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P4ER88 [Sony]
Jun 17th, 2009 by Dan

Instead of venturing further through Void Quest, Charlie decides to go home and hang out with Chie, getting up to a rank 10 Social Link and upgrading her Persona. Time is running short though, so I imagine they’ll venture in today. Who will they attempt to woo next? Will they be able to kill those Charred Bambinos this time?

P4ER86 [Sony]
Jun 16th, 2009 by Dan

Forgot to post this yesterday, but the ER continues to fight through Void Quest.

P4ERP85 [Sony]
Jun 12th, 2009 by Dan

Last time Vinny finally made Black Frost and seemed a little underwhelmed with the “palette swap.” It was a fairly short episode that mostly had fusing in it. Today they explore deeper into the Void Quest dungeon. As someone who has conquered the dungeon twice, I know that they’re about to hit the hard, strange stuff today.

E3 Extravaganza [Game Overview]
Jun 5th, 2009 by Dan

Insert another credit, because it’s time for your weekly video game news and you’ve just hit the Game Overview screen.

E3 is a magical time for video games. So much news happened in this past week that this is gonna be an epic post filled with tons of trailers and news. In no particular order, here it goes:

Look! A three-headed monkey!

First off we have the Monkey Island news again. Tales of Monkey Island will be debuting next month (!) on 7 July from Telltale Games. Yes, it’s super exciting…yes, Telltale has proven that they can have moderate success and timely release with episodic adventure games…but I don’t feel the humor of Ron Gilbert in the trailer.

I just hope the game is quality and we get to see a lot more MI.

Legendary

Speaking of former Lucasarts comedic geniuses, Tim Schafer’s Brütal Legend (mind the umlaut) has had production suspended in what can only be known as a dick move by Activision. The litigious Activision dropped Brütal Legend not long ago when they merged with Vivendi and they claim it was because they never met milestones. Supposeedly they still retain the rights to release the game and will suffer “irreparable damages” for this.

My favorite part of the story, Tim Schafer’s response:

“Hey, if Activision liked it, then they should have put a ring on it,” Schafer said. “Oh great, now Beyoncé is going to sue me too.”

Seriously Activision? You guys look like major tools. I already don’t play much anything by Activision and I just might consider this a permanent decision. It’s unbelievable.

Back in Black (and Red)

Nintendo will be selling the Wii in black starting this summer in Japan and the DSi in red at the same time. Not a bad idea, considering that sales of Nintendo systems have started to lag behind some of the Sony stuff. It’s just the kind of Nintendo thing to do in this situation.

NEW SMB

New Super Mario Bros. Wii is on the way! It will not feature online play =[

Left 8 Dead?

Left 4 Dead 2 is coming! A bit sooner than most expected, that’s for sure, but I think even Valve deserves to make some money every so often.

Melee weapons, incendiary ammo, new special infected, new AI Director sadism, new/updated weapons, and new survivors.

What’s more, you won’t be able to just camp for alarm moments, some won’t turn off unless you advance and complete tasks.

Nick reminds me of GOB. That makes me happy.

Metal Gear?!

New MGS games announced. Rising will be on the PS3 and Xbox 360 and Peace Walker will be on the PSP. I’m kind of bummed about PW being a PSP game, since it focuses on Big Boss, but maybe I’ll end up asking for a PSP for Christmas or something.

NEVER

Funny tidbit from the Nintendo conference

Jedis go Boom

It’s just the cinematic that opens the game, but it sure gets me excited for the release.

Walrus?

Some more The Beatles: Rock Band info.

XIII

Also: Final Fantasy XIV?

Uncharted!!!! OMGOMGOMGOMG

Random Games

OBJECTION!

Tangled up in BlazBlue:

More Samus, No T or A

New Metroid game being made by Team Ninja?! Nintendo will probably keep the ridiculously large, bouncy boobs and thongs to a minimum, so calm down.

Galaxy 2?

New Mario Galaxy game. 90% new levels, some old ones remixed.

As a corollary, no new Zelda or Pikmin games announced today. Maybe next time.

Fallout 3 DLC


Alan Wake…FINALLY

Seriously, this game has been in development FOREVER.


Heavy Lluvia

Still looks good.

Sunny Gold

Coming to the DS is Golden Sun! The RPG is BACK! I hope this iteration is more interesting.

Misc News

Social networking was the big theme of the conferences. From Facebook on DSi and Xbox 360 to Twitter making an appearance on the latter too, it seems like the next big thing.

Microsoft is also offering full games on demand on Live for real, non-MS point money.

All in all, a great conference. I know I missed some big news, but, hey, you’ve got the internet too, so quit being so damn lazy. Now if only we could rush to the fall and make these games come out already!

Achievement Whores BEWARE: Giant Bomb [Game Overview]
May 15th, 2009 by Dan

Insert another credit, because it’s time for your weekly video game news and you’ve just hit the Game Overview screen.

If you’ve never actually visited Giant Bomb then you probably don’t know that it’s the greatest user-populated video game database on the internet and a pretty darn cool concept. The gist is this: you get all the editorial content that you’d expect from a video games site, only now you get to also create a super-detailed wiki, of sorts, where you can associate games with abstract concepts like “Full Body Awareness” in Left 4 Dead, meaning that when you look down (you’re already in the first person perspective) you don’t just see floor, you see your feet, or objects like crates or, well, you get the idea.

That’s all pretty great on top of the personalities on the site with their hilarious sense of humor and features like This Ain’t No Game, which reviews video game movies, and the aforementioned Persona 4 Endurance Run, but now they’ve gone and done something big.

Users can associate their gamertags and WoW accounts with their Giant Bomb accounts to attach their achievement status to their profile. This creates a site-wide database of achievements that is compared against itself, ranking achievements in terms of rarity and grading each user on a per-game basis for their achievements. Rarer achievements give more points, but if you still are underperforming, guess what, you’ll get a D or :gasp: an F in Halo 3. Max out achievements and get an S-rank that is not able to drop based on the user curve, unless more achievements come out for the game.

Right now they can’t handle PSN trophies thanks to Sony’s lack of a released API, but they will soon be adding Steam capability. I can’t wait until my page updates!

Price Drop [Sony]
Mar 31st, 2009 by Dan

Oh man! Amazing! Sony finally dropped the price of the…PS2?

Yeah, it makes no real sense to me either, at least not when you look at the serious problems that Sony’s been having with the PS3 since launch. Yeah, they’ve got that whole ten-year plan going for the PS2, but one would think that they would, I dunno, refocus their efforts so that they could drive the sales up of their flagship console.

Think about it: Nintendo is selling bajillions of Wiis. They just crossed the 50 million mark before GDC and they’ve been out just as long as the PS3, give or take a few months. Meanwhile, as of 31 December 2008, Sony was at 21 million PS3s. Sure, those numbers have certainly increased, but as far as I know the console is still lagging behind the Xbox 360 and they need to do something in the states to bring it up. Most people think the console is too expensive. Microsoft has a version of their console that competes, price-wise, with the Wii. What are you doing Sony? I love your system, but you guys need to re-evaluate things and try and drive that manufacturing cost down hard, cause you’re gonna lag behind.

Death to Clamshell [Embedded Reporter]
Dec 29th, 2008 by Dan

Deep from the trenches, it’s time for your Monday video feature: Embedded Reporter.

And we’re back from Christmas break! Expect this post and tomorrow’s post, but then I’m on hiatus again until after the New Year’s weekend.

This video highlights a move that I hope many more companies make in the near future:

Clamshell packaging is an absolute chore to open and I fully applaud Sony’s decision to stop using it. I can’t wait to see what new anti-theft packaging they’re going to come up with next.

Game Overview/Food For Thought: Odds and Ends
Oct 21st, 2008 by Dan

I tell ya, it’s been a good long while since I’ve had to write a post that’s not really about baseball and it’s got me rather at a loss of what to do. Instead of focusing on one topic today, instead let’s look at a variety of things going on that I care about:

Peter Molyneux has got a problem. You see, he’s one of the movers and shakers in video game design and his ideas have more or less shaped the industry as a whole. For example, while you can argue that Ultima or Fallout did it first, Peter and his boys at Lionhead popularized the whole good vs. evil aesthetic that so pervades the medium right now with his landmark title Black & White. You can’t really argue that his game made it cool for the visual look of a character to change dynamically with alignment that Bioware eventually used in their epics Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect.

The problem though, comes when you realize that Peter is more of an ideas man. Black & White sold tons of copies, but was generally tepidly received or remembered due to its feel as more of a sandbox game or a tech demo. Its unfocused nature. The idea was gold, the game wasn’t there. Fable was promised to be an epic story where things you did from day 1, like planting a tree, would radically change the future. It didn’t. The list of things promised for Fable that weren’t delivered was so long that it became a media point to say that what Peter says doesn’t necessarily get into the game, no matter how enthusiastic and brilliant he may sound saying it.

Today I’ll be picking up my pre-order of Fable 2. Will it satisfy or will it fall short of his promises? You can be sure that I’ll let you know here once I have a solid conclusion.

Also on the table for today: I tried adding some Just Bunches to my Honey Bunches of Oats and I’d have to say the result was stellar. The addition of more bunches really makes the cereal better without overpowering the other elements. A great idea, but not one I’ll be repeating by buying another box of Just Bunches in the future.

Little Big Planet, if you hadn’t already heard, was delayed until next week due to a controversial music track included in the game. The game had, I should say, a track in which passages of the Qur’an were recited in the background. Muslims claim that it is offensive to include passages in the Qur’an in art, so Sony decided to push back the game’s release date and Media Molecule, the game devs, removed the track from the discs. Some say that Muslims need to learn to chill out if they want to be respected in the global, free world, others say that they’re in the right to ask that their religious texts not be used. I agree more with the former, but I also understand why Sony did what they did and I do think that they at least made a good business decision, since they get pretty good sales in the Middle East.

Game Overview: Rock Band 2, Super Mario RPG VC, Lazy, Dangerous RPG DLC
Aug 22nd, 2008 by Dan

Insert another credit, because it’s time for your weekly video game news and you’ve just hit the Game Overview screen.

Rock Band 2

It may technically still be summer, but we’re right on the cusp of the most exciting game season in the year, the Fall release schedule. Did you realize that Rock Band 2, a game I’d say might be the first official big Fall release, comes out on 14 Sept. for the Xbox 360? That’s only tree weeks and a few days away. I can’t believe that one of my most anticipated titles for the year is so close to release, but I’m also a bit disappointed. Rock Band 2 is coming out a bit too soon. The 360 version is coming a bit early, but the others and the instruments should be coming out either just before or just after the year-old mark for Rock Band. I know it’s not their fault. I know that Guitar Hero: World Tour is the real reason that the game is coming out too soon. I just hope that Harmonix is able to make this release complete enough that they can get by with their actual dream of releasing a music platform sustained by DLC.

While we’re on the topic of music gaming, Sony leadership surprised the video game industry with an announcement of instrument standards. There will no longer be a situation like GH3 and Rock Band on PS3 where people who bought GH3 for a spare guitar were left out to dry while the 360 owners were able to use their GH3 guitars in Rock Band. This is great news, we don’t need a million sets of plastic instruments cluttering up our living rooms.

Super Mario RPG

PAL territories are getting their hands on Super Mario RPG on the Virtual Console this week. This is excellent news for those of us in North America who have been desperately waiting for its VC release. It’s only a matter of time now.

Tales of Vesperia

As reported by Kotaku, Xbox 360 RPG Tales of Vesperia has kind of a dangerous precedent its setting by allowing lazy players to buy experience levels, gold, items, or skills for real-world money. Sure, ToV isn’t an MMO, so this isn’t going to throw the economy off balance, but it just seems a bit strange to go and sell an easier time in your game. I don’t support it at all and I hate monetizing these trivial things that should not be sold.

That’s it for this week’s edition of Game Overview, stay tuned for more video game news over the next week.

Game Overview: Current Gen All-Stars
Jun 27th, 2008 by Dan

Insert another credit, because it’s time for your weekly video game news and you’ve just hit the Game Overview screen.

Due to some poor life decisions, I find myself stranded for five weeks without any video games. What’s a guy to do, right? Well, rather than just giving you some of the headlines from the week’s video game news in lieu of what I was planning to be gameplay impressions, reviews, and the like, I’ve instead started a five week “All-Stars” feature. Each week we’re going to look at a video game era and spotlight my top three games from that era. Each of these games will also receive a place setting at the prestigious “Table of Honor” feature that I’m working on. Here’s the weekly plan:

Week 1: 8-bit Console Era
Week 2: 16-bit Console Era
Week 3: Post-16-bit Console Era, Pre-Current Generation
Week 4: Pre-Current Generation PC Games
Week 5: Current Generation

Yeah, the categories are broad, particularly weeks three and four, but it’s how I want to do them, so get off my back!

Wow, we’ve finally made it to the last week of my all-stars feature! Beginning back in November of 2005 with the launch of the Xbox 360, this generation has seen some of the biggest shifts and changes that the industry has ever seen. Again, starting with the 360, consoles finally began to be a match for the PC market with online matchmaking services rivaling the best on the PC drawing gamers to the consoles in droves, depleting the once very robust leader in innovation and technology’s user base. Not a group to sit on its haunches, Valve re-invigorated the PC market with its Steam platform, a release and matchmaking mechanism that has recently started to rival Xbox Live in terms of functionality.

The PS3 launched about a year after the 360, promising much, but struggling to deliver any worthwhile software for a full year after launch. Its online service also leaves much to be desired, with no cross-game integration to help it out, it pales in comparison to XBL, even though it is free.

The greatest shift in gaming has come from the revolutionary Nintendo Wii and the Big N’s “Blue Ocean” strategy. Nintendo, understandably weary of being in last place for the last two generations, decided to take their console in a totally different direction, emphasizing the casual through an accessible control mechanism, affordable system, and lighter gameplay fare. While their strategy has succeeded, selling out systems each and every month and given them a greater install base than the Xbox 360, even with a full year’s delay in launch dates, many a “hardcore” gamer feels like Nintendo has forgotten about them with their new strategy.

The brilliance of this strategy has caused many a developer shift as both Microsoft and Sony attempt to develop motion sensitive controls to mimic the Wii and the huge blockbuster game releases of last gen start to tone down some of their production values in favor of appealing to the mass market. Minigame compilations flood the market as countless companies try to tap into the previously unreachable markets. Most find failure as Nintendo continues to milk dollars out of the Nintendo DS and Wii, causing concern for third party developers on both systems.

While the music gaming phenomenon technically began last generation, both Harmonix and Activision have enjoyed unprecedented success with their Rock Band and Guitar Hero franchises. It seems that music gaming is one of the next big things, with Activision basically saturating the market with GH products and Harmonix releasing track packs every week to expand the already robust playlist of the party-friendly Rock Band.

Yes, the new generation has advanced gaming by leaps and bounds, with the 2007 holiday season being one of the best gaming history has seen in a long time, but the new generation has also drawn new lines; created new schisms. All of a sudden the terms “hardcore” and “casual” have divided a once unified user base. Nintendo’s radical decision to eschew high definition graphics in exchange for cost-effectiveness has split third party developers who now have to choose to develop for the HD systems or the system with the highest rate of ownership, but smallest attach rate (average number of games owned). Many claim that this will be a long one, unlike last generation, since Nintendo has proven that low-tech can still bring innovation and sales. All I know is that it’s still early and it’s still anyone’s ball game. The slow start of the PS3 is turning out to have been a slow boil while the 360 is looking like a flash in the pan as it peters out. Nintendo’s massive onslaught of sales still hasn’t even shown signs of slowing down, baffling everyone who said it was just a fad. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out when the dust settles, but until then, I’ve been enjoying some great games. Let’s take a look:

This first game revolutionized the gaming world last year by proving that a cohesive, well-thought out, well-written, but incredibly short game can top a robust 20 hour experience simply through the power of brilliant game-design, hilarious dialog, and a little bit of cake. Yeah, it’s Portal.

#3 Portal

Many of you know the story of how Portal came to be developed at Valve, but for those of you who don’t, here goes:

Up in Washington there exists a game design school called DigiPen. Since Valve is a Washington-based company as well, they tend to send people to check out the work done by students to find potential new hires and ideas. Cue Narbacular Drop, a project by students that featured the portal jumping gameplay we know and love in Portal. The story goes that someone from Valve saw the brilliant idea, brought them over to Valve headquarters to show Gabe Newell, and Newell hired them all on the spot, which was a brilliant move on his part.

Portal is a shining beacon of game design because it does everything that it sets out to do perfectly. It’s just the right length, has just the right amount of humor, has just the right difficulty curve, etc. Valve takes forever to produce games, we all know this, but Portal proves that our patience is definitely worth something.

There’s not really much else to say about this brilliant game, it has to truly be experienced to be understood as the masterpiece that it really is. Go out and buy it, seriously…it’s only like $20 on Steam

Here’s the ending credits, complete with the super-famous “Still Alive.” DO NOT WATCH IF YOU HAVEN’T BEATEN THE GAME!

International “Still Alive”!:

My #2 game would actually make a better Indiana Jones movie than the abysmally stupid Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It currently tops my most anxiously awaited sequel list based on the promise of another adventure with its hilarious and cool protagonist. Last clue: the PS3-exclusive company that produces these games seems to have an affinity for main characters sharing the same name that starts with ‘N’. These obscure hints may lead you to realize that I’m talking about Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

#2 Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

I bet you didn’t realize that the best action movie of 2007 was actually a video game. Uncharted follows Nathan Drake, supposed descendant of Sir Francis Drake, as he searches for the hidden treasure of El Dorado throughout the South Pacific. Joined by his partner Sully and the requisite sassy reporter Elena (yet another example of a restrained female character design that is STILL cool despite not having huge knockers. Take that sophomoric game designers!) Drake faces off against a plethora of pirates and puzzles as he discovers the dastardly secret of Drake’s fortune.

It sounds pulp-y, but that’s the point. Uncharted is the first time I’ve ever played a video game and thought “Well, this could actually be a movie without very much changing about it at all.” Play it and you’ll get the same impression. Voice acting is superb, the story is pretty cool, there is very real chemistry between characters, and the game just looks beautiful. Along with MGS4, this is one to show off your HDTVs to your friends. (Quick MGS note: I haven’t beaten MGS4, so it’s not eligible for this list).

Gameplay is pretty simple and mostly revolves around third-person shooting coupled with a cover system a la Gears of War. This part does get a little old sometimes as enemies continue to spawn at some points, but it’s well-done enough to not be too tiring. There’s also some platforming tossed in as you explore ruins that feels very satisfying. In fact, a great deal about what makes Drake such a cool protagonist stems from the fluidity of his movements both in combat and exploration. The way that he jumps from ledge to ledge, stumbling as he lands gives you that all important “Yeah, I think I could do that” feeling that makes up a successful everyman protagonist.

If you’ve never even seen Uncharted before, go rent it or buy it or come over my house. I’ll let you try it out.

E3 2007 Trailer;

Gametrailers Review:

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, my #1 game of the current generation. My choice may surprise you, but I think that at the end of the day, it has to be number one based on how much time I’ve put into it compared to any other game in my entire library. There’s no good way to hint at it, so I’ll come out and say that my top game of this current generation (so far) is Rock Band.

#1 Rock Band

Rock Band and I had a strangely hostile relationship when I first learned of it. Not being as well-versed in video game news as I am nowadays, back then I had no idea that the original developers of Guitar Hero II were behind RB, I just saw that someone else was trying to make a music game and that it was really, really expensive. As a fake-guitar player, I also didn’t quite see the allure of drums or vocals.

That all changed when I started to see footage of both games and learn about the pedigree of both series. Concerns began to crop up in my mind as GH3 coverage showed the game design to be stagnant, note charts a bit asinine and arbitrarily hard, and art style to be ridiculously ugly. This was also about the same time that I learned of the very ugly breakup between Harmonix and Red Octane and EA/MTV’s partnership with Harmonix. There was an immediate shift at that point where I realized that I was siding with the wrong company and antiquated game design. The music game future lied with Rock Band, its new digital distribution system, and four instruments.

As a quick aside, I actually actively hate Activision and the GH franchise over stupid stunts like this one. There’s no reason why they should have screwed over PS3 GH3 owners who just wanted to be able to use the same guitar peripherals over both games. No one needs as many plastic instruments as Activision is going to force upon us very soon…

Back to Rock Band: it’s yet another one of those casual games meant to open up the market. How does it do this? There’s the simple four-player multiplayer aspect that makes the most sense in this context. Gathering up four friends to play music on fake instruments has turned out to be a tremendously appealing concept. I can honestly only think of one or two of my friends who doesn’t enjoy Rock Band at all. Friends of mine who live thousands of miles away are excited to get some Rock Band in next month when they come to visit. It has that much draw, especially to people who typically don’t game at all, including older gamers (NOT my parents) and women. While being able to shred on expert isn’t about to impress any of the ladyfolk, it’s still a good game to bridge the gap between the gamer and game-hater, since most people who have never played video games can understand music within a few minutes.

The other real innovation in casual gaming is that Rock Band is not as ridiculously hard as Guitar Hero 3. Activision went the totally opposite direction, attempting to create a hardcore experience with note charts that made no sense, but were harder to play. Rock Band’s more intuitive note charts seem way easier by comparison, but they still provide tons of fun and, most importantly, they generally won’t fail an appropriately skilled player during multiplayer play, the main draw of the game. Yeah, Rock Band is a lot less fun solo than with friends (still way fun though), but it’s meant to be played with friends, not alone. I’ve spent countless hours with large groups of friends handing off the guitars, drum sticks, or microphone as we shredded the night away (and probably made our dormmates hate us…bwahaha).

Rock Band is, by and large, the only reason I turn on my Xbox anymore and it gets playtime at least once a week from me as they launch new tracks each and every week. As it introduces me to new, sweet music (Boston being my favorite discovery so far), it’s impossible for me to not rate this as the best thing to happen for me since I started gaming. I’ve always loved music and had some aptitude for it, but never really learned to play anything. RB gives me the freedom to love that music using a medium that is friendlier than actually picking up a guitar (although I do aspire to actually start playing at some point in the near future). Detractors will say, “Why don’t you just play real music?” I will say, “Because I love music, but don’t have the time or money to devote to learning a real instrument right now. Besides, this is fun for me and my friends, so stop being a jerk.”

At the end of the day, isn’t that what really matters with a video game? Aren’t we just supposed to be having fun?

“Margaritaville” Guitar and Drums:

“Rock and Roll Band” (one of my favorites!)

Another funny Rock Band-related PA comic.

And with that, I officially close out the Game Overview All-Stars feature on this blog. I’m sure you readers have pretty different opinions from me, so feel free to let me know what you think. I’m not planning on doing any runner-ups for this generation, but keep an eye out for game reviews in the future receiving the prestigious all-star award.

Remember guys, video games are all about fun. I spend a lot of time gaming, so it’s good to know that there are such fine specimens of gaming to make deep, lasting impressions on me. Keep it up game devs and I’ll keep picking up that controller.

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