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Wallet Abuse Wednesday 10-6-10: Slutty genies, NBA Jam, and other stories

Posted by nfinit on October 6, 2010

The less that was said about the Summer of 2010 the better.

Moving on.

Ben Ten: Ultimate Alien:  Cosmic Destruction
Publisher: D3 Games
Developer: Griptonite Games (DS version) Papaya Studios (Everything else)
Platforms: Fucking Everything

This week’s Most Egregious Use of Subtitle Colons award goes to this thing, which is about alien forms and ultimate alien forms and console exclusive ultimate alien forms and… something.  From what I can gather (without running the very real risk of being exposed to the Ben 10:  The Cartoon) BT: UA: CD is a 3d platformer/brawler where you regularly transform into different ULTIMATE ALIENS, which basically means this is Kameo:  Elements of Power with better marketing.

At any rate, how the fuck is Ben 10 still a thing?  It debuted in 2005!  There are kids who received Ben 10 merch at Christmas who are now working toward associate degrees!  At what point did children’s cartoons simply never end and why did Silverhawks have come and go before this period of time?  I mean we’re talking about dudes in robotic bird suits flying through space via the power of keyars.  There’s a half-dozen game ideas in that previous sentence alone.
Castlevania:  Lords of Shadow
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Mercury Stream Games
Platforms:  PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Franchise reboots are popular in Japan, as is farming out said franchise reboots to Western developers, and Lords of Shadow represents both of these disturbing trends.  And while the idea of a 3d Castlevania-styled God of War-style brawler sounds  like a good combination, there’s simply not a lot to be excited about with Lords of Shadow.  For one, it can hardly be considered a “Castlevania”– it was developed simply as “Lords of Shadow” before Konami realized they were paying for a gothic 3d brawler and decided to slap the Castlevania moniker atop it.  Secondly, the it’s not like devloper Mercury Stream has a long lineage of quality games to call back to.  They’re the guys responsible for Clive Baker’s Jericho and American McGee’s Scrapland.

And don’t be fooled by the “Kojima Productions” logo on the box– Kojima himself has admitted that his crew only has a tangential investment in Lords of Shadow, as if you’d want Hideo Kojima to have anything to do with a Castlevania title in the first place. Meanwhile Konami left Symphony of the Night mastermind Koji Igarashi for dead on Xbox Live Arcade with ten thousand dollars and a mandate to produce a new title for Summer of Arcade 2010 or be loaded into the railgun of a fully-functional 1:1 scale model of Metal Gear Rex and fired  directly into North Korean airspace.

Anyway,  Lords of Shadow.  It’s a hard game to get a gauge on as the demo is literally ten minutes long and the reviews are in that mid-80’s range where reviewers clearly can’t tell if it’s an average game with great production values or a good game that they simply don’t quite “get”.   I want Lords of Shadow to be a good game; if Konami can manage to bring the Castlevania name back to relevancy maybe Igarashi will finally be given another crack at a real 3d Shadow of the Night, but the way Konami’s gone about development for Lords of Shadow just leaves me feeling no enthusiasm for the game at all and I honestly would feel a little guilty for buying it new.
Comic Jumper
Publisher:  Twisted Pixel
Developer:  Twisted Pixel
Platforms:  Xbox Live Arcade

Funny videogames don’t exactly have a storied history.

For one, quality videogame writing is  rare and coveted asset, and humor itself is highly subjective and doesn’t often translate into games well– the few instances where good, funny writing have occurred in gaming are usually spoken about in hushed, reverent tones, such as the Monkey Island games.

It’s even rarer than that to have a funny game that’s also a fundamentally good videogame.  There’s a reason why most genuinely funny games are adventure games, such as the aforementioned Monkey Island series or Sam and Max– It’s hard to have a good action game experience that comes off as funny without being overbearing.  Not that this isn’t impossible, Time Splitters was a good videogame that was funny simply due to the sheer absurdity of the events taking place.  Duke Nukem 3d is another example, although its humor is mostly juvenile and offensive to the point where it comes back around the other side and you don’t really mind that women are being treated as property simply because of all the other insane shit the game is asking you to accept.

Usually though, action gamest that try go out-of-the-way to be funny fail in some crucial way.  Brutal Legend was funny, but was also some sort of godawful multiplayer RTS hybrid that Doublefine had so little confidence in that they refused to explain what the game was even about during the game’s demo; whereas Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard tried to hide it’s gameplay flaws with a forced attempt at self-aware humor that only served to aggravate and expose those very same problems.

Still, there’s a lot of things going for Comic Jumper.  The developer Twisted Pixel is actually known for producing good games that are actually genuinely funny, what with Splosion Man probably being the best exclusive Xbox 360 released last year.  For another, it’s stylish as all fuck; every stage is set in a different comic book era or genre, with art and gameplay corresponding to those settings.

If the game is more than five hours long I’m going to wind up buying it; I’ll let you know if that was a mistake or not.

(Fake edit:  Ha-HA!  No I’m not playing this awful excuse for a videogame, the updated Giantbomb quicklook utterly savaged Comic Jumper as I was in the process writing up this week’s WAW.  Clever FMV and good dialog is no substitute for lousy gameplay fundamentals.)
Def Jam Rapstar
Publisher: Konami
Developer: 4mm Games
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii.

So this is Hip-Hop karaoke.  I am in no way qualified to say anything of interest about this game, although Paul Cryone of developer 4mm saying “Internally we used Get on Da Mic as the architectural model of how not to do Def Jam Rapstar” is the sickest burn one developer can deliver to another without a direct reference to Silicon Knights.

In tangentially related new I’m saddened to see that the Def Jam label has apparently abandoned the concept of rap-themed MMA games.
Enslaved:  Odyssey to the West
Publisher: Namco
Developer: Ninja Theory
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Enslaved is probably a decent game; the demo was interesting enough, it’s freaking gorgeous and who doesn’t want more Uncharted 2? I just have a hard time summoning any interest in Enslaved considering the sheer amount of outstanding stuff coming out this Holiday.   If this thing were released a month previously or held onto for another two months it’d probably be the only thing the gaming community would talk about for at least a week.  As it stands most everyone who would be interested in Enslaved probably has a half-dozen other games to pay attention to between now and Christmas.

This is a Ninja Theory game, the guys more famous for everything they’ve worked on other than Enslaved– one being the thoroughly lackluster Heavenly Sword, the other that based on the strength of Heavenly Sword Capcom somehow decided that twelve hours of gong-related puzzles was good a good enough portfolio to entrust with the future of the Devil May Cry series.

As I alluded to with Lords of Shadow, I consider the most frustrating aspect of this console generation the flight of Japanese publishing houses to Western development studios. It’s all the more frustrating when beloved franchises are dragged into the mix.  It’s one thing for Capcom to attempt to reboot the long-dead Bionic Commando brand (even if the result is an utter farce) But when you take something that people already care about (like say, Castlevania or Devil May Cry) you’re just going to annoy the people who have invested themselves into these franchises and are aware of what you’re doing.  Has there ever been a recorded case where a franchise reboot handed over to a wholly alien developer has resulted in a resurrection of that series?  I’m willing to bet these cases are exceptionally rare– Ironically one of the few I can think of being Bionic Commando ReArmed, although it can be argued that’s entirely because it was not a wildly ambitious HD experience, unlike virtually every other attempt to “westernize” established Japanese franchises, up to and including the “full-sized” Bionic Commando reboot.

This console generation has already seen a homogenization on a massive scale; with art styles and gameplay mechanics and even GUIs  becoming more generic across genres, continents and publishers.  All of which is a shame, because if you’re craving for weird Japanese shit this generation you’re stuck with a few stalwarts such as Metal Gear and Final Fantasy, or you’re going to have to go to the handhelds.

(note that I wouldn’t mind so bad if this

wasn’t what passed for character design at Ninja Theory.  DMC 5 is going to be ugly, and I don’t just mean in the way that Heavenly Sword plays like a lobotomized God of War.)

As far as Enslaved:  Journey to the West?  As I mentioned, it’s probably decent; if you have a console capable of playing Enslaved then there’s currently a demo available for your perusal.  The platforming sort of holds your hand, but does so in a very inconsistent fashion that leaves you wandering where the game expects you to go in the instances where the devs refused to make the climbable parts of a level obvious.  It seems to be a thoroughly competent 3d platformer; I’m just not entirely convinced that alone is worthy of sixty bucks this Holiday season.
Final Fantasy:  The 4 Heroes of Light
Publisher:  Square Enix
Developer: Matrix Software
Platform: Nintendo DS

Despite allusions within the title, The Four Heroes of Light has  nothing to do with Final Fantasy 4 or any other mainline Final Fantasy game. Matrix Software producer Tomoya Asono bills this as “a classic fantasy RPG using today’s technology”, which seems to me a roundabout way of saying “Hey DQ9 sold more copies than the King James Bible, let’s get in on that while we still have jobs”  And for Squeenix proper that translates to  “it’s probably a good idea not to chase away the traditional JRPG market while we spend a decade fucking around with mainline Final Fantasy

So should you buy 4 Heroes of Light?  It’s a traditional FF RPG to the point where it even has a Job system.  Of course you should buy it.
NBA 2K11
Publisher: 2k Sports
Developer: Visual Concepts
Platforms: More systems than NBA Elite 11 will appear on this year

The 2K11 edition is a neat concept in that it’s as much a tribute to Micheal Jordan’s career as anything else, with the main draw being a suite of challenges from MJ’s pro hoops history, as well as insights to the teams and players he would ultimately go on to ruthlessly destroy.

It is as yet unclear if MJ’s involvement in this game has resulted in inflated stats for Kwame Brown and/or greatly exaggerated chances for a Charlotte Bobcats playoff run than should really be expected.

In a hilarious turn of events NBA 2k11 might be the only “real” NBA game produced this season, what with the mysterious and sudden collapse of EA’s reboot of it’s own NBA series.  That said, even with these new features NBA 2K11 isn’t the most interesting NBA game to be released this year or even this week, as this exists:
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Canada
Platforms: Wii (for now)

Yes, this is exactly what it looks like, and yes if you own a Wii (and only a Wii) you need to own this game.  Or if you have a PS360, you should wait and buy the copy that has online multiplayer and won’t cost you fifty dollars.

One of the great subplots surrounding the gaming industry this year has been EA’s masterful trolling of the Wii userbase with NBA Jam.  First came the announcement that EA had somehow wound up with the NBA Jam license, paid for via a mostly full carton of Camel Lights and an agreement to validate Matt Boody’s parking ticket.  The game was revealed at E3 this year and seemed to have “Wii Exclusive” written all over it, what with the game being a lo-fi arcade throwback, and, well, appearing on Wii hardware during the event.  Wii owners were ecstatic, finally they had some good evidence that a major publisher was treating their platform with some modicum of respect.  There were some caveats of course, the main one being that there would be no online play offered, but this wasn’t seen as unreasonable, Jam is an arcade game and meant to be a shared experience.

Oh, and it’d be sold on disc.

For full MSRP.

Again, whatever.  This is NBA Jam, that’s sort of a big deal, and if EA is going to treat the Wii seriously it only made sense to ship discs at full retail, right?

Then game the news that NBA Jam– or at least a mode of NBA Jam– would be included as downloadable content for EA’s “real” NBA game, EA NBA Elite 11, for the PS3 and 360…

…with online play.

This in itself was a masterpiece of trolling by EA.  Not only would PS360 owners get a high-def version of the Wii game for practically free, it was obvious EA was using the entire NBA Jam announcement as a promotional tool for Elite 11.  Wii owners were, of course , mortified.  A  hue and cry was released over messageboards the world over and a great victory was struck over Nintendo goons and the casual hordes which sought to destroy our hobby.

But not all was lost for Wii owners– after all, the version of NBA Jam present in Elite 11 was largely crippled.  Yes, it was in HD and would feature online play, but it could hardly be called a full-fledged product; the game would be very basic and not feature the full suite of options and game modes present in on the Wii disc.

Then in late September it was revealed that EA Canada had fucked up so badly with the development of NBA Elite 11 that the game would have to be pushed back to an indefinite date sometime in 2011, if indeed it was released in time for the 2011 NBA season at all.  EA, in desperate need to make something out of this fiasco– and with the coding for NBA Jam just sitting there– decided to announce that the PS360 version of NBA Jam would still be released, with all the modes present in NBA Jam Wii, with online play.

This is the point where if this were taking place on a messageboard that EA would need to seriously consider deleting it’s account for fear of real-world retaliation for it’s heinous and hilarious actions.

So will I be buying this game when it comes to Xbox Live Arcade?

Yeah, probably.

(Also the reviews range from good-to-outstanding, with the only real flaw mentioned being the lack of online mode.  Also if you buy this there’s the very real chance that EA will remember it’s been sitting on Mutant League football/hockey for something like 15 years.  Buy this game!)
Pokemon Ranger:  Guardian Signs
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Platforms: Nintendo DS

Fun facts about Pokemon:

1:  I’ve never been interested enough to do research on a Pokemon game

2:  I’m not going to start today!

…  Okay fine.  I lied.  There is exactly one interesting thing I can find about Guardian Signs.

Ukulele Pichu!

Let us never speak about this again.
Shantae:  Risky’s Revenge
Publisher: WayForward
Developer: WayForward
Platforms: Look at the box you dink!

Moreso than any other title released this week, you need to buy this game.  Not only is it an outstanding oldschool 2d platformer, the more positive reinforcement Wayforward gets for this sort of thing the fewer Spongebob games they’ll have to produce.

Also good lord just look at it.

If you’re reading this then you’re probably already aware that this is a followup to the original, much-beloved Shantae released all the way back in 2002 for the Gameboy Color.  The sequel– although I don’t know if you can call something released eight years later a “sequel– Looks to continue the first game’s fine legacy, garnering excellent reviews.  Wayforward seems to realize they might have something important on their hands here, and have been treating Risky’s Revenge as something of the start of a full-fledged franchise, which is good as those guys deserve to be working on their own creative projects.

It is a bit odd that it’s downloadable only (and thus sadly exclusive to DSi/DSi XL systems) but that’s probably understandable considering the costs involved for producing carts for niche 2d platformers that don’t have a Nicktoons license attached to them.
Wii Party
Publisher: Nintendo like a motherfucker
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Platforms: The Cancer That is Killing My Hobby

I don’t get the Wii, I don’t get party games, I (mostly) don’t get Nintendo, I don’t get party games on the Wii developed by Nintendo; I am absolutely the last person on the face of this earth you should approach for opinions on Wii Party.  That said, anything that keeps Nintendo EAD from developing another Wii Music is a good thing for everyone involved.  That said, at some point Wii Party was responsible for this:

So I can’t be too mad at it.





2 Responses to “Wallet Abuse Wednesday 10-6-10: Slutty genies, NBA Jam, and other stories”

  1. Sparkster said

    Hhehehhehehe, Welcome back.

  2. Craiggers said

    Hey it’s good to see that you’re back! That entire NBA Jam situation is hilarious, I didn’t realize it was such a train-wreck.

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