we were simply allowed the ability to fully customize the game’s controls.  As was previously discussed, the Xbox 360’s D-Pad is an awful, awful tool for the purpose of playing videogames, and many 2600 games pay the price for this as non-directional inputs often had to be placed in weird places on the joystick.  For instance, in River Raid one must press down on the joystick to decelerate the plane, upwards to gain speed, with the left/right controls responding differently depending on how fast the plane is going.  With the 360 d-pad it’s almost impossible not to press the diagonal when pressing left/right, resulting in a schizophrenic experience that leaves the player living in mortal fear of moving more than an inch away from the center of the screen, making even the most trivial fuel tank grab…

an exercise in sheer terror.

Now if we were allowed to, say, put accelerate on X and decelerate on A with “fire” mapped to a bumper, this problem is eliminated and you’d have a game that plays as least as well as the original.  Tempest is another good example– far too often it’s easy for the player’s ship to become stuck as the analog movement of the thumbstick no longer tracks correctly within the shape of the tube you’re flying around, resulting in a game that’s difficult if not impossible to partake in high level play using the standard controller.  If instead left/right were mapped to the shoulder triggers you’d accurately replicate the arcade paddle.

This is the sort of rudimentary shit that you expect to see implemented on every single game at\ a flagship XBLA product.  Jeff Minter was basically driven (more) insane by Microsoft’s certification process, yet somehow Krome has released five updates for Game Room and in not one of them has Crystal Castles been rendered a playable product.

4:  The arcade interface is a clumsy gimmick; get rid of it.

The “game room” idea of Game Room is interesting enough– A personal arcade that you slowly fill with authentic replicas of the original arcade machines.

The problem becomes evident when you realize most of the stuff released so far in Game Room aren’t arcade machines at all, but rather 2600 and Intellivision titles.  So instead of an arcade machine you get a model of an arcade cabinet with a 2600 glued to it for each individual 2600 game, a setup no one in their right mind would encounter as if you’re a functional adult with a game room you have a couch and a good TV and a box full of Atari games.  Most of these cabinets exist as a contrivance to fill up spots inside the arcade.  Cute yes, but also clunky.

Additionally, a large chunk of the games that existed as arcade titles are Konami games.  For whatever reason Konami refuses to use the original cabinets or the side art — instead there is this jarring generic black cabinet with a tiny marquee displaying the game’s title.  It looks like something someone with a MAME cabinet might cobble up with twenty bucks and three hours of effort.

Probably one of the top five arcade cabinets of all time and several layers of corporate indifference are keeping you from ever seeing it in Game Room.

For the handful of actual arcade titles that make full use of Game Room, it’s a great feature..  Some of this artwork is stunning in its detail and 80’s sci-fi aesthetic.  But for everything else that populates your arcade it’s just a clumsy gimmick that gets in the way of actually accessing the games you want to play.

for that matter, the entire interface for Game Room is clunky and needs an overhaul.  Trying to find the newest games is an onerous chore that’s best done from Major Nelson’s Twitter account.  There are no filters available for when a game first appeared on Game Room, just filters for year of release, platform it was released on, or title.  Also there’s no way to tell at a glance what games you’ve already demo’ed or any kind of rating system for the games you’ve tried but not purchased.  It’s just a dumb and clunky way to operate a list of games that’s already grown as large as it has, and something that will hopefully one day extend to hundreds of titles.

5:  Let Game Room become a museum for all (feasible) games.

If I had to name my one greatest frustration with Game Room– aside from seeing it populated with dreck like Haunted House and Outlaws– Is that it represents a missed opportunity to serve as a virtual history tour of the videogame industry.

By that I mean that there is almost no background provided with the games, at best a perfunctory paragraph or two.  There’s usually no indication of what influenced the developers, or how that title influenced further games, and there’s usually no real information on the developer.  There’s no story presented for these games and how they fit the greater narrative of the industry, and that’s a shame.

This moment in Adventure (and the game Adventure itself) is an important event in the history of videogames on several levels, but with Game Room you never really know why.

There’s a lot Microsoft could do to improve this.  There could be scans of instruction manuals and concept art.  For arcade games they could provide accurate 3d cabinet models.  They could provide streaming video via Xbox Live with developer interviews and the original commercials.

I should be able to look at Adventure for the 2600, play it and then bring up a menu showing that game’s impact on the game industry.  I should be able to sit a friend down and explain to them why something like Missile Command fit into the zeitgeist of the 80’s

Game Room could provide an entire history of the games industry in one easy-to-access package.  Instead we’re given mascots and fluff.  The confluence of events that resulted in Game Room may never be duplicated and the fact that it’s instead used as a vehicle to sell digital knickknacks is irresponsible.

6:  Reach beyond Konami and Atari.

Not saying that this won’t happen, but we’re into our fifth update and we’ve yet to see a single Namco, Capcom, Sega or Tatio game appear on the service.  These are all companies that have released classic titles for Xbox Live Arcade, so it’s not like they’re reluctant to work with Microsoft in this arena.  Sure, we’re probably never going see a Nintendo game or even a NES title, but there’s plenty of stuff that these companies have in their back catalog that does nothing but fill space on compilation discs.

Apparently Midway thought Defender was worth more money as a MAME rom than as a Game Room title. Observant readers will note that Midway is currently in Chapter 11.

If it’s a matter of price, then that’s workable.  It was never possible to get Namco to agree that Dig Dug should have price parity with 2600 games.  We need pricing tiers;  there’s simply no way to defend the idea that Outlaws (a game that has no single player component at all)  should be sold for the same price as Millipede.

7:  Address the broken games.

One of the unspoken secrets of Game Room is how many games don’t actually work within the service at all.  Take Combat for the 2600 for instance.  Combat never had a single-player component.  It was one tank (or plane, or jet fighter) vs another in brutal, one-on-one… combat.  The 2600 probably wasn’t even capable of producing a compelling opponent AI even if the designers had wanted.  As Game Room games are as authentically reproduced as possible (or, a someone of a more cynical bent may assume, cheaply reproduced as possible) the Game Room version of 2600 features no enemy AI either.

Before Call of Duty re-introduced us to the idea that single player campaigns don't really matter, there was Combat. Also Jimmy Carter was President and we were still making the Trans-Am. Overall it was just a better time to be alive.

Now, this is not unusual for 360 games, some are simply meant to be played online.  The problem is that Game Room  games can’t be played online.  You can have a second player with a second 360 controller join in on your 360 sure, but this is going to be a rare occurrence, and for most users Combat is broken and unplayable.

The other solution is to stop trying to sell this game at the same price as the most compelling and fully featured games on the service.  This philosophy can be extended to games that may fit within the feature set of Game Room but are of obviously inferior quality.  Don’t try to tell us that Grand Prix is on the same threshold of quality as Tempest.  Grand Prix doesn’t keep score and thus lacks the Ranked Mode feature that makes Game Room games inherently replayable.  Grand Prix, Combat, Outlaws, Skiing and other titles are obviously broken on the service and either need to be fixed (not likely considering Krome’s lack of effort exhibited so far) or simply not try to sell form for the same three dollars asked for River Raid and Tempest.

8:  Make all previously released XBLA arcade games Game Room games.

Xbox Live Arcade was an outstanding retro jukebox even before Game Room was introduced.  You can play everything from Rally X to Puzzle Fighter to Outrun 2 without ever turning off your system.  If anything, the arcade content on Xbox Live Arcade is more compelling than anything released for Game Room and serves as a much more useful history of the gaming industry.  The only problem is, none of those games are integrated to the Game Room.  Would it be all that difficult to simply plug Mortal Kombat into the service?  Retro fans would probably be willing to pay a couple dollars for the arcade cabinet and an integrated Ranked Mode– plus once they’re inside Game Room they may be willing to buy more Game Room games.

This argument becomes even more compelling when you realize that a great many previously released XBLA retro titles have been pulled from the service entirely due to low sales.  The work of getting Rally X onto XBLA has already been provided, the arcade boards perfectly emulated within the 360.  With that done, Game Room integration should be a trivial matter. I could be wrong, but how much more could this possibly cost, especially as this code is not making anyone any money whatsoever?

I'm posting this image to remind you all that one day Pac-Man 2600 will be released for Game Room when you could be playing this instead.

In closing, I’d like to state that it’s painfully obvious that Krome and Microsoft want to get away with the least amount of effort possible in Game Room while still monetizing the experience at every turn.  The company is more interested in selling mascots than in producing a compelling product.  As it stands there is nothing in Game Room that isn’t better served within any number of complication discs you can find most (if not all)  of these titles collected within, and the only compelling feature of the service– The ranked mode which allows for online challenges and achievement tracking– isn’t functional within a great many of the games within the service.

There is nothing wrong with Game Room that isn’t a direct reflection of Krome’s lack of effort in producing content for the service.  It’s fixable; it’s just that we’ve yet to see any indication in the past two months that Krome has the ability or wherewithal to do so.

Posted in Retro Wankery, Sperging about games | 4 Comments »

Wallet Abuse Wednesday 6-2-10: I’m totally serious about Diamond Trust of London, Guys.

Posted by nfinit on June 1, 2010

Alpha Protocol
Publisher:  Sega
Developer:  Obsidian Entertainment
Platforms:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

So it turns out, as we feared, Alpha Protocol isn’t very good.
And may, in fact, be awful.  As I alluded to though, this isn’t exactly a surprise– games rarely experience as tortured a development process as Alpha Protocol’s and come out the other side unscathed– and this is after Sega reportedly got wind of early Mass Effect 2 builds and promptly sat on the game, an eight-month delay that apparently Obsidian Entertainment spent playing other, better games instead of adding details like “polish” or “a working AI”.
And brother, did this game ever need polish– In fact the consensus seems to be that the core concept, writing, characterization and dialog for Alpha Protocol ranges from decent-to-outstanding, it’s just that the game has enough old school western-developed jank that it feels like it was developed by a team of refugee Soviet coders from the back of  a flaming Trabant.
But that’s a tangent for another time.  What I do find interesting is the parallels you can make between the complaints voiced for Alpha Protocol and the stuff we all overlooked for another, beloved game, Deus Ex.  Good writing, fundamentally bad gameplay (until at least you put some points into your skillset), good universe, an abnormal amount of 3d clunkiness— the important distinguishing characteristic between the two being that Dues  Ex was released a dozen years ago, before we accepted the idea that a game can have maintain excellent RPG elements and also some semblance of competent shooter-based gameplay.  I somehow doubt Deus Ex would have been as well received in a post-Mass Effect world.

I’m also intrigued by the game’s setting.  It’s not often– perhaps not ever– that you see a RPG set in the modern day, without any supernatural contrivances found within Persona, or the more fantastical element of The World Ends With You.

For those keeping track, Obsidian is the same company Bethesda is entrusting with Fallout:  New Vegas.  Between Alpha Protocol and Knights of the Old Republic 2, this company has two should-have-been-classic WRPGs under their belt that fell victim to an inability to give the final products the polish and fit they deserved.  I’m more than a little concerned with their ability to reign in something as inherently subject to clunkyness and open-work jank as a Fallout game, but I’m hoping– hoping!— that somehow Sega’s incompetence managed to rub off on Obsidian during the development process and that Alpha Protocol’s utter failure of oversight was an isolated occurrence.

I mean, Neverwinter Nights 2 didn’t suck, right?

Oh who am I kidding, these guys are going to ruin it.  Destructoid gave Alpha Protocol a 2 of 10 and said they’ve played betas that felt more put-together than this thing.  Someone needs to give Obsidian in intervention before they ruin any more good ideas.
Publisher:  505 Games
Developer:  NaturalMotion
Platforms:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

I’m trying to think of a list of things more inherently useless than an American football game that lacks the NFL license, and so far it looks like this:

1:  Edward Clullen’s penis
2:  Homeopathic snakebite remedies
3:  Hypercolor shirts
4:  A political endorsement from President Obama
5:  Season tickets to Gulf Coast Seaside Fun Waterpark Dolphin Extravaganza
…it was a longer list than I expected.
Did you know 505 games owns the overseas publishing rights to D3’s Simple 2000 series?  It’s true!  Instead of throwing money at NaturalMotion’s first– and last– videogame, we could have had all the Simple 2000 PS2 games released in America, maybe even with Playstation Network publishing rights in for play over PS3 and a free Toyota Yaris for everyone involved in the transaction.  Thanks, 505!
Diamond Trust of London
Publisher:  Majesco
Developer:  Majesco
Platform:  NintendoDS

…wherein we have a DS strategy game based around the blood diamond trade in Angola brought to us by the same guy who developed Sleep Is Death.

On a cartridge.

By Majesco.
What is this magical place and what horrible arcane rites must I perform to stay here?

I don’t know the exact sequence of events that took place to make this happen but it’s not likely to happen twice.  I’m normally not the type of person to advocate buying consumer goods in order to reinforce good behavior among faceless corporate behemoths, but– well, maybe this warrants it.  Especially when you’re dealing with a company like Majesco who not so long ago gave us Phantom Dust and Nanostray 2.  There may indeed be something inside of Majesco worth salvag

okay maybe not.  Do it for Jason Roher instead!
Bass Pro Shops:  The Hunt
Publisher:  XS Games
Developer:  Piranha Games Inc
Platforms:  Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360
If you were to google up a local Bass Pro Shop to buy Bass Pro Shops: The Hunt, would you then be hunting for Bass Pro Shops for Bass Pro Shops The Hunt?  Could you then get a Bass Pro Shops clerk to search the back for this game, in effect sending him out to hunt in Bass Pro Shops for Bass Pro Shops the Hunt?  How recursive can you get before the universe would intact protections that prevent causality violations?
Syphon Filter:  Logan’s Shadow
Publisher:  Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer:  Sony Bend
Platforms:  PlayStation 2

For those who haven’t been paying attention to the heady world of PSP 3rd person espionage shooters this isn’t actually a new Syphon Filter game, it’s a port of the very last Syphon Filter game to be released.  On the PSP.

In 2007.
Anyone else remember when Syphon Filter was supposed to be a big deal, back before it got cast to Sony’s island of misfit toys along with Spyro and Crash Bandicoot?  Now Sony Bend is stuck producing PSP version of Killzone games and porting games over for the last  Playstation 2 holdouts stuck in Borneo for the Peace Corps.  Somehow this is more advantageous for Sony than providing Bend with a PS3 development kit.

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